[Book] Val-Staag of the Vesturhola

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Charger24
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[Book] Val-Staag of the Vesturhola

Post by Charger24 » Thu Sep 05, 2019 7:05 pm

Val-Staag of the Vesturhola

In the hilly lands between the river Kart and the marsh-places of Hjaal there lived a tribe of Nords. These hill-folk deemed themselves Atmorans, yet none of Saarthal could remember them, nor their kin, and the sagas recalled no deeds done by their warriors. But they too quarrelled with the Falmer, hated as the elves were even in those days before the Tears.

So Ysgramor decided to send messengers to the western hills, to make palaver with these strange men who also fought against the elves, and to sing the skald-music as befits the making of peace between friends. For his envoys Ysgramor chose three: Bjaldr, a young warrior of renowned skill, Hranda, fairest of the skalds of Saarthal, and Qarl, called the Whale-Skin. Thus assembled, Ysgramor presented to his messengers a mighty wood-and-ivory spear, carved with fine likenesses of creatures from far Atmora. Then the king said: "I trust none but the true Northern Blood; if these hill-folk are indeed of that land, they will surely recognize these carvings." Then he dispatched his messengers amidst a winter storm.

But when Bjaldr, Hranda, and Qarl reached the western hills, they found themselves lost. None of the landmarks they sought appeared to the trio through the swirling snows, and all the world save the mighty thrust of the mountain now called Eldersblood looked as white as the purest Atmoran valley-blossoms. After a time, they came upon a deep valley, filled with bones of man and mer and beast alike. It was here that the three were set upon by elves.

Bjaldr gloried in the fighting, and with his axe slew the first elves to emerge from the hills. But Hralda and Qarl had seen more winters, and knew more of the elves' treachery, so they called out: "Come, Bjaldr, let us retreat from this place of death, and reconcile to ourselves the shape of this new land from the safety of the mountain."

But Bjaldr fought on, and replied, "Go then back to Elder-Blood, and take with you this fine wooden spear, placed in our keeping by our king Ysgramor. Take its length and break it in twain upon the mountain's shoulder, for to do so would bring upon us less dishonor than to retreat." Thus shamed by their companion, Hralda and Qarl Whale-Skin made ready to fight to their deaths against the unseen elves in the snow.

The three fought for hours against the elves, though their foe seemed limitless in number, and could move through the snow lighter of foot than the Nords. Many blows they parried, and for a time all three felt invincible. But Hralga was struck blind by an arrow to her eye, and Bjaldr took a cut to his axe-arm, so the three warriors prepared to make their end in glory as the elves closed in about them.

But as the warriors made their stand, a thunderous crack seemed to peel the snows from the cliffside, crashing down upon the elven host. Along the cliff-edge, the three saw a company of stout Nords, all wielding queer weapons made of stone and bronze, all towering in stature. Their leader was the largest of all, more than thrice the height of Bjaldr (who had in his youth been called the Tall) with rings of many metals sewn into his beard. When he spoke, his voice was like boulders crashing down a mountainside. "I am Val-Staag. Why have you come to my people's lands, and incited these elves to make further war upon us?"

The messengers responded, "Great Val-Staag, we sought you and your folk of the western hills. We carry a message from Ysgramor, of far Atmora, the mighty king of Saarthal." Hralga then began a battle-song, and Qarl knelt before Valstaag, presenting to him the great wooden spear. But when Val-Staag took the spear, he let out a great booming laughter, and it is said that his mirth was so loud it could be heard in Saarthal itself. "Why do you laugh?", asked Bjaldr, still bleeding from a dozen wounds. "We have fought bravely in defense of our honor, and that of our beloved king, to bring this to you. Do you not recognize the carven images upon its length?"

But Val-Staag replied, "Fear not, new friends, for it is not at your expense that I find merriment. I am old, and I have not seen such fine carvings from my home in many a year. In Atmora, such designs were made to adorn the mightiest of giant-axes, and crowned the holiest of our temples. I laugh at the unlikely honor of finding such mighty icons affixed to a tooth-pick such as this!"

Thus did Ysgramor' messengers win for Saarthal the friendship of Val-Staag and the men who dwelt in the western hills. For many years the two peoples traded in peace, but after the Five Hundred returned from Atmora to revenge the destruction of Saarthal, no signs of Val-Staag or his people were ever seen again.

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