“I already asked the drivers, though,” Shad said, following after the Nord. “I asked the one who took her, then I asked one in Windhelm, I even found a random one ‘n asked him, but he hadn’t seen her.”
His words brought Frithjofr to a stop outside the stables, where he started pacing back and forth again in front of the horses. Each one received a searching glare.
‘What did the one who took her say?’ he demanded, apparently of a palomino mare. ‘Where did he last see her?’
“Wh-what’s m-m-mmmy k-kind?” He asked, not really believing that he had a type of brave all to himself, or any type of brave, really. He squeezed Frithjofr back, beyond glad that he was there, that he was okay, and that they didn’t have to talk or think about a time when that wouldn’t be true anymore.
‘Being scared and doing things anyway. The hardest kind, and the kind which takes the strongest sort of person.’
There was a bit of pause, but more was evidently coming. Frithjofr’s face had the faintly pained look it developed whenever he was actually thinking about something.
‘I mean, take warriors,’ he said eventually. ‘They aren’t really brave, y’know. They just don’t see what things’re really like. ‘S not hard to walk into a cave thinking you’ll be able to kill anything which attacks you, but it is brave to know how dangerous it is, to be scared, and do it anyway. Like when we got stuck with those wolves, remember? Never would’ve got out if it wasn’t for you.’
Another pause, and another suggestion that more was coming. His voice went even quieter this time, and slow as well, as if he wasn’t sure whether to say these things at all. With his hand pressed against Hrokr he said,
‘And maybe… maybe there’ve been times when going from one day to the next was hard, ‘n scary. I know I had days like that. But you’re here now, so you made it through, and you’re helping me do the same. I can’t think of anything as brave as that.’
Luth had to work to hold in her laughter, but once he started jabbing the air with a stick she lost it, bursting out in a hearty belly laugh. Once calmed again, she cleared her throat and smiled at Frithjofr.
“I really do appreciate that, Frithy. You’re a great help to me, I hope you know that. Not just the chicken thing, but that you always make me smile. Thanks.” She waved to him. “I look forward to seeing you again.”
Frithjofr sheathed the stick proudly in his belt, mission accomplished, and gave Luth a warm smile.
‘Glad I’m good for something. I’ll see you soon, Luth.’
Instead of a wave, he gave Luth a mock salute before he set off. It wasn’t long before his whistling disappeared over the ridge of the hill and the Rift could return to a quiet, autumnal peace.
((Probably won’t be around much this evening, as I’m not feeling well, but I wanted to post this. I believe it’s Aquila’s birthday today, and was the mod’s last week, so of course there had to be crappy Frith!Mod art.
It’s a bit quick and unfinished, again because I’m not well, but maybe it isn’t unbearably terrible?))
All the decision did was postpone the difficult conversation to later. It would not make it any easier, or shorter, or more agreeable to have, it would just give Hrokr more time to digest the concept of it in the first place, which may work in Frithjofr’s favor, or it may not.
“S-s-sssorry.” he muttered, hiding his face in Frithjofr’s shoulder, wet cheeks sticking to the man’s gray hair. “I ww-w-ish I c-could… c-c-could be bra-r-braver…”
Tearful and shaking as Hrokr was, Frithjofr was glad to feel him against his shoulder. It helped him think that maybe this was right, maybe he should put off that conversation until tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that. Maybe they didn’t need to have it at all. That was a comforting thought, when he shut out the distant pulse of guilt.
Besides, this new subject was one he felt much more confident on. He fought through enough of the tired ache which had taken over his body to squeeze Hrokr’s shoulders firmly.
‘You are brave. Brave just comes in different types.’
Without waiting longer than it took to locate the table and chairs, Magnus was climbing onto one of them as if he was right at home. “Magnus, where are your manners?” Gaelle immediately reprimanded, but the child for once was paying her little mind, as he hummed happily to himself and began placing his magic carrots all in a row on the table. “Cawwots on da table, table on da cawwots…. one cawwot….. two cawwots….” he sang to himself, swinging his feet as he sat.
Another apologetic smile came to Gaelle’s face, and she shrugged at Frithjofr as of to say ‘children will be children’.
“You….said you lived here with your partner, yes?” she asked, having a look around the small place. It was indeed humble, but warm, without dust or any untoward smells. “You haven’t any children of your own, then?”
Frithjofr had been heading towards the fire, cheerfully clattering saucepans for no purpose whatsoever. Really, if anything, it was just a rare show of pride, that this was a home and he was part of it. It only felt warmer with guests and a bright, childish humming.
He went silent at the question. The saucepan he held was set back down on the table carefully.
‘Not any more,’ he said. After his conversational tone with Magnus and the distant, not entirely connected rambles, his voice now sounded low and quiet in comparison. He started to move the odd pans back into their proper places, keeping his hands busy. ‘Long story. Not very interesting.’
Luth smiled as she was hugged, wrapping her arms around him and patting his back. “Oh, what friend would I be if I couldn’t defend you from my own pet? Don’t worry, you are not indebted to me.”
She paused, noticing the look on his face. “um… however, I will call on you if I ever do need those particular services. Why, a chicken was chasing me around just the other day. If I’d only known. Oh well, next time I will send for you.” She smiled up at him.
‘Aye, thought you might’ve had something like that happen,’ he said seriously. ‘Gives you a Look, y’know? And the chickens in the Rift’re notoriminous. Had a few run-ins with them myself, but I handled it.’
He picked up a stick and started jabbing thin air with an absent-minded look on his face. From the height at which he was poking at nothing, he seemed to be imagining a horker for an enemy.
‘Suppose I’d better get back to town now. I’ll have a word with the chickens, they won’t bother you any more.’
She watched him closely and waited patiently for the Nord to finish his sentence. When he seemed more puzzled about what he had been saying that she did, Sibby let out a small sigh of defeat and followed him.
“Have you ever been to Markarth before?”
Although he must have overheard the question, the carriage driver was reluctant to acknowledge Frithjofr’s existence until he saw the coin purse being waved at him. He took it with a sigh and waved them into the back, which had a few bags and an old crate tucked beneath the benches but was otherwise empty. Frithjofr shook his head as he hauled himself into it.
‘Nah, don’t think so. Too many Forsworn people outside it, never managed to make it past them.’ He held out a hand to help Sibjorn up. ‘Shouldn’t be a problem with the carriage, though.’