The northern gale came down strong from the Throat of the World. The wind chimes from High Hrothgar whistled as the sound was carried forth from the mountain. The moment would have been serene if not for the tumult in the valley below.
A great commotion blared from behind the thick walls and doors of Dragonsreach. Citizens, both curious and concerned, were turned away as sentries guarded their posts. Chairs were smashed over tables still set for breakfast. Axes lodged into walls cast shadows over bread now moldy as the figures in the great hall struggled and swore.
“You’ll pay with your blood!”
The keep sat on a high mound, far removed from the rest of the city. But even at this distance she could still see the silhouettes darting violently across the glowing stained windows. She closed her eyes.
“It's 7AM on a Sundas. Commerce starts in one hour and you want me to close shop?”The guard captain rolled his shoulders in a patient sigh. ”I'm sorry Adrianne, but it's not up to me. All Shops are closed until further notice. Jarl’s orders.”Adrianne grit her teeth, “If the jarl wants to bankrupt the city then have him invite the Stormcloaks in. I’ve got a business to run.”
“It’s only temporary,” he replied slowly. “Once the curfew lifts, you’ll be compensated for whatever losses.” “With what coin Caius!?” She jerked forward, fuming, “Whiterun’s coffers are empty. The last harvest failed and my only paying customer is the odd traveler who wants his butter knife sharpened. That's not enough to keep the doors open!”
“Listen!” he yelled finally, losing his temper. “I don’t get paid to have an opinion, I get paid to do my job. And right now my job is for you to do as I say.You got a problem with that? Take it up with Irileth.”
Adrianne stopped and gave him a puzzling look. “Irileth?” she said.
Caius saw her expression and his lips pursed as he realised his mistake. The city gates slammed shut and the dooricade bar dropped into the slats, sealing it. A young guard walked up and gave the commander a crisp salute,“All is well sir. The perimeter is secure” he said. Seeing Adrianne, he gave a polite nod.
Caius rubbed his hand over his balding head and looked back to see Adrianne’s stoic expression, her eyes finally understanding. Caius looked down and shook his head. After a moment had passed he pulled his helmet out from under his arm onto his head. As he turned to go, he gruffly said, “Stay away from the Cloud District if you know what's good for you.” Adrianne’s expression softened. “Let's go,'' he said, setting his hand on the recruits shoulder. “We’re needed.”Adrianne watched him as he walked away. She knew it wasn't any easier on him than her.
Not like it mattered, she thought to herself. They managed to keep their secret for a few hours, but it didn't take long for one barricaded keep and the sounds of oblivion breaking loose to attract notice. Adrianne shivered. The leftover heat from the forge was nice but not nearly enough to dispel Skyrim’s evening chill. With the scarcity of goods going on she didn't dare waste more fuel. Besides that, the Bannered Mare was filled to bursting and catching frostbite was preferable to the evil eye. She contented herself with her pink embers instead.
“Hell of a thing,” Elindir said, bursting her thought bubble. “Mmhm,” she mumbled after a moment, taking a puff from her pipe when she did. Elindir took a swig from his mug. His own brand. Not like it would be missed. Elinidr managed to scrape by on the best of days. His brew quality was too much to bear for Nord standards, he liked to say. There might be some truth to that, she thought. Wood elves are known for putting roots in their beer. But she didn't think her own slack business was a coincidence either. Arianne found “Imperial steel,” scrawled on her shop front enough times for the point to get across.
“Hard days,” he half whispered, looking nostalgically into the night sky, “Hardest days in memory.” She nodded in agreement. “Hm,”he chuckled. ”At least the dragons went quiet.”
“Aye,” she acknowledged pessimistically, “And the truce between Stormcloaks and Imperials went quiet with them.” Elindir gave a slight smile. “You'd have thought the Reds and Blue would have wanted a breather after half of Skyrim got burnt to ash by those things. If anything, now they’ve got their second wind.”Most days, she appreciated Elindir’s wit and dry humor. But this day her spirits were dark.
“The Jarl would have made things work,” she said, pausing. “He kept us out of the war for years, and sometimes we did alright.” Elindir’s humorous look faded and a more somber one took its place. Adrianne drew in a deep puff and blew out a long thick cloud, the smoke contrasting against the clear night sky. “Now he’s gone. And they’ll be no helping it now. We’ll be forced to pick a side, Elindur.”
Elindur looked down. He nodded stoically, thought for a moment, then drank from his mug again. He wiped the foam from his clean chin. After a while he said, “I suppose the only victors here are the Grey Manes and Battleborns. They’ve been wanting to drain each other’s blood since this whole mess began. Without Balgruff here to hold the reins, well… They’ll get exactly what they want.”
Adrianne gazed at the pipe bowl, marveling at the bright red embers glowing in the darkness. “Balgruff was a good lord,” he said as he sat up straight. Elindur took a deep breath and put his hands on his knees, leaning back into his chair. “And he was a good man. He didn’t deserve to go like that.”
“No,'' she replied, ''He didn't.”
“Done in by your own son. Can you believe that?” He shook his head, “sign of the times.”
“My father said he was still covered in Balgruff’s blood when they found him,”she said abruptly. ”Proventus found him?
“One of the few who found him, yes.”
“Mara's love,'' he moaned. “I always knew the lad was a spoiled brat but I never pegged him for raving mad. How did the boy kill him? Did your father say?”
“His letter didn't say much,” she paused, smirking whimsically, “and his carrier pigeon even less so.” Elindir laughed at her corny joke and she smiled. She was grateful for his company. “But,” she continued, “it was fairly straightforward.” He raised his eyebrows in query. “Blade,” she finished. “Well,” he sighed, “that’d do I guess.”
“Mmhm,” she agreed. “An ebony one too. Though where he got that from I’m sure I don’t know. The Nine know’s Euorland and I can barely afford to bring in Steel.”
He laughed again and this time she laughed with him. She didn't know why she laughed. It was an absurdly silly thing to find amusing. But laughed she did. And for the remaining evening, her spirits were lifted. In the wee hours they said their good nights and retired each to their respective homes for bed.
The pink coal slowly fizzled until it was no more. The glow faded and darkness eagerly returned to its naturally appointed place. In the corner, a shadow moved.
It had heard enough. Slowly emerging from its hiding place, the shadow made its way through the streets. Not a soul could be seen on those deserted alleys. It’s cobblestone bricks reflected back the pale moonlight illuminating the way. Onward it went. Past Adrianne Avenicci’s forge and smithy. Past the rows of houses, their anxious residents no doubt fast asleep. Past the shops, market stalls and past the Bannered Mare inn with it’s assundry of inebriated unconscious patrons. The shadow climbed the steps into the courtyard of the Wind district. The luminous Gildergreen hung beautifully, it’s branche blossoming as the shadow glazed it’s hands over them.
Past the great tree stood the awe inspiring Shrine of Talos. The statue of Tiber Septim stood stern guard over it. Over his people, over the people of Whiterun, over Skyrim. Indeed in that moment Tiber Septim seemed to stand guard over all mankind. Defiant of those who would tear him down. The shadow gazed a moment more before climbing the steps towards Dragonsreach. The quiet night air was disturbed by the ongoing dispute therin. As the tumult became louder and louder, a cloak was shorn from the back of the shadow revealing an armor clad figure. At the top of the stairway through a ram horned helmet, he stared at the great oak doors. Moonlight and hearthfire bathed over him as he brandished his sword.
- None Found
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