Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 2, Chapter XVI: Nowhere else to go

  • 2nd of Sun's Dawn, 4E 202


    Thank Hircine bastard was whiter than the Jerrals, thought Skjor as he barreled down the road on Allie, clinging to her for dear life.  His hands were white-knuckled, not out of fear, but from the sheer strength he needed just to hold on to her.  He let her do most of the driving, she seeming to know where to go well enough. That’s right; follow your master while I try not to die to your wild riding.  He had ridden horses before, but Allie was something else, galloping with a purpose Skjor rarely saw in another animal. The mare roared in the night sky, as if trying to shout her master down, trying to tell him to stop—his stomach suddenly lurched when one of her turns caught him unaware and he almost slipped off the saddle. Shit!


    Äelberon and Aela must have made another sharp turn, heading through a small stream. “Fuck, you’ll be the death of me, old Mer.” Skjor cursed aloud, though he was barely able to hear himself under the splash of her hooves. Still holding on to the reins, he attempted to wipe the sweat that was threatening to fall into his eye as he scanned the dirt road ahead, keenly aware of the distant rumbles of mammoths and giants


    There he was, the wild Elf, sprinting to catch up to his Shield-Sister, his white fur catching the moonlight, every powerful stride of his kicking up good-sized clumps of dirt, dried grass, and snow in his wake. Power, incredible power tore through the tundra on their way to Gallow’s Rock. The Nord hoped that they’d reach Gallow’s Rock soon; clouds threatened snow on the horizon and Skjor chuckled to himself. “I’ll lose you, Priest of Jorrvaskr, if we get snow.”


    Skjor squinted through the wind caused by Allie’s gallop; he could just make out Aela’s form bolting ahead of Äelberon’s in the night. Much dimmer. Still the fleetest, woman, and I think our Newly Born is jealous. A howl of frustration from the white beast let Skjor know he was right when she pulled that much farther ahead.  The New Born, undaunted, doubled his efforts, gaining ground. Not used to not being the best, eh? You’ll learn quickly who the Alpha is, old Snow Bear, and it ain’t the old Man. Another roar of frustration, as if the newborn werewolf had read Skjor’s mind.


    To be honest, Skjor still worried about Äelberon, still not sure what they would find when he, Allie, and Koor caught up to the two werewolves. All werewolves have a wild first night, but what Äelberon did was beyond uncontrolled, as if something primal was released from deep within. Something angry and while Skjor trusted Aela, he didn’t yet trust Äelberon in this new form. Too unpredictable.  The Newly Born left a trail of destruction in his wake that Skjor had not seen from any in their small pack. The hidden Stormcloak camp was a near miss, but Aela drove Äelberon away from the camp in time and towards a dozing cave bear, which the Elf took down with one sweep of his powerful arm. One sweep, the poor bear didn’t know what had hit him, only white fur, teeth, and then death. The route to Gallow’s Rock was lined with the similarly torn up corpses of sabre cats, deer, and trolls.  And rather than feel the typical beast blood burn from seeing and smelling such carnage, he was feeling worry build. She was steering him well, driving the Beast to Gallow’s Rock, but Skjor wasn’t sure if the old Mer was chasing Aela out of play, out of companionship, or out of the hunt. Was Aela a target? Just like all the other beasts Äelberon had slaughtered along the way? When this was over, he would have to work with Äelberon closely to control his new form.


    Keep running, woman, don’t let the fucker catch up to you, he thought, giving Allie an unconscious slap with the reins, as if she needed any urging.  Aela must have had that in the back of her mind too, because she kept looking over her shoulder as she sped through to see where Äelberon was, making Skjor narrow his eye. Why are you checking? Keep your eyes on the ground—shit!  She tripped and stumbled, her momentum driving her to the ground. Aela rolled and Äelberon sprinted towards her.  Skjor felt the sickness creep to his stomach; an opportunity was going to be taken. This wolf isn’t…


    “Hey!” He yelled, knowing he wasn’t doing something particularly smart, but wanting to protect Aela. Skjor pulled Allie to a stop, nearly falling off in the process. “Shit—He cursed under his breath-“Hey! Hey! Hey!” He kept calling and he drew his blade, swinging it to get the werewolf’s attention. The beast glanced back over his shoulder at Skjor’s cries.


    And stopped, his great claws digging into the ground, creating deep furrows into the earth, to stop his momentum. The white beast faced Skjor while Aela continued her tumble, falling towards a part of the dip in the dirt road to Gallow’s Rock. He couldn’t see where she fell. Shit. Where were they? Definitely after Valtheim Towers and past Cradle Crush with the giants he heard back there and all. He sniffed, wrinkling his nose as the humid smell of water and decaying, half-frozen, water plants filled his nose.  The small pond where the Talos Shrine was?  Not Mara’s Eye, no that was too far. A low growl made him stop his thinking and he looked towards Äelberon, his heavy breathing catching.


    The red-orange eyes that looked in his direction glinted with a hunger that made the hairs on the back of the Nord’s neck stand on end. Skjor gave Koor a quick glance and frowned. The dog was crouched, its ears flattened, tail between its legs.  The normally brave Allie then snorted and shifted position, her ears going back too, not sure if she wanted to charge forward or run off. “Easy girl.” Skjor reassured, patting her neck. “It’s still your master under all that fur—“


    A roar and the beast began to charge.


    There was no time.


    Allie reared and Skjor flew through the air, landing on his arse with a groan in the snow. This was bad, shit, he cursed, scrambling to get up. He could hear the beast’s pounding footfalls, the confused whinny’s of Allie and Koor’s cries. The steps came closer and then he heard Koor’s terrible whine.


    Shit! Turn around Skjor, now!


    He unsheathed a scimitar, one of the weapons his brother had made him all those days ago, and swung hard. Not even thinking.


    Skjor’s weapon struck nothing but empty air and he adjusted his position quickly with a grunt, reorienting himself. He expected the worst. To see the poor Mer’s dog dead, mangled flesh, bleeding, but no, instead, it was Äelberon who had collapsed; shuddering hard, his breathing heavy, circled by his crying dog. Skjor chased down Allie, allowing himself to get his bearings, hating himself that he was poised to kill the bastard yet again.  The mare had taken refuge in a thicket near the pond; he could see the steam from her breathing against the black tangle of branches. You wedged yourself tight in there, didn’t you, old girl? Shit Allie, I’m sorry? You are apologizing to a horse, he grumbled to himself, but he was beginning to regret the animals’ involvement in this. They were too attached to their master and seeing him like this was a shock to them.  It was frankly a shock to him too. You’ve tried to kill him twice already, Veteran? You swung a weapon at him? Have you ever done this to another Moon Born?


    The hard answer was ‘no’ and Skjor shook his head to clear it. You’re just having a rough night of it, Veteran. This is your first Moon Born made without our pack, it’s going to be rough, that’s what it is. No Kodlak to calm things, no Vilkas to research all the scenarios. No Farkas to make you smile with jokes. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the cold stone of a statue.  Aye, old Talos statue, he noted, the snake coils looking almost eerie in the moonlight, slain by the god’s blade. I know where I am now. I can do this. His eye found the old Mer again.


    Only the rapid, heavy breathing. He was going to come out of it now. And it wasn’t going to be pleasant. Everything about this fucker had been explosive and quick. Worse than Farkas and Farkas’ first time had been pretty intense. He fumbled through Äelberon’s saddlebags and found two bearskins, feeling his mead-starved hands shake anew with the desire to drink. He took a deep breath and approached Äelberon slowly, carefully.


    The swipe of a massive clawed white arm made him quickly jump back.  The eyes were blazing, the maw bared in a terrible snarl. Skjor let out air when Äelberon’s eyes went into the back of his head and he fell again, only the breathing, the rapid heartbeat breaking the silence in the snow. Cautiously, he threw the skin over the transforming werewolf and backed away.  Skjor’s foot caught on a stone and his ass found the ground again. And he stayed there this time, falling to his back, his own breathing heavy as he closed his eyes.  What a ride, he thought, bringing his trembling hand up to rub his face, to rub away the headache that was starting to build. You need a drink. He started when he felt a wet nose, but relaxed when he smelled the husky looming over him, the snowberry’s wet tongue bathing the back of his hand. He reached to touch the animal’s neck. “Sorry, Moon Brother, we weren’t expecting this…”


    Another weight collapsed next to him and he groaned, relieved to smell her again. Aela, he thought dully, letting a drawn out gust of air escape his mouth. She was warm next to him, naked, soft, but the heart beating inside her was just as strong, just as fierce.  


    She’s alright.


    Skjor let his eye open, seeing her form next to him, half-sitting, half-lying down in the moonlight, in the snow. Her auburn hair was tousled, small fir sprigs attached and everything. Her war paint smudged. She had bruises and several small cuts on her body, and her face was still dazed from her own transformation, her mouth slightly agape.  He pushed the dog’s snout out the way and stared at Aela, absolutely mesmerized by her beauty. Her eyes were on Äelberon’s form, the yellow of Hircine’s mark just leaving them.


    “Skjor,” she gasped, “Something’s wro—“


    “Later.” He growled hungrily, reaching for her neck to bring her mouth to his.



    Skjor held a bottle of mead in front of Aela, as she slipped on her gauntlet and fastened it. It was good to be dressed again, though she didn’t mind being naked before, shaking off her remaining pleasant soreness with a good stretch and ending it with a pretend shiver that made the older Nord instinctively put his free arm around her, bringing her closer to him. The night was unusually cold, cold in what had been a mild winter, but she wasn’t really cold. What she wanted was his arm around her and she got that.   


    “Take this,” He said softly as the two reclined against a small outcropping of rocks near the Talos statue, sharing a bearskin, watching the Altmer from across their campfire. Aela sighed and leaned on Skjor's strong shoulder, taking the bottle of mead gratefully. Being next to him felt good. She sipped it slowly, the mead working its magic relaxation, her eyes shifting from Skjor’s strong profile back to Äelberon. While he was no longer a werewolf, something was still not quite right.


    “It’s taking him a long time to come out of it.” Aela worried, feeling her brow furrow. “Are you still sure about this?”


    “Yeah, I’m sure,” Skjor replied, his voice still husky from their sex and she could feel the impatience growing in his tone. “He’ll be fine. We’ve never done an Altmer before. So what if it was a bit different?”


    Damn, it had been a lot different, thought Aela, shifting her head to study her lover. She knew he could see the expression on her face.


    “What?” Skjor raised his eyebrows, as if he was surprised.


    “A bit different?” She asked, tilting her head to the side to emphasize her point.


    “Yeah.” He nodded with a shrug.


    “You gone in the head, Skjor? A bit? He nearly died!”


    “Only he didn’t.”


    “Twice.” She added.




    “Don’t ‘Aela’ me.” She growled, leaning away from the rocks. “I have seen people be born to the moon, Skjor. Farkas and Vilkas, but this,” she pointed at the Elf, “this was not normal.”


    “He’s an Old Mary, they are inherently not normal.” The Veteran smirked, taking a sip of mead.


    “So that’s it? That’s your explanation for what happened tonight?”


    “What do you want me to say, Aela? That he scared me? Yes, he scared the shit out of me. When he died, when he turned, and… when he was chasing you.” He faced her.


    “He’s feral.” She said quietly, her back finding the rocks again.


    “You can’t be serious. He shifted back, didn’t he?” The Veteran shook his head. “The ferals don’t come back, Aela. He came back.” There was a nod from Skjor, but Aela wasn’t sure if Skjor was nodding in confirmation or to reassure himself. “The ferals don’t come back.” He reiterated. After a moment, he laughed, tossing his empty mead bottle into the fire. He laughed again at the sparks that shot up. “He just needs to learn how to control it. We all learn.” He continued. “And the Old Mary is much smarter.  If Farkas, Jorrvaskr’s icebrain, could learn, Jorrvaskr’s - pole up his arse - Old Mary can learn too. He just wasn’t what we expected.” Skjor rolled his eyes. “Honestly? I’m glad he’s got some spine in this form; I was worried he’d be a Snowberry. You know, stop to read books, not want to crush the little flowers with his dainty paws like some sissy. He can face Alduin like this. And maybe, he’ll even win. Our Priest of Jorrvaskr, Aela. We made him.”


    “I was afraid.” Aela admitted, bringing her knees up under the bearskin. She hated admitting it, but she was. The joy she had felt when she saw that he lived, that he was bonded to her, her true brother in blood now, became terror by the end as she ran from him, praying to Hircine for more speed as the demon chasing her continued to gain.


    Demon, Aela thought, biting her lower lip. He’s your brother and you just called him a ‘demon’. She shook her head, dismissing the awfulness of her thoughts. He’s a priest; he’s never been anything other than kind to you. It was just a wild first change. You should be rejoicing at the gift that was given. He was suffering, ruined, destroyed by his own people and his petty Elven god, and Hircine heard your call, smelled your blood, and gave his gift, making an ailing brother whole again. Äelberon had asked for it. He had come to Skjor.


    “Don’t be, we’ll control him. He’ll be fine.”


    Skjor, I think Gallow’s Rock is going to be a tall order tonight.” She looked up at her lover sitting next to her. Skjor had set his jaw and she knew then that he was set on his path, on their path. 


    “What is with you tonight?” He frowned, furrowing his brow. Then he chuckled, a twinkle playing in his silver eye. “Are you on your bloody Lunar?”


    “You arse!” She replied, smacking the Nord hard on the shoulder. “I am not. I’m just…” She growled again in frustration, unable to put her finger on anything concrete which was making Skjor quickly win his argument. They had always been fine. Farkas had been wild too and he was now fine.


    “Aela, Krev the Skinner is there.” Skjor spoke carefully, his eye on the campfire. “They could have killed Farkas at Dustman’s Cairn. Äelberon too. No, this has to stop. The Silver Hand needs to be stopped.”


    “Are you sure?”


    “We go, Aela.” The Veteran spoke. “This can’t be put off any longer. In a bit, I’m going to go ahead and do some scouting. I’m getting bored just sitting here waiting like an old woman. You two had all the fun, I only rode that damn animal.” He rubbed his back, “That horse of his is a demon.” A snort from the grouchy mare munching on snowberries, her teeth baring. “Yeah! I’m talking about you, you old bitch!”


    They both then watched the Altmer as he lay curled in a tight ball upon a makeshift bedroll, another piece of equipment from his saddle, partially covered by the bearskin. At least the rapid, loud gasps for air had stopped, and his breathing seemed to settle into something more akin to sleep. His back was turned to them and he still shivered violently, but both knew that it wasn’t from the cold.  Wisps of his long hair clung damply to his back, and he was covered in the sheen of perspiration that heralds a broken fever.  


    The scars that covered his back caught Aela by surprise. She had seen Äelberon bare-chested before, but never his back. It was mostly Tilma, Skjor, Kodlak, and Ria who had tended to the old Mer’s healing back when he first came, suffering from that poison.  They saw more of him, leaving her Vilkas, and Farkas to oversee the jobs of the Mead Hall. To be honest, she had been glad, seeing someone sick always made her uncomfortable.  Seeing something that should be strong, suddenly be frail. It was disconcerting to her. The scars were like streaks of raised skin, old welts to her, in the warm glow of the campfire. In distinct clusters of eight. She knew those scars. “Skjor?”




    “He has your scars.”


    “That he does.” The Nord sighed, his body tensing the way it does whenever he remembered the Great War.




    Skjor released a sarcastic laugh. “Well, if he pissed them off enough that they fucking ruined him like they did, I’m not surprised they whipped him too. Gotta love that old, barbed lash. Each one of those robed fuckers has one, you know. Rite of passage, probably, and believe me, they use it. Knife-Ears and the number eight. Obsessed with it, like they got something against nine.” He snorted, his eye briefly falling on the Talos statue. “Well, they do, don’t they.  He’s a strong fucker to have survived that. Only time I’ve ever seen it on the living is on me. Usually just on dead Talos worshippers, hmph, as if beating them with it is going to change a man’s mind. A brutal people.  Just like Krev. Couldn’t win the first war, but we’ll win this one, Aela.”   


    With a resolute grunt, Skjor shrugged off the bearskin to get up. Skjor was restless, she could tell. He had not given in yet tonight to the Beast Blood and that always made him that way.  She also knew he was feeling perhaps a little guilty about Äelberon. Just like she did. It was too much suffering, too much pain. Compared to this, Farkas’ transformation had been much easier to handle and his had been a mess, but for entirely different reasons, leaving them all laughing when it had finished, licking their wounds at the Ram’s Head Tavern.


    Back when they handled a Newly Born like a family. She knew it had to sting Skjor, that Kodlak wanted no part of this anymore. That Skjor and Aela had to make their own pack. In secret.  


    “I’m going to check up on him. If he’s really sleeping, I can go. I’m tired of waiting.” Aela followed Skjor with her eyes as the Veteran walked towards the Altmer, kneeling next to him. He turned the Mer’s head, exposing a face that had definitely seen better days. Dried spittle crusted the corners of his mouth and his beard. The closed eyes were sunken, the circles beneath dark and prominent. His skin was even paler than Aela remembered, the war paint now shockingly red. “Oh yeah,” Skjor chuckled when the Mer didn’t wake to the gentle slap he gave him. He followed the slap with a squeeze of the Mer’s cheeks.  “He’s out cold. About damn time. Let him sleep it off. When he wakes, get him dressed, and then meet me at Gallow’s Rock.”


    Skjor put his hand on the Altmer’s shoulder and gave it a light squeeze. “That’s it, Old Fart, sleep it off, we’ll need those bright eagle eyes of yours wide awake tonight.” He turned to Aela, “Make sure he uses that little Niniik of his. That’s an incredible weapon.”


    Aela stood up reluctantly, still wrapped in the bearskin, feeling the first large flakes of snow hit her hair. She noticed Skjor’s frown when he studied her carefully and Aela hoped that he would reconsider. He shook his head though and she straightened in response. He was right, the Silver Hand wouldn’t stop. Skjor approached her until they were face to face and she was surprised when he then cupped her face in his hands and gave her a kiss. One kiss turned into several and afterwards, he looked her deeply in the eye, his normally grizzled features softening.


    “Aela, it’s going to be fine, you’ll see. I’ll scout, he’ll wake up. And maybe, just maybe the Silver Hand will leave us alone after this.” Aela glanced away for a second, as if still unsure.  “Don’t you trust me?”


    That he even had to ask that question made her start to redden in shame. That was no way to treat him. Her Shield-Brother, her friend, her mentor, her lover, the person she trusted more than anyone right now. “Skjor. I trust you. I always have.” Then she sighed, put away her fears, and met the cocky grin that formed on his face with one of her own. If Skjor was confident, why shouldn’t she be? Four Shield-Siblings were going against Krev the Skinner. One was a renowned huntress, one was a war dog, one was a veteran of the Great War, and one… One was the Dovahkiin himself. 


    “Alright, I’ll keep watch over him, be all Tilma and domestic, and see that he gets to Gallow’s Rock with his armor on the right way like a good Shield-Sister.” She leaned towards him, her lips just barely brushing his as she whispered. “You… you just be careful.” The Veteran couldn’t resist that and their lips met again, laughing when they started to taste the snow rather than their lips. It was really coming down hard now.  


    “I’m always careful.” He murmured, reluctant to break away from her just yet.


    “Liar…” She grinned, and Skjor rolled his eyes, letting her know that she had spoken true. He finally broke his embrace and walked to the ever-munching Allie, retrieving the two Scimitars Äelberon had made for him. Aela admired the weapons, remembering that fateful day. Äelberon had taught Skjor a valuable lesson.  In her eyes, both warriors came out better for it.


    “He’ll like seeing those again.” She observed.


    “I know.” Skjor balanced one of the scimitars on his palm. Perfect balance. “The elf knows how to craft a blade. That’s for sure. We won’t tell Eorlund ever that I said that.” Skjor sheathed the weapons. “Well, I’m off…” He looked towards Gallow’s Rock and then back at her and scratched his head, looking back at Gallow’s Rock again. She tilted her head to one side and cocked an eyebrow. You going to say something, old fool?


    “I love you.” Skjor mumbled as he began to walk away.


    “I love you too,” She whispered. Skjor paused for a moment and turned his head slightly, his back still turned. He had heard. Aela watched him disappear into the dark forest while the snow fell, savoring the moment.


    Until a wet, slimy tongue brought her back to reality. She turned to the husky, wiping her hand on the bearskin she was still wrapped in. It wasn’t like the old Mer was going to notice. “Alright, Moon Brother, let’s go check up on your master.”



    Naked and insignificant, he stood upon the wastes, the chill of the biting winds cutting through his very bones, cutting through his soul. Passing through him, under him, and above him. No gentle breeze, no calming zephyr, only a steady wild wind, like a maelstrom rotating along its path.


    “Seek me…”


    She whispered in the winds and his eyes strained to see beyond the flat grey horizon. He was in a place of void. No sun, no moon, no stars to get his bearings. The sky, only a churning vortex of storm clouds, with more shades of grey than he could count.  It was as if he was in the middle of the right of a hurricane, only no debris followed it. His hair, unrestrained, unbound, blew wildly with the winds, dancing joyfully in its unaccustomed freedom, attempting to further obscure his vision; a veil of white enshrouding the void-view.  He felt the wetness of Sorrow’s shed tears upon his cheek, but his bare feet only felt the pain of sharp rock edges slicing into tender flesh. Bright blood married to white skin. Small stones, like cut flint, coated the ground as far as his eyes could see. A sea of cutting stone. Flat, hard, and emotionless.


    “How?” His voice was but a dry croak swallowed by the deafening roar of the winds.  Thirsty, so thirsty, but not a drop to drink…


    “I am Kaan. I am the storm.” She replied. “Seek the storm.”


    “But it is all around me—“There was a loud crash of lightning far to the horizon. A pale lavender streak of illumination that plummeted from the swirling shades of grey that was the sky directly to the ground below. As if it was marking a spot. And he jumped at both sight and sound, his heart beating rapidly with fear.


    “Seek the storm.” She repeated, the voice becoming like the edge of a knife. The cry of mother storm-hawk. 


    “No!” He looked away, trembling, wanting to run, wanting to hide, but there was nowhere to turn in this wasteland of stone and storm and his feet hurt so much, he dare not move them.


    Another crash of lightning in the same place and he screamed into the howling winds, weeping into Oblivion. Afraid.


    “Skar…” She whispered. “Fly to me…”


    “I was the eagle, I lived in high country. In crystal cathedrals that reached to the sky…” His dulled song toned into the void.


    Another lightning strike.


    “Be my hawk.”


    “But there is blood on my feathers…” He cried, feeling the cuts on his feet bleed.


    Her voice became an angry storm. “Blood is only blood, Thunder-Child, time is still turning, they soon will be dry. And all that see you, all who believe in you, shall carry the freedom you feel when you fly.”


    “But I can no longer fly.” He mourned.


    “Lies of the Literal!”


    He fell to his knees at her outburst.


    “Come dance to my Western wind and embrace the long winter of Snow-Throat. Wing-sing over my canyons. Steal back your serpent’s stars, lokalaat!  Reach for all that you can be and not what you are. Time is still turning, they soon will be dry… kos faal Straag Rod!”


    Be the Turning Wheel.


    And he rose and walked, blood staining his white feathers, because there was nowhere else to go. 



    Aela woke with a start when she heard her Shield-Brother cry out, as if breaking the chains of a heavy nightmare. Had she fallen asleep? Aye, with the little Snowberry cuddled next to her, no less.  Her eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness. Darkness, so not much time had really passed. Still dark.  Koor immediately left her side and headed directly to his master, attempting to lick his face, his tail wagging hard. Äelberon’s back was still turned, but his body was far more relaxed, no longer curled up. His right hand weakly reached over to rub the dog’s ears and Aela smiled when the dog sagged against his master’s reassuring hand, burying closer to him. You love him, don’t you, little Moon Brother.  


    Aela got up slowly and walked around the campfire to her Shield-Brother. He had not acknowledged her yet, though she was sure he could now hear her approach. His red-orange eyes were very bright and his face was serious. He was staring intently at his left hand, which rested on upon the bedroll, while the dog still demanded his right’s affection.


    He was doing a strange thing. Every few moments, his left hand would tense up, as if casting a spell. Only for nothing to happen. Äelberon’s face was focused as he did this, his brow furrowed, his mouth grim. After the fifth attempt, he let his hand fall limply upon the bedroll and released a ragged sigh, his eyes closing in exhaustion. He stopped rubbing the dog’s ears and it seemed to Aela that he was waiting.


    Like a good sister, Aela squeezed next to Koor, sitting cross-legged. The dog gave a bit and let her have some space. She didn’t know what to do, but she saw Tilma do it and the Elf seemed to like it when Tilma did it, so she carefully pushed his damp hair away from his face. The lock that was shorter since the Barrow. The day he became Dovahkiin, when he started to chew the inside of his lip more and worry. Hircine’s Spear, his hair was so much softer than she expected, almost like a woman’s. So this was Elven hair, she wondered. The Mer’s eyes opened again at her touch, but they remained staring straight ahead into the night. His expression was complex, a mix of sadness and resignation, yet there was also a certain strength. She continued to stroke his silver-white hair for a spell, not quite knowing what to say to him. Tilma was good at this, Aela the Huntress, known for her temper, was not.


    “You’re awake.” She managed. State the obvious, Aela.


    The Altmer closed his eyes again, his lashes lighter against the dark shadows under his eyes. She never noticed that they were not dark, though they were long. They were a silver color. Blondes have light lashes, silly.


    “Yes, I am awake.” He whispered hoarsely; his normally strong voice sounding frail. Aela was moved and she felt the lump in her throat, felt the sting of tears, glad just to hear him again. Äelberon had nearly died. She was happy that he was alive, and yet he looked so incredibly sad. Like one looks when they have lost something or someone of great importance to them, but crying about is not an option. Like how she felt when she lost her mother. When she saw Skjor and Kodlak bring her her mother’s armor. Saw the look on her da’s face and felt the heat on hers, but couldn’t shame her mother by shedding tears.


    She furrowed her brow, dismissing her past with a quick shake to the head. Farkas and Vilkas had been tired, but excited when they awoke from their transformation. But Äelberon’s had been far harder. Perhaps that is why his expression was so different. Aela cleared her throat and hastily wiped the tears from her eyes, sniffing in the cold. I will not shame you with tears, Shield-Brother.


    “I…” She started, it was hard to find the words for his experience. It had been horrible. Not at all what hers or the twins had been. “I almost didn’t think you’d make it.” Her voice broke as she continued to stroke her Shield-Brother’s hair, dammit. “We were scared, Skjor and I. Äelberon, I’m so sorry, if we had known—


    “No, Shield-Sister.” The Mer interrupted. “It is what I wanted. You did me a service. I am sorry I made it so difficult. I make everything so difficult… Even I did not anticipate my reaction.” He opened his eyes and turned to face her, raising his hand to touch her face. “Auri-El’s bow! Your face! What are these bruises?” He narrowed his eyes, like he was trying to remember. “Did I hurt you?”


    “No, my brother, you didn’t hurt me.” I will not tell him that I ran for my life from him. I can’t tell him that I was afraid of him. “We were racing and in play, you knocked me down. You are very large and didn’t know your own strength. A silly big Snowberry of a werewolf.” She lied. His hand then trembled again. He was trying to cast, to heal her, she guessed, and she was moved by the sweetness of the gesture. He let his hand drop when nothing happened. “It is a different magic, brother, from your Elven ways. You will learn that it is also a better one. I will heal on my own.”


    Something dark flashed behind his eyes when she said that and she didn’t like it. But he seemed to put it away, refocusing his attention back to her face. It was his turn to brush her hair from her face. “And you are pale, my sister, so pale?” He continued, “How bad must I look to make your face so? If it is half as bad as I feel…” He nodded and managed the weakest of smiles, as he turned away slightly, as if trying to recollect something, “then I must look like… like… shit? Is that the correct word? It is not fuck, no? I do not feel like fuck, but like shit…”


    Aela couldn’t help her laugh. He was terrible at cursing the Nord way, but she rewarded his efforts with a kiss to that damp, lined forehead. The gentle priest of Auri-El was back and she was glad in it, not wanting to dwell on what had happened before. And you thought he was feral.  “Yours was not an easy transformation. You have been born into the pack, my Silver Brother.” She paused, trying to find the right words. “I almost envy you.”


    Äelberon’s eyes widened. “You envy me vomiting all over the Underforge?”


    Aela should’ve seen the joke coming. I played right into your hands, charmer. She playfully pushed his shoulder and frowned in jest, knowing that he was doing her best to comfort her. “No, old goat, I don’t envy that. That was disgusting.  I envy the first transformation.” Aela gazed into her brother’s eyes, remembering her own experience as she took his hand in hers. “That first time is always the most… intense.” She then frowned for real, “But yours was almost too much so. You gave us even more trouble than Farkas did at his first turning, and yours was a different sort of trouble.” She faced straight ahead, trying hard not to hide her emotion. “You died. I saw you die. There was a light, like it came for you. I don’t want to see that again.”


    “I am not dead, Aela.” He looked away, chewing on the inside of his lip again. “It has been a rough night, I think.” Äelberon then surprised Aela by sitting up. She saw several other scars now. First, was the small-round wound on his left shoulder. The bolt from Valtheim Towers. On his left flank, a small, jagged cut. She remembered he had been bleeding there when he first arrived at Jorrvaskr. On his right thigh was the narrow, diamond-shaped wound of a dagger’s blade. An old scar, it seemed to her. The strangest wounds were mostly on his hands and arms, but they were also scattered throughout his body. Little marks that were darker than the rest of his pale skin. Puncture wounds. There were so many of them. He turned to face her, swallowing, and, of course, there were the scars on his face. A bald patch on his left eyebrow and then what she had guessed was the work of a knife or a dagger on his face. Two scars extending from his left cheek, over the bridge of his nose and ending with a single scar on his right cheek.  She had never seen anyone with so many scars in her life.


    “I am thirsty, is there anything to drink?” He interrupted her thoughts, clearing his throat. “And my armor. I think it is time I abandoned this beauty sleep.” He managed a smile. “’Tis not working.” She patted his shoulder and got up to walk to Allie, replaced quickly by Koor who was rewarded with a firm ear-rubbing.


    “Did you run with me too? Eh boy? Did you?” The Mer continued, holding the dog’s head with his hands and squishing the animal’s face. A boom of a chuckle that left Aela puzzled, especially after what she had seen him do with his hand earlier. “You seem very happy with all of this.” The Mer continued, oblivious to her thoughts, though she found herself listening to his heart while she walked to the horse, wondering if he could hear hers. Koor snorted at that and licked the Mer’s nose. “Well, ‘tis not every day you learn your master can turn into a giant, shaggy dog, eh!  Every dog’s fantasy, I suppose.” She searched through Äelberon’s saddlebags, looking for food. He’d be hungry. Did Skjor pack anything? It was the only thing she regretted about being forebear, it was up to Skjor to pack and sometimes, he just didn’t have sense for this sort of shit. She wondered how Äelberon would be as a forebear. The most anal forebear ever, no detail would escape him.




    She almost jumped. “Yes?”


    “I do not remember what happened.” He stated and she turned to face him. The Mer was pulling a spring of snowberry from his tangled hair; the confused look on his face spoke volumes. “I remember everything, and I cannot remember this…” Remember everything? No one remembers everything. You’re being ridiculous, old Mer. It’s just your Old Mary brain hating that it’s not in control anymore. The Mer then froze, his face going whiter than new snow as he reached for his hair, the eyes flashing hard, widening. “Where? Where? Where?


    Alright, something’s very wrong. At first, she didn’t understand him, but then she remembered. The bloody lacing. “It’s safe, brother.”


    Where?” Snapped rather than asked.


    Her instinct was to be angry, to snap back, but she stopped herself. He doesn’t understand, doesn’t remember, give him time. “Skjor packed it with your armor. Small leather pouch. It’s safe.”


    “I need it.”


    “Hold on. Food first.” Aela walked towards him and knelt again. “I managed to find some cheese, and here is some mead.” He took the cheese, making short work of it, but with a sharp wave of his hand, he refused the mead.


    “Water.” He said, wiping his beard of cheese crumbs, still with his mouth full.


    Aela pushed the mead towards him again. “This is better, trust me, Brother. Water won’t help.”


    He glowered at the Huntress and she was taken aback. “I may be a beast, but I am still a priest. Water, or I drink nothing. There ought to be waterskins in my saddle, unless the two of you replaced everything with mead?”


    She scowled and crossed her arms over her chest, standing up. “You want water, old goat, go get it your damn self.”


    Should have known better, Aela, you’ve seen the Mer play enough cards with Kodlak, Vignar, and Tilma that he can call a bluff. He rose to his full height, not giving a damn about modesty and strode naked as a baby through the snow to his horse with a hard scowl on his face. After a bit of searching, he produced two waterskins, the scowl not leaving his face. “Two? I have seven normally? Where are they?” Dropping, the waterskins, he rummaged through Allie like she was a caravan tent, throwing items to the snow, all the while muttering to himself as he tossed bottles of mead to the ground. “Aye, mead. All you people ever bloody think about... bloody mead… poison is more like it…  Hmph! I am already poisoned enough…” The last words made Aela furrow her brow as the Mer closed the flap to one saddlebag in obvious disgust and then moved on to another. But then she bit her lip, trying not to laugh. Here he was, not intimidated by her in the least; searching through his saddlebags as naked as the day he was born and grumbling like an old codger the entire time. “Well, I am going to have water, or not drink at all. I will not give in to your poisoned ways, I hold to my vows…” She smiled. He was their Snow Bear. A growly, old bear. He turned to face her and drained a waterskin completely in an obvious gesture of defiance. It was thrown to the snow and he just looked at her, those nostrils flaring.


    Their mutual bristling and scowling gave way quickly to chuckles. They never stayed mad at each other long, but how he drank that water was going to bite him in the arse later, though she wasn’t sure. Perhaps Elves were different.


    “So am I to walk naked back to Jorrvaskr?” Äelberon asked, leaning back against his horse, crossing his arms over his chest.


    “No,” She pointed to a large sack next to Allie. “Your armor’s in there. And your lacing. Skjor made sure it was safe, I swear this to you, my priest of a brother, as a Moon Born and as a Nord.  As for going back to Jorrvaskr… You are now Moon Born, my Silver Brother. It’s time to celebrate.”


    “You mean my vomiting all over the Underforge was not celebration enough?”


    Aela chuckled, making the Elf tilt his head to the side, the eyes narrowing in scrutiny. Time we let you in on our secret, old Mer. “There's a pack of werewolf hunters camped nearby, at Gallow’s Rock. The Silver Hand. I think you've met them before. We're going to slaughter them. All of them.”




    Aela blinked, resisting the urge to put her palm to her face. You actually need a reason, don’t you. “Why not? They attacked Farkas and you.”


    “We killed the ones who attacked us. Any vengeance has been more than satisfied.”


    Aela was beginning to get frustrated with him, understanding Skjor’s annoyance a bit more now. “You sound like the Old Man.” She retorted.


    “I am old!” Äelberon exclaimed as he made his way to the large sack that had his gear. “And still alive. No small feat for one as old as I.  You would do well to curtail your aggression a bit, youngling, for ‘Anger is the crack in the hull that sinks the ship…’”  




    Book of Circles: Sundas Maxims, dammit, do Companions other than Vilkas not read anything but Songs of the Return? Ever?” He growled, stooping at the sack to remove a tunic, under breeches, and his cuirass “The heat of battle can sometimes burn, making you not see.” Äelberon put on the under breeches, followed by the tunic, pants, and faced Aela. “I have told this to your lover on several occasions.” He looked around the camp. “Speaking of which, where is Skjor?”


    “He’s scouting ahead.”


    Äelberon raised an eyebrow as he threw on the wolf’s cuirass, fastening it with an urgency that made Aela’s brow crease. “Alone?”


    “Aye, what of it?” Aela crossed her arms over her chest, jutting her chin, not trying to hide her growing stubbornness. “Or in your arrogance, old goat, are you forgetting that he’s Jorrvaskr’s finest.”


    “He is blind in one eye.”


    The bluntness of an Altmer was a thing to behold sometimes.


    “What of it?” She replied confidently, but she was now beginning to get nervous, the Elf’s paranoia feeding the bad feeling in her gut that she had since the Underforge. The Elf’s hard stare did nothing to reassure her.


    “Seriously? You do not see issue with this? How many times did I knock him down in the training circle, Aela? How many times? Answer?” Äelberon quickly slipped on his gauntlets and stood up again, nearly tripping in the snow in the rush to get his boots on. “We need to move. Where is Niniik?” Now, he was searching through saddlebags again, almost compulsively scratching his top of his head. Where his top-knot used to be. “Blast! Where is everything? I hate not remembering, I hate not knowing what has happened. Where? Only the dream, the sharp stones… Well Kaan, the wings are certainly bloody now. I will not fly. Never again. Grounded.” His voice was rising, clearly upset, and it was only compounding Aela’s growing tension. “Orsi! A nan Orsi! Am Auri-El! Am man! Seek the storm, Kaan says, my arse…” Who was Kaan, Aela wondered.  “Where is my bearskin? Where is my hood? My weapons? My magicks? Where? WHERE? I saw the lightning strike upon the stones, but I do not know where the FUCKING FUCK to go! I NEED IT!” The last words were nearly screamed, his face going red with anger, with dread.


    “Brother!” Aela exclaimed, shocked by his hard language. He whirled to face her, blinking rapidly, seeing then that she held his crossbow, his bearskin, and the small pouch that held his lacing. “Here.”


    Äelberon blinked again, the anger leaving him as soon as it had arrived. He took the cloak, though the eyes honed in on the pouch and she could see the strange relief on his face upon seeing the small pouch of leather in her hand. All the weapons, all his armor, and it was a small pouch of leather he was the most  worried about. “Thank you.” He paused and suddenly stiffened, turning into the very image of the Altmer race she pictured in her mind since she was a little girl, the face becoming unreadable as he spoke his next words. “I am sorry. I… I have never not remembered events in my life. It is…” an eyebrow slowly went up for good measure, “disconcerting.” He threw on the bearskin, and then reached for his bandolier, strapping it on quickly. “Gallow’s Rock? Is it far?”


    “No.” She pointed toward the forest with the small leather pouch, only to flinch when he grabbed it from her hand, as if he didn’t like that she was pointing with it, “just a bit that way, once we clear the trees.”


    He nodded, still clutching the pouch close to his armored chest. “Good, good. How long has Skjor been gone?”


    “Not long. Besides, he is only scouting. He’s sometimes batshit crazy, but he woudn’t engage Krev the Skinner alon—“


    “Krev the Skinner?” the Mer asked, his tone sending shivers up Aela’s spine, while he released the lacing from the confines of his pouch, his eyes blazing with what, to Aela, looked like reverence. “She is there? At Gallow’s Rock?” He continued, the lacing intertwining around his long fingers.


    Aela’s eyes narrowed. “You know her?”


    He did not answer her, though his lips began to move silently while he bound his hair at the nape.




    Nothing. Only his moving lips, his eyes going faraway.


    “Brother? What’s wrong?”


    “We then have time.” He broke his silence, his eyes returning to her. “Time… Time’s wheel still turns. We still have time.” He muttered, turning to eye his mare. He took the longsword from its slot on Allie’s saddle and sheathed the weapon. "No shield, sword and Niniik should be enough, and the thu'um. We have time.”


    “Brother?” she repeated.


    “We have time.”  Äelberon replied, beginning to quickly move towards the forest, loading Niniik with a bolt.  “He will give me time. I know he will. He has not abandoned me...”

    Chapter XV * Straag Rod Book 1 ToC * Chapter XVII


13 Comments   |   A-Pocky-Hah! and 10 others like this.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  July 1, 2018
    A lot going on for poor Albee. His worlds just been fractured and torn apart. Now its a case of howl the pieces settle.....  
  • The Sunflower Manual
    The Sunflower Manual   ·  February 1, 2018
    Only natural for Albee to get a little unhinged. This is about as upside down as his world could get - well, at least until he meets Serana.
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      Only natural for Albee to get a little unhinged. This is about as upside down as his world could get - well, at least until he meets Serana.
        ·  February 1, 2018
      He needs this, I think. 
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  February 1, 2018
    As always there are lots of things to comment upon, but mainly it is the memory loss and feral nature of the Dusk Wolf, the apparent abandonment of his god, and the beckoning of Kyne that has me excited. I think my interpretation is along the lines of Hir...  more
    • Paws
      As always there are lots of things to comment upon, but mainly it is the memory loss and feral nature of the Dusk Wolf, the apparent abandonment of his god, and the beckoning of Kyne that has me excited. I think my interpretation is along the lines of Hir...  more
        ·  February 1, 2018
      So I feel like that Kyne strides into that identity crisis, and in words
      laden with raptor metaphors, tells him he can be the eagle he was just
      by accepting who he is now and that those eagle wings are now stained
      Hircine-red. Kyne th...  more
      • Paws
        So I feel like that Kyne strides into that identity crisis, and in words
        laden with raptor metaphors, tells him he can be the eagle he was just
        by accepting who he is now and that those eagle wings are now stained
        Hircine-red. Kyne then becomes the the...  more
          ·  February 1, 2018
        Then we have the blood-eagle thing which, although grisly, is a very Norse
        sacrificial killing and offering to Odin. Odin, being arguably akin
        Lorkhan/Shor in his wandering and position as chief of the gods, makes
        it such that the blo...  more
        • The Long-Chapper
          The Long-Chapper
          Then we have the blood-eagle thing which, although grisly, is a very Norse
          sacrificial killing and offering to Odin. Odin, being arguably akin
          Lorkhan/Shor in his wandering and position as chief of the gods, makes
          it such that the blood-eagle Aelberon ...  more
            ·  February 1, 2018
          Wow, Phil. I am honored that this chapter generated so much thought. Any time you feel like discussing this further, let me know. We can do it here or elsewhere, but yes, yes, and yes to what you said. The blood eagle has been done most definitely. 
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  January 31, 2018
    He felt the wetness of Sorrow’s shed tears upon his cheek, [Sorrow]

    and it was a small pouch of leather he was the most  worried about. [double space between "most" and "worried"]

    Both Aela and Albee are go...  more
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  January 31, 2018
    Bloody Lunar... Nope, nope. If a period is tied to the moon I wouldn't want to be a woman in TES. Two tusking moons! Rivers of blood, rivers of blood... And then the third moon, secret one. Dark Moon. I don't want to meet a chick when she's having her Dar...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Bloody Lunar... Nope, nope. If a period is tied to the moon I wouldn't want to be a woman in TES. Two tusking moons! Rivers of blood, rivers of blood... And then the third moon, secret one. Dark Moon. I don't want to meet a chick when she's having her Dar...  more
        ·  January 31, 2018
      Yes, that's exactly what the chapter was about, Karver. You hit the nail right on the head. 
      • Karver the Lorc
        Karver the Lorc
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        Yes, that's exactly what the chapter was about, Karver. You hit the nail right on the head. 
          ·  January 31, 2018
        Bloody Vault! Can't even let me finish the comment...

        Mindfucks for life! Yeah, wanted to say that the imagery here in particular makes you wonder about Albee's faith or actually faith in general. First we have Auriel telling him to u...  more
        • The Long-Chapper
          The Long-Chapper
          Karver the Lorc
          Karver the Lorc
          Karver the Lorc
          Bloody Vault! Can't even let me finish the comment...

          Mindfucks for life! Yeah, wanted to say that the imagery here in particular makes you wonder about Albee's faith or actually faith in general. First we have Auriel telling him to undergo something t...  more
            ·  January 31, 2018
          You can certainly interpret it that way, Karver. Albee has a lot going on in that old brain of his. Believers can interpret it differently. Albee comes from a background that was definitely Elven Pantheon. He mentions I think in one of the early part 1 ch...  more
  • A-Pocky-Hah!
    A-Pocky-Hah!   ·  January 31, 2018
    Well, we all know what happens next. I just wonder how it'll come out, Lis.