Watch the Skies
A GM special
Midday, 17th of Sun’s Height, 4E208
Falkreath Hold, Hours from Falkreath
The Reach was behind them as Skyrim opened up ahead as the hard mountain passes gave way to fields and forests as the group reached the borders of Falkreath hold. It normally would have been a cause for celebration due to an easier journey with more temperate weather, easier access to food and water, and more comfortable places to bunk down in camp, but a heavy air hung over the group after what had happened with Finnen and Daro’Vasora.
Finnen’s attack had stunned many and his sudden disappearance without cause left more questions than answers, and for her part, the Khajiit wasn’t in any mood to talk; it had taken her hours to begin to get her voice back. Even now she was reluctant to speak, sinking into a somber silence, keeping a makeshift scarf about her neck, cut from a strip of her own bed roll. Despite the fact it still carried Finnen’s scent, she persevered, a part of her not wanting to give up on him, but most of her being terrified at the thought of what he had done to her. He warned her this could happen, and she let it. Daro’Vasora nearly died at the hands of someone she trusted and loved and was something she had no idea how to process, so she didn’t even try.
She pulled the scarf up higher, covering her mouth. Finnen’s scent filled her mind, and she forced herself to think of the better times, fighting the specter of what Pale-feather had done with her lover’s body from invading her memories and stealing them from her. It’s what that bastard would want, and Daro’Vasora was too damn stubborn to let a monster steal her memories from her.
Right now, she had to put her own personal stakes aside; the others needed her to be at her best. Since the attack, a lot of the company was recovering from injury and loss; aside from Finnen, Raelynn and Fjolte had disappeared, and Megana and Zaveed still were unheard from after their scouting mission… and Daro’Vasora was trying her best not to fear the worst. It was hard for her not to be snarky and sort at times; everyone she had grown close with had abandoned her, died, or otherwise been missing. It all felt like a validation of how she felt for so many years, starting with how Roux had betrayed her trust and leading up to a group of idiots who activated a Dwemer machine in the Jerall Mountains for everyone.
And so, Daro’Vasora went from person to person to make sure they were eating and drinking properly, or as much as they could with oftentimes limited supplies, and directed people to talk if they needed support. She herself took no part in it; everything was too raw, and she knew herself too well to trust the words that were likely to come out. She busied herself in maps and journals, planning the path ahead, painfully aware how few in number they now felt. She would catch herself lost in thought, turning to look for Finnen, Meg, or Raelynn and finding none of them, or having a thought she wanted to run by Fjolte and realizing he wasn’t there to answer them. Even at night, setting down for the night, there was nothing to keep her warm except for a bed roll and the lingering aches on her throat.
After the second day of travel, they had reached a clearing, and a few relieved groans could be heard; at least they didn’t have to work over steep mountain passes for a change. As they crossed, an unnatural, albeit familiar sound filled the air that filled them with dread. A pair of airships approached from the Northwest and were heading right towards them. The protection of trees and rocks were too far to run and make it, but they had to try. Scrambling for safety, the group heard the propellers grow louder and with a sinking realization that they weren’t going to make it before the ships were upon them, the companions turned and prepared for a fight that they almost certainly would not win.
Daro’Vasora’s hand was shaking, gripping on her mace. She was so damn close. Had she gotten careless and distracted? Was there another way? She knew that the clearing likely was going to expose them, but they needed to take some risks in exchange for quicker travel due to exhaustion and rapidly dwindling supplies, and none of them had seen an airship in weeks. The whole ordeal struck her as disgustingly unfair. She wanted to scream in defiance, she wanted to turn and apologize to what was left of her companions.
All that they could do was stand defiantly and hope S’rendarr looked upon them with mercy.
An unnaturally booming voice came from the East, a figure approaching from behind them that Daro’Vasora saw was adorned in some kind of bone armour… dragon bones, she realized with an immediate and heightened realization.
The words this Nord were bellowing were almost deafening, the Khajiit’s ears pulled back as she flinched away at this approach as he stared down the airships without fear or hesitation. He looked like a predator that had caught his prey.
From the Nord’s mouth emitted an unbelievable force of energy, like a hurricane spit forth from his mouth; the few trees that had been in his way were stripped of branches and bark, and the air cracked in a deafening boom; both of the airships looked as if they had been struck by a giant’s fist, knocking them out of their formation and nearly into each other, fabric tearing from the hulls and balloons atop their frame, gas escaping from them as they tried to correct their course. The entire scene was surreal; the once unassailable airships that had ruled uncontested were being battered around like a child’s plaything.
Haunting roars filled the air and overhead, impossibly fast and sun-stealing shadows swept across as they darted towards the airships. Daro’Vasora tried to make sense of what she was seeing as the creatures she witnessed came to life.
The creatures screamed at the airship,
”YOL TOOR SHUL!”
”FO KRAH DIIN!
Torrents of unearthly fire and ice spewed force from the creatures’ mouths as they made passes at the airships, causing the gases above to erupt and the decks to freeze; the panicked and anguished screams of the mer could be heard, somehow, over the absolute carnage of the carnage of the leather-winged creatures. One had dull reddish-brown scales, while the other had bluish white. Daro’Vasora realized what she was witnessing.
They were dragons.
The airships crashed into the ground as the dragons forced them into the ground with their mighty talons, crushing metal that weakened beneath their claws. Teeth tore into the frame and into the ship, the sounds of dying crewmen still ringing through the plains. It was impossible to look away.
A group of mostly Nords and an assortment of others had crossed towards them from the treeline, a motley assortment of hardened looking men and women, with a few others aside, led by a giant of a man with a crimson great beard and mane of matching hair, looking like a figure out of legend. One in particular stood out to Daro’Vasora; she was a Khajiit, like her, her bare arms and tail visible under black and teal leather armour, her face concealed beneath a hood. Clutched in a clawed hand was a long spear with a worn, but meticulously cared for, blade, and a pair of daggers were strapped to the woman’s frame, evidenced by her slender and feminine frame and smaller stature. She was a Suthay-raht, actually taller than Daro’Vasora by a handful of centimeters and far more physically defined by curves and musculature.
This figure seemed transfixed on Daro’Vasora, stepping forward towards her slowly as if the carnage with the dragons was an everyday occurrence. She pulled her hood down, revealing a pale face with her straight white mane swept over the left portion of her face, concealing her left eye and jaw, but the other side was visible, a powerful and shorter muzzle protruded from the girl’s face, and across her face and body were cheetah-like spots. However, behind darkened eyes, concealed with charcoal and plant-mixed red-black face paint shone an emerald green eye that was immediately familiar to Daro’Vasora because it was one in the same as her own.
The girl picked up the pace and crossed the field quickly now, reaching the companions and immediately throwing her arms around Daro’Vasora, tears welling in her eyes. “Vasora! Bright moons, La’Shuni cannot believe her eyes!” she exclaimed. “She thought you were dead!”
Daro’Vasora didn’t realize she was holding her breath as she returned the embrace, burying her face in the girl’s shoulder, holding onto her like she was the only person left in this world.
She caught the quizzical stare of Sevari, who between the brutal display of might from the dragons, the approaching stranger in the dragonbone armour, and the strange girl who was so freely embracing Daro’Vasora prompted her to smile between teary-eyed relief and amusement.
“Everyone, I would like for you to meet my sister.”
Falkreath, Dead Man’s Drink
Falkreath had weathered the storm rather well, all considered. Its buildings all still stood, although there had been signs of conflict in the streets; doors and windows were hastily repaired, and even the tavern in which everyone was seated in a long row of tables, the entire tavern put together to make one singularly long table, had a hole in the ceiling that made light pour in like some divine radiance; indeed, had the pillar of light been only a few meters closer, Jorwen Red-bear would have been cast in the middle of it, making his crimson hair shine like rubies to accentuate his already commanding presence.
Around the table were faces both familiar and new, and the warband in itself was a peculiar sort; mostly Nords with a few scattered individuals who had come from across Tamriel, many of whom now called Skyrim their home. They all had a common cause and they fought together, brother and sisters forged in the bellows of war. It was the new faces that drew the most curiosity and interest from around the table; a motley band all their own. Had it not been for La’Shuni taking an immediate and impulsive move towards reuniting with the one she proclaimed to be her sister, suspicion might have led things down a decidedly different path.
The thing was, they needed all the help they could get.
For all the drinking and revelry, Jorwen was at the head of the table with a slab of frown. One hand lay limp on the table next to a large mug of mead and the other balled in a fist against his leaning jaw. His eyes went about the great mirths of the hall until they fell on Sevari’s. If anything, Jorwen found his reflection in the other man, who was sitting in almost the same way. Their stares almost seemed to convey a conversation of a hundred words. Without one spoken, Jorwen rose and Sevari rose in turn.
Sevari followed Jorwen outside, the two of them standing in the stillness of night. For what seemed like an eternity, there was nothing between the men but moonlight and cricket song. Sevari reached into his coat pocket and pulled free a new cigar from a new bundle he’d gotten from one of Jorwen’s men. He lit it with the tip of his finger and as he exhaled the smoke, Jorwen spoke.
“You’re a fighter.” Sevari stood quiet, then nodded.
“A killer.” Jorwen said. Not a question. A man recognizes most in others what he sees in himself. “All your life, I’d reckon.”
Sevari nodded again, “What of it?”
“In Skyrim, ‘specially these days, it’s a good day to be a killer. A fighter. Them others,” Jorwen nodded to the others in the tavern, Sora’s Party, “They any like you?”
“Some.” Sevari grunted, puffing a few more times off of his cigar, “What of it?”
“We need men like you. Like me.” Jorwen shrugged, “No shame in facts.”
Sevari wasn’t sure who that last part was meant for. Maybe it was for himself, the big man. “What’s your point?”
“You their leader?” Jorwen asked. Sevari shook his head only slightly, a small tick of his head. Jorwen nodded, “Get me the leader, then.”
Somewhere up in a corner of the rafters of the Dead Man’s Drink, a pair of deep carmine eyes squinted down at the arrivals from behind a thick curtain of shadow. Bare feet softly touched the timber cladding of the wall as the owner of the nosy eyes peered out briefly from the shadow to gaze further. The eyes widened before closing as a slate grey face retreated back to the darkness in much of the same manner as an animal might return to its nest for solitude...
Sevari opened the door, letting the songs and shouting pour into the lonely Falkreath streets again. His nighteyes scanned the dark drinking hall for Sora until he found her. He waved her over.
Looking over a tankard of mead, Daro’Vasora’s eye caught Sevari’s between La’Shuni’s animated gestures as she was trying to go over what had exactly happened to have turned the polite, meek sister she knew into a leather-wearing, spear-wielding woman with muscles and scars that hardly resembled the girl she knew. It had been a couple of years since she’d seen La’Shuni last, and with a heavy heart, she realized she missed out on a lot of life back home. It had moved on without her.
“Hey, sis? I’ll be back soon. Sevari needs a word.”
“Who’s that?” La’Shuni asked, looking towards the door, her lips drenched indelicately with her own drink, dribbles running down her mouth. What on Nirn happened to her manners?
“The brooding one… I’ll explain later. We’ve all the time in the world to catch up, I promise.” Daro’Vasora said, standing and kissing her sister on the brow. “I’ve missed you so damn much. I won’t be long!” she promised.
Soon, she was out of the door next to Sevari, her arms crossed with a terse expression as she regarded Jorwen for several moments. “Well, boys, any reason this couldn’t wait until morning? It’s not like I haven’t seen my sister for years and thought she might have died until today.” she grumbled, looking down the cobblestone road. “Surprised this place is still standing. Wooden walls don’t tend to fare well against cannons and airships.”
“Wooden walls look less important than stone ones, don’t you reckon?” Jorwen looked at Sora, gave her a quick once over and it seemed like that was all he needed to gauge everything about her. “Now it’s a haven for my men and the other warbands like us to use and rest in. Warbands of men that look dirty and tired and beaten, that look… less important than ones clinking and clanking around in armor polished enough to blind you.”
Sevari snorted. Jorwen continued, “Odd, ain’t it? But I reckon you’d know a lot about the importance of looking unimportant.” He turned his eyes and nothing else towards Sora, “And then proving the poor fool wrong when he’s got his back to you?”
“I’ll ask you once, and I care a shit if your sister is in there,” He said, turning his full breadth on Sevari and Sora. If Sora looked close enough, Sevari had a blade out and close enough under his coat to not glint in the moonlight. Though he was looking very unimportant all the while. “Who are you trying to look unimportant for? Me or the Dwemer?”
Daro’Vasora’s arms remained tightly crossed as she stared unblinkingly up at the giant of a man, her expression impassive save for the slightest tightening of her jaw. “Paranoid one, aren’t you? Guess you’re not as daft as you look; can’t even figure out how to groom yourself properly.” Daro’Vasora replied shortly. “Look, chief, captain, jarl, whatever… my lot and I don’t have the greatest track record of seemingly well-intentioned strangers telling us they’re on our side.
“I’ve lost a lot of people I care about to the Dwemer, and had I a mediocum more selfish interests at heart, I’d be in Stros M’kai right now with a bowl of rum punch and a chest full of treasures at my side, but instead I just spent weeks walking across the gods-damned Alik’r desert and crossing the mountains, all the while surviving shiny new Centurion hunters and nearly getting murdered by my own gods-damned boyfriend, so forgive me for cutting through the bullshit and this shit-footed coy waddling game you’re pulling me into instead of spending time I’d much rather be with family, but do you really think that the sad-sack shit caravan you came across that’s what’s left of my friends is really a threat to you?” Daro’Vasora growled, jabbing a finger into Jorwen’s chest. “So why don’t you turn your back and find out which I am? You’re big and scary; what’s a little cat going to do to you? Brain you with this thing?” she asked, pulling her mace off of her belt to show it to Jorwen.
“It’s Dwemer make. Take a wild guess how the fuck I got it.”
Jorwen looked over Sora at Sevari. The man shrugged, making a show of a cigar in one hand and the hidden knife he had in his other before dropping his arms again and sheathing it. Jorwen nodded. “Alright.” Jorwen turned from Sora, “Why aren’t you in Stros M’kai then? Why wander from Hammerfell to Skyrim? War to another?”
The Cathay’s eyes narrowed. “I’m going to end this invasion once and for all. I’d kindly appreciate it if you didn’t get in my way.” she reached into one of her belt pouches and pulled out a pendant, a bear made out of orichalcum. It dangled in front of her eyes, turning slowly. “This was my uncle’s. He died in Imperial City trying to save two boys from the ships that came from the sky. I wasn’t there to stand by his side, and I couldn’t save him. I can sure as hell avenge him.”
Jorwen regarded her, unimpressed, “Lots of folks killed Dwemer here. Lots of folks got people to avenge.” Jorwen shrugged, “I don’t know you.”
“And that has to start somewhere.” the Khajiit retorted, ears flattening and eyes narrowing. “We didn’t ask to get pulled into whatever you’ve got going on here, but believe me when I say I’m no friend of the Deep Elves. My people are exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and we still have a long way to go before we can well and truly rest. I appreciate the hospitality, and I assume that at one point you didn’t know my sister, either. So let me propose a deal; you let us stay here until we’re recovered, and we’ll help you with whatever it is that needs doing in the meantime.” she extended a hand. “Might as well make the most of a shit situation, yeah?”
“All I’ve been doing my whole life.” There was the evidence of humor on his smirking lips but none in his voice as he engulfed her hand in his own.
The hands shook; Jorwen made Daro’Vasora feel like a doll in his grasp. She grinned. “My mentor always told me ‘if something is difficult, you’re on the right track’. Talk to my people, get to know them; you Nords like stories, and you’re going to want to listen to theirs. We even managed to piss off and sabotage the ‘governor of Volenfell’s’ operations and broke a bunch of warriors out of one of their best secured prisons before coming here. Give us a chance; you’ll like us.”
“I know how things are done. Ain’t my first time leading people, hopefully my last.” Jorwen nodded at Sora, a new bond between them that seemed to sweep away the prior tension like a dust in the wind. “I’d say that same thing about this war, but I reckon I’d be wrong. Said the same thing last War.”
“Gotta knock on some wood after.” Sevari quipped before taking a drag off his cigar.
“Oh, I’ve been praying at shrines. Reckon I’ve been doing something wrong all these years.” Jorwen chuckled bitterly and turned his vast shoulders on them to get back inside.
As the party each stood around each other, crowded in the Dead Man’s drink, a small sprinkle of dust fell from above. The timber support beam creaked as a stranger pranced across it on graceful footsteps. She came down slowly to her knees - so far undetected by the new arrivals. Her bottom touched the wood and she leaned backwards carefully until her slender legs were hooked. First dropped a long waterfall of thick, scarlett curls. Then the face followed.
She bore the sharpness typical of her race. Her skin the colour of the sky before a storm - her cheekbones high upon the heart shaped face. In the dim candlelight that was illuminating the tavern, she appeared more gaunt than usual. But being upside down also had a strange effect on a person's ability to make sense of a face. As she opened her large, almond shaped eyes, they caught the flickering flames of the candles dotted around the room. It created the illusion that the woman had many eyes - like a spider. The position that she had bent herself into was also not helping to dispel the notion that she was in fact, an arachnid.
She pointed her fingers out towards the young Khajiit, reaching out to rub against the sides of La’Shuni’s ears as she stood in the tavern, eagerly awaiting her sister’s return. “See, little one, didn’t I tell you things would turn well for you?” she said in a voice that had the quality of smoke - a husky sound, feminine and breathy. A warmth and sweetness that was something of a rarity in the normally sour Dunmer of Morrowind. La’Shuni beamed up at Ivy affectionately; she had become well accustomed to the Dunmer appearing in odd places, and her presence was always a reassuring one.
Suddenly, the Dunmer woman blinked, eyeing up the guests from her new vantage point. They looked so much less sad from the upside down. She tilted her head and gave them a quick wave - grinning out at them, as if her smile could lighten the mood some.
The Dunmer turned back to La’Shuni, while one of her hooked legs came down from the timber, and was hanging by her shoulder with her foot relaxed, swinging just so. “My show will be soon, I hope you come to see,” she smiled, pinching the cheeks of the Suthay-raht affectionately. Her toes found the back of a chair and she used it to balance as with a freakish ease she slipped herself down from the beam completely. On solid ground again, she raised her shoulders and brought her hands together with glee. There was a happiness radiating from La’Shuni that the Dunmer found infectious.
La’Shuni giggled. “This one supposes if you want her there, she cannot miss it, no?” she replied, a tiny bit of teasing to her tone. She smiled warmly at her friend. “It is a wonderful day, and La’Shuni never expected it to come. Her sister… Vasora is okay! This one is certain she must have similar thoughts.”
Suddenly, a frown crossed her features. “Do you think mister Jorwen is mad at her? He seemed pretty… upset, perturbed?” the young Khajiit murmured, not sure of the words to find. “There is so much La’Shuni does not know.”
“Oh my, well if we were to know everything then quite simply the head on our shoulders would fall to the ground. Too heavy to pick up! That’s why it’s better to share the things we know…” As Ivy spoke, her hand reached out to the table to pick up a pair of batons. “If Jorwen is mad - let him be mad! He’ll get over it in time,” she waved her hand dismissively at the notion he could be mad in any capacity at La’Shuni. Her other hand found its way to her hip and she leaned to the side, cutting an incredibly feminine shape as she did so. “Don’t worry about it. Come to the firepit instead - bring your sister and her friends!” She leaned in close to La’Shuni, her lips practically brushing against the young girls ears as she whispered there. “Tonight I’m going to become a real dragon.”
La’Shuni gasped in delight. “Truly?! You never fail to surprise this one!” she exclaimed, feeling cheered up immeasurably, the thought of Jorwen sending Daro’Vasora away fleeing from her mind. “This one will make sure that they come. After all, La’Shuni Ten-Thanes speaks with the authority of the chief!” she said with a forced booming voice, suddenly with a straight military-posture with her fist over her heart before her facade cracked and she laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. Tonight was not a night to be serious; after all, what was there to worry about?
“Do you think La’Shuni will have time to speak with Vasora before your show? So much has happened…” she wondered out loud to Ivy, probing the Dunmer’s thoughts.
“That’s the spirit, little one!” she remarked with a smile, drawing back from her friend with a nod in response to her question. “Oh of course, I have to change and limber up a little first… turning into a real dragon takes time.” Ivy winked before giving the girl one last squeeze before turning for the door.
Sevari froze in the doorway. What greeted his sight was a Dunmer woman almost seeming to float down from the rafters. Surely, he was seeing things. And anybody who saw her may have been stunned by the display of flexibility. He was. But for other reasons. But beyond the flexibility was his eyes going over her lithe and fit form to finally catch on her eyes, so full of life and a mischief that both pulled him in and cautioned him away. He only realized he was staring and his breath was held when he let it out in an impressed and satisfied, “Huh.”
He flicked his cigar out the doorway and straightened his coat, making like he wasn’t just ogling her like a drunk and dressed in rags compared to her. Her walk seemed as effortlessly intoxicating as her entrance seemed effortlessly eye-catching. Everything about her was like a performance in the highest of theaters. Sevari wanted to watch it all.
Of course she noticed the Ohmes-Raht. How could she not? He was an Ohmes-Raht for a start. Didn’t get too many of them in Falkreath. She was a performer at heart, and knowing she’d hooked herself an audience of one in the stranger was enough to set her off. Her eyes narrowed the closer she got to him, but she did not look him directly in his. As she came but a foot from him, she stopped and acted startled, setting her eyes to the floor. “Oh my, oh my….” she sang, bending down as if to pick something from the dusty floor.
Ivy closed the distance that remained between her body and his, pressing her closed fist to his hand. “Your eyes, honey. They were on the floor…” she giggled - meaning no ill intent, just a flirtatious tease back. She loosed a finger from her fist and tickled the back of his hand. “Let’s see what you lose if you see my show…” That was it, she gave him a playful wink and brushed past, exiting the tavern with a sway of her hips.
La’Shuni offered Sevari a quizzical stare for several moments, not missing the same lustful gleam in his eyes that men, and some women, tended to have around Ivy before suddenly putting a hand up under her snow-coloured hair covering the left side of her face and heading out of the door in a hurry. Another Khajiit approached from the back, a tiger-stripped Cathay with cougar-like features, his face adorned with a braided beard dangling from his chin and his mane styled likewise to his shoulder blades. He dressed in a simple budi and trousers combination, forest green on grey. He offered Sevari a tankard with a wry smile.
“Careful, rhook; that one will eat you alive if you let her.” he said, patting Sevari on the shoulder before making his way back towards the kitchens.
“I almost want her to…” he stared at the Dunmer’s swaying behind as she went off into the distance. He turned to the other Khajiit, calling out to him before he got too far away, “Her name!”
The Suthay stopped in his tracks, turning to regard Sevari with bemused amber eyes and a slight smile. "And ruin the mystery? Do'Karth would never!" He laughed, plucking a bottle of wine from the counter next to him and pulling the cork with a claw before deftly flicking it into the hearthfire.
"Our enigmatic Dunmer is putting on a show very soon out in the town square; this one encourages you to go see what else she is capable of." Do'Karth replied, drinking from the bottle with a non-committal shrug. "Who knows? Perhaps she will make you a part of her performance. Rajhin knows she is quite flexible."
Sevari cocked a brow at this other Khajiit, taking another look at the empty doorway before turning back, “I’m not sure the town square would want to see the performance I want.” Sevari shrugged, offering his empty tankard out for the bottle, “Fine. Your name is Do’Karth? Warrior, fighter?”
The Suthay rolled his jaw, electing to ignore the crude insinuations the stranger had towards his friend. Be bowed his head, hand over heart. "This one is whatever he is needed to be. Sometimes that may be patching up wounds, others it might mean preparing a meal. But worry not, rhook; Do'Karth might know a thing or two about inflicting those wounds or evicting those meals." He smiled innocently.
Sevari gave his own smile, though much less innocent, “I’m no rook at this war shit.” Sevari said, “I guess your skills make you handy around here. I like that. Groups like this don’t need dead weight.”
Do'Karth's pleasant countenance didn't waver. "My humble apologies; this one had assumed you hailed from the Kingdoms." He bowed his head once more. "Do'Karth had not meant to suggest you were inexperienced; rhook loosely means friend. It is an address of endearment." He explained.
"It is not Do'Karth's preference to make judgement based on another's appearance. Srendarr knows many have made that misstep with him." He said humbly, although there was an insinuation with his tone.
“Well,” Sevari raised his tankard, “Fill this up and we’ll be best friends.”
"Of course." Do'Karth replied, crossing the distance easily and taking the tankard without much of a fuss. With a turn, he resumed his travel towards the back.
The door opened behind Sevari, and a familiar voice said, "What did I miss?"
Sevari turned to the voice, and Zaveed and Megana were standing together at the door frame.