A Nord’s Tale – Iriella – Part Three, A Gift.

The next few weeks came and went, the weather got warmer and a thick carpet of lush green grass now covered the forest floor. Iriella and Rune made their way to Whiterun with Alvor, Iriella walked out ahead of the cart and Rune padded along behind it. The only problem with the good weather was that they were likely to be subject to more bandits picking people off on the way to the cities. Whiterun however had a good set of guards who often travelled the road back and forth to Riverwood, they took it in weekly shifts to patrol the small town. Although it was a lot less likely to get caught out by bandits on this road than it would have been on say, the road into the back of Riften; there were sometimes a few bandits who were brazen or desperate enough to try it.
                Iriella kept a sharp eye on the bushes as they wound their way down the track to the back of Honningbrew Meadery. She’d been held up before when some thieves had sprung out from behind some of the old mead barrels when they were replaced; thankfully Rune had slunk into the shadows and got the drop on the men that had tried to rob her. He was a big animal and had given them the fright of their lives, they had quickly scattered and dropped most of their belongings, which made for a profitable trip for Iriella. She had also been able to return some items to the farm opposite the Meadery, the owners had been grateful and had paid her well. She had been much more careful about travelling at dusk since, though she wouldn’t admit it to anyone if they had asked.
               They rattled down the road that led them between the Meadery and farms, which would eventually end up at the city entrance, Iriella relaxed a little and fell back to pat Rusty, Alvor’s large chestnut horse. He nuzzled her hand and looked away a little dejectedly when he realised she had no treats for him. She chuckled and ruffled his orange mane,
“On the way home Rust, I will get you something from master Skulvar” the big horse shook his head as if he had understood her and picked up the pace toward the city.
“You have more of a way with animals than you do with people” Alvor observed from the seat of the cart with a grin. Iriella shrugged;
“Animals don’t answer back, and they appreciate simple things. It is far easier to keep an animal content than a human” She said matter-of-factly.
“Aye, I think you may be right” Alvor chuckled and clicked his tongue, “come on old boy, nearly there”.
                Alvor parked up the cart at the stables and started passing down the empty crates and sacks to Iriella, they would be taken into the city, filled with supplies for Riverwood and taken back. It was a job Alvor did every ten or so days, he would collect septims from the rest of the residents and then pick up whatever wares or food they wanted with the cart. It had been something Sigrid’s father had once done, and he had carried on the tradition as his son in law.
“Morning Alvor” an elderly voice piped up from the door to the stables, “Morning Iriella”.
“Good day to you Lillith” Alvor called back, “all well?”
“Well enough” the old woman smiled and Iriella nodded to her. Lillith was a strange character, Iriella had never been able to figure her out.  She had all the attributes of the perfect doddery old lady, but Iriella knew she was more than what she seemed. For one she was in with the Black-Briars, they were the family who practically ran Riften. A few years prior to her arrival in Riverwood Iriella had been making her way around Skyrim as a sell sword and she had ended up working for Maven Black-Briar; and been heavily involved in putting one of her competitors out of business. It wasn’t the usual work she went for, but she had needed the coin and after a fist fight with a big Nord who was simply named “Maul” on her first night in the city; he had offered her a hand getting in with Maven for some work. Lillith often referred to “my friend Maven” but Iriella noted with interest that in the month or so she’d spent working for her, including some work as a personal bodyguard, she had never once mentioned Lillith.
                The old woman was harmless enough though, she owned the stables and paid good coin for muscle if she needed something moving; Iriella had helped her shift old boxes, bales of hay and straw and the horses tack when she had the new barn built. She wouldn’t trust her as far as she could throw her and found her a little nosey but overall, she was nice enough. She reminded Iriella a little of Anise, the old lady whose cabin she now lived in.
“Come chat with an old woman” she beckoned Iriella over. Upon reaching her she did her best to smile,
“Can I help you with something Miss Maiden-Loom?” She asked, although she was generally gruff in her approach to people, she did have enough respect for her elders. Lillith reached out and took hold of one of Iriella’s hands in both of hers. Her hands felt smooth despite their gnarly appearance and she looked down at them in surprise.
“I need you to do something for me” Lillith leaned closer to her and held onto her hand tightly, Iriella could feel the hairs stand up on the back of her neck, she looked at Lillith curiously.
“What is it you need me to do?”
“I need you to take a message to someone for me, can you do that?”
“Depends who it is” Iriella was starting to feel a little uncomfortable.
“There’s a man, a black smith, his name is Eorlund and he works the forge above Jorrvaskr, do you know it?”
“I know of it, but I have never been up there.”
“His wife, Fralia, she is a great friend of mine and I need to thank her for doing something for me.”
“Why can’t you just thank her?” Iriella looked puzzled and Lillith looked over both shoulders, as if to check no one was listening,
“She sent something for me after I got her some information about her boy. There’s a big clan feud going on, I don’t want my name involved.” Iriella struggled not to roll her eyes, always there was so much drama with these people!
“Alright, alright. I will go deliver the message, what shall I say?”
“Nothing, you can just take him this” She let go of Iriella and removed a large locket from her neck and handed it to her. It was a thing of beauty, silver with the most wonderful intricate patterns on the front.
“You want me to take this? Are you sure you don’t want me to just hand it to Fralia? I know who she is, she works in the market, which I would have to go past to get to Jorrvaskr”.
“No no”, Lillith hissed, “you cannot give it straight to her. Someone will have known you have spoken to me, and if you’re seen speaking directly to her…” the old woman looked alarmed and Iriella held her hands up in resignation
“Fine, I will take it to Eorlund, I give you my word.”
“Thank you, Iriella, you’re a good girl, come see me when you come back, before you leave?”
“Yes Lillith, I will be going now” She gave a short bow and motioned for Rune, who had been waiting patiently nearby to follow her. Alvor joined her and she took some of the boxes from him,
“Thank you” he nodded to her and she returned the gesture.
“I will help you bring it back; I have some business to attend to in the city.” Alvor looked at her, this was curious, she never normally needed to do anything, apart from business with Ri’ssad, whose caravan was absent this time. Still, he knew better than to pry into a woman’s business, so he said no more of it and they walked to the city gates in silence.
               The old heavy gates creaked open and they were waved in by the guards manning it. Upon entering the city, they were immediately stopped by the blacksmith woman, Iriella had forgotten her name.
“Alvor, how are you?”
“Very well Adrianne, are yourself and Ulfberth well?”
“We are, in fact wait there, Ulfberth said you would likely be visiting soon, and he wanted to speak with you, I will go and get him.” She disappeared off into the building and Alvor turned to Iriella
“I can manage for a bit; I have some business to attend to with Ulfberth it seems.” He put the wooden boxes he was carrying down and scratched the back of his neck. “Why dont you go do whatever you need to do then meet me in the market later?”
“Sure thing” She put down the crates she had carried and made her way up the street where the Bannered Mare Inn sat proudly at the top overlooking the market. She stopped at the well and tossed a septim in, something her father had taught her to do as a small child for good luck. She nodded to the market vendors and made her way up the steps toward the Gildergreen tree, narrowly avoiding a collision with one of the children who came tearing around the corner so fast she had to jump out of the way. She looked up toward Dragonsreach, the Jarls house sat higher than any other building in the city. She had never been inside, but she had spoken to Irileth, the Jarls housecarl a few times. Irileth was a dark elf, the only persona Iriella had found herself with a distinct amount of respect for. She had come to Riverwood on a few occasions to check the patrols and make sure the people were safe.
               Iriella turned right and looked up toward the mead hall Jorrvaskr, the hall had been built out of a large upturned ship, and the companions resided there. She did not wish to run into any of them and it pleased her greatly to find that a small path off to the left led right up to the Skyforge, and she did not have to go too near the building itself. As she ascended the stone steps, she could hear the rhythmic clanging of metal on metal, she’d never spoken to Eorlund Grey-Mane but was well aware of who he was. As she got to the top of the steps, she reached down to pat Rune, the clanging stopped, and the old black smith turned and regarded her. He was a big man, with long hair that was mostly white and a beard to match. His armour was well worn and looked comfortable. He had cool clear blue eyes, much like Iriella’s own. She shuffled uneasily from one foot to another, unsure whether to approach the old Nord.
“Are you lost?” He finally asked her.
“No, I’m here to deliver something.” She decided the direct approach would be best, it didn’t look like the man had much time for people beating around the bush.
“Are you now?” He took a look at the sword he had been working on before setting it down on the side of the forge and motioning Iriella to approach.
“Eorlund” he held out his hand “I don’t believe we’ve met but I know who you are, Iriella.” She shook his hand cautiously, how did this old man know of her? Then she realised, that idiot Vilkas, it must have been him. She scowled a little and the blacksmith laughed heartily.
“Yes, Vilkas told me all about your temper, you wont last long in the Companions with that attitude, though having a good fire in you will help”
“I’m not here to join the Companions” she said quickly “I’m just here to give you this.” She held out the locket and he took it in a bear like hand.
“For my wife, no doubt” he rolled his eyes a little and smiled. “You have my thanks; I will see that it gets where it needs to be.” She gave a short bow and turned to leave. “That is a mighty fine beast you have with you” She turned back to face him and folded her arms across her chest.
“You’re the second Companion to tell me that” she emphasised the word and eyed him dubiously.
“I am no Companion, I am a blacksmith” He clarified “May I?” He reached toward the wolf stood at her side. Rune looked up toward his mistress and she nodded to him, he walked toward Eorlund who knelt and examined him. “He really is wonderful” he murmured, scratching the back of Runes ears. “I’m guessing he’s about Twenty?” Iriella regarded the old man suspiciously,
“He’s Twenty-Two” she said quietly.
“Ah, and he doesn’t look a day over Ten” he ruffled the fur under Rune’s chin and looked him straight in the eyes “seen a lot, haven’t you boy” Rune cocked his head to one side.
“They don’t normally like that”
“Looking them directly in the eyes.” Iriella could feel her frustration growing. How did these Companions know so much about her? Why were they all so interested in Rune? More to the point, why was he greeting them like old friends? Too many questions to ask the aging Nord in front of her she felt.
“I’m not showing any aggression towards him, and he’s intelligent” He stood up and Rune returned dutifully to Iriella’s side. “See, he returns to his mistress without needing to be called, he will look after you. Now, I best be getting back to work, this steel wont smith itself.” He nodded, dismissing her; not knowing how to respond she gave him a short bow before turning on her heel and leaving.
               Thankfully she didn’t happen across any of the companions while passing Jorrvaskr, though she increased her pace in case any of them came out. By the time she reached the small market area, Alvor was loading some vegetables into the wooden crates they had carried with them while Carlotta Valentina counted the septims he had given her. Without a word to either of them Iriella took a crate and began putting the apples in that Carlotta had put aside. She didn’t have much time for the fruit merchant, always parading around whining about how many men were in love with her. Carlotta herself only tolerated Iriella because she’d had a “quiet word” with a bard that had been bothering her last Sun’s height. Neither woman gave the other more than a polite nod, they finished loading up the boxes and Alvor waved to a tall blonde Nord leaning against the porch post of Belathor’s shop.
“We’re ready Jon”
“Right, Alvor let me get those apples, here, put that other crate on top of them and drape the linens over them.”
“This is appreciated, I’ll make sure you get some coin when we’re next here.”
“You don’t need to worry about that old friend” Jon laughed and waited patiently while Iriella and Alvor picked up their share of the boxes. He made his way down the street with the two of them and Rune in tow.
“We could have carried these” Iriella grumbled to herself.
“Just because you’re miss independent doesn’t mean I am not above asking for a hand when I need it.” Alvor called back to her. Dammit that man had good hearing, she scowled at the back of his head as they made their way to the gates.
“Wait up, Jon” Alvor called, and the Nord stopped and turned with a quizzical look on his face. “Iriella, put those crates down and go into Warmaiden’s, there’s something there for you.”
“For me?”
“Aye, pick it up, I will see you down at the cart” the two men turned and left Iriella stood outside the blacksmiths, bewildered.
               Adrianne smiled warmly and motioned for Iriella to put the boxes down.
“I will watch them, go see my Ulfberth” She nodded and walked into the shop; the dainty jingle of the bell surprising her, it wasn’t the sort of thing she had expected to hear from a blacksmith.
“Be right out” Ulfberth’s deep voice came from a back room behind the counter. Iriella looked around at all the shields and swords on display. Presently, Ulfberth appeared from the back of the shop with some leather strips, the smell of tanning oil hung in the air. He hung the strips on a rack behind the counter to dry out.
“Now, how can I help you?” He was a kindly looking man, big and tall with dark hair and a full beard.
“I, well, apparently there’s something here for me to collect. I’m Iriella”
“Ah, the red-haired Nord, Alvor said you would be by, one moment I will go get it for you.” He disappeared off into the back room and she could hear him tutting as he looked for whatever it was. She looked down at Rune who just cocked his head to one side, he certainly didn’t know what it was! “Ha, here it is” Ulfberth’s exclamation came shortly before he reappeared holding a scabbard. He placed it on the counter in front of her and she looked at it in astonishment. It was beautiful, made of the finest dark brown leather, with straps wound around it and crossed over each other in a slightly lighter colour. The straps wound right up to the bridge, which was made of steel and had intricate engravings on either side where it connected to the leather. The cross belt had been made of the same dark leather and had Two wonderfully ornate steel buckles. What caught her eye the most, however was the chape; it was also steel, but instead of a patterned carving like the rest of it, there was a wolfs head engraved right in the centre of it where the point of the sword would sit. Ulfberth picked up the scabbard and handed it to her, she took it, dumbfounded. Nestled inside it was a steel sword, the hilt was engraved to match the rest of the metalwork, removing the sword a few inches revealed another wolf head on each side of the blade just below it. The sword itself gleamed like surface of a lake bathed in moonlight, and looked very sharp, compared to her current sword which was dull and listless.
“I don’t know what to say” she murmured, “are you sure this is mine? There must be some mistake, I haven’t put an order in for anything…I couldn’t even afford this”
“Definitely for you, Alvor had it commissioned last Sun’s Dusk, he and the Bosmer came here. Adrianne has been working on it ever since, one of her finest pieces I’d say” his voice was full of admiration for his wife and quite rightly so, it was a beautiful sword. Iriella bid good day to Ulfberth and left the building. Outside Adrianne was working on what looked like some leather armour on the bench.
“This is beautiful, thank you” The Imperial looked up and smiled,
“You’re welcome, it was made to order; wield it well.” Iriella gave a deep bow and fitted the scabbard around her waist, it sat just right and was comfortable, unlike the one that she carried over her back.
               She travelled back with Alvor and Rune, Rusty was plodding along contently after being given a bucket of carrots Iriella had purchased as promised. She tied up the small pouch of coin Lillith had bestowed upon her for completing her request; and attached it to one of the straps on her armour.
“You really shouldn’t have” she finally said when she could take the silence no longer.
“Shouldn’t have what?” Alvor looked at her out of the corner of his eye, he’d never seen her at a loss for words before, this was new.
“You know what” she fidgeted with a stray strap and buckle, Alvor remained silent and drove the cart. “I really appreciate it, though I cannot think what I have done to deserve it.” She finally admitted. Alvor chuckled;
“Beats me, you’ll have to ask the Elf, it was his request and coin, I just set him up with Adrianne; he came to me some months ago, around Frost’s Fall, asking about getting you a new sword made. Went on about how you were the only one who could really protect Riverwood and so on, also mentioned how you lived up in that cabin alone…he asked me if I knew anyone in the city who could make a sword.” Alvor suddenly gave a hearty laugh that made Rune and Iriella look at him, and even old Rusty pick up his ears. “His face when he asked if it would be ready by Evening Star when we went to her in Sun’s Dusk” he laughed again and Iriella couldn’t help but smile. Poor Faendal, he knew so little of swordplay and the work that went into crafting one, she could just imagine him asking Adrianne if she would be done in just a few weeks on top of all the other orders she had to fill for the legion; it was no wonder it had taken her so long to make.
“There’s no finer archer in all of Skyrim” she declared “but when it comes to swords, he really has no idea…I will thank him, all laughing aside I am very grateful for this.” She looked very thoughtful and Alvor raised his eyebrows in mock surprise.
“What is this? The mighty Iriella come over all soft for a sword?” She looked up at him angrily and stopped when she saw the twinkle in his eye, why did she always have to take everything so seriously? She grinned at him good naturedly and their talk turned to the supplies they had collected, and who would take what to which homestead as they made their way slowly up the road back up to Riverwood in the afternoon sun.

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