A Skyrim Story
And the Scrolls have foretold, of black wings in the cold,
That when brothers wage war come unfurled!
Alduin, Bane of Kings, ancient shadow unbound,
With a hunger to swallow the world!
"I'll head to the tavern and buy me a drink, I'll cloud up my head until I can't think."
The sun was high as the bard traveled the road from Riverwood, strumming his lute and passing the time with a song.
"All warm by the fire I'll sigh and I'll sink. And, oh, all the problems are gone in a blink!"
Despite the simple pleasures he sang of, the Nord looked as though it was a special occurrence. His leather armor was scuffed and dirty, with small tears forming on old stitches on the flanks and shoulders. His boots were fur – though what animal or animals they may have come from was anyone's guess, as the mud and wear made it seem as if the bard had crafted them from the dirt itself. Yet despite his attire, his blonde, shoulder-length hair was clean and mostly kept. His beard was trimmed and thin and looked thoroughly maintained. His face and arms were washed and had not a speck of dirt, even the callus on his fingers could hardly be noticed (if there was any at all). His clean face brightened his white, toothy smile and solid blue eyes as he caroled along his travels. Although considered a man, the bard was still young and filled with vigor; he was more than a few years short of his thirtieth winter.
The road he traveled was much like the appearance of the young Nord himself. At first glance, it was a trodden path, much needing in mending, through a dark forest where the sunlight could scarcely shine through. As dangerous as one might think, the forest of Falkreath was a place of beauty when given a closer look. Lush, green vegetation, towering trees that emanated both strength and comfort, the soft sound of bees humming by and birds calling out to each other. A third look would bring attention to the stillness of the air as deer and elk alike grazed and stepped softly. When gaps appeared between the thicket of trunks and branches, the mountains surrounding the woodland were visible; the Hold itself felt like a fortress.
The young bard took his time on the road, making sure to soak in the demeanor and beauty around him for future inspiration in his craft. Although he did his best not to tarry, as he did not wish to remain in the forest alone after dark.
'I should be nearing the city soon,' he silently assured himself, 'I just hope the inn has room for me…and hasn't run short of mead.'
He soon found the main road, a sure sign he was closer to civilization. While the dirt paths were scenic, the comfort of a warm hearth was much more pleasant. But the Nord's thoughts on that comfort were soon interrupted the sound of feet at an incredibly quick pace up ahead. He immediately stopped and braced himself for the arrival. He could tell by the panic in the steps that this person was running from something, rather than at him. He expected to hear the light shuffling of a Frostbite Spider or wolf, but was surprised to perceive the sounds of at least two more pairs of feet; these were heavy as if in chase.
Hoping the first pair belonged to a young maiden in need of rescuing, the Nordic musician was disappointed when a male Khajiit dressed in robes and iron boots came down the way. The cat was a deep brown with dull yellow eyes. His coat showed no signs of greying, and the fur on his cheeks was short compared to other Khajiit the bard had seen. He quickly recognized the attire and realized the cat was a Vigilant of Stendarr. His pursuers were not vampires or Daedra, but a couple of common bandits, Nords as well, with shoddy fur gear and short iron swords. A strange sight indeed, seeing someone of so noble an order being chased by thugs. His being a Khajiit probably triggered some the feelings of contempt for foreigners that was commonly found among the bard's countrymen. But whatever the reason, the lone traveler thought it best to simply stay put and wait, as he hoped his presence might convince the two brigands to abandon the chase.
The fleeing Vigilant noticed the stranger ahead on the road. He was a Nord, but showed no hostility. More importantly, this stranger was larger than the two chasing him. On instinct, he waved his arms in the air and shouted, "Help! Help! Your assistance is much needed!"
The stranger crossed his arms and tilted his head with a small look of reluctance, though that did not falter the Khajiit's hopes. With a second wind, the cat sped up to the well-sized man. He stopped for a moment to catch his breath. Bent over and panting, he looked up with gratitude and surprise, "Oh. You looked much bigger from further away."
"Huh?" The stranger replied.
The Khajiit looked back at the approaching men, then back at the Nord to size him up once more. He would still do. Straightening himself out, he pleaded once more, "Kind sir, you may call me Carthago Denarii. Your assistance with the men chasing him would be greatly appreciated and rewarded-"
The Nord gave a weak smile. "Don't worry," he said with a faint accent, "I'm sure I can talk them out of it."
Carthago raised his eyebrow, "Are you good with a sword?"
"As good as any man, I suppose, but-"
The men had arrived. The Khajiit instantly shrieked and hid behind his new protector. Some Vigilant, the bard thought as he rolled his eyes. He craned his neck toward the cowering cat, "Where's your weapon? I thought Vigilants were armed to fight against Daedra."
Carthago's ears flattened. "Carthago is more of a restoration specialist. Not much good in a fight," he sheepishly admitted, "Why aren't you drawing your sword?"
"I don't have one."
Panic struck down the Khajiit's spine, "Then what is your weapon?"
The Nord slightly grimaced as he shrugged and raised up his lute as in consolation. He heard the priest of Stendarr groan and turned his attention towards the raggedly dressed men in front of them. The first was a squat and young fellow with messy brown hair and his sword sheathed. The other (who seemed to be the dominant of the pair) was the height of an average Nord, a bit shorter than the bard himself. Middle-aged and bald, he was battle ready with his sword in hand. His face showed no signs of being intimidated by another Nord on the road, and after he took note of the lute his sword arm relaxed. Softening his expression (though clearly showing signs of malcontent), he addressed the bard, "Hand over the cat if you would, music lover. He owes us some coin. Give him to us and we'll toss you one…if your song's good enough."
The bard didn't budge. Taking a quick breath, he attempted to reason with the bandits, "Now let's just work this out. You fellows don't look like the kind of people that anyone owes money to, you'd be better dressed than that. How about you two just forget about this and let others travel Skyrim in peace?"
The older bandit spit to the ground. The soft façade on his face fell back to malice, "I have no problem cutting down a bard."
Carthago started to think he made a poor choice in a champion. Thinking quickly, he called out from over the Nord's back, "Ah, but would you battle a fellow Nord when he is unarmed? This one thinks not!"
"Quiet, cat!" The man barked, and Carthago thought it wise to comply. "Still, a Nord should die with a weapon in his hand…toss him the axe we scavenged a week ago," he called to his companion.
The younger bandit fiddled around his waist and back until pulling out an axe of iron, then tossed it at the bard's feet. The blonde man waited a few moments before slowly picking it up. He sighed and looked at the bald one, "You don't have to fight. If you were smart you would walk away and find some work on a farm or mill."
"I'll walk when you give up the Khajiit."
"That's not going to happen," the bard replied, his voice lower and threatening. He knew a fight was inevitable now. He handed his lute to the Vigilant behind him. Taking the instrument, Carthago Denarii moved back a dozen or so steps.
Seeing the Nord wasn't going to budge, the bald bandit attempted to catch him off guard with a sudden charge. He raised his sword and brought it down as he lunged at the blonde obstacle. The defender side-stepped the attack, and as the bandit pulled back his extended sword arm, he saw the bard hook the axe around the iron sword. With a hard jerk, the younger Nord yanked his foe close to him, and taking advantage of the bandit's checkered steps, he drew back his free hand into a fist and sent a punishing blow to the center of the other man's face. The bandit dropped the sword and staggered back holding his face. He let out a few grunts, wobbling back and forth, before finally collapsing to his side in a daze.
It was over as quick as it began. The two spectators blinked a few times in astonishment, and Carthago felt his previous fear being transferred to the younger bandit. His champion spoke to the currently gawking man, "Take him. Hand him over to the first guard you see on the road or when you get to Falkreath. Give up your sword and find some work."
The short bandit swallowed and felt the sweat bead down his neck, "H-How…what makes you think I'm going to do that?"
The bard squinted his eyes, "Do it or I'll come at you as well and leave you both unconscious on the road without your swords. Then the wolves can take care of you after night falls."
The man rushed to pick up his partner. With some effort he heaved him onto his shoulders, but when he reached for the sword, the bard dropped his foot on the blade.
"Leave it," he commanded, "and if he starts to wake, don't give him yours."
The brigand nodded stiffly, rose up, and carried the man down the path towards the city, seemingly faster than when he was chasing after the Khajiit. After the two were out of sight, the bard dropped the axe and held the hand he punched with to his face, shaking and blowing on it while muttering curses. Carthago stared in both relief and amusement and strode toward his savior to thank him, "Amazing! How did you fell him with a single blow?"
Still rubbing his hand, the bard snorted, "Well I'm a Nord. When a man's lived in Skyrim his whole life, he learns to keep himself strong or die. Besides, that poor fool was old and had been in one too many brawls; it looked like he'd been hit hard in the face more than once. I didn't want to draw any blood; that would attract some unwanted attention from bears, wolves, and other predators."
"Carthago understands. But…if you have no weapon, how do you normally deal with er, 'difficult' situations, be it bandit or beast?"
The man shook the rest of the pain away, gritting his teeth one last time, "You'd be surprised how well I can talk my way out of a mess. I am a bard after all. The same with wild animals, just play them a song and leave them well enough alone, and they'll usually do the same. If they don't….well, I'm a fast runner."
Before the Khajiit could say any more, the Nord took his lute back, then picked up the axe and sword and shoved both of them into the Vigilant's arms.
"Here," he offered with a smile, "Now you've got two means to defend yourself."
Carthago winced at the idea of potential combat, "Eh…Carthago thanks you, stranger, but he is sure he can make better use of these by selling them, yes? Gold is much better than iron."
"Men do terrible things for gold, like those bandits who were after you," the bard kindly warned, "But I've never heard of anyone so desperate enough to try and rob a Vigilant of Stendarr."
A long silence held as the Khajiit tried to make eye contact with him, as if embarrassed. Suddenly it dawned on him. His jaw dropped, "Wait, you really…"
Carthago gave a nervous laugh, "Unfortunately this Vigilant may have gambled some coin that he did not have on hand in case he lost. B-But those men were cheats, I assure you! I saw them slide the pebble out from under the middle cup."
"So then I can expect my reward was just some blessing instead of gold?" the bard sighed, "A Vigilant of Stendarr who gambles, what are the odds?"
"Ah yes," the priest replied, still embarrassed of his situation, "Carthago was a merchant years ago, fetched the best prices! He was still considered a cub by most, though that did not stop him from acquiring a small fortune. But…Carthago's love of gold started his gambling habits, and he was a poor gambler. Carthago was in debt for more than all his wares were worth, so he fled to Skyrim, and joined the Vigilants as to hide himself from those he owed. But Carthago now understands habits are hard to break."
The bard scratched his beard as he listened. A small smile cracked on the side of his face as his curiosity got the better of him, "Uh huh…then why aren't you at the Hall of the Vigilants? Wouldn't it be safer there?"
"The order is not very fond of Carthago's habits. After Keeper Carcette had to return a merchant's purse that somehow found its way into Carthago's satchel, he has been on temporary exile to repent his ways."
"I see that's going well."
The priest's ears flattened, "It is hard to give up which one loves most, no? Please friend, tell Carthago your name. He can still repay you for your kindness."
The Nord smiled. He held his lute with pride, strummed a few chords and introduced himself cheerily, "Eren. Eren the Bard."
The Khajiit's ears perked up, "Eren? Carthago has heard that names in these parts before."
The Nord held up a hand and nodded, "Yes, yes, you're thinking of Eren the Berserker. He's a nasty one, and it's been hard on my reputation as a bard. Don't think he's been seen since that dragon attacked Helgen though, so hopefully people will start recognizing my craft around here."
Carthago chuckled at the lack of modesty, "It is all good, my friend, Carthago will never forget a face or name. Where is it you are heading to? Carthago will accompany you until his debt is paid."
"Falkreath, I'd like to get to the inn before sunset," Eren casually stressed as he looked to the sky, "So your mind is set on repaying my, eh?"
"Oh yes, Khajiit have honor just as much as you Nords."
The young bard looked back at his new acquaintance with a grin, "Well, it would be nice to have company. Off to Dead Man's Drink then!"
The short journey started out just as quiet as Eren's travel had been before; soon the bard strummed and sang, while the Vigilant admired the beauty and music around him. However, Carthago finally observed Eren closer, most notably his ragged attire, and was beginning to wonder just how long he'd be wandering Skyrim with this seemingly low-income bard. He debated on how to not appear rude before asking him the important question.
"So, Eren," he said, "What exactly do you do?"
"I'm a bard," he shrugged.
"Yes," the Khajiit strained, "But do you just travel around singing for your next meal? Carthago thinks you must have a greater plan, or a personal quest of sorts."
The Nord went silent for a moment, looking at the ground in thought as they walked. He glanced only once at his companion before looking around, as if to make sure no one was around. He motioned the Khajiit to come closer.
"I am on a quest," he whispered with excitement.
Carthago drew back with suspicion while Eren continued to beam, "A quest? What sort?"
The bard dropped the lute to his side and walked with increased purpose, "By now I'm sure you've heard of the Dragonborn appearing in Skyrim, and it's no wonder with the Dragons returning."
"I have," the priest raised an eyebrow, "Go on."
"Alduin has come, and it's the Dragonborn's destiny to stop him," Eren continued, "I could play one of the songs that prophesizes it if you'd like."
The Nord went on, his smile not faltering, "I've taken it upon myself to find this Dragonborn, and document his heroic deeds into song. 'Bard of the Dragonborn', that's what they'll call me! I could easily fill a book with his noble deeds, and I plan to!"
He reached into the pouch on his armor and held up a travel-sized journal, "I've already written down the stories I've heard through my journey, but he seems to have left this area. I plan to find out where he went at the inn and set off from there tomorrow."
Carthago was surprised, that was a noble quest indeed…and quite profitable after accomplishment. Maybe he should not try to leave his company so quickly. He decided to see how far the bard was willing to go, "Finding this Dragonborn will not be an easy task. His face and name are not known throughout Skyrim, most people do not know him let alone be able tell you where he is."
"Not to worry," Eren assured with a wag of his finger, "Great persons do great deeds. Word of these great deeds travels from mouth to mouth, and what place has more mouths than an inn? All we need to do is find talk of impossible tasks or astounding battles and we have our heading."
The Khajiit smiled as well, content that he found not only a safe traveling partner, but one with a purpose that could benefit himself as well. He was looking forward to the inn, however inns cost money.
"Do you have enough gold for the both of us?" he inquired.
"Not a penny," Eren cheerfully replied, "I was planning on performing to earn my stay."
Carthago's eye twitched. Taking a deep breath, he sought to remedy their monetary problem. He could sell the axe and sword well enough, but he decided on using that money for provisions. If only his new friend had given him the chance to take what loot he could from the bald one. While the Nord could work for the credit, the Vigilant argued to himself, the folk of Falkreath would probably not accept the Khajiit unless he paid in gold. His hands fiddled in his robes and came across a meagre coin purse that reeked of an unbathed Nord. Counting out the few coins, there was just enough for the two of them. 'Well…those fellows will not be needing it after today,' he chuckled to himself.
Now with both companions confident, they continued their way to town, heads up high and bellies starting to ache for a warm meal.
"Our hero, our hero
Claim's a warrior's heart!
I tell you, I tell you
The Dragonborn comes!"