woensdag 11 september 2013

The Tavern

Triskele really disliked Windhelm.

With a stiffly set jaw she took a sip of her mead, ignoring the brawls, the yelling and the boasting which could be heard so loudly all around her in the tavern. It was a cold night, the fires were roaring and her people were doing what they did best: making noise. She sighed deeply and put her tin mug down, as another flew past her head, smashing against the wall behind her. I have not missed this place... 
Across the table, her company filled her mug to the brim once more, not forgetting himself in the process. It made sense. Triskele was paying, after all.
“It's been too long, indeed.”
“You're saying that because this evening is on me, Sigurd.”
Sigurd, a citizen of Windhelm with a ginger beard that was his pride and joy, sniggered into his mug as he took a large gulp. “Perhaps. You should make it a habit, lass.”
“Not a chance. You know what I think of the city.”
“You never gave it a fair shot 'round here.”
“I do not give shots to a hellhole with foul streets, covered in muddy snow, and fouler people walking them.”
“You flatter us, Triskele the Cold.”
She looked past his broad shoulder, where two brawling Nords were having a go at one another. The stronger one managed to gain the upper hand, and shoved, without needless grace, the loser's head into a bowl of stew. “Indeed.”
A low growl, from an animal on edge, came from under the table. Sigurd winced and peeked.
“You had to bring that beast in here?”
Triskele reached a hand down, and managed to crack a faint grin as her palm felt the soft fur of Fenrir's head. “Beast? Look around you.”
Her acquaintance groaned and placed his muddy boots on the table. Triskele refrained from a comment she would truly love to make, and decided to get down to business. The sooner, the better.

“Remember what we talked about during my last visit?”
“Last spring?”
She instantly noticed how Sigurd averted his gaze, looking around himself like a child who got caught stealing a treat. “I was hopin' you'd forget about that whole matter.”
“You know me better than that.”
“Ha.” He took a large swig of mead. “Well err, what do ye want to know?”
“If you know more about it now than you used to.”
“I do, lass, but it's honestly best to leave it.”
Triskele leaned back in her chair, giving a slight push with her feet to make it balance on two legs, and placed her legs on the table as well. Casually, she unsheathed her dagger and started to run the tip under her nails, one by one. “I'm not leaving it. Don't be an idiot.”
“Rumour has it that anybody who has gone down this chase ended up mad, Tris. Some daedric curse. Even if you find that barrow, you won't leave it again.”
She tilted the blade of her dagger in front of her face, the warm light of the tavern reflected upon the Nordic steel. In a blurred flash she caught a glimpse of her face. The cold eyes with the blue facepaint around them, her unevenly cut locks, some smudges on her cheeks.
“Give me a place, Sigurd.”
He sighed loudly and smacked his mug down. “Kynesgrove. Tha's all I know. Kynesgrove. There be some fanatics 'round there lately, looking for the same thing. You're not the only one.”
With a thump she let her chair rest on four legs again, and she slid her boots off the oaken table.
“I like Kynesgrove a lot better than this frozen heap of dung. Thanks for the lead.”
She tossed a few coins on the table and stood up. Fenrir jumped up as well, as eager to leave as she was.
She walked out.

Mere moments later, she had walked through the city's gates. She took a deep breath, glad to feel the honest cold fill her lungs, instead of the smokey air that seemed to cling to the city like flees to a stray. Fenrir padded at her heels, his tongue dangling out of his maw. As she walked towards the stables, where she left Creidne, she heard her name being called. She had to roll her eyes, and she raised her voice without as much as a glance over her shoulder.
“Your warning is noted, Sigurd. Good eve to you.”
“Hang on, lass.”
She gritted her teeth and turned around, crossing her arms across her chest. Sigurd walked up to her, panting slightly from his jog to catch up with her.
“I didn't tell ye everything.”
She stared at him coldly, and remained silent. He cleared his throat and continued.
“You aren't the first one to ask, Tris.”
“Yes, you told me. Some fanatics in Kynesgrove. I'll see it soon enough.”
“Not what I meant, eh...” Sigurd scratched through the ginger forest that grew from his chin and took a deep breath. “The other day, Bjorn was here. Bjorn and his fellows.”
It would normally not be possible, but Triskele's stare grew even colder. She pursed her lips.
“He asked about the same thing, eh. The barrow, the artifact. Those things.”
“I didn't want trouble, Tris. I just told him about Kynesgrove, is all.”
The ginger Nord winced as her fist knocked him in the shoulder. Despite his height – and her lack of height – he staggered back. “Ow!”
Sigurd rubbed his shoulder and looked as the short, dark-haired huntress stomped off. When she neared the stable, he called for her. “Tris! You'll never catch up with him! Just leave it!”

The look she shot him would have frozen a flame.

maandag 10 juni 2013


It had been three days, and Cerdim had lost his patience along with his good mood.

The jaw of the Dunmer was set as tight as solid rock as he rummaged through his pack in front of the dark, ominous doors in front of him. She had never bailed, never left him waiting, never left a barrow for him alone. Gods, if nothing else, Triskele was too much of a stubborn and proud mule to ever leave a tomb for him to clear on his own. As he found the box of lockpicks he had been looking for, he sniffed. No, either something bad had happened, or she was after something better, on her own. Since he had never seen Tris being set back by anything bad – ranging from wolves to being surrounded by fifteen bandits – he assumed it was the latter. And that thought was enough to make Cerdim's current mood as poor as sour milk. As he grabbed a lockpick and studied the large, ancient lock in front of him, his one eye narrowed. Sniffed a trail more promising, did you, lass? Your loss, I've got a ripe piece of fruit here, and you are not getting any. Nordic cow.
With deft, ashen fingers Cerdim twisted and turned the lockpick around, as patient and gentle as a lover. He had picked more locks than he could ever care to remember, this was no different. Tris was good with it, too, but she lacked a form of patience that came natural to him. However, she had an eagle's eye when it came to spotting traps, an eye that had saved their lives on several occasions, and he realized this was the first time in a good long while that he entered a sealed tomb without that eye backing him up. As much as he hated it, it made him nervous. Suddenly, the lock sprung open, and dust puffed out of the doorway as the heavy doors opened with a moan. Cerdim stood up straight, flung his pack over his shoulder, and pulled his sword up from the sheath, just an inch.
In, find the shiny things, and out. Like I've always done. Not a big deal.
The Dark Elf walked into the barrow, carefully stepping down the ancient stairs. Outside, a wolf howled. Yet the silence of the barrow was ten times as intimidating. Cerdim sniffed again, and held his torch a little higher as he descended the stairs, into the dark.

An hour later he had shuffled through empty halls and tunnels with nothing but dust, broken pottery and the accursed cold of the ground in them, and Cerdim started to think he might have made a serious mistake by coming here and obviously wasting his time. Perhaps Triskele had known, yet she had clearly lacked the decency to let him know there were better places to dig themselves into. Cerdim cursed as he walked straight into a thick cobweb he had not seen. I should turn around, leave this dusty heap of nothing, and find myself a nearby town with a warm inn and warmer women... His trail of thoughts stopped abruptly as he spotted something to his right. The way in front of him was broad, almost ceremonial, but to his right side was a tunnel, small and nearly collapsed. It seemed like nothing, but Cerdim had been doing this line of work for long enough to know barrows were built to mislead, to discourage and confuse tomb robbers such as himself. He walked into the tunnel and crouched with his torch held in front of him, squinting his red eye as dust came setting down. Before long, he faced a dead end, but the Dunmer looked around him, searchingly. You're not fooling me... He smiled as his eye rested on what he was looking for. Firmly, he pulled on a rusty chain, hanging in the dark corner. The sound of stone sliding over stone was overwhelming in the silence of the barrow, and in a reflex Cerdim pulled his sword from the sheath another inch. Before him, where at first solid rock had been, was now a doorway. He smirked and stepped through, as eager and cocksure as a groom on his wedding night. About time.

He could feel the cold getting worse as soon as he stepped through. He sensed with all he had that he was standing in a large hall, even though he could not yet see all of it. But other than that, there were other things causing the cold to now reach into his very bones and thoughts. Something was wrong, felt wrong. Though, admittedly, in a tomb that was usually a good sign. It meant something important was near, something that wanted visitors gone. Quietly, step by step, Cerdim walked into the large hall that reeked of death. He stopped and held his torch up a bit higher as his one eye could discern shapes in front of him.
There was a large circle, a pale, white slate of stone, engraved with patterns that did not seem to be from this world. The outline of the circle was sealed with seats, thrones of sort. Cerdim held his breath as he silently counted. Twenty seats. What was this devilry? It could be a ceremonial room, nothing more. But the wretched cold that had been a small discomfort at first now made the hairs on his back stand up straight, and there was a pounding of his heart that was more than a little frightening. Then Cerdim noticed the coffins. There were high walls around the stone circle, and set in the ancient stone were twenty sarcophagi, each aligned with a seat. Each and every coffin was sealed, closed. For now. The Dark Elf gulped and did a single step back. No one would ever call Cerdim a coward, he rarely fled from any situation and knew a solution to most inconveniences. But he was also a realist, and he was most of all not an idiot. This place is Death itself... And twenty? Twenty? Like hell, not while I'm on my own. Then he froze entirely. At first, he thought the cold and the quiet was playing tricks on his mind and ears, like barrows tended to do to any sane mortal, but then the whispers became louder. He could not pinpoint where they came from, they seemed to come from the ceiling which was so high above his head he could not even see it, from the cold stone below his boots, from the carved walls around him. Cold whispers, voices that spoke in a language he did not know, yet the message was clear. This was the last place in all of Tamriel and Oblivion combined he wanted to be. The whispers turned into shrieks. Cerdim set his jaw, turned around, and ran out.

As he stuck his head out of the doors, into the last light of day, he gasped for air as if he had been swimming under water. He rammed the doors shut behind him and leaned his back against them as he closed his eye. Cold sweat lay in small beads on his brow. Piss and ash, what was that? He shivered and then pulled his hipflask from his belt. He took a rather large swig – he never travelled without some form of wine or mead on his hip – and manned up as he felt the warmth of the brew flow through him like fresh blood through stilled veins. That was better, much better. He opened his eye again, and squinted it in the light of the setting sun, far in the west. The fact Triskele had not stuck to their plan, combined with the fact he had just ran out of a tomb in fear for the first time in his life, made his frustration rise to a boiling point. He threw his empty hipflask in the dirt below him forcefully and roared. He hasted towards his small camp under the towering pine trees nearby, where his shaggy garron was waiting.

Tris, you black-haired, unpredictable, cursed cat of a Nord... I'm going to find you, I'm going to slap you and curse you to hell, and then we'll get back here and raid this bloody tomb dry.

dinsdag 30 april 2013


A burning log cracked in the hearth. From across the room, Thorald glared at her as an aging woman with coppery hair was stitching a nasty gash that had parted his brow. Triskele stared back, without any emotion, as she slowly ran her hand over the grey pelt of an enormous, wolf-like hound at her feet. She had a split bottom lip, that was it. Thorald growled as the woman finished.
“Hells, mother! Took your time!”
Ysold Grár walked off to grab more ale for the family.
“Be glad I did, boy. You want a festering wound instead of a clean scar?”
Thorald kept his sullen silence, Triskele simply turned her gaze to the hound again. The animal looked up at her affectionately. It licked her hand as Ysold came back with mugs in her hands.
“I should spank you both, acting like wild dogs to one another.” She slammed two mugs down and filled them to the brim with foaming ale. Thorald's glare deepened.
“Spank your little girl over there for her behaviour, I'm the one looking out for us. Triwold looks the other way, Ysengrim is a coward, it all comes down to me. She's turning out to be a bigger problem than we -”
“Hold your tongue, boy.”
Triskele had to smile as the words growled from the corner near the hearth. There, in the dancing light of the fire, sat a giant of a Nord, with arms like carved stone and a mane of silver hair. There wasn't a single spot on his tanned skin that was not covered in either patterns of woad or the light, pink tissue of scars. His voice was low and hoarse, yet as always his words had the ability to strike like thunder.
“Triwold is a great man, Ysengrim is wise, and your sister is unlike any of you. You think she'd still sit here otherwise? You have your worth, my son, but do not anger me with your arrogance. Do that again, and you will not set foot here for a month.”
A spark in the hearth seemed to set the ice blue eyes of Thornn Grár ablaze for a single moment as he stared his youngest son down. Thorald seemed to shrink. Then he grabbed his mug and stomped up the stairs. Ysold tutted her lips and Thornn stood up, slowly, and cracked his neck as he walked to the carved doors of the house.
“With me, pup.”
Triskele got to her feet, whistling. The hound pricked up its ears.
“Come along, Fenrir.”
The animal padded after the two, into the cold of night.

Triskele stood with her arms folded as her father swung down the axe. On the chopping block, a log split in two, as if it was made of butter instead of solid, hard pine. Thornn sniffed, put the wood aside, and grabbed a new log.
“How's the lip?”
To their side, the calming sounds of the river running over gravel and cobbles was like a soothing song. Further ahead, an owl flew over, hooting softly. Triskele ruffled Fenrir's fur as he sat down at her feet.
“I hardly feel it.”
“Thorald will feel his pride for days to come.”
“He started.”
“Did he?”
“You started months ago.”
Triskele furrowed her brow. Thornn swung down the axe again. Crack!
“How did I?”
“When you started trailing off, pup.”
“I don't see how I-”
“Do you know why I've built this mill?”
Thornn interrupted her and dropped the axe. With a single step he came to stand right in front of his daughter and cupped her chin in his broad, calloused hand. Triskele did not resist as he firmly raised her chin, forcing her to look at him. She defied the world, yes. But never her father.

“Why did I build this mill, Triskele? ”
“To split logs.”
“Make another joke and you will rue it, pup.”
She sighed. “You built it for mother, for us.”
He let go of her chin and folded his arms, just like her. As they stood like that, under the light of the paling moon and the rose-coloured sky in the east, nothing and no one could ever doubt they were father and daughter.
“I did. After a lifetime of fear, excitement, glory, sorrow, danger, agony, bounty and loss, I knew that you can only dabble the dice with fate so many times until the gods decide you angered them one time too many. If I would not have chosen this den for our pack, you would not have been born, Triskele.”
She cast down her gaze to the cobbles below their feet. Her father was the only one who was able to make her feel humble. Thornn continued.
“Think of that, the next time you descend into some pit of hell. I'm proud of you, always have been. There's a strength in you your brothers could learn from, if they would be willing to see it. That strength allows you a certain freedom and a certain opportunity. But there's bold, and there's reckless. Would you toss my work here aside, what I have built so you could live, for a rush? You can achieve great things, my youngest. Do not die before you've had the chance.”
Triskele parted her full, pale lips as her father turned around briskly, grabbing yet another log for the chopping block.
“But I am achieving things.”
“No, you are playing games.”
At her feet, Fenrir looked at a hopping hare in the distance. She frowned, fidgeting with the scabbard of her dirk.
“I'm after something, father.”
“You could do better, and we both know it. Use your head, think. Consider your steps. It is a great thing to have a goal, but as long as you're toying with your journey, you'll never reach it. You're all over the place.”
Triskele looked away. She inhaled deeply, sensing and smelling her environment. The cold air filled her lungs, the fresh smell of pine and cold water awakened her, prickled her skin, and a breeze made her mop of unevenly cut, black hair dance on her shoulders. She suddenly looked at her father's broad back. The logs had his full attention again.
“I should go.”
“And where is my pup off to?”
Even though she could not see his face, she knew her father was smiling.
“Good hunting, my Tris.”
She turned around, then looked at Fenrir, who had eagerly jumped up.

“If it's all right, I'm taking him.”

zondag 7 april 2013


“Gods curse you, Tris. This again?!”

Cerdim turned his head to glance over his shoulder, in his usual sly and almost lazy demeanor. The Dunmer seemed to consider life itself a jape, a jest, a comedy he'd play along with until his inevitable end would come. There was not much in this world he actually took seriously. So when he saw his companion's giant of a sibling stomp towards the log they had seated themselves upon, he had to grin.

This should be good.

Beside him, Triskele regarded her brother with her characteristic calmth. She did not bother with a reply. Her sibling, the youngest by the looks of it, halted in front of them and pointed a dirty finger at the Dark Elf. Cerdim fixed his one, dark-red eye on it, as if he was looking at a bug.
“What have we told you about...this? And your business with this fellow?”
The short female rose from the log, stretching her limbs slowly. “A few things. I've forgotten.”
“Stop acting coy, sister. We told you it had to stop. This Ashlander is bad news and so is...whatever you're doing with him!”
Cerdim's smirk only grew more broad. The oaf made it sound as if he and his companion did inappropriate things to each other in whatever abandoned cave or shack they ventured across. As entertaining – and rousing – as that thought was to the Dunmer, the truth was as far from that image as it could get. He kept his silence as his one-eyed stare trailed over the short frame of Triskele Grár. Oh yes, the idea of doing exactly that which the world thought they did was more than appealing to him, but he had already lost an eye in his life, and had little interest in losing another along with other parts. Cerdim had traveled with his raven-haired companion many a time, and had yet to see a single male who left an impression on her. She was cold, his slender friend, cold and harsh and calculated, almost as much as he was. It's why he valued her so.
Triskele folded her arms across her chest. Her blue eyes narrowed.
“You're drunk, Thorald. And you're interrupting.”
“Stop pissin' about, little sister. Come inside and let this vermin be on its way.”
“What did you call me?”
“I called you what you are – my little sister. Now come along.”
Cerdim smiled, scratching the cloth covering the empty socket that once held an eye. Wrong.
Triskele did not move. Her jaw tightened. “I'm not little.”
“You bloody are. Come on.”

Thorald grabbed her upper arm, but his wits were muddled and what was worse: he had called her 'little'. As soon as his fingers pinched in Triskele's arm, she spat in his face and gave him a hard push. Her tall brother fell with his back in the dirt of the riverbank, and a moment later Triskele jumped on top of him, aiming a clenched fist for his face. Cerdim never dropped his calm, amused smile as he lazily stood up from the log, cracking his neck side to side. He took a deep breath, the cold of night filling his lungs, completely at peace, as if he did not even hear the two siblings behind him in the dirt, beating the living hell out of one another. Cerdim strapped his bow across his back and shot a look over his shoulder.
“I'll see you soon, Tris.”
His companion, held in a firm clench by Thorald's upper arm around her neck, gritted her teeth as she rammed an elbow into her brother's groin. As he let go of her with a wail, she took the moment of respite to give Cerdim a curt nod.
“Of course, Cerdim.”
She panted and turned around, just in time to dodge the wooden beam Thorald swung at her. Her brother roared in anger, and the last Cerdim glimpsed was the image of both Triskele and Thorald grabbing each other's hair, pulling and kicking. He smiled, and walked away.

Cerdim did not stop walking, not until dawn. As he quietly scaled the woods, his thoughts were with the barrow. There was no doubt in his mind – nobody had touched the place. If the stories were true, he would come across a very royal amount of bounty, if they would manage to find the doors nobody had found before. He calmly hopped over a small stream, scaring off a wandering deer. His thoughts turned to his short friend. For the past year they had raided tombs together, ever since they had run into each other near the barrows around Windhelm. They had both aimed arrows at one another, and had in the end decided to let the other live, at least until they had made their way to the surface. Luckily for him, she had deemed him worthy of drawing breath as soon as they had crawled out of that pit. As I do her, and I don't think that of many people. He frowned as he thought of their past endeavours. Cerdim was an outcast, an outlaw, a thug without much of a conscience left to him. He was honest about his goals and his purpose – there was no nobility to his cause. That was why he did what he did. But Triskele, she was different.
She never wants a choice part, never wants a big share, and if I insist, she dumps it somewhere. I have raided with her for over a year, and still I know not what moves her to do this...

His trail of thoughts stopped along with his feet. Ahead of him lay the bleak stones he had been looking for. He whistled a song between his teeth as he made his camp under a large sentinel nearby, the smell of pine, dew and snow cheering him up. After a while Cerdim sat down, his back resting against the bark of the tree, his single red eye on the barrow ahead.

He'd wait here.

vrijdag 8 februari 2013

The Mine

Seven days earlier...

“...And ever since it's been a nightmare.”
The miner, trembling, wiped cold sweat from his brow after he concluded his story to the two riders before him. Still in the saddle of her grey mare, Triskele shifted slightly as she wriggled her foot, resting in the stirrup. Her cold eyes gave nothing away as she shot her companion a look, pale lips pursed. Said companion, a Dunmer with dusky skin and an attire that seemed to consist out of grey rags and old leather, much favoured by moths, stirred slightly on top of his exceptionally scrawny garron as he returned her gaze. The nod between them could hardly be perceived, and then they both dismounted at once. The miner rubbed his hands together anxiously, looking between the two as they grabbed certain things from their saddlebags – pouches, some flasks, bolts, lockpicks, arrows, and more.
“That's...That's it? You don't want some rest first, or food? I could ask my wife to--”
The Dunmer interrupted the trembling man, the light of the rising moon reflecting upon his one black eye as he turned around. The other eye, for some reason, was hidden under grey cloth, wrapped around the Dark Elf's head, making the wild, black locks of his hair sprout from under and around the fabric wildly, as untamed as he was.
“Good man, do you want your workers to enter the mine tomorrow or not?”
“I—Well, yes.”
“Then we'll get on with it. Just pay us when we get out.”
The miner gaped after the two as they walked past him without further ado, into the dark shaft that led to the mine. The hinges of the iron gate rattled as the Elf pulled them open, and then a cold smack sounded through the night's quiet. Then the miner heard nothing further, save the pounding of his heart.

The two stood still at the first turn. Triskele strapped her bow from her back, running a hand along the taut string as her companion raised a small torch over their heads. Further down the mine, an eerie light seemed to shine on its own. Triskele perked a dark eyebrow with a smirk, and the Dunmer clacked his tongue.

“Well, there you have it.”
Triskele ignored his jesting demeanor, like she usually did, and drew an arrow from the quiver on her back as she stepped in front of him, in a crouch. Behind her, the Dunmer unsheathed his slender blade – it was by far his most prized possession, although that didn't mean much, in his case.
“The fools dug too deep, and now they've thumped 'em awake. Bad for them, good for us.”
Triskele took another step, not looking back at him as she mumbled her words.
“Will you be quiet?”
The Dunmer snorted, but abided all the same. Quiet as shadows the two made their way down the tunnels. After a while, they reached a steep and sudden descent, and it was the Dunmer who carefully stepped to the edge, leaning forward to look down. The ground had collapsed, now forming a pit in the middle of the tunnel. As he peeked down, the Elf sniffed. As to not break silence, he shot her a look that said it all. Triskele crouched down on hands and knees and shuffled over, looking over the edge as well. What she saw below, made her clench her jaw. The whisper she sent her friend's way did not overreach the gutteral, chilling sounds that could be heard from the darkness below – sighs, moans, groans and shuffling. The sound of death.
“There's at least ten.”
The Dunmer sighed, clenching his hand around the hilt of his slender sword as he squatted down on his ankles, ready to jump down. Triskele did the same.
“We don't get paid enough.”

In the east, the pale light of dawn touched the nightsky with gentle, rose-coloured rays. The miner rubbed his eyes, anxiously pacing back and forth in front of the mine's entrance. Prickling doubts and terrible guilt shot through him as the sun rose. He had sent two people into their deaths. And what was more bothersome – his problem was most likely far from fixed. Just as the miner turned around to walk the short distance to the village and confess to his workers the situation looked more grim than ever, the iron gate behind him squeeked and slammed shut, making the man cry out in shock.Wide-eyed, the miner saw the two companions ascend from the shaft. Both the Nord and the Dunmer looked tired, covered in scabs, bruises, cobwebs and bone dust. The black-haired female, who had only three arrows left in her quiver, stepped forward and tossed something in front of the miner – a particularly old and rusty helmet. As it fell at his feet with a thud, the miner cried out once more. A skull fell out of the helmet, a sickly green glow still emanating from the bone. The miner shuddered and gaped at the horror, before looking in the woman's cold, blue eyes.

“Next time, don't dig too deep.”

maandag 19 november 2012


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The sound of two fists entwined smacking down on the wooden table, only enforced by the studded cuffs around two wrists. Thorald grinned and roared as the revelers threw their arms in the air and cheered. Across the crudely carved, oaken table his opponent spat out a curse and pulled his sticky hand out of Thorald's grip.
“Hells, the little Grár-pup grew some muscle!”
Thorald smiled as charmingly as a Nord could muster, leaning backwards as a cheering woman snaked her arms around his neck. The tavern applauded, and the golden sound of clinking coin could vaguely be heard as debts were paid after the armwrestling. The smart ones just won their bets, Thorald thought to himself. He caught a glimpse of Ysengrim in the corner, downing ale as he was speaking to his usual friends. Triwold wasn't anywhere near, knowing him. Thorald laughed as he rose from the benches, relishing the pats on his back and the giggling glimpses from the tavern wenches. Life was good.

As he staggered to the counter, slightly swaying after his sixth mug of ale, he noticed a girl with hazel eyes and hair like honey stealing a glance with a shy smile. Ah, Gerthrud, your sweet smile, your dimpled cheeks, your hips made for bringing sons into this world... If only I was home more often. Thorald could not help himself, and paused at the counter before going outside. With a sly grin he leaned on his elbows, cocking his head aside like a predator looking at his prey.
“Do you ever stop growing more beautiful, little flower?”
The girl poked her tongue out, cleaning out mugs with her small hands. “Is there a single wench in this tavern you haven't asked the same question, Thorald?”
“Don't be like that, Gerthrud, come now.”
“Go home, you're drunk.”
“I'm in love!”
“With yourself, now get out.”
The girl gave him another scoffing look before she turned around to the kitchen, hips swaying as she walked off. Thorald snickered and opened the doors. The night's cold hit him in the face, as if he surfaced from a hot bath, into the chill of the lands he called home. She wants me. Who doesn't?

Thorald walked around the tavern, muffled sounds of cheering, mugs breaking and the bard playing coming through the walls and closed windows. Humming along to the song, the youngest brother found himself a quiet spot to empty his bladder. Groaning loudly, he cracked his neck, bending it from side to side. The ale's running through me like water through a leak. I should have eaten more. He sniffed, taking in the cold air to get rid of his groggy senses. Suddenly, he heard muffled voices. He leaned forward, adjusting his leather armour again now that he was done with nature's calling, and took a few silent steps. Down by the stream, he spotted two figures, sitting on a wooden log as they had their quiet conversation. It was dark, thick clouds covered the stars like a silvery blanket, and he could only see their backs. One was smaller than the other, a slender figure in leathers, with a mop of dark hair. It didn't take Thorald long to figure out who that was. Tris, as usual being a hermit and refusing to join the reveling, crazy lass... He turned his attention to the larger figure to his sister's right. As he silently snuck up on the two, avoiding twigs and the like as well as he could in his state, he heard the figure speak. A harsh, low voice, raspy and with an accent foreign to these lands. Tris had strange friends. In fact, she had none. But her acquaintances all had something queer about them. Thorald held his breath, the steady beat of his heart making it harder to make out what the two were discussing. Then, above their heads, a shred of clouds made way for the moonlight. He could make out the shapes and colours of the second figure, a dusky tone, pointed ears, and cloth wrapped around his head. I'll be damned... With a loud crack, Thorald jumped out of the shadows, stomping up behind the two. Triskele calmly turned her head, peering over her shoulder. In the light of the moon, her icy eyes regarded him passively. Thorald clenched his jaw and pointed a finger at the figure to her side.

“Gods curse you, Tris. This again?!”

maandag 29 oktober 2012

The Pass

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The frost had frozen the pass, turning the grey stone of the mountain slippery and slick with a flim of ice and hardened snow. A faulty step could mean a life's end, at this height. Still, the pass was the quickest way home, and none of them was apprehensive.

Least of all her.

Triskele sat back in the saddle as her grey mare loyally climbed the pass, sure-footed as always. Up in the mountains, when on horseback, it was always best to let the horse find the way, and not interfere. The less interference, the less likely you were to fall to your death. She tilted her head in her neck as an eagle cried over their heads. A few feet behind her, her brothers formed her tail, their garrons following the steps of her mare. It was always like this. When it came to leading the way, they left it either to her or to Triwold. And when Thorald would sometimes stubbornly insist, she'd simply not follow at all.

The eagle flew out of sight, and Triskele turned her blue gaze back on the thin path ahead of them. They would be fine. Before nightfall, the horses would have led them over. She had no concerns, not in this season. The snows were still gentle. Behind her, Ysengrim called out.
“You're sure quick to put yourself in charge again, Tris, as usual!”
“Shut up, Grim. You know it's the fastest this way. Creidne's step is as certain as a goat's, and Tris has better eyes than you.”
Triskele smiled thinly as she heard Triwold silence both her brothers behind her. They held her little trip against her, they usually scoffed at her strongheaded outlook and actions. But not Triwold. He understood.

She swayed slightly in the saddle when Creidne, her mare, trotted under a sole pine tree, the branches drooping under the weight of fresh snow. As she brushed against the snow-caked green, the snow fell over her shoulders. Behind her, she heard the muffled curses of her brothers sharing the same fate. Triskele did not mind Skyrim's cold kisses. It made them who they were. As her mare turned a corner, she bit her pale lip, thinking about her last three days. She had left her brothers, deciding they'd be more of an annoyance than aid in this matter. For the past years, the Grár-siblings had hunted together, gathered game, sold hides, taken on jobs to aid those who could afford some helping hands with a delivery that needed protection, a troublesome pack of bandits, whatever there was to do. But when it came to tombs, her brothers had always stayed away.

She didn't.

Triwold knew what she was doing, the other two could probably figure it out. Triskele did not fear ancient curses, if nothing else she enjoyed defying laws, old ones and new. She looked down at her hands in fingerless gloves, holding Creidne's reins. The dark leather was still dappled with dusty spots. Bone dust, it got everywhere, like that fine sand in the southern reaches of Tamriel. She hated it. Her mare snorted as they reached the summit, and Triskele held still.
“I told you it would be fast. The snows have barely touched the road. Down there, see? We'll be home before dark.”
Up here, there was room to gather. Triwold moved his garron to stand beside his sister, and gazed down into the valley of the hold they called home.
“It will be good to be home, at least for a while.”
Thorald snorted. “I will not leave again for at least a fortnight, you have all been warned. Gerthrud has missed me, I'm sure of it.”
Ysengrim ran a hand through the manes of his garron with a snort. “She hasn't. There come a dozen men like you in the tavern every day, little brother.”
“There are no men like me!”
Triskele smirked at the banter, and gently planted her heels in Creidne's flanks. They began their descent.

When the reached the lower slopes of the mountain, Triwold came to ride beside her. For a time, they both did not speak. They were the only two Grárs who could ride beside each other in utter silence and be content, something neither Ysengrim nor Thorald would ever understand. After a while, however, Triwold spoke all the same.
“So, did you find it?”
“Find what, Wold?”
“Whatever it was that made you go there.”
Triskele curled her lips slightly. “No, but I know where to look next.”
Triwold shook his head, locks of black hair much like her own dangling around his stubbly cheeks.
“This can only go terribly wrong one day, Tris. Sorcery, curses, ghosts, what do we know of that? Let us stay where we were born and belong – in the woods, not a crypt.”
She did not reply. She knew he didn't expect her to either. The sun was starting to set, and they reached even ground again. Ahead of the company lay the road that led to Falkreath. Tris had only one thing to ask of her brother.
“Just don't tell mother.”
“Of course not.”
Both of them nodded, as the horses quickened their step. They could smell their home.