UJON, Book Ten - In Which An Uninvited Guest Arrives

  • 13th Sun’s Dusk, College of Winterhold

     

    Finally a moment to myself. Not entirely surprised that Mercer is a duplicitous bastard, although I’ll admit the extent of it is, well, more than I expected. I woke up outside the barrow with a painful, but mainly healed, throat. Karliah was there, apparently the arrow she shot into my arm slowed my heart enough that I didn’t bleed as much as one would expect from having a slit throat. She showed me a journal in what looked like Falmer script, and asked me to travel to Winterhold and ask Enthir to help make sense of it. I did think of trying to transliterate it myself, but when I looked at it more closely, I realised it was actually written in the Falmer language, not just transliterated like my writing Altmeris with Daedric script. I know the basic structure of Falmer, and a few words, but not enough to understand the journal.

     

    Enthir was about as useful as I might have expected, so I headed to Markarth, Calcelmo being the obvious person to ask about Falmer. Picked up Rumarin, took the carriage the rest of the way. Didn’t take all that much to convince Calcelmo to translate the journal, he was fascinated by the “novel usage”, although he found some of the unconventional grammar irksome. One day, I’ll have to show him my own journals. Anyway, the journal proves Karliah’s story well enough, and suggests that Mercer “desecrated the Twilight Sepulchre,” whatever that might be. Karliah said she’d explain after we next meet – in the Flagon, next Middas eve. She wanted to go straight there, but after some discussion we agreed it would be best to let Mercer think he’d killed me and frightened her off. A week should give him plenty of time to go back to his usual complacent self, and he’s rarely in the Cistern on weeknights.

     

    Decided to walk over the bridge and spend the night in the Hall of Attainment, it isn’t really much more private than the tavern, but the other students seem slightly less prone to causing explosions in the middle of the night than Nelacar. Mirabelle, the Breton who seems to be in charge of the place, practically dragged me to the Hall of Elements, where Tolfdir was in raptures over having finally figured out how to bring the orb back from Saarthal. It didn’t look quite so impressive in the new setting, but still rather fascinating. Urag, the Orc in charge of the Arcaneum, was muttering darkly about the risk of having Strange Magical Objects so close to his library, Faralda, bless her, did her best to keep Ancano’s attention far from me, much to Nirya’s chagrin.

     

    After he’d finished his muttering, Urag beckoned me over – apparently one of the last crop of apprentices did a runner with some books that Urag suspects would be useful in his research on the possible origins of the orb. He’s still trying to track down the group this Orthorn is thought to have joined, and he’d like me and the other apprentices to go after him when he’s got a firm idea of where he is, to get the books back. I told him to send word to Breezehome when the time comes, I get the impression the College isn’t supposed to know about this...

     

    So, tomorrow I head back to Solitude to prepare for Elenwen’s damned party. I had been intending to have my face restored to its old self, but obviously I can’t go to Riften, much less the Flagon, just yet. Fortunately, I bumped into Arissa just outside Markarth, and she’s agreed to persuade Galathil to come up to Solitude in exchange for “a favour, which I’ll be needing very soon…” Probably a bad idea not to ask any further questions about that, but it’s not like my life currently consists of safe, careful pursuits, is it?

     

    I must admit, I’m a little excited at the prospect of my gown.

     

     

    16th Sun’s Dusk

     

    “Endarie, dear, please tell me you’ve finished hemming that gown? Saltar was very clear that the client should not be kept waiting…”

     

    The older sister rolled her eyes, and removed the pins she had been holding between her lips to respond. “Sister, dearest, please have a little more faith in me. The hemming is done, the pattern matching on the jacquard is just so, the client will be the envy of all the guests when they see her in a real gown. Who knows, Jarl Elisif might even be inspired to purchase something a little less… Nordic in her next order?”

     

    Taarie smiled, tightly. She wasn’t entirely sure what to make of Nerussa – an assumed name, she was sure – but she couldn’t deny that her trip to the Blue Palace had led to an upturn in the quality of Radiant Raiment’s clientele. They still stocked ordinary smocks and breeches for the occasional peasant who felt flush enough for a shop-bought outfit, but the orders from Elisif and her court had enabled them to order a shipment of silks, velvets and other quality fabrics from Alinor. Nerussa’s gown was of a rich, heavy red silk with a delicate pattern woven in gold thread throughout, and had a classic Queen Calianwe neckline which would bare the wearer’s shoulders in exactly the correct manner. The exposed shift was of black velvet, trimmed with lace. It was a long time since Taarie had envied one of their customers.

     

    She was rudely brought back from a pleasant daydream about visiting Alinor with Saltar in a remarkably similar dress by the most terrifying sound she had ever heard. A roar, but unlike that of a mere beast. The door of the shop flew open and several panicked Nords ran inside. Endarie made a move toward the door but her sister grabbed her arm, pulled her back.

     

    “Sister, we have customers, time for some of your famed hospitality, dear.”

     

                                                       *****

     

    Jaree-Ra drew back into the shadows. Two Elves were standing nearby, talking under their breath about something to do with a party. Ugh, how boring. Everything in Solitude was so dull. Still, they looked wealthy enough, perhaps if they wandered closer he could… Xuth! It was that Elf. He remembered her, had almost approached her about the lighthouse job, months ago. Ended up taking on some big dumb Nord. Easy pickings. He’d been less bored for quite some time after that.

     

    Suddenly, the Elves stopped talking, frozen on the spot for a moment. And then Jaree-Ra saw it, too. A shadow, like those of the hawks which circled the city much of the day, but far, far bigger, and more languid in its movement. Nobody else seemed to have noticed yet, but the Elves were already charging spells. The male summoned a bound bow, while the female opted for what looked like destruction magics, at the same time yelling to the nearby marketgoers to run. For a moment, most of the humans looked amused, but that didn’t last long.

     

    The citizens of Solitude scattered, terrified, as they encountered the city’s first dragon. It swooped so low that Jaree-Ra was sure it would crash into something, but somehow it didn’t. The look on the face of the female Elf made him rather glad he hadn’t asked her to help with his lighthouse problem, he suspected that she would have not been so easily dealt with as Grignr, or whatever he’d been called. Jaree-Ra slipped behind the alchemist’s shop, and let himself into her cellar. No need to put himself at risk, after all.

     

                                                       *****

     

    “Xarxes’ Arse! If you’re not going to run, I hope you’ve all got bows and arrows!”

     

    A surprising number of the people in the street did, apparently. Funny what you didn’t notice, sometimes. “Rumarin – they’ve probably heard the thing, but run up to Castle Dour and call the damn soldiers, Captain Aldis should be up there…”

     

    “Are you sure you don’t want me to – “

     

    “GO! It’s not far, you’ll be back before it’s had a chance to eat me. Probably. GO!

     

    Gods, she hoped she was right on that one. She quickly counted heads, seven archers, including three guards. The others, well, she wasn’t sure they’d be able to hit a mammoth at twenty paces, but at least they might distract the enormous, dark-scaled creature at a crucial point. She hoped. It wasn’t attacking, yet, just circling, letting its presence be known. Assessing the landscape, perhaps looking for – yes, a perching spot. It turned, more smoothly than it should have been capable of, and landed on the roof of the Winking Skeever. It surveyed the crowed briefly, before staring directly at Nerussa. Well, at least after this she’d not have to explain the whole Dragonborn thing to the locals, she supposed. One way or another.

     

    So. You are here.” She had learned long ago that the best way to understand her other languages was not to attempt translation into Tamrielic but simply to, well, try to understand. Still, she was surprised to find herself answering in kind.

     

    As are you. What should I call you? I understand we are siblings?”

     

    Presumptuous worm! You are nothing, yet you take for yourself the name of Dovah?”

     

    She considered this. Somehow, protesting that she had done no such thing did not feel like the appropriate response.

     

    Of course. Did not our mighty father bless me with this gift? Have I not slain four of our great brethren in only a few moments, in the scheme of things? Tell me, brother, how many of us had you killed at ten weeks of age?”

     

    Mirmulnir was weak. Sahloknir barely out of his tomb. The others, pathetic cowards, skulking around their mountains. Look closely at me, worm. Am I like them?”

     

    She looked. She was dimly aware of the surrounding Nords exchanging puzzled fragments of conversation, and she heard a familiar voice arguing with Rumarin somewhere in the distance, but getting closer. Oghma’s tits. Tullius!

     

    But for now, she looked at the Dragon. It was certainly larger than the others. Its scales were a mix of black and purple, with bronze sections along the wings and a greenish-cream underbelly and throat. She rather wished she had learned a nice, offensive Shout like Fire Breath. Then she remembered. She’d tried it once in Snow Veil Sanctum, but it had been difficult as most of the fighting had been in close quarters, and while she hadn’t exactly trusted Mercer at that point, she hadn’t wanted to attack him before figuring out what he was up to. She wouldn’t be able to use it once the fight started in earnest, but right now there was nobody between her and the Dragon. She looked around quickly to be sure, then back up at it.

     

    No. You are not like them. They weren’t so bloody stupid as to give me a chance to attack first. KRII!”

     

                                                       *****

     

    “A word, if I may?”

     

    Nerussa was sitting on the steps near the city’s main gate, legs shaking a little from the after-effects of using her so-called “High Born” ability, well, that was what Rumarin called it, at any rate. Obviously it wasn’t known by that name in her studies, might imply some unwanted things if a commoner like her proved able to use it, after all. She knew who it was before she looked up, the Imperial had a rather distinctive voice, and even if he hadn’t, she would probably recognise any of the voices that had come so close to completing her execution, she thought.

     

    “General Tullius. I presume you recognise me, then?”

     

    “You might say that, yes. I’ve also heard some… interesting tales about an Altmer over the last few months, although you don’t quite fit the popular description. The, ah… dragon thing is a bit of a giveaway, mind you.”

     

    She laughed, a little bitterly at first, but somehow it turned into a genuine, long chortle. She was a little worried she was approaching hysteria, but she brought herself back from that, twisting her sapphire bracelet around her wrist three, four, five times.

     

    “Sorry, it’s… well, the middle of what’s proving to be rather a long day. Yes, the, ah… dragon thing.” She ran her fingers through her hair, damn, it would have to be restyled, and soon. What time was it, now? “So, are you here to clap me in irons and return me to my rightful place on the chopping block?”

     

    “No, no, you’ve been… vouched for. Besides, you’re a Thane, twice over, right? The Empire does not execute duly appointed officials of its provinces.” He apparently caught the look in her eye, and actually looked slightly abashed for a moment. “Well. Not without good reason, you understand. Besides, from what I’ve just seen, you’re likely more use to us dead than alive. Oh, I’m sure, being part of Balgruuf’s court, you couldn’t possibly take sides in this silly little civil war, but if you ever felt inclined towards trying your hand as a Battlemage, well, you clearly know where to find me. In any case, I must be going. Have to go to some shindig this evening, got to clean my damn armour now…”

     

    He was gone before she could respond. Well, it could have gone worse, she supposed. She stood up and headed off to collect her gown.

     

                                                       *****

     

    “You look…nice? The hair’s, um… very, ah. What’s the word?”

     

    “Altmeri?”

     

    Her hair was arranged in a swirl around her head, then twisted into a tight bun on the crown, accentuating her height and bone structure, as was the fashion in Alinor. The front had been cut into a blunt, angular fringe, split so as not to entirely conceal her brow line. It was, she had to admit, very unlike the hairstyles typically worn in Skyrim, even by her fellow Altmer. Endaarie had used a mixture of pine thrush egg and glow dust from Angeline’s Aromatics to stiffen the hair, along with so many hair pins that Nerussa had worried she might have to offer some of her lockpicks to be bent into service.

     

    “Yes! Very Altmeri. I like the dress. It’s… alluring.”

     

    Oghma’s tits, she was glad of the heavy makeup, hopefully it disguised the blush creeping into her cheeks. You’re not a damn schoolgirl, she told herself. They still hadn’t really talked about whatever it was that was going on between them, although they had spent last night entwined together, giggling at the rowdy singing of the drunk Nords in the bar downstairs as the night wore on. She had barely slept, which meant no nightmares, at least.

     

    “So, you’ll wait for me where we agreed? The word wall near the road to Dragon’s Bridge?”

     

    “Yes, though I wish you’d let me come with you. Elenwen’s hardly going to just let you waltz in and swan off to riffle through her papers.”

     

    “The only way you could influence that, would be by staying in the function room to distract her, and I’m not risking you. I know the place well enough, I worked there for three months. I know where the papers are likely to be. I’ve seen the guest list Saltar slipped to Taarie, there’s at least two people in there I can convince to keep Elenwen busy long enough to get where I need to, maybe more. Hopefully I can get back to the party within fifteen minutes, she’ll likely be suspicious, but she’s too much the diplomat to actually cause a scene at her party.”

     

    He looked doubtful, but nodded, kissed her, and set off to the waiting place. She turned left, toward Katla’s Farm, and hoped she was right.

     

Comments

2 Comments   |   The Long-Chapper likes this.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 14
    Oooo, her dress sounds absolutely dreamy and lol at "Calianwe neckline". :D
    • Gnewna
      Gnewna
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Oooo, her dress sounds absolutely dreamy and lol at "Calianwe neckline". :D
        ·  October 14
      That was definitely your suggestion!