This chapter picks up from here. It was supposed to be short, but it kind of got away from me. #sorrynotsorry
Two funerals in one day was excessive and Trygve, who always had much respect for temple priests and priestesses, developed an even more profound reverence for them today. Although Alessandra, Riften’s priestess of Arkay, prepared the bodies and delivered the ritual prayers, it was Dinya Balu who conducted the more personalized services. Despite being a priestess of Mara, she seamlessly invoked the spirit of Kyne, the Divine to which both Lilija and Iona were devout.
For Iona, Trygve performed the recessional hymn, bringing the entire room to tears.
In darkness, your light shines through,
Warrior Goddess, for you we strike true.
When hope is lost and war rages on,
Warrior Goddess, hear our blessed song!
With a Nord’s death, fallen in battle,
Warrior Goddess, guide us through shadow.
Grant us courage to fight and sharpen our swords,
Warrior Goddess, mother of Nords!
Her service was in the morning and though it was not sparsely attended, it paled in comparison to the Snow-Shod affair later that evening, which drew people from all over the province, mostly Stormcloak supporting clan families. Remarkably absent, however, was Vittoria Vici, Asgeir Snow-Shod’s fiancé who was an Imperial supporter and, more important, Emperor Mede’s cousin.
Trygve who did not care one whit about those matters, ignored anyone who dared to ask his opinion. If his evasion appeared rude, he could only shrug. Lilija and Ione were the last of his close childhood friends—the ones who knew him before all his life-changing, character-building events: the loss of his mother, the heartbreak in Solitude, and his commitment to the Dragonborn. That was another topic he had no interest in discussing. Of course, that did not stop people from asking. His kept his responses noncommittal and guarded.
Weary from an overabundance of small talk and a dearth of sleep, he slipped out of Snow-Shod manor unnoticed and walked back to Honeyside. Riften was uncharacteristically silent. A few of the market stalls were open, but the merchants and their customers were quiet, so as not to appear insensitive to a city in mourning.
At home, he was met with the smell of beef stew, freshly baked bread, and apple dumplings, gifts from Mjoll and Aerin. The gesture touched him immensely, but his appetite was still not recovered. Instead, he debated on whether to open a bottle of mead or put the kettle on for tea. In the end, he decided to warm up some milk to which he would add spices, honey, and a touch of brandy.
While the spices steeped, he trudged downstairs to his room. As he changed out of his formal clothing, he caught a glimpse of his face in the mirror. With his beard trimmed and his curls newly cropped, he hardly recognized himself.
Once released from the confines of the form-fitted tunic and doublet, the cool air hit his torso, and the discomfort of the itchy, stiff wool was replaced by a small hunger pang. He quickly pulled on a pair of comfortable pants and a cotton tunic and returned upstairs. In the pantry, he pulled an apple dumpling out of its warming cloth and broke a piece off the corner, which he chewed slowly. Despite physically feeling hungry, eating actually had little appeal. He poured the milk he prepared into a mug and took a sip, savoring the mix of spices and honey. The drink, which turned out perfectly, nearly brought tears to his eyes.
He resisted the urge to drink it down in one large gulp and instead forced himself to finish the dumpling between sips. The food was not bad, but it was not great either. Neither Mjoll nor Aerin were particularly skilled at cooking, but Trygve was nonetheless grateful that he would not have to procure food and he could instead curl up in his house alone the following day.
He was standing over the stove, brewing more of the drink when someone rapped at the door. The knock was soft, intended not to be intrusive. Trygve was tempted to ignore it, but changed his mind as they would likely return in the morning.
It was Asgeir Snow-Shod. “Good evening,” he said. “So sorry to bother you.”
“It’s no bother.” Trygve was being sincere. Asgeir would not expect formal hospitality and was not likely here to engage in any deep conversation. If the man needed some respite from the crowd that descended on his home, Trygve was happy to offer it. As he took a seat at the table, Trygve divided the second drink he’d prepared into two mugs.
“Thank you,” said Asgeir after taking a sip. “Iona’s Honey Snow beverage. And it seems you’ve perfected the recipe. What a lovely tribute.” He sat back quietly and stared at his cup for a few moments.
“You’re welcome,” Trygve replied with a very slight smile. It was such a small thing, but he was pleased to have someone recognize the drink.
“I have something for you,” said Asgeir breaking the somewhat comfortable silence they’d fallen into. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small silk pouch, which he handed to Trygve. Inside was an amulet of Kynareth. “This was Lilija’s, obviously. My mother gave Unmid her amulet of Talos and this one to me, but I want you to have it.”
“But…why?” Trygve was touched but clearly confused by the gesture.
“Because we still have the rest of her things, and you were so close as children. And also—” Asgeir’s voice cracked a little on this last comment and he cleared his throat before continuing. “It was a gift from your mother, from when she finished her apprenticeship.”
“Oh yes, I remember,” he whispered as a thick lump formed his throat. “Thank you.”
The room fell silent again until Trygve told Asgeir that as long as he didn’t expect spirited conversation, the other Nord was welcome to stay a bit. Asgeir offered his thanks but insisted he needed to return home in case things went sideways with his father’s drinking and his brother’s temper. After he departed, Trygve finished his food and cleaned the dishes.
Sitting in bed that night, he stared for a while at the amulet. The initials on the back, L.S.S., had faded a bit, indicating that it had been well worn. He returned the necklace to its bag and placed it inside his end table. He was exhausted and before his head hit the pillow, he was embraced in a Honey Snow soaked, brandy-induced sleep.
Trygve woke feeling crusty, a dull pain throbbing in his head. It was by no means the worst hangover he experienced, but three tankards of cold water later and it was obvious he was going to need something more if he wanted to function at all that day. Elgrim’s Elixers was a quick walk from Honeyside and he could be back in under 15 minutes—if he could avoid Ingun Black Briar’s inundation of questions.
Of course, he had no such luck but he managed to avoid an hour-long discussion with the over eager alchemy student by writing down the ingredients for one of his new toxins and offering it to her. With chitlin and torch bugs in hand, he returned home, only to find an Orc lingering by his doorway.
“Durak?” he said, trying to mask his annoyance with surprise at seeing the old Orc, an old friend of the family who had gotten his brother Henrik out of a few scraps years ago. The last time he saw him was at his father’s funeral.
“Trygve, my boy!” He raised his hand to slap him on the back but thought better of it when he saw how pale he looked. “It’s not a good time, is it? I only need a moment.”
There was no way Tyrgve could turn the man away. In addition to doing their family more than a few good turns, tt had been years and he must have traveled some distance. “No, it’s fine. I have a little time this morning.” He let them into the house and gestured for Durak to sit, while he quickly prepared the chitlin-torchbug-thorax-garlic-honey concoction. He found a bottle of decent mead in the pantry and poured some into a tankard. Then he offered the Orc both the cup and the bottle, taking only water and the hangover paste for himself.
“That armor is interesting. Is that what the Orc blacksmiths are fashioning now?” Durak’s curiass was quite different than any Orcish getup he was familiar with.
“I’m with the Dawnguard now. We’re dealing with the vampire menace, searching out and destroying those bloodsucking those bloodsucking scum wherever we find them.”
“Vampires? That’s hardly a new menace.” Vampires had been a part of Tamriel for centuries. They were hostile, but they hardly worse than rogue pyromancers.
“You haven’t been paying much attention, have you? Like most everyone else around here.”
“Well, the dragons have been somewhat of a distraction.”
“Fair enough.” Durak thought for a moment upon conceding this point. “I suppose you didn’t hear, but the Hall of the Vigilante, up in the Pale? Destroyed. Our leader, Isran, believes that something bigger is on the horizon and he’s reforming the Dawnguard in response. I was hoping to recruit you and that housecarl of yours.”
“I’m sorry to say that Iona is dead.” Saying it out loud like that, it felt almost new, and an unbearable tightness gripped his chest.
“Was it a good death?”
“What?” Trygve gasped, but before he was overcome by rage at the audacity of the question, he remembered to whom he was speaking. “She was up against a dragon.”
“Aye, then it was.” Durak nodded, offering somber approval, which strangely enough had a calming effect on Trygve, far more than the endless sorrowful condolences he’d endured yesterday. “So, to honor her sacrifice, will you devote yourself to our cause?”
“Damn Durak, you are bold.” He paused for a moment, almost admiring the sheer amount of nerve the Orc seemed to possess. “I guess with so much at stake, clinging to social convention makes little sense.”
“The mourning rituals of men never made much sense to me. But Nords also have a strong sense of duty, one that I am hoping to exploit. But between the war and the dragons, resources seem to be stretched thin.” With that he emptied his tankard, but did not pour more from the rest of the bottle, a clear sign that he did not intend to stay longer.
“Listen, Trygve, we’re only just starting out. We could use a good scout and a good healer. With you we’ve got both. There’s no blood oath, it won’t exactly reflect positively on you, but you wouldn’t have to stay.”
Trygve was flattered though the mention of duty had him frustrated again. “I will give this some thought,” he said finally, which was as much as he could promise at this point.
After Durak left, Trygve wandered downstairs. He stopped by Iona’s room first, where he thought about packing her things. However, the mere act of opening her dresser brought on such unbearable sadness, he had to step away. He closed her door and went back to his room, where he focused his thoughts on Lilija. He took out her amulet and thought about their last conversation, where he argued relentlessly against joining the Stormcloaks. His feelings weren’t ideological; he simply felt she was far too talented a healer to limit herself to a war camp.
But she’d been driven by duty. And so must I, he thought. He’d made a promise and Elspeth was still out there. But every time he thought about her, he was filled with a blinding rage. It wasn’t just this last dragon battle, but every careless maneuver, every thoughtless choice, every time he bit his tongue and didn’t confront her. She and Lydia thought he was an arrogant, know-it-all based on the few things he actually said. If only they knew, he thought, grunting a little and then letting out a long sigh. He could see no end to this fury. But Durak was right, it would not honor either Iona or Lilija to stay home and wallow. He put the amulet around his neck and held the talisman in his hand, pushing his fist against his heart. As the Dragonborn, Elspeth would not want for resources. Balgruuf and others would see her well equipped. But he would go elsewhere. In the morning, he would head to Fort Dawnguard.
 A pouch into which fire salts are sewn to keep things warm. It’s probably about as effective as a Yeti mug. The warming effect of clothing sewn with fire salts (introduced in Book I, Chapter 6) lasts longer because it works with the body’s own warm temperature.