Storm on the Horizon
Asa, perched atop a rock, stared at the gathering storm clouds in the distance. One glance at the thick blanket being drawn across the sky was enough to tell that rain was coming, heavy rain. A little rainstorm had never frightened her. Sure, being caught in it meant that her clothes would get uncomfortably wet, which could lead her to catching a chill, but she had survived far worse. This was a woman who had ventured through the icy lands of northern Skyrim in nothing but a bear hide and a worn pair of boots. But there was something about this storm that made her uneasy.
Asa had spent much of her life in the wilderness of Skyrim. She still recalled the stone streets of Markarth- not her parents, their faces had long faded from memory, but darting between the ancient buildings, evading guards with her well-earned dinner in hand, that she remembered. Though she had company there in the form of the other children and a few sympathetic adults, she always felt oppressed as if the rock and walls around her were a cage, and the city her prison. Though she did not leave the city by choice, she saw it still as the moment of enlightenment in her life.
Despite the loneliness, Asa felt at home living beneath trees and within caverns. This environment was not built by the hands of men or mer, but by the Divines themselves, and in their presence she was closer to the gods than anywhere else. Often, she liked to think that she was closer to them than anyone else, though she knew that was nothing more than thoughts of self-fulfillment. Another benefit of being alone in the wild was the opportunity to have times like this, long moments in which one could let their mind roam free. It was in moments like these that Asa contemplated the gods- their work, their creation and their plans for the future.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a drop of water that had landed almost squarely in her eye. The lone harbinger brought with it another raindrop, and then another. They began low in number and small in size, but it did not take long until the sky was filled with long streaks shooting down like a volley of arrows. The Nord woman rose to her feet, instantly packing up what little supplies she carried with her: a selection of small tools, a drinking flask, several pieces of dried meat and other animal remains she had not yet used up, all wrapped up neatly inside a sleeping bag. Using the deer hide from that same hunt as a sling, she held the entire package under one arm while she hung her bow on her shoulder with its quiver and arrows carried on her back.
Before she left, she took another glance up at the sky, now almost as dark as night. The shower that pummeled her now reminded Asa of when she bathed within the waterfalls pouring from the mouths of Markarth's massive broken pipelines, except this water was even colder to touch. The storm came from the south, where the climate should be more agreeable. Something was off, Asa was sure of it. This could not be the work of Kynareth, it must have been the foul intervention of some Daedric Lord- Nocturnal, perhaps, or maybe even Mehrunes Dagon. Whatever this was, she knew she had to get out of it.
There was a place nearby, a place that could shelter her from this storm. Asa quickened her pace, first trotting through the shrubs, then a jog and finally breaking into a full sprint as the entire might of the storm was unleashed. She ran past the entrance to a cavern she had slept in many times, but she did not enter- this would not suffice tonight. Instead she opted to travel further despite the rain. Her ears, keen from dwelling among beasts, picked up the howls of wolves not far away, but she continued onwards, not deviating from her original destination.
Her clothing were almost completely drenched by the time Asa had found what she was looking for- a small alcove in the rocks, tall but extremely shallow in terms of how deep inside the mountain it went. The sole occupant of the cave was a tall statue of a cloaked man with one foot on the body of a serpent and a blade pointed downwards at the rearing head of the creature. The grey figure blended into the rocks that surrounded him and enveloped him. Though the inside of the alcove was visible from afar, it was easy to miss the presence of the statue because of this. A single table was placed before the man, dwarfed in his presence, and atop it the signature crossed shrine to Talos.
Talos was once Tiber Septim, the original leader of the current Empire that ruled Skyrim. In life Tiber Septim was a conqueror and a hero among men, so upon his ascension he became the god of war and mankind. Asa knew that the world sorely needed his blessings, for the Empire he had forged was at war with the elves of the Aldmeri Dominion and from the rumours she had heard, the conflict was not in favour of the Imperials. If the elves won they would have control over the Empire and by extension the province of Skyrim, and these people were known for looking down on all races of men. It would be the Reachmen's takeover again, but this time, with all of Tamriel at risk.
But Asa was not here to ask for help for all of the world. She was here because under the watchful gaze of one of the Divine, she would be safe from whatever storm brewed outside. Setting down her supplies, she checked and was relieved to see that the hide had protected her bedroll from most of the rain. Collecting some of the branches inside the cave that had also been shielded from water, Asa laid them out on the ground and worked for a few moments to build a small fire with which she could dry her clothes. Before undressing and slipping into bed however, she first laid out the dried meat she brought with her and selected the best portion.
Asa did not eat the food. Instead, she approached the shrine and placed it on the table in front of the statue. She lowered herself to the floor, this part still cold as it was too far from the heat of the flames. As she made her preparations she suddenly heard a snapping of branches and her head quickly turned around. Three figures leapt out into the firelight, one in a long hooded robe and two clad in ornate armour with a distinctive green hue. The long faces of all three instantly betrayed them as Altmer. Had the Aldmeri Dominion advanced here already?
"You're coming with us," the robed one spoke.
"Why?" Asa asked simply.
"You are a heretic," he replied before turning to the two warriors beside him. "Seize her. I will clean up here and deal with the shrine."
"Deal with the shrine?" the Nord stood, turning fully to the three elves. "You can't desecrate the shrine of a god."
"Talos is no god. Tiber Septim was a mere man," he spat the last word as if it left a bad taste in his mouth. "Anyone who thinks otherwise is blasphemous. I'm feeling merciful, so I'll take you in, give you a chance to repent."
Asa did not need to hear any more to know what was going on, "I won't let you do this."
"Then you will die with your false god."
The two armoured elves drew their swords. Asa stood her ground, reaching for the hunting knife on her waist. The short blade would do her little good, but she left her bow by the fire and even had she held it in hand, it would not be of any use at so close a distance. She did not buckle though she suddenly felt much smaller than usual; while her Nord stature was tall compared to most men, Asa was dwarfed by the three Altmer that surrounded her. With a nod from the hooded one, the warriors began to advance...