Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXV

  • Battle...


    It was something Vastaril never formally learned. The art of warfare, the art of combat. Sure, she read the required reading, attended lectures at the Training Center, and passed exams that demonstrated to her superiors that she possessed the rudimentary knowledge needed on the subject to move forward in rank. She even donned armor, an Elven set, as was custom for all starting Agents.



    And it weighed so much. She remembered her fellow peers and her at the Training Center laughing as they struggled to even move in it, barely able to lift their arms and legs. Walking about as fast and as gracefully in it as a pack of sloads. A Mer who could move well in armor was a strong Mer, especially one who could cast at the same time, and she knew several agents who indeed possessed such skill.


    But Elven armor was a light armor, made of a thin alloy of moonstone, quicksilver, and iron. The sheets beaten until they were thin and light. So light and thin, she thought while she watched the red magicks.


    And it did nothing against magic. Simply made them more agile so they could dodge. If they were hit, they fell. And then, she didn’t want to think on that. The horror of it. She caught herself trembling and felt the sting of fresh tears when they drew closer to those crystal doors. She had never seen anything drink blood before... until today.  She stifled a belch, she was going to be sick again.


    But this, this was battle. The art of fighting for your life.


    The creatures, in a desperate move, crowded at the crystal doors and gave a hard shove, crushing some of their own kind in the process, their bodies plastered, broken and bleeding against the doors.  Broken, bleeding, yet still somehow moving. The gruesome tactic worked, overwhelming the Royal Guards, who were forced to fall back when the doors swung open. They then entered the lobby, crawling over their squashed kin or whatever they called each other. If they even thought to do that. Vastaril wasn’t sure. They didn’t act like sentient beings to her. They acted like monsters, their shrieks and groans echoing in the marbled lobby.  Their thirst for blood heightened by the scent of living flesh that had previously been just beyond their reach.


    They were called vampires, not creatures, though to her, they were demons.


    The nobles fled in terror, finding the opposite end of the lobby, towards the doors that led to the outside. Some were now no better than the vampires, beginning to push and shove toward the doors, ignoring the muffled cries of the Altmer who were unfortunate enough to reach the doors first. They beat at the outside doors and screamed, praying that someone from the outside would hear. That someone would see that the great chandelier was destroyed, casting the once brightly lit Lecture Hall and lobby  in only the light of the night sky.


    They left the injured to their fate and Vastaril felt for them while they lay in their makeshift beds of cloaks, unable to move, unable to run. Until two forms emerged from the study. The Prince of Cloudrest and the Lecturer. In an action that moved Vastaril, she saw them begin to herd the injured towards the study. There was still decency amid the awfulness. She was torn as to where to go, combat, or this equally noble task, and she hesitated in her current position, which was close to Ondolemar and the other Agents.


    Until she saw him. The one who moved so quickly in his heavy armor.


    “I shall deal with him myself.”


    Those were Justiciar Ondolemar’s very words to her and she saw that the Justiciar was indeed closing in towards him, his lightning cloak cast. Vastaril knew the intent. The perfect crime and no one would blame the Justiciar. Cloak spells were simply that way. If you got too close. She didn’t know what to call him anymore. Mongrel, Dusken Dog, Dusken, Old Guard?



    It was such a beautiful name. At least to her. It sounded old, like it belonged in a storybook, or an ancient legend. She was supposed to hate that name. Why? She didn’t know anymore. Oh, they were quite clear about it at the Training Center, providing them with a massive list of his crimes and the explicit orders to kill on sight. Some, it seemed, knew more than others.  From what she understood, they were doing a service to the People, keeping them safe. Keeping them safe from a vampire-killing, healing Larethian Guard who happened to be from Dusk and be of mixed blood. Who murdered his parents and slaughtered children. Yet healed Thalmor Agents. The actions did not match the information and that bothered Vastaril; it ate at her. It ate at the scholar in her, the scholar that spent hours over tomes just to check and recheck sources for her research. And it ate at one other thing, she didn’t want to admit it, but it ate at it.


    The tiny bit of Nord that was in her. She needed answers and she wasn’t going to ask Ondolemar. There was only one other person she could ask and the Justciar was bent on killing him. He was bent on doing his job. What was supposed to be her job as well. Easier to just do your job, Vastaril, but the scholar in her couldn’t just obey mindlessly, not when the information was so conflicting.


    Unless, she got to him first. Vastaril’s heart started to race. She didn’t have a plan. She hated not having a damn plan! Her eyes scanned the lobby frantically to find him. He was in front, where she didn’t particularly want to look because they were there too.  Where she didn’t particularly want to be.


    He and battle seemed to be old friends.


    She watched as Äelberon continued to fire his crossbow. How he practically danced in that armor, shifting positions rapidly. He was so deadly with that weapon.


    “Fall back, mer, behind me, regroup, regroup!” He commanded, loading a bolt to fire again, taking down a creature with a well-aimed shot to the brain. He dodged their magicks and watched the other mer carefully, making sure they were behind him. Then he glanced back briefly and Vastaril wasn’t quite sure what he was noting with those eyes of his. Positions? Positions of anyone and everyone, as if assessing the potential risk for his next course of action.


    Fall back, behind him. Behind him…


    This Mer slaughtered children?  As soon as his back was turned, Vastaril began to stealthily walk towards Äelberon.  He had slung his bow and Vastaril saw both hands glow in preparation for a spell. Out of the corner of her eye, she also caught Ondolemar’s motions and Vastaril had to think quickly, but first she wanted to see the spell. In preparation, she cast her own healing aura and was quite disappointed to note that hers was nowhere near as bright as the Dusken’s, though she was pretty sure Ondolemar didn’t know that one. She was going to ready both hands with fiery arrow, but her second hand instinctively glowed in the light, glittering red light. Frightening Orb? That was what she came up with? Ah, damn.  On what? Bah! Certainly not on the Dusken! Bear of a Mer probably wouldn’t even notice if that spell hit him.


    Damn, there was no time to switch spells. The creatures were closing in and several were pointing their red magicks at Äelberon. One took aim, and without thinking she rushed forward and cast frightening orb. It didn’t run away, but it was surprised enough by the impact that didn’t cast its red magicks at the Dusken either, who was certainly in the middle of a large spell, the light colored a peculiar white-gold, extremely bright, illuminating the lobby. It was an empowered spell. Damn it, Ondolemar was getting closer, but a vampire was getting closer to him. She would never be comfortable saying the word in her mind and she remembered the word used by the Grand Justiciar before he left.




    What or who were they? He had notes from Skyrim that he compiled himself. Who were these Volkihar? Perhaps targeting the Grand Justiciar for bringing a test subject for vivisection? They were skilled illusionists because she saw only Mer when she entered the Lecture Hall.  She growled in frustration, she had followed procedures to the letter! How did they get in?


    The Dusken’s hands slammed down to release the spell and Vastaril heard the sounds she heard in the cloakroom. The loud crash and then there appeared around them a rotating circle of white hot energy, making a distinctive swooshing noise. The sun’s light rotating. Protecting and Vastaril shot her fiery arrow at the vampire directly in front of Ondolemar, barely opening her eyes when the charged fire escaped her hands.  She hated the recoil on this spell.


    And missed the vampire, but it fell exactly where she wanted it to fall. Right between the foul creature and Ondolemar, making both jump backwards away from each other, the vampire’s body catching some of the flame while Ondolemar’s lightning cloak fell apart. Inside, she jumped for joy, but betrayed nothing on the outside. He glanced sharply at Vastaril, but nodded when the vampire continued to burn. He countered with his own fire spell, quickly burning the vampire with his more practiced magicks.


    “Damn!” Ondolemar swore under his breath. Stupid fool! She did help with the vampire, but he wouldn’t have another lightning cloak on him for a good while. What was he doing, he thought, his eyes narrowing. That ugly mouth was going to issue another command?


    “Mer! Attack. The barrier is cast, push them forward towards the door—Aah!” A blast of the red magicks struck the Dusken directly causing him to stagger as the spell began its draining effects. His hand glowed and he countered rapidly with two bursts of sun fire, burning the vampire to ash and severing the drain from the stumbling Mer.


    Äelberon gasped as he nearly fell to his knees. The pain was intense, radiating through his body and his heart intensified its pounding.




    He could feel it in his veins. He had it. It was an occupational hazard and it was not the first time he had contracted the disease, but this was a new strain. He did not know if the traditional methods would cure him. The curse was in him now. Focus, Old Mer, you still have work to do. The oath, think on the oath you swore. What you promised them. That their children would be safe.  He shook it off and growled, though his eyes lost some of their focus and his breathing was very heavy. He didn’t have much time. He needed to get them back into the Lecture Hall and seal the doors. And there was only one way he could ensure their safety.


    “Burn… those… that you can… Hurry.” Äelberon commanded, though the guards could tell that the red magicks had taken their toll on the Mer who so bravely fought by their side, leading them through this disaster.


    Vastaril cried out when the Dusken was hit, she didn’t know why, but it tugged at her to see him hurt, though she was surprised he was still standing. She fell. Ondolemar fell, but Äelberon, he remained standing.   


    “When I give the signal, Mer.” He continued, “Close the doors quickly, and put your backs into it.”


    “Yes, Captain!” They acknowledged, taking their flanking positions as near to the doors as possible.


    Äelberon then turned to the other Altmer who were participating in the fight. The rest of the Agents, the Lady Lilithia, Ondolemar. His eyes lingered a bit on Vastaril and she saw the terrible fatigue in his eyes. He was sick. She glanced quickly at Ondolemar and then back at him, and she detected the faintest of nods from him. He took a deep breath and dispatched another vampire before turning to them again. “The rest of you, if you have flames, use them. We drive them through the doors.”


    They nodded in acknowledgement, but Vastaril saw Ondolemar’s hand charge again with a purple light. Damn it, he was going to try again! She hated older Mer!


    It was the gift bestowed by Magnus to all who were of the Altmeri race. The ability to regenerate magicka for a brief amount of time so quickly that spells were almost inexhaustible. A gift of the Gods. A gift to be used in times of great need. Äelberon closed his eyes and called this gift to him, for he was Altmer, though there were those in the room who did not think so. Those who thought him nothing better than an animal! “I am no mongrel. I am counted among the Highborn.” He whispered intensely, his body beginning to cast in a faint aura of white. Bathed by the light of Magnus.


    He was Altmeri. Vastaril couldn’t believe her eyes as she began to cast fiery arrows at the vampires closing in, rather haphazardly, but she was burning some of them. When she aimed straight. She hated this spell.  But he was Altmeri. Ondolemar was wrong. You did not have Highborn if you were not Altmeri. She glanced at Ondolemar. He was trying to betray nothing as he focused  his attention on killing a vampire, but she had lain with the Mer enough times to know that he was disappointed and angry. Now, he was piecing together in his mind how he was going to fix this disaster of a Symposium. Who he was going to blame. Vastaril renewed her efforts on the vampires directly in front of her. She was not going to let him bring her down.


    It was an insult to all Altmeri that he could call upon Highborn. He was not Highborn. He was a dog, son of a crippled fishermer and a whore Snow Elf, and Ondolemar felt the rage build inside him when he saw the Dusken begin to cast with nearly unlimited magicka. Spells he never even knew existed. Bursts of flaming sun light that erupted into powerful explosions, engulfing these demons in a holy inferno. Strange shock waves that drove other vampires to retreat with screams of agony into the Lecture Hall. Another ring barricading them from the beasts that wanted to kill them. He was a Paladin, selflessly casting healing magicks upon the Elves that fought by his side. And he glowed, he glowed with his own healing auras and Ondolemar wanted it to STOP! He was a blasphemer. He was not Auri-El’s Champion. He was not his Eagle. He was an abomination and he needed to end. Ondolemar was rewarded when his own body was cast in a pale glow. The Dusken would now pay for insulting what it truly meant to be an Altmer. Ondolemar spit on the floor and his face contorted into a hard scowl as he charged his fire magicks. The fireball was huge and destructive, sending both vampires and Altmer fleeing, causing all to turn to find the source of the magicks.


    Ondolemar, Äelberon narrowed his eyes, eyeing the glowing Justiciar, his face dark with rage. This was getting dangerous. He doubled his efforts, knowing that his time to cast with such power was limited and he would have no defenses.


    It was then that they heard the doors to the outside begin to shift, the gears turning slowly to allow it to open. Had it been four hours already? Had it been four hours of torture already? Vastaril watched Ondolemar close in on Äelberon as the last of the remaining vampires entered the Lecture Hall and there was a huge commotion as many nobles began to shout and pound on the outside doors, demanding to be released from this nightmare. Vastaril could hear voices from outside. Yelling and tense.


    “Quickly! We don’t know the danger. The Agent was found dead, his throat torn to shreds. Open the door now, lives are at stake.” It was a woman’s voice and Vastaril saw the Prince emerge from the study, his dirt-streaked face shocked as he wiped his bloodied hands with a linen. He knew the voice.


    They were opening the doors. It was over. Vastaril was exhausted and she could feel her magicka begin to wane. It surprised her that the first face she sought was his and not Ondolemar’s. He looked relieved too as he continued to cast his Holy magicks and they turned to face each other as they both cast magicks against the vampires; her doing the best she could with flames and some runes, which got a friendly smirk of surprise from him and a nod. A nod of respect. He countered with another powerful burst of sunlight and then smiled at her, his eyes, even in this destruction and chaos, managing a twinkle that made her chuckle. He was showing off now. Despite the disease that now afflicted him. He smiled and yes, he did indeed have a fetching one, Vastaril thought. Full of charm with just a tinge of naughty. A Thalmor Agent and an “enemy” of the Thalmor. Working together for the common good, both feeling the power it felt to be the Children of Anu while they cast their magicks.


    “We won.” She whispered, and he nodded back.


    “Aye, indeed we did. You did well, ah?”


    “Vastaril.” She replied, answering his implied question.


    “Vastaril, very pretty. I am Äelberon.”


    “I know.”


    “You are alright with that? With what it means?”




    He chuckled and smirked. He did that on purpose, thought Vastaril with a wry grin. “There is hope for you yet, Agent.” He whispered softly and he winked. “Really, though Frightening Orb? Does not work on the undead unless you are a Master Illusionist.”


    “It was what came out, Damn it.” She whispered back and then she got a laugh and she saw his laugh lines wrinkle.  Alright that gesture was almost attractive. Almost. Damn it! No, Ondolemar, Vastaril thought, her good humor quickly turning to alarm when she saw the Justiciar nearby.


    Äelberon turned when he saw her tense up ever so slightly, as if afraid to give him any more warning. But he understood the message very well. Ondolemar was coming. She warned him. She had warned him, and she was Thalmor. There was hope. Äelberon was faced with a decision and he felt time slow as his magicks ebbed, feeling the first sting of Ondolemar’s lighting cloak, draining him further. Face him and endanger everyone in the lobby. Endanger the Nordling. Ah, the little Nordling. Vastaril. He would have liked more words with her. She was a clever one. A little fox. He knew that face from somewhere and he pictured grey stone, but the pounding of his heart would not let him focus on anything barring vampires very well. At any rate, he hoped he would never see her again. That one, if she chased him, aye, she would give him a run for his money and he did not want to face that. The doors to the outside opened wider and some of the nobles began to pour out, while vampires began to advance towards the crystal doors to repeat their assault.


    Or, he could close those crystal doors. What? Ten left? He could take on ten, especially since avoiding their draining magicks was no longer an issue. The affliction made him the instrument to do Auri-El's work.  To "Walk the Light."


    “Auri-El be praised, the Queen of Cloudrest and more guards, We’re saved! Saved!” Came a cry from one of the nobles and there were gasps and exclamations of alleviation as normally reserved Altmeri held each other in comfort.


    Aye, Anwe, Äelberon thought with a small smile. He knew she would come. He knew she would be in the city even if she could not directly help her son. She probably saw the lights dim at the Lecture Hall. She was ever watchful. He heard Prince Mithlas shout from the study and his own pounding heart lept for joy when he heard her cry of relief.  His dearest sister… he was certain Lilandril was there as well and would soon be reunited with his daughter. Another cry punctuated the courtyard outside and Äelberon recognized the voice. Yes, he was there too. Äelberon closed his eyes and let out a gust of air.


    His oath fulfilled, his debt repaid, Äelberon began to walk towards the open crystal doors. There was still danger and he had a job to finish. And if by Auri-El’s grace, he survived, he was not finished in the Isles. He needed to know what had been done and he would know if he went back.




    He winced when he felt more shock magicks from Ondolemar’s approaching lighting cloak, but he quickened his pace while more nobles filtered out into the courtyard outside, covered in blankets by guards and Thalmor Agents. Äelberon drew his silver scimitar and with a loud cry, he took the opportunity and rushed inside the Lecture Hall at full speed, swinging his blade with great fury. The weapon, as if with a mind of its own, found a vampire, severing its head. They screamed, retreating, and his eyes blazed.  


    WHAT, thought Vastaril, her eyes wide with distress. No, no, no! He’s going inside. No… He can’t. It wasn’t fair. Only death was inside those doors. She turned to one of the Royal Guards and gestured for him to follow her. They attempted to go inside after the Dusken, but it was too late and a charging vampire made the Royal Guard pick up a struggling Vastaril and drag her back out. She cried out in protest, beating the Guard’s golden armor, but stopped when she realized the risk.


    “Close the Doors! NOW! Mer! DO IT! For the safety of your fellow Altmer.” Came the command from within the Lecture Hall as he continued to swing his weapon and cast sun fire.


    They started to shut the heavy doors and Vastaril rushed to Ondolemar who had by now absorbed his magicks. They were no longer needed. He greeted her with a sneer. 


    “Do something.” She pleaded, putting her hand on his forearm, her voice a hushed whisper.


    “Whatever on Nirn for, Agent?” He whispered back, his voice chiding.


    “He saved all these people, Sir. He did us a service.” Vastaril retorted, her fear rising when she heard his battle cries and the shrieks of the remaining beasts. There were still too many of them.


    “He’s a criminal and will die a fitting death. In a bit, we will retrieve the body and all of this, all of this will be nothing compared to the major blow we would have just struck for the Aldmeri Dominion. Think on that, Vastaril.” He then grabbed her wrist tightly making her wince. “Or... think on what you’ve done to me today. Never forget that I can destroy you.” Vastaril closed her eyes and broke from him and he smiled. She would come back. She needed him. He turned to a small group of Royal Guards and raised his voice. “Well, you heard the Captain, close the doors! The People must be protected at all costs.”


    The Royal Guards looked troubled but nodded at the stern command issued by the Justiciar.


    As they sealed the great crystal doors, the Lecture Hall still aglow with red and white light from the intense battle that waged inside, there came such a cry from within that made those that were old enough to remember the Great Anguish suddenly recall a brave knight, dressed in armor of shining silver, wielding a golden bow, for the voice that thundered in that Lecture Hall was eerily similar to the voice that made the son of a Daedric Lord fall to his knees under burning skies.




    Followed by another fierce battle cry and the shrieks of more vampires, their red magicks reflecting off the large facets of the thick crystal doors. His cry, thought Vastaril as she approached the double doors. She leaned against them and strained to see, fighting the sting of bitter tears. It wasn’t fair. She almost jumped when she felt a hand over her shoulder, but the hand was old and gnarled. Not Ondolemar’s.


    “Room for an Old Mer?” He asked, his voice kindly.


    Vastaril moved to the side, along with a few guards to accommodate the Lecturer who took his place to watch the double doors. They peered through the crystal and could make out shapes moving in the dark, the occasional figure highlighted by either red or by the white light of sunshine. They could no longer hear, but they saw. The white lights seemed to come from everywhere.


    “He fights better now than he did all those years ago.” Remarked the Lecturer. “The bladework is better. Not that it wasn’t exceptional back then, but now, it has the refinement of age. The elegance. Pity he did not bring his golden bow. That was a spectacular weapon. A weapon only he could draw. The magic is better too. Better control of the spells. More spells.  Ah, I remember him so well, like an Eagle perched high upon a tall tower of gleaming white and crystal. Watching us as the skies burned. Protecting us. His Eagle. He belonged to Him. I imagine he still does.”


    Vastaril turned to the Lecturer, her face etched with comprehension. The Healing magicks. The fighting skills. She studied the lore of Alinor.  She knew the history. She remembered Äelberon’s very words as she lay on the desk. Spoken to a Guard. 


    Auri-El’s grace be with you…


    “He’s a priest.” She realized aloud.


    The Lecturer leaned in closer to her and whispered in her ear, his eyes still upon the red and white lights beyond the doors. “Much was said of his armor, his bow, his blade, but youngling, even more said on his hair. Long and silver-white like the very snows over Eton Nir. The badge of his Devotion, Faith, and Service, bound by a tightly wound leather lacing. Aye, child, a priest, of the most holy of Orders, for only a few are strong enough to enter into Covenant with our God-King, Auri-El.” He nodded and gave Vastaril a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “Mark the words of Lecturer Kelkemmelian, Master Alchemist of the Office of Provincial Studies and Survivor, he will persevere.” That last remark made the small group watching turn to the Lecturer.


    “That’s impossible.” Remarked one of the Guards. “No one could survive this. We only survive because he sealed himself in with them. If he had not been here tonight, we would all be dead.”


    He met the Guard’s puzzled stare and made a clicking noise with his tongue and shook his head, as if chiding the Mer. “Youngling, you need to brush up on your children’s tales.” He pointed a bony finger towards the door. “There is nothing on Nirn that that Mer cannot overcome.”


    She wanted to believe him, but she knew something the Lecturer didn’t know. That Äelberon had the same disease of the blood that Ondolemar now had. He had three days to obtain a cure or he would become the very thing he had spent the better part of the night fighting. She could not imagine a worse fate for someone who had been so brave. The red lights were growing less frequent, but so were his lights. His sun fire and Vastaril traveled quickly to the door on the right to get a better view. The moonlight hit better there. She tensely leaned in closer to the crystal and squinted, completely unaware of the commotion caused by the rescue operations. 


    Only to jump back when a vampire’s body struck the door with great force. It bounced from the door quickly and charged its red magicks again and Vastaril jumped a second time when a dagger flew across the space and struck the vampire’s head, splattering the door with deep red-black blood.  He still lived and she caught herself praying.


    “Is he dead yet?” Ondolemar… annoyed.


    “I don’t think so.” Vastaril replied flatly.


    “Damn, biggest problem with that mongrel. Could never just lay down and die.” The Justiciar observed, crossing his arms over his chest. “Well, the Grand Justiciar has arrived and I need to receive him, find me when the lights stop. Either way, we’ll have him. Dead or soon to be dead. It doesn’t matter.”


    She wearily watched Ondolemar slither away and she didn’t even care when she saw him bow low before the Grand Justiciar. She should be bowing too, but she didn’t feel like it. She was going to be reeducated anyway, or worse. What did protocol matter now? The others left the door as well to pay their respects, the Lecturer looking back once, but even he left, leaving Vastaril alone at the great doors and she found herself leaning heavily against them, the crystal cold against her face. Just earlier, it was a soothing warmth on her cheek. A healing warmth and she sighed. She only saw one more flicker of white light and a final one of red and she felt tears well again. She wished it had been white she saw last, but no.


    Red. Damn red.


    She turned and studied the Grand Justiciar. He looked moderately concerned, the way older Altmer became. No smiles, no frowns, but he did look concerned and Vastaril could see mild annoyance in his intense golden eyes.  He did speak of a reception. A reception that was probably interrupted. They were exchanging words, he and Ondolemar. It was the figure next to the Grand Justiciar who grabbed Vastaril’s attention.


    Gods, she was utterly perfect and even Vastaril caught herself gawking. It was the Queen of Cloudrest in the flesh, her body covered in an aura of healing magicks. She had come ready to fight?  Vastaril furrowed her brow, was she the one who opened the doors? There were truly no words to describe her. Golden. Like… like… Vastaril couldn’t even think anymore and closed her eyes in frustration. Her clothes, her form, tall and elegant.  Her face, impossibly beautiful, and the Agent could see how the Prince resembled her.


    But it was her hair that made the heaviest impression on Vastaril. Like pure spun gold, arranged in a series of silky twists that were then piled upon her head and secured with golden combs that featured charms that dangled and danced when she moved. Little birds, flowers, and fish. The sounds like faint tinkling bells. Delicate and beautiful. She had never seen combs like that. Ever. They were hand made. Then she noticed it and the hairs on Vastaril’s neck stood on end as she recalled the Lecturer’s words.


    “The badge of his Devotion, Faith, and Service, bound by a tightly wound leather lacing.”


    At the center of her hair’s many twists was a single top-knot bound in tightly wound leather lacing. Plain against the ornateness of the rest of her style, but it was there. If Äelberon was Auri-El’s priest, the Queen of Cloudrest was His priestess. Vastaril needed to talk to her and she made a move to walk towards the crowd that had gathered around the Queen and the Grand Justiciar. The wounded were being moved to the Temple by healers and extra guards and Thalmor Agents were escorting the young nobles away from the Lecture Hall and towards the Grand Plaza. It was good to see the Altmeri people united, granted, it took a disaster, but it was still nice. She even managed a small smile when two Mer embraced; one with flaming red hair, the other bearded with dark grey hair, both with the apple-green eyes of House Larethian.  Only 42 died. Considering how many were in that hall. It was a blessing. She touched the door one more time, it was time to tell Ondolemar.


    “Thank you, Old Guard…” She said softly, keeping her hand on the crystal as she spoke. “For your service to Alinor. You were most certainly not a mongrel.”


    A shadow then passed over the door and Vastaril whirled around, her heart leaping to her throat. Another vampire? She instinctively charged. Frightening Orb! What? Bloody Oblivion! She was out of practice, hating herself and then she looked up towards the shadow. 


    He lived. She could see him through the facets of the door. His features partially distorted and obscured, save one.


    He smirked and she felt her shoulders shake in a half laugh, half sob. She saw him move his head towards her charged spell and he shook his head, still with that smirk on his face. He then brought his left hand up and very faintly she could see the glimmer of a white-gold light as he charged his own spell. It was his way of letting her know that he was victorious, that they were all dead. That the People were safe. She moved towards the center of the doors. She wanted to let him out. He deserved to be let out for his service, to at least let him plead his case. This was no slaughterer of children. This was no murderer, she knew this. She frowned when he raised his hand to stop her, shaking his head.  She pressed her face against the crystal, cursing her breath for creating steam that obscured her vision.


    Why? She mouthed, pleading for an answer.


    I swore an oath, he mouthed back. I promised.


    An oath? To whom? We can help you. She volunteered silently.


    Äelberon shook his head and frowned. She was such an earnest child. A good Thalmor? Ha! What was next? Good werewolves? He can go to Oblivion then, Äelberon thought with a twinkle in his eye. She looked so familiar to him, but he was too tired to place it. Stone was all that he saw. Stone in those grey eyes. The disease was weakening him already, but he could not risk a shrine in Alinor. Perhaps at Dusk? Hopefully Captain Ganmon will have made good on his promise of a horse. He found the youngling’s eyes again.


    Beyond help, child, he mouthed back.




    She looked back and moved so he could see the Agents as they gathered. He put both hands upon his side of the crystal and leaned forward.  He knocked on the crystal and she felt it, turning back to him. Do not fret… He continued.


    There’s no escape. No escape. You’ll die! She continued to mouth frantically, putting her gloved palm upon the crystal.


    He moved his palm over hers for a moment and smiled again, leaning his helmeted head against the door. She leaned her head against it too. She saw the fresh blood on his face. He looked so resigned to his fate. He was alright with this?! Damned if she was. It was unfair. Thank you... He mouthed as he began to break away.


    She panicked, she had to say something to him and she knew he’d never understand if she mouthed. He turned away and she knocked hard, making him turn back. Vastaril had only seconds to think. How to tell him? She needed to say what they were. Then she remembered a game she used play when she was young, when steam would gather upon the windows of her home. She could write backwards. She had such a knack for patterns and codes. She began to breathe heavily upon the crystal doors, creating steam and at first Äelberon looked like he was going to leave. Until she wrote the first letter and then he understood. Vastaril quickly wrote something upon the door.


    Volkihar r the vamp…


    She nodded and then looked back. Damn it! Ondolemar was looking at her and nodded. He was coming. She glanced back at Äelberon and she saw his face darken and he nodded back. He understood and Vastaril quickly wiped the message away. Go. She mouthed. Their palms lingered against each other’s at the door for a moment and then he left quickly, like a shadow. Like a ghost. A ghost from Alinor's past. She cleared her throat and put on her best face before she turned around.


    “Sirs.” She said with an authority that surprised her and she smiled with satisfaction when it surprised the Son of a Bitch in front of her.


    “Yes, Agent?”


    “The fighting has ceased.”


    “It has?”


    “Fighting?” Questioned the Grand Justiciar, his eyebrows raised in interest. The Queen looked concerned. Vastaril noticed how pale she looked, as if something greatly troubled her.  


    "There was fighting?” Continued Grand Justiciar Vingalmo, glancing sidelong at the Queen. She did look rather blanched today. Poor, poor Anwe. Well her child was stuck there. And lived. It was quite unexpected.


    They followed Vastaril toward the doors and Calianwe could not stop her heart’s hammering. There was one still here. They were not free of threat. She charged sun fire in preparation.


    “Guards!” Ondolemar barked. “Agents, ready your spells.”


    Vastaril charged her flame spell in both hands and she felt Ondolemar lean close to her as they walked. “What did you see last? Red or White?” he whispered.


    “Red.” Vastaril answered, a smirk forming on her lips. Ondolemar misinterpreted that. Good. “Red and then nothing.”


    “Good, he’s probably dead then. Vastaril, this will help us to no end! Imagine his body on display, his hair publicly shorn. An enemy of the Aldmeri Dominion now dead after all these years.”


    “Yes, I can imagine it.” She was impressed at how calm she was. Or rather seemed, her heart was pounding against her ribcage so hard it hurt.


    The Grand Justiciar, The Queen Calianwe, Ondolemar, Vastaril, and several Agents stood while two Royal Guards opened the crystal doors, finally allowing them access to the Lecture Hall.


    Queen Calianwe cast several mage light spells and the room was finally bathed with an eerie white florescence, revealing a scene of terrible destruction. The great chandelier, thousands of years old, lay broken upon the floor, the marble cracked beneath it. Shards of broken mirror were scattered about. Great stains of soot and ice residue streaked through the ivory marble of the Lecture Hall like giant scars. Bottles of wine lay shattered, the liquid spilled.


    The stench of the bodies nearly made an Agent faint and Vastaril felt her stomach turn. Only the Grand Justiciar, Ondolemar, The Queen, and now the Lecturer who just walked in seemed oblivious to the strong smells, but Vastaril knew why. They were Survivors, they knew Daedric flames, daedric stench. This, as terrible as it was, was nothing compared to what they saw. There were Altmeri dead and scores of dead Vampires. Vastaril gasped and turned away briefly when she saw Andresephona’s lifeless eyes. She was crushed under the chandelier, her golden hair burned, surrounded by a cluster of dead guards and other Agents. It fell on them.


    “What happened here?” The Grand Justiciar demanded. “How many subjects were for vivisection? I only brought one? This is not the work of one damn vampire!”


    “One, Grand Justiciar, just as you brought. We don’t know how these came in. They looked like Altmer to us. We thought they were part of the group hired to set up for the Symposium and we saw them working on the displays. When they asked to stay, there was no reason to tell them ‘no’. They had proper clearance. It was only after the doors sealed that they revealed their true form. It was… indescribable.” The Lecturer looked away, still in shock.


    “Illusion magicks.” Stated the Queen, her eyes finding Vingalmo.


    “It would seem so.” He nodded.


    “I do hope he’s alive in all of this.” Worried the Lecturer.


    “Who?” Asked Queen Calinanwe, her arched brows furrowing slightly.


    “Oh, my Queen, a Guard, from House Larethian, I think. Fought like…“ Kelkemmelian stopped short. No, he could not tell her. He could not tell anyone. “He fought bravely, my Queen. Sacrificed himself, so that the doors could be shut.”


    “Poor soul, pour soul. Well, my Queen, it seems that there is none alive in this room now.” Replied the Grand Justiciar, his voice sympathetic. “It would be best if you saw to your son, don’t you think?  Leave the investigation to the Agents. You have done more than enough already. Many lives were saved tonight due to your diligent observation. If you had not noticed that the lights were out during the reception…” Vingalmo flashed a warm smile and Calianwe smiled back, but something was wrong. There was no sign of life in this room, from Mer, from vampires, from Ronnie. He was not there, she didn’t feel him. Yet her heart would not stop pounding. She began to make the turn to leave slowly, as was custom for her to do. She bowed slowly to each individuals in the room, taking the time to… assess them.


    The male Justiciar, Ondolemar, he had the disease. He wasn’t one, but he had it. “Justiciar Ondolemar, are you aware of your condition?” She asked.


    The Justiciar nodded. “Yes, my Queen. An accident, as I was fighting.” Vastaril clenched her jaw. That wasn't true. “I will visit the Temple, once our investigation here is complete.”


    But that wasn’t it, thought Calianwe to herself. This was a full-blood she was feeling. A strong one. She could sense him drawn to the blood in this chamber. The flesh. Her eyes found the Grand Justiciar again while he spoke with Justiciar Ondolemar and it took every ounce of Calianwe’s strength for her to not react to the horror of her realization.  She had to maintain her composure.


    Gods! Galmo! It was Galmo! Her dearest friend. Ronnie’s dearest friend. He was… no! Ronnie, where was he? Why didn’t she see this sooner? Then it dawned on her, he was surrounded by blood, and it was tickling his bloodlust, making him let his guard down. And she was, damn it, never as good at this as Ronnie was. She needed to find him.


    “Grand Justiciar, come quickly!” Cried an Agent towards the back of the Lecture Hall, his hand charging a bound weapon.


    “My Queen,” interjected the Grand Justiciar, “we cannot risk your person if there is danger.  Please let us do our job. Lecturer Kelkemmelian, please escort the Queen away from this filth.”


    “Of course, Grand Justiciar.”


    She needed to leave, she thought as she took Lecturer Kelkemmelian’s offered hand. Ronnie wasn’t here. Where was he? She could hear the Justiciars exchange heated words and then she caught one phrase.


    “There’s a passageway, Grand Justiciar. Just under this tile.”


    Calianwe closed her eyes.  She needed to get to Dusk. His father now dwelt in that terrible plane, but his mother lay elsewhere.  She knew him, Ronnie would not leave until he learned what had happened. They wouldn't anticipate that he'd stay. Ronnie needed to know what had been done with her. Nothing could be done for his father, but his mother? Their communication had been so limited, he didn't know.


    He would head home. 


    Vastaril watched as the Queen left, escorted by the Lecturer. The Grand Justiciar smiled at Ondolemar and then at the other Agents, nodding his head in approval. Vastaril managed a smile back. He then clapped his hands together and squatted at the entrance of the tunnel, his movements surprisingly swift to Vastaril. He was a Knight of the Crystal Tower.


    “We’ve got him, mer.  Justiciar Ondolemar, send Agents down this passageway immediately. The Old grey wolf is as cunning as he ever was.”


    “It’s that brain of his, Grand Justiciar.” Remarked Ondolemar with a cruel chuckle.


    “He remembers all the details of a given location. It’s really quite brilliant, even for a mongrel. He channels Highborn, you know.”


    “Does he now? Well, the Gods have been known to bestow gifts upon the unworthy before. Champion of Cyrodiil anyone? A thief and a liar? Poor Cyrod. No wonder the Thalmor had to step in and seal those Obivion gates, eh?” He patted Ondolemar on the shoulder and then paused to regard the Justiciar for a moment. He wondered if Ondolemar would keep his new “gift”. He could smell it on him. Ha! Judging by Ronnie’s actions here, he probably had it too. Oh to turn that Son of a Bitch. It would please Lord Harkon to no end. This was already going to please him, Vingalmo thought with a grin. He was causing a stir in Alinor, and Cyrodiil and Skyrim were next on his agenda. Rumors of a major fallout within the Vigilants of Stendarr and the reforming of the Dawnguard. A Redguard named Isran, he was Vingalmo’s next target. Once he finished with Ronnie. The prophesy would be realized. 


    “My apologies regarding the vampires, it was indeed messy, and I'm sorry I could not let you in on this little twist to my plan, but what better way to lure the best demon hunter, then with a room full of vampires threatening the innocents of what did he call it?” The Grand Justiciar chuckled, “Oh, his ‘Beloved Isles’. Bah! He was always so melodramatic. The coarse bellows of an old and tired bear. Tell the agents to amass at the ports. He'll never leave these Isles.”


    Vastaril almost lost it when the Grand Justiciar mentioned the Champion of Cyrodiil, but she managed to keep calm and she focused on what they had just said. She perhaps was a thief and a liar, but she helped, and she was a relative. Her Great Aunt. And he said "Blessed Isles" not "Beloved Isles."


    We’ve got him


    What did the Grand Justiciar mean? Was this a trap?! It was underneath the tile, Vastaril noted. A tunnel. It was why he was knocking when he arrived. He was checking for an escape route, one that he already knew about. Gods, Vastaril suddenly felt a sick feeling in her stomach as her hand subconsciously fingered the potion that was still in her pocket. He knew this was a trap all along and he still stayed. He still saved lives. They knew they were sending all these people to their deaths! Ondolemar didn't seem to know, but the Grand Justiciar did. She was Thalmor, she joined to help people, to save lives, not destroy them! And she was one of them and couldn’t leave! She needed to think, feeling the sweat forming upon her brow and her heart race.


    “Sirs!” All eyes were on her. Damn, damn, damn, think Vastaril, they’re staring at you. Think of something to say, anything.


    “Yes?” The Grand Justiciar replied, a bit annoyed for being interrupted.


    She had made such perfect check marks… and then it hit her. This Nordling was smarter than the lot of them. “The registration tome. We can… account for the extra people at the Symposium. Cover up our tracks, so… we can pursue him more effectively. We can’t have the People learn, Sirs. It would be too much for them to bear. His treachery knows no bounds, the mongrel.” Vastaril hoped that she was convincing enough. She apologized to Äelberon in her mind. A Paladin would understand a little white lie, right? If it saved him? Maybe?


    “You know,” Agreed Grand Justiciar Vingalmo with a nod. “She has an excellent point. Your name, Agent?”


    “Agent Vastaril, Grand Justiciar.” She replied, her confidence building.


    “Vastaril, fetch the registration tome.” Commanded Ondolemar.


    “Yes Sir!”  Alright, perhaps that had too much enthusiasm, thought Vastaril, but they bought it and she made her way out of the Lecture Hall and into the lobby. Hopefully the Queen would still be here, especially if that Lecturer walked as slow as he did. She looked terribly worried when they discovered the passageway. She must know Äelberon. It was her only option to get this potion to him.


    Vastaril smiled when she heard the familiar jingle of little golden charms, still fingering the potion in her pocket.


    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXIV    Chapter XXVI



14 Comments   |   Paws and 1 other like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  August 12, 2016
    What. A. Chapter! From the naming of spells to the description of the battle, everything was exciting and interesting. Aelberon fighting at the vanguard with his Sunfire, his Vampire's Banes and his ever-lethal crossbow, if there is one chapter so far whi...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      What. A. Chapter! From the naming of spells to the description of the battle, everything was exciting and interesting. Aelberon fighting at the vanguard with his Sunfire, his Vampire's Banes and his ever-lethal crossbow, if there is one chapter so far whi...  more
        ·  August 12, 2016
      :D Yes, I cannot NOT have armored trolls in Dawnguard. 

      Thanks for reading and commenting here! Yay, we are using this site! *Does a happy dance*

      I think it cut your last sentence though. 
      • Paws
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        :D Yes, I cannot NOT have armored trolls in Dawnguard. 

        Thanks for reading and commenting here! Yay, we are using this site! *Does a happy dance* ...  more
          ·  August 12, 2016
        Good! Trolls are good, especially beautiful frost trolls :)

        I probably shouldn't have commented... we aren't really supposed to yet but I was reading it as I couldn't sleep and needed to speak :p

        I was on tabl...  more
        • The Long-Chapper
          The Long-Chapper
          Good! Trolls are good, especially beautiful frost trolls :)

          I probably shouldn't have commented... we aren't really supposed to yet but I was reading it as I couldn't sleep and needed to speak :p ...  more
            ·  August 12, 2016
          Oh, I don't care if we can't comment yet. We are having fun and it is nice to do just regular "blog stuff" enjoy the site, that sort of thing.  :)
          • Paws
            The Long-Chapper
            The Long-Chapper
            The Long-Chapper
            Oh, I don't care if we can't comment yet. We are having fun and it is nice to do just regular "blog stuff" enjoy the site, that sort of thing.  :)
              ·  August 12, 2016
            Agreed :)
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 20, 2015
    they're everywhere
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 20, 2015
    In all seriousness though, glad you could follow the battle sequence. This one was tricky to write. 
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 20, 2015
    And they veil

    No, none can escape the Typo Nazis. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 20, 2015
    And they veil has been lifted from Vastril's eyes. I've been able to follow your battle scenes smoothly, so good job! So, Alberon took the bait and now the real trap is bout to be sprung.
    None can escape the Typo Nazis: She could write backwards. Sh...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 23, 2015
    Yeah, he's smart that way. 
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  August 23, 2015
     A good Thalmor? Ha! What was next? Good werewolves?

    Yyyes, actually. Keen foresight there Äel.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 5, 2015
    Told, you I'd miss something. Got your PM, you werewolf, but it was all good. I hate battle scenes, cause there's like 500 things happening all at once. Yes, to answer your PM, that was dual-cast circle of protection. He also cast Sun fire, Sun burst (are...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  July 5, 2015
    No, he could feel it in his veins. He had it. It was an occupational hazard and it was not the first time he had contracted the disease, but this was a new strain. He did not know if the traditional methods would work. The curse was in him now. Focus, Old...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 5, 2015
    Perhaps a bit rough, as I cranked this one out fast. I will have my favorite person check it out and will reread it after a nap.