PoTM: Chapter 19, By Night We Reclaim

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    [This is a volume of verse collected from the wise women of the Urshilaku Ashlanders. It consists of verses composed by Ashlander warriors, champions, and ashkhans, committed to memory by the wise women and transmitted down the generations. 'May I shrink to dust' is attributed to the long-dead poet and warrior Zershishi Mus-Manul.]

     

    Rise from darkness, Red Mountain!

    Spread your dark clouds and green vapors!

    Birth earthquakes, shatter stones!

    Feed the winds with fire!

    Flay the tents of the tribes from the land!

    Feed the burned earth with our souls!

     

    Yet never shall you have your rule over me.

    Never shall I tremble or flinch from your power.

    Never shall I yield my home and hearth.

    And from my tears shall spring forth

    The flowers of grassland springs.

     

    3rd of Morning Star, 4E 204

     

    The night was calm, the subtle sounds of sleeping children in the orphanage, gave the night an almost serene atmosphere. If they weren't being drowned out by the loud snoring of the Hag. Grulmar grimaced at that thought and slowly walked over the wooden floor, weighing his every step before he set his feet upon the wood. One creak and the Kindness herself would wake up. And they didn't want that.

     

    The little Orc looked behind him, barely distinguishing the small silhouette of Aventus Aretino. The Nord kid with an Imperial name was crouching right next to the door leading to the yard behind the orphanage and even in the darkness, Grulmar could see the boy shaking. He was scared, just as Grulmar was, but Aventus, at least, had the necessary determination to go through with their plan while the other kids didn't.

     

    “What are we looking at this time?” Oghma asked next to Grulmar and the runt looked up, straight into the eye on her chest and frowned.

     

    “The last time I played a hero,” he whispered towards her, putting a finger on his lips. “So watch and be quiet.” He then began sneaking towards the door ahead, between the children's beds. The door could have been a gate to Oblivion for all he knew, especially with the snoring sounds coming from there. Grelod's bedroom was off-limits. Period. No one was brave enough to really push that boundary either.

     

    Yet Grulmar was about to do it right now. He was no longer the same Orc that came to Riften. One year later in Honorhall Orphanage had taught him everything he needed to know about people and the world. And what was that? Everything's worth shit. Yes, he learned to curse during the year in Riften too. But only in secret, because her Kindness hated cursing - unless it was she who was cursing. Why could she and they couldn’t? It wasn't fair.

     

    But that was what he was slowly learning. Nothing was fair.

     

    It wasn't fair that Grulmar ended up in Riften. And it wasn't fair Aventus became an orphan. It wasn't fair they both ended up in the same orphanage where freedom was word whispered in secret so that Grelod couldn't hear them.

     

    Nothing was fair.  Grulmar and Aventus, however, were ready to do something about it.

     

    The Orc took the knob and listened to Grelod's snoring. He counted and waited and when he knew another snore was coming he slowly pushed the knob down, opening the door. Just another sound drowned out by that demonic snoring. He opened the door only enough for him to squeeze through.  

     

    He was in Oblivion itself.

     

    Though it didn't look like it at all and Grulmar found himself quite disappointed by the fact that Grelod's bedroom was totally ordinary. No blood painted over the walls, no stirring pot for cooking any misbehaving children, no demonic flames. But was that really not surprising considering he knew what a real Plane of Oblivion looked like? Down in the basement…

     

    He shook his head and narrowed his eyes into the darkness. Something stirred in the bed and he could only suspect it was Grelod. He remained motionless until the stirring stopped and he could only guess it was Grelod just rolling over in her bed. So Grulmar started searching the room, moving slowly and listening to Grelod's sounds. He was looking for her chain ring with its keys and he knew she never had it too far away from her hand. It was mostly ringing on her belt all day and all the children feared that sound. He doubted she was wearing it at her waist now.

     

    Grelod suddenly moved and Grulmar's eyes went wide when she raised to her elbows - at least he thought that's what she did. He quickly slid under the bed and forced himself to breath calmly. He felt his heart racing, already imagining what would happen if she found him in her room.

     

    Oghma was already under the bed with him, wrapped in her cloak and the eye now rested next to her head, looking at Grulmar with its unnerving and never-blinking gaze. “Don't you know everyone looks under the bed first?” she asked and he could almost feel her smirk.

     

    “Shush,” he hissed, unmoving. “I was just a kid back then. Locked in an orphanage. How would I know that?”

     

    “Point taken. So what happens now?” Oghma said with amusement in her voice.

     

    Grulmar grinned. “Oh, you are going to like it.”

     

    He could see wiry legs hovering over the bed, the telltale sparse grey hair of oldness covering them, and he put his hand over his mouth to silence his breathing. Suddenly a gnarled hand appeared and began groping in the darkness under the bed. “Where the fuck are you?” Grelod growled and Grulmar's heart almost jumped through his chest.

     

    Then he heard the sound of metal scraping against wood.  He slowly recognized that it was a chamber pot Grelod was dragging over the floor and he almost released a sigh. Almost.

     

    A pair of old, fungus-toed feet touched the floor and in the feeble light, Grulmar could see a shape of an ugly, pale bony butt with hanging skin in front of his face. And then a clear, yellow liquid hit the metal and Grulmar almost gagged when the smell of it hit his Orc’s nose.

     

    “Lovely,” Oghma murmured in delight. “It makes me wonder what moral lesson is hiding in this.”

     

    When Grelod finished, she laid back in her bed and the Orc under it still didn't move. He didn't know for how long, but he laid motionless, with a hand over his mouth, until he heard the demonic snoring again. It was only  then that he finally allowed himself a sigh and took a deep breath. He began clawing from under the bed and when he was out he continued his search.

     

    The keys were on Grelod's nightable and he shook his head, cursing himself for not looking there in the first place. He very slowly took the key-ring, making sure the keys didn't make any sound and slowly began sneaking out of the bedroom. He closed the door behind him and then headed towards Aventus.

     

    “I wish I locked her in that bedroom and tossed the keys into the canal,” he murmured towards Oghma before turning to Aventus.

     

    “Where were you?” the boy whispered, his eyes wide. “It seemed like eternity you were there. I was worried she ate you.”

     

    Grulmar just grimaced. “Don't believe all the stories other kids tell.”

     

    “It's true,” Aventus solemnly nodded. “I heard that Bjorn was once there and never came out. And the day after that, one of the kids found a finger. His finger.”

     

    The Orc only shook his head and began trying each key. He was realising he was making a lot of noise, but they were so close. Nearly outside.

     

    “Hurry. Please,” Aventus begged, nervously shifting. It was only making Grulmar’s trembling worse. So close.

     

    Both jumped when a key clicked in the lock and the door opened with a terrible creak that the boys ignored. Grulmar grinned at Aventus, but then the door to Grelod's bedroom opened. And so the hag stood there, with a candle in her hand, the light illuminating her face with an orange haze, throwing fearsome shadows all over her. Both Grulmar and Aventus released  muffled screams.

     

    “What do you think you are doing?!” she threatened and other kids began waking up. The smell of fear spread throughout the hall.

     

    “Out!” Grulmar barked and both he and Aventus ran outside, into the yard. Grulmar dropped the keys and cursed when he slammed the door and began looking for the right key again. The door was opening outside and before he could find the right key, something hit the door.

     

    “You little brats!” the demonic Kindness shouted and Grulmar buried his heels into the ground.

     

    He looked at Oghma and shook his head. “Here it comes.” He shifted his attention to Aventus and barked: “Run!”

     

    “B-but-” the boy stammered, but Grulmar just slapped him.

     

    “Run! I'll hold her!”

     

    Aventus just stood there, holding his cheek before he finally bolted away from the door, towards a crate next to the yard's wall and then over it, away from the orphanage, away from Grelod. Grulmar really hoped that he would find what he was looking for. And that's when Grelod pushed the door open.

     

    Grulmar woke up some time after that, remembering how Grelod dragged him into the basement, how he screamed and kicked during that. Then the beating began...well, he didn't remember much of that. But his body did, because he couldn't see out of his left eye afterwards, and  every inch of his body was covered with bruises.

     

    Was it all worth it? He wasn't sure. But one thing he was certain of. He wouldn't let anyone cage him. Abuse him. Use him. Ever again. The beating only solidified his determination to escape. To never stop trying.

     

    The door to the punishment room suddenly opened and Grulmar narrowed his right eye, trying to discern who it was. Because it suddenly wasn't a memory, he felt it. Oghma was gone and time felt like it stopped.

     

    In walked a figure in dark green robes, with a golden mask, its shape very faimiliar to Grulmar because he was seeing it everywhere since he began dreaming all this. The narrow visor glowed with a faint blue light and the light was focused on him.  

     

    “You resist,” the figure spoke, with a man's voice and to Grulmar it sounded like thunder inside his head, commanding him to obey, to bow. But he just shook his head. The eyes behind the mask narrowed at that. “Why?”

     

    The little Orc just shrugged, hissing as his whole body protested against the force of those eyes, but he brushed it off. It wasn't real. “I guess that's what I do,” he replied.

     

    “You could have dreamed of a better world,” the man wondered, the irritation in his voice very clear.  “And yet you chose this. Why?”

     

    It was a good question, one that Grulmar didn't know the answer to. He didn't even know that he chose this over whatever it was the man offering, but he wasn't prepared to let him know that. Again, he just shrugged. “Because this is real.”

     

    “Is it?” the man tilted his head to the side and chuckled. “Real is nothing but a point of view.”

     

    “Then why is this real world only in dreams? Everytime I wake up, I know that it was only a dream.”

     

    “Is there actually a difference between dreams and reality? What if I told you that every dream can become as solid as any other world?”

     

    “I would say you’re crazy,” Grulmar replied, forcing his face to be as unreadable as stone. What the man said couldn't be true, it was just too crazy.

     

    “Every night people dream of something, of a better world, or, of a much worse world. And it is in their power to create that world. I am just giving them the opportunity to live in that world, to taste it, so that they can then create it.”

     

    “And whose perfect world it is? Yours? Or theirs?”

     

    This time it was the man's turn to shrug. “Does it matter? There is a world where Decimus is alive and well, where you and he have traveled to Cyrodiil together, where you marveled about White-Gold Tower and Decimus put his strong arm around your shoulder, his blue eyes laughing at your wonder. Such blue eyes… smiling blue eyes.”

     

    Grulmar narrowed his eyes. No one knew about that. Literally no one. “How do you know that?” He growled.

     

    The man looked straight at him and slowly took off his mask.

     

    And Grulmar stared into Decimus' face.

     

    So vivid, so real. Just as he remembered him. Every wrinkle, every scar, every curl of those blues tattoos on his face. “I know what you desire, lad,” Decimus said with his voice, his famous grin, a twinkle to his blue eyes. “I know what you wish. And all that can come true. Dream. Believe. By night reclaim which what by day was stolen.”

     

    Grulmar wanted to say yes. He would give anything to be with Decimus again, he really would. But he couldn't help but think about the dream. It wouldn't be real, no matter how hard he tried to believe that. The only real thing was suffering and pain and a world without that...just wasn't real. Grulmar didn't know anything else and while he hated that, he couldn't imagine living without it.

     

    “How do you know that?” Decimus asked. “How can you believe that if you never tried living without the pain?”

     

    The little Orc's eyebrows shot up and he finally understood. “You're in my head,” he proclaimed. “You say what I want you to say.” He felt the anger slowly rising in him. “But here's the thing. What I want is never good. Not for me, not for everyone.”

     

    “So you resist.”

     

    “And I won't stop.”

     

    Decimus shrugged. “It doesn't matter. The dream will become a reality and you can't change it.”

     

    The ground suddenly shook, dust was falling from the ceiling and the man tilted his head to the side and then looked over his shoulder.

     

    Just before Grulmar woke up from his dream, he heard Decimus’ last words.

     

    “He is here.”

     

     

Comments

9 Comments   |   KaiserSoSay and 5 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  June 30
    Young and selfless Grulmar. So much innocence lost. What by day has been stolen indeed. Great chapter, especially thoughts on dreaming a perfect world. "Grulmar didn't know anything else and while he hated that, he couldn't imagine living without it." Yea...  more
  • A Shadow Under the Moons
    A Shadow Under the Moons   ·  June 21
    *throttles the Lorc*

    Oh come off it! Who is here? WHOOOO??!!
  • Lissette Long-Chapper
    Lissette Long-Chapper   ·  June 21
    Well, at least you are again leaving us with a cliffhanger, you Daedric prince of them, you. :D


    I always love it when you go back into Grulmar's past. It's also a really nice tie in to your new series with Teineeva. 
  • The Lorc of Flowers
    The Lorc of Flowers   ·  June 21
    I would just like to say that this chapter is going to sit here as last for next month or two. Those who forgot there's a Camp Nano in July and I would like to use it for other projects. So me and Lis will be most likely Chasing Death and me and Tein migh...  more
    • A Shadow Under the Moons
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      I would just like to say that this chapter is going to sit here as last for next month or two. Those who forgot there's a Camp Nano in July and I would like to use it for other projects. So me and Lis will be most likely Chasing Death and me and Tein migh...  more
        ·  June 21
      I'm afraid I'll probably have to pass on the next NaNo too. Entering a busy two months for me since I have to take care of my student visa, renew my apartment lease and transfer to a new campus...
    • KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      I would just like to say that this chapter is going to sit here as last for next month or two. Those who forgot there's a Camp Nano in July and I would like to use it for other projects. So me and Lis will be most likely Chasing Death and me and Tein migh...  more
        ·  June 21
      Yeah, I think I'll pass on Camp NaNo. Gonna be pretty busy for the next five months. Chasing Death? How intriguing... :)
      Is it me or does every collab story with you and Lis has the word 'Chasing' in the title? XD
      • The Lorc of Flowers
        The Lorc of Flowers
        KaiserSoSay
        KaiserSoSay
        KaiserSoSay
        Yeah, I think I'll pass on Camp NaNo. Gonna be pretty busy for the next five months. Chasing Death? How intriguing... :)
        Is it me or does every collab story with you and Lis has the word 'Chasing' in the title? XD
          ·  June 21
        Well, Chasing Sun was only my project, but...we kinda like the sound of it :D
  • KaiserSoSay
    KaiserSoSay   ·  June 21
    Apparently Miraak has developed a Dagoth-Ur complex...
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      Apparently Miraak has developed a Dagoth-Ur complex...
        ·  June 21
      Absolutely, the parallels between those two are strong. :)