Happy New Years everybody! This is the third installment of Thaumaturge: Ascension! In this chapter, the dragonslayers recruit their newest member, but things take a turn for the worst. I hope you enjoy this chapter. Read on!

Tanz had thought the farther down south they moved, the warmer it would get. He was wrong. Apparently Skyrim's infamous blizzards spread down to its southern border, courtesy of the Jerall mountains. When Tanz had crossed the border, he was farther west than they were now, where all that had greeted him was a chilling wind.

They'd stopped in Ivarstead to rest the previous night, and were ready to set out for their fifth member. Their soon-to-be companion would be Raug Shorz, a stereotypical Orc. He was said to favor body-encompassing armor, and a warhammer. The Orc was last seen heading to Arcwind Point to eliminate a group of bandits. He sounded like a person fit for dragon hunting, certainly much better suited for it than Tanz and Aadia.

Aadia's presence alone unsettled Tanz, and she knew it, which made it all the more irksome. Tanz had to make a conscious effort to avoid looking at her and Ena seemed to dislike the vampire more than Tanz. She constantly gave her threatening looks, which Aadia didn't even care to notice. She now wore black, hooded robes, and had pulled the hood far over her head to shield her face from the sun. Everyone was quiet as they walked, not that they could hear each other if they talked anyway. The blizzard's howling winds prevented that.

They were heading to Arcwind Point, but that meant passing through the blizzard. Tanz held his numb hand close to his chest and produced a flame above his palm. Magic had other uses besides healing and killing. They should've come out of the blizzard already, but they'd been moving slower than previously discussed. Nonetheless, the group marched on through the cold. He followed after Aadia, with Ena lagging behind him. Valund lead them, keeping a vigilant eye out for their destination. Within ten minutes, they finally escaped the whirling white winds.

"That was fun." Ena said wryly. "Which way now?" The Nord unfolded the map he was holding and surveyed the area. After a moment, he pointed off to their right, past a group of thin, snow-covered trees.

"Arcwind Point should be just around there." Valund said, "Let's go." The four trudged on through the snow, past the group of trees. They continued past the trees and came upon a large, circular depression in the ground. It looked man-made, and it was partially filled with dirt. The group payed it no mind, but Valund seemed to tense up for a moment upon seeing it. But Valund lead them on, and after another few minutes they spotted their destination.

Two wide sets of stone staircases led out into a large opening, where a few bloody and beaten bodies lay. The group continued up the steps and stopped to examine the bodies. They were all dead, but their bodies looked... fresh. They'd died very recently. One of the bandit's chests had been hammered and stabbed. Blood seeped from the wounds, turning the white snow to a dark crimson.

"Such a waste..." Aadia said, gazing hungrily at the fresh blood on the ground. Tanz ignored her blood-chilling comment, and turned his attention to the surrounding area. There was an arch off to their right, with another battered body under it. There was a break in the still howling wind, and in the distance, Tanz could hear sounds of fighting. Silently, the four followed the trail of bodies, leading to the arch, a wide but shallow pit with stairs leading down into it. They continued past that spotting two other bodies on the ground.

Past them was a strange stone formation four diagonal slabs of stone rose from the ground and connected with the others. The sounds of battle were closer now, and the group quickened its pace toward it. Past the odd formation, up a gentle slope, and out into another clearing that rose above the other arches and stone structures. It would've been serene, peaceful even, if not for the bloody corpses and still living people fending off the tall Orc, Raug Shorz.

He was set in a combat stance, low to the ground, legs spread. He held a grey hammer with a flat edge and a sharp, pointed edge. A few bandits circled him, waiting for a chance to attack. Several more bodies lay scattered about the area. One of the bandits to Raug's right lunged forward, holding his axe high above his head. Raug swiftly turned, jabbed him in the gut with the end of the hammer, reared back, and swung horizontally into the man's head. The bandit's head snapped to the side and he fell limp, dead before he hit the ground.

Two others made their attempt and were struck down within seconds of each other. How the Orc moved so fast, with a hammer to boot, was impressive. The last bandit, a Breton, turned to run, seeing that the battle was hopeless. The Orc yelled something at him, probably an insult. The bandit ran past the group of four, fear showing in his eyes.

"Death is highly over-rated!" The Breton cried as he ran past them. The Orc lumbered after, but slowed to a stop when the Breton reached the bottom of the hill.

"Damned coward!" Raug swore. He rested his hammer against his shoulder and turned to look at Valund's group. He looked each of them up and down, giving Aadia and Tanz doubtful looks.

"What kinda group of misfits are you?" He grunted, his eyes finally resting on

Valund.

"My name is Valund Steel-Arm. I hear you're for hire?" The Nord replied, dismissing the jab.

"Depends. I'm guessing you don't just want me to slaughter some more bandits?" Raug said. He lifted the hammer off of his shoulder, threw it over his back and into its sheath. He clipped on a strap and the hammer hung from his back, the handle jutting out over his left shoulder.

"No, that's not what I had in mind." Valund said, "I'm on an important mission, one worthy of you're time I assure you." The Orc remained silent, waiting for him to continue. "To put it simply. I'm fighting dragons, and possibly a cult of their worshipers. Sound interesting?" Raug gave him a hard look and smiled mockingly.

"You're a fool." He said, "How do you expect to kill a dragon?"

"Stabbing, slashing, burning, whatever works." Valund retorted. Tanz looked over the Orc will the two talked. His hair was brown, and cropped short and tied into a small pony-tail. He wore a four pieces of thick armor. A metal, likely steel, chest piece with plating on the shoulders. He wore gauntlets and boots that looked to be made of the same alloy. His warhammer may have been steel too, but how would Tanz know? The warhammer had seen a lot of use, the spiked and flat end were both covered in fresh and dried blood.

"You expect me to believe all that?" The Orc accused, bringing Tanz back to the ongoing conversation.

"Yes." Valund answered plainly. Tanz looked over at Ena, who was looking off in the direction the Breton had run, and Aadia was sitting, cross-legged, on the ground by Valund.

"Demonstrate then. Show me the power of 'the voice', Dragonborn." He said. Without a word, Valund turned toward the open space and let out a deafening sound.

"FUS!" Valund's voice echoed. The blast threw snow into the air, creating a clean, narrow path on top of the stone. The words were so otherworldly, and it was almost like it wasn't Valund speaking them. The Orc stood, unfazed. At least on the outside.

"Impressive." He said, his voice now more respectful than before. Raug then nodded at the others.

"I have no doubt that you can hold your own, but can you're friends do the same?" Ena, Aadia, and Tanz turned at their mention.

"As well as you could." The Dragonborn answered earnestly. Raug then turned to Tanz and looked him over with a critical eye. The four watched Raug with curiosity as he looked the Argonian up and down.

"What about the whelp?" The Orc finally said, drawing the mage's attention. "Can he fight?"

"Absolutely." Valund said, trying to sound sure of himself. He had never actually seen Tanz fight anything other than the dragon, and he hadn't actually done much. Raug shook his head and approached Tanz, stopping a few feet in front of him. He was a giant compared to Tanz, at least two heads taller. Tanz wasn't particularly short, but the mammoth in front of him made him feel incredibly small. Closer up, Tanz got a better look at the Orc. He had a small scar on his cheek, and large, fang-like teeth on his lower-jaw. His eyes were a dark grey, judgmental and cold as they scanned the mage.

"I'm afraid I'll need a bit more than your word." Raug said as he sized up Tanz.k

"Then what?" Tanz asked, finally speaking up.

"I want to fight him." The warrior said, turning back to Valund. The Nord crossed his arms, and looked at the Orc blankly.

"Why?" Tanz huffed.

"I want to make sure you can actually fight, so you aren't a liability." Raug answered. "You can tell a lot about a team from their weakest link." Tanz bristled at the insult, and held back a snarl. Raug looked to Valund for an answer. The Nord raised an eyebrow and stared expectantly at Tanz.

"Your choice Tanz." He said. The mage examined the Orc quickly. He was no doubt stronger than him, and one hit of that hammer... Well, he didn't want to think about that. Tanz was probably faster, he didn't have to move around in heavy armor, so he could evade his attacks if he was careful. But, why did he want to fight him?

"Why me?" Tanz asked defensively.

"I don't like mages, they try to use powers greater than any mortal should wield." Raug answered. "And I doubt your very experienced in your own craft." Tanz clenched his fist and gritted his teeth.

"You want to fight? We'll fight then." Tanz hissed. His rage bubbled up inside him, it'd been weeks since it had last shown itself, fueled him. Ever since his encounter with Ancano, he decided to try and control his rage. He always stayed calm, avoiding things that would annoy or anger him. But Tanz had already crossed the point of no return. He was mad, and he was determined to take this Orc down a peg.

"I hope you're ready..." Raug said, pulling his warhammer out of its sling. "Because I won't hold back."

"Don't expect me to either." Tanz huffed. Valund released an exasperated sigh.

"I'll step in before one of you guts the other." He said. Aadia looked up from the snow, and turned her attention to Tanz, along with Ena, who had both been silent throughout the conversation. He could feel their eyes boring into the back of his head. They too wanted to see his level of skill. Good, because Tanz was determined to prove his worth to them.

The two moved out to the center of the plateau, while the remaining three waited a short ways away. The entire plateau was, at the most, two hundred feet wide. It was covered in a few inches of snow, but Tanz had little difficulty moving about. Raug, however, sank deep into the blanket of snow with each step.

The two stopped in the middle of the plateau, a few meters away from each other. Tanz readied himself, preparing long range spells in his hand. A few seconds ticked by before one of them made a move. Raug moved first, surging forward and swing horizontally with his hammer. Tanz brought up a barrier in his left hand, and the head of the hammer crashed into it, causing Tanz to lurch backwards. He regained his footing and charged a lightning bolt in his hand. He brought up his arm and launched the bolt.

Raug jumped to the left and charged forward, hammer raised and ready to strike. He closed in quickly and swung, not at Tanz, but at the ground. The hammer struck the snow and threw it up into the air. It hit Tanz and he shook it off, just in time to see the hammer coming for him. Tanz held open his hand and discharged in the direction of the hammer's maul. The head slowed, but its momentum carried it through. Tanz dropped down, narrowly dodging the attack.

Raug quickly recovered and prepared to bring the hammer down on top of him. He rolled to the side as the maul came down into the snow he had just lain on. Tanz rose to a knee and prepared an ice spell. He sprayed it around the warhammer's head to freeze it in place. Raug yanked, but to no avail. Tanz took his chance and dashed forward. He summoned a sword in his right hand and quickly swung. Raug let go of the shaft and brought his armored forearms up in defense. They struck, delivering a glancing blow to the gauntlets.

Raug swung in a fury, still empty-handed. The mage brought up the sword vertically and pushed the fist away. He then summoned another blade in his left hand as he spun around and slashed with his new sword. It hit home and ricocheted off his armored shoulder. Raug retreated back to his hammer and stomped at the ice around it, breaking it off in small chunks. Within seconds, the hammer was free, and he was charging at Tanz again.

Tanz backed away and shot Raug a daring look. The Orc snarled in response and continued his rush forward, swinging wildly with his hammer. Tanz dodged to the left and raised a barrier, just in time to block the pointed side of his hammer. Raug roared again as he lifted the bludgeon over his head and brought it down on the shield. Tanz quickly discharged and backed away from his foe. Tanz took a few more wary steps back and conjured another sword in his right hand.

Raug swung, to which Tanz evaded, and dashed forward to strike. Raug shoved the blade away with the head of his hammer and then jabbed him in the chest, pushing him back onto a patch of slippery ice. Tanz balanced himself on the ice and slid across until he hit normal glanced over to his right, back at Valund and the others. They were watching intently, like they were watching a match in an arena. Tanz checked behind him, and found himself unnervingly close to the edge of the plateau. He needed to get around Raug and back to the center of the platform or he'd be pushed straight off the cliff.

Sensing this, Raug charged, intent on throwing him over the edge. Tanz strafed to the left, trying to get around his side. The Orc quickly turned to block his way, holding the hammer up in front of his chest. Tanz grasped the shaft and sent a small, non-lethal electric current through it. Raug yelped and stepped backward, giving the Argonian a wide berth to slip past. Tanz circled back around, ready to dodge another swing of the bludgeon. But Raug wasn't focused on Tanz anymore, he was looking up.

"What are you-" Tanz started, but before he could finish, someone grabbed his forearm, and he turned to see Valund. He patted him on the shoulder and shoved past him and towards Raug. Tanz was still staring at Valund when he heard the strange, heavy flapping sound.

"Raug. Down the hill, now." Valund commanded. Raug tore his gaze from the sky and started moving toward the hill. "All the way down to the structures." Valund stepped up behind Tanz and nudged him forward, and again he heard the flapping sound.

"Well? Come on!" He said as he jogged over to the mage. Tanz surveyed the area one last time before he started moving toward the hill. Aadia and Ena were already at the bottom of the hill, and were still running toward the odd structures.

"What is it? What's going-" A blood-curdling roar answered his unasked question. Something passed overhead, casting a large shadow over the three. It roared a second time, and Tanz's heart jumped up into his throat. *A dragon*!

"Move!" Valund roared as he shoved Tanz forward. Another ear-shattering roar, and a loud thud behind them. Tanz glanced back to see the nightmare as they ran down the hill. It had dark brown scales, with bony spines cresting on its back. Two long horns jutted out of its head, right behind its hateful yellow eyes. Its wide mouth opened, and muttered a series of hellish, otherworldly words.

"Joor! Hin tiid loost meyz! Mindok tol hi lost dir naal lovaas do Ahvenrahgol!" It said, its voice was imposing and proud. Valund turned back and unleashed his Thu'um on the beast, briefly startling the monster behind them. It reared back and cocked its head, as if surprised by Valund's shout.

"Eh? Ful hi vis tinvaak un sahkren sujir stig, nuz hi fen maht saluk med praan!" It said in a much more grim voice. Tanz and Raug had reached the bottom of the hill, with Valund lagging slightly behind. Aadia and Ena were hiding in the structures, weapons and spells ready. Seeing the weapons made Tanz think about what he could use against the flying reptile. Fire and ice probably wouldn't work, its scales were too thick, but lightning might affect it.

"Into the structures! Use them as cover!" Valund commanded. Tanz, followed by Raug and Valund, ran into the mixture of stone obelisks. Tanz crouched down behind a set of slanted columns, all of which were worn down. He risked a look around and spotted the dragon sitting at the top of the hill. It reared back and spat a ball of flame at a nearby column, which exploded in a flash of reds and oranges.

"Dahsul hi grind hin oblaan!" The dragon bellowed as it spat another fireball. Tanz quickly scanned the area and spotted Valund and Raug hiding behind a boulder. A few yards away Aadia and Ena were taking cover behind their own single pillars. Ena had drawn her bow and an arrow, and Aadia was preparing a ball of fire in her hand. The dragon need only find which pillar they were hiding behind and finish them off with a fireball, but if it had another target to focus on...

Tanz quickly readied a summoning spell and aimed a few feet away, out in the open. He waited for the energy to build and released. A portal opened, and a feminine body of fire and rock quickly flew out and circled the area around it. Tanz's flame atronach, Fera, hovered in the air, blankly waiting for direction. The dragon turned to face the object, giving Tanz time to shout a command without being noticed. Tanz stepped out and pointed a finger at the dragon.

"Fera! Attack!" Tanz ordered, and the atronach set off toward the dragon, hurling firebolts at a surprising speed. The dragon shrugged off the frivolous attack and reared back, and in a flash, spat a steady stream of fire at Fera, which completely engulfed her. The stream held for a few seconds and subsided, revealing an unharmed Fera. The atronach resumed its attack on the monster, circling it and launching a flurry of firebolts at its impenetrable hide. Tanz turned back to Valund and the others who had been watching stunned silence.

"Go!" Tanz shouted at them. Valund and Ena were the first to snap back into focus, followed by Aadia and Raug. Ena sent a volley of arrows at the dragons face, while Raug and Valund charged forward with astonishing speed, slashing at the dragons wings and neck. Aadia hurled explosive fireballs at the dragon from afar, while Tanz prepared a new spell in his hand, willing it to work.

Tanz heard another stream being released, but he ignored it, no time to worry about the others. He summoned all his energy to his hand, and his skin turned transparent. He let the energy flood back into him, and the rest of his body turned invisible. Wasting no time, Tanz hurried out from behind the pillars and rushed toward the embattled dragon, who was desperately trying to fend of the attackers. Tanz closed in and ran around to its neck.

The mage glanced back to see Raug and Valund still slashing at the dragons throat and wings. Ena was firing arrows at its head to distract it, while Aadia was launching fireballs all around it. Fera was still circling overhead, hurling firebolts at the dragons snout. Tanz waited for the dragon to lower its throat, and climbed up onto its neck. He summoned a sword and slashed at its neck in multiple places, delivering multiple cuts as he moved his way up to its head. The dragon felt his prescence and tried furiously to shake him off. In desperation, Tanz thrust his blade into the dragon's eye, and it let out a pain-stricken cry. Valund and Raug took a step back, confused by the dragon's wound. The dragon increased its bucking and shaking, its movements now driven by pain and fury.

"Nid! Naal Akatosh, Zu'u los qolaas do hin daan!" The dragon roared as it spewed fire from its maw. Tanz desperately held on as his friends resumed their slashing. A fireball landed dangerously close, along with a volley of arrows. If he stayed on the dragon, his friends would end up killing him. He rose slowly, careful not to be thrown off by the dragon's bucking.

"Tanz!?" Someone shouted to his right. Valund stood a few meters away, slashing at the dragon's armored "Get off that thing! It's going to..." The dragon lurched forward as it flapped its wings and began to lift off the ground. Before Tanz could react, the dragon had carried him into the sky. Tanz lowered himself back down and hugged the beast's neck as the wind whipped all around him.

"Hin tiid has meyz Siigonis! Lok los dii deylok!" The dragon roared as it climbed higher into the sky. The dragon twisted and dove back done, tucking in its wings to gain speed. Tanz's hugged the dragons's neck as tight as he could, but he could feel his hands slipping. Another few seconds and he'd be facing a long fall to his death. The dragon unfurled its wings and slowed to a gliding speed. Tanz slid back to the bottom of the dragon's neck as his grip loosened. He looked down and saw his friends watching the dragon from the bluff. They were all waving at him, shouting suggestions and warnings. Tanz glanced backwards and surveyed the beast's wings: Its right had been hit hard, and was shaking slightly. The left was perfectly fine, but maybe Tanz could change that...

The mage opened his left palm and conjured a sword. Tanz hoped the leathery webbing could be cut, and that it would be forced to land. Glancing back, he judged the distance from him to the wing. A meter, two at most. The dragon banked to the right in a continuous circle in an effort to throw him off. Tanz released the summoning and reinforced his grip on the dragon's hide. The wind tugged at his clothes and pulled his hood down, revealing his feathered head.

The dragon continued to climb higher into the sky and dive back down, but Tanz held on out of fear and desperation. The dragon took another dive, and leveled out for a few seconds, giving Tanz an opportunity. The mage took his chance, conjuring a sword in his left hand. He'd have to switch spells quickly if he wanted to bring the beast down.

Focusing on keeping the conjuration up, he tossed the sword toward the wing and grabbed it with a Telekinesis spell. He drove it through the wing, creating a large tear in the webbing. The dragon listed to the left, and slowly began to loose altitude. It flapped its wing frivolously, and let out an antagonized roar. Tanz resummoned his sword and lashed at the beast's neck, aiming for its unarmored sections. The dragon gained speed as it hurled toward the ground, now unable to stay in the air.

The dragon neared closer and closer to the ground every second. The dragon flew over the plateau and down toward one of the worn structures. It couldn't be more than five seconds before it crashed. Tanz braced himself and cast an Oakflesh spell, hopefully it would prevent some of the inevitable damage.

"Divines!" Tanz cried, still hugging the beast's neck as the monster crashed head-first into the stone obelisk, smashing it into chunks. Tanz felt bits of rock hit him all over as they bowled over the structures. Pieces of rock and stone tore at his robes and scales as they demolished the structures and columns. Something smashed his right hand, then something hit his left arm. A large object hit his shoulder and he was immediately flung off of the dragon's neck.

Tanz soared through the air, finally crashing into something hard. His vision blurred as he fell to the ground. Everything hurt, but his left arm had taken the worst of it. It was bent at an awkward angle, and hanging loosely. He tried to move his hand, but the most he could get was a weak twitch from his fingers. The vision blur worsened, and he blacked out.


"Divines! Look at his arm!" A female voice said. Someone came up next to him, snow crunched by his side. He opened his eyes. Still blurry, but he wasn't dead. That was a start. Valund knelt beside him, Ena a few feet away. Aadia and Raug were nowhere to be found.

"Okay," Valund said, examining Tanz's arm. It hurt, but Tanz couldn't part his lips to speak. He let out a weak grunt, and Valund surveyed the rest of the mage's body. He turned back to Tanz and spoke slowly. "Tanz, your arm is dislocated, I'm going to have to put it back in its place." Tanz coughed in response, spitting blood onto the Nord's face and helmet. He ignored it and grasped Tanz's shoulder and bicep as he looked into Tanz's eyes.

"This is going to hurt. Ena, hold him." He said. The Redguard nodded and moved to Tanz's right. She laid her hands on his shoulder and put her weight on him. Valund looked down to his shoulder and swiftly yanked his arm into its socket. Tired as Tanz was, the pain gave him a surge of energy, and Tanz shrieked as he violently shot forward. His friends pushed him back down and held him to the ground. The pain lingered for a minute, but subsided after a moment. Tanz's breathing slowed, and he quieted down for a moment. His vision went dark, and his eyes closed again. Another friendly voice spoke up, one he hadn't heard in weeks. But it was the voice of a friend nonetheless.

"Welcome back, Conduit."


Translations in order of occurrence:

Joor! Hin tiid loost meyz! Mindok tol hi lost dir naal lovaas do Ahvenrahgol!

Mortals! Your time has come! Know that you were felled by the voice of Ahvenrahgol!

Eh? Ful hi vis tinvaak un sahkren sujir stig, nuz hi fen maht saluk med praan!

Eh? So you can speak our words. No matter, you will die like the rest.

Dahsul hi grind hin oblaan!

Today you meet your end!

Nid! Naal Akatosh, Zu'u los qolaas do hin daan!

No! By Akatosh, I am the herald of your doom!

Hin tiid has meyz Siigonis! Lok los dii deylok!

Your time has come Argonian! The sky is my domain!