Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XX


    Bruma, Cyrodiil, 185 4E, 5th of First Seed


    Äelberon studied the face of the old Orc that stood next to him at the double doors of a quaint stone and wood home with a tall tree in the front yard. Shoots of lavender and milk thistle were just beginning to peek from the snow-covered ground.  All three were shivering from the cold of the biting snow squall, but he had wanted to show them, Bumph and Urag, but especially her. The Orc was wrapped in heavy furs, her great battle axe slung over her shoulder. Her lined faced was long and her watery eyes were misty with suppressed tears and he could detect the faintest of grouchy quivers from her under-slung lip. He put his powerful arm around her shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze.


    “Bumph,” Äelberon said softly to the old Orc as he leaned his head close to hers. “I will be only three doors north of the Tap and Tack.” He gave her shoulder another squeeze as Urag gro-Shub looked on. “And I am even closer to the Fighter’s Guild, so your joints will suffer less from the cold. I am also across the street from the Bruma branch of the Synod, so it is easier for Urag when he visits from Skyrim. I considered this all very carefully when I made my decision.”


    It was Lyra Rosenitia’s old house, thought Bumph. When the Imperial died, it went up for sale and passed through several hands over the next two centuries. He had wanted a house, never before owning one. She should be happy about it, for it meant that Ronnie felt safe. That he no longer needed to run from the damn Thalmor. It meant that he would stand his ground and stay. But it was the Tap and Tack; he was leaving it behind. That tiny room. A bitter cold, tiny room up the stairs with one small window letting sunshine in. A room stuffed with books, scrolls, papers, tankards of tea, and apple cores. Stuffed with memories. She should be happy for Ronnie, but he was leaving it and she didn’t know what to think. She was such a creature of habit and to not make the daily trek from the Fighter’s Guild to the Tap and Tack was a strange prospect for her. She faced the double doors again and sighed. It was so big.


    “Only three doors down, Bumph.” He repeated, giving Urag a look. The Orc Mage shrugged his shoulders. He wasn’t sure why Bumph was being like this except maybe because she was old and like all old Mer, she didn’t deal well with change. It was Ronnie’s birthday in ten days. If he wanted a house and finally had the coin for one, why not? Granted, he had wanted Ronnie to move to Skyrim, but this was a good compromise. He, Faralda, and Nelecar frequently made trips to Cyrodiil and Bruma was always their first stop. That Ronnie was even considering a home! It meant that he was finally comfortable, that he no longer felt like he had to run.  


    “Besides,” Continued Äelberon with a sly grin. “You really want me looking at that hideous Thalmor statue for the rest of my days?”


    Urag grinned, his tusks protruding. The Thalmor had torn it down, the chapel of Talos and in its stead was being built a stone park and at the center of it, a statue of Titus Mede II shaking the hands of a Thalmor Justiciar. The Nords of the city were in an uproar and many simply up and left for Skyrim after the Great War. Those that remained frequently grumbled about the construction and refused to work on it, forcing the Empire to send Imperial workers to the city. Bruma was beginning to lose its distinctively Nord identity.  Even Ronnie had considered leaving at one point, for the Great War had been difficult for him. Watching as the Aldmeri Dominion laid waste to a province that adopted him when Summerset Isles sent him away, surviving his own brutal encounter with the Thalmor, but he could not leave Bumph behind.  She was too old to move now. Too set in her ways and Urag knew that Äelberon felt indebted to her.


    Bumph was the first person Äelberon met after emerging from the Jerrals after a year or so of hiding. He had saved her life while she was on a bounty to kill a troll. She didn't like that he did that at first, she was an Orc, but she came to appreciate the crusty, battle-scarred Altmer over the years.  He could throw insults and take blows as well as they could, so unlike others of his race. The ones Urag could just look at and watch them wilt, their thin chests collapsing under his stare.


    Ronnie was different. He could have been an Orc and from an Orc, that was the greatest compliment one could give. Urag smiled a snarly smile, he could hear that story again, Faralda and Enthir hadn’t heard it yet and it was exciting, especially the way those two told it. Ronnie would meet the little Bosmer today too. Ha! That poor thing would wet himself.  


    Both Mer chuckled when they saw the old Orc finally crack a smile, her chipped, yellowing tusks now on full display. “Nah, I don’t want that. I guess this house is alright. It’s big.” Bumph observed, her voice a conceding grumble, rubbing her hands together to ward off the cold.


    “Aye, I barely fit in the Tap and Tack and I think Odfel was beginning to worry that my things would spill out my room and down the stairs.” Äelberon vigorously rubbed Bumph’s arm. “Bah! But you are cold, old friend.” He glanced at the sky, blinking away snowflakes. “We should get out of this squall. I need to meet with the owner anyway and sign the contract. At the Tap and Tack.” He looked at Urag, his eyebrows raised in question, making the lines on his forehead more prominent. “You like the house, Urag?” Äelberon asked.


    The Orc Mage nodded as he drew his fur cloak about his shoulders. The snow was becoming heavier. “It’s a fine house, bigger than I expected. Ha! Give you a few more years and your library will be almost as large as Winterhold’s. Almost...” Urag replied, watching the Altmer chuckle and nod in agreement.


    Had he given up the search, Urag thought. It wasn’t in his nature to, but that was the other thing purchasing a house represented and Urag wasn’t stupid. Since the Great War, Ronnie was less focused on that son of a bitch vampire who murdered his parents, slaughtered his city and more focused on helping the people of Cyrodiil recover.  Urag didn’t blame him. Eighty-five years on the hunt yielded nothing, save near misses and frustration. Altmer were terrible with grudges, but Urag knew Äelberon was stumped. He wanted to find the clan, and he had talked to everyone, sent inquiries, visited the foremost experts on vampires in several provinces, and Malacath only knew how many vampires he slew in his search for information. But it led nowhere. It didn’t help that the bastard was Thalmor.


    “Aye, it is time I put some roots down.” Äelberon agreed. He had never owned a home. His ancestral home belonged to his parents. It was to be passed on to him upon their deaths, but that never happened. Other than that, he never knew any permanent home. Barracks, quarters, inns, and tents became where he rested his head as he wandered the provinces, especially since his exile. He liked Bruma and he wanted to stay. There was time later, once he was settled, to visit Urag in Skyrim. Bumph’s shivering broke Äelberon’s train of thought. “Come on, Old Bitch, you are cold. Some warm mead at the Tap and Tack will help. My treat for making you sulk. You coming with us, Urag?”


    “Aye, better to wait for my colleagues where it’s warm. It’s not like they don’t know where to find us by now. I’m hungry anyway. You buying?”


    Äelberon laughed, his laugh lines crinkling. He was the only Altmer Urag ever saw who smiled regularly and laughed. Supposedly it was a Dusken thing. “On a demon hunter’s salary?” Äelberon quipped.


    “Better than a Librarian’s.” Retorted Urag.


    “Ha! Paying you that little in Winterhold, eh? Dunmeri are cheap. Aye, my treat it is then.” Äelberon beamed. “Because… we celebrate today friends.  An early birthday.”



    Odfel grinned broadly as he set three large tankards of mead and one tankard of boiling water heavily upon the loudest table in the Tap and Tack. Two Orcs, a stuffy-looking Imperial straight from the Imperial city, and… the Altmer.  It was a meeting to finalize the purchase of a home, but it had quickly turned into an impromptu birthday party for the Altmer. The deed, a document of fine parchment and ornate lettering, rested upon the table where the quartet were enjoying a meal of roasted venison and stewed tomatoes. The deed was not signed yet, but next to it lay a quill and ink and a large bag of septims. They were going to sign after the cake was brought in. Dessert. Baked by Odfel’s wife. He watched the Imperial wipe the sweat from his balding head as he listened to the tale. It was one of Odfel’s favorites and he leaned against the counter casually to listen as well, rubbing his brown beard. His green eyes merry.  Bumph and Äelberon were excellent story-tellers and by now, the telling of the tale was a routine for them, but the Imperial didn’t know that, Odlfel thought with a chuckle.


    “A troll?” Questioned Valgus, as the Imperial took another sip of mead, his face ruddy from too much alcohol. He was sharing a table with a most unlikely trio. Two ancient Orcs and an Altmer. The youngster of the group at two hundred and twenty-seven. He had journeyed from the Imperial city when his grandfather passed away, leaving him the house. None of his friends in the Imperial city were interested in relocating to Bruma, so when the Elf expressed an interest in the home, Valgus lept at the chance to sell. He had another option, but he would have to travel all the way to Chorrol to finalize it. Better to sell the place to someone local. Well, the Elf wasn’t local, but who the Oblivion cared? 


    “Biggest troll you ever saw!” Elaborated the Orc woman.


    An old, lined creature wearing heavy furs, with fierce eyes and silver hair. With surprising speed for her age, she stood from the table and drew from her back an intimidating battle axe. Holding it as if she were about to go into battle.


    “Fine, Bumph.” Joked the Altmer nonchalantly as he began to steep alkanet tea. He did not drink like they did, thought Valgus. A priest. Äelberon… that was his name. “We all know you can still wield the thing…”


    The old Orc shot Äelberon an annoyed look. “You know where I can shove this thing…” She threatened, making the Altmer laugh.


    “I would like to see you try.” The Altmer yawned.


    The battle axe went up, poised to strike. The Altmer didn't budge. She made to swing, and Valgus grew alarmed. Valgus turned to the only sane person at the table, the Orc Mage from Winterhold, his eyes growing wide. “Aren’t you going to do something?” Questioned Valgus. “They’ll kill each other.”


    Urag let out a hearty laugh, which was soon echoed by the rest of the inn. Urag gave him a pat on the shoulder, nearly spilling the Imperial’s mead in the process. “Ah, they’re just fooling with each other.  What?” Urag questioned, leaning in closer to Valgus’ face, loving the fact that the Imperial recoiled. Bah! Imperials, so easily intimidated. That’s why he and Bumph liked Ronnie. Old Mer didn’t take shit from anyone. If he had pulled the same move on Ronnie, the Altmer would have grabbed his cheeks and given a good squeeze like Urag was a little baby, making everyone laugh. “Never seen Orcs and High Elves get on?”


    “Aren’t your races supposed to hate each other? I mean, Malacath and Trinimac and all that.”


    Bumph and Äelberon paused from their argument and regarded the Imperial. Äelberon was about to open his mouth to answer when the door flung wide open, letting in a jarring beam of daylight and a flurry of snow and wind into the cozy tavern.  Two tall and slender fur-covered figures entered, one bearing a very large wooden crate. The other stood at the door letting the one bearing the crate pass. Snow continued blow into the tavern and Faralda jumped when the entire tavern suddenly cried.


    “Close the door!”


    It did not help that Bumph still wielded her battle axe and was facing the poor She-Elf while she yelled, her voice louder than the others.


    “Sorry,” Nelecar volunteered. “She’s new. Faralda, close the door, quickly. The light...”


    Faralda, with effort, pushed the door closed, shutting the inn again in the dim light of candle and burning hearth. Bumph relaxed her hold on her battle axe and was gently lowered to her seat by a well-placed silver gauntleted hand upon her shoulder and a knowing smile.


    Nelecar frowned as he and Faralda closed in upon their destination. The loud table in the corner that smelled of venison, tomatoes, mead, and alkanet flowers. He saw the parchment upon it, an unsigned deed, and his heart sank for Ronnie. There would be no home for the Old Mer today.


    All four diners glanced up at the two travel-weary Elves that approached their table.


    “The books?” Barked Urag. Story time be damned, the Imperial was going to have to wait for Bumph and Ronnie to finish their tale. Books always took precedence.


    “The books are acquired and in storage in at the Synod building.” Replied Faralda with a professional tone.


    “Were you able to obtain all the copies from the dealer in Alinor?” Urag asked. Not many were allowed into Alinor now, especially since the Great War, but Urag had steered Arch-Mage Aren well, advising him to hire both Faralda and Nelecar, for the two Altmer enjoyed relatively good standing within the Aldmeri Dominion and were therefore allowed to travel within the province. They could get him the prized Altmeri volumes which were so scarce in the mainland now. Not the Thalmor garbage, but the pure Altmeri texts. They still did not beat his “Book Savior”, though. Ronnie could acquire rare books from the most obscure places.


    “Yes.” Nelecar nodded.


    They both watched as the Orc Mage clapped his hands together and grinned. “Praise be to Malacath. Those will make a fine addition to the College’s Library.” Urag then let out a belch and took another sip of mead. “Where the Oblivion is the little Bosmer, he get lost? Or…” The Orc laughed, “He in the crate?” Urag was referring to Enthir, his third suggestion to Arch-Mage Aren. Another in relatively good standing with the Aldmeri Dominion. While he didn’t deal specifically in books, he was able to acquire some pretty rare items and ingredients.


    “He had business in Anvil. He’ll catch up with us later.” Nelecar replied.


    “Then what’s in the crate?” Urag asked, gesturing to the crate with his tankard.


    Nelecar cleared his throat and glanced at Faralda. She nodded, but her face betrayed worry. It was plain she was not used to this sort of thing and the entire incident at Alinor had left her very confused. It was common with younglings her age to not know the intrigue.


    It happened so fast. The three of them had just finished the deal and were loading the acquired tomes into their carriage for transport to Alinor’s docks. They were ready to leave when another carriage pulled up beside theirs. A great gilded carriage bearing the standard of Alinor’s most ancient house. Stormwatch. Not Adorin, but Stormwatch and Nelecar knew. All three of them froze speechless when the carriage door opened and a figure shrouded in a cloak of darkest indigo with a slender, light gold hand beckoned Nelecar to step inside, her hair just visible. Like spun gold. He was back within an hour, bearing this very crate and a sealed letter. From her…


    To only be opened by him.


    Nelecar cleared his throat again and jumped when Urag spoke again. Damn Orc.


    “Well?” Urag insisted. “Another book?”


    “This package is for R—Äelberon.” Nelecar almost blew it. Damn names. The older Altmer looked up from his alkanet tea, his forehead wrinkling slightly in surprise. He exchanged puzzled glances with Bumph and Urag and then his gaze fell upon Nelecar.


    “For me?” He asked.


    Nelecar nodded. It was only for his eyes... “Yes. For you.”


    Äelberon then stood at Nelecar’s words and took the package from the conjurer, who had placed the sealed letter on top. “Well! An early birthday present it seems. Ha! Urag, you old codger.” He grinned as he set the package upon the counter of the Tap and Tack with a heavy thud. ‘Twas heavy, he noted as he gestured to Odfel to bring him an iron bar used to open crates. He set the letter down gently next to it, not taking the time, in his excitement, to notice the seal.


    Urag shook his head. “I didn’t buy you anything. I’m cheap, remember? Librarian’s salary.”


    Äelberon furrowed his brow in thought and then grinned slyly as he began to work the lid of the crate with the bar. “Bumph, you buy me a present?” He asked, his tone merry, his laugh lines crinkling. “Scamp’s Blood, by the weight, a matching battle axe?”


    The table chuckled, save Nelecar and Bumph. The old Orc frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. “I didn’t buy you anything yet. Birthday’s not for ten days and ‘sides, I wouldn’t buy you a battle axe. I wield the battle axes in this outfit. You wield the bow.” She was lying, she had bought him something, but she wasn’t going to tell him yet. It wasn’t his damn birthday. That was on the fifteen. She had it made just for him, a great cloak of snow fox fur and light grey linen. Reversible, the thick fur to protect from the snow. The linen to ward off the rain. Fastened with a silver chain to match his armor. It was expensive, but she didn’t care. He better like it, or she was going to shove her battle axe up his fat arse!


    “Well, the package is far too heavy for a bow, and I have one already.” He used his upper body strength to lift the crate lid. “Nelecar, Faralda? Odfel?” He asked, glancing up as he pulled the crate lid open and began to shift the packing straw to expose the package’s contents.  Their blank stares puzzled him. Who? “Oh confounded! Either you have forgotten my birthday, or you are all pulling my chain.” He grinned as he faced them and then turned back to the package to remove more packing straw.

    “I know it was one of you, admit it al—“


    How quickly a face can change. One moment Äelberon’s face was merry, his laugh lines crinkling as he playfully tried to guess who had purchased this early birthday present. His friends then watched as Äelberon’s face, upon seeing the contents of the package, became very strange. Far away and sad, as if he now knew what something fully entailed. The face then darkened, the great brows furrowing. Serious. Everybody was silent for a few moments, until Valgus cleared his throat.


    Valgus was either very confused or very drunk. He didn’t quite know which. Probably both, he thought as he scratched his head. First, they were enjoying a meal to celebrate Äelberon signing the deed. Then, it became a birthday party with more drink and they started a story of trolls. Two High Elves then barge in, covered in fur cloaks and start talking books to the Orc Mage. And now? A package. It was all well and good, but he needed to get back to his room at the Jerral View with the signed contract soon. He wanted to head back to the Imperial city in the morning and the septims were right there on the damn table. “Uh… Äelberon?” Asked Valgus. “The deed?”


    Nothing from the old Altmer. Nothing. He was just staring at the contents of the package. Still so serious. Valgus lifted the deed from the table and gestured to it. “Master Äelberon? The deed? Are you going to sign?”


    Still nothing. Valgus was growing impatient and raised his voice. “Friend, hello? For the house—“


    “There will be no signing.” Äelberon then said, his voice hollow, his head still bent over the package, his face suddenly so worn. Burdened with the weight of his years. “I am sorry for the inconvenience to you.”


    His features softened slightly as he remembered himself and he blinked slowly before speaking to the Imperial again, his tone now apologetic, tinged with regret. “Please, gentle sir. Take 500 septims from the coin purse, if you wish, for your trouble and expense. You have my sincerest apologies…”


    With those words, the old Altmer’s red-orange eyes finally fell upon the letter, finally regarding its golden seal.


    A golden seal with indigo wax.  




    The cry he made when he saw it was an odd cry. Strangled, almost as a gasp. A tragic cry and Nelecar’s heart broke for his dear friend. Äelberon now knew who delivered the package. Such terrible risk. Such a terrible risk. But Nelecar knew he would not refuse, for he knew the grand Mer that stood before him. He knew what he stood for. The Honor. Almost reverently, Äelberon then took the letter and placed it carefully inside the opened package, his gauntleted hand lingering over the seal, touching it ever so gently, an action of great love, before he lifted his hand again.


    Urag could see his friend’s eyes mist over as he picked up the package in his great arms and slowly walked towards the rickety wooden staircase that led to his tiny room, his back straight and his shoulders square, as if resigned to whatever fate was revealed in that package. Ignoring the now loud and angry protests from Valgus.


    “You can’t just back out on a deed.” Valgus fumed, his ruddy nose beading with sweat and too much alcohol. “You promised! What kind of Knight-Paladin are you that you don’t honor your promises?” He snapped, shaking the deed vigorously in the air.


    A battle axe swinging inches from his face brought him back to reality and Valgus cringed in his chair, whimpering as he faced the now angry She-Orc. “When you don’t know something, it’s best to just shut up.” She growled, battle axe ready. “Unless you need my help?” She continued her threat.


    Valgus raised his hands in a gesture of submission. “No,” He stammered, “I don’t need help.”


    Urag grabbed Äelberon’s coin purse and doled out 500 septims. He knew what would shut up the Imperial. Coin. Ronnie never cared for coin. Other things drove him. “Take your deed and leave, Imperial.” Urag snarled as he set the money upon the table.


    He then took out 70 more from his own coin purse and left them for Odfel with a terse nod to cover the meal. Odfel nodded back sympathetically and resumed cleaning the countertop. They all knew the old Altmer well enough. Something was very wrong. Urag’s eyes found the Imperial’s flustered gaze again.


    “But he said he would buy!” The Imperial whined while he picked up the septims Urag left.


    Bumph frowned and tightened her hold on her battle axe. Urag gestured for her to stand down with a wave of his hand as they heard the door shut to that tiny room upstairs. The She-Orc reluctantly sheathed her great weapon and sat heavily upon her chair, resting her head grumpily on her fists, her elbows on the table. Nelecar gestured for Faralda to sit next to the old Orc and Odfel gestured from the counter, giving Nelecar leave to drag a chair from one of the other tables so that he could sit down as Urag addressed the Imperial.


    Nelecar dismissed Odfel with a friendly nod. No, he was going to have to move soon enough. He was going to have to go up those steps and speak to Ronnie. He wasn’t looking forward to it. Faralda took her place next to Bumph and removed her cloak, hanging it over her chair.


    “Well, he ain’t buying now.” Urag replied. “His reasons? His own and he doesn’t need to justify them to you. As for his honor, he has offered generous recompense, so don’t you dare ever question it. Or, if you think her battle axe is bad, wait ‘til you experience my angry atronachs. I’ll have them tear you apart.”


    Valgus frowned at the indignity and stood up. He was finished with this Bruma rabble. Damn it, he’d have to journey all the way to Chorrol now. “Well, if the Knight is inclined to change his mind—“


    “He won’t change it.” Nelecar’s words were cryptic and generated sharp glances from both Urag and Bumph.


    Urag’s eyes narrowed, what did the conjurer know? The Imperial stuck out his jaw slightly in defiance, and took a final sip of mead. He then donned his timber wolf cloak, adorned with a heavy gold chain and faced the group at the inn.


    “Well,” He repeated, his tone haughty. “If the Knight is inclined to change his mind, I can be found at the Jerral View.” He nodded at Odfel. “Thank you for your hospitality, my compliments on the venison.”


    Another blinding burst of daylight cutting into the darkness of the inn and a quick flurry of snow signaled the exit of the Imperial Valgus. Urag turned to Nelecar and crossed his arms over his chest, gesturing with his head for the Altmer conjurer to sit down.


    “No, I need to speak to him.” Nelecar declined, backing towards the counter. Towards the stairs.


    “Not before you speak to me first. To us.” Urag countered.


    Nelecar glanced at all of them and shifted uncomfortably. They meant well, but he needed to get upstairs. He needed to fulfill his mission.


    “This does not concern you.” Replied Nelecar, changing his tone. He was going to play the superior Altmer card and hope it intimidated. Damn, he cursed when he saw the unphased faces of the two Orcs, the Nord publican, and Faralda. He wasn’t nearly as good at it as Ronnie was.


    “Like Oblivion it doesn’t.” Shot back Urag, his anger growing. “We’re his friends. You’re his friend too and you watched his face as he opened that package. That face… wasn’t normal. It wasn’t his face.” Urag gro-Shub walked towards Nelecar and thumped a green finger upon the Altmer’ slender chest. Urag had a strong finger, and Nelecar’s mantled college robes did little to protect his chest.  “Now… what was in that package, Nelecar?” Urag asked, his tone menacing.


    Nelecar swallowed, he hated those tusks. Savos Aren may be Arch-Mage, but Urag gro-Shub was the one everyone in the College feared. He sighed and looked away from Urag, his tone hushed as he spoke his next words. “A suit of armor. He is needed.”


    “Needed?” Urag shrugged, “needed for what?”


    Nelecar bent his head as his hand rested upon the countertop. He had one more card to play. Their interference could cost Ronnie his very life! “You value his life?” The Altmer suddenly asked.


    “You gone in the head?” Urag thundered, “Of course we do!” Urag gestured to Faralda, Odfel, and finally to Bumph, who was looking up expectantly. “We all do, he is our friend.”


    “I believe you, friend. I believe all of you.” Nelecar reassured. “But if you truly value his life, you won’t press me with any more questions, and allow me to do my job. The job that with the luck of Auri-El will bring him back to us. Alive.  They will come for him again and he could not bear it if any of you were harmed because you knew too much.  Know only this, that by donning that armor, he puts himself at terrible risk. Because no one in this inn loves his own people more than he does. No one…”


    Nelecar’s voice choked at his last words. Aye, Äelberon had already proven this once before. In a battlefield under Crystal-Like-Law. He knew, he was there. He quickly rushed up the wooden steps, leaving the two Orcs, Odfel, and Faralda dumbfounded.



    “She is well?”


    It was all he could think on, Nelecar thought, as he heard the question, spoken with a voice that bordered on frail. The weakest he had ever heard Ronnie sound. Barely a whisper. Was she well? Did the Old Knight ever think on himself? Did he ever think on what they were asking him to do when they sent him his armor? What they were asking him to risk?


    Äelberon turned to face Nelecar who had just entered the tiny room as he asked his question. It was cramped and dark, save a small beam of light from the snow-blocked window above his bed and a single lit candle upon the weathered, wooden desk. An ornately carved smoking pipe rested next to the candle, its long stem elegant, done in the style of the Khajiit pipes.  His room. It was a sea of scrolls, tomes, paper, and ink. He was standing, his gauntleted hand resting upon the back of the wooden chair that barely accommodated his great size when he would sit upon it. The package was upon the bed. The black cuirass partially removed. The visored helm, designed to cover his scarred face, lay upon a neatly folded deep purple velvet cloak with apple-green satin lining.  The bold colors of House Larethian. 


    The house Ronnie served for nearly one hundred years.


    The letter, upon his desk was, as of yet, unopened, for he knew what opening the letter would mean. Nelecar also knew his friend, he was reluctant to break a seal he had not seen in eighty-seven years. Especially since it belonged to her. As if breaking the seal would somehow damage her. They were rational Mer and knew this would not happen, but Nelecar still understood.


    “Aye, Ronnie, she is well.” Nelecar’s own eyes misted when he saw the Old Knight turn away from him and let out the smallest of sobs, a single tear falling from his scarred cheek. Relief that she still lived.


    “And Houses Adorin and Larethian? Live they still?” The Knight-Paladin asked, now composed, but his voice still betrayed worry.


    “You need to open the letter, Ronnie.”


    “And Summerset, what of my beloved Blessed Isles?” he continued to ask, his tone darkening at his next words, “I shall never call them Alinor. Never. Ne... you have been there, tell me, please.”


    “Open the letter, Ronnie.”


    “I cannot… my heart cannot bear the knowledge it brings.”


    “You must.” Nelecar insisted.


    Äelberon then cleared his throat and addressed the conjurer, his tone now resigned, though he still faced the unopened letter as he spoke. “I know what the armor means, Lecar. I know what it represents. That I am needed again. I had sworn to them. Sworn to them as I boarded a ship to Anvil all those years ago.  That if they ever needed me, they need only send me my armor. I repay my debts, Lecar…”


    “I know you do, friend.”


    “I am needed again…” Äelberon bent his head in sorrow, letting the implications sink in. “I wish it were not so. Then I would know they are truly safe. To be needed means that they are not and I can lose still more.” He faced Nelecar and the conjurer had to suppress his own tears when he saw his old friend’s face. Pained, it was so very pained. The wrath Ronnie would bring on himself. They would hunt him forever. “I have lost so much already.”


    “Open the letter, Ronnie.”


    “Ah… “ he gasped. His voice was brittle and bitter, no more than a gasp, Nelecar noticed. The grief so keen. “The letter…” The Old Knight repeated. Äelberon’s hand moved from the back of the chair and delicately picked up the letter. With reluctance, as he held the letter, he slipped his other thumb under the edge of the paper and slid, breaking the golden seal with a single swipe.  He didn’t even read at first, he only noted the hand that wrote the letter, tracing it slightly with his finger. Anwe’s hand, and he smiled faintly, seeing the slight blurring in the ends of the letters where she did not pick up the quill quite fast enough, leaving the ink to bleed a bit, running into the fibres of the paper. It was indeed her hand.


    He had sent her several letters in his Exile, finding very ingenious ways to send them so that they avoided the hands of the Thalmor. His favorite method was via a constructed circlet.  She always adorned her hair with such things, for it was even longer than his and much praise was given to her golden locks.


    Calianwe Laurenayne... Calianwe of the Golden-hair.


    He made it so that the central stone in the circlet could be removed easily using jeweler’s tongs. He then made the circlet hollow, so he could fit the letter inside. It did not allow him to write much, but it allowed him to write. His last letter was roughly ten years ago. But six sentences in length.


    “Blessings of Auri-El be always upon you, my Dearest Sister of the Order. White-gold Concordat signed and Talos worship banned. Rumbles of protest from the Northern Province could lead to rebellion. Stirs of resistance in Hammerfell. And I again survived the Thalmor’s lash and needles. I endure…  R.”


    So long since his last letter. Gods! What evil prompted her to risk her own life to send his armor?! At first, Äelberon could not bear to look upon the letter, but he chided himself. She needed him and he could not turn her away. Not after what she had done for him and his eyes began to read the lines of text. Committing every word to memory…


    Blessings of Auri-El be always upon you, my Dearest Brother of the Order, my dearest friend…


    I curse this bitter day as I write this letter. The First of First Seed. That I must send you that wretched armor. I remembered your words to us as your boarded the ship to Anvil.


    ‘If I am ever needed, by you, or by my beloved Isles, you need only send me my armor, my badge of office, and I will understand. I will come back. I swear this oath upon Auri-El, the God I serve, that I will come back and do service for the service that you have done unto me on this moonless night. You have given me life where there was only death.’


    My heart broke when you swore that oath, for I knew you would indeed honor it, and my heart breaks again now that I find myself in need. For the risk to you will be so great.


    The Thalmor let no news pass from Alinor (I curse that name, it will forever be Summerset Isles to me) to the Mainland. They guard, they censure, but all is not well in our Blessed Isles. The young grow discontent with Thalmor policy and begin to pick at the Thalmor, like a beast picks at a festering wound. The streets, my Brother, the streets are crowded with students and younglings in protest. Protesting the Thalmor’s infringement upon our rights as Altmer…


    Äelberon looked up from Calianwe’s letter and eyed Nelecar. “There are protests?” He demanded, his face hardening.


    Now that was the intimidating voice that Nelecar could never muster. “Yes, my friend.” Nelecar answered quickly. “We bore witness to it on our trip. Thalmor Justiciars now crawl the streets, searching for dissidents. If you do not have travel papers. If you do not travel with purpose…”


    Äelberon grunted and resumed reading, his silver brows deepening their furrow.


    I cannot lie. Many of the noble houses, in secret, have been financially backing the protesters, allowing them to become better organized. Our reasoning? We tire of the systematic removal of members of the Royal houses. My own husband has survived no less than three attempts on his life and assassins slaughtered the Royal house of Shimmerene. We can prove nothing, of course, but we know. They have not touched me for my bloodlines, nor have they harmed my children, but I fear that I am no longer as secure in my position as I once was.


    My youngest, Mithlas, and many of the children of the noble houses, including Lilithia, Lilandril’s only daughter and a leader among the protesters, received an invitation to attend an event. Scheduled for the 9th of First Seed. A symposium hosted by the Thalmor, in the main Lecture Hall of the Office of Provincial Studies. After sunset. Attendance is mandatory, yet, when we offer to go in their stead, we are denied.


    Oh my dear Brother, that in and of itself does not frighten me, for I am a Priestess of Auri-El and fear little, especially after the Great Anguish. But because I am His Priestess, the subject matter of the symposium greatly concerns me.




    Nelecar watched Äelberon’s features darken, his lips twisting to form an angry scowl and his eyes blazed, catching the dim candlelight. 


    Brother, I know the risk I take in sending your armor, but I know of nowhere else to turn. Lilandril and I have frantically exhausted all of our connections and our children are still in mortal danger. They know not, lest we put fear in their hearts, but they sense our growing distress, especially as the ninth draws near. We cannot enter the symposium, we are not allowed, but a guard? A guard bearing house colors would gain entry as entourage for the young nobles. Our guards are strong, capable warriors, but my darkest fears tell me that it will not be the Thalmor that shed Altmeri blood in that symposium. How the Thalmor can allow such horror to happen, I cannot fathom, especially from ones who saw Daedra spill the blood of our brethren. Especially from ones who saw the evils of Bet. But my instinct tells me that they will indeed do such treachery to their own people, for they have forgotten the wrath of Auri-El.  I know of only one holy warrior who walks the light in such utter darkness.


    The Slayer of Bet.


    It is his skill that I trust with the lives of our children, nay the children of Summerset, the future of our Blessed Isles.


    The years of happiness that you have given me, through your noble sacrifice, have made me a mother first and a Priestess second. I cannot bear the loss of a child. ‘Twould be the death of my husband and me. And thus, dearest Brother of my Order, my heart weeps knowing that even if you succeed and save the lives of our children, that I will be the cause of your continued suffering, for they will come for you again with such a terrible vengeance that I cannot imagine.


    I ask that you find it in that great heart of yours to forgive a mother’s foolish love for her son.


    Forgive me, Ronnie and answer my plea for help. I beg you…


    Your sister, your Anwe, always, 


    Calianwe of the Golden Hair, Daughter of House Stormwatch, Grand Lady of House Adorin.


    “That they would do this…” Äelberon growled to himself, his face flushing with growing rage, as he set the letter down upon the desk, his voice rising in anger. “That they would seek to murder the children of the great houses! There are no bounds for their treachery. They profane our very ancestors!” He grasped the back of his chair again, making Nelecar jump when he saw the wood snap under the pressure of Äelberon’s grip. “Only one creature is capable of such evil… Vingalmo.” He hissed.  


    Nelecar stared at the Old Knight. What was he saying? “Friend? What is it?” Nelecar asked.


    Äelberon looked up and Nelecar immediately looked away. He could not look at those eyes. “Mark my words, Nelecar. That demon is in charge of all of this. He will be there!” His eyes went wide with the realization. “Gods! He will be there!” 


    Äelberon began to quickly amass his supplies, moving with purpose.


    Vingalmo would die.


    “I don’t under—“And then Nelecar stopped. By Auri-El, Ronnie was going to do it. He was going to go back.  Äelberon faced Nelecar, his eyes narrowed in a question.


    “When the Lady Calianwe delivered the package to you. What did she say?”


    Nelecar didn’t intend to hesitate, but his words didn’t come out fast enough for Äelberon. “Speak!” Came the Knight’s thunderous command and Nelecar found the words.


    “She said, as she handed me the package, to deliver the message and serve as your contact. I was to make all the arrangements for your safe passage to Alinor.”


    “Good.” Äelberon nodded and resumed his packing, rummaging noisily through chests and his knapsack for supplies. He would have to travel lightly. Very lightly. Vampires. Vingalmo. He would need silver. Take the crossbow, the scimitar, and the daggers, Old Mer, leave everything else.  He eyed the pipe. He would leave that. He needed to speak with Bumph, have her store some of his valuables at the Fighter’s Guild. The pipe, the shield, and the golden bow. The bow that challenged Bet. And the shield that blocked the demon's axe. That would be it. Everything else could be lost if the Thalmor ransacked this room to search for him afterwards. Afterwards… he would need to leave Bruma for a while. Run again and cover his tracks. Perhaps the Imperial city again or get lost in Bravil or Cheydinhal. He would think on that later, but he could not risk his friends in Bruma. He paused from his musings and stared at Nelecar when he realized that the conjurer was not moving.


    “Well?” Äelberon gestured to the door with a nod, his tone impatient. “Go, procure my travel documents. I swore an oath and will not go against my word. I will go back. And we do not have much time, if I am to arrive by the ninth.”


    “It has already been done.” Nelecar managed, though his mouth, by now, was terribly dry. He had Enthir to thank for that. It had been nice of Enthir to volunteer, but the look on his colleague’s face had been enough for the Bosmer to offer his services. Nelecar discovered that the Bosmer sorcerer had ties to the Thieves Guild and could procure the necessary documents. He was waiting in Anvil. Nelecar’s heart pounded in his chest. Gods! Ronnie was going to go back! He was an exile. It was no longer his problem, but he was still going to go back. “We only need to meet my contact in Anvil.”


    Äelberon softened his gaze at Nelecar’s words. He placed his hand on the Conjurer’s shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Forgive me if I was cross with you. Thank you. You have done unto me a great service.”


    “What? Sending you to your death? That’s what it is, Ronnie. Your death. That isn’t a service.”


    “Nay, friend. You put me in a position where I can finally obtain closure. After all these years, Nelecar. After their deaths. After being exiled. Do you not see? He has asked me to return. Auri-El. Just when I had given up. That is why I was buying the house, Nelecar. I was giving up. Oh Gods! Thank you for your interference. For steering me towards the light again!”


    Nelecar stared at Äelberon in disbelief. “You were going to give up the search? That’s why you were settling in Bruma?”


    The Old Knight nodded and looked away. He almost looked ashamed. “Aye, I had found nothing, Lecar. Nothing in eighty-five years. This is Auri-El’s sign to me that my search is not finished. That I will fulfill my mission of vengeance.  That I will find what I am looking for. That after so long, my parents will know peace. My parents…”


    His voice drifted away.


    “My lenya… that I. That I may learn what was done. They never let me see her… I do know even know what was done with her. She had not turned... custom could still be... I should have sent her when she died... but...” The last word was but a whisper and his great eyes were far away.


    His hand then fell from Nelecar’s shoulder and Äelberon of Dusk resumed his packing. 


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XIX    Chapter XXI



45 Comments   |   SpottedFawn likes this.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 22, 2015
    Vampire symposium is my creation. It just makes sense to me that the Thalmor would give lectures on various topics. It's a very Altmer thing to do. Now where the lecture is held is a real building, but never described. Alinor isn't much described, so some...  more
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 22, 2015
    Been looking forward to this one since I was curious about the Vampire Symposium. Is it your creation or a lore item?

    I liked the byplay with Bumph and the college of Winterhold members. I have a feeling Aelberon will be traveling there event...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 7, 2015
    Yeah, that's what I'm ultimately thinking. I am hovering at somewhere around half-scale with that map too, perhaps a bit more. Otherwise, I think our narratives will suffer. Too much time spent traveling and I don't fast travel because of Requiem, so man,...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 7, 2015
    Dear God, what have I unleashed... Can' wait for Chapter 413
    Great,  now I'll have to deal with this as well. Using Solitude/Dawnstar at 125mi again (which is the same distance from Los Angeles to San Diego) would take a full day sailing or 6 days w...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 7, 2015
    I definitely see your point, Sotek. We don't want either Aela or Sotek dying at sea.
    @Unhelpful, thank you. Your story is very fine, so I'm sure you'll get back on track soon. Chapter II was not a simple chapter for me either, especially since it is...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  September 7, 2015
    I for one will not have Sotek and Aela stuck on a boat for six months traveling from Cyrodiil capital to Seyda neen. That's like 150 200 chapters for me....  
    Chapter 412 See the Sea
    Not much except sea
    Chapter 413 Ahoy
    For a secon...  more
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  September 7, 2015
    I know this won't help you Lissette, but I have to tell you anyway. You have made a beautiful story. I know mucking up dates is an extremely frustrating mistake. Trust me, I just made a lesser case of your mistake: I wrote this huge chapter and then reali...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 7, 2015
    I don't have to put the actual travel, no, that would be very boring but I could possibly make date adjustments and change sentences here and there to allot for the extra time. Not sure how to proceed as I can see both sides of the coin here. My sense of ...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  September 7, 2015
    Great !!! You took the bait now to finish it.
    According to the map Skyrim is around five hundred miles wide. The average walking speed is 5mph. It will take one of our chars a whole 4 days without resting or stopping to cross Skyrim. As a means to a...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 7, 2015
    I understand where you're coming from, but it is still making me a little crazy. I wish I had had that map from the get go. I just see myself going back and reediting a lot of things. My blog is a hot mess right now and I'm disappointed.