Attn: Thank you all so much for being patient, and a huge thanks to Solavah who dealt with my at times insane ramblings. I am astonished by the amount of attention this fic has recieved, and I thank you all for your reviews, alerts, and favorites. This was an... odd chapter to write. I ended up scrapping three times before I ended up with this version.
Those of you who wanted Thalmor ass kickings... here you go. I also see the buddings of new ideas that I am starting to like, as well as some character developmental stuff and killing things; the usual.
Also I've started a side story for Cato, titled "Epitaph". It's his story before the events in Skyrim, when he lived in Cyrodiil. I suggest you check that out, though it's still in the works.
Note: Cicero's perspective happens at the same time as Hod's. The others are rather obvious.
Double Note: I like violence... sorry. (evil grin)
Blood In the Snow
We're the children of Skyrim and we fight all our lives
And when Sovngarde beckons every one of us dies.
"Oh where, oh where, is Listener?" Cicero asked no one in particular as he paced the Dawnstar Sanctuary. Cicero knew that Mother's Listener was to arrive days ago. Yet, he was not here! What if something had happened to the Listener? Should he go get the Listener? He gazed at the Mother, her beauty was unmatched in all of the world. "If only Mother would speak to Cicero!" he cried. "If only Mother would tell her where her Listener is! Cicero could help Mother, help Listener, help poor poor Cicero!"
"Oh Cicero you thrice damned fool," said a voice behind Cicero, "you hear too many voices already."
The fool turned, a wild grin on his face as he saw the Listener in his intricate black armor. What had Listener called it again? Nightingale armor? Cicero danced and clapped in place. "Listener! You've arrived! Poor Cicero was so worried! Cicero thinks Mother was worried too!"
The Listener held up his hands, "I'm fine, fool. I was just delayed on the road. Trouble with my... other business."
Cicero scowled. "Cicero does not like footpads or thieves. Cicero worries for the Listener when the Listener goes to visit with them."
The Listener crossed his arms. "Who do murderers and assassins have any right to look down on?"
Cicero giggled, "The family does the Mother's bidding! Like a good family should!"
Cicero heard the Listener sigh as he reached and removed his hood and mask. He glanced at Mother's corpse with a slight grimace. Cicero didn't think he wanted Cicero to see the grimace, but Cicero did see. The Listener stood before the sweet Mother, and his eyes locked on her. The Listener was silent, listening, for surely the Mother was speaking to him.
"On the... special contract," the Listener said slowly. He stood silent for a moment, listening to the answer only he could hear. When suddenly the Listener's face looked shocked. "He's a what?" the Listener gaped. Then his expression grew somber, as he once again heard the blessed words.
Oh how Cicero wished he could hear her sweet voice. He had wished for so long for her to speak, to anyone, anyone at all. But Cicero deep inside wished it would be him. Oh he had prayed and prayed to her, for days and nights on end, but she never uttered a word to him. It was... saddening, for poor Cicero. He loved his Mother so much, but she would not speak to him. Did she know how much Cicero loved her? How he had dreamed of her voice every night? He watched in awe as the chosen one heard her words, her blessed voice.
The Listener stepped away from the Night Mother's altar. His face looked confused for a moment, but he shook away the confusion and looked at Cicero. "Tell Nazir to spead the word," he said slowly, "that the contract on the Dragonborn has been... removed."
Now it was Cicero's turn to gape, "What? How can this be dear Listener? A contract can never ever be..." he processed the word, "removed."
The Listener glanced back at the Mother. "I do not truly know. She said he was... an exception."
"This is maddness!" Cicero cried.
"Says the mad man," the Listener smirked. "Anyways," he began, his face sombering, "the contract for his comrade, the woman Delphine, is still active, and has been assigned to me personally. There are no specifications, only that she is to die by my hand," he said sternly. "Spread the word, she will die by my hand alone."
"Of course, dear Listener."
"Also," he said slowly, "someone has prayed to the Night Mother. Send a family member to Windhelm, and speak with the Khakjiit Jas'kar. So begins a contract, bound in blood."
Cicero grinned wildly, "Hail Sithis!"
"Guard!" Hod called out into the darkness. He picked up an empty wooden mug off the ground, and rattled it along the bars. "Guard!" he called again. "GUARD!" he shouted with all his strength, "ARE YOU DEAF YOU KNIFE - EARED SON OF A *****? GUARD!" This had better sodding work or I'm going to pay for this later... probably with my life. But if it meant seeing his family again, he didn't care what he had to do.
A few more calls and insults later a very disgruntled Altmer appeared. His armor glowed from the torch in his hand. "What in Oblivion are you yelling about you ape?"
Hod scowled. "It's my cell mate. I think she's sick."
The mer frowned. "That's your problem," he growled as he turned away.
"WAIT!" Hod called after him, "What if Lydia dies?"
"Lydia?" he muttered. He raised his torch so that the flickering light reached into the far corner of the cell, where Lydia lay motionless in the fetal position. "Damn it," he growled. "Wake up you damn *****" he said, trying to rouse the obviously unconscious Nord.
Hod scowled. "I could have done that you idiot! Get in here and help her!"
"Fine," he said finally, "move aside. I see you move, I run you through, understand ape?" Hod nodded and stepped back a few steps. The guard drew his sword and entered the small cell. He crouched in front of the seemingly unconscious Lydia. Come on, lass, Hod prayed, we won't get this chance again!
As the mer drew close Lydia sprang. She grabbed his legs and pulled. The guard let out a cry of surprise as his legs were taken from beneath him and he found himself on the floor of the cell. He still managed to hold on to his blade, but his torch flew across the cell, landing in front of Hod. Seizing the opportunity, Hod grabbed the torch and thrust it into the face of the still stunned Altmer. The Thalmor guard screamed and struggled as the flames burned his face. His sword abandoned as his hands scrambled blindly for his face. Lydia, now on her feet, and very much healthy, took the elven sword and buried it deep into its former owner's throat. The guard moved no more.
They stood there over the dead guard, catching their breath and taking in the severity of what they'd just accomplished. "Salvage what armor you can from him," Hod said, as he bent over and reached for the keys at the dead elf's belt.
"What about you?"
"You're a much better sword arm than I am," Hod smiled. "Hurry, we need to move." Lydia nodded as she started stripping the dead guard of his armor. Hod grabbed the torch, still burning on the ground and made his way swiftly down the row of cells, opening each. Soon they had a small group of prisoners. Hod had hoped for more, but it seemed that too many were too weak to fight, or even escape.
Lydia appeared outside their former cell, wearing only the gauntlets of the guard. "The rest was too big," she explained.
"Better than nothing," Hod chided. He turned to the prisoners that had joined them, thirteen in all. "We need to get to the surface, we should find a guard's barracks here somewhere, we'll get our weapons there, but for now I think we have the surpri-" he was interrupted as a new figure appeared from behind Lydia. Hod was almost in shock when he saw the chainmail and blue uniform of a Stormcloak scout.
The Stormcloak was equally shocked. The three stared at each other, bewildered. "Wait," the Stormcloak said slowly, "did you know we were coming?"
Both Hod and Lydia shook their heads. The Stormcloak smiled, "That's lucky then," he laughed. "My name's Jorund, I'm here to get you out of here, but I see you've started without me."
"Thank Talos, are there more of you?" Hod said, hoping.
His heart lifted when the Stormcloak nodded. "There's a company waiting outside, we just need to get to the courtyard. Here," he handed Hod an axe. "It's what I've got. We need to move, now!"
They scrambled down the dark hall until they found a spiral stair. They ascended, their shadows flickering in the light of Hod's torch. The door at the top was easily opened with the keys. They charged through the door.
Lydia took out the closest Thalmor quickly; decapitating him like his throat was made of cheese. Hod charged the second, trying to get the surprise, but he was too slow. The Altmer mage turned and cried out right before Hod's borrowed axe sliced his stomach wide open. Hod feared that the rest of the Thalmor guard would be atop them, but they seemed distracted by the gates. Jorund was laughing lightly beside him. When he saw Hod's confused look he laughed harder, "Reinforcements!" he called. He raised his long shafted axe high above his head, "FOR THE STORMCLOAKS!" he cried as he charged.
"FOR WHITERUN!" Lydia cried following him.
Hod smiled, "FOR SKYRIM!"
Their rag tag group collided with the defending Thalmor force. Hod felt everything, saw everything. His mind was a rush of swings and misses, of parries and blood. The entire battle moved in slow motion as the Stormcloaks broke through the Thalmor's barricade. He paused as the first warrior charged the now open gate. Is that? Ralof?
Hod never saw the blow that finally killed him.
Ralof couldn't believe his eyes when he had seen him. He had only hoped that the remainder of his family were here. He'd heard of their abductions a few weeks ago. But he had almost given up hope. Instead he was filled with a new fire. He charged with the vanguard, breaking through the barricade with his comrades beside him. He had never felt more alive. His passion for vengeance burned inside him like a sun. If he had found Hod maybe the others were still alive; his sister, and little nephew.
That was three days ago.
The prison break had been a massacre. He still saw Hod's death like a waking nightmare. It was his fault that his brother-in-law was dead. When Hod had seen Ralof in the battle he paused, only briefly, but long just long enough for a blasted Thalmor to sink his sword through Hod's back. The Stormcloaks were battered back. Hod was dead, and Ralof barely escaped with his life. It was the only thing he could do, and he hated himself for it. He wanted every one of those bastards dead. Instead he ran, assisting the only friendly face he could find. Lydia was injured badly. A Thalmor's blade had struck her thigh, damaging the muscles and making walking difficult. Ralof assisted as much as he could, but there was only so much he could do with weak health potions and dirty rags. They were pursued relentlessly by Thalmor Justiciars. It seemed they could not stop for so long as an hour before having to move again. The constant pursuit only caused more damage to Lydia's leg, and even more for Ralof's morale. They moved slowly, Lydia's arm resting heavily on Ralof's shoulder, lessening the weight on her injured leg.
They fled east, hoping to reach Eastmarch, and Windhelm. It was the only safe place for them now. If Ralof could guess, they were just South of Dawnstar. It wouldn't be too far until they were safe in Stormcloak territory. He hoped. The further the went the colder it became. Soon the green land turned white, and a cold winter chill bore down upon the weary travelers.
"Ralof," cracked Lydia's voice in his ear, breaking him away from his thoughts, "I need to rest."
Ralof nodded, "Of course," he agreed. He glanced around them for a cave, a ruin, or anything that could provide them any sort of brief shelter from the wind. He spotted a large stone outcropping. That will do, he thought. They limped together into the lee of the stone, grateful for the relief from the wind. Oh Skyrim, Ralof cursed.
He gently helped Lydia lay in the snow. She winced as she sat; the movement was tugging at the wound in her leg. She was pale, and despite the drenched in sweat. He handed her the small vial of pink health potion, the last of his reserve. She drank it, relaxing slightly as some of the pain receded. Ralof sat beside her, pulling his sparse cloak around him. The weather was slowly getting worse. They'd get out of this, he knew. They were Nords. But he couldn't help but worry for Lydia. The wound was bad, and if they didn't get to a healer soon it was like to fester. He saw Lydia shiver next to him. He draped his cloak so that it covered both of them, sharing the little warmth that it granted.
"Thank you," she said weakly.
"It is no problem," he said with a weak smile, "we're in this together, right?" She smiled. He returned the gesture. They sat in silence, watching the snow drift with the wind. Soon Ralof's curiousity got the better of him, "Why were you in a Thalmor prison?"
She scowled. "I was arrested for being a housecarl to the Thane of Whiterun."
Ralof raised his brow. "The Thane of Whiterun? Isn't that the one that everyone has been talking about? The one they say is Dragonborn?"
She nodded slowly. "He left to meet with the Greybeards, but I haven't seen him since."
"He didn't take you with him?" Ralof asked.
"No," Lydia said with a small shiver, "Revak and I had a… disagreement."
"Revak?" It couldn't be, the Nord from Helgen?
"What did he look like?" Ralof said quickly. He felt a little stupid; it wasn't like it was a particularly common name. Oblivion he'd never even heard it before he'd met him.
Lydia thought for a moment. "He's a Nord. Young, I'd say in his mid-twenties. Strong. Very short light hair and dark blue eyes."
"He was at Helgen," Ralof breathed, hardly believing this was true.
Lydia raised an eyebrow, "Yeah, he was or at least he told me he was." They were silent again for a few moments. "I'm sorry for Hod."
Ralof hung his head. "He was a good man. He's in Sovngarde now."
"Talos guard him."
"Talos guide us."
Revak pulled his black cloak close to him as the storm grew stronger. He laughed to himself, of everything that had changed in the world in the millennia that he was gone, at least the land remained the same. Brutal. His horse nickered in discontent as it trudged through the freshly fallen snow at a snail's pace. It was a gelding he borrowed from a merchant in Ivaarstead who had been more than happy to sell his horse to the Dragonborn. Perks of being the Dovahkiin. Come on Kyne, he thought in frustration, give me a break.
He had just started debating on whether or not to make camp when he heard shouting nearby. It sounded like someone was in trouble. Without hesitation he spurred his horse to a canter. He reached an outcropping of stone, the voices were coming from below. He dismounted and gazed over the edge.
He saw a group of Thalmor Justiciars surrounding two haggard forms. One was leaning heavily on the other, each had a sword in hand, but they bother looked in rough shape. Revak recognized the uniform of the uninjured form; Stormcloak mail. There were three Thalmor, two swordsmen and a mage, the fourth already dead in the snow at the Stormcloak's feet. Without a second thought Revak attached his shield.
The mage drew flame in his hands, a sly smile on his face. "In the name of the Aldumeri Dominion, in accordance with the White Gold Concordant I sentence both of you fugtives to death. Any final statements?"
"You bastards," the Stormcloak cursed. Revak thought he recognized the voice. Though there was no time to dwell on it.
Revak stood tall. "I have a few words," he said loudly.
The mage stared at him, now noticing the Nord. "Leave stranger, this is no business of yours."
"I think it is," Revak argued as he jumped from the edge landing heavily on the snow covered ground below him.
The swordsmen pressed the group. "Last warning, stranger, leave now or die with them."
"I said I have a few words, " Revak stated a second time.
The mage scowled, "And what would your final words be?"
Revak smiled. "TIID KLO UL!" he called, releasing the energy of the Shout. Time slowed around him. The mage's face was frozen in a grimace as he tried to raise his hands to release a burst of flame. The swordsmen charged, swords still low and their eyes frozen in fear as Revak moved with unnatural speed around them. The first he sidestepped and bashed with his shield. The second he drew his blade upon, tearing through his neck with ease. He turned back to the first swordsman, finding him now on the ground, and stabbed him cleanly in the gut, twisting his blade as he felt it tear through the mer's armor.
As time regained its normal pace Revak had already charged the mage. The Altmer stumbled backwards into the snow at the almost sudden reappearance of the Dragonborn in front of him. "You!" the Thalmor cursed.
"Me," Revak answered as he buried his sword in the elf's heart. Revak pulled his sword free, flicking the blood from the tip and creating a fresh splash of red on the once clean snow. He stopped to spit on the dead Thalmor mage as he returned to the Stormcloak and his ally.
Then he froze.
"Lydia?" he said in confusion, "Ralof?"
Attn: I have a computer again, some large amount of monies later. So I should be back in business. See you next chapter!
List of Dragon Language Translations as they appear:
Dovahkiin - Dragonborn
Tiid-Klo-Ul - Time-Sand-Eternity (Slow Time Shout)