Posted: December 27, 2011 in Fiction

Her? I would be careful about how I approached her, were I in your position.

It’s not that I don’t think she would help. No, she is ever a champion of the people. I would be sure to show her proper respect, though. She’s no mere sell-sword.

You don’t know? Really?

They call her many things. She’s the Archmage of Winterhold. She’s the Harbinger of the Companions. She’s the Dovahkiin. She’s Thane of every Hold. Sometimes, they just call her the Hellspark.

Everyone seems to think she’d be taller.

I travelled with her for a time. I have lived some of the stories.

Share? I suppose. I’m no bard, although I’m told that she is. To hear her sing – there could be little doubt. The first time I’d ever seen her, I was part of a mob. We were set to clear a cave teeming with vampires. Townspeople had gathered at the maw of the cave. All had torches, and most had gathered up the sharpest tools they could find. There wasn’t a blooded warrior in the bunch, but these monsters were preying on us and we would not have it. The Jarl had asked her to lead them against the bloodthirsty fiends.

She didn’t say a single word. The mob talked about what they would do. She just acted. Her armor glinted in the sun, fairly radiant with light and whatever power she had imbued in it. It shone so brightly that I still cannot believe no one noticed its absence when she disappeared into the cave. I stepped in behind her, quietly as could be.

I was once a sneak-thief. I’m not proud of it, but I could pass like a ghost through a fog. Still, my own footfalls seemed deafening compared to hers. She crept across the rocky earth, silent like your innermost thoughts. At the time, I thought I had gone unnoticed. We came upon an enlarged cavern, replete with stalactites and tangles of roots reaching down from the ceiling. The floor was flattened earth and rock. In the center was a fire pit with several figures crouched around it. I took a deep breath and scented smoke and earth and blood. Still, I had doubts that these figures were the bloodsucking monsters for whom we searched. If she had the same doubts, it never showed.

I had expected her to draw one of the massive swords she had strapped across her back. No, the ones she has now are different. She has crafted many a blade, and the ones she once used for herself still exist in the land. Regardless, she drew neither. She looked back at me, dispelling any notion that I had escaped her eyes. Those eyes. They blazed with an eldritch light. Her very gaze brought prickles of sweat to my skin. It might have been unsteady nerves. Like as not, it was the fire within her that earned her epithet. She raised a plated glove and put a finger to her pale lips. Flames played across that finger and crept down to engulf the hand.

She turned, still crouched, to face the figures around the fire pit. I watched as she clasped her hands together. The crevices between each finger began to leak light. The edges of her gauntlets smoked and glowed. I panicked at the thought that she would give us away, though I know now that was a foolish worry.

One never need worry about the certainties in life.

One of the hunched figures turned just as she opened her palms toward them. Flame streaked across the cavern faster than a diving falcon and burst on the chest of the alerted foe. Surely they noticed us then! Formerly black robes lit up the room as the fire enthusiastically spread itself over the figure. An angry hiss transformed into a scream. The cavern was bright enough now that I could see what the Hellspark must have already: each of the other four figures turned and shouted various curses of dismay, revealing fangs and gore-smeared mouths. We had interrupted a meal.

Another blast of fire roared across the room, impacting the head of the furthest vampire and tossing it head over heels to the far side of the cavern. Two of the remaining three drew swords while the third began to shimmer with its own mystic power. The Hellspark stood then, feet spread and palms outstretched. Three more balls of angry flame erupted from those outstretched hands. One slammed into each swordsman, hammering both across the room. The third snuffed as it neared the unarmed figure. She let loose another bolt of flame, but that too was extinguished.

My heart leapt into my throat. Even as the last flame failed to stop this vampire, five more boiled out of a crevice in the far wall. I fell to my knees and began my prayer to Arkay, but over the sound of my last rites I heard singing. Her stance hadn’t changed a bit, but she began to hum as she reached over her shoulder and unslung the over-large blackened blade. I remember now; as she grasped the handle, runes flared to life along the length of steel called Molten Rage. She continued to hum as she took two long steps forward. The vampire mage raised a palm, and an icy torrent slammed into the armored figure. Icicles formed on the armor instantly, but the Hellspark brought the sword down toward the right shoulder of the vampire. The ward that had protected the creature shattered like glass. The blade bit into flesh, burning white hot as it did so. Hair and clothing burned away. The blade did not stop. It travelled through the monster, finally emerging from the left hip.

The remaining five charged with weapons drawn. The hum intensified, and the Hellspark opened her mouth. I could not hear the words she spoke, for they cracked like thunder. The charging creatures were blasted backward, plastered to the far wall. As they struggled to rise again, she was on them. She hacked one apart with that irresistible blade. A second, she impaled. She drove Molten Rage through its chest and into the ground. By this time, the remaining three had risen. She drew a second monstrous sword, the one they called the North Star. It froze the third solid as it touched and the blade did not so much cut as shatter the beast. The last two surrounded the woman, attacking from opposite sides. Had I not seen what came next, I would not have believed. The Hellspark dropped the point of the North Star and drove it through the navel of one. At the same time, she stepped forward and dropped to her knees. The rapidly freezing corpse draped over her as the last remaining creature swung its sword down toward her back. The Hellspark stood, turning the slouched vampire into a frozen umbrella. Steel rang against frozen flesh. She dropped the frozen corpse and spun. She extended her palms once more as the vampire swung. A spearpoint of ice grew from her palms as fast as any sword thrust. It pierced the heart of the attacking monster, then carried it to the furthest wall of the cave as the Hellspark released it. The final monster hung nailed to the wall. The cave reeked of smoke and blood and seared flesh. The only sound was that of burning flesh.

I sat stunned as she pulled the North Star from its resting place in a dead monster’s chest. She returned it to its scabbard, then stepped over to reclaim Molten Rage as well. She held the blade as she walked back to me, and I could see the steel burn itself clean once more. She reached back and resheathed it, and held a hand out to me. Then, I was too dazed to do anything but accept the help to my feet. Now, I consider it the highest of honors. She smiled at me from inside her fearsome helm, and led me back out into the daylight.

Quite something, huh?

Of course there’s more, but you have more pressing matters on your hands.

I’m sure she would help you, but I would ask nicely.


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