This is the full backstory for my Skystrider build. Enjoy !
PROLOGUE : DUSK AND SECRETS
Castle Montfaulcon, City of Camlorn, 3rd of Sun's Height, 4E201
"Everythin' alright in there milady ?" Tedric asked from the other side of the door, as he'd heard a scream coming from princess Ariane's chambers.
"Yes, thank you, Tedric. You may come in."
Tedric was hesitant at first at the idea - he had known Lady Ariane since the both of them were kids ; his own father was serving as the head of Lord Montfaulcon's guard, and, naturally, when he came of age, he himself was assigned to the protection of his long-time friend. But never had he passed the door to her chambers ; etiquette was very strict in this regard. "You sure, milady ?"
"Arkay's sake, Tedric, just come here !". Lady Ariane's voice cracked a little. Something was wrong. Tedric opened the door and rushed in.
"What is it, milady ?"
"I... I don't know. I felt something. For a moment, it was like my spirit came out of my body. I saw myself in the Imperial City. There was a man by my side. A dangerous man, I could feel it. A fight broke out between us..."
"Another vision ? Milady, I really am concerned about these. That ain't natural, seeing these things. Maybe one of them Daedra Princes is trying to get in your head or somethin'."
"Don't be ridiculous, Tedric", she chuckled, "and what would happen if what you said were true ?"
Tedric puffed out his chest. "I'd beat the living crap out of it, milady. Anythin' touches you, gets my fist. Man, Mer, God, whatever it is."
Ariane bursted out in sincere laughter. Tedric was two years older than she was, and had always been more protective towards her than anyone else, since they were but children. She slowly walked up to him in her night gown, a smile still drawn across her face. "Tedric, don't." he thought to himself. "Don't tell her. Don't say a word.". She laid a quick kiss on Tedric's cheek, so close to his mouth he felt the taste of her lips. Her hair tickled his ear and he could smell her perfume. Damn, her perfume...
"What would I do without a hero like you by my side ?" she said.
"Did you tell her anything, boy ?"
"No, father. She doesn't know."
"Can't say I like keeping secrets from the little Lady, but Lord Montfaulcon would have our head if we spoke of it."
"Don't call her that. It's demeaning." Tedric abruptly said to his father. It was the first time he ever talked back to him. The old soldier chuckled and gave his son a pat on the back. "I didn't mean to disrespect your girl, son."
"She's not my girl father. She's not mine. I am her bodyguard. I live only to serve her."
"Tedric..." his father sighed. The barracks were empty, as the other guards were either on shift or sleeping at such a late hour. "I'll get us a bottle, if it helps. But you've got to admit you're more than that. I've seen how you look at her. I've always seen it, I've always known. And trust me, if an old codger like me notices that, surely a smart young lass like our Lady has it figured out too."
"What's your point, father ? Want to make me say out loud that I've been in love with her all my life ? Alright then, aye, I love princess Ariane. Always have, always will. What of it ?"
"Whatever happens between the two of you, she mustn't know. Swear it."
"Must not know what, exactly, Knight-Captain ?" said Ariane as she walked into the room. Her blue eyes shone with a magical flare, as she planted them into Tedric's father's. She was so angry that sparks seemed to radiate from her fingertips. She clenched both fists as she glanced at Tedric. How could he... Anyone else could betray her, she knew. But not him. She looked away, back at her bodyguard's father, but couldn't prevent a small tear from running down her cheek.
"I will not ask again, Knight-Captain. Must not know what ?"
The vision Ariane had earlier seemed to fade in her mind, as if she had awakened from a dream ; one moment, she could see the whole scene crystal clear, the next, it all seemed to disappear. "I have to remember this man's face. For some reason, I feel like I do." she thought to herself. She peered through the window. The stars were shining bright in the dead of night. Tired as she was, though, she couldn't find sleep. She came up to her door and whispered : "Tedric ?"
She met no answer but silence. "Tedric, are you here ?". Silence again. She opened the door, only to see the corridor seemingly empty. "He must have gone to the barracks for some rest," she thought, "or perhaps he was hungry ?". In any case, the presence of her trusted friend would surely feel reassuring. She flicked her wrist, conjuring a small ball of light that hovered over her shoulder. The barracks were down five floors from her chambers. She pressed on to the staircase.
"... What's your point, father ?". Ariane felt reassured hearing Tedric's voice through the door. "Want to make me say out loud that I've been in love with her all my life ?". Tedric had problems of his own, it would seem. He was a sweet and handsome young man, she thought. Whatever servant girl he was referring to would be lucky to have him. "Alright then, aye, I love princess Ariane. Always have, always will. What of it ?"
Ariane refrained a gasp as her cheeks turned crimson red. She could feel her heart beating faster. So much faster...
"Whatever happens between the two of you," it was now the Knight-Captain's voice speaking. Tedric's father, and her own father's most trusted man. "She mustn't know. Swear it."
Surely, Tedric wouldn't keep anything from her. She had known him too long. He was the only one she trusted - the only one she ever did trust, actually. She peeked through the judas. Both men were sitting face to face, and the Knight-Captain seemed to be waiting for an answer. Tedric looked hesitant, almost uneasy.
Yet, without breaking the silence, he looked at his father in the eye, and nodded. The Knight-Captain answered with an almost imperceptible smile.
Ariane couldn't believe her eyes. Was it a vision again ? Or did Tedric really just agree to hide the truth from her ? There was but only one way to know. She pushed the door open, as both men turned to her in surprise.
"Must not know what, exactly, Knight-Captain ?"
They wouldn't tell her. Both Tedric and his father kept mumbling excuses. Tedric wouldn't even look at her in the eye, hanging his head in utter shame. It felt as though she was scolding servant boys for dropping a pile of plates.
"My Lady" said the Knight-Captain, "I swore an oath to your father, and so did my son. Neither of us can tell you more. I am sorry."
"Well then, we shall see what he has to say about that." she stoically replied. "I am off to see him. And you're coming with me."
"My Lady, this late in the night... In your father's condition, surely, it would be best if..."
Out of sheer anger, Ariane sent a bolt of lightning at a vase, which loudly shattered upon impact. Tedric had never seen her like that. He didn't dare to speak, or to even look up. "Did she hear all of it ?" he wondered. "Does she know I..."
"Tedric !" she yelled, "get yourself and your father up and follow me. Father will hear of this."
Tedric and the old soldier exchanged a worried look. "Fair enough, My Lady", said the Knight-Captain. "But let me warn you, some truths are better left unknown."
"I'll be the judge of that." retorted Ariane. "Let's go."
Tedric was shuddering at the thought of awakening the King. As old age had started to take its toll upon Lord Montfaulcon, he had grown even more irascible. Especially should anyone disturb him in his sleep. "Too late to back off now, I guess" he thought, as the trio was making its way to the heights of the dungeon. Yet, the prospect of facing His Lordship's wrath seemed feeble, somehow, compared to having to face Ariane's. And more than that, letting her down had the bitter taste of failure. Ariane sent away the two guardsmen barring the door with a swift gesture of the hand, opening the great gate to her father's chambers with a wave of magical energy. The deafening blast was enough to wake Lord Montfaulcon, who signified his annoyance with a growl.
"Father !" roared the young princess. "We need to talk. Now."
Lord Montfaulcon sat up straight in his bed to face his daughter, the Knight-Captain, and the man's son. It took most of the strength he still had in him to do so. Did they let the truth slip out ? In any case, he knew it would come to this one day. He cleared his throat ; Ariane was seemingly ready to rant and rave. She always had his own temper.
"Aldred, Tedric. Out." inveighed the old Lord. "I shall speak to my daughter alone."
CHAPTER ONE : SPELLING THINGS OUT
Castle Montfaulcon, City of Camlorn, 3rd of Sun's Height, 4E201
Tedric and his father had obeyed their Lord's command, and had quickly withdrawn from the royal apartments. Without a word, they waited, at the end of the corridor, for the storm that was inexorably coming to finally be over. Lord Amaury de Montfaulcon, with great effort, had gotten out of his bed to sit by the fireplace. "Come, Ariane. Sit by my side." he calmly enjoined her.
"I am in no mood for niceties, Father." retorted the princess, who was perambulating across the room. "What could it possibly be that you would tell the men, but keep from me ? I am your blood. Your only child. If mother were still alive, she..."
"She would have done exactly what I did, Ariane." Lord Montfaulcon felt a pang in his heart, as his long-lost wife was evoked. Ariane looked so much like her. "As a matter of fact, what I kept from you, I did because I promised her, on her deathbed, that I would never reveal it to you."
"Why do Aldred and Tedric know about it, then ?" Ariane's frustration was palpable.
"Ariane. Look at me."
The young Lady kept looking away from the fireplace, even as Lord Montfaulcon laboriously stood up and turned around to face her, grasping the back of the chair to keep standing. In truth, speaking of her mother was as difficult for her as it was for the old King, and she feared she would burst into tears, should she obey his command.
"Ariane !" the King's voice was weak. Quivering. She found the courage to glance at her father. Tears were silently rolling on his wrinkled cheeks. "Ariane, please. Do sit with me..." His hand was shaking, and Ariane rushed in to support Lord Montfaulcon, as he almost fainted. "Father !", she yelped, worried, "There, there. Sit down. Sit down. I am here."
"Senescence really is unbearable." grumbled the King, as his daughter held his arm and sat him back down. "Hopefully, it shall soon be over."
"Don't talk like that..." said Ariane in a tearful voice.
"Don't presume to command me, child.", sharply answered the old man. Ariane looked at him in shock, her eyes wide open. He sketched a cheeky smile, and the both of them laughed frankly. After this demonstration of complicity, Lord Montfaulcon harkened back to serious matters. "Your mother would have hated me for this, Ariane. But you deserve to know."
"What do you mean, father ? Why would mother have..." he interrupted her : "I think it would be best if you'd refrain from chiming in impertinently.". She nodded without uttering a word. She knew not to cross the line with her father. The old man resumed his tirade.
"I grow old and weary, child. In a moment of weakness, I opened up to Aldred, and Tedric happened to be there. I am sorry. If anyone is to blame for it, I am. Don't hold it against our men. Keeping a secret this heavy, for so many years... my heart could bear it no longer." the old King paused, exhausted. The simple action of talking for extended periods of time had become extremely trying in his twilight years. He let out a deep, long sigh before proceeding. "You do know how your mother died ?" he inquired.
"In childbirth, father." murmured a seemingly very moved Ariane. "She gave her life so that I may live."
"Your mother was an extraordinary woman, Ariane. And with her last breath, she performed a true miracle. For she saved the both of you."
"The... both of us ?" asked Ariane, visibly confused.
Lord Amaury de Montfaulcon paused again, looking her straight in the eye. "Yes, the both of you." he insisted. "You have a twin sister, Ariane."
INTERLUDE : PREDATOR AND PREY
The Imperial City, 3rd of Sun's Height, 4E201
"So, Thessia, right ? You've been the alchemist's apprentice for a while ?", Olrik asked the young girl walking beside him. Not that he cared in the slightest about the answer, no ; he was buying time. He had stalked her all week, as all predators stalk their prey before they pounce. And today was a good day for hunting.
He always operated the same way : find young, solitary girls, charm them, lead them in a quiet spot, take their jewelry, their gold - and with this one, he thought, why not her virginity. Oh, she was a cute one. A short, chestnut-haired breton, barely over twenty years old. Light skin, green eyes, freckled cheeks. He could always slit her throat if she tried to scream for help, he thought. Given the girl's stature, she would not pose a threat.
Still conversing, he made them take a turn left as they exited the Market District. He knew exactly where to lead her. It was dusk, on a rainy day - unusual, he thought, for the season. Nobody would be walking the alley he was luring her to. Hell, rain was pouring so hard even the beggars fled to seek shelter at the temple. Just a few more steps, and there they were : a quiet, deserted backstreet. He discreetly reached to the dagger strapped to his lower back, hidden under his cloak...
"Looking for something ?" she cheekily asked, as he gripped the empty leather scabbard. He turned his head to the girl. She was pointing his own weapon right at him, a slight smile of contempt on her juvenile face. He was trapped, right there, beaten at his own game. Now he was alone on an empty alley, somewhere in the immensity of the Imperial capital. Now he was the prey. "I guess it's time you hand me your valuables, big guy. And I'll be keeping that knife as a souvenir, to boot."
CHAPTER TWO : FOR AS LONG AS STARS
Castle Montfaulcon, City of Camlorn, 9th of Sun's Height, 4E201
"Yes, my Lord ?"
"Has my daughter reappeared yet ?" inquired Lord Amaury.
"Alas, no, my Lord." respectfully answered the head of the Royal Guard, "She still won't come out of her chambers, eat anything, or see anyone."
"When my soul reaches Aetherius, Léonor will kill me once again for this..." whispered the King. "And I feel Arkay's embrace coming ever so closer."
"My Lord ?" solicited the Knight-Captain, "Are you feeling unwell ?"
"No, Aldred... I have never felt better. For I know, I will see her again soon. And we shall remain together. For as long as stars do shine..."
In an almost paternal gesture, Aldred adjusted the pillow under Lord Montfaulcon's head and pulled up the sheet. The King was trembling with cold and fever. How painful it was for the Knight-Captain to see His Lordship in such a diminished state. He who was such a fierce warrior in his youth, such a scholar. He who had been a great and just ruler, saving the kingdom of Glenumbria from the evil influences of many an opportunistic noble. He who had survived every attempt at assassination, most of the times killing whatever vile henchman would have been sent for him before the guards could even get there, by spell or by blade. He who had trained every single one of the men in his personal guard, in the arts of war and the arts of magic. But old age, sadly enough, was the only acceptable alternative to death that had ever been found. "Aldred..." whispered Lord Montfaulcon, "Please, carry out a message to my daughter.".
Knight-Captain Aldred's step was swift and decided, as he entered the western wing of Castle Montfaulcon. Tedric was stationed at the door to the princess' chambers. Just like his mistress, he had not moved in days.
"Open the door, Tedric." ordered the Knight-Captain.
"Milady won't see no one, father. I can't."
"Gods almighty, it's not your father asking, Tedric, it's the commander of the guard ! Open that blasted door, now !"
Tedric sighed, and lightly knocked on the door with his fingertips. "Lady Ariane" he asked, "May the Knight-Captain have a word with you ?"
"Go away !" cried the princess in a voice full of tears, "I won't see anyone. I can't."
The young guard looked at his father, sorry : "See, father. Told you so.". Aldred was storming. He shoved the boy aside and kicked the door open. "My Lady Ariane" announced the old soldier in a clear and solemn voice, "I bear news of your sister."
CHAPTER THREE : THE PERSUIT
Castle Montfaulcon, City of Camlorn, 9th of Sun's Height, 4E201
The stable boy was adjusting the saddle, making sure every leather strip, every rivet, was exactly where it should be. He had just cleaned the horse's hooves and checked the horseshoes. A nail was missing, but it hadn't taken him too long to hammer a new one. Ariane was stamping with impatience as she was watching him. She wanted to leave as soon as possible. She had to. The day she and her sister were born, to avoid political instability in the realm - at least, that's what her father had said, but could she even believe his word anymore ? - it was decided that one of them would be raised as the princess, while the other would be sent away from the Court, to live as a commoner. And her existence would be kept secret from everyone, for her own safety.
But not anymore. Lord Montfaulcon's confession provided Ariane with a name and a location. "Will she even want to see me ?" she kept asking herself. "What if she rejects the truth I now hold ? What if... She rejects me ?". So many questions. And there was but only one way to find answers.
"Are you sure you want to do this, milady ?" Tedric's voice surprised her, as she hadn't realized his arrival. She was still angry at him. How could he have kept something of such utmost importance from her ? How long had he and his father known ? Weeks ? Months ? Years ? Her answer was sharp and concise. "Why would you care ?" she simply uttered between her teeth.
"Milady, if you're going, then so am I." said Tedric, ignoring his mistress' nasty rhetorical question. "I failed you once already. Ain't failing you ever again."
Ariane was torn between smiling and crying over Tedric's shoulder. She had felt so betrayed. Of course, she knew he didn't mean to wrong her. And she also knew, now, that her feelings were shared. She would get to it. In time. "Fine", she sighed, feigning to be upset, "Get another squire to saddle your horse then."
"Well, where are we going, milady ?" asked Tedric, making his best to hide his sheer joy and excitement. "To Cyrodiil, Tedric. My sister is in the Imperial City." The Imperial City... Why did that ring a bell ? Tedric couldn't exactly remember. He was sure he and the princess had evoked it not too long ago...
Suddenly it hit him. "Milady, could that mean that, in your visions..."
"Exactly." she interrupted, "It was not myself I was seeing. It was her. Is your horse ready yet ? We're leaving."
CHAPTER FOUR : FAMILIAR FACES
The Imperial City, 7th of Last Seed, 4E201
It had taken Ariane and Tedric a full month to ride from Camlorn to the Imperial City ; finally, after a long and exhausting trip, strewn with occasional encounters with highwaymen and rogues of all kinds, the White-Gold Tower deigned to show itself in all its majesty. "At bloody last," thought Tedric, as he and his mistress handed over their horses' bridles to the stablemen, "I'm sleeping in a real bed tonight.". The journey had visibly affected Tedric more than it had the princess. His gaunted face now bore a fresh scar, from the edge of the brow to the bottom of the cheek, courtesy of a bandit met along the way. Thankfully enough, both him and Ariane had received paramount combat training since they were old enough to lift a blade ; while Tedric was undoubtedly stronger, and the better swordsman of the pair, Ariane had a natural affinity with magic. Their sparring sessions, as a result, often ended in a draw, with the both of them falling to the ground, exhausted, a smile of sheer satisfaction on their lips.
"You know," Ariane had said, following their latest duel, "That scar looks good on you, all things considered."
Tedric chuckled. Since they had departed Castle Montfaulcon, Ariane had never been in the mood for pleasantries. "I sure didn't miss milady's cheeky tongue.", he jokingly replied.
Ariane rolled over on her side, laying her head on Tedric's breastplate. The gesture startled Tedric, but he kept his composure. He put his arm around Ariane's shoulder, and the two remained in this tender embrace for what seemed to be a delightful eternity.
"Tedric ! Let's get going !" Ariane snapped her bodyguard out of his reverie, as the horses were being stabled. "Come, let's find the nearest inn ; aren't you hungry, too ?"
Of course, Tedric was sworn to obey his Lady's every command. But come now, he thought, couldn't they have afforded a nicer place ? He took another gulp of tepid ale. "Damn, even the drinks are garbage here... Not to mention the stench. This shithole isn't worthy of your presence, milady.", he grunted.
"In case you forgot, Tedric, we're not here on a vacation." muttered Ariane. "Quit your bellyaching and look around, will you ? We have a better chance of finding information in this slum than in the Elven Gardens."
Tedric let out a frustrated snort. Of course, she was right again. But that didn't mean he had to like the situation. The idea of her among these ne'er-do-wells, in constant potential danger..."
"Thessia dear ! My, my, you've got some nerve showing your face in here, bitch !" bawled Olrik, who had just entered the tavern, and laid his eyes on Ariane. Tedric instinctively grasped the pommel of his sword, but the young Lady's hand on his arm made him let go. "That's the man I saw in my vision." she whispered in Tedric's ear. "Don't kill him, he might know something. But don't go easy on him, either."
"Well, milady, you won't have to ask me twice.", he said, as he got up and stared at the scoundrel, cracking his fingers.
INTERLUDE : NEW HORIZONS
Somewhere near the Pale Pass, 7th of Last Seed, 4E201
Thessia sighed in relief as she got her first glance at the Throat of the World. She had grown tired of Cyrodiil, and felt an irresistible thirst, a call for adventure. For something new... with the old habits thrown in there for good measure, of course. Ivarstead was the next stop before Riften, a city where, she heard, thieves ruled as kings, and she could achieve fortune and fame ! Also, their alchemist was said to be pretty good, and she was still eager to learn. Where most bretons are usually skilled mages, sorcerers and conjurers, she could never cast a spell to save her life ; she didn't have the patience to learn magic, although, for some reason, something as tedious as alchemy clicked for her. Sure, it was a lot of time watching liquid boil and bubbles pop, and more often than not the effluves were noxious and disgusting, but she found a certain interest in the craft nonetheless. She grinned as she closed her eyes, and fell asleep in the cranky cart that was taking her towards her destiny.
CHAPTER FIVE : ROUGH BUSINESS
The Imperial City, 7th of Last Seed, 4E201
"Had enough yet, lad ?" asked Tedric to the broken man lying at his feet, on the muddy threshold of the inn. "D'you want to call her names again now ?"
Olrik grumbled weakly as a thick red stream was running from his broken nose. "Look, I assure you, this is all a misunderstanding...", he managed to let out in a sigh. Tedric's boot crushed one of the rogue's ribs, and Olrik spat a tooth along with more blood. "Where is the girl you thought was my mistress ? Where is Thessia ?" Tedric insisted, threatening another kick.
"I... I don't know... Please, don't..." - "Hit me again ?" finished Tedric, breaking yet another one of Olrik's bones. "Too late, friend. Should've picked your enemies more carefully."
Tedric turned to Lady Ariane, frowning in sincere concern. "I hate to say it milady, but I think the bastard's tellin' the truth. He has no clue where she is.", he apologized. Ariane didn't react in the slightest to the news, seemingly lost in thought. "Milady ?" asked a worried Tedric. "Milady, are you alright ?". He swifly grabbed her forearms, and she gasped as she regained consciousness. They exchanged a prolonged look, eyes deep into each other's, and Tedric could have sworn he saw her blushing for a second.
"Forget that wretch. I know where she's headed." said Ariane. She knelt next to Olrik, and calmly stated : "You are a lucky man. I won't have Tedric here kill you. But be warned : if you ever try to lay hands on Thessia again, I will not be so merciful. Understood ?". Olrik feebly nodded in relief. "Good," said Tedric, "You've heard the Lady. Now sod off before she changes her mind."
Bolstering what little strength he still had left, Olrik stood up, moaning in pain. He rattled away weakly, cursing in a hushed voice the name of Thessia.
"What was that, milady ? Another one of them visions ?" inquired Tedric. "Tedric," said Ariane, eluding the question, "what would you say is the most impressive scenery in all of High Rock ?"
"Direnni Tower. Thing's even older than Nirn, they say. Why ?" - "And in Cyrodiil ?". He didn't see where the princess was going, but he answered nonetheless. "White-Gold Tower, milady. I mean, it's right there !" he said, pointing out at the ancient structure that majestically sat above the Imperial City.
"I had a vision indeed, Tedric. A mountain that pierced through the skies, with its summit shrouded in an unending blizzard. Wouldn't the Throat of the World be the most impressive sight to see in all of Skyrim ?" pursued the princess. A spark was lighting her eyes ever so brightly, as the moons began to rose, and the shadow of the White-Gold Tower grew longer over the capital.
CHAPTER SIX : PARTING WAYS
The Imperial City, 8th of Last Seed, 4E201
"Are you sure about this, milady ?" Tedric was visibly preoccupied. He didn't like the thought of letting his mistress go on by herself in the slightest. "I'll need a friendly face back home when I return. And I need you to watch over my father." answered Ariane. If she left before dusk and rode swiftly, it would take her about a week to reach the northernmost province of the Empire. Tedric, in an unsual display of affection - and against all that was deemed suitable - grabbed Ariane's hands. The two took a step closer to one another ; so close, in fact, that their chests were almost touching.
Tedric was breathing faster than usual. She could feel it. He anxiously cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and, at last, found it within himself to let go of the burden he had carried for so long.
"Milady... I love you."
"I know.", she said, before pressing her lips against his. "As do I. And when I bring my sister back, you and I will make up for all the time we lost. I promise."
Tedric and Ariane exchanged a last look after mounting their horses. "Go. I don't want you to watch me leave." ordered the princess. Tedric silently nodded with a slight smile, and vigorously heeled his horse, which reared before galloping away towards the West. Ariane, heading North, didn't take long to act likewise.
EPILOGUE : A CHANCE ARRANGEMENT
Riften, 17th of Last Seed, 4E201
"Looks like Riften was highly overrated, after all.", thought Thessia, as she gazed at what can only be described as a skeeverhole of a city. No time to reminisce or regret anything though, Cyrodiil was behind her, a new life was beginning for her here and, as unpleasant as the start of it looked like it was going to be, she had to make do, anyway. At least, she had a full purse and a trusty sword. Everything was going to work out for her, as always, right ? Just looking at the market stalls, she could see jewelry and trinkets galore to be "acquired". It was going to work out, for sure. This whole decision to leave the Imperial City behind was entirely rational and she had put much thought into it. Yep, for sure. Much thought into it. And what's more, after the...
A deep voice snapped her back from her reflexions to reality.
"Never done an honest day's work in your life for all that coin you're carrying, eh lass?"