Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXXV


    “Risk the torch?” Äelberon asked in a hushed whisper. Asking permission? Of whom?


    The scholar in him gave him the answer he wanted and Äelberon removed his pack from his shoulders, detaching the torch and holding it under his arm while he rummaged through his pack for more oil. He felt the flint, but there was a brazier towards the front, he did not need it. He wondered who tended these fires. The ones he just vanquished? The thought chilled him that they wandered this barrow, going about daily tasks. Soulless, mindless minions for thousands of years. No, not mindless, but not possessing of will either. Granted, he served too, but he still had his free will, some choice in his life. He still had the option of open air and the sunshine on his face. The choice to experience Life’s many pleasures…  


    They… just existed.


    His hand closed over the oil. The small vial was light to the touch and he could feel the liquid easily move inside.  He would need more. He smiled slyly, Lucan always carried some in stock and he had to make a stop at the Riverwood Trader anyway now, didn’t he? He doused the torch's head and walked to the flaming brazier, watching as the torch caught fire, the ancient flames greedily finding something new to burn. Something fresh to feed upon. Äelberon raised the torch to look around the room.


    “By the Gods…” He repeated, the light giving even more reason to be in awe.


    A long, wide corridor, carved and definitely by Man’s hand, ornately decorated with aged reliefs and at the end was a solid door of metal. Bronze and stone? Ebony even? That was the metal of the ancient Nords. According to their legends, ebony was Lorkhan’s very blood that spilled upon Nirn while his heart sailed over Tamriel and then across the sea.  Ironic that ebony was a word of Altmeri origin. Ebon… black. He needed to take a closer look, but the reliefs needed his attention first. 


    The Hall of Stories was no exaggeration for no less than eight, EIGHT stone reliefs graced the walls of the corridor; four upon each side. Each side, reflections of the other. He did not have nearly enough paper to make rubbings. He would need to come back and study, bring Farengar and Vilkas as well. The boy would enjoy this sort of thing.  When he finished with Vingalmo, perhaps then he could allow himself the luxury of such pursuits. Allow himself to wander and learn this new land.


    But now, he would simply enjoy their beauty. He walked back to the entry to the wide corridor, he was going to start in order, and gazed upon the relief that appeared first. It was a time to indulge his scholar’s soul, there was no Farkas shifting impatiently behind him and Koor would just take a nap, for he knew his Master’s way well by now.


    “Dibella…” Äelberon said softly, running his hands over the intricate carvings of the first relief.  He traced his fingers over the moths’ wings that flanked her form and his eyes focused on the woman depicting the Goddess’ likeness. She was exquisitely lovely as befit the Goddess of beauty and sensual pleasures. Her curves giving the impression of an exaggerated fertility. A female’s curves, it seemed, were well-liked by both men and mer. And liked by him as well, he chuckled to himself. That time, though, was over for him, long ago…


    He was almost giddy with excitement when he moved on to the next relief. A nudge against his thigh let him know that Koor was still awake and the old Altmer smiled as he cast the torch light upon it, his free hand finding the dog’s ears. “See boy, this, this here is Stuhn.” Äelberon pointed to the top of the relief with his torch, to the great bear head and continued. “His symbol is the bear.” He explained.


    An expectant snort and sky blue eyes traveled up the relief, the head tilting to one side. He was lecturing to a dog, but it did not matter, he continued to smile, his laugh lines wrinkling at the silliness of it all. Koor wagged his tail, feeding off his Master’s intense energy. Äelberon puffed up before the dog, making himself look even larger and lowered his voice to a deep, resonant boom as he continued to speak to Koor. Boy was indulging him. He did not mind history lessons as much as Farkas did. “My Shield-siblings say that I am as a bear, do you agree?” He thundered, doing a poor imitation of a bear.


    Koor barked and pranced, gazing at his Master, his eyes bright. His Master was being very funny.


    “You do, eh?” Äelberon laughed. “Well, you are right and so are they. A grumpy old bear am I.”


    He suddenly let his arms drop and his voice took a sad nuance while he continued to study the relief. “A lone bear dwelling among a pack of wolves…” His thoughts wandered, back to the dream that began his day and he sighed. “What does this old bear have to give up to save his wolf pack?”


    Äelberon traced the relief with his right hand, lingering on the face of Stuhn. Stendarr, the Apologist of Men. His name among the Elves. “Stendarr, what do you prize more? Righteousness or Mercy?”


    He withdrew his hand and with a sudden heavy heart, Äelberon moved on to the next one, its large, round eyes and flat beaked face betraying the God it represented. “Jhunal, the God of wisdom. How appropriate, for I will rely heavily on wisdom in these troubled times.” Äelberon whispered as he faced the owl. Hmph, were they speaking to him through these reliefs? Probably. The Aedra spoke in mysterious ways, through dreams, visions, symbols. They could not directly manipulate like the Daedra could. That was what they had given up in creating Mundus. At least that is what he was taught. The events with Dinya Balu and the Lady Mara still puzzled him. It was not Dinya speaking to him, of that he was certain. 


    Äelberon walked to the final relief and when he raised his torch to it, the hairs upon his neck stood on end when he felt a surge of intense heat, causing his face to flush, though it had been chilly in the rest of the corridor. The heat he felt upon his face in the Great Anguish and only one other time thereafter. At Helgen. The heat of burning air.  The smell of sulfur.


    “Alduin…” Strangely, he was not afraid to touch this relief.


    There was no dragon upon it. Only Alduin’s representative priest stood in its center, surrounded by cowering worshipers, and a flame spewed upwards from each hand. The dragons were gods to the Ancient Nords. He did not blame them, they were awe-inspiring indeed. Visions of Helgen then flooded his mind. The great black form, the wings that blocked the sun, the fire. The screams of the people. The dragon’s cruel voice speaking to him. The command and… the grace. The first children of Auri-El. Prideful, arrogant, and… and…


    Beautiful, in such a terrible way, but still beautiful. No, the dragon’s image was too strong for art in that ancient time.  Too strong for words almost. The World-Eater… Äelberon then looked up and whispered aloud, seized by his curiosity while he studied the relief with his old scholar’s eyes, pouring over the details, almost as if drawn to it. He was a child of Auri-El too, albeit corrupted and insignificant, diluted by eons of mortality, a far lesser being. “My Lord Auri-El, what will happen when I retrieve this stone? What chain of events will be unleashed by my actions here today?” 


    He then found himself chucking.“I do hope you have a strapping Nord lad or lass somewhere up your sleeve, my Lord, or Mundus, I think, is going to be in a grand heap of trouble!”


    His eyes then fell upon the cowering worshipers and he felt sympathy. His people knew what it was to cower in fear, though they did not readily admit it. He remembered a time when there were no stars, no sunlight, no coolness of an evening summer breeze upon his sweltering, blistered cheek. Only heat and the stench of death. Bodies upon bodies, red sky upon a blood sea. Endless death. But amid all that, there was also hope.  A Tower fell, but a world was saved, the gates closed, through the actions of one man, the last of his line, giving of his life to end the horror, and an Altmer thief; a most unlikely pair.


    Mer and Men united.  It could be done. It made Äelberon think aloud. “For a God that regrets what was done all those ages ago, you certainly have gone out of your way to protect Lorkhan’s little project, eh? For all of its darkness and danger, the Arena is still a beautiful land. Tam-Riel, Dawn’s Beauty. I do not begrudge you your inconsistency, my Lord. It is a beautiful world. I would protect it too.” He faced the priest on the relief again, his intense eyes gazing deep into its threatening face. “I have…”


    Honor Learning, Wisdom, and the Beauty of Art, Thought, and Creation…




    Yes, Äelberon had come to the end of the Hall of Stories and now before him stood the great door, of a deep bronzed ebony.  Richly chiseled with Nordic swirls, yet displaying no obvious way to gain entry. He set the torch upon the brazier. Light was no longer needed, he could see clearly. He stooped while he unslung his pack and retrieved the golden claw. He then turned it so that the palm faced him.


    “When you have the golden claw, the solution is in the palm of your hands...” Äelberon murmured, studying the symbols.


    Stuhn, Dibella, Jhunal, and then he regarded the door. Upon the door were three rings and below the inner ring were four holes that matched the foot print of the claw. He stood upon the tips of his toes and attempted to move the outer ring. He was surprised that it gave easily and with his left hand he began to rotate the ring until Stuhn was the symbol displayed. Äelberon lowered his feet slowly and rotated the middle ring until Dibella was displayed.  Äelberon repeated the process for the inner ring until Jhunal was displayed and then he stopped, his face soaked in sweat, his breathing quickened.


    He could not stop trembling, his heart hammering in his chest. The claw was actually shaking in his hand. There were no words to describe what he was feeling. It was unlike anything he had ever experienced. It was not fear. No, he was not afraid.  More like an extreme anxiousness that he could not pinpoint and it was making him hesitate.  He did not know what to expect and—


    That was it; that he did not know. It was the unknown. The uncertainty of everything now. For the past one hundred years his life was mapped out with rather simple purpose. Track down Vingalmo and kill him. He had made a grand mistake of that at Darkwater and then Helgen happened. The trail was now cold…


    Äelberon then thought about the people of Riverwood and Whiterun; all that they had done for him. All that Skyrim had given him in such a short time. The companionship of a devoted family. The beauty of the land. Life, the land had given him life again and he would not let this land down. They needed to know where these dragons were buried, so that the Dragonborn, when he or she finally showed themselves, could… He paused his thoughts and furrowed his brow, hie expression puzzled.


    Could do what?


    What would the Dragonborn do with this information? These beasts were dead. As far as Äelberon was concerned Alduin was the threat. How was this going to help with Alduin?


    You are not going to find out if you do not move your fat arse, Old Mer. Stop gawking at the damn door already and use the bloody claw.


    Without further hesitation and now sporting a broad grin, rebuking himself for his folly, Äelberon Snow Bear placed the Golden Claw into its keyhole and gave it a firm turn. It moved easily and he withdrew the claw, stowing it in his pack again and then setting that on the floor as the great door buckled and slowly slid downwards with a heavy metallic groan; scattering small pebbles and dust in its wake, exposing the flight of stairs leading up into the final chamber.


    The secret of Bleak Falls Barrow was now revealed. Äelberon drew Niniik and loaded her with a silver bolt. He then took a second bolt and placed it between his teeth. He turned to Koor and gestured ahead, and the pair began their ascent. He could already hear the hissing and the growls. Their armored footsteps. There were so many of them…


    Alright, little Niniik, show this Mer what you can do.


    Äelberon cleared the stairs and came upon a large rocky cavern, punctuated with dead shrubs and ferns, and two small waterfalls. A flock of bats suddenly flew past Äelberon, a whirlwind cluster of frightened leathery wings, disturbed by the movements of the draugr and he could see a hole in the ceiling exposing the sky. He was surprised that it was not yet nightfall. It was still daylight, late afternoon, and the sun shone, lighting the cavern. In the center, surrounded by a moat was another wall, similar to the one he had seen at Dustman’s Cairn, a chest, and a large, sealed sarcophagus. The wall was accented by a ray of sunlight that seemed to highlight certain runes. Runes that glowed with a familiar blue light, but he could not think on those now.


    Retrieve the Dragonstone and do not concern yourself with talking walls.


    He knew that the secret to finding the Dragonstone lay with the draugr that still slept. It probably possessed a key. The sarcophagus was heavily guarded by others and only accessible via a stone bridge.  Äelberon did a quick head count, at least twenty, perhaps more. He let out a gust of air and took aim.


    “Auri-El, I leave my fate to You…” He prayed aloud as his teeth clenched the bolt in his mouth tighter, making dents in the wood.


    He let his first bolt fly, immediately bringing down a draugr. They turned and saw him, and he made no effort to hide as he quickly loaded the bolt from his mouth and took aim again. He brought another down. The small army of draugr began to make their way to the lone archer who loaded a third bolt and slowly backed up. He needed the distance. Äelberon turned to Koor. It was time for the dog to shine. To do what he did best. “Koor, go! It is your time now! Run swiftly, make them chase you! Go now and may Ysgramor guide your steps, my faithful Shield-Brother!”


    The husky bristled and sprinted towards the draugr, zigzagging between them, distracting them, deftly avoiding their arrows and the swings of their weapons, while his Master brought them down one by one with his crossbow. Save the magicks for the one who still slept.


    Äelberon also ran, for there were plenty of archers and not all were fooled by Koor’s ruse. But he could now run with a bow drawn and run he did, firing his weapon with brutal accuracy even while he changed direction quickly to avoid their arrows, the swings of their weapons, and their frost spells. It was a rare skill for an archer, the ability to run with a bow drawn, to shoot, and shoot with precision while the body moved at full speed, twisting and turning. It required the synergy of strength, agility, and focus. He had not this skill at Crystal-Like-Law, for while he had the greater strength and agility then, he needed age to have the focus, and most archers died prior. He still lived. It was a new skill, coming only the day before.


    A gift from Auri-El, he knew that now. The greatest of all archers. Whose very bow shot the Heart of Lorkhan into the sea.


    Äelberon had been terribly restless the morning after Dustman’s Cairn, so he offered to accompany Anoriath in his early morning hunt.  The Bosmer welcomed the company and the two Elves, followed by Koor, set out for the open tundra, the morning frost still clinging to its flowers.  No armor, just wool clothes and soft leather boots upon their feet.  It was still Skyrim and far too cold to do Wild Hunt the old-fashioned way; naked, with only their wits and their weapons. Old Y’ffre would understand. Äelberon welcomed the company as well, for Arnoriath was a simple soul who loved the outdoors and had not the dark secrets of his Shield-Siblings.


    Hunting, roaming the wilds helped him think and Äelberon had much to ponder after the events of Dustman’s Cairn. They spotted the great elk upon a small stony hill and gave chase; the way of the Wild Hunt. No stealth, just run like mad Elves, bows ready, and wear the prey down. Become as the wind, their feet pounding upon the bones of the earth. It was glorious, for the wind was fresh upon his face and his hair streamed behind him as he ran swiftly, his long legs keeping pace with the fleet elk, and he felt as he felt when he dashed full speed along the beaches of Dusk as a little boy; no cares in the world, only the rush that comes when the wind is in your hair.


    The rush of speed.


    Then Äelberon drew the golden Okriim as he ran, expecting the typical slow down, and for the first time in his long life; he did not lose speed and kept his pursuit. He took his aim and fired, bringing the elk down in one powerful shot. The great elk lay dead at his feet when Arnoriath caught up, his breath coming out in quick puffs in the morning chill and the two Elves then regarded each other, for the younger knew what had just happened and was in awe of the Elder. It was the synergy all archers waited for. Arnoriath spoke first, his voice still breathless from his own run.  “It has happened, Spinner. Your bow is truly an extension of you.”


    “It has indeed.” Replied Äelberon, a broad grin upon his face, his eyes twinkling in the early morning sunlight. “Ha! The Gods have finally decided to grant me a boon for lasting so damn long! May you be so lucky, my Bosmer friend!”


    They laughed as he patted Arnoriath on the shoulder and the two then skinned the elk. Fresh meat for Anoriath’s stall and fresh venison for Jorrvaskr.


    Why he suddenly thought on this as he shot draugr was beyond him, but it brought a smile to his face as one by one the Draugr fell to Niniik.  It was the reason why he decided to do the Barrow today. He had been waiting for this his entire life. The synergy. It had come at just the right time.



    A sweaty, battle-worn Äelberon Snow Bear sat upon the large treasure chest of Bleak Falls Barrow, his right knee raised, and his right hand lay upon it, holding the half eaten goat cheese wedge and a quarter-full waterskin between his fingers, while his left hand rested upon the chest, supporting his weight. Next to him on the chest lay Niniik and Koor sat on his haunches, resting his head on his Master’s left thigh.  Äelberon took a large bite of the wedge and then drained his waterskin, wiping his mouth with the back of right hand. He tossed the waterskin upon the floor. Table manners were for Jorrvaskr, not for a barrow, and he smiled in satisfaction, surveying the scene before him, his eyes twinkling, catching the light of the braziers.


    A full score of draugr lay scattered upon the floor of the burial chamber and he had nary a scratch on him.  Well, not any new ones anyway. He had plenty of older ones from this barrow, Äelberon chuckled to himself. He and his armor both, for the plating was riddled with small dents and scratches and like him it was filthy, parts covered in the icy residue of frost magicks, dirt, and draugr.  Aye, he would definitely feel it tomorrow. Tomorrow! He would feeling it for several days.  He was sort of feeling it now if he thought on it. But no, that was being countered by his… euphoria. Twenty draugr lay dead before him.   


    Not bad for an old fart.


    Äelberon took another large bite of goat cheese, savoring its sharpness as he chewed. Bless her, Tilma made fine cheese. He took his time to finish the wedge and before he took a final bite, he broke off a good-sized chunk with a flick of his finger. He chewed and watched Koor, knuckle rolling the final piece of cheese, showing surprising dexterity with his gauntleted fingers.  Koor immediately glanced upward, his tail wagging, following the piece of cheese that traversed his Master’s hand in a steady rhythm. He knew. “You want this?” Äelberon asked, gesturing to the cheese with his eyes.


    Koor licked his muzzle expectantly and stood on his haunches, pressing his front paws upon his Master’s left thigh, sky blue meeting red-orange.  Pleading with his Master. Äelberon’s fingers stopped their steady motion and he smiled at Koor. “Here, my boy.” He said softly as he held the cheese to the dog’s mouth. It was scooped up immediately, and Äelberon rubbed Koor’s ears. “You know we are not quite done yet,” He whispered, gesturing with his head towards the sarcophagus. “We need to wake that one up first. The Dragonstone is with him, of that, I am certain.”


    It had not been in the chest that he now sat upon. That chest yielded a bag of septims, an emerald, and an enchanted amulet that glowed orange. He guessed either a boon to destruction magicks or flamebane, but he did not know which. There was only one way to find out, so he donned the necklace and then in a bold move, he held his hand over one of the braziers.


    Äelberon’s loud curses echoed throughout the cavern when his hand burned. Saying things that would make an Altmeri matron blush. No, not flamebane, he fumed while he healed his throbbing hand, still cursing loudly until the pain subsided.  That had been very stupid and he could feel Koor laughing at him. He did do a fair amount of stomping about, he thought with a sheepish grin. Cocky Old Bastard, beaten by an amulet. The amulet found the recesses of his pack, separate from the other that indeed bore flamebane. The one from Dustman’s Cairn, lest mixing them confuse him. It probably would anyway, he was terrible with such things. There was a reason why he consulted Farengar on these matters.


    Äelberon had 21 bolts left for the draugr that still slumbered in the sarcophagus in front of him. Plenty, especially after he took the time to salvage intact bolts from the corpses.  He waited, for he knew what the trigger was.


    The wall.  It had to be.


    Äelberon turned his head slightly in the direction of the wall, his hair blowing gently in the wind it created, drying the tendrils that clung to his damp, sweat and dirt-streaked forehead. The noise was as loud as it had been at Dustman’s Cairn.


    The wall called to him.  Probably because he was a caster, though he was no real mage. ‘Twas, after all, a magic wall. At Dustman’s Cairn, he had been the only one who saw and heard the magic of the wall, but Farkas and Koor were not casters.  Äelberon was positive that if Farengar or Danica were here, they would also hear the crackling noise, feel the light gust of wind, and see the swirling blue light that now beckoned him to approach. Hmm, maybe Irileth too, he pondered, for he sensed that she practiced. She was a Dunmer, after all, and they took to magic almost as readily as Altmer did. He watched the blue light shimmer and dance, his red-orange eyes transfixed by it.


    Yol…” Äelberon whispered softly, letting the word sink it.


    He still had no idea what it meant, or if he was even saying it correctly. He wondered what word this wall would say. He was brimming with curiosity, but he lingered at the chest and rested, for the Gods only knew what would emerge from that sarcophagus and Äelberon was not taking any chances. Anymore, he thought, remembering his burned hand with a wry smile. After a few more moments, he brought his right leg down and stretched his limbs, feeling his bones crack and protest, already stiff and tired from the long day, before he finally slid off the chest.


    He charged Sun fire in his left hand. He wanted to check, he had a feeling.  Then he made sure that his katana was secure about his waist and that the shield could be easily accessed. His pack lay upon the floor next to the chest, moved there after he cleared the chamber. He did not need it now, for he held Niniik in his right hand and the potion of icebane in his left hand.


    Or, at least he believed it to be icebane.


    He would not have a repeat of the encounter with the Wight. He would take the potion, whatever it was, though he was not pleased with the prospect. Gods only knew how old that potion was, for he was pretty certain none of Arvel’s party made it to that room. He was going to drink a 5,000 year old potion. At least he guessed it was that old. He did not have the time to do the proper research and calculations.


    Not going to take any more risks, eh, Old Mer?


    It was time. Äelberon walked slowly to the word wall and he could feel the wind build around him, blowing his hair, as the sound grew deafening and the blue light grew brighter, calling him to the wall.  He popped the lid off the vial and drank the potion in one gulp, tossing the empty bottle when he finished. He groaned and his stomach turned. That was awful too, but he could taste the snowberries in it faintly and his body took on the light bluish glow of ice.

    Auri-El’s Grace, because he really did not know what it was. He had taken another huge risk.


    He loaded Niniik with a bolt and then Äelberon then did as he did in Dustman’s Cairn, he touched the wall with his right hand, feeling the wind against his face. The noise, the power surging, the force… And the wall spoke. 




    He had no time to dwell on the word as he had upon “Yol” for immediately he heard the loud pop of the sarcophagus and he whirled around quickly, letting his bolt fly, striking the horned draugr square in the chest. Äelberon’s eyes widened when it did not even stagger and he saw the draugr throw his head back to shout. “Run Koor!”


    The dog bolted from the word wall and the Elf dove down, rolling away from it. Silver-plated armor was not designed for such movement. Gods, he could feel the mail dig into his skin.


    Fo Krah... Diin!!!


    The stream of ice from the draugr’s lips struck the word wall, coating it in a thick, frozen residue, and while Äelberon did not get the direct blast, he certainly felt the chill. He let out a strangled gasp, struggling to catch his breath as the cold air seeped into his lungs. By the Gods, and that was with the potion! This was no ordinary draugr, he thought while he ran towards the bridge, loading another bolt.  The draugr let out a cruel laugh and readied his battle axe.  Äelberon shifted position and released another bolt, his shot again true, and again nothing. “Xarxes’ arse!” He cursed.


    The draugr had the helm of a Deathlord, but he had dealt with Deathlords already, this one was far more powerful. It faced Äelberon as he armed Niniik. “Hah, hah, hah, Qiilaan Us Dilon, lok fahliil!”  It said, running towards the Elf, battle axe raised, its motions far more fluid than its clumsier brethren.  But that was not what caught Äelberon’s attention.


    It spoke to him.


    Äelberon managed to fire Niniik once more before he was forced to dodge the battle axe’s hard swing.  Now that shot the draugr felt and it reeled from the impact. Äelberon turned again to run, speeding across the bridge, loading another bolt as the draugr again threw back his head.


    Äelberon was not fast enough this time when the words rang from the Draugr’s lips.


    Zun Haal.. Viik!!!!”


    The old Knight felt the strong gust of wind push him with great force and Niniik flew fast and far from his hands. The blast caused him to misstep and he skidded onto the stone floor, groaning, his right ankle nagging again. The Draugr crossed the bridge quickly, Koor frantically nipping at its heels trying to distract it while Äelberon turned onto his back and backed away, still grounded, groping for his shield. He looked up when he saw the horned shadow.


    The draugr now loomed over him, its eyes glowing blue, its lipless mouth contorted in a menacing grin. “Bolog Aaz, Mal Lir!” Taunted the draugr, bringing down its battle axe.


    Ne!!!!” Äelberon cried as he brought up his shield and blocked the draugr’s blow, his red-orange eyes ablaze. The draugr was taken aback by the force of the block and roared.  Äelberon took advantage of the draugr’s surprise to right himself and stand, unsheathing his katana. “I have more than one trick up my sleeve, vile creature!” He roared back.


    The draugr was enraged and began to throw his head back again to shout, only to be stopped by a brutal swipe from Äelberon’s shield to its face. “No! No more shouting for you!” Äelberon growled, his red-orange eyes narrowed in anger. “Fight me fair, Monster! With weapons!” The two then rushed at each other; weapons drawn.


    The Guardian of the Dragonstone was in a fury, they had parried blows for some time and the worm would not go down. The Lok Fahliil was strong, delivering strikes with both shield and sword, more than able to block the Guardian’s crushing axe swings. And what the High Elf did not block, he dodged, for the worm was quick on his feet, though his face was bearded and his silver-white hair long with great age.  


    Äelberon could sense the draugr beginning to weaken, and he doubled his efforts, his own storm brewing.  After another slice from his katana, Äelberon shoved the draugr with his shield, pushing the monster back across the bridge. The draugr suddenly broke away and ran off in the opposite direction.  “Coward!” Cried Äelberon, raising his katana to the air.


    The draugr turned, rearing his head to shout. He quickly pivoted, changing direction to leap out of the draugr’s line of fire, for he saw that the icebane potion’s effects were now gone. But the draugr did not use that shout…


    Zun Haal... Viik!!!!”


    Äelberon felt his sword slip from his hands when he crashed again to the floor face down with a low grunt, the mail of his armor cutting into his skin from the impact, his hair and armor sporting the dark dirt of the tomb floor. He made an effort to rise, his arms straining to bear his weight, but his vision was clouded from the impact. The blood trickled from his nose, the wetness leaving a trail to his open mouth. He coughed, shutting his eyes tightly.


    Get up. Äelberon groaned and managed to lift himself to his hands and knees. Where was his weapon? His dazed eyes scanned the room. Out of reach. You are needed … He shook his head to clear it. The injuries were not severe. His body had endured far worse. He had one more trick up his sleeve and he prayed, asking Magnus to grant him the daily gift.


    Äelberon of Dusk was Highborn.


    The Guardian’s laughter echoed through the cavern as the Elf struggled to rise, his back turned to the monster. The worm would die now and the Guardian readied his battle axe and approached. What the Elf did next, though, surprised the draugr. He tossed his shield hard upon the floor and then the worm laughed, his body now glowing with a whitish aura.


    “Hawh, hawh, hawh…” It was a deliberate mocking of the draugr’s own voice and though his back was turned, Äelberon could sense that the draugr was put off by the sound.  If the draugr was going to shout, Äelberon would use magicks too. He was Highborn. An Altmer, now drunk with the very powers of Aetherius. The draugr dared challenge him? The Slayer of Bet? Äelberon cracked his neck and turned slightly towards the draugr, letting it approach. 


    The Guardian roared and quickened his pace, his battle axe drawn and then he saw the worm raise his hands, his back still turned. They glowed with the fire of the sun. Lir lost lahzey! Sonaak!  The lir turned and faced the Guardian, and the Guardian felt fear when he saw the worm’s eyes bore into his. They glowed with the very fire of those that they served. The ones that were coming again.


    “You love your magicks so much, Monster?”  Äelberon raged, his bloodshot eyes burning, “Then I will give you magicks!”  He cast Sun fire at the Guardian from each hand. 


    It screamed as the holy fire burned him. All it could see was the sunlight. The Guardian blindly swung his battle axe, but the worm dodged and harnessed the sun’s fire again, and again, and again, and the draugr roared in both rage and agony, throwing back its head. He would freeze this worm…


    Fo Krah... Diin!!!”


    Äelberon anticipated the shout much better this time and dodged the stream of ice, sprinting, his mind ignoring his physical limitations while he channeled Highborn. He felt no pain, only the power that flowed through his body, the energy coming from his hands, the focus of his mind.  He turned hard to face the draugr, kicking up dirt from the cavern floor as he shifted position. It could not shout now. Äelberon charged Sun fire again in both hands.  It was far weaker, he knew it and he stared down the monster, taunting it with a voice that roared like thunder. “Ha! Your lips may bring ice, Monster, but my hands! My hands bring sun's fire!” He then cast his spells, one hand after the other in rapid succession and the draugr screamed, falling to his knees. 


    It was over. The only sounds in the cavern was Äelberon’s heavy breathing as Magnus’s boon left him, leaving him as he was before. An exhausted, injured Mer. It had felt good while it lasted though. ‘Twas better than smoking skooma, though the latter’s blaze lasted quite a bit longer.  Scamp’s Blood, he had not called upon the boon in a long, long time. Was the last time the Symposium? That long ago. Gods!  He groaned when he took a step towards the wounded draugr, his soreness now quite apparent. Aye, definitely not high with magicks anymore.


    The dying Guardian stared at the worm while it slowly stumbled towards him. The powerful legs unsteady. Wounded too and disoriented, but no, this was no mere worm. The face of the Lok Fahliil became grim as it approached the Guardian. He was pale and old, bearded, but his armor glowed like the morning light and his hair was long from his many years. His right hand harnessed the sun’s power and he took aim, pausing when the Guardian spoke in strangled voice. He wanted home, Sovngarde. The worm be damned. He was damned anyway.


    “Ruvol fahliil, Bormahro Sonaak. Hi los nid lir. Wahsek zey ko hin stahdim yol. Fid zey wah Sovngarde fah Zu'u lost aam dii In pruzah. Dii qeth fen gahvon hi gaat wah faal Dovahgolz. Aal dovah mindok faas, fah Zu'u koraav tol rod nu straag. Hin dez. .. strin.”


    It spoke to him and Äelberon thought he heard the word “Yol” in its words.  He did not understand what the draugr said, but he knew its tone well enough. It wanted death. He charged Sun fire and spoke to the Draugr. “I will give you what you wish.” The Guardian nodded and chuckled menacingly.  With a furrowed brow, Äelberon released Sun fire and it fell dead, dropping his battle axe upon the floor of the cavern with a heavy clang. He only noticed now that it glowed with a pale blue enchantment. Though the wave of fatigue brought him to his knees, his mind could not stop running.


    If he had been struck but once by that weapon…


    Äelberon knelt for a while, close to the body of the draugr, ignoring how his plates dug into his legs, staring at its remains. He was sapped and he needed to recover.  It was then that he felt a nudge against his arm, a muzzle pushing a gap between his ribs and his arm, wedging through. 


    “There you are.” Koor whined softly, his tail between its legs, distressed by his Master’s frail tone. Äelberon smiled at the dog and gave him a reassuring pat on the head. “I am alright and you were smart to stay away at the end. If I had lost you…” Äelberon’s tone grew gentle, the reassuring pats quickly morphing into full-blown holding when his arm closed around the dog’s flank. “It would have been too much to bear, my friend.  The fight was too intense.” Koor licked his Master’s face, causing Äelberon to turn his head to face the animal. “Just give me a little time. I am tired and he…” His head gestured to the draugr as he adjusted himself to sit cross-legged. Kneeling for much longer would have destroyed his legs. “He… was a foe who warrants a few moments of respect.”


    Äelberon and Koor then sat in silence at the body of the warrior. Their bodies were still, but Äelberon’s mind was continuing to race. It laughed at him. A bitter, ironic laugh. Why? In his day, the draugr must have been a fine warrior. Äelberon was acquiring a heightened respect for these Ancient Nords.  He would keep the battle axe as a memento of this experience and he shifted position with a grunt, leaning forward to retrieve the weapon. “May your mead be extra sweet in Sovngarde, friend.”


    He then nodded respectfully, grabbing the axe, only to freeze when he got a clear look at it, his jaw dropping slightly.


    "I know this weapon", he whispered aloud, remembering one just like it that hung over a large Dusken hearth and he caught himself swallowing to suppress the intense wave of emotion, blinking to quell the sudden sting in his eyes. The One who learned them the ways of honor wielded just such a weapon. Gods, he never dared touch it there, or face his father's belt strap, but oh how he gazed upon it as a little boy. Oh, how he listened to those stories with the fellow younglings of his clan, his eyes wide with wonder. The weapon of the first warrior in his family. The one who took the place of Trinimac for his family. The nobles were not the only ones with grand acestors worthy of such reverence...


    "You know how many in my clan heeded the call of the warrior because of you, Old Outsider?" Aye, he'd keep this battle axe, he smiled, now holding the weapon almost reverently. 


    ‘Twas heavier than his blade, but not unmanageable. He lay the weapon on his lap and studied it. Very different from Eorlund’s Skyforge weaponry, with a narrow, distinctively hooked blade and a spike on the butt to act as the blade’s counterweight. The haft was remarkably well-preserved wood and reinforced with bands and strips of steel. Great age had weathered the steel components into a dark patina but the blade was still sharp and surprisingly cold to the touch. More than likely from the enchantment. He held the weapon outstretched with both hands, testing its weight. A stunning piece for display and a memento of the old Southern ways, he smiled with pride. The Outsider's battle axe must have done just as much damage. After rest, he would need to spend a day at Skyforge alone, just pounding out the dents to his armor and shield and sharpen his katana to repair the damage caused by this weapon.


    After rest…


    It took him longer to recover than he expected, his body stiffening up from being in one position for too long, his healing spells not as efficient as he would like. A price for Highborn. The heightened focus always followed by a lack of focus. His day was essentially done. Only a simple matter of finding the Dragonstone. “Simplicity itself.” He repeated.


    Äelberon’s hearty laugh echoed in the chamber. Farengar Secret-Fire would not have survived the first bloody room. The old Knight stretched towards the body and began his search, finding a small key in a pouch underneath the warrior’s rusted cuirass.  He looked up and scanned the chamber towards the wall, his brow furrowing. The only chest in the room that he knew of was the large one and that did not yield the Dragonstone.


    He stood up reluctantly and hobbled across the bridge towards the chest. Had he missed something?  He chuckled again when he felt his bones crack and his muscles cramp up in protest as he moved.


    Keep moving and the stiffness should go away. Should...


    Searching the chest still yielded nothing. No hidden chambers, no panels. Nothing.  Äelberon casually rested his arms on the edge of the chest and thought, scratching his beard. Scamp’s Blood, he needed a bath badly. Where else could this bloody stone be? Wait…


    The sarcophagus… 


    He walked towards the sarcophagus, joined by Koor, pleased that the stiffness in his body was easing up a bit. Tomorrow, though, would be another story, and the next day? Ha! He would be lucky if he would be able to get out of bed.  Äelberon peered into the sarcophagus. For the most part, the interior was comprised of a carved black stone, smooth, save for a small, oddly shaped hole. When something seems out of place, it always warrants closer inspection. But he needed his sensitive fingers for this.


    Äelberon removed his gauntlets, exposing bruised pale hands, the skin around the knuckles rubbed raw from the pressure against his gauntlets. He stretched his fingers and cracked his knuckles before stepping cautiously into the sarcophagus. Koor stood on his hind legs and rested his front paws on the edge, intently watching his Master kneel.


    Äelberon felt the hole with his finger tip. Aye, definitely a key hole, he noted, shifting the position of the key in his right hand. He inserted the Guardian’s key into the hole, nodding when it fit perfectly and then gave the key a twist to the left.  A click followed by a sound puff of dust and a few sneezes from the Elf marked the release of the panel from its lock, raising a square panel from the floor of the sarcophagus about a little finger’s width away from it. Wide enough that he could pry the panel off.


    Now that was a rather sophisticated unlocking mechanism, for the sarcophagus floor had given the impression of being seamless before. Impressive.


    Several drops of sweat fell from his brow onto the panel and he grumbled, wiping his brow with his hand, brushing the shortened lock of hair rudely to one side, away from his eye. Only for it to spring back stubbornly. Damn hair. A braid would have been a better choice for the barrow and he quickly unbound his hair to braid it. The result was a tousled mess, but his hair was away from his face. Save that damn lock.


    “Alright, you are unlocked, now to lift this panel…” He mumbled to himself, feeling his excitement build. It was under the panel, he knew it. Äelberon lifted the panel and leaned it against the inside wall of the sarcophagus, revealing a cavity within the sarcophagus floor. “Clever, clever, clever. I do like these Ancient Nords. Look at what we have here. You seeing this, boy?” Äelberon called out.


    An excited bark. Äelberon looked up, meeting Koor’s gaze. Aye, boy was seeing it, that tail was rocking back and forth like a pendulum. “You seeing this? Eh? Eh?” He extended his hand and rubbed the dog’s ears. Koor’s low chatter rang in the cavern. “We found it. We did! You and I. Good boy.” Another ear rub, “Good, good boy. You like this? You like running around in tombs with your crazy, old Master? Eh?” Koor jumped into the sarcophagus and eagerly pounced on Äelberon, making him fall lightly on his backside laughing. “I take take that as a ‘yes’. Alright, alright. When we finish with Vingalmo, I promise, you and I will visit more of these. But first, you be a good boy and stay. No tombs for us if we do not deliver this to Farengar first.”


    He gave Koor one more ear rub. “Stay.” Koor relaxed and sat on his haunches, waiting patiently while his Master bent over again.


    The Dragonstone was nestled within the cavity, wrapped carefully in ancient linens. So old that more than likely exposure to the air would hasten their decomposition. He kept a bearskin in his saddlebag, fresh linens as well. He would take the time to wrap it again once he returned from Allie with fresh supplies. He hoped she was alright. The thicket was secure with some grasses to eat and she was wrapped in his cloak.


    Sure enough, despite being as gentle as possible, the linens were already falling apart at his touch, revealing a five-sided carved stone tablet, cracked and chipped in spots, but the carvings on it were still legible. “Damn, Urag, you would love this. I really need to pay you a visit, you old Bastard.”


    He recognized Skyrim immediately upon looking at the stone, ignoring his stomach’s now persistent rumblings and his aching knees from kneeling on his cuisses for so long. His awe quickly turned to alarm when he saw all the markings. Xarxes’ Arse! Were those diamond-shaped markers scattered about their burial mounds?! How many? He quickly counted with his finger in the dim light and noted their locations. Memorizing. Twenty-one…


    “Gods, they are buried everywhere…” He murmured. At least they were dead. Alduin was alive and that was menace enough. Against his better judgement, Äelberon then lifted the cumbersome tablet from the cavity with a grunt and turned it over as he raised his left knee, using it and his shield arm to brace the tablet securely. He was holding his breath. If he dropped that tablet… Confounded, he would do no such thing! He was probably being more careful than Farengar would have been.


    “Light, light, I need light.” He charged Sun fire with his right hand, providing him with some much needed illumination. “Ah that is much better. Now let us see what we have here...” His Altmer eyes narrowed, studying the tablet. Ignoring time and the waning sun.


    Lost in his world…


    Runes, runes that matched the style of the runes on the wall. Dots and slashes, with a curious little hook, as if they were made by something sharp and wedge-shaped. His silver brows furrowed. It was an inscription.


    What did it mean?


    The Requiem  overhaul adds some elements to the game that are reflected here. Fire and frost resistance are now called Flamebane and icebane, and shock resistance is now called shockbane. You also may have noticed that there is, in general, a lot less treasure. Finally, I do not lie, the final chamber of Bleak Falls Barrow does indeed contain 20 draugr, deleveled. You do get Deathlords in the mix and the final Draugr is, I think, is the highest leveled draugr you can encounter, the Draugr Death Overlord.  


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXXIV    Chapter XXXVI


21 Comments   |   ilanisilver likes this.
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 21, 2015
    Besides, he likes his silver anyway.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 21, 2015
    Well, lol, Albee doesn't sneak, nor would he get the ebony mail as he doesn't serve Boethiah, so he's sort of stuck getting the ebony the old-fashioned way. 
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 21, 2015
    Ha! Are you kidding? I just power level my sneak in Helgen with Ralof and get to level 100-150 just to get the Ebony Mail and kick the Ebony Warrior's ass!
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 21, 2015
    If you're heavily perked in one-handed, you should be alright wielding ebony with draugr in Requiem, it just takes longer. Silver is best. Or spells. On the other hand, you need the smithing perk in Requiem, and for that, you need a book. Then you need eb...  more
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 20, 2015
    I currently use an ebony sword.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 20, 2015
    You are equipped well in Requiem, draugr go down. If I tried that with steel bolts, I'd be dead. 
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 20, 2015
    I meant that he could certainly do a lot of damage but I don't put many perks into heavy armor even though my character uses the Ebony Mail so he wouldn't last long in there on legendary.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 20, 2015
    I used the crossbow for that chamber. It's not bad at all if you have Requiem's quickshot and ranger perks. You are literally running, shooting, and dodging shouts. He was well-perked in archery by then, so if the draugr was low-level, it went down in one...  more
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 20, 2015
    Azura be damned... 20 draugr! I don't even think Walks-In-Darkness could fight that... And he has over 1000 health!
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  October 13, 2015
    So Koor didn't boldly run away away like our Brave Sir Robin , omitted words are the most common mistake I catch myself doing.  I did see the inner Pomeranian come out when he was bouncing on the sarcophagus.
    I did lol when he put his hand in the fi...  more