To Create As The Gods Create

  • A/N: Hello, Vault. Lazy here with a late entry for AMOST. This short story is simply put: my masterpiece. The things I did to get this finished. There are elements that are entirely of my imagination, such as the pseudo-biology you'll see later. And of course, I am not without inspiration. Shout out to my man, Tite Kubo. Anyway, I hope you find it interesting in any way. Constructive input is more than welcome and wholly appreciated.

    ///

    “If you wouldn’t mind me asking, Master, what exactly is this all for?” Ildari Sarothril inquired to her Master Neloth. She had just returned from an errand to pick up some ‘extremely rare alchemy reagents’ from an undisclosed source. Some of them were familiar to here, most weren’t, though she could say with certainty that one of those reagents was blood. From what she heard, they had cost a fortune and then some.

    Neloth examined one of the several jars of substance that his apprentice had brought, labelled ‘Nord females, 25 or under’. “Let me answer your question with a question, Ildari,” the Telvanni sorcerer said, not looking away from the jar. “What is the one power that the gods possess and mortals have yet to harness?” The apprentice paused to think for a spell.

    “Umm...future knowledge?”

    “No, you fool! It is creation. The power to will something completely new from non-existence to existence.” Ildari was rightfully confused.

    “Master, there are plenty of mortals who are able to do that. Conjurers-“

    “Summoning is not creation!” Neloth interrupted, irritation resounding in his voice. “For it is, more often than not, bringing forth a being or item from the planes of Oblivion. The catch is that whatever was summoned is pre-existing. Conjurers merely bring it into our plane. Thus, you cannot call it creation.” Ildari only nodded sheepishly.

    “I understand, master, forgive me. But what does that have to do with whatever you’re planning to do?”

    A scoff came from the aged Dunmer.

    “I’ll keep it simple for your asinine mind. I can say with no doubt that all sorcerers, especially myself, aspire to improve their capabilities to the ultimate level of magic: divine. And I again have no doubts that one day, one mortal sorcerer shall do just that.” He began walking towards the window, looking resolutely towards the expanse of Vvardenfell.

    “To create as the gods create should be every sorcerers’-nay, every mortal’s dream.”

    ///

    The 21st of First Seed 3E 341, marked the beginning of ‘Project Almalexia’. Though Ildari could hardly find the logic in naming his master’s magnum opus project after the Mother Morrowind, she knew better than to question Neloth’s judgment. It was clear to all inhabitants of Tel Naga that this was the old master’s greatest undertaking since his early days as a Telvanni sorcerer. Days upon days would he lock himself in his private study, perusing dusty scripts, revising formulas and finalizing the concoction that would hold his creation. Obviously, such behavior was not out of place for a hedge magician, let alone a sorcerer, but when Ildari looked at her master’s eyes on the off chance that he emerge from his ‘lair’, looked past all the bitterness and fatigue, she saw a burning determination like no other.

    A resolve fueled by ego.

    By the 3rd of Hearthfire, Neloth had begun his first attempts at the actual process. The first time she witnessed it, Ildari could only describe it as...’otherworldly’. No other spell to her knowledge resembled the marriage of alchemy and magic his master displayed. She only knew that it involved ‘manipulating chromosomal compounds and fragmented Aetherial matter with a combination of various altering magicks” to create a living being with mind, body, soul and all. That sounded...nothing like creation, but “even in the legends, everything came from simpler ingredients’, Neloth had argued. Tel Naga shuddered and quaked for the whole duration of ‘creation’. Once the process ended, much to the relief of everyone else, they found that Neloth had succeeded. Somewhat. All that effort and the result was an embryo. A living embryo, out of nothing. But sadly, ‘Almalexia First’ died merely days after its conception.

    But Neloth, the stubborn fool, refused to end it there.

    Over the next several years, the Telvanni sorcerer poured all of his work into more and more perfecting the attempts and sure enough, progress was eventually achieved. Almalexia Second was able to survive for a little over two weeks and Almalexia Third went for a solid month and a half before dying. It wasn't until attempt number four that Neloth had managed to develop a brain. In fact, he used said brain to revive the preserved body of a Telvanni noble.

    It ended just as you would expect. The revived noble went rabid and Neloth was forced to put it down before it could go on a killing spree over all Sadrith Mora.

    Again, Neloth persisted and it was Almalexia Fifth that eventually developed into a full-grown fetus. Using the knowledge from that breakthrough, he was able to manufacture a Corpus vaccine, beating his contemporary Divayth Fyr to it. The old master made a fortune and was venerated as a hero throughout Morrowind. But still, he would not be satisfied until he succeeded in creation. This time around, Neloth actually ‘asked’ his apprentice to help him and hired another apprentice for additional assistance with the Corpus vaccine septims; a young yet talented mage named Talvas Fathryon. Together, the three pulled through and developed the most successful prototype yet; Almalexia Sixth, who managed to successfully develop and survive to the age of 2, after which its cells deteriorated and the baby promptly died. Both apprentices were disheartened but not surprised.

    “Master, you’ve been at this for 40 years and all you’ve managed to create are dead fetuses!” Ildari cried in exasperation. Talvas was holding the expired Sixth in his hands, clearly crestfallen. The infant had been rather cute, after all.

    “I have to agree with Ildari, Master,” the second apprentice chimed in. “Perhaps it’s precisely that we’re dwelling on the gods’ domain that-“

    “Silence!”

    The two apprentices froze and stared blankly at their master. The few times Neloth showed profuse rage often ended with a massive loss of lives, but they were surprisingly intact.

    “I am Master Neloth, grand sorcerer of House Telvanni,” he declared. “If the gods have declined to personally intervene in my master work...what makes you think mere failures will stop me now?” The aged sorcerer pulled Six from out of Talvas’ hand and walked back towards his study.

    “This project has no use for cowards. I have made it this far and I’d advise you to join me in my moment of grandeur. Otherwise, leave.” Neloth held the seemingly human baby up beneath the hanging magelight, earning him bewildered glares from both his apprentices.

    “What use have I for disciples who fear greatness?”

    ///

    17th of Last Seed, 3E 433. At the brink of a final breakthrough, Neloth and his apprentices devoted their all into their next attempt, Almalexia Seventh. Everything proceeded much like the previous Almalexia, the artificial being was able to develop into a full-grown baby girl, but the day had finally come for their hard work to culminate into the breakthrough.

    Seven-hundred and twenty two days, four hours and thirteen minutes after her conception, the precise lifespan of the precedent Almalexia Sixth, Neloth examined the small infant for signs of decay or deterioration in its genetic material. But there were none. On the contrary, the normally dormant Seventh began to squirm and poke around at the nearby Neloth.Then, the single most extraordinary moment of his long life happened.

    “Papa,” she spoke, touching his forehead with her meaty fingers.

    Ildari could hear her master’s scream. And she was in the bottommost floor. Both apprentices rushed to their master, wondering if his experiments had gone horribly wrong and created some amalgamation of biological horror, but were even more shocked to find old Neloth holding Almalexia Seventh in the air, laughing joyously all the while. The scream wasn’t of mortification. It was a cry of elation. And when Ildari once again looked at his eyes, once again looked past everything she despised about him, she saw in those eyes...happiness. And pride.

    The eyes of a father.

    Once the euphoria dwindled down, Tel Naga held its collective breath for the day that Almalexia Seventh would wither and die like the previous six. But the day never seemed to come and everyone could rest easy. The successful creation grew up to be a delightful Nord in her own right, with a bright and insightful personality and an intellect that grew exponentially with each passing day. An intriguing discovery was that Alma, as Neloth and everyone else had taken to calling her, aged and developed physically like a Dunmer. Thus, it could be construed that she would have a long long life ahead of her, far longer than any of her ‘kin’.

    Another particularly interesting observation was how adaptive her body was. Neloth regularly performed experiments to Alma on a cellular level, her body being able to develop in accordance to the changes he had made. By only inputting a ‘subliminal’ command into her DNA, she was automatically able to not only carry out those changes, but further improve based on the original command. The result was a rapidly evolving, rapidly developing ‘superchild’. It went without saying how overjoyed Neloth must have been upon realizing this. Alma was quite literally his dream come true, the pinnacle of his mastery over magic.

    And the child he never could have fathered under normal circumstances.

    ///

    4E 39. The Neloth ‘family’ had relocated to Solstheim some years prior, due to the Red Mountain’s eruption. Alma was now 38 years old chronologically, but biologically still a child barely transitioning into adolescence. At this age, a paltry age in elven perspective, she had already outwitted several other Telvanni councilors, giving Neloth the laugh of his life.  But as her intellect grew, so did her perceptiveness. Gradually, she noticed small shifts of attitude in her ‘father’s mannerisms. Like how he would look at her with such content and love, but have the faintest hints of sorrow and...disappointment(?) in his eyes. And how he took to calling her ‘Alma’ like his apprentices instead of Almalexia Seventh like he had always done since her birth, only calling her such when he was berating her. Why was that? Hardly thinking it appropriate to ask him personally (for who knew the father’s fury better than the child?), Alma confronted the next best person.

    “Miss Ildari?” the artificial human timidly called for the Dunmer. Ildari was examining trama root specimens and diverted her attention from the alchemy reagents to attend to Alma. She gave her a warm smile.

    “Something the matter, little one?” The child hesitated a bit before once again asking.

    “Why won’t Papa love me?”

    To say that the question shocked Ildari was a grave understatement. With good reason, for every time she saw her master with his brain child, he had shown nothing but joy and compassion. It could almost make her gag. Then again, the Telvanni was as unpredictable as he was old. And Alma had become quite the observant girl for her age.

    “Now why would you ask such a thing, child? Master Neloth seems pretty loving of you up until now.” That sentence was torture to admit.

    “I know, but...judging by how he treats others, I don’t think someone such as Papa is capable of feeling such an emotion.” To that, Ildari couldn’t help but laugh. Alma didn’t speak much, but once in a while, she would say something and it would contain the plainest truth, no filter or sugarcoating.

    “Oh, child…I will not deny that your father can be hard to bear,” Ildari almost stuttered in saying ‘father’. “But if this is troubling you so much, may I suggest confronting him about it? It is possible he will be more frank about it to you.”

    “I have considered that, yes,” she replied flatly with a nod. “But after analyzing that course of action, I’ve construed that Papa wouldn’t give me an appropriate response anyway.”

    “Well, if you’ve already come to that conclusion, why bother asking me who knows nothing about the situation?!” Ildari accidentally raised her voice in annoyance, causing Alma to wince. Great. She hadn’t meant to hurt the girl at all and now she appeared to be on the brink of crying. Now she would have to cheer her up if she hoped to remain alive. Neloth was a protective father like that. The Dunmer let out an exasperated sigh and tidied up the alchemy station.

    “Walk with me, Alma. I think I have an answer.” Ildari begun walking out and, though initially confused, Alma followed suit regardless. They reached a long windowed corridor with a view of the ashen expanse of Solstheim. Netches wandered through like grazing cows. Not at all an unfamiliar sight for a Dark Elf and certainly not unfamiliar for the artificial daughter of Master Neloth.

    “Your father once boldly stated that,” Ildari started. “’To create as the gods create should be the dream of every mortal’. He certainly has his own brand of…cynical bravado, but lately, I’ve come to realize that there’s a side to him that no one else has ever had the privilege to see. Not even you.”

    The girl beside her looked confused. “What do you mean?”

    “Looking into Master Neloth’s old House records, it came to my attention that your father had been unable to naturally bear offspring. Impotent,” Ildari continued, the two keeping their pace. “Anyway, with this in mind, I propose that- this is still purely conjecture, by the way- to create as the gods create is not and was never the dream of mortals in general. It was Master Neloth’s dream. Do you get it now?” While Alma’s expression showed the negative, Ildari continued anyway.

    “All that time he spent watching you eat, sleep and breathe…all those days you spent growing, learning and developing…That entire time, Master Neloth was living his dream. And even he, the dreamer, realizes that his dream, long-lived though it may be, won’t last forever, no matter how hard he tries.”

    “I personally think he’s just embarrassed and afraid,” she summed up, finally stopping in front of Alma’s personal room, which they then both entered. “Embarrassed that one day, you of all people would realize this also, and afraid of the inevitable end of his dream. Your lifespan will likely remain to be finite, after all.” Alma stayed silent for a long time. She couldn’t blame her. This was years of observation in a nutshell and all that information crammed in only several minutes.

    “…Is it possible that...if I stayed ignorant to all this, Papa will love me more?” Ildari went on her knees and caressed the child’s blonde hair.

    “Now that would be inconceivable, silly. Even if I didn’t tell you just now, at the rate at which your intellect is developing, it’s only natural that you would reach this conclusion on your own,” the Dunmer said with a smile, moving to kiss her forehead.

    “You are Neloth’s greatest masterpiece, Alma. His pride and joy. There’s simply no way you wouldn’t evolve to the very best.” With that, Ildari left to return to her duties and Alma was left alone in her room, blushing in flattery. Again, she was silent for a long time, left pondering like a philosopher.     

    The answer laid out for her only gave way for more questions. Her father’s mind was an eccentric one, that much was sure. Only a madman could have had the capability to so disgrace divine might and create a new, perfect soul of his own design. And since his success, he has been revelling in the elated daze of glory. But Alma knew that it would not last forever. She had calculated both her father and her own predicted lifespans based on the rate at which their somatic cells divided and the results showed that her natural death would come some time within Papa’s life. His dream would end before the dreamer awoke. Alma didn’t want that. She didn’t want to be a source of her father’s sorrow, no matter the circumstance, so if she stayed young forever, problem solved!

    Right?

    It wasn’t that simple. Biology would remain to take its due course, regardless of her opinion on it. She could not prevent death. And neither could her father. Her end was certain. There was no way to keep the dream going. So Alma was left with the obvious course of action: exceed all of Papa’s expectations and evolve to the highest peak obtainable. Become smarter, better, faster, stronger with each passing day. For even if her father didn’t love her, at least he would be proud of her.

    And wasn’t that every child’s wish?

    ///

    4E 150. Almalexia Seventh was now 110 years old and a proper and stunningly beautiful teenage girl. Years of advancement gave rise to a multitude of capabilities at her disposal, chief among them being superhuman strength, the ‘strength of a thousand men’, her Papa had called it. But as with most adolescents, these years were years of emotional turmoil and self-discovery in the guise of rebellion and temperament. Alma was no exception, even if she was unusually adept at suppressing outward emotion.

    The girl now began to frequent the nearby settlement of Raven Rock, something she hadn’t quite been brave enough to do several years prior. Surprisingly, she was well-received by the locals, despite her Nord blood and...dubious origins. Citizens would talk of the reclusive sorcerer’s alluring daughter and be smitten by her demure yet warm and positive personality. Alma became a sort of ‘local beauty’. One who drew the eyes of many an itinerant lad or lass.

    And notably two visiting Nord warriors.

    It was a cloudy Tirdas afternoon. Raven Rock was in full bloom. Everyone seemed to have their own business and every business done at its place and time. The port town was organized like that. Alma herself was resting in the Retching Netch Cornerclub, contently drinking Sujamma after a morning full of rigorous physical training. Not a lot of people filled the establishment save for the regulars like Teldryn Sero and the bartenders, though she could practically feel a pair of eyes trained on her. This was uncommon for the girl as she was clearly something to look at and ignored the attention most of the time.

    Nevertheless, she couldn’t help wondering just who was ogling her in particular. Not Teldryn or anyone else she knew, surely. The male staff of the Retching Netch had gotten used to seeing her everyday and Teldryn...well, he had zero interest in her or anyone like her. So, she looked around the establishment and found what appeared to be a young adventurer, some years older than she looked. He was accompanied by another warrior, him being in his middle ages and while the youth held an expression of perverse curiosity, the elder seemed quite disappointed by his companion. Deeming them harmless, Alma returned to her thoughts and her drink.

    Her first mistake.

    “Now what would a gorgeous daughter of Skyrim be doing in this ashtray of an island?” she heard a smooth voice say just moments after. The young man had gotten bold enough to walk up to and sit beside her, flashing her a disconcertingly pleasant smile. Oh, well. Getting a better look at him, Alma saw a muscular and tall man with blond hair such as hers, but of a lighter shade. His skin, rough and callous, was several shades of dark suntan, reminding her of Redguard corsairs from Stros M’Kai. Judging by his accent, however, she could say for sure that he was a Nord. Just one who spent his days in the sun.

    “I live here and, in my opinion, Raven Rock and Solstheim in general isn’t so bad,” the artificial human replied, voice small and soft as it usually was. It was always a chore dealing with such questions. She was not a daughter of Skyrim, never has and never would be.

    The adventurer shifted uneasily in his seat, but hadn’t dropped his charming smile. “That may be so. Why don’t you come along with us? Then you can help me and my master there earn a better...understanding of this place.”

    “While I admit that is not something I would object to, I must respectfully refuse given the multitude of errands I must run.” Such a polite yet blunt refusal blindsided him and it showed. Would he try harder? Of course he would. He was a Nord, after all.

    “Even still, it’s an honor getting to meet such a stunning beauty here,” he purred. Alma rolled her eyes and far back, the elusive master did the same.

    “My name’s Vignar. Vignar Gray-Mane. Proud Shield-Brother of the Companions.” Companions? She had read something about them in a history book. Valiant mercenaries preserving the legacy of Ysgramor, the great Atmoran hero. Skyrim’s answer to the Fighters Guild, they were bound in blood and honor and as quintessentially Nordic as a Nord could get.

    “What would your name be, sweetheart?” the Companion finally asked the inevitable question.

    “Alma.”

    “Well, Alma, since you don’t have the time to accompany me all the time...how about for one night?” As if that lewd request wasn’t enough, her body immediately stiffened as she felt a rough hand grope her behind.

    “Because you are the single hottest mother-” Vignar never got to finish that sentence. Alma’s high-velocity fist up his face sort of got in the way. The Retching Netch thundered with sounds of violence soon after.

    A few hours later…

    The work of Master Neloth involved a balance of theory and practice. It had to be, for even if one perfected the method through pure practice, nowhere else but the aged scriptures of the ancestors long past could real knowledge be discovered. Even now, he was thumbing through a text said to be a translated copy of a scientific thesis written by the Tonal Magister himself, Kagrenac. He was certain its contents could hold knowledge that would shake the very foundations of this plane. And he was also certain it was he, Neloth, who would pioneer this above all other scholars.

    Given he could read it in the first place. As it stood, he was only looking at nonsensical scribbles and vague illustrations. Codes upon codes in the Dwemer language that could puzzle even the esteemed expert on the Deep Elves, Calcelmo. Hours had passed like minutes, just staring and looking for patterns and finding none. His eyes has begun to strain and Neloth had to end it then and there, rather than risk visibility issues.

    The aged Dunmer leaned back in his seat, taking deep breaths. Nowhere did it say that his work was easy. He had come to terms with that fact centuries ago. Back then, he would risk life and limb to obtain nothing less than the best results, but he was in no place to do so anymore. He had a future to think about, a future to preserve. In the form of Alma. Indeed, his daughter was something. Neloth never thought that, in this day and age, he would ever care for another’s well-being. To much of House Telvanni, ‘compassion’ and ‘Neloth’ were akin to ‘Nord’ and ‘Elf’. Fundamentally different and incompatible under any circumstance.

    But yet here he was. Caring for his child just as any other father would. Worrying about her condition every waking minute his eyes weren’t on him. Speaking of which, where was she? Alma never stayed in Raven Rock for this long, it was almost sundown. Neloth’s newfound paternal instinct kicked in. Had something bad happened to her? Truthfully speaking, nothing in Solstheim posed much of a threat to his genetically enhanced daughter, save for perhaps Karstaag, if that old hunk of ice was still hulking around.

    But what if something did happen?

    “Master Neloth?” Thankfully, his apprentice Talvas snapped him out of his worries. The master forced out a calming sigh.

    “What is it, Talvas? Is it Alma, is she home?”

    “...Well, yes, actually. But she came escorted by two men, one of which wanted to speak to you.”

    Neloth raised an eyebrow. “Escorted by two men?” he echoed. “I hope that doesn’t imply what I think it implies. Let’s have a look at them, then.” Master and apprentice left his private study and headed down to the main foyer through the lift.

    They were greeted by two armored men, Nords by the looks of it, one of them had bandages wrapped around his head. Between them was Alma and she looked a bit worse for wear as well. Her bright blue clothes were disheveled, torn in some places, and there were bruises and scratches all over her face, but the girl was smiling elatedly. Her father was the first to react.

    “Alma! What happened to you, child?” The old Dunmer rushed to his daughter, but was cut off the elder of the two warriors. For a Nord, the man looked level-headed and respectable enough, even to a Telvanni.

    “Allow me to explain, sir,” he offered. “We two are Companions, on a hunting expedition. I am Olvar Storm-Song and this is my Shield-Brother, Vignar Gray-Mane,” he motioned towards the bandaged man and he in turn politely bowed. Though no one could clearly see his face, his embarrassment was all too evident. Humbled by a Telvanni’s presence, no doubt, Neloth mused mentally.

    “We encountered your daughter Alma in the local cornerclub, the Retching Netch. We were keeping to ourselves at first, but the recklessness of my Shield-Brother compelled him to make a move on your daughter. She was understandably offended and attacked him in retaliation. A short scuffle ensued and we have since sorted everything ourselves.” Neloth ought to vaporise this Vignar right now for having the audacity to do such a thing to her, but Alma wouldn’t like that at all, so he refrained from lashing out. For now.

    “Even still,” Olvar continued. “As his elder, I must take full responsibility for what has happened. I could’ve prevented him, but hadn’t. I know ask that you find it in your heart to forgive him, just as your daughter has.” Had it been the old Neloth receiving such a question, he would’ve burned them to a crisp long before they had a chance to ask it. But since they asked so nicely and Alma forgave them in the first place…

    “Fine. This matter is settled. If I hear word that you mistreat my daughter again, there won’t be enough of you to bury.” The Dunmer edged closer to the upstart, with a look that could kill (and has killed, once).

    “Do I make myself clear?” With a nervous gulp, Vignar nodded silently.

    “Good. Now, if you two have no further business here, I’d suggest you leave immediately.”

    “Wait!” Alma shouted all of a sudden. All eyes turned to her. “A-Aren’t you forgetting something, Olvar?” The middle-aged warrior looked confused but then brightened in realization.

    “Yes, of course! Almost slipped my mind.” He then turned towards Neloth and put on a look of grim certainty.

    “Sir, your daughter would like to join the Companions.”

    ///

    To say that the news shocked her father was putting it lightly. Alma wasn’t all that surprised, either. Papa had always been severely overprotective of her. In fact, that was one of the reasons she decided to join the Companions in the first place. While she loved her family dearly, she felt that for her to truly evolve, she needed to see the world as it was and adapt to it accordingly. Keeping her held up in Solstheim severely limited her experiences. Alma hoped that Papa could understand that.

    She waited silently in her spacious room for her father and his apprentices to decide the final verdict. If they didn’t agree, she would return to her daily routine for presumably the rest of  her life. And how was she supposed to develop like that? Monotony was the bane of evolution, why couldn’t she just go in there and fucking tell them herself?!

    Temper, Alma. Keep it, she reminded herself. Poor anger management was one of her shortcomings, even if she rarely ever got angry. Today was the first this year, in fact, that she truly exploded in a fit of fury. Now Geldis Sadri would have to pay an arm and leg to patch up the newly formed hole in his cornerclub. Alma made a point to make it up to the poor owner someday.

    After almost an hour of silent waiting, Neloth, Olvar and Ildari  strode slowly into her room. Neloth looked morose, but not as upset as last time, Olvar stayed calm as always and Vignar...well, it was hard for him to look anything other than in pain.  Ildari, on the other hand, bore an expression of uncertainty.

    “Alma. After much discussion on the topic of your planned recruitment into the Companions, I as your father must…” The elder Dunmer had to hesitate for a spell, as if the words were tough as nails in his throat to get out. That pause was torture for her.

    “Approve to let you accompany these two men. You will leave with them tomorrow morning. Ildari, help her pack the essentials.” A grateful grin graced her visage upon hearing such news. Alma couldn’t help but crash into her father and pull him into a big bear hug. The first time she did that, Talvas compared the damage to his ribs and arm bones to ‘broken deadwood twigs’, but has since gotten used to it. The room was filled with elated cheers, chants of ‘thank you’ and restrained old man winces as Alma refused to let go for a second.

    ///

    At the break of dawn, Almalexia was ready to depart. She had already said her pleasant goodbyes and promises to write often to the denizens of Tel Mithryn, especially Ildari and Talvas, as vital parts of her life as brother and sister. The former in particular actually cried upon her departure. For her journey, she wore red patchwork leather armor. Protective, yet also form-fitting because let’s face it, nothing she could ever wear would fit her perfectly and modestly at the same time. The gauntlets were specifically crafted out of ebony to add injury to the insult of being destroyed by a frail Nord lass. Papa was accompanying her to the docks. It was a long and awkwardly silent walk, but rather than say the wrong thing at the wrong time, she chose to preserve it.

    At the Raven Rock harbor, Olvar and Vignar were already awaiting them, aboard a ship called the Golden Horn. Alma turned to her father for their final goodbye. He in turn handed her the supplies as well as a loaded pouch of septims.

    “Here is twenty thousand septims. Spend none of it on alcohol,” Neloth warned her. How he casually gave her such a large amount of money was a bit jarring. Nevertheless, she placed it in a secure compartment on her backpack. Her father also took out a necklace from his pocket. And it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. A simple yet elegant silver pendant embedded with three teardrop-cut gemstones; sapphire, ruby and pearl in clockwise order. He gingerly placed it around her neck.

    “This is the Amulet of Telvanni Ascendancy, a prized heirloom of my house. There are only sixteen of these in existence. This one in particular once belonged to the late Master Aryon, a man I regretfully took for granted in life. Traditionally, they were only to be given to the most ambitious and contributive members of House Telvanni, but since I am calling the shots here, I entrust it with you.” Immense pride wavered his voice somewhat and the two had to hug to keep Papa from bursting into tears at that precise moment.

    “Be safe, my child. Show those Nords what you really are,” he managed to choke out.

    “I will, Papa. I will,” Alma responded, equally tearful. After sharing their long embrace, father and daughter separated and she walked the heavy first steps to independence. She had to admit, being here now, she began having doubts about leaving. Upon the deck, she took one last good look at Solstheim. This was where she was raised. This was where she grew up. This was her home.

    And her home would be rid of her for many years to come.

    The Altmer captain of the ship shouted orders to his men and soon after, the ship cast off. The figure of her father Neloth, stoically standing in the docks with his arms behind his back, watching as he let his pride and joy free for the first time, grew smaller and farther as their distance greatened. Then Raven Rock became farther. Then Solstheim was nothing but a speck on the horizon. The captain noticed the forlorn Nord still in the deck and walked up to her.

    “I wouldn’t stay long in the deck if I were you,” the High Elf suggested. “We might be getting rough waves ahead and you might get caught overboard. Go and stay below deck, is what I’m saying.” Alma nodded in agreement. She grabbed her things and headed to her cabin below deck, whichever it was.

    Skyrim was not far.

    ///

    In her personal cabin, Alma took to light reading. Light reading for her being a comprehensive fifteen-hundred-page-long treatise on Dwemer culture. Reading on a boat was not recommended for it could cause motion sickness, but Alma felt none of the symptoms and this was her first time on a boat. Had her father modified her body to accommodate such a condition as he had done with Ataxia, Witbane, Corprus and other diseases? Possibly.

    Now she was thinking about her father. Now it was nigh impossible to read conducively. She closed the book and laid down on her shoddy bed. Alma wasn’t really used to this Nordic style of bed. Her idea of a warm bed was really nothing more than a cowskin on the cool floor. Then again, beds like this would be much better for-

    “Alma? You doing okay?” Hearing her name called out, she sat up promptly and saw Olvar at her door.

    “N-Not really, to be honest,” she groaned out a reply. “I miss home already.” Papa would remark by now that she had become much more like ‘normal’ kids her age and not like an emotionless tool. Expressive and only slightly more casual. But there was no one to make that observation, was there?

    “I know how you feel. Leaving Bruma was a tough call to make, even if it’s closer to home.” So he was a Cyrodiilian Nord? That was new. He must think very differently from other sons of Skyrim. That explains his responsibility.

    “Oh, I think you dropped this letter on the way here,” the Companion walked in and handed her a sealed letter. It looked completely unfamiliar to her.

    “I..I don’t think this is mine, Olvar,” Alma tried to clarify, but he only smiled knowingly and left it there on her bed before leaving. That was strange. But whose letter was it?

    Curiosity got the better of her and she grabbed the note. It bore the seal of House Telvanni. A letter from Papa! She felt compelled to open it immediately. It was indeed written in his father’s distinctly tidy script. Alma began to read it…

     

    Almalexia Seventh,

    Thus I had named you when you were first born into this world. I still remember the day you first called me ‘Papa’. It was then that I realized what a treasure I had in my hands. A goddess, my daughter. Everyday was an amazement in its own. Seeing you grow and develop in front of my eyes, witnessing the little things you do everyday...few things match that. Surely I am a man satisfied. But harrowed am I with guilt, my daughter. Your existence was born out of nothing but my own ego, my desire to trump all others in a bid for power. Such a selfish action and my retribution was you. You, the child I had always dreamed of, but the not the child I deserved. So all I ask of you is that you forgive this pathetic and miserable soul and accept him as your father. For I would gladly retire from this world if you don’t.

    Alma. The decision to let you go on your own way was the hardest decision I have ever made. I could not live with the fact that I can’t be there for you at every turn. The endless possibilities will haunt me til the day you return, for I cannot accept the failure that could. That’s why I’ve been so protective of you. But when I looked into your eyes when you suddenly proclaimed your interest in the Companions, I see clearly the strong and capable woman that you most certainly will become. I see her boldly facing whatever threat stands in your way. And I realize that she cannot rise if I shelter you forever. So I set you free, however hard it may be. Even now, tears threaten to pour upon this letter.

    I trust that you know what is beneficial for you and what isn’t, but being a father who has every business to worry about you, the least I can do to alleviate my worries is say all the things I could've and would've said to you. Things I might and will eventually tell you, but couldn’t:

    Sleep well. Eat lots and don't be picky. Be polite. Say please and thank you. Respect your superiors. Don’t drink alcohol. Never consume anything moon sugar. Conserve your money. Don’t lose the Amulet. Treat everyone fairly. Give back to the community. Have fun. Make friends. Not necessarily many friends. Just those you can trust. Stay happy. Bring back stories. Take care of others as well as yourself. Try to learn magic for a change. Train often and train hard. Stay away from that Vignar scum. Find a better man. Or woman. Don’t get involved in politics. The Dominion are not your friends. Be more that what you do. Never be selfish. Remember your strengths. Remember your weaknesses. Remember home. Remember Ildari. Remember Talvas. Remember me. And most importantly: remember who you are.

    All these words and now confined to paper and ink. If only I could say them to you in the flesh. No matter. This is my counsel to you as a father. Do with it as you wish. And know that wherever you are, however far you’ve fallen, you are my daughter and I will always love you. And know that I am always available for advice. So should you lose your way, write me and I will be there to guide you. Every step of the way.

    And Alma...thank you for brightening my dark heart.

    -Master Neloth, Councillor of House Telvanni.

     

    By the time Alma got to the end of the letter, it had been stained so by her tears. Those words, those few words had plucked the strings of her heart, made her heart and soul tremble with emotion of such intensity that the artificial human willingly broke down into tears. How she cried and cried, the bawling echoing in her room. What doubts she had harbored when she was just a child had been diminished in a heartbeat. In spite of Papa’s initial intentions, he loved her for the child she was anyway, and not some lab-grown experiment. In spite of his miserably cynical soul, he found it in his heart to care for her. In fact, it was Alma who had changed him for the better. And her reward? The father that she had once doubted.

    As her tear ducts emptied and her weeping stopped, Alma wished that she could be there for him as well, to pour out the contents of her shuddering heart. To tell him that yes, she did forgive him. Yes, she did accept him as father and indeed, she loved him too.

    But she couldn’t do that right now, could she?

    So Alma had to store those words for another time. Going back after all this would be foolish. This was the point of no return. The only thing she had to do now was make the most of her opportunity and make Papa proud. And hopefully, he would be watching her from the sidelines, with magic she was certain was at his disposal. Those last few sentences were probably meant to be taken literally, she mused. Papa would be with her, in spirit or otherwise. It had been so since the day she was born and it would be so till the day she would die. Just Almalexia and Neloth.

    Every step of the way.

Comments

7 Comments
  • Idesto a'Shinbira
    Idesto a'Shinbira   ·  March 14, 2016
    Good story! Well-written, great characterisation. Is there going to be more?
    Noticed a couple of typos:
    Some of them were familiar to here: s/b her. 
     every waking minute his eyes weren’t on him. S/b 'her'
  • Lazy
    Lazy   ·  January 24, 2016
    Duly fixed, Mr Bearman and thanks for the good eye! :D
  • Lazy
    Lazy   ·  January 24, 2016
    Maybe it's just me, but I always think that there is much more to any jerkass. And Neloth was a blast to improvise on.

    I have plans for little Alma, mark my words. >:D
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  January 24, 2016
    Up until now I thought that Neloth was just a magical Dwemer machine disguised as a Dunmer.

    I wonder what happens to Almalexia Seventh.
  • Lazy
    Lazy   ·  January 23, 2016
    Well thanks, you two. Glad you enjoyed the read, if anything else.
    Lissette, I know right? I didn't know I could ever write something so emotional. And Neloth has so much ground to innovate from, perfect story material. My only regret was the lack o...  more
  • Ben W
    Ben W   ·  January 23, 2016
    Adorable and sweet Lazy 
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  January 23, 2016
    That was just lovely. I got misty too. Neloth is an interesting characters. Well done Lazy.