PoTM: Chapter 23, Breath of Change, Winds of Fire

  • Strange Rituals of the Orsimer

    A Study of Death Rites of the People of Tamriel

    By Chaplain Jorden, Priest of Arkay

     

    As a devout follower of the god of burials and funeral rites, I have dedicated my life to the study of the ceremonies and rituals performed by the various races of Tamriel when it comes to the deaths of their leaders, family members, and loved ones. In this volume, I explore the death rites of the Orsimer - otherwise known as the Orcs of Wrothgar.

     

    Popular lore would have us believe that an Orc's remains lay where they fall. While there is a grain of truth in this concept, Orcs know as much about disease and decay as any of the other intelligent races. No one wants a rotting corpse left around to stink up the place, and rotting corpses attract all kinds of insects and predators. So, while the spot where an Orc dies is marked and considered almost sacred by his brethren, the body is not left in place for more than a few hours. During this time, friends and family come by to pay their last respects. Then the body is removed-to where, I cannot say.

     

    Orcs, for all their oral traditions, refuse to provide explanations or specifics to outsiders. I have had to make educated guesses based upon observations and the few conversations I've been able to engage in. But so far, no one will tell me what the Orcs do with the bodies of the dead.

    * * *

    I discovered an ancient Orcish burial site, the mountain known as Sorrow. This snow-covered peak, full of dangerous creatures and deadly weather, served as a depository for dead Orcs for several generations, though the practice ended abruptly sometime in the past. Apparently, the mountain was reserved for only the bravest and strongest Orcs, who were required to climb as high as they could before death finally overtook them. These Orcs were left where they fell, but stones were piled atop their bodies to form protective cairns or unique constructions called wedge tombs.

     

    This also appears to have some connection to the practice of marking any location where an Orc dies and falls with a sacred rock. They call the rocks "tumnors", which I believe means "death stones" in the Orcish tongue.

    * * *

    I finally found an old Orc female who was willing to share some of their death rituals with me. Specifically, she was willing to discuss the practice of "beshkar-nor", the death-forge. Apparently, what happens to the bodies of Orcs of great stature-leaders, heroes, and revered elders-is that they undergo a process known as the death-forge. The old Orc described the process in confusing terms. I'm not sure if the blood is drained from the body and saved for later use or if the entire body is burned and reduced to ash, and then the ash is saved. Either way, the saved remains wind up mixed into molten metal, allowing the revered Orc to become one with a powerful tool or weapon, usually a sword, hammer, or shield.

    * * *

    So, my quest to completely understand the complex funerary rites practiced by the Orcs of Wrothgar continues. I've learned so much, but I realize I haven't really learned anything at all. I know, as a general rule, the Orcs don't bury their dead-except when they do, such as on the mountain of Sorrow. I know that they mark the place where a powerful Orc died, but they probably don't actually leave the body there to rot and decay. And I learned that some portion of a dead Orc is saved to mix with a newly forged tool or weapon in a process known as the death-forge.

     

    I'll continue to probe and investigate, for I find these contradictory practices to be fascinating. I just hope I don't anger the wrong Orc and learn about their death rituals first hand. That wouldn't do at all.



    8th of Morning Star, 4E 204

     

    Mogrul was walking through Raven Rock with a frown on his face, his steps heavy and full of annoyance. He watched the traders packing up their goods as the day's light was slowly vanishing behind the horizon. He was seeing a new energy in those people, since the mines were opened. The town was now much livelier, everyone was ready and willing to pick up a mining axe and go find themselves a fortune in the depths of the earth.

     

    He released a growl. It was sickening.

     

    The Orc noticed Glover standing by his house, his hand heavily bandaged and Mogrul couldn't help but chuckle. Word was that Glover fell from stairs, falling right on his wrist and breaking it. How unfortunate that was?

     

    That little Mallory girl is certainly full of surprises.

     

    Also the word was that Sadri's kegs with his best sujamma cracked and spilled out all their contents on the Rething Netch's floor, giving the tavern a smell and also a look like if a Netch really did throw up in it.

     

    Now Mogrul just needed to do something about that damn Altmer, He was in the mines, probably surrounded by Dunmer like a dumbarse white Neravarine, eager to help with the clean up so they could start the mining process, but his woman? She wasn’t, so he decided to pay her a visit, have some fun with her. It would be easy, probably a weak wannabe warrior that let the big Altmer do all the work. She was just along for the ride. Literally. He knew woman like that and the way she talked to him their first night at Raven Rock communicated that clearly.

     

    He was about to pay her a visit, when he got word from a guard that he should go to the Bulwark immediately. Urgent business.

     

    Slitter was right behind him and he was considering taking Sapphire with him too, but then he reconsidered it. She didn't have to be everywhere, though she certainly was a pleasing sight for his eyes. He wondered what could he do to get her in his bed.

     

    But don't forget she swore to kill you. Yes, that was a very important part. But also very thrilling! There's nothing like knives in the bed and such. What fun. Which sort of reminded him of Dreyla and he was of a mind to send for her tonight. Maybe even make Sapphire watch. That certainly would be interesting.

     

    He climbed the steps to the Bulwark, the sunset being all magnificent and shit behind his back and he looked around. The guard didn't say what was so urgent, but Mogrul could imagine it had something to do with captain Veleth. The mer was the only one with the nerve to call him to the Bulwark for a few quiet and undisturbed words. Happened a few times in the past, so it wouldn't be anything new.

     

    Mogrul was searching for the captain, but he didn’t see him anywhere on the ramparts. Slitter then knocked on his shoulder, trying to get his attention, and the Orc glared at him. The Dunmer was pointing at the the end of the Bulwark overlooking the docks and there was a figure standing there. Mogrul narrowed his eyes, but the stupid setting sun was obscuring his sight.

     

    He strode there with a resolute pace, already picturing himself in his bed with the Dunmer whore. As he was nearing the end of the Bulwark, all he could see was a silhouette against the setting sun. Short and skinny, leaning heavily against a cane. And Mogrul growled.

     

    Venhen Ules briefly glanced over his shoulder and then resumed staring at the sunset. “Ishn't that jusht gorgeoush?”

     

    “Not as much as your fucking lisp,” the Orc bared his tusks. “You called me here then? What do you want, old mer?”

     

    “Jusht a moment,” Venhen raised his hand, still watching the fiery ball in its last seconds of descent, painting the sea in the west in colours of red and orange. And then a moment after that, it was just gone, the world suddenly beginning to drown in darkness, in that moment when light just leaves and sight is left with only the promise of a coming darkness.

     

    “I'm sorry,” Mogrul spat on the ground. “Are we interrupting you or something? I so hate interrupting people. Don't you, Slitter?”

     

    Slitter just grunted at that and Mogrul grimaced, trying to hold his growing annoyance on a short leash. He just wanted to mess up the Altmer, make him suffer by making his bitch pay. The old Dunmer in front of him had to wait his turn.

     

    The Dunmer then turned around and shuffled to the southern end of the ramparts, looking straight at the lighthouse sitting on a small island not far from Raven Rock. “I only thought it would be good for you to shee the shunshet one lasht time.”

     

    Mogrul narrowed his eyes and came closer to the old mer. “That a threat?” he said in a low voice.

     

    “Nah, threatsh are no fun. I prefer shimple shtatmentsh,” he just shrugged and finally looked into Mogrul's eyes, with a toothless grin on his face. Oh, how Mogrul wanted to make that grin even more toothless. “Like that about Deshaan Shyndicate,” Venhen smiled and leaned closer, resting his hand on his cane. “I know the truth,” he whispered dramatically.

     

    Mogrul clenched his jaws. Of course the damn old bag of bones knew the truth. And now he finally saw his mistake. He had underestimated Venhen Ules. He was so focused on Mallory, Sapphire and the Altmer, he completely forgot about the senile grandpa sitting right under his nose, looking as if he was doing nothing but drinking and sleeping. He cursed himself for such a mistake. Never underestimate a fucking piece of Hlaalu shit.

     

    But as far as Mogrul could see, there was only himself, the old mer, and Slitter on the ramparts. Now he didn't have to be a genius to figure out who actually had the upper hand in that moment. “And what what are you going to do about it, Hlaalu shit?” he growled, his hand reaching for the flail at his belt. “Oh, wait, I know. Irritate the shit out of us with your stupid lisp, was that it?”

     

    The old mer just smirked knowingly, not phased in the slightest. “Well, here'sh the thing. Have you ever sheen a play in a theater? How the villainsh alwaysh babble and shpill out their plansh to people their about to kill? Of courshe, there ish lot of poetry there, but ash they shay their plansh, the heroesh alwaysh eshcape and thwart the villainsh' plansh.”

     

    “Seriously?” Mogrul raised his eyebrows, exchanging looks with Slitter. “You hear that shit? Just unbelievable. He's about to die and he's wittering about fucking theater.” He looked at Venhen and pulled out the flail, the chain loudly ringing. “So who's the villain and who's the hero, hmm?”

     

    “Well, of courshe I'm the hero and you are the villain,” the old Dunmer grinned. “And villainsh alwaysh die.”

     

    “And who's going to kill us? You?” Mogrul shook his head in disbelief.

     

    “Me?” Venhen asked with surprise in his voice, his eyebrows shooting up. “No, you shtupid beasht. Not me. She will.” He pointed with his chin behind Mogrul's back and the Orc turned around with a frown.

     

    He saw the shadow of a Dunmeri woman appear from out of nowhere.

    Grulmar was sitting on the sidewalk leading to Tel Mithryn’s tower, chewing on a piece of cooked ash yam. He was watching the sunset, feeling the cold of the coming night. The air was cold, which was no surprise during Morning Star, but it was so rare to see the sun on Solstheim and enjoy the pleasant warmth of the sun’s rays. Truth was that southern Solstheim wasn’t always cold, sometimes the winds from Morrowind carried the heat of Red Mountain - which often came with ash too.

     

    But it was a pleasant moment and Grulmar was glad for the moment of calm, of escape from the constant barking of other residents of Tel Mithryn.

     

    Since he kicked Talvas out of the house, they hadn’t spoken a word. The Dunmer was avoiding him and Grulmar was wondering if he hadn’t stepped over the line with what he had said to Talvas. He shook his head. Nah, he had it comin’. He needed a cold slap of reality.

     

    Almost as if his thoughts summoned him, Talvas stepped out of the apothecary. He noticed Grulmar and headed towards him with a frown on his face, his head hung low as he was watching his feet.

     

    “Ya want to apologize?” Grulmar raised his voice before the Dunmer got close enough, and as soon he said it, Talvas stopped dead in his tracks and looked at the Orc with ridiculous surprise.

     

    “Seriously? I should be apologizing to you?”

     

    Grulmar raised his eyebrows in feigned shock. “And who do ya want to apologize to then? It was me who suffered through all that melancholic bullshit of yers. Y'are not the only one who lost someone, matey, so I can tell ya that if ya want to rub in that shit ya will smell like shit.” It was actually almost ironic, because he remembered very well how angry he had been at Shiny back then, and it was that tusking Altmer who pretty much had told him the same thing he just said.

     

    “You're really a dick,” the Dunmer murmured and Grulmar just shrugged. He was quite used to being called that and if Talvas was expecting some kind of reaction to that, he would disappoint him. It was like it was with jokes. A repeated joke ain’t funny anymore. “But you were right,” Talvas continued.

     

    And that really surprised Grulmar, pretty much caught him off guard. Now that's a first. “‘Bout what?”

     

    “She is dead,” Talvas sighed, sitting down next to Grulmar, who narrowed his eyes. “There's nothing I can do about that, I know that. But I… can't stop blaming myself. I know, I know! It's stupid. But it was the argument that made her go near that fort-”

     

    “As much as I'd like to listen to yer inner problems and shit,” Grulmar interrupted Talvas, rubbing his eyes, “I'll just cut ya off right here. Blame and guilt - those are just two tuskin' concepts made by people, so that they could pity themselves. And pity is worth shit, matey. Every man, mer or tuskin' beast are responsible for their own bloody actions. Ya hear me? Yeah, I might sound like a dick, but it's the truth. If someone's stupid enough to go alone and without protection near some fort that Reaver shitheads call home then that someone's literally beggin’ for trouble. It's not yer tuskin' fault, get the tusk over it. Pity won't get ya anywhere. Ya just got to move and keep movin’. Get it?”

     

    Talvas' head snapped in Grulmar's direction and anger flashed in his eyes. “So Varona was stupid, yeah? That's what you are trying to say?”

     

    The Orc scratched his eyebrow, grimacing. “Well, when ya put it that way-”

     

    A fist landed on his jaw, sending him to the ground. He didn't even see Talvas move, and when he blinked, the Dunmer was standing above him, his hand shaking. Grulmar tasted blood in his mouth and hissed when his tongue touched the cut tissue. “And here I was thinkin’ it was a good speech,” he muttered.

     

    A hand flashed in front of his eyes and he instinctively closed them and braced himself. But nothing happened. He opened one eye only to see the hand extended above him, palm open. Waiting. He narrowed his eyes and smirked. “Ya got more where that came from?” he asked, grabbing the hand.

     

    Talvas frowned. “You speak about Varona like that one more time, taint her memory, and I'll hit you with something worse than a fist,” he said in a low voice while he helped Grulmar back to his feet. “But yeah, it wasn't a bad speech,” he added with a sneer. “You did it just to get me angry, didn't you?”

     

    The Orc dusted off his bleached college robes and touched the sore spot on his jaw gingerly. “I guess angry's better than all that depressive nonsense,” he murmured. “But honestly? I was actually tryin’ to inspire ya. But angry's good too.”

     

    The Dunmer shook his head and rubbed his forehead. “You really should work on your social skills.”

     

    Yeah, probably should. But hey, at least I got the sulkin’ Dunmer to talk and punch again - though I could live without the punchin’ part. He wasn't sure how long would it last or even how was it possible Talvas wasn't trying to kill him. Most people usually do. When I open my mouth. Yeah. He patted the Dunmer on his back, trying a weak smile. “So...we're good?”

     

    The apprentice rubbed the back of his neck, his fingers going into his hair. “You are a colossal asshole, Grulmar. So big that maybe even Tel Mithryn would fit inside.”

     

    “That big?” the Orc grimaced.

     

    “Yeah,” the Dunmer chuckled. “But we're good, whatever that means.”

     

    Grulmar sighed. Now that was a relief, he certainly didn't expect that. Who would ever think that he could actually get someone through their grief? If someone told him that, he would have called that person a big fat liar. He opened his mouth to say something and then he closed it, wondering if he actually should. Shouldn't do more harm, no? “So,” he started, rubbing his nose. “Do ya still want the house?”

     

    Talvas frowned. “What?” His gaze fell on the steward's house and then he shook his head. “I...don't know.”

     

    “Yeah, I completely understand,” Grulmar nodded, though he really didn't. “Too many painful memories, ya don't want to be in there, I get it.”

     

    “What? No, damn it. I haven't said-”

     

    Grulmar was watching him with a smirk and then for a second his eyes trailed behind Talvas and he frowned, the Dunmer's voice completely evaporating from his head. There were two dots on the horizon, above Solstheim's highest mountain. Two dark dots that were moving through the sky, slowly drawing near, heading in their direction. Growing bigger.

     

    His eyes nearly popped out when the realization struck him. “Dragonborn's shiny balls!” he exclaimed.

     

    “What?” Talvas asked and turned to look at what had Grulmar's attention. “What is that?”

     

    “Dragons,” the Orc murmured as he started for the door of Tel Mithryn's tower. “Two mother tuskin’ dragons!”

     

    “Dragons,” Talvas repeated when Grulmar opened the door. The Orc then stopped and looked Talvas just standing there, staring.

     

    “Ya tuskin’ stupid? Don't just stand there. Run for tusk's sake!” he growled when he entered the tower and levitated to the top. Yeah, run. Why in the name of Malacath's arsehole aren't ya followin’ yer own advice, ya idiot? Maybe because if there were two giant dragons, it was better to stay close to the one and only Master Ego the Telvanni Magister? He reached the top of the tower and saw Neloth staring into Mahtii's eyes, who in turn was staring into his. Are they havin’ a damn starin’ contest? Now?!

     

    “I'm sorry to interrupt,” he began and ran towards the window - or whatever that transparent yellow thing could be called. Looked like amber or something. “But there are two dragons headin’ our way!”

     

    “So?” Neloth murmured, his eyes still on Mahtii’s. “Tell them to go away. I'm busy.”

     

    Grulmar just stared at him for a second, blinking, a ridiculous look on his face before he glanced out of the window again. The two dark spots were no longer two dark spots, instead they were two huge ass dragons that actually weren't so dark, their scales the colour of bronze, reflecting the dark clouds above them. “I don't think that's an option,” Grulmar said with panic rising in this throat. The Orc stared at the dragons flying close to the ground, the ash whirling behind them in a growing ash storm and Grulmar would swear he could hear the air whistling around their wings.

     

    They opened their maws and fire and frost came out. The frost breath hit the apothecary while the fire hit the tower directly, the transluscent amber Grulmar was looking through was engulfed in the inferno, and the Orc jumped away from it, feeling the heat through walls.

     

    Neloth suddenly screamed in pain and Grulmar turned around in shock. Neloth's right cheek became a map of burned skin and blisters, almost as if the fire directly hit him. But there was no fire. What the tusk?

     

    “Who would dare?!” Neloth shouted and looked at the Orc who raised his hands up defensively.

     

    “Those two dragons I mentioned earlier, maybe?” he peeped and pointed up at the tower's ceiling, as if Neloth could see through it the dragons gliding through the sky.

     

    Master Neloth mumbled something, flicked his wrist and suddenly the ceiling...opened. There was no other word to describe it, because it really was like the roof  of the mushroom tower just opened like a flower, the walls pulled down until there was nothing but sky around. Mahtii cowered under a table and Grulmar was of a same mind.

     

    “I am the tower, the tower is me,” The Telvanni wizard mumbled to himself, barely a whisper in the wind, but it was as if those words echoed through Grulmar's soul, triggering something inside him.

     

    “I am the tower. I am the thief,” Grulmar murmured, not even understanding what he just said. He saw Neloth's lips moving and he felt the urge to say the words. “I build the secrets,” the Orc mouthed, feeling pressure in his head, like a hammer pounding an anvil.

     

    The Telvanni Magister's feet then left the ground and he flew up into the air, ascending until he was almost twenty steps above the tower. The dragons roared as they circled the tower, roared in mockery when they saw their prey.

     

    One of them suddenly changed direction, heading straight for Neloth, who was like a fly against two mighty eagles. The dragon opened its maw, but it didn't shout, not using the magic. It wanted to just polish off the puny Dunmer floating in the air like a fly caught in a spider's web.

     

    Then the dragon's head snapped to the side as if someone had slapped it, throwing the dragon off balance and it spinned in the air, losing altitude very fast. It managed to spread its wings right above the sea's surface, sending a torrent of water into the air as it struggled to rise up again.

     

    The other dragon was already heading in Neloth's direction too, and it shouted something, releasing a storm of fire and heat. The inferno crashed against an invisible barrier around  Tel Mithryn's tower, and the dragon roared in frustration.

     

    And Neloth was still floating there, his arms spread wide.

     

    Lightning suddenly traveled from the sky, hitting the dragon that just breathed fire on Neloth, hitting its back right between the wings. It was as if some god's fist appeared out of nowhere and slammed into dragon, sending it down to the sea. It was roaring, struggling to regain its balance in the air, but the impact was too powerful. There was no thunder, nothing to warn the dragon, when a second lightning struck it, its fall accelerated. The water surface then froze, massive spikes of ice growing out of the water. The dragon fell right on them.

     

    At least a dozen spikes as wide as four Orcs penetrated the dragon's scales and skin, piercing the flesh. What was purely white ice moments ago turned crimson. The dragon screamed one last time before its head hung down. The ice then began melting and the water turned red as it slowly swallowed the dragon's body.

     

    Only then did Grulmar remind himself to breathe, his mouth hanging wide open and his eyes nearly popping out of his eye sockets. Did he just...I mean...What the… Dragon… He wasn't even able to put together a coherent thought. He realised that there were two dragons before and he could see the other one flying above the water and gaining altitude, heading away from Tel Mithryn, heading west.

     

    I'll never irk Neloth ever again.

    It didn't last longer than the blink of an eye. Both Mogrul and Slitter ended up on the cold stone floor, disarmed and in pain, with Neriila standing over them, holding their weapons in her hands. She looked at the flail with disbelief, shaking her head before dropping it along with the sword on the ground.

     

    Venhen chuckled at that display. Neither of them proved really a match for his niece. It was making it all the more precious. “Don't forget not to hurt them too much, nieshe,” he grinned, his cane tapping on the stone as if he was chiding her, but she knew it was not true. “I mean, the fish will probably eat mosht of them, but I would shtil prefer if thish looked like an acshident. Though, it will be shtrange if they find both of them in the water. Collective shuishide maybe?”

     

    Mogrul spat blood from his mouth and groaned, touching his ribs. They were probably broken, Venhen guessed. It was a wonder what this unassuming girl could do when she was released from her leash.

     

    “Would you just fucking shut your cunt and get on with it?” the Orc growled and Venhen raised his eyebrows. Orcs could be such amusing and yet predictable creatures. So stubborn, so  unbending, especially in their moment of death.

     

    “Ready to meet your maker?” the old Dunmer raised his eyebrows, amused.

     

    “Fuck the maker,” Mogrul spat blood at Venhen's boots. The Orc's head snapped to the side when Neriila became a blur of motion, her boot hitting the Orc's jaw. His left tusk and a few teeth flew out of Mogrul's mouth, rolling on the floor and Venhen couldn't hide his amusement anymore, fully flashing his toothless grin. Guess I'm not the only toothless one here.

     

    Slitter then crawled back to his feet, barely standing, and both Neriila and Venhen watched him, though the girl with a more calculated cold. Vehnen was enjoying the show. Going to try again, eh? Slitter swung his fist at Neriila, who was already stepping forward, into the swing.  Her left elbow was raised and pointed in the arm's direction, while her fist hit the Dunmer right in the middle of his chest. Venhen could hear the chitin chest piece crack - or maybe it were the Dunmer's ribs - and Slitter slid over the floor to the wall overlooking Raven Rock's bay.

     

    “She shertainly packsh a punch, doeshn't she?” the patriarch of House Ules chuckled. “I have to shay I'm actually quite enjoying thish, but time ish a fickle thing, my friendsh. I shertainly don't want to die of old age before she finishesh with you.” He looked at Neriila and nodded. “Be a good velk and finish it.”

     

    She didn't hesitate, walking straight for Mogrul, but Venhen frowned when he heard the strangest of sounds. It was almost as if the wind was howling, but there was no wind. He noticed Mogrul's eyes watching something behind him and he turned around.

     

    He raised his eyebrows in surprise and sad realisation.

     

    “IIZ SLEN-”

     

    “Well shit,” Venhen groaned as a big shadow covered the skies above him.

     

    “NUS!”

    Mogrul watched, completely petrified, as immense wings suddenly appeared over the Bulwark. Whatever it was it shouted something he didn't understand and then a howling wind swept across the ramparts, completely engulfing the old mer and touching the girl's arm. It was just a second, a blink of an eye, as that thing swept over the Bulwark into Raven Rock, bones-chilling wind spewing from its mouth.

     

    He heard the girl cry out in pain as she grabbed her right hand, covered in ice, the flesh now blackened. Mogrul's eyes then darted towards the old mer who was standing there motionless, still looking to the south. He then tilted over. It sounded like a dull clang of shattering glass when the mer hit the ground, his body fracturing into hundreds of frozen pieces. The flesh and bones...completely frozen, the red and white so mesmerizing on the grey of the stone floor.

     

    There were sounds of  wood creaking and breaking, and that tore Mogrul away from the sight of the dead mer. He crawled on his feet and looked over the wall. The dragon was just finishing his flight over Raven Rock, ruin in his wake. The Gar Skarr was pulverized to pieces from the cold blast of air. The Councillor's house was showing multiple cracks on its walls, its roof half collapsed inside. “Bloody shit,” the Orc murmured, barely able to breathe in face of such destruction.

     

    The girl let out a groan of pain and Mogrul turned around, clenching his jaws. He hobbled towards her while his tongue was touching the sore spot where his left tusk once was. Her whole forearm was completely eaten by frostbite, black and dead, and Mogrul was of a mind to make her the same. Dead. His fist landed on her jaw and she looked back at him, unfazed, with defiance in her eyes. Mogrul hit her again and again until she passed out and he spat blood at her face, growling in anger. “Fucking bitch!” he cursed. He wanted to beat her to death.

     

    He tried to straighten, but his ribs wouldn't allow him, hurting like Oblivion. No. I won't kill you, bitch. You'll live, I'll make sure of that. He kicked her in the head, just to be sure she would stay out and turned to Slitter. “Stop fucking lying there and get the bitch to my house.”

     

    “Seriously?” the Dunmer rasped, struggling to breathe. “What about the overgrown lizard?”

     

    “Speaking of that...where's the fucking guard?!”

    Captain Veleth wiped the sweat off his forehead with a frown on his face and leaned against his Daedric sword, looking over the dimly lit Temple ancestral tomb. He heard his men groaning, but beside that, the tomb was quiet once again, rid of the evil that had been lurking there for too long.

     

    His eyes scanned his men and he found his sergeant. “How are we looking, Balvrak?” he asked with a commanding voice.

     

    The Dunmer in question raised his head from a wounded soldier lying on the ground and Veleth could see the narrowed eyes visible through the helmet's visor. Veleth nodded in agreement and walked to the far side of the room, watching carefully the piles of ash and precious metals on the ground.

     

    When they were far enough from other guards, Balvrak took off his helmet, revealing a chiseled face covered in scars and wrinkles, every one of them only underlining his age. His hair was so shortly cut it almost seemed he was bald - the same haircut Veleth had. Most  Redoran guards had it. It was pragmatic.

     

    “We lost Foryond,” the sergeant murmured. He then pointed with his chin towards the wounded guard on the ground, surrounded by other guards trying to stop the bleeding. “Sunrave most likely won't make it. Torsa will be lucky if she doesn’t lose her leg, but we have to get her to the Temple now.”

     

    Veleth clenched his jaws in suppressed anger. He nodded, giving Balvrak permission and the sergeant began barking orders, the remaining guards carrying Torsa to the Temple above them.

     

    Boethiah's revenge! Veleth cursed in his mind while trying to keep his face unreadable. He couldn't allow his men see him like he felt. Duty first, every Redoran understood that. But he just lost two men today, maybe he'll lose a third if Torsa's leg couldn't be saved.

     

    He used to have over three dozen guards. Now? He had only eighteen. Sixteen now. Only sixteen now. How was he supposed to keep peace with so few mer? Especially with that cursed loan-shark around…

     

    His guards were spread too thin now, especially since the mines were opened - which was still somewhat a sore spot for Veleth. An outsider opening their own mine, finding ore that had always been there, right under their noses. If only Veleth had listened to old Crescius… now the Redoran guard looked like fools.

     

    So Veleth was doing all he could to show the presence of the guard. He sent six men to the mines, to help clear it of pests. The Altmer did a thorough job of clearing the mines, but once they cleared out the rubble and opened old collapsed shafts, they were met with a few draugr and spider nests.  He himself took eight guards with him to the Temple, finally hearing out Elder Othreloth's plea. And now he was down to possibly fifteen able guards. He even pulled guards from Bulwark because of this and…

     

    He knew it would get better, with the mine being opened again. The outsider wasn’t a bad sort, not for doing what he did and he was in there with Veleth’s men in the mines, knee deep in spider and skeever shit too.  The open mines were key.  The Redoran Council would send him more mer, he was sure of it. They couldn't waste such an opportunity, so they had to make sure the mine remains protected. If word got out maybe pirates would be brave enough to invade Raven Rock and Veleth wasn't sure if he would be able to defend the town. He was barely able to defend it from Ash Spawn.

     

    Suddenly he heard a roar, a sharp roar sounding almost like the rumbling of Red Mountain and Veleth's eyebrows shot up in shock. No. Please no. Not another Red Year.

     

    He and his guards ran out of the temple only to see a mighty winged beast descending on Raven Rock.

    The Retching Netch was slowly getting crowded as the people of Raven Rock were gathering for a drink - or two - after a day of hard work in the mine. They still hadn’t started digging yet, mostly clearing out rubble and opening old collapsed shafts. Stray draugr were still shuffling down in the deeper shafts, giant spiders had made several nests in there too. Those had to be burned. And, of course, more than a few of the still standing shafts had to be reinforced, otherwise the miners would be risking a cave in.

     

    Sapphire had seen the Altmer who opened the mines very rarely, he was down in the mines, helping the miners and the guards with clearing the remaining pests. As far as she was concerned, she didn't see it as a bad thing. The sooner the mine started producing, the sooner they would get rid of Mogrul and she would bet all her money that the Altmer knew that. So it was no surprise he wasn't anywhere to be seen in Retching Netch this evening. Probably will be the last one leaving the mine, or some similar shit.

     

    She looked around and shook her head. It was in the air, the energy. Hope. Everyone was walking with their backs straight and heads held high, as if everything was suddenly right. One problem was solved and everyone believed all problems would then just go away, the world would now be brighter and the sun warmer. They were idiots, every one of them. No matter how sunny the day got, night would always come, storms would always appear. That's just how it works.

     

    Nothing lasts forever.

     

    And then it came, the roof above them started shaking, dust falling from the ceiling. Sapphire jumped from her chair, expecting another earthquake, like the one when she arrived. Maybe even worse. She ran for the door, ignoring the surprised yells of the people inside, all that mattered was getting out. I won't get buried alive in a bloody tomb!

     

    She ran out to the cold air of evening and she frowned when a shadow swooped above her, along with a roar.

     

    “Dragon,” she gasped, her eyes wide. “Bloody dragon!”

    Mogrul hobbled down the stairs of the Bulwark, watching the dragon turning around the hill above Raven Rock, disappearing behind it. He looked at Slitter who looked like he was going to pass out and the Orc growled. “Get her arse into the house! Now!” he pointed at the Dunmer girl over Slitter's shoulder. Slitter mumbled something but increased his pace.

     

    The Orc then saw Veleth and his guards standing in front of the Temple's ancestral tombs. Veleth was barking orders, the Redoran running towards Bulwark and the barracks. “... grab everything you can!” captain yelled when Mogrul came close enough to hear him. “Bows, crossbows, spears and javelins. Anything that can shoot or be thrown. Move move move!”

     

    Mogrul grabbed the Dunmer by the elbow and pulled him closer. “Are you going to just shout here or are you going to kill that overgrown cliffracer?”

     

    “And what do you want me to do, Orc?” captain freed himself from Mogrul's grasp with a disgusted look on his face. “Throw insults at it? We need bows, we need arrows - preferably something stronger than steel or chitin!”

     

    “It's coming again!” a guard on the Bulwark shouted and the Orc looked in the direction the Dunmer was pointing. The dragon appeared from behind the hill, flying from the west towards Raven Rock and then it opened its maw.

     

    The chilling air came out, hitting the roof of Mogrul's house, continuing through the market square towards their positions. He started for the door to the ancestral tomb, looking for cover.

     

    He got in just in time. The frozen stream struck the spot they were standing at just a second later, freezing one guard solid and Mogrul frowned. Veleth? He then realised that the captain had managed to slip into the tomb along with him.

     

    Captain Veleth then ran outside, to the frozen guard and as soon as he touched him, the guard fell on the ground, breaking into pieces while Veleth hissed, sucking his fingers as the frostbite burned them the moment his hand touched the ice. “Mephala's cold hands!” the captain cursed and Mogrul chuckled at that.

     

    Shame the dragon didn't ice you, captain. But night is still young.

     

    “Dammit! Why does it have to be ice? Why can't it be fire, that's something we're used to!” Veleth kept cursing and he looked around the street. “Throw everything you have at the bastard!” he shouted at his guards.

     

    “We need to get the people into safety!” Mogrul shouted and he felt Veleth's stare, almost as if someone held daggers at his back.

     

    “Don't pretend like you care,” the captain snarled.

     

    “Dead people can't pay their debts!” he replied with a shrug and walked to Veleth, watching the sky as soon as he walked out of the tomb. “The buildings won't handle much of that cold,” he raised his voice. “We need to get the people into the mine.”

     

    “We can handle this, Orc!” Veleth spat at his feet and Mogrul shook his head. He then heard the beating of mighty wings again and he quickly jumped back into the ancestral tomb, Veleth right behind. A shadow swooped over Raven Rock, roared again, and Mogrul felt the Temple shaking around him from the wake of the beast.

     

    “Handle it, my arse,” the Orc bared his tusks and Veleth bared his teeth in return, an angry grimace spread all over his face.

     

    “Maybe I’ll throw you to the dragon, as a distraction. Nobody would weep about that,” Veleth growled.

     

    Mogrul raised his eyebrows. Somebody has grown a pair. He touched the flail at his waist, his fingers toying with the handle. He could kill the bastard, easily. Throw him out for the dragon, nobody would suspect a damn thing. It would solve lot of problems, but if did it, he’d no longer have leverage on that pretty face that was Veleth’s lover.

     

    “Maybe later,” Mogrul shrugged, heading for the door. “Let’s get these people to the mine.” He looked outside and instinctively crouched when a shadow blocked the sky for a second, following by another wave of chilling air.

     

    He saw an arrow fly through the sky, only to fall down as it richocheted from something.

     

    “Aim for the wings! The scales are too thick!” someone shouted.

     

    “Go for the eyes, Boo! Go for the eyes!”

     

    Mogrul shook his head and ran next to the wall and crouched - or at least he was trying to, the broken ribs were slowly him down considerably. Or the pain was slowing him down. Just a matter of perspective.

     

    “Get everyone to the mine! Cover them!” Veleth was barking at something behind him and Mogrul decided he wouldn’t interfere with that, that running straight for the mine seemed like the wisest choice.

     

    They ran past the Retching Netch when a bunch of people ran out, everyone screaming and shouting.

     

    “Reclamations save us!”

     

    “The inn is collapsing!”

     

    “It’s Boethiah’s revenge!”

     

    “Run for the mine, you idiots!” Mogrul roared at them and for a second they stood like frozen statues. It took few seconds before his words go through their thick wall of shock and hysteria and they blinked at him several times. But he didn't wait for their response, he kept pushing for the mine. And then he heard their running feet behind him. Idiots.

     

    He also heard a mighty roar and he turned around to see the dragon coming again, this time from the the sea, gliding over the water towards Raven Rock. Towards them. Mogrul increased his pace, showing his back to the dragon. There was no cover, it wasn't more than dozen steps, but he was so painfully slow. Or slowly full of pain.

     

    He noticed Sapphire was standing next to the door of the mine when she turned around and saw him. She then ran inside and closed the door behind her. Did she bar the door? He almost laughed out loud. She certainly was capable of that, just leaving him and everyone else to die under the dragon's icy breath. That's what he liked about her so much.

     

    The door to the mine suddenly flung open, a large figure emerging, almost blocking the entrance. A few of the fastest ones ran inside, around the bulky elf. He ignored them, those hooded eyes honing in instead on Mogrul, calculating. For a second it seemed like the Altmer was ready to slam the door shut, leaving Mogrul to the mercy of the dragon, but the Orc was surrounded by other people running to safety. The High Elf wasn't of the same stock as Sapphire. Altmer's facial muscles twitched for a moment and Mogrul knew he wouldn't let anybody die. Including him. The High Elf then set his jaw, setting his gaze on whatever was behind Mogrul.

     

    He opened his mouth to speak. And Mogrul heard it, the thunder, inside his bones and in his very soul.

     

    “JOOR ZAH... FRUL!”

     

    Mogrul felt the pressure build in his head, as if it was going to explode, and he squinted against the pain. What did he do to me? But he noticed everyone around him felt the same.

     

    The dragon responded. With a roar that was filled with both anger and… pain.

     

    Mogrul turned around to see the dragon falling from the sky, diving above them and hitting the jagged rocks above Raven Rock and its mine, sending a shower of gravel and blood down the hill before disappearing from sight behind the northern wall. Everyone heard a heavy thud and then a sound like someone was plowing earth with a giant plow.

     

    The Altmer didn’t waste time, already sprinting up the hill, moving quickly, leaving Mogrul shaking his head. What kind of idiot runs towards a dragon? The one that can kill it, the Orc answered his own question. He had never seen the magicks the Altmer just displayed, not a single time in his life. He wasn’t a mage, didn’t act like one. But the language, the words...it sounded precisely like the dragon. Mogrul couldn't wrap his head around it.

     

    He realised he was standing there, with his mouth gaping open just like everyone else.

     

    “Dragonborn,” Sapphire suddenly murmured next to him and he looked at her with a frown - did she just crawl out of the mine? “He's the bloody Dragonborn,” she continued, shaking her head in disbelief. “The whole time… I thought”

     

    “What in the Oblivion are you talking about?!” he growled at her. “What's a dragon-born? Don't tell me it's some Nordic mumbo-jumbo bullshit ”

     

    “The Dragonborn,” she looked back at him. “The killer of dragons if you want,” she said while staring at the hill. Suddenly the evening sky was bathed with the orange glow of fire and a painful roar closely followed right after it had died off.

     

    “Dragonslayer?” Mogrul narrowed his eyes, spitting on the ground. “Now that I have to see,” he murmured and began picking his way up the hill, the last traces of light now fading. He could only imagine what was happening on the other side of the hill, but the sounds were making him want to cover his ears. Roars and shouting in strange language, sound of fire meeting ice, the cracking of wood.  

     

    Dragonslayer. Fuck! That's not someone you mess with, he thought just before he reached the top of the hill, running up the steps carved into the side of the northern wall. And there, barely thirty steps away from him under the wall was the dragon, on its legs and wings - or whatever they were - with two figures dodging the mighty beast, blades and magicks sending showers of blood into the air.

     

    Two? Mogrul narrowed his eyes, trying to discern the second figure in the dim light. Tall and slender, her movements graceful like a cat. Looked like a woman. That Nord woman!

     

    “YOL TOOR... SHUL!” the Altmer then shouted, forcing Mogrul’s eyes away from the woman. With those words, he created an inferno that engulfed the dragon while the Nord woman backed away, sending a crackling bolt of lighting right into the screaming dragon's maw. He moved differently than she, becoming a blur, and then and then, at times, turning a spectral blue while the dragon fought back with its frost breath, trying to hit them. Only his hands didn’t move to cast spells, he just spoke words like the dragon did and it happened.

     

    Mogrul wasn't the only one who was watching the battle. He realized there were other people standing on the wall too, looking at the primal power ripping the land apart, tearing trees out of earth, burning and freezing the air itself. Who were they in presence of such ancient destruction?

     

    Morvayn was there. Veleth. Sapphire. Glover. Adril Arano. Elder Othreloth. Other people. Most of them. And they all watched. In awe.

     

    In terror.

     

    “GAAN LAH!” the Altmer thundered and the dragon thrashed around as if something was pulling something from him, rivers of magic leaving the dragon and passing on to the High Elf.

     

    The woman darted forward, right under the dragon's wing and she cleaved at where the bone was connecting with the body. One, two swings and Mogrul could hear the loud crack of a bone. Third and fourth swing, the dragon released a sound of pain as the wing supporting its weight gave up and it fell on its side.

     

    The dragon was trying to get up, but it seemed as if all the strength has abandoned the mighty beast. The Altmer stepped closer to the maw which weakly snapped in his direction, but he easily dodged. His pale face and brigandine were covered in the dust from the mines, the ebony bastard sword was sheathed makiing Mogrul blink. He didn’t use it.

     

    What he did next brought gasps from the others who were watching.

     

    “He’s touching it.”

     

    “By the Reclamations!”

     

    “It’s just unnatural…”

     

    A hand was placed upon the beast’s bloodied maw. The Altmer looked the dragon right in the eyes and Mogrul saw the dragon avert its gaze. The Altmer then spoke and everyone in the crowd was straining to hear the words that were coming from his lips. The dragon turned to face him again, their eyes locking. More words, a conversation with a dragon. The tusker was having a conversation with a dragon. And a long one, by Mogrul’s estimation. Like he was interrogating it or something.

     

    “Who is he?” murmured a voice from the crowd.

     

    “Nerevar reborn?” replied one.

     

    “Don’t be stupid.” Scoffed another. “Nerevarine’s in Akavir. Left long ago.”

     

    “All I know is that he’s saved Raven Rock...again.” That was the Councillor this time and Mogrul set his jaw.

     

    All of them jumped when the earth suddenly shook under their feet and Mogrul realized it was the dragon speaking that did that.

     

    “ZAHNIBILDAAR!” It roared into the night. “Zu'u saag hin faan! Ahrk Zu'u gahvon wah hi, Wuth Tu!  Kosiir wiizaan do Mora. Kosiir Naakin do Lein! Faal angaar los het ahrk rok dahmaan! Ken ok zul!”

     

    “YOL TOOR... SHUL!!” The Altmer answered the dragon with his own thunder, fire escaping his mouth. It bathed the beast who lifted his head to the sky with a final roar as its body began to disintegrate like a million golden leaves scattering in the wind, the power of it surging into the Altmer.

     

    Mogrul was capable of only staring, mostly at the skeleton of the dragon who was just mere seconds ago still a breathing, talking beast. Alive, and covered with scales and flesh. Everyone stared, not just him. They all stared in shock, awe and maybe even fear. Who was this Altmer?

     

    Someone who can't stay around Raven Rock. I can't allow it.

     

    He could see it starting. Everyone was suddenly looking up to him, seeing him as some kind of hero or something.

     

    “Reclamations…” Another Dunmer gasped.

     

    Only because he was good at killing. Didn't matter if it was a dragon or a person, the Altmer was a natural killer. It could be seen in those strange eyes. Like a bird of prey ready to strike. And they all seemed ready to almost worship him for it, but that was the inevitable hiccup of history wasn't it? All great leaders or the so called heroes were lifted into the heights of fame - or infame - only because they were good at one thing. Killing.

     

    But killing dragons...did that make the Altmer the ultimate killer? How do you get rid of someone like that?

     

    Yes, Mogrul was in awe as much as everyone else around him, but it only reminded him that the High Elf was now a big problem. And he needed to get rid off that problem. Now. As unassuming as he even looked now, the fire of battle leaving him. His features starting to look almost worn and old, the broad shoulders stooping. Yes, the Altmer was now an even bigger problem than he could ever expect. Because there was no gloating with the death of the dragon, no bragging, only a look of relief and a small smile at the Nord woman as she approached him. A job well-done they seemed to say with their eyes before he put his arm around her shoulder, kissing her temple. Another day alive they seemed to rejoice silently.

     

    So while the people around him finally found the courage to come closer to the dragon and to the Altmer, praising him for his heroism; while the Mer dismissed them with a humble shrug and simple, soft-spoken words of “duty” and other bullshit, Mogrul turned around and walked away, back into Raven Rock. He noticed a shadow following him and realised it was Sapphire. The Orc resisted an urge to snort. Now you are playing the good bitch, eh? But moments ago you were ready to let me die. We're going to have a talk, girl.

    Grulmar watched the light show in the west, as if someone lit the night sky on fire. It was coming from the direction of Raven Rock and Grulmar couldn't help himself but wonder if the dragon that fled Tel Mithryn didn’t decide to stop by Raven Rock to stroke its own ego. The buggers were like that.

     

    The Orc was watching from Tel Mithryn's balcony - a balcony that wasn't there a day before, but Neloth got a brilliant idea right after he sunk the other dragon into the sea. Brilliant idea that open sky and fresh air can be actually quite healthy and that he wants a balcony so that he could enjoy all the privileges of being a gods damn Telvanni Magister who can shape his tusking mushroom tower as he wants.

     

    Grulmar shook his head and closed his eyes as he suddenly felt a pressure in his head. There was a distant ringing in his ears and he would swear he could hear faint whispers, the words impossible to discern among the other sounds.

     

    And yet they echoed through his skull, the ringing getting much louder. He covered his ears - in vain - and fell on his knees, feeling something hot pouring over his upper lip. He tasted it on his tongue, the strange flavour of iron and he realized it was blood.

     

    Do not give in to the gardener of men. You will have his marks, but do not let it become you. Always remember who you were first, Last, something spoke in his mind and he released a growl full of pain, his eyes shut so tightly it hurt.

     

    And then it stopped. “I am the forge-singer, I am the Old Hammer” Grulmar mouthed without releasing a sound. He felt wind picking up, but it wasn't a wind. It was a soul. It was a fragment. And it flew away, but not away, joined another fragment. But not a fragment, a soul. And it became part of it, a bigger fragment.

     

    And Grulmar knew.

     

    Tuskin’ Shiny…



     

Comments

5 Comments   |   A Shadow Under the Moons and 4 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  November 24
    "He climbed the steps to the Bulwark, the sunset being all magnificent and shit..." I knew we were going to be in for a good one after reading that. Ironic and unexpected end to Venhen, especially after he just gloated about the villain taking too long at...  more
  • The Lorc of Flowers
    The Lorc of Flowers   ·  November 19
    Thanks, guys. Neloth was fun here, finally a chance to show what a proper Magister can do, but I´d like to remember you one thing: There´s always a but, always a catch. A price. :)
  • KaiserSoSay
    KaiserSoSay   ·  November 18
    Hot dang! Morgrul gets a piece of his own medicine and Neloth shows off his all mighty Telvanni magick. I call this chapter a two-in-one treat.
  • Meli
    Meli   ·  November 18
    Excellent chapter Karves, currently sitting in awe of Neloth, that was amazing!
  • A Shadow Under the Moons
    A Shadow Under the Moons   ·  November 18
    Bloody dragons ruined everything! Well, at least Mogrul's missing a tusk now. And the old farts kicked some proper behind here :3