Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXXI

  • After hearing that battle cry, Farkas hesitated entering the chamber for what seemed like an eternity; his body tensely crouched against the stone cave wall, his sweat-soaked black hair plastered to his taut shoulders. He was trembling. Trembling! Him! He had changed back too fast and he was naked, so vulnerable, spent from his transformation. He also knew well what was waiting for him in the chamber. 


    A demon hunter with over two hundred years of battle in his blood. Damn!


    And he was afraid. He, a proud Nord. A Companion. A son of Ysgramor…


    Farkas shook his head and pressed his flushed forehead against the cave wall, closing his eyes tightly, feeling the conflicting mixture of fear and shame that made his head pound. No, not a true son of Ysgramor, something else, something…


    Afraid of an Elf.


    An Elven priest with Holy magicks!  Shor’s Bones! His own Shield-Brother. With a room full of silver weapons and the skill to use them. Farkas had seen Äelberon best Vilkas and later Skjor in the Training Circle, watched this Mer return to Jorrvaskr, his victories fresh and many in the relatively few days spent among the Companions. This was no whelp, but an accomplished warrior. Farkas growled in frustration and pounded his fist into the cave wall, wincing at the pain.


    His Shield-Brother.


    Skjor be damned, this was his fault, all for calling it a trial. Farkas hated words sometimes. 


    Now… it was either him or Äelberon, and deep down, Farkas knew he was outmatched this time, unless a miracle happened and he wasn’t in good with any God that gave those out anymore. Hircine didn’t do miracles. He gave power, he gave might, but no miracles. He had seen the look on the Elf’s face when he changed and it wasn’t fear. It was the pure rage of a Holy Knight when he smells Daedric blood; or at least that is what Farkas imagined it was. He had never seen that face from Äelberon before and it made him prefer fighting the Silver Hand. They were just like bandits, no God under their banner, living in filth.


    Äelberon, however, served a God.  


    Those eyes burned like fire, and it was almost like he was possessed by the Divines. Sure, he had seen him stew before, but it was rare and didn’t compare to this. Farkas wanted the mischief and easy-going smile from the beginning of the Cairn again, from the warm fires of the Mead Hall as they ate their evening meal, listening to tales of their adventures. Joking and laughing. Not the face the Elf had now, and for the first time in his life, Farkas was afraid.


    The silence in there wasn’t helping. Ysmir’s Beard! No noise, nothing. No yelling, no clamor of weapons, no running. Nothing. Not even the damn dog was making a sound. Only the racket of Farkas’ breathing and the pounding of his heart rang in his ears, making his headache worse. Damn it! Where was Vilkas when he needed him? He was so alone, alone and confused. How was he going to do this? He needed to kill him, even if it was with his bare hands, but his Beast Blood was now spent, and his armor and weapon were scattered in that room, thrown by the force of his expanding body. Gods only knew what state they were in.


    He needed to kill him.


    Farkas held his breath, and ventured into the chamber like a hunter stalking his prey, his bare, dirt-dusted feet silent upon the cold stone that was the floor, his movements deliberate, doing his best to imitate Aela. How she hunted. After what seemed like forever, he saw it about halfway across the room.  His great sword, lying among the small pile of Silver Hand, their freshly spilled blood still teasing his senses. Damn it, he cursed to himself while he stooped slowly to pick it up, careful to not make any noise, it was so distracting. At least he now had his sword. It was something. Where was the demon hunter?


    His Shield-Brother…


    No, a demon hunter…


    Farkas stopped, his heart skipping a beat. He almost walked right over him. Äelberon…


    The Elf was seated upon the floor, his stooped back propped against some rock work, close to where the mangled bodies of the Silver Hand were lying. His right leg was bent and the crossbow rested upon his left thigh. It was not loaded… yet. For his gauntleted hand held a silver bolt as it rested upon his right knee; his thumb moving over the shaft.  His left hand lay limp near the crossbow’s trigger. His face was partially obscured by his helmet, and downcast, facing the wall. The silver-bearded jaw, however, was clenched tightly. If he was aware of Farkas’ presence, he wasn’t showing it.


    If he swung his great sword now, he could kill him instantly and it would be over, just like he wanted it to be. Skjor and Aela would be relieved, and Vilkas and the Old Man? They would understand. They had to understand, right? The young Nord gulped as he slowly approached, he was going to take a huge chance.


    If any Gods still watched over Jorrvaskr...


    In a decision that surprised even him, Farkas put down his weapon and sat down with his knees up, next to the Elf. Farkas rested his elbows on his knees, rubbing his hands nervously.  Äelberon didn’t even budge, still fingering the bolt. Farkas turned his head slightly in the direction of the Altmer. And that’s when he saw them.




    Äelberon was weeping in silence and Farkas could feel his own emotion building, making him rub his pounding head with both hands. This wasn’t the sniveling, weak tears of babes and milk drinkers. No, these tears were of pure sorrow, the way a man cries when he's been beaten by the world and he can't fix it, and Farkas felt terrible. He wished Vilkas was here and not him. This was his Shield-Brother, not a demon hunter.


    It was then that Farkas heard the brittle crack of wood when the bolt suddenly snapped in two; the pieces falling upon the floor of the tomb, the gauntleted hand that once held it now limp.



    Love for a brother once cost him his family and his homeland, sundered from them forever. Under those moonless nights, dark, so black, so cruel... 


    What was the price now? What was the price this time for the heart winning the battle with his mind? What was the price for Mercy? Auri-El would reveal the price in due time...


    Äelberon then spoke, still facing the wall, his voice hoarse with emotion and his earlier battle cries, the weariness of his long life evident. “I… I was… I was going to do what I had been trained to do, what I have done for over two hundred years, but…” He paused and swallowed. He had heard Farkas pick up the great sword and stalk him. He could smell the intent and yet it did not happen.


    “But?” whispered, the young Nord’s voice no less filled with emotion. They came so close to death today. The both of them.


    “Then, my brother, a memory came. The first ever from my illness. I remembered you cradling my head in your lap, supporting me as I faded from the world, dying. The floor of Jorrvaskr is cold, hard stone, Farkas, and I fell. I remember blackness and the speed when I crashed to the floor. I had wondered why I had no cut or bruise upon my head when I awoke. It was because…” His voice then broke and he turned away in remorse.


    Farkas furrowed his brow, biting his fist to fight back his own tears.  He remembered that day too. How the Old Man stayed outside the entire night in the pouring rain waiting for news. How they went into a Temple. A Temple of a Divine so that their Shield-Brother would live.


    “My Shield-Brother broke my fall. Even then. From the very beginning. You did not know me and yet you still did this.” Äelberon turned to face Farkas and the Nord saw the weight in the Altmer’s eyes, the lines of his face more pronounced. “That I even considered ending your life, my brother, brings me such profound sorrow.” He faced the wall again. “When we finish here, I will leave Jorrvaskr, Farkas, for I do not deserve to be counted among you.”


    “Then that makes two of us.” Replied Farkas, his face grim.


    Äelberon shot Farkas a look, his red-rimmed eyes narrowed. “Are you mocking me?”


    “No, not mocking you at all. You’re not the only one who considered ending a life today, Äelberon.  I’m damn ashamed too. All I could think of as my Shield-Brother sat upon the floor in obvious pain was my fear that a demon hunter was going to kill me. All I saw was that Vigilant’s armor and the silver weapons, instead of seeing the brave Elf who saved me from draugr just a room ago, who saved my brother from a giant, and who has worked hard to honor the Companions from the moment he set foot in Jorrvaskr. Instead of talking to you, I hid like a coward and considered killing you, grabbing my sword and stalking you like an animal. I’m not an animal, I’m a Nord. I’m a son of Ysgramor, or at least I thought I was. So, when we finish here, I’m leaving Jorrvaskr too.”


    The two then faced the wall and sat for a few moments, their bodies slumped with emotional fatigue.  Äelberon broke the silence first with a sigh. "Those are the most words I have ever heard you speak at once, Farkas."


    The boy let out a loud guffaw and then groaned, his head buried in his hands again. "You're rubbing off on me." he moaned. In more ways than one... The Elf let out a growl and wiped his face with the back of his hand, before throwing himself back against the stonework in frustration. He then turned to his Shield-Brother again. “We are terrible Companions, Farkas. Utterly terrible.” 


    “Yeah, we’re making Torvar look really good right now.” Both hardened warriors then laughed, easing the tension, causing a black and white head to peek tentatively from the northeastern room.


    “Come here, boy. It is alright now.” The Elf called to his dog. The husky settled between the two warriors, though its head nuzzled against his Master’s waist and the Elf’s hand left his knee to rub the dog’s ears tenderly. The dog let out a small snort and an exhale, his eyes still uncertain. He had frightened his poor Koor. Damn. “I am sorry, Koor, I did not mean—“


    “You mean, we didn’t mean. I’m sure I frightened him too. I’m sorry, Little Moon Brother.” Farkas interrupted, his hand slowly finding the dog’s chin to give it a good scratch. He smiled when the dog didn’t protest and licked his fingers. “Well, seems like he doesn’t hold a grudge.”


    “Not at all. He is a good boy, hmm? Yes, you are.” Äelberon soothed.


    They were all thus for a few moments, resting from their ordeal. It was the Nord’s turn to break the silence and he opted for humor. “You don’t rub my ears…” The Nord teasingly sulked, watching the dog’s obvious pleasure.


    “Gods above, Farkas!” The Altmer groaned before giving his husky a knowing glance. “This family is going to drive your old Master insane, boy.” A loud snort and a playful nibble of Farkas' fingertips. “He is in agreement.” The Elf continued.


    Farkas managed a relieved smile. The easy-going Äelberon was back. “So, what now? Now that we’re not gonna kill each other?”


    “Well, there is always redemption for past transgressions.” Offered Äelberon, his expression thoughtful as he continued to rub his husky’s ears. Redemption is not always a possibility. “Walk always in the light of Mercy and Compassion…” He murmured under his breath, clinging to the words. But he let a lycanthrope live. To do so is to invoke the wrath of Auri-El. Äelberon instinctively reached for the top of his head only to feel the soft fur of his bearskin helmet instead and he suppressed his profound grief. Not now. He still had a job to do still. A task, a trial. 


    “Well, I’m listening, Priest. What do we do?” Farkas pressed.


    And the People shall shun… They already did, Äelberon thought bitterly. Well, only some. The Thalmor. But Ulundil, Arivanya. Would they shun if he? If they knew? He would think on the consequences later. Äelberon gently nudged the dog up, stood up, and offered Farkas his hand, which the Nord clasped firmly to be hoisted up.  “We could get that fragment.” He answered.


    “Aye, that we could.” Farkas replied, ignoring the pain of the Elf's gauntlet against his bare hand. It burned, but he didn't care. “And prove our honor so that we may still be counted amongst the Companions of Ysgramor...”


    Äelberon then feigned a frown and regarded Farkas, seeing the opportunity for some much-needed humor. “But you are not going anywhere…” He purred. Äelberon was rewarded when the Nord suddenly puffed up, clearly forgetting something. Something rather important.  


    “What do you mean I’m not going anywhere? I have a right to look for the fragment as much as you do!” Bellowed the Nord.


    Äelberon let out a laugh. Bless Farkas for the laugh, even if he was a servant of Hircine! He let a lycanthrope live… “Well, if you want to explore a Nordic tomb in naught but the suit you were born in, then be my guest.”


    “Huh?” Grunted the Nord.


    The Old Mer finally managed a smile with his eyes, his mouth only making the action before. Dwell on it later. “You are naked, Farkas. You might want to put some armor on.” He pointed out.


    “Oh,” realized Farkas, his face turning red. “Well, now you know why it’s fastened that way.”


    “Indeed…” the Old Mer sighed, the smile in his eyes disappearing again. They salvaged some roughspun clothing from the largest of the fallen Silver Hand and then searched the chamber for Farkas’ scattered armor pieces.  Äelberon noted as he helped the young Nord refasten the armor that some of the fastenings were showing wear. “Do not bother Eorlund with this, I will fix these on the morrow.” He offered, securing a pauldron to Farkas’ broad shoulder.


    “You don’t have to.”


    “I want to, Farkas. It is the least I can do.” After a few moments and with a hard slap to the Nord's back, Farkas was dressed. “There, now you can face the draugr without the extra draft.”


    They chuckled again, but it was still an uncertain action. They had come so close to killing each other and there were still unanswered questions, from both sides. Äelberon then grabbed his crossbow and began to walk over to the Silver Hand that lay upon the floor. His katana and Farkas’ great sword were in the pile.


    ‘Silver Hand…” Äelberon grumbled, squatting on his heels to turn over a body.


    “Wait,” Interrupted Farkas, his eyes widening. “You know about the Silver Hand?”


    The Elf looked up at the Companion and studied the young Nord’s pensive face. He had some explaining to do. “Farkas,” Äelberon’s tone was serious, “Yes, I have worked with them in the past.” He set his jaw, “In Cyrodiil, the Silver Hand hired me on occasion as a supplement to their forces for the larger dens.”


    He saw Farkas scowl, and Äelberon sighed.  “The Silver Hand… Bah! Cutthroat bandits in the guise of demon hunting. An insult really to priests like me and the Vigilants, for we do our work under a holy banner and we have strict tenets of conduct. The Silver Hand have none. I had a falling out with one of their leaders some years ago, a Krev the Skinner. Skinner is an apt description. It was disgusting, beyond cruel, for the beasts were still alive...” His voice drifted off a bit at the memory, for it was not the first time he had witnessed mass skinnings in his long life, and he turned to Farkas. “My Shield-Brother, I may be a demon hunter, but I am a priest first, and my order values mercy. Mercy...” He frowned at the Silver Hand bodies, “When I kill, it is quick, for I offer the demon peace. But the Silver Hand are very different.” Äelberon bent his head, his voice darkening as Farkas listened. “I have been tortured before, many times by the Thalmor; my body abused in unspeakable ways that have left me permanently scarred, so perhaps that is why I react so strongly when I see others subjected to the same; even my enemies. I had wondered why some were being taken alive, for my way is a silver bolt to the brain. They feel nothing, I assure you, please believe me.”


    “I believe you, Brother.” Farkas reassured.


    “When I saw what Krev was doing to the werewolves in my last job, I had hard words with her. When she dismissed my concerns, and I saw the look of utter pleasure on her face while she continued to torture the beasts, I left. I did not even collect my fee, for to take the money was to condone the act, and as a priest, I could not. I have not spoken with the Silver Hand since.” He paused and furrowed his silver eyebrows. Why are they here? What would they want with Wuuthrad?  He suddenly turned to Farkas. “Are all of the Companions werewolves?” He asked, rummaging through their remains. He took their potions of vitality.*  And the coin, why not? He had no problems looting from these cutthroats. Better served for the poor. 


    “No, just the Circle.”


    “Let me guess, you, Vilkas, Aela, Skjor, and the Old Man.”




    Äelberon continued to search through the bodies, “Do the others know?”


    “It is a secret to everyone. Well, not to everyone anymore.”


    “Do not fret, brother, I will say nothing, because while it is not entirely honest of me, it would cause panic, and panic at this time would benefit no one, and I cannot risk the innocent. One of my greater tenets...” He set his jaw and nodded. “I know now that I dwell among the Companions for a reason, though I do not know precisely what my purpose is yet.”


    “Huh?” Farkas knelt next to his Shield-Brother.


    “I will pray upon it and hopefully Auri-El will reveal it to me.” Äelberon put his hand on his brother’s shoulder and gave it a good, solid grab. Hard to do with those infernal pauldrons, but the gesture was understood. “Oh Farkas, I am again sorry. I know now why my Shield-Siblings changed when I started wearing Tyranus’ armor. Gods! The silver-plating! Was I hurting you by wearing this armor?"


    "No brother, you..." Ah, shit, Elf could tell he wasn't being truthful again.




    "It hurts the bare skin a little, but no, no, don't stop wearin' that armor. It's who you are."


    The Altmer sighed. "And now I understand the trial, and why my loyalty was questioned.”


    “The Old Man, Vilkas, and I never questioned it. But the Old Man wanted to be fair by Aela and Skjor, so the trial was devised.”


    “Farkas,” Äelberon began, pausing his rummaging to look at the Nord, “You do not need to explain. I understand duty.”


    “You’re not angry then?”


    Äelberon looked at the young Nord before him, his eyes full of compassion. He was angry before, but not now. “How can I be angry at the Shield-Siblings who saved my life? Just… please, do not make me one.” His eyes glinted with a bit of his playful mischief and Farkas waited for it. “Besides, someone here needs the blessing of Stendarr, if we are going to get through this tomb.”


    The joke was to comfort the Nord, but no, Äelberon could not even consider the thought of taking the Beast Blood. To do so would insult Auri-El in a most heinous way. Gods, he was His priest! It would be utterly blasphemous! He could not, not ever and his eyes found Farkas’.  The boy’s expression reassured him, his silver grey eyes merry. Was that a mark, he wondered, the eyes? Damn, they did all have the same eyes. Äelberon was so distracted by his preparations for Bleak Falls Barrow that he did not notice the eyes. He should have seen it, but werewolves were harder to spot than vampires and these were unlike any werewolves he had ever encountered. He knew mostly the feral ones, the ones that rampaged villages, their violence brutal, unhinged.


    These were his Shield-Siblings…


    “No, no, no…” Smiled Farkas, waving his hands and shaking his head, “Prove your honor today to be a Companion, not a werewolf. I can’t even imagine you as one anyway. You are fearsome enough already. I’m not gonna lie, when I saw your face as I changed, you put the fear of the Gods in me.”


    Äelberon released a laugh, he had been told about that expression before, his hand then came upon a large weapon. “Damn it,” Äelberon suddenly cursed, picking up a silver great sword. “Shame you cannot wield this. With your skill and this weapon, no draugr would stand in your way.”


    “Yeah, silver is a bad idea.”


    “Wait…” Äelberon set the weapon down and quickly stood up. He began searching around the room while Farkas watched, the young Nord’s expression curious. “Farkas, see if you can find some linen over there, by the Arcane enchanter.” Äelberon went back to the room with the lever and found leather strips. Farkas’ search yielded three pieces of linen. Äelberon had an idea as he sat upon the floor taking the linen from Farkas. “Sit, brother, this will take me a little time.”


    Äelberon began to wrap the hilt and guards of the silver great sword in the thick linen, while Farkas sat with Koor and waited, rubbing the dog's ears. When it was wrapped, he then began to bind the linen with the leather strips, securing it tightly. When he finished, he turned to Farkas and handed him the weapon. “Try now, can you wield it?”


    Farkas grabbed the hilt carefully at first and then a smile appeared on his face when he tightened his grip on the weapon. It didn’t hurt. He was wielding silver! His smile broadened to a grin. “Let’s go kill some draugr.”


    “Just remember, my Shield-Brother, which direction the pointy end goes, I had not the linen to wrap that part up.” Äelberon slyly shot back, and both warriors laughed as they stood up, Äelberon claiming his katana again.


    It was time to venture into the Southeast passage.



    They arrived too late and stopped in their tracks when they saw him; their faces dark with disappointment. When they entered the crypt and saw him from the walkway, being dragged by Silver Hand, Äelberon and Farkas quickly made their way across and down the winding corridors and catacombs of the Cairn; fighting both Silver Hand and Draugr in an attempt to reach him. What had started as a trial for Äelberon quickly turned a rescue mission, and Wuuthrad was temporarily forgotten.


    While the young Nord sometimes rushed too readily with his great sword, forcing the more tactic-minded Elf to engage in a manner that was not always to their advantage, when the boy did listen, Farkas and Äelberon worked well together.  Farkas provided the heavy support with his great sword, while Äelberon opted to cover Farkas with brutal ranged attacks; using both his crossbow and his spells; his husky distracting the enemies with his quick movements and vicious bite.


    The sun fire spell never ceased to amaze the Nord, and it was his favorite in the Elf’s large arsenal.  It was as if a piece of the sun was being held in the Elf’s hands and it fried draugr like a venison chop fries in bear fat, even making a similar sizzling sound.  It had made him laugh on several occasions, causing the Elf to turn and give the Nord one of his quizzical looks; half-smiling because Farkas was pretty damn sure Äelberon knew exactly why he was laughing. 


    But Äelberon was not smiling now as he knelt over the body of the scholar. Farkas sheathed the silver great sword. Damn the Silver Hand. The scholar’s throat was freshly slit.  “I am sorry, Colovius…” Äelberon whispered, closing the scholar’s blank, dark brown eyes. “I promise your work will not have been in vain.” He turned to Farkas, “Did they go beyond the Door?”


    “You knew him?!” Asked Farkas.


    “Yes, I knew his family for a very long time. Brilliant historians and scholars.” Äelberon sighed, shaking his head, “This is sad day for Tamriel indeed… “ Äelberon gently picked up Colovius’ limp body. “The door, Farkas, check the door.”


    “It’s still locked.” Replied Farkas as he tried to push open the door, while Äelberon lay Colovius in one of the empty sarcophagi.


    “Rest easy, my friend, the right people will find the fragment, my Shield-Brother and I saw to that.” He turned to Farkas, “He will be alright here for now, but please, he cannot stay here. He has family back in Cyrodiil.”


    “Of course, we’ll make arrangements with Andurs over at the Hall of the Dead.” Farkas nodded. “I’m sorry we didn’t get there in time. It was my fault.” the Nord added, bending his head.


    “No, Farkas, they would have killed him no matter our speed. It is the way of the Silver Hand. I told you they were cutthroat. But the draugr took care of them it seems before they could venture any further.” Äelberon began to search the room in earnest. “Help me search, there must be a key somewhere…”


    “A chest!” Farkas ran to the chest and to Äelberon’s surprise it opened easily with a puff of dust. “Hey this isn’t locked.” He took out a key and stared at Äelberon. “You’d think this’d be locked up a bit better, right?”


    Äelberon shrugged his shoulders and then his sharp eyes found the lock upon the floor with a scattering of lockpicks. “Look on the floor, Farkas,” Äelberon pointed to the picks strewn about, “It was locked, the Silver Hand must have picked it, just prior to the draugr attacking them. We were very lucky. Another moment or two, if one of them had lived...”


    The two warriors made their way to the locked door and Koor suddenly snorted hard and turned away from it. What was the boy smelling, thought Äelberon. It was all too apparent when he neared the door himself, and his own nose wrinkled at the stench that permeated through the ancient wood.


    “What?” Asked the Nord, though as he approached, he felt his stomach turn.


    “Do you not smell that?” The Elf turned to him.


    Farkas scowled. He smelled it. “Only one thing stinks like that, and it ain’t draugr. Whew! You ready?”


    “Aye, hold your breath...” Both warriors held their breath as Äelberon turned the key on its lock and the door gave with a rusty creak.


    The funk of skeever feces made both their eyes water and Äelberon blinked quite a few times, swallowing hard while Farkas gasped. The room was dark but their rapid scuttling could be heard and they could see the reflection of their beady eyes dimly. Their high-pitched snarls and yelps indicated alarm and the skeevers immediately ran to the light source, teeth bare.


    Crossbow and great sword were ready.



    “Son of a Bitch!” Gasped Farkas some time later. “Dead skeevers smell damn worse than the live ones do!”


    Farkas put his head between his knees, catching his breath. Äelberon nodded, pushing a skeever out of the way that was blocking the door to the next room with his foot; his left hand holding a linen to his nose and mouth to mask the smell; his eyes still watering. The linen did little, but he was more used to foul odors than the boy was. Thousands of Altmer and Daedric corpses bloating and festering in a sea of their own blood under a churning sky made skeever corpses pale by comparison. He hoped the youngling would never know such stench. Never… “You alright?” Äelberon asked; his voice muffled through the linen.


    The Nord straightened up quickly, though he still looked green.“Yeah.”


    “Then let us press on. The smell can only get better the farther we are from this room.” Äelberon tucked the linen under his belt and readied his crossbow, his eyes freshly watering. He was holding his breath. They crossed another ancient room with an alchemy table and headed to the door to the east. They heard more rustling and Farkas raised his great sword in anticipation.   


    “This just keeps getting better and better doesn’t it?” He grinned at Äelberon.


    Äelberon narrowed his eyes and tilted his head to one side, listening carefully through the door. “There are more than just skeevers in there. Be on guard, for I hear the rustle of eight-legged beasts as well.”


    Farkas scowled, marveling at the Elf's keen hearing. Usually only the Moon Born of Jorrvaskr picked up such sounds, though he suspected Athis had sharp ears too. Spiders…


    He pushed open the door with his strong shoulders and both warriors rushed inside. Äelberon immediately swung his crossbow and broke the first skeever’s neck, while the second’s head was severed by Farkas’ sword. They slowed their approach when they heard the rustle and clicks of the spiders, coming to a halt just before the tunnel expanded into a large cavern, punctuated by tree roots and a shallow underground stream. They could see the silken, sticky webs and egg sacs all over the dimly-lit wall. It was a nesting pair. Äelberon took careful aim with his crossbow, and fired. His shot punctured the abdomen of one of them, spewing the spider’s toxic green blood all over the cavern floor. Its mate then shot its poison spittle directly at them.


    “Down! Now!” Cried Äelberon.


    Both warriors avoided the foul spittle as it splashed against the tunnel wall. Farkas then rushed forward, readying his great sword to finish the wounded spider, while Äelberon and Koor moved deftly to distract its mate, dodging its poisoned shots. Äelberon suddenly whirled when he heard Farkas cry out.


    The Nord had lost his footing on the slippery green blood and the wounded spider was upon of him, only his great sword blocking the fangs from finding Farkas’ flesh. Äelberon charged the spider’s mate, firing his crossbow just as it fired its poisoned spittle. It fell dead but Äelberon took a direct hit, the noxious liquid steaming and hissing on his body, the vapors from it filling his lungs. He felt his stamina ebb, and the cavern walls blurred. There were two, no three spiders and three Farkas’!


    Xarxes’ arse! 


    Äelberon breathed hard, his lungs filling with phlegm to counteract the irritation of the spider’s venom, and he tried to focus his eyes for the shot, but he could no longer see straight. He cursed again when his bolt ricocheted off the cave wall, followed by the familiar hiss of draugr. Gods, they were nearby, his heart pumping while the poison raced through his body.


    Farkas saw the Elf through the spider’s legs as he struggled against its deadly fangs. No, Äelberon was poisoned!  His body coated in its slime. The spider pressed harder against Farkas’ great sword and he was losing ground. Then he saw Äelberon let out a slow exhale and close his swollen, unseeing eyes, loading a crossbow bolt blind. Blind, he was loading it blind, his fingers guiding the bolt quickly. The Old Altmer raised the bow and took aim.


    It would only take one shot, if his ears did not betray him. “Farkas!” Äelberon cried. “Yell! I cannot see you, but I can still hear you. Shout to me! Now!”


    “Here! Here!” Cried the Nord and Farkas watched the Elf immediately hone in on the sound. By Ysmir, he’s gonna shoot blind.  “Higher, Äelberon, just a bit higher!” The spider inched closer to Farkas’ face and he could see the fangs slowly extend to deliver the fatal bite, when he felt the force of the bolt hit the spider’s head and the beast collapsed on top of him. He threw back his head and groaned, closing his eyes. That had been very close.


    “I still cannot see,” Äelberon whispered hoarsely as he blindly loaded another bolt. “There are two draugr, I can hear them. Where are they?”


    Farkas shoved the spider carcass off his body with a rough grunt and sprinted to his Shield-Brother, whose eyes were now open, open and… Farkas frowned. Äelberon's eyes were glazed, swollen, and bloodshot. He steadied the Elf and Äelberon turned to the direction of the presence.


    He could smell the Nord. That spider was all over him; are they immune to poison too, he thought? “Where are they?” Äelberon asked, his sightless eyes still trying to scan. Koor circled both of them nervously.


    “Across the two little bridges, they’re looking, but they haven’t found us yet.  Äelberon, your eyes!”


    “It is not permanent, but I need to heal myself if we want to tackle those draugr sooner rather than later. There was not time with the spider.”


    “I’ve got your back, brother, just do what you need to do, I’ll keep an eye on the draugr. They’re wearing the pointy horned helmets, by the way. I bet they shout.”


    Damn it, deathlords thought Äelberon as he lifted his hand to cast his healing magicks. He needed his magic for them, not himself.  Farkas dropped his jaw slightly when he saw the Elf’s eyes gradually return to their normal appearance, though they remained somewhat bloodshot. The Elf turned to the Nord, as his hand fell, the spell complete. “It is good to see again. Bah! Their spittle is the worst!” He readied his crossbow, taking another bolt from his bandolier. “I am ready, you?”


    “Let's finish these bastards.” Answered Farkas, drawing his great sword, noting with a grin that Äelberon held the second bolt between his teeth.


    Äelberon brooded, the leather was coming loose.  Farkas would be exposed to the silver soon. He would have to fix it after the draugr.


    A blizzard's flurry suddenly barreled towards the Nord, coating him in ice crystals, making his beard nearly white. The draugr were on the offensive.  Farkas growled and charged towards the spell-caster, while Äelberon aimed for the Deathlord, his teeth clenching the bolt. Äelberon was impressed, the Nord could take direct hits from from frost-based spells, it only slowing him down a little. He sighed, must be nice having natural frost resistance.


    He had speed and balance, though as Äelberon quickly dodged the Deathlord’s shout and fired the crossbow, causing the Deathlord to stagger. He reloaded the crossbow, running quickly past Farkas and the spell-caster onto the second natural stone bridge. The caster took notice, breaking from Farkas to use his frost magicks on the Elf. Farkas prepared a swing, watching the caster’s spell barely miss Äelberon, the snow flurry hitting the cave wall instead. Farkas let out a loud cry, decapitating the caster, the silver coming into contact with his skin from the force, and Äelberon knelt on one knee on the second bridge and let his bolt fly, killing the Deathlord. 


    He did not relish his victory, however, walking briskly back to Farkas. “Let me see your hand, now.” He commanded. The Nord removed his gauntlet, revealing the blistering burn and Äelberon lifted his hand to cast his healing magicks.


    “Hey, that feels pretty good, like having a bottle of mead.”


    Äelberon laughed at the Nord's ridiculous observation, knocking his head with his fist, until he realized that he was touching the boy with silver plated armor and he pulled his hand away. The Nord did not notice. Hmph, thought the Altmer with a smirk, skin must be thicker up top. “Mead? Is that all you think about?”


    "Nah, think about pretty maids too, but your magicks definitely don't feel like that. Well, they feel a bit like that. Like how it feels afterwards." The Nord gave a saucy grin and a dirty wink when he saw the old Mer rolls his eyes, while he clenched his healed hand.


    Äelberon quickly rebound the leather strips. “Here, try now.”


    Farkas grabbed the great sword and gave it a few mighty swings, making the Elf smile warmly, while he took a moment to attempt to wash the spider's slime off his armor under one of the waterfalls. He gave up when the gunk did not budge and resumed watching Farkas, his pride swelling. Boy definitely knew how to swing a blade. If he but tempered that impulsive nature of his, not rushing into a fray like an Orc Berserker, he would make a truly outstanding warrior. His twin too. “Better, much better.” Farkas nodded.


    “It keeps slipping, though. Hmm, aye…” Äelberon frowned slightly, inspecting the Nord’s grip. “I will have to come up with a more permanent solution down the road, if we decide to explore another Nordic tomb. I am sure I can find a way to reinforce the leather of the hilt and perhaps cover the cross-guards with leather—“






    "Less talking, more fighting.”


    "Right." The Elf nodded, though he still mused to himself about the great sword while the trio exited the cave into a long, earthen corridor lined with reliefs. Äelberon suddenly stopped in his tracks, and Farkas ran a bit before he realized the Elf was not at his side. He arrived at a large, carved iron door. This was it, they were here! Farkas turned.  Damn it! Where was he?


    “Äelberon!” Farkas cried, doubling back.


    “Here…” His voice was distant, Farkas hoped he was alright. Farkas should have known. Äelberon was fine.


    Only gawking at a bloody wall, like it was the most beautiful girl in all of Skyrim. The Elf had removed a gauntlet and was tracing the lines of the relief with his long, pale fingers, feeling the details of the sculpture, the husky nuzzling the back of his Master’s leg. Impatient as Oblivion, just like he was. Farkas narrowed his eyes to get a better look. It was a woman, and she wasn’t particularly pretty at all.  Instead, kinda funny-looking, with the ears of a wolf. She was at the center, and it looked like people were worshiping her. Farkas’ eyes widened. Nestled in her bosoms was the biggest and brightest red ruby he had ever seen!


    “So magnificently preserved…” The Elf whispered, and then turned slightly to the Nord, keeping his eyes on the relief. “It is in the likeness of the wolf queen, Potema. One of the last Septims. She did battle for the Ruby Throne with her brothers, and killed ruthlessly to put her own son upon it. One of the most dangerous necromancers in all of Tamriel. The ruby you see is powerful talisman she possessed. It had the trapped soul of a werewolf her parents killed when she was a child. It could also symbolize the Amulet of Kings… she coveted its power so…” His voice trailed off and both stared at the relief for a few moments.


    “That’s the next one I wanna hear.” Commented Farkas as he nodded.


    Äelberon turned to the Nord, his expression thoughtful. “Next what?”


    “Story you tell, I wanna hear about her.” Farkas pointed to Potema.


    “Ah, it is a long, dark tale, my brother. Many of the Septims fell into madness as their line waned. A curse of those men born with dragonblood perhaps?  The blessings of Auri-El… I am sorry, you know him as Akatosh, are often not easily understood, and perhaps demand too much… I do not know…”


    “Those are the best kind of stories, brother.” The Nord grinned, patting Äelberon’s shoulder, “Especially when someone a little crazy does the storytelling…”


    Äelberon smiled at Farkas’ joke. “You are not the first to call me crazy. Come, brother, the final chamber awaits. The trial nearly done.”



    They entered the grand crypt through the carved double doors, releasing dust and small stones as they opened them. Feeling the stale air. No one had been inside this room in centuries. The massive chamber was lined with many sarcophagi, and great eternal braziers burned with a holy light.  To their left, there was a flight of weathered wooden steps leading to a second level, also lined with sarcophagi.  Äelberon quickly turned around and headed back to the door.  Farkas followed him, what was he doing? Äelberon pressed the door.


    “As I suspected, it is now locked, which means an alternative exit will reveal itself once we defeat…”


    “Defeat what?”


    “Well… whatever is in this tomb.” He replied with a smirk.


    “Very funny.”


    “In all seriousness, my guess is that it is somewhere up those wooden steps there. Probably one of the sarcophagi is false.”


    Farkas nodded and began to count, nodding his head as he did so. “Eighteen, so if one is fake like you say, then seventeen draugr?”


    “That would be my guess.” Farkas let out a whistle. Äelberon did not blame him. It was a great deal and if they were seventeen deathlords, it would be more difficult still.


    “Hey!” Farkas exclaimed as he ran, pointing to an altar of white stone in front of a large, semi-curved wall, carved with strange runes. “I see it, the fragment!” 


    Äelberon overtook him though and quickly turned, blocking the Nord’s path to the fragment, while Koor circled the two warriors. “Easy, brother, not yet.” He gestured to the fragment and whispered. “You see that pedestal that the fragment is on?”


    What was that noise? Like hissing…




    “That is a trap mechanism.” Äelberon explained, but his silver brows furrowed.


    Crackling too…


    “So the draugr are gonna come out when we grab it?”


    “Aye—By the Gods, Farkas, what is that sound? You hear that? The hissing sound? Like crackling?” Farkas scanned the room while Äelberon turned around and faced the large stone wall that was behind the altar. The Nord was puzzled, he wasn’t hearing shit. “It is coming from this wall here. What are these carvings?”


    Äelberon began to walk towards the wall, slowly; his crossbow drawn. The sound grew in intensity and he could now see a faint blue light coming from part of the wall. A wall covered in such strange runes. Runes he had never seen before. Well... he was puzzled. Had he? He did not remember, but... The stone wall was glowing, a bluish light…


    “I don’t hear anything, Äelberon.”


    The Elf shot the Nord a strange look. “Are you absolutely sure? You sure the spider did not bite you? The noise is quite loud now, and the wall, incredible, Farkas, the very wall is glowing, at least part of it is.”


    His lips parted slightly. He had never seen anything like this. Not in all of his many days. “Are you sure you are not seeing any of this?”


    “I don’t hear or see anything, you need some tea, Äelberon, badly.” Farkas replied.


    Äelberon looked angry for a moment and he raised his voice. “I do not speak in jest, Farkas, I am seeing these things!”


    “Hey, easy, brother,” Farkas raised his hands, sensing his Shield-Brother’s agitation, “I believe you, I just don’t see them. I wish I could. What happens if you walk towards the wall?”


    “I will learn this mystery.” He replied, his voice low, his bow still drawn. “Remain where you are, brother.” Äelberon continued to walk to the wall, his eyes narrowing. What was this magic? “It becomes louder and the light brighter.” He yelled back towards Farkas.


    “No need to yell, Äelberon! I can hear you fine.”


    Farkas was moving his mouth but Äelberon could not hear him. The sound! “What?! I cannot hear you, Farkas, this sound is now quite deafening!” The blue light engulfed him and his hairs on the back of his neck stood on end when he felt the gust of wind pass through him. There was ancient power here and he felt something stir deep in his soul. He had to touch the runes upon the wall. He had to, and he reached, surrounded by the noise, the wind, the light! Gods, the light! "Auri-El!" He gasped. "What? What magic is this?"


    Farkas’ eyes then widened, for he saw a strong wind suddenly blow towards the Elf as he touched the wall with his hand. Then Äelberon fell to his knees and whispered. “Yol…” Farkas rushed to Äelberon and knelt beside him, the wind now subsided. He scanned his Shield-Brother. He didn’t seem injured, though his hand still rested upon the wall.


    “Yol?” Asked Farkas.


    “The wall spoke.” The Elf was dumbfounded.


    “Huh?” Äelberon definitely needed tea, thought Farkas with a frown, though mead would be better. Girls too.


    “It spoke! It said a word, at least I think it was a word, to me. ‘Yol’.” Äelberon scowled and ran his hand over the etchings of... text. It was text, but unlike any he had ever seen... it meant something. “I do not know what that word means… nor do I know these runes.” He ran the list of scripts he recognized in his head. This was none of these,but something about it was so vaguely familiar. No, this was nothing he had even seen before. Not even Daedric. He faced Farkas. “Do you?”


    “Damned if I know.” Farkas brooded for a moment, first sounds and lights; now his brother was hearing words spoken on the wind. He was worried, he saw the wind come out of nowhere, so something happened. Vilkas would know. Or? “The court wizard?" Offered Farkas.




    “Yeah, why don’t you ask him? Maybe he knows the word?” 


    Äelberon nodded and patted Farkas hard on the back. “That, my brother, is a brilliant idea.” Äelberon stood up quickly and removed his pack, rummaging through it until he produced charcoal and paper. He then knelt again at the wall. “Farkas, help me hold this paper straight over the writing.” 


    "Ysmir's Beard, you're gonna do this now, aren't you?"


    "Aye now. When would you prefer? While we are fighting draugr?" The Nord grumbled incoherently while they spread the paper over some of the runes. Over where the blue light was. “That is it. Good. Now press the paper, quite firmly.”


    Äelberon, then took the charcoal and began to rub it vigorously over the paper, and the etching was copied upon it. It took several sheets to get the area that glowed. He wanted to do the entire wall, but Farkas looked impatient to leave and blast! He ran out of paper! He must pack more next time. When he finished, Äelberon rolled the sheets up carefully and placed them in his pack. He turned to Farkas as he slung his pack over his shoulders.


    “Thank you, now I can take these rubbings to Farengar and perhaps he can then decipher it?”


    “If Farengar can’t do it, I really don’t know who else could? Maybe Winterhold?” Farkas shifted position, his impatience growing, matched by the dog, who circled the chamber non-stop. “Can we pick up Wuuthrad now?”


    “Aye,” Äelberon smiled, “you have indulged the scholar in me long enough. Shall you pick it up or shall I?”


    “It is your trial, brother.”


    “Ready your sword then.” Farkas raised his great sword and stood in front of the altar with a bristling Koor as Äelberon reached for the fragment. “Storm’s tears…” The Elf whispered softly.


    “Huh? Ah, damn it, what now?” Barked Farkas. Elf can never just pick up something, could he? No, has to talk constantly. Farkas sighed, relaxing his hold on his weapon. Just like Vilkas. He braced himself for another history lesson.


    “It the name of the weapon in the common tongue…” This blade had killed so many of his kind. The irony was not lost on him that he was retrieving it. It was a day of irony. He had let a lycanthrope live. He had defied his vows for the love of his brother. If it rained outside when they emerged from the tomb, he would not be surprised, for he knew the Storm Goddess watched him. Äelberon continued, “It dates back to the Night of Tears… When the Snow Elves sacked the ancient settlement of Saarthal in a night of brutal bloodshed.”


    He shook his head, his lined face becoming grim, and his voice bitter. “Curse the petty pride of Elves, for it has caused us naught but grief! It was the first city of men and Ysgramor watched it burn from his ship, and he wept...”


    Farkas turned around and saw Äelberon’s face darken with an unspeakable grief. He looked terribly old just then, his eyes blazing with memories. Things he didn’t dare tell his Shield-Siblings. Some things were just too dark for the Mead Hall. “I too have seen cities burn, Farkas, and I too have wept at the crimes of Elves. And curse the race of men! Aye, I curse them both. I curse men for not knowing when to stop! Their vengeful wrath seeing the annihilation of an entire people!”


    He let out a heavy sigh and Farkas saw the fire in his eyes diminish and his former manner return. “It was said that on that night, Ysgramor cried tears of purest ebony and his son Yngol, the greatest smith of Atmora, took those tears and right there upon the deck of the boat, forged Wuuthrad. Using the lightning to heat the tears and the rolling waves to cool them… In the early morning of the following day, Yngol gave his father the weapon. Storm’s Tears. Elf-Grinder among my People, the weapon a mockery of their very image.”


    Farkas was in awe and felt quite ashamed, this Elf knew so much more lore than any of the Companions did.


    Äelberon swallowed hard. It was time to pick up the blade. He gasped when he felt the searing pain in his hand. Burning through his silver-plated armor. The bane of the Elves… being held by an Elf. “It burns so…” He whispered.


    Farkas grew concerned, it was obvious the Elf was in terrible pain. “Put it away, damn it, it’s hurting you!”


    Both warriors then turned quickly as the first of the draugr sarcophagi popped open and Farkas rushed at them with this great sword to buy Äelberon some time. Koor also went on the offensive, bravely knocking down a draugr to protect his Master. Äelberon stashed the fragment in his pack and readied his crossbow, wincing as the weapon came in contact with his damaged hand. His sword hand.


    There was no time to heal. Farkas needed him. He jumped upon the white altar and took several silver bolts; loading the crossbow and holding another bolt between his teeth. Farkas was about to swing his sword when he heard the familiar whiz and the draugr collapsed. He smiled at the Elf, and Äelberon nodded back.


    They would always have each other’s backs.


    The draugr seemed endless, for every one that was struck down, another took its place. The shouting ones were especially hard to kill, taking the combined efforts of all three to bring them down.  Farkas suddenly turned when he heard Äelberon curse loudly and throw down the crossbow. He was out of bolts. Damn, and he seemed unable to cast spells. It was his hand. He was definitely injured. He should have grabbed the fragment, he thought, but Äelberon would have given him a sound head smack. It was his trial and he knew the Companions expected Äelberon to bear the fragment. Äelberon wielded his katana and Farkas saw the Elf’s face contort in pain when he closed his hand over the weapon’s hilt. Äelberon squared his jaw as he lept down from the altar and joined Farkas and Koor.


    “For the glory of Ysgramor!” came the thundering battle cry and Farkas smiled.


    Farkas watched his Shield-Brother while they fought the remaining draugr. If he was in any pain, Äelberon did not betray it in battle, for his sword arm was as mighty as his shield arm.  For an Elder in heavy armor, he moved swiftly, aiming either for their heads or first slicing off their limbs with quick sweeps of the sharp weapon. Or he would strike with his shield; the force of the impact snapping their necks; the fire of the demon hunter burning bright in his eyes. Farkas decapitated a draugr with a growl and smiled in satisfaction, letting Äelberon dispatch the final draugr; a Deathlord wielding a battle axe. The glory the victory would belong to Äelberon. 


    Farkas could feel his pride for his Shield-Brother building as Äelberon let out another fierce cry and rushed the Deathlord; making it stagger before it could even shout with a quick blow from his shield.  The draugr and Äelberon parried for a while, blocking and dodging blows. When the draugr made ready to shout, Äelberon used his shield arm to silence it.   Engraged, the Deathlord swung his battle axe hard, and Äelberon dodged by leaning back quickly, swinging his sword in his hand to get a better grip before countering with a brutal strike, bringing the draugr to his knees.  He then circled the draugr and with a mighty swing and a loud cry, he severed its head from its body.


    Dustman’s Cairn now belonged to the Companions. 


    They were both breathing hard, sweating, covered in dust and bits of draugr, flushed from the heat of battle as their eyes met and Äelberon sheathed his weapon, his sword hand now trembling; now keenly aware of the pain. Farkas was grimacing too, for the leather had again slipped, exposing the silver of the great sword to his hands. They were both hurting, but it was damn worth it.  And then there was the strangeness with the wall. But, aye, this Elf was worth his weight in gold, for there was no other fighter in the Companions quite like him. Warrior, Priest, Scholar. Knew their lore better than Vilkas did, and Vilkas knew a lot of it. Äelberon may be an Altmer, prideful and arrogant at times, but he had the heart of a Nord; fierce, noble, and true. The heart of a great, great knight. But it wasn’t those things that made Äelberon a worthy Companion. It was something deeper and Farkas scowled. If his Shield-Siblings dared question his judgement, Farkas would strike the first blow for his new brother.


    They would have to answer to him.


    “Farkas?” Äelberon asked, noticing the sudden darkness to the young Nord’s face. “Are you alright?”


    The boy immediately snapped away from his brooding and nodded. “Yeah. Well met, my brother, well met.” Farkas said, extending his wounded hand; his voice thickening with emotion.


    Äelberon nodded and clasped it hard with his own wounded hand and both warriors groaned at the pain, and then laughed as the third Companion circled around them, proclaiming loudly to the cairn that his Master had indeed triumphed.


    Äelberon allowed himself a smile, but in his mind he steeled himself. There would be consequences for his actions here today.


    Auri-El, forgive me… 


    potion of vitality - Requiem's equivalent of Potion of cure disease

    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXX    Chapter XXXII


16 Comments   |   ilanisilver likes this.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 29, 2015
    Author's Note - Change ice spike to ice storm and make adjustments to the narrative to reflect the change. 
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 3, 2015
    Glad to hear. Aelberon is sensitive, but still definitely a guy and prone to guy things. It's tough because he's also Altmer, which is whole other can of worms. And he's a mage, which, lol, is even worse. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  October 3, 2015
    That they do It is hard writing from the opposite gender's perspective; I worry about making Amari sound like a girl, but not be girly all the time too.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 3, 2015
    Yeah, irony and Aelberon go well together. I'm glad about the manliness, one always worries. Oh, Farkas and Aelberon are fun together, but all the Companions will get a little Albee time down the road. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  October 3, 2015
    So much irony in this one. I think you got the right level of manliness for their heart to heart. I like seeing the contrast of personalities between these two, 'not another history lesson!'
    @Unhelpful: I couldn't resist! I read he spoilers, it was ...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 10, 2015
    Thanks, it's nice to see you reading it again. I am almost at the end of Part 1 of Book 1. Very excited. I do have to take some time to finish the actual book in Steam though. Probably when Part 1 is complete here. 
  • Rafer Darksun
    Rafer Darksun   ·  September 10, 2015
    I'm so glad you have put more chapters. This was great!
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 27, 2015
    oh wow, you started with that one? That's depressing. LOL. AKA, Albee makes a bunch of Stormcloak bad asses cry like little babies. 
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  August 27, 2015
    Funnily enough, 'A Traveler's Tale' is the first blog post of yours I ever read. 
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 26, 2015
    @Unhelpful - did you read the chapter called the traveler's tale? Explains what Vingalmo did a bit more. Vingalmo is only mentioned indirectly in this chapter in the context that he behaved in a similar fashion when he learned of Vingalmo's vampirism and ...  more