Faielle I (You are here!)
I'm baaaack \o/
So after a long, loooong break, I've actually finished my next Chapter. I am hoping to carry on with the one after that in much (relatively) shorter order, but for now, here we are!
Note: This Chapter is long. It is longer than the other things I've uploaded so far put together, with a total of 192 images and probably way too many words.
So to make it easier to read I split it into five chapters of varying sizes, wherever it makes sense to split.
If you've never seen any of this series before, I do recommend you at very least go look at Rianne I for context, but everything is (or will be) relevant in some way. Anyhows, without further ado:
This was meant to be my header, but it's too tall and it would cut off their heads, uuurgh. I'll make a new one later \o/
4E 202 21st of Rain's Hand - SOLITUDE, HAAFINGAR HOLD
The next morning, the sky was grey. Sleep had failed to clear Faielle’s head of the horrors she witnessed in that dungeon. Since the Dragon Crisis, she had done little but chase hoodlums and Talos worshipers – occasionally, the Stormcloak rebels would be involved – but necromancy? That was unheard of in Solitude.
The Magister had been screaming for blood up and down the Blue Palace ever since their discovery. Faielle could barely sleep last night thinking of what he would do.
She still remembered the previous Thalmor Commander, Ondolemar, who had been assassinated by a Stormcloak cell in Markarth last year. The reprisals that followed had been brutal – The Reach remains a rebel stronghold to this day in part because of them.
As Faielle walked into the courtyard of Castle Dour, she was right there.
Radiant as ever – and this time, properly uniformed. She truly did not know what she would do if she were still alone in this place.
“You don’t look so good.”
Ria spoke in her typically confident and matter-of-fact tone, but Faielle could see the concern underlying it all too easily. It bothered her to worry Ria. The last thing she wanted was to be a burden.
“I’m.. it’s fine.” Faielle shook her head, essentially denying her own words. She shifted on the spot as Rianne placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
“I know it was awful. I promise we’ll catch the one responsible. Together, alright?”
Rianne gave her shoulder a light squeeze. Why couldn’t she be as strong? The scene seemed to have barely phased her Ria, and now the Justicar stood determined to catch the one responsible. All Faielle wanted to do was curl up in bed and try to forget about it.
"Im sorry. Yes, of course.” She murmured. “Do we have our orders yet?”
She had been anxious to know what their next move would be – it would doubtlessly be ugly, but the waiting was worse.
Rianne sighed and glared at the door to the keep.
“No. We do not. Talendil has been shouting at Varus for the better part of the morning. They should come to an agreement soon enough. In fact… now that you’re here, we can make our way inside."
Rianne gestured towards the door all too daintily for someone clad in plate. The two proceeded into the Legion Headquarters.
Their footsteps echoed through Castle Dour’s dusty halls. Not even a whole legion of caretakers could keep the fortress clean – and the actual Legion was always chronically understaffed.
“Don’t brood. Talendil hates it.” Rianne smiled - it was not her real smile. She was trying to encourage her. She always did think of everything.
Talendil's personal guards flanked the entrance. Always unmoving, always unnerving. Their presence signaled that he would be on the other side of the door - assuming Faielle hadn't already heard his shouting.
"A NECROMANCER, VARUS! IN -MY- CITY!" The thud of a fist against a table could be heard.
"Hey.. come on.." Rianne arched an eyebrow at her. She didn't seem particularly fond of the guards either.
The door creaked as Rianne pushed it open. The thunderous voice continued.
"This will NOT go unpunished. YOU - You will speak with the Queen and get us what I requested!"
The Magister seemed just as apoplectic as he had been yesterday afternoon. Faielle had some doubt whether he actually cared for the lost soldiers, but the manner in which they died was certainly a stain on his command. This embarrassed him, especially back home. Rumours travel fast, even from desolate backwaters such as Skyrim.
"Looks like they've been at it for a while." Rianne whispered. "Come on. Best not get in their way."
"What IS your sage advice then?! What does the Great Varus Laecinnius counsel we should do? Forgive and forget as our enemies grow ever bolder? Wake up, boy. You're not in the Imperial City..."
Faielle had not seen the General very often - she was most surprised when he replied in what could only be described as a near-perfect Alinor dialect. She had not even heard a human speak Elven before.
"Need I remind you, Magister - far more of my men fell victim to this woman than your own." Varus seemed like the complete opposite of Talendil. Calm, collected - disinterested sounding, almost. This no doubt aggravated the Magister even more.
"What do you want? What would you have me do? String up all the peasants remotely related to the Proudspire name? Would that satisfy you? Is that what you want?"
The General droned on in an almost mocking tone, the argument clearly boring him. He stared the Magister and his right hand down from across the table, no doubt making his own officer quite uncomfortable, as she did not seem to understand their conversation.
"We want JUSTICE." the Junior Magister cut him off with what sounded more like a snarl than the typically melodious Elven tongue. ".. A concept that you're not all that familiar with, Shemlen."
She frowned and shook her fist at him in indignation. Faielle widened her eyes as Celendys uttered the racial slur. Varus, however, did not seem particularly phased.
Faielle turned her gaze to Ria and Tauron. While she felt like she could barely breathe, the two did not seem particularly perturbed by the argument - even slightly amused, perhaps.
Rianne tilted her head at the Sergeant as she whispered.
"Any progress yet, Tauron? Do we have a conclusion?"
"Not quite yet. But.." The elf pointed his chin towards the General across the room. ".. I believe the esteemed General is about to reach a compromise."
Varus Laecinnius stroked his chin and rolled his eyes. With a heavy sigh, he nodded his head.
"You want Dragon's Bridge? Fine. You will have it. If that's what will satisfy you.." Varus sounded more like a parent giving in to his child's demand than a negotiator.
The Magister still fumed, but he remained silent, perhaps surprised that the General relented so quickly.
"... I will make all necessary arrangements with the Queen, You can expect a letter of approval from the Blue Palace this afternoon."
Faielle watched them intently. She did feel Ria's gaze on her though, and before long, heard her voice as well.
"We have a destination. That hamlet is not far from the capital... an odd choice."
Faielle shuddered at the thought. Dozens of people had just been sentenced, and they didn't even know it yet.
Varus casually turned around and began to stroll away without waiting for a reply from his peers.
"Come Rikke. We have a war to win... I'm sure our Elven allies can achieve 'justice' in our name too."
He dryly drolled on while the two Elven leaders glared at him. His callous disregard for life aside, Faielle had a newfound respect for the man. She knew of no one else who could leave the Magister pair speechless, and get away with it.
The two Magisters turned to their subordinates. Talendil was still seething as he looked at Tauron - General Varus had gotten the last word, and the Magister was not pleased.
"Tauron. Inform our new Bosmer Rangers that they are to track down this woman. This farce ends. Now."
"My Lord." The Sergeant straightened his back and nodded, then proceeded to leave the room. Faielle had not met the new arrivals from Valenwood yet, but she did hear that they were some of the best trackers and archers in Tamriel - as well as being fanatically loyal to the Dominion.
The latter was seldom good news.
"The two of you..." Talendil turned to the elf pair. ".. Will be going to Dragon's Bridge. The village and surrounding lands were administered by the Proudspire family. Interrogate the villagers, then let everyone know what happens when you invoke the wrath of the Thalmor."
Faielle felt a lump in her throat at that last part, despite the Magisters' deadpan delivery. Both her and Ria acknowledged the order regardless. "Yes, Magister." They said in unison. Their hands are just as dirty, she thought.
"Celendys will be leading this operation. Pick the ones you trust most from the rank and file - and be discreet."
"I am honored, Magister." Celendys smiled. Not as a courtesy - her smile seemed genuine. The Junior Magister seemed to almost revel in this kind of thing. Why was she so cruel?
"And Celendys..." Talendil called from across the room. "Ten for every one of ours. See to it that it is done."
The Junior Magister looked downright delighted. "With pleasure." "Come along now, -Dawnstrider-, we need to be ready when that little worm comes through with the 'Queen's' approval."
As usual, Celendys didn't so much as acknowledge Faielle's presence, but she always took pleasure in mocking Ria. It was a petty matter, the two Magisters were not of noble blood, whereas Ria was. Nobility, however, was not quite as in vogue since the Thalmor takeover. Only Talendil was old enough to have known a time before the Thalmor were in power, but such rivalries ran deep.
Ria glared at the elf. Cold and icy. It was not a look Faielle saw often, though it seems the locale - and the company - brought it out in her more often than not.
"Of course, Junior Magister." Ria answered tersely, giving Faielle only a brief, softer glance before walking out.
Once outside, Celendys sized the two up. She always did somehow manage to look down at them, despite not actually being any taller. She spoke in her rather bored, languid tone. The tone she had when there was no one to torment - Faielle thought.
"I will be handpicking a number of Mer for our operation. I expect to see both of you outside the gates by late afternoon. We will arrive in Dragon's Bridge with the dusk - that way, most of the villagers will be home to greet us." She grinned sadistically, then turned to leave without waiting for a reply.
Ria sighed heavily as soon as Celendys was out of earshot. "Worse than I expected. I hope you're ready for today."
She was not ready. How could she be? Faielle did not consider herself a coward - she was no stranger to battle, but this... it was not right.
"The human general... he just gave his people away.. how could he do that?"
As much of an impression as Varus may have made, Fae could not comprehend his callousness.
"They're not his. He doesn't see them that way. He's only here for the war. Would probably trade the whole province for his own personal gain." Ria shook her head as they climbed up the battlements.
This was an alien concept to Faielle. Selling your own kin like this? Not even the likes of Celendys would do that, or so she hoped.
"Why are we wasting our time in this village? What could they know about the goings-on in Solitude? This sounds like nothing more than revenge..."
Ria stared at the sky, she took a few moments to reply.
"Yes. That's exactly what it is. I will speak with Celendys. She may yet listen to reason..." Ria did not seem so sure.
"If she decides just to make a few arrests, scare a few peasants - Talendil may be angry, but he will accept it, coming from her."
Knowing Celendys, Faielle had some doubts that such a plan would work.
"I don't know if I can go through another massacre..." She hated burdening Ria with such nonsense - she sounded pathetic, she thought. This was not how an Altmer soldier should behave...
Ria grabbed her right wrist and placed her left hand on her shoulder, giving both a soft squeeze. She smiled reassuringly and tilted her head as she spoke.
"Before summer comes around again, we will be back in Alinor, mhmm?"
Faielle wished she could have the same confidence. Ria seemed to sense this, per usual.
"What is the first place you'd want to visit, hmm? Considering we'll be.." Ria raised an eyebrow, her voice turning droll " .. proud heroes of the Dominion... I would expect we can go anywhere."
Fae shifted on the spot uncomfortably. She dared not consider an end to her assignment for fear of disappointment. After all, both the previous Magister and Human General had also proclaimed that this would only be a months long affair.
The former had been assassinated, and the latter recalled after near going mad, and that was a year ago.
Her voice barely a whisper, she answered: "I.. have some relatives in Skywatch I haven't seen in a long time.. and the beaches are nice.." Fae managed the smallest smile. She was startled as Ria patted her shoulder and nodded, before breaking away.
"Skywatch, hmm? Think on that instead. Alright?"
"I have a few things to attend to before we leave. I'll see you at the gates.."
Faielle found it difficult not to follow her as she walked away. It made her feel needy. Ria would do perfectly fine on her own, she thought. But her? She would be useless.
"Try not to be late. I would rather not give Celendys any reason to rant."
Ria seemed to regard the Junior Magister more as an annoyance than a true threat. The truth was Celendys scared Faielle. She was perhaps the second or third most powerful sorceress currently in the province, and by far one of the most fanatical Thalmor advocates.
"Of course." She remembered to nod. "I.. I'll see you there."
Faielle sighed. Her eyes followed Ria as she stepped down from the battlements, all the way until she disappeared around a corner. Being alone gave her time to think about what would happen. Too much time.
This would be a long day.
Evening began to settle over Solitude - the streets seemed eerily quiet.
They were not any more quiet than on any other given day, but the lack of distractions only further soured Faielle's mood.
As she made her way through the front gates, she could see them. Ria and Celendys inspected a squad of Thalmor soldiers. Handpicked by Celendys herself, Faielle could count twelve. An unusually high number for the task - but the Magister had always enjoyed displays of force.
Ria glanced in her direction and nodded her head. Celendys, on the other hand, ignored her - as usual.
She also seemed angry about something - as usual.
The Thalmor soldiers stood at attention, proudly holding their gleaming black shields against their chests, the banner of Solitude fluttering above their heads.
When Fae arrived before the Dragon Crisis with the original expeditionary force, they worked largely in secrecy - such a display would be unheard of. Today the holds loyal to the Empire would openly work with Thalmor agents - much to the outrage of the others.
Summer was nearly here, and with it, the unofficial truce between the loyalists and Stormcloak rebels would end. It had occured to Faielle that today's actions were more than just revenge - or about Talendil's reputation. Tensions were at a fever pitch, and the Magister intended to push the humans right over the edge.
"And the household staff we arrested yesterday? Did we learn anything?" Faielle overheard Ria speak as she approached.
"I personally saw to that. They did not appear to know much - one of them did point us to the village, but we already knew of it." Celendys paused for a few seconds, before shrugging one shoulder.
"The subjects did not survive interrogation." She said with a satisfied smirk, it made Faielle feel sick.
"Ah, of course not. Another grand conspiracy against the Dominion - snuffed out." Ria frowned at the Magister.
Celendys nearly bristled with indignation, but it would be improper of her to act out in front of all the soldiers - Talendil preached temperance to all of his officers, even if he did not practice it himself.
"I will permit you that bit of sarcasm this time, Dawnstrider. We have more important matters to attend to, now that we are all here."
"Indeed, we do. Shall we, then?" Rianne delicately gestured down the road. Faielle had always found her effortlessly authoritative attitude attractive - that it made Celendys fume was even better.
The Junior Magister did not answer. She glared at her troops. Before long, they would be underway
Their unit would have been quite a sight as they marched down from the capital, but nary a soul was actually there to meet them. The war had taken its toll on the province - as did the dragons, and those who did survive faced famine.
Faielle felt a familiar hand on her shoulder.
She heard Ria's voice as she turned her head. Faielle nodded her head. She did not feel any better, but did not want to burden Ria with such nonsense. Her answer seemed to mostly satisfy her.
She dared not look in her direction, but she could feel Celendys' disapproving gaze as Ria tried to reassure her.
The Magister did not abide weakness. In fact, Faielle was somewhat surprised she had kept her position when the leadership changed.
Celendys seemed to glow with pride as the village came into view. Everyone dropped what they were doing and stared as they marched into view. Most of the villagers here had not even seen many Altmer, much less the black-clad soldiers of the Thalmor.
"Look, grandmother! The black ones are coming!"
Faielle was surprised. The boy sounded excited - his grandmother was not as pleased.
"Hush, dear. Go inside with your sister. Don't come out until I return, do you understand?"
"O-oh.. yes, grandmother.."
The Imperial garrison scrambled into position. Their arrival was unexpected and the soldiers seemed intent on blocking their way.
Curious villagers began to gather behind the makeshift shield wall - this was likely the most commotion the sleepy village had seen in months.
As many other units of the Imperial Legion, the garrison at Dragon's Bridge had seen better days, to Faielle they looked only a few steps above the bands of highwaymen that roamed the countryside.
Such was the state of all outlaying Imperial garrisons. Faielle had heard that Laecinnius' strategy involved pooling his best troops in the capital, ready to march to a decisive, war-winning battle for Whiterun come summer.
She shuddered at the thought. This summer would be as bloody as the last, even without the dragons.
Against them, though, these humans were hopelessly outmatched. The officer seemed to signal to his soldiers to stop and then began to cautiously approach.
"State your business, Mer." He said curtly, much to Celendys' indignation.
"We are here to interrogate the villagers. They have been tied to a series of murders in the capital." Celendys stated coldly, barely masking her disdain.
"What?! That's preposterous! Most of the folk here haven't even BEEN to the capital, how could they possibly be involved in an-"
"That is none of your concern." Celendys cut him off and produced a parchment - the seal of the Blue Palace prominently displayed on it.
"These are your new orders. You have been reassigned to Solitude." She explained matter-of-factly as his eyes glazed over the letter in disbelief.
"I believe congratulations are in order. You and your men may finally leave this pigsty behind. Solitude will surely be an improvement for the likes of you.." Celendys grinned as she mocked him.
The legionnaire tore up the parchment and threw it to the ground. The two glared at each other in silence.
it seemed like an eternity, but a mere few seconds later, the man spoke up:
"Varus has lost his mind. I will NOT leave this village to your 'mercy'."
Faielle's eyes widened as he reached for his sword. He was unaware that he was standing before the second or third most powerful sorceress in the province. Celendys raised her hands, clenching her fingers as her hands turned ablaze. The soldiers reached for their swords in unison - they were moments away from a massacre. Her hand shakily reached for her own sword.
Before she could grip her hilt, she felt that reassuring touch on her shoulder again. Ria had no intention to unsheathe her sword - she nodded at Faielle, then stepped forward.
"I believe that's quite enough.." Rianne's voice rang out. With just a few words, everyone's attention was on her - authority seemed to come naturally to her - she did not need to frown or threaten. Even Celendys seemed surprised.
"Your orders come from High Queen Elisif herself. You would do well to obey them" She paused for a few moments, as the man seemed unconvinced.
"Do you understand why we are here? We are tracking a dangerous necromancer - who murdered and defiled our comrades as well as yours. She may have even been here.."
Ria tilted her head. “We are only an advance force. Two dozen more Mer are marching from the south. Captain Irorlian's contingent has been continuously engaged with the enemy – YOUR enemy – for the last month. He will be most displeased to find even more Men defying us and I assure you, he is far less amiable than I."
She paused for a moment, nodding her head. “Do not throw the lives of your men away today. Return to Solitude. You are being reassigned.”
This was a lie. Faielle knew of no Captain Irorlian and there were definitely no southern reinforcements. Ria smiled ever so sweetly – as if she had just invited the man to tea rather than threatened his life. He seemed quite convinced that she was telling the truth.
Silently, the legionnaire turned around and walked back to his men with a plodding, defeated pace.
Celendys scoffed. "Hmph. Deceit? From the honorable noble blood of Old Alinor? Colour me surprised."
"Do you truly wish to cause a diplomatic incident? I don't think Talendil would approve."
"What would you know of what Talendil wants? It would be better if you just did your duty.." Celendys scowled.
Shortly thereafter, the Legion soldiers began to depart. Simple folk though they may be, they were no fools. Everyone knew what would happen here - the Markarth Massacre was still fresh in all of their minds. Faielle thought it was a small miracle that the pact with the Imperials still held after that.
The Imperial turned his head towards the elves as they marched by.
"Skyrim will remember whatever happens here. Watch yourselves."
Celendys stared incredulously at the man for a few moments - she did not expect a threat, even a rather subtle one. She then scowled, clenching her fist.
“Good. Let them remember what happens when they defy the Thalmor.”
The soldiers' eyes were firmly planted in the ground as they left. Faielle thought there was no more shameful defeat for a soldier than failing those you were sworn to protect - and yet, they had little choice.
Their path now cleared, Celendys ordered her soldiers to proceed with but a nod of her head. The Mer promptly marched down the sides of the street in single file, surrounding the crowd that had gathered in the village centre.
They were scared, their only protectors - such as they were - had just vanished over the horizon. They stood alone as the soldiers began to surround them.
Everyone was silent. Faielle felt anxious - would Celendys truly go through with the Magisters' orders? It was clear that Lady Proudspire had ridden east instead - no one here was likely to know anything of her activities, much less to be involved.
After a few moments that seemed like an eternity, the crowd made way for an old man and his caretaker...
The pair slowly shuffled towards them, despite his advanced age and hunched, frail posture, there was a certain clarity in his eyes.
Both he and his caretaker - who guided him very carefully - were surprisingly well-groomed for peasants.
Faielle had heard of this. Human villages often had an 'Elder' as a representative. Respected and wise, they would negotiate with any outsiders, as well as offer advice and mediate any issues within the village itself.
Some of them even had some skill in the Restoration school of magic - the smallfolk were generally suspicious of such things, but Elders were implicitly trusted.
"That's far enough, Hrodgæir. I can still walk on my own, you know."
The Elder spoke in a somewhat raspy but otherwise clear voice. As soon as he finished, the other man bowed deeply, clasping his hands together, then silently joined the others.
The Elder cleared his voice and began greeting his 'guests'.
"Welcome to Dragon's Br - "
"Where is Proudspire, shemlen?" Celendys impatiently snapped at him. She never was one for courtesies, even less so towards humans.
The man seemed taken aback. He was not used to such treatment - behind him, the soldiers had encircled the crowd. He tried his best not to seem concerned, but Faielle could see it - he was scared too.
"Ah.. it is Mistress Proudspire that you seek? I'm afraid she never actually graces us with a visit. We were most happy to hear of her safe return last year. It truly is a tragedy, what happened to her family.." The man shook his head, he seemed sincere.
"The last time she visited us was many years ago as a girl. She was with her father - gods rest his soul - he was the most magnanimous ruler this region had seen in generations, but none of his children seemed interested in ruling... a pity."
The more the Elder droned on, the more incensed Celendys seemed to become.
"Mistress Proudspire has been very hands-off with her rule, even the tax collectors are late sometimes. The lords and ladies in Solitude are rarely interested in what happ-"
Celendys frowned. She turned to the two. Faielle avoided eye contact.
“Useless, as expected."
The Junior Magister turned around, she seemed to be considering what to do next.
"I.. I apologize we could not be of more help. You are welcome to stay for however long you wish - the Four Shields Tavern is large enough to accommodate your group."
"Celendys! We don't need to do this - arrest some of them if we must, but just leave the rest. That legionnaire was right - the humans will remember. We do not need a diplomatic incident, least of all just before the summer offensive."
Rianne was trying to appeal to Celendys' logic, as any other argument would be a waste of time. Her words seemed to fall on deaf ears though, as Celendys did not reply.
"Talendil may be displeased, but he will respect your judgment. Are you hearing me?"
The Junior Magister whirled around - before anyone else could react, flames erupted from her hands and flew towards the Elder at a frightening pace. He did not even have time to scream before being turned into a human torch - a second sun, turning dusk into day.
Faielle covered her mouth, or she would have likely screamed. Even Ria recoiled in horror.
"Enough! We've made our point - Proudspire will get the message, if she even cares, which I doubt.."
Ria tried to appeal to Celendys once more. Faielle loved her for doing so, but the smirk on Celendys' lips told her it was futile.
"You never did have the stomach for our work." Celendys snorted dismissively. "One wonders how you even got your position - even the rank and file have more guts than you. Tell me, Dawnstrider - why are you even here, if not to enforce the will of the Thalmor?"
Celendys did not seem to expect an answer. Her flames were snuffed out as quickly as they ignited, and she began to walk towards Faielle..
The crowd was stunned. Not only had most of them never seen a sorceress before, but the most respected man in the village lay a smoldering husk at their feet. Women grabbed their heads and screamed, men recoiled in terror...
Faielle's eyes would dart around the crowd as it was quickly getting out of control. The black-clad Thalmor soldiers had unsheathed their blades and slowly began to tighten their encirclement.
"NO!" The Elder's caretaker tried to rush to him, only to be stopped by the Elf in front of him. He could only reach out for his mentor in vain.
"Please! Let us go! We're not from this village! We don't know anyone here!" One woman banged fruitlessly on the Mer's shield as her mother tried to pull her back to 'safety'.
"You will pay for this, knife-ears! The GODS are WATCHING! TALOS will BURN you ALL!" One particularly animated man could be heard to shout. An older woman was trying to calm him - even now, she still hoped submission would lead to leniency.
Some were in shock, others began to pray for deliverance. Real though the Aedra are, interference in mortal affairs was rare. There would be no divine intervention today..
Others accepted their fate. Preferring to look upon those they love one more time - to hold them - rather than struggle hopelessly.
Faielle wondered what she and Ria would do in their place. Ria would fight - she had no doubt, but she was unsure about herself.
Not everyone was willing to beg for their life or just lay down, though. Scared as they may be, some were even willing to fight, even bare handed. Faielle had never seen a man take a swing at an armed Thalmor soldier - until today.
"How many Mer were found dead at Proudspire Manor?" Celendys spoke in the Human tongue, loud enough for the crowd behind them to hear her.
"Three, Magister. Three elves." Faielle was confused. Celendys surely knew the number already.
The Magister turned, her eyes slowly scanning the crowd. She was counting...
Once she was done, she closed her eyes and sighed with disappointment.
"It's enough, Celendys. Just look at these people - they're terrified. Your message will be far more effective if they're alive to spread it." Ria would interject in Elven. The crowd did not know it, but she was negotiating for their lives.
"Talendil's orders were clear." Celendys looked to her soldiers.
"This is barely half of what we're here for. Kill them, then search the houses. If you don't produce thirty bodies, I will make you scour the countryside the whole night until we achieve our quota." Celendys spoke slowly and clearly, making sure the humans could hear and understand her as well.
Faielle was stunned that Celendys could issue such orders so callously. She did not sound angry, disdainful, even amused. Her orders were given in the same disinterested tone one would use to discuss the weather. She would then merely fold her arms and watch.
The soldiers wasted no time following Celendys' orders. Faielle could only watch as the villagers were massacred. This was Markarth in everything but scale -she only hoped that the repercussions would not be as dire.
No longer. No one would be spared. Faielle knew it did not matter whether they were innocent or otherwise.
Their fates had already been decided in that chamber in Castle Dour. Her own blade still sheathed, she still felt just as responsible as the others.
Most of the humans could not believe their eyes, even with Thalmor blades pointed right at them. As harsh as Skyrim was, such brutality was rare, and by the looks of them, this village had largely been spared, given its proximity to the capital...
"Wait, friend! Take me, and just spare her - she doesn't know anything about the Lady - I worked for her father! Just take me!"
The man attempted to negotiate with the advancing soldier even as the blade was mere inches away from him - but Faielle knew he would not be heard. Thalmor Instructors drilled soldiers to follow orders without question, as well as about the superiority of Mer over Man. He might as well had been speaking a language the soldier did not understand.
Faielle watched as one man grappled with a soldier's helmet, even as he was being run through. He would not stop pulling and screaming at her until he fell.
The soldiers were methodical and disciplined. A Human force may have allowed the action to devolve into chaos - not so for the Thalmor, they continued their "work" calmly even among screams and pleas. The soldiers did not seem to delight in their job nor be disgusted with it - it all seemed very mechanical.
Faielle was rather proud of Elven discipline - today, she was not so sure anymore.
Faielle watched the man as he hurled obscenities at the soldier even as the sword pierced his chest - he would likely try to climb right over his shield if he could.
Another soldier slashed right across a man's stomach as he tried to defend his wife. He clutched his side, and would soon fall over.
The man's right hook took the elf by surprise - his satisfaction would be short-lived though. Even as his fist connected with her jaw, two blades pierced both of his sides.
She would suffer from a bruised ego at most.
Villagers began falling on top of each other as they pushed and shoved to save themselves from Thalmor blades - Faielle willed herself to stand still. To not close her eyes or show other signs of weakness. The Magister would notice.
The ones in the middle were slowly pushed together. It was the worst place to be, Faielle thought. Seeing all of their friends being slaughtered, knowing they would be next - most of these people had likely known each other their entire lives.
Celendys watched intently, a smile on her lips. Faielle wondered if the Magister enjoyed violence for its own sake or was instead enamoured with the power to enact it at will. It made little difference in the end.
"You see, Dawnstrider? THIS is how you send a message. The next time one human seeks to defy us, two will run to grovel at our feet and denounce him." Celendys declared with amusement. She seemed most pleased with herself.
Faielle glanced at Ria, it was rare to see her surprised. Ria had yet to arrive when Markarth was sacked following Ondolemar's assassination. Faielle had not participated in the reprisals themselves, but she had been deployed to the city after the fact - it was an all too familiar sight.
Celendys lazily gestured across the road.
"They were right about one thing - Skyrim will remember this. Let them. From Haafingar to The Rift, they will all know - and they will all submit."
Celendys continued to drone on as the soldiers finished the rest of the villagers off - but Faielle could no longer hear her. Her mind had gone blank - she stared at the scene, trying her best not to process any of it. It was all too much.
The Elven blades turned crimson. It was more blood than she had seen in a long time.
Soldiers would start stepping over their wailing victims - with the sole intent of reaching even more.
And throughout all of it, Celendys soaked in the chaos. She reveled in it.
Faielle’s sword had never left its sheath, but she felt no less guilty.
For the longest time, Faielle had held onto the romantic version of the soldier, it had been ingrained into her from a young age.
Using swords to cut your opponent was not brutal work - it was an art form, they would call it 'swordplay'.
Soldiers were not enforcers of their superiors' will, they were defending their nation and through their sacrifices, they would gain honor and glory on the battlefield.
Innocents would always be spared and treated well - even their foes would be shown mercy, should they yield.
It was all fiction. A fiction she indulged in all too easily. All she saw today was butchery.
In fact, it was all upside down. There were no elegant duels - the soldiers would just wildly swing and stab at the unarmed peasants, something that any brute could do.
There was no threat to the Dominion here - but there certainly was a threat to the ambitions of those in command.
As their bloody work was nearly complete, the soldiers began to spread out. Faielle snapped out of it as she saw most of them hurrying in various directions.
Every building would be searched.
Every alley scoured.
By the time they were done, Dragon's Bridge would exist in name only.
Celendys turned her attention to the two. "It is time for the two of you to do your job as well. You should thank me for sparing you from the bloodiest part."
"Well? What are you waiting for? Did you not hear your orders? Should I tell the Magister you stood like statues and did nothing the whole time?"
Celendys -seemed- angry, but Faielle knew her well enough by now to know she delighted in tormenting her subordinates. She would soon enough turn around, preferring to survey the chaos.
"I will see you back here soon. Anyone left ought to know what we're doing by now - they may have armed themselves, so take care." Ria squeezed her shoulder. She sounded a little colder than usual, the day's events clearly weighing on her.
Faielle's lips did part to speak - but no actual words came out.
"I should get going before she gets impatient." She whispered to her softly, giving her another squeeze while glaring at the Magister. Before Faielle knew it, Ria was hurrying down the road, following a trio of soldiers.
She would have wanted nothing more but to follow - one glare from Celendys, however, and she understood that the Magister wanted her to go elsewhere.
Faielle approached the door of one of the huts that the soldiers had not yet breached. She took a deep breath as she climbed up the stairs, then stepped inside.
Faielle's eyes darted about the hovel. Judging by the way the table was set, someone had been preparing dinner - but were they outside.. or still here?
She had heard them. There were definitely people under her feet. They were trying to be quiet, but they did not know just how sensitive an elf's hearing can be.
"Why couldn't you just be quieter, damn you!" Faielle thought to herself. She would have no choice but to expose them now. If she lied, Celendys would know. She always did.
She couldn't quite tell how many there were. Two? Maybe three? Were they armed? Faielle remembered that all proper steel weapons had been requisitioned by the Imperial Legion months ago - villages would have a garrison if they were lucky, and defend themselves with simple tools if not.
She heard them - the stairs only creaked subtly, but someone was climbing them...
Whoever that was, they seemed intent on facing her. Faielle gripped the hilt of her blade tightly. Following one false step, the old wooden stairs groaned loudly - no doubt startling the climber, who then decided it would be best to just rush at her.
She soon found herself face to face with a man gripping what looked like a wood chopping axe. His clothes were ragged, the axe seemed rather blunt and he was holding it wrong...
... But he seemed determined to stop her from going any further.
Suddenly, the man screamed and lunged at her, wildly swinging his dull axe in a downward slash.
She stared calmly at the weapon as it came down. The human evidently had no training, but seemed desperate to stop her from going downstairs.
She readied her blade...
... And easily parried the blow.
The edge lightly embedded itself into the haft.
A split second later, the sword began to slide up the wooden haft, connecting with the axe head as surely as her knee connected with his groin.
Faielle pushed her blade upwards and forward, along with the pain, it forced her opponent to drop his weapon.
She took one step back, pulling her sword with her and gripping it with both hands.
And after less than a second's hesitation...
... She lunged forward, driving it into his abdomen.
The blade cleanly came out through his back, dripping with blood.
They stared at each other for a moment. She had been quicker. Much quicker. He never had a chance in the first place.
The human then fell to his knees - he tried to raise his left hand - possibly to plead for a reprieve - but he seemed unable.
She had broken into a man's house and killed him. Faielle wondered what those back home would think - Alinor itself had not known violence since the Oblivion Crisis, long before she had been born. Such a murder would have been the scandal of the year, if not worse. Yet, for these people, it was more or less routine.
The man folded onto the floor, clutching his wound while murmuring something incoherently. He would bleed out quickly. A far cleaner death than many of the ones outside, Faielle thought. It offered little comfort.
"I'm sorry." She whispered quietly - too quietly for him to hear, even if he would not be mortally wounded.
Faielle stood at the top of the stairs. She knew there were more, though they had grown very quiet...
The room at the bottom was a mess. Whoever was here rushed to hide themselves. She felt her heartbeat quicken, fearing an ambush.
It was then that a little girl popped up from behind one of the many sturdy oak barrels stacked in the corner.
"Uncle! Did you get th - aah!"
The girl gasped and retreated into the corner, even as Faielle instinctively tried to reach out to her. A younger boy - possibly her brother - cried on her shoulder as soon as he caught sight of the elf.
"I-it's okay.. no one's going to hurt you..."
That was probably a lie. While Faielle felt she would sooner fall on her own blade than hurt these children, others in her company would have no such scruples.
"Celendys..." She whispered to herself.
The girl seemed very reluctant to trust her. She likely had little notion of what was actually happening outside, but her uncle seems to have told her to hide - so that is what he was doing, he was defending his niece and nephew... It made Faielle feel sick. "I-is.. is Uncle.. okay?" The girl worked up the courage to speak.
Faielle wordlessly turned her back. What could she do? She had to do something! Would they believe her if she said there was only one man inside? Would anyone check this place again? Would they be safe?
She just had to do something - she had to...
Faielle turned to the stairwell as she heard it creak once more.
Celendys... here? Now...?
"Ah. There you are. We are soon to depart - I would hope you were not hiding down here." She raised an eyebrow inquisitively.
"The others missed this house, Magister." She was unsure of what to say, so stating the obvious would have to suffice.
"Mmh, and what do we have here?" Celendys smirked as she spoke in the Human tongue again, having noticed the young ones.
"Ah, right, I had almost forgotten: The man bleeding out on the floor above was your doing, yes? Nicely done." She said sarcastically.
There truly was no end to her malfeasance. Faielle now understood why Celendys spoke the human tongue again -she wanted the children to understand - and to blame her, presumably.
"This isn't your house! Leave us alone! I won't let you hurt my brother!" The girl cradled her little brother's head. She sounded fierce - even Celendys seemed surprised. She did not know just how much danger she was in.
Celendys raised an eyebrow, but did not reply - she turned her gaze to Faielle.
"Your job here is done, you may run along now. I believe I saw your lover waiting for you outside. She did seem ever so concerned..." Celendys rolled her eyes.
She knew? Of course she knew. Celendys was many things, but foolish was not one of them. She was far more perceptive than Talendil, who spent so long thinking about his own advancement that he never noticed what his officers were doing right under his nose.
While fraternization - even same-sex fraternization - was not outright banned, it was... frowned upon, especially for officers. Faielle wondered why she had not used this against them yet.
She dared not ask what Celendys planned to do with the children as she climbed back up the stairs and left the hut. She did not even want to know.
Faielle sat down on the porch. She had lost track of how long she'd been here, or of how many times she wiped the blood off of her sword. It never seemed quite clean enough.
Rianne quietly approached from the darkness - her shining light, her beacon. If only they could just leave this place - nothing good came of this expedition, and her presence here had pushed Ria to join her as well. It was all her fault, she thought.
"We.. we're getting ready to leave. Are you ready?" Even Ria seemed shaken. She wished that they had never met - No.. not really, but Rianne would be far better off without her.
"Fae?" She sounded worried.
"Let's leave this place." She whispered - it was the best she could muster.
Within less than ten minutes, all of the Mer had reassembled and began their march. Celendys had exited the hut on her own, without any hint as to what she had done inside. She seemed pleased with herself, though.
Faielle had wanted to grab her by the shoulders - to shake her - to ask her how this much cruelty can be justified - but she did not. She felt like a coward.
Rain slowly began to trickle down - a storm could be heard in the distance. The party hastened their march - it would not be long before they reached the safety of Solitude - though for how long the city would still be safe considering what happened today, Faielle did not know.
No one said a word the whole trip back. She felt it was better that way.
The group quickly dispersed after returning to Solitude - Celendys seemed giddy to report on her 'success' to the Magister - while Ria had asked Faielle to stay with her tonight.
She could not refuse, but she knew it was out of concern for her - it made her feel guilty.
"Do you think they'll send us after Proudspire as well?" Faielle asked quietly - there was little else she could think of. Did this woman even know the tragedy she had unleashed? Did she care?
"I believe so. If for no other reason than that Talendil likely blames me." Ria scoffed - in truth, the blame lay squarely with Talendil and Celendys, and both of the Magisters knew that it would look that way to Alinor, too.
Faielle slumped over the battlements. She felt exhausted. She had been on longer marches - on more dangerous journeys - but she had never felt -this- tired.
She covered her face with her hands and began to quietly sob. It was the first time she could. Ria tried to offer comfort, but was unsure of what to say - a rarity for her. She always seemed to know what to say.
Thunder raged in the distance, and Ria finally spoke up.
"Storm's coming. Let's head inside. Okay?"
They held hands as it began to pour. It would be good to be somewhere familiar again, or at least, so she hoped.
"Make yourself comfortable, please. I need to get out of this thing.." Ria dissapeared behind a corner as Faielle began to pull pieces of her armor off. She would find little comfort though, even in a place she used to enjoy.
Faielle sat down at the foot of the bed, trying to make herself as small as possible. She wished she could just disappear.
“We killed them, Ria. Every last one. Old, young - it didn't matter.. we didn’t spare anyone! That.. that’s not what we were taught in Alinor, we- “
Faielle sniffed, she didn't want to cry again - to seem weak. She felt she had let everyone down today - her peers did their duty, gruesome as it was, while she could only stand by and cower. She felt like a disgrace.
Ria quietly sat down on the bed next to her, she breathed in deeply, then let out a sigh before speaking.
"This is the result of Talendil's vanity, nothing more. Did you know he seeks a seat on the High Council?"
Ria scoffed. Talendil was old - and powerful. He was well connected in the capital. For most, joining the High Council would be their crowning achievement - a chance to truly shape the future of the Aldmeri Dominion - but there are rumours that his ambitions may reach even higher than that - all the way to the position of Grand Magister.
The illusions of a narcissist? Perhaps. But success in Skyrim would go a long way towards making it a reality. Faielle shuddered at the thought of how many bodies Talendil would be willing to step over to see his ambitions fulfilled.
"There were far better solutions to our issues - ones which the Elders would have been satisfied with as well, I'm sure.." She sighed. "Talendil is brash and arrogant, and Celendys is ambitious and ruthless - it would be difficult to find a worse pair."
"We're not any less guilty.. we just stood there.. we watched them.. Ria - and then I.. I..killed a little girl's family.. and Celendys.. she.." Faielle slurred her words, she stared at her hands. Was she the only one feeling this way? Surely what they did was wrong? Why didn't anyone object? Why didn't SHE object?
Her mind cycled through the same questions over and over as she felt Ria's arms wrap around her. And then - she began to sing. She had not heard her sing since they had left home, and it sounded even more beautiful than before.
It would not truly fix anything.. but, in this very moment.. it was good.
[Click on the video to hear Rianne sing \o/]
♪♪ Elgara vallas, Da'len, ♪♪ (Sun sets, little one)
♪♪ Melava somniar, ♪♪ (Time to dream)
♪♪ Mala tara aravas, ♪♪ (Your mind journeys)
♪♪ Ara ma'desen melar ♪♪ (But I will hold you here)
♪♪ Iras ma ghilas, Da'len ♪♪ (Where will you go, little one)
♪♪ Ara ma'nedan ashir, ♪♪ (Lost to me in sleep?)
♪♪ Dirthara lothlenan'as ♪♪ (Seek truth in a forgotten land)
♪♪ Bal emma mala dir.. ♪♪ (Deep within your heart)
♪♪ Tel'enfenim, Da'len ♪♪ (Never fear, little one,)
♪♪ Irassal ma ghilas, ♪♪ (Wherever you shall go)
♪♪ Ma garas mir renan, ♪♪ (Follow my voice,)
♪♪ Ara ma'athlan vhenas.. ♪♪ (I will call you home..)
♪♪ Ara ma'athlan vhenas.. ♪♪ (I will call you home..)
Ooof. There we go! Remind me not to make anything this long for a single Chapter ever again. The formatting might be a bit wonky in a few places and I'll probably take another look at it later, but I spent way too long putting the post together now, so I'll just upload it like this - hope it was okay and thanks for reading o/