lone in a wide stone chamber high in the towers of the College of Winterhold, Thorfinn ran his thumb along the near ten inch tang of his longsword. Under his callused touch, simple patterns, lines and indentations could be felt. The elf’s cursory examination of his swords hand not yielded a comment on these ancient runes, and Thorfinn did not feel the need to share their presence with Utharo.
Thorfinn did not know what these letters said, nor even from which tongue they hailed. He did not know why they were placed on the tang, an area which would be covered with the sword’s grip. Something, perhaps, for only the owner and the maker to know, long dead as they were.
The elf was making preparations; at least, that was what he said he was doing. Another elf had led him here, another Altmer with superior eyes and soft, mocking words. Thankfully, he had not lingered, and so the nord was alone with his thoughts.
The door opened and a third mer entered. He halted on the threshold and returned Thorfinn’s stare with what appeared to be interest. He stood shorter than Utharo, and his face was weathered: a small scar dragged down his cheek toward his nose. He did not, though it irked Thorfinn to admit it, appear to have the same hauteur possessed by his fellow Altmer. Approaching, he gave the smallest of bows. His gait was relaxed and confident, the gait of a warrior.
“I am Belisaro” he said, managing, Thorfinn assumed, against his nature, to avoid sounding like this was some kind of achievement. Thorfinn stared mutely back.
It did not seem to effect the elf, who came forwards and gazed intently at the blade in Thorfinn’s hands. The young nord took in the elf’s appearance once again, his clothing was less bulky and impractical that his fellow mer’s had been, and carried no decoration. Belisaro submitted to this rather overt inspection without comment, and when Thorfinn’s gaze returned to his face, he smiled pleasantly.
“May I?” he asked, gesturing to the blade. Disarmed by his demeanour, Thorfinn wordlessly passed him the blade. Weighing it in his hands, he transferred it to his left hand and held it out, pointed away from his body.
“Heavy” he said quietly, almost in wonder. Thorfinn bristled, but remained silent as his merish companion continued. “The point of balance must be far up the blade, assuming a steel hilt.”
“Crude work, as I said Belisaro” Utharo’s voice drifted across from the doorway, immense satisfaction plain on his face. Thorfinn noted he had buckled on his 'superior' elvish sword.
Belisaro’s eyes rose to meet his companion, and then flicked in Thorfinn’s direction. He nodded seriously to Utharo. “Indeed, lord, a mer would be hard pressed to use it in battle”.
Both Utharo and Thorfinn gave snorts of derision. Belisaro returned the sword to Thorfinn and moved to the far end of the chamber. He returned with a tall, narrow cylinder of dull clay, and emptied two jugs of quench oil into it. Then he suspended the cylinder atop a small fire. Meanwhile, Utharo flexed his long fingers in preparation. Then he took the first blade from Thorfinn’s hands. He did it with magic, an unseen hand tugging it from Thorfinn’s grasp. He was neither amused nor impressed. His longsword hovered in mid-air before fire suffused it. The sudden intense heat was shocking, even from a distance. It burned like dried wood, flames licking hungrily over the strange runes carved into the tang, feeding off the air and elven magic. The blaze raged like a snowstorm, twisting and leaping in continuous circles up and down the length of the blade. Soon, Thorfinn was forced to look away, but Utharo gazed at the fire, sculpting it with his hands, a look of barely contained delight on his face. In contrast, Belisaro watched from the far end of the chamber, a strangely guarded look crossing his countenance. As time went on, even Thorfinn came to understand that this was a powerful mage, the fire a feat of great potency. After some minutes, the strain began to show on Utharo’s face, but he maintained the inferno. At some length, he let out a deep breath and the fire flickered and died, disappearing as suddenly as it had come. Three pairs of eyes ran up and down the wide, flared length of the swordblade, its smoky patterns obscured by patches of faded black soot.
“At least you lasted more than a minute, Utharo” mocked Thorfinn gratingly as he watched the shock written clean and obvious across the mer’s golden features. He found himself glad that the old craft of the Nords had defeated the Altmer, just as the Nords of old drove his kind from Skyrim. It would have left a sour taste in his mouth had it been elfish magery which had restored his blades. He would find another way. As it was, the dull glint of cold steel ran down the length of the sword.
Utharo turned on him in a fury. “Out!” he hissed, “OUT! YOU AND VENGAST HAVE CONSPIRED TO HUMILIATE ME!” The arcane magic which held the blackened blade in mid-air shattered into clean, silvery lines of power. It fell to the floor in the ringing silence which greeted Utharo’s pronouncement. Thorfinn grinned at his anger like a child receiving a long awaited gift. Stepping forwards, he stooped down and plucked the blade from the flagstones. It was cold, almost unnaturally so. As if the steel was imbued with the cold of Skyrim, to resist the fire. As he rose, Thorfinn’s gaze returned to Utharo, whose long fingers toyed with the gilded hilt of his sword. He saw the mer, knew he was itching to strike him down. His lopsided grin held.
“Go on, merling” the young man urged softly, lazily. A longing edge touched his tone. The desire for battle. It was near, Thorfinn could sense it.
Utharo composed himself visibly, reigning in his anger. Thorfinn knew his taunt had been a mistake, for the mer was far too proud to allow himself to be manipulated.
“You will be punished for your criminality, boy” breathed Utharo. “One day, one day soon, you will regret your crudity
Before Thorfinn could respond, the elf’s form twisted away into the air, gone. Thorfinn tensed, poised in case Utharo tried to attack him, but nothing happened. After a few heartbeats, Thorfinn turned and began to wrap his blades in the cloak once more. He’d forgotten Belisaro was even there until the elf walked past him toward the door. As he reached the doorway, Belisaro smiled over his shoulder at Thorfinn.
“He’ll probably have me do it, you know”, he began brightly. “So watch your back.” As he left, harsh, low chuckle echoed around the chamber.
The Huntsman's Hearth was a proper nordic Inn. It smelled of iron, leather, smoke and spilled mead. Ripples of conversation flowed between the patrons, it was too early in the day for drunken brawls. It was wonderful to be back in the real world, gone from the foul tower of Winterhold. Thorfinn closed the door behind him, then stared down the obligatory sour drunk who glared at him. It didn't take long for the man to return to nursing a pot of mead, and Thorfinn cast about him for Vengast, moving closer to the bar.
The old mage was holding court in one corner. Several young mages, a battle scarred Redguard and a pair of Khajiit sat at his table, while he was at its head. Thorfinn watched him move painfully in his seat, lean forwards and spoon some soup into his mouth, watched him sip from a pitcher of something dark. No sign of vitality was evident. The mage's one eye flickered over the faces of his audience, who appeared engrossed. A serving girl distracted Thorfinn's inspection, and he spent the next few moments ordering a large meal. Chicken, venison, bread, apples and cheese. And mead.
A gale of laughter gusted over from Vengast's corner as Thorfinn seated himself in anticipation of his meal. The old man could wait. While he was idle, Thorfinn deftly cleaned the soot from his longsword, wondering against his inclination how this Vengast could help him when a mer who was obviously knowledgeable and powerful could not. Then again, Vengast had taunted Utharo repeatedly, without any attempt by the elf to stop it. Perhaps he was scared of Vengast? After all, Utharo had sworn that Thorfinn would pay, but no such threats had been made to the old man. Certainly, an odd contrast. Absentminded, his hand slipped and dragged the old steel across his thumb. A drop of crimson blood ran down and dropped into the floor as Thorfinn watched, expressionless. Still Sharp.
"Still sharp" commented Vengast from the seat opposite him. The wizened man offered him a grin of unsurpassed wickedness, shifted in his seat and groaned elaborately. His fail fingers stripped the crust off some bread and popped in into his smiling mouth. His coterie were gone, only the khajiit remained in the corner.
"So" demanded Vengast briskly, "how was dear Utharo when you left him?"
"Mewing like a kitten" replied Thorfinn mildly, watching the old man from beneath a furrowed brow. "Though I expect that's what you wanted" he finished.
Vengast adopted a look of anxious shock just a little too late to be entirely genuine. "Certainly not, don't be absurd!" he wheezed, his voice quavery. "Why on earth would a poor, frail soul such as myself seek the animosity of a mighty and potent Altmeri mage?"
He stopped to cough piteously, his whole body shaking. "I am an old man" he repeated, one eye fixed on Thorfinn. "Wasting away, decaying! What" he demanded accusingly, "could one so meek and lowly hope to gain from...."
He dissolved into hapless coughing. Thorfinn watched him with keen eyes, but it seemed genuine. A serving girl appeared with a mug of water and patted him solicitously on the back while he gulped down some, relieving his fit.
"What do you want?" Thorfinn shot at the man. Vengast's one eye returned to his young companion, filled with cunning. Thorfinn had the uncomfortable feeling that he was an open book to this man's gaze.
"Come now, we can't all stomp through life with a sword and shield, growling like a cave bear" mocked Vengast quietly. "I'll have your name first, and some manners. Respect your elders, you pillock. Quite extraordinary behavior!"
Thorfinn glowered at Vengast as his food arrived. The latter promptly helped himself to the mead and a chicken leg. As he stripped the flesh from the bone, Thorfinn noted a full set of very white teeth. Wasting away indeed. At length, he relented.
"Thorfinn Thorfinnsson" he named himself, inclining his head stiffly.
"Charmed" yawned Vengast in a tone of vast boredom.
"If you fear Utharo's wroth, why taunt me?" returned Thorfinn. "I'm surely more likely to do something stupid and attack you".
"Set yourself alongside Utharo, do you?" quipped Vengast at once. "You think of yourself as his equal? He'd cut you into pieces then set fire to you."
Thorfinn snorted in disagreement. "So I'm no threat to him, or to you?"
"Is the rabbit a threat to the hawk, the chicken to the fox?" returned Vengast.
"So why taunt Utharo" pressed Thorfinn.
"I have already covered this point, try and keep up, If I'm going to quickly for you tell me. I do hate having to repeat myself." chided Vengast. Thorfinn noted his avoidance as he drank some mead before Vengast finished it.
"I shall give you three things, three things about your blades that nobody else can" declared Vengast magnanimously in between mouthfuls of chicken, "and in return, you must go to Utgarthal on the first day of Heartfire, and perform for me three tasks."
"And the nature of these three tasks?" asked Thorfinn
"What?" demanded Vengast. "Speak up, I'm a little hard of hearing." He cupped a hand around his ear demonstratively. Thorfinn suspected that he would get nothing from Vengast, who would force him to make his decision without knowledge of what he was to do. So he tried a different track.
"What will you give me?"
Vengast smiled. "I shall give you their names. I shall give you the words of their maker. I shall give you the key to their reforging. Will you take my offer?"
Another wide, triumphant smile crossed Vengast's face. He tapped his fingers on the table. "Let me see them".
Thorfinn cleared a space and gently laid the two blades on the table so that Vengast could see them. He peered at the symbols on their tang's, leaned in and dragged his fingers down them. Then he flipped both blades and did the same to the other side. So, Thorfinn thought, the runes were significant. Vengast pointed at the longsword.
"These are Dragon runes. This one says, 'I am Tuzkodaav', which means Bear-Blade". He looked up at the young Nord. "On the reverse it says, 'Sovngarde Saraan', which means, 'Sovngarde awaits'."
He pointed to the sax. "This one says 'I am Viingruvaak', which means Raven-Wing. The other side exhorts, 'Moro Faal Dilon', meaning 'Glory to the Dead'."
Mighty names and worthy sentiments. Thorfinn saw that the sax did indeed resemble a wing. He noticed that his longsword was a long and wide are a bear's arm, its point curving like a claw.
"In all Tamriel, you will find only a single place where these blades can be reforged." continued Vengast. "Only through the fury of the spirits of old can fire burn true enough to work on such steel." His eye glinted with amusement, as if all he had recounted, so important to Thorfinn, was nothing more than a joke to him.
"The Skyforge. Powerful magic the likes of which Utharo does not know. Go to it, and you might find success"
His three telling's complete, Vengast sat back and took a drink.
"Might?" asked Thorfinn. Vengast smiled brightly. Even though he had what he needed, Thorfinn felt himself tricked, cheated. The mage knew more than he was letting on. Some other impediment would stand before him. But he was never one to give up, and he was not one to waste time. Draining his mead horn, Thorfinn wrapped up his blades, tied the ends, and set them about his shoulders under Vengast's watchful gaze. Apples, bread and cheese were swept into his travelsack. He rose, favored the man one last nod, and headed for the door.
"You have two weeks, then come to Utgarthal", said Vengast from behind him. Though it was spoke quietly, there was no trace of frailty. "Heartfire!"