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History of the Companions, 4th Era

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Lady N's picture
Joined: 06/26/2010

Author -  Ilanisilver


History of the Companions, 4th Era
Folklore of Skyrim, Origin Unknown

The following dated account was recovered from a storeroom in Jorrvaskr. Its value lies not only in retelling one of Skyrim’s rare mystical folktales; we’ve been granted a rarer (and surely romanticized) peek into the lives of Skyrim’s celebrated warriors, including Farkas and Vilkas – twin brothers who trained and traveled with the legendary Dragonborn – in their years before that brush with fame.
4E 198, 5th of Rain’s Hand
Fire snapped and hissed, casting shadows on cobblestones around the verandah. Roasting apples rested against the firepit’s iron rim, skins wrinkling and splitting in the heat. Farkas sat on the stairs. His silver-blue eyes followed sparks and ash and cedar-scented smoke in their spiral toward Whiterun’s boundless sky.
Vignar’s voice called from behind the flames. It sounded like gravel grinding under Farkas’s boot, but he loved hearing it all the same. “What story, tonight?”
Farkas glanced across the yard, searching for his brother. Vilkas paid no attention to Vignar, preferring to flirt with the new recruit instead. Ria, Farkas thought her name, shrugged off Vilkas’s winks and whispers, and called out. “How about ‘Spring in the Grove of Stars?’”
Conversation dulled; all eyes turned her way. Farkas leaned back on his palms, his fingers curving around the edges of the floorboards. He had to admire her confidence. Not only did she speak up – and first, unusual for a newblood – but she suggested a romance. And not just any romance, but one set in a magical wood. He watched for Vignar’s response.
The old man nodded, and chuckled under his breath. “One we’ve not heard in a while. But it is that time of year, after all,” he said, glancing around the yard and pushing his breeze-blown hair off his forehead, tying the unruly silver mass with a leather thong. 
“Northwest hold, there’s a wood and a clearing. A winter day’s travel might get you there, but only two or three hours once the snow’s melted and the weather’s fine. And springtime…yes, spring’s the time to go – if you have someone to share the journey, and you’ve not forgotten how to dream,” Vignar said, the cadence of his voice rising and falling with the story. “For lovers and dreamers may find a mysterious hot spring sheltered by juniper and snowberry shrubs. Birches, barely sprouting pale green leaves, haven’t yet formed their summer canopy. Masser and Secunda stay below the horizon until early morning, so the sky – oh! The sky’s open, big as life, and only as bright as the stars want it to be.” 
Farkas looked to Vilkas, amused at his dramatic turn of fascination in light of Ria’s obvious interest – he watched Vignar like an explorer might study a butterfly under a glass. As for Farkas, he had no idea what Vignar was talking about – Eastmarch was the place for hot springs. But the tale took over, and Farkas found himself lost to its beauty, markers on his map soon forgotten.
“One early spring afternoon, two such lovers happened upon the wood. They’d become lost in an unseasonal storm…
I’m worried, Matthias. It’s been two days, and our village is nowhere in sight,” Nina said, stumbling over a gnarled root. “We’re lost.”
“Of course we’re lost, but we’ll find our way again,” Matthias said, taking Nina’s hand and steadying her gait. He tried to keep a cheerful tone, but he worried, too. They’d found no sustenance but underripe berries, and snowmelt had yet to fill creeks and streams. Another day without water would prove dangerous. “There’s no need for worry-“
A warm breeze caught his attention, and he sniffed the air. Salt. “Do you smell that?”
Nina sniffed and wrinkled her nose. “A hot spring? I don’t know of any not in Eastmarch. Surely that storm didn’t knock us so far off course?”
They rambled ahead through the forest, fear and thirst forgotten. Trees soon gave way to a clearing, and a humid, salt-scented breeze blew soft on their faces. Flat, polished rocks surrounded a green, bubbling pool, and – Matthias hardly dared hope. “You’re the alchemist. Are…are those jazbay?”
Nina knelt, examining deep purple fruits and sage-green leaves. Jazbay grew in profusion around hot springs, their roots loving the mineral-rich, volcanic soil, but it never hurt to be cautious. She looked up, her eyes shining. “I’ve never been so happy to see grapes in all my life.”
After they’d eaten enough to dull the ache in their bellies, they explored close by, finding a fresh, cool waterfall. “Let’s stay here for the night,” Matthias said. “We can rest, and eat and drink more in the morning. Well fed, we’ll make better time.”
Nina smiled and nodded. “Good idea. I didn’t want to complain, love, but I’m just about dead on my feet.”
“You don’t usually stumble over tree roots,” Matthias said, relieved his wife agreed to his proposal so easily. Grapes and water aside, he had no idea where they were or how to find their village. A routine expedition to find potion ingredients had turned into a life-threatening journey, and Matthias lambasted himself, not for the first time, for his embarrassing lack of woodsmanship.
But no matter – their luck had turned. Matthias smiled and helped Nina undress and step into the pool, hot, salty water washing tension and soreness from their muscles. Comfortable and warm for the first time in days, within moments they fell fast asleep. When they awoke, the sun had painted the western horizon in stripes of purple, blue, and gold, but Matthias and Nina had eyes only for each other.
Surrounded by caressing waters, the lovers did as lovers do – forgot their worries and fear, forgot everything but the warmth of their skin and the softness of their lips. And when Nina arched her back and cried out to the skies, the stars that met her eyes seemed to shine just for her.
Later, snuggled against Matthias’s side, Nina gazed up at the sky once more. Aurora pulsed and spun, dancing amid twinkling stars and washing the night in shades of green and pink and violet. “I’m sorry, love,” Matthias said, kissing Nina’s temple. “Sorry for getting us lost. I’m sure we’ll find our way tomorrow.”
Nina snorted. “It’s not your fault. I chose to veer from the road – everywhere I looked, there seemed to be a bigger juniper, or another bird’s nest, or more dartwings. And we’re so low on potions…”
“Well, spring is here, and we’re safe and warm, so I believe better things are coming. Tell me,” Matthias said, glancing around the clearing. “What do you wish? What’s your greatest hope?”
“That’s easy. That we find our way. Not just back to our village. But a place of our own, where we’re needed and loved and not feared. Remember when we came back from Winterhold? No one knew what to do with us – a healer and an alchemist. ‘Our healers have always been Kyne-blessed, not College-trained.’ Even our parents didn’t want us to go in the first place, and-“
Nina gasped.
The stars seemed to change, then. Some faded from view, while others shone brighter. Aurora swirled and lengthened, its light forming what looked like patterns on a map – rivers, roads, and mountains.
Nina and Matthias stared, and finally, Nina cleared her throat. “Am I seeing things, or…”
“It’s a map,” Matthias said, and shook his head. “I- it can’t be. But it looks like a map – a map I should have brought with us. Look, here’s where we are.” He motioned to a star in the midst of a green swirl. “And there’s the river snaking off to the west. And up there, mountains to the north of our village. See that other swoosh, there? Labyrinthian, and our village at its foot.”
“But, that bright, pulsing star to the southwest, where the other stars seem to be pointing. That’s Riverwood,” Nina said, excitement speeding her words, “if that big star is Whiterun. And it has to be – that blue peak can be nothing but the Throat of the World.”
“You’re right. But why Riverwood?”
“Why not Riverwood?” Nina laughed and stood up, splashing Matthias with warm, salty water. “Magical stars? A map in the skies telling us how to get home? Impossible. But then again, we were making wishes...”
“On wishing stars?” Matthias watched Nina step out of the pool. “We should be dreaming bigger.”
“Our dreams have never been big.” Nina said, drying off on the warm stones. “Just a home, a place where we can help people – why we left for Winterhold in the first place.”
“It is a beautiful dream,” Matthias said, clambering out and joining his wife. It wasn’t long before they were both dry and warm on a bed of soft moss at the edge of the rocks. “We don’t have supplies for a trip to Riverwood. As long as we’re wishing, let’s add that to the mix.”
“Done,” Nina said and snuggled back against his chest. Tired eyelids fell upon tired eyes, and the stars blurred and darkened. 
Nina’s voice jogged him from sleep. He opened his eyes and saw she wasn’t at his side, and yawned and sat up. His eyes adjusted to the morning light, and there she was, kneeling beside a knapsack.
“What’s that?”
“I hoped you could tell me,” Nina said, holding the knapsack open to display its contents: blankets and potions. Bread, cheese, and apples. A full waterskin.
Matthias opened his mouth, and when no sound came out, he shut it again.
Nina nodded, took a bite from one of the apples, and tossed it to her husband. “Riverwood it is, then.”
The journey was easier than they’d expected. No storms, no rain. The ground firm under their feet, they made excellent time. Riverwood‘s guardpost stood out in stark relief against the violet dusky sky, and with nothing else to guide them, they headed to the middle of town, where a large crowd gathered outside what looked to be an inn.
Matthias greeted a tall, blond man covered in soot. “What’s going on?”
The man nodded, his eyes resting on Matthias’s pack. “Passing through, eh? Keep walking. We’ve a sickness, and no healers. Apothecary left months ago to try his luck in Solitude. We’ve sent for a healer from Whiterun, but it’s been weeks...”
Nina gazed from the blacksmith back to Matthias, tears shining like stars in her eyes. Matthias lowered his pack. 
They were home. 
Vignar’s last words echoed throughout the yard, accompanied only by the crackling fire. A loud snort broke the silence. Farkas rolled his eyes.
“So you expect us to believe there’s an uncharted spring that grants wishes,” Vilkas said, “and even the stars knew Riverwood needed healers? And stashed supplies in a tree just waiting for someone to pass through?” He snorted again and turned to Ria, but his smirk faded – she wasn’t there.
Vignar snorted in return and grinned at Ria, who’d moved away from Vilkas’s side to sit by the fire. “Shoot, lad. I don’t expect you to believe a damned thing. It’s a story. The truth of it? Well, I’ve never taken a love to the woods and don’t know anyone who has. I’ll make you a deal though,” Vignar said, a smirk curving the creases of his tanned face, “if you ever find someone who can put up with your shit long enough, take her there and see. And let me know what happens.”
After the company’s laughter died down, Farkas cleared his throat. “I’ve heard stranger things.”
Vignar fixed Farkas with a level look. “Aye, that’s true, indeed. I’m of a mind you’ll be in position to find the Grove of Stars before your brother does, so maybe you can let me know.”
Laughter erupted again, and Vignar held up his hand for silence. He took a bite from a roasted apple and wiped sticky juice from his beard. “So who’s next? Another request?”
Lady N's picture
Joined: 06/26/2010

This piece was written for our 20th anniversary fan art contest! It is strictly property of its original creator - you may not modify, publish, or redistribute it without explicit permission from the artist.