Introductions and Tall Tales
A collab with @DearTrickster and @MacabreFoxSolitude - 4th of Last Seed - Night
His mind was a whirlwind. Leif’s encounter with Sevine just moments ago tore at his heart. His feet carried him straight for the Winking Skeever. The night was young, and while the bottle of wine in his hand begged to be emptied, he could think of nothing else but what just transpired. Never before had he felt so lonely. Leif yearned to hold someone tight in his arms, to let out his anguish in pained tears. His chest rose and fell, his hands felt cold and clammy. He felt sick.
Leif pushed open the door to the inn, and stepped into the warmth of the tavern, patrons filled nearly every table, except for one near the window along the farthest wall. He made his way over to the table, where he sank into the wooden chair, his legs giving out from underneath him entirely. Some patrons glanced his way at the strange sight of a Nord man sitting alone that was bent doubled over, clutching at his head.
He gritted his teeth, grinding them as he covered his ears. It took several minutes for his racing heart to slow. Eventually he sat up, his eyes studying the wooden knotwork in the table.
One such patron was a visiting redguard woman, small in stature and finishing off the dregs of her dinner out of a bowl. Wiping her mouth she considered her tall tankard of mead, knowing full well she’d need to drink plenty more than her coin could cover in order to pass out for a few hours. Still, she stole a quick sip then pushed up from her table enough to wet her whistle. Having exhausted her stories earlier to other patrons she decided to approach the downtrodden Nord. Perhaps he’d be willing to listen, distract from his very apparent broken heart. It was apparent to anyone with eyes, some of those she sat with shook their heads at her.
Standing up from the chair, she grabbed her cloak and the mead. She draped her cloak behind the seat across from the Nord and put down the tankard of mead before him.
“Ahoy, mate! Drink up! Drown out that broken heart and listen up. Lend me your new ears and I’ll spin you a tale of danger!” Maj began with a hearty laugh, she fanned her hand out for dramatic effect. “ Excitement
await in my stories.”
She leaned against the chair with a big grin, “No need to mope by the window with good company about.”
“Whatta ya say?”
The woman before him caused Leif to release his head to look her over. He was puzzled at her approach, why would a woman of all people approach someone like him? His blue eyes blinked unsteadily at her, perhaps he could use the distraction from the bitter reality that consumed him.
“The seat is yours.” He said, his gaze shifting to the tankard.
“Good! I would be hard pressed to take no for an answer.” she replied. “Name’s Maj, Maj Noor by the by.” She dipped her head in greeting before taking her seat. “Expert conjurer and illusionist, former corsair mage turned mercenary. Try not to be too impressed.” She dusted off imaginary dirt from her sleeve. “What’s yours, friend?”
“Before you ask, the mead is safe. See?” She took another sip to prove it’s legitimacy. “Freshly poured from the casket.”
She made him smile, even though he didn’t think he could at a time like this, he couldn’t help but smile at this eccentric Redguard’s approach. On her insistence that the mead was safe, he accepted the fermented honey drink, overly sweet for his taste, but the warmth in the pit of his stomach was a welcoming one.
“Leif Raven-Stone. Former corsair, eh? I sailed on the Courtesan
for eight years. Where did your travels take you?” He asked, surprised to have met another sailor, and a woman at that.
“Ah! A fellow sailor! Then I’m sure you’ll appreciate what I have to tell you. The ship I called home was named the Scarlet Harpy
, a unique crew completely made up of women, with heavy emphasis on mages. We sailed all along the western coast of High Rock, Hammerfell, and as far south as Summerset and Cyrodiil. Proudly apart of the Republic.” Maj said, she was proud - ploughing by the past tense she used, Leif didn’t look the part to hear her troubles. “Good to meet you Leif Raven-Stone.”
He had a difficult time keeping pace with the rush of words coming out of her mouth, he did his best to keep that from showing on his face, however, a ship full of women, who would’ve thought?
“In fact, this is my first time in Skyrim, by the gods is it cold
. I was warned too. Only a little upset this is my last night here in the frigid province before heading back to High Rock. The food is warm the drinks are delicious. Would visit again given the chance.” Maj said. “Where did the Courtesan
“You wouldn’t have enjoyed sailing aboard the Courtesan
then,” he gave a soft chuckle, “Our ship carried goods across the Sea of Ghosts, sailed from Windhelm to Dawnstar, and from Dawnstar to here. If you’re not careful, the ice will freeze you in solid.” He swirled the pale amber liquid inside the tankard. Leif’s eyes rose to settle on Maj, studying the woman now that she sat across from him.
She had striking features, dazzling bright green eyes, a hooked nose that suited her face well. She had two scars, one on her brow, the other on her bottom lip, splitting the natural lines of her full lips. Her skin was dark, common for a Redguard, as was her hair, though she kept it off to the side.
“What has you headed for High Rock?” Perhaps the threat of the Kamal had frightened her enough to send her home.
“Aye, I reckon that’d be too cold for me.” She agreed with Leif, she was by no means accustomed to anything colder than Wayrest’s temperate winters. “I joined this mercenary company headed for the Rock tomorrow. Hoping to earn some decent wages, I’ve got some plans of my own but that is an entirely different story that would surely turn you blue.” She waved off that idea, she was happy to get even a small chuckle out of him. Not all hope was lost.
She couldn’t be… no… she had signed on with the company? Their
company… the one he held a contract with, God’s no. Leif forced himself from admitting he too, was contracted with them. He wanted to enjoy the moment and not think about the possibility of seeing her die like so many others had.
She coughed into her fist, a wicked grin spread across her face. She picked up the candle at the table lifting it up for added effect. Summoning a little magicka in her hand, passing it through the flame. “So- my story tonight is the Wailing Stones of the Blue Divide. It’s a ghost story.”
Adding with a cheeky remark, “Let me know if you get too scared.”
He mustered a half smile, and waved a hand, “Enlighten me.” From the sound of it, he hadn’t heard this tale before.
“For some history, the tale of the Wailing Stones is a infamous shipwreck area. They protrude from the sea taller than you could see past the crow’s nest. Ships are mysteriously pulled into its waters and bashed-!” She slammed her fist on the table making the tankard shake spilling a few drops of mead. “-Against the rocks!”
Quietly she said, pulling the candle back up, “...Gone forever in one swift current.”
Her commotion drew some eyes, but their attention now was on the story she told, Leif’s own gaze fixated heavily upon her.
“On quiet nights when the waters are calm and the wind blows gently,” She blew gently on the flame of the candle. “If you sail near those stones you can hear the cries of previous shipwrecks. You hear them clear as if they’re standing right
beside ya.” She was looking directly at Leif. “Mark my words, I’ve heard these ghostly cries for myself.”
“There ain’t no lie about it.” She said solemnly. “The first time I heard about it I called bullshit, ghosts don’t exist!”
“The night I heard them was after we plundered a uh-” She looked around at the largely Nord and Imperial crowd, catching eyes of a few argonians as well. “Aldmeri Dominion, wiley bastards were transporting some goods back to Summerset.”
That got her a nod or two of approval. She stood from her chair putting one foot on it and pointing at Leif. “Sweet fruit and fresh food in our bellies we decided to head back to Hammerfell. The twin moons were pale slivers, a cool fog rolled in behind us as we passed the stones catching sight of them. Our Captain not the superstitious sort, she gave the stones plenty of berth regardless.”
“I was starboard side, watching the dark stones as we passed. Strange shapes gave the base of the stones a sort of spiky silhouette.” She whispered behind a hand toward Leif, “Three guesses what the spiky bits were.”
She continued, “I squinted through the fog and suddenly felt like I was being watched.” Pausing as she looked at Leif then a few listeners.
She acted it out, looking confused as she turned about at her waist. “There was nobody around, everyone had been below decks or aloft keeping an eye out for trouble. I felt the hair on my arms raise up as if someone walked over my grave.”
“I backed away from the railing, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away. Something
kept me there. That’s when I heard them…” She said trailing off, changing the tone of her voice to something withered, sad and desperate, “‘Please… Please! Help us… We are hungry… Cold… Lonely…!
’ They pleaded, right into my ear.” She said. “Scared me half to death.”
Some listeners chuckled nervously, Leif as well. She had a knack for storytelling, as evidenced by the hair on his forearms standing on end. He rubbed his arms vigorously.
She resumed her ghostly voice, “‘Spare us, turn away, don’t draw near…
’” She turned her back to the crowd feigning as if she was crying herself. “I couldn't take it! I ripped my gaze away to turn around.” In her hands she started up an illusion spell, she looked to Leif winking. The very fake ghostly visage appeared in front of her person. “When I did… A ghost stood right there!” She turned sharply around hopping up on the chair. “Dead as dead!” She appeared as a gruesome ghost with an axe buried in her head.
She startled a few, some gasped while others jumped out of their chairs. She chuckled good naturedly, snapping her fingers the illusion disappearing to reveal herself once more. “We sailed away and even when I fell asleep that night I dreamt of the voices.”
A smile crossed his lips as the tale came to an end, he drummed his fingers against the wooden table top, before letting out a long and slow whistle.
“You’ve got a knack for storytelling, lass. Ever think of it as a profession?” He enjoyed a good story, “
and Maj had certainly delivered with her eccentric theatrics, the illusion magic added a certain quality not often found amongst entertainers.
Relaxing a bit, Maj replied, “Thanks, there’s only so many times you can rehearse that one.”
“I’ve got better shit to do. I’ve got a few good stories in me but you won’t see me running over to the Bard’s College for lessons.” Maj sat again leaning into her chair. “It’s just for fun, presentation is two thirds of what it takes to be a corsair. You have to back it up of course and I do.”
She shrugged easily, “I’d rather earn my keep.”
“Fate is a fickle thing.” Leif sighed when she mentioned earning her keep, “The company you spoke of, I’m contracted with them as well.”
Her brows shot up, clearly surprised. “Why didn’t you say so? Not that it would effect the story… Tell me about what it’s been like. Gustav highlighted some of the exploits but never went into detail.” She asked.
“I wanted to forget… and listening to your story helped.” Leif shook his head before leaning back in his chair, raking his fingers through his long brown hair.
“We’ve lost so many. I don’t know how we’re all still alive either.” He racked his brain searching for the right words to say, because that was just it. There was just so much
“Ask me what you want to know, that would be a better place to start.”
Turning to a serious note she asked, “These Kamal I keep hearing about. Ice giants, monsters out of stories. Are they true? Describe them to me.” Maj gave him a hard stare. “Don’t sugarcoat it. I want the truth.”
He nodded solemnly, “It’s all true. They’re the beasts of nightmare. Taller than any man, eight to ten feet tall. Terrifying creatures. They travel on ships made of metal, and they themselves wear seemingly impenetrable armor. Though they’re not all invincible, they do have a weakness towards fire. Fire salts, fire magic, anything with a flame can help kill them.”
Maj nodded, sitting back in her chair thinking. “I can conjure one mean flame atronach. Are their minds susceptible? Can we manipulate what they see and how they feel?” She paused. “Has anyone tried
“Not to my knowledge, no.” Leif shrugged, it was an interesting concept to say the least.
She tapped the table. “Are there other mages in the company? Mages that can bring the heat?”
“From the new recruits, and the old company combined, there’s one that comes to mind. Niernen Venim. Dunmeri lass that comes from Morrowind. Other than that, the rest of us are your typical grunts, foot soldiers, sellswords and the like. There are a few other mages, but none specialize in Destruction really. There’s Ariane, and Marcel, they both have a knack for mysticism. Don’t quite understand it myself. Tsleeixth, an Argonian, he can sling around some lightning. Other than that, it’s just restoration, alteration, conjuration and illusion I’ve seen used. Most of those who were skilled enough in destruction either left the company, died or are missing.” When he finished, he reflected on what he had just said. Most of the company didn’t have the fire they needed to handle the Kamal, but they had been creative nonetheless. Sevine and him had constructed the sling on top the wall back in Windhelm where they helped launch fire salts, and flaming pots of oil. Of course, that did little to slow the entire Kamal assault, but it did help in giving those on the frontline a chance to scamper back through the gates.
She nodded decisively. “Good. Good. I’ll be of use, if we can figure out how to crack their minds open like a melon we’ll have another advantage.” Not showing her fear in the slightest, Leif needed some hope as she was sure others did as well. Fresh blood to relieve the war weary. She gave herself more credit than that, while there were quiet and sweet moments aboard the Scarlet Harpy
their livelihood was fighting and violence. If the vets in the mercenary company needed a breather she was more than happy to comply. Revelling in the chaos she was capable of creating.
“Worry not Leif! The bigger they are the harder they fall! Words to live by, especially for the small.” She clasped his shoulder. “With the might of a sword and the whisper of a spell we are well equipped for monster and disaster.”
He shook his head at her words, a half smile on his lips, “Why? Why join the company?” She was such a peculiar woman, he couldn’t help but wonder as to why she had put the quill to the paper in the first place.
Without hesitation she replied, “Gold of course! There’s opportunity in war. It’s a tad more complicated than that but as I said earlier, it is a very blue and sobering story. One not for the ears of a man hoping to distract himself from such things. Believe me.” She smiled to herself. “I am not so easily scared away, when one bounds Oblivion to their will monsters are a regular occurance.”
“We can certainly drink to that yes?”
“I suppose I can.” Leif nodded in mutual agreement. He had half the mind to invite her to his bed for the evening, nothing intimate, unless she so desired. It had been a few months since he had had the companionship of a woman, and he would much like to hold someone in his arms again. He took a swig of the mead before pushing it across the table towards her, grimacing at the overly sweet taste.
“So… Maj… have you a partner or a suitor?” Why not? He might as well ask.
Maj eyed him then took a swig of the mead. She leaned across the table to pat both of his cheeks, “While you have humoured my story tonight, you will not be humouring me in bed Leif Raven-Stone. You will not find a mend for your heart in me.”
“And you lack the proper… Uh
set up.” She gestured at him generally. A crimson hue spread across his cheeks, at first he misunderstood her, but then it lighted upon him like candlelight in the darkest hours of night. “How about you tell me
a story from your days on the Courtesan
“Perhaps another time, there’ll be many an hour aboard the Kyne’s Tear
on our way to Jehanna. Best get some rest lass, we’ve a long voyage ahead of us. And, well, thank you for being an admirable storyteller.” Leif rose from the table where he dipped his head towards her. Part of him was truly exhausted, and the other part was shame. What could he say? He needed to clear his head with a good night's sleep.