PoTM: Chapter 18, Gsuron na d'lain, d'nuh na tatain

  • The Art of War Magic, v. II.

    by Zurin Arctus

    with Commentary By Other Learned Masters

     

    Master Arctus said:

     

    1. Flexibility is a key to victory. If you cannot make sudden changes, your best laid plans may fail entirely. Be confident that the enemy conversely plans against you, as you plan against him.

     

    Their plans will conflict with your plans, and plans that cannot be changed are plans that will not bear fruit.

     

    Thulliden Dir'Tharkun: An example here is a very simple one. Say that a group of thieves decide to break into a manor. They plan that one of them will go inside, while the two others will stay and watch from outside. If the one on the inside awaits an arranged signal to come out with the loot when it is clear, what will he do if no signal ever comes?

     

    Marandro Sul: What if the Battlemage came prepared to fight only Dunmer with frost magic? While it may prove highly effective amongst the intended targets, what happens if a Nord joins the fight?

     

    2. A snake without a head may still bite by growing another. However, be cautious against this new head for a while it may be weaker, its venom may be all the more toxic.

     

    Marandro Sul: Master Arctus speaks of the removal of an army's leader. Even with the leader separated from his force, a new leader may prove to be stronger and more effective. Even with this stronger venom, the new leader is likely to be less effective, as the lack of the original leader may bring dissention and fear amongst the common soldiers.

     

    3. You do not need to destroy your enemies. Simply break their will to fight.

     

    Estirdar the Scholar: There is no need to break the body of an enemy who can be forced to yield. Certain creatures will never yield, but other Battlemages will. If you spare their life they may spare yours one day. They will have something to teach you, and you have something to teach them about mercy.

     

    4. Knowledge is vital. Know your enemy and your battlefield. The greatest Battlemages also know themselves. They know their strengths and their weaknesses, and this allows them to properly adapt to their opponent. A Battlemage that does not know their own capabilities is no more dangerous than a thorn bush - they can cause pain, but will not cause any significant damage.

     

    5. Do not focus on any one thing, as it may cost you. While this is similar to flexibility, it is imperitive that one spell or tactic should not be overused. If all that a mage uses is frost spells, what will he do when an opponent erects a frost shield? The answer is simple, he will have to cast a different spell if he has any hopes to win the battle. This makes him vulnerable, as he has to switch elements and will not be able to prepare a counterspell, or a defensive move.

     

    21st of Evening Star, 4E 203

     

    Day turned into night and then into morning and was still no sight of Varona, which made Talvas worry. The things they said yesterday - the things he said - were painful for both of them, but it was Varona who ran out. Perhaps to clear her head, but she would have been back before nightfall. For a second, he thought she headed to Raven Rock, either to restock Tel Mithryn's supplies or… to just run away, away from him and Solstheim.

     

    But that was nonsense. She wouldn't do that, she wouldn't become an outcast for this. Besides, all her things were still in her house.

     

    She might have gotten lost, Talvas reasoned, and at first light, he headed out of Tel Mithryn. He didn't want to chase after her, worried about how would she take it - he didn't want to confuse her. An action like this, searching for her, could make her think that he still felt for her and it would only make the hurt deeper. Maybe he could convince her that he only wanted to apologize? But he was worried about her, he couldn't help himself.

     

    He thought about bringing Grulmar along with him, but then rejected the idea. The Orc was busy with his studies and frankly, Talvas felt more like being alone. Maybe Grulmar could lift his spirits, but honestly, he didn't want that. He wanted to feel depressed, he wanted to feel hurt. He deserved it.

     

    Talvas reached out, pulling at the strings of magicka and a trail of light purple quivering light began blazing in front of him, leading towards the Sun Stone. He was tracking the ring he gave to Varona, the unique properties of magicka inside the metal, using the Mysticism schools’ seering capabilities. Everything in this world had a pattern, at least for a short period of time, leaving a certain residue behind, an imprint, and he perfectly understood the pattern of magicka inside the ring - he enchanted the ring, after all.

     

    Very soon he neared the Sun Stone, the purple light leading towards it and then behind it. He frowned and followed the trail until it stopped as a small spot of purple flames under his feet. His hand began to glow. Suddenly, the ring flew out of the ash, landing in his palm and he rolled it between his fingers.

     

    She threw it away. There is anger lingering over the metal. He looked around, thinking where she could have gone. He was becoming quite worried now, knowing that something bad had to have happened. He just didn't want to accept it, not yet. He wasn't sure if he could cope with that, that it was his fault, that he chased her out and then something happened to her. He shook his head. Not yet. Don't think about it. Not yet.

     

    What else he could follow? Try to remember what she was wearing when she left. There was that necklace she never took off, her family's insignia. And because she was a Telvanni, it was enchanted. He remembered it, the flavour of a resist fire enchantment on it.

     

    He waved his hand in the air, testing the strings of magicka, watching them waver and shake, until all of them stopped, but one. A purple light again began glowing in the air, leading him towards the hill. The same hill where she had been attacked by Ash Spawn before. Talvas clenched his jaws.

     

    He began following the light, his eyes on the ground because there were still remnants of footprints half-blown by the wind. But they were still there, leading up to the dead forest on the hill. Talvas followed with a grim expression on his face.

     

    Then suddenly the tracks turned around and went backwards, even though the light continued pointing northeast. He frowned and studied the ground and noticed additional tracks. Heavier than Varona's. It was difficult to recognize all the tracks because the place was literally full of them. But from the tracks, he could see that she walked northeast, then turned back to Tel Mithryn, with two pairs of tracks following her. Then she hit the ground and her tracks disappeared, replaced by the two pairs that pursued her.

     

    She's not dead, he thought. The body would be there, or somewhere close. No indication of blood anywhere. They must have taken her alive. They? Most likely Reavers. He looked to the northeast and bared his teeth in that direction. Ashfallow Citadel. Reavers.

     

    Talvas felt something stirring inside him, deep in his guts. Like a shard of ice, sharp, cutting and slicing through his insides. Numbing cold spreading under his heart, enveloping his stomach. “Varona,” he whispered as he began picking his path towards the fort.

     

    Is she alive? he wondered. And what if she is not? What are you going to do, Talvas? Call for help? Beg for mercy? He shook his head, feeling the numbness spreading through his body. The cruelty born of anger, so common among his people. Focused, determined. You will do what you have to do.

     

    Gsuron na d'lain, d'nuh na tatain.

     

    He was nearing the fort, the ruined tower sticking out of the ashen land like a beacon, guiding him towards it. And with every step closer, he felt the anger rising. The need...it was there. Ever-present. Growing. The need to inflict pain.

     

    Ashfallow Citadel was an Imperial fort, built shortly before the Oblivion Crisis to protect the road to the north towards the Skaal village. Since Red Year, it went through many owners, the last ones being Morag Tong. Talvas had heard they tried to participate in some coup at Raven Rock - which didn't work out for them. He had a strong feeling those Morag Tong were more of a rogue faction rather than the officially sanctioned arm of Mephala's assassins. But does it matter now? Hardly.

     

    What mattered was that the fort was now inhabited by gang of Reavers. Low and petty raiders, killing wanderers, looting anything valuable from corpses. They were vermin, vultures. And if they have done anything to Varona...they stepped over the line.

     

    They spotted him, those stationed along the fort's walls, and one of the Reavers was leaning against the wall next to the gate. The Reaver, a tall Dunmer, saw him, pushing himself from the wall. He opened his mouth to say something to Talvas, a smirk on his face, and it stayed that way even when the ice spear pushed itself through the Reavers chest, lifting him from the ground and smacking him against the fort's wall. Ice shattered and bones cracked, while blood dripped from the now dead Reaver's mouth.

     

    Gsuron na d'lain, d'nuh na tatain.

     

    He may have heard the Reavers shout something, but it was a distant sound, dampened by that cold feeling in the pit of his stomach. Almost as if he was under water, drowning. He plunged his hands into the waters of Oblivion, searching,  and when he pulled his hands out, he pulled two Frost Atronachs with him. Towering glaciers in the shape of humanoids, with subtle carvings creating their faces. They looked at him, awaiting commands, and he didn't hesitate. “Kill. Kill them all,” he snarled, using the sigil, and they obeyed.

     

    As the Atronachs pushed their way through the gate on to the courtyard, Talvas reached into Oblivion again, but this time he reached out for something more material, more personal. When he pulled it out, he felt the additional weight around his body as a bound armor materialized, burning with purple fires of Oblivion.

     

    Something hit his shoulder, spinning him around, and he saw an arrow ricocheting off his armor out of the corner of his eye. The Reaver who took the shot was up on the fort's wall, covered in leather armor, and he was already nocking another arrow. Talvas waved with his hand and a spear of ice pierced the Reaver’s shoulder, spinning him around while he screamed in pain.  He saw the spear turn red with the Reaver’s blood.

     

    Another arrow flew past Talvas' head and he snapped in the direction of another archer. “Enough,” he murmured.

     

    Gsuron na d'lain, d'nuh na tatain.

     

    One of the Atronachs kept the Reavers away from him while the other was climbing up the wall, trying to reach the archers. The Reavers shouted, evading the Atronachs, trying to get to him, because he was the real danger here. And they were right.

     

    He raised both his hands, drawing on the magicka and suddenly a cold wind rushed around him, spinning and expanding. He kept pushing, making it blow faster, freezing the water in the air, creating tiny shards carried by the wind, shards that cut and sliced. With every twitch of his fingers, the blizzard grew stronger, the wind expanding around him.

     

    One Atronach crushed a Reaver under its massive arm-

     

    Shards carried by the wind ripped off another Reaver's face-

     

    An arrow whistled through the air, only to be swept away by the wind-

     

    A Reaver dropped to the ground, his hands frozen solid, soon followed by his whole body-

     

    Another Reaver flew through the air as the Atronach on the wall kicked him in the chest-

     

    And Talvas was still forcing every drop of magicka into the blizzard.

     

    More arrows whistled from the top of the Tower and Talvas looked up. He gathered the magicka and released an ice storm from his hands. The storm ripped off the top of the tower, taking the Reavers along with it, screaming as they fell to their deaths.  

     

    The door to the fort opened and another Reaver appeared, shielding his eyes against the wind. He disappeared in the darkness inside the fort when ice spear pierced through his chest. The door then loudly closed and Talvas could imagine how they were trying to barricade them. As if it really mattered.  

     

    The last of the Reavers outside were being taken care of by the Atronachs and so Talvas set his sights on the door. With a flick of his fingers, he dismissed the Atronachs and the blizzard slowly died out. He pulled on the strings of the magicka and saw the purple light showing a way inside the fort.

     

    He walked towards the door, his palms nearly touching, magicka gathering between them and then he released it in the form of fireball. It exploded on the door, splinters showering Talvas and harmlessly bouncing off of his bound armor. The smell of smoke and burned flesh filled his nostrils and he took that all in, almost reveling in it.

     

    Gsuron na d'lain, d'nuh na tatain.

     

    He reached into the true darkness that was Oblivion, this time conjuring two Dremoras in full Daedric armor. They threw him a disgusted look, full of anger and hate, and he understood them very well. He felt the same. Anger. Hate. That's how he felt about himself.

     

    “Search the place room by room,” he ordered coldly. “Kill everyone, except a Dunmer woman.” He projected an image of Varona through the summoning link and the Dremoras exchanged looks. “Kill everyone and find her.”

     

    And because they couldn't disobey him - even though they were trying to find a weakness in the summoning sigil - they barged into the fort. And the screams followed.

     

    He was enjoying his lunch when Neriila showed up, with that telltale frown on her face and forced him to go out, saying that there was “something he needed to see”. He grumbled, hating it when someone interrupted his meal, but it did seem important. So he shuffled up the stairs of the basement up to the remains of the shack and his eyes followed Neriila’s pointed hand to the northeast.

     

    At first, he didn't see anything but then, in the distance, he noticed an anomaly. It looked like a hurricane was shrouding the entire fort and then suddenly an enormous gust of wind ripped off the top of the fort's tower. His eyes certainly weren't what they used to be, but he could plainly see the fort being torn apart.

     

    “That'sh Ashfallow Shitadel?” he asked and Neriila nodded. He frowned and felt a sick feeling in his stomach, making his knees shake.

     

    “Do you still think your plan will work?” the girl asked.

     

    Venhen Ules just clenched his jaws.

    He stepped over the body of dead Nord who has been cut in half, his organs spilling on the ground out. An awful stench permeated the air, the stench of blood with its distinct iron flavour in it, but Talvas didn't pay any heed to that. He was just following the trail of the blood left behind by the two raging Dremora Kynvals.  If he was able to think rationally, he would have been terrified by the carnage they left behind, but as he passed the blood-sprayed walls and the mutilated bodies on the floor, he almost felt like it wasn’t really him seeing these things.

     

    It was like something else took over his body in that moment and he was just a passenger, watching everything from a distance, like through the water's surface. It was a barrier that separated common sense from visual information in an attempt to preserve its own sanity, because the mind could only take so much before it breaks. So it was better to put a distance between what one saw and what one wanted to see. Talvas learned that a long time ago…

     

    He heard screams somewhere ahead and then a Reaver ran out of the door, terror written all over his face. He saw Talvas in his bound armor and he most likely mistook him for another Dremora. He yelled in horror, which was quickly cut short when Talvas carelessly waved with his hand, sending a barrage of ice spikes through the raider's torso. The body dropped to the ground and Talvas stepped over it, not even bothering to give it a second glance.

     

    He followed the light into the next room, while the Dremoras hunted the stragglers in the halls, and that's where he found her.

     

    Pale skin with bruises. Beaten. Naked.

     

    Blood pouring from thin cuts on her body.

     

    Blood and other things covering the inner sides of her thighs.

     

    Her hair oily and unkempt, with big chunks of it ripped out.

     

    Her eyes, cold, staring back at him.

     

    Her throat slit.

     

    Dead.

    All of Tel Mithryn's residents were out when the show started, the strange storm ripping the fort on the hill apart. They were all watching and they were still watching when everything suddenly went quiet. Too quiet. Even Mahti was uncharacteristically silent and that made Grulmar's skin crawl.

     

    They were all there, all except Neloth. Elynea, Ulves, Sarvani, Mahti and him, watching the fort. Surrounded by a silence that hung in the air like a penetrating mist. Grulmar could feel this strange weight on his chest, preventing him from breathing. Every inhale and exhale came slow, with sigh of relief that he was actually still capable of taking air into his lungs.

     

    They all felt it. Something happened. Neither Talvas or Varona were in Tel Mithryn. What happened at the fort could have been anything. Reavers, ash spawn, or other whatnots. Tusk it all if it was a dragon, but Grulmar knew that was a possibility. But they were all thinking the same thing. Something happened, to Talvas and Varona.

     

    And Grulmar wasn't sure how to feel about it. He didn't really feel connected to any of Tel Mithryn's denizens, especially not to that smirking steward. She was a real bitch sometimes, never letting him forget that he was just an n'wah, a foreigner. An Orc.

     

    But Talvas? He was the only one Grulmar actually cared a little bit about. The Dunmer could crack a joke, could likewise take one, and he also helped Grulmar with magic. He didn't treat him like an Orc, he treated him as an equal.

     

    All their eyes moved from the fort when a figure slowly approached Tel Mithryn. The steps were heavy. The figure was carrying something.

     

    Someone.

     

    Grulmar frowned when he recognized that it was Talvas. Carrying the unmoving body of Varona.

     

    Tusk this tuskin' world…

    And so we come to the part where the Dream shatters into several Shards, each crystallizing in its own unique flavour and the Dreamer found himself lost among them, not sure which thread to follow, because all of them felt important at that moment. But how could He choose one? But more importantly, did He have to?

     

    And so he followed them all, because time didn't matter to him. It didn't matter if everything was happening at once, in sequence or backwards. It just happened. That's all that mattered.

     

    And so He focused on the one who prepared the pyre for the dead, who lit the torch and set the pyre ablaze.  A former bandit who had so many tales to tell, the author of book Light Armor Forging who left his skill of forging armor to rust, instead choosing to spend the rest of his days enjoying his stories and caring for an  old Silt Strider. And what was this Revus Sarvani thinking about when the air was filled with smoke and the smell of burning flesh? His thoughts were with his daughter, lost so long ago, slayed by one of the Argonian raiding parties. Revenge for the enslavement of their race. Did she deserve it? She was a sweet and innocent thing, but she was raised to believe that Argonians were nothing but beasts, slaves, just as Revus had been before her. Maybe it was their punishment for believing in that.

     

    He was angry at the scalebacks for a long time, wishing they all ended up dead for the atrocities they committed. But eventually he understood that it wasn’t really their fault. It was fault of the Dunmer. They enslaved them, they made them hate their masters. And so his daughter paid the price for the sins of their ancestors. And now Varona… his chest hurt and he felt the tears on his cheeks. So similar to his daughter…

     

    And with that, the Dreamer left the old bandit and focused on the old cook, Ulves Romoran, who was forcing himself not to shield his eyes from the smoke blowing his way. For to do so would bring shame upon the dead and disturb their rest. And he didn't want Varona to haunt him because he was little wussy and couldn't stand a little bit of smoke in his eyes. Yes, he truly believed that. His mother told him plenty of stories like that and he still remembered them all. Which was quite strange, because he was cooking for the great Telvanni Mage-lord for many years and lot of very strange things happened around that one and yet, Ulves never prayed to Reclamations to cast away the evil and protect his soul. Telvanni knew what they were doing and what they were doing honored the ancestors, which is what he believed in. He was happy at Tel Mithryn. And he didn't want Varona to haunt him, so he clenched his jaws, the tears brought by the smoke rolling down his face.

     

    So came the next thread, in the form of Tel Mithryn's alchemist, Elynea Mothren. She was maintaining this unreadeable face, but right under the surface, she was angry. She mourned Varona, yes, because she was her friend, but all that was drowned by the red mist that was her anger. And why was she angry? The right question would be at who. She was angry at Neloth. He didn't even bother to show up, but she believed was all his fault. He couldn't even be bothered to give Varona some protection or something. And she was sure that he would mourn Varona’s loss. For all of two seconds. Then he will  just forget she's dead, and will start asking about her whereabouts. Elynea knew that Tel Mithryn was where she was meant to be, the mushrooms were her life,  her research, but that old fetcher… He wanted to throw her out like yesterday's breakfast, if she one day couldn’t fix his tower. Just like that. it was all his fault. Everything was his fault.

     

    Another was the little blue creature, called Mahti by Tel Mihtryn's denizens even though he was originally given a completely different name. His big yellow eyes were nearly popping out of their sockets as he watched the funeral with horror.

     

    Why horror you ask? Well, first you need to understand that Rieklings don't burn their dead, they just give them back to the ice or sometimes back to the earth. And secondly, Mahti was a Riekling and so his comprehension of the grey skinned devils' rituals were almost nonexistent. So why horror? Mahti believed they were cooking Vrrrrooona to eat her, in some very savage ritual. Which was why he could not stop tugging at Godspeak's robes, trying to get his attention, because Godspeak was surely able to stop all their madness, maybe even bring pretty Vrrrrroooona back to life. Mahti thought that would be nice, because she was also nice, to him. She gave him snacks and pats on his head, which he liked a lot.. So he begged Godspeak with his big yellow eyes to stop the madness.

     

    And speaking of the Orc, he had noticed Mahti tugging at his robes and he looked at him with a frown, not understanding in the slightest what the Riekling wanted. Maybe he was angry or wanted to pee. One never could be sure with the little shrimp. Of all the people at the funeral, it was the Orc who felt out of place, because he didn't really care about Varona. His mind was actually sarcastically thinking about how this funeral would ruin the Old Life celebration. Varona was always such a party crasher and that's probably how he would always remember her. But under that sarcastic thinking, a small part of him worried about his friend Talvas. Friend? Yes, friend. He probably wasn't even aware of the fact they had become friends, because his mind set on that matter was very different from most people. But yes, they were friends and he worried about Talvas. He would never say it aloud, though. No, it wouldn’t be him otherwise.  

     

    Before the threads spun towards Talvas himself, it was worth mentioning a certain Telvanni Mage-lord looking out of his tower's window, wondering what the imbeciles were doing this time - it looked almost as if they were grilling something, and he realized he was actually getting quite hungry. Maybe he could conjure some delicacy from the Shivering Isles for himself? Yes, maybe. That sounded like a splendid idea.

     

    And so the time has come to focus on Talvas. And as soon as that happened, there was a stinging bite of cold leaking into the air around him. One could only wonder if that was because of the spells he cast in Ashfallow Citadel or because of what he experienced there. He was looking at the pyre, at the burning flames dancing over Varona's body, and he still felt cold. Distant. He knew it was really happening and that it was all his fault, but he didn't dare to open the door, to let the warmth in. Because if he did that, he would break. And so he barred the door and kept the cold inside, protecting himself, protecting others, because he wasn't ready to make himself suffer. There would come a time when he would be, but not at that moment. He needed time.

     

    And with that, the Dreamer left, a phrase haunting him as he focused on something else, somewhere else. On fire, death, madness, and the return of old memories.

     

    What phrase? You know it very well.

     

    Gsuron na d'lain, d'nuh na tatain.

     

    Comfort is given, justice is taken.

     

Comments

8 Comments   |   KaiserSoSay and 6 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  June 29
    Comfort is given, justice is taken. I like that, quite thought-provoking. My interpretation is that comfort is a gift, freely given. It is altruistic and a sincere expression of love. Nothing is lost, only added to. But justice is taken, for always it co...  more
  • A Shadow Under the Moons
    A Shadow Under the Moons   ·  June 20
    Talvas going on a bloody rampage made me very satisfied. Now all that's left is for him to murder his own grandfather!
  • KaiserSoSay
    KaiserSoSay   ·  June 20
    BTW, can you explain to me the last section of the chapter. I'm not that well versed about the Dreamer.
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      BTW, can you explain to me the last section of the chapter. I'm not that well versed about the Dreamer.
        ·  June 20
      I see. Well, it's not that difficult. I don't write in omnipotent, probably don't even know how, but I still needed to cover everyone's thoughts. So I just switched to the PoV of the Dreamer. If the world is a dream then there is someone who is dreaming i...  more
      • A Shadow Under the Moons
        A Shadow Under the Moons
        The Lorc of Flowers
        The Lorc of Flowers
        The Lorc of Flowers
        I see. Well, it's not that difficult. I don't write in omnipotent, probably don't even know how, but I still needed to cover everyone's thoughts. So I just switched to the PoV of the Dreamer. If the world is a dream then there is someone who is dreaming i...  more
          ·  June 20
        The Godhead seems... surprisingly lucid. Isn't he/she/it supposed to be schizophrenic? Maybe this is the collective subconsciousness talking?
        • The Lorc of Flowers
          The Lorc of Flowers
          A Shadow Under the Moons
          A Shadow Under the Moons
          A Shadow Under the Moons
          The Godhead seems... surprisingly lucid. Isn't he/she/it supposed to be schizophrenic? Maybe this is the collective subconsciousness talking?
            ·  June 20
          Or one of the personalities talking about all the other personalities. ;)
  • KaiserSoSay
    KaiserSoSay   ·  June 20
    Note to self: Don't fuck with a Telvanni, even if they're an apprentice.
    I like the Dunmeri proverb, Karves. Where did you find that?
    Also conjuring food from Oblivion? Neloth is a genius! :D
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      Note to self: Don't fuck with a Telvanni, even if they're an apprentice.
      I like the Dunmeri proverb, Karves. Where did you find that?
      Also conjuring food from Oblivion? Neloth is a genius! :D
        ·  June 20
      Talvas kicks some serious ass here, yeah. As for the proverb. I ran into it on TIL, in a section of Hrafnir's Languages post. It was there just as an example but I immediately knew what to do with it. All the Dunmeri words I use here come from that post.&...  more