A Good Man Goes To War, Ch 7: Questions


    The courtyard’s stark winter sun rendered the temple vestibule dark by comparison, and Vilkas and Britta peered into the shadows, their squinting eyes adjusting to soft, moody light. Vilkas guided the heavy, wooden doors to click shut behind them, and strode around the corner to Farkas’s bed. No change – his brother lay silent and motionless as he had just an hour ago. Vilkas inclined his head to gauge Britta’s response, but the girl wasn’t beside him or even behind him. Instead, she’d stepped into the sunlit temple proper, twirling slowly in the middle of a colorfully-tiled mosaic on the floor.


    Maybe she hadn’t seen Farkas yet. Vilkas whistled, the soft burr of his voice echoing in the circular space. “Britta?”


    Quick footsteps pattered down the far corridor leading to the priestess’s living quarters, and Danica appeared in the doorway. She stopped and watched the girl stare up at the vaulted ceiling, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open, something perhaps only a child can do while retaining the barest shred of dignity.


    Vilkas leaned against a pale wooden column and tried to see Kyne’s temple how Britta did – through fresh, innocent eyes. It was a marvel. Sunbeams streamed through upper story windows and skylights, illuminating blue and yellow stained carvings on the walls. Hanging moss and flowering vines clung to balconies, their delicate perfume adding a bit of sweetness to otherwise clean, fresh air.


    He took a deep breath and felt it catch in his chest – an icy-scented breeze wove its way past columns and halls, bedlinens and curtains fluttering in its wake. Like frost skimming northern tundra or the snowy whirlwind at the foot of the Throat of the World, its scent was unmistakable. Vilkas took off his gloves and lay a hand on Farkas’s shoulder. Warm. As was the breeze itself, he realized, turning his hand this way and that in its flow. He shivered, nonetheless, and rolled his eyes.


    Leave it to me to feel a chill in Whiterun’s coziest dwelling.


    Britta grinned and pointed up, and Vilkas stepped into the light and followed her direction. He grinned, too – blue and orange butterflies flitted from window to window, lighting on green leaves and horn-shaped flowers, something he’d never noticed in as many times as he’d visited the temple. He listened, and the faintest buzzing noise had him retreating into the shadows. Vilkas wasn’t a fan of bees. But a giggle bubbled joyfully from Britta’s smiling mouth, and she hugged herself, spinning on her toes and only stopping when her gaze fell on Farkas’s bed. Her face grew solemn then, and she padded over to where he lay peaceful and still except for the rise and fall of his chest.


    She reached out to brush his forehead and newly-shorn hair with feather-light fingers, her eyes shining. After all she’d been through and seen Farkas through, a few tears weren’t surprising. Vilkas gave her an encouraging nod and a pat on the shoulder and went to stand with Danica.


    “So that’s the little girl our Farkas guided across the hold while burned to a crisp, just to see her safely home,” she said, her eyes narrowing a bit, watching Britta speak to Farkas in low, cooing tones. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”


    “I’m not sure who was guiding who,” Vilkas said, remembering Britta’s supporting hands and encouraging cries leading a dying Farkas down the road to Whiterun. “You still sure he’s going to-“


    “Hmm, I can feel his spirit healing. He’s going to be fine,” Danica said, shrugging her shoulders with a merry huff, “and no one’s more surprised about that than I am. Matter of fact, I might be waking him up earlier than planned. I’ll send someone to let you know when I do.”


    Britta planted a soft kiss on Farkas’s temple, and Vilkas caught a whiff of that icy breeze swirling through the room once more. He shivered again, and opened his mouth to comment on the strange draft, but Danica’s quiet gasp and stiffened spine stole his words. Instead, he watched the priestess step toward the girl and kneel in the middle of the hawk-shaped mosaic, her hands outstretched. After a moment’s hesitation Britta took Danica’s hands and knelt as well, the two whispering together, awash in streams of light.


    Thick as thieves.


    No, more like family, Vilkas corrected, whispering a hasty apology to Kyne – the goddess might not look kindly upon a comparison of her priestess to a petty criminal. He leaned against a column, checking on Farkas again, just in case. Still no change – not that he truly expected it. Danica said she’d have to awaken him from his healing sleep, and she would, in time. But, patience had never been Vilkas’s strong suit. A rustle of fabric and leather squeaking on tile brought his eyes back to the mosaic where Danica and Britta now stood. Vilkas moved to join them.


    “Wind guide you, my child,” Danica whispered to Britta, and looked up to the sunny ceiling, her eyes shining not with tears, but with joy.


    Vilkas shifted his gaze from Danica to Britta and one corner of his mouth twitched – Britta’s expression was joyful as well. What’s more, she’d regarded Farkas with this same expression just a few minutes ago. He’d believed her eyes sad, shining with unshed tears, but he’d been wrong – peace shone there, and love. Quiet comfort. Well, Farkas did look a sight better now, and so did Britta – no more white face and haunted eyes. Funny that, Vilkas thought, and held himself back from asking what had happened on the road; the girl had been through enough already.


    Again, Vilkas wanted to stay and talk with Danica. So many questions lined up in his head – what did she see in Britta, just then? How had she served in the Great War when she looked no older than Vilkas’s own thirty six or seven? Where did those warm, icy breezes come from? But questions could wait. For now, he simply returned her smile and walked Britta outside and back down to the smithy. Ulfberth and Adrienne would be happy to see her back – and whole – and Vilkas thought he could use a bit more happiness before the storm he sensed on the horizon settled in.



    Through thick, foggy sleep, Vilkas heard a door slam and opened his eyes. The candle on the table’d burned down to a stub. He peeled his face from the pages of a book and stared stupidly, trying to remember why he was sitting at Kodlak’s table, with a noisily-snoring Kodlak beside him.


    After a moment’s grogginess, it came to him – they’d fallen asleep drinking and talking long into the night, and an anxious night at that. Vilkas returned to Jorrvaskr that afternoon to find Kodlak in a state. Skjor’d taken off to the Reach for a contract, and Jarl Balgruuf had the city guard on high alert – he’d received missives from both Jarls Laila Law-Giver in Riften and Korir in Winterhold. Reports of dragons, of all things. One from the village of Ivarstead and the other from Frostflow, an old lighthouse off the Sea of Ghosts.


    The day Farkas had come straggling down the road looking like he’d been kissed by a pyromancer, Aela’d laughed off Olava’s insistence that what flew over Whiterun had been a dragon, and not birds, but even she found this news difficult to dismiss. Two reports of a huge black dragon, and one issued from the foot of the Throat of the World, where Vilkas had seen his freak storm? Vilkas felt no victory in having been right – on the contrary, he’d hoped for a loss.


    Earlier that evening, he and Kodlak had ventured down into Jorrvaskr’s dark and dusty sub-basement, looking through storerooms for books or scrolls that might mention dragons. What they found shed no light on the situation: a couple of old scrolls described Akatosh in dragon form, and a book of children’s tales featured a golden dragon and his human lieutenants amassing deadly power in ancient cities. Vilkas assumed they were Skyrim cities, but they could well be Atmoran, as much as anyone knew about the Nords’ ancestral home. Crudely-drawn illustrations accompanied the stories – men wearing terrifying masks fought at the feet of dragons, wielding magical staffs in a war against soldiers and civilians alike.


    He and Kodlak perused these documents for hours in hopes some hidden information might pop out and smack them in the face with an answer, but none made itself known. As Kodlak pointed out, even the Temple of the Divines portrayed Akatosh as a dragon – nothing weird about that. And didn’t Martin Septim use some strange magic to banish Mehrunes Dagon during the Oblivion Crisis? If eyewitnesses could be believed, he’d used Akatosh’s mantle to do so. And Vilkas conceded that Nord parents had used dragons to scare their children into good behavior for centuries. No, fairy tales couldn’t be viewed as historical documentation, as proof, that dragons had returned to Skyrim.


    But given the jarls’ reports and Farkas’s condition – he’d returned from his Dawnstar contract with burns covering eighty percent of his body, according to Danica – plus, a little girl who looked like she’d seen monsters…well. Vilkas felt he had no choice but to entertain the possibility that fairy tales weren’t just tales, after all.


    And just…how was such a thing possible? If the dragon currently roaming Skyrim were real, it stood to reason the dragons and masked men and terrifying wars from the tales might have been real, too. At some point in the past, at least. Exactly how did such events disappear from history so completely?


    Footsteps pounded down the hall past the living quarters and grew louder on their way to the Harbinger’s rooms. “He’s awake.” Ria, one of the newest whelps, stood breathless outside Kodlak’s outer door. She whispered, her black eyes darting back and forth between Vilkas and the sleeping Harbinger. “Danica sent word. Farkas is awake.”



    “Hey, there he is!” Vilkas ran through the temple, skidding to a stop next to his brother’s bed, where Farkas sat upright, scratching idly at a burn mark on his bicep. Danica slapped his hand away, and Vilkas hugged his brother, pulling him from side to side, astonished at the relief he felt coursing through his body. He thought he’d believed Danica when she promised Farkas would be fine, but he should have known better. Vilkas seldom believed anything until he saw it with his own eyes. And now that he did, he felt his body unclench for the first time in days.


    “Alright.” Vilkas’s shoulder muffled Farkas’s voice. He pulled back and peered at angry, red splotches still covering the bulk of Farkas’s skin. Farkas snorted. “Worried about me, were you brother?”


    Danica crossed her arms over her chest and tapped one foot on the floor. “You’re awake more than twelve hours before I expected, and several days before any normal man would be,” she said, her stern, warning look softening at the unexpected alarm shadowing Farkas’s eyes. “You’re to take it easy the next few days, Companion. You should be dead.”


    Farkas nodded. “How long was I out?”


    “Almost two days,” Danica said. “Like I said, anyone else –“


    “I know, I know,” Farkas said, his face tightening in an expression Vilkas recognized as fear. Vilkas wasn’t sure what prompted it, but if his suspicions about what attacked Farkas were correct, they all still had quite a bit to fear.


    Farkas ran his hand over his shorn hair – barely two inches remained; most of his shoulder-length black waves had burned before he made it to Whiterun. Sergio Pelagius neatened it up with his sheep shears while Farkas slept. “Feels weird. I must look like a legionnaire with this haircut,” he said, and swore under his breath, his jaw clenching.


    Vilkas barked out a short laugh. Of all things, Farkas was upset about his haircut? “It’s not so bad, and hair grows, after all,” he said. His smile faded, and he leaned against the bed. “Farkas, what hap–“


    “How’s the girl?” Farkas spoke over Vilkas, his eyes boring into Vilkas’s own, his brows raised slightly. He gave his head a tiny shake. “Britta. I know she was here, earlier. She ok?”


    Danica huffed. “How did you know she was here? You were asleep.”


    “Heard her. She talked to me. Is she ok? That healing potion should have-“


    “No. No,” Danica repeated, faint pink splotches rising on her cheeks, “that’s impossible-“


    “Wait.” Vilkas spoke over Danica this time, his hand gently clenching her forearm. Farkas was scared, or at least agitated, and it seemed to have something to do with Danica’s repeated insistence that he was somehow abnormal or unusual. At this rate, Farkas might shut down before he explained what attacked them, and given the day’s reports, Vilkas couldn’t let that happen. “Could you start at the beginning? Was Britta hurt? Like you? And who did it?”


    Farkas pressed his lips together and stared at his hands, folded in his lap atop the thin, linen coverlet.


    “Are you cold?” Danica opened a drawer in a dresser next to his bed and pulled out a blanket. “Do you need-“


    “No, I’m fine,” Farkas said, but took the blanket anyway, holding its furry, folded bulk against his chest. He didn’t answer the question, and Vilkas knew why – Farkas never liked to be a bother. The mere fact he’d spent two days on a temple bed had to be chafing him to no end. And he hated being a bearer of bad news.


    His brother looked up, and Vilkas’s eyes crinkled at the anguish in Farkas’s own. That, more than his own intuition, more than Balgruuf’s reports, sank Vilkas’s stomach and had his heart pounding in his chest. It was true, then – the world was changing before their eyes, and Farkas found himself at the forefront. Not that he had any choice in the matter, not this time.


    Vilkas sighed and hopped up on the edge of the bed, near Farkas’s feet. “No matter, I can tell you what happened, brother. I can guess part of it, at least. Couriers from Riften and Winterhold showed up yesterday. Dragon sightings.” Both brothers winced at Danica’s gasp – she’d not heard the rumors, apparently. “And that sounds crazy, I know, because dragons aren’t real,” Vilkas said and laughed – a hollow, desperate sound. “I know they’re not. But two sightings in as many days –“


    “It’s true,” Farkas said, his voice barely a whisper. He coughed, and Danica stood in shock for a moment before fetching a cup of water. Vilkas found it oddly comforting that, when confronted with such an ugly, terrifying truth, even a serene priestess of Kyne found herself off her guard.


    Farkas sipped at the water, and set the cup on a table by the bed. He scratched at a scar encircling his neck, the corners of his mouth twitching at Danica’s whispered “stop,” and leaned back against his headboard. “What did the dragon look like, the one that’s been seen?”


    Vilkas glanced between Danica and Farkas. “Huge and black. Red eyes. No one’s been hurt so far, it’s…”


    “There’s been enough hurt for a lifetime, I’d say,” Farkas muttered, resting his chin on the blanket. He sniffed. “We were just past the Weynon Stones, about to turn south, and um, I saw it swoop down from the clouds, just like in the stories. Black, red eyes. Wings the size of…mammoths, I don’t know. But it burned all three of my guard - you know, the legionnaires I hired back in Dawnstar-“


    He broke off and scrubbed his face with his hands, and Vilkas swallowed hard. Farkas hadn’t been upset because of his haircut after all, but about the joke he made before he’d remembered, and over the soldiers he’d seen die before his eyes.


    “I mean, there they were, riding for the stones in the snow, and the thing shot fire from its jaws and…they were gone. Nothing left. And it did the same with me and Britta, more or less. Except, you know…we survived.”


    How?” Vilkas croaked, his voice barely a whisper. Farkas sat right in front of him, alive and mostly well, but Vilkas couldn’t imagine how. And he had to admit, part of him still expected the story to end with his brother nothing but ash, just like his guards. He shuddered, and gripped Farkas’s shin through the linen sheet. He’s real. He’s alive.


    “I made Britta drink a healing potion – one of the expensive ones. She’d gotten it from her pack for me, before...”


    Danica handed him the cup again, and he brought it to his lips, but didn’t drink. “You know what? I’m not going into it. I don’t want to yet, and if you don’t understand that…well,” he said, setting the cup back down on the table, “you’ll have to get used to disappointment. Yeah, there’s a dragon. It lit us up, and it flew away.”


    But not before it spoke to me. Farkas pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes, the dragon’s low, guttural laugh echoing in his ears. And the words. He hadn’t understood anything the dragon said, but the images that ruddy gibberish brought to life in his mind – men in horned masks conjuring thunder and lightning from the skies, bloody war, dragons spraying fire and ice over a desolate land – terrified Farkas as much as the dragon itself. He just couldn’t put a finger on why.


    Vilkas shrugged, and got to his feet. It seemed his lot in life to be denied answers to life’s pressing questions, these days. “Fine. I get it. Important thing is you can corroborate the reports. Balgruuf’s thanes and engineers might not hop-to for tales from the backwater.”


    “No, you moron, the important thing is that he’s alive.” Danica cuffed Vilkas on the shoulder before turning her attention back to Farkas. “I’ve never seen someone heal as fast as you,” she said, circling his bed, her hands soft and capable as they slid just over the surface of his skin. “You might be Kyne-blessed, as well.”


    “As well as what?”


    Danica shifted her gaze between the brothers. “As well as the girl,” she admitted. “Britta. She has…talent.”


    “You mean magic,” Farkas said, frowning at Danica, his brows lowered in disapproval.


    “Wait just a minute,” Danica said, planting her hands firmly on her hips. “What do you think healed you, sunshine and kisses?” She smirked at Farkas’s widened eyes. “You should be so lucky. Look, I’m not talking about college magic, although there’s nothing really wrong with that, either. But healing is a gift from Kyne, and I’m surprised any Nord has a reservation about receiving it.”


    Farkas at least had the good grace to look sheepish. “Sorry. I’m…” he rubbed at the back of his neck with one hand and flinched at the still-healing weals. “Just…what did you mean earlier? That I shouldn’t have heard Britta, before.”


    “I’d put you under an enchanted sleep, so your body could heal without stress,” she said, her color rising with Farkas’s second glower. “You know, Kyne gives other gifts, along with healing. Warrior goddess, remember? Never forget who she is. And anyway, you almost died. Do I really have to say that again? You. Almost. Died.”


    After a few deep breaths, and some muttering that Vilkas suspected might be less than priestess-like, Danica calmed down and addressed the original question. “To my knowledge, someone under that spell can’t hear what’s going on outside their own heads.”


    “And,” Farkas said, staring at his hands again, “you said I woke up earlier than you expected. Did you lift the spell or did I just…wake up?”


    Danica gave him a quizzical look and reached for the linen privacy curtain, noticing Vilkas pull a change of clothing from a leather satchel. “I lifted the spell. You have a problem with that, too, or would you rather go back to sleep?”


    Vilkas noticed Farkas’s relief – his flushed cheeks and heavy exhale – and filed it away. Farkas was upset about something, and it wasn’t the injuries, nor even the dragon itself, not really. His questions about the spell and visible agitation at Danica’s insistence that he’d not healed normally pointed to something magical, but Vilkas knew Farkas didn’t dabble in magic of any kind. He stepped away to let his brother dress in a linen tunic and cotton leggings, and wondered what else it could be.






4 Comments   |   Karver the Lorc and 3 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  June 4, 2018
    Farky is gruff stuff! And what's going on there between Kynareth and Britta? Looks like the goddess has spotted something in the girl. Kyne-blessed, but in a different way than Farkas. Cool! 
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  May 16, 2018
    Great chapter! This story should really have a lot more attention, it's well written and I could learn a thing or two about sibling dynamics from Farkas & Vilkas' interactions. I love how you've captured the terror of dragon sightings. It's easy to forget...  more
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  April 4, 2018
    The Next link doesn't work here. :)
    • ilanisilver
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      The Next link doesn't work here. :)
        ·  April 4, 2018
      fack! thanks. i could have sworn i went through them all from 1-10 and they worked. dammit, i hate computer things.