SotF: Just a Formality III

  • She stood up straight and kept her eyes front. Not a word, not a peep.


                From the moment she took her first step into the room, the first thing she noticed was the large numbers of books that filled the room. Bulky tomes neatly arranged in bookcases that covered the walls, bounded papers and reports stacked one another atop each other on the shelves and other pieces of documents piled on the corners of the room. However other than the books, the Keeper’s room was rather modest as expected as a converted storeroom. It had a single bed on the far end and a desk in the centre. Appropriate really that apertures of light from the window beamed down into the room.


                On the desk, Falrielle could see papers and quills strewn about, a lantern with a half used candle along with spares by its side, a hotplate of molten wax and a small wooden platter bearing a cut of venison and vegetables; yesterday’s dinner yet it seemed untouched and of course, the Keeper of the Vigil herself. The Keeper was busy at work, signing her papers and writing her orders to dispatched Vigilants in the field. The Keeper was garbed in Senior-Vigilant robes with an iron brooch that resembled a drinking horn; a symbol of the Skyrim chapter of the Vigil pinned on her chest. She also wore a black leather glove on her left hand and resting against the desk was Fist of Stendarr, the Skyrim chapter’s blessed Warhammer. Falrielle felt ashamed until she noticed the dark rings that were under the Keeper’s eyes and she sighed. Keeper Carcette hasn’t been sleeping again and this was not the first and certainly not the last time this would happen. When was the last time she saw Carcette, Falrielle wondered. If memory serves, Carcette was leading the morning prayers in the day before and after that she just disappeared. It was on Brother Alvund’s insistence that someone brought her something to eat but a good cut of meat wasted from what she was seeing.


                However with all that has happened recently, Falrielle could hardly blame her. If their positions were reversed, if she was the Keeper instead of Carcette... She shuddered at the thought. She could only imagine the crushing weight of her station on her shoulders if that were true. The weight of every decision that would make a difference for the future of the Vigil. The weight that for every wrong move, a brother or a sister would die. Even more so in a time like this. And how did Carcette take it? She does her duties without complaint.


                ‘Give me a moment and please have a seat, Sister-Vigilant,’ said the Keeper, pouring wax on the enveloped before she stamped it shut with the seal of the Vigil. The Keeper blew out the candle beneath the hotplate and moved it aside for a stack of documents.


                Falrielle pressed the palm of her right hand against her centre of her chest; the salute of the Vigil and sat down on a chair.


                ‘I do apologise for making you wait, let us begin. I have been going over your reports and your personal dossier and I must say – you have quite a history, Sister-Vigilant,’ she continued, tapping the documents. She stopped and flipped it open. ‘Falrielle. Born in the season of Hearthfire of the 156th year of the Fourth Era as the older sibling of a fraternal twin. Grew up in a nameless hamlet in the Pale until after the death of your parents on the onset of your 13th birthday where you and your twin brother, Faerin moved to Dawnstar and the both of you soon joined a no named street gang. Criminal activities include pickpocketing, burglary and extortion, namely protection racketeering of local traders, fishermen among other small businesses. By your 16th year, you and your brother along with a few other members of the gang under the leadership of one of the gang’s leaders, Jungvar of Hunn left said gang to find “legitimate” work as sellswords.’


                Those were the times, Falrielle thought. The memories both happy and sad came flooding back to her but where to begin. True, she was born in the Pale as the older twin but truth be told she isn’t entirely sure that she was born in the season of Hearthfire or if it was the 156th year of the Fourth Era; that was just a rough estimate she thought up for ‘official’ reasons. She fought to suppress a smile, remembered how simple her childhood was. She remembered the games she and Faerin used to play. She remembered the loose robes she had to wear because of her condition. She remembered the warmth of her parents she held them on a cold winter night. Then she grew sad. She grew sad when she realised that she did not remember their faces and come to think of it, she never learned their names. To her it was just ‘Ma’ and ‘Da’ and no other. Perhaps that really was their names. In the very least, those were their names that she remembered them by…


                Her gang days, that was fun, she thought. After their parents died she and Faerin did move to Dawnstar in the coming spring. Her nose reflexively twitched when she remembered how the city smelt when she first arrived. It definitely remembered the smell of fish, the aroma of dung, the scent of urine and the whiff of the salt of the sea. What she didn’t remember was when she joined Jungvar and his posse. What she did remember was the years of drinking, fighting and fucking. She was such a child back then but don’t children just want to have their fun? Still, Jungvar was clever enough to learn just how small time they were and decided that sellsword work pays better and will bring them less trouble from the guards. She remembered that she used to think that that wasn’t a problem: running and hiding from the guards was a game she and Faerin played and thank the gods that neither of them have lost once.


                ‘As independent sellswords, you primarily served as escorts or as muscle for merchants to “settle a score”,’ the Keeper raised her eyebrow at the last one. To be fair, Falrielle thought, she herself found it strange that even in a time of war, petty merchants would rather fight each other than the Dominion. Of course, that was why they were called petty merchants. ‘A notable exception to this was your participation in the night raid on the Hog Mammoth camp in the 14th of the Evening Star in 173 where you served with distinction as you and your brother were witnessed by several officers of having defeated the bandit lord, Braedor the One-Eye in combat. In a recently publicised report, the local authorities in that operation have also found chests of Dominion gold in the bandit lord’s hoard.’


                That explains so many things, Falrielle thought. It was common knowledge that the major bandit clans of Skyrim formed a truce with the local authorities during the war, serving at the unspoken knife in the dark against Dominion war machine. It was also common knowledge that the hidden location of the Hog Mammoth clan’s hideout was leaked by other bandit lords. Back then she suspected it to be a case of simple gang rivalry, now one can add a dash of patriotism to the mix.


                ‘After the raid, you and your companions joined the Shippers & Handlers Company where you served as guards for caravans against brigands, wildlife and other threats. You remained as a caravan guard in the Shippers & Handlers Company until…’ the Keeper sighed. ‘Until 176 where your caravan was attacked by known Forsworn outlaw, Braig the Axe and his warband in the Silver Road. You were saved by a party of Vigilants led by Senior-Vigilant Erwann and was nursed to health in the Silent Stone Inn run by Bolin, son of Balen.’


                Falrielle remained silent for there was nothing to say.


                ‘After your last delivery for the Shippers & Handlers Company, you left the company and found employment as a “private contractor” with the Silver-Blood family and you left their employ at 179 for officially undisclosed reasons and a bounty of two thousand in the Reach. You then served as an independent sellsword for another year before you joined the Vigil of Stendarr, in the spring of 181.’


                ‘And that as they say is that,’ Falrielle finally spoke. She always hated that part of the briefing but Carcette always was one for protocol and the dramatics.


                ‘As I was saying,’ the Keeper continued. ‘I was reading through your reports this morning and I must say: good work you did in Hjaalmarch with the vampires. Yes, the penman was the work of Brother-Vigilant Gideon but good work nonetheless.’


                ‘You flatter me,’ said Falrielle, sitting up straight. ‘But I cannot claim full credit for what happened then. If Brother Gideon has failed to mention it in the report, through no fault of his own mind you, we were there not only at the request of the Jarl but also for the then-Initiate Sven’s Proving Exam. Sven, son of Skorhar and a mere farmer-turned-footpad when he joined the Vigil conducted himself admirably nonetheless in the field, even more so when one considered that his first field work was against vampires. Feral but vampires nonetheless. Then there is Brother Gideon himself. If it were not for his knowledge and skill in the School of Destruction, we would have not be able to set the runes that were essential in our trap. That is not all-’


                ‘There is no need to sell yourself short, Sister-Vigilant,’ the Keeper interrupted with a small smile on her face. ‘What is ship at sea without a captain? What is an army without a commander? What is a crew without a foreman? The answer is “doomed”, Sister-Vigilant. The answer is “doomed”. Were it not for the captain or the commander or the foreman, were it not for them, were it not for a leader, the ship, the army and the crew are doomed.’


                ‘But what is a leader but one man? Can the captain alone sail a ship? Can the commander alone fight and win a battle? Can the foreman alone build a castle? The largest finger in the hand: the thumb may grip, yes but it is arrogant to believe that the use of the hand only lies in the thumb. Without the index, the middle, the ring or even the pinkie, the hand cannot hold things properly nor can it even form a fist.’


    ‘You speak true. The sailor, the soldier and the labourer may be men of many talents and skills but without direction, without coordination, their many talents and skills are wasted. So they wander aimlessly, like a chicken without its head. I however would like to add that any sailor or soldier or labourer may step up to take the mantle but only few are worthy.’ The Keeper paused for a moment to massage her temples before continuing, ‘but I digress. Back to the report; it is written before your engagement, Brother-Vigilant Sven drank the elixirs of Cateye and the Dead Man’s Kiss. Dangerous concoctions, the latter especially and not to be taken lightly. In the report it was stated that you brewed the Dead Man’s Kiss yourself, no easy feat mind you and it is through your judgment that Brother-Vigilant Sven survived on what may of have been a disastrous event.’


                ‘I must once again disagree, my Keeper,’ Falrielle shook her head. ‘He drinking the potion was his choice and his choice alone. Yes I did inform him of the risks involved but I did not push him to take that leap of faith.’


                ‘I have said it once and I will say it again and a thousand times more and another thousand if need be: there is no need to sell yourself short,’ the Keeper waved her hand. ‘It was still your judgement that saved his life, both before and after the engagement. Dead Man’s Kiss is no child’s play, you and I both know better than that. Even a perfectly made brew with all the blessings of the Nine is not without grave risk. Yes it has he who made the final decision but it was you who decided that he should take that leap for was it not you who was the mentor and he the student? In any case, your decision making skills and your ability to plan ahead have led you and your party to victory with no lasting damage. So it should come to no surprise that you are one of our best in the field, both as a commander or as an agent. Which brings us to our next topic.’


                The Keeper flipped through her reports before she found the one she was thinking of.


                ‘Darkwater Crossing. The summer of the 181th year of the Fourth Era. Sound familiar?’


                Falrielle closed her eyes for a moment and blurted, ‘My Proving Exam.’


                ‘Correct. Most engaging – what happened in Darkwater Crossing I mean. Initiate Falrielle and Senior-Vigilant Matthias are on a routine patrol when danger struck the young sleepy mining settlement in the Rift. A danger not of supernatural origin but of the mundane… or so it seems.’



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