Shadow of the Druadachs - Part I: An Elegy for Edryg

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    PART  I.
    AN ELEGY FOR EDRYG

     

     

     

    “People like you are the reason people like me drink themselves to death, and with that Dagnir spat in Ysa’s face and stumbled back into the inn.

     


    He didn’t mean it, she quickly thought. Dag’s just drunk. She gingerly pulled her kerchief from her pocket. Ysa All-Risen had always wanted to be a healer--of the body, the mind, or mending societal ills--it was in her blood, after all. But she never anticipated such resistance from those she sought to help. Her cheeks and ears grew hot as she carefully wiped the viscous, mead-steeped saliva from her face, hoping no one had witnessed the exchange. She turned and slowly walked away from the tavern, her feet shuffling alongside the shimmering river that coursed through the city.

     

    “Don’t take it personally. You know how Dag is,” came a familiar voice behind her. Ysa stopped and turned. Hjald Oathborn had grown up with Ysa, and while he did not share quite the idealism that she was known for, he was regarded as principled and dependable. A legionnaire in the local Imperial regiment, he was well-respected within the city. Markarth was far from the front lines of the ongoing conflict, but the region had seen an uptick in the the number of scuffles with the rebellion in the last few weeks. Combined with the recent decades steeped in violence, a sense of panic had steadily increased among the denizens of the Hold, but so too had their pride for the men they deemed local heroes.

     

    Hjald smiled, though his expression was tipped with mild concern, his thick, arched brows knitted slightly together. “Want me to have a word with ‘em?”

     

    Ysa’s heart sank. She sighed as she brushed a few errant snowberry blonde tresses gently off her forehead. Her glassy, malachite eyes fell as she bit her tongue to keep from welling up in embarrassment. “I won’t stop trying,” she said after a moment, meeting his gaze and forcing a smile. “Thank you, but I’m all right.”

     

    “I know,” Hjald nodded, and laughed softly. His light ashen eyes searched hers for some sign that he had not unintentionally embarassed her further, but found no trace of the relief he hoped to find. His armor lightly clattered as he shifted uncomfortably and tried again. “He’ll take you up on it one day, mark my words. Working in the Keep’s kitchen is a lot better than sleepin’ on the street. Keep your chin up.”

     

    “Aye. Thank you, Hjald,” Ysa mumbled, as she turned and headed for home.

     

     



    Hours later, Ysa stood in front of the fireplace as it cracked and popped on fragrant juniper wood, her exchange with Dagnir surfacing repeatedly in her mind. People like you. The words stung.

     

    Ysa was the daughter of a diplomat who had been part of an envoy to the Imperial City and an emissary to High Rock. As a child, her father was mostly absent, but on the occasions when he would return home, she would sit for hours with rapt attention and listen to his accounts of tense negotiations, scenery of distant and exotic lands, lavish parties. He would bring his adored and only child small tokens: an unusual quill, coiled opaline seashells, scrolls of old notes from official proceedings, a pattering seed pod. Ysa kept them all on a small shelf in her room; it became a soothing reliquary which kept him close while he was away and remind her of his importance not just to her, but to all of Skyrim. Some days she would wake to find him already gone again without a note or goodbye, but she took it stride, proud to be his daughter.

     

    Her mother was every bit the wife of an ambassador. She would travel with Ysa’s father frequently, leaving her in the care of a nurserymaid and hired help. If her mother stayed behind, she would regularly attend Court at Understone Keep and give charity to the local temple, being sure to always make her very generous donations in person. When Ysa would accompany her, she would watch the healers at work and marvel at the power they wielded as they cured ailments, smoothed angry, burned flesh, sutured wounds, and staunched the wails of agony emanating from the injured and diseased.

     

    Now, at 19, Ysa was impatient to make her own mark on the world. The privilege she had been afforded all her life left her feeling empty, and she felt compelled and pressured to give back in her own way. She had been studying Restoration magic with the court wizard for some time, but he was an abrupt Mer with little patience, and the casting did not come naturally to her. Every new tome was a challenge, and she often left after a short time feeling frustrated. Ysa tried to look elsewhere for philanthropic opportunities, but her failed exchange with Dagnir and subsequent humiliation had left her feeling like a fraud, disheartened, and even more hollow.

     

    She paced the vacant room, her footsteps softly echoing off the stone walls. It was late, the help had retired for the night, and sleep seemed a distant possibility. She padded across the empty room and retrieved a recently purchased, straw-colored tome from the library table, Healing Hands. She had been reluctant to start the more advanced tome, and had not touched it since she placed it there a week ago.

     

    The spine cracked slightly as she opened it for the first time. The thick pages were stiff and the enchanted ink glimmered in the softly flickering light. Ysa continued to pace as she read. Her eyes followed the words, but her thoughts kept drifting back to the earlier events of the day and her mind was shut to the magicka-imbued lettering below her. After a few minutes she was no longer absorbing any of the tome before her. Ysa shut her eyes tightly and closed the book. If I can’t learn something new tonight, I’ll practice, she reasoned, returning the book the the table.

     

    She stood in front of the fireplace again. The court wizard had been teaching her about Wards over the last several weeks. Recommitted to applying herself, and anxious to regain some inner sense of control, she raised her hands and stabilized her stance. She took a deep breath, and focused on the well of energy within her. As she exhaled, Ysa began to channel the magicka through her fingertips. The ward stuttered at first, startling her, but soon the crystalline light began to flow from her outstretched palms and trembling fingers. As she acclimated to the tingling sensation the concentrated magic imparted, and focused on keeping the protective spell steady and constant, she could see licks of fire bending back on itself through the pellucid barrier in front of her. Excitement welled within her as she marveled at the pirouetting blaze, and the Ward began to stutter and pulse. Ysa released the spell, elated. She turned over her hands and looked at her palms as the sensation slowly began to ebb.  

     

    Tomorrow, she resolved, she would redouble her efforts.

     


     

     

     

    Abundant sunlight poured over every tower in Markarth that spring morning. The smoothed granite shone brightly and the Dwemer belfries dazzled in the morning sun and crisp air. A thin spindle of smoke rose from the smelter on the water’s edge below, near the sunken, dusty mouth of the mine. Ysa descended the gleaming stone path that lead down to the quarry and watched as the prisoners shoveled coal and silver ore into the smoldering clay dome.

     

    She could feel the water in the heavy, silver pitcher she carried sloshing from side to side, as beads of condensation crept slowly down its lustrous surface. On some days, Ysa would take fresh water to the parched miners working the smelter. The guards who oversaw the operation were hulking, brutish men who kept mostly to themselves about town, and most people stayed out of their way in turn. Yet on the days when Ysa brought water, they would often try to intimidate her and would gruffly inform her she should not be lingering about. And while a smile and a few reassuring words never put them completely at ease, they ultimately knew better than to cause trouble with emissary’s daughter and after a few minutes would leave her alone, but kept watchful eye ensuring that she, and the prisoners, never tried anything foolish.

     

    The first few times she offered the men water, they had outright refused it by way of ignoring her entirely. But thanks to her willful determination, and a few exceptionally warm days last year during Sun’s Height, they eventually accepted the water and tolerated her presence. Several months later, she knew many of them by first name and a few scattered details about their lives and the mine itself. The workers were mostly prisoners, criminals, captive Forsworn, bandits, drunks, and rebels, but the themes that had permeated Ysa’s childhood--tolerance, understanding, charity--eclipsed the warnings anyone might have given her about approaching such men. Hjald cautioned her on more than one occasion about maintaining a safe distance, but she fired back that such concerns were both paranoid and small-minded.

     

    As Ysa drew nearer, she identified three rail-thin men in tattered rags manning the smelter: Kyrtos, Storn, and Len. They in turn, noticed Ysa descending the stone steps which led to the water’s edge. Ysa smiled, lifting the jug to signal her approach, and the men stopped shoveling. The towering guards looked warily over, saying nothing.

     

    She was greeted first by Kyrtos’ gravely voice, “Morning, my dear.”

     

    “Good morning, Kyrtos, Storn, Len. Thirsty?” Ysa asked.

     

    Storn chuckled and muttered, “Are we ever.

     

    Kyrtos shot him a look. “You’re early this morning,” he quickly continued. “But I can’t refuse a short break and some fresh water. Thank you.”

     

    Kyrtos extended his dirty, cupped hands, and Ysa slowly tipped the heavy carafe, pouring the cool water into them. Storn and Len extended theirs as well, and she steadily poured the contents of the jug into their outstretched hands. The men slowly gulped the water, savoring the few moments of rest and clean refreshment. Looking on, the guards talked amongst themselves, but made no motion to intervene.

     

    “You’re shorthanded today, it seems,” Ysa observed, making conversation as the men drank the water from their hands. “Where is your fourth this morning?” Almost in unison, the men stopped drinking and traded glances with one another. Ysa paused.

     

    “Edryg...?” she trailed off.

     

    Kyrtos quickly surveyed the guards, then looked back at Ysa. He pursed his lips, and almost imperceptibly shook his head. Ysa’s stomach turned over and tied itself in a firm knot. “What...” she stammered, “what happened...?”

     

    Shifting his weight back and forth uncomfortably, Len’s eyes darted aimlessly around. Storn only stared at the ground. Kyrtos looked back at the guards and decisively cleared his throat. “Len, have some more water.” Flustered, Len swiftly cupped and extended his hands again, his brow furrowed, gaze fixed on his extended palms.

     

    Ysa slowly poured more water into Len’s hands, eyes locked with Kyrtos’. He started, “There was an incident inside. A fight, some captured Stormcloak, a real loudmouthed malcontent. He and Edryg, well they didn’t get on. I don’t know how he got it, but one night last week the dirty rebel got his hands on a shiv. There was a struggle and Edryg… just lost too much blood...” Kyrtos trailed off.

     

    Ysa’s mouth fell open. “I’m… so sorry,” she trailed off. Kyrtos eyes were fixed on the wooden planks lining the stream’s perimeter. The silence was thick and heavy. Storn and Len stood motionless with vacant expressions. After a moment, Kytos said quietly, “Storn, have a drink.” Ysa knew that if they drew too much attention, if anything looked amiss, the guards would start yelling at her to move along, and she had but a splash remaining the gleaming jug. She slowly tipped the jug toward Storn’s cupped and trembling hands.

     

    “The Silver-Bloods don’t give one lick about us. About Edryg. Let alone the fact that his family that will now never know what happened to him. No one ever leaves that mine, but he didn’t deserve that,” Krytos fumed, voice bouncing lightly across the stone walls. One of the guards grunted and folded his arms as he looked on.

     

    Ysa’s heart grew heavy, and her mind swirled at the prospect of small children never knowing the fate of their father. “Where does Edryg’s family live?” she asked quietly, peering briefly around.

     

    Kyrtos’ eyes narrowed and he looked hard at Ysa, “North and east of here, just right outside Karthwasten… Look, if there was any way… you could get word to them... you’d spare them so much suffering. They at least deserve to know he’s never coming home.”

     

    Ysa’s eyes darted around and found the bottom of the empty silver jug, “But how do I get there?” she hissed. Her water was entirely gone, and Storn and Len began looking around anxiously.

     

    Kyrtos, realizing their time was nearly at an end, spoke briskly in hushed tones, “Use the road which follows the Karth River, passed the Lover Stone--”

    “OY!! YOU THERE!” came the booming voice of one of the guards.

    Kyrtos pressed on, eyes wide and tone intent, drawing nearer to Ysa, “--take the low road along the river where it forks near the bridge, but don’t cross it. Stay out of the mountains.”

     

    “STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOIN’!” came another thundering voice, louder this time.

    “You can make it in about a day, but be ready to make camp overnight in case--” Kyrtos looked over his shoulder to see the guards rapidly closing in on them, and he spoke faster. “When you get there, tell them you know me, Len--”

    “When I get where?” pleaded Ysa.

    “THAT’S ENOUGH OF THAT. BE ON YOUR WAY, GIRL!”

     

    In an instant, enormous hands were laid on Kyrtos’ shoulders and a furious struggle erupted between the ruthless guards and the prisoners. One of the guards elbowed Kyrtos in the in the face, and he fell to the ground in a heap as Len and Storn endured a merciless beating of their own. Hues of angry red and purple bloomed across their faces and bodies. Horrified, Ysa backed slowly away.

     

    Out of the corner of her eye, a familiar amber-haired, stormy-eyed legionnaire caught the corner of her eye. On a bridge on the opposite site of the falls, Hjald stood perfectly still, watching the commotion intently and unflinchingly. How long had he been standing there? Could he have heard anything?

     

    Mind racing, she gave one last look at the men being hauled back toward the cavernous mouth of the mine, and while Ysa was unsure what might happen to them next, one thing was certain: she was heading into the Reach.  

     

     


    PART II >>

Comments

14 Comments   |   A Shadow Under the Moons and 14 others like this.
  • FlamezSword
    FlamezSword   ·  October 1
    Question... I've always seen this in photoshopping and editing, but how on Earth do you make the fade around a photo?? I'm hopelessly lost xD 


    P.S. I'd love to use what photoshop program you use :D
    • Edana
      Edana
      FlamezSword
      FlamezSword
      FlamezSword
      Question... I've always seen this in photoshopping and editing, but how on Earth do you make the fade around a photo?? I'm hopelessly lost xD 


      P.S. I'd love to use what photoshop program you use :D
        ·  October 1
      Thanks  for the kind words, Flame! I use Photoshop CC. :) I know that the effect can also be achieved to an extent on PowerPoint too. Just maybe more into a shape and less into the free-form shape I have here. 


      So the transp...  more
      • FlamezSword
        FlamezSword
        Edana
        Edana
        Edana
        Thanks  for the kind words, Flame! I use Photoshop CC. :) I know that the effect can also be achieved to an extent on PowerPoint too. Just maybe more into a shape and less into the free-form shape I have here. 


        So the transparent fading of th...  more
          ·  October 6
        Okay, thanks!
  • Duvain
    Duvain   ·  September 30
    Nice one, the world building - descriptions are pretty good. Ysa is one of those good and kind "healer type" of characters who have much room for development as the story goes on. For some reason when finished reading the chapter I thought, imagine this i...  more
    • Edana
      Edana
      Duvain
      Duvain
      Duvain
      Nice one, the world building - descriptions are pretty good. Ysa is one of those good and kind "healer type" of characters who have much room for development as the story goes on. For some reason when finished reading the chapter I thought, imagine this i...  more
        ·  October 1
      Thanks Duvain. :) I'm really excited to develop this character some more. I have some interesting things planned for her, I think. Thank you for dropping by and reading!
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  September 9
    Also love the artwork! Can I ask how you made the header and the end swirly banner thing? :)
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  September 9
    I am so sorry I just now saw this. You have a eloquent writing style, Edana. Beautiful descriptions of Markarth, and I already appreciate Ysa's goodness immensely. Your portrayal of the relationship between the guards and the prisoners was great. Tough ci...  more
    • Edana
      Edana
      SpottedFawn
      SpottedFawn
      SpottedFawn
      I am so sorry I just now saw this. You have a eloquent writing style, Edana. Beautiful descriptions of Markarth, and I already appreciate Ysa's goodness immensely. Your portrayal of the relationship between the guards and the prisoners was great. Tough ci...  more
        ·  September 11
      Thank you for the very kind words, Fawn.  :) I don't really consider myself much of a writer, but I'm very glad you enjoyed it. Part III is likely a ways out, but once I have the time to take on another creative pursuit I definitely intend to finish ...  more
  • GailOlm
    GailOlm   ·  June 8
    I saw Part II on the main page under the Blogs & Stories section, the words "City of Stone" having caught my eye since Markarth is where my own character resides. Naturally I had to come back here to read Part I before reading Part II. I love your detaile...  more
  • Mottyskills
    Mottyskills   ·  June 7
    well now...isn't this an intriguing tale? nice work Edana :)
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  February 1
    By Sanguine's scrotum, the su'um of Edana the Skald! :) I love the attention to detail and the grit of the world and its inhabitants you so eloquently portray. Ysa is a darling, what a great heart she has. I hope she reaches Karthwasten, hope too that sh...  more
  • Edana
    Edana   ·  January 31
    Thanks for the kind words and encouragement, Sotek. :) Very much appreciated in my first foray into storytelling. I had initially wanted it to be completely finished by the end of AMOSS; at this point that won't happen, but I wanted to contribute to the e...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  January 31
    In a shady dark corner of the Hall of Jorrvaskr, Sotek, who was sitting by himself, was in deep thought; ignorant to the hustle and cheering of his fellow siblings. Slowly he tapped his claw tipped fingers on the tables surface while he gazed across the h...  more
  • Ben W
    Ben W   ·  January 31
    So you're saying hell is closer than what we thought? Damn