Rianne I (You are here!)
I wanted to colour code dialogue, but with the number of characters planned I realized I would soon run out of (easily readable) colours to apply to the text. Might just leave it on these two only for now.
I'm still bad at posing, I think the number of custom poses used between Chapter 1 and the prologue is about 40 so far, hopefully nothing stands out as too dodgy, I know some of them do to me :3. Still, if not for Collygon's tutorial, I wouldn't know how to pose at all and would be so much more limited, so, can thank him for all the weird poses you'll see me do o/
4E 202 20th of Rain's Hand - Haafingar Hold, Solitude
Rianne stirred in her sleep. It had been almost two months since she arrived in Skyrim, and it already felt like far too long.
Rianne did not like Skyrim. The entire region was cold, drab, grey and filled with all manner of people that were - in her mind - unjustifiably unfriendly towards her.
The weather had been awful - there had been no sign of snow, but whenever it didn't rain, it was cloudy and windy instead - this, she had been told, is what people in the province call 'spring'. it had, at the very least, recently gotten warm enough for her to be able to sleep in her small clothes.
She had spent the last few weeks running errands for the Magister's office and occasionally hunting down minor dissidents or "heretics" - the winter and early spring months would always be uneventful.
As a small mercy, Rianne was due to have the next few days off. She had little notion of what she would do in this city, though.
Perhaps, Fae would know better. She had been in Solitude for far longer and was more acquainted with the city. When the new regiment arrived, the Magister arranged for a few blocks to be sectioned off into a new "Elven District" - this came with no small amount of complaints from the local citizenry, but the Blue Palace ensured that any evictees were reasonably compensated.
Rianne did wonder how elves back home would react if their own authorities would try to evict them, and concluded that it would likely be far worse. Humans were, if nothing else, more accepting of hardship.
Rianne stood up on the edge of her bed - it was nothing like the one back home, but after spending the first few weeks in the barracks, she had learned to appreciate the privacy of her new apartment, no matter how humble it may have been.
Having already overslept, it was time to get changed and step out - find Fae - and plan for their free days.
Rianne eyed the glimmering set of armor on the mannequin. Personally fitted for her and forged at no small expense by one of the premier smiths in Alinor, Rianne genuinely enjoyed wearing it. It gave her otherwise rather soft figure an imposing form and made her stand out from the others dressed in the more traditional black and gold Thalmor uniforms.
Still, she would have no need of it today - something more comfortable would make for a welcome change.
Rianne opted for a white and blue tunic with black leggings. She had always thought that white went better with her complexion and wondered why the Thalmor uniforms were black instead.
As an officer, Rianne -eventually- received personal lodgings, rather than living out of the barracks with the rank and file. She had been given the old Rookery. This was likely meant as an insult - as the Magister and his right hand did not seem to be particularly fond of her. Not wanting to give them any satisfaction, Rianne preferred to accept it gracefully and redecorated it into a rather cozy home.
The building was positioned rather close to the gatehouse - Rianne had always joked that she was given this location since, in the event of a siege, her apartment would be one of the first things the Stormcloaks would destroy.
It did, however, have certain advantages. Perched on top of the battlements, Rianne could walk out of her room and head straight into the castle without ever stepping through the streets of Solitude and being gawked at by the nosy citizenry.
Castle Dour. Rarely had Rianne seen a more appropriately named place. The entire complex was cold and grey, other than the people, the only other sign of life was the ivy slowly encroaching on its gloomy walls.
The fortification served as the joint headquarters for the Imperial Legion and the Thalmor Expedition - every decision in the war against Windhelm would be taken here and with summer drawing ever closer, the weather would not be the only thing heating up.
Rianne sighed. When she closed her eyes, she could still see the gilded, shining spires of Alinor. Its towers, with their swirling ramparts, would dominate the Solitude skyline, rising so high above it that one would need to crane their neck at a rather uncomfortable angle to see them in full.
They would be covered not in cold, unfeeling stone - but glass - placed at such an angle that at noon, the mirrors would catch the light of the sun itself and shine it onto the glimmering, gemstone paved streets below.
The rubies, sapphires and emeralds would reflect the sunlight back at any pedestrians in their respective colours - a dazzling and somewhat uncomfortable display for the eyes of anyone not used to it - but certainly memorable. Everything was more beautiful back home.
Rianne's daydreaming would be cut short as she heard footsteps approaching - three pairs, by her count.
And then, her voice.
Faielle and the guards saluted in Elven fashion.
"Justicar." she nodded her head curtly. Always trying so hard to be official and proper in public. It was almost cute.
Rianne returned the salute, she could not help but smile, though. Fae was perhaps the only reason she transferred to this distant, wild land. The only ray of light in Castle Dour. She mimicked Fae's behavior as best she could. "Captain."
The guards accompanying Faielle walked off out of earshot, each securing one of the pair's flanks. Rianne eyed Faielle curiously. “You are in uniform.” She simply stated, having expected otherwise.
Faielle sighed heavily. “Bad news, I’m afraid. Our leave has been postponed.” Rianne smiled – in part to hide her own disappointment, but also because she had always found Fae’s pout cute.
Rianne maintained a cheery disposition as Fae approached the rampart, the scowl still present on her face.
“We caught a break with the disappearances. The Magister wants to see us, immediately. We’re likely to break down a few doors today..” She sighed again, the matter did not seem to interest her much.
Rianne interrupted her – she placed her hand on top of hers, giving it a light squeeze. “You know I find that scowl cute, Da’len, but I would rather you smile. We’ll get our time off soon enough. Whatever this is, I doubt it will delay it for long.”
“You should not be calling me that in public. The very walls of Solitude have ears, you know?” Fae’s hand twitched, but Rianne noted that she did not pull it away.
“Oh? Is that so? And what will happen if I don’t listen, hmmm?” Rianne grinned, clearly amused by Fae’s concern. She always did overthink things, and was perhaps a touch paranoid.
Fae considered her answer for a few moments.
“Well, we could both be court martialled and sent back to Alinor in disgrace…” Fae mused, a smirk growing over her face as well.
Rianne nodded her head and considered the scenario. "Hmm.. That could happen.." It almost seemed worth it.
Rianne embraced her fully and leaned in , whispering softly into her ear.
“Mmh, if the walls have ears, then they already got an earful two months ago when we were reunited, you remember, do you not?”
Rianne certainly remembered. Fae had been stationed in the province for an year longer than her. Rianne still blamed herself for not being with her during the Dragon Crisis. She had been sorely missed.
She did not wait for an answer, instead closing her eyes and nuzzling her neck.
"We'd have been in the Magister's office within a day.." She mockingly imitated Talandil's usual tone "Unacceptable! Impardonable! You disgrace my glorious command, raargh!"
Fae finally did smile. "That does sound quite like him. Are you sure you didn't miss your calling as an actor?"
Rianne grinned and planted a small kiss on her neck, then pulled her head away.
"The disappearances. What did we learn?"
Rianne was familiar with the matter. At first, only Imperial Legion soldiers went missing – the general consensus was that the men had deserted and joined the Stormcloak rebellion – however, when Aldmeri officers started vanishing, it became clear that there was more to the matter than mere fractured loyalties.
"I haven't much to tell. Only that we've received a credible tip, and the Magister will have us investigate." Fae gave her shoulder a small squeeze.
Both elves looked off in opposite directions as they still cradled each other - just to check if anyone was watching.
Rianne nodded her head. "We shouldn't keep him waiting then."
Magister Talandil seemed to have half a dozen different offices across the city, by Rianne's count. Today, he would be in the Blue Palace.
Ostensibly the seat of Skyrim's High Queen - granting the Thalmor Expedition even a small portion of the building for their own use was considered a grave insult by the jarls loyal to Windhelm. Rianne shook her head. It was an unnecessary provocation - but Talendil enjoyed parading around the palace with his personal guard. It made him feel even more important.
Rianne could hear the shouting and screaming from above as soon as she entered the main hall. Evidently, Queen Elisif's court was in session and the courtiers carried on the same as ever.
Elisif the Fair - High King Torygg's widow - had been crowned not long before Rianne's arrival. Naturally, only the jarls that had already declared for Solitude attended the Moot. This made her legitimacy.. questionable. But she had the full backing of the Empire and the approval of the Thalmor Embassy.
Rianne thought that Elisif meant well - but she had never expected to be High Queen. Her advisors constantly bickered between themselves and jockeyed for her favour. Elisif seemed completely overwhelmed.
"Justicar. The Magister is waiting. No time to tarry." Fae called after her in that official manner again, making her snap out of her thoughts.
The two approached the doors of the Magister's office. His personal guard, in their glimmering armor and with great swords that seemed far too large for any Mer to actually lift, flanked the entrance, like statues.
Rianne would have greeted them, but they never answered the last few times she tried. In fact, she had never heard them speak, remove their helmets, or be anywhere other than by the Magister's side.
She strode past the unusually tall elves and opened the doors. As ever, they did not turn their heads or even looked at her. Rianne always found the two unnerving. This was no doubt intended, the Magister greatly enjoyed such displays of power.
“Well well, our wayward Justicar finally deems fit to honour us with her presence.”
Celenya frowned at Rianne as she turned towards her. Rianne tried to think of a time when she saw the elf smile – she could not remember one.
Celenya walked towards the pair in that half-menacing, half-playful manner that she seemed to like so much.
Rianne smiled sweetly, not betraying any of her thoughts. “Pleasant as ever, Celenya.” – She may have wanted to say, but she did not.
“Have fun at the mansion, Dawnstrider.” The Junior Magister accentuated the name as she walked by. Celenya always seemed to delight in referring to Rianne by her disgraced House name. Rianne was unsure of quite what she did to earn her enmity.
Being second only to the Magister himself in the Expedition’s hierarchy, she seemed to treat everyone else poorly – she barely even acknowledged Faielle’s presence, preferring to focus her venom on Rianne instead.
“Junior Magister.” Rianne merely nodded her head as she went by.
“Magister Talandil.” The two elves stood at attention and saluted their Commander. He did not return the gesture, preferring to just stare at the Justicar.
After wrinkling his nose at them, he turned towards the window and crossed his arms, speaking in that slightly irritated tone he always seemed to have.
“I will be brief, as you are already late. We have a lead in the disappearances. Sergeant Tauron has already received his orders – you and Captain Faielle will be joining him and leading the investigation at Proudspire Manor. We have reason to believe Lady Proudspire is involved.”
“Lady Proudspire, my lord? The socialite?” Rianne asked.
Rianne was surprised. She was vaguely familiar with the woman in question, having seen her at court once or twice.
Sylvia Proudspire seemed interested in little more than parties and court life – never getting involved in politics or anything of the sort. There were plenty Rianne might have suspected of involvement in court – but she truly was not one of them.
As the only survivor of her noble family, Lady Proudspire had been missing for the better part of the last year, and was presumed dead. Indeed, her property had even been on sale until her sudden and unexpected return a few months ago… a return coinciding with the start of the disappearances.
Rianne raised an eyebrow – perhaps there was something to this after all.
“Correct. She has not been seen at court for days, or I would have simply had her arrested. Go to her Manor – arrest her servants, search the premises for clues of her whereabouts. I want her found, Justicar.”
Talandil sounded particularly serious – the disappearances had been a stain on his command. Rianne did not think he seemed particularly confident in this lead, though. She nodded and bowed nonetheless.
“As you wish, Magister.” Rianne and Faielle took three steps back, then turned to leave.
“And Justicar…” The Magister stopped her. “… If you report to my office out of uniform again, I will have you demoted.”
“Apologies, Magister.” Rianne dipped her head.
“Short march today, Tauron.” She smiled. Proudspire Manor –was- as close to the Palace as one could be – it was one of the largest and most opulent manors on Solitude’s main boulevard. This raid would be the talk of the month in the whole city, no doubt.
Tauron was everything an Aldmeri Soldier should be, Rianne thought. Professional, Courteous, Brave, and Driven. He seemed well liked by his soldiers, too. She nodded at him as they assembled in the courtyard.
“Lady Rianne. Lady Faielle.” The Elf nodded his head and shook both their hands. “It is indeed. We are ready to proceed, at your command.”
“Keep your blades sheathed, we are guests in this city - we should not make ourselves any more unwelcome than we already are.”
Rianne looked down Solitude Boulevard as they made their way to the manor. She hoped to resolve the matter discreetly. Even here in Solitude, most citizens regarded the elves with suspicion.
Rianne stared down the guard at the mansion’s door. “Disarm him.” She ordered two of her soldiers, then turned her head towards the other pair. “Make your way to the back door. No one leaves without talking to us first. No one.”
The man guarding the gate seemed tough, but his hard demeanour all but evaporated as the two black-clad Thalmor soldiers approached. “ eey.. I.. I dun want any t-trouble..” the man stuttered as he gave up his sword.
The Elves walked into the mansion. Two maids waited for them at the front door – the older one, the one with more sense, by Rianne’s estimation, immediately dropped to her knees and pleaded with them.
“I beg your forgiveness, My Lady, we.. we know nothing of where Mistress Proudspire has gone to – s-she left without a word to us, she didn’t even pack anything!”
Her hands were shaking so badly that she could not even clasp them together properly.
Rianne stared at the two dispassionately. “Are there any more of you?”
“N-no, My lady. Mistress Proudspire was rather private.. she did not take many ser-“
Rianne turned her head towards her companions, interrupting the maid. “You – watch them.” She nodded to the Thalmor soldier. “We search this place from top to bottom – leave nothing un-turned, we must find her.”
The trio spread out through the manor – Rianne entered what appeared to be the study. She narrowed her eyes as she approached a strange book laid out on the lectern. The letters danced and shifted on the page, merely looking at them made Rianne feel dizzy. This was clearly illegal material – the Magister’s office would be able to decipher its contents later.
Rianne made her way down into the basement – she had sensed a strange, sickly sweet smell ever since she entered the mansion. Faint, at first, but it only grew stronger as she descended. She could not quite place it yet.
She entered what appeared to be a storage room – she wrinkled her nose as the miasma began to fill her nostrils.
Other than the smell, nothing seemed particularly noteworthy about the room, but as she canvassed one of the walls, she found an unusually shaped chain, pulling on it made the “wall” shift and groan, revealing a secret passage – This was.. unexpected.
The smell was much stronger now – she finally recognized it: This was the smell of death. Her heartbeat quickened as she stared down the, narrow, dark tunnel. “Tauron! Faielle! Get the others – and bring torches. I found something.” She frowned, a part of her still hoped that she was wrong.
The Elves descended into the tunnel. It lead surprisingly deep underground. In truth, they all knew what they would find. They could smell it.
Rianne had been at war. She had seen all manner of horrors she would rather forget – but nothing could really prepare her for what she saw when her torch illuminated the chamber. All of the elves recoiled in horror at the scene.
The chamber was.. a carnival of horrors. A man stood hanged from the ceiling, the slightly slanted floor made his blood pool beneath the altar in the middle.
An elf was laid on the altar – Rianne recognized the patrolman, though she could not quite place his name. His corpse was carefully arranged so as to cradle what appeared to be a human skull
Four more skulls were laid out along the edge of the slab with what seemed like meticulous precision.
In one corner, a pile of carbonized bodies lay on top of each other indiscriminately. Rianne did not count, but they were.. numerous.
Perhaps most ominous of all was the strange looking, dried up corpse neatly laid out on another slab. The matter was settled, Rianne thought. This is necromancy. Necromancy! Not more than a few blocks away from the Blue Palace itself!
She looked to her companions. Fae turned and retched – seeing her Fae like that made Rianne even angrier. Tauron, ever stoic, seemed visibly disturbed.
Rianne paused for a few moments. She was.. unsure of what to even say. She eventually turned to leave. “I’ve seen enough. Arrest the staff – inform the Magister. We have our culprit.”
Stepping outside, Rianne breathed the fresh air in deeply. To say that the Magister was going to be livid would be putting it lightly. She looked up to the Blue Palace – this would have consequences.
Rianne sighed. She knew full well what would happen next.