“We're all just songs in the end. If we are lucky.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords
He swore he couldn’t see his hands in front of him through the mix of falling and blowing snow. Baurus tugged his black cloak closer to his armor, though it was in vain, the wind whipped the cloak about, and it barely clung to his shoulders. The fresh snow was light and airy at least, and not damp and wet. Still, he was a Redguard, his people weren’t built for the snow and the cold; at least not like Nords were. It was times like this that he envied them. The Blade looked back, his eyes hazed as he tried to focus. A muted shadow was moving behind him. “Adria!” he shouted over the wind. He paused as the shape grew closer, becoming more defined, and soon the Imperial woman was close enough to recognize.
She stumbled in the snow drifts. Baurus offered his arm, and she took it with a weak smile of thanks. He placed a gauntleted hand on her shoulder. “Are you doing alright?” he asked loudly.
She touched her showing belly with a soft nod. “My feet are killing me, but otherwise we’re alright.”
Baurus nodded back. They started walking together, his hand on her back, helping push her forward, his sword hand ever on his weapon. “You didn’t need to come.”
She sighed, giving him that annoyed glance that he knew so well. “I told you already. I wanted to be there to hear this myself.” He shook his head. He knew she wouldn’t budge. She was just as, maybe even more, stubborn than Martin had been about these things. Just like when Martin insisted upon leading the Battle for Bruma, despite the advice of his trusted Blades, even against Adria’s own advice against it. “Besides,” she said, breaking him from his thoughts, “I was losing my mind, sitting in that damned fortress every blasted day and night. I think sore feet and a little cold are more than welcome compared to insanity don’t you think?”
Baurus chuckled. “Fair enough.” In an instant, he stopped. He held out his arm to stop Adria as well. She gazed at him, confused for a moment before she heard it herself. Baurus drew his katana, stepping in front of Adria. His brow furrowed in concentration. Humming. Someone was humming a song, and they were coming closer. The snow and the wind made it hard to pin point the direction, but Baurus was ready for anything. From the corner of his eye he saw Adria draw her short silver sword.
The humming stopped, but the sound of muffled footsteps still drew closer, until a shadow appeared just at the edge of the Blade’s vision. Baurus pointed at the shadow with his sword. “In the name of the emperor,” he called out, his voice threatening, “declare yourself!” The shadow stepped closer, coming fully into sight. It was a middle aged Nord. He wore intricate blue and grey robes and a faint grin on his face. Baurus scowled. “Don’t come any closer,” he warned, aiming the blade tip at the man’s throat.
The man opened his arms. “Sorry to worry you, sir Blade. I am Brother Holger, caretaker to my fellow brothers.” The Redguard’s blade didn’t move an inch. “I watched as you descended the mountain, and I wish to escort you to the Temple of the Ancestor Moth.”
“Thank you, Brother,” Adria said behind him as she put away her weapon. He felt her step forward, but again he threw his arm out to block her.
“Say the code,” Baurus ordered, his eyes never leaving the Moth Priest. “The jaws of Oblivion have been closed.”
Holger sighed. “Dawn’s new day has been ended.”
Only then did Baurus lower his blade. He nodded, sheathing his weapon. Brother Holger bowed and turned on his heels without another word. Baurus and Adria looked at each other, the Champion giving a small shrug and following, the Blade following shortly behind her. Baurus was silent as they followed the monk, but Adria was never one for silence. “I thought the Moth Priests were blind?”
The man didn’t turn around. “It is a… result of reading the Elder Scrolls, yes. Over time the Scrolls take their toll on the reader’s eyesight. When this happens, the reader retires, and comes here, to one of the Temples.”
“Then who is reading this prophecy we have come to hear?”
“You misunderstand,” Brother Holger says with a sigh, “they are not truly blind, not at first. Before true blindness settles in, they can only read the Scrolls, see the hidden truths, nothing more. They call themselves blind long before that, wearing blindfolds to secure their vision, saving themselves only to read the Scrolls for as long as possible.” He pauses. “Brother Hjar will read this prophecy, and it will be his last, for his visions fade.”
They were silent for a time, following the monk down a rough path in the snow, until they reached a small group of buildings. A Temple of the Nine stood tall in the center, around it numerous buildings of all different sizes; even an entrance to a crypt.
The snow wasn’t as thick here in the small valley, in fact, it seemed like spring. The sky was brilliant with stars. The moons were huge, red and pale in the midnight sky. Brother Holger smiled. “I will take you now to Brother Hjar in the Temple.”
Baurus shook the show off his cloak, lowering the hood and taking in the room, seeing Adria do the same. The temple was simple. It had a rustic feel. Normally, Baurus was used to temples, they were a part of everyday Blade life, but here he felt like he was intruding somehow. Pews lined on either side of the main isle, and all around the room candles and torches flickered, making the shadows of statues dance along the walls. Purple banners hung along the walls, and the air was thick with the smell of incense. Here and there a brother sat in the pews, chanting an ancient song that Baurus didn’t recognize.
In front of the altar of the Nine an old priest knelt, his eyes covered by a red blindfold. He seemed to be leading the chant, his back to the altar. Brother Holger motioned for them to stay there before he made his way down the center aisle. He knelt beside the priest at the altar and whispered in his ear. The old priest nodded. Brother Holger made his way back to Baurus and Adria. “Brother Hjar is ready to read the Scroll for you.”
Baurus looked at Adria, who nodded. Baurus went first down the aisle, his hand wavering over his blade out of habit. When they reached the monk he did not stand, but instead motioned in front of him. Baurus and Adria shared another glance before she knelt in front of the old Nord priest. They were silent for a time. Finally the priest broke the silence, “Such fire I see in you.” He nodded as if confirming something to himself. “The fire of one who has faced the realm of Oblivion and returned to tell the tale.”
Adria moved to introduce herself, but the Moth Priest raised a hand to stop her. “I know who you are, Hero of Kvatch. After all, wasn’t it our order that requested to speak with you?” The old man paused. “And you, Blade, the loyal friend and guard, standing to defend what is left of your reason for existence; or at least the shadow of it.”
“How did you know all this?” Adria asked, her voice barely more than a whisper.
Hjar smiled. “You told me, your very essence speaks more than words or sight ever could. You are here because those of our order who still reside in the White Gold Tower have seen what is to be, and have decided to share it with those who would bear witness to it. The future contained,” the monk explained, “in the lives of your descendants, the last of the line of Tiber Septim.”
Adria’s eyes went wide. “How-“
The priest interrupted, “Why else would you travel here, instead of the Imperial City? You do not wish the world to know. A wise choice, given the political state of the Empire. But you did not come to hear an old man rant.” At that the monk reached into his robes, revealing what Baurus instantly knew to be an Elder Scroll. It was larger than he had expected it to be. It was inlaid with gold and jewels, and was at least the length of his forearm. With reverence, Brother Holger removed Brother Hjar’s blindfold. The older monk kept his eyes firmly closed as the blindfold fell away.
Adria stared at the Moth Priest kneeling before her. Baurus was watching Holger who had stepped the altar and pulled on a white rope that lead to the ceiling. Within minutes of pulling the rope Baurus began to see them. Hundreds of them. Black moths came from the ceiling. Ancestor Moths, he realized, literally, they’re moths. They seemed drawn to Hjar, and the old Moth Priest welcomed them.
The Moth Priest nodded. “Now, we begin,” he said. Then he opened the Elder Scroll, his eyes opening, revealing clouded blue eyes. The priest paused a moment before beginning, “I see before me a line spanning generations, the line of Akatosh blessed, the line of Talos, Tiber Septim; represented by a golden thread. I see words written, no, carved in the bones of dragons, ‘Birthright'. A bright blue thread crosses that of the gold, a separate prophecy, coinciding with the fate of this one. I will try to see that prophecy.
” The priest paused, a slight scowl etched on his face, and was that worry? “All I see is a dragon, black, with red eyes. The vision changes. The threads intertwine. Their goals become one, and a deep voice whispers these words; “That which was willingly lost will be returned. The past, long forgotten will be remembered. The End’s bane will join the Bane of Mer
. The crownless will once again be made king.
” The old man paused again, and he closed the Scroll. “And that is where I see no more.”