Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Prelude, Chapter I & Chapter II

  •  The Path to Transcendence 

    Merethic Era, author unknown

    Auri-El is the light of the world, the Soul of Anui-El, who is the soul of Anu, the Everything. The Dragon God of Time and these are the Tenets of His Holy Order. Commit them to your Body.  Commit them to your Heart. Commit them to your Mind.  Commit them to your Soul, so that you may ever serve in His name and achieve transcendence in accordance to His steps.


    These are the Three Greater Tenets. On these three hang all others. To break these is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El and will result in expulsion from the Order, the People shall shun, and the hair shall be publicly shorn; permanently severing the bond from the God of Time.



    Love and Honor the Lord Auri-El. Know that He is the King of the Gods and that none are above Him, save Anui-El and Anu, though many serve Him and many stand with Him.



    Walk always in the light of Mercy and Compassion, so that all may bear witness to His true goodness.



    Protect and Honor the weak, the innocent, the old, and the young from the evils of Nirn with your service.


    These are the Lesser Tenets. To break these will result in public disgrace and a period of penance, the duration to be determined by the severity of the violation. The hair shall be unbound for the duration of the penance, and the People shall shun.



    Never kill the innocent, the weak, the old, and the very young.

    To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El



    Never bear false witness.

    To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El



    Never steal.

    To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El



    Never disobey or refuse to carry out an order from Auri-El.

    To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El.



    Honor the Aedra who serve Auri-El, for they understand His role as King of the Aedra.



    Honor your Family, for their families and their families before them all lead to Auri-El. And you are His Child.



    Honor all Women, be they Mer, Men, or Beastfolk, as you would honor the Mother who bore you.



    Honor Learning, Wisdom, and the Beauty of Art, Thought, and Creation, for you, as His priest, hearken unto Xarxes, His scribe.



    Give to the poor, for it models Auri-El’s generosity to the beings of Nirn.



    Heal the sick, for it models Auri-El’s clemency to the beings of Nirn.



    Daedra and their minions, in general, are abominations and therefore enemies of Auri-El.

    To let one live is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El.



    Never practice Torture, for He is merciful, even unto His enemies.

    To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El.



    Never practice Necromancy, for Auri-El is the God of Time and only Time governs Life and Death.

    To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El.



    Never summon from the planes of Oblivion, for He is the enemy of those planes.

    To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El.



    Never corrupt the body with vile liquid spirits, for it simulates His one moment of weakness.

    To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El.



    Never cut your tresses. They are the symbol of your devotion to Auri-El and the symbol of the passage of Time, which is His domain.

    To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Auri-El.



    Remember, Brothers and Sisters of the Order, it is our lot to suffer for the vanity of our God, but through His teachings and His Mercy, we shall suffer with dignity in order to gain transcendence. The path has been laid. Walk in Auri-El's Light.



    15th of Midyear, 3E 431: Alinor, Summerset Isles


    Rynandor and Lilandtar observed the warriors sparring in the sunny courtyard as they settled down to an outdoor lunch, the curved stone work of the courtyard displaying the colors of the glass towers above them. In the heat, the kaleidoscope of color and pattern was almost dizzying, and Lilandtar was uncomfortable. He was also unclear as to why Rynandor had dragged him all the way to Alinor's Training Center. They were guest lecturers from the Crystal Tower; a training center for warriors was not where he was supposed to be. He was supposed to be writing lecture notes for a lecture to be given at the Lecture Hall for the Office of Provincial Studies, not sweating profusely watching warriors pretending to kill each other.  But when his friend was set on doing something, there was no saying “no”, and Lilandtar sat staring at the warriors, picking at his salmon. He didn’t have to like it, though.


    “So why are we even here?”


    The tone of voice was enough to take the Archmagister's eyes away from his meal. 


    “I think it is time we chose a pair of Knight Guardians,” Rynandor answered, knowing full well where this conversation was headed while he took a bite of salmon. He refused to let it spoil his appetite. 


    “Oh, this has obsessed you for months!" dismissed Lilandtar as he sipped wine. "Why? What is the threat? Rynandor, there is nothing wrong and it’s hot outside and frankly, they kind of smell."


    Lilandtar could not suppress the chuckle at his next words.


    "Though nothing can possibly smell worse than the trolls that currently guard the Tower."


    “Do not be such a naggy She-Elf,” retorted Rynandor with a smile, because the troll remark was indeed true.


    "You mean, do not be like my mother?" shot back Lilandtar with a sly wink. 


    "Precisely." Rynandor replied with a knowing smirk, reaching for his own wine. He was going to need it. 


    “Trust me, friend, it is my opinion that having two Knight Guardians again is a sound idea.  I am sure nothing will happen and this will merely be an exercise in being extra prepared.  You and I have neglected to take Knight Guardians since our last were killed when the Beautiful last attacked the Tower, and what better day than today to select them? When we are already here. You only need bear with me for a few hours, enjoy a fine lunch, and then you can go back to your lecture notes, Lilandtar.”


    Rynandor smiled and raised a glass of wine, gesturing to the warriors training in the courtyard. He smiled, but in his mind, there was urgency. His nightmares were getting worse. Visions of vast Daedric hordes and then the unthinkable, the razing of Crystal-Like-Law in a cloud of dust and smoke, the skies red with fire, the cries of his people filling the air, the smoke burning his lungs... Rynandor cast the disturbing images from his mind.  It could not happen.


    It would never happen.


    And something else drew him here of all places. More visions. Of a golden bow, and the colors silver-white and fire-red. Pale, he saw paleness and smelled the heady fragrance of grape vine blossoms and the Sea in his dreams.


    Seek the Son of the South... He...


    Rynandor blinked hard and took another sip of wine, not wanting to finish the thought. He could not be lost in their flood now. Better to drown it with wine.  Drown the eventuality of death, of change, of passing, from one to another. Another sip, the liquid warmth easing his soul. Get a little drunk, Old Mer, he smiled to himself. 


    The friends finished lunch and then walked toward the training warriors. Lilandtar’s mind was focused on his classes, while Rynandor watched the warriors with interest. Two, in particular, caught his attention. He had seen them before…


    “Äelberon! I think we’re being watched.” Whispered Vingalmo as his sword struck Äelberon’s shield.


    “Yes, and it is distracting you,” Äelberon laughed, shrugging off the blow.


    “They look like mages, I think they are with Crystal-Like-Law. Let’s give them something to watch, eh?”


    Vingalmo began to circle Äelberon.  The larger Dusken easily blocked another blow, his smile hidden under his steel plate helmet. Vingalmo needed to pay more attention to his swordplay, not to the staring of mages, he thought with a tiny smirk. Vingalmo was definitely the quicker of the two, clad in Elven armor that glittered golden in the sunlight, dancing circles around Äelberon. He was showing off, casting firebolts, their crackling burn launching from his controlled hand. Äelberon blocked them with his shield, but the showing off was understood. Vingalmo had more at stake.


    Third sons always did. 


    “That one looks very impressive,” observed Lilandtar, “he moves very quickly and he knows some magic. Can I pick him and then we can be done with this?”


    “Don’t you want to observe more?”


    “No, I like that one, he is fast. Don’t we need fast?”


    “Well, yes, but there are other factors to consider—“


    Lilandtar of House Larethian, however, was not in the mood to hear "other factors". 


    “It is settled then, YOU! The one who dances in his armor, come here!” Ordered Lilandtar.


    Vingalmo and Äelberon stopped sparring, and Vingalmo approached the two mages. “Yes, my Lord?” Vingalmo bowed.



    "Vingalmo of Cloudrest, third son of House Caemal."


    “Well, Vingalmo... you seem quick enough and excellent with a blade, and you even know some magic; I think you would make me an excellent Knight Guardian. How would you like to be a Knight of the Crystal Tower?” Smiled Lilandtar.


    Lilandar's bluntness never ceased to amaze Rynandor. 


    Of course the warrior would jump at the chance, thought Lilandtar. Who wouldn't want to serve one of the Master Mages at Crystal-Like-Law? Especially him?


    Vingalmo’s jaw dropped. This was the opportunity of a lifetime, to serve as a Knight of the Crystal Tower would open many opportunities for career advancement. He heard Äelberon whisper in his ear when he felt himself hesitate. “What are you waiting for?”


    “Yes, my Lord, of course, it would be an honor to serve you.” The young Altmer quickly replied.


    Äelberon gave him a pat on the back and grinned, only to roll his eyes. Vingalmo could not damn well see his face under his blasted helm, so he gave Vingalmo another pat, just for good measure. What a boon! Vingalmo had been waiting for this moment since he had arrived to train last year. Äelberon had been assigned to show him the lay of the land and the two became fast friends. Vingalmo had great ambition and Äelberon was proud.


    “Well then, be at my study at the Office of Provincial Studies tomorrow morning right after sunrise. Just ask for Master Lilandtar. I am known by all there. There, you will wait until Archmagister Rynandor and I are ready to make the journey back to Crystal-Like-Law.” Fine, he was done, thought Lilandtar. He could now go back to his lecture notes and get out of this oppressive heat. The two warriors left the courtyard, still in shock at Vingalmo’s good fortune. “Are you coming, Rynandor? Because I’m finished here.” Asked Lilandtar, tapping his foot, impatient to leave.


    “No, I will stay and observe some more, but by all means, go on ahead. Lunch was a pleasure as always. See you back at Provincial Studies, friend.” Rynandor replied with a polite wave as Lilandtar walked away.


    Which is where he wanted to be in the first place, Rynandor sighed. Lilandtar was an exceptional mage, although impatient; loathe to do important things at times, especially when it caused him inconvenience. Rynandor was often called “The Bold” by his people, but he was far from it. He was the opposite actually, taking time to plan his actions and he was always prepared. Of course, that approach resulted in success, so it gave the people an impression of boldness.  It really should be Rynandor "The Overly Prepared", however, that lacked the ring of "The Bold", he thought with a quiet chuckle. At any rate, he was not finished at the Training Center.


    For a few more hours he sat at the courtyard and observed while young, able-bodied warriors sparred. All of them were extremely capable, very much like that young fellow Lilandtar picked, what was his name? Oh, Vingalmo. A young noble no less, though him being here was understandable. He did not stand to inherit his ancestral lands. That fell to the eldest child. Rynandor's eyes fell on the warriors again.  Quick on their feet, wielding bound weapons and destruction magicks, clad in light armor. If this was the force that would defend The Isles from attack, Rynandor was pleased, but something held him back from picking any of them. It was the other, the one who sparred with Vingalmo, who captured his attention.


    He was very different from the others. While they pranced around in Elven armor, he was clad head to toe in an old, worn, scuffed set of steel plate, moving slower, but still with speed. While they used bound weapons, he seemed to not use magic of any kind.


    Was he incapable?


    Rynandor had been observing him for a few days before he brought Lilandtar this afternoon. Tall by Altmeri standards. Probably hailing from the South, though it was impossible to tell with that contraption that served as a helm covering his face. 


    That one got up early, often before dawn, and first practiced with a bow, an actual bow, not a bound one.  This he did for some hours while the other warriors filtered in, blurry-eyed from the adventures of the prior night. Rynandor assumed he was friends with Vingalmo, for the two frequently sparred together. Vingalmo was brilliant to watch, but Rynandor long sensed a pattern to his fighting style. With the other, there was no such pattern. He often switched weapons mid-fight, favoring either a sword or an axe, but daggers were also used, as was the bow, his best weapon.


    What was very interesting was his use of the shield. Almost unheard of among Altmer warriors, as most preferred to wield two weapons or use a spell along with a blade. This one used a shield, and he used it well, blocking all blows that came towards him. He even used his shield as a weapon, frequently disarming his sparring partners with it or knocking them to the ground. Or conversely, he would use his weapon like a shield.


    Something about that one grabbed Rynandor’s attention.  That the young warrior could think on his feet and improvise could be a great asset. Rynandor smiled, he had made his selection. Tomorrow.  Yes, tomorrow, he would approach the young Elf.



    16th of Midyear, 3E 431: Alinor, Summerset Isles


    Well confounded! Where was he? Rynandor scratched his head, puzzled as he continued to wander the Training Center looking for the Elf.  He had spent the better part of the morning searching for him and if he didn’t find him soon, he was going to either abandon his search or miss Lilandtar’s lecture and that was going to make Lilandtar quite angry and Lilandtar angry wasn’t the best way to experience Lilandtar, so that was  not an option. He approached a group of sparring Elves and stopped. They all looked the same to him, but he was 90% certain he had not consulted this group of warriors. The kaleidoscope pattern reflecting on the stone floor was not the same, therefore a new area of the Training Center. 


    At least it had to be. Rynandor shook his head, not entirely sure on that himself.  “I am looking for a warrior.”


    “Well Master, if you’re looking for a warrior, you’ve found quite a few.” One Altmer smirked while his friends smiled. “How can we help you?”


    “He wears heavy armor?”


    Some sneers appeared from the group. Young Altmeri nobles, the lot of them, thought Rynandor,  a scowl forming on his lined face. Evidently, younglings were no longer taught to recognize the indigo robes of the Archmagister of Crystal-Like-Law, the indigo robe of House Stormwatch. 


    “Oh, you mean old Steel Plate? Really, you want him?”


    “Just tell me where he is.” Rynandor was growing annoyed. These Altmer were a cocky bunch.


    “He isn’t here.”


    Rynandor’s heart sank.


    “He doesn’t train today; he goes to the Temple of Auri-El instead. Spends the whole day there. Dunno what he does.”


    “I know,” Chimed one of them, a sly smile on her lips, “Prays for the God to send him some decent armor!”


    The others erupted in laughter.


    “Or for the wit to use a bound weapon!” Cried yet another.


    “How does he fare against you in battle?” Retorted Rynandor crossing his arms over his thin chest. Challenging. The crowd then fell silent. Their laughter turning to embarrassed shrugs. So he had probably beaten the lot of them in combat, Rynandor thought, nodding his head while his tongue made clicking noises. Chiding. This warrior was growing more intriguing every moment. Rynandor had to meet him.  “I thought so. Thank you for your help. I will take my leave but not without some wise words from an old Mage of the Crystal Tower...  sometimes it is not the trappings of a warrior or his weapons that makes him great, but the warrior himself.”


    He didn’t have much time; he would find the Elf later at the Temple. Now, he had a lecture to attend. It was a long trip from Alinor to Crystal-Like-Law, and an angry Lilandtar would make it miserable… 



    WHY was he fidgeting so, thought Lilandtar while he delivered his lecture to an attentive crowd at the Office of Provincial Studies.  It was on the Metaphysics Relating to the Application of Enchantments by Bending the Law of Firsts and he was, as always, brilliant. But Rynandor didn’t look like he was paying ANY attention. He even seemed itching to leave! He may be confidently giving his lecture on the outside, but inside Lilandtar was sulking. Of all the people NOT to pay devoted attention to him, his dear friend! He must have some reason. He would wrestle it out of him over dinner.


    He did not dwell on it, though, when he heard the thunderous applause after uttering the last word. It was, of course, completely warranted. Lilandtar smiled, he was exceptional. He stepped away from the raised podium and was immediately swarmed by his adoring fans clamoring up the marble steps. Asking him all sorts of questions about Bending the Law of Firsts, what was the Crystal Tower like, numerous invitations to dinner. It was all very tedious after a while and he was growing tired of so many Elves.


    He was surrounded by a particularly inquisitive group when Rynandor approached, stroking his long, light blond beard with one hand, and grabbing him by the elbow with the other to gently lead him away from the crowd. YES!


    “Pardon me, but Master Lilandtar and I have some important matters to discuss before we journey back to Crystal-Like-Law. Thank you for your attendance.” Rynandor nodded to the visibly disappointed attendees. 


    Lilandtar leaned towards Rynandor and whispered in his ear, “Thank you, I never thought they would stop pestering me with silly questions. I love it, but it gets so tedious after a while. I was brilliant, though, was I not?  I must admit, some of my best work.”


    “You were excellent as always, friend. You have the gift to deliver lectures.” Rynandor nodded in complete agreement, though he could not help the wrinkles around his eyes crinkling. 


    “But I’m sulking. You weren’t paying attention.” Accused Lilandtar, his apple-green eyes narrowing.


    Rynandor sighed. There was no winning with this old windbag. “I was paying attention. I just have something important to do. Or rather someone to see. We need to go to the Temple.”


    “Of Auri-El? Really? At this hour? No dinner? I just gave a fantastic lecture; I’m entitled to a fine dinner and copious amounts of alcohol. You owe me that much for not paying attention.” Lilandtar said, crossing his arms over his chest, refusing to move any further. 


    More eager Elves were approaching and Rynandor ceded to Lilandtar's hunger pangs. 


    “Very well, first the Temple, though, please, I really need to go there. Then I will take you wherever you wish to go and buy you a fine dinner and all the alcohol you can drink myself. Just indulge me first.”


    "FINE." Groaned Lilandtar. This better be quick. He was starving.



    The two mages walked along Alinor’s bustling streets and through its grand Market Plaza reaching the back entrance to the Temple of Auri-El just before sunset, its golden emblem on the heavy double doors glowing in the waning light. It was the entrance all Altmer used, save those who belonged to the Order, save those who had walked the great Chantry, who entered into Covenant with their God-King.


    Those great souls entered through the Temple's front doors. 


    The two Mages entered the Temple and saw the back of the giant statue of Auri-El standing sentinel over His people, bathed in the golden light of sunset as it filtered through the immense crystal windows. Rynandor could not help but draw his breath at the sheer grandeur of it, remembering the sermons on Sundas, the notices posted upon the crystal. 


    While Rynandor saw splendid architecture and holy relics, Lilandtar saw multitudes of very, very sick Altmer. Sick Altmer with diseases, diseases he could catch. Ugh, he hoped they did not have to stay long. Yes, they were being healed by priests with restoration magicks, but Elves were still coughing… on him. He wrinkled his nose in disgust. His wife would need to thoroughly disinfect him when he returned to the Tower. Upon thinking of his lovely young wife, however, the disgust became a wicked grin, his slanted apple-green eyes narrowing with lust. Being disinfected was not such a bad prospect after all. Ha! Perhaps child number three?


    Growing impatient, Lilandtar tapped Rynandor on the shoulder and whispered, “Why are we here?”


    “I am looking for someone, but I do not see him.” Whispered Rynandor, his golden eyes scanning the breadth of the Temple, searching… Where was he? There was no Elf clad in steel plate anywhere? Did the other Altmer deliberately deceive a Mage of the Crystal Tower? Nay, THE Archmagister.


    “See who?” Lilandtar insisted.


    “The one who was with Vingalmo.” Replied Rynandor impatiently, his voice rising.


    “You don't have to raise your voice. I can hear you just fine from here. You're making a scene and people are staring." Rynandor scowled at his friend but Lilandtar was undaunted. "Him? The one in steel plate? Are you daft? You are looking for a warrior in a Temple? You’re mad.” His own voice increasing in volume.


    A priest regarded the two old mages arguing for a moment and then left for one of the smaller chambers adjoining the main Sanctuary. The mages continued to search for some time, scanning all the rooms for a glimmer of steel plate.


    Nothing, not a trace. How? This Mer was huge!


    Frustrated, Rynandor threw up his arms in exasperation. “His fellow warriors said he would be here, but confounded, I cannot find him! How hard can it be to find an Altmer in steel plate?! We never wear steel plate! Most of us cannot even lift it! Xarxes'--"


    “It is far harder to find him when he is not wearing any…” Replied a voice.


    Xarxes' arse, he was about to curse in the Temple of Auri-El and Rynandor whirled around, coming face to face with a very tall bear of an Altmer, clad in the robes of a priest. Rynandor's hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, but he quickly composed himself.


    From the Order, he could tell, the hair was a dead giveaway. Silky and long, partially bound away from his face. Not in the top-knot characteristic of the Order's full members, though Rynandor could already see that he possessed the leather lacing. More than likely, if he wasn't already disgraced, he was still a novitiate. Young, he was very young for such an endeavor. Then again, he thought with a smile, so was a certain great grandniece of his. It was not an attractive face, but there was a noble quality to it, possessing of an unusually square jaw and a hawkish nose. It was his coloring, however, that struck Rynandor most. Snow Elf blood most definitely played a part in his ancestry, for he was very pale and his almond-shaped eyes were a clear red-orange, with flecks of gold. Almost like flame, Rynandor thought. A most unusual shade, not Snow Elf or Altmer. Ayleid? Who knew? Many from the South bore traits from all three Elven races. 


    A Son of the South. 


    Not so preoccupied with bloodlines. A bad thing or a good thing, Rynandor was now quite uncertain. His own family lines were very pure. 


    Äelberon bowed low, acknowledging the high status of the Mages. The ones from yesterday. Dressed in the finely embroidered robes of Crystal-Like-Law and Altmeri nobility. Both experienced in their craft, their faces lined with many years. One with light blond hair, golden skin, and intelligent golden eyes, with a beard that fell nearly to his waist, clad in simpler robes of deep indigo. The other had dark grey hair, and his beard only came to mid-chest. His skin was darker, and the features that stood out most were two piercing, slanted eyes of an apple-green shade. His robes were far more ornate, deep purple and apple-green, like his eyes, heavily embroidered with golden thread and jewels. Those apple-green eyes now regarded him with a measure of distrust. The golden eyes betrayed curiosity.


    “One of my brothers mentioned that you were searching for me. My apologies, Masters, I was healing in one of the chambers and did not see you come in.”


    He gestured towards one of the smaller rooms, “Please, would you like to enter one of the chambers to discuss the reason for your visit, or perhaps you are hungry? I am finished for the day, we can step out and eat if you wish.”


    Lilandtar imploringly looked at Rynandor. See, even the priest wants to eat. Lilandtar was liking him better already.


    “We will eat, but I insist that I cover the meal. I had promised my fellow Mage. He has just finished a brilliant lecture at the Office of Provincial Studies."


    Lilandtar beamed.


    “I will not protest.” Smiled Äelberon and then he turned to Lilandtar and bowed. “Congratulations, Master. It is an esteemed honor to lecture at the Office of Provincial Studies.”


    “Your name?” Asked Rynandor.


    “Äelberon.  And yourselves, Masters?”


    “Archmagister Rynandor and Master Lilandtar, of the Crystal Tower.”


    “I am truly honored, Masters. Vingalmo has spoken of nothing else since your visit yesterday. He is very excited to accompany you to Crystal-Like-Law.”


    “We are not from Alinor, Youngling, is there a place you recommend?” Interrupted Lilandtar, his stomach growling loudly.


    “Yes, but a short walk up the road. It is not crowded, not expensive, and the food is quite good.”




    They entered a quiet tavern, humble by Altmeri standards. Lilandtar wrinkled his nose. This place better be good or he'd take back the part about liking Steel Plate. Their status as Crystal Tower mages was immediately noted and they were provided with a private room to consume their meal. Food was quickly served and the trio settled down to eat. It smelled delicious. Fine, he liked Steel Plate again. Bloody Elf knew a good tavern. While Lilandtar noisily drank wine and ate, Rynandor asked.  “Are you priest?”


    “No, not yet, Master, but I am close to taking my Orders and make my first attempt to walk the Chantry. Perhaps a few more years of study.”


    “Then why do you train at the Training Center?”


    “Because I was sent there by my patron over at Dusk. And because I was rather stupid." Both Mages looked up from their meal. Äelberon would need to explain that one better.  "That is where I am from, Dusk. My family does not hail from a long line of mages or princes. My ata* is a retired soldier and a fishermer, and my lenya* is a blacksmith. When they saw I could wield a weapon and fire a bow with some skill, they longed for me to train at Vulkhel Guard like they had before me. But a soldier’s life, especially an honorable one’s, is not a life filled with wealth. They could not afford to send me. I was needed at home, to fish, and to help my lenya at the forge.  It is the way, is that not right, Masters?" Rynandor nodded and the youth continued. "When I was seventeen, however, my parents were part of a force that saved Dusk's Temple of Auri-El from a horde of vampires. We now come to the stupid part. I followed, with naught but my old hunting bow. My first spell left my hands defending my lenya from one of those vile creatures."


    "And what spell was that?" Asked Rynandor, his curiosity building.


    "The light of Magnus, Master. The light that gives life to the living, but destroys the undead."


    The Holy Magicks, thought Rynandor. There was only one path for this young Mer and it was set the moment that spell left his hand. The Order must have come to him and... The Thalmor. Curious, as always. The Holy Magicks always inspired such curiosity. The Elves that could wield them had a connection to the light of Aetherius that few possessed. It was something to be admired, and envied.


    "The High Priest never forgot their service, and the spell could not be ignored. What it meant. The changes. He offered to sponsor my time in Alinor instead of Vulkhel Guard, in exchange for serving Dusk's Temple as an apprentice healer."


    "Were you forced on that path, boy?"


    The young Mer seemed confused for a second as if unable to comprehend what Rynandor was implying. He shook his head. 


    "Oh no, Master. I felt strongly the call to serve. He gave me such a great gift. That gift saved my lenya. I became a novitiate without hesitation, receiving my leather and my calian at seventeen. It was an honor that they thought so highly of me. It was an honor to give back for her life being spared by His grace.”


    By the gods, Rynandor thought, only seventeen! To choose that path at such a tender age, especially for an Altmer! At seventeen, most were still children, and to want to be a priest of Auri-El at that age? To want to enter THE most demanding Holy Order in all of Tamriel? Rynandor narrowed his eyes. Who was this boy?


    The young Altmer bent his head slightly in admittance, his look almost turning sheepish.


    “It was difficult to master some of the spells at first, but with his help, I managed. When he deemed me ready, I was sent to Alinor.” The youngling leaned back against his chair and took a sip from his goblet of water. Rynandor smiled, Anwe did not drink either. She had entered the Order when she turned thirty. “Five days out of the week, I train at the Center." Äelberon continued. "Two days I devote to healing the sick at the Temple. I have done this for four years. I am no Master healer, but think I do my part to help, and I hope to continue to do Auri-El’s work; both at the Temple and at the battlefield.” He smiled. An engaging smile, thought Rynandor. A sincere one. “If a bow and a shield were good enough for Auri-El, then those weapons are good enough for me.”


    "Speaking of the shield…" Asked Rynandor.


    Äelberon was sipping water and motioned with his finger to wait while he finished. "Oh yes," Äelberon smiled, a hint of mischief in his red-orange eyes. "Once when sparring, my fellow warriors played a prank on me and took all my weapons before I began the fight. They left the shield.” He let out a chuckle. “It was their mistake. A shield can be a formidable weapon too. Afterwards, I was no longer the subject of pranks. I count Vingalmo as a close friend, though. He arrived just last year. I was assigned to show him around and we became fast friends.” His expression then grew quite serious and he faced Lilandtar, “You have selected well, Master Lilandtar, I would trust Vingalmo with my life."


    “Did you make that steel plate yourself?” Asked Lilandtar, looking up from his roast goat, a bit of wine dripping from his chin.


    “Yes, my lenya taught me the basics of crafting. I make my own weapons and armor, though the armor is very difficult to do. My legs are too long to get a proper fit. Takes a few tries.”


    “Well, no offense to the fine blacksmiths of Summerset, but isn’t it just easier to conjure a weapon?” Pressed Lilandtar, “It’s not a hard spell, I’m sure you could manage it with some training.”


    Äelberon’s eyes narrowed. “And summon daedra to this plane?”


    Rynandor looked up, intrigued by Äelberon’s response.


    “It’s only a weapon, we’re not talking Dremora Lords here, just weapons. Weapons that I’m sure are far superior to anything you could whip up at a forge.” Retorted Lilandtar, sipping his wine.


    “With all due respect, Master Lilandtar, I would prefer not to. A Daedroth is a Daedroth, even if only in the form of a weapon, and subject to the rules of Oblivion, no matter how we may think we can control them. Yes, my weapons may be weaker, but they are solely under my control, not vanishing from one plane to another or falling under the command of another being.”


    Ugh, Lilandtar didn't like Steel Plate again. How can one disagree with summoning? Clueless. Completely clueless.


    Rynandor, however, was not a summoner. His own religious convictions caused him to focus mainly on Elemental magic, Alteration, Mysticism, and Restoration. Lilandtar was the summoner of the pair, calling forth powerful Elemental Atronachs to his side in battle, in addition to wielding powerful Elemental spells. Rynandor wasn’t going to lie, the summons helped. With their combined magicks, that of the other mages, and, of course, the trolls, they had collectively thwarted several attempts to raze the Tower. The culprits were a group of dissidents known as The Beautiful, but in light of his recent dreams, could there be truth to Äelberon’s words? Could their very own summons be turned against them? No, that could not possibly happen.  That would shake the very foundation of the Summoning School. Rynandor was lost in thought when Äelberon spoke.


    “May I ask a question, Master?”


    “Of course, Äelberon. I'm sorry. My mind was elsewhere.” Rynandor replied.


    The Youngling looked right at Rynandor. Aye, he liked this young one. The eyes were keen and he had his head on straight. “Why does Archmagister Rynandor the Bold dine with me tonight?”


    “Why do you think?” Rynandor answered.


    Äelberon nodded slightly. “It is your wish that I serve as your Knight Guardian at the Crystal Tower.”


    Lilandtar stopped eating and looked up in surprise. Rynandor wanted THIS Elf? Of all the Elves in the Training Center, he wanted this oaf in heavy armor, using puny weapons, and shunning magic except to heal sick peasants? What? What was Steel Plate going to do in the heat of battle? Get on his knees and PRAY the enemy away?! Rynandor was off his mind. He stared at Rynandor in disbelief.


    “And do you accept, Priest?”Asked Rynandor.


    Is Rynandor going to abandon his post at Crystal-Like-Law and turn Funny Mer?


    Rynandor noted his friend's disapproval of his choice when he glanced at him. Then he shifted his gaze to Äelberon. At that moment Rynandor caught a flash of profound sadness in Äelberon’s eyes. Rynandor knew that look. It was the look he himself had after one of his dreams.


    “Yes, Master Rynandor,” Replied Äelberon, looking him straight in the eye, fully aware of what he was getting into. The call could not be denied. His will. “I will serve you at the Crystal Tower.”


    Ah bother, thought Lilandtar, rolling his eyes in disbelief. Fine, Rynandor, your call. You want Steel Plate, take him. He can pray while an enemy is bashing your head in. But don't worry, I've got Vingalmo. I'm sure he'll watch both of our backs.


    26th of Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201: Thalmor Embassy, Haafingar Hold,  Skyrim


    A young Altmer foot soldier, his Elven armor dusty from travel and his face weary from lack of sleep, walked into First Emissary Elenwen’s study at the Thalmor Embassy in Haafingar Hold, Skyrim.


    “Emmisary?” He asked nervously.


    “Yes, what is it?” Elenwen replied, not even looking up from the pile of papers on her desk.


    “I have an important message for you.” He handed her the letter and stood silently while she opened it and read, mustering enough will to remain awake. He had not slept at all to deliver this message. He was told it was of utmost importance to the Thalmor and that he would be greatly rewarded for making this delivery. He was eager to advance in rank and though utterly exhausted, he was excited.


    First Emissary Elenwen,


    My apologies for not giving you my usual niceties in this correspondence and for its brevity, but my news is far too important. Also, please dispose of any evidence after receiving this news. It is for your eyes alone and I do not trust couriers. My party is being followed. My scouts tell me it is a small Stormcloak outfit with none other than Ulfric Stormcloak among their ranks. Now prepare yourself, because there is more. An opportunity for both of us within the Dominion! Tracking close behind the Stormcloaks, also in pursuit of my party, is the known dissident Äelberon of Dusk. Over one hundred years, and he still seeks to kill me. What blind revenge will do to a Mer!


    I am steering my party towards Darkwater near the border in Skyrim. This is where you come in. The pass is treacherous and if you can muster Imperial troops in time, it is an ideal place for an ambush. Time is of the essence. I await your reply.


    A loyal Thalmor Servant,


    Grand Justiciar Vingalmo of Cloudrest


    Elenwen turned to a Thalmor guard standing next to her desk and nodded. The young Thalmor messenger then felt a cold Elven blade sink deep into his chest and with a gasp, he fell to the ground, dead. Elenwen calmly took a sheet of paper and began to write...


    29th of Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201: Eastmarch Hold, near Darkwater Crossing, Skyrim


    Vingalmo fed greedily, grunting with pleasure, as the life slowly ebbed from the Thalmor courier, the poor Elf’s throat torn wide open, eyes wide with horror. Sated, Vingalmo wiped his mouth and let him drop with a thud on the grass, leaving him grasping at his throat and attempting to crawl away, but Vingalmo only smiled while he regarded his prey. He hadn’t fed on fresh blood in days and he could feel the rush of power and the warmth fill his body. Damn it, it felt good.  He drew an iron axe and looked at the soldier. The soldier could only stare in utter terror when Vingalmo brought the axe down with a powerful blow, severing head from body, masking the true reason for his death.  He had to maintain appearances. They were, after all, being pursued by Stormcloak soldiers and iron is the customary weapons for these Barbarians. He had spied the courier approaching the camp and strayed from his party just long enough to intercept. He was positive there would be a message from Elenwen and sure enough there was a note in the courier’s satchel. Vingalmo tore it open and read, walking slowly back.


    Grand Justiciar Vingalmo,


    Your humility is, as always, inspiring. Your devotion to the Aldmeri Dominion, unsurpassed. And your news? Impressive indeed. Continue to lead both parties toward Darkwater Pass. Stay just ahead of them to maintain their interest, but do not engage. We want them to follow you, and I assure you, your safety will be top priority in this operation. I have already sent correspondence to General Tullius and to an Imperial unit in the area. Rest assured a large party of Imperial soldiers will be present to give the Stormcloaks and their leader a warm welcome.


    As for the dissident Äelberon of Dusk, I have also arranged for his capture, though my connections within Skyrim. Connections that you were instrumental in establishing, even though his name does not appear on any of the fugitive lists, since he is already dead, at least according to Alinor public records. Only we know the truth. The truth of his treachery.


    You have done the Aldmeri Dominion a great service by informing us of his location. He has proven rather problematic since the Vampire Symposium of 185. That, was almost a disaster, but your quick  thinking diffused the situation.  Dissolving the Order helped. A brilliant administrative move on your part, my friend, and the little numbers game we played with that young Agent furthered covered our tracks. Sad that she could not contain her curiosity, but no matter, she will be dealt with later.  I have already set that in motion.


    The People are still in the dark, thinking their beloved Slayer of Bet dead. Legends indeed serve best when they are dead to the world, don’t you think? They can still be used to inspire the young for the glory of Alinor, but he causes too much trouble to be an effective living asset. He has, thus far, been elusive and I will relish the day when we no longer need to pretend he is dead.  When word is sent of their capture, I myself will make the journey from the Embassy. I want to see that head roll. His hair shorn.


    Your continued devotion to the Thalmor will have great returns for the Aldmeri Dominion, Grand Justiciar.


    Your loyal servant,


    First Emissary Elenwen


    Vingalmo smiled as he vaporized the letter with a quickly charged shock spell. If he played his cards right, he would soon be surrounded by loyal Imperial soldiers, Thalmor, and Stormcloak prisoners. It was Äelberon’s only real weakness, his decency. That his Order would not allow innocents to be harmed. Vingalmo had no such restrictions, he thought, walking back to camp. 



    2nd of Evening Star, 4E 201; Falkreath Hold, Skyrim, near Helgen


    “Your honor will be your undoing...”


    He remembered Rynandor’s words of warning in their final moments together, spoken before Rynandor boarded a ship bound for Anvil. Honor was the only thing he had left; if it was to be his undoing, then so be it, Äelberon thought while he gazed upon the pine tree-lined road, interspersed with scatterings of snowberries and blue mountain flowers.


    Well, that was not true, he also had Faith, though neither were serving him particularly well right now, he noted with a wry smile. Still, he had no regrets. He did the right thing for both the Imperial soldiers escorting them, and the Storrmcloaks in the cart with him. He had expected to return to Cyrodiil, but with General Tullius' appearance a day ago, the party turned unexpectedly again towards Skyrim, going West away from Darkwater. As mournful as his predicament was, he still had enough life in him to appreciate the beauty of the land. It was lovely.


    Dense forests and steep, fern-covered ravines gave way to snow-covered peaks lined with pine trees when they made the turn toward the mountains in the South. Skyrim was pretty country, very different from the rolling hills of Cyrodiil and vastly different from Summerset. The breeze was a sharp one, though, biting hard, from the North. The cart jostled and groaned on the uneven road, and every once in a while, a stray snowflake fell. Äelberon sighed as he continued to stare down the path.


    No regrets.


    Well, save one... the ring that was no longer on the little finger of his left hand. The pain it would cause her. On the other hand? Better for her if she believed him dead. Safer for her, for the dearest sister of their Order. So he was back to no regrets, he thought with a smirk. 


    “Hey, you. You’re finally awake…” A voice interrupted Aelberon’s thoughts.


    Äelberon shifted his gaze from the road to Ralof, a young Nord, also with his hands bound. His face caked with dust and dried blood, but his bright, blue eyes were clear and focused. “Yes. I am awake.”


    “You were trying to cross the border, right?”


    “I was trying to catch someone who had crossed the border.”


    “Walked right into that Imperial ambush, same as us, and that thief over there.”


    Äelberon turned to his right and exchanged a knowing glance with Ulfric Stormcloak, who had been gagged since his capture. Though they did not exchange words, they recognized each other from their shared time as “guests” of now First Emissary Elenwen during the Great War, who served as their interrogator. The events of two days ago that resulted in this cart ride, was no Imperial ambush. This was a Thalmor ambush with Imperial trappings.


    Äelberon knew the workings of the Thalmor well. He remembered his time under Elenwen’s “gentle” care. Ulfric had broken under their torture. These were some of the strongest Illusion mages in Tamriel, even a Nord noble, well-educated and proven in battle, did not stand a chance. They could make anyone believe anything. Even that he had obtained information crucial to his cause. The poor fool. He sighed.  The Thalmor had been fooling his own people for centuries. That they tricked this poor Nord was of no surprise to him. What they had not banked on was that after the Thalmor set the stage for Ulfric's "escape", Äelberon managed to convince the Nord to free him too, the two then did some damage, and Elenwen was grossly humiliated. But by then he had been hunted by the Thalmor for over seventy years.


    Seventy years...


    Gods, it was now what, he thought, his eyes again turning to the road, his slanted silver brows furrowing in concentration. Over 100 years? Yes, and he was not counting the extra 100 years where he was not being hunted, but was a “person of interest”, undergoing numerous “interviews”. Ah, they were hunting for a Mer who was already dead by all accounts.


    He had read of his own death in the "Official" History of Alinor.  The Thalmor-endorsed history of the Summerset Isles, which, of course, enjoyed wide publication throughout all of Tamriel.  According to that book, he died sometime during the Void Nights, a victim of a vampire raid at his home city of Dusk. Other books said different things. Some tragic. Some just plain silly, involving brothels and whatnot. But he was definitely dead. The Thalmor hunted him in secret, but they still hunted him.


    "Damn you, Stormcloaks.” Interrupted the thief angrily. “Skyrim was fine until you came along. Empire was nice and lazy. If they hadn't been looking for you, I could've stolen that horse and be halfway to Hammerfell. You there. You and me - we shouldn't be here. It's these Stormcloaks the Empire wants."


    Äelberon smiled slightly, with bitterness, the thief was clueless. The Stormcloaks were not the only prize in the wagon.


    If the Thalmor were nervous now, they were more nervous in those early years after the Great Anguish, while they tightened their grip on Summerset Isles. They killed Archmagister Rynandor the Bold, the great seer-mage of Crystal-Like-Law who saved scores of Altmer from a fate worse than death for disagreeing with them on how the Great Anguish ended, for wanting proof of the Thalmor's claims.  Later on, for publishing his manuscript, Rising Threat, Lathenil of Sunhold met a similar fate, when he openly warned the Empire about the Thalmor.  It was only a matter of time before they would seek out and destroy everyone who had survived the razing of Crystal-Like-Law and who knew the truth of how the Great Anguish ended. Aye, and it seemed that they would indeed succeed.


    It was two days ago when he was finally captured, a little after the Imperial ambush. He gave Vingalmo credit, he had been outsmarted by that damn vampire. The prey knew the predator as well as the predator knew the prey by then. He expected no less from Vingalmo. He had wanted to confront Vingalmo directly with his vampirism; expose him to the Thalmor for what he truly was. He was told by numerous vampire hunters to simply shoot him in the back with a silver arrow when the target was clear. But Äelberon did not want it to be that way, like an assassin in the shadows.  He thought Vingalmo was alone and Äelberon seized the opportunity. It was stupid and he made a poor judgment call, but his emotions were high and Vingalmo had so much to answer for.


    Hundreds had died under his vampiric bloodlust thinly disguised as the Thalmor “Racial Purges” that went through the Isles after the Thalmor took control. Including Äelberon’s own family.  His family had mixed blood, but practically everyone in the south did, Snow Elf, Ayleid. They were ignored for centuries.  It was only when he learned of Vingalmo's vampirism that the Snow Elf blood of his family and city needed to be "purged".  He had confronted him, thinking he could help him cure his affliction, offering his support as his friend, even after years of estrangement and disagreements over how the Thalmor were running the Isles. Only to learn in horror that THAT was what Vingalmo had always wanted.


    And Vingalmo had called her "mother"... when the skies burned, swore an oath to him... his Lenya.


    He walked away from the safety of the woods towards Vingalmo, head held high, his face painted white in a bold pattern, his calling card when he went into battle in Auri-El's name. His silver plate armor glistening in the sun’s waning rays. Koor attempted to follow, but Äelberon bade him stay at the forest’s edge. 


    Vingalmo smiled when he saw his old friend approach. Golden and perfect to everyone else. Blanched to Äelberon, save the dull orange orbs that were his eyes.


    “Ah dear, old Ronnie, it’s been years.” He said sarcastically while he reclined on a tree stump, looking up at the old, grizzled wolf he had been hunting for so many years. “What brings you to Skyrim?”


    Äelberon glowered, his blood boiling with fresh rage. Vingalmo dared use that name! “You.”


    Äelberon drew his weapon, a silver scimitar well-proven against vampires, but stopped dead when he saw the sun disappear into the horizon. It was not the sun, he had vanquished many vampires in darkness, it was what caught his eye beyond where Vingalmo sat.


    Hidden from him in the trees until their campfires glowed in the waning light.  Gods, so many of them. He had been so stupid. Time stopped and he thought about what he was about to do as the auroras began to dance in the sky. He gazed at the Thalmor and Imperial soldiers that had now begun to take notice of the two former friends, and the bound Stormcloak soldiers that also watched the growing crowd from the campfires just beyond the treeline.


    How many would die to protect this monster?


    They did not know what Vingalmo really was. To them, he was a Grand Justiciar, an Altmer of great importance to the Empire, an Altmer to be protected, lest the Aldmeri Dominion get wind of his death and shatter a weary peace.  And if Äelberon lost, how many more would die so that Vingalmo could guard his secret? They were oblivious to the danger. No one deserved to die that way, be they Imperial, Stormcloak, or even Thalmor. This was the trap Vingalmo had sprung and it was indeed Äelberon’s honor that would be his undoing. The value he placed on the lives of his fellow Mer and Men...


    “Really? Little old me?” Vingalmo smiled, barely concealing his fangs, shrugging his slender shoulders incredulously. “I’m impressed!” He clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention while he stood up. “Everyone, come! Meet ÄELBERON, a former Knight of the Crystal Tower!” His voice mocking and cruel. “Come closer, everyone, and see what honor truly is.”


    No, Äelberon would not sacrifice these people for revenge and Vingalmo knew it. Once a Priest, always a Priest. He had him.


    Äelberon slowly stared at Koor, who waited at the woods, and their eyes locked.


    May his family and ancestors forgive him for not avenging them…


    Go, mouthed Äelberon, barely a whisper. The husky hesitated, shifting his feet nervously, trying to comprehend his Master’s unusual request. Go?


    May Rynandor forgive him for not listening…


    May Auri-El forgive him of his sins…


    Go, Äelberon repeated, his gaze softening upon the animal while his eyes darkened with sadness, his shoulders stooping, head bent in prayer. The dog reluctantly disappeared like a shadow into the dense pine forest as Äelberon of Dusk, the Knight of the Crystal Tower, dropped his scimitar onto the damp grass and surrendered to the Thalmor gathering around the vampire Grand Justiciar they served…




    Äelberon’s eyes again scanned the path, a light snow now falling, letting the memories fade. The thief was now beginning to realize his predicament.


    “I don’t know where we’re going, but Sovngarde awaits.” Said Ralof, answering the thief’s question.


    No regrets, thought Äelberon. As he continued to watch the path, he noticed the thief and Ralof arguing over the thief’s informal treatment of the Jarl, but he did not pay much attention until Ralof spoke again, after asking the thief where he was from.


    “A Nord’s last thoughts should be of home.”


    “Rorikstead. I’m… I’m from Rorikstead.” Stammered the thief.


    Ralof then turned to Äelberon. “High Elf? Where do YOU go when you die?”


    Äelberon was scanning the distance behind the cart. In the distance, there! He saw it. A flash of black and white and the twitch of a tail. It was Koor, the husky was following. Keeping a safe distance. His little Fool. He turned and faced Ralof.  “If we have lived well, and are lucky, we go to Aetherius. Otherwise, we wait in the Dreamsleave until we are sent back to Mundus to try again.” Äelberon managed a wry grin. “I am fairly certain, I will be sent back to Mundus.”


    That made Ralof smile. This Elf did not fear death. Unusual. The cart hit a hard bump as they approached the gate of a small Imperial settlement. A soldier called out to the General, informing them that the Headsman was waiting. The thief then proceeded to pray to every Divine, while Äelberon, Ralof, and Jarl Ulfric watched while General Tullius spoke with First Emissary Elenwen, who was on horseback near the Northern gate, flanked by her Thalmor guards.  Ralof muttered angrily, “Look at him. General Tullius, the Military Governor. And it looks like the Thalmor are with him. Damn Elves. I bet they had something to do with this."


    “I am quite certain the Thalmor had everything to do with this.” Replied Äelberon.


    The carts drove past the town's citizens who had paused their daily activities to watch the proceeding. It was not every day a Jarl of a major hold was being escorted to his death, nor was it every day so many High Elves were seen at Helgen. They were met with shouts of both sympathy and hatred. This was truly a province divided. The cart stopped and Äelberon could sense the thief’s growing fear. He was going to run. Äelberon could see the signs well enough. The last act of desperation when one is no longer rational. The thief pleaded to Äelberon…

    “You’ve got to tell them! We weren’t with you! This is a mistake!”


    Äelberon was about to speak when they began the roll call for the prisoners.  The Jarl of Eastmarch was called first, followed by Ralof of Riverwood. Then they called the thief. Äelberon was right; Lokir of Rorikstead, in an act of utter desperation, attempted the impossible...


    To flee.


    He was struck down before he even reached the gate, close to where Koor was hiding, spooking the dog in the process. He responded by retreating again to the shadows to observe the proceedings, shifting positions nervously as he was prone to do when conflicted or agitated. Äelberon felt sorry for the damn animal. He had served him well for 3 years since he was a young pup. Hopefully he would venture to a nearby village and find a home.


    “Wait.” Spoke a young Nord Imperial guard, scanning the lists. "You there. Step forward. Who are you?”


    The Altmer straightened his shoulders and looked forward, easily adding to his already impressive height. There was no fear in his voice when he spoke. Ralof really liked this one, brave.  It seemed that Jarl Ulfric held him in high regard as well. They seemed to recognize each other. “Äelberon... of Dusk.” Was the low-voiced reply, unwavering, spoken with great pride.


    The Imperial guard looked questioningly at the Captain. This tall Altmer didn’t seem like a criminal? Was this a mistake? “Captain. What should we do? He’s not on the list?”


    For a brief moment the Captain also looked confused while she checked the guard’s lists. She then gave a quick look to General Tullius, who then turned to Elenwen, who was observing the proceedings from some distance away, still on her horse. Unemotional, cold; almost like a Dwemer construct in her brilliant golden armor. Äelberon caught her gaze. Enough of these games. He dared her. Do it, he glared, defiant, his eyebrows furrowing in disgust. She caught his hard glance and then nodded to the General, who finally nodded to the Captain. It was done. Äelberon squared his shoulders, unbroken by the Thalmor.


    He was ready.


    “Forget the list,” She snapped back. “He goes to the block.”


    “By your orders, Captain.” The soldier turned to Äelberon. “I am sorry, I will make sure your remains are returned to Summerset Isles.”


    Äelberon managed a small smile, surely Elenwen must have heard that little dig. No Alinor for Nords, it was still being called Summerset Isles here. Sure enough, when he glanced towards her in the distance, she betrayed the slightest frown at the incorrect nomenclature. She resumed her unemotional façade quickly, however, and signaled her guards to follow while she turned away and rode from Helgen.



    He was dead.


    Emissary Elenwen's job was finished. She exited the city gates where she was joined by Vingalmo, who wearing a heavy black cloak. He was dressed in his simpler travel uniform, the finery that was his ceremonial garb back in Alinor. They rode calmly toward Falkreath and after a few moments of riding, he broke the silence.


    “No head? No shearing of those long, priestly locks?” He teased. Elenwen scowled at Vingalmo's jest. She never betrayed emotion easily, thought Vingalmo, but Ronnie was enough to make anyone angry. He had humiliated her and it resulted in her needing to ascend the ranks of the Thalmor all over again, which she did, with Vingalmo’s help. And he humiliated her on a more personal level.


    He refused her. Her, Elenwen of Cloudrest, a noble. Mortals and their little games. She should have known, for Duskens were a stubborn, prideful people. It no longer mattered. Skyrim was her opportunity to shine and earn her place back in Alinor, and he put her there. Finally executing Äelberon of Dusk would be the feather in her cap that she so desired.


    Mortals, Vingalmo chuckled to himself. Mortals and their petty desires for achievements and recognition. He had been that way once too, always searching for advancement, until Harkon showed him a better way. He wanted Ronnie dead for entirely different reasons. He had to admit, though, no quarry of his ever lasted so long. That old, silver fox of a Mer had eluded him for over one hundred years, and he was Harkon’s “Great hound”. He would miss the grand chases across Cyrodiil.


    His many restless days, and Ronnie’s many restless nights.


    “It is not worth my time. Let his body decay with the rabble.” He could hear it in her voice, though. Still, after all those years. It was nearly imperceptible, the grief, but it was there. Elenwen rapidly composed herself and turned to Vingalmo. “So it is my understanding that you will be retiring from your service to the Thalmor?”


    He smiled his best placid smile; she was back to her old self. “Yes, with the execution of Äelberon, my work is sort of done, isn’t it? I do not think there is anyone left.”


    He was tired. He had just fed, but it was morning and he was weakened. If Äelberon did not realize that Vingalmo had not been alone, he would not be having this conversation with First Emissary Elenwen and Äelberon would’ve eluded them, yet again. But that is not the way it turned out. It was smart to have them camp beyond the treeline.


    With Äelberon’s death, the last of the Crystal Tower survivors that did not support the Thalmor would be forgotten, scattered in the wind like the white dust of the fallen Tower. He had been such a thorn in their side. Refusing to just die. And all that he remembered would now die with him. The Grand Emissary in Alinor would be pleased. Vingalmo knew a great deal of secrets, as did Elenwen, but they did not know all of them. 


    “Oh yes, there is no one left, but you will still maintain your connections with us? Your insight will still prove most useful for the interests of the Thalmor in the provinces and you have so much experience. Will you be returning to Alinor?”


    “Eventually, I have friends in Haafingar that I would like to spend some time with first. An old Nordic family. Very powerful in the region. They have an estate on an island off the Northern Coast.”


    “I’m surprised I’ve not heard of them, I know everyone in Haafingar.”


    “This family prefers to keep a low profile. They are still recovering from the disappearance of their daughter. They fully support Thalmor interests, however, I assure you. I will accompany you to the Embassy and then make my trip, if you don’t mind?”


    “Of course, take the time you need to rest at the Embassy. Its doors are always open for you, Justiciar Vingalmo. I will also enjoy the travel company. Skyrim is so provincial, I loathe traveling here.”


    Vingalmo laughed and the two joked while they rode quietly to Falkreath.



    Äelberon joined the other prisoners at the executioner’s block and watched while General Tullius condemned Jarl Ulfric for his actions which led the Province to war and chaos. The voice? That sounded familiar. Äelberon had read about that phrase somewhere. Nordic. The Voice is Nordic in origin. Something about shouting spells. A very different form of casting than what Altmer traditionally use. So that is what he did, he killed the High King of Skyrim. Interesting.


    An unnirnly roar shook Äelberon out of his thoughts and caught the attention of the entire party. It was dismissed by the General, but Äelberon noticed something in the wake of the roar. The birds, the insects, the sounds of Nature. Gone. It was strangely quiet. As if a fear had engulfed the beasts of the land and thrown them into silence. It seemed to come from the sky. He scanned, searching but finding nothing.


    A sharp invocation of Talos by one of the Stormcloaks brought Äelberon out of his search. A red-headed, burly Nord, unapologetic for his actions, demanding to be executed. As his head rolled, Ralof commented. “As fearless in death as he was in life.”


    “Next, the High Elf.” Commanded the Captain.


    Another roar shook in the distance. Closer this time.


    “There it is again.” Mentioned the young soldier.


    “I said, NEXT PRISONER.”


    “Alright to the block, nice and easy.”


    Äelberon walked to the block. It was his time and after 243 years on Nirn, he was ready. He bent his head and whispered a prayer to Auri-El as he knelt to the ground, placing his head on the chopping block, his long, silver-white hair stained with the blood of the Nord who went before him.


    May his People find peace…


    May his soul find favor in the eyes of the Gods so that he may know Aetherius, and if not, may the Gods grant him the wisdom and strength to learn from his past mistakes so that in his next life, he may gain Their favor…


    The Headsman lifted his axe into the air, preparing for the blow when black as night, a great form appeared from the sky.


    “What in Oblivion—“Cried the General, when a great beast landed on top of the tower.  


    Äelberon looked up from the block and saw its form. A great scaled beast, colored almost in the fashion of Daedric armor, like burning coals. Two great horns and a cruel hooked mouth lined with vicious teeth. Its massive wings providing support while it leaned its head forward and uttered a sound unlike anything Äelberon had ever heard. And the townspeople of Helgen then knew true fear. For Äelberon recognized the word they screamed in terror.




    Their return was a herald of the end times. The legend of Alduin, the World Eater, a god among the ancient Nords. He had studied Nordic literature and culture in earnest when he learned that he would be going to Skyrim to pursue Vingalmo. Dragons were an integral part of their history.  The self-proclaimed “Firstborn of Akatosh” and he remembered a verse from a book he had read. Damn, he could not block the memory. Now was not a time to have memories surface! He let out a groan. 


    When misrule takes its place at the eight corners of the world

    When the Brass Tower walks and Time is reshaped

    When the thrice-blessed fail and the Red Tower trembles

    When the Dragonborn Ruler loses his throne, and the White Tower falls

    When the Snow Tower lies sundered, kingless, bleeding

    The World-Eater wakes, and the Wheel turns upon the Last Dragonborn.


    And then of all things, the dragon spoke.


    He spoke. 


    Damn it, Old Mer, get up!




    Words in a language Äelberon did not understand, but it was definitely a language. At the uttering of those words, the headsman crumpled to the floor, dead while Äelberon remained paralyzed to the block, unable to move, his red-orange eyes wide in awe. Alduin spoke again, and visions of the Great Anguish raced through Äelberon’s mind as the sky was torn asunder, churning into a gaping vortex, from which molten rocks of flame emerged crashing upon the ground, destroying, burning. And then there was fire and Äelberon lost sense of where he was as the members of the execution party were scattered about the courtyard, an ache building in his chest.


    Get up.


    When his vision cleared, Äelberon saw Ralof motioning him to follow. His hands still bound, he quickly rose and followed Ralof swiftly to a damaged tower. Jarl Ulfric was waiting inside, tending to injured Stormcloaks. The three agreed that they need to move, since the dragon was seemingly drawn to their location. If they went up through the tower, perhaps the rocks could be cleared. Äelberon began the climb, nimbly negotiating the steps as the tower shook against the beast’s mighty roars. A Stormcloak soldier motioned Äelberon to the top only to be killed instantly when the beast broke a hole through the wall of the tower, dissolving it with his molten breath. Äelberon felt the searing heat and it singed his hair as he barely escaped, pushing Ralof out of the way. They ventured back up the tower once the flames died down and Äelberon jumped down to the damaged inn below, losing sight of Ralof and Jarl Ulfric. When he cleared the inn, he saw a small crowd of people gather amid the burning rubble. The Imperial soldier was trying to coax a young child away from his injured father when the dragon landed.


    Not a dragon... Alduin. 


    So hard to breathe... Äelberon raced towards them to provide assistance. His hands were bound, but he helped herd the boy away from the Dragon just when it spewed a jet of intense flames, killing his father instantly. The stench of smoke and sulfur, of burning flesh filled his nostrils.


    “Still alive, prisoner?” Asked the Imperial soldier. Helping a child was not the mark of a criminal, thought Hadvar.


    “It would seem so.” Answered Äelberon while the two made their way to the Keep, dodging both Alduin and the mages attempting to kill the Beast. It only laughed, deep and booming.


    As they neared the Keep entrance, Ralof emerged from the other side just when Alduin snatched an Imperial archer from the Keep’s wall, dropping him to his death. Äelberon sensed that they knew each other. He had a decision to make, which one to follow to the Keep. Both had qualities that were admirable and both were beckoning him to follow.


    But the ground suddenly shook violently behind Äelberon.


    He whirled around and came face to face with Alduin and again time slowed. Under the fiery sky, the stench of death and smoke in the air, the Altmer faced down the dragon and did not flinch, his hands bound, clad in only a roughspun tunic and footwraps, his long hair blowing in the breeze, his face scarred and grim with the weight of his years. He had been ready to die long before Alduin arrived at Helgen. The dragon sensed his lack of fear and paused, leaning his head towards the Elf.


    Face to face, Alduin thought, and he could not help but hear the surge of a melody in his mind. The rhythm of a pounding hammer. Their eyes locked. Yol toor... shul, Lok-heim! Dii su'um mirodah! 


    Äelberon didn’t hear Ralof’s frantic cries to enter the Keep. He was entranced by the ancient Beast, his black scales catching the morning light, clouds of smoke puffing from his nostrils, stinging Äelberon’s lungs with their sulfur burn.


    Alduin was surprised by this. There was no fear. Even after all these years, even after what was done. No fear. Fos los daar? What’s this? He had felt the presence when he emerged, it was why he was here, but a Yuvon fahliil?  Such arrogance! Grik pahlok! But there was no denying… Dovahkiin. He had returned to the world and Alduin remembered.


    Zahnirbildaar… Bormahro gruth do ok diistkiin lost nid gro. Enraged and hurt, the World Eater faced the lir and with words that sounded like thunder, he spoke. "Dovahkiin, hin kah fen kos bonaar!”


    Äelberon stared, was the Beast speaking to him?


    It was… the dragon began to throw back his head, preparing to release its fire when Äelberon was snapped back to reality by Ralof’s cries. He turned around and entered the Keep just as Alduin released his shout…


    Straag Rod incorporates elements from the Requiem Overhaul Mod. It makes the game more challenging and more geared towards roleplaying. As you journey through Straag Rod, I will explain some of these features. Also used is the follower mod Koor, a husky companion. The Order of Auri-El is made up.

    *Ata - father

    *Lenya – mother


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter III



105 Comments   |   Paws and 5 others like this.
  • Caladran
    Caladran   ·  March 1, 2019
    Finally I got into reading this (while it might be slow)! I mean I started it ages ago, but got distracted. I'm excited to know more about Äelberon and follow his  journey. :) A very strong feeling that I'll be raging at the Thalmor here too.
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Finally I got into reading this (while it might be slow)! I mean I started it ages ago, but got distracted. I'm excited to know more about Äelberon and follow his  journey. :) A very strong feeling that I'll be raging at the Thalmor here too.
        ·  March 6, 2019
      I appreciate it, and I appreciate your patience. Part 1 sucks, so badly written, but thank you anyway for reading. I will catch up with yours over my Spring Break, which starts Saturday. I got a lot, but Tamriel Vault could use a good feed hog by yours truly. :D
  • Chris
    Chris   ·  September 19, 2017
    I may be late as fuck, but did you just pick a random Altmer name, or is the Justiciar THAT Vingalmo? 
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      I may be late as fuck, but did you just pick a random Altmer name, or is the Justiciar THAT Vingalmo? 
        ·  September 19, 2017
      it is indeed THAT Vingalmo.
  • A-Pocky-Hah!
    A-Pocky-Hah!   ·  September 2, 2016
    Is it me or is it now much more clearer to read compared to the old site?
  • Valric
    Valric   ·  September 2, 2016
    Okay I retained more of the story this time. Funny story, my first name is Ronnie. xD
     I hope I get to hear more about  Rynandor  though. I really enjoyed his open minded outlook.
  • Golden Fool
    Golden Fool   ·  August 8, 2016
    I didn't know this was a character build :P
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Golden Fool
      Golden Fool
      Golden Fool
      I didn't know this was a character build :P
        ·  August 8, 2016
      Well, not true. It will be a character build eventually. 
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Golden Fool
      Golden Fool
      Golden Fool
      I didn't know this was a character build :P
        ·  August 8, 2016
      It ain't, I didn't had that. I have no idea. LOL
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  August 6, 2016
    It's been so long since I read this, a lifetime ago it seems, yet even now I can hear the wind in the trees and picture the dappled shadows of colour cast by light streaming through the Crystal Tower, glinting off the shining armour of our hero as he prac...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      It's been so long since I read this, a lifetime ago it seems, yet even now I can hear the wind in the trees and picture the dappled shadows of colour cast by light streaming through the Crystal Tower, glinting off the shining armour of our hero as he prac...  more
        ·  August 6, 2016
      Thanks, Phil. Was fun to read this again too. I fixed the discrepancy with the complete pdf and this, so now when people read the next blog entry, it'll be chapter 3. What tags do you think I should use? (h5)
      • Paws
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        Thanks, Phil. Was fun to read this again too. I fixed the discrepancy with the complete pdf and this, so now when people read the next blog entry, it'll be chapter 3. What tags do you think I should use? (h5)
          ·  August 8, 2016
        I love the banner! (H) Hmm, tags I am about to update, remove the old ones and add in Sotek's and your preferred. You can only have one "official" category, but you can have as many user-made ones as you wish. In fact, if you don't mind doing a little te...  more
        • The Long-Chapper
          The Long-Chapper
          I love the banner! (H) Hmm, tags I am about to update, remove the old ones and add in Sotek's and your preferred. You can only have one "official" category, but you can have as many user-made ones as you wish. In fact, if you don't mind doing a little te...  more
            ·  August 8, 2016
          Glad you like the banner.  :) The other four parts have banners too. I figured it was the way to go and not as messing as adding a picture for each chapter. 
        • Golden Fool
          Golden Fool
          I love the banner! (H) Hmm, tags I am about to update, remove the old ones and add in Sotek's and your preferred. You can only have one "official" category, but you can have as many user-made ones as you wish. In fact, if you don't mind doing a little te...  more
            ·  August 8, 2016
          I checked, it doesn't work. I was fairly sure it wouldn't work before I tried and that's simply because they're two different systems.
          • Paws
            Golden Fool
            Golden Fool
            Golden Fool
            I checked, it doesn't work. I was fairly sure it wouldn't work before I tried and that's simply because they're two different systems.
              ·  August 8, 2016
            Thank you for testing, Golds :)
            • The Long-Chapper
              The Long-Chapper
              Thank you for testing, Golds :)
                ·  August 8, 2016
              So what do I need to do? 
  • ProbsCoolerThanYou
    ProbsCoolerThanYou   ·  June 4, 2016
    That was a looooooong read, but well worth it. I'm on a long car ride, so what better time to start reading this, right? Also, RIP young Thalmor messenger who wanted a promotion. He had a charm about him...
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  December 26, 2015
    Made a note in this chapter of the discrepancies between how this chapter is presented here versus the pdf download of the entire Part 1. The content, however, is the same. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I really felt that those chapters needed splittin...  more
  • Justiciar Thorien
    Justiciar Thorien   ·  December 24, 2015
    Oh, but he is a perfect gentlemer, that's more important than just a pretty face)))
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  December 24, 2015
    Handsome! He doesn't think he's handsome at all. Lol