Skyrim Story - Those Born Of Dragons: Part 3: Securing Raven Rock

Part 2

Derbana cracked her knuckles as she was waiting for Jerthar to finish drinking his water. His finger was still raised as he finished his latest cup.

“Jerthar...” She groaned, “Are you ready to start talking now?”

It had been a few minutes since they ran into each other. Until he was ready to speak, they got out of the sun and were sitting at the bar of the Retching Netch, the local tavern in Raven Rock. However, the novelty wore off as they sat there with the only noise they could hear was the gulping of water down his throat.

She punched the bar, “Damn it, Jerthar! Enough already!”

He lowered his drink from his lips, “Sorry, Sister. But you don't know how hard it is to get this ash out of your mouth. I'll tell you the story, just I need some more water while doing it.” He tapped two fingers on the bar, “More please.”

The bartender came and freshened his drink and after taking one more sip, Jerthar turned to his seething sister with a smile and began to tell the story.

He had ran out into the marketplace alongside his sister and her husband. As they turned toward the entrance of the Raven Rock Mine, he kept going ahead and through the gate of the Bulwark. He walked out into the wilderness where the layer of ash was thicker than in Raven Rock. The road led him down the coastline and looking off into the ocean, he saw the Red Mountain in the distance with a thick plume of smoke and ash raising into the air like a scar on the sky.

After two minutes, he saw a battle on the road ahead outside of an abandoned farmhouse. Jerthar raised his hands and readied his spells. There was one elf standing against three creatures that Jerthar didn't know, not even appearing once in any of the books he read.

They stood and looked like men, but their rough clumpy skin was made from ash. Their orange-red eyes and dumbfounded expressions did nothing to belay their aggression as this single elf in bonemold armor held them off with his two-handed axe.

Jerthar analyzed his enemies and switched up his usual spells for something new. The elf swung his axe and sliced through one of these creatures and it dissolved into a clump of ash on the ground as the other two pressed their advance. He readied for them as a spray of cold shot through the air, freezing the two in place as Jerthar jumped into the air and blinked right through them, shattering them into millions of pieces.

When the cold mist dissipated seconds later, the elf looked on Jerthar who turned around to greet him.

“Thanks...I wasn't sure I'd make it off this farm alive. I wish I could have say the same for my man here.” He extended his hand, “Modyn Veleth, Captain of the Redoran Guard.”

Jerthar shook his hand, “Jerthar, Master Mage. What were those things?”

“Some of the Redoran Guard have taken to calling them 'Ash Spawn'. Me? I don't care what they're called...all I know is they're a danger to Raven Rock and they need to be stopped. I was going to search for clues that might lead me to wherever they're coming from. I know it wasn't the best place to start, but we know they've been coming from this direction.”

Jerthar looked toward where he believed the center of the island would be and turned back to Modyn, “I'd be glad to lend you a hand.” Right now, his need was greater.

“Good, I can use all the help I can get. Besides, I don't feel comfortable leaving Raven Rock behind, and I'd hate to lose any more Redoran Guard. We were searching the farm when the Ash Spawn ambushed us. Have a look around and see if you can turn up anything useful.”

Jerthar looked at the enemies they just slew and saw something sticking out of one of the ash piles. Picking it up and brushing off the ash, he unfolded it and read it in a few seconds before handing it to Modyn who read it.

“This is strange. The note says it's from General Falx Carius, but that's impossible.”

“Why?”

“Well, Carius was the Imperial garrison commander at Fort Frostmoth, but he died over 200 years ago when the Red Mountain leveled the place. There's no way he could still be alive.”

“Sounds like there's something keeping him alive. I won't know until I explore the fort.”

“It's to the east, the first large fortress you'll see. While you're doing that, I'm going to head back to Raven Rock and prepare the men for further assaults. As soon as I deliver my man to the temple for burial.”

He leaned down and tried to pick him up, but the elf with his armor weighed as much as him. Jerthar looked at him struggle and nodded his head.

“Here, let me take care of that.” Raising his hand facing palm up, curling his fingers, they wrapped in eldritch energy as the dead soldier lifted into the air five feet from the ground as he walked forward, the body floated alongside. In a few minutes, he had delivered the body for burial at the Temple of Raven Rock before continuing on his journey toward Fort Frostmoth.

Each footstep he took, the ash slid, leaving a trail of footprints for a few seconds before the ash fell into the hole like sand, filling it up. The area he was walking through was once a forest, but most of the trees were dead and fallen over as the ash buried them. However, the ash also gave birth to new life as plants he had only seen in books. His journey was slightly delayed as he harvested any scathecraw and trama root he had come across.

After several minutes of trekking through the ash, he saw the large fortress. Though not as stealthy as his sister, Jerthar quietly edged himself along the wall. When he arrived at the archway, he peered his head around to see a few Ash Spawn walking in a small group. Leaning back against the wall, he took a soothing breath as he thought of how to deal with this many enemies quickly.

Pulling off his backpack, he rummaged through its contents. When his hand grabbed the item on the bottom, he smiled.

The Ash Spawn marched in formation around the courtyard. Their usual unending routine was interrupted by one of their numbers getting hit in the chest with a crossbow bolt. The injured Ash Spawn looked down at its chest to see it sticking out of it. As the others gathered around, the bolt exploded with magic as they were all frozen in place.

Jerthar put his Legendary-crafted Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow down to his side as he approached the frozen group. Weaving his hand through the icy sculptures, he retrieved his bolt and put it back in his quiver. Charging a spell in one hand, he threw the fire rune on the ground.

“Attaching a frost rune onto a crossbow bolt...who knew?” He whistled as he walked toward the main building. After several steps, he snapped his fingers, and the rune exploded. As the sprinkling of ash and ice rained down on the courtyard, Jerthar opened the creaking door and stepped inside.

The first corridor led to many of the front rooms of the stronghold. The old stone walls were lined with piles of gray ash, burying all the shelves and furniture that still remained. His footsteps echoed off the stone floor, the pile in front of him stirred as he witnessed it. The moment an Ash Spawn emerges from the very ash that created it. It was almost as it was stepping out of mud onto dry land, Jerthar took a quick note of this in his head before spraying it with frost, turning it into an ice sculpture.

“Hmm...due to the fiery properties of the ash, it seems they are indeed weak to frost spells... not my forte, but necessary and I...whoa!” He said as he ducked under the hardened ash spear that the new enemy held in its hands.

Tumbling backwards, Jerthar got enough distance to shoot his spells forward. In a moment, it was frozen in mid-swing. Covering his hands in fire, he punched the standing sculpture as it broken and shattered into millions of pieces. He turned to the first one who was still on its knees, raising his boot, he covered it with flame and stomped down on its head.

With this moment of peace, he took a better look at his surroundings. The one piece he wanted was an Imperial standard hanging over the ash. With the same skill and precision as he took with excavating Dwemer Ruins, he got the standard off its railing, folded it carefully inside a large cloth and put it away gently into his backpack.

Looking where the second Ash Spawn had came from, the door that was closed when he entered had been opened and looking inside the closet-sized room, he saw the disturbed ash and confirmed this was the place it arose. To his left was the guard tower interior, but he needed to go deeper into the fortress. Down the right hallway was a doorway leading down several steps.

At the bottom was the remained of used to be an Imperial prison. Here two Ash Spawn waited for him. The first was closest to him and froze it on the spot. Not a second after it was frozen, a fiery bolt hit Jerthar in the chest, sending him back against the doorway. It was unfortunate that this doorway was blocked with the webbing of Frostbite Spider. Stuck in the web, Jerthar struggled to free himself as the Ash Spawn drew closer, willing another ball of flame in its hand. Thrusting all he had in his entire body, some of the webbing came loose.

With seconds left, Jerthar knew of one thing that could help him and he continued throwing himself at the webs to do so. Pausing for just a moment to see the Ash Spawn throwing his arm forward, Jerthar threw himself as hard as he could to his left. The bolt flew passed his head and ignited the webbing behind him. And in final pull, he was free. Quickly overcharging a spell in one hand, he threw what looked like a ball of ice forward. Landing inside the Ash Spawn, it looked quizzically down at itself before it started freezing from the inside-out.

“The Heart of Cold...my professor was right to teach me that spell. An intense and concentrated ball of cold, capable of freezing any man-sized target, but it never worked right...living skin is too dense and the bones are another story. However, your ash is the perfect density...isn't it?”

The Ash Spawn was frozen from the neck down as the rest of the head turned to ice as Jerthar was face-to-face with it. With a small smile and a push of his finger, he tipped it over and watched it shatter. He didn't know until this moment why Frost Mages were always laughing at the Academy, he found it kind of fun, too. To celebrate, he folded both hands together and with a small spell, he opened his hands and a small rosehead made of ice stood there. Looking at it with a brief smile, he lowered it down on the shattered pile of ice before moving on.

The only door in the room was locked and he didn't have the lockpicking schools of his sister, so he turned to the next possible entrance. Through the webbed doorway, it led down a gentle slope into a natural cavern filled with flame and albino spiders, but it led nowhere.

So he returned to the prison, quickly finding his way through the back of the room and down another natural slope led to the catacombs where their honored dead would be buried. The coffins lined the walls on two large shelves leading to a left and right path, the right path led to nothing more than another Ash Spawn needing to be frozen. The left came to a circular chamber with a large slab, this was the place where the dead were prepared for burial, but...there was something foul about this place.

He brushed his hands around as the magic began to become visible, it was very clear what the source of corruption was.

“Hmph...necromancy.” He lowered his eyes to the slab where a satchel and a book were resting. The journal belonged to the necromancer responsible, but this energy is old...she hasn't been here for a long while, so there was no need to look any further for her. However, the satchel held the one thing he was looking for: the key to the locked door.

The key fit perfectly into the hole and opened the door. Jerthar charged up the stairs, his spells ready for anything. The top chamber was the general's quarters and the war room. As Jerthar stopped and looked at the back, there stood General Falx Carius...reborn in a manner of speaking.

“You! Who are you!”

“I'm Jerthar! And you should rest now, General!”

“No! Never again shall I fail in my watch! And you!...You're of the enemy, aren't you?” He drew his two-handed warhammer, “None! No one shall threat the Empire while I still live!”

“But you're not anymore.”

“Soldiers, arise! Fight for the Emperor!”

Several Ash Spawn crawled out of the ash and drew their hardened ash weapons toward Jerthar. They grunted and groaned as they stanced themselves for battle. He gathered his energies as the wind swirled around him.

“Soldiers! Attack!” General Falx Carius ordered.

They ran at Jerthar as his eyes opened, revealing a misty blue aura shining from them as he looked on his enemies. Shooting his hands out to the side, the entire room was filled with frost on every surface it touched. Soon, the entire front half of the room was covered in ice as well as the ash and all the Ash Spawn that charged him.

The General couldn't believe what happened, he saw his army decimated before him and readied his hammer, “For the Empire!”

He shouted as he ran through the ash and into the frost. Jerthar raised his hand and filled it with his favorite type of magic. A lightning bolt flew forward and struck through the General's chest.

“You've done your service, rest in peace now.” Jerthar said as the General's body lit ablaze and fell into a pile of ash.

As he fell, a key clanked on the stone floor. Walking over and taking it in hand, he looked over to see the only other door he had yet to walked through. Taking whatever loot he could find, he returned to Raven Rock and reported the situation back to Captain Veleth.

Derbana shook her head, “Wait, wait, wait...when did you get covered in ash?” Jerthar held his finger up while drinking another cup of water.

“Jerthar!”

“Sorry, I didn't have a drink the whole story. It was on my way back to Raven Rock, an Ash Hopper fell on my back and we tumbled down the hill. You never want to get any of this stuff in your mouth, trust me.” “Okay, that means the problems with the mine and the Ash Spawn are taken care of. We need to check on Serana and see what she has found out.”

Just as she said that, Serana was heading down the stairs to the bar area, she was asking around until she saw them sitting at the bar and walked over.

“I take it you found something out.”

“Yes...I think I know who may be targeting Councilor Morvayn. I'm not sure, but after I tell you about it, we should see Adril Arano immediately.”

A few minutes later, they met with the Second Councilor inside the abandoned house on the outskirts of town.

“All right, Serana. Tell him what you've told us.”

“We suspect that Tilisu Severin is the culprit.”

“Tilisu?” Adril was taken aback, “Are you sure?”

“She said her name as she was praying in the Ulen tomb.” Serana defended herself.

“So the plan worked, then. Everytime we tried it, no one would ever show up. If Tilisu's involved in any sort of plan to harm Councilor Morvayn, I'm going to need hard evidence to prove it.”

Derbana stepped forward, “So, send the guard to search their house.”

“I'm not kicking down anyone's door until I have solid evidence in hand.”

Derbana growled in frustration as she paced around.

“If you're wrong about Tilisu, things would quickly go downhill around here and the real culprits might slip away. I can't afford for that to happen.”

“What if they try to stop me?”

“If you have the evidence and it places your life in peril...” He lowered his eyes at Derbana and stood very specifically, “I would expect you to do whatever you must to keep yourself alive. Here, this key should open the front door of the manor in case they've locked it. Good luck.”

“Thank you, Ara...Second Councilor.”

“And Derbana...” He said this discretely, “If things should come to that, nothing of this...and I mean, nothing of this should come back to me. Because if it does...” He looked left-and-right, “you'll have to find Miraak while living in the wilderness, understood?”

She smiled, “I wouldn't have it any other way.” She said without turning her head, “Everyone stay here, I'll be right back.”

“Derbana...” Sondas's voice trailed off.

“Sondas, I am sorry. I will see what I can do without coming to that. I promise. We will talk about it when I get back.”

With that, Derbana left the house and walked across the street to the Severin Manor. She snuck up to the door and didn't see the guard anywhere as she opened the door. Walking into the manor felt like every other building in Raven Rock with the first floor acting as a living room and a dining room with the stairs leading to the basement where the rest of the house resided.

Sneaking down the stairs, Derbana made her way to the back of the house, she had a feeling whatever she was looking for was going to be there. The Severin Family must have been out at the moment, allowing her easy access to the house. In the master bedroom, she found the family vault. It wasn't the easiest lock she had to pick, but she got it to open.

Inside was some jewels and gold alongside with the letter she need to find. This was the evidence Adril needed to have. She snuck out of the house without further incident.

“Here. This letter proves all your suspicions.”

He read the letter quickly and almost smiled, “Then we finally have them! All the remains now is chasing them down and bringing them to justice.”

“They're not going to give you up willingly.”

“Good. I'm going to send two of the best Redoran Guards to...”

“No! Don't send anyone! Let us handle it! Jerthar, Serana! Sondas, do you...”

He shook his head, “No, Derbana. I'm going...to stay here.”

“Sondas...I know what happened in the mine, but you don't...”

“It's not about that, Derbana!” He roared, causing everyone to be silent.

“Sis, we're going to waiting outside.”

“That's a good idea, Jerthar. I will join you all shortly.”

They all left the two alone in the room.

“What's this about, Sondas?”

“I've seen the true side of your nature today. Just now when you had no qualms to kill another. Beasts I can understand, vampires I can understand, but you did not know if those people were guilty or not and you were ready to kill them as if they were. I mean...” He grabbed the back of his head in frustration, “I knew what I was getting into when I married you, the Dragonborn of Legend. I've always seen you as fighting for the good of all things, but recently...I just don't know anymore.”

“Sondas, I...”

“I've spoke to Crescius earlier and he's agreed as thanks for my help in unveiling the conspiracy, that I can work at the Raven Rock Mine while I'm trying to clear all this out.”

“What do you mean?”

“I need some time apart, Derbana. I just can't...think with you around.”

“So, is this it?”

“No, at least...not yet. I need this time for myself to figure this out.”

“Sondas...”

“Your friends are waiting for you...”

She knew that he was in no mood to talk. This was something for another day. Derbana simply nodded and walked away. When the door closed, Sondas collapsed on the ground, crying.

At the gate of the Bulwark, Jerthar and Serana were talking when they saw Derbana walking down the street with a serious look on her face.

“I take it that your talk didn't go too...”

“We don't have the time, Jerthar. Just walk.” Derbana spoke without ever breaking pace.

Her companions looked at each other as they walked a few steps behind. The place they were heading for was another abandoned fortress, Ashfallow Citadel. It stood on the other side of Solstheim on the far east of the ash wastes. Jerthar warned them of the fallen trees and the slippery terrain, Derbana listened but didn't acknowledge as she kept going forward in a straight line.

Almost an hour later of tredging through the ash and fighting off its denizens did they arrive at Ashfallow Citadel. Derbana hunched down and gestured to her companions to do the same. She could feel it on the wind, there was someone patrolling the grounds. Closing her eyes, she focused passed her rage and sorrow to hear the footsteps going from the ash onto the stone and back onto ash. Derbana's eyes opened and she snuck around the corner through the causeway into the courtyard. By the time, he noticed her, it was too late as the tip of her dragonbone sword was sticking out through his chest.

Pulling him off her blade, she heard the pull of a bowstring. She turned to see another guard coming out from the shadows behind her. Knowing he had her, Derbana could only think of one thing that could work.

Hearing the taut stretch, she threw her left hand out suddenly. He released his arrow toward her left side as she spun right. The arrow missed her completely as she threw her blade across, her intent was to stagger him more so than cut him, which it did across his right side. Rushing him down, she threw three quick punches at his stomach, chest, and head before she whirled around, getting behind him. Wrapping both arms around his head, he struggled until she threw her arms into it and heard the snap of his broken neck.

Letting him go, Jerthar and Serana walked into the courtyard.

“Who are these guys?” Serana asked as she looked at the strange symbols on their shoulders, “I don't recognize them, they must have been after my time.”

Derbana shook her head, “I don't know them either.”

“I do.” Jerthar said, “It's from one of my books, these are assassins from the Morag Tong, Morrowind's largest assassin cult worshiping the Daedric Princess Mephala.”

“Well, they couldn't be the Dark Brotherhood, I can tell you that much.” Derbana remarked.

“Why?”

She looked up at her friends. After a second, she pretended to clear her throat.

“Let's move on.”

Picking her sword off the ground, she walked inside as Jerthar turned to Serana. Knowing it wasn't the time for talking, they quickly followed her.

The first chamber was a circular room disheveled with ash and broken stone flooring. Among the broken crates and rotten wood was a burial cairn, a pile of stones stacked upon each other like a small pyramid. A broken wall revealed another room full of ash and little else.

Heading down the stairs, a Morag Tong guard walks up with his weapon drawn. Derbana noticed him a split second before he did. Jumping into the air, Derbana's knees met his chest as they crashed down on the floor below, Derbana raised her sword and stabbed straight down.

Once he was silenced, she stood up and continued down the hall with her friends. The small cavern they were in looked like a storage room for loot and supplies, they passed on these as they continued down the tunnel that gave way into a stone hall.

“Jerthar, Serana. I need you to stay back unless I need help.”

“Why? We could help, we've done so before.”

“I...need to do this alone.”

“Is this about...” Jerthar's statement was stopped when Serana's hand gripped his shoulder while she shook her head.

Derbana crept forward into the hall. At that moment, a guard walked out of the left room further back toward the room on the right, which was closer to Derbana. As she hid behind the large stone pillar, there was nothing to stop him from seeing the two intruders.

“You...” The guard started to say when Jerthar blinked him forward several feet, perfectly between Derbana and them. Bringing her hand around his mouth, the blade pierced him through the side as she held him tight before he died.

“Fine, I can see your point. Just stay one step behind me.” She whispered before sneaking off.

As they hid behind the pillar, Derbana investigated the first room on the right. It was their barracks with beds equally spaced and wardrobes for their clothes. Seeing no enemy, she gave the “all clear” signal and went to the left room as they walked stealthily to where Derbana was.

This room was dedicated to alchemy with two alchemy stations on a small banquet table. The two shelves lined with reagents. One guard was busy crafting a potion, making it all too easy for her. She waved her friends in and Jerthar looked around at the sight.

“I'll be just a minute.” He said, opening his backpack.

“We don't have a minute.” His sister chided.

“You still need to find the release for that gate ahead. I won't take long.”

Derbana shrugged her head as Jerthar loaded his bag with the unique reagents found only on Solstheim. As she massaged her brow, she looked up to see the chain dangling next to the doorway. With a smug look, she pulled the chain and the bars blocking their path slid back into the ground.

“Come on, then.”

“But I...”

“We can get them later, move!” She yelled whispering.

Heading back into the hallway, they easily made out another set of bars and a guard sitting in front of them, looking rather bored. To cure his ailment, Derbana drew her bow and notched the arrow that hit him square in the chest, killing him.

“Huh? What was that?” They heard from the room at the end of this section.

Derbana held her arrow at full strength as she lined her shot. The instant she saw a guard in the hall, she released the arrow. He fell as his running body collapsed on the ground. The second enemy turned to them, following the arrow's path to Derbana.

“You, there! Time to die!”

“Why does every enemy say that?” She asked as she prepared another arrow.

With the hall silent once more, the double set of bars were their next obstacle.

“Serana, take the room on the right, I'll go left. Jerthar, scout ahead.”

“On it, Sister.” He said and blinked passed the bars, “Um...I going wait for you guys on this side. There's a lot of traps over here.”

“All right.” Derbana said, walking into the training room. A raised stage with wooden railings and training dummies for both melee and archery. The chain wasn't far from the doorway, she lowered one set down as she returned to the hall, the gate had been lowered the whole way, the room Serana was sent had been a straight hall with the chain at the end.

Several steps down the hall, they passed another large pillar and there was the series of traps, three large wooden wall of spikes each on a turning column. Getting on her knees, Derbana slowly and lightly swept her fingers across the floor.

“There, I've found the three triggers. Jerthar, teleport Serana to near the next gate. I'll meet you when I found the chain.”

Nodding at her, he held Serana and blinked to the end of the hall, waiting for her. She had no fear of her light feet tripping any of the traps as she went around the pillars on the right to see two chains dangling there. From her experience, one set off a trap and the other opened the passage. After a moment, she pulled the first chain and heard the whirling of gears. Leaping in between the pillars, two spear traps shot out on both sides. As she was safe between the pillars and the traps surrounding her in a square, she caught her breath as they reset back into the walls a few seconds later. Knowing that was the wrong one, she opened the gate and rejoined her companions.

The inner sanctum of Ashfallow Citadel was a circular chamber with a cistern in the center, but only a thick line of water was visible as wooden plank flooring cut the circle into thirds. On the opposite side of the room was a small altar with a Dunmer standing in heavy chitin armor. On either side stood a Morag Tong assassin with Tilisu Severin and Mirri Severin, they too wore the armor of the Morag Tong.

Derbana looked at the five opponents as the elf behind the altar smiled.

“I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually feel insulted. The First Councilor sent three outlanders to stop me and my family's revenge, we will have justice for the wrongful death of our ancestor!” Vendil Severin shouted.

“Jerthar, go left. Serana, to the right. I'll go straight ahead to their leader and finish him.”

They nodded at her as they took their positions. Derbana ran forward and jumped into the air.

“Wuld Nah Kest!” Her Whirlwind Sprint sent her through the air and on to the other side.

Drawing her sword, she turned to deflect his first blow just in time as she struck back.

Jerthar overcharged his spell and with a full body turn, he threw a spray of lightning encompassed that side of the room. The assassin and Tilisu fell dead to the ground.

Serana had managed to kill the assassin with her spells before Mirri had closed the gap to fight her weapon-to-weapon. The sparks flew from Mirri's dagger as the ebony metal clashed against the dragon bone. Mirri nor Serana's gaze left their opponent until the ebony dagger spilt in two. As she looked at her sundered weapon, Serana rushed in and stabbed her with her new dagger.

“It's all right...it's all right.” Serana said as Mirri died.

Vendil couldn't believe what was happening as all his plans came undone, looking down at the wound that stained his hands of his own blood. Derbana did not show an ounce of mercy as she whipped her sword around and severed the head of Vendil Severin.

The threat to Councilor Lleril Morvayn had ended. Derbana sheathed her blade and headed toward the exit. After gathering whatever supplies were left, they headed back to Raven Rock. By the time they returned, it was late night.

Entering Morvayn Manor, they were already expected. The First Councilor sat on his throne with his friend, Adril Arano at his side. As he looked up to see all three had returned, a slight smile appeared on his face.

“Well, what happened? Were you able to track down Vendil?”

“He's no longer a threat.” Derbana said coldly.

“Then, it's finally over.”

“Yes, we did what had to be done.”

“Wonderful, simply wonderful! Councilor Morvayn, these visitors have single-handedly dealt with a threat that could have ended your life. Vendil, Tilisu, and Mirri Severin weren't who they appeared to be. I'm afraid they were here to avenge Vilur Ulen's death.”

Lleril crossed his arms, “Vendil? But he's done so much for Raven Rock...how could this be possible?”

“They did it to gain our confidence, Councilor. They had us all fooled. I should have been more vigilant. I'm sorry.”

“Don't say that. It's not your fault, old friend.” He turned to Derbana's small group, “And you...step forward.”

They did so, wondering what he was going to say.

“What you've all done for me...for all of Raven Rock...goes far beyond what I would have expected from travelers to our town.”

“Thank you, Councilor.”

“Now, I'm certain Adril was prepared to reward you appropriately for everything you've done. However, since a bit of coin hardly seems like enough...I've decided to provide something more substantial. Since the Severin family...or whoever they were...turned out to be criminals, their property is now forfeit. As Councilor, I hereby award you Severin Manor and everything contained within. You've earned your citizenship here, and I hope you'll consider staying with us as members of our community.”

“Councilor, there is also another of their group who has risked life and limb for our town, but he is not present.”

“Really? Who is it?”

Derbana said, “My husband, Sondas Drenim, he's sleeping over at the mine last he told me. Good evening, Councilors.”

She left the manor, closing the door behind her.

Jerthar smiled, “Forgive my sister, she's going through a rough time in her marriage. I'll take the key to the manor for her.”

“And for the rest of you?”

“We have that covered. Thank you, Councilors.”

They bowed before the small party left.

It had only been hours since Derbana had trespassed in the very house they now owned. As she looked around the kitchen, Jerthar and Serana entered the house, they each got a few keys from looting the Severin family.

“So, Derbana. You were talking to us about the Dark Brotherhood earlier, what do you mean by that?”

“I don't care, Jerthar. I'm going to bed.” She said before going down the stairs and entering the master bedroom.

Taken aback by her cold response, he pointed toward his sister's direction with an open jaw, “Is it just me or sometimes we only get half-answers from her?”

“Well, coming from the guy who ducked out on our last adventurer, that's really saying something.”

“Need I remind you that I was doing important spell research that did win the final battle for us?”

“Yes, Sun's Glory. What an over-dramatic name for such a small spell.”

“Small? Do you think it was easy creating a spell that uses the affected's magicka to fuel it until they are completely incinerated by the light? It took all those weeks to get an incomplete version working.”

“Incomplete? But, it destroyed my father just fine.”

“That was the first test run. Even though successful, the rate of the spell's expansion needed some desperate work. However after researching with the similar energies given off of Auriel's Bow, I can proudly say that the spell is now complete.”

“You mean Isran actually let it out of his sight? He's been guarding that thing since he requested it delivered.”

“Well, it's the same I can say about Harkon's Sword. It's still resting in his castle, correct?”

“Fine enough...” Serana's unusual joyous expression turned sour, “Do you think she will be all right?”

Jerthar looked toward the downstairs, “Honestly? I don't know, I've only ever seen her this devastated once before. She was cradling me in her arms as the entire dungeon was coming down around us.” He smirked with a soft chuckle, “It was funny, I never really had family and when I got to know my sister, I finally had what I always wanted. Even though, I was passed out, knowing we were going to die...I was...happy.”

“What happened?”

“Some of her old friends teleported us to safety. I've only known my sister for a short time, but I know this much about her. She's strong and even though she doesn't always show it, she loves each of her family and friends deeply. She and Sondas will work things out because as I'm learning everyday with Taarie, you will find yourselves in rough waters, but there is nothing that can't be resolved and nothing that can't be worked out if only you're willing to try.”

Serana dipped her eyes down, trying her best not to blush. Jerthar nodded his head, “I'm going to sleep as well. Do you need anything before I do?”

“Could you...make me your sweet moon tea?”

He smiled, “Sure.”

As he prepared the tea, Derbana walked out of her hiding place. She had heard every word that Jerthar had just said and a small smile pierced the darkness shrouding her heart. As she got into her night gown and went under the thick animal furs, the long day was finally over. With all its hardships and joys, it was behind them. However her gaze turned to steel for she knew tomorrow would be the real challenge as the Temple of Miraak was waiting for them as if daring them to brave whatever evil it held and uncover the dark secrets it hid.

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