Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter XXVI



     We were born to cry.

    We were born to sigh.

    The Sundered’s only cope

    Is to always cry.


    Tower razed by burning sky,

    Darker days for Elves are nigh

    The Sundered never hope,

    We can only cry…

     - Äelberon of Dusk, circa 0 4E


    10th of First Seed, 185 4E


    Calianwe continued her ride, her fresh steed swiftly galloping across the terrain, it long transitioning from the rolling hills and flowered meadows of the inlands just past Alinor to the vegetation characteristic of the southern coast. She was making the turn south now. Towards “the Point”, as they so affectionately referred to their ancestral plot of land. The southernmost tip of Summerset Isle.


    “Get to ‘the Point’” was a common joke in his house and Calianwe’s lips formed a tiny smile at the more pleasant memory, feeling the cool sea breeze upon her face. It was a welcome respite from what she had been thinking on previously as she rode. A poem. A poem Ronnie wrote while he lay ill at her palace in Cloudrest.


    When he and her great grand uncle were finally found, amid the jagged rubble, mangled bodies, and dust of the Tower, they were taken to Cloudrest to heal, for her house still stood. Both were badly injured from the battle for Crystal-Like-Law. They recovered from their physical injuries well enough, but even a Master healer cannot heal the wounds of the soul and Ronnie suffered terribly after the Tower fell. It was as if a part of him had fallen on that day. As if a part of him had died and her Uncle Nandor seemed almost guilty for Ronnie’s misery, blaming himself. Babbling nonsense. Shocked and tired, seeming a lesser mer than he was before.


    "Old crystal to new, Silver now burns with ancient red. shifting existence, shifting planes... Auri-El's light! Tower razed, but stone... It is, it is! Sea shells and gulls and blossoms of the vine, keep it secret! Keep it safe! Could it be? Books, books upon books, so many books... Endless Libraries and a Wasteland of trapped Souls. Sun, Blood, and Dragon shall seek him out. They always seek the one they wish to find them... And my poor Sun bird will pursue a soul-eating Blackness through Aetherius. They will not understand... banners of black and gold will hunt him... they will not understand. But three queens will, they will understand. And... they will follow. From Summer to Winter, they will follow. The dragon shall cast the crystal upon the sands where Winter Holds. Once known by another name... where the Eagle stands sentinel was his home... Heart torn, ripped."  


    Strange words spoken over and over again and understood by none as the former Archmagister of Crystal-Like-Law himself aimlessly wandered the halls of her palace, grieving. Vague speech from her normally straight-forward Uncle Nandor. Frightening speech. It was a dark, sad time in the months after the gates finally closed, The Isles lay devastated, broken and bleeding, and Ronnie wrote dark, sad poetry, gazing forlornly out the window of his room, his eyes far away, facing south. Always facing south. He did not speak much during the day.  


    Only for Ronnie’s tormented screams to echo the palace halls at night, raging battle cries, screams for his parents, and screams in other words they didn’t understand.


    "Bormah, hiif zey!"


    Those words made the Altmer that heard them cringe, stirring something deep in them whenever they were uttered. Something to be fundamentally feared. It was not the Common Tongue nor was it their own ancient language, for only a rare few still spoke it with any regularity; the Elders and the very wise, though now it belonged to the Thalmor. She herself only knew a few words, but even she knew that what Ronnie spoke wasn't the Old Altmeris. It was something different. Calianwe couldn’t explain it, they were just unintelligible words, gibberish spoken by a sick, young Mer who was clearly in profound mental distress, but even she was afraid when she heard them spoken.


    The nightmares kept him restless and agitated as he waited, watching the south. Watching, and at first, hoping.


    Until she found that poem scrawled upon a crumpled sheet on his nightstand as he fitfully napped, his skin drawn and colorless, spent from his nightmares and she knew he no longer hoped, for he no longer faced south. His red-orange eyes no longer searched for the sea. No longer searched for the family and dear friend he had lost. And he despaired, no longer looking out the window.  


    We are born to cry…


    There was only one other time where he faced such a trial of faith. After his parents died. When he finally lost them forever. Calianwe bit her lip to suppress her own tears while she rode on. That time was even worse. After Dusk was purged. Ah, to not be pure Altmeri. She hated her People sometimes.


    Vingalmo had reunited Ronnie with his family after the Great Anguish, bringing Ronnie out of his depression, only to tear them apart again during the Void Nights, plunging him right back in.


    The Sundered’s only cope is to always cry…


    She never knew then why Vingalmo signed those orders to purge Dusk and why it had led to Ronnie’s exile, only that she had to save him from death. And she did, sending him into true exile and eighty-seven years in Cyrodiil. Sundered from his home, shattered.  Now she knew why. She urged her steed forward, she needed to reach him.


    And now, yet another trial. More running, more anguish. How much could a Mer endure?


    Dusk was slightly northeast of the Point, also upon the coast. Her horse galloped towards grasses and sand, interspersed with palm trees and gnarly myrtle that grew upon the cliffs, windblown into shapes that seemed to defy how branches should grow by the order of Nature. It lacked the structure of Alinor or Cloudrest, but the beauty of the south was in this lack of structure. She could hear the noisy, busy screeches of canah birds as they prepared for their nightly roost within the branches of myrtle and palms, constructing nests from the vines.


    The grape blossom vines of the south. Vines with clusters of flowers that resembled bunches of grapes. It grew everywhere here, and the smell. She could smell the heady, spiced fragrance of the grape blossom vines that crept up palm trees and myrtle branches alike, even venturing down onto the jagged cliffs themselves, coating them during the summer months with showers of purple, yellow, and white blossoms. The scent, mixed with the salt of the sea air, made her instinctively take in deeper breaths, relishing its different taste. To her right was the crystal Abecean Sea, the white sand of its beaches glowing in the moonlit sky, the twin moons cast upon the water like a mirror casts a reflection.


    He loved this land so…


    Calianwe saw the lights of Dusk ahead but that was not her destination and she prayed to Auri-El that he did not stop there. That he was so driven to learn what became of his mother that he would spare himself the horror. It was no longer his beloved city by the Sea. No, after the Thalmor purged his city, they rebuilt the ashen ruins.


    Into something different.


    Dusk became a Thalmor city of hard lines and brick. It became ugly and square, rigid and ordered. Symmetrical. Gone were those charming floating gardens and ambling wooden boardwalks that swayed gently over the water whenever you walked upon them, the food vendors that lined them, the haphazard construction centered on its wood and glass spired Temple of Auri-El and its docks. The wooden docks where fishing vessels with their three masts and thin, membranous sails glistening in the sun-kissed vivid blue skies like giant insect wings. She did not want to see it either. She wanted to remember what it was before. She wanted him to remember, too.


    Calianwe veered right, towards an overgrown path that led down from the rocky cliffs to the beach and dark rock face, slowing her horse to avoid the peril of the stones that were often buried underneath the sand. A horse had traveled through recently, for she could see bits of kicked up sand and grass. He could always ride faster than she. Only one horse though and on that Calianwe was glad, saying a prayer of gratitude to Auri-El for His mercy.  If he took this path, he took it alone.  Scores of Thalmor Agents were looking for him, but in the major ports; Alinor, Lillandril, not at Dusk. They assumed he wanted to leave the Isles.


    They were wrong, save one Agent.


    Grey eyes. Grey eyes that betrayed Nord blood. They were swollen with shed tears and the circles dark with exhaustion. Her Thalmor hood barely concealing medium brown hair, but otherwise she was an Altmer, pretty and with a certain keenness to her stare. A focus. She stopped Calianwe as Lecturer Kelkemmelian was escorting her out of the Lecture Hall and asked to speak to her, a bold move to directly address the Queen of Cloudrest, but something in the Agent’s tone made Calianwe stop and turn.


    The youngling then bent her head and removed something small from the pocket of her robes. “He intended this for my superior,” she began “even though he is his enemy.  My superior, however, thinks him a mongrel and refused the kindness.”


    “And what do you think?” Calianwe heard herself ask. She knew who the Agent was referring to from the moment she opened her mouth and it wasn’t because he was called a mongrel. It was because he gave a potion to a Thalmor. That was Ronnie.


    “I think,” replied the youngling, her voice now bearing the weight of fatigue and understanding, “that he is more deserving of this than anyone else in this room.” She handed Calianwe the vial. “Please, see that he gets it. I can’t bear it if he became one of those things. It’s not what he deserves for the service he did today.”


    “And how do you know I can do this?”


    “You both serve Auri-El. You’ll find a way.” The directness of the answer had surprised Calianwe and she took the vial in her hand, her heart quickening when she noted the contents. She needed to get to Ronnie quickly and with a nod of acknowledgment she began to turn around to leave.


    Only to be stopped again. “And please tell him something for me. Give him a message.”


    “What would you like me to tell him?”


    “Tell him that he is not beyond help. Tell him that we are not beyond hope. He’ll understand, maybe even smirk.”


    Calianwe then smiled which caught the youngling by surprise at first and then she slyly grinned. “I know that smirk too.” Calianwe then said. “The one where the laugh lines wrinkle just so. The one that teases, yet has no malice.”  She watched the Nordling give her a nod. It was, by far, Ronnie’s most charming feature, his smile. Warm and inviting in a culture of sneers and insincerity, the eyes in full agreement with the upward turn of the lips. He was an ugly Mer by Altmeri standards, rendered even worse by his brutal scarring, but he still wielded charm, though even he wasn’t quite aware he was doing so. The whole family smiled that way.  “And?” Calianwe then pressed, getting the Nordling refocused. There was no time to speak more of Dusken charm, for she could see another Agent start to approach the doors of the Lecture Hall. The young Agent then continued.


    “And… though I think he understood when I first told him, just in case tell him again, Volkihar. Tell him Volkihar. That they are… in Skyrim.”


    Calianwe waved her hand to cut the young Agent off. “You needn’t say more, Agent. I understand. Auri-El’s grace, my child.”


    “And also for you, my Queen. And also… for him.” The Agent bowed slightly and then turned away, heading towards a small cloakroom.


    “He is His Eagle.” Calianwe whispered softly and she saw the Nordling hesitate and turn her head slightly.


    “And may he always fly…” Whispered the Nordling before she disappeared into the cloakroom with hurried steps.


    It had been a puzzling encounter, thought Calianwe, but it made her all the more determined to reach Ronnie. It would help him knowing that his acts of valor had not gone unappreciated. Her husband did not want her to go, concerned of the danger, but Calianwe knew the Thalmor well. There would be no danger. The Thalmor expected him to be at Alinor, to try to leave the Isles, not to remain.  Her suspicions were confirmed when she spied a horse from the House Larethian tied to a white-blossomed myrtle that grew upon jagged rocks, its branches sculpted by the coastal winds into a contorted twist. 


    She scanned the area, dismounting slowly, taking her blade from her saddle. Her ancestral sword, though she rarely used it. She was still clad in her heavily embroidered gold and ivory robes from the previous night’s reception, though now covering her hands and feet were gilded gauntlets and boots of Elvish make and upon her shoulders was an indigo cloak of heavy velvet. Far too big for her, placed hastily by a member of her Royal Guard in what had been a very kind gesture to ward off the night’s chill. She sheathed her weapon and ran her fingers through her now windblown golden hair, hearing the slight tinkling noise her combs made when the charms moved.  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, she was hungry and tired from her long journey, her eyes turning to the sea briefly before finding her destination again.


    The Point, she had reached it, and so had he, though he was nowhere to be found. It was an outcropping of brownish and sand-colored rocks that jutted towards the sugar sands of the beach. Above her, in the myrtle and grape vine blossom-encrusted cliffs, eons of winds and storms had carved a hole into the rock, forming a natural grotto, letting in the sunlight, creating a hidden world of unsurpassed beauty underground. It was fed by a subterranean stream that flowed into the sea from another smaller opening some distance south. They destroyed the house in the Purge, burning it to the ground, but the grotto was largely untouched and Calianwe purchased the property when it was offered in an estate sale. Ronnie was still being held by the Thalmor, his fate yet to be decided. Or, they had already decided his fate and they were just being cruel. They never let him see her again… his mother. 


    The Point was now a tomb, the cave entrance sealed by a set of thick steel doors, weathered and dulled slightly by the elements but still clearly etched in an intricate design modeled after the armor her son wore. An eagle motif, chosen so that even if he could not be with her, his symbol would forever guard her.  It was appropriate for her tomb. The tomb of the Lady of the Forge. The lock for the tomb was in the shape of a gilded eagle, its talons outstretched, ready to strike down all those who dared enter with evil intent. She approached the double doors and then Calianwe of the Golden Hair smiled as she knelt upon the sand in front of them, something small and metal had caught her eye.


    Three lockpicks. Two broken and one whole. Her smile broadened and Calianwe shook her head in disbelief. That was a damn master lock. It had cost her nearly 5000 Talons to have it custom made and he picked it open with only three lockpicks! So much for security, though many years opening the doors of tombs and crypts had probably made Ronnie very clever with that sort of thing.  Calianwe stood and took another deep breath. Damn, part of her didn’t want to go in, to face what she would find inside. What terrible state that life-beaten Mer would be in. She fingered the vial in the pocket of her robes, feeling the smoothness of the glazed ceramic against her fingertips. He was sick, he needed her to go in, no matter his state. It was time and she pushed open the steel doors.


    When she cleared the small tunnel of carved rock, she was greeted by the ancient golden tree that stood watch over the grotto. Grape vine blossom was a vine, but it was also a tree and this tree was giant and sprawling, its golden clusters of blooms showering upon the ground. The entire grotto was dotted with creeping grape vine blossoms in shades of yellow, purple, white, and lavender, twisted myrtles allowed to grow wild, flowers and deep green grasses, ferns and mosses. The clear stream flowed through the center of the grotto, gurgling and churning over rocks and pebbles. Luna moths and torch bugs fluttered in the moonlight that filtered downwards from the opening in the cave’s ceiling. Every once in a while, she heard the stirs of canah birds as they roosted. She placed her hand upon the old, rusted wrought iron gate and opened it slowly, hearing it creak.


    At the center of the grotto lay his mother’s monument, sculpted in ivory marble to match her skin, inlaid with blue crystal to match her eyes. It was not especially large, simply a raised, marble monument, with clean lines and angles,  surrounded by a circle of marble benches and trellises of yellow grape blossom vine, her favorite flower.


    Cuttings of the great tree. The tree she and her husband planted when they moved to the Point. Cuttings that now surrounded her monument, vigorous and strong, fed by her ashes.


    Life from Death. 


    Where she now truly lay. 


    Ronnie's mother used to keep sprigs of it at her hearth, the most inviting place in all of Tamriel, smelling of honey, fish, and flowers, and Calianwe’s eyes stung with tears as she covered her mouth with her gauntleted hand. 


    The true glory of the tomb was what covered the top of the marble monument. It was Calianwe’s tribute to a brother, and a subtle protest on her part.  That Äelberon of Dusk would always be a presence in this tomb, no matter what the Thalmor did to blot out his existence. No matter if they used that awful word in private. Apraxis. He was not and he would never be, because it was still whole.  


    A thick layer of crystal was set upon the marble and embedded within the crystal was a sword of such beauty. His long sword. Supported by the marble that represented his mother. His sword, forged by her. 


    The sword that slew Bet.


    And the very sword that sent his mother to Aetherius. The final act of mercy from a devoted son, for his hand never touched the blade again. 


    It was a grand weapon.  The blade was a shining silver alloy intricately carved with an eagle motif. The gilded leather grip featured a smoothed moonstone pommel and the golden cross guards were two eagles facing each other, their wingtips touching.  Many, including High Chancellor Ocato, thought that the weapon bore an enchantment, but it never did. No, when Ronnie slew Bet, he slew the demon with the deepness of his Faith, the power of his swing, and the strength of her blade.  


    It was then that she heard it echoing faintly in the grotto as she slowly approached the marble. The muffled sounds of weeping and Calianwe knew when she saw Ronnie’s crumpled form leaning against it, his helmeted head pressed firmly against the cold marble, vainly seeking a mother’s warmth again, that he had seen Dusk. That he had seen with his very eyes what the Thalmor had done to his beloved City by the Sea. She walked up the moss-covered steps leading towards him, her own tears now freely flowing, her heart breaking for the dearest brother of their Order, though she could feel her anger growing as well. She needed answers. She knelt slowly next to him at the monument to his mother, her knees hitting the ground with a soft thud, and she tentatively put her own gauntleted hand on his broad shaking shoulder.  


    He whirled around quickly and she was taken aback, the bands of his visor cutting across his scarred face, hard and black, breaking the skin.


    How he had aged, she lamented. It was now a tortured face, ravaged by the battle he just fought to save her Mithlas, ravaged by decades of sleepless nights on the run, and ravaged by the memories that still haunted him. The memories that were as fresh in his mind as they were the day they were first created. The faces of the parents he could not yet avenge. The visions of the city that was now dead to him. That he was now dead to his People, though he still breathed. And... the face of the creature responsible for these deaths. The creature that he hid all those years from her and Calianwe could feel her grief mix with outrage.


    She dined with Vingalmo, she let him hold her children! That monster touched her babies, walked the halls of her palace. It laughed with her and her husband, celebrated with her, while Ronnie lived like an animal, and Ronnie said nothing! How could he have not told her? Why? She trembled with rage. Why didn’t she see? She was His Priestess, she should have known!


    She knew, Äelberon could see it in the way she stared at him, the anger mixed with the agony. The secret he had kept from her all those years. To keep her safe.


    It was she who first broke the silence, watching him, watching his blazing eyes, bloodshot from tears, exhaustion, and bright from the fever of the disease that was now slowly turning him as they knelt opposite each other.


    “Why didn’t you tell me? Ronnie?” She stammered, her voice betraying her rising ire and despair, her tears obscuring her vision.


    “Look at me Anwe! The answer is clear.” He replied with a thick voice, reaching to touch her, only to have his hand roughly pushed away.


    “He held my babies, you Bastard!” She screamed, her mother’s rage finally released. “He kissed them. He touched them, with Gods, his lifeless hands!” She watched him straighten up as he knelt, his eyes boring into hers, widened and intense. He was trembling too.


    “He held them, Anwe, but he did not kill them. His anger, his vengeance, was only upon me.”


    “He ate at my very home! Gods! He…” She cried, covering her mouth with her hands in horror, shocked by her own blindness, the pressure in her chest almost unbearable. All those years and she never saw.


    “Anwe, he took everything from me!!” Äelberon suddenly exploded, leaning forward, his hands clenched, and his voice a hoarse roar from his prior weeping. “I am shattered like crystal! DESTROYED! I refused to let him do that to you. After he… slaughtered them. I learned my lesson!” He beat his chest hard with his fist several times as he raised his voice. “Only on me now! Never on you! Ne! NE! Look at what I have become, Anwe, LOOK! Look at what I have become for knowing! I would not wish this on my worst enemies, yet alone my dearest sister. I love you too much! I am WRETCHED! VALDREKAAN!" The last word was practically a scream and then he gasped, drained from his outburst. "I can’t, I can’t… ”


    Calianwe burst into tears at his last words, understanding now what he had done for her for so many years, ignoring the strange word that didn’t quite make sense. He extended his trembling hand to her again and this time she did not push him away.  They embraced, comforting each other, refusing to let that monster tear them apart. Unable to bear seeing her pain any longer, Äelberon finally released decades of his own pent-up grief. It was too much, and he was quickly overcome, collapsing against her, barely able to breathe, his chest heaving violently with his own weeping. Calianwe gently turned him and lowered his head upon her lap, watching him struggle to take in air while she reached for the small vial. She opened it and raised his head a little to drink the liquid. At first, he groaned and refused it, recoiling at its strong odor.


    “My oath is fulfilled, my debt repaid. Let me die...” He moaned frailly, feeling the hammering of his heart. It felt like it was going to burst from his chest, as the curse overtook him. “May He grant me peace.” Äelberon fell back a bit and tried to close his eyes, only to have her shake him awake again. He didn’t want to wake up.


    “You cannot die, Ronnie. I won’t allow it. Now drink.”


    His eyes fluttered open and Calianwe could see that they were beginning to turn, the pupils growing dim, the color dulling. “Why?” He whispered sadly.


    It was then that Calianwe remembered the words of the Agent. “Because you are not beyond help, Ronnie. We are not beyond hope. A Thalmor, Ronnie, a Thalmor told me to tell you this, before she gave me this very potion. She thought so highly of you, of what you did.”


    “Grey eyes… eyes of stone… “ He murmured, remembering her. Äelberon then nodded, the faintest of knowing smirks upon his lips, and it was his own hand that guided the potion to his lips.


    He didn’t really want to die, she knew this.  It was the curse talking, tempting him to give up and die so he could then turn. He just needed help and the Agent’s words seemed to give him the extra bit of strength he needed to fight the disease. At first, Calianwe panicked when she saw him convulse violently, his body not tolerating the strange concoction of herbs well. She let out a sob of relief, however, when his body was finally surrounded by the lavender aura that cleansed him of Molag Bal’s poison. No, you Bastard, she thought darkly, you will not have His Eagle. Not so long as she breathed. Not so long as others valued him. Äelberon broke out in a sweat when the curse left his body and he began to shiver uncontrollably. Calianwe managed to lift him enough to rest his head on her shoulder, shifting her cloak so that it fell on him as well.


    How could Galmo do this to him?


    “He was our friend.” She continued to sob weakly, holding him close to her, rocking him, watching his great eyes glaze over as the grape blossom vines showered their golden petals upon them.


    It was as if she was weeping too.


    Rok lost dii fahdon. Krosis, krosis voknau dii sil, dii sil, krosis…” He managed breathlessly before losing consciousness.


    We can only cry…



    11th of First Seed, 4E 185


    Äelberon was briefly taken back, back to the roaring hearth of his home by the Sea, the smell of searing fish mixed with grape vine blossoms heavy in the air, making his stomach growl. The warmth of the fire and the sound of laughter making him smile while he worked. It was an emergency and he always came to her rescue. He was at the weathered, wooden dining table, a rough, homemade piece of furniture, his bare feet stroking the fur of a dozing hound, taking a moment to sip orange juice as he tightened the binding on her instrument, again securing the tanned slaughterfish over the six-sided wooden sound box. It had come loose while she played and he was tightening it again. That was the problem with fiddles. Especially when you tried to play them before the glue cured properly.


    He heard the delicate tinkling of the golden charms on her combs as she impatiently leaned over him, waiting for him to finish, her arms crossed over her chest. They were her wedding combs; his gift to her, crafted of pure gold and moonstone, decorated with delicately carved golden charms of seabirds, grape vine blossoms, and fish.


    “You said it wouldn’t break.” She said softly, her scent lingering in his nose as she stared at his second wedding present to her.


    The fiddle. A small instrument with a long, hardwood neck, and two silk strings. He took another sip of orange juice, testing her patience on purpose, the smile never leaving his face. Orange blossoms, she always smelled of orange blossoms the way his mother always smelled of grape vine blossoms when she did not smell of the forge. The way his father always smelled of the sea and his smokes. Anwe had a large tree in her home in Cloudrest and they came bearing freshly picked oranges and… the broken fiddle.


    “You played it too fast. Told you the binding had to cure for three days, and what did you do?” He chided, his lips forming a slight smirk.


    “I wanted to play for Mithlian.” She retorted, her face contorted in a slight frown as she eyed the golden Mer who sat across from them, his light green eyes twinkling at the antics of the two Priests of Auri-El. She reached to touch the binding with her slender fingers, only to have her hand playfully shoved away by his large pale one.


    “Bloody Oblivion, Anwe, again?” He cried, laughing.


    “You’re no fun.” She sulked.


    More tinkling.


    “And I told you, Anwe, three days.” He looked up from his work and smiled at King Mithlian. “Your Majesty, will you kindly tell your impatient new Queen that glue needs to cure?”


    The King looked at his new wife with a naughty wink and she blushed, turning away. Aye, thought Äelberon, he knew that look. That was the look of a happy marriage and he grinned and chuckled, giving the King a knowing glance, getting a dirty nod back. Only to get a firm slap on the shoulder and a flurry of tinkling charms ringing in his ears.


    “The two of you are no better than school boys, teasing me like this! Uncle!” She complained, giving an exasperated stare at the old mage who was smoking his pipe, peeling potatoes for their evening meal.


    He only grinned and shook his head, leaving the younglings to their jokes. The Archmagister of Crystal-Like-Law was peeling potatoes, while Äelberon’s mother checked the fish in the hearth, barely suppressing her own laughter. His father was working the boat and would not be back until near sunset. Master Lilandtar and Galmo were bringing extra wine from the ci—


    Vingalmo… and Äelberon slowly came back to reality, turning his head slightly and letting out a throaty moan. He did smell oranges and honey and grape vine blossoms. He could smell it, he swore!




    Someone was stroking his unbound hair, their fingers soothing upon his scalp. His head rested on a lap and he could feel that something covered his body, keeping him warm. At first he thought it was his mother and that the nightmares of many decades were finally over. He did not want to open his eyes. He wanted to sleep, and let the memories take over, but then he heard the delicate tinkling of golden charms when a gentle breeze passed and he knew it was not his mother. He was eighty-seven years older, and she? He did not know what became of her body, but she was dead. And his father?  Dead and damned for all eternity to the darkest plane of Oblivion. His city? Burned and remade. Remade to conform, the spontaneity destroyed.


    Äelberon's nightmare would never end. Until…




    He thought about the name in the haze between sleep and consciousness, branding the image of it to his memory, remembering every detail of the letters written in steam upon the crystal doors.




    She did not have to give him that information, but she did. Eighty-seven years, after almost giving up, a Thalmor of all people gave him the name he needed to go on. And she gave him much more than that. She brought him back, the well-spring of his renewed faith. It was indeed His will that he returned.


    Auri-El will damn you, Vingalmo, and I am the instrument of your damnation.  


    Äelberon stirred angrily and snarled, feeling the slender fingers that stroked his scalp stop briefly, and he turned his head, feeling the warmth of the sun on his face. It was not morning; he knew how the sun fell in his grotto. It was midday. The sun burned him yesterday as he tore through the coast on his steed, making him sicker while the curse coursed through his veins, slowly killing him, slowly turning him into…




    But the sun now felt good and slowly his memory returned while he lay upon that lap. He did not turn. He did not become Vingalmo. His sister and a little Nordling saw to that and he felt her fingers on his scalp again, attempting to console. His eyes opened and he saw the sun directly above him, a bright disk in the sky. His symbol. “He is the light of the world, and He has shown me the light.”


    It was a quiet whisper, but Calianwe could feel the strength in it all the same and leaned a bit forward to observe him. He was back, his faith renewed once more, those great eyes open again, seeing. She watched as he raised his right hand slightly, as if reaching for the sun.


    Touching the sky…


    “Brother...” She sighed, relieved that he now spoke the common tongue again. His last words before he faded were not. They were in that language. It made no sense to her, but it was a language. It was the only time where his detailed memory did not serve him, when he spoke in that tongue. He didn’t understand it either. His parents thought it was a language from a boy with an overactive imagination. Pets in his house bore such curious names, and they thought he would grow out of it, but in times of great stress or anger, it manifested again, and it worried her. There was something to that language, something deep.


    Krosis” stood out to her this time, he uttered it three times and his voice was full of sorrow when he spoke it. She wished she knew what it meant. Calianwe continued to stroke his scalp, her eyes finding his. They were his eyes again, gone was the dulling orange that started to creep in when the curse had its strongest pull. They still looked strange in the light of the sun, though, but Ronnie’s eyes were always strange. The pupils contracted to no more than tiny, black pin heads, intensifying the gold that dwelled within the mixed shades of red and orange. They were neither Altmer nor Snow Elf eyes, they were his eyes.


    “Brother?” She repeated, moving her hand to his forehead, watching his eyes close again when her hand passed over his damp, lined brow. Äelberon let out a long sigh and reached with his hand, noticing now that he no longer wore his gauntlets, closing it over her golden hand, holding it to his forehead for a moment before opening his eyes again.


    “I am alright now, Anwe.” Äelberon whispered, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze, his eyes now taking in the grotto during the full splendor of daylight. He smiled when he saw two male canah birds fight for territory, a flurry of rainbow-colored feathers. He no longer had his weapons; they were now in a small pile near one of the trellises. Äelberon let her hand go and brought his down to his side and attempted to push himself up, only to fall back on her lap with a low groan and he chuckled. He was terribly sore. Far too long in one position. “That is not happening right away, is it?” He grinned, looking up at her. “Bad idea to sleep in armor. How long was I out?”


    “Hours. I lost track of time after a while. I think I may have slept as well. I lost time.”


    “Did ya ride all the way here? Why?” He asked.


    “Of all the places in Summerset, I knew you needed to come here the most, you needed to see… you needed to know what happened. And…”




    “I promised to bring that potion to you.”


    “We keep our promises, don’t we?”


    “That we do, my dearest brother.” Her hand found his and squeezed. He brought it to his chest and held it there for a moment. Close to his heart and for a few moments the pair were again silent, losing themselves in the deep thoughts that Altmer always lose themselves in. This time, the profound silence was broken when his stomach rumbled loudly, making both of them chuckle.


    “While you slept, I went briefly to… ah, Dusk. I thought you would be hungry. I’m starving. When was your last meal, Ronnie?” He didn’t answer right away, his eyes focused on the grape vine blossoms, watching the bright yellow petals fall. He did not know yet. She was eager to tell him. “Ronnie?”




    “Your last meal?”


    “Tha ninth.” He replied absently. That earned him a chiding slap on the chest, making him grunt.


    “Still the same.” She grumbled.


    Äelberon looked up at her again, her golden charms dangling from her combs. She had not aged a day, damn it, still as lovely as ever, though he could see more weight in those pale honey eyes.  “You?” He smirked. That got another slap on the chest, and then a smile, knowing full well she had not eaten either. “I knew it.” His eyes then wandered around the area of the entire tomb. “I smell food. Honey nut…”


    “Can you sit up?”


    He chuckled again at her words. “Only if yer're 'elpin'.”


    They both winced when they heard his bones crack in protest and Calianwe thought the best course of action was to prop him against the very monument. At first she thought it blasphemous, but he offered no protest and seemed comfortable to be in a new position, bringing his knees up to ease the pressure on his lower back. He ran his fingers through his hair and for a split second he looked terribly distressed, almost angry, until she reached in the pocket of her robes and withdrew a thin leather lacing.


    “Sorry.” He apologized as he took the leather from her extended hand, his face flushing with embarrassment when he tucked the precious lacing under his belt.  


    “Don’t be sorry, Ronnie. After all these years, I still get exactly the same way when it is not on my person, but you looked very uncomfortable, so I unbound you hair and prayed. I never understood how you could wear a helm with your hair bound.” She explained as she began to set food out upon the cloak, an assortment of cheeses, fruits, milk, and his coveted honey nut treats, her eyes meeting his again. He looked better after sleep, she noted, but no, the years had not been kind to her cherished brother. Ronnie looked worn. That he had survived so long as an Aprax was beyond comprehension


    Because he is not truly shattered, Calianwe, she answered in her mind. 


    “I’m used ta it.” Aye, he was tired, she could tell, lapsing into contractions. “Anwe?”


    “Yes?” She replied, handing him a slice of cheese and some strawberries. She watched while he continued to look around, studying his surroundings, committing it to memory like he always did; his expression thoughtful and moved.


    "What happened? Where is she? I never... Was she buried?" He asked.


    "No, she was not."


    A profound sadness found Ronnie's features again, his eyes freshly welling as he set down his food. He would not eat yet, Calianwe knew him too well. Not until he knew. "They dinna even give 'er that." Ronnie began, his voice cast with a deep bitterness. "Not even worth what they give goblins? Was she so little to 'em? She who worked her hands raw  so that our People would live?"


    "No, you do not understand. She was not buried because she received the light." 


    Ronnie stared at her for a moment, processing what she said carefully. "The light?" Whispered and her own eyes welled with fresh tears.


    "By my very hands, Ronnie, she was enveloped in sunlight as is custom. She received the full Rite, for she was also His child, just as deserving to follow." 


    His great shoulders shook again with sobs, but in relief. "Auri-El... is ever merciful. Bless you, my sister, bless you..." He managed before they embraced again. Calianwe had wanted to tell him when he boarded the ship to Anvil, but he would never have left the Isles. Uncle Nandor had been clear, making her swear an oath to protect Ronnie before he himself boarded a ship to Anvil, never to return.


    He lives at all costs... He must live, Anwe.


    Ronnie would have wanted to see her then and there and the risk would have been too great for all of them. She had already taken enough of a risk by arranging for the Rite, citing his mother's contributions during the Great Anguish as justification. His correspondence as an Aprax never mentioned it. She knew him, he could not bear the pain. His chances of survival far better if he remained ignorant. But now things were different, Calianwe thought as she held Ronnie. 


    Several moments passed before he could even speak again and when he did, his voice was hoarse from his weeping. "But where? Where?" 


    "She loved life too much to be put in a little urn and sealed in a shrine, so I did something different. Look around us, Ronnie. she surrounds us."


    "The blossoms?!" He cried out, his eyes finding them again, understanding.


    "Yes, her ashes gave them life. Cuttings from the very tree they planted so long ago. They were her favorite and a symbol of their love.  So a little of him is here too. I thought if fitting. You are pleased?"


    “Pleased? You ask me this, Anwe? Gods, yes! Thank you for all of this. It is beautiful. It is a fittin' tribute to her... and 'im. I could not have asked for a more beautiful birthday present.” He bent his head, his face cast in sadness again as he started to eat. Calinanwe kissed his temple, still holding him. He would eat now. “I wish…”


    “Ronnie, don’t. It was the least I could do for you and your family; for your service during Summerset’s darkest hours and for theirs.” It was to be his birthday, in four days. He would think it a beautiful present. With a final stroke of his hair, she broke from him, reaching for the food she had set out. She handed him a bottle of milk and propped up next to him against the marble with an orange. Calianwe began to peel it, her fingers deftly removing the rind while he removed the cork from the bottle and took a long sip of the cool milk; milked fresh this morning. He eyed the honey nut treats that still lay in their packaging and Calianwe chuckled when she caught him staring.


    “Those are for later.” She pointed out, making him lean against her playfully.


    It felt so good to sit with him again. Hours they would sit, side by side, in the Great Library of Crystal-Like-Law. Reading, preparing for their walk. They helped each other so much. Studying hours upon hours worth of rituals and services. Memorizing the great sermons, learning the complicated names of all Altmeri families, learning hymns and chants, her soprano and his baritone blending rather well. He was never allowed to sing in public, barring religious services, for the voice was too low and rough for Altmeri tastes, but to her and Uncle Nandor, it was such a beautiful, expressive voice, the sweetness and devotion in it, especially his Tam service. She had fond memories of Undcle Nandor observing them while they sang, laughing as loud as they did when they accidentally blessed goats for their virginity instead of what they were supposed to bless. Ah... she would not have made it if he had not been there with her those five days when they walked the great Chantry. For her terribly tendency to fidget alone. He calmed her down.


    “How are things in Cyrodiil?” She asked. It was small talk now, but neither one of them cared. The food was too delicious to destroy it with the dark words that eventually needed to be said. He laughed a gruff laugh. There was an edge to the voice now. It sounded lower and older. She didn’t dislike it.  


    “Ha! At bit like 'ere actually, Thalmor sticking their snot noses in everything.”


    She laughed aloud as she bit into a succulent orange wedge. His accent was thicker than usual. The exhaustion made him slip into his Dusken speech. And aye, he had been hungry, Calianwe observed, already making short work of the cheese and berries and he was eyeing the honey nut treats with renewed interest.


    “More cheese?”


    “Well, if I’m not allowed those yet,” he replied, pointing to the treats, “then aye, I’ll settle.”


    Calianwe held another orange wedge with her teeth and handed Äelberon more cheese and a pile of strawberries, selecting a slice of goat cheese for herself. She watched him for a moment as they both ate.  “It’s been so long, Ronnie.”


    “I know.” He replied, facing forward as a strawberry disappeared in his mouth.


    “Where do you live?”


    Äelberon turned to her. She was curious. So many years. “Bruma. A room at a small inn. Stuffed with scrolls, papers, apples, and books. Nandor would've been proud.”


    “So far North? Ronnie, but the cold!” Her curiosity got the better of her then, “Is there snow?”


    He chortled and shook his head, popping another strawberry in his mouth. “Anwe, ya live on the slopes of Eton Nir, it’s not like you’ve never seen the stuff.”


    “It’s different.” She retorted.


    “How so? Because it’s in Cyrod?”


    “Well… yes.” She replied, stuffing an entire orange wedge in her mouth and then grabbing one of his strawberries. “Does it always snow?” She continued, slapping Altmeri custom in the face by talking with her mouth full.


    “In tha mountains, aye. Well, no, in Bruma, bloody everywhere.” He replied, unable to contain his laughter at how silly she looked.


    “Do you like it?” Swallowing her orange wedge quickly and smiling when she tasted the strawberry as she reached for her own bottle of milk. She watched him think for a moment as she sipped her milk, slumping his shoulders a little. They were completely abandoning their cultural restrictions, and it felt so liberating.


    “Would it surprise you, Anwe, if I said I was drawn to it? Drawn to tha north. I even lived high in the frozen Jerrals to escape the Thalmor near the end o' the Void Nights, findin' a quiet peace in those jagged peaks. Finding a reason to live after what had happened to me. And yet, I’ve never been ta Skyrim. The only province  I’ve not seen.” He took another sip of  milk. “I feel like I’ve almost been avoidin' it, and I happen to like Nords.”


    “Ronnie!” She exclaimed, “The Thalmor would kill you for just saying that.”


    “They have spent years trying to kill me. I am not afraid of them.” The gruff, crusty tone returned with his bold declaration. No, he didn’t fear them, on that Calianwe was certain. To brave a city crawling with them was demonstration enough.  Skyrim? That was the location the Agent mentioned, in conjunction with what was that other name? Volkihar. Aye, that was it.


    “Why? Why are you avoiding it?”


    “Ah, Anwe,” His voice now containing the traces of a whine, “Ya canna let me at least get a few honey nut treats in me first?”  


    She glanced at him and her pale honey eyes went wide. He had gone through that second helping of food so quickly! Did he not eat? She had forgotten how much food that Dusken could put away when it finally occurred to him to eat. He was a typical mage in that respect, so focused on research and learning that he could become lost in his studies, often forgetting sleep and food.


    Äelberon smiled when Calianwe leaned forward and reached for one of those coveted treats, handing it to him, laughing when she saw him bite his lip in anticipation. He took it in his hand, the smoky, sweet smell of the honey and the earthy smell of the ground nuts teasing him; the glisten of the sticky, gooey coating in the light of the grotto. He took a bite and then leaned back against the marble, the look on his face was one of sheer bliss. “So many years since I’ve tasted… you know me well, Anwe.”


    “Is it good?”


    “Xarxes' arse, Anwe. Aetherius in my mouth, pure Aetherius. Well, take one. I’d eat them all, but I need to take to the sea soon and I’m not a youngling anymore. I’ll vomit, and I'll get fat.” He watched her take one and smiled when she took a bite. They ate in silence for a few moments, though Äelberon found himself studying the sky above. The Tava's Trick would come in the evening. Leaving would be harder for him than he anticipated. It was bittersweet. He had missed her terribly. He cleared his throat and continued to eat, already on his second treat. He no longer cared if he vomited.


    “They do not have these in Cyrod.” He commented between bites, savoring the taste.


    “What do they have?” Calianwe asked, licking the sticky honey from her fingers. Already on his second?


    “Bloody sweetrolls.”  He frowned.


    Calianwe laughed. He never liked them.


    He turned to her. “Well? They’re dry and crusty; I simply do not understand the appeal. We get oranges sometimes. More in the south, though not so much after the Great War.” Äelberon paused when he saw her eyes. They were misting over now. Damn, they had broken so many rules of conduct in their time together. Fighting, weeping, laughing, eating… holding each other. The physical contact was the worst in their culture. He held her, he held her and he felt the life in her. He remembered the glares of the matrons when he held his mother in the Tower. Their looks of scorn. Calianwe never looked at his family that way. “How is the King?” He asked, changing the subject.


    “He is well.”


    “Good, he is a fine Mer. Long life to him.”






    The small talk was now over. At least he had a honey nut treat in him. He took another bite of his second. He would attempt to get this one in him as well.


    “What are we going to do?”


    No ‘you’, instead ‘we’. He looked at her. “When the Tava's Trick picks me up, you are going home.”


    She noticed no more contractions. No more charming Dusken accent  that creeped in the speech of all the lower echelons that dwelled the City by the Sea with its lazy "h"s and endings, the sweet singsong of it, the lengthening of some vowels, the shortening of others, the odd mix of Ayleidoon and Falmeris pronunciation. On a deep, clear voice such as his, it was pretty speech. But no, the Knight-Paladin of Auri-El had returned, complete with the refined classical accent reserved for members of The Wise. “I need—“ She began.


    “I told you, Anwe. No.”


    “But I can help you. I am Queen. I am loved by all the Isles. The people will listen to me.”


    “You delude yourself. They listen to the Thalmor now, or more likely, they are afraid.”


    “The protests...” She argued. 


    “That will be silenced. Hmph! What do you think this damn Symposium was for, besides to capture me?”


    She looked mortified and Äelberon stopped eating, his appetite now destroyed. “What?!


    “Aye, Anwe, it was a trap. I burned the letter, though; nothing can officially be traced to you.”


    “Ronnie, they need to know what he is. I need to tell the nobles.”


    NO!” She was surprised by the power in his voice, but she quickly recovered, rising to her full height.


    Calianwe was indeed impressive, he thought. Like Auri-El's midday sunshine. The most golden of all Altmer, the one who could her trace her ancestry to the very Tower tombs themselves, and an incredible mage in her own right. He knew that the moment he saw her again. He could sense her immense magicks. “I am His Priestess, if they fear Auri-El, they will listen!” Calianwe retorted, her own pride coming through.


    Äelberon straightened his back, but made no attempt to rise. He did not need to. Instead, he let one leg stretch out as he leaned against the ivory marble and regarded a butterfly as it fluttered among the grape vine blossoms. He watched its wings catch the sunlight while it drank the nectar from the yellow flowers. “And I am His Priest. And you are with child. No, Anwe. I will not put you at risk. No more. I will lose no more to that Bastard.”


    He knew.


    Calianwe just stared at him, letting herself sink to the ground again. Äelberon was not a better mage than she was, but he was a better priest.  He probably sensed it when they embraced, the healer in all priests of Auri-El, so attuned to life. It made them vicious against the undead. Gods, the King, her husband, didn’t even know.


    “Sit with me again, dear sister.” Calianwe propped up against the marble and leaned against Äelberon’s shoulder, letting out a heavy sigh. “Four? Anwe, the Gods truly smile on you. And you are still young. You may yet have more.” He then smiled as he brought his arm around her shoulder, kissing her head. “I always believed that the Altmer would solve all their population problems if they just let us fall in love. No more tests, no more fertility treatments, no more assigning, just let us love. Let us feel. We are not animals or plants. We are people, we only need to endure. We do not need to be perfect. Nothing is. Not even the very Gods are.”


    He chuckled, understanding the irony of his People's obsessive endeavors. What was there to show for it? Nothing. After Crystal-Like-Law, they were like trees blowing with the winds of Fate. Unsettled, unsure. They needed to just...


    Let the winds blow...


    “Ah, Altmeri pride.” He scoffed, his voice becoming mockingly snide, a clever imitation of the typical Thalmor inflection. “Damn it to Oblivion. We remain cold, indifferent, the ‘Cultured People' and we have forgotten so much as a result. How many little laws have we broken today, Anwe?”


    “Several, I think.” She smiled an impish grin. “You are a terrible influence.”


    “Good. All those dirty habits I picked up from Cyrod.” He quipped, giving her another kiss. She could feel him smile against her head. “But…” There it was again. The seriousness was back. “But, he is only biding his time. The massacre of the royal family at Shimmerene was only the beginning, Anwe. I told you, if you tell him you know, you will get exactly what I received for my naiveté, what I received out of my desire to help him. He wanted this, Anwe. The power.”


    “What do ‘we’ do then?”


    Still “we”, Äelberon smiled. She was stubborn and he loved her for it. “You go home, be a mother, be a wife, be the grand Queen and Priestess that you are. And I will go back to Cyrod. I will hunt him down, and I will kill him.”


    “He was there, Ronnie, he was there.” That surprised him and Calianwe felt him pull away and she looked up to meet his gaze, his eyes blazing.


    “What do you mean, he was there?”


    “There was a reception at the palace. An engagement party, but that is not important. He was in attendance, though he arrived late, detained at the Office of Provincial Studies. I watched the Lecture Hall the entire time through the palace windows as we celebrated. When the lights suddenly went out, I told him, and we went together. Gods, Ronnie, he covered his tracks so well. He looked legitimately concerned. I am sorry I did not see. I have done Auri-El a grave disservice.”


    “No, you did not. He is a powerful Illusion mage, Anwe, and practiced.  You were thinking of Mithlas, he took advantage of the situation. He took advantage of you and your distress. We are the only ones who know.” There were too many vampires. Too many and Äelberon was so clouded by the curse in his veins that he didn’t perceive Vingalmo.


    A wasted opportunity. For what, he argued with himself. To die, Old Mer? No, Fool, killing him would have brought you nothing, and perhaps death to others in their attempts to defend the Bastard. No, he could not kill the Monster in Summerset.


    “Oh, Ronnie.” She sighed. “I am so sorry you have suffered at his hands. When I saw him for what he truly was, after all these years…”


    “His hair went white when he was made.” Äelberon started.


    “His face so pale, the eyes, dead orange orbs.” Calianwe continued.


    “You see the true form, then?”


    “Now, yes.” She replied, her voice sad.


    “You can never let him know that you know.”


    Lie?” She gasped.


    “No, Anwe, protect. Our greatest tenet, protect the innocent.” He cleared his throat and began to slowly stand. Calianwe watched him walk to the trellis. He paused to smell the flowers, closing his eyes, again memorizing the smell.


    His mother's smell. 


    Äelberon then began to slip on his gauntlets. He was readying himself to leave. With reluctance, Calianwe started to pick up the remaining food, scattering crumbs toward a small group of foraging canah birds. He turned when he heard them lift off from the ground and descend upon the crumbs of cheese and fruit, their noisy squabbles over the choicest morsels echoing through the grotto. Äelberon fastened his daggers and the bandolier around his chest, smiling as he watched the birds. She was watching them too. 


    “It will be easier to track him in Cyrod, especially now that I know the clan name, another gift from that little Nordling.” His smile turned sly as he slung his crossbow upon his back. “Another birthday present so to speak. Volkihar…”


    Ronnie's voice had darkened when he said the name and Calianwe didn’t like it. Too many years being hunted, made a harder Mer. He was always tough, but now, it was different, and his near turn seemed to light a fire in him. He could still smile; she saw that while they ate together, while he watched the birds. But, he was darker now and she knew he would not stop until he killed Vingalmo, until the Beast answered for his crimes. She picked up the cloak and shook it out, clearing it of remaining crumbs, and thought as she regarded the deep indigo velvet. He came to Summerset in the colors of House Larethian. He would leave with those of House Stormwatch, as her true brother. Calianwe then furrowed her brow when she pondered his last words.


    “Cyrod?” She asked, walking towards him, holding the cloak while he picked up his silver scimitar.


    “Aye, Cyrod.” He replied standing up to meet her.


    “But Ronnie. Volkihar isn’t a Cyrod clan.”


    What?” His voice was now as steel, his own eyebrows furrowing. “What do you mean?”


    “The Thalmor Agent, the Nordling, she said Skyrim. The clan is from Skyrim.”


    “Skyrim?!” That had caught him off-guard.


    “Yes.” She replied, draping the cloak over his shoulders and fastening it to his cuirass. It was a gift she could give now. For his service. 


    Äelberon raised his eyebrows in surprise and he shook his head to protest. “Anwe, I cannot wear your colors, I am not a member of your House. I am Apra--”


    "Remove your gauntlet." His words only emboldened her and she quickly removed her signet ring from her middle finger. 


    Äelberon tilted his head to the side slightly, his brow lowering again, questioning, this was highly inappropriate. He was not nobility, he was Apraxic. “Anwe—“


    “I am your Queen, I command you.” Äelberon, sensing her stubbornness, removed his left gauntlet and watched as she tried to find a finger small enough to wear it. He cleared his throat to suppress his laughter when he heard her grumble. She was so like Nandor then, her brow scrunched with concentration, the charms in her hair ringing louder the more agitated she became. “Don’t laugh, damn giant Dusken.” She cursed under her breath.


    “There!” Calianwe exclaimed smugly as she, with some effort, slid the signet ring into the smallest finger of his left hand. He looked down. A gold ring with deep indigo enameling bearing the raised “S” of House Stormwatch in gold. “It fits.” She remarked with a satisfied tone, “Put on your gauntlet, my brother, Lord Äelberon of House Stormwatch.”


    Äelberon was speechless as he slipped on his gauntlet. The risk she took with this acknowledgement! If a Thalmor found this ring on his finger. That she openly supported an Apraxic Mer! She seemed to anticipate his worry.


    “If they find it, they will simply assumed it was stolen by a Dusken Dog and return it to me, and I will know then that you are truly dead, for that will be the only way they remove the bloody ring from your finger. I know my brother.” She said, “Let me draw the hood, I want to see.”


    “I have not yet bound my hair.”


    “I don’t care, I just want to see.” She replied stubbornly, drawing the hood of the cloak over his head. Calianwe studied his face and smiled. “It is a good color for you. Brings out your eyes, though you are still rather ugly.”


    “Ha! Me being ugly will never change. I am honored, my Queen,” He corrected himself, “my sister.”


    “The honor is mine, brother. I accept you.” Calianwe said, putting down the hood again, letting her slender hand linger on his scarred cheek. Aye, she would break one more law and touch his face with her pure Queen's hand, that hideous, scarred face. That Apraxic face. He wasn't ugly, not really. Aye, the face was terribly scarred, and the features were not the standard features beloved by her People, but there was such a nobility to that face and to her, he was a grand Mer. A Mer of an earlier time and place, where hardness and strength were needed. The bend of that hawkish nose, the hard angle of the jaw, the slant of those almond eyes, the brood of his heavy silver brow, like an eagle's brow, and yet the sincerity of those lips when they formed a smile. Perhaps it was the true goodness of the soul that dwelt in that hardened exterior that shined through, perhaps that was what she saw when she regarded his face. She hoped, she prayed that one day a woman would see what she saw in that face, in those eyes, and maybe feel for him what she felt so deeply for Mithlian. He deserved it, for what he gave her so selflessly. A happy life. Calianwe cleared her throat of her building emotion and let her hand drop with a sad smile.


    “Now go say your farewells. She is waiting.”


    He broke from her then and at first walked to his mother’s monument, only to pause and turn instead to one of the trellises, falling on one knee, resting the point of the blade upon the ground. His hand then touched a full cluster of blossoms, lingering tenderly on their smooth petals as he bent to kiss them. He knew where his mother truly was.


    “I love you.” He whispered, his lips pressed against the grape vine blossoms. “And I will never forget. I promise, mother, I will slay all the monsters...”  Ronnie never once looked upon the blade that rested on the marble, but Calianwe understood. Some wounds were still too deep. He swallowed hard, clearing his throat and rose, turning to face Calianwe again. No, this was not the weeping Mer she found when she first entered the cave. He now had renewed purpose, renewed resolve.


    Renewed Faith.


    Always, something brought him back and she knew the Thalmor would ultimately fail, that Vingalmo would ultimately fail. None of them could match his willpower. His devotion to Auri-El's will. 


    “Skyrim...” He echoed, letting the name sink in while they stood facing each other, both tall and proud. Their weeping finished. “When the Thalmor hounds tire of the current chase, sister, after I exhaust them with a brutal tour of Cyrod, I will go there; to Skyrim.” He nodded and clenched his jaw as he faced his mother’s monument a final time, his eyes lingering upon the blossoms. “They will tire of the chase eventually, Anwe, they always do. It sometimes takes years, but they always tire. That is how this old, grey wolf endures; he outlasts them, always a step ahead, already long used to the hunt.” He put a hand on her shoulder and his eyes found hers once more. “Once there, I will find him and I will kill him. They will then be avenged, and my People will be safe. You, Anwe, will be safe.”


    Äelberon let his hand slip from her shoulder, his features softening when his eyes found her combs. “You still wear them.” He whispered.


    “Yes.” She replied. “I will always wear them, especially now. He saw them, you know, at the reception. I want every time he sees me, to see a little of you.” He nodded and she smiled with pride. He would not deny her that little bit of defiance.


    Skyrim...” He repeated, lost in thought as he took his leather lacing from his belt and began to bind his hair.


    "You will write me again? Like you used to."


    He paused from his binding and stared at her for a moment. "The circlet again. Does that work for you?" 


    "Yes." She nodded. "Bruma?"


    "I promise. A pretty one, silver this time, I think." He then smirked. "And yes, Bruma. Fighters Guild, to Bumph. Send it there. She is trusted." 


    "An Orsimer?" She raised an eyebrow.


    "Some of the greatest I have known, have been Orsimer. They understand, the Pariah Folk. She is to be trusted."


    Repeating the last phrase let her know that he wasn't to be questioned, so she changed the subject. "I shall look forward to writing you riddles again."  


    Ronnie's features softened. "And I shall look forward to decyphering them again."


    "Send me songs?"


    "I promise."


    "You will tell me little of  your life? Promise? Of what it is like to fly free." To escape our gilded cage, she finished in her mind. Ronnie was free, freer than any of them were in reality. Soaring, like a great eagle in the sky, not bound by the People anymore. And she wondered what he would do with that freedom sometimes. Where he would go? 


    He paused at her words, his brow furrowing in puzzlement for a moment. Yes, you are Aprax, but you, my brother, are free...


    "I promise." He repeated before resuming his binding. She marveled at the length, past his waist. Calianwe waited before speaking again, for she now heard the familiar murmuring as he recited the Tenets. Like her, he did them subconsciously, so many years of reciting them, morning and night. She didn’t dare tell him that no one walked the Chantry this year. It was too hard an endeavor and she watched as the members of their Order slowly aged and no younglings rose to take their places. But he was still counted among them. The Eagle of Auri-El and so long as the Order had him, it didn’t matter. He would be His instrument and she would protect him so he could “Walk the Light.” She would watch him from her perch


    She then leaned against him and joined him, drawing the hood of his cloak, her colors, Stormwatch, over his head as they recited the ancient words of their Order together.  They finished together, their eyes locked.


    “Remember, Brothers and Sisters of the Order, it is our lot to suffer for the vanity of our God, but through His teachings and His Mercy, we shall suffer with dignity in order to gain transcendence. The path has been laid. Walk in Auri-El's Light.”



    Straag Rod Book 1 ToC

    Chapter XXV    Chapter XXVII


15 Comments   |   Paws and 2 others like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  September 11, 2017
    I'm not crying you're crying. Moving chapter, Lissette. I do not know what the original chapter was like, but the part about his mother's cremation was extremely moving. The relationship between Albee and the Queen really warms my heart. The care and comp...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      I'm not crying you're crying. Moving chapter, Lissette. I do not know what the original chapter was like, but the part about his mother's cremation was extremely moving. The relationship between Albee and the Queen really warms my heart. The care and comp...  more
        ·  September 12, 2017
      Thanks Fawn. This is arguably one of my favorite chapters in Straag. I promise, I will continue with the series. Taking a bit of a break after finishing Chasing Death with Karver, but come October, I think I'll start editing them again. Now, they will ref...  more
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  August 13, 2016
    Simply magnificent and enough to make one weep for what was lost.
    What was there to show for it? Nothing. After Crystal-Like-Law, they were like trees blowing with the winds of Fate. Unsettled, unsure. They needed to just...
    Le...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Simply magnificent and enough to make one weep for what was lost.
      What was there to show for it? Nothing. After Crystal-Like-Law, they were like trees blowing with the winds of Fate. Unsettled, unsure. They needed to just...
      Let the winds blow.....  more
        ·  August 13, 2016
      lol, but there is something to show for it, they just haven't realized it yet. Well, one person did, but he's dead. I'm glad you enjoyed this, Phil. This was the chapter I struggled with when we discovered that ESO lore about cremation as I originally had...  more
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  August 13, 2016
    :'( You got me at:

    "No, you do not understand. She was not buried because she received the light."  Ronnie stared at her for a moment, processing what she said carefully. "The light ?" he whispered and her own eyes we...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 27, 2015
    Thank you. He pretty much hits rock bottom at a point there. 
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 26, 2015
    Powerful chapter!
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 26, 2015
    Thank you, Karver. Means a lot coming from you. Writing this section and incorporating gnewna's character, building Alinor, and the tidbits of lore were very fun. 
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  October 26, 2015
    Ok, so I´ve finished the Vampire Symposium. And I absolutely love it, Lisette!
    There was one moment that really stood out for me. The moment when Vastaril wakes up and see the...results. There is something really powerful to not see the battle itsel...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 25, 2015
    Overreacts just a bit? Lol. 
    At any rate, thanks for reading this chapter. It took a long time to write and then revise. For some reason these "Summerset" chapters always get to me. I don't know why. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  September 25, 2015
    Mine just tends to overreact a bit, lol. Now a Dragonborn with tourette's would be very dangerous, "Hi how are you-- Fus Ro Dah -- Oh not again, sorry!"
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 24, 2015
    I'm glad we didn't lose the impact. That had me worried. It's hard to retro-edit a chapter like that. The loss of his parents was devastating to him and then to never know what happened. I can't imagine living like that. 
    No, he doesn't have tourett...  more