Hello! A short disclaimer before the chapter: this first chapter will be a bit slower than the rest of the story for the sake of introducing the characters involved in the story. This tale will pick up more as the story goes on! Enjoy!
Ysolda watched her frosty breath vaporize into the bitter Skyrim air as she strolled quietly down the road to Whiterun's main gate. The city's walls loomed over her head as she walked, her soft, fur boots scuffing the ground as she moved. The sun had set over an hour ago and the coming night was feverishly cold against her exposed skin. The slender, red-headed Nord had spent the entire day studying a new grain from Cyrodiil at one of the nearby farms, watching them care for and maintain the plants as they entered ripe harvesting days. In the coming weeks, supplies of the grain would filter into Whiterun's markets, and Ysolda wanted a close familiarity with the final product before it arrived.
"Of course, that only matters until Nazeem comes over the hill and undercuts all of our prices, like usual," she grumbled, pulling her woolen hat down onto her head a bit tighter. The local merchants struggled to produce as much food as Nazeem could, especially with the whole of Chillfurrow Farm working at his every whim. The pompous redguard was a man Ysolda couldn't stand to be near, especially with the way the established aristocrat talked down to her.
"He's the one that should be cast from the city and left by the gates, not the Khajiit," she murmured, wrapping her woolen scarf closer around her neck. Aside from her glove-protected hands, her soft, sensitive neck was always the coldest area of Ysolda's body, and on nights like tonight, it was unbearable to go without a scarf. Ysolda was careful to guard her health in times of approaching winter. Healing tonics form Arcadia's Cauldron grew highly expensive during the late winter months, and Ysolda's notoriously weak resistance to sicknesses was a potential, looming cost that she couldn't afford to pay this year.
Thanks to the Dragonborn, Kjordnarok Dragon-Blood, things weren't as bad as they'd been in years past. Before the legendary man had arrived Whiterun three years ago, Ysolda had been frightened to walk herself home from the Bannered Mare after dark. The Dragonborn's permanent residence in the city had discouraged bandit and dragon activity in the area, making it the safest hold in Skyrim. Even so, Ysolda patted the iron dagger resting comfortably around her slender hips with no small amount of worry. Anything could happen, especially to a woman caught alone after dark.
In the faint, darkened skyline, Ysolda's big, hazel eyes caught sight of a small flare of orange light lurking just behind a line of clouds hovering quietly over Skyrim's harsh landscape. A bit confused, the Nord woman brushed a strand of red hair out of her face and squinted into the distant skyline. After a few seconds, the bright object emerged from the clouds, streaking through the sky with higher intensity.
"What is that?" Ysolda frowned, standing on the tips of her toes to get a better view. The ball of fire didn't look like a dragon. Whiterun hadn't seen a dragon attack since the incident at the Western Watchtower, three years ago. Could it be Kjordnarok? Was the Dragonborn training his skills in the far reaches of the countryside? After a few seconds, Ysolda finally noticed that the distant fireball was growing ever-so-slightly in size, not intensity. A split second later, her eyes widened in horror.
"Is… is that thing coming closer?" she breathed, taking a few tentative steps back down the path to her rear. "Oh! By the Divines!" In a panic, Ysolda rushed to the nearest rock and threw herself behind it, tucking her knees underneath her chin and wincing as the enormous fireball smashed into the ground and skidded many paces away, ripping up earth and stone as it went. A terrible shriek of metal and rock screamed through the night air, for several seconds, and Ysolda placed her hands over her ears to block out the sharp, painful noise. After a few seconds of scraping a clattering, the fireball came to a stop at the end of a long, freshly dug ditch at the side of the road.
Ysolda's eyes popped open after a few seconds of terrified silence. Tentatively, the slender woman clambered to her feet and wiped the dirt from her wool dress, gazing uncertainly at the hunk of metal and rubble at the end of the fireball's crash site. Small fires burned all around and on top of the ragged object, warping around ripped pieces of metal and holes in the outside of the angled object. Several small plumes of smoke trailed lazily into the clouded sky. Gradually, the sound of metal objects clanging to the rocky soil ground to a halt, and only the sound of the crackling fires remained in the quiet Skyrim countryside.
Ysolda huddled behind her rock uncertainly, urging herself to return to the city and let the guards handle this new development. Even so, her curiosity slowly began to override her better judgment, and she took several cautious steps toward the fallen object. As she approached, Ysolda noticed a faint blinking light hidden behind a strange pane of glass that occupied most of the front of the foreign metal object. Carefully stepping a fur boot onto the side of the burning body of iron, she peered closer into the interior of the cockpit, clouded as it was by smoke. The green light flashed again, blinking stubbornly in the ruined hunk of shredded metal. Ysolda squinted harder, placing a hand on the outside of the cockpit and leaning in closer to get a better look. The light blinked again after a few seconds, bathing a human face in faint green light before fading away once more.
"By the Divines!" Ysolda gasped, knocking on the glass. "Are you alright, in there?"
She received no response from the passenger within. After a few seconds, the light blinked once more, illuminating the stranger's face again and confirming Ysolda's suspicions. There was a human being inside of this strange metal container. Ysolda quickly realized that the interior of the foreign vessel was filling with smoke very fast, clouding her vision even more. The next time the light blinked, she couldn't make out the stranger's face at all.
Realizing the danger to this person's life, Ysolda stepped back off the vessel and onto the ground, scouring the surrounding grass for a rock, or a hard piece of wood, anything to break the glass and pull the individual out of that deathtrap. Finding a large stone that she could lift just a few paces away, Ysolda grabbed the stone in both hands and hoisted it above her head with a grunt of effort, slamming the rock onto the center of the glass pane as hard as she could. O her dismay, the stone bounced harmlessly off of the glass and rattled back into the grass.
"Come on, Ysolda," she grunted, reaching back to the rock and lifting it back over her head. "You can do this. Ma and Da didn't raise a milkdrinker."
Ysolda heaved the rock into the glass once more with a cry of effort, covering her head as the window shattered into a hundred shards. Ysolda coughed through the smoke and covered her mouth and nose with her scarf before stepping a foot into the cockpit, being very careful to keep her wool dress out of the fires lurking nearby. The man inside the cockpit, at closer glance, looked to be in rough shape. A significant cut on his forehead leaked red blood over his face and matted his short brown hair. Blood trailed from his lip and into his rough goatee. His light skin was bruised and cut all over as if he'd been mauled by a bear.
"Excuse me!" she called, gently shaking his shoulder with two hands. After a few moments, the passenger stirred, shifting uncomfortably in his seat and opening his eyes.
"What…" he murmured, his blue eyes glancing around the interior of his ship uncomfortably. "What happened?"
"You just… fell out of the sky," Ysolda answered, smiling warmly. "Are you alright?"
"I… I think so," he nodded, meeting her gaze earnestly. "Is my ship on fire?"
"By 'ship' do you mean the enormous hunk of metal you're currently trapped in?"
"Then, yes," she nodded. "It's on fire."
"Wonderful," he muttered, raising a tired arm and deactivating a few buttons and switches. "We'd best get to a safe distance."
"Do you need any help getting out?" Ysolda asked, offering her hand to him. The pilot unbuckled his restraints and attached a strange metal cylinder to his belt before attempting to stand. Immediately, his strength gave out, and he dropped back into his seat with a grunt.
"Yes," he grimaced, holding his leg in pain. Taking Ysolda's gloved hand, the pilot pushed himself up with his arms and stumbled out of the open cockpit, being very careful to avoid the jagged edges of glass jutting out from the side of the broken window. Ysolda placed her arm under his shoulder and helped him step down and into the grass alongside his ship, keeping him close enough to the fire to stay warm, but far enough to avoid any potential danger.
"Ysolda!" In the distance, Kjornarok Dragon-Blood, and his personal housecarl, Lydia, came running down the grassy slope. Several Whiterun guards followed at the Dragonborn's heels, several clearly having just been roused from deep sleep.
"What happened here?" Kjord asked, stooping to his knees next to the stranger's side and checking him for serious injury.
"I was walking down the road to come home," she answered, moving aside so that Kjord could work. "He just… fell from the sky in that metal… thing."
"Are you hurt?" Kjord asked, rubbing his thick brown beard as he concentrated.
"No," Ysolda answered. "I was almost hit when he crashed, but I managed to avoid it."
"That's good to hear," Kjord nodded. "Erkon, I need you to fetch Danica from the Temple of Kynareth. Tell her it's urgent."
"Yes, Dragonborn," a guard nodded, turning around and rushing back up the hill towards the city.
"Ysolda," Kjord called, waving the woman closer with a powerful hand. "Did you pull this man out of that vessel?"
"Yes," she answered, her gaze never leaving the injured pilot. "Did I do something wrong?"
"No," Kjord snorted, "you did exactly what you were supposed to do. I'm going to have Lydia take you home, now. Try to get some rest. I'll take care of things here."
"Are you sure?" Ysolda inquired.
"I'm sure," he nodded, offering the woman an encouraging smile and pushing his brown hair back into place. "You've done all you can, here."
"Alright," she relented, following behind Lydia as the black-haired housecarl started back up the hill. As she walked away, however, she couldn't help but meet the sick, injured eyes of the man lying prone in the dirt as he watched her walk away. Even as Lydia engaged her in friendly conversation, Ysolda couldn't get that image out of her mind.
Sleep came very slowly to her that night.
"Ah, Ysolda, was it?" Nazeem smirked, placing his hands on his hips. The redguard knew her name perfectly well, but the aristocrat chose to ignore it for the sake of upsetting her. Ysolda took in a deep breath and stared up at the bright, clear, sky; doing her best to ignore the pompous man's thinly veiled insult. The crowded Whiterun market was bustling and crowded with bodies in the middle of the day, each family coming to buy food for that evening.
"What brings you to the market?" Nazeem prompted, his delighted grin growing wide. Ysolda slammed her basket of bread and fruit on the hardwood surface of the empty stall in front of her.
"I'm here to buy food, Nazeem," she snapped, barely keeping her frustration contained as she turned to glare at him directly in the face. "I suppose you wouldn't have to worry about that."
"Owning a farm does have its advantages," Nazeem chuckled, waving her irritated glare away and strolling up the hill towards Dragonsreach. Ysolda clenched her jaw in anger at the redguard nobleman's overwhelming arrogance and felt a wave of belittlement and resentment bubble through her blood. She hated it when people talked down to her like that, and she especially hated when they did it just to toy with her.
A faint whistle caught her ear from across the market, and Ysolda turned and locked eyes with her friend Carlotta. Carlotta Valentia stood behind her tiny stall with her daughter Mila, both witnesses to the entire encounter. Carlotta offered her younger friend an encouraging smile, raising her arms from the edge of her food stand and gesturing to Ysolda to calm herself. Ysolda brushed a strand of red hair from her face and glanced down at Mila's curious eyes, staring intently in expectation of Ysolda's reaction.
She's watching how I react, Ysolda realized, turning back to her basket and gently lifting it from the edge of the wooden stall. She took a deep breath and elegantly fixed her hair with all the dignity she could muster. Walking confidently toward Carlotta's stall, Ysolda pushed a bright smile onto her face and winked at Mila.
"I know, he's a boar of a person," Carlotta sighed, handing Ysolda a ripe, bright apple as friendly consolation.
"It'll take more than a few sharp words to get any true reaction out of me," Ysolda stated, looking meaningfully at Carlotta's daughter. "Nord women are stronger than that."
"I'll raise a mug to that," Carlotta chuckled. "Speaking of strong women, I hear you did some heavy lifting last night."
"How do you mean?" Ysolda frowned.
"Don't be daft," Carlotta smirked, crossing her arms over her chest. "I got wind that you saved that man who fell from the sky, just last night."
"I didn't do that much," Ysolda smiled, fidgeting awkwardly.
"That's not what Lydia told me this morning," Carlotta corrected. "She told Fralia Gray-Mane and I that you smashed a pane of glass with a rock and dragged him out a burning pile of metal all on your own. She says that by the time she and Kjord arrived, you'd already started caring for him."
"Lydia exaggerates," Ysolda insisted, her cheeks growing a bit rosier, and not just from the brisk wind that blew through the city streets.
"Have you seen that man since last night?" Carlotta inquired.
"No," Ysolda admitted. "I figured Danica would have had enough problems without me annoying her."
"You should go up to the Temple of Kynareth and check on him," Carlotta suggested, jerking her head toward the Winds District. "I guarantee he'd appreciate seeing the face of the woman who rescued him one more time."
"Very funny," Ysolda snorted. As she stared at the stairs leading to the Winds District, however, she couldn't help but feel that Carlotta was right. Maybe seeing him on the mend would do her some good to rest her anxious nerves. Besides, he could probably use a friendly face after such a chaotic event.
"Mila is spending the night with the Battle-Born family tonight,' Carlotta interjected, interrupting Ysolda's thoughts. "I'll be in the Bannered Mare late tonight if you want to join. I'll be closing up shop in a few hours."
"I'll be there," Ysolda smiled, waving goodbye to Mila as she strolled up the stairs to the Wind District. Passing under the blooming Gildergleam's flowered leaves, Ysolda waved a greeting to Aela the Huntress as the Companion passed by along the other side of the tree. Aela merely nodded in her direction. Any kind of special kindness was probably beyond the dominatingly athletic woman and her shield-siblings, at least for townspeople. She probably thought Ysolda was merely just another milkdrinker, all things considered.
"Ysolda!" Danica called, standing just outside the main entrance to the elegant Temple of Kynareth. Sweeping the dust off the temple steps, the middle-aged woman seemed almost giddy with excitement. With the sudden increase in injuries in the hold, particularly in the last few years since the beginning of the Dragon Crisis, Danica's time became increasingly devoted to healing the injured and sick rather than maintaining her temple. The priestess' face shone with such happiness when she spent time caring for the monument dedicated to her favorite Divine.
"Hello, Danica!" Ysolda smiled, quickly crossing the distance separating the two women. "I was just looking for you, actually."
"Come to visit the young lad from last night, I assume?" Danica smiled, setting her broom against the wall of the temple.
"Is he doing well?" Ysolda nodded.
"Oh, he's doing better than 'fine,' dear," Danica chuckled. "He's taken to my treatment better than any other I've seen. Even Kjordnarok doesn't heal as well as this boy did, and he's got the blood of a dragon in his veins."
"I'm glad to hear he's alright," Ysolda smiled, following Danica into the temple's main room. The expansive chamber featured four shallow pits of water, separated by a crossway of walkways. A few beds lay on either side of the room for healing and treatment, but none contained the young man from last night.
"He's got a nervousness about him," Danica continued, walking easily down the crossway and dipping a finger into the cool water. "I can't say I blame him for being anxious, especially after surviving a disaster like last night. I can't help but get the impression that he doesn't feel safe, however. It's as if he expects every new face he sees to stab him in the heart. I told him to get ready for a walk around the city just to help him calm down and get some steps under his feet. By and large, I expect him to be ready to leave the temple for good today. I'll be sad to see him go; he's such wonderful company. He's a real talker once you get him going."
"Who will be taking him out?" Ysolda inquired, glancing around the room.
"I'll have Jennson do it," Danica shrugged. "The man's been driving me crazy. For so long, all we've had time for is healing, and now that Kjordnarok has ensured there's no healing needed, Jennson is off his head. Says temple life is getting boring."
"I could take him out for a walk around the city," Ysolda suggested.
"Oh, Jennson isn't the kind for walking," Danica chuckled, standing fully erect.
"I wasn't talking about Jennson," Ysolda gently corrected, smiling to herself.
"Oh!" Danica hummed, grinning widely. "I'm off my head as well, it would seem! I'd love to let you take our new friend out for the day! You're very kind to do so. If more people had hearts as big as yours, this city would be a better place."
"Where is he at?" Ysolda inquired, suddenly a bit eager to get going.
"He's just in the side room," Danica explained, waving her younger friend to a far wall. "The temple was empty when he got here, so we could afford to give him more space." Danica knocked once on the door.
"Come in!" a voice called from the inside. Danica pulled the sliding door open to reveal the pilot from the previous night, resting comfortably on the side of his bed. The cuts and gashes that had covered his body had healed wonderfully and showed no sign of scarring. The blood had been washed from his face and body, revealing a smooth, light tone to his skin. His messy brown hair and beard had been cleaned and sorted neatly. His blue eyes were wide and alert with the energy of life. The moment he saw Ysolda, the stranger stood from the side of his bed and smiled.
"It's you!" he grinned, stepping closer to the door.
"I felt like coming to see you would be a good idea," Ysolda explained, smiling in her own right. "I wanted to see how you'd recovered."
"I probably look to be in a lot better shape than last night, thanks to Danica," he shrugged, nodding his appreciation to the priestess standing over Ysolda's shoulder. "I don't believe I ever thanked you for last night… or even got your name."
"I'm Ysolda," she smiled, shaking his hand. "I live here in the city."
"I'm Tyber Onteron," he responded. "I… do not."
"And for a good reason, I say," Danica chuckled, playfully slapping Tyber on the shoulder. "This lad ate me out of house and home this morning."
"Am I going on my lively stroll around the city?" Tyber inquired, lacing up his boots. His strange, light robes, belted at the waist, fit his figure cleanly. They reminded Ysolda of the bright oak trees growing all around Riverwood, the one time her family had made the trip.
"Ysolda has volunteered to give you a bit of a tour," Danica nodded. "Be nice to her while you're out, and don't overexert yourself. If you start feeling tired, come back at once."
"Do you have my lightsaber?" Tyber requested, glancing into the temple's main room.
"It's in my chest," Danica nodded, swiftly moving to the other side of the temple to fetch it.
"What's a lightsaber?" Ysolda frowned.
"It's a sword," Tyber answered. "It's just… more powerful."
"Here you are," Danica smiled, placing a strange metal cylinder into Tyber's outstretched hands. "Strangest weapon I've ever seen. Doesn't even have a blade."
"It's an acquired taste," Tyber chuckled, following Danica to the door. Ysolda followed close behind, stepping out behind the duo and into the crisp Skyrim afternoon air.
"Don't get into trouble while you're gone," Danica teased, waving Ysolda and Tyber farewell and closing the door behind them.
"Right," Ysolda smiled, "follow me. I'll show you around."
"Thank you for doing so," Tyber smirked. "This place looks a whole lot different than the place I grew up."
"Where did you grow up?" Ysolda inquired, her curiosity getting the better of her. Tyber hesitated a slight moment before answering; as if considering what to say.
"I grew up quite a long way from here," he shrugged, a knowing smirk on his lips.
"Does this 'quite a long way from here' have a name?" Ysolda urged, strolling past the House Battle-Born and down the steps to the Plains District.
"Coruscant," Tyber nodded.
"I've never heard of it," Ysolda frowned. "What's it like in Coruscant?"
"It's got lots of… forests," Tyber tentatively exhaled. Again, there was a slight moment of hesitation. "Rivers and natural mountain cliffs are everywhere. Not many cities to speak of. It's a relatively out-of-the-way place to live."
"Is that where you came from?" Ysolda asked.
"I was actually fleeing that place, as a matter of fact," Tyber stated, gazing at Whiterun's main gate as he walked by. Strolling through town earned him a few more stares than he'd wanted, and he was beginning to feel a bit anxious.
"Do you not get along with your family?" Ysolda inquired, brushing her hand along a clump of flowers near the road.
"We just got a new ruler," Tyber carefully enunciated, being very deliberate in his wording. "He doesn't seem to like my people and me very much. He forced us from our homes and scattered us into the… countryside. Those who stayed are probably dead, now."
"I'm sorry to hear that,' Ysolda murmured. "I'm sure you'll find better luck here in Skyrim. Although, you'd have better luck if you told the truth."
"I'm… sorry?" Tyber winced. Ysolda stopped in her tracks and placed her hands on her hips, a knowing smirk growing on her lips.
"I'll be very kind when I say this: a Nord knows a liar when she sees one," she asserted. "If you want to keep your story to yourself, I have no problem with that. All I ask is that you don't feed me horker skin while you do it."
"I'm… I'm sorry," Tyber sighed, rubbing his forehead with his hand. "I'm just a bit on edge. I have no idea where I am or who I can trust."
"All is forgiven," Ysolda nodded, graciously turning on her heels and continuing along the path. "Now, if you want to learn where you are, follow along. I'll show you the way. As for who to trust… you can start with me."
"And that building on the hill is Jorvasskr, mead hall of the Companions," Ysolda stated, gesturing to a curved building on the side of the road. Tyber glanced at the hall through the evening light and frowned deeply.
"It looks like someone just flipped a ship upside down and began drinking in it," he snorted.
"Yes," Ysolda smirked, the light of humor in her eye. Tyber's upper lip curled in abject confusion, but his next question was stalled by an approaching guard.
"You, there!" the armored soldier called. "Are you the man who fell from the sky, last night?"
"I'm the man who had a very rough landing, last night," Tyber corrected. "But, yes. I'm your man."
"The jarl has requested your presence in Dragonsreach," the guard replied, pointing to the huge wooden palace at the very highest hill in Whiterun. "I'm to bring you there, now."
"Alright," Tyber nodded, turning to Ysolda with a grateful smile. "I appreciate the tour, Ysolda. Thank you for showing such kindness to a stranger."
"You're not a stranger any longer," she corrected, extending her slender hand. "If you need anything else, just let me know. I live in the Plains District, just by the far wall."
"I will," he nodded, clasping her hand appreciatively. "Thank you."
Ysolda gave one last warm smile before turning away and strolling down the street, making her way to the lower parts of the city. Tyber watched her go before following the armored guard up the steps to the Cloud District. Dragonsreach was a rather impressive structure, especially for one built almost entirely out of wood. The towering palace loomed majestically over the city in the fading light, casting a long shadow over the plains surrounding the city. The large double doors groaned open on iron hinges, granting access to the expansive, warm, high-ceilinged hall within. A roaring fire in the center of the main chamber showered the room with heat and light. At the very top of the long building, perched at the peak of several sets of wooden stairs, the Jarl sat, patiently waiting with a small group of people at his side. Tyber recognized a few of them as he approached.
The one they called 'Dragonborn,' a thickly built, bearded man named Kjordnarok, stood high and tall to the side of the Jarl's throne. Beside him, his raven-haired housecarl, Lydia remained faithfully by his side, her green eyes keeping a close eye on Tyber's movements. There were a few others near the Jarl that Tyber failed to recognize, but he made a mental note to learn their names at the earliest possible convenience.
"You are the man that fell from the sky, is that right?" the Jarl spoke, his booming voice echoing off the high walls. Tyber stiffened a bit in wounded pride but refused to make the same correction he'd issued the Jarl's guard moments earlier.
"Yes, sir," he nodded, taking up a relaxed, welcoming posture.
"Indeed," the Jarl nodded. "I should not hesitate to remind you that you nearly killed one of my subjects in the process of your… descent. Not many pass through this city with Ysolda's heart. She may not be very wealthy, but her spirit would be a greater loss for this city that she realizes, and I will take care of my people."
"I understand, sir," Tyber nodded. "I apologize. I meant no harm. Truthfully, I don't remember much about the crash. If I had my way, Ysolda wouldn't have been threatened in the first place. I wouldn't have come near the city in the first place."
"I assume you've come from a long way?" the Jarl inquired, taking Tyber's nod of affirmation at face value. The blonde-haired man stroked his beard for a few moments before gesturing to Kjord, at his side. "My thane, Kjordnarok Dragon-Blood, has advised that I take no action of recourse against you. He argues that there was no ill intent in the act and that such an accident, especially since Ysolda was not harmed, should go unpunished. More than most, he understands the pain of being punished for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps he is right."
"My steward, Proventus, however," he continued, gesturing to a balding man dressed in fine robes at his right hand, "argues the opposite. He states that a channel of land was ruined by your interference and that you should face a fine for threatening young Ysolda's life in such a dangerous manner. If not a fine, then jail time. My question to you is this: what would you do in my stead? If you had to render judgment in this situation, how would you choose?"
"You are… the ruler of your territory, sir," Tyber carefully answered. "I hope you choose to spare me any retribution for my unwilling intrusion into your lives, but I also understand that you have the authority to do so, should you wish. I was once a man of authority myself. I told soldiers to come, and they would come, and I told men to go, and they would obey. I ask for the result that honors your title."
"Well said," the Jarl nodded, his lips pursing in consideration. "What if I chose to offer you honorable mercy in return for your conduct, here, today?"
"I've done little in my life worth honoring, sir" Tyber stated.
"All the same," the Jarl insisted, "I hereby grant you clemency from your actions last night. You will not be punished for your… accident."
'Thank you, sir," Tyber smiled, bowing appreciatively.
"What will you do now that you are in good health once more?" the Jarl inquired.
"I… I suppose I'll take up refuge here, for a time," Tyber shrugged. "I'll need to examine the remains of my ship and see what I can salvage from the crash."
"You should offer him shelter," Lydia whispered, leaning closer to Kjordnarok. "He clearly has no money with which to pay for a place to stay. He'll freeze otherwise."
"We don't have room at Breezehome," Kjord replied. "Otherwise, I would gladly take him in."
"It's only the two of us staying there," Lydia frowned. "Let him have the spare bed."
"I think he could use a space all to his own," Kjord insisted. "Besides, we've got too many things to… take care of tonight."
"Is that so?" Lydia smirked, raising an eyebrow. "Alright. If nothing else, at least get him a room at the 'Mare or something."
"Good idea," Kjord nodded, stepping forth and attracting Jarl Balgruuf's attention. "Might I offer a suggestion, my Jarl?" Ordinarily, the two men would have spoken cordially, as friends and equals, but here, in the Jarl's court, Balgruuf was to be addressed by his title.
"Of course," Balgruuf nodded, turning to face his most prized advisor.
"If it pleases you, why not provide him patronage?" Kjord suggested, gesturing to Tyber. "This man has gone out of his way to make amends for his mistakes and right his wrongs. Why not send a definitive message that such people are treated with honor within the walls of Whiterun?"
"A noble idea," Jarl Balgruuf nodded. "I'm in a generous mood today. Proventus, see to it that this man is given a warm bed and hot food at the Bannered Mare. Tell Hulda to bill Dragonsreach for his expenses. I'm sure our friend here will find some way to repay this kindness."
"Absolutely, sir," Tyber nodded, eagerly bowing his agreement. "I'm sure I could be of some use to you in the future."
"Very well," Jarl Balgruuf, nodded, rising from his throne. "I'm going to have a good drink. Divines know I need it on a cold night, like tonight."
"Mikael is looking at you again." Carlotta glanced over the rim of her mug with a fire in her eyes that would have melted all the snows on Skyrim's mountain peaks. The Bannered Mare was bustling tonight, and most tables were filled entirely. The large firepit in the center of the room burned hot and bright, giving warmth to the entire building. Hulda stood behind a counter on the far side of the inn, directing her barmaid, Saadia, on which customers to serve next. Ysolda and Carlotta had picked a table near the doorway to eat and drink together, hoping that Mikael would be too distracted with his performances to notice them in the back of the building.
"Milkdrinker," she muttered, taking another swig of ale. Sure enough, the insufferable bard was staring directly at her without a hint of shame in his eyes. In fact, Carlotta wouldn't have been surprised if he was doing it on purpose.
"Why do we always come here?" Ysolda sighed, shaking her head. "He just hovers over us the entire time."
"He'd do the same thing at the Drunken Huntsman," Carlotta shrugged. "At least there's a guard nearby at all times here at the 'Mare. Besides, I thought you liked his voice."
"I did," Ysolda admitted. "That was several years ago, though; before I knew how he treated you. Before I read that horrid book of his, too."
"'A real masterpiece, that one," Carlotta snorted. Just then, the main door swung open, admitting a Whiterun guard in full armor. Just behind the guard, Tyber strolled quietly into the building as well, gazing curiously at the patrons around him.
"Mm!" Ysolda hummed, swallowing a gulp of mead and jamming her finger into Carlotta's ribs.
"Ouch!" the older woman hissed, holding her side in pain. "Gods, Ysolda, that hurt!"
"Shush!" Ysolda whispered, jerking her head in Tyber's direction. "That's him! That's the man from last night!"
"Really?" Carlotta murmured, a wide grin growing on her face as she took the newcomer in. "This is the infamous 'Tyber Onteron?' He's a lot younger than I thought he'd be. Handsome little thing, though, isn't he?"
"Shush!" Ysolda pleaded, clamping a hand over Carlotta's mouth. Carlotta quietly laughed into Ysolda's palm, watching curiously as Tyber stood awkwardly nearby as the guard explained the situation to Hulda.
"There shouldn't be a problem," the innkeeper nodded. "I'll see that he's taken care of."
"Good," the guard hummed, strolling towards the door. "I'll inform the jarl."
"Your room is just up those stairs," Hulda informed Tyber, pointing the young man towards the back staircase and handing him the key. "Saadia will get you food when you're hungry or drink when you have a thirst to be quenched. If you need anything else, just let me know."
"Thank you," Tyber smiled, turning to take in the loud, hot room. The resident bard had launched into song and had the entire room in chorus, his shoulder-length blonde hair bouncing in time with the rhythm. At the very back of the room, Tyber caught sight of Ysolda's smiling face, waving for him to join her and another woman at the table.
"Here he comes," Ysolda grinned, sliding her chair to the side to give Tyber room to sit down.
"Fancy seeing you, here," he teased, obviously delighted to see a familiar face once more. Carlotta raised an eyebrow at Tyber's words, but a quick glare from Ysolda convinced her to keep her thoughts to herself.
"I'm glad you could join us!" Ysolda stated. "I hope I didn't get you into any trouble with Jarl Balgruuf."
"Nothing of the sort, actually," Tyber admitted, easing into the open chair between the two women. "He was very understanding. Kjordnarok helped clear things up a bit. It looks like I'll be staying here for a little while, as a matter of fact."
"Well, in that case, I'd say its time to start laying down some roots," Ysolda chirped, gesturing across the table to her friend. "This is Carlotta Valentia. She's one of my closest friends here in the city."
"A pleasure to meet you," Carlotta smiled, shaking Tyber's hand. "I already know your name."
"That fast?" Tyber snorted.
"You fell from the sky in a giant metal container," Carlotta smirked, raising her mug to her lips. "It'd honestly be a little difficult to not know your name, at this point."
"I hope that passes quickly," Tyber cringed. "I'm not one to attract attention."
"Speaking of attracting attention…" Ysolda murmured, suddenly finding something of grave interest in her mug.
"Carlotta Valentia!" Mikael grinned, placing a hand on the widow's shoulder. "Did you enjoy my last performance? I had the entire inn rolling in song like a ship on the crystal waters of the northern sea!"
"How very thoughtful of you to remind me," Carlotta sighed, tapping on the table in frustration.
"I would like to take this moment to offer you a song in your honor," Mikael smoothly grinned. "I want your heart to glimmer with love for me as I sing you into the very arms of Sovngarde!"
"It's a hard pass," Carlotta sighed, clenching her jaw.
"A sour mood, I see," Mikael mused. "I will lift your spirits by singing you a song of my own creation!"
"You don't want to sing her a song of your own creation," Tyber corrected, waving his hand a few inches over the table.
"I don't want to sing her a song of my own creation," Mikael agreed, removing his hand from Carlotta's shoulder. The two women at the table exchanged surprised glances at the bard's words.
"You want to leave Carlotta alone for the rest of the evening," Tyber stated, not even meeting the bard's gaze.
"I want to leave Carlotta alone for the rest of the evening," Mikael concurred, turning around and strolling back to his instrument. Sure enough, he picked up his lute and began strumming his way into a favorite folk song within seconds, ignoring Carlotta and Ysolda completely. Carlotta met Tyber's gaze and placed a grave hand on his shoulder.
"I will pay you to follow me around and do that all day," Carlotta stated, her eyes growing deadly serious.
"How did you do that?" Ysolda asked, staring in dumbfounded shock at Mikael's happy, ignorant face.
"I'm just an all-powerful sorcerer of the dark arts," Tyber shrugged, leaning back in his seat and chuckling when Ysolda and Carlotta both glared at him with immense skepticism. "One might say mind reading is a specialty of mine."
"It's not polite to tease a lady," Ysolda smirked, crossing her legs and easing back into her chair.
"No, no," Tyber corrected, "not teasing. Mind reading."
"Prove it," Carlotta snorted, placing her mug on the table and gazing at the younger man intently. "You've never met me before today. If you can really read minds, tell me what I'm thinking."
"Alright," Tyber chuckled, placing his elbows on the table and adjusting his chair to face Carlotta more directly. Carlotta forced her face to remain entirely neutral, clearly making a supreme effort to stay unreadable. After a few seconds of thought, Tyber finally spoke.
"You're not from Skyrim," Tyber concluded.
"Correct. Where from?" Carlotta prompted.
"Cyrodiil," Tyber mumbled. "I'm not sure where that is, but you grew up there with your parents and your older brother. The reason why I say that is because you and your brother were very close when you were young. Unforeseen circumstances caused you to move to Skyrim… a surprising marriage proposal, perhaps."
"That's very good," Carlotta hummed, throwing a rather impressed look Ysolda's direction. "My husband wasn't someone my parents approved of, hence the move to Skyrim to gain some distance between us."
"Which, of course," Tyber continued, "created a rift between yourself and your brother."
"Maybe," Carlotta nodded, "but that's not what I was thinking of."
"No," Tyber agreed, "You weren't. You were thinking of a name. The name of a person you loved dearer than almost any other but haven't seen in years because you've been separated by a great distance. Someone nobody in this town would know."
"No…" Carlotta exhaled, leaning back in her chair.
"I believe your brother's name is… Varnicus," Tyber finished. Carlotta's face went as white as a sheet.
"I… I don't understand…" she sputtered.
"I'm just glad you didn't think of something suitably embarrassing like the last person that asked me to read their mind," Tyber chuckled, placing a hand on Carlotta's shoulder to ease her nerves. "Rule number one when it comes to dealing with mind readers: never think of the last place you committed adultery while your wife is present."
"That's… unbelievable." Carlotta stated, shaking her head in disbelief. "Even Mila doesn't know my brother's name."
"I didn't know you even had one, to begin with," Ysolda laughed.
"Before I forget," Tyber added, "please don't take that trick too seriously. There's no black magic involved or anything like that. The last thing I need is the jarl coming down the hill and throwing me in jail for a misunderstanding."
"How is it done, then?" Ysolda prompted.
"I'm just good at reading people," Tyber shrugged. Ysolda raised a skeptical eyebrow at his words, raising her mug to her lips and taking a short drink of mead.
"Read me," Ysolda demanded, setting her mug back on the table.
"Read your mind?" Tyber smirked.
"No," Ysolda shook her head, "read me."
"I'm afraid I don't- " Tyber began, chuckling in confusion.
"If you're that skilled at reading people, I shouldn't have to give you any help," Ysolda challenged, brushing a strand of red hair from her face. "Tell me everything you can about me at just a glance."
"As you wish," Tyber said at length, easing his chair to the side to face her. Ysolda met his concentrated stare without wavering, almost daring him to enter her mind and dig up her secrets. Strangely enough, she began to feel a slight sensation in the back of her consciousness, almost as if something was actually digging around in her head. Tyber eventually broke off his stare and leaned back in his chair, resting his hands behind his head and grinning easily.
"There's quite a bit in that mind of yours to unpack," Tyber stated, looking a bit too comfortable in his own right. "You have a rather strong mind, that I can tell you, right now."
"Gee, thanks," Carlotta smirked, feigning an angry expression. Tyber snorted at the teasing comment and refocused his attention on Ysolda's hazel eyes, still staring at him intently.
"I'm going to say this gently, since I don't know what this number involves," Tyber grimaced, sitting forward and placing a calm, earnest expression on his features. "Does the 12th of Sun's Dawn, the 196th year of the 4th Era mean anything to you?"
Ysolda's jaw dropped in shock, and her eyebrows drew closer together in remembrance. In a state of complete surprise, her eyes fell to the floor, clouded by memories gone by. Carlotta frowned deeply at the younger woman's reaction, glancing back and forth between Tyber's sympathetic expression and Ysolda's troubled gaze.
"Ysolda?" she murmured. "Are you alright?"
"I'm… I'm fine," Ysolda nodded, meeting Tyber's eyes once more. His blue stare was full of compassion and understanding that she couldn't understand. "That's… that's the day my Ma and Da passed away."
"No," Carlotta breathed, placing her hands over her mouth in shock.
"I'm sorry if I've upset you by bringing it up," Tyber apologized, twiddling his thumbs.
"No," Ysolda smiled, looking him square in the face. "It's alright. I'm more impressed than anything else, actually."
"I'm just good at what I do," he shrugged. After a few moments, he stood from the table and fingered the lightsaber at his belt.
"Something the matter?" Carlotta inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"No," Tyber answered, his eyes glued to the door. "I just… need to check something."
"Alright," Ysolda hummed, her smile fading a bit. "If we don't catch you before we leave tonight, we'll see you around."
"See you around," he agreed, smiling warmly at the pair before striding to the doors and out into the cold night. Tyber stepped into the empty street and pulled his robes a little tighter around him as the cold air whistled by his face. Walking casually down the road, he kept his eyes peeled for the house he knew Kjordnarok and his housecarl lived in. Breezehome, he believed it was called. Sure enough, just down the street lay the comfortable home, right where Ysolda had shown him that afternoon. Tyber stopped in front of the house and closed his eyes, reaching out with the Force and searching for any kind of ripple or disturbance in the home. Sure enough, he could feel Kjordnarok's presence inside. The Dragonborn was powerful. Surprisingly powerful, as a matter of fact.
Tyber reached farther into the Dragonborn with the Force, trying to glean what little he could from the mighty warrior's mind. Kjord's mental strength was very high, which made it difficult to read his feelings and thoughts. Even so, there was undoubtedly a myriad of layers to the hero of Whiterun. There was a great deal of pain and suffering that accompanied the achievements and bonds in Kjordnarok's subconscious. A mixed puzzle of darkness and light, just like most men of power. All the same, Tyber couldn't help but focus on the connections Kjord had forged in his life. He could feel Kjord's strong feelings for his friends: the members of the Companions, Jarl Balgruuf, wizards in far-off colleges, and thieves in the sewers. His housecarl, Lydia, who he held closer than anyone else, remained central to his spirit.
Tyber turned away from the house and gazed into the stars, shining high above the world. Every passing moment, he feared that Darth Vader and a legion of stormtroopers would descend from orbit and chase him from his hiding place once more. The Emperor's new right-hand man was unlike anything Tyber had ever encountered. When the Sith Lord was near, he could feel nothing but pure, unadulterated, unrestrained hatred. Hatred for the Jedi, for people who displeased him, and even his master. However, most of all, in the brief moments when Tyber had encountered the black-armored Sith, he could sense something infinitely more powerful: Vader's hatred for himself.
Tyber turned away from the clear night sky and walked to the edge of Whiterun's wall, gazing out over the bountiful plains of the hold. Perhaps death would be the Force's way of keeping him in check. If Tyber were dead, there would be no darkness to fall into, no internal self-loathing to burn the light in his heart. There would be no innocent casualties in the way if he merely leaped from the wall. Even if the Empire found this world, deep in the heart of unexplored space, Tyber knew Skyrim's natives would fare better without him than with him.
Still, there was a small hope. Maybe Tyber could remain here, in exile, safe from the turmoil of the galaxy. He could find a new life here, amongst these people, and spend his life putting a tiny corner of the universe back together, rather than being the reason it was taken apart. Whiterun was quiet. Where was the harm in finally throwing down roots after a lifetime of war? Tyber smiled softly to himself.
Maybe, of all places in the universe he could have crashed into, this was where he was meant to be.
Hello, everyone! Thanks for taking the time to read my story! This is something I've been pondering over for several years, now, and I finally decided to write it out after finding nothing else of this specific subject on the site! I'm open to any comments and reviews left by you, and I promise to take your feedback with the seriousness it deserves. Please, enjoy my work, leave a favorite and a follow to stay updated, because I plan to keep this story going for a while! Thank you for your time!