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Skyfire (IV)

Started by Thorfinn
Post #135456

Likes Given: 190
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Faction & Race:
Ebonheart Pact

Prologue: Swordsong
Part I: Ashfire
Part II: Magefire
Part III: Foefire

Thorfinn Thorfinnsson removed his knife from the knotted skull of a Spriggan and wiped blood from his brow. Stinging sparked across his exposed face and hands, bestowed by the swarms of insects the creature had summoned when it attacked. And yet, this was an unexpected boon. Based upon the number of time he’d struck the creature, the gnarled wood of its corpse was tough as aged, oil-treated ash. He bent down and almost gently tore off its arms, wedging it body beneath his foot. Shaped and wrought to purpose, they would make fine grips for his swords. As he placed them in his now near shredded cloak and wrapped them with the blades, replacing the misshapen bundle on his back, he saw a growth of Blue mountain flowers around some fallen stone. He tore out a handful and crushed its petals, wiping the residue across the sting marks of his face and hands. The irritation lessened, but now he smelled of flowers, like the perfumed Bretons who oft came to his stepfathers home to talk trade. He grinned irreverently. He crossed the copse of pine and alder and pushed a stray branch out of his path, coming out onto the wide steppe of the Pale.

Dragonsreach stood high against the skyline, magnificent against the darkening eve. As in Winterhold, one great building reared up out of the town, but unlike the mages tower, within the walls of Dragonsreach deeds of greatness and heroism had been accomplished. Olaf One-Eye trapped the great dragon Numinex within its walls after shouting him off the top of Mount Athor. Many were the deeds of such valor dealt by the Nords in days gone by, and many were those who claim such days have passed, and will not dawn again. In place of a High King who bested a Dragon with its own tongue, now a poet-king rules Skyrim, a dealer in words and rhymes. Dark days growing darker, the shadows from Cyrodiil growing tall and strong, the dead rising and the Serpent burning bright. Such were the furtive mutterings of many.

Those who claimed that glory was behind them did so from fear, fear of the dark, fear of death. These are not things worth fearing; only in dishonour is death unworthy. Yet everywhere he could see that fear gnawing away at the old values, honour withering from exposure to outsiders, even in the Old Holds. No, he would not walk among them and their fears. Thorfinn Thorfinnsson would set himself apart with deeds of surpassing greatness. He would prove their naysaying empty and false, as are all words which are not supplemented with action. He’d walked day and night since leaving Winterhold, resting only in the small hours of the morning and eating on the move. Now Whiterun lay before him, and as his boots scattered soft newly fallen snow in their wake, Thorfinn crossed the flatlands and finally climbed the sloped pathway, through the outer gate and up into the gatehouse itself. A few people came and went with him, traders and hunters and guardsmen. The inns and taverns of the city would be doing fine business, and once through the gates he could hear songs and laughter among the footsteps and creaking carts, the bartering of traders and the barking of dogs. Thorfinn rarely distinguished between the two. The brightly thatched roofs of Whiterun glowed in the evening light, and above them, raised high, stood Jorrvaskr. Thorfinn made for the hall of the Companions, straight as an arrow. He climbed the steps from market district, passed under the branches of the Gildergreen, and up the rise toward the hall. Amid the hubbub of city life, one sound was conspicuous in its absence. The sound of steel on steel. He could hear no sounds of smithing, no sounds of bladework.

Thorfinn hesitated as he came to the steps of the Skyforge. To his right, the courtyard of Jorrvaskr lay empty, and he noted the ill repair of its walls. No smoke rose from its chimney. He’d heard the tales of conflict in the ranks of the Companions, battles over the position of Harbinger. He’d scarcely given them much heed, for surely the shield-siblings of Jorrvaskr were above such foolishness? Perhaps not. Times being what they were, it wouldn’t be a great surprise.

He wound his way up the worn carved stairs, relieved to smell the forge-heat, not smokey and cloying, but clean and sharp. He climbed out onto the wide paved platform, the home of the Skyforge, and took in the heat on his face. It was the largest forge he’d ever seem, a great pit of coals.

“Look like you’ve met trouble” groused a hard, throaty voice from the shadows thrown up by the great, beautifully craved eagle which reared over the fires. Thorfinn watched the man he assumed to be the Skyforge’s smith come forward. His arms were spark-scarred and near hairless from long days spent at his work. He wore his hair cut short on his skull, and no beard to take light from a stray ember, and his shoulders looked as powerful as his legs looked frail.

“I like trouble” Thorfinn said with a grin, which the surprisingly young man returned. His face came was alive with humour the moment he began to smile.

“With an attitude like that, it pays to be well armed” commented the smith with deliberate casualness, noting Thorfinn’s lack of weaponry with a quick glance. In wordless response, he moved over to a table, drawing the smith with him into the firelight of the braziers surrounding the platform. He placed his ragged bundle on the table, pulled the cloth apart and stood back. Two blades and two twisted, gnarled limbs. If the smith found it odd, he gave no sign. Instead he approached and handled the blades with practiced surety. As he admired them, the scuffle of footsteps announced the arrival of two men, a Nord and a Dunmer. The former was white haired and bent, though he looked to Thorfinn to be the young smith’s father. His son didn’t acknowledge their arrival until he had finished his inspection.

“These are storied blades, I have no doubt” he said, coming forward and offering Thorfinn his arm. “I’m Wulf Iron-forge, the elder there is my father Ivarr. We work the forge together. And this is Renys Gorynth, from Blacklight, his apprentice”.

Thorfinn clasped Wulf's arm firmly and then his father’s wizened arm more gently. He nodded to Renys, and then turned to Wulf.

“I recovered the blades from a tomb west of Stonehills. I thought to give them a new finish, but no forge burned hot enough, nor the fire of any mage. This”, he gestured to the forge “was where they were created, long ago. Here, I can remake them.”

“I need quench oil, good steel for the guards, leather for the sheaths, fuel for the fire, and the use of your tools and of your hands” reeled off Thorfinn, listing each thing on his fingers. “In payment I can offer you these” he said to Wulf, producing a pair of gemstones from his purse, “and this” he took a silver pendant from his belt. There was silence. “And”, Thorfinn said wearily, “this”. He let his purse sway on its strings. He would leave Whiterun penniless. Penniless, but with blades to be enshrined in tales and songs. A fair trade, to Thorfinn’s reckoning.

“If the fire will burn, I will work with you…” agreed Wulf, trailing off at the end.

“Thorfinn Thorfinnsson”

“Some would say, Thorfinn Thorfinnsson, that it is bad luck to do such work in the night” said Ivarr, gesturing to the dimming sun.

Fear of the dark indeed. The fear of an old man, the fear of a father. Thorfinn stared at the man for a few seconds, then lazily returned his gaze to Wulf, not dignifying such nonsense with an answer. This old man scowled at him, and his son flushed in the brief, heavy silence that followed, either at the words of his father or of his guest.

“It cannot be done” decreed Ivarr stoutly. “These ancient draugr blades can no longer be reforged. The Skyforge runs cold, as does the hearth of Jorvaaskr. No longer do the souls of our greatest brighten the flames.”

Renys watched the three Nords with a grim, empty expression. Pointedly, Thorfinn held out his hand with purse, gems and pendant, to Ivarr. He did not take it. Thorfinn offered it to Wulf. After a glance to his father, he reached out and gathered them up.

“It cannot hurt to try” he said mildly.

Ivarr looked suddenly as though he thoroughly disagreed. He glanced at the two younger Nords with surprising mixture of anger and sadness, and then abruptly stalked off toward the steps, followed by Renys. When Wulf and Thorfinn could no longer hear them going, they shared an apologetic glance, one for himself, the other for his kin.

“So, the Companions are as divided as it is told” mused Thorfinn, half to himself.

“Aye, since Macke of the Piercing Eyes. She was a mighty Harbinger, but she disappeared, as I’m sure you know, and since then no good has come out of Jorrvaskr. There were some good years, but they ran short. There are many factions led by those who wish to see themselves named sole Harbinger, and most prefer to reside in their own halls in Skyrim rather than try to live together in unity. But they do not understand. Only Ysgramor led the Companions. Only he was worthy.”

Thorfinn sneered in disgust as Wulf continued. “My father told me that when his father ran the forge, it was young.” He glanced at Thorfinn, evidently expecting an exclamation, but he made no objection. “He said that you could feel it, as though it was alive, alive with the spirits of the mighty of Jorrvaskr. Now, he says its cold, empty, weary. I do not know that we will do as you hope, but I’ll gladly try.”

Something in his tone caught Thorfinn’s attention. “Your father is a Companion?” he asked, understanding the old man’s nature now perhaps better than before.

Wulf nodded. “Aye, for near two-score years.”

A hard thing to see such a transformation and a harder thing still to feel it in the forge. Despair, then, not fear, ruled Ivarr Iron-Forge. Thorfinn found it no more acceptable, but more understandable. He turned to the forge and inclined his head toward it, reaching up behind him to tied his hair back out of the way. Wulf grinned and nodded. On that taciturn note, they set to work.

Charcoal was readily available her in Whiterun, and the forge was already lit. Wulf disappeared to fetch the appropriate tools and a leatherworker to sheath the swords while Thorfinn spread coals across the fire and stirred flames free from the bed of glowing embers. By the time Wulf, returned, with a Redguard named Safira in tow, heat vied with the cool evening air atop the Skyforge’s platform. Safira was ill tempered and while she made her measurements on a lengthstick, complained vigorously at being summoned for such a simple, plain commission. She was only mollified with payment from Thorfinn’s newly set aside purse. While Wulf tended to the fire like a concerned father, Thorfinn took a saw and chisel and cut rough lengths from the Spriggan wood to serve as handles. Room for two hands on the longsword, one hand on the sax. He chose sections that narrowed ever so slightly, were the grain twisted and small knots had formed. Smooth wood was slippery wood. When the nearby forgefire became sweltering and he could smell not smoke, but white clean heat, Thorfinn pushed both long and shortsword into the coals and covered them completely. The doubts of his countrymen meant very little. Many of his forefather had served in the Companions. They would lend their souls to this endeavour, knowing he would only being greater renown to their name, and his own, with these weapons of old at his side. His family had once owned an axe of masterfully wrought steel, but his mother had it sold to finance more trade-ships in his stepfathers company. Such a vile deed, in Thorfinn’s opinion, could never be laid aside, but with these blades as heirlooms of his family, the dishonour would be lessened.

He stared into the forge for a long while, before Wulf took two bars of steel and laid them in the fire alongside the two blades. Then they returned to piling on coal, pumping the bellows, and watching. They worked in cycles, so as not to heat the forge too much. In one such break, Thorfinn gave words to a question he’d been pondering.

“If you work the forge with your father, why has he taken the mer as his apprentice?”

“Ebony” replied Wulf morosely. Thorfinn creased his brown in question and his companion continued. “Now we’ve got access to it from Morrowind in bulk, everyone wants ebony forged blades and armour, made here at the Skyforge. Renys is apprenticed to a great ebonsmith in Morrowind and he came here to teach us its use.”

“Did he now”, groused Thorfinn. Elves and their arrogance.

“Stuff can make a blade, no doubt, and it holds an edge in battle” agreed Wulf, “but it stinks like acid when you heat it. Nothing like the smell of a white-hot blade forged in steel. And it takes six months to refine the ore. I’ve nothing against it, but I can’t work it worth a damn. Besides, it’s not the weapon; it’s the arm behind it. That’s what my father used to say, even if he probably doesn’t believe it anymore.”

The ingots glowed orange atop the forge, and Wulf glanced over to the two raised trenches of coal, one long, one short. It seemed to Thorfinn the young man steeled himself, then pushed the tongs into the coal bed and flipped the sax blade up onto the top of the forge.

It glowed a bright, clean white-yellow, tang to point. Wulf glanced at Thorfinn, saw his grim, if muted, satisfaction, and whooped like a child.

While Thorfinn began to give rough shape to the hilts, Wulf drew the bright sword-blades from the fire. He took them over to a trough of ash from yesterday’s forge and laid them there, covering them. They would cool at their own rate, allowing the metal to settle, and the stresses to release. Thorfinn hammered out the steel ingots on the anvil into long bars, twisted them shorter and flattened them again. Once more he twisted them, and then shaped them. A simple half-moon guard for Tuzkodaav, and two ring pommels. He bent the metal to shape and size and chiselled slots to fit the hilts onto the tang, then turned them over to Wulf. He smoothed and perfected their form with practiced, professional ease. Thorfinn’s work was rough and uneven, but Wulf steadily shaped and cajoled the metal into a more pleasing form, working out the twists and turns of the steel. Safira sent a runner boy with the finished sheathes. They seemed good work, plain and hard-wearing.

Meanwhile, Thorfinn used a hand-drill and chisel to work a tunnel into the wooden grips, into which the tang would fit. The heat of the forge irritated his stung face, but he ignored it. It was now pitch black around them, but the forge enveloped everything around them in a dull, angry light. Wulf tried the hilts on the blackened, ash covered blades, slipping them into place and noting an uneven fit, too loose, too light. He took the hilts once more and worked them on the anvil. Thorfinn placed the tang of both swords into the forge too. He waited till they were red hot, then forced the wooden grips into place. A blast of smoke and the taste of burnt wood clung around them, but the grips were burnt into shape. They would fit snugly.

Wulf poured oil into a pot, suspended it over a brazier, and heated it moderately. Beside him Thorfinn sat hunched over the turn-wheel, sparks dancing and flickering as he scoured the blades free of the soot and ash which the cooling had attached. Then he worked the edges, removing any notches or ridges which might focus stress during the quench. Once more he gave them to the fire. When both the blades and oil were ready, they poured the oil into a long trough then took the long blade and dropped it into the oil. Flames flared high for a brief moment, and then died as quickly as they’d risen, leaving an eerie red steam coiling up from the oil. The smell was sour and bitter, though a breeze gusted it away as they quenched the second blade. Wulf and Thorfinn checked the blades for fractures, for if the oil was too cold then the swords could crack. But they were sound. Working together, they quenched and tempered the blades again, then a third time. After the final quench, Thorfinn cleaned the two blades and hand ground a fresh edge with a whetstone. He worked obsessively. As he worked, he silently dedicated each stroke of stone on steel to Shor, to the spirits and souls of his kinsmen whose fire fuelled the Skyforge. With his mind thus occupied, he looked up at Wulf, cleaning the hilt-pieces.

“Did the forge feel young?” he asked simply. Perhaps the smith could tell him if his forefathers truly answered his call.

Wulf looked to his left, were the forge burned away steadily, and shrugged. “Young? Perhaps”. He exhaled suddenly and ran his hands across his scalp. “But there is…something in the air, I think.”

Perhaps there was. Finally, Thorfinn was satisfied with the edge, and Wulf produced a large clay jug. He emptied it into a cylinder. It was the foulest smell of the process yet, an arid, eye watering presence. It was acid, and they submerged the blades deep into the cylinder and left them for several minutes. The acid would etch out the misty, serpent like patterns in the blade, patterns more than a thousand years old. As with each period of waiting, they went for a cool drink on the steps, away from the heat. When Wulf judged the blades ready, he removed them and wiped them clean. Bright silvery steel vied with darker tendrils all down the length of each blade. Both men tried to appear as though they were unaffected by the sudden transformation from dull grey to such a beautiful contrast. Thorfinn was more successful. Hilt, grip and ring-pommel were carefully affixed, held flush against one another, and riveted. It was a simple end to the fraught process, Thorfinn thought. He’d walked hundreds of miles, dealt with elves and mages and spriggan, and now he held in his hands, not merely a blade. He held Tuzkodaav. Beside him lay Viingruvaak. The balance was perfect for a man of his build and stature. Tuzkodaav was heavy but not point-heavy, not unwieldy. Viingruvaak was sleek and perfectly weighted for thrusting. He tied a leather cord through each ring-hilt and adjusted the length so that it could loop over his wrist without restricting him. Then, suddenly weary, he sheathed them.

Wulf returned home, elated, after extracting a promise from Thorfinn that he would allow the smith to do whatever other work he needed. Rather than pay for an inn, Thorfinn slept with his back against the warm stone outcropping of the Skyforge. He overlooking the hall of Jorvaaskr, Viingruvaak lain across his lap, Tuzkodaav nestled in the crook of his arm.

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