A Nord’s Tale – Iriella – Part Four, An Eventful Evening

Faendal was whistling to himself as he worked at the mill, heaving up logs onto the pile ready for chopping. Gerdur came out and handed him a mug with some cool water in.
“Thanks”, he took the drink gratefully and looked at the pile of logs he had created. Each log was a lot bigger than he was, Bosmer were not known for their strength of arm, unless it was holding a bow; but he managed well enough, using smaller logs as rollers to get the larger ones up onto the mill. “This is great” Gerdur appraised the work he had done, waiting for him to finish with his drink. He drained the last of it and handed her the mug, she took it and left him to work, saying that she would be back later to help once she had cleaned the house.
              A clattering of wooden wheels on the cobbled street through the town signalled Alvor’s arrival with the supplies. Faendal put down the log he had just hauled up onto the mill and made his way down the creaky wooden steps to lend a hand.
“Woah there Rusty, good boy now.” Alvor had gotten down from the seat and was patting the big chestnut horse on the neck as Faendal approached. “Daft old thing” he said, continuing to smooth his coarse fur, “got spooked by a chicken”. Alvor grinned and motioned towards the perpetrator; Faendal smiled back and patted the old gelding too.
“Thought you might need a hand” he said, idly picking some straw out of Rusty’s tousled mane.
“Aye, Iriella has gone off home, though she might want to talk to you later I reckon” Faendal looked alarmed and Alvor laughed. “Don’t worry Elf, she was pleased with it, I’ve never seen her so reticent.” Faendal heaved a sigh of relief, the sword had been a gift he was not sure how she would react to, but then you could never really tell how she would react to anything. Satisfied that Rusty was now calm enough and with one last pat Alvor made his way to the back of the cart, heaved a box of fruit down and passed it to Faendal. “For Delphine” he grunted, and the Bosmer made his way across the cobbled track and up the wooden steps into the Sleeping Giant Inn.
                Later that evening Faendal was settling down for something to eat in his house. He placed his plate, cup and cutlery on the table in his usual neat manner and fetched himself a bowl full of steaming venison stew from the ginormous cast iron cooking pot hanging over the fireplace. He was just breaking a piece of crusty bread in half that Alvor had brought back for him when he thought he heard shouting outside somewhere in the town. He placed the bread on his plate and went to the window, curious to see what had made the noise; Riverwood was a very quiet place and it was unusual for anyone to be making any sort of racket. Peering out of the window was fruitless, there was nothing to see but the shouting continued, glancing to the old clock his grandfather had left him he saw it was almost half past the hour of Seven, getting pretty late, was Embrey being kicked out of the Inn again? The noise was persistent, and he began to feel concerned, what if someone was in trouble? He gathered up his bow and pulled his quiver over his shoulder, he was not a violent elf by any means, but it was best to be prepared.
                He opened the door to his house and existed quietly, closing it softly behind him. Padding down the mud path towards the sounds that were coming from the general direction of the Inn he felt more and more uneasy; where was everyone? Was no one else concerned for this noise? Reaching the corner of The Riverwood Trader he peered around it and saw the source of the sounds.
“Dammit” he muttered under his breath, bandits, two of them on the porch of the the inn, that would account for no one else being outside, they probably had the whole place held up. He reached behind his head and drew an arrow from his quiver, he had a clear shot to at least one of them and they had not seen him yet. With the expert care he had learned over the years he nocked the arrow in silence and drew back the bowstring.
“Drop it, elf.” Wincing he lowered the bow and raised his hands; the arrow was taken from him and a hand spun him roughly around by the shoulder. Face to face with what was possibly the ugliest man he had ever seen he tried not to let any of his inner fear show. Unarmed he was hopeless so he may as well go quietly but he had no idea if the man would kill him or not. The Breton in front of him had a pig like nose and a rough unshaven chin. His hair was dark, greasy and falling out of a band holding it away from his face. His skin was dirty, and he had a scar above his right eye that looked like it had been caused by some sort of large animal, a wolf perhaps. Faendal noticed his sword, it looked like it was made from pure silver; this was worse than he thought, could this be a group of bandits from the fabled Silver Hand? He certainly hoped not, tales of these men and women had spread to Riverwood, Werewolf hunters mostly, but still bandits and ruthless ones at that. The man inspected the arrow he had taken and broke it in half, dropping it to the floor. Faendal’s crimson eyes widened and the man leaned forward with a grimace. “Well well well, what shall we do with you…Bosmer” He gave a nefarious grin and raked a dirty hand through his hair. “I ought to teach you a lesson, sneaking up on people like that” he tutted softly, as if deliberating with himself over what to do.
More shouting came from inside the inn but Faendal dared not take his eyes off the menacing man in front of him. “I think…” the man said gruffly “It might be an idea to rid you of your hands, that will stop you sneaking up on folks”. Despite the situation, which was becoming more and more dire by the second, Faendal couldn’t help but groan inwardly at the cheek of the bandit, who probably made a literal living from sneaking up on people and robbing them. “Now elf, put the bow down and hold out your hands, unless you want me to cut off your head.” The big Breton was serious, Faendal had no choice but to comply. A thousand thoughts raced through his head as he reluctantly held out his hands, how on earth was he going to get out of this? For the first time ever, he wished a dragon would drop down out of the sky, like the stories of Helgen where it was said that Alduin himself, the harbinger of the apocalypse had flown down and disrupted the execution of the Jarl of Windhelm, Ulfric Stormcloak. As the bandit drew his sword Faendal winced and closed his eyes. He heard the whizzing sound of the sword being swung and the sickening sound of it tearing through flesh. He felt no pain, was that it? He opened one eye and looked down to see both his hands were still attached to his wrists, looking up at the man he was startled to see him clutching his own wrist, which was now more of a bloody stump where his hand had been.
“That will teach YOU not to sneak up on folks.” Iriella growled from beside Faendal, he hadn’t even heard her approach them. The bandit clutched his bloody appendage and yelled for his companions to help him, before running out of the town in the direction of the old standing stones. “Ready your bow elf, we’ve got a fight on our hands with this lot.” Iriella didn’t even stop to wipe her sword, she threw herself at the two approaching bandits and deftly avoided the first one’s lunge, spinning perfectly on her heel and parrying the other. She fought the two of them simultaneously, never missing a beat and always having her sword ready to block an incoming blow, and usually returning it with a perfect riposte. Faendal picked up his bow and nocked and arrow, he had to be careful, it would not do to shoot Iriella, but Faendal’s aim was perfect; years and years of practice had stood him in good stead to never miss a target. His first shot hit one of the bandits square in the side of his right knee, and he fell to the ground, clutching his leg and howling in agony. The other bandit, clearly angry at his friend’s misfortune lunged at Iriella with renewed purpose, knocking her back and catching her leg with his blade as he did so. She looked down at the blood and looked back to the bandit angrily, he had positioned himself with her between him and Faendal, lest the elf get another shot in. She staggered back slightly, knowing that she would need to recoup a little with a wound this fresh, but a small smirk played on her lips, the bandit looked at her confused, what did she have to smile about? She gave a short, sharp whistle and from the shadows came Rune with a vicious growl. He jumped over the man writhing on the floor and knocked the other bandit clean off his feet, delivering a swift bite to the mans arm as he did so, not enough to draw blood but enough to let him know he meant business and there was more where that came from if his mistress willed it!
The door to the inn burst open and four more bandits entered the fray, Faendal ran into the building to check on the people inside, sure enough all of the townsfolk were present. Hod had a rather nasty lump appearing on his cheek, and Alvor was having a wound on his arm dressed by his wife, Sigrid.
“They came in about half an hour ago, what is going on out there?” Delphine had her hands on her hips, she looked ready to go out and fight but there was a calm air about her, as if she were showing great self-restraint.
“Iriella” Faendal stated, casting another quick glance around the room to ensure everyone was safe he ran back outside. Iriella was in the middle of a very intense fight with the biggest of the bandits, he must be their leader, his armour was more expensive looking, and he had a fur clock on, though Faendal didn’t recognise the skin it had been made from, it was a grey colour, could it be from a wolf? No, it was far too big, and he wasn’t inclined to believe that werewolves actually existed, it must have been a few wolf pelts together. Two of the other bandits had fled after tangling with Rune, and he was currently enjoying himself immensely toying with the remaining man, another Breton, who looked like he wished he had not come out that night. He was backed up against the wall of Alvor’s house with the big wolf snapping at his feet, not letting him move.
Iriella continued to fight the leader, they moved so quickly as they danced around one another Faendal did not dare to try and shoot, even for someone of his capabilities it was almost dark now and he did not want to hit the wrong thing. He stood helpless on the porch of The Sleeping Giant, realising that the rest of the residents had joined him and were all stood silently watching Iriella as she fought. She was growing tired, the man was much bigger than her and his sword was sharp, one nick in the wrong place and it would all be over, she started to think she would be fighting to the death, and she could feel herself growing more and more weary with every parry and lunge.
                Rune sensed his mistress needed him, and with a last nip at the terrified mans legs he let him run past him in the direction the other men had fled in and turned his attention to the remaining bandit. He was indeed a big man, he had long dark red hair, which was flying wildly about, much like Iriella’s own as he lunged at her over and over again. He too had a scar, right the way down his face, Rune recognised the wound caused by a wolf and growled at the man who was challenging his beloved mistress. He circled round behind him, waiting for Iriella to signal the attack, she would be tired now and he was ready to step in and play his part. The man lunged toward Iriella one last time and she dodged to the side beautifully, bringing her sword round to block the incoming blow, but the bandit leader was skilled, instead of continuing to swing in the direction he was lunging he too, spun on his heel and brought his sword in from the side. Rune didn’t wait for the signal, he saw his mistress eyes widen as the blow was falling and timed his attack perfectly, knocking the man to the ground, the sword flying from his hands and clanging across the floor noisily. Iriella almost fell to the floor herself, Faendal and Orgnar, the Nord who ran the inn with Delphine rushed to her aid and she collapsed on them heavily. Rune pressed his paw into the man’s chest and looked down at him with disgust, he could see in his eyes the amount of wolves he had killed, knowing his kin had suffered at this mans hand was enough to make him want to kill, but he would not do such a thing unless Iriella told him to. It was not in the nature of the Snow-Wolf to kill so dishonourably, here was an unarmed man, ripe for the taking with one swift bite of his teeth should he so choose to, but he knew better and waited patiently for orders while keeping the big man in his place.
                Iriella recovered herself quite quickly, though she looked a mess, her leg was still bleeding, she had a welt above her eye from one of the other bandits throwing a fist at her when she had disarmed him, sending his sword off onto the path. She leaned on Orgnar’s shoulder and motioned to Rune.
“Let him up, hound” she said affectionately, he had saved her skin again and she was grateful to have him by her side. Rune dutifully complied and made his way to her, she fondled his ears gently and he sat next to her, eyeing the angry looking wound on her leg dubiously.
“Pick up your sword and go, bandit” she spat; “or next time I’ll have him rip your throat out”. She meant every word, she was sick of bandits showing up to terrorise small peaceful towns, while she never felt like she really fitted in, Riverwood was her home for now, and she would defend it. The bandit leader picked up his sword and glared at her and Rune.
“You win this round wild one,” he paused and raised his hand to feel a cut on his head and looked down at the blood on his fingers and gave her a grim smile. “You’re marked, you and your half-breed puppy dog. I’ll have his skin for a cloak, next time.” He pointed his sword at Rune before sheathing it.
“You will do no such thing, I swear if you come near this town again I’ll tear you limb from limb with my own bare hands” Iriella was furious, her eyes flashed angrily and the pointed the hilt of her own sword in his direction “Now leave.”
“Such fire for one so young” he said mockingly “maybe I should take you with me for a wife”. Iriella almost exploded,
“I would kill you where you stand” she shouted angrily, she had stepped forward and was no longer leaning on Orgnar, who had sensibly stepped back out of the way, lest the swords come out again. The bandit chucked, his eyes alight with mirth.
“You would have a choice, Nord. That is not the way of things, you are a woman, you fight like one and have only managed to win because of your ’pet’.” Iriella could feel her temper fraying and she struggled to keep her hands by her sides, her nails were practically cutting into her skin, but she could not let this man get the better of her. “You know it as well as I do, in a fair fight I would have killed you.” He grinned wickedly, knowing full well he had hit the nail right on the head. “It’s a shame you won’t come away as my wife, having a woman like you on my arm would get me promoted high within The Silver Hand”. Faendal stifled a gasp, so they were Silver Hand bandits!
                Alvor made his way heavily down the steps and all eyes turned to him.
“Come now,” he motioned to Iriella and turned to the Breton who was still standing in the street “you can leave peacefully now, or I will set the hound on you myself”. Iriella looked at him with surprise, Alvor was usually such a gentle giant it was very unusual to hear him threaten anyone.
“Mark my words, we will return.” The bandit gave a deep, mocking bow. As he began to stand upright again Iriella caught the sight of silver, she heard the sound of his sword being drawn, she had her own sword in the wrong hand, if he drew, he was close enough to kill her. In the split second before what she was certain was her end, she saw a flash of white fly past her as Rune dived at the bandit, knocking him back to the floor and growling at him angrily.
“Rune, off!” she called, regaining her composure; the mighty wolf stepped back and snarled, as the bandit got to his feet a second time.
“He’s saved you again, so help me I’ll wear that mutt’s fur on my back if it’s the last thing I do.”
“It won’t be the last thing you do.” Iriella said, her tone was arctic.
“Oh really, and I suppose you’ll see to that.” He grimaced as he stood. “Bloody milk-drinker you have-” but he didn’t get to finish his sentence, Iriella swung her blade in a swift motion he never saw coming while he was preoccupied with taunting her, and his ugly head fell from his shoulders and landed with a thud on the floor. There was a gasp from the onlookers as his body wobbled a bit, before walking a few steps forward by itself and falling to the ground with a clunk as the metal armour met cobblestones.

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