Dragon of the East - Arc 1, Chapter 18

  • Falura

    ~ ~ ~

    Middas, 20th of Last Seed 4E 201

    Skyrim’s arctic winds are unimaginably frigid. Each gale slices at you like the cold steel of a dagger pressed against your skin.

    The sun was slowly sequestering its warmth beneath the horizon. I drew a scarf over my mouth, trying to heat the air that entered my lungs. Ice and rock were my only company. Even packs of prowling snow wolves kept their distance, eyeing me as I hiked through the snow. Fissured glaciers spilled out toward the distant ocean, forming ravines and chasms across the tundra. The air was astonishingly clear. I could see for miles under a cloudless sky, the landscape tinted a mesmerizing mixture of blue, orange, and white.

    In the nearby mountains loomed an enormous statue of a woman, robes coursing down to the ground like frozen water fall, holding a sun and moon in each hand. It was the shrine of Azura, Daedric Prince of dusk and dawn, carved out of the mountan’s peak. I had heard of its splendor but to see it for myself was too magnificent for words.

    The statue was built by my people, driven west after the Red Year when Vvardenfell’s volcano erupted. In the wake of that terrible disaster, the shrine was erected as a reminder to the Dunmer to never lose faith in the true Tribunal or in ourselves.

    But I must digress… To reflect on this leaves a bitter taste. It was shortly after the Red Year that the Argonian invasions began. We were knocked back to the ground as quickly as we tried to stand again. No amount of statue building could save us from that, could it?

    I traveled across the glacial expanse to Mount Anthor. The cold remained my greatest adversary, though I was by no means without ample sources of warmth. Mage fire from my staff would prove more than sufficient to preserve body heat. Still, if a dragon lurked among the mountains, that was reason enough to curtail my staff’s use. Flames would only call out my location. Discretion was key, as I intended to observe the creature from afar. If I could manage to find it.

    Keenly aware of the dragon’s danger, I possessed a number of spell scrolls for utility and to ensure my safety.

    The first was a scroll of invisibility. Its function is self-explanatory. Though the duration of the spell would be relatively short, it would provide good certainty of escape. Assuming, of course, that dragons could not track footprints in the snow made by an invisible entity. For the sake of things I was prepared to assume otherwise, hence my second scroll – a summoning spell for a storm atronach. Though certainly powerful, I wagered the magical creature wouldn’t last long against a dragon. It could last long enough, however, to create a distraction. Combined with invisibility, the atronach would give me an ample opportunity to flee or hide.

    If all else failed, I held one final trump. My third scroll was inscribed with a spell known as ‘Recall.’ I was pleasantly surprised to find it and its sister scroll collecting dust back at the College, although it cost me a terrible sum to obtain them. The Recall spell functions only alongside another called ‘Mark.’ Upon casting, Recall teleports the user to another location on Nirn, set prior by the Mark spell. It uses a plane of Oblivion as a bridge between the two points and, through clever gateweaving and a form of quasi-transpontine circumpenetration, allows near instantaneous travel over semi-long distances.

    To discover these spells on runic parchment was astonishing. Intricate transliminal mechanics are as fascinating as they are a nightmare when considering their role in rune inscription. I know another form of this type of magic that allows transportation to any location without the equivalent use of a Mark spell. However, like an Oblivion gate, it requires either a sigil stone or comparable agency substitute for hyperagonal media, in addition to physical travel through Oblivion itself – very dangerous and risky.

    Oh, but I’m rambling aren’t I? In any event I had already set the Mark spell to my quarters back at the college. With Recall I could return to safety at a moment’s notice.

    I watched the skies, hoping to catch a glimpse of the wyrm in flight. Meanwhile I pondered the nature of its survival. Was it necessary for the creature to hunt game? Surely a body as large as a dragon’s would require ample nourishment for persistent endothermy. I assumed them to be endotherms, at least, though it was just as possible that dragons were ectotherms sustained by magical means. That would render them analogous to Argonians.

    I was engrossed in my thoughts, pondering possibilities and speculation…

    …Until a sudden breeze blew at my back.            

    The silver white dragon appeared behind me, gliding on the lift of its wings. It flew high above and bellowed a fearsome roar. I promptly reached for my bag, before realizing that the creature was ignoring me. It flew further out over the tundra before lowering its altitude to intercept a source of prey. I picked up my pace to a jog and followed the dragon’s flight, wading through ankle-high snow.

    Near a distant clutch of crags the dragon descended to a hover, keeping aloft in place as bee or hummingbird would. There was a sound like shouting, followed by the most surprising thing of all – frost breath. The dragon uttered a streaming exhale of ice as a means of attack. Absolutely remarkable! I knew only accounts of fire breath from my research. Nothing had even suggested this kind of variation! The witnessing of this event was my first true validation. This excursion was going to be worth the effort. I continued moving closer as the dragon swooped back into motion, flying circles around its point of attack.

    A peculiar noise graced my ears. I made great effort to listen, till it struck me that the sounds were screams. Human screams. Cries of panic and terror.

    My feet stopped dead in the snow. The dragon was attacking people. Who could they be? Nomads? Hunters? There was no way to know from so far away. The fervor of discovery had numbed me to any sense of danger. Now my knees felt weak. Instinct demanded that I flee, but my conscience spoke otherwise. I was conceivably the only person who could respond to these pleas for help… or, if nothing else, witness the final moments of those soon to die.

    “Azura guide me,” I whispered out of old habit, teeth chattering in the cold as I plodded one foot in front of the other.

    The dragon’s landing was heralded by a thud. Upon the ground it thrashed its head and tail, shouting blasts of ice, violently destroying what looked to be tents and encampments. Men wearing armored uniforms – soldiers, I assumed – were fighting for their lives, trying to overwhelm the wyrm with sheer numbers. Yet as they managed to mass a combined charge and came within striking range, the dragon cracked a beat of its mighty wings and returned to the sky, blowing back its attackers in a flurry of snow and wind.

    By this point I was far too close for safety. I frantically rummaged for the invisibility scroll in my bag and unrolled it, drawing forth the essence of its enchantment to cast the spell within. There was a flash of light and color mixing like paint upon an artist’s easel, before my frame became completely transparent.

    Going as near as my legs would allow, I heard disjointed and terrified cries above the chaos.

    “By Ysmir, nothing kills it!”                                     

    “The captain’s dead! Who’s in command!?”

    “I can’t get a bead on him!”

    “How does it move so damn fast!?”  

    “It’s coming around again!!”

    The dragon bombarded the camp as it circled through the sky, volleying condensed blizzard-like gales. A few straggled archers drew their bows, only to be struck down before they could shoot. The wyrm was adapting its ice breath to produce different forms of ranged attacks. Against such an adversary, the soldiers had lost over half of their company. No one was giving orders anymore. Broken into complete disarray, the handful that remained stopped trying to fight back and ran. It was every man for himself. The ones who stayed together were even more vulnerable to the dragon’s cone of breath as it blasted across the camp in diving sweeps.

    I observed the unfolding siege, my only solace coming from a grim fascination with the dragon’s power. What was I to do? I gripped the wooden shaft of my destruction staff, hands numb. I was no stranger to waging battle with magic. There was a chance my fire could trump the dragon’s frost, or at least drive back the beast. Those men were dying whilst I stood on the sideline, studying their defeat, taking mental notes. Surely I could have done something to save them.

    But I thought of every gruesome death I could suffer at the dragon’s whim. I thought of my home in Blacklight. I thought of my husband.

    I didn’t want to die. I couldn’t. Everything I was seeing – the dragon’s tactics, the manner of its flight, the properties of its ice breath – I had to record it all and ensure its relay to others. I was witnessing the devastation this creature could wreak. Dragons had not been seen for millennia. Tamriel was as unprepared as it could ever be.

    How many more times will this scene repeat itself if no one lives to pass on any knowledge of the threat?

    This was the logic and reasoning my mind gave me not to act. Yet I could not stop wondering, even as the white dragon closed in on its final victim, if this thinking was merely my own cowardice. An excuse to save myself…

    The last soldier still alive was stumbling over himself as he ran, before the dragon appeared in front of him. Glistening snow erupted through the air upon its touchdown. There was a moment of pause as the terrified man tried to regain his balance, weapon drawn.

    Then came the greatest surprise of all. The dragon spoke, in a language of its own.

    “Thuri du hin sil ko Sovngarde!”

    With these final words the soldier was clenched between the powerful jaws of the great beast’s mouth, killing him instantly. The dragon did not devour the man. It merely cast aside his remains and took flight again, retreating to what seemed to be its roosting place deep in the mountains.

    What followed was the most deathly silence I’d ever heard, broken only by the wind.

    I walked out into the camp. The invisibility spell had waned. Opacity returned to my form. Torn textile and splintered wood was all that remained of the soldier’s tents. Red stains were flecked across the white ground, strewn with dead soldiers half-frozen. Ice crystals from the dragon’s breath coated their bodies like a glaze. There was crunching beneath my boots as I stepped on a piece of cloth, knocked to the ground and covered in frost. I knelt down and brushed off its surface. It was a flag baring the Imperial symbol. My body shivered against a frigid squall.

    What were these soldiers doing out here? What was their mission?

    And why had the dragon attacked them? They weren’t a threat to it – the opposite had been established most gruesomely. There was some ulterior motive at play, an agenda I could only speculate.

    Looking around for anything resembling papers or documents, I checked the bodies of soldiers in higher ranking attire. Knots twisted in my chest as I searched their remains for clues. I tried not to dwell on what I was doing. It became harder to bear with each search. I had only watched those men die moments ago.

    One of the bodies coughed as I knelt beside it. I startled and almost fell on my rump. The Nord was alive. Barely. His mouth moved but no words came forth. Blood was running from a split that ran down his abdomen. He was wrapped in a coat of thin ice, as though the snow itself were swallowing him whole. My mind raced, trying to think of a way to save to the man. I had healing potions to speed the recovery process, but they would not stave hypothermia. The man needed a healer. Raising my staff, I quickly conjured a wall of flames safely around the soldier to warm him.

    “Hold on. I need only a moment to prepare,” I consoled as bravely as I could. “You’ll be someplace safe very soon, I promise!”

    I pulled the scroll of Recall from my bag. The soldier was in no condition to use it, but if I could manipulate the spell to target him instead of me it would send him straight to the College. The mages there could help him better than I. Laying down the scroll, my arms channeled its magicka. Violet light swirled in my palms as I held them over the soldier.

    There was no movement in his eyes. I pulled back the spell, hesitantly, and checked his pulse. My heart sank. He had passed.

    Standing up, I felt a flood of remorse as I raised my staff and swayed it over the circle of fire, dissipating its flames. The sun was gone and stars glimmered in twilight. It had become too dark to comb the area further. I took in the solemn sight of the camp one last time before readying Recall.

    I had everything I needed and came for. There was nothing left to do. I cast the spell.

    The sky shattered around me, into Oblivion.  


    Sooooo… Mark and Recall… I had to think of some way to explain how exactly the spells worked. I knew I wanted to use them, but they were only ever introduced in Morrowind, and even then were given no context as to how they functioned (that I know of). As a result, I’ve pulled inspiration from existing TES lore to come up with an explanation.

    In the Greg Keyes Novels, a mage known as Sul is able to travel quickly between long distances across Tamriel by using a plane of Oblivion as a bridge, physically traveling across it. Once in Oblivion, he had to reach a portal somewhere at another end to return to Nirn. This seemed like an appropriate concept to apply to the Mark and Recall spells, so I opted to put my own twist on it.

    Mark and Recall in my fiction works just like the magic that allowed Sul to travel through Oblivion. Because the destination is set prior to teleportation with Mark, it could feasibly be that the end portal gets placed in Oblivion strategically in advance, to be close enough to the point of entry that long travel through an Oblivion plane is not required. It becomes a simple step-in, step-out process – hence the instantaneous nature of Mark and Recall.

    This is the long winded explanation my head came up with. Feel free to pick it apart and correct me if my logic is in error. Also, many phrases like “gateweaving” and “runic parchment” that Falura uses were made up to help her sound more convincing in her knowledge (though other bits were taken directly from an in-game lore book called Liminal Bridges).

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9 Comments   |   Fallout Night and 1 other like this.
  • Fallout Night
    Fallout Night   ·  January 21, 2018
    No, not cowardice. She did the right thing, she admitted herself she's no battlemage and intervention would only have gotten her killed.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  October 22, 2015
    I'm torn between Falura and Reinhardt as my favorites! I think Falura might be in the lead after this chapter, I love her scholarly interest in the dragons. In a country that seems to value might over magic and brawn over brains, it's nice to see a main c...  more
  • Okan-Zeeus
    Okan-Zeeus   ·  June 30, 2015
    Thanks, Sotek. Like my author note mentioned, the idea was based on a scene in The Infernal City. The book itself was meh, but it did offer some nice bits of lore (including more than I expected on Argonians).
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  June 30, 2015
    I feel so much better in myself after I read this as my approach on Mark and Recall is based upon the same premise. Quentarii, Sotek’s ‘mother’ who resides in a camp north of Vos in Morrowind uses Mark and Recall to travel using a plane of Oblivion. In my...  more
  • Okan-Zeeus
    Okan-Zeeus   ·  July 27, 2014
    Friend, your comments do not bother me in the least. I'm happy that you've enjoyed the story as much as you have. It means a great deal when folks like you validate the work I put into my writing. So thank you! 
  • adds-many-comments
    adds-many-comments   ·  July 26, 2014
    I won't add any more comments unless I need to from now on, just acknoledge that 1,000,000 to 1 I probably loved it. This is should be my last comment. The last. Absolutely.
  • adds-many-comments
    adds-many-comments   ·  July 26, 2014
    Okay just wanted to say sometimes I forget to like your chapters because I just get so caught up in them so, for future reference I +1 every single chapter before I read it. Even if I don't click like... +1 +1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1. +100
  • Soneca the Exiled
    Soneca the Exiled   ·  July 11, 2014
    Ah, Falura's chapters are my favorite :)
    I especially love detailed descriptions of magic in any story, and you don't fail to disappoint.
  • Okan-Zeeus
    Okan-Zeeus   ·  June 29, 2014
    Hey, better late than never. ^_^