Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter IX

  • 18th of Evening Star, 4E 201

     

    It took him five days to finish his armor and repair his weapons. He had not made a full armor set in over 200 hundred years and needless to say, Äelberon preferred making weapons. It was the legs, his damn legs were very hard to get just right and he had to redo the right cuisse, when it proved too tight on his thigh. If Eorlund Grey-Mane did not think Äelberon possessed a temper before, he certainly knew he possessed one now and the Nord smith erupted into laughter several times when Äelberon’s frustration got the better of him and armor pieces and ingots were tossed about Skyforge.

     

    The Companions took notice of his skill immediately when he emerged from the Living Quarters on the 18th of Evening Star. It was a set of steel armor, complete with pauldrons, lined in fox fur and fine linen, and intricately carved with Nordic designs. He did not have to carve a design into the armor, but that was a hallmark of his mother’s work and now it was a hallmark of his. The leather lacing along the flank of the cuirass was unusually fine and strong. On his broad shoulders was a great bearskin cloak, the very cloak from the Orc bandit, repaired and cleaned.

     

    Damn Orcs... he missed Bumph. Missed her scowling in disapproval as she impatiently watched him read at his little room in the Tap and Tack. He knew what it was to be an exile, to be shunned, and he liked their gruffness and matter-of-fact nature. It fit well with his own personality.  She scowled as he read, but he knew if there was ever any danger she would have his back, battle axe drawn. Urag too. There was no questioning Orcs. Once they counted you as friend, they were loyal, fierce, to the death. He would at least make an effort to visit Urag if he could manage it. 

     

    The helm was of his own design. It was an open-faced steel helmet in principal, as his marksmership required good visibility, but extending beyond it was a hood of bearskin, giving added warmth.  He was uncertain on the helmet as the top-knot was now pressed down, creating a dull pressure on the top on his head. If it became too painful, he would opt to wear a hood instead. On his back was slung the Imperial bow, newly restrung, and a quiver of steel arrows with exceptionally straight shafts and clean fletching.  He saw several of his Shield-Siblings, including Farkas stare at his back and he knew they were noticing that he bore a steel shield, in addition to the bow. His gear was heavy and yet he still moved with relative comfort.

     

    But it was the weapon at his waist that drew the most attention. A steel scimitar. It was a scimitar, of that there was no doubt, but it was not one in the traditional style of the Alik’r. The steel alloy of Äelberon’s weapon was darker and had a glossy shine. The blade was slightly longer and the distinct scimitar’s curve more subtle, with several decorative points near the hilt. The taper of the blade was uncommonly fine and it ended in a sharp point. The hilt was in ridged black leather ending in a perfectly round steel ball, buffed to glossy shine, the blade’s counterweight. It was obvious this was not a Nordic design, but distinctly Elvish.

     

    Äelberon took his morning meal with the rest of his Shield-Siblings but he was quiet as he ate his apples, cheese, and milk. He was placed next to Skjor, no doubt Kodlak Whitemane’s attempt to open a dialogue between the two. He was more than willing, for he bore no ill will against the Nord.  He eyed the Nord from the corner of his eye while he ate. Skjor was sipping mead, staring into the fire, his expression sour. The Nord was not willing.  Bah! He was not going to let this Nord get to him. He was doing White River Watch today and he needed his mind on the impending task, not Skjor’s rudeness.  It was rudeness. In the Isles a youngling would never treat an Elder with such disrespect and Äelberon was an Elder by Nord standards. 

     

    He shook his head slightly and smirked as he took a loud bite from his apple. The Nord frowned and Äelberon took another noisy bite. Now, who was the one acting like a youngling, Old Mer? Get back on track!

     

    White River Watch.  He knew very little about it, only that it was the headquarters of the notorious bandit, Hajvarr Iron-Hand. Iron-Hand had been terrorizing merchants along the White River for months and the guards were stretched thin with the war and the bandits at Fort Greymoor. Äelberon had seen the campfires of Iron-Hand’s lair as he passed Honningbrew Meadery when he first arrived at Whiterun, though at the time he did not know it was a bandit hideout.

     

    “So…” Spoke Skjor, between sips of mead. “You’re finally doing White River Watch today.” He glowered at the Mer. “It took you long enough. What were you doing? Reading up on various walking techniques? How to best walk from Whiterun to White River Watch? You can see it from the damn city.”

     

    Kodlak sighed, Skjor was going to push Äelberon too far. He watched the Elf at the table. Äelberon stared into the fire, and Kodlak wasn’t quite sure if the Elf was smiling or annoyed at Skjor’s words. In an action that mimicked Skjor, Äelberon took sips of milk as he spoke.

     

    “Yes, that is what I intend to do today. The bandits will be brought to justice. The people of Whiterun have suffered enough, do you not think?” He paused, taking another sip of milk.

     

    Skjor bristled at the Elf’s dig, he was mocking the Companions. Kodlak looked up with interest. Äelberon continued, putting the tankard of milk down and turned to Skjor.

     

    “As for my delay, next time, do be clearer if your intent was truly to have a naked Elf charge into White River Watch, as I had just thrown the Imperial mess I had arrived in into the smelter.”

     

    Mead spit out of Athis’ mouth and the Hall roared with laughter at the image of a naked Äelberon charging into battle. The Elf took another sip of milk, his red-orange eyes twinkling. Even Skjor could not maintain his bristling, and smirked. Kodlak smiled in relief, he liked Äelberon, the spirit to fight back, but the wisdom to do so in a subtle way.

     

    “I’m sure you would’ve done well.” Replied Skjor, “Your skin would’ve blinded them first.”

     

    Äelberon let out a hearty laugh, downed the rest of his milk, and stood, patting Skjor on the shoulder.

     

    “You’re still a whelp.” Skjor growled, pulling his shoulder away.

     

    Kodlak frowned, that had been rude.

     

    “If you think so highly of the word.” Äelberon nodded and began to walk to the door.

     

    Kodlaks' frown extended, that had been snide. Subtle and snide. 

     

    “Whelp!”

     

    Äelberon would humor the Nord, but if he was called “whelp” one more time… “Yes, Skjor?” 

     

    It was hissed, like a viper, thought Kodlak, extra attention to the "s"s. 

     

    “When you return,” Skjor spoke as he stared into the fire, sipping his mead, “I want to see that blade of yours in action. Meet me in the training circle.”

     

    Aela smiled, she knew Skjor would take interest in that blade the moment Äelberon walked into the Mead Hall. It was a marvelous weapon.

     

    “It would be my pleasure.” The Elf nodded and exited the Hall, followed closely by Koor. He had the second blade waiting in his quarters. He would show Skjor a thing or two. Youngling  needed a lesson in manners. 

     

     

    It was an overcast morning, dark clouds looming in the distance and the air was heavy with moisture as he walked down the steps of Jorrvaskr towards the courtyard and later into the market square. The vendors were at their shops and Ysolda was speaking to Carlotta Valentia, a vendor of fruits and vegetables from the local farms. They paused when they saw the tall Altmer approach and Ysolda grinned when she saw Carlotta reach for an apple from her stall.

     

    Two nights ago, Äelberon had defended the Imperial’s honor, speaking to Mikael personally on the widow’s behalf. Mikael had been harassing the widow for weeks, making unwanted sexual advances and claiming to the townspeople that she was a “beast to be conquered.” It was not known what words were exchanged between the Altmer and the Bard, but everyone in the tavern noticed the wetness accumulate between the Bard’s legs and the puddle of urine on the floor. The Bard then apologized publicly to Carlotta and ran up to his quarters to change.

     

    “Good morning, Flower maiden.” Äelberon smiled. “Not the best of days outside,” He continued as he leaned casually against Carlotta’s stall, “but the lavender will appreciate the rain, do you not think?” The two ladies were not paying attention to his small talk, however. They were staring at his armor and he could feel a blush creep to his face. 

     

    “Good morning, oh! Did you make that yourself?” Ysolda asked, gesturing to his armor.

     

    “That I did.” Äelberon managed, his eyes slightly downcast.

     

    Ysolda furrowed her brow, was the Elf shy?

     

    “Well,” Chimed in Carlotta, “It seems we have a third smith in Whiterun. I should give up selling vegetables and sell armor instead.”

     

    The Elf smiled at Carlotta and Ysolda noticed him relax. “Carlotta, the soldiers still need to eat.”

     

    The ladies laughed as he continued through the market square, Koor trotting close behind, his tail wagging, a definite spring to his step.

     

    “Äelberon catch!” Carlotta cried.

     

    Äelberon quickly turned around and brought his hand up, the green apple finding his hand. The two women laughed again. Only archers had such skill.

     

    “Thank you, Carlotta! I shall wait for this to be just the right temperature.” He called from his position near Belethor’s General Goods before turning around and resuming his walk. They laughed again, when they heard him take a noisy bite almost immediately afterwards. He neared the gates of Whiterun when he heard her suck in her breath and speak while he munched his apple.

     

    “Whew! Let me have a look at you.”

     

    Äelberon paused and faced Adrianne, shifting his cloak a bit to give her a better look at the armor. She crossed her arms over her chest and walked closer, looking at the construction. She looked up at Äelberon, lifting one hand. “May I?” She asked.

    “Of course.”  He replied, working on his apple.

     

    She ran her hand down the cuirass. It was the attention to detail that impressed her, from the comfort of the lining, to the beautiful Nordic details of the carving, to the very fine lacing. Then she saw the scimitar… “Oh!” She gasped. “May I see your blade?”

     

    Äelberon erupted in laughter, covering his mouth to keep the chunks of apple from falling out,  and Adrianne blushed, knowing full well what he was thinking. He was a Priest, but he was terrible. Get him together with Ulfberth and it only got worse. Get them in the Bannered Mare with Jon Battle-Born, and she would come home with a tear-streaked face and sore sides from laughing so hard. Especially after Äelberon made Mikael wet himself. 

     

    “That was NOT the way I intended that to come out.” She blushed, putting her hand to her mouth in embarrassment.

     

    “I know, ‘twas still funny and you know me by now, I cannot such resist such things. You Nords make it extremely easy.” He replied as he unsheathed the weapon, balancing the hilt on his palm as he did with her great sword, while he still munched on the apple. It was perfect.

     

    “Is it fast?”

     

    “Brutally.” He replied, tossing the apple to his husky, who eagerly tore it apart.  Äelberon then gave the weapon a few quick swings to show her. A guard or two were now gawking from their posts.  

     

    “Will you teach me how to make this?” She asked as he resumed balancing the blade on his palm.

     

    “Of course.” He smiled.

     

    She then looked a bit worried, shifting her feet on the worn cobblestone. “You heading out today?” She asked and watched in awe as he vaulted the blade into the air, caught it by the hilt and sheathed the weapon. He was so fast.

     

    “Aye, White River Watch.”

     

    “Be careful, Äelberon.”

     

    “I will be, Adrianne.  Besides Battle-Born asked me to meet him at the Bannered Mare later tonight. I think he is going to finally show me the damn poem he has been writing. Why the boy thinks I am going to bite his head off is beyond me?”

     

    “You did make Mikael wet himself.” Adrianne offered.

     

    “The lout had it coming.” The Elf replied, his tone becoming annoyed, “When Ysolda showed me that book…”

     

    Adrianne frowned, remembering. A Gentleman’s Guide to Whiterun. Nothing but drivel and gossip and demeaning to women to boot! When Äelberon spoke with the Bard, he struck a blow for all the women of Whiterun.

     

    “Well, I was very angry for the gentle ladies of Whiterun. Women are not beasts. They should not be treated thusly." 

     

    “Ulfberth wanted to kill him.” She replied, crossing her arms over her chest.

     

    “He still can,” The Elf grinned. “I only made Mikael wet himself.”

     

    Adrianne shook her head and chuckled, slapping the Elf’s back. “Get out of here, you rascal. I have work to do.”

     

    “Rascal, eh? I am a bit young for that one. Always fancied codger myself.”

     

    “GO!” She cried, laughing.

     

    He waved farewell before heading outside the gates to begin his walk along the road, heading towards Iron-Hand’s lair. But he stopped first at the Stables. Skulvar Sable-Hilt stood from his chair when Äelberon approached, rubbing his black mustache. Elf had money again. Äelberon removed a coin purse from his cloak and handed it to Skulvar.

     

    “Another payment?” Asked Skulvar, testing the weight of the bag. It was heavy, “How much?”

     

    “Another thousand.” Äelberon answered. 

     

    Skulvar grinned. “At this rate, Old Allie will be in your hands very soon. You hear that girl?” The horse snorted and stomped, impatient. “Yeah, she heard me. Go on, say hi.”

     

    Äelberon approached Queen Alfsigr. Allie suited her better, he thought and he had taken to calling her that. She held her head high and met his gaze with fire. Yes, thought Äelberon as he patted her neck, feeling her strong shoulders, this was no animal for the family farm. “You want the open road, eh? Want to feel the wind blow in your mane and the grass on your hooves?” He whispered softly in her ear. She grunted and turned her head. “Only a bit longer, I promise.” He smiled.

     

    “How’s her armor coming along?” Asked Skulvar, settling back down on his chair, watching the Elf with Allie. She threw the stableboy, but this Elf matched her spirit. He had ridden her already, and they were a fine match, for he channeled her fire. It didn’t hurt that the Elf knew his way around a horse.

     

    “I will come and fit her for it tomorrow in the afternoon. I still need to line it so it is more comfortable and I will need to construct saddle bags. The buffing of the metal is nearly complete.”

     

    Skulvar nodded and yawned. Elf could have just said “fine.” Too many details.

     

    Äelberon gave Queen Alfsigr a farewell pat and nodded to Skulvar. It was time for White River Watch.

     

     

    It was a short walk.  He passed the outdoor vendors and the farms that dotted the landscape. He noted the villagers tending their fields; fields of wheat, potatoes, and cabbage. Scattered drops of rain began to fall as he heard faint thunder.  He passed the meadery, Honningbrew, and he saw the campfire on a small cliff, opposite a short bridge on the side of the rapids. Beyond the bridge, there was a small dirt path. He readied his bow and began to walk up it, Koor trotting behind. Two bandits were alerted to his presence and began to draw their weapons when he spoke, his voice firm, his bow drawn.

     

    “I am Äelberon of Dusk. I am a Shield-Brother of the Companions and have been sent to clear this cave. You have two options. You can yield to me now. In which case, I will then spare your lives and escort you to the Whiterun jail.” He said gesturing with his head towards Whiterun. He faced them again and drew his bow tighter. “Or, you can draw your weapons and die. The decision is yours. Either way, you will answer for your crimes against the good citizens of Whiterun.”

     

    “Die Elf!!” Screamed the bandits as they both charged down path at full speed, weapons drawn…

     

     

    Äelberon knelt over their bodies, arm resting on his thigh. He had given them fair warning. A piece of yellow parchment was stuck to the belt of one of the bandits. He removed the parchment and read the note, crumpling it and dropping it next to the bandit when he finished. So, there was dissension among their ranks? He looked up and eyed the cave opening, as Koor gently nudged his Master, wedging his muzzle hard between his arm and flank to push his head through. Äelberon sighed and rubbed the dog’s ears.

     

    “You ask for attention at an inopportune time, my friend, but I will oblige.” When he finished, he held the dog’s face in his hands and gazed into the dog’s sky blue eyes. “Alright, I have done my part, now let us go clear this cave.” Koor licked his Master’s nose and then snorted. “I need a bath that badly, eh?” Äelberon laughed. Koor barked. “Ah! So do you. Let us go!”

     

    With a rough pat on the dog’s head, Äelberon stood and readied his bow. He took an arrow from his quiver and slowly drew the weapon as he went inside the cave.

     

    “Rodulf, is that you?” 

     

    It was an older man, blind and frail, wearing iron armor, sitting at a chair reading a book. Äelberon kept his bow drawn as he spoke. “Rodulf is dead, but if you yield, you do not have to be. I do not wish to kill a blind man.”

     

    “Hey! Somebody get down here, help!”

     

    Two large bandits appeared from the doorway, armed with heavy weapons, while the blind man stood back at the sound of their approach.  Äelberon let his arrows fly as he backed away from the bandits to maintain a good shooting distance, but one was in heavy armor, forcing him to drop his bow and draw the scimitar and his shield. The battle axe fell hard on his shield arm, but he deflected the blow, as he quickly sliced the bandit’s lacings in the left flank of his cuirass and then ran the scimitar through his exposed flank with some difficulty. The blade was not designed well for such an attack, requiring more effort to send the blade through, though it ended up working. It was more of a slicing blade, but it was over before the bandit even knew his cuirass had been cut. It was the weakness in heavy armor, the lacings that held the pieces together. The scimitar was a fair enough weapon to exploit the lacings, even if it did not have the power of a longsword or a bastard sword, his favorite type of blade.

     

    The old man stood still near the table, mace in hand, wildly searching with sightless eyes as Äelberon circled silently. “Did you guys get him?” He asked. “Did you?”

     

    “No, they did not, now yield.” Äelberon answered.

     

    The old man blindly swung his mace. Bah! He was not going to kill an old man, and clubbed him with the hilt of his scimitar, rendering him unconscious. He lifted the old man and sat him upon the chair, leaning his head gently over the table. He peered at the book. It was blank? He cocked an eyebrow, shook his head in disbelief, and ventured deeper into the cave, sheathing his scimitar and stooping to pick up his bow. He did not know how much longer this Imperial rubbish was going to last. A stronger material would hold up to longer stretches strung. He took an arrow from his quiver and nocked it in place. 

     

    The cave was stuffed with used furniture, end tables, wardrobes, sacks, and barrels. It reeked of urine and stale food and mushrooms dotted the damp earth. He slowly walked up a set of rickety wooden steps, his back straight and tall, his muscles taut like a coiled spring, ready. The silent grace of his people apparent even in heavy armor, his bow slightly drawn. Koor following quietly, his muzzle low to the ground, his eyes intense. The pair were engaged in the hunt now. There was a tunnel up ahead and Äelberon walked slowly towards it. As he passed through the tunnel, he drew in his breath quietly. He heard them, while he continued to walk slowly.

     

    “So, you in?" Spoke one.

     

    “Yeah.  We can't have that rheumy-eyed fool as our watchman, even if he is Hajvarr's uncle. Time we dealt with both of them.” Replied the other.

     

    “We strike tonight, at dusk. Be ready.”

     

    They were planning something. He cleared the tunnel and spied the two of them at the campfire. “Yield,” He commanded.

     

    The bandits jumped and looked up in surprise, they had not even seen him come in, yet there he was, a High Elf in heavy armor, bow ready. He then quickly dodged an incoming arrow, by shifting to the side. Their smarter companion, at an alchemy station just above, had spied him earlier and got in the first shot as his comrades scrambled to ready their weapons. They watched as their fellow bandit then fell, brought down by Äelberon’s superior aim.

     

    They began their attack, and Äelberon swung his bow hard, causing the first bandit to fall back onto his comrade, throwing them off balance. It bought him enough time to switch weapons. He swung quickly at the first bandit with his scimitar, who came at him with a war axe. He missed, his brows furrowing, and he leaned back quickly to avoid the axe, as Koor jumped onto the other bandit, tearing at his throat. They exchanged blows for a bit, and Äelberon was getting impatient and tired. He swung again, this time slashing the bandit’s arm with his blade. The war axe nicked Äelberon’s left pauldron. He turned and countered with a third swing, and the bandit felt the thin blade slash across his throat as blood spurted. His eyes were wide as he fell to the floor, bleeding, clutching his throat, staring at the High Elf that brought him to his end.

     

    With a gasp the bandit died and Äelberon frowned, eyeing the scimitar, still breathing hard, the sweat running down his face. He checked the balance. It was fine. It was not the weapon. It was him. It took too many swings now and he was a bit slower. It was designed for a faster warrior and he felt it. The illness was a feeble excuse. He simply was not the warrior he was 150 years ago, nor even seventeen years ago, when he last wielded that type of weapon. One of silver. He had dug up that silver scimitar for Vingalmo specifically, long favoring the katana since that night long ago.  He stopped himself before the memories took over. He would have to rethink things when he returned to Jorrvaskr. He sheathed the weapon with a low grumbled curse and switched back to the bow. The bow would never fail him.

     

    Unless this Imperial rubbish he was carrying now fell apart. 

     

    He walked slowly up the path, past the alchemy station, which led to another short tunnel. As he entered it, he overheard another conversation and the low growl of a wolf.

     

    "You think it'll work?" Said a voice, a female.

     

    “Course not.” Replied a second voice. By the gruffness, Äelberon suspected an Orc. The bandit continued, “Dogs I could train. But a half-starved wolf? Not a chance." Gods, Orcs were bloody blunt. He was too. He wondered where their strongholds were?

     

    “Right. Lucky if it doesn't rip our throats out."

     

    The tunnel led to another chamber filled with furniture. Above him was a suspended cage, below that was the cage that housed the wolf.

     

    “Look out!” Cried a bandit from higher along the path.

     

    A fourth bandit came from near the suspended care and to the left. Both had bows and began to shoot at Äelberon, as Koor knocked down the female bandit next to the Orc, who was readying his warhammer. With no time to even offer terms, Äelberon began his attack, quickly dispatching one bandit with a quick shot from his bow. The second fell soon after as the large Orc then stood before him, a warhammer in his great, greenish hands.

     

    “Prepare to die, fool!” He began to rush towards Äelberon, face contorted in a scowl, preparing a full on sprinting attack.

     

    A Berserker. 

     

    He knew the combat style well. It was based on intimidation almost as much as proficiency in two-handed weaponry. It was a favorite tactic among Dremora. Äelberon could intimidate as well, but in a far more subtle way. His expression grew cold as ice as he stared down the Orc and slowed his own movements, showing no fear, his red-orange eyes blazing. A look sometimes was all it took. The realization that Äelberon would not back down.  The Orc caught his gaze and for a moment he saw fear in the Orc’s black eyes. Time slowed as the Orc let out a battle cry that was as much to comfort himself as it was to intimidate.

     

    But the Elf stood his ground, and would not look away and those eyes!

     

    Äelberon remained calm and readied another arrow as the bandit closed in, Koor close behind, but he knew his Master would not fail. He had the Orc exactly where he wanted him. Äelberon aimed and fired, hitting the Orc in the middle of his forehead as his warhammer fell from his hands and he fell dead at Äelberon’s feet. Äelberon heard a gasp, and walked slowly towards the sound.  It was the female bandit that Koor brought down.

     

    She saw him approach. A tale Elf, pale, with eyes like fire. He bent to her and spoke. “Where is Iron-hand?” He commanded. She pointed up with a trembling, bloody hand. Koor had bitten her arm.

     

    “Do you yield?” He again spoke. She nodded. He then helped her to her feet and turned to an armored dog with black and white fur and eyes like the sky. “Koor, guard. If she moves...”

     

    The dog barked. Äelberon began to go up the path slowly. She would move, but Koor was there. 

     

    It was littered with more junk and mushrooms. The iron ore vein was the only thing of interest.  There was a small tunnel and he could see light ahead. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the female bandit suddenly bolt towards a chain near the entrance of the room. Koor brought her down as she pulled the chain, tearing her throat. Her garbled cries muffled by Koor’s snarls. The chain released the wolf who immediately ran to Koor, teeth gnashing, fur bristling. Äelberon readied his bow and let fly another arrow.  The wolf fell at Koor’s feet. He sighed, as he beckoned Koor to follow him toward the light. Why did Skyrim bandits not yield? They yielded in Cyrodiil all the time.

     

    When he cleared the cave, he found Hajvarr Iron-Hand sitting at a chair near a cliff that overlooked the roads that led to Whiterun, Riverwood, and Eastmarch. It was a smart lookout, for merchants frequented these crossroads as they traveled through the holds. He was clad in heavy steel plate armor and on the table was a massive steel warhammer. He was watching for his next ambush. An ambush that would never happen. Äelberon had seen to that.

     

    “Hajvarr Iron-Hand.” Äelberon spoke, his voice firm.

     

    The bandit turned to him and picked up his warhammer. Who the Oblivion was this?

     

    “I have been sent by the Companions to bring you to justice. I have slain your fellow bandits. I will give you the very choice I gave them. Yield or die. Either way, you will no longer cause harm to the citizens of Whiterun.”

     

    The bandit laughed, balancing his warhammer in his hands. This Elf had a great big pair to go up against him. “And who are you to order me, Old Elf?” He was old, thought Iron-Hand with lines on his face and silver-white hair. So this is who the Companions finally sent? What a disappointment.

     

    “Äelberon of Dusk, Shield-brother of the Companions.” He drew his bow farther, aiming carefully for a particular spot, his eyes focused. “Now yield. I will not ask again.” 

     

    “You will die, Elf.” Smirked Iron-hand as he headed towards Äelberon, warhammer ready to swing.

     

    “No, you will.” Äelberon let his arrow fly.

     

    It was said by all of Summerset that he had the eyes of an eagle and that he could spot the smallest of details. He had seen the slight gap of exposed skin between the bandit’s cuirass and helm. An ill fit in the armor that exposed the throat. Äelberon’s first arrow found that spot and the bandit gasped, dropping his warhammer to clutch his throat in an attempt to staunch the bleeding. Äelberon’s second arrow was just as precise, finding the visor in Iron-hands’ helm, plunging deep into the bandit’s eye. Hajvarr Iron-Hand lay dead close to the table in a pool of blood. 

     

    There was a chest nearby, which yielded coin and potions, but he had not really scoured the camp for loot. His assignment was to deal with the bandits, not pillage and plunder like one of them. Now that they were dealt with, he would take the time and figure out what was useful. He knelt over Iron-hand’s body. The steel plate was tempting, as it was much stronger than what he was currently wearing, but he would not wear the armor of a bandit. It would go into the smelter. Let the heat burn away the impurities of the black heart who wore it. He had worn the armor of the Imperial soldier, but as terribly made as the armor was, the heart that had worn it was not a black one. He had been a soldier defending his Empire, defending what he felt was right. He stood up, Koor next to him. He unstrung his bow bow and gazed towards Whiterun; towards the Mead Hall which he could just make out.

     

    “Take that, Veteran.” He smiled to himself.

     

    He was not at his full strength yet and his slowness with the scimitar nagged at him, but he did well, considering only 16 days prior he was a dying mer. It was immature of him, aye, but that Skjor doubted his skills really rubbed him the wrong way. He broke his gaze towards Jorrvaskr and made his way back to the cave entrance, Koor following with a wagging tail. It was getting late and he owed a one-eyed wolf cub some lessons…

     

     

    He held it up in the feeble light of the cave. The great prize of White River Watch. The green of the orichalcum betraying its origins, and not cheapened with iron either, pure orichalcum was used for the accent of this weapon. A fine Orcish bow, found in a chest inside the cave. Far more powerful than his current nearly-warped Imperial mess. They had a constant supply of weapons, most soldiers kept them strung for convenience, or they lacked strength to string it and the limbs often warped. Äelberon compared the lengths of the two bows, similar, so he removed the string from the Imperial bow and strung the Orcish weapon. 

     

    He drew the bow.

     

    And frowned. Bah! All wrong! Wrong weight. Wrong everything! Surely, the idiots kept its string? Or did they give up when they could not string the weapon. Nah, there was an Orc, he would have had the strength. Äelberon rummaged through the chest and smiled, the coil of string unmistakable in his experienced hands.

     

    Bowstring. 

     

    Whomever kept this weapon knew better than the Imperial Legion did. Knew to keep a bow unstrung when not in use. Well, an Orcish weapon was built to last. Unable to contain his grin, Äelberon unstrung the weapon and married it to its proper string. 

     

    His grin broadened when he drew again. 

     

    Faster, though not as powerful as the great Altmeri bows. He would leave the Imperial weapon here, the warping limbs would soon render the weapon useless anyway. He relaxed the string on the Orcish bow and stowed away the weapon. A huge boon indeed. 

     

    The cave yielded more than the bow. He would have to return once he delivered the old man to the authorities. Iron ore, rare mushrooms for Arcadia the alchemist, and many of the bandits’ weapons and armors could be broken down into raw materials at a smelter or a tanning rack. There was more than enough steel here to finish Queen Aflsigr’s armor. The rest he would sell; another 1000 septims easily for her in this cave. He took the things of most value for now, Iron-hand’s steel plate armor, his enchanted gauntlets, some fur cloaks, the gold, and the potions. He removed a bear pelt from his knapsack, and placed the items in it, slinging the pelt over his shoulder.

     

    He bent his head, he was never fond of looting, but years in the wilds demanded it. Especially when he first arrived at Cyrodiil. Be resourceful, or be dead. The recycled materials would be put to use and the items created out of them would be used for honorable deeds instead of doing harm. There was no shame in that.

     

    “Come Koor,” He beckoned.

     

    They approached the entrance of White River Watch. The old man was sitting at his chair, his deeply lined face confused and streaked with tears. He must have heard much of the fighting. Äelberon’s heart filled with pity and he put down the bearskin.

     

    “Old man,” he said softly as he gently grabbed the old man’s shoulders. “Come with me.” He looked so confused.

     

    “My nephew?” He whispered, his eyes welling with fresh tears, searching for the voice that spoke to him.

     

    “He died with honor by my bow.” He gently coaxed the old man up. “I cannot leave you alone in this cave. I will make sure you are cared for. Come.”

     

    He led the old man out of the cave and down the dirt path. It had gotten chilly and Äelberon could feel the old man’s shoulders shaking with the cold. “Stop for a moment, you are shivering.” The old man stopped while Äelberon fetched a wolfskin cloak from the bearskin sack, and draped it over the old man’s shoulders. “This way.” Äelberon directed as he continued to lead the old man across the bridge towards the meadery.

     

    A Whiterun Guard took notice. He had seen the great Elf walk up the dirt path to White River Watch this morning. It was now near sunset and he emerged alive. It could only mean one thing. Hajvarr Iron-Hand was dead. The guard quickened his pace towards Äelberon, beckoning two of his fellow guards to follow him. Drinks at the Bannered Mare could wait.

     

    The three guards stopped Äelberon and the old man just as they entered the vicinity of the meadery. The Whiterun guard spoke. “I know you, you are a member of the Companions.”

     

    “Yes,” replied Äelberon.

     

    “Iron-hand is dead, then?”

     

    “Yes,” spoke the Elf, as the old blind man hung his head.

     

    “A prisoner of the bandits?” Asked a second guard, gesturing to the old man.

     

    Äelberon turned to the first guard. “Would your men watch him while you and I speak?” 

     

    The guard turned to his men giving the order to remain. “Guard him,” They nodded and stood with the old man, while Äelberon and the Whiterun guard walked a short distance away. 

     

    “He is uncle to Iron-hands, friend, but look at him.” Äelberon sighed, glancing at the old man. “He is old, feeble, and blind. I had not the heart to end his life.” He bent his head. “It would have been wrong to do so. He is still a bandit, however, and must answer for his crimes.” 

     

    The guard hung his head low, thinking. “There is compassion in your words, Elf. I have an old uncle too. I also would have spared his life. Listen, get back to your Companions. I will take the old man to the Jail myself.” He patted Äelberon on the shoulder. “You have done Whiterun a huge service today. Rest assured, the old man will treated with mercy.”

     

    Äelberon nodded as the guards began to lead the old man back to Whiterun. He stooped to pick up the sack again, slinging it over his great shoulders and admired the sunset for a bit before heading to Whiterun himself.

     

     

    Farkas stood near the door of Jorrvaskr, waiting. Skjor approached, his arms crossed over his chest.

     

    “He’s sure taking his sweet time.” He grumbled, leaning toward Farkas.

     

    “White River Watch wasn’t going to be easy.” Remarked Farkas. “None of us really wanted to do it.” He turned to Skjor and pressed the older Nord. “Why don’t you like Äelberon?”

     

    “The Elf? That his name?” Retorted Skjor, “He’s a whelp. What do these Witch Elves do? They read their books and ponder the meaning of life, while casting demon spells. They are not warriors. They never will be. Farkas, he could be Thalmor for all we know. I just don’t trust him.” He shook his head, his face taciturn, “Don’t be fooled, Farkas. They can manipulate minds. I was in the Great War, I saw them do it with my own eyes. Many died... tortured by the High Elves.”

     

    “But Äelberon wouldn’t---“

     

    “You mark my words,” Skjor warned, “he will be trouble. IF he returns. The Companions are my family, I will not let it be overrun by Thalmor.”

     

    They both suddenly looked up as the great doors of Jorrvaskr swung wide open. Koor trotted in first and quickly found Aela, who rubbed his ears.

     

    “Fine, Koor, leave me for your new mistress.” Called Äelberon merrily from the open door as he put down the bearskin sack near the entrance with a heavy thud.

     

    The dog turned and barked.

     

    “Giving me lip now too, eh?” He smiled a wicked smile. “How about a bath?”

     

    The dog howled softly in protest and Aela laughed as she walked to Äelberon, Koor close behind talking nonstop, the howls and vocalizations low and direct, recounting his own adventures to the Huntress.

     

    “He likes to speak his mind, doesn’t he?” She pointed to the bearskin, “Good hunting?”

     

    Äelberon laughed. “Aye, the breed does that frequently.” He bent to Koor and squeezed his face as the dog licked his Masters's chin, wagging his tail. “Sometimes he will preach more than Heimskr does, eh Koor?” He grabbed Koor’s muzzle and gave a squeeze, making the dog snort. He turned to Aela.

     

    “Aye, good hunting.” He nodded as he stood up. “Very good.”

     

    “Then Iron-hand is?” Asked Farkas.

     

    “Dead. The cave cleared.” Replied Äelberon, leaning against a wooden column.

     

    “Then you have done Whiterun a service and represented your Shield-siblings with honor.” Farkas took out a heavy coin purse. “Here is your reward, well-earned, Äelberon, well-earned.”

     

    The purse was heavy in Äelberon’s hand. He was close to having Allie now. “Thank you.” He nodded. “I need to return to the cave tomorrow. There are plenty of weapons and armor to convert to raw materials. It will help for Bleak Falls Barrow."

     

    “I’ll come with you,” volunteered Farkas “Two pairs of strong arms are better than one.”

     

    “The help is appreciated.” Äelberon nodded, patting Farkas on the shoulder. “I am starved, what has my fair Tilma cooked today?”

     

    “Venison.” Farkas smiled, patting his stomach.

     

    “Excellent.”

     

    “I will meet you outside.” Interrupted Skjor. “Unless you have forgotten?”

     

    Now why did Skjor have to go and ruin a perfectly good venison, though Farkas with a frown. 

     

    “No, I have not forgotten.” Äelberon tone  then grew very cold. “I have many things to show you.”

     

    Skjor frowned. He didn’t like the Elf’s tone.

     

    “C’mon, Skjor, let the Elf eat.” Protested Farkas. “He’s been out all day.”

     

    “It is alright, Farkas, I just need to retrieve something from my quarters first.” He turned to Skjor, “I will meet you outside shortly.”

     

    Skjor nodded. "Whatever you need to do, make it quick." 

     

    Torvar whispered into Athis’ ear as Äelberon disappeared down the steps and entered the living quarters. “My money’s on Skjor, 20 septims says Skjor wipes the floor with the High Elf.”

     

    Athis grinned, Torvar did not know any better, easy money. “You’re on.”

     

     

    The Companions gathered outside, some standing, some sitting at the tables, but they were all there, including Kodlak Whitemane. Koor took his place beside his favorite mistress, panting as he enjoyed a fine ear-rubbing.  Vilkas was sipping mead next to his hungry brother. Äelberon had been a challenge even near death, now he was healthy and a very unpredictable fighter. Skjor was their best, but who knew what the Elf would bring to the training circle today.

     

    Skjor was practicing, swinging his sword at a practice dummy when the Elf emerged; bearing a second scimitar. As he entered the training circle he spoke, addressing everyone.

     

    “I typically use the scimitar with a shield. I am weak to magic, all of my race are, but this is not the best way to use this weapon.” He leaned his shield against one of the dummies as he continued to test both blades for balance carefully, swinging them quickly.

     

    Athis was excited. He had never really seen Altmer blade techniques before, for the Elf had been very ill during his last sparring with Vilkas. But now he was healthy and wielding far better weapons. They were usually mages, but they did fight with weapons and the techniques were very old.   

     

    Äelberon turned to his Shield-Siblings to continue, still practicing various combinations of attacks as he spoke. “Bah! Feels very odd with my armor on! Usually did this type of fighting in robes.”

     

    Skjor glared at him, damn Elf didn’t shut up and let him practice in peace.

     

    “Forgive me, I am no dual-wielder by nature. In fact,” He paused his own practice, his face deep in thought as he did a quick calculation, “I have not dual-wielded for about 100 years, so I will be a bit, how do you Nords say it? Rusty?”

     

    They laughed. Athis gulped, that was his “rusty”? He then smiled when he remembered the coin he was going to get.

     

    Äelberon turned to Skjor and nodded. It was time, and he took a stance, one scimitar in front, the other above his head. Skjor readied his sword and shield and the pair began to circle each other, their armor catching in the light of Braziers.

     

    “What are you waiting for?” Barked Skjor, growing impatient, as they circled each other.

     

    “You do not remember from my sparring with Vilkas? It is not my custom to attack first.” Äelberon replied.

     

    “Fine.” The Nord lunged mightily at Äelberon, who dodged deftly, giving Skjor a light tap on the rump with the blade of a scimitar. The Companions laughed, but Skjor was not laughing. “You think this is a joke?” Fumed Skjor.

     

    “No, I was beginning to think that you do, however, with a move like that. You set yourself up for it. I only respond to what you do.” Retorted the Elf with a sarcastic chuckle. “Now, come at me again.” Äelberon challenged.

     

    Skjor scowled. The Elf wouldn't be laughing in a few seconds. Skjor let out an angry cry and swung hard at the Elf, only to be blocked by the left blade, the flimsy-looking metal managing to thwart Skyforge steel. Äelberon then performed his first attack, pushing the Nord away with the left blade and then coming rapidly towards him, swinging both blades in different directions, moving swiftly despite wearing heavy steel. He twisted often, using the momentum of this body to increase the force of his swings.

     

    He had both Aela and Athis’s rapt attention. The weapons were ideal for dual-wielding. Longer blades with sharpness and reach. Ideal for slicing. Skjor was having some trouble blocking the swings, which only infuriated him the more. Äelberon moved rapidly to Skjor’s left and knocked Skjor to the ground with a block from one of the blades on that mighty shield arm of his. Skjor fell hard and the Companions became silent.

     

    “Get up.” Commanded the Elf.

     

    Skjor could feel his rage building and he roughly got up, lunging at Äelberon again, who proceeded to knock him down again.

     

    “Get up and do not attack me out of anger, youngling. Control your rage or it will be your undoing.”

     

    Skjor was not taking ANY battle advice from this Elf. He lunged again, even more angry.

     

    Äelberon again dodged and repeated the same action, knocking Skjor to the ground a third time. The Nord was not even watching his blindside, thought Äelberon. This was very basic.  Always watch your weaknesses.  

     

    Kodlak watched intently. He had seen Äelberon observing the training sessions since he woke. He never missed them. It was as if he was studying the moves of his fellow Shield-Siblings. He had studied Skjor several times. Always quiet, but always watching. 

     

    The sparring continued for over an hour and Skjor was growing frustrated, the Elf would not yield, nor would he fall. They were both breathing heavily and sweating. He could barely contain his rage and again attacked out of anger.

     

    This blow was far more difficult to block as Skjor was now channeling his rage, but it was still blocked as Äelberon crossed the scimitar blades, grimacing as one of the scimitars was chipped from the force of Skjor's blow. Good, he could end it now and he really wanted to, for he was tired and hungry from White River Watch and tired of dual-wielding.

     

    Ohgma’s tits! If he had a longsword, this would have been bloody over already. Dual-wielding’s purpose was to show kings and emperors pretty, ceremonial fighting stances and elaborate blade work. It was choreography, it was dance.  It was impractical for actual warfare, at least in his eyes. He preferred to just subdue the enemy with as little effort as possible. If today taught HIM anything, it was that he was going to march right up to Skyforge tomorrow and make himself a damn longsword. Good, strong, and sharp.  The Nord was extremely strong, stronger than Vilkas and Vilkas was no slouch. He heard his stomach growl loudly. Aye, he was done with Skjor, hopefully the youngling learned his lessons.

     

    Äelberon shifted his weapons slightly and his crossed blades caught the hilt of Skjor’s weapon. It was stuck, which was exactly what Äelberon wanted. ‘Twas the only other nice thing about dual-wielding. Skjor tried to pull it off roughly, and that was when the Companions saw the value of the two thin blades and their “decorative” points.  Äelberon used the scimitars to pull Skjor’s weapon roughly from his hand, flinging it to the opposite end of the training circle. When he saw his weapon land, Skjor turned quickly and faced Äelberon, his expression shocked.

     

    Only Kodlak had ever bested him. Only Kodlak...

     

    “Pick up your weapon, and stop attacking out of anger. It has not served you thus far and we are finished here.” 

     

    The shock became rage. Skjor picked his weapon and let out a fierce cry as he prepared for another terrible blow. No Elf was going to tell him he was finished. Son of a Bitch!

     

    Bah! Skjor was a slow learner, frowned Äelberon. Time to turn and ruin a perfectly good set of fastenings with his blade. Hopefully Eorlund would understand. Skjor lifted his arm to bring his sword down, and with glaring accuracy, Äelberon turned and brought up his right scimitar, cutting the left side of Skjor’s cuirass, precisely where the fastening separated the pieces together, exposing his flank to the sharp blade, while the left weapon blocked Skjor’s blade.

     

    Strange that they were, what? Snaps? Who puts together armor with snaps? That threw him off-guard for a few seconds, but not enough to effect the outcome of this spar.  Äelberon smiled, he should give the Nord something to remember him by and he began to move the right blade quickly towards the Nord’s exposed flank.  Kodlak suddenly stood up about to command Äelberon to stop, but there was no need. The Elf stopped just short of running the blade through Skjor’s exposed flank. The lesson had been taught and the Nord would remember it.

     

    “Skjor,” Äelberon spoke, “Look down. It is over.”

     

    Skjor looked down and there it was; the point of the scimitar’s blade. It was barely touching his exposed, heaving flank.  He had not seen that coming and Skjor stared into the Elf’s eyes, his own heart pounding in his chest. They stared at each other for a few moments, still in their fighting stances, and the Companions grew tense. Kodlak nodded at the twins and they slowly got up. He did not want this turning ugly. Äelberon had fought fairly and with honor. He did not usually interfere with internal spats, but Skjor had been angrier than he had ever seen him. He suspected why. Skjor was a Veteran of the Great War. Äelberon was a High Elf and it was hard to separate High Elf from Thalmor. These were spirited warriors, disagreements happened and it frequently came to blows. He trusted Skjor would see the value of Äelberon’s lesson today. He did. Slowly the Nord backed down, relaxing the grip on his sword, his face still grim, but anger was giving way to respect.

     

    Äelberon then spoke, wiping the sweat from his brow. “Skjor, you are brave and strong; an accomplished fighter. My blocking arm will be sore for quite a few days. And you made this Old Mer run around far more than he wanted to. I am exhausted.” The Companions laughed and relaxed, for the quip broke the tension. “Here.”  Äelberon shifted his grip on the weapons so that they lay flat upon his extended arms and presented the weapons to Skjor, his head bent in a gesture of respect. “I give these to you, for you will be far better for them than I. You are faster, and I am too old and slow now to not be without my shield.”

     

    Skjor nodded in gratitude and took the weapons in his hands, admiring the beauty of their construction. He was shocked by the kindness. These were fine weapons and he did not deserve them, especially after the way he had acted.

     

    Äelberon then asked, “Do you understand what I have taught you today?”

     

    Skjor nodded. He understood. “To watch my blind side.” He answered, his tone still direct.

     

    “And?”

     

    “To not attack out of rage.” He replied.

     

    “Very good.” Äelberon smiled and nodded. “I do not ever wish an enemy to exploit a Shield-Brother of mine.” He put his hand on Skjor’s shoulder. “It was an honor to spar with you today. Excellent technique, as always. We have earned our venison tonight.”

     

    Skjor placed his hand on Äelberon’s shoulder and squeezed. Damn it, he was extremely gracious. No gloating, no reveling in his victory. He still didn’t much like the Elf, but aye, he would admit it, he was a skilled warrior. “The honor was mine… Äelberon.”

     

    It was the first time Skjor had ever said his name.

    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter VIII    Chapter X

Comments

22 Comments   |   SpottedFawn and 2 others like this.
  • Caladran
    Caladran   ·  July 8, 2019
    I'm hoping Skjor would take the lesson to the heart and learn. Albee was amazing with his moves, I'd watching every time he trains. Thee hee! I'm surprised he spared Iron-Hand's Uncle, but then again Albee is also a priest so I understand. :)
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 11, 2015
    It's not the combat, it's that Aelberon gave Skjor the scimitars, despite the behavior.  That was very nice of him. 
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 10, 2015
    Poor Skjor. So outclassed.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 14, 2015
    Yielding would be very nice. 
    I use the set expressions from that dunmeris page we've both looked at. I dunno though, would a Dunmer make a very coarse expression out of the big three? I know they go "by Azura" and stuff like that, but it seems rath...  more
  • Idesto a'Shinbira
    Idesto a'Shinbira   ·  August 14, 2015
    You're welcome, it's a great read 
    The option of yielding would be a lot more realistic in-game wouldn't it?
    What do you think would be some good Dunmer equivalents? There just aren't enough swearwords in these languages!
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 14, 2015
    I think the most favorite thing I did was make this guy old and not just "I'm an immortal whatever brooding for a thousand years yet look wonderful" old, but a "OMG, sometimes I really struggle to get out of bed and everything hurts" old. 
    Oghma's t...  more
  • Idesto a'Shinbira
    Idesto a'Shinbira   ·  August 14, 2015
    I like the way he always invites the bandits to yield first. Very honourable, very Aelberon. 
     He simply was not the warrior he was 150 years ago.

    I know the feeling!
    Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, I'm the king of scimi...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 13, 2015
    Learn something new. 
  • Idesto a'Shinbira
    Idesto a'Shinbira   ·  August 13, 2015
    Didn't know there was a nice sense of 'dickhead'! 
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 13, 2015
    I mean dickhead in the nicest sense of the word. Albee's definitely an old fart. He says so himself.