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War of Sins Ch. 1 DreamlessThe Life of Fatalis Vilex Volume 2.War of Sins An Elder Scrolls StoryByChristopher J. NelsonWar of Sins Chapter 1 DreamlessLife is often a misestimated concept. In the lands of Tamriel, Life could be feeble and weak, or strong and resolute, even dark and twisted. Hardly ever is it a constant, though the same could be said for most things of the world of Nirn. Many years ago, a Champion of Molag Bal hid himself away from the world. A ravaged soul that walked a rugged path, one that had taken all that he had called his own. Sealed away within a cave deep inside the Jerall Mountains of Northern Cyrodiil since the Red Year, the being was known as Fatalis Vilex. A man very few have heard the tale of. Even gone in his dreams, in this finite solitude of his, troubles wreaked havoc on his mind. The world around him changed as time continued to flow, and even while hidden away, something loomed in the horizon. Something that would inevitably force the Champion of Molag Bal out of the Serpent's Trail, and back into the wake of the world. Fatalis Vilex opened his eyes slowly, blinking as he found himself lying in an open grassy field. He sat up, looking around himself. He looked to his hands, adorned by the gauntlets of his Daedric Armor. It was daytime it seemed, as light lightly reflected off his smooth shoulder pauldrons and chest plate with a dark black sheen. Though, despite the light, his blood red eyes held a fierce glow. It was clear as day, however as he looked up to the sky he found it was not the normal shade of blue one would find. He could see the vast stars of the galaxy, as well as the twin moons, Massar and Secunda, high in the sky. The sight had a surreal feel to it all, as cool winds blew across the field and around him. Slowly, Fatalis stood to his feet, looking around himself once more at the scenery. He was in Country Anvil, in Cyrodiil, near his childhood home. He thought to himself for a moment; “Am I Dreaming?” He looked across the field from himself, over a couple grassy knolls at his family's large Farmhouse. Flowers dotted the fields directly around the white building, and a lone Oak tree stood tall just beside it. His eyes were heavy on it all, as he went to take a step towards it. “Zephyr!” The voice of a young girl suddenly called out to him from behind. A familiar one, as Fatalis froze in place momentarily before spinning around to see his younger sister. He froze upon seeing her“Zailia??” Fatalis asked, his eyes widened, like he was looking at a ghost. Though despite his emotions, his voice came out calm, as well as a lot younger sounding.“Aren’t you going to come with me?” She asked her brother in a cheerful voice, despite him being covered in Daedric attire. Tears almost filled his eyes as he saw her smile.“Yeah, I.. Just thought it was getting close to dinner.” Fatalis responded to her.“Mom said it wouldn’t be ready for a little while, remember? Haha, did that nap of yours mess with your head a bit?” She asked him again with a laugh. “Come on, let's go!” She dashed off, heading across the field away from their home towards an Oakwood forest.“Hey, not so fast Zailia!” Fatalis called out as he ran after her.“Come on, Zephyr!” She called out again as she ran into the cover of the tree line.“Wait up!” He called back to her, running into the trees as well. “Zailia?” Fatalis called again as he couldn’t see her. He pushed branches and bushes out of his way. As he did, he realized he was no longer wearing his Daedric armor. Instead, he was wearing what he had on his eighteenth birthday. Black formal attire with white wrist skirts showing from his long sleeves. He pushed a final bit of bushes out of his way, finding a small open clearing. Zailia was standing in the center, looking towards the entrance to a pair of stone doors that seemingly led into the earth itself. An Ayleid ruin. “Zailia, you know better than to try and delve into one of those.” He said lightly as he walked up beside her.“I know, but they’re always so pretty inside.” Zailia said. “With those glowing crystals and wall paintings.”“Also dangerous, with all the different traps and skeletons.” He interjected, looking over at the door as well.“You’re always looking out for me...” Zailia said to her brother as she looked up to him.“Of course I do… I always will, Zailia.” Fatalis said lightly to her, though his eyes remained on the Ayleid ruin.“Do you mean that Zephyr?” Zailia asked him once more.“Yes, I mean tha-” He cut himself off as he looked to where Zailia was just standing, surprised to see no such sign of her. “Zailia?” Fatalis called out, looking all around himself. The once star-covered night suddenly turned dark, as black storm-like clouds rolled overhead.”She… She’s probably just back at home…” He spoke lightly to himself as the wind lightly started to pick up. He turned back, heading back through the woods. The wind only seemed to grow more, as snow began to also fall around him.“...You Know What's Coming, Don’t You?” A voice almost like a whisper rose up behind Fatalis as he flinched and spun around.“W-Whos There!?” He yelled, only to see nothing and no one around him. He blinked, as the voice sounded eerily familiar. He took a deep breath, finally turning back around and continuing home. The wind kept on around him, as gusts occasionally shoved him around as he broke free from the trees. His eyes fell on his home once again, though oddly enough, there seemed to be no source of light emitting from it. “D-did I miss dinner…?” He caught himself asking aloud.“...Something You Can’t Escape.” The whisper suddenly came up behind him again as he flinched and spun around again. It sounded closer, like whoever it was breathing down his own neck. He chose not to call out to it this time, as he quickly turned and ran off towards his home. The wind continued to howl as he ran, the open field quickly becoming covered in snow as the snowfall turned into a blizzard. As Fatalis reached the farm house, he quickly opened the door and stepped in. Shutting the door behind him. Just as it shut closed, the winds outside seemingly ceased completely, as he could no longer hear the howling noise. The interior of the house however, was cold and dark. He breathed lightly, just barely able to see his own breath in the low light. He looked around at the living space as he stood in front of the door still. “Zailia…?” He called out lightly, finally walking forward. The air around him seemed to grow colder, though oddly enough, he found it strange that he could feel the cold for some reason. As he proceeded through the living space, his eyes fell onto a hallway. At the far end of it was the door to his Mother and Father’s room. He stopped just before the entrance of the hall, his eyes locked on their door. Something felt off to him, though despite the eerie quiet feeling, he proceeded towards the door. He slowly reached forward, grabbing onto an ice cold door knob and turning it as he was able to open the door. Pushing it open he stepped through the door, finding an empty pitch black room. “Mother? Father?” Fatalis tried calling out again, looking back towards the entrance of the room. “Anyone?”“...This Will Haunt You Forever.” Fatalis froze as the source of the whispers was suddenly standing before him in the hallway. A shadowy figure, like that of Daedric armor, with a pair of seething red eyes peering back at him.“W-What…?” Fatalis asked aloud, his voice no longer sounding young anymore.“You Cannot Hide What You Have Become!” The shadowy figure shouted at him.“Leave Me Alone!” He shouted back at it, watching as its form suddenly faded out of sight. Fatalis blinked, staring at where it stood for a moment after.“Where were you, Zephyr?” Fatalis felt a cold shiver run up his spine, as he heard Zailia’s question right behind him. He slowly turned around, seeing her standing in the center of the room. Despite no light within, Fatalis could see her clear as day.“Zailia… Where did you-”“Why didn’t you come back, Zephyr?” She cut him off from finishing. He nearly choked on his words from the sudden question, as if his heart had just stopped.“W-what… Did you just ask?” Fatalis asked lightly.“Why Didn’t You Come Back!?” She snapped at him, causing him to flinch as she took a step towards him. “You said you’d be by my side forever, didn’t you!?”“W-wait, Zailia-”“You weren’t there when I needed you, Zephyr!” Zailia shouted at him, her harsh voice echoing through the house. Fatalis flinched back from her again, landing on the ground.“I Died, Because You Never Came Back!” Her voice turned sharp, as if cutting deep with his own heart and soul. The echoes suddenly met with the house itself lighting up in flames, with Zailia being the epicenter. Fatalis stood back to his feet quickly, as all around him was swirling fire. Dancing around as it consumed the building entirely. Fatalis looked to his hands, suddenly finding himself back in his Daedric armor.“No…” He spoke, as his blood red eyes shifted back to where Zailia was, only to find a pile of ash and bones that were once his sister and parents. “N-No..!” His fists clenched as he tried to shut his eyes, but seemingly couldn’t.“...You Will Never Escape This Fate!” The dreadful whisper returned, as the shadowy figure took form in front of him once again. Fatalis’ eyes locked onto it immediately, his pupils turning sharp like knives.“NOOOOO!” He roared out as his eyes finally shut tight. The Shadowy figure grinned a wicked smile, before disappearing once again. Fatalis then fell to his knees as his home burned around him, until it suddenly began to crumble. But instead of falling inward, pieces of the building were being ripped away, as the winds from outside began ripping pieces from it. Fatalis opened his eyes again, watching his home tear itself apart in the wind, leaving himself exposed in a barren grass field. “Hahahahaha!” A sinister laugh came from behind him, one of a familiar tone. Fatalis flinched, a shiver running up his spine as he stood and turned to face whoever it was. Syndrig, his brother, smiling deviously as he held a twisted version of their old family sword. “Too little too late, as always.” Syndrig spoke in a twisted tone. A sudden gust of rage overtook Fatalis as he found himself rushing towards his brother.RAAAAAHG!” Fatalis roared as he slammed his shoulder into Syndrig, before drawing out his sword, The Rel, and swinging it at Syndrig’s chest. The older brother blocked the attack easily however, shoving Fatalis away before moving to thrust his sword through his younger brother. Fatalis swung back with his sword, the blade striking Syndrig’s sword from his hand, before he then thrust his sword through his brother's heart. “Hahahahaha! You've gotten real good at doing that, haven’t you?” Syndrigs body suddenly began to fade away, leaving Fatalis standing alone in the howling winds. “Killing Those Around You.” Fatalis’ eyes were wide with anger and confusion, staring ahead of him at nothing. His fists clenched tighter on the hilt of his sword, before his eyes looked down towards it. The ground suddenly shook however, as he stumbled to his knees. The ground beneath him cracked, shattering apart before completely giving away from under him. “AHHHHG!” Fatalis yelled out, falling into the earth as the world around him turned dark.The Fall was suddenly halted, as he came to an abrupt landing on a hard stone surface. “Errrgh!” Fatalis grunted, hitting the ground with a hard thud. He looked around himself, noting his was in a large and nearly perfect square shaped stone chamber. The white stone that surrounded him in the same fashion as Ayleid ruins. He looked up, noting the chamber he stood in had no ceiling, but he could still see nothing. All there was a dark abyss above him. He found it odd how well lit the room was without no light, or ceiling even. Even with no light, he could as if he held a torch with him. Directly across the chamber from himself was a wooden door, barred shut with a heavy wooden beam resting over it. It appeared the only way out of the chamber, as the other walls were only solid stone. Fatalis sighed slightly, looking around himself once more to see his sword on the ground near him. He picked it up, holding it firmly in his hand as he finally stood up from the ground. He glanced over toward the door on the other side again, but as he went to take a step towards it, he was forced to stop immediately as a ten foot tall beast came crashing down from above. Fatalis stepped back as dust pillowed up, staring at whatever was now standing upright before him. As the dust settled, a Minotuar stood tall with a greatsword held easily in one hand. Strangely however, the beast was void of color. A living silhouette. The beast grunted and snorted at Fatalis as it took a step forward at him before suddenly swinging its greatsword across at Fatalis’ head. He had little time to react as he only barely avoided the blade grazing his helmet. As he fell to his knees, Fatalis rolled to the side and away from the Minotaur, before then quickly rising back to his feet. Swinging his sword at the Minotaur’s side. The blade cut into the beast, as bright red blood splattered out against the white stone floor and walls. The beast let out a loud roar, swiping its left fist against fatalis’ head, sending the Vampire Lord flying back into the stone walls. Fatalis coughed, quickly ducking to the side just as the Minotaur swung its greatsword down upon him. Fatalis rose to his feet again, slashing his sword down as he spun around as The Rel cut into the beast’s left shoulder. The blade sticking into the Minotaur as its arm, hung by mere threads of sinew. It bellowed out in a loud cry. The sheer force of its voice caused the stone chamber to shake as its blood flowed out onto the white stone floor. Fatalis yanked his sword free, watching the Minotaur slump to the ground in its pooling blood. He studied the blood however, watching as it oddly began to seep into the seams between the stone of the floor. He squinted, as a faint light began to glow through the seams. It began to grow brighter, as the chamber he was in began to shake again. Fatalis turned, quickly rushing towards the wooden down he saw. Just before he could reach the door however, it swung open in front of him as a loud roar echoed all around. Fatalis was sent flying back by the force, landing in the chambers center as the white stone walls erupted outward from around him. Revealing a new Hellish landscape. Black scorched land surrounded by lakes and rivers of Magma. Tall and jagged spires rose up high around the dotting lands, along with equally fierce crags of lava covered mountains. The Deadlands of Oblivion. Fatalis slowly stood up from the ground, still holding his sword firm in hand. Suddenly however, all around from the fiery lakes rose up numerous Daedric creatures. Clannfears, Spiders, Dremoras, Imps and Daedroths. All like the Minotaur from before however, they were all walking silhouettes. Fatalis’ left hand sparked up with electricity, holding ready a powerful lightning spell as one single silhouette stood out from the rest. The Shadowy figure from before, rising up from the magma as its form matched that of Fatalis’. The shadows of the figure began to fade however, fully revealing the being. Fatalis flinched, as it looked almost identical to him, except it’s “armor” was fused to its body. Making the creature hold a Demonic physique. Where the mouthpiece of its “helmet” would be, was cracked and split, like a jagged maw. His Vampiric Lord form, personified before him. Fatalis held a firm glare towards the beast, but he didn’t know why. Why was something similar to himself always appearing?“What Do You Want From Me!?” Fatalis demanded it. The beast however, simply grinned a bone chilling jagged smile as it went to take a step towards him. As it rose its foot from the lava and touched solid ground however, the Daedric monstrosities around it all bellowed together in unison before charging forward at their prey. Fatalis looked all around himself as the Daedric beasts closed in on him. The pupils of his eyes narrowed to slits as he leapt up into the air from the ground, landing on the head of a Clannfear as it went to swipe its claws at him. He swung his sword down across its neck, severing its head as he leapt off from it in a single motion before landing on the ground with a roll. He quickly stood back to his feet, only to be face to face with a towering Daedroth. The reptilian monster swung its heavy clawed hand at him. Slamming the Vampire Lord across his helmet as he was flung back into the rest of the flock of beasts. They all hissed and roared, clawing at him as they attempted to tear him apart. “Errgh!” Fatalis grunted as he tried to pull himself free from the horde, but to no avail as he was suddenly pinned to the ground by a Spider Daedra. “Get Off Of Me!” He roared out, extending his hand up to the sky. A bolt of lightning cracked through the air, striking his palm as a shockwave of lightning erupted out from around him. Blasting the silhouettes away from him. Fatalis stood back to his feet, turning back to see the Demonic Vampire that resembled himself charging towards him. He charged a lightning spell in his left hand, casting an intense sphere of lightning at the being. The Sphere crashed into its face as it let out a similar roar to his own, allowing for Fatalis to rush in. As the Daedric beast began to regain its footing, Fatalis thrusted his sword through its chest, piercing its heart. To Fatalis surprise however, the beast remained still. Its demonic eyes staring directly into his own as it gave a crooked smile. The other creatures of Oblivion all suddenly faded away. Fatalis tried to yank his sword free, but the blade wouldn't budge. The Demonic being suddenly began to laugh, as the ground beneath them both began to shake violently. “What!?” Fatalis exclaimed. The Demonic being suddenly faded away, releasing his sword as Fatalis lost his balance and stumbled to the ground. The oceans of magma that surrounded him then hardened into solid rock before cracking and tearing apart. From the crevices formed rose mountains covered in snow and trees. The sky as well was then quickly covered in dense storm clouds as winds picked up. Snow fell hard from the sky, forming a thick blizzard that came out of nowhere. As the shaking finally ceased, Fatalis looked around himself, finding that he now stood atop of mountain peak. Towering pine trees surrounded him, reminiscent of the peaks of the Volus Mountains. He slowly stood up to his feet, looking at the ground that was covered in snow up to his knees. The wind blew his cape behind him fiercely, almost knocking him back off his feet. Through the dense snowfall, Fatalis saw an approaching silhouette, one in the shape of a Wolf. His eyes widened as he stared at it approaching him. “Amaruq?!” He called out to it, before walking towards it himself. He froze, as the silhouette suddenly took on a different shape. Forming into a Frost Troll. Fatalis flinched back as the silhouette roared loudly and rushed forward at him. He turned and dove to try and avoid the beast, but was struck in his right shoulder as the Frost Troll swung a heavy fist at him. Fatalis flew back and struck a tree trunk, before falling into the snow. The Troll grunted, as it went to slowly approach him. “Errnh…” Fatalis grunted as well, forcing himself to his feet, only to have to dive out of the way as Troll swung both its arms down onto him. It struck the ground hard as snow flew out from around the silhouette. Fatalis growled, sheathing his sword as he quickly stood back up from the ground. The Troll turned to face the Vampire as he faced the Troll with rage filled, blazing red eyes. “Enough!” Fatalis roared out as he charged two powerful flame spells in his hands. He threw them forward at the Troll, casting twin blue fireballs at the beast. They flew through the air quickly, slamming into the troll as it was violently blasted apart. Snow was flown all around the blast, but as it settled, so did the blizzard. Fatalis breathed in heavily, still staring at where the Frost Troll was. His attention finally broke away from it, as he suddenly heard the howl of a Wolf. He spun around instantly, taking notice the blizzard was finally gone. He stood still, listening as he heard the howl again in the distance from where he was facing. His eyes widened, as he rushed in its direction. “Amaruq!” He called out as he ran through the snow and past the towering trees. As he did, the snow cover lightened, until there was none covering the earthy terrain. Grass covered the soil, along with thick bushes and smaller trees. Pushing past them, Fatalis came to a slow stop as he found himself standing by the edge of a large cliff face. His eyes held a grim stare as he looked out at what looked like the landscape of Morrowind. The sky above it all, was red however, despite the lands looking what could be considered normal. At the center of it all stood the Red Mountain, the towering volcano that was the region's centerpiece. Smoke rose up from its maw, filling the sky with blackened ash. Fatalis looked down from the cliff, looking for an easier way down.“Do You Remember All That Happened Here?” Fatalis flinched, a chill ran up his spine as he heard a voice speak from just behind himself. He turned, his eyes turning hateful, as standing before him was Siri Fernlake. The Bosmer Vigilant of Stendarr. “Tell me… How many of your friends have to die before you learn how much of a monster you really are?” She asked in a snake-like voice. “Silence!” Fatalis yelled at her as he went to draw out his Sword. He was stopped just short however, as Siri charged and cast a Sunfire spell directly into his chest. The blast sent him flying off from the cliff as he fell to earth far below. Fatalis hit the ground with a heavy thud, knocking dust into the air as he dropped his sword to his side. His eyes shut tight as he coughed, trying to regain his breath. As his eyes opened however, the ground began to shake again. He sat up, taking hold of his sword again as the earth beneath cracked open. From the crevice rose up a tall stone made tower. Fatalis sat still in its center as it rose up from the ground. As it came to a stop, he stood up again, walking up to the twerk edge he found he was staring out towards the Inner sea that divided Morrowind from its center island of Vvardenfell. Just on the shoreline was the city of Vivec.“We’re with you, Fatalis.” Two voices spoke simultaneously from behind him. He turned around, seeing his old friends, Sheek-Sea and Tarathyr. They both held their weapons ready as they walked up to either side of him.“Together, we can take on anything.” Sheek-Sea said lightly. Fatalis looked at her, smiling under his helmet, but as he turned to look at Tarathyr, all the Dark Elf held was a grim look as he stared off towards the city of Vivec. Fatalis turned to look towards it all as well, looking up towards the sky as a massive meteor was falling towards it. He turned back to his friends, flinching back as he saw they were no longer there. Instead, someone else stood before him. A man named Merik.“Hello, Fatalis.” He spoke fiendishly, holding a blood covered sword in hand. Fatalis didn’t even speak, only rushing forward as he swung The Rel at the Imperials head. Merik simply brought his sword up, blocking the attack as their blades held together. “So predictable…” Merik managed to speak, before his voice was quickly followed by the sound of the meteor crashing into the city of Vivec. Fatalis turned back to look towards the blast, only to see Tarathyr and Sheek-Sea standing between him and the view of the destruction. In Sheek-Sea’s gut however, was a dagger, while tarathyr was bloodied and bruised all over.“No…” Fatalis spoke lightly, as the shockwave of the blast was quickly approaching. “You killed us, Fatalis…” Sheek-Sea said in a light tone.“We followed you, and this is what it brought us.” Tarathyr then spoke as well.“No!” Fatalis shouted, as Merik grabbed a hold of him from behind.“Watch your actions unfold!” Just as Merik finished speaking, the shockwave hit the tower, sending them all flying into the Inner sea below. As Fatalis hit the water, he felt its cold waves envelope around him. His eyes were still wide open, staring up at the darkening sky as he continued to sink. A short while, as the sky blackened from his view completely, his back hit the seafloor. Just as he did however, the water around seemed to begin evaporating. Fatalis looked all around him as he saw what looked to be buildings submerged with him. The water continued to fade and evaporate, until the sky was visible again, though now it was fiery red. Ash fell from it all around him, caking the ground except a perfect circle around where he was lying. He sat up, and directly in his view was the Red Mountain. Black smoke pillowed from its volcanic maw, as an ominous red glow emitted from the mouth as well. Slowly, Fatalis stood back up, turning around from the sight only to freeze in place. In front of him now, were the bodies of Sheek-Sea and Tarathyr. They lied on their back, with their eyes staring directly at him.“And here is where you failed us again.” Tarathyr spoke alone. Though before he could even move, two more figures walked into view from behind the bodies of his friends. He knew who they were immediately, as he drew out The Rel to face them; Siri Fernlake and Merik Rularus.“Y-You…” Fatalis spoke lightly, shakenly through ragged and angered breaths.“Yes, Us.” Siri said back as she and Merik both took out their own weapons.“You… BASTARDS!” Fatalis roared at the both of them as he shot forward from his spot, swinging The Rel wildly at both of their necks. The two ducked down and avoided the attack, both maneuvering in similar ways around him as Siri then swung her Silver Sword at Fatalis’ back. “URRGH!” He grunted loudly as he stumbled forward.“You Surely can do better than that.” Siri then said to him as she readied herself for another attack. The pupils of Fatalis eyes sharpened like daggers at the remark as he turned back towards them, just as Siri lunged at him with her sword directly at his gut. Fatalis’ glare was locked onto her, though he remained still. A hint of madness formed in his expression as he let Siri run him through with her sword, the silver edges of the blade piercing through him completely. “Urk-!” Fatalis grunted, as he could feel the bitter sting of the wound. As Siri went to yank her sword back however, Fatalis grabbed hold of the blade itself with his left hand. Siri looked up at him in surprise and horror as he already had The Rel raised up high. He then swung it down with rage, the blade cutting through her torso like a hot knife on butter. Her eyes widened with fear as she let go of her sword, the top half of her body begging to slide apart from the rest. Fatalis grinned deviously, as he kicked her body away right after, watching the upper and lower half of her body land in different positions. He eyed the body for a while, breathing deep breaths as he clenched the hilt of his sword. A clap was suddenly heard however, as Fatalis flinched from the sound. He slowly turned, glaring back at Merik.“Your brother was right.” He simply said. Fatalis’ eyes widened slightly at it. “You really are a killer.” “Hrrrngh!” Fatalis growled as he then grabbed hold of the silver sword still embedded in him. He then yanked it from his stomach, bearing through the pain as he pointed the bloodied blade towards Merik. “Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself!” Fatalis hissed at him in a cold tone. “Hah… Oh, I’m sure I will,” Merik spoke back in a mocking tone, “But not here.” He finished, before simply pointing his sword up towards the Red Mountain. The ground began to shake violently as he did. Fatalis stumbled forward, trying to keep his footing as he looked up towards the volcano. Black smoke pillowed out it as magma began to seep from its maw, before suddenly erupting in a violent explosion. Sending a mass of molten ash and rock hurling towards them. Merik lowered his sword back to his side with a smirk, looking at Fatalis. “See you around, Vampire…” He said lightly. Fatalis growled, moving to lunge at him just as the clouds enveloped them both. The force of the winds sent Fatalis flying back against a solid rocky surface. He brought his left hand up to his face, shielding himself from the hot air. As the winds began to settle, Merik was no longer around. The sky and air around himself was like a burnt orange color, as if fires burned all around him. Slowly, he stood back up from the ground, covered in ash head to toe. He looked around, noticing the scenery had changed once again. Instead of the rocky foothills just beneath the Red Mountain, he was now standing in the center of some ruined village. Wooden huts all caught ablaze as smoke filled the sky around him.“...Hello!?” Fatalis called out as he continued to look. He froze suddenly, as the sound of a Wolf's howl was heard almost just behind himself. He turned, seeing his Dire Wolf companion standing still before him. “Amaruq!” He found himself yelling. As he went to take a step forward however, he noticed a faint red glow approaching through the thick ashy air behind her. As it came more into view, he saw a grotesque humanoid figure. Like a man whose skin was melted off and replaced with a crusted ash shell. An Ash Spawn. The being hissed, as it went to raise up a spear of sorts to strike Amaruq. “NO!” Fatalis roared as he rushed forward, striking the creature with his sword as it crumbled apart to dust. He stood over it, looking at the pile of ash for a moment before looking back at Amaruq. His eyes widened with fear however, as he saw she was no longer there. Frantically, he looked around for her, only to see more faint red glows of Ash Spawn approaching him. He held his sword ready, as they came into view. He held still for a moment though, as one of the figures resembled his Demonic Vampire Lord form. “...You Again.” Fatalis spoke lightly. The ashy demonic being grinned, as he pointed a clawed finger towards him. Before Fatalis could speak again, the rest of the Ash Spawn all rushed in towards him. With either makeshift spears or clubs, they surrounded him. Fatalis growled low, before rushing towards the closest one, swinging The Rel against its head, watching as the rest of the body fell apart. He then swung at another, striking it down as more closed in. One drew close behind him, striking his back with a molten club. “Urgh!” Fatalis grunted, stumbling forward as another came up and swung a club down at his head. Fatalis fell to the ground from the blow, as more piled together to strike and beat him with their weapons.“Submit…” The Demonic being spoke, standing clear from the group as he watched them all.“Never!” Fatalis Roared, his eyes burning bright red as both his hands were suddenly engulfed in sparks of lightning. He dropped his sword, cupping his hands together before casting a powerful Lightning Sphere at the ground. The orb erupted instantly, blasting him and the Ash Spawn all away from each other. The ashy being exploded apart, as Fatalis hit the ground on his back. “Urngh…” He grunted, sitting up from the ground. His eyes locked onto the ashy Demonic figure, as it held his sword.“... Better not lose this.” It said in a devious tone. “It’s almost over.” It finished, tossing his sword to the ground towards him. Fatalis grabbed hold of it, standing to his feet to face the Demon, only to watch it fade away as a thick cloud of ash began to cover the area. Subduing even the lights of the burning wooden huts until there was only darkness. Fatalis turned and looked all around himself. Seeing nothing for a time, until his eyes caught a faint dim light ahead of him. Like that of a small campfire. He breathed in deeply, sheathing The Rel as he began walking towards it. As he drew closer to the light, the darkness began to fade. Revealing a dense pine forest. Shrubs and flowers covered the ground, while tall looming trees shielded him from what looked like a sunny sky. He eyed the change of scenery, keeping his approach to the small light. As he drew closer, he could hear someone else tending to a campfire. He rested his hand on the pommel of his sword as he stepped into the clearing. He froze, sitting on the ground by the fire, was Narri Sarveao. She turned her head and looked up at him, holding a gentle warm smile on her lips.“Hey there, Fatalis.” She said in a friendly tone. He remained still, his eyes wide with surprise as he took in her features. Her violet-red eyes, and deep ebony black hair. Her soft gray-toned skin and purple colored lips. Like she had never left, never been taken from him.“N-Narri…” Fatalis said shakenly.“Come sit, you look like you’ve been through a lot again.” She said, patting the ground next to her. He nodded, walking up beside her as he sat down next to her. She smiled at him, leaning against him as her right shoulder rested against him. “You were gone all night, where’d you go? She asked. He looked at her, confused.“What do you mean?” He asked.“Well, we still have to look for your friend, right? We lost a lot of time with you absconding after that sound you heard.” He kept his eyes on her.“... Maybe I can tell you about it later.” He said solemnly in response. “... I just want to be with you for now.” Her smile suddenly faded.“... Too bad this can’t be forever.” She said, looking up at him. He looked back at her as their eyes locked. “We both know what's to come…”“I know… But, perhaps we could just take this moment.” He looked back at the fire. She looked at him for a moment still, before sighing and looking back at the fire. “... I’m sorry, Narri.” Fatalis said lightly. Narri looked back up at him again.“Hmm?” She questioned.“I’m sorry… That I couldn’t protect you.” Fatalis said again, his eyes shutting tightly. A sorrowful expression formed on Narri’s face. Gently, she brought her hand up to his helmet, turning his head to face her. His eyes opened slowly once again.“... You did everything you could, and you know that.” She said to him, “You know… There's nothing about the times I spent with you that I would change, even the end… Cause I was with you, and you were with me until the end.” Slowly, she lifted his helmet off from him, looking into his eyes as she did. “You were the best thing to ever happen to me, Zephyr.” Fatalis flinched, a single tear drop falling from his left eye. She smiled at him, gently brushing it away. “I loved you… I still do, even if I’m no longer here.”“...D-Don’t go…” He said shakenly,“I’m sorry, Fatalis…” She said, as her warm smile faded. She leaned forward, gently kissing his lips. “I have to go now… Your adventure continues on.” She continued, gently caressing his cheek. “Please… Just promise me, you won’t lose yourself in it all…” His eyes were locked onto hers. “Promise me, Fatalis…” He blinked for a moment, unable to bring the words out of his mouth. Narri smiled at him once more, gently placing her hand upon his cheek. “It's okay Fatalis… I know you’ll try for me. That's all that matt-URK!” Fatalis flinched as NArri was cut off from finishing her sentence. The two looked down to her stomach, to find an Ebony blade piercing through her.“N-No…” Fatalis muttered before looking back at her. His gaze widened however, as standing behind her was his brother Syndrig.“Hello Brother.” He spoke in a devilish tone as he yanked his sword free from Narri’s body.“AHH!” She yelled out, falling over to her side, leaving Fatalis with a clear view of his brother.“Thought you saw the last of me?” He spoke to him again, clearing his sword of blood. Fatalis shot up from his seat, his eyes burning red more vivid than blood.“RAAH! You Bastard!” He roared out at Syndrig, drawing out The Rel as he then charged at him. Syndrig snickered, bringing up his sword as he blocked a vicious swing from his Vampiric brother. Fatalis held his weapon against his, an expression that could only be described as pure hatred showing. “WHY!?” He demanded, shoving Syndrig off from him as he swung hard to his left. Syndrig simply stepped back from the attack.“You think you deserve any happiness?” He asked Fatalis in return, readying a spell in hand as he cast a constant arc of lightning at him. “Remember It Was You That Took Our Fathers Trust From Me!” Syndrig yelled. Fatalis held up his left hand, casting his Ward spell as the red aura shield blocked the lightning. “You just HAD to be the perfect son for our father. You and that Runt that you called our sister.”“You Brought That On Yourself!” Dispelling the ward spell, Fatalis spun to the right and out of the way of the Lightning, before casting a Fireball directly at Syndrig's chest. The orb of flame connected, blasting him away. “Your Own Selfish Desires Are What Drove That Wedge Between You And Us!” Fatalis continued, charging another spell as he threw a powerful Lightning Sphere at him. “I Only Wish I Saw It All Coming Sooner.” Syndrig held up his hand and cast his own ward spell, blocking the exploding orb of lightning. Fatalis growled, though as he went to charge again, a piercing pain suddenly coursed through him from his back. “ARGH!” Looking down, he saw another Ebony blade sticking through his abdomen. “As if you would have been able to stop him back then.” Merik spoke as he held his blade firm through Fatalis. “Every step you took up to this point, has just been one failure after another.” He continued before kicking Fatalis from his sword. Fatalis hit the ground hard, dropping his sword. “One agonizing defeat after another.” Syndrig spoke as he walked up beside Merik. The two eyed the Vampire Lord, a grin formed on both of their lips. “And what do you do after finally winning?” Syndrig asked, before then casting a constant arc of lightning upon Fatalis again. “You Run And Hide!”“ARRRGH!” Fatalis roared out, the electrocution keeping him from being able to move.“You thought your dreams would be safe for you?” Merik then asked, before joining Syndrig with an electric attack. “How pitiful can you get? You can’t even protect your lover here, what makes you think you would do any better staying alive?” Fatalis eyes shot open from the remark. Burning brighter the lightning coursing on and around him. Clenching his fists, he charged two fire spells in either hand. The flames of his palms burned so hot that they adapted the color blue.“N-Neither O-Of You A-Are Even A-Alive To Speak About It!” He then cast the spells into the ground he lied upon. The ensuing blast erupted violently, blasting them all away from one another. Fatalis flew up from it, striking his back into a tree before cascading back onto the ground right beside Narri. His body singed, as smoke rose up from him. “Erngh..” He grunted, trying to roll over onto his back.“N-Neat trick, brother.” Syndrig spoke up, his voice sounding distant slightly.“So self-destructive.” Merik chimed in as well as the two forced themselves up from the ground. Fatalis remained on his back however. His head turned slightly to his right, looking at NArri. Her eyes were open, cold and lifeless as they stared back at him. He tore his gaze away from her, tears welling in his eyes as he shut them tightly.“Tsk, tsk tsk…” Syndrig continued, walking up to Fatalis He stopped however, as his foot hot something metal. He looked down, seeing Fatalis’ sword. “What have we here?” He knelt down, taking up the Daedric blade before looking at his brother again. “You know, you really ought to take better care of what belongs to you.” He continued, walking up beside Fatalis. His eyes were still shut tight. Merik slowly came up beside him as well. “Aside from kill, I’d have to say you’re best at losing. Wouldn't you agree, Zephyr?” Syndrig grinned, before taking the sword and moving to jab it through his brother's chest. Fatalis’ eyes opened again, as he caught the blade just before it made contact with his chest. Both Syndrig and Merik flinched.“At least I’m still alive.” Fatalis spoke. His armor suddenly changed, fusing with his body as he took on his demonic Vampire form. Slowly, he rose up from the ground, his cape splitting apart to form his tattered wings to keep him afloat. He then yanked his sword free from Syndrig's grip. “From Now On, You Two Are Just Figments That Haunt Me” The maw of his helmet then split apart, forming his jagged maw as he lunged at them both. Syndrig flinched back, grabbed Merik by his arm and forced him into Fatalis’ way.“What-NO!” Merik screamed just as Fatalis jaw clamped onto his head. His skull cracking like an egg being crushed in someone's palm. Fatalis yanked back, tearing Merik’s head clean from his shoulders before spitting it out to the ground. His eyes locked onto Syndrig, who was still backing away. “And I Will Make Sure That The Likes Of You Will Never Be Safe In The Lands Of The Living!” Fatalis proclaimed as he used his wings to propel him forward into his brother. Slamming his body into his as he grabbed him by his throat. He flew up with him, high above the trees as his grip was held firm around his neck. Fatalis extended his arm then, holding his brother away from him as his body dangled. “Goodbye, Syndrig.” He then let go.“AHHHG!” Syndrig screamed as he fell from his grip. As he did however, Fatalis charged down toward him again, flying fast down to the earth as the two slammed into it with enough force to form a crater. As the dust settled, Fatalis stared down at Syndrig's broken body. The expression of hatred still strong in his eyes as he extended his left hand towards him again. A powerful blue flame charged in his palm, as he then gast a gout of intense fire upon him. Burning Syndrigs body until there was nothing left but charred bone. He then dispersed his spell attack, remaining standing in place as his body soon returned to normal. Finally alone again, he shut his eyes to think.“Fatalis…” A weakened voice came up from behind him. His eyes opened instantly, as he turned to see Narri, limply sitting with her back against a tree.“Narri!” He almost yelled as he ran back to her. She looked up at him, gently placing her hand on his chest as he knelt down beside her.“P-Please… Promise me.” She struggled to speak, between her words. “Pr-promise me, you won’t… Lose y-yourself…” She managed to speak, before her eyes went cold again. Her head slowly fell back against the tree.“... I promise, Narri.” Fatalis spoke, but to no response as silence fell upon him again. The scenery around began to change, fading away until all that remained was Darkness. His eyes were locked onto her, until even her visages faded from sight. As he sat alone in silence, he heard the sound of approaching footsteps from behind.“How Pitiful.” The voice of the demonic being spoke into his ear. Fatalis didn’t move however, as he remained facing where he last saw Narri. The figure suddenly formed in front of him, standing just a bit ahead of him. Now back to looking identical to his Vampiric Lord form again. “You can’t win.” Fatalis finally looked up at the demon.“What even are you..?” He questioned it, finally standing up onto his feet.“I’m You.” It replied, its darkened tone holding a similar sound to his own voice.“Whatever it is you want… You can’t have it.” Fatalis said abc to it.“Hmph… You Can’t Hold Out From Me Forever.” The Demon spoke harshly to him. “This Last Light You Cling To, Will Fade Like All The Rest.” The demon finished, before fading away entirely once again. Leaving Fatalis to himself. He breathed in heavily, kneeling down to the ground. A sudden wave of exhaustion hit him, as he then lied onto his back. His eyes became heavy, shutting closed, as he fell into his own slumber.---------- Dusk, the first hours of night rolled in as the sun was descending down past the western horizon. Long shadows cast overhead upon Cyrodiil, as a cold breeze began to fill the twilight colored sky. In the Northern reaches of the Imperial province however, it was already covered in darkened shadows. Dark clouds loomed overhead as snow fell lightly onto the grounds below. It was the fifteenth of Frostfall, the tenth month of the year, and the Northern city of Bruma was set to receive its first major snowfall of the year. A light, misty haze surrounded the city and its walls, extending from the thick clouds that covered the Jerall Mountains just north of it. People of the city were making their way back home for the night using the many dirt of rock made roads. All except for one individual. A familiar figure, riding on the back of a snow white horse, was making their way further into the Jerall Mountains. A Khajiit male, wearing thick black leather gear with a large hood that covered their head and face. They had been riding for some time, by the way they carried themselves as they had their horse follow the main road to the mountains, until coming to a stop at a fork in the road. An adventurer of sorts, but one with experience, as on their hips were an Ebony Dagger and a Glass Mace. They turned their head slightly, looking down the off shooting trail that led further into the mountains. With a light flick of the horse's reins, the Khajiit proceeded along the trail. As they rode, he took out a small map from a chest pouch on their gear. Although the light of the sky faded more towards night, the lack of it didn’t seem to matter to him. The snowfall however, was making it hard to read, as the winds began to pick up. The Khajiit in response, lifted up their left hand, igniting a small flame spell for light as their horse continued on. The horse came to a slow stop, as the two found themselves before a Natural made landmark; a large rock formation known as Dragonclaw rock. The Khajiit looked up at it, before back at his map again for a moment. After a short pause, he put the map back in his chest pouch, before turning his horse towards the North-west. He flicked the reins again, pressing further into the mountains. The wind and snow only progressed in intensity, forming into a Blizzard. The Khajiit seemed unbothered by the cold however, as they pressed on into a canyon. Near the end of it, was an entrance to a cave; the very reason the Khajiit had come all this way. Serpent’s Trail Cave. The Khajiit looked at it for a short moment, before taking out a small folded piece of paper from his satchel. A letter of orders. He opened it, reading its instructions;-You are to find the powerful being of which you have told us prior. Our order would do greatly to have such a powerful asset at our disposal. Do not let the knowledge of this being pass onto others. Secrecy of this operation is imperative. You and this being will be granted amnesty and freedom, upon your completion… M.S. Aldmeri Dominion-The Khajiit folded the note and put it back in his satchel before dismounted his horse as they arrived at the entrance. Taking hold of the horse’s reins, he led the way in and into a small open chamber just past the mouth of the cave. The Khajiit let out a long winded sigh, before proceeding in making a small fire. Making a pile of wood that he had carried with him on his horse, he set it ablaze with an ember spell from his left hand. “There… That should keep you warm.” The Khajiit spoke in a raspy voice, standing back up as he placed a hand gently on the horse's snout. “Now then…” He turned, looking towards where the cave led further into the mountain itself as he lifted his hands and removed his hood. A pair of fiery orange eyes glowed in the low light, contrasted by cloudy gray-blue fur, with a black patch of fur around his left eye. Ji’Karr Jarnmin, an old companion to a being long since gone from the rest of the world, and who he assumed was hidden away in the very caves he now stood in. “Let's see where this one hid themselves away.” He spoke lightly, before moving forward into the dark tunnels of the cave. Ji’Karr proceeded slowly through the dark halls. Despite the low light, he could see around himself almost clear as day. Ji’Karr was a Vampire, a trait given to him by the being he was currently searching for. As he proceeded along the corridor he was in, just ahead of him he could take a sharp turn to his left. He stopped just before the corner however, as he could hear the clattering sound of living skeletons walking about. He crept low, peering past the corner to see that there were only two of them wandering the corridor. Ji’Karr grinned, as skeletons were very easy targets. He stood up, lifting his hands as he readied ice spells within his palms. He cast the spells, releasing two icy spears at the skeletons. The two skeletons turned upon hearing the spells being cast, only to both be shattered apart as the spears hit directly into their rib cages. Ji’Karr grinned, standing back upright as the two easy targets were dealt with. Ji’Karr had been alive now for nearly one hundred and seventy years, thanks to his vampirism. Turned into a Vampire during the Red Year, Ji’Karr has utilized the time at his disposal to become an experienced assassin and mage. He has had little to fear, thanks to powers granted to him by the one he was searching for. He continued down the corridor, making a left turn down another corner. Down from him were a few more Skeletons, nothing he couldn;t handle as he took out his Glass Mace. Ji’Karr krept towards the closest one to him. Just as the Skeleton went to turn around, Ji’Karr swung his Glass mace down onto its skull. The skull shattered instantly as the rest of the skeleton fell apart. The clambering of its bones alerted the other two within the corridor. As they turned to face the Khajiit intruder, they hissed, both holding rusted swords. Ji’Karr took his Ebony dagger, throwing it with great precision as the blade struck the closest one’s neck. The Ebony dagger broke through the bones, leaving the Skeleton headless for a moment before it too fell apart. The last was already moving towards Ji’Karr as it swung its rusted sword at the Khajiit vampire. Ji’Karr grinned as he simply swung his Glass mace into the sword, deflecting the Skeletons attack before he swung again into it’s rib cage. The bones cracked inward, breaking the third skeleton apart in the process. “...Not a very secure location to hide in, if all you have is Skeletons roaming it.” Ji’Karr spoke to himself as he placed his Glass mace back in its holster. Walking past the skeletal remains, he grabbed his Ebony Dagger and sheathed it as he continued through the corridor. He stopped shortly after as he came up to another sharp left corner. Peering around it, he could see it was a much wider rocky hall. Tall enough for even a Minotaur to stand in. Though what caught his attention was what looked like what was once an entrance to another chamber. Caved in and blocked by rubble. Standing just in front of it however, was a Frost Atronoch. Towering frozen golems that stood ten feet tall. They had no discernible facial features, and both arms were akin to heavy weapons; one a large spear, and the other a thick club. “Hm… Suppose this one spoke too soon.” Ji’Karr whispered to himself with a light sigh. He figured that the caved-in entrance was the spot he was looking for, as the one he once knew was fond of Frost Atronochs. Quietly, he took out his mace, stepping around the corner and into view of the icy brute. He then whistled, grabbing the Atronochs attention as it turned to face him. Almost instantly it turned aggressive, as the Atronoch slammed its club-like arm onto the ground and charged at him. Ji’Karr flinched, jumping back as the Atronoch swung its club arm down at him, barely missing as it struck the stone ground with a heavy thud. Ji’Karr quickly readied a flame spell in his left hand, casting a stream of fire from his palm at the Atronoch’s arm, melting it away. The Atronoch lifted its arm up, confused to see its arm missing. Enraged, it went to thrust its spear arm at Ji’Karr. He quickly side-stepped out of its way, taking his Glass Mace and swinging it hard against the Icy brute's “head”. Small chunks of ice flew about as its head cracked. The Atronoch stumbled back, lowering its Spear arm momentarily to regain its balance. Ji’Karr grinned as he then rushed the Atronoch. Using its spear arm as a ramp, he ran up and swung his mace against its head once more, cracking it further as the beast fell onto its back from the blow. Ji’Karr landed back onto the ground with a roll, standing back up in front of the caved-in chamber. He turned, watching the Atronoch struggle to stand back up. “Ah, no need to keep fighting.” He spoke, readying another fire spell in his hand. “Why don’t you go back to whence you came.” He finished, casting a fireball directly at the Atronochs back just as it managed to sit upright. The fiery orb exploded against it violently, shattering the atronoch apart. The pieces scattered about in the corridor, before fading away from the Mortal plane and back to Oblivion. Ji’Karr exhaled a deep breath, placing his mace back on his hip as he turned to look at the caved-in entrance. “Even went so far as to seal yourself away… Hmph. This really didn’t want to be found again.” He sighed heavily, beginning to move the rocks and rubble away from the entrance. “Couldn’t he just make a tomb in an Ayleid ruin?..” Ji’Karr groaned. “He always talked about how much he liked them.” He continued, tossing a heart rock to the side as he kept digging. As Ji’Karr continued his task, he thought back to the last moments spent with whom he was searching for. That battle within Fort Linchal. Watching the bandits they hunted together, eviscerated one by one after they took that which was most precious to him. It all felt like it was ages ago. Then those last words he spoke… “If life is as cruel as it has been… Perhaps our paths will cross again in our future.” Ji’Karr couldn’t help but grunt to himself upon remembering it all.“All that trouble… All that sacrifice…” He spoke aloud, lifting heavy boulders and rocks away. “Just to go hide again…” He continued, grabbing one more heavy rock and lifting it up. As he did, the rocks that lined the top of the pile suddenly began to give way. Ji’Karr dropped the one he held, stepping back to avoid being buried himself as the chamber was revealed. “Finally” He spoke, waving his hand in front of his face to clear a cloud of dust. Only a small hole was open, large enough for man even in heavy armor to crawl on through. Ji’Karr looked up at the hole atop the rocks, almost hesitant to climb through. As if unsure what to expect. He waited, listening, almost wanting to hear something come forth from it, but nothing did. He breathed in heavily, before finally climbing up the pile of rocks and through the small opening. Once through, he noticed the ceiling of the chamber was higher than that of the corridor he once was in. Able to stand even on the pile of rocks blocking the entrance. He stood up, balancing on a few larger rocks as looked at the chamber. In its circular walls were nearly a dozen coffins. Resting nooks carved into the rock walls, all except for one. The missing one in question, oddly rested in the center of the chamber itself. Bones littered the ground around it. Ji’Karr eyed it, stepping down carefully from the pile of rubble before standing next to it. The lid was covered in dust, turning it gray like the chamber it rested in. Ji’Karr brushed the dust off from the center of the lid, revealing a few Daedric letters. Perplexed, he dusted the rest of the lid off, revealing both a name and the symbol of Molag Bal. Daedric Lord of Domination, Father of Vampires, and enslavement of Mortals. Above the symbol was the name written in Daedric. “Fatalis Vilex…” Ji’Karr spoke the name aloud, kneeling down beside the coffin. “Found you at last.” He continued, taking out his Ebony dagger to use it to pry open the coffin lid. The Lid cracked open, and a short flow of stale air rushed out from the coffin. Ji’Karr then pushed the lid off, looking inside. Dust flew up from inside and out of the coffin as he did, though as it settled, his eyes widened. Lying quiet and motionless within the coffin, was Fatalis Vilex, Vampire Lord and Champion to Molag Bal. Adorned in his Daedric armor. Despite the dust that covered his body, his dark armor still held its blackened sheen, thought oddly enough the red glow that emitted from his chest plate and gauntlets were dim. Ji’Karr was less than surprised to see that even his helmet was still worn upon his head. Around his neck though, was the charred Silver Dragon amulet, given to him by his sister so long ago, and resting upon his chest was dark sword. The Rel, Daedric artifact made from his Family sword, gifted to him by his Master after first defeating his brother. Ji’Karr looked at the sword, a hint of desire resting upon his eyes. Slowly, he extended his hand down, reaching for the sword hilt. Gently wrapping his clawed fingers around it. He grinned lightly, moving to lift it from its spot. A pair of blazing red eyes shot open from within the dust Daedric helmet, glaring instantly into the Khajiit’s own. Ji’Karr looked back into them, a sea of red with no pupils. “Fatalis, Wai-!” Ji’Karr went to speak, but was cut off as the Daedric armored Vampire rose up in a flash, gripping his armored clawed hand around Ji’Karr’s neck. “URK-” Ji’Karr choked as the Vampire Lord then forced the Khajiit vampire back against the stone walls of the chamber. The glow of his armor returned, glowing a fierce and fiery red.“You Won’t Win Anything From Me!” The Vampire Lord roared out, his grip tightening around Ji’Karr’s neck in a blind rage. His voice seemed to shake the very atmosphere around them. “F-Fatalis!” Ji’Karr yelled, struggling between breaths. “It-It’s Me! Your Friend!” He continued, pushing on the Vampire Lords chest to try and get him off. A low growl came from the Vampire Lord, as the mouthpiece of his helmet split open to form a jagged fanged maw. “Fatalis! It’s Me! Ji’Karr!” The Khajiit yelled once more. Only then, did the pupils of the Vampire Lord's eyes become visible, as if the blinding rage subsided.“...Ji’Karr?” Fatalis Vilex questioned, releasing his grip on his friend. Ji’Karr fell to the ground, holding his hands to his neck as he coughed and gasped for his breath. Fatalis stepped back, bringing his hands up to his eyes, as if his vision was beginning to clear.“W-woke this one up at a bad time?” Ji’Karr chuckled, before coughing again as he rubbed his throat. “W-What… How did..?” He looked around himself, as if not recognizing where he was. He blinked, his eyes gaining focus before he looked down at old friend. “H-How long has it been?” Ji’Karr looked up at him after his question, grunting as he got back up to his feet. “How long have I been out for?”“Lets just say for now, it's been a very long time my friend.” Ji’Karr answered, lightly dusting himself off. “Do you remember anything before you went out?” Fatalis looked at him, then to the ground. His eyes narrowed as he tried to collect his thoughts. The time before his slumber. The battle with his brother, the search for his Dire Wolf, Amaruq. The loss of his loved one, Narri Sarveao.“...” Fatalis froze, his eyes widened as he thought of her. He could remember the words she gave him in his dream, as if they were clear as day.“Don’t lose yourself…” Fatalis’s eyes held a bitter look to them. He turned, looking for his sword. Finding it on the ground beside his coffin, he lifted it up, fastening it back onto left hip before turning and facing Ji’Karr.“...Why did you wake me?” Fatalis questioned him.“This one can explain everything later.” Ji’Karr answered rather quickly. “For now, we should focus on-“Why Did You Wake Me?” Fatalis asked him once more, cutting Ji’Karr off from finishing his sentence. His blood red glare pierced into Ji’Karr’s eyes as well. The Khajiit vampire was silent for a moment.“... This one was commanded to do so by Molag Bal.” He answered finally.“Why?” Fatalis questioned once more, as the answer only seemed to aggravate him further. Ji’Karr put his hands up in front of himself.“Something big is coming…” He answered quickly, however. “That is all this one was told.”“How long was I out for?” Fatalis crossed his arms over his chest, wanting his answers.“...This one believes it has been nearly one-hundred and fifty-nine years.” Ji’Karr answered as he looked back at the entrance to the chamber. “It is currently the one-hundred and sixty-nineth year of the Fourth Era.” Ji’Karr continued. Fatalis blinked, turning away as he shut his eyes to think. One-hundred and fifty-nine years? An absurd amount of time to be out for, but…“... It would be better if I remained sealed away.” Fatalis stated, before looking up at the unsealed entrance to his chamber.“Perhaps…” Ji’Karr said, stepping up beside him. “It seems however, this world isn’t finished with you yet.”“I suppose it cannot be helped, if it is what my Lord desires…” Fatalis said lightly in response. Ji’Karr’s expression changed at his remark. The Vampire lord shook his head, stepping forward to exit the chamber first. “What was it we were to focus on first, Ji’Karr?” He asked as he crawled out of the chamber, waiting for his companion.“This one thinks we should get to my hide-away.” Ji’Karr answered as he followed suit in exiting the chamber.“The one north of Bravil?” Fatalis asked as Ji’Karr got out of the chamber and stood next to him in the corridor.“In all the years that have passed,you think this one would have stuck to just one location?” Ji’Karr asked in a joking sort of manner. “This one has many locations to use. One that is also not too far from here. To the South-East, in Country Cheydinhal but still within the Jerall Mountains.” Ji’Karr continued to explain as the two began to make their way through the corridors to the exit. “Do you know of the Ayleid ruins of Sedor?”“I know of them…” Fatalis answered as they came into the entrance chamber of the Serpent’s Trail caves. Still lit from Ji’Karr’s campfire. “I was near its location when I entered an Oblivion Gate… Back when I only had to hunt those Mythic Dawn cultists.'' He finished, looking at Ji’Karr’s horse. He then turned to look back at Ji’Karr. “I see you have yourself a ride to get there. Where's mine?”“Ah… This one forgot to get you one.” Ji’Karr responded with a heavy sigh.“No matter.” Fatalis said lightly as he then walked out of the caves. “I’d prefer to hunt on my own feet for now anyway.” As he stepped outside, the winds of the blizzard were still blowing strong, his cape billowed behind him. The snowfall however, seemed to have subsided. The lands were still shrouded in the dark of night. He breathed in, taking his first breath of fresh air in nearly two centuries. Ji’Karr came outside behind him with his horse, mountain onto it. Fatalis glanced back at him. “I suppose I owe you a thank you for waking me, if it was Molag Bal’s wish…” He said lightly, before looking forward again. “I will split off from here, however.” Ji’Karr looked over at him.“This one thinks we should get to Sedor Fir-”“I will meet you there, Ji’Karr.” Fatalis cut him off once again, a subtle tone of annoyance held in his voice. “I require a hunt first. Don’t wait for me.” Fatalis finished, walking away from Ji’Karr without so much of a glance back. Ji’Karr stared at him as he left, he was indeed a different person now. A slight smirk formed one his face, however, as he then rode his horse east into the mountains. Fatalis stood atop a rocky outcrop, after traversing south from the Serpent’s Trail caves. The outcrop gave him a fair view of Country Bruma, along with its now quiet city to his west. It all seemed peaceful in the dead of night. The winds had finally died down to a slight breeze. Fatalis’ black cape flowed gently behind him. His blazing red eyes pierced the low light, searching for any other signs of life wandering the snow covered valleys of the Country. Though, he didn’t seem to notice any, aside from a few city guards patrolling the outside around the city’s towering walls. He rested his hand on the pommel of his sword, staring at few in particular, though he knew not to let his hunger get the best of him here. He turned his attention further south, towards the imperial city. The White-Gold Tower, standing tall and proud under the light of the twin moons Massar and Secunda. The sight was calming. Fatalis closed his eyes for a moment, wondering what sort of changes have taken place within the Imperial province as a whole since his absence. He opened his eyes again, looking back into the closer scenery around him. Just south of him upon his rocky outcrop, he noticed the makings of a statue. Slightly hidden by surrounding trees, only the top of it was visible. The Daedric Shrine of Namira. One of many shrines dedicated to the numerous Daedric Lords that dotted Cyrodiil’s Landscape. Something about the statue seemed odd though, like certain pieces of it were missing or broken. Fatalis looked down from his rocky outcrop. A good fifty feet drop was between him and the ground below. His cape suddenly hardened, splitting apart at its center as it then formed into a pair of tattered black wings. Fatalis jumped forward, extending his wings out as he floated down to the ground. The snow covering the ground was up to his knees almost, making moving slightly difficult. He sighed, flapping his wings once to lift himself up into the air as he hovered over the ground above the snow. Looking over towards where he saw the shrine, he floated on towards it down the hillrise. Once arriving, he stopped in front of it, landing back on the ground again as the snow coverage on the ground was less thanks to the trees. He looked up at the shrine, taking notice of how damaged it was. Desecrated, as a majority of the depictions of Namira were missing. Its arms and head were gone, and it looked as if no one had hardly even visited the shrine in ages. No doubt he thought that it was due to those who took profession in eradicating Daedra, and rooting out their worshippers. The Vigilants of Stendarr. “Hmph…” Fatalis grunted lightly under his breath. “Even after almost two centuries, that organization is still present.” He spoke aloud to himself. He turned away, facing south again. Wondering if perhaps even the Shrine to his Master had been found and desecrated. He proceeded on away from the shrine, his wings changing back into his cape as he walked on South-Eastward. Continuing on his little hunt, his self made path eventually led him into the Heartlands of Cyrodiil. A lush forested region of Cyrodiil just north of the Provinces center, cradling the Imperial City. Abundantly green, and covered mostly by forests and grassy knolls. Snow was still abundant however, due to the cold seasons of Frostfall, as the large and numerous pine trees were covered . Luckily however, the grounds underneath and between them were mostly shielded. Gray clouds loomed overhead once again, beginning to cover the light given by the twin moons as snow began to lightly fall once more. It helped dampen noises around the area, making the night dark and quiet. The red glow from both his eyes and armo reflected lightly from the snow, giving the area a slight blood red hue. Despite the darkness, Fatalis’ eyes could see perfectly. He kept his calm pace through the darkness of the forest the was in, listening carefully to his surroundings as he constantly looked around himself. Fatalis came to a stop however, as he caught sight of a stone-made wall. He stepped around a few more trees, coming into view of a large ancient stone structure. An old fortress, known as Fort Horunn. Too bad, Fatalis thought, if only he had time to explore these ruins. He turned to his right to proceed on, but stopped dead in his tracks. As from the entrance into the circular tower of the Fort emitted the glow of a campfire. Fatalis kept up to the entryway, peering into what was the Fortress courtyard. Sitting around the fire were four individuals. They were each wearing heavy fur and leather armor, all armed with a steel sword on each of their hips.“Did you see that Caravanner's face?” One of the men asked their comrades.“Oh no, don’t hurt us! Haha!” Another chimed in. “Probably our easiest take ever.”“Yeah, that man's wife was also a lot of fun to toy with after we did him in.” The third stated as he took a large drink from a mug of ale. Fatalis’ eyes suddenly burned with rage. They were Bandits. It seemed that even after his many years of slumber, his hatred for them hadn’t died out a bit. He almost couldn;t contain his anger, as he felt his armor wanting to fuse with him, as if his nightmarish form begged to be released. He stepped away from the entry way and into the shrouds of the trees, as he could not contain his hatred. His armor fused with him as his body began to change. Growing to nine feet tall as his armored claws hardened and sharpened. The mouthpiece of his helmet split apart, forming a black jagged-fanged mouth. A return to his Vampiric Lord form after over a century and a half. He looked at his sharpened claws. An invigorating feel came to him as he then looked back at the entryway of the fort. He heard the bandits continue to converse amongst themselves, readying a Detect Life spell in his hand, allowing himself to see the aura’s of their lifeforce through even the stone walls of the fort. One of the four bandits stood up and turned towards the entryway.“Hey, I’m gonna go take a leak.” The man spoke. Fatalis could faintly hear as he waited, already forming a plan of action in his mind. He held back in the shadows, watching the bandit step further and further away from the entryway. The bandit let out an exasperated sigh, standing beside a tree as he relieved himself. A footstep was heard behind him as he flinched from the sudden sound. “What-?” The bandit went to speak as he turned, freezing in place as he was met with a nightmarish image of towering Daedric monstrosity. The bandit went to scream, but was cut short as Fatalis swung his clawed hard across the bandit's neck, tearing his head off completely. Their head hit the ground with a thud, leaving the body standing for a brief moment. Fatalis caught the body before could fall back, opening his jaws as he bit down onto where the head once was, drinking the blood that proceeded to gush out. He felt a rush of energy flow within him as he consumed it. Like he could fight an entire legion alone.“You guys hear something?” One of the other bandits spoke. The man stood up, drawing his sword as he walked to the entryway. “Hey! I thought we talked about you not scaring us-” The bandit stopped as his foot hit something. Looking down, he saw the head of his former comrade staring up at him. “What in Oblivion!?” The man almost jumped, looking up to see a Daedric Vampire consuming the blood from his headless companion. Fatalis’ eyes caught sight of him. Releasing his jaws from the bandits body and dropping it. The bandit turned pale, turning to run back to the campfire. As he did however, Fatalis lunged forward, tackling the man to ground just before the campfire. “AHH! Get It Off-URK!” The bandit yelled out as Fatalis then dug his claws into his back, gripping their spine and shattering it before tearing his claws free. His eyes then glared at the remaining two, both too stunned to comprehend what they just saw. “ROOOOARRR!” Fatalis bellowed at them both.“AHHHHG!” They both screamed, scrambling to try and get to their feet and draw their weapons. Not quick enough as Fatalis rushed the one to his right, slashing his claws across the man's face. His lower jaw tore away, hanging by threads of flesh. The bandit coughed and gurgled blood, bringing his hands up to his face. Fatalis growled as then grabbed onto the top of the man's head and squeezed, crushing their skull with a grotesque sound of a melon exploding. Fatalis then turned to face the last bandit, only to be met by the man taking their steel sword and plunging through his gut. Fatalis flinched light from the pain, but remained standing. “...heheh. Hahahahaha!” Fatalis laughed in a devilish tone. The bandit looked up at him, letting go of his sword as he flinched back. Fatalis continued to laugh, as suddenly his body seemed to break apart, taking the form of hundreds of bats as they scattered away, the sword soon falling to the ground.“Fuck This!” The bandit yelled as he turned and fled. The bats flew back together, forming back into his monstrous image. Fatalis couldn’t help but grin, as his eyes opened to see the man running for his life. He extended out his wings, leaping up into the air as they propelled him after the bandit. He flew past the man, landing on the ground in front of him with a heavy thud.“Going Somewhere?” Fatalis spoke harshly.“AHHG! No!” The bandit screamed again as he attempted to turn and run the other way. Fatalis growled and lunged, grabbing onto the man by the back of his neck. Yanking him back to him, Fatalis lifted the man up above him, squeezing their neck, watching as the man desperately tried gasping for air. He grinned, as he then twisted his hand, snapping the bandits neck. Their body went limp in his grip as he lowered them back down. Bloodlust still held on to him, as Fatalis then clamped his jaws around the man's neck, consuming their blood until none was left. He dropped the corpse, feeling a refreshment of energy again. He looked about the carnage he created, a sense of pride, eviscerating these vermin. His armor soon began to change back to his normal form. He looked at his hands, stained with blood. As if he had missed doing this. He gave a final glance to the other two bandits he hadn’t consumed blood from. His hunger still presumed it seemed, as went to devour blood from their bodies as well. The sun had begun to dawn as he finished his consumption. The gray clouds that loomed overhead breaking apart to reveal the early morning skies. Fatalis stood with the shade of a tall pine, wishing night would have remained for a while longer. He would have liked to get to Sedor faster, and wondered if he could do so by using his cloud of bats form. Too late now, as he didn’t feel like withstanding the bitter sting of the sun's rays. He grunted under his breath. One thing he didn’t miss about his vampirism. He thought to himself for a short time. Ji’Karr would be at Sedor by now, waiting for him, he figured. His hunger satiated, Fatalis proceeded east, as he would have to proceed further through the Heartlands in order to find whichever trail leading back up into the Jerall Mountains. A longer path around, he would be well into Country Cheydinhal by the time he would find his way up to the Ayleid ruins. This didn’t bother him much however, as Fatalis knew the lay of the lands well enough from his past experiences. He kept to the shade provided by the trees as he continued his journey back to his companion. He had many questions for Ji’Karr. He knew many things must have changed while he was gone from the world. All his thoughts would be answered in due time, he figured. For now he kept his thoughts on the short road ahead of him to the Ayleid ruins of Sedor. Fatalis Vilex had returned, brought back to the world of Tamriel by his old companion Ji’Karr. Already having carved his name back into the world in some way, it was clear his path would be different than those taken long before. A dark presence seemed to loom within his mind, tormenting him all throughout his slumber, as it even seemed to play a mental tug-of-war with him. This new path would inevitably lead to new trials, ones that would test Fatalis’ own consciousness to its limits.
Windward: Chapter 1Looking up from the parchment he held crumpled in his hand, the Jarl of Eastmarch snarled. Only a fool would dare interrupt him while he conferred with his steward and housecarl, and only a fool would fail to show him his due deference. The woman who stood just inside the door to his hall was surely either a fool, or possessed of courage enough to come into his presence without first being summoned. “Well?” Ulfric Stormcloak demanded in a tone that made the very walls shake. “Do I know you? Speak your piece, madam, or get you gone; I have no time for idle banter.” She sighed as though disappointed. “I have heard it said that he who wishes to be obeyed must first know how to command, and I must say I expected more from you than simple sound and fury.” A hoarse bark of laughter burst from the housecarl's lips. “Hold your tongue, girl! Don't you know you stand before the High King? Ulfric, by your leave, I'll see the wench thrown back into the street where she belongs.” “By all means, remove me!” the woman retorted. “But I doubt you are so certain of your position that you can afford to turn away even a single ally.” The Jarl's brows lowered in a ferocious scowl. Though he couldn't quite place it, the rising and falling inflection to the woman's speech seemed familiar. An old acquaintance, perhaps, or a former flame come to chide him for forgetfulness? The question forming on his lips was swept away in the icy gale that howled through the open door to herald the arrival of a small detachment of the city guard, and the young Redguard lass who had so recently come to Windhelm to cast her lot with the uprising. To his surprise, the girl hurried forward with a cry of delight and seized the stranger in a sisterly embrace. “You came!” Maya exclaimed. “And not a moment too soon—by the Nine, it's good to see you. After all these weeks without word from you, I thought sure my letter must have gone astray.” “The messenger did have quite a time catching up with me,” the other woman admitted. “Your missive mentioned murder, and so here I am, though it's not clear to me how I can be of help.” Irritated at being ignored, the Jarl startled the two friends into silence with a roar. “Enough! Explain yourself, Dovahkiin!” Maya bobbed a half bow in the direction of the dais and said sheepishly, “Aah! In my excitement, I quite forgot myself. You may recall, my Jarl, that I spoke of visiting Ivarstead some months ago, and of the disturbances in the old barrow there?” “I do.” “I also made spoke of a friend without whose assistance proved vital to uncovering the truth. This”—she put her hand on her companion's arm—“is that friend, Sobek ver Arianrhod.” The other woman threw back the hood of her cloak and, briefly, she met the Jarl's gaze. Not so very long ago, he realized, he'd seen those same dark amber eyes glaring back at him through the smoke in a ruined village near the border between Falkreath and Whiterun Holds. Now, as then, he thought, I say it's not right for a person to have eyes like that. Still, now that I see more of her, she's comely enough to turn any man's fancy. Mara's mercy, one kiss from those lips.... Pull yourself together, man. “You were at Helgen,” he said at last, framing it not as a question, but as a statement of fact that she dismissed with a shrug. “As were many others.” “And now you see why I took the liberty of asking her to come,” Maya interjected. “Surely another pair of eyes can't hurt?” “You speak of your hunt for the Butcher, then?” Ulfric replied. “Is there still no progress, Jorleif?” The Jarl's steward coughed nervously. “In truth, my Jarl, between the war and the disquiet in the Gray Quarter, the guards are stretched too thin to be able to conduct as thorough an investigation as one might like, about which Viola Giordano has been very vocal of late. I suppose we could enlist some of the Dunmer, or even a few Argonians, but I fear doing so could worsen an already difficult situation.” “Then it appears we have little choice,” the Jarl muttered. “Very well, Dovahkiin. I entrust the task to you and your friend—you have some objection, Old Wolf?” “Only that there are other matters requiring your immediate attention,” the housecarl growled. “A message to the Jarl of Whiterun being chief among them, and the question of whether the Dragonborn has managed the task I set her. Well, girl? Your presence here had better mean you were successful at Serpentstone Island.” Rummaging in the pouch at her belt, Maya cast an apologetic glance in her friend's direction before she held out a handful of glistening shards. “I've slain the ice wraith, sir. Here! I bring you its teeth as proof of my claim.” “Surely there are other ways to measure a warrior's worth,” Sobek remarked. “Or do mean to prevent the enlistment of those who are not of Nord descent?” “It was a fair test,” the housecarl said indignantly, “of skill and resolve, and one all new recruits must undertake. Had she exhibited neither, the Dragonborn would have shown herself unworthy of a place among us. Redguard she may be, but by her victory she has proven herself as true a daughter of Skyrim as Queen Freydis herself!” “Calm yourself, Galmar,” Ulfric murmured. “You would do better to vent your spleen against the enemy, and I see none such here.” He fixed Maya with a piercing gaze and added, “What I ask now, I do not ask lightly, Dovahkiin; those who wear my colors risk danger and death in the name of Skyrim's freedom. Will you swear fealty to me in furtherance of that goal?” “My decision was made for me at Helgen, my lord,” the Dragonborn declared. “I'm ready!” On the dais, the Jarl rose from his throne to tower over them, and again the hall was filled with the deep resonance of his voice. “Stand forth, Maya Izradi, and let your words be the echo of the battle cry we hold in our hearts.” From the great hall, he led them to a small antechamber overlooking the courtyard where a handful of guards wearing the Jarl's livery honed their weapons and sparred with straw training dummies. In one corner of the room, an unmade bed suggested someone had spent many sleepless nights spent poring over the maps and books strewn over every available surface. Beneath it, the bulbous shape of a lute lurked, long neglected and covered with dust; to Sobek's amusement, a mouse peered out of the sound hole. Approaching unnoticed, the Jarl murmured over her shoulder, “The Dovahkiin honors us all with her oath.” “Which adds no weight to your claim to the throne,” she replied sweetly. “Is your impertinence habitual, my lady, or do you merely seek to annoy me?” “I say only what we both know to be true.” “Perhaps,” he agreed. “And do you share the belief that Skyrim is better off under Imperial rule?” “I disagree with certain of their policies,” Sobek answered, “but neither do I have any sympathy for the Thalmor and their ilk.” A faint smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “I think you mean to include me in that statement.” “I know only what I've heard during my travels, my lord, and it's said that rain, not thunder, makes flowers grow.” His eyes met hers briefly, appraising. “Some flowers are best plucked 'ere they bloom.” Sobek's lips formed a moue of disgust. “Such thorny blossoms are best left to flourish as they will.” “Perhaps,” the Jarl repeated, “though no great deed has ever been accomplished without danger.” A disapproving cough from his housecarl forestalled any further discourse, and at his nod, Maya said proudly, “All hail the Stormcloaks, the true sons and daughters of Skyrim!” “Indeed,” Galmar muttered. “Well, you're one of us now, girl, though you hardly look the part. I wouldn't get too comfortable, if I were you, or forget the important task still ahead”--he frowned at his lord, whose eyebrows rose. “As you say,” Maya agreed. “And the sooner, the better. By your leave, my Jarl?” Though he inclined his head in acknowledgment, Ulfric's gaze lingered on her companion. “I wish you good hunting, Dovahkiin.” It was but a short walk from the palace to the inn by the city gate, and as they went, Maya regaled her friend with tales of Windhelm's history as the oldest Nord city in the whole of Skyrim. Built on a narrow finger of rock jutting out into the estuary where the White River emptied into the Sea of Ghosts, Windhelm served as one of the province's three ports of call for ships plying the trade routes along Tamriel's north coast. Along the river, docks berthed fishing boats and larger vessels carrying cargo and passengers to and from the nearby islands of Solstheim and Bleak Rock, while to the north, the once fashionable Snow Quarter was home to many Dunmer refugees, of whom some Nords had a low opinion indeed. “This,” Maya said sourly, “is the unrest the Jarl's steward meant. Hardly a day goes by without some incident, and it isn't just the Dunmer who bear the brunt of it, but the Argonians, too.” “Isn't he doing anything about it?” Sobek wanted to know. “Not as much as he could be,” her friend admitted. “When I first arrived in Windhelm, Galmar Stone-Fist's brother and one of his associates had one poor woman cornered, and were accusing her of being an Imperial spy. Utter nonsense, of course, but I shudder to think what might have happened if I hadn't come along!” As she led the way through the marketplace, Maya pointed out the smithy and the alchemist's shop; several of the merchants greeted her by name, to which she responded with a cheery wave rather than try to shout over the din of the milling throng of farmers, laborers, and other city folk who went about their business as though unaware of the danger lurking in their midst. After she stopped to have a word with the blacksmith and his apprentice, she linked arms with her companion and the pair hurried on with their shoulders hunched against the whistling wind. “I suppose it's too much to hope for,” Sobek muttered between chattering teeth, “but is there an inn in this snow-cursed place? I could do with a hot bath to thaw out the bits of me that went numb while you were busy chatting with the smith. The locals do bathe, don't they?” Maya laughed at her friend's plaint. “You're a snob! Didn't you pass Candlehearth Hall on your way to the palace? It isn't far, and if Elda Early-Dawn can't find the key to the bath, there's a bath house near the palace.” It was snowing in earnest by the time the pair reached the inn, and they were grateful indeed when the innkeeper offered a hearty salutation and informed them that, not only was there fresh bread just out of the oven, but there were a couple of rooms recently made vacant by the departure of a pair of travelers who were off to whatever adventures awaited them up at Yngol Barrow. “Talos keep them,” Elda clucked as she led her guests to their rooms. “I can't imagine what they hope to find among all those old bones! Ah, well. Once you're settled, the common room is up the stairs; I'll send Susanna along—oh, dear. I'm afraid you'll have to excuse me, my lady...” Later, over a hasty meal and mugs of the inn's excellent mulled wine, Maya spun out the tale of the gruesome murders plaguing the city, and how the guards seemed to have nothing but ill luck in their attempts to discover the culprit. Trailing off in mid-sentence, she grimaced, and a moment later, the reason for her discomfiture became apparent. Viola Giordano, of whom the Jarl's steward had spoken, spied the Dragonborn and her friend; Sobek's already raised eyebrows rose a trifle higher when, uninvited, the woman took a seat at their table to join the conversation. “I've been trying for months,” Viola fumed. “The guards are worse than useless, and no one else in the city is willing to do anything. Why, I can hardly set foot outside my own front door!” Maya's snort of disgust quickly lapsed into a coughing fit intended to disguise her laughter when Sobek replied, “So inspiring is your courage, madam, that I can but strive to follow your example. But, surely it's in the city's best interest to see the dastard brought before the Jarl's court?” Her eyes blazing with purpose, Viola leaned toward her erstwhile companions. “Oh, it's not that they don't care, but you know how Nords are. They're content to let someone else solve the problem for them rather than looking after their own!” Maya's coughing spell subsided enough for her to wheeze, “Such crimes are rare enough that they're not easily understood, even by the sharpest minds. Nords or not, it's small wonder the guards have no idea how to proceed; now that the Jarl has put two of his best in charge, your worries will soon be at an end.” Viola's attention, however, was already elsewhere; she mumbled an apology and, hurrying off in pursuit of some other hapless soul, left the two friends to continue their meal in peace. “Sep's scales, that woman is going to get herself killed if she doesn't exercise a bit of common sense!” Maya muttered. “She's right to be frightened, though.” Sobek took a slow sip of her wine. “Your letter mentioned murders, but you gave few details. Tell me, my friend, what I can do to help.” Maya pushed her plate aside and set her elbows on the table. “On the very night of my arrival in Windhelm, under the noses of the guards, the Butcher took his third victim—all three were women in the flush of youth, brutally slain.” “How did you get mixed up in this mess?” “Purely by chance,” Maya replied. “The guards are hard pressed, as Jorleif mentioned, and they leapt at the chance to foist the job off on someone else.” “Were there no witnesses? A violent death is hardly a quiet thing.” “Witnesses? There were several, though they were so shocked by what they discovered, I'm not sure they were able to make much sense of it. Only one was able to give me any information, though it wasn't very useful—just a description of a man fleeing the scene, and that from behind and at a distance.” “No wonder your message was so vague,” Sobek murmured. “Have you been able to learn anything else in the meantime?” “Only that Susannah put up such fierce resistance before she died that she left a trail of blood all the way from the residential district to the cemetery. Poor lass. Her wounds were... terrible. The Butcher must have been in a frenzy to have done as he did.” Sobek put her hand on her friend's arm. “How can I help?” Maya's nose wrinkled in a moue of distaste. “The trail led me to an abandoned house which, I was told, once belonged to the Shatter-Shields' daughter Frigga. I've no wish to cause them further distress, but I must speak to her parents before I pay a visit to the Hall of the Dead for a word with the priestess of Arkay. Would you call on them for me, and see if they'll give us the key to their daughter's house?” “Of course.”
Dark Brotherhood: Ancient Blood 001 (Remastered)Dark Brotherhood: Ancient Blood(REMASTERED)Chapter 1:"Fool's Gold"***Author's note: This is a remastered version of Ancient Blood. Please check the description below for more information. AND! Some chapters have a "mature content" filter on them due to subject matter and adult situations. Everything is written in a tasteful and relatively non-graphic manner, but to abide by deviantART's terms, the filters are there. To view these chapters- you MUST be logged into an account and your mature content blocker must be OFF. These chapters are typically very important to the plot's progression, so skipping them will cause holes in the story and result in confusion., It was late afternoon by the time Jade and her companion had entered the gates of the large northern city of Solitude to grab some supplies. The shouts of merchants and mongers rang over the footsteps of potential patrons shuffling down the cobblestone streets. Despite the crisp chill of the air, Jade was delighted to be out on the freedom of her own personal quest after weeks of being holed up in a dank, musty sanctuary. As a Nord, it was in her blood to prefer the outdoors. If she wasn't on the move, she quickly became restless. Jade was the Dragonborn, damn it. She had more than earned her right to an adventure. Word had it of some strange activity from the Forsworn around Karthspire. Jade was always ready for a good fight, especially if rare treasure was involved. She knew that the area was just littered with those Dwarven ruins which were always good for finding some unique trinkets. She didn't care about history or antiques. She just knew that they were worth a nice fist full of septims. Capering gleefully beside her was Jade's odd companion, Cicero. Though a formerly well-respected member of the Dark Brotherhood assassins, he was dressed as an outdated court jester. His personality matched the look with random bouts of laughter and terrible out-of-context punchlines. The fool was mad, but he was useful. Highly skilled with a blade, his deadliness was only matched by his unwavering loyalty to the Brotherhood and all who served and respected it. Cicero made quite sure not to step on a crack between the cobblestones, humming something about breaking Mother's back. He was also joyous to be outside again. After spending nearly a decade in hiding, just being around other people and not having to fight for his life was invigorating. "I just need to grab a pickaxe and some gloves," Jade muttered glancing back at the fool, "Please, don't draw attention to us..." Cicero chirped before slowing to a casual walk, glancing over to her. With odd navy blue hair and accessible cleavage, perhaps she was the one who should worry about drawing attention. Men passing by made no attempt to hide the fact that they had noticed. Solitude was bustling with more Imperial soldiers than Cicero had seen since his arrival in Skyrim months before. It felt strange. He would possibly never return to his home in Cyrodiil, but this place felt very much more familiar than the other Nordic cities he'd visited. Perhaps he had gotten too used to the brutal nature of the Nords of this region; He had all but forgotten about the clean refined nature of his race. Though, Cicero was never one to follow the ideals of the Imperial Empire or worship their deities and leaders. If anything, he felt betrayed by his people. He felt abandoned and judged like an unwanted red-headed stepchild. Leave the war effort to the meatheads. Cicero lived to serve the Dark Brotherhood. Jade slowed to a stop outside of the "Bits and Pieces" general store and turned to face the fool. Still distracted by the activity of the town, Cicero almost walked right into her before realizing she stopped. He took a step back and raised his eyebrows awaiting her command. "Stay out here," Jade said in an authoritative tone, "I've got some business to take care of really quick," she motioned to a thieves' guild etching on the wall near the lower half of the door frame. Being raised in the guild, it wasn't uncommon for her to casually utilize their teachings. "Of course, my Listener!" Cicero nodded, "Cicero will keep watch from here!" His tone was a bit more enthusiastic than necessary. Jade sighed feeling as if his extreme personality and strangely outdated garb would draw too much attention from the guards. She bit her lip and squinted her eyes in thought before reaching into her coin purse and pulling out five gold. "Here, " she said as she placed it in his hand, "Go to the market over there and buy yourself a sweet roll or something. We won't be near another town until we reach Markarth in a few days." Jade hoped that the little errand would keep him distracted long enough to buy her a few minutes to steal what she needed from the general store without incident. Cicero clasped his hands together around the gold pieces and smiled widely. "Thank you! Yes! Thank you, sweet Listener! You are too good to humble Cicero!" he gasped and bowed his head. With almost no hesitation, Cicero hurried off toward the market plaza around the side of the building, leaving the Dragonborn to her business. He scanned over the stands looking for the pastry of choice, yet only seeing fresh produce and fish. His excitement faded as he stepped over to one of the vegetable stands and handed the merchant 2 gold in exchange for a carrot. It wasn't the sweet roll he had his heart set on, but he'd enjoy the fresh snack nonetheless. Turning to head back toward the general goods store, Cicero stumbled as he collided with something small. Agile from his years of assassin training, he caught his balance and stepped to the side quickly, glancing down to see a small child. She looked about five or so; her face was smeared with either dirt or chocolate. By her tattered blue dress, she appeared to be from a rather poor family. Her eyes were full of wonder as she stared up at him: the man dressed in the funny jester motley. "Are you a real clown?" the girl asked in a tiny voice. She swayed back and forth while twisting the bottom of her dress with both hands. Cicero hesitated after being caught off guard by the question by such a little person. Yet, almost like it came completely naturally, a smile spread across his face again and he threw his arms out to the sides, bowing theatrically. "Why, yes, little lady! Cicero is a merry man! A jester of joy! A fool of hearts!" he cheered. The girl squealed with delight before turning to wave at two other children hiding in the shadows of a stall nearby. When they saw her gesture, an older boy and another girl around her age ran over. The two wore equally ragged attire with scraped-up hands and knees. "Do you know any tricks?" the older boy asked without skipping a beat. All of the sudden attention had made Cicero's heart race. Not just any attention, but positive attention. He quickly placed the carrot into his pocket and clapped his gloved hands together, nodding with much enthusiasm. "Have you ever been to a backward show?" Cicero chanted as he removed the remaining gold from his coin pouch, "So many pay to see such amusement! Only kings benefit from the free!" He began to juggle the coins while skipping around his small audience. The children gasped as if never seeing such skill. The youngest girl giggled with glee. "-but here today, you will see, a backward show, just watch me!" the jester sang and then through sleight of hand, the coins seemed to vanish when they hit his palms. "Where is the gold?" The amused expressions of the children suddenly turned to surprise. Cicero pretended to be confused and pulled out his pockets as they stared in awe. He spun around, raising his arms helplessly, and shrugged. The two youngest children ran closer to him and began pulling at his ratty outfit, searching for a hidden pocket. "THERE!" Cicero gasped, pointing over dramatically at the older boy who had held his distance, "The gold had left my view! Disappeared, out of the blue!" he stepped over and poked the boy in the chest with his fingertip, "But have you ever seen a show, a backward show, that in the end-" he flicked the boy's chin causing him to flinch. He blinked a few times to see that the jester suddenly had a gold coin between his index and middle fingers, "...would pay YOU?" The children exploded with cheers and laughter. Cicero continued to hold the coin out to the boy, insistently. The girls clapped and gathered closer to see. A few seconds passed as the boy stared at the coin. Finally, Cicero reached down to place the coin in his hand. The girls suddenly became even more excited as he turned and flipped his other hand open revealing the other missing coins. "Share," Cicero said holding the coins out for the girls to take, "Buy something sweet and unhealthy to share with your friends." The girls timidly took one coin each and smiled up at the generous merry man, their eyes sparkling with joy. The older boy nodded to him, seeming a bit more skeptical as he backed away, perhaps worried that this strange man would want the gold back. Cicero bowed and retrieved his carrot, snapping a bite into it as he headed back toward the general store., "What was that about?" Jade asked, already waiting for him at the edge of the market with her arms were crossed. It seemed as if she had seen the whole act. "Happiness, " Cicero replied as he chewed, "Everyone deserves some joy." "Joy? You're an assassin. You kill people for a living," she snorted, hiking a supply bag up over her shoulder, a pickaxe sticking out the top. "Did you see their eyes?" he asked as if not even hearing her, "Such admiration and attention! They loved me!" "They were street children. They love gold." Jade said in a snarky manner as she turned to make her way to the front gate. Cicero sighed. It was hard to be positive around Jade. She seemed to always find the negative side to everything with the clear intention of discrediting anything enjoyable. Well, anything she didn't enjoy, anyway. "It's fun to make others laugh. It brings me joy. Cicero loves joy..." he muttered. "And that makes you a hypocrite," Jade laughed walking a bit faster than him, "You can't tell me that you like to bring joy to others when you kill people. How do you know that those kids aren't orphans because of a contract on their parents?" Cicero stopped walking; his arms stiff at his sides. He could tell that there was really no getting through to this woman. Not everything was black and white. "For someone called, the Listener, you sure don't listen very well," he grumbled. Jade stopped dead in her tracks and turned to face him, "Excuse me, little man?" It was almost unheard of for the fool to speak so disrespectfully to her. "I don't think you understand." Cicero cleared his throat, "I don't kill because I just want to hurt people. The joy Cicero gets from killing is through Sithis. Serving the Brotherhood make him happy-" "Oh, give me a break," Jade rolled her eyes, "You like to kill because killing is fun. Don't try to tell me that you only do it for specific reasons. You're just not that deep, kiddo. I see the way you light up with every stab." "You don't know me, Listener!" he huffed, "The pain and sacrifice! Rejection! You don't know what it is like to need that attention. The love! Everyone loves you! Everyone loves the Dragonborn. The Listener! The leader of the Thieves Guild! Just look at you!" he gestured to her dramatically. Jade put her hands on her hips in an attempt to mirror his outrageous attitude. She'd never seen Cicero act out like this before. He had a tendency to be over-emotional at random moments, but now it actually seemed like he was trying to start something. She curled her lip, bracing herself for the baseless insults to follow. "You are beautiful and powerful," he said in a shaky tone, "Your age is ambiguous, and you carry yourself with such grace. A voluptuous bosom and slender frame... broad hips and strong thighs that could tear a man in two-" "Is there a point to this? Or are you trying to get me to sleep with you?" Jade scoffed, though honestly enjoying the compliments. "Everyone admires the Dragonborn. Even the Night Mother chose you to be the Listener... YOU! OVER ME! I've sacrificed my life- my sanity to serve... yet she chose you! You have the Black-Briars under your thumb... you play the empire like a fiddle and the Stormcloaks fear you! Dragons fall from the sky for you! DRAGONS!" Cicero shouted. Jade flinched and moved closer to him. She was delighted by the praise but worried about making a scene, "What are you getting at, already?" she whispered. "I'm none of these things. Cicero is nothing." "You're the Keeper." "I'm the Keeper..." his shoulders slumped, and his gaze drifted, "I grew up in Bruma alone. I didn't know my father. My mother... she-" "By Sithis," Jade grunted and turned to walk away, "Don't start." Cicero quickly gathered himself and followed. "But Cicero does remember the other children. The street children like me. They didn't like Cicero either. I was the strange ginger boy with the crazy mom and no one to play with. When I was old enough, I joined the Dark Brotherhood... they became my family. They embraced Cicero! They too were abandoned and rejected. The Night Mother became my mother and Sithis my father. I do everything... EVERYTHING I can to honor them," Cicero felt himself having to take wider and wider strides to keep up with Jade who appeared to be trying desperately to separate herself from the conversation. The irony was not lost on him. "They gave me what I needed most, but I had to sacrifice so much in return," he lowered his tone as they arrived at the gate. Jade tightened her grip on the backpack and smiled at the guards. Cicero watched as they looked her over. He knew this too well. They knew she was a thief. They'd seen her before. Yet, just as expected, the guards waved her through with no issues. Cicero paused to watch Jade freely strut through the gates with her stolen goods. The guards tilted their heads as she went... watch her ass. "Eyes front, gentlemen!" Cicero barked as he fumbled to catch up to her. He made an attempt to block their view before attempting to finish his rant. Jade tried her best to hasten her pace down the stone path, hoping that he'd take the hint. The noise of the city faded behind them, giving way to the calming sounds of the wilderness... only to be ruined by Cicero's nasally voice. "Cicero had a love once," he continued, "Oh, yes. Cicero is capable of loving another just as much as anyone! And not the same love he has for Mother and the Listener, no." Jade rolled the bag of supplies off her shoulder and tossed it to him, hoping to interrupt his banter. He caught it without losing his thought and continued. "But I sacrificed it. She was a distraction. Cicero was very young and didn't want to disappoint the Brotherhood. They took me in, and I owed them. I wasn't going to throw it all away for the chance to..." he hesitated, "...for love. I hurt her. She's gone now. They all are. My entire family. Dead. Purified. Cicero is the only one left. Cicero is ALWAYS the only one left." "What are you babbling about?" Jade finally responded, "The Dawnstar Sanctuary may have a small following at the moment, but it's growing. We get new initiates all of the time." "Until when? When will it happen again? When will Cicero be alone again? I've been alone for most of my life... So let me have this. Can't a fool feel loved and accepted for just a moment? Those children loved Cicero, if only for a minute. And Cicero needs love too... I suppose that's hard for you to understand because everything is handed to Jade," Cicero's voice deepened, "Love comes easily to ones like you." "I don't love anyone," she snapped. "You love yourself," he replied in a strangely normal voice. He almost sounded like a different person altogether. Jade stopped and stared off at the tree line ahead. Her expression was difficult to read. "...and?" she mumbled. "To be normal, though?" Cicero said calmly as he stood beside her, staring off in the same direction. "What's normal? I fight dragons. I assassinate emperors. I mingle with vampires. I don't think I want normal. Why would you?" "Just to see what it's like," he sighed, "To have your own home. Keeping friends and taking a wife. Starting an actual family-" Jade broke the moment with a burst of laughter. It almost sounded forced. "Mr. Cicero?" she cackled in a mocking tone, "I can't see that. If you could even FIND a female desperate enough to marry you and foolish enough to bear your offspring, you'd be a horrible father! Look at you! You're a middle-aged man in a clown outfit who oils a corpse for a living! You're a walking joke!" she took a few steps back to get a better look at him. His faded makeshift motley was crudely stitched together, covered in dried blood and dirt and who knows what else. His long unkempt red hair, filthy and slicked back beneath a tattered donkey eared jester's cap. He was just a mess both physically and emotionally. "Get your shit together. There'll be no more of this emotional madman banter if you are to accompany me on my quests anymore. Got it?" Jade commanded with a condescending smirk. "...Yes, Listener," Cicero replied, his stoogish yet still depressive tone returning. The sun had lowered since they had first arrived in Solitude, and night travel was dangerous, even for the Dragonborn. Plans to set up a camp upriver fell into conversation between them as they continued down the path toward the Reach. Cicero said very little, just the way Jade liked it.
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....
Multi-Chapter Stories
Misery Loves Company- Phillip's Backstory 3/3Dark Brotherhood: Ancient Blood“Misery Loves Company”Part three of three,**Contains spoilers for Ancient Blood up through chapter 102!**(Disclaimer: This is a backstory of an OC from the fanfiction Dark Brotherhood: Ancient Blood. Reading this without knowledge of the main story may be confusing. Reading this before chapter 102 will spoil a lot. Read at your own risk), Three days, four nights he sat on my porch. Like some sort of sentinel, he sat and waited… what in the name of Xrib was he waiting for? From the observatory window, I could see him occasionally pull items from his bag to eat. He must have had this stakeout planned. He had not attempted to bust the doors in or scale the façade. He didn’t even vandalize the yard… though, at one point, I noticed him moving pieces of the broken bots off the walkway. We watched one another. I made no attempt to hide the fact that I was keeping an eye on him. I was hoping my lingering presence backlit in the window above would scare him off… yet he persisted. While the thought of activating another wave of bots had crossed my mind numerous times, I have to admit that the boy’s determination had me intrigued. If he had wanted to kill me, he wasn’t trying very hard. He said he was Cousin Loretta’s grandson. I hadn’t thought about her in decades… she was the only one to ever care. Aunt Annabelle’s only daughter. Only child. As far as I know, the only one to carry on the LaRouche bloodline. She was my only cousin and of course, I can’t have children. Not that such an opportunity would ever arise. Not that I’d ever agree to such nonsense either. But dear Loretta… she was several years older than me but I recall her visits fondly. If I was the black sheep for being the cursed recluse who should have never been born, then she was also a black sheep for having a good heart. How she was born into this family, I’ll never know… but as a child, though I was shy and struggled with socializing, I looked forward to seeing her. Something about her smile felt safe and judgment-free. She never tried to touch me or force me to speak. She just watched me play. I remember when she’d ask questions about my projects. I didn’t want to talk to her at first and she never insisted. But after a while, her interest made me happy. I was just unsure how to express that to her. My mother would often hug Loretta when she’d arrive and it would make me angry. My mother never hugged me… But perhaps, beyond the jealousy, I wanted to express myself too… so one evening when Loretta came to visit, she found me playing in my room. She knelt in the doorway as she typically did, to watch from afar. Before she could ask how I was doing, I ran over and put my arms around her. I didn’t mean to make her cry, though she claimed she was happy. From that point on, I thought of my cousin as a friend. Perhaps the only friend I ever truly had. So when the teenage hooligan in the yard shouted that he was the grandson of Loretta LaRouche, I admit I was caught off guard. With any other trespasser, he’d have been nothing more than a bloody smudge on the lawn… but hearing that name again… I hesitated. For three days and four nights. Watching the boy sit there patiently, I was reminded of her… he too was waiting for me to acknowledge him. Well, if he was expecting a hug, he was sorely mistaken. Whatever tenderness I had as a child had long petrified upon the death of my parents. The last time I’d seen Cousin Loretta was at their funeral. There were no hugs. My bitter extended family saw to that. As the wind picked up carrying in a typical Glenumbra storm, I opened the front doors. He nearly jumped out of his skin, stumbling down a few steps to turn and look at me. The expression on his face was hard to read, but he looked like he was staring at a corpse that had just… opened the front doors. I get that a lot. He stood motionless as the rain began to fall. I scanned the yard beyond for reassurance before stepping back and motioning for him to enter. The boy quickly gathered his bag and stepped inside. His eyes immediately lifted to the many artifacts displayed around the foyer before settling on the large brass automaton shrouded in shadow in the far corner. He was taking note. To enter here, one does not make trouble, lest he wishes upon his own demise. “Phillip LaRouche-” “DuBois,” he corrected and instantly bowed, holding his bag close to his chest. As his eyes adjusted to the darkened main hall, I could see that he was staring at my metal hands protruding from the cuffs of my house robe. “Loretta’s grandson. I didn’t even know she had children,” I mumbled as I led the way to the dining room. “She had one son,” he replied as he followed timidly, “My father, Kane.” “Well, good for her. I’m sure that made her happy,” I pointed to one of the chairs lining the long dining table, “Sit and don’t touch anything.” He did as he was told, placing his bag on the floor beside him. I moved around to the head of the room and flipped the brass lever beside the fireplace. The flue opened and a warm glow began to radiate from within. “Let’s just get to the point,” I sighed and took a seat at the head of the table, “Why are you here? If it’s not for money or murder… why? What do you want from me?” Phillip cleared his throat and straightened his posture, “To the point… yes sir. I-… need a place to stay-” “Cripes,” I rolled my eyes, “I don’t run an inn, kid. This estate may have forty-two rooms, but I can assure you, every one of them has a purpose, and none of which is to house… a runaway. What are you running from, hm? You’re a kid. What problems could you possibly have?” “It’s a long story…” he sank back down into his seat, “I just realize that I no longer belong there. Well, it’s not what I want and I’d rather not live a lie. My father can’t accept who I am and would rather force me into a life that I will never be happy with just to save him some money.” I scoffed, “No one is happy, kid. The prospect of a happy life is a universal lie to keep people slaving away in order to keep the cogs of society turning for the next generation to rinse and repeat. But being a LaRouche, you have nothing to worry about on that front.” “That’s exactly it,” he looked me in the eye, “My father thinks that he can marry me off to the daughter of his business partner to seal a generational contract… he’s in denial of our blood curse- and who I am.” “Oh? And who are you?” I cocked my brow expecting some sort of inflated teenage ego response. “Not someone who wants to marry a woman-” he paused, his sentence left hanging awkwardly in the ether. I chewed my lip and nodded, glancing away. I could feel his gaze burning into me as he waited for some sort of reaction. Perhaps he figured I’d throw him out in the same manner as his father. What did I care? That was his business and it had nothing to do with me. But the sense of rejection, I understood. For very different reasons, I knew that sudden and frightening feeling of being alone and simply not knowing what to do with myself. Fortunately, I had Lily to soften the blow. If it wasn’t for her, I’m sure I’d have not made it twenty-four hours beyond my parents' funeral. Not alone in this massive estate. Losing her a few years later, it was difficult to move forward but even in death, she drove me to find purpose. So now here was this kid, sitting adjacent to me both in proximity and alleged fate. Glancing back at him, he seemed to flinch slightly. I could see my cousin’s essence in his eyes which oddly made it difficult to think. “So… how’s your grandmother?” I changed the subject, genuinely curious. “She passed away eight years ago.” I nodded. Of course, she did. The beautiful ones never last leaving us wicked to live on riddled with regret. And I did regret not seeing her again. I chose to harbor my resentment of her distance, knowing good and well that it was my aunt who kept her away… “May I ask…” Phillip’s voice was weary but his pale face expressed that he had nothing to lose anyway. I gestured for him to continue. “H-how is it that you look so young? You’re only a few years younger than my grandma would have been… you look nothing as a Breton in their seventies should look. I’ve heard rumors, but I know better than to trust the hateful word of locals…” I shook my head, “That is privileged information, chum. Besides, I doubt you’d even be able to comprehend the science and necessity behind it and I don’t have the patience nor care to tutor you in such matters.” I deflected. The awkward pause was broken by a strange groaning. We made eye contact. He bowed his head in apology. I cleared my throat, “I’d offer you food but the pantry is dry. I’ve only been back in Daggerfall for a few days and it’s difficult to hire someone to bring goods when there’s a teenager camped out on my front lawn.” Phillip smiled weakly, “My apologies, sir. Please-” he suddenly stood from his chair, “Allow me to prepare something for us. I’m quite good with very little. I could prepare a soup in no time,” he bent to retrieve his bag, “I even have a few root vegetables left…” I glanced down the long table toward the dark hall leading to the kitchen. The boy was offering to cook? Of course, my fears of being poisoned surfaced, but the thought of someone using the kitchen for the first time in… decades, my curiosity won out. I lifted my hand and pointed toward the hall at the other end of the room. He bowed respectfully and went on his way. Perhaps a sense of awe had overcome me as I pondered what in Oblivion he could come up with… and admittedly, I wasn’t sure if it was his stomach that had growled or mine. Sometime later, Phillip reemerged from the hall with a tray, accompanied by the hearty scent of warm broth, “Three vegetable soup with chicken stock and… I think chickpeas? Could be lentils. I found a few sacks of dried grain near the back door. I tried them first to make sure they were okay. The sacks looked to have been placed about a week ago.” He set a bowl and spoon in front of me. “Yes, I don’t allow delivery people near the house. The carrier bots tend to just bring the items around and drop them inside the back door in the kitchen. I’m… not strong enough to move them much further so that’s where they stay.” “I moved them to the pantry for you,” Phillip took a seat and began stirring his bowl, “I hope you don’t mind. I figured it’d keep them safer from any rodents.” “I don’t have rodents,” I clarified as I examined the soup, “I have patrolling automatons that see to that.” Cautiously I tasted the broth while watching him eat his. I knew I was taking a risk, but cripes it was delicious. We ate in silence for several minutes before he spoke again. "You were on the roof when I arrived.” I paused and stared into the bowl. I didn’t like where this was going. “There’s no railing up there,” he continued. “L'appel du vide,” I mumbled. Nothing more was said. Nothing more needed to be explained. There was a reason the security defenses were low that night. I could have killed him before he even breached the gates. But the truth was, his timely arrival had interrupted my plans. Or changed them, rather… perhaps I did hope that he was there to kill me. It would have been a lot less pathetic than hurling myself from the roof. I’d sat up there many nights contemplating it. Would I have jumped if he’d never arrived? Who knows? Not that it would do me any good anyway… according to Hermaeus Mora. “You can stay in the guesthouse tonight,” I changed the subject and stood from my seat, “I’ll give you an allowance in the morning to use in the market to fill the pantry with everything you need to prepare proper meals. So long as you mind your business, keep your hands off my things, do what is requested of you without argument, and you are out of the main house by nightfall every night… you can stay. Break my trust once, and you’ll wake up in a metal box ten feet under the back garden. Understood?” “I-… yes! Yes, sir!” Phillip quickly got to his feet to gather the dishes, “I promise I won’t be a burden. You won’t regret this. Thank you, Sir Sebastian… I owe you my life.” "But don't think you'll ever be in my will. You can abandon any hope of that at the door with your muddy shoes. And your first chore is to clean this up," I gestured to the tiles. "That's fair. Understood." I looked him over one last time before turning to leave the dining hall. Though I refused to admit it, I probably needed him just as much as he needed me… and that soup was inexplicably good.
Misery Loves Company- Phillip's Backstory 2/3Dark Brotherhood: Ancient Blood “Misery Loves Company”Part two of three,**Contains spoilers for Ancient Blood up through chapter 102!**(Disclaimer: This is a backstory of an OC from the fanfiction Dark Brotherhood: Ancient Blood. Reading this without knowledge of the main story may be confusing. Reading this before chapter 102 will spoil a lot. Read at your own risk), Growing up, my grandma was my best friend. I know that sounds really lame… but we just had this deep connection. She was the most open-minded and patient person I’d ever known. As her only grandchild, she doted on me every chance she got. My parents may have raised me to be respectful, but I really wanted to make Grandma Loretta proud. Her approving smile made me want to be a good person. I loved to listen to her talk. She had so many insightful words of wisdom. The way she viewed the world, you’d think that there was no such thing as evil. She believed that everything had a reason. A man with a cold heart wasn’t wicked… just hurt. And you can’t help a hurt person by damning them and hurting them more. The only way to heal them is to listen and learn to understand the meaning behind their pain. Grandma would often tell me stories about her little cousin, Sebastian. He was a sheltered child who was never permitted to leave his home. Because of this, he had no friends and grew bitter. His parents meant well. They wanted to protect him from anything and everything, for, he too was an only child. When his father Jullien Rye married my Great Aunt Rose LaRouche, it is believed that a curse was placed upon our bloodline. Rumors of Jullien’s forsaken lineage stirred among the LaRouches. He was a wealthy man who seemed to come from nowhere. But local gossip suggested ancient royal ties… tainted by infidelity and scandal. Many believed him to be a disgraced ancestor of a secret love child between High King Emeric and Princess Rayelle. His inexplicable fortune and nomad ways could be explained by hush money, passed down through generations of controversy and royal cover-ups. No one really knows where the bloodline curse came from, but there are theories ranging from the Hammerfell dynasty, to Rayelle’s own father, to even Daedric Prince Vaermina who may have still harbored a vendetta over King Emeric. But whatever the source, the curse was soon to be the end of the LaRouche bloodline by proxy, for it made the conception of a child incredibly difficult over the following generations to the point of impossible for some. Cousin Sebastian was the only surviving offspring of Jullien and Rose who had dozens of miscarriages and stillbirths prior. They treasured him like a rare artifact. An Impossible treasure. Though, the LaRouche family viewed the boy as the physical manifestation of the curse as if his frail existence was a horrid reminder of the fate of the bloodline. But Grandma Loretta didn’t believe any of it. When she was a child, her mother would occasionally take her to visit her aunt. She told me stories about how she’d wander the halls of the giant estate, searching for little Sebastian among the many cluttered rooms. She’d often find him tinkering with metal parts from machines or talking to inanimate objects like they understood him. Grandma Loretta didn’t see him as a freak or a curse. She saw a lonely boy who didn’t know how to connect to others. She enjoyed watching him and eventually earned his trust enough to hug him when she’d visit. After his parents both died, Grandma Loretta saw him at the funeral alone. She wanted to comfort him but knew it could cause more trauma by the reaction of the rest of the family attending. After that day, Sebastian shut out everyone. Loretta never saw her cousin again but begged others to be patient and not judge him for his ways. He wasn’t wicked… he was just hurt. Grandma died when I was eight, but her words always stuck with me. So as I lumbered through the rain, my lip bleeding and nerves shot, I thought about her. I thought about Cousin Sebastian. I thought about how my father’s bold rejection, displayed as a fist to my face, was somehow his own pain put into action. His intolerance and impatience made him a fool and a coward. But I could forgive him… in time. But at that moment, I was proud to be the one to end our bloodline. Every step I took away from him, the farm, and Westtry was a tiny victory... But it didn’t quell my fears and anxieties about my future. The heavy bag I carried was filled with everything I could scavenge from the shed out back; tools and supplies so I could live off the land if needed, or perhaps sell my labor to anyone willing to hire me. A handful of provisions from the fields, an old pair of work boots, and a spare bottle of mana I kept with the training dummies. I was far from prepared to be on my own, but I was willing to sleep in a gutter so long as it meant waking up the next day with a future. A future I chose. It took several days before I arrived in Daggerfall. I’d been there a few times before to pick up and deliver things for my father, but I’d never visited at night. It was strange to me how, even after sunset, people still moved about the streets. Mostly traveling merchants and drunks, but there was still an odd sense of nobility to it all. The people of Daggerfall were largely well-off, upper-middle class. Even the bums begging for coin wore dirty noble attire creating its own level of satire. While I wasn’t exactly dressed down, wearing an old trench coat over my work clothes, I still felt out of place. Though, I’ve always felt that way to some degree… and that was precisely why I was there at that moment. The looming towers to the west of the market overlooking the docks were like a dark beacon calling me. Once past the plaza, as I began making my way up the narrow path out of mid-town, I noticed several people turn to watch me pass. At first, I thought it was strange and became weary of being mugged… but as I continued, I gradually realized that my approach to the notorious Rye-LaRouche estate was likely viewed as ill-advised by locals. I was just a random unremarkable boy, alone at night, making my way up to a dark place of horrible legends. They were worried about me… or thought I was crazy. Maybe I was. The long path wound past the docks, through a private cemetery, and up a slight hill, ending at a rather intimidating set of bronze gates. The walls surrounding the actual estate grounds were a good ten feet or more. Formidable and impregnable. The mansion resembled a fully equipped fortress. Strange contraptions lined the walls, aimed at anyone foolish enough to approach; Giant Dwarven crossbows with arrows that could slice a man in two. Dead trees and overgrown plants engulfed much of the yard. Clearly, Cousin Sebastian was no landscaper… it was unlikely at his age and affluent status anyway. But the visual made the place feel abandoned. Part of me wondered if he really did pass away alone within the walls of the massive estate. He could be nothing but bones now, as no one would ever think to check on him… I shuttered at the thought but my disgust was quickly overridden with sadness. I was just as alone as he… and that’s why I was there. Sebastian was the only person I knew at that point… and I didn’t even know him. But if my grandma’s stories were true, then maybe I could earn his trust enough to have a chance. I had nothing else to lose. As I moved closer to the gate, I noticed that the crossbow turrets were slowly turning to keep a steady aim on me. I didn’t know much about Dwarven tech, but from what I had picked up over the years, it was beyond the understanding of basic magic and just as deadly. I slowly set my bag down and examined the walls beneath the weapons. The etching in the stone was intricate and deliberate… and functional. With my eyes, I followed the twisting pattern from the base of the mechanism to a small embedded panel near the ground. All four turrets in striking distance shared this same design. Though not obvious in the dark, I knew that the panels had to be an access point to their power source. I sparked some lightning bolts in my palms as I estimated the distance between all four and simultaneously sent a chain of electricity through them, scrambling their ability to function. Of course, this was all assumption… I could have been literally dead wrong and full of holes right then… but as soon as my spell landed, the noses of the crossbows dipped into a visible submission, suggesting that entry was safe… for the moment. Though I was sure that Cousin Sebastian would not appreciate me deactivating his security measures to gain entry… I just needed a chance to get close enough to plead my case. Besides, I was more than willing to volunteer to repair any damages. After retrieving my bag, I made my way cautiously through the large double gate and into the front yard of the estate. My ears and eyes were on high alert for more machines as I slowly walked up toward the front steps. It was eerily quiet short of the wind rustling the dead branches of the distorted trees. A strange glint of light caught my eye causing me to glance up toward the west tower. Moonlight was reflecting off of a very large set of lenses attached to the façade of the house. Some sort of observatory; fitting for what I’ve heard of his interests in various schools of science. But as I examined the structure, the glint caught my eye again. It was a red light coming from what appeared to be… a man sitting on the ledge of the roof. A thin, hunched man with a large pair of goggles obscuring his face. The red light seemed to be projecting from one of the eyepieces as he watched me back. A chill ran up my spine, but I had little time to react before the sound of metallic clanking filled the silence. I dropped my bag again just as at least half a dozen spider-shaped automatons skittered toward me; sparks raining from their chassis as they powered up to attack. Also skilled in lightning magic, I knew that timing was key and cast an area spell to interrupt their charge. Several of the bots instantly shorted out while the ones remaining were merely stunned and quickly recovered. Several minutes passed as I continued to battle small waves of these things. My mana was running low and the awkward anxiety of knowing that he was up there watching… I was unsure what else he was willing to throw my way before I even had a chance to speak. When the last bot collapsed, I had a moment to catch my breath and turn to look up at the lord of the manor. He hadn’t moved an inch… I honestly began to question if he could have been a gargoyle-, “Interesting,” he finally said, his voice echoing through the yard, “Those were old models anyway. You did me a favor by sorting out the flaws.” “Sir Sebastian Rye, I presume?” I called back through labored breathing as the sparks in my palms faded. “Well, I assume you know where you are, chum. You made quite a strategic effort to breach my gates. Are you here to kill me? Rob me? Or was this a bet with your schoolyard mates and you drew the short straw?” “My name is Phillip DuBois. I-… I was told that we are related-” “Ha!” Sebastian adjusted his goggles, presumably to see me better, “I’ll have you know that I’ve blocked any of you people from legally inheriting any of my estate. I own a thirty percent share of the Daggerfall bank. You’ll see jail time before you even have a chance to inaccurately appraise my things!” I shook my head, “No, sir. I’m not interested in your wealth.” “Lies! All lies!” he began to stand up. “I’m Loretta DuBois’ grandson… your first cousin, Loretta. She told me about you…” Sebastian leered down at me for a few seconds. Through the darkness, it was impossible to make out his expression, but based on his posture, he was visibly uncomfortable. Without another word, he turned away and disappeared into the shadows of the roof. I waited quietly for several minutes. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Another wave of bots? Something larger? Some kind of alarm? Perhaps he was contacting the guards to report me for trespassing… but nothing happened. I stood in silence pondering my next move, but I just didn’t have one. This was my last resort. My eyes drifted up to the mess of overgrown vegetation around the yard and settled on two particularly large trees on either side of the walkway. The more I stared at their irregular shapes, the more I realized that they weren’t trees… they were massive Dwarven centurions covered in vines and roots. They towered silently in the darkness, watching me. Occasionally I could see their heads swivel. Ironically, this gave me hope. Cousin Sebastian could have easily activated them at any time… but he didn’t. I slowly took a seat on the front steps. Patience. Listen and learn. Understanding. He was hurt too. If I had to wait on the porch for several days, so be it. Even if he wouldn’t let me in, I could at least take up residence in his mind. Wait him out., ,,
Misery Loves Company- Phillip's Backstory 1/3Dark Brotherhood: Ancient Blood“Misery Loves Company”Part one of three,**Contains spoilers for Ancient Blood up through chapter 102!**(Disclaimer: This is a backstory of an OC from the fanfiction Dark Brotherhood: Ancient Blood. Reading this without knowledge of the main story may be confusing. Reading this before chapter 102 will spoil a lot. Read at your own risk), “Maybe I am.” Those were the three words that changed my life forever. The words that busted my lip, made my mom cry and broke my branch of the family tree. Those were the last words I ever spoke to my father. I am an only child; the only child of my generation. Because of this, my parents put all of their focus on me and my future… well, the future of the bloodline, anyway. I’ve always strived to be a good kid and was raised to understand and show respect. Growing up in Westtry, there wasn’t much to do, so after my chores I’d often seek work in town, assisting the elderly and disadvantaged… not that I came from any sort of advantage, mind you. My homelife was humble at best, so any extra work I could pick up brought much pride to my father. I enjoyed working at the stables the most. I love horses. They are magnificent creatures who live to serve us, yet will not tolerate disrespect. Mistreatment often leads to injury or death of the handler… so the care of a horse feels less like domination of an animal, and more like a privilege. We respect their needs, they allow us to use their services. I admire that. When I wasn’t working, I was practicing my magicka skills. Lightning magic was my focus. I loved the way it made my fingertips tingle and my neck hair stand on end. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to a proper magic school in a big city so I studied from some old books I bartered from a passing caravan and practiced on abandoned training dummies left over from the war. I had no intention of ever needing to use my magic against anyone or anything living, but being Breton, the urge to tap into my well of magicka was in my blood. Other than a few brief scuffles with some of my peers, I never got into any trouble. I was a near-model citizen; even the town guards liked me. So I suppose it came as no surprise that as soon as I turned sixteen, my mother began talking to her friends about finding me a future wife. Arranged marriages weren’t very common outside of royalty and wealth, but the premise was the same. The union would help both families in this troubled economy. My Father owned land and the girl’s father had the money to build a lumber mill on it. The marriage would make them business partners allowing the mill to be certified in a family trust and passed down to future generations… Ha. Whenever the topic would come up, I always felt ill and would excuse myself from the conversation. I know my father noticed. My mother said I just had cold feet. I was still young and I had several years to get used to the idea. There was still time to get to know the girl… and for our fathers to file the proper paperwork with the city... One night when I arrived home from the stables, my mother asked me to clean up for supper. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until I got to the table to discover that we had some unexpected company. The girl and her parents had been invited to dinner. Everyone’s eyes lifted to me. They all smiled and seemed to be waiting for me to return the sentiment. My jaw began to ache as I clenched my teeth and tried not to look shaken. “Phillip!” my mother broke the awkward moment with a joyous cheer, “Look who came to visit! Mister and Missus Porter and their daughter, Abagail!” I found it difficult to make eye contact with the girl. Blonde curls, bright blue eyes, dressed in a lacy white sun dress. She appeared older than me by several years but shared the same eager and welcoming smile as everyone else. Clearly, she was fond of the idea of marrying me before I even spoke. That, or she was an excellent actress. “Come sit, boy,” my father’s gravelly voice gave me an excuse to look away, “We’ve been talking about the plans for the mill. I was telling Frank here that you work at the stable up the road. We were thinking that perhaps you’d be interested in horse logging. We could invest in a draft horse to pull the lumber and you could train and care for it. Sound fun?” In any other situation, I’d be excited to hear my father even considering getting a horse… but I was finding it very difficult to speak at that moment. My face was growing warm. I wanted to scream. “Phil,” his voice deepened, “Sit.” I somehow managed to unlock my knees and quietly move around the side of the table to the only empty chair between Abagail and my father. As I sat, I nodded slightly to the girl before focusing my eyes on my empty plate. I could feel everyone still staring at me. “Well, aren’t you going to introduce yourself, hon?” my mom asked as she placed a basket of butter rolls on the table. “I… I’m sure she knows my name by now,” I muttered weakly. “What’s that?” my father leaned, trying to get my attention, “It’s not polite to mumble at the dinner table. We raised you better than that. Sit up, smile, and be part of this discussion.” I finally lifted my eyes to meet his. I could tell by his expression that he knew something was wrong with me. I wasn’t exactly hiding my unease. It was as if he was trying to telepathically strangle me into behaving. “Yes sir,” I said clearly and corrected my posture… but I couldn’t smile. My mom took a seat across from me and began passing the various bowls and plates of food around, “Help yourselves to anything you’d like! I used Mrs. Porter’s recipe for the potato salad, so everyone has to try a bit and tell me what they think,” she dabbed a little on her plate before passing the bowl to my father and glancing up at me. “Phillip, at least try to look like you wanna be here, sweety,” she chuckled nervously, “You look like you wanna fly out the window.” “I kinda do,” I replied automatically without even thinking. “Aw," Mrs. Porter smiled, "He's probably just shy like Abby. I’m sure if we left them be, they’d start chattering up a storm and-” I found myself shaking my head. “What do you mean ‘no’?” my father placed his fork on the table, “Why are you shaking your head? What’s wrong with you, boy? We have company. Quit acting so strange. You’re embarrassing-” As if an external force took over my body, I suddenly stood from my seat and turned to leave the room. I could hear my father’s voice roaring my name and the sound of his chair screeching on the wooden floor. He had always been a hotheaded man and I learned early on in my life to just do as I was told to avoid conflict. I saw him sucker punch our neighbor once over a misplaced gardening rake. But at that moment, I wasn’t sure what scared me more, the sound of my father storming after me or the feeling of being trapped in a life that I didn’t want to live. When I reached the edge of the front porch, whatever subconscious force had taken me over had suddenly abandoned me. I didn’t know what to do. I had no explanation for my behavior that would calm my father’s pending wrath. I had utterly embarrassed him in front of his future business partner and likely drove doubt into the Porter’s minds about trusting me with their daughter. I couldn’t even look her in the eye. I slowly turned to lock eyes with my enraged father as he stomped to a halt in the doorway. “What is your problem?” he growled in an eerily calm tone that did not at all match the redness of his face. “I can’t…” “Can’t what? Behave for twenty damn minutes to make a good impression? What's gotten into you?” I shook my head, “I can’t marry that girl…” My father’s shoulders lowered and he began breathing through his nose, “You have a few years to get your shit together. You don’t have to love her. You just have to-” “I can’t,” my voice was firm though I could feel my whole body shaking. I knew that denying this planned marriage would destroy any and all plans my father and Mr. Porter had to start the mill. I was single-handedly causing a rift that would forever keep us in poverty. My father would never forgive me…. But I could never forgive myself if I simply agreed to it. “Stop saying you can’t,” he said through clenched teeth, “You don’t seem to realize how important this is for us-” “For you.” His eyes widened and I felt like I was going to faint, but I held my ground. “This is my life, dad… can’t you just do the deal without this arrangement?” “You are part of this family and you will do what is best for this family. The marriage is part of the contract which will secure our investment in the land, business… and bloodline.” “I can’t marry her, dad.” “What, are you against this just to spite me? This some teenage rebellious shit? What is it? Are you saying she’s not your type? You don’t like blondes? The girl is beautiful and her father is wealthy. Are you telling me you’re gay or something?” “Maybe I am…”
Short Stories and Snippets
TES: A Coastal Conspiracy - Part 2/2“You did what?!” yelled Avrin.“Yeah yeah, it was a stupid idea I know...” the dunmer rogue replied sheepishly, looking at the floor. Karelle was sat on a stool in Avrin’s study, letting the altmer tend to her wounds with his healing spells and medical equipment. She’d removed her tunic and her top half was covered only by a white sleeveless vest. In normal circumstances she would’ve made a joke about having to strip off but her energy was spent from the vicious fighting aboard the Icerunner. Avrin was channelling restoration magic over the slash on her forearm, taking a slow and steady approach to heal the wound neatly. He knew from experience that healing too quickly could be almost as painful as the injury itself. Despite the magic, she would still be left with another scar to her collection but it would be smaller than if it had to heal naturally.After finishing the job, he went to stare out of the window, still trying to process what Karelle had dragged herself into. She was unusually quiet so he broke the silence first, “I can’t believe you helped wreck a whole ship.” His tone had become more judgemental than angry now. “Time and again you get yourself into trouble. By rights you should be in jail...What am I supposed to do with you?”Karelle remained on the stool and bit her lip. She hated when Avrin would go off on one of his moralising lectures but this time he was right. It had been too hot of a job, especially once it was obvious the Blackbloods had hit an Imperial supply ship. Even so, Jaree-Ra had promised that the crew were to be rescued in the process. Whether it was a tragic mishap, or he and Deeja had just plain lied she didn’t know. And to make matters worse, the Blackbloods seemed to be in the pocket of the Stormcloaks and were likely to strike again.She told Avrin about the note between the argonian siblings and what had transpired on the ship. This made him go very quiet and he began pacing back and forth. Like Karelle, he too was vehemently against the Stormcloaks but was uncertain how to proceed and rubbed his hand over his chin.“We should tell the guards, or the Imperial Garrison.”“Don’t be silly!” exclaimed Karelle. She had dressed and stood by the window with him. “You think they’d believe us? I can’t exactly confess my involvement as proof either. If they’re anything like the guards in other cities, they’ll be too lazy or cowardly to act on things outside the walls. And certainly not just because of a piece of paper.”Avrin turned to look at her cynically, “What do you propose? They sound holed up in this cave. You’ll be killed if you try to clear them out, Kar.”“I need your help, Avrin.” she said, meeting his piercing gaze. They stared at each other in an awkward silence. Avrin broke eye contact first and huffed, “Now you’re the one being absurd.”“And you should stop being so modest! You could obliterate half of them with spells before they even know what’s happening! We’ve got the skills in combat and magic between us. If we don’t intervene quickly they’ll sail the supplies to the Stormcloaks. Anything that helps them is bad news for people like us.”The dunmer woman made a good point but Avrin was reluctant. From his perspective, this was a mess Karelle had created herself, but hearing that Stormcloaks, or their sympathisers were so close worried him.After debating some more, Karelle went downstairs and Avrin shut himself in his study for the rest of the day. Karelle went back to her guest room and did her best to fix some of her damaged equipment and clothing but tiredness and guilt had caught up with her and she went to bed early.The next morning they met in the kitchen and had both calmed down a little. Avrin opened a jar of fancy Elsweyr coffee as a truce and they both ate breakfast together. It wasn’t long before the topic of what to do with the Blackbloods and the Stormcloaks came up again. Karelle had evidently made up her mind, “I’m going to their cave today, Avrin.” she said stoically.Avrin sighed and stared into his coffee cup. The one thing he had learned about his dunmer friend was that once she had made a decision it was very difficult to persuade her otherwise. “...Very well. Meet me in the study in ten minutes.” he relented.Her red eyes lit up, “So you’re going to help?”“Yes...” he replied, “You’ll probably get yourself killed if I don’t...”“Heh, I didn’t know you cared so much. But thank you. I can’t make up for what I’ve done but I can at least try and stop things getting worse...”They met upstairs shortly after and Avrin got straight to business by rolling out a map of the coast.“Your note said they were in Broken Oar Grotto,” said Avrin, tracing his finger along the road north of Solitude. “Aha, here it is, in Horker Cove.”Karelle peered across, “Gods that’s ironic! It’s even closer to Solitude than the lighthouse. It must be well hidden as I’ve passed it several times without realising!”She began to outline her plan. Neither of them knew what they would find inside but the objective would be the same regardless. “Ok, we enter as quietly as possible. We need to clear any Blackblood presence, trash their camp and sink the boat that Deeja said was carrying the goods.”“Sounds simple enough” said Avrin, “When it comes to fighting let’s try and cause a distraction so we don’t get overwhelmed. I can summon a daedra or stun them with illusion spells to keep them busy.”“Right, and I hope you can fling some good fireballs!” cut in Karelle, stretching her healed arm back and forth.“Well, actually I prefer to use lightning but we’ll see. Come on, let’s get our gear ready.”---An hour later they left the gates of Solitude and went to the stable to pick up Karelle’s horse. Avrin had switched his town clothes for his trademark blue tunic and hooded mantle, along with some beige gloves and boots and a satchel of potions slung across his torso. At his side was his staff; a simple wooden design with a rectangular head embedded with a small blue soul gem.Karelle removed her bow from one of the cloth rolls and strung it up. She left all her other bags in the stable’s storage room and adjusted the saddle. She put the bow in a side holster and passed the quiver to Avrin, who looked at her blankly.“You’ll need to carry that on your back if we’re riding together.”“Together...?” Avrin said awkwardly.“Yeah, there’s just enough room. Val is a big boy and should be fine to carry us both for the short distance.”Karelle deftly mounted the dark brown horse and held out her hand.“Oh...” Replied Avrin. After bad experiences in his youth, the altmer mage had an aversion to horses. His family had owned several and insisted he should learn to ride, like a good high elf should, and it had put him off for life. Burying the memories, he grit his teeth and grabbed Karelle’s hand to help him up behind her.“There we go! Cosy isn’t it?” the dunmer teased.They were indeed sat rather close to one another and Avrin, who also had to carry his staff, frankly had no idea what to hold on to. Feeling his weight shift around, Karelle laughed and reassured him, “Just hold my sides! Don’t be shy!”Before he could reconsider she set the horse in motion and rode once more down the hill to the coastal road. The sea was grey and choppy, which was a good sign as it meant the Blackbloods would not attempt to sail their loot out today.Thankfully for Avrin, Karelle kept the horse at a fair pace and they soon reached Horker Cove. Trotting off the road and over some bare hills, they found the path leading down and dismounted. The cove was surrounded by steep cliffs on all sides and a channel of deep water ran right up the middle and into the mouth of the cave. However, as Deeja’s note mentioned, the opening, which must have once been very big, was now mostly blocked by a landslide.Only a small gap was visible to the side, leaving just enough water to row a boat through. They were about to descend the rocky path but Karelle quickly grabbed Avrin and shoved him behind a rock. She’d spotted a young female marauder sat by the cave entrance. If she raised the alarm, the cave would become impossible to assault. The two elves squabbled over the course of action. Karelle was about to nock an arrow onto her bow but Avrin pushed it aside and calmy said, “I’ll deal with her, ok?”The mage pulled up his hood and walked down with his staff. He hunched over and gave the impression he was just an old traveller rambling along, oblivious to the world. The marauder saw him from afar and as he started to bumble closer she shouted out, “Hey, you shouldn’t be here!”He continued to walk onwards, not acknowledging the woman.“Are you deaf or what?!” she yelled and ran up to him, keeping one hand on the hatchet strapped to her belt.She came right up to Avrin and grabbed his shoulder, “Hey! Old man! Get the f–” Her sentenced was cut short as Avrin grasped her wrist and unleased a sleep spell with a burst of green light, making her slump backwards. The mage caught her to stop her hitting her head on the stones and gestured for Karelle to come over.“See Kar, I have my tricks too.” he said smugly, “She’ll be out for a while – help me move her please.”Karelle simply smiled at his handiwork and together they dragged the marauder to a more hidden spot behind a few rocks. The dunmer then took the lead and crept to the cave entrance, bow in hand. After slinking in, she waved for Avrin to follow and they crouched close to a hollow in the uneven wall, letting their eyes get used to the darkness. A rocky ledge went up the right wall of the cave and was the only way to continue on foot. To the left was the deep channel of water which widened out considerably after the blockage. The path was part natural and part carved into the rock and soon ran high above the channel.A bored looking marauder was up ahead and idly kicking stones off the edge into the water below. Karelle swore – he would surely spot them if he turned around. Without wasting time she took aim and fired an arrow, hitting him right through the side of his neck. The two elves held their breath as they watched him stagger close to the edge before spinning around and falling down dead on the path.Passing his body they followed the path around the corner and saw full extent of the cave.The main chamber was a wide expanse of black water, divided in the middle by a long column of rock which ran from the ceiling to the depths below. Here the path turned into a wooden bridge which went across to a carved ledge on the side of the column, then joined another bridge that descended to the rear of the cave. Along the back wall, there was a rocky terrace cut by a few paths and ‘shoreline’ upon which the Blackbloods had built a series of huts and a boat launch. But the main structure was the most surprising. The skeletal remains of two longships lay half-sunk in the water and the timbers and masts from these had been used to construct a multi-storey clump of shacks on tall stilts, partly joined to the terraces, with the rest slightly overhanging the water. “Someone’s been busy.” Said Avrin. “I wonder if these ships were trapped by the cave-in?”Karelle kept silent and surveyed the situation. Across the water, five Blackbloods were sitting by a round table outside the huts, and the glow of candles from the shacks hinted at the presence of several others. Jaree-Ra was nowhere to be seen and the ones they could see were all humans.Karelle rubbed her cheek, thinking about their next move.“We have to cross that bridge but they’ll easily see us.”“A chokepoint works both ways,” replied Avrin, “We have the higher ground, and I can only see one with a bow.”“Can you reach them with magic?”“I doubt I’d be able to hit them at this range...but if I concentrated my power, I think I could summon something close to fight them. Then you could try and shoot at any who come to you across the bridge and I’ll cover you if they get close.”Karelle patted his shoulder in approval, “Sounds like a plan! Let’s go create some chaos!”Avrin stood up and began to cast a conjuration spell. A glowing purple sphere appeared in his hand and he held the energy for several seconds before releasing it. The orb vanished with a snap but on the other side of the cave a burst of purple energy toppled the marauder’s table and they looked up with astonishment at the towering frost atronach that had appeared in front of them. The atronach began to pummel the crowd of marauders, flinging them in all directions with its icy arms. Two managed to break off and saw the elves crossing to the column and ran to the second bridge to intercept them. Avrin remained focused on the fight at the camp on the far side, shooting the confused raiders with lightning bolts from both his staff and free hand. He struggled to hit anyone but the dazzling blasts smashed into crates and the huts, distracting them from the atronach’s hulking attacks. A few arrows and crossbow bolts flew out of windows in the shacks and he kept low to avoid being hit.Karelle saw the two marauders approach and began firing arrows from her vantage point on the column. She narrowly missed with several shots but once they got to the bridge they were forced to advance head on. Her next shot struck the closest Blackblood square in the chest, piercing his scaled leather armour. He fell to his knees on the bridge and the second marauder charged right past him. She loosed another arrow and hit his side. But this marauder was different. He wore a full set of chainmail, a helmet and brandished a huge battle axe marked with a bear motif. This must be the Stormcloak officer! The arrow failed to penetrate and he thundered closer. Karelle’s heart began to pound and she hastily fired another shot which flew past his head. He was now too close and she dropped the bow and drew her sword.The Stormcloak let out a battle cry as he charged the elf. For a dreadful moment, Karelle felt like a startled deer and narrowly dodged to the side as the axe crashed into the ground. He lifted it up and continued to swing at her with tremendous force. Even with two hands gripping her sword there was no way she could block without having her arm shattered. His side-to-side attack pattern was obvious but continued to force her backwards lest she be cut in half. She saw a brief opening and leaped forward so his large axe would become unwieldy at close range. She was quick and landed several blows but the chainmail was impervious.“Avrin!! Help me out here!” she yelled frantically. The Stormcloak, trying to make some room, took one hand off the axe and punched her in the face. As she fell, Avrin came into view, both hands crackling with electricity. Before the Stormcloak could react, the altmer mage struck him with two supercharged bolts of lightning, flinging the axe out of his hand like a toy.“Agghh, you elf bastard!!” he shouted as Avrin blasted him with another bolt. His muscles burned from within and he doubled over in pain. Karelle got to her feet; her bloody face was a picture of fury, and without a second thought, kicked the crippled Stormcloak off the ledge into the black water far below.“I owe you one...” she said breathlessly to Avrin and spat the blood out of her mouth.,By now the Blackblood’s hideout was in disarray. Two more raiders with bows came out of the top level of shacks for a clearer firing position but were hit by a well-aimed frenzy spell and began to grab and fight each other, causing both to fall off the structure and smash into the rocks.Karelle finished off the marauder she had wounded with an arrow earlier and turned to see Avrin’s frost atronach disperse as the summoning ended. Only one marauder with a bow was left standing. He fired at Karelle, clipping her thigh with the arrow but before he could aim another, she downed him with a shot to the shoulder. Avrin looked tired. He flexed his fingers repeatedly to shake off the ache caused by repeated spellcasting and drank a magicka potion to replenish his reserves. The mage picked up his staff and crossed the second bridge to catch up with Karelle. He put his hand on her to give a quick burst of healing but the dunmer woman shrugged him off. “That can wait. Where’s the argonian?”They walked past the huts and smashed table where the atronach had fought and looked up at the elevated shacks.“Do you think he’s inside the structure?” asked Avrin.“Possibly,” answered Karelle, switching from her bow to her sword again, “He’s the type to let others do his dirty work. Stay down here and guard the exit.”Avrin nodded and Karelle made her way up one of the walkways leading to the first level of the shacks. She swiftly entered, keeping her sword ready, and scanned the room for any stragglers who might be hidden behind the mess of boxes and piled up furniture. She repeated the process for the other rooms, including the top floor which was decked out with a large bed, chest and dining table. Where was he?She came back down and stopped dead in her tracks. Avrin was stood with his hands up, and Jaree-Ra was right behind him with a crossbow pointed at the altmer’s back.“That’s close enough!” shouted Jaree-Ra.Avrin looked at Karelle with guilt in his eyes, “I...I’m sorry Karelle. He must’ve climbed down when I wasn’t looking...”“How dare you come here!” hissed the argonian, baring his sharp teeth. “I kept my word and you repay me by killing my sister and our gang! I even offered you extra compensation like you asked. I warned you not to get involved further. But you had to snoop around and put us all at risk!”He then leaned over and spoke to Avrin, “And altmer, you better keep your hands up. If I see you even thinking about casting you’re a dead man.”Karelle glared at him, “I had no idea you were in bed with the Stormcloaks! That you’d butcher the Icerunner’s crew!”“How can a rogue like you be so naive? You know how these jobs can turn out. Now, I’ll give you one chance to leave, or I’ll plug your mage friend in the back and throw him into the sea.” “You think I trust you, lizard?” she spat.“I don’t think you have much choice, greyskin.” said Jaree-Ra in return, jabbing the crossbow into Avrin.Avrin grunted and shot a steely look at Karelle. He raised his eyebrows briefly to get her attention and nodded very slightly, hoping the argonian peering over his shoulder wouldn’t see. Karelle wasn’t sure what the mage was planning but stood on the balls of her feet and tensed up in anticipation. He took a deep breath and gave a deliberately long blink.Avrin cast a shielding spell as fast as he could. A green light flashed out and outlined his body. Seeing this, the argonian fired the crossbow at point blank range, hurtling the bolt into his shoulder blade. But the spell was just enough. The bolt struck hard and knocked the altmer mage over but it was deflected in a burst of green sparks, as if it had hit a stone wall. Karelle saw her moment and sprinted forward before the argonian could either reload or draw his sword. She bolted past him, slicing him deeply in the side as she went. The dunmer then span round and thrust the sword right through his back and out the other side, dropping him in an instant.Avrin simply gazed with wide eyes and slowly picked himself up off the ground. The spell had stopped the bolt from piercing, but the impact was still very painful. He applied a little healing magic to take the edge off, but bruising was hardly a concern right now.“Are you alright?! I’m so sorry...” said Karelle.“For what?” he sputtered.“Dragging you into this nonsense. All of it was my fault! But I couldn’t have set it right without you.” she answered, fighting back tears. She hated for people to see her crying.“I can’t make excuses for you, Kar...but I’m glad we managed to do something about it. I don’t want to make a habit of getting shot though...” he said in jest and they leaned in for a hug.They turned their attention to the cave and began to finish what they set out to do. Karelle scoured the bodies, huts and shacks for any valuables and found an ornate ebony dagger in the chest of the top room, as well as a few pouches of Septims. Meanwhile, Avrin found the Blackbloods’ rowboat that they had kept the Imperial weapons shipment in. To Karelle’s disappointment, most were plain, mass-produced swords but it was probably for the best. She poured lamp oil all around the boat and with some difficulty they managed to push it out further into the main chamber using some long boat hooks. Avrin took a few attempts to toss a fireball out to it but eventually it caught fire and sank, taking the cargo with it. They then repeated the trick with oil and fire spells to set the shacks alight.With their job done, the pair of elves exited the cave, seeing the lookout girl who had recently regained consciousness.Karelle grabbed the confused girl by the collar and simply warned her, “Your gang’s gone. Don’t let us ever see you around Solitude ever again.” before letting her scramble away.They travelled back to Solitude without any incident. This time Avrin was glad that could he walk at a leisurely pace instead of having to ride Val again.Back at Proudspire Manor, the golden rays of the setting sun shone through the windows. They had changed clothes and healed up and Karelle was for once happy to dine on Avrin’s cooking, perhaps bribed by the appearance of a bottle of fine wine at the table.“After all these scrapes, I think we’re about even now, right?” he joked. She sure livened things up when she was around. That was putting it mildly.“Yeah fair enough. Ugh...I need to find better jobs. Keep things a bit more legit. But you must admit, we make a good team.” replied Karelle, swirling her wine around in her glass.“That we do. Perhaps we could get involved with some exploration projects with one of the colleges. Or I could take you into some Dwemer ruins to help me scavenge components.”“The way my luck has been lately, I might take you up on that some day.” she smiled, feeling a little drunk, “Now, I wouldn’t mind having a nice soak in that bath downstairs...”Avrin nodded and they began to clear up the table before heading down. He lit the heater and they took turns using the pump to fill the tub with hot water.Avrin wiped his brow from the effort, “There you go. Put these salts in and I’ll go get some towels for you.” and went up the stairs. As he came down a few minutes later he knocked on the door and Karelle opened it a little to put out an arm to take the towels. She thanked him but didn’t close the door fully and he caught a fleeting glance of the side of her bare body as she walked to the tub.“You know, I bet two people could fit in this...” she said in a very deliberate tone.“Probably,” he said, staring away from the opening, “A pity there’s no one here to join you!” and promptly closed the door.He gave a sigh of relief and banished any lingering thoughts as he headed back upstairs.“That woman is nothing but trouble...”---The next few days passed peacefully. Avrin brewed up a new batch of potions and sat at a little stall in the city market, whilst Karelle took some delivery jobs that she learned of on the first night and spent most of the daytime riding back and forth around the province.Eventually though, it was time for her to move on, lest she outstay her welcome at Proudspire Manor. She managed to sell off the trinkets and the ebony dagger looted from Broken Oar Grotto and walked to the stable with Avrin to load up her horse.“It was nice seeing you again” she said, and hoisted herself up onto the saddle.“It was an interesting change of pace,” smiled Avrin, “But next time, try not to get caught up with raiders or Stormcloaks!”“...You’re not going to let me live this one down are you? I should’ve known from the start it was a bad idea. But at least we helped put an end to their activity. I thought about what you said though. I need to find work that is not as...unlawful. So if you ever need someone to track down rare ingredients or as backup for delving in ruins, I’m your elf!”“I’ll keep that in mind!” he said, “You know where I am. Just maybe send a letter in advance? I do leave the city from time to time believe it or not!”“You got it!” winked Karelle.They bade each other farewell and Karelle set off down the road, now lit by the pleasant midday sun. It had been an eventful week, for both good and bad reasons but had helped reconnect their unlikely friendship, and she knew in her heart it wouldn’t be long until they met again.
TES: A Coastal Conspiracy - Part 1/2Karelle had been riding all day from the south and was looking forward to reaching her destination. The sun was beginning to dip below the mountains and trees to the west, casting soft shadows across the road. The dunmer woman rode a dark brown horse burdened with two large saddlebags and some rolls of cloth. She had been uncertain about how far it was from her last stop in Dragon Bridge but luckily the walls and Great Arch of Solitude were coming into view and she smiled knowing she’d have a roof over her head tonight after all. She was dressed in a well-fitted leather cuirass with matching bracers and boots, worn over a dark red tunic and grey pants. Her shoulder-length black hair was tied up into a loose ponytail which swayed gently as the horse trotted along. Her skin was a light blue-grey in tone and like most dark elves, her eyes were red, set into a sharp-featured face. On her left cheek was a pair of thin scars, partly concealed strands of hair.Karelle had first come to Skryim almost a decade ago, fleeing the war between the Empire and Aldmeri Dominion raging to the south. She had been a marked woman after taking revenge on the Thalmor who had killed her father in an altercation at a roadblock and had headed north to lay low. After a year in Falkreath she drifted to Riften and bumbled her way into the Thieves Guild where she worked up the ranks and became an accomplished rogue. But it was always a risky life full of fights, close calls and occasional jail time. Eventually she retired from the Guild to become a freelance agent and was slowly but surely making a better life for herself. Yet, she easily fell back into old habits and would always be on the lookout for opportunities to make gold, even if they weren’t strictly lawful.Soon she reached the city stables and a cluster of farm buildings perched on a narrow terrace of land, flanked by mountains on the left, and a steep drop to the Karth River to the right. After dismounting and stretching her sore legs, Karelle lead her horse, Val, to the stable and gathered some of her belongings. She unrolled and put on a grey cloak and after fiddling with some leather straps, she slung one of the bulky saddlebags across her back, along with her sword in its scabbard. After negotiating a rather steep fee with the stable keeper, who assured her he would keep the rest of her belongings safe, she headed uphill on foot to the gates of the city. There were only two guards at the entrance and the doors were opened enough to let two carts in side by side. The gate guards virtually ignored her - perhaps being a dunmer gave her a free pass, as dark elves were very unlikely to be involved in Stormcloak activity.Karelle walked along the wide street, past businesses closing up for the day and carts being loaded up with goods. Going through a second, smaller gatehouse, the street bent to the right revealing the main part of the city. Here the streets became narrower as the buildings fought for space atop the Great Arch which most of Solitude was built on. She looked at the grey stone buildings on the north-facing side and took a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket, containing a crude map and the words Proudspire Manor scribbled next to an X.“That must be it.” She said out loud, looking at a tall but narrow three-storey house, slotted tightly between a pair of even grander buildings either side. A small brass plaque screwed to the door, confirmed that this was the right place.She knocked on the door several times but to no avail.“Don’t tell me he’s not home...It’s Fredas evening...no way he’s out!” she frowned. It would have been a long way to come for nothing.Just as she began to step back and check the map again, a rattling of a key and sliding of a chain could be heard and not a moment later, the door creaked open, revealing an altmer man dressed in a smart blue tunic.“Kar? What are you doing here?” he blurted out before breaking into a suspicious smile.“Hey Avrin, it’s been a while! I was just in the neighbourhood and thought I’d drop by. Remember, you gave me this address the last time we met?”“Of course but that was over a year ago. I’m just surprised that’s all. And you look like you’re still in one piece too, against all odds. Come in, please.”They walked into the house and Avrin began to light a few candles with a flick of magic to brighten things up. Avrin was tall for a human yet somewhat short for a high elf. His brown hair was short and swept back, whilst his skin was fair and had a golden hue to it. If he wore a hood to cover his pointed ears and vivid green eyes, he could almost pass for a human, which was a handy trait in certain parts of Skyrim where elves were viewed with suspicion. He was a about 30 years older than Karelle, though due to elven longevity this didn’t feel like a big gap, nor show much on his face besides some bags under his eyes.Karelle looked around the house a little enviously — the term ‘manor’ was stretching things but it was far more spacious than any place she’d called home for a long time. Avrin was keen to give her the grand tour so she left her bags in the large foyer, which served as a storeroom and alchemy lab, littered with boxes and potion bottles.Besides the lab, the there was also a guest bedroom and a room with a large wooden bath, complete with water pump and heater. The back corner of the house was taken up by a wide, open stairwell lit by tall windows. This led up to the second floor, containing a kitchen and a sitting room, whilst on the top floor was Avrin’s master bedroom and his study. As a whole, the house wasn’t as luxurious as the name would suggest but it was solidly built and tastefully decorated, if a bit dusty and cluttered in places.“Gods, Avrin, how’d you afford all this?”“Well, the world will always need healers and alchemists. I also do some archiving for the Bard’s College next door. In any case it’ll take me probably a decade to pay off the mortgage, so I’m here for the foreseeable future!”Fiddling with the strap on her bracer Karelle decided to get to the point of her visit.“So...uh, when you told me you had a house you said I’d be welcome to come? I’m over in Solitude for a while to find some work, so would it be ok if I stayed here for a while?” She suddenly felt rather guilty for being so up front, “I know it’s all of a sudden but I promise I won’t get in your way. I’ll get my own food and I might be out a lot too so it’s like I won’t even be here!”Avrin narrowed his green eyes slightly but had suspected this would be the case. Knowing Karelle’s history, ‘finding some work’ meant there was a chance she’d be up to no good. The dunmer’s habits as a freewheeling rogue often caused friction between them both but the altmer valued the odd friendship they had cultivated over the past few years. For a brief time they had been involved romantically but it became clear it would be better kept platonic, though it was hard to say how deep potential feelings still ran. Their history was complicated and bumpy but time and again she’d prove far more enjoyable to be with than some of the mages he knew. As long as she didn’t drag him into trouble, he’d do his best to bite his tongue and look the other way.“Alright. You can have the guest room. But keep me out of any of your business here. And don’t steal anything.” he replied sarcastically. Karelle couldn’t tell if he was joking about the last part – of course she wouldn’t do that! But she laughed it off and knew he could quite easily kick her out if he wanted. Despite being rather quiet and amiable, Avrin was a powerful mage, though he often downplayed this. “Thanks! Really, I mean it!” she said and gave him a quick hug before grabbing her gear and moving it into the spare room.Half an hour later she joined him upstairs in the sitting room and enjoyed a cup of strong tea whilst sitting by the window. Avrin’s house, like most of the buildings on this side of the street, joined onto Solitude’s northern wall, with the upper floors looking out to sea. The view outside was stunning, looking across miles of coastline, now cast in the golden light of the setting sun. She could see numerous ships of all sizes and far on the horizon lay clusters of icebergs, obscured by haze. They talked for over an hour, catching up on what they had been doing for the past year since they last met down in Whiterun. As night came, Avrin began to prepare some dinner but Karelle politely excused herself and took a spare key before heading to the tavern near the city gates.She entered the Winking Skeever which was getting busy for a Fredas night and ordered a hearty bowl of beef and vegetable stew and a mug of beer. Now was a good chance to recharge her energy and see if she could find any work. Rogues were rogues, and a tavern was a natural spot to find ‘specialist’ jobs that might not be advertised elsewhere. Naturally she had kept her leather armour on to make her look the part. After doing the standard trick of learning important faces from the bartender, she downed her drink and mingled with the patrons.The tavern was certainly getting lively with rowdy sailors, off duty Imperial soldiers and shopkeepers all blowing off steam. There was dice, cards and drunken singing galore. In short, the type of atmosphere she loved to get involved with in Skyrim. It was fun to be back in a city again but despite talking and flirting to various mercenaries and travellers she was unable to find any interesting jobs. Just the usual package deliveries and retrievals, which anyone with a horse could do. Fine for earning a few coins but hardly worth the journey north.With a new drink in hand, she brushed her way past some leering Nords and ended up locking eyes with a pinkish skinned argonian sat in a dimly lit corner booth.“Hey there. Are you looking to make some coin?” he murmured, looking her up and down. Wait, did this lizard think she was a courtesan? Before she was able to tell him where to shove it, he raised his hands and explained, “Ah, what I mean is, I’m looking for someone to help my associates out. A bit of shadow and brains and you look like you know how to handle yourself.”“...Go on.” Karelle said reluctantly, taking a swig of her drink and walking closer. She still wasn’t sure if he was going somewhere with this, or was just a creep who liked the sound of his own voice.“The name’s Jaree-Ra. Me, my sister Deeja and friends have a little plan to make some money and we need an extra pair of hands. Someone with a certain finesse if you know what I mean.”Karelle slowly pulled up a chair and let him continue speaking.“We like to find and sell things that nobody would miss. I bet the two of us are very alike!”Her eyes narrowing, Karelle managed to interrupt his vague ramblings, “You might be right about that. You can call me ’K’ and yes, I’ve got certain skills but let’s cut to the chase. And if it’s not suitable, I’ll quickly forget everything I heard.”“Then I’m glad we found each other!” he said, flashing his sharp teeth with a grin. “With the war, many ships come through these docks. Loaded with weapons and pay, but few people. And they pass through dangerous waters. We have an interest in a boat called the Icerunner. The Solitude Lighthouse will be guiding it in...but if its fire didn’t shine, the ship would surely run aground and someone would have to kindly rescue both the sailors and the cargo.”“I see, so you want the lighthouse to be sabotaged?”“What an interesting idea! Yes, if someone were to do that and then meet me by the docks afterwards...they would be happily compensated. Let’s say 200 Septims.”“Hm. For a heist as big as that, I’d need more. Wrecking a ship is pretty serious, even if you rescue the sailors.” she said bluntly as she leaned on the table.“Ah that’s the beauty of it my friend. All I need is the fire out. In fact you don’t need to worry about the Icerunner at all. You can get some easy gold and be on your merry way. Deeja and my friends will deal with the wreck.”“Heh, yeah and I’m sure the crew will be grateful whether they like it or not! Look, I can deal with the lighthouse somehow. But I’m not an idiot — you guys better keep things clean. I’d want a small cut of the loot too.”The argonian growled slightly and shifted in his chair. Clearly he wanted to keep things simple. Karelle sighed, sipped her drink and looked impatiently to the side. She was considering leaving but Jaree-Ra spoke again, this time much more directly.“Ok it’s a deal, elf. I need this done. Tomorrow night with no screw ups. That flame cannot shine past sunset. I don’t care how, just try and be quiet about it. I’ll be at the docks the next morning to pay you, and then I’ll message you when we have secured the wreck so you can come and pick out a few things.”“I’ll get it done.” said Karelle curtly, standing up and putting a hand on her hip, “Leave a note for me with the tavern owner when you’re ready.” She grabbed her cup and left the argonian to his business, feeling quietly satisfied that she’d found something after all. It was risky but 200 Septims was decent enough considering the ship might not even hit the rocks. And if things went sour, she wasn’t obligated to stick around.She sauntered back into the main part of the lively tavern. A moment later she glanced back and saw that Jaree-Ra had gone. He probably had a lot to get ready. It was turning into a pretty good night after all and the elf headed straight back to the bar with a wry smile on her face.“One more drink couldn’t hurt!”---It was nearly midnight and Karelle made her way out of the tavern. She’d perhaps celebrated her new ‘contract’ a bit too hard and staggered out into the main street of Solitude to make her way back to Avrin’s house. Luckily the layout of the city was rather simple and she found the right door soon enough but fumbled with the key for a good minute before managing to open it.Stepping into the cool, slightly musty air of Proudspire Manor, she squinted in the dark to find her guest room.“Av-rin. It’s me...I’m uh back...” she slurred.A faint light appeared from the top of the stairwell and Avrin’s voice echoed from above, “I was wondering when you’d crawl back in.”Was he concerned or just mocking her?“Yeah, it’s a good tahvern that place...I met...a very nice argonian man too!”“Huh...well that sounds about right - you’ll bonk anything won’t you?” he teased, though in truth was glad she hadn’t actually brought anyone home with her.“Oh f-fuck off...it’s not like that. He’s hired me for some work tomorra night.”“Fair enough, Kar. You’d better sleep this off then. And try not to make a mess. Goodnight!”Avrin slipped away back into his own room, leaving Karelle downstairs, rubbing her temple in annoyance.“Smug bastard...I’ll give you a slap! But those...uh...stairs...are at a funny angle right now...”Shuffling into her room she swore repeatedly at her inability to take off her leather cuirass. With some considerable effort she managed to work the straps and get undressed before throwing herself down onto the mattress.The next morning she woke up with a banging headache and dry mouth. She groaned and carefully turned herself over to pour some much needed water from a carafe next to the bed. Slightly regaining her senses she realised that she was wearing nothing but her bra and a single sock. Everything else was scattered across the room. All of the merriment and events of the night were a haze. She remembered cavorting with a bunch of merchants and nearly losing her boots in a game of dice. And Jaree-Ra, the argonian? Yes! She was to stop the Solitude Lighthouse from shining tonight and meet him later at the docks to be paid. Then if all went well the Icerunner would hit the rocks and she would also get a share of the loot. That sounded about right. Was it too dangerous though? She was no stranger to heists but this could hurt a lot of people and Jaree-Ra’s gang was still an unknown factor. For a moment she tried to think it over but her brain felt like mashed potatoes so she lay back down. Eventually she managed to get out of bed to clean herself up, untangle her black hair and put on a spare set of clothes.Upstairs Avrin had finished his breakfast of toast and jam but had left some for Karelle. She dragged herself up the stairs into the kitchen and greeted him with a grunt.He smiled and beckoned her over to a table which, besides the food, had his alchemy travelling case on it.“I figured you might not be in a good state this morning.” he said and rummaged through the case, pulling out a little black bottle. “Here, this one’s on the house. Drink it and it should clear up your hangover quickly.”The dunmer’s bleary red eyes widened and she chugged the contents down without hesitation. The liquid was dark, thick, and tasted like a mix of aniseed and lamp oil. For a moment it seemed like it would have the opposite effect and she breathed heavily in anticipation of being sick. But fortunately the wave of nausea passed and little by little she could feel her head clearing.“Ugh, thanks Avrin. No wonder you make good money. You could sell these to every Nord in town, right?”He laughed and closed the case, “It keeps me in business. If an alchemist can make healing potions, hangover cures and contraceptive tonics they’ll never be short of work...”“Yeah I might want to stock up on...all of those...” she said absentmindedly, rubbing the back of her neck. Quickly dropping the subject, she sat down and began to have breakfast. Meanwhile, Avrin retired to his armchair by the window and thumbed through his ledger to plan what supplies he’d need in the coming week.As her hangover was banished to Oblivion, she regained her usual energy and the pair chatted about the recent happenings in Skyrim. The Dragon Crisis had abated, with the so-called Dragonborn claiming victory over Alduin and his resurrected kin. Many rumours persisted over who the Dragonborn actually was but accounts varied wildly. Some outlandish travellers even insisted they had seen a tail come out from the Dragonborn’s armour, suggesting they were in fact a Khajiit or Argonian! To Avrin and Karelle it didn’t really matter but it was a huge relief to hear that the dragons had once again disappeared from the land.Later that day, Avrin moved down to the lab to prepare some potion ingredients, whilst Karelle took the chance to wash some of her clothes. After a quick lunch and double checking her equipment, she put on a thick blue tunic and her leather armour, said her goodbyes to Avrin and went to collect Val from the stable. From here she rode down the winding path to the docks and along the road heading under the Great Arch. It was late afternoon before she had made it far enough around the coast to spy the lighthouse which was built not too far from the road itself. When she got closer, she dismounted and walked up to the door, which was set back in a small alcove. It was made of thick wood and strengthened by a pair of iron slats. The lock itself was a square iron block with a large keyhole, set firmly into the door. Picking the lock would be possible, but that wasn’t necessarily the problem.To avoid being noticed the elf led her horse off the road and up to the forested hills and set up a makeshift camp concealed behind a boulder. Opening one of the saddlebags, she pulled out a small telescope and examined the lighthouse in more detail. It was a simple stone tower, with the keeper’s house located off to the side. A crane and pulley swung out to the side of the tower, allowing fuel to be hoisted up on a pallet. The brazier at the top was sheltered from rain by a conical roof, but was otherwise open to the elements. While she was watching, the lighthouse keeper had come out of his house to tend to a small garden. Much to her surprise he was a Khajiit, with grey and brown fur and simple clothes.She scratched her head over how to approach the task Jaree-Ra had given her. The fire was fuelled by a stack of wood, likely doused in oil. If the keeper lit it, there was no way she could put it out with just a bucket of water. She could break in and move the fuel, but unless she dealt with the keeper, he could simply bring more up within an hour. Evidently, the trick would be to stop him getting up there in the first place, preferably without having to confront him.She thought back to a few things she’d learned in the Thieves Guild and delved into a saddlebag, pulling out a rectangular box containing a variety of tools and bottles.“Perfect!” she exclaimed, pulling out two glass vials. One full of crushed orange fire salts and another of a colourless fluid, marked acid. “I hope this stuff is strong enough.”A short time later the keeper had finished with his little garden and had presumably gone into his house for dinner. It would be dark in an hour so no doubt he would be due to light the fire soon. She took the vials and some gloves and sneaked back up to the door.First she used her gloved finger to stuff fire salts into the keyhole as far as she could. Then she began to carefully pour the acid into the lock. The salts began to fizz and burst into an intense but short-lived flame. For a moment she thought she might have to go grab some water if the wooden frame caught fire but the reaction subsided and she wafted away the noxious fumes. Peering into the keyhole, the lock’s innards glowed a deep red and had been warped by the heat. To complete the sabotage, a pinch of wet sand from the rough path was pushed into the mechanism and raked back and forth with a lockpick to ensure it was fouled up.An hour later, with the sun almost setting, the keeper came out of his house and walked to the lighthouse door. Karelle peered over the boulder with the telescope and saw him try to open the door unsuccessfully. He tried to clean out the keyhole but the burning salts and the residual sand had seized the lock up completely, making the key useless. Exasperated, he looked around nervously and ran back to the house, quickly emerging with some tools. But it was no good. The lock was set firmly into the wood with nails and the bolts of the hinge were old and far too stiff for the Khajiit to undo.The poor Khajiit tried to unsuccessfully to cut the wood around the lock and pry the mechanism out. He made several attempts over the next few hours, each time being secretly watched from the dark by Karelle who would’ve intervened with a warning shot from her bow if he was about to make progress. However, he eventually gave up and went back into his house. Satisfied that it was now too late for the fire to be lit, she slipped into a bedroll and lay back to get some sleep. Somewhere, the Icerunner was running blind in a clear but moonless night. Her job was done and whether it ran aground was now up to the Gods.The next morning, Karelle awoke feeling rather chilly. The night had been dry but colder than expected and she had to stretch and jump up and down for a few minutes to get the blood pumping again. The lighthouse fire thankfully hadn’t been lit, judging by the still fresh blocks of wood on the brazier. Having accomplished her mission she had a quick bite to eat and rode back to the docks below Solitude.She hitched Val to a post near a warehouse and found a quiet spot to wait. It took some time before Jaree-Ra arrived. He was dressed in rather scruffy hide armour and carried a two-handed sword on his back. Karelle stepped out and waved to catch his eye.“Ah my fair elven friend! I take it everything went to plan?” he said, catching her off guard with his cheerfulness.“I did what you asked. I jammed the door so the keeper wasn’t able to climb and light the fire. And he is none the wiser who did it!” Karelle replied confidently.“Then you have earned your fee! Here!” he grinned, tossing her a heavy pouch of coins which she deftly caught in her palm. “I checked with the dock workers and the Icerunner has failed to arrive. How unfortunate! My sister and friends are out looking for it as we speak.”“Do you remember the deal?” Karelle interrupted, “I want a cut of the loot too. Just a little extra to help me along...”The argonian sighed and suddenly lost his cheer. “Fine...I suppose I did promise. I don’t actually know where the Icerunner is yet. I will leave you a message at the Winking Skeever when I find out, Miss K. But I warn you, don’t ask too many questions when you get there.”“Ok then, don’t keep me waiting.” she replied and turned to make her way back into town. Like the night she met him, his tone had changed again when she brought up the loot. Perhaps he was paranoid about being found out, or just plain greedy.That afternoon she checked in with Avrin, to let him know she was still alive and went to the Winking Skeever for lunch. Avrin was a competent mage and alchemist but his cooking and taste in food left something to be desired. He was the sort to eat the same thing most days and it was all rather plain to Karelle. Later she decided to go for a walk around town again and do a bit of shopping with her newly acquired gold. She bought some new arrows and a pair of small pouches that could be attached to her belt. A short while later she made her way back to the tavern and checked with the owner if any messages had been delivered for her. The owner nodded and handed her a small folded note.K.Meet D at the bay a mile west of the lighthouse. You can’t miss it.J-RKarelle rushed back to Proudspire Manor to grab her supplies, including her grey cloak and sword. Fortunately Avrin wasn’t in to question what she was up to. Picking up her horse from the stables, she galloped down the road towards the lighthouse once more. It was rather funny that the ship had wrecked just a bit further along than where she had already been the last night. The Icerunner must have run aground up there, ploughing into one of the rocky bays without the lighthouse to provide a warning. Riding past the lighthouse, she once again saw the keeper outside. However, this time he had help from the dock workers who had arrived by cart and had managed to wrench the door open with a crowbar.“At least there won’t be any more ships at risk.” she muttered to herself.Beyond the lighthouse, the road cut inland between a series of tall rock outcrops before opening out into a shallow bay with a stony beach and several jagged rocks jutting above the waves further out. And amongst all this was the wreck of the Icerunner which, judging from a gash in the side of the hull, had struck the rocks near the mouth of the bay and had ended up on the beach, wedging its keel into the sand and pebbles. The tide was out and Karelle could see some humans in light armour milling around on the top deck.Karelle dismounted and fastened her sword to her hip, covering it with her long cloak. She also slipped a small knife into a hidden slot in one of her boots, just in case.One of the men on the ship saw and pointed a crossbow at her and shouted out, “Oi you! Move along!”“Are you Jaree-Ra’s people? I’m K!” replied the elf, placing her hand on the hilt of the sword underneath her cloak.“Yeah, we’re his Blackbloods. So you dealt with the lighthouse eh? We’ve packed up a lot already by boat when the tide was in. You’ll have to speak with Deeja inside. She’ll sort you out with something. Come on up but don’t touch anything unless she says so.”He put down his crossbow and lifted a rather flimsy ladder over for her to climb up. The ship was a squat nordic design and with its keel deeply buried, the top deck was only about three metres above the beach. Karelle made her way up without difficultly and looked across the deck with shock.Five dead sailors were arranged into a row, each showing evidence of a violent confrontation. What really made her blood run cold was the fact that they weren’t ordinary merchant sailors but wore Imperial uniforms, similar to the light infantry commonly seen in Solitude.“What’s going on here?!” Karelle snarled. “Why’d you kill the crew? And why the fuck are they all Imperials?”The two marauders on deck, a Nord man and woman, turned towards her threateningly. This time the female spoke up. “Oh we tried to rescue them but they didn’t feel like cooperating. And well, this is an Imperial supply ship, duh.”Karelle grit her teeth. This was not what she expected. Feeling their eyes burn into her, she buried her anger for a moment and asked where Deeja was.They pointed her to the captain’s cabin in the stern, one deck down.“I’ll talk to Deeja. Then I’ll be gone.” This wasn’t a good idea but she needed answers and slowly walked inside the ship. The interior was scattered with empty boxes, rope and pools of seawater. Another dead sailor was lying in one of the side rooms and a third marauder in the hold eyed her up as she went to the captain’s cabin.Inside was Deeja, a green-skinned argonian woman, dressed in a hide top and furs around her legs. Hearing Karelle’s footsteps, she sat up from the captain’s chair and put her hands on her hips.“Ahh so this is my brother’s favourite elf. He has a soft spot for girls with pointy ears you know. I really didn’t want anyone outside our gang snooping around but the fool made a deal didn’t he?”“He did. But he didn’t tell me there would be Imperials aboard, or that you were going to kill them.”“We gave them a chance to surrender. They sadly refused.” said Deeja, brushing off some dust from her top.Karelle clenched her knuckles momentarily and gestured to the empty cargo hold behind her.“Where’s the cargo? This place looks picked clean.” “My people have taken it for safe keeping. It was mostly weapons and iron ingots, so not that interesting to us, but we have a deal to pass them on to a very interested party. It’s fair to say none of us in the Blackbloods are fans of the Empire running goods in these parts.”Karelle stiffened and thumbed the hilt of her sword.“Don’t tell me you mean Stormcloaks...”“Why not work with them if they pay well? The Empire’s days are done up here don’t you think?” sneered Deeja and pointed to a finely crafted battle axe resting against the wall. “Take that if you want elf. Master crafted from Hammerfell – there’s nothing else here for you.”Karelle swore under her breath, “All this fucking mess for just an axe.” Glaring at Deeja, she could barely hold back her disgust, “And you’re a fucking idiot if you think the Stormcloaks care about people like us. Elves and beastfolk are just dirt to them! Tools at best! They’ll kick us out or worse if they seize control!”The marauder in the hold abruptly came in and stood in the cabin’s doorway. “Someone has to stand up for Skyrim, elf. Don’t tell me you’re an Empire bootlicker? She’s gonna ruin everything, Deeja.”Karelle’s ears pricked up at the sound of his dagger blade being slowly unsheathed and she widened her stance slightly.“What are you saying, Nord?”“If you had just kept your mouth shut, you could’ve taken your payment and left. But after that outburst I reckon you’re sounding pretty risky. What if you sell us out? Or maybe you’re a spy!” he growled and took a step closer. “I bet that fancy leather armour of yours is worth something. More than we spent on your services anyhow...”Karelle’s eyes glanced back and forth between the marauder on her right and Deeja at the back of the cabin on her left. Had they noticed her sword under the cloak? Deeja made an almost imperceptible hand gesture and the marauder stepped forwards, brandishing his dagger.Karelle spun right and in a single motion, drew her sword and sliced upwards at his jaw. The stunned marauder stumbled backwards, clutching his bloodied face and she drove the sword into his stomach to finish him off.Behind her Deeja burst into action, pulling sword and a dagger out from under the captain’s desk and leaped over it towards Karelle. Their swords met with a clang, but Karelle pivoted to one side, letting Deeja’s momentum propel her into a cabinet. The argonian growled and swiped at the elf’s leg with her tail. Karelle stumbled back and unclipped her cloak, wrapping it over her left hand to use as a makeshift shield. The dual-wielding argonian advanced again, this time delivering a strong horizontal slash, followed up with a hasty thrust from the dagger in her other hand. Karelle barely managed to dodge in time and swung her cloak at the exposed dagger to snag it in its folds. Then with a yank, she whipped the cloak to the side, wrenching the dagger out of the argonian’s hand. But the movement had unbalanced Karelle too and Deeja saw the chance to hack at the elf again with the sword. This time Karelle was caught off guard and the tip of the blade struck the top of her leather cuirass, cutting her below the collar bone. She winced in pain but thankfully the armour had stopped it being a worse hit.They continued to fight and with little room to manoeuvre one wrong move could spell disaster. Karelle managed to slice Deeja on the arm but took a kick to the stomach that crashed her against a wall, knocking the breath out of her. She threw the cloak at the argonian who batted it aside before closing in. Using the brief moment of distraction, Karelle sprang forth, locking blades and grappling Deeja with her spare hand. Writhing back and forth, the argonian proved stronger and managed to topple and disarm the elf, but was dragged down with her. As they wrestled on the floor Karelle tried repeatedly to reach the knife in her boot, whilst trying to stop the argonian’s sword from being jammed into her throat, but her strength was fading fast. With one last, desperate attempt she got hold of the knife and plunged it firmly into the base of Deeja’s tail.The argonian howled and jolted up as if gripped by a spasm. Wasting no time, Karelle scrambled free and retrieved her sword. Deeja staggered breathlessly to her feet, immobilised by the pain pulsing up and down her spine. A grim look came over Karelle’s face and she stared deep into the eyes of the argonian woman before thrusting the sword straight into her chest, killing her instantly.Karelle breathed deeply to calm herself down. Adrenaline was surging through her and she could feel blood seeping down her chest from the wound she’d received. By a miracle, the other two marauders above had not heard the scuffle and she used the valuable time to check Deeja and the desk for any clues to what was going on.It didn’t take long to find some papers.Dear J-R,We will put all the weapons and armour into our boat and row it to Broken Oar Grotto before low tide. The entrance is hard to spot from above due to an old cave-in. Go down to the pebble beach at Horker Cove and it should be more obvious.There is a Stormcloak officer staying there to make sure things go smoothly. When the weather is good, he will help us sail the cargo to Dawnstar where we will receive full payment. A lot of the Blackbloods support the cause so if we build good relations there should be plenty more work in future!D“Damn these fools for working with the Stormcloaks!”As a dunmer, she had no love for Ulfric’s rebellion. His prejudice against anyone who wasn’t a ‘True Nord’ was widely known and after being caught up in the Battle of Whiterun she loathed them with a passion. The fact that the rest of the so-called Blackbloods gang had thrown their lot in with them made her blood run hot. She was no Empire apologist but there was no way she wanted to see any kind of Stormcloak victory in the war and if screwing up their raiding plans helped just a little, then so be it.She put her cloak back on and crept back up to the top deck of the Icerunner. The other male marauder stood with his back to her as she silently approached. A swift kick to the back of his leg bent him backwards. One hand reached around to grab his mouth and the other ran the sword up through his ribs. He collapsed quickly but the final female marauder heard the thud and turned in shock. Karelle closed the distance in seconds and swung at her. The wide-eyed marauder parried Karelle’s blade and slashed her deeply across the forearm, cutting right through the bracer. The elf yelled in pain and broke off, switching the sword to her left hand. Her right arm was bleeding heavily and she needed to end this quickly. Charging in again, Karelle dodged to one side and jabbed the marauder’s thigh, dropping her to one knee before dispatching her with a powerful blow to the back of the neck.With the fight over, Karelle awkwardly climbed down the ladder and went to her horse. She was a mess of sweat and blood. After removing the damaged bracer she took out some cloth to bandage the wound and a rag to clean herself up. She tried to look for a healing potion but cursed that all she had was one small bottle. Drinking it helped close the cut above her chest but wasn’t enough to fully heal the gash in her forearm. Why didn’t she buy some earlier in town?Luckily she knew the perfect altmer who could heal her...but unfortunately she would have to tell him everything that had happened...
[TES] Araduna's Journal (pages 1-4) by SpicePrincess
Stories of Canon X Reader or OC
When We First MetQuick disclaimer: Phoebe's named is not mentioned as no one knows her her name, or those who know it don't say it. _______________________The werewolf attack on Camlorn came out of nowhere, one moment the people were going on about their daily routines and the next some were being slaughtered without warning, others turned into more werewolves making their take over the city quick. Some people managed to flee the city along with some of the guards while others fled to the largest building in the city, the church. Darien Gautier, captain of the city guards, sat at the steps of the altars looking over the people who survived, all of them mourning lost family members or wondering if they got out of the city. How long have they already been barricaded here? A few days? Maybe a week? The church had some supplies, but they wouldn’t last much longer. They needed a new plan, the inn would have more supplies they could use to survive, and he had to get the survivors there. It would be a difficult job with how many werewolves and cultists were running around the streets of the city. There weren’t enough guards left to safely guard all of the civilians. Darien stood up making his way towards the survivors. Darien noticed Prescilla crying, the poor girl lost her family during the attack. He sat down next to the brunette woman, she looked up at him when he placed his hand on her back comforting her. She sniffled as she hugged him, crying harder. He promised her that it will be ok, he will protect her and everyone here. Darien gently smiled at her, leaning closer, lifting her chin up their eyes meeting, he forgot about their meeting days before but after this he would make up for it. Darien’s gaze moved from the woman in front of him to the shrines standing behind him.‘Divines, I know I’m not a praying man, but we need a miracle against these werewolves.’ He looked up at the ceiling hoping they would hear his pleas for aid. “Captain!” A guard ran up to him. “The watch guards on the second floor are reporting the werewolves and cultists being attacked through the city, their numbers dwindling.” “How many are out there?” Darien questioned letting go of the crying woman, as he stood up. His father must have sent soldiers to aid them, it seemed like the divine’s answer his prayers fairly quickly, or it was just good timing. “Only one” The guard replied, Darien raised an eyebrow in confusion. One? One man was taking care of all those werewolves and cultists out there? That can’t be right, one person cannot possibly fight through all those enemies out there, there has to be more out there. Darien walked towards the doors, he saw one of the guards speaking to an unknown woman holding a staff, even if he could currently only see her from the back anyone could easily tell this was a woman. He liked the view if he was honest with himself. Her red hair was loose, going little past her shoulders. Even with everything going on around him Darien would never pass out on the opportunity to flirt and impress a pretty girl. What was he thinking? His home was overrun; he had no time for this sort of thinking. Why was she here? “What brings you to our pleasant little city?” He said, crossing his arms “The war? The blood? The thrice-damned Werewolves?” He started loudly getting the woman’s attention, scowling as he straightened up, he was not amused by the sudden Werewolf attack. When she turned around to look at him his heart skipped a beat. He wasn’t expecting to see the most beautiful woman in Tamriel right in front of him, her eyes were a vibrant and yet a dull shade of green similar to emeralds that have never seen the light of day, a pale complexion as if she’s never done anything outside for too long, similar to many of the noble women he has met. Of course he couldn’t help looking over her body, and he did like what he saw, taller than any Breton woman she was almost as tall as him. And her chest, he’s always liked being with a woman with big breasts and this woman definitely has them. Fitting for a woman with an hourglass figure like her. To Darien this woman looked more like a princess than any warrior. “I’m looking for General Gautier’s son” She spoke, dusting off her armor unaware or rather ignoring Darien looking at her. Her voice was deep and somewhat pretty. Yet detached from everything around her. “We need the master key to get soldiers into the city and fight off the Werewolves” She continued as she gently placed her staff down against one of the pillars. Darien blinked as he watched her rummaging through a small pouch, she was looking for him? “That's the first good news I've heard today” He enthusiastically raised his arms giving her his usual charming grin, his father had a plan to rid this city of those damn creatures, and a bold one coming from him, not to mention how thoughtful of him to send such a beautiful woman to get him.“But if you're here to take me to my father, you can get that thought right out of your pretty head.” Darien added playfully, poking her forehead, smiling at her. “There are beautiful women in Camlorn that still need to be rescued.” He included watching her as she tied her hair into a bun.She glared at him crossing her arms. There were more pressing matters, and all this guy can think about is impressing girls? “I’m only here for the master key.” She held her hand out. “As far as I’m concerned signaling and getting the soldiers in and taking care of Falchu is how this city is going to be safe” “Listen in all seriousness,” Darien’s smile faded, changing to a more serious look. “I'm not doing anything before we find a safe refuge for the civilians hiding in the surrounding buildings.” He walked towards one of the windows, looking at the woman walking up next to him. ”The inn nearby should be defensible enough and it's full of supplies.” Darien motioned to a building through the window. “There's just one catch.” Darien looked back at her. “And that is?” The redhead narrowed her eyes looking at Darien. There is always something that needs to be done. How many people has she been doing things for? This better be worth it, and not a waste of time. “The inn's locked up tight and the innkeeper was killed trying to reach us. Get the key from the body and enter the inn, then shine a signal light. I'll rally the civilians and get them to safety. We'll talk about my key after that” The inn might be smaller than the church, but it has provisions that are more important than being in a larger space. Darien watched as the redhead in front of him took a deep breath rubbing her temples. “Listen, you want to save these people, then give me the key and we wipe down the invading forces, no need to get civilians to safety by doing this.” “You’ll be putting more people in danger, this way any other people hiding can come out as you’re out there clearing the way” “Fine,” She replied, letting out a low growl. There was no time to argue about this, and this gya was unlikely to change his mind, her time again wasted by people refusing to do the smart choice, just to play hero. “I prayed to the eight for a miracle.” Darien looked out the window. “And they sent you.” he turned to look at her, grinning again, gently holding her hands looking into her eyes. She blinked before jerking her hands back, giving him a cold emotionless glare as she crossed her arms. He was trying to flirt with her, and it wasn’t going to work. “Oh, don't look at me like that. I'm joking. Mostly. Now go get that key.” He shooed her away in a joking tone. ,Darien heard her say something he couldn’t understand as she walked out into the overrun city, if he could only go with her no doubt she could handle it she made it to them in the first place. He still kept an eye on what was going on, all he could do was watch as this stranger fought the hordes outside, her skills with magic was nothing he’s seen before, he has meet wizards and sorcerers before, but none were like her he couldn’t help being mesmerized by her every move, the only ways he could describe them were elegant and yet powerful, who was this woman? Where did she come from? He felt he should be out there fighting, but he was also needed here in case the cultist or werewolves made their way inside, there weren’t many guards left alive. Darien ordered the guards to get the civilians together, with a lesser threat from the cultist getting them to the inn would not be difficult, and to keep an eye for any other civilians who they’ll need to help getting to the inn.“Everyone” He began to address the survivors, “My father has sent help, she is clearing a path to the inn for us. Once things are safe we will make our way there.” Darien looked as the people talked among themselves, the inn was much smaller, but they’ve all been here for a few days already, and many of them were in need of food and supplies the inn would have. Once the signal fire was lit he ordered the guards to watch the civilians, he kept the civilians safe as they walked towards the inn, the walk wasn’t far from the church but the careful pace they marched made the walk feel longer than it should be. Walking inside Darien saw the woman speaking with a few people it seems she found a few more survivors who hid in their homes, as expected Darien guided everyone to get inside quickly. Once everyone was safely inside the doors and windows of the inn were swiftly barricaded.“And here we are, at the inn, all safe and sound. More or less.” Darien rested his hands on his waist standing proudly at getting all the survivors safely to the inn. The redhead let out a deep sigh rubbing her temples again. This fool was getting on her nerves, if she kept throwing herself at the werewolves there would be a chance they would see her inability to get hurt. “Give me the key, so I can leave” She demanded, holding up her hand forward motioning for him to hand the key over. "Ah, ah, ah. Not quite yet.” Darien wagged his finger at her, receiving another glare from her if looks could kill he would be dead. She did not seem to appreciate his humor, this woman needed to stop glaring at him so much. As pretty as she looks Darien thought she would have a beautiful smile, if she was even able to show any other emotion. As serious as this matter was, it wouldn't benefit morale if the one responsible for their aid didn’t show any comfort to the ones suffering “We need weapons and armor to help protect these civilians. There are caches of Camlorn guard supplies hidden around the city. Gather some and we can arm more people."“Fine I’ll get the suples” She swiftly turned around, walking towards the door. “Wait, I almost forgot, before you go talk to Alinon. I heard he's working on a way to cure those afflicted with Faolchu's lycanthropy on our way here.”Darien didn’t get a reply from the redhead, he just received a nod and watched as she walked towards the alchemist, she was running out of patience with all his requests to get the damned key.Darien watched as she spoke with Alinon, she seemed to be giving her own input on his work cure. And suggestions on what to add. Alinon didn’t seem to enjoy the suggestions, but eventually the old alchemist reluctantly agreed that one of her suggestions would benefit his potion Darien didn’t know a thing about alchemy. But he knew Alinon and the older man was too proud of his skill to take any advice from anyone else. “You’re very knowledgeable about alchemy.” “My uncle taught me everything I know” Alinon handed the redhead a bunch of potions, before Darien could ask any more questions she already walked out the door as soon as she could. He should be focused on the people, but he couldn’t help looking back at the door every once in a while waiting for her return. Seeing the redhead walk back into the inn struggling with the supplies she gathered Darien ran towards her helping her get the armors and swords inside. He received a thank you from the redhead before she turned to speak with Alinon. Darien handed the supplies to the civilians while Alinon seemed pleased with the success of his antidote. The Redhead sat down staring straight, there was nothing notable. He thought she was tired, yet she didn’t look it. Anyone would be exhausted after running around the Camlorn like she did. “Well done!” Darien sat down next to her bringing her out of her thoughts. “When we get out of here, the first drink's on me.” He motioned to himself, resting an arm around her shoulders, she closed her eyes taking a deep breath as she felt her body slightly shift closer to him. Unknown to him she was restraining herself from punching him. “You should take a break. We’ll be safe here. I’ll make sure of it.”“I don’t need a break,” She spoke, pushing herself away from him using that momentum to get back on her feet. “I need to get this over with, and kill Falchou.” The grip on her staff tightened, she didn’t need rest, not that anyone knew that but she will keep going until everything was over with. Darien sighed.“I have some good news and some bad news.” He looked up expecting some sort of retort, but got silence in return. “The good news is I do indeed have the master key to the city gates. The bad news is your thrilling exploits have attracted Faolchu’s attention” Darien said, his attention still on her. A woman like her stands out around these areas, not that he didn’t find the women in town attractive, but from the moment he saw her Darien could tell there was something special about her. Every time he looks in her eyes he sees something lacking. He could tell there was something missing from her but couldn’t tell what exactly. “And now Faolchu is—pardon the pun—howling mad.” Darien chuckled still looking up at her, not even a smile in return, others would have found that slightly funny, but it was all business with her.“I’ll take care of Faolchu,” she stated, her back turned to Darien, not even bothering to look back at him, the grip on her staff tightening she was going to finish this once and for all. “You worry about letting the Lion Guard into the city” She said as she walked out the door.Darien stood there, he wanted to run after her, but he couldn't. She was right the city needed to be cleared of cultists and werewolves and the only way was to let his father and the rest of the lion guard in. He addressed the survivors asking for volunteers, some to stay and protect the young and elderly, and some to head out with the rest of the guards into the city to alert the forces outside the city, and take their city back. His plan was simple, although civilians might not be as well trained using swords, but the number of cultists and werewolves were dwindling, and likely dropping even lower and it was time for them to stop hiding and fight back. Before heading outside he addressed the guards and armed volunteers, “We’ll split into groups of two, one guard and one volunteer, three groups will head towards the towers to light up beacons” Darien looked at the guards. “Protect the civilians while they are lighting the beacons to let the soldiers outside know to get ready. I will open the gates.” Darien took a deep breath watching the guards and civilians be on their way, his mind occupied, how was she doing? He realized he didn’t even know her name, with everything going on he hadn’t even thought of asking her, once all of this was over, he would make sure to ask her. Right now he had to get to the main gates. Reaching the gates wasn’t easy, once Darien reached the gates he swiftly let the lion guard into the city, the reinforcements charged into the city taking their city back rounding up any of the surviving cultists. He noticed among them was an old fling of his Gloria Fausta, the woman was a well known werewolf hunter with her aid they can reclaim the city. Darien looked around for his father, standing they needed to come up with a plan to kill Faolchu. Darien stopped in front of the city’s keep next to his father.“Father, what's going on, why is the Keep on fire!” “Faolchu is in there, his weakness is fire” His father replied, not even looking at his son, he stood there sword at ready in case Faolchu managed to come out. “We’re bringing him out then?” “No, we're just here in case her plan doesn’t work, and he runs out.” “Her plan?” Darien looked around the area all he saw was soldiers, Gloria was here with them, this couldn’t have been her plan as she would be in there as well. There was one person he hadn't seen. She said she was going to take care of Faolchu, she couldn’t have gone in there by herself. “Where is she?” Darien practically yelled at his father, “You let her go fight that monster alone!” “What are you talking about?” “The woman you sent in to get the key from me, she’s in there alone isn’t she!” Darien motioned towards the burning building, howling could be heard from the outside whatever was going on in there must not have been good. Darien got no reply from his father, he was right, how could his father let her go in alone. Darien was done sitting back letting someone else save the city! Darien was the captain of the city guard; he worked hard to hone his skills to reach his position and he had a job to do, gripping his sword’s handle running toward the burning keep.“Darien!” His father stopped him before he could go any further, he wasn’t going to let his son run inside just to show off to a pretty face, General Gautier knew he was making a mistake sending her in to get Darien. “You’re not going to help anyone in there, go back with the guards and make sure the civilians are okay” “Father I-” “Darien you will do as I say” His father’s commanding voice causes him to loosen his grip, putting his sword away. “She knows what she’s doing when she says she’ll go in and fight Faolchu alone.” Darien might not like it but he will do as his father said. His father had so much confidence in this stranger, Darien had seen what she could do, he was still worried about her safety. Darien looked at the building and went back to his father. “When she comes out I want to speak with her.” His father nodded as Darien walked down the steps towards the center of the city, he spotted the Duke speaking with Gloria about some guy named Angof, the one responsible for bringing Faolchu back from the dead. Watching the people around them still mourning their dead Darien felt guilty he failed to protect the city as he was supposed to do. Even if no one would have been able to predict the attack on the city led by a werewolf everyone knew to be dead, whoever brought him back must be powerful. This didn’t matter to Darien; his people will be avenged; he will make sure of it. “Your father said you wanted to talk to me” The familiar voice took Darien out of his thoughts, she was back. “I wanted to thank you. Personally.” He handed her a small pouch filled with a few pieces of gold he still had on him. Darien held on to her hand smiling. “We might have been able to retake Camlorn eventually, but it wouldn't have been quick and it certainly wouldn't have been pretty. You saved lives, and that's not something I'll soon forget.” To think he was in the presence of such a selfless person, she was willing to face that monster all by herself. He can do so much out there as well. He’ll leave the city and offer his help to aid. “I'm resigning from the Camlorn Guard. They need builders now, not soldiers.Besides, that Angof thing is still out there. Someone has to go deal with that. Unless, of course, you'd care to tempt me with a drink before I start my heroic journey?" He smiled at her still holding her hands. “I don’t think so Darien, you’re not my type.” The redhead moved her hand away from him.“Oh” Darien’s smile faded as he lowered his gaze. “Pity. I would have enjoyed sharing a drink with you.” Darien rubbed the back of his neck looking down; he hadn't gotten the chance to ask for her name yet, and he would have liked to spend more time with her. He stood there as she walked away. Not knowing if he would ever see her again....
Images with Stories in the Description
General Art and OCs
Sai (raffle prize) by Foolish-Hearts
Hiram and Marcurio [RP] by KashiPup
Karelle [RP] by KashiPup
Shusa and Nils by ArundAmber
Art of Canon Characters
Mehrunes Dagon by SirJakobos
Molag Bal by SirJakobos
Mephala by SirJakobos
A nice ol doodle of Brynolf by Mamma-Dragon
Art of Scenes
Night Meeting by KurehaSama
Hypocrite! by Foolish-Hearts
Nymira (raffle prize) by Foolish-Hearts
[TES] Into the Unknown by SpicePrincess
Comics
Walking On Sunshine page 4 by HobbesPrime
Jagar and Lukazih by ArundAmber
Redemption!AU Time Travel by ArundAmber
Walking On Sunshine page 3 by HobbesPrime
Character info and reference
Silvyr Ravanan - Elderscrolls Original Character by Listener-Of-The-Void
Mature Artwork - NO SCREENSHOTS

Mature Content

oops! all madness by HoneyGin
Memes and Parodies
How Do I Taste by telgis
AU, Modern, and Crossovers
Maormer Husbands by telgis
Holiday and Celebration Art
Taste The Rainbow: TES Edition by KurehaSama
Screenshots- NO MATURE CONTENT
You Keep Me Warm by telgis
Landscapes, Structures, Items
Tamriel Rebuilt - Port Telvannis Skyline by Feivelyn
Crafts, Cosplay, Props
The Doctor and his Cheesemancer [DTIYS] by The-Flying-Vee
Animations and GIFs
(GIF) Raise Your Glass by Foolish-Hearts
Pixels, Icons, and Page Dolls
Pixel Telgis by telgis
Art Dumps, Sketches, WiPs
a fractured empire [1] sketch by tiffmagius
Misc
Question 4 - 1 by ArundAmber
Contest Entries- view sub folders

Affiliates

:icondawnstar-sanctuary::iconthe-bards-college::iconwe-love-ocs::icone-s-o-c::iconoc-x-canon::icongamingloveinterests::iconskyrim-addiction::iconskyrim-soulmates::iconelderscroll-stories::icontes-fans-unite:

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

Group Info

Welcome! This group is for Elder Scrolls 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! 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!

Rules:

*Please submit to the correct folders, they all have descriptions below and in the folders themselves. If you submit to the wrong folder, I may ask you to resubmit to the correct one

*Mature content art is accepted, but nothing too extreme (no porn/photos/excessive gore)

*Mature content lit is also accepted, just use the correct filters/warnings.

*No mature content screenshots! There's been an influx of screenshots of just naked characters standing around (and others that appear under-age, regardless of claim) and that will not be accepted here.

*We do not accept AI renderings made from AI apps like MidJourney, Dall-E, or ArtBreeder! ALL ART must be made by YOU.

*We do not accept watcher/subscriber only deviations since... well, no one can see what they are and I can't approve them.

*Do not post spam or advertise your art, adopts, commissions, groups, subscriptions etc in the comment section. It will be immediately deleted and you may be blocked from the group entirely.

*If you have any questions, please send a note to the group, Foolish-Hearts, or comment below.
Super Group
Until Dec 31, 2023

Founded 4 Years ago
Feb 18, 2019

Location
Global

Group Focus
Common Interest

214 Members
206 Watchers
14,680 Pageviews

Monthly Stats

Group Activity

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 written out in the description below it, put it here. Limit 2 per day.

  • General Art and OCs - Any general ART that isn't a scene. !!NO SCREENSHOTS!! Any screenshots submitted to this folder will be removed from the group without notice. Also, we do not accept AI renderings. All art has to be made by YOU.

  • Art of Canon Characters - Canon characters from the Elder Scrolls series ALONE. If an OC is depicted, you can put it in the General Art folder. Screenshots of canon characters go in the screenshot folder.

  • Art of Scenes -Illustrations of characters interacting or doing things.

  • Character info and reference - Anything describing your characters that is not in story form. Templates and stat sheets also.

  • Mature ARTWORK - !!NO SCREENSHOTS!! 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/fetish or excessive gore. Nudity and blood are fine, but 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

  • Holiday and Celebration Art - Real and fictional holiday and celebratory art! Anything that celebrates an event or person/character! Xmas, Jester Fest, Father's Day, birthday, creation day... Can involve OCs with canon, and even canon alone.

  • Screenshots - Screenshots of your OCs and/or canon characters. No nudity! This is NOT a fetish group! Limit 2 per day to discourage spamming.

  • Landscapes, Structures, Items - Art of places and inanimate objects with no characters depicted. NO SCREENSHOTS. Art and 3D renderings only. Physical 3D props go in the prop folder.

  • Crafts, Cosplay, Props - Physical 3D art that's not a traditional/digital drawing/screenshot (so papercraft would go here)

  • Animations and GIFs - Anything that moves! Speed-paint videos included!

  • Pixels, Icons, and Page Dolls - Pixel art, icons, and page dolls/decorations etc. I'm quite lenient on what goes here so whatever you personally deem as a page decoration works.

  • Art Dumps, Sketches, WiPs - Idea and art dumps. Also anything not fully rendered, be it in progress, practice, or just a sketch dump.

  • 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!

Admins

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Comments


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:iconsilversol595:
SilverSol595 Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2022  Hobbyist General Artist
Heyo! I have anew multi-chapter story. Would it be alright if I shared it here under a new folder?
Reply
:iconfoolish-hearts:
Foolish-Hearts Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2022  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sure! Go ahead and submit your chapters to the multi-chapter folder for now. I will make a specific folder for it and move the current chapters in for you.
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