I arrive at the idyllic coastal hamlet of Koeglin, and immediately feel refreshed by the salt air and pastoral beauty of my surroundings. The flourishing grasslands are kept green and made lush by Stormhaven’s characteristically regular rain-fall. Between its white stoned holdings, trees offer plentiful shelter against the elements. Today however, it is a calm summer sky with but a scattering of cotton clouds drifting freely upon warm morning air. Beyond the harbour the sparkling horizon brims over the glinting sea, whilst silver tipped gulls dive and plunder its rich fishing waters.
I remember an Argonian associate once telling me that if you listen closely enough to the tides of the sea, you can hear the waves telling tale of distant shores and lands beyond reach.
As I reflected upon this I notice for the first time the frenzied movements of armed men upon the docks. Then I spy what looks to be a female soldier held in stocks in the village square, whilst the people meander, downcast and on edge. It appears Koeglin village is not quite the idyllic haven it first appeared to be.
The familiar black and red heavy armour of the Dremora warrior, all draped in flame and spitting lightning bolts, these boys have a flare for the over dramatic. They seem to guard every portal to and from Oblivion. Ever duteous to this ignoble charge, it is their pride that makes them such formidable adversaries; but it can also prove to be their most naked frailty.
Whilst every Dremora I have faced has been routinely well versed in combat, physically larger, and naturally gifted in the manipulation of the elements, I have witnessed those same advantages serve only to bind them in chains made of their own arrogance.
For the eventual fate of those who do not respect the blades of their enemies is to breathe their last behind a death mask of bewilderment.
None but a Reachman would consider conjuring such a repugnant creature as a Banekin. Standing little taller than a Bosmer’s kneecap, alone they are skittish and but an annoyance. If allowed to gather however, then several can quickly become taxing, whilst a small pack will soon overwhelm even the most accomplished warrior.
Their reptilian skin, mottled with boil and carbuncle, is stretched taut over sinew and bone. Two black horns crest their forehead above eyes which luster with bile and spite. Their thin lips smuggle a row of pointed teeth. Small spikes ridge their shoulders, whilst wings, too stunted to be of any service, agitate inexplicably on their backs. Four sharp claws appendage each hand, whilst their feet end in fixed pincer.
Even when found alone the cur constantly prate and jabber, fidget and joggle. Of doubtful intellect, yet still capable when so inclined of throwing out lightening and shock spells at startling pace.
Growing up in Cyrodiil, one of the countless scary stories told around camp-fires was of how the Witchmen of High Rock would descend from the Reach at night and steal away infants from their cots, leaving Banekin in their place.
When the dark anchors began to fall, we found we no longer needed such stories to frighten our children.
A caravan travelling to Wayrest is attacked on the border in the night. A captain of the Lions guard abducted. Reports of Bretons fighting side by side with Daedra. Storm mages and horn-helmed thugs armed with huge maces. Welcome to the province of Stormhaven… at least its sunny out.
In troubled times, seldom do we get to choose our confederates. We make our stand with those who find themselves, by desiderata of fate and circumstance, as reluctantly allied to us as we are to them.
One needs only look towards the red and black banners of the Ebonheart Pact. Hundreds of years of conflict and subjugation put aside to ensure their conjoint survival against the mighty invasions of the Akaviri. It is an aberrant alliance, and like pallid dye treating swarthy leather, it cannot hope to conceal a thousand years of hostility and mistrust … yet that very same concord of necessity endures to this day.
Whilst I find the sharp-tongued cynicism of Tharn vexatious, at least he wears his motivations like a jerkin. Lyris and the old man on the other hand treat with me only in veils and half-truths. I care little for their reasons, yet I suspect their crusade to save Nirn is more an attempt to wipe away the biting stigma of past actions from their conscience.
Why matters not to me, just so long as our destination remains the same.