A.D.W.D. Chapter 19: Rivalry


    What am I doing? Amari thought. Why was she following this Forsworn through the city, haunting in its stillness? She glanced up at the night sky to see Secunda hidden behind clouds, but Masser hung high and full, marking a time when honest souls slept. At the edges of her sight, she saw the passing of shades still roaming the streets. Just how many of the starved souls had followed her familiar’s bleeding trail? What suffering were they inflicting upon the citizens because of her? What was Trebonde suffering back in that cursed house? Why did she care?


    He hurt you. He never loved you. He was only using you, just like everyone else.


    “No! Shut up,” Amari commanded herself, “He’s different!”


    The Forsworn glanced back at her, but said nothing. At least he didn’t talk much. Words had only brought pain lately.


    Is he?


    Yes! Maybe… He has to be! True, Trebonde wore many masks, but she had seen the real him. Huddled in the cove of Robber’s Gorge, overlooking the bluff at Karthewasten, those had been him. She had to believe; she had to believe in something.


    Tyranus believed in something.


    “Shut up!” She squeezed her eyes shut; trying to shake the memory, but only succeeded in painting the image more vividly across her mind. She could still feel the phantom of his hot blood running down her hands. Bits of dried blood still clung to her hair and stained her clothes. All she could smell was iron and death. She’d killed him; he’d wanted to help her and she had killed him, a priest, a Vigilant of Stendarr, a warrior against the darkness. Why?


    You would have died otherwise.


    Maybe it would have been better that way.  She looked up to glare at the back of Molag Bal’s puppet. She could kill him too. She still had the dagger. Her eyes tracked the folds of the man’s cloak and fixed on a portion of his lower back: his left kidney; that was where Trebonde had stabbed the Forsworn at the Broken Tower Redoubt. 


    Two patrolling guards approached them from the opposite direction. She didn’t need to kill him; all she had to do was yell ‘Forsworn!’


    “Halt!” One of the guards called out as they drew near. “Show your hands.”


    “What seems to be the problem?” The Forsworn asked in a cold, even tone as he slid his palms out from underneath his cloak.


    “He has both of them; not the ones we’re looking for.” The second guard observed, then continued, “You shouldn’t wander about with hoods in the city; looks suspicious.”


    “The cold. It bites. To the bone.” The glint in the Forsworn’s eyes made the guard gulp.


    “Fine. Move along, but we have our eye on you.”


    “Noted.” The Forsworn spun and set back down the road, sweeping Amari along in the wake of his cloak. They were looking for Trebonde! For her! Did that really happen? The mine, the temple; was she really a fugitive? Everything seemed like a bad dream, each sequence plummeting to darker depths.


    They passed out of the city without further incident and the silence between the travelers grew again, broken only by their footsteps. Steps leading them past still windmills and farms. Steps leading them further from that cursed city. Amari’s eyes never left the man’s back and she fingered her dagger, lost in dark thoughts.


    You could leave now. Alone…


    The words of the Prince drifted through her mind. One strike and she could be free, wake from this nightmare… and abandon Trebonde.  


    He asked you to, pleaded even.


    She shook her head. It was wrong! Her eyes returned to the puppet’s back. Would one strike be enough? There was something off about the man’s aura. She focused her sight on him. At first it appeared normal, but on a closer look, it seemed… hollow, like an illusion. Maybe she could see through it with some more focus-


    “Look deeper and you will die.” The Forsworn didn’t stop or turn; he just walked on, stating the words as if they were a simple fact.


    “You would kill me? Your master’s newest toy,” Amari mocked.


    He didn’t take the bait. “If you die, then you were too weak.”


    She would not be weak, though she did not pry further either. He was wary of her at the moment, but she could be patient. They always dropped their guard eventually. At that moment she’d strike and carry out her plan… once she had one. For now she followed.


    The tranquil bubble of a stream broke through the silent pressure between the two. Steps rang sharp across a stone bridge. Behind them farms slumbered unaware of their passing and before them a fork in the road approached.


    Amari glowered at the carefree water. What if I made a dam from this bridge? Would you bubble then?


    I would bubble around anew, or change form ever bearing; a lake of smooth glass, slowly building pressure.


    Amari laughed to herself. Great, now not only am I talking to myself, but streams as well; and better yet, it answered! Her guide ignored her; he was there to guide, not console and guide he did, up the path leading to the North West.


    “Where are we going?” Amari asked.


    He pointed at a nearby peak north of them. “Hag’s Rock.”


    He didn’t elaborate and they walked in silence once more. Amari thought she was quiet! They turned from the main road, smooth and stone paved, to an obscure dirt path winding through the mountains. Away from civilization, their path was only lit by the moons. Obstructed as they were by clouds and mountains, they didn't hep much.


    The fifth time Amari stubbed her toe, she called out, “How in Oblivion are you so surefooted in the darkness?”


    “Are your eyes so weak?”


    What type of response was that?! What was his and Molag’s obsession with weakness? Compensating? Fine! She would ‘strengthen’ her eyes. She cast out her sight and the world took on a new light. Nearby plants lit up with glowing veins, the dirt took on a dim hue from the speckling of life it hosted, and once more, she was able to navigate the path.


    Amari’s first sighting was a Sabercat lurking in the cliffs above. Her heart skipped a beat as the feline lifted its nose to the air, catching their scent. It snorted and shuffled back towards its alcove, emitting a low growl as they passed underneath. She knew it wasn’t her that frightened the cat. Who was her guide; what was he?


    “What’s your name?” She asked.


    “I have none.”


    “Why not?”


    “The Master took it.”




    “I was weak.” There we go again…




    “He purges the weakness from me. Soon only strength will remain.”


    Amari decided she didn’t want to know how that was done.


    “Will he give you a name then?”


    “The Master does not give.”


    She suppressed a shudder; she was learning that all too well. “What are you?”


    He slowly turned to her and his eyes flashed orange in the moonlight. “We’re almost there.”


    Passing over the next ridge revealed a large redoubt fortifying the defenses of a Nordic ruin with wood spiked barriers. The ancient people had terra-formed the slope of the mountainside into terraced steps leading to the ruins of an entrance burrowing into the depths of the mountain. A tower - weatherworn, but still stout - stood sentinel at the base, as if watching over the scores of fires dotting the camp.


    “So many…” Amari whispered. That many fires could only mean that hundreds of Forsworn were living in the mountains just beyond the walls of Markarth. “Do you have a plan?”


    Her guide ignored her and continued to walk straight towards the camp.


    “What are you doing?” She hissed, darting between the shadows after him.


    He paid her no heed and continued on. Amari let out an exasperated sigh and hid behind a rock. Heralded by a high pitched whistling, an arrow buried itself a mere hands span from the guide’s foot.


    “Who goes?!” A Forsworn in the tower shouted only after seeing the arrow missed its mark.


    “A brother of blood and fury!” The nameless one shouted back. “A brother bringing another of the blood! Born lost! Now seeking roots!”


    “Blood is welcome! I see only one!”


    “She cowers in shadow!”


    Thanks, for the introduction, Amari thought dourly. So a masquerade? Not a bad plan; she could pretend to be a Forsworn recruit with her Breton blood. She stepped from the darkness.


    “I come with bleeding heart!”


    Silence stretched for what seemed an eternity; not surprising from the nameless one, but nerve-racking from the sentry. They seem to like blood; my call made sense, right? She thought.


    “Enter!” The sentry finally admitted.


    A party of four met them at the first terrace. All were duel-wielding bone swords and the leader faced them with his arms crossed, a cloak draped over broad shoulders, and he was crowned with the head of a stag. They made a fearsome image in their animal skins silhouetted by the red glow of a coal fire. The stag masked one stared at the nameless one for a long moment, then removed his helm. He was aged and grey beyond his years with scars from countless encounters. His eyes held the weight of one who had seen far too much, but still burned with a cause he valued more than life. 


    “Dùghall? My eyes deceive. We saw you fall!”


    “Ha! You do have a name!” Amari blurted, pointing at him. She then quickly shut up as the scorn of his eyes reminded her why they were there.


    “I did fall, but was reborn. That name no longer belongs to me.”


    The leader nodded in understanding. “The Old God’s have blessed you with a second life. An honor. A burden.  The fight has missed your arm; welcome back.”


    The aged Forsworn clapped Molag Bal’s servant on the shoulder, then looked down upon Amari.


    “Come forward child. You’re among family now. Here you will never need to hide who you are.”


    Family. The word clutched at her heart. She stepped forward and leader gently removed her hood. He chuckled at the amount of dried blood covering her. Taking a strand of hair between his fingers, he crumbled a clump of the dark red crust off as he spoke.


    “Already passed the Trial of Death I see. I am Chieftain Conall of the Hag’s Rock Clan.”


    He looked at her expecting an answer.


    “Um, Amari of-“ Of what? Wayrest? Robber’s Gorge? Rostorard, her father’s surname? No, Reachmen hated the Breton families. “-of no lands.”


    Conall smiled down on her. Those words struck a knife deeper into him than the girl could know. One day they would have their lands again.


    “The Reverend Mother-” He pointed to a stone structure at the peak of the ruin. “-will give you purpose, then you will be Amari of Hag’s Rock Clan.”


    The one once known as Dùghall stepped forward. “I seek the Mother as well. I will lead the girl.”


    The chieftain nodded. “Very well. Let them pass.”


     Amari’s heart frantically palpitated as they passed between countless Forsworn sleeping in tents of hide. Like two foxes in a sea of slumbering wolves; wolves that readily accepted her, despite, no because of what she’d done.  She’d murdered and they welcomed her with open arms; who else would? Now she took their charity and planned to steal from them, for Molag Bal. What did that make her?


    Even in the early hours of the night, not everyone was asleep. Some stirred fires, while others drank and rolled bones in some game of chance. Amari saw one Forsworn showing an older one some sort of mask at the edge of a flickering fire. She strained her ears to eavesdrop.


    “…found this on a raid. What do you make of it?”


    The older one laughed, rattling a string of primal totems about his neck, “They still trying to reform? Those are Dragon Priest masks. Killed a few myself before the Dragonborn broke them.”


    “Dragon Priests?” The younger’s eyes lit up, “So this is powerful.”


    “Hah! Some are very, that one? No. The new order is nothing like the one of legend.”


    A metallic roar filled the skies, freezing all in the camp like startled prey. Heads popped out from the tents and warily eyed the skies. A winged form briefly blocked out the moons, then vanished into the North, to land too cold for even the Nords to venture. Tonight it wasn’t seeking sport. The camp released a collective sigh of relief once the last echo of its beating wings faded.


    “A reminder.” Amari jumped at the voice projected from behind her. The two Forsworn who were talking earlier now stood behind the travelers with bows drawn and still eyeing the skies. A pathetic weapon against a dragon, but it was all they had. “They like to remind us that man no longer rules the food chain. We are but prey and sport to them.”


    “…and to the Gods.” Amari added sourly.


    “Show respect to the Old Ones!” the younger one frothed, raising a backhand.


    The older one caught the hand. “Enough! She looks new. She will learn our ways in time.”


    “But she is right. You are nothing but an amusement in their eyes. Something to pass the time.” The nameless one spoke, looming over the young Forsworn.


    The young one dwindle in the servant’s presence and it was the older one that finally spoke.


    “Dùghall? We heard what happened… during the raid. That you now stand here is telling.” He narrowed his eyes. “Which one returned you?”


    “The Mother will reveal all when the time is right.” With that he left the two past compatriots to stare after him, assuming Amari would follow. She did with a head filled with increasingly unsettling questions.


    “Does everyone know you here? What happened in the raid? Did you die? Are you like a zombie? Are you a Briarheart? You don’t feel like one. Is that what your Aura is hiding? Why is no one shocked that you returned? Does this happen often with the Forsworn? Why do they keep capturing holy people? Who’s the ‘Revered Mother’?  What will she reveal? Are you actually taking me to her?”


    He marched up the sidewinding path in silence, answering none of her questions. How were they to escape once they found the priest? There was no way they could fight this many. She scanned the surrounding mountains, it was impossible to tell in the darkness, but finding a route they could climb into those rocks seemed their only option. What if she stayed? What purpose would the Mother find for her? Would she be a raider killing Nords? A spy infiltrating cities? She wouldn’t need to hide anymore, she could hone her magic; have brothers and sisters.


    Trebonde. Fjorta.


    She would have to turn on them to stay…


    And? Here you would not need them. 


    She shook her head and almost walked into her guide. He had stopped at the base of the steps to the last terrace. Beyond lay the entrance to the Nordic ruin, but he was staring at something else. It leaned against a staff from where it perched at the end of a stone pier capped with a worn dragon headed arch overlooking the camp. The moonlight silhouetted its hunched form, akin to an old crone, and highlighted the talons passing for fingers and toes. A mild breeze ruffled patches of feathers covering the limbs. It must have been watching their progress since the sentry’s call.


    “The Forsworn prize their Revered Mothers above all others. Their love will open our passage away from this place,” Molag’s servant spoke. Then without averting his gaze, he pointed to a stone hut to their left. “See to the priest. I will see to the Mother.”


    That was the Mother! Amari was revolted, but the nameless one was already ascending the steps. A man, no more than a few years her senior, bumped past her on her way to the hut and kept running.


    “Brother! By the Old Ones it is you! I didn’t believe Uncle, but here you are: our bloody Dùghall!”


    “Rònan.” Was all once-Dùghall said. His eyes held none of the joy of his younger brother’s, nor did he return the gesture when the brother clasped his forearm and clapped him on the back. Instead the brother’s next words were cut short and he slumped against once-Dùghall. The servant set the body on the steps and as he pulled away Amari caught the glimpse of fresh blood glistening across a blade.


    Amari gasped, his own brother! They had to leave before the others saw! She ran to the hut and came to face the priest, a taciturn, grey bearded elder, dressed in simple dark robes kneeling with his hands bound.


    “Who are you?! Are you the one making that racket out there?!”


    “It doesn’t matter. We came to rescue you.”


    "Rescue? No one knew where I was when I was taken. Who sent you?"


    “We don’t have much time. Please, stand!” Amari tried to lift him, but he resisted. “Fine! Molag Bal sent me!”


    “You? A servant of the King of Corruption? Has the Beast's standards fallen so far? Tell me another one.”


    She gave him her best death glare, but that only made him start laughing.


    “Another one? I’m not his servant; his servant is the man out there that just killed his own brother!”


    The priest shuffled on his knees to the entrance and peered around the stone. The younger brother was laying on the steps in a growing pool of his own blood and the older man was now talking to the Hagraven, the Mother.


    “Are the Hated One’s servants blind as well as daft now? That is no man with you. That is a vampire!”


    “Vampire?! So that was what his aura was hiding…”


    “Ah, just daft and ignorant, but at least you can see.”


    “Thanks…” Asshole. “Let’s go now!”


    Amari tried to lift him again unsuccessfully. He was just a frail old man; how did he make it seem as if he weighed as much as a bloody Horker!


    “Relax, we have some time until he captures that old hag; you could piece that much together at least, right? Have you thought about what will happen once you ‘deliver’ me like a good little slave?”


    Amari glared at the prisoner; she did not like his patronizing tone. No wonder Molag Bal wanted him dead.


    “He promised me and my… my friend freedom.”


    The priest fell over laughing.


    “Hey! You’re the one bound here! You need us to escape!”


    The old man rolled onto his stomach and inched back into a kneeling position. “On the contrary, it is you who is bound more tightly than these ropes ever could. If you truly want your freedom, I am your only hope.”


    He continued after seeing her puzzled expression, “You know as well as I that Molag Bal-” He spat the name like a curse. “-will never release you… willingly. If you want freedom, you will need the backing of another Daedra, and who better than Boethia? The mortal enemy of the Beast since before time.”


    “So what? Am I to trade one Daedric master for another?”


    “That is one way to see it, but ask yourself, who would you rather bare your soul to? Yes, Boethia can be a harsh mistress, but she abhors the domination the Hated One seeks to wreak. She is the rallying call of every slave, every rebel! Show the courage to take your own freedom and she will guide your hand.”


    A screech from above cut through Amari’s conflicted thoughts. The sound of a rapid succession of cracking ice and bursts of fire echoed across the surrounding mountains. By time Amari whipped her head out of the hut, the fighting was already done. The Hagraven was kneeling with multiple ice spikes protruding from her and once-Dùghall cast a swirl of frost about himself to quench the flames eating away his flesh. He snarled with savage glee and pinned the Mother’s arms behind her, then cast another ice spike through her hands and out her abdomen. Her cries woke the all Forsworn and with anguished battle cries, they charged for their Mother like a swarm of angered ants to their queen.


     “Girl!” The sharp snap of Boethiah’s faithful snapped Amari from her shocked stupor. “Are you with me! Choose now!”


    Amari swiveled her head between the two servants, then stopped to judge the elderly man. “Can… Can you defeat that?”


    “Molag Bal made a grave mistake sending a vampire after me. You don’t spend your life’s work pissing on the Beast’s image and not learn how to crush a few pesky blood suckers.”


    The Nameless One lifted the Hagraven to her feet by the throat in a clawed grasp and started crushing it before her people.


    “Halt!” He bellowed and the horde skidded to a stop before him. He grinned wide, displaying his pointed canines, and then continued, “Now kneel.”


    The Forsworn stared at him with a bottomless hatred and spit at his feet. The hated one loosened his grip so Mother could breathe, then twisting the spikes embedded in her, forcing every breath into an agonized screech until all Forsworn was kneeling.


    Amari turned to the bound priest with seething eyes. “I’m with you. Kill that monster.”


    The priest’s eyes glinted and a sly smile spread across his face. “Not yet. He will come to retrieve us and we’ll let him. We’ll let him lead us through the Forsworn, but then once the camp lies behind us, cut my bonds. At that time I’ll strike. The Hated One and his servant will feel the wrath of Boethiah; that much I can assure you.”


    Just as the priest predicted, once-Dùghall cleared a path to them by parting the Forsown with his hostage. Amari returned a similar sly smile to priest and lead her now cooperative hostage from the hut. They left the redoubt the same way they came, only this time the path was lined by Forsworn the whole way. Amari had never felt so much hate before. It was almost palpable on the air, a suffocating pressure.


     Once they were out of arrow range of the sentry tower the Beast’s servant turned to face the glaring ranks of Forsworn. He shoved the Hagraven to her knees before him, then leaned forward, digging his claws into her shoulders as he hissed in her ear.


    “You stole something that my Master desires; now you will repent by giving everything! You will forsake your gods! Molag Bal is your one and only master now!”


    The Mother submitted, completely defeated, but the Nameless one wasn’t done.


    “Now crawl back to the forsaken and know that they are no longer yours, but His.”


    They all watched as, broken and bloody, the once proud matron of Clan Hag’s Rock wormed through the dirt and mud back to her people. Amari felt sickened to her stomach. She had also stolen from the Prince. Than it dawned on her, the Lord of Domination knew this would happen and wanted her to see it: she could either dominate like the Nameless One, or be enslaved like the Mother, but she would never be free.  


    Their party turned away and started the journey back to Markarth, the city of silver and blood; so much blood. They past a bend and the fate of the redoubt faded from sight, but not mind. Amari nudged her prisoner to get his attention. The priest turned from studying the vampire leading them through the darkness to Amari and saw her finger the hilt of her dagger. He nodded, it was time. She cut his bonds. Slave? Tyrant? Neither, she would make her own path.


    As soon as he was free, the priest shot an empowered blast of necromantic energy of such a deep shade of purple that it was nearly black into the vampires back. The child of darkness went rigid as the energy spread throughout him. Thin tendrils shot back out and fastened to the priest’s fingers like the strings of a marionette doll. The priest threw his hands downward and the vampire collapsed to his hands and knees, unable to resist the thrall.


    The elderly man threw back his head and laughed. “You foolish beast! Did you really think you could best me? I am Logrolf the Willful! Now you will aid us in the name of Boethiah! Come girl! I have a shrine in need of desecrating and I believe you have someone in need of saving.”






25 Comments   |   Felkros and 1 other like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  March 25, 2018
    What an excellent chapter. It was fascinating to watch Amari's inner struggles, and that entire section with the Forsworn was great. I like your portrayal of them, it's the first time I've ever had to think of them as anything more than 'that one quest fr...  more
    • Exuro
      What an excellent chapter. It was fascinating to watch Amari's inner struggles, and that entire section with the Forsworn was great. I like your portrayal of them, it's the first time I've ever had to think of them as anything more than 'that one quest fr...  more
        ·  April 1, 2018
      Thanks! Glad your still reading. Yeah, she's starting to crack from the stress of this journey; will she have the will to hold it together? Stay tuned in the next chapter! One of my goals with this story is to not have any 2D/flat characters, to give a se...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  February 23, 2016
    Sorry, mods actually didn't influence these chapters much, just my twisted imaginings.
  • ShyGuyWolf
    ShyGuyWolf   ·  February 23, 2016
    this and chapter 18 sound like they are from mods, if so what mods? send me a pm to give me the names and links.
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  January 30, 2016
    Why do I get the feeling we always over-complicate human emotion and morality...? :P It may go against everything I have been saying, but I find that with careful observation, we are all more alike than we think. It is in our strive toward this popular 'u...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 30, 2016
    No worries, I'm always behind in my reading. Well right now there are 3 on the field, although Mora's influences is severely limited by the deal Amari's mother made in chapter 2.
  • Lyall
    Lyall   ·  January 30, 2016
    Sorry I haven't gotten around to commenting, stuff came up and then I forget. The plot is getting interesting, can't wait until there are like 5 deadra all trying to control her.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 30, 2016
    More good points
    Technically mental conflicts are chemical reactions since that is how the brain functions :-P I would argue good and evil aren't noble, but more closely interrelated. Good is usually defined by what people find morally right and ben...  more
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  January 30, 2016
    You make good points!
    But to judge a man from a distance is unjust. One must get closer to see the true picture, which is often why I refrain from making accusations until I fully understand the story and the intentions behind the actions. For examp...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 30, 2016
    It's more a matter of perspective. what colors do you see when a zebra is 2 decimeters (yes decimeters :-)) away versus 2 kilometers away? The lines blur with distance until you only see one color.
    Ionic good and evil cannot mix like that, which is ...  more
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  January 30, 2016
    Oh my God, seriously, more chemistry talk? Enough with the science!