Return to Skyrim
A stranger had arrived at the tavern. What could be seen of her under her cloak’s hood as she was sitting in the inn’s far corner put her origin into the devastated province of Morrowind. From the other tables she received the well-known array of looks, from quick glances to dismissive steers.
One patron in particular seemed to take offence at her presence. A rough article he was. Not nearly in the midst of his years, he already carried the careworn look of a man having seen too many winters.
Akatosh knew, three of four seasons in this Gods-forsaken land were winters!
Helping himself to a final draught from his cup of mead, the blond fellow rose and strode self-importantly towards her table, albeit with a slight shuffle. The stranger watched him closely, yet made no attempt to meet his provocation in any form. He towered over her for a moment, then let himself thump onto a free chair, utterly uninvited. She met his snide gaze, shoving her own cup to and fro in demonstrative calm. After assuring himself of his mates’ attention, he scoffed loudly.
“How’s the Red Mountain doing? Your people still coughing up ash?”
“How’s your fight for independence doing? Your people still taking it up the arse from the Empire?”
So thoroughly her instant and sharp repeat dumbfounded him that the storm of his anger rose only long moments later. But eventually it rose, and fierce. To be ridiculed in front of his companions by a foreigner, a woman no less!
He jumped up, the furcate vein on his forehead visible. Behind him his chair tilted over and thumped onto the stone tiles.
“Say that again, I dare you! Your kin is not welcome here, Dark Elf scum! Fine men have died for our cause, and their sacrifices are not to be soiled by the likes of you!”
“I would have expected such language in the gutters of Windhelm. Kynesgrove always stroke me as a hospitable hamlet. Of course, with all the fine men dead, hospitality now lies in the hands of the sorry rest.”
With a bellow of rage the blond fellow drew a crude Orcish dagger from his belt. A thundering sound erupted from the counter, followed by the clattering and shattering of crockery. The innkeeper had brought down a small yet sturdy mace on the oaken structure before her.
“Oi! You want to spill each other’s blood, do it outside! Just remember the last time you decided to do so, Ern!”
The fellow, Ern, made a sour face. Whatever incident the owner of the Braidwood Inn was referring to, seemed not to have tuned out too well. His free hand touched his leg close by the knee as memories returned.
She pointed her mace at the Dunmar woman, intent on keeping her voice filled with authority. From her vantage point behind the counter she could tell that the Dark Elf’s hands had found the hilts of the twin blades hidden underneath her cloak.
“You want to choose your words more wisely when talking to a true Nord!”
“If this is the place to find one, I am just in time.”
A stretch of uncomfortable silence followed.
“And why is that?”
The question finally came from an elderly patron near the fire, and the stranger took the opportunity to address the gathered folk as a whole.
“I could not but notice the rather distinct lack of wildlife in this region. All the game is gone, and something is driving even bear and cat out of the higher woods.”
“A harsh winter is coming,” somebody predicted half-heartily from across the room. “The Higher Lands must feel the chill already.”
Approving murmur followed.
“I take it then none of you has been there of late; has not seen the scorched slopes nor the mammoth cadavers with chunks the size of barrels torn out of them.”
“Alduin is defeated, and so is all of his spawn,” stated Ern, his face still red.
“Since he met his fate rather suddenly, not all of his minions had been awoken by then. Especially not those saved for a special purpose.”
“What purpose would that be?” the elderly carouser demanded.
The Dark Elf granted herself a dramatic pause for effect.
“To lead his troops into battle. Into the final passage at arms he had in mind for the mortal races of Tamriel and all of Nirn. The beast that has unearthed itself in the Higher Lands is a Bahsedovahhe, an ancient soldier-dragon.”
Ern remained unconvinced.
“How come a wandering Dunmer knows of those things?”
She gave him a smug smile from under her hood.
The innkeeper came around the counter. She kept clenching her worn mace, and not because she was expecting any more troubles from her costumers.
“Say, Elf: Are you the one they call ‘Dragonborn’?”
She started playing with her cup again.
“For three years I travelled these savage lands far and wide. When Alduin fell, I too believed better days to be upon us. But my ears are sharp, and the roars can be heard halfway to Markarth. Little doubt is left that―”
The stranger was interrupted by the noises of birds flying over the tavern in close distance. Some get tangled in the roof’s reed, a few even bumped against the tiny windows in the gable. Beyond the askew door the horses started to neigh in panic.
She glanced at her still full cup of mead.
“That’s way sooner than I have reckoned…”
The flapping of wings swelled, wings the size no bird had ever worn to lift itself into the skies. For a moment the rays of the low afternoon sun were cut out, leaving the tavern in only fire-lit darkness.
She rose and threw her cloak back, thus revealing her cruel-bladed weapons. A mighty roar caused the very ground to quake. It was answered by shrieks and yells from affrighted villagers.
Readying her bow, the Dark Elf dragonslayer turned at the door to the unsettled patrons.
“Any weapons in steady hands are most appreciated, lest this settlement be but the first of many to burn. Tell me, am I surrounded by true Nords?”
~ End ~