The Storm Wolf - CH. 3 - Setting Sail

  • CH 3 – Setting Sail

         Discipline is at the core of every Legionary. No one likes to get brought before the lash or beaten the shit out of by their Centurion. Whether drunk or sober, sick or healthy, a legionary never failed to report for muster before a march. So, long before the first cock crowed, Valdyr woke. His companion, a dark haired beauty that smelled of lavender and needed little coaxing or courting to share his room lazily rolled over while the soldier began to dress in the darkness. He still felt a bit hung over and needed cold fresh air to get the haze out of his head.

         The woman, one Aryla if he remembered rightly, saw her time with him was finishing. She enjoyed the evening but their brief evening of debauchery now came to a close. Without modesty, she rose from the bed naked to relight the candle sconces. Valdyr smiled and smacked her behind playfully as she passed him. She yelped in mock surprise and whisked his hand away with a delighted giggle. He watched her pad around the room as he finished putting his boots on.

        They knew this morning was the last they would share and it did no good to reminisce or make false promises. They both agreed on that much the previous evening. No, she wasn’t a whore, just a bold woman who took what she wanted. Valdyr just happened to be the lucky prize for the night. For her part, she was a widow of a soldier who died a few years ago. So she knew how this little tryst played out. There weren’t any soft words, but she grabbed him one last time and gave him a lusty kiss to remember her by. By Dibella’s smooth ass, he would not soon forget!  She smiled, wrapped the bed blanket around her and grabbed her clothes.  The last he saw of her was that curvy shadow silently making her way down the hall to the commons.

         Shaking his head with a fond smile, he finished kitting up and checked all his gear. The bottle on the nightstand still had a bit of wine in it. He swallowed the last of it and made his way back up to the muster yard. The cobbled streets seemed empty and still. Only the occasional city guardsman passed by, bearing a torch to ward of the long shadows of old stone buildings.

         Once there, he spotted his new assistant. She at least listened this time. While she wasn’t fond of the commoner’s trappings, the gear he had given her the night before at least fit and make the trip with little issue. Maybe this one had a chance. He shook his head. Never grow fond of a new blood. Even if they listened, campaigns tended to erase life as fast as it’s born. Soldiers can’t afford feelings. Feelings got you killed.

         With the exception of the guards standing watch in front of the barracks, the courtyard stood empty. Only the flickering torches gave warmth to the area. A quiet whickering from the shadows piqued Valdyr’s interest. He cocked an eyebrow and tilted his head with a questioning look on his face.

         Jocasta approached and saw his look. She smiled, seeing that maybe she had the upper hand of readiness. The night before, they had met as agreed and he had given her the traveling kit as promised. Compared to his darkened leathers, they seemed like rags but she wasn’t in a position to argue. Besides, he seemed far too occupied with a woman of ample assets and his bottles of mead.

         “I took the liberty of securing us horses, since it seemed you had forgotten. I believe they are good for this area, or at least the stable master seems to think so,” she started.

         She could still smell some of the previous night’s binge on him and wrinkled her nose. His curt nod left her feeling annoyed. She had hoped for a better reaction, something bordering on at least a modicum of respect due to her forethought. The young woman surmised he was still a bit ill from his decadent revelry from last eve.

         He went and inspected the horses. Huge, toughened beasts used to the cold climate. Both looked sound and were shod in iron shoes. They didn’t seem skittish when he checked the saddle straps and bits. He wondered how she purchased these beasts. If she spent her own coin it may end up wasted if things got bad.

         “Good choice, did the stable master tack them up?”

        “No”, Jocasta replied,” I did.”

         Valdyr raised his eyebrows in surprise and even slight respect. He didn’t think she had anything to her but book knowledge.

         For a moment she felt vindicated and continued,” My father served as a cavalry officer for the Legion. Horses have been a part of our family for generations. From a child we were taught to care and manage our mounts.”

         “And the price,” he asked.

         “A favor returned. The stable master owed me for some time now. I had given him business contacts far to the south that has already started to pay off. The price gave us two mounts for the price of one,” she replied.

         He looked at her. Imperials were always the best traders and dealers. It stood to figure she had some talent.  She may not have the skills of a warrior or scout, but at least there was something beyond the pompous ass he had met the day before.

         He slung his gear onto a big grey mare and strapped it down tight. Afterward, he checked the chestnut colored gelding for Jocasta and loaded her kit along with the bivouac shelters. Now the game of hurry up and wait ensued. The big Legionary walked over to a nearby fountain and splashed water on his face and head. The crisp cold liquid shocked his senses out of the last of his hangover.

         Within minutes, a group of Imperial Soldiers filed one by one out of the barracks and formed up. They all wore the standard issue chain mail with leather cuirass, short blade and shield. Once formed up, thirty in all stood ten abreast and three ranks deep. To onlookers past the city gates they hoped to appear as nothing more than a strong long range patrol or relief forces at some garrison fort. The last row of Legionaries all carried short bows with a few quivers of arrows. Three mules were brought forward loaded with supplies for each squad. It all seemed pretty standard to the casual observer.

         Valdyr knew better though. He saw the look in these Soldiers eyes. Some were Nords, others Imperials, but not one had the wide eyed look of a fresh recruit. A few bore scars from previous battles and wore them proudly. No milk white skins here. All had weathered skin that had fended off either searing heat or bitter cold. Boots were fur lined and all had leather breeches instead of the traditional tunic only. Weapons looked secure and of finer make than the average issue. Valdyr sized these men as worthy veterans, not city guard stock.

         A familiar voice called to him from the barracks entrance. Hadvar! He hadn’t seen the warrior since their posting down south. They had served together for a couple of years before transfers made them loose contact. He wore the heavier armor of an officer, a darkened metal breastplate, shoulder guards of layered steel strips, sturdy leather boots reinforced with metal shin guards and armbraces of Imperial design. His old comrade had done well for himself.

        “Good to see you Hadvar! I see they promote anyone these days eh?”

         True enough, Hadvar had been promoted to Centurion and done well. Normally in the legions a strict code of decorum between senior and subordinate was enforced at all times. The two had shed and bled on at least a few battlefields that created a bond which transcended rank. Even with the difference, both knew they were equals and treated each other with the same respect.

        Hadvar playfully punched his brother in arms in the gut, “True and I see they spring even Skeever Bait from prison to serve in the legions. What has our mighty army become eh?”

         They laughed, clasped arms and caught up quickly on their exploits.

         “Tell me Brother, where in Malacath’s balls are we going,” Valdyr asked. He preferred to have a heads up when possible.  But Hadvar shook his head and pursed his lips.

         “Couldn’t tell you. Rikke’s kept this one so quiet that half of Solitude is convinced this is a refit and the other half doesn’t believe this march is in order at all.”

         “Well then…Sir…best we get in order before she walks out. Looks like you got a good lot of steel here. I can’t mark a milk drinker in any one of them.”

         Hadvar gave a knowing smile,” True…scout, take your place then. “

         The two exchanged traditional legionary salutes and parted. Hadvar headed to the front and called for an inspection. Ranks opened up so he could check his Soldiers down along the line. Valdyr walked back to where the horses and Jocasta stood. She absently stroked the neck of her steed while watching the proceeding. Hadvar continued to walk up and down the line. He checked blades, armor and bows for functionality. The inspection didn’t take long as these soldiers knew their craft. When finished, they closed ranks and Hadvar took his place in front of the troops.

         Legate Rikke finally came out from the command room. The sun had just started to climb and a little light from the sky finally broke the darkness. She conferred with Hadvar and then asked everyone to break formation and circle round. All approached and formed a tight band around their commander. They all respected her as she led from the front and took every risk and every hardship her subordinates had endured. It had shown in the lines on her face and the hardness in her voice. She looked a little older than her years, but still fit enough to march from one end of Tamriel to the other.  Tanned arms bore a few scars as did her muscle taut legs. Her officer’s armor had seen many campaign and while well kept, looked as though it had seen many years of hard use.

          Seeing that everyone had closed in, she addressed them hurriedly,” Each of you were hand-picked for what we are about to do. Our mission; recover the ancient Jagged Crown.  I won’t lie, it won’t be easy. We have many weeks of hard travel and can’t afford to slow even for a moment. The crown has been missing for hundreds of years and we must recover it. Doing so will give Jarl Elesif legitimacy to take the mantle of Skyrim’s High King in her dead husband’s place. This will allow Skyrim to unify and buy the Empire time to rebuild from the last clash with the Dominion. Our library bound scholars have spent months pouring over ancient texts and believe the crown to be far to the East from us at a little known place called Korvanjund. Not many details, only a location. It’s a long march ahead so best we get to it.”

         The small strike force formed up into two columns and began to file out down towards the western gates. With the sun just barely making its ascent, few people walked the streets which made their egress all the easier. A few passersby looked on with mild curiosity, but none seemed overly interested. Most assumed the troop was to reinforce some of the forts or allied Jarl Holdings for the Empire.  The majority of the troops marched on foot. Only Rikke, Hadvar, Valdyr and Jocasta rode horses.  

         Rikke led them all the way down past the stables and onto the Solitude docks. The men never question, but Valdyr looked over to Rikke with curiosity. He had figured for a long overland march south and then east across the plains. Rikke looked back with bemusement.

         “Did you really think I’d waste too much time walking all the way across the province? I’ve procured a ship to sail us along the northern coast, it will save at least a few weeks in travel and will land us onto an old Imperial encampment. From there, south and we avoid most of Ulfric’s raiding parties.”

         He nodded in approval. Always best to take the path of least resistance. Traveling by sea also allowed them at least a fair bit of concealment from any who might be able to track them. The mention of using a merchant ship only made it better. Hopefully the ship’s captain knew the waters enough to avoid what had foundered so many ships before, namely the Ice burgs or ice flows.  Either could crush the hull of a ship in an instant. With summer in full swing, the ice flows would be reduced, but rogue ice burgs still caught the unwary tradesmen if they didn’t know what to look for.

         Salty air blew up from the bay. The sounds of bells and horn calls echoed off the Cliffside, adding into the occasional cacophony of seagulls. Solitude indeed was the key port to the north. Tradesmen from all over Tamriel shipped here in hopes of making coin. While mostly wild, Skyrim held a firm and heavy trade on furs and lumber. Those with the talent and money invested heavily and made profits if they had the smarts. East Empire Trading Company was the most prominent, and the most ruthless of them all. They hired experienced captains and aggressive traders that undercut any competition until all markets and competition fell to their mighty juggernaut of a business. With Imperial approval, East Empire continued to monopolize northern trade.

         For Valdyr and his companions, that normally meant little. However, as a part of Imperial sanction, they transported dignitaries and troops upon request. This symbiotic relationship allowed cheap travel for the Empire and free trade for the Company. With experienced captains and solid built ships, travel would reduce weeks down to days.

         Within an hour, Rikke had finalized the arrangements and the party had boarded a swift vessel by name of The South Wind. Her captain, one Severius Alminius watched the boarding of the ship’s new cargo. His First Mate directed the crew to get the animals and equipment stowed as the stalwart Imperial veterans found spaces on deck. Writs of passage and compensation were handed to him. He never questioned Imperial writs as more often than not he could graft a few extra hundred Septims to each transport as expenditures.

         The boat creaked and rocked as the livestock shifted into place below decks.  Deck hands scurried to and fro reading the vessel for departure.  The crew made sure to give wide berth of Valdyr’s fellow Legionaries since this run had been contracted. Normally, they gave a lot of trouble to passengers to cow them into submission and keep them below decks as much as possible. The Captain made it clear the legionaries were not to be bothered. This cargo run and transport had plenty of coin for a swift delivery.  Failure to provide results meant everyone went without pay.

         Severius called out the order to take in the lines and set sail. With favorable winds, the ship quickly pivoted off from the docks and moved north out the bay. The crew worked as a well-oiled machine with the captain calling out orders in a booming voice. His first mate repeated the orders as they came to ensure all the sailors heard and reacted accordingly. Winds blowing steadily from the west filled the sails and eased her into a fast paced clip towards the northern reaches. Within minutes they passed under the towering cliffs of Solitude. The Blue Palace looked down upon them from the tip of the ancient cliffs as if from the heavens above.

         Valdyr made his way to the bow on wobbly feet. He knew from a previous campaign it took a couple of days to gain your footing on a ship that constantly rocked and jumped, especially the swifter ones. He chuckled as he almost tripped and had to grab hold of some rigging. It still felt so free after his stint underground. Even with the thoughts of a dark future which may lead to his death, the warrior happily enjoyed every moment they slipped further away from the mighty capitol of Skyrim.

         Jocasta, he observed seemed to already succumb to the ill feelings most got when they hadn’t sailed much. He knew she had sailed up from Cyrodiil before and looked on in bemused humor. Some just never took to sea travel. Already she sat curled near the stern of the ship with a face that had paled. Her arms already clenched around her midsection in the hopes of avoiding vomiting all over the deck. Sympathetic to her plight, he grabbed a pail and rag in case she didn’t make it over the railing. He also took his cloak and wrapped it around her. It didn’t really do much, but sometimes a little kindness went a long ways.


  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  June 11, 2016
    I can relate to this as I had a few chapters which had sea travel in them. It was during year zero of the Bloodmoon chapters.
    Looking forwards to see what you do with yours.
  • Vulkhammar
    Vulkhammar   ·  June 11, 2016
    You know, recently I saw here a wonderful treatise on actualized distance and a map showing correct scale, I thought it was awesome for the purposes of writing folks like us. I am not sure though if there will be more time at sea. The problem arises with ...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  June 11, 2016
    Another nice chapter. I hope we have a bit of time at sea but time will tell.
    Nice to see Hadvar doing well too.
  • Vulkhammar
    Vulkhammar   ·  June 11, 2016
    Hmm...we shall see. The story has an arc but it changes on it's own. Things I thought would happen seem to evolve as I type away. Thank you for the input! 
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  June 10, 2016
    Nice to see Jocasta did so well with the horses. I am liking Mr. Valdyr more and more.