Iriella was still seething, she stood looking like she was ready to fight, her feet hip width apart and her sword poised, she was breathing heavily. Eventually she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and sheathed her sword. She turned back to the townsfolk, whom were all silent, Faendal was at a loss for what to say, Delphine for once had nothing to add but just stood there with her chin practically on the floor. After a long silence Alvor was the first to speak;
“We need to deal with this body.” He stated matter-of-factly. Several pairs of eyes widened, Hod, who was now sporting a fantastic bruise gestured towards the dead man;
“It’s a dead body Alvor, what do you suggest we do with it?”
“You’re not burying it in my garden” chipped in Sigrid, Alvor’s wife, she gave her husband a withering look then turned to Iriella; “come, let me dress those wounds, before they go bad.” Sigrid was always kind, no matter the situation she always remained caring and compassionate and wanted to look after everyone. Iriella was still angry but the adrenaline was wearing off and the gash on her leg was beginning to hurt. She nodded and limped toward Sigrid, Faendal came to her side and for once she didn’t push him away.
The sound of footsteps made them turn around, two of the bandits, unarmed had come to collect their fallen comrade. They had their hands in the air as they walked toward the group.“Stay your weapons, we’ve come for our chief.” The orc was tall and thick set, with a topknot on his head. “Surely you have enough honour to let us collect our dead”.
“Honour?” Alvor raised his eyebrows, “You know nothing of honour, bandit.” The orc stood tall but the Bosmer with him looked down at his feet sheepishly. “That man is lucky he was given the honour of a quick, painless death. It was far more than he, or any of you deserve! You come to our towns; you pillage what good, gentle-folk work hard for off the back of fancy weapons and armour that they cannot compete with. You threaten to take our women for wives, and you come here and talk of honour?” Even the orc looked contrite at Alvor’s unexpected outburst, Iriella felt a strange sense of pride, she did not know if it were solely directed at Alvor, or because she had been classed as one of the towns women. “Take your chief and get out of our town!”. The Orc and Bosmer bent down and took hold of the body by the arms, under Alvor’s watchful eye. The Orc reached toward the head but Iriella stepped forward.
“No. Leave that, as a reminder of what happens if you come to our town again.” Alvor folded his arms and stood at her side. The two bandits departed with their quarry and disappeared off into the night.
Back in the inn Sigrid was seeing to Iriella’s wounds, she has cleaned them both and was dressing the angry looking cut on her leg. Rune was sat next to the fire as usual, looking un phased by the night’s events. He was an old warrior, he had seen many battles, in this life and previous lives. All that mattered to him was Iriella, and she was being well looked after. Delphine handed her a mug of ale and Iriella reached for her coin pouch.
“No no, this is on the house, it’s the lease we can do; if it hadn’t been for you tonight might have been a very different story.” Delphine had never been fond of Iriella but even she knew to recognise when someone had done her a service. Iriella nodded gratefully and Alvor raised his own mug to her;
“To Iriella, Riverwood’s protector” Hod, Faendal, Orgnar and Embrey raised their own mugs in her direction, and she could feel her cheeks pink. She nodded as graciously as she could manage and took a swig of her ale, wincing slightly as Sigrid finished dressing her leg.
“There, you’ll do. That was a fine thing you did for us townsfolk, you saved us from losing our possessions, and from being hurt.” Hod coughed and pointed to his swollen forehead. Sigrid smiled, “well, from being hurt badly” she finished and Hod grinned. Iriella suddenly realised none of the children were in the room.
“Did they hurt any of the little ones?” she asked with a worried look.
“No” replied Gerdur, “we heard them coming and sent them down to the basement, they’re sleeping in the rooms for the night now”. Iriella sighed with relief, she had many memories of bandit raids as a child.
Some hours later everyone was still in the inn, no one seemed comfortable enough to venture home, the guards would be back in the morning so safety in numbers made sense. As the excitement from earlier had died down and people relaxed, general chatter could be heard once more. Ale was flowing fairly freely and Alvor and Hod had taken it upon themselves to ask Sven to play them some music.
“What shall I play?”
“The age of oppression!” yelled someone
“No! We hear that all the time!” the suggestion was met with many ‘pishes’ and ‘pahs’ from around the room. Before an argument could break out Sven struck a chord on his Lute;
“As an ode to our staunch protector, I will play you, Ragnar the red, Iriella has honoured us by removing the head of the bandit, so I shall honour her with song.” This was met with claps and cheers, Alvor and Hod linked arms to dance and the whole inn sang along, Sven’s voice could barely be heard. Even Iriella permitted herself to join in but was pleasantly surprised when the townsfolk as one, changed the words…
Oh, there one was a hero named Ragnar the Red
Who came riding to Riverwood from ole Roriksted
And the Braggart did swagger and brandish his blade
As he told of bold battles and gold he had made
But then he went quiet did Ragnar the Red
When he met Shieldmaiden Iriella who said….
“Oh, you talk and you lie and you steal all our Mead
Now I think it’s high time that you lay down and bleed!”
And so then came the clashing and slashing of steel
As the brave lass Iriella charged in full of Zeal
And the braggart named Ragnar was boastful no mooooooore
As his ugly great head rolled around on the floor!
There was much cheering and laughing at this ‘Riverwood revamped’ rendition of the song,
“But what about Rune?” Chimed in Hod, and the whole song was sung again to include him. Iriella laughed along with the others and for the first time felt like she belonged.
Faendal came over to sit beside her, she was sat near the fire pit, Sigrid and Gerdur had insisted she keep her leg elevated so she was resting it on a small stool.
“I wanted to say thank you, for stopping him” He started but she raised a hand to silence him
“I am the one who should be thanking you, I was on my way to see you, to thank you for the sword.” She bowed her head graciously and continued; “no one has presented me with such a mighty gift since my father put Rune in my arms as a pup for the first time.” She shifted in her chair; her leg was really sore now. “I am very grateful, though I have no idea what it was for.”
“You’re welcome, I was left a sum of septims some time ago and had not found anything to spend it on, as you had helped us fend off bandits before I thought it would be a good idea to get you something to fend them off properly with.”
“It was very thoughtful, the engravings on it are wonderful, Adrienne is a gifted smith indeed.” Faendal nodded in agreement and took a swig of his ale.
Iriella awoke the next morning still sat in the chair, she felt a sharp pain in her leg and her head was quite sore. Alvor and Hod were sleeping in chairs on the opposite side of the room, and Faendal was drinking a mug of tea by the fire pit. Rune snored softly on the floor near Iriella’s good leg and the smell of food came out of the kitchen where Orgnar was making breakfast. Sigrid and Gerdur came out of the bedrooms they had slept in, as did Sven and Hilde. Dorthe and Frodnar, the two children came out of the bedroom they had shared rubbing their eyes, Dorthe ran over and put her little arms around Iriella’s neck, surprising her.
“Thank you for saving us” she whispered in her ear, Iriella beamed at the little girl and gave her a nod.
“You’re most welcome” she said.
“See!” Dorthe turned to Frodnar “I told you she wasn’t that scary. With a triumphant look on her face she went to sit with her mother and father, who were now both seated at one of the tables around the sides of the inn.
Everyone took their places, Iriella shifted from the chair onto the bench at the table next to Faendal; Gerdur helped Delphine and Orgnar with breakfast and they were eventually joined by Camilla and Lucan Valerius, a brother and sister who owned the Riverwood Trader. They were the only townsfolk who had missed the previous nights events, having barricaded themselves into the shop. Lucan had been raided by bandits one too many times and was wise to their ways by now. He had acquired a large door bolt from Ri’saad, and he also had a large plank of wood that he could slide across to prevent anyone from opening the door from the outside. They both thanked Iriella for her heroic deeds and went to sit down with the others. It was a little crowded, and while Lucan found a seat with Sven, Hilde and Sigrid, there was nowhere for Camilla to sit. Iriella got up and offered her seat.
“Oh no, I couldn’t, your leg!”
“I need to stretch it, it’s seizing up, please; sit here with Faendal.” She gave the Bosmer a pointed look before she limped off, she knew the elf was sweet on Camilla, but he never had the guts to tell her. Maybe after his brush with death he would take a chance and just let her know.
Some time that afternoon Faendal and Alvor went to pick up some things from Iriella’s cabin, fresh clothing and such. Sigrid would not let her leave the inn with her wound, as much as she hated to admit it, Iriella was glad for the help, her leg was very painful now and she could barely walk on it without wincing. It has been redressed and treated with what ointments they had but it was still a very angry cut. Alvor had said he would take the cart to whiterun the next day to pick up some remedies from Arcadia’s Cauldron in the Plains District. Arcadia was an established alchemist and would likely have something that would help but for now, Sigrid would keep it well tended. Even Delphine was not her usual surly self, she waited on Iriella, stoking the fire, bringing her tea and letting her read books she had stored away to give her something pass the time while she was stuck indoors. She and Orgnar would not even take payment for her staying there, they wouldn’t hear of it despite her best protesting.
Evening came and the people gathered for dinner, after the previous nights events they were all keen to stay together, even Camilla and Lucan joined them. There were guards patrolling again, so the people felt a little safer. It had seemed the bandits had known when the guards would not be there, it was so rare there was not a patrol but every now and then there would be one night where no guards would be in the town. Word had passed to Irileth the Jarl’s housecarl, and she had sent two extra guards over to the small town to ensure the people felt safe. Irileth was a tough woman but always concerned for the citizens of both Whiterun and Riverwood. Iriella sat in her chair with her footstool to keep her leg elevated, eating off a plate on her lap, she was pleased to see Camilla opt to sit next to Faendal as opposed to Sven, and if she wasn’t much mistaken that was definitely some colour in Faendal’s cheeks. Sven on the other hand looked like he had eaten something nasty. He fancied himself as the best-looking man in the town and had always thought he would some day woo Camilla. The door opened and the one-eyed Companion walked in and surveyed the room, his gaze lingered on Iriella before resting on Alvor who got up to greet him heartily before inviting him to sit and eat.
Skjor sat and ate, and the talk turned to the previous night’s events. “One of the guards rode back in a hurry today, there’s talk you were attacked by bandits!” Skjor wiped the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand and looked concerned. Alvor recounted the attack as he had seen it.
“If you want to know what happened while we were all being held up in here ask Iriella and Faendal, they were the ones who put a stop to the raid.” His voice rang with admiration and Iriella felt her cheeks pink. Skjor got up and collected a chair and took it to her side.
“May I?” Iriella nodded to him and he sat, his one blue eye fixed on her. This Nord was no warrior, he was sure she could fight but she would need training in order to become what she was meant to be. She had some fire in her that was for sure, but was she too wild? She had a fierce temper, or so he had heard, maybe, just maybe there was a chance…
“Did you want something or are you just going to stare at me?” Iriella folded her arms across her chest but looked more resigned than she usually did, her leg was causing her great discomfort.
“That hurts?” Skjor nodded toward the bandage on her thigh, which was already starting to show blood through it despite being dressed only a few hours prior.
“Sometimes” she replied, “If I don’t get up and stretch it can get painful”.
“How did you get it?” She sighed and looked troubled. “Bandit?” Skjor asked gently. Before Iriella could answer Faendal pulled up a chair next to her.
“She got it defending me.”
“Defending you?” Skjor raised his eyebrows incredulously and turned to the Bosmer. Faendal proceeded to explain his part of the attack and how Iriella had fought off not one but two bandits after rescuing him from the one who had been about to remove his hands. Skjor listened intently, nodding every now and again, and asking questions about their armour, their weapons and what they looked like. Faendal did his best to describe the men he got a good look at and Iriella did the same. “Their chief, he had a big scar down his face?”
“Yes, how did you know?” Iriella asked. She thought she saw Skjor glance down at his hands for a split second before replying;
“I have seen him before, The Silver Hand and the Companions…let’s just say we’re not the best of friends. An old rivalry spanning some ages, we have been fighting with them for as long as I can remember.”
“Is it true they hunt for werewolves?” Faendal asked, his crimson eyes shining brightly. Skjor looked at him sharply;
“Why do you ask that?”
“It was a story my father once told me, that The Silver Hand were werewolf hunters” Faendal paused and felt uneasy, Skjor’s single eye was boring into him, “but I never believed him” he added quickly. Skjor seemed to relax a little and smiled thinly.
“I have heard tales of that too, but I have never seen anything to make me believe it is true” he said distantly.
Hod, Alvor and Orgnar came to join them, Delphine put some more logs on the fire and Sigrid came over to Iriella.“Come now, let me dress that before I go home, Alvor will bring you some ointments from Arcadia tomorrow, but we need to keep it clean overnight. I’m afraid I am out of ointments myself so I will just have to clean it with saltwater, it will sting.” Iriella hauled herself to her feet and made her way into one of the bedrooms and allowed Sigrid to dress the wound. She barely made a sound when she cleaned the cut out using the warm salted water, though she winced inwardly.
“You’re a brave girl” Sigrid said, never taking her eyes of the task at hand.
“I think some would call it foolish” Iriella said a little sadly, as if she had meant to say it in her head and not out loud.
“Nonsense, if it weren’t for you, our children could have been hurt, or kidnapped. Those Silver bandits are bad, worse than your average bandit.”
“You have had dealings with them before?” Iriella asked, Sigrid gave a small sniff and shook her head, was she crying? She finished dressing the wound with infinite care then looked up at Iriella, her eyes brimming with tears.
“They took her, years ago; my older sister.” She frowned and looked angry for a moment before a single tear rolled down her cheek. In that moment Iriella felt bad for her, she knew of loss too, though she never discussed her parent’s death with anyone.
“I’m sorry” she said eventually. Sigrid smiled weakly at her.
“There’s no need for apologies, what’s done is done now. They’re animals, those men and women, they take and take, and they have no regard for the consequences or the mess they leave behind.” Suddenly Alvor’s outburst at the chief made sense, he must have known what his wife had been through losing her sister, no wonder he felt so passionately about it. Iriella nodded solemnly, Rune’s mother had suffered the same fate and she was sure, now more than ever that The Silver Hand had been responsible for her death, they would be the only gang brave enough to dishonour Hircine like that. Iriella was lost in thought momentarily and jumped when Sigrid placed her hand on her shoulder.
“Would you like me to help you back to the main room?”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to get changed, I hope they managed to bring my other armour back with them, this is covered in blood. Sigrid nodded and left the room with a grateful smile.
Wearing fresh armour Iriella began to feel better. As she was tightening one of the straps on her armguard there was a knock at the door.
“Come in” she called without looking to see who it was, she suspected it would be Faendal but was surprised to see Skjor standing in the doorway when she had finished her task. “Is something wrong?” she asked him. He shifted from one foot to the other, as if he was trying to rest his leg. He nodded toward her arm guards;
“You are expecting company?” he enquired quietly.
“It cannot hurt to be prepared” she retorted.
“Will you be able to fight?”
“If I need to”
“How did you stay alive?”
“The other night?”
“Yes, I can understand you taking on two bandits for a short time, but this is no ordinary group of them, how did you manage?” Iriella sighed heavily;
“You know the answer to that, don’t you?” she looked up at him, she was weary and less inclined to argue than normal. Moreover, this Skjor seemed to demand a certain amount of respect, and she did not want to offend the Companions veteran. Skjor nodded slowly.
“He’s a good hound.”
“He saved my life”
“Would you have fought to the death?”
“Yes” she snapped without a moment’s hesitation. Skjor chuckled;
“You do have some fire in you” he gave her a small smile and looked at her thoughtfully, he made up his mind to try again, it couldn’t hurt but he would not beg her to join the guild. “Are you sure you don’t want to take me up on my offer?”
“I was serious about joining the Companions, you would both be welcome; maybe we could refine that sword arm of yours, especially now you have that nice piece to use with it” He nodded toward Iriella’s scabbard on the little wooden table, that housed her beautiful wolf head sword.
“No” and then she added after a beat; “thank you” As graciously as she could muster. These meddlesome companions, why wouldn’t they leave her be? She and Rune didn’t need anyone but each other, it was all they both knew, and they had made it this far together, why change? She also didn’t relish the idea of being told what to do or where to be, which she assumed she would be being a newcomer to a ‘guild’.
“Suit yourself, just know the offer is there, we may not be much but we’re family. We watch each other’s backs”. Skjor nodded to her and turned to leave.
“A missed feint. I didn’t get my footing back in time to parry.” Iriella called after him. Skjor turned and looked down at the wound on her leg and nodded.
“Lucky you have your hound; he will look after you.” He turned on his heel and left the room.