"So now we're invitin elves ta this little conglomerate we got goin eh? And we're supposed to believe this king of yours will bring us slaves and gold?"
The echoes of doubt rang high that morning, clear for all to hear. Scathe was up to his neck in it at this point, surrounded by his clansmen. The smell of shit and sweat as such was heavy, and already Scathe grew tired of their presence. But blast it if they weren't right.
"Aye, it's like Thorimir says. We saw how green he got behind the gills at the mention of rape. I'm calling his bluff!"
Thorimir raised his axe. "I say we go find that lass of his and show her how a REAL Nord greets yellow skins in our land! You ask me, I say we don't need no silver tongued city boy to take the elven lands! Lets go do what our ancestors have been doin, lets go raid their shores and leave a trail of fire and blood in our wake!"
Even as the chants grew and grew, fire and blood, fire and blood, the morning sky's colors mingling in the background as though in response, Scathe sat silent, contemplating without saying a word. Even as Thorimir's hot breath settled on his cheek. This was not the Scathe any of them knew, but it was the only evidence they had that the stories of this Ashy king were true. Unfortunately, a subdued Scathe wasn't as flashy as seeing the thu'um first-hand, and Thorimir was tired of stories.
"You listen and you listen well. Whatever he did to break your spirit, doesn't effect us. If your new pa wants to befriend elves then by all means. But if we find her, we won't be so friendly... Now, we go our own way..."
The door of a humble loghouse slammed shut behind the crowd, turning heads immediately.
"If it isn't papa himself," said Thorimir. "Wulfharth my eye! Wulfharth was the bane of elves, not their protector! Pretender! Come to me!"
The pretender in question marched his way up in nothing but leather trousers and boots, and a single axe at his hip. Thorimir watched, waiting for him to grip his. But when Baldur approached, he walked past him. He walked past all of them.
So perplexed by this was Thorimir that he began to follow, and the crowd followed as well, including a bewildered Scathe.
This continued for a time until they approached a table occupied by two dice players near the docks that quickly vacated their place. Baldur sat, Thorimir stood, hand on battle axe and ready to swing.
Baldur took a sip from the mead they'd left, not regarding Thorimir at all. That was when Thorimir's axe found the table and buried itself there. Now Baldur looked at him directly, and the crowd was silent.
"Word is you don't like how I do things around here."
"That's right," said Thorimir. "None of us agreed to acceptin no-"
"I don't remember asking you a thing," said Baldur, his voice raised just enough to overtalk him. It quickly fell back to normal as he stood, facing Thorimir directly. "Here's what will happen. You will forget about whatever pet elves I decide to keep. You will not offend with your stench in my presence again unless called. And we will raid when I say we raid."
Thorimir crossed his arms after a moment's hesitation. This wasn't the same Nord they'd met before. Even after turning over a bunch of tables, he still understood his position. He needed Thorimir and his men. He needed numbers. He needed them, not the other way around. Right? So what changed. Realizing he was contemplating this instead of speaking, he hurriedly said, "Why? What will you do if I don't?"
"There is no more if," said Baldur. "What I say is not a suggestion, what I say is not a proposition. There will be no 'or', no follow up." He stood closer now, until Thorimir could smell his breath. But instead of saying anything, the shorter Nord just stared at him for an uncomfortably long time, and not just for him, but for everyone there. By the time Thorimir realized he'd diverted his eyes to see what the others thought, it was too late. Suddenly, things had turned as soon as he'd looked. That's what he saw when he looked into their eyes.
Thorimir looked back. In his ear, Baldur said, "Whether you see 'fire and blood' sooner rather than later relies entirely on how much of an annoyance you are for me. I've put up with your lot more than enough by now. No more."
The two seemed to have stood like that forever, so by the time Thorimir looked up, the crowd he'd gathered already began to disperse. As Baldur walked past, he said, "My elves are just that. Mine. Be sure to remember that, and remind those that forget."
By the time everyone had cleared, all that remained was Scathe and Thorimir. Now it was his turn to stare, although Scathe didn’t return his look.
“So that’s it huh? You’ve just let this Nord clip your balls. A Nord without even a proper beard, and that smells cleaner than most wenches I know.”
Scathe still remained silent, even as Thorimir grabbed him by the neck. “You’re pathetic. I should just kill you right now so that you don’t dishonor your sons any longer. This Baldur acts tough but he lives in a longhouse... he walks around with his babe in a sling, and has one wife. He doesn’t even have walls for this ‘Kyne’s Watch’, and you haven’t made plans to move on him yet?”
Scathe shoved his hand aside and said, “Who says I haven’t? Aye? You don’t know a fuckin thing, you just got here!”
”Then tell me, brother! Tell me, and our kin, and we’ll take this port for ourselves! We could take him, his wench or the babe for ransom without much effort, but I need you to help! What do you say? We answer to no one remember? Much less an elf loving king that fancies himself Wulfharth.”
Scathe looked away from him, turning around. And for a while Thorimir thought he’d refuse. So it was a surprise when he piped up after Thorimir put a hand on his dagger at Scathe’s back.
”We will need to be quick. Move quietly. Those Grim Ones of his are strong but we have numbers they don’t. If we plan carefully, we can outmaneuver them. The rest are inconsequential.”
Thorimir moved his hand from his dagger to his brother’s back. “That’s more like it.”
”So now that we’re past the threats and warnings, why don’t we get to the good stuff. I hope you two are worth it, you caused me a big headache already with the wife.”
If Baldur's familial troubles bothered Illorwe, she showed no sign of it. The high elf's face was a mask of impassivity. "As I have told you, High King, it is not my intention to help or hinder. You will find little worth in my presence. Master Endar is another matter. Have you spoken with him?"
“You and the greybeards are so much alike. You have all this power, you could stop the slaughter to come, make it unnecessary, but you’re, what, afraid?” Turning to Theu, he said, “I’ll be honest, I’m ignorant to the Psijics’ doings in Roscrea. Explain it.”
Seated around the table, by his lonesome, Theu never took eyes off the monk. Even as his smoking pipe was nervously puffed. "Little to be said Baldur. Little to be known, as is their order. Her grandfather's generation whispered in the ear of the newly crowned Emperor Uriel Septim, visions of grandeur and Tamrielic peace. So be it that they took the charts and placed a finger upon four isles, Roscrea the first whisper spoken. This elven order destroyed all we had built without ever drawing ire. Did your order perhaps foresee a resurgence?" Theu called out to the Psijic.
Baldur had a knowing look on his face. “A little off the mark there, Druid. With her power, she’d likely be old enough to have made those whispers herself.”
"Eh? Really now." Theu openly scrutinized the monk. "Never did interact with that Windhelm High Elf. Can hardly tell, fourth elf I ever saw after all. First of her race."
From the looks of her, the elf could have been forty or four hundred. It was impossible to tell and she made no effort to confirm or deny Baldur's suspicion. She merely focused her golden eyes on Theudofrid and spoke plainly, "I daresay that will change before long, Archdruid Ingolfsson. As to your question, apologies, but it is not for me to say."
"Well then monk. Some apology that was." Theu gutturally spoke to the monk, awfully didn't fit the man who spoke it.
“You don’t talk much for someone so old,” said Baldur, his mind made up about her. “My wife’s old man was always rambling about his stories. When he had a mind to.”
"Others have told me that I am quite talkative." A smile touched Illorwe's lips. "Never in Skyrim, however."
Shrugging, he said, “So you came all this way to tell me to talk to the Dark Elf? I don’t think so. Why is a Psijic monk shadowing a Telvanni? To mentor him? Is he to be a Psijic?” Baldur paused a moment, and said, “Is he a danger?”
"I did not come all this way to tell you anything at all," she replied to his first question. "It was merely a suggestion. On the matter of my purpose here, what I said yesterday remains as true today. I follow Master Endar to monitor his progress and guide him away from oegnithir as he allows me to. He is not my pupil. I have little doubt that he would consider such a position beneath him."
Now he was good and annoyed. Even for Baldur, the Psijic way was beyond frustrating. However, her reminder of her words had confirmed at least one thing, that Endar was someone to watch for at the very least. And probably more talkative than this one.
”Fine, whatever. Continue entertaining Bully, and see to it that Endar doesn’t bring ‘oegnithir’ to this land. Unless you have anything further to say, Druid, we’re done here. I’ll speak with the other one alone later.”
"Not in her presence." said Theu, snuffing the pipe and lifting himself up.
“Guards!” Baldur stood as well, signaling for her to leave. The Psijic stood, bowed politely, and followed her escort back outside. One of Baldur's men closed the door behind them.
"Baldur, High King of all Skyrim. In Roscrean, my lord has little to fear of outsiders... I am not him. There are few institutions that frighten me. Their magics are older and greater in all regards but one." Theudofrid spoke softly to the High King. For the first time Theu hasn't a pleasant look about him.
Not caring to wait for her to leave before speaking, he said, “Well. I don’t know what all the fuss is about, they seem even more useless than the Greybeards. I do believe both you and Rebec did a whole lot of worrying over nothing.”
“But anyway,” he said, rubbing his temple. “What one regard is that?”
"The holy science of astrology and astronomy. It is our devotion."
“Can the holy science of astrology and astronomy help us win this war?”
He sighed. “Monks.” He made his way to the door. “Go clear out the tavern, let’s get this meeting over with. I’ve had my fill of mages.”
"The will of a mage's hands have given you much. Never again spit upon our holy science, Ash King."
“Or what?” said Baldur, approaching him. “I brought you out of the dark of irrelevancy for one purpose, and one purpose only. To help me defeat the elves. If you can’t help me do that, then go back to your island. Dismissed.”
“Okay ladies, let’s make this quick. I’ve gathered you all because my Kingship was a sudden change at the worst possible time. We have to put together a team able to address the witchery and foul magics of the elves in the known future, and any other such devilry we might come across. More than that, you’ll all serve as my advisors when out of the box thinking is required. Unconventional means, but not always the unconventional. Clever men, and women should know when which is appropriate. Introduce yourselves.”
The eight men, and one woman looked at the assortment of odd-fellows as though none wished to volunteer to speak first. Baldur grew impatient, tapping his finger on the table as someone finally piped up.
”I am Drela Fryse-Hag, descendant of the mad witches of Solstheim. Clever Woman of Kyne’s Watch.” She heard snickering and said, “Fuck off.”
Before Drela could continue, “I am Arodir, Clever Man of the Clan that Wants to Watch the World burn, Clever Man of Kyne’s Watch.” Arodir sat down and offered nothing more as he sat staring beneath his dark hair at the others.
A Nord in a black robe and white hair with milky eyes proclaimed, ”I am Yogsamir the Inquisitive, He-Who-Watches-For-The-Woodland-Man, and Clever Man of Morthal, and Clever Man of Kyne’s Watch.”
A robed man with grey eyes and a youthful face beneath a robe lined with fur said, ”I am Ode, the Early-Born of the College of Winterhold, and student of Veleda Fire-Hand, Clever-Man of Kyne’s Watch.”
”I am Ridyr the Red, ex Battle-Mage and Centurion of the Legion, student of Gracchus Ceno, and Clever Man of Bruma, Warlord of the Reach, Slayer of Mer, Bane of the Arcane, and Clever-Man of Kyne’s Watch.” The big red headed Nord in nothing but a fur kilt and jewelry of various cultures and races boasted and paraded theatrically as he stood. “My wealth is long, as is my cock. My children are fat, muscles made from rock, my foes are legion, their pride deflated... their shores stormed, raided, and my wife’s loins... sated. My foes are many, my lovers, plenty, my bed is warm, and never empty. I serve the Bard-King, the Ash-King anew. There’s elves that need killing, but alas... all too few.”
Baldur couldn’t help but crack a smile. “Not bad at all.”
“High praise,” he said, turning a head to Drela.
”Your bed will be empty tonight if you don’t stop acting like such a fool in front of everyone,” said Drela.
Ridyr sat her on his lap and said, “I love this crabby woman, I really do! She’s so icy but so feisty...”
”Can we move this along or do you and your wife need a moment together?” Arodir's grip on his dagger tensed, as did Drela's...
Her dagger made of ice sat at her husband’s neck, the cold dancing upon his skin before any edge made contact. “The fool was done, right fool?”
”But of course,” said Ridyr with his gravelly voice, flashing his gold and ivory carved teeth. “Just livening up the place a little, it is a tavern! Even if this collection of pretentious old farts, and my lovely wife are all that remain.”
”And your King,” said Ode.
”And my king,” of course, said Ridyr.
”I enjoyed the antics,” said Arodir. “In fact I was especially looking forward to its conclusion. Would've joined in but your wife beat me to it.”
”Maybe later, hehehe,” said Ridyr, “If you bring your wench too.”
”That can definitely be arranged,” said Arodir. “We really should move this along then.”
”I haven’t agreed to anything,” said Drela. “And you, puny man, I would break you.”
”I’m counting on it, Fryse-Hag.”
Drela said nothing to that, but Baldur could’ve sworn he saw her crack a smile. ”Alright then. Theu? You next.”
The old man of Roscrea took from his robes the golden sickle and placed it atop the table. "I am Theudofrid, One time Archdruid of the Totem Owl. Judge of the urbans and Court mage to the house of Baldur."
There was another sudden snicker, and this time it wasn’t just from Ridyr.
“Old one, what is a Druid? Also, you forgot to say ‘Clever Man’ of Kyne’s Watch.”
”I never said you all had to say it,” said Baldur. He shrugged. “I think you lot just got carried away. But, I guess it is kind of a thing now, huh?”
The rest of them watched Theudofrid then, expectantly.
"We and as I, Clever man' of Kyne's Watch, are worshippers of Jhunal. We are the wise men, judges and mediators of Roscrea. Now allies to the Nordic throne." Said Theudofrid, gesturing towards Baldur.
“Why’s he get to be the court mage? And where’s even the court?”
”Who the hell are you?” asked Ridyr.
The Nord stood, and it was clear that he was the tallest of the lot. He had a thick head of brown hair and wore simple chainmail beneath a sleeveless padded doublet.
”I am Euroja.”
He sat back down.
”Well that was helpful,” said Ridyr. “So are you a mage or a warrior? By the looks of that axe I’d say you cleaved more men in half than burned.”
”Not all of us like to give ourselves away with how we decide to kill a man. If I come for you, I want you to be surprised. And the elves have eyes everywhere. So for now, know that I am Euroja.”
”He’s from the Hex-Blade clan,” said Arodir. “Euroja Hex-Blade, Euroja the Padomaic, Euroja the Giant-Tamer.”
Euroja eyed Arodir. “You know a lot about me it seems, but I know nothing about you.”
”And I’d like to keep it that way, Giant-Tamer. Your like and mine have never crossed paths. Directly, anyway,” he said with a smirk. “But how could I not hear about the man rumored to have a giant-wife, and be giant-born himself? I even heard you got some of them to aid the Stormcloaks, even wear the uniform!”
Euroja made no move to deny or confirm any of it.
”Big ol fucker like you should be off doing the Grim Trials or something,” said Ridyr.
”I did,” said Euroja. “I am one of Baldur’s new commanders.”
Ridyr frowned. “Well aren’t you special.”
Euroja smiled. “Not as special as you though, Warlord of the Reach, Bane of the Arcane, whatever that means.”
Drela leaned over and said, “How about him? I like him. He’s big.”
”No,” said Ridyr. “Who wants to follow after that, my damn wife’s poon’ll be whistlin from the winds blowing through her passages from the other end. Damn giant fucker.”
”Last but not least,” said Baldur, voice raised.
An old man in a simple tunic and leather trousers stood, clearing his throat. “I am Bjorn Iron-Clad. I am a simple scholar, not a great warrior or wizard. I am a keeper of my clan. We record old Nordic dialects and our clan stories of old. I know Draconic, Daedric, Ehlnofex, some ancient elven and a few spells some of you might have forgotten, but that’s all. And I am a Clever-Man of Kyne’s Watch.”
Theudofrid raises his sickle after Bjorn was done, and of course Ridyr snickered again. “Old fucks got to stick together.”
”Who’s the last man?” said Ode. “There were supposed to be nine of us, right?”
”There are,” said Baldur. Standing, he said, “I am Baldur Red-Snow, Baldur the Unkindled. Ash-King. I know the Atmoran arts of the thu’um, and I too am a Grim One. I know old Ehlnofex, Nordic, Aldmeris, some Draconic and Daedric. And I am a Clever-Man of Kyne’s Watch. Now let’s begin.”
Theudofrid spoke first among mages. "To the assembly, an issue is presented by the presence of a psijic monk. It is my station as court mage, and beyond that my people's history that caution is advised, heavily. I can say from her order that she is not Thalmor. She had accompanied the Dunmer wizard Endar from unknown points at unknown times. Her claim is one of neutrality to observe and catalog the wizard, for the protection of the realm. The assembly must debate and agree to her fate."
Baldur raised his voice just as Drela was about to give him an earful about the elf.
“The assembly doesn‘t get to weigh in on something I’ve already decided,” said Baldur. “Forget about the Psijic Monk, forget about the Dark Elf.”
Ridyr stood and said, “Then if we can’t weigh in on that, let me ask, why is this one running the show? I don’t get it, why is he your court mage? He’s a foreigner!”
Baldur stood as well and said, “Because thus far the only two people that have proven useful to winning this war are the Druid and the alchemist. If you want a pat on the back then stop moaning about the elves and do something!”
Baldur watched the looks on their faces, waiting for there to be absolute silence, and then waiting some more so they could reflect on his words. “So, Clever Men, I don’t want another peep out of anyone unless it’s to say what you have in mind for ideas of a magical or otherwise useful application to aid the war. Theudofrid, tell them what you’ve brought to the table thus far.”
"The picked warriors of Baldur's house, his Grim Ones, their Nordic forged arms and armor are enchanted. I have enchanted his picked cadre and those under me have bore the rest. In matters of the arcane I advise the High King, as his position of Jarl demanded a court mage. Although not my own doing entirely, an army sails south to be placed under the banner of the Stormcloaks in your, our, coming war."
“And there you have it,” said Baldur. “You, Arodir.”
Arodir stood, followed by a bow. “I am one of the few that knows the exact formula for what we of the Clan That Wants to Watch the World Burn call an arcane suppressant. It hinders a magic caster’s ability to regenerate magicka. They can still cast, but will quickly grow tired and by the time they realize what’s happened, it is too late. This makes it especially useful against powerful wizards who might overpower a silence effect as soon as they feel it. This powder is much more subtle. I know many old practical ways to mitigate the effects of elven Witchery. The practices date back all the way to times of Atmora.”
"That's brilliant Arodir! Alchemical substance I take it? I had always looked to absorption and devouring their magical ability, you must equip the Roscrean wizard-warriors with this substance when they arrive." Said Theudofrid. Whether or not his praise to only two of the assembly mattered was up for debate.
Ridyr scoffed and crossed his arms. “My wife and I have our own ways, our own runes. Our own magic, Nord magic. She can manipulate the water in the air to change the weather in small areas, even make the winds fairer for sea travel by changing air pressure. I help with that with my destructive magic. I am hardened in battle and know how to lead battle mages like what Veleda raised here, and the best ways to utilize them to undermine the enemies most effective and thought out tactics. I am best suited on the battle field, and as a war advisor.
”I spin curses,” said Euroja. “If it must be stated. Our clan know things forgotten by others, passed down from the Jarl of Whiterun of old, and Priest of Shor. We have magic and enchantments that can even specifically target elves. It is said that her ancestor even enchanted Wuuthrad, but that hasn’t been proven.”
Yogsamir stood and said, “I am a keeper of old things unknown to most, including the Woodland Man. I risk much in sharing them with you, but to end elven kind, I would risk even losing my place in honored Sovngarde. For instance, I know of the old magic that works the moon forge in Whiterun, or know of it, and both Euroja and myself are working on a way to improve its magical effects. When we are done, not only will we have a supply of weaponry enchanted without the need for soul gems, but we shall be able to mimic the moonlight and gain their magical effects, at will.”
"Your struggles against the Woodland Man is a needed duty. It is our enemy god unlike no other, allow my kinsmen to share your burden as we have cursed and fought his name since our earliest days. I too have known open doors to his horrible name, I know your struggle as does my lord." Theu said to Yogsamir.
Yogsamir scoffed. “I’d say the Woodland Man already did their work on you. Your aura is half elven as is...”
"Don't stop speaking now Yogsamir. That can't be all you have to say. Continue, I wish to hear the entire insult."
“...and the other half? Milkdrinker.”
That got a snicker from all but Baldur and Arodir.
"I will see you after the assembly, but first let us not spread disunity at this table. Continue all." Theudofrid spoke with a tightened jaw.
If not for the urgency of the meeting, Baldur might've let them settle things right then and there. However, he wasn't in the mood. The Nords in attendance had other plans however, and were chanting for blood. Sighing, he said to himself.... "Nords..."
"I tolerate many things, but I will draw blood at this grave insult to my person. I am Roscrean, not elven, not Imperial. You people think me a weakly old thing, think all you like, but stay silent. I have done more than you know, killed more than you think."
“Hey, milk-eyes. I think you pissed off the forest rabbit,” said Drela. “Even got him to boast. Might make a Nord of him yet.”
Yogsamir smiled. “Still to be seen. But it’s a start.”
"The assembly will continue, unless nothing more is to be said."
“Nothing more,” said Yogsamir. “You’re a true Nord. Here, have a mead with me.” Yogsamir slid a fresh bottle from the table his way.
"I'll drink in better company." Theu touched the bottle with a single finger and shattered it.
“Did you just shatter my mead?” asked Baldur. “That’s some of my best brew, I save that for family, and you just shattered it?”
"The mead was offered from an unlikable hand, apologies for your wasted brew."
“Understandable,” said Yogsamir. “It was meant to bridge the gaps of our cultures. We got off on the wrong foot. Hopefully my hand will now be more agreeable for you. Here.” Yogsamir slid him another.
"To bridge our cultures? A reasonable price to accept." Theudofrid gripped the mead. Raising his eyes back up to Yogsamir then to the bottle. The stench surprised the Archdruid. "Your mead is sweet? Honey or sugar I take it? Ours hasn't such luxuries." He closed his eyes tight and downed a single gulp, holding back any urge to gasp or cough. Any price for his lord.
"It's good." Said Theu, half lying.
The others had looks of surprise, all except Yogsamir who did his research and knew Theudofrid wasn’t much for mead, or alcoholic beverages at all for that matter. Though even he didn’t expect him to drink it. “Glad you like it, he said. “Be sure not to insult our king by drinking it slow.”
”Drink, drink, drink!” Called the others.
“Just finish the mead,” said Baldur.
"Of course." Theudofrid smiled at the assembly at large, mildly annoyed to be outdone. "But the assembly should share in this treat!" He took a deep swig and slid it to the next person afterwards. His smile contorted a bit with a furred brow before mimicking normalcy.
“We’re good, we’ve got our own,” said Ridyr reaching over and sliding it back. “Let it all drain down your gullet. Here, let’s help him Drela.”
Theu shook his head. "I'm not pleasant when intoxicated you know." That only made the assembly want him to chug more.
“It’s just one mead, you’ll be fine.”
”My King, we can't have a court mage that can’t even drink his mead. People will talk. This is the Ash-King’s Court mage. You wouldn’t want people to think poorly of the king because his court mage can’t handle one bottle of the good stuff, would ya Theudwarfid?”
“I really don’t honestly give a damn,” said Baldur. “We’ve had our fun, leave the poor man be now and let’s get on with it.”
"I am not a boy, none of you can bend me like some welp. Emissary be dammed, another may take my place. I would rather return to Roscrea with my dignity then be pushed about by my equals." Theudofrid said.
“Fucking Nords,” said Baldur. “Even the Clever Men are idiots.”
”Indeed,” said Bjorn Iron-Clad. Euroja shook his head in agreement, along with Arodir.
”Wait a minute, what about this one? What’s he bringing to the table?” said Ridyr. “And what about the College of Winterhold lad?”
”They can tell you later, now shut up and listen!” said Baldur. “The other purpose of this meeting is to find my son. Yes, the Breton Boy and if I hear one more comment about true Nords and mead and milkdrinkers, you and I will be meeting alone next. You all have a days time to come up with a list of men and women talented enough to track down his whereabouts. You will work together, whether you all drink mead or not, you will be competent and sober while doing it,” Baldur snatched his mead from Ridyr’s hand, “And you will not fail. Are we clear?”
The silence and sober looks from Ridyr and Yogsamir was all the answer he needed. “Dismissed. Theu, Bjorne, Arodir, you all stay."
Theudofrid waited for the others to vacate before speaking. "Your son never made it to the moot. That much I can see. He sought you Baldur, while your rival claimant still lived he commissioned my aid to reach High Hrothgar. Through alchemy and enchantment I doomed a horse to bring him swift. Windhelm was the last I saw of him."
“I don’t blame you, Theu, I blame Brund. You did well in helping him.” Baldur stood and paced. “But now I have reason to believe he’s not dead. I have no idea where he is, but it’s possible the Thalmor got their hands on him. I’ve not received a ransom or heard anything yet, so they could be trying to torture him for information. Thing is, I am powerless to do anything about it. The last person to have followed his trail was Falgrum, and he resides in the cells of the prison. The problem is, well...” Baldur stopped his pacing. “You’ll see soon enough. I’ve prepared papers for all of you on the matter, I want you to give them to your peers, explain the situation, and for all of you to put your heads together so we can solve this and bring him back home. Understood?”
"I am not a masterful scryer as my lord, nor do I know this land by heart Baldur. But I will do what I can. Perhaps you should enlist the aid of my lord? Galchobhar fab Myrthway of the Two Hills, Lord of all Archdruids. Among us he has no equal in worldly knowledge."
“Already got the biggest band of weird fucks Skyrim’s ever seen. Why not another. Could give Jjgmir and the idiots that follow him a run for their coin.”
Bjorne had a sour look on his face, evidently not at all pleased with being associated with the weird fucks in question.
”Speaking of scrying, I’ve heard that the Dark Elf is a member of House Telvanni. The Psijic will be of no use for us, but she’s not the only one with power. If the Dark Elf is who he says he is, he could possibly help us locate Daric much quicker than we could on our own.”
Baldur’s eyes practically shot open. “Are you sure Bjorne? If that’s true, I owe you an entire keg of mead! I’ll follow up on this, the rest of you go about your business. Dismissed!”
Bjorne opened his mouth to answer but Baldur was already rushing out the door before he could say anything. “Actually, I’d wanted to say that from the start as soon as he mentioned Daric, but with everything going on, I couldn’t find a good opening. Ah well.”
Arodir smirked but stayed silent, watching Baldur run up the tavern stairs to meet the elf as he made his way out, his glare focused on the room and imagining what devilish things the rabbit-eared elf might've been up to.
Baldur was too preoccupied in his thoughts. The guards at Endar's door commented that the elf in question hadn't left the room since he'd arrived, which Baldur of course did not believe. He was about to ask if they'd noticed much magic, but pangs like cramps went through his lower jaw and neck as though he'd taken the first bite of a meal and began to salivate intensely. It was a feeling he'd often encountered now after his training when confronting powerful magics, such as the Sunbird in Windhelm...
"Damn mages," he said as he cracked his neck. A bright blue light emitted from his coin pouch, and the gold rattled as though some invisible force were shaking it uncontrollably.
"Step aside," he said as he patted his coinpurse to no avail. As he opened the door, his eyes previously adjusted to the dim light of the tavern soon felt a similar pang of pain shoot through them as the light of crystals growing out of the walls assaulted his vision "What's all this??"
The elf's response came in the form of a raised finger, signaling to wait. He was sitting on the floor, facing away from Baldur. The metal cube he'd produced the day before was suspended in the air in front of his face, though now it appeared to be open, with a bright blue glow emitting from its core.
Baldur stood there, arms crossed, index finger tapping in frustration as he waited for the Elf to elaborate. Eventually he sighed and accepted that his curiosity would have to accept observation in place of direct inquiry. There were more pressing matters at hand.
As he sat beside the elf, mimicking him in his own meditation, he eventually said, “Can you scry.”
No immediate response, but after a few seconds, the cube snapped shut and vanished. Only then did the Telvanni's focus turn to Baldur. "Can an alit stand on two legs?"
Baldur’s eyes were still shut as he said, “My boy. I need to find him. Whether he’s dead, alive, or something in between.”
"Yes, that should be simple enough. Simple. Not easy. I shall require a sample of your blood. A few drops will do."
An ice blue eye opened, staring the elf down. “For what?”
"For the ritual, of course. I have never so much as laid eyes on this ambiguously-animate boy of yours, so some muttered words and a wave of my hand will not be sufficient to locate him."
The Telvanni rose to his feet and went over to a bag that was hanging from one of his wall crystals. He started shuffling through it as he continued. "To use an analogy more digestible to your culture, imagine being tasked to hunt an animal by your... lord? No, Jarl. Your Jarl wants a specific animal dead, but gives you no description of it, no general location, not even a species. He will tell you when you have killed the correct beast, but everything else is up to you. Such a thing would hardly be feasible using conventional means, wouldn't you say?"
He didn't wait for Baldur to answer. "Fortunately, the Arubis is so full of unconventional means that they are practically conventional to those who take the time to understand them. The most obvious way to make your request feasible is to use an anchor component - something that will connect my ritual with the creature I seek. Returning to the hunting analogy, this would be akin to presenting your hounds with the scent of the aforementioned mystery beast. Now your improbable task is far more realistic."
The Dunmer removed a bundle of red candle sticks from his bag and tossed them onto his bed, then he turned back to Baldur. "Fortunately for you, the blood of kin is an especially potent anchor component. Particularly immediate kin, such as a father and son."
Now both eyes watched before falling downcast. “I’m not really his father. His real father’s in High Rock.”
Drenim's brow furrowed. "Well that is inconvenient. Are there any siblings on hand? A mother?"
“She left to High Rock with his father.” Baldur stood, eying a crystal and grasping it, squeezing in frustration as he ignored the painful vibrations shooting through his fingertips. “What about your hound analogy? I still have some of his old things he left here. Amulets, training weapons, things like that.”
"Metal and wood," the elf said dismissively. "Not entirely useless, but unless designed to be so, such things are no replacement for true essence." He shrugged. "No analogy is perfect."
Baldur tried to think back on any time he’d have seen Daric’s blood. There was of course the few weeks he’d disguised himself and went through the Grim Trials, until he’d been frost bitten and needed to cauterize his own feet where the toes were cut off.
There was also their training sessions, which were brutal affairs. Sometimes he’d forget himself, forget Daric was a mere boy. He dropped his axe when he’d seen Daric’s own blood upon it, the look of fear in his eyes matching his own when he was still with Ulrin.
He’d long since cleaned it however, and the rags were burned.
“Very well. I’ll take my leave until I find something to make this magic work.”
"I will be here," responded the elf.
When he left, he didn’t slam the door. However, as he walked down the stairs and past the chairs and tables, his fingers twitched. Suddenly, a chair was flying across the room until it hit the wall, knocking down a shield and two great axes.
Baldur grasped one of the iron weapons and hacked at the chair and the floor beneath it until the wooden shaft snapped, roaring the entire time until the foundations of the tavern shook.
"Go away," said Baldur as he searched for pen and parchment in what was now his office. The fort that once housed the elves was as quiet as ever, and he could hear the footsteps approaching well before the intrusive individual could even place a knuckle upon his door.
A brief audible jingle followed by the telltale sounds of tumblers being manipulated followed within the silence, and before he could protest, Bralla was standing in front of him, shutting the door as soon as she'd infiltrated it.
"You really need better locks in this place.. Were I an assassin..."
"You'd be a pile of ash lying on the floor. You almost were anyway," said Baldur as he sat in his chair. His eyes searched hers curiously. The way one studied the air about them in search of a fly constantly buzzing in one's face. "What is it?"
"You need to assign someone else for the job. This orc business. If I go..."
"That's not what you want," he said. "What you want, is for me to give you the go ahead to kill them all. Isn't that so?"
"Wouldn't you?" said Bralla, pacing around his desk before sitting upon it. She was surprised he'd let her get that far. Her eyes did her own searching, studying the flicker of flame from the candlelight dancing at the contours of his face. He'd aged, more than she'd have expected him to. And yet, she still remembered the same face not twisted in the sternness of command, but joyous from mead and song and sex. When she dared to touch that face however, his hand stopped hers dead in the air. She'd not see that same face again, not tonight anyway.
"The islanders and Rebec the Red may take pity spouses. I don't. War is coming, Bralla. I don't have much room for pity any longer."
"You never have," she said. "Not really. You'd give your last coin to a beggar, but that isn't the real you. The real you can't be seen except on the battlefield," she snatched her hand away. "You love battle just as much as me. Maybe more. And you of all people understand settling a score."
"You don't know anything about what I love," he said.
"Is this where you tell me you love your wife more than anything? Your child? What about our-"
"Did you know that I had a miscarriage? After you left. I took a contract, and those savages you want to protect... they..."
"I said stop."
"It could've been yours! Ours! We-"
A swift hard hand stopped her mid sentence, and after the impact, he saw a wild look flash over her face. Her own hands flew, balled in a fist as the two tussled for a time. His hand was on her throat, and hers rested on her dagger's hilt, as did his. They were close, and her face was red, both from exertion and the pressure he'd placed on her neck. She was almost close enough to...
He drew her hand, along with the dagger and pressed it just in front of her eye. "Here's where I tell you, I love my wife more than anything. My wife, and my child. What happened to you was tragic, but it happened. Nothing will change it. You do anything to hurt what I have now....”
He let her go as she pulled away violently, cursing and muttering the entire time. "She doesn't even want to be your queen, everyone knows it! Yet you let her sleep in your bed? Have her child? Our friendship, it means nothing now?"
"Friendship isn't what you seek, Bralla. If it were, then I'd happily help you. I'm not the answer to your woes, or the cause. If you want that, you must find it yourself. The gods will show you how. Until then, I need our brigade's best negotiator to deal with the Orcs. That you know how savage they can be is the entire point. If things go belly up, you won't be caught off guard. Understood?"
There was another knock.
"I'll pray to the gods for what might've been. And you pray for me as well, so that my boy doesn't have the same fate as yours."
She turned, hands gripping the handle so hard, it shook. "If those fucks even flinch, I'll level their strongholds to the ground. I warned you."
"No you won't, Bralla. Even plagued by vengeance, you always had a nice streak beneath all that... you."
"Pfft," she said as she threw the door open and stormed out.