Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 1, Chapter 1

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    Straag Rod Book 1: Fate Goes Ever as it Must, Part 1

    Chapter 1: The Dusken

     

    14th of Rain’s Hand, 3E 431: Alinor, Summerset Isles 

     

    Crystal-Like-Law magisters Rynandor and Lilandtar observed the warriors sparring in the sunny courtyard as they settled down to an outdoor lunch, the curved stonework of the courtyard displaying the colors of the glass and crystal towers above them. In this unusually warm spring day, the kaleidoscope of color and pattern was almost dizzying, and Archmagister Rynandor the Bold could tell that Magister Lilandtar was uncomfortable while he picked at his salmon. Probably not the best choice of cuisine considering the heat and the intense color display outdoors, but Lilandtar was always a stubborn Elf. The old Mer kept fidgeting with his ornately jeweled purple velvet robes, picking at a lime green stone at the junction of the cuff of the bell sleeve of his left arm. It was askew in a way that would only bother an Altmer that was already bothered by something else. 

     

    Granted, Lilandtar was probably also unclear as to why Rynandor had dragged him all the way to Alinor's Training Center and Crystal-Like-Law’s Archmagister admitted that he was being rather obtuse with his reasoning. Officially, they were guest lecturers from the Crystal Tower; a training center for warriors was not where they were supposed to be. Lilandtar was supposed to be revising his extensive notes for a lecture to be given at the Lecture Hall for the Office of Provincial Studies, not sweating profusely watching warriors pretending to kill each other and Rynandor understood that.  But Rynandor was always of a notion to be as efficient as possible in his travels – his duties as archmagister did not allow the luxury of dawdling – and when an opportunity to complete multiple tasks presented itself, he would take it. As far as Rynandor was concerned, they were presenting valuable research to scholars in Alinor, enjoying a delightful lunch, and taking care of a pressing matter that Rynandor wanted dealt with sooner rather than later. It was efficient and even  Lilandtar, for all his penchant for excess as the current Lord of House Larethian, could rally behind the display of Altmeri efficiency. It was worth the heat and the faintly offensive odor coming from the sparring Altmeri warriors.

     

    “So why are we even here?” Spoken with just enough of a whine to tear the Archmagister's eyes away from his meal. It was the fourth time Lilandtar had asked.

     

    “I think it is time we chose a pair of Knight Guardians,” Rynandor answered, knowing full well where this conversation was headed while he took a bite of tender salmon. He refused to let it spoil his appetite. 

     

    “Oh, this has obsessed you for months!" dismissed Lilandtar as he sipped wine. "Why? What is the threat? Rynandor, there is nothing wrong and it’s hot outside and frankly, the mer fighting… kind of reek." Lilandtar could not suppress the chuckle at his next words. "Though nothing can possibly smell worse than the trolls that currently guard the Tower."

     

    “Do not be such a naggy She-Elf,” retorted Rynandor with a smile, because the troll remark was indeed true.

     

    "You mean, do not be like my mother?" shot back Lilandtar.

     

    "Precisely." Rynandor replied with a knowing smirk, reaching for his own wine. He was going to need it. 

     

    “Auri-El bless her and keep her.” Lilandtar offered, raising his glass.

     

    The Archmagister raised his own and they brought their glasses together in toast. “Blessings!” He set down his glass and took another bite of salmon. “Is the Grand Kinslady Lilisephona well?”

     

    “Well? Depends on your definition. Healthy? Aye, the old hag will probably never die.” The mage’s intense apple green eyes narrowed in disdain, “she has been utterly preserved by the hooka she smokes. Positively pickled with the brandy she drinks.”

     

    “Lilandtar! For shame!” Rynandor whispered, though he was trying not to laugh. It was an accurate description of the Grand Kinslady.

     

    “What? Tis the truth,” a hand to his heart, “so help me Auri-El. I speak no lies.” Lilandtar winked.

     

    Rynandor the Bold rolled his eyes. It was back to steering this conversation to the matter at hand. “We lost Mer to the last Beautiful attack, last year.”

     

    “The salon ruffians.” Lilandtar grumbled. “Nothing but terrorists. We defeated them easily.”  

     

    Rynandor nodded in agreement. “Aye, they do not value our traditions, our ways. They are dangerous, Lilandtar, with their insane notions of Altmer superiority.” 

     

    Lilandtar cocked an eyebrow and grinned. “But we are superior.” 

     

    “I know that, but they seek superiority through the desecration of our tombs, our Tower, destroying the past to make way for the future.” Rynandor felt the anger creep to his features, his skin growing hot. “There is something extremely unsettling about that. As if they want to rob us of our own history. They are violent now, riots, assassinations, and now the Tower? What we Altmer hold most dear.” He took a sip to calm himself. “I am Archmagister, I must see to the defenses of Crystal-Like-Law from these ‘salon ruffians’ as you call them. When the lecture opportunity presented itself, I thought I could kill two canah birds with one stone.  You only need to bear with me for a few hours, enjoy a fine lunch, and then you can go back to your lecture notes, Lilandtar.” He leaned closer to Lord Larethian and locked eyes with him. 

     

    “Please? For a friend?”

     

    ‘Fine.” Lilandtar blew a gust of air to communicate his annoyance but settled to his meal once more. Rynandor smiled and eyed the warriors training in the courtyard upon raised platforms designed for them to be watched, scrutinized by any who would wish to offer them patronage. Yes, he was smiling an Altmer’s placid, calming smile, but in his mind, there was urgency. His nightmares were getting worse. The visions… unspeakable. A sky of pure fire. Death. The Tower and the Stone. Dust. Rynandor cast the disturbing images from his mind. It would never happen.

     

    And then there was something else. Melodies of the icy North coming from the deep South. The heady, sweet fragrance of wisteria, and the salt of the sea. And a Mer’s face, with an alabaster paleness he had not seen since the very last of the ancient Snow Elf refugees of Alinor had passed. Pale, save the eyes, which were two fiery jewels, not blue, not the crystal blue typical of that race. They were not even Elven eyes, yet not the eyes of a vampire nor demon. He had never seen eyes like that in all his days…

     

     Rynandor blinked hard and took another sip of alto wine, not wanting to be lost in the flood of thoughts and visions now. Better to drown it with wine.  Drown the eventuality of death, of change, of passing, from one way to another. Another sip, the liquid warmth easing his soul. Get a little drunk, Old Mer, he smiled to himself. 

     

     The friends finished lunch and then walked toward the training warriors, almost floating towards them with their small, measured steps, the epitome of Altmeri scholarly refinement.  Tall, slender and stately, lined of face and long of beard. Lilandtar had tucked his hands within his great bell sleeves, while Rynandor still favored his glass of wine, his simple indigo velvet robes with none of the ornate embroidery and jewels Lilandtar’s. Opposite in many ways, but still great friends, a balance of ideas and temperaments that made Crystal-Like-Law thrive for many years now. 

     

    Rynandor could see that Lilandtar’s mind was focused on his upcoming lecture, his mouth was moving, silently reciting the text, while Rynandor watched the warriors with increased interest. Two sparring elves caught his attention. One of them was particularly slender and quick, athletic, and graceful.  From one of the great Northern families, Rynandor guessed.  The young Mer had the coloring typical of Cloudrest nobility, golden hair, golden eyes, refined features upon smooth golden skin. But it was the maroon and gold sash around his gilded Elven armor with moonstone accents that spoke the family name most clearly. Caemal. Ah, it is young Vingalmo, Rynandor nodded to himself, remembering, the third son of that family. Met the boy at some function at his own ancestral home in Cloudrest. Yes, the boy would be here. It was what was done with the third sons. Send them to train, in the hopes to perhaps acquire a patron or a post. They would then rise the ranks, become generals, and perhaps earn their own title and lands one day through service to the Eternal Isles.  Because they certainly were not earning their ancestral lands. That exclusively went to the first son, or the first daughter in extenuating circumstances.

     

    “That Kinsmer Caemal’s boy?” Asked Lilandtar, curiosity nabbing him as well.

     

    “One of them. He is fighting quite well.”

     

    “I can see that.” Lilandtar nodded approvingly as he leaned towards the Archmagister. “Knew the lad when he still clung to his wet nurse. Definitely not doing that now.”

     

    “They do grow up eventually, Lilandtar.” Rynandor gave the old Mer a side glance.

     

    Yet they were all children to the two tower mages. More than likely the warriors in the training yard were between the ages of thirty to sixty, or even seventy if they possessed lower than average skills.  Grown Mer and She-Elves proper, but to two Elves who were into their seventh and eighth centuries, Elves who had witnessed the conquering of Summerset, anyone below their fifth century were like children.

     

    “Old Kinsmer Caemal owes me money.” Lilandtar grumbled.

     

    “That has nothing to do with young Vingalmo’s fighting.” Rynandor could no longer contain his curiosity and turned to his good friend. “How much?”

     

    “A trifle really, only 40,000 talons.”

     

    Rynandor nearly spit out his wine but managed to contain himself. One Mer’s trifle was another’s fortune and while Rynandor’s own house was wealthy, he maintained only his salary as Archmagister. It was a comfortable life, but 40,000 talons was a large sum to him. “Another bet?”

     

    Lilandtar grinned. The Mer loved a good gamble. It was, to be honest, a vice of many an Altmer. “Of course. And I always win. I should pay them a visit. Go home for a spell. See the wife.” He moved his hand over his stomach, tracing a large belly, “she’s getting so big, Rynandor. Bigger than she was with Lillandril.”

     

    Rynandor raised his eyebrows. “May I remind you that your mother is also at home.”

     

    Lilandtar’s made a sour face. “Oghma’s tits, that’s right, damn it. I could send for my wife, then I don’t have to see my mother.”

     

    Rynandor chuckled, but understood Lilandtar’s predicament. He would not want to see the Grand Kinslady either. “Lillandril would like the Tower, I think. How old is he now? 

     

    “About to turn five and that would be a nice present for him. A visit to the Tower. I don’t think he would ever leave the menagerie. He could verily blend in with the animals, such a crazy one.”

     

    “Like his father?”

     

    The old Elf swelled with pride and stroked his dark-grey beard. “The very image. Dare I say that I make beautiful babies?”

     

    “Your lovely wife does help.” Rynandor pointed out. 

     

    “A little bit.” 

     

    They shared a laugh and Rynandor gave his shoulder a pat. The only one besides his wife and children that Lilandtar would let touch. “Then make the arrangements. You can then see the birth of your new one. A girl?”

     

    “That is what the healers say.” Lilandtar nodded with pride. “Another black-haired beauty.”

     

    “Could have red hair.” 

     

    Lilandtar shook his head. “No, that skips a generation. Their children will have red hair. I know how my family’s bloodlines work. And thank you, Archmagister. Saves me a trip to Cloudrest. The 40,000 talons can certainly wait. It is not like I need the money. I will always be richer than House Caemal.” The patriarch of house Larethian focused on the fighting again. “The boy is fighting well. Making a right show of it.”

     

    Young Vingalmo was doing well, Rynandor noticed. His sparring partner was already on the floor, heaving. The lad removed his helm, not even sweating, and peered at the others who were observing the sparring, his smile betraying his pride. “Who’s next?” Rynandor heard him ask, still with the energy to practice his stances while he spoke. A jab to the air with his weapon. “Who else shall I send to the floor today?”

     

    The small crowd of soldiers laughed, shaking their heads, and raising their hands to put distance between themselves and the young noblemer, but Rynandor could see that it was all in good fun. They were all young and in high spirits, paragons of Altmeri youth and vigor in their gleaming elven armor.

     

    “Oh come on!  Not a single one?” Vingalmo challenged, eyeing a certain direction, as if he were addressing someone while he still practiced. “There has to be one.” He teased, but no one in the crowd budged, though Rynandor could see that they were trying not to laugh. “1,000 talons says I cannot be bested! A thousand talons. Someone surely wants a thousand talons…”

     

    Still no one.

     

    The silence was broken with a low chuckle. Rynandor’s eyes followed the sound to a stone bench under a blooming cherry tree near the sparring platform. Where casually, amid the falling petals, sat the largest Elf Rynandor had ever seen. He was close to the size of a Jaguar-man, the Cathay-rahts of Elsweyr. He was covered head to toe in a heavy, dull steel plating with a weathered gryphon motif upon the breastplate and a helm that completely obscured his face. An old set of armor it looked to Rynandor, full of dents and dings from combat, but otherwise well-oiled and in good repair.  Some extended plating along the chest, arms and legs suggested that the armor did not originally belong to the Mer wearing it, but rather, was fitted to him. Second hand. He was using a whetting stone on a blade, sharpening it, and Rynandor noticed a bundle of weapons tied securely with a leather strap. An armored servant perhaps, or a guard for one of the houses, Rynandor guessed, but he could not see any house colors on the Elf.  

     

    “A thousand, ya say?” Rather forward to ask, Rynandor thought. A low, not unpleasant voice, boarding on soft spoken, but with one of the most atrocious Dusken accents he had ever heard.

     

    Vingalmo grinned ear to ear, flashing perfect teeth. “Yes, a thousand, my good Mer.”

     

    “Ya sure ya feel like losin’ a thousand t’day, Caemal?” Another act of boldness.  “Don wanna put ya out.”

     

    “Who says I will lose?  I always win. Speaking of winning, what will I get for winning this time?”  

     

    The figure sighed, taking a pause from sharpening the blade he was working on. “Hmm, let me think. We should raise tha stakes, spice things up, eh?”

     

    Vingalmo nodded. “We certainly can.”

     

    “Aye. So, I’m doin’ the blades now, just finished tha armor…cleaned the chamber pots last Tirdas, cooked on Loredas…”

     

    “Uh, let’s not have you cook again, friend.” Vingalmo interjected, a sour face marring his handsome features as he shook his head.

     

    “Tha demon in me says I should, just ta make ya suffer, but me own stomach bloody agrees with ya. I dunno…”

     

    “Don’t cook!”

     

    “Alright, alright, I won’t. But what ta do?”

     

    By now the group was chuckling and watching the Mer sitting on the bench think.

     

    “Come one, Steel Plate!”

     

    “You can’t resist it!”

     

    “One thousand talons!”

     

    “Do it!”

     

    They laughed and Rynandor perceived a change in Vingalmo, a softening of his features. The young Mer shook his head and the smile was sincere. Whomever the other Elf was, he was held in high regard. “You don’t have to. You’ve nothing to prove.”

     

    “Well, seein’ as it’ll be Sundas tomorrow, I expect Auri-El will want me ta get me ‘ands dirty ta show me penance fer tha pride I’m about to be guilty of. So, chamber pots it is.” There was a deliberate nod from the helmeted head. “But if ya lose, Caemal, it’s chamber pots and a thousand talons from ya.”

     

    Rynandor observed the young noble grin at the show of spirit. “Done. On my honor and the honor of my House.”  Vingalmo bowed graciously.

     

    The figure rose from the bench. “Then let’s dance, Caemal.”

     

    The crowd erupted in a frenzy of cheers, patting the steel plated warrior on the shoulder and back while he made his way towards Vingalmo at the platform.

     

    “Xarxes’ arse!” Rynandor heard over his shoulder, smelling Lilandtar’s wine-laced breath while he whispered. “That has got to be the thickest Dusken accent I have ever heard. I barely understood anything he said.” He was clearly seeing the same thing Rynandor was. Yes, it was pure Dusken, but what was a servant doing answering Vingalmo’s challenge?

     

    More rowdy cheers when the Dusken vaulted up onto the platform, with a lot more finesse than Rynandor expected from an Elf that size. One other Elf was taking bets from the crowd and it was clear that from Vigalmo’s warm greeting of the Dusken that this was something the two did frequently, to the apparent detriment of the Dusken. Yes, there were classes and yes, the nobles far outshined most other echelons in society, save the Wise, but it was still highly uncouth to exploit a servant like that, at least in a public setting.  Rynandor quickly scanned for officers of rank, but saw no one, before stopping one of the betting elves with a gesture of his hand.

     

    “Who is that?” He gestured with his head towards Vingalmo and the figure, while they readied their weapons. At least the Dusken was. From watching Vingalmo spar, it was already noted that the young lord conjured his weapons.  

     

    “That is young Caemal, my lord.” The soldier answered.

     

    “I know that. The other one? Is that a servant?”

     

    The golden young Elf blinked, as if surprised. “The other one? Oh him? That is Steel Plate, sorry, my lord, he’s Dusken. Alebaron, or Alboron is his name, I think, something like that. Well, a Dusken at any rate. Been here a while.” He explained. “They say everything is larger in the deep South.” A musical chuckle escaped his perfect Elven lips, his deep yellow eyes twinkling. “Well, except maybe the brains.” He suddenly noticed their ornate robes, one indigo and the other purple, and cleared his throat, giving a quick bow of respect. “Forgive me, Archmagister for not immediately recognizing you. I will tell them to stop this.”

     

    Rynandor gave the young Mer a secure pat on the shoulder. “That will not be necessary, it is alright to have a bit of fun, once in a while. But why is a servant sparring with a soldier, a noble for that matter?”

     

    “Oh, Steel Plate’s not a servant, my lord, went through old Master Sergeant Nandrion of Skywatch just like the rest of us did. He’s free born.”

     

    “By the Bow, is that old bag of bones is still alive?” Lilandtar whispered.

     

    “Apparently, still putting fear into the hearts of young Elves everywhere too.” Rynandor smirked.

     

    The young Elf chortled. “Aye, that he does, but do not tell the Sergeant we agree with you. The bundle of swords Steel Plate’s sharpening is from the last bet he made with young Caemal. Has to sharpen our whole company’s blades after Kinsmer Vingalmo knocked him flat on his arse. He gets knocked down all the time, but the stubborn Dusken gets right back up again. Like a bulldog that one is. Won’t quit. It’s admirable in a way, even though you can’t beat a conjured weapon. It’s impossible. I think he’s cleaned just about everything in this compound for all his trying.”  

     

    Rynandor raised his eyebrows. “I see. You may go. We will watch.”

     

    “Want to place a bet, my lord?” The young Mer asked and then immediately regretted the question.

     

    He was about to say a staunch ‘no’, but Lilandtar made sure that did not happen. “I will see young Caemal’s 1000 talons. On the Dusken.” Lilandtar handed the boy gold.

     

    “You’re betting on the Dusken?” Rynandor asked, puzzled by Lilandtar’s impulsiveness. “This young mer just told us he was knocked flat on his arse and loses every time. Lad, here are 1000 talons on young Lord Caemal. Unlike others here, I intend to win.”

     

    The Elf grinned and bowed after taking their money. “Very good, Lord Larethian, Archmagister.” He jogged to the crowd and there were lusty cheers and laughter when it was learned that two proper mages from Crystal-Like-Law were joining in this most disrespectful of endeavors. If the old curmudgeon Master Sergeant walked in right now. Ah, Rynandor, you have made your bed, now lie in it. Besides, you can charm your way around that old bag of bones.

     

    They took their places on the bench, looking prim and proper, their backs straight. Rynandor stroked his long light blond beard and leaned towards Lilandtar. “Lord Larethian, you will lose. A thousand talons, really. On a Dusken, no less.” Rynandor scoffed. “You are a mad, mad Mer.”

     

    The noble Elf gave Ryandnor a side glance, the keen apple green eyes narrowing, and smiled.

     

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    WHY was he fidgeting so, thought Lilandtar while he delivered his lecture to an attentive crowd at the Office of Provincial Studies.  It was on Metaphysics Relating to the Application of Enchantments by Bending the Law of Firsts and he was, as always, brilliant. But Rynandor did not look like he was paying ANY attention. He even seemed itching to leave! He may be confidently giving his lecture on the outside, but inside Lilandtar was sulking. Of all the people NOT to pay devoted attention to him, his dear friend!

     

    And then he remembered. Rynandor the Bold, the Archmagister of Crystal-Like-Law, had lost. Was knocked flat on his arse, figuratively, while young Caemal was knocked flat on his arse literally. The Dusken, to everyone’s shock, won, moving, and fighting better than any expected. It had been a most excellent spar and as far as Lilandtar was concerned, despite losing, young Caemal had more than earned his spot as his Tower Guard and the Dusken got his 1000 talons. And the future pleasure of watching the son of a powerful lord clean up his shit. Not that Altmer shit a lot, only every five days or so, but there was likely to be at least one piece of shit in the company’s chamber pots that evening for Vingalmo to pick up.  Hopefully the Dusken was saving one crap just for young Vingalmo. As for the money, it was probably more money than the poor Dusken creature had seen in his entire life. House Caemal was nearly as wealthy as his own house and young Caemal showed some manners by being a good sport about it. Rynandor, however, not so much. It was fun to see him bluster in surprise, become grouchy, and then try to hide it, stroking his beard so fervently that Lilandtar thought it was going to verily fall off.

     

    Lilandtar did not dwell on it, though, when he heard the thunderous applause after uttering the last word of his lecture. It was, of course, completely warranted. Lilandtar smiled, he was exceptional. He stepped away from the raised carved wooden podium and was immediately swarmed by his adoring fans clamoring up the marble steps. Asking him all sorts of questions about Bending the Law of Firsts, what was the Crystal Tower like, numerous invitations to dinner. It was all very tedious after a while and he was growing tired of so many Elves breathing on him and the cloying smell of Altmeri cologne.

     

     He was surrounded by a particularly inquisitive group when Rynandor approached, ever stroking his long, light blond beard with one hand, and grabbing him by the elbow with the other to gently lead him away from the crowd. YES! But easy, you will crush the velvet, my good friend and it is my best robe. Well, not really by best best, I have dozens, but it is a good one and one of my favorites of the purple shades.

     

    “Pardon me, but Master Lilandtar and I have some important matters to discuss before we journey back to Crystal-Like-Law. Thank you for your attendance.” Rynandor curtly nodded to the visibly disappointed attendees. 

     

    Lilandtar leaned towards Rynandor and whispered in his ear, “Thank you, I never thought they would stop pestering me with silly questions. I love it, of course, but it gets so boring after a while and I’m always afraid they will touch me. They never do, I mean, we are Altmer and all, but still, they come close and I know one day, I will feel a stranger’s skin.” He shuddered in revulsion, but quickly snapped out of it. “I was brilliant, though, was I not?  I must admit, some of my best work.”

     

    “You were excellent as always, friend. You have the gift to deliver lectures.” Rynandor nodded in complete agreement, though Lilandtar saw the wrinkles around the Archmagister’s eyes crinkling. You patronize, but I know I was amazing

     

    “But I’m sulking. You weren’t paying attention.” Accused Lilandtar, his apple-green eyes narrowing. “Still grumbling about lunch? Your purse so, so, so much lighter…”

     

    He heard Rynandor sigh, and he allowed himself a grin. It was so pleasurable to tease the old windbag. “I was paying attention.” The older Elf then furrowed his brow. “I really did not think he would win.”

     

    “Then a lesson was learned today.” Lilandtar smirked.

     

    “How about I tell the Grand Kinlady Lilisephona that you were betting on Duskens…” Lilandtar felt a pinch on his elbow, making him nearly yelp in pain. Of course, no one else saw because if there was anything old magisters could do extremely well, it was to disguise entire arguments and bloody battles under their sleeves.

     

    “You just dislike losing.”

     

    “I really do, don’t I.” The Archmagister begrudgingly admitted.

     

     “Besides, I just gave a fantastic lecture; I’m entitled to a fine dinner and copious amounts of alcohol. You owe me that much for not paying attention and sulking about learning important life lessons on who to not underestimate. If all else, Dear, dear ‘Nandor, the size alone should have told you who to bet on. That Dusken was huge. Young Caemal is an excellent fighter, but all the Dusken really had to do was look for an opening and then sit on him.”

     

    “He did not do that. He actually fought. It was well done, especially against a daedric blade.”

     

    “I’ll admit, he’s a plucky one alright, but he’s from the south, it’s what they do, ‘Nandor, besides fish.” Lilandtar joked, crossing his arms over his chest, refusing to move any further. “So, dinner? I am withering away with starvation as we speak, losing angaids. It is very distressing.”

     

    More eager Elves were approaching and Lilandtar flashed a grin when Rynandor ceded to Lilandtar's hunger pangs. “Very well, first the Temple, though, I  need to go there. Then I will take you wherever you wish to go and buy you a fine dinner and all the alcohol you can drink myself. Just indulge me first.”

     

    "I shall indulge, Archmagister. But why the Temple? If I may ask.”

     

    “One of the youths said the Dusken was heading there after the spar.”

     

    Lilandtar chuckled. “Probably to give praise for his good fortune. That is probably the most money he’s ever seen--” He stopped and stared at Rynandor, seeing the older Mer’s determined expression and started to slowly shake his head in disapproval. “Rynandor the Bold, I know that look.  The Dusken? Are you mad? You cannot.”

     

    “I can, and I will.”  Rynandor, replied, now walking with purpose.

     

    Lilandtar let out a gust of air and hurried after the Archmagister, his jaw still dropped in shock.

     

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    The two mages walked along Alinor’s bustling streets and through its grand Market Plaza line with cherry blossoms and myrtle,  reaching the back entrance to the Temple of Auri-El just before sunset, its golden emblem on the heavy crystal double doors glowing in the waning light. It was the entrance all Altmer used, save those who belonged to the Order, save those who had walked the great Chantry, those who entered into Covenant with their God-King.

     

    Those great souls entered through the Temple's front doors. 

     

    Rynandor and Lilandtar entered the Temple and saw the back of the giant gold and moonstone statue of Auri-El standing sentinel over His people, bathed in the golden light of sunset as it filtered through the immense crystal windows. Rynandor could not help but draw his breath at the sheer grandeur of it, remembering the sermons on Sundas, the notices posted upon the walls. 

     

    “It never ceases to amaze me.” Remarked Lilandtar. “I wish they would approve my proposal to expand the temple in Cloudrest. Alinor can’t have everything.”

     

    Rynandor gave him a look. “Does Cloudrest have to always be the best?”

     

    “If I’m living there, then yes.” The Elf nodded. “A few more crystal spires would be perfect.”

     

    Rynandor made a sour face. “The Temple in Cloudrest is gorgeous, adding to it would just be tasteless.”

     

    Lilandtar shook his head. “No, friend, tasteless is Firsthold, we at Cloudrest have class. Are we staying long? I do not see a giant elf in steel plate armor, do you?”

     

    “Shh…temple.”

     

    Lilandtar wrinkled his nose in disgust when someone brushed against his thin shoulder as they passed by. “I have been touched. You better know what you are doing, and I am hungry.”

     

    “Stop complaining or, or… no dinner.”

     

    “But?”

     

    “No alcohol either, and no hooka!”

     

    “Well!” Said through the Mer’s breath, but  Lilandtar shut up long enough for Rynandor to continue his search for the Dusken. 

     

    His golden eyes scanning the breadth of the Temple, searching… Where was he? There was no Elf clad in steel plate anywhere? Did he leave already? “I do not see him…” He whispered.

     

     “Then let’s go.” Lilandtar insisted. “Abandon your foolishness. It will never be approved.”

     

    “You forget I am Archmagister.”

     

     “I am not forgetting anything, but you are not above the Ancestors, nor our customs. He is not of the right station. It was quite plain. The second hand armor, the accent.”

     

    “I will decide!”

     

    “You don't have to raise your voice, Rynandor. I can hear you fine from here. You are making a scene and people are noticing." Rynandor scowled at his friend but Lilandtar was undaunted. "Abandon it. He was fine for a lark, I enjoyed earning money from his show of viril strength, but no, Rynandor. He? A tower guard? For you? That will never happen.”

     

    Frustrated, Rynandor threw up his arms in exasperation. “You do not see what I see.”

     

    “I see that you are obsessed again. That you will not sleep. That you will pace around and stroke your beard pensively until I wonder if the hair will fall out until this matter is finished to your satisfaction.” Rynandor felt the old Mer rest a hand gently on his shoulder, the grey eyebrows over his green eyes raised in a gesture of concern. “‘Nandor, make me understand.” 

     

    Rynandor gazed at his dear friend, trying to find the words, but he could not. There were no words for what he had seen in his visions. No words to make Lilandtar understand, even after a friendship of over five centuries. Tell the old Mer what? That everything was ending? That it would all go to shit? Tell that to a Mer who was only now, after years of such terrible loneliness, finally starting his family? His legacy. Rynandor frowned again and tore from Lilandtar’s gaze, searching the temple for any signs. Only feeling the compulsion to find the Dusken.

     

    “What are you not telling me, ‘Nandor?”

     

    “Enough! By Xarxes’ hairy fat arse, just enough!” He snapped.

     

    Rynandor then froze, finally understanding what he had done, seeing the shocked Altmeri faces, the looks of disgust from some, the looks of concern from others. Only a minor infraction for a Mer of his status, because the Wise did no wrong, but he could still feel the wave of intense heat upon his face.  The embarrassment. He had just cursed in the Temple of Auri-El. “I’m just tired, my friend.” He sighed weakly, letting his shoulders stoop.

     

    “Then let us go, eat, relax.” Lilandtar offered.

     

    Rynandor nodded and the two made for the Temple’s exit.

     

    “Are you looking for me?”

     

    Well bloody Oblivion, the elusive Dusken. He recognized the timbre of the voice and Rynandor turned around. It was him. The physique matched, though the dress did not. No second hand steel plate. Instead, he was clad in humble roughspun robes. Rynandor’s eyes widened. Roughspun robes with an emblem of the sun upon the chest. The robes of the Order of Auri-El. His brow lowered, robes of Auri-El with peculiarly wet sleeves. The large Mer was broad of shoulder, yet long of limb. Interesting, he had sparred Vingalmo with a sword and shield, yet the arms and hands, with their long, strong fingers betrayed a life long spent with the bow. 

     

    And... by Auri-El’s bow, you are an ugly Mer, Rynandor thought as he stared, the blurred image of his dreams suddenly coming into full focus. The face was long, the jaw firm and square, the nose distinctly aquiline and unforgiving. The mouth was nicely shaped, but it could not overcome the rest of the face, which was cut of hard lines, as if the youth had known some hunger in his life.  The youth’s eyes settled on his and they too, were as his vision.  Like two points of jeweled fire, hooded under a brow far too serious for one so young. In fact, the face had a look of almost an eagle or a gryphon, which gave it a certain commanding air, now that Rynandor had time to process it. But it was the youth’s coloring that struck Rynandor most.

     

    The boy was not pure Altmeri. The nearly white skin betrayed Falmeri blood while the facial features were harder to place. Not Nord, no human blood, no, definitely not. Gobliken? Orc? No, the ears were clearly, and rather nicely shaped, Altmeri ears and the teeth were contained within the mouth, the bite normal.  Perhaps Ayleid, Rynandor speculated. The Wild Elves were, sometimes, a warrior people, especially those from ancient Abagarlas. The young Mer definitely reflected Southern breeding, with its emphasis on strength rather than beauty and ancient bloodlines.  It was the raw power that was coveted for the military of Summerset when the Khajiiti were foolishly not their allies. The power that showed humans that Elves were not just magic wielders with frail bodies, but could also possess great strength, their superior bodies pushed to the very limits.

     

    The Mer bowed low, acknowledging the high status of the Mages. “One of my brothers mentioned that you were searching for me. My apologies, Masters, I was washing dishes at the lower chamber.”

     

    “Washing dishes?” Lilandtar asked, raising his eyebrows, not bothering to mask his disgust at the frank mention of such menial labor.

     

    “Healing and praying are not the only things that need doing to run a Temple properly, my Lord.”

     

    The line was spoken with a candor that brought a smile to Rynandor’s face and a frown of disapproval to Lilandtar’s. The accent was different too. Gone was jarring, singson Dusken and in its place was a traditional, albeit outdated accent, though a bit of the curious Dusken syntax choices remained.   At any rate, it was cultivated and Rynandor was now curious as to who had taught the boy to speak properly.

     

    The youth gestured towards one of the smaller rooms away from the main Temple, “Please, would you like to enter one of the chambers to discuss the reason for your visit, or perhaps you are hungry? I am actually finished for the day; we can step out and eat if you wish. And please…” He bowed his head in deference. “Forgive my coarse speech from earlier at the training yard.  They are my friends and I was unaware of your presence until the spar was finished. Otherwise, I would not have spoken that way,” another bow of respect, “especially not in your presence. It was crass of me and something I am still working on.”

     

    Lilandtar gestured towards the Temple doors with his head and Rynandor could see the disapproval written on the Mer’s features morph into amusement, his green eyes practically dancing with mischief.  Again, Rynandor had underestimated the situation. You are curious to see how this plays out, eh? Me too.

     

    “We will eat,” Rynandor finally found his voice, “but I insist that I cover the meal. I had promised my fellow Mage, Lord Larethian. He has just finished a brilliant lecture at the Office of Provincial Studies."

     

    Lilandtar beamed and Rynandor had to suppress a groan. You know I am going to get in trouble. Was he though? If he believed what he was seeing, this youth, while still a Dusken of mixed heritage, was also associated with the Order of Auri-El. Well, he is a dishwasher, you do not yet know his full capacity within the Order.   Rynandor gave the young Mer a once over. Aye, the robe was a clue, but the hair was the clear indicator.  The silver-white locks looked as if they had never known a pair of shears. It was away from the Mer’s face, done in several thick plaits of the Southern style that were intertwined with a leather lacing. The leather of the Order. He knew that well, and memories of his grand niece came to the surface, with her long golden hair using the lacing in very much the same way.  ‘Kept it safe’, she would say. At the very least, he was a novitiate, as she was.

     

     “I will not protest.” Smiled the youth. A fetching smile that somewhat helped ease the hardness of his features.  He then turned to Lilandtar and bowed. “Congratulations, Master. It is an esteemed honor to lecture at the Office of Provincial Studies. When I can, I attend lectures there myself, they sometimes have standing room for students of the Order.”

     

    “Do you have a name, my boy?” Asked Rynandor.

     

    “Äelberon of Dusk. Will you require the full name, my Lord? My statement of ancestry?”

     

    Rynandor dismissed the notion with a casual wave of his hand. “That will not be necessary. This is not a ceremony.”

     

    “And yourselves, Masters?” He then added quickly, avoiding eye contact. “If I may ask?”

     

     “Archmagister Rynandor and Master Lilandtar, of the Crystal Tower.” Rynandor answered. “I will spare you the other titles, as I can already hear Master Lilandtar’s stomach pangs.  We should be taking our meal soon. And… we are Tower mages, if we speak, we ask for eye contact. We are noblemer, yes, but scholars and wise, above all.”

     

    The youth’s eyes again met his, and Rynandor saw their fire. “Understood. I am truly honored, Masters. Before I left for the Temple, Kindsmer Vingalmo spoke of nothing else. He is excited to accompany you to Crystal-Like-Law. I am pleased for him; he deserves such honor.”

     

    “You are friends with the young kinsmer, then?” Rynandor asked while the youth began carefully leading them through the crowd of people gathered at the Temple for evening service, picking a path that allowed the Tower mages the right of way.

     

    “As much as my station will allow, Archmagister.”

     

    Rynandor glanced at the Temple goers. “Do you not need to be here, boy? Attend service?”

     

    “No, since Auri-El, in his grace, has seen to it that I not clean chamber pots on Sundas after all, I will do His service by hunting on the morrow. I was asked to.” A thoughtful nod. “We are not a rich order, but the poor still need to eat.” His eyes found the back of the statue while they walked. “He understands. Besides, my bow misses me and I miss her…”

     

    A huntsmer, Rynandor thought.

     

    “So, we are not from Alinor, Youngling, is there a place you recommend?” Interrupted Lilandtar.

     

    “Yes, but a short walk up the road. It is not crowded, not expensive, and the food is quite good.”

     

    Once outside the Temple, after a brief walk, they entered a quiet tavern, very humble by Altmeri standards and Rynandor caught Lilandtar wrinkling his nose. Confounded, what now, Landtar?! Verily, there is a pole up your arse! Of the two, Lilandtar was always the flamboyant one, proud of his great wealth, whereas Rynandor actually appreciated the simplicity of the tavern, with its clean lines and rustic quality. Despite the tavern’s roughness and the great affection in which they greeted the young Mer, causing the tips of his white ears to go bright red, their status as Crystal Tower mages was immediately noted and they were given with a private room to consume their meal. Food was quickly served, and the trio settled down to eat. Roast duck with assorted vegetables and rice boiled in seawater. It smelled and looked delicious and for the first time, Rynandor noticed his own hunger. While Lilandtar noisily drank wine and ate their roast duck, Rynandor asked the youth, letting the wrinkles around his eyes crinkle.  “So, boy, how are you going to spend the money you earned today?”

     

    “Ah that, Archmagister.” The youth set his fork down and seemed shy to Rynandor for a moment. “It is already spent. That is why I left so quickly when you were speaking to Vingalmo. I wanted to catch the couriers before they left for the day. A portion of it was sent with one to Dusk, for my parents. The rest? Well, it pays for services at the Temple for those who cannot afford it.”

     

    “Did you keep any for yourself?”

     

    “No, Archmagister. My bow, blade, and magicks provide all I need.”

     

    Rynandor could feel Lilandtar’s eyes roll, but the lad seemed sincere, albeit a country Mer. “So, you are a priest?” He continued with his questions. “I have a grand niece who is also a member of the Order. A novitiate. Still studying. She often intertwines the lacing in her plaits. ‘Keeps it safe’, she says.”

     

    “I understand her. I am the same way with my leather.” The boy answered with a nod – dammit, he’s not a boy, he’s a at least forty, though hard to say due to the hardened features, maybe pushing fifity.  “But no, Master, I am not worthy yet. Perhaps more years of study and I will be able to make my first attempt at the Chantry to take my Vows. It is a long process.”  

     

    “Then why do you train at the Training Center? Surely that would hold you back from your studies?”

     

    “It does take time from my religious studies, Archmagister, but my patron held it to be necessary. He would often say that for one to truly serve, it must be with body, soul, heart, and mind.  None of these can be weak, especially when the true tests come.”

     

    “And who is a patron that would demand so much from someone so young.”

     

    “High Priest Kahlailas of Dusk, Archmagister.”

     

    The youth had both mages attention now, Lilandtar’s apple green eyes widening and then narrowing. “The Vestige himself?”

     

    “The same, Master Lilandtar.”

     

    Rynandor felt Lilandtar’s elbow nudge his ribs. “See, never underestimate.” Lilandtar then focused on the youth. “Are you related to him, Steel Plate? You don’t mind, I call you that, do you?”

     

    Something hard flashed in the lad’s eyes before he responded with a gracious smile. “Not at all, Master Lilandtar. It is what they call me at the Training Center on account of my armor. Sort of stuck.” 

     

    It was an insult, but the boy had chosen to shrug it off.

     

    “I know he founded the city of Dusk some time back in the second era, after the Planemeld, I believe, if I am not mistaken. Used to be an old Keep.”

     

    “Distantly, on my lenya’s side. Very distantly. And yes, he is the father of Dusk. And a noble city it is, full of our traditions and a certain beauty. The draping wisteria at the docks, the old church with its wooden spires and arched roof, the library, the Market Square and boardwalks,” his eyes grew fond and Rynandor saw the smile broaden enough to show some teeth, “best roasted pine nuts in all of Summerset and the best fish...” The expression grew thoughtful again, almost wistful. “No, not crystalline grand, like Alinor is, but she is my city by the sea. My home. My family has been there since the beginning really; fishermer, carpenters, soldiers…”

     

    Well, that was almost poetically phrased, thought Rynandor. Ey, their echelon, however, is extremely low, only barely above slaves and goblin workers. It was a cloud of disappointment that hung over his otherwise intriguing meeting with this dishwashing, bet making Dusken, who was proving rather charming. That he is even attending lectures at the Offices of Provincial studies is a huge achievement, Old Mer. Curate Kahlailas was breaking rules to sponsor this boy.

     

    “The Vestige is the only mage that I know of in my family, going back many, many years, all the way to their start in Sunhold. We were always of the South, save those who were not.” The youth continued.

     

    “Are you mixed, boy?” Lilandtar asked.

     

    Of course, it comes up, thought Rynandor. Lilandtar was asking the questions Rynandor did not dare to. Being correct in procedure, while Rynandor only felt like defying it.

     

    “Aye, I am mixed, my Lord. Ayleid blood on my ata’s side, Falmeri on my lenya’s. But that was long, long ago and while the colors remain, we are Altmeri through and through. After all, they are just colors, like your hair, am I right, Master Lilandtar?”  

     

    It was an astute observation and both mages acknowledged the show of intelligence with sidelong glances at each other. Lilandtar had Breton stock in his family, the dominance of both black and red hair among House Larethian was proof of it.  

     

    “You make a fair point.” The Magister admitted.

     

    “My ata is a retired soldier, now a fishermer, and my lenya, who served with my father, is now a blacksmith. When they saw that my eyes and arms served the bow, they longed for me to train at Vulkhel Guard like they had before me. But though our lives are rich in many ways, we lack wealth.  They could not afford to send me. I was needed at home, to fish, and to help my lenya at the forge.  I even left school to do so, knowing my place was with them and not in a classroom.” The youth looked away and shrugged. “Did not care for it much anyway.  Besides, is it not our tradition to follow in the paths of our ancestors.  Is that not right, Masters?" Rynandor nodded and the youth continued. "When I was seventeen, however, my parents were part of a force that saved Dusk's Temple of Auri-El from a vampire attack.”

     

    “Ah, I remember that incident. The bards sang of it all the way to Cloudrest.” Recalled Lilandtar.

     

    “Being very stupid and afraid for them, I followed, with naught but my old hunting bow. It did nothing and they were hurting her.” Both mages straightened in their chairs. “My first spell left my hands, to save her. It died, smelling horrible, like decay.” He shuddered, the nose wrinkled, and he swallowed as if he could still smell the odor. “I then threw up, the second helping of fish during dinner not the best idea that day. But I couldn't help it, my lenya makes a really good fish.”  

     

    And there it was, the underestimated. Rynandor did not even need to ask what spell it was. The description gave it away. Sun Fire. The Holy Magicks, mused Rynandor, stroking his beard in his mage’s silence. There was only one path for this young Mer and it was set the moment that spell left his hand. Old Kahlailas had come to him. The Order must have come to him and... The Thalmor. Curious, as always. The Holy Magicks always inspired such curiosity. The Elves that could wield them had a connection to Aetherius, to the world, that few possessed. It was something to be admired, and envied.

     

    "The High Priest never forgot my parents’ service. The spell could also not be ignored.  What it meant. The changes it would bring. He offered to sponsor my time in Alinor instead of Vulkhel Guard, in exchange for serving Dusk's Temple as an apprentice healer, to learn their craft. To become the second mage in my family and its second priest."

     

    "Were you forced on that path, boy?"

     

    The young Mer seemed confused for a second as if unable to comprehend what Rynandor was implying. He shook his head, furrowing his brow. 

     

    "No, Master. I strongly felt the call to serve. He gave me such a great gift. My lenya lives from that gift. I became a novitiate without hesitation, receiving my leather and my calian at seventeen. Made a puzzle box to keep it n’ everything, and she gave me the cloth it’s nestled in.” A bit of the Dusken accent was now surfacing in his excitement and Rynandor could not help the smile. Boy was as sincere as they came, perhaps not extremely bright, but there was definitely a charm to his simple directness. “She was spared by His grace and I am indebted to Him. Humbled that they let me practice the art, despite my lowly station and my lack of proper schooling.”

     

    “The Vestige has his influence and you are correct; one cannot ignore that particular spell.” Lilandtar pointed out. “But, do you know other spells or was the sun magic just a one-trick wonder? Can you cast a good fireball?”

     

    “No, I cannot, Master.”

     

    “Lightning, frost, summons, bound weapons, manipulate the mind, anything useful in a fight?”

     

    “Lilandtar!”

     

    The tower mage shook his head and his green eyes narrowed, adjusting the fit on his deep purple, embroidered robes the way he does when he is getting ready to argue. Rynandor answered with his own preening and stiffening, while the youth looked on, a resigned expression on his face. It was probably not the first time he had inspired debate.

     

     “No, Rynandor. One spell does not make for what you are considering asking Steel Plate here. Now there is room for a legitimate healer. I can see that. Not everyone needs to throw fireballs or summon atronachs.” Lilandtar turned to the youth, giving him a stern once over. “I can forgive the station and his lack of education. I can even forgive the crude, real weapons he’s forced to use because he cannot summon a good daedric blade or bow to his side, but no, not on one spell alone.  I do not care what it is. I do not care if the very rays of Magnus spew from his arsehole, one spell is not enough, Archmagister. Vingalmo is well-rounded, a noble, the right Mer for what we are asking. I need more from this one. What else can you do, Steel Plate, save sharpen blades, wash dishes, and sit on smaller elves when they give you an opening?”

     

    Rynandor saw the youth’s eyes snap and his nostrils flared a tiny bit, betraying a potential willfulness that was probably going to land him in trouble, though the face remained composed. Then he rose to his full height, making both magisters tense in their chairs. Violence was not expected. The magical energy intensified around the young Mer’s left hand and there it manifested. A golden energy like the purest sunshine. The energy lengthened and narrowed, until it took the form of a shining javelin. 

     

    It was a spell that Rynandor had not seen much of since the second era. The Aedric spear. The holy Mer’s answer to conjured weapons. Light used to battle darkness, developed in a time where Daedric princes openly endeavored to merge the planes of existence. Then the right hand gathered the magical energy, absorbing the streams that now visibly surged within the room. And for a moment, Rynandor felt the nagging ache in his shoulder from sleeping in a bad position the night before, the chronic rheumatism in his knee, the pressure upon his head from too much drink suddenly disappearing. Soothed. Gone. Like that, with little effort. The boy knew exactly where his ailments were, he could feel the cartilage rebuilding in his knee, the buildup of growth at the minutest of levels. Not just a soothing balm, but an actual repair. His eyes found Lilandtar, who was breathing heavily, calling his own magical energy. 

     

    “Lilantar, what are you doing?” Rynandor gasped, beginning to panic. 

     

    “Testing.” He raised an eyebrow and before Rynandor could stop him, a violent stream of lightning left his hand.

     

    “Lilandtar!”  

     

    The golden energy left Rynandor as quickly as it came, leaving him cold, and before he could react, the young Mer manifested a large ward. At least he’ll block the spell or part of it, Rynandor thought. But the ward did not only block the spell. Instead, the ward seemed to funnel the stream of lightning like a whirlwind, turning it inside out. It then sucked the stream from Lilandtar, the old Mer’s body rocking from the force. Rynandor felt the transfer of magical energy and Lilandtar cried out at the shock of  magicka being stolen from him. 

     

    Rynandor stood up. “That’s enough!” 

     

    At his words, the spear immediately dissipated and the boy sank to his chair, a whispered curse escaping his lips, his brow sweating profusely from his efforts. Lilandtar was sweating too, but true to his nature, the eccentric Magistur burst out laughing, refilled his wine glass and took his seat with an impish grin. 

     

    “That was fun.” 

     

    Rynandor only glared at him, feeling his jaw fall to the floor. Lilandtar, as usual, waved his hand in dismissal. 

     

    A knock on the door made everyone freeze in the room. “Ronnie? Is everything alright? We saw the lights? Magisters?” 

     

    The young Mer’s face blushed bright crimson and his own jaw dropped at the mention of what Rynandor assumed was a familial name. So, Ronnie, eh? Unlucky bastard, what a silly name, no wonder you are the shade of a tomato.

     

    “We are fine.” Rynandor called towards the door. “Nothing to concern yourselves with. Ronnie...” Rynandor couldn’t help himself and allowed a smile to cross his features while the lad verily squirmed in his chair and made a face, his face going even redder.. “Is fine.  Just a small--”

     

    “Test.” Lilandtar finished, still grinning, his eyes on the boy.

     

    The young Mer seemed to shrink even more, despite his huge size, bending his head. “I am sorry, Magister. I--”

     

    “Oh shut up!” Lilandtar rolled his eyes in amusement. He then slammed his palm on the table and shuddered. “Damn! That was GOOD!” He pointed a finger at the young Mer. “No, do not be sorry. Never be sorry for that kind of magicks! You are not in trouble. No, definitely not. I needed to know and by Xarxes’ hairy arse cheeks, you bloody showed me.” He sighed in pleasure and took a long gulp of wine. “Have not had magic stolen from me in a good while. It’s a sly thief you’ve got here, Rynandor. We underestimated him.” 

     

    “It seems so.” Rynandor replied as he finally took his seat. “What do you think?”

     

    Lilandtar relaxed further into his chair, sipped more wine and scrutinized the young Altmer. “I can accept him.” The old Mer began his assessment. “But he is rough. Raw. They, on the other hand, will not so readily accept. His station is something you will need to think on, old friend. The leap from low to high is almost never welcomed.  If you are prepared for that, Archmagister, then I will support whatever you decide. I think old Kahlailas taught him himself. I didn’t think the old Mer took pupils.” Lilandtar focused his attention on the boy. “Is it true? Were you taught by Kahlailas himself?”

     

    “Yes. For almost twenty years, he taught me, a nothing from the docks.”

     

    “What else did that Mer teach you?”

     

    “The full spectrum of combat, holy magicks, healing, anatomy, physiology, the history of our people and Tamriel, and the many, many rites of our faith.”

     

    “Did you take to this quickly?” Lilandtar continued. He wanted to know the learning rate, Rynandor garnered. 

     

    “Yes and No.” The young Mer shook his head. “The reading I loved, loved learning all those new things.” His eyes lit up.”How the world works, the body…”

     

    “I thought you did not like school.” Rynandor pointed out.

     

    “Aye, I do not. But learning is not school, Archmagister.” 

     

    “And what was the ‘no’ for?” Lilandtar pressed. 

     

    “The bloody spells, pardon my growing crassness, Magister.” He cleared his throat. “I will endeavor to speak at a better station.” 

     

    “Pardoned.” Chuckled Lilandtar.

     

    “I did not have the benefit of casting since I was a child, not like you or the Archmagister. But I managed.  When he judged me ready, he sent me to Alinor to further train and hone my skills, leaving Dusk, all that I ever knew. During the day, I train at the Center. In the afternoon, I devote myself to the Temple, wash dishes, chop wood, forge steel, weed the garden, hunt, heal, whatever they bloody well need.” He groaned. “Sorry, I keep cursing, it’s been a long da--It has been a long day. Weekends, I hunt or fish for them or attend service in His praise, thanking him every damn day for this opportunity. The opportunity to be better. On the Path to Alaxon” He shook his head and looked away. “But I have much to learn still. I feel like a damned brisket sometimes, I am taking so long to cook.”  

     

    Lilandtar seemed somewhat satisfied with the youth’s answer, “A good brisket is well worth the wait and it is a smart Mer, Steel Plate, that can admit when he has more to learn. Aye, you do, infinitely more. But, it seems the Vestige did not waste his time with you, A Nothing from the Docks.” A quirky chuckle escaped Lilandtar’s lips and the green eyes glittered with renewed mischief. “Ha, that sounds faintly Saxhleel, doesn’t it, Rynandor? Nothing from the Docks.” He repeated, pleased with himself. “Should call you that, but it is an extremely long name to say, as if I do not say enough long names already in my line of work, so Steel Plate it will remain.” The Magister turned to Rynandor. “I’m I done?”

     

    “Yes, friend, you are done.” 

     

    Lilandtar dove right back into his meal, serving himself another helping of roast duck, more vegetables and rice. “Oghma’s tits, good, because I am still hungry. Oh, and I want dessert. Do they have orange cakes here? I’d fancy some orange cakes and some brandy to wash them down.”  He waved his hand at the Dusken. “Well, go and fetch it, Steel Plate. I haven’t got all night.” 

     

    Social caste is never forgotten.

     

    When the boy returned from ordering their additional food, there was an awkward silence as the trio continued their meal, giving time for Rynandor to think. Second era magicks were taught. The Vestige was not known to take individual pupils, he only supervised the Order from his seat in Dusk. A Curate of the Order, though originally a Knight-Paladin, rising through the ranks of the Order through combat just as much as through his great piety and faith. That he took a marked interest in the youth, meant there was an untapped potential. The magical energy did not lie to the Tower mages dining with the young Elf. It was just a matter of cultivating it further. No, nothing so mundane as the elements or summoning. Aedric spears and magicka absorption. Could the boy enhance attributes? Free souls? Capture souls? Banish them? Other feats? Rynandor needed to know, know what the Vestige had passed on to the boy. And why he chose to even pass his knowledge on.

     

    Rynandor was lost in thought when Äelberon spoke.

     

    “May I ask a question, Archmagister?”

     

    “Of course, Äelberon. I'm sorry, youngling. My mind was elsewhere.” Rynandor replied.

     

    The youngling looked right at Rynandor. Aye, Rynandor thought to himself, I like this young one. The eyes are keen, no pretense behind them. “Why does Archmagister Rynandor the Bold dine with me tonight?”

     

    “Why do you think, youngling?” Rynandor answered with another question, not hiding his amusement.

     

    Äelberon nodded slightly and there was the tiniest flash of arrogance in the youth’s eyes. So, there IS pride there, Rynandor smiled. Good, pride is good, youngling. You will soar with the very eagles if you couple that with humility to Auri-El and a willingness to learn. You may even overcome your caste.  He then smiled a full Dusken smile, with teeth and everything. “Because today I became 1000 talons richer and tha young kinsmer, for once, has ta clean up me shit.”

     

    “That you did, boy.” Rynandor nodded. Or maybe not.

     

    “Here here,” Lilandtar raised his glass to the young Mer. “Always fun to watch someone clean shit. But believe me, Steel Plate, your days of cleaning shit are far from over.” 

     

    “I know.” Steel Plate agreed.

     

    “I hope you do.” Lilandtar countered as he sipped his wine, his seriousness returning. “Support does not mean approval, Archmagister.”

     

    “I know, old friend, I know.” 

     

    A grunt from Lilandtar and it was Rynandor’s turn to relax into his chair, stroking his long, blond, beard as he favored his wine. I am going to ignore your disapproval, Lilandtar. I am going to make something of this lad. Take a Southern nothing from the Docks and finish what the Vestige surely must have started. And I don’t care if the old matrons choke on their hookas when they find out.

     

    “And do you accept the challenge, Äelberon of Dusk ?”Asked Rynandor.

     

    The eyes blazed again with a latent excitement. Like a fledgling eagle looking down upon the cliffs, eager to test his wings and take its first real flight, to be carried to the sky by the winds.  “Yes, Master Rynandor, Archmagister of Crystal-Like-Law.” Replied Äelberon, looking him straight in the eye. “I will accept your challenge and serve you at the Tower.”

     

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    ToC * Chapter 2

Comments

2 Comments   |   Ebonslayer and 3 others like this.
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  June 28
    *Looks at scroll bar*


    Ah shit, here we go again.
    • The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      Ebonslayer
      Ebonslayer
      Ebonslayer
      *Looks at scroll bar*


      Ah shit, here we go again.
        ·  June 28
      Long-chapper is Long-chapper for a reason; in the epic oral tradition, lips are going to be chapped~