Silence's Voice

'Other' fanfiction. Category: AT, or Alternate Timeline. Same universe as canon, but a different point in that universe's history.
Just an assassin. Nothing more since fourteen, when the murder of a thieving Wood Elf who got what he deserved ended in recruitment into the shadowy cult of assassins at home in the deep deserts of Anequina. Until she decided to interfere. She decided to ruin everything!

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10. Wind of the Desert

The Sanctuary’s walls seemed different. Bloodstained. The alchemy table in the training room was gone, and the hollow alcove was full of black robes and shrouded armour, crackling with magic. The quiet winds seemed still, and the warm, desert air seemed omnipresent here.

Every step I took bounced off the walls, hollow and empty as a Thalmor Justiciar’s heart. The banners down the central path of the sanctuary, adorned with the Black Hand, hung limp and stiff, and the colours seemed wrong. The hand was normal, but the background moved between red, white, green, blue, and gold, shifting like the sands.

As I passed by the chamber I shared with Camena, a single voice began creeping up from another room. Quiet, but there, it hummed a gentle melody from deep within the Sanctuary.

“Rosette?” I called, my voice soft, though my tongue fluttered like a yell. “That you in there?”

I crept down into the stone steps by Rosette’s room, passing around the corner. Things seemed…wrong. Normally by the double bed Rosette slept in, Belle would be asleep, and the empty corner would be dominated by a wooden mannequin bearing the armour of her late husband, and adorned by a wedding garland of nightshade.

Now, it seemed off. Just the double bed crouched quietly in the room, with Rosette sitting atop it, accompanied by someone.

“Rosette…is that you?” I found myself whispering, as she looked over.

“Savil? Savil…come and look. She’s beautiful.” Rosette whispered, a lonely tear running over her freckles, as the figure accompanying her leaned over.

Wait…no, this can’t…Orion Vautrelle was dead! He’d been dead for almost six years! Yet there he was. I’d recognise him anywhere! The Listener’s own Silencer! Dark brown hair, longish for a man, tied back in a low ponytail at the base of his neck, and deep brown eyes. This time, he was clad in plain black robes, free from armour, and focusing on a new born child wrapped in a black cloth.

Was that…their daughter? She certainly had Belle’s red hair, curling lightly between her father’s fingers as he supported her head, letting her feed from her mother.

No, this wasn’t real. “Rosette, am I dreaming? This…this isn’t real.”

She smiled, her lone tear drying on her freckles. “Oh it is real, Savil,” she purred, standing up as the shadows around the room grew darker, “it’s very, very real.”

I turned to run, but the door had been slammed shut behind me, sealed in place as the dark shadows grew further, engulfing everything but Rosette as she glowed an unholy white. Her smile seemed pointed now, her skin greying and her body thinning, until the grey garments of a nursing mother hung off her spindly body, exposing newly grey skin, and eyes a piercing red, like hot coals. Her grin remained as she shook her head, her red curls unwinding and turning the colour of pitch as her new raven waterfall tumbled down to her skeletal hips, tucked behind newly pointed ears.

“Don’t be scared, Savil,” this spectre purred, her voice unholy yet comforting, “this is real. I won’t hurt you. I’m your mother, don’t you remember?”

I certainly remember my mother, and she didn’t look a thing like her.

“Shh, don’t be scared. I bring news for my true Listener. You have pleased your Dread Father with your delivery of the Black-Briar’s soul.”

No…no way! “Night Mother?” I whispered, as she smiled.

“My child. Heed my words, for yet another child has prayed to their mother. When you awaken, go to the city on the sea’s arch, and seek the blood-handed mercenary under the chapel of Tava. I’ll be watching over you, child. Now go, let the gift of life re-enter you. I will be watching.”

She vanished in a veil of black, shrouding my eyes and choking me, pulling my limbs and tugging open my jaw, drowning me in sweetness as I writhed and kicked, forcing the shrouds off my feet and tearing them off my eyes as the light pierced my eyes.

I sat up, thrashing under blankets as the hot light overflowed from the limp canvas flapping above me, spilling over the edges to drip down into my eyes. Scarlet canvas walls had been pinned up, creating a small tented room like a merchant's campsite. Straw poked through the light cloth I lay on, and as I glanced around, a low table stacked with scarlet bottles of health potion caught my eye, with blanched bandages and the statue of a red-skinned nude woman with her four arms outstretched. Two Redguard women stood in the tent with me, leaning over and wrapped in deep red robes.

“Easy, relax, you’re still bleeding.” One said, her hand on my shoulder and pushing me back down. “You’re lucky to be alive.”

Lucky? “Wh-What happened?” I groaned, my voice rasping at the back of my throat.

“Relax, child. You’ve been with us for fifteen days now, slowly healing. Apparently you and your friend were on a ship attacked by pirates, and you got injured. Been out of it completely until now, when we gave you some healing potion. Like you were having a nightmare.” The other woman explained, kneeling down by my side. Her long hair had been braided through in lots of teeny braids, tickling my hand, and a golden chain ran through silver hoops piercing her left eyebrow, nose, upper lip, and left ear.

Right…The Lady of Bravil, and the mead barrel. Something hit me on the back of the head. “Fifteen days…my friend? Who?” I groaned, reaching to the back of my head and feeling only thick bandages.

“You know, the Breton. The cute one wanting to come see if you were ok.” The first woman replied. The right side of her neck and face had been heavily tattooed with golden sunray designs that extended further onto the shaven side of her head.

“You mean…Hawk?” I groaned, as the braided woman held me down by the right shoulder, taking out a small brass goblet and a berry-red bottle of healing potion.

“So that’s his name? Shall I let him in? He’s been asking about you the past couple of days. Doesn’t take “if you disturb her I will personally insert a foot where the sun don’t shine” for an answer.”

I nodded, then realised that was a mistake as my skull felt like it was splitting open. “Sure…let him in.”

“Alright, I’ll get him.” The other woman replied, before slipping out of a gap in the tent and letting a blade of light rip through, leaving me blind as I jerked away.

The jerking movement was even more of a mistake, as the back of my skull split open further, letting a warm liquid trickle into the wadding of rags at the back of my head, forcing a hiss of pain to escape me.

“Easy, don’t move too much. Took half our stock of healing potions to fix up the fracture in your skull. Don’t undo all that.” The braided woman coaxed me back into lying flat, my head propped up under a folded up pelt as she handed me a goblet of red liquid that sparkled and danced with magic. “Drink. It’ll heal all your wounds. Maybe not all the way, but close enough.”

I necked it, letting the warming, fruity taste drip and ooze down my throat and hit my core. The dull ache at the back of my head was starting to fade, and when the glowing weapon of light shot in through the gap, it only struck my eyes like a mace, instead of a blade. “Better now?” The woman asked, as I gave my first painless nod.

“Better. Where am I anyway?”

“The conservatorium of our lady Morwha, in Hegathe. You and your friend were picked up by one of our merchant ships just off Northpoint. Apparently he’s become quite popular around the waterfront. Better claim him as your own before someone else does.”

I snorted then, a sore chuckle escaping me as I put the empty goblet down on the bare stone floor. “Ye-Yeah right!” I spluttered. “He’s just a travelling companion. Anyone who wants him can have him.”

“Mm, just saying, the conservatorium does offer marriage services. If you want a more traditional service, I can sell you an amulet of Mara for two hundred septims.”

I chuckled again, easing myself into a sitting position and letting the priestess unwrap the bloody rags from the back of my head. “Thanks, but I’m good. I’ve no time for a partner anyway.” I replied, as she took my hand and pulled me up from the straw bed, letting the bone white patient’s robes fall over me.

Then it sunk in. “Where’s my armour?” I asked. The over-robes were probably lost to the waves or crusted with salt, but my armour was different. For one it had been emblazoned with the mark of the Dark Brotherhood, and had the resisting magic of Sithis running through its every leather patch. My gloves hid every mark I made, imbuing my arms with useless strength meant for clutching onto a dagger. My boots made me the scream in the whisper, gliding through the shadows as silent as the grave. My cowl hid my face, and let Sithis’ will glide down my arm and into Vixen’s bowstring.

That was another thing, where was Vixen? The black gold bow patterned with feathers, with a taut string, and a sharp bite to every one of the golden-headed arrows I was first gifted by my mother, and Effe-Zeeis learned to make copies of.

“Armour? When you were brought in you didn’t have any armour on. Just plain clothing and bare feet. No weapons either. Must have all been lost to the sea.”

That had to be the biggest load of goblin droppings I’d ever heard. The ocean simply isn’t strong enough to pull off a one-piece armour set from under clothes. Even little things like my gloves and boots were always tightly belted on when worn, and the little, pierced leather panel three-quarters down my quiver made sure Vixen’s arrows didn’t fall out, but could still be drawn out for killings. There was absolutely no way they had been lost to the sea.

“We can use some of the conservatorium’s tithe to get you a set of clothes, but that’s all, I’m afraid. Now, how about you go take a shower and wash out all that blood. I’ll tell your friend where you are if he comes back before you’re done.”

That seemed fair, and they’d already helped me enough. So I let the priestess guide me through a tented corridor, beneath the pyramid-shaped archway of red canvas, through to a small, canvas room with a sunken floor dipping down a little way, with a grate in the centre of the floor, and pipes arching overhead made of that coppery-gold Dwemer metal. The doorway was blocked by a cream curtain striped diagonal by ocean blue, and on a small, wooden duckboard, someone had set up a wooden drying rack holding up two thick-looking pieces of soft cloth, a polished sheet of silver that reflected the shower room back on itself, and a wooden bowl full of brick-like cakes of soap in delicate shades of pink and purple. The sun still managed to beat me fiercely through the deep red canvas, and through a small gap in the upper-right corner, light’s mace got a good swipe in.

“The water’s quite hot, by the way, so be careful. I’ll have one of the other girls go to market and pick you up a set of clothes for when you get back. Let one us know if you need anything else.” The braided priestess said, drifting through the curtain and leaving me to it.

I was alone. Alone for the first time in an unknowable amount of days. Free to strip down and wash away everything under the water. Every dirt patch, every bloodstain, every question, and every doubt. Casting my pale robes onto the rack, I turned the valve and let the scalding water gush over me and work its way into every wound with thick, red fingers.

I could think now. Looking at my grey shadow of a body in the metal sheet, hair plastered to myself and leaking scarlet liquid amongst the fluid diamond dripping off my fingers, I could finally think.

What was I going to do now? The plan was to be back at the Anequina Sanctuary within a fortnight, but that wound up down the sewer ditch. I know the Bronze-Heart twins knew what I was planning, but not about this setback. The Listener would be furious if I wasn’t back within a month, and there was nobody there who could explain.

Then there was that dream I had. That message from Mother. The apparent Night Mother, when I wasn’t the Listener. We already had a Listener. Yet they’d been right about the Arentino couple wanting Sibbi Black-Briar dead. Would they be right about this…what was it she said? City on the sea’s arch, look for the blood-handed mercenary under the chapel of Tava. Whoever or whatever Tava is. Would this apparent Night Mother be right about this one too? If they were, would I even be able to meet the contract?

Finally there was Vixen. Getting my bow back was not optional. Not after who it came from and what it meant. I had to get Vixen back before leaving Hammerfell, even if it meant I wound up setting up here for good. The priestesses said I didn’t have any weapons or armour on me when I was hauled out of the water, so that meant only one person knew truly where Vixen and my shrouded armour was.

It seemed me and Hawk were going to have a bit of a talk when I next saw him. A talk that would end with bloodshed and another soul in the Void if he dared to hurt, sell, or steal Vixen. As I mused in the shower, scrubbing through my hair until the water ran clear, I began forming a plan for confronting Hawk.

He’d play the ignorance game when I first asked if he knew where it could have gone. Asking me to describe the feather detailing weaving around the dark gold – almost elven but not quite light enough – metal, the taut string, and the silent twang that made fingertips tingle when fired. He’d play that game for hours, claiming it was washed into the ocean when I know from how I strapped it onto my back with the string over my chest that Vixen wouldn’t be able to slip off into the deep.

I’d have to rough him up a bit for him to admit the truth. Without a weapon it would take a while, but I’d get it out of him eventually. Have him admit it broke, or he sold it on. If the thief’s temptation did get to him and he sold it, I will drag him with me until I get Vixen back into my hold, and then personally execute him myself with an arrow straight into his pretty boy face.

Yeah, that’s what I’ll do when he shows up.

I turned the valve and the hot deluge ceased, wringing my hair out so water dripped free in a small trickle. Explicitly nude in the metal sheet, the micro-network of bruises and small cuts shone through, from a deep black patch of a bruise over my right eye, to a cluster of eight gashes travelling between my breasts to just over my navel. Guess I didn’t have enough healing potion to deal with the little ones. Still, it would warn anyone wanting to try anything to back off. I could handle myself and wasn’t afraid to get hurt in the process.

I’d finished wrapping one of the thick cloths around into a Dunmeri head wrap when the door curtain twitched. “Are you done in there? We managed to get you a set of clothes, and a certain friend of yours.” The priestess called.

That didn’t take long. “Yeah, I’m done. Where is he?” I replied, winding another cloth around my body, letting it fall from my breasts to my knees.

“In the StoneCarve Foyer. Here, one second,” the priestess replied, before a dark-skinned and heavily tattooed arm poked around the curtain, holding a pile of clothes and a pair of brown, fur shoes, “put these on and I’ll take you to him.”

I stripped off the cloth, tugging the tight dress on as it clung to everything from my underarms to the middle of my calves in a deep garnet red, edged with gold. Over the top I wore a long-sleeved jacket in deep black – also edged with gold – and belted it at the waist with a gold sash. The fur shoes fit on well, allowing my toes to flex and grip within them, but it looked like I’d have to ditch the head wrap, going out uncovered.

“Ah, they do fit then. Wonderful, I’ll take you down to your friend Hawk.” The priestess cooed, taking me by the arm and leading me through the tented corridor again, until the path opened out through a stone arch into a wide, square courtyard.

The sun seemed to slice at everything, with its blades of light cutting through the spreading palms sprouting from two gardens either side of another statue of the four-armed woman with red skin. A shallow moat carved into the stone trickled around the statue, spreading out into a large, square pool taking up about half of the courtyard. Several of the priestesses waded in the knee-deep water, scattering reddish, star-shaped plants into the pool and humming a slow tune. Stone benches had been carved around the pool for temple visitors and priests to rest on during the day, and on the bench facing the open doorway, a familiar pretty boy lounged, with the sun bouncing off his ice blonde hair.

Hawk hadn’t changed then, aside from ditching the Guild armour for whatever that was. It looked like a sleeveless shirt made of thick cloth, and loose, cotton trousers in dull white tucked into knee-high leather boots. Anywhere else he’d have looked odd, dressed like one of those Alik’r mercenaries, but he seemed to fit in here. At least fit in enough for the heavily-tattooed priestess hanging off his every word – and him – to welcome him in with a coy toss of her spicy orange braids.

“There he is. You two have fun now. Oh, by the way, the amulet of Mara deal still stands.” My priestess escort giggled, before drifting off back into the temple.

Yeah, there he is alright. At least he’d been having a good time here in Hammerfell. Probably had countless amulets of Mara shoved his way in his time here, but if he’s dared to damage or sell Vixen in any way, the next amulet coming his way will be a four-finger Black Hand amulet going right into his heart and ripping it out.

He looked up as I came nearer, practically leaping upright and charging over to me, sweeping me up into a tight embrace. I squawked and wriggled as he lifted me up, the toes of my fur shoes barely touching the stone.

“You doing ok, killer? I stashed our armour and weapons in a bunch of palm leaves in a hollowed-out tree stump by the port. I’ll show you where when it’s safer.”

I wriggled in his arms, trying to tug away, my bare hand curling into a fist to shatter his jaw if he dared to – Wait, what? “What?” I hissed, as he put me down.

“I stashed our armour and weapons near the port. Can’t have anyone knowing what we are now, can we?”

My hand went limp, the feeling travelling up my arm and spreading everywhere. He – He hadn’t stolen her, broken her, or done anything bad to Vixen. She’d just been hidden whilst I was preoccupied with bleeding out and a visit from the Night Mother.

Guilt burst its venomous bubble in my chest, oozing down from the splatter zone behind my breastbone. Hawk was a thief, yes, but he hadn’t stolen from me. He’d helped me. Fact was, he’d helped me more than once. He’d agreed to come with me on that ship even after how I treated him, saved my life with that barrel escape, and now he’d stashed away anything of ours that could be incriminating.

And I’d planned to slaughter him.

“Killer? You ok? You’ve gone all funny behind the eyes.” Hawk suddenly asked; a gentle shake of my shoulder jolting me back.

“I’m fine, don’t worry. Call me Savil.” I replied. That was the best I could do as an apology, trust him with my name. I mean, he wouldn’t betray me. I’d already established that, and I knew his real name. Only fair he knew mine in return.

“Savil, huh? Alright then. Come on, I’ll show you around. Next ship going our way is in three weeks, so we might as well get comfortable here while we prepare.”

Three weeks! “Alright. Looks like you really will be my guide.”

He chuckled then, draping a bare arm over my shoulder. “Whatever you say…hmm, you don’t fit a Jarl, and I don’t know what you lot have in Anequina…maybe Countess? Countess Savil Killer.”

Oh come on, how old is he? Thirteen? “Seriously think I’m noble material?”

“It’s possible.”

“If I am, that means I’m higher than you, so you can’t boss me around.”

His smile widened, turning into a laugh behind his hand. “Sure, Savil. Whatever you say.”

* * *

“You’d been out of it for days. Don’t need you passing out again.”

Hawk closed my hand around the septims I held, letting the waitress clear away the two bottles of Cyrodiilic brandy I’d already downed. His own bottle of the stuff sat half-full on the bar, begging to be polished off.

“I’ve finished three sujamma jugs before on my own. This is nothing. Come on, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Hawk raised one eyebrow, his lips pursed to let ‘try me’ dance on them. “Many things. Unwanted exposure, for one thing.” He hissed.

I got it. I could even translate what he meant into the little bit of Dunmeri I knew. ‘Muga bahr jikhi eri gahkho!’ Do not give it away! Half the Redguards here in Hegathe were looking at us like we’d crawled out from the gutter already. Getting drunk and betraying our little connections would have the residents here running us out of town.

“Fine, I get you. So, you got any ideas what to do until the next ship to Anequina sails?” I groaned, leaning back on the bar stool and looking over Hawk’s shoulder at the tapestry on the bar wall. It was a mix of deep, pooling greens and cool blues, with a smattering of marble white running through like clouds of mist.

“No. At least not for three weeks. Why? What’s on your mind?”

I paused, dipping my finger into his brandy and drawing a ‘Danger’ shadowmark on the bar with the cool liquid. A simple message to meet me outside, where we couldn’t be overheard.

Hawk nodded, getting up from his bar stool with me and letting me lead outside. My hand grasped for a scarf or cloth draped over my hair, but instead nothing but air came to my fingers as I lead him out the bar and into the Hegathe streets.

Night in Hammerfell draped its veil over me in a comforting coolness, similar to when the sprawling deserts of Anequina wrapped me in a cloak woven from starlight. The familiar prickling feeling crept up my bare arms, snowflake kisses running over every patch of exposed skin. Lit only by torches, the pinkish stone streets shimmered, as whispering smoke trailed off from the torches suspended in brackets all over the square. Only a few lonely guards patrolled the open city; their boots leaving hollow thuds hanging in the air.

“Alright, nobody around to properly hear us now. What you thinking of?” Hawk hissed, giving my arm a gentle tap and guiding me down a side alley. Washing had been strung up on ropes between the buildings either side, filling the alley with shadows.

“You promise you won’t think I’m mad?”

“I don’t need to. I already know you’re ma- Kidding! I’m just playing with you, killer.”

Hawk backtracked as I raised my fist, lining up to sock him in the ribs. “Very funny,” I retorted, “but I’m being serious. You really won’t think I’m mad?”

“I won’t, I swear.”

I lowered my arm, my hand going limp as a faint smile emerged. “What would you say if I asked about a city on the sea’s arch, which had a chapel of Tava within?”

Better test the waters first. Don’t throw the corpse in before checking the water’s deep enough to hide it, as our own Argonian Dark Brother would say.

“Well the last part’s pretty easy. Tava’s a nature goddess, linked to wind and travel. Basically the Redguards’ answer to Kynareth. There’s a chapel to her in every port, including here. You want a port city, like here, or Rihad, or Sentinel. The sea’s arch thing though…no idea what you want there.”

Looks like Carmjalla was right about him being a pretty good guide. “Can you take me to the chapel of Tava here?”

“Why, you wanna desecrate it with…what’s your thingy called? One sec, best get our you-know-what first.” He chuckled, as I shook my head.

“Our Dread Father is known as Sithis. The first of all, the creator of our better ancestors, the-”

“Ok, I get you. Anyway, you after doing that?”

I scowled, a deep breath escaping from my nose as I reminded myself about the bad side of killing him. “No, surprisingly. I actually want to take a look around. Get to know what the place looks like. Most chapels to a particular deity look the same, so if I know the layout of one, I’ll know the layout of them all.”

Hawk chuckled, leading me out onto the promenade yawning out from the docks. The low clang of the ships’ bells echoed off the pinkish stone buildings, as the waves licked and kissed the sandy peninsula stretching out in an arc from the mainland. “Break-in eyes and a thief’s set of fingers. Should’a stuck with the Guild, you know. I bet you’d make a good Master.”

“Yeah, and even become the new Gray Fox. Screw that!”

“Well it’s true, you could. If you got the Cowl from wherever it went and announced yourself as new Master in Riften, I’d support you.”

He’d led me to a chunk of driftwood, like a large tree stump, that had washed up against the end of the pier. Half-buried in the red sand, it looked like the perfect place for hiding things. Things nobody should ever see but the hider.

“I may have been a thief, but not any longer. Those days are over.”

“Now you’re a killer instead. Here, give me a hand with these.” Hawk retorted, guiding me to come over and pull out a handful of palm leaves.

He must have packed the stump with them, as I fished out several handfuls of the rough things before he could tug out several packages wrapped in palm leaves and tied with seaweed.

“Right, I’ll- well, someone’s eager.” Hawk chuckled, as I tore off the leaves wrapped around Vixen, giving her a breath of fresh air as I held her close. Her catgut string still felt warm with tautness, and the elven metal of her bow gave my cheek a cool kiss. Her arrows still stuck in her leather quiver, the strap hugging me close as I slipped it on over my clothes.

Just like when my mother first gave her to me.

Hawk gave a subtle cough, and when I looked over, he was leaning against the driftwood stump, drumming his fingers. “Am I interrupting anything?”

My blush crept up again, showing in a light reddish glow on my grey cheeks. Silent, I slipped Vixen home into her holder, as the heat of Red Mountain itself radiated from my cheeks. “My bow’s pretty dear to me, ok?”

“I gathered that. Got cheeks like your eyes.” He chuckled, my hands reaching up and singeing themselves on my charred cheekbones. “Hey, come on, it’s not that bad. You’re cute when you blush.”

My cheeks glowed further, as I clenched my fists. “I don’t do cute! I’m a woman of Red Mountain who can either shoot or melt your face off in a heartbeat.”

“Yeah, but you’re still cute when you blush. Especially if someone’s caught you being all sentimental.”

I scowled, pulling Vixen out and loading her with an arrow. “I’m gonna give you three seconds to take that back.” I growled, as he put his hands up.

“Chill, killer. I’m just joking with you.” Hawk replied, as I lowered Vixen and replaced her arrow. “You’re cute when you’re angry, you know tha- Kidding!”

I think the fireball in my hand had shut him up for good on the cute issue. My veins seemed crisp, glittering in my system as the flames danced their footless dance in my palm.

“Call me cute again, in any form, and I’ll coat you in flame from head to foot. Clear?”

Hawk nodded, dropping his hands. “Crystal.”

“Good. Now let’s get going, we have important things to do.” I replied, sheathing the fireball and letting it quieten down to the light tickling feeling of magic forever in my system.

Sometimes it’s hard not to see why Dunmer are such superior all-rounders. My mother was an excellent mage in her time, wielding flame in her palms like no other, and the old Imperial Legion back on Vvardenfell was full of Dunmer infantrymen. Then there’s me, the archer who once shot a moving target from the top of the spire on a Thalmor embassy.

“Were you always this violent, or did joining the Dark Brotherhood make you this way?”

Hawk again dragged me from my thoughts. “Would take too long to explain.” I replied, following him along the beach to where the city started to trickle down into purely mud brick homes and market tents drifting in the night breeze.

“Well we’ve got three weeks here in Hegathe. Plenty of time.”

If the Night Mother’s right again, we may not be spending those three weeks in Hegathe. “You’d be surprised, Hawk. You’d be very, very surprised.”

We didn’t speak again until we’d reached the chapel of Tava, nestling itself into the city like Banshee does to us on the coldest nights. Though made of the same pinkish marble as the other buildings, Tava’s chapel had been painted in every hue of blue imaginable, from the lightest sea foam on the painted waves, to the deepest midnight surrounding real gemstones embedded into the roof like stars in the sky. The entrance had been carved like someone had parted the waves, and when we went inside, the walls had been painted with every colour of bird and insect imaginable.

“Wow…” I gasped, letting my voice bounce off the walls. Entering the chapel left me like a salmon, leaping out of the rapids and into the air.

Tava’s domain.

“Pretty impressive, don’t you think? That’s Tava over there, or at least a statue of her.”

Hawk pointed over at the back of the chapel where the altar would be, indicating the statue rising up to meet the arched ceiling. At least five times the height of an Altmer, Tava’s statue depicted her as a Redguard female just about entering womanhood, with a fabric wrap painted lilac and ice blue winding around her waist and draping itself over her left arm, covering her from hip to ankle. Her breasts were covered by a leafy branch of some sort, and her dark skin was patterned with golden tattoos running over her stomach, limbs, and the left side of her face.

What really struck me was her hair. A fresh blue, mirroring the sky, two braids ringed with golden bands and charms jingled and rattled to her waist, whilst the rest cascaded free behind her, a painted waterfall, weaving and waving around her bare feet to tumble off her seashell-covered plinth and end at the foot of her shrine.

She was so much like our own Khenarthi. Our cat of the wind, whose roost in the glittering sea shelters the Sea Elves from their Thalmor enemies.

“Yeah…impressive. I expect the chapel in this city on the sea’s arch would look very similar to this.” I replied, letting Hawk lead me down the central aisle. “What are you doing?” I added, as he kneeled down before Tava’s shrine. A swirl of blue moonstone that had been carved to allow beige, rose, and peach-toned seashells to slot into the shrine.

“Getting Tava’s blessing. She’s known to give those who pray at her shrine a gift to let them be like the everlasting winds. I feel it may be useful.”

I couldn’t help but laugh as he knelt before the shrine, immersing himself in the swirls of blue light weaving and dancing around him with a twinkling sound like metal wind chimes. “Never figured you for the religious sort.” I spluttered, as he shot me a sideways glare.

“I’m not,” Hawk replied, “but that doesn’t mean that I won’t turn down any blessings. You ever prayed at one of these things before?”

He stood up with an odd fluidity, like the tides, laying a hand on my shoulder. “You haven’t, have you? Don’t you have these things in wherever it is you’re from again?”

In a way he was right, but not completely. I prayed, yes, but not to any divine whatevers. The three shrines my mother had in the corner of our little farmhouse were from our own culture, and to our own, better, ancestors.

“Sithis supersedes any deity. He was the one who created them, and they in turn created our world, and our better ancestors created my people. Sithis is the spark of all creation.”

Hawk rolled his eyes, a deep sigh leaving him. “Never expect a straight answer from an assassin. Fine, I get you, killer. If you wanna take a look around, go right ahead. I’ll wait back here. Just don’t be too long.”

He left to go perch on a stone bench, letting me wander through Tava’s chapel. Admittedly it was beautiful here, but something just felt wrong. Not with the place, or even with Hawk, but something else. Something that just shimmered away like distant torchlight on a wet stone wall, which Hawk had brought to my attention with his prayer comment.

I’d been shunning my own beliefs. Yes, Sithis was still our true God, and our Dread Father, but my private worship of some of his children didn’t get in the way of that. Mother had me worshipping Boethiah, Mephala, and Azura since I could speak. I had no right to turn away from my belief in the Reclamations just to please others.

I ducked behind Tava’s statue, reaching into the bottom of Vixen’s quiver and pulling out my amulet. Paranoia from a thief’s company had made me take it off and stash it down with my arrows, but now I felt I could wear it around Hawk. I’d probably need to wear it even if I wasn’t comfortable around him, as I’d need all the luck I could get.

The three stones winked at me as I did up the clasp, shining blue, red, and black in their silver setting. Who cares about keeping this hidden? Hawk can be trusted enough not to steal it, and the only other person who might have qualms is the Listener, back in Anequina. Too far away for me to warrant consideration.

As I let the amulet swing on its chain, a small flicker of light caught my eye. Golden and tiny, it came from through a small doorway behind Tava’s statue, just around a corner.

That must lead to the priests’ chambers. Normally I wouldn’t have paid any attention to something like that, but now it piqued my interest. Perhaps there was a priest that was still awake back here, who could tell me where this city on the sea’s arch was. It may be a long shot, but it was definitely possible.

The small corridor around the corner opened up into a reasonable sized room, with three embroidered sleeping mats behind a latticed screen, and a long dining table. A corner had been turned into a small kitchen, where bowls heaped with hot-looking spices perched on a small shelf, aside chunks of meat and some vegetable bundles. A small skylight revealed a myriad of stars outside, and every wall had artwork hung on it, ranging from alchemical sketches of plants, to a map of Hammerfell. Sadly, the twitching lumps behind the screens meant nobody was awake to help us out, and I’d be damned if I went waking anyone. Homemade detective work was my only option here.

“Hmm…three, four, and five if you count that island. Stros M’Kai.” I muttered, reading over the map. Sentinel, Hegathe, Taneth, and Rihad.

Well Hegathe was out of the question, as well, that’s where we were. That and it didn’t seem like it had any sea’s arch involved. What was a sea’s arch anyway? If it was like Solitude, then this map would be useless. It only showed the basic locations of cities, a few towns, and the odd geographical feature.

No, I doubt it was like Solitude. That was a land arch. A sea’s arch was something different, but what?

My fingers traced the Hammerfell coastline as I mused, going around the funny claw-shaped peninsula and into the bay on the other side. It was almost as if the sea had bitten into Hammerfell, letting the bay arch into the land. Taneth looked as if it had narrowly escaped tumbling into the sea’s maw, and was quivering on the side of the arch.

Taneth…could that be the place? It was on the arch of a bay where the sea curved in, and served as a port city, so a chapel of Tava would definitely be situated within.

Hawk had to know. He’d be able to give me further details on Taneth. As quick as I entered, I left the priests’ chamber, ducking back around the statue of Tava, and into the central aisle.

“Well someone’s eager. Find anything?” Hawk asked, as he lounged on a stone bench. He’d swapped his boots over into his Thieves’ Guild ones, adding the gloves and the hood to complete the look as he lay back on the bench, looking straight up at the chapel roof.

“Might say that. Hawk, what do you know about Taneth?”

“Taneth?” Hawk began, easing himself into a seated position. “A fair bit. Why, what did you find out?”

“I think Taneth is our city on the sea’s arch. It fits the description, being on the edge of a bay and having a chapel of Tava. Sound right?”

He nodded, standing up fully. “Fastest way to Taneth from here would be by boat. A small rowing vessel could get us there before midday, and it wouldn’t cost Nirn. Come on, I think I saw a guy on the docks earlier. He might be able to get us to Taneth. Hope you know what you’re doing, Savil. Taneth is pretty riddled with Thalmor.”

Azura’s Curse! I’d forgotten about the Thalmor. “We’ll just have to keep to the shadows there. Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” I replied, letting Hawk lead me out of Tava’s chapel.

Out of everything, why did it have to be infested with Thalmor?

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