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If there was one thing I could say about Solitude, it was that the city was loud. Not particularly surprising since the city was easily one of the largest I had ever had the pleasure of walking through.

 

And for once I was not being sarcastic about it being a pleasure. The streets were well cobbled and the houses and buildings shared a very appealing aesthetic. Everything looked well built and solid, and don’t get me started about the Blue Palace in the distance. Even the small bit I could see from afar was beautiful.

 

I might have to come back for a bit of tourism in the future.

 

A new customer walked into the inn I was staying at -the Winking Skeever of all names- and I immediately turned to see who it was. At the sight of a dark haired man, I cursed and returned to my meal. I had found myself inspecting every new person who walked past me ever since I had arrived in the city. Even though there was practically no chance a Thalmor Justicar would walk into this kind of inn, I still found myself looking at every new arrival.

 

It was also the reason despite how beautiful the city was, I couldn’t bring myself to relax here. There were just so many people I could wind up walking right past her in the street and never notice. It was moments like this that made me wish I was better at divination.

 

I sighed.

 

I really hoped the Temple of the Divines gave me a decent direction to start looking because otherwise I might need to start being less discreet in my hunt.

 

“Well that just won’t do. What troubles could cause a fair creature such as yourself such distress?” I turned to see the man that just walked in standing besides me. “I would gladly offer my aid if it is something within my means.”

 

“I...I’m sorry?” I was frankly stunned. I knew there was a bard’s college somewhere in the city, but people didn’t really talk like that did they?

 

“Ah, forgive me. I haven’t introduced myself.” The man apologised. “I am none other than Eirkur, Thane of Solitude, defender of the people of Skyrim, and, Mara willing, hopeful to the beautiful hand of the lovely Jordis Sword-Maiden.”

 

… Divines, he actually talked like that.

 

“... Thalin Fernbrook… it’s a… pleasure.”

 

The man, Erikur I suppose, nods enthusiastically. “Indeed we are well met. But you seem troubled. Is there something amiss that an extra hand could solve? Or perhaps just a friendly ear?”

 

I took a moment to glance at the bar keeper, trying to determine if this kind of thing was normal or if I had unintentionally drank a large amount of skooma without realising. The man behind the bar gave me a sympathetic smile and returned to cleaning a mug. Clearly this either happens enough that this isn’t a rare occurrence or I really have lost it.

 

“No, nothing is wrong. I’m just looking for someone I heard was headed for the city. There isn’t really anything you could do.” I tried deflecting.

 

Unfortunately the man seemed determined to get involved. “Nonsense! Who is this person? While I cannot claim to know all who walk Solitude’s streets, there is a chance I might know where to find the one you seek.”

 

I almost dismissed him out of habit. Most of the time when people in taverns offered to assist me out of nowhere it was because they were looking to score some easy gold by giving vague information or for someone to take to bed. But if Erikur was a thane… he might actually interact with the Thalmor if they passed through the city and I lost nothing if he was willing to do it for free.

 

“Well if you don’t mind helping out, I’m looking for a Thalmor Justicar by the name of Silline Aedifeth. I heard from some Vigilants on the road here that she had talked to someone at the Temple of the Divines at one point. Does that sound familiar at all?”

 

Erikur hums in thought. “That name sounds familiar actually… I think there was a Justicar with that name that stopped by recently to talk with Jarl Elisif.”

 

I immediately perked up. “Really?! Do you know if she is still here, or where to find her, or even what they met about?”

 

Erikur raised his hands, “I wish I could say for certain, but I was not involved with that meeting so I do not know what they discussed, only that she was there.”

 

So she might have been to the palace and talked to the Jarl. It wasn’t much but at least I might have another lead if I could convince someone at the palace to tell me why a Justicar was there. While more difficult than finding an informant off the street, there were plenty of people in Skyrim that would happily sell out the secrets of a Thalmor agent for a free drink. I was sure there was some servant in the palace that was resentful of the Thalmor. They weren’t known for their manners afterall.

 

I would just need to find them and give them a bit of motivation to tell me what I needed to know.

 

“I would be happy to assist you in finding your friend if you need it.” Erikur said, breaking my musing.

 

“Oh, no.” I shook my head. “I appreciate the offer but like I said, there is a chance I’ll find her at the Temple. I wouldn’t want to waste your time.”

 

“Waste my time? Preposterous!” Erikur declared. “It is never a waste of a Thane’s time to assist the people of Skyrim. And should you need my assistance in the future please do not hesitate to seek me out.”

 

Satisfied with our conversation, Erikur walked off. I sent another glance to the bar keeper just to make sure that really just did happen.

 

“Don’t think too much of it, lass.” the man said. “Erikur is a good sort. A little caught up in how a Thane should act, but a good sort.”

 

“You mean he is like that all the time?” I asked, incredulous.

 

The bar keeper laughed. “You can blame Jordis for that. Erikur has carried a flame for her for years. Ever since he was a boy really. Rumor is, she told him she would only marry a great hero who could best her in combat. So he has spent years molding himself into the perfect example of a Thane just to catch her attention.”

 

That was… kinda sweet actually.

 

I don’t imagine many people would put so much effort into pursuing a girl. Especially since I was sure that many women with less strict requirements would probably be throwing themselves at an eligible Thane.

 

Craziness over for the moment, I finished up my meal and prepared to find the Temple.

 

-o-

 

When I walked into the spacious stone building, my first thought was that it was remarkably empty for a center of worship for eight of the Divines. My second thought was I probably should’ve changed into something other than the leather armour I was wearing. A thought clearly shared by the priestess who was walking towards me judging by the slight frown on her face.

 

“Blessing of the Divines to you, traveller. Is there something our temple can assist you with?” I winced slightly at the suspicious tone. I had grown used to being armed nearly at all times. Obviously, the priestess disagreed with my policy.

 

“I have a letter for you from some Vigilants of Stendarr I met on the road.” I said in greeting. “Or at least they directed me to the temple.”

 

The priestess brightened considerably once she heard I had an actual reason to seek out the temple even armed as I was. “Oh, I see! And it says here you assisted in freeing a pair of vampire thralls as well. Mara and Stendarr must be pleased.” I received a total of fifteen septims for my assistance. Not exactly significant but also not my main concern.

 

“Thank you,” I said, pocketing the coins. “I also was hoping you could direct me to the Justicar they mentioned. One Justicar Aedifeth? I’ve been looking for her for a while.”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry but you just missed her. She was by a few days ago and said she would be investigating the countryside for more signs of Talos worship.”

 

Of course I just missed her. That had been the running theme of my search lately. I get a solid lead where she went just to find out she left just as I arrived. There was something that bothered me though.

 

“You seem surprisingly accepting of that for a Nord.” I commented. “I thought that even the Nords serving in the Legion were a little bitter about the ban on Talos worship. It's interesting to see a priestess so uncaring about it.”

 

“Talos was a great man, and a great Emperor... but that does not make him a god, no matter how much the Stormcloaks may wish it were so.” She responded. “And while I serve all the Divines here, I cannot show favor to any single one. The gods will reveal their will in time, and if Talos is to be added to their number it will be at a sign from them. Not by the wants of men.”

 

I felt like I poked a sore spot and quickly excused myself.

 

-o-

 

I always felt a bit adrift after a lead turned into a dead end. More often than not I simply wandered until I found a clue to continue my pursuit. But this time I was more lost than normal. Afterall I had found my target, it was simply that she was wandering the area randomly at the moment. A part of me wanted to immediately head out in pursuit, but since I doubt anyone other than the Thalmor themselves could tell me where she might be headed that would be a waste of time.

 

Honestly, my best bet would be to just remain in the city. At some point the patrol would end and would likely return to Solitude. The question is how long would that take? Patrols could be sent all over Skyrim and they didn’t exactly have a strict schedule they adhered to. The only thing I knew for certain was she wasn’t headed to the far east of Skyrim. Thalmor patrols tended to be small and an easy target for Stormcloak ambushes. And Silline was far too much of a coward to risk herself against a superior foe.

 

I ended up back at the Winking Skeever without any conscious thought. It just seemed like the thing to do. So I simply ordered an ale, found a corner and lost myself in my thoughts.

 

The door to the inn opened and it was simply habit that made me check to see who entered.

 

Erikur looked over the room before sighting me and visibly brightening. He quickly made his way over to my table and took a seat.

 

“I’m glad I was able to find you again so soon.” he said cheerfully. “I completed the task you requested.”

 

I only blinked at him in return.

 

“I’m sorry, was there something I could help you with?”

 

The confused look I got in return left me even more baffled.

 

“Were you not the one searching for Justicar Aedifeth? I apologise, you looked familiar so I thought…”

 

“What? No… I am, but I don’t remember asking you to do anything.”

 

Another person stepped up behind Erikur. “Is this the person you were looking for, Thane?”

 

The new arrival was a beautiful blond woman in steel plate armor. The way she held herself told me she was not the type of person that simply dressed up for appearances sake. The easy movements and the way she was evaluating me at a glance told me she was a warrior that spent a considerable amount of effort training herself to the best of her ability and not someone who considered training as part of a job. Unless I missed my guess, this was Jordis the Sword-Maiden.

 

“Hm? Ah, yes. This is the one who alerted me to the plight the people of Skyrim face.” Erikur proclaimed, and quickly introduced the two of us before he turned back to me. “In my desire to aid you in your search for your friend I went to the Blue Palace to see if I could find news of her whereabouts. It was then that I was told of the Justicar’s tale of necromancers hiding within our fair hold. I approached the Jarl hoping to discover more and was tasked with following after their departed patrol, as they gave word of another potential nest of foul necromancers.”

 

“But you know where they are going.” I leaned forward eagerly. “And I assume you want something for this information?”

 

“We want you to help us clear out the necromancers.” Jordis said bluntly. “Erikur thought you could handle yourself.”

 

“And you?”

 

She shrugged. “Either you can, or you can’t.”

 

She was a friendly one.

 

I mulled over my options. I could still stay in the city, I had no obligation to them after all, but that meant staying in one place doing nothing for gods know how long. Alternatively, I could go with these two and potentially catch up with the Thalmor and the worst case was I kill a bunch of necromancers.

 

Well that wasn’t a hard choice. I was always bad at doing nothing.

 

I stood and placed my hands on the table. “I’ll help. Let me get my travel pack and I will be ready anytime.”

 

Jordis just nodded while Erikur gave me a bright smile. “Thank you for your aid. We will ensure you meet your friend and the necromancers trouble our people no more!” he said.

 

“Meet us by the gates in an hour.” was Jordis’ contribution.

 

-o-

 

We left the city as soon as everyone arrived at the gates. While I had been hopeful the Jarl would have allowed us horses if we were supposed to be chasing after the Thalmor patrol, it was pointed out by my companions that horses were in short supply due to the war. Unless we could pay for them ourselves horses tended to be reserved for the legion and local guards.

 

Not a great loss. Both Erikur and Jordis proved to be perfectly fine with a hard march towards our destination. The pace we set was aggressive enough that we would likely overtake anyone on our path in a few days.

 

When we stopped to make camp for the night we had covered the same distance as a more leisurely pace had departed from Solitude at the break of dawn. As we gathered around the fire for our evening meal, Erikur broke the comfortable silence that had fallen over us as the meal cooked.

 

“Now that we have the time for it, I would like to get to know you better, Lady Fernbrook. We will soon find ourselves pitted in combat. I would like to know the one I fight beside.”

 

“I wouldn’t mind a brief introduction.” I eyed the two of them. “If you don’t mind we could trade a question for a question and anything we don’t wish to discuss traded for a different one.”

 

“Agreed,” Erikur replied, Jordis simply nodded.

 

“To start off, why don’t you both tell me how you fight. I imagine it would be best to know how we need to cooperate in a fight.”

 

Erikur nodded, “Indeed. I for one favor a great axe.” He said, patting the weapon in question. “Point me at an enemy and I will see the split like firewood!”

 

“I favor a sword and shield.” Jordis commented, pulling a few inches of her blade free of its scabbard. To my surprise Jordis had a Stalhrim blade rather than the simple steel I had expected, the pale ice-like metal glinting sharply in the firelight. “I am capable of acting as a vanguard, but I prefer to fight side-by-side to ensure my allies do not get surrounded.”

 

I couldn’t help but smile, thinking how perfectly matched they were. One was perfectly happy to charge into battle and hack down anything in front of him, while the other preferred to forego the ‘glory’ of single combat to ensure her companions lived through the fight.

 

Considering what the innkeeper said I wonder if that was intentional?

 

“Oh? And what made you decide to fight like that?” I asked ‘innocently’.

 

Jordis glared mildly at me. “I believe you need to answer the question first.”

 

A bit defensive of her fighting style around a certain male thane, perhaps? Maybe Erikur wasn’t the only one with an interest in a potential partner.

 

“I’ll admit my own fighting style changes depending on where I’m fighting. In the open plains or the forests, I prefer the use of a bow most of the time. Indoors, I tend to favor a longsword and a variety of spells.”

 

Erikur looked impressed by the range of options available to me. Jordis frowned, “Trying to learn many styles means you never master even one.” Sounds like someone tried to do similar and was guided away from it.

 

“Very true,” I allowed. “But remember mer can live much longer than humans. I’ve had the time to train that way.”

 

“Oh? Does that mean you are older than you look?” Erikur asked. “I wouldn’t have thought you past twenty winters. Does that mean you are in your forties then?”

 

Flatterer.

 

“If I were an Altmer I’d probably boast about my age and wisdom that stems from it, but I’m not so I will simply say I’m older than you think.” I said with a smile. “Now while I don’t mind some personal questions, I do want to know more about our destination. What can you tell me about it?”

 

Erikur sighed. “Very well, we can continue getting to know eachother soon enough. As for our destination, the whole thing started with strange reports coming from Wolfskull Cave…”

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Azureblade

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