Straag Rod: Book, Part 1, Chapter XXIII


    Note - This entry in Äelberon's tale contains the following adult themes; male nudity, coarse humor, attempted rape, and vampiric violence. While nothing is explicit, it's recommended for mature readers. 



    Her laugh was the loudest in the Lecture Hall and Prince Mithlas of Cloudrest could only gaze in awe at the sheer force of Nature that was Lilithia of House Larethian as he fought the cloying mixture of perfumes that emanated from the around two hundred Altmeri nobles that threatened to make him sneeze. Or be sick. He was the Prince, yet it was she who garnered such attention. She wore her finest robes, fitted, high-necked robes that emphasized her slender, elegant shoulders, only to flare very slightly at the waist to skim the floor, as was the style of robes worn by the Altmeri nobility.


    But they were not the robes she had wanted to wear.


    The robes designed for the Thalmor were based on their very design except the fit in the Thalmor robes was more generous at the top and on the poor female agents, Mithlas noticed, they were downright absurd, giving them an ugly, unnecessary bulk. All that black and gold, it was oppressive. The robes of the nobility split down the middle in a similar fashion, but only from the waist down. The split at the waist was also narrower and when Mithlas looked down, he could only just make out the silken breeches of the same shade that covered Lilithia’s long legs and her soft leather boots that she wore underneath. She wanted to wear her apple-green robes with gold embroidery in an intricate, curved pattern. Those robes were adorned with diamonds and amethysts, and Lilithia usually got her way.


    Usually, Mithlas thought with a wry smile as he swirled his crystal goblet of Alto wine.  But not today.


    She was, of course, extremely upset, ruining several expensive vases in her Palace quarters as she shouted from her lovely, berry-glossed lips many rather coarse expletives directed at her father, when upon opening her travel chest, she found the deep warm purple robes she was wearing now instead of the ones she adamantly swore she had packed. They were lovely robes and Mithlas much preferred the way the richly colored velvet played with her vivid eyes and red hair. But Lilithia was stubborn. She also disliked silver intensely and the entire outfit was adorned with pure silver embroidery in the pattern of orange blossom clusters. A metallic thread was used that was difficult to obtain and required an expert craftsmer. There were diamonds too, yes, many of them inlaid upon the fabric to form the orange blossom petals, but she detested silver. Even her hair was adorned with several ornately carved combs of the finest silver, also with an orange blossom motif, and amethysts of various shades of purple and lavender.


    Her hair…


    Save only the Grand Lady of House Adorin, the Queen of Cloudrest, the Lady Calianwe, his mother, the most beautiful hair in all of Alinor was on that lovely, stubborn, very inebriated head. She had Breton blood, of that Altmeri were certain, but it was one of those instances where no one cared because the result was purely stunning. A deep, vibrant shade of intense copper, with lighter highlights. As if the color was not spectacular enough, the texture was silky, soft, and ridiculously glossy.  Lilithia’s hair was arranged in an ornate style comprised of thick braids and twists, and then somehow piled on her head and secured with the silver combs. Mithlas took another sip of wine and marveled. He could not fathom how hair like that managed to stay in place.


    Her face…


    It was said that she was the spitting image of her grandmother on her paternal side. A lovely She-Elf married to one of the great Tower Mages, Magister Lilandtar of House Larethian. Save the eyes.  She had the eyes of House Larethian, a keen shade of apple-green. Her features were strong; high cheek bones, large eyes, a long straight nose with a thin bridge. The eyebrows were strongly arched, as was also characteristic of the members of her House. In another Altmer, the features would not have worked, but for House Larethian, the combination made for beautiful, if striking Elves.


    He was a prince, but he was not nearly so spectacular and Mithlas preferred it that way. He ran his fingers through his own shoulder-length, loose golden hair and took another sip of wine, feeling the heat of it begin to seep through his pores, making him rather warm in the packed Lecture Hall. He could feel the faintest trace of irritation beginning to build from his own indigo robes; velvet as well, and also adorned in silver embroidery. His featured an eagle motif and thank Auri-El, a lot less diamonds. He was just like his mother, for he often saw her squirm when she donned her robes, especially if they were in closed confines and it was hot. The willpower it must have taken her to walk the Chantry in Alinor, for he knew how his mother fidgeted.


    He glanced at his own robes and shrugged as he took a sip of wine, savoring its floral bouquet. It was not what he packed either, but he knew his parents. They usually did not interfere with his choices, but if they did, it was for a damn good reason. What had surprised him were the heavy silver chains that he now wore around his neck that extended to the middle of his slender chest, for he never wore jewelry, save his signet ring. Amulets in the latest Altmeri fashion and he was not one to follow fashion especially. One amulet featured the symbol of Auri-El, the points of the sun sharp. The other was in the shape of the Aldmeri Dominion Eagle, the wings also coming to sharp points. They were beautiful amulets, but they were very heavy and he had to fight to keep his back straight at times. He did not know how his fellow Altmer could sometimes sport up to five of these monstrosities upon their thin necks at once!


    Lilithia set her teal-colored, richly faceted crystal goblet hard upon the deep ebony countertop of the Lecture Hall bar. “Another!” She ordered and her goblet was quickly filled with the deep burgundy liquid by an unassuming Altmer in the clean, white rough-spun shirt and dark breeches of a servant. She took the goblet, her layers of silver bangles making a distinctive clanging noise with every movement she made and brought it to her lips again, teetering slightly as she did so.


    “Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” Questioned Mithlas. He was still on his first glass. She was on her third.  “You will fall asleep during the Symposium.”


    “Better if I do. The subject bores me to no end.” She replied, her resonant voice quite snide.


    “It may not be the most appealing of subjects, but it is a most necessary one.” He countered, his eyebrows going up slightly.


    “Really? Vampires? In Summerset?” She scoffed, “Please. We have worse things to fear in Summerset than vampires!”


    Several Mer then looked up, including a Thalmor Justiciar and Prince Mithlas shifted uncomfortably when he felt their stares. Lilithia was pushing it. It was Alinor now, and everyone in the crowd knew what she meant. It was no secret that she openly participated in the protests, causing her family much worry. She was bored and when Lilithia was bored, she often did things that raised eyebrows. Her flaming red hair was no lie and the personality under its burnish mass of twists and braids was often brash and reckless. She was raising eyebrows now, only she was raising the wrong ones and other Altmer were getting hurt for it. Altmer that were far more serious about the cause than she was.


    “Lilithia!” Mithlas whispered, leaning closer to the spirited Elf, “not here.”


    She dismissed him with a wave of her hand and smiled slyly. “Oh your Highness, don’t be such an Old She-Elf. I swear, sometimes I think you have breasts!” She laughed again and took a large sip of wine, noting how his scowl now marred his face. He was the typical “golden” Altmer, except to the extreme, with even finer, more refined features. He almost looked feminine at times and he bore a striking resemblance to his mother. She reached with her light golden hand and touched his smooth, hairless cheek in a gesture of mock pity. She was allowed, they had grown up together and their houses were very close. More than likely, they would be assigned to each other. Not so much of a problem for her, but for Mithlas?  “Aww, poor Mithlas, you are worse than my Great Grandmother. That old Matron, stuck on her archaic traditions and customs. What would Ganmon say?”  She laughed and Mithlas’ eyes went wide with horror.


    “Lilithia!” He repeated, his voice an intense whisper, a sheen of worried perspiration now highlighting his bone structure.


    It made Lilithia laugh to see the Prince of Cloudrest squirm so. He was such sport to tease. She was vaguely aware of the crystal doors opening and closing several times as she and Mithlas socialized with the other Altmer at the bar on the left side. There was another ebony bar on the right side. The alcohol would flow freely tonight, for many of the young nobles present didn’t particularly want to be here either. A key protest was canceled in favor of this ridiculous Symposium. She regarded Mithlas again, well, perhaps he was alright with being here. The only one, more than likely. He spent more time reading and next to an alchemy station than any other Altmer she knew. Aww, she thought, he was now a bit flushed. Embarrassed that she had mentioned Ganmon in public. Good old Ganmon, she thought, her eyes widening as she suggestively shook her head at Mithlas, a big grin on her face. The Captain of her Guard no less.


    “Why? He’s not ugly. And… he has a great arse.” She whispered back, the alcohol in her breath making his nose scrunch up.


    “Lilithia, please, not here.” He pleaded, his tone now very worried. Gods, his mother didn’t even know and Lilithia was ready to blab to everyone at the Symposium.  “Too many are watching. Too many are listening… please.”


    Lilithia let out an exasperated gasp and took another sip of wine. She had gotten his Royal Highness, the Prince of Cloudrest, to beg on more than one occasion.  “You’re no fun, Mithlas.” She chided, pretending to sulk.


    “It’s not a matter of fun, Lilithia. I want to tell my mother. I just don’t want her to hear it from petty gossip. We want to be the ones to tell her.”  He was terrified to tell her. Not for her anger, but for the sorrow it would cause her and Father, for all Altmeri dogma called it wrong. Wrong to be with another Mer. But Ganmon and he could no longer hide their feelings for each other and they desperately needed her counsel before others learned of them. He wished Ganmon was here now, for he would do a far better job of controlling Lilithia than he was currently doing, but he was pulled last minute, and a replacement was being sent. Again, he was not one to question the decisions made by his mother and Master Lilandril, but he missed Ganmon’s strength.


    But, no, he didn’t question them.


    He understood, though he wondered who the replacement was? Ganmon was a strong fighter and brave, but Mithlas could sense his mother’s terrible apprehension as the Symposium drew near. Ganmon wasn’t enough. Something was not sitting well with her and for days, the great Priestess of Auri-El roamed the marbled halls of their palace in Cloudrest with a furrowed brow. As if she were conducting a great debate in that brilliant mind of hers.


    And then, there was the package. On the first of the month, as he was approaching her study to inquire on a shipment of alchemical ingredients, he saw a sealed heavy wooden crate, longer than high, upon her grand carved desk, while she sat writing a letter. This normally would not stop him, but as she wrote, he could see the tears in her eyes. His mother paused frequently as she wrote, her left elbow leaning on the desk, her hand traveling up to her priestly top-knot, her fingers finding the ceremonial leather. When she was greatly troubled, her hand often went there, for there was something about just touching that ancient leather lacing that brought her comfort, but not on that day. The tears still came as she wrote and he turned around walking away, not knowing what to make of her tears. She never really cried, not like that, and both he and his father noticed her long face for several days after that letter was written. She almost looked… guilt-ridden. That was the only word that could effectively capture the look on her face. Guilt-ridden.


    He glanced at the two crystal doors and saw nothing.  The replacement was not here yet and he worried. As much as she teased him, Lilithia was still his closest friend.  He told her everything, some things he now keenly regretted based on her behavior, but he worried now that she did not have a guard.


    Lilithia smiled warmly and gave Mithlas a tender kiss on the cheek, reassuring him. His face was reddening, the embarrassment deeper. He was great sport to tease, but she wasn’t going to push now, not when she knew she had struck a nerve.  “Alright, friend. You’ve suffered enough for my anger at being here. I will behave now and enjoy my wine. Pray to Auri-El that I fall asleep. Your mother has some clout with the God, yes?”


    Mithlas chuckled. More than anyone else, Lilithia made him laugh. “A little.” He replied with a grin.


    A cooler breeze and the groan of the crystal doors announced their opening and this time a feminine voice was heard. Authoritative, but very young.  “Sons and Daughters of the Noble Houses, esteemed guests, and Guards, please take your seats in preparation for the final count...”



    Vastaril watched the young nobles break from their conversations at the sound of her voice and slowly find their seats from the top of the ivory marble steps that led down to the Lecture Hall, the jewels of their ornate robes catching the fluorescent light of the chandelier that hung directly over the lecture podium, making her blink several times from the overload of color and glare of their gemstones. It was the only source of light in the Lecture Hall, yet there was plenty of light. Almost too much light, she was bloody looking forward to that cramped cloakroom now.


    It was of circular design, matching the building’s exterior. The lecture podium was at the center and there was not a poor view of it from anywhere within the Lecture Hall. A raised circular platform of ivory marble. It was not a small platform either, for there were various displays covered in thick sheets of dark linen. The displays for the Symposium, manned by several of her colleagues.


    Seated at the podium’s large marble chair was the Lecturer, clad in his simple cream and dark grey Scholar's robes. A representative from the Office of Provincial Studies no doubt, thought Vastaril. Waiting patiently for the final headcount to be performed before the doors were sealed so the Symposium could commence. He was an old and heavily-lined Mer, his white beard falling to mid-chest. Probably the oldest thing in this Lecture Hall today.


    Surrounding the platform, radiating outwards like the spokes of a wheel, were a series of marble staircases, climbing upward to allow Lecture Hall attendees to efficiently find their seats. The seats were also constructed of carved marble, cold and hard, little more than benches really. Brutally uncomfortable, but the designers of the building were not without some sympathy for attendees, for stationed at either end of the flight of steps leading to the Lecture Hall were two well-stocked bars constructed of smooth ebony. Seamless and hard of line as well.  


    Vastaril allowed herself a smirk. That was now where most of the Symposium attendees were gathered, the din of their mundane conversations echoing through the Lecture Hall. It was designed to amplify and catch sounds. That is why the crystal doors were needed, to block the sound from the lobby.  She didn’t blame them for their reluctance. It was to be a four-hour Symposium. Four hours on those benches. She let out a gust of air.


    The crowning feature of the Lecture Hall was the grand chandelier and lighting system. The chandelier, of etched moonstone and crystal, suspended from the high ceiling by several gilded chains, was comprised of a circle of eight eagles, their backs toward the center beam of the chandelier, their wings extended forward. Each wing tip bore a light, fueled by burning quicksilver infused with magicks. It was the only source of light, yet lectures could be easily given, even in the dead of night. The reasons for which were twofold. First, after the highest seats, the building was surrounded by tall, smooth crystal windows and the great domed crystal ceiling, allowing in all natural light. They were lucky tonight, for Masser and Secunda shone brightly in the clear sky and the infinite stars glittered like diamonds. Second, were a series of mounted mirrors placed in strategic locations across the Lecture Hall. These mirrors caught the light from the chandelier and shifted it downwards. Each mirror could be individually adjusted, depending on the lighting needs of the lecturer. During the day, the Lecture Hall had a warmer glow, but at night, the glow was a hard white florescence, intensifying all colors.


    Vastaril sighed, feeling an itch creep upon her shoulder, the linen bunched uncomfortably there. An itch she was not allowed to scratch, at least not here. They were taking their sweet time, lingering in conversation, reluctant to put away their drinks, as she watched Andresephona slowly descend the staircase towards the podium in small, measured steps, her back straight. Her job was to guard the podium, because she was the best representative of Thalmor aesthetics. She took her place, like a golden and black statue, her smile at Vastaril tinged with a smug superiority, and then something caught Vastaril’s eyes, making her ignore the She-Worm.

    A flutter of deep purple and apple-green as he stood quickly from a crouched position at the very back of the Lecture Hall.


    She was surprised. With the amount of metal on his body, Vastaril thought he’d be rather slow, but no, he moved quickly, and she couldn’t help but think “predator” when she saw him move. A hunter. He was checking the back of the Lecture Hall, feeling the marble floor in a curious manner, and then knocking it with his gauntleted fist and listening. Vastaril assumed he was doing, what did he call it?


    “Checking the perimeter…”


    Aye, that was it. He heard her announcement, but unlike the others, who dawdled, he moved with purpose across the Lecture Hall, his gait long and powerful, but not without elegance either, his cloak moving behind him. It was clear he didn’t pay much attention to the teachings of Phynaster, she thought, catching herself forming a modest grin. She suppressed it, lest someone catch her.  No, that Dusken Dog was all Trinimac and Auri-El, and Vastaril wasn’t going to lie to herself, she found it appealing. He had that sort of “I don’t care what anyone bloody thinks of me” attitude and it was refreshing. Exasperating, but refreshing. He was, by far, the most interesting part of her day. He stopped midway right in front of the podium and eyed some of the Mer that were now seated on benches to Vastaril’s left. His eyes lingered on them, studying them, and she saw his mouth.


    No smirk, only a hard scowl.


    The Mer he eyed were unaware of his frosty glare. She saw him then instinctively search for his weapon, only for his frown to intensify when he remembered that it was no longer there. He then clenched his fists and continued his walk towards the indigo-cloaked guards of the Houses Stormwatch and Adorin that stood toward the right of the Lecture Hall, marking the place where the Prince would eventually sit. In their gilded finest.  


    When the Houses united, the King of Cloudrest, in a touching gesture to his new Queen, took her house colors. It was usually the other way around, but Calianwe of the Golden Hair was beloved by all in Alinor, especially the King of Cloudrest and her house was even more ancient than his.


    Vastaril’s eyes continued to follow the Larethian Guard, her curiosity building while she watched him exchange words with a Mer who looked to be the head of Prince Mithlas’ guards, his bright gilded Elven armor a stark contrast to the Larethian Guard’s somber, black heavy plate. His skin a dark golden compared to the strange paleness of the Old Guard’s. In the light of the Lecture Hall, she could now see how it contrasted with his black helm, and the glint of his red-orange eyes were vivid, even from the distance. Vastaril tilted her head slightly to the side when she saw the other Mer’s body language.


    Gods! Who was this Old Guard from House Larenthian that the other guard acknowledged him with a low bow and a quick turn to give orders to his comrades? No delay to question, he simply followed the Old Guard’s orders, whatever they were.


    He was in charge? The Dusken? He was bypassing rank! Aye, House Larenthian was a noble house, but Houses Stormwatch and Adorin were Royal houses of Alinor and yet they were taking orders from him? She saw him glance backwards towards the crowd at the left bar and she saw him point towards the Lady Lilithia and Prince Mithlas who had made no efforts yet to find their seats.  She was laughing loudly with several friends while the Prince looked tense. It was a direct, impatient gesture and that frown did not leave his face. The younger Royal Guard acknowledged this silent order and immediately made his way to the two young nobles while more took their seats.


    When the Royal Guard approached, Vastaril noticed that the Prince was more than willing to take his place, relieved actually and with a far more relaxed demeanor, he nodded directly at the Old Guard, who responded with his own slow nod and a slight bow in the military style. Alright, at least he acknowledged Royalty, thought Vastaril. And then she heard a loud laugh and the Lady Lilithia dismissed the Royal Guard to make her way back to the bar with a smile, her gait slightly unsteady from the alcohol. The Royal Guard turned, and shrugged his shoulders as he exchanged glances with the Old Larethian Guard, who nodded curtly and gestured with his head for the Royal Guard to return to their assigned seats with Prince Mithlas. 


    His eyes then found Vastaril’s and he gave her a slow nod and there it was, that tiny smirk. Only there was a different meaning behind it now and Vastaril’s curiosity only grew. He was planning something, and he was letting her in on it. His eyes found the Lady Lilithia and then found Vastaril again. Aye, he was planning something, he must have some knowledge of lecture procedures. That final counts needed to be done and that the Lady Lilithia was holding things up. Was he going to send another guard? Perhaps the Prince?


    No. Vastaril should have known better.


    The Old Guard then walked, in that same brusque manner, his back impossibly straight, towards the bar, stopping just short of Lady Lilithia’s back as she spoke to several other young nobles, including the one from Firsthold that Vastaril had just registered. He towered over the more slender Mer and he did not walk as a servant. But instead, as one who belonged in their very echelon. Duskens were not supposed to walk like that. A black gauntleted hand then did what was typically considered terribly uncouth in Altmeri culture, he tapped Lady Lilithia’s shoulder. He brazenly touched a noble, in public, and it wasn’t a friendly gesture. The noble whirled around at the rude assault to her person and Vastaril felt acute satisfaction when the Lady Lilithia immediately crumpled at the hard stare of the Old Guard. Gone was the arrogance, no, the young noble now only responded to the great bulk and raw power that stood before her.


    Another rude gesture from the Old Guard, consisting of a sharp glance towards the place where Prince Mithlas was seated with his Royal entourage.


    And Lady Lilithia of House Larethian, with bent head, submitted meekly to the silent command, making her way towards her seat, her bangles and combs making light metallic clanging noises as she walked, her steps quick and small in accordance to Altmeri culture. Another sidelong glance to the other nobles at the bar made them clear out quickly towards their seats and Vastaril noticed the body language of her Thalmor colleagues. Tense, for who was this Guard to be so bold around nobles, yet at the same time, in near awe of the command he had over them. The Old Guard was probably, after the Lecturer, the second oldest thing in the Lecture Hall and barring Ondolemar, who was curiously not present, they were all younglings. The crowd control provided by the experienced guard was appreciated and she saw her colleagues relax when he finally left the bar and crossed the ivory marble floors again, his footfall surprisingly silent upon the floor, pausing for a moment at the base of the staircase to again find Vastaril’s eyes.


    “All yours.” He mouthed with that tiny smirk of his and… what was that with his eye?


    A wink?!  Ohgma’s tits!


    He did wink! At her!


    But before she could react, he turned again and walked towards the Royal entourage. Only not to sit. Instead he stood close by, upon the aisle nearest to them, his arms crossed over his chest, one leg slightly bent for it was on a different step. He stood sentinel, continuing to scan and study the Lecture Hall with his keen eyes. His body language tense, like a coiled spring. What was he looking for, Vastaril wondered. What was he trying to figure out?


    Then his eyes wandered to the left of the Lecture Hall, towards the group of Altmer seated there, and she watched his eyes narrow and the smirk leave his lips. Replaced by a frown, his jaw set. He was now studying them, with intense, blazing eyes. He looked angry, on edge, as if he was mentally preparing for something and Vastaril couldn’t help but feel that nasty, sick feeling one feels in the pit of their stomach when something bad is going to happen. She needed to tell Ondolemar immediately when she finished the count and let him make the decision to have the Old Guard removed. Yet this was the very same Mer who just helped her moments ago. She was confused. The Royal Guards acknowledged his authority without question. They were as well-trained as the Thalmor; he must be someone they trust, for them to relinquish their own authority like that so quickly. It was most puzzling. Aye, she needed to speak to Ondolemar.


    Vastaril was brought back from her thoughts when she heard someone clear their throat. Ah, she snapped to attention, it was the Lecturer and she glanced around the room. Everyone was seated and now all eyes were upon her to do the final count before the Symposium could begin. She straightened her back, assuming her tallest, most commanding posture, praying a bit that he wasn’t smirking at her. Her eyes found him again to check.


    No, no smirks this time, his eyes were the only pair of eyes not on her. He was still focused on the left of the Lecture Hall and Vastaril felt her heart begin to race. What held his attention there so? She didn’t see anything, just Mer sitting on benches.  


    They watched while she counted, her eyes noting each head carefully, recording the exact number in her mind. She performed the count ten times, the process taking only a few moments. Numbers, she was excellent with numbers. All the counts had to match. And they did, but then she frowned. She needed to check the registration tome. She made one final quick count. The same number. Damn. She counted again, no she was right. Her count was accurate.


    Her count finished, Vastaril turned with a furrowed brow and gestured to the Agents to open the doors to the lobby with a quick nod. The heavy crystal doors swung open and she stepped into the ivory-marbled lobby, only this time the doors did not block the loudness of the Lecture Hall. It was now totally silent while the attendees waited for the Symposium to begin. She felt the draft of the closing doors behind her and their dull echo in the lobby when they sealed shut. 


    Vastaril took a deep breath and finally let her shoulders stoop, removing her hood, her brown hair spilling over her shoulders, the coolness of the lobby air upon her slightly damp scalp feeling well… very wonderful.  She allowed herself the luxury of a few seconds of relaxation. She had been a ball of tension all day. Aye, the cloakroom was going to be rather nice after all this, she thought with a smile. Nice and quiet.


    But the number from the Lecture Hall still bothered her. She glanced at the study as she made her way to the door of the sealed cloakroom; it too was closed. Ondolemar was probably there, going over procedures, making sure everything was done in accordance to Thalmor regulation. The success of this night was extremely important to him and she didn’t blame him for wanting to go over the procedures. She tensed up again, and straightened her shoulders. Her job was not finished and she could afford no more time for relaxation. She needed to check the registration tome and then speak to Ondolemar about the Guard from House Larethian. Damn, he’d have to make a decision on that and she wasn’t looking forward to telling him. She sighed as her hand found the latch to the cloakroom door, turning it…



    It took everything from her Thalmor training for Vastaril to not laugh at the scene on display before her in the cramped cloakroom. He would have been grossly insulted and she very much wanted to keep her job. Ondolemar was casually reclined upon her little desk, his left leg hung over its front, his right leg brought up at the knee, his right arm resting upon it, holding a half-drunk bottle of wine. His left palm was on the desk’s edge, and of all things, the Larethian Guard’s bandolier was fastened over his chest.


    As naked as the day he left his mother’s womb.


    And by the state of his… Xarxes’ arse, he definitely wasn’t thinking about his mother. He took another sip of wine and set the bottle down on the desk, nearly spilling it in the process, making Vastaril wince. She could feel the color and heat rise in her face, watching while he began to finger the Larethian Guard’s bandolier.


    “I think…” he began, his speech already slurred, his golden skin ruddy from too much drink, his bald head beginning to bead with perspiration, “this looks rather good on me. What do you think, Staril?”


    “Sir?” That was the only thing she could manage and not burst out laughing. He broadly gestured for her to come closer with his right hand, and then his hand traveled back to the bandolier, running over the supple leather and bolts. It was quite loose on him, she noticed, his thin, wiry chest unable to fill the girth of the bandolier even at its tightest setting. The Dusken was a far larger Mer.


    “Well, come on, Staril. We’ve only four hours.” He whined with a naughty grin that highlighted his very high cheekbones. “Best make the most of it.”


    “I need to compare the headcount with the registration tome, Sir.”


    Lemar…” Came the husky reply as his eyes narrowed.  It was impossible not to stare at it. His merhood. It was right there in all of its… uh… glory? He continued to rub the bandolier suggestively. He was always fond of leather. “What is it suddenly with ‘Sir’, my dear Staril? Unless… you want to play that way? I like that too. I can order you around if you’d like. I do it anyway.”


    Vastaril bit her lip. This was ridiculous. She needed to compare her notes and all Lemar wanted to do was have sex. She did not need this now. The first thing she needed to do was get to the desk and remove that bottle of wine from it. If it spilled onto the registration tome... those checks had been bloody perfect!


    “So, Staril, my dear, dear, dear Staril...” Ondolemar’s head swung back slightly and the Altmer looked a little dizzy when his brought his head upright again, his brows furrowing. Good, she thought, with any luck, he’d fall over. He took a bolt from the bandolier and scrutinized it with bloodshot, light green eyes, letting out a small belch in the process. “What curious things, teeny, tiny little arrows?”


    He chuckled to himself as he stared at the bolt, changing position to now sit cross-legged upon the table. That did not help with that either, thought Vastaril, and the image was ludicrous as she walked towards the desk, her hood tucked under her arm. Did the Gods have a personal grudge against her? The bolt was just inches from his face and he swallowed hard.


    “They’re bolts.” She explained, rejoicing inside when she managed to grab the bottle of Alto wine from the desk and set her hood upon it.


    “That’s mine!” He protested, making a feeble attempt to grab the bottle of wine before he got dizzy again.


    It was then that Vastaril saw the empty bottle already on the floor. He was very drunk. She had to think quickly so she could check those numbers. She put on her best smile and held the bottle to her lips.  “Not willing to share, eh? Oh, Lemar… that’s not fair.” She chided, in her best fake coy voice, and drank the wine. She took a bigger gulp than she wanted to, feeling the warmth of it hit her belly.  Damn, it was very good, smooth, but she really needed it right now if she was going to have the confidence to do what she needed to do.


    “Alright, alright, I’ll share…” He winked at her, his voice extra nasal from the alcohol-induced congestion. "But only if you kiss me.” He taunted.


    Vastaril groaned, that had backfired. She took another swig of alto wine and approached the Thalmor Justiciar. The very naked Thalmor Justiciar wearing nothing but a bloody bandolier. He was naked, but he was her superior and he was making a complete fool of himself and he could take her down with him. Damn him.


    He wrapped his arms around her and she could feel the bolt press against her arse while his hand squeezed the soft flesh, still holding the bolt. Their lips met and she could feel the alcohol in his breath. They had not just drunk wine in that study, she thought as Lemar kissed her. Brandy was in the mix too and then there was the cologne, still strong on his body, stronger now that he was sweating from his drunkenness. He deepened his kiss and she could feel his hot tongue inside her mouth. She had kissed him before and there was once a time when it felt good, but not now, she bemoaned as she struggled to breathe. His misinterpreted her quickened breathing for rising passion and he tightened his grip on her, continuing to rub her arse.  She broke the kiss.  “Have I earned my wine yet?” Vastaril gasped, relieved that his tongue was out of her throat.


    Ondolemar smiled slyly, his green eyes narrowing. “Oh you’ve earned more than that, my dear, much more than that, but you said something? Numbers?”


    Her grey eyes widened as he continued to massage her arse. Thank Auri-El, he still had some sense left!  “Uh… yes, numbers.” She replied, really annoyed that he was paying particular attention to her arse now. She used to like it. She used to lay with this Mer and now she found him disgusting. They had worked on this Symposium for months and he was throwing it away, all for his merhood.


    “M’I distracting you, Staril?” He asked playfully, giving her a firm squeeze as he practically slobbered on her neck. She assumed he was trying to kiss her, but he was too drunk to do it properly. He ended up belching on her neck and she was revolted. That one came with bile.


    Lie, you’re no priest, she thought with narrowing eyes, her lips forming a frown... “Yes, Lemar, you are. I can’t think straight and we still have a bit more work to do before we can really have some fun.”  The light kiss on his lips was a nice touch and he finally stopped touching her arse and leaned back against the table. That was even worse for that and it now looked comical. He extended his hand slightly and she handed him the bottle of wine.  Let him finish it.  Vastaril rummaged through the desk looking for the registration tome, while Ondolemar sat back, sipping wine and eyeing the bolt he still held.


    “So… wazza a bolt?” He asked, his speech growing even more slurred.  


    If the Grand Justiciar found him like this! Vastaril let out a frustrated sigh and pointed to the weapon to Ondolemar’s right, still miraculously leaning on the desk. Still loaded.  “It belongs to that weapon, Lemar. A crossbow. Perhaps from Cyrodiil. I don’t know.”


    “Scamp’s Blood, who brought that in?” He asked, leaning forward slightly to get a better look. His attention span, however, was far shorter when he was drunk and he quickly lost interest in the weapon and suddenly chuckled as he placed the bolt next to his merhood.  “Ha, Staril, look! Guess who’s bigger?” He said with an impish grin, stifling another belch.  Belching was a bad sign that he was going to be sick soon. It wasn’t the first hangover she had nursed him through. She hated her life right now. “Well? Guess?”


    Probably the bolt, thought the youngling with a smirk when she spied the edge of the reception tome. Right under his arse. Damn it, he was sitting on it. This was becoming a nightmare right out of Sheogorath’s playbook, but she still had time to fix it. She glanced at him. Oghma’s tits! He was still measuring himself against the bolt. She leaned forward over the desk and grabbed the leather tome between her thumb and forefinger.


    And gave a hard tug, causing him to lean forward from the momentum when the tome slid from under his arse. She had the reception tome and let out a huge sigh of relief when she saw that it wasn’t damaged.  “Hey! Watch it! I almost cut myself.”  He then chuckled to himself as he took another large gulp of wine and whipped out another bolt from the bandolier.  “Two, Staril, two! And Imma still bigger… Ha! Let’s try three…”


    She eyed him briefly as she leaned against the desk next to him, more to make sure he didn’t indeed cut himself. That was all she needed, a naked, drunk, angry Thalmor Justiciar with a damaged merhood from his own stupidity. Alright, he seemed done with three and now satisfied and sufficiently proud of his girth, Ondolemar lazily put the bolts on the desk, palm down, like a very young child sets gathered twigs upon the ground. An uncoordinated action, sloppy.  He then scratched his inner thigh and worked further on his wine, while Vastaril thumbed through the registration tome.


    Another belch, this time louder, and Vastaril’s sidelong glance caught the Justiciar’s groan as he pounded his fist to his chest to get the gas out. Her eyes found the registration tome again.


    Thank Auri-El, she still remembered the headcount. It took her a bit longer than she anticipated, but her suspicions were confirmed and that sick feeling returned to her stomach as she put down the tome, feeling the heat upon her face. She ran her fingers through her hair, noting the sweat on her scalp and hands. Nervous sweat. She remembered the look on the face of the Larethian Guard. He was scowling and he kept watching the left side of the Lecture Hall.


    The numbers, they didn’t match, she thought frantically, her panic building. There were sixty-five more Mer in the Lecture Hall than in her registration tome. Damn it! Sixty-five Mer didn’t go through the registration process.  How? She was the only one at the door?! She never took a break! She never did! The Lecture Hall only had one entrance!


    “Hey, STAARIIL…” purred Ondolemar, tossing the now empty bottle of alto wine to the floor with a silly chuckle, his thin, but muscled shoulders shaking with drunken laughter. He looked down on his merhood and Gods, he pretended to pout.  "Yyou take much longer with that little list there, poor Little Le--… well, ha… not so Little Lemar is gonna get tired and it’ll take some effort to wake him up again…”


    “We have a problem.” Vastaril said, turning to face him.  He looked bloody awful, his lids were swollen, his normally attractive, angular face was now puffy and sweaty, his bald head covered in a sheen of perspiration. He was going to kill her, not Ondolemar, the Guard. Ondolemar was getting his bandolier all wet.


    “Aye, we definitely do.” He replied as he slid off the desk. Ondolemar placed both hands on the desk on either side of her, trapping her in position.


    “Lemar, please. We really do have a problem. The numbers…” Vastaril countered.


    “The numbers.” He repeated and she let out a sigh of relief, he was going to listen.  He needed to, their careers depended on this moment. On him hearing her out and getting dressed, so they could fix this bloody damn mess. The Dusken, he was key. He probably knew something and Vastaril didn’t think he was the enemy. No, not the way the Royal Guards treated him. He clearly had their respect.


    “Yes, Lemar, the numbers. They don’t ma—“


    With a quick movement, he grabbed her again, pushing her back onto the desk. He was drunk and clumsy, but damn it, he was still stronger than she was and try as she could, she couldn’t shove him off. It was her position. It didn’t allow her to use her legs to fight back. She heard the familiar gust of air from the opening crystal doors and thought for a second that she heard screams.


    Screams? Her eyes widened. She heard something else too. Not just screams.


    Shrieks and screeches. Shrill ones that laughed, chilling her very bones.




    “Lemar, please! The numbers!” She cried, “They don’t match!” His mouth crushed hers with a brutal kiss. She groaned and tried to push him off her. She could hear it.


    There were screams.


    Terrible screams coming from the Lecture Hall and vaguely she heard something else as Ondolemar began to grope for the collar of her robe to unfasten it, his mouth still on hers, not letting her breathe, yet alone speak. She could taste the bile from his belches and she was going to be sick. She then heard it again.


    His deep voice. Barking orders that she couldn’t make out. Strong and confident amid the terror and panic. She then heard powerful explosions and a loud crash rock the Lecture Hall. Gods! Magicks! Who was using magicks? Younglings couldn’t create explosions like that. Not with such force. Unless there were enough of them?


    More screams and then more controlled bursts of magicks, careful and precise. And then a strange blast and a swooshing noise that sounded vaguely like a powerful barrier spell. 


    Vastaril’s eyes scanned the desk for anything she could use to get Ondolemar off her. Her eyes found the bolts and she closed her eyes. It would be the end of everything for her if she stabbed him, she thought as tears began to roll down her face. It was going to be the end of everything for her regardless. All her hard work, gone. She blinked hard and could feel her shoulders shake with sobs when he found the clasp to her robe and unfastened it, exposing the flesh of her neck. Vastaril could feel herself grow faint. If she fainted, it would end mercifully…


    She vaguely heard the door swing open with a loud bang and saw with her dimming eyes a reddish light strike Ondolemar, causing him to arch his back violently and groan with pain, his mouth finally torn from hers. She saw the source of the magicks. The deathly pallor of the slender Altmeri hand that cast the spell. The dead, orange glow of its eyes. No, not like his. His eyes had life, the Larethian Guard’s. They were red-orange, and they had the fire of life. Such life. And his hands were not slender and frail. They were large, strong hands. Vastaril then saw the teeth, sharp and cruel as the creature drew closer. The creature grabbed Ondolemar from behind, catching him off-guard, his face still contorted with the pain of the red magicks. He struggled frantically, his light green eyes wide with fear, and then the creature clamped its jaws upon his neck, drawing blood.


    It was so strong.


    There she was, very much alive, and unable to ward off a sloshed Mer who wasn’t much bigger than she was and then here was this creature. This terrible creature, smaller and thinner than her, undead, and it grabbed Ondolemar like he was a ragdoll and bit his neck. Vastaril watched the creature feed, its eyes closed in what seemed to Vastaril like pleasure. The creature adjusted its grip on Ondolemar’s neck, making his rapidly pumping blood splatter upon her frozen face. She may have blinked in response, but all she could hear now was the pounding of her heart and the slurping sounds it made.  Ondolemar shuddered violently, still trying to fight, clawing at the creature with his hands, but his drunkenness and leftover lust made coordination difficult. It was then that the creature’s eyes opened.


    And its eyes met hers. Vastaril wasn’t drunk. Did that make a difference to these creatures?


    It did and Vastaril’s eyes widened in fear when she saw the creature’s intentions through those lifeless orange eyes. They glowed, but not with any warmth.


    Ondolemar was then tossed with great force against the cloakroom wall before falling to the floor, unmoving. Vastaril barely had time to bring her arms up before the creature was upon her. By Auri-El’s grace, she was able to prevent the creature from reaching her neck. It tried to move its hand to cast those red magicks, but Vastaril was sober and able to anticipate the move. Damn it, she still couldn’t bring up her legs to kick the creature. Her sobs of despair became sobs of terror mixed with anger while she battled the creature, inching her hands slowly upwards, avoiding the sharp-toothed mouth in an attempt to reach its eyes. If she could gouge its eyes out. Those terrible eyes. She was almost there, glad that she grew her nails a bit to counter Andrasephona’s ridiculous daggers.  Her thumb was about to plunge into one of those lifeless, orange orbs.


    She nearly passed out when she felt the first blast of the red magicks. It felt like her very essence was being drained from her body and her stomach grew weak, her vision blurred. Vastaril lost her grip on the creature’s face, her hands falling upon the desk with a heavy thud and it gained the upper hand as Vastaril felt herself begin slip into unconsciousness. She was going to die. She looked up and gazed at the creature, watching its soulless eyes narrow, sensing its victory over her. She saw the teeth and for a second she turned away in fear. She didn’t want to see the teeth. Her eyes then fell upon the silver bolts on the desk and time slowed, the fingers of her left hand just touching one. It was sharp, beautifully crafted.


    His silver bolts…


    He had lifted his weapons with such little effort. Like he was born for battle. More explosions, this time closer and again more controlled… more screams, louder this time. His voice. She could still hear his voice. He kept looking at the left side of the Lecture Hall. She only saw Mer. Was he seeing them the whole time? Why didn’t he say anything? Would they have believed him? Would they have believed a scarred Dusken Dog?


    No, Vastaril despaired, knowing herself and knowing the Thalmor.  They wouldn’t have, and they would have thrown him out like the worthless dog they believed him to be.


    And then there would only be the screams...


    Vastaril turned to face the creature again, her grey eyes suddenly calm as she watched it smile, baring its sharp teeth, coming closer to her. Coming to feed. Vastaril’s hand closed over the silver bolt and with all the strength she could muster, she stabbed. Not even sure if she hit it, for her eyes were tightly shut.  She felt colder, stickier blood splatter this time and then she was rewarded with a shriek of pain from the creature. Only then did she open her eyes to check her aim. The bolt had found one of its awful orange eyes. It fell on top of her and she screamed, feeling its strange undead weight upon her body. It felt worse than Ondolemar. Ondolemar was alive. This thing was dead. She let out a gust of air.  It was over and she let her hand drop upon the desk again, feeling another silver bolt at her fingertips.


    She was not expecting it to get up again and she felt her heart leap to her very throat when she saw it rear up violently, the bolt still sticking from its eye. Vastaril screamed once more.


    “Stay, I will check the study. No STAY, Damn it! That is an order!” His voice again. An angry growl of a warning. And she tried to cry out to answer, to let him know she was alive, but only a strangled whisper came out, for by then it had closed its hand around her throat, cutting off her air while the other hand raised to cast its red magicks.  More screams, another flurry of controlled explosions, the strike of a thrown blade, shrieks, snarls and unholy, guttural speech, the scent of burning decayed flesh, and then a powerful battle cry. Full of rage. His cry.


    “Help…” She croaked weakly.


    She felt the creature’s hand tighten like a vice upon her throat and her fingers tried to close over another bolt, but they felt like heavy iron as the breath slowly left her body. It sensed what she wanted to do and with its casting hand, the creature swatted the bolts from the desk, causing them to roll away from her and fall upon the floor. It was the creature’s stupid mistake, for it was distracted when it watched the bolts fall, and Vastaril seized the opportunity. She suddenly reached with her other hand and tore the bolt from the creature’s eye and stabbed, striking its forehead.


    Vastaril then surprised herself by removing the bolt and repeating the action, her sobs violently uncontrollable now, her eyes mere slits from her own tears as she stabbed her assailant multiple times with the silver bolt. She lost count how many times she stabbed it, but if one stabs things enough in the head, the creature should die. In theory. That was her rationale and sure enough, it fell dead upon her, Ondolemar’s and whatever other blood it had fed upon prior oozing out of its body and onto her. She was going to be sick. All she could smell was blood.


    After it fell, she stabbed it several more times, just for good measure. It didn’t respond and she allowed herself to finally close her eyes.


    More explosions and a sudden, heavy weight upon her chest forced them open again and she saw another pair of orange eyes.  It looked male this time. The other one had once been female. All had been Altmer. She tried to scream, but her voice was gone. Her hand weakly closed over the bolt in an attempt to pull it out of the dead creature’s head. It was wedged in between bone, though, and it wouldn’t budge.


    Vastaril could see the terrible orange eyes closing in. It was over, she was too tired now to fight back.


    The second creature then fell forward towards her, reacting to a powerful blow to its back, its body now cast in a strange golden-white flame. It was on fire and yet she wasn’t burning. How can flames not burn living flesh? Her brain struggled to process the information.


    Flames that do not burn living flesh. The sun... The Holy magicks. A priest? A priest was here?


    More magicks struck the creature and it shrieked in agony as Vastaril’s nostrils filled with the stench of undead flesh crisping. It was burning and crazed with pain when a black gauntleted hand grabbed the charred creature and pulled it roughly off Vastaril’s body, tossing it with great force towards the wall where the door was.


    It was him. Like a tall, black wall. A tall, black wall with stupid purple and green curtains, but she didn’t care what he wore. Not a priest. 


    The black gauntleted hand then glowed with a golden-white light and she saw the spell leave his hand, briefly highlighting the plated armor of his torso with its light, striking the creature when it attempted to crawl away. It screeched loudly as the golden sun fire enveloped its body, making it convulse for a few seconds before it succumbed to the heat and perished, its burned body leaving a dusting of grey ash upon the floor.


    The heat of the sun.


    Sun fire.  That was the name of the spell. The fire that didn’t burn living flesh. She remembered. Vastaril let her head fall back as the walls spun. She felt another dead weight leave her body and she moaned when her compressed lungs again filled with air.


    The last thing Vastaril saw before she faded was his helmeted face. Grim and covered, so scarred, so terribly pale. So black and dark, yet he glowed. He glowed, despite the gloom of his dress. She saw that his gauntleted hand now glowed again, glowed with a light like the very light of Aetherius, and Vastaril felt such an intense, soothing warmth; a warmth that seemed to seep into her very soul when he gently touched her cheek with that black gauntleted hand...


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXII    Chapter XXIV



6 Comments   |   SpottedFawn and 1 other like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  September 4, 2017
    This chapter was incredible. So much detail, and the build up was great. I quite like Vastaril. Ondolemar was repulsive. The vampire bits were good and terrifying. Shame they didn't just finish Ondolemar off, xD would have saved Albee some trouble down th...  more
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 25, 2015
    I certainly like Aelberon as a main point of view, but the recent chapters with the sustained alternate viewpoint have been refreshingly fun. 
    Good stuff as usual!
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 8, 2015
    Vastaril is funny that way. She'll be all serious and then say something like that. I loved incorporating her into the narrative. You should read gnewna's stuff. It's great fun. 
    Reconstructing their clothing was a blast. I wanted to capture the orn...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 7, 2015
    "It was him. Like a tall, black wall. A tall, black wall with stupid purple and green curtains" It was so intense until that line, lol.  Vastaril is awesome and you found a way to make Ondolemar even more despised.
    Also after the last few chapters, ...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 1, 2015
    Glad you liked it. This was a challenging chapter. Lots of details again, and because it's set in Alinor, which is alien to most people, I need to add things that you wouldn't need to add when writing about Skyrim. ESO so far only features Auridon, the sm...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  July 1, 2015
    See, you see!!! This is what happens when you have vampires go to a party. you don't have this problem with werewolves.  I wonder if its down to the Thalmor as to why the empires so stubborn when it comes to lists.
    Nicely written and a nice prompt r...  more