The Seekers - Part 5: In Flames

  • Rykon and Ariem stayed in Riften that night, the warm beds and strong drink a welcome reprieve from the conditions the night before up at the Last Vigil. The next day they set off back down the road to Windhelm, deciding to catch a ship to Castle Volkihar, rather than trekking across the entire province. Having passed that way only a couple of days previously, the road was clear of danger, and much to Rykon's disappointment  any form of excitement. The pair reached the stone city in the evening, and met one of the ship captains in the inn.
    "The castle off the north coast? That place is cursed!"
    "Look, " said Ariem, forcefully. "I don't care about your sailor's superstitions. You have the boat, we have the gold. Can you take us there or not?"
    "I won't take you for less than 500 gold."
    "500?" Rykon interjected. "Sure you can't lower that a little? My friend here and I are adventurers, we're going to remove the curse."
    The sailor sized the two up. Rykon's impressive arsenal of weapons and Ariem's satchel of books and scrolls seemed to convince him.
    "Fine, 400. But it's your funeral."

    Sailing through the bitter cold of Skyrim's northern waters was not something Ariem wanted to be doing again so soon, but it was much quicker than travelling on horseback. Rykon and Ariem kept each other company with tales of their past. Rykon's tall tales of dungeon delving were easily seen through, but they seemed to entertain her nonetheless. Ariem on the other hand had Rykon enthralled with her own tales of adventure in the search for ancient artifacts throughout Tamriel. After several days they reached the swamps to the east of Solitude. The capital loomed out of the morning mist, and Rykon noticed something amiss.
    "By the Nine..."
    "Excuse me?"
    Rykon cleared his throat, and stared Ariem dead in the eye. "By the Eight... the city!"
    Ariem and the captain glanced up towards the city atop the cliffs. Columns of smoke rose from within the walls, an occasional purplish glow dancing across them.
    "What in Oblivion is going on up there?" Ariem asked, fear in her eyes.
    "I doubt it's a dragon - very rare nowadays, wouldn't risk attacking a city - but in any case we should go and investigate!" Rykon replied.
    "Are you mad? Don't tell me you're pulling that mercenary with a heart of gold garbage."
    "Having the capital of Skyrim burnt to the ground cuts almost a quarter of my prospective employment! Captain, bring us in to the docks!"

    "Wait here until I return," said Rykon, stepping onto the dock.
    "Bugger it all, I'll come with you."
    "Are you mad?"
    Ariem stepped off the boat to join Rykon, and the captain shrugged.
    "If you're not back in a couple of hours, I'm leaving."
    "I'm sure Mr. Hero and I will be back in one piece," replied Ariem. "We should get moving, no time to lose."
    The docks seemed to be relatively untouched, but as they jogged towards the city gate, the destruction got worse and worse. The stables were nothing more than a smouldering ruin, the lower gatehouse a pile of rubble, and the city gates had been blown off their hinges. The city was in flames; Solitude's buildings burned, blast marks and craters scarring the streets.
    "What in Oblivion happened here? I can tell you for certain a dragon wouldn't cause this kind of destruction."
    Ariem shut her eyes, and a sphere of magical energy appeared in her hand. "I'll see if anyone's still alive."
    After concentrating for a few brief moments, she spoke again. "There's a wounded Nord in the guard tower to our right, a group with hostile intentions up near the castle, and a group of civilians near the Blue Palace, along with another hostile being - though this one seems to be very magically active."
    Rykon motioned toward the guard tower. Climbing to the top, they found one of the Solitude guards slumped against a wall, looking out over the city. Ariem crouched down next to him, and he looked up.
    "Come to savor your victory here, elf?" he said, spitting in Ariem's face. "If you want to kill me yourself, go ahead, or you can just let me bleed out."
    Rykon spoke up. "Can you heal him? Perhaps he'll be a little more talkative."
    "Bloody Imperial milk-drinkers. We should've beaten the Thalmor when we had the chance."
    Rykon raised his eyebrows. "Excuse me?"
    Ariem healed his wounds, and the guard breathed a sigh of relief. "We're just adventurers. We need to know what happened here."
    "Okay, so I was on watch duty. The first thing I see is the stables simply explode - we barred both gates to the city. Next thing I see is the outer gate being blown to pieces, and this High Elf bastard in d dark ebony plate inlaid with Thalmor sigils walks out of the smoke. He picks up this tiny, blue shimmering dagger off the ground, and flicks it at the gate - last thing I saw was a bright purple light and the gate collapsing. I'm woken up by the captain, told to hold off the attacker until the Jarl's household can escape. I figured we're all dead anyway, so I just decided to spend my last moments here."
    "Can you just wait a few minutes more?" Rykon asked. "I'm going to go see who this attacker is - my friend here tells me that he's still alive - and I'll come back for you."
    "Understood, my lord," the guard said, mockingly. "Not like I was going anywhere anyway."

    "Where is he now?"
    Ariem cast her spell again. "The people at the palace... they're dead..."
    "Look, we can mourn later. Where's the attacker?"
    "Heading towards the castle, " she replied. "The men at the castle before are still there."
    Rykon ran up to the Imperial castle, and took cover. Imperial soldiers with bows lined the walls, and appeared to be tracking the attacker, now entering the courtyard. He was wearing heavy ebony plate and a winged helmet, a golden eagle emblazoned across the front of both. He held a shimmering blue sword in his right hand. An Imperial officer above Rykon spoke.
    "Drop your weapons, or I will tell my men to open fire!"
    The sound of a sword clattering to the ground rang through the courtyard.
    "Why are you here? Why are you killing these people?"
    "Perhaps I should be asking you the same question, commander."
    "This is rightful Imperial land!"
    "Stolen from elves centuries ago."
    "Enough of this! Legionnaires, secure him!"
    The Altmer places his hands in the air, a sign of surrender. Two plate-clad legionnaires walked up to bind him. Suddenly his hands burst into flame, and with a clap incinerated the pair in a burst of flame. When the smoke and fire cleared, the Altmer has the weapon in his hand once more.
    "OPEN FIRE!" shouted the Legion commander. The 3 dozen fired archers in a combined volley. Their aim was true, but their arrows merely glanced off the Altmer's armor.
    "Your bows and swords cannot stop me. On the other hand, I don't even need a weapon to destroy you."
    Blasting a beam of lightning from his hand in an arc across the walls, the attacker disintegrated more than half the legionnaires. All was silent for a brief moment.
    "CHAAAAAARGE! FOR THE EMPEROR!" shouted the Commander, sprinting down a staircase towards the Altmer, warhammer in hand. The elf seemed somewhat surprised at their resolve. Turning towards his attackers, tendrils of blinding purple energy arced toward the charging legionnaires. The Commander continued shouting his battle cry as his men fell beside him. Withstanding the Altmer's assault, he leapt into the air, warhammer raised, and slammed it down on the Altmer's head.
    "You're stronger than I thought."
    The Commander swung his hammer in wide arcs that would have crushed a lesser man in an instant, but the Altmer evaded and parried his blows with ease. It was clear he was tiring, and the Altmer used this to his advantage, dodging out of weapon range. The two squared off for a few seconds, before the Commander, charged again, swinging his hammer in a horizontal blow, straight at the Altmer's head. The Altmer ducked, and thrust his blade through the Commander. Fire, frost and shock flowed along the blade, and the Commander was no more.

    Rykon was truly shaken from seeing the battle - 1 elf had just defeated 40 men from the best military in Tamriel. And then that elf cast the same detection spell Ariem had been using. His gaze shot straight to Rykon, hiding behind the walls. Rykon stepped out to face the Altmer, who began to speak.
    "So we have an audience, it seems? We were hoping to pin this on the College of Winterhold and a few unruly dragons. So I can't exactly have witnesses, can I?"
    Before Rykon could act, the Altmer conjured a huge ball of fire and threw it.
    "Fuck me," said Rykon.
    Then the fireball struck.


  • Battlechief Visthulu
    Battlechief Visthulu   ·  March 16, 2014
    This has to be the best blog on the site, and I have read a lot.
  • Nelaf
    Nelaf   ·  September 15, 2013
    I can't believe I have missed this whole series of epicness. I am going to be reading this at every available opportunity. This is better than some published books I've read....I'm f*cking hooked man!
  • Guy Corbett
    Guy Corbett   ·  March 17, 2013
    Another brilliant chapter Ponts. You had me hooked all the way through. That last bit made me laugh as well. I hope Rykon is going to be ok? Hopefully his new friend/employer will save him?