Quest 3: Baguette-Stick
Loading Screen… Skyrim is divided into Five Kingdoms. Each city-state contains one massive self-contained/governed city. Citizens rarely venture outside the walls due to various monsters patrolling the outlands. Who exactly unleashed these creatures unto the frozen wastes is unknown, though many point to the mythical dragon known as Konahrik the Evil One…
~ § ó § ò § ~
Krest stood there for a few seconds; eyes wide open. The lock of the gate rung behind him, and he closed his eyes, meditating to quell his drumming heartbeat, the feeling of his eyelashes brushing on his cheekbones. The gigantism of the province and surrounding mountainsides was… unexpected. Milk thistle parading the hilltops with giant pink trees. The boulders stacked on one another like a temple built from playing cards. Trees walking, rooting, and uprooting themselves, pouring into the canyons, inlaid with exotic snowy shrubbery being the only other memorandum. The road was paved gold, Dwemer-made. This was the Kingdom of Dwemeria, one of five holdings or fiefdoms in the Norse country. The sun was climbing the sky and had settled into a pink glow, the canvas it sat in a morning-rosy shade of cherry. Bluish long grass poked through snow, dwarven totems and ancient Nordic monoliths garnered hither and thither. Reindeer-bunnies were prancing around nearby on his way down, passing spoiled battlements and worn structures from a bygone epoch. Remnants of Oblivion Gates. He glided down the hillside, towards a group of fairies wasting away outside of a stone fortification, plumaged in blankets of ice and bronze posts and fences. The familiar shuffling whispers of a nirnroot reverberating in his eardrums. Krest paced for what felt like an hour, stalking through an abandoned abbey and stretches of empty, surreally silent woodlands. Streams cornered him on all sides as the leaves of the trees slowly shifted from pink to forest green. Falling pine-needles overhead and blooming chrysanthemums nearby.
Well… Skyrim is quieter than Cyrodiil.
“Aye there, laddie, don’t suppose you’d help an old Gnome such as me-self out of pickle, would ya?”
Krest saw a Gnome, small dwarf-like men with sweeping beards, colourful outfits, and pointy hats. This one in particular was holding a fat piece of bretic bread. — Krest fluttered his lashes in confusion.
“Ah, I’ll take that as a yes.” The Nordic midget joined his hands. “There’s an Ice-Courser in a cave way up yonder. Ya’ know those ice-men who skate real fast over da land? Don’t suppose ya could deliver this baguette ta him, could ya? I’d reward ya with a few gold septims.”
Krest blinked blankly before kicking the garden-pest into the bank. The Gnome thrashed under a pile of washed-out frozen water, his small pack flapping wide and spraying its contents onto the cold ground. One item snared Krest’s eye — a book; ebony, with the silver dragon symbol of the Empire emblazoned upon it. Krest picked it up and dusted the flakes off it, turning the pages.
The Book of the Dragonborn
Could it be?
He paged through it, continuing his stroll to his destination to the melancholic grumblings of the Gnome who was grasping himself out. — The tome went into detail about archaic Alessian emperors and their blood-pact with Akatosh, Father-Time. Apparently, once an era or so Akatosh blessed a chosen woman or man with the soul, blood, and powers of a Dragon, in times of great strife. The known Dragonborn were: Miraak Wyrmtongue of the Pre-Historic Era who defeated Alduin, Alessia Perrif of the First Era who stood up to her elven oppressors, Reman Cyrodiil also known as Reymon Ebonarm of the Second Era who started the Dragonguard, Talos Stormcrown of the Third Era who united Tamriel. The Dragonborn of the Fourth Era, according to the book, was supposed to be the final one, destined to defeat the Shezarrine at the end of all time.
The prophecy read: When misrule takes its place at the eight corners of the world. When the Brass Tower walks, and Time is reshaped. When the thrice-blessed fail and the Red Tower trembles. When the Dragon-Blooded Ruler loses his throne, and the White Tower fails. When the Snow Tower lies sundered, divided, bleeding… The Shezarrine is banished from Heaven, and the Wheel turns upon the Last Dragonborn.
What if… what if I’m the Last Dragonborn and I just don’t know it yet? An inkling of solace, of specialty, of mattering resonated with him. He quite fancied the idea of being so significant. After all, why shouldn’t it be me? The feeling of confidence flooded him, and he stood straighter, strutting with a newfound bravado. His childish aspirations returning.
There were dried clay high-rises on the elongated strands of bluish frosted-over grass and a crumbling Nordic mortar close by. He wandered along the curving orchards and antique vineyards. Brambles and virgules of thick trees, golden apples hanging off them, the smell puissant. A thoroughfare sloshed down a manmade stream up top, transporting chopped forestry to the city of Old Fort, tucked away further ahead inside the mountain. A few birds chirping and singing in the branches, moles scurrying with the rat-men. The smaller trees had purple bobbles of grapes that hung from the tall plants like ringlets of hair. — Krest trailed for what felt like eons through the various thickening plantations and curvature of the rising Northern Jeralls. The ‘Rat-men’ that watched from the trees had twitchy noses, snickering down on wedges of cheese. Tall and gangly they were. He saw crests nestled with vivid-blue mountain lakes and rockslides cemented from aureate. Though finally, Krest saw the city entrance lodged into the mountain. Walking toward the primary gate to the bastion, snowy plants waving and whipping his way, as if nature itself was trying to prevent him from entering.
Dataflow returned as the net signals increased. Extenuating the waves out-of-bounds must be difficult for Imperial data-miners to say the least.
Rain turned hail slowly pattered the ground. The city was inside the mountains, thus protected from harsh weather and monsters alike. Krest shivered, wrapping his cloak tightly around himself as the vault door arose. The aqueduct above connected into the city. The timber entering Old Fort and being sorted to the indoor lumbermills where no doubt lumberjacks would convert them into paper and building blocks.
Nords stood inside a steel chamber. Shaped like a jail. A broken snow-elven wayshrine on the left-hand side. A cozy cobbled dungeon with various shield-checks, celled doorways, a few goat-horned candles acting as braziers to light up the dark area and a golden statute of Dibella by a table near the exit into the actual enclosure. Aside from him there were others attempting to get into the haven. A family of three and a group of priestesses, all of which were drenched or iced over from the elements of the outdoor alps. A group of Khajiit caravanners and Redguard gypsies doused in ice water. One of the catmen was using a flute to charm a snake in an upbeat and catchy tune.
The green scaled grooves ridged in the python’s rind, coiling and floating upwards to the music. Its eyes poisonous and forked tongue licking its lips. Snakehead rocking back and forth, swaying side-to-side. Gyrating on the floor.
He snapped out of the trance, shaking his head before blowing his nose on his sleeve.
"Don’t dawdle, ladies," called who Krest assumed was the Head Priestess of the Dibellan order judging by the droops of grey hair that stuck out her hood.
“Mother Hamal, I don’t understand why Dibella requested Saadia to tell us to move sanctuaries?” The youngest disciple said, crossing her arms in clear annoyance.
"Sybil Saadia wouldn’t lie, Fjotra," answered Hamal as they lined up more formerly within the queue.
"I heard Saadia fled her home of Hammerfell when she was young. Who's to say she's not betraying us too." The youngest priestess, Fjotra leant on one hip.
"Shut your trap.” Hamal’s frown fell further. Her robes had an image of a nymph with flowers for hands upon it.
Krest rubbed his eyes as a few friendly mudcrabs scuttled by the black bend. Why are they moving locations? He followed the procession up to the archway entrance where two guards stood watch. They wore Viking-style helmets wrapped in furs with crude axes and round shields with the city sigil of a lamb imprinted on them.
"Before entering we need your names, please," stated the Nord guard noisily. "No exceptions. We've been informed of some criminals on the loose." He glared pointedly at the Khajiit. “No Orcs and Bandits allowed.”
Poor Orcs. Apparently Old Fort was not only a city but also a supermax asylum for Tamriel’s worst prisoners.
The family of three all stated their names and entered, shadowed by the babble of holy women. Krest stridden, showing the wire makeup in his part-metallic, part-flesh arms.
"Praetorian? But you’re just a boy…” The guardsmen penned something down on his clipboard and parchment. “Write your name and number.” The Nord handed Krest the form, sniffling under his handlebar mustache. Krest briefly pondered whether the facial hair might be fake or not.
Armilius, Krest, #616, he wrote.
"Check in and find a room if you’re tired.” The Nord's disturbing muttonchops and moustache flickered. “Once we’ve verified your information, you can have the detainee.”
As Krest ambled into the metropolitan, dodging a few more patrols, he saw several huntsmen, all Nords, ahead of him, carrying game they had killed whilst chatting excitedly amongst themselves.
"Did either of you see that great big beast fly out of the sun?" One of them hauling an elk asked. He had a great bear pelt draped over his shoulders and a garb made from the skin of dead animals. “You know, a week back?”
"Yea, that was so bizarre mayn, thought I musta been drunk fur uh moment," the other whose beard was braided with beads reacted. “They sey the mayn it expelled is here in tha city, since it landed on the foregrounds outside! Newspapers haven’t shut up about it, even the Thalmor down in Summerset are restless concerning it.”
The city of Old Fort bore an oak and mossy-brown finish and was very much of Deep-Elven and Ehlnofeic make. An indoor paradise comprised of bronze halls, waterfalls cascading through the decor. There was a vaulted, translucent ceiling. Empty synagogues of Talos with rows of benches, partitioned by aisles, vicars incanting several rites and sprinkling holy water in places. Their royal vestments sweeping the floors. Waterways into parts unknown flowing beneath the shaggy scrawls of finer echelons of society. Imperial soldiers marching through with red banners.
Krest strolled out into the all-but abandoned four-square that came into view ahead of him. A terraced fall that dropped into a bright pool below. Synthetic farms of grain and vegetation tiered in corners, fragrances of saffron inhaling into his lungs. Krest could see three other doors, presumably lockboxes of their own on each corner of the four-squared room at the corresponding ends of the balustrade. Deeper down a mining and oil depot drilled into undiscovered sections of the ever-hollowing summit. Short impish Nords, nicknamed ‘Dwarves’ (Gnomes) went in and came out with carts of silver and an abundance of other ores. Named after the Elven Dwarves of Old. They were basically just a subrace of Nords who were stockier and shorter with thicker beards, sort of like how halflings were just short Bretons.
"Welcome." Krest shifted and saw a Dwarven robot in a granite billet behind a barred opening. "The inn is that way.” It pointed back where Krest came from. He noted there was no door in and out of its prison, meaning the robot was an inmate serving time.
Krest undid a knot in his hair, disclosing black filaments in his temple.
The Unit denunciated, "reload that. Do not tango to the bougie— or the inner-city police and you shall be fine.” The Robot deemed Unit 24601 handed him a key. “Now, delta the fuck out of my face,” it computed before turning its head. “Unless you wish for termination…?”
Krest took it and paid the till, sidestepping a few jail cells.
“Oh, look, an Imperial in a Nord prison. Thou’lt shalt wilt and weep ‘neath the mushroom caps,” the Dunmer whose name was Valen Dreth according to the inscription recited, “tween moss and an elephant’s ear.”
Krest saw another man through a cell, this one in a strait jacket and tied to a chair. "Everything's for sale, my friend! EVERYTHING! If I had a sister, I'd sell her in a second! WELCOME TO BELETHOR'S GENERAL GOODS! WELCOME INDEED!” A sign posted to ‘Belethor’s’ allotment said, Belethor Lionhart, renowned serial killer.
Why am I even alive.
Krest exhaled and limbered past glass windowing into the underwater section of the city full of luminescent liquid. Glowing passages dotted with lit tendrils and magical mushrooms. Mermaids and mermen patrolling the underwater galleries as Krest came out into a clearing after rounding a bend. Children were observing the spectacle, palms plastered against transparent walls. Jellyfish playing hide and seek behind coral forests, tentacles of a giant squid propelling it amongst the weightlessness. Krest peered in as well, intaking as much as humanly possible. Small whales and dolphins contorted through the waters with bloodmoon horkers and herring. A room that swirled like a whirlpool with coral walls. Aka’s Ale flooded all around him, then it spewed out inside an enclosed waterfall, flying down Akatosh knows how many feet until colliding with more of the H2O, waterways that veered left and right until finally it washed up on the banks of a stone space — at least he could dream. A bunguin, penguin-bunny hybrid hopped past in a lifted glissando.
Krest sprawled down the dungeon until he saw two nordic guards stationed at the far end of the hall, conversing in low tones over sparkling candles. The flames cast eerie shadows over the walls and Krest made a descent past some brick and grout and through a small hole in the wall that exited out into some dusty canvas. Not a sound echoed around him… The embers inside the mantle glowed a vivid orange as the world within and without crawled painfully and agonizingly to a forever standstill. Problems stacked on problems stacked on problems within a few pieces of charred tinder. Shutting the door to his prison, grey and isolated, a containment cell in the midst of the galaxy. Only him. Krest sat on his bed, dimly lit gimlets glowing on top of the fireplace, the sounds of rushing sewage below. Orbs of light tinkering about. An abandoned prison.
He shrieked out loud, a high-pitched lark aberrant of himself, liken to a witch. It bounced off the angles of the vestibule, rebounding at his eardrums as uncertainty weaved its way into the crannies of his mind, stitching into the deepest reaches of his neuronal programming.
The laughter stopped abruptly, and he shuddered intensely, crunching in on the cot.
Long dreams swelled up and drizzled. Boondies destroyed with fists until knuckles bled red. Nihilistic mutterings. He forced himself to instead dwell on silky white grassland, a beautiful field inside a tundra and a nebulae of purple night sky. A motherly woman holding him in her arms as he slept. Though no matter how hard he clutched the pillow, that fantasy would never become reality. The latter half of his night, the neon leviathan died. Krest saw primitive villages with hut-shaped buildings, carriages drawn by horses and no trains or technology. He walked down one alley, streams flossing, and faring interlinked to the ground. A brainstem coaxing in and out slowly, waiting to snap. Left eye twitching repeatedly. In the waters, he saw himself, but he wore a horned helmet made of iron… what was he saying?
“Talos bless you. May Konahrik never take you,” said the Nord librarian the morning after as Krest was clamouring his way through the age-old athenaeum.
The shelves full of books swayed like waves, golden linings separating the stacks and each manuscript looking as pristine as the next. Scrolling past an array of titles he’d read already. Krest chewed on his thoughts, filling a glass of water on the side table, downing it, and cracking open a textbook. Feeling the surge of liquid travel down his esophagus. This volume was newly released and updated.
History Summarized (Sixth Edition), By Matthew Motre of the Elder Council
In this short summary, I will attempt to paraphrase the major focal points of history on Nirn as well as extrapolating on the events in the current era.
Dawn Era – The world is created by the gods through big bangs and supernovas. Lorkhan tricks the other Divines into making the material world, forcing them to surrender their power in order to complete the mortal realm. War between Akatosh and his mirror brother, Lorkhan breaks out after Lorkhan rapes and imprisons Akatosh’s wife, Mara. A mysterious dragon known as Konahrik attacks Lorkhan and defeats his army of proto-men. Akatosh and the other gods kill Lorkhan and ascend to the heavens. The progenitor spirits spread across the land.
Merethic Era – Human and elven migrations begin, and the various races are formed.
First Era & Second Era – A turbulent time of archaic medieval practices that number far too many to cover within the scope of this book
Third Era – Tiber Septim aka Talos conquers all of Tamriel, guided by the spirit of Lorkhan. He creates great technological advancement on his quest to find Konahrik the Evil One, that brings the continent of Tamriel into a united modern age before he dies and ascends to godhood, becoming the Ninth Divine. Septim reverse-engineered Dwemer-tech in the Third Era to revolutionize the way the world worked in an abundance and breakthrough in technological and magical advancement, allowing for society to evolve in a more advanced yet nuanced way…
4E 1 – End of the Oblivion Crisis and the Septim bloodline.
4E 2 – The Aldmeri Dominion of elves is reformed.
4E 3 – The ruling faction of the Dominion, the Thalmor, are given a seat in the Elder Council by High Chancellor Ocato.
4E 5 – Vivec is killed by the Nerevarine and the Red Mountain in Morrowind erupts.
4E 8 – The Argonians invade Morrowind in retaliation for the enslavement of their people.
4E 10 – The Thalmor begin discouraging Talos worship, sending ministry across Tamriel to start outlawing his appraisal. Tensions between Skyrim and the Empire flare.
4E 17 – Count Titus Mede joins the Elder Council and Tamriel begins to reshape into a Republic.
4E 22 – Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of Nordenbjorg executes all Thalmor in his city and secedes Haafinheim hold from the Empire, founding the Sons of Septim movement to rebel against the Thalmor. A man is seen being banished by Akatosh from the heavens to Skyrim.
Later Krest passed by domed inner fields, where machines tilled the grounds stemmed from Dwemer science, smelling of grains, wishing he’d be able to run his hands over the familiar stocks of wheat as he had once in the Gold Coast of his southern homeland. Various dwarven automata trekked across the massive indoor farm, harvesting different colored grains; barley, rye, straw, and depositing it into the appropriate cannisters for collection. Farmers shepherded cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens into stalls as Krest watched from his glass window way up above. Waterfalls throttled and submerged into interior lakes with giant fish and exotic shrubbery acrost. Lotuses and lilypads floated on the surface. Dragonflies zooming around.
But eventually he arrived at the discharge offices, scanning his hand on the chip reader.
"You’re late,” announced Warden Rikke Tullius. She looked up from her court mandate when he entered. “Remember, this man is to be taken to the correct authorities in Nordenbjörg. I don’t think he’s important enough to send my own troops for, but the Council clearly don’t agree. So, you’re our compromise. Wayshrines are down and Ulfric’s closed his railway to us, so you’ll be traveling on foot. I’d recommend Nifelcairn Way, though mind the Horme.”
Krest nodded, eyelids drooping. Why do they want him in northern Skyrim and not down in the Imperial City? His gaze poured over her office, desk and metal-sealed door with steam pipes interconnected. I wonder if those Dibellan priestesses have anything to do with this.
Rikke briefly scanned her papers. “I’ll take you up to where he’s being kept. After that, he’s your problem. Any fuck-ups are on you.”
Krest’s brow curved like a scimitar.
Rikke led him through the old rectangular orifice into the courtrooms with representatives for the Jarl in place. Mock-fashion of the type of political-bantering that occurred in High Rock and Cyrodiil. They stopped there for a few minutes as Rikke snuck up to speak with the Imperial-commissioned ruler, who was also her husband, judging by the way she stroked his hand, Jarl Tullius.
“What of the city's new zoning ordinances?" Queried Tullius. "Have we arrived at a consensus?"
Krest noticed the central roundtable which was a magnum opus to the dimly lit expanse as the residents incessantly bickered atop the decadent woodwork.
"We proposed a bill to use the new edict to build more farms." A Nord woman copped a hand over her strawberry-auburns.
“Using the limited indoor Dwemer fields for more farms will just encourage more people to move here! Old Fort is capped if you haven’t noticed!” Cried a pompously clothed Kreathman. “We ought to deny any and all immigrants from accessing this fine city.”
“Siddgeir, aren’t you the same one who wanted to encourage our population to birth more children?” The same Nordic countered, drawing a quill over her notes.
“Nord children, Narri.” Smirked the ugly duckling.
Krest sighed as his head tilted towards the raised ceiling.
"What would you propose then?” Narri chipped her lip. “That we build more housing facilities with the extra room? More homes won’t do much if there aren’t working people living in them and contributing to the economy.”
“Precisely why we’ll encourage the residents to procreate more.” Thane Siddgeir smiled smugly. “Wouldn’t you agree, uncle Dengeir?”
The old man who was presumably Dengeir nodded, beard swaying.
Jarl Tullius raised his palm. “Vetoed. We’ll return to this, is Elisif Istlod here?”
A pair of Nord guards stepped out of the courtroom and came back in shortly, a Nord woman adorning regal attire following them in. She has such a kickable face. The royal seated herself in the front. Hushed conversation spilled across the room from the attendants.
“You’re here to testify against Ulfric?” Tullius questioned her.
“Ulfric Stormcloak. People say he could be the Last Dragonborn,” a redhead whispered to his twin.
“Don’t be silly, Borvir, Rundi. Just because he can use the Thu’um doesn’t make him Dragonborn,” a High Elf argued. Councilor Elenwen Saururiil of the Elder Council if he remembered correctly. A Thalmor representative. But why was she here?
Elisif’s crow’s feet wrinkled. “The day Ulfric declared independence from the Empire and banished the Imperial soldiers, before he slaughtered and enslaved the remaining Altmer in the city, my husband, Thane Torygg begged him to see reason, but Ulfric just killed him in cold blood.”
Tullius turned to a heavy, blond-bearded Nord on his right. “Jorleif, how does the defendant plea?”
“Sir, he pleads guilty with the exception of this statement: The Thalmor and their elves wish to ban worship of Talos, and something must be done about it. Nordenbjorg is Skyrim’s largest and most powerful city, controlling it and declaring war on the Thalmor would prevent this,” said Ulfric’s representative, Jorleif Arn.
“Ulfric Stormcloak, Jarl of Nordenbjorg is hereby charged with inciting violence, human trafficking, and murder.” Tullius scratched his stubble. “There is now an official warrant out for his arrest and removal from office on the Empire’s part. We must make an effort to take back Nordenbjorg, lest we risk the other kingdoms joining his crusade.”
Krest lurked from the shadows, leaning back, and crossing his arms against the nook.
Tullius pinched the bridge of his nose. “The Thalmor have used diplomacy. Can you say the same, Jorleif?”
“Maybe that’s just a ploy… these elves use politics and trickery.”
“Shut up, Jorleif you bloody bearded baboon.” Elenwen held her face in her hands. The two ginger twins in the crowd shared a knowing glance. “I think the more prudent question to ask would be what are the ethics of using such barbaric magic such as the Thu’um in modern day society?”
“The Nords in Nordenbjorg are archaic in their traditions, Elenwen.” Narri’s nose crinkled.
Tullius clapped his hands together. “You’re free to leave, Jorleif, Elisif. Elenwen…”
Why’s he even being prosecuted here? Too many loyalists in the north?
“Estormo, Ancano.” Elenwen nodded to her cohorts who left the room with her to the station. Krest peaked around the corner as he crossed the landing to see what the Thalmor were doing.
They bagged some north men and stuck their heads in nooses, kicking the switch and letting them hang as public display. Their sputters and gags clawed for life until eventually they subsided. Leaving nothing but carcasses. These must be captured Sons of Septim.
Krest eyed the rebels’ swinging corpses with a twinge of jealousy. The cyclic snake was a caduceus around his throat and head, throbbing in rhythm with his headache. His brain twisted and he clenched his jaw as the serpent encircled tighter and tighter, squeezing every remaining drop out until nothing was left expect this prison in the vast empty openness of absolutely nothing.
“Had enough?” Rikke snapped him out of his spinning thoughts. She had made her way back and dragged Krest ahead. “My husband, Ananias Tullius is an Imperial like you, and he’s Jarl of this city. We don’t tolerate Ulfric’s purist thinking. Stormcloak is the soul of that traditionalist rhetoric. It’s his policies why Nordenbjorg still has slaves and Vikings. It’s become a goddamn systemic issue.”
Why not just kill them all then? Krest eyed the hung men now and all his sympathy for them drained like spilt wine. They deserve it.
I don’t know.
Krest judged a pair of eggs with no less degree of consternation, his stomach grumbling. He spotted the odd set of cutlery or ceramic speckled about the royal court, utilized mostly by foreigners.
“We’ll grab some grub. Don’t worry.” Rikke’s frown turned upside down.
Half an hour of walking must’ve transpired as they descended and ascended the indoor city to wherever this ‘fallen angel’ was being held.
“Honest to Talos, I have no clue who this man is. There’s been speculation and examination, but it seems he’s mute and not the most cooperative in explaining himself.” She threw him an almond espy.
A wraithlike screeching sounded against the pebbles to their side. Mute? He picked at bits of crusted skin on his thumb.
“Already a few of the prisoners have begun hailing him as Ysmir or some malarkey.” Rikke turned a bend, pouring through narrower flights of stairs.
His neck cocked back at that revelation, frons knitting together. The rhythmic pulse of chemicals flushed from his brain.
They passed queues of soldiers and cyrodiilian tax collectors. The Skyrim guards, however, were truly different from the Colovians stationed here. The Nords would adorn thick furs and animal pelts draped over chainmail with round shields, crude axes, and steel helmets where you had a full view of their visor behind the nose-guard. Most had beards with beaded braids and the sides of their heads shaved. Whereas the Imperial soldiers were clean cut with shaved faces, a gladius, and square riot-shields. Silver armor over a red skirt with red-mohawks on their galeae. It was quite interesting to see the two cultures standing side by side here in southern Skyrim.
I better ditch this in the north then, I’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Krest glanced at his own kilt. There won’t be any Imperial soldiers to keep me safe up there. He gulped.
Skylines and windows integrated into the mountain wall, scenery of Skyrim across snowy hills and eye-gluing vistas, traversing the various conduits and their curvature. The odor of old ale mixed with berries permeated, rushing waterways that dominated the center. It was faint and gray, streams dashing through with bridges and ladders crossing the small indoor rivers.
A man who looked a cross between a Breton and a Nord sashayed past, tattooed everywhere with a feathery headdress. “Reachmen, natives to the hinterlands of the west. They’ve been sending the more cosmopolitan ones to debate with the court on why their leader, Madanach should be on the throne,” Rikke elaborated. “They have a cropping called Old Hroldan but after Tiber Septim destroyed it, it’s never been the same for them, being forced to live like cavemen and all.”
Two large dogs barked ferociously at Krest, barely held back by their leashes. They held such hatred when they saw him and Krest suspected had their binds not been there, he’d be flatlined.
There was a hollowing circular exit up ahead that veered left, fallowing, skimming a short way at the crystal cove until disembarking at a palisaded room hidden in the side, the holding cells. Filled to the brim with eye-patch adorned assailants, bags of whole grain or saffron that tickled his palm, and water tins of purified make up. Covered with old wooden supports, rock seething through beneath reinforced foundations of the quarters above. Many prisoners, their identities hidden by shadows, stirred away on ominous objects. Groups of figures seated hither and thither with cards on the disorderly arrangement of benches, a few empty skooma bottles littered around to really seal in that clandestine ambiance. Krest and his guide dallied past the standard nordic who the former was slowly growing more accustomed to.
“You want something to eat?” Rikke turned back to look at him. “Get you a real breakfast, none of that dry old paste you brats eat.”
Krest ticked his wrist.
“No worries, we need our elven-ambassador, Ancano to corroborate before release.” Rikke stretched her arms. “Though, the sooner we get him out of here, we won’t have the whole of Summerset on our ass. Then they’ll be Haafinheim’s problem. Which means if you lose him, it’s your ass they’re gonna blame.” The honey-almond palette of Rikke’s eyes grew solemn.
They came to the center of the kitchens, where a makeshift pot was bubbling with a watery-red substance. Bananas from the jungles of Tenmar, Elsweyr visited his nose. Krest licked his lips, tracking the fetal-swirling trails of the crimson stew. It reminded him of the growth pods the High Elves employed to birth their babies according to their eugenic laws. He found himself a deserted corner with ligneous blinds to give him some privacy. Krest slid some fried eggs between a cut baguette and poured himself a coffee. The evocation of the caffeinated drink cleared his nasal cavities.
After forcing the food down his gullet, he rested his head on the countertop, listening to his stomach complain about the rate at which he ate.
“You eat fast for such a little thing.” Rikke grinned into her cup.
I’m not that small. You Nords are just bigger than everyone.
"Sorry it took me longer to get here, I ran into some of netwatch who needed paperwork done that Elenwen neglected.” A High Elf entered the room, clothed in dark gray. This was likely the forementioned Ancano. A noble and poised countenance with raised cheekbones and sharp, pointed ears that spired through his goldilocks. The elf’s skin pale white with a hint of goldish undertone.
"No worries, I arrived not long ago as well.” Rikke sipped her tar like tea. “You wanted to see who was moving our high rider?”
Krest took a long intake, finishing the remainder of coffee, the taste bitter but familiar, flavorful ash knotted his tongue. He dished the plate in the sink.
"Well, it’s the prisoner I’m more interested in. I’m sure you people had this deliverer checked-out.” Ancano swept his gelled blond mop aside.
“Haven’t you done enough of your tests, elf?” Rikke’s armoured shoulders slumped.
The relatively young Altmeri’s visage expanded slightly. “This is going to sound crazy, but I think Akatosh must’ve banished this man from the heavens for a crime he committed. Perhaps he wasn’t truthful pertaining to his identity.”
"That doesn’t tell us who this prisoner is." Krest could practically hear the crease between Rikke’s forehead as she spoke.
"No, it doesn’t I suppose.” Ancano sniffed. “Why would Akatosh banish him though? Perhaps he intended for this man to be persecuted by us mortals?”
“Maybe.” Rikke leaned on her arm, a vein in her bicep emerging. A tangy sugariness folded on his tastebuds as he brushed the crumbs from his lips. "Hmm. Whoever this mysterious stranger is, he must’ve really pissed the Divines off for them to physically expunge him from Aetherius." The woman chafed her teeth together according to the ear-splitting noise that escaped her mouth. "They haven't just flown out of the sun before like that.”
"Perhaps it’s another deity." Ancano raised a finger. “They did banish Lorkhan in the Dawn Era, right?"
"And what? They want some prophesied mortal to defeat him?” Rikke squeezed her temples with one hand. “Like a Dragonborn?”
Krest’s ears twitched. They want the Last Dragonborn to defeat this guy? Is this inmate the Shezarrine then?
“Perhaps. But this is all speculative of course. We should really prep the inmate for transport.” Ancano stepped over to Krest, offering a hand. “I assume you’re the Praetorian? Ancano Charmaine.” Krest shook his palm, drawing a line over his voice box. “Is that like a personal attack or something…?” Ancano frowned.
“I think that’s just his way of saying he’s mute,” Rikke clarified for him.
Shortly thereafter, they proceeded out the mess hall and back up the way towards the holding cells. The three came upon the dusty and barrel strewn area. Krest inspected the crates and battered old casks. Goosebumps split across his skin.
The air felt chilly. Raw. Spite there being no access to outside from here.
The further down they went, the more it blackened into a herma-morian carapace. He heard some whispering coming from the corner of the room. Several small vipers swum in the purple ichor of drainage pipes to his left. The shadowy figure in the recess of the prison was completely concealed save for a pair of glowing violet eyes that stared back. Its pupils like demonic strips.
"That’s him," Rikke pointed out.
The silhouette of the man gulped down whitish, calcified tissue.
Conspiring in dark corners he did.
Once more did he conspire.
The shadow stopped dancing and peered at him from the gloom, the umbra obscured his appearance.
It all dissolved into the nothingness. Soon only Krest and the shadowy reflection were there, eyes locked on one another, unmoving. The chains that bound it misted into nothing and he stood up carefully, not breaking eye contact with the inmate as he himself backed away into the opposite corner. Soon he was protected by gloom, but his vision stayed locked on his Adversary's gaze which cut through the darkness like moonlight.
System failure. Cannot compute. Stasis mode.
~ § ó § ò § ~
A/N: So, as you can see there are only five holds in this Skyrim. Dwemeria where Old Fort is where Falkreath and the Reach would be. Advice, reviews, thoughts, speculation, all is welcome. The proceeding chapters get easier to read in terms of prose, it’s a little heavy here.
Next Episode: Two Sides Of The Same Septim