He was an adventurer from a long line of adventurous men, and he grew up strong and brave and ready to take on any foe the wilds of Tamriel had to throw at him. His sword and shield earned his living, keeping him armored and fed and clothed—but not rich. On his ventures into town he was an unknown, just another roving wanderer making his living off the land, renting beds he'd never own.
The hunger to be more ate at him, gnawed on his insides in the middle of the night.
He watched the bright-robed sorcerers flit in and out of the Mages Guild like gaudy birds, watched townsfolk shy out of the way and tip their heads in respect—and for what? For the sake of a spell or two? It wasn't honest work, magicka, it didn't come from the heart and brawn of a man to get things done.
Still, the townsfolk made way for the mages, and scowled at the adventurer like he was one more cur in a kennel.
He'd had enough of anonymity, he decided on a sweltering afternoon between one place and another. There'd been stories, of course, passed down from his father and grandfather, of more famous forbears—men who'd slain monstrous trolls, men who'd brought rebellions to heel, men who'd braved the wilds and returned with treasure from all the forgotten places of the world.
And the best: men who'd bargained with Daedra, and come out the victors.
It was time to make a name for himself, to take his place with his storied ancestors.
Finding a Daedra to bargain with was easy enough. The Taskmaster was a natural choice for a man looking for a task, and the charge Peryite set him was simple work for a man raised on battle and blood. With his quest completed, the dragon-Daedra seemed pleased.
The adventurer hoisted Spellbreaker upon his arm and felt his own destiny change.
No more was he a nameless mercenary scraping a living out of bandit caves and abandoned forts. With the great dwarven shield on his arm he felt invincible, unstoppable. It drew stares in the cities, gleaming like the sun.
And of course it thwarted mages quite handily, and the adventurer didn't mind that at all.
When the city guard and Fighters Guild had run up against a band of rogue sorcerers and come out the losers, the adventurer stepped in. He smirked to himself in private glee at the feel of Spellbreaker at work, of magicka breaking upon the shield, reflecting back to the casters in deadly waves.
The adventurer was victorious, the notorious sorcerers slain, and though the city went wild with gratitude, it wasn't enough.
Spellbreaker made for a good start, to be sure, but the adventurer was certain he could do better. From the spoils of the felled sorcerers he amassed a modest fortune, and though he had to bite his tongue to do it he walked through the over-carved door of the Mages Guild and asked after enchantments.
It took a year—special-made enchanted items were dear, and hard to craft—but before the old wizard at the Guild passed on he'd made the adventurer enough trinkets to stop any spell that came at him.
He really was unstoppable then, he could feel it. The more he killed mages, the more invincible he felt; the more they ran from him, their magicka useless, entirely reflected, the more they seemed like animals instead of people.
It was no different than hunting deer, or wolves, except that deer were faster, and wolves didn't carry tinkling pouches of gold and precious gems when they fled.
Only one thing troubled him, in the years that came after: Spellbreaker.
Not the shield itself. Spellbreaker was the cornerstone of all his victory, instantly recognizable to every friend and foe that looked his way.
But Daedra were notorious for taking back their gifts even more readily than they gave them, and the adventurer couldn't bear to let Spellbreaker go.
The fear of its loss nibbled at his brain like a rat through a rope. Little by little his confidence frayed, until finally he returned to the Mages Guild. If Spellbreaker could be stolen from him, he would be ready; he would weigh himself down with enough enchanted jewelry to make up for its loss, well in advance.
But by then the Mages Guild had heard of his exploits in killing their kind. The mages pushed him outside before he could draw steel and locked the door behind him, peering out at him with scowling faces from the windows. When the adventurer traveled to a different city, he found the situation much the same.
His story had been told and told again, and now it bound his hands.
But every day that passed was one more in which Spellbreaker might be taken, and he held to the shield every waking moment on his search. The mages turned him away in Leyawiin and in Chorrol, in Anvil and Skingrad, and more and more he feared that he would rise one morning and Spellbreaker would be gone. He slept with it bound to his arm all the way to Bravil, and staggered into the Mage's Guild there unkempt and unshaven, victim of too much worry and too little sleep.
The mages at Bravil didn't turn him away.
With the most profound relief of his life the adventurer paid his gold and drifted back outside, the promise of tomorrow as sweet as music to his ears. Tomorrow they'd have an array of enchantments for him; tomorrow it wouldn't matter if Spellbreaker vanished in the blink of an eye.
The adventurer never saw tomorrow.
He never saw the assassin's arrow, either, though it stuck in his chest all the same, fletched in the bright blue and gold of the Mages Guild—or maybe it wasn't. Everything had gone grey and red and a clamoring darkness invaded the edges of his vision even as he wavered in the street, too shocked for pain, the arrow embedded in his flesh as neatly as betrayal.
The chapel, he thought, with blood trickling away from his dying brain.
Bravil's chapel was cool on the inside and smelled of the river, but there were healers gathered around the altar and slotted between the pews. They rushed over at his entrance, chapel-robes dull as sparrow-wings, exclaiming as he collapsed.
The first wave of healing magicka reflected off of Spellbreaker without making it to the adventurer's body, and so did the second and then the third. "Sir," the pretty healer pleaded, tugging at the shield on his arm to rid him of the enchantment. But the adventurer couldn't let it go, even now; his grip was tight as ever and the metal bit down into the meat of his arm even as his bloodless fingers went numb. They wouldn't take it, he thought feverishly, no one would take it, no man or god or Daedra—
The adventurer died surrounded by priests, stricken by a wound any one of them could've healed. When the bewildered priests buried him and committed his soul to the gods, they gave him a rich man's funeral, tucking his body carefully into Bravil's swampy ground with every one of his fine enchanted things.
All except for Spellbreaker, which vanished when no one was looking.