It was nearly an hour before Vilkas had recovered enough from his wounds that his strength returned and he swore he was able to travel. Luthien let him lean on her, drawing him forward as she led them to Dawnstar, which was in the opposite direction and completely out of the way, but she was able to hire a carriage there to take them home.
He slept, despite the constant bump of the road beneath the carriage wheels, and she watched over him, telling herself again and again that he was going to live. He had to.
The wound was closing, and he wasn’t losing blood anymore, which was a good sign, but if the fever of infection set in before he completely healed, there was no telling whether or not he’d be strong enough to fight it.
He woke when they were just a few miles from Whiterun, his face brightening at the sight of Dragonsreach rising in the distance. “We’re almost home.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Much better. I think I just needed a little rest.”
“I need to learn how to use magic,” she announced. She’d thought about it all the way home. Farengar had told her about a college up in Winterhold, and the court mage offered to sell her spell tomes, but she’d never though she’d need the arcane arts as long as she had a blade in her hand and a bow on her back. “If I knew restoration magic, I could have healed you back there.”
“I don’t trust magic,” he admitted, leaning in close to rest his head on her shoulder. “But I suppose it could come in handy in our line of work. I won’t deny that.”
“Maybe I should talk to Farengar when we get back to Whiterun,” she said. “After Kodlak is laid to rest.”
Vilkas said nothing.
She wished she could have paid the carriage to take them all the way up to Jorrvaskr, but when they arrived at the stables, Vilkas insisted he was fine to walk the distance. She noticed he was still limping a little every time he put even the slightest bit of weight down on the side he’d taken his injury, but she didn’t mention it for fear of hurting his pride.
News of their return traveled to Jorrvaskr long before they made their way to the Wind District, and Farkas met them on the stairs, rushing out to assess his brother, who stood up straight and acted as though not a thing in the world was wrong with him.
“He took a blade to the gut,” Luthien announced, watching Farkas blanch with worry. “He says he’s all right, but you know how stubborn he is.”
“We’ve got the shards,” Vilkas changed the subject. “And the Silver Hand are dead.”
“All of them?”
“All of them.”
Relief seemed to wash over Farkas then. “Kodlak would be proud.”
“No, he wouldn’t.” Vilkas stopped on the stairs. “Kodlak would be ashamed. He was not a man who thrived on vengeance, but it is done, nevertheless, and the Silver Hand won’t bother us anymore.”
Firmly put in his place, Farkas looked down at the ground in shame. “We’ve prepared his body,” he said. “We’ve just been waiting for you two to come back before we held the funeral.”
Vilkas nodded. “Then let us go and send him off to his afterlife, even if he’ll never get to see Sovngarde as he dreamed he one day would.”
Eorlund had built a pyre above the Skyforge, Kodlak’s body prepared and resting, even if Luthien knew in her heart his spirit wasn’t at peace. Eorlund spoke in his honor as Aela lit the pyre and said a few words of her own. Vilkas was the last to speak, his words touching everyone so deeply that even Njada Stonearm started to cry.
“Bring forth the fragments of Wuuthrad, Companion,” Eorlund gestured to her. Luthien stepped forward and passed all the fragments they’d collected to the smith.
She didn’t know how long they all stood there, watching the flames ride up to lap at the wooden pyre before consuming Kodlak’s still body. One by one, they Companions began to leave the Skyeforge, until none but Vilkas, Farkas and Eorlund remained beside her. Vilkas was lost in the fire, Farkas standing beside his brother, the two of them a mirror of sorrow and regret.
“Luthien,” Eorlund drew her aside. “I wonder if you might do me one small favor.”
“Of course. Anything.”
“There is another fragment, one Kodlak always kept close to him. Could you retrieve it for me?”
“Where can I find it?”
“Check the table beside his bed.”
She nodded, walking past the twins and heading down the pathway to Jorrvaskr. The hall was empty, silent, but she could feel the restless ghosts of the dead as if they lingered near. Shaking off the chills she felt as she descended the stairs, she made her way to Kodlak’s quarters.
It was strange not seeing the old man at the table outside his room, a cup of mead in one hand, quill in the other, journal laid out before him, blank pages waiting to receive his thoughts. She opened the doors to his room and stepped inside for the first time ever, and immediately she felt as if he was just outside, waiting to walk in and find her there. She went to the bed and sat down, pulling open the dresser drawer to find the journal, and though she knew she shouldn’t, she took it out and unlooped the strand of leather that held it closed.
She flipped through the pages, not even sure what she was looking for. Maybe words of wisdom, comfort for her troubled mind from beyond the grave. She stopped when she came to a passage and saw her name.
Fortune smiles upon us. Yesterday Vilkas was telling me how difficult it has been for him to give up his transformations. Until we can pursue a true cure, the twins and I have chosen not to give in to the beastblood. For me, it’s provided a clearer head, but Vilkas seems to be suffering a bit for it. Farkas seems completely untroubled. That boy continues to amaze with his fortitude.
While Vilkas was confiding, through the shadows of Jorrvaskr, I saw a newcomer approach, who wished to join our numbers. It was the stranger from my dream, the one who would stand with me against the beast. Vilkas began speaking obliquely, not wishing to air our problems in front of our guest, and I had to be doubly cautions to not reveal anything of our secrets to the newcomer, while also not revealing the details of my dream to Vilkas. I don’t know how the politicians deal with these sorts of machinations daily.
In any case, I’ve sent Vilkas to test the newcomer. We’ll see if Luthien is truly the great warrior I dreamt of.
She scrolled back a few pages and read the passages about the dream, the line of Harbingers taking their places in Sovngarde before Terrfyg follows Hircine into the Hunting Grounds to spend his afterlife. Kodlak dreamed of her before she’d come, that she stood beside him against the wolf spirit that came to drag him into the Hunting Grounds, and battled it together.
She then flipped forward to the last entry. He’d written just after she’d left to face the Glenmoril witches.
I have received few dreams over the course of my life, but when they come, I have learned to trust them. I have also learned to trust the instincts of my heart, which tells me that Luthien can carry the Companions legacy as truly as any residing in Jorrvaskr, especially with the loss of Skjor. Aela is too solitary Vilkas too fiery, and Farkas is too kind-heard. Only Luthien stands as a true warrior who can keep a still mind amidst these burning hearts.
I will not speak to Luthien of any of this though. It is too much to burden another with. My hope is that Luthien and I can keep counsel over the coming years, that I can impart the wisdom of the Harbingers. All things in time. Firstly, I will seek her assistance in the matter of the witches of Glenmoril. It would appear that our path to the cure is not without some poetic justice for the tricksters who first cursed us.
She felt her eyes sting with tears, and when she blinked the rolled down her cheeks and dripped onto the pages, blurring the ink where they fell. Closing the journal, she tucked it into her pack. She wanted to show Vilkas, to ask him what it might all mean.
The shard rested at the bottom of the drawer. She drew it out and held it up, inspecting it in the dull light from the oil lamp she’d carried with her into the room. It was dull, and she couldn’t imagine what Eorlund wanted with it, but she would take it back to him anyway.
Wiping the tears from her face, she swallowed her grief and went back upstairs, out the front doors to avoid the others, and back up the path to the Skyforge to find Eorlund. He’d lain all the shards out beside the forge, only looking up when he heard her approach.
“Did you find it?”
She nodded and held it out to him.
“What are you going to do with them all?”
“You’ll see,” he offered a long, sad smile and then gestured with his head to the path. “Your siblings await you in the underforge.”
They were bickering when she found them, Vilkas and Aela arguing about what Kodlak would have truly wanted while Farkas stood quietly between them. They barely seemed to notice she’d come in, and for a while she just stood listening to their words, her mind trying to make sense of it all. Kodlak had dreamed of her before she’d ever even come to Jorrvaskr, had planned to share his wisdom with her in hopes that one day she would take his place as Harbinger.
Her gaze traveled to Vilkas, who looked pale again, but for the fire in his eyes that she knew would carry him all the way to Sovngarde to battle the gatekeeper himself if he thought it would get Kodlak into the hall. She knew she couldn’t tell him to rest; he would never listen to her, but she feared if he didn’t take rest soon, he would collapse where he stood and never stand again.
The argument seemed to go on for hours, Vilkas and Aela skirting around what was right for the Companions and their future. She thought about handing Kodlak’s journal over to them, so they could read what Kodlak really wanted, but the time wasn’t right, and she feared it would only make matters worse.
“You act like this is a curse, but this is who we are, Vilkas. When are you going to accept that?”
“Never!” he railed. “This is not who we are. It’s who we have became, and Kodlak didn’t accept that this was final either. He was a true and noble warrior, and he longed to meet with Ysgramor in Sovngarde to take his rightful place in the Hall of Honor.”
“Vilkas is right,” Farkas finally spoke up. “Kodlak never wanted to spend eternity in the Hunting Grounds. He accepted that you and Skjor did, but just because you don’t agree with what he wanted, doesn’t make his final wishes any less important, Aela.”
She relented, her head dropping, the length of her auburn hair falling beside her cheek. “You’re right,” she nodded. “You’re both right.”
“Kodlak believed there was a way to cure the beastblood, even in death, but without Ysgramor’s blade, it is impossible.”
None of them had even heard Eorlund come in, but when he spoke he had all of their attention. “Thanks to your shield-sister here, I was able to take that which was broken and reforge it once more. Behold, Wuuthrad—the blade of mighty Ysgramor.”
“Wuuthrad.” Vilkas stepped forward, hand reaching out in awe. “Eorlund, you’ve…”
“It is restored to its former beauty and just as deadly,” Eorlund promised. “And though Kodlak is not here to say so, I feel I speak for him when I say that your shield-sister here should carry Wuuthrad into battle, since it was she who retrieved the shards.”
“Yes,” Vilkas nodded, turning his gaze to her. “If not for you, we would not have this blade. Take it, Luthien. Carry it with honor.”
“And come with us to the tomb of Ysgramor to grant Kodlak his final wish,” Aela said.
“I—I can’t… It should be Vilkas, or Farkas…”
“Do not shame Ysgramor by denying this honor, girl.” Eorlund’s tone was powerful, and for a moment she actually feared the wrath of Ysgramor coming down from Sovngarde to smite her. “Carry Wuuthrad to the tomb of Ysgramor and grant Kodlak’s dying wish.”
She reached for the long handle and drew it near, regretting that Vilkas had never had time to show her how to wield a war axe properly. “For Kodlak,” she said, holding it close to her chest.
“For Kodlak,” Vilkas agreed.
Farkas nodded, Aela stepping forward too, both of them saying, “For Kodlak.”
*there are other images that go in this post, but I am having trouble with Photoshop this afternoon. I will add them when I get it working.*