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Skyrim Story - Before Her Legend: Part 2: Training
“This will be your fourth one.” Hylfin's voice broke her reverie.
Derbana's head shook as she was brought back to the present.
“Oh, thank you.”
“Are you waiting for someone?”
“I don't want to tell you that.”
“Well, if you are, it does no good being drunk when doing so.”
“It's just...a part of me wants to forget, but also wants me to remember.”
“I know the feeling. Uh...” He scratched the back of his head, “Let me switch you to something lighter, at least for now.”
Hylfin walked down to the other side of the bar.
Derbana said into her stein before drinking it down, “Forget and remember, forget and remember.”
It was the night after the attack, the little girl sat on the edge of her bed. She held tight onto her pillow, trying to rock calmly in place. Her only thought was her mother's eyes, glaring with the intent to kill, staring back at her. She could hear yelling downstairs, there was no need to hold her ear to the door. The yelling was clear enough to hear from where she sat.
“Petrallus! We are to do nothing?”
“Derbana, we have no proof that the Thalmor ordered the attempt on the Emperor's life.”
“They said it! They were declaring war to our face!”
“Even if the Emperor wanted to look into it, you know what the Thalmor would say.”
She scoffed, pacing around as not to hit him.
Petrallus elaborated, “They would say it was the actions of a few and that they didn't order any attack on anyone. They would burn any official documents and cover it up under the rug.”
“They...one of them took a dagger up against my daughter! My daughter!”
He paused a moment before speaking, “Do you remember what you promised me to do the night she was born?”
“But...she's still young.”
“It is time, Derbana. You will not always be there to protect her.”
“She needs to learn. Antala has already agreed to teach her some basic skills in magic and I will teach her swordsmanship.”
“I didn't want this life for her!”
“I never said anything like that. It is better for her to be prepared. She can't afford not to be.”
There was a silence that lasted for several minutes. Not even the little Derbana heard anything. The silence was finally shattered when her mother said.
“You're right, she has to be prepared. Like you said years ago, I will train her as my mother trained me. She'll learn the ways of the bow and the fist from me.”
The little girl hugged her pillow tighter as she heard all this. The next sounds she heard was someone leaving the house, her mother's footsteps climbing up the stairs came shortly after. Then she opened her daughter's bedroom door.
“No, go away!”
“I'm sorry that I fired an arrow toward you, but a bad man was going to hurt you if I didn't.”
“But, I don't want to!”
“This world isn't as nice as you think it is. There are a lot of bad men out there and they will hurt you if you give them the chance.”
“But, I...I...just want to play with you!”
“Is that why you ran to me when you saw me?”
“You're home only a few days every month. I don't know where you go and what you do. I don't know anything. Antala has been more of a mother than you.”
The little girl started to cry, “I just...just...don't...”
The mother hugged her daughter and let her cry into her breast.
“I always love you, Derbana. From now until the end of time, I will love you. You may not understand now, but one day, you will thank me for this.”
The little girl continued to cry.
“It will be hard, but I will be here to help you on your way.”
There was silence, only the muffled cries of the little Dunmeri girl were heard. After several minutes, she cried herself to sleep in her mother's arms.
Just as her mother had promised, the next three years were hard work. Antala trained her in the use of novice spells from every school of magic. Petrallus trained her in both the shield and the sword, her mother taught her how to sneak, use of the bow, and of the fist.
She failed many times in these training sessions, but with each failure led to greater successes in the future. The girl felt ready to take on the world, no longer that timid little girl, she felt like a warrior-in-training. Despite this, she rarely left the Imperial City and was never allowed to go on missions. But that changed on the 30th of Frostfall(October) in the year 4E 171, it was a day none of them would ever forget.
“Derbana, we've been over this.”
“Please, Mother, just let me come this one time.”
“No, you are not to come with me.”
“It's just clearing out some bandits. They are camped on the northwest part of the island, it's not even a day's ride from here.”
“I said no, that is my final word.”
“But, what's the point of these last three years if I never get to do anything?”
She looked at her daughter, pouting lips and crossing her arms. Derbana II sighed and nodded her head.
“Okay, you can come with me on palace guard duty. But you are not to leave my side, understood?”
The Dunmer girl tried holding back a squeal, but her mother could see the joy on her face. They left their home and walked to the Imperial Palace.
Derbana II stood in her complete set of Glass Armor whereas her daughter sported a complete set of Leather Armor. In place of a Glass Bow and the Daedric quiver her mother had, she had a Hunting Bow, a quiver of Iron Arrows, a Leather Shield, and an Iron Sword. They decided to walk slowly on the short distance to the Palace, the daughter was a little more than envious at her mother's gear. Then a thought hit her.
“Mother, I have a question.”
“Why am I the third Derbana? I mean, if you're the second and I'm the third, who's the first?”
“My mother who is also your grandmother.”
“How come I've never seen her?”
“She disappeared when I was in my mid-twenties. No one knew why she left or where she was going. Some say it was to die without anyone worrying about her, others say to find more adventures in the autumn of her years, or maybe there was some greater threat she had left us to deal with. Before she left, she had already trained me in all the skills I needed to survive.”
“Was she...a great fist fighter?”
“Some say the best in all Tamriel, her fists were so strong that she could dance toe-to-toe with ogres and toe-to-hoof with minotaurs.” She smiled amused, throwing ghost punches in front of her, “If only once I could see her fight, I imagined it being something of beauty.”
“But, who was she? How did she influence you to become an Imperial Agent?”
“When she was a young woman, destiny had chosen her. While on a trip to the Imperial City, she was arrested by the guards and thrown in prison. Without any reason as to why, she waited in her cell. Then what happened next, no one could have predicted, two Blade Agents came with the Emperor Uriel Septim VII himself.
“Wait, I know this story.”
“Yes, every school child does. No one would expect that a Dunmeri woman would go on to become the Hero of Kvatch and later be known as the Champion of Cyrodiil.”
“My Grandma was...was...” She took a breath before speaking, “But, what happened after?”
“She continued fighting for the Empire for the next seventy-five years. A nice man courted her and a few years later, they were married. After a few more years, they had me. I was born in the year 4E 89, she was 139 years-old at the time, about middle age for one of our kind.”
“All those years of mining took their toll on him, the priests were unfamiliar with what ailed him, so he couldn't receive healing and he passed before I was born.”
“And my father?”
“Well, I followed in my mother's footsteps from the year 4E 127 onward, I took the Imperial Oath and served as an Agent for the Empire. I met your father, Jerthos who was also an Agent, somewhere in the year 153. We were on missions together with Petrallus and Ligola. For six years, we did missions together and courted until we decided to...have you.”
“Oh...But why isn't he here?”
Her mother sighed, trying to hold back tears, “We got ambushed by some daedra who were held up in a cave. I was wounded, Ligola was killed, Petrallus was the only one who had the strength to carry me to safety. So, your father did the bravest thing I've ever seen and stayed behind, so we could get away. A few months later, you were born.”
“He was a hero.”
The mother smiled and hugged her around the shoulder. They were finally standing before the high doors of the Imperial Palace. Following her mother, they walked along the outer circle of the first floor going up the stairs. Their job was easy: patrol the second floor while looking down into the Throne Room to make sure there were no threats to the Emperor and to “take care” of those that were. Derbana II looked down while her daughter kept a lookout for threats on their level.
Everyone thought this was going to be a normal day, one unworthy of note. Yet they were mistaken. In the early afternoon, a messenger ran into the Throne Room looking winded after a long run. He passed a message to one of the guards before being escorted by a servant for a drink of water and a place to rest for a while.
“Something's up.” She whispered to her daughter.
The guard read the message and turned to a bodyguard, giving to him before giving it to the Emperor. The mood of the room shifted from listlessness to anticipation of the unknown. Petrallus gestured for Derbana to come down.
“You wait here, I'll find out what's going on.”
She hated being treated like a child, but she figured it was the only thing to be done. Her mother joined the circle to discuss what was written, though she stayed closer to the shadows. The daughter continued looking over the edge of the railing, trying to read the lips of those below. After about ten minutes, Derbana II returned to her side on the second floor.
“What's going on?”
“In about half an hour, an ambassador of the Thalmor will be inside the Palace. The messenger had spotted them heading east along the Gold Road. They are crossing the bridge as we speak.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Keep to your duty and observe the situation. Do not strike until you understand what's going on.”
She nodded, everyone waited and wondered what a Thalmor ambassador was doing here. A short time later, the doors opened and the ambassador in Thalmor Wizard robes was escorted by four Thalmor Warriors and a covered cart.
The ambassador smiled, extending open arms toward the royal procession, “Greetings, Emperor Titus Mede II. We apologize for the impromptu visit, but I am here on behalf of the glorious Aldmeri Dominion.”
Petrallus said, “To what business are you here, Thalmor?”
The ambassador held his hands together as if he were scheming, “The rulers of our glorious and benevolent Dominion have granted a gift to the Empire and have requested that the Emperor abide by the following wishes if he were to circumvent some...unpleasantness between our two nations.”
The Elder Councilors whispered amongst themselves before one of them had the courage to say, “Are you referring to...an ultimatum?”
“That would a good word as any I suppose. Here is the list I was given to read when I arrived here.” He pulled out a wax-sealed letter that had its seal already cracked open.
After clearing his throat, he unfolded the letter, “From the rulers of the Second Aldmeri Dominion to the Third Emperor of the Mede Empire, Titus Mede II. To prevent a war you know you would lose, here is our list of demands to be fulfilled immediately.”
The two Derbanas on the second floor couldn't have imagined this was happening.
“First, you will give a tribute to the Dominion of forty percent of all your crops, taxes, and goods produced every year for every year henceforth. Second, we demand the disbandment of that oh so annoying faction called the Blades. Third, as he is not a true god, the worship of Talos shall be outlawed and the Nine Divines as you so call them shall return to the eight true gods and goddesses. Lastly, we demand you cede large portions of the province known as Hammerfell to the rule of the Aldmeri Dominion.” He folded the letter back up, “That is all.”
The Throne Room was in an out-roar as the Councilors shouted and Petrallus readying his arms to grip his blade. The only one not in an out-roar was the Emperor who sat calmly on his Throne. As the inner bickering of the Councilors continued, three of the generals knelt close to the Emperor.
“Sire, I hope you consider their offer. Our troops are spread too thin in Hammerfell and many parts of Cyrodiil.”
“I agree, Sire, none of our soldiers have even seen combat and those who have, they've only been clearing out bandits. They are not fit to fight against fully-trained Thalmor Warriors.”
“What these two say rings true, Sire, the in-fighting in Hammerfell alone should make this choice an easy one.”
The Emperor stood up, “Silence! All of you!”
The Throne Room went dead quiet, even the little Dunmeri girl in the second floor didn't slip a whisper. The Emperor stared the Ambassador deep into his eyes.
“Listen to me, the Empire will never stand for these 'so-called' demands! These are unreasonable requests given by unreasonable people! You tell your superiors that the Empire hereby rejects their ultimatum.”
This empowering speech sought nothing but to widen the smile on the Ambassador's face, “It is...regrettable you feel that way. But nevertheless, I did say we had a gift to give you.” He stood out of the cart's way, “Well, Thalmor, give the Emperor his gift!”
He laughed maniacally as the cart was tipped over, rolling a hundred severed heads onto the Throne Room floor. Derbana III quickly fell from view, not wanting to behold the horrible sight. Petrallus knew these men, they were every Blades Agent from Summerset Isles and Valenwood.
An arrow flew through the air and pierced into the eye of the Ambassador who's annoying laughter fell dead as he was. Derbana III looked up to see it was her mother who fired the shot.
Petrallus rushed forward with his sword and cut down two of the Thalmor as the other two were slaughtered just the same.
As Petrallus sheathed his sword, he kicked the body of the Ambassador, “That's five less Thalmor we have to deal with.”
One of the Councilors spoke, “Indeed, but you know what this means...”
Everyone's expression turned grim as a silence lingered in the Throne Room for a moment. Only Derbana III was left clueless, clueless until she looked at her mother's expression. It was something she had hoped wouldn't ever happen in her lifetime...war.
When they arrived home that evening, her mother walked in and stood in front of Antala who was surprised to see her stomping in with a cold expression on her face.
“Has something happened?”
“To say the least...” She took a breath before saying, “I want you to pack what you and my daughter need, you are both leaving tonight to the family home in Cheydinhal where you both will stay until I say otherwise.”
Looking into Derbana II's eyes, Antala needn't say another word.
“Understood.” She left to pack their belongings.
“Mother? What? You want me to leave?”
“Yes, you will be safe in Cheydinhal.”
“Why can't I stay here? I can fight!”
“No! You are not ready.”
“That will be enough, my daughter!”
“I want to help! I spent the last three years training to fight!”
“And it only took you three seconds to turn away from those severed heads. Imagine being surrounded by not hundreds but thousands of dead bodies! You will not come!”
“I'm sorry for turning away, but it won't happen again!”
“You're only ten years-old! You will not fight this war! You will not come!”
“You've always held me back! Mother, I...” She was stopped as her mother slapped her face, the force of which sent her to the ground.
Derbana III rubbed her swollen cheek as she looked at her mother who was desperately trying to hold back tears.
“Please...I don't want to see you die, my daughter...my only child...please...”
“I want you to help Antala pack your things, you will stay in Cheydinhal until I say otherwise. This is the last time I will speak of this.”
Looking at the pained expression and the tears flowing from her mother, she got back on her feet.
“Okay...” Without another word, she left to help Antala pack.
Helping the elderly Breton gather their things, all she could think about is how this was going to change their lives from this day forward. Once they were packed, they boarded the carriage outside of the Imperial Gates.
The driver said, “Ladies, I'm not going to ride all the way to Cheydinhal at this time of night. It's two days ride by carriage and that's starting out at first light. There's nothing you can do to change my mind.”
Derbana II walked up to him and give him a pouch.
“That's 500 Septims. Upon news of their safe arrival, you'll receive 500 more.”
He looked at the pouch, then to the old lady and the little girl.
Taking the pouch in hand, he smiled, “You got a deal. Alright ladies, jump into the carriage. Boys, load the luggage on the top! We're burning night light here!”
Once all they've packed was strapped to the top of the carriage, the driver cracked the reins and they started to leave. This was one of the hardest experiences Derbana III could ever remember, she saw her mother standing there as they pulled away. Soon they were on the Red Ring Road heading north. Derbana III laid her head on Antala's lap, crying herself to sleep. She didn't know when she would see her mother again.
Brought back to the present, Derbana III had drunk several steins and was starting to feel a little lightheaded. She pushed the stein aside, knowing she had enough. Hylfin took it away as she went to her room. Closing the door behind her, she collapsed on the bed and fell asleep.
A few days after the Ambassador's visit, the news of war spread fast. Even as far away as Cheydinhal. Derbana heard whispers from those who passed by the house.
“The Aldmeri Dominion has taken Leyawiin!”
“They've taken the whole city? My cousin lives there!”
“They're only two weeks from here if they follow the Yellow Road.”
“Bravil is barely holding. Shouldn't we be preparing?”
“Haven't you heard? Hammerfell is also under siege! It's not just Cyrodiil they've been attacking.”
These were just some of the news Derbana heard as she looked out the window. This was all she felt she could do. There was no school, no training, not a single thing she could do. Antala watched over her as she'd done for most of her life. It was boring and sad at the same time for she had no idea how long before she could see her mother again.
“Derbana, dinner's ready.”
“I'm not hungry.”
“Don't be like that, I made your favorite...sweet rolls!”
“I'm not hungry.”
“Young lady, come down here and have your dinner now!”
Derbana sighed and walked down the stairs, taking her seat at the table. As she had her meal, she just looked out the window, wondering what other news was being said on the streets.
“Forgive an old lady for noticing, but you seem very distracted tonight.”
“It's just...we've been here ten days and we've done nothing!”
“That's not true, I've made us delicious meals morning, noon, and night. Since I have more free time, I've been studying herbalism again. Just this afternoon, there was a little Nirnroot glowing and it started to chirp, so I couldn't help myself and picked it right...”
Derbana slammed her utensils on her empty plate, “I'm going to bed.”
She slid out of her chair and walked upstairs.
“Well then, good night.” Antala was little more than stunned.
Derbana slammed her door and went under the sheets. All she wanted was for these days of boredom and fake acceptance to end. Her dreams were always that of her mother fighting in the war, some days it was here being victorious, others she was outnumbered and overwhelmed.
The only thing that cheered her up was also the thing that worried her, hearing the rumors of the war amongst the townspeople.
“Haven't you heard? The southern coastline of Hammerfell has fallen to the enemy!”
“What of the Legionnaires stationed there?”
“They were killed or forced into the Alik'r Desert.”
“Monsters. What of Cyrodiil?”
“The Empire is losing ground slowly. The Thalmor seemed determined to finish this once and for all!”
Soon, it was the 25th of Evening Star. It had almost been two months since they moved to Cheydinhal. Derbana was particularly excited. She was sure that on her birthday, her mother would come by and visit even if it were only for a few hours.
Antala smiled, “Not only is today your birthday, but it is also the day of the New Life Festival. Take this as your present for both occasions.”
Derbana took the wrapped gift and opened it up. In the small box was a ring.
“What is this?” She asked amused.
“It's not something much, but I did manage to whip it up on short notice. That is a ring of protection. It will help protect you from even the most vicious of attacks.”
“Thanks.” She put on the silver ring and felt as if she were wearing an invisible weightless armor around her entire body, “Wow, this feels weird.”
“You'll get used to it. Magic always takes time to get used to.”
“I already said thanks for the gift, but...I'm real excited that my mother will be coming today.”
“Well, now...don't get your hopes up too high. She is fighting in a war, after all.”
“But, she managed to be here all the other times.”
“I know, but this is different. A war is not like a mission, you can't just reassign it to other Agents and take leave. Everyone is out there doing their part. You have to face the fact that she's probably not coming today.”
“No...I don't believe you! She'll be here! You'll see!”
Derbana didn't know if it was for sure either, but she had to believe. But what Antala said proved true. After spending all evening looking out the window, Derbana II was nowhere to be seen. Antala watched as her young charge dipped her head in disappointment.
“Now, now, it's not her fault. There's nothing to be done.”
“She...she...doesn't love me.”
“No, she does. It's just that...”
“Stop it! I've heard enough from you, you old crone!” Derbana regretted those words the instant she said them. Seeing the horrified look on Antala's face was too much. She ran upstairs and into her bedroom. Unloading her tears onto the sheets, she spent another night crying herself to sleep just as she did almost every night since they arrived.
Her dream that night was different. There was no battle, neither victory nor defeat. Derbana looked around to see an ash-clouded barren wasteland for all the eye to see. After surveying the landscape once, she was the only person in this place until...
A shadow came from behind her, overlapping her own.
“Mother.” She looked up. Though it was her voice, she could only see her outline as her body was against the overcast sun, silhouetting her form, “Mother!” She ran up with a smile.
“You will not come!” She said.
Derbana stopped in her tracks, “What?”
“You will not come!” Her mother yelled.
“What are you saying? All I wanted to do was help.”
Stretching her arms to the side, her mother yelled, “You are not ready!”
The barren wastes were no longer barren as thousands of dead bodies, their faces frozen in eternal horror: Petrallus, Antala, her schoolmates, everyone she's ever known.
“You are not ready!”
Derbana looked around, not believing what she was seeing. The nightmare was over and she awoke with a start. Taking a moment, she remembered where she was and caught her breath. Though she felt reassured it was only a dream, her mother's words stuck and kept repeating themselves over and over again.
“You are not ready!”
She looked at her hands and clenched them hard. Derbana arose from the bed and got dressed really quick. Her mother did tell her to pack what she needed. Hidden from Antala during packing, she pulled out her sword, shield, bow, arrows, and armor. Donning everything, she opened her window and looked at the vines that have been growing up the house since it was built centuries ago.
Climbing down the vines, she made contact with the soft grass. As she made her way to the training grounds, she was determined when the time came, she would be ready.
Her arrows littered the hay targets and the target dummies were her sword's opponents. Throughout the night, she trained on her own. When the morning arose, she hurried to get back to her house with all her equipment in hand. It was minutes until first light and Antala would be tapping on her door for breakfast when first light came.
“I have to hurry and hide all this before she comes.”
When she arrived to the vines, Derbana ran into a problem. In her haste, she was now holding all her equipment instead of wearing it. Scrambling as fast as she could, she put all her arrows back in the quiver, her sword at her side, shield and bow on her back. Now she started to climb the vines and hurried.
She heard a knock on her door, “Derbana, breakfast's ready.”
There was no reply.
“Derbana?” Antala opened the door and there sat the young girl wearing her night gown with a remorseful expression on her face.
“Good, breakfast's on the table when you're ready.” Antala started closing the door.
“I'm...I'm sorry for what I said last night...it was...wrong of me to say.”
The old lady smiled, “All's forgiven. Breakfast when you're ready.”
Derbana smiled until the door was closed. Then the smile left as all her equipment was tucked under he bed. Quickly putting everything away and getting dressed, a new confidence welled up inside her.
All day she would sit by the window, listening to the news and getting more insight on the war. While all night she would train, giving herself enough time to sneak back, hide everything, and take a nap before first light. Her confidence gave way to empowerment and outshone any helplessness she once felt when she came to Cheydinhal.
Standing on the training grounds watching the fruits of her labor in the form of arrows hitting their marks and the growing strength in her arms as she wielded her blade. A simple truth came to her in the midst of this new exciting routine.
If no one was going to train her, she would have to train herself. If she was not ready, then she was going to be. For the next two years, this was the way she lived. This was her life.