Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXVII

  • Warning - Foul language. For mature readers.


    1st of Morning Star, 4E 202


    Äelberon threw his remaining tea into the cooling embers of his campfire, the water hissing into steam as it hit the hot wood, and he looked up at the sun, squinting, while he finished an eidar cheese wedge. It was past noon, and the sun glared at the craggy, juniper and grass-dotted landscape of the Reach. He had slept far longer than he should have, but it was not restful. No, it was fitful, filled with dreams.


    Of home, and Äelberon rubbed his forehead to quell its dull ache as he smothered the campfire. Of vampires and ivory-marbled halls, of home and the smell of grape vine blossoms and oranges, of black, purple, grey, and indigo. He watched the dirt kill the flames and the leftover smoke climb towards the sky; swirling, dancing charcoal black against the azure backdrop.


    Indigo… he felt himself clench his left hand, still feeling the phantom ring upon his little finger, remembering how she struggled to fit it, remembering how she pulled the cloak over his head to check the color against his skin, the delicate chime of her golden charms whenever she moved. Ah, his dearest sister… did she think him dead? He knew those memories would return. Seeing Ondolemar and his experience with Molag Bal were triggers. And thinking of Vastaril…


    He frowned and shook his head, cursing under his breath, as Koor sat on his haunches watching him, his head tilted to one side.  There was still much to do before he could even leave and reliving past memories would only delay him further. Already, he would not make the Hall of the Vigilant until well past nightfall. He stooped and began to dismantle his tent, his old bones ever protesting from too much exertion.


    Would the Vigilants even believe him? That thought was in the back of his mind while he packed his tent into Allie’s saddlebag and he paused at her side, stroking her neck, pondering his situation. Altmer were not common in their ranks, and there was so much distrust. He was bearing the body of their finest. Surely they would understand that an enemy would do no such thing? He removed the last of his linens, twine, and his finest bearskin. He had already cleared a space upon the ground and he had picked his campsite well, for there was a small stream nearby, cutting into the stony landscape of the Reach. He needed to wash the body. He untied the rope that secured Tyranus to Allie and with great respect, Äelberon hoisted him upon his shoulders and carried him to the stream.


    He gently laid Tyranus near the pebbly bank and carefully removed his armor. For a moment he needed to pause and quell his rising emotion when he again gazed upon the Vigilant’s now pale face, but he set his jaw and continued to work. At least the face was peaceful.  Was he thinking of her at that moment when his blade pierced Tyranus’ side?  Äelberon's own mind often wandered if death approached and he was not one without coping mechanisms. He died with great honor, knowing that he was not Molag Bal’s servant in the end. Äelberon did not know what the Imperials believed for the afterlife, though the Imperial did mention light. He assumed the Dreamsleeve like most others. Nords made their afterlife easy, he thought with a sarcastic chuckle. Sovngarde. A great, giant mead hall in the sky. Bless the Nords, he was not surprised in the least.


    Altmer journeyed through the Dreamsleeve as well, but if a life was lived well, one could achieve transcendence and ascend into Aetherius to take their place among the Aedra, as Auri-El Himself demonstrated all those eons ago. Ah, but to live a life that found true favor among the Gods was hard to do, so all failed; to be absorbed into the Dreamsleeve to try again, and again, and again. He remembered the words of the God Arkay as he set the Vigilant’s cuirass upon the ground nearby, a man turned into a god.   


    "There are far more souls in the Universe than there is room for in the physical world. But it is in the physical world that a soul has an opportunity to learn and progress. Without birth, souls would not be able to acquire that experience, and without death there would be no room for birth."  


    Äelberon washed the body reverently, praying to Auri-El as he worked. He wanted to leave Tyranus with his Amulet of Stendarr, but he kept it. When he returned to Markarth, he would find the maid and give it to her. She deserved it. She deserved to know what happened. That she was in his last moments. He could tell that she and Tyranus had a connection and he wanted to honor that. But when he returned to Markarth. Not now. It was too much right now and he needed to bring Tyranus to Keeper Carcette.  With some difficulty, for the body was no longer flexible, Äelberon crossed the arms over its chest and then set about wrapping the body in linen.


    When he finished with the linen, he took the bearskin, Stendarr’s totem, and wrapped the body in it, securing it with twine. He lifted the body, struggling with the weight and secured Tyranus once more to Allie. He tested the rope, giving it a firm tug. Nay, not even a full gallop would loosen these straps. The body was better protected on the saddle than he was. It needed to be, there was always danger; whether on the road or in the wilds, he bore very precious cargo. It was a blessing that Skyrim was cold, for the body would be preserved while he made his journey.


    Äelberon returned to the bank of the stream and washed the armor of blood, inspecting for damage.  Dents from the impact of the numerous flying objects in that cursed house and the left flank bore a single thin slit where his blade entered, but otherwise nothing. He bent his head and put his hand on his forehead, rubbing his throbbing brow again. By the Gods, he was not worthy of such armor.


    “You are the one who said ‘anything’, you old fool.” He grumbled to himself aloud, causing Koor to look up and yowl softly. “Do not remind me, boy.” Koor turned away. “That is better.”


    It rivaled his mother’s set; similar in weight to hers and probably just as strong. The carvings were unlike anything he had ever seen, a scrolling design that featured various animals; horse, sabre cat, bear, and eagle. Richly detailed and etched deeply into the armor. And he was wrong, it must have been the dim light, the leather was not maroon, but a warm brown, and it was not laced, but instead the cuirass was buckled. Silver buckles in the shape of dragon’s tongue. He was not really paying attention when he first saw the armor. It was lined in snow fox fur and a grey silken fabric, though he noticed that Tyranus had worn just a roughspun tunic underneath his armor, a hole upon one of the legs of his breeches. Elaborate armor on the outside, simple underneath. Humble. The mark of a brother who truly “Walked the Light.”


    The armor consisted of two main components; the actual plating, and a chainmail suit of a silver alloy that the plating was secured to with a series of buckles and fastenings. His mother had done the same with his set. It allowed for more movement, yet kept most of the protection. It was reasonably comfortable, unless he was tossed about roughly and then the chainmail often left bruises and indentations. All armor leaves bruises, though, he was used to it. He left the armor for a moment and retrieved another bearskin from his saddle to wrap the armor in. Before he would fit it for himself, he would have Carcette sanctify it at the Shrine of Stendarr. When he finished wrapping it, Äelberon gathered the armor in the bearskin and secured it to Allie’s saddle. Just as secure as the body. He took a step back to regard his horse.


    Poor thing looked like a damn pack animal.  “Sorry, my girl, for making you look like a peddler’s horse. But we bear precious cargo.” He whispered to her face, patting her neck.


    She snorted and bared her teeth slightly at the indignity. She was a war horse, after all. That made him chortle and he rewarded her with an affectionate pat. Sensing his grief, they were both being kind to him, attempting to cheer him up. He turned to Koor.


    “You ready?” Koor barked. Äelberon mounted Allie and squeezed her flanks. “Good, I am ready too.” He let out a weary sigh as he shifted the reins to turn her. “May Stendarr guide our steps.”


    Damn, he felt old and worn today.



    Äelberon found the main road easily enough, the crumbling stone fence a clear giveaway, and stuck to it, taking the fork that branched northeast, towards Fort Greymore. He knew where he was.  Allie was back to her old self and the shoe was very well made. When he had the coin, he would return to the stables at Markarth and have her reshod with a fresh set, as the work was excellent. He managed a smile, when his tired eyes finally caught sight of the tundra again. It was welcome, he had missed it.


    Another clear, cold day with a light breeze that made the low lying tundra grasses and flowers quiver, giving the tundra cotton patches the appearance of foam upon a churning sea. A sea of grasses and flowers. Beautiful against the brightness of the afternoon sky, with its lazy puffs of white clouds. Caves and giants’ camps dotted the landscape, the smoke of their fires bearing with them the pungent odor of charring skeever flesh, and to his right were the beginnings of the foothills that led to the highest peak in all of Tamriel: the Throat of the World.


    He would be laughed at in the Isles for saying he liked this landscape, for it was far too grim an environment for most Altmer. But he liked it, and he liked the Pale too, especially the border between the two holds, where snow met tundra, where lavender intermixed with snowberries and blue mountain flower. He chuckled to himself, he never liked what his People liked. He reached into his front saddle bag and grabbed an apple. Most did not like apples much either. He took the first bite out of sheer defiance. He was very spirited today. He almost died last night, it was understandable.   


    He was on his third bite when he caught sight of them in the distance, passing Fort Greymore. Two familiar forms. One sporting a set of dark armor and a maroon cape, his swordplay more practiced than that of his absent twin; and the other wore a light hide armor, his skin grey, and his movements quick. They were attacking a giant, its fur-clad form towering above them, its bellows thundering through the tundra. It was Vilkas and Athis, and they were having difficulty, for a mammoth was also closing in. Äelberon threw the apple down, readied his bow and left the main road, heading straight for his Shield-Siblings.


    “Athis!” Cried Vilkas, barely dodging the giant’s club.


    “What? What?” Answered the Dunmer as he swung his blade at the giant’s rough-skinned knees. By Azura, it barely made a dent, Athis scowled. What were these things made of?!


    “The mammoth! It has seen us. And uh… It’s headed your way.” Vilkas then groaned as the giant’s club thundered a few feet away from him, knocking him briefly to the ground. He was quickly up, however, no giant pushed him around. “I would run, Shield-Brother. Now.”


    Athis began to pump his legs, hearing the roar of the angry mammoth behind him. The thing was enormous, with four sweeping tusks that could tear a man in half and a shaggy mess of red-brown fur that rippled whenever one of those plodding legs crashed upon the earth.  Athis looked back again and gulped, asking that his legs move just a bit quicker. “When I volunteered to join you, Vilkas, on this little afternoon adventure to ensure that the Sons and Daughters of Ysgramor start a New Year with a bloody blade and a battle cry, I was under the impression that we would only be killing giants!!!”


    Vilkas laughed and swung his great sword at the giant. Blast! Was this thing made of stone? He yelled back. “Where’s you sense of adventure, Dunmer?”


    “I LOVE adventure!” Athis hollered back as he ran faster, “Remember?  Skjor said I have the heart of a Nord. I relish running at top speed avoiding the tusks of an angry mammoth! I’m having a bloody WONDERFUL time!” He turned back and his eyes widened when his nose picked up the strong musky odor of her charging body.  Fires of Dagoth-Ur, she was angry. Ha! If he didn’t die from this!  Athis then saw an armored black charger in the near distance and grinned broadly. He would be fine now, their big brother Snow Bear was here, and Athis changed direction, the mammoth roaring behind him. “Oh Vilkas!” He yelled as he made a beeline for the charger.


    “What is it now, Damn it! I’m busy trying to save you!” Cried the Nord, blocking another blow.


    “We’re in for some Priestly intervention! Look!”


    Vilkas turned quickly towards the Dunmer’s voice. The black charger was unmistakable and he smiled, barely turning back in time to dodge the giant’s stomp. That was close, he thought as he let out a gust of air. Would have sent him straight to Masser!


    Runner crossed paths with Rider.


    “Bow, bow, your bow please!” Puffed Athis when he came to a halt beside the now laughing Altmer on horseback, his hands on his knees to catch his breath, his skin streaked with sweat and tundra dust.


    The High Elf grinned. “Enjoying an afternoon run today, eh Athis?” 


    “Mammoth, ya s’wit!” Athis pointed behind him.


    “N’chow, I may be old, but I am not blind. Maybe she likes you and wants to follow you home? A new pet?” Äelberon teased, enjoying the Dunmer’s surprise.


    How many languages could that High Elf curse in, Athis thought, squinting his eyes at the Altmer. The mammoth’s nearing roar, however, brought him back before he could make a definitive list. “Oh stop with the jokes and just aim your damn bow already!”


    Äelberon laughed at the Dummer’s words. He needed the humor today. Yesterday had been such a dark, dark day. The High Elf aimed his Elven bow. “I have her, Shield-Brother.” Äelberon squeezed her flanks and she was off. “Koor! Stay with Athis!” He commanded.


    Athis could see the heat of battle beginning to consume the Elf. Äelberon had the heart of a Nord too, in spades, but then Athis narrowed his eyes when the Elf passed. Was that a body strapped to his horse?


    Allie!!” Äelberon thundered and she roared as they barreled down the tundra at full speed to begin their hunt.


    He let his first arrow fly and it struck the mammoth, making it angry, which was the plan. He wanted it to follow him, not Athis. He then sped towards the giant, mammoth in pursuit. It was time to take advantage of Allie’s speed and a mammoth’s uncontrollable momentum. He turned around while Allie continued to charge towards the giant and fired another arrow, his torso twisted, his powerful legs maintaining his position on the horse. He smiled when he struck the mammoth again. He was a natural horsemer and picked up the combat technique in Cyrodiil in the early decades after the Great Anguish, when the Empire was still trying to sort itself out after the loss of the Septim line. Damn, almost two hundred years ago. The mammoth’s roar brought him back from his musings and he shook his head quickly to clear the memory as the sound rumbled through the tundra, making the ground quaver.


    Vilkas stared as he continued to fight the giant, his jaw agape. Ysmir’s beard, what the blazes was the Elf doing? He was heading this way at full charge, mammoth behind. Was he completely mad?


    Äelberon fired a third shot at the mammoth behind him and the mammoth’s blood boiled, its eyes red hot with fury. She would now follow him to the bitter end. He secured his bow to its slot on the saddle and took the reins with both hands, urging Allie faster with a quick snap of the reins and a cry that was more like a husky snarl, savage.




    It welled from deep in his subconscious and yet rolled off his tongue with incredible ease.  Äelberon could not help but feel a primordial satisfaction when his Nordic Spitfire responded to the command given in Old Altmeris, feeling her body surge forward, kicking up clumps of tundra grass in her wake. There was no Altmer to hear him anyway, no Thalmor to give him the lash for his crime. Only Allie and she did not care. She even roared and he instinctively growled back softly, the synergy between horse and rider fully realized.   He then leaned forward on the saddle, his face intense as they neared the giant. The timing had to be perfect. Her pounding hooves echoed upon the tundra, a harmonious counterpoint to the excited pulsing of his heart.


    The thrill of speed.


    There was a high to it, a rush, like a good smoke, and Äelberon never denied that part of him, though many Altmeri did. The connection to a more wild way, an earlier way when the very Gods still roamed the plane.


    Vilkas continued to gawk as the High Elf approached. Äelberon was either insane or brilliant. He was racing the girl to the giant, still at full speed. The giant also had taken notice and started to back away. But it was too late.


    “Vilkas, RUN!!” Cried the Elf, and Vilkas quickly turned, bolting away from the giant.


    Suddenly Äelberon shifted Allie a hard left and with a loud cry he turned her quickly; a spray of dirt showering the giant as it swung its club, narrowly missing horse and rider. The mammoth could not match the sharp turn and slammed right into her giant guardian, her tusks impaling deep into the giant’s chest, killing it, crushing it, bones snapping, blood gurgling.  Äelberon brought Allie about and surveyed the scene while Athis approached with Koor, finding a grinning Vilkas.  


    Not insane, no, thought the Nord, brilliant, utterly brilliant.


    The mammoth was bellowing and grunting frantically, its movements unsteady as it tried to shake off the heavy, dead giant from its tusks. All four Shield-Brothers; archer, two-hander, bladesmer, and husky closed in on the beast, it was over.


    Äelberon circled the mammoth, steering Allie with his legs, his bow drawn, distracting it with his movements on horseback, making it rush him, while Athis and Vilkas hacked at the beast’s tough hide with their blades, Koor nipping at its feet. Athis, then, in a move that surprised Vilkas and Äelberon, nimbly climbed the beast, his wiry hands grabbing clumps of its shaggy reddish fur.


    “Whatcha up to, Athis?” Vilkas asked, grinning at Äelberon, who deftly moved Allie away from the mammoth when she attempted to swing her giant-impaled tusks at the horse.


    Athis shifted position on the mammoth’s back to counter its movement. Damn Elves, thought Vilkas, he would have fallen off the mammoth by now, but no, the Dunmer stayed on and Äelberon was riding his bloody animal without hands. Damn Elves, showing off.  “Well, I don’t want to swing at this thing for another hour, finding a quicker way. Just keep her occupied.” The Dunmer replied.


    “Are all Elves crazy?’ Vilkas asked, delivering a powerful blow to the mammoth’s leg with his greatsword, severing tendons, rendering one of its legs useless. Athis lost his balance when the animal lurched, but he regained it quickly, glowering at Vilkas from on top of the mammoth’s back.


    “You want me to kill this mammoth or not?” Athis grumbled. “And yes, we’re all crazy, especially that one on the horse there. You know we eat them in Morrowind... delicious roasted over a charcoal fire...” He continued, drawing his blade and feeling the mammoth’s skull, as it struggled, shaking its head to remove the giant. “I want to go home already, I’m starving, I want some of Tilma’s leftover honey nut treats—“


    “Honey nut treats?” Asked the Altmer, longingly. “She made them?”






    Vilkas noticed the disappointment in the Altmer’s tone, but their jabbering was no different than it always was. Those two talked more during sparring than anybody else in Jorrvaskr. About the most ridiculous things too.


    “Well, as I was saying, “Athis continued, still groping the beast’s neck, “I want some before Torvar bloody eats them all, and some slices of roast venison, ah, there it is...” Athis purred when his hand felt the fur on the mammoth’s skull. He found it, the soft spot, where a blade could easily go through. Athis brought up his Skyforge sword and his features darkened slightly as he prepared to thrust the weapon, his deep red eyes burning.


    “Found it, eh?” Äelberon cried out when he saw the Dunmer’s dark grin.






    “Find what?” Vilkas looked up at the Altmer.


    “Soft spot.” Äelberon smiled. Vilkas jumped when the mammoth suddenly let out an awful, high-pitched roar and fell with a crash to the ground, a cloud of dust and small pebbles in its wake. “Jumpy are we?”


    The Altmer’s tone was droll and Vilkas almost frowned at the Altmer’s insinuation, but he decided against it when he saw Athis walk towards them. Whelp looked damn proud as he sheathed his blade. Well? Not such a whelp anymore. “No, just surprised. He was running from the mammoth only a few moments ago.”


    “Ha! Do not come between a Dunmer and his empty stomach, eh Athis?” The Old Altmer replied from his saddle with an impudent grin, clasping forearms with Athis in a warm greeting. He then dismounted and the three Shield-Brothers stood side by side for a few moments, glancing at each other and nodding as both mammoth and giant lay dead upon the tundra, while the fourth circled triumphantly around the carcasses, howling and vocalizing nonstop, proclaiming the mighty deed to all that would listen. Vilkas leaned on his great sword and patted Athis on his shoulder. “Well met, Shield-Brother, saved us from Eorlund yelling at us for bringing home dull weapons.”


    “I am all about efficiency, friend. Besides, I really didn’t want that thing following me home.”


    All three laughed and Vilkas then turned to Äelberon. “And well met, wandering Shield-Brother. The tactic was sound, though I did think you were insane at the time.”


    Äelberon laughed. Allie had propped her muzzle on his right shoulder and he reached with his right hand to pat her cheek as he turned to Vilkas. “Our fiery Shield-Sister here deserves some of the credit, No? Red apples coated in honey for you later, my sweet…” The horse nuzzled his shoulder and he gave her another affectionate pat, forgetting his troubles for a little while. Felt good to bring down that mammoth and Athis surprised him too. There was hunter in that Dunmer’s past. An Ashlander more than likely.


    “She had quite the load too,” Replied Athis, pointing suddenly to the body on the saddle, his face turning serious. He loved his Shield-Brother and felt a certain deep-rooted kinship to him for their Elven blood, though Dunmer and Altmer did not get along, but a body was a body, and it demanded explanation.


    Äelberon did not even need to look, he knew of what Athis spoke of.


    They both saw the High Elf’s face darken as he stared straight ahead, towards the horizon, and all the previous moments’ levity suddenly faded. Now that he was close to them, they noticed that he looked terrible, like he had been severely beaten with several cuts and bruises on his face. Poorly healed. It was not like him.


    “Aye. She bears a great load today, as do I.” He replied, his clear eyes distant, the circles under them just that much darker.


    Vilkas walked to the body. “What happened, Äelberon?  Did you kill this man? Are you returning with us back to Jorrvaskr?”


    The Altmer cast his eyes downward and turned slightly to his Shield-Brothers. “No, he threw himself upon my blade to save my life. I am on my way to the Hall of the Vigilants in the Pale to bury him. It was his dying wish.”


    Vilkas turned the Elf’s shoulder to face him. “What happened?”


    Äelberon released his tender hold on the horse’s neck with a kiss to her cheek and a small pat and walked to her saddle, setting his hand upon the body. He let out a sigh, and both Vilkas and Athis could hear the great weight behind it, and the voice that answered them sounded markedly older. “We were investigating a house in Markarth for Daedra worship together when the unthinkable happened.”


    “What?” Pressed Vilkas, his concern rising. Äelberon did this sort of work? Sure, he was a Priest and a warrior, but this sort of work?


    “Unbeknownst to us at the time, there was a hidden altar of Molag Bal. The Daedric Prince then, using fear and manipulation, took possession of the Vigilant’s soul. He was a good man, one of the best witchblades in all of Cyrodiil and fought the Prince hard, but Ey… Ey, the Lord of Domination lived up to his name. When he conquered the Vigilant’s soul, he commanded him to kill me.”


    Both his Shield-brothers sucked in their breath. That he even dared speak the name of a Daedric Prince in the open! Vilkas barely said Hircine even when he was in the Underforge!  


    Äelberon dismissed their shocked looks with a wave of his hand. “Oh, do not look at me like that, I say his name as I please, for Old Bal and I are bitter enemies, crossing through the very eras.” He looked at them, his red-orange eyes brightly reflecting the afternoon sun. “It then became a battle for this poor man’s soul. Me, the Priest of Auri-El against the Lord of Domination. Through much prayer and perseverance, I eventually won and the Vigilant’s soul, by Auri-El’s grace and goodness, I am very content to report, is not in Coldharbour. It came at great cost, however, both to him, for he sacrificed himself to save me knowing the demon would try for him again; and myself.” He then lifted his left hand and it trembled slightly as if casting a spell; his face full of intense effort, but nothing happened, and he groaned softly letting his hand weakly drop to his side. “I will be unable to cast spells for several days, I fear. I am better today.”


    His eyebrows furrowed, the dull ache in his head returning.


    “I live.  I was dying when I finally destroyed the altar, severing the Daedric Prince from his conduit of spiritual influence in this plane.  My life continued to ebb, while the gentlefolk rang in the New Year and grand fireworks exploded over the city, painting the night sky in rainbow bursts. With my last ounce of strength, I bore Stendarr’s grand servant from Markarth. I live today only because I happened upon a healing potion in my saddle bag. The Gods were watching me last night. Watching me as I ‘Walked the Light’. I owe much to their mercy.  Auri-El be praised.”


    He suddenly mounted Allie and looked down at them from the saddle, his face stubborn and haughty, though also weary. “So, my Shield-Brothers, though I long to return with you to Jorrvaskr, you know now that I am honor-bound to return this noble Vigilant to his siblings in the Pale.” He nodded and raised his right hand, his features softening a little when he beheld their glum faces. “Give my love to my Shield-Siblings at Jorrvaskr for me, and a kiss for little Tilma. Tell them their wandering brother will return home soon and that I hope their New Year starts with many blessings.”


    He squeezed Allie’s flank softly and he found the road again, Koor tracking at Allie’s heels. They watched him ride for some distance, tall in the saddle, his black bearskin cloak moving in the breeze, the fur shifting.


    “By Azura,” Gasped Athis. “I no longer feel so incredible about killing a mammoth anymore.”


    “I know, friend, I know.” Vilkas patted Athis on the shoulder.


    “Who the Oblivion is our Shield-Brother anyway?”


    “He’s a Priest.” Answered Vilkas, barely able to disguise the worry in his voice.


    “Sorry, friend, not just a Priest. That’s a bloody demon hunter if I ever saw one. I can only imagine what he’s killed. Incredible! A demon hunter…”


    Vilkas shifted uncomfortably for a moment and then gestured with his head towards Whiterun, smiling, though he wasn’t feeling it inside. “Come on, let’s head back to Jorrvaskr. We need to fetch Bjorlam anyway. This giant and its mammoth are going to yield a lot of coin in tusks and pelts. And a lot of it is going to you, for a job well-done. Climbing on a mammoth for a honey nut treat, now that’s a true story for our Mead Hall, not this whole demon hunter business, too dark… too serious…”


    He smiled at Athis until the Dunmer’s back was turned and then he frowned as the two made their way back to Whiterun. Vilkas sheathed his great sword and followed Äelberon with his eyes for a way, watching him on that black charger. Vilkas’ eyes narrowed while he pondered this new information.  Äelberon associated freely with the Vigilants of Stendarr and even worked with them. He knew full well what the Vigilants hunted and Vilkas was now extremely worried. He needed to tell the Old Man and seek his counsel.  He did not dare tell Skjor or Aela.  Skjor would kill the Elf to defend the Circle. He didn’t blame Äelberon either, he did not know about their curse and he was noble and true to his Companions.  Vilkas sighed, but now there was a demon hunter among their ranks and Ysmir’s Beard! If this demon hunter could go head to head with a Daedric Prince and win, he did not want to know what he could do to a werewolf…



    Vilkas entered Kodlak’s chambers at the Jorrvaskr Living quarters, his steps hurried, his manner agitated. The Old Man was at the wooden table reading a tome. Vilkas knocked at the doorway, causing the Old Man to look up, his grey eyes twinkling. “Ah Vilkas, you have returned. Is the giant dead?”


    Vilkas quickly approached and sat next to him. It was exactly how they sat when Äelberon first arrived. When he was just an Altmer in ill-fitting Imperial armor. “We need to talk, Master.” His tone was hushed.


    “Boy, how many times have I told you not to call me ‘Master’?” Kodlak groaned playfully, putting down the book to meet the young man’s gaze. His levity left him when he saw Vilkas’ face.  The boy was deeply troubled and Kodlak grabbed his forearm. “Vilkas, what’s wrong, is it Athis? The giant?”


    “Oh no, no, no, nothing like that. In fact we took down the giant and a mammoth with some help. Torvar and Athis are getting ready to take Bjorlam to harvest the tusks. A fine start to the New Year, Athis did extremely well.”


    “Ah, that’s good to hear. You said ‘help’ though?” Whitemane pressed, his interest peaked.


    “Aye, Äelberon joined us. He was on the road from Markarth.”


    Whitemane’s eyes widened. His Old litter mate was back! Wonderful news and the Old Man grinned slyly. “Oh, so our grumpy Snow Bear is here, then?” The young Nord looked down and away from Kodlak, quite plainly avoiding eye contact. He knew the boy well, something was eating at him. Always the more sensitive twin. A stone’s throw from being a scholar or even a priest, had Hircine not nabbed him first. What was gnawing at the boy? Kodlak narrowed his grey eyes. “Out with it, boy. Something’s eating you?”


    “Mas--Harbinger, did Äelberon tell you why he was heading to the Reach?”


    “Yes, Snow Bear said he was going to mine silver from Karthwasten, then he was meeting a friend, and he had a task for Lady Mara at Markarth. He seemed pleased to be going. He is close to doing the Barrow for the Jarl. Why? Is there trouble?”


    Vilkas swallowed and opened his mouth. “Master, I need to tell you—“


    WHERE IS HE?!” Roared Skjor, storming into the doorway, his face red with anger. 


    Vilkas suddenly turned and stood. By Ysmir, Athis had already spoken of their encounter! “Skjor… no.” Vilkas stammered. Skjor suddenly rushed up to Vilkas and shoved him with great force back into the chair, making the younger Nord gasp hard and the chair slam against the stone wall, chipping the wood.


    “Where is the demon hunter? WHERE!” He bellowed, shaking Vilkas’ shoulders roughly. “DAMN IT! Tell me!”


    “Skjor!” Commanded Kodlak as he rose from his seat, “Stand down.”


    But Skjor’s pot was already boiled over and the Veteran stopped shaking a wide-eyed Vilkas and turned to Kodlak, poking his finger roughly against the Old Man’s chest, his face contorted into a snarl. “YOU let him in! He’s a demon hunter, Kodlak, a fucking demon hunter!”


    Kodlak shook his head and stared at SKjor. What the Oblivion was Skjor rambling about, especially to warrant such language!? “Get yourself together, man! Who? I don’t understand.” Replied the Old Man.


    Skjor violently swung his hand and a bowl shattered upon the floor, his face greatly pained as he sunk into Kodlak’s desk chair and put his hand on his forehead, rubbing his balding head. He then growled violently and pounded his fist on Kodlak’s desk, leaving a dent. The voice that spoke was greatly pained and full of fear. “Äelberon, Kodlak, Äelberon… A killer. With at least two centuries of experience, Old Man, and you let him into our family...”


    “Skjor!” Aela called from halfway down the hall, her voice breathless. She was followed by Farkas. Their faces full of concern.


    “Here, Aela, here.” Skjor replied, burying his face in his hands. “Mark my words, he’s going to kill us, Old Man.”


    “We don’t know that.” Kodlak retorted, beginning to lose his patience with Skjor, but at the same time, feeling his own fear building. Gods, a demon hunter. A killer of vampires, Daedra, and...


    “He’s a god-damned priest of Auri-El, Kodlak. It’s his duty! We hear him fucking say it bloody twice a day you Old Fool! Damn it!” He snarled and then did a cruel imitation of Äelberon’s voice, “‘To let one live is to invoke the wrath of Auri-El’… Every damn day, Kodlak, for over two hundred years he has said those words, while he does that ritual with his hair. And you let him in… you let him in.”


    Skjor groaned, his face finding his hands again and Aela went towards him, though she was hesitant to touch him. She had never seen him like this before. He was afraid and deep down, she was too. They all were.


    “Is it true?” Asked Farkas, “Athis was going on about Molag Bal and Snow Bear going up against Daedric Lords and…winning. Can he?” His eyes narrowed while he scratched his beard nervously. “Can he kill a werewolf? He’s killed vampires…”


    “This is preposterous.” The Old Man began, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “He’s a Mer, not a damn God. Underforge everyone, now.”


    Vilkas slowly rose from his chair, giving Skjor a wide berth. The Veteran remained at the Old Man’s desk, while the others began to gather, stewing; his eye boring into the Old Man’s. It was a terrible look and Kodlak felt guilty. He never told anyone about his dream and he could see that Skjor and Aela felt alienated for his decision on the matter of the Curse. But they had to understand, it was for the best, even if it hurt them. It was for the best, and Skjor had to understand these types of decisions needed be made if he was ever going to take up the mantle. Now, he was being as a fearful child. Prejudiced and foolish. Too much a follower of Hircine, not seeing the larger picture.


    Now, Skjor.” Growled Kodlak, and the Veteran got up, rudely sliding the desk chair back. “We will discuss this matter with calm hearts and minds. He is our Shield-Brother. Let us not ever forget that.”


    He said the words, but in the back of his mind, he was worried. Äelberon would never betray them, right?


    Author's Note - I have been doing some work with Old Altmeris. Some tentative words have been thrown in. Hopefully, I gots them right.

    Tarne - imperative form of "to go"

    Ey - Alas

    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXVI     Chapter XXVIII


12 Comments   |   SpottedFawn and 1 other like this.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 8, 2015
    You'll just have to read and see. 
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 7, 2015
    I don't blame Skjor at all, I would be afraid if a demon hunter more experienced in battle were around me too. But even so, I don't think Aelberon would attack unless provoked... If anything he would be all over trying to find a cure with Kodlak.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 27, 2015
    Just read and find out. Wow, you've had a busy night. 
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 26, 2015
    Blasting through these a bit now. Can't wait to see how Aelberon reacts to the werewolf news.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 30, 2015
    And he wears so much silver.
    Of course I am still following, and don't apologies for giving us so much reading to entertain ourselves I was spending my free time writing and drawing, Scuttles is about 90% done and Ch.9's 1st draft is done now.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 30, 2015
    Well, lol, we did just see first hand what he can do to vampires. If I were a lycanthrope, I'd be scared too. 
    Aelberon wonders about these things too. He's very philosophical at times. A student of everything. 
    Glad you're still with me. It's...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 30, 2015
    Poor companions, nothing like a healthy dose of fear to inspire rash decisions. 
    I do wonder about afterlives for those following the 8 divines, being recycled in the Dream Sleeve seems mundane (mundane, mundus, puns, haha, ha...) compared to a gian...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 16, 2015
    Hehe, I look forward to it. Fixed a few things though when I remembered a future entry. Man, continuity is extremely hard to maintain when your story is long. I struggle with very minor details. Alright, may take a nap. 
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  July 16, 2015
    I fell into that then didn't I... I'll get you back, there's a wolf on your trail now.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 16, 2015
    I wanted you to have legit issues with those opening sentences. His mind is still jumbled, I deliberately made the choice to mess with the syntax. Mission accomplished. 
    I'll do these things from time to time. It's a technique to convey lack of organization.