Welcome to Act Three. Let's begin.
Previously on The Frost of Ages:
Gerruck: She is no longer with us, Kriivahtharn.
Gerruck: She has chosen her fate.
Olivia: No no no no. No!
Olivia: I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean it. I’ll follow the divines! I’ll worship them! I swear it! Please spare me! Ple-
Talen: What if that wasn’t really Isabel? I mean, you said so yourself. She wasn’t my wife.
Taeyva: I was speaking figuratively. But you may have a point…
Taeyva: Of course…
Malkor: I never saw a different outcome for me. I could either win this war or I could lose this war. I thought that was it.
Malkor: But maybe not. Maybe… Well, maybe there’s a chance for you and me. But not if you sacrifice yourself for revenge.
Malkor: Please, Cass. You have to give this up. We both do.
In the far north of Skyrim, the cold has become unbearable. The coastline has frozen over completely, sealing the gentle tide in a perpetual state of ice. A dark fog rolls over, carried by frigid winds. It is inhospitable. A mortal could not survive here if they tried. And none do. But that doesn’t mean it is devoid of all life. Or death, in this case.
Erinye: It is an unfortunate necessity.
Castle Volkihar, the last bastion of father’s devout children. Here they were meant to be safely secluded until the war’s conclusion, whereupon they could exit into a world reborn in Coldharbour’s light. No. It’s darkness.
But defeat after defeat has changed things. Argus’ failures not only cost him his life, but the integrity of their forces as well. With him gone, Erinye must take up his mantle and she refuses to fail the way he did. She cannot afford to.
Erinye: Windhelm will not be easy to conquer. And the surrounding mountains and forests are overrun with werewolves.
Erinye circles the altar to father, tracing her hand around the inner wall of the pool. The thick, magical blood trickles in between the joints in her gauntlet, wetting her finger.
Erinye: If we try to storm the bridge, we’ll be squeezed between man and beast. We’ll be succinctly crushed.
Erinye pulls her hand from the basin. She dangles her finger above it, watching the blood slowly drip back into the pool.
She pauses, expectantly. To her appeasement, the vampire understands he has permission to speak.
Orthjolf: What would you have us do, prophet?
Erinye brings her finger to her lips and sucks in the blood still trapped within her gauntlet. It’s tastes sweet as it slides across her tongue and down her throat. She swallows it down; it quenches the thirst she never feels.
She drains the final drops in silence, relishing the deceptive taste of existence. How strange it is that the sustenance of immortals is the only ingredient that can remind her of her lost mortality.
Erinye collects herself and turns to face him, letting a single drop of blood trickle from the corner of her lip.
Erinye: I cannot send my army out hunting for wolves, but I need to know where they are and that they will be distracted.
Erinye glides back towards the center of the alter, wiping the blood from her mouth.
Erinye: I'm trusting your order to handle this. I don’t care how. Just make sure it’s done.
She comes to a stop and turns away from her underling. This is a suicide mission. Surely he understands that. But if not, she isn’t about to relay that to him with her expression. She takes a moment to reassert herself and faces Orthjolf once more.
Erinye: Am I understood?
Orthjolf takes a heavy breath, but nods. He meets her gaze intensely, though his creased brows reveal his unease.
Orthjolf: We’ll scout ahead, prophet. Those beasts will not get in your way, I assure you.
Erinye ogles him, doubtfully. It isn’t about trust, but rather faith. She’s never appreciated the overconfidence that so many vampires embrace.
Erinye: Good. Now go inform your brethren.
She turns away before Orthjolf gets to his feet. As she trudges back to the altar, she glances over her shoulder to make sure he leaves. When the gate slams closed behind him, she collapses atop the altar and sighs.
It’s almost upon her now. So many lives taken, so many battles lost and won. Soon it will all culminate in this final fight. Win or lose, she doesn’t care. She just needs to ensure enough of Windhelm is slaughtered.
Erinye squeezes her eyes, repulsed by how easily that thought comes to her. As tears slide down her cheeks, she wonders if they fall for herself, or for the hundreds of souls she has doomed to an empty afterlife.
She wipes them away, sighing dejectedly. It doesn’t matter anyway.
The morning blooms under the embrace of the rising, warm sun as the alliance’s first day in Windhelm began. The occupation was exhausting and prolonged, lasting well into the night. Candlehearth Hall was bustling well after the outer gates were sealed and the streets remained packed as dawn started to peak. The morning rays roused no one as Windhelm opened its weary eyes into yet another droll morning. Yet as the city continued to sleep, the Palace of the Kings was wrestled awake early.
The leaders packed into the open hall, gathering at the table seated before the throne. Those who needed introductions did so themselves briefly. The desire to begin discussing their plans was mutual. None of them needed reminding of the limited time and were all aware of the conflict that their antipodal voices would produce.
All those precautions disappeared when Ulfric’s gaze fell upon the glares of this former foes.
Ulfric: Don’t make me revoke the hospitality I have graciously provided!
Elisif and Tullius had tentatively entered the hall after everyone else, arms already crossed, and eyes already narrowed. They stomped to their seats under a myriad of watchful eyes, each staring with a different emotion. Tullius kept standing as Elisif plopped abruptly into her seat. He planted his feet firmly beside her, resounding a faint echo that seemed to boom within the tense silence. Talen noticed he had donned his imperial armor again, despite the plenty of dawnguard armor offered to him, and sighed. This wasn’t starting off well.
The sound of Elisif’s grinding teeth permeates the air. She hisses back at the jarl, though her glare is unable to meet him.
Elisif: I’d expect nothing less from you. Throwing your only allies out into the cold to die. No wonder Talos abandoned you.
Tullius urgently speaks over Elisif with a contrary, almost cordial tone. Though it isn’t enough to mask the bitterness laced into his words.
Tullius: Ulfric, it’s over. We are not here to squabble over a now pointless war.
Ulfric curls his lip.
Ulfric: And yet you stride into these halls wearing that armor. You know what those colors mean to me.
Tullius nods resolutely, meeting Ulfric’s glare.
Tullius: I do. It defines who I was and who I am. I will not change for you and neither will Elisif, the true Hi-
Talen: Woah! Woah, okay!
Talen quickly interjects, noticing the flare in Tullius’ eyes starting to blaze.
Talen: Look, let’s move on. Ulfric, he’s stubborn, okay? You’d do the same in his position. Tullius, don’t instigate, please.
Carcette jumps in behind Talen, ensuring neither bickerer gets a chance to speak.
Carcette: Yes, agreed. You’re both acting childish. You can get over your differences on your own time, understood?
Carcette shoots a disapproving glare at the three of them as she concludes.
A frustrating silence endures as none of them show any signs of relenting. While Talen and Carcette wait with bated breath, the others are less interested. Isran slumps over with a roll of his eyes while Taeyva ogles the spectacle with disgust. Behind them, Malkor and Castalia appear oblivious to the entire thing, engaged in their own hushed conversation.
Eventually though, Ulfric sighs and leans back into his throne.
Ulfric: Fine. I shall be the bigger man and allow you both to remain in Windhelm, under my good graces.
Tullius’ brows tense for a moment, but Carcette speaks up before he can get out a retort.
Carcette: That’s very big of you, Jarl. Now onto the matter at hand.
Isran eagerly sits up.
Isran: Yes, please!
He ignores the amused looks cast his way and continues.
Isran: Look, our situation isn’t good. Even with the Stormcloaks, our numbers are barely larger than what we had at Fort Dawnguard. Plus we may be facing dragons in addition to the daedra now.
Talen nods along and speaks up after him.
Talen: True, but the daedra shouldn’t be as big of an issue here. Our position is much easier to defend, plus the Vigilant’s wards can keep them out. The problem is if the dragons do show up, there’s nothing stopping them from simply flying over the walls.
He gestures to Taeyva sitting beside him.
Talen: And your werewolves? They can keep daedra out too, right?
Taeyva nods confidently.
Taeyva: I have them patrolling the perimeter at all times. My wolves are strong, but I won’t send them into a fight alone. Hit and runs, only. The daedra won’t assault the city with the risk of being flanked from behind again.
The tension slightly alleviates as the faith in Taeyva offers a bit of relief. It only took saving their lives twice, but it seems they all finally trust in Taeyva’s support. She feels a tingle in her chest as a smile sneaks across her lips.
Isran: What about your soldiers, Ulfric? Or you, Tullius? Any strategies from the war you never employed that could prove useful?
The imperial general huffs with a shake of his head.
Tullius: Nothing that could help against a dragon, even if we had the chance.
Ulfric smirks slyly before replying.
Ulfric: I suppose I could shout, but I doubt my voice could do anything to those who have mastery over their own.
The Jarl sighs defeatedly as the rest of them scratch their heads for some answer. As they all sink into their own thoughts, Castalia shoves hers onto Malkor.
Malkor: Are you mad? I’m not going to jeopardize my situation even more, Cass.
Neither of them have engaged in the discussion since entering, still ensnared in their own from last night. Despite so much more able to be said, they each found themselves at a loss for words. They spent the entire night in uncomfortable tension. It was a sleepless night for them both, though not for the reasons Castalia wanted.
She doesn’t know why she expected things to go better. Malkor’s weave is the one she’d memorized most diligently, and last night’s incident was no outlier. But that doesn’t mean she can’t hope she made a mistake.
Thing is, mistakes are something she can no longer afford to make. Malkor told her to give up on Null and then maybe he’d do the same with his goals. If only it were that simple. No. One decision won’t be enough to alter his weave. This is no longer a game. Every decision she and those around her make will decide the outcome of this war. Especially the one she is making now.
Castalia: You have an army of dwemer machines. They’re more then capable of killing dragons; just the ballista’s alone!
Castalia keeps her voice hushed, perfectly aware of the suspicion being thrown her way as a result. But it won’t be enough to stop her, nor will Malkor’s frustrated grunts.
Malkor: Cass, no. They’ll never go for it and if I suggest such a thing they’ll never trust me.
Castalia tilts her head, whimsically.
Castalia: Well, you don’t have to suggest it.
Malkor: Cass, don’t-
His plea is drowned out by the bench loudly scraping against the floor as Castalia suddenly leaps to her feet.
Castalia: Malkor has something that could help!
The silence shatters as all eyes turn to the two dark elves.
Castalia: He has a strong force of dwemer machines! They can definitely take down dragons!
Malkor: Fucks sake, Cass…
The leaders glance awkwardly at one another, unsure of how to respond to the sudden outburst. Ulfric leans forward in his throne, raising a dubious brow.
Ulfric: You have dwemer automatons… under your control? That seems…
He trails off, clearly at a loss for words.
Taeyva eyes Malkor suspiciously as the rest of the group follows Ulfric’s lead, falling into a bewildered silence. It doesn’t last long though, as they all simultaneously voice their disagreement with the suggestion.
Isran: Uh, no way. We absolutely do not trust you that much.
Carcette: I said I’d give you a chance. This is asking for way too much.
Elisif: I don’t even know you and I think that sounds like a terrible idea.
Talen: Are you serious? You can’t honestly believe we’d take you up on this offer?
Malkor frantically waves his hands in defense, slightly peeved that the blame is being put on him instead of Cass.
Malkor: No. No! I don’t. Really!
He tenderly pats the air with his hands, as if trying to calm a rabid animal. Following an aggravated sigh, he addresses the group respectfully, though through gritted teeth.
Malkor: I do have dwemer automatons, it’s true. But they’re not here and I am absolutely not suggesting I bring them. Okay?
His shoulders tense under their suspicious stares as he concludes. His seat shifts as Castalia slumps into it.
Eventually the stares leave him, though their suspicious aura remains. Elisif awkwardly clears her throat before trying to navigate away from the awkward conversation.
Elisif: Okay, so… What do we do then?
Tullius: We fight with what we have, right? We’ve prevailed before, we can do it again.
Ulfric sighs with an accepting nod.
Ulfric: I suppose so. We don’t have time to wait for a plan. We have to begin preparing one.
Unsure glances are shared following the deceptively simple suggestion.
Isran loudly clears his throat, attempting to form some sort of headway.
Isran: So where do we begin? We have no idea how long we have or what’s coming.
When no one tries to follow Isran’s lead, Talen leans forward. Perhaps they’ve been looking at this the wrong way. Now that they are united, they’re definitely stronger. But that strength doesn’t stem from unity, it originates from their differences.
Talen: Well, everyone here has their own strengths, right? We put our trust in one another to do what we can.
Talen: Carcette, you and the Vigilant need to get the ward around the city. Make sure it covers everything and is defendable.
Carcette: Agreed. We’ll get it done.
Talen: Isran, get the Dawnguard to instruct Stormcloak soldiers on how to handle the daedra. Their experience will be invaluable.
Isran: Good idea. We’ll also work on setting up defenses in the city, corral the daedra if they do get inside.
Talen: Elisif, you’re an experienced leader. Those who can’t fight will still need guidance. I’m sure you can provide that, even to those who might have opposed you.
Elisif: I will do my best.
Talen: Ulfric, this is your city. We trust you know how to defend it.
Ulfric: Indeed. I’ll order my men to begin enforcing the cities defenses.
Talen: And Castalia? You know we can’t accept Malkor’s machines in here, but I want to trust you are suggesting it for our own good. You can predict more than we ever can, so please keep us informed.
Castalia: Of course… I will.
Talen: Good. Now let’s go. We don’t have time to waste.
Everyone filters out of the Palace of the Kings, renewed with a new sense of direction. Though their fates remain obscured, the mutual trust in each other’s abilities provides a chance for courage amidst that uncertainty.
As they venture out to begin, Talen and Taeyva hang back.
Talen: You think she’s behind all of it?
Talen apprehensively rubs his neck, trying to keep his voice low.
Talen: It makes sense, but… What should I do?
He asks the question tentatively, doubtful that Taeyva wants him to do anything. He finds himself strangely relieved when she shakes her head.
Taeyva: You shouldn’t do anything. Not yet anyway.
Taeyva steps forward. She shoots a cautious glance at Castalia, who has just been leaning against the table since the meeting’s conclusion. Whispering seems pointless when she is so clearly awaiting her approach.
Taeyva: I’ll talk to her alone. I have a suspicion she won’t tell you much and I’m the only person who can really sympathize with her.
Talen responds with an accepting sigh.
Talen: Alright, Taeyva. I trust you.
Taeyva warmly smiles and gives him a tender pat on the shoulder. She pulls her hand away as the smile fades. Donning her customary placid scowl, she turns to Castalia.
Taeyva: Sorry to keep you waiting. Let’s talk?
Taeyva catches a surprised smirk flash in Castalia’s eyes. She nods.
Castalia: Let’s go.
* * *
Taeyva took the lead, navigating them around the narrow halls that snake through the palace’s upstairs. Thankfully, they were mostly empty. Every room Taeyva checked was abandoned and only a single guard patrolled the passage. A curt “get out” was enough to dismiss him with a gulp. She wasn’t going to let any suspicious ears overhear them.
They slipped into one of the empty rooms. A warm fire cast a faint warmth and dim light into the dreary environment. Two messy beds sat unmade in the center. Taeyva staunchly planted her feet between them as she waited for the door to close.
Taeyva: Isabel. Ring a bell?
If Castalia is surprised, she isn’t showing it. The former prophet silently strides into the room, her presence only given away by a faint creak from the wooden floorboards. When she doesn’t reply, Taeyva turns to face her.
Taeyva: You need to come clean, Castalia. I can’t trust that you’re here to help when you keep secrets.
Castalia sighs, lifting her eyes to Taeyva’s. Taeyva gazes into them, trying to discern the emotions she intrinsically obscures.
Castalia: Before I say anything, please understand that every decision I’ve made has been for all of our own good. No matter how many lives that have been ruined.
Taeyva shakes her head.
Taeyva: Believe me, I understand what you’ve gone through better than anyone. But I don’t want to hear any excuses.
There’s a pause as Castalia rubs the back of her head. She relents with an exhale as she starts to trudge towards the bed.
Castalia: I know Talen’s wife… Isabel…
A heavy sigh escapes her as she trails off. After a few unsteady steps, she collapses atop the bed and stares into the floor.
Castalia: The one you met was just a corpse. It was given a pointless task to deceive it into thinking it was alive and with purpose. The real Isabel had died years earlier.
Taeyva scrunches her brows. Though the confirmation provides an odd sense of relieve, none of this is a surprise. It’s the reasoning that remains elusive.
Taeyva: She was one of your puppets then. Okay, fine. But why?
Castalia keeps her eyes averted as she gulps.
Castalia: There’s a lot to that question, actually. Have you ever heard of Null?
Taeyva tilts her head, perplexed. There it is again. Null.
Taeyva: Sort of.
Castalia gestures to the bed in front of her, hesitantly. Taeyva slowly eases herself onto the hard, straw mattress and nods for Castalia to continue.
Castalia: We both know the divines are gone. And with them went the afterlife. All those lost souls need to go somewhere, right?
Taeyva nods silently.
Castalia: With enough souls in one place, you could use them to do anything. They’re doomed to no afterlife. They’re only purpose is to be consumed for a greater power.
Taeyva leans back, uneasy at how easily Castalia was able to say that.
Taeyva: That makes sense. But it doesn’t answer my question. Why Isabel? Why Talen?
The fire faintly crackles, offering the only escape from the tense silence that permeates the air around them. Castalia inhales deeply as she takes a moment to respond, searching for the right words to say.
Castalia: Because he’s the only one who can win.
Castalia continues, unphased by the bewilderment on Taeyva’s face.
Castalia: I chose Isabel because it forced Talen on this path. His weave is powerful. It triumphs far more than it fails.
Taeyva rubs her chin, finding herself becoming more and more confused.
Taeyva: What does that mean? We haven’t exactly found easy victories and I don’t think Talen would consider many the things that have happened to him victories.
Castalia: No. Not to him, anyway. But to me they are. I need him to survive as long as possible. The thing about Null is it doesn’t technically exist until a soul that has nowhere else to go creates it.
Castalia: When one does, it doesn’t just go to Null, it becomes Null. So technically speaking, if you can capture and control that soul, you have all of Null as well.
Taeyva raps her fingers against her cheek as answers begin to formulate.
Taeyva: Isabel was a vampire before she died. Molag Bal didn’t accept her into Coldharbour then and no one else would take a vampiric soul…
Taeyva suddenly sits up.
Taeyva: So Isabel is Null, then. And if you want to claim her power, she needs to grant it. And Talen is your means of doing that! But…
She pauses, allowing her thoughts to settle.
Taeyva: You don’t have control of her, do you? Someone else does…
Castalia sucks in frustrated breath.
Castalia: No. Erinye does.
She averts sorrow filled eyes and sighs.
Castalia: She was able to get her father, Molag Bal, to forbid Isabel from entering Coldharbour. She then brought her sister there to find and capture Isabel. The two of them have had control ever since.
Taeyva furrows her brows.
Taeyva: She can just enter Null like that? I thought you said it was only for souls with nowhere else to go?
Castalia: For mortals, yes. But for daedra, like you? It’s just another realm. Just like your daedric soul can go to Hircine’s Hunting Grounds, it can go to Null if it knows how. By the same logic, Daedric Lords cannot enter, since they techincally can't enter other oblivion realms. Erinye simply took her sister’s soul with her to Null. It was better than a soul gem.
Taeyva remains silent as the wave of new information settles in her mind. It’s a lot to take in. The possibilities this realm can provide makes fighting in this war seem pointless. With that power she could just wish that Nirn is saved. But is it really that simple? And what does Castalia want from Null? Or Erinye?
Castalia loudly clears her throat, yanking Taeyva from her thoughts.
Castalia: I can teach you how to get there. But… But I can’t come with you.
She chokes back a sniffle, masking it with a cough, and continues shakily.
Castalia: I’m mortal now. I can’t go to Null without dying and… and I won’t. I made a promise. But if Erinye isn’t stopped, she will claim the power of Null.
Castalia dons a grave expression and looks Taeyva directly in the eyes.
Castalia:Isabel can’t stay there forever. Once Null has enough souls, Erinye will do anything to get that power and Isabel won’t be able to stop her, with or without Talen.
Castalia: Erinye is a prophet, Taeyva. I can’t fight her now that I’ve lost that status. That leaves one person. You.
Castalia: The Wild Prophet.
Talen wanders out of the Palace, his thoughts as lost as he feels in this city. It’s all very strange. When he took charge at the end of the meeting, he didn’t have think about it. The right words to say just flowed from his lips with ease. Every time he does that sort of thing, the confidence to do so comes naturally. What has to be done or said is accomplished so instinctively he doesn’t even get the chance to second guess himself. It’s afterwards, when he’s alone, that those doubts begin to surface.
But he can’t even bother to question his actions with everything else weighing on his mind right now. Taeyva has probably just started questioning Castalia. Does Castalia know his wife? Is she involved in her death or what she has to do with this Null place? Even if she isn’t directly involved, she certainly knows something. It’s the entire reason she’s here, after all. But if so, could Taeyva even tell him? Or would that somehow alter his entire future?
Talen sighs, both frustrated and miserable. This is too much to dwell on. He has to find something to distract himself else go mad thinking about it all.
Mike: Hey, Talen!
Talen nearly misses a step as his friend greets him. Mike bounces from his seat and hops onto the stairs beside him.
Talen: Oh, hey Mike.
Mike: What’s going on, man? That meeting really sucked the life out you, it seems!
Mike’s cheerful smile fades as Talen doesn’t return one of his own.
Mike: Is everything alright?
Talen huffs, shedding some of the sadness with a shrug.
Talen: I’m fine. Just a lot of pressure, you know?
Mike answers with an understand nod.
Mike:As Davey would say: believe me, I know.
The two share a hearty chuckle as Talen continues down the path into the Grey Quarter. He isn’t exactly sure where he is going but is glad to have Mike’s company. The friendship is at least enough to pull the against the weights on his heartstrings.
The narrow alleys of the Grey Quarter can barely fit the two of them. Mike falls back behind Talen as they pass a Windhelm guard. He attempts to retake his place adjacent him but has to stay in line as yet another guard stomps past them, a large crate being hefted in his arms.
Mike: What’s going on here?
Talen glances suspiciously down the alley, noticing a long line of guards hauling a myriad of different containers from down the lane.
Talen: I don’t know…
The two of them jog down the steps, rounding the corner into an opening in the alley. A cluster of guards march down the steps ahead, rolling barrels or carrying crates and sacks. At the top, a dark elf and Stormcloak leader engage one another in a blatantly one sided argument.
Ambarys: Please, we won’t have anything left!
Ambarys: We already provided our share! If you take this, we’ll be eating scraps!
The dark elf’s desperation is displayed in his creased brows and broken voice. But the Stormcloak clearly doesn’t notice nor care.
Stormcloak: Take it up with Ulfric. We have more mouths to feed now and everyone would rather be at Candlehearth Hall than your dump.
The Stormcloak haughtily spins around as the last guard trudges past him and flashes a crooked smile to the defeated elf.
Stormcloak: Feel free to swing by and have some! I’m sure you’ll find this swill tastes much better when you’re at a real bar.
The dark elf doesn’t bother with a reply as the Stormcloak saunters away, laughing.
Talen and Mike make their way to the bar’s entrance, pushing past the remaining guards. The Stormcloak passes them without a glance, overtaken with his own obnoxious guffawing. Talen isn’t sure if the man genuinely finds this funny or is just doing it for show.
They find the elf slumped over on the snow. He holds his head in his hand as he shakes it dejectedly.
Talen lowers himself to one knee as he lets out an empathetic sigh.
Talen: Hey… We saw what happened. You alright?
His shoulders heavily rise and fall.
Ambarys: No. But it’s nothing new. We’re always treated like garbage. Even in times like these, they still look for every opportunity to disgrace and ridicule us.
Ambarys: That was the rest of the food in the Grey Quarter. They won’t even let us work for it. Apparently we’re too weak to fight for extra rations. Damn them.
He clenches his jaw as he abruptly concludes.
Talen: That’s… terrible. I’m really so sorry. I wish there were something we-
Talen stops himself as the realization comes to him. He smiles in excitement, quickly leaping to his feet.
Talen: Actually, I think we can do something.
Mike: Oh! I know what you’re thinking.
Ambarys gapes at them, startled, but with a flicker of hope in his eyes.
Ambarys: R-really? How?
Talen’s smile spreads further.
Talen: Follow us! We’ll show you.
* * *
Talen and Mike led Ambarys out of the Grey Quarter and to the cities main gate. Ambarys hesitantly kept himself a few paces behind, while eagerly keeping up with their pace.
At the gate, they encountered a similar sight. Containers of supplies were being lugged into the city, this time in the capable arms of the Dawnguard. Talen and Mike marched past them through the gate, sharing a “Hey there!” or greeting their comrades with a nod. Ambarys silently followed along, his confusion becoming more evident with each step.
Outside, they made it to the source of the transporting. The last carriage from Fort Dawnguard was being emptied. Talen grinned when he noticed Celann was the one taking charge, directing the soldiers on where the cargo was supposed to go.
Talen: Hey, Celann! Have some supplies remaining?
Celann turns to face them. He nods warmly to Talen and Mike before gesturing inquisitively to Ambarys.
Celann: Plenty. Why? What’s going on? And who is this?
Ambarys awkwardly rubs the back of his neck.
Ambarys: Um, my name is Ambarys. I run the New Gnisis Cornerclub.
He concludes with a gulp, his unease clearly mounting. Mike affirmatively smacks his fist into his palm.
Mike: Yep! But the Stormcloaks took all his supplies. He’s got nothing left now. We think we should help!
Talen nods along, continuing after him.
Talen: We’ve provided plenty of supplies to Ulfric. Why not share the rest with the people?
Celann’s smile only grew wider as he listened. They don’t have to wait a moment for him to spin around and issue a new command.
Celann: Henry! We’ve got new orders. The rest of the cart is going to the New Gnisis Cornerclub.
Dawnguard (Henry): Will do, sir!
Mike: Yeah! Alright!
Ambarys: Woah, really? Thank you! Thank you so much!
* * *
The last of the supplies are dropped off at the Cornerclub, accompanied by relieved smiles and grateful grins. Exhausted from the work, the Dawnguard took a much needed reprieve in the maudlin interior. Though it isn’t in the best shape, the silence inside is tranquil compared to the boisterous Candlehearth Hall. And the heart warming aura that accompanies them all is just an added bonus.
Malthyr: All right, last one!
Dawnguard 1: What’s say we come here when our shift is over, tonight?
Dawnguard 2: Definitely. We should actually be able to hear one another talk.
Ambarys stands at the center of his establishment, his smile stretching from ear to ear.
Ambarys: I don’t know what to say. Really.
Celann: Don’t worry about it.
Mike: Our pleasure! The Dawnguard aren’t scummy like Ulfric and his boys.
Talen: Really, we’re glad to help out.
Ambarys lowers his hand as he lets out an alleviating sigh. His shoulders relax as his hand falls to his side and his smile softens from giddy glee to warm thanks.
Ambarys: Well, thank you. It’s the most kindness I’ve ever been shown in this city.
Talen glances at the people around them and reciprocates a nod.
Talen: And best part of it all, you don’t have to work for this. The Stormcloaks may not let you among their ranks, but the Dawnguard is always welcome.
Talen: If you’re willing, we’d love to have you. If not, don’t worry. Though we will ask for cheaper drinks in return.
Talen gives Ambarys a wink, who chuckles jovially in response. His smile returns to that of excitement as he releases a reassured breath.
Ambarys: I thought you’d never ask.
Ambarys: We want to do our part in this fight too. We’ll happily fight alongside you, Talen!
Gerruck opens his eyes. His own eyes, this time, though not of his own volition. A moment of freewill, granted by the spirit that traps him inside own body. But this is not for mercy.
This is for torment.
Gerruck: Why? Why give me control now?
Gerruck chokes out the question through quivering breaths, not expecting an answer. He shivers. It’s not cold; he doesn’t feel that. The gusts of wind from the arrhythmic beating above him is what sends chills down his spine.
Gerruck: To blame me? To get me to do it for you?
Gerruck squeezes his eyes shut as he sputters out a broken sob. The sight of her is too much.
Gerruck: Well congratulations.
His voice breaks as his posture collapses. Gerruck crumples over himself. He presses his hands into the frozen snow, barely staying upright.
Gerruck: You did it. I’m no hero. No… No no no…
He burrows his face in his palms are he starts to sob. Tears rolls down his cheeks and pool in his hands, nearly freezing as they touch the air.
Gerruck: No… Guh-huhuhu… N-no-o-o-o…
As soon as the sob begins, it starts to fade. His rocking shoulders slowly ease still as Gerruck’s body begins to straighten up.
The dragon tilts it’s head as a long exhale passes from Gerruck’s lips.
A soft laughter emerges as Gerruck grows a subtle smile.
Gerruck: Heh… Hehehe… Yes, Kriivatharn. It is I.
What was once Gerruck comes to a full stand. It shifts it’s shoulders and flexes it’s joints, as if stretching before an arduous exercise.
Gerruck: His spirit is finally broken. He will no longer stand between us.
Gerruck: Now nothing can stand in our way.
To be continued…