Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXIX


    7th of Morning Star, 4E 202


    He sat at the edge of his bed sipping canis root tea, Koor dozing at his feet, and gazed upon the shining armor that was on display on the mannequin with tired, bloodshot eyes, a slow exhale of intense satisfaction escaping his lips. 


    It was ready and by Auri-El, it was perfect. So perfect…


    She… she would have been proud and he could feel his heart swell with pride as he thought of her at her forge. He was truly her son. The son of the Lady of the Forge.


    Äelberon had worked on the armor since the third of the month. It was now the seventh; repairing the cuirass, and extending the plates on the legs and arms to fit his body. While extending the chain mail suit was hard; far, far worse was matching the alloy. He had seen his mother work such alloys at her forge, but she kept the metal ratios a closely guarded secret, lest someone copy her work. It took him two days just to figure it out; blending steel and silver at the smelter over and over again until the consistency and color matched the armor perfectly. He finished the work at Adrianne’s, for he drove Eorlund Gray-mane crazy after three days of his rantings and ravings. Many ingots and sheets of metal were thrown in frustration and his Shield-Siblings avoided him like the Thrassian Plague.


    Äelberon chuckled to himself, shaking his head, they were a tolerant bunch. He  was little better than a troll when things did not work well at the forge, and evening meals at the Mead Hall were spent grumbling and either revising schematics or drawing brand new ones; a pile of apples cores on the floor; half-drunk tankards of tea scattered about Jorrvaskr. He ate little and slept even less, for he also worked on two new swords and silver arrows and bolts. Silver for the Barrow; he was close to Bleak Falls Barrow. So close… 


    The swords were unlike anything his Shield-Siblings had ever seen. He drew their schematics the very night he returned, after his meal, and this time Skjor took great interest, peering over his shoulder, watching him while he drew with charcoal-stained fingers.  Äelberon savored the memory, for Skjor had been extra kind to him that evening. He knew the Nord still had his apprehensions, but Äelberon could sense that he was trying to make an effort.  It was appreciated. Tyranus’ death was painful, especially that first night home… 


    “Two swords?” Skjor had asked, and Äelberon remembered the Nord’s body heat as he leaned closer, smelling the scent of mead and other things but again, Nords were not particularly aware of how sensitive Altmeri noses were, he thought with a smile.


    Ah, what a bar of soap would do for the lot of them and Skjor was one of the better ones. The mead overpowered most of it. Most of it, praise the Gods, he thought, his smiling morphing into a grin as his feet stroked Koor’s fur.


    “Aye,” He answered, a grunt really, not even looking up from his schematics, but Skjor was undaunted that night. Bless him.




    Äelberon had turned to the Nord upon hearing that particular question. Skjor never really bothered with his bow schematics, but these were for blades and Skjor was an exceptional bladesman, if rather limited in his scope, only working with his Skyforge weapon; whereas Äelberon had worked with many different types of blades.


    Veteran had yet to use the scimitars. Bloody stubborn Nord, Äelberon smirked while he sipped his tea, continuing to remember the evening.  They were all so stubborn.


    “They each serve a purpose.” He had replied, sliding the first schematic towards Skjor, who scooted his chair closer to the Elf to get a better look. Elf and Nord together and not trying to kill each other. “This one is a katana.”


    Äelberon watched as Skjor studied the schematic of a long, slender blade with only a small guard and a long hilt. Skjor traced the shape of the weapon with his strong hand, his pale grey eye intense, curious.  “For cutting?” Skjor then asked while his finger traced the shape of the blade.


    “Yes, for cutting. It is of Akaviri design. I learned it from an old Blade I met in Cyrodiil. We shared a common thread.”  Ah, then his eyes glinted with mischief and he actually laughed at the Veteran, a joke coming to mind. Äelberon could never resist a dirty joke.  Never. “We were both on the run from the Thalmor.”


    “I see...”


    Äelberon, at the time, could sense the masked pain behind those words. The other Companions had never known the extended battles of a war, for Kodlak enforced their neutrality policy, but Skjor fought the Great War before joining and Äelberon fought the Great Anguish. It was a different combat experience from what the rest of the Companions were used to, the one-on-one encounters with a giant or a beast, or at the most, a group of bandits. Extended fighting, in utter chaos, was very different. Sometimes you did not know where your blade fell or where your arrow struck in the mass of bodies struggling to survive. Äelberon understood full well why Skjor drank so heavily, so he took it upon himself that night to lighten up the mood. It helped him too, for his own thoughts were still so dark from the death of Tyranus.


    “And we spent the night together… at a brothel. My first time, on my very birthday…” He reveled in being deliberately vague, his voice oozing wistfulness. Äelberon was rewarded with all eyes of the Mead Hall on him and a befuddled Skjor.


    “Huh?!” The exclamation made Äelberon laugh all the harder. The lot of them were such sport for teasing. “A brothel?” The Nord’s brow furrowed, his expression was confused. “But I thought…”


    They knew that he was celibate by now, though they did not yet know that he was untouched. Celibacy could be better explained and Äelberon did not correct them when they assumed it was because his holy Orders demanded it. That was not unheard of in Tamriel. Strange, but not unheard of. “Such a dirty mind. Sitting, Skjor, we were sitting upon the roof of a brothel in the Imperial city, freezing our bloody arses off, watching the Justiciars scour the streets for us, and it was a grand time.”


    “Evading Thalmor? Hmph! doesn’t sound like much of a grand time to me, especially on your birthday.”


    “Ha! Oh it was grand! ’Twas the only place I knew the Thalmor would NOT look for me. They grew so frustrated and eventually he and I just sat back and watched them fume. We even shared a fine meal, told tales of our adventures, and just watched, marveling at the display of sheer idiocy below us. The bumbling fools.  Skjor, they passed that damn brothel so many times that night! And not once did they think to venture inside! Not once! He and I were holding our bellies and our eyes watered, we laughed so hard.”


    The entire Mead Hall erupted with laughter at Äelberon’s words and Skjor then patted him hard on the shoulder, appreciating the humor. “Well met, Elf, well met. I would have enjoyed seeing that…” Skjor then leaned closer to Äelberon and whispered in his ear. “Only next time you find yourself in that situation, wait inside the brothel, not on the roof. The view is better. In more ways than one…” And he winked, making Äelberon laugh loudly and Aela stare at the two quizzically.


    “Ah, I hope he is still well, a loremaster of their group. Fine fellow, a scholar like me. Last I heard, he was heading to Southern Skyrim. But Thalmor Justiciars are like hounds.” His lined face then darkened as he uttered his next words. “They never stop.”


    The laughter of the Mead Hall was replaced by an eerie silence. There was a lot of weight to Äelberon’s words. The younglings were not accustomed to so much grief, so much darkness. Men do not understand such pain. Sixty to eighty years, and it would be over for them, and they would enjoy their mead and songs for an eternity. The Elves experience much more. He knew he was killing the mood that night and quickly returned to levity, a forced smile upon his face. “I forget myself, you wanted to know of this weapon, not of my sordid past hiding in brothels. In silver, it is brutal against the undead.” Äelberon turned to Skjor and laughed again when he saw the Nord's suddenly serious face. “You need not look so glum, Skjor; it is not like I am going to use it on you!”


    More laughter and the Nord relaxed, a little.


    “And that one?” Skjor pointed to the other weapon’s schematic. “A longsword? It’s beautiful. Are those eagles’ wings on the crossguards?”


    Äelberon traced the lines of the weapon with his long fingers, reminiscing again. His gaze tender. More darkness, but of a different kind. “Yes, they are eagles...” Äelberon smiled at Skjor, his Elven pride swelling. “A lady of the forge designed this weapon. This sword’s brother, alas, now guards that great lady, in a monument of crystal and marble, surrounded by showers of golden, golden blossoms... I will forge this, his sister, tomorrow. A marriage of Elvish and steel. Strength and speed. This one is for thrusting, though it slices rather well too.”


    With that, he resumed his drawing, and no one noticed the tear stains upon the parchment.


    It was a distraction he had desperately needed that first night back, Äelberon thought with a sad sigh as he continued to sip his tea and regard the armor set.        

    When the forge drove him mad, and it frequently did during those days of feverish construction, Äelberon grabbed Allie and Koor and he just wandered; hunting as he pleased. He favored the tundra and it was at the tundra where he completed the final task for the Lady Mara. 


    She had given him a token, an amulet. When he put it on, he found a spectre of a woman weeping at Gjukar’s monument and his heart felt for her. She lamented her husband who died on the battlefield and bade him search for him. He scoured the tundra and found the husband a distance away and battled several sabre cats and a bear to bring him back to his beloved wife. When they were finally reunited, he then watched them ascend together, united forever, into Aetherius. It was breathtaking and profound. To love so deeply that there were no boundaries between the very planes of existence! Some were not so lucky, he thought as he remembered, feeling the sting of sadness. 


    Unable to contain his excitement, and in a move that hearkened to his old days as a young initiate, he rode to Riften without warning and promptly woke up Dinya Balu in the wee hours of the morning to deliver the news. She took it rather well, all things considering, and the Lady Mara gave him her favor.


    "Gods do not maintain such set schedules", she joked in understanding.


    He then woke up the khajiit right after to return his amulet. Other than mumbling “crazy elf” through half-open eyes, Kharjo was also tolerant of his intrusion and in gratitude pledged to serve in combat if he was ever needed. And then fell back upon his bedroll. Poor cat probably did not even remember the conversation.


    They had both been kind, for Äelberon was positive he did not make much sense at all, being at his wit’s end from his struggles at the forge, his grief for Tyranus and Keeper Carcette, and his emotional state after his encounter with Molag Bal. It made for an intense combination and he needed time to sort through the turmoil. That was what the past four days had ultimately given him; time. He took another sip of his tea and set it down upon the dresser as he stood and walked to the armor. He removed his nightshirt, taking the time to fold it neatly, before settinig it on the bed, gooseflesh spreading across his body when the cold air struck his bare skin. He smiled, running his hand over the beige cotton nightshirt before picking up a pair of dark grey trousers.


    His little Tilma had been very sneaky while he was away, putting that shiny new thimble to good use.  


    When he ventured to his quarters on the third to gather the paper, charcoal, and ink needed to draw his schematics, he found upon his bed several new sets of clothes; long-sleeved tunics in either cotton or light wool and several pairs of trousers in various shades of dull grey, black, and brown, under garments, and two nightshirts. They were not especially fancy clothes, on that he was glad, for he never was one for fancy dress save armor, but they were clothes designed to be comfortable, durable, and keep him warm. She even lengthened his monk’s robes so that his pale ankles would not comically show whenever he visited the Temple to heal and there were also several pairs of woolen foot-coverings. He was truly touched by her kindness and he vowed to repay it. He could be sneaky too, Äelberon thought with a sly grin as he finished dressing.


    He unfastened the armor from the mannequin and set the plating upon his bed. The chain mail suit came first. A full body suit that would surprise a Nord with its weight. A typical Altmer would be unable to even lift it, let alone wear it, but he was from Dusk, he chuckled.


    Everything was bigger in Dusk.


    A leather belt at his waist was used to redistribute the weight of the mail more effectively over his body. After a few adjustments, he began to attach the plating, beginning first with the faulds and cuisses, and then fitting the cuirass, pauldrons, and finally his boots, fastening the buckles. The gauntlets would go on after his morning meal. It was a well-designed set indeed, for he could easily dress on his own and he let out a sigh of relief once the armor was on. For the first time since he arrived in Skyrim, he felt himself again. The armor was not enchanted, but Gods, at least he was able to move again. Move the right way. The steel set he made fit him well, but it felt so good to have his “second skin” back on, though he was now keenly aware of the weight. Äelberon turned to Koor, who was sitting on his haunches by the door grinning.


    “How do I look?” The husky answered by getting up and walking towards his Master, wagging his tail, and then head-butting his thigh before barking his approval. Äelberon roughly patted Koor’s head and smiled, his laugh lines wrinkling. “Aye, I feel myself again.”


    Äelberon did not use the helmet, though. He was too much of an archer and needed the visibility, so he constructed another helmet similar to the first, except that it used the pelt of a snow bear. It was part of Vilkas’ gift for his help with the giant and the mammoth. The giant had on him four snow bear pelts and Vilkas gave them to him. They were beautiful and from them he fashioned the steel helmet and with Tilma’s help, a cloak. Well, Tilma did most of it, for he was very poor at sewing. He could make very basic repairs, but his stitching was large and clumsy, and he had none of the patience for needlework that he had for smithing. That had been a pleasant memory as well, watching her sew his cloak while he fletched his silver bolts by the hearth’s warm, red-golden fire, the soft bearskin draped over her lap, the thimble upon her finger, the facets of the amethyst catching the light.


    They spoke of simple things as they worked, ignoring the ruckus of his Shield-Siblings, in their own private world. The way it was in the mornings.  Even Vignar Grey-mane sat in and just listened. She spoke mostly of her family in Solitude, telling him of a letter she received from her niece, Greir.  The young maid was now working at an inn called the Winking Skeever after her former employers announced a rather sudden move to Solstheim, putting up their estate in Northern Haafingar for sale. He told her stories, and was surprised that she enjoyed the tale of Princess Anurraame the most. Tilma, it seemed, had a fondness for good, old-fashioned romances, even the dark ones. It was an old Ayleid tale about a beautiful princess who takes revenge on her husband and her lover for betraying her. She then asked him questions about the Ayleids as they both worked into the wee hours of the night, her fingers calloused from the needle, his covered in resin and adhesive from his bolts. Were they really wild elves? Did they truly wear feathers in their hair? He smiled and gave her a mischievous wink. 


    Äelberon adjusted his cloak so that his bow arm was bare and then he took the new longsword, his bow, and a steel shield from their racks. He sheathed the sword and strapped the shield and the unstrung bow to his back, and a quiver of steel arrows.


    He did not know why he was waiting to make his Elvish arrows. The arrow heads were already done, but he had not yet carved the shafts. He was holding out. He made some final adjustments to the armor before he opened the door to his quarters, the gauntlets tucked under his arm, traveled down the hall of the Living Quarters and then up the steps to the main hall to warm his hands by the fire, Koor close behind. It was very early, he doubted anyone would be up.  


    Aye, even Tilma was asleep and he was indeed alone, as he moved silently through the hall, stopping when he saw two small packages at his place in the Mead Hall and he grinned. Sly Old Woman. She packed him breakfast… and lunch.


    He had an important task today and she knew it, wanting him to get a strong start to the day. A simple meal of his favorites, dried fruit, cheese, bread, and, aye, green apples. He sat at his place and quietly ate, sharing his meal with Koor, mentally preparing for his day, making his piece with Mundus, as he always did when faced with danger.  It was time to retrieve Nettlebane for Danica Pure-Spring and restore the Gildergreen. It was time to honor Kyne, for Mara gave her blessing at the Storm Goddess' request. And it was time to begin the process of giving back to Whiterun for their generosity.


    When he finished eating and warming his hands, he cast a healing aura and slipped on his gauntlets, unable to suppress a smile while the aura spread through his body, casting him in soft golden highlights. It felt so good just to cast spells again. The healing potion had been revolting.  


    “You ready, boy?” Koor snorted and the Elf patted his flank as they left Jorrvaskr.




    It was a clear, brisk early morning, just before dawn. The stars still shown in the sky and the air was heavy with the scent of lavender, when they crossed the Gildergreen. Äelberon paused at the giant, weathered trunk. To him, the tree looked dead and when a strong breeze blew, he sometimes found smaller twigs on the ground. A tree that was merely asleep would not shed like that. Such weathering and shedding, no, that implied death.  Äelberon pressed his hand to it, whispering softly.


    “I promise, I will do the right thing by you.” Äelberon sighed.  He did not know what the right thing was. His quest from Danica was simple enough. He was to retrieve Nettlebane and from that, they could draw sap from the Eldergleam at its sanctuary, but there was something about that request that did not quite sit well with him. To draw sap would cause damage and Äelberon did not want to hurt this child’s great parent. His hand lingered on the trunk of the tree and he looked up at the tree’s dead branches.


    Is death not a part of life?


    He pulled his hand from the trunk and Äelberon and Koor crossed the courtyard and headed toward the Temple of Kynareth.


    Bidding Koor to remain just inside the Temple entrance, Äelberon lowered the hood of his cloak and removed his helmet as he entered and then knelt before the shrine, unsheathing his weapon and holding it in his right hand, his helm in his left. “They had heard the whispers of the goddess in its branches...” His whispered softly, deep in thought. They had heard, but no more…


    Danica was sitting at her desk when she heard his voice, and she turned to watch him while he prayed. The Altmer was on one knee, a grand longsword unsheathed; the point of the blade upon the floor, his right hand closed tightly about its golden hilt, his helm held under his left arm. A Steel shield, an Elvish bow, and a quiver of steel arrows upon his back. He was now clad in a finely etched silver-plated armor and its sheen caught the light of the Temple’s braziers, as did the silver hair on his bent head.


    And he glowed.


    She smiled, her crow’s feet growing more prominent. He didn’t really glow, she chuckled to herself. A healing aura had been cast, and its faint golden radiance gave him the look of another time and place. A throwback to an earlier era. Danica was puzzled though, Kynareth was not part of the Altmer pantheon, yet there Äelberon was, praying to the shrine. The Altmer worshipped Y’ffre. She heard him speak softly as he closed his prayers. Several verses were recited in closing. He began with a verse to Kynareth and she smiled again, for it was rare that worshipers even knew it anymore.


    "Come to me, Kynareth, for without you, I might not know the mysteries of the world, and so blind and in terror, I might consume and profane the abundance of your beautiful treasures."


    It had been beautifully spoken, but then he spoke two more, far older verses. The first was to his Elven God Y’ffre. Much of that Elven God’s ways were absorbed into Kynareth’s teachings over the course of Tamriel’s history, partially to appease the Elves in the forming of the first Cyrodiilic Empire. Some old legends claimed that Y’ffre and Kyne were actually brother and sister and that she took up his mantle when he became the bones of the earth. These words he spoke more firmly.


    "Feel the solidity of the ground under your feet, and taste the wind! By his will is our world manifest, and the rocks, and the trees, and the birds in the sky. Y'ffre is with you at every turn, in every moment."


    Then he recited the final verse.


    “Dark clouds gather in the sky above.

    Kyne weeps for joy at the beauty of the world.

    Tears warm the ground and blossoms grow.

    The sacred stone reveals the flowers of her tears.”


    A verse to Kyne?! So Äelberon honored the ancient Nord ways too? Bless him, thought Danica, she didn’t even know verses to Kyne.  Truly studied, truly studied indeed. He then kissed the shrine and stood up, taking its blessing, his prayers complete. Äelberon sheathed his weapon, and sensing her presence, he turned to face Danica.


    “Morning, Danica…” He smiled, his knowing eyes warm, his free hand now finding his husky’s ears. “I did not think you would be awake yet, it is very early, still dark.”


    She smiled back, and took his hand, “I am a mage.”


    The Elf responded with a chuckle and a nod. “True, true, I am the same way.” He replied with a stifled yawn. “It is what a strong brew is for!”


    “You go for Nettlebane today?” She asked, stepping closer.


    “Aye,” He nodded.


    Danica gently squeezed his hand before letting it go to help him with his helmet and cloak, marveling at the beauty of the snow bear pelt. “You still have the black one, though yes?” She asked.


    “Oh yes, that old black bearskin is important to me and I will keep it.”


    “A bandit once wore it.”


    “Aye, he may have been a bandit, but he was an Orc warrior in the end. I have a terrible soft spot for Orcs.”  


    “Well I hope you don’t have a soft spot for hagravens!”


    “Ha! No!” He laughed aloud, putting his arm around her shoulder. God’s! He was huge, a very bear. Snow Bear… his Shield-Siblings first gave him that name and now the children of Whiterun called him that. She looked up at him and smiled again.


    “I will pray to Kynareth for your success.”


    The Priest of Auri-El kissed her forehead and walked to the door, but he paused just as he was about to leave, his face suddenly thoughtful.  “No, Danica. Pray to all three, for all dwell in that shrine; your Kynareth, my Y’ffre, and the ancient Kyne. It is right to do so.”


    Danica Pure-Spring nodded to the Elf and he pushed open the door, leaving the Temple.



    Äelberon kept Allie at a slow trot as they traveled the worn, cobblestone road along the White River, and approached Riverwood. The Whiterun guards stationed there waved while he passed by to make a left turn just past the Sleeping Giant inn, through the gate and up to a dirt path that would lead him to the fork in the road for Falkreath and Helgen. The sun had not yet shown himself to the world, though his rays, like cast spells, were now shooting the horizon with thin bands of orange, and the stars were beginning to fade, to sleep their way through the day. His destination was Orphan Rock, a rock formation in between Helgen and Ivarstead, close to the Falkreath Stormcloak camp, up a dirt path. It would be no easy matter, though. Nettlebane was guarded by a Hagraven and her band of witch followers. His new resistance to hostile magic would certainly be put to the test today. 


    Koor bounded ahead along the dirt path lined with snowberries and young pine trees, chasing a rabbit that strayed too close, his tail wagging, his tongue lolling. The husky was looking to play, but the rabbit would have none of it. Äelberon allowed the dog the jollity and smiled at the husky’s antics, there would be time for seriousness soon enough. The rabbit disappeared into a rotten trunk, covered with mosses and mora tapinella, and Koor stuck his head deep inside, pawing at the brittle, decayed wood, his rump high in the air, his tail wagging. Äelberon stopped Allie and watched the proceedings, his hands resting on the horn of the saddle, steam coming from his mouth slow and steady. Koor suddenly let out a sharp whine and the rabbit bolted out the other end of the stump, as Koor pulled his head out, vocalizing at the great injustice that was done to him by the now-cursed rabbit. The husky licked his nose and gazed at his Master, shifting about like a child who has been caught doing something naughty.


    “Well? What did you expect?” The Elf chided his dog, shaking his head in mock disapproval, “The rabbit did not want to play.”


    Koor yowled in protest. 


    “No, I am not sympathetic, you got exactly what you deserved.”  Äelberon crossed his arms over his chest, ‘twas time to be the disciplinarian, though he could barely contain his laughter. “And you are being a very big baby about it, you overgrown Snowberry.” Allie snorted and stomped her foot, turning her head slightly to Äelberon, her teeth baring a bit, just for show.  “See, even our illustrious Queen Alfsigr agrees, and she never sees eye to eye with her Master on anything.”


    Koor walked up to his Master and stood up on his hind legs, resting his paws upon Allie’s flank, his tail wagging, his blue eyes pleading. He then snorted, showing his Master the wee bite on his wet nose. He snorted again, and rested his head on his paws, turning his blue eyes away in shame, causing the Altmer to make clicking noises with his tongue. “Fine,” Äelberon sighed and his hand glowed. His bite healed, Koor yowled in appreciation and began to run in circles around Allie who turned to Äelberon and bared her teeth in a condescending sneer. That was not for show. “I take it you do not approve, my Queen.”


    Allie snorted abruptly and faced forward.


    “I should be harder, I know, but I cannot help it, I have a soft spot for whiny snowberries. ”Koor paused from his running and looked up, his head tilting to the side. Äelberon leaned forward on his saddle towards the dog. “See, now you got me in trouble.” He whispered, though he could tell from her twitching ears that she heard every word. “She will never let me live that down.” 


    Koor wagged his tail and lolled his tongue.


    “Hmph! That is your answer for everything, eh? Wish it worked on bloody Hagravens…” Äelberon squeezed Allie’s flanks and the trio continued up the path.  


    They cleared the dirt path from Riverwood and joined the main road that led to Helgen. Äelberon strung his bow and readied a steel arrow, riding past Helgen with the bow slightly drawn. Bandits frequently emerged from the city’s ruins, making their headquarters in the keep. He had received a letter from the Jarl of Falkreath, Siddgeir, with an invitation to visit the hold.  He would have words with him regarding the bandit infestation.  Helgen was close to Riverwood, and if the party that raided the Stormcloack camp was any indication of their organization and capabilities, then Riverwood was a prime target, and such lawlessness was simply unacceptable. He, his Shield-Siblings, and others had taken care of most of the bandit strongholds in Whiterun and the hold benefitted from his efforts. The only remaining stronghold was Fort Greymore, and as soon as he completed the Barrow, he would see about bringing those bandits to justice. Forts should be garrisoned with soldiers, not criminals. He relaxed his bow when he cleared Helgen and returned to the main road.


    He could see the Jerall Mountains as he continued up the main road, heading towards Ivarstead and he found that he needed to suppress a sudden flood of memories. Memories of brutal cold and harsh conditions, but also memories of peace and meditation. He shook his head and the memories vanished.


    Several other small paths now branched to his left. At least three. Damn, which one? Äelberon removed his pack and took out his map. Was still a bit dark to read it properly, especially under the shade of the pine trees and the mountains blocking the sun’s appearance to the world. He never really needed any of the Alteration spells for that though, he harnessed the sun’s light in the palm of his hand, and as he held the map in his right hand, he charged sun fire with his left. It provided enough light to read by. It was the final of the three paths, two stone markers revealing its location.  He put the map away and headed toward that pathway.


    It led into a forested valley covered with dense ferns, dark green grasses, mushrooms, and purple mountain flowers. And that was when he spied the rusted metal. Bear traps. Äelberon brought Allie to a halt and quickly scanned the area. Xarxes’ Arse! There were traps everywhere; spikes, elemental runes, and more bear traps. If combat grew intense, no, he would not risk Allie. Äelberon turned her around, rode a short distance away and dismounted. He also unstrung the bow and stowed it in his saddle. Hagravens were experts in the use of Fire magicks, he would use the shield and sword. Allie attempted to follow.


    “No, girl, stay.” Was his firm command. She halted, but she did stomp. He turned to Koor, “Careful, there are traps, boy, keep your nose down and your eyes keen.” He drew the sword and shield and began to slowly walk through the valley towards the rock formation that jutted from the ground like a stone spire.


    The two hags spied the Altmer knight walking slowly, his weapon drawn, his shield raised. They smiled as they readied their spells. He was not even trying to hide, and in his shining plate armor he was an easy target. One had shock, the other fire, and the hag sisters closed in.


    He saw the hags approaching and tightened the grip on his blade. He was ready for them. The first jolt of flames was easily blocked by his shield and he selected the fire hag as his first target, striding towards her. She recharged her spell and fired another jet of flames. He winced a bit, it was certainly better, but he could still feel the singe of the flames. He eyed Koor and gestured towards the hag who was charging lightning. Koor bristled and they split company. She shot a stream of lightning at Koor, but the dog dodged and began to run, zig-zagging to dodge her spells, distracting her from double-teaming Äelberon while the Altmer closed in on her sister hag. She fired again and he again raised his shield. He was done with walking, and ran towards her. He broke her neck with one brutal swipe of his shield, holding it horizontal, using a slicing motion from left to right, striking her with the edge of his shield. Shields were weapons. 


    Where was Koor? He saw the dog running towards him and then he spied the rune trap. He sheathed his longsword and cried out to the animal. “Koor, to me, now!”


    He then charged his sun fire spell. He did not need it to do damage, he just needed his timing to be perfect. She ran after the dog, casting at Koor with lightning sparks. The Hag continued to run, she knew she would not set the rune trap, she was too far away and she smiled maliciously until she saw the Elf charge a spell. A mage? He released his spell, and she grinned when he missed. But her grin turned into shock as her body was thrown hard by the force of the ice rune that exploded when Äelberon’s sun fire triggered it. She slammed hard into the rock face, shuddered, and died.


    Äelberon then took a narrow path, which led up a slope to a small hide tent, where two more hags had now spied him. It was then that he saw the giant fireball out of the corner of his eye and dove down just in time to dodge the spell. He sprung up quickly and found the source of the magicks, the hagraven. She was atop the rock formation and she screamed in fury when her spell missed. That would not be her last fireball. The only access to her rock was via a bridge made by a precarious fallen tree log. He needed to distract the two hags and lead them away from their Master, as a direct shot from her spell would be extremely dangerous.




    He had a better idea and began to barrel towards them at full speed. It was far harder to hit a moving target, her second fireball exploded just as he bolted past. He ran for the two hags, ignoring the pain of their lesser magicks, as the hagraven charged her third fireball from her high nest of rock and shrubs. Äelberon raised his sword and quickly turned, knocking one hag down with the force of his body as he swung his sword at the other, severing her head. Another fireball forced him to take to the ground again, rolling to avoid the flames skimming his back. It struck and killed the other Hag, burning her body. He quickly got up and made his way towards the log. If he could get close enough to her, he would force her to use her claws.


    He paused near the log and cried, his weapon drawn. “Yield, unnatural creature! For I have vanquished your hags, and you have none left to defend you!”


    “Never, my little nibble.” She cried from her natural stone tower, “I enjoy the flavor of the High Elves. Once they are sufficiently cooked!”


    And she launched her fourth fireball and he ran across the log at full speed. She aimed too high, for he dove low and again avoided the spell, not losing his balance.  He righted himself quickly and closed the distance, his weapon drawn, still dripping with the blood of her minions.


    “Ha!” Growled the Altmer in defiance as he ran across the log, “All the fires of Oblivion could not cook this old Altmer knight tender enough to eat! You will have to do far better than that, witch!” And he swung his weapon hard. A concentrated swing.


    Now it was far more evenly matched, for she could no longer cast her fireball and she was forced to use her powerful claws. And that was when he saw Nettlebane, hanging from her belt in a small scabbard. She swung her claws rapidly and with great fury and one attack grazed his cheek, which he answered with a punch of his shield causing her to stagger. She answered him back with a healing spell and her health was rejuvenated, making him growl while he swung his sword. She was an unnatural creature indeed, for she was able to withstand attacks from his sword as much as the foul Briarhearts her kind created, healing almost instantly from his blows, though each were true. The deep wounds that would appear, instantly sealed. If he swung quickly and without mercy, he would wear her down.    


    Hagraven and Elf dueled long and hard, and he began to slowly shift his position. Back to the log, Koor nipping at her bony, bird-like heels. They were both on the log now, and that was his plan for he had seen the sharp pikes below, littered with the broken bones of many men and mer. Now it was a matter of who would knock whom down first.


    She knocked him down first, his shield dropping to the pikes below, but he caught hold of the log with his shield arm and refused to fall. She laughed and began to charge a fireball, he was now unprotected and she would relish eating him for her evening meal, when Koor bit her calf, making her scream in pain. She turned to direct her spell at the dog, when Äelberon used his shield arm to vault upon the log again and he ran her through with his longsword.


    It was the moment he had been waiting for.


    She could not heal if another spell was charged and he took advantage to deal the death blow. Her shriek was deafening and she tried to claw him as he held her in position with his longsword and slowly reached with his shield hand for Nettlebane, drawing it from its scabbard. For a moment, the black eyes of the Hagraven met the red-orange eyes of the Altmer and she suddenly laughed at him, her breath rank against his face.


    “You will know the curse…” She cackled, the blood foaming at her mouth.


    Äelberon’s narrowed and he scowled, using his sword to draw her closer to him. Their faces mere inches apart now. “What curse?” He demanded, his voice an intense whisper, his eyes questioning, and he pulled her hard with his sword, making her scream in pain when she did not answer right away, and he raised his voice. “Speak witch! Your vanquisher commands it!”


    She then erupted in crazed laughter, pulling from his weapon slowly before throwing herself from the log, still laughing when she impaled herself upon the pikes below. He stared down at her corpse, squatting on his heels upon the log, wiping the sweat from his puzzled face, his brow furrowing.


    What curse?


    He knew of their gifts for foresight, but they were also known for their cruel trickery.  Was she merely toying with him before she died or was there truth to her words? He knew not, and that troubled him. He wiped the hag’s blood from his sword upon the mosses of the log and sheathed his weapon, as Koor approached, the dog’s ears finding his now free hand.


    He held Nettlebane in his shield hand and inspected the weapon. It had the look of an ebony dagger, but it was far heavier; as heavy as a sword, and it glowed with a greenish light. The same way spriggans glow. He put the hagraven’s final words out of his mind, he could not dwell on it now. He needed to return to Danica Pure-Spring.



    Danica Pure-Spring’s jaw dropped when she saw Äelberon enter the Temple of Kynareth, removing his helmet and kneeling briefly at the shrine, before standing up again. It was still morning, late morning, but morning, and while she did pray to all three Gods as he suggested, she knew what he faced, and did not expect him to return so quickly. He approached her, but then a sharp voice made her turn around and she sighed.


    Äelberon listened to the conversation. Ah, a pilgrim. Poor woman, Äelberon was certain that Danica spent a great deal of time answering questions about the tree.


    "What is it... what has happened to the Gildergreen?” Demanded a dark-complexioned Breton with black hair and beard, dressed in traveler’s garb from what  Äelberon could tell, and an angry one. The Breton continued, his arms crossed over his chest, his tone very annoyed, “I have traveled long here to worship beneath its branches."


    "Maurice, please... we've discussed this already." The Priestess took a deep breath; it was plain to Äelberon that she was weary. The beds at the Temple were filled with a fresh batch of wounded soldiers and all this pilgrim could think about was seeing the tree. He frowned. This Maurice fellow was obviously a monk, why not help the Priestess instead of complain? Äelberon knelt next to one of the soldiers and his left hand glowed. The soldier suddenly spoke, reaching his bloody hand to touch Äelberon’s arm.


    “By the Nine! You are a Priest?” The soldier’s eyes were wide. “But you wear armor?”

    Äelberon brushed the hair from the soldier's damp brow, his eyes warm; his voice soothing. He had a soft spot for soldiers too. Dying for their land, it did not matter the side chosen. Most were just defending their families. “Ah my child, sometimes even the Gods need a priest to take up arms in these troubled times.” Replied Äelberon, gently placing the soldier’s hand back upon his chest, giving it a reassuring squeeze. “Now, do not fret, I will help you.” He ran his hand over the soldier’s recently bandaged broken ribs and instantly the soldier’s cries of pain subsided. While he healed, Äelberon continued to observe the pilgrim’s conversation with Danica.


    "It was taken by a lightning strike.” She started, her voice hoarse. Danica had been up all night. He knew her well enough to know. “Wish I had time to deal with it, but it's hard enough with all these wounded from the war."


    She smiled briefly as she caught sight of Äelberon healing one of the soldiers. The Elf never stopped, did he?


    Maurice Jondrelle spoke again, approaching the Priestess. "Please, don't just let it stay like this. It's disgraceful."


    Danica gestured to the wounded around her in frustration. "I really don't have time to deal with you right now, Jondrelle. Please just let me get back to my work."


    Jondrelle then pointed to the door outside, clearly implying the tree. "But this is supposed to be your work." He chided.


    The Altmer again frowned, shaking his head. Danica turned away from him and walked to Äelberon, kneeling beside him. He whispered in her ear as he continued to heal. “Bah! I love the tree like anyone else, but the soldiers need us more.”


    He then let his hand drop, his spell complete and smiled as he showed her Nettlebane. She was overjoyed, throwing her arms around him and kissing his cheek. It threw him off balance a bit.


    “I knew you would help!” She exclaimed joyfully. Danica then attempted to touch the blade, but made a face. “Did the hagraven touch it?”


    “Aye,” He replied. 


    She groaned, and he laughed when she recoiled her hand and shuddered. “You are far braver than I.”


    She suddenly leaned her head against his shoulder and looked across the room, releasing a heavy sigh. Danica looked exhausted, there were so many wounded. More than usual. He held her for a moment and rested his chin on the top of her head. She was thinner too. Their plight was consuming her and he could feel that she was not well. “Danica, I will go to the Eldergleam. I do not think you can make the journey.”


    She looked up at him. “But I want to, it is the Eldergleam.” She protested, her frustration over her own exhaustion growing.


    His hand glowed when he then tenderly touched her face, and she felt instantly better at his soothing touch. Äelberon was strong enough to battle hagravens, yet right now, he reminded her of the priest who trained her. A kindly gentleman. That man had been like a grandfather to her. “No,” Äelberon replied, “we do not know what dangers lie in the path to the Sanctuary, and you are too important to Whiterun. To these soldiers. Your place is here, my place is there.”


    She closed her eyes and she leaned her face upon his hand, sighing, letting him heal her. Äelberon was right. He gave her a final squeeze, his spell complete and he stood up, helping her up as well. The Breton approached again, and Danica suddenly buried her head into the Elf’s chest and let out another sigh, whispering into his cuirass. “Just get the sap, so that one doesn’t bother me anymore...”


    He chuckled and kissed the top of her head. “I will do what is best for the tree,” he whispered back, his lips moving against her hood.


    The Breton was certainly persistent. Danica broke from Äelberon and went to another soldier, as Äelberon began to fit his helmet to head out again. The Eldergleam Sanctuary was in the Volcanic tundras of Eastmarch. As he adjusted his helmet, he intercepted the Breton. The Breton could speak to him on the matter and leave Danica alone to do her work. “May I help you?”


    "Was I correct in hearing that you were traveling to the grove of the Eldergleam?" By the Eight the Altmer was tall, a powerfully built warrior too. Maurice wondered, would he consider allowing him to accompany him?


    “Aye, your ears did not fail you,” answered the Elf.


    "I am a traveler. A pilgrim. I follow the voice of Kynareth wherever it can be heard. I've dreamed of seeing Eldergleam for years. Might I travel alongside you? Please, I promise not to get in the way."


    Äelberon scrutinized the pilgrim. He was hale enough to make the journey, and if he took him, he would leave Danica at peace so she could resume her work with the soldiers. But they would travel on his terms.


    Maurice worried; the Altmer was taking a long time to decide.


    “Alright, you may accompany me because I understand the Eldergleam’s importance to you. But… on my terms.” Äelberon crossed his arms over his chest. “We take my horse, for she can bear the both of us. If there is danger, you run, you understand me? Run. Leave the fighting to me.” Äelberon’s eyes narrowed. “I will not have your death on my conscience. Those are my terms. Do you understand?”




    “Good. You have everything you need then, because I intend to leave now.”


    “Yes, I have everything,” replied Jondrelle eagerly, slinging a pack upon his shoulders, “thank you for your kindness. We go at your command.” 


    “Then follow me.” Äelberon nodded.



    8th of Morning Star, 202 4E


    It was an unassuming cave, nestled in a small grove of pine trees interspersed with dragon's tongue, further shading it from the morning light. They had to pass Darkwater Crossing to get there, for the cave was due north of the hamlet. Their trip had been largely uneventful; a few wolves and a bear, which Äelberon quickly dispatched with his bow. Maurice had behaved along the way and the two spoke during their trip and shared a meal, when they camped for the night. The Breton was not a bad sort, just very eager. He certainly was devoted to Kynareth and such devotion to a God was to be praised. If it made him overly enthusiastic, well, that was to be expected. Äelberon dismounted first, and Maurice quickly tried to follow suit, but Äelberon stayed the Breton with a raised hand. “No, slowly Maurice, for there is much danger in the Volcanic tundra.”


    Maurice slowly dismounted and they entered the cave; Äelberon first, Koor last, Maurice protected in the middle. They first walked through a natural tunnel in the rock work, and Äelberon could feel the stirrings of the Goddess. He sheathed his longsword and removed his helmet, carrying it upon his left arm.


    “Why do you remove your helmet, Äelberon?” Asked Maurice, his eyes narrow with curiosity.


    They then cleared the tunnel and the great grove was suddenly before them, making both gasp in its splendor.


    It was a grotto, naturally lit and filled with small, grassy glades, fields of dragon’s tongue and mountain flowers, shrubs, trickling streams and rushing waterfalls. Butterflies danced in the air, their wings delicate in the sunlight. Dartwings buzzed lazily on the surface of the scattered clear pools, and the grove resounded with the songs of birds. There was a small, wooden path that led upwards and Äelberon’s eyes followed it to its end.


    Looming above it all, towards the hole in the sanctuary that let the sunlight in, was the great tree herself. Her trunk was tall and broad, her branches wide, her roots--by the Gods, her roots--extending deep into the Sanctuary, verily barred the path to her trunk. But most beautiful were her pink blossoms glittering in the afternoon sun, shaking gently in the light breeze, a gentle shower of petals in its wake. A mist hung over the tree, the droplets also reflecting the sun’s rays with prisms of colored light. So beautiful… so utterly, utterly beautiful… Äelberon turned to Maurice and whispered; his emotion rising. “Because, my friend, this is a holy place.”


    Äelberon bent his head and was suddenly so troubled, now keenly feeling Nettlebane wedged in his belt; the end of Kynareth’s verse running over and over in his mind. "… for without you, I might not know the mysteries of the world, and so blind and in terror, I might consume and profane the abundance of your beautiful treasures."


    Profane the abundance of your beautiful treasures...




    Äelberon gravely shook his head, he did not want to profane this tree.


    “Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?” Asked Maurice while the pair began to walk the wooden path.


    “Not in Nature, no.”


    Why did the Elf sound so serious, so glum, thought Maurice. He should be basking in the glory of this holy tree, yet he looked so troubled.


    They continued to walk the path and Äelberon then caught  movement out of the corner of his eye. An eye had opened. An eye? He turned, and it quickly closed, but the mass of branches and the faint glow of green was unmistakable. A spriggan. This Sanctuary had its guardians and he knew they would fight hard to protect the tree. It was not hostile… yet. He was suddenly distracted by a voice.


    “Welcome to Eldergleam Sanctuary, my friend. If you have any questions, speak to Asta." It was a smiling Nord clad in simple farmer’s clothing sitting on an overhang, his feet dangling, his eyes merry. Maurice waved back with enthusiasm, but Äelberon could only manage a grim nod; for he was grossly ashamed. Now there were two additional innocents to worry about. Oh, Danica, we are not doing the right thing by either the Gildergreen nor its parent!


    As he continued up the path with Maurice, he spied yet another spriggan, again only watching. They finally approached the great roots of the Eldergleam that blocked the rest of the path to the tree, and Maurice was then distracted by a stream and broke from Äelberon to take a closer look, leaving the Elf alone. Äelberon drew Nettlebane reluctantly, its blade now glinting with a greenish light. Koor gazed at his Master, shifting his position. Even he was unsure.


    “Oh Kyne and Y’ffre, please forgive this cruel mortal before you.” He struck the root as gently as he could, for he did not want to do damage. It moved, creaking and bending as it cleared the path. A third spriggan’s eyes opened, but it also remained still and did not attack. Äelberon began to pray in earnest for a solution. There had to be another way. He struck another root and the great tree continued to part her roots for him. Maurice was lagging behind, not quite seeing what he was doing. He was staring at the stream. Äelberon quickly moved, using Nettlebane to clear the path of the tree’s roots. He was at the top of the grove and the tree’s trunk was in his sight, and in frustration, he dropped to his knees.


    “My Gods!” He suddenly cried, his anger building, “I ask you, send someone to stop me from profaning your child! I do not wish to do this. It is wrong!” He bent his head, tossing Nettlebane upon the ground and pounding his fist to his thigh. His brow furrowed as he growled his next words. “Damn it! Show me a better way!”


    Maurice ran up the cleared path, why did the roots move? Nothing could move the roots. Where was Äelberon? Maurice found the warrior on his knees, glowering at the tree, his husky at his side, and then Maurice saw the blade upon the ground. A magic blade? Did it make the roots move? Did the Elf strike the tree!? Of all the blasphemies…


    "I had no idea you were a Mer of violence. What exactly are your intentions in this blessed place? Answer me!” the Breton demanded.


    Äelberon looked up before turning to a flustered Maurice, his voice weary, old. “Danica Pure-Spring asked me to retrieve sap from this tree.” He bent his head, “To restore its child…”


    Maurice was enraged. "You would violate this marvel of Kynareth's glory to fix that half-breed stump in Whiterun?! That's abominable. Barbaric. I'll have no part of this. Why didn't you tell me what you intended?"


    Äelberon shot Maurice a hard look, his anger renewing. The bloody hypocrite!  “You did not think it a half-breed stump when you arrived in Whiterun. And you were the one who pressured Danica into fixing the tree. You, Jondrelle, are a hypocrite. It has caused me much, much conflict today knowing that I faced the prospect of doing violence to the Eldergleam, but its dead child cries for some sort of closure.” His eyes found the great tree again as he rested his hands over his thighs. “Even if that closure is death, it. It deserves something, does it not? For though dead and broken, it was still a child of Kyne and once the Goddess’ voice did rustle in her pink-blossomed branches.”


    He turned to Maurice, his red-orange eyes intense and beginning to mist. “Was that not the very reason you went to Whiterun in the first place, Brother Maurice, to hear the Goddess’ voice echo in those branches?” Äelberon then took Nettlebane in his hand, squeezing the hilt tightly and looked at the weapon, the shame hot on his face. “Ever since we left Whiterun, I have been praying for another solution. I did not ever want to cause harm to this grand monument to Kyne’s glory. Please…”


    He turned to the Breton, his tone somber. “Help me.”


    Maurice was moved. No, this was not a barbarian, he was asking for help. He could feel his own emotion building, and he thought hard. And then he could hear Kynareth’s voice in the branches of the ancient tree, telling him what to do, and he saw the Elf close his eyes. Praying. Did he hear Her voice too? But the Elves worship Y’ffre, not Kynareth, not even Kynareth, he only said Kyne. It mattered not, for when Kynareth spoke to Maurice; he knew that She greatly favored this Elf. He walked to Äelberon and put his hand on his shoulder.


    "Follow me.” He beckoned, his tone encouraging, “I think I can convince the tree to help us. She has shown me what to do."


    Äelberon furrowed his brow in curiosity and followed Maurice towards the trunk of the Eldergleam. The Breton then bade the Elf kneel beside him and together they entreated Kynareth.  As they prayed, Äelberon saw a great mother spriggan open her eyes and watch intently, her body aglow in its purple aura. The other spriggans in the Sanctuary glowed too, but did not attack. Then his eyes widened in wonder when the tree opened up her great trunk and from it issued forth a healthy, young sapling. He suddenly turned away in awe. Kyne was indeed a powerful force.


    She breathed life. 


    “Xarxes’ arse! By the Gods,” He whispered under his breath, shaking his head at his very curse words. Damn it!


    “Kynareth... or perhaps Kyne truly favors you, Elf, for she has given a mighty gift. I am in awe, but your words, your words moved even me. I have never heard anyone speak so reverently. You truly made me see the light.” He put his hand on Äelberon’s shoulder again. “I judged you wrongly, I… I am sorry. You should take it to Whiterun. Danica will want to see that the true blessings of nature lie in renewal, not a slavish maintenance.”


    Äelberon smiled; his mind now at peace. “My prayers have been answered, thank you, Brother Maurice.” He held the blade again and regarded the weapon.  “I will keep this blade, however,” Äelberon began, his tone reflective, “to remind me of the sharpness of my struggle today, to remind me that death is a part of life.” And he sheathed the weapon; the spriggans again returning to slumber when he did so, knowing now that their Lady’s Sacred Tree was safe.



    Farkas could hear the faint knocking on the doors of Jorrvaskr while they sat down to their evening meal. It wasn’t Äelberon; the bloody Elf opened the doors on his own, usually with a sound kick. No, this was persistent knocking and it was annoying him to no end.


    “You going to get up and see who’s at the door?” Asked Vilkas as he took a bite of his cooked beef, savoring the juicy, red meat.


    “I guess I have to, even though you’re closer to the door.”


    “I’m still eating. You’re done.” Shot back Vilkas with a grin, noticing Farkas’ cleaned plate.


    Tilma made steak, and when Tilma made steak, all the plates in Jorrvaskr were cleaned. Farkas growled and got up reluctantly from his seat at the Mead Hall and opened the door. He felt something fall at his feet and looked down. It was a little boy and he wouldn’t shut up.


    “He’s here! He’s here! He’s here!” Cried Lars Battle-Born, jumping up and down. 


    The rest of the Companions looked up from their conversation and eating towards the little boy making a ruckus.


    “Farkas! Calm the boy down, damn it!” Barked Skjor as he wiped the juices from his plate with his last bite of steak.


    “But he tolds me to come find you!” Implored Lars Battle-Born loudly. “He tolds me.”


    “Who ‘tolds’ you, boy?” Asked Kodlak Whitemane with a chuckle, beginning to rise from his chair.


    “The Elf!  Snow Bear! He tolds me to come tell you to bring axes! He brought a sapling, a sapling from the Eldergleam!”


    The Mead Hall erupted into a flurry of conversation. He got a sapling?!


    “Hurry,” cried the boy, pointing to the door, still jumping up and down as if a colony of ants were trapped in his breeches. “Even the Jarl is outside too! He has a great big axe and he’s going to help. They’re going to chop down the dead tree and plant the new one!”


    Whitemane nodded to his Shield-Siblings and smiled when they immediately got up from their seats in the Mead Hall. Tilma would understand their abandoning of her steak. Just don’t give any to old Snow Bear as punishment, he thought with a sly smile as he grabbed one more bite.



    It took the combined efforts of the Companions, the Whiterun Guards, the Jarl, and almost every other able-bodied man and woman wielding axes to finally topple the great Gildergreen, but it eventually fell. They chopped into the night, taking turns chopping and resting by the tables Hulda and Carlotta had set up to provide refreshments to the men and women while they worked. By nightfall, it had turned into a party and the citizens of Whiterun rejoiced at the Goddess’ blessings. When the tree fell, Farengar Secret-Fire walked to the stump of the tree and began to charge his fire magicks. Danica whispered to Äelberon as he put his arm around her shoulder.  “We must burn the roots, so its cinders feed Kynareth’s new child. Thank you for making me realize that death is also a part of life. I just didn’t see.”


    “You only wanted to help. Kyne just decided to show us a better way.” He reassured her.  “At any rate, the many human and mer bones at Orphan Rock indicated to me that the hagraven was a menace that needed to be dealt with eventually. The Gods point us in the right path, Danica. It is just sometimes an unexpected one. At least this tree has some closure, even if it is in death.” For a moment, his thoughts drifted to the hagraven’s cryptic words, but dismissed it with a quick shake of his head when his eyes found Farengar. He did not need to dwell on that now. Now was a time to celebrate, not brood, Old Mer. Drink some milk and enjoy honey nut treats for a job well done. 


    They watched as Farengar channeled his fire magicks, releasing it upon the stump. It glowed with an orange light and it began to dissolve, filling the space of the roots with a rich charcoal, which would provide nourishment for the new tree for many years to come. Farengar was clearly spent after his endeavor, but Jarl Balgruuf, sporting a shovel, rewarded the mage’s solid efforts with a rough pat on the back, nearly knocking the lanky mage over. The Jarl then whispered in Äelberon’s ear, causing him to break from Danica with a squeeze and make his way towards the city’s doors, a big grin on his face. 


    With a smile, the Jarl himself began to dig a hole for the new tree, his strong arms flexing with effort as Proventus looked on with a slight frown. The Jarl was going to sully his clothes. Digging? Like a common peasant? He rolled his eyes and took a tankard of mead. This was going to take all night.  



    Äelberon returned some time later with Bjorlam and his cart through the city gates. They pulled up to where the Gildergreen formerly stood and Äelberon lept from the cart, his face flushed from hurrying, his armor glowing in the light of the braziers. Jarl Balgruuf was putting the finishing touches on the planting, packing the dirt firmly with his shovel. He then stopped, leaned upon the shovel, and addressed the crowd, wiping the sweat from his brow.


    “Citizens of Whiterun,” He began, his twinkling blue eyes finding Äelberon’s, “We have learned much today about life and renewal, from the very wise who now dwell within our city walls. But our beloved Gildergreen did not die in vain, for hear my decree. It is my wish that the wood of the Gildergreen be used by the smiths and fletchers of the hold…” He then smiled at Äelberon. “All my smiths, so that its wood lives on in the weapons we use to defend our people, giving us strength. Kyne, the Warrior Goddess would want it so, for we are her children. All of us are.”


    The crowd erupted into loud cheers and tankards flowed with mead in celebration.


    Grunting with effort, the Companions then combined their forces with the Whiterun Guards and loaded the heavy trunk onto the cart.  Äelberon smiled as he took his place next to Bjorlam, patting the trunk of the Gildergreen with his hand. They would take the trunk to Riverwood to be cut at the mill and divided. Gerdur was already waiting to make this special late night order, for he rode Allie hard to deliver the news himself.  Now he knew why he had held out for so long. Why his Eagle languished with only steel arrows. He leaned towards the trunk and whispered softly under his breath. “Yes, child of the Lady of Storms, child of Kyne, I promise you, as an Altmer of the Blessed Isles, as a Bowmer, by my skill, your branches will again sing in the wind. Singing songs of gold and moonstone.”


    He had some fletching to do…


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXVIII    Chapter XXX


16 Comments   |   SpottedFawn and 1 other like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  September 14, 2017
    This has to be one of my favorite chapters. I loved the ending especially, to see Whiterun gather to help plant the new tree. I am just echoing everyone's sentiments at this point, but great job showing the sense of community. Those are going to be some v...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      This has to be one of my favorite chapters. I loved the ending especially, to see Whiterun gather to help plant the new tree. I am just echoing everyone's sentiments at this point, but great job showing the sense of community. Those are going to be some v...  more
        ·  September 14, 2017
      Thanks, Fawn. Part of my motivation for the ending was also just to see Balgruuf and Farengar get out of Dragon's Reach. And the Companions out of Jorrvaskr. 
  • Justiciar Thorien
    Justiciar Thorien   ·  November 26, 2015
    What a cool chapter! All the people of Whiterun working together and especially Jarl Balgruuf digging the hole for the new tree... it's such a touching moment, I totally love it!
    And then I actually scrolled down to the comments and read that you ha...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 27, 2015
    Yes, Requiem is funny in that once you clear an area, it stays clear for quite some time, so Albee didn't have much of a problem getting Maurice to the Sanctuary either. 
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 27, 2015
    Heh, I knew about the sapling option. The first few times I played it Maurice always died, but I eventually figured it out. The trick is to clear the way first, before adding Maurice (or fast travel for those who use that option).

    With Gaspar...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 1, 2015
    Surprised at how many people don't know about the sapling option, but I don't blame you, Maurice is a handful and it's only when I'm roleplaying a real good guy do I take the sapling. I've had him die a bunch of times; bandits, bears, dragons. Guy goes at...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 30, 2015
    A well depicted struggle with a happy ending, some awesome arrows too it seems. I didn't know about the sapling option either. I always thought the tree was being greedy, it could probably spare a few gallons of sap before permanent damage to help it's se...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 4, 2015
    Hey, thanks for reading. It'll be a while before I get another update going here, so plenty of time to catch up. 
  • Accursed
    Accursed   ·  August 4, 2015
    First chapter I read and I already love Äelberon. I'll have to go back and read some of the others.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 29, 2015
    Thanks. Yes, the first time, I got the sap and fought some nasty spriggans, cause Maurice died at Valtheim towers. Whoops. 
    Unfortunately when you opt for the sapling, you get this weird little tree growing inside the big dead one. If you have the p...  more
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  July 29, 2015
    There's a sapling option?? Here I thought that was your own original twist! Oh man! D: I've only done this quest twice - the first time I didn't know Maurice existed and the second time he died halfway through. Oh maaaan. 
    Anyway, great chapter as usual!