The Elder Scrolls Volume One: Unbound - A Fallen Empire

  • by
  • Rating:
  • Published: 14 Sep 2017
  • Updated: 19 Sep 2017
  • Status: Complete
Erende was supposed to be a thief. That's all he ever was. But when a mysterious Guild raids his home and steals a scroll - a scroll of a land Erende had no idea existed - he's thrust into the middle of a deadly fight after a devastating war that wrecked the land of Tamriel. Now, he's part of a mission to find the treasure his scroll holds to save Tamriel - before it's too late.

0Likes
0Comments
2904Views
AA

15. Chapter Thirteen

 

4E 715

Midyear

Fredas

 

Erende had felt that the mission was beginning to feel like a chore.

 Valenwood was a two-week trip from Mournhold, but they had been walking for so long Erende was sure it had been a few months since they left Mournhold. It didn’t help that since the war had destroyed all other possible options, they had been left with travelling there on foot and by horse. It was somewhat the better option for them, since the Guild included an Altmer. Erende wasn’t quite sure that anyone would be willing to help them because of her. He held his hand on the handle of his dagger, rubbing it softly. It had started to morph from being around his hand for so long, his fingers creating little grooves into the metal. He watched as the sun began to set behind the thicket of trees, and yawned.

 They had just packed up from their last camp, and he still wasn’t quite as accustomed to sleeping in the day time. His eyes drooped as Isolde’s gentle swaying began to rock him to sleep.

Ahead of him in the line, Vala held out a magickal orb of light that floated above her head. He focused on it, willing himself to stay awake. He wasn’t quite sure how long they had been travelling – a week, maybe, but he had seen the landscape change frequently as they rode on. The jungle of Mournhold had turned back to ash when they entered the southeast area of Cyrodiil, and then to a forest with trees that stretched the limits of the sky. The trunks were enormous in circumference, and Erende couldn’t even see where the tree ended and the sky started.

 They had stopped in the day to camp and sleep beneath the trees, which Erende hated, and only rode at night for more cover. Bahadur had mentioned they had been lucky enough to not have been ambushed or stopped by militias. Now they were closing in on Valenwood. The horses’ hooves had begun to sink into pockets of warm sands in the forest of what Erende knew to be Elsweyr, the home of the Khajiit. Do’tesh had been right – the air was humid here like the jungle had been. From here, he suspected, would only be a few more days.

 Aeria had been optimistic, even though Erende could tell that she was scared by coming home after all this time. She had left over twelve moons ago, and rarely contacted her family during that time. At least, that’s what she told them. That was another thing about the travel time of two-weeks. Erende had learned through his ordeal that most people just didn’t want to listen to him. He understood, but it seemed that those rules didn’t apply to anyone else.

 Especially Aeria.

 “Valenwood is a glorious province,” she had said as they had been packing up their camp after an unrestful day’s sleep. Erende had groaned inwardly as he tied his bag to Isolde’s saddle. For the trip, Aeria had talked almost non-stop. While it was out of character for her to speak so much, what truly surprised him was the fact that she continued to tell stories about her. Erende knew little about her, and he suspected that Steffan would be more than happy to hear about her life story. When they were on the road again, Aeria had thrown them into another story; this time, it was about her and Orianer.

 “It had been a few moons since she had come to the camp, and back then, she was more…kind,” Aeria said, ducking under a low hanging branch, “she used to feed the bunnies from our garden when she couldn’t sleep.”

 “I did not!” Orianer protested, “it was ONE bunny, and I was merely fattening it so you had a better chance for a meal.”

 Aeria laughed, rolling her eyes, “sure, you did. In any case, my family loved you, so you had the opportunity to do anything you wanted to do to those bunnies.”

 “Still one bunny. Your sister helped me with it.”

 “You have a sister?” Steffan asked, and Aeria grinned.

 “I have three siblings, the oldest is a young man, and the youngest is a sister and a brother. They’re all hunters, and all are quite adept at what they do. They bring in meat for the family while my father runs the daily worship service to Y’ffre, and my mother helps train the warriors of the village.”

 “Your family continue to worship Y’ffre?” Erende said, blinking, “but even you said that Y’ffre has been missing for quite a while.”

 “I did, and I know that he is gone. My transformation back in Hobbs Cave is proof that he is no longer watching over me, but faith is what keeps my family together. They are deep within the forest of Valenwood, and so high in the trees that they are safe from almost anything. I know they are safe, and if their believing that Y’ffre still walks with us keeps them happy, then I am content.”

 Erende grinned. Aeria was more family oriented than he expected.

 “Just a quick reminder, everyone, we are in Khajiit territory now, so please keep your eyes open and your ears open wider,” Bahadur called from over his shoulder, “Aeria, do you know how long it will be now?”

 “I’m not exactly sure. The post marks on the roads had been destroyed. I think I assume we are already across the border and it will be a few more days until we reach Greenmoss.”

 “We better be on the lookout then if we’ve already crossed the border,” Khir’schen said, nudging her horse forward, “we should be cautious in case a militia decides they want to rob us.”

 “What do you mean by that?” Vala asked, “I thought the Khajiit and the Elves had a pact?”

 “That was the Altmer,” Orianer mutter. Erende could practically hear the scowl in her voice.

 “If the elves of Valenwood decide they want us dead, they’ll try to kill us. Especially me.”

 Erende was tempted to say something but Ori’s wrinkled brow and her clenched jaw made him rethink that option. Instead, he stared down at Isolde’s swaying body. The shadows of her hooves grew longer as the moon rose longer to the middle of the sky. Erende slowly began to close his eyes. Fatigue still lapped at him. For a moment, he just rested his head against Isolde’s soft neck, her mane covering his head like a blanket. He heard her heart beat. The soft crunch of leaves underneath her hoof. Then, the snap of a twig brought Erende back.

  “Wait. What is that?”

 Erende looked up to see the Guild had stopped moving. The sky above them had grown completely dark. Khir’schen held a torch, the flicker of the light licking her cheeks. He blinked. How long had he slept?

 “What is it?” Erende asked, “why aren’t we going?”

 Nobody answered. Ahead, Aeria slowly slid off of Toro. Her boots crunched under her weight. Erende followed her gaze, and his chest tightened.

 A village had been incinerated. Huts of both bone and grass were black with ash. Burnt bodies lay strewn across the ground.

 “Oh gods.” Ori said, “Greenmoss…it’s…”

 “I…I…” Aeria started. Erende climbed off of Isolde, carefully navigating his way towards Aeria.

 Then, he stopped. Something clamored high in the trees. He looked up, searching the almost green sky for any signs of moment. Nothing. The crack of a twig under a boot brought his eyes towards the darkness.

 Erende heard the arrow before it pierced his eye. He ducked, narrowly missing the deadly tip as it zoomed past him and lodged into a tree trunk. The Guild stopped moving. Erende noticed that the forest around them was glowing with little orange dots. Khir’schen swung her legs around and pounced off of Waylan, landing on the ground next to Erende. She unsheathed her sword, the metal making that unforgettable shing as she brandished it against her arm. Ahead, Aeria had already knocked her bow, and Orianer’s hands glowed blue. Bahadur held his battle-axe in one hand, and the reins in another.

 Then, a barrage arrows whizzed towards them. Bahadur blocked some by swinging his axe over his head, knocking away the arrows while some of them lodged themselves into the weapon. Orianer shot several spikes of ice into the trees, using the angle from which the arrows came as a guide. Several of the attacks zipped down from the trees, rushing towards them. Khir’schen and Erende knocked them from the air with quick flicks of their swords. The way the elves moved were fast, almost blinding fast. Erende felt the wind from the swords and arrows as they zoomed past him, he saw blood spurt onto the ground, but no bodies fall, and he heard the grunts of the warriors. One archer was caught in the corner of his eye, knocking an arrow. He first aimed it at Khir’schen, then Erende. Finally, Erende saw the elf hesitate for a split second. He took the chance and hurled his dagger. The dagger spun, a black missile in the air, before striking the bow and knocking the archer to the ground. Erende rushed and pried the blade of his dagger from the bow. Then, a boot from the archer swung his direction and hit him directly in the throat, sending him sprawling backwards. Erende coughed, spitting out saliva that clogged his mouth. He stood, watching as the archer picked up their bow. They stared at one another, the intensity of their standoff making Erende tense. The archer raised his bow, and Erende held up his dagger.

 “Lower your weapons!” A voice from the forest echoed. Erende tightened his grip on his dagger. He spied shadows jumping across branches in the trees.

 “Not until you show yourselves from the shadows!” Aeria responded. A tense stillness crawled over them. Erende heard the crack of twigs and leaves come out from his side, and he braced himself. Then, a young wood elf wearing a set of bone armor appeared from the trees. He was lanky but well-built, with his head shaved on one side and his hair pulled over the other. His eyes were a dark brown that reflected the glow of the torch he held. War paint was streaked across his cheeks. He took another step forward, causing Aeria to whip around and aim her arrow at him. He held up his empty hand.

 “Aeria?” He quietly asked. The Guild turned to her. Aeria strained with her bow, her fingers now white with pressure. The young elf took another step forward, bringing his torch in closer. The light shined on the features of his face.

 “Aeria, it’s me. It’s Palinor.”

 The clank of the bow echoed through the forest as Aeria dropped it. She rushed towards the elf and engulfed him in a hug. Sobs reached their ears, and they slowly sheathed their weapons.

 “Aeria, I’ve missed you! It feels like an era since I’ve seen you last.” The elf named Palinor said with a choked voice as he pulled away from the hug. Aeria wiped her eyes.

  “It does, it really does.”

 Palinor whistled, the sound similar to a bird call, and the rest of the orange dots came out from in the trees. The elf Erende had been locked in a battle with sheathed their bow, huffing slightly before returning to Palinor. The others descended the giant trunks with ease and grace, landing on the forest floor without so much as a quiet thump. The figures were all wood elves, each other them clad in bone armor and wearing war paint. Aeria had a smile on her face as she turned to the Guild.

 “Everyone, we’re in Valenwood.”

--

 Much to their surprise, they had been in Valenwood longer than they realized. Since the roads had been destroyed, Aeria hadn’t noticed that they already crossed into Wood Elf territory. Erende had slept for only the few hours it took to reach the refugee camp the elves had set up in wake of the war. The burnt village had been nothing but a decoy to distract intruders from the real camp, as Palinor explained. That one had been set in the trees.

 Erende watched as the militia of elves hoisted themselves up into the trees; he had no idea how the elves could climb the trunks with such ease. Even Aeria vaulted herself up using the branches, leaving the rest of the Guild to be lifted up using a pulley system. They crowded inside an old wagon with ropes attached to four rusted metal rings around it. The ropes stretched upwards past dense leaves and branches. Erende batted away the leaves as they were tugged higher and higher.

 “Just don’t look down!” Palinor called as he climbed from one branch to another beside them, “it’s easier if you just look up.”

 “Too late,” Steffan said, his face growing green as he slumped against Orianer, “I looked down.”

 “Well, don’t throw up on me!” Ori said, shoving him aside and making the wagon rock. Bahadur steadied it by holding onto the ropes.

 “Stop horsing around, we’re almost there.”

 Erende watched as the foliage was brushed away to reveal a series of bridges and huts hanging in the trees. They were all made of what looked to be bone. The huts were round and had a pointed roof, with the bridges that connected them spanned from either a few feet or across a giant area between two trees. The Bosmer traveled from one place to another using the bridges or by vaulting themselves on the branches. Erende could even see animals like cow and chickens being kept in pens floating above the ground. Across from some of the huts, were a group of archers readying their bows. Someone shouted “HA!” and they fired the arrows into targets lined across the trees. Other warriors used their sword skills in a closed area, fighting against one another. Erende heard the sound of metal on bone as the warriors lashed out on one another.

 As the wagon was pulled into a small station, one of the elves untied two of the ropes, then retying them on another ring that had been placed on the trunk of the tree. That helped steady the cart, and Toro bounded out, wagging his tail. The Guild stepped out of it one by one. Aeria and Palinor greeted them with smiles.

 “Have a fun trip?” Palinor asked. Steffan clutched Erende’s shoulder, groaning as he straightened himself up.

 “Perfect,” he strained. Aeria motioned for them to follow her as she began walking towards one of the bridges.

 “I know this wasn’t a part of the plan,” she started, motioning to the huts, “but if you haven’t noticed, this is my brother, Palinor.”

 Palinor bowed his head, smiling.

 “Welcome, Guild. It’s finally nice to meet you after all I’ve heard about is just in the few letters,” he said. Bahadur stuck out his hand in greeting.

 “Well, we’re glad Aeria decided to mention us. My name is Bahadur, and this is Vala, Khir’schen, Steffan, and Erende. I’m sure you already know of Orianer and Toro, right?”

 Palinor chuckled.

 “That I do - hello Ori,” he said. Ori scoffed, turning, but Erende thought he could see her cheeks pink just the slightest.

 “Just the same, huh?” Palinor winked, “and pleased to meet you all.”

 He bowed again before turning to Aeria.

 “I’m sorry that you came upon the remains of the village like that, and get locked into a battle. If we knew you were coming, we would have sent escorts to you.” He said. Aeria shrugged.

 “It’s perfectly fine, but what happened to the village? I know you said the one below on the ground was a decoy, but what about the actual Greenmoss? And who are the bodies down there?”

 Palinor raised a hand, stopping her from asking anymore questions. He then took her by the arm and guided her along with the Guild across the bridge and towards a hut made of bone, a red, tattered flag being used as a door fluttered in the wind.

 “As I said before, this is the true Greenmoss Camp. During the war, we moved all of our settlements into the trees. It gave us the advantage of both defense and attack, as no one could adequately score the trees like us, and we could hide from view if needed. The village down below is just a decoy, the bodies are illusions created by Mother.”

 Aeria’s eyes widened, her face glowing.

 “Mother? Where is Mother?”

 Palinor smiled again, nodding towards the hut. Without another second Aeria dashed inside, the flag billowing behind her. The Guild followed Palinor, who lifted the flag. The hut was furnished nicely, two leather seats sitting in the one room. A rub made of what looked to be a bear skin was draped across the floor. Weapons and arrows hung from the walls in decoration, including ceremonial headdresses and necklaces. In the middle of the room was Aeria hugging an older woman. Her hair was graying and pulled into a single regal braid that trailed down her back. She wore simple leather armor that curved around her figure, and two swords hung from her belt. Her eyes were a brilliant green and her red lips turned into a grin as she patted Aeria’s back.

 “Oh, my sweet willow, welcome home!” She said. Erende could see the tears in both of their eyes.

 “Your father is out right now teaching a sermon near the Elder Tree, but will be back later tonight! Oh, and did you hear? Your brother got position as Captain of the Guard!”

 “I did, I met with him a few minutes ago. It’s great to be home, I’ve missed you all and you’ve all done so well,” Aeria sniffed. Suddenly, two small elves burst through a beaded curtain door of the hut, immediately darting towards Aeria. They tackled her to the ground, laughing happily as Toro licked all of their faces.

 “Lorwen, Onadessa!” Aeria’s mother scolded as the three wrestled on the ground, “your sister comes for a visit and that’s how you treat her? In front of guests, no less! You don’t see Palinor doing that, do you?”

 “Well, I’ve already done that,” Palinor chuckled. Aeria laughed, pushing the two off of her.

 “It’s fine, Mother, I’m just as happy to see you all.”

 She then must’ve remember the Guild was behind her, and her face flushed red for a second. She stood up brushing off her clothing.

 “Lorwen, Mother, Onadessa, please meet my colleagues; Khir’schen, Steffan, Bahadur, Vala, and Erende,” she said, pointing them out individually, who bowed in turn. Mother held out her arms gracefully.

 “Ah, welcome to Greenmoss. My name is Imdel, so please call me such,” Imdel said, “these are the twins, Lorwen and Onadessa,” Imdel said.

 Lorwen stood up straight, “my name is Lorwen, and I’m the oldest!” He said, earning a slap across the chest from Onadessa.

 “You are not!” She argued, “I am!”

 Erende saw a sly grin appear on Aeria’s mouth when she saw Ori trying to hide behind Bahadur.

 “And you remember Orianer, right?” Aeria said. Lorwen and Onadessa both cried, “yes!” before dashing towards Bahadur. They shoved him out of the way, latching onto Ori who groaned in response.

 “Hello, children…” she muttered, “it’s good to see you’re as enthusiastic as ever.”

 Erende withheld his laughter pressing his lips in close together.

 “It seems like someone hates children,” Steffan whispered to him. Erende snorted.

 “You are just in time for dinner as well! Come, come!” Imdel beckoned. She led them from the room through the beaded curtain where which the two smaller elves had entered from. Erende was greeted with the smell of roasted meat and…actually, what seemed to be more meat. A dining room. A long, regal table filled with only mounds of meat sat on a red-carpet floor, with a burning fireplace at one end. The table was set for almost twelve people, and Imdel waved her hands for the Guild to hurry and sit down. Erende watched as the twins shoved each other out of the way as they attempted to climb into a chair next to Orianer, who just pretended to ignore them.

 “Wow, Mother, this all looks fantastic,” Aeria said, eyeing the spread before her. Erende glanced over the mounds of meat, looking for any sort of greenery. Palinor caught the look on his face.

 “Wood Elves are naturally carnivores,” he said, handing down cuts of pig, cow, chicken and a few other animals Erende did not recognize, “but we are followers of Y’ffre, so we strictly do not eat anything except for the whole of an animal,” he stabbed what looked to be an eyeball, and offered it to Erende. He politely grinned.

 “How interesting.”

 Palinor dropped the eyeball onto Erende’s plate, and continued to serve the mass amounts of food to the Guild. One of the twins – Onadessa, Erende believed, began circling the table, holding a pitcher and pouring a red drink into numerous silver wine cups. Erende watched as Onadessa poured the liquid into his cup. It smelled rancid, and the texture was as thick as sap. He pushed it away from him with a frown. He then saw Aeria began to stuff her face with the meat, cracking open bones to suck out the marrow. Erende wasn’t surprised when both Steffan and Orianer followed her lead.

“So, what is it that you are doing here, Aeria?” Imdel asked, softly patting Toro on the head. Aeria looked over to the Guild.

 “Well, Mother, in truth we are here for a mission.” She said, wiping her mouth free of grease.

 “Very important, it’s imperative that we are able to perform our duties while on this mission.” Orianer grunted as she pried the twins off her. Imdel nodded.

 “I see. May I ask what it might be, or is it private?”

 Aeria shared another glance towards Bahadur, who shook his head. Aeria smiled weakly.

 “It’s…it’s private, Mother, but I promise you, we won’t be a disturbance. We just need to find the old Hollow that Father used to do his sermons, do you know where that is?”

 Imdel frowned slightly, the wrinkles around her mouth casting a shade of doubt on her beautiful features.

 “No, I’m not sure if it’s still there, but you can always look if you need to. Take the bridges, though, it’s safer than travelling on the ground,” Imdel said. The sound of the curtain beads clinking together caught their attention, and they turned to the doorway to see a large man wearing a plain brown robe enter the room. He was an attractive man with a broad frame, black hair and yellow eyes with a set square jaw. His eyes glazed over them until they fell on Aeria, and he smiled.

 “There you are!” He said before grabbing her and hoisting her up into the air, laughing heartily.

 “Hello Papa,” Aeria wheezed, struggling in his grip. Aeria’s father squeezed her again before setting her back down in her chair. Erende watched as the large elf lumbered towards Imdel, and planted a wet kiss on her forehead.

 “I heard from some of the villagers that you and a group of outsiders had come, so I cut the sermon short to see you.”

 “That was sweet of you Papa, but you didn’t have to do that. We’re not staying long.”

 “Oh? Why not?” Her father asked. Imdel placed a hand on his arm.

 “They’re on some special quest, Celaen, very important and very secretive.”

 “Well, not so secretive that you hide it from your family?’ Celaen asked. Aeria smiled weakly.

 “Unfortunately, yes.”

 “Well, I suppose we should enjoy your company while we can.” Celaen said, sitting down on a chair near his wife, “at least I was able to see my daughter. Is there anything I can help you with?”

 Aeria smiled.

 “Actually, yes, there is. Greenmoss Hollow, you know, where you used to do your sermons.”

 “Yes, I remember. What about it?”

 “Is it still there? As in, still in the same area?”

 “I believe so. How come?”

 Aeria shared a look towards Bahadur.

 “Nothing much.”

 After the dinner was over, the Guild gave Celaen and Imdel their grace and began to leave. Night had fallen in the time they had been in the hut, and Erende felt impatient. He wanted to get the summoning over with, and the dinner had taken longer than he liked. They waited outside the hut as Aeria quietly kissed her mother’s cheek and ruffled the twins’ hair. Her father grabbed her again and squeezed.

 “She’s quite family-positive.” Erende said. Ori glanced at him.

 “Traumatic events lead to that – she’s lucky to keep her family. Some people lose everything.”

 Erende blinked, and opened his mouth to ask her a question but Aeria interrupted him as she trotted over to the Guild with Palinor in tow. She looked over her shoulder a few times to see her family waving as they disappeared into the hut.

 “I must admit, I’m a bit surprised.” Palinor said, 

 “I did say hi, and had dinner,” Aeria said, “it’s just we all have a lot of things to do, and this is all the time I can afford right now.”

 Palinor didn’t press the issue, but tucked his lips inside his mouth. Vala tapped Aeria on the shoulder. She turned with a raised eyebrow. 

 “Hm?”

 “I think Palinor has a point,” she said, “shouldn’t you talk to your family for a little while longer? This mission isn’t as important as your family.”

 Khir’schen and Erende exchanged a glance.

 “Well, really,” Erende started, chuckling slightly, “we should really try to focus on what we need to do here, I mean, Tolfdir did tell us that we need to find the Scroll, and soon.”

 “Exactly,” Khir’schen agreed, “the longer you do talk to your family, the less time we have completing the mission. We’ve already had dinner with them.”

 Palinor shot them an icy look. Erende was guilty for saying that, but it’s what they needed to do.

 Aeria nodded her head regardless of the disappointed look on her face.

 “Yeah, they’re right,” she sighed, “we need to get down to Greenmoss Hollow, and soon.”

 She turned away from them, and started to head down the bridge again. Khir’schen and Erende bumped their hands as they followed her.

 Palinor didn’t argue with his sister, but rather silently guided them from one end of the hanging village to the other. When they reached a bridge that seemed to spiral downwards, he turned to Aeria, and gave a formal bow.

 “Here is where the Hollow is, or used to be. I hope your mission goes well, as it was nice to see you again, sister.” He said. Aeria stumbled as she bowed back to him.

 “Thank you. It was nice to see you again as well, brother.”

 They rose together, nodding once more before Palinor turned on his heel and headed back into the camp. When he was gone, Aeria descended down the bridge. At the end, it cut off into a patch of branches and thick leaves. Aeria had no trouble jumping from branch to branch until she was practically near the bottom.

 “There is no wagon here that I see.” Steffan said, carefully climbing from the bridge to a branch.

 “Slid on the leaves, it’s easier!” Aeria called from below. Erende did as she said, climbing from the bridge towards the giant leaves. Before he could manually slide down on them, his boot slipped, and he tumbled down the leaves in a frenzy of screaming, cursing, and, finally, crashing face first onto the ground. Aeria burst into laughter.

 “I said slide!” She wheezed. Erende picked up his head, muttering obscenities as he stood. While he brushed off his clothes and face, the rest of the Guild made it safely down the leaves, with both Steffan and Vala losing their balance. Erende winked.

 “Look like I’m not the only one.”

 “You were the funniest one,” Aeria winked back. Erende frowned, following her as she walked carefully under branches and vines.

 “Palinor said it would be here, but I wouldn’t expect it to be pristine,” she said, “so, we may have to clear some of the foliage out.”

 “Or a lot of the foliage out,” Orianer piped. She had pressed ahead, and moved away a curtain of moss to reveal a large stone mound. It rose up from the ground in a circular architecture. Seven jagged stone pillars arched towards the middle of the mound. The center was filled with dirt, and six evenly spaced out unlit candles surrounded it. Erende’s breathed hitched as he approached it.

 “This is it,” Aeria said with a stuttered breath as she kneeled into the dirt, “this is the summoning circle.”

 The Guild spread out between the candles. The wind was colder here, and Erende smelled the faint scent of ash.

 “Is there a certain ritual we must partake in?” Bahadur asked quietly. He waited for Aeria to say or do something as she silently stood, staring at the dirt. Erende held his breath. Instead, she hesitated, and stepped away.

 “I…I…”

 Steffan moved towards her, worry beginning to cross his face.

 “Aeria? You alright?” He asked. She started shaking her head frantically.

 “No. No, this isn’t right,” she cried, tears welling in her eyes, “I can’t contact him. I can’t. I can’t do that again.”

 She collapsed onto the ground, wheezing. Steffan hurriedly pulled her into his arms.

 “She’s having a panic episode,” Toro said, running to her. He placed a paw on her forehead, and frowned.

 “Aeria, Aeria, look at me,” he said, nuzzling her cheek, “look at me, you need to calm down, okay? Your temperatures rising, so you need to calm down.”

 Aeria nodded, breathing in and out.

 “I told you we shouldn’t do this!” Orianer snapped, stroking Aeria’s hair gently.

 “What’s wrong with her? What’s the matter?” Erende asked. Khir’schen gripped his arm as Toro licked away her tears.

 “If her temperature gets high, it signals she’s on the verge of a transformation,” Toro explained, glancing to them, “her anxiety can cause her to turn into a full werewolf.”

 Erende saw the look on Toro’s face as he removed his paw. The dog nodded once, and both Khir’schen and Erende understood.

 “Hey, hey,” Erende said, stopping down in front of her. Aeria had her face buried in Steffan’s shoulder, and she was shaking.

 “Aeria, Aeria, you’re not going to turn,” he said in a calm voice, “you’re not going to turn.”

 “I will if I summon him!” Aeria cried, her voice muffled from Steffan’s clothing.

 “Aeria, listen,” Khir’schen interjected, “I promise you, we will protect you, and we will protect everyone else if you do turn while talking to him, but I promise you, you won’t.” Aeria’s sobs began to recede, and Toro wagged his tail. Khir’schen placed a hand on her shoulder, “we’re all going to stand on that mound, and we’re going to summon Hircine. We’ll get the Scroll. And then it’ll be over.”

 For a moment, Aeria didn’t move. She hiccupped, her sobs now gone. Her eyes were red and skin was streaked with tears, but her expression was hard.

 “We get the Scroll,” she repeated slowly, “and we’re done.”

 “Get the Scroll, and we’re done.” Khir’schen nodded.

 Aeria drew her lips in a tight line, then slowly began to stand. She balled her hands into tight fists, taking one step, then another, and another towards the mound.

 “Get the Scroll, and we’re done, get the Scroll, and we’re done,” Erende heard her whisper under her breath. When she approached the mound, she whistled. Toro came bounding to her, sitting next to her feet. She closed her eyes, holding her hands out in front of her.

 “In the realm where hunters roam, where men view the lands as catacombs, werebeasts pray to their patron lord.” She chanted in a deep, slow voice. Dark magick began to seep from her hands, the candles lighting themselves. A caustic violet field began to rise from the rigids of the stone, creating a barrier between Aeria and the others.

 “Bring the mortals forward, bathe in the blood of your prey, use this ground as your new hunt!”
 The blackness swirled around the mound. It drained from Aeria’s body and casted a dark shadow to loom over them. Aeria began to shake as more and more of the magick flowed into the circle.

 “Lord of the Hunt, Father of the Beasts, your pride calls to you! Hircine, I call to you!

 The black magick exploded around her, swirling high into the air. It billowed in black clouds, thunder striking and lighting flashing as the magick engulfed all of them at once. Erende covered his eyes, waiting until the sound had dissipated. When he opened them, he gasped.

 In the circle stood a large beast. His body was that of a man, but his legs were those of a wolf. Muscles bulged underneath his skin, a tail whipping behind him. On his head, he wore the skull of a goat streaked in blood. The tip of a black bow peeked from behind the skull. At his feet were two snarling werewolves. They stalked around the circle, slashing and biting at the barrier.

 Aeria stood before him, her hands still open and the magick still seeping from her. The area around her eyes had turned grey. Erende stepped forward, but Khir’schen snagged his arm.

 “Don’t,” she mouthed.

 “Well, well, well,” The Daedric Prince said in a low, almost sultry voice, “Aeria, it’s been quite some time. How is the hunger?”

 Aeria growled.

 “I’m not here to serve you, Hircine, I am here for a bigger reason than that.”

 Hircine laughed, stepping forward. His feet left deep paw prints in the dirt.

 “You are, are you? Well, what is it that you need? Something you need for your little…mission, is that correct? The Scroll? An Elder Scroll?”

 Aeria breathed, her arms shaking harder as she struggled to keep the barrier up. The black magick she secreted was slowly circling around her, creating a black void.

 “Lord, I wish to know where the Elder Scroll of Wound is located,” she seethed, “to find it is my goal, and as you are a Daedric Prince, you have the ability to find it for me,” she snarled, “tell me where it is! I demand to know!”

 Hircine scowled, but chuckled slightly. The werewolves that stalked the barrier grew more eager, their muzzles dripping with saliva.

 “In another time, I would use you as prey in my hunt,” he grinned, “I am above you, I created you, you do not speak to me that way.”

 “You did not create me!” Aeria fumed, “I demand to know where the Scroll is!”

 “I know what you are doing!” Hircine said, stepping closer to her, “I know why you need the Scroll, but even in my power, I cannot tell you.”

 “Why…” Aeria slowly dropped to one knee, her hands grinding into the dirt, groaning as her arms shook violently, “why?!”

 “The war has taken effect on all of you, hasn’t it?” Hircine spat, “but it has also taken a toll on us. There is something boiling in Oblivion, something that is corrupting my power. The Aedra have vanished, and the planes of existence are out of balance! I do not know what it is, yet it has started to spread. I know the Scroll, I know you need it, and I believe that in order for you to save Tamriel and even I, you will need to find it, but I do not know where.”

 “What do…what do you..mean..Oblivion…is…” Aeria struggled to finish the sentence, but Hircine didn’t seem to care.

 “There are other Princes that have betrayed my trust, the others’ trust. The power of all of our planes have begun to seep from them and to this world. I fear these Daedric Princes’ are taking our influence and using it to guide a mortal to our level of power. I understand your mission, the importance of it! The Scroll of Wound will aide you in stopping this from happening! Before the Aedra disappeared, they took with them the secrets of pinpointing a Scroll. I do not have those secrets, but I will give you this – my influence, or what is left on Tamriel. It will guide you and show you the way to the Scroll, if it is near. I cannot guarantee that you will find it, but as I do not know where it is hidden, you must do it on your own.”

 Suddenly, the sound of an explosion rocked the ground. Aeria was thrown to the side, her magickal ward flickering. The werewolves snarled.

 “Find it! Find the Scroll!” Hircine called, raising his hand as the storm of black magick roared above him. Thunder flashed, lighting struck the ground, and as the last of the magick poured from Aeria’s hands, Hircine and the werewolves were cloaked in the clouds, and they vanished.

 Orianer was the first to race to Aeria’s side. She held her in her lap, quickly examining her face.

 “Aeria, Aeria, are you alright?” She cried. Aeria blinked, her hand coming to press against her temple.

 “I’m fine, I’m fine,” she said, “what happened?”

 “Hircine told us that he can’t help us,” Erende muttered, “we’re still on our own to find it.”

 “No, not that,” Aeria said, sitting up, “I mean the explosion. Where did it come from?”

 The Guild glanced around the mound, looking to see where it had come from. The night sky made the land dark, and Erende squinted through the blackness. Then, he saw where it had come from. A pillar of fire and smoke rose up from where Greenmoss was. He heard the crack of breaking trees, and then the screams.

 “Oh, gods,” Aeria whispered, realizing it at the same time. She bolted up, racing towards Greenmoss. They pushed through the thickets and dense foliage of the forest, fighting their way back to the village. Erende could smell the smoke as they got closer, his eyes stinging. He finally pushed through a bundle of branches, and stumbled upon the fire.

 The village, the hanging village, was up in flames. On the ground were fighting forces of Bosmer, Altmer and Imperials. They clashed in the flames, bodies falling to the ground and burning. Villagers screamed as they tried to climb out of the trees. Branches cracked and fell to the forest floor, crushing anyone who was underneath them.

 “It’s an ambush!” Orianer screamed. Aeria didn’t say anything, only rushing to one of the pulleys where she frantically tried to climb up. Bahadur followed her, grabbing her by the waist and pulling her off it.

 “Aeria, stop, it’s too dangerous!” He said. Aeria fought against him, screaming.

 “Palinor! Onadessa! Mother!”

 Erende was about to run to them, but was suddenly knocked over by an Altmer. They tumbled to the ground, fighting and hollering. The elves armor was burning from the heat, and Erende cried out as his bare hands gripped it. He was able to throw the elf off, but the Altmer got back up, brandishing a blade. Erende wiped his nose, seeing the flames reflect off of the blood.

 Then, the Altmer ran screaming at him. Erende grabbed a sword from the ground, dodging the Altmer’s attack and stabbing him in the back. The elf fell to the ground, and Erende breathed heavily. He noticed Khir’schen struggling as two Imperials tried to force her down to the ground. He pulled the sword out of the Altmer’s back, running towards her and shoving aside one of the Imperials, immediately knocking him with his shoulder and stabbing him in the throat. Khir’schen quickly dispatched the other one, slicing across his armor and landing a blow to his head.

 “Where are the others?!” Erende yelled over the roar of the flames.

 “I don’t know, but we need to leave!” Khir’schen said, grabbing onto his arm and pulling him towards the edge of the forest line where they saw a sky that wasn’t burning. They slipped and avoided brawling warriors, fighting off those who tried to attack them. Erende felt the bile in his throat as he continued to cut and stab, but he forced it down.

 When they reached the edge of the forest, they fell to the ground, crawling forward to get away from the fire. The forest had ended on the tip of a cliff, and Erende saw they had nowhere else to go. Then, he heard a whinny. He turned and saw Bahadur mounted atop Arvak. Vala was next to him, riding Isolde with the other horses’ reins in hand. Toro was barking wildly at the fire. Waylan bucked at the sight of Khir’schen.

 “There you are!” Bahadur said, relieved, “we’ve been looking for you.”

 “Where’s Aeria and Steffan?” Erende asked, panting, “where’s Ori? Where are they?”

 “Steffan just went back in to find them,” Vala said, “Aeria is refusing to come out, she’s trying to find her family.”

 “There will be nothing left of her family,” Toro growled, “where is she?!”

 Erende turned on his heel and raced back into the wall of fire. He heard the others call for him behind him.

 “Erende! Erende, stop!” Khir’schen cried. He pushed her voice from his head, and locked his sight in front of him. All he could see was fire. The flames of the siege ate away at the ground of the forests. The sound of the trees breaking and falling to the ground echoed around him. Smoke burned into his eyes, make them water. Bodies littered the ground, their armor melting into their skin.  

 “Steffan! Steffan!” He called, coughing violently, “Steffan! Where are you?!”

 “Erende!”

 Erende turned.

 “Steffan!”
 “Erende!”

 He followed the voice until he stumbled upon Orianer. Her leg was caught underneath one of the falling branches, and she groaned as she tried to free herself.

 “Help me, please,” she said. Erende placed his hands against the branch, pushing and pushing until her leg was able to wiggle out. The metal was bent and seared, and Erende knew she couldn’t walk on it. He placed a hand under her arm and hoisted her up, letting her lean on him.

 “Where’s Steffan?” Erende asked, his voice now hoarse from the ash. Orianer coughed.

 “They were in front of me, we were headed towards the tree line, I don’t know,” she said. Erende saw the streaks of tears run down the ash marks on her face. He gritted his teeth, pulling her along.

 “Well, let’s hurry up and go meet them then,” he said, “I have your back.”

 For the first time, Orianer turned to him, and smiled.

 “Thank you.”

 They continued through the carnage, twisting and turning and avoiding the charred corpses until they saw the blue edge of the tree line. They raced towards it, feeling their lungs burst as cold air rushed into their lungs. They collapsed in a heap, panting hard. Orianer gagged, coughing and spitting out flecks of wood and ash from her throat. Erende heaved.

 “Th…thank…you,” Orianer whispered, “thank you.”

 Erende didn’t have time to respond before someone grabbed him and pulled him up. It was Steffan. He watched as Bahadur picked up Orianer’s limp body, bringing them towards the cliffside. They sat in the grass, all of them breathing hard. As Erende struggled to open his eyes, he could see the faintest speck of light in the night sky. The sun was starting to rise. He smiled.

 “L…look…the sun! The sun.” He said, turning to the rest of the Guild. They didn’t look at him. Instead, they watched Aeria. She sat with her back facing them, staring as the fire ate away at the trees. Her armor was tattered, her hair singed. She was silent.

 “Aeria?” Ori said from beside her, “Aeria, are you okay?”

 “You do this...” Aeria whispered, “you…you did this.”

 She turned and looked at them. Her eyes were purple, and tears were nestled in her eyes.

 “You do this. You…you all did this!”

 Her breathing was getting heavier, her chest heaving. Erende noticed black markings shooting up her arms and legs. Toro noticed it to, for he growled low in his throat at her.

 “Aeria, please,” he said, “breathe, Aeria, breathe.”

 “Shut up!” She screamed. Her arms began to bulge, her legs doubled in size. Hair grew all over her body, the armor ripping away to expose pulsating muscles. Toro whimpered, kneeling down as her body seethed.

Aeria roared, her teeth soaked in saliva and muzzle black with tears. Erende watched as her hulking figure shake with rage. Her purple eyes snagged onto him.

 “You did this!” She screamed, stepping closer to him, “you made me do this! You killed my family! You made this happen!”

 “No, he didn’t, Aeria!”

 Aeria turned to see Ori holding her broken leg. Blood seeped from her bandaged hand. Tears mixed with dust and dirt on her face.

 “It was nobody’s fault! It was never anyone’s fault!”

 Aeria breathed, and Erende sat, frozen, as she took another step towards him.

 “It was not your fault, it was not your fault,” Ori said quietly. Aeria clenched her giant fists.

 “It’s your fault!” She screamed, grabbing Erende and hurling him into Ori. They collided into each other, tumbling into the dirt. Aeria roared again, shoving away Bahadur and Khir’schen as they tried to contain her. Toro barked wildly.

 “Aeria! Aeria, please!” Toro cried. She didn’t listen, and when Erende struggled to stand, he only saw the black mass disappear into the burning forest. Smoke burned his eyes, and he breathed out. For a moment, Erende laid in the grass, feeling the warm ooze of blood cascaded from his skin. He heard the crunch of leaves beneath boots, and a soft hand wrapping under his arm. Erende opened his eyes, seeing Khir’schen, covered in both blood and ash, grunting as she slowly helped him towards the edge of the forest. He heard Bahadur groan as he lifted Ori into his arms. They reached the edge of the cliff, farther from the inferno. Erende hacked, spitting black ash and blood into the grass then collapsing.

 “I’m sorry…” Erende wheezed, “I’m so…so sorry,”

 Khir’schen placed a hand on his face. He could feel the rough texture of dried blood and dirt on her palm. Her eyes were red.

 “It’s not your fault. It’s nobody’s fault.”

“Where did she go?” Vala rasped, “how are we going to find her?”

 “She’s gone. She’s completely gone.” Steffan moaned, holding his leg in his hand. Blood trickled from a gash in his leg, staining his armor. Erende blinked away tears that gathered in his ashen eyes.

 “Is this it?” He asked softly.

 “Hell no.”

 Erende looked up to see Ori grimace as she struggled to her feet.

 “We’ll find her. We’ll get this done. It’s only just the beginning.”

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...