Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 2, Chapter I: Thoughts along the Path

  • 16th of Morning Star, 4E 202


    He had not felt this small and insignificant since he first entered the Jerrals all those years ago, Äelberon thought while he looked up from the base of the worn stone steps leading to High Hrothgar, squinting against the sun’s glare reflecting off the stark snow-topped peak to gage the distance.  He rubbed Koor’s ears, the action comforting to some degree and the dog was in good spirits, though a little on the needy side since the events of the fourteenth. It was a brisk morning, last night’s frost still clinging stubbornly to the shrubs, grasses, and flowers of the Rift’s Autumnal forests; covering everything in a crystalline casing that reflected the sun’s rays like diamond dust. Steam escaped his lips when he exhaled, and the air nipped his nose, causing him to sniff on occasion. Aye, he would need the tent and the firewood. If it was brisk now, it would be brutal higher up.  


    The Throat of the World.  The eruption of the Red Mountain now made this snowy peak the tallest in all Tamriel. It was said that She made Man when She touched this peak with Her breath.  Kyne…


    The one who watched him, or were they all watching him now, Äelberon wondered in his deep introspection. It felt like it.


    He tore his eyes from the jagged peak and walked back to Allie and a patiently waiting Klimmek to retrieve a crude fur tent and some firewood. The young Nord watched, clad in a wolfskin cloak and hood, his mouth still sporting that “in awe” expression while Äelberon knelt next to his husky, working silently while he strapped the supplies to Koor. The boy could easily carry the light load.  He would leave Allie here. The 7,000 steps were too treacherous, the steps too irregular to risk her. It had been gracious of the fisherman to watch her, but Äelberon still could not yet directly meet the Nord’s stare. Klimmek was not being rude. Evidently, they had heard the Greybeards in Ivarstead too and it was a shock to the young Nord when Äelberon, of all people, showed up.


    They, Ivarstead, the village at the foot of the Throat, had been watching for the Dragonborn to come since the fourteenth, since hearing “Dovahkiin”. Waiting, speculating on who he or she was. He gave Klimmek credit, the boy put – Äelberon thought of the phrase that they used again, he was so much older, it was not excellent at summation – he put two and two together rather fast when Äelberon consented with a shy grunt to deliver some supplies to the Greybeards. He was headed there anyway, though Äelberon did not need to say why, Klimmek already guessed. The others had not yet come to the conclusion, for he was ignored by the guards stationed at the bridge who were specifically assigned to watch for the Dragonborn’s approach, and Äelberon hoped in the back of his mind that they would not.  Let them believe for a little while longer. Let their imaginations be filled with visions of the great Nord heroes of old. Not with the reality. An Elf reality.


    Äelberon would be a terrible disappointment to them. He was a disappointment to himself. A Nord would be better for this, not a Mer, and certainly not an Altmer, his shoulders stooped. It would not be better for either race. Klimmek did not seemed bothered by it, just as Honthjolf was not, but it would only be a matter of time. He needed to stop thinking on this, he mused, his chilled fingers struggling to line up Koor’s belt strap with the hole, a small growl of frustration escaping his lips.


    It was then that he sensed her.


    Äelberon felt Allie bite into his black bearskin cloak while he secured Koor’s last strap and his pensive frown turned into a smile. They knew when he sorrowed. Always.  The white cloak that Tilma had taken such care to make was gone, damaged beyond repair, so he was back to wearing the Orc bandit’s. In a way, he did not mind, wearing it made him think of Orcs and despite their rough ways, his memories of the race were fond ones. It was something else to think on rather than his current situation.  Allie did not bite on his cloak hard, she never did. She just chewed on it impatiently, along the hem towards the right, her teeth gradually wearing a little bald patch after their time together. Not even a month had passed, yet it felt like forever, and not, Äelberon thought, his smile broadening, not in a bad way.


    “Do you understand this time, my girl?” Äelberon asked, his back still turned to his girl. His girl.  She released her hold on his cloak and nuzzled him, her fuzzy black muzzle finding his right shoulder, making the hood of his cloak fall in the process. His right hand reached to her and Äelberon held her muzzle close against him, her cheek pleasantly warm against his wind-chilled one, her smell familiar. Well, that was different!  No sneers, only this tender display of affection. Had the dragon frightened her too?  Äelberon rose from Koor and he and Klimmek exchanged surprised glances.  


    “Well, she’s a lot less nippy. I remember her the first time you showed up in Ivarstead. Gave her a wide berth!” Remarked the Nord fisherman, rubbing her flank.


    “Verily she is, friend.” Replied Äelberon before turning to Allie again, “Ah, you are learning, that is good, very good.” He said gently as he stroked her muzzle. “Hmm, for that you deserve something, eh?”  He shrugged off his pack, causing her ears to prick forward and her mouth to move in a chewing motion, her nostrils trembling in anticipation. She probably smelled it, Äelberon grinned to himself when he produced an apple from his pack, holding it just below her quivering lips. Ha! That was gone quickly, for all his beasties shared his love for apples.  “Thank you for watching her, Klimmek.” He began.


    The Nord crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against Allie’s strong flank, fiddling with the knot in his light-brown beard, his merry eyes skywards. He would cheer him up too.  “Well, didn’t consent to watching her yet…”


    Klimmek had been bewildered by Äelberon’s arrival in Ivarstead early this morning. Bewildered but ultimately happy about the turn of events, for he was eager to give the Altmer the good news and invite him. After all, the Old Mer was the one who gave Klimmek some much-needed advice on “fishing” and now he and Fastred were... Klimmek beamed, the memories of that day replaying in his mind. Kissing her at sunset, overlooking the falls, his hand on her smooth cheek. Then dinner at Jofthor’s house and the explanation of his intentions, their hands interlocked and drenched with nervous sweat while they waited for her father’s approval. He didn’t care that Bassianus up and left for Riften the next day, taking all of his hard-earned coin for the week with him. He didn’t care. Klimmek had what mattered.   


    “Oh… I am sorry if I made the assumption. My apologies, Klimmek, I thou—“


    “Gotta promise me something first.” Klimmek interrupted. He was enjoying this. Altmer sure looked funny when they were confused and this one certainly was. Klimmek had been eager to tell Äelberon about the wedding, until he saw the Old Mer walking towards the 7,000 steps, the head bent in thought. Heavy with the weight of something great, it seemed to Klimmek, and then it hit him as if a barrel of fish fell on his head. The Elf was the one. Wasn’t sure if he felt like telling the others just yet, on account of Äelberon being very quiet about it, serious enough to warrant some cheering up even, but Klimmek knew he’d need to say something down the road.


    There was another Dragon.


    He was dining with Fastred last night when the courier barged in the Vilemyr Inn, his cloak dripping from the rain. They all watched the man, his face pinched from exhaustion and cold, hand the bounty to Wilhelm. They all watched Wilhelm’s face go whiter than the ghost Lynly claimed she saw the other night lurking near the barrow. They all watched Wilhelm’s hand tremble while he read. Temba then snatched the bounty and they all knew. A dragon destroyed a homestead over near the border of Morrowind. It had made its lair at that ancient overlook, Lost Tongue. Leveled the homestead, but the people weren’t burned up like over at Helgen.  No, they were covered in a strange ice. It was ungodly. Fastred and he were just going to start, wouldn’t be fair if a dragon upped and took it away. He would tell Äelberon when he came back. If he’d even help, looked like he had his own burdens today. Every Nord, when a child, dreams of being Dragonborn.


    Klimmek wasn’t so sure on that now.


    “What do I have to promise, Klimmek?”  The Nord was struck by the weariness of the Old Mer’s tone.


    “No, nothing so hard, my friend. Nothing like what you have to face climbing up those steps. Only that you come to the wedding.”


    The Old Mer’s features warmed significantly and his eyes betrayed a measure of surprise. Klimmek watched Äelberon briefly turn from his animal and scan the village a distance away, his eyes resting on Fastred feeding the chickens.  He watched the young maid scatter the grain and bits of fruit and nuts, laughing at the birds’ squabbling for the choicest morsels. His eyes then found Klimmek and the Nord felt the heat on his cheeks, his smile ear to ear.  “When?” Asked Äelberon, his eyes lighting up.


    “Summer, we’re planning to make the trip to Riften with her family the first Sundas of Mid Year and we’d be honored if you’d attend, though the way Fastred’s working on her wedding dress, you’d think we’re getting married next week!” The Nord chortled.


    Äelberon laughed aloud and Klimmek could have sworn there was some naughty in it, before the Elf placed a hand on the Nord’s shoulder, “That is the seventh of Mid Year. Klimmek, I would be honored to attend. May the Lady Mara bless you with a happy home.” It was a naughty laugh and now it was accompanied by a wink. “… and many children.” The Elf then seemed to notice Klimmek’s bright red cheeks and promptly changed the subject. “Are gifts customary? They are in my homeland.”


    Klimmek shook his head, “We wouldn’t make you do that.”


    “But it is customary?” the Altmer pressed, his heavy silver brow lowering just a touch.


    The Nord sighed, he was going to bring something regardless, stubborn old Billy goat of a Mer, “I know it’ll kill you if I say ‘no gifts’, so bring what you think is right, but it’s not required. You brought us together, you certainly gave enough.”


    “Ha, never refuse an Old Altmer his gift-giving.” Äelberon playfully chided, his voice taking a gruff tone. “I look forward to this, I truly do” Äelberon gave the Nord’s shoulder a hearty squeeze. “I used to conduct such wedding rites back in the Isles. One of my lighter duties in the Order and one of the ones I enjoyed the most. Riften, Riften… I will see Priestess Balu again, I should bring something for the coming baby. Perhaps a rocking crib? I have some skill with wood-working. Yes, a crib. And for you, Klimmek,” Another rough pat. Mer didn’t know his own strength sometimes, Klimmek grunted. “…a fishing pole of Altmeri design, or maybe nets. From one fisherman to another, and for Fastred?”  Klimmek shook his head while the Elf glanced back towards his bride-to-be. There would be no stopping him. Probably would bring all of Ivarstead presents.  “For Fastred, I will make what I always make for brides, combs for her hair. With little charms of butterflies, flowers, and fish, in silver, I think.  Goes better with her brown hair…” he grinned while he mused, dropping his hand from Klimmek’s shoulder. Then he released a great sigh. “Thank you, Klimmek, for your good tidings.”


    Klimmek couldn’t help but wince. He was going to ruin it later with the dragon.


    “The past few days have been difficult for me, with everything that has happened, with the burden of why I am here.” Äelberon nodded, his eyes briefly growing distant before resuming their twinkle, “You have given me something pleasant to think on while I make my journey up the 7,000 steps.” He handed Klimmek Allie’s reins and turned to the horse.  “I will return soon, my sweet. You behave.” She bared her teeth at his warning, and he laughed at her spirit, slapping her neck playfully while he eyed Klimmek. “Ah, Klimmek, her sweetness could not last, eh?”


    “Nope, she’s got too much fire for that, just like her Master.”


    “Aye, fire…” Äelberon whispered, the melancholy suddenly returning. “Come, Koor, it is time.”  He removed Okriim from its slot on her saddle and in one motion that made the Nord’s eyebrows shoot up in amazement, Äelberon strung the weapon.  His Eagle. The great bow shone gold in the morning sun, the carvings of the wings catching its rays, casting flashes of light upon the ground.  Äelberon would use him today, and only him, fastening to his side a great Elven quiver, which included arrows of flame. For trolls and ice wraiths.  His other weapons were stored with Allie. No, this journey was different; he did not want to enter the monastery a one-Mer army. He would carry only enough to defend himself and leave the rest to the Gods’ mercy. He nodded to Klimmek in farewell and walked to just before the first step and then slowly fell to one knee, resting Okriim over his leg as he bent his head. And he prayed. 


    “Auri-El, God of my Order. The One who has shone the Path to Transcendence. Open my body, my heart, my mind, and my soul. Your golden sun shines upon this mountain today and through the many twists and turns of my long battle in this Arena, it has now led me here. Let Your humble servant be receptive to Your word spoken through these Greybeards of Skyrim. And above all, let me endeavor to do Your will on this Plane. Your grace and light be upon me always, Soul of Anui-El, the light of lights, the soul of all things…”


    Äelberon then rose to his full height, his red-orange eyes catching the light of the morning sun as he gazed once more at the summit. He placed his right foot upon the first step. It was healed, but still sore from the break. No matter, he would make this climb. He needed to make this climb. He was Auri-El’s humble servant, but he was also Dovahkiin and perhaps something else. And it was that potential something else that disturbed him to his very core.  


    “One…” He said softly, taking his first step, ignoring the Altmeri nursery rhyme that refused to stop playing in his mind.  




    They had made him Thane, Äelberon mused while he continued the climb, passing the snow bear carcass that fell to Okriim on his way to another etched tablet. Like the other, nestled within a carved shrine to protect the ancient text from the elements. It was the second one he had seen. And upon the first was etched the beginnings of a tale. A tale of an earlier time. When dragons once ruled this plane. Gods, he could only imagine! One was hard enough to kill, an entire army of them? His hand carefully brushed the crusted snow from the tablet and he read it.   


    “Men were born and spread over the face of Mundus; The Dragons presided over the crawling masses; Men were weak then, and had no Voice.”


    He had the Voice.  He could shout… just like Tiber Septim.  Gods, Old Mer, think on something else… please.


    They had made him Thane. Yes, he thought, pausing at the etching to trace the runes with his fingers, ignoring the cold. That was better, much better. They had made him Thane. He did not know what for. Äelberon did not care for titles, save to intimidate an enemy. But among friends, he hated them, preferring just to be called by name, though he was now quite fond of Snow Bear. That name suited him, for he was a grumpy old bear, but Thane? Pshaw! No, he was just a fishermer, the son of a blacksmith. He took a deep breath and remembered that day. He had had an extra piece of Tilma’s apple pie. Entitled a bit, Old Mer? Probably, he smirked to himself.  He would slay a thousand dragons for Tilma’s pie. Now, that would be a story for Jon Battle-Born, Äelberon chortled.  Äelberon Pie-Eater.  To be honest, that was a more pleasant reward than the embarrassment that came with being made Thane.  


    The courier arrived at Jorrvaskr late in the afternoon of the fourteenth, bearing a summons from the Jarl. It was Skjor who delivered the news, sitting at the edge of Kodlak’s bed. Aye, they had put him there that night after the dragon and Kodlak had taken his bed. The action had moved Äelberon a great deal. He remembered not how he got there, but he was told later that he simply fell asleep on the bench after he had healed himself, exhausted from the concentration, and they had wanted him to be comfortable. Then they told him not to fall asleep like that again because he was fat and it took the combined efforts of Farkas, Vilkas, Skjor, and the Old Man to carry him to the bed. All the damn apple pie, you Old Fart. Äelberon gave the etching a final trace, on the word “weak”, and then left the etching to continue his walk, his hand finding Koor’s ears.


    They were well above Ivarstead now, its thatched roofs golden from above, bleached by the sun, the smoke from its hearths puffing gently upwards. The steady turn of the mill was barely audible, as was the buzz of its saw. The people bustling below like ants.


    Crawling masses.


    Äelberon turned away quickly from the view, his chest tightening. Crawling masses, like ants to a dragon from up above. No walls. Gods, Ivarstead was defenseless. Worse than Helgen. How would he, how could he help—he interrupted his own thoughts.  That is one of the reasons why you are climbing up this mountain, Old Mer.


    When all was said and done, when the dragon lay as a pile of bones upon the ruins of the Western Watchtower, when he had healed his broken ankle, he had slept for almost half a day.  A rare thing for him. But he was already awake when Skjor arrived at his bedside to bring the summons. He expected to have nightmares of the dragon, of pounding drums, of what he would now be to the Altmer people.  His People.  It seemed, however, that his mind prioritized nightmares differently. Bloody Oblivion! He did not even dream of Vingalmo, the beast that had plagued his dreams for over a century. No.


    “What will you give in exchange for them?”


    Hircine destroying his new family was what he dreamt of. The voice again posing the question, those yellow eyes cruelly staring back at Äelberon in the darkness.  And again, Äelberon dared not answer. At least he did not vomit this time, though his Shield-Siblings did wonder why he was so reluctant to eat after sleeping for so long, a pale subdued presence at the Mead Hall. And it came again last night. The same, always the same, and he still did not answer and the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach returned every time he pondered it. He would have this dream many times, of that he was certain, and rest would only come if he answered the question. But Äelberon was not ready to answer yet. He knew how these things worked. He would dream the full dream when the time was right for him to do so. And now was not the right time, for too much clouded his thoughts. He needed to be patient.


    While Hircine presided over his nightmares, the daylight hours were spent brooding on the images that flashed across his mind at the Western Watchtower. They were from books, from Crystal-Like-Law’s Great Library. They had to be. Except her and Äelberon stopped walking, feeling a sudden warmth creep to his cheeks, leaving him flustered.  He loved her. Loved her for the peace she gave him that night, for being the last thing he saw before he lost consciousness.


    Ebonnayne. She was not from any book Äelberon had ever read in his many days on Nirn and her face was the only pleasant memory on that cruel night. To him, seeing her was like again seeing the Star-Sky in the moments after the Great Anguish ended. Endless joy! She brought him out of times of deep crisis, the accompanying melody of his song sweet, only to sink into the deep abyss of his mind when he was ready to face reality once more, great trees raining blossoms of pink in her wake. As if weeping.  Do not think on that either, Old Mer, Äelberon thought while he trudged forward. She was not real and even if she was, he could not... enough.


    “The strange things one ponders when one is afraid of the unknown. So much unknown.” He muttered under his breath. Äelberon adjusted his pack and continued. He was fidgeting, in both mind and body, and he was vaguely hungry, his eyes finding faint patches of red ahead. Snowberries. Distract yourself with the prospect of something sweet that actually exists, Old Mer, he grinned to himself, continuing to replay the events of the fourteenth in his mind.


    Äelberon was summoned to appear under the Gildergreen at sunset, and he did, his Shield-Siblings accompanying him. He did not know how, but Eorlund had managed to clean his armor, and he was given the title of Thane of Whiterun. Jarl Balgruuf the Greater presented him with the symbol of his office, the Axe of Whiterun; a handsome weapon with an ornately carved blade. Then he spent a lot more time with Proventus Avenicci than he wanted to. While the rest of Whiterun celebrated his good fortune, the Steward spoke to him at length, making Äelberon feel like he was back in school again.


    Gods above, how he loathed school! Proventus Avenicci forming an amalgam of all the teachers he despised.


    The other Thanes of the Hold were Vignar Grey-Mane, Olfrid Battle-Born, and Rorik of Rorikstead; patriarchs of Whiterun’s oldest families and the founder of a town, so that he was even given the title was an honor that he did not feel he had earned.  He was given the privilege to purchase property and a Housecarl was assigned to him. By the Gods, she was but a child. Lydia… That was her name.


    Äelberon shook his head as he continued to walk up the path, his boots making light crunching noises in the snow. Time had passed and Äelberon could feel the chill in the air biting his exposed cheeks. Sometimes the path took a temporary dip, but always it went ever upwards, and it would grow even colder.  He saw another etching out of the corner of his eye. He had almost missed that one, for it was hidden within a grove of icicled pine and snowberries and he chuckled at his growing hunger pains. Damn sweet tooth. There was a hunter kneeling at the base of the etching’s shrine. Praying.  Being a lot more reverent than he was being right now. The hunter, a Nord clad in fur armor and a heavy cloak of wolfskin, acknowledged Äelberon with a nod and then resumed his deep meditation, leaving an offering of gold in a glazed ceramic bowl when he was finished a few moments later. Äelberon understood. ‘Twas a beautiful place to commune and pray. A light snow began to fall, covering the tracks of the beasts that had passed prior to him while he approached to read the etching.  


    “The fledgling spirits of Men were strong in Old Times; Unafraid to war with Dragons and their Voices; But the Dragons only shouted them down and broke their hearts.”


    He felt a sudden wave of sorrow. He knew what it was like to face an unrelenting army, to be beaten down.  Ah damn it! Think on something else, Old Mer, not this. Even revenge and Vingalmo would be better than this! He frowned, no, it would not, and he corrected himself when images of his parents flashed before his eyes. Something lighter, to counter the snowfall.


    The privilege to purchase property. Much better. As Thane, he now had that right. A house? Are you going to purchase one or not? Yes, engage in that debate as you walk up the 7,000 steps, and leave your sorrow for another time. There were two choices and it was clear that Avenicci had his preferences. The first, called Breezehome, was around 5,000 septims, fully furnished and ready for him now. Avenicci showed it to him after the ceremony. ‘Twas a quaint cottage, right next to Adrianne’s with a large hearth, comfy chairs to warm oneself by the fire, a few bookshelves, and an upstairs with two rooms. One for him and a little room for Lydia, which Äelberon thought rather unseemly, and he furrowed his brow, turning away from the etching to continue his walk.


    These Nords and their lack of formality, for a young maid to take up residence with an old bachelor?  Aye, he was a priest, and she was safe with him, but still, ‘twas unseemly, and he would not have the maid’s reputation sullied by the wagging tongues of gossips.  He shook his head and chuckled as he took a snowberry branch and began to munch away.  They were so informal, these Nords, and yet they thought the Elves wanton! No, no, no… That living arrangement would never have happened in the Isles. For that reason alone, he would refrain from purchasing the home. At least that one.


    Asking about the second property only made Avenicci’s nose wrinkle in distaste and the Imperial actually chided the Mer like he was a youngling of five.  “Oh, you don’t want that run-down place. It’s falling apart!”


    Actually, Äelberon did want it, and not just to spite the Steward, he admitted slyly, but because he rather fancied it. It was only a short ride from Whiterun, a cottage nestled upon a small cliff just over Honingbrew Meadery, close to where the main road branched. The steward was correct, it was in shambles. In terrible need of repair, months’ worth of construction, to be honest, were required to make the ‘stead livable again, but the views of Whiterun and the surrounding tundra were stunning. 8,000 septims, for a view. Äelberon laughed aloud at his own folly. His fellow Altmer would berate him for being so impractical, but the view… he could picture himself there, watching the sunrise while he enjoyed his morning meal. And the stars at night while he sipped tea and indulged in a good smoke. He could even see Skyforge from it, the smoke of its forge fire. Like an eagle in his aerie he would be.


    Or a dragon in your lair, he chuckled to himself, feeling the irony and its bitter sting strongly.


    5,000 for ease or 8,000 for struggle. 8,000, plus additional coin to reshingle the roof, repair the ruined stables, the walkways, the fence, the windows. And that was only the exterior. Ha! It looked like the Stormcloak army or a flock of dragons had at the place… Impractical, Old Mer, utterly impractical. The work alone it would take. But, ey, he could not see the sun, the moon, and the jewel-stars from Breezehome and there was no question. Äelberon of Dusk would spite the Steward and his own People, he grinned. It was only a question of coin.


    Now, how much coin did he have? Äelberon thought about it for a moment while he fed Koor some snowberries. The dog took to them readily, covering his hand in sticky, berry-stained slobber, fair compensation for Allie getting the apple. He had… 4,276 septims. Not much. Not enough for a horse, yet alone the damn house. Would the Steward consent to a down payment? Skulvar let him hold Allie with 1,000 septims, perhaps two or three would be fair for the homestead? He would ask when he returned from High Hrothgar.


    Leave Jorrvaskr though, Äelberon considered. It was not leaving. Leaving was what he was planning to do at Dragonsreach, but no, not now. It was only a short ride away.  Would they understand? He did not know. Bah! Who was he kidding, the Steward would probably be a prick and not let him make the deposit. He would then need the full 8,000 and more to fix the place. And the way he saved money? He made decent enough coin in Skyrim from bandit bounties and the selling of enchanted items he found, but most of what he made was thrown into preparations for Bleak Falls Barrow. He had little left after that and he needed to save it for Elemental salts to fletch arrows with. Who knew if there were more dragons and he needed to be prepared. Most of his arrows went into that bloody first dragon. Gods, so many arrows to fell that beast and it was wounded! 


    Aye, Äelberon of Dusk, you are going to be living at Jorrvaskr for a long, long time and he caught himself laughing again, giving Koor a pat on the head when the dog paused from his snowberries to eye him.


    “Aye, your Master is crazy.” Äelberon reached for another branch of snowberries. “Here, have more sweets, for you are a whore to them just like your Master is.” The husky responded with a snort, but eagerly took the crimson berries while Äelberon retrieved another branch for himself. If the dog could indulge, so could he. Let Athis help carry him too if he ever fell asleep on a bench again. “Come on, you fat arse, better start moving. You will strip the mountainside of berries if you delay any longer.”


    Koor head-butted his thigh, throwing him off-balance. The Elf whirled to face his adversary. The husky had issued a challenge and there was no way… It often surprised Äelberon how fast that dog could tackle him to the ground and he landed in the snow with a grunt, wiping the animal’s drool from his face, his laughter making his eyes water. He reached up to push the dog’s snout away and froze when his fingers struck bare teeth, feeling the rumble of a growl in the animal’s throat. Koor was snarling. Snarling?  “Boy…” Äelberon whispered, opening his eyes. “What?”


    Koor was bristling above him, his blue eyes fixed on something in the path and Äelberon turned to lay tensely on his stomach, his eyes scanning. Sabre cat? Bear?


    He heard it first.  A familiar hissing, cracking noise, like breaking ice. An ice wraith, a crystalline blue form that danced and hovered in the air, armed with teeth that could deliver a bite that chilled through bone. Perhaps once it was something more, a remnant from creation? He had speculated that some of the Ehlnofey perhaps degenerated over time into elemental creatures that now knew only the basest of emotions. Attack and defend. It was near another tablet. Koor crawled away from his Master, allowing Äelberon to rise to a crouched position and reach for his bow. His actions slow. Stalking. It was not aware of him yet and he drew an arrow from his quiver. An arrow of flame. He would need to get up quickly after taking this shot. One arrow would not be enough to kill it.


    Ah damn, it saw him and immediately whirled in the air, heading his way. Fast on the attack.  Äelberon scrambled to his feet and drew Okriim, aiming.  They moved so swiftly and he had so few arrows of flame. His shot needed to be true. He let his arrow fly and the ice wraith staggered when it was caught mid-air in the fiery explosion.


    That did not stop it. The ice wraith then shot forward rapidly, its whip-like tail balancing its momentum. Äelberon backed away and turned, making a dodge to the left in an attempt to fool the beast into going left so he could then dodge right, but the creature anticipated his move, sinking its teeth into the chain mail under his right arm, into the flesh just above the elbow.  It was like being stabbed by ice and Äelberon groaned, fighting his ebbing stamina to twist, feeling the chain mail and flesh tear, and strike at the beast with Okriim. Hit the snout, Old Mer, the snout, you cannot afford to strike blindly. The bow struck with enough force to make the ice wraith release its hold on him and it withdrew to begin another pass.  


    With effort, Äelberon nocked another flame arrow, and took aim. His breathing was heavy and he was fighting the effects of the ice wraith’s frosty bite, fighting the numbing pain in his right arm that now was beginning to spread upwards into his bicep and downwards into his draw wrist. Äelberon growled the will to fire and the creature fell to his second arrow, its crystalline form collapsing into itself, condensing to become a mass of hardened, sleek ice, barring its two fangs.


    The creature may have fallen but Äelberon was still in danger.  The wraith’s bite cast his body in a deepening freeze, making his lids heavy, his vision blurring with the overwhelming desire to sleep. To succumb would mean death.  He needed heat.


    Koor? Where was he? He had the gear. The dog had guided the beast towards his second arrow, but he seemed so far away. Äelberon shook his head, the bloody dog is only a few paces away, you dolt, and watching you make an arse out of yourself by stumbling about instead of fetching your gear to make camp like an intelligent Mer would. Gasping hard, Äelberon trudged to the dog and unpacked the tent. He worked, ignoring his now numb hands. Casting to heal the bite would come later. After… heat. Heat. Think hot thoughts, Old Mer. Tilma’s apple pie, straight from the oven. Bloody Oblivion, you just ate a mountain full of snowberries and you’re still thinking food?! Hot tea. Dragon’s fire. No, no no, don’t think that hot, aim lower, Old Mer. Steaming tea, fresh apple pie and the roar of Jorrvaskr’s hearth is plenty hot for you, he smiled through chattering teeth.


    The images helped him set up camp, but by the time he was ready to light the campfire, he was shivering so violently that he dropped his flint stone into the snow, rendering it useless. Scamp’s Blood, he needed to strike the flint upon a dry surface to create sparks for the kindling, but there was no dry rock! It was all covered in snow!  


    “No…” He gasped, as his eyes scanned the area frantically for a dry piece of stone, anything. He needed to light the campfire before the wood became too damp from the falling snow. Then his blurry eyes found the Etching. There was no snow upon it. He grabbed his torch from the bottom of his pack, wedging the kindling into a gap in the torch’s head and then nearly tore through the contents of his pack to retrieve the torch oil. He had not wanted to waste it, but the extra combustibility would help. Äelberon then stumbled towards the etching, his legs moving as if his boots were filled with lead, his stride shortened. Ha! Bet Old Hag Lilisephona was enjoying his tiny Phynaster steps now.  He wondered how light his Shield-Brother’s wolf armor was. Chain mail and plating were bloody heavy. Bet it was lighter. Gods, he wasn’t even articulate anymore… sleepy. Hot thoughts. Pie.


    “Forgive me,” he said softly when he struck the flint hard upon the dry stone, creating the sparks he desperately needed to light the torch. As the torch glowed in his hand and the snow fell hard, he read the etching. He was dying of cold, but damn it, Äelberon was going to read the etching. Old Fool.


    “Kyne called on Paarthurnax, who pitied Man; Together they taught Men to use the Voice; Then Dragon War raged, Dragon against Tongue.”


    “Paarthurnax.” He repeated under his breath, his watering eyes narrowing, now ignoring his freezing body. He then repeated the name again; splitting the word into its syllables. “Paar… Thur… Nax…” Instinctually, he translated them aloud, “Ambition… Overlord… Cruelty…”  An evil name, he thought dully, his eyes closing briefly. They snapped wide open and he almost dropped the torch. Xarxes’ arse!


    A dragon!  It must be, for none but they knew the Voice at that time. Yet despite that terrible, evil name, the dragon pitied Man? A dragon, a dragon pitied Man?! Gods! Was there hope then?! Äelberon suddenly moaned, feeling the cold overtake him. Stop reading, damn it, damn it, light the bloody campfire or you will die, you idiot!


    “Books will verily be the death of you.” He grumbled under his breath. Äelberon could no longer feel his feet when he finally crawled into his tent, but the fire was lit, and beginning to do its job. “Koor…” He called feebly, extending a trembling hand, and the dog quickly did his duty, crawling into the tent to provide his Master with much needed warmth. “Stay awake…” He whispered to himself, clutching Koor tightly to him.  In an effort to keep his mind focused, Äelberon then said the name of the only other dragon he knew.


    “Alduin… Al… Du… In… Destroyer… Devour… Master… Gods, an even worse name…”


    He gazed deep into the flames of the campfire and allowed his mind to ponder the dragons again.  What evil had descended upon Skyrim?



    Straag Rod ToC

    Part 2, PreludePart 2, Chapter II




10 Comments   |   NoOneIsHear and 9 others like this.
  • Solias
    Solias   ·  January 5, 2018
    So, let's see.  A Hammer.  A (Sky)Forge.  Albee "returning".  Paarthunaxx feeling sorrow and regret about something that has to do with Kyne and (possibly) the Ehlnofey.  Did I miss anything?  Things are getting (more) intere...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      So, let's see.  A Hammer.  A (Sky)Forge.  Albee "returning".  Paarthunaxx feeling sorrow and regret about something that has to do with Kyne and (possibly) the Ehlnofey.  Did I miss anything?  Things are getting (more) intere...  more
        ·  January 5, 2018
      You're picking up the right things. :D
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  February 23, 2017
    I listened to Four Seasons: Winter during the second half of this chapter, a fitting choice for the battle with the ice wraith suited that piece perfectly. I enjoyed the thought of them being elemental spirits of Ehlnofey. Does the Animal Allegiance shout...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  February 18, 2017
    “One…” He said softly, taking his first step, ignoring the Altmeri nursery rhyme that refused to stop playing in his mind. 

    I laughed at this. I can't say why, but I had a really good chuckle. Haha...
    The Seven thousand steps ...  more
  • The Sunflower Manual
    The Sunflower Manual   ·  January 5, 2017
    For some reason, I have developed a sudden craving for steaming hot food. Thankfully I'm now caught up with everything, so I can visit the grocer's.
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      For some reason, I have developed a sudden craving for steaming hot food. Thankfully I'm now caught up with everything, so I can visit the grocer's.
        ·  January 5, 2017
      Yes, poor Albee has a weakness for Tilma's apple pie.
    • A-Pocky-Hah!
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      For some reason, I have developed a sudden craving for steaming hot food. Thankfully I'm now caught up with everything, so I can visit the grocer's.
        ·  January 5, 2017
      Especially Going Elsweyr. You know how Khajiits love their food.  (^)
    • Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      For some reason, I have developed a sudden craving for steaming hot food. Thankfully I'm now caught up with everything, so I can visit the grocer's.
        ·  January 5, 2017
      Now that's a determination. No food until you read everything Lis posted :D Heh. I just realised you can't go to grocer's if you haven't read Going Elsweyr and Eyes Lile Summer Skies :D
      • The Sunflower Manual
        The Sunflower Manual
        Karver the Lorc
        Karver the Lorc
        Karver the Lorc
        Now that's a determination. No food until you read everything Lis posted :D Heh. I just realised you can't go to grocer's if you haven't read Going Elsweyr and Eyes Lile Summer Skies :D
          ·  January 5, 2017
        Thankfully I have, and quite a while ago as well. To the grocer's I go!
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  January 4, 2017
    I´m giving this my love! :D

    Allie is adorable here and Albee is being silly as always, reading tablets while freezing to death. So much like him. Let´s hope he never changes. :)