Hey guys! Welcome to Act Two!
So this came out much later than I wanted, but there really was not much I could do about that. It's the holiday season, in have end of semester projects, and finals week is around the corner; so I have very little time now to actually play Skyrim. Because of all that, new posts for the time being are going to be scarce. Aside from this entry, there is one scheduled post on the way, but after that it is going to be a while until I can post anything else.
But that's okay. It just means I will be working twice as hard once I have the time again!
That's about it. I hope you enjoy this act!
The people of Morthal have always enjoyed a quite, reclusive lifestyle. Stranded between the Drajkmyr march and surrounding mountain ranges, visitors were seen more as queer invaders rather than curious travelers; as they never really appeared in Morthal. And that was probably preferred by the citizens. Despite this solitude, life went on in an almost merry way. The local children still ran around in play, working men and women earned an honest living free of any real troubles, and the dangers of the world seemed completely unaware of the fact Morthal even existed.
The guards probably had the easiest job of all. Any internal troubles were always handled by the Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone as well as her husband and steward Aslfur. All the guards had to do was patrol the streets and fend off the occasional mudcrab.
The sudden cold that washed over the land, however, did frighten many of Morthal's citizens. Many ran to the Jarl, screaming accusatory falsehoods about the local wizard Falion. Every time they did though, Jarl Ravencrone calmly urged them away from the notion, insisting that the cold was nothing more than a surprise blizzard.
At the mill, water sloshes and tumbles over the large wooden wheel, turning it with heavy creaks and groans.
At the foot of the mill, Hroggar and Jorgen work tirelessly. Winter isn't supposed to come for half a year, but when everything froze over, Jarl Idgrod insisted on hoarding as much lumber for fire as they possibly could. Jorgen does not mind; his life revolves around working the mill. The need for his work is a welcomed chore. On the other hand, Hroggar grumbles about it every chance he gets. The summer is when he spends his time with his wife and daughter, not hacking away at wooden logs until dusk, then returning home only to have enough energy to fall asleep.
Jorgen: Hey, Hroggar, quit standing around.
Jorgen: We are almost done with this haul. I know you don't want to get home later than usual.
Hroggar makes no effort to respond, frustrating Jorgen. The wind picks up, sending a shiver through Jorgen's body and fueling his impatience.
Jorgen: Are you listening to me? I said w-
Hroggar interrupts him with a hush.
Hroggar: Shhh, listen. The marsh. Do you hear that?
Jorgen hefts a pile of lumber before turning his head to the air. The marsh always makes sounds as if it is alive, what could be so strange about it this time? The wind batters the flaps of his hat over his ears, smudging any sound that could be made out. A suppressed rustling can be made out, but Jorgen thinks nothing of it.
Jorgen: Aye, it is lively today. But what do you expect? The critters are probably fleeing from the cold. If you'd hurry up and do your job, we could be doing the same.
Hroggar: To oblivion with this damn cold. But fine... I'll get this done.
Jorgen: Good. And do it fast!
Jorgen: I've got a fire and warm stew brewing in my head.
Jorgen: The sooner we finish, the sooner I can get started.
Jorgen: Got it?
Jorgen turns and freezes.
Collapsed atop the chopping block is Hroggar, completely still as if his body had frozen over with the cold.
Jorgen fails to muster a sound. His eyes trace across Hroggar's body.
At the sight of blood, a lump of ice seems to form in Jorgen's throat.
Upon seeing the arrow piercing his back, that ice shatters with a scream.
In a frenzy, Jorgen dashes toward his fallen neighbor, praying to the divines under his breath. He only makes it a few steps before slamming to a halt, his breath fleeting.
Malkor: Don't bother. Your friend's already dead.
Jorgen stands stunned. He thought he couldn't speak before, but now his jaw is locked in fear.
Malkor: Not going to say anything?
Malkor: Good. I won't have to worry about you interrupting me.
Malkor: See my companions?
Malkor: These bloodthirsty elves are known as Falmer.
Malkor: They really have quite the woeful backstory.
Malkor: Tortured into eternal blindness.
Malkor: Humiliated by a race no longer in existence.
Malkor: They are perhaps the most deadly and vengeful species on Nirn.
Malkor: But that doesn't matter to you, does it?
Malkor: What does though, is the information that there is a small army of Falmer converging on this town as we speak.
Malkor: And you are the only one who now knows.
Malkor: You are Morthal's only hope. If I were you, I wouldn't waste this opportunity.
Whatever force that kept Jorgen from moving suddenly disappears in a rush of terror and adrenaline. Without missing a beat, he takes off, desperately trying to get across the bridge.
Jorgen: Help! We're under attack!
Jorgen does not make it far. As soon as his boots touch the slick, icy stones of the bridge, a sharp pain shoots through his back.
His boots slip and gasp of breath flees his lungs, leaving through his mouth along with sputter of blood.
He falls; dead before hitting the ground.
A grin forms over Malkor's face as Jorgen soaks in a pool of his own blood. Quickly wiping the expression away, Malkor clears his throat before giving the order.
On queue, the Falmer surrounding Morthal draw their weapons,...
...following Malkor into war.
A few moments earlier, in the Drajkmyr Marsh, an unorthodox duo treks through the snow.
Talen: My wife is out here?
Talen: In this...
Talen has kept up a whiny, impatient attitude for the last week, putting Taeyva more and more on edge with each retort. She stopped responding to his stupid questions merely two days in, but that did not stop his onslaught of bickering.
Talen: The vampires who kidnapped my wife were feral beasts for sure, but not swamp dwelling savages. Are you sure this is the right way?
Taeyva tries to ignore him. "What is wrong with this guy..." she thinks to herself.
Talen: Come on, Taeyva. You have not so much as breathed in my general direction the last five days.
Talen: At least tell me to shut up like you did before.
Taeyva: Okay. Shut up.
Talen: Really? That's how you're gonna be?
Between the two of them, deciding which is more annoyed with the other is probably near impossible. Talen grumbles incoherently under his breath, not even sure what he means himself. For someone willing to help him, this girl had the most menial way of doing it. She avoided his questions, gathered herbs and food early in the morning only to eat it all herself, and seemed to grow more sickened with him day by day. The worst part though, is how strange she is. Talen often catches her talking to flowers or playing with bugs, giving them names and wishing them a happy future. Not to mention she barely wears anything, and the odd chain link harness she does wear she constantly complains about. Despite it all, Talen at least tries forming some kind of relationship. The most infuriating thing about her is that she clearly has no interest in doing the same.
Talen: Fine. Be the moody, druid girl you are and ignore me. But I'm not giving up until you at least consider me an acquaintance!
They continue to trudge through the marsh, Taeyva unsurprisingly not responding to Talen's decree. To Talen's surprise, Taeyva stops at a tree and actually speaks up.
Taeyva: Wait. Stop for a second.
Talen: What's wrong?
Taeyva: The marsh... It's off balance.
Talen: Off balance? What does that me-
Taeyva quickly shushes him, her attention taken by a butterfly. Talen's lips form into a curl, in disbelief he thinks "You can't be serious... She's like a child!"
Taeyva: Hey little guy.
She kneels down on one knee, inviting the butterfly closer.
Taeyva: You can tell me what's going on, right?
Talen: Well... she's actually speaking to a bug.
Taeyva: Snow Elves? Why would they be here?
Taeyva leans in closer to the butterfly. She closes her eyes briefly before nodding her head.
Taeyva: Thank you, friend.
Taeyva: Now go fly somewhere warm. This cold will kill you, you know.
Talen rubs the back of his neck, trying to warm his numb fingers. At this point he shouldn't be surprised by anything, yet Taeyva's queer interactions with the world continue to perplex him. Still, he can't help but shake the feeling that she may not be crazy at all.
Talen: Done with your little chat?
Taeyva smiles. A sense of accomplishment washing over her.
Taeyva: Ah, off he goes. I'm sure he'll make it.
Talen: Still ignoring me? Can you at least explain the whole "I talk to nature" thing?
Taeyva gives off a blatant groan, doing her best to display her annoyance. To Talen's surprise, however, she agrees.
Taeyva: Hmmm, I guess I can. I can hear you muttering how crazy you think I am by the way.
Talen flushes with embarrassment. His cheeks suddenly feeling warm.
Talen: Err, well...
Taeyva: It's fine. I couldn't care less what you think about me anyway.
Taeyva: I don't actually talk to animals. At least, they don't talk back.
Taeyva: Everything gives off an aura and everything communicates in some way. I am able to read those auras and understand these different methods of communication through magic given to me by Hircine.
At the mention of the daedric lord, a wave of nausea and trepidation sweeps over Talen. So far his experiences with them have been less than pleasant. Ellia led him into a trap; could Taeyva be doing the same thing?
Talen: You mean the daedra Hircine?
Taeyva: Relax, Talen. Unlike your previous encounters with daedra, I'm actually on your side.
It seems wrong to take her word, especially after admitting to cavorting with daedra. Anyone who associates themselves with the things can't possibly be good news. Can't they? Talen decides he's better off believing her than not. Yet even so, finally receiving an answer only managed to raise a million new questions. He tries to start asking but Taeyva speaks up before he gets the chance.
Taeyva: I can explain more later. This marsh is about to become a battle ground, and I don't want to be here when it does. Lets go.
Talen complies without a word. Though still not fully convinced this girl is telling the whole truth, he is satisfied with the outcome. Right now, Taeyva may be his only friend in the world.
If a resident of Morthal was asked if the town could ever grow more silent, they'd probably scoff at the question. "Morthal can't be a more dreary or boring place to live" they'd probably say. However a resident of Morthal has never witnessed the town following a battle, as none would have survived.
The weather had not changed. A frigid wind still blew between the homes. Soft pellets of snow continued to rain down from the sky.
What did change was the smell. The stench of blood wafted from the corpses and was only made worse when it was picked up and carried by the wind.
Malkor strode through the carnage, taking in the handiwork and searching for any fallen allies. Of that, he found none.
The battle was nearly over. A woman screaming and begging for her life being suddenly cut short assured him of that. However he had not come to Morthal for conquest.
At the entrance to the Jarl's longhouse, the dwemer centurion Malkor took from Bleackreach stands on guard. It's purpose is not to prevent entry. Malkor wants to keep people inside.
Malkor: Keep it up. If you see any survivors, make sure they don't make it out alive.
The centurion hisses out a gust of steam in response. Which Malkor simply assumes means yes.
Malkor: Now, lets pay the Jarl a little visit.
Without another glance, Malkor opens the door and enters the longhouse.
Inside, Malkor saw exactly what he wanted to see. A large squadron of Falmer had taken stance at the edge of the throne, weapons at the ready. They hissed and roared, bearing a threatening semblance. Malkor knew however that they would not attack. After all, he gave the order.
At the receiving end of the Falmer's threats, the remaining stragglers from the battle formed a wall protecting their Jarl.
Jarl Idgrod sat unwavering. Understanding fully that her demeanor played an important role in the moral of her soldiers. Beside her sat Idgrod the younger, cowering in tears. On the other side stood her husband and steward, Aslfur, appearing just as fearless and steadfast as his wife.
Malkor: Great! Everyone's here.
Malkor strides through the hall, earning cold glares from the survivors.
Jarl Idgrod: So, it seems fate has led us to this encounter. The question is, how has fate decided it will end.
Malkor slowly makes his way toward the throne. Passing by a falmer keeping its bow at the ready. Despite holding the cord back for so long, the elf did not waver. Maintaining a steady position, it showed no sign of fatigue.
Malkor: Hold position.
Malkor: I'm afraid fate has nothing to do with this, Ravencrone. I'll be the one deciding how things end.
Aslfur: Don't be so confidant, elf. You have not won this battle yet.
Gorm: You'll have to get through all of us.
Malkor laughs. There is no possible way these people believe they stand a chance, yet they cling to it anyway.
Malkor: You mean all four of you? Two old nords? And a whimpering girl?
Morthal Guard: Don't count us out so easily. There's a reason we're the last ones standing.
Legate Duilis: Standing against me brings the wrath of the imperial army upon you.
This is it. A feeling Malkor has been missing for the last five years. The excitement of standing on the verge of battle. The seemingly insurmountable odds of winning an outnumbered battle and the strategy required to do it. The rush of blood in his veins matched to the fast drumming of his heart. Malkor smiles, shooting out his arm he points one at a time at each of the adversaries before him.
Malkor: Oh I know. I know all of that. Which is why I'll be taking all of you on myself.
Gorm: What? You'd throw the battle away for a chance at glory?
Malkor draws his sword and lowers into stance. This is no chance at glory. No.
Malkor: I'm only warming up.
The room goes deadly still. The men, previously fearless and confident, fall silent. Malkor traces his eyes across the four of them, analyzing their potential in battle. Time seems to slow as he formulates a strategy in his head. As he does, the men fidget in place. Stared down by the drawn bows of the falmer, they know they cannot attack.
Malkor eyes a bead of sweat trickling down the center most guard's hand. His palm growing slick, the man tries to reform his grip on the handle. This was Malkor's queue.
Malkor lurches his body around, flinging his sword through the air.
Like an arrow, the blade flies through the air. It impales the guard, passing through his armor like butter.
The soldiers have no time to react as Malkor dashes back onto his feet.
Gorm: What the!
Before the guard even hits the ground, Malkor has his hand wrapped back around the handle.
Hollering a battle cry, he yanks the blade back into his control.
The blade pulls loose just as Malkor turns to see Gorm in mid swing with his mace.
With supernatural speed, Malkor gashes Gorm across the chest; somehow out speeding his attack.
Behind him, the Legate already has his attack prepared.
Legate Duilis: Die you bastard!
Knowing the Legate is too close for him to counter, Malkor drops low and sidesteps the potentially killing blow.
Malkor: You'll have to try better than that!
The Legate gasps as he swings his sword through the air, unable to change direction in time. Not giving him a chance to recover, Malkor rolls to one foot and slams the other into the Legate like a battering ram.
He turns to stand face to face with the remaining guard. Malkor drops into stance as the man hollers and throws out a desperate attack.
Malkor: You're wide open.
With ease, Malkor runs through the guards exposed chest.
Malkor: Coward. Had you attacked with your allies you may have fared better.
Blood trickles out of the wound as Malkor yanks his blade free.
Malkor: That was easier than expected.
At the throne, the Ravencrones stand stunned. The entire town wiped out in moments, and their final garrison broken by one man.
Malkor: Do any of you three want to be heroes?
Malkor: I'd advise against it.
Legate Duilis: W-why are you doing this?
The Legate struggled to speak from the ground. Seriously injured by the blow, he crawled, unable to stand.
Legate Duilis: You're just some... Terrorist!
Malkor groans. He knew he should have just killed him immediately.
Ignoring the crippled soldier, Malkor gives a command to the falmer behind him.
Malkor: Kill him.
Legate Duilis: You-you'll pay for this.
Legate Duilis: You'll pay for th-
His final words get cut short; silenced by an arrow through the skull.
For a moment, no one makes a sound. Aslfur speaks up first.
Aslfur: You win. Now what is it you want?
Malkor: From you? Nothing.
Malkor: My Mistress, Boethiah, sent me to seek out your wife.
Malkor: Apparently you have visions.
Malkor: Visions that will lead me to Taeyva.
During the battle at Morthal, Taeyva and Talen trudged through marsh, unaware of the fighting going on close by. A blizzard had begun to pick up, masking the ringing of steel and dying screams. Picking up their pace to escape the cold, it wasn't long before the two of them arrived at a cave hidden deep in the fog.
Taeyva: Here it is. Your precious wife's little cave.
Talen: Her cave?
Talen refused to believe his wife actually lived here.
Talen: My wife was kidnapped and turned by vampires. This can't possibly belong to her.
Talen: I mean look at that! Blood? A skeleton? My wife is not the type to do that kind of thing.
Taeyva: Talen... I need you to listen to me.
Talen turns to see Taeyva bearing stern expression. She always gave off a grim aura, but this time it took even Talen aback.
Talen: Uh... oh okay.
Taeyva: The woman inside is probably not the woman you once knew.
Taeyva: She may have been kidnapped and forced into becoming a vampire, but she's assimilated herself into the role.
Her words only make Talen angry. He has devoted his life to saving his wife, the possibility that she did not want to be... He could not accept it.
Talen: No. I refuse to relieve that.
Taeyva: Talen, please, this is important.
Taeyva: Isabel is a witch. She is a head of one of the most powerful vampire covens in Skyrim.
Talen: No... no no no. She was kidnapped!
Taeyva: Hear me out, okay?
Taeyva: Skyrim is home to many covens. They form a hierarchy controlled by the most powerful four.
Taeyva: These include the Hagfeather Coven, who worship Namira, and the Markarth sisters, who worship Dagon. Another one, The Glenmoril Wyrd, worships Hircine. Of that coven, I am the head and representative.
Talen: This seems kind of-
Taeyva: Shut up. I'm not done.
Taeyva: Somehow your little Isabel rose in the ranks and is now the head of the Fen Witches of Hjaalmarch. The last of the four leading covens, they worship Molag Bal.
Talen tries to respond but can't find the words. It's been years since he last saw his wife. Could it be that what Taeyva says is true? That the image of his wife is nothing more than a memory?
Taeyva: Talen? Talk to me.
Talen: Uh... I... What do I say?
Taeyva: I don't know. But I need your help.
Taeyva: If anyone is able to convince Isabel to join our side in the war to come, it's you, Talen.
Taeyva turns away, heading into the cave.
Taeyva: Come on. Let's go.
In silence, Talen watches Taeyva enter the cave. He has no idea what she meant by the war to come or any of the stuff about covens. But he believes his wife is inside the cave, and if she truly is a witch, he has to bring her back.
Talen: I'm coming, Isabel.
Inside the cave, the slow drip of water from the ceiling echoes against the walls, rebounding with the loud snore from a vampire thrall sleeping against the stones.
Taeyva: Hey, wake up!
The thrall groggily opens his eyes, finishing his snore with a snort.
Taeyva: Hi there.
Talen: Um, hello.
At the sight of the intruders, the thrall lurches into stance and draws his axe.
Thrall: That's close enough!
Taeyva: Calm down. I represent the Glenmoril Wyrd, I'm here to meet with the head of the coven.
Voice: I have not heard of this meeting.
A woman's deep voice calls from the back of the cave, grabbing everyone's attention.
Thrall: This girl says she represents the Glenmoril Wyrd, my lady.
Vampire: Silence, thrall. I heard the girl.
Vampire: Mistress Isabel told me of your arrival, Taeyva. I also know the hierarchy has not met in years, and won't be any time soon.
Taeyva: This meeting is unofficial. I've brought a very important person with me, there was no time to waste.
Vampire: Yes, Isabel said Talen would be here.
Taeyva: She knows we are here then. Let us through.
The vampire furrows her brow.
Vampire: I do not take orders from you.
Vampire: I was given very specific instructions on how to deal with you two.
As she finishes, a whoosh of magic reverberates behind the bretons.
Talen: Err, Taeyva...
Talen: I think we have company.
Taeyva spins around to see three vampires break out of an invisibility spell.
Taeyva: What the...
Taeyva: You bitch... What's the meaning of this?
Vampire: You can ask the mistress when you wake up.
Vampire: Take her out.
Talen gasps as one of the vampires materializes behind Taeyva, hitting her in the head with the blunt side of it's axe.
She collapses onto the floor in an unconscious heap.
Talen stands aghast; stunned by what he just witnessed.
Vampire: Nothing personal.
Vampire: We just can't have you interfering with Bal's plans.
Vampire: And you!
The vampire juts her finger out towards Talen, scaring him stiff.
Vampire: It's your lucky day.
Vampire: You're finally going to see your wife.
Vampire: She has a lot in store for you.
Those of you keen on Skyrim lore will know that Hroggar's Wife and Daughter died in a fire in the vanilla game. In this act I said they were alive. I will make tiny adjustments like this throughout the story to better fit the situation, but I won't be changing any actual lore. Also, if you are interested, here is some works cited from this act and a few previous ones:
If you're curious about the hierarchy of covens, well that's something I partially made up. But I did make sure to include as much lore as possible.
I'll also be out of town for a few days. I will respond to the comments when I get back. Thanks for reading!