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Madness Is Merry | Prologue...The sunlight crept across the northern sky, clawing at the clouds with a spectacular array of light and color. Birds ascended into flight, bugs and beetles clung to the surfaces of flowers and branches around the terrain, beasts, caravans, animals and more traveled the grand mountain ranges over the horizon… The cities were at their busiest, crowded with merchants, customers, and guards alike; The war was still waging, yet that was not the main topic of fear among the crowds. Dragons. They’d only recently resurfaced, bursting from the earth with power and force, lashing their tails and beating their wings against the sky, trailing the clouds, lurking ever closer to civilization.People had hope, however. The First Dragonborn of the century had recently come to the people's attention, thanks to an odd encounter with the Jarl’s guards. Fearing the worst, they’d sent out for help, only for an odd Khajiit woman to arrive at the Cloud District gates with a warning. Having just escaped from Helgen, taking shelter in Riverwood, she traveled along the waterside, into the canyon with a kick in her step, only to burst through the gates of Dragonsreach, out of breath. “B-Balgruuf, sir-!!” She panted, clutching her chest with one arm, holding the gate open with the other. Everybody in the room turned to stare in confusion and bewilderment, causing the Khajiit’s ears to fall back in discomfort. The housecarl- Irileth- was the first to respond. “What’s this all about?” She grimaced, reaching for her blade. The Khajiit simply stared at her hand, before looking back up at her blood-red eyes. “D-dragons, ma’am--- they’re r-returning. I was instructed to come and see the J-jarl of Whiterun to handle the m-matter,” She stuttered, gritting her teeth as she caught her breath. Her deep, scortched-black fur wavered against the wind from the open gate. “Irileth, stand down.” The jarl’s booming voice echoed through the room, prompting the Dunmer to reluctantly sheath her blade and back away. The Khajiit stared up in an instant, her tail waving close to her legs as her crystal-blue eyes flickered.“Come forward- If what you say is true, it deserves our attention,” The man beckoned, sitting up straight, gripping the armrests of his throne. Taking another breath, the Khajiit began traversing the steps, stopping before the man clad in silky noble cloths. Her eyes trailed up to meet his metallic blue irises. “So the rumors are true…? Dragons are returning to our lands…?” “I-indeed, sir- One attacked Helgen when I was on the chopping-block,” The Khajiit grimaced.“You got caught up in a battle, didn’t you…” The Jarl sighed, before sitting back further in his throne.“Y-yes, sir. But t-the point is, we saw a group of dragons heading this way- The guards are r-referring to one of them as Mirmulnir.” The Khajiit concluded, fiddling with her thumbs through her fingerless iron gloves. “Interesting… And where did it land?” “B-by the watch tower, s-s-sir--- I-it’s burning down the tower and its defenses as we s-speak,” She stuttered, biting her lip. The Jarl sat up oncemore, staring with expectant eyes. When the Khajiit failed to speak again, he let out a sigh. “It’s not going to be easy, handling such a beast; but I’m confident it can be defeated with enough power and effort.” He gave a rueful smile, before standing up from his throne. The Khajiit backed up in response, watching with fearful- yet curious- eyes.“Irileth,” Balgruuf called out, prompting the Dunmer woman to step forward, her head held high. “Send as many troops of guards as you can. We’re not going to let that damned dragon destroy our city.” The housecarl shifted from one foot to the other, causing her heavy leather-and-steel armor to clank about. “But your honor, the guards won’t be enough. A dragon could burn them all to a crisp within seconds… We need something more.” She gritted her teeth, clutching her sword against her holster. The Jarl thought for a moment, pressing his hand against his chin. Then his metallic blue eyes swiveled back to the Khajiit. He raised an eyebrow, prompting her to shuffle back. Her baggy tavern clothes were tattered, torn at the seams. Bloodstains clung to the fabric of her dusty-brown pants, along with a set of burn marks against her fingertips and cheeks. Her boots were crippled after long periods of travel. She was a coward; yet she’d dealt with much more than the average soldier, within her first week of entering Skyrim.The simple iron daggers against her holsters were soaked in blood, yet her eyes held no form of aggression; only fear and curiosity. A set of scars ran across her snout and arms, bruises sticking out against her fur. Her crystal blue eyes widened, flickering as she waited for the Jarl’s next command.“...You seem experienced enough…” He started, causing the Khajiit to wince. “I-I mean, I’ve handled my fair share of battles, b-b-but… I’ve never fought a dragon… I-I’m not sure I can-” “Balgruuf, sir, you can’t be serious-!! How do we know she’s not here to cripple our defenses, too? Or, heck, even to spy-?!” The Dunmer woman interrupted, baring her teeth as she clenched her fists.The Khajiit froze, turning to face the woman. She looked almost offended, tail flickering expectantly. "What was that for…?” She huffed, her voice low and breathy as she stared. “Irileth, listen to me.” The Jarl sighed, crossing his arms. “She’s seen first-hand what these things can do, and nearly died at the hands of one. The least you can do is show some respect,” The man chuckled ruefully, before turning & walking back to his throne. He sat down again, prompting both the Dunmer and the Khajiit to step forward, giving each other uncomfortable glares.“If you’re both willing to try and work together on this, it may be easier to take down this threat. I won’t stand down and watch a dragon burn down my city. My home.” Irileth sighed, nodding as the Jarl spoke. Balgruuf gave a sturdy smile, sitting back in his throne. “I-If that is what you wish, I’ll try my best to help.” The Khajiit stuttered, forcing a confident smile. The Dunmer woman stared at her for a moment, before giving a reluctant “Fine.”The Jarl simply nodded, before sending the two of them off. ...The Dunmer woman- hesitantly- led the Khajiit to the barracks, handing her a fresh set of armor, along with a warhammer half the size of her body- which she immediately dropped.“Hh- How the hell do you guys use these things-?!” The Khajiit huffed, struggling to pull back the hammer. The Dunmer let out a disappointed sigh, before taking the weapon from the Khajiit with ease. “Try this instead,” She grimaced, handing the young woman a simple steel sword. Brandishing the weapon, the Khajiit stared into its shimmering surface, before looking back at Irileth with a smile. “Much better… Thank you…” She chuckled anxiously, before slipping the blades out of her holster. Replacing them with her new sword, she slipped the armor over her clothes, attempting to ignore the heavy metal, and the way it hung over her thin, bony body.“There’s not a moment to lose- let’s move,” The Dunmer scowled, leading the Khajiit out of the barracks, down the city streets, and to the watchtower. Running as fast as they could, the two women stopped just as the tower came into view. “Damn it-!! It’s already here!” The housecarl growled, sprinting forward. The Khajiit stared for a moment, almost entranced by the dragon’s sheer size. It was nothing compared to the enormous midnight-black dragon that’d crippled Helgen mere hours prior; but it was a horrifying sight to behold. Fire erupted from its jaw as its dark brown irises flickered like a flame. Its sandy-brown scales gleamed in the sunlight as its enormous wings beat the air around. Knocking guards over left and right, burning half of them to a crisp, the dragon’s head whipped from side to side as it fought vehemently.Snapping out of her haze as the dragon lifted into the air, the Khajiit began to sprint to the tower, whipping her hands out- one with her newfound blade, the other with a vibrant white light that ebbed out of her palm. She cast the- rather weak- spell upon a nearby wounded guard, prompting them to leap back up for battle- with a slight limp.Chasing after the dragon, the Khajiit’s eyes were beaming with fear and courage, intermingling and clashing in her head. If she could get to it and take it down, maybe she wouldn’t feel like such a coward; but if she lost her life to such a beast, would she be known as a hero, or a fool…? Her thoughts were interrupted as the dragon swung down with an enormous crash, sending plumes of dust and debris around the terrain. Gritting her teeth, she began to run at its side as it snatched up a guard, tossing it in the air, resulting in a painful crack as their body went limp in the dust. Wincing at the sight, the Khajiit began to slow down, watching with horror as it’s maw began to glow. Shooting a hurling ball of flames into the crowd of scatterbrained guards, it began to speak.“Dovahkiin! Kolos los hi?!” Its booming voice grew raspy as the words rolled off its tongue. It swung its head in every direction, seemingly aware of the Khajiit’s presence. The guards- heck, even Irileth- didn’t seem to respond, simply charging and attempting an attack. But the woman on the sidelines… All she could do was repeat the phrase over and over in her head. It didn’t make any sense- yet, all the same, she understood it. “Ni kros aan nikriin! Luft zu’u, show zu’u kolos hi can dreh!!” Dragon Tongue.She stared in shock- it was speaking… to her…?The midnight-black dragon had said her name as well. It felt so unfamiliar- she didn’t understand- but it felt right. All she could feel was fear when that dragon attacked Helgen. But now, all she felt was confusion.“Dovahkiin…” She repeated to herself, causing the dragon to swing its head towards her. Before she could fully react, its jaw began to glow once more. Flames began to lick the sides of its mouth, glowing against its teeth. Its slit pupils began to dilate as the Khajiit watched in fear. At the last second, Irileth charged at her, knocking her out of the way as the flames shot forward, grazing the Khajiit’s tail. Letting out a howl of pain and shock, the two of them collided with the dusty ground below. The Dunmer began to scold the Khajiit as the guards continued to slash at the dragon.“What the hell were you thinking?! That damned thing almost killed you-!! You can’t just--- stand and stare like that, you’ll get yourself k-” “It spoke to me…” The Khajiit interrupted, her eyes flickering. The Dunmer stared in confusion, practically pinning the young woman to the ground.“What? How the hell do you know?” “D-Dovahkiin… That’s what the dragon said when it attacked Helgen… This one said the same thing…” Irileth’s eyes widened for a moment.“But… that means…-”Before the Dunmer could finish her sentence, the dragon let out a roar of agony as one of the guards stabbed into its wing. It lashed its tail, flinging the guard into the air, before another wall of flames flared out against the crowd.Irileth leaped up, reaching out a hand, before pulling the Khajiit to her feet.“We’ll talk about this later; We’ve gotta stop it before it crashes into the city walls!” She scowled, before charging back into battle.With a hesitant pause, the Khajiit began to follow, clutching her weapon with both hands. She had so many questions- but the answers seemed so far…Suddenly, an idea- a rather obvious one, at that- crossed the Khajiit’s mind.“Irileth-!!” She hollered as the Dunmer stabbed into the scaly arm of the dragon. It lashed out, nearly knocking her over. She stumbled back, staring at the Khajiit in confusion. “What?” She snapped back.“Its wings-!! You have to aim for its wings-!! It won’t be able to fly away if you do!!” The Dunmer woman stared for a long moment, confusion glowing in her bright red eyes. Then she cracked a smile. “Of course- Why didn't we think of that?” She sneered, before turning and jerking her sword into the flimsy skin of the dragon’s open wing. It let out a roaring howl, eyes widening in pain. Coughing up a plume of smoke, it turned to face Irileth, attempting to bite her off- but she was already mounting the beast, dragging her blade across the skin. It lashed its tail, beating its wings uselessly as fire cascaded from its jaw.The Khajiit took this chance to leap into action, gripping her blade as she ran. While Irileth distracted the beast, the Khajiit sprinted to the dragon’s other wing, tearing the blade through the skin. It clashed against the dragon’s scales, coming to a complete stop, before the Khajiit yanked it back out. Letting out a roar of increasing agony, the dragon nipped at both wings, attempting to throw its attackers off. But their grips were tight against its heavy scales.Light began to emanate from its throat again, smoke rising through its teeth as the guards continued to attack from the front.As the Dunmer woman tore through the wing, the Khajiit began to climb up the dragon’s back, clinging to its neck as it thrashed about, before yanking on its enormous horns, prompting its head to jerk back. The fireball shot into the air, just barely missing the group of guards. It let out another roar, snapping left and right, unable to reach the Khajiit. With a final breath, the Khajiit raised her sword in the air, clinging to one of its horns, before swinging downward. The blade jabbed directly into the dragon’s deep brown eye, causing it to let out a booming howl of pain. Yanking impatiently at the handle, the Khajiit struggled to pull the sword back out of the socket, before giving up completely. She tore off her iron boot, still gripping its left horn, before jerking the metal into the dragon’s mouth. It didn’t react right away- seemingly busy attacking the guards ahead of it, as well as combating the pain from the sword- but within seconds, its face faded to a pale blue. Choking on the metal, it began to convulse and shake, clutching its throat as its body thrashed about. Losing her grip, the Khajiit fell from the beast’s head, toppling over in the dust. Irileth leaped from the dragon’s wing, running to the Khajiit’s aid, before staring in awe as the dragon lashed its tail, struggling off the ground. The two of them watched in horror as the dragon collided with the city wall, creating an enormous crack along its stony surface. Holding their breath, the two women stood up with the guards, before the dragon collapsed in the debris, letting out a coughing whimper.A moment of silence passed. The Khajiit was the first to step forward, stopping in front of the dragon’s other eye. It simply stared, irises flickering as the Khajiit knelt down.“Sorry, bud…” She gave a small, rueful smile, setting her hand on the dragon’s snout. It’s eye turned to look at her hand, before flickering back to the Khajiit.It drew a final wavering breath, before its eye rolled back into its socket. She stared for a moment, as if expecting the dragon to burst back into action; but, upon seeing its chest, now frozen and stiff, she stood back up and pulled her sword from the other side of its head. She began to walk away, sheathing her bloody blade, only to freeze up.A flurry of white wisps began to emanate from the dragon’s body, surrounding her like bees to a hive. She turned to face the dragon’s corpse, which burned and crumbled, until all that was left was ashes and bones. The Khajiit winced, before the wisps began to fade, seeping into her palms and chest, until there was nothing left. She stared down at her hands, eyes flickering in confusion. “Wh… What in the name of…” She muttered, turning to face the group behind her.They all stared, wide-eyed and silent, mouths hanging agape as the Khajiit watched.“So the legends are true…” One of the guards finally spoke up, stepping forward.“Dragonborn…”The Khajiit tilted her head in confusion.“Dragon what-now…?” She questioned, her tail flickering against her back.“Dragonborn-!! The hero who’s meant to defend Skyrim from the threat of dragons-!!” Another guard explained, prompting the group to murmur and converse in shock.“B-but--- How do you know…?” The Khajiit shook her head, stepping back.“I’ve never seen a dragon in my life, until Helgen- And I’ve never fought one before- at least, not u-until now…”“Give her some space,” Irileth suddenly spoke up, stepping towards the so-called Dragonborn.“The lights- the way the dragon died- heck, even the speaking---” The Dunmer paused.“D-doesn’t that happen all the time…?” The Khajiit bit her lip, eyes flickering expectantly.The Dunmer simply shook her head. “No--- that’s never happened before. Usually they just fall dead, and their corpses stay there and decompose normally. This… This is akin to the legends.” Irileth said reluctantly, pressing her hand against her chin.“H-how can we be sure it wasn’t just a… a special kind of dragon…?”“Try to shout-!!” A guard from the crowd suddenly blurted out, running forward.“Shout…?” The Khajiit tilted her head, raising an eyebrow in confusion.“The Dragonborn has the ability to shout. They can exert raw power in the form of words- spoken in Dragon Tongue- The most common one is the shout of force.” The guard trailed on.“Y-you mean, like… a Thu’um?” The Khajiit asked, before stopping in her tracks. How did she know what it was called…? “Yes-!! A Thu’um!” The guard simply nodded. Irileth listened silently, staring at the Khajiit. “B-but what am I supposed to say…?”“Try the first part of the shout. ‘Fus.’ That means-” “Force… I know…”“Try it out- Then we’ll be able to tell if you’re really the Dragonborn,” Irileth grimaced, stepping back. The guard followed suit. The Khajiit stared uncomfortably as the guards watched expectantly. She hated the attention; but there wasn’t anything she could do about it now. Taking a quick breath, the Khajiit turned to face the cluster of dragon bones behind her, before getting into a battle-like stance, so as to keep her balance. Damn it, why do they all have to stare… The Khajiit thought for a moment, before finally speaking the word of force- quite a bit louder than she'd anticipated. "...FUS---!!"As the word left her lips, burning against her tongue, a sharp pain began to crawl up her throat, until the dragon bones ahead of her shot forward with unbridled force, the shockwaves sending dust and debris into the air around them. She nearly fell back in shock, watching the surge of power rush through the remains.“What in the name of-” She gasped, standing up straight with wide eyes, clutching her throat in mild discomfort. It burned like hell…“It’s true-!! The Dragonborn is among us-!!” One of the guards cheered out, prompting the rest of the guards to ramble among themselves. Irileth simply stared in shock. “I never would’ve guessed…” She muttered, making her way back to the Khajiit’s side.“I… don’t understand…” The young woman winced, staring back at her palms. “Why me…?”“I’m not sure… But I’m almost certain the jarl will want to hear about this- and thank you personally for your help.” The Dunmer cracked a genuine smile. Surprised by the woman’s claim, the Khajiit smiled right back, confidence gleaming in her crystal-blue eyes.This was bound to be the beginning of something great.As the group began to walk back to the city streets, rushing up the steps to Dragonsreach, Irileth suddenly stopped the Khajiit before the gates. She turned to face the Dunmer woman, confusion gleaming in her eyes. “I realize I never asked… What, exactly, is your name…?”The Khajiit’s face lit up as she cracked a toothy grin.“Xander. Xander C. Cupid.”

Mature Content

Multi-Chapter Stories
Bring on the wonder chapter 1Chapter 1Fredas, 3 of Hearth Fire, 3E432Bruma, a little town in Cyrodiil was widely understood as a Nibenese county, but in truth, it was more Nord than Nibenese, due to its close proximity to the Skyrim border. And on account of the terrible cold and discomfort of its location high in the Jerall Mountains. It was always cold and covered with snow, so much so, that they kept the braziers burning in every quarter to prevent the citizens from freezing to death.By nightfall, a Dunmer in burgundy middle-class clothing had made the steep climb up to Bruma's north gate. Like every Fredas, he had made the long journey from Skingrad to the little mountain town through freezing wind and snow. He could not help but shiver in the breeze, heating his uncomfortable cold hands with a bit of his fire magic. He was headed straight for Olav's Tap and Tack yearning for something warm to eat and a dry warm place to sit. Stifling a yawn, he pushed the tavern's door open and was met with the constant hum of lively conversations as well as the laughing and hollering of drunken Nords. He made his way over to the counter and ordered something to eat and paid for his room. Olav knew him well enough not to engage in small talk with this grumpy mer. Every week like clockwork he would come by and order the exact same things, he would never socialise and react angrily to everyone who tried to interact with him. How this mer could be a trader was beyond Olav, yet he shrugged it off and handed the elf his plate of steaming meat.Alval Uvani hated deviations from his schedule may be more than he hated people. But today, as he went to his usual seat with his plate in hand, he found it taken. A deep scowl darkened his features even more. A deviation from his routine!The Dunmer glared down at the small Breton woman, who had the gall to sit in his spot. He recognised her face from fleeting encounters on the street, knowing that she worked here in town. But then again, here everyone knew each other, even regular visitors. Adventurers or Nord coming over the pale pass from Falkreach stood out like a sore thumb. That fact angered Alval even more. She has to have heard of him, she must have known, that he was sitting here every Fredas. Everyone knew and no one ever dared to challenge him as she did. Well, not since he had blasted the last Nord who did so to smithereens. Earned him a stay in the Bruma jail but it was totally worth it. He took a deep breath before hissing:“That's my table! Move it!”Her sky-blue eyes met his angry red ones and her smile froze as she recognised the mer. She had already heard of his reputation. Knew, that this Dunmer was not only a regular at Olav's Tap and Tack but probably the most unfriendly being to ever roam Tamriel. Thus far, however, she had not been in his line of fire.She took a deep breath. Maybe the rumours about him were wrong and he was a decent being after all. Well, judging by his angry scowl that seemed to be unlikely yet the woman decided to give it a try. With a raised eyebrow and a mischievous smirk, she looked at the backrest of her seat and then at the table, as if searching for something. When the gaze of her big blue eyes finally returned to the mer's angry glare, she grinned widely.“I'm sorry, but I just can't find your name on the seat.”She said in a light tone of voice. The Dunmer straightened a bit, his hands balled into tight fists at his side.“But why don't you sit with me, seeing that there is no other table free and here is room enough. Besides, I would welcome some company.”She paused before adding coyly.“Maybe a bit of friendly conversation would lighten your mood as well.”The dark elf's glare only darkened as he sucked in air in shocked surprise.How dare she!He thought, feeling his fingertips heat up with destructive fire magic. Mari sensed, that he was not taking her little joke well. She could feel the prickle of magicka coming off of him like thousands of ants on her skin. As a healer herself she was quite receptive of the change in the atmosphere a spell would cause. Fiddling with her fork nervously, she regarded him a bit more careful. She had actually never seen him use magic, he could bluff to keep his reputation alive. Behind his obvious anger, he looked tired and worn and well past his prime. And she was not to give in to the demands of some grumpy old Dunmer easily.Despite his raging anger, Alval chose to keep his magic in check, even though he would love to burn her pretty eyes out.Those eyes,he mused. They reminded him of someone else. Of another woman he knew a lifetime ago and he had liberated himself from before he started a new life in Cyrodiil. Maybe it was because of those eyes and the memories they evoked that he swallowed down his anger. At least for now.With a glare that promised pain and death, the Dunmer slowly sat down across from the Breton and started to eat in grim silence. She could feel him stare into her very soul. She looked up from her own meal and held his gaze, though he started to make her feel uncomfortable already. Very uncomfortable. Partly because he was so angry for no apparent reason. But Mari had always found Dunmeri eyes unsettling. She guessed it was because of the red colour she associated with blood and disease. To be honest, she even had problems to stare into her friend's blood-red eyes for too long and he never gave her any reason to fear him. Not like this merchant. This unhappy dark elf made her hair stand on end, the way he just stared at her in silence.“Something wrong?”She asked a bit more timidly than she intended to sound and instantly his cold gaze turned into a sneer.“Shut up woman, or I'll turn your bones to ash!”Mari Parean straightened and shifted nervously in her seat. That was not the reaction she had anticipated and to be honest he made her more than only uncomfortable. He downright scared her. Mari swallowed drily. There was something dangerous around him. And by the way, he carried himself and his tone of voice she had no doubt that he would just do that. Turn her bones to ash.Mari resumed eating trying to focus on her food. All she wanted was to get away from him and his suppressive aura. She should have listened to Olav, who had warned her not to sit there.This will not happen again. Never!She promised herself. Still, she felt his gaze on her.Why won't he just look away? Gods, this guy is like an angry dog with a bone. Is he trying to stare me to death?Taking a sip of her tea, she regarded him over the rim of her mug with renewed curiosity. He was neither a young elf nor a very healthy looking one. Wrinkles on his forehead and around his eyes only deepened his constant scowl. Deep dark circles under his eyes gave him an additional tired expression. They also told the Breton woman, that he was outside a lot. All in all, it made Mari wonder what had made him so bitter and angry and unapproachable.“If you want to keep your pretty eyes, quit staring!”Mari jumped a little at the sound of his angry hiss, she hadn't meant to keep staring at him. His eyes seemed to glow with now barely suppressed rage.“Then quit staring at me, too! It's annoying!”She snapped back, wondering where her sudden courage came from. Uvani's fork sank down on his plate and one eyebrow wandered up on his forehead. Obviously, he hadn't anticipated her reaction as well.Oh, a feisty little one. I like that.He thought, smirking ever so slightly. Mari's gaze, however, fell down on her hands, missing his smirk.You're so stupid,she chided herself for her unwanted bravery, whilst trying to swallow down the lump that had formed in her throat. Suddenly she wasn't feeling hungry any more and all she wanted was to get out of this uncomfortable situation. Without another word she stood up and went over to the bar, almost fleeing his presence.At the bar she took a deep calming breath, realizing that her hands were shaking. Olav turned towards her with a sympathetic smile.“Did Uvani scare you? Well, Mari, I hate to say it but told you so.”Mari nodded, accepting the mead Olav placed in front of her with a thankful smile.“Yeah, I'm sorry for not listening.”She mumbled, sipping at the sweet liquid.“Don't worry. Just stay clear of him and you'll be fine. He is a loner. And the personification of moody Dunmer."That made the Breton woman giggle a little. Exactly her thoughts, though “moody” was quite an understatement.“That's my table.”She said, giving Olav her best Uvani impression. The Nord laughed wholeheartedly.“You get any closer and I'll turn your bones to ash. Back off!”Mari continued, earning another laugh from Olav.“Who does this moron think he is? That stupid Dunmer behaves as if he owns that place! Why do you put up with this kind of behaviour in your tavern Olaf? Why not just kick him out?”She looked up. Olav was staring at her with a shocked expression. Mari blinked. No, he was not staring at her. The Nord fixed something behind her. A shiver ran down her spine.,“He's standing behind me isn't he?”She asked the Nord, but before he could reply, two plates were slammed on the counter next to Mari. It made the slender woman jump, but the warm hand that grabbed her upper arm and yanked her around roughly startled her so much, she let out a little yelp. Wanting to get away from the dark elf she struggled against the mer's grip, but the hand only tightened around her limb and she was pulled in closer. Close enough to feel his body heat radiating off of him. She looked up, his whole face was distorted in rage and his eyes glowed in a dark crimson colour. The scared woman looked away, but his fingers closed around her chin and forced her to face him.“You dare to mock me?”He hissed, squeezing her chin just a little bit more. She could feel the tingle of magicka where his fingers met her skin and in an instant, she feared he might burn her face off.“I...I'm sorry.”She stammered.“It's a little bit too late for sorry now!”His hand disappeared from her chin and a sizzling ball of fire appeared on his palm. Mari turned her face away from the heat, but he pulled her against his body. He changed his firm grip from her arm and instead grabbed her long braid pulling her head back. Forcing her to look up at him.“Please...don't.”She whimpered. The flame in his hand changed colour from orange to white as he fed more magicka into his spell, yet did not move otherwise. Just fixed her with his cold stare. A stare that told Mari that he would kill her without a second thought.“Uvani!”She heard Olav's stern voice behind them.“Let her go!”The heat died away and Uvani turned to the Nord. Olav held up his hands.“She didn't mean it. Let her go, or I have to call the guards.”The hand disappeared from her face, as Uvani straightened. Without another word, he shoved her away from him and went to his rented room, slamming the door shut behind him. With shaking knees and hands, Mari grabbed the bar to support herself. Olav bent over the counter putting a comforting hand on the little Breton's shoulder.“You want to have another drink?”Mari shook her head.“No... no. I... I think I go home.”Olav straightened back up again.“Now? It's already past midnight! And it's quite the storm outside!”A small smile tugged on Mari's lips as she put her cloak around her shoulders and tightened it.“It'll be alright, don't worry. But I need to get some fresh air. That Dunmer scared me good. See you next week.”She headed for the door, but before she left, she turned back to Olav.“Thank you.”In his room, Uvani sat on his bed and frowned deeply. He had killed for less. Indeed killing was his profession. But now he asked himself, why he had held back, despite being triggered by her attitude. Sure it would have been an inconvenience to go to prison or even deal with the pesky guards, though he could easily pay the crime gold. In a tired gesture, he rubbed his hands over his face. Maybe it was just this. Maybe he was just tired, it had been a long journey after all. And a dangerous one. But there was something else. That encounter had conjured memories, he had thought long forgotten.Those eyes...He thought, not for the first time today. They reminded him of Tarani. And how he had murdered her. With a sigh and a shrug, he finally stood up.That ungrateful bitch!Taking his linen shirt off, he was entertained by the thought that the roads were full of bandits and creatures. Maybe she would die on her way home.Good riddance to this annoyance.The Dark Elf smirked as he retired to his bed. He needed a good nights rest, tomorrow he had a long journey ahead of him. And a desk full of contracts waiting for him.The next day found him on his road towards Leyawiin. His step was a bit less energetic as usual, he still felt very tired. To his surprise, he hadn't slept well at all. Nightmares had disturbed his rest greatly, nightmares of a woman with big eyes. Eyes that had haunted him in his youth and now came back to haunt him again. Those big eyes staring right into his with a plea to spare her life. He was angry about the fact that a random stranger had such an effect on him. How a pair of pretty eyes could disrupt his routine so much. He growled under his breath, vowing that next time he would unleash his fury on her. And part of him hoped that he would come across a pack of bandits. He needed to hurt someone.
Distant Horizons: Chapter 223rd day of Rain's Hand, 4th Era year 191 Stopped at Goat's Head Oasis today. There's a little herd of wild goats hanging about in the shade under the palm trees, and near something that looks like a shrine. Not sure what it's supposed to be, and there's no one around for me to ask, so I'll see if I can find out at the next town. If I'm measuring correctly, it should be about three days from here to a place called Leki's Blade. I've got more than enough supplies to get me there, but I wonder if I should have gotten more fodder for Camel. It's so different being on my own! No tutors peering over my shoulder, no courtiers looking for favors or trying to ingratiate themselves, no servants popping up to see if I need something—it feels good to be left to my own devices, and I think I'm doing reasonably well. I don't miss mother nearly as much as I thought I would, but I do miss Ash. I'm trying to establish a daily routine, which seems more a matter of survival than just passing the time. I spend most of the day riding Camel up one side of a huge sand dune and down the other, stop every few hours to check the map and get my bearings, have some water, a snack, and a pee, and then repeat the whole thing. At dusk, I find a defensible campsite, feed and water Camel, pitch the tent, and start a little campfire, and have my evening meal. Camel's decent enough company, I suppose, but not much for conversation—it could just be his expression, though. I can't lie. I've been away from home for almost five months now, and I miss it. I miss the green hills and the river, the fields of flax and the smell of the orchards in autumn. I miss the sounds of home, especially the thunderstorms that came in off the sea. Will it get easier? Will it ever stop hurting? 28th day of Rain's Hand, 4th Era year 191 There's a school of swordsmanship in Leki's Blade! The masters there are said to be among the best in all of Tamriel and they have a reputation for turning away all those who don't measure up to their standards. I'm going there tomorrow to see if I have anything close to what it takes to study with them or—gods willing!--teach among them. If neither one is possible, I'll be disappointed, but I refuse to let it deter me! I need to decide where to go from here: Tava's Blessing is another three days, or I can head northeast into the Bangkorai region of Hammerfell. Curse it! I must remember to ask about the shrines. Addendum: Things went about as well as can be expected. I have the talent, the masters said, but when I balked at the idea of having to unlearn everything I was taught so I could start from scratch, they decided I wasn't cut out to be a student, let alone a teacher. I'm disappointed, but I'm not ready to give up quite yet; I'll go back tomorrow and try again to persuade them. I remembered to ask about the shrines after all! It turns out they're used as a type of transportation. Portals, maybe? I can't even go near them without feeling ill, so I guess I'll stick with Camel. 3rd day of Second Seed, 4th Era year 191 Still no luck. This time, the masters were kind enough to allow me to spar with one of their senior students; it was good to get some practice against an unfamiliar school. Everyone at the school uses curved swords! Curved. Swords. I wonder what mother's Master of Arms would say about them. The swordmasters said I have talent and a strong grasp of technique, but there was something they weren't saying. I'm to come back tomorrow for the final verdict, and I'm not sure whether I feel more elated than terrified, or the other way around. 4th day of Second Seed, 4th Era year 191 Disappointed. I've decided to move on. Next stop is a city called Kozanset, which should be only a day or two from here. If I'm reading the map correctly, it'll take something like a week or ten days to get from there to Bangkorai, so I'll have to plan accordingly and see about getting at least one more water skin. The innkeeper mentioned something about dunerippers being more numerous a bit farther northeast; I wonder what they are. Aside from the one disappointment, my experience here has been fairly good. I'm able to sit and listen, and I don't ask stupid questions. Without generalizing, the people here aren't all that different from the people I left behind: there are all sorts, good and bad. Most are decent, hardworking folk whose families are the center of their lives and who believe strongly in duty, honor, and compassion. I'd assume, just like in Nyth Tylluan, there are people of a less than honorable bent, and that there are the same obsequious ninnies who hang about waiting for crumbs to fall from the tables of those above them. They are poets, swordsmen, farmers, merchants, teachers, and stablehands. They revere their elders and nurture curiosity in their children. I suppose I could do without having to dump half a pound of sand out of my boots every evening, and without having to shake out my small clothes when I wake up in the morning—ouch! Cursed stuff gets everywhere!--but life could be considerably worse. Addendum: The White-Gold Concordat is the name of the treaty signed at the end of the Great War. I guess that explains why some of the ruins I've seen are of more recent vintage. Next chance I get, I must try to find a library and try to learn more about recent local history. 15th day of Second Seed, 4th Era year 191 Dunerippers are awful. Camel suffered a nasty bite from one, but he also gave as good as he got, poor, brave fellow. 23rd Day of Second Seed, 4th Era year 191 Progress has been slow. Camel's injury is healing well, but I don't want to push him too hard. We're in the wilderness now, and along with the blasted dunerippers, there are giant scorpions, harpies, and jackals. The last people we saw were Khajiit traders heading south, and that was about a week ago. I don't understand why they have such a sour reputation; they seemed perfectly lovely to me. Supplies are still holding out, but I hope we reach Hallin's Stand soon! I wonder if dunerippers are edible... 25th Day of Second Seed, 4th Era year 191 At last! Made it across the border into Bangkorai! Camel's leg is almost completely healed, and he seems glad get a chance to rest for a few days while I look for work. If there isn't anything in Hallin's Stand, I guess we'll move on and try somewhere else. When I woke up this morning—in a proper bed, in a proper inn—I had a fright when I saw what I thought was an intruder in my room. What a relief to find it was only my reflection in the mirror, but also a shock to see how much I've changed since I left home. About the only thing that hasn't changed is the color of my eyes! My hair is almost red from the sun, and instead of being bronzed, I have freckles all over the parts of me that my clothes don't cover. Wouldn't mother have a fit if she saw me! Of course she'd probably have a fit twice over if she knew... well... more on that some other time. Found a library! It's part of the local Mage's Guild, and they don't seem to mind people coming in off the street to ask questions. I'm planning to go back tomorrow afternoon and have a good nose around amongst the books. 31st day of Second Seed, 4th Era year 191 Success! On two fronts, really. Over the past few days I've become acquainted with an officer in the Bangkorai Garrison. He's in town to arrange the purchase of about a dozen horses from the stable in the north end, and will be driving them back to the Garrison at the end of the week. The stablemaster claims to know him, and says that, yes, he really is with the Garrison and, yes, he's really an officer with the Quartermaster Corps. Which means the offer of a job helping herd the horses to the fortress's town is real! I'm sad to have to leave Camel behind, though, after we've been through so much together. He's been a good and faithful companion, and I'm going to miss him, but I don't think he's quite cut out to herd horses. If I didn't know better, I'd think Fenric—that's the officer's name--was trying to flirt with me. I know his type all too well to fall prey to such silly games—gods know that there were many of his ilk at mother's court. 3rd day of Midyear, 4th Era year 191 Well, I helped Fenric look over the horses we're to take to the outpost, and he was impressed when I noticed a few things he didn't—the stablemaster wasn't any too pleased, though, and tried to explain away the rather obvious brand on the little spotted gelding by claiming he didn't make the cut for the local Grandee's personal stable because he was too short, and the Grandee sent him back for something... grander. Fenric popped by the Grandee's house—isn't that a funny word! In Nyth Tylluan, he'd just be the mayor—to see if it was true. Wouldn't you know it? It wasn't. The mayor—excuse me, the Grandee!--turned out to be quite fond of the gelding and insisted on giving Fenric some money for the horse's safe return. The stablemaster is now in a cell on a charge of thievery, and as part of his punishment, the mayor put all the man's stock up for sale! For my part in uncovering the misdeed, he insisted that I choose a mount from among the ones not already destined for the garrison; I told him I would only accept if he agreed to look after Camel for me, which he did. So now Camel is in the lap of luxury, and I'm off to another adventure. It feels strange being on a horse again, but it's all coming back to me. Addendum: Fenric is awful! Sweet, but awful. I've only met a few other Bretons, and they weren't nearly so flirtatious. On the other hand, Dura made sure they comported themselves, bless her. He's handsome in a roguish way, I suppose, with his green eyes and dark hair, and the shadow of a beard that doesn't quite disappear even after he's shaved. And that voice! Ye gods, the court ladies would certainly have swooned over him. No, I most certainly do not intend to succumb to Fenric's charms. 6th day of Midyear, 4th Era year 191 Something happened today and I'm not entirely certain how to describe it. For the first time since I've been away from home, I actually wish my mother were here so she could explain it to me. I've known for years that the royal bloodline sometimes gives rise to something Arianrhod called the corona—goron, in Cân-plu. Like so many other things, she had mixed feelings about discussing it—she'd probably just delegate the job to someone else, the same as she did every other time I went to her with a serious question. Gods above! It was so embarrassing when I woke up to my first moon-time and, rather than just telling me what was happening to me, she sent for her personal physician and ordered him to explain it. The poor man was beyond mortified, and I kept hoping the floor would open up and swallow me. There was a ring of ash around my sleeping bag when I awoke this morning. Fenric must have slept through whatever caused it, because he had no idea what I was talking about. I don't think it was a practical joke on his part, so it may be the first sign that I inherited the goron. Of course there are any number of other explanations, but I'll have to... what, exactly? If it starts looking like trouble, at least we're well away from other people. I wonder if there's a branch of the Mage's Guild at the outpost. Addendum: Still a few days away from the outpost. Fenric is a decent chap after all. He's told me a bit more about himself, and managed to do it without laying on the flirting with a trowel. His mother is a Breton, his father is a Redguard; they're both veterans of the Great War, which explains his decision to join up when he was sixteen—he's twenty-three, almost twenty-four. He says that most of Hammerfell was to have been ceded to the Aldmeri Dominion, but the Emperor's decision to do so was such a betrayal that the Redguards broke with the Empire. I don't blame them! 10th day of Midyear, 4th Era year 191 I suppose I shouldn't have been at all surprised to see a gaggle of little children come running the minute Fenric's horse walked through the town gate. The toad. He never said! I feel a bit foolish for not asking, either. Damn it. And damn him for being a flirt! As soon as I collect my pay from the quartermaster and resupply, I'm heading on to... anywhere but here. Not that anything untoward happened between us, of course. I've been very clear that I'm not interested in rolling about in the hay with him. Sigh. I like him well enough, but not as much as all that. Addendum: I'm an idiot. They're his sister's children. 30th day of Midyear, 4th Era year 191 I ended up staying longer than I meant to. Fenric's family is lovely, and his nieces and nephews are quite a handful. There have been a lot of questions from his mother and sister; they think I'm keeping company with him, and he hasn't exactly gone out of his way to disabuse them of the notion. What kind of person do they think I am?! I'm content to keep certain details to myself, particularly the details of my family. That part of my life is a painful memory of the person I no longer am. Anyway. Enough wallowing. I'm not going to join the garrison, but Fenric said the stable here is in need of someone who knows horses now that the owner is getting on a bit and his son-in-law doesn't much care to dirty his hands with the business of mucking out stalls and training horses. It's a place to start, at least, and it'll be steady. Addendum: Got the job! Looks like I'll be sticking around for a while after all. 4th day of Rain's Hand, 4 Era year 192 It's almost a year since I left home. Home. Is this my home now, or is it just a place for me to mark time until I figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life? Do I even know what I want to do for the rest of my life? Every day, I wake up and spend a couple of hours practicing with my sword before I go to the stable. Muck out the stalls, feed, water, and groom the horses, work them out in the stable yard. At night, I put the horses back in their stalls, make sure they have what they need, and head back to my little apartment at the inn for a bath and a meal, and a few hours of free time before I collapse into bed. I don't know why I'm complaining. I've got a roof over my head and a reliable source of income, I'm not going hungry, and I have good friends. My birthday is next week, and if I can manage to get the day off, Fenric wants to take me up to the Viridian Woods wayshrine. How long has it been since I spent a day just lazing about? I'm learning more about my goron. This morning, while Fenric and I were sparring, I found out I could use it as a shield—a ward, he called it. Maybe I need to pay another visit to the Mage's Guild. 10th day of Rain's Hand, 4th Era year 192 This was officially the worst birthday ever. The weather was perfect and the lake lovely, but Fenric was beastly. I suppose I was rather beastly, too. He had it all planned out, he said, a good bottle of spiced wine and a picnic lunch, followed by a suitable length of time to let lunch settle before going for a swim—in the nude, for gods' sakes! All of this, it seems, was meant to convey more than platonic interest. We argued about it; he said some dreadful things, and so did I. Glorified stablehand, indeed! Little does he know. I left him at the lake and came home. Worst. Birthday. Ever. 15th day of Rain's Hand, 4th Era year 192 Guess who showed up at the stable this evening to walk me home? I can't say I was in the mood to talk—or listen, if I'm honest. Fenric apologized for being an ass, but then he ruined it by getting defensive about his behavior at the lake. I told him I'd been clear on several occasions that I'm not interested in anything but being friends, and he said he was sure I'd change my mind once we started spending more time together. Are all men so persistent? There were plenty at court who flirted and played games, but they knew better than to put a foot wrong with me because mother would have had their... parts... on a platter. If I were still in Nyth Tylluan, I would probably be expected to start thinking about my future, including the idea of... well, enough about that. This isn't Nyth Tylluan, and I'm not that person anymore. Damn it, why is it so hard for Fenric to accept my word and just let it go? On the other hand, why am I being so resistant to the idea? What is it that frightens me so? He's hardworking and cares very much about his family—he dotes on his nieces and nephews, and they adore him. I can't shake the feeling that there's something... off. Especially after the scene at the lake. Either way, he's asked me to come to supper at his parents' house, and I'm dreading it. Addendum: It was a complete disaster. His parents were under the impression that there was far more going on between us than there really is, and he's been content to let them go on thinking so rather than tell them the truth. I'm afraid I rather burst the bubble by letting them know that I wasn't ready for any such thing, and his mother was so upset by the news that she fled the kitchen in tears. I walked home by myself and have been trying to figure out how to get beyond this. Maybe it's just time for me to leave. 10th day of Midyear, 4th Era year 192 It's exactly a year that I've lived and worked here—existed, more like. Everything feels awkward and uncomfortable now for reasons I can't really define, and I'm grateful not to have bumped into Fenric since the disastrous dinner with his parents. I told Stablemaster Djehan that I've decided to leave for Craglorn; he said he'll be sad to see me go. Right now, I just want to be gone from here. Day 20 of Midyear, 4th Era year 192 There's bad blood between the people of Craglorn and the Empire as a result of the long ago annexation by some Emperor or other; it's only gotten worse after Hammerfell broke with the Empire after the war ended. According to Djehan, the fens and forests teem with dangerous men and beasts, and there's wild magic there that's best avoided. I can't put it off any longer. Fenric turned up this afternoon to plead with me. I've never seen such a performance! There he was, on his knees in the stable yard, begging me to stay in Bangkorai and accept his proposal of marriage. I told him no, and then I told him why. It would never work! I want the person I accept as my partner to be a partner, not a... master. My mother married when she was 22 and she had me at 25. When Grandmother announced the succession, mother was not yet 30; Arianrhod chose to be queen first and mother second, and I don't really blame her. Ash tried to get her to spend more time with me, especially once I was old enough to have conversations consisting of complete sentences, but it was always awkward between us. Everything I know about the intricacies of relationships I learned either from books or from watching the games people played at court. I'm not ready. It's time for me to go. Day 21 of Midyear, 4th Era year 192 He was waiting for me at the town gate this morning, to say goodbye, he said. He must have been there all night to catch me leaving as early as I did, and I suppose to the casual observer, it must have looked very sweet and romantic when he fell to his knees and asked me again not to leave. I know I hurt him by saying no, and if part of me feels awful for doing so, the rest of me screams a warning that it would have been wrong to do otherwise. I certainly don't wish him ill, in fact, quite the opposite. I hope he finds the right person, and that they're happy together, and that his mother is thrilled when she gets her second gaggle of grandchildren. The Craglorn gate was impressive! There's certainly nothing like it in Nyth Tylluan. I don't remember anything in the histories about invaders trying to cross the mountains, though there were a few attempts by seafaring raiders over the centuries. The gate is huge, with great doors that reach halfway up the wall; when I rode through, I looked up and saw there were portcullises on either side, with a system of winches to raise and lower them at a moment's notice. There were towers, too, and armed guards patrolling along the wall. Once they established that I wasn't likely to cause too much trouble, they let me through and said to be careful out in the wilderness. Their warning echos a similar caution from Djehan, though it's likely they're worried about more than wild animals. Anyway. I'm across the border at last! It's already very different. For one thing, the weather is cool enough that I might have to dig out some of the things I brought with me from home. There are lakes and streams, and if the splashing is any indication, there are plenty of fish in the water for anyone with the patience to try to catch them. Game is abundant; at dusk I saw deer coming out to forage, and I've seen quite a few rabbits. There's also evidence of large predators—bears have left their marks on some of the trees, and I'm absolutely sure I've heard wolves howling. I'll have to be careful not to do anything to attract their attention. My possible destinations are more numerous now. I could go to Belkarth, which is the capital of Craglorn, or head southeast into Cyrodiil. Or I could go northwest to High Rock, or northeast to Skyrim. I'm exhausted, so I'll decide in the morning. Addendum: Blast. There's a storm coming up. Looks like I'm in for a long night. Day 22 of Midyear, 4th Era year 192 Spent the night unable to sleep for the thunder and being drenched by the rain that blew into the tent. Not an auspicious start to my travels through Craglorn, I'd say. Too tired to write anymore tonight. Day 25 of Midyear, 4th Era year 192 Djehan was right about how sparsely populated it is here. Given that Craglorn has seen some of the worst fighting during the war, I'm not surprised the locals are wary of strangers—they dislike Imperials for obvious reasons, and they're none too keen on anyone who looks like they might be of High Elven ancestry. I bumped into a Khajiit trade caravan heading east toward Skyrim; just like their fellows in the Alik'r Desert, they said they were barred from entering the cities and that most people tend to treat them with suspicion or hostility, which is a shame. From what I can tell, the cat folk are just like everyone else in that they come in many sizes, shapes, colors, and personalities. They've had things thrown at them, they've been attacked and chased out of town, and probably far worse. I offered to travel with them as far as Belkarth, and they've accepted. It's a good week to get there by horse, but they're on foot, so it'll probably take twice that. The weather is warm, but not hot, and it's still threatening to rain. Iona, one of the caravan master's bodyguards said I'm welcome to join them in the bigger tent if I don't feel like sleeping on soggy ground again tonight—Ahkari's tent is a bit more weatherproof, I gather. Day 26 of Midyear, 4th Era year 192 Woke up after a good night's sleep, but had to try not to sneeze because Iona's tail was under my nose. I've decided I rather like her. She's a tough, no-nonsense sort of person, and she's got a way about her that makes the others feel safe in her presence. I wonder if she'd be willing to teach me the sword dance she did to limber up before we set off—I'm not sure what the proper word for it is. She has enormous skill, and I suspect she'd be a formidable opponent if anyone tried to make trouble for the caravan. Addendum: A bear showed up while we were in the middle of setting up camp for the night, and something strange happened. I grabbed a couple of empty pots to bang together, but before I could use them to frighten the beast away, there was a... How do I even begin to describe what happened? It was like the warmth I feel when I blush or am embarrassed, all over my body, and there was an aura around me. The bear took one look, made a sound like a cough, and ran off into the forest. The even stranger part is that I was thinking to myself at that very moment that I wished the bear would just go back into the woods and leave us alone! Bother. I forgot all about the visits to the Mage's Guild in Bangkorai. The sages there drew comparisons between the goron and something they called Thu'um, which is apparently unique to some people in Skyrim. People who have the ability to use it can channel their will into a spoken word, and in turn use the word to disarm an enemy or, if they've achieved true mastery of their ability, tame wild beasts. According to the mages I spoke to, the goron allows me to amplify my will. So perhaps the bear fleeing wasn't purely coincidental? I need to think about this and see if I can determine what, if any, limits there are. It could be a powerful asset if I find myself in a difficult situation. Day 8 of Sun's Height, 4th Era year 192 The city guards made it clear Ahkari and the others aren't allowed to stay longer than it takes for them to replenish their supplies; it's wrong for them to be treated so shabbily just because they're different. The Khajiit are no better or worse than any other folk, but there are those who will insist that it's the tails and whiskers that make all the difference, and not their behavior. I wish I could do something to help. Addendum: The caravan's road takes them east, and I'm sorry to be parted from my new friends. I'll miss them. Perhaps we'll see each other again someday—I hope so. Day 10 of Sun's Height, 4th Era year 192 Ahkari and the others left this morning. I miss them already, with their songs and stories, and the cadence of their speech. They're good people and I hope the road takes them to kinder places than the ones they've left behind. Before they went, Iona suggested I go to the Fighter's Guild or one of the inns to see if there are any job postings. They're always looking for people to do mercenary work, like chasing bears out of people's back gardens, or getting rid of bandits, or recovering stolen property from bandits—that sort of thing. Dangerous, certainly, but she said it pays better than mucking out stalls... and it's on a contract basis, so I would have the freedom to pick up and leave. Definitely worth considering. I also went out into the woods today to try using the goron. The warding technique I stumbled upon in Bangkorai is getting easier. It's to the point now that I can use it almost without thinking. A truer test would be whether or not I can make use of it in a combat situation. Another thing: I was able to use it to calm a fox who was caught in a live trap. It lasted long enough for me to get him out and make sure he wasn't injured, and then he was off to the safety of the deep woods. Of course, a fox is a tiny creature compared to a bear. After working at the stable for a year, I was able to save a decent amount of coin. More than enough to replace the clothes I brought with me—nothing fits properly anymore because my body has changed so much in the past two years. I've shrunk in some places and gained muscle in others. My surcoat still fits, and most of the things I got in Sentinel are still in good shape, but my armor needs a few adjustments that I don't think I can manage on my own. Fortunately, there's a blacksmith a few streets over, and the commercial district is quite lively—clothiers, booksellers, a green grocer, and an alchemist, to name but a few. I've taken a room at the inn, and it feels wonderful to lie in a proper bed again after being on the road for three weeks. And, best of all, my room has a bath tub! It's such a treat to be able to have a good, long soak in hot water, and to have a good scrub—and to finally stop smelling like a charnel house because of my moon-time. Time for sleep. Much to do tomorrow, but for the first time in a long time, I feel a renewed sense of purpose, and that my life isn't an unmitigated disaster. Day 20 of Hearthfire, 4th Era year 192 There's quite a bit of traveling involved with the Fighter's Guild contracts. I feel like I've been back and forth across Craglorn about a half dozen times in the past couple of months. They pay is certainly worth it, though! I've managed to get myself injured a couple of times—nothing serious, thank the gods, but goblins are a pain in the backside. They come at you in a swarm, gibbering like anything, and they have trained... durzogs, I think they're called, who accompany them in battle. They're dog-like, but they seem to be reptiles of some kind. The goron has turned out to provide a more effective measure of protection against magical attacks than I initially expected; the goblins were surprised when it deflected their spells. So was I, honestly! Addendum: If I actually decide to join the guild, I'll be able to take contracts at pretty much any guild hall in Tamriel. Good to know. Day 15 of Frostfall, 4th Era year 192 Met someone today at the guild hall. I'm playing it cautious, of course, after my experience in Bangkorai. The guildmaster has sent us out on a couple of jobs together, and he's mostly kept himself to himself. His name's Gaius—his great-grandparents were from the Colovian region of Cyrodiil and came to Craglorn to start a vineyard. So I guess that makes him a third generation vintner? His older brother will take over the vineyard when their parents decide they're too aged to keep it up, so he decided to go out on his own for a while and see the world before he goes back to the vineyard to help his brother run things. He's an affable sort, but nowhere near as flirtatious as Fenric—what a relief! He teases me gently now and then, but there's never the same unpleasant edge to it. I feel comfortable fighting alongside him, though this is the first time I've ever seen anyone use a war hammer. He makes it look easy! I think we could become good friends. Addendum: Still not sure about actually joining the guild, though the guildmaster says there are benefits to it, like contracts that pay better than the ones I've been taking. In the mean time, she's agreed to take me on as a teacher for some of the greenest members who still don't seem to know which end of the sword is the dangerous one. I asked her if it would be problematic for me to teach them the style of fighting that I'm most familiar with, and she says anything is better than what they currently know, which isn't much. Tomorrow morning, I'll have my hands full with three or four people who will be starting from scratch. 15th Day of Evening Star, 4th Era year 192 Between daily training with the students and taking care of the odd contract, I've not had much time to record my thoughts. I'm pleased with the progress the students are making, though there are one or two with bad habits I'm trying to break. Today is a holy day among Imperials, and Gaius has gone back to the vineyard to celebrate the harvest with his family. It sounds like quite a crowd, with aunts, uncles, and cousins coming from miles around to help bottle the wine that's been aging in the cellar over the past few years before they have a feast and do whatever it is Imperials do to honor their gods. I hope they all have a marvelous time! Addendum: Something feels terribly wrong, but I can't quite put my finger on it. 30th Day of Evening Star, 4th Era year 192 There's a letter from home and I dread opening it. 6th Day of Morning Star, 4th Era year 193 Has it really been a week? I don't even know anymore. Everything hurts and my heart has withered. I'm fairly sure Gaius came to the door a couple of times, but I haven't wanted to see or speak to anyone since the letter arrived. When Arianrhod sent me into exile, I still had hope that there was a chance for reconciliation and that I might one day go home. That hope is gone now, and I no longer have a home to go back to. 15th Day of Morning Star, 4th Era year 193 When my grandmother died, everyone was full of platitudes about how she'd lived a long, full life and how her wisdom had been a great asset to her family and her kingdom. Mother and Ash, and everyone in the palace, wore black for a year to signify that the royal house was in mourning, and while they were stoic in public, both of them wept for her in private and spoke of how much they missed her. Unlike Arianrhod, Grandmother was warm and affectionate; she was the heart of the household in many ways. It wasn't easy to accept that she was gone, but it was a little easier to understand that her great age and frail health were to blame for her death. How am I supposed to come to terms with any of this? Rationally, I know there was nothing I could have done from so far away, and that this was completely beyond my control in the first place, but I'm angry enough at Mother that I actually hate her for... For what? Sending me away? For not letting me do anything to help? For following what she felt was the only appropriate course of action? All I can do is try to remember her for who she was, not who I wished her to be: for her strength and sense of justice, for the compassion she showed, and how she walked the line between being loved and being feared. For her wicked sense of humor and the way she played the harp, and how she loved my step-father, and our home and people. I will grieve for her, and for Ash, and for all those who were lost, and I will ask the gods to lead the survivors to safety in the hope that their new lives will be peaceful and prosperous. Addendum: When the scales are in balance, silver owl lead the way from the deepest, darkest shadows to the light at break of day. Let the queen now pass her burden to the next who bears her name, that the crown will never falter and her kin may keep the flame. 22nd Day of Morning Star, 4th Era year 193 Gaius got the innkeeper to open the door for him. I don't know which of them made me angrier, the Gerard for agreeing to do it, or Gaius for insisting. He barged in, took one look at things, and ordered Gerard to go back down to the kitchen and bring back a pot of strong tea and some food, and hot water for a bath. I don't know quite how it happened, but he got me out of my smelly clothes and into the tub. All I could do was sit in the water and cry. He refused to leave until I washed myself and had something to eat, even if it was just a few bites. I don't remember falling asleep, but when I woke up a little while ago, I was tucked up in bed. Gaius left his bedroll and pack in the corner by the window, along with a note saying he'll be back soon; part of me wants to grieve in peace, and yet part of me is grateful for the company. I feel so lost. 30th Day of Morning Star, 4th Era year 193 It's a month since I got the news. I still feel lost and a bit aimless, but I'm not crying as much. Gaius has been sleeping on the floor in his bedroll for about a week, partly to keep an eye on me. He's the first person I've spoken to about my home, and he just sits and listens until I run out of words. I like him, but I don't trust my ability to make any kind of judgment right now because my nerves are still so raw. Grief or no grief, I don't want to lean on him too much. I have to find a way through this so I can get back to... life. I'll check the notice board tomorrow and see if there's something I can handle on my own. I'm still not really ready to be back among... people. 10th Day of Sun's Dawn, 4th Era year 193 Gaius kissed me. Or I kissed him. I'm not exactly sure which. Great, merciful, bloodstained gods... There's something about the way he smells that reminds me of cinnamon. It was just a kiss. My heart was beating so hard I thought it would break through my ribs. I don't think I've ever felt like this before, but I don't want to lose one my dearest friends by making a mistake... I don't know what to do. I wish I could talk to Ash about it, or even Mother. Damn it. Crying again. 15th Day of Sun's Dawn, 4th Era year 193 Tomorrow is the Heart's Day festival. There are flowers everywhere, and people are in a decidedly cheerful mood. That's one thing about people here, they seem to be more open in their displays of affection for each other than I remember of home. Nothing crude, but it's not uncommon to see young couples walking hand in hand, or kissing under a tree at dusk. Since this is going to be my home for the time being, I'll try to honor the ways of the people around me... and still keep the traditions of my people. I refuse to let go of who I am and where I come from. Anyway. I think I'll wander down to the market and see if I can find something to express my gratitude to Gaius for... just being there when I needed him. I guess I rather did, didn't I? Both of us have been walking on eggshells a bit since the other day. I keep telling myself it was just a kiss, but gods above, the way I felt at the time! All warm, but with goosebumps. Addendum: I've no idea what to give him. What would Mother have given Ash? I honestly have no idea. 16th Day of Sun's Dawn, 4th Era year 193 The festival was lovely! The town square was full of people dancing and throwing flower petals at each other while bards sang songs and told tales of the tragic love of Polydor and Eloisa. There were a couple of vendors in the marketplace selling bunches flowers and trinkets, and little cakes in the shape of hearts. One of the nicest things about it was that, while the festival commemorated lovers who were parted by an act of treachery and reunited in death, the relationships celebrated are more than purely romantic ones—there were young couples as well as families with children, groups of friends, and even a few solitary elders who came in remembrance of their departed loved ones. I bumped into Gaius outside the guild hall, which was hardly a surprise since he has a room there. Most people who have guild quarters seem to spend the majority of their time in the field, but with the festivities in full swing, there are more of them about; he asked me back to his room to talk, and we both thought it was a good idea to leave to door open so as to discourage any gossip. Dear Gaius. In a rather roundabout way, he indicated that he had it in mind to vacate his room. After all, he's been spending so much of his down time on my floor that he wanted to know how I felt about the idea of making it a somewhat more serious arrangement. He turned quite pink when he said it, and actually stammered a bit. I told him I needed some time to think—and I do. I'm used to having my own space, and I'm used to not having to trip over someone else's belongings on my way to bed. Not that I trip over my own, of course, since I'm inclined to be orderly. Once again, I wish my mother were here, and Ash. If I were at home, there would be no discussion whatsoever. As a matter of propriety, the queen's daughter would never cohabit with a member of the opposite sex until after her marriage—or, indeed, a member of the same sex, if such was her nature. Once the banns were read, it wouldn't be quite as scandalous if she and her betrothed chose to spend the night together once or twice before the wedding. Even if this isn't home, there are still rules to abide by; even if I'm not quite who I once was, I will still somehow always be her. 22nd Day of Sun's Dawn, 4th Era year 193 The problem still remains. Most of my education was intended to give me a solid foundation that I could build on when I assumed the throne—diplomacy, strategy and tactics, critical analysis, political theory, history, logic, and languages. The rest was aimed at strengthening that foundation—horsemanship, the use of sword and bow, music, poetry, and so on. Not much in the way of practical skills, really. I'm not yet twenty, and while it feels like there's ample time for me to make a decision regarding what I want to do with the rest of my life, I also feel subtle pressure to choose a role and settle into it. Not necessarily the roles of wife and mother—definitely not yet!--but something that will give me the stability I lost along with everything else. The guildmaster has hinted that I would do well to join the guild in an official capacity, but I have some reservations—namely that I have no great desire to be launched to the moon by the kick of an angry giant or torn to pieces by a horde of draugr. In a way, I'm just marking time here, too, though more of that time is my own than it was in Bangkorai. Gaius has moved some of his belongings out of the guild hall and into my room; thankfully, he's also inclined to be tidy, so neither one of us has to worry about tripping over things. We're still getting used to being in each other's company; being in close quarters differs greatly from being out in the wilderness together on a contract. Still, if I can bear with his snoring, hopefully he can bear with my enjoyment of hot baths. Addendum: Gods above. It's only now occurred to me that he saw me naked the day he got Gerard to let him in. I actually had to go back several pages to confirm my suspicions.. He, bless him, hasn't said a word about it. I'm so embarrassed... 12th Day of First Seed, 4th Era year 193 The guildmaster has called a meeting at which all members not currently in the field are expected to appear; even people who aren't officially on the guild roster are being asked to attend. I'm not sure what it's all about, but the whole city seems tense. 10th Day of Hearthfire, 4th Era year 193 Thirteen years ago, according to the books in the Mage's Guild library, a long, bloody war between the Aldmeri Dominion and the people of Hammerfell came to an end. All is not as it seems, however. Elements in the Thalmor government remain convinced that the portions of Hammerfell previous occupied by their forces during and after the Great War are still Aldmeri possessions, and there are factions here in Craglorn who stand on both sides of the issue. Gaius fears the guild will be called upon to take a side, and that it will result in a schism along the same lines. Between the rumors of another war with the Dominion and the continued talk of unrest in Skyrim, it feels as though something is on the verge of boiling over. Frankly, I agree that the Thalmor should mind their own business. Hammerfell is its own and the people more than earned the right to their freedom during the last war—though, there again, it should have been theirs all a long! I know how I would feel if invaders tried to annex Nyth Tylluan... and I know I would fight to protect my home. Addendum: I think I understand Arianrhod a little better... 15th Day of Morning Star, 4th Era year 194 The rumors are rumors no longer, and the schism Gaius feared has split the guild almost exactly down middle, with those who support continued independence from both the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion pitted against those who favor annexation by the Thalmor. There are a few in the guild who were born and raised in Skyrim, and they've made their feelings on the subject crystal clear. In their eyes, the White-Gold Concordat did more than strip their homeland of its autonomy, it also stripped them of their identity by outlawing the worship of their god Talos. How could anyone want to be part of something like that? The Empire is still nursing its wounds, though the same can likely be said for the Dominion and its forces, so it seems neither of them are prepared to risk all by engaging in a war that would only bring more devastation. Greed and lust for power are in themselves powerful motivators; add to the mix a racist, xenophobic world view, and it's a disaster waiting to happen. Gaius says he'll stay here and fight for Hammerfell, but he's trying to convince his parents to go stay with his uncles in the Colovian highlands. I doubt he would be pushing so hard if he weren't worried about the danger. If it comes to war, I'll stay and do what I can to help. 23 Day of Morning Star, 4th Era year 194 The Bangkorai garrison was mustered out a few weeks ago to defend the Craglorn Gate, which means there must be fighting around Hallin's Stand and further south in the desert. Most of the people here are calm, and while no one seems to be panicking outright, there are small changes in daily life. There are fewer people on the streets, there have been town criers delivering orders from on high—that hoarding supplies is punishable by imprisonment, that anyone with any skill in healing magic should report to the Mage's Guild for an assessment of their abilities, and that anyone between the ages of sixteen and forty-five is likewise to report to the palace for evaluation and assignment. The forge has been working nonstop to produce weapons and armor, and the stables at either end of the city have had their horses commandeered by the local defense forces. Those in the guild who are loyal to Hammerfell have formed their own unit, while those who are eager to join the Dominion have left to do exactly that. Belkarth will be the first target if the garrison proves unable to hold the line, and then it's very possible the city will be besieged. 5th Day of Sun's Dawn, 4th Era year 194 The garrison is still holding firm, but their losses have been heavy. I hope Fenric and his family are all right. 20th Day of Sun's Dawn, 4th Era 194 I don't know how much longer the garrison will be able to keep the Dominion out of Craglorn. The Belkarth Irregulars, as the guild unit calls itself, is preparing to go shore up the defenses at the gate. I worry that it will be a suicide mission, and that the scale of the invasion force has been seriously underestimated; the Dominion can draw troops from Summerset, Valenwood, and Elsweyr, and it's also possible they'll try to use the White-Gold Concordat to force the Empire to give them aid in some form. Hammerfell has only itself, and as strong as the people are, I'm worried. Gaius' family refused to leave the vineyard, which has made him more determined to join the Irregulars. There are many good, experienced people among them. I'm staying here. There will soon be need for people who can turn their hands to fighting or healing, and who can help keep the population from panicking. Addendum: I respect Gaius' desire to fight for his home, but I don't want him to go. I... am I in love, or is this just me worrying that I might never see my best friend again? 22nd Day of Sun's Dawn, 4th Era year 194 This is difficult to write. Gaius and the Irregulars leave for Craglorn Gate in the morning; he's spent most of the day brooding, and I'm not certain what, if anything, I can do besides being here. I'm trying not to let my anxiety show, which is also difficult. For almost a year, we've fought side by side, tended each other's wounds out in the field, and kept each other company. He tells wonderful stories and gives the best hugs, and on cold, rainy nights, we snuggle together under a blanket and talk about everything and nothing. If he's frustrated by my reluctance to let our relationship become more intimate, he's managed to hide it well; sometimes I catch him looking at me, and there's something in his eyes that I can't quite define. No games, no pressure, just genuine affection and trust. Isn't this what love is supposed to be? I wish things were different. I wish he didn't have to go. I wish... I don't know what I wish. 3rd Day of First Seed, 4th Era year 194 Word came today that the combined strength of the Bangkorai Garrison and the Belkarth Irregulars held out against Aldmeri forces and actually pushed them back. There's speculation that Sentinel will send troops up the coast to cut across Bangkorai in an attempt to cut the Altmer off from their supply lines, and possibly force them back into Reaper's March. Belkarth is safe for the time being, but who knows how long that will last, especially if Sentinel doesn't send help. The mayor has been organizing teams of people to clear out some of the warehouses so they can be converted into field hospitals, just in case; I've done what I can to help, but I feel like it's not enough. 15th Day of First Seed, 4th Era year 194 The Irregulars lost perhaps half their number in the fighting; there's no time to grieve for the friends I lost. Gaius was among those who made it back, thank the gods, but he said there's a force of Altmer and Bosmer less than a day behind them. The mayor and his council have been briefed, and the Irregulars have been sent to the walls to bolster the defenses. After what he's been through, it's unsurprising that he's changed. He's exhausted, physically and mentally, and the air of quiet confidence has become brittle. We had an argument when he insisted I leave Belkarth and head east to join his family in Cyrodiil; I told him I'm not going anywhere. I decline to comment on what happened next, however, even in the privacy of my own journal. Ye gods! Suffice it to say that I had no idea Gaius was possessed of such a... passionate... nature. Tomorrow, I will be on the wall, fighting alongside Gaius and the others. Gods watch over us all. 10th Day of Frostfall, 4th Era year 194 The city has been under siege for months. Even though people struggle to find basic necessities, they refuse to give up. Thanks to the efforts of the Mage's Guild and the local alchemists, the field hospitals have fewer serious physical wounds to cope with than they might otherwise; there are also many who are suffering wounds to mind and spirit as a result of the violence, and the healers and physicians are doing their best to help. Gaius says the Imperials burn their dead rather than bury them like so much rubbish. In the event that something happens to him, he wants me to see that his family receive his remains; it's hard not to be upset by his pessimism, but being angry with him serves no purpose. 8th Day of Evening Star, 4th Era year 194 At last! An army from Sentinel has come from the west to break the siege, and spirits in the city are considerably higher than they have been for some weeks. I managed to take an arrow to the thigh—not the knee, thank the gods—so I've been reassigned to one of the field hospitals to help look after some of those whose injuries are worse than mine. Gods above, there are men, women, and children with broken bones, missing eyes, burns, or limbs hacked off. I've done what I can to help bandage wounds and set bones, and I've sat beside the dying to comfort them in their last moments. The children are the worst. They're so confused and frightened, and hungry; I don't know how many of them I've sung to sleep these past weeks, or how many nightmares I've woken them from, or how many tears I've wiped away. Their lives are just beginning, and yet here they are, going through one of the worst experiences any person could ever have; I grieve for their losses and hope that somehow, someday, they'll be able to heal. Addendum: Devouring Lady, Lady of Flame, though I am far from the temples of my ancestors, hear my prayer: Slay the evil that afflicts our minds as you slay the dread serpent. Help us anticipate the moves of those who perpetrate cruelties that we might stay their hands against the children of light. Grant us the joy of song and dance, and ever watch over us in the lonely places we must walk. 13th Day of Evening Star, 4th Era year 194 The Altmer are routed! The troops from Sentinel smashed through Aldmeri lines like a stone through a window, and the enemy is in full retreat! There's much to be rebuilt, but this day belongs to the people of Belkarth—indeed, all of Hammerfell will celebrate this victory for years to come. 1st Day of Sun's Dawn, 4th Era year 195 Gaius has had enough of the painfully slow progress toward rebuilding. Whatever backbone the mayor may have had in the days leading up to the siege has crumbled under pressure from some of Belkarth's wealthier citizens. Rather than prioritizing repairs to the existing structures in a way that would allow the homeless and destitute to have roofs over their heads, the mayor has ordered that the commercial district and market be rebuilt as soon as the rubble has been cleared. As always, the financial burden falls not on the wealthy, but on those who are already struggling—and the arguments are consist of the same tired platitudes and convoluted rationalizations. It's infuriating. Mother would certainly never have stood for it! Heads would have rolled, and I'm not sure I'm speaking metaphorically. 5th Day of Sun's Dawn, 4th Era year 195 I woke up this morning to find that, not only was the other side of the bed undisturbed, but Gaius' pack, bedroll, and armor were gone. He didn't even say anything to the guildmaster! She reckons he's either gone back to the vineyard, or to find his family in Cyrodiil, and after the things he witnessed at the Craglorn Gate and here in Belkarth, I can understand his desire to go back to familiar, safe surroundings. I'm hurt and saddened by this turn of events, and yet I know the wounds of body and spirit need time to heal. Should I go after him? Part of me wants to, but part of me is also keenly aware that I have no idea where to start looking. All I know is that there's a vineyard in eastern Craglorn—there can't be that many of them, can there? Addendum: I can't help but feel anger... and guilt. Anger at myself, and at him. And guilt, for allowing things to go as far as they did. 12th Day of Last Seed, 4th Era year 195 It's been a few months, and in that time two things have become clear: my moon-time arrived as promptly as ever it does, which suggests there's nothing to fear on that front, and there's still no word from Gaius, which is probably a good indication that it's time to close the book on that chapter of my time here. I value what I learned from him, and the friendship between us, but it still hurts that he felt the need to disappear without any explanation. Perhaps it was the only way he could deal with what he experienced. I sincerely hope that he's able to find... whatever it is that he needs. This is the third time that my life has taken a rather odd, difficult turn. First, being sent away from everyone and everything I knew and loved, only to learn that there's nothing left for me to go back to. All I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and hope that one day I'm able to find a place I can feel something of the connection I felt to... home. Second, the thing with Fenric. I just wasn't ready to be what he was asking of me, and it was frustrating that he couldn't or wouldn't accept my answer. Staying would have meant that we kept bumping into each other, and I would have felt trapped. And now, I've lived through a siege and seen the true nature of war; no amount of theory could have prepared me for what I've had to do, or the losses I've seen everyone around me suffer—Gaius was part of that. I've decided to get out of Belkarth for awhile, and to that end, I've accepted a job that will take me east to Elinhir, which is near the border with Skyrim. I'm still curious to know if it's as I imagined it, with cities perched on high mountain peaks that poke up above the clouds; perhaps I'll cross the border and find out. 20th Day of Sun's Dusk, 4th Era year 195 The job is done and I've been paid, so I'm off to Falkreath in the morning! I'm surprised I'm not more blasé about traveling to a new place, but the excitement is enough to mean I probably won't get much sleep tonight. My time in Hammerfell has hardly been bad. I've learned a bit about how the world outside the Owl's Nest, and about myself; I'm stronger now than I was when I first arrived, certainly, and hopefully a little bit wiser....
Distant Horizons: Chapter 1Far across the sea, in a forgotten corner of the Atmoran continent, there lay a kingdom shrouded by mist all the year round. A place of rolling green hills and winding rivers, of ancient forests and deep lakes, the stories said, it was home to a race of men who called themselves the Plen' y Tylluan—the Children of the Owl, in the common tongue of Tamriel. And like the owl, they remained reclusive and mysterious for centuries until ships from Skyrim, High Rock, and Morrowind began to come in search of answers. It was said by some superstitious folk that the kingdom of Nyth Tylluan was shrouded in a mist that protected the land and its people from invaders, and that the mist made visitors forget the details of what they'd seen. There, life was quiet and peaceful, with the seasons turning one into another, until a little farming village along the river sent a delegation to the queen's palace with news of some sort of blight that was spreading through the fields of flax. So gradual was the spread, however, that at first neither the queen nor her advisors were worried. And so it went for decades, with the occasional report reaching the queen, and later her daughter, and later still, her granddaughter, that the blight continued to make life difficult for the honest folk whose labor was largely responsible for the kingdom's prosperity. Crops began to fail, and while people looked to their queen for answers, the earth itself began to sicken and die. In response to the crisis, Queen Arianrhod sent mages and alchemists to study the blight; she herself combed through the archives for every scrap of information she could find. To her dismay, neither she nor the researchers were able to discern any cause for the blight, and she wondered why neither her mother nor grandmother had done anything to try to find a solution. The alchemists and mages took samples of soil from farms stricken by the rot, and from those not yet showing signs of blight; all they could tell the queen was that the soil was rich and fertile until it suddenly wasn't, as though something had leached away all the things that made it good for farming. As things went from bad to worse, the queen sent her most trusted agents to determine whether the neighboring kingdoms showed any signs of the strange affliction. All the reports she read indicated that the rot stopped at the border, as though an imaginary line in the dirt were enough to contain the corruption. Groups of confused, frightened people came to the capital with tales of whole villages vanishing into great sinkholes, and Arianrhod responded by sending mages and scholars to investigate. Among the refugees, there were those who opined that the rot was a punishment visited on them by the gods for some grave sin; others were certain the gods had turned their faces away from Nyth Tylluan, and that the royal house was to blame. In desperation, the queen sent urgent letters to the neighboring kingdoms, and even to the Emperor in Cyrodiil, to ask that her people be granted safe conduct and safe haven until the situation was resolved. Only two of her neighbors responded favorably to her pleas, and in response, she issued an edict that ordered the population to evacuate the areas hardest hit by the corruption. Scholars, shopkeepers, farmers, craftsmen, and many others crossed the mountains or took ship to Tamriel, but there were just as many who stubbornly insisted that there was no evidence that the blight wouldn't eventually just go away on its own. These folk refused to leave their homes, and not even the queen's guard could force them to do so. Deep in the temple archives, the priests and scholars continued their research and eventually turned up a crumbling document written in an obscure dialect. When they informed the queen of their find, she was appalled by the text's implications. She argued with the researchers and her councilors, and with her consort. The choice was clear: either they could bow to her will and join the exodus, or they could remain behind to face the consequences of what Arianrhod felt was the only appropriate course of action. “And what of your daughter?” her consort demanded. The question sparked another argument, and in the end, even Ash had no choice but to go in search of the girl and tell her that her mother wished to see her. He found Arianrhod's daughter amid a flock of courtiers, all of whom were clearly trying to impress her with exaggerated tales of their heroic deeds—and none of whom seemed aware of the bored expression frozen on her face. When she spied Ash approaching, he thought he detected a flicker of relief in her eyes. The courtiers fell back and genuflected as one; after all, it didn't do to insult the queen's consort by failing to show him the proper deference, even if the rumors were true that he wasn't the father of her child. “If you can tear yourself away from these fine fellows for a moment, your mother is asking for you. With exquisite politeness, Sobek excused herself, and once they were far enough away not to be overheard, she thanked him for coming to her rescue. “All they can talk about is how they weasel out of paying their publicans,” she said in disgust, “and the wenches they're trying to bed! How on Nirn do you and mother put up with such ninnies?” “Those ninnies are from some of the oldest families in the land,” Ash reminded her. “That doesn't make them any more interesting! If anything, it makes them less so. Why can't they be more like you?” “Give 'em time, bach, and they may yet mature enough to realize that they're silly stories are the least interesting things about them.” “I rather doubt it! Why does mother want to see me, anyway?” Sobek asked. “That's not for me to say,” he demurred. “Go on, now, and I'll be there in a moment.” The door swung shut behind her, and she was alone. It seemed odd that, rather than lounging in the ornately carved throne, Arianrhod stood among her privy councilors before the dais. The impassive expressions on all their faces boded ill; Sobek wondered what she could possibly have done and what punishment awaited her that required the presence of the entire council, including the queen's consort and the captain of her personal guard. When she bowed her head and dropped to one knee to greet her mother, Arianrhod's reply made her heart lurch. “As soon as you've changed into something more suitable for travel, you will go to the harbor. There, you will board the ship called Kassima's Courage and you will stay aboard until you reach Hammerfell.” “I'm to be exiled?” Sobek cried in dismay. “But why?” Arianrhod went on as though she hadn't heard the question. “Pack only what you need, and when you are ready, the guards will see you to the harbor. Now, go.” “My duty to the queen is obedience in all things,” her daughter said in a trembling voice. “May I be permitted to know the reason for my banishment?” “It is the queen's will,” interjected one of the councilors. “That is all you need to know. If you cannot manage the simple task of packing your things and dressing for the journey, it will be done without your input—and it will be considerably less pleasant.” “Then I will take my leave.” She rose, bowed low, and fled from the throne room in a haze of fear and confusion. Up the stairs, down winding corridors, and up another flight of stairs to the small suite of private apartments that looked out over the fields of flax along the river, and as she walked, she went back over the day's events. Her teachers were generally pleased with the quality of her work, and she'd been polite to the courtiers, and to the household servants, and to her mother's consort. In short, everything had been perfectly normal, except for her mother's bizarre behavior. Alone in her bedroom, she removed her court clothes, and when she looked down at the neatly folded pile, tears streamed down her cheeks. One of the guards opened the door just a crack and thrust a worn leather satchel into the room with the gruff suggestion that Sobek pack clothing appropriate to cold weather since the voyage was likely to last well into the winter months. When she was finished packing, she donned the well-worn leather breaches she wore for riding, followed by a linen tunic and her dark red surcoat. At the door to the little sitting room, she found Ash waiting for her. “I'm sorry,” he said softly. “I wish I could prevent this, truly I do.” “Why is she sending me away?” “I can't tell you, bach, because I don't really understand it myself,” he answered. “Here, take these”--he lay her sword and its scabbard on the table beside her favorite chair, along with a plump leather pouch that clinked when it landed. She threw her arms around his neck and sobbed, and he patted her shoulder in the awkwardly affectionate gesture he'd used to comfort her ever since she was just a tiny thing. When the guards pulled her away and marched her out the door, Ash dropped into Sobek's chair, put his head in his hands, and wept. On the afternoon before they were to sail back to Hammerfell, a messenger from the queen arrived with an invitation summoning Captain Flambeau and his first mate to the palace later that evening. When the pair arrived in the courtyard, they found themselves being ushered not into the throne room, but to the council chamber beyond, where they were greeted by the queen and her consort. Arianrhod wasted no time on pleasantries, but informed them that, as well as the bolts of linen and sacks of grain that made up their regular cargo, they were to take her daughter with them back to Sentinel. Furthermore, under no circumstances was the girl to be allowed to disembark during any of their layovers, even if they had to lock her in her cabin and post guards in order to prevent it. Certain that there must be an arranged marriage at the root of it all, the first mate—an Orsimer lass from the island of Betnikh—inquired how many people made up the princess's cortege. If she was shocked that the girl was to travel alone, she was appalled at the sum of gold the queen said she would pay them in advance of the journey. In the captain's estimation, the amount was sufficient to allow them to make a few upgrades to the ship and resupply several times over, and still leave enough to give the crew a generous bonus. To the first mate's chagrin, he accepted the contract, provided that the princess came aboard with enough time for the ship to sail on the morning tide. “Fancy!” Dura said indignantly as they walked back to the harbor. “Poor kid. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?” “I don't like it anymore than you do,” he replied, “but for what they're paying us, we can't afford to ask too many questions. Everything will be fine, you'll see. We'll make the usual offerings, the priestess of Kynareth will bless our journey, and everything will be fine.” “Another thing,” she went on. “Why doesn't the princess have any attendants? Even my sisters had guards to look after them when they traveled from our clan's stronghold to their husbands'.” “You worry too much, Dura!” “Someone has to,” she grumbled. “Please say you don't expect me to babysit her!” “She's not a toddler!” exclaimed the captain. “She's a grown woman, or near enough that it makes no difference. Else why would they send her off on her own?” “I just said that! I don't like it, Allain, not one bit.” Early the following morning, the captain and his crew stood on deck to wait for their passenger, and Dura muttered that she hoped there was enough room in the hold for her highness' matched luggage. She was surprised, therefore, when a detachment of the queen's guard arrived with the princess in tow. Further, she was disappointed that her highness did not have a trail of overburdened porters stretching the entire distance between the harbor and the palace; in fact, she was amazed that, aside from the clothing she wore, the girl who presented herself at the bottom of the gangplank to request permission to come aboard carried only a leather satchel across her back and a sword at her hip. And while it was evident from the puffiness under the girl's eyes that she'd been crying, she displayed remarkable poise for one so young. The princess turned to thank the guards for their kindness, and when she dismissed them, they drew their swords to offer an elegant salute before they withdrew. For Sobek, the weeks passed in a fog of abject misery. It was out of politeness more than anything else that she accepted the nightly invitation to dine with the captain and first mate, and if her conversation was less than scintillating, her hosts were kind enough to pretend not to notice. Dura kept a close eye on the crew, and while she tolerated the occasional off-color remark about the princess, she made it clear that the men—and some of the women—were to keep their hands to themselves. Since the voyage was already long and arduous, some of the men opined, it might do the girl a power of good to get out of her cabin and stop moping about. “Come now, lass,” boomed Captain Flambeau. “There's no shame in a few tears! It'll do you good to let it all out.” He meant well, Sobek supposed, but she wished he'd leave off with the constant, avuncular solicitude and advice. She was tired of the ship creaking and groaning around her, and the sound of the water against the hull; she was tired of the raucous songs the crew sang while they enjoyed their daily dram of the foul smelling brew they called Gods-Blind-Me, and of the speculative looks they cast in her direction when she walked from her cabin to the captain's quarters for the evening meal. “I've lost everything I was, everything I knew, and everyone I cared about,” she said softly, “so don't pretend you know anything about what's best for me.” If he was taken aback by her harsh words, he hid it well, and instead poked her in the ribs with the stem of the pipe he habitually kept clenched between his teeth. “I know you're homesick, lass, but you needn't suffer it in isolation,” he soothed. “I know you're hurting and frightened, and that you think your life is over because you've had to leave your home.” She glared at him. How could he possibly understand? “One door may have closed, but another stands before you; you can either open it and see what's on the other side, or you can hide from it and spend the rest of your days regretting that you didn't have the courage to see life for what it is.” “Tamriel might as well be one of the moons,” she cried. “What am I supposed to do once I get there? Where am I supposed to go?” Flambeau well recalled the day that an Orc chieftain's daughter came aboard as first mate. Tough and resourceful, and with an attitude that brooked no nonsense from the younger members of the crew, Dura quickly established herself as a force to be reckoned with. The revelation that one or two of the deckhands had somewhat exaggerated their experience prompted her to fill in the gaps in their knowledge, but it was her almost uncanny ability to navigate by the stars—indeed, by subtle changes in the wind and the scents it carried—that shone brightest. Flambeau supposed that a princess from Nyth Tylluan was unlikely to have much in the way of practical skills, but there was something about Sobek that suggested she could be just as tough and resourceful as his first mate. “You carry your sword like it's a part of your body,” he observed. “The swordmasters in Sentinel might be willing to take you on as an apprentice if you can prove your blade isn't merely a fashion statement. And there are horsemen aplenty, both in the city and out in the Alik'r Desert, who would welcome someone who's good with horses. Either way, I'd be happy to put in a good word for you once we reach Hammerfell.” There were tears in her eyes when she thanked him for the offer, and when he left her, she retreated to her cabin to think. Weather permitting, it was still a good week before they reached their first port of call in High Rock, where the horses would be unloaded and driven along the coast to the province of Skyrim. She thought the names of these places were mysterious, yet evocative of aspects of both the lands and their people. High Rock, she reasoned, must be mountainous indeed to have such a name, while Skyrim sounded as though it were perched high above the clouds so that it seemed to rest on the very rim of the sky. Sobek wondered if the people of those lands were stoic, or serene, or given to sudden outbursts of rage that were as implacable as a rockfall. This, in turn, made her think of her homeland. The Owl's Nest, she thought. And the Children of the Owl. Both sound so ordinary in the common tongue of Tamriel. I wonder how we must seem to outsiders. Are we creatures of the night who hunt on silent wings, or are we wise sages who speak in cryptic profundities? Are we keepers of secrets and promises, or are we the guardians of the veil between this world and the next? Her thoughts turned, then, to her mother. How she hated Arianrhod for sending her away! And how she grieved at her step-father's complicity in it. Had they at last, after seventeen years of marriage, finally succeeded in conceiving a child together? After their last meeting, she could imagine her mother looking down her nose with an air of contempt and saying, So sorry, child. We don't need you anymore because now we're going to have a legitimate heir. Pack your bags, and off you go, there's a good girl. Further, Sobek had overheard the first mate warning the crew that their passenger was to be confined to her quarters once the ship reached High Rock, and that guards were to be posted to make sure she didn't find a way to sneak out. As though she would give them the satisfaction of having to chase her like a wild animal to be dragged, kicking and yelling, back to the ship! It wasn't like she could just swim back to Nyth Tylluan, after all. In a fury, she emerged from her cabin and went in search of a bottle of something more potent than the wine she drank every evening at the captain's table, and while the crew cheered her on, she knocked back the mug of Gods-Blind-Me someone offered her. After a moment's choking and spluttering, she turned the mug upside down and declared that she'd drink another round if there was one going. By the time some of the deckhands started singing about springtime in old Stros M'kai, Sobek was passed out in one of the bunks. “I hope you idiots are happy,” Dura snapped. “You can leave her where she is, but by the gods, if any of you lay so much as a finger on her while she's asleep, I'll break every bone in your bodies!” Sobek lay on her side in the grass. She remembered screaming herself hoarse and struggling with the half-dozen or so burly sailors who, at the request of the captain and first mate, tried to remove her from her cabin. Her knuckles were bruised, her head throbbed, she was nauseated, and there was a foul taste in her mouth that suggested she must have vomited recently. She opened her eyes and winced at the sunlight glinting off a pair of polished boots that stood a few feet away; as her gaze traveled upward, she realized the boots were attached to legs, which were attached to a stern faced man with dark skin who seemed annoyed by her presence. In response to his polite request that she seek out more suitable surroundings in which to sleep off the effects of her overindulgence, Sobek insulted him, his lineage, and the gods-cursed land he called home. He hauled her to her feet and dragged her, kicking and screaming, to the city jail. Captain Flambeau found her there hours later, snoring like a baby horker and muttering in her sleep. The guard captain read through the list of insults the girl had hurled at her jailers, and with each piece of invective, Flambeau's eyebrows rose higher. At the end of the recitation, he shook his head in disbelief, but agreed to pay the princess's fine if the guards permitted her to remain in her cell until she was sober. When he returned to the jail the following afternoon, he was surprised to learn that Sobek had paid the fine herself and left a note thanking him and his first mate for their kindness in trying to look after her during the voyage, and apologizing for her behavior toward the guards. In the shade of a small pavilion in the bazaar, Sobek nursed a cup of mint tea while she thought things over. Her pack contained all her worldly possessions—a clean change of clothes, her surcoat, a carved wooden comb, a whetstone to keep her sword sharp, a small container of dried herbs to mitigate the pain brought on by her moon-time, and the pouch of money Ash had given her before she left. A visit to the bank's money changer had left her with more than enough coin for supplies and a steed to take her to her next destination, wherever that was. Several people walking past the pavilion spoke of unrest in Skyrim, and while no one was quite sure what it was all about, the general consensus seemed to be that it had something to do with the Nords agitating over the terms of a peace treaty called the White-Gold Concordat. She made a note in the empty journal she'd bought, then began a list of supplies she might need to survive in this harsh environment which was so different from the cool, verdant valleys of Nyth Tylluan. A fishing pole seemed a pointless thing to buy, but a good bow and quiver of arrows could serve both as a means of obtaining food and of defending herself. With its layers of wool and linen, her clothing was mostly unsuitable for the heat and sand, which meant she'd have to pay a visit to the clothier just down the street from the stable. As for her armor, there was nothing for it--either she could bear with it or risk injury if she found herself on the wrong end of a blade. Additionally, she supposed it would be a good idea to acquire a tent, flint and steel for starting campfires, and a few other odds and ends before she set out.Sobek approached one of the city guards to inquire about a map and was taken aback by the young man's feline appearance; it was all she could do not to stare at his whiskers and the long tail that twitched behind him. She'd heard tales about the cat folk of Tamriel from the sailors on Kassima's Courage, but doubted their veracity. Suddenly, she felt shame at her ignorance of the world beyond her homeland and resolved to learn as much as she could about the culture and customs of the people she encountered during her travels. The lad took her reaction in stride and directed her to the bookseller whose shop was in the same building as the clothier. A few hours later Sobek looked over a handful of horses and camels while the stablemaster extolled the virtues of each. Small, light, and strong, the horses of Hammerfell were bred for the speed and endurance their desert environment required for survival; the stablemaster assured her there were no better mounts in all of Tamriel. As to the camels, there was no question of their suitability to desert life. They needed less in the way of fodder, he said, and could go longer without water if the need arose. And even if their gaits were ungainly, they were fleet enough to outrun most threats. In the end, there was something about the camels' surly expressions that won Sobek over, and after a solid ten minutes of haggling over the price of the beast and a decent amount of fodder to see them as far as the water collectors south of Sentinel, she rode through the city gates in a far less gloomy mood. It was an adventure, she decided, and promised herself she would make the best of it. By dusk, she and the surly camel reached the tiny hamlet where the raincatchers lived. They greeted her with polite curiosity and told her she was welcome to let her camel drink its fill at the trough outside the headman's house while she refilled her water skin. Sobek was surprised when the villagers invited her to join them for the evening meal, which proved to be a communal affair to which everyone brought either ingredients or labor. Once the camel was hobbled and had his nosebag to keep him company, Sobek washed her hands and face with some water from her own supply, and went to meet her hosts. On a brick patio shaded by a pergola covered with flowering wisteria, there were three tables at which sat the raincatchers and their families, and the headman and his husband; the tables were laden with an impressive variety of dishes whose aromas made Sobek's stomach growl—among them, she spied greens sauteed with garlic, a salad made with beets and goat cheese, grilled flatbread that was meant to be torn into pieces and dipped in olive oil and spices, roasted goat, several varieties of fresh fruit, and some sort of honey cake made from ground sesame seeds. At her hosts' insistence, she ate until she bulged, and by the end of the meal, she was sure she wouldn't need to eat again for at least a week. In gratitude, she sang them a song from her homeland; the words painted a picture of rolling green hills and a gentle summer rain, and when she'd finished, she wiped tears from her eyes and excused herself on the pretext of needing to see to her camel. He uttered not a peep when she flung her arms around his neck, buried her face in his fur, and sobbed....

Mature Content

Short Stories and Snippets

Mature Content

Mature Content

5. Dragonborn“It doesn't do for folk to go wandering too close to the barrow.” Wilhelm drew a mug of mead for the Redguard woman who sat on a high stool by the counter. Her feet swung back and forth, childlike, but the matched pair of scimitars at her side were not toys. There was a hardness around her mouth and eyes, as though she'd seen tragedy or hardship, or both. “Why, it makes the blood run cold to think of it!” the innkeeper added, and mopped his brow with the rag he'd been using to wipe down the bar. The woman seemed skeptical. “Have you actually seen any ghosts? It could just be village lads playing a practical joke on their elders for a lark.” “Huh!” Wilhelm replied. “I'm not the only one who's seen 'em—just you go and ask Lynly, and she'll tell you. Terrible, it was, with those red eyes glaring!”--he gestured dramatically with his hands held before him like claws-- “I swear I could feel them burning right into my soul.” “Where I come from, folk have a healthy respect for the dead,” the woman said with a shiver. “We let them sleep in peace, and they mostly leave us alone. Necromancy...” “Necromancy!” cried Wilhelm. “Arkay, preserve us!” “I just meant that you can't be certain one way or the other,” she went on. “Has anyone gone to the barrow to see what might be wrong?” The innkeeper shook his head and mopped his brow again. “There was a Dunmer a while back by the name of Wyndelius, but he up and disappeared one night.” “Maybe he bit off more than he could chew,” the woman said. “Could he have skipped town as a way of saving face?” “Couldn't say,” Wilhelm responded, “but he left his horse and his pack, and he hasn't been back to collect 'em. What with the war and all, it's rare enough to see folk of your sort in these parts...” “And what sort is that, exactly?” a new voice asked sweetly. The innkeeper coughed and inclined his head in the direction of the fire pit at the center of the common room. “No disrespect intended, ma'am. Ain't much in the way of adventure in a little village like this, so we don't see many who come here in search of fortune or glory, that's all I meant.” He leaned over the counter to add, “Honestly, ma'am, it'd be worth a good bit of gold if we could get this mess sorted without having to send all the way to Riften for a priest of Arkay—on the quiet, like.” “I don't know,” the Redguard woman said slowly, but her blue eyes sparkled with curiosity. “Give me a little while to think about it, eh?” She hopped down from her perch and went to sit across from the woman who'd spoken up a moment before. “Are you always so quick to defend complete strangers?” she asked, and was taken aback by the way the firelight reflected in the other woman's eyes—strange, dark amber eyes, like those of a sabrecat. “It's starting to become something of a habit,” the other admitted in a rueful tone, “and I do beg your pardon for sticking my nose in your business.” “No harm done!” the Redguard insisted. “I meant what I said about a healthy respect for the dead, you see, and I don't relish the idea of going into the barrow by myself. My name's Maya, by the way. Maya Izradi.” The other woman flashed a smile that, while genuinely warm, didn't quite erase the glint of caution in her eyes. “I am Sobek ver Arianrhod, and I'm honored to make your acquaintance.” Another mug of mead to warm the bones, and the two were soon sharing tales of their travels across Skyrim. Sobek recalled seeing Maya at Helgen, though the Redguard woman simply shook her head in disbelief. “But why were you on your way to the headsman's block?” Sobek asked. “Vilod, gods grant him peace, said the prisoners were all part of some rebellion against the Empire—I know most Redguards have little love for Titus Mede, but...” Maya shrugged. “I tried to tell those damned fools I wasn't mixed up with the rebellion, and that I was on my way to Whiterun to look for work, but have you ever tried explaining anything to an Imperial soldier with nothing but sawdust between his ears? Sep's scales! It was just rotten timing and worse luck that I crossed paths with Ulfric and his lads just then.” Had the circumstances been somewhat different, she told her companion, she might have been favorably impressed by the renegade Jarl of Eastmarch. When the Imperial patrol caught up with them, there was a brief exchange of blows before Ulfric Stormcloak sheathed his blade and ordered his men to stand down. Of the journey to Helgen Maya remembered very little; nor did she recall much until the dragon came with his deafening roars and searing heat, and the stink of charred flesh. Somehow, thanks to one of her fellow prisoners, she'd found safety inside the keep, and between them they led a handful of survivors through the network of caves that stretched almost all the way from Helgen to the small town of Riverwood. “I owe Ralof and his sister much for their generosity,” she added. “Perhaps I'll go to Windhelm after all and see if there's room for a Redguard in the ranks of Ulfric's Stormcloaks. You should come, too, if you're of a mind to knock some Imperials' heads. But, first—Wilhelm! What was that about that Wyndelius fellow leaving his pack behind?” At first glance, it seemed the leather satchel contained nothing but a few dead spiders and some dried herbs which crumbled to dust before either Maya or Sobek could determine their purpose, but a second examination of the inner pocket turned up a crumpled scrap of parchment. Below a crudely drawn diagram of concentric rings and scribbled symbols, some of which were crossed out, was a cryptic reference to a puzzle located deep in the bowels of Shroud Hearth Barrow. To Maya's disappointment, Wilhelm responded to her questions with a shake of his head, as did the farmer who came to the tavern to relax with a mug of mead after a hard day tending his fields. “I'm sure I'll come to regret this,” she said darkly, “but I have to at least try to find out why the dead are no longer at rest. Does your offer of assistance still stand?” There was a soft click underfoot. In the split second it took for Maya to understand its significance, she threw herself flat on the cold stone floor while the hail of tiny darts sailed harmlessly over her head. Nearby, however, her companion was less fortunate, and once the projectiles ceased pinging off the iron-banded chest, the stone plinth it lay on, and the wall behind it, she scurried to Sobek's side to assess the damage. The wounds, while embarrassing, were neither deep nor particularly painful, and Maya hastened to assure her friend that the darts showed no sign of having been coated with poison. “It's my own fault for not being more careful,” Sobek began, but the words trailed off into a panicked squeak as she stared in horror over Maya's shoulder. In the light cast by torches and guttering candles, hideous shadows writhed and danced, and beyond the door to the little antechamber, something shambled forward out of the gloom. At some point in the distant past, the thing might have been a Nord warrior of some renown, but now it was nothing but a creaking collection of bones and desiccated flesh held together by rotting scraps of armor and whatever dark magic animated it. Cold blue flames flickering in its eye sockets gave the chilling impression of rudimentary intelligence while its gaze swept the room as though it searched for an intruder, and after a moment, it turned and staggered back the way it had come. When Sobek let out the breath she'd been holding, Maya swallowed nervously and crept toward the door to peek around its edge. “It was dead,” she whispered. “I thought sure it was just some lad from the village trying to put one over on his elders, but it was a draugr.” Sobek eased her sword out of its scabbard and whispered back, “It may be dead, but surely it can be killed—good gods above, it's coming back!” Before Maya could reply, her friend was charging full tilt down the narrow corridor with a yell. She dropped to her knees and leaned back as the forward momentum carried her straight under the dead warrior's blade, between its legs and out into the wider chamber behind it before she lunged upward to drive her sword through its torso. Had the thing been a living opponent, the blow would have been instantly fatal, but the warrior turned on its attacker to unleash a flurry of jerky, uncoordinated blows that ended only when Sobek ducked a wild swing and slashed the draugr's legs out from under it. Her blade swung down, and when the skull parted company with the rest of its body, the blue flames finally winked out. Further down the corridor, however, more of the restless dead heard and answered the call to battle. Maya shouted to her friend to get out of the way just as she flung a lit torch into a pool of iridescent liquid that had seeped out of a cracked ceramic urn at the other end of the hallway and, just as she'd hoped, the entire passage was engulfed in a searing blast of flame that reduced the oncoming draugr to ash. Sobek peered over the lip of the empty stone sarcophagus in which she'd sought refuge and retched at the noxious odor of charred leather, bone, and hair—her own hair was somewhat singed in the conflagration, but she was whole and relatively unharmed. Maya knelt to poke through the draugrs' remains and gave a muffled squeal of glee. She held up a pair of leather bracers reinforced with overlapping steel scales. Her own, while still serviceable, were badly in need of repair with something other than the coarse twine she'd used to stitch them back together. Repairs could be costly, Sobek knew, and if the nearest town had neither a blacksmith nor an armorer who could do the job, sometimes found gear was a welcome windfall. Maya unbuckled her bracers to try on the ones she'd recovered from the draugr and grinned when they fit as though they'd been made for her. On they went, more cautiously this time, until they came to a broad crypt lined with row upon row of burial niches whose occupants remained blessedly quiescent. One end of the chamber opened onto another passage, but a heavy iron gate blocked the way; opposite the gate, the pair found a small anteroom containing nothing but a few broken urns and a row of levers on one wall. Sobek noted the presence of more tiny openings concealed among the intricate carvings and cast about for a place to stand that was not in their line of fire—indeed, when Maya threw one of the levers, she jumped back just in time to avoid being caught in the hail of darts. It took several attempts, but at last she hit upon the correct combination of levers to raise the gate, and as the two tiptoed back out into the crypt, a sibilant warning came echoed from the room beyond. “Leave this place!” A ghastly apparition hovered in the doorway for a moment, then receded from view to disappear into the shadows while Maya stood frozen in fear. As soon as it was gone, Sobek gave her friend a reassuring pat on the shoulder and gestured to Maya to wait while she went to peer around the corner to see where the ghost had gone. To Maya's surprise, she returned almost at once and the two retreated to the anteroom with the levers for a hasty conference. “Is it usual for a ghost to leave footprints?” Sobek murmured. “The dust in the next room has been disturbed, and I don't believe it was by the dead warriors we met earlier.” The other woman grimaced. “Nothing about any of this is usual! It's all thoroughly unnatural, if you ask me—did you say there were footprints?” There were places in Hammerfell, Maya knew, where the shades of ancient warriors were still fighting shadowy battles in an echo of long ago wars. Most Redguards avoided those battlefields, though there were some who went there to test their courage and skill with a blade against the phantoms as part of their initiation into the ranks of the Alik'r swordmasters. Of those, only a few survived, and they rarely spoke of what they'd seen and done during their trials. Her own father was reluctant to tell his daughters the tale of his journey to the ruined temple of Tu'whacca's Throne where, once, a cult of necromancers caused ghosts and worse to walk among the dunes. She counted herself fortunate that, in all her travels through her homeland and Cyrodiil, she'd never encountered any such thing, though perhaps if she had, she might have been able to answer the question of whether or not ghosts left footprints. Screwing up her courage, Maya crept out into the crypt and stooped to examine the tracks Sobek had found. They were small—too big to have been made by any of the village children, but too small to belong to any of the adults, and since the townspeople avoided the barrow, she thought it unlikely that anyone from Ivarstead was responsible for the disturbance. She recalled her father's description of how the spirits lingering in Tu'whacca's Throne turned their wrath on any who intruded on the temple grounds, regardless of whether they were friend or foe. “You were right to say it's unusual,” she commented after she gave her companion a brief summary of the story. “So far, the ghost has only tried to warn us off.” “But why bother?” Sobek wondered. “There weren't any ghosts at Bleak Falls Barrow,” Maya replied thoughtfully, “but I ran into quite a few thieves who were searching for something other than old bones—and skeevers, and quite a few draugr.” “A handful of gold coins and a pair of bracers hardly seem like sufficient reason to go poking around in a tomb full of draugr,” her friend said. “What could be worth all the fuss?” When Maya hesitated, Sobek put her hand on her friend's shoulder and peered down into her face. “Are you alright?” “Put simply? Power.” And out poured the tale of how Maya had climbed the mountain above Riverwood as a favor to the shopkeeper there. Perched at the summit was Bleak Falls Barrow, which Ralof claimed was built by the ancient Nords as a temple to the dragons and their priests; with the last dragons long since dead, the temple became a tomb for the honored dead, and as such, all manner of thieves and explorers found their way to the barrow in search of fame or riches. Such a venture was not without risk, as Maya quickly found out when she encountered traps, hungry skeevers, and the restless dead who patrolled the corridors. Deep in the belly of the barrow, past all the traps and draugr, she discovered the burial vault of a long dead Nord, though whether he was hero or villain she had no idea. On the cavern wall behind the dais on which his sarcophagus rested, a vast relief was carved into the living rock, and when she approached it for a closer look, she realized it hummed with a strange power that brought her out in goosebumps. Symbols incised in the stone glowed faintly in the dimness; though she'd been unable to read the inscription, some heretofore unanswered instinct understood it and knew that the words were the key to learning something about herself. Her whole being vibrated as a wave of knowledge and power crashed through her, and she'd fallen, sobbing, to her knees. Upon her return to Riverwood, she'd told no one of what she'd experienced, and it was only after she made her way to Whiterun with a message for Jarl Balgruuf the Greater that she came to learn more about the inscription and what it meant. The Jarl and his brother, and their court wizard, were all convinced Maya was something they called Dovahkiin—a mortal who was born with the soul of a dragon and had an innate ability to master thu'um. Balgruuf agreed that she must go to Ivarstead, which lay at the foot of the mountain the Nords called the Throat of the World, and that from there, she would climb the Seven Thousand Steps to High Hrothgar and seek an audience with the monks who lived there. After all, if anyone was likely to know more about this Dovahkiin business, it would be the Grey Beards. Sobek looked thoughtful. “Perhaps the gods have more than one reason for you to be in this place at this time. Could it be Shroud Hearth Barrow guards a secret similar to the one you uncovered in Riverwood?” Maya held the crude diagram she'd found in the adventurer's abandoned pack up to the light from one of the flickering torches. “There was a door like this in Bleak Falls Barrow! I'm almost certain there's another such wall here, but without the key, the door will be impossible to open.” “Could Wyndelius have had the—great, merciful, bloodstained gods, but he's trying my patience with that constant refrain!” With Maya at her heels, Sobek slipped down the corridor to follow the footprints, and to their surprise, the trail ended at a small chamber furnished with a bedroll and a desk. No phantom was likely to have much use for either object, nor for the fire that roared on the makeshift hearth, and yet, the room's sole occupant gave every appearance of being the shade of the long dead Dunmer. He stood with his back to them, and Sobek noted with amusement that he cast a shadow in the firelight. “It appears our ghost is not as insubstantial as he would have us believe,” she whispered to Maya, and she grimaced when he looked over his shoulder in the direction of her voice. “Is there life among the dead? Leave this place!” Lightning crackled around one hand as he turned toward the two women, and without waiting for a response, he lunged. The dagger in his other hand whistled over Sobek's head as she dropped to one knee; a sudden soft radiance burst out around her to deflect the lightning while, behind her, Maya drew her scimitars and leapt into the fray. She seemed to be everywhere at once in a whirlwind of steel as she ducked, spun about, and darted in with a series of quick strikes that confused and annoyed her opponent. Another blast of lightning caromed off Sobek's ward to explode harmlessly in the corridor beyond; the backlash of the disrupted spell sent Wyndelius tumbling over the desk, where Maya pounced on him with another flurry of blows. A keening cry broke from his lips to end in a grunt of surprise, and he slumped to the floor with a sigh. “Are you alright?” Sobek asked softly while Maya wiped blood from her blades and sheathed them. “I will be.” Hours later, the two returned to the Vilemyr Inn with a bloodstained journal and a bottle of the foul-smelling concoction the Dunmer had used to create the illusion of his ghostly appearance. Wilhelm muttered to himself as he skimmed the pages of the little book and shook his head in disbelief. “I can't believe we were all so stupid. This was really all a fabrication by that Wyndelius character?” “It was a convincing enough ruse to keep people from coming too close to the barrow,” she told him, “and that's really all he needed. It's likely he'd have murdered anyone whose curiosity got the better of them.” “Lynly is lucky, then,” the innkeeper agreed. “Well, the least I can do is give you something for taking care of him.” He stooped to root about under the counter, and when he offered Maya a lumpy, cloth-wrapped bundle, her eyes widened. “If you won't take it as payment,” Wilhelm added, “consider it a gift.” Beneath the layer of coarse linen, something glinted in the firelight, and Maya gave a wordless exclamation of wonderment as she held up a dragon's claw wrought in gold and set with sapphires. “Well?” Sobek asked in a low voice. “What is it?” “The door I spoke of,” her companion replied. “This is the key that unlocks it! Oh, say you'll go back in there with me! Please?” Sobek shrugged. “I'll go with you part of the way, but I think this puzzle is for you alone to solve, Dovahkiin.”...
17. Steel on Steel“Good gods, man, are you sure about this?” demanded Galmar Stone-Fist. “I know her sort all too well! Bed 'em once and they think they've got you by the short hairs—it's still not too late to back out before you make what could be the biggest mistake of your life.” “Enough!” roared the Jarl. “Is it not my right to take a wife according to the dictates of heart and conscience? Time and again you've voiced objections, but myheart tells me this is right—my consciencetells me this is right! Now let this be an end to it.” “Bah! She's bewitched you with her peculiar ideas and made you into a milkdrinker!” “You tread dangerously, old friend,” Ulfric warned him. “Is it weakness that urges me to seek a different path than the one that leads to war? By Talos, if you had your way, we'd be knee deep in the blood of our enemies!” Incredulous, Galmar stared at him. “I'd never have believed it if I hadn't heard you speak the words! Now I'm certain there's witchcraft afoot. The Ulfric Stormcloak I know of old would never have considered peace with the Empire.” “How many times have I said I would be glad to see the day I could hang up my sword and go back to High Hrothgar to live out my days in peace? Once, I might have said such a dream was unfit for any Nord who had fire in his belly, but now...” “But now your amber-eyed witch has you half drugged with the smell of her womanhood!” “You go too far, Old Wolf!” Ulfric snarled. “Friend or no, speak another word and I'll see your head on a pike at the gate come morning.” Hostility shimmered between them like heatwaves in the heart of a forge fire until Galmar threw up his hands with a snort of disgust, turned on his heel, and stormed from the room. “For nigh on forty years, I've called him friend and Shield-brother. We've fought and bled together, hunted together, and chased the same dream,” the Jarl murmured to no one in particular. “Does he truly think me so besotted with my lady that I would piss away all we've worked so hard to achieve?” At his elbow, his steward coughed politely. “All these years, the two of you have been close as blood kin. Unless I'm much mistaken, the Old Wolf would likely resent any woman you took to wife as an intruder into your merry band of brothers.” “Sobek is hardly the second coming of Potema,” Ulfric retorted. “True,” Jorleif agreed. “Indeed, there are many here in the palace and in the city who have come to view her with a certain fondness. Give Galmar time, my lord, and he may yet recognize her as your right and proper partner.” “I, too, disliked her at first,” the Jarl admitted. “A will of iron and a tongue sharper than any blade but, by the gods, as sweet and gentle as a spring lamb when the mood strikes her! I'd have been sore grieved if she'd given her heart to another. Indeed, it pains me to know that the Old Wolf might not be at the temple to see me wed my beloved.” “Give him time,” the steward repeated. “Am I to conclude from your words that the lady has at last accepted your suit?” “Aye,” Ulfric said with a chuckle. Jorleif beamed at his lord and replied in an uncharacteristically jovial tone, “Then I offer my congratulations! When will it be?” “If only such questions were easily answered! At dawn she goes to join the Dragonborn in Winterhold, though I'm of a mind to insist that she stay here. When she returns, perhaps, she'll be more inclined to leave off her adventuring—and to name the day.” “Then, by your leave, I will send word to the temple in Riften, and to certain of your friends who will doubtless be pleased to receive good news.” In the barracks, Galmar Stone-Fist fumed and muttered over a tankard of ale, and finally made his way down to the training ground to vent his wrath against the straw-filled dummies the guards used as practice targets. The battle ax sang in the air above his head as he brought it down to cleave the dummy from shoulder to groin, but instead of straw, the ax head rang against the blade of a sword. “Stay your hand a moment, Shield-brother,” Ulfric demanded. “Will you hear me out?” Galmar shouldered his ax and huffed into his mustache. “Bah! A true Nord never backs down, either from battle or from the truth.” “After you and the Dragonborn recovered the Jagged Crown, Sobek could have led Maya into some trap or taken the thing to the nearest Imperial camp,” the Jarl pointed out. “She did neither.” “Perhaps, but...” “And how many times between here and Solitude could she have stabbed one of us in the back?” Galmar shook his head. “Yes, but...” “And once the battle was over, did she not put herself in harm's way to keep Elisif's blade from striking its intended target? She could just as easily have stood aside and let things unfold.” “You trust too much, Ulfric.” The ax swung in an arc that struck sparks from Ulfric's sword, and the rebound drove both men back a few paces. A feint, a lunge, a quick dodge to one side, and the blade sheared a patch of fur from the housecarl's bearskin hood. “And you trust too little!” “Where women are concerned?” the housecarl rasped as he ducked under a slash from his opponent's sword. “It would foolish to do otherwise!” “We are neither of us as green as we once were,” Ulfric snarled. “Sobek is no Thalmor spy sent to ensnare me with lies!” He feinted again, and when he charged in to press his advantage, Galmar gave ground before the flurry of blows. There came a resonant clang, followed by the dissonant squeal of metal under stress, and the ax head cleaved through the blade of Ulfric's sword to send fully half its length spinning off into the darkness at the edge of the training ground. “I do not ask you to love her as I do, or even to like her if such is not your inclination,” the Jarl said between panting breaths. “But, by Talos, wife or not, she will have the respect she deserves, or I swear I will...” “See my head on a pike at the gate come morning?” Galmar replied through clenched teeth. “Is she worth it, this amber-eyed wench of yours?” Ulfric's lips twitched in something that wasn't quite a smirk. “In the right hands, even a broken blade can still prove lethal—aye, my friend, she's more than worth it.” The housecarl snorted, then looked down. Just below his sternum, the jagged edge of his lord's shattered blade had sliced through both the tabbard and the leather armor beneath it to leave thin line that, having just barely drawn blood, smarted. “I'll not begrudge my oldest friend a bit of pleasure, fleeting though it may be—I still say you're making a mistake, saddling yourself with a headstrong, vinegar-tongued wife.” Ulfric slapped his friend on the back and roared with laughter. “Ysmir's beard! There's not a man in all Skyrim who can boast of a warmer bed than the one my lady shares with me. Hoist a mug, Old Wolf, and drink to love, and to long winter nights!”...
Stories of Canon X Reader or OC

Mature Content

Comics
Pressed All the Buttons, Now He Broke by The-Gnerdy-Goblin

Mature Content

Sneak -100 by BooBooTheF00l
annoying mages 2 by Zombilein
Being a steward is harder than an assassin by mabelfish
Images with Stories in the Description
General Art and OCs
The Questioneer by Foolish-Hearts
Pondering Cheese by Mr-Sage
Khajiit Arrives in Summerset by SouthpawLynx
Void Caller by SerpentisIctus
Canon Characters
Prince of Debauchery by shadowwolf133
Hermaeus Mora - Daedric Prince Series by Elainuar
Eveli Sharp-Arrow by harlequinalis
Peryite by Areggo
Art of Scenes
First Time Getting Depressed In 4000 Slutty Years by Mamma-Dragon
Fool's Gambit by Foolish-Hearts
Portal by KashiPup
I Know by The-Gnerdy-Goblin
Character sheets and info
Character Highlight: Jaren by The-Gnerdy-Goblin
Mature Content Art

Mature Content

Blessed are the Cheesemancers by Foolish-Hearts
Memes and Parodies
Weekly Challenge: OCs in Animal Crossing by The-Gnerdy-Goblin
AU, Modern, and Crossovers
Tressa, Kor, and Aphid (Modern-ish) by The-Gnerdy-Goblin
Screenshots
Claude plays violin by CinnamewRoll
Animations and GIFs
Made You Yawn! by Foolish-Hearts
Crafts, Cosplay, Props
The Creator Doll [From Indigo Children] by The-Flying-Vee
Pixels and Page Dolls
Of Faith and Fools [C 1/2] by Gosh-Heck
Sketches, WiPs, Unfinished art
Jeleen the Mace ( revised ) by The-Gnerdy-Goblin
Misc
Lifeline by Foolish-Hearts
Contest Entries- view sub folders

Recent Journal Entries

Thank you all for your patience with the results! The mass sketch prize took a LOT longer than I thought it would XD
And now on with the feature!
My choice was based on the prompt of making your OC into the main villain of an Elder Scrolls DLC! My decision was focused around how much detail, creativity, and visual impact was depicted. There were some REALLY good contenders who went above and beyond and it was really tough in the end, but one entry has just that little bit of extra to stand out.
Before I begin~ I HIGHLY recommend checking out the description sections of these!! There’s a lot of extra details added to many of the entries that truly make the mock-DLC believable and more exciting!
The winner is:
@Amphithere-Ascended with “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - '’Stonefall'’”
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - ''Stonefall''
The concept of this one has been one I’ve heard many TES fans wish for in future games! Not only is this entry beautifully rendered with a detailed background, but the “Aetherial Chitin armor Set” gives the antagonist a fitting “king-like” look as he’s leading the uprising. Based on the DLC teaser info in the description, this truly feels like it’ll be an incredible experience like no other TES games have touched on yet. (TBH, I’d totally choose the Falmer faction!)
(I will contact the winner about their prize via note)
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And now the showcase for the rest of the OC villains! LET’S BREAK SOME BAD!
(in no particular order: )
@Seaflame13 with "A Woman's Job"
A Woman's Job
Ooooo girl... I've never seen Siv so sassy~ from that wicked dress, to her "right and left-hand men", to those twisty horns!! Her influence and vendetta is clear from that look on her face! I freaking love that expression, holy Hermie! XD
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@shadowwolf133 with "Path of Lies"
Contest entree for Scribes-of-nirn-Path of lies
The ladies love those daedric princes (who doesn't??) Raven's got the hook up from Mephala! That whip is both beautiful and terrifying at the same time~ I freakin' want to unlock that weapon... that glow! :0
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@RainbowTheDragon with "The Demon in Sheep's Clothing"
The Demon in Sheeps clothing [CE]
D.R. is just evil enough that she doesn't even need a physical weapon to make her point! This "demon" will burn your ass up and claw your eyes out with those talons! I mean, yikes! I love her classic bat/crow wings for this part and the bird-like boots are really original! With that vicious smile, she's got plenty of ways to make you bleed! XD
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@EvilCharlotte with "Rise of the Snow Prince"
[Make Me Bad Entry] Rise Of The Snow Prince
Ahh this piece could double as a movie poster! The contrast and the composition are on points! I love freaking LOVE the concept behind this (please do read the description too!) It's a more gentle approach to the fan (and canon-scholar) theory of the Falmer becoming more "organized"~ but I'm a squish and I'd 100% take the route to reason with the Lost Snow Prince and side with them. But dear Niringur may need some sunscreen, even in Skyrim. And maybe a cute pair of Dwemer sunglasses. Let's make this a thing, people! Skyrim belongs to the Snow Elves!
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@PsychicDuelistRBD with "Despair"
Despair-Contest entry
How can one still be cute while covered in blood and holding a scary-ass (but wicked cool) whip-blade!? Another example of me being a squish~ vampires scare the crap outta me, but through the path of this DLC (via the description) I'd always choose to spare Dana, and not just cuz she's got a cute smile, but I think that fighting a boss battle with Sheogorath as a support would be AMAZING AF.
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@Backer269 with "Jewel in the Crown"
(Contest Entry) Jewel in the Crown
Okay, acid spells have got to be my favorite idea for a non-canon spell... YOWZA. TBH, I never thought Sachiko would make such a good villain but sacrificing your eyes to literally save your skin through a loophole of lich-dom... that's pretty badass!! The description of this DLC is hilarious and unbelievably honest with how TES games tend to work. I love how it sorta doubles as a strategy guide for "fed up" gamers to Google when they can't figure it out! XD
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@SouthpawLynx with "Absolute Knowledge, Absolute Power"
Absolute Knowledge, Absolute Power
AHHH!! It's my Hermie (ICYDK, he's my fav of all the Princes!) I am so jealous of Ko'Taahni! She not only has access to all of Hermaeus Mora's archives... but she's got an amazing fashion sense!! The contrast of her dress against the inky pools and dusty pages of Apocrypha is perfect! All eyes on her as she walks down the catwalk... >.> double pun for y'all.
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@BooBooTheF00l with "Infestissumam"
Infestissumam (Contest Entry)
Bwahaha~ a Dark Brotherhood origin baddie! Medora got her beauty rest and she's clearly got Mother issues... (dude, I love that you used your concept from the @Dawnstar-Sanctuary Mother's Day contest of our dear Matron, Lady Death!! AHH!) This ma'am just oozes evil~
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@XQuarantinedRogueX with "Stale Blood"
Stale Blood
At first glance, I thought Nighe had taken his role of Dragonborn a little too far! LOL But seriously, that dragon skull helm is sweet! The idea of a thu'um that is specific to his change to vampirism is a cool concept too! I wouldn't wanna come across him in a dark field under the bleed red moons!
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@Chilliechee with "Mal'Ruzaak- Winterhold"
Mal'Ruzaak - Winterhold
Heck yes!! This background is magnificent! The aurora and the glow from the staff and magic is so eye-catching (get it? Like the Eye of Magnus?... okay, that was a bit of a stretch, sorry lol) I love all of the little details on the trim of their robes and the length of the staff! Just the perspective on this piece alone is breathtaking!
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@SweetShiichan with "TESV: Tamriel Invasion"
TESV:Tamriel Invasion (Contest Entry)
Seeing the sweet and slightly-awkward Seven looking like she crawled out of the depth of Oblivion! This once heroic Dragonborn turned evil is legit terrifying! (As much as I loved her when she was younger... I think she deserved that scar on her eye!!) Oh, the attention to detail with the Dovah runes on her robe and the INCREDIBLE shading of the fabrics... Seven may have turned to the darker path, but I will probably have to follow cuz idk who's blood that is on her robe, but I don't want mine added to it!
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@Storm-Blix with "Bloody Beauty"
Bloody beauty
Yaaahhh this is absolutely brutal! Mardikas using his victims as a canvas for his bloody art makes the Butcher of Windhelm look like a mere deli clerk at Costco... (damn, my jokes suck today. I need a nap. lol) But tbh, psycho killer traits aside, he's quite talented!
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@TheSaturnianWildcat with "Dark Moon"
Dark Moon (Contest Entry)
OH YES. You got me with that glow!! The effect is amazing and I love how it reflects on the metal of the marks and armor. Zooming in, the details on the mask are beautiful and the textures on the outfit and moons are really well done! The concept spanning the Elder Scrolls timelines (passing through each game) up to the 4 era is really creative! ^^
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@Evil-is-Relative with "Dragon Break"
Dragon Break
Oh my Akatosh! The stained glass theme and the many points of detail are staggering! I'm a sucker for symbolism and this piece is pure eye candy! (and the level of effort you had to use without a working tablet is honorable!) Ysmir makes for an incredibly beautiful antagonist and the amount of lore within the mock-DLC is perfect! (please check it out in the description of the piece! It's rich with detail and feels like an actual progression of a TES game!)
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@siritasprite with "Maelstrom"
Maelstrom
Yee~ now here's a theme I'm partial to! Did someone say Dwemer?? I just adore Sunny's maniacal cackle and Dwemeri "add-ons"! She's already a very unique looking Argonian but now she REALLY stands out in the crowd- as she's leading her automaton army through them! BWAHAHAHA! It's not evil! It's SCIENCE!
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@CalinthaOfWattpad with "Faith, Ruler of the Deeps"
Fallen Faith (Contest Entry)
I save this entry for the end because this comes with a few "side" pieces! Ah, Faith's secret slice of solitude, deep below the cold and vile Skyrim. Don't let the bright and jesterly colors FOOL you (...was that a good one?) you can just tell she's out for revenge. Who's laughing now!? (Okay, I'll stop lol) Did I mention how cute that tiny mushroom on her throne is? Can I name it? ^^
Faith, Ruler of the Deeps
Deadly By Nature (Contest Entry)
(Don't forget to check out the descriptions on these pieces as well for more of Faith's evil AU story!) That "found material" dagger wonderfully matches her hair ornaments! It's not easy being beautiful AND deadly at the same time! I was referring to Faith being beautiful but Amicus can take that compliment too. He's a handsome apparition. I wouldn't mind him having my back! ...I get to hold the blade though. o.o
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And as always, I made an entry to join the fun~
@Foolish-Hearts with "Creator of Fate"
Creator of Fate
Wicked ol' Seb being his wicked ol' self. He justTHINKS he's scary. A stiff wind would knock him on his frail boney ass-... >.> *clears throat* All hail the Creator! <.<
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Thank you all for participating!! Here's the promised OC mass sketch! Please click the image to view the original description for credits and throw it a fav if you like it! I'm so sorry it took so long! I hope you enjoyed making your OCs bad and sharing your creativity with us~
Daedric Debauchery (Mass Contest Prize)
More Journal Entries

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Group Info

Welcome! This group is for OCs and all forms of Elder Scrolls headcanon! Be it fanart, fanfiction, short story, role play, AU, OC info, or even just funny stories of things that happened when you were adventuring in the games! Share your stories and fanart of your OCs and canon characters! The only rules are to please submit to the correct folders, and respect other's headcanons! If you don't like something, don't read it. This is a positive place for support and sharing of a wonderous fandom where all ideas, lore abiding or lore breaking, are accepted and appreciated! Have fun!
Super Group
Until Dec 31, 2021

Founded 2 Years ago
Feb 18, 2019

Location
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Group Focus
Common Interest

173 Members
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A place for scholars, scribes, and spinners!

Folder descriptions:
  • Featured- Featured art is chosen by admins only.
  • Featured First Chapters- Admins collection of first chapters to on-going or long stories
  • Multi-Chapter Stories- For stories that have multiple chapters or are on-going. Submit as many chapters as you'd like. Mature chapters are okay, but make sure they have a filter and/or a warning.
  • Short Stories and Snippets - If your story is only one submission or if it's just a part of a story it can go here. Poems, writing practice, anything that is just one part.
  • Canon X Reader or OC - Stories about shipping characters or the reader specifically. Romance/Love-making/hookup/sex is the MAIN theme. Mature content is accepted here, but please have a filter and/or content warning.
  • Comics - If your story is in comic form or you have some comic pages based on your story it goes here. Single comics are also accepted. Basically, if it has panels and it's not an obvious meme.
  • Images with Stories in the Description - If you have a drawing/image/screenshot and the chapter/story is in the description below it, put it here. Limit 2 per day.
  • General Art and OCs - Any art that isn't a scene
  • Canon Characters - Canon characters from the Elder Scrolls series ALONE. If an OC is depicted, you can put it in the General Art folder.
  • Art of Scenes -Illustrations of scenes from stories. Characters interacting or doing things.
  • Character sheets and Info - Anything describing your characters that is not in story form. Templates and stat sheets also.
  • Mature Content - ART that needs a filter. (Chapters with mature content can go in the corresponding story folder) Sex and gore are acceptable but within reason. No porn or snuff. Be tasteful.
  • Memes and Parodies - Internet/art memes and parodies.
  • AU, Modern, and Crossovers - Art of Elder Scrolls OCs and canon as they may look in AU (alternate universes), modern outfits, or crossovers with other fandoms etc
  • Screenshots - Screenshots of your OCs. No nudity. Limit 2 per day to discourage spamming.
  • Animations and GIFs - Anything that moves! Speedpaint videos included!
  • Crafts, Cosplay, Props - Physical 3D art that's not a traditional/digital drawing/screenshot (so papercraft would go here)
  • Pixels and Page Dolls - Pixel art (non-animated) and page dolls/decorations etc. I'm quite lenient on what goes here so whatever you personally deem as a page decoration works.
  • Sketches, WiPs, Unfinished art - Anything not fully rendered, be it in progress, practice, or just a sketch dump. Even unfinished art should be shared whether or not you ever complete it!
  • Misc - Don't know where to put it? Drop that puppy here! I can sort it out if there's enough stuff here that I can make more specific folders in the future.
  • Contest Folder - Where you submit your entries for active contests. Concluded contest art is in the subfolders.

  • If there's a specific thing that you like to do art or lit-wise that doesn't have a specific folder, let me know! I'm willing to accommodate if it's something that potentially has enough submissions to make it worth making a folder for!

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:iconfate-darknu-dragoon:
Fate-Darknu-Dragoon Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2021  Hobbyist General Artist
After five months of hiatus, I finally have the tenth chapter of the Champion of Devils finished. I will have posted here soon
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:iconfate-darknu-dragoon:
Fate-Darknu-Dragoon Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2020  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey Fellow Scribes, to those reading my book I will unfortunately be unable to work on posting the next few chapters as my computer decided to crap out on me. Its cooling pump failed and its replacement wont be in for around 10 days.
Sorry again, and as soon as it's in I'll get back to working on the rest of the chapters ^^
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:iconfate-darknu-dragoon:
Fate-Darknu-Dragoon Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2020  Hobbyist General Artist
Howdy fellow scribes, to those reading my book I may a little late on posting the next chapter. Its taking a little longer to go through it to update. I underestimated the amount of time I would need. Fret not though, as I'll get through as soon as I can!
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:icontheawesomezg:
TheAwesomeZG Featured By Owner Edited Aug 18, 2020  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hi! I'm new, and honestly intimidated by all the talent here. Hoping to make some new friends! <3

I'm working on a series of stories about Snow Elves, Dwarves, and the evolution of the people of Nirn (specifically Skyrim).
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:iconfate-darknu-dragoon:
Fate-Darknu-Dragoon Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2020  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey all, been a while since I've last posted. Wanted to let you all know that my first book will be temporarily taken down so I can reupload it. I've made many edits to it in light of working on its sequel. I hope you guys have liked it so far! :) 
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