Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XIX

  • Disclaimer - This blog post contains sexual (aftermath, implication of nudity) and violent content.

    Recommended for 17+ readers. 


    Äelberon left Markarth for a moment and took a deep breath as he walked to the stables. He could not be seen by the Thalmor. Damn it, he hated sneaking about and he was terrible at it. Terrible at deception as well and he never lied, and he hated disguises. Bah! He growled in disgust as he walked. It was dishonest and wrong, but he had no idea how else to approach Understone Keep. Especially with Ondolemar there. If it had been a youngling, he would have risked it, but Ondolemar was only a few decades younger than he was, only a child when the skies burned. He was, therefore, well aware of Äelberon’s special status among the Thalmor. Äelberon was keenly aware of Ondolemar's awareness during the Vampire Symposium.  Äelberon had made him look like a fool that day. He was not afraid of Ondolemar in the least. But there were innocents at the Keep, and who knew who else Ondolemar would kill if a confrontation turned ugly. He could not risk the safety of the people of Markarth.


    They were reshodding Allie, but they allowed him time to remove his bearskin cloak and helmet and store it in a saddle bag. He also removed the bow and his new steel shield, opting to carry only the sword. Followed by both pauldrons. He wanted a smaller profile, by Auri-El, if that was even possible. These were the days where he wished he was built more like his fellow Altmer. As he stashed his pauldrons in another saddle bag, he spied them out of the corner of his eye, down the hill near a crumbling fence of stone boulders. 


    Ah! Ri’saad from Whiterun.  Must have just arrived. Would they perhaps have what he needed? He walked briskly down the hill to the caravan, feeling the chill of the air on his now exposed biceps. He would have to consider putting on a long-sleeved undershirt under his armor.  


    “Hail Ri’saad.” He called, waving his hand. The Khajiit waved back from his seated position at the tent. He was always cross-legged, and much older than Ahkari, with grey hair.  Despite his predicament, Äelberon managed a smile when he approached the caravan, he could already smell the familiar smoke and it triggered fond memories of of Elsweyr and the beaches of Senchal, of Ahkari and her caravan, the Festival of New Life.


    “Ah, Äelberon, what brings the Crazy Elf to the stone city for the Festival of Old Life?” He narrowed his eyes, the pupils becoming thin slits in the bright sunlight. “Ha! If this Old Cat was a gambler, he would have lost! No Festival of Old Life with the Companions, eh?”


    That got a cheerful laugh from the Altmer. “Fortunate you do not gamble, my friend. No, I had business here, for the lady Mara.”


    “Ah, doing your priestly duties or just tired of having mead held under that nose of yours?” Ri’saad chuckled, “It is the former, for you are a good soul, Old Knight. How may this one be of service to you?” Indeed, the Old Knight was a good soul. On two occasions, he escorted the caravan partially on their journey, stopping at the turn in the road that led to Markarth, and once he killed a sabre cat that menaced the outdoor shops and the caravan. A fine warrior.


    “Have you a linen cloak? Black preferably.”


    Ri’saad shot the Elf a puzzled look and narrowed his eyes. “Paying a visit to the Hall of the Dead? An interesting way to spend the Festival of Old Life.  Or… does my favorite Old Knight not want to be seen in the shadows? Khajiit understands, there are many days where this one would like to disappear as well, especially with the skooma problem in Riften.” Ri’saad hissed, baring his teeth. “Eh, it is troublesome, no? When people cannot control themselves.”


    “Quite troublesome, friend.” Äelberon replied.


    The Old Cat gave the Elf a once over. “Hmph! They grew you too big in that fishing village of yours, eh Old Knight? You will have a much harder time disappearing than this one would, but this one has a black cloak that may serve you well, though it is still too short.” Ri’saad suddenly turned back and addressed a young Khajiit in orange merchant’s attire, with a tail that featured a spotted pattern in rich shades of brown. His protégé, Atahbah. She would have her own caravan one day, for he was keen on expanding into Falkreath. “Atahbah.” She stood up immediately when she heard Ri’saad. “Fetch me a black cloak.” Ri’saad looked back at Äelberon and frowned before turning again to Atahbah. “The BIG one, in the left chest.” She nodded and set about finding the cloak. “Mark this Old Cat’s words, the caravans will expand with that one there. Brilliant with numbers and inventory.”


    “So you intend to pursue Falkreath, then?” Äelberon politely asked. It was all Ri’saad talked on whenever he performed the service of escorting their caravan. He only did it on occasion but Äelberon did not lie to himself, he enjoyed their company as he traveled.


    “When the craziness of the war settles. One hundred septims fair?” Ri’saad winked. “It is a lot of fabric, no?”


    “Fair, friend.” Äelberon exchanged the septims for the cloak and tucked it under his arm. Ri’saad then watched as the Altmer took a moment to unbind his hair. Hair was important to Khajiit as well, and Ri’saad marveled. He had not seen hair like that since Elsweyr. Only the Mane was allowed such locks and the locks of His entire tribe and guard as well. While the Elf was no Mane, he still possessed impressive locks. He then bound his hair loosely at the nape and put the black cloak over his broad shoulders, covering that silver-white hair with the hood. “Thank you.”


    Ri’saad laughed when he saw the Altmer. “HA! You look like Thalmor!”


    Äelberon, sighed. It was the last thing in the world he wanted to look like, and he turned away from the caravan and slowly walked back to Markarth.


    “Teasing, good friend!” Ri’saad called back. “This Old Cat was only teasing! Besides, you are far too ugly to be Thalmor!” Äelberon laughed and Ri’saad grinned, waving at the Elf. “When you return from hiding, meet the caravan at the Ram’s Head! For smokes!” The Elf stopped. Ha! You stop for smokes, eh?! Yes, Ahkari has told this one much about you, Old Knight.


    “Deal.” The Altmer replied, turning briefly to wave back.


    Damn Khajiit. Äelberon had a soft spot for them, just as he did for Orcs. He sighed, he wished he got along that well with his own damn people.



    He could be silent if he wanted to be. His feet, though in armor, now made no noises as he walked the streets of Markarth, his head slightly bent.  He remembered. He needed to walk thusly when he took his holy orders. It was the final test. The ultimate test of perseverance; of mental and physical strength.


    The initiates walked the entire Chantry of Auri-El that led to the great Temple at Alinor and they were not allowed to make a single noise. They were only allowed to look ahead, toward their goal; the great statue of Auri-El, leading to the Temple at the center of the Chantry. They were allowed to blink once a minute. Along the way, they drank of the crystal waters as they passed each way shrine. If they misstepped but once, they were asked to leave and return the following year to repeat the pilgrimage. They were not worthy that year. In that small way, the Altmer were kinder than their Snow Elf brothers, for failed attempts did not result in the shame and scrutiny as it did for Snow Elves who failed.


    One hundred initiates began the pilgrimage, only five completed it. It had been his first attempt, and all thought he would fail, for unlike the other initiates who wore flowing robes, he was in his full armor. His mother’s gift. And he bore the standard for the initiates. An extra burden. Anwe was next to him as they walked. Anwe... She bore the Ewer that the initiates drank from. When he finally finished the five-day pilgrimage, when he finally came down from the intense euphoria that was finishing, he had to sleep for two straight days, so drained he was, but he was made His Knight-Paladin on that greatest of days, and his heart rejoiced, for he had not wanted to fail.


    To fail would have brought him such terrible shame.


    And when he needed to, he thought with a slight smile, he could still walk that way. He headed up the stairs to Understone Keep, and the guard did not even turn his head when he passed.


    Ondolemar’s tall, slender frame was immediately ahead of him followed by his two agents, clad in their golden Elven armor; walking straight ahead with purpose, towards the entrance of the Keep. Patrolling. Äelberon quickly shifted his position to behind one of the columns, his black cloak blending in the darkness of the Keep and he waited and watched. The entrance to the ruins were directly to his left. He overheard a Nord speaking angrily to a priest of Arkay. Something about not being able to visit the Hall of the Dead. When the Thalmor turned his back to return to the palace, Äelberon quickly walked up the cave to his left.


    Ondolemar turned, something had caught his eye. A flutter of black cloth, wisps of silver-white hair. It was gone. He frowned. Probably nothing. The shadows playing tricks on him.


    “Everything alright, Justiciar?” One of his agents asked when they saw him pause at the entrance to the ruins. Her eyes fixed on her superior.


    His light green eyes narrowed, and he looked towards the ruins as he rubbed his stubble. He would have to shave soon. “Yes, everything is fine.” He gave the area one final look over and continued on his patrol, suddenly quite uneasy. 



    “Nchuand-Zel…” Äelberon gasped, his jaw dropping slightly in awe. He had never been so close to a ruin. By the Gods, the ancient braziers still glowed with their florescent light! There were two gold and white Dwemer spires, with their long ramps twisting around them. Ramps so that they could roll, the spheres. Steps led up to a great set of double doors that seemed to lead directly into the mountain. Perched atop two stone columns, keeping perpetual sentinel, were two extended Dwemer spheres. He was positive any intact constructs found within the ruins still worked.


    Dwemer built to last.


    Below, to his right, he saw two Altmer mages dressed in black robes, bent over their work stations which overlooked a small underground spring. One looked rather young and he was wearily cataloging various artifacts; gears, gyros, and pieces of scrap metal, his expression bored. Books were scattered about as were scrolls, rolls of paper, quill, ink, and charcoal. Several lanterns were burning, but the light was rather feeble. The air smelled curiously of metal, as if he were in a blacksmith’s shop. He began to descend the steps.


    The other was stooped over the artifacts, oblivious to the world around him. Calcelmo. Äelberon knew immediately, for that is how he was when he ignored all other things in the pursuit of knowledge. The younger one spoke and Äelberon stopped to listen, a knowing smile creeping on his face. This would be him in another couple hundred years. Ha! It was him sometimes now, especially when he was engrossed in a book.


    "Uncle Calcelmo..." Spoken with great trepidation.


    A grunt.


    "Uncle Calcelmo?" A bit louder, boy was growing braver. The old Mage's brows furrowed and Äelberon could not suppress his grin.


    "What is it nephew? Can't you see I'm trying to think here?" Came the annoyed response.


    "I just wanted to know if you needed anything."


    "Um, no. Nothing. Nothing at all." If Calcelmo said anything else, it was hidden under a series of nonsensical grunts and grumbles while his eyes found the subject of his study. So distracted, thought Äelberon. Did he even sleep? Probably not. He was quite old. Older than him by several centuries he guessed. 


    "Are you sure?"


    "Stop bothering me, Aicantar.”


    Äelberon mirked, a bit of a curmudgeon, eh? Reminded him of someone else he knew. A certain old Altmer knight… he shot a glance up to the air, his smile becoming a silent chuckle. “A challenge, my Lady Mara. A challenge.” He continued down the steps and approached the youngling first. ‘Twas the safer choice.


    It was rare to see an Altmer in Skyrim that wasn’t Thalmor, thought Aicantar. Even rarer still to see one that old. Most were younglings like him, taking advantage of new opportunities. The Altmer walked slowly down the steps, he was in a black cloak and his coloring was so strange, very pale, with horrible scars. Vampire? Hope not. No, ha, definitely not, his eyes were fine.  An unusual shade of red-orange, but definitely not vampiric. He had a beard, so he was definitely well into his third century, but he was in steel armor and was of far heavier build than him. In his prime, he must have been an Altmer warrior, they were very rare now. The stranger approached Aicantar and stopped with a nod. "I'm Calcelmo's nephew, Aicantar. I help him around the laboratory. Is there anything I can help you with?"


    “Greetings, may I have words with your uncle?”


    “Uh… I don’t know, he may not be in the best mood for a visit. He’s very busy.”


    “He will not make exception?”


    Calcelmo suddenly turned. Who was this? What a big oaf of an Altmer! And what the Oblivion was he doing here? "What are you doing here? The excavation site is closed. I don't need any more workers or guards."


    “I was told to seek you out. For the--"


    "I told you I'm not hiring any more guards. Why do you people always bother me when I'm trying to finish my research?  You idiot!”  Äelberon raised his eyebrow and sighed. Mages. He was one to talk, he thought, his laugh lines crinkling. “Do you even know who I am? The most recognized scholar on the Dwemer in all of Tamriel, and you people keep bothering me!” The old mage suddenly stooped his shoulders and was now somehow frailer. Ah, he was indeed unhappy, for his anger was not based on disturbing his research, but on frustration. He was in love.  Calcelmo turned to Äelberon. “I... I'm sorry I... I got too excited. I'm in the middle of some very... stressful work, and I shouldn't have yelled. How can I help you?"


    “Calcelmo...” And the mage suddenly looked hard at the fellow Altmer that stood before him. Calcelmo narrowed his eyes, there was something very familiar about him. Somehow Calcelmo pictured the Mer reading. Reading in a grand library, surrounded by books. Studying. Silver plate armor. But why? Mages didn’t wear silver plate. They didn’t wear armor. The Altmer continued. “Though, admittedly, I may not look much like it, I am the Agent of the Lady Mara. Sent to you in answer to your prayers.”


    The mage’s face lit up suddenly, his dark yellow eyes full of hope. He turned away from Äelberon and bent his head. He knew. Äelberon was beginning to wonder of all of this was pre-ordained, for all seemed to be expecting him, all told him their concerns without hesitation. Calcelmo, at least, was far more organized with his thoughts than Fastred was. "I was beginning to lose faith that any help would come. Eh... You see... I've been thinking about Faleen quite a bit. You know Faleen?"


    “No, I do not know her.”


    “She is Housecarl to Jarl Igmund.”  Housecarl? Damn it! If he had to speak with her, he would be directly in the path of Justiciar Ondolemar. He let out a gust of air while the mage continued to explain. “Needless to say, she is resplendent. The trouble is that I can't seem to speak around her. My mouth goes dry, and I start to shake. I could never hope to approach her."


    Äelberon sighed and his heart was full of sympathy for the old mage. Here was the great Calcelmo, very similar to him in many ways. They had devoted their entire lives to their respective professions, allowing time for nothing else. And they were both now painfully awkward around women. By the Gods, a barmaid’s smile made him squirm. Bet did not even do that to him and he was a ferocious demon from Coldharbour! He was celibate by choice, but Calcelmo was not and it was unfair. He gave his whole life to scholarship, he deserved happiness. “Perhaps you only need something to discuss, Calcelmo, to break the ice perhaps?” Äelberon volunteered.


    "That's the trouble. I know Faleen from the Keep, but I have no idea what sorts of things she likes. It's not a simple matter. I could offend her fairly easily by bringing up the wrong subject. I've seen it happen before."


    “Ah, so a bit of a fireball, then?” Äelberon smiled wryly.


    “Oh yes, but at the same time it is wonderful. She has such spirit.” Calcelmo gushed.


    “Is there anyone who may know what she likes?”


    The mage thought for a moment, rubbing his beard. "There is one... Yngvar. He's quite popular with the ladies. Thankfully Faleen is not quite his type, but they've been friends for some time, and he may have some ideas. Please, ask him what she likes. It's my only chance." At his last words, the mage hung his head, his face forlorn, and Äelberon put his hand on his thin shoulder, squeezing gently.


    “Calcelmo, look at me.” The mage looked into Äelberon’s eyes, and suddenly Calcelmo’s hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. His brow furrowed. He knew this Mer, like something from a distant memory, yet he could not place it, but yes! He saw books, piles of them gathered about a desk and apple cores... so many apple cores. His people hated apples. “On my honor, Calcelmo, I will help you, because the world has so much more to offer you. Now where can I find this Yngvar?”



    He had to evade Ondolemar again before he was able leave Understone Keep and venture into the city. He found Yngvar leaning against one of the staircases. At least Äelberon thought it was Yngvar. Calcelmo said he would be leaning against one of the staircases. A swarthy Nord, with long, dark hair and no surprise, a large steel warhammer.  “Are you Yngvar the Singer?” 


    “Hmm? Yeah, what’s it to you?” Replied a gruff, rather unmusical sounding voice.  


    Äelberon sighed. This was going to sound awkward to the Nord. Ah Lady Mara, surely you do have a sense of humor. “Would you, by any chance, happen to know what Faleen the Housecarl likes?”


    “Why? Are you interested?”


    Äelberon quickly shook his head and dismissed Yngvar’s notion with a brisk wave of his hand, a faint blush creeping over the Old Mer’s cheeks. Yngvar grinned. He was just like Calcelmo, shy. “Oh no, no, no… It is not for me… It is for Calcelmo.”


    "Calcelmo? Is he interested in Faleen? That sly old codger. I should have guessed. Good for him. For the both of them. Between you and me...” Yngvar leaned towards Äelberon and whispered with a sly smile, the smell of mead fresh in his breath. “She could use a bit of warmth." He leaned back against the wall, and looked around briefly as if checking for any bystanders who were eavesdropping. "As for what she might like... I didn't tell you this. Faleen likes to act tough, but she really has a soft spot for, of all things, poetry. You know, I took some classes at the Bard's College as a youth. Poems come in handy when wooing.”


    Äelberon raised an eyebrow, the Nord was absolutely basking in his prowess now. “There's a poem I once used on an older lady of Rorikstead. I can change it to be about Faleen, if you've got some gold.”


    Wonder how many times he has changed that name before, thought Äelberon. “How much?”


    “Two hundred septims.” Confounded, Äelberon frowned when he heard the Nord’s price. Love was certainly expensive! Bah! He counted two hundred septims to the Nord and watched, shivering a bit in his lighter cloak, arms crossed over his chest, while the Nord scribbled the poem with Faleen’s name. He peered over the Nord’s shoulder. He had them already written out? Scamp’s Blood!


    “Are you prepared to receive my golden words?" Declared Yngvar confidently when he finished.


    Golden words, Xarxes’ arse, thought Äelberon. “Yes, thank you.” Sighed Äelberon as he took the poem.


    He read it, of course, and then he promptly rewrote it, with a far nicer hand, fixing all the spelling and grammatical errors. He admired his handiwork. At least now it looked like it was written by an Altmer scholar of the Dwemer. Now to deliver it.


    He silently made his way to the Keep again, gathering his cloak about his shoulders. Preparations were being made for the Old Life Festival and the city was distracted.  Large tables were being set for the refreshments and towards the Keep, he could see guards preparing the fireworks for display. But he knew that the Thalmor did not celebrate such things and they would still be in the Keep. Time was short to the day, and he needed to finish with Calcelmo and help Tyranus. He had been patient enough and Äelberon was surprised that the Imperial was not waiting at the house by now. He walked up the steps to the Keep, they were planning to host the celebration in the courtyard in front of it. It would allow Tyranus and him some privacy to do a proper investigation of the home.


    Äelberon entered the Keep, Ondolemar’s back was turned, heading towards the throne. He followed silently, his heart pounding in his chest. The timing had to be perfect. If Ondolemar turned for whatever reason, he would be discovered. Ondolemar made a left from the throne room and entered another corridor, followed by his two agents.


    Äelberon then saw the Housecarl and almost ruined it for himself by laughing aloud.


    How fitting, she was covered head to toe in Dwemer armor. She was perfect for Calcelmo. He made his approach. She stopped him, damn it! In the middle of the corridor. He glanced to his left, the Thalmor were preoccupied with the Jarl’s two hounds. But he was in their line of sight if they looked his way.


    “Get them out of my way!” Barked Ondolemar as his two agents tried to move the hounds. The hounds were jumping on the Justiciar. They were excellent judges of character, thought Äelberon with a sarcastic frown.


    “Who are you to approach the Mournful Thone?” He turned to face Faleen the Housecarl. He did not have much time.


    “I have a poem for you, Housecarl.” He glanced again at the Thalmor, they were arguing with several of the Jarl’s guards.


    “If you do not move these dogs! I will see that Emissary Elenwen contacts your Jarl personally.”


    “We don’t want that, Justiciar, we’ll move the hounds.” Replied the guard, threatened by the tone of the Justicar’s voice.


    “You do that.” Hissed Ondolemar.


    Äelberon looked back at the Housecarl. “What is meaning of this, from whom? I don’t know if I should accept this…” Answered Faleen.


    “It is from Calcelmo, please.” He glanced again. Ondolemar was talking to his agents. He approached quickly and handed her the poem, and the Thalmor Justiciar passed behind him seconds later. As Faleen read the poem, he let out a sigh of relief. At least his back was now turned to them. Her face grew very tender. She was not very picky about poetry, it seemed.


    “I don’t know what to say. I’m touched.”


    “He cares for you, very much.”


    He was about to take advantage of Ondolemar’s back being turned and leave when she stopped him, grabbing his forearm. “Wait, let me write something back, I may not be as eloquent, but I want to give him this.” The Thalmor passed again, and Äelberon waited. The Thalmor then began to descend the stairs to enter the main entrance of the Keep, followed closely by his two agents.


     “Here, give this to Calcelmo.” She handed Äelberon a hastily written note. He turned and descended the steps quickly and silently, following the Thalmor closely as their backs were turned. Before they made the turn, he quickly veered right and up the cave to enter the excavation site.


    Ondolemar paused. The same shift of black linen. The same silver-white wisps of hair. But completely silent. No one walked that way anymore. Not for a long, long time. Like a ghost, a pale ghost…


    “What is it, again Justiciar? This is the second time you have stopped in this exact location. Are you seeing something?” Asked his agent.


    Ondolemar scanned the excavation site and narrowed his eyes. “I don’t know…” He remembered a cloak that shifted silently just like that, but it had been a deep purple cloak of the finest velvet with apple-green lining. The armor was black, though, and the hair silver-white. It couldn’t be. Ondolemar eyed the ruins again.


    “Should we go into the ruins then, Justiciar?”


    “I think we should.” The Thalmor began the ascent up the cave when suddenly Calcelmo burst through the entrance of the cave, running, his face in a wide smile as he headed to the throne room. He turned briefly to the Thalmor as he ran.


    “No time, I can’t be bothered, Justiciar.” He huffed as he continued his run.


    “It must have just been Calcelmo, Sir.” Volunteered an agent.


    Ondolemar put his hands behind his back, and scanned the cave leading to the ruins again.  Well, the cloth of his robes were black, and his hair was certainly silver... But there was something about the movement that was not characteristic of the mage. Mages didn’t move like that, but warriors did. He would need to write Elenwen again. She had sent a briefing. He was dead. Killed at Helgen. “Hmm, yes, probably just the mage. We will turn back then. Back to the throne room.”


    “Yes sir,” and they circled back.


    Äelberon emerged behind them and followed them as they approached the Mournful throne and then turned left again; toward the dogs. Äelberon watched from a corner as Calcelmo and Faleen declared their love for each other and he sighed in relief. That had been far too close for comfort, and his heart was still pounding for it, but he had not been discovered. He turned and left the Keep. It was time to help Vigilant Tyranus.



    Tyranus stretched his legs as he lay in the stone bed and yawned, his eyes still fighting the grogginess of sleep. And the grogginess brought on by other things, he thought with a lazy smile.


    He turned slightly to his left and saw Koor at the corner of the room and he chuckled at the dog as he felt her kiss his neck softly; her lips warm against his skin. The dog had the stupidest look on his face, his tongue lolling from his mouth. Bet you’ve never seen this before, eh boy, thought Tyranus, while his left hand slid up Hroki’s back, enjoying the smooth softnness of her skin. She continued with her light kisses until she reached the spot just behind his ear. That spot and he groaned with pleasure.


    “You keep doing that, I’ll never want to leave.” He said huskily.


    “That’s a nice plan.” She replied, running her hand over his muscled chest. Hroki propped herself up on her elbow and faced Tyranus. She smiled, the right decision was definitely made. The Elf was very good-looking and made an incredible impression on her, but the Imperial in her bed now was far more accessible. Tyranus had told her the Elf’s age and she could tell that he admired the Altmer a great deal as a colleague. Two hundred and forty-three years old and from what she garnered, probably impossible to talk to. What would she have in common with such an ancient creature? She met Tyranus’ gaze and their lips met again.


    Koor’s snort brought Tyranus back. Damn dog, he thought with a smile. Out of spite, he deepened the kiss and he was rewarded with her moan. That was payback for behind his ear. “It would be a nice plan, but an unrealistic one.” He countered with a sigh as he finally broke their kiss.


    He tightened his hold on her a bit, not quite wanting to let go just yet. At those words, she began to finger his amulet of Stendarr. He had not removed that, though everything else was gone. His armor on the floor of her bedroom, mixed with her clothes. Her bare foot was caressing his shin.


    “Stendarr, eh? God of Mercy.” She asked, her tone betraying her own reluctance to return to reality.


    Tyranus sleepily glanced at the shrine to Dibella on her wardrobe and he caught himself smiling again as he glanced up at Hroki. If she was lovely at the inn, she was even lovelier now, for her skin was now slightly flushed with a warm peach glow and her blonde hair was tousled from their love-making. Dibella picked good servants. It had been a while, but it was well worth the wait. He needed to travel less. But he was like Äelberon was. They roamed like nomads, doing good works in the name of their respective gods. It was a fulfilling life to do such service, but it was, at times, a lonely one.


    “Dibella, eh?” He echoed, though he already knew the answer. Hroki laughed and kissed his greying temple. Koor snorted again and sat upon his haunches. The dog was impatient. They both sighed and they knew that their time together was coming to an end. “I want to see you again.” Tyranus blurted out and felt the heat upon his face. He knew it was going red. He could feel the heat on his ears. It just came out, but it was true, he did want to see her again.


    “Are you in Markarth for much longer?” Hroki asked, still lying next to him.


    That, thought Tyranus, was a good sign. If she didn’t want to see him, she would’ve started to get up and get dressed by now. He knew how women worked. “I need to investigate a house. The abandoned one I had asked your father about, remember?”


    Hroki nodded, she remembered. She just about fainted when he walked through the door of the Silver-Blood Inn. So tall and his armor. It was beautiful, so different than what was typically seen in Skyrim, and when he spoke, he was articulate and educated. He had spent a few nights at the inn while he conducted his investigation. Always ordering either steak or goat. He liked it bloody and rather pink. He loved the roast goat. She had made that herself.


    “Daedra?” She asked, her voice betraying concern. That was also a good sign. He yawned and turned to her.


    “Aye, Daedra.” He saw her frown and instinctively, his hand found her cheek and caressed it.  She did care. “Don’t worry. That Elf is an incredible demon hunter, practically a legend among us Vigilants, and I’m no slouch either. We’ll have that house cleansed in no time. If it even needs cleansing. No one’s seen anything. I personally think it’s a dead end.” She still looked worried and he gave her a quick kiss on the lips. “It’s alright. There’s almost three hundred years of experience going into that house.”


    He smiled and gave her another kiss, enjoying her scent. There were traces of lavender in her hair and her lips tasted of snowberries. “Now, back to my question. I want to see you again.” He watched her look up in thought, running through in her mind the things she had to do for the rest of the day, as his hand slid from her cheek to her neck. He probably wasn’t helping her think much, for he could feel her pulse quicken against his hand. He wasn't thinking much either.


    “After my shift ends, we, my brother, parents, and I, are going to watch the fireworks.” Hroki smiled and her hand found his on her neck. He wielded a greatsword, it made for very strong hands. Ha! He wielded a greatsword indeed, she thought with a sly smile. “It would please me if I saw you there. We can get to know each other better.”


    Tyranus laughed and quickly covered his mouth. That had been loud and they were still at the inn. “We already know each other pretty well, my dear.”


    She blushed at his words. She liked that he called her “my dear”. Aye, she could stand to learn more on this one. “But the house. Don’t you have to do that?” She asked, her voice disappointed and her lips forming a playful sulk. His fingers touched her sulking mouth and she playfully tried to nibble.


    “Aye, but it won’t take long at all. Not with that Elf with me. Probably some cultists that we have to send to the Markarth prison. If that.” He chuckled and gave her another kiss. “Usually they are long gone when they figure out that I’ve been poking my head around.”


    He reluctantly broke from her embrace and got up with a groan, sitting at the edge of the bed, scanning the floor of her room with his grey eyes for his clothes and armor.  It wasn't in an organized pile, that was for sure.


    She watched him as he searched, curling up in her bed, drawing the blankets about her, keenly aware of the chill in the room when his body left her side. She liked his profile, the swarthy smoothness of his more olive skin, and his muscular frame. He was an Imperial and had all the features of the people of Tamriel’s central province. She had to get up soon, or her father would miss her at the inn, but she would enjoy the back view he was now giving her for a few minutes more, she thought with a sleepy smile. He bent over to pick up a rumpled pair of roughspun breeches from the floor and began to dress. Such beautiful armor and to then dress so humbly underneath it, but Vigilants of Stendarr were that way. It was endearing, for she even noticed the small hole on the left thigh of his breeches. Probably his chain mail suit got caught on it. She could darn that later for him, if he wanted. He drew the lacing of his breeches and faced her as she lay in the bed.


    “I will be there tonight.” He said with a sweet smile that surprised her, for his face had a certain edge to it.


    She sat up and crawled like a seductive cat, the blankets falling from her body as she moved towards the edge of the bed, near where he stood. “You promise?” She asked, smiling up at him.


    “Stendarr’s Honor.” He promised with a grin, bending over to give her another quick kiss. The quick kiss turned into several more slower ones. 


    “Ooo, Stendarr’s Honor? You mean business, Vigilant.” She laughed against his lips.


    Koor snorted again and began to shift. Stupid dog, Tyranus thought with a grin. "Alright boy, we'll go find your Master, though admit it. You were enjoying the show."  Koor barked and yowled, he had that stupid look on his face again.



    Äelberon returned to the stables to retrieve his armor and his weapons, choosing to wield the sword that was given to him by the Vigilants of the Beacon.  He relaced his pauldrons, cast his healing aura, and took the time to rebind his hair before putting on his helmet. It was important. This was not a bandit encounter or a wild beast. Vigilant Tyranus’ reputation preceded him, if he believed that the house was linked to Daedra worship, then it was, and Äelberon was very concerned. He sat upon some stonework near the stables and faced the sunset, and closed his eyes, breathing deeply, while he recited the Tenets of his Order. He had to center himself; he needed to be as much a priest today as he was a warrior. He prayed to Auri-El, the god of his order, his rock and his foundation, to Stendarr, who filled the void while he was in Skyrim, and though he did not quite know why, he also prayed to Kyne; that ancient storm goddess. He then made his peace with the world, as was his custom when he did this line of work.


    He entered the city and it was deserted. The revelers were already gathered at the courtyard near Understone Keep.  It was nightfall when he found Vigilant Tyranus with Koor at the inn. The Vigilant looked up and Koor trotted back to his Master.


    “I apologize for my delay. The Thalmor made things very complicated.” Äelberon spoke as he sat at the small stone table, rubbing Koor’s ears.


    “Did they discover you?”


    “No, they did not.” He smiled. “And I was able to do as Lady Mara requested. Though I wish I had finished sooner. I do not like that it is now dark.” He leaned towards Vigilant Tyranus to continue his train of thought, and smiled slyly upon smelling the lavender and snowberries. “Nice perfume you are wearing? New?”


    The Elf sported one of the naughtiest grins Tyranus had ever seen. He could feel his face redden. Damn, he had forgotten how good an Elf’s sense of smell was. Perhaps only werewolves had keener senses than an Elven tracker and Äelberon was a tracker. “That obvious, eh?” Tyranus asked.


    “Ha! Aye, very obvious. Poor Koor. Was he traumatized? I know he has never seen that before. Certainly not from his Master.”


    “He had the stupidest look on his face the entire time.”


    Äelberon laughed at the Imperial’s words and Koor howled in protest. Boy knew they were talking about him. “Oh, that is his normal look. He was fine then.” Tyranus let out a laugh. “You are going to see her again?” Asked Äelberon, “Or was this, how do you say it, a…”


    “A fling, you mean?” By Oblivion, thought Tyranus. The Altmer was a nosy one.


    “Aye, that is the word. Thank you.”


    The Vigilant looked up. “I’m seeing her again.” Äelberon patted him on the shoulder. “She’s already gone off with her brother and parents to the festivities, but I’ll catch up when we’re done.”


    “That is good. I approve, and I may also stop over. One of the guards invited me to the guard tower to observe the fireworks. You and the lass are welcome to join me, if you wish. ‘Twould give the two of you some privacy. Parents and brothers are poor company for lovers.” Äelberon added with a wink. 


    Tyranus nodded in approval. Aye, even if the Elf was celibate, he certainly knew enough about parents to present a far more viable option for him and Hroki to get to know each other better.


    “But first, we have business.” His face suddenly turned quite serious. “Have you prayed?” And he paused before asking his final question, “Have you made your peace, Brother Tyranus?”


    “Äelberon, we’re investigating a house, not going against legions of Daedra. That time has passed.”


    “Vigilant, if I have learned anything in my long life, it is that you can never predict anything when it comes to Daedra. We must be prepared for anything.” His voice grew soft, “Tyranus, I make my peace with Mundus every time I deal with them.” He then took the Vigilant’s hands in his and both bent their heads, and Äelberon uttered the opening phrase that he had uttered for as long as he could remember.

    “Let us pray…”



    Äelberon did not like that it was now dark. 


    No, he did not like that it was nightfall, he thought while Vigilant Tyranus led him to the house in question. It was very unassuming, close to the entrance of the city. Äelberon studied the hinges of the door, they were rusted, but he could see where the rust had peeled off and there were traces of it upon the floor. This door had been opened recently.


    “Is it locked?” He asked, turning to Tyranus.


    “Yes, it is.”


    “Let me.” And Äelberon knelt at the door and produced his lockpicks and shiv. It was not a difficult door to coax open. In fact, too easy, he noted with growing concern. Worshipers usually kept things under very tight lock and key. With a click, the door swung open slowly, making an audible creak when its hinges protested. Äelberon could feel his heart pounding. He was not afraid, but the presence of Daedra always made his heart do that. "Koor, stay, and watch." Koor snorted in protest, causing his Master to firmly shake his head. "No.” He repeated, his voice matching his scowl. “This is no place for you."


    The dog whined softly, but obeyed.


    The two servants of Stendarr slowly went inside, Äelberon drawing his weapon as Tyranus put on his helmet. It was a small house of Dwemer make, and the hearth fire was burning. Äelberon shook his head, whispering. “What is this trickery?” Where were the worshipers? He watched as Brother Tyranus scanned the room.


    "Fresh food.” Tyranus noted, eyeing loaves of bread and cheese. “No wood rot on the furniture. Someone's been here. Recently. But the people I asked say no one enters or leaves..."


    Äelberon shot him a hard look, his hand tightening on the hilt of his blade. “No one enters or leaves?” He repeated, his eyes narrowing.


    Suddenly they heard a loud rattle and a scream from the back of the house and both warriors turned their heads to the direction of the sound. Tyranus moved first. "Wait. Did you hear that? I think it came this way." Tyranus started to run towards the sound and despite the roaring hearth fire, Äelberon felt a hard chill to the air and he felt sick to his stomach.  It smelled like death in this house. Total death.


    “Tyranus, wait, do not rush…” Äelberon cried out as he followed the Vigilant of Stendarr. They entered another room. They heard another rattle and a scream. But this was no scream of distress. It was a scream of challenge.


    "That's it. Something's inside the house. Come on, we're getting to the bottom of this." Tyranus cried as he quickly descended a flight of stone stairs.


    “Tyranus, by Stendarr, wait. Please slow down, we cannot rush this.” He never rushed when he was investigating a home. He always moved slowly and then opened his mind, letting the Daedra in. They always revealed their intentions. It was the way he could then defeat them, but this needed time for Daedra did not readily yield their secrets to a Knight-Paladin of Auri-El. It was a battle of wills. But Tyranus’ haste was not letting him focus. He followed Tyranus down the steps.


    "Come out! We know you're here!" Tyranus had stopped at a set of Dwemer doors and turned to Äelberon. "There's another door. See if you can get it open."


    “Brother, let us wait.” Äelberon argued. “Let me do my work. I can learn what needs to be done.”


    “There is no time for that, we need to get this door open.” Tyranus countered.


    “Tyranus, there is always time…”


    “Open the damn door!” Tyranus suddenly growled, his greatsword drawn in threat. Äelberon knew what this was. There was unspeakable evil here. He closed his eyes and opened them again slowly, he was centered. The ultimate in Daedric manipulation. Potential possession. This was no mere Daedra or cultists. He sensed the presence of something far stronger and his heart hammered against his chest. He let out a heavy exhale and stood at the door. It was time.


    “Auri-El and Stendarr, protect your servants.” When he finished his invocation, he touched the door and then  heard Tyranus cry out when objects in the room began to fly about, striking the walls and furniture with loud clangs and thuds.


    "Stendarr's Mercy! This isn't an ordinary Daedra. We have to get help." Tyranus was panicking, and Äelberon watched him bolt up the stairs. Äelberon squared his back and set his jaw, tilting his head to one side, his eyes blazing.


    “Daedroth!” He commanded, his voice firm, his eyes rolling to the back of his head when his mind opened, searching for the creature with his soul.  “Reveal thyself!”


    "Weak. He is weak…"


    “Bal…” Hissed Äelberon as his eyes fluttered open.


    "You are strong. Crush him."


    Tyranus paused when he heard those words. Who was speaking to him?


    “Molag Bal!” Cried Äelberon, as he climbed the steps slowly. “You have no power over me! Be gone foul Daedroth and leave this house! I am His servant and I command you!” He knew now, there was a shrine, behind the door. Destroy the shrine and it would be over, the connection between planes severed. He found Tyranus at the entrance of the house. He had heard the foul words too, he knew.


    “Tyranus,” Äelberon spoke to him, his voice calm. “We need to get through that door. You and I. It has been revealed to me, there is a shrine beyond it, to Molag Bal.” He walked closer to the Vigilant, his voice very low. “If we destroy it together, this house will be clean.” Tyranus was terrified. Äelberon could smell his fear. Bal was already doing his work. Manipulating. Making a man who normally feared nothing falter. “Brother,” Äelberon extended his hand towards the back of the house, “We must go down those steps.”


    "No, we need to leave. You first. Come on. Let's go." Tyranus pointed to the door.


    “Brother, we are not leaving. As two who walk the light, we have a job to do. The shrine, it must be destroyed. It is the only way this ends.”


    "We're getting out of here. Now." Cried Tyranus.


    “Nay, brother.” And Äelberon showed Tyranus by trying the front door. “See, the foul creature has locked it, denying us escape. We must destroy the shrine. Come. " He gestured to the back and then extended his hand to the Vigilant. “I do not fear him, for I slew his child long ago. Use my strength, Brother Tyranus, and he cannot harm us.” Tyranus looked deep into the Elf’s knowing eyes and he began to feel comfort. Yes, they would destroy the shrine and he reached for Äelberon’s hand, clasping his forearm. “That is it, my brother, do not give Molag Bal the satisfaction of your fear. He is domination, but we have free will. Let Stendarr guide you, and together we shall destroy the shrine. Take my hand.”


    The battle of wills had begun and Molag Bal would not yield so readily to this haughty priest of Auri-El… The Slayer of Bet… it was him… the Daedric Prince then spoke again.


    "No. Kill him. Crush his bones. Tear at his flesh. You will kill. You will kill, or you will die!"


    And at those words, Tyranus pulled his hand away from Äelberon’s, causing the Elf to cry out to the Daedric Lord angrily, his hand raised in the air in a gesture of invocation and challenge. “Molag Bal! I will not let you have this soul!” He turned to Tyranus, “Fight him! Pray to Stendarr, do it! You are stronger than he is!”


    "Get out of my head, Daedra!" Suddenly Tyranus fell to his knees, clutching his helmeted head in both hands. Objects started to fly about the room, striking both warriors, and a harsh wind blew.


    Äelberon yelled at the top of his lungs. The wind was deafening. “Fight him, Tyranus, fight him! We must go now, to the shrine!”


    The Vigilant screamed like one who was profoundly tormented and rose again, his body tense and trembling. “I don’t want to die. I can’t die here!” Tyranus screamed.


    “You will not die here, Tyranus; if we destroy the shrine! NOW!” Äelberon ran to the Vigilant and began to shake him vigorously, looking into his eyes. He could see them through the helmet. They were as wide as septims; crazed and bloodshot from tears. “Auri-El, help this man… I call upon You, my Lord.”


    “You’ll do no such thing, Pig of Auri-El. Slayer of my child.” Snarled Tyranus. Vigilant Tyranus violently shoved Äelberon away and Äelberon knew he was now alone. The Prince had the Witchblade. He felt such sadness for Tyranus; the tears beginning to well in his old eyes, for the life had such promise, but he needed to remain strong and he set his jaw in anticipation of what was to come. He whispered softly as the wind howled. “I will fight for both of us now, my brother. I swear by my Lord.” He looked up briefly and closed his eyes, saying a prayer under his breath. “Oh Auri-El, I call upon your strength as your devoted servant.”


    He then opened his eyes and faced Tyranus, slowly sheathing his sword. He would strike no blow for Molag Bal on this night, or any other night. Molag Bal wanted him to do violence. He wanted the control. This was a different type of fight, he thought as he brought up his shield.


    “The Daedra has us. It's you or me!" Tyranus snarled. The Vigilant began to charge a spell as Äelberon backed up slowly.


    The first bolt of lightning caused great pain and Äelberon winced, gritting his teeth, his shield absorbing some of its effects, but not all.  Tyranus struck again, and Äelberon groaned as he continued to block, the lightning burning his lungs, the current traveling through his body, making his teeth glow, surging through his steel armor. It felt like thousands of tiny daggers, pricking his body like needles. The needles Elenwen used to use on him.


    Aye, Molag Bal knew of such things.


    Tyranus’ assault was ruthless, but Äelberon was steadfast with his great shield arm. It was a banded iron shield flying in the air that finally lowered Äelberon’s defenses by striking his back, causing him to stagger and lower his own shield.


    The full blast of the lightning bolt knocked Äelberon clear across the room. A wardrobe broke his momentum, its wood snapping under the force of his impact before he crashed to the stone floor, blood spurting from his mouth, his ribs cracking upon impact. Äelberon slowly got up, coughing hard, his ribs screaming, and feebly raised his trembling hand to attempt a healing spell, while Tyranus recharged for another lightning bolt. The effects of the lighting were far too strong and he was completely drained of his magicka. It was his shield or it was nothing. He faced Tyranus, as blood dripped from his mouth. His voice was weak, but firm. He had not given up.


    “Brother, fight him.” He said from the stone floor as he tried to rise. “Let us go to the shrine. Do not let him have your soul.” Äelberon’s body was again rocked by a coughing fit, and Tyranus hesitated as the Altmer lay there. What was he doing? He then saw Äelberon stand up slowly, and again extend his hand, though it trembled this time, as he hobbled to the Vigilant. “I will not give up on you so quickly, take my hand, Brother.”


    "He is weak. Look at him. Crush the little Elf, and claim your reward."


    And Molag Bal again claimed the Viglant’s soul.


    The second bolt was far worse than the first and Äelberon slammed hard into a stack of chairs, scattering and breaking them on impact as he crumpled to the floor. He lay there gasping for what seemed like an eternity and his pulse thundered in his ears. “Get up,” he whispered to himself. “Do it. Or you will lose him.” It took all his strength to pull himself up and ready his shield. He could feel his own life ebbing and that was what gave him the strength to speak. “Tyranus, fight him. Do not let him win.” 


    Again, he extended his hand to the Vigilant. “I am the Eagle of Auri-El. The enemy of Molag Bal. I have lost too much already to Coldharbour, but I will not let Coldharbour take you.” Äelberon could see Tyranus’ eyes change. He was coming back, and he firmly clasped the Vigilant’s armored forearm.


    “Äelberon, my brother.” Whispered the Vigilant, drawing closer, as he held the Elf’s strong forearm, his own eyes unseeing, blinded by Coldharbour’s veil. “Where are you?”


    “I am here, my child. Walk in the light.”


    “I can’t see it.” The Vigilant stammered, turning his head frantically to search.


    “Tyranus, it is here. If you find me, you will find the path again. This I promise.” He suddenly yelled into the howling wind. He could hear the Daedra’s ragings. He was winning. “Damn it Molag Bal, I will not let you have him!”


    But then he saw the Vigilant’s eyes begin to change again, taking on the glow of those touched by Coldharbour. “No… stay with me, Tyranus.” Tyranus came back, but Äelberon could see the Vigilant begin to charge a spell.


    With great effort Tyranus spoke, the internal struggle evident, and he suddenly saw the Elf clearly, the veil now gone.  Stendarr’s mercy, Äelberon was almost dead, his face bruised and bloody. His armor dented in places from the impact of the objects that flew about the room. His arms cut as well. He was clearly dying and yet he did not give in. When he saw his colleague, nay, his friend in such a terrible state, his own mind opened and he now knew the Daedra’s plan.


    Molag Bal’s motive was revenge.




    For the Elf slaying his child all those years ago. And the Daedric Prince would keep using him as His instrument until Äelberon was dead. No, he would not let that happen.


    “Äelberon, draw your weapon.”


    “No…” Äelberon replied, understanding the Vigilant’s tone of voice all too well.


    “It is the only way I can be free and I need you to do it.” His voice gained strength as his mind cleared. “Please, my brother. Don’t let this Daedric Lord have my soul, and I do not know how much longer I can fight him off. It is not some dremora or minor demon. This is a Prince. If I turn again, I will kill you and I can already see that you are fading.”


    Äelberon stared deep into Tyranus’ grey eyes, and understood. He would not be striking a blow for Molag Bal tonight. Around them they suddenly heard new sounds. The thunder of fireworks. The happy cries of revelers celebrating.  Äelberon slowly drew his sword. The girl, he then thought with such sadness. The poor girl. 


    The two brothers secured their hold on each other’s forearms, as the wind howled about them, as Molag Bal sent more objects in the air. Beating their bodies in a futile attempt to thwart their plans. Äelberon held his sword to Tyranus’ flank, where the the pieces joined together.


    “Wait…” The Vigilant suddenly said.


    Äelberon stayed his blade. “What, my son?


    “Promise me something, Äelberon of Dusk.”


    “Anything, Vigilant.”


    “First, take up my mantle. My armor. Become the holy knight that I could not be. Do this in my honor.. Do this in my memory.”


    Äelberon shook his head in dismissal. “I am not worthy to bear your mantle.”


    “By the Eight, you are worthy. More worthy than anyone I have ever known. More worthy than I. It was truly an honor to have met you. To have walked in your light, friend. And you promised me. Anything.” Tyranus smiled knowingly. “And I know you always keep your word, for it would be against your Order to go against your word." The Vigilant's smile broadened. "I got you.”


    “Aye, that you did.” Äelberon managed a weak smile. He would hate Molag Bal all the more for this. The waste of such an incredible life. Why? Because your issue was not strong enough? But they would not give in to his domination. He would tell the tale of Vigilant Tyranus and his great bravery for many years. He would honor his name. His armor would be a badge of his own service.


    “Second, return me to my Vigilants? To Keeper Carcette? I can’t be in this unholy house.”


    “Your will be done, my brother. I will bear you upon my horse and she will carry you there.”


    “And... when the time is right. When you have recovered, for I know what the burden the telling will be. Tell Hroki that I am sorry. That I truly wanted to see her again. She gave me some happiness and those are the memories that fill my thoughts as I… as I near my end. We live for these little moments, Äelberon. The brief moments of happiness amidst all the turmoil, amidst all the struggle as we walk the light. I hope that the Gods grant you such moments in your life. You deserve them.” She had made the roast goat, Tyranus thought. He would have enjoyed eating that again. If circumstances had been better. If he had listened to Äelberon more closely. Not rushed into it.


    “I will tell her.”


    “Lastly, Äelberon,” And Tyranus’ tone grew very serious with his next words, clearly fighting Bal's pull now. “Take... my greatsword and... destroy the shrine. Show Molag Bal that... the Slayer of Bet is not his plaything.” Äelberon’s eyes blazed and Tyranus smiled again. Those incredible eyes. They burned with holy fire. “That’s it, that’s the great Knight-Paladin of Auri-El. I will always remember those eyes of fire. And Molag Bal will always fear them.”


    Tyranus then raised his left hand. “Stendarr’s mercy guide you always, Brother Äelberon.”


    Another series of fireworks exploded. The crowd cheered loudly. He hoped Hroki was enjoying herself and not disappointed. Tyranus sighed and he closed his eyes, his thoughts drifting to the afternoon, and he smiled. He could still smell the lavender in her hair…


    “And may you always walk in the light, Brother Tyranus.” Äelberon replied. That is it, boy. Think on something good.  I will dwell on the darkness.  Tyranus then grabbed Äelberon’s arm hard and pulled the Altmer to embrace him, letting out a groan as Äelberon’s sword pierced his side, while outside, a new year was born.


    “I am in the light now…” Tyranus gasped as he fell.



    1st of Morning Star, 4E 202


    Äelberon did not know who was watching over him in Aetherius that night, but no one saw him as he bore the body of Brother Tyranus upon his weary shoulders and left the city. The fireworks were still on display, their colors dazzling in the clear night sky. He looked up towards the guard tower. “Ah Jurgis…” He sighed. “I am so sorry.”


    And the girl. He would need to tell her, but not now. Gods, not now.


    Koor followed his Master, but his steps were heavy and he was uncharacteristically silent. Äelberon could still faintly hear the crowds cheering. The Khajiit were also watching from their tents. Yet, no one saw him and he felt as a ghost. There was no one guarding the stables and he gently laid Tyranus down and walked to Allie. Äelberon stooped to check her leg, his bones cracking as he did so. The shoe was in place and he could leave. He was desperate to do so, for he was on a divine mission.


    He slowly loaded the weapons first. Tyranus’ greatsword and his crossbow, his body protesting hard as he lifted the heavy weapons. He still could not cast and he feared that he would not be able to for several days, the effects of the lighting magicks were so strong. He was very weak, and badly injured. Several ribs were broken and he walked with a limp, and his heart would not stop pounding in his ears, for it was under great stress, so much so that his chest hurt him. It felt like it would burst.


    “Gods!” He gasped hoarsely, leaning heavily against Allie’s saddle, when he could no longer bear the pressure in his chest. Did he have any? Any at all? Äelberon rummaged through his saddle bags with trembling hands and found one.


    A healing potion.


    He had never tried one before - at least that he could recall - and he only ever considered using one when he was at Helgen. He preferred magic, it was something he could control. If he had perhaps made the potion himself, he would feel better, but he had no head for alchemy. He had to trust that someone else had not made a mess of the ingredients, or that the potion was not spoiled. He eyed the bottle and then squinted to the distance, his breath rattling as he breathed. He knew there was blood in his lungs. But it was the pain in his heart that bothered him most, and his thundering heartbeat. It was all he could hear, the terrible pounding of his chest. He would never make it to the Hall of the Vigilant in his current condition and he had promised. He had promised Tyranus.


    He opened the vial and brought the bottle to his lips. He almost gagged when the horrible liquid flowed down his throat. It was terrible, bitter, thick and gritty, and he fought hard to drink the entire bottle. He started to cough violently when he finished, dropping the bottle, and he thought he would vomit, but then his body felt suddenly very warm, and he again leaned heavily on Allie while the healing herbs took their effects, his knees growing weak.


    It took a while before he was ready to lift the body, but when he did so, his own body did not protest so violently, and the pain in his chest was greatly diminished. The potion had worked, and perhaps he would survive if he rested. But there was no rest now, he thought wearily. He covered Tyranus’ body in a bearskin and tied him securely to the horse. He would dress the body appropriately for burial when he was a distance away from the city. In a secluded spot. He again faced the horizon and scowled.


    The Daedric Prince of Rape and Domination had actually tried to buy him.


    With a rusty mace.


    “Come and claim your reward.”


    Those were His very words while Äelberon opened the locked door and descended slowly into the depths of the house, into the cellar. He had Tyrannus’ greatsword, for he had not yet drawn his own weapon from Tyrannus’ lifeless body. It did not matter. He did not need any skill with a blade to do what he was going to do. He only needed strength. Auri-El’s strength.  Bal then spoke to him again.


    "Yes. Your reward is waiting for you, mortal. Further down."


    He had tightened his hands around the hilt of the greatsword, though he was just barely dragging the weapon at this point while he hobbled closer to his goal. He remembered his own words answering the Daedric Prince.


    “Yes, my reward is indeed down there.”


    His own menace had surprised him, but he did not think the Daedric Prince even registered what he intended to do. He leaned against Allie’s soft neck and let out a sigh. He did not want to remember anymore. He just wanted to sleep. He mounted the horse with great difficulty, and squeezed her flank. “Koor,” He whispered softly.


    The dog whined, as the trio rode slowly away from the joyous Markarth, the fireworks still thundering; their colors shining bright in the sky.


    The Hall of the Vigilant was so terribly far away now.



    His memories of the night refused to leave him as he rode on, the chill night air rustling over the fur of his cloak.  He now let them come, as waves hit upon the sand.


    Waves upon the sand… his memories. Never ceasing.


    There was no point in suppressing them any further as he stared straight ahead, his eyes focused on the worn, cobblestone road. He did not usually travel at night, and he was feeling the effects of the cold now too, his lids very heavy.


    There was a tunnel that led out of the cellar. Freshly dug, by ancient worshipers, he knew not, nor did he care. He had followed the tunnel and there it was in front of him. Not a shrine, but an altar. An altar to the Daedric Prince, Molag Bal, with a rusty mace on top. He approached the altar and stepped in it without fear. Its spikes suddenly closed around him, and he still felt no fear. Only his own rage building, his knuckles white as he grasped Tyranus’ sword. His face flushed with anger for a wasted life. The Lord of Domination spoke again. Hmph, thought Äelberon, he did not dominate over this Old Mer...


    "Fool! Did you think Molag Bal, the Lord of Domination, would so easily reward you? What do you see from that little cage? Speak."


    “It is an altar...” Äelberon had replied, his voice like ice.  Molag Bal was the fool…


    "Yes. It's an altar. Men would come and sacrifice the wretched in my name. The weak would be punished by the strong. But a Daedric Lord has his enemies, and my rival Boethiah had her priest desecrate the altar. Until you came."


    "Yes, until I came." Was the Elf's cold echo of the Daedric Prince’s words. “No more will the Priest of Boethiah desecrate your altar. Let me go, Molag Bal. I do not wish your reward.”


    He had spoken calmly, his eyes blazing brightly as he felt the divine light of Auri-El wash upon him. The spikes of the trap released and the Daedric Prince spoke again, pleased with himself, for he truly thought he had fooled this Priest of the King of the Divines.


    "Fine. I offered you a reward. You'll get the freedom your kind enjoys so much. But Boethiah's priest is imprisoned as well. But not by me. He is hurt. Suffering. Save him. Let him perform his rites one more time. And when he does, I will be waiting for him."


    “Then you will wait an eternity!” Äelberon had suddenly cried. His face contorting in rage, as he managed to raise the Greatsword high into the air. The very force of his next words surprised him. “For I am the Eagle of Auri-El, Slayer of your wretched child, Bet, and I destroy this altar in my Holy Father’s name!”


    Äelberon then brought down Tyranus’ greatsword with such force that the altar split in two, its power on this plane vanished...



    Äelberon awoke feeling a wet, warm tongue on his face and soft whining. What was the damn dog doing on the horse? He pushed the dog’s snout away from his face and moaned. “Koor?” He murmured feebly, his eyes fluttering open.


    He saw the night sky, clear and bright and... damn, he did not have to turn his head upwards. Damn. He was upon the ground. He must have fallen asleep and then fallen off the saddle, though his ankle was caught in the saddle’s straps. Äelberon propped himself wearily upon his arm and with effort rose just enough to dislodge his ankle and then fell back upon the road with a groan, resting for a few moments.


    The faint sounds of wolves brought him back to his senses and he sat up again, his eyes scanning the darkness for their familiar shapes. Nothing. Xarxes' arse, where the Oblivion was he? Not on the main road, that was for sure. He removed his pack and rummaged through it, bringing out the map. He must have been asleep for a while.  He scanned the map, he was definitely still in the Reach, though he could tell by the change in vegetation, that he was close to the tundras of Whiterun Hold.  Where was the main road?


    He led Allie slowly for a while, while Koor followed closely, searching. He had been heading East, towards Fort Sungard. That was where the road split between The Reach, Falkreath, and Whiterun. He looked up, and there it was, the Fort. He was not lost, but he knew his body, he could go no further tonight. His eyes found the horizon and searched again for any signs of danger, but saw nothing. He chuckled to himself. Even the beasts had better sense than he did and knew to sleep.


    You are crazy, Äelberon of Dusk.


    The ground was relatively level before him and it would be fine for a campfire and a tent. He removed firewood from Allie’s saddle and set about making a campfire, using flint struck against the jagged rocks to light the scrubby, dried grasses he had gathered.


    Fur or Leather tent? He scanned the sky, his eyes narrow, it did not look like rain, and the air felt dry and there was an icy breeze. Fur. He was quite cold and his fingers numbed a bit while he pitched the tent. He grabbed extra pelts from the saddle and then stooped down to crawl into his tent and lay down, gathering the pelts about his chilled body. He was not hungry. He had had little appetite since his lunch with Tyranus and he had not drunk. He would allow himself tonight to rest. He lay down with his eyes open, and finally felt his heart steady itself. He let out a sigh and managed a smile as he heard Koor snort, and felt his hot breath against his face. He turned to face his dog.


    “Did you know, my dear boy,” He started, his voice no more than a whisper as he stroked the animal’s fur. “Did you know, that I openly engaged in a battle of wills with a Daedric Prince today?”


    Koor tilted his head to one side and let out a soft howl.


    “He and I did hard battle for the soul of a good man.”


    He had the dog’s rapt attention.


    “And guess what?”


    The dog leaned in, listening, his ears twitching in anticipation of his Master’s words.


    “This Old Mer won. And... and..."


    His red-orange eyes widened a bit, and Koor licked his nose, making him chuckle.


    "In the process, I think may have angered Boethiah too. Two Princes for the price of one. Ha!"


    He felt his lids grow heavy with sleep and he began to nod off. "The more Daedric Princes angry with me, the better, boy... means I am doing my job… my job… my duty... Aye, the little moments, Tyranus… the little moments… we live for them… we love for them..."


    He saw her in his mind, the little moments. So beautiful. That she appeared again was no surprise. She dwelt in his thoughts. "I live for these little moments... Ebonnayne... aure...” He murmured as sleep finally overtook the Old, battle-scarred Knight, his dog by his side, keeping him warm. 

    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XVIII    Chapter XX


12 Comments   |   SpottedFawn and 1 other like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  May 5, 2017
    This chapter should've been Rated R just for the emotional anguish. T_T Tyranus nooo. You did a beautiful job of getting us attached to him in a (relatively) short amount of time, which made his death all the more painful. I was REALLY hoping Albee would ...  more
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 22, 2015
    Ah, just noticed I finally get to read the Vampire Symposium chapters.  I've been curious about this since I started reading your blog.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 22, 2015
    Thanks, Rhoth. I was never satisfied with this quest, well, of course, unless I was playing a baddie. If you're good, the inclination is to help and there isn't a satisfactory in game outcome, so I made one. LOL Tyranus was actually a pretty epic boss in ...  more
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 22, 2015
    Poor Tyranus. Great writing in bringing out the battle of wills and Aelberon's anguish.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 4, 2015
    Aelberon was hoping for that too, but yeah, pesky Thalmor. 
    It's not the last one he'll perform in Skyrim. 
    Tyranus had epic armor in Requiem and was a very tough boss to beat, so I decided to give him a proper send off. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 4, 2015
    I was hoping Calcelmo and Alberon would get a chance to catch up on old times, stupid Thalmor ruin everything.
    Dogs can definitely make things awkward, at least Koor didn't lick them or use that cold dog nose The scene does give the ending more imp...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  June 16, 2015
    Molag Bal is very evil. There is a slight homage to horror movies in this entry. Poor Tyranus. He gives you this stunning armor set in Requiem when he dies and what knight-paladin wouldn't stop to help a Vigilant of Stendarr asking for assistance. The que...  more
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  June 16, 2015
    Aw man. :( I knew Tyranus would die, but still. Molag Bal is a real jerk, huh?
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  June 16, 2015
    Uh oh. *sees the warning* Should I... read it? D:
    OK I'm going to read it.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  June 15, 2015
    It ran nice and smooth. Koor is a good distraction and adds that extra to the story. The final scene was potent. You could really feel the emotions between them.
    Fang is a by character. I bring him in every so often when there's a moment for him. Th...  more