Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXIV

  • Vastaril didn’t know how long she was out. She could still feel the warmth of his magicks and the hardness of her desk, and then she heard voices. His and others as she slowly drifted back.


    “Captain, they’re trying to break through the doors.”


    “Let them try, but send a few more guards to bolster the barricades. I will check on your progress shortly.”


    “Yes, Captain.”


    Vastaril moaned, the clang of the other voice’s armored footsteps upon the floor rang in her throbbing head like a loud bell. Another voice… more metal upon the marble floor.


    “Captain, the young one, the one attacked by two. I think you need to see her.”


    She was attacked by two of them, she moaned.


    “The one with the blood loss?”




    A few seconds of silence and then he spoke again, and Vastaril, in her daze, could hear behind the strength of the command, the faint trace of sorrow, as if much thought had been given on the subject of that particular youngling. Attacked by two… Vastaril could feel her eyes flutter as she recalled her own assault.  “Even if I give her one, the youngling will not survive. They drained too much from her.”


    “Your orders then, Captain?”


    “Damn it. She will only suffer more the longer we delay. End it… quick and painless.”


    “Yes, Captain.”




    “Yes, Captain?”


    A heavy sigh. She assumed it was from him and now he sounded old. “And… as Auri-El’s hand, my son, be merciful to the poor child.”


    “Of course, Captain. By my hand, she will know the joys of Aetherius.”


    “That is a good lad, Auri-El’s grace be with you.”


    Captain, they called him Captain, but he wasn’t a Captain, she thought, her head still in a dense fog. And what was all this with Auri-El? The Old Guard was religious? He didn't seem the type. She heard the footsteps of the other leave the cloakroom and then a curse was muttered under his breath. Was he now in charge? It took a while for her to process everything that was said.


    End it… quick and painless.


    Vastaril’s eyes opened wide and she started to bolt upright, yelling hoarsely as she began to claw at the strong arms that restrained her, preventing her from hurting herself in her confusion and terror.  “NO, not drained. Not one of them. Please! PLEASE! Dusken, don’t kill me, they never bit—“


    The warm chuckle took her by complete surprise, making her stop her struggling, allowing him to slowly help her up to a seated position upon the desk. His voice had been very heavy before, bearing the weight of command. But now it was reassuring, with a sweetness behind it. A kindness. Warriors didn’t speak like this.


    But Priests did and you've known several who were just like this. 


    “No, no, no, you most certainly are not turning, little Nordling. Even if you were, it usually takes three days. Though...” She caught his hesitation and again, the fleeting touch of sadness. "There are exceptions.” As if he recalled an exception to the rule at that very moment. “No one is going to kill you either, not even old, crusty Duskens.”


    Vastaril blinked several times, allowing her eyes to focus and take in her surroundings. In the cloakroom still, only now it was much dimmer. Still on the desk. No, she had not been out long at all. Less than an hour, it was hard to tell. Her eyes widened when she processed his words fully. She hated that her brain was so slow.


    Nordling? He knew? Vastaril’s eyes finally had the strength to stay open and she looked wearily towards the direction of the voice. His voice.


    He wasn’t all that far from her. Standing next to her, in fact, while she sat on the desk staring back at him, her grey eyes meeting his red-orange ones. He was keeping her steady with a strong hand on her back. He looked still very flushed from recent battle, sweaty and ash-streaked, and tired? Well, tired wasn’t the word, and Vastaril struggled to find the right one.


    He looked like he knew this was coming and that he now had to deal with the aftermath, an aftermath he wasn’t happy with. Yet at the same time, he wasn’t going to let this dire predicament destroy either him or anyone else. It wasn’t one word, but it summed up his look very well. She’d think of the word later. She couldn’t think on much of anything now.


    The shadows under his eyes were a bit darker than they were when she first encountered him at the lobby. There was a fresh cut on his chin and a bruise on his jaw and she could see the blood that lightly oozed from where the bands of his helmet now cut into his nose and firm cheeks. She imagined the skin under those bands was bruised too. Bruised and raw. His armor was covered in a strange grey ash and she smelled their blood on him. His house cloak was coming loose from one shoulder and the ends were frayed and burned from stray flames. Too many stray burn marks, as if cast by unpracticed mages. Parts of his armor were covered in the icy residue left by frost magicks.  


    They attacked, but he fought back and he fought back hard. She wondered where her fellow agents were. Were there any survivors? Yes, at least two guards, and, when she listened, she could hear many muffled voices in the lobby, sounds of weeping and confusion. The occasional command and other sounds she did not want to dwell on. Dark sounds.


    Vastaril suddenly belched which caused him to inquisitively raise a bushy silver eyebrow and then she swallowed hard, teetering a little as she sat facing the closed door to the cloakroom. She felt her cheeks puff up slightly several times when they filled up with the bitter liquid, and she was very glad when he quickly pushed her torso forward, still supporting her back, her mouth opening.


    His quick thinking prevented her from vomiting all over herself, though damn, she thought while she continued to dry heave and cough for a moment or two afterwards, his free hand holding her gathered hair away from her face, she did get the tip of his boot.


    “Sorry.” She groaned, still trying to rid herself of the remnants of the vomit still in her mouth.  It was vile and the smell and taste made her eyes water as they found the floor. The swags of wine and not much else.  He patted her arm as he held her, and she could tell he was still debating whether or not to let her hair go.  


    “Do not fret. It is just a boot. I am covered in far worse.” He nodded. “I bet that feels better, though, eh?”


    “Surprisingly? Yes.”


    Another kindly chuckle and he let her hair go, making sure it was securely tucked behind her ears before he slowly brought her up, Vastaril closing her eyes to prevent dizziness. She imagined she must look a sight.  


    “The first vampire kill always makes you vomit, Nordling. I do not regret much in my long life, but I really regretted that extra helping of fish I had on that particular day.” He said with that smirk and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.


    She nodded weakly and took a deep breath. “How old were you?” She managed.


    “Seventeen.” The Old Guard wiped her face with robes and her cheek instinctively leaned against the soft fabric, or did she lean against his hand, seeking comfort. She wasn’t sure, but that spell he used on her felt incredible. Far more potent than anything she could manage. Wait, silk robes... Oghma’s tits, he was using Ondolemar’s robes to wipe the traces of vomit from her face. For now, she was too tired to protest.


    Seventeen! What was she doing at seventeen, thought Vastaril. Aye, school, she remembered as she hung her head. “Did it frighten you?”


    “Aye, it did, I was very young and very stupid.” He replied with the tenderness and good humor of someone who had done his share of nursing the bumps and bruises of others and who, in turn, had been nursed himself.


    He was a strange character to her. A warrior, of that there was no doubt, but there was more to it than that. The adult, the Thalmor in her told her to grab the robes and wipe her own damn face, but something in her stopped and let him do this extremely gentle thing. Altmer did not typically touch in public, and the Thalmor were even more reserved. It was said that the Southern Elves were far more relaxed, that they even held and hugged their children and smiled in public. It was such alien behavior to her, for she was born in Alinor and had never been to the south. It felt alien, but it also felt soothing.


    Her grey eyes traveled right and she saw that his followed hers. Great red-orange eyes still imprisoned between two cutting bands of black metal. Imprisoned? Why did that word come to her just now? Well, that helmet did not look especially comfortable. He was inches from her face and she now noticed the flecks of gold in those eyes. That was most unusual, no Altmer she ever knew possessed such eyes. They reminded her of… fire.


    Vastaril’s eyes found what they were looking for. His golden-hued feet and some of his sparsely haired bare legs were visible from her position on the desk, though she imagined more could be seen. His body lay partially covered with cloaks and furs disturbed by the impact of his fall. She let out a small sigh and his hand then paused at her cheek.


    He saw Ondolemar too, only the look in his eyes was quite serious. Concerned. He probably saw that Ondolemar was naked and he didn’t look stupid, thought Vastaril as the heat of embarrassment rushed to her face. He tilted her head up gently to face him, and she found herself struggling to meet his gaze.


    “Did he hurt you?”


    It was whispered. The question still caught Vastaril off-guard. He didn’t assume sex, he assumed rape.  And he was right, or at least he would have been, she thought bitterly as visions of Ondolemar’s assault flashed freshly through her mind. She closed her eyes, fighting the sudden sting of tears. Vastaril then cleared her throat and remembered herself, snatching the robes from his hand and pushing him away. She was not a victim. She was Thalmor.


    “You are using a Thalmor Justiciar’s robes inappropriately.” She was surprised at how cold her voice could be sometimes. For a split second, he looked taken aback, but he composed himself quickly.


    “Fine.” He answered and the tenderness was now gone.


    Vastaril clenched her jaw, she was Thalmor, who was this Dusken to ask such brazen questions? “No, he did not hurt me. Best you keep your crass assumptions on a loyal servant of the Dominion to yourself, Dusken.” She replied, her tone as authoritative as she could muster.


    He leaned a bit closer to her, and his hands were in the exact same position Ondolemar’s were right before he pushed Vastaril to the desk. She could not control her body when it instinctively tensed up and her breathing quickened, her heart hammering against her chest as she felt the presence of the giant Mer so close to her. He was huge and very male and Vastaril cursed to herself when he felt her fear at his nearness.  All her training could not hide her relief, when sensing her obvious distress, he removed his hands from the desk and stepped back, giving her much-needed space. He made a clicking sound with his tongue and shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest.


    You, Agent, are a lousy liar.” The smirk then returned, that bloody, condescending smirk that let her know exactly what he was thinking.  She really hated that smirk. “So…” he began as Vastaril rested Ondolemar’s robes almost reverently next to her on the desk. He used a symbol of the Aldmeri Dominion to wipe away vomit and yet... “You think Ondolemar will let me have my bandolier back?”


    “Oh Gods, Dusken, just take it.” Vastaril groaned, putting her face in both her hands. She could feel the pounding in her head intensify. He knew Ondolemar by name. By Oblivion, nothing surprised her anymore. She was still too tired to ask how he knew him or how he knew it was him lying under a pile of cloaks. The stupid fool was dead and all of this mess was now hers to sort out. “And please, don’t let them find him like that. Put his robes back on first. His dignity…”


    The Old Guard let out a hearty laugh, which Vastaril was positive could be heard outside the cloakroom. Her face left her hands and she straightening up as she turned to the Old Guard and leaned over the edge of the desk to see what he was up to. He was now squatting next to Ondolemar’s body, moving away cloaks to expose more of the fallen Justiciar.   


    “Ha! Dignity? I will do no such thing, Nordling.  Bastard stays as is.” He chuckled when he saw Ondolemar’s shriveled merhood and the pile of excrement on the floor, where the Justiciar released his bowels, and gave the body a hard slap to the thigh.  “His, ah… shortcomings on full display!”


    She watched as he roughly dragged Ondolemar’s bleeding body to an upright seated position amid the furs and cloaks and then gave him a good slap to the vomit-encrusted face with his gauntleted hand. Had he no fear! He was striking a Justiciar! Granted, he was dead, but still, there had to be rules for this sort of thing!


    “Xarxes’ arse, Ondolemar! Wake up!” He bellowed, his silver brows furrowing in disgust as he wiped his hand on an extra cloak. Another slap, and Vastaril had a faint notion the Dusken was enjoying himself, despite the vomit, and part of her enjoyed it too. Damn it, it was very hard being a dutiful Thalmor around this Mer. He made her forget herself entirely too much. He extended his other gauntleted hand towards Vastaril, snapping his fingers impatiently. “His robes, quick.”


    She sighed in relief. The Guard would at least clothe him. Ondolemar was a bastard, but no one deserved to die like that. Yet another hard slap and Vastaril’s eyes grew as large as septims when she saw Ondolemar’s brow furrow and he let out a low, hoarse groan. He was alive!


    “Come on, you old Son of a Bitch. Nap time is over! We have a lot of work to do.” He goaded, first roughly wiping the Justiciar’s dirty face with his own robes and then throwing the robes upon the floor as he proceeded to unfasten his bandolier from Ondolemar’s thin chest.


    He scowled when he saw that the straps had been adjusted and then he studied the face of the barely conscious Thalmor Justiciar for a few seconds, looked up at Vastaril, and then back at Ondolemar. Vastaril jumped a little when he gave Ondolemar another hard slap to the face.  That would leave a mark.


    “And that… is for mistreating a She-Elf, you dirty pig.” He snarled.


    The door creaked open and Vastaril looked up.


    “Captain? Is everything alright?” Interrupted a voice, one of the Royal Guards, causing the Dusken to angrily shove the robes onto Ondolemar’s chest as he stood up.


    “Aye, coming.” Came the gruff reply, widening the straps to his bandolier to fasten it over his chest. He turned to Vastaril. “My weapons?” He commanded.


    She nodded, feeling weak again from her own vomiting. Somehow she knew that this terrible night was only beginning. “Take them.” Vastaril said softly.


    He grunted an acknowledgement, quickly sheathing his silver scimitar and slinging his crossbow upon his back. She noticed then that the Guards’ weapons were already gone from the room. He probably equipped them first once he found her, or he gave them the order to take them. She had no idea, but he was definitely running things. Ondolemar was going to be furious. Did the other Agents follow the Old Guard as well? She watched him grumble incoherently while he reached behind his back to fiddle with the lining of his cloak until he pulled out a small red vial, and her face again grew hot with embarrassment. She never did make him removed that cloak, though now she was realizing that her lack of diligence perhaps saved lives.  “See that the Bastard gets dressed, and the two of you then report to the lobby.  We have much to discuss. This is far from over.”


    Gone was the pleasant manner from earlier, the voice now took a hard edge. He was angry, and not just about Ondolemar. Something else ate at him, as if he was greatly disturbed by something. Something that happened in that Lecture Hall. And puzzled, she sensed that he was puzzled too.  He didn’t quite have all the answers yet. She watched him glance at the slowly reviving Justiciar and then at the vial. Debating in his mind whether or not to waste a potion on Ondolemar. Aye, they knew each other and she could tell that the Old Guard didn’t much like him.


    He growled a few choice expletives directed at Ondolemar under his breath and she could tell that he wasn’t happy about it, but he tossed the potion to Vastaril and for a moment his features softened when he saw her catch it. He probably would have laughed if she dropped it. “When he wakes, make him take that. He has… I do not know. Well, it is a disease of the blood, but it is not Porphyric Hemophilia. I will check later to see if it works on him. If it does not, well… I will kill him.” 


    He stopped at the door when she spoke again, calling from her desk. “Are they dead?”


    “No, they are not. Not all.” Came the grim reply.


    She watched the Dusken leave the cloakroom to follow a Royal Guard, closing the door behind him, the Guard’s indigo cloak tattered and torn, his armor also splattered with dried blood.



    He was here! The Bastard was here, thought Ondolemar dully as his swollen eyes finally opened enough for him to make out his surroundings.  He felt fur and cloth behind his back and the coldness of the marble floor upon his legs and backside. He wrinkled his nose when he caught the odor of excrement and vomit.


    Scamp’s Blood, it was his own. His bowels must have released when he fell, and he was surprised he had not choked. The Dusken Dog probably loved seeing that. He remembered the impact on his back and the draining agony as he was kissing her and then he was pulled back, feeling such pain on his neck. Feeling the blood flow down his chest and then the sucking sounds against his ear. Slurping. Then the creature threw him and nothing. Now, Ondolemar just felt strange. Weak and drained and it was very bright in the room, making his head throb. His mouth was dry, the thirst almost unbearable. The desire to drink strong.


    Ondolemar was weak and in pain, and he was here.  He couldn’t fight him like this.  He groaned again in frustration, throwing his head back against the cloaks. How did he return? And what were these creatures doing here? There was one for vivisection, he saw that being brought in. It was all crashing down on him and now he was here. As if things could not possibly get any worse. Unless he could fix it somehow. He needed to think.


    “Lemar…” He stirred at her whisper. At least she didn’t smack him awake. Bastard howled in his ear like the mongrel he was. So much for being a kindly Knight-Paladin. He was an insult to Auri-El. “You need to get up.”


    Ondolemar turned his head slowly to the source of the whisper. Staril, crouched next to him, the clasp to her robes still unfastened, exposing her long, smooth neck. His Staril, though he wasn’t so sure on that anymore, and for a moment he felt a touch of regret when he looked into those strange grey eyes. Alien eyes that he sometimes found so captivating.  It was the way they caught the early morning light. 


    He had hurt her.


    She looked exhausted, her normally pretty face swollen from recent tears, with dark circles under her eyes, bits of he didn’t want to know what still stuck to the corners of her mouth, and she was without her hood, her brown hair damp with sweat and spilling over her shoulders. He said the first thing that came to mind, his voice still hoarse. “Cover up, Staril, they’ll see.”


    Ondolemar winced and groaned when he felt another slap across his cheek, making him blink a few times at the sting. Hers didn’t hurt nearly as much as Äel - the Dusken’s. He did not deserve to be called by name. That Bastard hit like a bloody bear. He eyed her hard, his light green eyes like ice, and he was satisfied to see her crumple before him.


    You do that again, bitch, he warned with his piercing eyes. “I’m still in charge here.” The Thalmor Justiciar hissed, “and don’t you forget it, youngling. I can destroy you for that.” She crumpled more and he smiled slightly. That was better, the proper dynamic restored.


    “With all due respect, Sir.” Vastaril began, her head still high as she held up his robes, though now avoiding direct eye contact as she whispered; a slight stubborn thrust to her jaw. He could feel the heat of anger on her face. The heat of her hurt, but her voice now lacked any true authority. Any true bite that would make an Elder break. She was still far too young for that sort of command and she’d likely never find it. “I don’t think I’m the one who needs to worry about covering up.”


    He was naked.


    “Fair point.” He conceded rudely, taking the robes from her, his voice congested and tired sounding. “Help me up… Agent.”


    Vastaril helped him up, avoiding his face, fighting the fresh tears. No apologies were even attempted. Did he think so little of her? They barely spoke as he cleaned himself up the best he could, healed the wound on his neck, and dressed, taking extra time to make sure the angles of this robe were straight.  He frowned when he saw the several damp spots upon the chest and wrinkled his nose when he smelled it.


    “Is this vomit? How did this get on my robes?” He demanded.


    “He used it to wipe my face while I was recovering. It struck me with that spell too.” Vastaril replied coldly. “When I realized they were yours, I stopped him, but he wiped your face with it as well.”


    Ondolemar furrowed his brow. “Well that you stopped him, Agent. Damn animal probably doesn’t even know what silk is.”


    She hated how Ondolemar could almost look normal when he donned his robes. She still looked terrible, she imagined, as she adjusted her hood and redid the clasp. Thank Auri-El, he hadn’t ripped it. It still closed, though it slipped. No different than her hood now, she thought, her eyes finding the vial on the desk. She gestured to the table with her head. “He left that for you, Sir.” She said flatly.


    “What? Poison? Hmph! From him, anything is possible.” He scoffed, dismissing the potion with a wave of his now gloved hand. “I’m not taking anything that mongrel gives me.”


    Vastaril was puzzled by his use of the word “mongrel”.  It was a huge Altmeri insult, only used when addressing one of mixed race and not just with a small amount like she possessed or the Lady Lilithia. No, “mongrel” was reserved for someone who was nearly half of a different race or more. Ondolemar called the Dusken that terrible word. Vastaril chose her next words carefully. As it stood now, she was in trouble. She struck Ondolemar and while he may overlook it, he may not. “Sir, he mentioned something before he stepped out.”


    “What?” Came the snide question.


    Porphyric Hemophilia.” She replied. She saw those light green eyes widen slightly and then she quickly added. “You don’t have that, Sir. But he did say that you have a disease of the blood. It was his recommendation that you take the potion and that he would check on your progress later.”


    “My progress?” A plucked eyebrow arched. The Dusken didn't pluck his eyebrows. 


    “If he saw no improvements…”


    “Let me guess, he’d kill me.” The look on her face confirmed his suspicions. “Oh don’t look so shocked, Vastaril, the mongrel and I share a history. I’m surprised he didn’t finish the job the creature started then and there.”


    Vastaril’s eyes narrowed. “Are you going to take—“ She cut herself off when she saw his dark glower.


    “I’m not taking anything that beast gives me!” He growled. Ondolemar gestured curtly to the door. “Come. Let us see what is going on. If someone is acting without my authority, Vastaril, mark my words…”


    For a Mer who was thrown as violently as he was, he showed remarkable recovery. He was lucky, he was older than she was and could channel his magicks better. Spells were simply more efficient the older you became. As she followed him, Vastaril’s hand quickly closed over the vial and tucked it in her pocket. He did not see the motion and the pair of Justiciars left the cloakroom, she opening the door for him, as was procedure.



    “Ready! On my count.” Came his voice from the study, when Ondolemar and Vastaril emerged from the cloakroom to a dimly-lit lobby.


    It was not the normal lighting for this time of night. And the smells. Charred flesh and smoke, sweat and fear. Something was wrong, the lobby was now a warzone. The Old Guard’s voice was gruff and in what Vastaril knew to be his “command” voice.  Short and clipped, not rude, but not particularly polite either and sometimes with a smirk. She watched Ondolemar fume beneath his calm exterior. Vastaril breathed a small sigh of relief when one of the Agents who had been stationed at the Lecture Hall doors rushed towards them. They weren’t alone.


    “Sir, you are alive. We were…” The young Agent’s face betrayed concern.


    “Hold him! Steady, mer, while I set the break.” Interrupted the Dusken from the study. “Your Highness, you have his head secure?”


    “Yes, Captain.” Came the reply from the young Prince.


    “Good, again on my count, mer. We need to set this bone properly so I can heal it.”


    The Prince of Cloudrest was even taking orders from the Dusken!


    “What is going on?!” Ondolemar demanded, grabbing the Agent firmly by the shoulder. “Why is the Prince following orders?” The Agent looked flustered and didn’t answer right away, searching for words.  How was he going to explain all of this to the Angry Justiciar who glowered at him? All that had happened. The horror… “ANSWER!” Growled Ondolemar.


    “His Highness’ choice, Sir. The Dusken Guard from House Larethian, he’s a healer, Sir. He’s been at it since we fell back to the lobby. Healing, Sir. After the battle. He fought. We fought. He… guards can’t do what he did, Sir, the spells... Gods...” The Agent turned away, remembering Dusken while he stood in line to enter the city. The Southern gates. The one he though was only worth the docks. 


    “What happened at the Lecture Hall?” Ondolemar hissed and the Agent was again lost for words.


    “Horror, Sir, horror happened.” But amidst the horror, he also saw the purest light of Aetherius, beautiful, powerful, the very might of Auri-El in a pair of hands, and the Agent felt great shame. He was a holy mer.


    More noises from the study resonated over the small din of confused chatter and exclamations of shock and dismay.


    Vastaril’s eyes broke from her fellow Thalmor and took in the scene. They were in the ivory-marbled lobby, many of the young nobles and about half of the house guards. Only half? She searched for other Agents and saw perhaps three more. There were twenty agents stationed. What happened? It was their appearance that shocked her. Most of the nobles were seated in tight groups upon the floor, their faces streaked with soot and icy residue. Some were nursing cuts. Their fancy robes and elaborate hairstyles were in shambles.


    But not all of the nobles were in such a state of shock and her eyes traveled to the crystal doors leading to the Lecture Hall.  The Lady Lilithia stood near the guards, her fire magicks charged. Her robes and hair also in shambles, but to her credit, Vastaril thought, she looked like she had done some damage and not the clumsy kind. Her green eyes narrow with rage. For the Dusken to station her there, she must have earned her place. Her grey eyes regarded the fierce redhead for a moment, only to be sent to the study again when a sharp cry of pain cut through to the lobby and she heard his voice again.


    “Good work mer, now hold him steady, while I cast.”


    “I’m going to get to the bottom of this.” Ondolemar fumed, walking towards the study, Vastaril and the other Agent close behind.


    They entered the large and elaborate study to find that the huge, carved wooden desk had been stripped bare of its decorations and a Thalmor Agent was now upon the table in the darkened room, his face contorted in pain. The other Agent from the door, noted Vastaril. She had not seen Adrasephona. Supporting his hooded head was none other than the Prince of Cloudrest, sweaty and streaked with dust, a cut and a bruise just under his right eye. Strands of his golden hair plastered to his head. His young face was focused. Holding down the Agent’s torso and left leg were several Royal Guards and the Lecturer, his old, gnarled hands resting upon the Agent’s booted ankle. His lined face was grim, his white beard streaked with an icy residue, his robes torn in places, and a blood stain was at the neck of his robes, though the dusky yellowish skin underneath was healed and smooth.  He had just cast a light spell, aiming to land right upon a piece of paneling, casting a pale, white light over the study. He was watching the figure at the Agent’s exposed right leg, the bruising and swelling of the break obvious. The break had broken through the skin, though it now seemed to be set. It was a grisly wound and the Agent’s low moans were the most dominant sounds in the study.


    He was standing at the edge of the desk, his cloak now removed, or rather, Vastaril presumed by its haphazard placement on the floor, that it had fallen off as he worked. Now indeed a tall, black wall.


    With incredibly pale hands and forearms. No gauntlets. He still wore his helmet, Vastaril observed, the blood hastily wiped from where his helmet cut into his flesh. The hands were strong and muscled, with long fingers. A warrior’s hands. The forearms were honed as well, the veins visible, with an archer’s typical bulk in that part of his body; covered with a smattering of coarse, silver hair. And bruises, he had several bruises where his armor had pressed hard against his flesh. He was knocked down or fell, or he struck a powerful blow.


    He was not an Altmer.


    Now Vastaril understood why Ondolemar called him a mongrel. He was large like a Nord, but she knew of no Nords with such strange coloring and the slant to his eyes definitely said “Elf”.  She ran through her studied list of Elven races and then remembered, her brows beginning to furrow in disgust, because he was impure, but then stopping. He had touched her, but he had healed her, his touch gentle. Ondolemar was pure Altmer and he almost raped her. She was confused.


    “Look at him.” Observed Ondolemar superiorly as he leaned in closer to Vastaril and put a hand on her shoulder. He could sense her tension. She knew what that was now. Who he was. He watched her eyes narrow to scrutinize and he could see the training in her. She was not so easily swayed by the Dusken’s guile. “Neither one nor the other, Vastaril, though he claims our race as his. An arrogant claim. Sometimes, when there is an uninterrupted line from mother to daughter, the impurities are preserved. Disgusting, isn’t it? The milky paleness. He should have been destroyed when he was born, but no, they allowed him to live. That he shares blood with those blind, wrinkled white goblins in Skyrim. I told you, no better than a dog. Your imperfections, in comparison, my dear, are easy to fix. Simply overcome your stubbornness and you can easily rise to the highest echelon of Altmeri society. But that? You can’t fix that.”


    He leaned in even closer and his next words were meant for her ears alone. “You can’t fix Äelberon of Dusk...”


    He felt her sharp inhale and Ondolemar smiled. She knew the name. All agents knew that name. All agents hunted him for the glory of Alinor, as the People wallowed in their ignorance. “Say nothing, though. I shall deal with him myself.”


    She nodded slowly and he smiled again, squeezing her shoulder. “Say nothing…” Vastaril echoed, her voice barely a whisper.


    Ondolemar scanned the room. They seemed oblivious to the mongrel’s true identity. Many years had passed and the majority of the People here were younglings. Easy to manipulate. He eyed the Lecturer suspiciously, but he saw the look of complete disdain; no, this one was too caught up in his own superiority to even remember.


    Lecturer Kelkemmelian felt the stare of the Justiciar as he watched the Pale Elf work his healing magicks and he immediately scowled in an attempt to look like he hated the grand Mer who was working so valiantly to heal his very enemy. It worked, and his old heart slowed down considerably when he saw the Justiciar’s face relax. They were extremely stupid sometimes, thought the Old Mer, his deep golden eyes narrowing under his immensely bushy white brows. He regarded the Mer while the Justiciar spoke to his Agent. He could not remove his helm. If the Eagle removed his helm, it would be over for him. He needed to warn him, but to find the right moment? Blasted vampires! This was a disaster! Yet, he had risked everything to come here. He knew. He was warned and he risked everything. Ah, Rynandor would have been proud. He had lost none of his goodness, even after the years of exile. Kelkemmelian would need to send word to Cyrodiil. 


    It still stood.


    Vastaril was troubled, if this was indeed the Äelberon of Dusk, the former Knight of the Crystal Tower, the enemy of the Thalmor, the demon who murdered his own parents in cold blood, slew children, raised the dead - Gods, she forgot the rest of the huge list - and was an enemy to the Aldmeri Dominion, why was he healing a Thalmor Agent? And why did he save her?


    Äelberon saw them the moment they arrived, just as his hands began to glow with healing magicks. This was, indeed going to be a rough night. He was disappointed when he saw the She-Elf’s first reaction after Ondolemar whispered in her ear. Disappointed because he really thought that she, of all of them, would be more intelligent. But when he quickly glanced at her a second time, hovering his hands over the Agent’s wounded leg, he noted the conflict in her eyes. Conflict was good, it meant that she was thinking and he needed her to think. Think about his actions today, not about what lies they were feeding her. The wound closed and he saw the pain disappear from the Agent’s face. This one did not know who he was. If he had to wager a guess? Obviously Ondolemar and now the She-Elf. And aye, the Lecturer, but he was remaining curiously silent. Only three in this entire situation felt the pain of the Tower’s fall, felt the pain of the Burning Skies, and Ondolemar had only been a youngling, still in his first decade. The rest probably only knew the books. Äelberon blew out a gust of air and relaxed his hands, letting the healing magicks absorb back into his body.


    At least they waited for him to finish with their own Agent, he noted, when he saw the three Justiciars approach the desk.  Scamp’s Blood, Thalmor on one end and a Lecture Hall full of angry vampires on the other, thought Äelberon with a tiny smirk, shaking his head in disbelief while slipping on his gauntlets. It was going to take some doing to survive this one, Old Mer. He just had to survive long enough for them to open the doors to the outside. Just long enough to get them out. Just long enough to fulfill his oath.


    They all froze when a cry from Royal Guard and the slight movement of the Lecture Hall doors echoed through the Lobby. Screeches and hisses could be heard from beyond them and everyone in the study saw the glow of those infernal red magicks.


    More terrified screams…


    “Stand your ground Mer! Stand your GROUND! Don’t let them get through these doors! Step back M’Lady!”


    “Damn it…” Äelberon cursed breathlessly, reaching for the crossbow that rested upon a busted chair.


    They were attacking the door sooner than he anticipated. How many were left? Around thirty-five? Many were killed in that first wave, by him and the brave house Guards and Thalmor Agents who fought by his side. But the younglings and their fire. They meant well, he knew that, but they had no control over their magicks, bathing the Lecture Hall in flame, causing the chandelier to fall and mirrors to break.  Killing some vampires, yes, but also their fellow Altmer, mostly the guards and the agents that were stationed to protect them. They did not, at first, listen to his cries to stop, his cries to let him do his work. Only when he double-cast Circle of Protection, forming a barrier between the young nobles and the vampires, were they able to escape through the doors into the lobby. But a few escaped with them, slipping by before the spell left his hands.


    He then killed the creatures, the bitter memories of the Void Nights replaying in his stressed mind, and he channeled the pain, heightening his aggression. He was a far better mage now, used to the darkness that Auri-El threw at him as he “Walked the Light”. Those creatures that did not fall to his magicks fell to the sure aim of his Torvalian blades, sending them to Coldharbour.  But it was not enough and he did not have his weapons until he reached the cloakroom and found her… and Ondolemar. The zealot.


    After the first wave, forty-two Altmer, nobles and guards, lay dead, nearly as many were injured, and the night was not over yet. Forty-two lives destroyed. Forty-two lives destroyed because the Thalmor locked the damn doors, sealing them inside.


    And if he had told them when first saw the creatures as he entered the Hall? When he first saw their orange eyes and their twisted faces? Aye, that was the bitter sorrow of this night, for only he saw them for what they truly were. It was his blessed gift and sometimes... his bitter curse. The Thalmor would have never believed him... 


    The healing drained him further, but none there could heal such complicated wounds. They were all so terribly young and the Lecturer was wounded himself.  Many of them suffered bites and now dealt with the effects of this new disease, and try as he could, his magicks could not cure it. They would need the Temple after this was over. But their children, their children were safe. Protected by the silver that adorned their very clothes. And they would remain safe, for he swore an oath. An oath he would never break. They also proved themselves, for Lilandril’s daughter had every bit the fire and bravery of her grandfather, and her son… he had the goodness of his mother, tending selflessly to the wounded.


    He did not stop to acknowledge Ondolemar and his party when he ran out of the study towards the red magicks. It was a type of drain spell, on that he was certain. He would need to speak to Lecturer Kelkemmelian when there was a moment’s peace to even breathe, and perhaps, if they were lucky, to have words. He had never seen anything like it before and he was certain the Lecturer would be able to shed some insight on the matter. Magicks that drain life like their bite drains blood. They fed both ways. This was no Cyrod clan, at least not one that he knew, and by Auri-El, he thought he knew them all. 


    “Get the younglings out of the way, towards the back, towards the outside doors! MOVE! NOW!” He commanded, the heat of battle beginning to burn his blood, the pounding of his heart intensifying as he neared the doors. He had not felt such pressure in his chest since the Void Nights. His heart would not ease its hammering until all the creatures were dead.


    The Thalmor in the study saw several guards split from the group at the Lecture Hall doors and gather the confused and frightened nobility towards the relative safety of the opposite end, their armored feet heavy upon the marble floors. The Royal Guards in the study followed at Äelberon’s heels, blades and fire spells charged. 


    “Justiciar.” Vastaril pressed. “We are under attack. We should…”


    “Aye, are you not going to help?” Interrupted the Prince, his face fraught with concern as he continued to support the recovering Agent’s head, exchanging glances with Kelkemmelian.


    “Of course, your Royal Highness. Come Agents, quickly!” Commanded Ondolemar, as he raced towards the door, charging his lightning cloak spell. It was the perfect spell for this occasion.


    Vastaril caught Ondolemar’s sly look and furrowed her brow when she saw his hand glow with the purple magicks of shock. Shock? What for? These creatures responded to flame and Vastaril tried to charge her own fire magicks, grunting when the first charge revealed nothing. Damn desk job, she grumbled while she followed Ondolemar in the dimness towards the red lights and the commotion. She concentrated and was rewarded with a significant charge, the familiar red-orange light now dancing in her hands. This one would be good, if she didn’t damn close her eyes like an idiot and miss the target.  Her heart quickened, she was not quite over the attacks yet and she was frightened. How long had she been awake? She didn’t remember. How much time had passed? They were going to open the doors in four hours? Two hours must have passed already, maybe a bit less? She didn’t know and again, he was helping. Why would a Mer who was such a monster help people? Even his own enemies. He had saved her. Her mind raced, conflicted by her years of training and his acts of goodness.


    Ondolemar’s eyes found his target. The Dog was aiming his weapon through a small gap in the door that the Guards were holding for him, dodging their red magicks with the swiftness of a fox. His body highlighted with the golden glow of his healing aura. He aimed for more of the vile creatures, their screams letting all in the lobby know that his shots were true and Ondolemar caught himself briefly marveling as the Dusken, with but a single fluid motion of his strong left hand, loaded a bolt to fire again, repeating the process.  Such elegance for a degenerate animal. The efficiency of it all was spectacular to watch and Ondolemar had to admit, the Dusken Dog was the best archer in all of Tamriel. He was a Knight of the Crystal Tower. He slew Bet, but Äelberon of Dusk…


    Needed to die.


    His very existence was a threat to Thalmor plans. Ondolemar didn’t know exactly what those plans entailed, but they were important to the future of Nirn, important to the future of the Aldmeri Dominion and the Thalmor and that was enough for Ondolemar.  He didn’t even know why the mongrel was here, he was an exile. He only knew that blind luck would finally give Ondolemar the opportunity to give the Aldmeri Dominion he served so devotedly the grand prize they most coveted. The Dusken’s death. It would also make up for this terrible fiasco. They would ignore the deaths, ignore the destruction, if they had his lifeless body. His hair shorn in a final act of humiliation. The Eagle's wings broken. 


    The healing had made him weak, Ondolemar thought while he approached the target, and the simple armor he wore now had none of the enchantments that that glorious silver set possessed. The silver set he wore that day when he shot that arrow through the battlements, challenging the darkest of enemies. All Altmer were so weak to magicks, so weak, even the mongrels, Ondolemar thought with a cruel smile as he cast his lightning cloak, feeling the lightning surround his body. No one would even blame him. Cloak spells were simply that way. It was perfect…


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXIII    Chapter XXV




13 Comments   |   SpottedFawn and 1 other like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  September 6, 2017
    I love the complex relationships between all three of this chapter's main characters. Really glad to know that Lady Lilithia and the Prince survived! Ondolemar deserves a few more slaps, though. xD Albee didn't beat him up enough.
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  October 30, 2015
    It's been a while since I heard the vampire's disease being called Porphyric Hemophilia, not since my last playthrough of Oblivion a few months ago but as a creature of habit I still called it Sanguinare Vampiris.
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 26, 2015
    Ondolemar is an ass. Nice job making a throwaway character in the game a despicable irritant.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 14, 2015
    Hehe, there is a reason why Albee hated school. LOL
    Thanks. I worked really hard on Vastaril's stuff. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 14, 2015
    See kids? This is what happens when you try to learn, vampires attack you.
    Impressive job blending Vastaril into your story, I'm seeing what you meant when you said you took collaborations seriously.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 3, 2015
    Thanks. Wanna laugh, I had to use paint to put in those bands of metal in his helmet. But, from faraway, it doesn't look too wretched. 
  • FishDout
    FishDout   ·  July 3, 2015
    Nowhere near this point in your story yet, but wanted to say magnificent screenshot :P 
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 3, 2015
    Ooo, that IS better. *runs to insert* 
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  July 3, 2015
    I have a suggestion. It's a suggestion mind.
    He was standing at the edge of the desk, his cloak now removed, or rather, Vastaril presumed by its haphazard placement on the floor, that it had fallen off as he worked. Now indeed a tall, black wall.more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 3, 2015
    Sometimes the smallest word is the best choice. That's better and not so jarring, thanks for pointing that out, Sotek. 
    I trust that Vastaril will do something, dunno what yet. This isn't edited material, this is brand new stuff. I'm frankly quite s...  more