Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXX

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    11th of Morning Star, 4E 202

     

    The Tenth had seen Jorrvaskr abuzz with activity. There were several guests being entertained at the Mead Hall and Äelberon was certain that some of the Companions thought Jorrvaskr was being invaded by the Elves. He smiled at the pleasant memory, as he sipped his tea at his desk, perusing Erratuim’s notes on Dustman's Cairn one final time before he closed the journal and stood up to don his armor.

     

    Elvish arrows needed fletching, 160 of them to be exact, and for that number he needed help. Elvish help. So with Kodlak’s approval, Äelberon enlisted the aid of his Bosmer cousins; the brothers of the Drunken Huntsman; Elrindir and Anoriath, and from Riverwood; Faendal.

     

    With a warm pat on the shoulder from Eorlund, his past ravings forgiven with a knowing grin, Äelberon was back at Skyforge. That was where he and his cousins spent the majority of the day; fletching the golden arrows, and having a fine time. Eorlund smiled at him while he himself worked the forge, for he had seen the shafts for the arrows constructed the day before.  While he knew Äelberon always turned out quality work, the use of the Gildergreen’s wood seemed to inspire Äelberon into greater heights of craftsmanship and the Old Altmer was rewarded with a compliment from the master smith.

     

    “In all my years, I’ve never seen such fine, straight shafts…”

     

    That got a loud guffaw from the dirty-minded Priest of Auri-El and his Bosmer cousins, causing the Nord to go as red as a ripe tomato, realizing the sexual reference far too late to stop himself. It was all in good fun though and Eorlund ended up laughing as hard as they did. They knew what he meant. The shafts, not the merhood, were perfectly straight, smooth, and strong and to finish them, Äelberon dipped them in an alloy of gold, quicksilver, and moonstone.  They glistened in the sun while he and his cousins fletched, their slender fingers working quickly and deftly, sipping bottles of their foul-smelling Jagga, made from fermented pig’s milk.

     

    Äelberon grinned to himself and shook his head as he slipped on his woolen tunic. Everyone was forever trying to get him to drink alcohol. He must look like he needed it very badly.  Faendal had held an open bottle to Äelberon, making his nose scrunch up in distaste, for it was rancid stuff, this Jagga. Only the race that did the Wild Hunt could come up with such a foul brew and then take pleasure from it! His nose wrinkled again at the memory of the smell.

     

    “Some Jagga, Spinner?” Smiled Faendal, moving the bottle slightly under his nose, making his stomach turn all the more.

     

    Spinner was their name for him. For to them, he was a priest, a lore master and that is what their people called such mer in Valenwood. It was an honorable name, and he lived up to the title by telling several tales while they worked, using metaphor and allegory; the style the Bosmer enjoyed. His wit and skill with words earning their further respect.

     

    But oh, how that Jagga smelled! Even as he put on his boots and gauntlets, he could still remember its foul, meaty odor and his stomach protested its early morning breakfast of apples, cheese and milk at the memory.   Äelberon laughed, remembering his words to Faendal.

     

    “By the gods, Faendal, No, no, no! Do you want to kill me?” His eyes twinkling while his long fingers adjusted an arrow’s fletching. “Even if I did drink, which I do not, I am far, far, far too old for a bottle of Jagga now!” He let out his breath with a whistle, and winked. “’Twould be the death of me! I leave it for you younglings to enjoy. My days of the Wild Hunt are long past me.”

     

    They laughed at him, knowing that he was indeed old and his stomach probably sensitive, but Äelberon was reassured by all present that he still had many more years of Wild Hunt left in him. Anoriath’s words were particularly kind. “No more Wild Hunts, Spinner? Impossible, not with the fire in your soul...”

     

    Faendal, on the other hand, was in a more jocular mood. “Fair enough, Spinner.” Grinned Faendal as he took a large gulp, savoring the taste of home. He turned to Äelberon, gesturing to the shafts and piles of arrows. “Why so many, Spinner, surely your aim is far better than that?”

     

    The joke was rewarded with a hearty laugh from all the company at the forge; including Grey-Mane, for Äelberon had seen that he enjoyed the stories and their merry work. He then answered them, again molding his speech to fit the Bosmers’ tastes.

     

    “Forty I leave as they are, for they were born from the strong wood of the Gildergreen, and therefore have the blessing of both Kyne and our Y'ffre, the Spirit of the Now...” He began, squinting as he held an arrow to the sun, checking its fletching. “Twenty, I will infuse with the deep freeze of the frost atronach, and another twenty will be set aside for his sister of the flame. The final twenty that make my one hundred, will harness the power of Storms…” *

     

    “And of the final sixty, Spinner?” Asked Elrindir.

     

    Äelberon then regarded his Bosmer cousins with a kind eye. “The final sixty shall be divided into equal parts of twenty; a gift to my cousins for their kindness today. These are the arrows I fletch now, as you before me fletch mine.”

     

    Äelberon did not know why they were so taken aback by his gift, for to him, it was only the right thing to do. He put on his helmet, adjusting the bearskin hood slightly, and fastened his cloak.

     

    He wished the rest of the day had been as pleasant as his time with his Bosmer cousins were.

     

    It was not.   

     

    Äelberon was not the only one who entertained guests at Jorrvaskr that day.  The scholar from Cyrodiil had finally arrived, though a few days later than anticipated.  Several skirmishes between Stormcloaks and Imperials along the road from the south caused him to slow his travels to avoid the danger. Äelberon had been fletching when he visited and Kodlak kept the meeting very quiet, only allowing the Circle to attend. 

     

    They left him the notes, or Skjor did, rather unceremoniously, glowered Äelberon, his anger returning yet again.  A journal which he now took and placed in his pack.   

     

    Ah, Colovius Erratuim, the anger quickly dissolving, when he remembered the Imperial fondly. Äelberon knew both the man and his family well and was a bit sore still that he was not allowed to attend the meeting. To be able to ask questions of the great weapons’ expert of Cyrodiil! Colovius, great, great grandson of Praxus.

     

    Praxus…

     

    Äelberon’s mind lost itself in the flood of memories.  Unbeknownst to him, he delivered a bound copy of Rising Threat to Praxus Erratuim in the Imperial city, a present for the Potentate.  Deliver a package. It had been Lethanil’s wish for the Mer was a close friend of Ocato's, yet unable to make the journey. You were doing a favor for a friend, Old Mer.  Deliver a present for Potentate Ocato on his birthday. If he had known what it was, he never would have consented, not with Mia and Landril in tow. They were only children vacationing with their "Ata" and Lathenil's paranoia put them all at risk.  His paranoia was justified when he was found dead at the hands of Thalmor assassins and then there was the death of the Potentate, an empire thrown into chaos. It had brought Äelberon much grief.  Lethanil of Sunhold, the very Mer he had healed in the Crystal Tower all those years ago. “Summerset was not kind to you, friend from the south.” He muttered with a sigh, feeling strongly his age for a moment.  

     

    Ey… those tumultuous years after the Great Anguish. It was a dark time. Unless you allied yourself with them or offered no protest at their rise to power, all who saw the Tower fall had been eliminated by the Thalmor.  Save one, lone knight, and he was hunted like hounds pursue a wolf. He frowned and put those memories away. Perhaps it was better that he did not see Colovius that day. 

     

    Äelberon paused for a moment at the weapon racks in his quarters to select the weapons for the Cairn. It was not the prospect of the Cairn that ate at him. He relished the opportunity to explore and retrieve the fragment. It was that it was to be his trial.

     

    Trial. 

     

    That was the very word that smug Son of a Bitch used and he pounded his fist upon the dresser near the racks in anger, making another dent, his blood boiling again.  They were testing something alright, of that he was certain. He just did not know what they were testing. His loyalty? His honor? Did they still doubt him? He, a Knight of the Crystal Tower, with more battle experience that the lot of them!

     

    Why take the time to heal him and save his life then, if they did not bloody trust him?  He scowled and bent his head, wracking his brain to figure out what he had done wrong. He was better this morning, last night it had angered him terribly, and he acted in a manner unbecoming a warrior of his status. He stooped to that S'wit’s level, but he was pushed too far. The only satisfaction was that both now sported sore jaws.

     

    He remembered later that day approaching Aela for work. During the evening meal. Work had been slow to come to Jorrvaskr as of late. If the gentlefolk had any complaints, they were not leaving the cities to make them. It was not bandits or beasts that kept them away this time, but the conflicts between the Stormcloaks and the Imperials. They were growing more deadly every day and the roads were now dangerous for gentlefolk and the couriers that delivered their messages, their requests for aid.

     

    The damn Civil War was yet another thing that weighed heavy on his mind and he sighed.

     

    “Is there any work?” Äelberon had asked the Huntress, watching while she rubbed Koor’s ears as the two stood side by side at the fire in the Mead Hall.

     

    That night, he felt the chill, from both the night air and his fellow Shield-Siblings. Gone was the merriment, the friendly banter, the stories. They were, at best, cold and distant. And then there was Skjor, who was downright hostile, treating him like a criminal. The renewed hate keen in his pale, grey eye. Äelberon thought that animosity was over, but something still weighed heavily on the Veteran, on all of them, and they were not telling him. Did Henantier struggle with the Nords this much? What had he done? Äelberon saw the expression on the Huntress’ face change after he asked for work. It darkened somewhat, as if she was conflicted by some great matter.  As if she wasn’t even supposed to speak with him, nervously glancing at the Veteran. For Aela to have apprehension, something was wrong. 

     

    “Aela…” He whispered, leaning towards her, “What is wrong?”

     

    “See Skjor.”

     

    “Skjor? Why?” Äelberon replied, though in retrospect, he already knew he was sporting his “tone”. The Altmer’s “tone”, haughty and arrogant. She was studying his face carefully, searching for something. “Aela what is it?” He pressed, the tone making his voice clipped and formal. “Have I offended—“

     

    "He didn't say, but you'd better move fast.” She interrupted, her face then softened a bit. “There's probably something I could find for you to do, but best to check with him."

     

    Check?  With him? What for? Is he my mother?” Aye, in retrospect, probably not the most mature thing to say, but he was losing his patience. He bloody never knew where he stood with Skjor and he was tired of it. Veteran's mood was worse and more changeable than a Matron from Cloudrest going through the change.  She then glared at him and left for her place at the table, Koor following, knowing better than to be with his now fuming Master.

     

    Conflicted, that was the emotion he got from her, Äelberon remembered as he took the crossbow from the weapon rack. He also took the silver katana and shield, and the silver and steel bolts. Today his silver would be tested, for he knew what dwelt in the Cairns and tombs of Skyrim…

     

    All his Shield-Siblings were pensive that night, their conversation forced, like they did not know the outcome of something. Even Tilma and Vignar cast him worried glances and it drove him crazy.  He took his place next to Skjor at the Mead Hall and spoke.   “You wanted to see me?”

     

    Again, probably not delivered with either any tact nor any attempt to hide his annoyance. Äelberon’s decisions were indeed poor ones that night. He should have kept his mouth shut, but he did not, he remembered, rubbing the bruise on his cheek.

     

    The Veteran glowered at him, sipping his mead, his one eye staring deep into the fire. "I did.” His tone no better than Äelberon’s, and the Old Mer noticed that Ria, Njada, and Torvar stopped eating and the rest looked damn uncomfortable.  “Your time, it seems, has come."

     

    “My time?” More sarcasm and Skjor stared hard at Äelberon, making Kodlak pause his meal to watch the two. The Veteran then sized him up and Äelberon crossed his arms over his chest, defensive.

     

    "While you fletched today with your Bosmer friends, a scholar came to us. He said he knew where we could find another fragment of Wuuthrad, which I’m sure you know more about than any of us here, with your nose in a book all the time.”

     

    “Indeed.” Came his surly reply, delivered with a cocked eyebrow.

     

    No, he did not help his situation at all, acting no better than one in their first century.

     

    “He seemed a fool to me, as most scholars are, but if he's right, the honor of the Companions demands that we seek it out.” He paused and then repeated the last line, with a sudden snarl, making Ria jump. “The honor of the Companions demands that YOU seek it out!”

     

    Äelberon narrowed his eyes at the Veteran. He did not like Skjor’s manner, but his own behavior that night was far from stellar. But only one thing was on his mind when the Veteran spoke to him. He dared address an Elder in such a manner! An Elder who had bested him in combat.

     

    “Have I committed an offense?” Äelberon had replied between gritted teeth, his own tone icy when he spoke, squaring his jaw, his red-orange eyes following his finger as it traced the grain of the wood table. It was very difficult to say whose fault it really was...

     

    "This is a simple errand, Elf.”

     

    “I have a name.”

     

    A whistled exhale from Athis.

     

    “I call you what I want to call you.”

     

    “Skjor… get to the point.” A warning from the Old Man, who tossed his fork onto his plate in an exasperated manner, and the Veteran temporarily backed down, though Äelberon realized now that it had been a lost cause from “Elf”. Skjor cleared his throat, but his face was already red from building anger.

     

    “The time is right for it to be your Trial. Yes, a trial. Carry yourself with honor, and you'll become a true Companion. Hmph, if your kind are capable of such a thing…" Delivered with an insincerity that Äelberon found infuriating.

     

    “I will ignore your obvious insult and ask my question. Am I not one already?” Äelberon retorted coldly.  His face flushed again at the memory. And then he had to bring them up, his accomplishments, like the arrogant bastard that he was. “The giant, the mammoth, the hagraven, the bandits, the saving of Vilkas and Athis? Is this not enough for you? Trial! Why? Give me a reason. Am I not a Companion already? Answer! My pride demands it!”

     

    Damn pride, he thought with a heavy sigh.

     

    There had been an intense silence after his words and he glared at Skjor, both were stewing now. It was only a matter of whose pot boiled over first. Thank Auri-El it was Skjor because Äelberon himself was only seconds away from being the one and then the trial would have indeed been warranted.

     

    NO!” Growled Skjor, suddenly rising from his seat, his chair falling backwards.

     

    Äelberon was not prepared for the punch to the face, nor was he entirely sure how they ended up on the floor, but end up on the floor of the Mead Hall they did, their fists flying, their growls and curses resonating in the Mead Hall, their blows against each other fierce and many, leaving a bemused Old Man to pry them apart with Vilkas’ help.

     

    “For shame! By Ysmir, for shame! Sit down, and stop this foolishness at once! Gods!” The Harbinger thundered and Äelberon remembered how those words hit both Veteran and Priest hard when they sank heavily to their seats again like younglings, panting and huffing, sweaty faces bruised and stiff from their scuffle. Egos just as bruised. The behavior was inexcusable. When Kodlak spoke next, it was addressed to him, and the humiliation of his actions were made keener by the Old Man’s almost humorous tone.  “And what century are you on again, Shield-Brother?” Quipped the Old Man.

     

    “Third.” Came the taciturn reply, eyes averted. Skjor smirked like a happy dog and Äelberon wanted at him again. 

     

    “Could have fooled me." Replied Whitemane with a chuckle. "Though the action was actually warranted for Skjor struck first. What have you to say for yourself, Veteran?”

     

    It was Äelberon's turn to smirk in satisfaction when the Nord crumpled under the Harbinger's words. Bastard was not sorry for long.  “He is certainly NOT one of us! I am not apologizing until he proves his worth!” Skjor snapped from his chair and spit on the floor. “Insubordinate whelp. I don’t care what damn century he’s in. He needs to respect those that came before him. Respect seniority. Damn Elf. Damn Thal—“

     

    SKJOR!” Kodlak warned, shooting a now angry glance at the Veteran.

     

    Äelberon was then puzzled by the interplay between the two, for the look on Skjor’s face when he faced Kodlak was as one terribly hurt when he spoke his next words.

     

    “Don’t you dare go back on your word, Old Man. Remember what he can do…” It was a warning that made Äelberon furrow his brow and wonder what the Oblivion was going on? They did not trust him, that was clear. The Old Man’s words in response almost made Äelberon storm out of the Mead Hall in anger.

     

    “Äelberon, I suggest you listen for once and do what Skjor says.”

     

    But he was a Mer in his third century, a Knight of the Crystal Tower and better than that, so he stayed and let the Veteran finish.

     

    “Farkas will be your Shield-Sibling on this venture, Whelp. He'll answer any questions you have. Try not to disappoint. Or to get him killed.” Skjor then leaned towards Äelberon and his breath smelled of mead as he hissed. “Or you will truly know what it is to be the prey, demon hunter...”

     

    Demon hunter? What did his status as a demon hunter have to do with anything? Veteran was drunk, he thought with a renewed scowl, kicking the wardrobe in his quarters. The furniture was suffering quite a bit for his suppressed anger.

     

    Äelberon did not turn to Skjor when the Veteran uttered those final words, instead staring ahead at the fire, but his Shield-Siblings had to have known how angry he was. For it to come to blows.  Skjor then produced a small journal and slammed it at Äelberon’s place at the table, making several of the whelps jump. The action, however, did not have the desired effect for the Veteran. No, Äelberon was not intimidated in the least.  He was no whelp. He was of a mind to take the journal and shove it up the Veteran’s arse.

     

    But he was in his third century. Xarxes' Arse!

     

    The wardrobe met his boot tip again.

     

    “Here, take this, the Old Man thought you would find it useful. The fool’s notes.”  Further insults simmered to the surface but a look from the Old Man silenced them. He was in his third century and he would no more stoop to the S'wit's level. He only watched in silence as the Veteran stormed out of the Mead Hall and out into the courtyard, slamming the door hard behind him.  After a few moments, Äelberon nodded to the Harbinger and rose tersely from his place.

     

    “Harbinger, Shield-Siblings. I retire for the evening. These notes require my attention.”

     

    Better the notes than Skjor's backside. He then picked up the journal and did his own storming down the stairs, barging into the Living Quarters. Giving the double doors a good, hard slam behind him, surprising his Shield-Siblings with an uncharacteristic display of rage.

     

    Two could play that game, he scowled, while he sat brooding in his quarters, the memories of that night still playing in his mind. It had, despite two tankards of tea, kept him up. So he used the time awake and stewing to study Erratuim’s notes, taking time, of course, to continue his angry brood—no, it was sulking. He was sulking and being extremely immature about it too, he thought as he left his quarters and walked up the steps to the Mead Hall to meet Farkas.

     

    He found Farkas warming his hands at the fire and Äelberon joined him, letting the heat seep through his chilled fingers. The young Nord turned to him. “You ready?” 

     

    “Yes, I am ready, are you, my Shield-Brother?” Äelberon answered. The Nord nodded. Bah! He could not contain it anymore, the question had been eating at him all morning. “Farkas? Why are you even accompanying me?”

     

    Here we go, thought Farkas. “I’m supposed to watch you and make sure you honor the Companions with your actions.” The Elf crossed his arms over his chest and Farkas could see that the Altmer was still really pissed about yesterday. He actually got into a fight with Skjor. A real scuffle, like he and Vilkas did all the time, when they were whelps. Those two weren’t whelps though. 

     

    “But have I not already done so, time and time again?” Old Man warned him that he would be like this. What was the word? Obsessive, yeah, that was the word. 

     

    Farkas sighed, studying the Altmer’s face as he scratched his beard, picking at a little scab. Oh yeah, he was annoyed as Oblivion. Probably didn’t sleep much either.  His people obsessed about everything, every little damn detail and Farkas felt bad for Äelberon.  In his and his brother’s eyes, his loyalty and honor were not questioned. But Skjor and Aela were afraid, and the Old Man was trying to be fair this time, though Farkas knew he wasn’t happy about it. The funny thing was that Äelberon would’ve gotten the damn fragment anyway and everybody could’ve been spared the tension.

     

    Äelberon loved that sort of thing.

     

    Half of his damn fireside stories in the Mead Hall were about him discovering this or exploring that. But Skjor flew off his handle last night and now there was tension.  Calling it a trial, damn it. What a difference a bloody word makes! No, if it had been called a task or an adventure, they’d have been laughing last night, but no, Skjor had to be a shit and call it a trial.  Äelberon knew what those were for. He wasn’t stupid. He asked Vilkas questions on how the Companions worked and Farkas’ twin was more than willing to answer. Trials were for… the questionable ones.

     

    The questionable ones. The ones they didn’t want to be Companions.

     

    Äelberon now knew that his loyalty and honor were being questioned by some, and it had made him damn angry; something Farkas had never seen the Elf be before and he understood why.  If his own honor had been questioned like that, he would’ve shoved his fist in Skjor’s mouth, though he did see Skjor sport some pretty hefty bruises on his chin and eye, minor burns on his hands from touching the Elf's plated armor. The Elf was also sporting the marks of their fight, not even bothering to heal his own bruises from their infamous scuffle.  And now Farkas had to get up early and head to a crypt that he knew Äelberon could clear on his own without a problem, when he could’ve slept in and relaxed. Skjor was an arse sometimes. Farkas patted Äelberon on the shoulder, thankful that his gauntlets blocked the effects of the silver-plating. “Let’s just go and get the fragment… Albee.” The Old Altmer turned his head and shot him a look as Farkas grinned, nudging Äelberon to tease him further. That got his attention. “You know you can’t resist…” He joked, “It’s an artifact. It’s dusty. There will probably be lots and lots of old books.  It’s in a crypt infested with Draugr. It’s older than you are… and finding something in Skyrim that’s older than you is really, really hard...”

     

    Äelberon let out a laugh, and the tension was broken. ‘Twas true, he was chomping at the bit at the prospect of finding a fragment of Wuuthrad. That it brought countless Elves to their knees did not matter to him. It was such an important piece of Skyrim’s history and to return it to this ancient building was truly a grand task and it greatly appealed to the scholar in him. He shot a knowing grin at Farkas, his eyes dancing in the firelight. Aye, boy knew him well.  No, he would not dwell on Skjor’s harsh words. Instead he would relish the opportunity to delve into Dustman’s Cairn with his affable Shield-Brother. For Farkas was a light-hearted lad, and Äelberon was itching for a fine and proper adventure, without the dark trappings of dragons, war, and Thalmor. 

     

    Just an adventure. 

     

    “You are right, I cannot.”

     

    “Knew it!”

     

    The two then headed out the door, Farkas opening it for Äelberon in a show of respect, Koor following close behind. Äelberon turned to Farkas while they walked across the courtyard, the old mischief in his eyes. “You call me Albee again, youngling, and I’ll…”

     

    Farkas let out a big belly laugh and the two Shield-Brothers started their adventure.

     

     

    “So what do you know of Wuuthrad?” Asked Äelberon when he and Farkas dismounted Allie near the entrance of the Cairn.

     

    It was an overcast, chilly day, and the moisture hung in the air like a heavy mist. Äelberon squinted up at the sky. At least they had beaten the rain. The young Nord was already making his way down the suspended stone steps that spiraled to the ornate, carved doors of the Cairn, Koor close behind, eager. It was a deep depression in the ground, marked by stone columns. It resembled a dragon mound in Äelberon’s eyes.

     

    “It’s a big axe used by Ysgramor to kill all the Elves, except not all of them because some are still here.”

     

    Äelberon heartily laughed and shook his head. Well, the youngling was correct, but sometimes the way he said things... Ha! This was going to be a grand adventure indeed. With Farkas at his side, he was going to laugh his way through the bloody tomb. He needed it… He looked up quickly, by Auri-El! If the young Nord did not kill himself first! What the blazes was he doing? “Farkas!” He called sharply from Allie at the Nord who was already opening the door, “Not yet, wait!”

     

    Farkas closed the door again, what now, he grumbled to himself. He turned to the Elf, what was he still doing by the horse?

     

    “Would you come back up to the horse, please?”

     

    “Why?” He scrunched up his nose.

     

    “Because we cannot just barge into a Nordic tomb, that is why. Now come up.”

     

    Farkas climbed up the steps again and joined Äelberon’s side at Allie’s saddle, rubbing Koor’s ears, impatiently waiting, while Äelberon searched through the saddle, gathering his supplies.  By Ysmir! The Elf lived in his horse! There were not one, but two tents, dried meat, kindling, flint, a pickaxe, an axe for chopping wood, torches, torch oil, pelts, waterskins, potions, two tankards… a cooking pot! “Is there a washbasin in there too?” Quipped Farkas.

     

    “No, not yet, but if you find a portable one, do let me know, and I will pack it in there too.” Äelberon retorted wryly, giving the youngling a sidelong glance. Äelberon unfastened his cloak and draped it over the saddle. “I need to speak to Eorlund.” He mused while he rummaged through his saddlebags.

     

    “Why?”

     

    “Did he make your armor?” Asked the Elf.

     

    “Yep,” Farkas beamed with pride.

     

    “The fastenings intrigued me the entire ride over. Mine has buckles and lacings, but no, yours almost looks like snaps. Fascinating. Easy to take off?”

     

    Farkas gulped. Damn Elf was sometimes too observant. “Uh huh.” It was grunted.

     

    “Intriguing. I shall have to possibly adapt my armor for such ease in removal, though more than likely, yours has risk of just falling off? Perhaps I move too much for it then. Hmm, let me see…” He reached to grab Farkas’ pauldron only for the Nord to pull away.

     

    “Hey! No strippin’.” Farkas then covered his arse when the Elf looked surprised. “Don’t know you that well yet.”

     

    “Hmph! Your time at the brothels definitely tells me you do not swing that way...”

     

    “What’s your excuse?” Alright, that seemed to sting, for he got a look from the Altmer that let Farkas know he was not appreciative of the jest. He was celibate, that was his excuse. Gods, that must be awful. No alcohol he could maybe understand, but damn, no women either? He managed a toothy grin and the Elf resumed his preparations. From one of the saddlebags, Äelberon removed a leather bandolier that was divided into several compartments, each of which held a quiver of crossbow bolts. In silver.

     

    Farkas’ mouth went dry.

     

    “Hmm, yes silver… that is what we need today. Fifty should be enough...” Äelberon mumbled to himself while he fastened the bandolier diagonally across his chest, completely unaware of the Nord’s apprehension.

     

    “You make that?” Asked Farkas, pointing to the bandolier.

     

    “Yes, it makes it far easier to load bolts.” Äelberon replied as he repositioned his crossbow on his back, under his pack, which he now set down. It needed packing. Yes, this was better, without the cloak, he would be far faster, especially when changing weapons. Hopefully the heat of battle would keep him warm.

     

    “No Elven bow today?”

     

    “No friend, the crossbow is much better for this.” No, today was not the day to bask in Elven glory. Today, he had to be as efficient as possible. For his Shield-Brother was with him and observations of honor and valor be damned, if it was not going their way, he was going to drag Farkas out of that tomb, kicking and screaming if he had to. For while Farkas was a great warrior, that Skyforge great sword was going to be useless against draugr. Sure, it would slow them down, severing limbs and whatnot, but it would not kill them. He drew the silver katana from its slot on the saddle and held it for a moment. He had an idea. “Farkas, take this, please.” Äelberon began to hand the slender blade to Farkas, but the Nord suddenly backed away. Äelberon furrowed his eyebrows. “Take it, your great sword is a grand weapon, but unless Eorlund uses an alloy with silver, it will do nothing against the draugr except slow them down and anger them. Here, take my blade.”

     

    “I’ll be fine,” Farkas insisted.

     

    “You daft? What are you going to do, sit on the draugr? Or better, watch while little draugr bits continue to move about the tomb, still bent on killing you?” He chuckled at the notion, a part of him wondering if that was indeed true with draugr, that they still moved severed parts, or if was just some story. It was that way with vampires. That was why the silver was necessary, it was like poison to them, making them fall much faster. That, along with fire and sunlight. “Farkas, take my blade, please.”

     

    “But... but... you won’t have a weapon then,” Argued Farkas. Damn it, Äelberon was only concerned for his safety, but if he shoved that silver blade in his face one more time…

     

    “Ha! Do not let Aela ever catch you saying that a bow is not a weapon. Believe me, I am far more deadly than you. Besides, I have other tricks up my gauntlet. Take it, I do not need it.”

     

    Damn, thought Farkas. There was no way around this without giving it all away, and he didn’t want to do that, so Farkas gingerly took the blade. He could immediately feel the burn of the silver and he clenched his jaw, fighting the pain, but at least the black leather of the hilt dulled it somewhat. Äelberon gave him a quizzical look.

     

    “Boy, you do not have to hold it like it is a baby, I make a strong weapon. She can handle your swing. You can use it with one hand, or two hands if you want some extra power behind the blow. And always… always… aim for the head. Makes things much easier.”  Äelberon then removed his scabbard from his own waist and fastened it to Farkas’. The Nord prayed that his sigh of relief when he finally sheathed the weapon wasn’t too loud. Hurt like Oblivion.

     

    Äelberon loaded his pack with some supplies. Some healing potions, he frowned remembering the foul taste, but if he could not cast, they were essential. A torch and oil. Some food, enough for both of them, and waterskins, again enough for both. He was quite surprised that Farkas did not take the time to prepare thusly. He did not even have a pack, only the damned great sword, which was an odd weapon choice, especially considering how Äelberon had gone on and on about silver. Starting from the moment he woke up.  Silver for Bleak Falls Barrow. He was practically obsessed with it, never doing jobs against the undead and werewolves without it, or at least with his magicks. Gods! To be without silver and without magicks and venture into a tomb?  Unthinkable.

     

    Äelberon turned to the Nord as he slung his pack over his great shoulders. “Now, Farkas, now I am ready.”'

     

    “About time.”

     

    “You will thank me later.” Äelberon replied, patting the Nord on the shoulder as the two, followed by Koor, descended down the steps into Dustman’s Cairn.

     

     

    All tombs smelled the same to him. The stench of old death. Of moldy linen and dusty books. The air always felt oppressive and heavy. The walls were stone and carved with Nordic designs, though in this one mosses and mushrooms began to reclaim the stone in places, turning it back into soil. The abundance of candles and lit braziers bothered Äelberon when he entered. Crypts were typically very dark and this one was well lit. They were not alone.

     

    “Looks like somebody’s been digging.” Commented Farkas.

     

    Äelberon scanned the room; littered with pickaxes. It was dominated by a large white stone table, probably used to prepare bodies for burial, and sarcophagi. He walked to the table. Upon it was a lockpick, a pickaxe and a book.

     

    A book.

     

    His red-orange eyes narrowed in satisfaction when he regarded the binding of the tome.  

     

    “Why am I not surprised?” Grinned Farkas, as he approached, barely able to suppress his eye roll.

     

    Äelberon glanced at him and then read the binding and flipped through several pages. “The Battle of Sancre Tor, it tells the tale of how General Talos defeated the stronghold of Sancre Tor.”

     

    Farkas rolled his eyes in plain sight, Vilkas was more cut out for this shit. Damn Skjor. “I gotta ask, Äelberon. Have you read every book in Skyrim?”

     

    Äelberon smiled at the Nord’s attempt at sarcasm. “Not yet. I have not read this one.” He removed his pack and slipped the book inside.

     

    A draugr then caught his eye and he started walking towards it, frowning when he drew closer. “Farkas, these draugr were not merely disturbed, they were killed.” Äelberon knelt next to one of them, lifting the head slightly to reveal that it was nearly severed. “There are no burn marks from fire, though. This is all blade work.” He bent towards the body and smelled. The odor was unmistakable.

     

    Silver

     

    Whomever was here was well-prepared. He scanned the room again and furrowed his brow, his suspicions confirmed and turned to Farkas, who was kneeling at a chest next to table, trying to open it, Koor observing. “We are not alone, Farkas, these wounds are fresh.”  Nothing from the young Nord. “Farkas, what are you doing?”

     

    “There’s a locked chest next to the table, but I can’t open it.”

     

    “There is a lockpick on the table…”

     

    “One's all I need.” Farkas grabbed it and set about picking the lock. Äelberon winced when he heard the pick snap. He would have had that opened in seconds. Granted, the boy did not seem the type who explored crypts. Bandits, giants, beasts, yes, and very well but, crypts, not so much. Wait, why would there be a locked chest? If they were not alone, one would think that the chests would have been broken into and looted. Unless they were looking for something specific? A mere adventurer would have attempted to open the chest. This was different. He left the draugr and approached Farkas, who was now attempting to break the lock with a pickaxe. That was ridiculous.  “Farkas, how many people know of Wuuthrad?  Especially of the fragment locations?”

     

    “Huh?”

     

    “Farkas, stop with the damn chest and answer my question.”

     

    Farkas set the pickaxe down, though he still stared at the chest with his "I will vanquish you" face. “The Companions do and the scholar obviously, I’m not sure what you’re asking, Äelberon.”  

     

    Äelberon stood up and drew his crossbow. “Are you finished, Farkas? I think we should move on. I am concerned about the fragment.”

     

    “And the chest?”

     

    “Leave it, we will come back for it later.”

     

    “What if the fragment IS in a chest?” Farkas countered.

     

    “No, in my opinion, it will be in the final burial chamber, and… it will be heavily guarded.” Äelberon looked around and loaded a bolt onto his crossbow. “Furthermore, I believe that we are now in a race against whomever has been digging here. Let us press on. We need to find that fragment first.”

     

    The Elf pointed his crossbow towards the path directly ahead and Farkas nodded. It was Äelberon’s trial, not his.

     

    They followed the path and entered a series of dark chambers, burial crypts, filled with skeletons and wrapped bodies. Ancient and withered with the passage of centuries. Farkas was adjusting to the light when he suddenly heard Äelberon’s crossbow fire and the hiss of... he didn't know what. Draugr? He heard the click of the reload and then silence as the draugr fell. Shit, that thing went down fast.

     

    Easy to kill, good.

     

    Farkas then heard more hisses, closer this time and the heavy footfalls of armored feet. He barely had time to block the blow from the Draugr’s battle axe with his great sword. Forget the katana. He wasn't going to go into battle with an unproven weapon. Not that he doubted Äelberon's smithing, but Farkas was a Nord through and through. 

     

    A two-hander. 

     

    Shor’s Bones! It was so dark, he could only see their glowing eyes. It would be easier to see if he cha—nope, couldn’t think on that now. He could still see the eyes. There were three pairs of eyes heading toward him. Where was Äelberon? He could still hear that crossbow firing away, but damned if he could see where the Elf was. He remembered Äelberon’s words. “Aim for the head…”

     

    Farkas swung his great sword high, aiming for the head, well, the eyes. But eyes were in the head.

     

    Usually.  

     

    He smiled in satisfaction when the head fell to the ground, he was a Companion, Farkas didn't need silver and he growled in pleasure, basking in his prowess, swinging again, severing an arm, making the draugr drop its weapon. He prepared another swing, only for something to catch his eye on the floor of the tomb, making Farkas look down. The arm was moving towards him, slinking along like a little worm, using its fingers to drag itself along the floor. He then felt something strike his shoulder hard and realized that the headless, one-armed draugr was still taking swings at him. 

     

    "You did not just hit me, you... you."

     

    Ysmir's beard! How do you taunt something with no damn head?! He then felt something gnaw on his boot. Hard, and his eyes found the tomb floor a second time.

     

    "What the fuck?!" He bellowed.  A pair of glowing eyes were looking up at him, its rotten, black-toothed mouth clenching the tip of his boot. Shit! The head didn't fall anywhere near his boot! How the Oblivion did it make it all the way? The mouth then broke from his boot and laughed a cruel laugh. Disgusted, Farkas stomped on the head, crushing it, the flesh and bone crunching and splattering. That stopped the eyes from glowing and the body collapsed to the ground, now lifeless.

     

    Not so easy to kill.

     

    Well, the Elf was right about the head. He'd just have to go in swinging and stomping, and Farkas let out a fierce battle cry, preparing another swing. The hisses became roars, and more weapons were swung, forcing him to block another flurry of blows. He was surrounded, and he heard the whiz of crossbow bolts and Koor’s growl. Then Farkas heard a strange cry from yet another draugr that emerged.  Another one with a battle axe, and a horned helmet. The force of the cry hurled Farkas across the room, making him hit the wall hard with a groan. The draugr laughed and the trio, weapons drawn, their eyes glowing, began to approach Farkas. Another readied a blow from a war axe and Farkas tried to raise his great sword to block it, though he was still reeling from being thrown, his vision blurred.

     

    Then Farkas saw a light. A blinding, harsh white light and when it hit one of the draugr, it screamed and ran off. A third draugr suddenly snapped back hard when it was struck by a mighty blow from a shield. Farkas stared, his eyes struggling in the darkness, but he saw him. His armor glowed faintly. Äelberon glowed, a light coming from his right hand, but it wasn’t white this time, this time the light glowed like the warm morning sun and he could see the Elf’s face. It was grim, when he released the spell from his hand. The draugr screamed when the light struck it, casting it in a strange flame, and it readied its great sword to attack Äelberon. The draugr brought down his great sword in a powerful blow, but it was blocked by Äelberon's shield. He again cast that spell, engulfing the draugr in that strange morning light again.  It screamed and fell to its knees.   

     

    “Farkas, the katana! Strike now!” Commanded the Altmer.

     

    Reluctantly, Farkas dropped his great sword and grimacing, he drew the katana. With a growl that was more out of pain than anger, he decapitated the draugr, the glowing eyes growing dim. 

     

    Another cry came from the strange draugr. The one who had a helm with what looked like two horns sticking straight up, and Farkas reeled back onto the floor, losing his balance again, while Äelberon raised his shield, his jaw clenched as he withstood the force of the draugr's cry.

     

    The draugr raised his battle axe in the air and shook it, inviting the Elf to a challenge, a hard guttural language coming from its lips. Äelberon charged that spell again and released it, hitting the draugr. It screamed and brought down its battle axe with great force upon Äelberon’s shield.

     

    Farkas could no longer withstand the pain from the silver and he dropped the katana. Where was his great sword?  Shit, too far away. The Draugr was preparing another blow against his Shield-Brother. Farkas scowled and did the only thing he could do; he tackled the damn thing, pushing it hard against the floor. They then struggled hard for the draugr’s battle axe.

     

    Äelberon’s eyes widened while he watched his Shield-Brother wrestled with a powerful draugr, still caught by surprise that Farkas dared. Did it shout? As Ulfric Stormcloak did? The magicks from the lips, what he had read about? Yes, Nords could do this with many years training, it seemed. Äelberon heard footsteps and quickly whirled around. The first draugr had returned, its courage restored. He barely had time to block the frost spell that shot from the draugr’s hand, and he could still feel the chill deep in his bones, making it far harder to move, feeling the tiny shards of ice coat his armor.

     

    Xarxes’ arse, all he needed was a spell caster.

     

    He charged sun fire again and closed in on the draugr, gritting his teeth as the frost spell became more potent. He slammed the creature hard with his shield, and released his spell, causing it to stagger. He only had enough for one more spell for now and there were still two draugr. He charged turn undead again and aimed it at the caster, sending it running once more to the other side.

     

    Farkas was still struggling, holding the draugr’s battle axe away from his body in a brutal power struggle. Äelberon changed weapons, returning to the crossbow. He took two bolts, holding one between his teeth and loading the crossbow with the other. He shot the spell caster in the back as it ran, sending it to its knees while he reloaded the weapon. It fell to his second shot. He heard Farkas’ groan and turned. The Nord’s arms were beginning to fail him, trembling with effort, and the creature then uttered a cry…

     

    “Qiilaan Us Dilon!”

     

    Did he know that tongue? There was no time to think on that and he shook his head to clear it. “Ne!!” Cried Äelberon, as he loaded another bolt, “We will never bow to the dead!”

     

    The draugr turned, surprised by the Elf’s outburst and then released another cry, making Farkas groan in pain from the force of the blow. Was this that Nordic shouting? Was this how King Torryg died? Gods, his hand was killing him. Damn silver.

     

    It screamed in rage when Äelberon was not thrown by its forceful cries, instead remaining steadfast and closing in. The draugr’s glowing blue eyes then met the Elf’s red-orange eyes and the creature knew fear. Äelberon released the bolt and it struck the creature, making it stagger, but Farkas’ grip finally failed him and the draugr prepared the death blow, raising his battle axe while Farkas gasped for air.

     

    “No,” Äelberon whispered, throwing his crossbow down and raising both of his hands to harness the power of the sun. The draugr faced the Elf and cried out as Äelberon released his spell.

     

    “Sovngarde Saraan!”

     

    Äelberon was unsteady for a moment after it went down. The spell had been a powerful one and he found a wall and leaned heavily on it, breathing hard, Koor circling him nervously. He was definitely not yet at his full casting strength, he thought with a frown. Damn Molag Bal.  What he would give to be back where he was during that Symposium. At his full strength. The way he was before Skyrim. In the darkness, he could hear Farkas' labored breathing. Äelberon’s magicka was coming back so slowly, did he dare channel Highborn so he could heal Farkas? He could do it but once a day… Damn it! What was Farkas thinking? This was not going as planned. Why did he not use the katana?

     

    “Are you insane?” grumbled Äelberon hoarsely, turning to face the Nord, “You tackled it? Where was your weapon?”

     

    “I, uh... dropped it when it did that thing,” Farkas gasped. He was lying, but hopefully Äelberon wouldn’t pick up on it. He then got up, much to the Elf’s shock.

     

    “By Auri-El! You are not injured?!” Äelberon stared, his eyes wide. “You wrestled with a draugr, a damn powerful one at that. What were they called? It was in a book, a book I read, what was it? Yes, thirteenth of Evening Star...”

     

    “Äelberon?”

     

    “A Loredas, before dawn. I was sitting, sitting at my desk, in my robes, brown monks robes, Danica’s present. Eating an apple… a green one.”

     

    “Äelberon?” Farkas repeated, what was this Elf rambling about?

     

    “Making a list, a list of things… things I needed for Bleak Falls Barrow. I read, I read three books. Books… Bestiary of Skyrim…”

     

    Farkas then watched as the Elf’s mouth moved reciting the text of the book as if he had it right in front of him, his eyes moving like he was reading. He remembered what he ate on the thirteenth of Evening Star? Shit, Farkas didn't even remember what the Oblivion he ate yesterday! “Äelberon?!”

     

    The Altmer snapped to attention. “Aye, Deathlords, yes, Draugr Deathlord.”

     

    His eyebrows then furrowed as he regarded the Nord before him. Farkas was uncommonly strong, like Vilkas and Skjor. This was not normal. Anybody else would have died or been seriously injured, yet Farkas stood before him, no worse for wear. His own breathing was beginning to slow while his magicka gradually replenished itself. He would not need to channel the ancient power. Good, he was certain he would need it later, for if this was only the first room, the final chamber would be difficult.

     

    “Draugr what?” The Nord asked. Reading books without them being in front of you wasn’t normal.

     

    “Draugr Deathlord. That ‘thing’ it did was shout. A way of casting spells without the hands, in the Ancient Nord way. I read that somewhere too.” His mouth began to move once more, reading that book again in his mind, going over the pages. That, Amongst the Draugr, was read at the Tap and Tack. Twenty-eighth of Evening Star, a little over two years ago… another Loredas… bitter cold. Blackberries, he was eating blackberries, when Bumph came in with Celann and Helirox… the day he found Koor...

     

    “Are you injured?” Asked Farkas. The Elf didn't respond, his eyes distant. “Hey!” He grabbed Äelberon’s shoulder, breaking the Elf’s chain of thought.

     

    “No, I am not injured.”

     

    “Why didn’t it knock you down with the shouting thing?”

     

    He crossed his arms over his chest and brooded. “I do not know why the creature’s shout did not affect me, Farkas.”

     

    Then the Nord let loose, his eyes wide with excitement. “I didn’t know you could cast spells like that! I mean, Vilkas told me you cast, but I’ve never seen anything like it. Ever!”

     

    Äelberon brought up his hand to silence the Nord. “Farkas, please, we cannot make noise.” He whispered, eyeing the passage ahead, “We do not know who else we may wake.” He turned his head slightly to his Shield-Brother, “Pick up your weapons, we are moving on, and…” He stopped Farkas before the Nord could turn around to retrieve his weapons, grabbing the Nord by the shoulder firmly. Farkas could make out the glint of those eyes even in the darkness of the chamber. He wasn't pleased. “If you pull another stunt like that again, I will finish this crypt on my own. Am I clear?”

     

    Farkas almost got mad, almost, but one look at the Elf’s intense eyes shut him up, and the Nord decided to nod, remembering Skjor’s bruises. The Elf was very strong. “Crystal clear.”

     

    “Good.” Äelberon retrieved his crossbow from the stone floor. It was not damaged from its rough treatment. He pulled what silver bolts he could salvage from the Draugr and placed them back in the bandolier. He was down to 42. Farkas retrieved the silver katana and his great sword. He gestured to Äelberon and pointed.

     

    “The passage leads north.”

     

    “Aye, let us go. And Farkas?"

     

    "Yeah." The Nord braced himself.

     

    "I am curious about something."

     

    "What?"

     

    "What made you say, oh... what was it? Ah yes, 'what the... fuck'? I do not know that expression. Skjor used that word, well, when we were fighting yesterday, though he used it a bit differently."

     

    The Nord chortled. "Fuck" sounded so awkward from the Elf's mouth. Only Äelberon could make curses sound like he was giving a school lesson, though the one about tits was a pretty good one. "You were right. Steel slows them down, but it don't stop them--" Fuck, he was gonna get caught on his lie if he didn't think quick. "Well, I uh... before the other one shouted, making me drop the Katana..."

     

    He was saying that too carefully, observed Äelberon. Boy never wielded that weapon. Stubborn Nord. Why was he lying to him?

     

    "I swung first with my great sword and took off its head."

     

    "You didn't drop the katana, Farkas." The Old Elf countered and he stopped walking. He was going to nip this in the bud.

     

    Oh shit, thought Farkas.

     

    "You Nords and your stubbornness. I give you a blade because it is useful, far more effective than what you brought. I do not like being lied to. You do not want to use the blade, fine, do not, but do not lie to me. Just say you do not want to use it. You can then have draugr bits chasing you."

     

    Farkas sighed, he was really hating Skjor right now. He owed him one. "Just not a one-hander, sorry.  You mad?" Farkas lied again, but was relieved that the Elf didn't press further. That wasn't the real reason for dropping the katana, but if that was what the Elf was believing, Farkas wasn't gonna dispute it. 

     

    "No, not mad. Actually..." The Altmer leaned towards the Nord, and his expression baffled Farkas. He looked curious. "Very interested. What did it do? I have never not used silver against the undead before. Is it true? That they keep moving? That the severed bits move?"

     

    Farkas grinned. By the Gods, it was like taking Farengar on an adventure. Except a Farengar that could fight like a Kodlak. "Damn head was trying to eat my boot. Would've kept goin' right through the metal too, if I didn't stomp on it first. That definitely warrants a 'what the fuck?', don't ya' think?"

     

    The Elf regarded Farkas for a moment, bringing back his head, his expression puzzled, before quickly nodding in agreement and turning again to resume walking. "Verily. It does." He chuckled. 

     

    Farkas rolled his eyes. What the Oblivion did "Verily" mean?

     

     

    The short path to the north opened to a large cavern. This was indeed part of a natural cave system, for it lacked the carvings of the first two chambers. There were two stone and carved metal thrones and an arcane enchanter. Arcane enchanters? What would undead do with such things? Unless, it was as that book said, they were alive once and sealed in, losing their life-force gradually as the centuries passed, their things then falling into disrepair. Äelberon stared at the closed gate to the southeast. “It is blocked, there must be a lever somewhere that opens it.”

     

    Farkas pointed to the northeast, towards another room. “There’s a lever in this room, quick let’s go.”

     

    Äelberon noticed the points of the gate at the entrance to the chamber when the two entered and he stopped Farkas. He knew this trap, if they both went in... “No, Shield-Brother, I will go in, you stay outside.”

     

    “That doesn’t make any sense.” Replied Farkas as the Elf overtook him.

     

    “Yes, it does, trust me.” Äelberon called back, entering the Northeast room. He eyed the entrance. Yes, he knew how this trap worked. He would pull the lever and this gate would close and the other would open. If they both entered, they would be indeed be trapped. There was always a lever beyond the closed gate. Koor followed him inside. “Ah, there you are. I would prefer you outside, but Farkas will let us out, I am sure of it.” He approached the lever and pulled, hearing the crashing of the gate. He was trapped inside and with a grin, Äelberon met Farkas at the gate. The boy was going to love this.

     

    “Now what did you go do that for?” Asked Farkas, scratching his head.

     

    Äelberon laughed and pointed Southeast, a wry grin on his face. He would not call him 'icebrain'. “Take a look, Farkas, I think the gate is open. There should be a lev—“

     

    “Oh, on the other side, I see, that makes sense. Well, damn, if we had both been in there… Äelberon?”

     

    Farkas saw Äelberon’s face darken and his red-orange eyes were quickly scanning the room, assessing. The young Nord had heard the footsteps too and he saw Äelberon ready his crossbow; loading a bolt. Äelberon stared at his Shield-Brother and whispered. “Farkas, turn around… now.”

     

    Farkas whirled and there they were. Six of them; weapons drawn, approaching very slowly from the southeast. They always liked the slow approach. They liked to gawk, waiting for it to happen and Farkas could feel the pressure in his chest build. The instinctual need to defend himself.

     

    Shit.

     

    He drew his great sword, but it was for nothing, he knew who they were and there were too many of them for his great sword. Not with all the silver they were wielding. He needed to take care of this quick. The pounding in his chest began to intensify, the thrill of it taking over, his breath quickening.  Old Man was going to kill him when he found out.

     

    Äelberon…

     

    Farkas heard the clang of a bolt ricochet off the gate, and the Elf curse while he readied another bolt to try again. Another ricochet. Äelberon growled and loaded the crossbow a third time, and took careful aim. Koor barked uncontrollably, the sound ringing in Farkas' ears. The bolt struck metal again. They continued their slow approach. Must have new ones with them. Aye, that’s why they weren’t trying to kill right away. They wanted the show. Did they feel that confident? He saw one jump suddenly, her dark-complexioned face full of fear. Must be his eyes. They were already yellow, he guessed.

     

    “Damn it!” Äelberon cried, dropping his weapon and clasped his hands to the gate, attempting to pull with all his might. “FARKAS!” He could only watch, he was helpless. They were going to kill his Shield-Brother! Damn it, he had no spells for humans! “FARKAS!” He cried again, shaking at the gate frantically. Then his eyes narrowed when his eyes wandered to their weapons… he knew those weapons. Back in Cyrod... Krev's men carried... silver… Silver Hand? What were Silver Hand doing here? Why were they closing in on Farkas? And then he felt his heart pound in his chest, the way it pounds when a demon is near.  Daedra, vampires…

     

    Werewolves…

     

    No… Äelberon’s eyes began to blaze.

     

    NO!!” He cried, his voice echoing through the cavern.

     

    Daedra and their minions, in general, are abominations and therefore enemies of Auri-El.

     

    Auri-El, he begged. Not now! It was his Shield-Brother!

     

    To let one live is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El

     

    Wrath…

     

    Farkas turned to face the Silver Hand. His breath quickening. He could feel his heart beginning to swell as he dropped his sword and he could feel the pressure of his body against the confines of his armor. Needing to break free. It was then that Farkas heard the low snarl from behind him and turned around. It was a strange, awful noise but it was the look on Äelberon’s face when his yellow eyes met the Priest’s red-orange eyes that made Farkas cringe in fear. The face was dark and terrible to look at. The eyes were like an inferno, honing in on his Beast Blood, like a hound hones in on a deer.  Even the dog knew that his Master was not himself, cowering in a corner with his tail between his legs, waiting for the demon hunter to leave and the kindly Elf to return. Gods, it was better to face the Silver Hand and Farkas turned away, his heart pounding.

     

    “Which one is that?” Asked a female Silver Hand. They were still some distance away, but closing in. Waiting. “Shouldn’t we attack now?”

     

    “No, let it become the miserable servant of Hircine first. You’ll glory in your first kill, for Ysgramor. Remember, always for Ysgramor…”

     

    For Ysgramor? Why did they care about Ysgramor? They weren't Companions.

     

    “It doesn’t matter.” Scoffed another, “He wears that armor. He dies.”

     

    “No… “ Farkas growled, the Beast Blood finally taking over, “You are going to die.”

     

    His heart felt like it was exploding, filling into his chest. He could feel his skin split, his clothes shred, and his armor snap off, scattering about the floor with loud clangs that rang in the hall while his girth expanded. Growing, spreading. His arms lengthening, his claws, his snout, his teeth. Their blood pumping in their little bodies, making his boil. It used to be so slow, when he was new to the Moon, but now, it was over in seconds and he towered over them, black and powerful. They didn’t stand a chance and he could smell their fear.

     

    Save one.

     

    He did not give off fear. He gave off rage, a pure rage that matched Farkas’ own and the Nord knew that this was no ordinary mortal. This was a pure demon hunter, a hunter, just like him.  As blessed by that Elven Auri-El as he was cursed by Hircine. Or blessed, Farkas didn’t know anymore. Kodlak called it a curse. Skjor called it a gift and Farkas’ heart felt torn sometimes. He loved them both and Äelberon was part of their family now.  The Priest was now brought into this terrible mess that was the Companions and it was their fault. Their own damn fault for not trusting him and now he knew.

     

    Both Shield-Brothers then roared; the demon and the demon hunter together, and Farkas couldn’t help but marvel at his bravery. The complete lack of fear.  But there was more to it. There was anguish. Farkas knew it was anguish because he felt it too. The Betrayal.

     

    To know that your Shield-Brother is something that can destroy you…

     

    Farkas felt the gate shake violently again, only this time it was from the desire to rid the world of the demon that he was and he just wanted all of this over.

     

    The Silver Hand circled Farkas with their weapons drawn and then they all jumped when the Elf’s body slammed hard against the gate. Bloody Oblivion! He had thrown himself against the gate and Farkas felt fear when a shower of small stones fell to the ground at the wake of the Elf’s impact. Äelberon was going to break the gate down with the sheer force of his body.  Another terrible cry, dark and foreboding. More pebbles and dust hit the floor and the gate wobbled. Unsteady. And Farkas smelled it. Äelberon’s blood. That had hurt him. Farkas heard rapid steps back. He was going to do it again.

     

    No… He needed to get to that lever or his Shield-Brother was going to kill himself to break down the gate.  To get to him.  Get to him, so he could kill him.

     

    Another impact upon the gate and the roar of anger from the other side was accompanied by a tinge of wild pain. Farkas roared when a Silver Hand brought down his sword, only for it to be knocked away with a broad sweep of his clawed hand.

     

    They fell quickly to Farkas’ might; their mangled bodies littering the floor, their blood pooling upon the stone, the stench teasing his nostrils with the long-forgotten pleasures of the hunt. He wanted to eat them, tear out their hearts, but the Old Man. No, it was not what he wanted and Farkas stopped himself, not giving in to Hircine's pull. He couldn’t have Äelberon watch that. He had seen enough already.

     

    The lever was all Farkas could think on and he bolted towards the Southeast opening, partly out of fear, partly to help his Shield-Brother. The gate of the chamber suddenly raised again.

     

    The demon hunter was now free; free and ready for the hunt. Äelberon stood within the chamber, crossbow ready, a bolt in his other hand, breathing hard, his shoulder bleeding from the impact upon the gate, the plating dented. He could smell its blood, the mark of Hircine.  Äelberon’s battle cry filled the chamber. He smelled the fear.

     

    Enemies of Auri-El…

     

    His Shield-Brother…

     

    An enemy of Auri-El…

     

    His Brother…

     

    To let one live is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El…

     

    His Brother…

     

    Enemy…

     

    Wrath of Auri-El…

     

    He lay dying upon the stone floor, poisoned and exiled, his head cradled upon his brother’s lap… the enemy.

     

    Auri-El… help me...

     

     

    *  - Requiem allows for the making of elemental arrows, like the Dawnguard bolts. 

     

    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXIX     Chapter XXXI

     

Comments

15 Comments   |   ilanisilver and 1 other like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  February 11
    Epic chapter! Farkas' transformation seems to have triggered Albee something terrible! This can go south so very, very quickly. Loved the added detail with the draugr; you did a great job of fleshing out the world in a way that makes more sense. Farkas is...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      SpottedFawn
      SpottedFawn
      SpottedFawn
      Epic chapter! Farkas' transformation seems to have triggered Albee something terrible! This can go south so very, very quickly. Loved the added detail with the draugr; you did a great job of fleshing out the world in a way that makes more sense. Farkas is...  more
        ·  February 11
      I shudder at the third person omniscient, but thank you for your kind words. The plan, down the road, the long road, is to convert this like I converted part 2 in to third person singular, but I may not have it in me. What part 1 may get is a format upgra...  more
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 10, 2015
    I thought you were referring to the fight with Skjor.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 10, 2015
    I know you were. 
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 10, 2015
    I was referring to the werewolf thing.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 10, 2015
    It takes a lot for Aelberon's pot to boil over, but when it does...
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 9, 2015
    Man, Aelberon was pissed! Maybe I was wrong about him... I certainly hope not.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 27, 2015
    Sex jokes are always fun. 
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 27, 2015
    “In all my years, I’ve never seen such fine, straight shafts…”
    I chortled.
    Now to head on to see what's next.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 1, 2015
    Thank you for pointing out evil typos. They are poo. 
    Glad you liked the pacing. Things are building up.  
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  October 1, 2015
    I was only planning on reading the first section of this... Great pacing and build-up, run Fark-ass!.. Farkus. I also like how the draugr was like wtf, he understood me?
    Found an typo: “I will ignore you obvious insult and ask my question. Am I not ...  more