Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXII


    These next few blog entries are dedicated to my friend on Steam forums and the Tamriel Vault, Gnewna. Her own delightful blog character, Nerussa, a former Thalmor Agent, will have a prominent role in the next few chapters. 




    A playful yet tense whisper from behind her right ear while she sat at the reception desk to the Vampire Symposium at the Main Lecture Hall of the Office of Provincial Studies. She could feel his breath and smell his scent as he leaned over her, the fingertips of his black-gloved hand resting upon the open registration tome. The heavy cologne that sometimes made her sneeze when they were close, the alcohol of it tickling her nostrils threateningly.


    If she sneezed now!


    It made him laugh when they were alone, but she doubted the silk-robed Justiciars on the other end of the ornately decorated Lecture Hall lobby, with its intricate wall carvings, would be so receptive.  She recognized one of them, Grand Justiciar Vingalmo of Cloudrest. Lord of the House Caemal. She did not want him looking at her disapprovingly.


    “Your hood!”


    The young Altmer quickly raised her own slender dusky golden hand and pulled down on the stubborn, coarse linen, again hiding her warm brown hair within the confines of her Agent’s hood. Damn thing fit terribly and adjusting it was always a problem. It didn’t help that she was distracted with well, doing her job. Her action resulted in the gloved hand lifting from the registration tome and then resting on her graceful shoulder, giving it a pat and then a squeeze that lasted a bit too long for Vastaril’s comfort in a public setting.


    She knew what Ondolemar would want from her later.


    The rustle of black silken robes and the slightest of breezes indicated Ondolemar’s movement, like a snake, as he silently made his way back to the smaller group that flanked the Grand Justiciar. A guest then approached her desk and the registration process resumed.


    It was always the same. Vastaril would say “Name” and the guest would state their name and she would check the long list of attendees and mark it off with a precise check. All the checks had to look identical. Fortunately, she thought with the slightest of smiles, she was exceptional at being precise. She may not have the ideal features coveted by the Thalmor, her skin was a shade too dark, her hair a strange brown, and her eyes. Her eyes betrayed mixed blood, grey over grey. A Nord was in her family line. Somewhere… Covered up long ago. A Nord.


    Her eyes wandered back to the Grand Justiciar again, noting his appearance. No, she would never look like that. The skin was pure Altmeri gold, the eyes were gold, the facial features perfect. His robes the deepest black silk, its sheen catching the florescent flames of the Lecture Hall lobby, beautiful in the sunset. The gold trim of spun gold, the stitching impossibly tight, giving the impression that it was metal and not thread. Over his elegant shoulders was a grand cloak of black silk and more gold thread. The collar raised and stiffened to frame his neck. That too was lined in gold. Upon his hand was a signet ring bearing the symbol of the Thalmor. The eagle in a geometric design. 


    Vastaril brought her eyes down again, when she caught Ondolemar’s chiding nod to return to her work. It was such a small move, but she could feel her body heat rise from being caught staring. No she would never look like that, but what she lacked in appearances, she more than made up for in drive, commitment, and precision.


    Her own gloves lay upon the ornately carved wooden reception desk that smelled strongly of ancient lacquer while guests continued to filter in and she continued to check their attendance. It was easier to work the quill without the thick material getting in her way. She preferred simpler, lighter gloves, but protocol demanded ceremonial dress for tonight. She would need to put on the gloves later, but for now, so long as she was writing, her superiors didn’t seem to mind. The robes were borderline unbearable. A coarse, itchy linen that were one size fits all. The very idea of conformity. On her, on all female Thalmor, they were comically too big. It was fortunate that Bosmers were never robed agents, her slight smile turning into a smirk at the ridiculous image, though they were frequently soldiers.


    The soldiers at least, out of necessity, received armor that fit.


    Vastaril’s grey eyes made a sidelong glance when another robed figure took her place at the empty chair beside her. Andrasephona. Also in the same linen robe. Minus the hood. Her delicate, angular features and blemish-free golden skin on full display. Her long, silken, honey-blond hair arranged artfully in a series of intricate braids that were then impossibly piled upon her head, barely secured with a gold and black enameled comb. Incredible hair. Hair Vastaril definitely did not have either. Andrasephona shifted in her chair uncomfortably and turned to Vastaril. On that point, Vastaril agreed with the She-Elf that shared the reception desk. The chairs were murderous.


    “I’m finished with my break, you may go take yours, if you wish. You’ve been here since the beginning.”


    Vastaril could feel an annoying drop of sweat sneak down from her hairline towards her eye. It would definitely end up in her eye. Damn.


    “I’m fine.” She replied curtly, licking her drying lips subtly, ignoring the now persistent growls of her stomach. Ignoring the dimming light caused by the sun finding the horizon. She was fine. Sitting at a desk was nothing to her. Vastaril was used to the boredom, Andrasephona was not. This was her fourth bloody break already.


    “Suit yourself.” Came the equally cold response.


    Vastaril’s eyes again found the Justiciars when she noticed their movement and heard Ondolemar’s voice. “Ladies, Gentlemer? Shall we retire to the main study and enjoy some fine Shimmerene wine to toast our success? I managed to procure a third era vintage. 431.”


    “A fine year.” Remarked the Grand Justiciar with a pleasant, slow nod. “431...”


    His voice was almost a purr while he mused over the year. Smooth like liquid silver. And uncommonly seductive. Vastaril could see that Andrasephona was listening intently whenever the Grand Justiciar spoke, her face slightly flushed. The She-Elf would spread her legs at the drop of a hood.  Then again, who was she to talk? She had done her share of leg-spreading and she wasn’t entirely proud of it. It was just Ondolemar, but still, she was beginning to distance herself from him. She wanted her merits to warrant her advancement, not her connections. This Symposium was going to help on that matter significantly. Both ladies watched as the group of Justiciars followed Ondolemar through a set of intricately carved wooden doors that featured the swirls and turns so favored by Ancient Altmers. The Grand Justiciar was last to disappear through the double doors in the study decorated with wood paneling and ivory marble, the small train of his silken cloak rippling delicately upon the smooth marble floors from his elegant movements. He had been a Knight of the Crystal Tower. Only two were left alive. He was one.


    And the other…


    The other was a monster, his face a putrid, pale mass of scarred flesh; a degenerate beast. The people were, of course, spared such horror. To them, he was still the Pale Elf of childhood stories, but the Thalmor safe-guarded the truth for their own protection. While they hunted him to bring him to justice for his crimes against Alinor, the list of which was huge in the Training Center. His dossier the thickest on record. It was said that he slaughtered his own parents in cold blood…


    Despite thinking about the beast, Vastaril couldn’t suppress a chuckle when both she and Andrasephona let out a sigh of relief when the double doors to the study finally latched shut with a stern echo that rang in the hall, leaving the two She-Elves alone with the attendees of the Symposium. Leaving them alone to the tedium of their respective tasks.


    Vastaril signed the guests in, while Andrasephona checked in any weapons, potions, poisons, any items that were not allowed. There was a long list for that too. The items were then assigned a number that matched the number assigned to the guest and were stored in a cloakroom that was converted to a cramped makeshift office for Vastaril so she could write her report and take stock of the inventory. She was not allowed to attend the Symposium, save to perform a final headcount before it was to officially begin. They wanted pure Altmeri to represent within the Lecture Hall itself, so she was placed behind the scenes. It stung a bit, but she was reassured that her work would be the important work of the Symposium.


    Granted, she was curious about vampires, but she had read enough about them to know that a Symposium devoted to the subject made her queasy. They were terrible creatures. Supposedly there were to be live specimens brought in for vivisection and study. She swallowed hard at the prospect, and suddenly being confined to her cloakroom office didn’t seem so bad.


    “Name.” Vastaril spoke when she saw brown velvet robes appear in front of her, her voice, its resonant, authoritative best. It wasn’t much, but it intimidated the one before her. She saw the willowy torso first. Robes adorned in rich gold inlay and orange topaz stones. She glanced up from her list. A mage from one of the minor noble houses. Young. Dressed in her finest. All the guests had been remarkably young, Vastaril noted. Everyone well under their first century. Even the guards were young. Well, the last Symposium was about one hundred years ago, those past that age did not need to attend. The Thalmor were efficient in that respect for these Symposiums were rather expensive to put together.


    “Korisha of Firsthold.” Came the refined, nasal reply. A practiced accent, modeled on the cultural elite of Cloudrest, the paragon of Altmeri nobility, but falling quite short. Vastaril flipped through the pages of the registration tome, quickly finding letters K through L. She used her index finger to find the names, stopping precisely, her ink-smudged finger bending a bit when it hit its mark. It took only seconds to find, sifting through list of already marked names. Ah, yes the last one. She was almost late. Almost. Vastaril made a small check within the box next to the Altmer’s name. Perfect, just like all the others. She was the last, Vastaril thought. Excellent.


    “Guard?” Vastaril asked.


    “No.” Came the answer. Yes, one of the minor houses then, no guards to spare.


    “Any weapons, poisons, potions, journals, quill, ink, sharp items, and suchlike… “ The same series of questions. Always. It had gone without any serious incident. They knew better, though Andrasephona did have to check the guard’s weapons and there was one potion of enhanced stamina from a male noble that made both She-Elves chuckle at his blushing. They knew what he had planned later that night. The brothels. He looked like he needed the potion too.


    Even the Prince of Cloudrest was in attendance. From House Adorin. That had been a small affair to check him in, for he came with a small entourage of guards and the Lady Lilithia of House Larethian, her flaming red hair arranged in a style that put Andrasephona’s braids to shame.  Their robes ornate and Vastaril had to admit begrudgingly, stunningly beautiful with their many jewels and detailed embroidery.




    Vastaril gave the Altmer an once-over, her back straightening in her chair in an effort to look more imposing, her grey eyes acquiring a steel glint to them. The noble responded in kind, straightening her back, but she quickly lost the battle with Vastaril, and Vastaril betrayed the slightest smile of satisfaction.  “You may enter the Lecture Hall.” Vastaril commanded.


    The young Altmer gave a slight nod and turned towards the Lecture Hall, manned by two robed Thalmor Agents who opened wide the reinforced crystal doors, her robes fluttering as she walked with measured, small steps. Unbreakable doors, freshly etched with the golden emblem of the Thalmor. The roar of the gathered crowd grew in intensity when the doors opened, the noises of conversation, laughing, and general pleasant socializing, only to become eerily silent upon the double doors shutting with a loud boom.


    They would be closing the doors to the outside soon, as was custom. Another set of unbreakable doors, sealing them in and sealing out whatever was presented in that Lecture Hall. A precaution. But that wouldn’t happen until Grand Justiciar Vingalmo left with his entourage. Justiciar Ondolemar would give the final orders. This was his opportunity to shine. In addition to being expensive, Symposiums were difficult to put together and he had consulted the Grand Justiciar, who was regarded as the foremost expert on the undead among the Thalmor.


    The Grand Justiciar's knowledge was impressive, even going as far as to thwart a vampire invasion of the city of Dusk. His swift orders to attack saved a city, though not without loss of life. Dusk needed to be purged of those Daedra worshipers. Of the impurity that dwelled within. The city recovered, emerging from the ashes of its former haphazard wooden construction into a city of pure Thalmor design with graceful, straight lines and angles. It was a crowning achievement for the Thalmor and Vastaril was glad that a city was brought back from the brink of disaster like that. It was why she was Thalmor in the first place. To help her people.


    The noble from Firsthold was the last, thought Vastaril with a grateful sigh while she checked and rechecked the registration tome. Everyone was accounted for. Every one of the noble houses, though she did notice that the Lady Lilithia did not have a guard present with her. Vastaril narrowed her eyes, now that was unusual. She remembered the conversation, the heat rising in her face anew.


    The flame-haired noble with the piercing apple-green eyes had not indicated whether she would have one or not and rudely brushed off Vastaril’s attempts at clarification. That had been the only incident. It forced Ondolemar to step in when he saw her tense up and he himself granted the Lady of House Larethian entrance, personally escorting the Lady through the double doors.  Vastaril had masked her anger well, the girl was known to be a spoiled bitch, and she was quite drunk with wine, but she was more. She fancied herself the next Queen Ayrenn, spreading discontent among the youth of Alinor and the Thalmor were now watching her very closely.


    Vastaril poured over the lists one last time, growing annoyed when she heard Andrasephona sigh in impatience. Out of spite, she checked the list yet again, finding her finger lingering on the K-L page.


    Was it that dark already, thought Vastaril when she saw the pages of the tome suddenly cast in deep shadow. She glanced at Andrasephona to give the order to join the other agents in the Lecture Hall when Vastaril paused. There was no shadow where the other She-Elf sat and she was looking at something directly ahead of Vastaril, her jaw agape. Vastaril turned her head and then it caught her eye.


    The smooth, deep emerald green pommel of a silver scimitar was at her eye level.  The elegant weapon was attached via a fine, black leather belt to a male’s fit torso clothed in a black tunic mixed with heavy, black steel-plated armor. A black steel gauntleted hand grasped the hilt of the weapon securely. Her grey eyes followed slowly up.


    A Nord?


    Impossible! Nords were not allowed in the Symposium. It was for Altmeri only. It had to be a Mer, but this Mer was huge, the great chest unlike any Mer’s she had ever seen. Bulky. Not fat, just bloody bulky, for honed muscles were certainly needed to carry such armor. Strapped to his chest was a black leather bandolier loaded with silver crossbow bolts. There was more metal on him than in the entire Aldmeri Dominion it seemed. Well, that wasn’t true, but Oghma’s tits, it was a lot of metal. Her eyes continued upward and she then caught sight of the familiar deep purple velvet cloak with its distinctive apple-green satin lining.


    House Larethian?


    Vastaril’s eyes continued upwards and she noted that he was tall, even among Altmer. He wore a visored helmet, which obscured his face in a series of four horizontal bands of metal, each converging to a slight point at the center of his face, the shiny black metal bands ending to a tapering point on either side of the helmet in the manner of an eagle’s wing, but she caught the blazing glint of slanted red-orange eyes and bushy silver eyebrows in a gap between two of the metal bands.


    Very strange eyes. Hard and keen. Like a bird of prey almost. Eyes that seemed to miss nothing as they scanned the room. Studying it. Learning it. And then they scanned her. Studying her. As if memorizing… Vastaril found the stare a bit unnerving and looked slightly downwards, to the only other part of his face that was clearly visible through the helm.


    His mouth. That was not so bad to look at, full and sensual, looking like there was perhaps the potential for a fetching smile, though he wasn’t smiling now. He was stern, extremely serious, the unusually square jaw and chin set. The rest of his face was obscured, though she saw it now upon closer inspection, the discoloration of flesh upon the shaded cheek. Scars. Ah, now she knew the purpose of the helm. To hide his face as was the custom in Alinor. Vastaril cleared her throat and made a slight invocation to Auri-El as she mustered her best tone to ask her final set of entrance questions for the night.




    Alright, fair enough. It was not the high-pitched mess she was expecting to come out, but it wasn’t quite as commanding as she had wanted it to be either. Gods, he even smelled different, her nostrils filling with the scent of leather and metal, no cologne, no sweet scents. 


    No answer. Instead she saw his right hand move from his side. Another gauntleted beast of a hand. It moved deftly and his long index finger skimmed quickly down the list of names on her page, coming to an abrupt halt upon the very name she expected it to fall on. The finger then lifted slightly and fell upon the name again with a hard tap. It was an impatient, brusque gesture. Vastaril’s eyes found where his finger indicated.


    Lady Lilithia of Cloudrest.  House Larethian.


    Vastaril cleared her throat again and glanced at Andrasephona again. And frowned. The She-Elf was completely useless, still gawking. “The Lady Lilithia has already entered the Lecture Hall. Quick!” She commanded. “Explain your delay.”


    Did he just... smirk? What!


    It was, it was, the tiniest of smirks from that mouth, the tiniest. As if he was amused by her order. Amused? He dared to be amused? In front of Thalmor Agents? Damn Andrasephona, she was being a fool. Still staring. Probably that was what the Mer was finding amusing.


    If the body and face were intimidating, the voice was even worse. It wasn’t a cruel voice, but Vastaril could definitely tell that this… this was no youngling. Even the jarring Southern accent did nothing to diminish the authority present in that deep baritone. Blah, though, Dusk, definitely from Dusk. “When insuring the safety of those in my charge, is it not the best course of action to first secure the perimeter?”


    “Well…” Vastaril started, remembering back to the lectures on military operations at the Training Center. She was more of an administrative worker, and she knew magic, yes, that was where her aptitude lay, Illusion and fire magicks specifically, but they were required to attend military lectures as well. Perimeter? She thought, her brow furrowing while she recalled the term. Yes, the area surrounding a location of importance. Indeed, those had to be secure, or you risked infiltration by enemy forces.  So he was securing the perimeter. She glanced again at Andrasephona. At least she had finally stopped gawking and stared back at Vastaril, shrugging her shoulders. Probably didn’t even know what a perimeter was.


    “Well?” The voice pressed, echoing her response, the tone now slightly impatient.


    “You were securing the perimeter then?” Vastaril asked. She immediately winced.


    “Did I not just say that?” Now he was annoyed. “Of course I was. The Lady Lilithia is under my charge and I will do my utmost to protect her person, as is my duty.”


    He emphasized “duty”, as if wanting to make a particular point with that word. In general, the speech was formal, almost stilted. He definitely wasn’t a youngling, speaking instead like one at least in his third century. Vastaril shifted her body to glance behind the bear of a Larethian Guard, finding the wooden double doors of the study. Damn it, still closed. No Ondolemar, she was on her own for this. She shifted back and again faced him.


    Grey eyes, Äelberon noticed. She had grey eyes. The other next to her was without a hood and perfect by all Altmeri standards, but the one he now faced, no she wore a hood. Nord blood. Nord blood flowed through her veins and she was covering it up, or, more than likely was told to. He was surprised at the sheer number of younglings present. Even the Thalmor agents were younglings. This only cemented his deep concerns. Blood was meant to be shed tonight, for his heart had pounded relentlessly since he walked up the steps to Main Lecture Hall. The built-in warning system that his body possessed against all dark forces. Their scent impossible to cover up.


    Many vampires lurked this ancient hall and Äelberon of Dusk tightened his hold on the hilt of his blade, waiting for the Agent to make up her mind. This would be such a tragedy if he was not in top form.


    “Very well.” Vastaril replied. “Your explanation is satisfactory.”  That got a sharp glance from Andrasephona, but Vastaril didn’t care. Ondolemar wasn’t here and by the rules the Lady Lilithia was entitled to a guard.  The Guard made a terse grunt of acknowledgement and Vastaril proceeded with the procedure.  She had much to do still once this Mer went inside. She needed to do the final headcount, go to her little office and write her report. She would probably be in that cloakroom longer than the Symposium itself would last.  “Any weapons, poisons, potions, journals, quill, ink, sharp items, and suchlike…“  Vastaril felt her face grow hot when she saw another tiny smirk from those lips. Of course he had weapons! She cleared her throat and made the most of her lack of observation.


    “What do you think?” Came his reply.  Äelberon could not resist.  Besides, he could tell from her expression that he was going to be allowed inside.


    Vastaril studied his person. Damn, now he was playing with her. To be honest, she deserved it for not being more careful in her observations. He had the scimitar and the bolts. A quick scan of his shoulder revealed that his bow arm was bare of his cloak, revealing a heavy armored pauldron. Even more metal! Ah, and there it was, rising from his back was the end of a crossbow. By the Gods, what did he think was going to happen in there?


    “You’ll have to surrender your weapons. They are not allowed.” She ordered and she watched that smirk quickly contort to a frown.


    It was clear the Guard didn’t approve and the great arms crossed over his chest. “You are holding a symposium on vampires during nightfall and you are expecting me to surrender my weapons? This a joke?”


    Vastaril was tired of the Guard’s insolence. Evidently respect for the Thalmor was still not being taught effectively in the South and House Larethian was known to be an indulgent, decadent house. She rose to her full height, damn, still shorter than him by a good measure, and pointed sharply to the crystal doors. She had work to do and he was pushing it. No way was he going to jeopardize her work here.


    “If you want those doors opened, Dusken, your weapons stay. If not, you yourself can answer to your House for your insubordination and be lucky the Thalmor do not get involved.” That was good, Vastaril thought, her confidence building. Andrasephona even looked very impressed. Let’s see you call that bluff, Old Guard, Vastaril thought haughtily as her own thin arms crossed over her chest. She even puffed up a bit for good measure.


    Xarxes’ arse, thought Äelberon angrily as he regarded the Agent, but the anger did not last long when he saw her puff up. That was almost endearing. Almost. She was so thin, it accomplished nothing. He then took stock of the situation thinking on her words. Vampires were everywhere, he could feel it, and he had to give up his blade and his bow. Damn it, he needed access to that Lecture Hall. He did not see any here at the lobby. He needed to know where they were and the next place to look was the Lecture Hall itself. Fine, he would consent, as long as it gained him entrance.


    She was a smart one, he gave her that, and not without some fire for her to stand up to him. Smart, but not that smart, he thought as he narrowed his eyes slightly. She only saw his front and never once did she ask him to remove his cloak. His four silver Torvalian daggers would stay, secured to his back. Hidden by the damn purple and green monstrosity that was his cloak. His vials of Restore Vitality, cleverly hidden in a sealed pouch within the satin lining. And he also had his magicks.


    His eyes then found the small, open cloakroom behind the reception desk, seeing several weapons clumsily placed inside the cluttered mess of cloaks and travel wear. And a little desk. So, that is where they are hiding you, little Nordling?  Doing all the work and reaping none of the benefits, eh? He felt sorry for her then, understanding fully what it was to be of mixed race. But he put away his feelings for now, focusing instead on the weapons that were there. Mostly lighter guard fare, and not a single piece of silver. It would slow them down when they attacked, but it would not stop them. Damn, but aye, this was the place where the weapons were being stored. If he could find a way to exit the Lecture Hall once things turned ugly, he would go there.


    Alright, Nordling, I will cooperate and you may have my weapons. This Old Mer has far more tricks up his gauntlets than you can imagine.  “Very well then.” He replied gruffly as he began to unfasten his bandolier.


    Vastaril was surprised at how quickly he removed his equipment. First the bandolier, followed by the crossbow. She had never seen one before. That string looked absolutely impossible to pull. Finally, he unfastened his belt and roughly laid the scimitar on the pile at Andrasephona’s side of the desk.


    And there it was, that tiny smirk again. Vastaril wondered what were behind those eyes. There was mischief in them as well as other things. They were almost laughing at Andrasephona now, almost goading her with them to attempt to pick up his weapons.


    “All yours.” The tone of his voice was almost playful while he again assumed what Vastaril determined was his favorite posture; back impossibly straight and arms crossed over his chest. No need to puff up either. He was incredibly arrogant, she thought, and lacked respect, and yet, at the same time, she didn’t know what to make of the behavior. It was like he could get away with it. In fact, he was getting away with it, for neither of them challenged him outright and the young Agents at the door looked almost afraid of him. And they were male!


    It was the damn size. None of them could tackle him physically even if they wanted to. He was cooperating with Vastaril only because he wanted something, not because he was actually threatened by her and she could feel her heart sink a bit, her confidence waning. She was not nearly as intimidating as she thought she was and he was not the typical stupid Dusken that worked the fishing docks. Those intense, red-orange eyes continued to study her. Eagles, she remembered from the Training Center lectures on Alinor’s fauna, were extremely intelligent birds. Why did she associate him so with an eagle?


    Andrasephona had to use both hands to lift the scimitar off the reception table with an uncharacteristically ugly grunt escaping from her pretty, honey-glossed mouth and both She-Elves winced when the lissome Altmer nearly dropped the blade onto the marble floor.


    “Careful. That floor looks very expensive.” The Old Guard chided, relaxing his posture slightly.


    He was bloody enjoying the show, scowled Vastaril. With effort, Andrasephona practically dragged the weapon to the cloakroom, laying it against Vastaril’s little desk. Relieved, the youngling returned to the reception desk only to pale again when she saw the crossbow. That weapon looked even more cumbersome to hold, a sharp bolt already loaded. Again it took both hands and her right hand moved to get a better grip on the heavy weapon.


    Only for his hand to quickly fall upon hers. Fool girl was going to kill herself, Äelberon frowned. Did the Thalmor no longer teach how to handle weapons properly? Ha! He was very satisfied that it was the Nordling that showed the intelligence in this group of younglings. The rest were clearly the product of Thalmor eugenics. Stupid. They would not last five minutes with whatever was in that Lecture Hall and it was big, he could feel it.


    “How dare you touch me, Dusken!” Andrasephona cried, her pretty arched brows furrowed in disgust as she tore herself away from his grasp. The two Agents at the door started to charge conjured weapons in response to her angry outburst. He went too far now.


    “Fine.” The Old Guard backed away slowly, both hands raised slightly in submission, though Vastaril saw the subtle sidelong glance to size up the other two Agents. His eyes found Vastaril again, and then he addressed Andrasephona. “But do not come crying to me when you shoot that pretty face off.”


    “What do you mean?” Vastaril interrupted.


    Aye, ask, encouraged Äelberon with his eyes, unless you want her to die. Her hand is right on that trigger. 


    “Her right hand,” He began, and he definitely had a tone now, thought Vastaril, though there was also a bit of legitimate concern, “is very close to the weapon’s trigger mechanism.” He then lightened up again. “But if you do not want an Old Dusken Dog touching you…”


    The two She-Elves exchanged glances and Vastaril could see that Andrasephona was not budging in her stance. She was not going to let that Dusken anywhere near her and yet at the same time, the She-Elf’s body language was distinctly mixed, especially after he had touched her. Her face visibly flushed now and not with anger. Damn Andrasephona, the girl was ridiculously concupiscent.  “Where does her hand need to be?” Vastaril asked.


    Good, thought Äelberon, you are sensible. “Her right hand needs to be lower, a small finger’s length ought to do it.”  Andrasephona moved her right hand immediately, her eyes now looking over the Old Guard’s body, her lips slightly parted as her eyes lingered on his lower torso. Vastaril could not suppress an eye roll and even the Old Guard seemed aware of Andrasephona’s foolishness, though he was choosing to ignore it. She was barely in her thirties, just out of the Training Center. “There,” the Old Guard nodded, “you will not trigger the weapon now.”


    Again, Andrasephona struggled with the weapon, but she managed to set it down gently next to his scimitar. The bandolier was also surprisingly heavy, the ladies having not accounted for the weight of multiple small silver bolts. Those were laid upon the top of Vastaril’s desk with a heavy thud. Gods, he carried all three items as if they were nothing to him. The She-Elf sat heavily upon her chair when she returned from the cloakroom, a slight sheen of perspiration now appearing on her smooth, light golden brow.


    The Old Guard smirked again. It was so small a gesture but Vastaril could see it every time. He seemed to find them entertaining and that now didn’t sit well with her. She could sense it and it irked her, he was not threatened by them in the least and she could feel that he thought them completely incompetent, and yet he seemed to regard her differently. She couldn’t tell. She shouldn’t care. Why the opinion of a Dusken should suddenly matter to her, she didn’t know, but strangely enough, it did, and it irritated her. He was a dog from the south, an unworthy guard and she was Thalmor.  She wanted from him what all the other citizens of Alinor gave the Thalmor. Respect. Well, it wasn’t really respect, now was it, she thought to herself.  It was fear and this Mer showed neither respect nor fear. It was awful and incredible at the same time.


    “Satisfied?” He asked.


    Vastaril settled again upon her own chair and dipped her quill into the open jar of ink. Then, very carefully, she marked a slot in one of the columns next to Lady Lilithia to account for the presence of a guard, feeling his intense stare as she did so, and she could feel her face redden while he analyzed her every move. Her final count was complete. She wanted it done already, so she could go into her cloakroom and stew. “You may enter the Lecture Hall now.” Vastaril replied coldly.


    Damn, this one caused more trouble than Lady Lilithia and Prince Mithlas combined, and he was just a guard. She would discuss this with Ondolemar later when she saw him again. He had every right to be there for Lady Lilithia was entitled to her guard, but it was a tricky, strange situation and Vastaril was unsure as she watched the two Agents open the crystal double doors for the Mer, careful to avoid eye contact with the Old Guard.  Ondolemar could always have him removed if he felt she was in error.


    All four agents let out a sigh of relief when the double doors were finally closed and the loud sounds from the Lecture Hall were silenced. Andrasephona leaned forward from her chair and peered at the door, her mouth still slightly open.


    “By Auri-El. He was huge.”  She then removed a cloth from a pocket in her robes and began to delicately blot the perspiration away from her forehead. “You think what is said about male Duskens is true? That they are like beasts?” She asked, her eyes lingering upon the door. Vastaril gave her a sidelong glance and then noticed one of the Agents at the door chuckle. She should send Andrasephona to Ondolemar. They were perfect for each other.  “He was certainly large.” Andrasephona continued to marvel. “Big hands, very big hands, strong hands…”


    Vastaril groaned, letting her head fall upon the desk in exasperation and the two Agents’ shoulders were now shaking with barely suppressed laughter.


    “If you could put a bag over that hideous face that is, then maybe, for a dalliance it would do. Oh, Vastaril, did you see that face? Positively revolting. So many scars! Did he get it caught in fishing line as a youth or something?”


    The face had scars, noted Vastaril, and he certainly wasn't attractive, but Andrasephona was exaggerating. 


    All four suddenly bolted upright and stopped their chatter when the wooden double doors of the study opened with a heavy swing, and the Justiciars emerged this time with Grand Justiciar Vingalmo leading the party.  “I trust,” he said as he made his way towards the doors leading outside. The two Agents stationed at the Lecture Hall door quickly changed position to intercept the high-ranking Altmer official and open the doors for him. He acknowledged their gesture with a slight, appreciative nod before he continued, smiling a graceful smile when he was greeted by the night air. “I trust that you will take care of everything else tonight, Justiciar Ondolemar? Know that I am impressed with your preparation for this event and I being impressed will bode well for you when I attend tonight’s reception at the Palace. You will be mentioned, by name, no less.” 


    Ondolemar bowed low, a hand still upon one of the wooden doors to the study. He had been drinking, observed Vastaril. All of them had been. “Your kindness, Grand Justiciar—“


    The Grand Justiciar waved his hand slowly in dismissal.  “Kindness, Justiciar, has nothing to do with it. This was a difficult event to plan and carry out. The repercussions of which will be felt in Alinor for quite some time. The subject of vampires is one I hold close to my own heart and there has been a plethora of new information in the one hundred years since our last Symposium. I even compiled some of the notes myself.”


    “Yes, the information on the new Skyrim clan, Volkihar, is it?” Ondolemar recalled with what Vastaril saw as rather feigned enthusiasm.  “Brilliant research. Your time in Skyrim, Grand Justiciar, has been invaluable. Especially around such difficult circumstances. Those Nords…”


    The Golden Lord of Caemal laughed and it was echoed by the rest of the lobby, except Vastaril. Why she felt hurt just then, she didn’t know, but she quickly covered herself when she caught Ondolemar’s stare and laughed herself, adjusting her slipping hood again. As soon as she was in the cloakroom, she was going to tear the damn thing off. She wondered how the Old Guard tolerated his helmet. It looked bloody uncomfortable to her.


    “Haha! Yes, the local wildlife warring with each other has made things a challenge, but I enjoy challenges.”  The Grand Justiciar flashed another smile and Vastaril could see Andrasephona’s lick her lips, hanging on his every word. More laughter from the room. “Yes, Justiciar Ondolemar, Volkihar. That is the name, though they are by no means new. On the contrary, ancient, very ancient. We even acquired a specimen for vivisection! The scholars at the menagerie were beyond excited.”  He gazed into the night sky and took a deep breath, closing his eyes, seeming to relish in it. “Well, I must be going. I cannot keep my colleagues waiting. You will seal the doors, yes? A precaution, though really, they will be dead rather quickly when they are vivisected, no?”



    “Of course, Grand Justiciar.”


    The Grand Justiciar turned to all of them a final time, flashing yet a beautiful smile. Vastaril was in awe, he was incredibly impressive. Supremely elegant and refined. After the grand Calianwe of the Golden Hair, Lady of the ancient house of Stormwatch, The Grand Justiciar was the perfect Altmer. A marked contrast to the rough-hewn Dusken who appeared just moments before, though he was also equally impressive. In a completely different way, virile. Like an animal. An eagle.


    Bloody Oblivion, why did she keep thinking eagle?


    “It is all yours, Justiciar Ondolemar. I trust you’ve made arrangements to send for a courier in about four hours’ time? Cannot leave all these nobles inside this building the entire night! We’ll run out of wine. I know how most of them drink.” Another burst of restrained laughter from the lobby.


    “Yes, the arrangements have been made.” Replied Ondolemar.


    “An agent?”


    “No, a soldier, but extremely capable. He is wearing the colors of my personal guard. You will recognize him easily.”


    “Very good then. I will return when he delivers the message to unseal these doors.” He whispered something then to a member of his entourage and the Mer nodded slightly.  “Thank you all for making this night possible. My gratitude and the gratitude of the Aldmeri Dominion knows no bounds.” Grand Justiciar Vingalmo said graciously and then left, followed by his entourage, stepping out into the beautifully lit stairway and pausing to admire the starlit sky.


    “Mer, help me with these doors.” Ondolemar barked in a whisper. “Quickly, the Grand Justiciar cannot leave unless he performs the final seal from the outside. We are making him wait.” The young Agents helped seal the door as Ondolemar turned to Vastaril. “Agent Vastaril, go and perform the final head count. I don’t want to delay the Symposium’s start. Angent Andrasephona, fix your robe and go to the Lecture Hall, your presence is required there. Thank you for your time, my dear.”


    Vastaril furrowed her brow as she and Andrasephona with great effort, pulled open the crystal double doors leading into the Lecture Hall. Ondolemar didn’t even thank her. She didn’t know what to think on that.


    Ondolemar watched Vastaril enter the Lecture Hall and noted her slightly stooped body language. Girl was sulking. Do not fret, my sweet, he though lasciviously, I will thank you personally. He sighed in relief when he heard finally heard the doors seal from the outside with a puff of air. It was done. He gestured to the two Agents. “Go inside.” He ordered. “I will take care of things out here.”


    He watched impatiently as the two Agents disappeared into the Lecture Hall. When they were clear of the door, he walked to the lavish study and selected two bottles of fine Alto wine from the heavily lacquered wine racks. Not Third Era vintage, but the girl honestly wasn’t going to know the difference. He then sealed the door to the study and crossed the marbled entryway, taking a moment to enjoy how the florescent white flame played with the cool marble and the crystal doors, before he made his way to the cloakroom, unfastening the collar of his silk robes. 

    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXI    Chapter XXIII



15 Comments   |   SpottedFawn and 1 other like this.
  • ilanisilver
    ilanisilver   ·  August 4, 2018
    Hm, weird. I could swear I commented on this chapter when I read it. Although, it was on a plane, so I’m blaming its failure to post on that. What I wanted to say was that this has been my favorite chapter so far, and it’s crazy that it was basically a co...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Hm, weird. I could swear I commented on this chapter when I read it. Although, it was on a plane, so I’m blaming its failure to post on that. What I wanted to say was that this has been my favorite chapter so far, and it’s crazy that it was basically a co...  more
        ·  August 4, 2018
      Yeah, I've been so several conventions and I can always feel for the person assigned at that tiny desk all day checking people in. I also wanted to highlight the lower ranking Thalmor, show that you need administrators and things like that. And Aelberon's...  more
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  June 22, 2017
    Ah this one was a great read. I'm impressed, like Exuro, that you were able to make a coat check an interesting chapter. I'm now of the impression that Albee could brush his teeth and it'd still end up interesting. :P I love the relationships between all ...  more
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 24, 2015
    May have to check out the story about Nerussa now too. I liked the character.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 7, 2015
    I had fun with this one. Gnewna was great to work with and I had a blast writing her interaction with Aelberon, who is sort of letting his impatience come through. A crossing of the generations. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 7, 2015
    It's about to begin! Good job making a coat check into an interesting chapter. Poor agents, it was like shooting fish in a barrel for Albee.
    @Unhelpful: 10pm, but the best creative juices flow in the early hours!
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  August 23, 2015
    Urg same here! I'm not tired so I've got no real excuses except that I do wish I could write after 10 PM (time restriction on electronic devices), because I'm a desperate night owl who has terrible amounts of trouble writing good stuff on paper. I have th...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 23, 2015
    I've hit a rough patch too. I know what I want to write about, but I've been tired lately and not up for it. I may switch gears and edit an older chapter and see if this sparks the creative juices again. 
    Glad you like Crystal Tower, that, and the V...  more
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  August 23, 2015
    I have!  I read this in July. I actually caught up on all of the chapters last week. Brilliant work!!  My favourite part still remains the battle for the Crystal Tower.
    I'm just going over your chapters to bask in your wonderful writing style and tr...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 23, 2015
    He definitely looks mixed race, though Altmer in lore articles can have that greyish skin. 
    LOL, stop staring at the peeechur and read already. 
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  August 23, 2015
    Whenever I'm on that loading screen, I just try and work out what he is.