User:Daric Gaersmith/TES Fan Fiction Collection/Gaersmith Legacy/Volume I/Chapter 1
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he torch flickered a little as the young boy lowered it to get a better view of the dusty ground in the tunnel. Perhaps his tracking skills would be keen enough by now to follow the footprints of his childhood friends back to the entrance. Waving the torch around though, it was clear that the small impressions in the dirt were already obscured by his own panicked trudging over and over them. Daric knew he was going to be in so much trouble when he finally found his way out of the tunnels under Bruma. For a start, he wasn’t supposed to be there; none of the children were. For another thing, it was well past dinner time, and he could already imagine the scolding his mother would give him for being late. I’ll probably end up with extra chores tomorrow, maybe even some of Sabine’s cleaning, he thought.
So, tracking wouldn’t help him, and he’d tried retracing his steps, but he seemed to keep going around in circles. If only he had stayed with the older boys, rather than running off to find “treasure” in the tunnels. He had been down in the tunnels many times before, and had been confident that he could find his way out on his own. Mostly the children of Bruma went down to play-fight in the tunnels, some pretending to be Imperial soldiers, and the rest were the hordes of Oblivion, sent by Mehrunes Dagon. Sometimes it was possible to find odd items, trinkets that had been left behind from when the tunnels were in use. Tunnels like these had been hurriedly dug under most of the major towns of Cyrodiil during the Oblivion Crisis, as a place to hide the women and children. All these years later, the tunnels had been sealed up and were disused, except when some young scalawags found their way in to them.
A scuttling sound drew Daric’s attention to his left, down a branch of the tunnels he hadn’t noticed before. He drew his toy wooden sword and brandished it fiercely, holding the sizzling flame torch higher to peer down the murky maw of the tunnel. He expected one of his young friends to rush at him, and it would be all on for a while until one of them surrendered, then they could walk out of the tunnels together, and he’d soon be facing the wrath of his mother.
Daric strode defiantly down the path. “Corvus, is that you?” he called out into the darkness, waving his sword back and forth as he advanced. “I need to get home quick smart, so come out and show me the way out of here Corvus, if you’re there.”
The scuttling sound grew louder, like a rattling of old bones, and it seemed to be coming from just around the corner. The brave young 4 year old Breton boy sallied forth, undaunted. He had heard stories of the Daedroth and Clannfear that Dagon had unleashed during the Oblivion Crisis, but he hadn’t even been born when they were all wiped out. In his youthful exuberance, he was completely devoid of fear. Other than fear of his mother’s anger, that is.
None of his grandfather’s tales about the Oblivion Crisis could have prepared him for the visage that loomed into view from around the corner though. The lizard-like features took up the whole height and width of the tunnel in front of him. The glimmer from his torch made the shadows dance across the bony face, towering high above him, and added to the terrifying appearance of the monster. He could see right through the bare bones, as far as the torch light would penetrate. As it began to move toward him, it extended long, thin, bony appendages, and a low growl emanated from between its rows of viciously sharp teeth.
“What in Oblivion’s name is wrong now?” mumbled one of the Imperial soldiers who were sleeping in the living room.
Other soldiers began to stir from their slumber. “Shut that kid up, will you? We’re trying to sleep here!”
Daric sat bolt upright in his makeshift bed on the floor in the living room. It took him a while to orient himself in the dark, as he still wasn’t used to not sleeping in his own bedroom. The gruff Imperial soldiers were sprawled throughout their family home, taking turns to sleep while others kept a vigil outside, ever watchful for any sign of the Thalmor invaders. The memory of the dream was still strong in his mind, and he was shivering and whimpering, not sure whether he was more afraid of the vision of Sheor seared into the back of his eyeballs, or of the unpleasant Imperial soldiers surrounding him in the real world.
“Leave the boy alone, go back to sleep, he was only having a bad dream”, croaked the familiar, soothing voice of his grandfather. Andoryan shuffled over to where Daric sat, tripping over one of the soldier’s kit bags on the way. There was a clatter as some indeterminable metal object fell out of the bag. “Sorry”, Andoryan whispered harshly towards the nearest soldier. The old man lowered himself back down to the floor beside Daric and put his arm around the boy’s shoulder. “Was it the ‘bad man’ again, son?” he whispered calmingly in Daric’s ear.
“Yes Grandpa”, the young boy whispered back, fighting back the tears.
“It’s okay lad, he can’t get you here, not with all these guards around”, the old man said softly, rubbing the boy’s shoulder. “And anyway, Saarthal is a long way from here, all the way over the mountains and clear up to the top of Skyrim. Go back to sleep. I’ll stay here beside you.”
“Thanks Grandpa”, Daric replied, rubbing his eyes.
Poor little blighter, Andoryan thought to himself. He’s been having nightmares ever since he overhead the soldiers talking about the legends of Sheor. He’s got more to worry about in real life than a mythical monster in a far-off land. The Thalmor scum have sacked the Imperial City and could be bashing down our front door at any minute.
Travendon Hall, the home of the Gaersmith family, is located slightly south of Bruma, close to a Shrine of Akatosh. The only thing standing between them and the might of the Aldmeri army in the Imperial City is Bleakers Way, a small settlement that is holding the line against the Thalmor, for now. Emperor Titus Mede II has fled the Imperial City with the bulk of his army, and headed north towards Skyrim to regroup. Tension is high, as pockets of Imperial resistance rely on the locals for provisions as much as the locals depend on the soldiers for protection. Many outlying homesteads have taken in billets, overcrowding humble homes in the hope that these fighting men will personally defend their homes and families from the invaders. Stores of grain, preserves, and dried meats that were to last from Frost Fall to First Seed are being offered as enticement to hungry soldiers. Rather than feeding the enemy, the inhabitants by and large have been squandering their provisions on their Imperial protectors, to the point of almost being unable to feed themselves or their families.
Daric lay back down in his little makeshift bed on the floor. His grandfather pulled the blanket up snuggly, and stroked the boy gently on the forehead. “It’ll all be alright, my boy, we’ll get through this”, he mouthed silently, as much to reassure himself as anyone. He’d been through worse in the past. The family homestead in Winterhold, Gaercroft Manor, had been completely destroyed in the Great Collapse of the 122nd year of the Fourth Era. Andoryan was the only Gaersmith to survive that tragedy. And yet here he was, with his grandson asleep beside him in their new family homestead, which he had built himself. Akatosh! Don’t let it happen again.
y the time the first rays of sunlight had pushed their way through the trees around Travendon Hall, Andoryan was already up and about. His daughter-in-law, Evelyssa, was already preparing breakfast for the many extra hungry mouths that now populated her home. “The boy had a nightmare again, Eve”, Andoryan said as he warmed his frail hands by the kitchen hearth. “I’ll take him to see his father today, if that’s alright with you?”
“Good, I need some more honey. They may still have some in Bruma. See if you can find some for us, Pop. And take some of the soldiers with you, won’t you? The Silver Road is just as perilous as the Red Ring Road these days.”
“I’m too old for this”, Andoryan muttered under his breath as he gave one of the bubbling pots a stir. Ever since the Thalmor invasion, Andoryan had been dragged out of his peaceful retirement and back into helping his son Rerlas at the blacksmith’s forge in Bruma. With all the additional Imperial soldiers making demands of their time, it was too much for Rerlas to handle alone. At least we don’t have to worry about gathering raw materials for a while though, he thought. The soldiers are proving themselves capable in that respect, even if they weren’t quite up to the task of repelling those Aldmeri scum.
They assembled at the front of the homestead, a squad of burly Imperial soldiers, fully armed and armoured, along with the elderly gaersmith, and the young lad. The short journey from Travendon Hall to Bruma was uneventful, disturbed only by an elk succumbing to a soldier’s arrow. They could hear the clanging of the blacksmith’s hammer on the anvil long before they passed through the gates of the city. Bruma was a bustling hive of activity, bursting at the seams with transients and soldiery. The temporary offices of the Black Horse Courier seemed to be busier than usual today, with fresh news coming out from a conquered Imperial City, and people eager to hear news of their relatives who normally resided in the heart of the Empire.
As they drew within sight of the forge, Daric slipped his hand out of this grandfather’s grip and rushed on ahead. “Papa!” he exclaimed joyously. “I missed you! You haven’t been home in ages.”
Rerlas stuck the sword he had been beating back into the fire. He bent down and picked up the young boy and gave him bear hug. “The General has me tied to the forge. I can’t come home for a while yet sorry son, but I’m sure your Momma and your Grandpa are treating you well. How’s Sabine?”
“She’s been helping Momma make sweetrolls for all the soldiers. Haha, she hates it. Says she could be Old Mary’s secret weapon in the kitchen, but give her a real sword and she could reclaim the Imperial City by herself.”
“That’s my fiery girl”, Rerlas replied with a wink at Andoryan, as the old man took a seat beside the worktable. “We’re making swords again today, wanna help me?” Rerlas asked Daric, as he lowered the boy back to his feet.
Before Daric could reply, the conversation was interrupted by a courier who ran up to Rerlas and passed him an official-looking letter. Rerlas opened it and scanned the contents, dismissing the courier with a wave of his hand. “Another work order, this one for helmets. 20 of them by day’s end. No mention of how the Imperial Army intends to pay us for them though. Figures!” Rerlas spat. “What do they think we are, the quartermaster’s store or something? I don’t recall signing up to the Imperial Legion!”
“Rather them than Old Mary”, Andoryan pitched back.
“True, I doubt Old Mary pays any better than the Emperor does”, Rerlas quipped, retrieving the red hot metal from the furnace and punctuating his syllables with strikes from the hammer upon it.
“You know, we wouldn’t be in this financial mess in the first place if you had done as I told you to, boy”, the old man shot back as he began fashioning leather strips over the wooden milliner’s block. The old, gnarled hands could still craft any item of armour with ease. Andoryan Gaersmith’s reputation as an artisan blacksmith and enchanter preceded him when he moved to Bruma from Winterhold in 4E 127. So too did the tale of the loss of his whole family in the Great Collapse. At first, the residents of Bruma sought out the refugee smith’s services to help him get back on his feet and establish himself. Soon enough they came to value his craftsmanship for itself. It wasn’t long before the gaersmith had earned enough Septims to be able to build a new family home on the outskirts of Bruma, and had settled down with his new Breton wife Arielle Travendon, a wealthy merchant’s daughter from the Imperial City.
Andoryan, like his father before him, had been studying at the College of Winterhold that fateful year. All the Gaersmith patriarchs as far back as anyone could remember had studied Enchanting there throughout their third decade of life. Gaercroft Manor had been a stately home with views out across the Sea of Ghosts. In the aftermath of the Great Collapse, the College was in an uproar, defending itself against accusation, and helping to tend the injured. There was no graduation for Andoryan or any of his classmates that year. While most of his friends were content to wait an additional year or two to graduate, the Gaersmith tradition meant Andoryan didn’t have time to wait around. With no family or homestead left to tie him to Winterhold, the sole surviving Gaersmith emigrated to Cyrodiil to finish his training and graduate from the College of Whispers instead. While he was in the Imperial City he closed several lucrative business deals, not least of which was the dowry arrangement with Lord Travendon.
“Father, I’m not getting into that argument again here and now”, Relas replied angrily, the staccato on the words “here” and “now” ringing sharply off the anvil. “Our rich family tradition is just as important to me as any other form of riches. That’s why I went back to Winterhold for my studies, as I’ve told you before.”
“You can’t eat tradition, son”, said Andoryan, while attacking a sheet of steel with a wooden mallet, beating it into submission over the leather strips that were now expertly arranged on the milliner’s block.
Daric sat at his grandfather’s feet joining scraps of leather together with rivets, his small hands barely able to close the pliers up tight enough. “Look Grandpa, Papa, I made a sabrecat!” the little boy enthused, waving his creation for them to see, its little legs swinging independently on their rivets, attached loosely to the larger piece of scrap for the body.
“Would you rather that I head to the Imperial City now, Pop?” Rerlas asked sarcastically, while smiling at his son’s craftwork.
“Pass me those pliers, lad”, Andoryan said to Daric, ignoring Rerlas’ snide remark. The old man deftly secured the steel to the leather, tapped the helmet a little for shaping, and tossed it at Rerlas. “...and leave me to do all the work around here, at my age? If it wasn’t for the Thalmor invasion, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you took off back to Winterhold, tradition and family be damned!”
“Hey Pop, the boy’s listening, let’s calm it down shall we?” Rerlas said in conciliatory tones, picking up the completed Imperial helmet and taking it over to the makeshift enchanting table, to add it the growing pile of arms and armour waiting to be enchanted. “Ever hear the name Mordastyr Gaersmith before, Pop?”
he old Breton gaersmith started laying out leather strips for yet another Imperial helmet, pondering his son’s question. “Nobody in the family that I know of by that name, son. Why? Your Eve gonna give me another grandson?”
"No, no, nothing like that”, Rerlas replied while lashing the hilt onto yet another Imperial sword he had expertly crafted, the third that day. “I came across a book in the Arcanaeum while I was studying, which mentioned him. I just wondered if he was related to us.”
“Well son, as you know, only the eldest son of the eldest son is allowed to keep the Gaersmith surname in our family. By tradition, once any subsequent sons reach their 20th birthday they have to take on a different name, like your uncle Geor Rane. I think he was quite happy to not be Geor Gaersmith any more”, said Andoryan, wistfully thinking of his brother and their childhood together, all those years ago.
"So the book might have mentioned a relative who is no longer a Gaersmith then?” Rerlas probed further.
“It’s possible. How old was the book?” the old man asked, knowing from his own time spent at the Arcanaeum that some of the documents there dated back to the late Second Era, far older than anything he more recently had access to at the College of Whispers.
Rerlas cast his mind back to his days at the College of Winterhold. He had graduated only four years ago, so his memories were much fresher than those of his venerable old father. “It’s hard to tell really, Pop. It was written by Sage Eraintine, so probably sometime around the middle of the Third Era.”
“That’s probably before our family even emigrated from High Rock, son. I know nothing of that time, sorry, can’t help you there. How many more helmets do we need? This one’s done”, Andoryan said, standing up from the workbench to stretch his legs.
“Momma told me about High Rock once”, Daric chimed in, while taking the completed helmet helpfully to the enchanting bench for his grandfather. “That’s where all us Bretons came from, isn’t it Grandpa?”
“That’s right lad”, Andoryan replied. “Can you count those helmets for me, Daric? We need 20 of them. How many do we need now, boy?”
“1... 2... 3...” counted the four year old, “4... 5... 6... 8...”
“You missed one”, Rerlas said, coming over to the enchanting table where his son was tippy-toeing and pointing at the stack of helmets, confidently counting each one aloud.
“No, I pointed to each one Papa, I didn’t miss any of them.”
“What happened to number 7 then?”, Rerlas chided.
“Oh, okay, start again”, said Daric, mimicking his mother’s tone whenever he made a mistake as they were going through his lessons at home. “1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6... 7...” As he poked his finger at each one, the stack of helmets wobbled precariously on the enchanting table. The little extra effort on the seventh one brought the whole stack tumbling down noisily, some falling off the table and rolling around the yard in front of the blacksmith’s shack. Daric squealed.
“Malacath! What is that racket?” Andoryan shouted, turning to see what had happened. Daric was already running around, chasing the helmets as they rolled this way and that. As he watched, the young boy stretched out his hand toward one particularly elusive helmet. Around the lad’s hand, a corona of deep orange pulsated briefly. At that very moment, the helmet immediately stopped its haphazard path across the ground, turned, and moved quite unnaturally, directly to Daric’s outstretched hand. He will become a powerful young mage one day, well suited to the family business, Andoryan thought, recognizing the telekinesis spell his grandson had involuntarily cast at his steel and leather quarry. His father will need to start his training soon. Those damned Thalmor better get chased out of the Imperial City soon, so the lad can be sent to the College of Whispers, if they haven’t burnt it down already. The old man noticed from the corner of his eye that Rerlas was collecting up helmets as well, with his back to Daric at the time. He wouldn’t have noticed that first glimmer of his son’s aptitude for magicka. By Sheor, I won’t let him send the lad to Winterhold!
n the way home that evening, Daric took his leather sabrecat and other creations back to show his mother. Andoryan carried a small pot of honey in his arms, but the burden in his heart was much heavier than the small clay pot of sweetness. “Son, do you know what it means to be a gaersmith? What has your Papa told you about his work?”
“Well”, said Daric, very matter-of-fact-ly for one so young, “I know that you and Papa are not just blacksmiths, you’re gaersmiths.”
“Go on”, urged Andoryan.
“Umm, and a gaersmith is someone who makes things from the ground with their own hands, or something, Papa said. That’s why you go away sometimes, isn’t it Grandpa, to get more rocks and stuff to make things from?”
“Your Papa has taught you well, Daric, but there is a little more to it than that”, the old man hesitated, “What else do you know, lad?”
“The chanting table!” The little boy’s eyes lit up. “It’s magic, and you and Papa can use it to put magic into the swords and helmets and things.”
“Smart little fellow”, one of the Imperial soldiers said to Andoryan, suitably impressed.
“Oh, he's not just smart, he’s a Gaersmith, an apprentice mage and smith in his own right”, replied Andoryan proudly. He passed the honey pot to the soldier and bent down and picked Daric up, carrying him a short way along the Silver Road back toward Travendon Hall. “You used magic today, didn’t you lad?”
“You mean with the helmet, eh Grandpa?” Daric answered solemnly, thinking he might be in trouble. “It came to me when I called it, I didn’t do anything, it just... happened.”
“It’s okay boy. As soon as Old Mary leaves the Imperial City, we’ll get you to the College of Whispers, and the mages there can teach you how to use magic properly. Don’t try it on your own. Magic can be dangerous, just like fire. It is not something to be played with. Promise me you won’t, Daric.”
“Okay Grandpa, I promise”, Daric replied.
Andoryan lowered his grandson back to the ground and took his hand as they carried on towards home. “The Emperor will see to Old Mary soon enough”, one of the soldiers reassured the old man. “You’ll see.”