Dragon of the East - Arc 3, Chapter 2

  • Falura

    ~ ~ ~

    Fredas, 12th of Hearthfire 4E 201

    The Candlehearth Hall was a homely dark wood inn. Reinhardt closed the front door behind us as we entered. A hiss of talking mixed with music graced our ears from the grand room above. The ground floor housed the bar, rooms, and kitchen, with customers sitting and drinking at tables. A middle-aged woman with deep smile lines on an unsmiling face manned the counter. She handed a key to a man in robes, rolled up scrolls sticking out of his bag. A fellow guest for the night, I presumed. He left down a hallway past the bar.

    “Evening, ma’am,” Reinhardt said as he stepped up to the counter.                        

    “What was all that commotion outside?” the innkeeper asked.        

    “Just a little misunderstanding. Give or take a broken arm. Any rooms left for rent?”

    The woman leaned forward on her haunches. She seemed oddly unfazed. How common were drunken brawls in this city?

    “Sure thing. We got two beds down the hall. Third one on the right’s all yours. Twenty Septims.”

    Reinhardt spilled a pile of coins on the table and took his key. I followed up behind him.

    “I’ll take a room as well,” I said. “Whatever you have.”

    After a moment of pause, the innkeeper stood up, hands resting on the lip of the counter.


    I grimaced.

    “I beg your pardon?”

    “Sixty Septims. The rate for a room.”            

    “That’s… triple the price! What am I paying more for?”   

    The woman’s eyes glossed over me and my belongings lazily.

    “Twenty for you, forty for that staff.”                     

    “My staff?”

    “Mind you keep your voice down,” she said. “That staff’s a dangerous thing to be carryin’ around and we ain’t looking for trouble. The extra coin’s your good word that you won’t go zapping my customers with lightning bolts.”

    And if you knew the first thing about staffs…! I pointed down the hall to the guest rooms. “That man earlier was carrying spell scrolls in his satchel. How much did he pay for a room?”

    “I keep my ledgers private. If you can’t pay the fee, you can always leave your staff out here by the bar…”

    Damnation! Such blatant mockery and theft! That innkeeper was a snake in cheap makeup! I would sooner run naked through the boiling waters of the Scathing Bay than leave my staff in her possession.

    “…or maybe you should just move along.”

    Reinhardt slammed a purse of coins down on the counter. People turned their heads.

    “There’s forty. Put that on top of mine. We’ll share a room,” he said, glancing at me. “I won’t mind a night on the floor.”


    He probably thought he was doing me a kindness, stepping up on my behalf. Truth be told, it felt more backhanded. I would have rather given that woman nothing and left to find another place to stay the night, preferably a more private space that I could have to myself. I said nothing of this to my companion, however. He’d just been through an ordeal and I didn’t wish to upset him.

    At least he didn’t snore like my Ethyl. Otherwise he’d find himself deprived of a room and left in the hallway.

    The woman took his money and walked out tautly from behind her counter. She showed us to our room down the hall. The hinges of the door creaked as the innkeeper opened it. We stepped inside.

    “Enjoy your stay, and don’t break nothin’!”       

    She closed the door behind us. When it didn’t shut all the way, Reinhardt tried closing it himself. It still swung open. He shoved harder and the door obeyed.

    The dark room was cramped. Inside were a desk and chair, cabinet and drawers, and a queen sized bed with an animal skin covering. The ceiling boards creaked with feet walking around the great room above us. At least there were no cracks in the walls to let in a chill. I lit a candle with my staff and sat down at the desk. Twitching shadows gave the room an unnerving guise, though that may have been the product of my emotions.

    Never before had I felt so homesick.                                                                                     

    “These Nord and their damnable prejudice! I’ve been confronting this all day.” I sank in my seat, exhausted. “I’m sorry, Reinhardt, but your people can be absolutely repugnant. Raising the rate for my staff! The nerve!”

    “I’m not saying that innkeeper was right,” he said sheepishly, taking off his armor one piece at a time. “Had a feeling the lady was more interested in your grey skin than your staff. She picked a clever line, though, to charge you extra coin with.”

    “Clever to a mudcrab, certainly.”                                                           

    “You got to see it from their side of things…”

    “That magic is evil and staffs make great firewood?” I snapped. “Any tool can be given a horror story as easily as one of benefit. Magic is only dangerous in the hands of someone who doesn’t respect its power.”

    “Aye. But try telling that to a man who can’t protect himself from a fireball or a bolt of lightning.” He took a drink of water from his canteen and wiped his mouth. “If you can’t beat it, shun it.”

    I didn’t retort. The intelligence of my companion’s statement put me at a disadvantage. Fear is indeed a straight road to hate. I so often neglect this when dealing with opposers of magic.

    The Nord looked down at me. “What’s with the smile?”                                         

    “Every day I think to myself you’re the clumsiest Nord I’ve ever met,” I said, shaking my head. “Then you come out and say something profoundly wise, exposing me for the daft elf I am.”

    He grinned. “Just earning my pay.”                                                            

    “Reinhardt, you–”

    “Don’t even say it. I’m no volunteer. Ysmir, I’m no better than a liar.” He leaned back against the unsteady dresser. “I’m here carrying a brand new sword bought with your gold. If that ain’t pay, then roast me like a basted turkey. You got stuck with a rotten man, Falura.”

    “No. Rotten men do not admit their faults.”                                                                         

    “Sure they do. They just don’t fix ‘em.”

    That was true enough. “I’ll still see your needs met. If I wasn’t willing, I wouldn’t do it. A sword is a price I’m glad to pay for worthy service.”

    “That so? Much obliged,” my companion nodded, grinning cheerfully again. “Might have you say that to my next employer. A good word’s worth its weight in gold.” Reinhardt’s stopped smiling. His eyes wandered up the walls. “Think that innkeeper could’ve given us a better room?”

    “There’s no doubt about that,” I grumbled, joining his inspection of our quarters. “I simply hope these Nords harbor no… unfounded thoughts about our stay. Sharing a bedroom for the night may not have been the deftest move…”

    “Hey, I’m the one sleeping on the floor. You don’t have to give up a thing.”

    “I mean some might mistake us for a couple.”           

    Reinhardt arched his brow. “That where your scholarly mind’s been wandering, Falura?”

    “I’m spoken for, I’ll have you know. You can keep your advances. Unless you have aspirations of becoming a pile of ash.”

    “See, that’s the thing right there,” Reinhardt spoke in a higher pitch than normal. “Sleeping with the women who hire me always sounds like a better idea than it actually is. I’ve had the luck to live to my ripe old age and put a few lessons under my belt, but… if we’re talking punishments to fit the crimes, I should’ve been a pile of ash a long time ago.”

    “Is that supposed to make me feel better?” I said.

    The man chuckled. “Don’t give it a worry, Falura. Far as I know, you’re old enough to be my mother.”

    “I’m sixty-seven, Reinhardt. Not even a century. That’s quite young for a Dunmer.”         

    “Ha! Only sixty-seven, she says.”

    I let the matter go. At least I could trust Reinhardt to be a gentleman (a term I use loosely in this context). The way he ogled Aela on the road to Mount Anthor had sent a few cautioning signals, but it was obvious he had no inclinations toward me. Of course, this only left me thinking of Ethyl. I quietly sat back in my seat.

    “Didn’t know you had someone, Falura,” Reinhardt said, lacking his usual banter.

    “My husband,” I replied, weaving my fingers together. “Back in Morrowind.”      

    “Husband, eh? He’d better be good to you.”     

    I smiled humbly. “I am no worse for wear.”      

    “When’s the last time you saw him?”

    “That would have been a month ago. I didn’t come here to Skyrim with the intent to stay so long, however. I was to be in Winterhold for only a week.”

    “What happened?”

    “Dragons, Reinhardt. Dragons happened.” I paused, head dropping. “I sent him a letter, telling him why I haven’t come home. I hope he hasn’t taken the news too poorly…”

    “Sounds like you miss him.”

    “He’s a pompous troubadour who keeps his lute better tuned than his manners.” I glanced up at Reinhart’s pitying face. “And yes... I miss him. More than I could put to words.”

    The Nord turned his head to the door. “Well then, all the more reason I make sure you get back to him safely.”

    I thanked Reinhardt for the kindness. It was cruel of me to leave Ethyl for so long, on such short notice, and in such frightening circumstances. I wished there was a way I could speak to him, to tell him I was okay. The dragons remained a danger, but I was far less afraid of them than I had been at the start of this excursion, now with Reinhardt at my side.

    I wanted to say the same of my other company. But…                     

    “Reinhardt. There’s something I need to discuss with you,” I said. “It’s about the Dragonborn.”

    “I’d been meaning to ask you too,” he replied. “What do you think of our new scaley companions?”

    A frown crept upon my countenance. “Are you certain you want my opinions on them?”

    “Woah there, you sound… angry. You’re not angry about all this, are you?” He shifted his weight uncomfortably. “If you didn’t want to travel with the Argonians, you could’ve said so back at Kynesgrove.”

    I wasn’t angry before. Now I was, if only a little.

    “We both know that’s not true,” I said. “You were set on accompanying the Dragonborn no matter what. Nothing I could’ve said had the power to sway you.”

    He scratched the back of his head. “Eh… Suppose so…”         

    I started planning two steps ahead of the conversation. There was no avoiding  this dialog. I needed to tell Reinhardt what I knew, the things that had me truly scared, as much as even the dragons.

    “You ask me what I think of them?” I said. “The girl I’m indifferent to, though her attitude has been very unbecoming.”

    “Aye, she’s a shifty one. That lizard lady’s got a chip on her shoulder.  She did help me out at Kynesgrove, though.”

    “Probably looking out for her own self interests.”

    “I don’t think she’s all bad.” He idly rubbed his temple. When I didn’t reply, he grew silent, biding a moment before speaking again. “What about the Dragonborn?”

    “I’ll let you speak first…”

    “Suits me,” he said, smiling. “Him I like. He’s a man of action, thinks on his feet. And he’s damn good in a fight. ‘Course, I think we both knew that already.”

    I wrapped my arms around my midriff. “He’s awfully cold, though, wouldn’t you say? He barely spoke a word to us on the road here.”

    “Sure, sure. But you should’ve seen him out there when we were dealing with those drunks.”

    “I heard the ear-splitting scream. I’m quite happy I didn’t see it.”

    “Aw, it was just a broken arm.”   

    “Reinhardt! I saw that broken arm. Is there even a chance it will mend?”

    He shrugged. That man and his flippancy – there was no end to it. I gave him a sidelong look.

    “I’m not criticizing your judge of character,” I calmly insisted. “We simply don’t know anything about who the Dragonborn is… or was.”

    “We don’t know anything about the girl, either.”

    “I’m not as concerned about her.”

    “Concerned?” Reinhardt’s tone rose in surprise. “Hey now, the Dragonborn’s on our side.”

    “You’re too trusting,” I said sternly. “He says he has enemies, but he cannot tell us who they are. There is an obvious reason he’s here in Skyrim. It’s in no way related to the dragons. He has an agenda, Reinhardt, and until we know what it is, we cannot assume anything about him.”

    My companion’s eyes mildly lit ablaze. He resented my distrust of Chases-The-Wind. I couldn’t possibly blame him for that. He didn’t know what I knew, hadn’t seen what I’d seen.

    “I saw what the Dragonborn did out there,” Reinhardt said, “when that drunk threw his bottle at him.”

    “Oh? Do tell.”                                        

    “He let himself get hit.”

     “Hm? Let himself? What makes you say this?”

    “Chases saw the bottle coming, had the perfect chance to dodge. I’d bet my stones he could’ve done it.”

    “And yet he did not,” I spoke slowly, dubiously. “That doesn’t lend much to your theory.”

    Rainhardt puffed himself up, smirking with confidence.

    “Dar-Meena was in front of him. If he’d gotten out of the way, she would’ve been the one covered in bloody bits of glass. So he took the hit, used himself as a shield.” The man sounded reverent. “Could a bad man do something like that?”

    Of course. Gallantry is not exclusive to the gallant, I thought. Still, this certainly made for a romantic portrait of the Argonian. But was it accurate?

    “You’re giving him a lot of credit,” I said. “You don’t suppose it might be undue?”          

    He grinned even broader. “Not in the least.”            

    Such optimism. I sincerely hoped he was right. I wanted to believe the Dragonborn was noble. It would make it easier to cope with some of my other less flattering suspicions about him.

    On the road to Windhelm, it occurred to me that Reinhardt was not a man familiar with Argonians and their culture. I could see he had difficulties reading their body language. Myself less so, for reasons I wished to withhold for the time being; Reinhardt was not a trustworthy keeper of secrets. Nonetheless, this seemed like a good occasion to educate my companion.

    “Reinhardt, have you heard of the Red Year?” I asked.

    “Heard of it, yeah, but don’t know much about it,” he said. “Why?”

    “Do you know of the Argonian invasions in Morrowind?”                                  

    “Invasions? The Argonians invaded Morrowind?” The Nord raised a palm to his head. “Ysmir’s beard! Falura, is that what this is all about?”

    I hesitated.                                       

    “About what? What do you mean?”                                     

    “Is it because they’re Argonians? Is that why you’re so grouchy around them?”

    His words were like ice to my nerves. I could scarcely believe it. The first thing he presumes about me and it ends up being this?

    “Reinhardt…!” My voice wouldn’t rise.                     

    “You can’t blame Chases and Dar for things the rest of their people did. That’s not fair to them.”

    “No…! You don’t understand…!”

    “They’re an odd bunch, but they aren’t that different from us. You have to have a–”        

    I am not racist!” I cried, shooting to my feet. “How could you even think that? As though you know me!”                                 

    Reinhardt flinched back, hands up in yielding. “Take it easy!” he said. As my heart settled I sat back down, while the Nord shrank somewhat. I did not meet his eyes.

    “Sorry, Falura, I... I didn’t mean to upset you.”

    “Oh, don’t bother… It’s a reasonable thing to assume. My people can be as narrow minded as yours.” Yes, I realized what I said. If my companion was offended by the remark, he didn’t show it.

    “Never seen you like this before, Falura,” he said. “What’s the big mystery?”

    “Heavy memories, Reinhardt. I’ve lost many people to the lizards of Black Marsh. Friends… Fellow colleagues… My brother…” I swallowed. “But I don’t hold their deaths against the Argonians. I hold them against their leaders, the An-Xileel and the accursed Hist.”

    “The who and the what?”                                                           

    “The An-Xileel are the governing political faction in Black Marsh, but that’s neither here nor there. The Hist are the ones they answer to. Do you know of them?”

    If ‘Why in the name of Talos would I know of them?’ had a face, Reinhardt wore it splendidly.

    “As I suspected… You haven’t heard of them at all,” I sighed. “The Hist are an ancient race of sentient trees that grow in Black Marsh. They are ingrained in every aspect of Argonian culture.”

    “What makes them so special? Do they grow food or something?”

    “The Hist are the closest thing Argonians have to gods. They are worshiped and revered.”

    “Tree gods?” He sneered. “What, the Nine Divines not good enough for them?”

    “Reinhardt, I don’t worship the Nine. I resent even the gods of my own people, the Tribunal.” With a wave of my hand, I dismissed the subject. “Have you at least heard of Umbriel?”

    Once more, Reinhardt’s expression was sublimely appropriate.

    “Alright then, pay attention. I’m going to have to preface some things,” I said. “Umbriel was a floating island, trapped in a bubble of Oblivion. It appeared in the early years of the fourth era and traveled across Tamriel, amassing an army of undead on the surface below it.”

    He stared blankly at me. I’d hoped the notion of a demonic floating landmass would sound somewhat intriguing, but my companion seemed bored more than anything else.

    “From Oblivion. But… this was after the Oblivion Crisis,” Reinhardt said, trying to sort the dates in his mind.  

    “Correct. Umbriel wrought great death and destruction upon Tamriel before its rampage was finally stopped. One of the first cities it destroyed was Lilmoth, in the northern region of Black Marsh. And when it did…”

    “And when it did… what?”     

    “Something happened at Lilmoth that the An-Xileel have tried to hide. There are records of the disaster, but its true nature has been kept suppressed.”

    By this point, Reinhardt appeared to be attentive. That or he was an impressively deceptive daydreamer.

    “The lizards have a name they call certain members of their kind,” I said. “Lukiul. It means assimilated or Imperialized. The Lukiul were Argonians that still clung to Imperial ways, even after Black Marsh’s secession from the Empire.”


    “When Umbriel arrived at Lilmoth, the city’s population amassed and stood before the island’s hoard of undead… but they did not fight. They died, without lifting a single blade or claw. Thousands of Argonian corpses were added to Umbriel’s army that day. This event is known to historians as The Slaughter at Lilmoth.”

    Yet again, Reinhardt’s emotive display was spectacular.

    “That’s… ridiculous!” he said. “They didn’t fight at all?”

    I rested my chin on my folded hands. “They didn’t have a choice. The Hist made them do it.”

    “Made them?” He shook himself. “Wait, what?”

    “All of the Argonians who died in that city were Lukiul. The Hist took control of their minds and threw them before Umbriel to be slaughtered. The rest of the city’s population had already fled. In one fell sweep, Lilmoth was purged of its Imperial taint. This was the twisted will of the Hist.”

    Reinhardt ran a hand through his hair. “Falura, I respect your knowledge. By Shor, I do. But you’re gonna have to take a step back now. These Hist can control minds?”

    “In a manner of speaking. Argonians share a spiritual link with the trees, a connection of the soul. This link is established at an early age, through some manner of ritual. It is said that the spirits of Argonians who die return to the Hist to be reincarnated. The link, however, has other serious consequences.

    “The Hist can influence the minds of Argonians, inducing visions or altered states of consciousness. When Dagon’s armies invaded during the Oblivion Crisis, Argonians from across Tamriel were rallied back to Black Marsh at the Hist’s prompting. It is the one of the many reasons they were able to defend their marshes against the daedra so successfully.”

    “And you believe all this?” Reinhardt said with a faint-hearted laugh. “Falura, you’re talking crazy! There’s no way these Hist can be that powerful.”

    I scowled. “You can’t convince me otherwise. I’ve seen an Argonian controlled by the Hist. I’ve watched it happen before my very eyes.”

    “Shor’s bones…” Reinhardt held out his hands in exasperation, as if he were begging for something. “Falura, where’s all this going? How do you even know these things?”

    “These matters are important to me,” I said softly. “Almost as much as magic. I’ve spent years gathering information, trying to learn all that I can.”

    “But why? What’s the damn reason?”

    “Put simply, I owe it to my brother. To ensure I didn’t lose him for nothing.”

    I stared at the floorboards, trying not to think of that day.

    “Reinhardt… The Hist are the fiends responsible for instigating the Argonian invasion of Morrowind. Those wretched trees are the reason we Dunmer live as exiles in our own land! Even now they continue to plot our downfall. The Argonians are merely pawns to them. And the Dragonborn, a man capable of nigh limitless power, is one such pawn.”

    I stood up, my voice trembling with quiet fury.

    “Tell me, Reinhardt. What happens if the Hist decide to take control of the Dragonborn? What if they turn him against my people?”

    The Nord was taken back. Delphine had told us of the Dragonborn’s abilities, how he could absorb the souls of wyrms and master his Thu’um. The Argonian would grow more powerful with every Dragon he killed, every Shout he learned. And the danger to my people would grow with him. Dragonborn of history have performed great feats. Tiber Septim founded an Empire. Martin defeated Dagon. When Chases killed the dragon at Kynesgrove, shouting it out of the sky, he showed us the strength of his blood.

    In the hands of the Hist, beings purported to possess future sight, that blood could make a terrible weapon.

    That was it. I’d exposed my greatest fear. Of course, it did not shake Reinhardt as it did me. His people were not the ones in danger. My companion understood, but he did not sympathize.

    “Falura, you’d better not be thinking what I think you are.” The fire in his eyes had returned “The Dragonborn’s on our side.”

    “I won’t bring harm to him,” I said. “That would be foolish of me.” We needed Chases-The-Wind to help stop the dragon menace. I would see one crisis averted before trying to prevent another. But after the dragons… the Hist could only take control of him so long as he lived, a state that could easily change.

    As I glanced at the deep red crystal of my destruction staff, I knew I had the power to bring that change.

    Could I do it? Could I kill a noble man to safeguard the future of my race?

    My companion leaned his whole weight against the dresser. “We should talk to Chases about this,” he said.

    “No! This is a delicate matter. We don’t know what his allegiances are. He could be an agent of the An-Xileel. Please, Reinhardt, we must wait until we know more. Promise me you will not speak to him.”

    He considered my words, then declared his own, bereft of the usual repartee.

    “Aye. You’ll be the one to bring this up to the Dragonborn. Not me.”

    There was nothing more to say. I had confided in Reinhardt, but I wasn’t certain of the result. Either way I’d lifted a great boulder off my shoulders. All that remained was to wait and prepare. My companion and I settled down to sleep for the night.

    The decision I made to remain in Skyrim had been a difficult one. But it was the right decision. None could deny that the Dragonborn required assistance. I would continue to study the dragons and help him end their threat.

    After that, another difficult decision would await my agency.                                



    For those who may be curious, the events described here of The Slaughter at Lilmoth are lore accurate. This includes the deaths of the Lukiul Argonians. This was described in the book The Infernal City

    The idea that the An-Xileel suppressed knowledge of the event, however, is mine.

    Just so there's no confusion. :) 

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14 Comments   |   Fallout Night likes this.
  • A-Pocky-Hah!
    A-Pocky-Hah!   ·  January 15, 2016
    There's probably gonna be a "Deus Ex Machina" moment when Chase "does" get controlled by the Hist.
    Mind-controlling Hist trees... I shiver at the thought.
  • Lyall
    Lyall   ·  January 15, 2016
    I think Chase won't be affected, or find a way out of it, because he's the main character and Dragonborn However, Falura does have the right thinking ignoring the rather predictable limitations writing puts on main characters (Not die, do the right thing ...  more
  • Fallout Night
    Fallout Night   ·  January 14, 2016
    I wonder who's got the right thinking here? Falura or Reinhardt? I'm personally leaning more towards Reinhardt, i prefer getting difficult situations out of the as soon as possible. What do yall think? 
  • Lyall
    Lyall   ·  January 14, 2016
    I think Reinhardt would be with Chase.
  • Fallout Night
    Fallout Night   ·  January 14, 2016
    Up to this point, i was really liking Falura. But with her keeping her thinking a secret from Okan, i don't know, gonna have to keep an eye on her.
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  January 13, 2016
    I wonder what side Reinhardt will be on if Falura betrays Chase.
  • Lyall
    Lyall   ·  January 13, 2016
    Very good, the plot is getting more complicated.
  • Teekus
    Teekus   ·  January 13, 2016
    I think someone is going to be falling out with either Okan or Dar here...
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  January 13, 2016
    I was wondering why Falura was so taken back by the fact Argonian is the Dragonborn. I haven´t thought about the Slaughter of Lilmoth and I´ve read that book.
    Clever, Okan, very clever. I love it! 
  • A-Pocky-Hah!
    A-Pocky-Hah!   ·  January 13, 2016
    Two ships sail... one will sink... maybe.