Skyrim Story - Those Born Of Dragons: Part 1: A New Evil Descends
Of Dawn And Dark: Part 10
Sondas woke up with the dawn and yawned, stretching out his arms. Looking down and to the left, he smiled at the sight of his beloved wife. Derbana the Third was starting to awake as she yawned, opening her eyes, smiling back when she saw him.
“Good morning, dear.” She said, starting to get out of bed.
“Good morning, love.” She spun her legs over to sit on the bed. The blanket fell from her blue skin as she stood up. He smiled as she walked nude across to the dresser, getting one of her simple green dresses. Sondas got out of bed, taking out a pair of his miner's clothes.
“Honey, why won't you wear that set of fine clothes I got for you? Taarie did those readjustments for you.”
“Love, I'm not going to one of those fancy parties at the Blue Palace. Those clothes are for special occasions.”
“Still, you did have that week in Solitude while Jerthar and I were finishing the exploration of the Forgotten Vale.”
“But that was three weeks ago. And you never explained to me why it took you a week?”
“Um...” Her voice trailed off.
“Fascinating...” Jerthar said as he took notes.
Derbana awoke from her nap, she slept in her armor on one of the benches of Auriel's Chapel Balcony. Across from her on another bench, Jerthar sat there next to Knight-Paladin Gelebor, the only remaining Snow Elf.
She shook her head as she groggily asked, “How's it going?”
Jerthar scribbled down some notes, “Great. Thank you for introducing us, he's a veritable fountain of lost knowledge. I haven't been this excited since I traveled with Professor Melaven. I've already got to the seventh book.”
He finished his notes, closed the book, and gently lowered to the top of the book stack piling on the floor next to him before bringing out another book from his backpack. He dipped his quill into the ink and turned to Gelebor.
“Now, where were we?”
“Ah, yes. With that last event, that brings us to the end of the First Era. After that...”
Derbana groaned and fell back to sleep.
She was brought back to the present after Sondas rubbed her shoulder, “Love?”
“Let's just say, it's a really long and...uninteresting story. Ah!” She bent over in pain.
“Derbana, what's wrong?”
“Our son just kicked me.”
“What can I do? Is there anyway I can help?”
“Yes, just be happy that he has legs that work.” She said, straightening up with the help of her husband, “Thank you, dear.”
“Anytime, love. I'll get breakfast started.”
“I'll be right down.”
He leaned in for a kiss, which Derbana was happy to give. As he closed the door, she looked into a nearby mirror and saw her belly was coming along.
It had been a month since the end of her last adventure where she aided the Dawnguard in ending a powerful vampire clan and their lord, Harkon. She just started the seventh month of her pregnancy. Rubbing her belly, she smiled, knowing soon she would get to hold her son for the first time. Getting dressed, she headed downstairs, using the wall for support as she kept one hand on her belly.
Sondas noticed his wife from the cooking pot, “Are you all right, dear?”
“Sondas, I'm fine. Don't worry so much.”
“I know, dear. I can't help it, seeing after all we've been through.”
“I know you mean well, but I've fought against vampires while carrying this child, I think I can go down the stairs while carrying him, too.”
“You're right, Derbana.” He looked down into the pot, “Breakfast is ready.”
He lifted up the thin slabs of meat with a spoon and putting them on a plate. He walked over to hand it to her before fetching a fork and knife.
“This is mammoth meat? It looks perfect, how did you...?”
“You're not the only one who talks to Ysolda. Since it was for you, she gave me a great price.”
“Especially since I've been carving it for the past two weeks now.” She cut off a thin slice and bringing it to her mouth, taking a good-sized bite, “Yum...This is exactly what I needed.”
“Are you still getting back pain in the mornings?”
“And while I'm standing and walking, yes.”
He asked out of concern, “Do you want to cancel tonight's session?”
“No, your training is more important than a little pain. It will pass, it always does.”
“If you're sure, my love.”
She nodded as she finished her breakfast. Groaning, Derbana got back to her feet and placed the dirty plate inside an empty bucket. She gripped the rope handles and placed it on the table. Taking a small cloth, she folded it and put it on the bottom of a nearby basket. Taking all her items, she started for the door.
“Are you gathering water?”
“And getting meat from Anoriath. He's been boasting about single-handedly taking down a mammoth the other night and I want to see if I can get a good deal out of him.”
“Aren't you worried, you may be milking this too much.”
“What? It's not my fault that everyone is pitching in to help the pregnant woman. I didn't ask them a single time, they insisted and it would be rude of me to not accept.”
“Well, you don't have to always accept. Besides, what if they want something in return for their kindness?”
“If it ever comes to that, I'll figure something out.” She groaned again as she carried the bucket and basket.
“Are you sure you've got everything all right there?” He asked, getting to his feet.
“Yes...ah, I've got...everything...ah, just fine.”
“Here, love.” He took the basket and bucket from her and held them in both arms, “It doesn't seem heavy.”
“Say that when you have another person growing inside of you.” She waddled her way forward.
“Fair enough.” Was his only choice as he followed close behind her.
In a few minutes, they were both pulling their bucket out from the well and letting it rest on the top of the grating. Derbana breathed a sigh of relief as she straightened up. Sondas patted her on the shoulder, she waved her hand, telling him she was all right.
“I'm going to speak to Hulda about getting some imported Colovian Brandy, the kind you like.”
“Sondas, you know I can't have alcohol.”
“It's for after the birth. It should be here in a week or two, I'll let it age for a bit and we can celebrate afterward.”
“All right, fine. You go while I talk with Anoriath about that mammoth meat.”
“Don't milk this too much.”
“You know, I won't.”
They kissed before going on their way. Sondas entered the Bannered Mare as Derbana brought the basket to Anoriath's meat stand.
“So, you heard about me and the mammoth, didn't you?”
“It's not like you haven't been boasting about it and unless my eyes are deceiving me, those are some great slabs of meat from that mammoth.”
“Why yes, they are. You should have heard the part of the story of how I got this behemoth back to the city from the entire length of the Hold. There I was and I just...”
“I would love to hear that story, but at another time. I'm kind of in a hurry.”
“Well, that's fine. But would you like some? I'd be happy to give it to you at a discount.”
She eyed the Bannered Mare and the closed door, “Sure, I'd love that, thank you.”
Pulling out her coin purse, she handed him the septims needed to pay for the meat. Laying them in the basket, she brought it over and placed it next to the bucket. As she rested and waited for Sondas, she felt someone standing behind her. Turning around, she wouldn't have believed what she was seeing.
Two people, in the strangest brown robes that she's ever seen, were standing before her. She could see one of their arms and both hands were covered with an unfamiliar armor. Though the most interesting and peculiar piece of their attire was a wooden mask that branched out like small tentacles going around the top and sides of their head with four larger tendrils going down in front of their chin, almost arranged like the four front teeth.
“You there! You're the one they call Dragonborn!” It was a woman's voice beneath that mask and she was arrogant in her tone.
Derbana pushed away from the well, getting her muscles ready.
“Yes, I am Dragonborn.”
“Your lies fall on deaf ears, Deceiver. The True Dragonborn comes...You are but his shadow.” Her voice scathed at Derbana.
“Great, here we go.” She thought, curling her fists hard.
“When Lord Miraak appears, all shall bear witness. None shall stand to oppose him!”
Derbana rushed forward as they readied their spells. The first punch was to the midsection, followed by a cross to the side of the head, a quick jab to chin, breaking off the four tendrils of the mask to safely delivering the uppercut that followed, sending the first cultist to the ground.
The second threw a bolt of lightning toward her, Derbana barely evaded it as she quickly closed the gap. She swept the arm out of the way and gripped the dagger on his belt with her other hand. She brought him in close to throw him off balance and stabbed him in the side of his back.
He roared in pain and punched Derbana across her face. She turned to him with a grimace, keeping his one arm locked, she brought her fist as far back as it could go and threw it straight into the center of his mask. When it impacted, the mask splintered into a dozen pieces as she kept him in place as her fist continued forward. She only withdrew when she heard the telltale sound of his neck breaking.
Derbana turned to the first cultist as she was trying to sit up, charging her lightning bolt. Then two steel arrows pierced her in the chest and she fell dead. The Whiterun Guards put away their bows and nodded toward Derbana who nodded back. They retrieved their arrows.
“Go and tell Andurs to come. It looks like we got two more for the Hall of the Dead.”
Derbana wondered, “Why did they attack me?”
She got down on her knees to examine the dead woman. A letter was sticking out from her top of her belt. Noticing the guards were leaving, she took the note and pocketed it away.
“Derbana!” She heard Sondas coming over, when he noticed the cultist on the ground, he approached her, helping her to her feet, “Are you all right?”
With the battle over, her body returned to the normal state of carrying a child and she was annoyed at how quick the cramps and pains came back, but even worse than before as she had pushed herself just now. When she was on her feet, she nodded to Sondas and she carried herself back home while he carried the water, meat, and the now clean plates back to the house.
With the events of the day, they decided it would be best to stay at home. Derbana rested as Sondas took care of everything. After enjoying her latest fix of her mammoth craving, they started getting ready for bed. When she removed her clothes to get into her nightgown, the letter fell to the floor. She looked up to see Sondas's head was stuck in the neck of his pajamas.
With only a second to decide, she snatched the letter and hurried as best she could into the hall.
“Dear, where are you going?”
“I forgot something downstairs, Sondas. I won't be a moment longer.”
“Okay, I'll be here.”
She pulled out the letter as Lydia stepped out of her room.
“My Thane, what's going on?”
Derbana hid the letter, “Nothing, I'm just going downstairs to get something.”
“What is that in your hand?”
“Lydia. As your Thane, I order you to drop this.”
She reluctantly nodded after a moment, “Of course, my Thane.”
After Lydia went back into her room and closing the door behind her, Derbana walked downstairs and entered the alchemy room. Lighting the torch, she opened the letter and held it close to the light.
The letter read: “Board the vessel Northern Maiden docked at Raven Rock. Take it to Windhelm, then begin your search. Kill the False Dragonborn known as Derbana before she reaches Solstheim. Return with word of your success, and Miraak shall be most pleased.”
Derbana closed the letter. Her mind raced with questions about Miraak and Solstheim. Whoever this person was...he wanted her dead. But she weighed the two biggest possibilities: Going after Miraak and find out what he's up to...or staying at home to enjoy her peaceful life with her husband and soon-to-be born son.
It was at this moment, she made up her mind. Tossing the letter into the fire pit in the living room, she burned it away with a simple Flames spell until it was nothing more than ash amongst the rocks. She turned back to the stairs and climbed them.
“I've got a family now, I don't care who this Miraak is, he can rot in Solstheim for all I care. The only important thing to me is the safety of my husband and my son. My adventuring days are over.”
Going into the master bedroom, Sondas was tucked into the sheets, waiting for Derbana to return. She made her way to her side of the bed.
“Did you find what you were looking for?”
“Yes, I just needed some water.”
“All right, love.” He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek, “Good night.” She stroked her kissed cheek and smiled, “Good night.” They extinguished the candles and rolled over to their usual sleeping positions. Snuggling up to their pillow, their spouse was the last sight they'd see as they closed their eyes and went to sleep.
“Derbana...” A man's voice whispered into her ear, “Derbana...”
She opened her eyes and a flicker of images bombarded her mind. Thrashing about in her sleep, she strained to control herself as the images showed of a strange land and a man in purple robes bearing a strange metal mask that was more refined and smooth than the people she fought earlier.
The scenery shifted around her as she saw the same cultists burst into their home. Sondas stands up in surprise to have a lightning bolt course through his chest.
“No!” She screamed, dropping to her knees and gripping her head, “It's not real! It's not real! Sondas is safe and alive, sleeping next to me.”
“And much sooner than you think.” A familiar low voice resounded.
The image of this island appeared into her mind. She fast traveled through to the island's center, down ancient stairs, to the very bottom of this ruin to see a large black book resting slanted on a pedestal as she stood before it. Her hand raised from her side against her will, she tried to move it back down, but soon her other hand was reaching out toward the book. Struggling in vain, her hands gripped the book and her trembling hand moved across the cover and gripped it. Opening the book, all the pages were shadow and then, tentacles shot out toward her face, making everything dark.
“AH!” Derbana burst awake as she screamed.
Sondas stirred awake as he looked at his love in distress, “Dear, what's wrong?”
She caught her breath as she breathed steadily. In a few moments, she was calm.
“It's just a bad dream, nothing more.”
He snuggled in closer, bringing an arm around her shoulder to hold his wife.
“What's troubling you, dear? Was it about those people in the market?”
She thought of her dream as the images slowly replayed themselves before her and then the black tentacles that ravaged her face, it made her flinch. Sondas noticed this and hugged her closer.
“Dear, are you all right?”
“I'm fine...just fine. Can we go back to sleep?” She said, not wanting to go into this further.
“You know, you can talk to me about anything. Please, I want to help.”
She knew that it would be better to tell him the truth. But after all the hardship they've been through in their last adventure with him being the prisoner of vampires for over a month, Derbana shook her head and lied.
“Harkon...I saw Harkon in my dream. He was draining your blood and I was helpless to stop him. And I was holding our child, raising him without his father by my side.”
He held her as close to him as he could and smiled, “But dear, Harkon is no more. He was charred into a pile of ash by your brother and despite how powerful he is, there's no coming back for a vampire after being burned from the inside-out with sunlight. He's gone, my dear. Nothing more than a bad dream.”
She smiled as he held her closer, but she looked to the ground in disappointment at herself. For the first time that she could remember, she had lied to a person close to her. Sondas brought them back down to laying on the bed. Hearing her husband's heartbeat had calmed her as she relaxed and found a sound sleep that night.
By the next morning, all thoughts of Miraak faded from her mind as she went about her day normally. Sondas had returned to tending his shop as Derbana cleaned the house and gathered everything she needed for dinner. One of her chores today was dusting the furniture, she pushed herself a little to get the chore done, but she was moving along at a normal pace.
When she got to dusting the alchemy room, she made sure the alchemy lab was spotless and the alembics were shining, she did the table and chair next. Then she turned to the bookshelf and the chest on top of it. Here is where she stored all her adventuring gear: her weapons, her armor, and her potions.
Feeling a pang of guilt as she stared at the chest, Derbana turned away and closed the alchemy room door behind her. Determined to stay at home and settle down, she continued going through her day until she was in bed with her husband at the end of the day.
She prepared herself for what was going to happen next. Closing her eyes, she fell asleep. The same barrage of images went through her mind as the final scene was different this time. There was no Sondas, no Jerthar, no one else except her and this mysterious man standing across from her.
Glancing around from her peripheral vision, she and him were on an island of some sort in the middle of a murky sea of dark slimy water. Though she couldn't see it, she felt him glaring from behind his mask.
“It doesn't matter what you do to me in here! I'll never do what you want!”
“Oh, really? I have shown you what I will do to your entire family. My cultists will find and kill them. Your husband will die in your home, your brother would be tough but our sheer numbers will overwhelm him, his woman will be nothing compared to him, and your parents...I will find a way to torture them as well.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Your mind is an open book while you dream, it was all too easy of a feat for one such as me.”
She grimaced, “Since you know so much about me, you would know that I won't budge so easily.”
“Or so you think...” She could feel his malicious smile from behind the mask as he brought his arms around the side of his waist and pulling from his shadow, he cradled him in his arms.
Derbana stepped back in disbelief as fear resonated from deep within her.
“He's cute, isn't he?” He said, holding her infant son in his arms.
“I thought it didn't matter nor does he!”
He tensed his hand as her son screamed in pain. Just like a dragon, he was burned from the inside-out until he was nothing more than a skeleton.
“NO!” She burst awake and caught her breath, trying to forget the aweless sight she just witnessed. Despite her screaming, this time Sondas didn't wake up. It didn't come as a surprise to her for he mentioned over dinner that he had a longer day at his store than usual, a few people asked for imported items, which was not his specialty. It seemed they overheard his conversation with Hulda from the other day.
Derbana thought this may have been better. It had only been two nights and the nightmares were getting more intense, she couldn't ignore this forever and the more she waited, the closer her delivery would be, limiting her combat effectiveness. She took one last look at her sleeping husband and got out of bed. Quietly taking a shirt and pants from the dresser, she made her way down the stairs.
Reaching her chest atop the bookshelf. She dragged a nearby chair next to the bookshelf and stood on top of it. Opening the chest, she did her best to retrieve her equipment without notice. Laying her weapons down on the table, she started getting into her armor.
Sitting down on the chair, she grunted as she got her boots on. Then she got her armor on, she swore it didn't feel this tight a month ago. Putting on her gauntlets, she tugged them to get the perfect fit and her helmet was the last piece of armor. Placing the ring on her right hand and the amulet around her neck. Her final preparations was to strap on her quiver, her sword on the left side of her belt, and her shield in her left hand. After placing the potions and anything else she needed in her backpack, she slung it around her shoulders taking care as the bow was still attached.
With everything she needed, she exited the alchemy room and turned right...into Sondas. One look at her was enough to know what she was doing.
“My dear, what are you up to?”
She sighed, “Sondas, I've got something to take care of. I should be back in a couple of weeks.”
“No.” He shook, “You're not going to do this to us again!”
“Do you think I've got a choice? If this was a perfect world, I would stay by your side forever and nothing bad would ever happen to anyone ever again. But for the last two nights...” She sighed again, “The nightmares I've been having are about this new threat. All I know, his name is Miraak and he's threatening to kill all of us...unless I stop him.”
Having heard her confession, he lowered his shoulders, “Okay...It's just...” He leaned on the stairs while looking at the floor, “When you told me about our child, it was...one of the happiest moments of my life. As I held you before the crowd, I wanted the three of us to be a family. I was worried when you were taken by your brother on...whatever adventure that was for three days. Then, you disappearing during the Vampire Lord's attack, I was unable to help you and I couldn't even help myself as he took me away. When they fed off me, keeping me just on the brink of death, the only thought that kept me going was that you were out there and we could still be the family I envisioned.”
“That's why you asked for the training and have been putting all your effort into it.”
“I just...didn't want to feel useless in this relationship. All I could do was worry and not be of any help to my wife. I didn't feel...like the husband you deserved.”
“Sondas...” Derbana let her shield fall to the ground as she wrapped both arms around him in a hug, “You've been the best husband I could have ever asked for.” She pulled away, only to raise his chin with one hand, making him look into her eyes, “You've given me so much happiness and love. Before I met you, I thought love and happiness...I thought there was none left for me. I became colder than the winds of Skyrim, you...” She smiled, “gave warmth and feeling back into my heart. For that alone, I can never thank you enough.” Derbana started to cry and hugged him again, “And you've given me another gift I never thought possible...you've given me a son.”
He held her softly as he brought her in closer.
“I'm not doing this for fun, you know? I'm doing this for the sake of our family, so please let me go and protect everyone I care about.”
“Then, where are we going?”
“Wait! You're coming with me?”
“I can help you in more ways now than I could before, thanks to you.”
“Are you sure? This isn't going to be like cooking dinner or tending the store. Adventuring is very dangerous and there's no guarantee I can make for your safety.”
“Then, what was all my training for if not this?”
“I've been training you for just short of a month. My training took years and you don't want to wear any armor.” She said a little frustratedly, “Especially since you refused to wear the set of Dragonscale Armor I made you.”
“It felt strange, I didn't like the way it felt and weighed on my body.”
“Then, there's the matter of my sword.”
“Swords don't feel right in my hands, I don't know why. It's just the way you hold and swing the sword is natural to you, it's just not so for me.”
She smiled, “But, I know my husband. And since you're so adamant about coming with me, I've got a gift for you.”
Walking passed him to the cupboard near the front door where she kept all her crafting materials. She opened the two small doors that creaked slightly. Pulling three items from it, the first she placed on her belt, the second went into her backpack, and the third she lifted up, presenting it to him. His face glowed at the sight of her gift.
“This was to commemorate the completion of your training, but you will be needing it for the road ahead. Here, it's yours.”
He reached out and gripped the handle of his dragonbone axe. Taking it in hand and lifting it up, he turned away from his wife to strike the air a few times. Judging by the smile on his face as he admired his weapon, Derbana knew it felt right.
“How did you guess?”
“You've been mining for most of your life, what wouldn't feel more natural than a pickaxe?”
He nodded as he turned to look on his weapon once more. She also pulled out another item from the cupboard and handed it to him. It was a belt made of reinforced leather with two large beltloops: One for his weapon and the other for his pickaxe. With this last gift, he definitely knew that she knew him.
No longer needing to hide her secret, they took the time to gather all the things they'd need for the journey. She explained to him of their destination and he couldn't have been happier to visit the new homeland of their people. After leaving a note for Lydia, they walked toward the main gate of Whiterun, Derbana thought it would be a good idea to have more friends help them with this and Sondas agreed.
However, the only two people she could think of that could hold their own against this evil were far to the northwest. In order to get there as fast as possible, they needed to get out of town a ways before calling their ride.
In the southeastern corner of the province, Gunmar walked up the spiral staircase leading to the roof of Fort Dawnguard. The burly-looking Nord had a small cask of ale under one arm and a metal stein in the other. He hummed a small song and opened the door.
The morning sun blinded him momentarily before his eyes got readjusted. Here sleeping on the roof was a large red dragon by the name of Odahviing. He opened an eye at the sound of the creaking door. His head rose at the sight of Gunmar.
“Ah, Gaanmaar, you've returned with that drink you love. I don't understand how one of the joore can not be uhm...off-put by one of the dov.”
He sat down on a chair he had set up from his first visit and laid the cask on his lap, pouring himself some ale.
“I've been working with animals my entire life. To me, a dragon I find amazing. To have the same traits as any of the races of men, mer, and beastmen, to think and reason, it is nothing I've ever seen in animals before.”
“The dov are not your run-of-the-mill animals. We are a race that has existed since the first currents of time flowed. To be more accurate, you should be saying that you're amazed that the races of men, mer, and beastmen have the same traits as the dovah.”
“Let's not get into this conversation again. The last time we did, we both agreed that every race had their own level of...of...what did you call it again?”
“Sentience.” Then he lifted his head as if in a trance.
“Odahviing? You feeling all right?”
He shook his head, “Forgive me, Gaanmaar. But the Dovahkiin has called me.”
“I understand. Good luck, friend.”
Gunmar took several steps back as Odahviing unfurled his wings and achieved flight. As he saw his friend vanish over the horizon, Gunmar nodded his head and went back inside.
An hour would pass before the dragon landed in an open clearing just south of Whiterun. After a quick exchange of pleasantries, the couple got on the dragon's back and flew on the morning wind, knowing it would take another hour to get to their first destination: Castle Volkihar.
The black castle remained as eerie and dark as it has always been. However over the last month, all the corpses have been buried, the gargoyles statues have been destroyed, two large Dawnguard banners hung high off the castle on either side of the bridge, and two smaller banners hung on either side of the portcullis. Where the last pair of gargoyle statues were, now stood two stables each with five stalls. Yet there was only one horse currently resting there, eating hay staked on one side of the stall.
Durak was busy hammering a wooden placard next to the front door. It was easy for the orc to notice the landing of a dragon at the end of the bridge. However, he smiled seeing Derbana stepping off the dragon's back.
“Good to see you, friend.” He waved.
Derbana waved back, “And you as well. I see the wound is all healed up.”
He patted his chest, “Yeah, it's been like that for a while. Florentius may be a little crazy, but he does good work. Seeing as you're here, It has something to do with Serana, doesn't it?”
“Yes, I need her for an adventure.”
“She's inside, should be in the planning room. It's just to the left of the dining hall.”
They headed inside. All traces of the Volkihar Clan have been removed: The blood potions have been shattered and drained as normal potions took their place, the coffins were removed for beds, vampire armor with Dawnguard armor, weapon racks were built for holding crossbows.
Walking down the steps from the entryway, they crossed through the dining hall and to the left was the planning room just as Durak said. When they got there, Derbana had seen many things, but was not prepared for what she saw next.
Serana stood next to the planning table in the center of the room, wearing several pieces of Dawnguard armor. She was surprised to see Derbana had come today.
She raised her hands in front of her, “Now, I know what you're thinking. But some of the new recruits were offset by my presence here. They weren't there to see what I've done for the Dawnguard personally, so I wear some of their armor to keep them at ease. I'm hoping someday they will recognize me as one of them, so I don't have to wear it anymore. The helmet really messes up my hair.”
“Come on, I need you.”
“Yes!” She celebrated, throwing her arms straight into the air. Throwing her helmet to the floor, stripping the gauntlets from her hands, and stepping out of the boots to get into her old ones. She patted Derbana on the shoulder and made her way ahead of them toward the door.
“Well...I thought she would have needed a little more convincing than that...”
As she followed her into the dining hall, Sondas was chatting with a Redguard woman, sitting at a banquet table, drinking water, and resting after her long trip.
“So, that's how you got the horse on the lifeboat.”
She took a bite out of a piece of bread before saying, “Not easy, I know.”
Serana turned to Derbana, “You brought your husband? Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“He asked me for training shortly after we got back home and he's a fast learner. I have all confidence that he will pull his weight and not slow us down.”
“It's not just him that worries me. Remember what happened when he was prisoner of my father? How you gave up Auriel's Bow for his safety? What if that happens again?”
She now noticed the tense brow on Derbana's face with her eyes closed. Serana stopped and turned to look at Sondas, maybe she did remember...or maybe she can never forget.
Once the awkward silence passed, Derbana opened her eyes.
“I promise that I will never allow my emotions to take over again. You will see that my husband will prove to be an asset. As assurance, I gave him that axe he has on his belt, he couldn't have asked for a finer weapon.”
“Made from dragon bones? I wish I had a weapon like that.” Derbana smiled, “That is another reason I came here.” She passed her the dragonbone dagger from her belt, “Wish granted.”
Serana's face lit up like a child on New Life Festival and held it in hand. Placing her elven dagger inside her pack and put the new dagger on her belt.
Together, they approached the banquet table just as Sondas was finishing to explain.
“And that's how you make a longer lasting bread.” He noticed his wife walking over and he straightened himself up and brushed down his front, “Derbana, I was just explaining to Saliah about...”
“We heard, Sondas, and don't worry, I completely trust you.”
He walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her hips, “Do I have the best wife in the world or what?”
“Yes, you do. Now that we're all together, it's time to go to our next stop.”
“All right, dear.”
As they started leaving, Celann walked over to Serana.
“Serana, about your request to repair the doors leading to the courtyard, I finally managed to get a hold of the resources. If I can just get your opinion on these designs...”
“Number Two.” She received a blank stare of bewilderment from Celann, “You do know that I still work while you all are asleep, right?” Celann nodded, looking at the design, “All right. I will get some of the new guys on it right away.”
Serana nodded and followed her friends outside. They were soon flying in the air and minutes later, they landed a safe distance from Solitude while Odahviing flew somewhere in the mountains to hide. Passing through the main gates, Serana put a hand on Derbana's shoulder.
“Wait...before we get your brother, there's just one thing you promised me.”
Derbana smiled, “That drink?”
Her friend nodded and they walked forward into the Winking Skeever. They went to take a seat up at the bar.
“Hey there, friend.” Derbana waved to Gulum-Ei, who merely raised his tankard of Firebrand Wine for a reply.
“You'll forgive me if I just have milk to drink. I can't have any alcohol while I am pregnant.”
“That's just fine. Who told you to do that, by the way?”
“Colette Marence, she's the Restoration teacher at the College of Winterhold. The last time I was there, she took me aside for a minute and explained her research. A little jumpy, but otherwise she's all right.”
Serana took a swig from her tankard, “That's good...yum, what is this stuff? It's rather tasty.”
“Surilie Brothers Wine. That's vintage...it may have been fermented around the same time my grandmother was adventuring through Cyrodiil.”
“Well, it tastes akin to Alessian Wine, just a little sweeter. Ouuu...what's this one?”
“Good eye, that's Black-Briar Reserve. That tastes really good with some mammoth meat. In fact...Sorex, do you have some in stock?”
“Sorry, Derbana. Mammoths aren't common in Haafingar. Maybe if this was Whiterun, Eastmarch, or the Pale; but here...no can do.”
“Dang, thanks, anyway.”
Once they had their fill, the two decided it was time to leave. Heading across the marketplace and into the residential district, they walked up the stone stairs to Proudspire Manor and knocked on the door.
“Go away!” Was a rather rude reply on the other side.
Derbana was taken aback by this and turned to Sondas and Serana who were just as equally surprised. Turning back to the door, Derbana knocked on it even harder.
“Jerthar! It's me, Derbana, your sister! Get packed up, we need you for another adventure.”
“That's all well and good, but I'm a little...indisposed at the moment. Could you come back in thirty minutes or so...”
Derbana grew a mischievous smile, “Why? What are you up to in there?”
“Nothing...nothing important, it's just I can't receive company right now and you shouldn't come in.”
“Come on, we're siblings, can't you just...”
“No! In half an hour, I promise.”
“Oh, I got to see this!” She said and walked inside.
“No! Don't you dare!”
She walked into Proudspire Manor and stood in the living room. There in plain view of the Divines and everything was Jerthar standing there with his arms lifted up from his sides, he blushed in embarassment as his sister saw him in a dress. Taarie running around him, taking measurements and then sewing up the dress.
“What...” Derbana was doing a poor job of holding back her joy, “What are you doing?”
Taarie measured the in-seam before saying, “A client is coming by any day now for her dress and she has more of a manly build, so Jerthar volunteered to be my model.”
“I only volunteered because I thought we would be alone for the rest of the day.”
“Normally, I would get my sister to fill in. But ever since I started dating you, Endarie hasn't been speaking to me. In fact, she's stopped going to work and I have to run the Radiant Raiment alone. I tried getting Mister I-Have-A-Brilliant-Idea to help me run the store until the incident.”
“If you gave me the time, I could train a Storm Atronach in being a tailor. It wasn't its fault that some of the dresses were burnt.”
“They caught on fire! I thought I had to close the store after that.”
“Look, we've already had this argument. Could we just please conclude like we did the first time and agree that magic is my thing and tailoring is yours.”
“And speaking of which...get your arms back up. We still got a few more seams to sew.”
He sighed, “I am a master mage, arguably the most powerful mage on the face of all Tamriel, and I am here modeling for a woman's dress.”
“Quit fidgeting, I need you to be perfectly still.”
Once the dress was completely sewn up, Jerthar slipped back into his ancient red robes, gave Taarie one last kiss, and joined their party. On the back of Odahviing, they headed across all of Skyrim to Windhelm where the boat in the letter should be docked.
Hanging on the black stone walls of the city, the docks had a handful of ships along its aged piers as the crews were running about unloading fish and goods as others were busy repairing their ships for the next voyage.
Derbana didn't know which ship was the Northern Maiden. But it would reveal itself to her as one of the crew ran to their captain and reported.
“The Northern Maiden is ship-shape and ready to go.”
“Right, but I don't see us going anywhere soon. Maybe I should just sell this boat and move back to Riften for all the trouble it has caused me.”
Then he noticed this motley band of adventurers walking toward him: two Dark Elves, a High Elf, and a Nord. He rolled his eyes as he stood his ground.
“If you're looking for passage to Solstheim, too bad. I'm not going back there anymore.” Said Gjalund Salt-Sage.
“Are you the captain of the Northern Maiden?” Derbana cut to the chase.
“Sure. Yeah. That's me. Why? Who sent you?” A hint of paranoia in his voice.
“I was attacked by some cultists who came here on your ship.”
“Now hold on! That wasn't my fault...I didn't know they were going to attack anybody. I don't even know how I got here.”
“How can you not know how you got here? You sailed here, right?” Jerthar asked, trying to get a good look into the captain's eyes.
Which he had no problem as he turned to him, “It's hard to explain...I remember those people with the masks coming on board, then...” He shook his head, “Next thing I remember, I was here and they were gone. That's not right, losing whole days like that. There's been something strange going on there for a while, but after this...I'm done. I'm not going back to Solstheim.”
Derbana started to get angry, “Yes, you are. You're taking us to Solstheim.”
“Have you been listening to me? I'm not going back there.”
She pointed at him and shouted, “People are trying to kill me and everyone I love. I'm not taking 'no' for an answer.”
“Hold on, now.” Gjalund relented, “I'm just a simple sailor. I never wanted to get mixed up in any of this. Alright, I'll take you. But we leave immediately.”
He stood up and shouted to his crew, “Everyone, get to your stations! We set sail right now!”
After he finished barking orders to his lackadaisical crew, he turned to his passengers.
“Find yourself some bunks and get settled in. It will take us a week before we arrive in Solstheim. I don't know what business you and yours have there, but keep me and mine out of it.”
“All we need is passage to and from Solstheim, and that is all.”
Gjalund nodded, heading away to attend to his crew as they went below deck. The bunks were lined up along the wall in sets of three from floor to ceiling. Derbana chose the middle, Sondas the bottom, and Jerthar the top. Serana didn't choose as she didn't need to sleep.
Jerthar spoke, “Derbana, we've got a week to ourselves before we arrive. I know you have some sort of plan to use all that time.”
“Yes, my brother, I do. You and Sondas, we've got some more work to do.”
As she planned for their future, the Northern Maiden cast off and slowly sailed through the misty waters of the Sea of Ghosts, soon to disappear from the sight of Windhelm, heading off into great adventure and great peril.