Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXVIII

  • Kodlak Whitemane sat heavily at his seat at Jorrvaskr's mead hall and picked at his venison stew, the cooked leeks and chunks of potato already separated onto a discreet pile behind a loaf of bread. It was his favorite dish still, despite the leeks and potatoes, but he had no appetite tonight, and neither did any of the other members of the Circle, he garnered from their long faces and full bowls. What a rotten start to the New Year, he frowned. They were divided, yet again, just as they were when he announced on that fateful day in Sun’s Dusk that he was no longer going to give in to… it. That he was going to seek the cure and that his wishes on the matter be respected.


    The Circle’s latest meeting at the Underforge was tense while Vilkas recounted his encounter with Äelberon; how he had come to aid him and Athis with the giant, and then told of his own encounter with the Vigilant of Stendarr at Markarth. None of Äelberon’s tales of his adventures had ever mentioned them before, but he had only told two stories from a long, long life of stories.  Skjor wanted the Elf gone, and all understood his concern, especially Aela, as they were most threatened and were now outnumbered by those who wished the cure. Vilkas argued passionately for Äelberon to remain, and was immediately backed by Farkas. So it was up to Kodlak to decide the fate of his old, grey litter mate. Ah, poor Snow Bear did not deserve this. He did not know of this curse. To him, they were just like any other Shield-Sibling.


    He wanted Äelberon to stay, not only because he knew deep down that the old Altmer was the key to him entering Sovngarde, but because now he was a friend, an opinionated and crusty friend, but a friend. But he needed to make sure his decision would be well-received by Aela and Skjor. He wanted to be fair. So, he determined that Äelberon would undergo a trial. It was done to new members on occasion. The questionable ones. The ones who were not worthy, and Kodlak frowned again as he stabbed a chunk of venison with his fork. It wasn't fair. An appropriate quest, where he would be accompanied by a Shield-Sibling to determine his loyalty, to determine his worth. He hated that he had to do it, for he did not question Äelberon’s loyalty for a single second, and he knew Äelberon very well. The Altmer would be terribly insulted by the trial’s implication and would more than likely fume, and rightly so for he was no inexperienced whelp, but Kodlak’s answer satisfied Skjor and Aela. At least for now. 


    Now, it was only a matter of deciding upon a quest. Usually for the fool whelps that did this, a bandit cave was sufficient, but that was instantly shot down by Skjor. He wanted more. A bandit cave would not be enough. It had to be something far more testing. In a week, the Circle would meet with a scholar from Cyrodiil. An expert in ancient weapons, the scholar had mentioned in correspondence that he knew of a possible location of another fragment of Wuuthrad in Skyrim. The Elf was also a scholar, perhaps finding this piece would be appropriate? He would see what the results of the meeting would yield. In the meantime, there was nothing Kodlak could do except pick at his venison stew and wait for his old grey litter mate to return.



    It was late, almost midnight and Äelberon was brutally cold, his eyes already blurring from the heavy snowfall and he was shivering, but in the distance he could see the smoke stacks of the Hall of the Vigilant. He urged Allie forward, a smile forming through his ice-encrusted beard. It was not much farther, the smoke stacks were getting closer. The three of them.




    Äelberon squinted through the white, shifting whirlwind of snowflakes. The Hall of the Vigilant had but two smoke stacks, he remembered, not three. He rode closer and his heart began to pound in his chest. Those were not lights, but flames.




    “Allie!” He cried and squeezed her flanks hard, ignoring the biting wind as he rode towards the Hall of the Vigilant. He pulled up to the Hall and almost fell off Allie in his haste to dismount, landing awkwardly in the deep snow. He trudged through the dense snow banks and saw the body of a black demon hound, its snout like a cruel, black skull and a Vigilant of Stendarr while smoke from the burning building now filled his lungs.




    In all his years, they never dared attack the Vigilants, not like this. Sure, a pack would gather against a lone Vigilant, but a whole building full of them? Who were these vampires? Then the answer dawned on him.




    CARCETTE!” He shouted, rushing towards the smoking building. He then barged in, breaking down loose boards with his shoulders and he could see the burned bodies of both Vigilants and Vampires scattered in the smoldering ruin.


    The cellar…


    He rushed to the western end of the common room and he saw the shrine, desecrated, smeared with blood, broken upon the floor. “No…” He knelt, partially from shock, coughing when the smoke irritated his lungs. He heard Koor attempt to enter and he turned quickly to his animal, extending his hand towards the beast. “NO! Back away, danger.”


    Koor retreated outside and circled the building, his movements nervous, vocalizing to keep calm.


    CARCETTE!” He cried again at the top of his lungs, and he sprung up and began to search through the searing rubble, burning his hands as he tried to clear the scorching cinders to get to the cellar. Blocked and utterly smashed. There was no way in. Damn it!




    He stormed out of the building and scanned the surrounding area, searching for anything. Any sign of life. He went with Koor, the steam coming out in gasps, his lungs wheezing in the icy air, his hands first burned and now numb from the snow and ice as he dug through it in his search. The husky picked up nothing. No scent.


    KEEPER CARCETTE!” He cried into the night, his voice now hoarse from the smoke.


    Nothing… not a damn thing, no trace. Nothing. They grab their victims from under the ice and snow and drag them under, the Volkihar…


    Äelberon glared at the snow-filled night sky, feeling his knees buckle, his heart pound in his chest. The same pain, the same pressure, deep in his chest again that he felt when he felt Molag Bal in that cursed house. His heart pounding in his ears, and he cried out again, his voice now full of immense wrath.  


    MOLAG BAL!” He pounded his fist hard into the snow, bent his head, and in an awful, throaty snarl. “You will not break me...”


    And neither will your servant, he thought darkly. Vingalmo, he was a part of this treachery. He caught his breath for a moment and thought. Where else had he been? Where else were there Vigilants? He suddenly looked up, his eyes blazing, his face grim and he whispered.


    “Tavia, the Beacon, no…” He sprang up and bolted towards Allie, mounting her quickly and squeezing her flanks hard, ignoring the bitter cold and his exhaustion, ignoring the rattling of his lungs.


    TARNE!” His growled command rang in the night air. She sped through the snow, Koor keeping pace, his ears back, his teeth slightly bare, for even he responded to the intensity of his Master’s voice.


    They were so damn far from the Beacon.



    2nd of Morning Star, 4E 202


    Äelberon had to leave her at Windhelm. Allie…


    His poor Allie.  She whinnied and roared, snorting and stomping her foot in protest. Angry at her Master for abandoning her, almost refusing to let Ulundil even touch her. But he had ridden her hard since the Hall of the Vigilant, and he did not want her to become winded. It was too cold in these wilds to push an animal that hard in the frigid air. She would have surely gone the distance, loving her Master, but he had already killed an animal that way before, and it caused him much grief, doing penance for that poor beast. Unbinding his hair.


    Never again would he cause an animal he owned such pain. Never again would they know the cruelty of a whip from his own hand.


    He also left Koor, the dog knew better, for he had been with his Master far longer and understood that what was being done was for the best. Allie did not understand. He left everything else behind with her, only the body and the armor mattered. He was venturing forth with only the bare essentials. Ulundil was shocked to learn about the destruction of the Hall of the Vigilant. The vampires were getting bolder and it meant that night was truly a dangerous time now.


    “Äelberon, please, I implore you, rest. You look ill.” Ulundil begged, grasping Äelberon’s forearm while Äelberon worked quickly to saddle the new horse, his breathing labored and both Mer could hear the persistent wheezing and rattling.


    “I am fine, Ulundil.” He replied hoarsely. No, he was not fine, of course, the youngling was absolutely right. He was chilled and exhausted, it hurt terribly to breathe, and his heart would not stop pounding, but he was not going to stop until he reached the Beacon. Even if it meant his death, he would bring Tyranus to his brothers.


    It was a She-Elf who brought him to his senses.


    Arivanya emerged from the Windhelm stables, clad in a fur cloak, bringing a steaming tankard of pheasant broth. Äelberon waved his hand to refuse and attempted to mount the horse, but something in her eyes made him stop in his tracks. She was extremely angry at him. She was being as Altmeri females always were; stubborn. They needed to be, for Altmeri males were also stubborn. Her brow was furrowed and she practically shoved the tankard in his hands, her chin jutting in defiance.  


    “If you die,” She hissed, “There is no hope.” Then she turned and walked back into the stable house, slamming the door, and he was humbled. With a sigh, he drank her broth, feeling the liquid warm his body.


    “Tell her I am sorry.” Äelberon said, handing Ulundil the empty tankard.


    “Oh, you know our She-folk. She’ll be fine, at least she got you to eat something.”


    Äelberon squeezed the young Elf’s shoulder and then stooped to Koor, rubbing his ears as the dog licked his face. He let out another ragged sigh and held the dog for a moment. “Be a good boy and treat these people well.” He said as he looked deep into the dog’s eyes.


    Koor whined and Äelberon gave him a final head rub before he mounted the bay gelding. It was rested and hopefully, it would survive the hard ride to the Beacon. It would be easier than Allie’s ride, especially once the Volcanic tundra was reached, for the weather was far better. He just needed to get there and he gathered the reins to steer the horse out of the stables. No mounted combat, no fancy tricks. Only to see if the Beacon still stood, and if it did, to deliver Tyranus to his brothers and warn them. Molag Bal had taken his revenge, and Äelberon knew how bloodthirsty the Daedric Lord could be. The Volkihar were his instruments in Skyrim and the attack upon the Hall had their calling card.


    His calling card… Vingalmo’s.


    Total destruction, no survivors. No thralls, no conversions, nothing, just the dead. Save one time, one time where he and his band of monsters did not kill everything in their path and Äelberon’s tired eyes found Koor, remembering a tiny pup; singed with shock magicks and freezing, but alive. His eyes then found Ulundil’s and gazed at them intently. Äelberon acknowledged the young Elf, raising his hand slightly in the air in a gesture of farewell. “Pray for me, my child.”


    He would need prayers tonight if the Beacon was destroyed.


    “Oh Äelberon, we will pray for you. Auri-El guide your steps, Priest.” Ulundil said, raising his hand to return the gesture.


    Äelberon squeezed the gelding’s flanks and the horse was off. Ulundil knelt upon one knee and held the husky while it cried softly.


    “He will be alright, boy,” he soothed, “he is the Slayer of Bet. There is probably none alive who is stronger than he. You’ll see, he’ll be back soon.” Only to frown when he realized that he had not told Äelberon the horse’s name… shit.



    He sat at one of the tables in the courtyard near the training circle, brooding. He was watching the sunrise, sipping mead. Aela did not venture out after the Circle’s meeting in the Underforge. She withdrew to herself, as she tended to do when she was conflicted, so he had gone out alone. It wasn’t the same and he had missed her sorely. Missed her by his side. Damn the High Elf. In frustration, he threw the bottle of mead, watching it shatter, the foaming contents splattering upon the stone.


    “And what did that bring you, Skjor?” Asked Whitemane, taking a seat next to him.


    “No more mead.” The Veteran quipped and they both laughed a bit, breaking the tension.


    “Ah, Skjor…” The Old Man started, his voice a sigh as he watched the Veteran continue to stew, “Äelberon doesn’t even know, why punish him for something he hasn’t done and more than likely would never do, even if he did learn of it?”


    “I heard Vilkas’ words. If it was enough to frighten Vilkas, who never fears anything, then yes, Old Man, it frightens me too. I would prefer that he was Thalmor. That I can handle. What he is is far worse.”


    “A Priest who has sworn to protect the innocent with his bow, shield, and blade? To uphold what is just and right in the world? Is that such a frightening thing to be in these dark times?”


    “A demon hunter who associates with and works with people who aggressively hunt our Moon brothers and sisters.”


    “As I recall from Vilkas’ account of events, it was Molag Bal that Äelberon had the conflict with, not Hircine. No mention was made of either Hircine or werewolves. Vilkas was jumping to a conclusion based on Äelberon’s association with the Vigilants of Stendarr, not on what he has actually done. And we will not know anything more unless he is asked directly.”


    “He will turn on us and shame the Companions.”


    “Skjor, we are already shamed.”


    Skjor shot Whitemane a hard look. “You didn’t think that when you acted as my forebear. When your blood gave me the Gift.”


    “I was younger then and when you are young, you do not think of the future. Only of the now.” His voice darkened, “Only on other things that gnaw at you instead, making you impatient, making you...” Kodlak stopped short of saying the next word that was truly on his mind, unable to finish his thought and leaned closer to Skjor. He would finish that thought another time. Another place... now he would try a different approach. “Listen to yourself. How do you think Äelberon will react when he sees his Shield-Siblings treat him so coldly when only days before they joked with him and made merry?” Whitemane’s voice grew stern and his grey eyes narrowed. “He is not stupid, Skjor. He will analyze your behavior and come to the conclusion on his own. And even if he learns of the Curse—“


    Gift.” Emphasized Skjor.


    Curse,” the Old Man retorted. Skjor was then silent, though he still frowned and there was now hurt behind that piercing grey eye of his, making Kodlak turn away to clear his throat before he continued. “As I was saying, if he learns of the Beast Blood…” It was a compromise in terminology and Kodlak was rewarded with a better body language from Skjor. "How do you know he will react with violence? Ysmir’s Beard, he still asks bandits to yield! This Mer is not out for bloodshed, Skjor. He is governed by reason and peace.”


    “We don’t know anything about him. What? He recites Song of Pelinal or shoots down hawks for fletching and suddenly he’s my friend? No, I’m not as easily swayed as the rest of you are. Has he told us anything about himself? Anything about his past?”


    “Have we asked him?” Retorted the Old Man. It was Skjor’s turn to turn away from the Old Man and face the training circle. “Have you even tried to get to know him?” Kodlak asked.


    “Have you?” Came the surly reply. That struck Kodlak by surprise and it was a fair point. He had not been asking many questions either, for while he and Snow Bear talked, sometimes it turned into heated debates on various subjects. Snow Bear was stubborn and arrogant and so was he. None of them actually had much in common with the damn Mer, save perhaps Vilkas, though he did often speak with Athis and Aela. The other Mer and the other archer. Actually, the Mer seemed to gravitate most towards Tilma and surprisingly Vignar and Eorlund when the Mer worked the forge. He was guarded and Kodlak knew that two centuries of living would not be all fun and games, the physical scars on Snow Bear’s face only perhaps hinting at the deeper emotional ones, but he wasn’t evil, on that Whitemane was certain.  


    The Old Man paused and looked down, at a loss for words as he traced the grain of the wooden table with his finger, and then he remembered the night when Äelberon returned from his first travels and made an old woman cry. “He is one of the few truly good souls I have ever met and we both know that that path is a very difficult one.” He faced Skjor again.  “This I do know. He loves his Shield-Siblings. He even loves those that serve us. Do we know when Tilma’s birthday is? How many years have we spent with the Old Hag and nothing from us? He knew her for less than a month, and he remembered her birthday. That is not, Skjor, an evil person. Like it is for so many of us, we fill the void of the family he has probably lost. How would you feel if your Shield-Siblings suddenly treated you that way? Suddenly shut you out?”


    Skjor looked very far away, his eyes focused beyond the stone wall of the training circle, studying the thin sliver of orange that began to peek from beyond the horizon. It smelled like snow, he sighed. He did not have much, if any love for his actual parents. If they were alive, he didn’t give a shit. They never understood his desire to fight the Great War, for they were greedy opportunists who made their money on the suffering of others. But he could have put up with that. No, they were also liars and informants, spreading their legs for the Thalmor the first chance they got, and he left them to fight. He smirked, when he remembered how the Old Man found him on one of his many “brothel” tours of Cyrodiil some years after it ended, a drunken, debauched, disowned mess of a sellsword; disillusioned by the complex realities of the Great War. That they won the great battle and yet didn’t win the war. That when he came home to see them, his parents had Thalmor over for dinner. He turned away from them that day with a resounding "fuck you" and never returned. He rubbed his temple and faced the Old Man. The Old Man sitting before him was the first person who ever bested him with a blade, and the only one since, until Äelberon came.


    You are my family now, it would hurt a great deal.” The Veteran conceded.


    “Then it would hurt him too, wouldn’t it? Altmer feel too, though they often don’t show it as readily as Nords do, but I was there when he awoke. When he spoke of his home, Skjor, there were definitely tears in those great, alien eyes of his. He has lost bitterly, centuries... I cannot fathom enduring so much for so long. We speak of curses, Skjor, we don’t know curses. A long life; that may well be the greater curse.”


    Kodlak put his hand on Skjor’s shoulder. He could see that Skjor understood.


    “Shield-Brother, we are reacting to something that will never come to pass. Let us leave it and appreciate our new Shield-Brother for what he has demonstrated through his deeds. He has shown us to be a Mer of honor and good humor; who would gladly put himself in harm’s way if it saved one of his Shield-Siblings. He will do the trial, but please, when he returns, treat him the same way you did when he left. I have a feeling he will sorely need it.”


    “I will make an effort, Harbinger.”  Skjor nodded and the two watched the sunrise together, though the Old Man was disappointed as he handed Skjor a fresh bottle of mead from one of the bowls. Skjor said “Harbinger”. Meant he would do it out of respect, but not because he truly felt it in his heart. If he had said “Old Man”, aye, that would have been better. Ah, Snow Bear, Gods couldn’t have made you a Nord, eh?  No, instead, they made you a bloody High Elf.



    The gelding was tiring and so was he. He despised these sudden squalls. They had just made the right turn before the gates to Morrowind and all he could see was snow, and well, the stupid troll. Äelberon drew his long sword, it was coming for him, blocking his way up the path to the Beacon. Xarxes’ arse, he would have none of that. He dismounted, and ordered the gelding out of the way with a quick slap to the rump.  Äelberon stood his ground. The troll lumbered towards him, readying its great, clawed hand to make a swipe.


    “You will not block my path to the Beacon, troll.” It was not a battle cry; it was a simple statement. He was too tired for battle cries now. Save the strength for the blows, not the bellowing. Besides, it was a troll, it cared not. It brought down its mighty hand and Äelberon blocked the blow with his shield, though he did stagger and his tired muscles yelled at him to stop fighting. He gritted his teeth and prepared a swing of his sword. Their hide was tough, but he did cut through the skin on the troll’s arm while it blocked his blow from hitting its chest. Aye, he thought with satisfaction, his blades were very sharp. He had a plan and gave his shield a swing, striking the troll on the face, making it angry. “That is it, get angry.”


    He swiped his shield again, another blow to the troll’s face. An angry troll made mistakes...


    Äelberon suddenly fell on his back hard with a low groan. That was expected; his wind briefly knocked out of him. He coughed blood, shifting position slightly so he could better block a blow from the troll as he lay on his back. 


    “Better to take this lying down…”


    He did not know why he said that aloud, but he suddenly laughed, surprised that he could still make jokes in his current state. The troll roared and grabbed the shield and pressed his weight down, crushing the Elf beneath his great bulk and he groaned. The beast did not seem to appreciate his humor, Äelberon thought, a wry smile forming on his chapped, cracked lips in spite of his dire predicament.  He could feel its spittle dropping on his face, smell its rank breath. It then tried to lift the Elf up, but was startled when Äelberon held his position on the ground by dragging his heels and pulling back on the shield.


    “No, I am lying down for this one, troll. Get used to it.”


    It roared in Äelberon’s face, the warm jet of its breath actually feeling rather good against his frozen skin, and then it pressed even harder on his chest.  


    The troll would die now, for exposed to Äelberon was its soft underbelly. With effort, he pushed his shield arm up and pressed his back against the ground, creating space between himself and the troll, as he took his long sword and made a slicing motion, cutting deeply across the troll’s belly, disemboweling the beast.  For a moment, it seemed confused, snorting and coughing. Äelberon then pushed hard with his shield and rolled away from the troll as it collapsed upon the ground, mortally wounded. He lay next to the troll for a few moments and watched it die, a most unlikely pair of bedfellows. Another languid, naughty chuckle escaped his lips, not entirely appropriate considering the circumstances, but dirty jokes and him went together like honey goes with nuts.  He was very sleepy and he felt his lids grow heavy as the snow fell, warm, peaceful.


    His eyes then snapped wide awake.


    “Get up, you old fool, or you will soon join him.” Äelberon willed himself up and tried to find the gelding in the mess of a snow storm. “Horse?” He called out. Stupid fool, horse?


    Bloody Oblivion, he did not remember its damn name, he should remember a detail like that. Wait. Did Ulundil even tell him the name? No, he did not. Damn, damn, damn and Äelberon continued to curse under his breath as he crossed his arms over his chest to keep warm and stumbled about to search for the animal. He managed a soft whistle through cracked, bleeding lips and he heard a faint whinny in response. He followed the sound, finding the gelding near a small thicket a short ways up the path to the Beacon. He mounted and squeezed the gelding’s flanks. He no longer felt his feet and his eyelids struggled to remain open.


    They were so close and Äelberon quickened the gelding’s pace; he needed to know. Through the narrow slits that were now his eyes, he first saw the cooking fire and then above, upon the roof, the eternal bonfire. It burned bright and true through the snow squall, upon the grand stone tower that still stood.


    A light in the darkness.


    Several Vigilants emerged from the tower and ran toward him. And he uttered a cry, overjoyed, as he felt an overwhelming wave of dizziness, the colors of the fire, stone, and snow swirling, spinning rapidly together in the night sky.


    “Praise be to Stendarr, you live! You live!” 


    He then fell from his saddle and landed on the thick snow with a heavy thud, an exhausted pile of steel, fur, leather and beaten flesh, lost to the world.



    They bore Äelberon gently into the Beacon.


    “Get him to the fire, quickly,” Commanded Brother Theodard.


    The Vigilants set him upon a bed roll and covered him with blankets of fur. He coughed violently and they could hear the rattling in his lungs, while Brother Theodard removed the ice chards from the Elf’s beard and eyebrows.


    He needed healing, but young Tavia also knew what Äelberon needed and had set water to boil when they brought him in. She then took the Elf’s pack and searched through it until she found a satchel and removed from it a tiny pouch. She set his pack carefully near his bed roll as Brother Theodard’s hand began to glow and he moved it slowly over Äelberon’s chest. Gradually the rattling in his lungs ceased and his breathing grew steady.


    Äelberon’s eyes fluttered open and he grabbed Theodard by the forearm, surprising the Breton with the strength of his grip, and spoke, but it was hard to make words at first, he was so tired. “Hhh… Hhhall… The… hall…”


    “Easy… You need, sleep, Brother Äelberon, when you wake, we will talk.”


    The old Elf’s eyes narrowed and he found his voice. “No, now! We… speak now!”


    He began to prop himself up with his arm, resisting Brother Theodard’s motions to push him back onto the bed roll. Tavia then brought him a tankard of the steeped tea, which he took readily, letting out a groan as he sipped slowly. He grabbed Tavia’s arm with his icy hand and squeezed as he looked up at her.


    He looked terrible to her, his face almost wild with fatigue, as if he were fighting rest with every fiber of his being. What was so important that it couldn’t wait until after he slept?


    “A thousand blessings, little sister.” Äelberon gasped, “I needed this.” He took another large sip and continued, his voice gaining strength. “Now I can speak. The Hall. It is destroyed.”


    Tavia had her answer and she dropped her jaw, mortified.


    What?!” Cried Brother Theodard.


    The other Vigilants erupted into a flurry of conversation and exclamations of dismay and anger.


    The Hall...


    It was their headquarters. It was their home. The Beacon was only an outpost. They received their supplies from the Hall, fresh recruits from the Hall. Brother Theodard put his hand on Äelberon’s shoulder. “Who did this? What did this?” the Breton asked.


    “Vampires, my brother, vampires. From the clan Volkihar.” There was a sudden silence. He dared speak the name. The Elf’s eyes narrowed.


    Vigilants with their silly superstitions.


    “Yes I dare speak the names!” He shot back gruffly, “Volkihar, Molag Bal. There, I said them and I do not care who listens. To not speak them is to show fear, and I will not grant them that pleasure!  Yes, the Hall is destroyed.”


    Despite Theodard’s protests for him to lie down, he got up partially and sat cross-legged at the fire. Tavia draped a blanket over his shoulders and he continued to sip his tea. She took a place next to him, leaning her head on his shoulder. The action seemed to calm him down significantly, and she felt his arm settle around her shoulder, bringing her closer.


    “I missed you too, little sister,” He whispered softly while he observed Brother Theodard exchange words with another Vigilant, a dark-complexioned, bearded Imperial. The Imperial muttered an invocation to Arkay and left the Beacon, still muttering to himself, as if carrying on a conversation with another though he was clearly alone. He knew that face from somewhere… Äelberon heard Tavia sigh and turned to her again, his chain of thought on the Imperial broken. “My travels, as of late, have been very quiet, for I had no embarrassing questions to keep me entertained. And far too many apples to eat.” Yes, even in this dark hour, he managed a smile, and they shared a chuckle. The Daedric Prince would not take that away from him either.


    “But where is your horse, and Koor?” She asked, her blue eyes finding his.


    “They are at Windhelm. Angry at me for leaving them behind. I shall have to beg their forgiveness upon my return, especially of the horse. She is quick to anger and she did not understand. I rode her hard from the Hall to get to the Beacon.” He turned to the Vigilants that faced him in the firelight. “All I could think as I rode, was to reach the Beacon. I feared the worst. She needed the rest, or I would have broken her, so I borrowed a fresh horse at Windhelm. I have good friends there.” He turned his gaze to Brother Theodard, his expression grim, almost guilty. “Brother Theodard, I fear that this is all my fault.”


    “What makes you think that, Brother Äelberon?”


    “Because I angered Molag Bal.”


    The Vigilant stared at the Elf. “What did you do?”


    The Elf surprised everyone with a chuckle laced with sarcasm. “By the Gods! What have I not done to the Old Bastard? I slew His very issue in combat. I have hunted vampires under Auri-El’s banner for over two hundred years… but this was different.” He pointed towards the raging snowstorm, “Outside, upon that horse is the body of a great man. Our Brother Tyranus from Cyrodiil.”


    There were gasps of grief among the Vigilants, for he was known and loved by all of them. Their great brother was now dead. Tavia squeezed Äelberon’s arm, she was sorely grieved.


    “How did he die?” Asked Brother Theodard, his tone serious.


    Äelberon cast his eyes downward and his face darkened. “Forgive me if my words fail me as I speak them, Brother Theodard, for the sorrow is still quite sharp.” He took another sip of the tea, to settle his thoughts before continuing. “Keeper Carcette…”


    Damn it, he was already fighting grief at the first words. He had brought her fresh canis root to thank her for her kindness. He cleared his throat and continued.


    Keeper Carcette, when last we met, bade me meet Brother Tyranus at Markarth. He was investigating Daedra worship within the city walls. I was headed there on a mission for the Lady Mara anyway, and told her to send word that I would join him on the Festival of Old Life. I arrived on that day and was excited to work with him. See, we knew of each other in Cyrodiil, exchanged correspondence, but our paths had never crossed. It was nightfall when we began our investigation of the home. Nightfall... we went in and we later learned that the home contained an Altar to Molag Bal. The Daedric Lord contacted us through the altar and proceeded to poison the Vigilant’s mind. Brother Tyranus attacked me and I then battled Molag Bal for his soul. I nearly died, but I assure you...”


    Äelberon then raised his right hand, swearing an oath.


    “On my honor as a Priest of Auri-El, your brother’s soul does not dwell in Coldharbour. He sacrificed his life to spare my own, not wanting to let that demon corrupt him. With his great sword, I then made my way down to the altar and destroyed it; severing its connection between Mundus and Bal’s realm.” He brought his hand down, and wearily stared into the fire. “He bade me… Tyranus, his final words… he bade me bring his body to his siblings in the Pale. And… he bade me take on his mantle and wear his armor. It was his wish, and I am honor-bound to fulfill it. For oaths in my Order are taken seriously.” The Elf then let out a great sigh and his shoulders stooped. “Molag Bal’s revenge for my defiance was swift. I truly believe that I am the cause of the destruction of the Hall. It took all that I had in me to reach you, for I thought that Bal would strike you down as well.” He shook his head, feeling the grief again. “I am so terribly sorry to have brought this upon you, my brothers and sisters.”


    “No, Äelberon.” Theodard’s voice was firm, “Never apologize for ‘Walking the Light’. You did Stendarr’s work that day, and the God smiles upon you.” He knelt next to Äelberon. “Now, please, rest. You did not even let me finish healing you and I can hear your body scream for it. Lie down, please.”


    The Breton took the tankard from the Altmer and pushed him gently back onto the bed roll, covering him with a blanket, while Tavia helped him remove his helmet. Äelberon did not protest this time, his message was delivered and his lids were indeed very heavy. Tavia being a good little sister and stroking his brow was helping too. He would sleep as the dead do today. Brother Theodard continued to speak, laying his now-glowing hand on Äelberon’s chest, watching the Elf slowly drift off. “We will bury Tyranus later today, and we will sanctify the armor at the shrine. For I truly believe you are worthy to wear it and honor our fallen brother.”


    “If it indeed be His will...” Äelberon murmured as sleep finally grabbed hold of his body.



    3rd of Morning Star, 4E 202


    Äelberon opened the door to Jorrvaskr and walked in, Koor quickly overtaking him to seek out his mistress. He gently set Tyranus’ sanctified armor down near the door, and slowly walked to his place. His Shield-Siblings were at their evening meal. It never failed, Äelberon always seemed to arrive at the evening meal. He sat without word, removed his helmet at the table, set it down upon the floor, braced his left arm upon the arm of the chair, and rested his head upon his hand, rubbing his still bruised temple, his red-orange eyes catching the light of the hearth; they were distant and sad. Aela was always first and he knew her line well by now.


    “Good Hunting, Shield-Brother?” She asked softly and he bent his head and closed his eyes.


    The Old Man could see the grief welling in him.


    “No, my Shield-Sister, not this time.” He thought for a moment and then touched her arm gently. “Well, that is not entirely true. There is always some good...” He glanced at Athis and smiled, the memory of the giant hunt returning. “I killed a giant and mammoth with my Shield-Brothers, I now have much silver for the Barrow, and I am home with my Shield-Siblings, and that… is always good. So the darkness that is now in my heart will quickly pass.”


    “Yes, Shield-Brother, Vilkas told us about the Vigilant of Stendarr, he could sense your deep grief.” Said Kodlak.


    “Did he now?” The Elf's voice was distant. 


    “Were you able to reach the Hall of the Vigilant in the Pale?” Asked Skjor of all people, leaning towards the Elf and patting Äelberon’s shoulder from his place at the table.


    Kodlak smiled, the old Veteran was indeed making a concerted effort.


    “The Hall, Skjor, is destroyed. The Vigilants within it dead. Vampires and their death hounds laid it to ruin. The Shrine to Stendarr was desecrated, smothered in vampire blood in an act of blasphemy.” All the Companions turned to face Äelberon, their faces in various states of shock.


    Skjor rubbed his stubble. He did not know what to think, but he felt guilty that “relief” was one of the many emotions.


    “Molag Bal struck a hard blow against Skyrim today," the Altmer continued, "and I fear he is nowhere near finished. I had to journey to the Beacon of Stendarr at the border of Morrowind to lay Brother Tyranus to rest. It was a difficult journey, but his will was done and he is at peace.” He put his left hand on Skjor’s and squeezed it, fighting his building emotion. “I am very glad to be home with my family. You are a part of me now.”


    He cleared his throat, it was time for humor. To dwell in despair was conceding defeat and that was never his way. “Tilma, confounded Old Woman! I am starved, where is MY meal?” He bellowed towards the kitchen.


    No answer and he eyed his Shield-Siblings, the mischief in his still misting eyes building, vanquishing the pain while his voice became exaggerated, the inflections both high and low, and he furrowed his brow and nodded, giving them a knowing wink. “Oh I see now! No food for your Albee anymore, eh? I have grown too fat, that is it, isn’t it!?”


    The hall was filled with laughter and she quickly appeared, bearing a piping hot bowl of stew in her hands. He grinned broadly, she always took the bait.


    “Now, that is more like it." His eyes then narrowed and he slyly smiled at Tilma, making her stifle giggles as she shifted her feet. She knew exactly what he was going to ask her. Her newest cub. "And what is this I hear about you making honey nut treats in my absence?”


    Aye, Äelberon smiled, masking his sorrow, watching Tilma grin and pretend not to know what he was talking about as the Mead Hall continued their laughter,  he would recover here; make the weapons and fix the armor. And when he was ready, he would continue Auri-El’s work throughout the land.


    Daedra and dragons be damned…


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXVII    Chapter XIX



19 Comments   |   SpottedFawn and 1 other like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  September 12, 2017
    Poor Albee. :( Sometimes I get the impression that his humor and his ability to find the light even in the darkest of times is all that's kept him going these years. Regular men and mer would have succumbed to all this tragedy and evil a long time ago!more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Poor Albee. :( Sometimes I get the impression that his humor and his ability to find the light even in the darkest of times is all that's kept him going these years. Regular men and mer would have succumbed to all this tragedy and evil a long time ago!

      I...  more
        ·  September 12, 2017
      He's a stubborn old goat, that's also part of it. :D
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 8, 2015
    Allie is wearing the Nordic armor from Convenient Horses. Albee is wearing a bearskin cloak and hood from cloaks of skyrim, a backpack, but really he's just wearing a steel set with pauldrons. Nothing special in that picture. Koor is a mod made by Elianor...  more
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 8, 2015
    I'm talking about tha armor on Aelberon and Allie.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 8, 2015
    Aelberon's had so much happen to him in his very long life that I think his reaction reflects his age. It's more of an "alright world, what else have you got?". He's darn near seen about everything so I think this gives him a bit a tongue in cheek attitud...  more
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 7, 2015
    Actually more lick a lockpick in a damn master lock.

    P.S. What mods do you use to make THAT picture? It looks badass.
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 7, 2015
    Even if disaster strikes Aelberon always has a smile on his face. A really odd fellow he is, the last time disaster hit Walks-In-Darkness he broke like a toothpick.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 27, 2015
    He totally would believe it's his fault. Dawnguard will be the subject of Book 2, though there will also be a book of miscellaneous stories. Sometimes stories are worth telling but don't fit in with the overall plots of Questlines, so they are in the cutt...  more
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 26, 2015
    I kind of had a hunch this chapter would be when Aelberon found the Hall slaughtered. Believing it was his fault is something he would do.

    I'm looking forward to his inevitable meeting in Volkihar Castle. Should be fun to see how he reacts to...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 30, 2015
    Oh, the extremists have been having their own problems. We all know how a certain Redguard can get. It's not chronicled much in Book 1, but we do get a taste of the fledgling Dawnguard in one of the chapters. 
    Troll fight was one of my favorite figh...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 30, 2015
    Yay Kodlak came through for Albee, losing the Hall and the Companions at once would be too much. High time for our favorite vampire hunting extremists to make an appearance.
    I liked how out of it he was during the troll fight.