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Blood on the Ice


Started by Thorfinn
Post #83152
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Blood on the Ice
2E 576, Sun's Dawn

The sea breeze animated Thorfinn Thorfinnsson’s dull blonde hair in a slow dance, sending it hither and thither at a whim. Never had he seen such a great expanse of water, even from the towering peaks above his homestead the sea was hidden. Now he stood on its doorstep.

Around him the people of Dawnstar carried on with their lives, fish were separated and gutted, salted and smoked. Bolts of cloth were unloaded from merchant ships of the east and west, making room for timber and fur. Another time, the boy could have made some extra coin working these docks. He was not yet old enough for anything but down on his cheeks, but already muscle had set in to stay. The span of his shoulders was wide, their build thick. The hard work of a dockhand would have been no trouble for Thorfinn. His legs, stout and strong as an old oak, carried him further down the dock to the smaller boats. His build was at odds with his height: brawny as he was, he lacked a little of the tallness for which the Nords were known. At length, he came to a small table behind which a young man sat, futilely trying to prevent the wind from carrying away his quill the second he laid it down.

At this, Thorfinn grinned lopsidedly, more a grimace than a true smile. Scribbling was best done indoors, away from troublesome things like a little breeze. The boat beside him was small, little larger than a longboat, though it had a short mast and stowed sail. He stopped opposite the man, and tried to attract his attention. One ink stained finger was raised, and without looking up the man continued to write. Simmering, Thorfinn stared at the man for the few second it took him to complete his tally. Finally, he looked up.

“What can I do for you?” he enquired. There was something about his manner Thorfinn misliked.

“I need passage to one of the isles off the coast.”

“Where too, and what can you pay?” inquired the man.

“Wraithstone. I have twenty”

The man looked down at his papers again, shaking his head dismissively. The silence between them grew steadily, as if here alone in the whole city no sounds could be heard. Evidently, the man expected Thorfinn to go away. Yet when he looked up again, there he stood, unmoved.

“Off with you, lad, you’ve not got enough money to go that far out.”

“I’ll take him” came a call from the boat. Both men turned and looked down to where a tall, scarecrow thin man stood, swaying to the rhythm of the waves.

“He can’t pay, father.”

“He doesn’t need too” replied the old man with something akin to contempt. He turned to Thorfinn, brushing errant strands of damp grey hair from his eyes. “You look to be the son of Thorfinn the Walker” he stated plainly.

“I am” replied the young Nord, both suspicious and curious.

The elderly man nodded, satisfied. “I ferried him to those steps, long years ago.” He turned to his son “ and I didn’t charge him, either” he snapped angrily. His eyes returned to Thorfinn. “You have his look”.

“Aye” replied Thorfinn. It was all that was needed.

“I’m Aribjorn Wave-Charmer” the old man introduced himself. On the dock, Aribjorn’s son returned to his scribbling, a sullen look on his face. Ignoring him, Thorfinn untied the painter and clambered down into the boat. Under Aribjorn’s direction, they nosed out of the bay and raised sail.

The spray of the wide sea broke over Thorfinn’s brow. The wind tore through his hair now, dragging out behind him like a wild mane. The two nords guided the tiny boat through the rolling waves, toward a small spec of land which reared like a tower from the Sea of Ghosts. A tower of white and silver.

Thorfinn swept his oars through the water in clean, powerful strokes, closing in on the isle. Here, since the reign of the Old Ways, his kin had come to kill an Ice wraith, a rite as old as the north. They had come with their families, their fathers and mothers, and once the deed was done they feasted and celebrated. Thorfinn came alone. His father was long gone to Sovngarde, and his mother wished him grub for money and scratch on parchment, like the man at the docks. She had thought to deny him the chance to do as his forefathers had ever done. She had hidden the isles location from him so that he might die with white hair and ink stained fingers. Shameful.

He didn’t hold Camillus’ reticence against him. His stepfather was from the south, and theirs was a weak culture, were the unworthy thrived behind desks and counters. A people for whom words weighed heavier than deeds. Just look at his sons, Thorfinn’s stepbrothers. Twice shameful.

Aribjorn had spoken of small things at the beginning of the journey, attempting to put him at ease. But Thorfinn’s reticence had discouraged him, and now they sailed in a companionable silence. The sea rolled and shifted beneath Thorfinn; a feeling of powerlessness and yet a feeling of weightlessness. It was almost like he was flying across the water. Before him rose the isle, and Thorfinn saw the faintest steps etched into the sheer cliffs, and below them a ledge at water level. Here, Aribjorn docked the ship. Thorfinn climbed out, tying the boat to a rusted iron spike sunk deep into the ice. The two Nords, old and young, shared a look, knowing no words were needed.

Then he climbed. A long dirk unsheathed from the small of his back gave him purchase as he scrambled upwards. Time and use had worn the steps together at places, leaving rough sheet ice. The climb seemed to last forever, and with each slip or struggle Thorfinn gained resolve. He would not fail before he had even begun. Only to those who died a mighty death earned their place in Sovngarde. These thoughts spurred him on. And then he reached the top.

The wind was icy and strong, and behind him Skyrim, his home, stretched away, all mountains and forests, snow and stream. Before him stood a long ridge, on which no foot had trod for nigh on thirty years. Since his own father had walked this route. Thorfinn walked steadily into the breeze, a surge of elation filling him. Of all the things he could have been, of all the paths he could walk, he belonged here, as sure as some belonged to their ledgers and lists, others to the Clever Craft. He knew after this he would not return home for a great many months. Many were the deeds to be done.

Finally, he reached the stones. Four great pillars of dark granite set into a circle of ice, inscribed with runes in the old tongue, carved with hawk and wolf, snake, moth, owl and whale, bear, fox and dragon. Four tables stood inside their circle, worn wet stone. And at their center stood a plinth of blue ice, like the Stahlrim from the old tales.

In the small bowl worn into the plinth’s top, a small circle of metal lay, dull and covered in the thin layer of scum. For a few minutes, Thorfinn simply gazed at it. Gently, he took it in his hands and wiped it clean. No larger than a coin, it was simple steel, and like a coin it wore the depiction of a face. The flat, hard features of Shor, Keeper of the Hall gazed levelly at Thorfinn. From beneath his tunic, the young nord removed an amulet of his own, clean and new. Unthreading the string, he placed the fresh amulet in the basin and restrung the amulet his father had left, over thirty years ago. Each generation carried their elder’s amulet, just as they carried the name. Gravity imbued Thorfinn’s every movement. From his belt, he produced a small, stoppered wooden flask. This too he also placed on the plinth. Then he removed his cloak, unstrapped his belt and pulled his tunic over his head, baring pale skin stretched over a great slab of muscle. His dirk remained in its sheath, and he carried no other weapons. On he walked.

The ridge sloped away from the stones, down onto a wide, pale sheet of snow and ice. The winds bit into his flesh, and flecks of frost whipped up by the breeze dragged across his skin. Then, jaws clamped shut over his bicep. Droplets of blood scattered over the hitherto white ground as Thorfinn twisted and grabbed for the wraith, but it flittered away. A blast of cold air and fragments of ice lacerated across his torso, unnaturally cold, unnaturally sharp. Thorfinn dropped into a fighting crouch, blood leaking down his elbow and running along his forearm. He ignored it, searching relentlessly for the creature. A soft rattle behind him gave him the split second he needed. Spinning, he struck the wraith a glancing blow which batted it away like a fly. It disappeared into the air. He resumed his crouch, circling slowly, just waiting. For the third time, the wraith struck. Hoarfrost coated Thorfinn’s gut and ribs, a sheen of bright ice crystals. It flitted through the air, snapping at his face. Futilely, he raised his hands. Then it went for the jugular, its teeth latching onto his neck. With one terrible motion, Thorfinn slammed his injured arm against his chest, shattering the wraith with a satisfying crunch.

Fragments of its spine and ribs tumbled to the ground, and its bite loosened. Dropping heavily to one knee, Thorfinn unclenched the Ice wraith’s jaws from his neck, daubing his hands with warm blood. One by one, with a detached slowness, the young nord removed each and every one of its six teeth. Then he rose, cast aside the wraith skull with terrifying casualness, and began to walk back to the stones. He left a trail of bright crimson blood.

When he returned to the standing stones, he took the first flask from the plinth, and swallowed it in one great swallow. It tasted bitter and gritty, but soon his wounds meshed together, bloodflow stymied. Only a faint tenseness, of the kind any newly healed wound brings, remained to remind him of his battle. Apart from the teeth. Using the point of his dirk, Thorfinn ground a small hole in each tooth with delicate care. Once this was done, he strung them along his amulet cord. Draping it around his neck, Thorfinn placed a silent, short prayer to Shor, asking not for his favour, not for strength nor for courage. He asked simply that the god rest his gaze upon him in battle, and mark his deeds. The amulet rested against his chest, bloodstained white-blue teeth contrasted against the gray, ashen metal. Thorfinn received no acknowledgement of his prayer, nor did he expect one. One way or another, Shor would take notice.

Thorfinn replaced his clothing and cloak. He looked again at the basin, now empty again save for the bright steel amulet. He wondered if he would see his own child retrieve the symbol. He wondered if his own father could see him. He held these thoughts for a brief second, and then let them go into the sea breeze. Thorfinn, son of Thorfinn turned and left the Wraithstones, now a man.
This post was last modified: July 31st 2013, 06:44 AM by Thorfinn




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The following 2 users Like Thorfinn's post:
Horizon Seeker, Idriar
Post #83629
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A pretty awesome story on Thorfinn's rite of passage. A cool throwback to a bit of overlooked Nord lore too! I like how there was a bit about his current family, and how they're less of warriors than his father and how it somewhat shames Thorfinn. It really gives you that sense of different cultures and traditions clashing with one another.

Good stuff Thorfinn!


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Thorfinn
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(July 30th 2013, 09:20 PM)Horizon Seeker Wrote: A pretty awesome story on Thorfinn's rite of passage. A cool throwback to a bit of overlooked Nord lore too! I like how there was a bit about his current family, and how they're less of warriors than his father and how it somewhat shames Thorfinn. It really gives you that sense of different cultures and traditions clashing with one another.

Good stuff Thorfinn!

Thanks, appreciate the feedback. I wanted to do something that showed how his world view had formed.




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