Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXXVIII


    Äelberon cursed himself for keeping the Staff of Hasedoki at Jorrvaskr. To use it would be advantageous, but in order to retrieve it, he would have to cross Kodlak and offer explanation as to why he was going to face a dragon… without them.


    He did not want to.


    He loved his family… yes, it was love now. After such a short time? Aye, the band of Companions with their easy manners and smiles reminded him too, too much of his own lost family, and their shared kinship as warriors only brought them closer. But no, he would not take them to battle. He could not.


    Were they even sober?


    Probably not, he thought, picturing the empty bottles of mead strewn about the Mead Hall. They brought too many variables and Äelberon needed things to be as simple as possible, especially with Whiterun guards involved.  If they could not control the urge? Their quest for the cure would be destroyed, Jorrvaskr purged, and his new family torn apart. It would all come crashing down on them.


    On him…


    Lycanthropy was illegal in Skyrim, just as it was illegal in Cyrodiil, and the bounties were high. He knew, he hunted feral werewolves, he collected those very bounties. A silver bolt to the brain sent them mercifully to the Hunting Grounds, he collected the coin, and the villagers they plagued with their unrestrained violence were saved. Explaining that to the Old Man would only lead to hard words or worse and Äelberon did not feel like arguing with Kodlak.  No, he would not set foot in that Mead Hall and he continued to follow Irileth out of Dragonsreach, knowing that he was going to make the dragon much harder on himself for not using the artifact.  Possibly bringing death to others to prevent more death. A terrible decision to make and he felt horrible for it. He felt himself begin to mouth his Tenets.


    It was needed…


    The thunderstorm that he heard while speaking with Farengar had only strengthened with time, the heavy sheets of rain making visibility difficult in the darkness, the flashes of lightning creating only silhouettes against the falling water when Irileth and Äelberon began their descent down the steps leading away from the Jarl’s palace.  His bearskin and her leather did little to suppress the encroaching wetness. It only compounded the cold and steam came from their lips as they walked without complaint. Both were accustomed to military life. Marches, drills; both in good weather and in foul.  


    “Do you indeed have a plan, Almsti?” She asked.


    “Besides prayer?” He quipped. Irileth smirked, hearing the sarcasm in his tone. He understood some Dunmeris. “Yes, I do.  It is a plan that exploits our strengths.”


    “From what I have heard, you are an exceptional archer.”


    Äelberon sighed through the rain. Talking would make all of this more bearable, if he could only stop thinking on his ata and lenya. What he was not doing for them. What he may never do if he did not survive tonight. He shook his head to clear it, making Irileth think he was shaking the water off his hood. “I grew up with a bow in my hand, as most Mer in the deep south of Summerset do.  Like my lenya, my mother before me. She taught me everything she knew of the weapon, but I am only competent through many years practice, Irileth.”


    Competent, Irileth thought with a puzzled shrug. That was not a very Altmeri way to think.  She had heard stories from the brothers of the Drunken Huntsman and that sell sword, Jenassa. That his skills with the weapon surpassed the Huntress at Jorrvaskr. That his skills surpassed the Bosmers.  These were all exceptional archers in her eyes. If he surpassed them…


    “And you cast spells and are highly resistant to fire.” The Altmer continued.


    Äelberon stopped at the courtyard of the Gildegreen, now oblivious to the rain, and unslung his pack to remove his amulet of flamebane. “I have something that can help you further...” Despite her objections, he gave it to Irileth, rather directly placing it in her hand and issuing a silent command with his eyes when he clasped her hand over the amulet.


    Do not challenge me.


    She watched the features then soften. Taking on more of the countenance of an old mage or even a grandfather. The bushy silver brows relaxing, the fiery glint of his eyes not so harsh. “With this, you will now be nearly immune to fire. This is key to my plan.”


    The Dunmer stared hard at the Altmer while he slung his pack over his broad shoulders.  It was the first time she had really seen him up close. His face was cast dimly by one of the brazier lights. Aye, he had not lived a life typical of his People, for the face was lined and scarred.  If he were Nord, he would be placed around Jarl Ulfric’s age, perhaps a bit older, but it was clear this was an Elf well into his third century. The Great Anguish, he had lived through it. He had survived. Was a dragon better or worse than what he had faced then, Irileth could not decide. It did not matter, this was their fate and she felt her shoulders square up. Giving her that amulet was suicide and she lowered her tone. “But you? You will be unprotected.”


    Still with protests? Äelberon shook his head at her stubbornness.  He was finding it hard, however, not to like her. Irileth possessed a strong sense of command, she had seen battle, and he would need this. Äelberon narrowed his eyes, letting their steel return and saw that he now had her attention. He was larger, his voice could go even lower. “Irileth, even if I wore it, I would still be unprotected. My race is weak to magic no matter what. Putting the protection where it will do the most good is key to my plan. Let us continue. We do not have much time.”


    She acknowledged him with a nod. She was not one to give in readily, but it was experience against her rank. He survived Helgen. Whether he survived by fleeing or not, it did not matter. He survived. “Fair enough, Almsti.”


    They approached the troops that were gathered at the gates of the city, their furs of their cloaks and their uniforms dripping with water. Six Hold Guards stood with weapons ready.


    Six… Only six. Äelberon frowned. Damn it. A flash of lightning revealed grim faces on the ones that did not wear the distinctive standard helm that obscured, laced with traces of suppressed fear, just behind the eyes. Clean-shaven too. He assumed that the others who wore the helm were cut of the same cloth. Young, so young.


    Irileth gave a speech to rally their hearts and there was great passion in it, her resonant voice carrying even in the rain, but Äelberon was not dwelling much on her words. While she spoke to them, he was thinking about how to best use these guards and… how to protect them. She broke his chain of thought. “Do you have anything you would like to add, Almsti?”


    Aye, they would need a priest tonight, she thought. If they survived this, Irileth knew she was addressing the Jarl’s new Thane. He had more than proven his mettle in her eyes. The Jarl had disappeared into his armory after their words in the war room, he would be allowed to purchase property in the Hold, and a young guard would be selected from the barracks. Lydia would be a fine choice; quick with a blade and competent with a bow. Irileth hoped Balgruuf would pick Lydia, but she did not think the Altmer before her was the Breezehome type. There were other places, however. She watched him. She could tell the Altmer was thinking.


    The guards stared at him; they were waiting. Äelberon stood next to a brazier in the rain and warmed his hands, his eyes catching the light of the flame, the oils keeping it lit, though it smoked terribly. His voice was not hard as he spoke, but kind. He faced the guards. “Do you believe in Sovngarde?” He asked simply.


    “Of course we do,” Answered one of the guards, “We’re Nords!” Laughter.


    They relaxed somewhat when the Elf grinned and raised his hands in a questioning gesture, his voice now playful, rising and falling in a manner that was very uncharacteristic for his race. They were so snide usually, so condescending. “Then by Talos!” He cried. Shor’s Bones! He invoked Talos, thought one of the guards. A High Elf speaking of Talos! “Why are the lot of you so damn glum, even your helmets are long!"


    More laughter.


    "Be of good cheer! What have you to dread? What is there to despair? You live; you stay among your family and friends and drink mead at the Bannered Mare. You die, you are still among family and friends and you will still drink mead… in Sovngarde!”


    Äelberon crossed his arms over his chest and cocked a bushy eyebrow, half-smiling, and his eyes danced in the brazier light. “Now… I may be a milk-drinking priest and a damn Elf, but even I know a bloody win-win situation when I see one, am I not right?”


    The guards erupted in boisterous laughter and Irileth smirked, crossing her arms over her chest. Smart, very smart, she nodded in approval. They had needed that. They had needed the laughter. He continued, turning back to the fire, his face softening, his voice growing gentler, though it was still quite strong. Irileth wondered how he would preach. Ah, the great sermons of Morrowind, she remembered fondly. Dunmeri priests knew how to preach. Heimskr was nothing. He just screamed. 


    “For mark my words on this stormy night. Aye, ‘tis verily a stormy night…” He interrupted himself, looking up, letting the drops hit his face, and he closed his eyes for a bit, feeling the water. It felt good. Soothing and his mouth moved in silent prayer. Yes, Kyne, watch over your children tonight, and if you can spare a tiny prayer for me, this Old Mer would be grateful. Äelberon opened his eyes again and faced the guards. “See? Even your lady Kyne is watching you tonight. Yes, mark my words, Nords of Skyrim, Tsun will definitely let you cross the whalebone bridge for your bravery today. For your honor. For your sacrifice. Of that, there is no doubt in my heart.”


    A High Elf priest knew their Gods. He knew them and Honthjolf found himself nodding. He remembered wanting to throw the Elf out that first day. Clad in Imperial armor and smelling of sickness and death. He had wanted to throw him out. Send him to another city. Leave him to his fate, leave him to die.


    “Now, let us pray, for I am His Priest and it is custom to pray before battle…” They all bent their heads, acknowledging his correctness, though Äelberon lifted his head slightly to regard the guards and Irileth. All were deserving of respect, though their faiths were markedly different. Even the Daedra worshiper. It was the exception to the “in general” of the Tenet of his Order that spoke of Daedra and their minions. The Dunmer who worshiped the Reclamations. Athis was an Ashlander and most Dunmer now accepted the Reclamations, those that did not embrace the Divines by being too acclimated to life in the Empire, that is. Her use of the language betrayed her faith, the reference to him as Almsti. Dinya Balu did not speak Dunmeris. He would swallow his own Altmeri pride and forget about Trinimac for a moment. He had a soft spot for Dunmer. He kept accumulating soft spots. Äelberon took a deep breath.  “I am…” He began, his tone serious, “unto that which bled as a new force. A servant of Light and Time. For the glory of battle, for the glory of light over darkness, I make my peace with the world, my Lord, Auri-El...”


    Honthjolf did not expect a High Elf prayer to be so… battle-driven. What the Elf said next, however, brought up the Housecarl’s head in surprise and Honthjolf watched her face change.


    “Look… upon the face of Boethiah and wonder. Raise your arms that Boethiah may look on them and bestow a blessing. Know that battle is a blessing. Know that death is an eventuality. Know that you are dust in the eyes of Boethiah…”


    N’chow… he knew prayers to Boethiah, Irileth thought, knowing that her face betrayed an uncharacteristic shock. He was honoring her, respecting her Dunmeri faith. And she had her answer. He would preach well. “I am dust…” She whispered in the rain, remembering the old Rite of her People.


    “You are the ash of the Red Mountain, my child.” Came his response, and then he addressed the Nords, leaving them for last. "Mother of Men, who steels us with her icy breath. Warrior-Wife, who sanctifies every axe-edge. Goddess of the Storm, who gifted us with voice, with life. Bless us, Kyne; may we serve you with every word, with every deed. So that we may be worthy to receive your kiss at the end…"


    They were moved by his prayer. No prayer to Kynareth, but to Kyne, their very mother. It was strange to hear it from an Elf. Elves were supposed to hate Men. The guards nodded back, their spirits renewed by the prayers, even to the Dunmer’s Daedric Prince, but they sensed that the Housecarl had more to say. Speeches and prayer would bolster their morale, but it would not win battles. Strategy would.  


    “So what is your plan?” She asked, again assuming her tough persona, though inside she was still profoundly moved by his words. Irileth knew full well that he did not worship Boethiah; that he said those words for her and her alone, truly acting as almsti, giving her comfort, preparing her for the trials ahead. Just as he later did for the Nords.


    Äelberon turned to the party, “Guards, Irileth, come with me.”


    The Old Knight left the city gates with the Whiterun force, followed by his husky, their heads held high and their backs straight. Purpose behind their steps. At the stables stood a black charger in one of the stalls and the party waited in the rain while Äelberon retrieved a quiver of Elven arrows and a quiver of bolts from the horse’s saddlebag. First, he turned to the guards, holding up the Elven quiver, the arrows covered with an ice-blue sheen. “Which among you is the best archer?”


    They talked amongst themselves for a moment and then a guard in a scale helmet and a bushy brown mustache stepped forward. “I am the best archer among these men.” He spoke, his voice firm.


    Äelberon nodded as he studied the Nord’s arms. Aye, he had the strong forearms and wiry shoulders of an archer. He also knew the face, though the image of it at the time was glazed with the haze of fever. The one he met when he first arrived at Whiterun, the one who almost did not let him in the city. “What is your name, friend?” Asked Äelberon, smiling, “For I cannot keep calling you ‘archer’ or ‘guard’.”


    “Honthjolf, Companion.”


    Ah, so most of them knew he was a Companion. “Then here, Honthjolf, take these.” Äelberon handed the guard an Elven quiver of arrows. “These arrows have been infused with the power of frost.”


    Honthjolf took the quiver and strapped it to his back, sucking in his breath. Talos guide his aim tonight!


    “My Friends in battle!” Äelberon cried, raising his voice to compete with the pelting rain and pointing in the direction of the tower with the quiver of bolts. Another flash of lighting followed by a roll of thunder, loud and cracking. “Torbar of the Western Watchtower…”


    He knew Torbar by name! Torbar was alive, Honthjolf thought closing his eyes briefly in relief. He was their fastest. What of Throki and Rolf? The Companion continued to speak, bringing Honthjolf out of his concern.


    “…spoke of a sulfur smell. This tells me that we are dealing with a beast of flame. It will be weak to two things; frost and storms. Honthjolf will attack the dragon with the frost arrows, and I have these…” He showed his prize from Valtheim towers, raising the quiver in the air. More flashes from the sky. “Bolts of Storm,” Äelberon smiled a sly smile and continued, “Guaranteed to make a very, very large explosion. This dragon will take notice! This, I swear as Priest of Auri-El!”


    Irileth nodded approvingly, that would cause damage, for they exploded with great force. Two pairs of Elven eyes then locked and Irileth saw the priest’s steel return, his voice lowering. “Irileth, be the very soul of caution, for you have the advantage that none of us have. You are resistant to the beast’s fire.”


    “I am to be the decoy then? Yes, I see your strategy. Distract the beast with my magicks while you, Honthjolf, and the rest of the guards shoot.”


    Äelberon suddenly shot her a hard look and pointed the quiver at her. She was at first taken aback by the gesture, no one dared look at her like that, but she did not mind so much anymore. This was an old Mer, and had the experience they so desperately needed. “That does not mean you risk your life. Do not, and I mean do not go near the mouth, Irileth. Do not engage in melee combat with this beast. Keep to your spells and make him chase you. They are fast in the air, but slower on the ground. We need to make him land and then stay there.” He turned to the rest of the guards. “I repeat this stern warning for you as well, do not go near the beast’s mouth, and use your bows. I have seen men plucked from the ground and then cast to their deaths like we cast a pebble to the ground. The fire is deadly, hot… like the very holocaust that is Oblivion. Use the cover of the tower and the surrounding ruins. The teeth are just as bad, sharp and the maw crushing. Directly behind the tail is also dangerous, for the beast can deliver powerful blows with it. The vulnerable spots, my guess, would be right under the wings, where it cannot reach with its mouth.  Aim your attacks there.”  Äelberon suddenly raised Niniik high in the air and uttered a cry, his eyes aflame. “And may the Storm goddess watch us tonight! Watch us for our lives! Watch us for our families! Watch us… for Whiterun!”


    He then roared, feeling his face flush with the heat of battle. “For Whiterun!” 


    Irileth drew her sword and the guards raised their bows and answered the Elf’s battle cry, “For Whiterun!


    “Then let us go, Men and Mer… united… and face this darkness.” He growled. Äelberon Snow Bear mounted his black charger and the force from Whiterun made their way to the Western Watchtower, while the rain fell heavily upon the ground, bringing with it rolls of thunder and explosions of lightning.



    He could see the smoke and flames in the distance when the party closed in on the Watchtower, the stench of sulfur almost overwhelming. The dragon had already attacked. Damn it, Äelberon thought, the charred tower still smoldering, even in the downpour. Impossible that flames could not be quashed by this deluge! How did Men win their war with the dragons? At least he knew now that his guess was right, it was a creature of flame. In theory, his plan should work. In practice, however, he was not so certain. He had never faced a foe quite like this in all his long years.


    Bet had been very different. He was equipped for Bet, his armor enchanted, his blade of the finest Elven alloy mixed with silver. Äelberon was made to be the bane of Daedra, made the bane of vampires. He learned this at seventeen, when he cast that spell.


    When he held the sun in his hands…


    Foolish and stupid, young and clad only in clothes, wielding his old hunting bow, venturing where he was not supposed to go; where his parents in hastily spoken words while they donned their armor after their evening meal told him not to go.


    Fish, he had had a second helping of it that night. His mother made the best fish. He missed a really well-made fish...  


    He went. To the Temple of Dusk, watching in horror as vampires overran Auri-El’s holy place. The place where he would listen to sermons and Rites on Sundas, where he would watch the priests with their flowing hair and their healing magicks, their voices ringing while they sang hymns and anthems of praise.  It was awe-inspiring for a boy who lived a humble life by the Sea.  He then watched while they profaned Auri-El’s House, their eyes glowing, and their fangs bare. Then seeing them attack her as she shot them down with her bow.


    His mother.


    She was valiant despite her age, clad in her worn light armor, swift with her draw, accurate with her strikes, light on her feet. But not light enough and one overwhelmed her, bringing her to the ground, ready to kill.


    And everything stopped. His heart stopped. Time stopped. Auri-El controlled time, Äelberon knew this now. He controlled time that day just as He controlled him, making his blood boil, his eyes blaze, and it came from his hand. The sun’s fire. Auri-El’s light. The blast struck the vampire down, saving her.


    He had vomited afterwards in shock. And the look on her face…


    Then, there were the visits, from both the clergy of the Order and the Thalmor. They came with questions, so many questions, interviews upon interviews, papers, and the hurried scratching of a quill from a black-gloved hand, while his worried parents looked on. He had no answers for them, the frustration of youth making his face flush with heat and his head hurt. It simply came from his hand. And he cast the spell for them, again and again while they studied his actions, determined what they meant.  Some were kind, a deeply lined face with impossibly long hair and beard, bound and braided, ancient among their People, the one who would help him later. Help him understand what it was to serve. Some… some were different, not unkind, at least not then, but not like the High Priest of Dusk had been. Intense, light, light orange, almond eyes narrowed, bright under her black and gold hood, probing, unsure. Writing down everything, scribbling, scratching, quill scraping paper.


    Elenwen… so young then. Barely older than he was. Perhaps twenty? A Phenom among their People. Both parties were curious, curious as to why a boy of seventeen and a son of the South could harness the sun. The Holy magicks. They did not understand.


    It was His will.


    Äelberon shook his head, clearing it of the memory. No, time had not been lost. Auri-El’s mercy, he was still on his horse and they were not quite at the Tower. Dragons were a different matter, and the unknown was so terribly uncertain. Was it one of these guards? He hoped so. He prayed so…


    They gathered at a small outcropping of rocks a short distance from the tower.  Äelberon dismounted and rummaged through his saddle bags while Irileth surveyed the scene with the rest of the Whiterun guards. His hand closed over a small bottle and Äelberon pulled it out to scrutinize it, double-checking. Yes, black and red. He held the bottle in his left hand, while he held Niniik in his right. He had but one. It was his only flamebane potion. It would have to do.


    You are just going to have to run like you have all of Oblivion at your heels when that dragon opens its mouth, Old Mer.


    He felt a familiar nuzzle at his thigh.  Ah, Koor…


    He tucked the bottle securely under the belt of his cuirass and knelt before the animal, rubbing its sopping wet head, lingering at his ears. He brought the animal’s head close to his and their foreheads touched. They stayed like that for a moment and Äelberon could feel his emotion building. “No,” He whispered gently, “No, boy, not this time. There is too much that is unknown and I… I cannot bear to see you fall.  Stay here with our Allie. She will not understand.”  Koor snorted in protest, uttering a stubborn yowl, and Äelberon suddenly broke his embrace with the animal, grabbing its ear firmly and gave it a hard stare, his eyes blazing, his voice threatening. “Do not dare my wrath, boy!” He snapped, giving the dog a shove towards Allie. “I have given an order. Now obey!”


    The husky looked at his Master out of the corner of his eye, whining softly, before he took his place next to Allie, tail between his legs. Äelberon then stood up and walked away from Allie and Koor to join the party, biting the inside of his lip. He was desperate to look back, but he knew he had to be firm. The dog would have rushed straight into the dragon’s mouth to protect him. His boy… so tiny when he found him.


    “Well, it seems that the dragon has already been here,” Irileth noted, staring at the Watchtower when Äelberon joined her at the outcropping. Thank the Gods, she did not notice that he had cleared his throat. He hated that fat snowberry sometimes. Hated the emotion the beast could elicit from him. Altmer were not supposed to be that way. “And you were right, Almsti, flame.” She turned to the guards, “Men, spread out, and keep your bows ready. We need to check for survivors.”


    Äelberon loaded a bolt and followed Irileth towards the burning tower. They then split when she stopped to investigate a pile of rubble a short distance away, while Äelberon continued to the tower entrance, coughing as he ran. The sulfur smell was unbearable now and the black smoke clung heavily to the air, irritating their lungs. Pockets of fire burned throughout the tower, stubbornly refusing to die, leaving a black tarry residue in places, on the walls of the tower, on the ground. Äelberon rushed up the steps to the tower and was met quickly by a guard, his eyes frantic, his face streaked with soot and sweat. “No, get back, it’s still out there. It grabbed Throki and Rolf when they left to get help. Turn back. Turn back.”


    Time then seemed to stop and even the bravest felt their hearts at their throats. It was Honthjolf who saw it first, in the distance, emerging from the mountain peaks while he was checking a burning corpse. The battle axe with its chip on the blade betrayed him. They always joked about the chip in the barracks.


    “When you gonna fix that chip—“ The burning, mangled mess was Throki and Honthjolf hated feeling the sting in his eyes. It was the smoke, he swallowed as he looked up towards the sky, not the grief.


    At first, he was dumbfounded, his jaw open in awe. It was heading straight for them. It was so huge, its scales glistening even in the pelting rain. Black, orange, and brown. Great wings beating in the sky, stretching, highlighted by the lightning that struck. He quickly regained his senses and drew a Nord horn from his belt, bringing it to his lips, ignoring his tears.


    They had grown up together, he, Throki, Torbar, and Morgen. 


    It was a sound not heard in many, many years, clear and low, but all knew what it meant and all looked up at the storming sky, including Äelberon, their hearts pounding in their chests, their eyes blinking away the rain. It was then that they heard it, the dragon’s deafening roar. Like the thunder of a storm, only louder, and they felt the wake of its great wings. The Tower guard cried in utter terror as he stared at Äelberon. “Kynareth save us, it’s back!”


    The dragon barreled across the sky, diving at full speed, and flew low over the tower ruins, knocking some of the men down with the wind of its wake, bellowing. "Thuri du hin sil ko Sovngarde!"


    Sovngarde… he knew that word.


    Words! The dragon spoke words, thought Äelberon, his eyes wide with surprise. Did they all speak? He had not been knocked down by the dragon’s pass and he turned rapidly to follow its course. He watched it rise again and begin a long circle pattern. Climbing the sky. It was coming for another pass. He turned to his comrades and yelled through the pelting rain. “It is coming for another pass! Ready your bows, Men!”


    They were joined by the remaining two guards from the Watchtower and all drew their bows, while Irileth cast a flesh spell and charged chain lighting as the dragon began its descent. Äelberon took aim carefully. “Wait… “ The dragon approached. His heart would not stop pounding. “Wait…”


    The drops of rain fell on Niniik. A flash of lightning.


    NOW!” He cried, releasing his bolt.


    Mirmulnir was greeted by a volley of arrows, which he did not feel, save the tiny pinch of frost, but Lo! He did feel the lightning and then the explosion as something sharp struck his back. What new weapon is this?  They did not use this in his last tangle with the worms. He laughed when he completed his second pass and then rose in the air again with great strokes of his wings.  Ziin lir, two worms would give him a little sport. Ha! Not the Bron but the Fahliil… mere dalliances in his quest for Numinex’s head. Mirmulnir slowed down and turned in the air, the worms would now feel his speech and know fear…


    Irileth turned to Äelberon, keeping her magicks charged, “Is it coming for another pass?”


    “Yes, but this is somehow different.” He studied its movements for a moment, his eyes narrowing, blinking back the relentless rain. Then he saw the dragon open its maw, seeing the faint glimmer of light. The way heat starts upon a stove or in a forge. When you first create the blaze. No… TAKE COVER!!!”


    The force scattered, like ants scurrying when their nest is breached, finding what little cover they could. Äelberon sped towards the tower, his ankle throbbing, taking the vial of flamebane and opening it.


    Oblivion at his heels…


    It was coming, he brought the vial to his lips and drank the fluid, throwing the bottle upon the ground without breaking his stride. He took another bolt from his bandolier and loaded as the dragon came closer and all he could smell was the sulfur when he slid into the tower, landing on his backside, the mail digging into his flesh through his clothes upon impact.


    The dragon swooped down again and from its maw issued a searing flare that bathed the ruins in a conflagration of molten rock and smoke. Äelberon cried out in pain when he felt the heat from his position just inside the tower, the flames moving past the door in high velocity. It heated through the very walls and he lept forward away from the stone when it became too much to bear, clumsily scrambling to the center of the first floor of the tower, his watering eyes blinded by the black poison that started to fill the room. It was as if he was in an oven.


    “Gods,” He gasped, struggling to breathe in the intense heat, grabbing the neck of his cuirass in a futile attempt to pull it away from his throat, his face flushed. He inhaled, only to cough. “It burns…” It was the Great Anguish all over again. Äelberon then opened his eyes. He had survived that.


    He would survive this. 


    Irileth watched helplessly while two of her men immediately went up in flames, the sulfur in the air mixing with the odor of their burning flesh, their piercing screams ringing in her ears. The flames danced about her, teasing her, but not hurting and she immediately cast her lighting spell, letting out a fierce cry, the lightning coming in contact with the dragon’s underbelly as it passed over the tower.


    Then she heard the whizz of a bolt and saw the dragon flinch in the air when a storm explosion hit under its wing. She turned and saw him. By Azura, he was alive, just outside the entrance of the tower, though his face and armor were now blackened in places with heavy soot and he was breathing heavily. He glowed with the essence of flamebane. The dragon flew high into the air again, but not before an arrow of frost struck it.


    Zu'u lost vodahmin fos flogah faantak hi joor vis birgah!” Mirmulnir laughed again, feeling the rain upon his snout and on his wings. He liked the little pricks of frost, they tickled. They were certainly trying very hard, especially the fahliil. He did not like what the Fahliil were using. He circled again, especially the Yuvon fahliil. Mirmulnir did not like that new weapon. But he was Yuvon fahliil, the great Mirmulnir only had to tap him with his speech and he would die, for all of that race were weak to magic.  Then he would kill the Dark one. Ah, he wanted to land. He was starved for flesh.


    Irileth ran towards Äelberon as he stood near the entrance watching the dragon’s movements. He turned to her and was in awe, his red-orange eyes bloodshot, his left hand charged with healing magicks. “By Auri-El, you are unscathed...” He voice a hoarse whisper while he checked her for injuries, only withdrawing his magicks when he was satisfied. “You took its full blast.”


    “By Azura, you’re alive. The heat in the tower. I saw it fill with smoke.”


    Äelberon sighed and wiped his forehead with his right gauntlet, trying to get the soot out his eyes. They were stinging terribly. “I am as well done as my own cooking, I think.” He managed and they shared a chuckle.


    They then both gazed at the sky, watching. She faced him after a few precious seconds, feeling his anger build. “What now, Almsti?”


    “Look at him.” Äelberon hissed in disdain, pointing to the sky as the dragon circled lazily in the rain, taking his time to ready himself for another pass. “We are naught but playthings to him,” Äelberon scowled and began to walk quickly up the steps of the tower. “I am no beast’s plaything.” He growled.


    “Where are you going?” Irileth called, following him.


    “Up to the roof, I need the space to shoot.”


    “But he will see you.” He did not answer her immediately and that made Irileth nervous. 


    “I don’t care.” Äelberon stared hard again at the dragon that still circled and he narrowed his eyes.  Hmm, something was off about the way it flew. Alduin flew fast and steady, but something was wrong with this beast’s wing beats. Was it already wounded? It seemed to be favoring the left wing. When it was close enough, he would aim for the left wing. But he needed to bring the dragon to him. He needed to create a distraction. “That is exactly what I want. I want him to land already.”


    “Then let me distract him, Almsti, I am immune.”


    “No, your magicks are needed for offense, not for a distraction. Just trust me, Irileth, trust me. Be ready to throw everything you have at it when I give the signal.”


    “Of course.” She nodded.


    Äelberon disappeared into the tower, climbing quickly up the steps.  There were two places he could shoot from inside the tower. There was a window about two-thirds up that faced the ruins, and then there was the roof. He would use both places, eventually, but he went to the roof now. “Irileth!” He called from above. “Tell the men to get ready, I am going to get the beast’s attention. Oh, and tell Honthjolf to come up.”


    “You heard him, do an arrow count and ready yourselves for another volley. Honthjolf, into the tower.”


    “Yes, Housecarl.” Honthjolf climbed up the steps and heard the Elf’s voice. What was he doing at the roof?


    “Station yourself at the small window that faces the ruins. Fire when you see the beast.”


    Honthjolf nodded and took his place, the stone was still very warm as he leaned against the ledge and waited, his bow ready, the rain drops running down its limbs, making his grip slick. He had ten arrows left. He hoped the Elf had more.


    Eight, he had eight bolts left, Äelberon frowned. He should not have used them at Valtheim towers. He wasted elemental bolts on bloody bandits. He glowered at the dragon.  It was teasing them, circling while the rain continued to fall, not landing. The rain was nonstop. The mud would make things all the more difficult and the water did nothing to abate the dragon’s inferno.  He checked his skin. He still glowed with flamebane, but how much longer it would last, he knew not. He judged the distance from his spot on the tower roof to the gap that marked the staircase. It was not far, but the tower roof was slick from the sky’s pourings and there were several puddles. He let out an exhale and charged Sun fire in his left hand while his right held Niniik. It was time to bring this beast here. He peered down from the roof at Irileth and the remaining guards. “Are they ready?”


    “Yes, Almsti, I sure hope you know what you’re doing.”


    She had asked to do the distraction, but no. Her magicks could do the dragon damage and he needed her to save them. She would be up close and personal with the dragon soon enough. His magicks were useless here, but they would attract the beast’s attention.


    “So do I, Irileth, so do I.” He peered down and shook Niniik in the air at the Nords in encouragement, managing a smile. They responded in kind, shaking their own bows. They were ready. Äelberon walked to the center of the tower and stared at the circling beast. He brought up his hand to cast Sun fire and took aim. The spell struck the dragon square in the side.


    Sunlight in the dead of night. Surely a dragon would notice this?


    Mirmulir did not feel anything, but he certainly saw the bright light. Haha, what was this? Another bright light issued forth from the top of the tower and exploded at his left wing. He approached and made a slow pass from above. Ah… the yuvon fahliil… He was shooting little lights at him. This one had a death wish. Mirmulir bared his teeth in a dovah’s sneer and addressed the lir, laughing. He would happily oblige. “Hi los krill, yuvon fahliil! Bahlaan hokoron, Zu'u fen ofan hi dinok.”


    “Come on! You overgrown Imp!” growled Äelberon, releasing his spell, hitting the dragon square on the face.


    Ruth!” The light was bright and Mirmulnir roared, his left eye blinded.


    Äelberon noticed, his jaw dropping, and he repeated the spell, again striking the dragon’s face. The beast paused midair, shaking its head to steady its vision. It stopped moving… Äelberon aimed Niniik square at the dragon’s left wing and fired.


    Mirmulir raged in pain when he felt the blast of shock radiate through his wing, and he reeled in the air. Dur tol zun!


    Äelberon looked up and loaded another bolt while the drops of rain rolled from his hood onto Niniik, making loading slick and difficult. He brought up the crossbow and took another shot, hitting the dragon in the wing again. He was rewarded with its furious roar as it flew past Äelberon. The flying was far less steady, he noticed, loading another bolt, a smile of satisfaction forming on his lips.  He then cursed his cockiness when the bolt slipped from his wet hands and fell to the floor rolling away. Damn it. He quickly stooped to pick it up, almost falling in the process. The dragon turned around, heading straight towards him, opening its mouth as Äelberon managed to release another shot; hitting the wing a third time.


    The fires of Oblivion were at his heels yet again and he ran… “Honthjolf!” He cried, clutching Niniik close to his chest as he vaulted into the stairwell. “Move away from the window!!”


    Honthjolf backed away quickly, seeing the glowing orange light of the dragon’s blaze. Everything was on fire.


    Äelberon fell hard and rolled down the steps onto the second floor of the tower, hitting the wall with a groan, feeling a thicker wetness on the bridge of his nose. He was bleeding. He was followed closely by the black smoke of the dragon’s breath. It filled the warriors’ lungs and both Äelberon and Honthjolf erupted in a fit of coughing.  Honthjolf, never knowing the scorched sky of the Great Anguish that Äelberon knew, was quickly overwhelmed and collapsed. Äelberon shook his head to clear it, and rose quickly, running to the young Nord. He grabbed the boy by the back of the cuirass just as Rynandor did for him all those years ago and started to drag him down the steps of the tower.


    “Irileth!” Äelberon screamed at the top of his lungs, still dragging Honthjolf. “The left wing!” he coughed hard again before finding his voice to continue, “Tell them to aim for the dragon’s left wing!”


    She heard his voice as a heavy, black smoke again spewed from the tower entrance. The left wing. Irileth turned to her remaining guards. “Now! Aim for the left wing!” The guards aimed their arrows, knowing now where its weakness was.


    Mirmulir roared in pain and rage, attempting to steer his landing, the rain making things difficult. He could not hit the rocks, he could not risk more injury. The lir had tricked him using his little lights, his wing now broken. It would take weeks to recover. Would he even fly again? Faal Firok!


    Honthjolf felt himself being dragged down steps as the smoke cleared the tower, but he could not breathe and he gasped for air. He was roughly propped up against a wall and he opened his swollen eyes. He saw the Elf through a film of tears and the sting of the smoke. He was kneeling beside him. His pale face was black in places with soot, and there were several abrasions on his face from his fall, a bleeding cut across the bridge of his nose. Honthjolf’s heart was racing. He could not breathe and he clutched at his throat, making gasping noises.


    “Shh, do not fear, my son. I will help you.” Honthjolf was then transfixed by the hand. It glowed with a golden light.


    Äelberon moved his hand over Honthjolf’s throat, bathing it in the glow of healing magicks. How much he had left, he did not know, but he hoped it was enough. Was it a mistake to waste magicks to taunt the dragon? When these men needed him too? So many mistakes… He had heard the screams. Smelled the stench of burning flesh. There were dead and Sovngarde would know new souls. Under his watch. Under his protection they died.  


    Honthjolf let out a gasp when he felt the air suddenly rush into his lungs and he took deep breaths. The warmth of the light! It was… it was… he had no words, his body only thinking enough to inhale, making him a bit light-headed.


    Do not pull the boy into your brooding, Old Mer. Be the priest... “Steady, Honthjolf, leave some air for the rest of us.” Äelberon managed.


    Honthjolf released a hoarse laugh. The Elf had jokes, even in the middle of all this? “Talos bless you, Companion.” Honthjolf croaked, clasping the Elf’s shoulder. Äelberon helped the Nord up, feeling his own bones crack in protest. The boy was probably better off than he was.  


    “Can you shoot still?” Äelberon’s own voice was cracked and brittle from the dragon’s breath.


    “Aye, put that dragon in front of me and I’ll make a pincushion out of him, the bastard.”


    Äelberon slapped the Nord hard on the shoulder with an earthy grin before stooping down to pick up Niniik. Auri-El be praised, she was undamaged. And Auri-El praise the boy for his big pair.


    “Steady men, it’s landed! We did it, we're weakening it. Good work, men!” They both turned when they heard Irileth’s words. “Stay away from the mouth and the tail. Take cover!” The two warriors beheld the orange inferno of the dragon’s breath.  


    More screams. More for Sovngarde.  


    Nerevar guide me!” They heard Irileth’s battle cry and saw the glowing purple light of shock magicks, causing the dragon to roar in agony, releasing its wrath at the Dunmer, frustrated that it was not doing damage to her. Äelberon, clasped Honthjolf’s shoulder, his eyes bright with anger.


    “We switch! You, to the roof, I will take the window. You will be safer up there.” Honthjolf’s mouth opened to protest, but he saw the blaze of the Elf’s eyes and thought better of it. “Go! Now!” The Elf barked. The Nord bolted up the steps, hearing the Companion close behind.


    Äelberon took his place at the window and aimed Niniik. He had six bolts left. The dragon was directly below him and it was targeting Irileth while the other guards circled it, shooting it, their courage building, now that the beast was grounded.  He fired and the dragon roared in pain at the fresh assault from above, for Honthjolf also connected with a shot of frost. The boy missed the next two, sending bursts of ice crystals to the ruins close to the dragon, but not enough to cause it damage.  Äelberon’s next two shots, however, were true.


    Brit grah!” Cried Mirmulnir as he pummeled the lir with another fiery thu’um, watching in glee as it vaporized the rain that fell from the sky, creating fog, further cutting visibility. Yes, now he would finish the little worms and he swiped his tail, flinging one far across the tundra, taking pleasure at the sounds of bones breaking. He breathed again onto the Vul gein, the little dark one, but ah… there was no sport in it, he fumed. She was immune to his thu’um and he knew not others. He was old but not grand among the Bormahro kiir and he lacked the thu’um of Alduin and the mighty Vulal, even others like him. He lacked the draining and disarming thu’um that many of his brothers knew.  He knew all the words, but he never practiced, never honed his craft, confident in his strength.


    Yol Toor Shur was all he had ever needed…


    Mirmulnir silenced his thu’um and brought his head up to scan the ruins quickly. Where was the Yuvon fahliil, the one who broke his wing with that cursed weapon and blinded him with his little priest lights? Sonaak, geh, the pale one was a sonaak, a priest. Mirmulnir turned his head and saw the worm at the window, the evil weapon aimed directly at him. Hmm, pale, so pale, yet with eyes like a dragon’s fire, dovahro yol… a forge’s fire. Mirmulnir then froze.


    He knew those eyes…


    Mirmulnir snapped to attention and brought back his head to shout, ignoring his creeping uncertainty. It was such a strange little weapon. The action that released the tiny lance from its confines barely noticeable.  He only felt a searing pain in his chest when the lance pierced his scales and his thu’um was silenced by force, the crackle of lightning draining the magicks from his body.  


    Irileth cast a flesh spell and then cast chain lighting. She saw that Äelberon had stifled the dragon’s breath. Good, they were weakening it. She renewed her efforts and began to cross slowly to her left, avoiding the dragon’s mouth, her ebony boots sloshing in the mud.


    Mirmulnir’s eyes returned to the dark one.  The She-Elf was casting her magicks and approaching. Close, so close to his wing. The Ancient dragon suddenly laughed and slammed his injured wing hard upon the earth; the pain turning to pleasure when the dark one fell violently upon the wet tundra. She would die now.


    “Irileth!” Cried Äelberon. No! She had fallen on her back, stunned. Get up, get up, Äelberon urged from his position at the window, loading another bolt. He glanced at her. Damn it, she was now moving, but the mud was clinging to her armor, making it difficult. The dragon began to crawl to her, its teeth bare. He took aim, but stopped. He was close enough for a shot, but not for a kill.  Irileth did not have time for a shot and a reload. She needed a kill or she would die. The dragon was directly below him. He saw more arrows from Honthjolf hit the dragon, but they were too weak to cause damage. The dragon was not stopping, and it was closing in on Irileth. The shot needed to be point blank.


    No more would die…


    There was only one way. Äelberon climbed upon the window’s slick ledge and leaned forward, bracing himself, the rain pelting him hard.


    The dragon loomed above her while Irileth continued to back away, its massive jaws and fierce set of teeth now dreadfully close. She struggled to rise, only to collapse upon the mud again. From her position, she cast a few lighting spells, but the dragon would not stop its approach and she felt her magicks ebbing, tasted the blood in her mouth.  She could feel the sulfur sting of its breath on her face, the heat, and she made her peace.


    Death is an eventuality… “I am dust…” She murmured. You are the ash of the Red mountain, my child... His words.


    Irileth’s deep red eyes met the dragon’s. They were like great emeralds, shimmering, glittering, and so beautiful, like green fire. They reminded her of Äelberon’s. Not the same color, no, but something in them… Äelberon? Where was he? Irileth’s eyes broke from the dragon and looked up, nearly blinded by the rain. He was perched upon the stone ledge of the Watchtower. At the window. Leaning forward, crossbow in his hands. Like an eagle ready to take flight. Flight?


    Irileth screamed when his foot left the ledge.



    “Thuri du hin sil ko Sovngarde!”

    (My Overlord will devour your souls in Sovngarde!)

    “Zu'u lost vodahmin fos flogah faantak hi joor vis birgah!”

    (I had forgotten what fine sport you mortals can provide!)

    “Hi los krill, yuvonfahliil! Bahlaan hokoron, Zu'u fen ofan hi dinok.”

    (You are brave, Altmer! Worthy enemy, I will give you death.)

    Almsti – priest in Dunmeris


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXXVII    Chapter XXXIX


27 Comments   |   Paws likes this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  February 18, 2017
    I'm catching up Lis! Aelberon the almsti, that was a great scene. Where are you getting these Dunmeri words? Awesome. The fight with Mirmy was tense, I enjoyed that thoroughly -  to the point where I had to continue to chapper 39 to get closure befor...  more
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 24, 2015
    Yeah, not much different from the companion I mentioned except he's dark elf, has less sense of humor (none at all), and is better than Ebonslayer (the argonian) with a sword but he's 100 years younger than Albee.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 24, 2015
    Yeah, Albee's an old Fart, he just approaches everything differently.  LOL, probably why he's an Old Fart.  His first legendary was a like level 34, that was fun. 
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 24, 2015
    Very true but notice how I said "not as bad" not less. If anything, his worse nemesis is himself. He is a very rash argonian and will often get himself into impossible situations. For instance, once in my narrative, he sets up camp in the wilderness with ...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 24, 2015
    But we love Albee all the more for his chapterly asswhooping. 
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 24, 2015
    Don't get me wrong. In the story I'm currently writing about my character (though it isn't posted yet for a few reasons) he gets his ass kicked just not as bad as Albee.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 24, 2015
    LOL, I don't resto loop, I don't think I actually can with both Requiem and the patches installed. Besides, you need to perk Alchemy to actually get viable potions in Requiem, so nope he's stuck where he is. No, one thousand points damage for him, though ...  more
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 24, 2015
    Then I am very different form you Lissette. Unlike most people I like the feeling of being able to crush all who oppose me yet still keeping a small challenge (because I don't resto loop some smithing potions to do a thousand damage per hit). I like to ro...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 24, 2015
    That sounds like loads of fun, Exuro. I've not yet tried a lycanthrope build with the cursed ring on Requiem. I should, once I've updated all my mods after Albee's playthrough. I haven't finished it yet. He only has Dragonborn stuff left to do. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  November 24, 2015
    In my current Requiem play through, I'm play as a gibbering werebear lunatic. It's definitely an about the journey build. Until I get the ring of Hircine I can only transform when the moons force me and must drop all my items, then go a savage, aimless ki...  more