Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXXIII

  • Warning: Contains adult themes (mild sexual situation and foul language)

     

    13th of Morning Star, 4E 202

     

    A month, Äelberon thought as he rode slowly up the dirt path that led north from Riverwood towards the imposing stone barrow that loomed on the mountainside, a month. It had been a month since he was here last, hunting hawks, testing his strength after poison nearly sent him to his death.  A month since he had given Farengar the now famous list.  Dustman’s Cairn had been a first test of his silver weapons and his spell-casting and he passed. He passed. The weapons served him well; the spell-casting, however, left much to be desired. He was not yet at his former strength and he hoped that today would be different. At any rate, he could no longer delay. If that Dragonstone could in any way help Farengar learn more about dragons and why Alduin had returned, he would retrieve it. He swore an oath to the people of Whiterun and he was honor-bound to fulfill it.

     

    Only then could he… could he return to his original purpose for his journey to Skyrim, he thought darkly, his narrowing eyes acquiring a steely glint as a light snow began to fall, the tiny flakes sticking to his brooding brow.

     

    Vingalmo…

     

    The one he once called brother. The one she once called son…

     

    Now, an unholy monster that roamed Tamriel as a blight upon the land. The monster that destroyed his life with the signing of an order and the old Elf’s hand clenched in a tight fist, his anger building. Taking everything from him, leaving him a wretched ghost of a Mer, hunted and alone. Sundered from his People. Sundered from his land. Vingalmo was always in his thoughts. In everything he did, consuming his spirit for over one hundred years with the desire to end that creature’s existence, to send him back to the foul demon who made him.

     

    It was not the first time he had sent a child screaming back to Molag Bal.

     

    Part of him was ashamed that he let this vendetta go so far, that he let the actions of one Mer dictate his path for so long. He had lived only for hunting Vingalmo and he knew it was wrong, and it showed on his face. The lines, the shadows, the weariness. He had remembered Calianwe’s face when she saw him after so many years, the shock in her lovely honey-gold eyes. Eternally young next to him. Golden and pure. They were always likened to silver and gold, he and her. He had changed, however, darkened, ravaged by time and the weight of his years, and it was not all for the better. The tarnish was heavy upon his silver.

     

    But then he remembered the corpses of the dead nobles and valiant guards and agents at the Lecture Hall on the night of the Vampire Symposium. He remembered the screams of his People during the Void Nights. He remembered decapitating his own father and stabbing his own mother in the heart with the very weapon that did just that.

     

    That had sent the children of Coldharbour back to their maker. It was what he did, though after… them, he bit his lip to quell the sting of tears, he never touched that particular blade again. Ever.

     

    Vendetta was not such a shameful thing, he thought with a renewed scowl.

     

    Silver and spells would finally end the creature’s existence, Auri-El’s grace granting Äelberon another opportunity after his failure near Darkwater, not denying him his vengeance. Not denying mercy to the one who now dwelt in Coldharbour and the one who dwelt in Aetherius; eternally apart; their son yet unable to fulfill his promise to avenge them.

     

    “I will slay all the monsters, I promise…” He whispered, his eyes far away.

     

    Äelberon shook his head quickly to clear his mind of the onset of dark and terrible memories, watching a hawk circle to focus on something else. It danced in the wind, so far away, elusive. Just like Vingalmo was. The snow dusted his heavy cloak and he coldly took his crossbow, aiming at the hawk lazily circling above. He fired, letting out a quick puff of breath as he pressed the trigger, tendrils of his hair moving a bit in the bolt’s wake.

     

    The hawk fell down with a thud upon the ground a distance away. Dead. Just as Vingalmo will be, as soon as he finished with Bleak Falls Barrow.

     

    “Koor, search.”

     

    The voice was little more than a throaty command, but the dog understood, rushing ahead to mark the location of the fallen bird, his tail still wagging despite his Master’s tone. Äelberon purred darkly against the weapon, proud of her performance. “Yes, many will know your sharp sting, my little Niniik.”

     

    It was his hope that Vingalmo would know her sting. That Auri-El would grant His servant this justice.

     

    Okriim and Niniik were his tools for vengeance.

     

    Äelberon named his bows just as he had named Koor, purely on the sounds that came to him. If the names actually meant anything, he did not know. It did not matter, the names fit and he liked them. He was surprised how little he had used the Elvish bow, Okriim, especially after taking so much time and effort to create him. The patience alone it took to fletch his golden arrows using the wood of the Gildergreen. Aye, Okriim would have his day, of that Äelberon was certain, but Niniik was a far better choice for tombs. Niniik, the prize from Valtheim Towers, tempered and repaired, her gears and springs freshly oiled. Her bolts had pierced deep through the draugrs’ hard armor at Dustman’s Cairn, letting the silver seep into their decayed flesh. She and the katana were the weapons of choice for Bleak Falls Barrow. And his magicks.

     

    Äelberon dismounted and retrieved some leather strips from Allie’s saddle bag for the hawk. He scanned the distance, the steam coming from his lips while he breathed, he would lead her. He felt like walking.

     

    “Come girl,” His voice growing weary as he held her by the bit gently, leading her towards the waiting husky; his face downcast. Vingalmo was not the only thing making him frown, consuming his thoughts. The morning. It did not start well.

     

    “Bormah, hiif zey!!”

     

    He had bolted violently awake screaming words he did not understand, words from his childhood, soaked in sweat, his eyes wide, his heart pounding, well before dawn, and it was merciful that Vilkas and Farkas had not heard him. That they still snored from their mead-induced sleep. Then he promptly vomited, for the nightmare had been intense; the images utterly disturbing. He shuddered at the memory, desperate to block it, but knowing full well that he could not. The memories of his past, of Vingalmo and his treachery, were over a hundred years old, and far easier to suppress. No, this memory was fresh and it would not leave him alone, no matter his efforts, forcing him to stop everything and lean heavily on Allie’s neck as his stomach turned, feeling the bitter bile rise to his mouth. He felt her soft, sleek fur against his clammy cheek and let out a ragged sigh. It was better to just let the memory come back and be done with it for now and Äelberon shut his eyes tightly… preparing for its brutality.

     

    He was enclosed within a circle of flame and just beyond the circle, he saw his five Shield-Siblings being devoured one by one by a great demon wolf. While he watched, five giant ravens attacked him, black as night; their shrieks deafening. The pain of their beaks tearing at his flesh was agonizing and he was powerless against them as he tried to battle his way to save his Shield-Siblings with spell, bow, sword, and shield, his body glowing with its divine light.  He called out to his siblings, frantically urging them to flee the demon that now came for them. But they did not flee, they did not even move. They were locked in place by the demon’s hypnotic stare and he was helpless as he watched, knowing, feeling the pounding of his heart in his chest. A warning.

     

    Hircine…

     

    First, the demon wolf flayed Skjor alive and ate his heart, spilling his blood, washing the ground with it. Äelberon cried out in anguish for his fallen brother while the ravens continued to pick at his own flesh, beating him to the ground with heavy blows from their great black wings. Like the void, so black, so dark, surrounding him, smothering him. He could not breathe!

     

    There is no light in this darkness, he despaired, striking at the creatures with his arms. Always missing! The circle of flame only a false and cruel light that deceived him, giving no warmth, evil, like the fires of Oblivion. The sun, the sun, where was the sun? Where was his light?

     

    Auri-El? The soul of Anui-El, who is the soul of Anu, the everything! Where?

     

    The ravens beat him to his knees, and then flat upon his stomach, pressing him down, making him taste the dirt. He did not give up, though, and with a roar of fury, he started crawling towards his Shield-Siblings, inching towards them, dragging his body with all of his strength, the divine fire again growing in him. But for every bit of distance he gained, the ravens dragged him back with their talons, further into the circle, over and over again, for what seemed like an eternity.

     

    Until he could crawl no more.

     

    He was beaten. The Eagle of Auri-El was vanquished.

     

    He then lay spent within the burning circle, unable to move, the ravens now perched victoriously upon his body as if he were naught but the carrion that rots upon the roadside. His eyes were glazed from exhaustion, and he, nothing more than a heap of silver metal and broken flesh. He then watched the demon wolf from beyond the flames, looming dark and large; its eyes yellow and bright with the thrill of the hunt, its sharp fangs exposed in a snarl.

     

    “No…” he could hear himself repeat feebly while the beast approached Kodlak Whitemane and his bloodied hand extended towards his Shield-Brother.

     

    Auri-El… help, he begged silently.

     

    Nothing.

     

    “Run, brother.” He mouthed, but Kodlak did not hear him nor did he move as the beast took the Old Man’s head in its maw, ripping it from his body in one gruesome motion.

     

    “It cannot be…” He gasped, watching the Harbinger’s blood drip from the beast’s foul jaws. Bright crimson upon his white hair.

     

    “It does not have to be…” came a whisper and Äelberon’s eyes widened in horror, his body going cold as the flame extinguished leaving him in total darkness. Only the eyes, the yellow eyes of the beast were visible. Mocking, cruel eyes.  Staring right at his. “There is a way…” the voice again. The eyes!

     

    “No…” He croaked mournfully, turning away from the beast’s leering eyes. It was so cold, no light… no light. He turned away in fear… he needed light. Auri-El… help?

     

    Silence. Darkness.

     

    “What will you give in exchange for them?”'

     

    The whisper echoed in his ears. And Äelberon screamed.

     

    He now furrowed his brow and pressed his face hard against Allie’s warm neck, his hands clenching her mane for support, and he let out a low groan, his breath visible. He then swallowed hard, sniffing to stop his nose from running, and slowly opened his red-orange eyes, returning to reality.

     

    Time had passed and he was cold.

     

    The snow fall was heavier and Koor was watching his Master intently from his position near where the hawk had fallen, his head tilted to one side; his expression puzzled.

     

    Äelberon had woken up before he could answer the question. He did not want to answer, for he could feel that sick feeling in the pit of his stomach build every time he pondered it. They had noticed his dour mood in the morning as he warmed his hands by the fire. His Shield-Siblings attributed it to his pending trip to the Barrow. They did not know, and he did not want to tell them. Gods, he could not tell them.

     

    Some things were too dark for the Mead Hall.

     

    The Old Man had stood next to him, petting Koor. “Please, Snow Bear, take one of your siblings with you.” The Old Man offered, his voice betraying concern. Äelberon’s pallor had not gone unnoticed.  “Skjor is ready to go.” Kodlak gestured to the one-eyed Nord, who was sitting at a bench observing the conversation at the fire. He nodded and waved his hand, smiling.

     

    “No,” was his simple reply.

     

    “Why not?” Kodlak Whitemane asked, his brows furrowing.

     

    “I will not put my family at risk for a task that I took prior to my time with you.”

     

    The truth.

     

    “But Farkas went with you to the Cairn.”

     

    Those words had earned the Old Man a hard look from his grey litter mate.  “I did not ask for him to accompany me. He was sent with me to the Cairn, and if I had not fixed a silver great sword for him, he would have died there. You sent a man incapable of using silver into a tomb that requires the use of silver to truly see the job done. I am going into another tomb. My answer is no.”  Äelberon let out a sigh when he saw his litter mate frown, and he softly kicked a stray ember back into the fire, he did not feel like arguing today. The nightmare had left him too weak for that. Too drained. “Kodlak, please, I feel better going alone, knowing that my Shield-Siblings are safe. When they are with me, I can think of nothing else but their safety and I am simply not as effective a fighter when I am skulking about ruins like a worried old woman. Besides, I have this…” He suddenly drew his crossbow and aimed at a column. “And she has a mighty sting.”

     

    The Old Man was not satisfied, but he backed down, there was little point arguing with him, the Snow Bear of the ice flats. Their name for him was no lie.

     

    Äelberon led Allie to Koor’s location and retrieved the hawk’s body. It had fallen just under the stone bridge that connected the tower to the mountainside. Yes, he was a terrible Companion in that respect; stubborn and solitary. A small chuckle then escaped his lips. Exactly like the bloody snow bear they had just named him for. But what made for a terrible Companion made for a fine demon hunter and he was on the hunt today. He tied the hawk to Allie’s saddle and remounted, staring at Koor. The dog knew something was wrong. He always did. He approached and stood on his hind legs to nuzzle his Master. He lowered his hand and rubbed the dog’s neck, and his face softened some. “Come, Koor, I will promise not to worry you anymore with my heavy mood, if you stop playing in the snow. We have work to do.”

     

    They continued up the snowy path north. It was dotted with snowberries and scrubby, brittle, snow-covered grasses and as he rounded a corner, there it stood. Bleak Falls Barrow. Large and imposing with a series of connecting bridges, arches, lookout points, and walkways. Ancient. He could see them move around the Barrow in the distance; bandits. Three bandits, one was perched at one of the precarious lookouts and two were at the top of the steps, but he was still hidden. He dismounted and whispered to his horse while he led her to a dense thicket of dried shrubs near the rock face near the Barrow.  A sheltered spot. “This is where I leave you, girl. No mounted charge; not with all these steps, we must consider those precious knees of yours.”

     

    She snorted. “Still do not understand, eh?” He quipped as he removed his cloak and retrieved the bandolier from her saddlebag. He covered her with his cloak to keep her warm. She shoved him lightly with her snout. He slapped her rump gently. “Behave, and let me work,” he chided.

     

    She turned and bared her teeth at him and he allowed himself the much-needed laugh. By the Gods, he loved this horse. What a fire in her heart! She and Koor were working hard to lighten his mood and his mood was definitely dark today. He needed it. He took eighty silver bolts this time and had to expand the bandolier to accommodate the extra ammunition. No, a repeat of the Cairn was not going to happen. Mistakes had been made there. He felt Koor nudge his legs, the dog was ready.

    “You are as impatient as Farkas. No, you will wait while your Master prepares.” Koor sat on his haunches and wagged his tail. “Good boy.” 

     

    Äelberon opened his pack and checked the supplies carefully. Some food, waterskins, lockpicks, the torch’s oil was fresh, a pick axe, a few potions… bah! A last resort only. Yes, the paper and the charcoal were in there as well. He had wanted to make rubbings of any reliefs he found.

     

    Farengar was very curious when he presented him with the wall rubbings from Dustman’s Cairn yesterday, while Farkas dozed at the chair of Farengar’s cluttered study. Poor boy, he was waiting to accompany Äelberon back to the Cairn, but Äelberon had wanted to speak to Farengar first; show him the rubbings, tell him of the preserved relief of Potema, and inform him of his plan to do Bleak Falls Barrow today. It took longer than expected, for Farengar was quite the scholar and they discussed the rubbings at length, and his young Shield-Brother was still feeling the effects of the prior night’s overindulgences.  Unfortunately, Farengar did not know the meaning of “Yol”, but he would consult his sources. Äelberon had hoped for something more, but a dialogue with the wizard was a start, and perhaps more rubbings would yield more clues.

     

    Äelberon removed his hood and placed it in his pack. He wanted the visibility, but if it grew cold, it was best to have it. His helmet was still at Jorrvaskr, he did not take it with him this time. The mistake with the spider at the Cairn would not have happened if he had been without one. The panels of steel on either side of his helmet blocked his peripheral. He shook his head. No, no more helmets, not for this archer. He slung Niniik over his back. He would save her for the draugr. He had bandits to deal with now and he would not waste bolts on them. If they did not yield, they would know his katana and his shield. The bandits of Skyrim never yielded, he knew that, but the knight in him would always offer terms. He turned to Koor, his jaw set. He was ready. “Koor, come.”

     

    The husky knew the low tone of his Master’s voice. It was time and he followed his Master on the hunt, his nose low to the ground, his fur bristling at his neck.

     

     

    The bandits leered to one another from the steps of Bleak Falls Barrow when they saw the lone High Elf approach from around the corner; his weapons drawn.  The husky would fetch a high price at the black market, but the armor! That armor on the Elf would fetch even more! A vigilant’s set of finest quality, silver-plated and ornately carved. He wielded a silver katana and the shield was a strong steel shield. Upon the High Elf’s back was a crossbow and there was enough silver on him to kill scores of draugr.  A demon hunter for sure, or a Vigilant of Stendarr, thought the Orc, his tongue sliding over one of his tusks in anticipation. Ha! Killing him would make their job easier and Arvel would be pleased. Pleased enough to increase their cut perhaps? The Orc gestured quickly to his comrade at the lookout and a bow was quickly readied, the arrow nocked into position.

     

    Äelberon caught the movement of the archer out of the corner of his eye as he began his ascent up the stone steps.

     

    The two bandits moved closer and got a better look at the High Elf. The Orc grinned. An old mer; long past his prime; for the full beard and long, silver-white hair betrayed advanced age. Only the old had hair that long anymore and he drew his warhammer, his muscled arms flexing when he tightened his grip on the steel weapon. He would squash those brittle, old bones. His comrade, a wary Imperial deserter, turned to him, her own bow ready. “Attack now?” she asked.

     

    “No, not yet, I wanna see the golds of his eyes when I crush him.”

     

    She grinned back, instantly reassured by his confidence.  The Orc had joined Arvel’s party recently, after the skeevers in the temple took their previous berserker. 

    The High Elf drew closer and the Orc was surprised at the bulk, this was no slender mage attempting to wear heavy armor. The Orc’s grin broadened. No watery golden eyes either, no those eyes blazed like fire and he had the red war paint of a warrior. A challenge. The High Elf stopped a short distance away from the bandits. The Orc spoke first, his voice gruff. “You lost?”

     

    His comrade smirked while she held her bow at the High Elf, ready to draw.

     

    “No, I know exactly where I am.” Äelberon replied as he impatiently shifted his grip on his katana. “You, however, must be, because it is clear that you are not armed for a barrow. Well, not effectively anyway.”

     

    “I’m plenty armed.” The Orc replied, his grin turning to a scowl while he tightened his grip on his warhammer. 

     

    Äelberon gave the bandits a once over, and his eyebrows hooded over his eyes, matching the Orc’s intensity, but for an entirely different reason. Fur armor and steel weapons for a large barrow? Were they mad? Naked would actually be better, for the sheer noise reduction alone. He shook his head; he did not have time for this. “I can see that you look capable with a hammer, Orc, and I can see you taking down draugr on the trueness of your swing and your strength, but you would not stop them. You would only slow them down. And your archers? With only steel arrows? They would not even make a dent, leaving you alone to fend off their numbers. Silver is needed, friend Orc, if you truly want to stop draugr. Like vampires and other forms of the undead, the metal is like poison to them. You sever a Draugr's arm with steel, you'll have an angry draugr, its comrades who heard your swing, and its arm coming for you."

     

    He saw the young archer gulp.

     

    "You sever a Draugr's arm with silver, you bring it to its knees." Äelberon let his voice lower, it acquiring a command, while he stood his ground. "Yield... and let two hundred years of experience pass. You are not prepared for this tomb.” The truth, but he did not deny that there was a bit of arrogance behind that statement.

     

    “This is our barrow, we won’t yield!” Cried the Orc.

     

    He loved Orcs for their stubbornness, he hated Orcs for their stubbornness. Urag would have listened. 

     

    The archer glanced at him. Shoot him, she asked with her eyes. The Orc slowly nodded, and she let her arrow fly.  Äelberon blocked it with a quick movement of his shield and sighed, his tone turning grim when he answered the bandit.  “I am not going to ask again, yield or die. Those are your options, for you will not survive the barrow. Draugr are not the only threat, there are also traps and other beasts. My Shield-Brother and I, just two days, ago cleared a tomb on an errand for Ysgramor's glory. He and I are two from Jorrvaskr and we still emerged with bruises and sore bodies, even wielding silver, for the final chamber contained seventeen draugr. This Barrow is much larger than the one my Shield-Brother and I cleared." The young archer glanced at the Orc, her expression now worried. Äelberon saw the fear in her eyes. She was not expecting that number. Bleak Falls was a larger barrow, he expected the final chamber to have an army of them.  "Take advantage of the opportunity I give you now; no treasure is worth death."

     

    Their weapons were still drawn and he eyed the Orc. He would try one final argument. "If you want, come back later and loot what you like once I am finished. I am only interested in one thing.” In retrospect, it was a poor argument to use against an Orc, though the young archer seemed very interested.

     

    “We won’t die if we have your silver!” The Orc swung his warhammer at Äelberon. A powerful swing with good control of the weapon and Äelberon had no doubts that draugr would have fallen to this Orc. They would have fallen and risen to fight again. Unless the Orc knew to aim for the head. Äelberon dodged the blow by jumping backwards and he countered with a hard, fast swing from his sharp blade, feeling a keen sadness while he regarded the Orc. Terms were offered and in accordance to his Order, Äelberon allowed the Orc to attack first. His blades were always so sharp, the result of hours at the grindstone and the whetstone in his pack, perfecting… 

     

    Fast blades were better for tombs in his opinion, if one could not use silver bolts or spells. It was about bringing the creatures into contact with the silver. He imagined a warhammer with a silver alloy would be efficient to some extent, but a blade, a fast blade was even better, or an axe. Axes would work well, especially if one could throw them, for they were easier for a novice warrior to use. 

     

    The Orc grinned; the old Elf had missed. He readied his warhammer for another swing and the Elf spoke, his face and voice battle-weary, the snow continuing to fall around them. Only those intense eyes staring back at the Orc, like fire. “May Malacath embrace you.”

     

    The Orc was puzzled at first by the strange words, but then he saw the blood drip from the Elf’s raised weapon and felt a warm liquid stream slowly from his throat and understood. The old Elf had not missed. Malacath take me.

     

    The archer screamed when the Orc’s head fell and rolled down the steps; his body sinking to the snowy ground. Äelberon turned to the two remaining archers. “Yield.” He commanded.

     

    These bandits had more loyalty than those he faced in Cyrod, for they let their arrows fly when they recovered from the shock of their comrade falling and he sighed. He really needed to stop offering terms. It never worked in Skyrim. Damn Nords and Orcs never surrendered. The fourth bandit almost got him, for he came from behind, his battle axe ready, and Äelberon barely had time to turn and block the blow with his shield.

     

    Where did he come from?

     

    An arrow whizzed past his head and he felt another nick the plate of his right flank. His back was turned to the archers, and it was vulnerable, for only chain mail protected his body in places, behind his legs and arms. Koor rushed past him and tackled one of the archers, while he swung his shield at the Nord in front of him, staggering him. Another arrow almost hit his leg. The final archer was indeed now aiming for his weak spots. Her arrows were iron ones, but a blow to behind the knee would cripple him if it pierced through the mail.

     

    The Nord’s battle axe came down again and Äelberon groaned as he blocked the blow. He swung his katana, but the blow was blocked by the battle axe. This Nord was a strong fighter too.  Another arrow bounced off the back of his boot, making him wince. He growled and suddenly lunged at the Nord, shoving him hard with his shield, using his greater height and bulk to his advantage. It was a very bear-like move, catching the Nord by surprise, for it was not a very Elvish way to fight.

     

    Äelberon of Dusk was not a very Elvish Elf.

     

    The Knight continued to shove forward, pushing the Nord until he threw him off balance. He heard the scream of the archer when Koor finally brought her down and he swung his shield hard at the Nord, who was distracted by the sound, snapping his neck with its edge.

     

    That one had surprised him, Äelberon mused, his breath coming out in heavy bursts as he scanned the Barrow grounds for signs of more activity. Äelberon looked up from the steps and noted the central columns that punctuated each flight toward the entrance. Aye, that one was hiding behind one of them.  Koor trotted to his Master and licked his sword hand. He sheathed his weapon and gave the dog a firm rub behind the ears as the husky nuzzled his thigh. “You earned that. You had my back, Shield-Brother.” He gave the dog one final hard squeeze. “Let us go inside.”

     

    The pair quickly walked up the steps. He paused for a moment before the giant ornately carved iron doors and ran his hand over the intricate carvings. A snake motif? Or a dragon? So incredibly ancient… it was astounding. He nudged the door ever so gently; just wide enough for him to squeeze through.

     

     

    It was a large, cavernous room, dank and oppressive, supported by several thick stone columns, partially crumbled, and the feeble early morning sun and snow filtered in through various holes in the roof. A raised sarcophagus was to his right and strewn about the room were the corpses of skeevers and bandits. The stench was intense and his eyes began to water, his nose running. He sniffed to control the drainage and then froze in his tracks when he realized he was not alone, gesturing quickly to his animal to be silent. Voices…

     

     

    “Where’s Arvel? Harknir, it’s been a day already. Bjorn better find him soon. This place makes me nervous.” A young woman.

     

    Äelberon held his breath and began to walk slowly until he was just behind the large column in the center of the room and he listened in the shadows, feeling the faint heat of a small campfire.  He was out of their line of sight.

     

    “I know, Soling, I know.” Answered a male, his voice betraying a hint of anger. “We shouldn’t have let him go off alone with the damn shop keeper’s claw. I have a bad feeling he’s double-crossed us. I hope Bjorn finds him and kicks his scrawny grey arse back to Morrowind.”

     

    Who was this Arvel and what was this about a shop keeper’s claw? The woman’s tone then turned sly.

     

    “Ha! So we can then double-cross Bjorn and take the golden claw for ourselves?”

     

    “That’s right, my pet, that's right. Now gimme a kiss.” demanded the man, his voice playfully rough, “I need a bit of warming up and this campfire ain’t cuttin' it.”

     

    The woman laughed seductively and Äelberon and Koor exchanged glances when they heard the kissing. In a tomb?

     

    Äelberon wrinkled his nose in disgust. With dead skeevers everywhere? Oghma’s tits! Did they not smell the stench? Bah! Bandits! He peeked past the column and surveyed the scene. A young Nord woman with dirty blonde hair, in the arms of her burly lover, who sported heavy war paint and a mohawk. He was in heavy armor and she was in light, iron and hide. He had a battle axe and she had a bow. And aye, they were definitely enjoying their kissing, it intensifying as his stocky hands began to fumble underneath the flimsy hide that was covering her. He brought her close to him and his mouth moved from her lips to her neck, making her moan with pleasure.

     

    “Warm enough?” She chuckled, running her hands down his back.

     

    “Not yet...” He murmured against her neck as one hand found its intended target under her hide armor making her gasp. “Better…”

     

    Their lips met again.

     

    Äelberon was far more interested in the dark passageway that lay beyond the lovers.  Where Bjorn was headed perhaps? He needed to get there. He grinned and glanced at Koor, his eyes dancing with mischief. It was time to interrupt the lovers. He sheathed his weapon and appeared from behind the column. Perhaps they would be more willing to listen to his terms, seeing as they were far more interested in each other than guarding a tomb?

     

    The bandits stopped their kissing and stared at the Elf, still locked in a passionate embrace, when they saw him approach from the column. He was armed to the teeth with silver weapons; a demon hunter for sure, a clearer of tombs, yet his weapon was not drawn and his tone when he spoke was unaggressive.  “Oh, do not let me interrupt you, I just want to cross over and head down that path there.”  He gestured to the path behind them with his eyes.

     

    The bandit broke from his lover and drew his iron battle axe while his partner drew her bow. Äelberon sighed. War and sex, ‘twas all bloody Nords thought about. Sometimes for good, sometimes for ill. Oh, and mead, they thought about mead too. It often drove the war and the sex. “You’re not going anywhere.” The Nord growled, his face still flushed.

     

    Äelberon slowly drew his katana and watched the two bandits walk towards him. Koor growled, he was ready to rush the archer, leaving his Master to the two-hander. Äelberon was losing his patience and he was tired of their foolhardiness. It was not arrogance on his part; it was simply a fact that he was better armed, far more experienced, and better prepared, especially for what lay ahead. Did they not see this? By the Gods, all they had to do was take one look at his equipment and know the odds were grossly in his favor. Yet they still attacked. It was exasperating!

     

    “I will go where I please,” countered Äelberon as he began to walk towards the pathway, “You only wield iron, and she has naught but a hunting bow. I have already dealt with your comrades outside. They did not yield and faced the consequences. You will not stop me.” He gestured to the archer with his weapon. She looked afraid now. Good, perhaps she had some sense and would yield. “Yield, and let me do my work in this tomb, for I am on an important mission on behalf of the court wizard of Whiterun and care not for your silly treasures and crooked schemes. I only come for one thing, have the rest of it for all I care.”

     

    He continued to walk, shaking his head and muttering as he did so, “Why you bandits think you can just barrel into a Nordic tomb unprepared is beyond my understand—“

     

    The arrow bounced off his thigh; denting the plate of his armor.  That… would require pounding at Skyforge to fix.

     

    He stared at the dent and then looked up at her, frowning, his red-orange eyes narrowing. This was no archer. ‘Twas a lousy shot, for he was but one hundred paces from her and an easy target. Bah! Awful aim and a weak draw! He stopped in his tracks and gave the girl a hard look. One more chance… she was so very young.

     

    “Go, youngling,” He commanded, his voice lowering, “Go now. Go back to your family and learn how to use a bow properly. I have no desire to kill you, but my husky does not always follow my commands and will defend his Master if you shoot at me again.”

     

    The Nord then growled and ran at him with his battle axe ready as her arrows flew everywhere but their intended target.  They did not listen. Koor was true to his nature and brought her down with ease while Äelberon’s shield brought down her lover with three brutal blows. He had given them fair warning, but he was still disappointed at the wasted potential. He set his jaw, he could not dwell on such things. They had chosen this life.

     

    He noticed the chest and knelt before it; removing his pack from his shoulders. He took two lockpicks and a small shiv, and with very delicate movements, he began to pick the lock. This was an easy one, for he heard it click almost immediately. The chest yielded a single potion of healing, which he did not take, wrinkling his nose at the memory of the foul taste, and a few septims, which he did. He then closed the chest and searched the dead bandits. It was not very priestly of him and he still caught himself praying for their souls and for forgiveness, but no longer with the same gravitas that he did at Helgen.

     

    He still did not loot from the interred dead, however, and Farkas had been surprised when Äelberon did not attempt to search the draugr bodies. He focused on the chests, and Farkas happily helped himself to the treasures in the urns and the bodies. They ended up with a fifty/fifty split of the profits of Dustman’s Cairn and an amulet that he, upon visiting Farengar a second time, learned bore a flamebane enchantment. Useful, but not for draugr, so it disappeared into his pack. It was in there somewhere…

     

    Äelberon gave the dead Nord a final turn and checked a small pouch at his waist, removing some more septims, before he gently returned the Nord to his final position. The same as their comrades outside. Any little bit helped, for part of what he made in the camps, barrows, and tombs always went to the Temple anonymously for the poor. Bandits now helped the refugees of war obtain food and shelter. Bandits now helped wounded soldiers pay for their healing.

     

    Bandits now paid for the little orphan Lucia at Whiterun to have permanent room and board at the Bannered Mare and warm food in her belly. It was courtesy of an anonymous letter and a weekly stipend of 100 septims that was paid to Hulda, left by Jon Battle Born at precisely 9am every Morndas. He was a good lad for helping him, for Äelberon did not want anyone to know it was him. It would only garner more attention and he shrank from that. Ah, to be forty-two and a half pertans and on the shy side!

     

    He had been walking back to Jorrvaskr late one night after a successful bandit bounty; Halted Stream Camp. His keen Altmer ears picking up a feeble cough when he neared the Bannered Mare and he found her at the back of the building, sleeping on the cold grass, and his old heart saddened, remembering how his People suffered after the Great Anguish. Many lost their homes. Many did not have food, and Summerset was a warm place. No, no, no, he could not allow a babe to sleep in the bitter cold, so he bore the still sleeping child to the Bannered Mare and paid Hulda for a night at the inn and a hot meal. He then set up the stipend in secret and was happy to see that the child was gaining weight, her sallow skin brightening, and her smile more ready. He glowered at the dead bandits that lay in the Temple. In life, they plundered from the people of Whiterun. Now with their deaths, they would finally do the gentlefolk some good.  

     

    Äelberon looked ahead into the hallway. It was a large opening that began as a gloomy descent down a flight of stairs, and he could just barely make out the thick roots of old trees, but that quickly gave way to a black void. He detached the torch from the bottom of his pack and smelled the head. It needed oil.  Äelberon rummaged through his worn pack and he could no longer suppress a knowing chuckle.

     

    Xarxes’ arse, it was a disaster at this point, full of loose papers and unopened letters; some of which he did not even recall receiving.  His organized disorganization, he smiled to himself. Rynandor once had a wise saying.

     

    “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign of?”

     

    Ha!  A typical mage’s excuse, for Rynandor’s desk had been a sea of papers, scrolls, open books, drying ink wells, and burned out candles, and his knight guard was no different now!  The old Mer would have been proud of Äelberon’s desk at Jorrvaskr.  But no…  Äelberon was not messy, not at all, he was simply rather cluttered. Oh? What is this?

     

    And easily distracted.

     

    His hand closed over the familiar round shape that was now just the right temperature. Ah! An apple! He could eat now and he pulled the apple from his pack, holding it securely with his teeth while he continued to search for the vial of torch oil, forgetting that he had just complained about skeever stench not several moments before. He finally recovered the small vial of oil and doused the torch head.  He put the oil away and slung the pack upon his shoulders as he stood up, and finally allowed his teeth to close over the apple for a first bite, catching it in his right hand, as it fell from his lips. Sweet and tart, juicy and cold...

     

    “Come, Koor, it is time.” Äelberon spoke, his voice muffled by the rather large piece of apple he was trying to chew. The husky looked up and wagged his tall. He was ready. Äelberon lit the torch at the campfire and using it to light his path, he began to carefully descend the steps deeper into Bleak Falls Barrow, munching on his apple…

     

     

    Äelberon furrowed his brow as he continued following the tunnel, they were going deeper. This tomb was carved right into the mountain and he could see that ancient tree roots and vines had begun to take over the stone. His foot suddenly struck something soft as he walked and he cast the torch downwards; the bloody remains of a skeever. He lifted the torch and another skeever lay a short distance away. He drew his katana and stooped to inspect the remains of the second skeever, turning the body with the tip of his blade. There it was, the cut marks of a sword. This skeever was freshly killed.

     

    The old Altmer grew still and listened. It was then that he heard the faint footsteps. Bjorn… He was not far.

     

    Äelberon slowly stood up and smiled, sheathing his weapon. Yes, he could just faintly make them out; footsteps. Koor wagged his tail, he heard them as well, and a bark nearly escaped his lips until he saw his Master gaze at him; his head slowly shaking “no”; his red-orange eyes twinkling in the semi-darkness, for he knew his Koor. The dog sulked a bit but was rewarded with a grin and a pat on the head for his silence. Äelberon gestured silently to the path ahead and beckoned Koor to follow. 

     

    Äelberon and Koor were just behind Bjorn and the Nord was none the wiser. From their vantage point at the top of the flight of stairs, they saw him enter a large room.  A stone room with a closed gate on the opposite end, lit braziers casting the room in warmth, so Äelberon noiselessly put out his torch. On the right was a stone staircase. Upon his left; hmm, the left was more difficult to see for the way was blocked. Bjorn walked towards the heavy metal lever in the center of the room and Äelberon’s sharp eyes noticed a small detail when he scanned the room again. There were holes in the wall, but they were not there by accident. Small and uniform; in groups of three, vertically set on opposite ends of the room, pointing towards where the lever was. A trap; poison darts more than likely. Äelberon quickly descended the flight of steps as Bjorn started to pull the lever.

     

    “Bjorn! No! It is a tra—“

     

    Äelberon was too late.  The Nord was immediately bombarded with numerous poisoned darts that shot with rapid velocity from the very same holes. Bjorn gasped as the poison consumed his flesh; his body riddled with darts. He staggered about the room clutching at his throat for a few seconds and then collapsed with a groan onto the stone. Äelberon and Koor both flinched and quickly made their way toward the fallen bandit. Äelberon moved deftly, his left hand charging a spell; perhaps if he got to Bjorn in time? He squatted on his haunches next to the Nord and turned him over gently. He was still twitching, but no, he was definitely dead and Äelberon let his hand drop. Another waste, he frowned. Did these bandits not watch for traps either?

     

    Äelberon stood up and scanned the room again and Koor sat upon his haunches waiting. He knew to let his Master alone when he was figuring things out in his head.  It brought back memories of Cyrod. Traps. 

     

    Ah, yes, on the left side of the room he could not see previously; three movable pillars. Move them the right way and the trap will not trigger. Move them the wrong way, and well, Bjorn aptly demonstrated the result, the Elf thought with a smirk. Äelberon walked to the three pillars, one arm crossed over his chest while his other hand stroked his beard; his brow furrowing in concentration. Usually, they read left to right and usually there was a clue as to their combination somewhere in the room. Were they similar to puzzle traps in Cyrodiil… gas traps were his personal favorites.  He reveled in his own sarcasm, but he could not lie to himself, he had to negotiate through a few of those in his day, and... he enjoyed it. Searching for books in Ayleid ruins. Delving into their dark recesses, revealing their secrets.

     

    For Urag gro-Shub.

     

    Old Son of a Bitch was in Skyrim, was he not? When this was over, he had to pay the damn Orc a visit. Aye, for Urag, he would brave an actual College. 

     

    He first looked above the pillars. Ha! Sometimes they were indeed that obvious, but no, this was not one of those puzzles. Then he looked to the opposite wall. Nothing. As he turned back to look at the pillars again, he noticed that near the lever was a collapsed stone head. In its mouth, it bore the symbol of the serpent. He narrowed his eyes, now that was interesting. He looked up, trying to determine where the stone head had fallen from, and there were two more stone heads just like it; directly above the sealed gate. One to the far left and one to the far right, with a rupture in the rock where the fallen head used to be. The head to the left also bore the symbol of the serpent, while the head to the right bore the symbol of Tsun; the whale. His lips slowly formed a sly grin and his eyes twinkled; he had it, and he turned to Koor, whispering. “Serpent, serpent, whale, Boy. No poison darts for us. Well unless…” The Elf paused, “unless the actual trap mechanism is broken…”

     

    The dog wagged his tail and shifted a bit. Poor fool was desperate to say something. “You want to bark, don’t you? Howl, make some sort of noise, eh?” Äelberon whispered as he began to casually turn the pillar on the far left.

     

    Not a budge.

     

    He let out a soft chuckle when it did not give right away. By the Gods, they were heavy. How the Oblivion did that little Dunmer get through? He removed his pack and set his weapons down near Koor and walked back to the first pillar. Better put your back into it, Old Mer, and Äelberon gave the pillar a hard shove with his shoulder, using his long legs as leverage. It gave, but ‘twas slow going getting the snake symbol to rest upon the place marker.

     

    Äelberon wiped the sweat from his brow and moved to the next pillar when he spied Koor wagging his tale, watching intently, his tongue lolling in joy, obviously relishing his Master’s toil. Revenge for his imposed silence. “You know…” Äelberon said between grunts as he worked on the second pillar, “You... could help... your old... Master out…”

     

    Koor snorted and tilted his head to one side, grinning. Äelberon leaned heavily upon the pillar and turned to his dog, his arms crossed over his chest. “Hmph! I will remember this unkindness next time you covet a sweet roll.”

     

    A snort and he laughed gruffly. Ayleid ruins would have been fun with this little one.  He rested for a moment, his eyes studying the room beyond the sealed gate. Äelberon saw a chest immediately upon a ledge, burial urns, and a soul gem upon a pedestal. There was definitely more to it than that, he mused, as he let out a gust of air and resumed work on the pillars until the correct combination was displayed.  When he finished, Äelberon turned back to his dog, and smiled. Koor had the straps of his pack between his teeth and walked to his Master, tail wagging. Äelberon rolled his eyes, all was forgiven. Äelberon took the pack from Koor and slung it upon his shoulders and he retrieved his weapons. It was time to pull the lever. He approached it and suddenly turned to Koor who was following.  “No,” He commanded, pointing sharply to the entrance of the room, “You wait there. I will not take chances with you.” Koor sulked, but retreated to the entrance of the puzzle chamber. He knew when his Master was serious.

     

    If Äelberon ducked immediately when he pulled the lever, the darts may miss him. If the mechanism was broken, Gods forbid it. He held his breath and pulled the lever, dropping quickly to the floor in a prone position. The gate flung open with a puff of dust and small pebbles, and he let out his breath in relief, pushing himself up slowly. Äelberon then faced the open gate and extended his sword hand slightly outwards. It was a subtle gesture, but within seconds, Koor’s head nuzzled his Master’s hand and the Elf’s armored fingers rewarded the dog with a gentle ear rub. Äelberon gave the left ear a playful squeeze and whispered softly while he drew his crossbow. “It is time for Niniik, eh boy? She has been patient enough, I think.”

     

    Koor shifted position excitedly. He was ready and the pair entered the next chamber. It was darker, though not too dark to waste precious torch oil, and the stone walls and floor, no longer cast in the warmth of multiple braziers, took on a darker grey colour. The air noticeably cooler and damper. To his left was a decaying wooden spiral staircase, but he first walked to the chest. 

     

    The chest yielded little, just an ancient Nord bow and a few septims. He left the bow and took the septims. Äelberon did not touch the urns, though. It was forbidden to disturb the direct items of the dead. He took the book, Thief, for he did not know this one, and the soul gem. The soul gem would fetch a good price in the markets, even if it was unfilled.  If an enchanted armor piece or jewelry were to be found, Äelberon would be pleased. He had not found much in his travels for enchanted items were rare and expensive. Only the occasional piece of clothing with either frost or magic resistance and the amulet from Dustman’s Cairn. The only item in that giant chest, near the wall. 

     

    The wall that spoke to him. “Yol…” He shook his head again. Stop thinking, damn it. He groaned at the pointlessness of it. When did he ever stop thinking? 'Twas like breathing for him, he thought while he and Koor began to slowly descend the spiral staircase. Unconscious.

     

    Äelberon loaded a bolt as soon as his foot touched the bottom of the stairs, and placed another between his teeth. There were spider webs everywhere, covering the walls with their sticky white and grey silk. Koor could sense his Master’s growing tension and kept his nose to the ground and his eyes keen.

     

    Damn it, he needed to work on some of his spells again, dust them off from the old bookshelf that was his mind. Protection against poison specifically. He knew it, but it had been so long since he last cast it and he did not deal so much with spiders in Cyrodiil. He could try now, but if the spell failed, he would attract attention. He would lose his element of surprise and spells did not protect from their fangs, only their poison. With Dustman’s Cairn and this? It would be straight to Danica on the morrow for some much needed review. Some time in the Temple just to cast as he could not imagine doing that at Jorrvaskr. Hmm. Maybe at Farengar's study? Perhaps. He received too many stares from the locals from his glowing already. Anything else would be deemed too strange. He cursed himself for being unprepared, for putting Koor at risk.

     

    Damn mistakes.

     

    It was dark, but Äelberon did not dare relight the torch for just beyond a stone table and another flight of stairs, he could hear the familiar rustling and clicks of spiders. He slowly walked to the right edge of the cave and crouched upon his haunches against the wall on the right side and observed, his back against the wall, making as little noise as possible, but a sudden cry made him jump a bit in surprise, his heart skipping a beat.

     

    "Is... is someone coming? Is that you Harknir? Bjorn? Soling? I know I ran ahead with the claw, but I need help!"

     

    The voice had the characteristic twang of a Dunmer and Äelberon assumed that it was Arvel. At least he was alive, but with the racket he was making, he would not be for long.  Äelberon now heard quite a bit of rustling and clicks from the foot of the stairs. How many? Äelberon leaned forward and peered down at the foot of the stairs and then quickly leaned back against the wall; letting out a gust of air.

     

    Xarxes' Arse! Six! Damn it, six spiders!

     

    Koor tried to move forward, but was unceremoniously pushed back and given a stern stare from his Master. Fortunately, the spiders were distracted by the Dunmer’s cries in the other chamber, yet they did not pursue? Why? What was in that other chamber with Arvel? Äelberon peered at the spiders again and memorized their positions. He then furrowed his brow as he slowly stood up, his back still pressed tight against the wall, and readied Niniik, his jaw clenched with tension. This had to be precise or he and Koor would be dead.  He suddenly turned and shot the crossbow, instantly bringing down the first spider, its blood spurting with that awful slurping noise. The spiders scurried about the floor of the stairs and Arvel cried out, attracting their attention. He had heard the bolt fly. 

     

    “Yes! There is somebody there! Help me! Help me!”

     

    The Dunmer was actually helping with his ruckus for while the spiders were aware of Äelberon’s presence, they were unable to fixate on him due to the Dunmer’s cries.  Äelberon slowly loaded a bolt and placed another in between his teeth, feeling the beads of sweat forming upon his brow. He let out another gust of air and again turned quickly, bringing a second spider down and turned back to load another bolt. He turned around again and brought down a third spider, but the final three were now keenly aware of the direction the bolts were coming from and were heading up the stairs slowly. One shot a blast of poisoned spittle in Äelberon’s direction but he quickly dodged, shifting his position and taking aim to shoot it down.

     

    Arvel could hear the shots from his position. He had outrun the first group of spiders, speeding past them, only to get stuck in this confounded web. And he waited, for over a day. It took a damn day for somebody to figure out he was gone!

     

    Idiots, the lot of them!

     

    Bolts? Crossbow bolts! He knew their clankity clank well enough, but nobody in his party had a crossbow.  It didn’t matter, whoever was shooting it had damn good aim. He listened carefully as he lay suspended in the spider’s web. Heavy armor wearer he was guessing, but extremely quick on the feet. Male, probably. Harknir?

     

    No, Harknir would be hacking his way through with a battle axe and he would’ve been dead by now. He heard the spider’s spittle make contact with the wall, and he heard a low grunt and another bolt fired. Yes, definitely a male, but not Harknir or Bjorn. Way too fast, an Elf perhaps? Yes, Elvish speed definitely. Arvel heard the familiar clang of metal and the squirt of blood when another spider fell. Gods, why didn’t he hire this one? Soling didn’t shoot nearly this well.  He heard the familiar clang and squirt two more times. Sweet breath of Arkay, bastard had killed all six. Far better than Soling. But if this Elf was here, where the Oblivion were Harknir, Bjorn, and Soling? Hmm, let this Elf kill the big bitch of a She-Spider and he’ll deal with that later.

     

    Arvel sucked in his breath as the Elf slowly approached, crossbow in hand, followed by one of those war huskies from Cyrodiil. The bloody Mer was huge, an Altmer, but by Azura the bulkiest one Arvel had ever seen. Clad in the shining silver plate worn by some of the Vigilants of Stendarr, and he was armed to the teeth with silver. Silver bolts were strung upon a bandolier strapped to his chest, a silver katana at his waist, and a great steel shield was slung upon his back, along with a worn pack. Long, silver-white hair was loosely gathered at his nape and he had a full beard. He was very pale, which made his red-orange eyes and his red war paint stick out more. He was far older than Arvel expected, showing lines and scars on his grim face, but Arvel wasn’t going to be picky about the appearance of his rescuer.

     

    They briefly made eye contact and then all Oblivion broke loose when the She-Spider descended from her lair in the ceiling. The Altmer let out a cry and got out one shot at the large spider before he quickly disappeared back into the other chamber, barely dodging a stream of spittle. The spider then faced Arvel.

     

    He screamed like an old woman. “Help! Don’t let it get me!”

     

    Ha! Thought Äelberon as he made it back into the other chamber, dodging another stream of spittle. Now he knew why the other spiders did not dare enter! He was going to have to time this perfectly, he thought, his breathing heavy from his exertion. He loaded a bolt and ran quickly back to the chamber, sliding a bit on spider blood when he came to a stop and took aim. The spider was facing the Dummer and Äelberon shot it in the abdomen, green blood spewing from its wound.  The spider shrieked and turned to face Äelberon while he loaded another bolt.

     

    “Keep it away from me!” Screamed the Dunmer. Äelberon shot again, striking its flank. “Ah, kill it! Kill it!” Urged Arvel.

     

    “That is exactly what I am trying to do…” Äelberon replied, pausing to load another bolt, noting his own sarcasm. Bloody Dunmer had to state the obvious, eh? Damn it, it was not going down. Did he have time for one more? He looked up from his loading and saw fangs. Ah... no, he did not.

     

    It was now facing him, ready to strike, raising its head in the telltale way, the spittle bubbling at its mouth. It was time to run again and he turned as the stream of spittle just barely missed his face. Koor was running towards him, but Äelberon quickly herded the husky back to the previous chamber. “No, no Koor, other way! I am coming back!” Another stream of spittle struck just in front of his path, forcing him to dodge backwards before resuming his run.

     

    “AH! Then why are you leaving!?” Yelled Arvel, “The spider’s here not there! Get it away from me! Get it away! Now! Please—“ The She-Spider turned to Arvel again, her fangs dripping with such foulness. She was hairy, stinky, and horrid. She was ready to bite. Arvel’s heart stopped and he closed his eyes tight. He could feel the spider’s breath on his face. Gods, don’t open your eyes… 

     

    Shit. 

     

    He couldn’t resist. He opened one eye, and saw the fangs open wide, so ready to make him lunch, or dinner? He had no idea… He shut it quickly. Then he heard the familiar clang of a bolt and the squirt of blood and the spider fell dead. "Is it safe now?" Arvel whimpered, letting out his breath and slowly opened his eyes.

     

    The pale Altmer was now leisurely striding towards him, his husky following as he slung his crossbow upon his back. His lined face was no longer grim, Arvel noticed. In fact, there was now a bit of humor in the keen red-orange eyes. Fine, laugh at me, thought Arvel, I’ll be laughing at you later, you dumb oaf! He narrowed his eyes slyly and feigned appreciation. "You did it. You killed it. Now cut me down before anything else shows up."

     

    Äelberon ignored the Dunmer’s order at first, and spent his next moments extracting three salvageable bolts from the spider’s carcass and put them back in his bandolier, smiling slightly as he did so. The Dunmer had a pair, ordering him around. 

     

    “Cut me down.”  

     

    Äelberon smirked. 

     

    Why was the Altmer ignoring him? The Altmer looked up at Arvel and leaned casually upon the dead spider, pausing to stroke his animal’s fur, and tilted his head to one side, raising his bushy silver eyebrows as he spoke. “It seems, Arvel, that you are in a rather, shall we say… sticky situation?”

     

    “Yes! Cut me down!”

     

    “All in good time, little Elf. First tell me about this little golden claw that belongs to a shopkeeper. Did he give it to you?”

     

    Shit, thought Arvel. The N'wah knew. "Yes, the claw! I know how it works. The claw, the markings, the door in the Hall of Stories.”

     

    “A door in the Hall of Stories?” Pressed Äelberon, his fingers no longer petting Koor. The Dunmer was not seeing the bigger picture. All he saw was treasure. There was more to this tomb than just treasure. Hall of Stories?

     

    “Yes, I know how they all fit together!" Arvel exclaimed.

     

    “Tell me then, how do they all fit together?”

     

    The Dunmer grinned a broad grin and Äelberon shifted position, crossing his arms over his chest; he knew where this was going. "Help me down, and I'll show you.” He responded, his tone honeyed. “You won't believe the power the Nords have hidden there."

     

    “I can imagine.” Old Mer, enough with the sarcasm already, Äelberon chuckled to himself. “Fine, I will cut you down.” Äelberon let out a small sigh as he reached for his katana. If he knew his bandits, this one would bolt too. Shame, this one had a sense of humor and was entertaining for a greedy little…  

     

    The Altmer drew his katana and Arvel gulped. That was one long, sharp blade and that was no young Mer wielding it. He could feel his merhood shriveling up in dread.

     

    Äelberon noticed the Dunmer’s trepidation and his red-orange eyes twinkled with mischief. “Do not fret, Arvel. For an old Mer, I am still pretty precise with this thing.” Äelberon made ready to swing the blade when Arvel interrupted.

     

    “Only pretty precise?” The Dunmer stammered. Gods, he better not miss.

     

    Äelberon only grinned, his laugh lines wrinkling while he shifted the position of his weapon and struck at the web with astonishing speed, deliberately cutting close to the Dunmer’s body to free him.

     

    "It's coming loose. I can feel it." Arvel cried as the sliced web began to give under his weight.

     

    For good measure, and because he was an old rascal, Äelberon swung his blade one more time. Right up between the Dunmer’s legs, dangerously close to a Mer's most precious commodity, and laughed when Arvel turned two shades paler and fell to the ground. “Precise enough for you?” Äelberon asked, but he knew it. Bah! The Dunmer was going to bolt first chance he got. Äelberon’s suspicions were confirmed when the Dunmer immediately jumped upright and ran through the small door behind them, shouting as he disappeared into the next room.

     

    "Sorry, but I have a treasure to get to. So long "friend”! Ha ha ha!  I'm too swift for you! They don’t call me Arvel the Swift for nothing!"'

     

    No, no, no, thought Äelberon, do not make noise! The old Mer groaned and put his hand to his face, shaking his head in exasperation. He turned to Koor and sheathed his weapon. “Come on, boy. Let us hope that Arvel has not woken up the entire tomb by now.”

     

    Äelberon then drew Niniik from his back and ran after the Dunmer, loading a silver bolt.

     

    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXXIII    Chapter XXXIV

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  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 19, 2015
    Thanks Ebonslayer. I still need to do some edits. Almost done with part 4 of Book 1. 
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 19, 2015
    About damn time I got back to reading this. Really good chapter Lissette. Can't wait till you get the other 3 books out.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 5, 2015
    Well, lol, you'll find out why BFB takes so darn long to do soon enough. Yes, bandits are exasperating. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  October 4, 2015
    And here I thought Idesto took a lot of chapters to reach BFB, lol. Those bandits are exasperating, just yield you dolts!
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 3, 2015
    Haha, it may well be that Aelberon has the record here for most chapters passed before becoming dragonborn. We won't include the stories where becoming dragonborn is not the goal. Many stories here do not feature dragonborn characters. 
    Yes, we are ...  more
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  September 3, 2015
    YES!! Finally!  He's in Bleak Falls Barrow! It only took thirty-two chapters, am I right? 
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 2, 2015
    Lol, not only did he not think he was prepared, he was also dying the night he officially accepted the task. I'm pretty impressed that it only took him a month to prepare. 
    The Companions can touch silver fine. The Circle can't. 
    Kodlak and Al...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  September 2, 2015
    Oh Albee has been waiting for this one. I still remember when he weighed in his mind whether to take on BFB in the earlier chapters. If I recall, he knew he wasn't prepared.
    How things have changed.
    I still find it intriguing that the Companio...  more
  • Accursed Gloom
    Accursed Gloom   ·  September 2, 2015
    Glad I had homeroom to read this :D