BALGRUUF THE LESSER 13: No Closer to Honor

  • My stomach churned as Farkas and I walked back up the steps to Jorvasskr.  Knowing what walked beside me… it gave me chills and sweats at the same time.  I’d seen what he was, down in that crypt… and then the monster that was Farkas apologized to me, like, like… like I was a child whom he’d startled as he came around the corner.

    And I’d said it was fine, and I’d fought beside him against those Silver Hand crusaders the rest of the way through that crypt.  What else could I do?  I’d made a commitment to find Wuuthrad.  I’d accepted him as a shield brother.  But it was my intention to tell Kodlak that I wanted nothing more to do with the Companions.

    We found him in the yard, but before I could open my mouth, I was surrounded by Companions.  My mouth went dry and my words died, unspoken.

    “Who speaks for this man?” Kodlak intoned, in a ritualistic tone.

    “I speak for him,” Farkas replied.

    “Would you fight beside him?” Kodlak asked.

    “I would fight with him, back to back or shoulder to shoulder.”

    “Would you drink in his honor?”

    “I would sing songs of his deeds.”

    There may have been more. I only remember that it was a glowing endorsement of my virtues as a warrior and a drinking buddy.  Apparently, Farkas had not noticed my reluctance to stand near him.  Nor had he noticed the times when I had hesitated to strike his foes.  Nor even the time I had run the other way entirely.  On Farkas’ word, I was accepted as a Companion.  The irony is… monstrous.

    After clapping me heartily on the back, the circle disbanded, and I was left alone with Kodlak.  I could claim that I said something scathing or at least clever, but the truth is, all I could manage was, “So… werewolves?”

    He guffawed, and dropped his head into his hand. “Oh… Farkas! I see you’ve been let in on our little secret a bit ahead of schedule.”


    He sighed. “Yes, it is our blessing and our curse.  Some take to it more than others.”

    “And you?” I asked. 

    Kodlak shrugged. “Most of the Companions are young. A man gets to be my age, and he begins thinking about Sovngarde. And he begins to wonder whether Skjor would welcome a beast into his hall.” 

    We spoke a little longer. The conversation left me feeling confused.  I still felt such respect for Kodlak. 


    I found Uthgird in The Bannered Mare.  I told her I was done with the Companions, news she took with some enthusiasm.  After I’d had a bit too much to drink, and we had stumbled back to her house for the night, I even told her what they were.

    “By the Gods!” she exclaimed, suddenly sober. “By the Gods, we must destroy them!”

    I frowned. “Do you think that’s the right thing to do?”

     “How can you even ask?” she asked.

    “I still sense honor in them,” I muttered.  “Farkas saved my life in that crypt.”

    “He saved his own life!  Look, whatever the Companions once were, they’ve been corrupted.  These creatures defile the name.”

    “I’m just not sure that’s so,” I objected, but weakly. 

    “We should butcher them while they’re in their cups!” she shouted, her fist slamming the table.

    I shouted back, “Perhaps we should wait until we are not!”



    That night, I crept into Jorvasskr while the Companions slept.  I carried the sky-forged great sword I had been given the day before by Eorlund Gray-Mane. I crept down into the bedchambers, let myself into the rooms, and stood over each one in turn.  The young ones, I left undisturbed.  Members of the Circle, the infected ones, like the huntress, those I killed with a single quick, quiet stab of the sword.  Finally, I found the chamber of Vilkas and Farkas.  Each lay on his side, with his back to the room, as though seeking solitude.  As I raised my sword over Farkas, he sniffed the air, rolled onto his back and looked me in the face, “Brother,” he greeted me in surprise. I brought the sword point down through his heart.

    I cried out and sat straight up in bed, sweat beading my brow, blankets falling to my lap.  Uthgird muttered in her sleep and pulled the blankets back up over her shoulders.

    It was a dream, I assured myself, just a dream. But I couldn’t shake loose the image, so I got up and used the chamber pot.  I drank a long draught from the tankard on the nightstand, and lay back down.

    I had told Vilkas I understood nothing of honor, and I felt no closer to understanding than I ever had. Nevertheless, assassination of sleeping victims can’t possibly be it.

    It took a long time to fall back asleep, and when I did, I fell into the same dream, only this time, Uthgird led the way into Jorvasskr.  Standing in the hallway, she drew her great sword and uttered a war whoop.

    Warriors poured from their bedchambers all up and down the hall.  Soon, Uthgird was surrounded and overcome.  I watched passively and she feel under their blows.  The Companions turned to go back to their rooms.  Uthgird struggled back to her feet, blood running from her face, arms and body, and attacked the nearest warrior.  Quickly, she was overrun again and soon lay still on the floor again.

    But again, as soon as they turned away from her, she rose, a flap of scalp hanging loose from her skull, and cleaved the skull of nearest foe.  Again they were upon her.

    Throughout the night, my mind kept clawing its way to semi-consciousness, struggling to leave the dream behind, but then I would slip back into the dream, Uthgird would rise again, ever more gory and less human, and her foes would spring back to the attack.  No matter how many she slew, there never seemed to be any fewer of them.

    Finally, I woke up enough to fall off the bed.  It was still dark, but I felt my way to the table, and sat there in the cold, picking at a loaf of bread and nursing my tankard until dawn’s light crept in the windows.  Uthgird slept late.  By the time she arose and joined me at the table, I knew what I wanted to do.

    “I want to visit the Graybeards,” I announced.

    “What?” she exclaimed around a mouthful of cheese. “Where’d that come from?”

    “My father wanted me to visit the Graybeards, and I refused,” I explained. “The time has come for me to honor my father’s wishes.”

    “Why?” she challenged. “Is your father’s will suddenly so important to you?  Or are you just running from what must be done?”

    “I do not KNOW what must be done!” I roared.  “And damn it, Uthgird! You do not know either!”  In a quieter voice, I continued.  “All my life, I have been so certain I knew what had to be done, and what have I accomplished?  Is my city better off for my certainty?  My country?  How about my father?”

     Her teeth ground together as we stared each other down across the table. Finally, she said quietly, “I thought you were a man of action.”

    “Even men of action must take time to withdraw and reflect at some point,” I replied.

    I expected her to kick me out, or simply to walk away, as she had that day at Jorvasskr.  I thought Uthgird might only be capable of reflection on the surface of her mead, but she surprised me.

    “Then let us prepare for the journey.”