Icesheath

This is one that I wrote for Skyrim, because I tend to write down whatever pops into my head :’)

This is 2000 words O.o

Icesheath

Jarla wiped the thin glass on the weapon case again, twisting and bending so that she might see her reflection. She stared impatiently back at herself from within, streaked war-paint and dirt hardening her features. She brought the ragged washcloth up to her face and scrubbed hard. She cared little for how she looked, given the length travels she was often on across the region anyway, but today – today was important. Her first official meeting in political capacity, as something more than a Housecarl to a little-known Thane. And this was important. Incredibly so. They couldn’t blow this meeting. Not when they were so close to peace.

It was 202 4E, and Alduin had been defeated just before the start of Sun’s Dawn. The Dragon Crisis was officially over, but the dragons were not. Paarthurnax and Odahviing had been away for almost a month now, and the trickle of news from the nearby provinces indicated that the Nords had fared better than their western and southern cousins in holding them back. The people of Skrim had become not necessarily confident, but assured in their victory.

The meeting Jarla was polishing and buffing her armour for was related to an entirely different crisis. The College of Winterhold had called for a meeting with the Dovahkiin, after a perfect storm had thrown the entire existence of the college into doubt. Something about Thalmor and two immensely powerful Aedric artefacts, they had been informed. She tried to keep the details fresh as she dressed – The Archmage had died, that much she knew for certain, and after the Great Collapse the line of Winterhold’s Jarls had been less than receptive to the College. Something had happened to bring the town close to destroying it altogether.

She took one last look at the glass before she left, the glass reflecting the sheen of her steel armour straight back at her. She had always preferred steel. It served her well, and though there were stronger metals, she saw no reason to fix something that was not broken.

“Ready?” Came a low, hearty voice from the door as it swung open and the bright snow-blind light of Winterhold shone through, glimmering off him. “Always, my love.” She hurried out the door and into step with him, the snowy winds whipping at them as they began the trek across to the college walkway.

~~~

She had never particularly liked this walkway, having come to the college on prior occasions. The whole thing was undoubtedly less stable now, and the hostile glances as they approached the bridge had been far more numerous from the townfolk this time. The bridge could not be more than a few feet above the open drop at its weakest point now, significantly reduced from before the Magnus Incident, as it had come to be known.

A worried-looking Altmer approached them as they passed the main gate and entered the courtyard, the worry on her face equivalent to that of the whistling wind. “Faralda. Please, accompany me to the Hall of the Elements, quickly. You are awaited there.”

The number of people gathered in the Hall was somewhat larger than they had expected – rather than a meeting with the most important College members, every related member in Skyrim must have been in attendance. Chairs were scattered in the room around a very large, pulsating sphere, glittering with ocean-coloured runes. She could feel the magic inherently present in it, but it did not reach her. Instead, a distorted field appeared to ebb round it from a nearby staff. She quickly ignored her awe as the central figure in the room stood up, partially obscuring it.

“Welcome to the College of Winterhold. I trust your journey was not too harsh.” The thin, musical voice struck the air like a gong, alerting Jarla to the fact that the room had gone completely silent at the entrance of the Dovahkiin. Some even looked completely reverent. The figure – another Altmer – moved to greet them. “Taevarn Nynn, new Archmage. We have much to discuss. But I must first insist you sit. It would be impolite to deny you seats, given that we all have one.” At a flick of his hand two chairs skidded over and clattered on the floor in front of them. As she took her seat, Jarla was relieved from the feeling of everyone watching her by the position of the chairs in the room in a loose circle.

“I’ll waste no time, then. You were called here because of a matter of grave importance that I understand is not clear to you yet. About a year ago a Thalmor operative named Ancano arrived at the college, and became an advisor in an official capacity – though his services were not exactly utilised. Although he vouched that the Thalmor only wished to further the magic research we do here, there was a great deal of suspicion. At the time, Tolfdir-” At this he waved a familiar hand at a grey-haired, warm-eyed man sitting to his left “- was researching the recently unearthed Ruins of Saarthal, the capital of the Nord nation established by Ysgramor until its fall during the Night of Tears. He and some apprentices discovered within it about two months ago a relic which we had long-suspected to be a contributing factor in the attack by the Falmer. Those present recieved a vision from the Psijic Order – a magical order that operates on the Isle of – forgive me, Quaranir, I suppose you would be able to explain this part better than I.”

At this, a hooded mer rose from his seat someways away. His golden and white robes billowed despite there being no winds in the room. “Thank you, Archmage. We of the Order reside on the Isle of Artaeum, off the coasts of Summerset. After the Thalmor rising, we used our powers to obscure the Isle from those who would interfere from it, as we have done in ages past. However, we have been keeping a close eye on events in the Dominion. When we saw that the Eye of Magnus had been removed from its original location, we realised what effect an agent of the Thalmor might be able to create by using it, and alerted certain members of the College to find an artefact to neutralise or control its power properly quickly – the Staff of Magnus. Unfortunately its retrieval came too late for Savos Aren, the previous Archmage, and Ancano had already used the Eye to attack Winterhold itself. Although Ancano lies dead, these events will have more wide-reaching consequences than what lies within these halls.” The man sat done again silently.

“Quaranir is an envoy of the Order here to advise us, and when we have finished with our research and recording of it, will transport both the Eye and the Staff to Artaeum where they will be kept safe from the Thalmor. Our calling you here today is not related to the research, but to its use.”

At this, the Dovahkiin spoke. “Why would you need us? Jarla is indeed adept at magic – but surely this is a job you would excel at.”

The same elf, Faralda, who had introduced them and was sat nearby, responded. “The magic-users in this room could indeed create a show of power that the Imperial Court would never see in five lifetimes – but none of us have been trained to use-” her voice hovered above a whisper “-the Thu’um.”

The man who had been mentioned as Tolfdir leaned forward in his seat. “The unbridled power of the souls of dragons is powerful enough to tear men and women apart. The artefacts of Magnus are the near-untapped reserves of the Aedra who originated magic. If we were to combine them – there would be power enough to raze entire cities with one shout. Or indeed, if we wished – to raise cities… Perhaps, say, cities destroyed nearly 130 years ago in tragic natural events. Whilst the only mortal-made shout in history was created from the rage of centuries of enslavement, the power of a god could prove enough to make another. And if it worked, it would only be used once. It has not been tried, but we do not intend to let this centre of learning die without a fight.”

His challenge echoed in the room, and silence seemed to reign for hours. Eventually, the Dovahkiin stood. “Well, the least we can do is try.”

~~~

What little army Winterhold had was massed and whipped into a frenzy as they left the main gate, arranging one by one on the ancient bridge. It was clear that the army intended to destroy the bridge – but they were awed into partial submission by the elevation of the Artefacts of Magnus high above the bridge, beaming into the town like a second sun. As Jarla and the Dovahkiin stood in the middle, on the most dangerous point, he slipped his hand into hers, as the jeers of the town reached them in the eerie morning light. The command to jump echoed more than once.

Jarla began the call first. “Our Hero, Our Hero claims a warrior’s heart..” As the words left her lips they hung in the air and then the power pulsed through them, pushing them out and transforming them into an epic song. The initial volume shocked the town, and the song began to chime in the air in the seconds before the Dovahkiin joined her chorus and they both sung the words into the sky. “I tell you, I tell you, the Dragonborn comes. With a Voice-wielding power, of the ancient Nord art, Believe, Believe, the Dragonborn comes…”

At this, the few people who were not outside had been drawn into the open. Magic shimmered in the air as the artefacts of Magnus were manipulated by the whole of the College, and with each line the song became louder and hung in the air longer. The chimes of each note became like struck crystal.

“It’s an end to the evil of all Skyrim’s foes, Beware, Beware, the Dragonborn comes. For the Darkness has passed, and the Legend yet grows, You’ll know, You’ll know, the Dragonborn’s come.”

The crystal chiming ebbed and vibrated in tune with the entire ocean now, and little trails of magic drifted from person to person, stretching over the town and depths. At the conclusion of the verse, the entire College burst into song, chords and notes drifting in amongst each other – in the depths below, the seas churned, and a wave almost as tall as the college rose up. The town screamed in unison. As soon as the sound left them the wave fell away. In its place was a tall spire of earth, eliciting many gasps.

Then the second verse began, and something truly amazing broke in the water below. “Dovahkiin, Dovahkiin, Naal Ok Zin Los Vahriin Wah Dein Vokul Mahfaeraak Ahst Vaal Ahrk Fin Norok Paal Graan Fod Nust Hon Zindro Zaan Dovahkiin, Fah Hin, Kogaan Mu Draal…”

As the verse echoed on across the Sea of Ghosts, it accelerated, and waves rose and broke, revealing clumps of dirt and stone, bobbing in the ocean, increasing in number until the sea began to recede. For one single second there was no song, but merely endless crystal chiming, and then Jarla felt the song swell within her as her soul touched his. And they Shouted.

“WAHL KRENT VOLAAN!” The noice almost broke the sky itself as the sea reared back in a wave that went the wrong way, blinding them for just a second as the noice of a thunderclap pushed them off the bridge itself – onto more land. As the dust settled and the sun began to shine through the clouds, the entirety of a rebuilt Winterhold made¬† itself visible upon the landscape, stretching in spires and villas sloping down towards a harbour and back round to a palace and the college. And thus did the first proper political appointment of the Dragonborn and his wife result in the Great Rise of 4E 202.

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