Arch-Mage Savos Aren stalked across the college courtyard, toward the bridge leading to Winterhold. He pulled his cloak tighter around him to keep the wind out. It was a bright, cloudless day, but the wind coming off the Sea of Ghosts was frigid and warned of a coming snowstorm. The gates slammed behind him as he picked his way down to the city, trying not to slip on the patches of ice and fall to his death.
"Damn Ancano," he muttered. It was the fourth time that day the Thalmor advisor had outright insulted someone. He tolerated the elf's snide remarks and condescending tone toward the staff and students, but he drew the line at a student being accused of being a Stormcloak spy.
When Savos caught Ancano interrogating a Nord student earlier that day about Talos worship and hurling accusations at the boy, his blood boiled and he could not resist pointing out that most Stormcloaks were Nords that distrusted magic, and Ancano was an idiot if he thought Ulfric Stormcloak gave a damn about infiltrating the College. What did he have to gain?
Savos smiled to himself, remembering Ancano's face contorting into a pinched look of wrathful indignation. He reached the bottom of the bridge, nodding to Faralda as he passed.
"Arch-Mage," she said with a slight bow of her head. Savos turned left and followed the trail to the spot on the shore he sometimes went to get perspective.
He sat down on the sand, the smell of salt and sea filling his nose. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, and counting to five, released it. His eyes followed the ships as they navigated the ice, carrying goods bound from Solitude to Dawnstar or Windhelm. There were ominous clouds forming on the horizon, and Savos wondered if it was a sign of things to come. He leaned back, propping himself on his elbows, and tilted his face toward the sky, eyes closed, listening to the pounding of the waves on the shore.
A small, strangled cry interrupted his meditation. Savos sat straight up, his ears straining to hear over the wind and crashing waves and he looked around, unable to tell what direction the sound came from. Once he had resumed his meditative position, he heard it again; this time he was sure of it. He stood up, brushing the sand from his cloak and robes. The sound had come from the East and he readied his fireball spell as he walked along the shore, eyes alert.
Reaching the end of the shoreline he'd explored in the past, Savos looked around and wondered if he should go further. The wind was blowing harder now, and the clouds were rolling in, bringing the promise of a blizzard. He turned to go back the way he came, when he heard the stifled cry again, louder this time, and his feet sank into the wet sand as he walked toward the sound. There, in a small stone alcove cut into the cliff, was an oval flower basket filled with fox pelts. Flames licked at the basket, but it wasn't burning.
Curiosity piqued, Savos extinguished the flames and lifted the corner of the wet fox pelts. A baby girl, only about three months old, lay squirming in the basket. A tiny wisp of a thing, half-frozen; her skin was a slight tinge of blue and she had a dusting of Auburn curls and blue eyes the color of the sea. He ran his fingers along the embroidered linen blanket swaddling her, and he saw a name stitched into the corner. Aricette Ashcroft. Savos looked around, searching for anyone else on the shore, but saw no one. Who had left her here, and why?
The child cried again, and Savos picked up the child, pulling her close to his chest and draping the fur mantle of his robes over her. It didn't matter to him who had left the child or why a storm was coming and he couldn't leave the child out here alone. He pulled his cloak tight across the both of them and returned to Winterhold. Faralda gave him an inquisitive look as he passed, but he ignored her.
The storm had reached the shore, and it was sleeting now, blowing about him, stinging his exposed skin. Savos blasted the stone with flames to rid the bridge of the accumulating ice and made a mental note to research and create a magical ice and snow remover for the bridge. The gates creaked as Savos pushed them open, a high-pitched metallic sound that set his teeth on edge. Fat snowflakes fell, coating his hair and shoulders as he crossed the courtyard and entered the college.
Savos stood in the entryway, shaking off the snow and trying to decide what to do when Mirabelle entered from the Arcaneum. He nodded at her, and she looked at him, her eyes growing wide when the tiny bundle beneath his cloak let out a cry.
"Wha-," Mirabelle started.
"Not here," Savos hissed, his eyes darting around for any sign of Ancano. "My quarters, now."
Mirabelle did as he instructed and together they climbed the steps to the Arch-Mage's living quarters. Once they were inside, Mirabelle bolted the door behind them. Savos unclasped his cloak, letting it fall from his shoulders into a pile on the floor behind him, as he unwrapped the tiny bundle from the mantle of his robes. Holding the child close to him, he sat down on a chair near the fireplace, trying to drive the cold out of them both.
"Where did you find that?" Mirabelle hissed, her eyes narrowing at the bundle in his arms.
" It is a child, Mirabelle, a living creature. Not an object," Savos scolded.
"Fine, where did you find it?" she said.
"She was in a flower basket, tucked into an alcove near the base of the cliff. I'd gone to the shore to meditate and heard her cry," he replied, his eyes not leaving the baby's face.
"Who does she belong to?" Mirabelle asked as Savos gazed up at her like she had just told him the sky was blue.
"I don't know, and there wasn't anyone else out there to ask," he snapped.
"You can't keep her here. This is a college, not an orphanage," Mirabelle snapped back, her brows knitting into a frown.
"She had cast a flame cloak on the basket, trying to keep herself warm when I found her. She's already powerful. I can't send her to Honorhall, Mirabelle. If I do, there will be no one to teach her how to control her magic and someone will get hurt, even killed. When that happens, they will execute her. No, she'll stay here and I'll teach her how to control her magic myself," he said, his voice firm.
"Have you lost your mind?! You cannot just ignore your duties as Arch-Mage to raise a child," Mirabelle shrieked.
"I said no such thing. And no, I haven't lost my mind. I'm trying to protect an innocent child from the wrath of small-minded Nords," he growled, as his red eyes flashed. He breathed, trying to get his temper back under control before speaking again.
"What are you going to tell Ancano? He will demand to know why the child is not being sent away," Mirabelle demanded. Savos closed his eyes, his annoyance resurging at the Altmer's name.
"I will tell him the same thing I've told you. It's for her protection, and it will give the Nords one less reason to hate mages," he said through gritted teeth. "Now, leave us, and close the door behind you." Mirabelle nodded, scowling, and turning on her heel, stomped from the Arch-Mage's quarters.