It was early evening when the Northern Maiden arrived in Raven Rock. Magnus hung low over the western horizon, casting the distinctly Dunmer architecture, ashen soil and volcanic cliffs in a soft red glow. I was eager to get off the ship and into somewhere warm; my Breton blood and the ragged mage’s robes I’d been wearing since I escaped Helgen were little match for the freezing winds on the Sea of Ghosts. My hopes were quickly dashed, as we were greeted at the dock by a dour-looking Dunmer nobleman, warmly garbed and flanked by a pair of guards, clad in bonemold armour.
The Dunmer folded his arms and gave me a stern look. “I don’t recognise you, so I’ll assume this is your first visit to Raven Rock, outlander,” he snarled. It was obvious he didn’t trust outsiders; understandable given current events. “State your intentions.”
Despite his greeting, I wasn’t interested in making a scene. In the past my sense of self-importance may have got the better of me, but nowadays I was a nobody. A ghost of someone who should’ve died at the Adamantine Tower. Sometimes I liked it that way. “Just looking for an old friend, muthsera. Teldryn Sero?” I asked. The Dunmer considered for a moment, his expression unreadable. “Chitin armour, wears his helmet everywhere?”
“Aye, there have been a few chitin-wearing sellswords in Raven Rock of late,” he answered, bluntly. “If your friend is here, you’ll likely find him in the Retching Netch, in the center of town.” He and the guards stepped aside to let me pass. “Just remember, outlander, this is House Redoran territory. You abide by our laws here.”
Magnus vanished from sight altogether as I headed up the jetty into the town proper. Daylight had been replaced with torches and bug lamps in the hands of the citizens and scattered throughout the town. The eastern wall and Tribunal temple held commanding positions over the rest of the buildings, ever watchful as the townsfolk went about their evening business, returning to their homes or heading to the tavern. The bright yellow, red and blue hues of their attire provided some welcome variation from the ash-blanketed hills and buildings, all too reminiscent of the snows of easterns Skyrim. Like many of them, I too was drawn to the warm, welcoming atmosphere of the local tavern, the Retching Netch.
I couldn’t help but smile as I entered the building. The sounds of good cheer from the patrons downstairs were joined by the scents of traditional Morrowind fare; saltrice, ash yams, sujamma and more. It brought back memories of years past in High Rock when Teldryn would receive packages from home through the importer in Wayrest. I left my hood up and dusted off my robes before taking a look around the ground floor. I still wasn’t sure who was watching, or if anyone from the Thalmor or New Hegemony was after me, so I preferred to avoid any unnecessary risks. My heart skipped a beat when I spotted a chitin-clad warrior sitting alone on the opposite side of the room.
“Teldryn Sero, blade for hire,” he started as I approached, monotone. The Dunmer I spoke to in the New Gnisis Cornerclub indicated Teldryn had trouble finding work in Windhelm, and by the sounds of things, he wasn’t having much better luck here. “If you have the coin, I’m at your service.” My hood must have shadowed my face entirely with the lantern hanging overhead, as it seemed he hadn’t recognised me.
I heard a gasp beneath his chitin mask as I lowered the hood, and extended my hand. “Any discount for an old friend?” I asked, beaming. He looked between my hand and face, stunned, and tentatively reached in, as if convinced I was some kind of apparition. He grabbed onto my forearm and promptly leapt to his feet, pulling me in for an embrace. No words were necessary as I returned the embrace. It was so good to see him again. Someone I could trust. A friend; no, family.
“I thought you were dead,” he whispered, pulling back with his hands on my shoulders. “It-it’s been years,” he continued, tears staining the crimson scarf beneath his mask. “I’d given up hope. Did Calindil -”
I cut him off with a pained look. “He didn’t make it,” I answered, downcast. “I think we’ll need some sujamma if I’m going to tell you the whole story.”
We sat by the hearth for hours, with Teldryn’s helmet and more than a few bottles of sujamma between us as I described our last stand against Volnaro, the visit from the mysterious mage at my execution, my journey to Winterhold and the attack at Helgen. Teldryn filled me in on his flight from Balfiera and High Rock, his work in the employ of foul Orcs and battle-crazed Nords, and finally his time in Windhelm’s Grey Quarter and Raven Rock.
“I always knew you and Cal finished that bastard off,” he said, looking into the dying embers of the hearth. “Otherwise I expect we’d be living under the rule of God-Emperor Volnaro by now. Everyone here owes you a debt, whether they know it or not.” He raised his tankard. “To old comrades, living and dead. We all see each other again sooner or later.”
I raised my tankard up to Teldryn’s. “To old comrades,” I repeated, downing another drink of the innkeeper's sujamma. “I want you by my side again, Teldryn,” I pleaded. “Whatever’s going on in Winterhold, I’m not sure I can handle it myself. I’m not the Palatinus I used to be.”
“No need to be so dour, sera,” he chuckled. “I’d be happy to follow you out of this mess of a town. I’ll even give you a discount.” Teldryn emphasised his last statement with a wink. An even rarer sight than Teldryn without his helmet.
Before we could continue, the entire building shook for a moment. Both Teldryn and I were out of our seats with weapons in hand in an instant; a bound sword in mine and a curved elven blade in Teldryn’s. “Dragon,” he muttered, disdainfully. “They’ve been attacking the town for weeks.”
“Let’s deal with it then,” I replied. “Then we’ll talk about your discount.”
We rushed out into the town square as the dragon made another low pass. It was difficult to make the beast out against the night sky, but the rushing of air as it passed was more than enough indication. Some curious townsfolk were peering outside, wondering what the commotion was.
“Get back inside!” I shouted. “Now!”
Teldryn smirked as he put his helmet back on. Whether I realised it or not at the time, I’d well and truly returned to my old self, if for a few moments. With Teldryn by my side and a town in danger, it was almost like old times.
Meanwhile the captain of the Redoran Guard stood atop the eastern wall, rallying his troops to his side. He shouted down at us as his men ready their bows. “Who in Oblivion are you?” he asked. “Go back to the tavern, outlander. It’s for your own safety!”
“It’s fine,” I replied, calmly. “Leave this to us.”
He shrugged in exasperation and called out to Teldryn as he finished fitting his helmet. “Oh, you’re early, Teldryn!” he taunted. Ironically, the spellsword was more recognisable in his signature helmet. “Usually the dragon’s destroyed half the crops before you decide to show up!”
“Thing is, Veleth,” he replied, “you don’t pay me.” With a wave of his hand, a Flame Atronach danced forth from a conjuring portal, searching the skies for the dragon with the rest of us. It flew in low once again, almost managing to grab one of the guards from atop the wall with its talons. It circled the town square, buffeting wings kicking up clouds of ash, and made landfall right on top of us.
I leapt in front of Teldryn with my ward raised as dragonfire flowed around us. The second it ceased, he charged towards the beast’s right flank, opening a deep gash in the dragon’s wing membrane. The Redoran Guard launched volley after volley of arrows along with firebolts from the Flame Atronach, sending it writhing in agony as it tried to take flight. I narrowly avoided a deadly bite from the beast’s massive jaws myself, before riposting with a flurry of sword strikes and lightning bolts.
It launched a vortex of flame towards the eastern wall, sending the Guard scrambling for cover before turning back towards us. I quickly felt my magicka and stamina waning as we did battle with the dragon; neither my mind or body was nearly as disciplined as it had once been. Teldryn, however, hadn’t lost his step. He was a blur of chitin and steel, and the wounded dragon could barely keep up. A series of harrying cuts to the beast’s neck drew its ire once more, and I spent the last of my magicka guarding against another gout of Thu’um-born fire.
“Teldryn!?” I shouted, taking cover behind one of the crumbling walls in the ruined buildings just outside the town square. Whether they had been victims of time or the dragon attacks was hard to tell at this point, not to mention the least of my concerns. The dragon scanned between the buildings for any sign of his quarry. It wasn’t expecting Teldryn to come leaping off of the roof of the Retching Netch, landing feet first atop its head. As the dragon swung around bucked wildly, Teldryn managed to stay stable just long enough to drive his blade through the beast’s skull.
“Not bad, Teldryn,” I started, emerging from my hiding place. “I haven’t seen swordsmanship like that since the Celestial Warrior destroyed your prized katana.”
“I missed you too, boss.”
It was first light the following morning when we prepared to set sail once more for Skyrim. Teldryn had gathered his things from the inn, and Gjalund’s men had finished loading supplies onto the vessel. Once we were underway, Teldryn produced what appeared to be a small metallic flask from his satchel. “I’ve brought another comrade along to join us,” he said. “If Winterhold is as dangerous as you say, I think we could use her help.” I gave him a quizzical look and he continued. “It’s all I could recover of Marie after… well, you know.” He averted his gaze and held the flask out for me. “I’m not sure why I kept it all this time. I think she wanted me to give it to you.”
I carefully took the flask, admiring the workmanship. This had been his favourite back during our days in High Rock, and would have seen an immeasurable amount of Morrowind spirits. It must have been all he had on hand back beneath the Adamantine Tower when Volnaro killed her. “Thank you,” I smiled, slipping it into one of the pockets of my robes. With all that had happened lately, I was wondering if this was fate or merely circumstance.
I couldn’t help but laugh as I remembered back to the old days. “Something funny, boss?” asked Teldryn.
“Reminds me of how we got into this mess in the first place. The four of us, taking that boat to Bisnensel. Only Cal isn’t here.”
“Aye,” agreed Teldryn. “But I think that old Altmer earned a break.” He looked over to the lamp hanging from the fore of the ship, its light cutting through the morning fog. “Raven Rock, Skyrim… we could really make a difference here, Palatinus.”
The pride in his voice mirrored my own. It was the first time someone had called me Palatinus since Vicereeve Estard sentenced me to death.
Maybe the Order of the Lamp hadn’t quite been snuffed out after all.