Faendal heaved the last of the logs up onto the mill and wiped his brow. The sun was beating down at him through the gap in the canopy of trees surrounding the small town and having spent most of the morning chopping wood and moving the heavy lumber at the mill he was rather warm and very thirsty. Fortunately, Hod appeared with a mug of ice-cold water for him just as he finished, and he took it gratefully.
“Gerdur said you would need this” Hod grinned as Faendal drained the mug and handed it back to him.
“My thanks” he smiled back and felt his insides cooling down, his arms glistened with sweat, as did his forehead, despite him having wiped it just moments before. “Reckon I might go for a swim to cool down before I go home” the Bosmer panted. “This weather is no good for me” he grumbled, before nodding to Hod and making his way down to the river’s edge.
He removed his boots, his belt, his tunic and his undershirt, still wearing his cloth trousers he waded into clear water. This was the only safe bathing area – any further down and the current became stronger, and any bathers would need to be strong swimmers, unless they wanted to be washed down the rapids further on. He splashed the cool water on his face and listened to the birds singing and the water lapping at the shore while he trod water. Suddenly he thought he saw a movement below him, he whirled around fervently wishing the water surface would still so he could see if there was anything there. He swum a little closer to the shore and once his feet touched the riverbed, he felt more comfortable, satisfied he was not going to be eaten by some sort of water creature he relaxed again and tipped his head right back onto the water to wet his hair. A splash to his right gave him the fright of his life as a huge white beast rose up from the water. He yelled in horror and made for the riverbank, as he was wading back to the shore, he heard someone in fits of giggles behind him. Turning to look across the river his face darkened with ire as he saw Iriella literally rolling on the grass with laughter. Rune was swimming about in the water gleefully; he had no love of the heat either and had leapt at the chance to dive into the cool river and surprise his Bosmer friend.
“Why you!” Faendal had recovered and feigned outrage as Iriella laughed uncontrollably, she lay flat back on the grass with her legs dangling over the edge of the riverbank, her eyes were streaming with tears as she replayed the look on Faendal’s startled face when Rune popped out of the water beside him. Distracted with her laughter and only being able to see the sky she did not see Faendal swim swiftly across the river. In a flash he grabbed both of her ankles and yanked her off the bank and into the water with a splash, he has the sense to swim in the other direction as fast as he could before she surfaced.
“FAENDAL!!” she roared when her head popped up out of the water, she really did look comical, her bright red hair was plastered to the side of her head in some haphazard manner, and the look on her face was priceless. Faendal stood waist deep near the other bank grinning, Rune swam lazily over to his mistress to check she was alright then promptly swam away again when he saw how angry she was. She paddled over to Faendal and started wading out of the river.
“You beast!” she exclaimed, though Faendal fancied she was trying not to laugh really.
“Oh, I’m sorry, is it not so very nice when the tables are turned?” He grinned at her and waded out of the water to where he had left his tunic, boots and shirt. He sat on a rock and let the sun dry him somewhat, and Iriella joined him.
“That was not funny” she complained, attempting to wring out her hair.
“I thought it was highly amusing” the Bosmer retorted, tilting his head up to the sun’s warm rays.
“I was fully clothed, it’s a good job I didn’t have my best armour on!” She emptied the water from her scabbard and re-sheathed the wolf sword.
“Ah you’ll live, give it a small while and that sun will dry you nicely”. Iriella flumped down on the grass next to him and held out her arms as if waiting for them to be dried.
It wasn’t long before the hot sun had dried them both and they talked of the next hunt they would go on. Faendal thumbed some tobacco into a long-stemmed pipe and lit it, idly watching the patterns the smoke made as it rose from the bowl.
“You know, we could try the plains” He suggested after taking a long puff from the pipe.
“You’re not worried about the giants?” Iriella looked at him in surprise
“I think, as long as we don’t bother them and don’t go to close to their camps, we should be fine. Besides there’s a lot of deer around that area at the moment, we should go for an afternoon hunt.” They talked a little more of their plans and eventually Iriella deemed herself dry and stood up in preparation to go home. The sun had dipped down a little and afternoon turned to early evening, Faendal got to his own feet and pulled on his soft leather boots. Iriella was telling him of her plans to go home, and get some fresh clothes on and her armour before coming to the Sleeping Giant for her evening meal, he was just buckling his belt when they both heard a noise, turning around in horror they saw that Rune had joined them, soaking wet and was now showering them both with water as he shook his thick fur coat dry. Looking rather pleased with himself he trotted off to the path to wait for Iriella who stood with Faendal, both of them resembling drowned skeevers and none too happy about it!
Some days later Iriella was on her way into Whiterun with Alvor, Rune and Alvor’s old horse Rusty, trudging along with the cart. The wheels made a familiar rumbling sound that Iriella liked to listen to along with the local wildlife, birds sang to each other gaily in the trees and bushes; insects like grasshoppers living in the long grass rubbed their legs and wings together to communicate, producing a high-pitched buzzing sound. They travelled in companionable silence for the most part, with the odd comment from one or the other about the weather, or the state of the track which always cracked more and more under the suns heat this time of year. Suddenly, without any warning a great rumbling sounded from the skies, one could hear the sound of mighty voices calling “DO-VA-KHIN”. The ground shook beneath their feet quite startling the poor old gelding, he tried moving backwards but the cart was in his way, Iriella ran to comfort him while Alvor clung to the seat of the cart in an effort to keep his bottom on it rather than on the floor. The shaking stopped as soon as it had started and all was calm again, the birds resumed their chirruping and the insects could be heard in the grass.
“What in Sithis was that?” Iriella exclaimed, trying to hide a wry smile as Alvor heaved himself back onto the seat properly having almost lost his balance during Rusty’s panic.
“I think” he said, dusting himself off, “That was, if I am not very much mistaken, the call of the Greybeards.”
“Greybeards?” Iriella patted Rusty’s neck and the horse continued to walk, all be it rather nervously.
“Yes, they live up on High Hrothgar, a mountain behind Ivarstead, they train the ones who are Dragonborn, and they are calling him or her up to them.”
“Yes, folk who can speak in dragons’ tongue, they can use powerful shouts, or Thu’ums I believe is the correct term for it.”
“Like Jarl Ulfric.” Iriella hopped about, wide eyed and excited.
“Yes, though I do not think he practices much now after…. well, after Torygg.”
“You don’t think that Fenrig….” Iriella asked
“It’s possible, but then so are most things “said Alvor with a chuckle. “I’m sure someone will have some gossip for you in Whiterun if you ask around”. Iriella made a face, gossip was not something she entertained at the best of times, least of all having to go and ask for it.
“I think I’ll just wait for someone to tell you.” She muttered and gave Rusty a reassuring pat next to her.
On the way back, laden with various goods and wares, they were just passing the Meadery when Iriella noticed a commotion in one of the nearby farms, it seemed that a giant had made its way into one and was causing havoc with the residents. She unsheathed her sword and nodded to Alvor before running into the fracas with Rune hot on her heels. She arrived just in time to see another female Nord, wearing similar armour to her own grappling with the giant’s club hand, trying to cut through the thick skin enough to make it release its wooden weapon. ‘That will never work’ thought Iriella, then suddenly she remembered sitting with her father as a young girl. She closed her eyes and saw is kind face looking down at her from his great height, the silver patches in his otherwise red beard glinting in the afternoon sun as he spoke.
“Giants are a different kettle of fish all together” He hoisted her up onto his knee and she gazed at him with admiration. “If you want to get a giant down there is only one way to do it….”
Rousing herself from her brief reverie she knew what she had to do, she looked up to see the other woman clinging desperately to the giants arm, she looked like she was getting sired, up on the giants back she spied a man, clad in the companion armour that Skjor wore, for a minute it looked like Vilkas but the hair was different. She took a moment to plan her move, she nodded to Rune who let out a huge howl that startled the giant, making it turn around to see what the noise had come from. She saw her chance and just as the giant turned, she slid right between its humongous feet and in one swift move made a deep cut at the base of the giant’s heel. All at once it dropped the other woman on the floor and after a few moments wavering it toppled forward, Iriella wasted no time and leapt up onto its back and dug her sword deep into a point just between the giants heaving ribcage. A few more breaths and the giant expired, its leg twitching for a few moments before stilling. The woman had recovered herself and was striding over to Iriella, the Man who looked like Vilkas was picking himself up having fallen from the giant’s back.
“Nice move” Said the woman, she had some rather strange warpaint on her face, and hair as red as Iriella’s own, though perhaps not as wild.
“My father, he told me when I was small, never thought I would get the chance to see if he was right.” Iriella smiled wanly and the man joined the two of them.
“Aela, are you alright” He said in a calm deep voice that Iriella warmed to immediately.
“I’m fine Farkas, I should be asking if you’re ok!” She motioned toward a gash on his thick forearm.
“This will heal” he acknowledged the wound then turned to Iriella. “That was some stunt you pulled….” He extended a paw like hand,
“Iriella” she shook his hand dubiously and re-sheathed her sword having wiped it on the grass to clean it. Aela whistled
“That’s some piece you have there” she nodded toward the sword now re seated at Iriella’s hip.
“It was a gift” she responded, unsure of how much she wanted to discuss with these strangers, she was wary of the companions at the best of times following her dealings with Vilkas and Skjor but these two seemed a lot more likeable.
“Something like that belongs on a companion” Farkas chuckled, “though you’ll not be joining our ranks any time soon will you?” He winked at her from under a scruffy looking fringe before ambling off toward Whiterun. Aela looked at Farkas’ departing form before turning to Iriella,
“You should think about it, it would be good to have a shield-sister to hunt with, especially one that comes with a creature as beautiful as that one.” She pointed to where Rune was sat patiently waiting for his mistress, she could see Alvor cart up the track a little way with Rusty pulling at the reins to try and eat the grass.
“Thank you, we had better be going” and then without thinking she added “Fight well”
“Or die well” Aela finished with a nod before following Farkas. How had he known she’d already refused to join the Companions?
A watchful pair of eyes looking out of the Meadery window blinked a few times beneath a lock of grey hair, they watched as the red haired nord and her hound joined the man in the cart at the bottom of the track up to Riverwood.
“Can I get you anything? Or are you just here to inspect my windows?” Mallus Maccius, the Meadery’s most recent occupant (thanks to some Thieves Guild interventions), stood at the bar, watching the stranger. He had not moved apart from nodding to Mallus on entry, then taking up a position near the window and staring out of it for a good half hour.
“No, thank you, just browsing” replied the stranger with a grin, before nodding to Mallus once again, and leaving. “Just browsing my foot. Weird looking fellow. Good riddance” said Mallus out lout to himself as he cleaned the bar worktop. It had been a good day; a lot of the guards were back from leave so business had picked up. That and thanks to Maven Black-Briar he was now part of her franchise rather than a competitor. By a happy circumstance he had been at the right place at the right time when Maven had been looking for a fence to assist with a hostile take-over. By even happier circumstance he had gotten to keep the Meadery as a bonus for keeping his mouth shut and giving Maven her cut, all in all, life was good for Mallus; no more fencing wares in the back streets of Whiterun for him. He finished cleaning the bar and went to get another barrel of Mead ready for the evening’s patrons. His mind lingered on the stranger once more, before moving onto more pressing matters, like business.