Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXI


    7th of First Seed, 185 4E


    They were going to rob him, thought several members of the Redguard crew while they holystoned the deck of their ship from their last encounter with the Thalmor. It wasn’t a Redguard vessel, but it was their vessel. Their girl. The Tava’s Trick.  She was a Thalmor ship before they found her washed up on the shores of Stros M’kai; a hole in her hull, another casualty of the Great War.


    In a bold move, their captain sold their own Redguard vessel and fixed her up, using the extra wood from her life boats to repair the hole. Redguard sailors don’t concern themselves with life boats. That is an Elf thing. No, if a Redguard ship goes down, the crew go with her and may they know the peace of the deep waters together.  She then found new purpose serving the very race she once sailed forth to destroy. And they found new purpose after the Great War left them with an independent but diminished province. Free, and broke, until they became pirates.


    The Redguard pirates exchanged glances as they worked, watching the tall figure that stood facing the moonlit coastline as they knelt, vigorously rubbing the stone upon the wood, scraping away the dust, tar, grime and blood from it. The sheen of sweat from their bare, clay to ebony-colored wiry backs, reflecting the light of the twin moons and the sound of their rhythmic scraping echoing through the boat as it glided over the waves. When the Bosmer, a mage and a fence for the Mercer Frey, cashed in his owed favors and requested that they smuggle the Altmer into Alinor, they were going to rob him. After all, it didn’t matter what state he was in when he arrived in Alinor, so long as he arrived in Alinor. They were not going back on their word, but it was an Altmer and their captain had an axe to grind. They were going to rob him.


    They watched as he silently boarded the vessel and he towered over them. That in and of itself didn’t surprise them, for Altmer were a tall race, but he had a Nord’s bulk and the countenance of a warrior. His back was turned to them now as he watched the coast. He had entered the boat; a quiet, shrouded presence, full of mystery, clad in a black armor that featured both plating and cloth. A strange Elven heavy armor, one that was not worn by the Thalmor. The helm was now held under his left arm and was of strange make, containing a visor that gave him visibility yet seemed to be designed to obscure his face. It was a scarred face and their captain speculated that the Elf was well into his third century, judging by his lines and profound shadows. A face cut of hard lines and angles and the eyes, a shade of flame. Upon his broad shoulders was draped a massive velvet cloak of a deep purple shade and apple-green satin lining. The colors of one of the more eccentric Elven houses they assumed. A silver scimitar and a crossbow were his weapons. The scimitar was an elegant weapon, slightly narrower than the Redguard design, with a rounded emerald forming the pommel. 


    Aye, they were going to rob him, for that weapon and the silver he wielded alone.


    Then the Thalmor vessel came.


    It took the crew by surprise. A war vessel patrolling the crystal seas just as they were making the crucial turn south to head to the Summerset coastline. They flew their black Thalmor flag, donned their Justiciar robes, and waited, as they continued to sail, but one of those damn Elves sported the new magnifier. A relatively new invention that had the capability to see far away things as if they were up close.  That looking glass could see that the robes were too long for their bodies, their dark skin, and the Thalmor vessel attacked. They were out-manned and they had expected him to retreat below decks to wait for his Elven brothers to take their ship. Only the Elf did not retreat; instead the silent figure who now watched the coastline fought harder than any of them did to defend the ship, wielding his crossbow like a demon possessed, and then changing to that scimitar when they dared get too close. When they dared get too close and the Redguards marveled, for he was a true blade master, the blade moving faster than even the great Alik’r warriors could manage.


    He killed his own people earlier today and they were going to rob him.


    But not now.


    They would take him to Alinor without question and allow him to slay whatever demons he had left for the service he did for the Tava’s Trick and her crew. They continued to holystone and he continued to stare.


    At the coast.


    It was the only request he made in his entire time aboard the vessel. The only words he spoke directly to them, his scimitar still dripping with Thalmor blood as he sheathed his weapon and the Thalmor vessel slowly sank into the sea.


    “Please, tell me when you sight the coast…”


    Spoken with that tinge of sadness that many of them knew well from their long stretches away from Hammerfell. The bitterness of exile.  That was not to say he did not speak. He did, just not to them. In the morning and then again at nightfall, he performed a strange ritual where he removed his helmet and either bound or unbound his very long silver-white hair, and they could hear him say words. A prayer of some kind, they garnered. They didn’t ask him. It was unbound now, loose, and some of the holystoning sailors couldn’t help but glance at it as it blew in the breeze. Silver-white, its sheen catching the light of the moons. A contrast against the darkness of his armor.


    He stood there, facing the Auridon coast as they now passed Firsthold, the faceted spire of its lighthouse now visible, the magical flame glowing bluish-white. Äelberon could hear the Redguard pirates holystoning behind him, their rhythmic scraping of the deck matching the crash of the waves upon the boat as it sailed the coastline, the black sails of the ship camouflaged in the night sky. He glanced back slightly towards the pirates. They were going to rob him. He knew that, but his actions against the Thalmor vessel changed that. They would leave him alone. Alone to his thoughts and his eyes slowly found the coastline again.   


    He did not know how to react upon seeing his homeland again, he thought as he closed his eyes, feeling the cool sea breeze upon his face. For the first time in ages the breeze did not bite with cold and he could smell the heaviness of the salt in the air. The salt mixed with the trace scent of orange tree blossoms and he could feel the lump form in his throat. They grew oranges in Summerset and he inhaled the fragrance of the sea air, opening his eyes. How to process the emotions that churned within his very soul. He drank the view with his now welling eyes, surprised at how deeply he felt his heart ache. And it was only Firsthold, a city he did not know nearly as well. He thanked Auri-El for His mercy that the ship did not pass Dusk. He could not bear that now. Not when he had lives to protect.


    Firsthold, the home of the Black Queen, the daughter of Queen Barenziah, and her children who now ruled the city. It was still far, but it did not matter, he was seeing it again and Äelberon’s mind filled in the details that were now blurred by distance. The tall, delicately arched streetlights, thin like a butterfly’s antennae, and lit with a bright, fluorescent flame, the burning of quicksilver, making the city glow with an unnatural brightness in the darkness of night as the light reflected off the arched buildings of glass and crystal. The spires of the Cathedral of Auri-El were the most dominant, many pertans taller than the other spires, as if attempting with their height to reach Aetherius itself. Straining to find Auri-El. Straining to close the sundering.


    Ironic in a city ruled by a family of Daedra worshipers.


    The light generated from the city extended, revealing intense, dense splashes of fuchsia, golden-yellow, and white, waxy orange tree blossoms adorning the city’s many stone-paved walkways, arching bridges, and streets. During the day, Firsthold was almost blindingly bright to look at, the sun’s light casting a hard glare upon the reflective buildings and streets.  It was more restrained at night, but still bright. The most ostentatious of Summerset’s cities and the Altmer of the main Isle looked upon Auridon’s largest city with a certain measure of disdain. To them, the city was considered the tasteless manifestation of the Dunmeri whore who seduced a weak king with promised chats with the dead. Bringing the very King of Worms to aid him.  Äelberon was surprised she was not yet made a target of the Thalmor, but she had an formidable entourage of Dunmeri guards and assassins at her disposal, her mother was Queen Mother and her brother was the King of Morrowind.


    Even the Thalmor had limits. 


    At any rate, a Dunmeri queen was the least of Summerset’s problems right now, the slaughtering of Altmeri youth was an entirely different matter. For Calianwe to summon him from exile and take the risk to have him brought back. The danger must be incredible. If the winds held, they would arrive at a secluded dock near Alinor early on the ninth, giving him time to meet his contact in the city. They would seek him out and he would know them, but Nelecar had been deliberately vague about who they were and he never even saw the Elf that made his passage aboard this pirate ship possible. Once finished, he was to rendezvous with the Tava’s Trick on the evening of the eleventh. Near Dusk. To attempt the journey home. Home, he thought with a slight smirk. There would be no home after this, Äelberon of Dusk concluded as he made his peace with Mundus.


    Home was lost to him long ago…



    9th of First Seed, 185 4E




    It was as a breathless sigh upon his lips.


    Äelberon stood at the edge of the city’s southern gates, imposing walls of dove-grey marble gilded with gold that did not attempt to hide the city’s hundreds of crystal spires and towers, and chuckled to himself. He probably had the same stupid expression on his face that he had when he first arrived from Dusk all those years ago. He was so young then. A country Elf they had called him. Only knowing the wooden spires and boardwalks of his home city. His beloved city by the sea. Alinor was different. That is, until he knew Crystal-Like-Law. Alinor paled in comparison to the great Tower, but the Tower was no more and Alinor was still a grand monument to Altmeri culture and achievement.


    He could just see the rainbow-hued kaleidoscope pattern upon the smooth, grey stone, orange tree-lined streets from beyond the barred moonstone gates that now bore the symbol of the Eagle in the fashion of the Aldmeri Dominion. The reflection of the light from the towers above. It frequently made the Men that ventured beyond the gates vomit and Elves too on occasion, though they were loath to admit something they themselves created could make them vomit. It was the intensity of color and pattern. Like Firsthold, this city was easier on the eyes at night. His old eyes again found the seal upon the gates again and he could feel the frown form on his face. He loved the Eagle, but it had originally been the symbol of Auri-El, a golden sun that graced these southern gates to Alinor. He was certain that that would not be the only change he would find once he entered the city.


    He came from the south, just as he did all those years ago. By his right as a Knight-Paladin of Auri-El, a priest of the holy Order, however, he should have entered via the Northern gates. Those gates were reserved for the highest echelon of Altmeri culture and he was His priest, but no. He would attract far less attention if he entered from the South and he swallowed his pride for the sake of this special mission.


    So he came from the south, along with the many merchants and workers that flooded the city on a daily basis to sell their wares in Alinor’s great market plaza, or to tend to the city’s lavish maintenance, or to pray at the Temple of Auri-El. They were not allowed to dwell within the city unless they were in direct service to a noble house or resident of Alinor and were required to be there. If they did not fulfill one of those conditions, they were expected to leave the city when their business was finished. He saw the mixture of races as was typical of Alinor’s working class.


    Nords were imported as indentured servants, or now, as prisoners of war and heretics of the Empire to do the menial tasks once assigned exclusively to Goblins. Picking fruit, construction, cleaning. Their punishment for worshiping Talos. Their faces bearing the marks of torture and the horror of living in an alien land, and it took great effort to mask his keen pity for them. Did they still cling to their faith? He found himself muttering a prayer that the mead hall of Sovngarde would indeed be all that they hoped for.  


    Dunmer were more of a presence in Firsthold, but they were frequently employed as retainers, scouts, and guards, as were Bosmers. But what surprised him the most as he stood in his place in line to enter was the sheer brute presence of the Khajiit. No, not the Cathay he frequently saw in Cyrodiil, not them, though he could make out several Cathay traders in the crowd, but the giant golden-orange, white and black-striped Senche-raht, their slight manes ruffling in the afternoon breeze.  Thalmor Justiciars used them as armored mounts and he could tell by the worried looks of those that were entering from the south, the Senche-raht were used to maintain the peace, their rumbles and low growls mixing in with the drone of the crowd as they waited to gain entrance into the city and the stern commands of the Justiciars for the citizens to maintain their pace and order as they entered Alinor.


    “Papers.” A nasal voice brought Äelberon back from his thoughts and he turned to the sound. He felt himself instinctively tense up when he saw the black and gold robes of the Thalmor Agent so close to him. He imagined from Nelecar’s description that Alinor would now be crawling with agents. Gods! He was as St. Jiub in a valley full of cliffracers! “Papers.” The Agent repeated, his tone now annoyed when his command was not responded to immediately.


    Äelberon reached into a satchel and pulled out the sealed paperwork, the purple wax bright against the cream of the parchment and handed the documents to the Thalmor agent, who proceeded to rip the seal unceremoniously and read through the documents.  “My apologies, Sir. My travel papers.” Äelberon replied with a nod. Bah! Sir? This was going to be bloody hard for him to swallow.


    I am the Slayer of Bet you young fool, his mind screamed, while he politely waited. I defended a pirate ship against a whole boat-load of your little friends. I have run from you for nearly a century and now I, Äelberon of Dusk, venture into the Eagle’s very nest.


    The Agent grunted and took the papers while Äelberon attempted to strike a balance between looking at the Agent and not looking at him. Scamp’s blood, he hated being so secretive. He studied the Agent’s face as he read through the travel documents. Young, very young, with the smooth, blemish-free golden skin that was prized so highly among his People and the angular features. The long, pointed chin, the high, wide cheekbones, full cruel mouth, long straight nose with flaring nostrils, and the wide-set, slanted almond-shaped eyes in a shade of pale orange-gold. A product of Alinor’s selective breeding no doubt. Bred to be a perfect representative of Alinor. All individuality snuffed out. From the beasts they farmed for food to the very flowers and plants they cultivated to adorn their cities, walkways, and parks. All conforming to a predetermined set of “golden” standards. And if you did not fit those standards... 


    Or, the Agent was a product of Alinor’s many face sculptors, Äelberon thought as he forced his laugh lines not to crinkle. If you were not born fitting those “golden” standards, you could make yourself fit. Aye, he had the faint marks underneath the chin. The nose too straight and overly chiseled. This Agent was no stranger to the face sculptor’s molding magicks, or their knives.


    Äelberon’s sharp eyes then traveled to the Agent’s robes. Linen and of ill fit. Probably itchy as Oblivion too. This one was just starting out. The high-ranking officials wore silk embroidered with real spun gold. You have a way to go yet, youngling, he thought with the slightest of smiles. “Is everything in order?” He finally interrupted the Agent, uncomfortable that the moron was taking so damn long to read.


    He literally did not have all day. Did that little contact at Anvil write an entire life story in that thing?


    Oh Gods, thought the Agent, that awful accent. Unmistakable, he concluded as he continued to study the travel documents. Pure Dusken. He glanced up slightly and eyed the guard that stood before him. Aye, pure Dusken, plain from the build, tall, bulky, and very ugly. The helmet covering his face was a boon. They bred them like beasts over there, like the Khajiit they used for mounts. No refinement, just big and from what he heard, extremely stupid. That he served one of the noblest houses in all of Cloudrest? Were they desperate?  No, he thought with a sly chuckle, he now understood the rationale. Better to use these dogs for the grunt fighting, for they were strong and they were, after all, expendable.  Leave their betters to do the proper breeding.


    “House Larethian, eh?” The Agent glanced at him again, noting his cloak, “Aye, Larethian. Only that house sports those colors.” That almost comical purple and apple-green. A house of eccentric art collectors, mages, and… rumored dissenters. Aye, the Thalmor now watched that house very carefully. The young daughter especially. The Agent then frowned as he obsessively began to fold the travel documents. “You’re late, several of your fellow guards have already entered the city yesterday with the Lady Lilithia and Prince Mithlas of Cloudrest.” He tucked the travel papers underneath his black-robed arm and faced Äelberon, his lips pursed with disdain. “Explain yourself.” Came the command.


    “I received my orders to supplement the current guard only recently. I have been sent to provide strength.”


    The Agent crossed his arms over his chest and gave Äelberon another once over. “Hmph! I’m sure you are. About all your people are good for. Be lucky House Larethian has shown you such charity, Dusken. By your look, you truly belong in the fields or in the docks.” The Agent’s tone softened somewhat. He would be charitable and grace this beast with some kindness. “But in all fairness, your people have proven much more docile since their reeducation. The Purge was the best thing done to that city. I hope you understand that it was for the best. That impure blood needed to be cleansed, daedra worshipers, and I think you’re better for it. Don’t you?”


    It took everything Äelberon had in him to not run that Agent through with his scimitar. “I am indeed grateful for the kindness of House Larethian.”


    Äelberon stared straight ahead, swallowing hard, grateful that he did not sound too strained. That his repressed trembling from the rage that burned in his very heart at the Agent’s words was not noticeable.


    He focused instead on a stray orange blossom that had fallen to the ground some distance away.  He had not seen orange blossoms in so long and he could smell the crisp scent amid the funk of travelers, the fur of the great cats, and the dust of the road. Light and beautiful amid the chaotic mess.  


    But he had meant those words. House Larethian gave Äelberon purpose in the difficult years after the Great Anguish. Serving Lilandril. Nay, he did not really serve the boy. He provided the stability the boy and his sister needed after losing both parents to the Great Anguish. The Magister Lilandtar died defending Crystal-Like-Law. His beautiful young wife, like a delicate plant denied her life-giving rains, succumbed to the grief less than a year later, leaving him with two young Altmer to look after, barely out of their first decade. He was, in name, Lilandril’s Captain of the Guard, but he became far more than that, especially when their own family did not seem to support them emotionally. Children need more than coin… the Agent’s nasal voice broke Äelberon’s chain of thought.


    “At least you recognize the contributions of your superiors, Dusken.” The Agent nodded.


    Äelberon was going to be sick if he had to hear this propaganda rubbish any longer.  Boy was fresh from the Training Center, he garnered, for it was long converted from a place to train warriors to a place to train and educate new Thalmor agents, or to reeducate those that made mistakes.


    “Many here do not realize what the Aldmeri Dominion has done for Alinor, but rest assured, they will be brought in line again.” The Agent returned the travel documents to Äelberon, awkwardly avoiding contact with his hand. He was not even worthy of being touched. “The Lady Lilithia...” Äelberon noted the disdain in the Agent’s voice when her name was spoken. “ in her rooms in the Palace, making preparations to attend the Symposium at the Office of Provincial Studies. Her guards are stationed about, though I imagine they will not pose too much trouble to find. Even for a Dusken such as yourself. Your cloaks are dead giveaways.” The agent sighed. “I am to report there later. To do my duty for the Aldmeri Dominion by helping with the event.” The Agent, with a brusque wave of his hand, dismissed Äelberon.  “Now go, Dusken. I have had enough words with you. They will say I am consorting with peasants and I am most certainly not!”


    He chuckled, as he crossed his hands behind his back. His face darkened at his next words. “Yes, many do not realize what the Aldmeri Dominion has done for Alinor, but yes, they will be brought in line again, or… they will be eliminated so that we may continue to progress toward our goals for a civilized Tamriel.”


    Äelberon left the presence of the Agent and walked towards the opening gates, but first he stooped to pick up something.  He was pleased that it had not been crushed in the hustle and bustle of the city gates. It was small and pale in his black gauntleted hand. The hardness of the steel meeting the smooth softness of the blossom. Creamy white with the characteristic trumpet in its center, sheltering the sunny yellow stamen and pollen. The five petals surrounding the trumpet thick and fleshy. He closed his eyes when the scent finally reached his nose, stronger this time and he inhaled, remembering a better Alinor.



    He entered the great market plaza of Alinor and was almost overwhelmed. It was so different, yet so the same. The large, light grey marbled plaza was the center of the city, in the shape of a circle. Everything else radiated outwards. The closer a building was to the plaza, the more important the building was to the Altmeri people. Huge and flat, lined with graceful streetlamps that glowed with white florescence and dotted with many arched, round pavilions that housed shops, delicately sculpted gardens, and ornamental ponds and waterfalls. Some pavilions were combined to form multi-level complexes, adding dimension and height to the plaza, joined together with arching stone bridges. Suspended from these bridge were trellises of clinging vines that bloomed with purple trumpet flowers. At the center of the plaza was a raised marble platform that was used as a location to officially address the citizens of Alinor, and then there was the tree.


    An ancient and massive orange tree, thousands of years old. Blessed by Magnus, the first of all the orange trees. Its white blossoms symbolic of the many stars of Aetherius. Its round orange fruit, the symbol of the sun.  The symbol of Magnus. The brown trunk, Y’ffre’s bones. The green leaves, the People of Nirn.


    The Altmeri of the city used the plaza as a gathering place and it was alive with activity. Alive with the noise and delicious smells of the busy vendors and the numerous small restaurants designed to provide weary citizens a quick bite to eat or a distraction before they resumed their duties. Alive with the rainbow patterns of light scattered by the crystal and glass towers surrounding it dancing upon the marble floor as the sun changed direction.


    No, this was not different, but Äelberon could see the many Thalmor agents that stood sentinel in the plaza, observing every move. He also noticed the dust of construction, making him sneeze a few times. Around the edges of the plaza, the chained Nord and Goblin workers were bent over with pick axes. They were chipping away at the plaza floor near the edges and corners, and Äelberon narrowed his eyes when he figured out what they were doing.


    The Thalmor were turning the great circular plaza into a square.


    Surrounding the giant plaza were the four buildings central to current Altmeri culture. To the North faced the white marble and crystal palace of Alinor, the former home of the High King of Summerset Isles, its white marbled, spiral, gilded stairs merging the market square with the entrance to the palace.  The royal trees of Alinor lined the steps up to the palace. They were not orange trees, but great sprawling trees that featured dense clusters of crimson blooms with yellow centers and tiny green leaves, tended slavishly by a legion of gardeners for blossoms were not allowed to fall upon the white marble lest it be stained. As far as Äelberon knew the king was still alive, though he now lived in exile in Firsthold. The palace now served to house the head officials of the Thalmor and any visiting nobility within its many towers and spires.


    To the plaza’s South, in reflection of long-standing Altmeri tradition that the best warriors came from that region of the Isles, stood the building known simply as the Training Center. That building had undergone the most changes in Äelberon’s absence, the once grand grey marble walls and more elaborate curved design with its many columns were gutted and removed to serve simpler Thalmor tastes. It now stood squat and square like a damn angry Imga, or worse, a bloody Sload. The angles hard and impossibly perfect. The symmetry of the more square building a harsh contrast to the swirls and curves of the other Altmeri buildings within the city. The purple and gold banners that once represented Altmeri military and lined the steps leading to the Training Center were replaced by the black and gold banners of the Thalmor. The only vegetation was a closely trimmed, bright green grass. Every blade the perfect size. No brown patches allowed.


    Äelberon’s eventual destination lay to the west of the plaza, up a wide marble staircase lined with fuschia-blossomed trees, Alinor myrtle, arranged in elaborate topiary. Animals, shapes, whatnot. The steps led to the Office of Provincial Studies. The center of knowledge in Alinor, especially since the fall of Crystal-Like-Law. While it was called an Office, it was really a clustered complex of cream-colored stone buildings and towers trimmed with grey-brown interspersed with gardens and more myrtle of various shades of pink. It was the only location that allowed for new construction. Well, at least until the Thalmor, noted Äelberon, and as a result, there was a hodge-podge of construction styles that reflected thousands of years of changing Altmeri tastes.  Men would not perceive the changes, but Altmeri eyes did not appreciate the lack of order from the Western end of the city that housed Alinor’s library, natural history museum, embassies of other provinces, offices of trade and commerce, Alinor’s business district, the menagerie, the botanical gardens, its art galleries, and at the center of it all; the Main Lecture Halll. A squat, multi-leveled cylindrical building lined with arches of crystal windows, designed to let in natural light.


    But the most important building in Alinor to Äelberon was not the palace, nor the Training Center, nor any building to the west. His red-orange eyes fell to the East. Up another set of wide stone stairs that mirrored those that faced west, only lined with pure white Alinor myrtle. Knowledge and Faith. Xarxes and Auri-El. Facing each other; scribe and Master. He found himself mouthing subconsciously the opening lines of the Tenets of his Order.


    “Auri-El is the light of the world, the Soul of Anui-El, who is the soul of Anu, the Everything…”


    There were other temples and shrines in Alinor, but His Temple and Grand Chantry of Alinor was the light of the Altmeri world. It was the light of his world. And in the darkness of the Void Nights, remembering its majesty was one of the few things that he clung to.


    Faith... and love.


    Just gazing upon the cathedral of glass, crystal, and light-grey marble with its tall spires straining to reach Aetherius, its flying buttresses and swirling staircases, made his eyes well with tears and his heart swell. The tallest and grandest in all of Summerset Isles. So tall, that large, bronze-feathered eagles nested in its shelter and he could see them circling above him. Watching the People below, their wings touching the sky.  Just gazing upon the immense crystal gilded double doors, His emblem inlayed in gold upon them... The sun. It touched his soul.


    Inside, he could just see it faintly, the back of the tall statue of moonstone, quicksilver, and marble, its robed arms open; holding the sun suspended in time and space.  As was His duty as God of Time. And this was the back entrance to the Temple.


    The front entrance was at the opposite end and closed off. Everyone used the back entrance for the day-to-day operations of the Temple and to attend sermons on Sundas. But only a blessed few could enter His house through the front. Only those that withstood the test of Faith that was Auri-El’s massive Chantry.  A maze of winding outdoor walkways and the five wayshrines. Illumination, Sight, Learning, Resolution, and Radiance. Only after drinking from the sacred waters of each of these wayshrines could one gain entry to the final wayshrine. His wayshrine. Only then were they allowed to see the front of the statue. Only then were they allowed to gaze upon His face.


    Äelberon had earned such great privilege.



    Captain Ganmon regarded the tall figure that now stood in the plaza facing the Temple with a smile.


    “Find the Mer in your colors whose great eyes linger upon the Temple.” Master Lilandril had said when the Master of House Larethian sent him to intercept, and then Master Lilandril bent his head. “The one whose face is covered...”


    Ganmon studied the profile of the Mer whose eyes lingered upon the Temple. He saw the eyes; fierce, red-orange eyes that had a hard glint. He saw the nose, like one of the great birds that circled high above in the Temple spires.  Ganmon saw the features, but they were partially obscured by his helmet’s visor. A strange contraption designed to give the warrior visibility, but to hide the horrible scars. He was made to wear it in public. All scarred Mer were required to cover their faces, lest they mar the beauty of Alinor with their ugliness.


    Äelberon of Dusk.


    The Pale Elf that captivated his childhood imagination finally had… a name. Ganmon let the name sink in and then said it in his mind a second time.  Äelberon of Dusk. The Slayer of Bet. The Eagle of Auri-El. He again stood upon the busy market plaza of Alinor. After so many years. The great Knight of the Crystal Tower had returned to his Blessed Isles.


    And He glowed…


    Ganmon chuckled to himself for being ridiculous. For being a little boy again, reading the stories of this creature, as he lay upon his stomach on the floor of his bedroom in Shimmerene, the city lights giving him ample light to read by, even in the darkness of night. Even when it was way past his bedtime. He remembered fondly staring at the detailed illustrations; the glowing silver of his armor, the golden shine of his bow. His silver-white hair flowing under a burning sky. A contrast against the black Daedric armor of that Demon of Coldharbour and his death axe. Master Lilandril did not help either, feeding him even more stories when Ganmon took his position as Captain of the Guard. Feeding him stories about exotic Elsweyr and Valenwood.  Places he had never been to and could only imagine. Of deserts and walking trees. Aye, it was just the healing magicks, but on him, it only seemed to add to the persona.


    And by Auri-El the Mer was tall. Several pertans taller than other Altmer and they were not a short people. Tall and carrying easily on his frame a Nord’s bulk and power and with it, the ability to wear heavy armor. Unheard of among Altmeri. He could see the muscles upon Äelberon’s legs and arms from years of carrying all that extra weight upon his body. Ganmon’s own House armor was light, some black reinforced leather of fine quality over a thick long-sleeved tunic and breeches, and he was now awkwardly aware of his slender frame as he regarded the grand Dusken.


    The armor was plated along the torso and included heavy black pauldrons, and plated cuisses and gauntlets. Over the armor was worn the simple short, black robes they all wore, in the manner of scholars. Over that was the cloak of House Larethian, deep purple and apple-green. Their colors. He wore his cloak as an archer would, with the bow arm bare as to not impede movement. The hood of the cloak was covering his head, only adding to his bulk. Upon his back was slung a crossbow of Cyrod make and a bandolier of silver bolts was fastened to his chest. At his waist, secured by a black leather belt, was a gleaming silver scimitar and he could faintly make out the outline of four smaller blades underneath the dense velvet folds of his cloak.  Daggers, more than likely of Khajiit design and more than likely, also in silver. He was prepared. With both weapons and magicks.


    Ganmon was surprised that no Thalmor took notice of Äelberon yet, but most Thalmor patrolling the streets due to the recent riots and protests were younglings like he was and unless they were told about him explicitly, they wouldn’t know. He was sure none of them were expecting this Mer to show up at the Vampire Symposium later tonight. It had been a gamble by the houses of Adorin, Stormwatch, and Larethian. When they learned that the lives of their children were possibly in danger and that only house guards were allowed in the children’s entourage at the Thalmor’s request. There was no question among the leaders of those houses who they would send for, and Captain Ganmon was glad, for he did not want to think on the subject matter of the Symposium. He had no experience with vampires. He assumed fire worked but he was no mage. He only worked for them.  But Äelberon of Dusk, he was a mage, well sort of. He was a priest of Auri-El, a Knight-Paladin, gifted in the practice of Holy Magicks, and that was all that was needed to defend Prince Mithlas and the Lady Lilithia from any vampire menace. Ganmon began to step forward, clearing his throat to ready himself. The sun was waning and he would need to escort Captain Äelberon to the Lecture Hall.


    A loud cry and the sound of a fall and crashing wood took both Mer by surprise, making Äelberon and Ganmon turn to find the source of the sound in the busy plaza. It was near the great orange tree and they could immediately see several Thalmor agents in their black robes emerge from their posts, moving toward the commotion.


    A starved and filthy Nord, clad in the roughspun tunic of a servant, hastily got up from the wreckage of a collapsed ladder underneath the great tree, ignoring the gash on his leg from his fall. What he did next moved Äelberon deeply and the Old Knight’s eyes filled with pity when he saw the Nord cower in fear when the robed agents approached, covering his dirty face with his bony arms in a show of submission. A Nord must truly have nothing left, Äelberon thought, if he cowered to the Thalmor.  Why did he feel such sadness for these people?  He was not supposed to, but he assumed he would feel thus for any race mistreated and not granted the dignity that befits a being of Nirn. 


    Ganmon quickly glanced at Äelberon, watching the older Altmer’s features darken, the black gauntleted hand instinctively finding the hilt of his weapon.


    One Thalmor agent roughly brought the Nord up and shook him violently. “What is the meaning of this?” the agent demanded, making the Nord cry out in pain. The plaza was suddenly eerily silent and all were still as thousands of pairs of eyes locked upon the Nord.


    “Gentle Lord, gentle lord.” Stammered the Nord, “The ladder fell as I was picking oranges. My duty, sirs, to the great tree. I meant no disrespect. Honest. Mercy, mercy please for an old man’s clumsiness.”


    “Check the tree for damage.” The agent commanded with a frown as one of his fellow agents immediately walked to the tree and inspected it for damage. The agent at the tree smiled slyly and held up a single bent leaf from the ground, making his comrade smile back...


    Ganmon’s introduction to Äelberon didn’t quite go as the Captain of the Guard expected. He expected to simply say...


    “Welcome back, Captain Äelberon of Dusk, Guard of House Larethian. It is an honor to be in your presence.”


    He even rehearsed the line several times, making sure that it would roll of his warrior’s tongue with ease, for he had no real gift with words. No, instead he fought the bear of a Mer. Restrained him as without warning, for a single bent leaf, the Justiciar impaled the Nord with his Elven blade, spilling blood upon the market plaza of Alinor. For a damaged leaf from their sacred tree.


    It was a blessing of Auri-El that the plaza then erupted in a flurry of thunderous exclamations of shock and gossip. It muffled the angry cries of the Paladin as he wrestled against Ganmon’s restraining grasp, his scimitar beginning to leave its scabbard. “Murdering pigs!” He growled as he struggled against Ganmon, his stern face flushed with anger. “He did nothing, save fall, you ANIMALS! You spilled blood. Blood upon the plaza. Blood in front of His sacred Temple! There is no longer fear here! I shall change this.”


    The last words were hissed, and Äelberon turned rapidly to Ganmon and the young Elf finally got a closer look at the Old Knight’s face as they struggled against each other, Ganmon knowing that he was quickly losing ground to the far stronger old Mer. The deep scars that marred his cheeks and the bridge of his nose. The dark circles under his eyes. And the eyes. The eyes were intense, almost wild in their righteous anger. He was absolutely right, they had profaned sacred ground, but this was the Thalmor’s Alinor now and there was no longer regard for the old rules.


    “I demand that you let me go!” Äelberon bellowed.


    Ganmon tightened his grip on the Old Knight and chose his next words carefully. He couldn’t hold on to him much longer. “Captain, I will not sacrifice the safety of the Lady Lilithia and Prince Mithlas by having their only hope be arrested by Thalmor. There was already enough risk in bringing you here.”


    The Old Knight’s struggling gradually ceased and the older Altmer turned again to face his restrainer, though his silver brows were still furrowed. Ganmon gulped. Damn, he was as intimidating as Oblivion.


    The boy was young with kindly features, Äelberon  noticed, with light green eyes and dusky golden skin that was now drenched in sweat from his efforts to hold Äelberon back from making what he now realized would have been a terrible mistake. “Captain?”  Äelberon replied, just now processing what the young Altmer had called him.


    Ganmon immediately let go of him and straightened up. He was in the presence of a great warrior. “Yes Sir.” He said with a formal nod as he grabbed the hilt of his Elven blade and bowed in the military manner.


    Äelberon’s body language relaxed a bit. This was his contact. “At ease, boy.” He said with a tiny smirk as he adjusted the fall of his own cloak. “I am no longer Captain of the Guard. And even when I was, I did not make such demands on the Mer of my command.”


    “You will always be in his eyes, Captain.”


    “Your name, friend?” Äelberon asked.


    “Ganmon, Captain. Well, ah, Captain Ganmon officially. I am Captain of the Guard for House Larethian. At least usually.”


    “My apologies, Captain Ganmon, for my lack of respect earlier.” Äelberon said as he clasped the young Altmer’s forearm, shaking it vigorously in a show of respect. It was not a typical Altmer greeting and betrayed his long time away in Northern Cyrodiil. He was among Nords now and Ganmon new that they greeted each other that way. It caught him off-guard at first, the close contact, but it felt far more sincere than the typical palm-down gentle handshake practiced by the Altmeri cultural elite. At any rate, Ganmon felt a good deal more masculine greeting Äelberon like this. 


    When he released his hold on Captain Ganmon, Äelberon eyed the bleeding corpse of the Nord near the Great Tree with a frown of disapproval, as he crossed his arms over his chest. “It has been a long time since I last set foot upon Alinor and I see now that many rules no longer apply. Upon His sacred plaza. The shame of it.”


    The young Altmer nodded and then looked up at the sky. The bright blue was warming with shades of rose, orange, and yellow. The clouds reflecting the new palette in their cottony tufts. And upon the floor, the kaleidoscope patterns began to weaken and lengthen, heralding the waning sun.  “I wish we had more time, Captain, but…”


    “Understood. The Lecture Hall then?” Äelberon asked, his brow furrowing anew when he saw the shifting pattern upon the floor.  He did not like that it would be nightfall. The last Vampire Symposium he attended at Alinor, over one hundred years ago, was held in broad daylight, to ensure the safety of Alinor’s citizens. Aye, he thought to himself as he followed the youngling west, this was going to be a rough night.  


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XX    Chapter XXII



8 Comments   |   SpottedFawn and 1 other like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  June 22, 2017
    What an incredible chapter. I love getting the chance to experience Alinor through Albee's eyes. You've done a beautiful job of showing us a culture and a location that isn't much explored in the TES world (Maybe someday we'll get an Alinor game!). Lookin...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      What an incredible chapter. I love getting the chance to experience Alinor through Albee's eyes. You've done a beautiful job of showing us a culture and a location that isn't much explored in the TES world (Maybe someday we'll get an Alinor game!). Lookin...  more
        ·  June 22, 2017
      Thanks Fawn. I had fun with this chapter. I love world-building.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 24, 2015
    Thanks, Rhoth. 
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 24, 2015
    Thalmor are evil, mmmkay.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 7, 2015
    I wanted to convey the contrast between the Alinor Aelberon knew and the Alinor of the present. He is nostalgic and at the same time very sad and he also has to prepare for what is going to happen. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 7, 2015
    Beautiful descriptions of the Isles, I don't think I would last long in their society though. Pretentiousness and rigid regulation don't sit well with me.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  June 28, 2015
    Thanks for commenting and the like is always nice. I think the Redguards were darn surprised. 
    I wanted to show what was happening after the Great War. Some of the results of the ban on Talos worship. I totally see these Nords being piled upon a shi...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  June 24, 2015
    I like the build up in the first section. Let's rob him, hold on Thalmor... Bloody hell!!!
    The poor Nord in the plaza... Sotek has those sort of emotions when he first arrives at Caldera in Morrowind. The slave pits are a living hell for those unfor...  more