The Deadra's Servant
"Run little hero. Run before they catch you!" The dark voice echoed through the deep chambers of Blackreach. Derkethus dashed along the passage, vaulting over a fallen Dwenmer pillar into the main chamber of the underground city. Behind him, the now dark passageway exploded with fire. Two Demora Acolytes emerged from the flames, their blades dripping with the blood of Derkethus's friend. He avoided another blast from the Acolytes, rolling off a steep drop onto the road. The Demora followed, though obviously drained from their spells. Derkethus rolled into cover behind a giant Dwenmer Centurion, drawing his weapon; Thornblade. He borrowed it from Jai, because he believed it could unlock the secrets of the Indarys family's heritage, tracing them back to the second era. Instead, he and his three man party were beset by deadra as they entered the deepest portions of the Dwenmer ruin they were searching.
The deadra searched the roadside where they had seen him dive. One came close to the Centurion, and Derkethus grabbed him by the throat and gutted him with Thornblade. He raised the dagger the Acolyte carried and threw it with pristine accuracy into the temple of the other Demora hunting him. Within six seconds of the first's demise, the second was dispatched into a heap of flesh.
"Well done, boy. You've survived longer than those other two. Indeed, the orc fell in the first chamber. That Breton was a stubborn bitch. Hard to believe you let her try to hold them off for you. Pity, her sacrifice was a waste. But I'm not done with you yet
The voice echoed once more, in a harsh tongue, which was answered by hundreds more in the caverns around the city. The screech of the voices echoed and echoed again, more voices adding themselves to the cry. Derkethus himself screamed in agony, the voices causing throbbing pain in his skull. His vision blurred and he closed his eyes to try to refocus. When he opened them, Falmer were gathering to him by the thousands. He could see them pouring out of the gates of the old dwarven city, and out of Dwenmer ruins all across the length of the underground world. They surrounded him, giving him a twelve foot circle from the circular blood motion and sidesteps he made with Thornblade. The voice murmured a deep laugh.
"You have one option, lizard. Surrender. Give your blade to my emissary."
A Falmer Night-Stalker approached him, holding out its long grey fingers to take the blade. Derkethus brought his blade above his head and thrust into the Night-Stalker's spine, sheathing it in Vertebra. The Falmer advanced, and Derkethus's world went black with the swipe of a falmer's club.
"Lord Maltair, the report from Necron Castle came through today. No casualties. The prisoner they rescued, Jarl Elisif has awarded the men Thane status in Solitude, as well as a hefty purse of coins. Erik and the others are returning to the guildhall."
"Very good. Make sure a portion of that gold is returned to the guildhall. Erik is loose with his money when mead is involved." Jai replied to his underling, a Breton battle-mage who was in charge of information for Jai's new order of knights, the Dragonheart Order. He formed the group after the secret peace agreement between the Empire and Skyrim. The order had mainly tasked itself with destroying bandit groups and rogue mages, as well as the occasional dragon. What separated the order from all other mercenary groups was its fascination with knowledge and its willingness to work with dragons. Indeed, four dragons were working with the order, not including Paarthurnax and Odahviing. Some questioned this, but Jai knew that the Dovah had more than just destruction to offer the world.
Jai got up from his table, and took the report from the Breton, who gave a short bow to Jai before returning to his business. Jai turned around and walked toward the door to the outside world. Since the accord with the Empire, two years had passed. The order couldn't stay based in Whiterun; their numbers grew too quickly. So Jai sent scouts out to search out ideal locations for the guildhall. It was Re'Kavi that found it in the end. A long forgotten cave, with carvings and paintings from the ancient Nords, shallow into the side of the Throat of the world provided extra room for a building. It was in a clearing just on the tree line. When Ca Uan, the former prince of madness, came to the cave, he bluntly stated that, someday, a great city would stand here. Ca, though eccentric and a little manic, was intelligent, and an accomplished mage. Jai had no trouble believing him. Tools and supplies were provided by the stormcloak camp at the base of the mountain, and by a nearby quarry. When complete, the guildhall would be more of a fortress then a building. But for now, they were content with their mead-hall like building.
Jai opened the door to the morning sunlight, blinking to dilate his pupils. The summer air was crisp this far up the mountain, but there was no snow. Below, the plains of Whiterun hold stretched off into the craggy distance, where the sun was peeking over the horizon. Treyborn Lone-Heart, the former right hand man to Covek, was sharpening his blade in the yard, which spanned about seventy feet out from the guildhall, now incorporated into and in front of the cave Re'kavi discovered. He was starring off into the east, toward the sun. Jai approached him. He continued to hone his blade, gazing intently off into the distance.
"It's been two weeks, since they left" He said, coolly.
"Derkethus's party?" asked Jai. Treyborn nodded in response.
"Ever had to watch someone you love walk away, and not be sure if you'll ever see them again?" Jai nodded. Treyborn looked at him. "Sapphire's that to me. I was a little shocked when she volunteered for the quest. I just hope they're safe"
"Relax, Derkethus is one of our most capable leaders. He'll get them through alright. Besides, this wouldn't be Sapphire's first 'Suicide Mission'".
He relaxed, his shoulders slumping. "I suppose you're right. Anyway, what goes on? What information has Darius gently plucked from the wind?"
Jai shook his head, smiling at Treyborn's sarcasm. Darius, the Battle mage in charge of information, was not particularly known to be organized, and sometimes mixed details of different tasks together. Once, he received three contracts; one to deal with a rat infestation in Markarth, another to take a farm back from northern goblins, and a final to escort a merchant through forsworn territory. He switched who the contracts were for, and some locations, by accident, so that a full armed band of warriors came to catch rats, a rat catcher, armed with traps and cheese, escorted a convoy of imperial merchants to Karthwasten, and some soldiers disguised as goblins came to a farm outside Whiterun to do battle with vicious Northern farmers. These all turned out well in the end, each set managing to complete the others tasks.
"He's been doing better, since the Dark Brotherhood sent him an assistant. Yoric only played him once, and after we left the skull out for one night, he shaped up. As long as he is in a warm room, wrapped in a scarf, he won't bother anyone. Anyways, the worst thing we've heard is that the Orcs want compensation from the Nords for the mid-war massacre at Mor Khazgur. That'll mean I'll have to pull political strings and the like to make sure Ulfric is impartial and puts the needs of all people before the wants of his Jarls."
"Haven't you always had to step up for the non-Nord races?"
"Indeed. Ulfric may be High King, but he uses his position the same way as while he was Jarl of Windhelm. He neglects the poor and all of those who aren't children of the sky. He grows his armies, seeks for power, and doesn't give a damn about the people he rules."
Treyborn was about to respond when Darius emerged from the Guild hall, tripping over his robes to get to Jai.
"Sir, Sir!" he shouted in alarm. "The Reachmen are on the move. Vast numbers are gathering at Rebel's Cairn, according to Aela and Farkas. It seems they are preparing to go on the attack."
Jai turned away from Treyborn and became very serious. "Get word to Aela, tell here to stick on those forsworn like stink on a Horker. Send for all unused knights to get to the reach right now. I'll lead those garrisoned here to Markarth in an hour. Treyborn, cut cross-country and inform Jarl Igmund of the incoming army. I fear we have little time, so move as quickly as possible."
Treyborn beat his chest in a salute and went to fetch his travelling gear. Darius mimicked the motion, hitting himself a little too hard, staggering himself, before turning to assemble the Knights of the Order. Jai called after him, "Make sure they know to meet me in Whiterun. It's a short trek to the city, and we'll need to supply for the journey." Darius waved back in acknowledgment and tripped back to the Hall. Jai turned and grabbed his gear, which he left on a stump near the exit of the glade in which the guild hall was located, and double timed it to Whiterun.
"This is going to ruin someone's day" said Farkas, looking down from a hidden ledge near Rebel's Cairn. Below him, a horde of Forsworn numbering well over two thousand strong was camped. Aela was next to him, keeping low behind some short shrubs.
"They're packed tighter than goats herded by wolves". Farkas nodded in agreement, inching farther out onto the rock. They stayed as quiet as possible, because a ring was forming around two lone figures. One a giant of a man, the other more shriveled, older. The older spoke first;
"Children of the Reach, the old Gods favor us today!" he cried, raising his fist to the sky. The crowd mimicked the motion, raising their voices in a thunderous war cry. "Tonight, we march on that hell-hole that the Nords call Markarth. Then, that filth of an illegitimate king Ulfric will know that we, the true masters of the Reach, are not to be tangled with, and that we will honor our gods, rule ourselves, and live under the free skies of the old gods."
At this, all of the camp cheered. Then, the giant stood on the rock next to the old man, towering over every man in the entire encampment. He wore the furs characteristic of chieftains of the forsworn, his head concealed behind the skinned face of a wolf pelt. He carried on his back an ancient Nordic claymore. The old man continued;
"We will take the city, because of our numbers, because of our determination, and because the old gods have blessed us. Behold; the greatest living forsworn since Red Eagle himself; Tougrath the Un-Forgiving. He is blessed by our gods with power to rival that of the Nords. Long may he lead the children of the Reach, alongside me, Madanach, to glorious revenge against the Nords! To Markarth!"
The forsworn drew weapons and spread out through the hills, marching towards the city. In the farthest parts of the camp, a group of riders mounted ponies and, to the astonishment of the watching companions, War Mammoths. Before a minute had passed, the entire camp was empty. And the people of Markarth had no idea what would come with tomorrow's dawn.