Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter V


    The doors at Jorrvaskr opened slowly, yet no one paid attention as a tall stooped figure in Imperial armor slowly walked in. The inside of the building was dominated by a roaring fire surrounded by large, heavy wooden tables. Shields and swords mounted on plaques decorated the walls, while food covered the table and the smell of mead and food, metal and leather dominated the air. Red banners bearing the image of a golden battle axe lined the walls. Äelberon guessed that they were partaking in their evening meal, but none were at the table; instead they had gathered at the left end of the hall and it  thundered with their boisterous cheer. He found a secluded corner near the entrance and placed the bindle on the floor, kneeling on one knee. Searching through his sack, he grabbed the Craftsman’s Manual and opened it. He removed Ysolda’s flower from his belt and gently laid it in the middle of the book and then closed it, smiling. He placed the book carefully back into the sack. It had been a kind gesture


    “Koor,” he whispered. The dog came closer, sat on his haunches and looked at his Master, his head tilted. Äelberon pointed to the sack. “Guard.”


    Koor licked his face and whined softly. Ah, he knew, thought Äelberon as he rubbed the dog's ears, pressing his forehead to his faithful companion’s, looking deep into the dog’s clear, sky blue eyes.  He was actually feeling better, but he knew what that meant. He had seen it in many soldiers before. The improvement in symptoms that foreshadows ebbing life.  The dog smelled it. All dogs could smell death. At least here, in this mead hall, a war husky would have a worthy home.  With one more pat to the head, he stood up slowly and left Koor to guard his meager things. It made him chuckle a bit, the silliness of it, for he had nothing. The dog stared back forlornly and then it hit him.


    “Do not do this to me, boy.” He whispered, his voice breaking from emotion, his eyes stinging. Äelberon cleared his throat and composed himself, turning to face the source of the raucous with squared shoulders.


    It was a fight. A fist fight. It was a mead hall, after all. A Nord woman was fighting a Dunmer as the crowd cheered. All were watching. The Nord woman landed a strong left hook. He could only imagine her with a shield if she could throw a punch like that. The Dunmer was fast though, a bladesmer more than likely. Some seemed to enjoy the combat, laughing and goading the warriors on. And then his eyes found her; the Huntress. He called her that. Why? He knew not. There was a wildness about her, like she belonged in the forest. The one by the farm. Her face was a haughty scowl. She did not approve.


    An old woman was attempting to clean the floor in front of the table, sweeping mead bottles and bits of food into a pile. She looked terribly haggard. Äelberon was sure cleaning up after a group of drunken, rowdy warriors was difficult. He approached the woman.


    “Madam, please. Where do I join?”


    She leaned on her broom and answered. Her voice weary. “Oh, dear, I’ve been tending to the mead hall of Jorrvaskr since I can remember. You will want to speak to Kodlak Whitemane. You won’t find him among the crowd, though. He is down below in the living quarters.” She sighed, and gave the Elf a once over. He called her "madam" and said "please". No one in Whiterun was ever that polite to her.  “Come dear, I’ll show you.”


    She rested the broom against a wooden pillar and beckoned Äelberon to the right, where there was a flight of steps leading down. But to his left on the way down, something caught his attention. Mounted on the wall were the fragments of an axe. The battle axe. He leaned closer and dared to touch the blade fragment. Still sharp and his hand recoiled as he felt a slight sting. His eyes narrowed and he scanned his finger for cuts. Nothing, but his finger burned.


    “Elf-Grinder…” He murmured, recalling the name his People have given this ancient weapon.


    He turned and noticed the old woman had already disappeared into the doors at the end of the flight of stairs. He pushed open the doors and entered a large, stone corridor. Directly in front of him was a room with quite a few beds. That is where they slept, he imagined. Austere, but he could see the little touches of home here and there. And mead, by Auri-El, there were mead bottles everywhere. He could not fathom so much drink. How did they not die?


    She found him staring at the whelp’s quarters. Chuckling to himself, those strange red-orange eyes of his twinkling. He had a noble face with a hawkish nose and a square jaw. And tall! He was so tall, taller than any Nord she had ever known. A warrior, yes, on that she was certain, but there was more to him. He didn't look very good, though. Ill. He looked terribly ill. She reached to touch his forearm and was surprised how hot his skin was. Oh, goodness, he was burning up! Old Man better not make him fight, not until he was better.  “Dearie…”


    He felt someone touch his arm, the hand like ice against his skin. Ah, the old woman. She pointed him in the opposite direction, down the long main hall. At the end of the hall, in a room with a table, bookshelves, and a desk, he spied two warriors sitting, engaged in conversation. He assumed one was Kodlak, his white beard and long hair betrayed him. The other warrior was of the same likeness to the man encountered at the farm. Twins perhaps? All three wore the same dark armor with a wolf motif and capes that matched the banners that hung from the walls. The young one looked tortured and spoke with a hushed whisper and Äelberon felt a sudden heaviness in the air.


    “He’s right there, dearie. Just straight ahead. Can’t miss the white hair.” She said, pointing to the pair of warriors he observed.


    “Thank you, madam.” The Elf spoke with a nod. She patted his arm.


    “Good luck to you.” She said as she turned away from him and began to walk back towards the stairs, until she spied the mess in Farkas' room. She furrowed her brow and wrinkled her nose. The stink! Didn't bother changing his chamber pot again! Gods bless the boy, for he was a merry lad, but he was a slob, she thought as she grabbed an extra broom and a bucket while the Elf waited patiently in the shadows as they spoke. Bet the Elf would change his chamber pot. She heard they were a clean people, the High Elves. 



    "But I still hear the call of the blood..."


    Call of the Blood? Was he hearing this correctly? He could not tell for certain, for his mind was dull with fever. He hated to be intruding, but his Elven ears could pick up conversations from much farther away than Men often realized. Äelberon turned away in an attempt to block out their words, his face catching the dim light of the candles.


    "We all do. It is our burden to bear. But we can overcome." Answered Kodlak.


    "You have my brother and I, obviously. But I don't know if the rest will go along quite so easily."


    "Leave that to me." Kodlak opened his mouth to continue and then stopped, his mouth still open.


    Vilkas stared at the Harbinger and then found the source of his stare. There, in the shadows of the corridor, his face illuminated by the candles, stood a High Elf with long, silver-white hair. How much had he overheard? Vilkas narrowed his eyes and scrutinized the stranger. He was extremely pale and looked travel-weary and dirty, but his reddish eyes burned bright. The sheen of sweat on his brow, however, betrayed him. This Elf was sick. Yet, he addressed Kodlak.


    “I wish to join the Companions.” Spoke the stranger. It was a low voice, the accent of the Elves thick in his speech, though it lacked the nasal, snide quality that many Elves had. 


    No “May I” or “Can I”, not a question, but a statement. Kodlak was for a moment taken aback, it was the Elf from his dream, but by Talos! How he had changed! This was not the great snow bear who joined him in battle, but an Elf haggard and worn, with one foot already in Aetherius. Yet he was here and there was still such strength left. He could sense it. It was the eyes, they showed none of the fatigue of his body. They were the very eyes in his dream. If he had such will, he’d have a fighting chance.  "Would you now? Here, let me have a look at you. Step into the light.”


    The Elf emerged from the shadows. Gods, he looked even worse in the light. This Elf was clearly dying, but Kodlak Whitemane stared into those luminous red-orange eyes and could not deny him. That he chose this place of all places to die spoke volumes on who this Mer was. No comfortable inns, no refuge at the Temple. No, this Mer came to die at Jorrvaskr. And by the Gods, they’d either give him a warrior’s death, or they would get a new Shield-Brother. 


    Kodlak nodded. “Yes, perhaps. A certain strength of spirit."


    Vilkas glared at Kodlak. Was he mad? The Elf was nearly dead.


    Äelberon watched as they debated letting him in. Of course, the young one was correct, he was no fool. But Äelberon watched Kodlak.


    “How are you in battle, boy?” Kodlak asked with a sly twinkle in his eye, knowing full well that he was not addressing a youngling. 


    Äelberon managed a slight smile. Boy? He hadn't been called “boy” in over 200 years. “I have much to learn.” He replied with a slow nod.


    Hmm, humble? That was not like his people thought Kodlak. Kodlak crossed his arms over his chest and gave the Altmer one more once-over. The Elf responded by squaring his shoulders and lifting his head slightly. Ah, there’s that High Elf “haughtiness” that they were known for. He would indeed not be denied. Dying and he still had such spirit. Kodlak turned to Vilkas. "Vilkas, take him out to the yard and see what he can do."


    The boy shot Whitemane a look, but then nodded. Vilkas stood and beckoned Äelberon to follow, but Äelberon turned too fast and felt dizzy, catching himself quickly by placing his hand on a small table to steady himself. It was a subtle move, and Äelberon was surprised that Vilkas turned around with narrowed eyes. He had caught that.  Äelberon took a deep breath and followed the Nord down the corridor. Kodlak followed them with his eyes. Despite his condition, the Elf still moved with the grace of his people. Perhaps there was still hope? If he survived the night, Kodlak sighed.


    When Äelberon followed Vilkas into the mead hall, the other Companions finally took notice. Never in their time had they seen his kind enter Jorrvaskr. They watched intently as Vilkas and Äelberon disappeared out into the training circle. Some with curiosity, some with prejudice. Koor watched his Master disappear through a door and whined softly.


    The thunder was louder as the two warriors entered the training circle and the wind now blew with occasional strong gusts.  A great storm was brewing.  Their destination, the training circle, was surrounded by training dummies and lit braziers, which cast an orange glow against the night sky. It was dark, Vilkas observed, but not as late as he thought, for he could still hear Eorlund’s hammer pounding at Skyforge. Ah, a beat to dance to thought Vilkas with a smile.


    They arrived at the center of the training circle, and Vilkas got a good look at the Elf. Definitely ill, but there was something to him. It was obvious this was no whelp, but a seasoned warrior, with the battle scars to prove it. He noticed the ones across his face in particular. He was a full head taller than Vilkas with the bulk to match. Altmer were not typically built like this. Aela had been correct in her description. She must have told Skjor as well, for he was watching from the tables with Njada. He rarely observed a training, but there he was watching. Vilkas cleared his throat and addressed the Elf. After all these years, he still got a little nervous training in front of the Old Veteran. Skjor better not laugh. "The Old Man said to have a look at you, so let's do this. Just have a few swings at me so I can see your form. Don't worry, I can take it."


    Äelberon nodded slowly and allowed Vilkas to arm himself first. Vilkas readied his greatsword. Äelberon readied his sword and shield, testing the weight of the sword in his hand. They then began to circle each other slowly.


    “Well, what are you waiting for?” Cried Vilkas, annoyed. Was this Elf was playing tricks or did he just lack the energy to fight?


    “The Order that I belong to demands that in honorable combat I wait until my opponent strikes first. It is a sign of respect.” Äelberon replied.


    “Order? Whatever. Suit yourself, Elf.” And with that Vilkas rushed Äelberon and swung his greatsword hard.


    Äelberon blocked the swing with his shield. He felt pain shoot up his side, but ignored it.


    By Talos, what an arm, thought Vilkas. “Now you will come at me?” He yelled.


    “Yes,” Äelberon calmly made ready a strike, swinging his blade quickly to adjust the grip on his weapon.  Vilkas narrowed his eyes, stop playing tricks and swing. It was a fake maneuver that caught Vilkas off-guard. The Elf swung in one direction first and then moved faster than Vilkas had seen anyone move in heavy armor. He shifted direction mid swing and Vilkas struggled to block the blow in time. The form was excellent, quick and full of power. Elegant, very elegant. Not the clumsy, broad swings of a whelp that made their bodies turn around, but confident swings of a true blade master. Short and quick. Vilkas managed to block the blow but it staggered him. This was no weak Elf and if he was ill, he did not betray it in battle. Hmm, it was time to show him what he could really do. He gritted his teeth and rushed Äelberon.


    “He has a better arm than you, Njada.” Observed Skjor as he took a sip of mead. Skjor narrowed his eye when he saw the Elf wield his blade. Now that was some blade work. Not Nord or Imperial techniques either. A bit of Redguard was in the style, but that wasn't where he was originally taught. The Thalmor didn’t even fight this way, though Skjor wouldn't put it past them if they were old enough. How old was this Elf? It was hard to tell their ages sometimes, and he had seen his share of them. He wasn’t young, that was certain.  


    “I know.” She responded, annoyed, crossing her arms over her chest.


    The two continued to observe the training. They were evenly matched. Steel crushed brutally against shields. It was a long dual, their feet kicking up pebbles and dirt as the first drops of rain began to fall. By the time the rain hit, Athis, Tovar, and Ria were also watching.


    “By Azura, he’s giving Vilkas a real thrashing!  Noted Athis, "Impressive!”


    The rain grew worse and the warriors were now dealing with mud. Their hair clung to their faces and the water dripped from their armor, weighing them down. Vilkas was more powerful with his greatsword, but the Elf’s advantage was his shield arm and his unpredictability. Skjor could tell that Vilkas had not fought many Elves. They used different blade techniques and it was catching the boy off-guard. The Elf was also faster, though Skjor noticed that he occasionally almost lost his balance. He regained it quickly enough that it did not cost him, but it was only a matter of time.


    It was during the last misstep that Vilkas managed to knock the sword out of the Elf’s hand. Haha, thought Vilkas, he had the advantage now, but really there was no question. The Elf had more than proven his mettle and could certainly be counted among them. He had not had this much fun training in a long, long time. He’d give him a little something to remember him by though and readied his greatsword for a final swing, smiling. He brought it down hard and then everything was a blur. The Elf moved so fast. It was the blow that surprised him. He didn't even have a weapon! A quick turn and then a brutal swipe of the Elf’s shield, partly with the edge, knocking Vilkas flat on his back. The other Companions stood up in surprise. That had never happened! Skjor nearly stood. The Elf deliberately changed the angle of that swipe. If he had struck with a bit more of the shield edge, Vilkas would have been dead, his neck snapped, but he didn't and Vilkas only fell. 


    Vilkas lay down for a moment, coughing to get his wind back, as the rain fell on his face. The Elf walked to him, but the face was kind as he looked down at Vilkas lying on the ground and offered his hand to help him up. This was no sore winner. He would not be a sore loser and Vilkas took a deep breath.


    “My respect, Vilkas.” Äelberon nodded and Vilkas grabbed his hand while Äelberon hoisted him up.


    "You might just make it.” Vilkas spoke as he stood up, his back sore, as the Elf sheathed his weapon and slung his shield over his back. “But for now, you're still a whelp to us, new blood. So you do what we tell you. Here's my greatsword. Go take it up to Eorlund to have it sharpened. And be careful, it's probably worth more than you are." Vilkas handed him his greatsword and was surprised that the Elf could even pick it up. A possible two-hander? Most couldn’t even pick up a greatsword at Jorrvaskr. That was their specialty, the twins.


    Äelberon nodded and began to walk towards the sound of a hammer striking metal, greatsword in hand. It was coming from above, the hammering.  He was exhausted. That took everything he had, but he waited until he was out of their line of sight before he leaned heavily against a stone wall and erupted in a fit of coughing, trying to catch his breath. He sighed. Vilkas was incredibly strong. Almost too strong. He had fought many Nords in his day, but this one was different. Perhaps it was his illness speaking. He took out the weapon and admired it in the brazier light, ignoring the rain that now pummeled him. It was of fine construction, the steel even and solid. Of simple design, yet extremely strong. He had to meet this smith, Eorlund. He walked up the steps to where a giant forge dominated a stone platform, now soaked from the rain. He did not really feel the cold anymore. Above the forge was an immense sculpture of an eagle about to take flight. An eagle? In the middle of a Nord city? Near the forge, a white-haired man was busy at the grindstone, sharpening the metal of a sword with a keen eye, ignoring the rain as well.


    "What brings you here?" He asked as he worked, not evening bothering to look up. Damn, he was running late again. If they brought in one more bloody chipped weapon and expected it back in the morning, he would give them a thrashing. Eorlund loved them to pieces, but Jorrvaskr wasn't his only family. 


    “I have Vilkas’ sword,” Replied Äelberon. “It needs sharpening.”


    Eorlund paused his work and looked up. Now that was a bear of an Elf. And that hair! He thought he had long hair, but no, this was by far much longer, past the waist. Where the Oblivion did he put it all when he fought? "I'm guessing you're the newcomer then?" Replied Eorlund. Damn, he was new, so no thrashing. But if another weapon was brought, well then, that would be different.


    “Does Vilkas always send newcomers on errands?” Äelberon asked, inspecting the tip of the sword with narrowed eyes. “Hmm, there is also a chip in the blade, near the tip.” He handed the greatsword to Eorlund.


    “Oh don’t worry too much about it. They were all whelps once.” He inspected the sword, “You are right, I see the chip. You’ve got good eyes.” He gestured to the chip, “I heard the sparring below, did you do this?”


    Äelberon nodded.


    “Not everyone can chip a greatsword in battle, especially one made of Skyforge Steel, impressive.” Eorlund glanced away from Skyforge for a moment, “Bah! It’s late, and darker than I thought. Hey, I have a favor to ask.”




    “I’ve been working on a shield for Aela. My wife is in mourning and I need to get back to her soon. I’d be much obliged if you could take this to Aela for me.”


    “Of course,” replied Äelberon, taking the shield. Another exquisite piece. Äelberon would need to spend some time and learn from this smith. He had ideas about weapons. A blend of steel and Elven. Strength and speed.


    “That’s a good Mer.”


    Äelberon turned and walked down the steps of the Skyforge. Now to deliver this shield. He walked slowly back to Jorrvaskr, enjoying the cold rain on his fevered body. It no longer mattered that he was soaked to the bone. He was a member of the Companions now. It was fitting.  


    The Companions stared at him as he walked in, but it was no longer stares of contempt and arrogance, but of respect. He had bested Vilkas in a display of strength and seeing his physical state made it all the more impressive. He ignored their stares and headed again down the stairs again, water dripping from his cuirass, his hair plastered to his head.


    He heard the Huntress while he walked down the corridor. She was speaking to the man who had observed the training. The one with one eye.


    Aela saw his shadow out of the corner of her eye. Damn, his form nearly blocked the door. She turned to him as he handed her the shield without a word. In the light she saw him better. This was the Elf that bested Vilkas? He looked like death. "Ah, good. I've been waiting for this. Wait... I remember you. So the old man thinks you've got some heart, I guess."


    "You know this one? I saw him training in the yard with Vilkas." Mentioned Skjor.


    "Ah, yes. I heard you gave him quite a thrashing." Aela said with sly smile. 


    "Don't let Vilkas catch you saying that." Skjor replied.


    She turned to Äelberon. "Do you think you could handle Vilkas in a real fight?"


    “I do not care for boasting.” He said softly. 


    “Ah, a man of action, Here, let’s have Farkas show you to your quarters.” She then turned and called loudly to the corridor. “Icebrain!”


    “What? ‘Bout to turn in.” Answered a gruff voice.


    That he even answered to ‘icebrain’. Scamp’s Blood, thought Äelberon. It was the man from the giant encounter. He must be related to Vilkas. Yes, definitely twins.


    “Farkas, why don’t you show the new blood where the rest of the whelps sleep.”


    “Fine,” The Nord yawned, scratching his beard. “Come with me. Heard you gave my brother a thrashing.” Farkas was surprised he didn’t answer back. "Not much for talkin', eh? That'll change. We're a rowdy bunch, but you'll get used to us. Never had one your cultured types before. That's what you call yourselves, the 'Cultured People'?"


    Äelberon followed Farkas down the corridor. He felt good, languid and calm, and his gait was now steady. Had he finally beat the poison? Seemed likely. He was very tired, though, he needed sleep. His lids felt so heavy. Farkas spoke, but Äelberon was not paying attention. Something about whelps… He was not a bloody whelp, he furrowed his brow. He was four times older than the eldest of them… He had seen great battles and the fall of the Tower… Hordes of Daedra and hordes of Undead… It started to darken around him. Ah, they were turning down the lights. Must be late. Yes, sleep would feel good. He followed Farkas, but Farkas was walking so slowly. Why so slow? The end of the corridor was so far away…  More talk of whelps. Bah! He was Äelberon of Dusk and no whelp… He spoke… He would tell this whelp who he really was…


    “Zu'u los nid kiir…”


    “Huh?” Farkas grunted, turning around to face the new blood. Ysmir's Beard! The Elf was deathly pale, and his body began to teeter, but he spoke again, in hushed tones, his eyes glazed over.


    “Zu'u lost nun zuk grah fein pah do hi… zuk sos…zuk dinok…”


    What was this Elf babbling about? What language was this? The Elf’s gaze intensified and he stared straight at Farkas, only he wasn’t looking at him. Something about the Elf’s gaze frightened him, and Farkas was not one to fear. The words were slow and deliberate, barely audible, and Farkas didn’t understand.


    “Zu'u fen ni vos Alduin al…”


    “Kodlak! Vilkas! Hurry!” Farkas yelled loudly when the Elf crashed to the floor.


    Kodlak heard Farkas’ hoarse cry while he was removing his armor to retire for the night. He rushed from his quarters and his heart sank. The Elf lay on the stone floor, skin waxen, his eyes closed, his hand outstretched and limp. Farkas kneeling next to him, supporting his head. Vilkas emerged from the mead hall, and found his brother first, pausing when he saw the Elf. Kodlak ran to the twins. "What happened?” He demanded. Farkas just stared blankly. “Farkas!” He bellowed.


    Farkas snapped out of his shock. “I… I was showing him to his quarters. He started jabbering in a strange language. I’ve never heard it before, and then he just fell. He just fell. I don't know what happened. I didn't touch him.”


    Kodlak knelt and felt the Altmer's forehead. It burned to the touch. He opened an eyelid gently with his thumb. The eye blazed bright with fever, the pupil contracting sharply, reacting to the light, but unseeing. “Vilkas?” He looked up.


    “Master, he was standing when we finished. He agreed to take my sword to Eorlund and everything. The sparring was difficult, but we were not injured.”


    Kodlak touched the Altmer's forehead again, brushing his wet locks away from his face. He leaned forward and listened. The Elf’s breathing was slow and labored. No, it could not end like this. Not like this. He would risk it, aye, risk it for him. For such bravery deserved at least fighting chance. Such a great heart deserved to live. How long had it been since he had set foot inside a Temple? So long. So terribly long, since he became the very thing that now would deny him Sovngarde as well. For his bravery and for the fact that HE needed the Elf to live. His dream. It was related to his dream. Kodlak whispered in his ear, laying his hand on the Elf's chest. “Ah Snow Bear... On my honor, your Shield-siblings will help you." He regained his composure and looked up at the twins, his voice firm. “Tilma!”


    The old woman appeared from twin’s quarters where she had been cleaning. She put her hand to her mouth when she saw the Elf upon the floor. He had called her "madam"...


    “Blankets, Old Woman, we need blankets! The warmest we’ve got. Boys, take his weapons.”


    She nodded and disappeared into the twins’ quarters again. Farkas unfastened the Elf’s sword and scabbard from his waist as Vilkas unfastened his shield from his back.  He was completely limp. Vilkas did not know what the Old Man intended to accomplish. The Elf would be dead soon, for there was no color to his face at all. Sad, for he had proven himself. Maybe it was what he wanted? Maybe he knew he was dying and didn’t want to die like some milk drinker in an inn?


    “The quiver, Vilkas.” Ordered Kodlak, “Don’t leave that. We can’t lay him flat otherwise.”


    “He’s a Bowmer?” Asked Vilkas as he unfastened the quiver of iron arrows from the Elf’s back. Gods, he was soaked through. He then gently laid the Elf’s head back on Farkas’ lap. 


    “Guess so.” Replied Farkas.


    Tilma emerged from the twins’ quarters, her arms full of furs and blankets. Kodlak nodded to the twins to take them from her. “Quickly, wrap him in blankets and then each of you, grab an end. We go to the Temple. We'll worry about the armor when we're there and if he dies on the way, he will die a warrior.”


    They both stopped and stared at the Harbinger when he said those words; ‘The Temple’. They could not go. What was he thinking?


    “The Temple? But Master?” Cried Vilkas, “We can’t!” He narrowed his eyes at the Harbinger. He knew what they were. 


    “We can’t, but he can. It’s his only chance. We won’t be in long. Just long enough to make sure he’s safe. Hurry!”


    They grabbed fur blankets, wrapped the Elf carefully and gently carried him out of the living quarters. She watched silently as they bore him up the steps and then she walked slowly back to the twins’ quarters. The little room on the end with the door. Her new cub would need a bed…



    They could hear the wind and the rain pelting outside as they entered the Mead Hall. It was going to be a terrible night, thought Vilkas.


    “Cover his face, make sure he does not get wet. She rages tonight and he was exposed enough to the elements. That fever will not survive anymore cold.” Kodlak ordered, his voice firm, but inside he was terribly worried. He had made a terrible mistake at the worst and at the least, he was gambling with this Elf's life. Ah, why did he even let the Elf spar, knowing his condition! He should have taken him straight to the Temple, but that would have shown a warrior undue favoritism and aroused suspicion among his Shield-Siblings. Bah! The Elf more than likely would have refused and he would have been found dead at the inn the next morning.  It had to be this way, for now he was a Shield-Brother and Kodlak's actions would now not be questioned if any of them indeed valued honor. The Elf had more than proven himself. He was now counted among them. 


    Vilkas shifted some fur to cover the Elf’s face, causing him to moan softly. Vilkas was surprised he was still alive. He had never seen an Elf so pale. They were usually of a golden hue.


    Koor looked up when he heard the noises. He saw the commotion in the mead hall, the warriors gathering toward the staircase.


    “By Ysmir!  Don’t just stand there blocking our path, MOVE!” Shouted Kodlak from the bottom of the steps.


    The crowd dispersed and then Koor saw the focus of their attention. He saw the limp body of his Master being carried by two men and he began to bristle, a savage snarl escaping his throat. He lept up and ran toward Vilkas at full speed, on the attack, teeth bare. Vilkas did not want to drop the Elf when he saw the husky running toward him. He froze and turned his back to the raging dog to protect the Elf. “Kodlak! The animal!”


    Kodlak blocked Vilkas from the dog’s path, brandishing a torch. The animal snarled, gnashing his teeth in fury, his eyes wild. He circled Kodlak as the Harbinger waved the torch, threatening the beast with fire. The fire would not stop this animal long, for it was plain that it was devoted to Snow Bear.  Snow Bear… the name was sticking. Ah damn, thought the Old Man. 


    “No Kodlak, don’t hurt him. He’s only protecting his master.” Cried Vilkas.


    It was Aela who diffused the situation. She snuck stealthy behind the dog and quickly grabbed the animal, locking it in a tight embrace as the dog struggled in vain against her tight grip. Its desperate howls for its Master rang loudly in the Mead Hall, and not a single Shield-Sibling, not even the war-hardened Skjor could help but feel pity for the dumb beast. “Shh,” she whispered with uncharacteristic gentleness, holding the animal, “shh, it’s alright. We are helping him. Easy, Little Moon Brother.” She rocked him gently, stroking his head and gradually the dog’s wild struggles subsided and only mournful howls remained as Aela held him in her arms. Go, she mouthed to Kodlak.


    He nodded and turned to the door, still bearing his torch.


    Kodlak kicked open the doors of Jorrvaskr, and a fierce wind blew into the Mead Hall, bringing rain with it.  Lightning flashed through the sky. The Lady of Storms was angry tonight thought Kodlak as he drew his cloak tighter about his shoulders. What injustice had been done to make her rant so?


    “Vilkas, is his face covered?” Kodlak asked again. 


    “Aye, Master.” Vilkas replied, looking down to check the Elf. “It’s covered.”


    “We will risk the rain, it is not far to the Temple. Let’s go, quickly.”


    The trio made their way carefully to the Temple, crossing the Gildergreen. Kodlak first, with a torch to provide light, Vilkas and Farkas close behind, bearing their fallen Shield-Brother.


    He was moving? Floating… he opened his eyes and saw the night sky against the branches of the tree. The grim faces of the strange men who bore him. The lightning flashing.  The rain hit his eyes and he blinked, letting out a weak sigh. He closed his eyes and whispered.


    “Auri-El, zu’u lif dii dez wah hi…”


    And he was again lost to the world.



    Danica Pure-Spring sat at her desk at the Temple of Kynareth, ready to enjoy her canis root tea when she heard the loud pounding on the door. “Acolyte, who is at the door at this hour? In this storm?” Danica called, her voice annoyed. She had been tending to injured soldiers all day and was looking forward to some rest.  


    “I will check.” The priest walked to the door but barely had time to back away when it swung wide open, and Kodlak Whitemane stood before him, torch in hand. His eyes fierce. It had been years since Whitemane had visited the Temple of Kynareth. “Harbinger, what brings you to the—“ The twins followed quickly behind carrying a High Elf wrapped in furs. The Acolyte stepped back, letting the warriors enter. He was certainly not one to deny three very large Nords entry to the Temple. “Danica! Come now!” He cried. 


    The Priestess emerged from her quarters and saw the warriors. Kodlak approached her, his face drawn with concern. Kodlak Whitemane. He was not one to enter the Temple.


    “Danica, help us.” He whispered, gesturing to the Elf. “Our Shield-Brother has fallen. He needs help.”


    She approached. Ah, the face, so impossibly pale, almost like wax. The eyes sunken and closed. He did not have much time.  “Quickly, place him on one of the beds.” She ordered.


    The twins carried the Elf to a bed and laid him down gently, removing the blankets to reveal ill-fitting Imperial armor. She knelt close to the Elf and listened. He still breathed and stirred a little when her face passed his, furrowing his silver eyebrows slightly.


    Kynareth’s Grace, could she feel the magicks! A Paladin? The hair was strange, very long and bound partially in a top-knot. A Priest! Did he bear a mark? They all did. “Remove his cuirass. The armor will stifle him.” The twins knelt and began to quickly unfasten the Elf’s armor. “Acolyte, fetch water, quickly.”


    “Yes priestess.” He nodded, disappearing to another room to fetch a bucket.


    “It is finished.” Said Vilkas a few moments later while he and Farkas backed away from the stripped Elf, leaving the bloodied tunic by his side.

    His naked form was dirty from travel,  his pale skin chaffed raw, she noticed when she approached. Under the armor, he was only clothed in a rough spun tunic, and she furrowed her brow when her eyes found the folded garment. It was a prisoner’s tunic. She did not dwell on the numerous old scars that marked his body. She had seen such terrible scars on the bodies of Nord prisoners of the Thalmor. The dead bodies. Those were not what brought him here. The linen bandage wrapped around his muscled waist was what brought him here. It was stained with blood along the flank and the smell from the bandage was putrid. Poison. She grabbed a small knife from her robes and began to cut at the bandage as Kodlak watched. She peeled the bandage off the Elf’s skin and then removed a greenish paste. She smelled the paste. “Elves Ears. To numb the pain.” She observed aloud. “When he could no longer cast spells, he must have tried this remedy.”


    “Cast spells?” Asked Kodlak as Danica slowly turned the Elf’s head to the side and gently moved his still damp hair, exposing his neck. The texture of it had surprised her, it was not coarse as a Nord’s was, but smooth and fine, and there was a lot of it. She had never seen hair like this in all of her days.  

    “Come, look.” She beckoned Kodlak to approach. At the nape of the Elf’s neck was a small sign, it looked like a sun with waving rays. Small, barely noticeable. She then removed her own hood and moved her hair back exposing the nape of her neck. She had a symbol at the nape of her neck to, but hers was in the form of a bird. A hawk. “This is the symbol of Kynareth,” She explained,”Goddess of wind and rains. All her priests carry this symbol, but different gods have different symbols.” She covered her head again and continued. “He is a priest of Auri-El, an Elven god, we know him as Akatosh here. The dragon god of time. As priests, we devote ourselves to healing magicks. I could feel he practiced the art when I was near him.”


    A priest? Thought Kodlak. A priest in Jorrvaskr?


    “But he was in armor?” Questioned Vilkas.


    She peeled away at greenish paste slowly to expose the wound and continued to explain, “Many priests take up arms to defend their god, Companion. He is probably a Paladin, the warriors of their patron god. A noble calling. There. Oh no!” She exclaimed her face wrought with concern. “It is worse than I thought, this is a poisoned wound.”


    It was a small gash at his flank, but the flesh surrounding it was black and oozed puss. Kodlak stood over her. The wound smelled rancid.  Danica sensed the Harbinger’s presence and turned to him, placing a hand on his lined cheek. He looked so lost, not how he normally looked when they would pass and greet each other at the market stalls. “Harbinger,” She spoke, her voice kind but firm, “You have done all you can. Please, let me do my work. I promise I will send word, for good or for ill.”


    Kodlak sighed, he didn’t want to go, but he could not say in this Holy place. So conflicted. Vilkas squeezed his shoulder and whispered in his ear, rescuing him from his indecision. “Come, Master, let the Priestess heal. Come. She is right, she cannot be disturbed. She will be using magic and it is so delicate. And... we cannot be here." Kodlak turned to Vilkas and nodded. They could not stay, Vilkas was right. They glanced back to where Farkas had been standing, but he was no longer there.  


    They found Farkas in the rain sitting on a bench near the shrine of Talos. Vilkas covered his brother's shoulders with a blanket.


    “Farkas,” He called.


    Farkas looked up. “I was praying. Is that alright? I know that we're not, not... " Farkas couldn't even find the words, his brow furrowing, "But if he’s a Priest. Maybe it’ll help? The Gods will help him, right?” He asked, getting the way he got when he was unsure.


    “Of course, brother,” replied Vilkas. “The Gods will help him. He is different from us, a Holy Mer." He looked at Kodlak, his face worried. Who was this Mer for Kodlak to commit such blasphemy against Kynareth?  "Master, what do you suggest we do?”


    “We wait. It is all we can do. You two go on inside to Jorrvaskr, I will keep vigil by Talos.”


    “But Master, the rain? It is freezing and despite what we are, we are not above the elements. Keep Vigil?”


    “Vilkas.” Vilkas knew that tone. He was not to be questioned when he had that tone. “Leave me.”


    “Come, Farkas. Let’s get you dried off. No sense in having three sick Shield-Brothers from the cold and the wet.” Kodlak glared at Vilkas and the boy immediately regretted that remark. Now was not the time to bite back when the Old Man was set in his ways. If he wanted to catch his death waiting for news of the Elf, then so be it. Farkas stood up and the twins walked away from their Harbinger, leaving him to brood in the rain as they made their way back up to Jorrvaskr. Vilkas gently pushed Farkas inside and then turned back one final time.


    Kodlak sat on the bench and waited, as still as the statue he faced, the rain drops falling from his nose and his bushy eyebrows, droplets running off his now wet beard, droplets running down his armor and his cloak. Only his breath betrayed life, coming out in steady puffs.  And he waited, keeping vigil as Vilkas pushed open the door letting himself inside Jorrvaskr.


    He could not be inside the Temple, but damn it, no one could stop him from sitting by a statue.



    Vilkas had watched the Old Man from the doors of Jorrvaskr the entire night, watching as the rainstorm raged with lightning and thunder. The morning light began to slowly filter through the doors of the Mead Hall, and the rain had ceased. No one had slept. Most had gathered at the Mead Hall and waited for their Harbinger to return from his vigil. Aela walked towards Vilkas, arms crossed over her chest, the dog not far behind, though his steps were heavy.


    “He has been out there the entire night. What is this Elf to him?” She asked.


    “I don’t know,” Replied Vilkas, “I’ve never seen him this way before. I will check again.”


    Vilkas opened the door and the hall was flooded with the early morning light. The dog walked to him and sat on his haunches. Vilkas gently patted his head, it still cried softly.


    “What do you see?” Asked Aela.


    Vilkas squinted, his eyes adjusting to the brightness caused by the rain puddles reflecting the sunshine. The lavender were heavy with water and the Gildergreen showered crystal droplets whenever there was a light gust of wind. Numerous butterflies flew about the tree and the flowers, drinking the rainwater that had gathered. A flock of birds flew past the Temple, scattering feathers and wisps of tundra cotton in their wake. The opposite of last night in every way, peaceful.


    A beautiful, clear day.


    Across the courtyard, the doors of the Temple opened and Pure-Spring emerged slowly, her shoulders stooped as she walked to Kodlak. She sat next to Kodlak and faced him, her face worn. He did not move. Vilkas couldn’t make out their words and the Harbinger betrayed nothing. Was the Elf dead or alive? He had no way of knowing. Wait.  Vilkas saw Kodlak stand slowly, his great cloak drenched, and walk to the shrine of Talos. The Harbinger of the Companions then knelt at the shrine and kissed it before getting up again and following Pure-Spring into the Temple, committing blasphemy a second time. 


    The Elf would live. 


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter IV    Chapter VI


27 Comments   |   SpottedFawn and 3 others like this.
  • Caladran
    Caladran   ·  March 17, 2019
    Touching chapter! I feel for Koor, and I'm glad they managed Albee to the Temple. :)
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  January 10, 2016
    Thanks Tim. I'm glad it's helped you make you feel better. 
  • Tim
    Tim   ·  January 10, 2016
    I've been meaning to start reading Straag Rod after I read the Writer's Interview on you, and finally got around to it today. I've been sick all weekend, and had kinda been having a shitty day, but this really made it a lot better. It brought back a lot o...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 12, 2015
    Yeah, there is too much crap in this story to be first person, though I personally love first person. My sister now calls Koor "Little Moon Brother". 
    Tehehe... just keep reading. Chapter V is next. 
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  November 12, 2015
    Eeee I loved this chapter! I have a lot of favorite moments from this; I really like how you chose to reveal more about Albee when Danica examined him, third person omniscient really suits this story fantastically. I can see how much detail we'd miss if w...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 7, 2015
    Thanks Rhoth, glad you're liking it. 
    LOL, he's got a lot of backstory. 
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 7, 2015
    All right, finished all of the Beginnings... section.  Very nice.  And it looks like now we get more of his backstory.
    Great work Lissette.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 12, 2015
    Romance for Albee! Ha! Just keep reading. In all seriousness though, he's just very nice, a good priest and all, the kind of chap who helps little old ladies across the street or carries things for someone who can't. He can't help it if the Nord ladies fi...  more
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  September 12, 2015
    So chapters 3 and 4 have been devoured like a tramp with chips and I get the feeling your leaving it with a cliff-hanger if your ToC is anything to go by. This is really starting to suck me in, Lissette. My only gripe at this stage is the romance  Äelbero...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 1, 2015
    Thanks for your kind words, Andrew. Stinky Farkas makes me laugh too.