Lore:The Crimson Dirks, v4

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by Gathers-the-Coin
A story of The Crimson Dirks, Volume 4

The tavern fell into silence. Casival squinted at the young Bosmer, trying to get a read on his mood. Just hours earlier the lad had embarked on the biggest quest of his life, the kind of endeavor that turns squires into warriors, boys into men.

"Well, what did she say?" he asked the young bandit.

"She said she would only wed me," Fathrys said, "if I brought her the scale of a dragon."

The tavern burst into laughter, patrons smacking their tankards against the wood.

"What?" Fathrys replied, clearly confused, "What's so funny?"

"I'm sorry lad," said Casival, "but I think that's her way of saying 'No.'"

Fathrys was crestfallen. It had taken nearly all of his courage to confess his love to Zaharia. What meager defenses remained in his youthful frame, Casival could not guess, but they stood little chance against this latest assault. In fact, with each passing second Fathrys' shoulders slumped further and further into his chest, until he was more Guar than man. Taking pity, Casival decided to massage the boy's ego with a tale of his first rejection, when a familiar voice croaked at the pair from across the room.

"A dragon scale, you say?"

Not a soul had realized Antonius was in the tavern, mostly because the bandit mage was a permanent fixture. From dusk to dawn he teetered upon his wobbly chair, drinking all manner of spirits by his lonesome. Over time he began to blend into the scenery, like an odor that only strangers could smell.

"By the Nine, do you know where I can find one?" Fathrys beamed with shoulders out, his once gloomy face resurrected with life.

"I'm a wizard, am I not?" Antonius said, before letting out a dignified belch.

"A bandit wizard," Casival interjected, "and with all due respect to you and your profession, I don't think you're helping."

"Nonsense, Casival," scolded the mage, nearly tripping over his own feet as he sat at the table, "The boy needs a dragon scale, and I aim to help him find one."

"But the dragons have been extinct for centuries upon centuries," Casival said.

"You really are a bad student," scoffed Antonius, jabbing his finger into the Dunmer's forehead, "this is why Tyra favors Edward over you. At least he pays attention."

"Forgive me, mage."

"Only the Divines can forgive you, my son. Drink this bottle, and it'll take you to them."

"What about the dragon scale?" Fathrys whined, growing impatient.

"Oh right, that. Well, it just so happens, there's an old Nord legend about a warrior named Ulfnir Bone-Skin," Antonius explained, flecks of spit flying out of his mouth, "who slew the serpent wyrm Vithrelnaak and fashioned a powerful armor from his scales. When he died, instead of giving his armor away to his ungrateful pupils, he did what any self-respecting warrior would do, and buried himself with it."

"Well, that's too bad," said Casival, hoping to derail this runaway carriage, "surely it would've been emptied out by grave robbers by now."

"You would think," Antonius screamed, raising his voice for no reason, "but they say Ulfnir's corpse haunts the barrow near Yorgrim's Overlook, and kills anyone who dares try and take his armor."

"I see! So it's a challenge!" Fathrys exclaimed, "In order to wear Ulfnir's armor, one must first best him as a warrior!"

"Either that, or he just doesn't want some random stranger wearing his clothes. How would you feel if I showed up to your home wearing your undergarments? But yes, you kill Ulfnir, you get your dragon scale. You get your dragon scale, and you get your wench."

"She's not a wench. She's the most amazing woman in all of Mundus, and I'm going to marry her!"

"Sure, whatever."

Casival breathed a deep sigh as Fathrys' heart grew ill with hope. The only saving grace was that Windhelm was thousands of leagues away, and Fathrys was still a pup. Perhaps when he was ready for the work, a word or two with Tyra could send him further away still. Yet whatever remedy he devised would be temporary. He had seen that look too many times to deny what would come next.

A fortnight later, Casival returned to the tavern. It was the same as it ever was, for the most part. The wenches tended to the patrons, and the patrons to their stress. The bards sang tales old and new, and the drunkards, not knowing the lyrics, still saw fit to join them. Antonius was perched in the corner as always, a bottle in each hand and several more on the ground.

It was like any other Fredas, save for the empty seat beside him.

He would break the news to Tyra in the morning. The Bosmer would not return.