The excitement of the bandit raid had died down, Iriella was healing well and she had actively become more involved in the town’s comings and goings. She had helped Alvor finish repairing his roof over the forge, she and Rune went hunting with Faendal to get meat for the town. On the days they had a good haul she rode Rusty down to Whiterun and either sold the extra meat to Ri’ssad if he was there or to the Bosmer who owned the Drunken huntsman. In truth she preferred to sell it to the inn, as they always paid more to pass it off as their own catch, however the Khajiit traders loyalty was something that Iriella had the sense to value; so she always gave the caravan first refusal if they were there. As the caravans were a law unto themselves and no one ever really went too close or interfered with them, they would be a great place to hide should one not want to be found for some time, and a good way to traverse parts of Skyrim unnoticed. They had a network of caravans that covered all the provinces, and once you were in good with Ri’saad, you would be in good with all of them.
As a result of her good doing, the townspeople seemed to like and trust Iriella more, even the stone-faced Delphine had started to warm to her a little; though the woman still always went about with a scowl on her face, sometimes you could hear her muttering about The Blades who were a long dead society of staunch protectors of the emperor. She would also talk of trying to locate Esbern though no one knew who this was, or why she needed to find him. Still, for all her sullenness and grumpy ways she must have paid fairly well, Orgnar had worked for her tending the bar for may a year and probably took more of her grouchiness than anyone else; yet he remained stoic and loyal, he never complained and always had a mug of ale ready for the next weary traveller or Riverwood local.
A good deal of travellers came through Riverwood, it was the last place before one got to whiterun and because of the length of time it took to reach from Helgen, a traveller would normally find themselves there in the evening. The locals would advise that of course they could travel on down the hill, but it was ripe with wolves and bandits from dusk until dawn, why take the risk? Why not stop in the Sleeping Giant until morning? It wasn’t exactly a lie per say, but it was a slight exaggeration from some residents in order to drum up business for the little town. One particular night, just such a traveller arrived. Wearing some mis-matched armour, with barely a coin to their name, a likeable looking male Nord came in out of the rain. All heads turned to the door as he shook out a cloak and removed an imperial helmet. Iriella noted with some amusement that the gauntlets he bore were in the style of the Stormcloak armour.
“You made it!” Ralof, Gerdur’s brother, who had arrived in Riverwood earlier that afternoon, jumped up out of his seat to greet the visitor eagerly. The Nord inclined his head and shook Ralof warmly by the hand. “I knew you’d end up here friend, I saw you stop off near the mine on the way here….” He paused to inspect a graze on the Nord’s face “…. I see you may have had some fun in there?”
“Well, I’m not proud of it but I er, well, I needed some gold and there were bandits in there so I um, relieved them of some belongings they’ll no longer be needing.” He said with a grin.
“Sounds like my kind of Nord” Iriella whispered to Faendal who couldn’t help grinning as he had just been thinking how similar the Nord was to Iriella.
“Haha, and I’m sure you gave them what they deserved” Said Ralof, clapping the visitor on the back. “Here, Gerdur, this is the man I was telling you about this afternoon” Gerdur inclined her head,
“I hear my brother owes you his life?” What was visible of the visitor’s cheeks below a big red beard flushed a little at this praise.
“I wouldn’t say that ma’am, more of a joint effort really” He bowed to Gerdur who smiled warmly at him
“Nonsense. My brother is always getting himself into some mischief or another, I’m sure it was more likely you saved him than the other way around!” Hod came back from the bar with a mug of ale,
“Here you are my friend, take a seat with us now, and tell us everything that happened.”
The visitor, who’s name turned out to be Fenrig, told of how he and Ralof had escaped capture from Helgen, he had wound up in the custody of the imperials with Ralof and none other than Ulfric Stormcloak himself, bound and bruised in a cart leading to Helgen. Once there it became clear they were destined for the executioner’s axe, with Ulfric seemingly being the catch of the day for his “murder” of the high king.
“Pah!” Snorted Ralof “Murder indeed, it was a fair challenge and Torygg knew the costs!”
“Settle down now Ralof, we all feel the same about it.” Interjected Hod gently before motioning to Fenrig to continue. The bearded Nord told that one man had been executed already, and he himself was making his way to the block when a mighty crash sounded from the skies, as he laid his head down thinking of Sovngarde a Dragon had landed on the tower behind the executioner, and mayhem had ensued. He, Ralof and Ulfric along with a few others had hidden in one tower, making a daring leap over to the top floor of a nearby in through the damaged roof he had been separated from Ulfric and Ralof and ended up with Hadvar, an imperial soldier, who had cared more for saving a life than keeping a prisoner and had assisted his escape to the keep with Ralof. From there, Ralof had cut his bonds, they’d fought their way through the keep into some caves, scavenging what they could along the way.
“I wondered why you were wearing half Stormcloak armour and half Imperial…” Iriella grinned at him good naturedly, he grinned back at her;
“Didn’t really have too much time to make sure it was all matching” He laughed, and the rest of the folk at the table laughed along with him. He had a big laugh, so hearty it was near damn impossible not to join in. The only one who’s lips didn’t even twitch was Delphine, she had sat stoically in the corner, listening and watching.
After that the talk of dragons and Imperials went on until late in the night, it was some hours before Iriella looked down at Rune who stretched and yawned lazily and decided it might be time to go home.
“Seems you boys have had quite the journey” she placed a few gold coins on the table in front of Fenrig “Here, you can put this to more use than I can – fight well, traveller.” He placed a fist to his chest and bowed his head in response. Iriella nodded to the others in the inn before heading out of the door. It was a cool night, there was barely a sliver of moon, so it wasn’t going to be as easy to see as usual on their amble home. She picked up one of the torches from the bucket of oil that Delphine kept outside the inn. She lit it using one of the only two spells she knew, flames. It was a weak version of it really, more like ‘flame’ she chucked to herself, as the torch lit up, she shuffled down the steps of the Sleeping Giant Inn and made for home with Rune trotting faithfully by her side. She made her way across the bridge and out of sight, the two silver hand bandits in the hedge dared not move, their instruction was observation, not interaction and they didn’t fancy their chances if they went back to the hideout having disobeyed orders. Rune was tired, he was getting old and his senses were not as sharp as they once were, the bandits had been careful enough to rub themselves in dirt and grass, and to stay up wind of where they would pass. Still, a few years ago he would have sensed them rather than smelled them, but as aged as he was, he did not notice them hiding in the bushes above the path he and Iriella took across the bridge toward home.
“She must live up the hill somewhere” one of them whispered hoarsely.
“There’s an old cabin up there” replied the other, never taking his eyes off the place where the two figures had disappeared from view, lest they return.
“Oh? How do you know?” his companion looked curious.
“I saw it, when a few of us did a sweep some days ago. We were up on the side of that mountain there” he motioned with his chin in general direction of Bleak Falls Barrow, still not taking his eyes off the road.
“I see” the younger of the two looked around nervously. “What do we need to do?”
“Leave without being seen or leaving a trace. We’ve got what we came for.” The elder replied dryly, looking at the other for the first time.
“What did we get?”
“Confirmation of where she lives. Boss wants to make sure we don’t get the wrong place.” The younger nodded and understood. “Come” said the elder, “before we are seen by anyone else making their way home.” The two bandits left their hiding place and slunk silently away into the shadows in the direction of Whiterun.