Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 2, Chapter IV: Tail Between Your Legs

  • 19th of Morning Star, 4E 202


    “I killed a bear today.” Volunteered Ria from her position in the Mead Hall.


    “Battle Born job, Ria?” Kodlak Whitemane asked with a nod of respect.


    “Yes, Harbinger.” She beamed with pride and Kodlak and Skjor exchanged more nods of approval. Killing a bear on her own was a good sign that she’d be ready to take jobs with Aela and Farkas soon. Tougher jobs. Bandits, trolls, entire animal dens. Nothing but a skinny slip of a thing when she first arrived at Jorrvaskr five months ago stinking of grapes and tomatoes, just before Snow Bear, but unlike others—his eyes found Torvar downing his third tankard of mead—Ria was dedicated to her training. Athis was a strong influence in that regard, also training hard, despite being close friends with Torvar. Putting them together to spar was inspired. Veteran’s instincts were growing stronger and stronger with each passing day.


    “Bet it was just a cub…” teased Vilkas under his breath. Laughter filled the Mead Hall and Kodlak shook his head in disapproval when he saw Ria deflate in her chair, her golden eyes back to her plate. He took a bite of his steak, savoring the juicy morsel. Ysmir’s Beard! Never will tire of that Old Woman’s steak! But you need to dish a piece of humble pie first.


    “Some of you…” His eyes found a snickering Vilkas, who was immediately silent. “Cut your teeth on far less.”


    Farkas pinched his nose and gave Vilkas a shove from their chairs. “Aye, Vilkas reeked like a skeever den for a week!” Vilkas turned bright red, but then regained his senses and shoved Farkas back.


    “What’s your excuse?” Vilkas shot back. That did it, and both twins now engaged in one of their famous scuffles.


    “How ‘bout I mark ya with my scent, baby brother? Feel like a good piss anyway.” Farkas snarled, pushing his brother to the ground. Farkas was the larger and stronger twin, but Vilkas was faster, twisting to avoid his brother’s grasp.


    “If you can catch me first, fat arse.”  He snapped back.


    “I should put them on waste bucket duty.” Fumed Skjor over his tankard. “Acting like a bunch of whelps. And Farkas is older, should know better.”


    “By less than an hour glass’ turn, Skjor. By less than an hour glass’ turn.” Kodlak sighed, “We were whelps once too, but all in good time.” Skjor grinned, his one eye twinkling at the prospect of seeing the twins’ sour faces clean the waste buckets while he watched them fight. Vilkas was getting some good jabs in, Kodlak observed, but Farkas had managed to rip off one of Vilkas’ pauldrons. “You know what to do… “


    “Do I ever.” Replied Skjor, reclining back into his seat next to Kodlak. The Old Man turned slightly to face him, moving his tankard calmly to the side to avoid the pauldron that Vilkas had thrown, aiming for his brother’s head. So far off the mark that Aela and Snow Bear had nothing to worry about from those two. Farkas dodged—Even old Vignar could have dodged that ass of a throw—but landed clumsily on his backside and Vilkas had the upper hand again.


    “…but let them finish first.” Kodlak continued, his laugh lines moving upwards. “And if I recall, only a little while ago, a certain Veteran of the Circle got into his own scuffle.” Skjor only scratched the back of his head and whistled.


    “Yeah…” He admitted with a chuckle, like a child who was just caught red-handed snatching sweet rolls and didn’t care. “Should train with him again. Could brush up my technique a bit.” 


    Kodlak smiled, the twins were still at it, and they’d stop eventually. Tilma had already moved their plates with a heavy sigh, thinking about the mess they were making no doubt, avoiding the brawling brothers with the grace of a Khajiit. “He’d like that, I think, and… I noticed the weapon he selected from Eorlund after his induction.”


    “What did he pick, a sword, right?” Guessed Skjor. Kodlak shook his head which made the Veteran lean his forearms against the table. Got your interest, eh Veteran?


    “No, Snow Bear picked the greatsword.” Answered Kodlak, taking another bite of steak.


    “A greatsword?” Skjor’s eyebrows went up. “Thought he preferred bastards.”


    “He seems a versatile sort. A katana isn’t a bastard.” Kodlak retorted.


    “Nor is it a scimitar.” The Veteran digested their exchange for a moment and then turned to the brawling twins. “Vilkas!” he bellowed.


    “What?” Hollered the young Nord, nailing a solid punch on his brother’s chin, before turning towards Skjor and Kodlak. “I’m busy.”


    “Hey! Skjor wants to talk to you!” Laughed Farkas, suddenly grabbing Vilkas by the shoulder, dragging his struggling twin towards him. He wrapped his arm around Vilkas’ neck, putting Vilkas in a firm headlock with Vilkas’ nose close to his armpit. “Okay, got him. What do you wanna say, Skjor?” He asked, bringing his brother’s head up slightly higher so Vilkas could see Skjor properly. At least the lad got his brother to pay attention to his Elders, thought Kodlak, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.


    “Shor’s Bones, when was your last bath, you filthy cur!?” Vilkas growled, struggling against Farkas’ vice-like grip. “Next skeever den, just send him. They’ll think he’s one of them.” 


    The Mead Hall rumbled with laughter and Kodlak saw out of the corner of his eye how Ria smiled again. He took a sip of mead and cleared his throat, an idea coming to him. Skjor opened his mouth to speak but Kodlak was going to take advantage of the situation and cut him off. “Vilkas, I believe you owe your Shield-Sister an apology. Farkas?” Farkas grinned a naughty wolf’s grin and shifted Vilkas’ head towards Ria.  Farkas was having a hard time keeping his laughter in check and even Vilkas was no longer struggling against his brother.


    “My apologies, Shield-Sister. You’ve done well and brought honor to the Companions. And it’s not Farkas choking me that’s making me say this. I was wrong.” He offered.


    “It’s the fumes!” Athis shot back, giving Ria a light shove from his seat. She laughed and nodded demurely at Vilkas, accepting his apology. The lad seemed to crimson up around the ears for a second before he regained his composure.


    “Nah!” Vilkas looked up and eyed his brother. “Well, maybe a bit. I’m getting a headache. Let me go?” he pleaded.


    “Nope. Not done yet.” Farkas replied, turning his brother’s head to now face Skjor. “You wanted to talk to Vilkas, Skjor?”


    Skjor exchanged knowing glances with Kodlak and the Old Man nodded his approval. “Well first, it’s waste bucket duty for the both of you…”


    Vilkas hit the floor with a thud. “Ah c’mon. We were just messin’ with each other.” Complained Farkas.


    “And making a mess. And Vilkas insulted a Shield-Sibling.” Chided Skjor. “Listen, if you can dish the shit in Jorrvaskr, means you can clean it out too.” Skjor ordered. “And Vilkas?” A hand grasped the edge of the table and Vilkas reluctantly hoisted himself up. Both were a little drunk, uncoordinated.


    “Yes, Veteran?” He sniffed, wiping the blood from his nose with the back of his gauntlet.


    “Snow Bear, it seems, continues to march to the beat of his own drummer and has selected a greatsword as his gift from Eorlund. Kodlak saw the weapon, where?”


    “It’s in his quarters, on that little desk of his, with schematics next to it.” Kodlak answered. He was being nosy, he admitted, but he went in. Wanting to see how that eccentric brain of his worked. Careful as he roamed the cramped quarters, not to disturb anything. He’d know. It was almost as full as Farengar’s was now and bore no resemblance to any Shield-Sibling’s in Jorrvaskr. Like something he’d imagine a mage would have; a mage mixed with a master smith, or a Dwemer maybe?


    “Don’t he use bastards?” Farkas scratched his beard before taking his and his brother’s plates back from an impatiently waiting Tilma. Farkas gave the Old Woman a kiss on the cheek like a good boy and Kodlak bit his lip when she smacked his back hard in return, making the hardened warrior whine like a pup.  Scuffle’s definitely over. Those two never stayed mad at each other. They’d eat side by side now, all bloody and bruised, like nothing’s happened. And they’d clean the shit together too, joking the whole time.


    “Doesn’t, doesn’t.” corrected Vilkas, making Farkas roll his eyes. “And he does. A greatsword, Skjor? I’m not surprised the way he picked up my weapon that first night. You want me to work with him then, Harbinger?”


    “We’re curious mostly.” Answered Kodlak. “It’s not often a veteran fighter decides to take up a brand new class of weapons. Are you up for it?”


    “Sure. I would love to have him eat some training dust.” Vilkas smirked, taking his seat again, grabbing a piece of cheese from Farkas’ plate, making Farkas stand up, his anger renewed.  Kodlaks’ face found his palm in exasperation and Skjor erupted into a fit of laughter. Those two were going to be cleaning waste buckets for a week. Before Farkas could shove the cheese into Vilkas’ mouth, however, all turned, some jumping, when they suddenly heard the doors of Jorrvaskr swing wide open with great force.


    Old Snow Bear.


    It wasn’t a happy swing. It wasn’t a “let’s kick the door open and make merry, picking up Tilma and whirling her about” swing.  It also wasn’t the quiet, exhausted knocking he heard on the fourteenth.  Kodlak knew the many differences.  Snow Bear of the ice flats was his Shield-Brother, his old grey litter mate, and Kodlak Whitemane could always tell Snow Bear’s emotional state by how he opened the doors to Jorrvaskr. He could tell if he was pleased with himself, angry, or wounded. It was such a simple action, to open a door, but when one knows a  Shield-Brother, the opening of a door reveals much more.


    It was a very different Snow Bear who barged into the Mead Hall tonight, barely letting his animal through before he slammed the door behind him with great power, shaking the walls of the Mead Hall.  His silver-white brows were deeply furrowed, the great dragon eyes that peeked under their perpetual hood, burning like the hot coals of a forge fire. His face, distorted from its scowl, was caked in old blood, dirt, dry streaks of sweat, and a strange light blue grime.  What wasn’t covered in that grime sported several bruises, including an old one across his left eye and cheek, aged to a purple-yellow across his fair skin. His silver armor also sported strange blotches of that grime—really a residue of sorts—and what Kodlak could only assume from the distance were numerous impact dents. What the Oblivion happened? His eyes returned to the residue on the armor. Such a strange light blue, like from a frost spell perhaps? Did he run into a mage on the way back from High Hrothgar?  Normally, Kodlak would now be hearing the familiar sound of wood scraping against wood as the chairs of Jorrvaskr moved back to greet a returning Shield-Sibling.


    But nothing. They didn’t budge from their seats and several were looking at Kodlak for guidance. Do we approach? Do we greet our pack member? He saw Aela shrug and make a motion to stand only to stop in her tracks when the animal came whining towards her, tail between its legs. His coat also covered in that residue. The animal cried softly, seeking solace from his sister. Avoiding his Master.


    “Shield-Brother?”  Kodlak asked. A low warning growl from the Old Mer and Kodlak raised his eyebrows in surprise at both the insubordination and the aggression. His eyes found Skjor. Veteran wasn’t laughing, his wolf’s eye on Snow Bear. Following his every move. Snow Bear was back. And something was wrong, terribly wrong. Äelberon roughly shrugged off his pack, cloak, and weapons and threw them upon the floor, not caring if they broke or not. He had certainly fumed before, with Skjor and at Skyforge, but this was different and Kodlak noticed that Farkas now looked quite uncomfortable, shifting uneasily in his chair. Kodlak’s heightened senses picked up on the boy’s fresh coating of sweat. Fear sweat. Farkas had witnessed the Elf’s rage once before. At Dustman’s Cairn.


    Äelberon glanced wildly at his Shield-Siblings, pacing across the entrance of the Mead Hall like a caged bear, as if unsure what to do. Even Kodlak jumped in his seat when Äelberon suddenly grabbed a chair and with a powerful swing and a loud, pained cry, he flung the chair towards a wooden support column, shattering it, sending its broken fragments into the hearth with crackles of flame and fire fairies leaping upwards. Then he stepped backwards, his back finding the opposite support column and sank to the floor, his arms resting on his raised knees, his breathing heavy. He put his hands to his face and let out an angry groan, throwing his head back violently against the column several times. There was a dent on the other one from the bloody chair. Kodlak heard Athis gulp when the Altmer’s head struck the column yet again. Aye, that had to hurt, Kodlak agreed in his mind, but when you’re angry, you ignore pain. And by the Nine, Old Mer, you are angry.  Skjor rose and stared hard at Kodlak, whispering.


    “What the Oblivion!? You going to do something before he tears apart the Mead Hall?”


    Kodlak waved his hand, but he stood also. “He’s not angry at us, Skjor, this is frustration. Something’s happened. Our Shield-Brother needs us more than the damn chair does.” Skjor’s eye returned to the Elf and he nodded in understanding. Äelberon threw his head violently against the column again and pounded his clenched fist hard upon the stone floor, letting out another frustrated growl. That had some pain mixed in it.


    “You sit, let me.” The Veteran volunteered.


    Kodlak nodded, returning to his seat, feeling himself fill with pride.  Aye, Skjor was really beginning to shine as a leader. He approached Äelberon cautiously and then knelt on his haunches nearby and the Old Man studied the Veteran’s face. At first the Veteran’s faced seemed to mirror the Elf’s, a serious scowl, but then his eye wandered, surveying the damage.  An idea then seemed to strike him. The grey eye acquiring a twinkle, he cleared his throat and smiled his typical sarcastic smile. You are smiling at Snow Bear like an idiot. Didn’t you just see the bastard break a chair? Kodlak prepared to break up yet another scuffle.  


    “You know,” Began Skjor, still sporting that silly smirk, “If you wanted to redecorate Jorrvaskr so badly, you just had to ask.”


    Äelberon’s tense body quickly relaxed and he let out a laugh that echoed in the Mead Hall.  He then groaned hard again, but the bite was gone from it and he took instead to rubbing his temples. “’Tis the chairs, they do not match the tables…” Äelberon retorted in jest, his voice hoarse, still rubbing his temples. He then turned to face Skjor and let out a sigh, searching his Shield-Brother. Kodlak let out a gust of air. Skjor dodged an arrow with that one. Humor, a good approach with Snow Bear. Very clever, Veteran.


    “Oh Brother…” Snow Bear said wearily as he pulled back his iced hood, revealing his silver-white hair, ice crystals clinging to it in spots, damp from a hard ride back. No helmet, thought Kodlak? The eyes that met Skjor’s looked tired, the circles underneath them darkened, like how his own eyes looked when he was in the throes of a headache, or how one looks when they are tormented by something, be it physical pain or some deep anguish.  “I have failed. I have failed…” Failed? Snow Bear put a hand upon his forehead and shook his head slowly. “I have failed. I am a failure. High Hrothgar and now this!”


    “How? How have you failed, Brother?” Asked Skjor. Äelberon looked up and shook his head in frustration, and then slammed it back against the column a final time. He winced at the pain.


    “My head throbs.” He complained.


    “Then stop bashing it.” Pointed out Skjor.


    “Leave me alone.” He moaned, the sullen mood returning. Skjor raised his hands and backed away, taking a seat at the edge of the table, near Snow Bear's place at the table.


    “What happened at High Hrothgar, Äelberon?” Asked Kodlak from his chair. The Mer chuckled. A sad chuckle that had an element of instability to it. It must still be such a shock to him.  


    “I hit a wall.” The Elf laughed bitterly, turning slightly in the directly of the Old Man.




    More bitter laughing. “Then I fell in a lake because I cannot use the thu’um to save my fat arse. Oh, I can learn it faster than a Khajiit on skooma and use it too, I just use it like a mammoth would use a sewing needle. I, Äelberon of Dusk, Slayer of Bet, now scatters bowls and shouts himself into lakes with the might of his thu’um.  Still picking the water weeds out of my damn armor after that particular debacle.”


    “Did they acknowledge you, the Greybeards?” Kodlak pressed.


    “Acknowledge?” Snow Bear’s tone was heavy with sarcasm. “That is a loaded word, Old Man. Oh yes, you have one Oblivion of a Dovahkiin here to protect the good people of Nirn from Alduin’s destruction. An Elf no less. Oh, they loved that when I walked in.” His voice rose in pitch, becoming snide, emphasizing his Altmer accent on purpose. “An Old Marrry walks into High Hrothgar... Ha! Bloody good start to a tavern joke, says I. A joke. I could see it in the eyes of the Greybeards, I was a joke.” He shook his head and stared into the flame. “Auri-El help all of you.”


    “Äelberon, did you disrespect the Greybeards?” Asked Vilkas before Kodlak could shut him up with a hard glare.


    “No, Vilkas I did not disrespect your precious Nordic traditions.” The words dripped with venom and Kodlak saw the young Nord bristle.


    “Vilkas, easy.” Kodlak warned. “Let Snow Bear—“


    “Vilkas?” Äelberon interrupted, facing the young Nord, softening his features.




    “I am sorry. It has been a rough few days and I did not always make the best decisions. Like just now. A poor decision.” Vilkas nodded and relaxed in his seat.


    “Think nothing of it, Snow Bear. I can imagine you’re tired.”


    “What did you do?” Asked Aela, holding Koor.


    “Good, give him some attention, Sister. I have been an arse to him too.” He took a deep breath and let it out like a flustered horse. “What foolishness did I not do is a better question to ask, but I will tell you. The Greybeards will not acknowledge me officially until I prove my mastery of the thu’um by retrieving the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller.” He waved his hand in the air as if indicating a vague direction. “Somewhere off in the swamps of Hjaalmarch—“


    “Jurgen Windcaller!” Vilkas’ eyes popped out of his head and Kodlak felt his heart skip a beat. He grew up with these stories as a youth too. Boy was only saying what he was thinking.


    “Aye, the Master of Tongues himself.” Äelberon acknowledged. “There is a catch. To get his horn, I need to let the Voice guide me or something like that. I need to be able to use the thu’um properly and…” A set of chuckles escaped his mouth again, his shoulders shaking. “If I am shouting myself into lakes. I am definitely no Master. Ah, damn, it is like me and Destruction magicks all over again. Sitting over a basic, basic, basic flame spell tome for hours upon hours on end and nothing! The runes making absolutely no sense to me!” He raised his arms in exasperation. “What if I cannot do this? I cannot even heat my own tea! What if this shouting magicks is the same and I simply cannot.”


    “But you said you could shout?” Countered Farkas.


    “I can, but what if I have to do something precise? Like a puzzle or something. Or a trap! Bleak Falls Barrow was full of traps! I considered that possibility, so I practiced. After High Hrothgar, I practiced.” Kodlak watched the Elf’s face contort with frustration. “I practiced, like any good mage, like any good warrior would—nay, should. I even did a tomb to sort of test my thu’um.” He reached for his worn leather pack and after some disorganized rummaging, produced an item that made his Shield-Siblings gasp. It was a stunning item of metal, a gold alloy, it seemed to Kodlak, carved intricately in the shape of a dragon’s claw. The tips of the claws were made of pure sapphire, the bluest Kodlak had ever seen. He could see Tilma’s eyes light up. Old Woman and her love of shiny things!


    “Did you clear the tomb, Äelberon?” Kodlak questioned. The Elf set the claw back down and continued with his tale.


    “Aye, I cleared the tomb, got my spells for that. That was the easy part. But I nearly killed myself at the very end. Had vanquished all the foes, took rubbings of another word wall. The word there—Kay, Ay, Ay, eN—makes fishing easier than taking a piss.”


    “Really?” Grinned Torvar, setting down his tankard of mead. If that Nord liked anything more than mead it was fishing, thought Kodlak.Now, Snow Bear’s got your attention, eh?


    “Aye…” He paused, making a strange face. “Until it wore off and the sabre cat next to me decided to fish for me. He had been nice not a moment before, letting me pet him and everything.” The Elf saw the suppressed laughter of his Shield-Siblings and nodded in agreement, his eyebrows shooting upwards, his lips twisted in a strange half-smile. “It is funny. Ran all the way back to Ivarstead, like a fox with his tail between his legs. Scamp’s Blood! I have a headache.” Tilma scurried towards the kitchen. That’s it Old Woman, I think Snow Bear’s going to need his tea and a hot meal pretty soon. “Where was I?”


    “The barrow?” Reminded Aela, nuzzling the top of Koor’s head with her chin.


    “Aye, the barrow. After the word wall, out of the corner of my eye, I saw on a small, raised precipice opposite where I was.” He pointed towards the far end of the Mead Hall, as if showing them the distance. Kodlak wondered if the Elf could picture the tomb in his mind. “A beautifully made Elven bow. Aela, it was just your size. Old, an artifact, not like mine or even the one I had before I came here. The precipice looked to me like it had maybe once been a long-collapsed corridor. Perhaps the bow came from an adventurer long ago, or a draugr—before he was a draugr—had claimed himself an Elvish prize. I felt bad not having the time to make one for you and I thought.” He let his arm fall again, his shoulders stooping. “I thought I would get it for you, you know, until I had the time to fashion your weapon. There is a shout I can use, the Greybeards taught it to me that lets me travel very, very fast. There were once boots like that, an artifact as well, but that was ages ago. I thought I could use the shout to cross to the precipice, but I bloody do what I always do with this shout, I miscalculated and I fell. Luckily water broke my fall. I have gotten more soakings these past few days than even this water-loving Dusken would like.” Kodlak saw him pound his thigh with his fist a few more times. “With my bow, I could shoot a target from that distance blindfolded. I have.” He clenched his jaw, his eyes becoming far away for a second “Kings in the Isles liked their entertainment. But it is like I have no coordination with this new shouting business. I feel like a baby who cannot even stand on his own…”


    Kodlak smiled when Aela had approached her Shield-Brother, kneeling next to him. “Thank you. That was sweet of you, Old Bear.”


    “’Twas a pretty bow, Sister.” He sighed.


    “Nah, who wants a crummy old bow. You’ll make me a better one.” She grinned, her hand brushing away a stray lock of silver hair from his face. “You’ll make it in Skyforge too.” He groaned and Kodlak saw the jaw tighten again.  There was more. “What happened next, Shield-Brother?”


    “I failed.” He repeated, his eyes returning to the fire. “I wanted to prove myself to the Greybeards. I wanted to prove that I was what they needed me to be, what Skyrim needs me to be. A Dovahkiin, so…” He stopped and sighed.


    “So what?” Pressed Kodlak.


    “The beast lives! It lives!” Äelberon exclaimed, surprising Aela with his outburst. “It lives!” He let out another low groan and bent his head. “My shots were true! They were true! All of them. I am an archer. But first…” He looked up and faced his Shield-Siblings, his hands now resting limply upon his knees, “First, a trap of ice storms guarded the stone steps leading to its lair.”


    Lair? Kodlak looked up from his mead. “Äelberon, did you seek out a dragon?”


    The Old Elf’s look said it all. The serious expression, the grimness mixed with a tinge of shame. And then he looked away from Kodlak, finding the fire. “Aye, I told you I made poor decisions.” He replied, tossing a fragment of chair into the hearth like a soul who didn’t like losing. “There was a bounty in the Rift. I was bound by my Tenets to help.” And perhaps a little angry too, thought Kodlak. “As I was saying, there was a trap of ice storms.”  Äelberon continued, shifting uncomfortably after Kodlak’s questioning, seeing more in the Old Man’s eyes than he wanted to. The Mer looked back to address his Shield-Siblings, but the eyes avoided Kodlak’s. “Powered by a soul gem mechanism. Probably installed by an ancient dragon priest to protect the lair. At least, that is my guess. It chilled me to my very bones and I thought that that would be the death of me.” He stood up and faced the other column, bits of grime falling from his body, “But then I had an idea… I would try that shout again. The one where you move fast. The Greybeards had a name for it. Whirlwind Sprint. A silly name because you do not really whirl like a whirlwind but go straight. WULD!”


    His Shield-Siblings stared in awe as Äelberon suddenly moved with blinding speed towards the opposite column, leaving a trail of ice residue in his wake. He slammed into the column, giving it fresh dents and groaned, dazed by the blow. Aela rushed to his side to steady him


    “Shield-brother!” She exclaimed.


    He waived his hand and gently pushed Aela away.  “I am fine, I am fine.  Do not fuss. Confounded shout! See? I did not intend to hit this column. I cannot…” He gave the column an apologetic pat and stared back and forth from where he was to the column. “I cannot seem to gage the distance well enough yet. I do not have the control.” He then rubbed his head. “It bloody hurts when I hit something, you know? Thank you, Sister. I am alright. My head is much harder than it looks.” Äelberon grumbled. He then held the column with his hands and again faced his Shield-Siblings to speak.


    “I saw the Magne Ge upon hitting that mountainside, but luckily I found myself at the opposite end of the stone staircase, away from the icy storm. And then…” He looked up towards the ceiling of the Mead Hall, “I climbed the mountainside, my armored hands barely clinging to the rock, but cling they did. I climbed until I was above that foul trap, and I could see the soul gem that was its source of power.” He then turned away from the column and made as if he were taking an arrow from an imaginary quiver to nock it to an imaginary bow. He then made the motion to draw it.  “I then shot the gem off the trap. One shot!” the pride creeping into his voice. “I was able to climb down, the bloody trap finally diffused.”


    Kodlak could hear his Shield-Siblings’ hearts pounding in excitement while Äelberon walked slowly towards the flame of the Mead Hall, his eyes blazing, remembering. He observed how they hung on his every word. A damn good storyteller, that was for sure. “I then walked up the steps to the beast’s lair, Okriim ready, not knowing what I would find.”


    You never take risks like this, Snow Bear. You plan everything. Kodlak’s brow furrowed.


    Äelberon extended his right hand and stared intently into the flames. “’Twas not a beast of flame this time, but one of frost.” His hands traced the outline of a dragon in the air, drawing its maw, horns and wings while he spoke and Kodlak found himself sitting at the edge of his seat, sharing his Shield-Siblings’  excitement. Part of it was the way he said words, the soft rumble of his voice as he spoke, the way it modulated in pitch.  It was as if he grew up hearing stories.   “A giant beast with scales of white, grey, and darkest ebony.” He moved his hand broadly as if tracing the back of an animal. “With rows of long black spikes adorned its back. Its teeth cruel and sharp. The tail tipped with a sharp spade. Its breath was like the very ice of Atmora, but I…” He smiled darkly into the fire and growled, “I… had arrows of flame.” 


    He was prepared. Kodlak rolled his eyes at his own folly. But still, the last dragon was fought with a small force of guards and the Jarl’s Housecarl. What was Snow Bear trying to prove?


    Äelberon’s hand shot into the air like a rocket. “The dragon took to the skies from its perch, teasing me with its easy grace, while I was bound to the ground.” He wrinkled his nose in disgust, “I downed a foul potion of icebane in preparation and readied Okriim as the beast circled swiftly in the air.”  Äelberon pretended to draw a bow again, moving as if tracing the movements of something high in the air with the weapon, “And then… then…”


    “Then?” Urged Ria, her eyes wide as septims. She definitely wasn’t thinking about her bear now.  Äelberon turned to her and his eyes narrowed, his voice darkening in a way that almost frightened the child.


    “Then, Ria, I challenged the beast as only the Dovah do!” he bellowed. He threw his head back to face the ceiling of Jorrvaskr, his arms extending behind his back, almost like spreading wings to Kodlak.  Almost like he was trying to escape.




    The walls trembled with the force of his Thu’um, and Kodlak cringed when a ceiling support beam cracked and a few pieces of plank fell to the floor with a crash, leaving a hole in the roof. That was not the best thing to do, you old Billy Goat, Kodlak glared at the Mer who had let out a gust of air, now aware of what he had just done.


    “Sorry.” He mumbled, scratching his head as he gazed at the hole in the ceiling.  “I cannot help—“


    “It is alright, Snow Bear, just try not to bring this old ship down upon our heads.” Kodlak let a grin form on his face. “The Jorrvaskr’s already capsized.”


    It took a few seconds, but the Mer then released a sincere chortle, understanding Kodlak’s joke.  That’s it, Snow Bear, smile, because I have a feeling you’re a stone’s throw from weeping. This dragon did not go well; I don’t need the gift of foresight to predict where this story is going.


    “No harm done, old Man, we can always stick Farkas under there when it rains for his bath.” The Veteran smirked, waiving his hand in dismissal before taking a drink of mead. “Until we get the roof fixed, that is.” That was delivered with a smirk and Kodlak sighed. If the Veteran started playing cards with Tilma, he'd have trouble distinguishing the two for all their nagging.


    “Hey!” Farkas whined.


    “Shor’s bones, I’ll help you push the cub under myself.” Tilma chimed in, wrinkling her nose as she swatted Farkas on the head. The Nord blustered but then rose from his place and started to strip of his armor, swaying his hips like a Yokudan dancing girl. The fattest, ugliest Yokudan dancing girl you have ever seen, old man.


    “How ‘bout I save you all the trouble—“ He laughed as he shimmied.  The Mead Hall exploded with laughter.  Through his laughter, Kodlak could see the old Mer’s face. He was still standing close to the columns, watching, not quite sure what to do. It was almost like he wanted to smile too, his head now tilted to the side, but dammit, there was too much pain behind the eyes. 


    “Ysmir’s Beard! Sit down, Farkas, before you scare everybody!” Kodlak growled through his laughter. “Believe me, I would much rather hear Snow Bear’s story than watch you dance like… like.” Kodlak shook his head, snorting, waiving his hands in a gesture of refusal. “Gods! Like something I don’t ever want to see again.” The boy sat down with a heavy plop, now clad only in his shirt and trousers. “Methinks you just wanted off your armor…”  Farkas beamed and Kodlak rolled his eyes before turning his attention back to Snow Bear. “Go on, Snow Bear. Please.  Infuse this Hall with at least a tiny bit of your Elven dignity, before another Shield-Sibling gets the notion to dance. We are drinkers at the Jorrvaskr, not dancers.” Go on, Kodlak urged with his eyes.  The Mer nodded.


    “The beast heard my challenge, flying to me, taunting me in its language. Calling me ‘worm’, lir.  And we battled.” Äelberon slowly paced the hearth of Jorrvaskr, like a great bear confined to a small space, growing more agitated as he remembered more of the encounter. “It was thus for the better part of the afternoon, he would first shout his ice thu’um. I would then dodge the blast as best I could and draw my bow. Healing the ice burns as they struck me.” He clenched his fist hard, raising it slightly in the air and stared into the flames again. “Every shot!” Äelberon cried, his frustration building, “Every shot! Damn it, old Man! Was true, for I could see…” His eyes widened. “I could see the flames from my arrows explode upon the beast’s body and it stagger in the air. I was killing it, I was! I could see—no feel its life ebbing… I was so close!” He thundered, shaking his fist, “So damn close!”


    He stopped, his hand dropping, followed by his great shoulders. The ragged sigh that escaped from him was difficult for Kodlak to hear, sapping the very energy from the room. He had never heard the old Mer sound so defeated. He had hoped that the Greybeards would have given the Elf the guidance that he needed. But, it seemed, that their actions only left the old Snow Bear more frustrated and unsure about his role as Dragonborn. What his purpose was.  The voice that now spoke was significantly older, weary from many years. “And then, the unthinkable happened.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I ran out.” 


    Kodlak watched how Aela studied her Shield-Brother’s worn, lined face, her jaw dropping slightly when she realized what happened. “You ran out of arrows.” She murmured, bending her head, the husky against her releasing a tiny snort, confirming her suspicion. Kodlak could feel the intakes of breath from Snow Bear’s Shield-Siblings. They knew too. The bane of every archer.    


    Äelberon turned away from the hearth and slowly made his way to his place in Jorrvaskr, next to Skjor, and sat heavily upon his chair, the grime crunching under his plodding steps, his face dark and brooding, tendrils of silver-white hair clinging to his damp forehead. “I tried, of course, to use regular arrows, but alas, you need magic to defeat a dragon, and I had none. I tried blinding it, as I had blinded the dragon at the Western Watchtower, but this one was more clever, dodging my blasts and then releasing its ice upon me, forcing me to seek refuge under a small overhang to avoid death. Ice burns as badly as fire does. It drained my strength, the shards cutting into my skin like millions of tiny needles when I was caught. Like a snow storm driven by hurricane winds…”


    “Here, eat something, cub.” Soothed Tilma, placing a bowl of steaming venison stew in front of the world-worn Altmer. Go on, eat Old Mer, Kodlak urged.  The Mer picked up the spoon and stirred the heavy broth, slowly, absently. She put her hand on the back of his neck. “Eat, Albee, you’re home now.”


    “I ran out of icebane potions and later even magicka, despite channeling Magnus.” He continued, still stirring the stew. “I was spent, every part of my body hurting. It then laughed at me, me Tilma, with its cruel hard laugh, and began to target my Koor and Allie.”


    “Don’t think on it anymore, cub.” Tilma soothed, but Snow Bear wouldn’t have it.


    “When the dragon left me for them, I knew I had been beaten. Defeated. And I was compromising their safety every moment I lingered there, stubbornly trying to deny that I had been defeated.” He paused from his obsessive stirring and glanced up at his Shield-Siblings. Skjor put his hand upon his shoulder. It was a kind gesture, thought Kodlak, but the Altmer only looked away and resumed his stirring, now making a distinct triskelion pattern with the wake of his spoon’s movements, muttering something incoherent in a different language, the eyes looking through the very walls of the Mead Hall. Past the mountains, past High Hrothgar, further south and Kodlak’s heart ached for his Shield-Brother.   It was like those eyes were looking for those crystal seas again, trying to find the wild grape vine blossoms that showered the cliffs of his home in springtime.


    “I am Altmer,” He started again, after a moment of silence. “A warrior among my people, a priest, and I have my pride too. I have slain such evils in my long past. I have only surrendered thrice before in my two hundred forty-three years of life, but I have never retreated. Never. Until today. But the beast would have killed them, and I had run out. I had run out…” He emphasized. “So many arrows to down such a beast! I know not the spells of the Destruction school. I am not an elemental mage.  Maybe I need to learn? Maybe… But I am so old now.  I cannot even heat my tea! I cannot shout well enough either. It laughed at me, the dragon, taunted me. Called me lir. A worm. And to go against the beast’s maw with a blade and shield would have been suicide. I am an archer.  That is what I know… Since I was little, since my Lenya taught me. We hunted together along the sugar beaches of my homeland.” He chewed the inside of his lip and Kodlak saw the wetness build in the corner of the Mer’s eyes. “Arrows worked so well at the Western Watchtower. If I had only had but a few more, a few more arrows… Oh…” He sighed, swallowing hard, clearing his throat, “My shots were all true…” He slumped in his chair and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his right hand. Thinking, it seemed, to Kodlak. “I have failed. Zu'u lost funt...” He said softly, shaking his head.


    Kodlak then frowned.


    “You done, Old Mer?” he asked, crossing his arms over his chest.  Äelberon seemed to snap to attention at the sound of Kodlak’s voice and turned to face him. They locked eyes and for a brief moment, Kodlak braced himself for yet another possible scuffle of his own doing too. You’re no better than the lot of them, Old Man, he smirked. The Elf furrowed his brow and then tilted his head to the side.


    “Well,” he nodded, ‘Now I am, yes.”




    “You know how it is.” Äelberon  took a bite of his stew and managed a chuckle. “Typical Old Marry being all dramatic again.” He took another bite, smiling. “The stew is excellent. Good to be home. Sorry about the chair.”


    Kodlak slapped his hand on the table and laughed. “Bah! Jorrvaskr needed redecorating anyway. What do Nords really know of such things."


    "Very little, it seems." Quipped the Altmer.  “Waste bucket duty?” Äelberon asked casually, now working on his stew robustly. Tilma’s cooking could bring anybody out of their despair.  When she brings your tea, old Mer…


    “You betcha.” Kodlak grinned. Skjor dropped his jaw and there were gasps of surprise from the Mead Hall, but Whitemane’s stern look silenced them. The Elf did not react, just ate, his massive appetite on full display. “Two days, and I expect the chair to be replaced with one more suited to your tastes. Show us a bit of that Altmeri flair for decoration. You’ll be joining the twins, but they’ll be at it a full week.”


    “Oh really? A full week, you say? For what?” The Elf asked, sounding to Kodlak like Lilith Maiden-Loom hankering for the latest town gossip during afternoon tea at Dragonsreach while he took a tankard of steeping liquid from Tilma. Nosy Elf, chortled Kodlak quietly to himself. “Thank you, Tilma.”


    Taking your punishment without even batting an eyelash, Kodlak smiled, while Skjor happily went through a list of the twins’ offenses for the attentive Mer, the Veteran’s eye twinkling when the twins seemed to shrink with every word. The tension in the Mead Hall gradually eased and Kodlak finally relaxed into his own meal. Almost didn’t want to punish the Mer, but he seemed better for it actually, his mood brightening considerably. It was something normal, Kodlak thought, Mer really needed normal right now. Later, when they had a moment to themselves, he would ask him why he took a dragon bounty without a Shield-Brother. You know whyOld Man, he told you that night, the night he became Dovahkiin, but considering Snow Bear’s failure to bring down a dragon on his own, you should bring up the subject again.


    Old Grey Wolf, been a while since you’ve had yourself a proper scuffle.


    Straag Rod ToC

    Part 2, Chapter IIIPart 2, Chapter V


9 Comments   |   The Sunflower Manual and 9 others like this.
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  October 30, 2017
    It's odd how someone who's so humorous can be so goddamn depressing. At least he manages to keep the humor, I think it's the only thing keeping him sane.

    Also, is Albee's 'skill' with the Thu'um (particularly whirlwind spri...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      It's odd how someone who's so humorous can be so goddamn depressing. At least he manages to keep the humor, I think it's the only thing keeping him sane.

      Also, is Albee's 'skill' with the Thu'um (particularly whirlwind sprint) representative of yo...  more
        ·  October 30, 2017
      While I often have trouble using shouts in game, Aelberon's problem with shouts stemmed from my desire to have it be a struggle for him. I didn't want him to just be a thu'um spouting Dovahkiin of awesome, you know? But somebody who has issues with the ne...  more
      • Ebonslayer
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        While I often have trouble using shouts in game, Aelberon's problem with shouts stemmed from my desire to have it be a struggle for him. I didn't want him to just be a thu'um spouting Dovahkiin of awesome, you know? But somebody who has issues with the ne...  more
          ·  October 30, 2017
        Ah, that makes sense.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  April 24, 2017
    I'm sorry about this.......
    The first line made me crease up laughing....
    “I killed a bear today.”  
    What popped in my head was a tree.... a big one...

    Sorry... * regains a smidgen of constraint...
    ...  more
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  March 2, 2017
    Angry Bear! He certainly is expressive. The dude seems to be losing his cool. A motorbike is the next logical step in this mer's life crisis :p Poor guy, I liked how it was only the realisation that Koor and Queen Alfsigr were in danger that snapped him o...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Angry Bear! He certainly is expressive. The dude seems to be losing his cool. A motorbike is the next logical step in this mer's life crisis :p Poor guy, I liked how it was only the realisation that Koor and Queen Alfsigr were in danger that snapped him o...  more
        ·  March 2, 2017
      lol, funny you say that. If I ever played Albee in the FO world, he'd definitely have a motor bike. And possibly a crossbow, shotgun, and a duster jacket and then a preacher's collar. 

      But yeah, he's got some sorting out to do. 
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  January 11, 2017
    Oh boy. When´s Albee frustrated he certainly makes it clear to everyone :D
  • The Sunflower Manual
    The Sunflower Manual   ·  January 11, 2017
    Farkas, no. No. No! Put your armour back on!
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      Farkas, no. No. No! Put your armour back on!
        ·  January 11, 2017
      Yeah, gotta love Farkas.