Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 2, Chapter V: Moments of Truth

  • 21st of Morning Star, 4E 202


    “What will you give in exchange for them?”


    With a strangled gasp, Äelberon bolted upright, soaked in sweat, clutching his chest. It took him several moments just sitting there in the fuzzy darkness of his quarters before his heart slowed, before the frantic pounding no longer hurt his chest, before his stomach stopped twisting itself into knots. The nightmare, again. The voice posing the question, again. He felt Koor’s muzzle against the hand that was white-knuckled, it grabbed the edge of the bed so hard. He heard Koor’s soft whine.


    “Shh, little one. I am alright.” He reassured, grabbing a furry ear. The animal snorted and head-butted his hand several times, making Äelberon manage a chuckle.  “Mad I woke you up, eh? Hope you were the only one.” The snores of the twins and the muffled breathing from the Living Quarters allowed him to relax; letting him focus instead on the slimy tongue that now bathed his slowly easing hand. He wrinkled his nose.


    “You are not going to want to lick my hands in an hour, boy.” He smirked.


    Bucket duty. It had not been as terrible as he anticipated yesterday. No worse than any other clean up duty he had performed at either the old Tower or at House Larethian. Elves could be just as messy.  It was just shit. Even you make some, Old Mer, though not nearly as much as these Nords do. He lived alone in Bruma and he was never one to study the waste habits of the various races, save for tracking purposes, though he knew some Altmer that actually made it their life’s work to study such things. But now, he lived among others, Nords specifically, and it was a surprise. His Shield-Siblings shitted once, twice, sometimes even three times a day. A day! An Altmer was considered ill if he shitted more than once every four to five days or so. He suddenly paused in thought.


    What an uncouth word, this ‘shit’.  His lenya would have chided him immediately for using it, his ata would then give him a sly wink behind her back, claiming she said it too when no one was looking. It was the different digestion, that was it, the Nords; less efficient and the grain from their meads and ales. Blast! Literally, he almost chuckled aloud, ‘twas like living with a herd of cows sometimes. No wonder their braziers stayed lit! Certainly enough fuel! He looked down at Koor’s outline in the dark. “They fart more than you do, little one, and you fart a lot.”


    Bucket duty, it was time for it and Äelberon shifted position to sit at the edge of the bed, listening for any further signs of awake Shield-Siblings while he stretched out his aching muscles. Why would there be, ‘twas bloody still dark. Maybe Tilma would be awake, maybe. He sighed when his knees cracked. The bed was short by several pertans, forcing himself to bring his knees up to fit. He preferred stretching out. Kodlak’s bed was big. If he didn’t have the nightmare that night, he would have slept very well.


    Äelberon quietly coughed, staying the remnants of nausea while he pulled off his nightshirt, the chill of the Living Quarters greeting his damp skin.  He used it to wipe the sweat from his body—it did not stink, but bah, would need a good washing—before fumbling in the dark for his trousers. They were supposed to be hanging at the foot of his bed, along with his woolen shirt and foot coverings.  He set them out last night. At the very same spot where he always put the clothes he was to wear that day. He frowned when his hands reached the precise location, only to touch well-worn wood. Where? He leaned towards the foot of his bed and reached. Nothing. His hand lowered and he felt the familiar wool against his fingers on the floor, only for it to be dragged away with a playful snort.


    “Koor…” Äelberon warned. Another snort and the dog pulled his trousers farther away towards the head of the bed, the tail banging against the edge of the book shelf. “Boy, I am in naught but my under breeches and I do not have a coat of fur keeping me warm.” He extended his hand. “Give it.” A low, rumbling yowl, but he soon felt wool against his bare knee. Wool and wet dog nose. “Trying to cheer me up?” He whispered, pulling up his trousers, securing them before sitting again to gather his foot coverings and shirt from the floor. He wiped some of Koor’s drool from his shirt onto his trousers and he made a sour face at his now sticky fingers. You are cleaning out shit today, Old Mer, a little dog slobber is not going to be noticed. Now hurry up and finish. You have a busy day ahead.




    She watched him out of the corner of her eye as she kneaded the dough for the morning loaves. Only one in Jorrvaskr who was ever awake before she was, Tilma thought while she worked, pounding the dough to get the excess air out.  The bucket duty already done, along with the wood chopping for the oven fires. In addition, sacks of potatoes, flour, apples, and other heavy things she needed for the day’s cookin’ were fetched from the pantry and larder and placed at her workstation before she even arrived.  Without her even asking. The cock hadn’t even crowed yet and he was waiting for her, washed, his prayers already spoken, hair bound, though no longer in the top-knot.  For his trouble, she’d make him an apple pie today, she smiled gently.


    The cultured cub. Her Albee.


    He was now seated at an old wooden chair near the heavy, scuffed-up table of sturdy pine where she was working, his morning meal spread before him; apples, cheese and a bottle of cold milk, but her cub wasn’t eating just yet.  Instead, his head rested upon the table, his clear red-orange eyes watching her work the bread by the warm cast of Jorrvaskr’s brick oven and a beat-up lantern near his head, looking like he was remembering something or someone from very long ago.  A bitter sadness and Tilma nodded knowingly, a joy. She knew her cub well.  His Elven hair spilled over the table’s edge. Braided today, though some tendrils were already misbehaving. His priest’s leather was intertwined within the larger central braid, like one of those wild elves he showed her drawings of by the great hearth while she did the sewing. One of Farengar’s books he borrowed.  Borrowed and then always forgot to give back, old sneak. He was waiting for her words on the matter.  On the matter of his plans for today and Tilma let out a small gust of air. The younglings didn’t dwell on such dark things, but he was a different sort of creature.  


    “It’s a hard decision to make.” She commented, continuing to knead dough with her gnarled hands, dusted with flour. “They’re special to you, Albee. They are a part of your journey in Skyrim. Don’t you think you should at least ask the Old Man first?”


    “For money?” he clarified, not even lifting his head from the table, the brows bunching in the middle just that little bit when she knew he didn’t approve of what she was saying. The snowberry was at his bare feet dozing. The boots were at the corner of the kitchen, foot coverings draped over them. Jorrvaskr’s kitchen was plenty warm and he wasn’t no city dweller with soft, thin-skinned feet. Grew up poor, that one did. “Would you have me do something so dishonorable?”


    “’Tain’t dishonorable asking for help for such a burden. And last time I checked, Old Mer, dragons counted as a heavy burden.” She countered.


    “No.” He refused, the voice getting his “tone”. Prideful, spirited.


    “Stubborn mule of a mer.” She grumbled, punching a piece of dough much harder than she needed to.


    “No need to abuse the bread on my account, Old Woman.” He smirked, raising his head finally to take a bite of goat cheese. “Do you really expect me to beg Kodlak Whitemane for money? Ask of Jorrvaskr’s coffers? For something that is my responsibility and mine alone? We struggle enough as is. There have been no new jobs...”


    “Just because you are Dragonborn,” Tilma replied, reaching for a rolling pin, coating it with flour and setting it down upon the dough, her wiry arms flexing. He tensed at the word and she quickly regretted its speaking. “… doesn’t mean you have to be alone, Albee. Besides, don’t you need those molds for your new arrowheads? Been drawing those schematics since you got back from Lost Tongue.” She began rolling the dough, flattening it, pressing it into shape. After a few moments, Tilma paused from her rolling and furrowed her heavily lined brow. “Well, maybe you don’t need to make new ones? Why not send for the ones you’ve already got in…” she resumed her rolling when she remembered the name of the city.  “Bruma? Would save you some coin—“


    “And take the risk that I alert every Thalmor Justiciar of my old location in Bruma? Risk them knowing that I am now here?” He shook his head and bit the inside of his lip in thought. “There are people I care about in that city, Tilma.” His eyes fell on her and the expression became almost sad, that faraway hurt returning and Tilma felt the tug of grief in her own heart. She knew that look and her mind briefly drifted back to Balgruuf standing at the doors of Jorrvaskr in his legionnaire uniform, Farkas and Vilkas, barely walking, playing around her skirts while he told her. Tilma aggressively slammed the pin down, flattening the bread, controlling the flutter of grief while the Elf continued, those eyes changing yet again.  He had caught her sadness. “And there are people I care about here too. No, I cannot risk that. I will make new molds.” He cut a thin slice of goat cheese and layered it between two slices of apple, before taking a bite. “I will make new molds.” He reaffirmed. “It will just take some time and… coin.”


    “And if a dragon comes before that?” She asked, letting out a gust of air and brushing away a lock of hair sticking to her forehead before she set the pin down.  She began cutting the loaves into strips. She’d make braided loaves today; a nice change.  He didn’t answer immediately and Tilma set to work, scattering some flour upon the table.


    After Lost Tongue, Mer did nothing but fletch and draw.  His hands sticking of pine resin and glue, the burns on his fingers stinging from handling the salts to infuse the arrows. Or, they were stained with ink and charcoal. And when he wasn’t fletching, he was hunting hawks for more feathers, for more fletching. He had enough arrows for a small army now, spending every last septim he had, ‘ceptin’ the money he set aside so little Lucia could have a place to sleep. He was broke. She knew he had had plans for that money too, askin’ about the ‘stead.  Poor fool. That wasn’t going to happen now. Times were rough with the War and with the dragons? They would only get worse.


    “That is why I must sell everything, Tilma. I will not beg.” He finally replied, putting down his cheese and apples to stand. Seconds later, while she braided, Tilma felt his two big bear paws closing over her shoulders. “I will let nothing happen to my family.” A kiss on the top of her head.  She threw flour at him, making him laugh and cover his nose to sneeze.


    “If your mind’s already made up then go, finish up your breakfast.” She ordered, threatening him with another pinch of flour. He settled on his chair, the husky turning over onto his back so the large white feet could rest on the beast’s belly, the long toes absently stroking the dog’s fur.


    “I will not beg, Tilma.” He repeated, taking another bite of his strange concoction. Apples mixed with cheese. Mer ate such odd things. She nodded, and began placing the braided loaves onto a flat cast iron pan, ready for the oven.


    “I know you won’t. Where you headed this mornin’?”


    He took a sip of milk, watching her.  “First Riverwood, to see Alvor and Lucan and then back to Whiterun. Make the rounds with the shops, ending with Farengar. Gear is already set aside. I have the armor, the sapphire claw, the weapons, the staff, the books—“ She gasped and he frowned.


    “Not the books, Albee…” She eyed him, shaking her head in denial.


    “They are complete sets of Song of Pelinal and The Wolf Queen. They are valuable, Tilma. They go in the pile. Each set is enough for at least one batch of salts.” 


    She bent her head and sighed while she loaded the bread into the oven. “Suit yourself.”


    He took another sip of milk, set down the bottle and raised his shoulders. “These are dragons, Tilma. They are not going to feel sorry for me because I have to sell my books.”


    “You think those special arrows of yours will really help?” She asked, unable to mask the worry on her face. “Will they… kill dragons?”


    “I hope so, Old Woman, for all of our sakes. And they are not really my design, I could never design something like that.  I only know how to make them, but have never tried them myself, for they are truly evil things, against my nature as a priest to even use. But dragons are different; my Elvish arrows are not enough anymore, at least not to be practical. Besides, once I have the molds, I will teach the skill to Eorlund as I would not be the only one who uses these arrows.” An uncertain sip of milk and the eyes grew distant again, as if he wasn’t sure he approved of what he just said. “Though they are not something I would ever allow Eorlund to sell to just anyone. They are dangerous, Tilma. Meant to kill, brutally and without mercy. The suffering intense, but I know of nothing else right now.”


    “Who else uses these arrows, Albee?” Tilma asked, her tone becoming serious, wiping her hands on her apron.


    “Others have wanted them, but there is only one Order I have ever been confident selling them to, for they are honorable in my eyes. Goldpact Order.  I have had many dealings with them in Cyrod. Good, honorable men and women. No Gods but coin and a bit rough around the edges, but like me, they see a job done with integrity.”


    Tilma whirled from the oven and stomped her foot on the floor, placing her hands on her hips, clouds of flour in her wake. “You rascal! You never told me you knew that Old Blade!” He leaned back against the chair and Tilma could see that he was surprised by her outburst. Not much surprised that grizzled old bear, but he was surprised.


    “You know Decimus Merotim?” Those silver eyebrows shot up.


    “All Jorrvaskr knows that Ugly Bastard, ‘ceptin’ Ria and she’s far too young to know him proper, if you know what I mean.” The Elf chuckled and flashed one of his wicked grins. Aye, you definitely know the Old Blade.  With the bread now baking, Tilma stooped wearily to retrieve a sack of apples, only for him to intercept quickly and lift it for her, placing it on the table and opening it.  Tilma began to peel apples for the morning turnovers, while the Elf settled back into his chair, the beast closing his paws possessively over the Mer’s feet. Don’t like it when your da leaves, eh, little milk drinker?  She continued peeling, purposely dropping a piece of apple for the animal, smiling at those dancing blue eyes. “Friends mostly with Skjor on account of the Great War bein’ shared between them.” She explained while she resumed her peeling, “But he stops by on occasion when his travels bring him through Whiterun. Been a long while though. He know you’re here, yet?”


    Albee shook his head, finishing up his breakfast, shifting in his chair. Old Mer was going to leave soon. Restless. Wasn’t an easy thing he was doing. “As far as I know, no. I should consider heading to that old fort of his in the Rift and pay him a visit when I have some spare time. The college too.  For that old Orc mage I told you about, but I have so much to do.” The broad shoulders stooped. “I cannot even kill a dragon yet on my own, Old Woman. I shout myself into lakes.  I am a mess of a Dovahkiin.” He bit the inside of his lip again, the expression on his face at first pained, but then he shook it off, slamming a palm upon the table to rise to his full height.  Tilma felt her heart swell with pride, when his expression turned proud. That’s right, Old Mer. You let nothing tear you down. You keep to that faith of yours and you’ll come out right as Kyne’s rains.  “Enough of this nonsense!” he rumbled. “I am also a Knight-Paladin of Auri-El and I do not give up.” He nodded and faced her. “I will find a way.”


    “Then, let me not keep you here, Snow Bear. Go, get your fat white arse into that fancy armor and use your day like you won’t get another.” Another kiss to the top of her head, her shoulders squeezed in a bear of a hug.  


    “Thank you—“


    “Forget ‘thank yous’. Go slay those beasts.” She faced him and beamed, letting her face scrunch up. “Or no apple pie!”


    “Well, if that is not incentive enough. I do not know what is.” He joked, dodging an apple core. He poked the dog with his foot, gathered his boots and foot coverings, and left the kitchen, leaving her to work.



    Alvor ran his fingers over the cuirass as it lay upon his workbench. It was a steel set, not rare by any stretch of the imagination, but the craftsmanship was exceptional. The Nordic carvings were intricate; their etchings deep within the metal. The leather work was just as masterful and the lacings! Small, tight, and uniform. Whoever purchased this steel would get a set that would last them a lifetime, an heirloom even to pass to a grown son, and he could easily charge three times the cost of a plain steel set, but it was his, and he saw Äelberon frown when the smith pulled away from the cuirass and turned to face the Knight.


    “I can’t take this.” Alvor said quietly. It was the Mer’s own armor. Times were rough, but your own armor? Granted, he was wearing a different set, but Alvor still felt uneasy. What would he sell next, his horse? Äelberon crossed his arms over his great chest and furrowed his brow.


    “Alvor, am I wearing it?”


    “Well no, but still… It’s your own armor.”


    Äelberon then put his hand upon the cuirass, tracing the design near where the piece protected the ribs. Yes, of course, he was sentimental. He remembered making the armor, the work involved. But he needed the coin. Now was not the time for feelings. Now was the time for responsibility. “Alvor, Dragons roam the sky and they care not for sentimentality. The coin is needed to help defeat them. If this armor set accomplishes that, it will have served its purpose far better than gathering dust in an Old Mer’s chest of mementos.”


    There was reason to the Elf’s words but Alvor still frowned. It did not sit right with him as a Nord to buy a man's own armor, be they Nord or Elf. He could not do the transaction, he would not. He rubbed his dirty blond beard. Both suddenly heard little footsteps whiz by, immediately honing in on the armor propped upon the workbench, her eyes dancing with excitement.


    “Ooooo, so pretty! Can I touch it?”


    It was Dorthe, barely able to contain herself, turning to the Altmer that stood before her, tugging repeated at his cloak, clutching his forearm. Gods, they did not like being touched, Alvor winced.  Dorthe did not know her boundaries, at times.  His fault, for keeping her at the forge, for answering her questions, for letting her see how he carried on with warriors. He started to open his mouth to apologize to the Altmer, but the Mer’s response to Dorthe was surprising.  


    “Well, of course, little one!” Äelberon exclaimed enthusiastically, hoisting the girl up in his arms like she was nothing to him, supporting her on his hip, so she could feel the cuirass better. “A good smith,” he said in her ear as she ran her fingers over the cuirass, “Must know how the metal feels in her hands.” The Elf’s laugh lines wrinkled. “She must feel for imperfections in the grain of the metal. Her fingers must be very sensitive and that takes what, my child?” He asked with what Alvor knew was a smile from someone who had held many children in his day. She turned to the Elf and their eyes locked, his eyes twinkling while he waited for her response.


    Practice!” Dorthe grinned, her hands on his broad shoulders, tracing the delicate carvings on his silver plate armor. To her, old Snow Bear smelled like canis root, silver, and leather and his red-orange eyes always smiled. He and Da always laughed and joked whenever he’d visit to sell his wares. She hung her head suddenly, going from happy to glum in the blink of an eye, “But my Da won’t let me make anything yet. He says I have to watch.” She sulked.


    Äelberon exchanged a knowing glance with Alvor. “Watch and?” he retorted, his silver-white brows furrowing in mock seriousness. The smith smirked.


    “Learn,” The girl said with a sigh.


    “Aye, little one.  Watch and Learn. I was not much older than you before I made anything, but do you know how many years ago that was?” He asked, looking up at her.


    “How many?” The Elf suddenly turned his head away and laughed when the child actually pressed him for a number. How many years ago was it? Äelberon knew. He would never forget. 234 years, 8 months, 12 days.  He stopped himself before he reached the hours, the minutes, the seconds, before his chest could tighten and his eyes could mist. It was on a 4th of Sun’s Height. So long ago...  


    “How many?” Dorthe insisted, bringing Äelberon from his thoughts.


    “Child, don’t pester the Mer.” Chided Alvor, leaning against a table where he kept the pieces for his clients.


    “I am so old, my child, that I will not bore you with such a large number! But I do remember what I first made when my Lenya finally allowed me to work the forge.” Äelberon answered.


    “What? What!?” She grew excited, “An axe? A sword?” Äelberon gave the child a kiss on the cheek. He held her and looked up at her. “What did you make?” She pressed, but then furrowed her brow. “And what’s a Lenya?”


    “My dear Dorthe, ‘lenya’, ‘tis what we High Elves call our mothers—“


    “Lenya?” She pronounced slowly.


    “Aye, Lenya. Mother is Lenya, Father is Ata. And you, little one, are hevla, a ‘joy’.”


    “What did she let you make!?” She exclaimed, slapping her hands on his shoulders impatiently.


    “Persistent?” He winked at Alvor. The Nord only shook his head.


    “You don’t know the half of it.”


    The child was practically squirming in Äelberon’s arms now and he decided to put her out of her misery. “She let me make… a nail!”


    Alvor burst out laughing, slapping his hand on his knee when he saw his daughter sag against the Elf, the face growing longer than a hunting spear. Not the answer she was expecting. Aye, the nails. The thousands upon thousands of nails an apprentice smith makes in his lifetime! The Elf knew, he knew.  Alvor watched Äelberon’s face morph from wily to thoughtful when he continued.


    “And that first nail lay upon my dresser of my ancestral home for over one hundred years, I was so proud in its making. And my lenya, she was also proud.” He put the child down, and stooped to her eye level, and he gazed tenderly at Dorthe and Alvor could see the sadness behind the eyes. There was darkness in this Elf’s past and the emotion was there when he spoke again, though it was masked to spare the youngling. “Now, when you make your first nail, Dorthe, promise me you will display it on your dresser and remember all the wonderful things your father taught you and will continue to teach you. You will do this for an old Mer who once made a nail for his lenya, yes?”  


    Alvor then understood, catching himself biting his lip. Aye, he’d buy the damn armor. He began to speak but was again interrupted by Dorthe. She was definitely disappointed, but the Elf spoke the truth. Nails. Nails were made first. And Alvor suddenly beamed at his daughter, his heart swelling with pride. His Dorthe was very close to making her first nail.


    “Of course, Snow Bear! But a nail? It’s so small!”


    Äelberon laughed again, the grief passing away, and rose to his full height, placing a gauntleted hand on her head. “My little Dorthe, without the lowly nail, the grand palace cannot stand.” He gave her a pat on the head, and then wrinkled his nose suddenly. As if a strange odor filled his nostrils and Alvor noticed it too. Mixing with the forge’s fire.


    “Da! The forge stinks!” Dorthe proclaimed, frowning. “You heated it up wrong. It smells wrong.”


    “See, already telling me what I’m doing wrong.” Alvor quipped, giving the child a playful pat on the rump. “Now, run along Dorthe, go play with Stump.”


    “Telling me to go play with Stump won’t fix a stinky forge, Da!” She protested, but obeyed her father, running towards the shaggy hound that lounged next to Koor at the steps of the Sleeping Giant Inn. Stump rose when his mistress approached, tail wagging. “C’mon, Stump… Snow Bear?”


    “What is it, child?” both sensed the change in the child’s voice.


    “What’s wrong with Koor? I can see his teeth.”


    Äelberon leaned quickly over the railing of Alvor’s smithy. “Koor! Mind! You know better than that in front of a child.” The dog only bristled and began tensely circling the worn cobblestone, teeth still bare, ears now flat.


    “Dorthe, leave that dog be.” Alvor warned. “Sorry, Äelberon. She can be—“


    “He will not bite her, Alvor.” Äelberon reassured. “Boy! What is it?” The dog turned to his Master and barked, still shifting uncomfortably.


    “Your dog’s acting very strange.” The smith observed.


    Äelberon rubbed his beard, eyeing Koor before turning to face the smith. “Well?” He pressed Alvor.


     “Alright, alright, I’ll buy it. Still doesn’t sit right with me, buying a man’s—Mer’s—own armor, but I understand why you’re selling it. I’ll pay 375 for the set. It’s triple what I pay, because the craftsmanship is exceptional, but I still need to make a profit.”  Both retrieved their coin purses.


    Three hundred seventy-five was fair, thought Äelberon. It was only a steel set, even if it did take him hours to get the right leg just so. Stop thinking about what you went through to make it.  Just think about how many arrows you can fletch with the coin so you can bring down a damn dragon. Think about those molds.


    The Goldpact’s “Archivist”, an eccentric Argonian by the name of Teineeva, was usually the one who purchased such arrows. A giant slayer. He normally used a steel core for those arrows, but dragons had bloody thick scales, though he noticed spaces of overlap where a precisely aimed arrow could wedge in, wedge in and do damage. Auri-El’s Bow, he would need the eyes of an eagle!


    No, steel would be too weak. A Dwemer metal core? Perhaps.  That would give the malachite deeper penetration before the shards separated from the core. Separated to do their deed and Äelberon frowned in distaste. To travel through tissue, veins, organs, damaging whatever lay in their path, slicing. Slowly, painfully. Causing death. Minutes, hours, days, months, or even years later, depending on the chance pattern of traveling shards. Terrible, cruel arrows, but dragons were terrible, cruel beasts. Protect the innocents, Old Mer, that is your duty, remember Helgen. To use Dwemer metal cores would require innovation that delved into the old Tower techniques, their secrets long-guarded. But who from the Tower was going to arrest you now, you dumbarse?  His eyes broke from their imagined schematics and settled on Alvor counting the money from his purse. He could hear each coin leave the leather pouch and be set upon the workbench, the metallic clang against the stone strangely loud against the quiet of the morning. Äelberon tilted his head to the side and froze.




    Aye, quiet, save only Koor’s now frantic barking. The birds did not sing, nor did the crickets chirp. No shadows from the hawks that circled the mountains nearby. Even the bees were silent. Äelberon’s heart began to pound hard in his chest and a sick feeling formed in the pit of his stomach. Alvor’s forge smelled sharply of sulfur. Sulfur.  His breathing became heavier.


    “Three hundred… Three hundred five… three hundred ten… three hundred fifteen…” Continued Alvor, hovering over his purse. He needed to remind Sigrid to have customers pay with more valuable coin. Counting three hundred seventy five septims was going to take forever. Shor’s Bones! Why won’t that Mer’s animal be quiet?  And what was that smell? Did a rabbit fall into the forge? And what is that noise? “Three hundred five…” Made me lose count, dammit. Like bloody giant fans beating in the sky. “Ah shit, Äelberon, do you mind if I recount—“


    The Elf’s coin purse fell to the ground and Alvor watched in surprise as Äelberon suddenly leapt over the smithy’s railing and ran to the center of the main street, squinting up at the bright morning sky. 


    “Hey, I’m not finished—“


    “Alvor! Tell Dorthe to get inside the house, NOW!” The Elf cried, quickly mounting his horse.  Alvor then heard another noise. Not fans, not fans, wings, wings! His own heart began to pound, filling with dread.


    Where was Dorthe?


    “Guards! To your posts! Citizens! To your homes! DRAGON!!”  Äelberon yelled at the top of his lungs. Guards rushed towards the city’s gates, readying bows and arrows, mustering. People began to panic, heading indoors and, at first, Alvor could only stare at them running. “Alvor, wake up, man! Take the child to your basement!” Alvor snapped to attention.


    “Dorthe!” He called. The Altmer then drew his Elven bow, readying the quiver that rested at his side, before squeezing the flanks of his black charger with his powerful legs, causing her to rear up upon her hind legs and roar. He was scanning the sky when Alvor made it to the street. And Alvor didn’t want to, but he looked up. He saw it. Giant, orange, brown, and black. It passed Riverwood in a great pass so close that it made grown men cower, but it didn’t stop. It didn’t turn to rain its Oblivion fires upon them. It passed Riverwood, sparing the defenseless hamlet to rise towards the sky again. Flying to the North. Towards Whiterun.


    “Allie! FLY!!” Alvor watched as Äelberon tore through the streets of Riverwood at full speed, knocking over a cabbage cart, heading towards Whiterun. His coin purse still on the floor of Alvor’s smithy.


    “Dorthe!” Alvor cried again, scanning the skies, the dragon was gone? Where? How? But the wing beats were again becoming louder. Would it come back?  Where was his daughter?



    Honthjolf was stationed at the bridge that crossed the White River today. At the fork in the road that branches to the North towards the Pale and then to the East, towards Eastmarch. It was a beautiful, clear day, dry, and he was bored, spending the early morning of his watch talking to Torbar and Jurgen. The Bandits of White River Watch no longer plagued travelers along this road and it was an easy post.


    “Ha! So Honthjolf!” Grinned Torbar as he slapped the Nord on the chest, “Honingbrew, the Drunken Huntsman, Bannered Mare, or the Ram’s Head Tavern for your birthday today?” He gestured to himself and Jurgen, “Our treat.”


    “No question, Torbar, no question. Bannered Mare. The girls are far prettier.” The trio erupted in laughter. “And far more willing!”


    “Don’t let our Morgen catch you saying that.” Joked Jurgen. “Word has it she’s still sweet on you.”


    “Sweet on me? How can she even tell the lot of us apart with these things on?” Honthjolf released a chuckle, banging Torbar’s helmet with his knuckles.


    “I am taller.” Torbar grinned.


    “Not by much. I hate these helmets. Hope Adrianne fixes up my scaled one very soon. I can’t stand not bloody seeing anything. I don’t know where I’m even shooting half the time.”


    “You just like having horns on your head. And... you're an archer. You don't need to see what you're swinging at when you got a battle axe.” Grinned Jurgen, his green eyes merry. That’s what they all were to each other right now, pairs of eyes. Jurgen's twinkling greens, Torbar’s ice blues and Honthjolf’s mellow browns.  And Morgen's... Morgen's were just Morgen's, and Honthjolf smiled behind his helm. One day, he'd get the guts to approach her. One day. Honjolf suddenly wrinkled his nose, something smelled strange to him. It was coming from Jurgen’s direction. Bloody bastard.


    “You fart, Jurgen?” Honthjolf scowled. “Shor’s balls, that stinks. We need to stand next to you for the whole day. This better not keep happening.”


    “No.” The Nord denied, crossing his arms over his chest. “What do you take me for? An old woman?”


    “Whew! You did it again, Jurgen.” Growled Honthjolf, waving his hand in an attempt to drive off the scent. “What the fuck did you eat last night?”


    “How ‘bout I shove your bow up your arse and not take you out for your birthday. Fart, my arse!” He took a whiff of the air around him. “Besides, farts don’t smell like that. Torbar, you get gas like the Grey Mane’s old Helga, you tell him what a fart smells—“


    The ice blue eyes under Torbar’s helm weren’t looking at any of them. They were wide, staring in the distance towards Riverwood. Bastard looked like he was going to bolt and Honthjolf found himself taking a deep breath. The smell intensified and Honthjolf was able to place the smell. Burning, a strong pungent burning, sulfur. The skin they could see peeking through Torbar’s helmet was nearly white and Honthjolf felt his stomach squeeze.


    “What? What is it you two?” Jurgen glanced nervously, “If I could see your faces, you’d be two shades paler—“


    It was then that all three of them heard the thundering of hooves, making them turn towards the road leading to Riverwood. Everybody knew that horse. The black charger, her armored helm sporting two horns. The Thane’s horse. He was coming from the southern road, riding that beast of an animal like Oblivion was behind him.  His hood had blown off and his silver-white hair was blowing in the wind. He kept glancing back, watching the sky, his Elven bow in his hand.  The sulfur smell worsened and they now knew the reason why their Thane rode so hard from Riverwood. In the distance, heading towards them, its form unmistakable.


    A dragon. Circling the sky and Honthjolf instinctively reached for his bow. The Thane brought the animal to a sudden stop, making her snort in protest. Old bitch wanted to fight, not run. She was all fidgets and stomps, her eyes reddening. The Thane controlled her and turned to face Honthjolf.


    “Honthjolf! ‘Tis you! Good! Good!” He gasped, out of breath from his wild ride, “We need to evacuate these outlying farms. Inform Captain Caius to muster the guards—“


    “I’ll go.” Volunteered Torbar.


    “May the gods grant you the speed you had in the Watchtower, lad.” The Thane nodded. Before Jurgen and Honthjolf could even think, Torbar had already began his sprint. He was their best runner.  “Tell, Caius to bring any able-bodied man or woman who can shoot a bow!” The thane was hollering towards Torbar while the Nord ran. “The Bosmer brothers! The Dunmer in the Huntsman!  Go! Go! Go! Tell them I will pay them for their trouble, but bows, man! Bows! We need bows!” He turned to Honthjolf and Jurgen. “Quickly! The farms!” He glanced at the sky, tracking the beast with his keen eyes. “We do not have much time.”




    Tilma tells you everything, the old blabbermouthSo you’re going to sell all your things and go back for that dragon at Lost Tongue, eh Old Mer? Alone?   The Son of a Bitch. She told him that Snow Bear left early this morning for Riverwood, Kodlak mused while he swirled his tankard of mead. He was taking his morning meal outside today, watching Skjor and Njada spar in the training circle. Vilkas slumped into the chair next to him. The twins didn’t believe the old woman and had raced to Snow Bear’s quarters. It was completely cleared out of all of the Mer’s possessions.


    Always believe the old woman.


    “He took the damn books.” The boy grumbled, running his fingers through his greasy black hair. “Both sets, Wolf Queen and Song of Pelinal.”


    “His weapons are gone too.” Sulked his twin, taking a seat next to his brother. “And his armor, the first set he ever made. Why’d he do it? He could’ve—“


    “No,” Kodlak suddenly chided, his voice firm, “Would you have asked?”


    “But, we’re his Shield-Siblings.” Farkas argued back. “We would have helped him.”


    “Aye, that we are.” Kodlak nodded, still brooding. “In the battle-field, in this Mead Hall, yes, but I know him. He would never have taken our coin. Only if he had worked for it. And there were no jobs available, so he did what he needed to do. He would never beg. And I know that he has gone hungry. Old Billy goat.”


    “But he does not need to be like this now!” Vilkas frowned.


    “Of course he doesn’t, but it is his way.” Kodlak answered. “He blows on his own path, Vilkas. Like the lone leaf blows on the winds of winter’s chill.”


    “You should speak with him. Have words. Just because he is Dovahki—“ 


    “Dovahkiin or not...” He paused and eyed the young Nord. “What is our name for him, Vilkas?”


    “Snow Bear.”


    “Snow Bear of the ice flats.” Kodlak mused. “Silver-white, brave, stubborn and strong. And alone. A bear isn’t a wolf, Vilkas. They are not the same animal.”


    “But he lives among wolves now. He is part of a pack.”


    “Is he? Is he really?” The Old Man challenged, stroking his beard, raising his eyebrows at Vilkas.


    Vilkas let out a frustrated gust of air, unsatisfied with Kodlak’s answer, but unwilling to counter. The boy was headstrong and to some extent, right. Kodlak would have preferred to see Snow Bear ask of Jorrvaskr. He himself was jumping at the chance for the Companions to prove themselves again. Yes, they had a reputation for slaying beasts and he and Skjor, in particular, were called to clear the vampire dens, but Kodlak was not as strong as he used to be. Skjor had wanted to take Aela to test her against the beasts in a den near Rorikstead, but Kodlak had said that Aela wasn’t ready. That, of course, pissed of the Veteran, but he backed down. It wasn’t that Aela wasn’t ready, she was, but she now taking these jobs with Skjor meant one thing and Kodlak didn’t like it.


    You’re slowing down, Old Man, and you hate that. You especially hate it that an Elf four times your age is taking down these beasts and even bigger. They were—he was itching for this type of glory again and it was difficult for Kodlak to just sit and grow old and frail like Vignar.


    He watched Skjor and Njada spar, they were circling each other, shields and swords in hand. Njada approaching her prime, still in her youth and Skjor in his. Perhaps not physically anymore, but he was entering his best years. The years where the smarts finally caught up with the strength, just as the strength passes its peak. Those were the best years of Kodlak’s life. The Elf was still in that stage, sharp as a dagger’s blade and aye, you hate that a little, Old Man. You hate that despite all the complaints of being an old fart, of being fat and liking his books and tea, he can go against a dragon and not die. He smiled outwardly, raising his tankard to Njada, who had just blocked one of Skjor’s blows. The Veteran laughed.


    “Lucky, you got lucky.” The Veteran sneered and he lunged at Njada again, using a fake maneuver to throw her off. That move was pure Snow Bear and Kodlak clenched his jaw. 


    Change your face, you jealous old man. Aela sees you and that brow of hers is furrowing, wondering what’s wrong with you. He smiled and nodded at her.  She was sitting cross-legged at one of the tables, her auburn hair a bit messy and damp from her own recent spar with Athis, who was relaxing next to her, pretending to be dozing. Cheeky bastard.   She was queen of the bow in Jorrvaskr, but Athis on daggers wore her out.  Bloody Elf moved like he was on skooma. She wiped away a stubborn lock from her forehead.  It was the same exact shade as—Kodlak swallowed more mead, putting those dark thoughts away.  Smile, Old Man. They were all in the courtyard today, enjoying the weather, the sunshine. If Snow Bear wanted to clean house and sell his things, so be it. If he wanted to be dour and alone, so be it. He smiled at Aela again and noticed that she was not smiling back. The girl, Kodlak rolled his eyes—a member of the Circle and you still call her ‘girl’—seemed puzzled by something, her mouth twisting into a frown, her eyes squinting at the sky.


    “Aela?” He called. “What is it, Shield-Sister?”


    She turned to her Harbinger. “I don’t hear them.” She replied.


    “Hear what?” He asked.


    “The birds, I don’t hear them. And the air smells strange to me.” She turned to her Shield-Brothers, “Don’t you bloody smell it?” Athis opened his slanted eyes. Vilkas put down his tankard of mead and took a whiff of the air and he scowled.


    “Sulfur? Did somebody overturn a brazier?” He turned to Kodalk. “What?” Vilkas asked, his eyes narrowing. Aela hopped off the table and started to walk down the steps toward the training circle, towards the Veteran and Stonearm, who were still engaged in their spar, her frown intensifying.  


    “Stop fighting! Do you hear that?” She ran to Skjor and made him lower his weapon, causing him and Njada to stare at each other, not understanding their Shield-Sister’s actions. “Stop,” She whispered, “Listen!” All the Companions outside became quiet and listened. They could make it out faintly in the distance, a steady pulse of wind. Like wing beats. Then they heard the roar. Kodlak stood up quickly.


    Your moment of truth, Old Man.


    Let the Companions of Jorrvaskr answer the call to protect Whiterun, you don’t need to justify yourself to him. You’re the Harbinger.


    “Circle, ready your Skyforge Steel and come with me!” He then faced Njada, “Stonearm, you are in charge until I return.” 


    Straag Rod ToC

    Part 2, Chapter IVPart 2, Chapter VI


7 Comments   |   A-Pocky-Hah! and 9 others like this.
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  October 30, 2017
    Are these 'scattershots' (for lack of a better term) a sort of arrow in Requiem or self-made?
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Are these 'scattershots' (for lack of a better term) a sort of arrow in Requiem or self-made?
        ·  October 30, 2017
      No, these arrows are something devised by Teineeva for his main character in the Ledger Codex, which is part of the Straag Rod universe. When we were discussing how his character, named Teineeva, had them, we then decided that Aelberon, because of his smi...  more
      • Ebonslayer
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        No, these arrows are something devised by Teineeva for his main character in the Ledger Codex, which is part of the Straag Rod universe. When we were discussing how his character, named Teineeva, had them, we then decided that Aelberon, because of his smi...  more
          ·  October 30, 2017
        Damn, I was really hoping it was from Requiem, really been considering trying it.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  April 24, 2017
    “Koor…” Äelberon warned. Another snort and the dog pulled his trousers farther away towards the head of the bed, the tail banging against the edge of the book shelf. 

    I have a similar event in my story but I have to admit you have writ...  more
  • The Sunflower Manual
    The Sunflower Manual   ·  January 12, 2017
    Was Aelberon intending to make shrapnel arrows? I assume he needs salts to make a blasting powder of some sort for ejecting the shards?
    • Teineeva
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      Was Aelberon intending to make shrapnel arrows? I assume he needs salts to make a blasting powder of some sort for ejecting the shards?
        ·  January 12, 2017
      It works in a similar fashion to shrapnel. The idea here is that once the arrow hits a bone, the impact of the bone will break the malachite. The malachite shards wil then slowly make their way throughout the target's body if not ...  more
      • The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        It works in a similar fashion to shrapnel. The idea here is that once the arrow hits a bone, the impact of the bone will break the malachite. The malachite shards wil then slowly make their way throughout the target's body if not ...  more
          ·  January 12, 2017
        More than likely, he'll adapt these for malachite with an ebony core, but that's a hugely long way off.  He's thinking Dwemer core first. I see these as potentially very good for breaking a dragon's wings as it is relatively easy to strike bone in th...  more