Chasing Death: Chapter 3, The Albino

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    Belrand yawned before taking another sip of his watered mead. That it was watered did nothing to warm his still chilling bones, but it was morning, and while he enjoyed his mead like any other Nord, drinking it so early was just not proper. A table nearer to the large central hearth would’ve been better, he thought to himself. Decimus wanted  a better view of the door. He then eyed the Imperial sitting across from him at a corner table in the rustic Four Shields Tavern. He smirked, Decimus was staring again. Damn, the Imperial did not stop and Belrand saw a small smile play on Goldpact Knight’s battle-scarred features.


    The object of the Goldpact’s flirting was a young Breton lass sweeping the floor. Nothing special really to Belrand, hair a might too short and lanky. Skin was good, but entirely too Breton. They all looked alike to him. Julienne her name was. Belrand wrinkled his nose and leaned in closer to the Imperial who had turned away from the girl to continue working on putting some thinly sliced ham on his bread.


    “Thought you liked them tall and strong?” Belrand quipped.


    Decimus’ clear blue eyes looked up from his food. “Oh?”


    “You’ve been staring the better part of breakfast.”


    “You jealous?” The Goldpact Knight smirked and Belrand rolled his eyes.


    The Nord snorted at that. “Please, I could be her grandfather. Shit, even you could be her grandfather if you’d started early enough which you no doubt did.”


    “You haven’t heard? They like older men these days. And I like them both young and older. But not too old, alright? There can be only one person with a sagging arse in the bed,” Decimus winked. Belrand groaned, leaning back against his chair. “Change your face, you fucker.” The Imperial chuckled. “You are so easy, Belrand.” He gestured with his head towards Belrand’s plate. “Be a good boy and eat your tomatoes.”


    “I hate tomatoes.” Balked Belrand, picking at his plate. “This the shit you eat in Cyrodiil?”


    “Yeah, West Weald.” Decimus stabbed a tomato slice with his fork and then made a broad sweeping gesture with the utensil, the ripe, red fruit still attached. “Tomato farms far as far as the eye can see.” Then he stuffed it in his mouth, chewing loudly. “And vineyards. Best wine in Tamriel, not like this piss you have in Skyrim.”


    “Remind me never to go there.” Belrand replied, slapping his tomatoes on Decimus’ plate.




    “Just ham and bread for me, thank you.” He turned to Julienne and raised his tankard. “Another mead for me, please.”




    The Imperial’s eyes followed the girl as she scurried off to the kitchen. “Nice little arse.” He murmured, unconsciously licking his lips.


    “So who are we waiting for?”


    “Told you. The Squire of Goldpact Order,” Decimus grinned at Belrand who just shook his head.


    “Squire my arse.” He snorted.  “You’re not even a knight, how can you have a squire? What a load of horse crap.”


    Belrand could see how Decimus’ eyes twinkled with mischief and the Imperial’s grin got even wider. “You’ll see, my friend. You’ll see. But whatever you do, do don’t mention his skin.”


    “What’s bloody wrong with it?”


    “They call him the Albino, yeah? Guess why. He’s as pale as the Jeralls’ snowcaps. They say that when he was born, his skin was as beautiful as flowing mead and so old Orkey became jealous, stealing his skin’s color.”


    Belrand just stared at his friend, without even blinking once. “You’re shitting me,” he finally said, knowing very well what kind of asshole Decimus was.


    The Imperial stuffed another tomato slice in his mouth and then spread his arms, leaning in his chair. “Your whole culture is standing on bullshit stories, Belrand! Why not believe this one?”


    Both men looked up when the door opened and a guard entered quickly, breathless. One of the younger ones by Belrand’s reckoning. “Merotim? Uh… Sir Merotim?”


    Ha! Spoken like he was addressing a knight. If only you knew, lad.


    “Here, lad.” The Imperial replied, sipping his wine. The guard approached and Belrand watched the Imperial look up, his blue eyes on the Solitude guard. The guard was eyeing the small coin purse on the table. His payment. “Well?”


    “A rider has come across the bridge.”  The guard spoke.


    “And?” Decimus pressed.


    “Black charger. Big as Oblivion.”




    “No, no dog.”


    “Hmm…” Decimus mused, placing a hand on the purse. “What’s he doing?”


    "Putting away that mammoth of a horse.” The guard narrowed his eyes. “Aye, she’s black as you say, but no horns on her head.”


    “You sure no dog?” The Imperial asked and Belrand noted how he became more serious.


    “Yes, Sir Merotim. I mean no, no dog. But the fellow is built like an ox, his beard is white like snow, and he’s bloody tall, easy 42 pertans, maybe more.” He blew air out of his mouth and shook his head. “Who’s taller than 42 pertans? No one I know.”


    “Is that important?” Belrand asked, not quite sure where Decimus and the guard were going with this conversation. “And who cares whether he has a dog or not?”


    “Hmm, means he’s being really smart.” Decimus nodded and picked up the coin purse. “Tell him we’re waiting at the inn and you’ll be done with my thanks.”


    “Sure.” The guard replied, taking the coin purse with a grin, but not before Decimus grabbed him by the arm.


    “Remember, a secret, between you and me, eh?” Decimus then gestured to Belrand.”And grandpa here.” He laughed when Belrand felt the scowl creep over his face. “Hehe, so fucking easy…” The Imperial let out a small laugh, sending the guard on his way.


    Belrand waited for the guard to leave before leaning closer to Decimus. “You sure he’s telling the truth?”


    “We’ll just have to see when he comes inside.” Decimus took another large gulp of watered down wine before continuing to work on his breakfast, his face growing distant as he ate. “So you didn’t bring the Snowberry this time, smart, very smart… maybe you’re finally learning, you old fucker...”

    “Snowberry?” Belrand raised his eyebrows. “Decimus, what are you bloody talking about?”


    A knowing smirk formed on the Imperial’s face, but also traces of genuine affection. “The war husky. He didn’t bring him. A bigger snowberry you will never meet.” He paused. “Well, unless you’re his enemy, then he’ll tear your balls off. Mmm, good ham.” Decimus nodded, enjoying his breakfast. “Big half-brother to Isran’s Sceolang and Bran back at the fort. Born about a year before those two milk drinkers and a lot more useful. At least he doesn’t spend the day stinking up my fort with their shit.” The Imperial frowned at his goblet and then looked towards the counter. “More wine with that mead, please.” He flashed a smile at the young Breton at the counter that made Belrand roll his eyes again. “I would be much obliged, pretty miss.”


    She blushed and reached for the wine as Decimus leaned closer to Belrand. “Watch me get a free meal.” He winked.


    “Shor’s Bones, it never stops, does it?”


    “You love it.” Decimus grinned like an imp. “Besides, in a way, I’m doing her a service. A service that in my eyes, warrants a free meal. I’m making her feel good.”


    “You’re full of horse crap.” Belrand retorted, crossing his arms over his chest. This ought to be good. I’m going to watch you get thrown out of this inn.

    He was quiet when young Julienne arrived at the table, but Belrand saw that he was turning on his Imperial charm, letting those blue eyes twinkle.


    “Here is your mead, Belrand, and your wine, uh sir…”


    “Sir Merotim, my dear lady.” Decimus finished, bowing his head graciously and Belrand could feel his eyes roll. “Leader of the Goldpact Knights.”


    More like a rag tag group of mercenaries in dilapidated fort that spend most of their time drinking and sleeping, Belrand thought.


    “Are you really a knight?” The girl asked innocently.


    He’s about as much of a knight as I’ve got a full head of hair, Belrand grumbled in his brain.


    “Knight’s honor.” Decimus replied and Belrand could barely suppress his groan. That line had to have been borrowed from someone. That being said, a part of him was jealous that Decimus’ words were affecting the girl. It was clear from her flushed cheeks and averted gaze that whatever the Old Blade was doing, it was working. “So what’s a Breton lass like you doing all the way up here in this frozen North?” He asked with a warm smile on his face and Belrand had to admit, the Imperial had a good smile for the ladies.


    “Oh, I was born here.” The girl replied. She had to be no more than seventeen winters. “My father and mother have a farm in Dragon Bridge. My father used to live in Markarth, met my mother here though. I’ve never been to High Rock.” Her last words were spoken wistfully and Belrand could see that Decimus was picking up on her tone.


    “I’ve been to High Rock.” he said casually, taking the goblet of watered wine that she was offering, his hand brushing over hers.


    “You have?” the girl asked, her eyes widening with excitement.


    “Aye, I have.” Decimus nodded. “Several times.”


    A damn lie coming from the lips of Orkey himself if I ever heard one...


    “Oh, I’d hate to ask you, you being so busy and all…” She suddenly pulled up a chair and sat next to Decimus. “Is it really like that there? With princes and princesses? I hear they wear such pretty things and dance like butterflies…”


    “I’ve been to my share of court functions at High Rock, knightly duties and all that.” Decimus nodded. He then faced the girl. “I can show you how they dance in High Rock.” And another wink from the Imperial that set the girl turning crimson. At this point, Belrand wanted to to crawl under the table or join Horgeir at the campfire.


    “You can?”


    “Sure.” The Goldpact Knight stood up and offered his hand with a slight bow. “Come here, lass.” She giggled as she rose from her seat and walked shyly towards the Imperial, giving him a polite curtsey. They were face to face and Belrand saw how the Imperial was eying the girl’s breasts. Alright, they are nice, Belrand sighed. “Stand right up against me, don’t be shy.” He smiled when the girl drew closer. “Now in High Rock, they get very close when they dance, like this.” Their faces were mere pertans apart and Belrand saw the girl’s breath quicken. “And the fellow’s hands go right there.” He place his hands just above the girl's arse.


    “Oh…” she gasped. “That close?”


    “Aye.” Decimus whispered, clearly enjoying himself, “that close.”


    “Where do my hands go?” she asked, her eyes narrowing. She was definitely understanding now.


    Decimus chuckled and made to move her hands lower.


    The door swung open. “Let go of ‘im!” Came the gruff baritone command from the door that made Belrand nearly knock over his mead. Then the light from the open door was totally blocked. “‘E belongs ta me.” The voice purred a brogue so thick that Belrand had to think on what was said for a moment. Decimus seemed to understand, however, and the Imperial groaned, making a sour face.


    “I hate that fucker sometimes…” He whimpered.


    “What do ya mean ‘ate? Ya love me!” The form bellowed.


    “Are you... with him?” The girl asked with a gulp and Belrand let out a guffaw that make the Imperial glare at him quickly before facing the girl.


    “No, no, no, lass, not at all.” Decimus pleaded, his prior charisma disappearing. “I’m dancing with you.”


    “Ya deny me?!” The voice continued to thunder. “After all tha years we’ve been t’gether!” The figure entered the inn and he now had the stares of everybody in the room. Well, not everyday you see…


    A squire?


    Squire, my old arse, Belrand grumbled to himelf. This was no squire and he was beginning to wonder what shit Decimus was pulling. You trying to swindle me out of a job, you fucker? Replacing me? He shook his head, dismissing the notion. No, Decimus wasn’t like that. But there was something about this stranger that just didn’t sit right with Belrand.


    The Nord was bloody huge. Aye, over forty-two pertans and built like an ox just as the guard said, though by the way he walked, Belrand garnered that he was not slow. Like the Old Blade, he walked with speed and could definitely move in armor. He was not one to note appearances, but Belrand couldn’t help but notice them in this situation. The man had the eyes of everyone in the room and Belrand couldn’t figure out where to focus his attention at first, everything about the man was so different to what was normally seen in Skyrim.


    No Imperial armor, iron, steel, or stormcloak gear, instead the man was clad in what looked like a brigandine of good quality leather and reinforced heavy cloth that nearly reached to his ankles, secured with heavy leather belts and buckles. Peeking from under the brigandine was a shirt of dulled mail worn over a plain woolen shirt and attached to his shoulders were plated pauldrons and some arm plates of that same dulled steel. It was as if he had dulled the gleam of the metal on purpose. The same dulled plated gauntlets and boots completed his armor and Belrand’s eyes then traveled to the great black bearskin cloak with the ruff around the collar and the hood. That had to be from a big as fuck boar bear. From the dust and some caked mud at the hem of the cloak, it was clear he had spent quite a bit of time traveling.


    Belrand’s eyes then noticed the weapons the stranger was carrying. At his waist was a katana of… silver. He was wielding silver. Slung loosely over his shoulder was a crossbow that had been clearly tinkered with. And then Belrand froze.


    This was no Nord. The bow arm was exposed, the quiver resting at his side, and Belrand set down his tankard carefully, feeling the heat build on his cheeks. He hadn’t even looked at the face yet, but he knew. Decimus was lying to him. Only Elves wore their cloaks that way. Archers, he remembered them from the Great War. The bow Mers, they wore their cloaks exactly like that. Bearskin or Thalmor gold and black, it didn’t matter.


    Finally looking at the face only fed his suspicions. He saw beyond the bold swirls of black and blue warpaint that were similar to the style Decimus wore, only they obscured the Elf’s face more, revealing only patches of that Jerral-white skin.  He saw beyond the numerous piercings of silver rings that adorned his bushy left brow and bottom lip and the nose ring clipped to a nostril. Beyond the silver-white beard that extended nearly past his neck that was beaded in the old Nord tradition. He saw right past those things and honed in on those slanted fucking red-orange eyes that were focused now on Decimus, who was still holding Julienne. This was a fucking Old Mary.


    I’m going to get to the bottom of this, Belrand swore quietly to himself. I’ll play your little game, Goldpact Knight, for now. He picked up his tankard and sipped slowly. Act like you don’t know nothing, Belrand, and see where this goes.


    “Step out of the way, lass. ‘Tis me turn to cut in.” The Old Mary spoke. “Haven’t danced the Breton way in many a day and ya got yer hands all over me fav’rite dancin’ partner!” Instinctually, Julienne started to move away.


    “No, no, no, he’s joking, lass.” Decimus replied, pulling Julienne closer to him. The Imperial faced the Elf and Belrand narrowed his eyes. The bastard looked a little annoyed that his flirting had been interrupted, but at the same time, he could see the Imperial’s lips twitch and the shoulders shake a little. The two stared at each other for a spell, the Elf’s eyes like two slits of coal fire under those brows. “But at the same time…” Decimus let the girl go with a pat on the back and again faced the Mer. “You’re… you’re... “ Alright, now the Imperial was definitely trying not to laugh, and Belrand frowned. What the fuck is going on? “Dragonborn’s balls, you’re just so… beautiful.”


    “I know.” The Mer smirked and then both exploded in laughter as they walked towards each other quickly. A hearty arm clasp then turned into a full-blown hug, leaving Belrand puzzled. Why was Decimus hugging an Old Mary? They were the enemy!


    The Imperial then grabbed the Mer by his broad shoulders and pushed him away to arms length.  “You got fat!”


    “I did.” The Mer grinned, revealing white teeth.


    Decimus eyed the Mer’s stomach. “Good to see that the old captain’s been padding you up properly again.” Belrand then saw the blue eyes warm up as the Imperial made a small nod, like he was fighting something heavier in his mind. “Was a bit touch and go there. Never seen you look like that before.” He said more softly, giving the Mer a slap to the shoulder. The kind of slap you give someone when you are trying to hide a deeper emotion and it further confused Belrand. This was no knight and squire relationship. Are they? No… Belrand’s brows lowered, that can’t be right, not with all the women Decimus has been with. Belrand shook his head to clear it of the notion. Now you’re just being stupid.


    Bastard didn’t flinch, only returned the Imperial’s smile. “Aye, Dec. It was.”


    Decimus seemed to forget the girl and now motioned the Elf towards their table. “How long has it been?”


    “Since ma birthday. Ya had just woken from yer ‘ibernation.” The Elf answered, removing his pack, dropping it on the floor, and sitting down heavily on the chair like he owned the place, the dust of travel billowing at his wake, the worn wooden chair protesting his bulk with numerous creeks.


    Decimus sat afterwards and he turned back to Julienne. “Lass! We have a guest.”


    “Coming.” She chirped.


    “Goin’ West Weald today?” The Mer quipped, noticing their plates.


    “Wine and tomatoes forever, friend.”


    “Aye, don I know it.” The Mer replied with a sarcastic chuckle, his eyes flickering with perhaps a memory, Belrand couldn’t figure it out. “And tha Sugar Shakes…” he added.


    It was Decimus’ turn to laugh aloud while Julienne refilled both his and Belrand’s drinks, looking just as dumb to the conversation as Belrand felt like he did.  “Still have nightmares about that, eh?”


    “Who bloody wouldn’t. Ya try eatin’ tomatoes for four days straight and nothin’ else and see what that does to ya!  Felt like I was gonna shit the seeds forever!” The Mer flashed another grin. “Was worth shootin’ them tomatoes outta the sky, though, when the treatment was done. Ah..” He sighed, a quiet sadness creeping behind the eyes. “That was a fun night. Got more blazed than a fireball...”


    “Fuck, you sound like Gru.” The Imperial blurted out and Belrand was having trouble just following this conversation. What the fuck were Sugar Shakes? What does he mean sound like Gru? “You still smoke that shit?” Decimus continued.


    “Nah.” The Elf let his features scrunch up. “I’m respectin’ of the rules. And, aye, dinna know the accents were that similar.” The eyes then narrowed slyly. “The little greenie would die...”


    “Verily.” Decimus replied casually, making the Elf suddenly roar with laughter, slapping his bear’s paw of a hand on the table. “Speaking of kids, where’s yours?”


    “Got three.” The ‘r’ was heavily rolled.


    “Ha! Yeah, forgot about the little she-wolf, but no, I mean your eldest, the Snowberry.” Decimus grunted the question, attacking his breakfast with renewed gusto. “I know you brought the Bitch.”


    “Paid a guard to watch for me, eh?” The red-orange eyes shot up.


    “Aye.”  The Imperial smirked.


    “Ha, ya do a better job trackin’ me than the  bloody Th--” Decimus spit his wine from his goblet and laughed hard. The Elf chuckled and shifted in his seat to make himself more comfortable. “Besides, from yer letter, this dinna seem like a job ta bring the kids for, savin’ the Bitch. Because who else would carry me fat arse, aye?” He tilted his head to the side. “Snowberry’s with yer kid.”


    “The little Greenie?”


    “Aye, along with Farkas and Erik. Still likes to tag along with the Slayer. They are heading to Markarth.”


    “Teineeva’s there. Sent him on a job.”


    The Mer released a drawn-out whistle and shook his head. “A night to remember if those four gang up. My poor wee Snowberry.”


    “Ha! Yeah.” Decimus agreed.  “He’d be the responsible one in that group.”


    “Dunno if that’s a good or bad thing.” The Old Mary mused.


    Belrand suddenly threw his fork down in exasperation and crossed his arms over his chest. “You going to introduce me, Decimus?” He whispered and both looked up to see his frown, making the girl freeze. “To this…” He glared at the stranger. “Elf.”


    Both pairs of eyes found him and Decimus looked at Julienne. “Mind giving us some room, lass.” His eyes found the stranger and nodded. “You want anything first? Before we make sure Grandpa doesn’t blow off his bald cap, here?”


    You’re an asshole, Decimus. And how does the Elf know Farkas?


    The stranger agreed, his Old Mary eyes - well, they weren’t really Old Mary, they were just strange - quickly drifting to Belrand before acknowledging the girl. “Aye, I’ll be ‘avin’ what they’re ‘avin’, only bring two portions.” He reached for his belt and pulled a worn, water-damaged coin purse, setting it on the table. “Could smell that ‘am from ‘cross tha bridge. Sure beats gnawin’ on jerkeyed skeever for eight bloody days.”


    “Didn’t the Captain pack your food?” Decimus questioned.


    The Elf gave him a sheepish look. “Aye, she did, but I went through it tha first day, was so good. Ya know how she can make cheese and cakes…”


    “No wonder you got fat.”


    Only a sly smirk from the Elf and a twinkle of those eyes.


    “Fine, I’ll fetch it.” Julienne said, about to turn when the Elf gently stopped her with a hand on her forearm.


    “Not done yet, lass, gotta fill this big old cavern.” He chuckled merrily, his laugh lines wrinkling.


    “Couldn’t fill that expanse with all the food in Tamriel…” quipped Decimus and Belrand was starting to get angry.


    “Yes?” the girl asked.

    “Be a good lass that I know ya are and add ta that two ‘oney nut treats, if ya be havin’ them?”


    “We have them.”


    “Brilliant. Two of those, please. Nah…” He grinned at Decimus and the Imperial rolled his eyes while he took a bite of his bread with ham. “Make it thrree.”


    “You’re gonna die from that, you know.” Decimus pointed out, his mouth full.


    “‘Twould be sweet indeed…”


    “You’re a moron, there are sweeter ways to die.” Decimus answered back.


    “Is that all?” The girl clarified and Belrand could tell she was trying to sort out how she was going to carry all that food with just two hands.


    “Ysmir’s Beard, a man canna eat all that without wettin’ his whistle, no?”


    Decimus’ eye twitched again.


    “We really need to talk.” Belrand whispered impatiently. “Are you done ordering yet?”


    The Mer faced him. “Donna chomp at the bit too hard, lad.”


    Lad? You calling me lad? Fuck you. Who the Oblivion do you think you are calling me “lad”.


    “Your drink?” The girl pressed.


    “Aye, that’s right. Got canis root?”


    “Tea?” The girl questioned, her eyes widening in suprise.


    “Aye, tea.” The now clearly a Mer nodded. No Nord fucking drinks tea unless it’s bloody medicine or you’re fucking old. “With plenty o’ milk and ‘oney, please. Thank you kindly, lass for puttin’ up with such as the likes of m’self.”


    She giggled at the Elf’s strange speech and Decimus looked like all of this was some big fucking joke. “I’ll get that for you straight away.”


    “Thank you, Julienne.” Decimus nodded, watching the girl walk away before he turned to face Belrand. “Now Belrand…”


    Belrand shot up from his seat. “I’m not working with no bloody Old Mary. You lied to me.” He pointed at Decimus. “Best to just come out with it. Lay it all on the table.”


    “Sit down, lad, there’s a reason...” The Elf said softly.


    “I didn’t ask you. And you call me ‘lad’ one more time, Elf.” The Nord warned.


    “Belrand, sit the fuck down, before you attract attention and…” Decimus leaned closer to Belrand. “I’ll explain everything.” He faced the Elf. “Stop calling him, lad.”


    “He’s offended?” The Elf’s eyebrows shot up, making the silver rings catch the light. “Oh, damn, sorry, Dec, and sorry, friend Belrand. I forget. When ya are…”


    “I know, from the fucking Merithic Era…” The Imperial completed the sentence.


    “Dumbarse, only third Era.” The Mer corrected.


    Decimus cleared his throat and motioned Belrand to sit and Belrand slowly lowered himself onto his chair, his eyes never leaving the Mer’s. “What our 'Nord friend', Rovaniik the Albino, is trying to say is that when you’re as fucking ancient as he is, everybody is ‘lad’ or ‘lass’ to him, even the Nord grandpas.”


    “That still doesn’t explain why you told the court he was a Nord. Why did you lie?”


    “Got two words for you, Belrand.” Decimus started, his face becoming serious. “Black and Gold.” He muttered, spitting on the floor before resuming his meal.


    “That’s technically three--” The Elf started.


    “Shut up.” Decimus interrupted, turned quickly to the Elf, dropping his meal to shake a finger a the Mer. “You correct me one more time--”


    The Elf raised both hands in surrender, though there was a certain humor behind the eyes, like he enjoyed toying with Decimus. “Understood.”


    “Well, Belrand, you know what black and gold means, right?” The Imperial continued.


    “Aye, I do.” They all seemed to. Even the Elf’s demeanor had changed, growing more dark than Decimus’.


    “Let’s just say that our friend here can’t exactly go parading his fancy High Elf colours.” He smirked. “Or lack thereof, in front of their headquarters, got me?” The Imperial eyed the inn carefully to make sure no one was looking at them and he leaned closer to Belrand. “We need into the city, secretly.” His voice was barely a whisper.


    “You want me to smuggle him in?” Belrand felt his brows lower. “What the fuck did he do to piss them off?”


    “He hasn't done shit. They're assholes.” Decimus insisted.  “You know how they are. They’ll hunt you for nothing and we need him. We need him badly.” He added.


    “Why? Why need a squire?” Belrand questioned and then snorted. “If that is what he really is.”


    Decimus rubbed his face with a beefy hand in impatience and groaned. “You’re really not going to let this go, are you?”


    “You want me to sneak him into the city, you better damn tell me who he is. I’d like to know who I’m risking my neck for, because I don’t risk my hide for a Witch Elf.”


    “You fucker, he’s the D--”


    The Mer’s hand rose, stopping Decimus. “I am a Knight-Paladin of the Holy Order of Auri-El. A priest among my people.” The prior accent was dropped like a hot potato in favor of what Belrand could only describe as a voice out of a bloody story book, with that touch of tragic nobility. Altmer, but not Altmer at the same time. His face also changed, acquiring an age that silenced any protest Belrand was forming in his mind. That forced him to listen. “I have answered your city’s summons and will offer assistance.” He slowly nodded at Belrand. “I offer my humblest apologies if I have offended you, friend Belrand, for indeed, my race has much to answer for. To both men and… Mer.  But we will have to put our differences aside for Solitude and keep up this ruse, with me serving as both yours and Decimus’ squire. The accent, the manners, everything and I ask that you please tolerate my presence. Your city is at stake. Can you get me into Solitude?” He bent his head. “So that I may do his work.”


    No jokes this time from the Old Blade. He was sitting in silence, his eyes on the Mer and Belrand saw it, the admiration, the respect. They had to be very good friends for Decimus to not give into his jabs for once.


    “Wouldn’t the black and golds be alright with him?” Belrand wondered. “I mean Auri-El’s their god, right? Why can’t he just walk in?”


    The old Elf released a bitter chuckle. “The um, black and golds, as you call them, do not hold our gods with such reverence as was done in the past. For disagreeing with their philosophy, my ancient Order was…” He took a breath, as if the words were very painful for him to say. “Dissolved. His devout priests either assimilated, bent to their whim or...” He stopped, unable to finish what both Belrand and Decimus knew would be spoken next. Belrand could only guess that they killed the priests. The old Mer released a weighted sigh and his eyes found the hearth, searching the vast distances that lay beyond their flickering.


    “Friend.” Decimus whispered, getting the Mer’s attention.


    “I am all that actively remains. Exiled and hunted for just existing. My only crime, loving my homeland.” He continued after some time, as if released from a sad trance when Decimus spoke and Belrand wondered how old he was. Third Era was easily centuries.  “So, I wander Tamriel, upholding my sacred Tenets through devoted service, chasing monsters, chasing darkness, chasing death, and doing my small part to defy them with my continued existence.  A vagabond Knight,  you may say. A warrior-priest.” His grief passed and he smiled at Decimus, his eyes twinkling with a dozen jokes it seemed now to Belrand. “Vagabond knights often find others and I have worked with the Goldpact before. Good people.” He grinned. “For all their many vices.”


    “Fuck you.” Decimus finally answered with his traditional sarcasm. “You’re no saint either.”


    “Oh, you do not lie there, old friend. I am indeed no saint.” The Mer chuckled. His eyes then found Belrand’s. “I’m a mer of great flaws, a lover of sugar and good smokes, but I have read the reports Decimus sent me.” He leaned closer and Belrand noticed that the eyes were misting a little and Belrand found his anger leaving him. Shor’s Bones! The sincerity he saw behind those Elven eyes. That he was willing to go into a city that was now crawling with Thalmor? Risk his life for people he didn’t even know?  “Let me help your city, friend Belrand.” He continued. “I want to help your city. I can help your city.”

    They walked into the Blue Palace, lingering in the opening waiting room that preceded the grand staircase that led to the Jarl’s throne room and Decimus resisted an urge to scratch his balls. Everytime he went to see the Jarl, he just needed to scratch his balls. Could be because she is definitely one fine piece of Nordic stock. Yes, absolutely. He wouldn't mind hopping into bed with her. It kind of reminded him of his younger days in Cyrodiil where getting a noblewoman into bed was his daily bread and butter. you remember how it went last time you got a ruler into your bed? So yeah, stop thinking with your dick, Old Blade.


    He glanced at old Ronnie, Rovaniik, Äelberon, whatever, suppressing his laughter when the eyebrow rings on his brow caught the sunlight through the palace’s windows. You look like a whore, my friend. And I just love it, hahaha. Tilma must have had a lot of fun getting you ready. Though the disguised Altmer seemed like he was resisting an urge to scratch his balls too. Or he has gas… Could be all the bloody food he stuffed his face with when he arrived at Dragon Bridge. He could eat like a horse when he wasn’t ill and it showed from his weight gain. You’re easily how many angaids now, old Mer? Past 17,000? Decimus shook his head, thinking numbers that high was not his strength, but easily bigger than he was last time he visited the old Elf in Cyrodiil. You’re also a stone’s throw from a good, old-fashioned pot belly if you aren’t careful with the sweets. Like a fucking Khajiit with your sugar.


    And when he wasn’t eating, he was talking until both he and Belrand were nearly dizzy with information. Maybe it was gas from all that talking. He even whipped out his pages of notes. Pages. Fucker made notes on the notes. Typical Old Mary and he had to shut down Belrand’s annoyed glare several times from his end of the table. You just had to get used to how Old Marys operate, friend, he thought, his eyes traveling to the Nord. It’s a different thing, I know, but we’ll need that precision. Ronnie was especially interested in opening the damn Temple, which Decimus wasn’t sure that would be allowed to happen. In addition, he wanted to speak to Mage Stentor, the priest Styrr, and even hire the Alchemist, Angeline Morrard, to do some work for him. He continued talking throughout the ride to Solitude, voicing his many theories out loud, or commenting about the history of the area. But the talking suddenly stopped  once they entered the city secretly from the East Empire Company, thanks to a few connections Belrand had with the guards there. The Mer became silent and his eyes began studying the city in earnest, like he was searching for something. Decimus wasn't actually that surprised. His senses were much more...sensitive to spiritual and magical matters than Decimus' or even Belrand's. And for some reason the closer they were getting to the Blue Palace, the Altmer’s mood was getting worse.  


    Decimus took the Altmer by the elbow and leaned closer. “You alright?”


    The Altmer stopped, looking at him, his eyes like slits, almost as if he wanted to say something. He then looked away and shook his head. “No.” He whispered, “I'm not.” The Altmer scanned the area around him for the upteenth time. “There’s somethin', somethin' I hav'na…” he started and then let it trail off into silence.


    “Come on, talk to me,” the Imperial  insisted, which got Belrand’s attention.  


    “What? What's wrong?” the Nord asked and Decimus hissed at him to remain silent.


    Äelberon rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I'll do me best to explain what I’m perceivin'. ‘Tis like walkin' into an apothecary. When ya walk in, y’are immediately bombarded by the aromas of the various ingredients, all at once, aye?  But then there's this one scent that makes yer throat choke up and ya claw at yer eyes. Ya know ‘tis there and ya know what it is, but ya can't pinpoint its origin among all the other scents.”


    Decimus scratched his beard and narrowed his eyes. He had a witty remark at hand, but he decided not to make fun of that. Äelberon was serious and that was enough for him. “And what's making you choke?” he asked.


    The Altmer’s face darkened and he didn’t bother hiding his scowl. “Vampires,” he answered and Decimus exchanged looks with Belrand.


    Shit! We met vampires at Wolfskull. The Imperial didn't consider that a coincidence, not at all. And since he told Äelberon all the rest details about Wolfskull on their way from Dragon Bridge to Solitude that Decimus chose to omit from his letters to not scare anybody who would read it, it was quite clear that the Altmer didn’t consider it a mere coincidence either.  “Alright,” he whispered to Belrand and Äelberon. “Let's keep this between ourselves for the for the time being. We don't really want to scare the court the moment you arrive.”


    “They should be scared.”  


    Decimus raised his hand to stop the big Mer. Belrand was already getting nervous and Äelberon’s ominous tone wasn’t helping. “Easy, friend. Let's just announce ourselves first, then we’ll take that bird’s beak of yours out for a little tracking. Maybe we’ll find some more evidence we can then bring it to them.” The Imperial then grinned, patting the Mer on his shoulder. “I’ll even buy you a leash. Belrand can walk you. He’d love that.”


    “No I wouldn’t.”


    “So fucking easy…” Decimus chortled, but he directed himself to Äelberon again. “What say you, Rovaniik?”


    He watched the old Mer chew the inside of his lip in thought and waited for Ronnie to finish whatever debate he was conducting his brain. It was plain from his growing scowl that Ronnie wasn’t pleased with the situation. “Ya sure it's wise? Not tellin' ‘em?”


    Decimus shook his head. “I think it's a stupid idea mostly because I came up with it. But the thing is I know you, I trust your nose. They don't. So they don't have to believe us when we say there are vampires around. You haven't been here through all the shit since it started.” He patted Äelberon on a shoulder. “I believe you, but these people are really suspicious ones, jumping at every shadow. Let's wait a day, try to dig something up - hopefully not a corpse. That alright?”


    He saw Äelberon conduct another mental debate with himself while his eyes scanned his surroundings carefully, almost as if he was expecting a vampire to jump from around a corner and Decimus couldn't blame him for that. If he was saying that there were vampires… There be vampires. He rubbed his nose and the Altmer understood him well enough in their long friendship to know that him rubbing his nose meant that this was the plan whether he liked it or not. The jaw clenched in resolution and the Mer nodded.


    “Perhaps it's for tha best that they don't know yet.” The Mer replied, and Decimus could see him retreat into his own world again, the brow hooding those dragon eyes, muttering quietly something in his language. “Va naga, rume alda, va naga…”


    He wasn’t even going to try to translate that. He didn’t need to. Hearing the old Altmeris from the Mer’s thick Dusken was enough to know that the Mer was bothered about something. It’s not you, Dec, this isn’t about you at all.


    Decimus then looked at Belrand, who just shrugged his shoulders. “Don't ask me. You know I'm up for any stupid idea you come up with.”


    The Imperial grimaced and then grinned. “Alright. Just take a seat and I'll go inform Firebeard that Rovaniik the Albino, Squire of the Goldpact,  is here so he can summon the court.”


    The Altmer made a sour face that went right through that ridiculous Nord war paint he was sporting.  “That bloody name...”


    “Why do I have to stay here?” Belrand whined like a puppy, and Decimus' grin only widened.


    “Well, because you are a lovely pair, almost like a husband and wife. I'd hate to tear you apart.”


    That cracked through the old Mer’s brooding and Ronnie finally rewarded Decimus’ efforts with a chuckle and a crease of his laugh lines. Belrand murmured something that could have been only: “Asshole.”


    Decimus blew him a kiss and then walked towards the stairs that were barred by Solitude’s guards. Belrand took a seat on a bench in the waiting room and Decimus already had to supress his laughter. Ronnie alone with Belrand who is uneasy about the Albino. Sitting next to an Old Mary and the man thinks the old Mer swings that way. Well after we messed with Belrand at Dragon Bridge, you can’t really blame the bastard for thinking that way. Ronnie is going to pull his leg with a style, hahaha. Decimus glanced at the Mer’s face and was about to give him a wink to egg him on with Belrand and then he stopped laughing. The Mer had chuckled, but those eyes were now scanning his surroundings again. And he wasn’t cozying up to Belrand either, but pacing in the waiting room. Gotta make this fast, Dec, or Ronnie is going to either jump out of his pants or pace a hole into the floor. He turned away and acknowledged the guards with a nod. “I’m here to see old Firebeard, lads. A matter for the court," he said to the guards.


    They nodded and one of them said: “Court Wizard Stentor was looking for you yesterday, Merotim. Urgent business, she said.”


    Decimus frowned and then shrugged. “Well, I had an urgent business in Dragon Bridge, but thanks for telling me. I’ll make sure to pay her a visit later,” he winked at them and he heard them snicker under their helmets. Not that she was really Decimus’ type, but if he had to be honest with himself...he really didn’t have a type. Though...fine arse and nice pair of tits might be exactly your type.


    He walked up the stairs and noticed Jarl Elisif and Falk Firebeard speaking with an Altmer male. He stopped himself and just stared. Never had he seen such a beautiful creature. The mer had a chiseled golden-hued face with full, sensual lips and long honey-blond hair hanging down his back, partially done in their pristine braids, neatly trimmed and shining like silk. He was shorter than the fat Ugly Arse in the waiting room and far more slender, more in line with typical Old Marys, but his body looked like it was perfectly sculpted for swordplay, his movements as he spoke, graceful and refined. Decimus nodded, sizing the Mer up.  In a way, a lot like the old Fat Arse, but far more…  He’s...beautiful.


    Decimus shook his head quickly and frowned, realizing he was struggling to breathe. What in the Oblivion is wrong with you? You don’t swing that way. But he just couldn’t help but stare.


    The Altmer slowly turned around and flashed a smile in Decimus’ direction that made his knees shake beneath him. “Ah, the Goldpact Knight,” the Altmer purred with a silken voice. Decimus felt his heart almost stop beating. “This city owes you a profound debt.” He bowed graciously and Decimus saw how his robes were tailored to his body. They looked similar in fashion to Justiciar robes, long-sleeved and high-necked, but were of an embroidered gold against a maroon background of crushed velvet. Underneath the robes were form-fitting breeches of maroon silk and soft leather boots. At his side was a ceremonial saber gilded in gold and encrusted with garnet and diamonds. This was one rich mother fucker.


    Decimus licked his lips and cleared his throat, also noticing how Firebeard and Jarl Elisif hung on the Altmer’s every word - Elisif’s cheeks were even reddening every time she looked at the Elf. “Thank you,” he managed, his voice hoarser than he wanted it to be.  


    “No.” Another bow. “We thank you,” the Elf smiled again then turned to Elisif, who immediately averted her gaze, looking at her feet. It was then that she remembered that she was actually a Jarl, and she straightened, looking the Altmer in the eye. “As I was saying, Jarl Elisif,” the Elf said, “if you are in need of any assistance, Justiciar Coredalf is a dear friend of mine. Consider the Thalmor troops at your disposal, my lady. The Aldmeri Dominion takes the desecration of sacred ground very seriously. The crime against Solitude has truly been immense.” He said it with a smile that made Decimus shiver. The Altmer’s amber yellow eyes then warmed. “But I see that there are more pressing matters at hand.” He bowed again, taking Elisif’s hand in his. “I will take my leave, my dear, dear lady, lest I be a burden to you.” he planted a gentle kiss upon her hand and Decimus saw Elisif blushed yet again.  


    “You are never a burden to us. You have been like a ray of sunshine in what has been some of Solitude’s darkest days.”


    “Always a pleasure, my lady Elisif, of clan Direnni.” She chuckled at the mention of house Direnni and the mer gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “Til next time. Tea?”


    “Of course.” Jarl Elisif blushed.


    With that he left, nodding at Decimus, and headed towards the Blue Palace’s balcony instead of the stairwell. But none of them thought about that, they were just watching him leave, enthralled by his cat-like movements, the delicate rustling of his robes and cape. One could say it was almost hypnotic, as if someone had put them under a spell.


    Decimus shook his head the moment the elf left and looked at Falk. “Well,” he cleared his throat. “I’ve come to tell you that the Albino is here. He’s waiting downstairs. So you might want to summon the court.” He turned to Elisif, realizing he should have addressed her first. “If you wish, Jarl.” He should have addressed her first, but it was difficult not to forget considering it was actually Falk Firebeard who was the de facto ruler of Solitude, alongside General Tulius. Elisif was young, inexperienced, but at least she was wise enough to listen to her advisors. What kind of ruler did that make her was something Decimus didn’t really want to think about. As long as she pays well…


    Elisif looked at Falk, pursed her lips and nodded. “Yes, that seems wise. Court would like to meet the hero that is going to free this city from the grip of this evil.” 


    Sounds like a line from a fucking epic...


    “As you wish, Jarl,” Firebeard nodded and motioned Decimus to follow him from the throne room down the stairs. Decimus respectfully bowed his head and followed the steward. When they reached the bottom Falk turned to Decimus. “I’ll send the men to assemble the court. Might take a while, so the guest quarters and the kitchen are at your disposal.”


    “Damn, that almost sounds like you’re starting to like me, Falk,” Decimus smirked and then shook his head. “But yeah, I get it. You don’t want to spoil the surprise.”


    Firebeard just sneered. “If the Albino is really going to help us like you claim, then this is the least I can do.” He then snorted, looking at Decimus. “You are given the same privileges just because you tag along and that you are at least pretending you want to help this city.”


    “Pretending?” the Imperial raised his eyebrows. “You think I’m doing it just for the money?”


    “I’m expecting quite a large bill before this ends, aye.”


    “If I was doing this only for money, then I’d have packed my things a long time ago and tried my luck elsewhere, moron. I brought the Albino, precisely because I care. Go, you have a court to summon or something,” Decimus retorted in low voice that neared a growl and when he finished he just waved his hand, not bothering with Falk’s words anymore.


    He walked into the waiting room where Ronnie was pacing back and forth like a caged bear, a huge frown on his face and Decimus saw that the Elf’s mood was slowly starting to rub off on Belrand. The Nord was following the Altmer's movements with his eyes. His foot was tapping on the floor subconsciously and Decimus shook his head. This keeps going on everyone in the fucking Blue Palace will know there's something wrong. He got their attention and Belrand got up, Äelberon stopped pacing and he gave Decimus a look.  


    “They'll accept us now?” the Mer asked and his frown became even more prominent when Decimus shook his head.


    “They need to assemble the whole court. We can use the kitchen in the meantime,” he answered and he clearly saw how Äelberon was eyeing at the stairs, maybe thinking about just charging in there. Well, you are a thane technically, but Whiterun isn’t Solitude, friend. You don’t go meet the Jarl at the local inn for a shared meal and drink. He wondered how old Balgruuf would’ve handled this, to be honest.


    “Great, I'm starving,” Belrand slapped his belly, his apprehension over the Mer’s mood disappearing at the mention of ‘kitchen’. “My stomach thinks someone slit my throat. Been almost a whole day since the breakfast.”


    Decimus took Äelberon over his wide shoulders and began ushering him towards the hall. “Come on, there's nothing we can do about that. Let's grab something to eat in the meantime.”


    “Not hungry.” the Elf muttered. “It’s damn stupid, if ya ask me. Elisif is the Jarl, and she’s here. Why do we have ta wait for everyone?”


    Decimus was pushing him towards the kitchen's door and shook his head. “Solitude's different, friend.” He leaned closer and whispered: “This is more of an Imperial court than anything else. Falk Firebeard and Tullius are the de facto rulers here, Elisif has very little say here.” He kicked the doors to the kitchen open and said more loudly: “Am I right, Odar?”


    “She is of clan Direnni.” The Elf grumbled, angry enough now to drop his accent. “She should have more self respect.”


    “Am I right, Odar?” Decimus repeated, trying to get the cook’s attention.


    A Nord dressed in a cook’s white garb with a cook's hat sitting on his head looked up from a table full of ingredients and frowned. “Oh, gods save us all. The Goldpact Knight has come to plunder my pantry again.”


    Decimus laughed, pushing Äelberon inside. “And this time he comes with his squire, who eats like a small army of guards.” He patted Äelberon’s gut, which earned him a glare from the Mer. Aye, you did get fat. “Can’t you tell?”  the Imperial chuckled. “Falk said you'll take care of us while we wait for the court to assemble, so here we are. And am I right?”


    “Right about what?”


    “If he's an asshole,” Belrand murmured and sat at the table, grimacing at Decimus.


    “Come on, sit down, friend,” the Imperial steered Äelberon towards the table but the Mer dug his heels into the ground and Decimus let him go, raising his hands in surrender. Not going to try moving that wall of a Mer if he doesn’t want to go. “Fine, fine. Pace around like a bear in cage then. And you, Odar, tell him how it is with our Jarl the Fair.”


    "Everyone knows General Tullius wields the real power in Solitude. Along with Falk Firebeard. Elisif? Ah, she's a figurehead. A puppet," the cook snorted while he was slicing a loaf of bread, later moving on to slicing a few pieces of cheese and boar’s meat. He put them on wooden plates and carried them to Belrand and Decimus, then put two tankards of ale in front of them. “It's the same as with Torryg, you know. Solitude is more Empire than any other Hold in Skyrim.” He then sat down next to Decimus and sighed. “You can believe me when I'm saying that. Most of the time, people just forget I'm even here. That's why I hear so much good gossip."


    “Hear hear,” Belrand murmured with full mouth. “Jarls come and go, but a good cook stays for a lifetime.”


    The disguised Altmer stopped only for a second, to look at them and then continued his pacing. “It's not normally like this in Whiterun, hmm save fixin’ that stupid, stupid door. That was annoyin'.” he hissed in what could have been only frustration and then he looked Decimus in the eye, shaking his head. “I'm sorry, friend, it's just…” he said and then let it trail off into silence.


    “The allergy, yeah, I know,” the Imperial finished, looking at Odar with narrowed eyes then back at Äelberon. “I remember one time in Cyrodiil, how I had to wait in Chorrol whole day just because the Count wasn't holding a court until next day. Well, we can be glad that here they are at least getting the court together for us.”


    Belrand chuckled at that. “And if that doesn't convince you, Albino, you can imagine a Breton court. Now that's a proper cluster fuck, am I right, Decimus?”


    The Imperial smirked and shook his head. “Never attended one myself, but heard stories about it. Assembling a whole court, with all its barons, baronesses, counts, marquises and other whatnots can take a whole day. And once they get them all together it's so late in the night they just throw a ball instead, hahaha!”


    Odar and Belrand laughed with him.


    “I’ve seen courts assemble b’fore.” The mer said quietly, now leaning against the wall. At least he stopped pacing, but the eyes were faraway. “Splendid courts with nobles in such finery that would make yer very head spin. So much jewels and robes of crushed velvet, satin and embroidery.” He wrinkled his nose. “And enough perfume to make ya sick. Not a life for me. Give me golden sand under my feet and the salty sea any day over that nonsense.” He added bitterly before glancing at the table, and Dec could see him eyeing the food, but he made no effort to grab anything. Someone’s getting all homesick here. And that damn accent...fuck. Sounds really almost like Grulmar…


    “Spoken like a true sailor,” Belrand nodded and drowned the words with ale. He wiped his mouth and looked at the mer. “You've done lot of sailing then, Albino? Merchants? Pirates?”


    “Fishers,” Äelberon flashed a distant smile, and Decims could imagine where those Mer’s eyes were now. He never discussed his family much, but he knew the Mer’s father was a fishermer and that Ronnie had been very close to his family. Definitely homesick. Well, Dec, if anything, homesick is at least somewhat distracting, right? Better homesick and distracted than pacing around nervously.


    Decimus turned to Odar. “So tell me, O fine cook. Any news? What gossip did you hear? The stranger the better.”


    Odar blinked and then a mischievous flame sparked in his eyes. He leaned closer and looked around if there wasn't anyone listening to them. “Alright, listen well, then. Sybille Stentor, the court wizard, yeah? Folks at the court won't admit it, but she scares us all to death. Just the other day I saw her skulking from Castle Dour's dungeons. I heard from one of the guards that a prisoner had gone missing and that court wizard was investigating that. Which is strange right? Why was she there the night before that then?”


    Decimus saw Äelberon frown at those words and it apparently got his attention. And if Decimus had to be honest with himself, Stentor made his skin crawl too. There was just something strange about that woman that made him uneasy.


    And Odar then motioned to them to lean closer and when they did he added: "Somethin' just ain't right about that Sybille, you know? I've never seen her eat a thing. That can't be natural, am I right?"


    Now Äelberon began clenching his jaws. Decimus thought about what Odar said, but for some reason it seemed somewhat over the top. Maybe she just doesn't like to eat in public or whatever. People are sometimes weird like that. “Could be a mage thing,” he shrugged. “Some can go without food for days and such.”


    Belrand snorted and his teeth ripped another piece of ham. “Definitely not my case.”


    “You would eat a whole cow even with a fucking barn,” the Imperial shook his head in disbelief.


    “Alright,” Odar sighed and got up from the chair. “Back to my slicing, dicing and baking.”


    And so Decimus and Belrand ate while Äelberon just stood there, probably lost in his own thoughts. The Imperial didn't blame him, there was lot to process with the hauntings, weird plants and now even vampires if his friend was right about that. Not that Decimus believed Äelberon could be wrong, but everyone could be wrong here and there, though he learned to trust the mer's hunch or whatever he wanted to call that - Auriel's aura coming right from his golden arse for all I care. So if Äelberon was sure, Decimus believed him. He just wasn't capable of feeling what the mer felt, all the invisible stuff and so he was much more relaxed. Let it come and I'll deal with it once it does. Nothing to do now but wait.


    And so they waited.

    It took nearly two hours before the court was assembled and it was a Solitude's guardsman who came for them to the kitchen. Decimus finished his second tankard of ale and got up, following the guard, with his eyes on Äelberon, who looked as if he just took a seat on a chair made of spikes. As if whatever was making him itch it was now much closer and Decimus narrowed his eyes. If there are vampires will you recognize them, Dec? Just remember that old shit. Can they hide from you? With illusions, yeah. Depends on how good they are. Cyrodiilic Vampyrum? Not very likely to be found here and even if they were there is no fucking way to recognize those bastards. Just keep your eyes open and watch Äelberon. He knows his shit.


    They ascended the stairs, Decimus went first, getting the chance to scout the terrain first, so to say.


    Jarl Elisif was sitting on her throne, with Falk Firebeard standing to her left. The steward had sour look on his face, eyeing the court nervously. To Elisif's right was Sybille Stentor, watching Decimus climb the stairs.


    On the left side of the throne room was standing Bolgeir Bearclaw, one big ugly Nord clad in steel armor, the plates covering every inch of his body and he was leaning against his big two handed sword which was more appropriate for a headsman than a Housecarl.


    Next to him was standing a Nord woman clad in the Legion's heavy armor. She wasn't exactly young, some wrinkles on her face betraying a tough life and hard eyes that looked like they had seen more death than anyone else in the throne room. Her skin was slightly darker than the usual Nord, almost giving her the look of an Imperial, but it was ultimately her build and height that gave her away as a Nord. Decimus could only assume that was Legate Rikke and he felt the urge to scratch his balls. Strong and tall. That's how I like them. Certainly wouldn't mind looking under that armor of hers.


    Next to her was Captain Aldis with his arms crossed over his chest, clearly annoyed he had to participate in this while the people on the streets needed his attention.


    The right side of the throne room was more filled than the left, with the Solitude's nobles sitting on chairs there. Decimus could see that slimy bastard Erikur, along with his spiteful sister and Erikur's lapdog, Meralan. The Altmer was watching everything with a smirk and Decimus hoped that the Albino would wipe that smirk off his face.


    There was thane Bryling with her protector, Irnskar Ironhand. Next to them was Vittoria Vicci, first cousin to Emperor Mede and it was written all over her face. Not the resemblance, not at all, but that frown which was almost screaming: Why am I even here?


    He saw Sybille Stentor lean closer to Elisif and he could barely hear her words as he reached the top of the stairs, all eyes on him and then on Äelberon behind him.


    Decimus, Äelberon and Belrand got five steps close to the throne and they all slightly bowed their heads. As was said before, this wasn't a Breton court where deep bows were expected, and neither it was full fledged Imperial court where salutes were more common. And bowing one's head was a simple and very common sign of respect.


    “My Jarl, I will need a word with you later. In private,” Stentor was saying in a whisper which actually could have been heard by everyone in the room. Almost as if she wanted everyone to hear it while pretending it's a secret. “I think I have figured the killer's identity.”


    Stentor figured the killer's identity? Well damn!


    The court wizard looked in Decimus' direction and then he saw her eyes darting towards Äelberon to his right.


    “Am tata av Auri-El,” he heard his friend snarl and whirled around only to see Äelberon drawing his sword, his eyes blazing.




    “Nagare Bet Garlythi!” He was like an animal.


    Room was suddenly filled with screams and shouts. Steel was escaping the wooden and leather sheaths with loud ringing. Feet began to shuffle.


    Decimus reached with his hand, trying to grab Äelberon by his elbow, to stop him from whatever foolish idea he had in his head.


    But the mer was too fast. Two hundred years too fast.


    “A aushantanni av Molag Bal!” Äelberon growled as his silver katana plunged deep into Stentor's chest, the shock registering on her face.


    Motherfucking shit shit shit shit shit!


    Decimus eyes quickly scanned his left and right and saw Bolgeir charging in with his huge sword, followed by Aldis and his men.


    Stentor released her last breath and-


    Turned to ash.




    Decimus' baskethilt sword escaped its sheath the moment Äelberon dropped his katana to the ground, raising his hands up in surrender. “Fe’Tur, fe’chasca nan sou.” He said quietly, slowly falling to his knees as if in prayer. Fuck. Fucking knight of Auri-El. I said bring him, not go do his fucking bidding. Fuck!


    People were yelling over each other, someone released a high pitched scream. Elisif was sitting on her throne, clutching the handles, completely pale. Only Äelberon was silent, his eyes on Elisef.


    And Bolgeir wasn't stopping.


    “Vampire!” Decimus shouted out of the top of his lungs, trying to howl everyone down. “He yields!”


    “She was a fucking vampire!” Belrand shouted and the guards finally hesitated.


    But Bolgeir still wasn't stopping.


    Shit fucking grandmother shitting shit!


    The Imperial found him standing between Äelberon and Bolgeir, pointing his sword at the coming Nord, his empty hand raised above his head. “He yields!” he shouted again and this time the Nord's eyes flashed with recognition as Decimus stepped into his line of sight.


    But the the huge sword was already falling down.


    Sparks flew from the stone floor as the sword changed direction, missing both Decimus and Äelberon when Bolgeir changed the direction of the cut.


    Everyone was uneasy, their hands on the hilts, sweaty and itchy.  The room was slowly being overwhelmed by a heavy silence as everyone wasn't sure what exactly to do. Äelberon was still on his knees with his hands raised, Decimus was still pointing his sword at Bolgeir and Belrand was standing between Äelberon and the guards.


    Nobody knew what exactly just happened, why the court wizard turned into ash and why the stranger attacked in the first place. They didn't know the whys and didn't know what to do next. They needed answers, they needed commands.


    “Chain him,” Falk Firebeard said with a hoarse voice into the silence and everyone turned their heads to him, just standing there. Their eyes fell on the Jarl who was pale as if the death had touched her, her eyes on the pile of ash on the ground, with the silver katana lying within it. She realized that all eyes were on her and she stood up, nearly falling down while doing that as her head spinned. She clutched the throne's handles to regain balance and raised her chin, her eyes on Äelberon now.


    “Chain him,” she whispered. The room was suddenly overwhelmed with movement as the guards approached Äelberon, grabbing him by his big arms and forcing him to stand up. “Chain him and throw him in the dungeon,” she added and then her gaze shifted towards Decimus and Belrand.


    Ah shit!


    She stared into Decimus' eyes, biting her lip and Falk Firebeard stepped closer, frowning at Decimus. The Imperial raised his hands without a word and the guards took his weapons, doing the same with Belrand.


    “Them too, my Jarl?” the steward asked and Decimus grimaced, completely ignoring the decorum and spitting on the ground which earned him few gasps of surprise.


    “My crime is mine alone.” Äelberon protested as he was trying to turn around and look Elisif in the eyes, struggling against the guards holding him. “Please, I ask you, my Jarl. They are innocents in this. They did not know--”


    Bolgeir cuffed Äelberon across the face and Decimus saw the blood in the corner of the Mer’s mouth as a lip ring clanged upon the floor.  “You will be silent in the presence of the Jarl.”

    “My Jarl,” Firebeard repeated, getting Elisif's attention.

    She is shocked. Barely standing. Decimus could see it, she wasn't thinking straight. Maybe she was just reliving the day Torryg was killed, maybe she was just shocked by the sudden loss of an advisor or the sudden realisation that advisor was a vampire. He wasn't really prepared to guess what so shook her, but she had their lives in her hands. She has Ronnie's life in her hands too. Stupid Elf!


    Elisif shook her head, as if she was trying to chase away the fog clouding her judgement and looked Decimus in the eye again. “No,” she murmured and the cleared her throat. “No,” she repeated and took a seat, looking at Rikke. “Where is General Tullius, Legate?”


    “At an important meeting with Thalmor representative, my Jarl,” Rikke answered and threw Decimus a look.


    “And what would Tullius think about this, Legate?”


    The Nord woman raised her eyebrows and Decimus felt his heart sink. That general fucker would think only one thing about all of this. It's fucking Roggvir all over again. He opened the gates to Ulfric, I led the Elf into Blue Palace. We're not so different after all, Roggvir. Well, I still have my head, but not for long.


    “He would question the two other mercenaries first, my Jarl,” Rikke said which made Decimus raise his eyebrows in return. That was not the answer he was expecting. “Not everything is as it seems and there is a curse lying on this city. Your court wizard was a vampire, which apparently, you did not realize. Hear their side of the story first.”


    Elisif narrowed her eyes and Falk was about to say something, but she stopped him with a raised hand. Her eyes traveled to Äelberon and Decimus could see the resignation in his face, the weight of his many years. You’re ready to die, aren’t you? You go and you do this and you are alright with dying. But I’m not alright with you dying. Because you’ve saved my arse more times than I can count. Because without you, a fucking giant dragon is going to fuck up everybody and everything, even this cursed shithole of a city. And maybe, just maybe because I want to bloody kill you myself for being such an honor-bound moron. Her eyes then traveled back to Decimus. “Very well. Explain.” She commanded.


    Decimus took a deep breath, watching Äelberon being led away, watching how the guards showed no love for the person who was going to save all their arses down the road. You owe me, you crazy fucker. And he opened his mouth to explain.  



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15 Comments   |   Meli and 8 others like this.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  October 12, 2017
    I remember them talking about this court meeting in CA and thinking that must of been a bad ass scene; I wasn't disappointed  :D
     also that disguise, hahaha
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      I remember them talking about this court meeting in CA and thinking that must of been a bad ass scene; I wasn't disappointed  :D
       also that disguise, hahaha
        ·  October 12, 2017
      Yeah, he did that costume just to make Decimus laugh. Tilma helped him. Yeah, and sometimes Albee doesn't think before he acts. 
  • A-Pocky-Hah!
    A-Pocky-Hah!   ·  September 10, 2017
    Holy shit, is Decimus gay?! :O
    Someone should really give Aelberon an orc-smack for once. I mean c'mon! She was just about to give them a lead on the killer. 
    Oh, one more thing. I'm confused at how you use pertans and anglaids in your s...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Holy shit, is Decimus gay?! :O
      Someone should really give Aelberon an orc-smack for once. I mean c'mon! She was just about to give them a lead on the killer. 
      Oh, one more thing. I'm confused at how you use pertans and anglaids in your stories. I se...  more
        ·  September 10, 2017
      If you read pig children. Angaids is weight, pertans are height. Albee is Albee and acted correctly for who he is. He's got some growing to do. 
    • Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Holy shit, is Decimus gay?! :O
      Someone should really give Aelberon an orc-smack for once. I mean c'mon! She was just about to give them a lead on the killer. 
      Oh, one more thing. I'm confused at how you use pertans and anglaids in your stories. I se...  more
        ·  September 10, 2017
      No, Decimus is not gay. It´s...about the elf. Notice how both Falk and Elisif hang on the elf´s every word. :)
      • A-Pocky-Hah!
        Karver the Lorc
        Karver the Lorc
        Karver the Lorc
        No, Decimus is not gay. It´s...about the elf. Notice how both Falk and Elisif hang on the elf´s every word. :)
          ·  September 10, 2017
        How did I not see it. It's Illusion! :D
        Still, those are some pretty nasty thoughts Dec's mind was playing.
        • Karver the Lorc
          Karver the Lorc
          How did I not see it. It's Illusion! :D
          Still, those are some pretty nasty thoughts Dec's mind was playing.
            ·  September 10, 2017
          Tha Illusion powah ftw! :D
  • A Shadow Under the Moons
    A Shadow Under the Moons   ·  September 7, 2017
    *froths at mouth*

    You'd think a century or two would've taught Albee some restraint, even when it came to vampires.
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      *froths at mouth*

      You'd think a century or two would've taught Albee some restraint, even when it came to vampires.
        ·  September 7, 2017
      HAHA, well he's like an old blood hound that one is. And he's got a lot of pain caused by vampires to deal with. A lot of anger and he's very human in how he processes that. 
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  September 6, 2017
    Well Coredalf's a dreamboat. CD is before CA, right? Like, I knew of the vampire bit and it makes sense pre-Serana. This is pre-Serana, right? Anyway, great stuff as always. Albee's intro was cool and the whole "let's tusk with Belrand's head" thing :D
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Well Coredalf's a dreamboat. CD is before CA, right? Like, I knew of the vampire bit and it makes sense pre-Serana. This is pre-Serana, right? Anyway, great stuff as always. Albee's intro was cool and the whole "let's tusk with Belrand's head" thing :D
        ·  September 6, 2017
      Coredalf? Huh? The Mer in the spiffy clothes was talking about Coredalf, but that wasn't Coredalf. And yes, Chasing Death is set around two months after the events of Book 1. Serana is covered in Book 2. 

      Yes, Tilma had fun dress...  more
      • Paws
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        Coredalf? Huh? The Mer in the spiffy clothes was talking about Coredalf, but that wasn't Coredalf. And yes, Chasing Death is set around two months after the events of Book 1. Serana is covered in Book 2. 

        Yes, Tilma had fun dressing her handsomest...  more
          ·  September 6, 2017
        I see, with ya. So the mystery dreamy mer is yet to be revealed. Exciting. Yeah, the mental image of Aelberon's appearance made me smile :D 
        • The Long-Chapper
          The Long-Chapper
          I see, with ya. So the mystery dreamy mer is yet to be revealed. Exciting. Yeah, the mental image of Aelberon's appearance made me smile :D 
            ·  September 6, 2017
          The accent was a hoot to write too. 
  • Meli
    Meli   ·  September 6, 2017
    Aww, some serious LOL moments, but as long as the chappers are, I'm always sad to get to the end knowing I have to wait for more 
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Aww, some serious LOL moments, but as long as the chappers are, I'm always sad to get to the end knowing I have to wait for more 
        ·  September 6, 2017
      Thanks Meli.