There was blackness, and then… Suddenly, light as the world burped- or at least that was the sound that her ears heard as she suddenly exploded out of a black, murky pool of water- gasping for breath and floundering for dry land.
The thick, jungle foliage of Skyrim towered above and around her as she wiped the water out of her eyes and began searching for dry ground- which really wasn’t too far away. In fact, as she pulled herself to dry ground, the girl wondered how deep the small pond could have even been to begin with… But to that, she suspected she already knew the answer.
It was barely a swim- and it felt like the ground came up rather quickly beneath her. A few moments later, she took a few calming breaths, and took a good look around the immediate area. Nearby was a tree with… with a body pinned to it by a multitude of arrows. Though the clothes were different, she still recognized a Black Hand on the chest of the robes.
With a stilling breath, she looked towards what was almost certainly the Black Door- though broken inwards and hanging on the hinges, it was still an imposing sight. Even more so with black smoke wafting out of the tunnel leading deeper underground.
Hildegard shook her head, and then, bracing herself, went inside.
She’d barely made it into the front chamber of the fire bombed Nordic Ruins when a long, curved sword suddenly flew out from around a corner and aimed to cut her head from her neck. Only her werewolf instinct and years of training gave her the reaction time needed to step backwards so that the sword ran itself into the stone work rather than her flesh.
“What the–?” The owner of the sword- A tall, Redguard man wearing black and red robes- froze at the sight of her, partially stunned by the rock in the wall, along with the robes she wore. “…Who are you, what are you doing here, and why are you soaking wet?” he asked, eyes narrowing in suspicion.
“That… is a long story.” Hildegard mused. “I would be glad to tell it, if I really am where I think I am.”
“Nrgh!” the man finally freed his sword and, while not pointing it at her directly, held in in a ready stance. He seemed suspicious of her arrival, and with good reason. “And just where would that be?”
“Hopefully, Skyrim, Fourth Era? Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary in Falkreath?” She sounded unsure as if that was where she actually was.
“That’s about the most of it… why are you asking?” the Redguard frowned.
“As I said, it’s a long story,” Hildegard smiled, and offered a free hand along with her name, “I’m Hildegard.”
“Nazir.” The man answered, not taking up the invitation. “And I think we’ve got time before the people who burned this place come back to check for survivors. So talk. Fast. And it’d better be the truth. I’m tired of liars and cheaters.”
And so Hildegard spoke.
The truth of the matter was that it took several conversations with the Matron well before any of this happened- one of which ended on “I’ll look for contracts that require the body disappear entirely.” She hadn’t even planned on Skyrim being her first out-of-the-Gold Coast Contract, but, here it was before HIldegard’s very eyes.
“Contract: Jorun’s Stand.” The title on the page read. “There’s a traitor in the Fighter’s Guild,” it continued on beneath, “This one oversaw them slipping a message to one of our enemies- but since they’re a high ranking officer, nobody will believe a lowly grunt such as this one. Eliminate them at once, and make sure they never find the body!”
It was perfect, Hildegard thought as she tore the magical sheet of paper out of the Book of those Marked for Death. And the fact that it was so close to Skuldafn was even better- though she wouldn’t mention that part to Kor… And speaking of…
“SKYRIM!?” He wasn’t taking her decision to go back to Skyrim- even for a contract- very well. “Why!?”
The excuse she’d had been crafting upon seeing the contract finally came to the forefront. That she wanted to go back to confront who she’d been with who she was now. It was partly true. Mostly. Maybe.
In the end, there was still that part of her that wanted to know what the Silencer- Argo- was up to. In the end, Kor talked to the Matron, and she allowed it… and in the end, together, she and her brother went to Jorun’s Stand.
Soon, they waited for the perfect opportunity to either sneak in or wait for their target to leave, Hildegard looked upwards at the nearby mountain. They were just outside the steps of the ruins of Skuldafn, and yet… so far away from the summit.
So close. And yet so far.
Her impatience and anger annoyed the wolf within her- and she transformed without warning, though Kor was used to it by now. At least she still had enough control over herself to keep from rushing into the fortress and getting herself killed. Even so, the Wolf was annoyed- what was the big deal? The Silencer wasn’t formally pack like Kor was- even if he wasn’t a Werewolf and she was. There was a huge difference. The Silencer had yet to prove herself to the Wolf to be accepted, and until then, any of these thoughts were foolish and a waste of time.
The wolf might very well have wrestled itself out of her control had their target not chosen that moment to emerge from the camp’s gates, drunkenly yelling to one of the guards that he was going to water the bushes.
“Well, we’ve got the funny way or the polite way-” Kor mused quietly. “Either we scare him to death before he finishes his business, or we wait until he does and then we pounce…”
As luck would have it, their target swaggered and stumbled his way towards the set of bushes and trees where Kor and Hildegard were hiding.
The wolf wanted to go for the terror option- and Hildegard agreed that it would be funnier.
Of course- that would be the moment when a little girl came running from somewhere in the darkened forest- crying out for help. “Please Sir! You have to help me! My mother’s run off and I can’t find her!” the girl cried as she approached the drunkard man.
“Oh for the love of-” Kor face palmed. “Who the hell is this girl?”
Hildegard’s nose twitched as she caught the scent of death wafting from the girl- death and blood. A combination that usually only came from vampires and assassins of the Brotherhood….
Had someone else from another Sanctuary gotten the same contract Hildegard had chosen?
It was very likely, for the girl began to tell a rather obviously exaggerated story that the drunkard target ate up like a chaurus pie.
“She- She had one of her terrible fits! She heard the howls of the wolves and thought she was one! She tore off her clothes and ran in there to frolick with them- but she forgot to eat any Canis Cap!! She’s sure to be eaten!! Or Worse: TAKEN BY A SURPRISE WEREWOLF!!” As the girl went on with her tale- one which made really no narrative sense at all once she went into the “Why” of the terrible fit- she silently began waving her hands at Kor and Hildegard with a set of hand signals that Kor recognized from his hunting days.
“‘Sneak up from behind, and strike’?” Kor frowned. “How does she know those signals?”
Hildegard would have rolled her eyes if the wolf hadn’t taken all of that as confirmation and permission to go ahead with the kill and begun silently stalking forwards.
This would be a story to tell for sure, Hildegard thought as she crept up behind the drunken man, who now was only distracted by the girl’s constant stream of crying gibberish.
“N-HIC-Now… girlie… I’m sure she’s fi-BUUUURP-finneee…” The man said. “There aint no werewolfies around in these partz…”
“B-b-b-but…” Then the young girl stopped crying and gave a feral grin that revealed a pair of sharp fangs. “There’s one behind you right now!”
Confused, the drunken traitor of the Fighters Guild turned around to look straight into Hildegard’s gleaming teeth.
“Hi, Dinner,” Hildegard wanted to joke at him, “I’m hungry.” Alas, all that came out was a large growl.
It still had the wonderful result of making the man piss his pants in terror as he let loose a flat, wet sounding wail from the back of his throat. It was the last sound he would ever make as Hildegard lunged in that moment and tore his throat out with her teeth.
“Hrmf.” Nazir scowled. “That sounds like something Babette would do, alright.” However, his sword lowered slightly. “But that doesn’t mean you’re really from another Sanctuary that’s miraculously survived all this time unknown to any of us.”
“I’m not done yet.” Hildegard scowled in return.
“Fine.” Nazir said. “Continue?”
Hildegard felt vindicated by the sight of the young child drinking the blood out of the freshly made corpse before it could spill out too much onto the ground and leave an obvious kill site.
She was definitely a Vampire- and Kor had really no idea what to make of the sight of them once the wolf had its fill of the man’s meat and let Hildegard take over again. Two girls- monsters of different types, yet sharing a common job, covered in the blood of a drunken traitor whom they’d just killed.
“Ahhh!” The girl exhaled in delight once she’;d finished draining the corpse. “Now that’s a pleasant buzz! Drunken Nords always have a bit of an after kick to them.”
“So… uh…” Kor scratched at the back of his head. “Are you Brotherhood?”
“Yup,” The girl then offered her best innocent, child-like smile. “Babette, of the Dawnstar Chapter.”
“There’s a Sanctuary in Dawnstar?” Kor asked, blinking. “I hadn’t heard of that one before.”
“Dawnstar!?” And just like that Nazir’s sword was raised and pointed straight at Hildegard’s throat. “Did Cicero put you up to this!?”
“No! Who’s Cicero?” Hildegard frowned.
“Nazir! Wait! Don’t kill her!”
At that, Nazir and Hildegard turned to look back at the entrance to the Sanctuary- where a haggard, tired, and yet still very much alive Babette stood, panting.
“Babette!” Nazir flashed a genuine smile at the girl. “You’re alive!”
“Of course I am!” the girl replied. “I was out hunting when I smelled the smoke…”
“Can I get back to my story now?” Hildegard asked.
“Why should I–?” Nazir turned back to her, only to be stopped from anything drastic by Babette.
“Please, let’s hear her out.” Babette said.
“Why?” Nazir pressed.
“Because I saw her climbing out of Shadowmere’s pool!”
Who was Shadowmere? Hildegard wondered, but decided not to ask. Instead, she resumed her story where she left off- Babette describing the Dawnstar sanctuary.
“It’s both new and old and not even yet made,” The vampire- Babette- answered. “Ancient Ruins make the best homes, but we’ve yet to fully christen it. The Listener wants it off the Map for the time being. A safe place that nobody knows about yet.”
“The Listener?” Hildegard’s eyes widened. “Do you know them?”
“She helped us through a rough patch personally, before she was the Listener,” Babette nodded. “We… had some really exciting times then. It’s quite the story. Full of death, and betrayal, and a dead bride at a Wedding… We even killed the…. Well, AN Emperor.” The girl’s correction was obvious because she gave a roll of her eyes. “Nobody even knows his name now. Although, there are reasons for that interesting little fact that I’m not allowed to say right now.” A pause, a sly smile, and a teasing, “Yet!” followed.
“Why’s that?” Hildegard asked.
“Shenanigans,” was Babette’s only answer before casting a spell that caused the mutilated corpse of their target to be wreathed in a massive illusion- visually turning the remains from human to deer.
Kor whistled. “Well that’s different!”
“Yes, well, his friends will come looking for him eventually,” Babette answered. “The Listener would rather they not find us hanging around when they do.” And with that she nodded to Hildegard, “Come on, wolf-girl! We’ve got much to talk about.”
Hildegard looked to Kor, who looked rather tired out by this whole endeavor. “Fine,” He relented. “I guess we’re in for a penny at this point.”
And so they followed Babette through the forest until they came to the strangest sight imaginable…
A tall, wooden box painted blue, and covered in strange words that made no sense at all.
Babette withdrew a key from beneath her shirt and unlocked the door of the box before beckoning them inside. It didn’t seem like the box should be able to hold much of anything inside, and yet…
Inside the doors of the small blue box was a massive room that seemed to have been plucked from a Dwemer ruin.
“What kind of magic is this?” Kor asked as they stepped inside.
“The best kind,” Babette grinned as she hopped onto a small bench and flicked at a lever. Immediately, the room jerked, and made the strangest keening noise for a few moments before stopping. “Dwemer!”
“I… kind of got that from the interior,” Kor admitted.
“C’mon! Outside we go!” Babette decided, and then lead them right back outside the way they’d come… except they were no longer inside the forests of Skyrim, but instead atop the walls of Skuldafn, overlooking the vast landscape below.
It was also now the middle of the day- despite that when they’d left mere moments ago, the moons had been rising into the sky.
“How…?” Kor stopped to scratch at his head, meanwhile Hildegard just followed Babette along the wall towards where four others were standing, overlooking the same view.
“LISTENER!” Babette called out, waving as one of the figures turned their heads to look over. “I brought the werewolf girl like you asked!”
“Werewolf girl?” One of the other figures turned- and Hildegard saw that it was Argo- the Silencer. “…What the- Hildegard?! What…?”
“The Pup has arrived. Good, good!” The first figure spoke in a calm, female voice as she took her hood down- revealing a head of hair that was shock white, and a skin tone of deep, shiny blue. The woman had green eyes of a bright, piercing hue that seemed ancient, and her face had black and silver tattoos drawn across its surface in intricate ways- subtly looking like that of a Dragon’s skull.
This…. There was no doubt in Hildegard’s mind that this was the Listener.
“Aventus, go fetch the other one,” The Listener said, “he seems to be caught off guard by the view.”
“Yes, ma’am,” The fourth figure said, bowing, and then walking over to the strange box- where Kor was now running circles around it trying to figure out how it had moved like it had.
“What’s the meaning of this?” The Silencer turned towards the Listener. “Why are they here?”
“I sent a contract to your sanctuary,” The Listener answered, “and as the Scrolls foretold, this young Pup would take it. I sent Babette to fetch her and her brother to come here so that we may discuss the future of This World.”
“You mean the future that you say Silica got sent to?” Argo asked. “The Future that you say I can’t go to so I can bring her home!?”
“Of course not,” The Listener shook her head, then looked at Hildegard, speaking words that she felt had already been spoken, but needed to be repeated just the same. “Though I come from that same future, it is a branch, caused by the division of one of two sisters being sent forwards, leaving the other behind. That future, caused by the choices made by the other, who never jumped forwards again. That is what the Scrolls show. To send you forwards… no, it would break things in ways you cannot fathom.”
“Damn the Elder Scrolls,” Argo growled- sounding very much like the werewolf she was. “They sent her to that future, and I want my Sister back!”
“And that you shall have,” The Listener turned back towards the Silencer and smiled- but it was a cold smile, bereft of warmth. “But not by your hands.” With a sigh, she turned again, putting her hands behind her back as she walked towards the summit of the complex. “Follow me. Babette, wait for Aventus to finish prying the Brother from the Tardis, then lead them after us.”
“Sure thing, Listener!” Babette said with a casual tone that spoke of the bonds of family between them.
And so they walked once more.
“In the long ago past, there was a Man named Miraak, and he was a Dragon Priest,” The Listener spoke as they walked. “I would Kill him in Aprocrypha- realm of Hermaus Mora, by the Daedric Prince’s will. As Listener of the Brotherhood, I was no stranger to such a contract at the time.” They passed by the burnt out remains of a cart. “Herma-Mora thought it put me into his Debt.” She pulled out a small, leather bound journal from her robes somewhere. “This is a notebook that Miraak had kept during his time in that realm that was very much outside the flow of regular time. I found it hidden on my possession- placed secretly by Miraak during our fight- I never mentioned its existence to anyone, not even to my own Journal, for fear Herma-Mora would discover it’s secrets. But it is in code, you see, and I could not understand it until years later, when I came into possession of a Seer who could read the Elder Scrolls… and who could translate this book as well. That was about when Herma-Mora came to collect on that Debt he thought I owed him, I managed to finagle something… More out of him through this Journal’s mere existence. Then, we both came to an understanding of what we must do.”
She pocketed the book again as they reached the steps that would take them up to the final place- the Portal at the top. But it was there that they stopped. For a few moments, nobody said anything- and distantly, a dragon’s roar could be heard elsewhere.
Hildegard was starting to wonder if this was even still the same year they’d been in when she’d stepped into that blue box.
“My Brother and I were in a similar situation to you and your sister’s, Silencer.” The Listener said, locking eyes with Argo. “One decision- one event- and the two of us went on two separate journeys- the same one, but in different worlds. In my world, it was the result of your departure for the future… and your arrival from the past… that caused our scope of vision to change. We suddenly realized that we were firmly held in a portion of Miraak’s Journal- a section of history that he had already observed in the past… yet was concurrently in the present, and the future, and non existent all at the same time. That realization would result in the other you’s death.”
“…What?” Argo asked. “I don’t understand what you’re going on about. You say I went forwards into the future then Died??”
“In his world,” The Listener carried on as if she had not been interrupted, “my Brother would go on to take the role I held in mine- Listener of the Dark Brotherhood, Guild Master of the Thieve’s Guild… Dragonborn, lost in time.” The Listener then turned to walk up the stairs. “That version of my Brother is the one who currently is fighting the same fights I fought admist the ever increasing edges of a storm that grow closer and closer to shattering reality as a while.” The Listener said. “Things are going differently on his end- because it is in his version of reality where neither you or your sister were sent forwards. Meaning that she is not in that world either.”
“So?” Argo asked, growing angry again. “Where is she then??”
“In a world that can only be accessed by the utter anhillation of his current plane of existence,” The Listener said as they reached the top of the stairs- where a glowing blue orb rested, floating over the portal. Giant metal plates attached to free-floating crystals surrounded the orb, and were keeping it contained with some kind of magickal ward that they emitted. “This is a paradox clone of the object that will cause that destruction.”
“What is it?” Hildegard asked.
“It’s called the Eye of Magnus,” The Listener said. “In a few moments, it will not exist here- as it was never meant to be here at all. We have a limited window of opportunity to do what needs to be done.”
“And what is that, exactly?” Argo asked.
“To create a Dragon Break encompassing three time lines,” came the voice of the fourth member, Aventus, as he, Babette, and Kor reached the summit. “so that we may then intrude on the events of yet another Dragon Break, and prevent the unleashing of a Dwemer Super Weapon against the Altmer.”
“The Brass Tower- The Ever Walking Giant,” Babette breathed out. “The skin of the Dwemer whose attack lasts for five Eras before destroying all of Tamriel.”
“Numidium,” The Listener said the name with reverence, anger, fear, and disgust all wrapped up in one word.
“You’re telling me that they’re trying to stop Tiber Septim from ascending to the throne?” Nazir barked out a short laugh. “All that to prevent the Altmer from wanting to destroy Tamriel!? That’s got to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! And the “Eye of Magnus”? There’s no way that even really exists.”
“But it does, Nazir,” Babette mused.
“Really?” Nazir frowned. “That’s news to me.”
“Do you remember that Thalmor patrol me and Mirabelle found last month that got squashed by the Giants?” Babette asked. Nazir nodded, and Babette continued, “Well, their prisoner was a Mage from the College- some guy named Tolfdir- that they’d arrested because of what they’d found in Saarthal. While Mirabelle made sure the Thalmor were really dead, I tracked the Mage down. I found him.”
“Yeah, you said you’d found his body.” Nazir nodded.
“No. I found him alive,” Babette admitted. “Tolfdir swore me to secrecy on why the Thalmor had arrested him! The Eye of Magnus! He said that it was a powerful artifact that the Thalmor wanted to abuse! He got arrested trying to stop them!”
“So… it’s a real thing then.” Nazir frowned. “Alright. So assuming that all of this is true so far,” he turned to Hildegard, “what was their plan for pulling it off?”
“I don’t understand why Hildegard’s here,” Argo began to talk. “Or Kor, for that matter. Why drag them into this?”
“That’s something I’d like to know myself.” Kor agreed.
“The Pup would have found a way to get up here regardless of whether or not we brought her here,” The Listener said. “The Scrolls show no outcome of what we do that does not result in her interference. It is what we’ve come to call a Fixed Point in our observations of time and space.”
“This way, at least, you know what you’re getting into,” Babette smiled at Hildegard.
“Well, that’s a relief, I suppose,” Hildegard nodded.
“What exactly does she do?” Kor frowned.
“When we alter this version of the Eye,” The Listener explained, “we will be destabilizing the fabric of two versions of reality at two different points of time. During that brief moment, a portal will be opened to a third version of reality, where Silica- the Glass Wolf- resides within.” She paused for a few moments, then said, “While it is our hope that the other version of my Brother will find his way through the maze of shattered glass to the beacon we’ve placed for him- to tell him to find Silica- events are very much in flux at this point and Miraak never observed a timeline past this point for my Brother. He’s very much about to enter a dark pocket of uncertainty, and we have no way of knowing whether or not we can bring her back to the present through his actions.”
“You want me to go instead, don’t you?” Hildegard asked, feeling excitement and dread all wrapped up into one tiny coiled ball of energy in her chest.
“Are you serious!?” Kor cried out. “You can’t send Hilde into that! It’s insane and I–!”
“It’s less “want” and more we’re powerless to do anything against it,” Aventus interrupted Kor with a tone of voice that only barely stayed just shy of full out yelling. “Our plans originally had me going through to find her, but when our Seer looked to the Scrolls… all she can see is you taking the leap.” His hands clenched into fists and he continued on. “There are worlds where you make the jump with our consent and blessing. There are worlds where you take it regardless of our wants and wishes- shoving either me or Argo or even Kor out of the way to take the plunge yourself! There are worlds where you simply just get pulled in while trying to eavesdrop in our conversation and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“We very much do not want to send you into this mess,” The Listener said, talking in a melancholic tone that made it clear she did not like what was going on. “We would very much rather that we not involve anyone else native to this time plane…. but fate is insisting on you going through, and although we cannot tell where you’ll end up because of how chaotic this situation currently is, we are aware that you have a much greater chance of success of finding her.”
“Then why do this?” Argo asked. “Why even DO this if the end result is sending Hildegard through the portal to only the Divines know where! Why even plan something this dangerous?!”
“Because if we don’t?” The Listener said with a sad smile forming. “In the very near future, one man’s actions, left unchecked, causes the complete upheaval of the world we live in. Even today, you can see the retroactive effects of his influence on Cyrodil, and the world at large by extension. It is just that powerful of an event. In result of that man’s ego, it will cause the Aldmeri Dominion to seek the utter destruction of Tamriel out of revenge for their islands being continually attacked for Five, Whole, Eras, by a giant Dwemer robot.”
“But the Dominion would never–” Argo stopped before the words could leave her mouth. And then she growled, “The Veiled Heritance.”
“Yes.” It was an even sadder smile on the Listener’s face. “In the time between now and the time we come from, they’ve taken over the Dominion and twisted it into a murderous machine that regularly purges Valenwood of its citizens, and seeks the utter destruction of reality itself. They seek to return to the ooze and the murk of pre-creation, but they cannot undo what has been done without greater consequences to the planes of existence beyond the Mundus and Oblivion.”
“And yet you’re the Listener for the Brotherhood- assassins and killers-” Argo countered. “Why would you want to fight to prevent that? Surely Sithis would just *love* it if everyone died.”
“Sithis enjoys the current way of things.” The Listener said. “It is amusing, and even when it seems as if the Brotherhood will be wiped out entirely… there are always a few select survivors, and the Night Mother herself.” And then the first hint of a genuine smile formed on her face. “And though we take on this task for our own purposes- there have always been those few idiots over the centuries who have performed the Sacrament in an attempt to have us kill one of the Divines, or one of the Daedric princes. The man who has yet to become the herald of destruction is no exception. And we will, to put it as my Brother once said, ‘Drop it like it’s hot while the pimp’s in the crib.'”
Hildegard couldn’t help but to laugh at that. “What a ridiculous sentence!”
“But accurate,” Babette smiled fondly.
Argo sighed, shaking her head. “If this guy isn’t even born yet- why are you going to all this trouble?”
“Did you know that Cyrodil used to be a tropical jungle?” Aventus asked.
“I’ve read a few books debating that it used to be, yeah,” Kor nodded. “Why?”
“Because the way it is now? It’s because of what that man will do in the future during a Dragon Break.” Aventus answered.
“And as I said, his Retroactive Influence can already be seen,” The Listener concluded, “and while it exists, it means that we cannot do anything but use that power against him… and that is what we’ve been waiting for while we’ve talked all of this time.”
dot dot dot dot dividing line dot dot dot dot
“So you jumped into the giant swirling vortex to be flung into the far distant future…” Nazir grimaced as he finally sheathed his sword. “Do you have any actual proof of this besides your story and a few coincidentally obscure details of the political environment?”
“This letter,” Hildegard said, pulling a small bottle out of her robes and uncorking it to remove the piece of paper within. “I was told Babette wrote it herself, and to give it to her when I found you. That was my first instruction, actually.” She paused, then quoted the Listener, “‘Upon your arrival wherever it may be, make your way to the Falkwreath sanctuary and deliver this letter to Babette.'”
“Let me see it…” the vampire girl strolled up and took the letter to read. “…Yup, that’s my special coded handwriting alright….” And then her pale skin went even paler as she read a few coded lines. “…Nazir?”
“Yeah?” The Redguard asked.
“She’s telling the truth.” Nazir gave her a half-convinced look. “No, seriously, there are private details- personal things only *I* Know!- in here from 300 years ago when I was first turned!” Babette began to point at the top of the letter, but Nazir cut her off with a raised hand and a hurried exclamation of.
“I remember the story!”
“So do you believe me then?” Hildegard asked.
Babette nodded, and Nazir just grunted out a “For now.”
“What can we do to help?” Babette asked.
Hildegard went to speak when a loud crack of a horse whip sounded out from outside, accompanied by some people yelling out.
“Whatever it is, it’ll have to wait,” Nazir muttered quietly with a scowl as he drew his sword. “Babette, hide deeper inside as an ambush. New Girl, if you can fight, prove to me that you’re really Brotherhood by helping me get rid of these clowns.”
“Of course,” Hildegard nodded.
From off the cart’s front, three figures emerged. One was a Cyrodilic man in Imperial Legion armor, sans helmet; another, a woman in full Whiterun Guard gear; and the third, a human mage wielding a long staff, dressed in blue robes. From the back of the cart, four more men in full Imperial Armor climbed off.
“Are you sure about returning to this place so soon?” The Imperial man asked. “Didn’t we kill everyone?”
“If My Thane’s spell wards are correct, there is life inside still,” the woman in the Whiterun armor said. “Furthermore, can you not smell the static in the air?”
The Imperial paused, then nodded. “It’s overwhelming the smoke, yes.”
“Time may have rewritten itself to remove a death we confirmed,” the mage said, pulling her hood down to reveal blue hair of the same color as her robes. Her eyes were framed by a well worn, slightly beaten up set of glasses, and her skin was as pale as any Nords, though her facial features seemed to lean heavily towards some exotic type not commonly seen on Nirn. “Given the unstable nature of our reality, I would rather we not potentially ignore a threat to our hard work at stomping out the Brotherhood from existence. That is why I made the call to observe the ruins for the next week in case something like this were to happen.”
“I suppose that makes sense…” The Imperial nodded.
And with that, the three went inside the still smoking ruins.
The mage spoke words in an unfamiliar language, and the top of her staff began to glow with an effect similar to Mage Light. It sent chills down every Imperial man’s back.
Down the winding stairs they went until they entered the main chamber. Still smoldering remains of a table’s chair set rested at their feet, although the ashes seemed to have been disturbed by footsteps, and recently. Seemingly leading into the burnt out bed chambers.
The Mage narrowed her eyes and looked around. “Maro, take your men and search the rest of the Sanctuary. Siro’, with me.”
“Yes, My Thane,” the woman in Whiterun armor nodded, and held back as Maro took his five men deeper into the sanctuary. [“What do you see, Tabitha?”] She then whispered in the same language as before.
[“It is less what I see, and more what I feel,”] the Mage, “Tabitha,” answered. [“A disturbance in the world I haven’t felt since the failed Summoning Ritual.”]
[“Could it be her?”] The woman, “Siro,” asked.
[“I’m not sure…”] And with that, the Mage turned into the bedroom.
There was the burnt down bed, the nightstand that upon which Tabitha saw something strange that had survived the fire, and a toppled book-case leading to the hidden chamber where the Matron, Astrid, had been slain.
Nothing seemed out of place save the object, and so she cautiously investigated it. It, being a necklace of gold with an ebony charm shaped like a hand; such a thing was likely not out of place in a building such as this, and yet…
Tabitha ran her thumb over the charm, and found that the only soot that covered it came from the parts that had been touching the nightstand in the first place.
Why would someone place it here? She frowned, and mulled over the item’s placement for a few moments before looking around the rest of the room carefully, looking for anything else out of place….
A few moments later, the sound of glass crashing, followed by three grown men screaming like children came from deeper within the sanctuary, and the Guard and the Mage both cursed their foolishness.
The Necklace was a Distraction!
Hurriedly, Tabitha and Siro rushed down the stairs into the main chamber of the Sanctuary, and found her five hired Imperial soldiers whittled down to three. Two of them were lying face down in the rapidly reddening pool at the center of the Sanctuary- apparently having been thrown through the open window above.
Maro was not one of the survivors- she noticed.
“What happened?” Tabitha demanded of the first man to meet her eyes.
“I- It–” The man stammered. “There was this girl’s giggling! We saw a shadow up in the balcony above- Commander Maro thought it the Vampire so he and Janus went after it- since they had Dawnguard training.”
“That was stupid of him to split off from his group,” Siro growled, much like a dragon. Tabitha sighed- very much in agreement.
“And then what happened?” Tabitha asked.
“Then their bodies went flying through he window and landed right in front of us!” The man answered. “We didn’t know what to do except scream for help!”
The Mage looked around the room- there was but one door leading to the upper levels that was evidently a trap. But it was the only place they could go that would let them deeper in; from Tabitha’s own handiwork- the other doorways had been crushed and blocked off with rubble.
With a reluctant sigh, Tabitha made the decision to head deeper inside the Sanctuary.
The murder scene of Commander Maro and Sgt. Janus was easy to find- a sudden explosion of blood on the stairs that trailed up into the room that a large window had once been present. Judging from the initial spray patterns, Tabitha was willing to bet one of the men had been stabbed in the back and through the chest with a very long sword; while the other seemed to be the result of three quick jabs to the chest, gut, and somewhere lower with a shorter weapon, possibly a dagger.
Two assassins- likely a synchronized kill.
Tabitha wracked her memories for a long sword user- and came up with the Redguard. Yes, a scimitar would cause that spray pattern. As for a knife user… No names came to mind besides the Matron- which implied that Astrid had been resurrected by the recent time burst.
No matter, she would be dead again soon enough.
Slowly, surely, as a single group they moved through the rest of the sanctuary before emerging into the burnt down sleeping chambers over looking the ruined dining area.
And there, standing in the center of it all was a lone girl in Brotherhood clothing. It had to be the vampire. But in her hands was a knife, long, wicked, and Daedric looking…. covered in blood.
Tabitha reworked her mental estimate. So it was the Redguard and the Vampire- not the revived Astrid. Interesting.
While her men were afraid, and her Houscarl wanted a fight, Tabitha made the executive decision to step forwards into the sunlight pouring through a recently opened hole in the roof.
“Hello,” Tabitha voiced, and the blond haired nordic girl looked up at her. There was a flower in her hair, also covered in a few specks of blood. “And just who might you be?”
“I could ask you the same question,” The girl smiled, twirling the knife around idly in her hand as they locked eyes and stared into each others souls.
Tabitha saw a raw hunger, and a thirst for blood in the eyes of that girl. A Vampire for sure. But as to the cold, oppressing look of “I will kill you” that Tabitha sent towards the girl… she did not flinch at it. No, instead, she began tossing the knife from hand to hand casually, with a trained ease that Tabitha saw from only a few people.
Skill a young girl like her should not have.
Still, something itched a warning at the back of Tabitha’s mind. The clothing was off. The girl was wearing Brotherhood clothes, yes, but…. the style was different from everyone else she’d seen on her previous march through the Sanctuary. It was more form fitting- with many belts crisscrossing the red body suit which had a knee-length skirt added on for the sheer sake of having a skirt… and as for the chest… the hand was missing. That wasn’t right. It should have had a Brotherhood hand print on it. Where was the hand print?
“I am Thane Tabitha of Whiterun, special advisor to the Imperial Legion stationed in Skyrim,” Tabitha introduced. “And you?”
“I can’t say that name rings a bell,” The girl replied easily, casually, almost as if she weren’t facing certain death. “Babette, Dark Brotherhood… But I suspect you already knew that.”
“Yes, you’re the Vampire,” Tabitha smiled- and the girl smiled back in turn… it was a feral smile. One that promised much spilled blood. Almost… wolfish, Tabitha supposed. “So, you survived the burning by…. being outside, I take it?”
“I was hiding in the pool,” the girl replied, shrugging before beginning to examine her knife. “You’d be surprised what people will miss when it’s hiding right in front of them.”
“I suppose Maro and Janus were to prove a point?” Tabitha asked.
“Was that their names?” The girl answered, sounding wonderfully…. not whelmed at all in either direction.
“That was, yes,” Tabitha answered, starting to feel comfortable in this situation, despite the almost certainty that the other survivor was coming around for a sneak attack sometime soon.
“Ah, well, I suppose I should remember that…” The girl mused, tilting the blade around in her hands until the light seemed to reflect off of its bloodied surface onto her face. “I wonder which was which? Whom did my blade kill?” She then gave a dry, sideways glance up at Siro, the three surviving, cowering Imperials, and then back at Tabitha. “Although, I seem to have done you a disservice, despite how honest you’ve been with me so far. I must admit I lied with one thing so far.”
“And what’s that?” Tabitha asked.
“My name isn’t Babette.” Tabitha blinked- and in that single span of a second, the girl had teleported from the floor and had buried the knife into one of the remaining imperial guards, meanwhile, the damnable Redguard had slipped out of the shadows and delivered a decapitating blow to one of the others.
Tabitha and Siro needed not even share a glance before jumping away from the overlook, free falling into the burnt out kitchen for the few precious moments it took for the girl to take her knife out of the one Imperial man’s back and then throw it straight into the third’s throat.
Siro growled as they landed, and Tabitha narrowed her eyes at the two Assassins. Damn it, she had let herself grow complacent. What kind of spell was that to teleport in the blink of an eye? To cover such distance?? Not one that she’d learned from the College of Winterhold, that was for sure.
“Nice trick,” The Redguard mused as he wiped the blood off his sword. “I take it that’s one from the old home land?”
“Thanks,” The girl needed no such movement, instead the blade dissolved out of the man’s throat entirely. It was simply gone. “It is, yes.”
“Who are you- really?” Tabitha asked, pointing her staff head at them- not quite yet ready to engage them in battle.
“My name is Hildegard-” she answered. “I am an Assassin of the Dark Brotherhood, sent from the Gold Coast on a rescue mission.”
“You’ve obviously failed-” Siro spat out venomously. “Save that Redguard- they’re all dead, and soon, so will you!”
“I’m not here to rescue him,” ‘Hildegard’ said at the same time the Redguard replied, “She’s not here for me.”
“Then. Who?” Tabitha pressed- she had to know for when she survived this encounter.
“Unless one of your names is ‘Silica’, it’s none of your business.” Hildegard replied, and Tabitha frowned.
“‘Glass’?” She translated the term from her native tongue to basic Tamrielic. No, that wasn’t quite right. It had to be the name of a person here in Tamriel who was named ‘Silica’- despite the similarity of the term to her own native tongu-
Too little too late did Tabitha realize that she’d let her guard down once more, and threw her staff out to block as the spry little nordic girl crashed into her with twin blades of glowing red energy– THAT SPELL!!!
With only a hiss of an inhaled breath as a prelude, Tabitha roared, “FUS RO DAH!!”
Hildegard went flying backwards, but somersaulted in mid air and landed on her feet.
“SIRO!” Tabitha roared- “Take care of the Redguard.”
“Of course, Tabi!” And Siro leaped with a set of spread dragon wings towards the upper balcony where the Redguard still stood ready to fight.
“…What are you?” Hildegard glared at Tabitha as they begun to circle the kitchen. “I’ve never seen a spell caster quite like you before.” She summoned the knife again and held it in a ready position.
“I’m afraid I lied a bit too,” Tabitha answered, twirling her staff around in preparation of a spell. “One of omission. They also call me ‘Dovahkiin‘, Dragonborn.”
“I see,” Hildegard held no visible reaction to that, and instead threw the knife at her.
“ZUN!” With a single word, the knife went off course- disappearing into thin air as it went off course. But in the course of that, the girl had vanished into thin air- “What…?”
“NICE TRICK!” And then a boot crashed into Tabitha’s back as Hildegard rolled over her with a flash of green light that was barely visible before Tabitha’s face hit the ground. Once more- her glasses gave a dangerous crunching sound.
“FIEM!” Tabitha roared, and then got to her feet even as a set of crimson blades came flying at her- THAT SPELL TOO!– and passed through harmlessly.
Tabitha and Hildegard circled once more while the ethereal shout temporarily held Tabitha in an immortal, ghostly state.
“You… you have the same powers as those Dark Seducers,” Tabitha’s voice echoed while the effect was in play. “What are you really then? A Daedra? One of Molag Bal’s servants? What is this girl to you?”
“In order, Human, Nord, No… someone’s sister.” Hildegard glared as she drew out the Blade of Woe once more. “You seem surprised that I have these skills that many people have where I come from. Surprised by these skills specifically. Why?”
“Nightblades… ” Tabitha glared as the ghostly appearance of her body faded away. “I don’t know what that term means, but I do know that the ones that have those powers invaded my home. Destroyed everything I knew and loved in the Planemeld.”
“You know of the Planemeld?” And for once- Hildegard was caught off guard.
“YOL TOOR SHUL!” Tabitha roared- and flames once more engulfed the sanctuary. “YES I KNOW OF IT!” She roared as she spied Hildegard jumping out of the massive ring of fire. “I WATCHED! I FOUGHT! Everyone AND EVERYTHING was LOST when Molag Bal came knocking!”
“The Planemeld has been fought to a stand still where I come from!” Hildegard shouted back as she threw out her hand and cast some kind of draining spell. Tabitha felt a bit weakened as a bolt of red magic shot back into the Nord. It only made her madder. “Molag Bal’s plans have been stopped!”
THAT made her madder.
“So YOUR WORLD…” Tabitha growled. “You’re the ones who made him take over MY WORLD INSTEAD!”
“He did What!?” Hildegard faltered and Tabitha fired off the spell that had been gathering in her staff- a giant frigid bolt of ice type magic.
There was an explosion of ice- and the entire room went blinding white in the mean time.
“MUL! QAH! DIIV!”
And then Tabitha’s world became burning orange.
“I will kill you… yes…” Tabitha growled as she approached the partially frozen, and very definitely paralyzed. “But not before you tell me how you came here and what this Silica person means to your master’s plans…” She took a breath, then roared, “AND YOU TELL ME WHAT HE DID TO LOUISE!”
She raised her staff up, ready to deliver a finishing blow to Hildegard’s head, when suddenly a rock hit her in the back of her head.
It bounced off of the magical Dragon Soul armor covering her head, but it still was noticeable none the less. Tabitha whirled on her heels- the Redguard was still fighting Siro- so… There was another girl- this time in the proper robes- and much younger looking.
This was Babette, the Vampire, without a doubt.
“And just WHAT do you think that would do!?” Tabitha asked, her voice just barley avoiding rising into a roar.
“Distract you?” Babette gave a fanged smile.
A moment later- there was a massive crunch of ice and the howl of a wolf from right ontop of her as something LARGE crashed into Tabitha from behind and sent her flying across the room into a wall.
Her magic staff went flying from her hand somewhere in the meantime.
Only through the might of Dragon Aspect did Tabitha survive the blow conscious. Standing where Hildegard had been was now a female Werewolf with a flower on the side of her head.
Hildegard was a werewolf, then?
Tabitha blinked as she picked herself up to her feet. “I should have seen that coming, somehow.”
The wolf just gave a massive howl- and then leaped across the room at her.
“FUS RO–!“ The shout didn’t complete, and even with the boost from Aspect, the two words did little against the enraged Werewolf who slammed her suddenly glowing claws into her magical armor and sending her flying once again- this time down into a large pool of water that presently was home to a massive spider’s corpse.
By the time Tabitha picked herself up and got back into the fight- Siro had been ganged up on by three Assassins, and was suddenly on the back foot as the Werewolf raked her claws across the wings, and the redguard’s scimitar blade came crashing down on one of Siro’s shoulders.
“GET AWAY FROM HER!!!” Tabitha roared- and it was enough to cause the entire place to shake, rumble, and begin to fall apart.
“Well, I think we’ve done enough damage here for one day!” The Redguard observed as he pulled his blade free from the deep wound in Siro’s shoulder- causing the dragon girl to cry out in pain as it came loose.
“Let’s go!!!” Babette agreed- and with that, she and Nazir took off at a run.
The Werewolf only hesitated to turn and issue a bellowing roar at Tabitha as she came running after them.
After taking such a powerful beating, Dragon Aspect failed, and Tabitha was hit with the full force of a howl that knocked her flat onto her back and felt like it nearly liquified most of her internal organs. By the time she got back to her feet, and over to Siro, who was curled up into a ball and crying heavily, the three Assassins were long gone.
As if sensing her anger fueled emotions- the whole sanctuary shook and trembled in time with Tabitha’s growing rage.
A.N.: So… yeah. 0_0; Hildegard gets sent forwards into the future, and meets the Local Dragonborn, who went on the “Burn Down The Brotherhood” path.
…Yeah, in between when we last saw Tabi in her interlude in Vestige of Void, and now, she’s… not had the best of times dealing with things. It’s going to be *fun* getting her from there to here. >_> */massive sarcasm asterisks*
Honestly, Hildegard wasn’t part of this in my original plans. Nor did she exist as a character when I made said plans… But now, she is going down the path that I’d originally had planned for a post-Dovah’s Mind story for Caliborn. Since I haven’t been able to find another proper upload site for Dovah’s Mind (Twitch! Come on! Give me the Uploads already!) And Youtube has just gotten even *Shittier* since I stopped uploading there (
Youtube “Heroes”? More like Youtube “Zeroes.”) it seems more and more likely that Caliborn is not going to be going down this path himself… maybe not for a long while, anyways.
So, here we are, with Hildegard being thrown in a bit more for thematic reasons (
It takes a Werewolf to Track a Werewolf) and because I don’t want to throw Argo into Skyrim while she still can be the POV character for the many new ESO adventures that are sure to come.
Expect another Vestige of Void somewhat soonish. I’m working on it! I really am! ^^
Also, probably expect this and the last Hildegard post to go up on The Blades of Void soonish as well. Probably with this one split into multiple parts.