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Cooperation for Yugioh con(8/10) in Korea
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I decided to do some fan art for Battlefield 4, since I'm a huge fan of the series and pretty damn excited for the launch in october. I know the map isn't totally looking like the "Siege of Shanghai" map, but it kinda resembles it. I might do another version when I have time, since I still think this one is a little static, the next one will be more fast paced.
Took around 10 hours to do in Photoshop.

Original size: 2560x1600
You can download the full sized wallpaper here:

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Colour reference: blackwing gale the whirlwind

background: the background thats on his card
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Favorite card. :D

- Kevin Raganit
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This is the 17th Art Nouveau/Alphonse Mucha inspired watercolor painting in a series I’m producing.

The painting is on 18x24 inch Strathmore Cold Press watercolor paper. Done in watercolors and ink.

Photo reference/inspiration from here…

and here...


My original paintings can be purchased here…


and Limited Edition Prints can be purchased here…


Thanks for looking!

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Here is the final Image that I am sending off to the printers. Photoshop actually crashed on me while I was cleaning up dust etc on the image. The whole file got corrupted. I lost about 5 hours of work... So sad. We have all been through it though. Photoshop autosave didn't work wither :(
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The Armory оf The Children Of Heaven is now finished. I hope you like it and thank you for all the support and comments. 

And ... I'm already working on a new project and...   I have prepared a little surprise ;) (Wink)
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I'll try to make Disney/Pixar characters in young and stylish concepts, some kind of "students", something like the new Pixar's Movie: Monster University.

Merida is studying Anglo-Saxon history.
She loves Celtic music and her favorites artists are Enya and Loreena McKennitt (also a fan of Russian Red!)
She is part of the archery club.

Her best friends are Kenai and Robin (she feels something ...)

Hope you like it!
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:iconsnarkies: has been doing some great roundups of the celebrity fashions during this awards season and I wanted to try a similar approach with one of my favorite looks as a warmup for today! So here's Lupita Nyong'o in her amazing Gucci dress from the SAG Awards.

There have been some great dresses on the circuit this year, so I might be working on more of these as practice between some of my freelance jobs! Any recommendations of who I should tackle next?
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Feel free to use as reference
link me to what you did as i would LOVE to see ^^

Taken at the Game of Thrones Exhibition - Belfast
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After all these years, still my favorite game character.

Now with VIDEO! :)

See my painting process here :
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Illidan Stormrage from World of Warcraft, Burning Crusade
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introduction first

once i had an idea born from boredom of what would my OCs be if there were characters in a fantasy RPG
this is a thing i am doing completely for my own entertainment and it does not affect any of my OC's plots in any way.

now a lot of useless information will follow, and i guess it's pretty much boring for those who are not familiar with my OCs, so i am not expecting veryon to read it XD

but still


Lawful Good

Class: Warrior

Classification: Paladin

Role: companion, tank

Weapon: Long Sword

Armor: heavy

He is a typical paladin who's main aim is to spread peace, fight evil and be a general source for good. He would most likely be the main hero's companion, who joined the party in hopes of making the world a better place. Obviously he supports all of the rightful and just choices made by the hero, and judges them when they do something that crosses Martin's moral code and conduct. Martin has a side quest that might result in him becoming even more of reserved and uptight, or, in contrast, make his views widen, helping him to see that there are more colors than painting everything black and white in the world. In the case that the side quest was not completed and the hero had chosen the dark side, Martin would leave the party. (romantic option for both male and female hero)

Relationship in the party:
Friendly: Amber, Basil, Anuka
Neutral: Susar
Rivalry: Alisher, Milos

i will be drawing more of my OC's in this setting when i have time and inspiration

Martin (c) me
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I requested this shot, and you're welcome. Back squats and deadlifts for days, I think I have to remake the legging part of my jumpsuit for the third fucking time. Awesome. The covered parking area at the LA Convention Center really worked well for the series, plus we didn't have to fight other cosplayers or photogs to shoot here. LOL

Bullet; Pink Cosplayer credits Bullet; Pink 
shiimapan (myself) on the left, Varnani on the right, costumes made by us and are based on the designs as seen in the original games. Vault 13 flask made by me. 

Bullet; Pink Photo & editing credits Bullet; Pink 
CCArtandPhoto at Stan Lee's Comikaze 2014

Bullet; Pink Social media crap! Follow me! Bullet; Pink 
Twitter Bird Icon twitter  Instagram Icon instagram  Facebook Icon facebook | ##fallout at

Please do not repost this or anything in my gallery without permission.
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Follow me on Facebook 

Character: Kasumi from Dead Or Alive 5
Model, make up, wig styling, costume and prop production: Enji Night
Photography: :iconsarmaibalazs:/ Sarmai's facebook /

Kasumi - Dead Or Alive cosplay I. by EnjiNight
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Follow me on Facebook 

Character: Kasumi from Dead Or Alive 5
Model, make up, wig styling, costume and prop production: Enji Night
Photography: :iconsarmaibalazs:/ Sarmai's facebook /

Kasumi - Dead Or Alive cosplay II. by EnjiNight
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Some Metroid fan-art done for Project KKG, a fan-art book being put together to help out a co-worker and great friend who's battling with cancer;
more info can be found here - Gamers for Good.
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Kenshin is one of my favourite characters from any anime or manga series, and it's been a while since I last drew him!
The title translates as "who are you protecting?", which is also the name of one of the most iconic songs from the series.
I've been mostly inspired by this version in particular:…

Kenshin © Watsuki Nobuhiro 
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Austria from Hetalia Axis Powers

Cosplay and costume by me

Photos by Trang Mai

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Tarecgosa of the Blue Dragonflight
World of Warcraft

Cosplayer and editor: Oshley Cosplay
Photography: Eurobeat Kasumi Photography

;) (Wink)  Original design, self illustrated armour concept  ;) (Wink) 
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He has a very nice way of speaking and seems to be friendly. Although his expression almost never changes, he has an amusing way of teasing people.

King Tw Cosplayer @ Uta

photo by:

helpers thanks Lizzie + Angie

Please check out my Facebook page:…
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Annie Leonhardt cosplay,
I seriously can't stop.
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"Shall I make your mask?" Devilish 

I recently remade this costume to be more accurate to original from manga *yes, again* :D This includes: new tattoo design, necklace, hairstyle change and few more things
and I like final result much more than my previous versions ^^ So here it is

:iconakitozz6: as Uta (Tokyo Ghoul/Tokyo Kushu),
photo by Luna,
edit by me; created in 2014

for more…
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Just some notes about drawing poses in response to a tumblr question - posting in case there's something here that's useful to someone.

Lackadaisy t-shirts are a new thing.

Lackadaisy Volume 1 books are available on Amazon.

Comic updates and other Lackadaisy stuff can be found on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.
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Fourth part (if excluding facial proportions) in my tutorial series. Probably my favorite thing about drawing.

Dynamism is what makes the drawings so lively. Even a drawing without any real action should be dynamic. Dynamism makes your drawings look more natural and interesting to look at. It can also make up for many mistakes and even make them look intentional and part of the drawing.

Line of action is the manifestation of dynamism. It's a sort of invisible line that (I believe) everyone can see subconsciously. I find that there are two types of line of actions: primary and secondary line of actions.

The primary line of action, like the name suggests, is the most important thing in your character. It gives the backbone to the whole pose. That's why it's really important that it's found very early in your sketches. Without this line, your poses will end up plain, boring and unjustified. The secondary line of action is more like a compositional guideline. It helps to justify the positioning of the sub-elements of the drawing, such as clothing, accessories, hair, limbs and shapes.

Regardless the role of the action line, it's main purpose is to add feel of flow in your drawings. This flow is then perceived as dynamic drawing. A good line of action is long, strong and as continuous as possible. These are prerequisites for illustrating dynamic action.
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Brian Kesinger: Character Driven

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 10:39 AM
1 by techgnotic

Disney Artist Brian Kesinger on Creating Story through Character

Foreword by techgnotic

It is with great pleasure we welcome BrianKesinger as a guest writer to the Today Page Editorial Team. Considering his authentic citizenship within the deviantART community, his thoughts and insights will be of great value to all aspiring artists, illustrators, writers and others involved in any creative endeavor. For over 18 years, Brian has worked for Walt Disney Studios on films like Big Hero 6, Winnie the Pooh, Tarzan, Tangled, Wreck It Ralph and Bolt. Brian is author and illustrator of his own octovictorian creation, the wildly popular Walking Your Octopus, featuring Otto and Victoria, about a young turn-of-the-century London lady of distinction and her pet octopus.

Take a moment and think about your favorite movie. Now imagine that movie without the main character, as you know them, in it. I think it is important to make a distinction between the plot of a story and the arc of your main character.

The plot is a series of events that result in a character going through an emotional arc. You can briefly define a character arc as how a character feels and acts at the beginning of the story versus how the feel and act in the end. In Charles Dicken's Christmas Carol (1843), Ebenezer Scrooge hates Christmas and at the end he loves it. That is an oversimplification of his arc. The plot is there in order to provide obstacles and choices to show the the audience who they are and what their attitude toward their situation is. A good plot keeps you interested in the story but a good character will make you want to rewatch the movie over and over again. I am personally a fan of movies that have very simple plots as those films leave much more room for character development.

One way to look at a story is a series of choices made in creating the main character. As a storyteller, the more time you put into your character, the easier it will be for you to make those choices for your character be truthful.

Truthfulness is talked about a lot when discussing character creation. Fictional characters are, of course, not real. They do not exist in the real world. They are made up. You must give them reality with relatable traits. Let’s say your main character is a farm hand. How does he feel about that? Does he enjoy the hard labor, or is he bored out of his mind? Let's choose the latter. Note that we are not talking about plot, just discussing character. Does this farm-boy get along with his parents? Let's add mystery by making him an orphan. So we now have the highly relatable story of a bored young man with a decision to make. Should he continue his duties on the farm or answer an inner calling to explore the rest of his world? We know this character. Some of us are this character. So when Luke Skywalker makes his choice, it rings true, because his character has already been established as someone we understand, someone who wants more out of life. We can all relate to his situation. His story will be a bit more exciting than most tales of fugitive farm-boys, but even Star Wars might have bored us had we not been pre-invested in such a relatable character by skilled storytellers.

As an illustrator, my job is to create believable characters. At Disney it is not uncommon for us to start drawing before a writer has even been hired to write a script. Animation and art are a visual media. A picture is worth a thousand words. Drawing your character is one of the best ways to kick off the generation of those words. It is all in the details. How your character dresses, what sort of hair they have, are they big or scrawny? All these questions can be answered and explored through the drawing process. When we work on our films it is common for the character designers and story artists to work at the same time because one department constantly informs the other.

I love this part of the process, as you draw your character and you explore all aspects of them and the ideas start to gel. You put one image next to another and suddenly a story starts to develop, to talk to you. It is very exciting. We had an interesting challenge in creating the character of Baymax for the up coming film Big Hero 6.

I asked Joe Mateo, head of story on the film to talk a little about the difficulties that arose when creating a character without traditional features.

We knew that Baymax was going to be a challenge given his limited amount of facial features to express an emotional range. It's amazing though, what you can achieve with those charming dot eyes combined with a subtle head tilt, a well timed blink, and body gestures. These things plus line delivery can be very effective in expressing different emotions. We're careful though how much emotions we want Baymax to show given that he is just a non sentient robot... or is he?”

Joe Mateo, Head of story on Big Hero 6

On the film Frozen we were tasked with taking a fairy tale “princess movie” and putting a fresh spin on it. One way that we did that was by exploring the characters of Anna & Elsa and creating a believable relationship between the two of them. Paul Briggs, head of story on Frozen speaks more about that here.

One of the great things we had working for us was the tropes of princess films we had done in the past. Audiences already had an expectation we would deliver the familiar romantic love story... a romantic kiss from a prince/knight in shining armor would save the the day. Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck knew they wanted to deliver something fresh and different and took the idea from the original Snow Queen story that "an act of true love will thaw a frozen heart" and coupled that with a story about two sisters. The movie really started to focus more about family love than romantic love. The challenge was crafting two siblings that couldn't have that love between one another. We had Elsa, who was hiding a power that she thinks will hurt or kill her sister. So she lives in fear and is afraid to share her love towards her sister. We developed Anna as being fearless but she lives in a world where we she wants to give her love but it is never reciprocated by her sister. She holds onto that true love for her sister though and it's ultimately the thing that saves the day and protects and saves her sister. Anna makes the biggest choice in the movie which is she sacrifices her life to save her sister—an act of true love.”

Paul Briggs, Head of story on Frozen

Interviews Brian Kesinger's Q&A with the Following Deviant Artists


In creating your Lost Kids graphic novel what were some ways that you made your characters believable teenagers even though they are inhabiting a fantastical world?


Felipe Cagno

It's all about really turning your characters into real people, people that you could walk past in the streets and that means tons of research and world building. For every character in the Lost Kids comics I have these extensive character sheets with dozens of questions ranging from their family background, their homes, where they grew up in, the environment around them, to their biggest fears, their hopes and dreams, their psyche, etc.

All that comes into play and you must know your characters better than yourselves, you really must ask the tough questions and come up with interesting answers. A kid growing up in Brooklyn, NY, will most definitely talk and behave very differently than a kid growing up in Orange County, CA. Do they come from a rich family, a blue-collar one, from poverty, where do they go to school, are they outgoing or shy, do they use slang, or perhaps they speak perfect English, are they popular or outcasts, what are their deepest secrets and so forth.

And the most interesting task I had to go through was actually finding a way of these very different kids that should not get along, get together for this adventure. Good storytelling comes from conflict and there is nothing more boring than seeing characters agreeing on paper or screen, you want them to duke it out, you want them to have completely different opinions about the stuff that matters so you can exploit different points of view on a given subject and let the audience choose sides.

Believable teenagers have very strong opinions and views of their world, I just made sure to get all that right even before writing a word of the script.


Can you talk a little about how your characters developed from random sketches to the storylines in your web comic?


Der-shing Helmer

I don't actually sketch randomly and home storylines come out, it's pretty much the opposite... I come up with story elements that I find interesting and work to develop a character that might fit into the scenario in a unique way. For example, in The Meek, I wanted to write a story about a girl who doesn't care much for societal pressures. She started out in sketches as several types of girl, but with the goal of a story in mind, eventually developed in the my character Angora who is introduced as not wearing clothes (that portrayal is pivotal to her essential nature). I don't think the character would have been quite as effective if I had just been drawing naked women, and then tried to mould a story around that visual.

For the new comic that I am making (and will be posting more art of to deviantArt as well), I'm doing something similar; trying to create a certain vision of the future and the people who live there. With the future in mind, I get to create characters that represent my hopes and expectations, vs just randomly hoping to strike gold. My general advice is always to give a context to your sketches, even if you don't ultimately use them... it will help your characters develop into living people who feel like they might really exist somewhere.


When creating your character Veloce Visrin, what were some of the choices you made in designing her look and outfit to help tell the reader what she is all about?


Shilin Huang

I've given Veloce outfits meant for show, as well as casual outfits for the story she is in. The more story-oriented decisions were made with her casual outfit. Naturally, her look should immediately convey her character, because insignificant details on how a character chooses to dress himself/herself are usually a good reflection of their values. I've kept her outfit casual and unimpressive,despite her being the main character, to match her preference for staying away from the spotlight and blending into the crowds. Her clothes are also kept loose fitting rather than skintight, her hair kept free and not diligently kept, giving her a more relaxed air. However, she did come from a respected/feared family, and a hint of the fact that she is supposed to be an upper-class lady still comes across through the halter top, which is the same top/dress featured in her other, more extravagant and impressive outfits, covered up under the guise of her hoodie and otherwise unassuming look.


Your character drawings are so expressive. What are some tips for drawing animal characters with such human emotions while still maintaining their animalistic anatomy?


Tracy Butler

Thank you! Foremost, I’d say it’s important to get to know the subject matter. Gathering some overarching observational knowledge about anatomy, gesture and expression is pretty vital to drawing convincing pictures of such things. It also applies to the ensuing Frankensteinian drawing experiments that I would recommend as a generally effective approach to designing characters that fall somewhere between human and animal (though I’d argue that distinction is mostly philosophical).  Do a lot of sketching, in other words.

Human capacity for self-aware emotional complexities aside, it’d be difficult to mark a clear distinction between human and animal emotions. Among other mammals in particular, there’s quite a lot of overlap in the way we express basic things like fear, dejection and excitement, in fact. Whether human or wolf, a lowered head, fixed stare and curled lip is unmistakably aggressive.  That sort of thing can certainly work to the artist’s advantage when drawing an animalistic character meant to emote in a relatable human fashion.  Further appending the expression with the animal’s telltale posturing - raised hackles, pinned ears, bared fangs - can be mixed in to varying degrees of bestial and dramatic.  The more minute facial features add a layer of human nuance and specificity - the smallest adjustment can put an entirely different spin on an expression. For the given example, downward angled “angry” eyebrows would be well in line with the straightforward appearance of aggression, but simply arching one of the brows higher than the other can turn it into an expression of calculated anger.  Symmetrically high arching brows could make the expression more excited or crazed; furrowed brows could be used to convey a sort of consternated anger, and so forth.

Of course, species that don’t communicate in ways that are especially decipherable to humans and critters with physiognomies that don’t lend themselves well to forming human expressions can present design challenges that might require some careful finagling. To use a popular example, note the dramatically shortened heads of My Little Pony characters as compared to realistic equine heads.  Much of the animal appearance of the face is sacrificed, clustering the features together into an alignment more closely resembling a (cartoon-like) human.  This way, the expressions are eminently readable, never inadvertently shifting from cute to awkward.  In other situations, preserving the animalistic mien might be the greater priority over rendering consistently appealing human expressions. If you ever find yourself trying to draw chagrin on an anteater, consider that in some cases, embracing a bit of the awkwardness might not be a bad thing.  It can make for some defining, memorable characteristics.

My advice overall is to approach whatever abstracted combination of anatomies are at hand as an advantage rather than a limitation to building an expressive character.  The human and animal aspects each bring a toolkit array of physical features, gestures, behaviors and idiosyncrasies to utilize and draw inspiration from - all the more resources with which the character may exude life and emotion, presence and personality.


What led you to pick Korea as the location for your fish out of water story of frankie*SNATCH? And how does that specific location inform what situations your character goes through?


Lynsey Wo

When I initially came up with the concept for frankie*SNATCH back in 2001, I wanted to base it in a large, modern city in the Far East. At the time, Japan was experiencing a huge popularity boom (certainly within the target audience I was wanting to reach) and I wanted to avoid following that trend. After a little bit of research, Seoul seemed to contain the fast pace, bright lights, cosmopolitan scene I was looking for. In these early stages, a strong visual setting was all I was after, and Seoul fitted that need perfectly.

Frankie*SNATCH has always been a character-driven plot, and whilst the location had never been hugely influential as a whole, as the story developed darker, controversial issues, I still needed to make sure it was still appropriate. For example, a major theme of substance abuse within the story lead me to research the sort of healthcare and treatment available for those suffering with addictions, and how this sort of issue is perceived and handled by Korean society as a whole. This research directly impacted on how the character(s) confronting this issue would handle it, particularly from the societal angle. This idea of such an old-fashioned taboo against the backdrop of an otherwise modern, diverse city was something I found interesting, but it also made me realise the importance of making sure the characters were believable enough for them to address the issues presented to them with as little help from the outside as possible.

Questions for Brian Kesinger

  1. Brian has volunteered to answer any questions you might have in a series of video updates we will post soon, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for a shout-out from him.

    Leave your questions for Brian in the comments below.

Disney Artist Brian Kesinger on Creating Story through Character.

For more articles like this, visit depthRADIUS.
Want to submit any ideas, suggestions, collections, or an existing work for consideration for the Today page? We'd love to look at it. Email us at
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just kidding. it's a music player. a flele.

oh my god wumbo what is a flele?!
its pretty simple, actually.
this flele tutorial for morons should answer any of your questions and have a tiny wheatley singing for you in a few minutes (depending on your literacy skills and ability to follow simple directions) you should be able to download the software here.

the wheatley on the bottom left tells you where all the controls are on him. good luck.

warning: do not stack too many dressup items on him at once!! they will look really ugly. thank ~ShinyVulpix for that because she coded him.

wheatley does not have a mouth to use mouth movements. my ronnie flele kind of shows that a little better, if you're into ace attorney and that junk.

i am accepting commissions to make flele shells because it's a lot of fun (sometimes) and dress-up suggestions for wheats here! wink wink!

well i have made this description horridly long and no one will read it. download the .zip file and have fun alright!!!!
edit: this just in, i made a human version, too
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* R&R ArtGroup - Facebook page *

© Any using of the photography for commercial purposes and photo-manipulations are strictly prohibited. Reposting is allowed, provided credits and links.
© Использование фотографии в коммерческих целях и любые фотоманипуляции запрещены. Перепост разрешён при условии указания авторства и ссылок.


"Treasure planet" (Disney).
Me as Captain Amelia (costume, wig styling and makeup by me). 
Photo by Kifir :iconkifir: 2014
Assistants - Predator and Mads Boelsmand Østergaard

VIDEO (on the stage)
My other disney cosplays…
The enemy is near by Ryoko-demon You will address me as Captain or Ma'am by Ryoko-demon Captain Amelia by Ryoko-demon Captain Amelia by Kifir Course to Treasure Planet by Ryoko-demon
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Collection by
So I always loved the Eragon series and the book covers so I thought I should do one myself of the dragons that were given enough information about in the story.
Here have some Shruikan ~<3

Done with different kind of watercolours and some pencils and ink for details on watercolour paper.
Original piece equals the original hard cover size.

I also made the entire cover on InDesign which I'll upload a while later.

This was for my second portfolio for this year which was declined like the last one for the year ago..sadly
I don't think I'll send in another one for next year because I'm waiting for a job interview.
Also studying sucks over here because of the shitty politics and baaaaw ..I'm not going to rant now because it's useless ..

Inspired by John Jude Palencar's Cover Art for the Eragon series

Art =Suspiria-Ru
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...I am Lunasariach, the daughter of Yisariach, the great Overseer of Azeroth.

Lunasariach (c) me
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Apophysis 7x
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i picture i found in a youtube video about cutting. i really like the picture so i decided to edit it in paint and make it my dA ID.

new account: :iconchild-proof:
i will no longer be answering comments on this account.
check on the new one, i've uploaded so of my old work onto it.
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Finished Harlequin mask.
Cast in polyurethane resin, it has fully adjustable leather straps and brass plated fittings. The mask has been painted with a mixture of airbrushing and hand painting, then finished with a very slightly aged cracked effect. Inside there is a removable foam pad to cushion the forehead area, and a mesh piece behind the teeth.

Original design by :iconzombie-ninja:

I will be making more of these masks so if you are interested in buying one send me a note or email me at and I'll let you know when more are available.
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Just a fun drawing of some of the original Pokemon. I made them for buttons for this year's Otakon. Enjoy!

Created with Adobe Photoshop CS4.

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Summer time campfire fun for Pichu, Pikachu and Raichu. Hope you enjoy!

Grass brushes by :iconcharfade:

Created in Adobe Photoshop CS4. Pichu, Pikachu and Raichu are Nintendo.

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Little Link could never understand why this kid seemed to be addicted to giving him crap. He'd build a beautiful sand castle on the shores of Lake Hylia and BOOM - it gets knocked over. He had his ocarina smashed more than once coming home from band and his lunch rupees stolen almost every day since they met. He hated this little punk more than anything in Hyrule, but he knew one day...ONE DAY he'd have his revenge...

Something for fun as a follow up to my last drawing ^^

Created with Adobe Photoshop CS4. Link and Dark Link are Nintendo.

See my other Legend of Zelda pieces!

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Newest pokemon remake, another revision that has nothing to do with the orignal designs XD, here are the other 2 versions Scoundrel of the sea V.2.0 by darksilvaniaScoundrels of the sea by darksilvania

072-SKURBUOY (Scurvy-Buoy)
-Floating pokemon
-"This pokemon is said to be a soul lost at sea, who floats adrift. They tend to travel in groups, often floating around a lonely NAUSTRASKUL"

073-NAUTRASKUL (Nautic-Skull)
-Pirate Ship pokemon
-"This large pokemon attack ships at sea to steal food or interesting treasures. They use their large hooked fins to drag large boats under water"

and so, I decided to color this ones digital because...right now I have to many fakes to color in traditional, I hope they doesnt look that bad

this new ramake made them more fishy, in a sort of way, and a lot more simple

honetly, I like this ones much more thant the other two

hope you do it too, se ya
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I wanted to do some fanart for Tron, but also felt like drawing a geth. I don't have much time right now, so what the hell, I did both at once.

(I watched Tron: Legacy twice, can't wait for the DVD, bought the soundtrack as I exited the theater first time, don't regret spending 20 on a CD when it's DAFT freaking PUNK.)

(Seeing that the Geth gallery on #ME-Originality was almost empty gave me the itch of drawing one. Also, they're robots, and last time I checked, I have a HUGE thing for robots.)
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Tanval and the rest of those who mattered in Davon’s Watch had given the Sept their blessings to build a suitable place to call their own. All that was left now was to find a spot, draw up some plans, and begin the process. Easier said than done. With renovation taking place throughout the city because of the Covenant invasion, space was at a premium. Three days later, and with still nothing to show for their efforts, Tyrna was ready to give up and just build the guild hall on a hill overlooking the city. That’s when Injects-Hot-Lead came to her, his smile visible beneath his new Khajiit hat. “I’ve found us a spot! It even has a building we can get a start from.” He practically bounced as he spoke, and the others looked over from where they were scattered around the Fighters’ Guild. “Come, and I’ll show you.”

“You heard him, let’s go!” Hana echoed, already at the door. As the others filed out, Nathan’Dar came up to Tyrna, tilting his head.

“This one hopes our scaled friend has an eye for these things.”

“How bad could it be?” Sasha called back, her face splitting into a grin. They traipsed across the city, everyone talking excitedly and wondering how they could have missed this obvious gem. But when they beheld what Injects had discovered, disbelief mixed with dejection. For what they found themselves staring at was the burned out shell of a home. The area had been hardest hit by the Daggers, and most of the residents had simply packed up and moved out, if they were alive at all. Makayla blinked a few times, trying to stifle her giggles.

“So… This is it?” the mage asked.

“I believe they call it a “fixer-upper”.”

“More like a burnt-downer,” Respite shot back.

“It has a foundation, which I heard is very important when not building a mud hut. And there is land, no one is claiming it, and we can build to suit our own taste!” The rest of the Sept looked at one another, until Stirs-Fear stepped forward.

“Ah, the lad thinks big! We should take all this empty space for our own, since no one stayed to stake their claim.”

“Stirs-Fear, we’d need a whole team of crafters and builders to raise a new building,” Tyrna reminded him. He scoffed and waved her concerns away.

“Bah, details, that’s all that is! There’s plenty of crafters here in the city. And builders? I’d wager we put out a call for work, and you’ll have half of Stonefalls lining up to help us. After all, we did save the city and put down that son-of-a-swine Balreth.”

“He does have a point,” Respite brought up. “We could get the Bleakrock refugees to help too.”

“We still need plans to put into place.”

“Let me handle that, ma’am,” Greyson volunteered, saluting his Sept leader.

“Templars are trained for shoring up and rebuilding,” Ket added.

“And as long as the wood’s already cut, we’re pretty handy,” Hana revealed, motioning to the other two Bosmer.

“Fearsome and I will do our part too,” Alana pledged with a small smile.

“We all will,” Caidiana told her.

“Looks like you are outnumbered and out-reasoned,” the Khajiit teased. Tyrna smiled and shook her head.

“Seems that way. All right then, we’ve got a lot of work to do. Stirs-Fear and Sasha, round up some strong backs from the Fighters’ Guild. Caidiana, you talk to the blacksmith and woodworker. Makayla and Alana, head over to the Mages’ Guild and see what kind of wards and things we can set up once everything’s built. Injects, take our Wood Elf friends to the river and start gathering rocks for the walls. Greyson, you and Ket get those plans done as soon as possible. I’ll go find Captain Rana and talk to her about commandeering some of her people. Nathan’Dar, spread the word that we’re looking for anyone willing to work. And if they do a good enough job, we might even pay them.”

“Yes ma’am!” the all chorused, splitting up to their assigned tasks. Tyrna grinned as she headed through the city. This would certainly be a grand undertaking.
* * *

Three weeks of hard work later, Davon’s Watch had a new building. Tyrna and Makayla stood in front of the Sept as they surveyed their handiwork, and even the citizens were talking excitedly amongst themselves. Tanval and Holgunn gently pushed to the front of the crowd, and the Dunmer’s eyes widened slightly as he took in the building. The Nord gave a low whistle, and Tyrna turned to face them. “I take it you approve?”

“It’s very… Telling,” Tanval ventured, licking his lips. The main body of the building was easily the size of his own house, and stood two stories tall. It was made from black rock, and trimmed in gold tones. Red banners with the Sept’s crest of a six-pointed golden star hung from the eaves. Numerous small windows would no doubt allow quite a bit of light into the structure, and the roof was reinforced with wood and pitch. However, what really set it apart was the top of it, where there stood a miniature replica of the White-Gold Tower. All in all, it was an impressive, imposing building.

“You should see the inside,” Makayla invited. “We’ve got room for everyone, plus guest rooms if need be. A training hall, a meeting room, a library, and a mead hall.” Holgunn blinked and looked at Sasha and Stirs-Fear.

“A mead hall?”

“Aye, though it’s tiny compared with back home,” the old man admitted with a shrug. “But at least now I can get a proper drink without having to worry about those bastard Undaunted breaking into “song” every so often.”

“You’re welcome to join us anytime,” Sasha told the other Nord.

“I… Thank you. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a mead hall.”

“You mentioned a training hall?” Tanval asked, trying to mentally figure out where everything could be.

“In the basement, sir,” Greyson told him. “We were able to divide it into a martial and magical section.”

“We can’t let our skills get rusty,” Hana ventured. “Then we wouldn’t be heroes.” The citizens all started chuckling, and Tyrna turned to the assembled crowd.

“The Sept of Undying Spirit hereby makes its name known to the citizens of Davon’s Watch, Stonefalls, and all of the Ebonheart Pact. We are your protectors, your guardians, and your stalwart defenders. No Covenant, no Dominion, and no Daedra will assault you while we stand vigil. And if any of you wish to join us, our door is open.” Cheers went up as the Sept headed into their new home, and Tyrna shut the door behind her and sighed heavily.

“A fine speech, lass,” Stirs-Fear praised.

“I meant every word.”

“Great, so now every little problem they have, we’ll be the first ones they find,” Respite teased as he rolled his eyes.

“And our names will become more known,” Makayla reminded him.

“That’s not always a good thing,” Nathan’Dar pointed out. “Our enemies will know just where to find us as well.”

“Let them come!” Sasha challenged, smacking her fist into her palm.

“They will not find us easy to defeat,” Injects echoed.

“No, they won’t,” Tyrna agreed with a nod. “But for now, I think we’ve earned some rest. So tonight will just be us, celebrating as only we can.”

“To the kitchen!” the Argonian shouted, eagerly followed by Respite and Hana.

“To the mead hall!” Stirs-Fear called, most of the others trailing after him.

“To the library,” Alana said softly, disappearing down the hall. Ket and Makayla nodded and headed after her, wanting some peace and quiet. Greyson looked at his commanding officer, who was grinning.

“Soldier, to the training hall.” He snapped a salute and smiled as well.
* * *

Much later that night, everyone was gathered in what had been deemed “The War Council” room. An oval table donated by the Fighters’ Guild sat in the center, large enough for everyone to sit comfortably around it. Plans and sketches of the region were laid out on it, but those went ignored for the moment. Most had a drink in front of them, and they ranged from water to much stronger stuff. Stirs-Fear had a keg between himself, Sasha, and Hana, which the three of them took turns refilling their mugs from. “So, I was thinking that we should probably get to know each other a little better,” Tyrna told them, draining her wine glass and pouring more from a bottle she and Caidiana were sharing.

“Get to know each other?” Ket inquired.

“Yes. We’re going to be living and fighting together, so we need to get things sorted out up front. Where people come from, what we can do, and even what we might be looking forward to once this is all over.”

“This an Imperial standard or something?” Sasha wondered, raising an eyebrow. Her Sept leader didn’t seem like the type to discuss feelings or personal issues, so maybe she was just falling back on protocol.

“Hardly,” Makayla replied. “Unless it’s a Legion thing?”

“Partially,” Greyson admitted with a shrug. “New recruits are often asked what we’re capable of to better determine where our skills will be most useful.”

“Ah, so it’s to better judge our strengths,” Hana added. “I can accept that.”

“So why don’t you start,” Respite prompted. Tyrna looked taken aback for a moment, before hanging her head.

“I don’t… I don’t remember who I was. I know my name, and that I was a soldier in Cyrodiil. Past that, no clue. Greyson seems to think I wasn’t a common soldier.”

“Of course you weren’t,” Makayla agreed. Tyrna looked up and tilted her head at the mage. “What?”

“Did we know each other, Makayla?” Immediately the blonde held up her hands.

“Of course not! But you’re not just a soldier, Tyrna. You have the bearing of a commander.” Greyson nodded and continued:

“See ma’am, I’m not the only one who can tell.” The Sept leader frowned and sighed heavily. She was pretty sure there was something they weren’t telling her, but at the moment she was willing to let it go.

“All right, then let’s hear about you, miss mage.”

“Who, me?” Makayla asked, seeming surprised.

“I’m not looking at Alana.”

“Well, I mean… There’s not much to tell… Ket, you can go.” The templar grinned and nodded, clearing her throat.

“Well, I’m a registered battle healer with the Imperial Order of Templar Knights, so I spent quite a bit of time at the Mages’ Tower. That’s where I met Makayla. And even though she was studying to become the next Archmage, she still found time to be with me! Isn’t that just amazing, that she’d take notice of little, old me?” Stunned silence followed, and Makayla shot her companion a glare that would’ve cowed lesser people, but Ket merely grinned and looked confused. “What, you said for me to go.”

“I meant just about you,” came the mumbled response.

“Wait, so she’s-” Bakki began, before Respite cut him off.

“Yeah. Normally our targets don’t present themselves so nicely.”

“Targets?” Makayla and Ket asked.

“Look, we’re… Ah, Y’ffre’s beard, I might as well tell you. We’re royal assassins. Queen Ayrenn-” The archer began, before Stirs-Fear interjected.

“Ayrenn? Six-and-a-half hands tall, fierce countenance, blonde hair, eyes like the heart of a glacier, and one fine-looking Elven ass?” The two assassins stared at the Nord, neither of them sure what to say.

“This one believes you mean to say you’ve met the Queen?” Nathan’Dar offered.

“If by “meet” you mean we took a tumble at an inn, then yes.” Jaws hit the floor.

“Provost, you bedded royalty?!”

“Don’t sound so shocked, lass,” he gently chastised Sasha. “I was once much younger, and I needed to beat the women off me just to catch my breath. It was during these times that I met a fiery, independent High Elf, and we traveled together for a bit. She saved my life, I saved hers, we got to drinking, and the rest is history.”

“You must’ve been very good,” Respite revealed. “She hasn’t issued any orders to kill you, unlike some other ex-lovers.”

“And if I see her again, I’ll remind her of those times,” the old man said with a grin. The Bosmer cleared his throat and picked up his original line:
“Anyway, Queen Ayrenn’s orders were to go to Cyrodiil to see about any potential threats to the Dominion.” Neither Respite nor Bakki looked guilty or ashamed, and all the Imperials turned hard eyes towards them.

“And what threat did we pose?” the mage asked, smiling sweetly. However, there was an aura about her that spoke of dire consequences should the wrong answer be given.

“Little, actually,” Bakki told her. “We determined that you were content to continue with the status quo in the Empire, and wouldn’t be advising the Emperor to suddenly come invading any Dominion territory.”

“Well, that’s good… I guess,” Ket said with a shrug. Respite pointed at her and Makayla and motioned to their hands.

“By the way, can you clarify something for me?”

“What?” the mage asked, still a bit wary.

“Those are actual rings of Mara, right?” When both women nodded, he again motioned between them. “So does that mean you two are bound?”

“You thought we might both have men back in the Imperial City?”

“Can you just answer the question?”

“We’d been married a few months before the Soulburst. When Mannimarco’s people finally breached the Tower’s defenses, they caught quite a few of us.” Makayla’s hands curled into fists for a moment, and Ket gently laid her head on her wife’s shoulder. Respite nodded and grinned a bit, but Bakki shook his head and pulled out his coin pouch. Passing the other Wood Elf a couple of gold pieces, he crossed his arms and slouched back in his chair.

“Told you so,” Respite teased, pocketing the money.

“Wait… You had a bet going?” Ket inquired, slightly stunned.

“Yup.” Tyrna could tell that Makayla was done talking, and swung her attention to the last of her countrymen.

“Greyson, what about you?”


“You said you were First Legion. Were you in the city when… When it all turned to hell?” Greyson stiffened for a moment, lips pursing together.

“My squad was patrolling when we were ambushed. But not by Worm Cultists… By our own people. They said they came on the Empress’ orders, and we were to be immediately taken into custody as traitors.”

“Traitors?!” Alana squeaked, surprised by this admission.

“Because we still wanted to find Emperor Varen. We didn’t give up hope that he was still alive and would return to kill Mannimarco and his people.”

“So part of the First Legion was in on it?” Tyrna whispered. She seemed to be trying to piece things together, but shook her head as the memories eluded her.

“So it seems,” the soldier admitted with a sigh. “One by one they asked if we would forswear our allegiance to the Emperor and make oaths to serve Mannimarco.”

“What did you say?” Caidiana wondered, pretty sure she knew the answer.

“I told them that a soldier of Cyrodiil doesn’t go back on his word. That they would need to kill me before I ever agreed to follow them.” The words were soft, but there was such strength and conviction behind them that everyone felt a shiver run through them. Stirs-Fear stood and walked over to the young man, clapping a meaty hand on his shoulder and smiling.

“You did well, lad. And we’ll take the fight to the Worms yet.”

“I’ll have that bastard’s head for what he’s done to our people.”

“His and Molag Bal’s,” Hana added. “Do you think we could mount them over the door?” All eyes turned towards her, and she blinked back at them. “What?”

“It’s a fine idea, Half-Pint,” the old Nord said as he sat down again.

“So… Who’s next?” Alana wondered, looking around the table.

“How about you, pup?” Sasha shot back, grinning.

“Me?!” The healer blushed, and then fidgeted on her chair. Fearsome placed a claw on her arm, and she pet the Clannfear on the head. “I’m not anyone important. Just an apprentice healer at the Wayrest Mages’ Guild.”

“I came from Daggerfall myself,” Caidiana spoke up.

“Where you turned down fifty marriage proposals,” Hana teased. The blonde Breton turned red for a moment, and Alana looked over in confusion.

“Fifty? Wait, are you nobility?”

“Minor,” came the quick reply.

“Same here.” Looks passed back and forth between the Bretons, and Tyrna opened her mouth, closed it, and then finally spoke.

“Nobles? Both of you?” Caidiana and Alana nodded, and the healer continued:

“My family’s been part of the magick defense of the city since its’ earliest days. We’re not very powerful, so we get overlooked by the other families a lot.”

“I just come from a merchant family that’s done well the last few generations,” Caidiana admitted. “Didn’t matter a damn when the Worms grabbed me.”

“How did that happen?” Nathan’Dar wondered.

“I was out practicing late one night, and they ganged up on me.”


“I was sent to the Knights of the Dragon, to at least be useful. I liked training alone, and didn’t think anything of walking around by myself. Bastards took advantage of that to grab me, knock me out, and drag me wherever it was they killed me.”

“Alana, how did they get you?” Greyson was instantly sorry he’d asked the question, as the girl pulled her knees up onto the chair and stared at the table.

“They broke into our training hall, saying that any who opposed the might of the new Empire would be seized and done away with. We fought back, naturally, but there were too many, and they were better trained. Most of us were captured, but they killed our instructors in front of us, to see if that would change our minds. Some… Some relented and swore allegiance to the Worm Cult. The rest of us…” She dropped her head into her chest, and Fearsome trilled softly.

“It’s over now,” Ket told her. “You’re safe here among friends.”

“And you’ve even got a bodyguard,” Makayla added with a wink. Alana blushed and buried her head further down for a moment, but she was smiling a bit when she looked back up.

“Thank you,” she whispered. Tyrna was starting to regret starting all of this, when Injects stood up with a broad smile.

“It is my turn then?”

“Sure,” the Sept leader said with some hesitation. But really, how bad could his-

“I kill Dunmer!” the Argonian proudly stated. Silence descended on the room, and he looked around as if expecting questions. They soon followed.

“For sport?” Respite wondered.

“For food?” Hana wanted to know.

“For vengeance?” Nathan’Dar asked.

“I kill Dunmer who have enslaved my people in the past, I kill those who enslave them still, and I kill Dunmer who might make slaves of my people in the future.”

“…How can you know about that last part?” Tyrna asked. Injects frowned and stroked his chin for a moment.

“Come to think of it, most Dunmer fall into that last category. So I suppose my first statement is the most accurate.”

“You do realize we’re in a city full of Dark Elves, right?” Caidiana reminded him.

“Yes, and I have not yet had cause to kill any of them. Though perhaps that Tanval needed killing for other reasons…”

“Agreed,” Makayla said with an exasperated sigh.

“So do the Dunmer know about you?” Bakki wondered.

“No,” Injects replied with a slight shake of his head. “Not specifically, anyway. They know that in some parts of Shadowfen, Dark Elves go in, but they do not emerge.”

“Are you a Shadowscale?” The Argonian clicked his tongue and frowned. Of course the Bosmer assassins would know about them.

“A what?” Caidiana asked, looking very puzzled.

“Shadowscales are born under the sign of Sithis and trained from birth to be his right hands. It is a noble calling.”

“Sithis?” Sasha rolled the word around for a moment, eventually deciding she would not be able to pronounce the S quite the same as her scaled friend.

“Our creator god. He is the All and the Void, the Beginning and the End.”

“And he trains assassins?” Tyrna prodded. Injects shrugged and grinned.

“That the other gods do not is worse for them, don’t you agree?”

“That’s one way of looking at it…” Ket said with a frown.

“Would you prefer I swore not to kill any Dunmer without the consent of at least one other Sept member?”

“That might be a good idea,” Greyson agreed. “Random killing will get us in trouble very quickly.”

“Nathan’Dar volunteers to be the second voice for our noble Argonian.”

“Nathan’Dar, I get the feeling you hate Dark Elves as well,” Alana spoke up.

“Hate is a strong word, little Breton. This one prefers to explain that he has a preferred dislike and revulsion towards the red-eyed, dark-skinned Elves.”

“But you’re not a killer by nature,” Respite pointed out. “So it might be okay.”

“Of course Nathan’Dar is no killer!” the Khajiit said, hand over his heart like he had been wounded. “As he said before, this one is a purveyor of things not originally his. Killing is for those who do not know how to properly sneak away.”

“Look, what you all do outside these walls and on your own is your business,” Tyrna finally said. “But if you do anything to jeopardize either our ultimate mission or the lives of anyone here, you will answer directly to me.” The emphasis on the last word told them all that the consequences of such actions would be dire.

“So, um… Hana, I guess it’s your turn?” Ket prompted, hoping to diffuse the tension. The Bosmer fidgeted in her seat for a moment.

“Not much to tell. My sister and I were orphaned at a young age, and I did my best to put food on the table. We lived in a place called the City of Ash, in Greenshade.”

“Isn’t that the city that refused to become part of the Dominion?” Hana shrugged at Respite’s question.

“I don’t really think we need an Altmer telling us what to do,” she shot back. “But anyway, other than my desire to become a Vinedusk Ranger, there’s not much to say.”

“Vinedusk Ranger?” Caidiana echoed. “Who are they?”

“A group of Bosmer who protect the realm from anything and everything.”

“And they’re exempt from the Green Pact,” Bakki added.

“What is this Green Pact, anyway?” Makayla wondered.

“The Bosmeri agreement with the forest,” Hana told them. “We protect everything that grows, and can only harvest plants that are dead or fallen. It also means we eat meat.”

“And only meat,” Respite put in.

“Including people, right?” A few of the Sept fidgeted as the three Wood Elves nodded at Tyrna’s question. “But not us, right?”

“No, only enemies. And only before three days have passed,” Hana explained.

“There are very strict rules,” Respite agreed.

“Have you ever eaten Dunmer?” Injects asked.

“We try not to,” the male archer revealed.

“Why is that?”

“They have a burnt flavor,” Hana told him, sticking out her tongue in mild disgust. Alana again turned a bit green, and Caidiana put her head in her hands.

“Saved the best for last, did ya?” Stirs-Fear commented as he stood. “Now it’ll be the proud Son and Daughter of Skyrim’s turn to go.”

“Well, we know you were a Provost of the Fighters’ Guild,” Ket remembered.

“And you slept with the High Elf Queen,” Nathan’Dar added.

“Aye, but there’s so much more,” the old man sighed. “Too much to tell in one evening. The bards still sing of my adventures back home.”

“So how did the Worm Cult catch you?” Tyrna asked. Stirs-Fear shrugged and flexed an arm.

“By numbers and deceit. They laced some daggers with poison to slow me down, then threw a whole horde of followers at me. Twenty, thirty, I lost count how many I sent screaming to their precious Prince. But eventually, the bastards took me down. And now I’m back for another round. Speaking of another round…” He turned and filled his mug again, downing it in a few quick chugs. Sasha grinned and stood as well.

“My family are fishermen from up north, and I joined the Fighters’ Guild when I went to market at Whiterun for the first time. I hadn’t had a chance to travel before now, though I could’ve done without losing my soul.”

“Any potential suitors waiting for you?” Caidiana teased. Sasha scoffed and tapped the greatsword at her back.

“Men, marriage, and mini-Nords will have to wait. Besides, we’re a bit more relaxed when it comes to all that compared to the rest of you. Courting is less formal.”

“How so?” Alana leaned forward, eyes wide.

“If you like a man, you prove you’ll be a good wife. Going out and killing a boar, stuffing it with fresh herbs you picked, and roasting it over a fire for the two of you to share is a good start.”

“And if you want to impress the ladies, nothing says it like bringing them the head of the biggest troll you can find!” Stirs-fear interjected with a chuckle.

“Right you are!” Sasha agreed with a laugh. Looks of confusion and bewilderment passed around the table, and Tyrna shook her head and snickered.

“Well then, off to bed with everyone. Thanks for indulging my curiosity.” Nods and smiles came from everyone as the Sept bedded down in their own rooms. Tyrna stared at the ceiling over her bed, wondering how long the peace would last before either the Covenant or Molag Bal did something to shatter it…
The Sept builds their own guild hall (wish you could do this in game), and gets to know each other more.

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“So, Shalidor, eh?” Ket questioned as she, Makayla, and Respite left the Dwemer cavern for the ash-streaked sky of Stonefalls.

“The Guild will want to hear about this,” Makayla confirmed, tucking the tome they’d found into her pack.

“Want to hear about what?” Alana asked as her group came into sight.

“Aren’t you supposed to be checking out those ruins?” Respite asked of his fellow Bosmer. Bakki shrugged and looked at the other two.

“We needed to get directions first,” he teased. “Apparently the local Dunmer didn’t remember where it was. But our friends at the Mages’ Guild were happy to show us a few maps that had its location.”

“We’re on our way now,” Alana continued. “And I guess you took a detour before Othenris?” The healer reached out and ran her hand along Fearsome’s back, eliciting a trill from the creature. She was very glad to have her traveling companion back at her side, even if she was no longer alone.

“There were rumors of a magical tome in these ruins, so we decided to check that out first. After all, knowledge is our first pursuit,” the Imperial mage reminded them.

“I just wish these books weren’t always in forgotten crypts or old ruins,” Ket said with a heavy sigh.

“Then where should they be?” Greyson wondered.

“On a bookshelf in a library with a cozy fireplace?” the other templar offered.

“Well, that’s where it’s heading back to,” Makayla reminded her. “So I guess this is where-” Her words were cut off by another voice.

“Bring forth the blood sacrifice! When Coldharbour calls, Nirn obeys.” Everyone froze for a moment, eyes darting around to try and see where the voice had come from. Bakki immediately faded into the shadows, and Respite drew his bow and sniffed at the air. He stalked over to a rocky outcrop, peering over for a moment before flattening himself nearly to the ground. With a quick gesture for the others to follow, he again dared to raise his head over the rocks. Makayla and Greyson drew their swords, while Ketatiera and Alana got their staffs ready. Fearsome growled softly, tail swishing madly behind him. The group looked out over a small, flat section of the mountain slope, and there saw a small crowd of robed individuals gathered around an ornate altar. Sigils and symbols of summoning had been carved into stonework laid in the ground, and what appeared to be a well rose up from the center of the circle. A figure in rags was hovering over the well, held in place by powerful magick. As they watched, the lead robed figure stepped forward, motes of magick dancing over her fingers.

“God of Schemes, we offer this victim to honor you. Through the power of innocent blood, bring forth your Anchor, and let two worlds become one. Bind this world with your chains, and draw it ever closer to your realm.” As she spoke, the sky overhead darkened, clouds swirling together. And then a piercing beam of light shot from the sky, obliterating the suspended person. Alana and Ket threw their hands over their mouths to stifle screams, and Makayla closed her eyes and looked away. Greyson’s teeth ground in anger as his grip tightened on his weapons.

“Eyes up, people,” Respite chastised, voice barely above a whisper. They all looked up once more to see a circular ring spinning above the place. A moment later, three chains launched from the center to latch onto the well. As they impacted, pain lanced through all their chests, reminiscent of their hearts being impaled. The cultists began cheering, and the Sept members all looked at one another. What was happening?
* * *

Tyrna and Caidiana stumbled from the cavern where they’d met with the projection of The Prophet. He’d told them the place would be called The Harborage, and when he came there physically, it would be a safe haven for all of them. He’d taken the women on a journey into his mind, and the Imperial was still reeling from the visions. At first she’d been happy that she remembered something from her past: She knew Sai Sahan. How exactly, she wasn’t sure, but she knew that he had been the Redguard who had addressed her… Squad? Legion? Most everything was still a blur, but one thing was certain: Mannimarco and his Worm Cult had to die. “So… You have a splitting headache still?” the Breton inquired, massaging her temples.

“A headache and a need to kill that Altmer.”

“Guess that hit close to home? Seeing your Emperor get laid low by deceit?”

“That would have been the only way to catch him off-guard. Emperor Varen was a battle-hardened commander. But he trusted that High Elf, and look where it got us.”

“Yeah, fighting a battle halfway across the continent for people who would sooner kill us than accept our help normally.” Tyrna sighed and laid a reassuring hand on her Sept-mate’s shoulder.

“We’ll get everyone home, I promise.”

“It’s not like I really want to go back,” the blonde protested. “I mean, my parents were a little upset with me last time I checked.”

“What for?” Caidiana put a hand behind her head and kicked at the ground.

“Oh you know… Refusing to get married. …Fifty or so times.” The Imperial blinked and was about to ask for details, when a searing light near the base of the mountain caught their attention. The light seemed to be coming from a circular ring in the sky, and as they watched, chains struck down from it. Pain knifed through their chests, and both of them stumbled, holding onto each other for support.

“Great Akatosh! That’s one of those Dark Anchors! We’ll talk about marriages later.” Tyrna grabbed the other woman and started running, not knowing exactly what they would find when they reached the Anchor. However, she didn’t expect to see some of the others crouched behind a few boulders, watching in disgust. “Why are you standing around?” she demanded.

“Because we were trying to figure out what we’re up against,” Makayla answered.

“Greyson, report!” The soldier snapped a quick, automatic salute as he turned towards his current commander.

“Five members of the Worm Cult, ma’am. Three sorcerers and two heavy guards.” Tyrna nodded and drew her weapons, Caidiana doing the same.

“That portal leads to Coldharbour. Molag Bal is trying to pull this world into his realm. The old man showed us this in a little vision.”

“Good enough for me,” Respite said as he stood up and took aim. He fired at one of the sorcerers, and saw Bakki step from the shadows to knife another in the back. Makayla blasted the last with lightning while Tyrna and Greyson engaged the guards. The fight was over relatively quickly, and Caidiana kicked at one of the cultists.

“That’s it? Wow, clearing these things is going to be-” One of the summoning sigils near her began lighting up, and Fearsome charged for it. Another Clannfear emerged from a cloud of smoke and light, and the two Daedra engaged. But then more sigils began lighting up, and Daedra began dropping down from the rift in lightning bolts.

“It’s raining Daedra!” Ket shouted, bringing up her staff.

“These things can do that?!” Alana echoed as Greyson took up a defensive stance in front of her.

“The Prophet didn’t show us this!” Caidiana explained, leaping from target to target along with Bakki.

“Remind me to take that up with him next time!” Tyrna shot back, smacking a Clannfear in the face and then running it through.

“Just don’t hurt Fearsome!” the Breton healer warned.

“You need a collar for it, then!” Respite suggested, firing as fast as he could load.

“Just keep at it!” Makayla called, lightning swirling around her. Summon after summon, Daedra after Daedra, it seemed to be without end. At one point, the Imperial mage spotted a glowing pinion, and raced over to touch it. As she did so, one of the giant chains rattled, and the pinion disappeared. “Get the chains loose! Touch the pinions when they light up!” Three times more they did that, and then a voice reached their ears that sent shivers up and down their spines:

“Destroy this Anchor, and scores more will take its place.” A large bolt struck the ground, and from it uncurled a Flesh Atronach, which took a few bounding steps towards the group. Tyrna dashed forward, calling on her abilities to lock it in place as three curved spears of rock thrust out of the ground.

“Kill it!” she commanded, hacking into the creature. Greyson, Caidiana, and Bakki joined her, while Makayla and Alana rained lightning on it. Ket launched a spear of golden radiance at it as well, and the thing dissolved in a pile of rotten flesh. A fifth pinion rose up from the step leading up to the well, and Tyrna placed her hand on it.

“Enjoy your fleeting victory, insects,” the Prince of Destruction sneered as the chains pulled up and back into the ring. It spun a few times before disappearing with a sky-splitting clap of thunder. Then the clouds parted, and sunlight once against filtered down on the group. Everyone took a deep breath, and the healers quickly checked them over for injuries. Ket grinned at Makayla for a moment.

“It’s going to be one of those days,” she teased.

“It’s going to be a lot longer than that,” the blonde retorted, sheathing her sword. “Well, we have a crypt to visit, some of you have ruins to check out, and the rest have jobs to do. See you at Ash Mountain when we have answers.” Then everyone parted ways, leaving the Anchor site in peace once more.
* * *

Othenris. Ket wasn’t certain what the name translated to in Dunmeri, but she was betting it was something similar to “creepy place full of walking dead”. How were they going to find one spirit amid all of this? “’Kayla?”

“Yeees?” The blonde took her hand and grinned. She was trying to diffuse Ket’s fear, and the templar appreciated it.

“Where do we start looking?”

“I say we take that Argonian’s advice and look for the largest, gaudiest tomb here.” Ah yes, Garyn’s friend that had not wanted to set foot inside Othenris for fear the Dark Elf dead would devour his soul. He’d had the right idea.

“And how do you tell?” Respite wondered, bow out as his eyes slid across the structures. “These all look gaudy to me.”

“How do Bosmer bury their dead?” Ket asked, frowning a bit as she was forced to agree about the tombs they were passing.

“Out in the wood, where they can feed the trees. Most of you have graveyards you visit, but we have the whole forest.”

“Interesting,” Makayla noted, her own eyes flitting over the various texts carved on the tombs. “No, not the right family. No, not the right time frame…” she would whisper every so often.

“You can read all that?” the mage turned to the templar.

“I had to study a few dead languages at the Tower, remember? A lot of these inscriptions are in Chimer.”


“What the Dunmer used to be called,” Respite answered. Then he looked back at the blonde. “What tower?”

“…Mages’ Tower in Cyrodiil,” came the delayed response. The archer’s eyes widened as he quickly looked her up and down.

“Oh, you’re that Makayla.” His comment caught the women off-guard.

“Wait, what?” Respite waved Ket’s concern away.

“Not important right now. Let’s find Mavos’ tomb, get the information, and go.”
“I agree. This place gives me the creeps.” Ket kept a tight grip on her staff as they continued to walk. Finally, the trio beheld a grand tomb: Flames burned along an ornate staircase, relief carvings covering almost every inch of stone. At the top of the stairs stood a large obsidian urn, gold and precious gems laid in arcane patterns across it. Makayla pointed at a bronze plaque with writing.

“Mavos Siloreth, Grand Magus and sealer of Balreth: younger Brother of Strife. May he be blessed for all time.”

“Thank Y’ffre,” Respite whispered. “So how do we talk to him?”

“Petition his spirit,” Ket replied, bowing her head and getting down on one knee. If there was anything she had learned from her time in the Imperial City, it was how to appeal to the vanity of nobles. She was betting Chimer nobles were no different. “Grand Magus Mavos, hear our plea! Balreth has been once more loosed on this region, and we require your aid to stop him!”

“Do you now?” a rich tenor voice inquired as a form shimmered into view by the urn. “And who are you to request such help?”

“Members of the Sept of Undying Spirit,” Makayla answered. “We were defending Davon’s Watch when Tanval Indoril summoned Balreth.”

“And lost control of it,” the Chimer stated, shaking his head in disgust.

“See, he already knows!” the Wood Elf quipped.

“I know because that is the only logical conclusion!” Mavos snapped. “No one person can hope to control either Brother. They are fools to think otherwise, especially when even those who created Balreth and Sadal could not bring them to heel. I put guardians in place to prevent a disaster like this. Where are they?”

“Guardians?” the Imperial mage wondered. This was the first time she was hearing about this, and her opinion of the Indorils was dropping fast.

“Yes, Ragebinder and Blaze. Flame Atronachs who keep Balreth… Pacified.”

“He must’ve dismissed them.” Now Makayla’s mind was turning in different directions. But all she could think of was that the Sept had just as much responsibility for Balreth getting loose as Tanval. Why hadn’t Tyrna listened to them?

“Makayla, what are we going to do?” Ket asked, tugging on her sleeve.

“Can the Atronachs be re-summoned?” Mavos locked eyes with the blonde, anger slowly giving way to something else.

“Yes, though I have… Forgotten the exact summoning ritual.”


“It has been many centuries, little Imperial! You come back from the aether after as long as I have and tell me you can remember everything in detail!”

“Is there a way to jog your memory?” Ket questioned once his tirade was over.

“…Perhaps. I require two foci though, and they are elsewhere in the complex. A skull and candle, both clearly marked with my sigil. Once I have them, I will allow you into my memories. There, you will find the answers you seek.” The three looked at each other and sighed.

“Great, a scavenger hunt.”

“Let’s just get this over, Respite. Then we can meet up with the others,” Makayla said as they turned from the stairs and trekked even further into Othenris.
* * *

The ruins that greeted the trio seemed to be no different that any others that dotted the region: Large stone platforms with a pillar at each corner, as though there had once been a roof over each one. Stairs wound through the complex, though some had been chipped or broken over the many years since their construction. “This place feels so odd,” Alana whispered, clutching her staff to her chest. Fearsome stayed next to her, sniffing the air and keeping a wary eye on a few Scamps further in the ruins. Greyson was on the healer’s other side, shield up and sword held in a loose grip. He wasn’t sure which was more unsettling: The Daedra or the atmosphere.

“Evil was done here,” Bakki’s soft voice told them. The Bosmer ghosted behind them, ducking in and out of the shadows. His daggers were firmly in his hands, and his facemask allowed only his large, dark eyes to show.

“A grand undertaking of magick was done here!” a new voice chastised. “Good and evil are paltry words that mortals use to quantify things.” The group turned to see a Dark Elf standing a bit down a path, eyeing them with interest. He was dressed in the traditional robes a scholar from the Mages’ Guild, and Alana walked up to him.

“Who are you, if I may ask?”

“You may indeed,” he answered with a nod. “I am Vunal of House Telvanni.”

“Then you’re the man we’re looking for,” Greyson told him. “We heard you know the history of the Brothers of Strife.” Vunal grimaced for a moment, and then gestured to where the Scamps were bounding around.

“Yes, and no. I know this is where they were created, but I do not know exactly how that was done. However, I have devised a ritual to allow a glimpse into the past. Only, I can’t do it alone. If you help me, you will witness history first hand.”

“What do you need?” Alana wondered.

“Four objects called Heartstones that were used in the original ritual that created the Brothers. They are scattered throughout the complex, though I only require four.”

“What stopped you from retrieving them already?” Vunal looked up at Greyson and shrugged, managing to look slightly embarrassed.

“I’m a scholar, not a warrior. The Scamps would’ve roasted me alive.”

“Typical noble,” Bakki whispered, shaking his head in disgust.

“So we get you these stones, you perform the ritual, and we hopefully see what we need to know?” Alana had been hoping for an easy first assignment, and taking out Scamps qualified, especially with three of them plus Fearsome.

“You have the gist of it,” Vunal agreed.

“We’ll be back shortly,” Greyson vowed, heading off for the ruins. Bakki was already gone, and he guessed the Bosmer was ahead and waiting for them to attack. Finding the stones was easy enough, as they radiated both intense heat and magick that Alana could pick up on. The Scamps guarding the stones made the work a touch harder, but not for the three of them. In less than an hour they had the four stones, and returned to Vunal, who waved them into a cave.

“I’ve set up the area in here, as it will offer me shelter from any curious Daedra until your minds return to the present,” he explained.

“You’re sure this will work?” The Dunmer sniffed and nodded curtly at the Wood Elf. Behind his mask, Bakki’s lip curled into a sneer. He’d like nothing more than to bury his daggers in the haughty mer’s back, but they did need him alive for now. That, and he was pretty certain neither Alana nor Greyson would understand his reasoning. Vunal arranged the Heartstones and bade them step into the circle. “Now then, you will merely be watching the events that led to the Brothers’ creation. No one in the past will be able to hear or see you, so feel free to go wherever the action is.” The spell started, and all of them blacked out for a moment. When the trio opened their eyes, they were still in the cave, but it was now filled with Chimer soldiers. Their forms appeared the same, but people were passing through them as if they weren’t there. Alana looked around and realized that Fearsome was not present, and she frowned a bit. Suddenly, someone who looked like they were in charge headed for a group of soldiers near them.

“You, soldier, report!” a commander snapped, forcing Greyson to remember that it wasn’t him she was speaking to.

“The Nedes are beginning to break through our lines,” the other Chimer answered. “Are General Balreth and Legate Sadal still all right?”

“They are safe with the sorcerers and priests,” the commander replied. “And orders have come down that they are almost ready for the ritual. All that’s left is to gather the hearts.” The Chimer near the commander quickly saluted, all drawing their weapons.

“Aye, ma’am!” They ran from the cave, and Greyson followed, Alana trailing behind him. Bakki headed further up the path, seeing some sorcerers fighting Daedra. The templar and healer caught up to one soldier, who had wounded his enemy. Alana realized that the Nedes were actually ancient Nords, and resolved to ask Sasha and Stirs-Fear about it later.

“For Stonefalls!” the Chimer soldier cried, plunging his dagger into the Nede’s chest. Then he began sawing at the wound, and the Breton was startled by this act.

“What is he-” she began, before Greyson grabbed her and pulled her against his chest. “Hey, what are you doing?!”

“Don’t look,” the Imperial warned, though even if she’d wanted to, Alana couldn’t with her face pressed to his armor. After a few minutes, Greyson released her, and she stepped back. He looked apologetic, but shook his head. “I didn’t think you wished to see what he was doing.”

“Why, what was-” she turned without realizing it, and her eyes went wide. The Nede lay dead on the ground, a gaping hole in his chest. But the worst part was, she could see that his heart had been torn out. Nausea pressed in from all sides as the Breton felt her body temperature spike. Quickly running over to some rocks, she voided the contents of her stomach as quietly as possible. A hand was suddenly on her back, and she bit back tears. She was such a weakling…

“Are you all right?”

“I… No. I wasn’t expecting to see that.”

“You’re not a battlefield healer, then?” Greyson’s tone was soft, but she knew he didn’t need her to answer. He’d already seen the truth.

“I was still in training. We hadn’t had any real experience with the war yet.”

“I’m sorry.” She looked up and met his eyes.

“For what?”

“That this will become commonplace. Or at least the violence and such. I don’t see any of the Sept cutting out our enemies’ hearts.”

“Speak for yourself,” Bakki stated as he walked up. “They’re almost ready at the top of the hill. They have Daedric essence and Nede hearts. All that’s left is for Balreth and Sadal to go through with this ritual.”

“Then let’s hurry, or we wasted this opportunity,” Alana said to them, gathering her composure as best she could. They raced up the steps, ignoring the fighting still taking place. On one of the platforms stood a brazier, and two men were facing it. These two were more elaborately dressed than the others, and Greyson realized they must be the Brothers before whatever had happened to them.

“Are you prepared?” a sorcerer asked, stepping towards them with a bowl in her hands. Both men nodded, and she took a mixture that looked like congealing blood from the bowl and dabbed it on their faces. The remainder of the mixture was poured onto the brazier, and then the assembled group at their backs began chanting. Power began flowing, and the brothers lifted off the ground. Fire burned around them, consuming their bodies. When all that was left were skeletons, other bones arced towards them from the battles all around, fastening onto the brothers’ bones. Soon, twin colossi that Makayla and the others had described stood before them. The air shimmered, and the group found themselves staring up at Vunal.

“Well, what did you see?” As Greyson gave the man his report, Alana took Fearsome outside, taking a few deep breaths to calm herself.

“They are made of fire and wrath.” She jumped, not even realizing Bakki had followed her. “Fire, wrath, and a hatred for non-Chimer.”

“That’s why Tanval couldn’t control them.”

“That’s why no one could,” the Bosmer countered. “You don’t create something like that and expect it to reason, or listen to anyone but itself.” The Breton shivered.

“We have to get to Ash Mountain. Balreth must be bound again.”

“Then let’s hurry,” Greyson stated as he too emerged from the cave. “And hope that Makayla’s group found what we need to know as well.”
* * *

Ash Mountain was swarming with activity as Tyrna made her way up the slope. She saw Makayla and Alana in conversation with Garyn Indoril, and headed over to them. “You made it,” Sasha noted as she interrupted her walk. The two women clasped hands.

“Sorry I’m late, but there was some nonsense about an assassin at one of the smaller forts.” The Nord grinned and shrugged.

“Most of us have just gotten here too. I was helping a homestead deal with goblins, Nathan’Dar muttered something about Dark Elves forcing Khajiit to summon demons, Caidianna was helping another settlement at a place called Sulfur Pools, and Injects was clearing out a mine of Daedra.”

“Wow. Seems we all got quite a bit accomplished.”

“Not to mention that the Mages’ Guild just got more interesting,” Makayla told them as she walked over.

“Interesting?” Tyrna raised an eyebrow, and the other Imperial grinned.

“The Mad God and a long-dead arch-mage apparently have a feud going that some of us got involved in.” The Sept leader blinked, and Sasha shook her head.

“Nothing good can come from Sheogorath’s attention,” the blonde templar reminded them. “Just make sure you keep him entertained.”

“I think I can handle it,” the mage replied. “So, now that everyone’s here, we have a plan.” Tyrna nodded and walked with her back to Garyn.

“Ah wonderful, now we can begin,” the young Dunmer said with a bright smile. “We know how to re-summon the guardians to bind Balreth, and we have a bit more of a glimpse into his psyche.”

“Can we defeat it is my question.” Garyn nodded at the Imperial, feeling both proud and hesitant to be here. History was being made, but he wasn’t sure he appreciated the front-row seat. “Then we need to head for the summit. Makayla, I need you to lead a team for the summoning. I’ll take the others and push against whatever’s up there until you arrive. Garyn, you’ll be with me.”

“Very well.”

“Myself, Ket, Respite, Stirs-Fear, Nathan, Bakki and Injects will get the guardians,” Makayla noted, ticking off the group as her eyes alighted on each.

“Which means Sasha, Hana, Caidiana, Alana, and Greyson are coming with me. Let’s get going so we can get this damn creature bound.”

“This won’t be easy, ma’am,” Greyson warned. Tyrna grinned and gripped the hilt of her sword.

“I’d be upset if it was. Now come on, we’ve got a long climb ahead of us.”
* * *

The summit of Ash Mountain was hot, smoky, and filled with the sound of Daedric screaming. The Sept was together again, staring across the volcano’s caldera at Balreth. It towered over them, fire wreathing its form as it waded into a pool of lava. Tyrna looked back at the group, eyes darting across the terrain as she formed a plan. “All right, we’ve only got one shot at this, so here’s what we’ll do: Greyson and I will keep its attention while Sasha and Stirs-Fear hack at it from either side. Bakki, Caidiana, and Nathan’Dar, I want you three to dart in and get at its back whenever you can, then quickly get away. Respite, Injects, and Hana, you three fire as many arrows as you can as fast as you can. And if any of those Scamps get near us, take them out. Makayla, you rain lightning down as much as you can and stay back as well. And use that storm totem Walks-in-Ash gave Hana.” Tyrna had been a bit surprised to see the older Argonian at the summit, but she’d pressed a wood carving into the Bosmer’s hands, saying it was her way of saying thanks. Apparently she and Stirs-Fear had been busy saving a village as well in the intervening time. “Ket, Alana, and Garyn, I’ll be counting on you three to heal us if things look dire. Any questions?”

“Negative, ma’am,” Greyson replied.

“We’ll get this bastard abomination, lass,” Stirs-Fear promised.

“For the Pact,” Sasha intoned.

“For Stonefalls,” Ket added.

“For the Sept!” Makayla shouted.

“Sept of Undying Spirit, charge!” They raced into action, with the two Imperial soldiers immediately getting in front of the creature and hacking into it with their swords. The two Nords gave war cries as they charged in, swords up and swinging into the mass of Balreth’s torso. The three dagger wielders were almost too fast to see, taking turns stabbing at the thing’s unprotected back. Arrows rained down around them, the shafts making knocking sounds against the bones. Lightning poured down from the sky, centering itself on the creature’s head. And every time it managed to slip past the onslaught and head for the lava pool, a cool rain washed over them, making Balreth pause long enough for the cycle to start once more. Back and forth, slice after slice, bolt after bolt, and volley after volley the Sept kept up the pressure. The three healers kept close watch on them, healing any injury before it slowed the rhythm. Even Fearsome helped attack it, standing with the two Imperials. Finally, the body of bones collapsed, and a shimmering version of Balreth stood before them.

“Bind it now!” Garyn called. Makayla cast the essences of the guardians into the lava, intoning archaic commands. They rose up, pausing for a moment as they took in the situation. Makayla’s eyes narrowed, and she raised her sword. A bolt of lightning struck between the Atronachs, and they screamed for a moment.

“Do as you were commanded!” the mage bellowed. “Bind Balreth and seal him away once more. I am your master now, and you will obey me!” Ragebinder and Blaze stared at one another before gliding over and beginning their duties once more.

“Forgive us, mortal master,” one of them said. “You are indeed as strong as him.”

“That’s better.” After a few minutes, the three Daedra vanished in a swirl of fire and light, and the Sept turned back to the portal that had brought them here.

“I’m glad that’s over,” Caidiana stated, wiping the sweat from her forehead.

“Time to head back to Davon’s Watch?” Respite wondered.

“Time for some much needed rest,” Tyrna agreed.

“You are all heroes, and I shall make sure everyone knows,” Garyn told them. “We could not have done this without you.”

“You’re damned right you couldn’t have!” Stirs-Fear shot back. “Bunch of milk-drinking prissy Elves…”

“Speaking of drinking,” Hana brought up. “To the tavern!” She and the two Nords ran through the portal, and Tyrna laughed and shook her head. She saw Ket take Makayla’s arm, the templar blushing fiercely.

“You were so… Forceful back there, ‘Kayla.”

“You have to show summons who’s the boss.”

“I think we need to get back to town so you can show me that again…” The mage raised an eyebrow and grinned, pulling the other Imperial along a bit faster.

“This one believes there is something going on between those two,” the Khajiit said as he came up on Tyrna’s side.

“They’re married,” Respite explained. When he got a few strange looks, he held up his left hand. “They wear rings of Mara. Am I the only one who saw them?”

“Nathan’Dar did not realize that’s what they were. He will make sure to pay attention in the future to who is married to who.”

“Why, were you interested in one of them?” Injects wondered.

“No my scaled friend, but there is always curiosity when people display affection.” They headed for the portal, followed by the Bosmer.

“A job well done, ma’am,” Greyson praised as he walked over, Alana trailing behind him. “Your plan worked perfectly.”

“Of course it did. Did you have any doubts?” The soldier quickly saluted.

“Not for a moment.”

“I’m looking forward to taking a break,” Alana mused. “But… Where exactly are we staying? The Fighters’ Guild can’t put us up forever.”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Tyrna replied. “And since Garyn is so set on making us heroes, I think we might be able to get some land and permission to build a place of our own in the city.”

“Would be nice to have my own room again,” Caidiana said with a sigh. “Not that I don’t like sharing with Hana, but… She talks in her sleep.”

“About what?” the other Breton asked.

“…About food. I really don’t need to know how you get the burnt flavor out of Dunmer, or that Nords are stringy.” The healer turned a bit green at this, and hurried towards the portal. Tyrna shook her head and also sighed.

“No one said this was going to be an easy trip.” She stepped through the portal as it closed, already running through her mind as to how to approach Tanval about the land.
The group treks across Stonefalls to put Balreth to rest

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The ride to the Stonefalls region took the Sept the entire night and early morning. Arriving at Davon’s Watch when the sun was high in the sky, they quickly got their exhausted mounts to the stables to be looked after. Then it was time to get into the city proper and warn whoever was in charge. A Nord seemed to be directing refugees and soldiers alike, and Tyrna figured that if he wasn’t in charge, he would know who was. But as they all approached the gates, the Nord looked up, eyes widening. One hand went to the double axe secured on his back, but he refrained from drawing it. “Hold. State your business in Davon’s Watch, strangers.” Tyrna held out her arm to halt the group, and she noticed that arrows were being readied by Hana and Respite. And then it hit her: Of all the members of the Sept, only four belonged to the races of the Ebonheart Pact. And to probably add to this man’s worry was that four Imperials were also in front of him.

“We’ve come to aid you,” she assured him, holding up her hands to show her weapons were not readied. “I admit we must seem like a strange lot.”

“That’s an understatement,” the Nord shot back, hand edging away from his axe. “Name’s Holgunn, by the way, and I help coordinate the defenses here. Help us, you say? Where are you from?”

“Most recently Bal Foyen.” Again, his eyes went wide.

“We heard about that. A whole group of Daggers felled by a single- Oh, you must be the ones that Hanzo fella talked about.” The mention of their Sept-mate’s name caused a few eyebrows to be raised.

“Is he here then?” Makayla asked.

“He was, but we thought it best to alert the city of Ebonheart about the Covenant, and he volunteered to be our messenger.”

“…He’s very strange for a Nord, isn’t he?” Ket ventured, hoping she didn’t offend the large man. Holgunn shrugged and grinned.

“Not so much. We seek glory, and if Hanzo thinks this will be a way to earn it, who are we to deny him that?”

“Spoken like a true son of Skyrim!” Stirs-Fear praised, thumping a fist to his chest in salute. “Now are we getting into the city anytime soon? I’ve a thirst that needs to be quenched.”

“I’ll talk to my shield-brother and see what we can do. After all, you’re offering help we sorely need.” Holgun headed through the city gate, leaving the Sept by themselves for a bit. Hana suddenly appeared at Tyrna’s side, looking upset.

“These people all have weird names!” the Bosmer practically shouted. “There’s a Nord over by the stables named Big McLarge-Huge! Who names their kid that?!”

“Nords?” Respite ventured with a chuckle.

“If I meet a Shorty McHalf-Pint, I’m going back to Valenwood!” Stirs-Fear suddenly got a thoughtful look on his face, nodding at Hana.

“Halfpint…” The Wood Elf turned and glared at the older man.

“No! Don’t you dare!”

“But it fits you so well, lass,” he gently argued. “Even our little Bretons are at least a head taller than you.”

“I can’t help it that Bosmer are born lower to the ground than everyone.”

“Makes sneaking easier,” Bakki pointed out, stepping from the shadows of the stables. Alana jumped at his sudden appearance, wishing she had Fearsome. Tyrna had explained that the Daedra was not to be summoned anywhere near the cities, as they had no idea what people’s reactions would be to him.

“Hana, you wouldn’t be bothered by your height back home, so why let it get to you here?” the healer rationalized.

“Because back home I’m tall!”

“Really? You look like a halfpint from where I’m standing,” Stirs-Fear teased.

“Damnit old man, I told you-”

“Quiet, all of you!” Tyrna commanded. “Holgunn’s coming back.” Hana consoled herself by sending the former Provost a rude gesture, which he laughed at.

“Well, the Indorils have given you all permission to enter Davon’s Watch and fight for the Pact. Tanval wants to see who’s ever in charge before dinner. Who might that be?” Tyrna was all set to point to Makayla, when she realized that about half the Sept was doing the same thing to her! “Ah, so it’s you?”

“Wait, what? No! Absolutely not! I’m not leader material.”

“Sure you are,” Makayla insisted. “Besides, everyone seems to listen to you, and you’re good at giving orders.”

“That doesn’t mean-”

“But ma’am,” Greyson interrupted. “You’re the commanding officer.” That seemed enough for Holgunn, and he nodded.

“I’ll tell Tanval to expect you…”

“Tyrna,” she grumbled. “May I bring someone with me as my second?”

“Aye, that’ll be fine.”

“Good. Makayla, you and I will go visit the Indorils after we get everyone situated.” The mage shrugged and nodded.

“As you wish.” As Holgun left them once more, the soldier rounded on the blonde. “What? You look upset.”

“I am upset, damnit! I’m a soldier, Makayla, not a politician. You would’ve been better dealing with this Tanval Indoril.”

“Isn’t that why you’re taking her with you?” Ket wondered, smiling brightly.

“Partially. If it were just Holgunn we had to deal with, I’d be fine. But Indoril? It doesn’t sound like he’s a Nord.”

“He’s not,” Injects revealed. “Indoril is a sub-house of the Dark Elves. “I would bet my scales he’s a mage.”

“Do you know this Tanval?” Tyrna pressed, hoping for more information. But the Argonian shrugged and shook his head.

“Only by reputation. My kind tried to avoid the Dunmer when we could. Slavery tends to grate on race relations.”

“This one is impressed with your restraint, my scaled friend,” Nathan’Dar spoke up. “Were it him, Nathan’Dar would’ve hunted every Dark Elf who ever owned one of his people.” The Khajiit and Argonian exchanged savage smiles, and Tyrna left the matter alone for the moment.

“All right you lot, into the city. We’ll secure lodging, food, and then check in with our various guilds to see if they have any work.”

“Yes ma’am!” most everyone chorused. The Imperial frowned and shook her head. It was going to be a very long journey.
* * *

Compared to Bal Foyen, the city of Davon’s Watch was massive. But when it was compared to the Imperial City… Well, Tyrna knew that nothing could ever compare to her home. Davon’s Watch seemed to have been a fort at one point, and there was a noticeable difference in the walls that surrounded the civilian housing verses the main market and guild halls. But at least they were high and made of stone, rather than nonexistent or mud. Most of the group split off between the Fighter’s Guild and Mages’ Guild, and the Imperial was momentarily surprised when she saw Makayla and Ket head for the Fighter’s area, while Bakki and Respite tagged after Alana towards the Mages’. Stirs-Fear, Sasha, and Hana wandered off to find an inn, and Nathan’Dar… Well, the Khajiit had a habit of disappearing, so she didn’t think much of it. That left Tyrna with Greyson trailing after her. She stopped and blinked, opening her mouth and then closing it while she attempted to think what she wanted to say. Finally, practically won out. “Why are you following me?”

“Just awaiting orders, ma’am,” he replied without pause.


“Yes. As I said, you’re my commanding officer.” Now she tilted her head, and a shiver of panic ran through her.

“Wait, did you know me before our souls were stolen?” Hope flashed through her eyes for a moment, but the other Imperial sadly shook his head.

“No ma’am, we’ve never met. I meant that you’re my commanding officer now.”

“Greyson, I’m just a soldier like you.”

“Begging your pardon, ma’am, but you’re not. Infantry have a certain way about us; something that all common soldiers share. We don’t give orders, we follow them. But you don’t do that. You tell someone to do something, and expect it to be done. That’s a command way of thinking. You and Makayla both share that.”

“Did you know her at all?” Again, Greyson shook his head.

“Not personally, but my legion had dealings with the Mage Tower, so it’s possible I’ve seen her before. But I have a feeling I’d remember a sword-wielding mage.”

“What legion were you in?”

“First Infantry Legion of Cyrodiil.” The words clicked a small memory in Tyrna’s mind, and she nodded.

“Charged with the city’s inner defenses. A prestigious posting.”

“There was one higher than that.” Tyrna tilted her head, finding a blank spot where the information probably should have been.

“I can’t remember it.” Greyson sighed and stared at the sky for a moment. For all that he enjoyed being a soldier, there was a small part of him that had wanted more.

“The Imperial Dragon Guard. Protectors of the Emperor himself.” Tyrna huffed and chuckled: A bitter sound that drew Greyson’s attention back to her.

“Yes well, they failed that job, didn’t they? Mannimarco has probably killed them or turned them to his cause. If only…” She trailed off, and Greyson could tell she was trying to remember what had happened before she’d died.

“If only what, ma’am?”

“…I don’t know. I feel like there’s so much more I’m not remembering. Important things, too.”

“You’ll recover your memory one day."

“Maybe. But as for the present…” Tyrna realized they’d wandered towards the Mages’ Guild, and as the door opened and Alana stepped out, an idea came to her. “All right, your orders are to guard our little Breton healer. No harm comes to her, or it’s your arse on the line. Understood?” Greyson nodded and saluted.

“Yes ma’am!” The mage came over, looking confused.

“Hi, what’s going on?”

“I’m going to be your bodyguard,” Greyson told her.

“But… But why?”

“Because Tyrna ordered me to watch over you.” Alana blinked and looked at the other Imperial, confusion giving way to panic.

“Am I in danger? Is someone after me?”

“No more than usual, I imagine,” Respite revealed as he and Bakki walked past.

“Wait, what?!”

“Alana, calm down,” Tyrna told her, placing a firm hand on her shoulder. “I know Sasha said she’d keep an eye on you, but I think she’s used to working alone. Greyson has worked with mages before, and he’s seen combat. Whatever happens, he’ll protect you, all right?”

“You’ll keep me safe?” the healer asked in a small voice, staring up at the soldier. Greyson dropped to one knee, fist to his chest, and dipped his head.

“I swear on my honor as an Imperial Legionnaire, I will stay by your side and keep you safe from all harm, Alana.” The Breton blushed as he stood once more, and Tyrna chuckled. At that moment, Makayla and Ketatiera came up, grins on their faces.

“Are we interrupting something?” the blonde wondered, a teasing light in her eyes. Tyrna shook her head and turned to the two women.

“No, just giving Greyson some orders and making sure our other healer is well-protected during a fight.”

“You’re not worried about me?” Ket teased.

“You’ve got Makayla to keep you safe.” The blush that crept up Ket’s face made Tyrna grin, but it seemed more predatory than friendly.

“She’s got a point.”

“You’re not helping,” the Templar muttered, shooting a half-hearted glare at her companion. At that moment, Caidiana came running up, looking a bit breathless.

“You guys need to come quick! Stirs-Fear is fighting this group called the Undaunted!” All of them blinked, and then the group was heading for the docks.
* * *

“Fight” had probably been too strong a word, Tyrna decided as they came upon the inn. “One-sided beat-down” seemed a better choice for what was going on in front of her. The old Nord was wielding a table as a weapon, swinging it around like it was simply a shield. Several unconscious bodies lay in a circle around him, but more were gathering at the edges of his range. “Come and face a real fighter, you milk-drinking braggarts! Buy you a drink?! You’ll be buying me a keg after I’m done with you!” On top of the bar, Hana was brandishing a broken bottle, screaming obscenities at anyone who came near her. And Sasha was straddling a Dunmer, beating him into the ground.

“I’ll show you a serving wench, you uppity Dark Elf!” she shouted, smashing her fist into the bloody ruin of his face. Makayla started laughing, but Ketatiera looked horrified at the carnage she was witnessing. Caidiana appeared unsure if she should help her Sept-mates, and Alana and Greyson were simply shaking their heads.

“Shouldn’t we calm them down?” the Breton healer wondered, peeking around her new bodyguard.

“You really want to approach any of them?” Tyrna shot back.

“…Not really.”

“Then we wait for them to-” A bottle came sailing past the group, and thunked into Alana’s forehead. She flew back and tripped over a chair, landing herself on the floor. Ket was by her side in an instant, while Greyson turned his gaze on the room. A Nord was standing on a table, looking very guilty, hand still outstretched.

“Clumsy oaf!” the Imperial shouted, crossing the room in two strides and backhanding the offender. At that moment, two Argonians came up to the two Sept leaders, looking eager to get them into the fray.

“Don’t,” Tyrna warned, one hand edging to her sword.

“Back off,” Makayla echoed, lightning dancing across her palms. Suddenly, Hana came sailing towards their would-be attackers, knocking the lizards to the floor.

“Take that, bitches!” the Bosmer screamed, smacking the Argonians with the bottles she held in her hands. Tyrna was about to thank the Wood Elf, when pain crashed down on her head, followed closely by the sound of breaking glass. Time seemed to slow as she turned, eyeing the Dark Elf who had cracked her over the head with a wine bottle. The look on his face was of someone who was staring at their death. The sword and shield practically leapt into the Imperial’s hands, and she rammed her assailant into the nearest wall, shield pressed to his chest and weapon at his throat.

“Bastard! Did you think it would be a good idea to piss off an Imperial?!” she demanded of the now shaking man. “What kind of an idiot do you have to be to involve a soldier of Cyrodiil?!”

“Mercy, kind lady,” he blubbered. “I had no idea you’d bring a sword to a bar fight.” A hand clamped firmly on her shoulder, and Tyrna didn’t even need to turn her head to know who it was.

“Let him go, lass,” Stirs-Fear advised. “He’ll be needing a fresh set o’ pants after the scare you gave him. Let the nice, puny Elf run back to his home.”

“He attacked me.”

“Aye, but is that worth gettin’ yer blade dirty? You’ve proved your point well enough.” The old man came around so she could see him, hand still on her shoulder. Even through her armor, she could feel the grip he had. Releasing a sigh of frustration, Tyrna backed away and sheathed her weapons.

“Pray to your gods that he was here,” she stated, tossing her head at Stirs-Fear.

“Oh I will,” the Dunmer promised. “Tribunal bless you, my good sir.”

“Get yer arse outta here, before I regret what I did,” the Nord stated as the Dark Elf took the hint and ran. Meanwhile, the city guard was starting to arrive at the bar, and the Sept got out while they could. Greyson had picked Alana up to run faster, and Stirs-Fear managed to catch Hana in a grip she couldn’t wiggle out of. Tyrna pulled Caidiana along, and the group made a mad dash back to the Fighters’ Guild.

“Well, that was fun!” Caidiana stated, fixing her blonde hair back into its braid.

“We kicked their asses for sure!” Hana agreed as she was set down. “And by the way, never pick me up again!”

“But Half-pint, you flew so nicely at those two lizards.”

“That was different. I mean to run. Remember, most people here won’t look down. I can slip away in a crowd very easily.”

“We’ll remember that next time,” Sasha promised.

“By the way, nice job on that asshole who asked you to get him a drink.” The blonde Nord bristled and growled.

“That’ll learn him to treat women with more respect.”

“Or at least you,” Alana pointed out with a chuckle.

“Sorry you were injured,” Greyson said as he set her down.

“It’s all right. I was more surprised than anything, and Ket made sure I was all right. But… Thank you for defending me.” Again the little mage blushed, and Makayla chuckled. “But Tyrna, I didn’t expect you to be so… Fierce with that Dunmer.”

“You have gotten into bar fights before, right?” Caidiana asked.

“Possibly. Can’t remember.”

“Well, maybe it’s better that we stay away from that bar,” Makayla wisely suggested. “We’re probably not welcome after that little display.”

“Then perhaps it is good that this one procured some drinks for later, yes?” Nathan’Dar walked towards them, hands behind his head, and whistling softly.

“What did you do?” the Imperial mage asked.

“Done? Why do you phrase it like Nathan’Dar has committed a crime? He has simply been given the chance to acquire a drink for all his new friends.” The Khajiit pulled a bottle out of his pack, grinning as he recounted his own adventure. “A Dark Elf was most anxious to liberate this from the innkeeper, saying that wine was meant to be drunk; not a show piece. Nathan’Dar agreed, and after deciding on the price, he went to acquire this rare vintage. But after this one recovered it, Nathan’Dar thinks to himself that wine is meant to be drunk with friends. So he finds a clean bottle, pours the wine into it, and fills the fancy one with that sujamma stuff the Dunmer like to drink. So now, this one has been paid, and has something good to share.” The rest of the group stared at him, blinking in disbelief. “Has this one done something wrong?”

“I knew I liked you, cat-man!” Stirs-Fear shouted, slapping him across the back. Nathan’Dar managed to hold onto the bottle, and give the Nord a sour look.

“This one is not a cat-man, he is a Khajiit. Would you prefer Nathan’Dar called you drunk-man?”

“Not a bad idea,” Hana teased. “Now let’s find somewhere to enjoy this bottle!” The Sept headed off to find their other members, ready to regale them of the things they’d missed.
* * *

Dinner that night was with the Indorils and Holgunn, and Tyrna felt very out of place. All around her were fancy foods, lavish decorations, and smiling nobles. You would hardly have believed there was an army coming to invade the city with the way everyone was carrying on. A quick glance to her right showed Makayla looking slightly bothered as well, so the soldier cleared her throat. “Lord Indoril-” she began.

“Please you may call me Tanval. Are all Imperials suck sticklers for protocol?”

“We are when in unfamiliar lands with no back-up.”

“I see,” the Dunmer replied, taking a quick drink of wine. “Well, Holgunn’s told me you and your… Sept, was it? He tells me you wish to aid us against the Covenant.”

“We do. They seem to think it’s a good idea to go marauding around your countryside, and we aim to show them otherwise.”

“Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but why?” Tyrna met Makayla’s eyes, and the two women sighed.

“You want the short or long version?” the mage asked.

“The long one might be better,” Tanval’s son stated. “Seeing as it might answer more of our questions.” Again, the two Imperials sighed before recounting their tale from when they awoke in Coldharbour. Everyone listened intently, asking some questions here and there, but mostly sitting with wide eyes. When their story was finished, it was Tanval and Holgunn’s turn to look at each other.

“That’s one heck of a story,: the Nord finally commented. “To think that we’ve also got a Daedric Prince todeal with is…”

“Frightening, to say the least,” the Dark Elf continued. “But if he is your ultimate goal, then you’ll need allies. And those allies can’t be involved in a war. So bearing that in mind…” He rested his chin on his hands, staring at the table for a moment. “I have a proposition for your group.” Tyrna leaned forward, one eyebrow raised.

“We’re listening.”
* * *

“This is a bad idea,” Respite once again stated.

“This is a very bad idea,” Hana echoed.

“I know that, and you know that, but this is what Lord Indoril wanted done,” Tyrna reminded them. She, Makayla, the two Bosmer, and Ketatiera were in the Indoril family crypt, looking for a particular member’s skull that Tanval needed “just in case”.

“This smacks of necromancy,” Makayla said, repressing a shiver. “And I thought we’d all had enough of that.”

“Why do Elves have to be so creepy?” Ket asked, before realizing what she’d said. “Oh, I meant other Elves!” she quickly assured the Bosmer.

“Nah, we can be pretty creepy too,” Hana insisted.

“Oh, you mean those wild tales about you eating your enemies?” Respite and Hana shared a quick glance before the male archer turned to the Imperials.

“Yeah… Those aren’t stories.” The three of them paused for a moment, blinking in disbelief. “What are you worried about? We’re friends, remember?”

“We’ll talk about this later,” Tyrna told the group, wanting to be done with their task. “But anyway, if the Daggers attack, we’re going to need a backup plan. And I doubt this is going to lead to Tanval raising his ancestors.”

“First off, it’s not “if”, but “when” the Daggers will attack this place,” Respite countered. “Second, did that Dunmer actually say why he needed this skull?”

“…No,” the soldier admitted.

“And we didn’t pres the issue either,” Makayla added.

“He might not have told you the reason even if you’d asked,” Ket ventured.

“Even more reason to not trust him,” Hana grumbled. “If he does end up raising the dead, I’m going to cram that skull up his ass before I kill him.” The group continued through the crypt, wary of the skeletons and ghosts that seemed to be following them. Finally, they saw a full-bodied spirit hovering in front of a burial urn.

“Why have you disturbed our honored dead?!” it demanded.

“We’ve come under orders from Tanval Indoril to-” Tyrna began, before the ghost cut her off.

“That fool will doom us all! Now leave this place and tell Tanval he must find another alternative.” The group shifted their gaze to their leader, who clenched her jaw.

“Sorry, I don’t give up on jobs just because the undead tell me.” She drew her sword and charged the ghost, Makayla’s lightning bolt getting there a moment before she did. Respite and Hana unloaded arrow after arrow, and Ket made sure the spirit didn’t injure them. The ghost was soon sent back to wherever it had come from, and Tyrna walked up to the urn it had been guarding. Thrusting her hand into it and fishing around disgustedly for a moment, she emerged with an old skull. “Let’s go.”

“And not soon enough,” Makayla whispered as the group all but ran for the exit. The other restless spirits didn’t make it easy, and as the mage fought them back, she kept hoping her growing feeling of impending doom was just her over-active imagination.
* * *

Makayla had a smug look on her face as they entered the crypt the next day. “Don’t you dare,” Tyrna ordered, charging ahead to deal with a Covenant archer. The Daggers had attacked Davon’s Watch from all sides, and the guard was beginning to be overwhelmed. The Sept was doing all they could to assist, but Tanval had determined that it was not enough, and had come down here to initiate his backup plan.

“What? Say “I told you so”?” the blonde shot back, reducing an enemy to ash.

“It’s not necromancy.”

“No, it’s only a bloody summoning spell!” Bakki brought up.

“Brother of Strife?!” Hana yelled, loosing an arrow on the run. “Why are we letting this idiot do this? Even his own family though it was a bad idea.”

“It’s probably too late to stop him,” Ketatiera pointed out, quickly healing Tyrna from a lucky strike to her arm.

“Holgunn said the Indorils would need our protection, and since they’re part of the leadership here, we need to make sure Tanval and Garyn are all right.”

“I still want to have a chat with him after this,” Makayla stated as the group rounded another corner; this one filled with skeletons instead of Covenant.

“Us too!” the Bosmer echoed, barely stopping to shoot.

“Agreed,” Tyrna said with a sigh. “After the city is safe.” The quintet finally reached the chamber where the Indorils were performing the ritual, all of them noting it was the same one they’d seen the full-bodied spirit in. Candles marked out a large circle on the floor, lines of power and binding had been drawn, and the skull sat in the middle.

“Thank you for being here,” Garyn quickly whispered.

“Don’t thank us yet,” the soldier warned, casting a wary eye at Tanval.

“The summoning is almost complete!” the Dunmer mage called out, focusing as much as he could on the magicks he was wielding. “Defend me until it’s done!” The words had no sooner been spoken, then a squad of Daggers thundered into the room.

“Take them down!” Tyrna ordered, charging at the Redguard leading them. Arrows from Bakki and Hana thunked into the enemies flanking the leader a moment before the Imperial’s sword connected with his maul. Makayla and Ket moved into position, with the mage unleashing splashes of lightning all across the room, and the templar calling up healing when needed. It didn’t take long for the assault on the crypt to be over, and the group took a moment to catch their breath.

“Balreth! From deepest Oblivion, I summon you! Bind yourself to my will and crush all enemies in your path!” The circle at Tanval’s feet began to pulse and glow with red light. Fire from the candles wrapped around the light, swirling into a pillar that shot to the ceiling. Everyone pulled back as a shape hauled itself out of the ground. Its large skull seemed to be held in place by a skeleton hanging off either shoulder. Other random bones interlocked to form its broad, fifteen-foot tall frame, and fire filled in the gaps. It towered over the focus skull, and Tanval stepped forward with a victorious grin. “Destroy the Daggerfall Covenant assaulting out shores,” he commanded. The creature seemed to stare at the Dark Elf, power coursing through it. Finally it turned and stepped into a portal that shimmered into existence behind it.

“Someone should follow Balreth to make sure the task is completed,” Garyn suggested, steadying his father.

“I’ll go,” Makayla volunteered. Ket immediately latched onto her hand.

“Not without me.” The two Imperials leapt through the portal as it closed, and the chamber darkened.

“Is that it?” Hana wondered, staring at the skull. It continued to pulse red, and flames burned in its sockets.

“Almost,” Tanval whispered. “When Balreth defeats the Covenant, it will return here, and Garyn and I will send it back to Oblivion.” The two Dunmer knelt around the skull, still concentrating their efforts on the ritual.

“Good. We’re leaving the city after that.” Tyrna saw that her comment caused them both to flinch, and Tanval looked up at her.

“So soon? Why?”

“Because you’re an idiot for summoning that thing, and we want to be as far away as
possible,” Bakki shot back.

“That’s enough,” the Sept leader warned. “It’s under control, and soon it’ll be-” The skull suddenly shattered, and the crypt was plunged into darkness. After a moment, they all heard Hana sigh in annoyance.

“Well shit… Now what?”

“No, it can’t be,” Tanval’s exhausted voice drifted towards them.

“What just happened?” Tyrna demanded, trying to adjust her eyes. However, there was no light at all down here, and the sudden vulnerability made her shiver.

“Nothing good,” Bakki reasoned, lighting a torch. The Wood Elf’s eyes glittered in the firelight, and he glared at the Indorils. “My guess is that the ritual just failed.”

“We should get topside,” Garyn told them, hauling his father to his feet. “Nothing further can be done down here.” Tyrna’s hand clamped onto his arm, and the Imperial spun the young man around to face her.

“What. Just. Happened?” she repeated through clenched teeth.

“The worst possible scenario,” he answered, hanging his head. “But my desire to get out of here still stands.”

“I’ll take point,” Hana offered, slipping into the shadows with her bow at the ready. Tyrna once more drew her weapons and followed the Bosmer. Bakki stayed behind Garyn and Tanval, keeping the torch high for the soldier’s benefit. It took some time, but eventually the group spotted daylight. The Imperial paused at the door, suddenly fearful of what might greet her in the city. The rest of the Sept had been fighting off the Covenant attacking Davon’s Watch, while they’d been summoned to aid Tanval. Had they all made it through the attack? Was anyone injured? Tyrna realized that she was starting to regard the Sept not only a fighting unit, but as family. “Hey fearless leader, you staying with the dead?” Hana called out. Rolling her eyes, Tyrna sheathed her weapons and beheld her group. Everyone had made it through the assault, though not completely unscathed. Alana was tending to Nathan’Dar, the Khajiit sporting a broken arm. Greyson stood guard next to her, supporting Respite, who had an arrow in his leg. Stirs-Fear and Sasha were discussing something with Holgunn, while Caidiana and Injects were cleaning their weapons. The blonde Breton looked over and tilted her head.

“What happened to Makayla and Ket?”

“They followed our Deus ex Daedra that Tanval summoned.” All eyes turned towards the elder Dunmer. “But something happened. Now tell us what that was.”

“I’ll tell you!” Makayla’s voice carried over as she and Ketatiera walked purposefully towards the Indorils. “The creature he summoned slipped its chain. Last we saw, it had slaughtered all the Daggers on the beach, and was heading for Ash Mountain.” Silence descended on those gathered, until Alana cleared her throat and stepped forward.

“What did you summon?” she asked.

“Balreth, known as one of the Brothers of Strife. But I thought I could control it,” Tanval tried to explain. “How was I to know-”

“Because your ancestor warned you!” Makayla interrupted. “Just like he tried to warn us. But you thought you were better than them. Now all of Stonefalls is going to pay for your hubris.” No one spoke for another minute, and then Holgunn whispered:

“What can we do to stop it?”

“You said it had been bound before,” Ket realized. “How?”

“By a great mage named Mavros Stilreth. But records of that time are scarce and incomplete. We don’t exactly know how he did it,” Tanval replied.

“We could ask him,” Garyn brought up. When everyone gave him questioning looks, he sighed before continuing. “He’s buried at Othenris, which is a great complex of early Dunmer nobles. If you could find his crypt, you could ask his spirit to tell you.”

“We still need more information of these “Brothers of Strife” if we’re to battle one,” Greyson pointed out.

“There is a shrine to them in the west of the region.” Tanval looked slightly upset as he revealed this. “The Telvanni were attempting a study there last I knew.”


“A noble house of mages,” Alana spoke up. “They claimed neutrality just like the Guild when the war broke out.”

“Which means you don’t trust them,” Tyrna reasoned, looking at the Indorils.

“Would you trust a house of Cyrodiil who didn’t follow the Emperor?” Garyn shot back. “But maybe you can get answers out of them.”

“That still leaves this Balreth running around unchecked,” Stirs-Fear reminded them. “And if he’s as bad as you say, someone might want to run interference.” Tyrna folded her arms and started going over the possibilities.

“All right, here’s the plan: We’re going to divide and conquer as best we can. Stirs-Fear, I want you and Hana to get up to Ash Mountain and try to contain this creature as long as you can.”

“I’ll go too,” Garyn offered. “Since I helped start this mess.”

“Fair enough. Makayla, you and Ket get to Othenris and try and talk to this Mavros. Hopefully seeing a fellow mage will make him want to help.”

“I think I’ll tag along as an unofficial bodyguard,” Respite stated, putting weight on his newly-healed leg. The Imperial nodded and continued her assignments.

“Alana, since you’re our other mage, I need you to speak to these Telvanni about the Brothers of Strife.”

“Which means I’ll be going there as well,” Greyson stated matter-of-factly.

“I’ll go too. Might be interesting to learn about. Plus, someone has to keep an eye on the two of you,” Bakki ventured. Alana turned crimson and ducked her head, but Greyson merely shrugged.

“Sasha, I want you, Injects, Caidiana, and Nathan’Dar to spread out with me in the region. We’ve got posting from the Fighters’ and Mages’ Guild that need to be done.”

“Um, someone also needs to go see The Prophet,” the blonde Breton said. Tyrna cursed and shook her head.

“Damnit, I nearly forgot about the old man. All right Caidiana, you and I will pay him a visit while the others get to work. Everyone know what needs to be done?”

“Yes ma’am!” they all chorused.

“Good, then Sept of Undying Spirit: Dismissed!” The group scattered to begin their preparations and journeys, and Tyrna looked at Caidiana.

“Ready to go see what fool errand he’s got for us now?”

“Maybe it’s actually important.”

“And I might be Empress. Let’s just get this over with…”
A leader is chosen for the Sept, but not without some protest.

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Sasha had been partially correct in her dismissal of their destination. It was indeed populated by Argonians, and the town itself had little better than mud and wood for walls. But Fort Zeren was another matter, and the soldier in Tyrna delighted in seeing the reinforced stone walls. But hearing about the docks on the far side of the settlement brought the situation back to troubling. The Covenant would be able to sail there with little resistance, and there were too few soldiers to guard everything. With little more than a day to prepare for an invasion, the Sept quickly gathered together on a hill just outside the fort, overlooking the saltrice paddies and the townsfolk beginning the long walk to Davon’s Watch. “We need plans, and we need them fast,” the Imperial stated, looking over the group. “We need to bolster the guard here, like it or not.”

“But bolster them where?” Bakki brought up. “Captain Rana’s got some of the Bleakrock people ready to fight with her, and there are actual trained soldiers at the fort.”

“Plus we need to make sure that the non-combatants all get to safety,” Ketatiera reminded them. “Apparently there’s another Imperial overseeing that.” Eyes turned to her, and she blushed for a moment. “What?”

“Someone like us?” Hana wondered. “Seems a strange place for an Imperial otherwise. Unless he’s a Daggerfall spy.”

“Anyone know his name?” Tyrna asked.

“Greyson-something,” Alana spoke up. “I heard some of the farmers talking.”

“Krieger?” Injects-Hot-Lead inquired, his interest piqued. “If it is, then he was my cell mate back in Coldharbour. We could recruit him.”

“Then get down to the town and find out, Injects,” Makayla told him. “Any able bodies will be useful.” The Argonian nodded and gathered up his belongings before taking his leave. “All right, so that’s at least one m-”

“Is this where the soulless meeting is?!” came a booming voice that made a few people jump. Everyone looked back towards the fort to see a short Nord striding out to them. Taking off his helm, he revealed a bearded face that showed him to be at least twice the age of anyone in the Sept. His quick pace put him in front of Tyrna and Makayla in mere moments, and the soldier’s eyes widened when she realized that she was staring at someone who looked as though he could pick her up and toss her like a doll, armor and all. “What, did everyone go deaf suddenly?”

“Who are you, old man?” Hanzo demanded, slight irritation in his voice. The newcomer turned, eyeing the redhead to assess him, and then just as quickly dismissing the other Nord and focusing on the Imperials. “Hey, I asked you-”

“I heard what you asked, boy. But you’re not the leader here, and I don’t owe you anything yet. I’ll hear from these ladies before I make a decision to join you.”

“Join us?” Makayla asked, finally finding her voice.

“Aye, if you’re strong-willed and steel-spined like me, I’ll lend my aid to you.”

“You mentioned souls before,” Tyrna spoke up. “Were you in Molag Bal’s realm as well?” The man nodded, eyes narrowing a bit.

“I was caught while on a mission for the Companions. What you call the Fighter’s Guild. Blasted dung heaps bound me in chains and led me to my death. I ever see that sorry excuse for an Altmer again, I’ll rip out his innards and dance on them! No one makes a fool of Stirs-Fear-Amongst-the-Dark.” Confusion quickly crossed many faces, but Sasha was out of her seat and in front of the man faster than Tyrna could blink. The blonde slammed her fist against her chest and dipped her head.

“My blade is yours to command, Provost Stirs-Fear, as it was in Whiterun.” The old man chuckled and tapped her arm, and Sasha looked up.

“While it gladdens me to see you respect my position, I’m no longer a Provost. Here, we’re merely soldiers for the Pact.”

“You aren’t a mere soldier, sir,” she shot back with a smile. Then she addressed the others. “Stirs-Fear led our guild hall, and is a fine example of what all Companions strive to be.”

“Your name seems very Argonian,” Respite pointed out. “Were you raised among them?” Now the chuckle turned into deep laughter, and the Nord shook his head.

“No, my young Wood Elf, the Northern tribes just have a different naming convention than the rest of Skyrim. Think of my name as a portent: Something that will give our enemies pause when they hear it.”

“We could use your wisdom,” Makayla said, holding out her hand. “Anyone who can run a Fighter’s Guild hall is someone we should listen to.” Stirs-Fear took her hand and gripped it tight for a moment, nodding.

“Well lass, I’ll do whatever I can to help you. But we’ve got a lot of work to do now before those damn Daggers show up. Supplies need to be gathered, armor and weapons fixed, and shoring up of defensive points. Plus, we should send a runner to Davon’s Watch to let them know what we’re facing.”

“I’ll go,” Hanzo said, stepping forward. “By the time you all get there, it’ll be the best defended city in Stonefalls.”

“Let’s hope so, because if the Covenant gets through here, we’ll need a fallback position,” Tyrna revealed. The red-haired Nord nodded and took off down the path towards the village. “All right, we’ll divide up the work as best we can. Caidiana, you and I will get everyone’s gear patched up. Sasha, I want you to go with Stirs-Fear, Hana, Bakki, and Nathan’Dar to start setting up the chokepoints and barriers we’ll need. Makayla, you want to take the rest to stockpile supplies and scout the docks?”

“Sounds like a plan,” the mage agreed. “When Injects gets back, he and this Greyson can give the defenders a hand.” Everyone headed for their assigned tasks with little discussion. Hopefully it would all be enough to stall the coming invaders.
* * *

The night had come upon them quickly, and the Sept was exhausted as they landed on beds in one of the bunkhouses of the Fort. “Scouts spotted the ships on the horizon,” Nathan’Dar told them. “They estimate by late morning they will reach the dock.”

“Then we need to be up before dawn to ready a fitting welcome,” Greyson countered, sitting at a table and looking over maps of the area. “We’ve got the chokepoints set up, so now all we need is a plan of attack.”

“They’ll come for the Fort sure as anything,” Stirs-Fear explained. “At least, that’s what I’d do.”

“So we need to leave a group here while the rest of us head for the docks to stop as many of them as we can,” Tyrna surmised.

“Who would be best where?” Makayla wondered, looking over the map as well.

“I’ll take the Fort, seeing as how I’ve been busy shoring up its defenses and defenders since I woke up here,” Stirs-Fear volunteered. “And if it’s not too much to ask, I could use some skilled archers manning the walls.”

“Then you have us,” Hana said. “It’ll be nice to have the high ground.”

“Indeed, and this time there will be plenty of targets for everyone,” Injects added.

“They might not have anyone left to fight with us around,” Respite boasted.

“I’ll stay too,” Bakki offered. “If anyone manages to get inside, they’ll never see me coming.” Greyson nodded as he started scribbling some things down.

“Sasha, you and Alana should stay here too,” Tyrna mentioned, looking at the two women. “Not only should there be one healer per group, but you’ll be a bit more sheltered here.” The Breton nodded, knowing that what the Imperial was really saying was that she couldn’t yet be trusted in the midst of a battlefield.

“I’ll do my best,” she promised, reaching down to stroke Fearsome’s tail. The Clannfear was laying beneath her cot, and lifted its head and trilled softly at her.

“I’ll keep her safe,” Sasha vowed, patting the healer on the shoulder.

“Guess that means we’re at the docks?” Ket asked, looking at Makayla.

“We need you down there, and without the villagers roaming around, I’ll be able to cut loose with my magick,” the mage reasoned.

“Which means that you’re going to need some heavy backup,” Tyrna teased. “So Greyson and myself will be watching your backs.”

“And who will be watching yours, my friend?” the Khajiit wondered, a smile lighting up his eyes.

“Is that concern I hear, Nathan’Dar?”

“Perhaps. This one would be remiss in his oath if he let some Covenant scum take you out before we get our revenge.”

“Good, then you’ll watch my back, I’ll watch Makayla, and everyone wins. On our side, at least.”

“Caidiana, mind giving us a hand as well?” Greyson inquired of the Breton.

“Might as well, unless the Fort needs me?”

“You go where you think you’ll be needed most, lass,” Stirs-Fear told her. “Or where you think the fighting will be heaviest.”

“That’ll be the docks on both counts,” the blonde replied, grinning.

“Then it’s all decided. Tomorrow we’ll head to our spots and bring the pain to the Covenant,” Tyrna said as she lay down on her cot and stared at the ceiling. “I just hope we can stall them long enough for Davon’s Watch to get prepared.”

“That depends on if Hanzo decided to dally on his way there,” Makayla answered with a heavy sigh. “Are we sure he was the best one to send?”

“He’ll be fine,” Alana assured them.

“For a big, dumb animal,” Hana teased.

“Was that a crack against Nords?” Sasha demanded, sitting up.

“No, that was a crack against Hanzo,” Bakki shot back. “We like you and Stirs-Fear. But there’s just something about Hanzo that strikes me as… I dunno, like he’s not quite listening to the world the way the rest of us are.”

“He did seem awfully eager to leave here for Davon’s Watch. And since he seems to like fighting, and the Daggers are coming here…” Ket let the sentence hang, and the others got her meaning.

“Regardless, he’s not here to help us,” Tyrna put in with a shake of her head.

“And since I doubt we’ll be getting any reinforcements, that means we’re on our own. So I suggest you all get some sleep if we need to be up as early as Greyson says.”

“Agreed,” the other Imperial said with a yawn. He turned out the lantern next to him as he crawled into a cot, and the others extinguished the other ones around the room. Darkness fell on the Sept, but Tyrna found sleep was long in coming. There were images she couldn’t get out of her mind: The rows of soldiers appeared once more, but this time there was someone leading them. He was a Redguard, that much she could tell, but his face was obscured. And then there were endless hallways that she knew she had patrolled countless times, but for what reason? Had she been the house guard for a noble? Was she more than just a soldier? Finally she slipped into unconsciousness, but with the voice of The Prophet chasing her into dreams.

‘Remember your life, child, for it holds the keys you need…'
* * *

If there was one thing Tyrna would take away from Bal Foyen, it was that her new allies were precise, deadly, and occasionally as brutal as she was. Some ships had docked, and the group that was waiting for them bided their time until it seemed most of the force had disembarked. Then they’d risen up from their barricades, weapons drawn and shouting war cries. Nathan’Dar and Caidiana had quickly taken to the shadows, moving around the enemy groups so quickly that Tyrna was having a hard time keeping track of them. Makayla’s form grew indistinct as lightning enveloped her body. The mage flung bolts with minimal effort, and Ketatiera stayed at her side, kicking away anyone who came too close. Greyson was a wall of armor that moved with purpose, slashing into troops that tried to outnumber him, and moving steadily towards one of the ships. Tyrna charged ahead, her shield smashing into skulls and sword hacking into chests and arms. She felt almost giddy with the destruction she was wreaking, and a laugh escaped her lips. “Don’t run, you Covenant bastards,” she taunted. “You’ll only die tired!”

“Wait for the rest of us!” Greyson called out, but his warning fell on deaf ears. There was a ship right in front of Tyrna, and she charged up the gangplank, spikes on her back deflecting arrows from those on board. An Orc met her attack with a two-handed maul, a satisfied grin on his face.

“So the Pact must have outsiders fights its battles? Pathetic.” Tyrna leapt back, barely missing a swipe from the large weapon.

“Say that again when I take your head,” she challenged.

“Tyrna, no!” That was Greyson again, and she could see that he was trying to get to her, but this fight would be over before then.

“Let’s dance, little girl,” the Orc jeered, taking up a fresh grip on his maul. They circled each other on the deck, neither one immediately rushing in. Tyrna struck first, diving under his guard and sweeping her blade at his knees. He grabbed her shield in response and wrenched on it, pulling painfully on her shoulder. She reversed her grip on her sword and stabbed into his hip, eliciting a cry of anger. But then pain blossomed in her back, and her lungs felt like they were on fire. “Fools, leave her to me!” But another stab to her shoulder sent Tyrna reeling, and she pitched onto the deck of the ship.

“Get her up!” The world became little more than muffled sounds for a few moments, but there was the unmistakable ring of metal on metal somewhere right above her. Thuds that must’ve been footsteps came closer, and she heard someone growl.

“Tyrna, can you hear me?!” Was that Ket? The Imperial tried to turn her head, but her body just wasn’t up to obeying her commands. “Nathan’Dar, hold her still, all right?”

“Whatever the healer thinks is best,” the Khajit answered from somewhere right above her. There was a tug on her shoulder, some cursing she didn’t recognize, and then more pain as something tore out of her. Tyrna grit her teeth as a memory of similar pain flared in her mind. She’d been on single patrol when a group of bandits had attacked a merchant one street over, and she’d rushed to defend the man. But she hadn’t counted on the archer when she’d rounded the corner; an oversight she was quick to correct with chain and sword. Tyrna shook her head, realizing she was still lying on the ship, though the sounds of fighting were a bit more distant.

“Hey, welcome back,” Ket greeted, giving her a careful pat on her non-injured shoulder. “You looked like you were far away for a moment.”

“Just a random memory,” the soldier assured her, carefully sitting up. “What in the name of Arkay happened?”

“The crew decided to take matters into their own hands when it looked like you might kill their leader,” Nathan’Dar explained, stepping where she could see him. “At the moment, the others are demonstrating the folly of this idea.” Tyrna cast her eyes towards the dock, where a pretty amazing battle was going on: Greyson and the Orc were now locked in single combat, and the soldier was more than holding his own. Caidiana and Makayla were taking care of the regular soldiers, with the Breton driving her daggers into necks and chests, and the mage lighting people up with bolts from the heavens. There was even a Clannfear head-butting enemies into the water, and Tyrna started looking around for Alana.

“What’s wrong?” Ket wondered, concern in her eyes.

“I see Fearsome, but not Alana. Where are the others?” The brunette wrinkled her nose and started giggling.

“Back at the Fort, I imagine. That’s not Fearsome: It’s Makayla’s Clannfear.”

“She can summon Daedra too?”

“When she needs a distraction. Now come on, we need to get back to it.”

“You no longer require this one to guard you?” the Khajit asked, fingers resting lightly on his own twin weapons.

“Happy hunting,” Tyrna told him with a wicked grin, picking up her sword and shield from where they’d fallen. Nathan’Dar returned the grin and leapt away, his daggers finding a quick home in an enemy’s back. Tyrna left the Orc to Greyson, making it her personal mission to cut down every archer she saw. Ket rejoined Makayla, frowning for a moment as the blonde Imperial reduced a Breton to ash.

“Wouldn’t you say that’s overkill?” Makayla raised an eyebrow and shrugged.

“Not really. Dead is dead, right?”

“Remind me never to piss you off.”

“Noted.” Raising her sword, the mage shocked another Dagger to death, leaving the body intact this time. “Better?”

“Hey ladies, flirt later!” Caidiana called out, landing next to them. “We’ve still got a lot more Covenant to deal with.” Makayla and Ket both went crimson.

“We’re not-”

“Got you,” the Breton smirked, leaping away again. As the fighting progressed, Tyrna was able to see that Captain Rana and Sergeant Seyne had led a small force down to give them a hand. That this force mostly consisted of Bleakrock refugees did nothing to bolster the Imperial’s confidence. She managed to get to the Dark Elf’s squad just in time to see a brunette Nord go down with a shoulder wound, her attacker leering over her. But just as fast, a small blonde Nord jumped on the Redguard’s back and drove an axe into his skull.

“Tryn, get away!”

“Rolli, be careful!” Tyrna made a dash towards them as the Redguard fell dead and the blonde got off him.

“Are you two insane?!” she demanded, looking at them.

“I wasn’t about to let him kill my friend,” the girl named Rolli shot back.

“I’m sorry,” the one called Tryn apologized, clutching her arm. “I tried to be careful, but he was too strong.”

“Do your parents know you’re here?” the Imperial asked, herding them both towards a storage shed.

“I told my brother to stay at the Fort and keep his head down,” Rolli replied, looking a little upset to be walking away from the fighting.

“My mother knows I’m here,” Tryn answered.

“Wonderful. What is it with you Nords wanting to always be in the thick of things?” Tyrna had managed to get them into the shed, and stood blocking the door in case any more enemies sensed easy targets.

“Isn’t that what you’re doing?” the blonde questioned, hands on her hips.

“I’m a soldier, which neither of you are. I’m trained for this.”

“We’re going to be soldiers for the Pact once we get to Davon’s Watch,” Tryn revealed, a smile on her face despite the pain in her eyes. Tyrna blinked at them, raising her shield to deflect an arrow coming at them, and then charging forward to deal with the enemy. As she put her sword through the woman’s chest, she reflected on the words of the two Nord girls.

‘Akatosh preserve us if this is what forces people to become soldiers.’
* * *

Fort Zeren was proving to be a tough nut to crack for the Covenant who had made it that far. The walls still stood strong, and the rain of arrows from the ramparts kept everyone well away. Hana was giddy as she raced back and forth, peppering any enemy who dared to step foot in her kill zone. “You’re not getting in here without a fight,” she whispered.

“They are plotting something,” Injects-Hot-Lead said, crouching next to her. “See there; they have moved their mages back to one spot. I don’t like that.”

“So go find our mage and ask her what they might be doing,” the Wood Elf retorted, picking off an Orc that was carrying a ladder. The Argonian nodded, bounding down the stairs and into the main courtyard. He saw Alana in a tent, her Daedric guardian at her side. She noticed him and came over, looking a bit worried.

“Is anyone hurt?” she asked.

“No, but I fear that our enemies are growing impatient outside. They have gathered all their mages to a point that none of us can attack. Do you know what they could be doing?” The Breton frowned and shook her head.

“It could be anything, honestly. Calling a storm, making a battering ram, summoning Daedra, or even opening portals. Just the fact that mages are gathering doesn’t mean I know their plans.”

“Then we need to be prepared for them overrunning the walls,” Stirs-Fear stated as he joined them. “Because if those milk-drinkers think we’re just going to roll over and let them have this place, they’re dead wrong.” He turned to face Sasha as she walked over, having heard her Provost’s voice raised in annoyance. “Tell Darj that I expect company soon. Everyone with weapon training report to the courtyard. Every non-combatant is to get below or into the healer’s tent.”

“Yes sir!” the blonde acknowledged with a quick salute as she took off. Stirs-Fear tilted his head and looked over at a corner of the tent.

“You hear all that, Bosmer?”

“Yes,” Bakki said as he stepped into the light. “We’ll be ready, don’t worry.”

“I’m not,” the old Nord shot back with a grin. “I know we have the skills to take down any invasion. And soon our enemies will too.” He jogged off, and Bakki vanished back into the shadows, towards the main gate. Alana’s fists clenched for a moment, and Injects paused as he saw the fear on her face.

“Stay here if you are unsure of things,” he cautioned. “We will bring the wounded to you.” But the healer shook her head, closing her eyes.

“I can’t be afraid forever. We’re in a fight for not only our lives, but the lives of innocents. We can’t fail here, and I won’t let anyone die just because I dislike violence.”

“Those are strong words, little Breton. Just be sure you can live up to them.” Alana was about to make a retort, when a wave of power washed over the Fort. It staggered the mage, and then her eyes widened as she saw glowing energy tears start popping up all around the courtyard.

“Portals!” she cried out, staff in her hands. “Enemies incoming!” Injects nocked an arrow and aimed it at the closest portal, letting it fly when he saw someone step through. The Redguard gave a strangled cry as the shaft buried itself in his neck, and fell dead to the ground. However, more Daggers followed him, and Fearsome charged straight for them. “Get back to Hana and Respite and let them know!”

“What about you?” Sasha was suddenly next to the Clannfear, a lance of pure light leaping from her hands to the chest of an enemy.

“I promised to watch over her,” the Nord said with a determined grin. “Now get us archer support!” Injects wasted no more time, darting over and under people and objects as he headed for the stairs to the wall. He met a small group of Covenant archers taking the stairs as well, and quickly slew them.

“Y’ffre’s beard, what is going on down there?” Respite demanded, coming around the corner with an arrow nocked and ready.

“The Covenant got inside.”


“Their mages created portals into the courtyard. Now come on, before our friends are overwhelmed.”


“I heard, damnit!” she yelled back, racing past the men towards a section that would enable her to see into the courtyard. “Hey assholes, get out of my Fort!”

“You heard the lady,” the male Bosmer teased, going out the other side. “Let’s make these guys regret coming here.” Meanwhile, Stirs-Fear was working with Darj and the other refugees, helping to reinforce the regular soldiers.

“Make them pay for every foot!” the former Provost called out, hacking into enemies with a two-handed sword that seemed almost as tall as he was. “Nords, take out the Orcs! Dark Elves, counter the Bretons! Argonians, show those Redguards your skill!”

“You talk too much, old man,” a mage said, sending a blast of ice at him. But Stirs-Fear leapt over the attack, landing in a crouch close to his target. With a heave, he launched his sword, and it pinned the mage to a wall, spearing him through the chest.

“So do you,” he answered, walking over and yanking his weapon free. But then a jolt of lightning surged through him, and he grit his teeth as he went to his knees.

“Fresh meat,” an Orc jeered, coming at him with two axes. However, something slammed into him from the side, and he went tumbling, quickly righting himself. Fearsome stood blocking the path, and let out a shrill challenge cry. “Sorcery!”

“No more than you’ve allied with,” Sasha reminded him, bringing her sword down at him. The axes blocked the death strike, but she wasn’t about to let the Orc go anywhere. “Alana, see to Stirs-Fear.”

“Already on it,” the healer called back, at the man’s side. But he pushed at her, shaking his head.

“No lass, get that mage who struck me before they get you too.” Alana frowned and quickly scanned the battlefield, not sure she could pick out one enemy in all this.

“Fearsome, seek!” she ordered, pointing to the courtyard. The Clannfear trilled and took off, head darting back and forth as he sought his prey. Finally he spotted the mage, who had Darj and the two Earthturner men on the ground, laughing as he kept shocking them. “Get away from them!”

“Who’s going to make me?” he wondered, sparing her a glance. “You?”

“If I have to,” she replied, taking up a fresh grip on her staff.

“You couldn’t possibly understand the intricate spellcraft that I am per-” A bolt of lightning loosed itself from Alana’s fingers, hitting him in the shoulder. “Why you-” Another bolt, this one at his legs, and he fell to his knees.

“Even healers need to defend themselves,” she explained, coming over and kicking his staff out of his hands. “Surrender, and I’ll make sure you’re spared.”

“You think I’ll willingly surrender to a child?!” he demanded, muscles spasming as the electricity ran its course.

“Last chance,” she warned. She met his eyes, seeing the knowledge of at least double her life sitting there. He was a mage, and a fellow Breton. Could she really bring herself to kill him in cold blood?

“You won’t kill me. Oblivion take you, traitor,” he spat. Alana turned and closed her eyes. Fearsome softly knocked into her hand, and she looked down at him.

“He made his choice, my friend. No mercy.” The Daedra gave a chilling scream as it pounced on the man, and the healer hurried away as his pain-filled screams rang in her ears. She made it back to Stirs-Fear, who was back on his feet again. “Are you-”

“It’ll take more than a damn spell to keep me down,” he revealed, yanking an enemy closer and then decapitating them. “Did you get that mage?”

“He’s dead,” she answered after a moment’s hesitation.

“Lass, I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For making you kill. Or at least, giving the order. It’s not an easy thing.”

“I’ve got no choice now, right? It’s either me or them, and you all need me.”

“Aye, that we do,” Sasha admitted, clapping the healer on the back as she rejoined them. Alana saw she had a gash down her side, but it seemed to be healing itself. When the Nord saw where she was looking, she smiled sheepishly. “I can heal myself in a pinch, but you do a much better job.” Bakki came running up, blood coating the two swords he held at his side.

“Come on ladies, this Fort isn’t going to save itself,” the Bosmer joked, making a beeline for another enemy.

“He’s right,” Stirs-Fear agreed, taking up a fresh grip on his sword. “Sasha, let’s send these bastards to Sovngarde!”

“Yes sir!” The two Nords jumped back into the thick of things, and Alana couldn’t help but smile slightly as Fearsome rejoined her. The Clannfear had blood coating his mouth, but she put it out of her mind.

“Ready for more?” she asked. The answering shriek was enough to spur her back into action as well.
* * *    

The battle at the docks had been won, and the tired group as making its way back to the Fort. Captain Rana was making small talk with the refugees, who were all praising their survival to her and the Sept. That Caidiana and Nathan’Dar had not returned with them was puzzling, but the Imperials all reasoned they were either off getting into trouble, or getting into each other’s clothes. Tyrna shook her head as they came within sight of the Fort’s walls, taking note of the many arrows sprouting out of the corpses. “Looks like the archers got some decent practice in,” she quipped.

“Which means no one made it past them,” Greyson reasoned with a thankful sigh. “But ma’am, I really think we ought to discuss what happened back on that ship.” Tyrna gave him a sideways glance, wondering when exactly this “ma’am” business had started.

“What happened was I let my guard down. Nothing to worry about.”

“Especially not with Ket around to fix her,” Makayla teased.

“By the way, you are the oddest mage I’ve ever met.”

“Me? Odd?” The blonde seemed a bit confused, and gave a pout. “Why?”

“Mages don’t normally wear heavy armor,” Ket reminded her, rapping her knuckles on the iron breastplate. “I think Tyrna’s used to seeing magick-users in robes”

“Like I’m going to wear a sack in a major fight?!”

“I’m just saying-” At that moment, Tyrna and Greyson pushed open the massive doors to the Fort, and Ketatiera’s remark died in her throat. “How in the world?” Bodies lay scattered all over the courtyard, arrows, grievous wounds, and burn marks covering all of them. The soldiers were carrying some over to pyres, and the rest of the Sept was in various states of relaxation.

“What in the name of the Divines happened here?” Tyrna demanded, looking around at the gathered faces.

“These assholes were in my Fort!” Hana answered, leaping down from the wall. Respite came over from cleaning his bow, grinning broadly.

“You guys missed a few, it seems. Very sloppy.”

“Missed? We slaughtered every Dagger at the docks.”

“Apparently not if they got into my Fort,” the female Bosmer shot back.

“Your Fort, lass?” Stirs-Fear asked, coming over to them. He had a mug of what they all assumed was mead in one hand, and an enemy soldier slung under his other. Tyrna raised an eyebrow when she saw it was an Orc at least twice the Nord’s size, but stayed silent. “Seems to me we all defended it pretty well.”

“Where did they come from?” Makayla wondered, looking around.

“How should I know?! One moment I’m shooting at perfectly good targets outside, and then they’re in the courtyard.”

“Hana and I heard Alana shouting about portals, and then Injects came running saying they needed help on the ground,” Respite clarified.

“Alana!” Tyrna shouted, wanting some answers from their mage on the inside. The healer came running, her pet trailing a few feet behind.

“What’s wrong? Is anyone hurt?”

“Nothing I couldn’t fix,” Ket assured her. “But we were wondering if you knew what happened in here?”

“Oh, you mean the bodies?” the Breton asked, looking around. “All I know is that portals started appearing around the Fort, and the Covenant came pouring through. I think we got them all, though.”

“Mostly,” Bakki called out, walking around some storage crates. “Couple slipped by me though, and I think-” He stabbed his swords into one crate, and a scream came from within. “Found another.” He retracted his weapons, which were now coated with blood. Satisfied the occupant was dead, the Wood Elf moved on to another stack.

“So, how did they get past you?” Respite inquired, arms across his chest. “I mean, there were quite a few of you down at the docks.”

“They must’ve docked elsewhere and marched on the Fort,” Greyson realized, shaking his head.

“Which means there’s a land-based group to worry about now,” Makayla added. “I hope Hanzo got to Davon’s Watch.”

“Hey Orc, you know what your commanders were planning?” Stirs-Fear shouted at the captive under his arm. The large Orc stared up at the Nord, terror in his eyes.

“Capture the city from two fronts. That was the plan. Please put me down now.”

“Two armies, two fronts, and not enough defenders for both, I wager,” Tyrna stated, leaning against the nearest wall. “We’ve got to get to Stonefalls.”

“What, we’re leaving?” Sasha wondered, coming up with a keg over her shoulder. “I’ve found another barrel, Provost.”

“Good girl!” the old Nord praised as she set it down. He immediately refilled his mug and knocked it back.

“Get everyone mobilized,” Tyrna ordered. “We need to start for Davon’s Watch as soon as possible.”

“What about-” Alana asked, when they saw a Breton and Khajiit running towards them, grins on their faces.

“Guys, you’ll never believe this!” Caidiana excitedly told them. “There was an Argonian in the fields who found a way to get the netches to attack the Daggers!” Everyone stared at her for a moment.

“The proverbial Khajiit has got all your tongues?” Nathan’Dar wondered with a chuckle. “What the feisty Breton says is true. She and this one have spent the last hour throwing netch eggs at our enemies. It was most satisfying.”

“Netch… Eggs?” Ket said, rolling the concept over in her mind.

“Yeah! They were filled with this concoction to make the males go all nuts. It was amazing!” Caidiana continued. Tyrna held up her hand to get her attention.

“Well, now that you’re back, we need to- Wait… Daggers? On foot?”

“Nathan’Dar was also confused by this,” the Khajiit admitted. “He had been hoping the Covenant would stay on their ships, but apparently not.”

“We got all the ones we could see,” the Breton assured them.

“We need to go?” Makayla guessed, seeing her fellow Imperial chewing her lip.

“We need to go yesterday, apparently. Everyone grab your gear, on the double.”

“We have to run all the way to the city?” Alana didn’t mean to whine, but the thought of all those miles made her wince.

“Certainly not,” Captain Rana stated as she and the soldiers came up to them. “The garrison said they’re eternally grateful for your help, so they’re giving you all horses. That should put you at Davon’s Watch by sunrise if you start now.” The Sept all looked at Makayla and Tyrna, seemingly waiting for orders. Injects and Bakki came over, apparently having finished their crate-and-barrel hunt.

“Your orders, ma’am?” Greyson prodded, meeting Tyrna’s gaze. She sighed and nodded, smiling at Captain Rana.

“My thanks to the soldiers here. Divines willing, we’ll see you at the city.”

“The Three watch over you,” the Dark Elf replied, saluting them.

“Saddle up!” Makayla called out.

“Hope there’s enough room on my horse for this keg,” Stirs-Fear stated as he picked it up under his other arm. “And you, you’re coming as my shield.”

“You can’t be serious!” the Orc cried in horror. The Nord frowned and clocked him across the head with is mug, satisfied when the Dagger fell unconscious.

“That’s better. Shields don’t talk. Besides, it’s not like I offered you to the Bosmer as a target.”

“The day is still young,” Hana quipped as the group headed for the stables. Soon they were thundering down the road, led by Tyrna astride a black horse, and Makayla on a white one. The Stonefalls region and the next part of their adventure awaited them.
Moving on in the storyline, two more characters enter in.

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“Is she awake yet?” a soft voice called, bringing Tyrna back from the utter silence of the dark. “Why isn’t she awake? Something must be wrong.”

“You’re the healer, you tell us.” The voices were getting louder and clearer, which probably meant she was regaining consciousness. How long had she been out?

‘Three days,’ a voice in her mind whispered. ‘The others have been terribly worried. You collapsed after getting Alana to shore.’ Ah yes, their arrival back in the world of the living had been anything but graceful. They’d quite literally “popped” back into existence and promptly fell into the sea. Spluttering, coughing, and swearing, the Imperial and Nord had started to head for shore. That was when the Khajiit redirected their attention to the struggling Breton.

“I do not think our mage friend can swim very well,” he revealed. Alana was barely keeping her head above water, and it was all Tyrna could do to grab her and hoist her up enough to breathe. That small exertion however, was enough to have pain lance through all her limbs, and her head felt like she’d used it to ring several dinner gongs.

“Kick your legs!” she ordered, her throat raw from the effort.

“By the Divines, I’ve seen skeevers with better sense than this,” Sasha called out, grabbing the mage under the other arm as the three girls headed for shore. Nathan’Dar stayed just ahead of them, occasionally peeking underwater.

“It would not do for us to be eaten now,” he teased, helping them all onto dry land once his own legs had found it.

“I’m sorry,” Alana choked out, arms wrapped around herself. “I’ve never swam in water so cold, or with so many clothes on.”

“Bah, there’s barely any ice on the surface,” the Nord shot back, taking a few deep breaths as she leaned against a rock. “But no harm done, right, Tyrna?” The Imperial didn’t answer, and they all looked over at her. Her skin was pale, more than it had been when they’d been in Coldharbour, and she was breathing much too quickly.

“You’ll pass out!” Alana warned, and that was the last thing Tyrna remembered before now.

‘Now that you are awake, you should seek allies. I can sense other vestiges somewhat near you. And there is a chance that the people here will-’

“Hey old man, I don’t take orders from you,” she interrupted, gritting her teeth. “You’re not my commander, and I bet you’re not even here. So do me a favor and get out of my mind until something important comes up.” There was a sigh that seemed to echo all around her for a moment.

‘Very well, child, but I will still keep my eye on you and your group.’

“Says the blind man.” Tyrna sat up, her head throbbing for a moment as the room spun. When her vision came back into focus, there were three faces staring at her.

“Welcome back,” Sasha greeted with a slight tilt of her head. “Thought for a moment you might’ve made that trip to Sovngarde a little early.”

“I’m not ready to die again just yet.”

“That is good, because the Dark Elves in charge here want to talk to you,” Nathan’Dar told her, looking up from sharpening a dagger. “You being our leader and all.” The Imperial blinked at him, looking at the other women.

“You made me leader?”

“You thought it should be someone else?” the Nord teased, combing her blonde hair back from her eyes. “Besides, you’re the neutral party among us, what with being an Imperial. And you look like you’ve seen combat before.”

“I have. I don’t remember what, where or when, but I know I’ve been in some pretty bad fights.” The flashes of memory were teasing her now, showing an ordered column of armored soldiers with her among it. Now she was receiving a shield and sword from someone, but their face was too blurry to make out. And now there was the frenetic pace of combat against… Robed people? Tyrna shook her head and growled a bit. “It’s not important. Let’s go meet with this Dunmer and see what he wants.”

“Actually, this one was also surprised to see it was a woman. Perhaps these former slave owners do not dictate roles to their own race.” The tone in his voice took them aback with how serious and malevolent it sounded. All three women turned to the Khajiit, and he shrugged. “Has Nathan’Dar said something offensive?”

“This won’t be a problem for you, will it?” Alana wondered. “Having to work with those who put collars on your people?” Nathan’Dar grinned, showing off pointed teeth, eyes darkening just a little.

“My little mage friend, the day that one of these Elves puts a collar on this one, he will send them screaming to meet their gods.” The Khajiit then bowed to them and left the room, and Tyrna snickered.

“Oh, I like him.” Sasha shook her head and left Tyrna and Alana alone.

“You were talking to The Prophet before, weren’t you?” the Breton asked.

“…He’s awfully bossy for someone who’s supposed to be a guide.”

“What do you mean?”

“Isn’t that what a prophet is? A guide for fate? Someone blessed by the Divines to show the rest of us what to do?”

“That’s a prophet, but remember that we have The Prophet.”

“You actually think we can make difference in the schemes of a Daedric Prince?” Alana frowned at the question, toying with the hem of her sleeve.

“We don’t have a choice. It’s either we fight, or we let him take control of Nirn and destroy it.” There was silence for a few minutes, and then Tyrna whispered:
“Fight or die. A soldier’s choice.”

“I’m not a soldier. I’m an Adept at the Mages Guild. Nathan’Dar was a wandering thief following in the footsteps of his god. And Sasha was just a recruit in the Fighter’s Guild. But you…” There was something dark implied in Alana’s tone, and Tyrna sighed in annoyance.

“Say it,” the Imperial ordered, now standing over the mage.

“That’s why you’re leading us. You’re a soldier, and you’ll make the hard decisions we can’t. We didn’t know it at the time, but we made the right choice.”

“Time will tell.” Tyrna left to go find the Dark Elf in charge, hoping there would be no more unpleasant surprises this day.
* * *

Surprises were what Tyrna was starting to hate. But at least she wasn’t alone. Captain Rana had informed them that a Covenant ship had been sighted off the coast of Bleakrock Isle, which is where they currently were. And Covenant troops meant trouble, trouble meant an evacuation had been ordered, and that meant that the newcomers were all put to work finding the residents of the island. They’d been asked to check out the local mine, Hozzin’s Folly, and had found it swarming with Covenant troops. They’d dispatched them, wrecked whatever ritual kept the Oblivion portal open, and gotten back to the Captain. Apparently just in time to meet the others who’d also “mysteriously” ended up here. A blonde Imperial wearing heavy armor and a sword and shield, and a brunette Imperial with a staff stared at them from across the room, whispering to each other. Tyrna’s first guess about them was a Templar and mage, and she’d been correct, but discovering the blonde was the mage had been odd. A red-haired Nord stood against the wall, arms folded over his chest. An Argonian, Wood Elf, and Breton sat by the fireplace, also talking amongst themselves. Two other Bosmer stood near the window, watching both the people gathering outside, and the group in the room. Tyrna had to admit that it was a pretty diverse lot, and a lot more than she’d expected when Captain Rana had told her about the others. “So… I just need to know one thing.”

“What’s that?” the Imperial mage asked, looking up from her companion. Tyrna tilted her head, feeling like she’d seen her before.

“Are we all on the same side?”

“Same side of what?” the red-haired man wanted to know. “This war?”

“Of course they’ll fight for the Pact,” Sasha said. “I mean, they’re here, so they might as well.” But Tyrna shook her head.

“That’s not exactly what I meant. Look, I know that most of us don’t know each other, and being sacrificed to Molag Bal is how we all met. However, I really don’t want to possibly travel with all of you only to find out you actually want to help the Prince of Lies. My group’s main goal is to take him down. Anyone else?”

“You think I don’t want a piece of that bastard too?” the female Bosmer demanded, getting to her feet. “Xarxes backside, I had my soul ripped outta me!”

“If anyone’s getting to him, it’ll be me,” the large Nord countered.

“Not if our blades and arrows get their first,” the male Wood Elves stated.

“Enough!” This from the blonde Imperial, and now Tyrna realized where she’d seen her before. She had been the one to talk about hope when they were about to leave Coldharbour. “Listen to yourselves. You think any one of us alone is a match for that monster? We couldn’t even save ourselves against a bunch of mortal cultists, and you think to take on a Daedric Prince? There’s only one way he’ll be defeated, and that’s with us working together.” There was silence for awhile, and Tyrna cleared her throat

“Count me in,” she said, extending her hand to the blonde. It was grasped tightly, and a warm smile spread across the woman’s face. “Tyrna, Imperial soldier. The others are Sasha Thin-Ice, Alana Breachsealer, and Nathan’Dar.”

“Makayla, from the Mage’s Guild. This is my… Friend, Ketatiera.” The brunette at her side smiled and blushed a bit.

“Hanzo,” the red-haired Nord told them, grabbing Tyrna’s hand in greeting. He had a powerful grip, but she grinned and squeezed back just as strongly.

“Hana Tousei, and these are my friends Caidiana Silverstep and Injects-Hot-Lead.” The Argonian took the snickers in stride.

“Your people have very… Different naming traditions,” Alana diplomatically stated. He shrugged and motioned to the bow across his back.

“We prefer to think of it as something to live up to.” The other two Wood Elves came over, seemingly more at ease.

“Bakki Kurita,” the one with twin blades introduced as he motioned to his own archer companion. “And Respite Bloodleaf. At your service.”

“Well, now that that’s out of the way, we should probably come up with a name people can call us by.” Everyone stared at Makayla, and she gave them an innocent smile. “What? I’m just saying that having a name might be better when we get a reputation.”

“Reputation?” Hanzo asked, raising an eyebrow. “You make us sound like mercenaries.” Nathan’Dar started chuckling, as did all the Bosmer.

“This one believes that is essentially what we are, my tall friend. While our goals are altruistic, high ideals do not put food in one’s stomach, nor repair damaged gear.”

“So, any suggestions?” Ketatiera wondered, looking around the room. No one spoke for a moment, and Makayla and Tyrna both sighed heavily.

“In Cyrodiil, there’s an ancient name for a group of people with similar goals: We call it a Sept. Everyone in one supports each other in reaching that goal.” Nods and affirmations followed the soldier’s explanation.

“But we can’t just be called a Sept. It’s a Sept of something. Something that describes us… Something that will let people know who we are…” Makayla snapped her fingers, having pondered out the answer while she talked. “Undying Spirit.” There were a few snickers. “What? Anyone have a better idea?”

“I like it,” Alana said softly. “It’s what we are.”

“Good. Then we’ll make this Mannimarco and his Worm Cult shudder when they hear our name,” Hanzo predicted.

“Not just him,” Hana went on. “But ol’ Horn-Head himself back in Coldharbour. He’ll regret the day he stole our souls.”

“For the Sept!” Sasha cheered. “Sept of the Undying Spirit!”

“Huzzah!” they all chorused. Tyrna looked around, realizing that this was going to be the start of an adventure. One she couldn’t wait to get started on.
* * *

She could’ve waited a little while… The Covenant were everywhere, and they looked to be taking no prisoners. Torches in hand, or fire playing from staffs, they advanced on the small village with a vengeance. Tyrna stood with Captain Rana, trying to make sense of the chaos that was playing out around her. “We have to get these people to safety.”

“My thoughts exactly. Sasha, you and Alana help Sergeant Seyne get the villagers to safety. Nathan’Dar, you’re with me. We need to get that damned signal fire lit.”

“Ket and I will comb the village and make sure no stragglers are left behind,” Makayla said as they grabbed her staffs.

“Hey boys, what say we do a little hunting?” Hana called out, drawing her bow. Injects-Hot-Lead, Respite, and Bakki all grinned, the male Bosmer pulling hoods over their heads and masks over their faces.

“I’ll help Makayla and Ket,” Caidiana spoke up.

“Need another pair of hands for the lighthouse run?” Hanzo wondered.

“Whatever keeps you busy,” Tyrna teased. The groups split up, all knowing their assigned destinations. Alana kept behind the blonde Nord, hoping they didn’t find any-

“Traitor!” a mage screamed, loosing a stream of fire at the two of them. Sasha rolled, instinctively pulling her greatsword from her back as she regained her feet. Alana brandished her staff, eyes narrowing at her fellow Breton.

“I’m no traitor! These people have done nothing wrong. Leave them alone.”

“They serve the Pact, and we are not in the habit of letting enemies live.”

“Hey milk-drinker, you going to whine at her all day, or face a real enemy?” Sasha taunted, eyes centered on the mage.

“I’ll deal with you in a moment, Nord. But this traitor will die first!” Fire streamed from the mage’s fingers once again, and Alana cringed and barely rolled out of the way. She heard a shouted oath, and then a scream of pain. Getting to her feet, she saw that Sasha had rushed the woman, striking her across the chest and spilling her to the ground. Blood stained the sword and the Breton’s robes, but she managed to get back up.

“You’re not so-” Another sword stroke took her head, and Alana screamed. Sasha stalked up to her, her mouth a tight line as she grabbed the healer’s shoulder tightly.

“Snap out of it, pup!” she commanded. “You’ve not seen battle, I get it, but this will only get you killed. These are your people we’re going to be fighting. If you can’t handle that fact, go run and hide with the rest of the villagers.”

“But… You killed her… So easily…”

“I killed her because she was going to kill you, and then try for me. Not to sound selfish, but I rather like having a personal healer around.” There was a ghost of a smile on the woman’s face, and Alana took a deep, shaky breath.

“I’ll try to focus. That’s all I can promise.”

“For now, it’ll be enough.” They continued on, seeing Seyne escorting a man who was leaning heavily on a dog. A Covenant soldier came racing around a corner after them, and Sasha charged out to meet him. However, she didn’t see the archer fire from down the road, and the bolt found its mark in her shoulder. “By Ysgramor!” she swore, gritting her teeth and yanking the shaft out. However, another arrow impacted her leg, and she went to her knees. Alana tracked the arrow, seeing the Orc who had shot her friend laughing as he approached.

“Stay away from her!” she yelled, a quick incantation spilling from her lips. A line of lightning fried him where he stood. Sasha finished extracting the arrow in her leg, and Alana got to her side. “Stay still for a moment.”

“You might not have a moment, pup,” the blonde shot back, seeing the first soldier still coming towards them, now with a few friends. Waving her staff, Alana sighed heavily and switched up her incantation to yet another one. Sasha was momentarily startled when a Daedra appeared out of thin air and charged towards them. Its solid head impacted on the closest, and it knocked the others off their feet with a swipe of its tail. “Herma Mora’s wriggling arms! Since when can you summon one of those things?!”

“…Since I joined the Mages Guild,” the Breton admitted, ignoring the fight to focus on healing her friend. “I met a Wood Elf who told me Daedra came in handy when traveling, and so I started studying how to summon them. I’ve come to rely on Fearsome quite a bit.”

“Fearsome? You named it like it’s a dog?” Sasha felt her wounds close as she stood up, rotating her arm to work the kinks out. The creature came back to Alana, making a curious trilling sound as she scratched it across its head.

“He doesn’t seem to mind. I haven’t summoned him since Coldharbour because I wasn’t sure how everyone would react.”

“Well, if he’s going to be defending you, I guess we can work together.” The Daedra dipped its head and looked at the Nord. “So Fearsome, partners for now? Since we both want to keep your mistress safe.” Fearsome let out a shriek, and turned in circles. “I’ll take that as a yes. Shor’s bones, this day just gets stranger…”
* * *

The lighthouse was being safeguarded, but the Covenant troops stationed there certainly hadn’t counted on an offense like this. While Nathan’Dar attacked from the shadows, Tyrna and Hanzo charged straight at those standing by the doors. The sight of two armored people, flaming spines jutting from their backs, and swords raised to strike, stunned them for a moment. And a moment was all they needed. Hanzo’s greatsword cut one of them in half, and Tyrna’s shield smashed into the face of the other, knocking him down so she could slash his throat. The Khajiit came up beside them, nodding at their handiwork. “This one believes his decision to ally with you was a wise one. Such ferocity is common among your people?”

“Yes,” they answered in unison, eyes seeking the stairs to the top of the structure.

“Fast and hard?” the Nord asked, a smile playing across the corners of his mouth.

“Just the way I like it,” Tyrna shot back, her grin more sadistic. They charged up the stairs, both giving battle-cries. Nathan’Dar watched them go, shaking his head. However, he saw a Covenant archer sneaking up behind him, and immediately took to the shadows, using them to show up right in his opponent’s face.

“You picked the wrong target, friend,” he whispered, driving his daggers into the Orc’s chest and riding the body to the ground. Pulling the blades out, he wiped them on the dead man’s clothes and turned his eyes to where the moons were rising from. “Praise to the Night Mistress, that my enemies do not see me coming.” Then he followed his new companions to the top, pausing on every landing to step over a dead body or two. The brazier flared to life, and Tyrna turned to face the Khajiit. He would’ve said she looked grim, but he’d come to realize that was her normal expression.

“Tell me you both see that,” she said, hanging her head for a moment. Hanzo squinted in the dying light, willing his vision to go farther. Nathan’Dar huffed when he saw what the Imperial had.

“That ship is not alone.”

“By Ysgramor, it’s an invading army!” Hanzo added.

“Let’s get back to the village and make sure everyone’s out. If we’re not off this island by the time those boats dock, we won’t be leaving.” As Tyrna spoke, her eyes flicked to something behind them, and both men immediately turned to see a Covenant bladesman they’d missed. Whipping a chain from her side, the Imperial wrapped it around the enemy and dragged him closer, letting him taste the Nord and Khajiit’s blades. When he was dead, she turned to Nathan’Dar. “You missed one.”

“This one was trying to catch up to you two. In all the excitement, he forgot to check. It won’t happen again.”

“I’ll hold you to that.” She ran down the stairs, the other two hot on her heels as they headed back to the village.
* * *

Hana was having the time of her life. There were targets everywhere, and from her vantage point in a tree, it was like child’s play to kill them. “Orc archer, 50 paces, chest shot,” she said, letting another arrow fly. It sailed straight to its mark, and the Covenant enemy fell dead with barely a grunt.

“Breton pyromancer, 80 paces, heart through the back,” Respite added, standing on the other side of the trunk from his fellow Bosmer. His arrow whistled through the air, and he smirked as the flames around the sorcerer died with him.

“What are you two doing?” Injects-Hot-Lead wondered, staring up at them. He’d been stalking around the edges of the village, taking shots when he could and avoiding larger patrols. Hana glanced down, and instead of answering, lined up another shot.

“Redguard blade, 100 paces, headshot.” Her fingers had almost let go when a shape sprang out at her target, and she aborted the shot. The figure scythed its swords across each other, and the Redguard’s head parted from his shoulders. “What the?..”

“The Headhunter strikes again,” Respite replied with a chuckle. “Looks like Bakki got one over on you.” The female wood Elf frowned and merely sighted up another target, her headshot bringing a smile to her face.

“We’ll compare scores later. Keep shooting till we hear the signal.”

“Yes ma’am,” both archers chorused, going back to their tasks.
* * *

Almost all the villagers were out, and Makayla was grateful. She and Ketatiera had run themselves nearly ragged searching the village for everyone. It hadn’t helped matters that the enemy had set fire to almost every house, and they’d needed to douse the flames to make sure no one was trapped. Now all that was left was finding Trynhild Earthturner, but she had seemingly vanished. “Ket, is there anywhere we haven’t checked?”
“Every house, the pig sty, and the barn were all gone through. Where could this girl be?” They made their way slowly down towards the docks, eyes alert for any Covenant. Suddenly, Makayla stopped short, and Ket brought her staff up, but the mage shook her head and put a finger to her lips. And as the Templar listened, she could hear faint sobbing. The women looked at one another and nodded, following the sound until they came upon one of the village’s boats. One the far side of it, huddled with her knees against her chest, was Trynhild.

“Hey, there you are,” Makayla said softly, hands up and open to show she held no weapon. The girl looked up, drying tears staining her cheeks.

“I-I’m sorry. When the Covenant soldiers came, I ran.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“But they were attacking our home! And our friends! And I just-”

“You did the best thing and got away,” Ket interrupted, smiling slightly. “No one can fault you for surviving.”

“I didn’t even try and fight. Some Nord I am.”

“There will be days to come where you might have to fight,” Makayla told her. “But not today. Today we’re getting you and everyone else out of here.” She extended her hand to Trynhild, who took it and got to her feet.

“Thank you for coming for me.”

“Not to worry. Now come on.” The three of them headed for the meeting place, hoping the others were already there.
* * *

Tyrna gazed back at the island as the small fleet of fishing boats cut through the waves. They’d managed to get the bulk of the villagers out in time, but Bleakrock was lost to the Daggers now. Smoke still drifted up from the remains of the village, and people were huddled together for comfort. She looked out to the other boats, catching sight of Makayla and Hana standing at the bows of theirs. Captain Rana was on a fourth boat, and the Dark Elf looked weary. Not that Tyrna could blame her, seeing as it had been one very exhausting day. “We should reach Bal Foyen by tomorrow,” she told her group.

“Is that a city?” Alana asked, petting Fearsome. The Imperial had not been happy seeing the Daedra, but the Breton had assured her it wouldn’t do anything to harm people unless she commanded it.

“It’s a mud hole,” Sasha shot back, leaning against the mast. “Argonians live there, and I doubt they’ve got any proper defenses.”

“Then it seems we will be protectors once again,” Nathan’Dar stated, leaning over the edge of the boat. His eyes kept darting around, and Tyrna was about to ask what he was doing, when he suddenly sunk his paws into the water and came up with a wriggling fish! “But for now, this one is catching dinner.”
“Just mind the slaughterfish,” the Nord cautioned.

“…Slaughter…Fish?” Sasha shrugged and grinned.

“Big brutes with huge teeth that can shred a man in mere moments. Very tasty in a stew though.” The Khajiit immediately pulled his arms back into the boat and reached for a fishing rod nearby.

“Maybe Nathan’Dar will just catch dinner the non-Khajiit way for now.” Everyone started chuckling, and soon other rods joined the thief’s. For the moment, the stress of the situation was left behind.
The four former soul-shriven arrive on Bleackrock Isle to start their Ebonheart journey. Along the way, they meet up with an eclectic band of other vestiges.

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