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A High Priestess of Skyrim - Chapter 35

Discussion in 'Skyrim Fan Fiction' started by Bren, Apr 11, 2021.

  1. Bren

    Bren New Member

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    Chapter 35


    19th of Rain’s Hand



    “It will cost you extra, Milord.” The Captain of the Dainty Sload said after Aric informed him of our altered route. “That island is crawling with vampires.”

    “vampires do not crawl Captain.” Aric replied, “and there are now only two vampires remaining on that island. If I may borrow your phrase, the island is now crawling with Dawnguard.”

    “I will take your word for it, Milord, but we won’t touch there.” The Captain said. “I will have you rowed to the dock in the skiff, since you won’t be taking the horses.”

    “That will serve very well.” Aric answered. “Jenassa will remain on board. There will be an additional member in our party when we return.”




    The plan had been set when Jenassa visited us late yesterday evening.

    “I would speak with you, Patron. And with the Reverend Mother as well.” Jenassa said.

    “I sense an urgency to your request.” Aric said to her.

    “You should not send the Reverend Mother to this meeting alone. I do not doubt her ability, or her courage, but she should have a companion to accompany her.” Jenassa said.

    “She will have an ally within the castle.” Aric said, “Is that not sufficient?”

    “She should have one on the road as well.” The dark elf answered. “And every step of the way to the castle entrance. I would be that companion.”

    “They would never admit you into the castle.” Aric said, “and our contract does not extend so far as what you suggest.”

    “Our contract will end in the morning.” Jenassa said. “I do not speak of contracts now, Patron. I do not call it friendship, though I would not object to that term. The reverend Mother and I are comrades, and I chose to be at her side for as much of this mission as is possible.”

    “This is a most generous offer, noble warrior.” I said. “I am honored that you make it.”

    “You should be, your Grace.” Jenassa replied. “I would not make it for just anyone.”

    I could not read her well enough to know if she spoke in jest or in earnest.

    “I will not deny that I would be easier in my mind if she had a skilled companion with her, one that knows neither fear nor remorse.” Aric said.

    “We will arrive in the city together; we will depart together.” Jenassa said. “I will stand at the castle entrance like a sheriff’s post until she emerges. If an alarm is raised within the castle beforehand, I will insure there are none in the courtyard to oppose her escape.”

    “In all our journeys, rarely did we see a lone traveler, Aric. Even warriors recognize that this land is unsettled, and it is best to have a companion for self-protection.” I said. “You yourself will not go to your meeting without a companion. She will protect you as Jenassa will protect me.”

    “You know here true mission.” Aric said, “But your point is taken. Very well. I will inform Samuel that they will have one fewer member in their party.”



    It was an early departure for everyone. The sun had barely risen when three parties set off in three directions. Farkas and Vilkas would return Samuel to his home in the Pale before taking a meandering route back to Whiterun. A route that would stop briefly at Halted Stream camp before proceeding into the hills overlooking Silent Moon’s Camp.



    “Report to Jarl Balgruuf. “Aric had told them. “Jarl Idgrod will have a message for him as well for you to deliver.”



    Lucia, Runa and Jordis would set off on horseback at a pace that would be the envy of any fast courier, each aided by a small bag of enchanted grain.

    “Remember” Aric reminded them, “feed them between Fort Snowhawk and the bridge. They should feel the effect just before Dragon’s Bridge.”

    “I do remember.” Lucia said, “do not fret.”



    Amidst the larger parting, smaller ones were also scattered. Vilkas and Lucia walked a short distance to speak in private. Runa and Farkas showed no such concern, standing close, talking, and laughing in much the same volume as always. And the Idgrods, both Young and Jarl, emerged from their longhouse, each for their own private parting.

    “We will not see each other again until this mission of yours is concluded, for good or ill.” The Jarl said to Aric. “Therefore, I charge you, under my authority as Jarl of Hjaalmarch, to do your utmost to survive it in one piece.”

    “I swear it, Jarl.” Aric said as Thane and Jarl hugged.

    “Take care, old friend.” She said.



    “I was fortunate to make your acquaintance, Lady.” Samuel said to Idgrod the Younger. “I look forward to a more peaceful time when we can deepen that acquaintance.”

    “Gods, there is no doubt whose son he is.” The Jarl whispered to the Thane.

    “He did not receive instruction from me, Jarl.” Aric whispered in return, “His studies at the Bard’s College included novels, some of the romantic variety.”

    “The honor of our meeting was mine entirely, good Sir Knight.” The younger Idgrod answered. “I look forward to your next visit. Until then, please accept this bauble, which is meant to bring luck, and to be worn on one’s wrist. I hope the giving does not offend.”

    “No gift from you will ever offend, Lady.” Samuel said. “I am only mortified that I did not think to emulate your grace.”

    “It is a trifle sir.” She answered. “Please do not feel any obligation to reciprocate.”

    “I will make it a point to return soon to reciprocate, Lady.” Samuel said, “Would you assist me in wearing this wonderful gift?”

    “Perhaps if you two did not stand so close, or laugh so often, the placing of a simple bracelet would not take quite so long?” The Jarl asked loudly to the morning air in general after several minutes. “Come daughter, at this rate we will both catch our deaths, and the sun will reach its zenith before these adventures are away.”





    The journey through the marshes to our meeting with the corsair vessel was uneventful. It seemed that it was still too early for predators and bandits to venture from their beds. We arrived at the small protrusion of land that was the agreed upon point, as the Dainty Sload was sailing back into the wind, tacking one last time before turning with the wind now propelling it towards its future passengers.

    “We will be sailing close hauled Milord.” The Captain said. “Once we get pointed in the right direction. It will take time, but we will get you there.”

    “Let it take time Captain.” Aric said. “I would not presume to offer any opinion on operating your vessel.”




    “Gods, the size!” I said. “It requires the entire island to hold such a structure.”

    “It is, perhaps, a bit on the large size.” Aric said. “Now especially, since only Serana and her Mother remain of the original occupants.”

    “And these Dawnguard you mention.” I said.

    “Yes.” He answered. “Though their other lodgings are equally impressive.”

    “It is a wonder that it does not sink to the bottom of the sea under its own weight.” Jenassa said.

    “It is the Sea of Ghost.” Aric said. “Far to the north is the frozen continent of Atmora.”

    Atmora, the land of his heritage, at least a part of his heritage. I wondered what thoughts were passing through his mind as he looked north after we had entered the skiff and were rowed to the stone dock.

    A figure awaited us on the dock, but as the distance decreased, I realized it was not a figure I recognized.

    “That is not Serana.” I said.

    “No.” Aric said, “That is her Mother, Valerica.”

    My heart sank into my abdomen.

    “Divines protect us.” I said. The men rowing the boat did not look happy either.

    “She is a perfectly normal and reasonably woman.” Aric said. “At least, when one considers that she is two-thousand years old. Row dry gentlemen. There is no reason for this loss of coordination. You are in no danger unless it is a danger of sinking as a result of your own ineptitude.”



    “Your mode of transportation is somewhat altered, Lordslayer.” Serana’s mother said to Aric as he was helping me out of the skiff.

    At close range the resemblance was striking, as was the fact that she did not appear to be much older than her daughter.

    “You look at me as if you know me, madam, but I am sure we have never met.” She said to me.

    “Forgive me, noble lady.” I said. “I did not mean to offend. It is that you are almost the twin of my friend and sister Serana. You cannot possibly be her Mother.”

    “I like this one, Aric.” she said.

    “Valerica, may I introduce Noxaura Jarnesus, High Priestess of the Maetreum of Cybele.” Aric said.

    “I am honored, Lady.” I said.

    “The Order of the Communities.” Valerica said with a smile. “When I last saw the Temple and Mother House of Cybele in Bruma it had just recently finished construction.”

    Gods. That was over fifteen hundred years ago.

    “My last visit was somewhat more recent, Lady.” I replied

    “Call me Valerica.” She said. “It is a perfectly good name.”

    “As is Noxaura, if you will do the same.” I replied.

    “We have come to seal your daughter away for a short time.” Aric said.

    “You will not have long to wait.” Valerica said. “We observed your approach, at which point Serana took more interest in her appearance than she has since her arrival. What is it you have in mind that requires this Priestess to dress in very fine, but also very new, armor? Has the Order of the Communities become an order of warriors while I have been secluded on my island?”

    “Thankfully no.” I replied. “It is only my recent life that has, out of necessity, transformed. But I look forward to the day when the robes of a Priestess are the heaviest garment I wear.”

    “I must admit that Serana has shared details of what transpires on the nearby continent.” Valerica said. “I did not recognize you due to your armor, but your name I have already heard mentioned. You have suffered much, sister of my daughter. Yet I see it did not crush you.”

    “It would have certainly done so, but for the intersession of this man, his family and your daughter.” I said. “I am alive because of them.”

    “And because of your own strength.” She answered. “Serana has recounted what she has seen, and what she has heard told, of your strength.”

    “She is too kind, I am sure.” I replied. “My strength is nothing compared to hers.”

    “You would be a marvel if it were.” Valerica said, “given her heritage.”

    “I would also request the loan of two short swords, that may be lost on this adventure.” Aric said to Valerica. “And it only now occurs to me to request your advice on how best to alter the Reverend Mother’s appearance slightly to conceal her identity during her mission.”

    “I grow more interested in this mission with each passing second.” Valerica said.

    “It is only a precaution.” I said. “I must hold council with someone who I have never met face to face, in a location where others may have seen me in passing only. It will certainly not require an Illusion, merely a minor change in appearance that need not last more than a few hours.”

    “A darkening of your lovely skin and your quite striking eyes should suffice.” Valerica said.

    “Lucia suggested a straightening of her hair, and a change in coiffure as well.” Aric said.

    “Have a care Noxaura.” Valerica said. “I know this one too well. Your mission will be completed, but he will look upon you in your modified beauty and request a short delay and a private audience before you change back again.”





    “Hestla made these ages ago.” Valerica said, indicating two short swords wrapped in dark silk being carried by a young woman in what Aric referred to as Dawnguard armor, who was accompanied by two large dogs that could have been wolves but for the predisposition to run up to anyone, friend or stranger alike, and request that every inch of their back and head be scratch as one of their rear legs moved in rhythm. “You should renew the edge on each, but it will not take you long. Noxaura and I will use the time to alter her appearance.”

    Aric unwrapped the swords.

    “These are exquisite.” He said. “You do recall my mentioning the possibility of their loss, do you not?”

    “They are of no use to me, and Serana prefers other weapons.” Valerica said. “Put them to use as you see fit, and do not feel the need to return them. You recall the technique for working Daedric weapons?”

    “I do.” Aric replied. “Do I recognize the wood that form the hilts?”

    “If you recognize it as wood from the Eldergleam tree, I must answer yes.” Valerica said.

    “It is extremely hard wood, but Danica would not like it.” Aric said to me. “The tree was the source of the sap I brought to Danica to restore the Gildergreen in Whiterun. The Eldergleam is the oldest living thing in Tamriel, and sacred to Kynareth.”

    “If you were to expand your definition of living thing only slightly sir I might compete for that title.” Valerica said. “At any rate, the Eldergleam was much younger when this wood was collected, and the harm it suffered is long since healed and forgotten.”

    “Aric, we cannot accept these.” I said, “they are far too valuable to risk.”

    “They will assist you in your task, which is their only reason to exist at all, as is the case for any weapon.” Valerica said. “They hold no value for me. That you value them at all tells me that I place them into worthy hands.”

    “I cannot find the words to express my gratitude.” I said honestly.

    “Then direct your words at my Daughter, who approaches finally.” Valerica said as Serana appeared through a door behind us. “Daughter, did you forget the way?”

    “You know full well I did not.” Serana said. “Away, beasts, Away.” She said to the dogs. “It was but a short time ago you received your morning affection. My hands are finally clean, and I would keep then so.”

    “That would be best.” Valerica said. “We have a task that requires two sets of hands, and for this task clean hands are called for.”







    “You look like Tava herself.” Valerica said. “Were any Ra Gada to see you they would fall prostrate in worship.”

    “The resemblance is uncanny, is it not?” Serana said to her mother.

    “Again, I find, I must swallow my pride and admit my ignorance.” I said. “Who is Tava?”

    “She is the Bird God in the Redguard Pantheon and is also known as The Lady of the Air.” Serana said.

    “Yokuda is the ancestral home to the Redguard.” Valerica said. “The second group to settle that continent were call the Ra Gada. They revered Tava, calling themselves Tavans. Their armor and weapons included birdlike motifs.”

    “The red-tailed hawk is considered sacred to Tavans.” Serana said. “Shrines to Tava are common in many port cities in Hammerfell.”



    “I thank you both for your efforts.” I said, “I only hope that my disguise is more effective on the denizens of Solitude than it is on these two beasts, who continue to deform their entire bodies in anticipation of more back scratching.”

    The two dogs had abandoned their previous companion and accompanied us to Valerica’s study, to observe the efforts of Mother and Daughter, and occasionally insinuate themselves between the three of us if they felt that we were not paying them sufficient attention.

    “If the General or any member of her staff have a sense of smell as advanced as this pair then your disguise is in jeopardy.” Valerica said. “Failing that, your identity is safe.”

    “Would a circlet serve in any way” Serana asked.

    “It would serve only to gild this lily.” Valerica said. “We have done much in a short time. Our purpose was to make her anonymous. You would have the entire population of Solitude following her in worship.”

    “The anonymity of the crowd would serve just as well, Mother.” Serana said, “But you point is taken. My only concern now is that Aric will take one look at her and force us to defend her from his advances.”

    “It would be futile, Daughter.” Valerica said. “She would not lift one finger in such a defense, as you can plainly see for yourself.”

    “I thank you for my darker complexion, comrades.” I said. “It serves better to hide how much I blush.”

    “Come, we have done what we can, and Aric is certainly finished. You must bind your new swords, and there is a spell to teach you.” Valerica said.

    “Bind my swords?” I asked.

    “These are special swords. There can be only one true owner. Such ownership must be imprinted with a binding.” Serana said. “It is a simple spell. You are familiar with bindings; it will take but a moment.”

    “And it will be required for the spell you will learn.”

    Not The spell you may learn if you wish, or The spell I will teach you if you agree. The spell you will learn. It was a subtle, possibly unconscious, reminder that this was no ordinary beautiful woman. This was a Master Vampire that has walked the earth for over two thousand years and was accustomed to having her way.



    “You have found the grindstone, I see.” Valerica said to Aric. “And have added an enchantment of your own.”

    “It is a trivial addition if you chose to bind the weapons to her.” Aric said.

    “It did not pass your notice then.” Valerica said to Aric.

    “It would have been strange if I had not.” Aric said. “The summer sun at its zenith is less noticeable.”

    “I will simply sit here quietly while the adults converse.” I said.

    “I have added your bound sword enchantment to the swords.” Aric said. “They are now both a physical and a magical blade.”

    “They will respond to your mind and your body.” Valerica said. “But they must first bind themselves to you. Them they will recognize only you as their master and bend themselves to your will.”

    You must draw it to you and bend it to your will. Lucia’s words echoed in my mind. The Power of the Earthbones still fresh in my memory.



    “What must I do?” I asked.

    “First the binding.” Valerica said. “Hold one weapon in each hand. It is a simple spell, but you must prime it with your own magical energy. That is how it will identify its new master. Aric has the tome, familiarize yourself with the spell, focus your mind and then cast the spell.”

    “Is it truly so simple a spell?” I asked after reading it.

    “Yes, if you focus properly and feel the weapons draw to you.”

    “Very well.” I said.

    I closed my eyes and felt the weapons in my hands. There was a noticeable presence, in my hands, beneath my feet. It was strange and yet familiar. I focused my mind and cast the spell.

    “Sitoa”

    I felt the binding work, as the weapons seemed to form to my hands, and as the feeling I experienced in the hills above Aric’s house returned I did not fear it. I breathed out and as the energy left me and breathed it in again.

    It was a much larger amount than my first attempt in the Pale.

    Breath out. Breath in.

    A glow began to appear, discernible even through my closed eyelids. The familiar feeling of power, of energy, began to fill my being; the joy swelled my heart, as something within me began to awaken and respond.

    Breath out. Breath in.

    “NOXAURA!” I heard dimly.

    I opened my eyes.

    My entire body glowed like the sun. My swords blazed more brightly than their bound cousins in the Pale, the pearls of multicolored light peeling away in random patterns.

    Three faces greeted me. Only Aric’s face was visible, his enchanted cloak wrapped around him from his neck to his knees as he shielded his eyes with is free hand.

    Valerica and Serana had combined their strength, it seemed, and were encased in a sphere of protective force.

    I stood in the midst of a whirlwind of energy as I held my blades out like glowing wings and laughed with joy.

    Aric’s face broke the spell that held me. He had never looked at me that way.

    It was like swallowing an entire meal in one gulp, as I drew the energy back into me, and returned it to the earth.

    The glow faded. My weapons were now only metal and wood. It took my eyes a moment to adjust to the relative darkness.

    Mother and Daughter waited a moment before dropping their mutual shield.

    “I apologize, friends.” I said my breath coming in rapid sequence. “I was not prepared for the effect your spell would have.”

    “That was not the effect of the binding spell.” Valerica said.

    “I cast the spell as it was written in the tome.” I said. “It was one word. There is little I could have gotten wrong.”

    “You cast it correctly.” Serana said, her look still unlike any I had ever seen.

    “Sister, do you truly look at me so, after all this time?” I asked.

    “Give us a moment, your Grace.” Valerica said. “We are all attempting to regain our composure after your demonstration.”

    “Something is clearly amiss.” I said. “I cast the spell as requested, yet you look as if a Dremora landed in your midst.”

    “Your plucking my thoughts from my mind does not help my disposition, your Grace.” Valerica said.

    “We are no longer on a first name basis, I see.” I said to her.

    “For the moment, at least, that is true.” Valerica said.

    “I do not understand.” I said.

    “What thoughts passed through your mind as you were casting the binding?” Aric asked.

    “That is was very similar to what Lucia showed me in the Pale, in the hills above your house.” I said. “Valerica’s description and Lucia’s were quite similar.”

    “You cast the binding, and your thoughts flew to your attempt to draw upon the Power of the Earthbones.” Aric said.

    “The power of the Earthbones.” Valerica said. “Gods, Aric, what have you been teaching her?”

    “I felt a presence in my hands and beneath my feet.” I said. “I felt the swords as they formed to my hands, and then the energy as it left me and returned in greater and greater amounts. I thought it was the spell I cast.”

    “The swords forming themselves to you was indeed from the spell you cast.” Valerica said. “The rest was not.”

    “You drew upon the Power of the Earthbones.” Aric said. “Merely by standing upon a stone floor in a castle that is built upon the living rock, you were able to draw a great deal of power.”

    “It was not my intention.” I said. “The energy flowed into me as freely as water from a bucket poured into a tub. It was sending the energy back to its source that required effort.”

    “Gods.” Valerica said. “Did I not say she resembled Tava?” she asked Serana. “She is the Lady of the Air incarnate.”

    Her words affected Aric greatly.

    “You think she bears a resemblance to Tava?” Aric asked Valerica said.

    “I have seen enough images and idols of Tava.” Valerica said. “There can be no question.”

    “This is coincidence only.” I said. “There can be no significance to my resembling a God I have never heard of.”

    Aric approached until he stood next to me and took the swords from my hands.

    “This will be a shock for you to hear, but it is best heard now.” He said. “In the Redguard Pantheon, Tava is the name given to Kynareth.”

    The most surprising aspect of my collapse was that all the power I had recently drawn from the earth offered me no protection whatsoever.




    “It was a momentary indisposition.” I said a short time later in what was apparently an unconvincing manner. “If I could only have a drink of water I will be recovered. My mouth and throat are parched.”

    “Rest a bit longer.” Aric said. “There is no hurry.”

    “We both have meetings to attend.” I said, “and a hired vessel that will surely abscond with our horses if we delay our return.”

    “Jenassa will see them dead before allowing that.” Aric said.

    “Since none of us know how to operate their vessel that also does not advance our purpose.” I replied.

    “Her wits seem to have returned.” Serana said, more like her old self.

    “Forgive me, sister.” I said. “I caused you all alarm, after you have treated me with such hospitality.”

    “I was concerned we had admitted a viper into our home.” Valerica said. “You gave me quite a start, sister to my daughter. That is not an easy task to accomplish an my age.”

    “I fear we are only partially finished, Mother to my sister.” I said. “There is yet one more enchantment you would teach me.”

    “Perhaps I will stand farther back for this next demonstration.” Serana said.

    “It is a very simple enchantment.” Valerica said to her daughter

    “You said that about the last enchantment.” Serana replied to her mother.

    “Hush.” Valerica said to her daughter.

    “Drink this.” Aric said as he handed me a cup of water.

    “Thank the Gods.” I said after consuming the contents in two gulps.

    “For this spell, place your newly bound swords on the table there and then return and stand in front of your chair.” Valerica said.

    The distance from my chair to the two swords was now approximately six paces.

    “Aric will show you the tome so you can memorize the spell, then we will all stand to the sides, so we are not between you and your weapons.” Valerica said. “place your hands out to your sides, away from your body. When you are ready, cast the spell.”

    It was, once again, a spell comprised of a single word.

    “Palata”

    The two swords leapt from the table and flew to my hands, the hilts guiding themselves to my hands as if they had minds and eyes to direct them.

    “Ha..” formed in my mouth; part laugh, part exhalation, before dying. I had never seen the like.

    “My words fail me.” I said. “I am amazed.”

    “You see now why the binding was necessary.” Serana said. “They will only ever return to you when called. The spell you cast is useless to me where these swords are concerned.”

    “But it would be best if they do not reside in their scabbards when called.” Valerica said with a smile.

    “Unless you wish to amuse your guests.” Serana said with a smile to match.

    “Why do I feel that there is a story that we have not yet heard?” Aric asked.

    “Another time, friend.” Valerica said. “Noxaura is correct. You have pressing matters before you. I promise to tell all when you both next visit.”





    It was some time later that we were finally underway.

    “Your appearance is quite striking.” Jenassa said as she stood a bit closer to me than usual and smiled a bit more than usual. “Once we are safely in our lodging in Solitude, perhaps we could open a bottle and you could describe to me in detail how it was accomplished.”
     

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