Pathfinder a Zealous Heart

Mirror Games

Arn reached out and touched the mirror. It was not solid, and gave way to his hand.
A door disguised as a mirror, he thought. Figures.
As their prey already had a sizeable head start on them, Arn did not wait around to talk it over with his companions, but stepped through the mirror without a second thought.
As soon as he passed through, he realised that the mirror was more than just a concealed door. The mirrages were still there, although they now looked quite different from their real counterparts – they were shrouded in shadow.
They were also not mere images, Arn realised as they suddenly stopped mirroring the actions of their counterparts, and turned to face Arn.
Without a word, they attacked him.


Arn ducked under another sword swing. He spun as he rose back up, reaching over his shoulder with his gladius to block the next attack, and simultaneously thrust his longsword into the throat of the paralysed form of shadow-skorva. The shadow twitched for a moment, and crumbled.
Despite being in mortal danger, Arn found himself enjoying the battle immensely. Over their time spent together, Arn had built up no small amount of resentment towards each of them – most of it over minor annoyances, but also things like being all but forced to aid the weakling Empire, and to give up the Mace of Molag Bal.
Despite his grudges and frustrations though, these people were the closest Arn had ever had to friends, which was why he did abide by their judgements in spite of his growing inner rage.
This fight was therefore the perfect solution. The beings he killed were not his friends: They were similar enough to them that attacking them felt like attacking the real deal, and yet they were different enough that Arn did not feel bad about it.


One by one the shadows fell, until only one remained standing – as luck would have it, it was the one he hated the most. This bastard had had it out for him from day one, undermining him, mocking him. Sometimes it even felt like he was actively trying to get Arn killed.
By Talos, I love therapy. I’m going to enjoy this far more than I should, you wretched son of a Khajiit Arn thought to himself, as he turned to face the shadow clone of himself.

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Dragons

Arn was pissed. He didn’t expect his companions to actually teleport away, and the dragon was turning out to be a bit more than he could handle on his own. He hated running, but the alternative seemed to be being burnt to cinders on the mountainside.
The dragon struck again, it’s scaled tail slamming into Arn and ripping up some new wounds on his arms. That settled that – time to retreat.

He was nearing shelter – a cave of some sort – just as he could hear the beast behind him preparing for another fire attack.

“OhNonononononoFuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-”

Arn threw himself into the cave, only to find that instead of a horisontal surface, there was a downwards slope.
He kept swearing all the way down.


“-uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!”

Eventually, Arn’s tumbling came to a halt, as the ground gave way to water. The cold water cleared his mind and brought him out of his rage, and he began to feel the full extent of his wounds. The dragon had hurt him more than he had realised at the time,
he was badly burnt and bleeding heavily. And stuck in a cave with no light and no help – his companions probably assumed he was either dead or fine, and even if they did go looking for him they likely wouldn’t find him. Unless Herrax could skry. Could Herrax scry? Arn did not know.
Well, regardless, sitting around in a cold lake would not benefit him in any way.
Slowly, carefully, Arn began to explore the darkness.

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Time to seize opportunity

The mountains hold may terrible challenges, after all, if the creatures didn’t get them, then the weather might, even I may need a cloak of some kind up there, Eric thought to himself. This mountain, the tallest in all of turmoil, would be no different and soon, they would be heading up that perilous mountain towards the Greybeards hold, along the way there would be trolls, goblins, and perhaps even a Giant. Eric remembered the stories his father had told him of the giants. “Fee, Fie, Foo, Fumb, ask not whence the thunder comes” he muttered to himself. So far, they had managed to preserve the past, or had they, perhaps the old man Herax had saved was not meant to live, but it was too late to consider that now, there were dark days ahead and dark deeds to do. The truth is that ever since Eric had had the chance to steal that scroll from the College of Winterhold, he had contained a plan within himself. He had realised in that incident that before him was a unique opportunity, a chance which he would never get again, but his window was closing quickly, that night, in Ivarstead, he would have to act. He would not get a better opportunity.

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On the Battlefield

The elves fell in droves before Arn and his companions. Still they kept attacking – they had courage, he had to admit.
And they had numbers to spare. Without Arn and his companions, the village would have fallen for certain. For the dozenth time, Arn wondered if they fought for the right side. All empires must eventually fall, and this one had been staggering for some time, stretching itself thin as it went.
Not to mention, this was the regime that had condemned Arn in a horseshit farce of a trial, sentenced him to death, let him escape, and promptly pardoned him when he returned with a chained-up thief and some papers.
Theywere weak and indecisive.

He would dance to their tune for now, Arn had decided, because those he travelled with fiercely believed that the empire was worth fighting for, and Arn considered them friends – he had no wish to see them dead.
But even with their help, the Empire would not survive for long, he was sure of it. He just hoped he would live long enough to watch its final breath.

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Time to Tend the Wounds

Eric surveyed the carnage that was the battlefield. Blood ran through what remained of the streets, whilst the bodies clogged the gutters, and on all sides the dead and the dying lay pilled upon each other in a great cacophony of suffering and anguish which surely must have reached to the heavens and beyond. That was not the worst of it however. You could be trained to bear the sights, the sounds and even the feel of battle and death around you, but what could never be prepared for, was the smell. The scent of flesh, both rotting and fresh, mixed with faecal matter and fear drifted on the wind, attracting the cries of the Carron birds overhead, as if calling the souls of the dead on to the next world, where ever it may be.

Eric moved amongst those who still lived, healing what he could and ending what he could not. It was an arduous and difficult task, everywhere he turned he could hear more cries for help, but this grisly deed needed to be done. He would occasionally catch sight of Vendaal passing amongst the injured, but this was no place to discuss anything. Eric soon ran out of magic and resorted to what little he knew of surgery. He fell into a kind of macabre rhythm. Check the wounds, fix what can be fixed, will they live? If not, end their pain and move on. By the time he was done, the sun had begun to set and there was more gore on his sword from the after-math of the battle than from the actual battle itself.

The weight of his armour was really beginning to weigh upon Eric and his priests robes were now caked with blood and gore; he needed a rest, a wash and some new clothes. He headed over the church for just that. There were quite a few people there, those who had taken refuge, the injured and those simple here for a bit of an old pray. Moving through them, Eric found the font and washed the blood for his hands and face in it. Probably blasphemy, but after what he had been through, he didn’t care much. Pausing for the briefest moment to mutter a prayer to Akotosh (or possibly an insult. He still wasn’t sure what to think of the God who took his sight and gave him magic) he headed up the steeple for some peace and quiet. It was quite the climb, what with the tower being so tall and all, but he made it up there without too much trouble. He sat down upon the wooden floor, placed his back against one of the arches and look out over the town, or at least, what little of the town he could see, which, given the height of the tower, was very little indeed. The chill in the air sent a shiver through his spine as he discarded his bloody robes and removed his stolen helmet, the one he had claimed from the general. It was a very ostentatious helmet, what with the big frill, but remove that, and you might have something workable.

He had also come across the body, still in armour earlier in the day and made a note of where it was. Arn or Skor’va could probably make better use of the armour than he could. The same could be said for the two swords he had taken in fact, fine as they were, he more relied upon spells and manipulating time in a hostile situation as opposed to actually stabbing someone. In all actuality, it made more sense to give them the swords and keep the armour for him, as he was often in the thick of combat, but was quite easy to hit. He would go and pick it up later along with a new set of robes. For the time being though, he sat and looked out of the bell tower and murmured an old battle tune he’d learned in the army.

“We drink to our youth, to days come and gone. For the age of aggression is just about done”

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Time for a drink

Eric sat in the King and queen tavern, nursing a warm stale pint of mead, thinking about the day’s events. Seeing the Jarl had shaken him greatly. The Jarl had been so callous about Eric’s involvement in the war, referring to his “injury” with such a tone of scorn. Bastard. Maybe there was no need to get Skyrim’s help. Maybe they could manage in the war without them; maybe there was no need to go back to Skyrim. Though that wasn’t an option really. He knew the others would want to head north, almost solely to learn of his past. Nosey twats.

A nord pulled out the chair next to Eric and sat down.
“Hey pal. It’s not often ya see another nord in here. What brings you to these parts?”

“Business” replied Eric glumly

“Oh, well, cheer up, Life’s not so bad. So, you been here long then?”

“About a year now”

“Leave because of the war?”

“Yea. I guess you could say that”

“Injured, fleeing or just looking for a change”

“You know, you ask a lot of questions for a stranger in a bar”

“Ah injury then” smirked the strange Nord. “So you fought in the war then. I won’t bother asking side. Doesn’t really matter to be honest”

Eric looked up. “How do you mean?”

“Well everybody was out to defend something in that war weren’t they. The imperial powers wanted to protect their economy and great historic empire, whilst the storm cloaks were protecting their gods and land from oppression. It’s like that old poem ya see. Then out spoke brave Horatius, the captain of the gate: to every man upon this earth death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods. Doesn’t matter which side you where on in that war. You were fighting to protect not to destroy.”

Eric down the last of his mead. “Yea, ya see, that’s just the problem” He turned and walked out of the bar.

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Time to Act

There was no really a question as to what action needed to be taken. The thieves guild needed to be stopped and stopped now. It didn’t matter how many of them were killed, it didn’t matter how many of them managed to get away, so long as this leader and his main body of men ceased to be. The Thalmor were utterly evil and not to be trusted, and, granted, the empire had not exactly trusted them well recently, but they were still the lesser of two evils. Besides, there was no way they could side with the Thalmor in this regard. after all, Eric had been to war against their puppets, the storm cloaks, Venndaal’s people had been butchered by them, and skor’va, well Eric wasn’t sure about him, but he didn’t seem to like them either. So, this was now were they found themselves, about to begin a conflict which would decide the fate of a nation. This should be fun.

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Outlaws

Backstabing cretinous sons of Khajit! It was this kind of plots and schemes that Arn had left Hammerfell to avoid. Seems there are scum in every nation.

The kind of people that would be part of a Thieves’ Guild, those were the kind that he really loathed. The ones who lied and manipulated.
Many feared Arn, shunned him, or saw him as a monster, but at least he was honest. He didn’t lie, did not conceal his intentions, did not attemt to hide who he is.
Given the choice, most people worth a damned would prefer a sword to the chest over a knife to the back any day.

That was why Arn did not feel the slightest guilt about the bloodbath that was about to occur in the Thieves’ Guild.

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Exiting the temple

The walk out of the temple was tense. Not a word was exchanged between the party as they traversed the invisible bridge and walked past the fallen corpses of the guardian statues. The silence stood in stark contrast to the shouting match over the mace. One particular image from that conflict stood out in Vendaal’s mind – when he had trained his bow on Arn’s head, steadied his breathing and lined up the perfect shot. If he had let go, he could have killed Arn. Vendaal turned the image around in his head a hundred times, thinking about the ways he could have missed, trying to convince himself that he never had any intention of really killing him. But no, he wasn’t able to shake the image of that perfect shot from his head.

This was in itself another contrast. Before the conflict, he had felt truly bonded with the group, the same kind of bond shared between members of a Bosmer hunting party. They were true kin to Vendaal, or near enough as makes no difference. But in that moment of conflict, the tensed string, the quivering arrow, the slow breaths, Arn became another target in Vendaal’s mind for a second. Just a second, but that second echoed through his thoughts as the team walked out of the temple in stony cold silence.

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Time to Contemplate

Eric regretted what he had done to Arn. It had needed to be done and if the need arose he would do it again, but still he regretted it. Using his magic upon one of his friends in this manner was something that he had never thought he would do. In fact it was something which he had never wanted to do. he trusted Arn to do the right thing, he really did, but the problem was that he didn’t trust Molag Bal to let him do the right thing, and so Eric and frozen him, pulled that accursed mace from his hand and cast it down into the cavernous pits on the mountainside. He would do it again if necessary, but he would hate every moment of it.

On the way back to anvil he didn’t talk much. He was going over, in his own head, what had happened in that mountain stronghold. How so many people could be so easily turned to the whims of a Deadra and not even know it? That was what kept bringing his thoughts back there. Ever since he had held that foul mace, he could see more. Maybe even double of what he had been able to see before. What had happened? Had Molag Bal pushed back the influence of the 9 on him, loosened their grasp enough to expand his sight. But if that were the case, why were his powers still growing. Why was he having nightmares again?

He saw things now. Saw things no living man could, or should know. He saw the first men set foot upon the shores of Skyrim, and the last of them fleeing its destruction pass by in one moment. A thousand upon thousand years of history passed through his mind at night, but with no discernible order or pattern and with little to no context or insight proved. He was able to call up long lost pieces of knowledge but just as quickly, they would fold and fall away from his mind, but one thought, one piece of insight, more than any other, plagued his nights. He saw himself, plummeting towards the ground, from some vast cliff, or tower, or edifice of stone. Headlong he plunged, down towards the earth, the sound of his own heart beat drowning out the noise of the rushing wind. He held something tightly, clutched close to him as he fell, fell towards his death. This however was not the worst of it. The worst of it, the thing that awoke him every night on the long road back to Anvil, drenched in cold sweat, was he expression on his own face in this vision. Content. Eric woke in terror every night on the road to Anvil, knowing he would go to his end, willingly.

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