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  1. 4 points
    The Duel "This place... it feels... strange. It has a familiarity that I've never known. Not to this degree. Is this what people mean when they say they feel 'At home'? I've never known this feeling before. Well, perhaps when I'm killing. But this place... I feel it. Coursing through my very being. I used to go by the name 'Morihaus' jokingly. Child of Kyne. It was meaningless to most Imperials. They just called me a mad bull. Didn't recognize the nobleness of it. Neither did I. But here? Now? At The Throat of the World? I not only believe it to be true. I know it. I felt something tick inside my head the moment I made it up here. Like something in my head just... aligned itself properly. Like things are starting to make sense. My purpose in life. I am here to show you, show all of you that I am your rightful leader. Don't you see? Look at your history. The wars, the strife, the beautiful violence. The strong rule. That's all this all is. The Arena. A fight to be at the top of the world. So isn't it appropriate that we'd do battle here? For the honor of leading our people against elvenkind as we've always done? For the honor of killing the enemy in the name of mighty Shor? I've never been a god fearing man, but now I see... this is the ultimate prize. This is why I've been so obsessed with your blood. Your father, Baldur. He was the only man alive that's ever bested me. And then you killed him... or so I thought. But after this, after I've beaten you, he'll have to come to me. And then I, Brund, will finally prove that I am the best! No one is greater than I! I am the champion of man! And unfortunately for you, Baldur... there can be only one champion. So... my rival. My shield brother. Are you ready to die?" As the greybeards took their place around the peak of the mountain, crouching on their knees in a large open circle, Baldur took his place before Brund, listening to his every word. Baldur could see Veleda beside Arngeir as well. Figures, he thought. If he died, even if her life was in danger, at least she could take pleasure in seeing his own life end first. Baldur looked to the skies where Paarthurnax flew on high. It was strange, Brund didn't seem the least bit curious about it, didn't think to ask what a dragon was doing here or why the Greybeards didn't react to it. Masser and Secunda along with all the stars of Aetherius were also present, watching the spectacle below them with all the interest and wonder that the mortals often gave them when gawking from below. Baldur finally rested his eyes on his target. The man who killed his son. Daric never did anything but try his hardest to be something he was not. And in the end, he'd accomplished that goal through death. Such was the way of Nords. He supposed that if it were someone else's son, he would think, "The boy is old enough to follow his own path. He knew what he was doing." But it wasn't someone else's son, it was his. A boy he'd trained, and taken care of, worried over and loved. A boy that looked up to him, mimicked him and listened to his every word. Well, perhaps not his every word. Especially not recently. And now, after pushing him away, after taking him for granted, Brund Hammer-Fang forever robbed him of ever seeing him again. "I want to know why," said Baldur as he raised his axes. "Why are you doing all of this? What the ****, have I done to you besides treat you as my equal? Tell me?!" "What have you done? Did you not hear me, Baldur? You thought you were better than me! You and your father both! And for that, you will die! You, and your entire bloodline!" proclaimed Brund. "I swear it! Even if I die today I'll find a way to destroy you!" Brund let out a roar so great that the snowfall ceased, blown away from the peak of the mountain as if fleeing Brund's power. The ground around them began to shake and rumble, as if it too was seeking to flee. Amongst all of this, Baldur stood firm. His eyes were locked on Brund and they never left, even as the ground threatened to topple him. Brund continued to roar, displaying his might to the entire world. And with how great the volume of his voice was, Baldur didn't doubt that the entire world could hear him. "Come on, my king!" cried Brund as he tossed aside his troll helm, replacing it with the fabled Jagged Crown. "Show me what you can do!" Baldur thought of the blood on Brund's hammer, and his threat to wipe out his entire family as well. He thought of the first time he and Rebec found one another, the way they'd fucked as though they'd done so in countless lifetimes before. The blood they'd spilled together both on the battlefield and in childbirth. And the tears they spilled in shared fears and heartache. And Ragna. His daughter who by now he should've been on the way to see if not for the monster that stood in his way. All of this, the passion, the fear and pain mixed within him, fueling his rage. He knew that Brund was forcing him into a situation where for once, he did not have the upper hand. And he didn't care. No one, not an elf, not an Imperial, not even his father had caused him this much sorrow and grief. And only now did he finally truly understand how Rebec must've felt the day she'd lost Jala. The tears swelled in his eyes, bursting forth once more like water from newly melted icecaps. Slow at first before gaining more and more strength, just as Brund seemed to be as time went on and his yelling continued. He seemed completely unperturbed by Baldur's pain and what he'd done. Didn't seem to understand the gravity of it. How could he? "I'm going to do my best to make you suffer. I'll tear you apart by the fabric of your very being, down to the smallest level. And even then you'd not feel the way I feel. And for that, I curse you! Even in death, I curse you to suffer until it equates to what I feel now! Brund Hammer-Fang, I hate you!!" With that declaration, Baldur gave his own battlecry. At first, Brund had heard nothing at all, but a slight ringing noise. Then the ringing grew louder, and louder, until he realized that what he was hearing was so intense that his ears could not register it... Moments later after his ears adjusted, and he could finally pick up the sharp screeching, Brund panicked, grabbing his head as blood leaked from his earlobe. His vision was blurred and his balance once again thrown off. By the time Baldur was done, Brund was seeing double. So when Baldur cried, "Yol, TOOR!" sending a fireball where he stood, Brund could do nothing but wait until it was close before sending a mound of snow and earth hurtling towards it to protect himself. As the two thu'ums collided, clouds gathered in the sky, blocking the view of the stars and the moons. As if Kyne herself did not wish for the spectacle of her children's death to be seen by those faithless cowards that fled, or her dead husband who made their deaths a part of his purpose. The Greybeards sat still as stone through it all, chanting to their gods for a worthy outcome. The duel for the seat, had finally begun. *** With every shout Brund sent against him, Baldur could feel the intensity of his hatred, like a dense fog thickening more and more, threatening to swallow him up forever. His own hatred acted like a beacon, keeping him above it all as fire and stone clashed. The explosions sent bits of rock flying everywhere, occasionally peppering his cheek. "Fus, Gol... STRUNMAH!" This time Brund did not send earth directly at Baldur. Instead, Alfr Vega raised high above his head before it came crashing down, smashing the earth and sending a wave of snow and rock in Baldur's direction. It was too quick for Baldur to avoid by running. Instead, he used his thu'um to propel himself and jump over it. This was a mistake. Brund remembered from the battle of Windhelm that Baldur was fond of this. The minute Baldur launched himself in the air, Brund leaped for him, seeking to cleave him in two as Baldur fell. Their weapons met, as all he could do was try and block his attack. He was lucky not to be disarmed as Brund swatted him away like a fly, cutting him at his hip. The wound was shallow, but Brund was the first to draw blood. Baldur recovered quickly after his body was done ragdolling through the snow. Quickly enough to dodge Brund's follow up with a downward strike from his ancient Nord pendulum. It followed Baldur as he continued rolling away, screeching against the ice and rock. He stopped, brought his axe down on the weapon and attempted to yank it from Brund's grasp. Brund slapped his axe out of the way, but Baldur brought the other down as well, catching the wooden poll in his axe's undergroove. Up on his feet now, Baldur used the opportunity to try and take Brund's head off. Brund had to let go of Alfr Vega to avoid it, though Baldur managed to cut his cheek and nose. With his freed hands, Brund punched Baldur in the gut so hard his feet left the ground, leaving him winded and gasping for air. With a mighty roar, Brund grabbed his hammer from its sling and once again swung downwards, once again forcing Baldur to parry. He had Baldur pinned now, and was leaning close enough that he could smell his breath. "This is familiar isn't it? Remember. Solitude? Our wager? Daric was fighting my student. Funny, that. You look just like him now. Pathetic. Weak. Hehehehehahahaha!" "I remember winning that wager." "Well allow me to correct history!" said Brund. Baldur got a real close look at the blood on his hammer as its spikes inched nearer and nearer to his eyes. Before that could happen, Baldur let loose Yol Toor Shul, forcing Brund away. He followed up with a fireball that sent Brund flying on his back, but before Baldur could capitalize, Brund shouted boulder after boulder at him as he pounded the ground with his feet. Baldur dodged what he could, but had to use his thu'um to destroy what got too close. All the while trying to keep his balance. Something else was distracting him as well. Brund's chest began emitting a low green light... Suddenly, Brund let out another roar and before Baldur knew it, he disappeared entirely... Before he could realize what happened, an explosion of earth beneath his feet shot him six eight feet off the ground before Brund smothered him with as much earth as his thu'um could muster. The ground was hard, and cold. He was working extra hard to perform, but even so it was proving overwhelming for Baldur. As he stood atop of him, Brund said, "This looks like a good place to bury you, eh Red-Snow!?" For a minute, Brund almost thought he'd killed him right then and there. But then steam began to rise from beneath his feet, and the snow began to glow... He jumped away just in time as flame burst forth in a hellish display. Baldur's arm shot out afterwards, and then another. Before he even climbed out fully, Baldur shot his thu'um in Brund's direction once again. And again. And again. He didn't stop until he could feel burning in his throat. Brund timed the moments between his shouts to send his own thu'um at him, but before it hit him, Baldur's Yol Toor Shul sent a boulder flying straight into Brund's chest. He could do nothing but try to stop it with his bare hands. And he did. In fact, he caught the thing! Or rather, it caught him, hurtling away until Brund went flying into Paarthurnax's word wall. Baldur paced slowly, taking the time to breathe, recover his stamina. Meanwhile Brund was climbing out of a pile of rubble. The word wall stood right where it was however. "Yol Toor Shul!" cried Baldur, just as Brund once again disappeared underground. The Thu'um missed him entirely, leaving behind its three words bright against the stone slab just as it had once for the Dragonborn of legend. Baldur hopped around on his feet, feeling Brund burrow beneath him, albeit rather slowly. Even so, he could never be too sure of where exactly he was. "I have to wonder if you were smart enough to pick High Hrothgar knowing my thu'um would be difficult to use here in this hard terrain. No matter, you're still gonna die!" said Brund, his voice loud enough to echo through the ground. Eventually Baldur found himself falling below ground level, revealing the tunneling Brund had just done. Baldur and Brund clashed once again, their struggle unseen by those above ground. Before too long, fire began bursting through the cracks before both he and Baldur were launched up to the surface from the fiery explosion. They both landed heavily on their backs, not moving. Exhausted. "For ****'s sake. Just die already!" said Brund as he slowly stood. "You first," said Baldur. "I'm already dead!" said Brund with a big open mouthed smile, as he struggled to catch his breath. "It's your turn now!" Brund stretched open his arms and began chanting in the dragon language. Earth and snow gathered above his head, growing in size before Baldur at an alarming rate. While this went on, Brund's chest began to glow even brighter. Baldur was dumbfounded. How on Nirn did Brund gain such strength? Was this the gods punishing him? "Haha! Now you see don't you? I am a god!" Baldur attempted to thu'um him down, but Brund used the earth to protect him, raising up a barrier around him while whatever he was preparing grew more and more. "Now's the time to try it Baldur... either this works, or he's gonna crush me to bits...." Taking several deep breaths, Baldur waved his arms once more in the Greybeard way before finding himself on his knees in meditation. He silenced his mind as best he could, ignoring the rock and rubble flying past him to Brund's great rock. Ignoring the rumbling of the ground beneath them. Ignoring all but the void of his inner thoughts. "Tiiiiiiinvaak. Onikaaaaaan.... UTH!" The earth continued to shake and rattle, giving into the artificial gravity Brund seemed to be creating above his head. Even Baldur was feeling its pull, his hair whipping in the wind, blinding his sight and extinguishing the flame. Even as the ground began to give away beneath him, pulled towards the sky, Baldur stood firm. Eyes closed in concentration. "FUNT. SAHLO. Failure. Weak." Brand heard Baldur's words echoing in his head.... Brund, who was laughing hysterically from the rush of his own power began to sweat and groan in agony as he felt Baldur's thu'um once again. His neck veins were fit to burst from all the strain, his teeth rattled and gritted as they clenched. You are too weak, you know I'm right. Even as you are now, you will fail. Just as you always have. Let go of your burden. It is too heavy for you. The laws of Nirn demand it be released. Let it fall. Be free of this great effort and give in to your true nature. That of the failure. All of this conflict is the direct result of someone trying to deny what they are. Don't resist my logic. It is ironclad. "**** YOU, RED-SNOW! I WILL WIN! I-" Brund fell to a knee as he held his hands to the sky. Even the ground beneath him was buckling from the weight. What was effortless before now demanded a level of concentration he could not accomplish, certainly not with Baldur bombarding his defenses with fireballs, which were now beginning to give in as well. "****...****....**** **** **** **** ****! ******* minstrel!!" Brund was resisting far longer than Baldur had expected. Perhaps it was because he'd been exposed to it before. Anticipated it. In any case, Baldur continued taunting him, feeding off of Brund's insecurities and doubt. If his grudge was so powerful against he and his father, seemingly for thinking they were better, then Brund's insecurities must've been just as great, despite the confidence. And Baldur knew that, because the same was true for himself. And even so, Brund still held firm. The two cried out under the strain of mental effort, their voices mixing and clashing in the air, amplifying one another until the air was heavy from it. Snow and rock shook free on the lower levels of High Hrothgar, the trolls and wolves running desperately to find shelter. "Hahahahaha! I told you, I would not fail!" said Brund. Triumphant in his victory over whatever Baldur was attempting to do to his head. The great rock above him began to lower as Brund got ready for his final assault. Baldur fell to his knees, unsure of what to do next. The perspiration on his brow was thick, his body exhausted and his throat so sore it was getting difficult to breathe. There was nothing left to do... "No. By the gods it can't end like this... I don't accept it!" said Baldur. "Accept it or not, you're still gonna die you piece of sh-" Before Brund could finish, both he and Baldur heard a great crack, followed by bits of rock and snow falling on Brund's head. Brund looked up with a look on his face that Baldur had never seen on him before... fear. At that very moment, the great buildup of earth the size of several taverns that Brund created gave away, falling right on top of him before he could take even a single step out of its way. The mass behind it was abnormal, even for that much earth, knocking Baldur to the ground as soon as it made contact. No one could survive that, surely, he thought. Not even a mountain of a man like Brund... "Who am I kidding," said Baldur, half covered in snow from the impact. He wouldn't be satisfied until he saw Brund's body dead before him. He stood to his feet, leg muscles tensing from the effort. His body was weary, but not broken. His spirit, still strong. Defiant. Brund would attempt to change that. Brund could not be seen, but he could be heard. His same draconic chanting echoed all around him, and the earth vibrated, danced as though it were music. It was as though it were alive. Before he knew it, the loose snow and rock took the shape of two creatures Baldur could only assume were atronachs of Brund's own creation, spinning around glowing green cores that had their own gravitational pulls, the same as what Brund had tried to create earlier. Against these, Baldur had no defense. His thu'um failed him, and he could not dodge their blows for much longer. One grabbed his arm, as did the other, and attempted to pull the High-King apart, literally limb from limb. Baldur could do nothing but resist, and to try his thu'um once more... But would Brund hear it? So far underground? It wasn't worth risking the loss of energy. Instead Baldur mustered what energy he had left, shouting Yol, Toor at the creature on his left. The fireball hit the spinning rocks, but the core remained in tact. But it was enough to free an arm. Before he could shout again, the other formed what looked like a fist made of stone and sent the Nord flying into the dirt, where Brund burst from, grabbing his leg. Brund came up yelling like a wounded animal, covered in scratches, bruises and blood. His armor had ceased to cover his left arm and the top of his chest. Enough that Baldur could see the steel fused into his chest where the green light had been shining from, albeit far dimmer than before. Brund swung Baldur around like a ragdoll before attempting to slam him face first. "Yol Toor Shul!" cried Baldur, keeping himself from having his skull smashed. At the same time he kicked himself free from Brund's grasp, punching him twice, so hard that teeth and blood flew from his mouth. Brund caught the next punch, and attempted to deliver his own, but Baldur caught it as well. Their hands locked as the two attempted to overpower one another fruitlessly, their voices once again shaking the air around them. Brund ended the contest with a swift knee to Baldur's gut before running towards his back. He had Baldur lifted from his feet as his arm locked around his neck, slowly chocking the life from him. "I wish your wife were here to see this... to see you for the bitch you are. Go to sleep, little bitch. Go to sleep..." said Brund. Baldur did not sleep. Instead he pulled at Brund's arm until he could speak, and used the brief opportunity to shout. The power of his thu'um propelled both he and Brund back, sending Brund crashing backwards into the ground. As Brund was recovering, Baldur attempted to crawl away and reach his axe.. Just as his fingers wrapped around the fine Skyforge Steel hilt, Baldur felt Brund's hands on him, pulling him away. Baldur turned to his back and kicked him in his groin, then chin as he rolled away. "YOL, TOOR SHUL!" "FUS, GOL, STRUNMAH!" Snow and rock collided with a stream of flame, propelling fragments at dangerous velocity from the fantastic collision that brightened the night sky. The intensity of the heat mingled with the cold air, darkening the clouds above until thunder from their shouts was not the only present. Neither could maintain this level of power for long, and the shouting soon ceased. But when it had, Brund was no longer there. "Surprise, you *****," said Brund as he burst through the ground once again, lifting Baldur in the air by his neck. Brund wasn't smiling however, as he eyed his surroundings. Nothing but rock and snow, and Greybeards. And Veleda... but that was too risky. "It's too bad I have to end this now, but I burned far more energy than I expected thanks to you. Even if I win this duel, I might die before I even reach the bottom of this mountain. You bring this on yourself, though I take great pleasure, in doing it. Goodbye, Baldur." “Fus Gol Strunmah, Dinok Wuth Zah, Zaami! Fus Gol Strunmah, Dinok Wuth Zah, Zaami!” Baldur let out a cry that couldn't have been matched by any man no matter what the torture as he felt his life force literally being eroded away from his body. It was as though every cell were slowly being stabbed... his hair began to turn dull, his skin, greyed. His beard had even grown as though the years had suddenly finally caught up to him. His wails had the same effect as they'd had before, worse even, but Brund was too close to victory. No way would he stop now. Never. It was almost sad, he thought. Seeing his rival so strong, so proud now whither away into nothing. But everybody dies. He watched as the process continued its wretched work, feeling his power slowly return to him, his wounds tingling, burning as they began to heal. Baldur was still struggling. How cute, he thought. He even attempted to mouth the words. "Go on, say it Baldur. Try!" "Yol. Toor. Shul," said Baldur, who now appeared to be approaching his early fifties and was still climbing. His thu'um was pathetic! Laughable! Little flames danced from his mouth like leaves blown away by a mighty wind. Brund laughed in his face at the pathetic display as his hands dropped to his side and he gave in to Brund's might. "This is how you avenge your son? Your elf? Do you know how slow his death was? The way he cried for you as I was ripping out his lungs? You know what I'll do to Rebec in your absence? And this is all the fight you can muster? Look at you! Dying like a little bitch! Like- AHHHH!" Those would be Brund's last words, ever. Those pathetic little flames Brund laughed at were the same flames Baldur used to summon to perform his candle trick. They were all he could summon in his weakened state. But instead of candles, they found the tips of his fingers, and the tips of his fingers found Brund's throat. They squeezed, and squeezed, burning through his flesh until Baldur's hand had a hold of his throat so strong Brund could not remove it. Brund let go of Baldur and Baldur slammed his head into the ground as he continued to squeeze. Brund had suddenly found himself without his thu'um. Permanently. However, his ridiculous strength still remained, and he demonstrated this by punching Baldur again in the gut so hard he coughed blood while Brund scurried away. The sound of his gurgling attempts to speak was enough to turn Baldur's stomach. But not enough to prevent him from finishing what he'd set out to do. He had no idea what Brund had done to him, but he could still lift his axe. And Brund could still brandish his hammer. They ran towards one another, Brund with revitalized vigor, but without his thu'um. Baldur without vigor, but the will to live. He put his training to work, letting his instincts and muscle memory move his body instead of his present mind. His years of fighting read Brund's body language, letting him know how to avoid his swings. He calmed his mind, ignoring the hatred that Brund so easily summoned in him. Just like on the battlefield with countless enemies before, this was when Baldur was most dangerous. Brund grew more and more frustrated as the old man before him continued avoiding his swings, taking light strikes at his legs and arms where he could. But Baldur was losing ground, being pushed towards the peak of the mountain, being forced upwards where he'd have nowhere left to go, but into his hammer. The two fought and climbed. Brund's hammer nearly caught him square in the face, sending pebbles nearly into his eyes as Baldur moved his head out the way and as rock was pulverized by Brund's hammer. The spikes scraped off his plated shoulders as he continued his ascent from his enemy. He was slower, but used Yol to position Brund where he needed to, swinging his axe exactly where Brund moved to avoid the flame, and the skyforge steel caught him first in his head, knocking the Jagged Crown from his ugly mug, then right in the chest, creating a wound diagonally across and exposing the source of the light at the top... Baldur's eyes widened at what he'd seen. "Is that... what have you done to yourself?!" Brund answered him with more gurgled words and swings from his hammer. As the two approached a ledge near the very height of the mountain, Brund began smashing his hammer again and again into the ground. His strength was not nearly as great as it was before, but the damage from the earlier battle had done its work. Both their battle and the Dragonborn's with Alduin had weakened the foundations of the earth they stood on. And by the time Brund was done, the rocky ledge they stood on finally gave away. And as it fell, so did they, crashing onto the edge of the peak beneath them, and the weight of the rock also causing the stone below to give away as well. The end result, Baldur and Brund were falling off the side of High Hrothgar, with nothing but the bit of mountain under them keeping them from being splattered against the mountainside. Brund may not have been able to speak, but seeing the fear in Baldur's eyes was enough to make him laugh, even despite the great pain. Even as they fell, bouncing and sliding off the surface of the mountain, Brund still tried to kill his rival. Baldur was clinging to the rock and to what remained of his life when Brund's Hammer-Fang went straight into his arm, leaving it hanging useless at his side. Brund wrenched it free and was about to bring it down again for another swing when Baldur jumped up and cried, "Yol Toor Shul!" This time Brund had nowhere to go, his whole body covered from head to toe, burning him as bright as the effigy of King Olaf in Solitude in the night air. Brund lost his footing then as their bit of rock ramped off of another beneath them, sending them up in the air in a free fall as the rock's greater weight slowly pulled it away from their grasp. This was just like in Hammerfell when the harpies had nabbed he and Menel, Baldur realized. That memory pained him almost as much as knowing that he was most surely going to die. But if he was going to die, he was going to kill Brund first. He had one more shout in him, and he used that last shout to propel himself straight into Brund who was getting further and further away from him. He speared himself straight at his middle, and even now as they were falling to their deaths, an avalanche beneath them, waiting to put them in their icy tomb, Brund still would not give in. Baldur had a hard time of it with only one good arm, but he clawed and bit, even taking off one of Brund's fingers until the defiant minstrel found his target. His hand shot deep into Brund's cavity, forcing his hand between the gap above the infused steel plate and the rest of his flesh. Brund grabbed Baldur's shoulders, refusing to let go, even as Baldur once again bit him, ripping flesh from his neck. If he could still speak, he'd probably say, "Stop biting me you fu***** cu**!" But he could not, nor could he adequately grip Baldur with missing fingers as his boot pushed against his chest. "I'll see you in Sovngarde, you son of a whore. And I'll beat you there too, for all of eternity." "Noooo!" cried Brund as best he could, but there was nothing he could do. Baldur wrenched his heart free from his chest, and the release of energy and the explosion that followed did the rest. A heartless Brund was shot away like a rock in a sling, falling into the side of the Throat of the World, with Baldur not too far behind him. As Baldur neared the same fate, the ground growing closer, his vision began to fail him, and the dark of night soon grew until there was nothing to be seen at all. Not even the powerful glow of the briarheart in his hand as its spiky outer casing pierced his hand. Tears trailed behind him as he thought of the wife and child he was leaving behind. "You know... I never wanted to go away But what am I supposed to say? Rebec... I beg you. Please, forgive me. I love you so much, and I always will.... Forgive me..." The last thing he saw before his vision disappeared completely, was a giant hawk rushing past him like that of his dream. The power of its flapping wings, and the dive towards the ground nearly sent him spinning downwards. And from below, the great and terrible open mouth of a snake, swallowing him whole. "Pruzah, Ashen One... Well done."
  2. 4 points
    The Moot Of all the Jarls that found their way up to High Hrothgar, none of them stood out more than young Elisif, not even Fenrald, one of the newest of the lot. Aside from her husband to be and Baldur of course, both who were still absent. Her ascent was easy enough, though not as quick as the others and taking her nearly three days. Climbing the 7000 steps wasn't so bad when all the capable warriors before her already cleared the way. She even overheard Vignar bragging about his frost troll kill. His booming raspy voice guided her to the table of the Greybeards where she'd sat only a few years before, with the fabled and terrible Dragonborn of the Stormcloaks. The Greybeards stood like silent sentinels, never speaking but always listening. Even so, remembering the young woman from her last visit greeted her with only a simple gesture, a wave of their arms, opening then closing as their hands were brought back together. "Such gentlemen you are," she commented, even managing to work up a smile. That was even harder than her first climb. After the night she had... Brund was gracious enough to allow her to come alone, claiming he was exhausted and needed his rest. She was not only exhausted but forever scarred. After his appetites were sated, she didn't even recognize her own reflection in her mirror. It was as if a whole winter had come and gone, leaving evidence of its passing on her skin. She knew a night alone with Brund would be trying, but never as trying as that. His smell, the smell of sweat and death. And the air about him... cold... wrong... She tried her best to ignore the memories... Before she stepped into the room where the fate of Skyrim, of Tamriel would once again be decided, there was a lot of chatter, even laughter. But the room grew eerily quiet as she stepped inside with the two Solitude guardsmen accompanying her. Even with two guardsmen, armed to the teeth with sword and shield, bow and arrow, dagger and axe, and her, with her own axe of Solitude, a wolven design with rubies for the eyes, and her thick red dress, golden trimmings and reddish brown wolf fur and ruby studded circlet... All of it seemed to disappear before the gaze of the other Jarls of Skyrim, who clearly detested her presence nearly as much as they did the foreigners that also were counted as guests. She studied the layout. The Jarl of Falkreath sat opposite of... she wasn't actually sure who this man was. He was no Jarl certainly though he seemed vaguely familiar. Looking further she noticed that she did not see Skald the Elder. A stand in perhaps. The Jarl of Morthal sat beside Fenrald, then there was an empty seat, two of them. Those must've been for her and Brund, the "Demon Chieftain of the Reach" as he was so aptly being called. On the far side where she walked past was a seat reserved for Baldur she imagined, as Arngeir himself was standing behind that seat. He greeted her with a smile and a gesture to be seated. He was the only kind face in the whole room thus far. Maven Black-Briar... no, she's far too young to be Maven. She had a daughter, Elisif was sure of this.... Ingun. Elisif heard briefly that the Rift had found a new Jarl in her. She sat next to the seat closest to Baldur's spot. Then there was Vignar, and finally Korir. Behind them all in the back of the room sat Baldur's guests. Prince Roland she recognized immediately, but she avoided eye contact with the Bretons entirely and simply took her seat. The sooner this moot could begin, the better in her mind. She was too lost in thought of her husband to care what the others spoke of. Sorrow and loneliness was heavy in her expression, accentuated by the shadows cast from the braziers of the Greybeards that never went out and thankfully gave more heat than what would be normally possible. In the fire she saw him, Torygg. But she couldn't quite make out his face. All she saw was Ulfric cutting him down. That was the only thing she could see of him now. And soon, even this faded, burned away. Replaced with the image of Brund, smiling with disgusting delight, and sucking his teeth before making her his. She got lost in the visions that the fire showed. Even when the Empress of Cyrodiil herself approached, she did not seem to take notice. Dales Draconus bore herself with...a strangeness. She didn't walk like a lady of the court, more like a predator, panther-like. Her honey hair was loose and out, though she didn't bother to tend to it. She wore a complicated black and red dress done in a Colovian style alongside a chest piece that went with her dress and an armored corset, glowing silver, though she was almost completely bare when it came to jewelry, only wearing her sigit ring...and the amulet that...thing had gifted to her. She had soon come to the revelation only she could see it, so she didn't have to worry about offending the Jarls, for she knew they no doubt disliked symbols of elven gods. She was certainly very striking, and her face was very pretty, but...her blue, chilling eyes, the dark bags that hid underneath her eyes, deathly pale skin, and icy stare certainly marred that beauty. On her belt, she wore a plain silver imperial styled gladius, which she kept on her right side. The young Empress, however was awe struck, though she kept it underneath of a mask of stoicism. What...a lovely creature... Her hair was golden. And her frame lithe. A perfect body. Her eyes were as deep as an oceans. The monarch of the Empire had heard stories of Elisif's beauty, but in person, she was absolutely radiant. She would be perfect, if not for the dark shadow that hung over her. Dales could practically feel it. Perhaps the approach of the Dragon would be less suitable here? Instead, Dales put on a warm smile, dispelling her previous dark look. She said, in a gentle voice, "Jarl Elisif?" Elisif almost jumped, so out of it was she. Quickly gaining her composure she said, "Empress Motierre, right? Or is it Draconus nowadays? It's a pleasure to meet you. Here, have a seat by me until Brund arrives." "The pleasure is mine, milady." Dales said, her voice warm. "Draconus. Please, call me Dales." The small Breton took a seat beside the former high-queen. She'll probably be voting Brund then...She spoke in a friendly, though quiet tone of voice. "I've heard from people about your radiance, though in person, the words can't compare." She complemented her. "I hope the journey up the mountain was pleasant. Me and the future High King's journey was assailed by a blizzard." Good. "I hope you fared well?" she asked. She was blushing a bit from being complimented so strongly and out of the blue. She was sure some of the Jarls overheard, but paid them no mind. "My trip was straightforward, no beasts assaulted me or my guards. Truth be told, I've never seen any. Some claim Kynareth sends them to test pilgrims." "We ran into some kind of beast. Baldur told me it was a yeti, but I asked Arngeir about it, and apparently yetis don't exist!" She lightly chuckled, "I guess it was some kind of ice troll. Nasty beast. Baldur's axe and my flame magic set it straight though!" "What, no thu'um action? Hmph, I'm surprised he doesn't show that off every chance he gets," said Elisif. "I imagine he probably uses it to kill pests, or to dispose of his child's soiled cloth." Elisif chuckled at the thought. "I'm sorry, that was beneath me. I'm not a big fan of your friend, but I harbor no ill feelings towards you, Empress. I mean, Dales." "Isn't foul language beneath the fabled golden lady of Solitude?" Dales gave her a wink, and a slight nudge as she said, "We're both girls, feel free to speak how you want around me milady. Baldur can be a little hard to tolerate with all his horrible singing, but he has a good heart." She grinned. Poor girl… Elisif was taken aback by that, and of course felt for the obvious ploy hook, line, and sinker. "I never thought I'd hear anyone utter the same sentiment. Though there once was a time I enjoyed it, it quickly got old. Aside from that, he helped Ulfric find the woman they'd use to supplant my position and to use their marriage as an excuse to steal my holds wealth for his own. I used to think he was my friend, and understood what I went through. But he was only playing me. Where others see an 'Ash-King' or such rubbish, a great bear of a man, or a cunning fox, all I see is a viper with a forked tongue." "Baldur's a Lord of Cinder. Fire bends to his voice, and he breathed upon the attacking Dominion foes with flame ordained by Kyne. Or so they say." Dales said, keeping the friendly expression, but her voice was a little harder, "Snakes are often known as imperfect dragons, so perhaps a serpent fits him. Though I consider serpents noble animals, they control the rodent population after all, and the Akaviri Potentate were great statesmen, and respected figures of the Imperial Court." "And what would they know anyway when they can't even agree upon Kynareth's name," said Elisif. "I don't care about his thu'um, I saw plenty of Ulfric's to know that magic abilities do not make a man true or righteous like their men would have you believe. They are not the Grey Beards. Only they I trust to wield the thu'um responsibly. That is to say, not at all." She's very bitter towards Baldur. I wonder what he did to her... Dales simply smiled in response, " I agree to an extent. Not about Baldur and the voice, of course, but the sentiment in general, I've seen men immolated by flame spells, and icicles used as pincushions. Magic is simply a tool to be used. For noble reasons or evil reasons." Before she continued, she noticed the wide open door, and the fact a few people were still missing. This gave her a rare opportunity. Dales sat up, saying, "The moot seemingly won't begin for a little while. Care to take a walk with me, milady, down the stone halls? Stretch the legs, before the long discussions begin?" The young Empress offered her gloved hand to the Jarl. Elisif almost took her hand, but then a thought occurred to her... Smiling, Elisif said, "Empress Dales, even here in Skyrim your reputation precedes you. I'm sorry but this is neither the time nor the place. And no offense, but I couldn't be seen by the others walking away alone with the Empress of Cyrodiil, the very one known for aiding the Thalmor once upon a time. I do not hold it against you, but politics are what they are. It would hurt Brund's chances. I've had to grow wise in these last few years. At least a little." "You wound me. If what I think you are accusing me of trying to do, I can assure you, I would never think to do such a thing. " A dark rage filled inside her head, telling the girl to draw her gladius and rip it through her stomach, but she shoved it deep within in her. Dales, skillful not to show it, forced a small smile, "What you've heard about me is no doubt mired in many rumors." Elisif placed her hands on hers, whispering. "Even so, love, rumors are quite dangerous. Rumors, whispers and lies are the reason even men in my own hold believe Baldur is this 'Ash-King'. Rumors can make or break anyone. Even a king. Or queen. Please believe me when I say I truly meant you no offense, but this moot is very important to me. I shall not risk sabotaging my interests. But if you linger in Skyrim afterwards, I'd be happy to entertain you on the way to Solitude, and in the Blue Palace." "I've actually been to Solitude once before." She sat down finally, seeing her offer rejected. Dales honestly felt...somewhat hurt. Was that what she was to foreign royalty? A predator? The Empress...could be a leech, but the prospect of forcing a woman to give her body...felt so disgusting to the Empress, she could barely restrain herself from shaking with anger. The young Empress gazed into the Jarl's eyes, "I was only a girl though. My mother was visiting a friend. And my father was on business.” The Empress closed her eyes, "The only thing I really remember is the sound of the blue waves in the ocean, swishing and swashy, as I looked, from the top of an East Empire Company warehouse. Do you like the ocean, milady?" "Solitude overlooks the sea, but I confess I've never enjoyed it, or being on boats. I always feared one day the strange land formation Solitude was built on would give away to the weight and the sea would swallow the Blue Palace whole... I had quite a few nightmares about it actually. Torygg used to say I was being a silly girl. He wasn't afraid of anything back then..." The thought of Torygg brought her thoughts to her task... "Empress Dales, I fear that Brund may come in at any moment. I am very sorry but I must ask that you not be in his seat any longer. Again, I truly mean no offense, and I promise to make it up to you when this whole ordeal is over. I could use a friend." "Of course. We may be opposed today, but I do hope you know you have someone to talk to." The Empress gave her a warm smile. A genuine one, the dark malice that wanted to take over gone. "If all goes well, I shall take you up on your offer. You shall give me a tour of the blue palace, and all the splendor I have forgotten." Dales got out of her seat, and whispered, "Until another day, my lady." "Hopefully soon," she said genuinely. She thought to speak then to the Bretons, perhaps one last chance to try and persuade Baldur's supporters. But alas, she thought better of it. Embarrassing herself in front of them once was more than enough. These people climbed the 7000 steps to support him. Words alone weren't going to change their minds now. *** As the day pressed on and both Brund and Baldur still had yet to arrive, some of the Jarls began to grow impatient just waiting at the table. It was only minutes after the arrival of Elisif that Fenrald decided that he was going to 'take a walk', though almost an hour later he had yet to return. During that time, Vignar and Ingun got up to go and speak in private as well, promising to remain close in case they were needed. At one point, Korir thought to ask one of the Greybeards if they kept drinks, though Arngeir had told him days ago that they did not. Perhaps he'd hoped that one of the silent ones might've kept a stash of his own. From that point on, he appeared rather sour. Some time later, Ingun returned alone. "Where's the old man?" asked Sorli. "He is in a side chamber just down the hall," she answered. "He found a book to read." "And Fenrald?" Ingun shrugged. "Didn't see him." "Great." Sorli got up and walked out, stopping just to glance back at the Redguards, then the Imperials. "We know who you lot are here for. Something better not have happened to him. For your sake and Baldur's." On that note, she made her exit. The Empress trailed from one part of the room to the next. The Empress was...beginning to worry. She's obviously afraid of Brund. She doesn't want to help him, but she see's no choice. A well meaning girl in way over her head. The Empress sadly smiled to herself. Reminds me of someone. She dispelled thoughts of the fair, golden haired Jarl, and went back to the Moot. She would support Brund, meaning Brund already had two votes. Going by the angry scowls a few of the Jarls were giving her, that might rise soon. Baldur talked too much, but it was his gift. His way of words. Without that tongue, he would be severely handicapped in the coming debates. The Greybeards claim to give him their support, yet they do this. Maybe Badur was right about them. She scanned the room, analysing it. The foreign leaders here would no doubt be an advantage to him, showing how many foreign powers would be at his side, but that was double edged sword. No doubt they resented the mere fact they were here in sacred Nordic ground. Especially her. The young Empress decided to go for a walk. It would do no good worrying about this. She had faith that Baldur could pull it off. If he couldn't...well. There was always option two The Empress walked down the hallways of the ancient Nordic temple. A few minutes later, she spotted someone in a side chamber, reading a large dusty tome. Jarl Vignar Grey-Mane, if she recalled. Him being by himself, meant he might be a little more open to her. Perhaps it was best to see we're he sat in all this. The Empress approached the elderly Jarl, saying in stern, yet no unfriendly voice. These people understood only steel, and iron, "Jarl Greymane?" A moment passed as Vignar found a point where he could stop. "The Songs of the Return. I would not have expected to find the full saga here, of all places." The elderly Jarl of Whiterun looked up and studied her. "The Companions' story is a glorious one, and also violent, bloody. Not something that I'd have thought welcome in the Greybeards' halls of peace." He set the tome aside, leaving it open on the stone window nook. "What do you want, Empress?" "I found a book detailing gory encounters with frost trolls, and other bestiary's of Skyrim a few days ago. I suppose people leave offerings of various literature to the Greybeards. Can't be selective with you're readings when you're so secluded and can't get you're books from someplace else." She said, "Making small talk? I've never had the honor of meeting you, Jarl." She strode into the room. "No, you haven't." Vignar folded his arms. "If it's small talk you want, then there are six other Jarls out there who might be better for it." "Perhaps we started on the wrong foot." Dales said with an apologetic smile, "Dales Draconus, of Cyrodiil." She offered her hand forward. The Jarl did not move. "I'm an honest man, Empress Draconus. But I wouldn't be if I shook a hand that once held a Thalmor pen." Second time now. This is going to be a long day... "Perhaps you forget it was also my hand, that held my blade, that slit my father's throat, and expelled the Dominion from Cyrodiil. And restored the open worship of Talos throughout my lands." She said sharply. "I have not forgotten," he replied solemnly, "which is why I have abided Baldur's decision to invite you here in the first place." She dropped her hand, "I will never forget my past. Nor will many people I can imagine," her cold blue eyes becoming melancholic, "Or the suffering I surely caused with my signature. But the past is the past. I can't change what I did back then. But I can make sure the future is better for the my people. That's all that really matters now. And I think we both surely agree, the Empire, and Whiterun's well-being is tied to if Baldur wins the moot or not." "On that, we do agree," the old man said. "And we are not alone. None of us knew this Brund Hammer-Fang until recently, but what little we've heard has been worrisome. The man surrounds himself with marauders and cutthroats, and Markarth has been troublingly quiet since his last victory against the Forsworn." "Brund was not born into his role of Jarl?" She took a seat beside the old man, "Did he have a previous military record before hand? Baldur...did not have the chance to give me any details of his opponent." "Until recently, Thongvor Silver-Blood was Jarl of the Reach. I do not know how Brund came to inherit his position, but he now controls the wealth of Cidhna Mine so it must have been with Silver-Blood's blessing." Vignar shrugged. "And if he served in the army, word of his exploits never reached me." "That means he controls a large portion of Skyrim's wealth..." She breathed a sigh of disappointment, "A very good incentive to support him. I talked to the Jarl Solitude. For some reason, she intends to support this brute. Do you know any others who will be swayed by the promise of his silver?" "Sorli, no doubt." Vignar's wrinkly frown tightened into a scowl. "To this day I do not know what Ulfric saw in that woman. But aside from her and Elisif, I trust everyone at that table to stand by their convictions. The leaders of Skyrim are not your Elder Council. They will do what they believe to be right by their people." Well at least he's loyal to Baldur. "For all our sakes I hope you are right." She paused. Still looking uncertain, "Baldur is a hero to the common people. He was a war hero in the last invasion, highly favored by Ulfric, adored by the public, and has the backing of multiple foreign powers. To challenge him for the throne, a man you barely know, just makes me feel...wrong. Like we're missing something about this Brund. He's either very stupid, or very confident. Considering he made himself the Jarl of Skyrim's richest hold, i'll go for the later." "Not everyone is as impressed by you foreign powers as you might hope. I understand what Baldur has done here. He summoned you to show that he can, to prove that he alone commands enough respect to make all the kingdoms of man listen and do what he says. We will need that when we march south together against the elves." Vignar sighed. "But it is more complicated than that. I don't know about his brother, but Jarl Skald hates the Empire almost as much as he does the Thalmor. Fenrald might even hate them more. No amount of respect from you will convince them that Baldur should be king. It would not have been enough for me either, had my mind not already been made up." "I warned him my presence here might cause this kind of thing. But he insisted I come." She glumly said, "So by proxy, Fenrald will vote for Brund because Baldur has aligned himself so closely with us. That's a third vote, which dosen't include Brund's own one." She sighed, "Dangerous water. Is there anyone who you know is undecided we might be able to sway to Baldur's cause?" She gripped the invisible amulet of Auriel she wore on her neck. “I'm an old man," answered the Jarl, "and you're a foreign ruler. Convincing the others how to think before we hear them out is not our place." He shook his head. "In fact, I daresay it will do more harm than good. When the moot begins, I will say my piece and argue for it, as will Jarl Baldur. I have faith that his words will be enough to convince anyone who has yet to decide for themselves." "Perhaps you're right, Jarl Greymane. We'll leave it to Baldur's tongue to convince the others to do the right thing. And by the gods, hopefully all will be well." She got out of her seat, "Well, I'll see you at the Moot, Jarl Greymane. Thanks for the information." "Mhmm," Vignar grunted and then he turned away from her to reclaim his book. "Fair winds and all that." Dales stepped out of the room, dark thoughts entering her head. She was...less hopeful now of the chances of Baldur winning. She traced her hands around the gleaming amulet on her neck, and whispered, "If you truly do show me divine favor, Auriel, now is the time to show it!" "Pfft!" Dales looked over to find Jarls Sorli and Fenrald standing a little further into the hall. The two had been speaking quietly, but upon recognizing her, Fenrald made a point to raise his voice. "And speaking of those devils, here's their queen now." He looked equal parts angry and disgusted. "Baldur was wise to bring the moot here, where we cannot shed blood." "Shut up, Fenrald," Sorli muttered. "Save it for the moot." "Oh I'll have plenty more to say there, believe me." "Fenrald was it?" Dales said, a dark look appearing on her face, "Jarl of Falkreath. Threatening the guests of the Grey Beards in these sacred halls? Tsk tsk, do you now know you're own customs? Not that it matters anyways, I'm quite sure you would be dead a second before you drew your blade." "Did you hear that?" The Jarl laughed, though there was no trace of humor in it. He glanced at Sorli, who seemed increasingly uncomfortable. "My people don't flinch as the girl rains fire on our home, and she has the gall to think she's frightening!" Looking back at Dales, he said, "I didn't threaten you, Empress. If I do, it will be much clearer." "No, but you're Jarl surely did, when my old friend Lorgar Grim-Maw sent an arrow in his heart." Dales said, giving him a pleasant smile. The fake amusement drained from Fenrald's face, to be replaced by something stuck between excitement and hatred. "Lorgar Grim-Maw," he repeated back to her. "Perhaps it's a good thing Baldur invited you after all, Imperial, for that is something I never thought I would learn." "I'm glad I could be of some help, by telling you that dog killed him." She said, the smile still on her face, "Now if you'll excuse me good Jarl." She gave him a brief nod, before turning around to face his companion. She said, with a blank expression. "You must be Sorli, a pleasure." "That's right," she answered. "And you're the Empress everyone seems to hate." Before Sorli could say another word, a grimacing Fenrald muttered something and stormed off. "... Especially him." What a freak. And her. I can already tell she's a bitch. Dales kept the forced smile, "Hate is a very strong word. Perhaps, dislike is better? I'm sure you're a very respected Jarl." She said. "As respected as one can become when ruling a backwater hold like Hjaalmarch." Sorli shrugged. "Still, it's not all bad. We understand not to spit in the eyes of potential friends, for instance." "Of course, and are we potential friends, jarl?" Dales asked, "Or are you like the Jarl of Falkreath, who hates imperials with a burning passion." "Hating Imperials was healthy when we were at war," replied the Jarl. "Now? I don't see the point. You're not the ones who want to kill us." Need to be careful around her. If what Vignar said is true, then perhaps she's an opportunist. At the same time, if she's lying she can use my words as ammunition later. "Wise words. We are united against a common foe. Cooperation, I feel, will be the best way to defeat the Dominion in the coming months. Yet I hear you oppose Jarl Red-Snow." Dales asked, crossing her arms. Sorli's eyes narrowed. "Did Black-Briar tell you that? I don't oppose Red-Snow. Got nothing against the man. It just so happens that I've got no reason to love him either. Jarl Brund, on the other hand, has done much to convince me that Skyrim would prosper under his rule." “And what is that, if I may ask? I hear Jarl Brund has control over the wealthiest Hold in Skyrim. Do you worry about Skyrim's economy?" An idea was forming in her head. "Now I know you've been talking to Ingun," she muttered. "Whatever else that snake might've told you, it just so happens that I do care about our economy. And our safety. And I believe that Brund is best for both." **** it fine. Let's do it Dales! The Empress smile grew, "Perhaps we can, speak privately in one of these side chambers?" Dales was uneasy, but when the iron is hot, you need to jump. "I have a...proposition for you, if you're willing to hear me out?" "Oh?" Jarl Sorli's brow arched. "Well then, Empress, lead the way. I would never turn down a potential friend." *** Roland watched the the Jarls mingle and talk amongst themselves, a sense of ease about them that he did not personally feel. The Empress had that same air about her before she left the room, and his grandmother was almost apathetic in her demeanor. It had been Lady Gaerhart who suggested they stick to the periphery of the moot and not hound the Jarls. Roland was hesitant at first, but after seeing the Jarl of Falkreath come storming into the room after an argument with the Empress outside, he realized staying quiet was the wisest choice. Still, he was surprised at his own nerves. The nobles of High Rock did not make him feel like this. He'd grown up around them, though, and knew their false smiles and hidden glares like he knew the back of his hand. The Nords did not care for such tact, and whatever they lacked there they made up for tenfold with confidence. Even the newest Jarls, of Falkreath and Riften, seemed more suited to this moot than he did. It was something about the blunt Nordic manner, and the fact he was atop the world's tallest mountain, an unwanted foreign interloper, that made him feel so out of place. But with the practiced manners that was the culmination of his life's education, he greeted Jarl Korir of Winterhold, who had practically strutted over to the Bretons. "It's nice to meet you, Jarl Korir. I'm Prince Roland, and this is my grandmother, Lady Gaerhart, and our Lord Admiral, Duke Theirry." "Prince?" Jarl Korir looked disappointed. He then nodded to Duke Theirry. "I was just about to ask the man I thought to be your king how tough the climb was on a wooden leg." Duke Theirry flashed a smile and said, "Years at sea have given me a good sense of balance. The seas are much crueler than some icy steps." Lady Gaerhart, leaning over her ornate cane, gave a dismissive wave. "What he meant to say is that the litter they hauled me up here in moved slow enough he hardly climbed a mile a day. At that pace he needn't have any legs." Roland couldn't help but smile at the Duke's expense, but Theirry had the good nature to laugh as well. The Jarl, however, did not seem to appreciate the jest. "It is no small thing to make the climb M'lady, on two legs or ten. Your Admiral has proven stronger than the many who died trying the same." He regarded the wooden leg again. "Much stronger, I'd say." Roland took on a more serious tone and said, "My father knew which men and women to put his faith in. Duke Thierry has proven himself more than worthy of commanding our ships. Making this climb only reinforces that." "Thank you, Your Highness. And thank you, Jarl. Though, in truth, I had hoped to see High Admiral Red-Snow here," Thierry said. "When she and Jarl Red-Snow last visited our waters, they came upon some pirates. I made a concerted effort to rectify that problem, and was hoping I could show her the fruits of that labor." "He means the tattered pirate flags he captured," Lady Gaerhart explained. "Nice ornaments for the tavern in that new town of theirs. And proof High Rock means to carry its weight." "Fine ornaments indeed!" Korir grinned and clasped a large hand on Duke Theirry's shoulder, shaking it. "That is reassuring. It gives me faith that this alliance is not just talk, but something that can truly be done." His smile waned a little. "I must admit, I was not pleased at first to learn that you would be here. Nor those Redguards or Imperials. After I got over it, I found myself eager to meet the man who freed High Rock. Why couldn't your king make it?" Duke Theirry said, "Preparations for our war effort needed his attention." Roland frowned a little at the real reason, the Daedric plague eating away at his family, and said, "And we recently had a vassal who allied with the Thalmor to attempt to remove our family. That needed dealt with as well." "Truly?" The Nord's voice deepened with rage. "What kind of honorless cur would ally with the Thalmor even after they've been thrown back? Bah! The elves have poisoned our countrymen's minds. All the more reason why they must be crushed for good." "You'll find High Rock in agreement," Roland said and gave a small smile. "We look forward to heading south to fight the Thalmor alongside you Nords. Alongside High King Red-Snow. Are we in agreement on that as well?" "Red-Snow's victories do him credit," Korir replied, "But I don't know him, nor Brund neither. You'll find out if we're in agreement when I've heard the Jarls speak and measured their words and deeds myself." "For what my words are worth," Roland said, then put on his best self-depreciating smile. "And I know how little Nords think of us foreigners. But for what my words are worth, I think Skyrim would do well to choose Baldur. I would not think to tell you what is best for your people, but for all our people, we will need a man like Red-Snow leading all of us against the Thalmor." Unlike earlier, Roland felt much more at ease. Maybe it was falling back into the rhythm of politics that he knew so well from High Rock, but now he felt confident, and as if he was not so out of place here as he might've thought. "Well said, Roland! Why, I imagine your father couldn't have put it better." This was High King Joleen, of Hammerfell, sporting the warmest thing he could find before his trip, a large spotted cat fur over his shoulders, and a suit of chainmail over a dark blue doublet. "Sorry for butting in," said his son Jabreel. Running a hand through his long locks, he said, "Father often does this when no one is paying attention to him." "Quiet you," said Jeleen. "We just got bored looking for something good to eat around here is all. Why didn't anyone think to bring some worthy refreshments to a meeting of kings?" "Ha!" Korir's laugh came out as more of a bark. "I'm glad I'm not the only one. Half of Skyrim would give all they own to become a Greybeard, but I think most would take it back upon discovering that this place hasn't got a drop to drink!" The Jarl grinned. "Find me after the moot, Redguard. Whoever wins, we will celebrate Skyrim's new ruler in Ivarstead with meat and mead aplenty!" Korir stated to leave, and then looked back at Roland. "And worry not, Prince. Whether it is Baldur or Brund who bears the mantle of King, trust that the Jarls would not choose either if he lacked the strength to fight elves." With that, the Jarl of Winterhold lumbered off to rejoin his countrymen. "Good to know not all of the pale skins are stiff and grouchy! I was beginning to worry Baldur was the only Nord that knew how to smile! I like that one, what say we accept his invitation, Jabreel?" said Jeleen. "You like anyone that offers you food. It's amazing you haven't been poisoned yet." The Bretons all laughed at the joke, and Roland said, "It's been far too long, King Jeleen and Prince Jabreel. Your new titles suit you rather well, I'd say." "Butcher is the correct title for this one. He's got no sense of subtlety or tact," said Jeleen. "He's just mad that he didn't get to unite all of Hammerfell with the sweet honeysuckle dripping from his tongue. He was sure that he could convince the remaining stubborn kingdoms to fall under his banner. I wasn't." "And so my hot headed son decided to go and assassinate those kings instead. Any of them that opposed me, ruining all the hard work I'd put into diplomacy." "But it did work," added his son. "For now. An alliance built on blood will not last. But hopefully it will last long enough to defeat the elves. You still have much to learn my boy. But still, I am proud of you all the same." The young man tried to hide his smile, concealing it by flipping his dark brown locks. "Besides, assassination does take much subtlety and tact." "And do assassins also subtlety announce to the world their deeds? All of Hammerfell wonder now if you're in cahoots with the Dark Brotherhood, of all people! As do I..." said Jeleen, scratching his hairless chin. "If I were, they'd have already killed me for giving up my cover," said his son dismissively. Roland wasn't sure what to make of this. Nobles in High Rock didn't talk this openly about such tactics. He knew it unlikely one would ever admit to something as mundane as blackmail unless under duress, much less act so nonchalant about assassination. He dismissed those thoughts for now and grinned. "Well, should we ever need someone taken care of, I suppose I now know who to write to." "No, Roland, no you don't. Blasted Ra Gada, their over-confidence will be their undoing. Last thing you need, is an assassin that tells you of his kills. But, then, if Jabreel hadn't, then the last remaining kingdoms might not have been convinced of our strength. I envy these Nords. This moot, their politics. It seems far more simple." "Less bloody, anyway," added Jabreel. "My method was simple. Though, a moot of our own would be nice, if we could ever agree on anything other than we hate elves. Even that isn't always enough." "Their politics, and our own, led us to civil war. Thousands dead so we could achieve some sort of peace. I wonder sometimes if only a few dozen dead would've been the better option," Roland said. "Thankfully, it seems we've settled our problems for now. With my parents' council, I do not expect us to fight an internal war for quite some time." "That reminds me, I wish your father had come. For one we had a bet on which one of us would be assassinated first. I imagine, that I've lost that bet. Of course, perhaps you are right. Less death is preferable, especially when we need as many warm bodies as we can muster for this war. You have your parent's' wisdom, without them anywhere around. I believe the next generation is in good hands. Lady Gaer-" As Jeleen spoke, the very room seemed to be shaking, books in their cases and chairs rattling, followed by three hard knocks coming from High Hrothgar's doors. "What in Aetherius was that?" said Jeleen, he and his son gripping their blades. Roland reacted the same, but Lady Gaerhart placed a hand on his arm to stop him. In a low voice she said, "So, it is true." Speaking so the Redguards could hear, she added, "I believe one contender for the throne has arrived." Brund Hammer-Fang, ex legion Legate, and the Demon Chieftain of the Reach, had arrived. "Where do these damn things even come from?" he said, standing atop the corpse of a frost troll that dwarfed even him. Alfr Vega wasn't suited to cutting their thick hides. His Hammer-Fang was the weapon of choice for such tasks, as the poor thing beneath him found out the hard way. As he freed his weapon, Brund saw several other sets of eyes staring down at him from the rocks above. Hiding. Despite what the Grim Ones in Cyrodiil had claimed, even Frost Trolls knew when they were bested. They watched him still, as day became night, as the icy winds of the Throat of the World attempted to impede his path. And even as Brund walked the steps, wearing the skull of the creature Daric killed, it never occurred to him that the creatures might've felt agitated by the sight. Or perhaps it did, and he just didn't give a ****. It made for a good strong helmet and he wasn't about to give it up. "You fuckers can just keep coming, it makes for good practice!" he cried, shaking the earth around him as he roared, threatening to be swallowed up by mounds of falling snow. Even as they fell, Brund kept stomping his feet, roaring and daring the trolls to face him in combat once more. Boom, boom, boom... if they wouldn't come to him, the earth and snow would come to them. And it had, like oceans of white, a great bride's gown descending on them all from above, knocking them free from their perch. His own path was blocked now, but it mattered not. With a roar from his throat the snow and rock scattered, and Brund continued on his way. "Ugly *****, the lot of you," said Brund as he finished his salted horse meat. It seemed that the mountain was bored of testing him now. The rest of the way was uneventful, and the great vistas of Skyrim from his vantage point seemed lost on him entirely, even as the great bands and ribbons of Aetherius danced across Skyrim's crisp night sky. He felt nothing for it, just as he felt not the cold. He did take the time to read the stone etchings that decorated his path however. Emblem X The Voice is worship; Follow the Inner path; Speak only in True Need. "Get a load of this horse crap," said Brund. "I speak when I please, and see no gods stepping down to smite me. If anything, my voice is certainly a boon from them. I alone dictate my own path. And so it always has been, and so it always will be." He highlighted this point with a butt from his troll skull, leaving a crack forever in the age old tablet. Wasting no further time, Brund knocked on the doors to High Hrothgar, before stepping in himself, not waiting to be greeted. Arngeir and his Greybeards were waiting for him as he entered, but he paid no attention to their presence, instead looking all around within their home, a grin on his ugly mug as he took off his helmet. "Ahhh, at long last!" said Brund. "You've no idea how long I've awaited this meeting." "The sentiment, is shared," said Arngeir with no humor or sweetness in his tone. "Is that all you have to say to me?" he asked. "Hehehe, I am a guest in these halls, but I have not been permitted to enter just yet... I don't want to be rude..." Arngeir bit his lip, and for a time it seemed as though he'd say nothing. Brund cocked his head, licking his bottom lip. "Come now, don't be that way. I've come, in peace." Arngeir refused even still, until his brothers gave him a look. Finally the old man gave in, eyes downcast as he waved his arm in the traditional greeting of the Greybeards. "We recognize you as a guest in these holy halls. High Hrothgar... is open to you." "That's what I was waiting to hear! We're practically brothers now, you and I. Tongues one and all!" Brund highlighted his point by flailing his tongue back and forth in front of Arngeir. Placing a hand on his shoulder, he said, "I pray that you taught him well. He's a violent man, you know. Dangerous letting someone like that go unchecked with the voice." His laughter filled every inch of the room, reverberating from stone to stone, and filling every part of Arngeir's mind. His every step was a transgression, and he felt each step like a stab in his soul. As Brund further explored High Hrothgar, he came across Galmar Stone-Fist himself, nursing a bottle of mead he brought on his own. He remembered from his last visit the lack of good spirits. "You salty old dog. I did not expect to see you..." "Nor I you, Brund. You've come a long way, haven't you?" said Galmar. "Hehehehehe... You can say that. Have you come to accept me as your king?" "The only King I'll ever accept is one bearing the name of Stormcloak," said Galmar, spitting at his feet. "You and I are no longer brothers without that understanding. So piss off, before this gets ugly." Brund knelt down to his eye level. "Who says it hasn't already, eh? If getting fucked by our dead king is a requirement to rule, then Elisif is as much qualified to rule, but you know better than that." "Save it for the moot, Hammer-*****. A rock with Ulfric's seed dribbled upon it is more fit to rule than you, or Red-Snow. Ash-King, Demon Chieftain... MY SACK!" Brund grinned to his old mentor and said, "Perhaps I should've taken the mantle of Bear of Markarth? We all enjoy our titles, don't we. Anyway, you cling to your dead friend. Perhaps I'll have another one for you in the near future..." "Ulfric cared for you. Cared for everyone in Skyrim. He was the perfect king for this land. He loved his brothers and sisters. Loved them all." Brund didn't stop to hear Galmar continue and said under his breath, "And that, was his undoing..." Finally, Brund was amongst all the Jarls of Skyrim. The most powerful and influential people in the entire kingdom. A man like him would feel humbled in their presence, for these men and women would decide the fate for every last Nord from this day on. None of them mattered in the slightest to Brund. Not this black haired bitch he knew nothing about, not Korir, not... whoever the **** that was... Looking around, Brund hadn't seen Skald. Perhaps this man or the girl was a stand in for the old fart. It mattered not. No one wanted to see him shit himself anyway. Another equally old fart he passed by earlier, but he said nothing to him, merely left him to his book. So many unfamiliar faces stared back at him now, like the trolls that dared block his path. All except... "And look, it's Baldur's ragtag group of milkdrinkers. And.. ahhh Elisif," said Brund as he smiled, revealing his yellowed teeth. He approached her, arms raised as though he owned the place. He grabbed her by her hair, and stuck his tongue down her throat, then took his seat beside her, opposite of where Baldur sat, and exactly where the last Dragonborn had once sat the last time Elisif was in these honored halls. The irony did not escape her. She did not look at him, sealing herself away in her mind, where a piece of Torygg still dwelt. This is where she stayed on her night with Ulfric, and her night with Brund. It served her well, but the time for hiding was gone. The moot was about to start. In the recesses of the Greybeards’ outer halls, a dark haired woman stood with hands on the shoulders of a tall, solemn girl. “Stay here. It will be over soon and we’ll go home.” Veleda kissed Sofie on the forehead and left her to her books. The former queen had heard the rumbling and raving, and she knew what it was. The stories had passed along from Reachmen to other ears including hers. With a nod to Galmar, she steeled herself and entered the hall with him, while Sofie crept along behind, unseen. Inside, Veleda met the eyes of each jarl, gave a half nod to the Ra Gada and Bretons and what she surmised was the empress of Cyrodiil. Her black dress, trimmed with sable fur, showed clearly the line of her rounded stomach. She wore an ebony circlet set with amber stones and her cloak bore the embroidery of a Stormcloak bear, but the only other adornment she wore was the sigil of her husband’s house burned into her hand. Her eyes were dark-rimmed and her cheeks reddened from the exertion of the frigid descent from the Time Wound. Veleda’s eyes barely skimmed the figure of Elisif before resting on Brund. That was a long look, too long for politeness. “Jarl Hammer Fang. Brothers. I greet you.” With that the former queen took a seat at the middle of the table next to Galmar, and glanced over at the last empty chair. Dales remained as silent as the crypt as her frosty eyes lingered on the man. A...chill, went down her spine, as she felt...something. It wasn't dark magic, but a feeling of familiarity. This man made her feel the same way as she did in her father's presence. I understand now. Baldur had said little about Brund Hammer-Fang to her, but the she-elfs words rang true. As if a crawling chaos, Dales felt very uncomfortable around him. Her stomach twisted in even more disgust at his treatment of his bride to be. Clarity filled her. This...man, was just like her father. And was just as dangerous to Tamriel as he was. But to her horror, she knew, even as the Empress of Cyrodiil, she could do nothing. It was all in Baldur's hands now. She had done all she could for her friend. Now it was the time to remain silent. The Empress gripped her amulet of Auriel tightly, as she thought, sitting in her chair away from the main group. I've never asked anything from you. I beseech thee, Lord Auriel, protect Baldur. His fate is tied with the fate of Cyrodiil, and all though who dwell within in. The horrible feeling remained within. Until...it was consumed by darkness. Her amulet shone invisible, blue light. A voice whispered in her mind, "Light can be as dangerous as darkness, my knight. But I am here for you, as I promised. I'll always be here for you...." Was Dales now hearing voices? "If things get out of hand. Whisper sweet honey words to me. As the bells tolls, I shall come." The voice snickered, "I am yous. And you are mine." Dales choose not to speak to the voice, as she waited for this accursed gathering to begin. Unsure, if Baldur could beat this darkness. *** By Mother Kyne's Mountains, Her Seas and Glades, sharpen my tongue and quicken my blade, Over the fields, knee deep in snow, guide my hand for the killing blow, Bold and true I stand a Nord, a child of Kyne, a soldier of Shor, And if I die, my soul, don't discard. So that I may see Ragna one day, in Sovngarde. It's been quite the journey, hasn't it? We've been through alot, you and I. And we may still yet. But if not, know that I love you, and I'll miss what we shared. Wish me luck... Paarthurnax watched the yellow haired nord sit for hours on end, first at the time tear itself, and then where Paarthurnax once revealed the words of Yol Toor Shul to the Dragonborn. In truth, Paarthurnax never understood the ways of the Greybeards. The ways of the Joor, their Way of the Voice was not his own. Even so, he gave the man his silence and peace, saving Tiinvaak for another time. Baldur stood finally, when the tremors from below even reached the heights of the Throat of the World. It seemed that the time had finally come for him to leave. "Yol be with you, Ashen One. Breath, and focus." Baldur responded in kind with a smile and a wave of his hands in the traditional Greybeard way and then descended to High Hrothgar. The Moot had finally come. *** "Baldur Red-Snow, and Brund Hammer-Fang, the last Jarls to arrive. They are both finally here, and we may now begin the Moot. Baldur Red-Snow has taken a vow of silence, until the votes have been passed. May the gods be his judge, as well as the Jarls of Skyrim. May your judgement be honest and true." With that, Arngeir sat the fabled Jagged Crown on a pedestal beside the meeting table. "Yol!" said Arngeir, his thu'um lighting the fire at the table's center anew. Worry was all over his aged and weary face. Even he now wondered if what he'd done was the right call. Meeting a man like Brund would do that to you. Brund himself was tickled with amusement. Baldur Red-Snow, unable to speak? The minstrel? It was a dream come true for him. The gods judged true indeed, and they apparently weighed and measured the Ash-King, and found him wanting. He was all smiles until Baldur finally stepped into the room, wearing nothing but the simple robes of the Greybeards themselves, his hair being the only feature that stood out, aside from his stature and height. Somehow silence had granted him an air of authority Brund never thought he had before. He was a silly man more times than not. But now, he was something else. Someone else. His rival and blood enemy from a bygone era. All Brund saw was the face of Ulrin Red-Snow, silent, mocking. And it filled his heart with rage. Their eyes locked, and a low growl escaped Brund's throat. Baldur's own hands locked onto the edge of the stone table right across from him. The table seemed to stir, vibrating from the intensity of Brund's gaze and his growl as he stood. The air about him cold. Elisif felt this cold before, and it was the only thing colder than even the freezing hell that was her heart. The only thing that brought her back was the look in Red-Snow's eyes. His own gaze was as hard as Brund's, though nothing shook on his end at all. What those near him did notice however was the odd rise in temperature, even for the fires lit by the Greybeards. Elisif wiped her brow, no longer feeling Brund's chill, until Arngeir put a hand on Baldur's shoulders. "Please, be seated Jarl Hammer-Fang. Everyone. Let us begin." The Empress felt the heat. Like that of a Dragon. And with it, her valor returned. The young girl's own icy eyes narrowed, as she thought, Come on Baldur. This fucker is nothing. You can win this. I have faith in you. "Fellow Jarls," Vignar Gray-Mane spoke up, his rough voice resonating around the room. "It has been a long journey for all of us, and it is not one made lightly. This place is too damn high up for that..." A few people chuckled, but the Jarl of Whiterun remained serious, and they quickly followed in suit. "So I won't mince words. I came here to pledge my axe to the man who has fought for us, who has led us against our enemies time and time again." He reached to his hip and drew a splendid war-axe of Skyforged steel, and then pointed it at Baldur. "Baldur Red-Snow does not need to speak to earn Whiterun's loyalty. He did that long ago!" Vignar dropped his axe onto the table, where it clattered in front of Baldur. Though its echo had not even died before Jarl Fenrald's voice filled the hall. "Tell me, Vignar, did Red-Snow earn your loyalty when he torched Falkreath's farms, or when he aligned with the ones who destroyed our homes and tried to remove our god?" "After," Vignar answered. "We haven't met, Fenrald, but everyone here who knows me also knows that I've no love for the Empire. But acting on old grievances will get us nowhere. Not when we have a greater enemy in the elven lands." "You call them old grievances, but the way I see it," Fenrald drew his axe and pointed it at Dales, "there stands my greatest enemy." He turned, and tossed the weapon in front of Brund. Brund grabbed the axe before him, eyeing it the way a babe might a new toy. Looking at Baldur, he waved it at him, grinning from ear to ear. Baldur's face remained unchanged. "I thank you, Fenrald for your wise decision. Though, let's get something clear. I intend to usher in a golden age for this land. It will be gold, because there'll be a new skin rug in every home for each Altmer I kill. That, is my first goal. That said, you are correct. I remember Ulfric once telling us, and that includes my comrade there staring at me so hard... to 'Never forget! Never forget!' And I promise all of you..." Pointing a clawed gauntlet finger at Baldur, he said, "Brund never forgets." At those harsh accusations, Dales considered remaining silent, but she felt she couldn't. "I did not know Ulfric Stormcloak. He surely had no love for me, like Jarl Greymane" The Empress said, scratching her chin, "But what I did know was he wanted trade, and close military cooperation with Cyrodiil. You go against that, you go against Ulfric. With an Empire, that wasn't an Empire like the ones before it. At the same token, I doubt if you hate me, you'll even believe my words, so I won't waste them." She paused, "Then hear this. The Dominion marshals its forces while we're on this mountain. They don't care. They'll put us all to the sword. Dislike the Empire all you want, but the real enemy is to the south of Cyrodiil. Humanity needs to be united, not divided." And with that, the Empress fell silent. Baldur eyes her. He wasn't angry, but the Nord's eyes looked...pleading. As if to say, "Be a little more quiet girl!" Dales rolled her eyes, but did a quick, curt nod to him. Brund stood next, noticing Baldur's look. With a sly smile he gave Baldur a look of his own. Looking to the Empress of Cyrodiil directly next, Brund decided to test her temperament. "Speak, when spoken to, carpet licking wench. This is a moot of Nords. You lot, are guests. Act like it." Baldur continued to look at Dales, slowly shaking his head. Dales remained silent, and her face unemotive. Baldur seemed relieved, meanwhile Brund was amused. As he sat back down, Arngeir stood awkwardly, clearing his throat. "The other Jarls have the floor." "The Empress spoke true," declared Ingun Black-Briar. She looked at Fenrald, "We are still recovering from two wars and yes, our homes have suffered -Riften knows what that's like as well as anyone- but we can't afford to look for enemies in the past. We need to focus on rebuilding and preparing for the future." "A future where we ignore those who wronged us," growled Fenrald. "Who only stopped wronging us when we forced them to! I'm not afraid of some elves on the other side of the world. The only time they threatened us was when the Imperials made it possible."
  3. 4 points
    Her Majesty, Empress Dales Draconus I, Holder of the Ruby Throne, former Countess of Sutch, Head of the Motierre family, and Defender of Cyrodiil. By Erika Tan
  4. 4 points
    Kyne's Watch “Admiral Red Snow.” Rebec looked up from her ledgers. She had rented an office at the Kyne’s Watch customs office, out of which she ran her commercial shipping business. Before her was a golden-robed priestess, the one she had brawled with in a grudge match back in Whiterun. “Danica. What are you doing here?” “I heard about your project here. The town. Should I not come to see a settlement devoted to Kynareth?” “Don’t know anyone by that name. You might try Solitude.” The priestess laughed. “Let’s not start that fight again. I can still feel your left hook on my jaw on rainy nights. By whatever name, the goddess can be proud of such a thriving town made in her honor. There’s something missing, however.” “A whorehouse. Yes, I know. I hear it all the time, and you wouldn’t believe the things people say to my mother-in-law when Baldur’s not around to hear.” “A temple! There’s not even a shrine to the town’s namesake. I’m here to change that.” Danica produced a burlap sack, out of which grew a small sapling tree. “This will be the first step. We need a town square in which to plant the Gildergreen tree. I have some Elder sap left, heavily diluted, but it should get the tree growing even in your sandy soil and salt air.” Rebec sat back in her chair. She was about to call the whole thing a fool’s errand, but there had actually been talk about the village needing a square. Kyne’s Watch had sprawled haphazardly out from the harbor and fort. The Stormcloak builders had done a decent job of keeping structures orderly and storm-hardy, but the town still didn’t feel like a town so much as a jumble of longhouses. A temple would also bring in money from gullible pilgrims. “Alright. Let’s go talk to Ysana. She’s the mayor, so she gets the final say.” *** Some houses had to be moved and land leveled, but a week later, there was already the semblance of a market square. They had decided to lay it out on the far side of the existing town, so that visitors had to travel past the inn and shops to get to it, and so that the town could grow past it on the other side. Some benches had been set out, and Danica’s sapling stood at the center in a raised bed frame. “It looks pathetic,” Rebec said to Mazoga, who sat next to her on one of the new benches. “How is Kyne supposed to be honored by that? She doesn’t grow trees, she rips them up. This Kynareth is some elven impostor.” “It’s a tree. It’s not going to turn anybody elven or weak.” Rebec shot her a look. “You never know.” The orc rolled her eyes. She was nursing a bottle of mead, but had no opinion on gods or goddesses, so Rebec sighed and went on, “I’m the one who’s pathetic. Baldur is off saving Tamriel or some shit. I’m stuck here like this toothpick of a tree. It’s not that I don’t like being a mother...” “So don’t.” “Too late for that. Can’t keep my hands off Baldur, gods help me.” “I mean, don’t get stuck here. Come out sailing with us. Bring Ragna. She ought to be learning anyway. Or let’s go somewhere else. There was a place I meant to tell you about, up in the mountains, Volskygge. I sheltered there one night during the Trials. It was a dragon priest temple, I think, but the Dragonborn killed the priest’s ghost. Now there are just a few shufflers and skeevers to worry about, but there’s a wall in there that has something to do with a shout. You’re a Tongue now, right? So maybe you can learn something from the wall?” Rebec thought that dubious, but this sounded like a harmless enough adventure, so the next morning she, Mazoga and a few of their crew set off into the mountains to seek out the temple. Ragna stayed behind in her grandmother’s care, with a Nord wetnurse they occasionally hired when she was busy. The women took point and behind them trailed Bjol Waverunner and Sidano, the Black Wisp's Khajiit assassin. As they walked, Rebec glanced over at her former first mate. “You’re wearing the Nordic Carved today. Normally see you in the Stormcloak captain gear still.” “The others can sink like a stone if they want, when we’re sailing. I don’t plan to. But I can’t deny this stuff is good gear on land.” Like all the Grim Ones, Mazoga had earned the heavily enchanted suit after surviving her Trials. She had taken to keeping her hair permanently in thick plaits that could fit under a helmet and didn’t need to be combed. Her other souvenirs were frostbite and wound scars that made her look grim indeed. Orc or not, no one questioned her right to be captain of Skyrim’s flagship and a member of Baldur’s elite any longer. Not to her face, certainly. Bjol Waverunner came up alongside them. "You heard what they're saying about the moot, cap? Jarl Brund Hammerfang is going to challenge Baldur's claim." Rebec had indeed heard, and the thought of it made her blood run cold. There was the challenge that came from clever talk and politics, and there was the kind of challenge by which Ulfric had claimed the throne, and by which Baldur was now claiming it, though that fact wasn't known. Rebec had seen enough of Brund to know he wasn't likely to back down at a lot of talk by what he considered lesser men. "You're not to bring it up with Ysana, clear? She's got a lot on her mind already." "I'm no fool. That would put her right out of the mood." "Uh huh. Priorities." The temple reared up above them as they turned a corner in the path. Some shambling skeletons drew Rebec back to her own task. They were easily dispatched. Inside, Mazoga lit torches and passed them around. The place smelled of blood upon blood. Rebec continued in, pushing open the inner doors, then turned around to wait for the others. As she did, she noticed Bjol stepping up onto the side platform to inspect a chair. “FUS!” Waverunner flew back against the far wall at Rebec’s shout and came up cursing, but he wasn’t so angry when she pointed out the pressure plate he had been about to step on. “Right,” she declared. “The ancestors left some presents for tourists. Everyone keep a sharp eye on the floor, for blood and squiggly lines. Sidano, best keep your tail tucked in.” The group maneuvered more traps, helpfully marked out for them by the rotting corpses of adventurers and bandits who had come before. There was a puzzle room that Mazoga and Rebec managed to work through together, Rebec cursing all the while about how much time the ancient Nords had on their hands. At least the small barrier had seemed to keep out most of the rabble, because there were more artifacts in the next rooms. This slowed them down as they paused to search. Rebec turned off into a side chamber, and was stopped short as she was bathed in a greenish light and a chill like a foggy night on the Sea of Ghosts. An ethereal female figure hovered before the far wall inscribed with totems. Around it danced two glowing orbs, the mother's sentinel wisps. As the ghost woman turned Rebec lifted her axe to throw, but she stopped herself since the wisp mother only regarded her with curiosity rather than alarm. It glided nearer, and reached out a hand slowly towards the amulet on Rebec’s chest. Glancing down, Rebec saw that her Kyne totem was glowing. Instinctively she clutched at it and stepped back to keep the thing from touching her. The wisp mother hovered, face expressionless. At least it didn't shriek like the sea harpy for which Rebec's ships were named, but otherwise she appeared similar. Like the harpy, she was flanked by globes of spectral green fire that danced and swooped. One of them passed Rebec and glided out of the chamber. Rebec was brought out of her stunned silence as she realized what was about to happen. "Maz, don’t attack it!” It was too late. There was shouting, then wisp mother let out an angry hiss. She turned on Rebec, who dove behind a pillar just as a blast of frost magic sliced through the air towards her. Before the wisp mother could let out another, she was out and charging at it, both axes swinging. The shade tried to glide back but was prevented by the wall behind her, so she slid around Rebec's side. As she prepared another frost blast, the admiral likewise turned and did a quick roll right under the witch’s legless body, coming up behind her and slashing again. Mazoga and the others came rushing in to join the attack, and then chaos broke loose. A half dozen identical shades appeared, one right next to Rebec. They were more easily put down than their mother, but by the time Rebec had killed one another took its place. Even as a Nord, her joints were aching from their chill attacks. When she noticed one of the shades slipping through a back door out of the chamber, she gave chase, shouting “Oh no you don’t!” It was the original wisp mother, weakened but far from dead. She turned when she heard Rebec’s pursuit, preparing to attack. Wisps careened out towards Rebec’s face, seeking to blind and harass her. “Fus RO!” The thu’um was directed not at the wisp mother herself, but at the ancient hanging braziers that still burned above her head. They swung wildly and then their chains snapped, dropping onto the wisp mother and spilling out their dragon fire crystals. There was an unearthly, wailing scream and the wisp mother disappeared into green smoke, her wisps dropping with a thud. The sore and weary adventurers recouped back in the hall with a bottle of healing potion they passed around. Mazoga was better off than most due to her enchanted armor, but still had some chill burns. As Rebec put salve on them, she kept her voice low so only the orc could hear. “That thing. Before you all attacked her wisp, the mother wasn’t hostile to me. I thought those were always hostile. She reached out for my amulet. It reminded me of..." "The harpy. She wasn't hostile, either." “I don't understand what it means." After a pause Mazoga answered, “You know what some of the crew used to say? They’d see you out there looking at the thing as it followed us, and sometimes it looked like you were talking to her, or she to you. After Jala, they thought... well...” Rebec started at her daughter's name, then frowned. “The wisp mothers are just ghosts of women taken by frost. What does that have to do with Jala?" “One story is that wisp mothers are ghosts of women wailing for their dead children. You know how sailors are. A couple left the crew because of it. I didn’t have the heart to tell you the real reason they left.” Rebec's eyes burned with fury. “What do they call the ghosts of sailors wailing for their shriveled balls?” Even hours later after they made camp, Rebec was muttering to herself, irked by what Mazoga had told her and by the wisp mother’s behavior. Unable to sleep, she got up and took a torch, going into the side hall. She half expected to see the wisp mother again, and almost hoped she would, but the chamber was empty. Rebec approached the wall the wisp mother had been facing. It was a frieze of ritual totems such as one always found in the old Nord temples and tombs. Rebec’s eyes rested on the Kyne totem. Her eyes widened when she noticed the two globes that seemed to float next to the goddess’ head... Women bound in fog and frost for all time, testing those who ventured too far into sea or frozen waste. If you lived, you got to sail or fight on. If you died at Kyne's hand, did the goddess extract another form of service? Favored of Kyne, people called Rebec. She shook a fist at the winged carving. “Spare me your favors, you soggy bitch. You been trying to kill me for years. I’m still here, and when I die I'm going to Sovngarde." The next day, the party made it into the vast hall that used to be the dragon priest’s lair. The crypt was empty, though the blue-eyed corpses of the priest and his deathlord minions were still there, robbed of their most valuable trinkets. Rebec then stepped up to the word wall. She waited, then Mazoga asked, "Anything happening?" "My feet are sore, that's what's happening. I have no idea what this giant chicken scratch means." "Let's make a copy. Maybe Baldur can read it, or we'll find a book." *** A few days later, Rebec and Mazoga met for a midday meal at the inn. Ragna lay sleeping on a chair next to her mother, wrapped in furs and unperturbed at the ruckus around her. Danica Pure-Spring entered, carrying a bundle on her back, and crossed over to them. “So, admiral. What do you think of my Gildergreen?” “A very impressive twig. Still don’t see what it has to do with Kyne.” “Maybe you will, someday. She will show you.” “She’s been showing me a quite a lot, and I don’t appreciate it.” The priestess smiled. “The lady’s blessings are sometimes strange. I didn’t appreciate having to tend so many war dead, but it made me a better healer. You will be a better warrior for having a spiritual purpose.” “I haven’t got any such thing and I’ll thank you not to talk such rot if you’re going to eat with us. Sit and tell me what’s going on in Whiterun. Do you hear any news of Carlotta or Mila Iron-Brow?” Danica’s face darkened as she sat. “I actually did hear a rumor. Apparently Carlotta died in the fighting down there. There’s no word about Mila, but they say Boldir escaped to Cyrodiil. Your husband sent a company of Grim Ones after him, to bring him back to face justice.” Rebec let out a string of muttered curses. “This is all wrong somehow. Boldir wouldn’t just murder a whole town.” A thought nagged at her. How many towns would Baldur raze if he thought it could save her and Ragna? Or to avenge their deaths? Danica spoke up again. “It will soon be time for me to go back to Whiterun myself. The Stormcloak builders will make a temple on the mountain above the town, but there's one more task the lady set out for me. A temple is no good without a priestess.” Rebec nodded blankly, her thoughts still caught up with worrying what had become of Mila. It took a moment for Danica’s words to register, and to notice that the priestess was looking intently at her. “Now see here. You asking for another beatdown? I want none of this.” The priestess chuckled. "I asked around the town about who would be suited, and I only heard one name. You’re Kyne’s favored, they hear you shouting in the mountains. The builders said the plot I chose for the temple was already set aside for a new home for you and Baldur. In the old days, a temple of Kyne used to be the priestess' home. You see, I know a bit about the old ways, too. Maybe you’re right that Kynareth wants her other aspects to be known in this time. You already have plenty of healers at the fort. The people here want to know their goddess will fight for them.” Rebec glanced at Mazoga helplessly, but the orc just lifted her eyebrows and shrugged, grinning. “I’m going to war with Baldur. If he ever gets home.” “By then another may step up to the task.” “I have no idea how to be a priestess!” “I’ll stay for a few weeks longer. We’ll hold a festival to celebrate the new temple’s founding, and ask the goddess’ blessing on the moot of jarls. You can begin your duties then. Oh, and I brought you something. Forged by Eorlund Grey-Mane from the rarest dragonscale.” The priestess produced a ceremonial breastplate and a midnight blue robe. Rebec held up the breastplate and saw that it was inscribed with the same totem she had seen in Volskygge, the winged woman flanked by orbs. Sighing, she rested the piece back down. “The bitch can’t kill me, but she’s sure enough getting her revenge.”
  5. 3 points
    She wears an invisible amulet only she can see and speaks to an elven corpse.
  6. 3 points
    Because I think the head jumping combined with the shift in style of writing between paragraphs can be rather jarring. While some of you don't like to have posts flow like a novel, I do prefer it since novels are generally written in a way to make it easier to read. I thought you knew and simply loved Dark Souls 3 so much you decided to copy their names.
  7. 3 points
    Went to see Bladerunner 2049 this weekend. It was really, really good. I'm almost positive they were using some Easter eggs/ references of Fallout, especially New Vegas. In any case, it was a good homage to the original and an excellent story in its own right with a lot of the classic bleak atmosphere of dystopian noir.
  8. 3 points
    Like I said in the pm, making this post was a frikin blast, thank you guys for the help, you all really sold this post and made everything feel authentic imo Honorable mention to Veleda for telling it like it is and being the candidate sky rim doesn't deserve, Roland for being the most professional and not embarrassing Baldur lol, Dales for being ******* Dales and being more useful than I expected, and Doc for playing the shit out of those Jarls.
  9. 3 points
    It's not a big deal, you can always park Aloth in the stronghold and send him on stronghold quests which companions do without you. Don't forget to pick up the rewards in the Great Hall chest, I always forget. Just make sure you give Eder and Pallegina good equipment and set them up front to pull aggro for you. Anytime you can use a bottleneck to keep enemies from flanking them, it will help your squishes.
  10. 3 points
    I know we've had this convo a thousand times but, how awesome is dead money tho? That dlc was just fantastic for the survival feel and how well it worked with its hardcore mode, and stealth builds. The atmosphere, ******* grade A characters. Mmm. My favorite DLC from FNV for sure. And I love the stealth armor, just so snazzy.
  11. 3 points
    It's not my fault! Sauron tricked me into doing it! He's the deceiver! Aragon: "He offered them nine pre order discounts. Blinded by his greed, he took it without question! Now he is a serveant to EA's will...idiot'gul, a Canadian simpleton he is now called." It's not that bad...I got it for 45 bucks Canadian which I make in a few hours working. And for the "incoience" the nice Swedish support guy gave me a 30 percent coupon code for my next purchase. Aint that bad... *Sigh* Hey at least there's sexy shelob!
  12. 3 points
    **** everyone else but Caeser, Mark Anthony, and Octavian make that show. Titus and his bro are sick too. Amazing show. It sucks it only lasted two seasons though...was super expensive to make apparently
  13. 3 points
    Obsidian's doing a survey on DLC content https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/OEIDLCSurvey1
  14. 3 points
    Is that supposed to be a woman?
  15. 3 points
    Indeed, there's a reason why it's essentially a dead language.
  16. 3 points
    It would a kick in the teeth to archdruid *insert random gaelic name* if Dales sent over her legions to burn his tiny, insignificant island to the ground.
  17. 3 points
    I'm back to playing Pillars of Eternity. Missed my druid. I wish Dragon Age had done a druid class half so well. Shapeshifter was utterly broken and the Keeper class they created for Awakening was just no fun, since it mostly meant the caster was immobilized. I swear, Bioware hates the Dalish. @BTCollins8 I finally finished A Canticle for Leibowitz, since I had to take my car in for repair today so had some extra time. A very unique book. The author biography explained a lot- it said he had been a gunner in WWII and participated in a raid that took out one of the oldest monasteries in the world, in Italy. Have you read the sequel that came out 40 years later?
  18. 3 points
    Skyrim Switch, with unlockable Link/Zelda costumes (I'm being serious...)
  19. 3 points
    I wish I were able to help in time, but thanks to the effing IRS & some moron at my wife's HR department I can't donate again till after the 1st.
  20. 3 points
    "Cleaver-Land" has got to be one of my favorite plays on a prewar name that I've seen. That's so perfect. As for the rest, I don't think there's a problem or need for an edit. You never said that he was in a desert. And Autumn in Missouri can fluctuate between pleasant and brutal. If someone is limping for miles in a full kit while wounded on a warm day, the extreme humidity in the area (particularly before a storm) will most likely kill him -or get damn close, as you depicted well. Sinbad is a very, very tough bastard, or he probably wouldn't have made it at all. Not having water isn't an issue either. People get lost in the woods and die of dehydration within miles of fresh water in the real world. Even if the rivers and streams of the area aren't particularly radioactive, Sinbad is a nomad from far away who doesn't know where they are. It would be very dangerous to stray from the road to search for one in his condition.
  21. 3 points
    Just trying to debate between 2% or whole
  22. 3 points
  23. 3 points
    I thought it would be prudent to make myself a literal Big Boss Balrog.
  24. 3 points
    I'm going to use my magic DRUIDS powers and have a meme ahead of time. ~Brund at the Moot
  25. 3 points
  26. 3 points
    On all the new posts (Czar, Celan, and Doc)
  27. 3 points
    Skyrim On a normal morning, Jarl Ingun Black-Briar would have taken her place in the new longhouse and given answer to the the dozens of requests and disputes that arose every day in her recovering hold. But this was not a normal morning. Soon, Skyrim would have a new ruler, and it was the duty of the Jarls to decide who that would be. Ingun sat in her chair that they called a throne, turning an axe over in her hands again and again as she pondered on this. "Are you ready, my Jarl?" She took one last look at the fine steel war axe, freshly forged by Balimund and adorned with interlacing carvings that came together to form a wolf in honor of Mother Mara. It was the new Axe of Riften, both a symbol and an exceptionally well-crafted weapon. In all her years, Ingun had never once needed to carry a blade. Even in her darker days when working for Maven, her sins had been committed at the alchemist's table with a mortar in one hand and a pestle in the other. Things were different now. Dishonesty and poison were not the weapons of a true Nord, and that was what she needed to be when sitting among the mighty Jarls. "Yes," she said to Arnath as she stood and sheathed the axe at her hip. "Have they finished preparing the horses?" "They have. Your escort awaits you by the front gate." "Good." The pale light of the early dawn spilled through the windows, painting the floorboards a dull gray. They had decided some time ago to leave early while the city still slept, for the last thing they wanted was fanfare as their new Jarl departed for the first time since her appointment. The journey would be long and hopefully dull, but at least the Jarl of the Rift would not need to leave her own hold. She looked forward to seeing Ivarstead firsthand. Word was that the town had grown since Riften's fall, as many of the refugees decided to make new lives for themselves there. No doubt the place would be particularly active in the coming weeks as the most powerful men and women in all of Skyrim passed through with their escorts. Ingun dismissed her Housecarl and donned a thick fur cloak. Spring was warmer in the Rift than most of Skyrim, but somehow she doubted that the Throat of the World recognized seasons. Next, she crossed over to the back room where she and Sovi lived. Her ward was dressed and ready, and sat in the corner reading some book with the help of a night eye potion. Ingun had not intended to take the Dunmer child on such a long journey, but she hadn't the heart to say 'no' when it became clear how much she wanted to join. "Come, Sovi. It's time." The little girl smiled and stashed the book into her pack along with a doll and her Mara totem, and then they departed together in good spirits. The escort consisted of twenty men, all Nords who were as familiar with the Rift as she was with an alchemy table. Between them and Stormcloaks from Eastmarch patrolling the roads further north, the old fears of bandits or Thalmor were about as present as those of a dragon attack. The hold was safer than it had been since Riften's fall, and it was the perfect time to attend a Moot. *** Every day at noon, trees and sun worked together to stage a shadow show for Falkreath's dead. On one soldier's grave, a snow whale drifted lazily up and down with the wind. On another, a man with stunted legs swung his axe at a hunchbacked monster twice his size. Jarl Fenrald's favorite today was on the headstone of a woman named Tekla, which displayed the uncommonly vivid image of a dragon getting crushed again and again by a falling rock. It made for one of the rare moments that he allowed himself to smile in this place. Tekla. He remembered her. She had been the steward of Jarl Dengeir, served him faithfully until they were both murdered by Imperial assassins. Just one sad story among thousands that had plagued Falkreath during that terrible war. Skyrim had won, sure enough, and grown stronger from their victory, but it had been done at the expense of his home. In just one month, the massive graveyard that they were famous for had grown so much that they'd needed to add a new section to make room. The loss of life was a travesty, but people always died in war. Falkreath understood this better than anyone. But death was not the only misfortune they suffered. General Baldur Red-Snow had ordered his men to burn every crop found south of Lake Ilinata. It slowed the Imperials, sure, but when the war was over and Ulfric's troops pulled out, it also left the city's battered population with nothing to eat. Every coin in Falreath's coffers had gone towards food, which meant there was little to spend on repairing their city or even paying those who tried to help. Dengeir's replacement Lod died of some illness that he was either too stubborn or two poor to get a cure for, and Lod's replacement Metne had been so hated that the people threw her out in under a year. Falkreath had bled for Skyrim. Suffered for it. They did this because they were Nords who loved their land and would gladly seek Sovngarde early for it if asked. But now it seemed as though the rest of the world had forgotten why this had been necessary, forgotten who's doing it was in the first place. It was the damned Imperials. He would not forget, and nor would his people. They would remember for the sake of the dead. Jarl Fenrald's smile waned, and he decided that he'd spent long enough paying his respects. With a final prayer to the gods and the dead, he turned and rejoined the world of the living. Falkreath City had always been quiet as far as holdfasts go, and today it was even more so than usual. A thick fog meant that most children were indoors and those who worked were slower and more careful with everything they did. The Jarl even caught himself falling for the spell a bit as he realized how lazily he was making his way back to the longhouse. He stepped through those big wooden doors (freshly cut to replace the ones that had been destroyed by an Imperial fireball) and found his hall empty save for a single guest. His Thane, Hunrik. Who had taken up residence in an empty mill beside the lake. "My Jarl." Fenrald nodded for him to continue, and he produced a letter. "I was to remind you, the date Jarl Baldur sent for you approaches." "I know." As if I could have forgotten. Fenrald took the letter and looked it over once again. When he had first gotten word that the next moot was to take place a High Hrothgar, he had thought it some joke. The idea that he of all people was being summoned to make the climb like Talos himself was beyond unbelievable. That he would see the Greybeards, walk the seven thousand steps... all because he loved his home enough to say the words that everyone else had been thinking. Now, he was being asked to come and say them again to the most powerful Nords in Skyrim. He knew where he stood, which Jarl would be the best king. The one who would give his people the blood that they deserved. Hunrik stood there a little awkwardly, looking around as he did. "The longhouse is, um... peaceful." "It's empty." Fenrald replied. "My people have more productive things to do than stand around guarding their Jarl or whispering in his ear." "Do you no longer keep court?" "Of course I do. If I need of advice, I'll go to them ask for it. Until then, they're busy." "Uhh, right." He stood there a few moments longer and then asked, "So when will you leave?" "Soon. How does your mill run when you are here?" "My wife and sons manage the workers well enough." "Good. Then I shall leave tomorrow, while you manage things here until I return." The Thane looked dumbstruck. "Wait, what? I-" "Have been given an order. I will make sure you have everything that you need. Run Falkreath as you have run your mill and you will do fine." Fenrald turned and retired to his quarters. He hadn't planned to leave for a few days still, but Hunrik's arrival was a convenience he could not pass up on. He could already feel his heartbeat quicken as the excitement gripped his chest. I'm going to the Throat of the World! He thought back to the shadows on Tekla's grave. And Skyrim will finally remember what happened in Falkreath. *** At almost eighty years old and frailer than a draugr, most of Dawnstar quietly believed that Jarl Skald the Elder had seen his last winter. The days that he could manage to sit his throne for more than a few hours were rare, and the ones when he could walk its streets and speak with its people were gone completely. It seemed as though Skald the Elder embodied his name more and more every day. And so it came as a surprise to everyone when the summons for the moot arrived, and he declared that he himself would become Skyrim's next High King. The first reaction was that these were the ravings of his senile mind. And so afterwards, the court mage Madena brewed a potion to relax his mind and help him rest so that he may be sharper come morning. However, when he awoke he made the same declaration with even more conviction than the first time. As the weeks went by, it became more and more apparent that this was not only happening, but that it was one of the few things left in the world that mattered to the old man. In his eyes, the two major 'claimants' Baldur Red-Snow and Brund Hammer-fist were both unworthy of the title. They were too young and too inexperienced, and unlike him they both held the insane notion that they could do things differently than Ulfric Stormcloak had and that it would be an improvement. And so Skald made a promise to anyone who would listen: No man loved Ulfric more greatly than he did, and no High King would rule the way Ulfric had but him. It was so absurd that even Skald's own guardsmen joked behind his back. Nearly all of Dawnstar did. To them, he was the grumpy old man who considered himself a hero and believed that giants were conspiring to take the Nords' land. The one who drooled on himself, and struggled to make the journey from his bed to his throne without assistance, all while going on about how Skyrim would prosper under his rule. That would be his legacy to them. It made Vrage sick. It was true that he had never been close to his older half brother. Skald been in the Jarl's chair for twenty years before he'd even been born, and had been none too pleased when their merchant mother remarried and had a second child. They had grown up in separate homes and separate worlds. It wasn't until Skald learned that he could not have children that the Jarl decided to acknowledge Vrage and make him his heir. By then they were both grown men, and hadn't spoken two words to each other in their entire lives. Even so, Vrage knew Skald better than most. He knew how greatly their mother's death had upset him, and how little he'd had in the way of guidance growing up as Jarl. The people he surrounded himself with now: Madena, Jod, even Bulfrek- they were good folk, but their Jarl had been a boy in a man's body long before they were born. He had their pity, but they could not understand him. At times it felt as though no one could. "You look sad. What's wrong, Love?" Vrage looked up as he laced his fur boots. His wife Jytte was watching him with a look of concern. "I was thinking about Skald," he answered as he pulled the laces tight. "I'm going to have to speak with him again before I leave." "Do you want me to come with you?" "Thanks, but not this time." He gave Jytte a kiss, threw on his cloak, and trudged outside into the snow. Even in the Spring, Dawnstar was rarely spared from a the stuff. And so far, the place still felt more or less the same as it had during the Winter. Not that you would hear someone from the Pale complain. The people of this land were as hard and strong as the Atmorans they'd descended from. To them, the cold was a friend who their beards thick and their enemies at bay. As much a part of life as the sun and the stars. And so even on this particularly cold day, Dawnstar was bustling with activity. The docks were loud with the sound of shouting crews, teams of returning hunters dragged in fallen horkers on their sleds, boatbuilders were hard at work constructing longships for the upcoming war, and smoke wafted across the cliffside from dozens of smelters. Vrage greeted everyone he passed, in part because he wanted to, but also perhaps because he wasn't in a great hurry to reach the longhouse. Even so, it was not long before he found himself at the entrance to the White Hall. Vrage sighed, watching his breath crystalize as he did. And then he steeled himself and entered. The warmth from the hearth hit him immediately, as did a foul smell. The throne was empty, which meant Skald could only be in one place. "There you are." Madena called to him from the left side loft, where she let go of the railing to come down and greet him. "Have you come to say goodbye?" "Aye." Vrage looked over to his elder brother's room. The door was closed, but he could hear voices on the other side. "How is he?" "You know the answer to that." The Breton mage shook her head. "Forgive the smell... it's-" "His shit. I know." The future High King of Skyrim, everyone. "I'm leaving today. But first I'd say a few words. Just in case." "Of course. Understand though, that this is not one of his better days." It's been a long time since Skald has had a good day. He went over to Skald's quarters and gently pushed the door open. Inside, he found his brother, blanket to his neck, arguing as Bulfrek tried to get him to drink. "I don't want any, you damned oaf. Go away! Your Jarl commands it!" Skald's eyes darted over to Vrage, and his lips twisted into a smile. "Brother! Come, come." He looked at his servant again. "I said to leave, fool!" Vrage gave Bulfrek a nod, and the man took his leave. After the door closed, he went over to the bedside. "I'm leaving today, Skald." "Leaving?" The old man's eyes stared, uncomprehending. "You cannot leave. You must defend the city while I am away for the moot." It was as Vrage had feared. "We've talked about this. I'm the one who will go to the moot. You cannot make the climb in your condition." "Condition? Bah!" A line of drool ran down Skald's fuzzy chin after he spat the last word. "The only thing wrong in my hall is that my damnable servant would rather bring me tea than mead." "It's medicine. Probably a potion. You need rest brother. You cannot climb the tallest mountain in the world as you are right now. You asked me to represent you at the moot, remember? It's why I'm leaving. You gave me your axe." He pulled back his cloak so his brother could see the weapon. Skald's eyes went wide. "My axe!" He smiled stupidly. "It is good that you have it, brother, for I feel quite unwell. I would have you go to the moot in my stead. Represent me as the next High King of Skyrim!" He turned and looked up at the ceiling. "I will do right by our homeland, you will see. Mighty Talos himself will be proud." "Of course you will." Vrage frowned. "You will make sure I win, will you not?" "I will do all that I can." His brother frowned and made a 'harrumph' sound. "It will have to do. You have always been dependable. When Ulfric called for action you were among the first here to join his cause. That's when I knew you were true." The two brothers sat in silence for several minutes, and then finally Skald turned and looked at Vrage. "You are all dressed up, brother. I hope you do not intend to leave? I have need of you here." A pang of sadness struck him, and Vrage could only respond by putting a hand on his brother's shoulder. "I won't be gone long, I promise you. Goodbye brother. Soon Skyrim will have a new High King." Skald the Elder's eyes lit up. "King, yes. I cannot wait to go to this moot! Soon, I shall be king!" *** At almost eighty years old yet still spry and sharp of wit, it seemed as though Vignar Gray-Mane still had a good few winters left in him. And so it came as no surprise to anyone when he decided that he would be climbing the seven thousand steps to attend the moot in person. He certainly did not need to. His brother, niece and nephew, -even a few Companions- had all volunteered to go in his stead, but Vignar would have none of it. It was "not the Nord way" he told them all, and when they cited instances in the past of Jarls not attending, he laughed and said "Well it's not my way." And so when the day came at last, Vignar descended from Dragonsreach with the vigor of a man half his age, but not before throwing a great feast in his own hall. There had been bards, magicians, a trained bear, and enough food and mead to sate everyone five times over. The guests included his family and friends, most of the Companions, and members from nearly all of Whiterun's most prominent families. It had been a clever move on the Jarl's part, planned long in advance to please everyone at once before his departure and leave the city in good spirits while he was away. Hopefully, this would make anyone who might've taken advantage of his absence think twice. Not that Vignar was all that worried. Whiterun was stronger than ever, and his clan were more than capable of managing things in his absence. In truth, the only fear at all came from the same place as usual: Clan Battle-Born. If anything, the feast was more to make certain that the rest of the city would take his family's side if those traitors tried something. They hadn't done so since the war, but ever since Idolaf Battle-Born's execution a couple years back, their disdain for Vignar and his family had strong and loudly expressed. That single fear seemed for nothing when Vignar made his way through the city, flanked by Olfina and a contingent of guards. The people he passed cheered and wished him safe travels, thanking him for the great time and joking about how they were still feeling the effects of so much mead. A gathering stood around Heimskr as he prayed for Talos to grant them strength, and the priests from the Temple of Kynareth asked the goddess to keep the skies clear for their journey. All in all, the Jarl was leaving the Jewel of Skyrim as healthy and pleased as he could ever remember it being. The brightness of the day proved even brighter when a breathless courier found them just outside the city gates with a letter to Olfina from her brother Thorald. "He's in the City of Chorrol," she told him as they mounted up. "He says that they've narrowed the search." "Good." Vignar was pleased to hear it. The traitor who'd burned Riften had been a trusted friend, once. He was proud that his nephew would be the one to bring him to justice. It seemed fitting. "Perhaps we will learn in the Rift what that whole damned mess was even about. But enough about that. I am pleased that your brother is well. He brings us all honor by wearing that armor." "Do you think there will be Grim Ones in Ivarstead? With so many Jarls in one place, it seems only wise that Baldur Red-Snow bring his best to keep order." "I should think so. Baldur has acted like a king since the day Ulfric named him General. Forming alliances, strengthening our army, fighting our enemies. He knows what he's doing better than any of us. His own people believe that the gods themselves sent him." "Surely you don't, though." "I know Baldur. He did not seem like Wulfharth reborn when we last met. As I recall, the man once stole a cow just so he could win a game of tag." Olfina laughed. "And did he win?" "I don't know," Vignar answered. He settled into his saddle for the long journey ahead. "I'll ask him that when I see him. And many other things. Whether he is a gift from the gods or just more clever than most, all can agree that our future High King is an interesting man." *** Having grown up in the drab and colorless marshes of Hjaalmarch, Jarl Sorli the Builder found that the Rift's eternally autumn forests were much more to her liking, even more so than Eastmarch's hot springs and Whiterun's vast tundras had been. Of all the holds to call my own, Ulfric had to go and give me the one best known for fog and mud. It wasn't entirely unfair, of course. After all, Hjaalmarch was her home, and Morthal had been the last hold capital to be secured before the push into Solitude. Still, she felt that after proving how excellent of a job she could do, it wouldn't have killed the man to offer her Riften once the position became open. It probably slipped his mind. That made as much sense to Sorli as anything. After all, it was said that the people of Riften had been forced to choose their own Jarl after months of not having one. No doubt Ulfric had simply been too busy to give them that sort of attention. To her it was rather unfortunate what had happened here. Such a beautiful and mighty hold, first reduced to ashes and banditry, and then forced to turn to some young mead seller for guidance. Everyone in Skyrim knew who the Black-Briars were of course, but it wasn't until the death of Maven that anyone heard the name 'Ingun'. Apparently she was a last living relative. Considering that and the fact that it had taken many months for her to gain power, Sorli felt that it was unlikely this Ingun was much more than an upstart who was chosen for her money. She won't last long. Real leadership comes from experience. That was why she had been given Morthal, when so many others could have been chosen instead. Sorli and her two dozen guardsmen had left early enough to travel at a comfortable pace, camping early every night and sleeping even further into the morning than they might have at home. Most of them, herself included, did not leave Morthal often, and now they relished in the chance to enjoy this different scenery. Wilderness was not all that they found in their travels. They also met Eastmarch soldiers patrolling the roads, and travelers heading south with supplies for the city of Riften. At one point they came across a procession of merchants from Shor's Stone who were also bound for Ivarstead, and decided to travel together. Eventually, their larger group came upon a small group of Stormcloaks set up at a point along the road. One of the soldiers stood and blocked their way as they approached, forcing Sorli to reign in her horse. She scowled at the man. "Do you know who you speak to, soldier? I am Jarl Sorli of Morthal." "I know, my Jarl. I served with your husband in the Reach. Don't worry, we're not stopping anyone from passing. Captain put us here to warn travelers headed to Ivarstead. There's something dangerous about a mile up the road. We're not sure what it is, but it's killed all the trees." Sorli shared a glance with the captain of her guard, a Nord named Benalf. He shrugged, and so she turned back to the Stormcloak. "You haven't seen this creature for yourself?" "Nobody has. Jarl Ingun's got her people looking into it." "I'm sure she does. Is that all?" "It is. Just make sure your men keep their swords handy." Sorli laughed and rode past the man. "Keep your swords handy, he says," she said back to her men. "He must not know that in Hjaalmarch we breakfast on creatures that would make the ones here tremble in fear." The soldiers laughed at her joke. Indeed, the Drajkmyr Marsh was well known for the monsters that inhabited it. Even Morthal itself was known on occasion to attract vampires, werewolves, and any other beast that could blend in. The result was a population who were paranoid, but not easily scared. Especially not by tales of monsters. Although, when they came upon the dead trees, Sorli did feel a little unnerved. The many-colored Rift had been so beautiful up till now, and the sudden change into a black and twisted landscape came as quite a shock. Even the grass had withered and died, and whatever birds or squirrels might've lived here had fled. Even for them, it was unnerving. Ingun Black-Briar's soldiers were not far. They came upon their encampment just off the side of the road. There were over a dozen soldiers, but also a few citizens, including a Dunmer child who was sitting by a fire with a doll in her hand. The two groups met courteously, but upon realizing who Sorli was, one of the citizens approached. "So you're from Morthal? Do any of your men know what to make of this?" She shook her head. "Most of the trees back home are dead anyway. That doesn't give us much to go by." "Well the hole's not far. What if we took you to see it?" "Hole? The Stormcloak didn't mention a hole. She turned to Benalf. "What do you say? We are early." "Might as well." They were led a little ways into the woods, where they met a group of five more guards and a well-dressed woman, all standing around what was indeed a giant hole in the ground. Their escort introduced them. "Jarl Ingun," said the man. "This is Jarl Sorli of Morthal. Her man here might know something more about all this." The mead merchant Jarl's dark eyes widened a bit at the news. "It is an honor," she said to Sorli. "I did not expect another Jarl to come here so soon, let alone offer aid." "Yes, well maybe you'll learn to act less surprised in the future." She motioned to Benalf. "What do you make of this?" "Well it ain't a chaurus, that's for damn sure. Or a frostbite spider." "We know what did it," said one of Ingun's men. "We just don't know what it is." He pointed to a pair of pale white corpses a few yards off to the side that Sorli had missed before. "We dragged those two outa the tunnel. They were right at the edge." "Those?" The guard captain laughed. "Those are Falmer. I know a Falmer hole when I see one. They didn't do this neither." "Falmer?" said the Rift soldier. "You mean the Snow Elves? They're a myth. Been dead for thousands of years. These beasts've gotta be some sort of goblin or something." "Hah! If Falmer are a myth, then call me Benalf Myth-Slayer. Trust me, lad, they're real." "Did you send anyone down there?" Sorli asked. "Yes," Ingun answered. "Two of my men went. They found more of those... things. All dead. The tunnel just keeps on going. They said it eventually opened into a larger cave where there were strange glowing mushrooms. They brought me a sample if you want to see." "No need," Benalf said. "Don't know nothing about mushrooms 'cept that I don't like the taste. Whatever you've got here, it ain't nothing I've seen before. Tunnel like that, if I didn't know better I'd say you've got yourself a dragon who likes to burrow." "Dragons fly," said Ingun's man. "They don't burrow." "That's why I said I know better, fool. Got no idea what did this, but it's killing Falmer so you oughta thank it. Pesky bastards, those things." "It's also killing part of my forest," answered Ingun. "But it seems we've learned all we can here. I'll hire someone to look into this after the moot." She turned to Sorli. "Ivarstead is only a few days further. How would you like to travel together?" Sorli shrugged. "Might as well." As they made their way back to the campsite, she decided to ask, "So who do you intend to support, eh? It'd be good to know where the Jarls stand." "I've never met any of the claimants," answered the young woman. "But I-" "I will back Brund. Skyrim needs a strong economy, wouldn't you agree? We'd be wise to stand with the leader who controls the most wealth." "How much of that wealth will make it to Morthal?" "A lot, if we're friends." She cast a sideways grin at Ingun. "And I hear Riften could use some good silver these days as well. Something to think about." *** Jarl Korir shook his head in disgust as he watch a man from the Riften camp walk about Ivarstead hand-in-hand with a red-eyed elven child. Disgraceful. He did not hate elves, of course, but this was man's sacred ground and they had no place here. He spat and turned away, pushing the affront from his mind so he could focus on more important matters, like finding a place to drink! What had once been a quiet little village had grown substantially over the last year due to refugees, but with the long-planned moot fast approaching, travelers from all over Skyrim and even beyond had come here to take advantage of the traffic. Aside from the Jarls' own tents, those grim Stormcloak soldiers patrolled the streets, and merchants from everywhere stood beside wagons laden with goods that could not be found outside their homes. Certainly not in Winterhold. Korir walked through the merchant's ranks now, past a group of Bretons who wore colorful robes and peddled silks from their homeland, then a man from Whiterun who had a collection of weapons that had supposedly been wielded by fallen Harbingers of the Companions. Korir almost stopped at wagon from Solitude when the woman asked him to try her spiced wine, but decided at last that he would prefer some mead. For that, he was directed to Vilemyr Inn. The place was packed, of course. Men and women from every hold filled the tables and crowded the bar, where servants worked frantically to keep everyone pleased. In one corner, two bards sang a ballad about High King Hoag to the enchantment of everyone who sat around them. "Jarl Korir!" He glanced over to one of the tables, and found none other than Vrage of Dawnstar waving him over. He grinned as the man and his soldiers scooted over to make room for him on their bench. Vrage waved for one of the tavern maids. "You there! A mead for this man!" They clasped hands as Korir took his seat. "How goes it, friend? Are they calling you 'Jarl' yet or do you still have to pretend like it's not you?" "Funny." Vrage shook his head. "I am not the Jarl, and hopefully will not be for some time. Skald lives, and has his sights for making Dawnstar our next capital." Korir's eyes widened. "You're serious? Skald? No offense, but your brother never struck me as the sort to be a High King." "Nor anyone else, but it is so. He claims that he will follow in Ulfric's footsteps in all things. I've come to represent him." "You mean he's not here himself?" Korir studied Vrage's eyes. Surely the man was joking. No Jarl could hope to send his brother to fight his battles and still expect to be named High King of all Skyrim. Yet as he looked, he saw no sign of jest in his friend's expression. "Well..." One of the tavern's servants interrupted to put a mug of mead in his hands. Finally. He thanked her and took a swig, then gave Vrage a shrug. "Best of fortunes to Skald the Elder." They drank together, and spent some time catching up. Eventually, their conversation came to the moot itself, and the climb before it. Apparently, most of the Jarls had already either made the climb or departed recently enough that they would be in the middle of it now. Vignar Gray-Mane was still in the village and would be embarking tomorrow, which surprised Korir, considering the man was at least as old as Skald. Vrage himself had come early in the hopes of meeting either Baldur or Brund before things got started. Sadly, Baldur had been even earlier and Brund had yet to arrive. In the end, the two men decided that they would make the climb together. They were both traditionalists, and had no intention of bringing guards or advisors to assist, and so the company would be welcome during the long venture upward. "Two Nords of the Old Holds, climbing the Throat of the World together," Korir said, well into his mead by then. He then raised his mug. "To the future of Skyrim!" *** "You got yer axe handy?" "I do, Falk. I told you, I have everything." "I know, I know. It's just... are you sure you didn't forget something my lady?" "Falk, contrary to popular belief I am not stupid. I know you're stalling, silly man." Falk wanted to smile, at least for her sake. But he couldn't. Not even when Jarl Elisif placed her hand on his cheek, scratching his namesake playfully. "I'll be fine." "No you won't, not with that beast they call a man. You can't marry him, please! If you do this... I'll..." "You'll what Falk?" "I'll resign! I'll leave!" Elisif hesitated. Her husband had already abandoned her, killed by the hand of Ulfric Stormcloak. Then Baldur, who she once thought kind and thoughtful abandoned their friendship out of the blue. Alone she thought he even cared for her once. Longed for his distraction, his conversation. Anything to be rid of her thoughts of having wedded her husband's killer. But around his brothers, or Ulfric himself, he changed. Maybe it was just an act? Or perhaps pity. And now Falk was leaving her too. Just as well. No she didn't mean that. She might've mistaken Baldur's kindness and pity for more, but Falk, that was something... different. Falk reminded her of an older, and stronger Torygg. Perhaps that is why she felt guilty of having been with him. Unlike Ulfric, and more than likely unlike Brund Hammer-Fang in the near future, she enjoyed giving herself to Falk. And that was her biggest betrayal to his name yet. "I am doing this, Falk. So if you must abandon me too, then so be it. But I AM going to reclaim Solitude's capital status. That is the least I can do now for my dead husband. I have to try at least." "And what will Torygg say when you see him after you too are dead? Huh? What will you tell him after you've wedded again, and this time a bigger brute than Ulfric?" "I won't be seeing Torygg, ever again. Despite what people say, Torygg died with this axe in his hand. He died a true Nord, and surely dwells in Sovngarde. I on the other hand, am a coward. Goodbye, Falk." Falk waited until Elisif's guard closed the palace doors behind them, closing off the light of the outside world and also the light of his life. When she was gone, he said, "Goodbye, Jarl Elisif." Elisif spent the whole trip in her carriage crying to herself, a hand clenched on her chest. Solitude may have been warm more times than not, but her heart felt nothing but the coldest highest peaks of that icy land. When Elisif and her company of Nords finally made it to Ivarstead, they found that most of the Jarls and their entourage had already made it. And many people that she did not expect, though she full well should have. There were the exotic dark men from Hammerfell, the respectable Bretons of High Rock, with banners of their new king's family symbol upon them, and even the Imperial Legion in all their splendor of red and gold. Oh how she missed the safe feeling she felt when she saw them. And yet even now that feeling escaped her. But even so her heart and mind were open with delight. These men and women were not there for her. They were there for her enemy. But that did not mean she couldn't indulge in the company of possible new friends and acquaintances! It would be so much fun! It- "Elisif, my new wife to be. Was your trip a hard one, my love? Hehehehehehe..." She didn't even have to turn to know who addressed her. Brund strolled out of his tent as though he were waiting behind the flap the entire time just to catch her off guard when she arrived. Brund gave her men the signal to leave, and at first they almost refused. But when they saw that Elisif did not react, they did as they were told, with much hesitation and doubt. But none dared challenge Brund. His hand fell on her shoulder, and he beckoned her to his bed. With a fistfull of her hair as he practically dragged her inside. "I am not your dead husband. I'll have to break you in. Tonight you share a bed with a REAL Nord!"
  28. 2 points
    It actually looks ******* hilarious. I love janky shit like that. One of my guilty pleasures is Freddy Vs Jason so I love Monster movie mashups.
  29. 2 points
    The most animeish thing is those dumb weebs duel wielding kattannas, with edgy armor that some times try to invade you in PVP (Bloodswords I think they call themselves) Everyone, including the devs make fun of them.
  30. 2 points
    Myself included. Dark Souls isn't very anime-ish. I wouldn't like it if it was. There are a few weapons that are stupidly large and that is a turn-off for me, but the main reason for this is that the enemies who carried them are usually gigantic and their weapons are lootable. It's easy to go through the game without ever wielding one of the dumb big weapons.
  31. 2 points
    Baldur didn't have to kill Ulfric. He chose to, and other than Daric and Maori hasn't suffered any consequences and isn't especially troubled by it. That's why Veleda hates him so much. No opinion on Dark Souls, of course, since I haven't played it.
  32. 2 points
    Rent is due guys, if you can kick in now would be the time!
  33. 2 points
    BTW since Colonel always sings it high praise I played Dead Space 1 on my old PS3 yesterday. Played it a long while ago, kinda forgot about it (Though it was good). It's pretty damn horrifying, and the gameplay's aged well. Surprised the most by it being very Japanese-horror in gameplay design. It plays almost exactly like Resident Evil 4, just less combo based and more on accurately slicing up limbs. There's the ammo management (The feeling when you only have a single bullet and these giant horror is charging at you is exactly the same) The levels are very intricate, kinda Resident Evil 1/7 esque. Western horrors game are usually like Outlast/Amensia, all running/hiding and you can't fight back, but lol, Isaac can certainly fight back by stopping on the Necodudes. So Deadspace is an Eastern Horror game made by white people. Probably going to finish it after I do Evil Within 2.
  34. 2 points
    Sorry for the wait, had to put in some last minute additions. But it's done now Moot is done, and I'll post the last part, the conclusion which is basically my post tonight if I can't do so before work, wanna clean it up some.
  35. 2 points
    Skyrim-Fallout mashup https://twitter.com/nationalpost/status/916697596818751488
  36. 2 points
    Also when you get your stronghold, construct the Warden Lodge to get his bounty quests. They've got pretty good rewards. Are you dual wielding? Axe is a pretty good early weapon, and crush damage is also good in this game so maybe a flail. If you're using a shield, there's a good shield in Gilded Vale that has a party buff on it. You can do the smith's quest to get a discount.
  37. 2 points
    Ain't that a kick in the head
  38. 2 points
    Hobbit for life But yea, it's the shit. Only thing is I still can't get used to seeing agent smith as Elrond.
  39. 2 points
  40. 2 points
  41. 2 points
    I agree completely. I mentioned that mods help the issue to explain why I can still enjoy it. But I do not even remotely support the idea that Bethesda should rely on modders to bring their games up to par. Particularly as a mostly console gamer who only started modding the game last year anyway. I got bored of vanilla Skyrim back in 2013 and barely touched it after that, but here we are in 2017 and I can still enjoy my thousandth playthrough of New Vegas. And I'm sure that Witcher 3 will be the same way many years from now. Hell, I'd pick back up Morrowind in a heartbeat if it had aged a little better. You can mod these games, but I usually don't even bother to because they're still a blast in vanilla. This issue was extremely glaring in Fallout 4, where Bethesda basically just gave us a lifeless sandbox full of people named "Raider" and "Settler" and told us to have fun killing undeveloped enemies in order to get the scraps we need to build a well for storyless settlement #27. Not enough? Well at least it's mod-friendly, and we've got 5 ******* DLCs that give us more ways to build useless shit. My opinion on Skyrim is that it's way too combat heavy anyway. This wouldn't be as bad if the fighting wasn't mostly shit, but since it is, it really brings down the experience. So I agree, they should make the games more fun outside of combat, and if they're not gonna do that then at least make it good.
  42. 2 points
    I was really awkward in class when my prof was explaining all this weirdness to the class. Though I will argue the Greeks we're worse when it came to that, lol
  43. 2 points
    So the review embargo for Shadows of War just lifted...and it's getting really good reviews. Collective 86 on Metacritic (about a 4.5/5) Normally I would be super excited to play it...but there's one thing. Apparently to unlock the "true ending" you need to do tons of grinding. Or...you can pay forty bucks for loot bucks and get it that way. Seems like utter bullshit to me. I don't mind having to do extra steps for the "true ending", as I loved MGSV second chapter despite that. But when they put the ending behind micro transactions, it rubs me off a really bad way. And I dont want to support devs like that (I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to DLC nickle and diming, but MT's are we're I draw the line. You guys think I should get a refund and pre order the new AC game instead?
  44. 2 points
    Rofl Balrog, you've been hanging around us barbarians too long, the savagery is definitely rubbing off on you
  45. 2 points
    New Red Dead Redemption II trailer. I'm so excited for this game. Too bad we still have at least half a year before it comes out.
  46. 2 points
    That is true. But I wonder if people will eventually grow tired of them and thus making so they have to look for new ways to squeeze money out of consumers. Or if there will be a new even more profitable way that makes micro-transactions obsolete. Trends these days are really hard to predict.
  47. 2 points
    Almost as pretty as Skyrim. Aurora on Iceland coast
  48. 2 points
    Gotcha. Well I can see the work you put into her. At least she's not trying to screw everything with boobs, lol. Anyway a really nice addition to the rp fan art collection.
  49. 2 points
  50. 2 points