A Side of Iron and Scale - Chapter 3 - KA777 (2024)

Chapter Text

After leaving the Riverwood Trader, Roskva returned, once again, to the Sleeping Giant Inn and donned her new armor. She retrieved her axe and bow then pooled all her arrows together in her quiver. She took one last look in her satchel, satisfied with the number of potions and lockpicks, and headed northeast towards Bleak Falls Barrow.

Roskva pulled her map out for a final time, ensuring she was heading in the right direction. There weren’t many landscapes to go by, but following the sun’s movement, she was sure she was on the right track. The walk was long and demanding. The grassy terrain soon turned into snowy mountains, but the Nord blood in her was resilient to the biting wind. She hiked up the incline Lucan had pointed out on the map. Continuing through the cold, she had to kill two wolves before she spotted her destination.

Crouching down in the snow, Roskva took her time observing the large structures hanging over multiple sets of stairs leading to the entrance of Bleak Falls Barrow. She counted two moving figures, cohorts of Arvel the Swift, no doubt. Readying her bow, she nocked an arrow and began silently walking towards the first overhanging structure.

Roskva’s foot snapped a twig, alerting the closest bandit of her presence. Before he could make her out, she sent an arrow flying into his chest. Her years of hunting with her father had proven more useful than she thought.

Slowly making her way towards the corpse, she searched his body, hoping to find the claw before entering the barrow. All she found was a few coins and a healing potion. Shoving them in her bag, she continued up the first flight of stairs, stopping short of the top.

She could see the other bandit; this one was sitting on the ground enjoying a meal. Nocking another arrow, she shot the man in the back of the neck, an awful gurgling noise arising from the unswallowed pheasant breast stuck in his throat. She searched his body as well, finding only miscellaneous items, no claw. Damn! she swore.

“What was that?” Roskva heard from an undiscovered woman. She froze, willing them to stay away. She wanted to spot them first, not the other way around.

A female bandit quickly descended the stairs in front of Roskva, finding her immediately. Roskva hurriedly grabbed her axe and ran towards the armed woman, dodging a few blows from a dagger. She hacked away until the bandit fell, dead. Not expecting to procure much, Roskva searched the body. She was pleasantly surprised to find more arrows, gold, and a lockpick.

Working her way up the final set of stone stairs, Roskva kept glancing to the left and right, preparing herself to face more foes. Realizing that she was alone, she walked up to the tall iron doors of the barrow and pushed them open.

The entrance was damp and smelled of mildew, but it was a welcome reprieve from the icy air. Slowly making her way further into the dark, Roskva observed countless dead skeevers on the floor. The corpses looked fresh, their blood still shining, telling her that someone had killed them very recently. She didn’t want to be next.

There was sparse light inside, but a few braziers had been lit, seemingly to warm the bandits inhabiting the ruin. Roskva grabbed her bow again, placing the axe back to her hip. She nocked another arrow.

It wasn’t long before she encountered two more bandits, taking them out quickly with her bow. They never knew what hit them. Still searching for the heirloom, she looted each body. No claw.

The next room Roskva entered had shelving and she spotted the distinct pink and green bottles of healing potions and stamina potions. She grabbed them all, her satchel becoming heavier. It seemed that she had killed all the bandits for now. Arvel may be the only one left, she thought.

Roskva found her way to yet another room, this one more curious than the rest. There was a single lever in the middle of the floor, presumably used to open the gate to the far end, but something seemed strange. Roskva glanced at the lever but didn’t touch it, cautious of the effect.

She walked around the room, looking from the floor to the ceiling. There were contraptions on the roof holding ancient arrows. They looked ready to fly. Traps, she told herself. Moving back towards the lever, she now saw three pillars. They all bore resemblance of creatures. Strange, she thought. Roskva looked back to the gate, hoping to figure out a way to open it without the lever. Her eyes were drawn upward to two stone carvings, but it appeared that a third in the middle had been present at some point. Looking back around, she saw another carved stone, which must have fallen, immediately to the left of the lever.

Roskva moved back around to the three pillars. The carvings on them looked similar to the ones on the stones. It’s a puzzle! she realized excitedly. She fumbled with the pillars, but after some force, was able to rotate them. She matched the three pillars in the same order as the stone carvings, accounting for the one by the lever which should have been in the middle of the wall above the gate. Once she felt content with the placements, Roskva took a deep breath, pulled the lever, and crouched down with her arms above her head to protect her from possible flying arrows. She heard the gate lift but waited several moments before removing her protective posture. Finally, she stood and went through it.

Proud of herself, Roskva continued through the barrow, soon coming upon a spiral staircase. Nocking another arrow, she descended the stairs slowly, ears listening for any sign of another enemy.

Roskva reached the end of the stairs but couldn’t push through the entryway. Spiderwebs had sealed it shut. Placing her bow on her back, she grabbed her axe and swung a few times until the webs had dissipated. Entering the room, she observed more spiderwebs completely encasing the walls and a frostbite spider in the middle. It appeared wounded, so she ran full force giving it a death blow to the head.

“Help me down!” cried a voice. Roskva turned in the direction of the cry and saw a man, his head the only part of him visible, the rest encased in another web. She walked up to him, axe ready.

“You just going to stand there? Help me!” he yelled.

Roskva smirked. “You must be Arvel the Swift. You might want to consider changing your name after this, mate,” she said, chuckling at herself.

“Yes, yes, that’s very funny. Now cut me down, before anything else shows up!” the Dunmer snapped.

“Where’s the golden claw?” Roskva asked, crossing her arms, still holding her axe.

Almost giddy, Arvel replied, “Yes, the claw. I know how it works. The claw, the markings, the door in the Hall of Stories. I know how they all fit together! Help me down and I’ll show you. You won’t believe the power the Nords have hidden there.”

The dark elf was clearly lying. But if she didn’t cut him down, she couldn’t retrieve the claw. Plotting for a moment, Roskva stood there glaring at Arvel. Finally, she strode towards him, flinging her axe at the webbing as he fell with a great thud to the ground.

Arvel jumped up laughing. “Fool!” he yelled. “Did you really think I would let you take the claw?” He ran down the hall.

Roskva rolled her eyes and sighed, almost sorry to kill the poor bastard, but she lifted her arm and threw the axe, planting it in between the Dunmer’s shoulder blades. She strode towards Arvel and yanked the blade from his back, bringing the wooden grip down onto the rear of his head. She turned him over, a blank stare on his face. Ignoring his cold eyes, she swiftly searched his body and found the claw.

Relieved at her success, Roskva took a deep breath and placed it in her satchel. She was about to head back to the web-covered room when she remembered what Arvel had said about the claw and the door to the Hall of Stories. She weighed her options. She had the golden claw and could simply return to Lucan for the reward. But something inside her, something she couldn’t identify, was commanding her to continue through the barrow. She steeled herself and turned away from the spider’s lair, stepping over Arvel’s body as she moved deeper into the burial ground.

Roskva snuck through the rugged halls, assuming the bandits were all taken care of, yet she sensed a worse danger ahead. She approached a tomb, bodies of long-dead Nords standing and lying in their designated burial places. Dread smothered Roskva’s chest as one of the dead opened its eyes with a shriek, stepping from his tomb and running for her. He landed one blow to her chest. The armor prevented his blade from piercing her, but the great force knocked her down to the ground. She steadied her axe, giving a mighty swing to its legs. The draugr screeched in pain, flailing his sword wildly at her. She dodged the other swings, giving a final death blow to its head. Roskva, breathless from surprise and adrenaline, crouched with her hands on her knees, regaining her stamina. After a while, she continued through the burial ground.

It didn’t take long for Roskva to learn which draugr still had spirit left in them; their appearance differed from the other corpses. She was able to sneak through the tomb, slicing the throats of each one before it could reanimate. Along the way, she found more gold, some potions, and various gems, taking as much as she could carry.

Roskva made her way into another part of the barrow, ears perking up at the sound of moving metal. She looked to the next entryway, beholding in horror the swinging blades in the doorway. She waited a moment, counting the time it took for each swing, then began to quickly scoot through the gauntlet, gratefully avoiding being sliced to pieces.

Once she was in the next room, the space became tighter as she navigated through more tombs, slitting throats of the undead draugr. Just when she thought she was safe, a coffin busted open beside her, and a dead man’s hand closing around her ankle. She brought the axe down, removing the draugr’s arm, then hacked into its chest until it fell, lifeless. Trying to slow her racing heart, Roskva pushed forward.

Moments seem to turn to hours as she hacked and sliced her way through dead men, taking little damage herself, when she finally reached a large hall. It was illuminated with burning torches, but there was no draugr in sight. Taking a reprieve, Roskva placed her axe at her hip, walking slowly to the great door that closed off the hall. There were three rings coming from the center where the lock must be, and they all contained images of animals.

Studying the door for a moment, Roskva wondered if the lock could be picked. Unfortunately, there were multiple holes, and with only herself to depend on, she knew it was fruitless. Suddenly, she remembered Arvel speaking of the claw and the door once again.

She dug through her satchel, her hand landing on the golden claw. She was about to place it in the lock when she observed strange images on the underside of it. They had the same kind of markings as the rings on the great door. She studied the claw then looked again at the rings around the lock. She began to move them and as they rotated, the familiar markings of the claw came into view. She quickly matched the rings to the claw and inserted it into the door, twisting. Nothing happened at first, Roskva sighing in defeat. But then, the great door shook, sending dust and dirt into her eyes. As it began to lower, she remembered the claw was still placed in the holes, so she hastily snatched it and put it back into her bag. Once the door had lowered completely, she stepped tentatively into the sanctum of the barrow.

The young Nord carefully made her way further into the great room, when she heard a faint whisper. Looking around in fear, her eyes were drawn to a curved wall at the other end of the sanctum. There was a strange glowing emanating from the wall, and as she moved closer, the whispers turned into chants. Even closer, now at the wall, the chants turned into what she could only describe as shouts.

She placed her hand on the glowing wall, the markings calling to her. Fus… fus… fus… it said to her. Entranced, her eyebrows lowered, meditating on the sound. Fus, it said, force, she heard in her mind. Fus… force… fus… force… The sounds echoed in her brain, dizzying her as she closed her eyes. Force! Her mind screamed. Opening her eyes, Roskva saw that the wall was no longer glowing, but she had a strange feeling in her chest, as if she had breathed in supernatural air. But she understood. That marking had meant “force.” How in Oblivion do I know that? she asked herself.

Before she could rationalize anything further, she heard the distinct crashing of a coffin opening. Turning around quickly, Roskva grabbed her axe. The draugr that emerged was different than the ones she had encountered previously. She knew immediately that this one would be tougher to kill.

It ran straight for her. She ducked back, swinging her axe in front of her. The blow had landed, but the dead man was still standing. She ran to the left, hoping this one was slow like the rest. He was, but not much slower than her. She kept running in circles around it, swinging every chance she got. Her foot caught a loose rock and she went tumbling to the floor. The draugr took this opportunity to cut into her armor, just barely, but enough to send a stinging sensation through her stomach. The one uncovered area of her torso was where it had aimed. She rose from the ground, summoning all her strength, and let out a loud cry as she jumped in the air, letting her body help bring the force of her axe down into the draugr’s face. It was enough, he was dead.

Roskva scurried back to the wall, sliding down it with her back. She sifted through her bag, pulling a healing potion from it. Uncorking the bottle with her teeth, she spit the cork out and hurriedly downed the vile liquid in one swallow. The taste on her tongue lingered far after the pain in her belly. Looking down, she saw the wound had closed, leaving no scar as evidence of the attack. Feeling frustration at the debacle she’d gotten herself into trying to help that damned shopkeeper, she threw the pink bottle across the room sending shards of pink glass flying in all directions. A large shard had landed near a huge chest.

Roskva perked up, crawling on the ground towards it. She lifted the lid, thanking the gods that it was unlocked, and peered inside. A large coin purse made its way to her bag, then healing potions, then stamina potions. She left the blue bottles inside; she did not use magic. She spotted a curious white stone and decided to take it as well. As she was about to close the chest, her eyes caught the image of a large hilt. Digging to the bottom, she pulled the hilt until the weapon came into view. It was a warhammer.

Roskva dropped her axe and hugged the warhammer to her chest, elated at possessing a two-handed weapon. Her arms had been trained for them, and their force was matchless to a sword or axe. She almost cried, so grateful to the gods that they had favored her in that moment.

The blond Nord stood from the floor, getting a feel for the new instrument. It was heavy, but her arms instantly adjusted to it. She gave it a few swings, appreciating the balance she felt from its shape. Satisfied, she decided it was time to head back to Riverwood.

Roskva made her way around the empty coffin, heading back towards the hall, when she felt a gust of wind kiss her right cheek. She turned, seeing a small pathway from the sanctum, presumably back outside. Ecstatic, she made her way through the small alcove and out into Skyrim, not minding the chill from the snowfall.

A Side of Iron and Scale - Chapter 3 - KA777 (2024)
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