The Prodigal Son

  • The welcome had been warm enough to thaw the frost in his joints, building up from the year in the North. A year.At the start, it had seemed an impossible span of time. But standing on the other end, looking back on the past twelve months, Ragnvaldr could see it as nothing but a brief episode in his life. And a necessary one. He saw that now.

    Jorrvaskr had been filled near to eruption. His family and his blood-family, all hugs and toasts and tales and questions. The smile on his face had been unshakable. Yet now as he stood beside his father on the plains of Whiterun, he felt an unease take him.

    Moon and stars cast a pale light across the vast stillness of the tundra. His father’s idle conversation had died away minutes ago, leaving the two in a silence that loomed like a headsman’s axe. Ragnvaldr longed to cry out, to shake his father, to demand of him Why have you taken me from the party? But Ragnvaldr was a year more patient- and a year wiser, more importantly. He knew that such insolence was exactly what his father was waiting for was testing him for.

    Satisfied with Ragnvaldr’s silence, Lars Battle-Born turned his blue gaze from the plains to his son. “You’ll escort your Uncle Gallus and his family back home when they wish to return,” he instructed softly. It was an easy enough command, though Ragnvaldr was in no mood to travel again. It was an easy trip, though, and Ragnvaldr was eager to see what his cousins were like now that they had grown a bit more. They’d always been more baby than boy, and not much fun to play with, but in the past year, Owain had turned into quite the little troublemaker, and his antics had kept Ragnvaldr chuckling all night. 

    Yes, it was a simple request, but the shift in Lars’s eyes had Ragnvaldr on alert. Something bigger was coming.

    “Of course,” the son answered, his lean figure looking almost battle ready as he squinted warily at his father. 

    “They’ll likely want you to visit with you there for a night or two.”

    “Of course,” he agreed without a squabble, though he was frustrated, a bit. They’d visit here in Whiterun for a few days before leaving; wasn’t that long enough? But he refused to fall back into his old ways of neglecting familial bonds. Even if his father’s tone was bothering him. “I’d like that. Father, is something bothering you?”

    Lars stared blankly back at his son, seeming to be caught unawares. Slowly, though, he smiled. “The College has made you sharper,” he observed, approving. “Yes, something is bothering me.”

    Finally, a straight answer, Ragnvaldr rejoiced. Though he could ifnd little pleasure in his father’s features. “What is it? Is it something I can help with?”

    “No,” Lars sighed, shaking his head and turning away, his voice a breath retreating across the plains. “No, it’s beyond helping, I’m afraid, but it’s something you need to know.”

    Ragnvaldr had expected some sort of scolding about bringing Cait back home; he’d been armed and ready to argue about that. It wasn’t as though he could simply leave her there. He loved her. Yet he wasn’t relieved to find that his father had something else on his mind. Silence did not lend itself to the young warrior, but in that moment, he had no words. His father continued.

    “We didn’t want to worry you while you were away,” he was saying as his gaze sprawled across the land, looking anywhere but at his son, “And I suppose we’d hoped it’d be a surprise.”

    “What is it, Father?” he finally broke, the dramatics finally too much for him to bear.

    The weight of the words nearly visible, and certainly audible, Lars Battle-Born faced his son and in a voice that broke his son’s heart said, “Your mother was with child again.”

    Ragnvaldr froze, slowly making sense of the words. A brother or a sister, or knowing his mother, perhaps twins. The babe had been growing, had been alive, perhaps even named. He had no clue how long it had survived within his mother’s womb, but Ragnvaldr imagined its small feet, one day kicking and the other day still. The child had lived and died without his knowledge, and it had been his own arrogance that had kept him away.

    He hadn’t even known the child existed, and still he made the suffering his own. Selfish as ever, he cursed himself through misty eyes. Emerging from his own self-pity, he found his father crying before him, a rare sight. The aged warrior’s sobs were feeble and tired, soft and high in pitch. Well-worn tears… How long had his father lived with this grief?

    Ragnvaldr took his father into his arms and was shocked to find how eagerly he felt his father’s arms wrap around him, squeezing, crushing. And as he held him, Ragnvaldr realized it was the first time in a long time he had initiated a hug with one of his parents instead of merely permitting them to embrace him.

    “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” 


    Hey there! Long time, no blog! This little drabble is set a generation or so into the future, in a friend and mine's personal Skyrim universe we've been creating together for the past several months. This is something I wrote for our entertainment, but I thought, hey, I worked hard on it so why not share it? Perhaps some of you will enjoy it, even without all the context. It IS Skyrim content, after all!


  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 1, 2015
    It is always good to see the sensitive side of warriors. Well-written. 
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  November 1, 2015
    Not bad. Nice to see you post new content. Been far too long.