Hey guys! Welcome to part 3!
For the next few months, I will have no real schedule on content here. I'm graduating soon so I have to devote a lot of time to school and work. I still have stuff in the works though and content will be coming no matter what.
I don't really have much else to say, so here's the next act.
Gerruck leans against the bar counter in The Winking Skeever. The platters of food and bottles of wine are untouched atop its surface, prepared for another busy day that will now never come.
Gerruck entered the empty bar shortly after Olivia, finding her stunned and still. He didn’t have to look to know what her eyes traced. Without a word, he trudged past her and stood at the counter. For a few tense moments, neither of them said a word. A heavy heart kept Gerruck’s mouth shut, but also made him open it first.
He began with the day he and Elyvaea left Riverwood. The morning after meeting Olivia, the two of them departed to Ivarstead. He told of his training with the Greybeards, how it felt unfulfilling and monotonous. He explained the hope he felt for the future and the excitement in his heart. He reminisced about his first meeting with Paarthurnax and how he refused to listen to him, unable to accept that his dream may not be what it seemed. Then he relived the memory of when the reality of his fate became clear to him.
Gerruck: She killed her.
Gerruck: She said it was meant to crush me; I was supposed to give up. I don’t know why she didn’t just kill me.
Olivia has yet to make a sound. Her stare has been glued to the floor and what lies on it. Her chest is tight, like a hand is gripping her heart. It makes her rigid and uneasy, yet she has listened intently throughout his tale.
Olivia: So you came here?
She speaks sharply and quick, as if she were just spitting the words out.
Olivia: To slaughter?
The words come out harsh; harsher than Olivia intended. Her words are laced with accusation. She recoils, realizing the accusation is not meant for Gerruck.
He turns around, leaning his back against a stool and shakes his head.
Gerruck: I came here because it was the first lead that elf gave me. She said you were next. But the slaughter… that-that was not me.
Olivia gulps at the mention of Castalia. It did not take her long to figure out it was her who killed Elyvaea. Her manipulating of Olivia and Gerruck’s lives has been too frequent to ignore. And fortunately for Olivia, Gerruck is unaware of their relationship.
Olivia may be free of Castalia’ control, but that entirely was by Castalia’s decree. And for all she knows, the same strands could still be attached; Castalia just isn’t tugging them now. Whatever the case, this is a problem only she can handle. If Gerruck is to learn of everything Olivia knows now, she could have more problems to deal with.
Clearing her throat, she responds, curiously.
Olivia: What do you mean that was not you?
She hears a loud sigh from behind the pillar separating them.
Gerruck: When I returned to Paarthurnax, he explained everything. You know the Nine divines, how they created our world. As it turns out, they’ve decided to abandon it now.
Olivia sighs. This is not news to her. After all, it was Castalia who brought her the Elder Scroll years ago, detailing this exact prophecy. It was why she set out to find Gerruck and send him to the Greybeards in the first place. She can’t prevent Nirn’s destruction, but she can ensure it goes according to the Divine’s plans.
Olivia: I know, Gerruck. I’ve known since before we met.
Gerruck makes his way around the pillar and stops before her. She turns to meet his gaze, expecting scorn, or even betrayal. Instead, she sees a despondent, understanding expression.
Gerruck: I figured. Then you know what’s inside of me too, yes?
Olivia narrows her eyes and watches him dubiously.
Olivia: I don’t, actually.
She stares in silence as Gerruck nods his head slowly and ponders for a moment.
Gerruck: Last time the Divine’s tried this, they used Alduin. But instead of devouring the world, he tried to rule it.
Gerruck: To prevent that from happening again, they gave me his soul and power. It's the reason my other eye is black and it's the reason I... He... almost killed you. He is the reason these people are dead.
Olivia’s lips curl as Gerruck finishes. Her eyes twitch as they fall on him.
Olivia: No he isn’t.
Gerruck tips his head and scrunches his brow.
Gerruck: Um, yes he did.
With a gasp, Olivia gestures across the room around them.
Olivia: Have you taken a look around, Gerruck?
Olivia: No dragon fit in here!
Olivia: These people were slain by the sword. Your sword!
Olivia: They are dead because of me! Because of you!
Olivia: Don’t you dare ignore the results of our actions, Gerruck!
When she lashed out, Gerruck was noticeably shaken. He stumbled back, attempting to stammer a retort, but never had the chance. As she concludes, his expression morphs from bewilderment to disdain. He shakes his head, sternly.
Gerruck: I am not responsible for this. You misled them to stay here and Alduin guided his hand. That is the only role I had to play.
Gerruck turns away, glaring at Olivia from the corner of his eye.
Gerruck: The responsibility lies with you.
Olivia: You think I don’t know that? I will live with this for the rest of my life! As short as it may be now.
Olivia: I gave a false sermon just to collect the citizens for slaughter! I guided you to take this path!
Olivia: And by Elyvaea’s death, you accepted it! Do you think she’d agree with you now?
Gerruck suddenly halts, causing Olivia to cut off.
Gerruck: No… No, she wouldn’t.
Gerruck faces Olivia and rubs the back of his neck, uncomfortably. He didn’t realize it until now, but he had not heard nor said her name since she died. Elyvaea.
He mutters it quietly under his breath. He feels a sense of stability; remorseful stability, but stability none-the-less.
Gerruck: I… I’m sorry.
Olivia averts her gaze and rubs her arm.
Olivia: We have a lot of apologize for. And even more to come.
Nodding his head slowly, Gerruck turns around and marches to one of the few tables left standing.
Gerruck: Then we shouldn’t let them burden us.
Gerruck: Our reasons are our own, but our goal remains the same. If the Divines want Nirn destroyed, it is up to us to carry out their will.
Olivia follows behind him in silent agreement.
Gerruck: We have no allies and everyone in this world will oppose us.
Gerruck: Even those beyond it. The daedra seek to claim Nirn before we can destroy it.
Gerruck pulls out a chair, it scrapes across the floorboards with a heavy groan before he falls into it.
Gerruck: This is for the good of the world and its people. They will not understand, but this is what’s best for them.
Olivia stops besides the table and gulps.
Olivia: We are dictating the fates of the people who once called us heroes. Does that make us villains?
She takes the chair across Gerruck and slides into it. He shakes his head.
Gerruck: We are doing what we have to. For the good of the world.
Olivia: Perhaps there was another way? Something else we can try?
Gerruck: It’s too late for that.
Olivia: But what if-
Gerruck suddenly looks up snaps at her.
Gerruck: What else was there, Olivia? What?
Olivia can’t match his glare. She stares at the tabletop, frozen, and gulps.
Olivia: I don’t know, Gerruck.
Olivia: I don’t know…
The Winking Skeever vanishes as Castalia opens her eyes. The frigid, bright environment around her comes as a shock compared to the dim, warm bar. She takes multiple breaths, readjusting to her form, before glancing to the side.
Castalia: Uh… Malkor? What is it?
Malkor sways atop a horse, ogling her with narrowed eyes. They each claimed a steed from the stables outside Whiterun, hoping to make the trip to Markarth expeditious. Less than an hour into the trip, Castalia was already beginning to feel on edge. Each passing moment made her grow more and more tense. It was not long into it that she gave up waiting and needed to check in on Olivia.
Castalia: Sorry, I-
Malkor: I don’t care what you were doing.
Malkor: I know you have your own schemes going on, but if they slow you down again, I’m leaving you behind.
Before he finishes, Malkor kicks his horse forward, forcing it to a trot once again. Castalia feels his cold stare on the back of her head. She nods, her head shaking.
Malkor: Then hurry up.
The tension in Fort Dawnguard has escalated. Immediately after she awoke, Taeyva explained her encounter with Tullius and Elisif in Solitude. The news of their survival relaxed everyone, but the reprieve was short lived. Taeyva confirmed the capital cities destruction and that it was dragons that caused it.
A stunned silence followed. Words did not need to be exchanged; everyone shared the same thoughts. That the end was closer than they originally thought and their chances of coming out the victor were only growing slimmer.
Dennis was the first to leave. He muttered some excuse too quiet for anyone else to hear as he made a quick exit. Everyone else shared a few wary glances before splitting up into their own separate groups.
Davey: Lets try and focus on something else for now, okay?
Davey: Tell you what, lets head down to the fireplace. Drink to Vorn’s memory?
Davey pulled Mike and Talen aside and placed his meaty hands on each of their shoulders. He pulled them away when they each smiled half-heartedly in response.
Davey: What do you say?
Sorrow tugs at Talen’s heart, but he feels it lift at Davey's invitation.
Talen: Yeah, that sounds great.
Mike keeps his gaze to the floor but nods his head.
Mike: Sure. To Vorn.
Davey pats them each on the shoulder once again before leading them out. As Talen moves to follow, Isran calls out.
Isran: Talen. A moment?
Talen: Uh, sure.
He gestures for Davey and Mike to continue without him before turning around. Isran, Carcette, and Celann watch him approach, each bearing a stern expression. Talen gulps as he glances between them, taking slow, heavy steps forward.
Talen: Is everything alright?
Talen asks them warily.
Isran nods with a smile he doesn’t seem fully committed to.
Isran: Yes. We just had a thought.
The three of them share a look. As they return to Talen, Carcette continues where Isran left off.
Carcette: There has been clear opposition between our groups since this all started.
She speaks with her jaw clenched. Her teeth grind between her words, each one sounding forced. She shakes her head and queues Isran with a roll of her eyes.
He huffs, squinting at her with a curled lip, but continues.
Isran: We’re all too proud and adamant. It’s only going to make decision making more difficult as this goes on. Especially if Tullius and Elisif make it here.
Celann: We need someone impartial. Someone who can break ties and be the final word.
Talen feels a lump form in his throat.
Celann: We want you to be that person.
* * *
Torund: I don’t like this, Taeyva.
After Taeyva shared her experience in Solitude, Torund ushered her behind the pillar. He didn’t waste a beat, grunting in distaste as he glanced around to make sure no one else was listening, before beginning.
Torund: That was dangerous. Damn it, you could have lost control or worse.
Taeyva looks him in the eyes. They are narrowed and red. His jaw is clenched as tight as his fists and his shoulders are pulled back, brusquely.
Taeyva: It worked out though. I haven’t been able to use that power for years. It was incredible to see through their eyes again.
Torund: That’s exactly the problem, Taeyva. You should be able to use your strength as much as you like.
Torund: You are being held back by those chains. Now, for the first time ever, the people responsible for them are in our grasp.
Taeyva eyes him suspiciously as her smirk fades.
Taeyva: Are you suggesting something?
Torund glances behind himself again.
Torund: They’re weak right now, Taeyva. We have the entire might of Hircine behind us now. They’d have no choice but to-
Taeyva shakes her head.
Taeyva: We can’t threaten them. This alliance hangs by a thread and I don’t want us to be the reason it snaps.
Torund lets out a loud sigh and props himself against the pillar.
Torund: Well they won’t remove the chains by their own will.
Taeyva gives him a single nod.
Taeyva: They won’t. But someone else can make that decision instead.
Celann: We need someone impartial. Someone who can break ties and be the final word.
Torund raises a brow as Celann concludes, glancing back. Then turns back and tips his head, squinting dubiously at Taeyva.
Torund: And if that doesn’t work?
Taeyva faces him as her expression grows cold.
Taeyva: Then I suppose this alliance will be short lived after all.
* * *
Isran: So Talen, what do you say?
Talen can’t seem to find the words to say, or even form a simple thought. He feels honored, yet doubtful. He isn’t a leader; no way. What has he even done to earn this ridiculous reputation? It’s his fault they went to Riften in the first place. Half of the forces died in that battle and they didn’t even win off their own might. Even Taeyva’s aid wouldn’t have been enough had that figure not appeared in the water. He hasn’t made a single favorable decision yet. Why in oblivion do they want him to be their final word?
Taeyva: I think you should accept, Talen.
Talen: Huh? Y-you do?
Taeyva slides around the pillar. Torund stomps alongside her, stopping at the edge of the room without a sound.
Taeyva: You’re the only person who knows all three groups, after all.
Talen: Well yeah… but-
Celann: We’re not asking you to be in charge, Talen.
Celann: We respect you. You’ve guided us well so far. This is just making it official.
Celann: What do you say?
Talen clears his throat. He looks at each of them in disbelief.
Celann is smiling warmly, watching him resolutely. Talen has no reason to believe he would lie, especially after everything they’d gone through.
Isran appears serious, almost frowning. By now Talen knows that is just his normal appearance, but there’s more to it now. His eyes sparkles with anticipation. When their eyes meet, Isran gives him a single, firm nod.
Carcette doesn’t appear much different, however in place of her normal scowl is a slight curl in the corner of her lip. She matches his gaze and the curl grows into a faint smile.
Taeyva appears the most unique of all. Her brows are scrunched inward while she bites her lower lip softly. Talen mistakes it at first as apprehension, yet when their eyes meet, she smiles and gestures forward with her chin.
Talen turns back to Isran.
Davey: Here you go.
Davey marches into the room and slides a bottle of mead into Mike’s hand.
Mike: I think this is the first time you’ve gotten the drinks.
Mike grins and accepts the bottle. He leans back into his chair, watching the flames flicker. Davey plops into the seat adjacent to him and chuckles lightly.
Davey: Suppose so. Though it won’t be the last, either.
He shakes the bottle in his hand and smiles.
Davey: To Vorn!
Mike raises his own drink and returns the expression.
Davey: To Vorn!
He closes his eyes and tips the bottle to his lips.
As he opens his mouth, he nearly drops the bottle as it suddenly shrinks in his hand. He opens his eyes to catch it only to find he isn’t holding the bottle at all.
Mike: Wh-What the-
Mike shrieks and leaps to his feet. He chucks the bottle, now a strange, blue vial, from his hands.
It clatters onto the carpet. Mike immediately yells out to Davey, but as soon as he sees him, he cuts off.
Mike: Davey! Don’t drink-
Mike: Um… What are you doing?
Davey, now also on his feet, looks from Mikey down to himself. His bottle seems to have vanished as well…
…along with his clothes.
Davey: Wha- How- I-
His eyes grow wide as he raises his arms defensively.
Davey: I swear this wasn’t me!
They stand speechlessly, mouths agape in shock and bewilderment. Mike averts his gaze, blinking a few times along with a shake of his head, and nods stiffly at Davey.
Mike: Strangely enough, I actually believe you.
Torund: And you’re sure this will work?
After the discussion, Talen insisted on having a moment to think. As he stayed behind, everyone else left to get back to work. Isran and Celann left outside to assist in unloading the carts, presumably still filled with the dead. Carcette, on the other hand, left without a word.
Taeyva didn’t stay behind either. She told Talen where he could find her, then took Torund with her to the depths of the fort. Though Fort Dawnguard is mostly empty already, it should be completely desolate in the caverns in the back, away from prying eyes and ears.
Taeyva: Talen is smart, and I know he respects me. Plus, Tullius and Elisif’s arrival should prove my trustworthiness. Carcette is outnumbered already; if a vote is cast, she will have no choice but to remove them.
Torund: What if she refuses anyway?
Taeyva: Then we force her, by any means nece-
Taeyva halts and whips around, causing Torund to stumble.
Torund: Woah- Hey, what’s going-
Torund tries to stammer a retort but decides against it as Taeyva snipes him a glare.
Taeyva: I sense something… It’s…
Her voice trails off as her eyes grow wide. Torund feels a shiver run down his spine.
Five words pass Taeyva’s lips with a soft gasp.
Taeyva: One of them is here.
Talen rubs his hands across his knees as he sits on the edge of the bed. He listens to the soft crackling of flames of the torch burning above him. His breaths come out slow and complacent, yet his heart pulses aggressively. This is a lot of pressure.
Talen understands why they chose him. He is only as much of a Dawnguard as wearing imperial armor makes him a soldier in the legion, and he is even less of a Vigilant of Stendarr than both of those. Then there is Taeyva and her daedric force. Sure, Talen is the one member here who knows her best, but that isn’t saying much. They were in one another’s company for a week, at most.
Talen: I’m not strong enough for this.
Voice: Oh! Pish posh! You just need some help!
Talen nearly tumbles off the bed as the sharp, high pitched voice rings out in front of him. He looks up and grows stiff and mutters from gibberish that even he doesn’t understand.
Voice: What? Not even a thank you?
His body seems frozen. Not out of fright or shock, but as if some external force was keeping him still. Talen gulps and looks at the man before him, confused.
Talen: Thank you? For what?
The man laughs a shrill, squealy cackle as he dips into a shallow bow.
Voice: For saving you in Riften, of course! Call me Sheo. Sheogorath.
Sheogorath: At your service.
To be continued…