The Storm Wolf, CH. 2 - Back From the Dead

  • CH 2. – Back from the Dead


         Valdyr made his way through the foyer and out into the training yard. He had expected some old man to follow in tow that he could brush off. Looking about, he saw no one resembling a physician, at least not the old saw bones he had encountered out in the field. He thought perhaps he had gotten lucky enough to have missed his caretaker. Maybe he could make the scouting run without any undue interference.  But then plans never survive the first arrow shot and neither did dreams.

          An armored figure waved at him from across the yard and started for him. What looked like a boy in parade armor approached him at a clipped pace. Gleaming parade armor hurt Valdyr’s eyes as a belted sword flapped ungracefully against a slender leg. Even the scabbard spoke of over indulgence. The figure almost made Valdyr wince with sympathy. Whoever this person was, they definitely had no experience with anything beyond a ceremony.

         “Ah, Scout. There you are!”

         The voice pitched too high even for a boy coming into manhood. Definitely not a Nord. That made matters worse. At least a Nord may be a little more open minded to how Valdyr planned to get the job done.  Even in armor, the gait in his contact’s walk revealed the truth. A woman, not a man wore all that bulky garbage. Not that Valdyr minded women in a fight. Well, the truth was he didn’t mind Nord women in a fight. This one however, Imperial from bone to blood and without a doubt uncomfortable wearing armor.

         “I’ve received orders to ensure your good health and assist you on our upcoming journey. You are one Valdyr Jorgenson correct?”

         Great, he thought, a thrice damned bureaucrat.  Just what I needed for this mess. I wonder if it’s too late to crawl back into the hole.

         He glanced at her. Aside from the gaudy armor, a plain, olive skinned face with a rather large nose peered up at him. She wore her dark hair Legionary short. In all, it seemed she tried too hard to look the part of a typical officer. Large brown eyes seemed to appraise him carefully.  She looked more like someone accustomed to a library filled with ancient tomes and scrolls than someone about to trek halfway across Skyrim.  She cocked her head sideways appearing annoyed that she hadn’t gotten an answer yet.

         The Nord shook his head in exasperation and continued across the training grounds trying to ignore this wisp of a girl like one does a yapping puppy. Some of the Imperial Soldiers looked their way and snickered with pointed fingers.  Tullius must have thought this little surprise up to keep him paying for his past indiscretions. The near constant barrage of questions from experiences on the field to why he wasn’t fully kitted up to reminding him of some obscure regulation on deference to the Emperor prior to any march made him grit his teeth. High time he snapped this little whelp on the nose and hopefully get some peace and quiet. He had to think on how to proceed.

         “What was your name again”, he demanded.

         “I.. I’m sorry what did..” she stammered.

         “Your name….what was your name” he shot back.

         “Oh, oh! I forgot introductions. I apologize; my name is Jocasta of the Morenius family. We hail from Cyrodiil proper and many of us have proudly served our mighty Emperors.”

         “Nice, that’s very nice Jocasta of the Morenius family. Now, please shut that sounding horn you call a mouth so I can have two minutes to think, ok?”

         She looked as though to retort something in anger and then stopped herself. Instead, she followed quietly. Nords seemed a touchy lot to her. They all projected such a huge bearing of righteous anger, grand mirth or brooding melancholy. This being her first journey anywhere, and with this giant her only company, Jocasta thought better for the moment to start a fight. Still, she clenched her jaw in fury over his treatment. Who was he, a former prisoner to dictate anything to her?

         He stopped suddenly and said, “You don’t plan on wearing that pretty metal on the road do you?”

         “Well, yes this is the armor I was given prior to my journey from Cyrodiil”, she replied.

         Valdyr slowly shook his head with disapproval in his eyes. He’d rather rot back in the dungeon than have to have a bright, shiny red trimmed target on his back every step they made.

         “So, I’m going to answer your question for you Jocasta of the Moronians. No, you won’t be taking that shiny piece of pig shit with us. It won’t keep you warm and it damned sure won’t keep you protected against anything better than a wooden sword.”

         She couldn’t believe her ears. This brute not only countermanded her will, but he insulted her family name. Civility certainly did not take with the northerners. It was obvious to her why the Empire needed to bring them to heel. They had no sense of honor, no justice and certainly no respect for their betters.

         “Right then”, he continued, “I have business to take care of. Go put that back into your barracks room. I’ll get us the field gear we need.”

         “I’ll do no such thing,” she fumed, “this is as good as any armor out there!”

         The look of derision on Valdyr’s stony face turned into one of sympathy. Already some of the shoulder lacing had come loose and the poor sizing left her sword belt hanging dangerously low. Jocasta’s bright red cloak actually tangled with the scabbard of her ceremonial blade. All in all, she would trip on herself within five paces past the front gate. He grabbed the opening to her shoulder plates and gave it a solid yank, pulling the laces loose which left half the cuirass hanging off her shoulder. He then jerked the scabbard belt hard and it fell useless to her knobby knees.  In doing so, it tore the cloak down along with the scabbard, leaving her in a mess of disarray. Hard lesson maybe, but one he himself had learned long ago from an iron hearted Centurion. He always pounded into his troops that pretty never equated to useful when blood needed spilling.  

         Jocasta looked as though she was about to burst tears.” M-my sword..”

         “Will get you and possibly me killed,” he finished for her.” It has no edge and its pig iron at best. Look here at your pommel and grip. Pretty inlays, but no leather wraps to grip your palm when it’s soaked in sweat or blood. The handle is loose and most likely will shatter from one of the Nordic Steel Axes the Storm Cloaks favor.”

         The young healer looked crest fallen. Her father had given all of these things to her as a reward. Now they were being swept aside like rubbish on the streets. Valdyr saw the look in her eyes.  With a cold look in his eyes, he stopped and faced her.

         “Listen to me,” he spoke quietly,” This isn’t a game and it isn’t a picnic. There are about a thousand things that will try to kill you where we are going and none of them are the Storm Cloaks. That’s a whole different matter. Anything you thought you knew, forget it. The land is far better at killing people than those who draw steel. Every minute you draw breath is a minute blessed. If you want to survive past the next sunrise, then I lead and you follow. Now go, pack your pretty armor away, bring only what you can carry, and don’t wear Imperial red. Meet me at The Winking Skeever when you are done, come only in a commoner’s tunic and boots; I’ll deal with the rest.”

         Jocasta looked defeated but nodded. She gathered her tangled gear and headed back toward her quarters. Valdyr took a deep breath and sighed. It felt like training a raw recruit all over again, only this time no forgiveness for mistakes. He wished Tullius and Rikke allowed him to operate alone. He hated taking responsibility for anyone but himself. By himself, the big Nord probably would arrive a couple days in advance. With no entanglements, he could give a solid report to Rikke on anything they faced. He owed her that much for springing him out of The Hole.

         He continued onto the Imperial Armorer just outside the training grounds. The clang of hammer striking anvil resounded across Solitude in a rhythmic beat. Forge bellows blew hot and steady from the hand of a bedraggled apprentice.  A stout, balding smith worked at the forge with a white hot strip of steel. Sweat poured off the smith’s soot stained brow. Valdyr leaned up against a post and waited for the man to quench his current project in oil before approaching. He knew better than to try and start a conversation before the clanging stopped.

         In the meantime, he looked down the ramp leading into the city proper. Crowds bustled back and forth. Children dressed in dirty rags begged for the odd septim or two. City guardsmen patrolled through the sea of faces or stood watch at the gates. Nothing had changed since his time under the Castle. Well, the weather at least improved. A bright sun hung over a cloudless sky, interrupted only by the occasional bird flying overhead. Even standing outside felt like being reborn compared to the darkness from before.

         The blacksmith finished his quench and looked at Valdyr with a bemused smile, “Didn’t think they were ever going to let you out ya dirty rake hand!”

         Good old Beirand. Valdyr turned and the two clasped arms in greeting. Sure enough, the old man still had an iron grip and smelled of white hot iron.

         “Looks like you’ve been busy”, said Valdyr.

         “Aye, big push for your boys in red, keeps those spindly armed apprentices to task. I’m guessing you want your kit back right?”

         During his arrest, Valdyr had secreted all of his field gear to Beirand. When asked, he told them he pawned it all to keep the fat legate’s daughter up in style. It added to his charges, but he refused to give up the gear for re distribution. It took more than a few coin purses to gather up everything he used when scouting. Regular issued items were never enough, so the smarter scouts ended up buying extra items or upgrade their issued armor to fit their needs. Since they were considered auxiliaries, uniform standards were more relaxed.

         “Glad you still have it. I figured you would have sold it off after three months of me not buying you ale”, he said half-jokingly. The truth was, Valdyr wasn’t completely sure Beraind would hold onto it for this long.

         “Bah! If I give my word, I keep it ya silly bastard” retorted Beirand in mock anger,” It’s in the shop behind the counter. Everything as you left it. But afore I give it up, you owe me a tale of how your chains were sprung!”

         Valdyr quickly recounted the events of the morning and of his new assistant. Beirand chuckled in mirth at what the scout got saddled with as a babysitter. He agreed to give up an extra full kit and some supplies. Valdyr thanked the brawny smith and promised a few rounds of Black Briar Mead if he got back alive. With that, he entered the shop to collect his prized field equipment.

         Just as Beirand said, a chest located behind the counter held everything he had left behind. While the craftsmanship was Imperial in design, his cuirass was made for the north and especially for the night. Fur lined the interior of the armor, the leather darkened with black die. Sturdy leather boots and gauntlets finished the outfit. Everything was perfectly maintained and well oiled. At the bottom, under a wolf skin cloak and woolen tunics he found his final prize. Weapons that had kept him alive in fight after fight lay there, still as well maintained as the rest of his gear. He always preferred Nordic weapons over Imperial. The steel held an edge longer and rarely shattered in the heat of battle. A solid war axe and Nordic blade lay next to a crossbow and bolts. Well used for sure, but treasures nonetheless.

         Beirand mentioned that a down on his luck hunter had traded in his gear for coin. Poor bastard lost the use of his hand in a knife fight. He couldn’t draw a bow or hold a shield, so trade was conducted. Maybe the hunter turned trapper, maybe he died drunk in a gutter. It didn’t matter to Valdyr since the smith let him take the belongings. It wasn’t the best quality, but serviceable.  A hatchet and knife would do for arms. Since she wasn’t trained in combat, Jocasta would get the unenviable duty of pack mule.  Additional items were stuffed in along with the armor between two field packs. He hoisted the packs onto his shoulders and headed out. With a quick wave of thanks, he reiterated his promises one more time and headed down towards his favorite  house of excess. Beirand shook his head. He knew the scoundrel would pay up if he returned. The odds though, did not favor his old friend and fellow tavern crawler.  

         Valdyr made his way down the ramp into the afternoon crowds. The sign from The Winking Skeever beckoned him from a distance, taunting him with drink and a warm bed. If his luck held, maybe even a bit of soft, curvy company to boot. For a moment, it felt like the old days coming back in from a campaign. Luckily, Beirand hadn’t stripped him of the pouch of coins he had stashed in one of his boots. Yup, Hard Mead and whores tonight, tomorrow before dawn head out before Rikke’s expedition marched.


  • Vulkhammar
    Vulkhammar   ·  June 3, 2016
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  June 3, 2016
    I occasionally get fat fingers too, but once in a while I think a member of the blog gets blessed with the "Lissette double like". It's only happened once, but it is epic when it does. 
  • Vulkhammar
    Vulkhammar   ·  June 3, 2016
    Ya that was a complete fat finger when the page lag hit. I do appreciate it, unliked. I never believed in doing self likes lol. Good looking out for me
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  June 3, 2016
    Hey man, I believe you probably did it by accident, but you're not supposed to put a like on your own posts. 
  • Vulkhammar
    Vulkhammar   ·  June 3, 2016
    Ok, a couple of minor updates in structure, Lissette, if you get the chance, last 2 paragraphs...see if they read a little smoother?
  • Vulkhammar
    Vulkhammar   ·  June 3, 2016
    Not too bad, I'm thinking some minor re edits towards the end...last paragraph. I love a good drink but I think I said it 3 times in as many sentences. Surprising what I write when I'm trying to push the pages out lol. Anyways, thank you for the encourage...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  June 2, 2016
    Yay to see another chapter. I like how you describe weapons and arms. Nicely done. Poor Jocasta, but hopefully she learns. Looks like she has the sense to listen.