The Fire That Cleanses Hate

The blade Aurea was a beautiful thing, Alara decided. In fact, she'd go so far as to say she'd never seen such a pretty thing before in her life. The way the fire rippled along the golden-shaded metal as it moved through the air was truly a thing to behold, provided the sword wasn't swinging at you. Which, at the moment, it was.

Alara ducked under the swing and rolled to the right, even as the wielder of the fire-enchanted sword swung in a reverse movement that would hopefully cut the annoying Altmer half-breed in half. To his dismay, Alara actually jumped over the swing instead.

Andaryn was forced to admit that the girl was good. He had yet to land so much as a scratch on her skin, to his own annoyance. Of course, she hadn't been able to hit him either, but that probably had more to do with the large set of armor he was wearing, and less to do with his own skill. The whole situation was made even more insulting by the fact that the girl was wearing a dress while doing all of this. The pureblooded Altmer knight would have laughed at the absurdity of it all if he weren't so busy being enraged instead.

Alara jumped backwards just in time to avoid getting her head taken off, and continued her inspection of the curious man in front of her. In contrast to the beauty of the sword, she though the armor he was wearing was simply garish. It covered him from neck to toe, leaving only his head clear for observation. The whole thing was also golden in color, but it looked too dull to Alara. Compared to the sword, it was just another example of Altmer arrogance. "Tell me, is that armor actually made of gold, or is it just gold paint?"

The knight responded by lunging at her, hoping to impale her. Alara, of course, simply danced away from the blow. Admittedly, the fire on the blade made it a bit tricky to avoid, and she was certain that a single hit from it, glancing or not, would probably kill her, but then she also already had plenty of practice dodging weapons. She was just worried that the flames might catch some of the frills on her dress. "Because gold is a terrible metal to use in armor and weapons. It's too soft, you know?"

The pureblood Altmer grunted in annoyance, then tried to strike out again at the half-breed. This time, the tip of the sword came within a few centimeters of Alara's face, and she could almost feel the flames licking at her skin. "Would you shut up and fight back, you mongrel of a woman?"

Alara merely smiled slightly in return, before speaking again, mischief in her voice. "Why, how am I supposed to do that when you have all that magnificent armor? Surely a mongrel such as me could only run away in fear from such a big man?"

Indeed, she immediately began running away, forcing the knight to give chase. Unfortunately for him, encumbered by all his armor as he was, he was quickly out of breath and struggling to continue moving, much less keep up with the devil-woman. Forced to stop and recover for a moment, he quickly glanced around at his surroundings, hoping to get his bearings. The woman had already dragged him deeper into the poor section of the city than he had ever been in before, so he already didn't know his way around. The surrounding buildings had been fairly small, however, so he had been able to get a general direction, at least, based on where he was in relation to some of the larger, more famous buildings in Sunhold. It would seem that would no longer be possible, however, since the area he was in was filled with large, decrepit buildings that blocked his line of sight in all directions. In fact, he appeared to be a cross-roads of some sort, but the thing that confused him was that these tall buildings seemed to stretch in every direction down the roads. Which had to be impossible, since he was certain the poor district didn't have this many large buildings.

He shifted to the left, suddenly unsure of what direction he should be facing. Now that he was able to take a good look at his surroundings, he noticed that all of the buildings looked exactly identical. He knew now with certainty that he was under an illusion, since Altmer buildings were simply not made that way. The Imperials might have preferred drab, uniform architecture, but that simply wasn't the way things worked in Summerset. In Andaryn's mind, a person's home was an extension of their personality as well as their wealth and influence. No building should ever be the same as another, just the same as no one person's personality could match another's.

"My, my, look what we have here. A lonely elf that's wandered his way into the darkness."

Andaryn spun around, and quickly found the girl he had been chasing. She had not been the one to speak however, as she was standing behind another figure. The man was relatively short, just barely being of a greater height than the girl behind him. A light red cloak concealed his body, and a hood covered his face. What clothing Andaryn could see underneath the cloak seemed to be of fine make, however, something that only nobility would be likely to wear, and the Altmer instantly recognized that this was probably the man that had caused the illusion he was in.

"Foul magician, release me from this spell immediately, or I will ensure that your death will be even more excruciating than what was originally planned!"

The man merely smiled, and it was now that Andaryn noticed that something was subtly wrong with him. The coloring of his cloak was off. It seemed as though the light shade of the cloak was shifting somehow, and when his eyes drifted away to meet the red orbs of the half-breed girl, his warrior's instincts screamed.

To say that Verus was surprised when the idiot Altmer knight spun around and swung his sword at empty air would be an understatement. The only person more surprised was Andaryn himself, especially when his sword met resistance, and the area of space in front of him seemed to unfold, revealing the man that he had thought had still been standing next to the demon-woman. As it turned out, the resistance that Andaryn's blade, Aurea, met was actually the sword of the cloaked man. It was a simple iron blade; a disposable tool for a quick kill. As such, it was no great shock to either man when Andaryn's fiery blade simply cut through Verus's iron weapon with almost no effort

Andaryn wasn't finished, however. When the iron sword was split in two, the Mer didn't stop his swing, as might be expected, but instead continued his rotation, pivoting his body so that he would fully turn in a circle. This meant that the burning blade was now coming in another arc, and Verus had next to no time to react to the movement. The Imperial vaguely saw Alara moving from the corner of his eye, but the majority of his attention was directed at the sword that was coming for his neck. That attention was then shattered when something hard hit him between the eyes. Verus stumbled backwards, and as the small throwing knife tumbled to the ground, Andaryn's sword finished its arc, narrowly missing Verus's head. This did not mean that Verus would escape unharmed, however, as the flames of the sword sprung out to cling to the Imperial's face, burning his flesh for only a moment before the sword moved away.

Verus collapsed to the ground, screaming in pain as the illusion surrounding the three figures shattered into reality. Though the mystical flame had touched his skin for only a few moments, the damage it had done was unmistakable, and would probably leave horrible scarring on his face. Indeed, as is the nature of magical weapons, that scar would probably never fade without powerful healing magic.

Andaryn smirked in victory even as the knife Alara had thrown at her companion clattered noisily to the ground. Andaryn raised his sword for the kill, but when he tried to bring his sword down to slay the blasted illusionist, he found he couldn't. Looking up, he was shocked to find his arms and the entirety of his sword, Aurea, coated in ice. He stumbled backwards, and probably would have fallen, had more ice not formed around his feet and locked him in place.

Meanwhile, Alara had skipped merrily past him and kneeled next to Verus, who was still screaming. She touched him lightly on the shoulder, and he jerked in a sudden moment of pain before collapsing unconscious. The half-breed girl glanced back at the knight, who was now staring at her in disbelief.

"You were capable of using magic of this caliber the entire time, and never used it. Why?" he murmured in an absent-minded tone, as if he still couldn't quite believe that his peerless sword of flames had been silenced by a mere spell.

"I wanted to see what would happen of course. Besides, that sword really is a beautiful thing, and I wanted to see what it would look like with blood on it. A shame that the one strike that would have allowed me to see it also would have killed this fool. Although, I think it looks even prettier coated in ice like that. It's sparkling, see?"

Andaryn refused to dignify that with an answer, and merely gaped in response. This apparently disappointed the half-breed, as she frowned and turned away, looking back down to the unconscious Imperial. She drew back his hood to inspect his face, and Andaryn gasped in surprise.

"He's a human?"

The red-eyed girl glanced back at him briefly. "Yes, that surprised me too. Though, if you spend enough time with them, you learn to deal with their stupidity."

Alara poked the fresh burn wound on Verus's face, and frowned when she got no reaction. "Well, this is boring," she decided.

Apparently having nothing else to say, she picked him up by the arm rather carelessly, and slung the arm over her shoulder. She would have to drag him back to the place they were staying, but this was also a deserted part of the city, so no one would see them. So, she simply started walking away.

Andaryn boggled. She wasn't going to kill him? What was wrong with this girl? As if she could read his thoughts, Alara turned paused and turned slightly to smile at him and wave, before turning a corner around a building that was decidedly different from the odd architecture of Verus's illusions. In fact, had Andaryn been able to turn around, he would have been able to see the tall buildings from deeper in the city that he had been using to navigate. Without the illusion, he would have no trouble finding his way back to the recognizable parts of the city. Unfortunately for him, the ice his arms and feet were encased in was still there, and didn't seem to be melting particularly rapidly.

Humiliation began to burn in his chest even more than it had before, and then and there Andaryn swore he would see both of those scoundrels dead.

A/N: The main purpose of this scene was honestly only to give Alara's personality a bit more time on the screen, so to speak. And, of course, it introduces Andaryn, who may or may not be important later on. On another note, I think I'll put the actual first chapter of the fic up soon, which means this will become a repository for rejected scenes once that happens.