Location:- Grass plains of Whiterun. Skyrim.
Date:- 2E 581 First Seed Middas 11th.
The passage through Helgan had been easy enough for the three of them. On their over night stop Volk had asked Delte to help him pick out a present for his wife Gresla. There was a lot of troop movements in the fort town as units passed through from Falkreath and Whiterun on their way to Bruma which was now on the front lines of the growing war between the three alliances. The next morning they left Helgan behind and set off for the plains of Whiterun where the Jarl of Whiterun held court.
Their path followed the river east past the outskirts of Whiterun and towards a large stone toll bridge that Volk gave the name of Valtheim Towers that spanned the now fast flowing river before it fell away into a huge waterfall. A warm wind blew across the grasslands and large multicoloured dragon flies skimmed across the water, with a constant rumble of the waterfall further down stream. The doors and windows to the towers were shuttered closed and a large iron portcullis blocked the route over the river. The lack of guards only compounded the statements made by Narol two days previous at the Jerral Way Tavern.
The three companions stopped for a short rest at the toll bridge to ease their aching backs from the long ride. Delte watched a kingfisher dive down into the river and fly off with its catch. She was beginning to like this new land and the new animals that she had not seen before during her time growing up in Morrowind and Elsweyr. During the stop she mixed some potions whilst sat on the bank of the river and tested the new herbs she had picked along the way. Volk tucked into some salted mutton and bread that he shared with Left-Paw-Alight. He explained to them that his farmstead lay just over the next rise off to the right nestled within a semi circle of granite topped hills, where the south side of the circle the hills reached up into the mountains. It was there he had a wooden ramp that lead up to a natural cavern where he had his own forge and workshop. The fields had corn and various vegetables with a few cows and chickens. For the first time Delte saw Volk in a whole new light, not that of a warrior born but as a farmer and husband. A stark contrast to the man she had known for two years.
The sun was starting to set as the farm came into view. A wooden fence cut across the open end of the semicircle of the granite topped hills Volk had mentioned earlier. At the entrance to the fields lay a broken gate. Its shattered parts strewn across the approach to the main building. The fields were starting to get overgrown with weeds, and there were no cattle or chickens to be seen. Set in this backdrop was a squat stone cottage with a thatched roof. Smoke was lazily curling its way up out of the single stack chimney, but the windows were shuttered up tight.
Volk's stallion pawed at the ground seeming to sense its masters apprehension at the scene that lay before him. A shiver ran down Delte's spine as she and Paws looked at each other.
“No this isn't right. Something it amiss.” Volk growled as he dug his heels into his horses flanks sending it into a gallop.
“Volk wait.” Delte shouted after him in vain.
“Go I will watch the road here.” Left-Paw-Alight said to Delte as he spun his horse around to keep it under control.
Delte sped after Volk who was now halfway down the approach road to his cottage. Her white gelding much faster than Volks large Skyrim bred warhorse quickly gained on him.
The door to the cottage opened up and two figures came into view. One was a man of human origins and the other was a woman also of human descent. Both wore studded leather armour and held a longbows, as one they drew back the strings on their longbows.
“Volk no.” Delte shouted as Volk's horse entered the large front area of the cottage.
It was then the unknown man and woman loosed their bows at Volk, and pulled another arrow each from their quivers. One arrow narrowly missed Volk and flew by his left ear making him flinch to the right. The second arrow buried itself into the breast of his huge horse killing it instantly. Its front legs crumpled underneath it throwing Volk over its head to land heavily on the ground. Delte rode past the prone Volk and threw a small bottle at the feet of their two assailants. The bottle smashed open allowing the liquid inside to evaporate quickly into a cloud of gas that enveloped the doorway. Delte spun her horse around and helped Volk climb up behind her, Left-Paw-Alight seeing the commotion let fly with a firebolt into the cloud of gas. Delte dug her heels into her horse's flanks and set off back towards where Paws waited. The firebolt hit the gas cloud from Delte's bottle causing it to explode in a fireball. A blood curdling scream emanated from the explosion as a figure wreathed in flames ran out spinning and dancing trying to put the flames out as the fire consumed them.
“Paws move. We head back to the toll bridge.” Delte shouted at Left-Paw-Alight as he summoned up a fog bank to obscure the view from the cottage. He then urged his Colovian mount into a run back down the road from the direction they had come from.
Four more arrows appeared from the fog bank, three went wide, but the fourth struck Volk in the back of his left leg. He grunted in pain as Delte's horse turned onto the main road to follow Left-Paw-Alight.
“Delte I got hit by one of those arrows.” Volk said as he tried to hold on. “It's in my left leg.”
“You'll be fine.” Delte said. “You have another leg not sure what you are moaning about.”
“Very funny.” Volk chuckled. “Thanks by the way. I would of...”
“Don't mention is.” Delte cut him off. “ I take it that wasn't your Gresla?”
“No it wasn't.” came Volk's reply. “We need to regroup and find out what is going on.”
“First we need to patch that leg of yours before it gets infected.” Delte said.
“We need to make ready and attahhhhh!” Volk's sentence trailed off into pain filled incoherence. He looked down at his leg and saw Delte had reached down and tugged on the protruding arrow shaft.
“Point taken.” Volk said sulkily.
Paws inscribed a rune for wind on the nailed up door to the toll bridge guardroom. Then stood to one side and started to chant. Delte supporting Volk waited for Paws to break down the sturdy oak door. As Left-Paw-Alight chanted he felt the presences of a wind spirit take notice of the rune and chant. Paws changed the chant slightly and suggested to the spirit to smash down the door. He felt the wind spirit struggle against his will. Paws then applied more coercion and reasserted his dominance against the spirit by flooding the rune with magicka. The door imploded inwards a thousand shards of wood covering the inside of the building in oak splinters, Left-Paw-Alight stepped though the debris and sent small globes of light spiralling throughout the guardhouse. Moments latter he poked his head back outside and beckoned the waiting Delte and Volk inside.
“The place is clear come in. I will seal the entrance while you take care of Volk. “
Delte helped Volk hobble up the wooden stairs to the first floor of the guardhouse, in the fading light she could make out a few beds. Slowly she lowered the wounded Volk onto one of the beds and started to look for candles to light that the previous occupants had left behind.
Downstairs Paws was drawing runes around the entrance he had broken down, as he finished each one a slight glow emanated from it to show it was active. He then moved onto the next rune all the time chanting calling out to the various elements to bind them to the runes.
“Take off your trousers Volk.” Delte said as she moved around the room lighting the candles. “You will need to cut the left leg to get it past the arrow shaft.”
“I didn't think it would take an arrow for you to get my trousers off Delte.” Volk said with a boyish grin as he cut the leather around the arrow and gently pulled the rest of his trousers down.
“Don't flatter yourself.” Delte replied coldly as she walked back to Volk who was now laying on his front on a bed with a straw mattress. “I am a Dunmer, even though we are friends I would never lay with a inferior race.”
“Damn Delte it was meant to be a joke. I am a married man as well you know.” Volk replied. “I can't see why you see the Dunmer as a superior race over the Nords anyway. We are all the same in the end.”
“Sorry Volk, not all of us think that way.” Delte said as an apology as she took out her dagger and started to sharpen the blade. “Its just the difference in cultures and humour I think. It's one reason I agree with this alliance, so that hopefully our people can learn to get along and trust one another.” She took out a rag and applied alcohol to it and wiped it along the now sharpened blade of her dagger.
Volk drew in a sharp breath as Delte splashed some of the alcohol onto the wounded area of his leg. “This is going to hurt Volk.” Delte said as she examined the arrow. “I need to cut the leg open either side of the shaft to get the arrow head out and make sure the wound is clean before I close it up.”
“Just get it done.” Volk growled trying not to scream.
Left-Paw-Alight came upstairs and sent a small globe of light to stick to the ceiling of the old barracks so that Delte could see what she was doing far easier than with just candle light. Delte cut into Volks leg and started to work on the wound.
“You was lucky the arrow missed the bone and the main artery.” Delte said as she started to pull on the arrow.
“I never feel lucky after being shot.” Volk said through gritted teeth and then passed out due to the pain.
“He has passed out Delte.” Paws said as he looked on.
“Thought he might, it will be easier this way.” Delte replied as she cleaned the inside of the wound.
“How does a scout know about arteries in the body?” Paws enquired.
Delte threw down the now spent and bloody linen and cotton swabs. “Part of the training my father taught me.” she said.
Paws sat down on a stool and handed Delte a small bottle of healing compound. “I don't believe you. Scouts learn to track, make traps and shoot bows mainly.”
“Depends what you are hunting on the skills taught.” Delte said as she applied the healing solution and watched as the skin started to knit together on Volk's wounded leg.
“What job did general Veldam send you on during the battle at Jerral Pass?” Paws asked sensing Delte's evasive answer.
Delte stood up and started to rummage through her backpack. “I need to find out who tried to kill us. Volk will want answers when he wakes up.”
“Stop avoiding the question Delte. You are more than just a scout for the Ebonheart Pact.” Paws pointed a clawed finger at Delte. “Scouts do not know about alchemy to such an extent either.”
Delte pulled out a grey and black mottled linen cloak from her pack and threw it around her shoulders.
As she fastened the clasp she said. “Look after Volk his wound will be tender for a few days. I will be back in a few hours, and Paws please drop it.” with that she left before he could stop her and continue his line of questioning. He sighed and shook his head and let the magical light dim and go out, leaving the room to be solely illuminated by the candles Delte had set light to.
Left-Paw-Alight looked around the old barrack room they had chosen to take refuge in. A old open fire place commanded centre view, its old roasting rack rusting up through lack of use. The old cots had marks on them from small rodents chewing at the wooden frames and straw mattresses. He went over to the fire place and started to build a pile of wood into the fire place from a small stack that had been left nearby. Searching though his pockets he found his tinder box and started to pack in the dry tinder, striking the flint onto the striking steel sparks shot forwards onto the tinder which started to smoke. Gently he blew on the small flames helping them grow and take hold of the larger wood faggots in the fireplace.
As the fire caught hold on the wood he filled a pot with water from his and Volk's canteen, then placed it on the iron frame above the fire so it would boil. He then headed down stairs to the storeroom to look for any supplies that had survived the exodus of the troops that lived there previously.
Volk stirred into wakefulness the first thing he noticed was the smell of cooking. He slowly opened his eyes and looked around. “Ugh how long have I been asleep?” He asked in a mumbling groggy voice.
“Just over two hours.” came the reply from Paws. “Some stew in the pot if you're hungry.”
Volk slowly got up and tested his weight on the wounded leg. The skin had healed over to stop infection, but there was still the bruise and tenderness of the torn muscles.
“She has done a good job there.” said Volk then he breathed in deep at the smell of the stew. “Smells good did you cook it?” Volk's stomach grumbled in anticipation to the thought of the meal. Left-Paw-Alight nodded as he dished out a portion for Volk.
“I found some salted pork in the cellar, and some rogue vegetables outside on the river bank.” explained Paws. “Why you ask if I cooked it?”
“Delte sweet lass but her cooking is worse than mine.” Volk said as he sat down gingerly on a wooden stool at the table. “Where is she any how?”
“She went back to your farm to see who attacked us.” Left-Paw-Alight handed over a full bowl of stew to Volk and sat down opposite him. “We will need to know how many we are up against and their training in combat. She should be back soon.”
Volk nodded as he tucked into the food. “Good I want to assault them two hours before dawn, when the night is at its darkest.” said Volk with a full mouth of stew and bread.
A slender arm reached down and grabbed a bread roll off the table in front of Paws and Volk. “I agree with Volk on the time.” a female voice said startling the two men. “I also know how to mix poisons that are tasteless into food as well.” she added with a cheeky smile and a giggle as she sat on a cot while taking a bite out of the bread roll. “So remember that next time you ask me to cook.”
“By Shor's Stone lass you're like a ghost. And about the cooking.” Volk tried to apologise as Delte and Paws broke into laughter. Delte waved the hand holding the bread roll at Volk in a gesture to forget about it. Volk sighed and gave a smile. “So what do we know?”
“I think they are a group of thieves, not bandits.” Delte started to give her report. “There are now eight of them, one having died earlier today from the skirmish we had and the explosion. Two women both of them are nords by the look of them and six men.”
“The men nords as well?” asked Paws.
“Not all of them, and don't interrupt. Its rude.” said Delte as she crossed her arms with a pout, then smiled and continued. “If you let me finish, two of the men are nords. One is an argonian one is a dunmer and the other two are strangely tattooed bretons.”
“Strange tattoos, look like bretons.” repeated Volk as he stroked his beard. “Could be Reachmen, they are relations to the bretons but are a vicious bunch who worship strange gods and work old magic.”
“Volk your saddle bags and money is being shared amongst them.” added Delte then she looked at the floor her tone changed to a sombre voice. “I also saw something else. Outside round the back.”
“Spit it out lass.” Volk insisted. “We need to know it all.”
Delte sighed and looked up at Volk and Left-Paw-Alight concern etched on her face. “I saw a small freshly dug grave. To small to be an adult.”
Volk's face went into a scowl he clenched his fists, rage boiled up into his usual jovial features.
“Could mean nothing, could be a perfectly normal explanation to this.” Paws tried to reassure Volk.
“I want them dead, no mercy, no quarter and no prisoners.” Volk stood up all memory of the pain he felt in his leg forgotten. “Get some sleep both of you, I will take first watch.”
“Volk there was only one grave, if it was the thieves there would be more. Or your wife may have been sold into slavery.” Delte stood up and blocked Volk from leaving.
“You are not making me feel any better with talk of slavery Delte.” responded Volk as he took hold of Delte and moved her roughly aside.
“If we kill them all we will never know the truth. Keep one alive and we may find Gresla and your new born.” Delte shouted to the now retreating Volk as he headed to the stairs.
“Why keep a helpless babe alive?” Volk said as he stood at the top of the stairs seething with anger.
“To placate the mother, to stop her from fighting.” finished Delte.
Volk looked down the stairs into the darkness that cloaked the ground floor and said. “Keep one alive, you are right Delte. Gresla might be alive still, she would do anything to keep our children safe.” with that Volk headed down the stairs to sit in the darkness and watch the approach to the bridge.
Left-Paw-Alight made his way around the small barracks and extinguished the candles. As he leant over to blow out the last one Delte rolled over on her cot and asked. “Do you think Volk will do something silly before we wake up?”
“No.” replied Paws. “Volk is ragging mad not an idiot. Not even he can take on eight people on his own and win.” he then blew on the last candle which sent the room into darkness.
As he lay back on his own cot he secretly hoped Volk would not do anything until they was all present.