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  1. 6 points
    Hail Elders, VIPs, and Allies, Ten years ago I joined the Elder Scrolls community and in the interest of sharing the knowledge I'd gathered I started TES Alliance to be a safe place of creativity, study, and free collaboration. I have never made money here, and I didn't start this to make money, modding and teaching are my passions, I have lead and maintained this site all these years for the sheer love of the craft and our community. Those who have been here from the beginning know me well enough to know I don't often discuss my personal life at length on this forum, but today, the future of TES Alliance is tied to my own and it looks a bit grim at the moment. We received word a few days ago that the man who owns the house we've been renting for years has spontaneously decided to sell, it goes on the market tomorrow. With no notice, we have to scramble to pack up our life here and move. Problem is, my wife's job is the primary source of our rent and we recently started a bankruptcy program to rehabilitate her student loan debt. We did this before the news that we were losing our home so now, we're losing our home, and no one will rent to us. We don't qualify for any home loans or assistance programs because of the bankruptcy; the owner's timing is really the worst it could be. June 1st, we will be homeless, with our two little girls. We are currently running a GoFundMe to raise the money to discharge the bankruptcy and put a down payment on a new home so that the credit issues are no longer a hurdle. If you would like to help you can make a donation or share the link to tell our story, we'd really appreciate it. https://www.gofundme.com/1-new-home-for-2-little-girls I'm sharing the story here because I'm not sure how long we will be in transit or how long I can maintain TESA and her server while trying to keep a roof over our heads any way I can. I will give as much notice as possible before closing the site down if that happens. In the meantime, the TESA team is here to keep things running and as long as our members keep kicking into the servers the site may weather this just fine. I just don't want there to be any surprises. TES Alliance is still my passion, you all have been like family for years. I'm grateful for this time we've had together and if the Nine are willing we will carry on here for many years and many Scrolls to come. Cheers, and Happy Modding!
  2. 6 points
    Just an update here, we signed a lease this morning and we are no longer homeless, officially! We are still fundraising to cover moving costs and to replace the old appliances that are in the place now, they don't work, so if you can help out or just share my fundraiser with your family/friends offline that'd be awesome. I'm really grateful for everyone's support through this For now we're cleaning and painting and trying to make a home out of this diamond in the rough! Almost to the other side of this overhaul
  3. 6 points
    I don't know if everyone else knows but Colonel and Doc paid the bill this time around, and I've got to say I'm very appreciative. This site has been our home for a while now and I'll definitely be keeping a closer eye on things so another shutdown like that doesn't happen. I went ahead and made a donation too to stave off any future troubles. Thanks so much to Doc and Colonel for bringing us back online, cheers to y'all
  4. 5 points

    Version 1.21 FINAL


    Name: Insanity's Improved Armoury Compilation Version: 1.21 FINAL Date: 03/27/2012 Category: Armor Author: InsanitySorrow Source: TES Alliance ================= Requirements: ================= Oblivion 1.2.416 ================= Description: ================= InsanitySorrow has created a large number of high-resolution texture and normal map replacers for stock armor and weapons, compiled two ways for your convenience. The first package is a scripted OMOD that will allow you to install all the textures or choose only specific ones to install. This .omod can only be used or extracted by Oblivion Mod Manager (OBMM). The second package is a .7zip archive that contains the full compilation in one parent folder, so you can manually install the whole thing in the usual drag-and-drop-and-overwrite fashion. The alternate Elven and Glass textures are offered as well, in separate folders. This package is BAIN-friendly. Both packages include all of InsanitySorrow's high-rez armor and weapon retextures to date: Improved Armoury - Amelion Armor Improved Armoury - Arena Champion Improved Armoury - Ayleid Crown Improved Armoury - Blackwater Cuirass Improved Armoury - Blackwater Blade Improved Armoury - Blackwood Improved Armoury - Blades Improved Armoury - Bloodworm Helm Improved Armoury - Chainmail Armor Improved Armoury - Chillrend Improved Armoury - City Guards Improved Armoury - Daedric Armor Improved Armoury - Daedric Bracers Improved Armoury - Daedric Weapons Improved Armoury - Dark Brotherhood Improved Armoury - Debaser Improved Armoury - Dwarven Improved Armoury - Ebony Armor Improved Armoury - Elven Armor Improved Armoury - Golden Elven Improved Armoury - Fur Armor Improved Armoury - Glass Improved Armoury - Dark Green Glass Improved Armoury - Darker Green Glass Improved Armoury - Gray Fox Cowl Improved Armoury - Imperial Dragon Improved Armoury - Imperial Palace Cuirass Improved Armoury - Imperial Watch Improved Armoury - Iron Improved Armoury - Leather Improved Armoury - Legion Improved Armoury - Legion Horseman Helm Improved Armoury - Mithril Armor Improved Armoury - Mythic Dawn Improved Armoury - Orcish Armor Improved Armoury - Pit Leather Improved Armoury - Savior's Hide Improved Armoury - Shield of the Thorn Improved Armoury - Silver Weapons Improved Armoury - Spellbreaker Improved Armoury - Staff of Indarys Improved Armoury - Steel Improved Armoury - Thorn Blade Improved Armoury - Witsplinter Enhanced Normal Maps - Daedric Enhanced Normal Maps - Daedric Artifacts Enhanced Normal Maps - Dwarven Enhanced Normal Maps - Ebony Enhanced Normal Maps - Elven Enhanced Normal Maps - Glass Enhanced Normal Maps - Madness Enhanced Normal Maps - Spellbreaker ================= Installation: ================= BAIN (using the 7zip archive) 1) Move or copy the downloaded archive to your Bash Installers folder, no need to extract first. 2) From the Wyre Bash installers tab, select the archive on the left. Check the boxes on the right for Core Files and any alternate colors you wish to install. 3) Right-click on the archive on the left, and choose Install from the context menu. OMOD (using the .omod) 1) Double-click the .omod file from within Windows Explorer. This will open OBMM and automatically add the .omod to OBMM. 2) Double-click the .omod from within OBMM to begin installation. Follow the prompts to select which content you want to install. Manual (using the 7zip archive) 1) Extract the archive you downloaded to a temporary location. 2) Copy the contents of the "Core Files" folder to your ..Oblivion\Data folder. Click "Yes" to overwrite, if prompted. 3) Repeat step 2 for any of the alternate folders, if desired. Wrye Bash and OBMM both handle ArchiveInvalidation for you, which is required for texture replacers such as this to take effect in-game. If you don't have either of those applications, please consult your internet search engine of choice for other solutions. ================= Un-Installation: ================= BAIN Right-click the archive from the Installers tab and choose Uninstall from the context menu. OMOD Double-click the .omod from within OBMM to de-activate it. Manual Delete the files/folders associated with the mod. ================= Contact: ================= Please contact InsanitySorrow @ TESAlliance with any inquiries. ================= Credits: ================= Thanks to Bethesda for creating Oblivion. ================= Tools Used: ================= Insanity's ReadMe Generator Photoshop
  5. 5 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."
  6. 5 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."
  7. 5 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.”
  8. 5 points
    Good episode. I liked how they finally ended the plot of Winterfell. However I think it was brought down by the poor setup in the earlier episodes. It seems like the writers wanted to fool the viewers so much that they made too many leaps of logic for it to happen. I think not showing Arya and Sansa interact when no one was around and maybe show one of them going to visit Bran would have helped. As for Cersei I at first felt like they've ruined her to "Yep, that's Cersei." Jaime seems to be moving forward which is nice to see. Overall I like that they managed to remain consistent with their characters throughout. Also like Doc's theory about Tyrion as that would explain a lot and would mean his look at the end is not a setup for some contrived conflict between him and Jon. Was a little disappointed that Theon didn't return the groin kick as I think that would have been fitting. But as with Jaime at least he's moving forward and may actually achieve something of worth. Was a little disappointed how fast The Wall came down. I had hoped it would be more resilient and that the episode would end with the undead laying siege. It made The Wall feel rather useless and I would have liked an undead siege to see how the White Walkers first plan for getting past The Wall was. The dragon felt too convenient.
  9. 5 points
  10. 5 points
    Nah. I'm a Davos fan books and show. I just like his character, his background, his actions, his beliefs. He's an all-round good guy without being a Mary Sue. Not to mention that GoT is so full of badasses and antiheroes that those have become saturated markets. I like Davos so much because he manages to be likable while moving away from those a bit. Honest, sensible, and good is a rare combination in this show. You'll have a hard time finding many others who have consistently been all three (maybe Sam). Reminds me of Ned if he'd been born as a commoner. He does the right thing no matter what, even if it means defying his beloved king or losing his own life, and he has a positive influence on literally everybody he interacts with. All the while, he's the one of the most loyal dudes in Westeros.
  11. 5 points
    I have already tried to turn balrog away from his heretical and wicked spelling ways. But alas it was to no avail. At least I managed to bring you redemption.
  12. 5 points
    Just paid 75 but apparently it won't show up til 3-5 days. PayPal sucks.
  13. 5 points
    Here's my new dog. Picked her up today.
  14. 5 points
    I'm not able to help financially right now but I shared the gofundme page on my Facebook page. I'm sure I have friends who are in a better position to help than I am currently. Best of luck my friend.
  15. 5 points
    Freshly graduated! We outty five hunnit. Hope y'all are having a great night. I'm gonna go get plastered.
  16. 5 points
    i'm out of school and throwing rent at my credit cards... but as soon as i get hired, i'll pitch in what i can
  17. 5 points
    Endar Endar's head was still spinning when he returned to Tamriel. In fact, he was so lost in his thoughts that he did not react in time to slow the five foot drop that awaited him. He plummeted to the earth like the Ministry of Truth itself, landing so hard on his side that he actually bounced on the rock. "Dun nchow!" Slowly, painfully, Endar stood up and cast a healing spell, all the while continuing to swear in the tongue of his people. At least the cursed wound is gone, he thought, looking down at the thin gray scar that stretched across his chest and down his right side. Clavicus Vile had kept his end of the bargain, and as far as Endar could tell, there had been no hidden agenda or downsides. His soul was still his, and he had lost nothing but time. And at the low price of just one girl's soul. He scowled, annoyed with himself for getting attached to someone he'd only known for a short time. It's not my fault she insisted on joining me. Besides, she never stopped asking those incessant questions. I'm well rid of her. Elara, on the other hand, was a rather tragic loss. Not since he left Morrowind had one of Endar's servants lasted more than an entire year and learned how to read and copy his notes. She had been one of a kind, and certainly deserved a better death than the one Rythe had given her. No, Elara was a star-eyed halfwit who voluntarily got in over her head and died for it. That's what happens to fools who aren't careful. The Legionnaire was no different, whatever in the blazes his name was. Gathering his shredded robes in front of his chest, Endar looked around. He wasn't lost, thank the gods. Vile had returned him to the plateau where the battle had taken place, though it was different now. The grass seemed a little greener, and the air, somewhat warmer. The corpses were still scattered around the ruined Oblivion Gate, though they were far from fresh as they'd been before. Most of the necromancers' flesh was either rotted black or gone altogether, consumed by what seemed to have been trolls. Apparently, Clavicus Vile had kept him a lot longer than it had felt. Unfortunately, Apotheosis was nowhere to be found, which led Endar to release yet another string of curses. He had spent a fortune on that staff, and was not keen on the idea that some imbecile was probably out in the world right now, most likely utilizing a fraction of its potential. All the welkynd stones Rythe had brought were missing as well, but at least he could mitigate that loss by creating his own. And I still have the journal, he thought. It was the one bit of good that could be salvaged from this situation. The book, and all the other belongings he'd brought for the trip, was safely stored away in a place that most mortals would find rather difficult to reach without first knowing that it existed. So why did he feel so uneasy? "Fingers of the Mountain," Endar said. "Bring it to me. I want to see it." He finished the spell, and a Dremora servant appeared in front of him, holding out the ancient, tattered tome. "Is there anything else, Master?" "No, nothing," he replied, snatching the book from the daedroth's hands. He waved dismissively. "Go away." The Dremora vanished with a bow, and Endar opened the book just to see that its contents still existed. They did. Well, that's one good thing, at least. And it's the most important one of all. He muttered his spell and sent the tome back to the safety of the hidden slice of Oblivion. Now it is time to finally go and make use of it. He lifted his hands and cast the recall spell that was to take him back to Cloud Top, only to find that it would not work. It was as if the mark had been removed, or was somehow being interfered with. "Of course." Swearing even more (by now, he barely registered that he was doing this), Endar made his way down the plateau on foot. A staff would be nice, he thought bitterly. Or a horse. I wonder what happened to ours. Or Rythe's for that matter. Probably eaten by trolls. Endar wasn't certain why, but he was really starting to hate trolls. It was strange. They weren't likely the ones responsible for his stolen staff, missing crystals, or any of the other misfortunes that had befallen him, but he found his mind illogically deeming the beasts guilty by association. It was not a concept that he relished, this emotion-driven lack of logic, but try as he might to be view trolls impartially, he simply couldn't. There was this negative spark that his mind linked with them now that simply refused to go away. It was a shame, because he had once been rather fond of the hulking shaggy beasts. This region of the Colovian Highlands was not well-known for being particularly exciting or lively. In most directions, a traveler could only see rocks and grass. If they were lucky, they might spot a boar or a goat. If they were unlucky, it would be bears, trolls, or ogres. Endar was neither lucky nor unlucky, because he did not detect any of these things. For him it was just rocks and grass. When nightfall drew near, Endar instinctively found a nice raised position to make camp, and lit a balefire, only to realize that this was not necessary. All the camping he had done since leaving the Imperial City had been for the sake of his companions. Scowling, Endar extinguished the green flames and continued his trek in spite of the darkness. The night was quiet and uneventful. He did nothing but walk and mutter spells, trying to ignore the accusing glares of Masser and Secunda. Obviously, the moons were in no way actually judging him, but like with the trolls, Endar could not shake the strange feeling of negativity that was now unfairly tied to them. He knew why, of course. It was the damned Skyrim girl and her damned lunar dagger. She had asked him numerous questions about the moons during the trip between Cloud Top and the Oblivion Gate: The very path he walked now. Well if the girl's spirit wanted to hold him in judgement, then fine. But he would not allow the moons to make him feel guilty over a decision that he'd been forced to make. Clavicus Vile had said it best: Endar's decision hadn't been based on emotions or morality. It was strictly pragmatic, as all great decisions should be. "How very un-mortal of you. I like it." That was what the daedric prince had said. He'd meant it as a compliment. And rightly so. Magnus was on the rise again when Endar finally reached the base of Cloud Top. Its golden light painted the rocky countryside in vibrant shades of orange and green facing east, and left dark shadowed patterns facing west. The 'mountain' itself was still shaded from the sun on the side that Endar approached from, and remained so as he followed the little trail for his ascent. He was less than halfway up when he first voices coming from above. Endar stopped, cast a spell, and listened. "-tomorrow, I think he said." "Good. We had mutton all last week and mutton all this week. I couldn't have done another week of mutton. I'd rather eat Yarf." "HA! He'd certainly last you. Bloody wood elf reminds me of this fat little dog my wife brought home. Thing never stopped eating." Endar rolled his eyes and continued his climb. Whoever these idiots were, they did not sound particularly dangerous. He knew that there were sixteen of them (plus horses) well before he reached the top. Of course, that was little cause for worry, as he'd laid a recall mark lower down just in case there was an emergency. When he did finally arrive at the old ruin, Endar found it surrounded by little red candles and littered with large tents and campfires (he realized that he would have seen their smoke hours ago had it not been nighttime). Sitting at the outskirts were two men, a skinny Imperial and a bearded Redguard, armored in steel and with their weapons laying behind them. They sprung to their feet at his approach, arming themselves as they did. Endar cleared his throat. "I take it you're the ones who deactivated my mark." That only seemed to confuse them. "State your business, Stranger," the Imperial barked. "My business is to construct defenses against Aldmeri super weapons," Endar replied. "What's yours?" The two men shared a look, then the same one spoke again. "We're studying these ruins." Endar noticed other men and women now emerging from their tents. Most of them were still in their sleeping clothes, but a few had taken the time to throw on some armor. All of them were armed. "You don't look like scholars." "They're not," said a voice from somewhere deeper in the camp. The warriors began to part, making way for a middle-aged Breton, still dressed in his night robe. "That would be me." He came to the front, smiling as if they were friends. "Dunard Moorsley. I'm a mage with the Synod." His eyes ran up and down Endar, lingering momentarily on the wide tear in his robes. "To whom do we owe the pleasure?" "Endar Drenim." He frowned at the man. "I do not like being scrutinized." "Well you are a stranger who approached our camp at the break of dawn," said Moorsley. "I think at least a little scrutiny is in order. Now what is this business you speak of with Aldmeri -what was it?- super weapons?" "That's right." Endar crossed his arms. "I was contracted by the High General to help with the war effort, so the lot of you can clear on out of my campsite." "Your campsite?" One of the warriors snorted. "Hush," the Breton commanded. His expression toward Endar remained unchanged. "If what you say is true, then we are all in service to the Empire, and there is no need for hostility. But I need to know for certain that it is indeed true." "Pfft. I will not be tested by the likes of you." Endar scowled. "If you don't believe me, then scamper on down to the Imperial City and ask the Emperor yourself. Or don't. I don't care what you think, so long as you are willing to leave me to work in peace." "Is this guy serious?" one of the warriors said. "You want us to tie him up, Dunard?" asked another. 'Endar,' a familiar voice spoke calmly into his mind. 'Just go along with the mage. You and I need to speak.' Endar did not show it, but he was genuinely startled. His eyes darted around the campsite, scanning each and every body. There were the Imperial and Redguard who'd been on watch. There was a Dunmer woman. There was a fat little Bosmer. Some more Imperials. A couple Nords... and there she was: the Altmer, with her perfect skin and bright golden eyes. She stood among them, dressed in plain robes and with her brown hair unceremoniously tied back, looking every bit the part of the underpaid mercenary. 'What are you doing here, Psijic?' 'I will explain later. Just humor Dunard. These aren't bad people. There is no need to kill them.' His scowl deepened. The monk could not have possibly known what he had done in Oblivion, but that did not lessen the sting of what she had said. 'Give me some credit.' "Well?" one of the warriors barked at him. "What's it gonna be then?" "What is what going to be?" "You deaf as well as stupid?" the man shouted back. "Be quiet, Felwart," Dunard ordered. He looked back at Endar. "My friends are losing their patience, and now so am I. You can either go back the way you came, or you can submit yourself to questioning. We cannot risk a Thalmor spy making away with our discoveries." Endar's eyes never left the Psijic. "Fine. I'll answer your damned questions," he then muttered, "Wouldn't want anyone here who doesn't belong." "Excellent." The Breton motioned for Endar to follow him. "Please, join me in my tent." Endar made his way through the crowd of watchful guards. It required a conscious effort on his part to remain composed and not to further indignifiy himself by appearing angrier than he'd already proven to be. These people couldn't possibly be worth his anger. Dunard Moorsley's tent was spacious. It had an actual bed, an oak work desk, an enchanting table, and several racks that contained magical tools which Endar knew were designed primarily for concealment and detection. "I take it your presence here is not public knowledge?" "It rarely is." Moorsley smiled and tapped the long metal rod that he no doubt used to light the candles that surrounded the camp. "You know your instruments." "Of course I do. I'd imagine every fool apprentice in the Arcane University knows what they are." "But you are no fool apprentice, are you? Those torn-up robes you wear, they bear daedric script. What does it say?" " 'The powerful define the standards of virtue.' There's not a child in House Telvanni who does not know the phrase." "So you're from House Telvanni, then?" Moorsley leaned forward, his eyes wide. "I've heard that the wizards of House Telvanni are among the greatest in Tamriel." "You heard the truth," Endar said. "You might also know that they have no affiliation with the Aldmeri Dominion." "Nor do they have any with the Empire," Moorsley pointed out. "At least, not to my knowledge." "I'm in Cyrodiil of my own volition. I have a house in the Imperial City, and my own quarters in the White Gold Tower - where I have spent the last year or two conducting most of my research." "I see. You are a long way from the Imperial City. And alone at that. It strikes me as passing strange that Emperor Krojun would send someone as important as yourself so far away without any guards." Endar grimaced. "I am not on some leash that the Emperor can reign in as he pleases. I left on my own when it became apparent that my work required resources outside the capital's disposal, and I shall return when I am content that I have gathered everything I need. Also, I did not leave alone. My servant and a Legion Forester accompanied me, but they died at the hands of a necromancer." "A necromancer? In the Colovian Highlands? Is this necromancer the one who gave you that scar?" Moorsley pointed at Endar's chest. "Essentially," he answered, annoyed at the way the Breton's eyes kept twitching down at it. "There were more than one. A whole band of them, actually. Give me a map and I'll show you exactly where the corpses can be found, about a day from here." "Amazing." Moorsley's shoulders seemed to relax, slightly. "Your journey sounds like quite the story. I would love to hear it." "Are you not interrogating me?" Endar asked, his scowl intensifying. "I am here for a reason, and it's not to regale you with tales like some common bard." "Of course," the scholar said, his pale cheeks reddening. "Forgive me... I suppose I see no reason to believe you have cause to do us harm. I will tell the Fighters that you are clear to come and go as you please." Endar started to rise, and the man spoke again. "I do have one last question, if you will humor me. Are you aware of any magical anomalies at this site late last winter?" It's not winter anymore... Interesting. "No, I am not aware of any." "How unfortunate. I was sent to investigate two successive spikes of magical energy that were detected by my order. I am supposed to send updates back to the Imperial City, but have so far had little to write. Oh well. Perhaps you will discover something I have not." "Of that, I have little doubt." Endar turned and exited the tent, discovering that three of the warriors were standing right beside the flap. Among them was the man who had challenged Endar's intelligence and the quality of his hearing. "So you're clear then," the man said, looking apologetic. "Sorry about what I said back there. 'Bout you being stupid." "Okay," Endar said, walking on past the man. He doubted that a moron such as this one could genuinely offend him if he tried his absolute hardest. The Psijic was waiting beside the broken Ayleid pillar, sharpening a shortsword that Endar presumed was just for show. She looked up as he approached. "I heard your talk with Dunard." "Of course you did." Endar placed a hand on the white stone. The last time he had done this, it had been with the girl. The two of them had each touched the structure with electricity, and in doing so, received a small taste of what the Ayleids had left behind here. Endar had no doubt that those interactions were the energy spikes that the Synod had detected. "And?" "And I am glad to see that you are alive and well. When last we spoke, you were very enthusiastic about conquering the Thalmor's sunbirds. I still hope for you succeed." "It's been a long time since we last spoke," Endar said. "You approached me, named me your 'seliffrnsae', promised to help, and then disappeared without giving so much as your name." "I did not disappear. I left to attend other matters with the intent to return when I was needed. You, on the other hand, did quite literally disappear. I do not know if you understand how rare a thing it is for a member of the Psijic Order to fail in locating someone. What were you doing in Oblivion?" "I had business there of my own. And what are you doing among these... people?" "They are from Chorrol's Fighters Guild," she replied. "In friendlier times, someone from the Synod would have been granted Legion soldiers for protection, but the war draws them south. I joined the guild in the hopes of discovering what happened to you." "And how did you know I was here?" "The Empire's Synod use a Dwarven Oculory to locate traces of old magics. But we Psijics have even older methods. Greater, more precise. I did not know you were here until the human girl interacted with this pillar." She smiled and tapped it with her knuckles. "It wasn't long after that you and her both vanished from this world entirely. Even I could not find you at that point." The monk frowned. "I assume the girl did not survive." "That is correct." "A pity. She might've been the first person to produce such a response from the pillar in centuries. Dunard has spent weeks trying to do the same and has come up with nothing. I have done the same, in private, and yielded some results, but nothing of the extent that you two did. That was a similar form of power to Alinor's own magic of creatia." "Indeed it was," Endar confirmed, turning his mind away from Matilda. "The Ayleids called it the 'Finger of the Mountain'." "Fitting." The monk cocked her head. "But nothing of the sort is written on this pillar. You've found a different source of information, haven't you?" "Yes." Endar looked around the camp, wondering which of these Fighters had the nicest tent. "And for now that's as much as I intend to tell you." "We're not enemies, Endar. I only seek to guide." "And what a splendid job of it you've done so far." He let the sarcasm drip through his words. "By all means, remain in the camp. If I decide that your help is warranted, I will call for you." "Sometimes, that is the best we can hope for. Thank you." She smiled. "And not that you've asked, but my name is Illorwe. The Fighters have taken to calling me 'Lore'." "I think I'll stick to Illorwe." Endar turned and walked off, shaking his head. *** Endar spent most of the day inside his new tent, studying the symbols in Fingers of the Mountain. Much of what had been unclear prior to his interaction with the pillar now seemed so obvious to him. In fact, it was so obvious that it almost felt strange. He had some of the great secrets of the world at his disposal, and now he could not comprehend why they had ever been secrets in the first place. He looked down over the pages at the little blue crystal that was sprouting from the rocky earth. By evening it would be a full-sized welkynd stone, and by tomorrow it would be several times more powerful. This is mine, he thought, his eyes filling with the gem's blue light. For the first time since returning from Vile's realm, Endar felt a sense of relief. Before now, he hadn't really had a chance to put his newfound discoveries to the test. He had not known without a shadow of a doubt that everything he'd been through had not been in vain. But now, he knew. Now, he had the stone to prove it, and he could make more. This was not alteration, as the Synod would call it, or even alchemy. This was pure creatia. The oldest magic of them all. I can improve on this... I can learn to do it faster. Why should I hold myself to the standard of the Ayleids? "Elara!" he barked. He would need to record the rate of growth. Endar waited several moments, and then frowned and hid his book. Right. "Illorwe!" Several more moments passed, and then the Psijic Monk appeared through the flap of his tent. "Yarf says you called m-" Her voice trailed off when she noticed the stone. "That... did you bring that with you?" "Irrelevant. You said you wanted to help me. Well I need a quill." "A quill?" the monk's usually amiable features soured and her cheeks darkened. "Do you take me for a servant? I have offered you the assistance of the most prestigious order of mages in Tamriel, and you answer that by demeaning me?" "Right now, the only assistance that I need is in acquiring a quill. If you won't do it, then send someone else." "I have heard stories of the Telvanni's arrogance, but this..." She took another look at the crystal, scowled, and then stormed off. A couple minutes later, one of the Fighters entered the tent with a black and white feather in his hand. "Lore said you needed this." The man's eyes fell on the stone, and he whistled. "That's a pretty gem. My brother used to wear a ring with one like that on it." "I doubt that," Endar took the writing tool and dismissed the Fighter with a wave of his hand. "Well just holler if you need anything," he answered, "within reason of course. Ain't like most of us've got much to do out here." The man disappeared through the flap, and then immediately poked his head back in. "Oh, and we've got mutton if you're hungry." His face became sullen. "Yep... Lots and lots of mutton. And not much else." He could still be heard grumbling as he walked away from the tent. Endar rolled his eyes, produced his journal, and returned his attention to the crystal.
  18. 5 points
    Hey Doc, Would you mind writing up a paragraph or two synopsis of the setting and what events are taking place as the RP begins? Or point me to that, if you already posted something like it.
  19. 5 points
    Solitude The races of man mer and beast had described to the Bosmer as best they could what the fear of heights was. It seemed like a simple concept to them, but to the Bosmer it may as well have been like an infant trying to explain to an adult why they were so afraid of walking upright. Even the least nimble tree dweller learns to traverse the trees and vines above by the time they learn to walk gracefully. It comes natural. But Maori had a different fear of his own in Skyrim, much like the Imperial City when he got too close to the White Gold Tower. The vastness of Skyrim's mountains never ceased to send chills up his spine, especially from his vertically challenged view. And it wasn't the cold, that much he knew. That he never got used to either however. To Daric, they were a silent comfort. The howling of the winds against their surface above, and knowing that it was far colder up there than it was down here in Haafingar gave him comfort as well. Made it more bearable. Even so, the two were running low on food and the cold was getting more and more intrusive for the two minuscule warriors. When they saw Solitude's awkward land formation in the red splattered horizon, Daric didn't even argue when the Bosmer changed directions heading straight for the city. Neither of them said much of anything on their journey, especially not Maori who was all to aware of the looks the boy was giving him. The battle of Windhelm was still fresh on both of their minds. They went through Riften Hold briefly on their journey, but hadn't ran into any Thalmor. Maori said that they wouldn't, scouts and Justiciar elites had cloaking and invisibility magic at their disposal from at least one of their ranks. That was all he'd said the entire time to him and Daric hadn't responded. It would have continued on like that even still except Daric kept picturing Baldur the day he told him about his intel, then remembering how dumbfounded he was when he heard of Ulfric's death. All of which he had to hear from this smelly elf who wasn't even a native to these lands, and somehow "The Ash King" trusted him more than Daric. "**** this, hey knife ears!" Maori didn't seem to hear him. "Hey. Hey! Carcass breath!" "I know what you're gonna say, you've been giving me the stink eye the whole time. It's too damn cold, wait till we get to the city." Daric kept yelling at him as the elf just kept walking faster. Turning backwards but still advancing forward, Maori said, "I'm serious, shut up kid!" As he did, Maori's point of view began to rise, the earth rumbling beneath his wrapped feet as though a mountain decided to sprout beneath him. Screaming and trying to hold onto the earth, he soon found himself atop the head of a glossy black chaurus the size of a horse, writhing and wriggling out of the earth. Daric had his swords in hand ready to reluctantly charge the beast, but the ground began rumbling once more, bursting forth with pale arms grasping for anything above the surface before revealing their full visage. Meanwhile Maori kept screaming his lungs out whilst the Chaurus kept shaking its great thorny head, spewing dank putrid acid wildly as it did. The things, elves or whatever they were must've been Falmer, Daric surmised from what the Stormcloaks and Nords about Skyrim had said about them, including Baldur. Their strikes were so quick that Daric didn't bother trying to see them. His body merely moved to protect the parts of him that were most vital. The neck, eyes, groin. They slashed wildly, which his cheap chainmail was decent enough at stopping, exposing himself to glance blows to try and find openings. His left sword found itself in the belly of one elf quickly, stopping its advances while the thing tried to gnaw at his neck. The funk of its breath was made visible in the cold, and was almost as volatile as the Chaurus's acid. He cut the thing's head off out of spite before he used his boot to remove his blade. Another elf tackled him as he was doing so, aiding the process, but knocking the swords out of his hands as he fell to the ground. As the others came to aid the slaughter, Daric closed his eyes, placing his hand over the Falmer's head. At once, heat seared its flesh as it screeched in agony and fled into the marsh with a permanent hand print on its skull, cursing the boy in whatever gurgled screeches passed for a language for them. Daric scrambled for his sword and did not have time to see how the elf fared. Running as more of the creatures pursued him, he cast small bolts of flame from his swords periodically to slow them down, then directly towards a partially frozen puddle to create a screen of steam to hide from the twisted figures. It didn't slow them down for a second, and Daric had no idea why. He had no idea that the things were blind, and relied only on their hearing to track him down like wolves. He had no idea how many of them there were or where they'd even come from. But he knew he was alone, with nothing but his father's spells and Baldur's teachings to keep him alive barely as ribbons of blood arched from his body every time one of the things got a blow on the quick but outnumbered fighting protege. Because of his preoccupation with the Falmer, Darin couldn't see the dingy fast approaching, it's occupants paddling hard for the shore. It wasn't until one of the Falmer cried out in pain from the firebolt that slammed into it from behind that Daric, and the rest of the Falmer, took notice. A few split off from their assault on Daric to meet this new foe. They found themselves facing an entirely steel plate clad warrior, wielding sword and shield. Their blows were quick, but their chaurus weapons did little to even dent the plate. The knight bashed and slashed the relentless Falmer, while the rest of the boat's occupants continued to let spells fly. Daric was about to thank the gods, but he'd lost a bit of blood by now and was unsure if the assistance he saw and what he saw next was real or him hallucinating from the bloodloss. Maori who Daric had completely forgotten about was still atop of the Chaurus head. Instead of swinging around wildly trying to keep it from eating him, he was comfortably striding atop of it into battle against what remained of the scampering elves. The sight of their monster mount turned against them and the arrival of the new fire slinging iron knight sent the rest of them in retreat beneath the frozen marshes to lands unknown. All but one remaining elf that began hurling lightning at the new assailants in frustration and desperation. Its leg was lacerated at the heel by Daric earlier, and wasn't going to be able to flee like the others. It cast a summoning spell that brought forth several spectral chaurus and charged the knight and his men in one final push. The knight stepped into the path of the first chaurus and cut it down in one swing, but that allowed another chaurus to clamp onto the knight's plate clad shin. That chaurus dissolved into the salty air when a young Breton man, slightly older than Daric and not wearing armor but glowing with the magical hue of an armor spell, stabbed it through the back with an ice spike. The knight was then free to confront the Falmer mage, who sent bolt after bolt into the oncoming knight. The knight absorbed them, slowing down only after the third bolt. The Falmer struck then, swinging its axe as quickly as possible, trying to find an opening in the knight's defense. It was for naught, though, as the knight knocked the Falmer to the ground with a powerful bash, where it was stabbed through the chest. The final chaurus dissipated, while the fireball aimed at it skorched the ground mere moments after it disappeared. The young Breton man stepped forward, his hands glowing orange with healing magic, and approached Daric. "Dame, guard that hole," he said to the knight. Then, to Daric, "Where are you hurt?" "Everywhere," said Daric before collapsing in the man's arms. Maori stuck a dagger under the bug's shell plate, revealing the soft underpart which he stabbed, killing the thing before his charms wore off on it. "The boy gonna be alright? I'd hate to have to tell Red-Snow his Breton brat got killed by rabid elves. Too soon, you know? Who are you lot anyway?" "He's Prince Roland Adrard of High Rock," the knight answered. She turned her helmeted head to look at the dagger before she went back to watching the hole. Roland was running soft orange magic over Daric, but he soon stopped. "We need to go. I stopped the bleeding but couldn't mend much else." Roland squatted and lifted Daric up, carrying him in his arms. Daric was slightly taller than Roland, but whereas the former was lean, the latter was brawny. As quickly as he could manage it, he walked over to the boat and sat him in, where the other two soldiers were already manning the oars. "Let's go, elf," the knight said, climbing aboard the boat herself. "The name is Maori..." he said, obviously irritated. "What are you lot doing here, yer highness? Where's the fa- uh, the fabulous illustrous King Theodore? You're here for the moot I take it?" The boat set off, with Roland still tending to Daric, though at this point that consisted of keeping his wounds sealed. Roland looked up and answered, "We are. I came in place of my father. What were you two doing out in the swamp?" "Attending to business for the Jarl of Windhelm," said Maori. He hesitated to answer. "Going just peachy already. I gotta get the kid patched up quick, we don't have time to waste here. Guess that means I gotta take him to the court mage. Help me haul him there, I'm sure you're hungry, and as allies to Skyrim, Solitude's Jarl should accommodate you until the moot is called." "That won't be necessary. We're here to meet with the Jarl, her thanes, and some merchants to check in on our trading contracts. We'll then do the same in Windhelm, and travel to the moot from there," Roland explained. They were almost to the docks, the soldiers rowing as quickly as possible. "But we will certainly help your friend. We have a healer at the docks that can better steady him until we get to the court mage." "Good," said Maori. Pausing a moment, then stepping towards Daric, he tore off the boy's blue sash and placed it in his pack. The moot was too close and Maori didn't want to take any risks with a Jarl who had bad history with his friend. Who knows what could happen up until the moot took place. The Thalmor's eyes were everywhere, and ambitious greed even moreso. "I'll run ahead, let the Jarl know she has guests, and make sure the court wizard is ready to assist him." "We'll meet you there," Roland said, his eyes only briefly lingering on the bag Maori put the sash in. It was obvious the reasons for hiding it weren't lost on him, or Dame LaViolette, whose eyes did the same. She nodded to the elf, relaying their understanding, and silence. They docked then, the knight hurrying to fetch the healer, the soldiers helping lift the boy from the boat, and Roland keeping his healing hands pressed on the wounds. Maori watched them briefly, wondering if it wise to trust Baldur's stray to these Bretons, but despite his unkempt wild appearance, he was kin to them. If you couldn't trust kin.... He stopped the thought, knowing all too well that one couldn't even trust kin anymore with the Thalmor's fingers in every pot. But the Bretons had little to gain in siding with Thalmor. The thought was pure paranoia born of simply not liking the disdain in the voice of the woman. In this land, she may as well have had pointy ears. "Pfft, the nerve." Maori had never actually been to Solitude. Aside from the crazy land formation it was on, it seemed like a bit of an extension of a Cyrodiil city. The Imperials had more sense than to build a city on such a thing. The Nords... well, no one ever accused the Nords of being fearful. That was always their biggest problem if you asked him. Instinctively Maori kept to the outskirts of the streets, with all the tall men and women stomping around from shop to shop. He was caught off guard by a pair of Altmer women staring at him, and instinctively grasped his dagger before realizing the two had noticed. "What?" "Where is it that you think you're going, little carnivore?" Maori's nostrils flared as his eyebrows arched. "As it happens, I'm going to see the Jarl and the court mage, butter elf." "In those? Like that?" said the first elf. "What are those?" said the second one, who Maori noted was a bit cuter than the first one, but barely. "Those are my feet." said Maori. The women's dual expressions said everything. "I don't have time for this, I don't care about the approval of two Altmer. I have to-" "Oh this won't take but a moment, and it's not our approval you should be worried about." "Yes, now quit fussing, it's for your own good!" The two worked in unison, one pushing him from behind and the other guiding him along. Before he knew it, he was being stripped naked in front of a pair of strange women and no wine was involved this time. Unfortunately for him neither was the sex and he wasn't doing the pricking either. "Ow, watch where you're sticking that thing!" "Stay still, and we won't prick you! Almost done. There, now, do us a favor and wear this when you go to meet the Jarl. She's far more likely to see you in our attire, compared to how you were before." Maori struggled as they brought him a mirror. He had to admit, after they cleaned him up a bit and combed his hair, put on the new brown elegant robes, he didn't look to bad. "And what did I look like before, pray tell?" "Like a vagabond. Like you were here to start trouble. And that simply won't do, not for an elf in Skyrim." He eyed the two suspiciously. "You two often help random strangers that happen to look like trouble? For all you know, I could be." "You'd be doing us a favor," said one of them. "And, we're trying to do one for you. We know what happened in Valenwood. What's happening in Valenwood." Maori eyed the two suspiciously, but for the first time saw something more than snobby looks in their eyes. The Altmer actually seemed remorseful. His expression softened for a moment until his suspicion began rising again. "What's it to you two anyway? And how would you know? That isn't common knowledge, not here in Skyrim it isn't." "We used to be with the Dominion of course, both of us." Maori drew the same dagger he grasped earlier, its golden tint matching the skin of the one he held it against. "I knew it! I can smell your lot from a world away!" The elven women stayed calm, even as a trickle of blood fell from her neck. The other one stepped behind Maori with her hands behind her back and said, "We were not Thalmor. But we served them none the less. We thought it was the right thing to do, though you know we had no choice in the matter regardless." "Oh so you just had a change of heart when you saw the murder? Smelled the burning flesh? Is that it? Please. And you think some fancy clothes is going to change what happened? Make up for your roles in it? How many did you two kill, hmm?" "We killed no one. We only fashioned the uniforms of the Thalmor Justiciars. You can choose to believe this or not, accept our gift or not, but I will have to ask that you take that blade from my sister's neck. I won't allow you to kill her." Maori removed the blade eventually, licking the blade clean before putting it back in its place. "As if you had a choice in the matter. I'm out of here," he said. The two tried to say something as he left with his travel sack but he didn't give them any time to as he slammed the door shut. Blinking rapidly whilst wiping his eyes, the Bosmer's teeth ground together the entire way back to the Blue Palace. The guards stopped him at the bottom of the stairway before he could even make his way up, putting a hand on his shoulder as they took his pack. "What the hell are you two doing, I have business with the Jarl!" "Not right now you don't, and not until we've searched you." "Search away, the bag's filled with daggers and poisons, and here's my bow and arrows. I'm not an assassin, I'm a soldier for the Jarl of Windhelm, Baldur Red-Snow. I take it you've heard the news. The dumb looks on your face tells me... no? No. Great, where have you two been. Anyway, you know Ulfric has died at least? Ok good. Baldur has taken his place, not the Queen, Velara or whatever. I'm here on business for Baldur, and I need to speak to the Jarl but first I gotta speak to the court mage. Can you bring her here?" The two looked at one another a moment, then back at the elf. As the bars slammed in Maori's face in the Blue Palace's prison, Maori yelled, "You sons of sload sluts, I hope you choke on a blood sausage! Scullery whores!" The guards laughed as they walked away, leaving Maori to seethe to himself. It wasn't long, though, before he heard soft footsteps and cloth lightly dragging along the ground, both barely audible. But the prison was quiet, and somehow grew quieter still as the footsteps moved about. They reached Maori's cell, and the elf found himself looking upon a slender, blue robe clad mage. Her hood was pulled over her face, even though she was indoors. She stood, most of her weight on her right leg, her right hand resting on her hip. She looked at Maori, searching his face and body with unnerving eyes. She stopped the inspection and asked, "You aren't going to struggle, are you? Neither one of us would find it pleasant if you did." Maori hadn't noticed the woman at first and noticeably jumped at her voice. "Excuse me? What are you, an avatar of Molag? No, he'd like it if I struggled... Try anything and I'll struggle your head from your shoulders lady." "If only I had the time to watch you try and fail at that, it might be amusing. But I'm in quite a hurry." She lifted her hand, which glowed in a faint red and black magic, the tendrils it conjured reaching out towards Maori. "Oh yea, well I'll... I'll... what did you..." Maori could feel his eyelids grow heavier by the second. Whatever the mage did to him, he was losing his faculties fast. In fact, he was starting to hallucinate. He could have sworn he saw the young woman baring fangs at him like a khajiit... He drew a hidden dagger from his robe but lacked the strength to even hold it. As he fell to the ground, his only hope remaining was to use his people's birthright, hoping that some creature of the wild would hear his call. In a prison, beneath a palace. "Shit." Sybille Stentor entered the cell, her fangs bared, her eyes locked on Maori's soft brown neck. She heard scurrying behind her and stopped, turning around to see two skeevers running across the room toward her. She conjured up a ball of flame and reduced one skeever to ash. It shrieked as it died. The other skeever leapt into the air, its own fangs aimed at her neck. It never made it, as she caught it on an ice spike she held in her hand. She tossed it to the floor, but before she could feed, she saw a guard descending the stairs. "This had better be important," she said. "Uh..." the guard lifted a finger, pointing to the mer. "We need him. Jarl just ordered the prisoner released. Turns out he was who he said he was, a messenger for Jarl Red-Snow. What happened to him?" "Fainted. I've never seen someone so afraid of skeevers before," Sybille said, with a stare that dared the guard to challenge her story. The guard nodded and went to pick Maori up, lifting the groggy mer to his feet and waking him up. By the time he had, Sybille was gone. "Mmm, not so hard baby. Mmm, seriously." Maori started coughing, kicking his legs when he felt water hit his face, as though he were trying to swim. "Wake up!" The guard dumped another bucket of water over his head. "What? What's going on? Where's the monster?" "Shut up you crazy elf, and listen. For whatever reason, the Jarl has decided to have you for dinner." Maori cleared his throat and wiped the water from his eyes. "That woman I just met was the Jarl?" "Huh? No, that's just Sybille, the court mage. She's the one that healed your friend while you were away. They're probably eating now. I'm escorting you to the dinner table to speak with her, and her other guests. Show her respect or it's back in the dungeon. Got it?" "Aye." Maori was in no mood to be mouthy after what he thought he saw. "Good. Now get moving," said the guard as he tossed Maori a cloth. By the time the two did arrive at the Dinner table, the guests were all well into their meal and a conversation. The guard bowed to Elisif and said, "Jarl Elisif the Fair, I present to you your guest, the elf." "My name is Maori. Ack, damnit!" he cried when the guard hit him over the head to bow. "My name is Maori, Jarl Elisif. The Fair." "Guard! That is no way to treat a guest, apologize to him at once and be off with you!" The guard gave Maori such a look, especially when the mer started grinning beneath all his freakish tattoos. "Stuhn's mercy, elf I'll.... I mean... I'm. Sorry." "Don't beat yourself up too much, eyebrows," said Maori, mocking his accent, as well as his prominent brow. The Jarl snickering at him was all he needed to leave the scene. Maori seated himself once next to Daric, who whispered in his ear, "So, you took my sash but then just blurted out what your purpose was? How stupid are you?" "Not now kid, I'm not having the best day," he said between mouthfuls of rib. He almost choked when he realized who was sitting across from him. "Careful, Maori," Sybille said. "What would Jarl Red-Snow think of us if you choked to death at our dinner table?" Maori's eyes narrowed, the insinuation not lost on him. Though poison was one thing he hadn't needed to worry about, living in Valenwood. He spent his life building up immunities. The boy was another story, but judging from his plate, it was too late to worry about such things now. Seeing Sybille's own plate, Maori said, "That the food must not be very good. Excuse me my Jarl, I don't mean to be rude, I only jest. But I can't help but notice, of everyone here, your court Mage is the only one that hasn't eaten anything." Elisif eyed the court Mage, as if noticing this for the first time. It was of course, the last thing on her mind, as she was more worried about what Red-Snow wanted with her. Falk gave her a nod, and she reluctantly smiled. "Well you're right! Sybille? You always eat so little at my tables. Please." Maori shoved a bowl of fruits and squash her way while he wolfed down a bloody lamb leg. "Of course, Jarl Elisif. Excuse me if I don't have quite the voracious appetite of our guest, though." Sybille plucked an apple and began eating, taking a moment to wipe the juice from her lips. "Delicious, your highness." Maori frowned. He didn't know a thing about vampires but he'd have sworn they couldn't eat food. Wiping the bloody meat juice from his lips, the thought started to leave his mind. Perhaps he was just seeing things, she might've cast a fear spell to intimidate him for interrogation. Prince Roland interrupted then, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen over everyone else at the table. He cleared his throat and said, "Solitude is a beautiful city, Jarl Elisif. You and your people must be very proud of it." "We're more proud that we've managed to maintain its beauty despite the late Ulfric Stormcloak moving the capital of Skyrim to Windhelm, and taking a large portion of our coffers with him," she answered. "From what I understand, all that happened was that the late Ulfric, your husband, took his portion of the hold's coffers with him, which as High King was larger than yours, the High King's wife. And after that, traders started seeking to do business in Windhelm, the new capital, rather than here." Elisif was visibly annoyed. Maori looked at Daric as though he'd just spoken in draconic. Falk sat straight in his seat for the first time that evening. "Boy! You are a guest in our hold, and unless you want to end up the way these Bretons found you, I'd suggest..." "Enough Falk, the boy is right. That is what happened. Ulfric ended our marriage and left me here with my portion of gold to run the city, leaving with his. Gold that was only his because he'd claimed it as such after the war." "That is what tends to happen when one loses. Gold is lost, wives are taken." "What in the hell is wrong with you??" This time it was Maori's turn to speak up. "We shouldn't even be here," said Daric. "We-" "Are going to stay right here until Sybille says you're good to travel again. If it weren't for my hospitality, you'd be dead. Whatever business you have can and will wait until then, I'll not have anyone saying I treated Red-Snow's friends poorly with the upcoming moot. And since it's clear you two, or at least the boy has other things on his mind, and have no interest in me at all as it so happens, I'll have to ask that while our other guests remain, that you keep your mouth shut. Is that clear?" Standing up, Daric said, "May I be excused, your highness?" She signaled for Falk to take him to his quarters where Sybille was treating him. The stress on the young Jarl was clear to all that saw her. Especially when Daric called Ulfric her husband, though stress wouldn't be an adequate word for what she showed then. Neither was it anger. Disgust. "Are there going to be any more outbursts, Maori?" "Don't look at me, I'm just here for the meal and conversation. Something's always up that kid's ass if you ask me, gotta forgive him." "Luckily for you, Elisif the Fair isn't a name given in jest. Now, to our guests. I must apologize to you, I had not intended for such rudeness to intrude on the company of a prince." Lady Gaerhart, the Breton Dowager Queen, waved Elisif's concern away and said, "Young people are emotional. You have been quite hospitable, and kind, to take him in and save him. Hopefully he will soon recognize that." Roland coughed and said, "I can also assure you Breton merchants will always find their way here. Our trading relationship is a fruitful one, for all parties, and we don't anticipate that ending anytime soon." Elisif let herself relax, admittedly glad to hear that she still had support amongst the Bretons. "It will be especially fruitful, on the chance that I become High Queen," she said. Before anyone commented on the likelihood of that happening, she said, "I've already heard the rumors, why you're here. Word is spreading that Baldur is to break even more tradition than he already has, by inviting outsiders to a moot of Skyrim's Jarls. Fear not, I am not opposed to this. It's surprising, but it's a welcome one." Thane Bryling said, "Forgive me for butting in, but I think it's clear to all that the new upstart Jarl wishes to circumvent the authority of the other Jarls with any influence he can muster in the world. A bold move admittedly, but also an obvious one. And risky when the man he replaced was adamant on keeping outside influence out of Skyrim politics." Elisif looked to Maori to see if he would interrupt but the mer was simply listening between mouthfuls. "Aye, risky indeed, but even so, I am worried. This claim of his, this religious fervor that he is building... It's dangerous. I've met the man, spoken to him on occasion. He is charismatic, like his predecessor though not as much then. Still, I worry about what he can do to this land, and with word of more foreigners, supposedly Atmorans or something similar coming to Skyrim on his behalf, it's starting to look more and more like what he claims may even be true. That's what the simple folk will think. That's what some Jarls east of here will think. In that case, outsiders, no offense your highness, will not cause as much harm to his claim to the throne." Looking to them now, she said, "I remember what he said the day Ulfric left this hold with a new wife. The people did not respond to it well back then, certainly not in Solitude, but still, it troubles me, this move to the old ways. You must understand, what he is saying, it isn't dangerous for just me, or anyone else in Skyrim that may be potentially his enemy in his eyes. But to his neighbors as well. Hammerfell I understand, Cyrodiil less so, but High Rock even less. What allegiances do you have to him? There is no reason that you should feel obligated to siding with Baldur Red-Snow over another Jarl in this land." Prince Roland gave the Jarl a small smile, which she later realized was meant to take the bite out of his words. "No official allegiance, no. Our choice in siding with him is because, frankly, we believe he is the best option. There are more senior Jarls, yes, who have more experience governing, but we aren't looking to support a ruler. We want a leader, and Red-Snow is that. Skyrim is going to lead this alliance, and Red-Snow will be the general in charge. Him ruling Skyrim as well ensures that everything that can be done to defeat the Thalmor will be done." "If it is a leader you want," said Elisif, with hesitation. "Then... there is another you might consider. He's possibly the best person to be leading a war like this." "Jarl Elisif," said Bryling again in protest. "You can't seriously mean..." "Jarl Brund Hammer-Fang the Bull," she finally said, her brow wrinkled in tension. "If Jarl Brund Hammer-Hammer-Fang becomes high king, I am to be his second wife. Influence between Solitude and Windhelm will be spread evenly. That would mean more trade would come through Solitude as well, as a sister hold to Windhelm, and I will be able to grant High Rock unprecedented trading rights to Solitude after the great war, when we'll both need it the most. Baldur was not the only one who helped repel the Thalmor invasion, Brund's might was key to their defeat of a Sunbird. Under his rule, you get an equally strong war leader against the Thalmor, but with guaranteed benefits to your father's Kingdom afterwards as well. Brund is also the current Jarl of Markarth, and can grant you the same trading rights there with the Silver-Bloods." "I have heard of him. He cleared the Reach, no small task. But Baldur has proven himself at both Falkreath and Windhelm, had the support of the late High King and was his High General, and built a respectable town from nothing. We won't support anyone but him for High King," Roland said. Lady Gaerhart nodded and wiped her twisted old hands on her napkin. "Why not support Baldur yourself? It would endear you to him and the eastern Jarls, and, if you don't mind my saying so, save your dignity. The Jarl of Solitude should not have to be a second wife. I know there are eligible Breton noblemen who would leap at the chance to be your husband. Or maybe a Jarl or his relations." Bryling gave Elisif a look, but she gave one right back. Bryling clearly had suggested something similar. She gave a sigh that was rooted in frustration but faded in her defeat of the topic. She couldn't tell them the truth of why she resisted supporting Baldur's claim. Yes, she feared his claim not only to the throne but to High King Wulfharth's soul as well. But more than that, it was her only chance to wrestle back control from Windhelm to Solitude. Yes there would be the indignity of being Jarl Brund's second wife, but she had no intentions of remaining as such. Keep your friends close... I can't support that man and what he represents. It would be an affront to my husband, my true husband, Torygg. Who I've already brought shame to by not taking my own life when I had the chance. I must restore Solitude as the capital of Skyrim in his name. Instead of explaining her selfish desires however, she said, "I have a duty to Skyrim to stand against anyone as potentially dangerous as Baldur Red-Snow, against anyone that will bring more death and war to my people and my friends outside of Skyrim. For this, I'll suffer whatever indignities I must." "Oh please," said Maori. "Sir elf, I thought we had an understan-" "I understand only one thing, and it is that you are a fool." "You will watch your tongue! I am the Jarl of-," "You know DAMN well that whatever fears you have of Baldur pale in comparison to what Brund Hammer-Fang brings to the table! You know better than I, you've met the man! Are you seriously going to sit there and tell me that Brund seems like a better choice as High King to you than Baldur?" Guards were approaching the elf now as he erupted out of his seat. "I'm leaving, and I'm taking the boy with me. We'll be fine enough without anymore assistance from...her..." said Maori. "And here. I wasn't going to give you this, figured it was a waste of time. Baldur said that I was to give out these letters in case I came across any Jarls in my travels, to ask for your support in the moot. I still say it's a waste of time but whatever. Do with it as you will." The guard snatched the letter from Maori's hand before he could throw it at her. He protested of course, but the guard ignored him. "Read it please," she said. As the guard prepared to do so, the man parted the seal upon it, and it immediately erupted in smoke. Coughing, the man dropped the parchment on the table, where the smoke gathered before them, and eventually displayed the likeness of Baldur Red-Snow himself. "Well, this is certainly interesting," the smoky apparition said. Looking at the prince, he said, "I can see Theodore in you, but you're way too thin to be him. How goes the king? Couldn't make it I take it?" "What in the blazes??" said Elisif. "What is this?!" "Calm down, it's the workings of my own court mage. He calls himself a druid. Right now, we're all subconsciously communicating through something called a dreamsleeve transmission. It's something similar to what the Thalmor use to communicate, but less efficient since everyone can hear me instead of just Elisif. But no matter. This may be better seeing as how you've got important guests." "Impressive," Sybille said, speaking mostly to herself. Roland said, "No, Jarl Red-Snow, he could not make it. He and my mother are doing well. I'm Prince Roland, heir to the throne of High Rock. This," he motioned to his left, "is my grandmother, Lady Gaerhart, and the man next to her is Duke Theirry, our admiral. We've come in my parent's place." Baldur bowed his head in respect. "I'm very grateful that you've come all this way in his stead, especially you, Lady Gaerhart. I've heard that name before, even in Skyrim, though I confess I don't know the origin. I trust you've met Daric? He's... my ward, son of Maric." Roland bowed back. "We met him. My guards and I saved him and your elven courier. We haven't had much time to talk, unfortunately. He was injured and is still recovering." "I was saddened to miss you when you passed through Daggerfall," Lady Gaerhart said, before Elisif or any of the other members of her court could interject. "I understand you and your wife met my husband, the late King Dilborn. I know he did not give you any assurances of Breton support at the time, but I hope our attendance at this moot demonstrates our commitment to fighting the Thalmor. Even if my old bones may not be able to make it to the top of your mountain." Elisif was getting increasingly annoyed by the hijacking of her company, to Maori's great pleasure. Baldur smiled and said, "Ah, that must've been when I heard your name! So much has happened since... And please believe me when I say this indeed shows me your people's commitment to fighting the Thalmor. Daric has showed me first hand the fighting spirit of your people. It'll be an honor to have you with us. And if you can't make it up the mountain, I'm sure I can have someone carry you! This isn't something you'll want to miss... Oh, and when we meet, communicating may be a bit of an issue until after the moot, you see I...." Baldur's image began to fade as he attempted to explain and the Bretons and Elisif's court could hear the voice of an old man whispering in some forgotten language. "Can't go into detail right now. We're only speaking now because we're connected via our minds. This dreamsleeve transmission is usually maintained by a mage's mind, which I am not. And my Druid is attending business elsewhere. If we can, we must find more of these scrolls the Thalmor have and master the art ourselves. Cyrodiil might know more. In the meantime I must part, I..." "Enough of this! Jarl Baldur, you have shown this court the utmost disrespect! This...you...do you have anything to say for yourself and what you're doing? Ash King indeed!" Baldur turned to Elisif once more, visibly annoyed. Maori said, "She plans to side with Brund Hammer-Fang you know. She's to be his second wife if he wins..." "Really," he said. "Know this, I will be your King and neither Brund or you can change that. What you do now to delay this only serves the Thalmor and puts Skyrim and my family in further danger, as well as all of Tamriel. Think hard on those implications when you meet me." Standing abruptly she said, "You dare threaten me?! I am not afraid of the likes of you!" "It's no threat," he said. "I will not waste more than words on you. Killing you is beneath me. If you had any Nord pride, you'd do that yourself and end the sorrow I sense in you for your late husband. Rather than shame him further by laying with the Bull." He turned to Roland and said with a smile, "Ours I mean." Elisif shot him a look of venom very much unlike her that even made Maori nervous considering whose palace they were in. Her hand reached out as if she wanted to crush the little smokey apparition of Baldur, but it fell back. She wanted to maintain what dignity yet still remained. "This conversation is over. Yol." The word was thought, not said, but they all heard it anyway. Flame encompassed them all and their minds were overcome with Ehlnofex and daedric characters, then a series of 1's and 0's before ancient Draconic began corrupting the code. The last thing they heard before waking up was Baldur saying, "And thank you for protecting Maori and the boy. They are both very dear to me." "It seems the Nords have found magic yet," Lady Gaerhart said, eliciting a smile from Sybille and the other Bretons. The tension in the room didn't dissipate, however, and no one had yet started eating again. Roland offered a new topic for conversation. "Jarl Elisif, has news made it here of the Roscreans returning to Tamriel? We met one of theirs in Farrun, and are sending emissaries to their island. It's my understanding Solitude used to control the island. Will you start trading with them once again?" For a moment it seemed like Elisif hadn't heard them at all, and she didn't respond until Falk cleared his throat. That was the first time she noticed that he'd returned as well. He nodded, letting her know the boy was taken care of. "Trade with the Roscreans, yes I'm sure the sailors will be happy that they don't need to make any long voyages to do so. Occasionally they'd return with stories of their strange people, fantastical stories about talking giants and so on." Her eyes didn't meet any of theirs as she spoke. "There's no reason not to trade with them, and the goods would find their way here from other holds anyway if they're really wandering around Skyrim. We may as well be one of the first." "Do you see any sort of threat from them?" Duke Theirry asked, looking between Falk and Elisif. "If they took to piracy, they would be a formidable force." "I agree, they would be. And given how the Thalmor like to do things in the shadows, it's something that we should consider a possibility," said Falk. "Wouldn't you agree, Jarl Elisif?" "I think that not only does opening ourselves to such a risk seem stupid at this stage of our war prep with the Thalmor, it also seems that if we were going to take such a risk, the new Jarl of Windhelm should have consulted the rest of the Jarls before doing so. We don't know much of anything about them, and now they're fiddling with magic that is not our own, and using it so brazenly in my palace?" Falk cleared his throat again and said, "But I'm sure it wouldn't come to that. They are supposed to be Nords, of a sort after all. Solitude will lead the effort in assuring that these Roscreans will have no need to resort to piracy. In fact, an island nation could prove useful in guarding our trade routes, watching out for enemy ships and so on, if they're to help us in the war. High Rock should think about making an effort to speak with them as well I think, especially while you're in Skyrim. Don't you think Jarl Elisf?" "...of course," she said. "That would be wise." "An emissary is headed to Roscrea as we speak. He will help establish diplomatic relations with their rulers. But I will try and speak to this druid Jarl Red-Snow has employed. The man who visited High Rock did so in the druids' authority, but was not one himself," Roland said. "How are your people readying themselves for war?" asked Jarl Elisif, seemingly snapping out of her bad mood. "I'm curious, even if I myself am not taking an active role, the possibility of becoming Queen makes me want to look for out of the box solutions and be aware of what my allies are capable of." Duke Thierry said, "We spent several weeks clearing the northern and western waters of pirates. It was good practice for our marines and mages, as well as the many sailors who had little fighting experience." "We also recently partnered with the Direnni, so our mages can learn how to best combat Elven magic. And our levies are drilling as much as they can. Our knights, of course, are always prepared. We stand ready to fight once the war begins," Roland said. "These Direnni, I've read about them before. They partnered with Hoag Merkiller once upon a time to fight against the Alessian Cult. I suppose we can trust them then?" "That was a long time ago," said Maori, not so thrilled about the prospect. "Though, some of them may have actually remembered those days. Who knows with mages, and how long they live. Any thoughts on that, court mage?" Maori narrowed his eyes, gauging her reaction. Sybille sipped from her wine glass and licked the excess off her lips. "Everyone knows mages live longer. And Altmer have naturally longer lifespans. Not to mention whatever unnatural means they might use. The Telvanni are rumored to use necromancy, for instance. But the Alessian Cult was so long ago, as you so astutely stated, so chances are no one is still alive that was then. And even if they were, they would be far from human." "Elves are far from human. Or do you mean something else? Like a lich, or a vampire?" said Maori, smirking. "Obviously the latter," she said, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. "I should have expected a Bosmeri bumpkin to get caught up in semantics and completely miss my meaning. I meant that anyone who had lived so long would no longer be a whole person. Lich, vampire, necromancer, whatever magic they used to live from the time of the Alessian Cult until now would take something from them. Such a long and unnatural life has its costs." "Maori, maybe you should go check on your friend," Roland offered, as everyone at the table watched the court mage and messenger square off. They had all stopped eating by now. Lady Gaerhart said, "A sensible idea. He's had a trying day, after all." Maori kept his glare with Sybille for an awkwardly long time. Finally he smiled and said, "Perhaps you're right. I've lost my appetite anyway. Too much bloody meat in my diet. Here, perhaps you'd like to finish my plate," said Maori, dropping a very large portion of rare beef in front of her over the fruit she was slowly nibbling on, blood oozing from where he'd bitten it last. Grinning, he said, "In the name of the Jarl of Windhelm, I apologize for the state of your evening, your grace. I sincerely hope your color returns before you arrive at the moot. Ta-ta." Falk moved as though he was going to throw the Bosmer back into the dungeon, but Elisif shook her head. "Leave him be," she said. "The size of the snowberries on that mer..." he said under his breath. "I must apologize too," she said to her guests. "I came at you with an agenda, when I'm sure what you wanted most was a good meal and rest. I hope you can forgive me, my home's well-being is at stake, as is all of our homes. You handled yourselves well, and regardless of what happens, I do hope that Solitude and High Rock will continue to have a beneficial and friendly relationship with one another." "That is my hope, and my parents' hope, as well," Roland said. Lady Gaerhart added, "You and your husband were always good friends to our citizens and traders, and we would like that to continue. Best of luck at the moot." Elisif nodded, doing her best to smile. "My palace is open to you all, stay for as long as you like. If you'll excuse me I have a letter to write, then I'll be turning in for the evening. Sybille? Please see to our guest. Whatever differences you two have should be reconciled. I don't want to hear any arguing from you two tomorrow at the breakfast table." "Of course, Jarl Elisif," Sybille said. She stood, bowed, and then left at a brisk pace to the guest rooms. She cast a defect life spell and saw Maori alone in his room, so she entered without knocking and locked the door behind her. She said, "Insolent elf. You won't be so impertinent next time." Maori jumped at the sound of her voice, not hearing her approach once again. All of his weapons were gone, but he had a kitchen knife he snagged from the dinner table, coated with garlic. "There, you smell that, she-witch? I know I'm not crazy. I know what you are! Guards!" "No one can hear you, the room is muffled," she said, and with a wave of her hand sent the knife skittering across the floor. She raised her hands and pinned Maori in a chair. "You should know, I'm not going to kill you. Or even hurt you, much, though you likely deserve it. But you cannot be allowed to spread these rumors about me." "I'll come back for you someday, you snaggle toothed bitch. I always bite back. So just get it over with already." Sybille smiled to reveal her fangs. "I somehow doubt you will, this time." She waved her hand and Maori was knocked unconscious. She leaned over him and drank from the vein in his neck, taking her time and drinking him for every drop she needed. When she was finished, she opened his mouth and poured down a potion to stop his turning, then healed away her bite marks with a quick spell. And to ensure he'd never utter her secret, she placed one hand on each temple and began the spell. Red tendrils stretched between her hands and over his head as she muttered under her breath. She probed deep into his mind, searching for the memories and feelings of their previous encounters. She found them, laced with fear and hate, and pulled them out with the crimson tendrils. She conjured a bottle and stored the memories, which were always useful for certain rituals and spells. With that she dissipated the spells in the room and left Maori sleeping in his chair. Daric came barging in sometime later that night, brow tensed up and as always sporting a bad attitude. "What did Baldur say? What's going on?" He demanded, but the elf was out cold. Daric walked over, shook him like a rag doll, then heard the clammer of a mead bottle rolling over the stone floor. "Pfft, light weight. I thought you didn't drink our liquor though..." he said, but he didn't put much further thought into it. His tales of elven fermented meat juice always sounded like drakeshit anyway. Grabbing Maori by the collar, Daric lifted the elf and their gear he stole back from the guards and snuck out of the palace in the thick of night. On his way out he heard two things that gave him pause. The first, the sound of a woman sobbing down a dark corridor, and what he thought must've been a... chuckle? Either way, he was glad to leave the palace and Solitude behind for good.
  20. 4 points
    I GET HOME FRIDAYYYYYY!!! (For Holiday Block Leave then it's back to Benning for another 3 months)
  21. 4 points
    Balro: "I love Rusian because it immerses you into the setting!" Doc: "I prefer English so I can understand everything better." Colonel: "I want Russian so I can listen to pixel woman cuss at me in Russian when I watch virtual sex"
  22. 4 points
    Froends from basic, "So how are you spending your 3 day pass?" Me:
  23. 4 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!"
  24. 4 points
    Part 2, Two Hours later, “The deeper we get, the stranger this...sensation is.”The Empress muttered, the dreary haze of sleep returning. This is so...otherworldly. The dark blue lights. The pale stone. The strange noises coming from the depths. Something about this place...felt wrong. The duo had found the small exit lead up back to the other side of the bridge, and allowed them to proceed deeper into the ruin. As most his kind, the Dremora Dregas rarely spoke, his terrifying oni-mask remaining stone faced as he walked forward methodically, taking point. Dales neglected to inform him, her normal power, even when amplified by Krojun’s considerable magic shouldn’t be strong enough to summon him (As she didn’t want to reenact A Tragedy in Black). She kept that little detail to herself, as the lapiz-lazuli hallways endlessly went forward, the Ayleid ruin refusing to diminish in the slightest. Dales's wounds ached, and festered under the wholesome blue light, but she continued onward, undaunted, and unhelped by her summoned bodyguard. After facing over a dozen of other traps with her minion, the Empress was beginning to wonder something foul. What was the reason purpose of this place? Was it guarding something? What did this place function as to the heartland elves? Dales banished those thoughts from her mind, as she feverishly squinted her eyes, analyzing the path for any signs of traps. She had done well to get herself to that accursed bog, but she glad to have the company. Even if he was usually as silent as a statue. Dales suddenly stopped, as the heavily armored Daedra lifted his hand into the sky, yelling, "Halt meatbag." The Empress freezed. A chill lay on her spine. Well....on a normal day she wouldn't be afraid of door, but she hadn't seen a door for essentially two hours. Meaning this lead somewhere important. And in a dungeon, important usually meant a nasty trap room. The injured Empress swallowed hard, as she lagged behind the plate-clad Dremora, who had brought up his legendary glaive into a fighting stance, right as he slammed open the stone door with a kick. Among the dust...revealed another large room. This one wasn’t too big in width. But it was really long, and the corridor itself was strange in that, several, large gates lay beyond, intersected. Made from rusty gold, they glimmered among the Welkynd stones, giving the normally rusted color a radiant color. Strangely, they faced the other way, and Dales and Drevos came up, from the door, behind them. Small ramparts lay above the first gate, a set of stairs leading up to them, seemingly allowing warriors and archers to man them in defense. Strange, brassy scorpions lay on the mini battlements, thought there were no ballista bolts scattered about. Dales went closer, as the Dremora, nonchalantly readied his weapon, using his time to look for anything dangerous. This is...certainly strange. The room was unlike anything she had seen before, being more like a fortified gatehouse, then the hallway of an ancient ruin. Her Dremora guardian spoke, his voice raspy and raw, “Something...is just beyond this fortification. Something...ancient, and very powerful.” The presence Dales felt… was the same power she drew from in her darkest hour, and it lay behind these golden gates. Whoever had summoned her, here, lay beyond through the darkness. Dales strode forward, onward, undaunted. You face shadow and death…. The gibbering voice from before, suddenly entered her mind, as Dales jumped in surprise at a loud, clanking noise behind her. She turned around, drawing her wraith dagger, to reveal her dark-plate clad Dremora guarding against something monstrous, which had seemingly appeared out of thin air. A being of shadow and death. This...thing was a Minotaur. A minotaur of unimaginable horror. It was...undead. While every other minotaur the Empress had seen bore itself with a wild, yet pure pride, a chosen son of Kynareth, this...abomination slouched walking with a hunch, and carried its body in loathing disgust. Rotten flesh clung at it's decayed grey skeletal frame, the remains of black armor, covered in nameless runes, stuck on it's shoulder and stomach, made from some Obsidian metal, with jagged spikes jutting from its massive pauldrons. The Bovian monster itself was massive, even for a minotaur, measuring out to be about ten or eleven feet tall. The remains of it's runeplate, which were disgustingly well-crafted, we’re littered with baubles, charms, and iconography made from the bones of various animals. Skulls, ancient trophies of forgotten kills, lingered on the jagged spikes on it's shoulder pads, having been impaled in place. That small bits of rotten fur that clung to its remaining flesh we’re a sickly grey, and patchy. The minotaurs hooves we’re blackened soot stained, and reinforced with crudely made metal plating, with its right leg being so decayed it was practically stripped to the bone, and devoid of all flesh. It’s claws, giant and meaty, held two massive handaxes, which we’re practically the size of human great axes, and made from dark iron, having jagged spikes behind the large blood-soaked black blades. On his back, he carried an even larger greataxe, the size of a small tree, scattered upon the blade we’re dozens of shadowy runes. The Minotaur's head...had only half its face covered in rotting flesh, the other half in which held nothing but bones. A bull’s skull. A metal helm was grated around it's half ripped up face, made from dark iron. Massive fangs stood outside it's mouth, like boar tusks, and inside it's mouth lined dozens of dagger sized teeth, perfect for ripping apart red flesh. For eyes it had glowing blue orbs that hung in its otherwise empty eye sockets, which starred inside the Empress’s soul. Upon it's head, massive bull-esque hoods stood, cable of skewering and impaling any man that tried to resist it's charge. A thick fog of shadow hung on it's back, almost as if the horror was producing an aura of darkness. It breathed out a miasma of pure darkness, snorting like a bull, roaring an earsplitting noise of utter fury, as it prepared to charge, bringing up it's dual war axes. The Dremora Lord held his ground, as he brought up his crescent blade in a primal war stance, the blade suddenly bursting in black fire, just in time to catch the Minotaurs war axes with his greatblade. The Dremora's teeth clenched underneath his oni-war mask, as he broke his blade lock, and brought up his flaming greatsword to strike the undead Minotaur side, only to be thrown to the side, by the strength of the Minotaur's second blow. Crashing into the white wall of the Ayleid ruin, The Lord quickly picked himself up out of a pile of rubble, just having barely enough time too, as he deflected another strike, holding his blade in a downward block. The thing moved deceptively fast for its massive size, being practically a blur amongst the shadows. Sweat formed underneath his black war mask, as the minotaurs glowing blue orbs nonchalantly stared into the Dremora's black eyes, gazing at them. It showed no signs of tiring, as it snorted, just as it lifted its second axe into the air, bringing it downward in an extreme display of force, intent on cutting the Dremora in half. Lord Dregas abandoned his position, throwing himself backwards, as he unleashed a torrent of black fire with his gauntleted hand of black daedric armor. The war-axe landed with a heavy thunk, the strength used behind the swing causing a brief shockwave to erupted around the landing zone. The black fire coarsed forward, but did little to injure the now enraged beast, the darkness around it seemingly consuming the flames. The Minotaur silently pressed forward, it’s huge body illuminated by the lapis light, going down the dark hallway, with nothing but the lapis lazuli Welkynd stones to illuminate these two warriors deadly duel. Dregas tried slashing to the left, but the Minotaur simply brought up it's colossal axe, before countering with another strike. It was a practically a dance, and the speeds these two warriors thought at made them practically invisible to the naked eye. The Dremora felt a euphoria he had never felt before. He felt...truly alive in this moment. As as the fear stabbed into him, this was one of the most glorious moments of his life. A worthy opponent. He was taken back to the present, when he noticed the small girl just beyond him, who was staring at the horror before them with pure terror visible in her cold eyes. He’d forgotten he had a charge with him. The Daedra screamed in his raspy roar, taking a moment to glance at Dales, “Flee this foe is beyond you!” That was a near-fatal mistake. The Undead minotaur had sharp eyes, as it saw Dregas moment of distraction. It switched to a sideslash midway, and the axe’s blade nearly bite into the Dremora’s flesh, his great glaive blocking the strike at the last second, holding it downward from the Dremora’s temple. A mere human, or any of the mortal races really, would be crushed by the mere size of the axe, but the Dremora was inhumanly strong, and wielded a magical, timeless blade forged in the fiery pits of the Deadlands. It would not bend, even to the abominable strength of this monster. “We killed a ******* hydra! How can this overgrown cow compare?!” Dales called out, just as she conjured a ball of ice magic in her small fist. Even as she said those words, a pit of horror had grown inside her stomach. Dales screamed, terror plainly present in her curt voice. Dales felt afraid. So afraid. Even more afraid of this...thing, then her father when he beat her. She shivered, as memories filled her head, in the form of plastered, crimson images depicting the worst minutes of her life. What is this? What is this darkness? The floor around the Bovian abomination darkened, as it became infested with shadowy miasma. Tendrils of pure shadow formed, and began to hug the Empresses leg, filling her with pure dread and terror. It was now clear to the Empress, the horror before her controlled terrible black magic Struggling to avoid being crushed by its axes, The Dremora fought against the juggernaut, with a flashing display of inhuman swordsmanship and close range flame spells raining blow after blow, but...the abomination countered with much greater strength, speed, and...even skill. To the Dremora’s horror, this thing knew how to fight. It wielded it's axes with extreme dexterity, and skill, being clearly a master with the axe. Every strike it made, has equal pure force, and conscious intent behind it. It’s bestial power only gave it more opportunities to do just that. Behind its veneer of savagery, a clever, animalistic mind laid beneath.The Dremora slashed, and stabbed, as if he was in a dance, but for his finesse was being countered by a more basic, yet no one less effective fighting style. “This thing is...cursed. Cursed by ancient, dark magic! No...not cursed...” Underneath his war-mask, the Dremora spat, “It’s using it! It’s bringing this darkness upon itself! Some kind of black magic!” The Dremora lord ducked to the left, avoiding a downward slash from the Minotaur axes, struggling against its advance. "Run Meat Bag! Run!" Dales fled in terror at her guardians urging, turning heel, and running deeper down the long hallway. She didn’t care if she triggered another trap, she knew she couldn’t face this...thing. Metaphoric tendrils, along with literal tendrils, hung on her, trying to drag her into an inner darkness she couldn’t escape from. She couldn’t fight in this condition. She was as helpless now, as she was...when he beat her. Reaching the first gate, the Empress, almost out of breath already, plunged forward reaching the lever. She hesitated for a moment, as she turned to face her companion who was struggling to hold this wrecking ball of nature back. That hesitation left her, when she realised even if her companion lost, he would simply return to the Deadlands, after being slain in the mortal realm. That mere fact caused any guilt to be swept away, and she pushed the lever forward without remorse, causing the rusty metal gate to come crashing forward with a heavy thud, and the rattling of chains. Separating Dales and the two clashing demons from each other. Being safe for a moment the Empress relaxed, turning around to glance at the ensuring battle and the thing chasing after her. Only for her horror to grow. She would had fled deeper into the hallway, beyond the gate, but her body was completely paralyzed by fear. The thing...hauntingly stared at her, his blue orbs gazing into her blue fear filled eyes. It snort shady breaths of darkness, as the pale blue light illuminated their surroundings, the two warriors looked at each other. Inside his great claws, he lifted the severed head of Dremora Lord, the ancient oni-mask starring hauntingly at her. The Dremora's body had already began to dissipate, spectral lines of purple magic materializing all around the Dremora's body, fading in and out of existence. He was returning to the waters of Oblivion. With a roar, the Bovian beast slowly advanced, rearing it’s hind legs, this time, his target the young Empress. Dales launched a roaring bolt of ice forward, towards the brass contraption, causing enough force to knock the level back, causing the gate to slam back down with the reeling of chains. Dales was safe for the moment. The cursed Minotaur strode forward, lifting it's massive arm into the air, revealing bare muscle and sinewy flesh, and struck the metal gate with one of it's battle axes. A large dent formed as the metal axe collided into the reinforced gate, the screeching, cold sound of iron crushing steel echoing all across the room. Then another formed as the Minotaur repeated the same strike, this time with his other axe. And then again. And then again. And then again. The golden gate would soon fall to the Minotaurs strikes. Dales panicked, screaming, "Shit! ****! Crap! Holy tomatoes!" The young Breton girl ran as fast as her tiny feet could carry her. Just as she pushed the next lever, the golden gate fell. Dales quickly ran through it. As she turned around to cast it down once more, she quickly began to pick up pace. Dales barely managed to get the gate to fall, before the Minotaur was upon her. It was fast. Faster then that dog Lorgar. Angrily snarling, and spitting out giant droplets of spit, it salivated, hungrily gazing at the Empress, almost as if it wanted to devour her. It began to strike the gate once more. Dales, her body feeling like she was going to have a heart attack from fear, ran like a mad woman, getting through the various gates, trying to finish this dreadful gauntlet as soon as possible, the Bovian nightmare just behind her, and getting closer to passing through the gate before Dales could conjure magic, every second. This chase continued for another five, gates, until...she came upon a platinum one. The gate itself gleamed silver, and like the walls in the grand entrance of the ruin, below that decrepit crypt, it was covered in glowing blue runes. A bright...blue light lay shone beyond it. Something...something drew her towards it, piercing through the overhearing darkness that came within the...shadow cow. But to Dales horror, no lever lay within her sight. She frantically searched around for any kind of brass object, but to her terror, she found none. In desperation, at being so close to an escape, Daes gripped the plantium bars tightly, and began to scream, "Help! Help! Help! HELPPPPP!" She tried to force them upon, channeling all of her magicka reserves into an alternation strength spell, but did nothing. Her enhanced strength was nothing to the gate, and it's magic runes. Tears formed within her eyes, as she felt heavy breathing behind her. Mustering her inner courage, the young Empress turned around. Only to see the Dark Minotaur a few feet away. His blue orbs however, held something this time. Fear. The creature refused to approach the gate, feverishly, reeving its horn, and hind legs, as it roared just by the second to last gate, which he had just breached. Dales tears dried, as she catched herself on the gate, breathing heavily. The only thing keeping her from falling down was her adrenaline, and the magic that coursed through her. The beast of Shadow, threw down one of it's axes, pushing forward its dark claws, and....began to make strange gestures. It pulled through the stale underground air. Was it...beckoning to the Empress? Asking her to come to it? For the first time it spoke, a hoarse voice, like the grinding of steel. It vibrated with a hint of power "Ari indz yerekha ... petk’ e veradarrnas yerazneri tiruyt’nerits’: Minch’ gazany kul e talis dzez!" Dales in her delirium, heard nothing, for whatever language it spoke was ancient, and long dead. The young Empress leaned on the silvery gate, and sat down. Inhaling a large mouthful the Empress closed her eyes... "You are close. Let Lord Auriel wreath you in light...''' The voice from before. Dales opened her blue eyes, expecting to see the Bolvian horror from before. She found herself...beyond the silver gate. Half unbelieving, Dales turned around to gaze beyond the gate. The Minotaur looked....sad. As it sulked, it's skeletal, rotting face downcast. Shaking it's head, the beast body...dissipated. A cloud of pure shadow formed around it, like a sinister miasma, and the physical flesh and skeleton of the undead abomination...vanished. Not even a trace of its bleeding shadow remained. Dales, without looking back advanced forward, and towards the blue light, going down the corridor, refusing to looking back at that strange hallway. Her surroundings became...weirder. The walls of white-stone turning...pure blue. As if she was walking down a corridor of the ocean. A figure stood, in the middle of the room. She squinted her eyes, who had just gotten adjusted to the blue light. What awaited her was...a knight. The knight, or what she assumed was a knight, just stood there, holding his bronze bastard sword by it's pommel, pointing the blade toward the ground. She almost thought him to be a statue, but his perfect watch was marred by slight movement. Inscribed on the sword's pommel itself was the drawing of a bright phoenix, and the hilt was adorned with a single white gem, along with gold, feathery wings. The sword’s blade faintly, a weak silvery light. He sat in the middle of the wonderful, blue hallway. The runes carved on his armor was indecipherable, and foreign, the Empress could only guess what they meant. The armor itself was so...alien. She had seen images of the former Imperial province of Morrowind, and the intense feeling of unfamiliarity, and downright fantasy she received we’re just like back then. Highly ornate, it vaguely looked like the plate that Thalmor Justicars wore, gold armor made from moonstone, but something...was off about it. [[http://www.nexusmods.com/Images/110/1123080-1407311990.jpg For one thing, the helmet looked like somewhat similar to a locust’s head, with bright blue gems covering the eye sockets, and a visor of glass]]. Behind the helmet, a ponytail of braided white hair, stuck out. The material itself seemed to be gold moonstone, but it was adorned with deep green glass. His gauntlets ended in gold talons, razor sharp, and tipped with diamonds. Similar claws we’re present on his armored boots, like wolf paws. A crimson red tabard, dyed the sanguine of blood, sat on his lower half, like an apron. Was this a fabled heartland elf? An Ayleid in the flesh? He was also covered head to toe in layers and layers of dust, almost as if he was part of the ancient ruins that dotted this passage. Dales might have mistaken him as a statue, if she didn't see him breathing in and out. He had clearly been standing still there for centuries. A stalwart guardian. As Dales approached the silent watcher, she noticed her surroundings in more detail. Carved on the white-stone, we’re bas reliefs, depicting bloodshed, magic, ancient battles, and unknowable monstrosities. The vibrant, almost ear burning, blue light emerging behind the massive stone door, drew her closer and closer, almost as if it was magical, unlike the braisers of blue flame which lit the dark tunnel. The pillars that held up the hallway were of excellent craftsmanship, quite similar to the imperial palace, but embroidered with silvery vines, taking a more naturalistic look. [[https://vncg.org/f16538.jpg The entire wall was made of whatever substance was found in Wekyland stones actually adorned the walls, all of breath-taking blue colors, shining like the deep ocean, a backdrop of watery gems.]] It went down, in an lengthy tunnel, all the way to a gate of shimmering, pure, blue ight. “Halt.” A deep voice, almost a growl erupted from the figure, heavily starling Dales who had just gotten used to the pure silence. In an instant, the dust on him had blown off, as he moved for the first time in centuries. The voice was...really deep for an elf. If he was an elf, which the Empress could only assume. His accent, however, was the strangest part. It was so distinct, yet the Empress had never heard anything like it before. His hand reached for his blade, as he prepared to draw it. His claw gauntlet lingered there, as he growled, “What Nede dares approach the Well?” Quick and straight to the point then. Refreshing. Dales thought. Clearing her voice, the Empress of Tamriel spoke with both pride and conviction, “I am Dales Draconus. Empress of Tamriel, holder of the Ruby Throne, and Guardian of Cyrodiil.” Dales voice rose, a symphony in the darkened ruins, “I was summoned here. And I am no Nede.” She stopped herself, before she uttered, with both purpose, and truth in her tongue, “I am an Imperial.” “By that thing. Yes, I see.” He paused. His helmet up this close, was really unsettling. Upon closer analysis, Dales now thought, instead of locust-like, it was more avian. Like the face of a hawk. The figure’s hand has softened, but he still gripped the hilt of his sword, Following a hunch, Dales brought up her sigit ring, showing the silvery bull ring she wore on her index finger to him. “You are a follower of Lady Alessia then.” The Ayeleid Knight said, as he leaned in to get a close look at Dales sigit ring. After taking her features in, the Knight let out a throaty chuckle, “You are short for a dragon, milady.” He finally fully sheathed his blade. “I am no ones lady, knight.” Dales said, with little amusement in her voice, “Who are you?” “My name would mean nothing to you, but if you must call me something, call me Averdani, the Lord of Mazes. And to answer your question, human, I am no guardian. More like a warden. This tomb is...a prison, and I am it’s prison-keeper. Well one of them.” He paused for a second, “It seems you’ve already met my compatriot. And lived to tell the tale. Impressive.” He saluted her with a flourish of his blade. It...cut through her vision, a faint purplish outline carving through the space. As if it passed through the fabric of reality itself...The Knight stepped aside, as he motioned for the young girl to pass, "You remind me of her." His stone voice became warm, like the summer itself. Underneath his strange helmet, the figure frowned, "You seek the spring then..." Dales nodded her small head, the many bruises and cuts showing the man how difficult it had been to come this far. Averdani sighed, "Normally, I would be honorbound to cut you down we're you stand, Dales Draconus. Most people cannot pass this point. For there own good..." He sadly sad, muttering underneath his breath. " But you bear Lady Alessia's ring. You are not just another thrall that...thing has enslaved. You we're meant to be here." He stepped aside, letting the Empress pass. His hands began to glow bright white, and the grand gate, he guarded, slowly...faded away. After a few seconds, it had completely disappeared, the blue light fully unleashed on the dark tunnel. He spoke, "As warden of the spring, I grant thee permission to enter, Dales Draconous." Nodding to him, the Empress stepped forward, and went down the hallway. She was, however, stopped, by an armored clad hand, grabbing her shoulder. The avian-masked elf spoke, “Beware. That...thing deceives with half truths, and flattery." Dales nodded, acknowledging the warning, as she pressed forward. She went through the bright, blue light, passing beyond the guardians hallway. The vision she had experienced before prepared her for nothing. “Dales Motierre, Empress of Cyrodiil, I welcome thee to the Spring.” A soft voice echoed across the cavern. The place was....massive. The walls we're of the same quality as the Lord of Mazes hallway, being the same glowing blue mineral that was lost to the ages., and unkown to the Empress. Carved onto them, we're thousands if not tens of thousands of the same runes that scattered the ruin, glowing deep shades of blue. Most of the cavern was submerged in low water, which glowed the same faint light as the cavern walls. As if it was a legendary blue palace that lurked underneath the watery depths of the ocean. In the midst of underground spring was a large, monolithic monument. On it's top, on the left side, a single stone wing jutted out. Dales approached the strange waters edge, before she submerged herself into it. ... ... .... In a single instant, the dozens of wounds on her flesh healed, becoming whole once more. The fiery pain on her stomach had dissipated, the Hyrdra's wounds leaving as if they had never happened at all. She felt...a euphoria. She...had never been exposed to this much power. Her mind reeled, and the Empress began to drool like a child. Such power...was imitating through the waves. This kind of power...would give her the strength to set entire armies ablaze, move entire mountains of stone. It was vast, infinite. Dales, with her ragged leather armor, tried to push herself through the glowing, shallow water, but she could barely stay at conscious, at this exposure of energy. By now, the water was deep enough to got to Dales waist, but she continued through the vast spring How has this place remained hidden? "The runes on the walls our of ancient, forbidden rites, my lady. They mask the magical presence of this place, which is deep, deep underneath the grounds of the Imperial City itself." The same voice that had been whispering to her, all the way back from her dream, to the gate hallway spoke. A tall figure stood, in the middle of the water, a good way away from Dales. “Approach.” Her corpse-like skin barely betrayed a sense of life, as her purse purple lips curved into a savage snarl, A dark, whispery voice, wrapped with ardous wraith, loathsome hate, and envious longing. Like an angelic trumpet, mixed with the gnashing of teeth. While Dales had very unhealthy skin, which she felt, from her own feelings, was a side effect of her mentors magic, it at least looked semi-alive. The woman's parlor was deathly, the skin damp and lifeless, as if she had been submerged in a lake for a long period of time. She had the look of a fresh corpse. Dales could scarcely contain the way she felt about her. Despite the deathly look she was...beautiful. And so horrible at the same time. Her magnificent brown hair, the color of an ancient oak tree, was done in a complex pattern, as if she was a well-groomed highborn lady of Court. Her startling eyes. Oh her eyes. They we’re….terrifying to gaze into it, so inhuman, and otherworldly. Magnificent piercing gold stood on the outside, while black, shadowy orbs, sat on the inside, both surrounded by a circle of gorgeous amber. In shape, the only way to describe them we’re owl-like. The dark craters around her eyes, however, we’re pitch black, as if she used soot for eyeshadow. Her teeth we’re pitch white, with not a single blemish of yellow to stain them. For clothing, she wore a grand dress of white, which went from the upper half of her neck, which had a large choker of fabric, all the way down to her feet. The only skin Dales could see was the skin on her face, the rest of her body was covered up, including her hands and feet, which we’re wrapped up in thick , padded, cloth. It looked like a cross between a wedding dress, and the wrappings of a corpse. It was tight, tighter than a corset, going by how thickly the cloth was holding against the skin. It must have been agony to wear it. Now that she could see it more clearly, it sort of reminded her of an asylum straightjacket. The pale white dress was decked out in the same blue elvish ruins that lingered all over the walls of the previous parts of the ruins, but these ones disappeared, and reappeared at will, as if they were constantly being phased in and out of existence. The woman left the strange statue or idol, before her feet landed into the glowing, lapis lazuli water, her facial expression unchanged as she approached the Empress, moving menacingly forward. Something was...odd. It was as if her face was…”jerking?” The Empress couldn’t find the right word for it. It was like she was having constant spasms every few seconds, but the Empress could catch barely a glimpse of it. Maybe her eyes we’re just playing tricks on her. She was striking. Beautiful. And horrifying all at once. “It is customary to kneel.” “I kneel for no one,.” The Empresses voice resounded with power, and conviction. It was swift, and no other words needed to be spoken,. The cur snarl, twisted into a disturbing grin, as the woman spoke once more, “Indeed you don’t, my Lady Motierre.” The she-elf placed her left hand to her right shoulder, and vice versa, in a strange gesture before lowering her legs, and submerging her body halfway into the glowing, watery depths of the spring. Her perfect hair, despite being done in a white bow, was still so long part of it got drenched in the water. The woman knelt before Dales, her yellow eyes staring directly into her soul. She said nothing more. At a complete lost for words, Dales managed to stutter out, “Who are you?” The horrific grin, soon melted, replaced by a warm smile, “Who are you?” The she-elf repeated Dales question to her. Dales frowned, annoyance filling inside her. The only one who talked back to her was Krojun, “I am Empress Dales Draconus.” “Are you now?” She looked amused, she spoke coyly, “Are you not Dales Motierre, daughter of Emperor Amaund Motierre, first of his name.” She practically spat in defiance to her father's name, "I no longer go by that name. I left it." “Did you now?” The she-elf muttered, her bored expression unchanged. “You always refer to yourself as Dales Motierre, not Dales Draconus, in your mind. I’m afraid changing your name, won't change who you are Lady Motierre. You are you’re father's daughter, both in body and mind. You may decry you’re family name, but you know it to be true. You even wear his signet ring, why?” “To remind me of what I shall never be!” The Empress yelled, her voice trembling with rage. She yelled, with fury, changing the subject, “I answered you’re question, mer, now answer mine! “Dunmaor. High priestess of Auriel.” Dunmaor? "You are...a high priestess of Auriel?" Dales blue eyes narrowed, as she practically spat the name, "What presumption does a high priestess of Auriel summon the holder of the Ruby Throne with? What does your lord want with me?" "To give you a gift." She said simply, smiling. Lifting her bound hand into the air, the one known as Dunmaor, began to draw, magical lines into the air, that sparkled bright gold. After a few seconds, the thing she drew in the underground sky was clear to the Empress. She drew the symbol of ultimate imperial power. The Red Dragon of the Septims. Dales eyes became manic, as she shouted, "That should be impossible!" "Time has no meaning here, in the Spring, Lady Motierre. Time does not flow in the same way as it does on the outside. The covenant of Akatosh, whose breaking, denies the use of this symbol, is not held here." Dales remained silent, still not believing it. She let the she-elf speak. “ Hear me, young lady. Though I am infinite, and have an eternity to spend, you must be on you're way to Skyrim at the dawn. You have little time, and I shall waste no more of it with pleasantries, and frizzle amusement. The abomination you know as Krojun is powerful. More powerful than my...keeper, who was known in his time as the “Ruination of Cities". You would need both a weapon, and a symbol to be free of him. If you do not free yourself from his control, you will be his pet for all eternity. A favored pet, but a pet nonetheless. You have always been a broken bird in a gilded cage, Lady Motierre, but Skyrim is your chance to break free. You must go to the peaks of High Hrothgar. You will find both a way to break the icy chains that wrap around your soul, and a weapon of unimaginable power.” Dales blinked, and in a single instant, Dunmaor now stood infront of her. The piercing, eyes of amber starring into her soul. Dunmaor leaned in, her cold breath freezing Dales flushed cheeks, she whispered, a sentence that caused Dales mind to go blank, and her face to drain of all color. It can’t be. After she finished, Dunmaor voice became soft, as if she was talking to a lover, which contrasted her words, and said “Ask this question to the Ash-King at the Throat of the World. And you shall have your ultimate weapon wreathed in flame." “Who is the Ash-King? Why is having this weapon so important?” Dales asked, her voice emotive. “Baldur Red-Snow, betrayer, and Jarl of Windhelm. The gods are fickle, and we are their playthings. Even my Lord Auriel considers me nothing more than a tool to be wielded. The coming months will be a war, a proxy war waged by powerful champions of the gods. A champion of Hircine stalks the forests of Valenwood. A minion of Boethia haunts the path of the Ash-King. A Dragon-Lord of yore festers in the heart of Cyrodiil, intent on ruling her people. Do you think it's coincidence that such powerful figures have gathered at the same time? Some kind of abomination powered by dark magic tries to make himself High King of Skyrim. Unseen power manifests itself in the hands of the Thalmor and the Aldmeri Dominion. The Empire needs something more than you, her Empress, more than a competent general, and more then her red legions to survive.” Her sickly eyes shone for a moment, as a bell rang in the distance, "Ït needs a champion, one who the Ash-King shall provide.” She paused for a moment, “This is the gift my Lord Auriel give you, my Lady Moitre. Words. A set of words that will endow you with a weapon of ancient power, unseen since the days of Tiber Septim. It is both a symbol for your people to rally behind, and a weapon of destruction. There is no binding contract. No double crossing. I already gave you the question you must ask of the Ash-King to receive it. It is free.” She laughed, a cold, dark laugh, “It is no covenant as the Dragon-Lord Akatosh ordained with…”She paused for a moment before she muttered darkly her eyes betraying an unknown emotion for a mere second, “Al-Esh but it is a very rare boon. My lord offers little in comparison to it to most of his favored. Dales bite down on her tongue, as she whispered, “Why? Why...does Auriel favor me? I hate the gods. I curse the gods. He is no exception.” “I cannot say.” Dales eyes fell downcast, as she asked, annoyance brewing inside her, “You cannot say?! But you-” Dunmaor terrible eyes trembled with fury, as her voice became like thunder, her face for a split second seemed...rotten.“I do not presume to know what my lord wants, Dales Moitre.” Dales recoiled back in both shock and terror. As if the storm clouds had instantly been swept away by a wind, the Ayelid’s normal voice had returned, she smiled gently at the Empress, the switch of emotion honestly leaving the Empress numb “It may because of your heart, my lady. You’re rage and hatred...is so pure.” A chill fell down her spine, as Dales couldn’t speak. Instead, the loathsome she-elf continued, as her black eyelids relentless tore into Dales, “The undying hatred you feel for the Thalmor is contained to them. With your vast power, you could lay waste to innocent mer all across Cyrodiil, to sate the dark hole of vengeance in your heart, but you don’t. You stay thy blade, and shelter them for people more ignorant than you. You love them as your own people. As any human- Dales quietly added, “Their good too **** to.” The Mer just stared at her, as her eyes narrowed in a scowl. Dales shrugged her shoulders muttering, “What?” Rolling her eyes. Dales blinked, and she, once more, reappeared somewhere else. A few feet away from the Empress. the elf continued, “Perhaps Lord Auriel has taken to you for you are a protector to Imperial-Elves.” She shrugged her bound shoulders, “Perhaps not. As I said, it’s not my place to interpret why my lord does what he does, only obey what he whispers to me.” “Whispers?” Dales asked, unconvinced Ä grim smile appeared on Dunmaor’s face as she muttered, “Are you so faithless to refute my words even now, Dales Motierre? If you are accusing me of being “off in the head”as you would label it, perhaps you should look at yourself and you’re own struggles with the demons of your mind. I'm afraid mentally healthy people don’t bring glass to there wrists, my dear lady.” Dales face went dark, as she cast her face downward, and into the lapis lazuli depths of the glowing water. She barely managed to mutter, “How do you know that…” “I see all from the spring. Gazing into it’s depths, I see everything.” Those horrible yellow orbs...softened. And deformed. Turning soft brown...brown, as the hazelnut tree. Lady Dunmaors eyes...changed, as Dales looked into them Brown eyes of infinite kindness....eyes she longingly gazed into that she knew. Those eyes belong to someone else. Someone who lay, rotting in the earth. The sickly being smiled, saying, "Is everything alright my fair lady?” Her voice changed, to a familiar voice, “ Is something the matter, my sweet Empress?" Dales eyes narrowed as she began to stutter, her hands trembled with pure terror, and the pits of her stomach contorted to actual pain. Dales managed to stutter out, "I-I think-I think I know now." The eyes she shouldn't have had remained there, as the creature smiled, a soft, but clearly malicious smile, "And what do you know, Dales Motierre?" “That…” The Empress swallowed, and mustered her courage, remembering the words of bravery Lorgar, Baldur, Rebec, Gracchus, and Maggie had told her over the years. She steeled herself, as her usual cold face of melancholy returned. She brought forth the fury of the dragon, driving away the pathetic girl she was before, throwing it back to the shadowy depths of her mind. Her piercing cold gaze fell over the thing before her, as she finished, “That this place wasn’t just built to keep people out. It was also made to keep someone in.” Dales, began to slowly withdraw, backing away from the siren in the shimmering lapis lazuli water. Dunmaor’s smile remained unchanged, as she made no move to advance, “There are things man, beast, and mer were never meant to know, Lady Moietrree.” Her brilliant white teeth, in a mere instant, began to wither and rot, underneath her veneer, and grimace, “I am one of those things.” Dales stopped, the fear leaving her. She stood her ground, and asked, “What are you? Are you even an elf?” “Once.” The grinned stretched forth, And with that, the Empress turned around, ready to speak no more, and leave this accursed prison. Only to be stopped by a soothing voice, “Wait, my lady.” Dales turned around, and despite her newfound courage from earlier, yelped, startled and surprised. The...thing stood before her, having materialized right in her face.. It’s face, right in front of Dales. Gazing longingly into her eyes. The sinister orbs of amber had reformed, moving in an infinite sphere. Dales was spellbound, she couldn’t move. The thing moved it’s moist, tightly bound hands from Dales neck, all the way to her stomach, before it brought up an object, and held it in front of Dales. A shimmering amulet of platinum, in the shape of a six pronged star. The chain that held it however, was colored a vibrant gold. A symbol of white-gold. The star itself wasn’t really a star, being much thicker, and wider than the normal shape, but that was the only thing Dales could associate it with. Each arm of the star, held a gorgeous sapphire within it’s tendril, and in the middle, was a large, blue gem. A gem of Lapis Lazuli. The same thing inside a Welkynd stone, condensed in a pure mineral. The she-elf placed the amulet briefly to her bound heart, and placed it in the fear-struck Empress’s small, pale hands, which we’re now opened. She spoke, in a gentle, calming voice, as melodic as the early breeze of the sea. “In the ancient days of yore, under the vermilion sky of twilight, Ayleid flower maidens gave their amulets of Lord Auriel to favored knights who went off to war, in the dreams of them returning it to them, under the breeze of spring.”Her eyes softened, as her purple lips became warm, “I offer you this token of my affection, in the hopes of you returning to me." She paused, her eyes reflecting the glowing blue light of the watery depths, "My knight..." Dales felt...vast magic flowing forth from the amulet. This...thing was an artifact of power. Great power. And it was being offered freely to her. Dales made...no move to turn it down. The warm smiled remained, as the maiden grasped Dales palm, and closed it. Dales held the amulet of Auriel within her cold hands, coiled like a sleeping serpent. The Lady of the Spring gently went forward, and whispered into her ear, "Call upon me, at you're own peril, my knight. I am here for you. I shall be here when you're bones are festering with maggots beneath the dark earth. I am here when the Great Destroyer devours, and restarts the kalpa. I am here for eternity. Now... " Her amber eyes closed, as she mouthed, snapping her fingers "Awaken." ****
  25. 4 points
    Theo- Lord Manderly Gracchus- Baristan Selmy Tacitus- Victarian Morane- Maybe one of the sand snakes? Idk for this one Also, I've very anti Nordic Empire, and anti Brund (the character), and anti Broond (the pronunciation). Second rate Baldur the size of Boldir more like it
  26. 4 points
    Thanks Colonel! I know I've spent a lot of time reading around to try and get a grasp on shadow magic, since the games themselves don't have much. I'm glad it's paying off. And I'm glad you like Morane as well. My next post will be another one of hers and I'm excited about it. As for your posts...
  27. 4 points
    I edited out "all at once" at the end since I repeated it lol, hate that. Anyway. Proofread as best I could before posting, but now my eyes and head hurts and that's a wrap. I apologize for any remaining errors or funny sounding phrases but I need to rest. Been a while. Btw BTCollins, I've read a few more of your shadow mage posts and I gotta say I don't think I've seen anyone write about Shadow magic better than you have. Not me, not people on the lore forums and reddit theorizing about it, nobody. Very good, and I love your character and her dynamic with her tutor. And, lol she seems pretty hot with her seductive murderous smile. You're too good at this man, keep it up.
  28. 4 points
    Neskonungr was disqualified from the voting after being found out that he's been sending people into space illegally. Also his slogan was too hard for most to understand.
  29. 4 points
    Now you only need to get Motierre right. And learn to use "were", "we're" and "where" correctly.
  30. 4 points
    I don't know why bother unless these people have shown a willingness for reasonable debate. Otherwise arguing with random people on the internet is like beating your head against a brick wall; you're unlikely to achieve anything other than a headache.
  31. 4 points
    Not that I am a fan of Rikke or anything, but this is just dumb. Her being a Nord is so important to her entire dynamic with Tullius, and really her character in general.
  32. 4 points
    Just finished The Wire. It was good but the fifth and last season felt rather anticlimactic. Overall I think the third and fourth seasons were the best.
  33. 4 points
    Baldur: Babe, your ass is so Merethic. Rebec: Don't talk that elven nonsense to me.
  34. 4 points
    If what my great grandfather told me is true, you don't want to see any of that.
  35. 4 points
    Hey Folks, just wanted to update on our situation. Firstly, we've had quite a few folks offer to help with TESA's dues as they come up, so it's looking like the site is safe for the foreseeable future, all hail the Alliance! In other news, the Rider Family has a new prospective rental home, a peaceful house in the country held by a very kind and compassionate landlady who is willing to disregard the student loan debt issue and credit scores in return for a few months rent in advance. We still need to raise about $2500 for the security, movers, and to replace some things we lost in the hasty move like our washing machine. If you would like to pledge our link is here: https://www.gofundme.com/1-new-home-for-2-little-girls We're now offering some cute rewards by my oldest daughter! If you already pledged, GoFundMe doesn't seem to award anything backward, but rest assured we will still honor your pledge with a gift manually! Thanks for all the support, it means so much coming from the TESA family.
  36. 4 points
    The closest I ever came to being bullied was in the 5th grade when one kid said I sounded like a girl. The next day he cried during dodgeball and he got made fun of. So his bullying stopped really quick lol. Later when I was older I was in AP classes but I wasn't in any danger of getting bullied for that since I also played football and baseball. Your Nord looks cool, Centurion. Can't wait to see him in the roleplay. And yeah Czar, it's fine if you send pictures and ask if the Bretons look like that. And I'll try and describe their armor and such in post if I get the chance.
  37. 4 points
    I've been in a huge Skyrim mood lately for whatever reason
  38. 4 points
    I'm gonna be honest and say that I haven't been thinking about stuff like that in a while. Most of my focus is on Skyrim, what little focus I have. That said I do know the Redguards like Skyrim will not be uniform units, despite how much I know y'all might not like that. It is a weakness but it's a part of their culture from what I've seen. Their people are individualistic, diverse and make better scouts and gladiators, or mercs for a reason. Even more so than Nords so they'd have a number of African middle eastern influence. As for Galmar, he'll be making an appearance along with Veleda, who he sees as the only real and rightful choice for the throne.
  39. 4 points
    Here's something I was pondering. Have you ever pictured your characters in a cyberpunk or steampunk setting? What would they be like? For some reason, driving yesterday I had an image of cyberpunk Maggie pop in my head. She'd get augmentations to keep her looking young and beautiful, the expensive kind that are subtle. Other than that she'd have one of those eye implants that would let her read people, and would use pheromone chems as charms. She'd be working at a VP level in one of the mega-corporations, an executive role but one where she can mostly pull strings behind the scenes and spy. Rebec would be some kind of pilot, a Firefly type, taking contracts where she could get them until she's looped into some grand scheme by a handsome soldier. She would reject augmentations as the work of the devil, but would take chems occasionally to get through long missions. Her look would be pilot grunge.
  40. 4 points
    And it's a great, great improvement. Don't worry about it, makes my job easier. As for your characters, Gracchus and Tacitus are among my favorites in the RP, actually my 1 and 2 for Cyrodiil characters. I don't really have anything to say on them other than I enjoyed reading their posts and got excited when I saw the names in the headers. But what really stands out is your work with the Bretons. Like holy shit that's some good shit. Hell, before I didn't give two fucks about High Rock, but your stuff with Theo and the Pretenders War was amazing and all the political maneuvering afterwards was surprisingly entertaining (I say that because normally I'd be bored out of my mind reading about political backstabbing and shit). I don't really have thoughts on Morane yet, though I do enjoy the post so
  41. 4 points
    Hello and welcome to the very first OOC thread for the upcoming Fallout RP, Shattered Steel! Here, you can post your Character Sheets, your questions, your comments, and everything else that relates to roleplaying and Fallout. The RP itself will be starting some time within the next week or so. In the meantime, post your CSes for approval and for others to see. Once they've been approved, you can post them in the Resources Thread, which I will create soon as well. I don't know about y'all, but after almost two years of planning for this thing, I'm pretty dang excited! Here is the current map of Wellstone and it's surrounding regions, for anyone who needs to freshen up. And here is a Character Sheet template for anyone who wants to use it:
  42. 4 points
    I can just imagine... I already know some of my own, Baldur is unbearably sweet and lovey dovey, lol. Blame Rebec, she has him whipped beyond belief, lol. I apologize ahead of time.
  43. 4 points
    I'll turn the other cheek of my ass just so you can kiss it some more. Lol But really I'm not even close to ballsy or serious enough to be put up with there with the Grahamcracker. I think if I'm anyone from New Vegas, it'd be the dude in Freeside who sells questionable meat to bums. That's basically me in a nutshell.
  44. 4 points
    Just wandered on over (haven't logged in, in a loooong time). Damn. Good luck. Was in a similar situation not too long ago. Things do get better. edit: donation made.
  45. 4 points
    I believe sites like this should live forever and those that make it friendly, lovely, and a purposeful home should be rewarded. I thought the biggest issue was 2,500 donations not being met. Now it is worse. Thank you for letting us know. Hang in there! Hugs!
  46. 4 points
    Wow, talk about timing ... damn. So sorry to hear this. I`ll look at the Go link and see if I can help.
  47. 4 points
    And actually, @BTCollins8 gave the best and most valid point for an Imperial fan choosing the Legion over the Stormcloaks, one that is a perfectly valid reason and not something that can be "refuted", which is that the Imperials have the biggest army in Tamriel, and even against the Dominion we know this is true. It's perfectly reasonable to want all of your eggs to stay in one basket. I choose not to because I fear the failings of the leadership, and feel that if they were to collapse, having all your eggs under one basket only means more smashed eggs, but that is simply a matter of preference.
  48. 4 points
    Morane Lynielle Afternoon “You must narrow in your focus,” Winvale said, his deep voice equal parts frustrated and critical. His pale green eyes narrowed in on Morane’s hazel ones, as if to demonstrate just what it meant to narrow one’s focus. It annoyed Morane how perfect an example he was, since he had seldom looked at, much less talked to, the other students in the room. They sat at the desks and in the reading chairs arranged about the tower, all of them splitting their time between reading the books they were supposed to and joining the wrinkled old wizard in staring at Morane. She could feel the weight of their expectations, the students’ and Winvale’s, pressing down upon her shoulders. Ever since she had first learned how to see the world through her hyperagonal sense a week ago, to see things not only as they were but also as they could be through an infinite number of potential realities, she knew the expectations were high. Winvale expected much of her, constantly berating her failures and reminding her of how small her achievements were. The other students judged her, always taking pleasure in her failures and waiting to see what made her so special. It was exhausting. Every time she tried to focus, she found her mind returning to all those eyes watching her, waiting for her to fail. She tried to funnel it into motivation, to prove them all wrong and show them why she was better than all of them. But the sneers and barely muffled laughter each time Winvale told her just how poorly she was doing were like chains, holding her down and preventing her from rising to her true height. It was the same way when she focused her hyperagonal sense. Whenever she tried to focus, to narrow her vision to just the thing that mattered, it was inevitable the number of potentialities of so many people and objects would overwhelm her and force her to lose her hyperagonal sense. Instead of seeing with her mind, she’d be returned to the real world, always to the disapproving scowl of Dryston Winvale and the derision of her peers. By far the most discouraging thing, though, was the object of her failures. She sat at a table in the middle of the room, the uncomfortable chair giving her splinters. Sitting on the table in front of her was an open book. She didn’t know the title or what it was about, and that didn’t matter. Her task was to make it opened to page twenty. Not flip through the pages with telekinetic power, or use illusion to make it seem as if it was open. Her task was to find the potentiality where the book was opened to page twenty, substitute that book for the closed one before her, and instantaneously and without moving the book would be open to page twenty. She was attempting to write on the scroll of this world, substituting is here with the is of a possible world. She couldn’t do it, so the book sat there, a constant reminder of her failure. The task was meant to be simple, and yet looking through her hyperagonal sense was not the same as being able to access this book’s potentiality. And yet Morane knew the dullards who were also studying shadow magic could not understand the difference. To them, she was lucky, having used shadow magic once but failed to do so since then. Winvale knew the truth, and yet his disappointment was different. He knew she was not focusing on the book. To use shadow magic is to see the potentialities created by conflict of the object that is to be manipulated. A warrior has a sword and is about to strike the shadow mage, who uses their hyperagonal sense to see the sword and cause it to not exist. When they use their hyperagonal sense, they are looking only at the sword, not at the warrior, the landscape, and their potentialities. If a shadow mage’s focus is too broad, it can lead to the magic twisting on them, and instead of the sword ceasing to be, it is now made out of the warrior’s flesh, or impaled in a rock. The substituting draws from the potentially of the other things and not the potentiality of the sword, and the magic isn’t what the caster intends. “If you do not narrow your focus, your mind will become unmoored and you will lose your sense of this world. You will see only in potentialities, and lose all sense of what is,” Winvale said. “Our reality may be only one of many, but it does not change that if you lose your sense of what this reality is, your mind will lose its sense of what it thinks is real. Shadow magic will drive you insane if you do not focus. Only the most skilled can see and change so many potentialities at once.” Morane cast her eyes from the wizard, having received the lesson, back to the book. She closed them tight, and peered sidewise into the shadows. She saw the room and its infinite potentialities, overlapping over one another and creating a continuous blur of possibility. She could see how this might drive someone insane, and how seeing this constantly would drive you further insane. She narrowed her view, focusing first on herself, the chair, the table, and the book. Then she narrowed to the table and the book, see both of them as they were and as they could be. She looked at the book, willing herself to see only it. The table and its possibilities began to fade, but just as they did, a noise caught her attention. She pulled back, closing her mind’s eye and opening her two real eyes. Winvale was looking at a man sitting in a plush chair, and the two were talking. Morane’s mind was still busy with the transition back into the real world, and at first she could not make out their words. When she finally did, it made her stomach sick. “I saw…I saw everything. A bird flying into the window, or not. A chair collapsing, or not. A bookcase falling over, or a shelf breaking, or a book sliding on the shelf. It was amazing, and then…” He took the same noticeable pause Morane had, his mind finally processing the impossibility and yet reality of so many things existing simultaneously because of the shadow, the conflict. “It was like I was seeing for the first time, but then I was seeing too much.” Winvale went through the same talk he had with Morane, about how the man had accessed his hyperagonal sense but lost his sense of the tranpontine deformations that indicate reality. It was nearly word for word what he told Morane, and she realized she wasn’t so special anymore. A few other students were asking him questions, in a way they hadn’t asked her because Winvale had dismissed them the instant he sense she was successful at using her hyperagonal sense. She was furious now, silently seething at the students, the man, and Winvale. She deserved the same admiration, but it had been denied her. Winvale was actively undermining her, she thought, he didn’t want her to succeed or be lauded for doing so. Instead of praise, she got skepticism, because he hadn’t wanted her achievement known. Now she sat like a fool in the middle of the room, staring at a book that wouldn’t open. Worst of all, this man had achieved far less than she had. She could see the transpontine deformations, she could see the reality when she peered sidewise. He had barely done anything, and she knew it would take him twice as long to get from where he was now to where she was. Her mind was clouded with anger and envy and hate. And Winvale had the gall to look at her with a sneering smile. It seemed to happen in an instant. One moment she was in the tower, the next she was in the shadow tower. She was focused now, focused more than she’d ever been. She could see the book, closed, and see it open to every page imaginable. And she could also see the man, this new shadow mage. She kept her focus split between the book and the man. She strained, conscious of how much effort it was taking to focus on both, but then she found the potentiality she wanted. She substituted it, and then retreated into the real tower. What she saw there was a scene of blood and gore. The book was gone from the table, and it stuck out at an angle from the new shadow mage’s back, a third of the open book imbedded in his shoulder blade. He was slumped forward in the chair, blood pouring down his back. The other mages had backed away, cowering in fear and shock. Only Winvale remained as he had been, leaning on his staff so he could talk to the man had he still been alive. The old wizard leaned down further and wiped blood away from the corner of the page. It showed the page number, twenty. Morane was aghast, and like most everyone else, showered in droplets of blood. She’d never meant to hurt him that badly. She’d wanted the book to fly off the table and hit him, then fall the floor open to page twenty. Now he was dying, passed out from the pain or the shock. The other students stared at her in horror and fear. Gone was their derision and judgment. Morane sensed it, the fear they felt, and she pushed the incident away. Shadow magic was dangerous, and the man knew that when he volunteered. Accidents were bound to happen, after all, and sometimes accidents had horrible consequences. It was a tragedy, of course, that a prospective student, and a clearly skilled one, might die. But Morane knew that it was ultimately the same if a knight had been crushed by his horse, or blinded by a splintered lance. Winvale knew it too, and said as much. “Shadow magic is dangerous. We are finished for the day.” The rest of the students left, careful not to make eye contact with Morane. She contained her smile, the corner of her lip barely ticking upward. If she could not have their admiration or respect, she would have their fear. A fine substitute, and possibly a better one. She didn’t need friends, she needed to learn. And no more would she be distracted by scoffs and snide remarks. Winvale pulled the book from the man’s shoulder and went to work healing the wound. He worked his magic on the deeper wounds first, repairing the bone, muscles, and finally skin. By that time two healers had arrived, and they carried the man out. Winvale then sat across from her, altogether unperturbed by the incident. He wiped blood from one of his wrinkled cheeks, then a bushy eyebrow, and finally from his beard, just below the ring that kept it held together. “Your focus was too broad. Keep your eye on the object, concentrate your energy towards it. Are you ready to try again?” Morane took a deep breath and let the emotions wash away. The anger, the hate, the envy, the shock, the euphoria, all of it disappeared. She tucked a black curl behind her ear and said, “I am.” Winvale pulled another book from a shelf and it floated across the room and landed gently on the table. She watched the green hue around it faded and then looked back to Winvale. He said, “Flip the book to the pages I say. Focus on the book, listen to my voice, and feel the conflict within it. Let the substitutes flow from the possibilities.” Morane nodded once, this time keeping her eyes open and focusing her mind’s eye. She saw the book and only the book. Winvale’s voice echoed in her ears. 8. 76. 90. 132. 45. Every time she heard a new command, the book was opened to that page. Not turning or sorting through, just instantaneous. She could feel the shadow, the conflicts of the book, and the possibilities that created. She substituted those into the her world, and by the time she finished, she had made the book open to every single page. She wasn’t sure how Winvale kept track, but her curiosity at that quickly vanished. She had not only done her first real act of shadow magic, but she had done it ten times over. “Good,” Winvale said, his face placid. “Now rest. Tomorrow, you learn to teleport.” “Do you need help cleaning up?” she asked. He glanced at the ruined, as if he had forgotten it was there, and what had taken place in it. His eyes lingered for a moment before he said, “No.” Morane nodded and left. A small smile stretched across her face as soon as she did. She walked down the stairs to the rooms beneath Winvale’s, where the shadow mage students’ rooms were. There were a few rooms with beds and chests and little else. She went over to hers and grabbed a loose shirt and then went over to the wash bin. She looked down into the water and saw her faced covered in droplets of blood. It was disturbing, how happy she could be after what had happened. Yet she didn’t much care about the man, whose name she didn’t even know. It was the same way she’d never cared for her fellow students in Farrun, her comrades in the Wrothgarians, at Wayrest, and Evermor. The last time she’d cared for anyone, back when her best friend betrayed her. She didn’t have time for friends now, only herself. This was right where she wanted to be. She could learn shadow magic, grow in power and ability, and then have free rein to unleash those abilities on the Thalmor once the time came. Until then she would learn, needing only Winvale to accomplish that. She didn’t care about the other students, the King whose army she’d fight in, any of it. She wanted knowledge and power, and Winvale would give her both those things. Even though she had hated him earlier, she saw now what he’d done. The smile, the criticism, he knew how to push her. And it had worked. After washing her face, she felt too anxious to sleep. There was still light left, so the descended the tower and exited into the yard. The lesser shadow mages, though whose training would take longer and who spent more time training as nightblades and agents, were sparring down there. The bald battlemage who wore a constant frown led half, while the dour knight in his ebony armor led the other. The battlemage’s group worked with magic, the knight’s with weapons. She watched them, the two leaders mostly. They were sparring against their students, and both were clearly skilled. The knight had learned how and where to wear blows, making use of his high quality armor. Whenever he faced an opponent with a blunt weapon, he changed his tactics, parrying blows instead of wearing them, using his opponent’s slower swings and heavier weapon to keep them off balance while he deftly attacked. The battlemage was a punishing fighter, relentless in his attacks, seemingly never on the defensive. What made him difficult to fight, she noticed, was his cunning attacks. He left runes, used different elements in the same attack, and once used chain lighting on a bird flying overheard to totally surprise one of the students. Morane was impressed with both, but realized she wasn’t in the mood to practice her regular magic. It seemed like cheap tricks compared to shadow magic. She went back into the tower to grab some food. The bottom floor was had several tables, each with food splayed out on them. Several guards occupied one, while her fellow students, those that spent their days with Winvale, sat at another. Morane chose an unoccupied table and sat by herself. She cut off a few pieces of cheese and tore off some bread to eat with her beef and carrot stew. It was a plain meal, but she wasn’t all that picky about her food. She washed it down with some wine and then left to her bunk. She could feel the stares of the other students behind her as she left, but ignored them. She knew they were too scared of her now to do anything but stare. She climbed the stairs of the tower and went to her bed, where she stripped off her clothes and climbed in, falling into a dreamless, restful sleep. The next day she rose early, having gone to bed early as well. She dressed and splashed her face with water before heading down the stairs to the dining hall, where she grabbed some bread and spread jelly on the slices for her breakfast. She ate as she climbed back up the stairs, and knocked on Winvale’s door. He answered after a few moments, and clearly hadn’t been sleeping. Morane entered, and immediately noticed the chair the man from yesterday had been sitting in was gone. She thought about asking if the man was ok, but she dismissed it took a seat. The plush chair was between a strange looking alchemy table and a wooden writing desk. The alchemy table had the typical vials and bowls, but also a device that made a soft whirring sound, that looked like it was made of Dwarven metal. The writing desk, on the other hand, seemed relatively normal. It was only upon closer inspection she realized the legs of the table weren’t elegantly carved or crafted, but grown. They resembled straight tree branches, and what she thought was only darker wood was actually bark. Winvale saw her looking at it and said, “I took it off a Druid of Galen. He infused it with a natural power that makes scrolls written on it more potent. Among other things.” She could tell by his tone the hedge mage hadn’t given it up willingly. She wasn’t particularly interested in it, so she asked, “How do I learn to teleport?” Winvale waved his hand and moved a comfortable chair beneath him as he sat down. He left his straight wooden staff standing. Morane wondered what the black orb wrapped in wooden tendrils at the top of the staff was, but she could spend a day asking the wizard about his various magical instruments and devices and not get through them all. “First, read this,” Winvale said, and brought over a small book from one of the shelves. She caught the book and looked over the letters on the leather cover. It read Stepping through Shadows and was written by the Glimmering Foxbat. Morane chuckled, and Winvale asked, “What’s so funny?” “The author,” she said, looking up to find him not amused. “Well, whoever they are, they have a flair for the dramatic.” “Read,” he commanded, and Morane flipped through to the first chapter. There is no magic in the nightblade's repertoire more useful than the spell of instant translocation. Over time, its casting becomes almost a matter of reflex: one is HERE, and then, by an act of will, one is THERE. In fact, to the experienced practitioner, translocation becomes so routine that one almost forgets how difficult it was at first to learn. It is traditional to refer to this magical art as "stepping through shadows," and indeed, the key to its mastery is the ability to "peer sidewise" and perceive the shadows cast by each entity and object in the Aurbis. These are not, of course, the literal shadows cast by the blockage of light by an opaque object, but the emanation of the limen each object possesses—the depth-impression its existence makes in the local reality of the Mundus This requires learning to focus the hyperagonal sense through which the practitioner perceives the flow of magicka. Once the nightblade can "feel" local transpontine deformation, it becomes almost trivial to make the transliminal saltation to any point within range. Morane was till early enough in her learning that she was unreasonably happy every time she read and understood something new. This was no different. She had already achieved the peering sidewise and the perception of the shadows objects and entities cast. She could even feel the deformations, letting her know what was real and not the conflict cause potentialities. All she needed was to learn the final step, the transliminal saltation. She didn’t see the difficulty, but she had already learned most of the steps. “Is that all I need to know?” she asked, tossing the book aside. “Is that all?” Winvale asked, mocking her in his annoyance. “If that is all, then you must be ready to teleport.” Morane glared at him, but she had confidence in herself. She took a deep breath, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and looked at the world through her mind’s eye, seeing the shadows. Once there, though, she became quite unsure of how to proceed. She thought about accessing the potentialities of the rug, and substituting herself there, but she worried that method could end with her impaled by the rug, or with half her body stuck in the tower floor. The other option was to try and access her own potentialities, and substitute in the desired location. But that caused even more trepidation, as she didn’t know how to access her own conflict-shadow. So she returned to her real sight, with Winvale looking at her quite smugly. “This book was written centuries before Azra Nightwielder established what we now know as shadow magic. The shadow magic described in this book is a precursor, and its method of teleportation is primitive. It only allows you to teleport within, say, the city of Camlorn. Real teleportation, through real shadow magic, is much more powerful, and difficult. You need not even bother learning how to do this simpler method, though if you wish to know, you simply substitute yourself atop the floor where it is you want to go,” Winvale said. He then demonstrated, by instantly appearing across the room. There was not a second between his sitting in the chair and his standing across the room. He then teleported back into the chair. “In the time that book was written, they found it much more difficult, because it wasn’t until Azra came along that mages realized the process of the magic. That realization makes this older form much easier to grasp today, once the nature of shadow itself is grasped. Now try again.” Morane looked through the world with her mind’s eye, seeing the spot Winvale had teleported to. She focused on the spot, and in an instant she was standing there. She turned around to face Winvale, a grin on her face. Then she teleported back, just as smoothly as before. “As I said, simple and primitive,” Winvale said, though his voice didn’t quite have the edge his words might suggest. Morane thought she saw his lip twitch, in what might’ve been a smile, but with his beard covering his mouth, it was difficult to tell. “What’s real teleportation, then?” Morane asked. “It requires finding the potentialities within yourself, the key to deeper and more powerful shadow magics. To teleport, you must find the location written on your own shadow and substitute in the new location. A more dangerous process, one that has been known to cause some mages to disappear forever, transporting themselves to another potentiality and never returning.” “How do I find my own shadow?” “Within the world of the potentialities, you must retreat from your own deformation. Not a simple task. Azra’s shadow metaphor is again particularly apt. When we cast a shadow, we are cognizant of both ourselves, it, and the light that allows it to exist. In other terms, we must be aware of ourselves, those things which conflict with us, and the shadow created by said conflict. As always focus on the object, your own conflict-shadow.” Winvale closed his eyes as he continued to talk. “See with your mind, find the potentialities, place what you desire, and then will it to be.” He was gone again. Morane felt something in the air. Whereas before Winvale seemed to have moved across the room to quickly to notice, this time it seemed as though he was truly gone, like there was a void in the room, and it was not quite whole. She was worried, wondering if something had gone wrong. Then he reappeared, right back in his chair. In his hand he held a large mushroom, about the size of fist. It was a light brown, almost a tan, and splotchy. Winvale used his magic to move it over to a pot filled with soil, where he planted it. “What is that?” Morane asked. “A Telvanni mushroom. An acquaintance of mine allowed me a cutting from his tower.” “You went to Morrowind?” “Solsthiem. He hasn’t quite finished moving back to the mainland. But the distance you can teleport is limited only by your skill. So. Across the room, again.” Winvale waved his to the spot, and then set his green eyes on her and waited. Morane hesitated. After the failure yesterday with the book, and earlier with the easy teleportation, she didn’t think it was worth trying. But she remembered who she was and why she was doing this. She didn’t fail when she set her mind to something, and she would become a shadow mage. She cleared her mind of those worries, but recalled how she felt when she first saw the potentialities. The satisfaction and confidence. She channeled that, taking those feelings with her as she looked at the world-in-shadow, and then turned her gaze inward. To her own shadow. There she saw her many different selves, but she ignored them, moving down to the real her, the one sitting in the chair in the tower. That was it, her sitting in the tower. She found that and pulled from it both sitting and chair. She wanted to stand, and be across the room. She reached back and pulled forward the same spot she teleported to earlier and laid it within herself. She checked her magic, trying to see that she would not remove herself from this world. But it was straining, staying within the shadow world so long, and she had only moments left. She cast the spell, let the potentialities become realities, and came back into the real world to find herself across the room, and a real shadow mage at last.
  49. 4 points
    A betrayed tribesman rightful leader who goes to civilized lands to learn and gain weapons to take back his birthright, and who is later sidetracked by the movie industry and becomes an actor. One day perhaps his acting skills shall come in handy. Thats my first idea. A brutish tribesman turned charismatic movie star revolutionist.
  50. 4 points
    I was on YouTube for a completely different reason just now and stumbled on this by accident. Good shit. And don't worry about your voice, bud. We know you're a little bitch regardless of what you sound like.