Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XLI

  • Kodlak Whitemane slammed his tankard of mead down upon the heavy table, spilling its contents on the grained surface. Tilma cringed when she heard the noise and Skjor leaned casually back upon his own seat, masking his own residual jumpiness much better than the Old Woman did. The Old Man was definitely fuming. Kodlak raised his hands in exasperation. “Well? Where is he? It’s been hours!”


    “I don’t know, you’re asking the wrong person. I’ve been here with you this whole time.” Replied Skjor. When Äelberon didn’t show up, most of the others turned in. It was well past midnight. He, Kodlak, and well, Tilma were the only ones still awake. Well, not true, he suspected the twins and Aela were awake as well, they just had the better sense to not wait upstairs with the Old Man. Skjor didn’t have that sort of sense, but he could handle him better when he was in one of his moods, and he was in one of those moods now. Tilma filled Skjor’s tankard with some more mead and he gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. She was worried and they shared another private moment. What happened before, when the Old Man was away, was the type of thing that warranted private moments.


    “You steep his tea, Tilma, you know he’ll want it.”  The gentleness behind the usually gruff voice got an instant response from Tilma and she relaxed when his hand squeezed her shoulder.


    “It’s already done, I hope Albee’s alright. “


    “Why bother? He’s clearly not here.” Growled the Old Man.


    Skjor sighed and let his hand drop from Tilma’s shoulder. They both knew Kodlak. Old Man was disappointed. The Old Man was below, taking a piss when it happened, leaving only Tilma and Skjor in the Mead Hall. The sound sent pots crashing in the kitchen and Skjor’s heart to his throat, immediately rising from his seat, instinctively reaching for his weapon.


    Dovahkiin. Roared as thunder roars in the sky.  The word.


    He worshiped Hircine.  Like Aela, he lived for the hunt, the now. To dwell in the Hunting Grounds was what he wanted, giving him a peace he had not known in years, especially with her. But he was still a Nord and that word was in the blood of every Nord. In their hearts, and Skjor felt his face go pale while he rushed into the kitchen. She was alright, crouched on the floor picking up the fallen pots, but her face was as white as a sheet and her gnarled hands trembled.  He knelt down next to her and did the only thing he could think of doing. He gathered the Old Woman in his arms, holding her for a spell, feeling her thin shoulders, her heart pounding. She had heard it too and it was their shared moment.


    When the word Dovahkiin was screamed in the heavens, making the walls of Jorrvaskr shake.  And the Old Man was taking a piss. When he returned to the Mead Hall, he grumbled something about the loud thunder nearly making him hit the floor instead of the chamber bucket and sat down heavily to resume his brooding.  Kodlak had not heard what Tilma and Skjor did and Skjor was not sure he wanted to say anything right now. Tilma was keeping silent as well. Had the others heard too, or was the stone in Jorrvaskr too thick?


    “He’s fine, Tilma. Don’t worry.” The Veteran suddenly grinned, “Kodlak spilled his mead.”


    That got a stern look from the Old Man while Tilma took a cloth and wiped the Harbinger’s place.  “You didn’t touch your meal. Want me to prepare a plate for you, Old Man?”


    “He was happy about the Barrow.” Kodlak muttered, ignoring Tilma.


    Skjor shook his head at the Old Woman. Not now.  He smirked when he saw her scrunch up her face in disapproval.  “I know Kodlak, I was there when he got back. Maybe the Jarl kept him? They had a feast? Who the fuck knows?”


    A swat on his forearm from the Old Woman’s cloth. “Watch your mouth.” She grumbled.


    Skjor looked up when several drops of rain struck his balding head. One of these days, the rain was going to make the roof come crashing down.  “But by Hircine, when are you having the roof repaired? This storm is terrible.  Maybe you should move Farkas here. At least he’d finally get a bath.”  That got the Old Woman crinkling her laugh lines again while she poured fresh mead into Kodlak’s tankard.


    “He had promised his Shield-siblings...” sighed Kodlak.  There was no reasoning with the Old Man when he was like this. No, when that Elf walked through the door, he was going to receive “words” from Kodlak. Skjor would try one more time to bail Äelberon out.


    “Kodlak, would you turn down a summons from the Jarl? Cut him a bit of slack. I’m sure, knowing Äelberon, he’s probably bored out of his mind.”  He took a sip of mead, wiping the drops of rain from his head and watched the Old Man furrow his brow, nah, 'twas sulking. All three then turned when they heard a noise at the door.


    “Is that knocking?” Asked Kodlak. “This time of night?”


    “Aye, I think so, but I don’t think it’s him. Snow Bear usually just kicks the door open. Maybe a courier?”  Skjor let out a laugh, which made the Old Man narrow his eyes while he sipped mead. “Maybe our friend finally tasted some mead and had to spend the night! I don't think he's one who can hold his alcohol well.” He stood and patted Kodlak on the shoulder, “Look, Old Man, change your face.  I’ll check the door, don’t worry. He’s fine.”


    Kodlak swirled his tankard of mead and brooded, lost in his thoughts. Snow Bear had said an hour, why the delay? It was just a stone tablet. He understood that Snow Bear was more independent, that he had a mage’s streak to him, but he had promised. It was disconcerting to Kodlak and he angrily scraped at the wood of the table with the bottom of his tankard, leaving a light patch against the deep stain. He heard the doors swing open and the Mead Hall was filled with the smell of smoke and sulfur. Shor’s Bones! What oil were they using to light the damn braziers? Troll fat? The stench!


    “By Oblivion! Tilma, blankets, linens, quickly!” Kodlak snapped to attention at Skjor’s rough cry and the flutter of Tilma’s skirts when she nearly sprinted towards the Living Quarters. He almost didn’t want to look up.


    It was Snow Bear. The Harbinger’s light grey eyes ceased their brooding when they found Skjor quickly removing Äelberon’s sopping wet cloak and unclasping his own to drape over the Elf’s shivering shoulders. The cloak fell with wet plop and it was no longer white, but nearly black with numerous burns. The dog rushed ahead and immediately found the flames of the hearth, its coat drenched from the rain. Kodlak pushed his chair back loudly and joined Skjor, only to freeze when he saw the Elf more closely.


    Snow Bear looked… so terrible. Worse than he did when he first came. The ankle, it was bruised and swollen. Badly broken. But the face, the face looked like… he couldn’t describe it. He started to support Äelberon by the elbow and gently lead him towards the door. “Skjor, we take him to the Temple now.”  Skjor nodded, bracing Äelberon’s other elbow. That they were not worthy to enter be damned. It's not like Danica knew. No one did. 


    “No…” was the Elf’s frail reply.  It sounded, his voice, like broken glass, brittle. The voice that was usually so resonant and deep, filling the Mead Hall with its almost musical baritone, was now… Kodlak frowned. It was not his voice. “Danica has enough to do.”


    Äelberon was grateful that they were supporting him. Aye, his refuge, where his Shield-Siblings could carry him. He did not want to go out there again. He did not want to face the questions, face the reality of his situation. The reality of what he was.  Doom Drum…  The words did indeed beat on his brain like a pounding drum. No relief, no end.

    “You are injured. Your leg.” Countered Kodlak.


    “I can heal myself, I just need…” he gasped, willing his body away from the door, forcing them to follow just to maintain their support of him. He needed sleep. He needed not to think anymore.  He wanted Auri-El to strike him down then and there, to make him senseless so that his mind would just… STOP!


    “Let’s get him close to the fire, he’s damn near frozen.” Skjor volunteered and they began to lead him to the hearth. They were surprised when he violently pulled away, almost stumbling, raising his hands to shield his face, his eyes attempting to avoid the fire, yet at the same time, they were drawn to it. “No! No! NO!!”  Skjor’s heart again went to his throat. This was not his Shield-Brother. He wasn’t terrified. No, that wasn’t it. It was something else. Agitated, terribly agitated. “It burns so. No, not so close to the flame, please...”


    “But you won’t warm up quickly, Brother. You need the heat.” Skjor argued, exchanging a worried look with the Old Man.


    “I do not care!” Äelberon snarled.  The aggression in his response took them both aback, the face contorting into a strange scowl. What struck Kodlak most, however, was that despite his Shield-Brother being quite plainly chilled to the bone, the Old Man could feel the heat emanate from the Elf’s face and the eyes… the eyes seemed to burn right into his. They locked eyes for a moment and Kodlak didn’t know what to think. What was wrong with Snow Bear? He watched the bushy brows relax a little and the eyes soften, the anger in them turning into pain. He mouthed words to Kodlak. I am sorry… When their Shield-Brother spoke again, the voice had calmed somewhat, though Kodlak could still feel the underlying upheaval. “Not near the flame. I have seen too much burn today.”


    They led him to one of the benches and sat him down. Tilma cried out when she brought the blankets and ran immediately to her Albee, her eyes wide with worry. “Oh Albee.”


    Some more of the tension left him when from his seat on the bench, Äelberon extended his hand and took hers. His silver gauntlet was almost black, it left residue on her weathered hand, but he could not not take her hand. He could see their faces as he took her hand, shocked by the blackness of his gauntlet. Did they know?  The Old Man looked only concerned but he could see something different in Skjor’s face.  He knew. Did he hear? He wanted to stop thinking. He wanted… tea.  “Tilma, please… tea.”  He was desperate for it. So hungry, so thirsty. She nodded, giving his hand a squeeze before scurrying to the kitchen.  "And please, food for Koor, he is starved." He managed before leaning back against the wall and closing his eyes. The dog would sleep now, warm, safe. Words were beginning to fail. He would need them, potions, or face his ankle not healing properly.


    Potions, damn it.


    Skjor watched his Shield-Brother as he sat on the bench. It had been raining, but why was the soot not washing away? It covered much of his armor and parts of his face. He was shivering violently. Skjor wrapped a blanket about the Altmer’s shoulders and covered his head. Äelberon sighed and regarded his Shield-Brother for a moment. The eyes looked hollow and sad, the circles under them much darker than he remembered. Skjor didn’t want to ask him what had happened. He and Tilma had heard it shouted while the others in Jorrvaskr were sheltered by the Mead Hall’s thick stone.


    Dovahkiin. It only meant one thing, a dragon happened and his Shield-Brother had fought it. He fought it and it died. Skjor was still enough of a Nord to know what Dovahkiin meant. Who was it? Was it one of the guards? But if it died, thought Skjor, his eyes narrowing, then why did his Shield-Brother look the way he looked? Shouldn’t he be rejoicing? Skjor then felt a sick-feeling in his stomach, there was a dragon, and yet no Companion was called. No one knocked on Jorrvaskr’s doors. The Old Man was going to be angry when he learned this. The Veteran drew in his breath.


    “Tilma!” Kodlak called after her, “And draw a bath. A hot one!” He nodded at Skjor, breaking the Veteran’s chain of thought. “That will warm him up. That and his tea.”  Skjor nodded slowly, his mouth slightly open.  The Old Man turned to Äelberon and Skjor braced himself.  “What happened after the Barrow, Snow Bear? You are scaring me with your silence.”  Nothing from the Altmer, only his eyes upon the flames. Luminous eyes, Skjor always thought, so full of energy still, despite the fatigue everywhere else in his body.  “Snow Bear?” Kodlak pressed.


    Äelberon finally blinked.  “A dragon. A dragon happened.”  He was surprised by how dull his own voice sounded. He could feel the numbness encroaching. Surrounding him. He wanted to be close to the flames and yet far away. He did not want the darkness to come.  Doom drum pounding in the night…  He wanted to give in to his despair, not answer questions.


    Kodlak exchanged glances with Skjor.  A dragon? “Where?” Kodlak furrowed his brow. It was then that Kodlak saw Äelberon’s great age. There, in the firelight, he noted the lines and his deep scars, the permanent darkening of the skin around eyes that came from too many sleepless nights. Äelberon still stared into the flames and drew the blanket closer to him, his eyes remembering, the only things seemingly alive in his face. Those eyes of his.


    “The Western Watchtower.” He replied, beginning to remove his gauntlets.  The Elf gave up after a few attempts with a heavy sigh, his fingers too cold and stiff to work the buckles and fastenings. It was Skjor who then knelt at his side and began to unfasten his gauntlets, wincing a bit when the silver in the metal stung his naked fingers. Äelberon was moved by Skjor’s kindness and turned to the Nord.  “Thank you.”


    Kodlak was moved too. Only three days before, Skjor despised the Elf, wanting him removed from the Companions, and now? Removing the Old Mer’s gauntlets, a sign of respect and a gesture of love for his Shield-Brother. Aye, Kodlak thought with a nod, his pale eyes misting a tad, this was their new Harbinger and on that he was proud. Proud of Skjor’s ability to look beyond his hatred for the Thalmor and treat a Shield-Brother with such compassion. It then occurred to Kodlak, the Feast of the Dead was next month, the thirteenth. What a grand time to announce Jorrvaskr’s new Harbinger. Give him the place of honor at the Palace of Kings’ Banquet Hall, ahead of him, officially taking his place as the new Harbinger. After the naming of the five hundred Companions, it would be perfect, and it would allow Kodlak the freedom to pursue the cure with Snow Bear more closely.  


    Skjor’s next words only cemented Kodlak’s resolve on the matter.  “You’d do the same for me, Brother. You have, already. You bore Wuuthrad and it hurt you too.”


    By the Hunt, Skjor frowned. Äelberon's hands! They were badly bruised in places, with heavy indentations from the gauntlets, the underside of his right hand raw from gripping a blade, blisters ready to burst in spots. The dragon was not the only fighting he did today.  He did not want to know the state of his body underneath his armor. Äelberon wore a suit of chain mail under that damn silver plate. If he struck a wall with any force, his body would bear the indentations of that too, perhaps even cuts. He inspected one of the gauntlets and he could feel Äelberon’s eyes on him.  Skjor scrutinized one of the stains and ignoring the silver, he rubbed at it with his thumb. It left a slick film and he brought it to his nose, immediately recoiling. Sulfur. The Elf was covered in this gunk. “It’s slick, like burned oil. The dragon?” Skjor asked, handing the gauntlet to Kodlak, so he could get a better look.


    Kodlak fared better against the silver for he still wore his own gauntlets and the Old Man mused while he held them, “But you’re drenched, you’d think the rain?”  He smelled the gauntlet; the sulfur smell was intense and Kodlak set the gauntlet down gently. His eyes then traveled to Snow Bear’s. They were again facing the hearth, like they were drawn to it.


    “The rain did nothing to stay the dragon’s fire.”


    “Is it dead?” Asked Skjor.  Silence and that bothered Skjor. There was more to this than just a dead dragon. He was a strong Mer, tough and unlike others of his race, battle and Snow Bear were good friends.  He survived the Oblivion Crisis. Shit, he survived the Thalmor lash.  He’s seen shit that would kill our souls. Skjor remembered his words to his Shield-Siblings in the Underforge, he knew this of the Mer, yet Snow Bear’s current state baffled him. He wasn’t defeated, no, he just looked shocked. For him to be shocked? It had to be more than a dead dragon.   


    Tilma came rushing in with Äelberon’s tea. With her typical mothering, she closed the Elf’s hands over the tankard when he didn’t take it right away and helped him bring the steaming liquid to his lips, gently brushing away a wet lock of hair that clung to his mouth. Äelberon finally allowed his eyes to leave the hearth and they shifted towards his tea. The woodsy canis root a welcome change to the sulfur, mud, and blood that dominated his senses earlier. He ignored the pain of the hot liquid on his cut lower lip and drank, feeling the warmth coat his throat. Äelberon then let out a low groan, and slouched back against the bench, setting the tankard gently on his lap, letting it warm his hands.


    Äelberon turned to Tilma and Kodlak could see a slight twinkle creep back into his eyes and the beginnings of a smile.  Aye, that spirit would never be broken. Just give the damn Elf his tea...The Old Man shot the Veteran a look and Skjor gave him knowing wink. Snow Bear was coming back.


    “When the Gods raise you up as the next divine, Old Woman, I myself will preach your glory as Heimskr preaches the glory of Talos. Thank you.”  The three grey warriors could not help some chuckles.  It was a silly thing to say, but Äelberon was entitled to say silly things tonight.


    “Tilma,” Ordered Kodlak, giving the Old Woman a playful swat on the backside, making her squeal. “The bath.”


    “Make sure he drinks. All of it.” She warned before running off to wake Brill to draw the water.


    Äelberon turned to Skjor to answer his question, taking another sip of tea, his voice far less hoarse that it was, but still tired. It was not all good news and he did not know how he was going to tell them. If he even wanted to. “By Auri-El’s Grace, yes, yes, it is dead.”  He took another sip of tea and cleared his throat, his face growing sad with the memories. Hearing them scream while he sat roasting in the Watchtower. Smelling the stench of their bodies burning. Watching as one guard was hurled such a distance by a nothing swipe of the dragon’s tail. Irileth unmoving, guards with limbs broken. And there was still Alduin. Still, the great black dragon had not yet shown his face since Helgen. Gods! Curse all of Skyrim if he did again what he did to Helgen.  Where did this dragon come from? How could a dragon roam Keiz—Skyrim, Skyrim, SkyrimKolos til zos?  STOP! Stop with the language, damn it, you are not a dragon. NO!


    “Snow Bear?”


    Whispers… whispers bringing him back. Bringing him back where?  I will go mad with this, I think, he despaired.


    It was Kodlak and Äelberon put his thoughts aside and attempted to continue, his eyes returning to the flame. He found a strange comfort in the fires of Jorrvaskr’s hearth. He had known such terrible application of fire in his life, saw the skies burn and yet, he was still drawn to fire. Drawn to light. He would be transfixed by it at times, losing himself in the burn of Skyforge, the molten coals making the metal soft so he could bend it... bend it with his claws. My claws, sharp. Kinzon!


    Kreh gelt wah dii fen…” He grumbled quietly, still staring at the blaze.  The words caught his Shield-Brothers off-guard. Farkas mentioned a strange language, just when he collapsed and Kodlak prepared himself to catch Äelberon if he fell again. Only he didn’t.  He continued to sit slumped on the bench, leaning against the wall, his eyes growing remote, glazed, mesmerized by the flame.


    “Neben faal  lot Okriim, Zu'u kroson dii lu,

    Lu fah Bormah, lu fah Aan…

    Zu'u mirodah faal lovaas do faal sahrot Lok-Heim!

    Yol toor… Shul! Lok-Heim!  Dii su’um mirodah!”


    Ysmir’s Beard, the Mer was singing! Very softly, the deep voice like the rumbles of distant thunder, but it was singing. A strange melody, faintly Nordic, but unlike anything Kodlak has ever heard.  It wasn’t Ragnar the Red, of that he was certain.  A more noble melody, sounding like a marching song or a song one would sing while at work. Power was in the song and images of fire, sparks, and metal flooded Kodlak’s mind while he listened, though he didn’t understand why. Snow Bear’s eyes were lost to them, focused on the hearth as he sang, lost in another world. The Harbinger glanced at Skjor, but the Veteran only shrugged nervously, his one eye on his Shield-Brother.


    “Lovaas do ag kirg ahrk lomos lom,

    Lovaas do gunaar spaan ahrk nonvul zurgah,

    Lovaas do viintaas zahkrii ahrk yuvon brax!

    Yol toor… Shul! Lok-Heim! Dii su’um mirodah!


    Zu'u los faal mirodahiik do daar heim,

    Ahrk nos do dii tu los graal wah dii lovaas.

    Faal  lovaas do dii praav los pah Zu'u tol Zu'u wahl!

    Yol toor… Shul! Lok-Heim! Dii su’um mirodah!”


    The Altmer stopped singing and was again silent, his eyes never once leaving the hearth. What was in those flames that held his attention? And what the Oblivion was Lok-Heim?


    “Shield-Brother?” Kodlak pressed, greatly disturbed by strangeness of the singing. Was this Mer mad? No, Old Snow Bear was not mad, just in terrible shock and probably exhausted beyond his limits. Maybe remembering something from his distant past? He was not a Nord and probably knew other languages. With a measure of trepidation, he reached to touch Äelberon’s forearm and the Elf’s eyes immediately left the hearth and found his Shield-Brother. Aye, tired, he was impossibly tired, it was clear on his face.




    “Brother, you were singing?” pointed out Skjor, “Are you alright?”


    “No, I do not think I am. Singing? I was sing—“He stopped himself, placing a hand on his forehead before taking another sip of tea. He was going mad. It was starting already.  “I was singing. I… I am sorry. I am not myself. Please forgive me.”


    “Yes, Snow Bear, you were. And all is forgiven. It was actually rather interesting.” Kodlak nodded and leaned back, placing his hands on his thighs, “The voice isn’t half bad, just don’t go enrolling in the Bard’s College now.”


    Äelberon felt the heat creep on his face. Gods, he had not sung in years. Not in public. It was not allowed. He needed sleep desperately if he was lapsing into verse and song. He turned to the Old Man. “Where was I? Before I started… ah, singing?”


    “You were telling us about the dragon attack. That it died.”


    “Yes, by Auri-El’s Grace it is dead, but at such cost, such terrible cost. Ten did battle with the flaming beast; eight brave, fine guards of the Hold, the Housecarl Irileth, and myself. Only five survived, and four of the five were injured.  Danica has enough to do, so much to do...”  Äelberon closed his eyes, allowing his voice to trail off.  And waited, knowing what was coming next. He could feel the Old Man’s brow furrow when he spoke his last words, though the other words… the other words were what he focused on. So much of the dragon’s tongue now flowed from his lips. He spoke it like he spoke the Old Altmeris, it was easier, actually. Was this song from the dragon? Was he doomed to know their speech? Their melodies?  What was the dead dragon’s connection to Skyforge? Such mysteries from the dragon’s death, as if its knowledge was passed to him and Äelberon no longer could distinguish his memories from the dragon’s. He would have such nightmares tonight!


    Kodlak furrowed his brow and Skjor could anticipate the next question. He had a bad feeling the Old Man was going to pick a fight when he should leave well alone. Äelberon needed rest and food, not words. He opened his mouth to speak, but he was too late, the Old Man was off, and Skjor remembered an old Nordic saying.  Never corner an Old Bear.  He sighed and grew uncomfortable, taking a seat to the Elf’s left. Kodlak was to his right, his mood turning sour.  Äelberon took another sip of tea and straightened his back. Aye, thought Skjor, Old Shit was getting ready.


    “Whiterun guards? Most of them are boys and barely able to wield a blade! Did they not think to ask us?” He gave Äelberon a hard look, “Did you not think to offer us?”  Skjor sucked in his breath. No, don’t corner an Old Bear, for as beaten as he was, he could see immediately in the Elf’s demeanor that he was in no mood. 


    Äelberon turned his head slowly and faced the Harbinger, his voice icy and clipped, very Altmer. “I had thought of it, and then… I thought better of it.”


    “Skjor, leave.” Commanded Kodlak. “I wish words with Äelberon.”  No Snow Bear this time, the Old Man was mad. The Elf quickly turned to Skjor when he stood up and through the hoarseness and fatigue, Skjor could pick up the spirit. Snow Bear was ready for Kodlak and Skjor knew from personal experience that the Elf had no problems speaking his mind. It was never out of malice. He knew that now, after his own experiences with him, but the Old Man had his pride.  All Men did. All Mer too. Yeah, the old, grey litter mates were definitely going to squabble.


    “Do a favor for me, my Brother, while the Harbinger and I enjoy our words.”  The Old Man crossed his hands over his chest and glowered.  “In my quarters, in a chest below the alchemy table, are potions. Bring, I think…”  He pondered the amount for a moment, “Four, four potions of restore magicka. They will be light blue bottles and labeled. If you cannot find them, I assume that the twins and Aela are still awake.  Vilkas will know where they are.”


    Skjor glanced uneasily at Kodlak, and the Harbinger nodded his approval, though he still glowered. With a nod and a pat on Äelberon’s shoulder, Skjor disappeared down the steps into the living quarters. It was an errand he was glad to do, for he did not want to be in the same room as those two right now. Not the way they were looking at each other.



    Skjor found the three of them immediately behind the door, smiling when they attempted to hide the fact that they were probably leaning against the very door and listening in. Aela was the best at it, having moved deftly to one of the chairs to read a book. Except that it was upside down. He bit his lip to suppress a chuckle. The twins were far worse, Farkas almost tripping over Vilkas when Skjor opened the door, the light scuffle between the two very plain. “Eavesdropping?” He asked, “Really? Are you the sons and daughters of Ysgramor, or old women who like to gossip?”


    “Is he back?” Asked Farkas, not even pretending to hide his guilt anymore as he turned Aela’s book right-side up. She wasn’t gonna get away with it either. Aela let out a gust air, throwing her book on the table before standing.


    “Aye, he’s back, Old Man’s having 'words' with him now.”


    “Is he injured? Asked Aela.


    “Yeah he is, but don’t worry,” Skjor smiled a knowing smile, “He’s himself.  Hey Vilkas, help me out with this. I don’t want to mess up anything in those quarters of his. I know how mages and priests get when you muck around with their stuff, and I know he likes his things a certain way. He’s busted his ankle pretty badly and he says he needs four blue bottles. You know where they are?”


    Vilkas nodded.  “I know where he keeps the potions. Come with me.”  The two made their way down the corridor toward the wing that housed the twins and Snow Bear. Of course, Aela and Farkas were not far behind.


    “’Words’, Skjor? What happened?”  Aela pressed when she caught up. She knew what “words” with the Old Man meant and it was never good.


    “Yeah, there was a dragon at the Western Watchtower.”  He saw their surprised faces and quickly added, “It’s dead, it’s dead. He banded together with a force of Hold Guards and the Jarl’s Housecarl and they brought it down.”


    The walls of Jorrvaskr were indeed thick, not one question or mention of Dovahkiin. There was one, the thunder didn’t lie, and Skjor was beginning to have his suspicions on who it was, but for now he would keep silent. Tomorrow, he’d ask around and get more information. He didn’t feel like pressing Äelberon anymore. The Old Man was giving him enough problems.


    “So why the “words” then?” Questioned Farkas, smiling, “A dragon’s dead! We should be celebrating.”


    Vilkas turned to his brother and frowned, the fire within him burning while they walked.  “And where were we when he brought that dragon down? We’re Companions, descended from Ysgramor’s five hundred! We kill giants, bears, sabre cats, bandits, all for the benefit of the people. Why then were we not immediately called upon when the horn blew for a dragon? I certainly don’t blame the Old Man for wanting  'words'.  Äelberon cannot be selfish with his glory. Not share with his Siblings...”


    Skjor stopped and looked at the three. They were much younger than he was and he had fought many battles in his day. If Äelberon looked the way he looked after the dragon, Skjor knew in his heart why Äelberon did not volunteer them. He gave his Shield-Siblings a hard glare. He loved them, he’d die for any one of them, and he loved the Old Man, but they wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. Kodlak was a good Harbinger, but if it ever came to him, things would be very different. He was sure Äelberon thought the exact same way. He saw the way the Elf trained and the discipline. The strength, even without Beast blood, was apparent. Äelberon, like him, was a creature of the military and he didn’t deserve his Shield-Siblings’ anger for being in the right.


    “Look,” Skjor started, “There was probably not even time for him to think, so don’t feel slighted that he didn’t include you. I know how quickly battles can sometimes develop and knowing Jarls, he was probably pressed to make a decision right away. It’s a dragon. Something that hasn’t been seen in centuries. Cut him some damn slack if decisions made under duress didn’t give you a glorious story for the Mead Hall.”  He crossed his arms over his chest and his face darkened.  “War doesn’t work that way and he and I have both fought wars, not killing giants or clearing a bandit den, but wars. Long, drawn-out wars where a single battle can wage for days. Where the fields are strewn with the bodies of your comrades and the grass is drenched in their blood...”


    Skjor’s light grey eye grew distant as he remembered, piles of soldiers, piles of black robes, the heaviness of the chains on his wrists and ankles, the hot burn of metal blinding his eye, the cruel laugh of that Son of a Bitch, and his screams when Skjor blinded him. When they whipped him with the very lash he tortured them with. Eight prongs, eight prongs that cut deep into flesh.  An eye for an eye, you Witch Elf.  Skjor swallowed hard and put the memories away.  “Sometimes you’d prefer not to have any stories to tell. Leave him alone, or you’ll hear from me. He’s had enough today.”  He turned to Vilkas, “Now where are his damn potions? That ankle of his needs to be healed and he refused the Temple. Danica’s healing the other guards, and he didn’t want to take away from them.”


    Vilkas hung his head, ashamed, and beckoned Skjor to follow him to Äelberon’s quarters. As they walked, Skjor put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and gave him a reassuring pat. “It’s alright. I understand.”



    “Now that we are alone, I dare you to repeat what you just said to me.” Said Kodlak Whitemane, glaring at the Elf. Äelberon was sipping his tea and confounded, he hated it when he remained so calm.


    “You heard me the first time, Brother.” Äelberon gave his dear friend a sidelong glance, “And while you may be old, your ears are just fine.” 


    Kodlak bristled.  “So why are my warriors not good enough for you? Why did you deny you Siblings glory? Why were you so selfish?”


    Äelberon turned quickly to Kodlak and narrowed those eyes of his, his mouth open, ready to give him a piece of his mind. Only to stop and take a deep breath. No, he would not anger. He was proving a point to Kodlak and the Old Man needed to understand it. He would remain calm, though inside, he was like a simmering pot.  “Selfish? A selfish Mer would have thrown them into battle with little regard for their safety. I love my family and would do no such thing.”


    He took another sip of tea. It infuriated the Old Man. He wanted to shove that tankard up his white arse.  “They are warriors, Äelberon. Companions descended from the long line of Ysgramor. They deserved to fight alongside you.”  “With all due respect, Harbinger, but if they claim descent from Ysgramor, then the bloodline is now rather dilute.”  Kodlak got up quickly and fumed. How dare he!  “Sit down now, Old Man, and calm yourself.” Äelberon hissed, “And hear my speech, whether you want to or not, for I do not speak out of malice, but out of love.”


    Äelberon actually did not mind the argument. It focused his mind away from the dark thoughts, his exhaustion, and the pain of his ankle. And by Auri-El’s Bow, this was something he had wanted to tell the Old Man from very early on, only he bit his tongue. But now was not the time to bite the tongue. He had already found his tongue earlier today...  “Verily, Brother, you have survived many battles and Skjor and I have fought protracted wars, but do you honestly think in your heart that the younglings would have survived an encounter with a dragon?”


    Kodlak bent his head in thought. When Äelberon said "younglings", he knew what he meant. Those who were not in the Circle. Damn it, he wanted to be angry at the Elf, but he had this way of chipping away at his anger and exposing the reason that lay underneath. Must be the tea. He would concede that point, but Kodlak had other cards to play.  “No, they need more training. But the Circle, the Circle. They are hardened, they are different. You cannot deny their skill. And you cannot deny the strength of the Beast Blood…”  A hypocritical argument from Kodlak, he knew it, but he didn't care.


    “They are drunk.” Replied the Elf plainly.


    Kodlak furrowed his eyebrows, feeling his rage spill over. The smug, superior, condescending Bastard! “What?!”


    It was bellowed, of course, and Äelberon responded the best way he could, by cocking an eyebrow and facing the flames again before taking another sip of tea. Fume in your crib, little one, you do not intimidate me. “Drunk, Kodlak, drunk on mead. Drunk on wine. Drunk. I do not begrudge a Nord his hard-earned mead after a day of toil and labor, or after a battle hard-fought, but have you counted the bottles upon the floor of this Mead Hall? Morning, noon, and night? I have, and ‘tis a great deal more than what is normal. The three of you gave up your transformations and you say you are fine.” Äelberon shook his head slowly, putting a hand on the Old Man’s shoulder, only to grumble when Kodlak pushed it off.  “Hmph! But you are not fine. You have merely replaced one vice with another. You use the mead to fight the temptation to change, and I understand, for I know it is a heavy burden to fight Hircine’s pull, but I am sorry, I do not bring drunks to the battlefield. Skjor drinks just as much to quash his own demons, and Aela, though she drinks a lot less, still has the Beast Blood, which is like being drunk in many ways, do you deny this?”


    Kodlak opened his mouth to speak, but the Elf continued. Not even giving him a word edgewise. And then Kodlak thought back to his past. Of what the Beast Blood had done to him and… to her. Her. The Elf was right, it did make you drunk, even if you didn’t drink. Drunk with other things besides alcohol.


    “Those that drink are not focused and the dragon needed focus to defeat. The guards, while inexperienced, were sober, and do not have a beast within them.”  Äelberon’s features softened a bit, and he let his shoulders stoop again, eschewing his former rigid posture. He had made his point and the Old Man’s body language now betrayed that he was listening. “I love my siblings so and one day, I want to share the glory of battle with them, for I have never once doubted their bravery and loyalty, but until there is a cure. Until their minds are no longer clouded by Hircine’s pull or the effects of drink, I will not use them. Ah Brother, Farkas made so many errors at the Cairn.” He sighed.


    “Did he?” asked the Old Man, his hand traveling up to scratch his beard.


    “Yes, he did. It does not make me any less proud of him, but mistakes were made. Damn it, Old Man, how many times did I knock Skjor to the ground? And I am abysmal at dual-wielding.”


    “Four times, four times you knocked him to the ground.”


    “For what? For watching your blindside? This is basic combat, Old Man. Surely he learned this at the Legion.  I cannot fight effectively if I am fixing mistakes, or if I constantly fearing for their safety. Or, even worse, if the Blood takes them and I cannot control their rage. Especially with dragons. It would have been the death of them, for the Whiterun guards would have turned on them and our family would have been torn apart. And that, my Brother, would have been the death me. I cannot lose another family. I have lost enough already.”  He stared into the flames and worked on his tea. He did not want to leave them and he would not, which put them at such risk now. Enough!  He knew the Old Man understood, for he felt a warm hand on Äelberon’s forearm and a squeeze.


    “Stubborn old goat.” The Old Man griped. “It’s the pointed ears, you know. Makes me think goat.”


    “Nords have such tiny, silly ears. Surprised you can hear anything with them.”


    “I hear better than you think I do.” Countered Kodlak.


    “Oh really? I am not the one still thundering away in his bed while the twins are snoring…”


    The dreaded “words” were over with the Old Man’s chuckle. Their squabbles never lasted long. He then sighed.  "Ah, I want the cure, Snow Bear. So badly I can taste it. I want to fight with you one day, before I grow too old to do so. You and I need our forty Orc Berserkers."


    “Ria says it was one hundred.” The Elf smirked.


    “Young lass is exaggerating. Wasn’t even forty. Was around twenty, but I wasn’t counting and neither was Skjor. It was still a lot of Orcs.”


    “Then verily it was forty.”


    “Aye, forty...” Old Man let out another sigh.


    “And you will have your cure. This I promise you, litter mate.”  They sat upon the bench; Kodlak sipping his mead and Äelberon sipping his tea, watching the flames together. Tilma approached cautiously from the kitchen. She knew that Kodlak had been angry, but she was relieved when she saw that they were calmly sitting on the bench. When she arrived, she tenderly adjusted the blanket on the Elf’s head and rubbed it a bit to dry the hair.


    “Your bath has been drawn, dear.”


    He nodded, and managed another smile. “Thank you, sweet Tilma. Could I trouble you for more tea first?” He asked, handing the empty tankard to the old woman.


    “Of course, Albee.”


    They watched her scurry back to into the kitchen and Äelberon could smell the frost mirriam. He was looking forward to a bath. To sleep. Aye, this was his refuge. 


    Kodlak rested Äelberon’s gauntlets on his lap and cleared his throat. “Well, looks like I’ll be taking these and your armor to Eorland for a thorough cleaning. I’m amazed that the rain did not wash this away.”  He stopped talking when he saw Snow Bear’s face change. Elf looked tired again. A drop of water hit the table where Skjor sat and Kodlak turned to the Elf again. He’d laugh at this. Their plan for Farkas.  “The rain was something tonight, eh? Our roof even leaked. Jorrvaskr’s ancient roof. Can you imagine? If the Jorrvaskr ever set sail again, we’d sink. Ha! But to save us some money, we’ll switch Skjor with Farkas and the boy can finally have a bath.”


    “He could use it.” The Elf quipped.


    But Kodlak saw that the eyes did not change. Damn Mer was thinking on something dark. He would try again. “There was one crack of thunder that was so bloody loud that I nearly missed the piss bucket.”


    Dovahkiin…  The Elf suddenly let out a loud laugh, and it took Kodlak aback. It was a strange laugh; with humor, yes, but he could also sense the heavy bitterness. As if there was a sob just underneath it. There was something Snow Bear was not telling him.


    Tell him, thought Äelberon, it is killing you. You have to tell someone. He let out a sigh and his eyes never left the flame when he began to speak. Praav means lair. Was this area the dragon’s home? Was it? Then why did he know the song? The memories, it’s the dragons’s memories, not yours. They are somehow in your mind now. He could feel Alduin’s eyes on him again.  Tell the Old Man.  “You know, they are the first children of Auri-El Time Dragon. The Dragons. They were not born as you and I were; there was no union of male and female in their making. They were made directly by Him, shards of his very being, in His image and they are the most ancient and wisest of all things on Nirn, and the most deadly.  And I curse myself for thinking this, Kodlak, but they are beautiful. In a terrible way, but they are still beautiful.”


    “Beautiful?”  Snow Bear was mad, mad with fatigue. Dragons? Beautiful? Deadly was more like it by the sound of it.


    “I saw it move in the night sky and was entranced by it, Kodlak. Not a care in the world, graceful, like the children of a God ought to be.” Zokulaad, he was jealous of it. Why, he knew not. He had never been envious of anything in his whole life and he felt ashamed to have those feelings. Yet that dragon flying in the sky made him feel envy. Watching it fly, so beautiful.  Touching the Sky… “It took all my wits, all my bolts, and even more dumb luck to kill it.”


    “Dumb luck?” Echoed Kodlak.


    “Aye, dumb luck.” The Elf replied, still watching the flames, his tone now cast with a bitter edge.  “The kind of dumb luck that happens from just being born into this world. Turns out, dragons do not die in the traditional sense, but this one did indeed die.”


    Kodlak thought for a moment, what was the Elf saying? He remembered to the legends and tales of his youth. Of dragons. Yes, Äelberon was right in his lore. Something about the soul. Yes, the soul needed to be absorbed for it to die. The soul needed to be absorbed… wait! The Old Man turned to his Shield-Brother, his eyes wide. And Kodlak softly said the final phrase of the poem while he stared at Äelberon. It was a poem ingrained in his heart. It was ingrained in every Nord’s heart. “The World-Eater wakes, and the Wheel turns upon the Last Dragonborn.”


    Äelberon turned to him and Kodlak could see the keen anguish in his eyes. The voice that spoke, still so frail.  “I think the Wheel turns upon me, my Brother, for the Greybeards have summoned me... to High Hrothgar.”


    You? You absorbed the soul?!” Kodlak whispered. He was dumbfounded, this was an Altmer!


    Äelberon nodded. He felt better finally telling someone who meant something to him, and the pressure in his head began to diminish, though the heavy ache of his heart did not. “Aye, I did. I did this very thing.” Kodlak then saw his litter mate’s luminous eyes well with tears of despair, though he did not cry.  “And I pray that the Greybeards can help me, for I do not understand why this was put upon me. Oh Kodlak!” Äelberon gasped, his voice finally breaking, unable to contain his anguish any longer.  “My People will not understand. They will not, and I can never go back. They will hunt me all the more for this, for I am their bane. I am everything my People hate. Those Isles, those beautiful Isles are forever lost to me now. I have been exiled for over one hundred years, my Brother, but there was always that faint glimmer of hope that I could return. With this? With me being Dragonborn?”


    He shook his head and turned away from hearth fire, now shunning the flames that he had regarded for most of the night.  There is only darkness if I cannot have my home.  “There is no hope now. I will never see the sandy beaches of my city again. I shall never again swim its crystal waters. You know, in Dusk, there is a saying. ‘Babies can swim before they can walk...’ And ah! Could I swim! Still can. But… oh, Kodlak! With this, I am truly sundered from my home... As a nan Bet av Lorkhan…"  Doom Drum pounding in the Night! “NE!”


    Kodlak jumped when he heard the passionate outburst and then the Elf growled in another language, beating his armored chest with his fist, his voice now defiant.  


    “A nan Saldor av Auri-El, ni Bet av Lorkhan, NI!”


    “Are you alright?”  The back straightened and the Elf regarded Kodlak, causing the Nord to remember the words he spoke when he first met this grand Mer that sat before him.  Yes, perhaps a certain strength in spirit.  Well, no shit the spirit was strong, it was damn bloody dragon’s! Kodlak shook his head and could no longer suppress a chuckle. No wonder he was a handful.


    “Yes, Kodlak, I am alright now.”


    Good, thought the Old Man, meant the spirit wasn't broken. Not old Snow Bear. That's it... you fell.  Now get back up again, old litter mate. You've been doing just that far longer than the whole lot of us.


    "What is done is done.  If by being their bane, I save them, then so be it. I am resigned and will do Auri-El’s will.”  He then covered his face with his hands and shook his head, laughing at his own predicament.  “Damn it, Kodlak, there is so much to do, and I cannot even bloody walk. Some Dragonborn I am turning out to be, eh?”


    Kodlak only smiled.


    Skjor was just emerging from the steps, potions in hand. Gods, he thought when he saw the two of them quietly sitting at the bench, that went much better than expected! That Elf could always win the Old Man over, he thought, grinning. He also grinned because he had been right, hearing the Old Elf’s words just as he cleared the steps. Dragonborn. He was now looking at a Dovahkiin. An Elf no less. Ah shit.  The world was definitely going to end now, Skjor thought with a wry smile. At least he had the Hunting Grounds.


    “Well, I can help you walk.” Replied Kodlak, and with some effort the Harbinger guided Äelberon to his feet. They made their way to the kitchen, towards the little room in the back where the bath was drawn, slowly for Kodlak could see that his Shield-Brother was in a great deal of pain. He continued to talk while he led. “Try not tackle it all at once, Old Dragon" He paused, "You know, I like the sound of that.”


    “Gods help me!” The Old Elf moaned, shooting the Nord a feigned peeved look.


    “First, a good bath. Then a hot meal. If… you’re not falling over by then, you can make yourself vomit Tilma’s fine cooking by drinking those gods awful potions you hate so much. Then heal that ankle so I don’t have to lug you all around Jorrvaskr like an old woman because, damn it boy, you weigh a ton.” Äelberon laughed, and it was his old laugh again, without the bitterness.  “Finally, sleep, Brother, sleep. You’ve earned the rest, and when you are refreshed, you'll tackle the rest. Eorlund will have that silver armor of yours shining again, and your Siblings will kill anyone that comes calling for you today, even if it’s the bloody Jarl himself.”


    “Oh, do not kill the Jarl, I like him. Now if that Steward shows up…” Äelberon grunted, seeing stars when his ankle lightly touched a sack on the floor.


    “We’ll string him by the balls!” Barked Skjor from the kitchen entrance.  Tilma’s giggles could be heard from beyond and Äelberon could smell the venison being rubbed with spices. He would take the potions first, then eat. He was going to keep that steak down. And he could smell honey. Bless Tilma, bless her.


    Kodlak grinned, his pale grey eyes twinkling. Tonight, he’d have the Harbinger’s bed, for the service he has done.  “That I promise. The Dragon will rest in his lair tonight.” The Old Man reassured. 


    The Greybeards, Äelberon thought.  He would go, he needed to understand the “why” of all of this. Why Auri-El put him on this path.  But tonight… Faal wuth Dovah fen praan ko ok praav dahvulon.  Dii praan.  All three Nords could then hear him hum lightly. The Dragon's Song...


    Dovahzul translations. Lovaas means both music and song.

    Faal Heim Mirodahiik


    “Neben faal  lot Okriim, Zu'u kroson dii lu,

    Lu fah Bormah, lu fah Aan…

    Zu'u mirodah faal lovaas do faal sahrot Lok-Heim!

    Yol toor… Shul! Lok-Heim! Dii su’um mirodah!


    Lovaas do ag kirg ahrk lomos lom,

    Lovaas do gunaar spaan ahrk nonvul zurgah,

    Lovaas do viintaas zahkrii ahrk yuvon brax!

    Yol toor… Shul! Lok-Heim! Dii su’um mirodah!


    Zu'u los faal mirodahiik do daar heim,

    Ahrk nos do dii tu los graal wah dii lovaas.

    Faal  lovaas do dii praav los pah Zu'u tol Zu'u wahl!

    Yol toor… Shul! Lok-Heim! Dii su’um mirodah!”


    The Forge Singer


    Under the great Eagle, I work my magic,

    Magic for Father, magic for Anu…

    I sing the song of the mighty Sky-Forge.

    Yol toor… Shul! Sky-Forge! My breath sings!


    Songs of burning coals and steaming water,

    Songs of crushing shields and noble helms,

    Songs of shining swords and golden bows.

    Yol toor… Shul! Sky-Forge! My breath sings!


    I am the singer of this forge,

    And the strike of my hammer is my music.

    The songs of my lair are all that I create.

    Yol toor… Shul! Sky-Forge! My breath sings!


    Other translations -

    Faal wuth Dovah fen praan ko ok praav dahvulon.

    The old Dragon will rest in his lair tonight.

    Dii praav

    My lair.


    Altmeris translations.

    As a nan Bet av Lorkhan – For I am the beast of Lorkhan

    Saldor - priest 


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC  *  Book 1 Part 1 Download  *  Straag Rod Timeline

    Chapter XL    Part 2 Prelude


29 Comments   |   SeekerM and 3 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  February 21, 2017
    The end. The beginning. That's a lot of chapters, can't remember when I started this, but the journey has been a good one. Many memorable moments and characters, great interpretations and lore insights, sadly so little sex ;) hat's off to you Lissette, th...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  January 16, 2016
    Hahaha, I had such fun with that title. 
  • Tim
    Tim   ·  January 16, 2016
    Well, I was in the process of going elsewhere soon after I finished this :P
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  January 16, 2016
    Thanks Tim. Well, if you want more to read, go read Going Elsweyr. LOL
  • Tim
    Tim   ·  January 16, 2016
    Shit.....I just realized this is the last for the waiting, lol. Amazing story, Lissette.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 26, 2015
    Errors fixed. 
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 26, 2015
    Well, you know, Ebonslayer, when you write these long chapters, one or two are bound to slip from your fingers. 
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 26, 2015
    Wow, this is a first. Usually I have to do this with Sotek.

    In paragraph 49 "Meal Hall" is supposed to be Mead Hall.

    In paragraph 56 you forgot the i in Auri-El.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 10, 2015
    I shall attempt to make it sweet and juicy, just for you. 
  • Nemanja
    Nemanja   ·  November 10, 2015
    Patience is a virtue they say...I'll wait for the editing,I'll resume reading the Witcher in the meantime,you just take your time and deliver it sweet and juicy to us!