Frostcraig Spire—7 Sun’s Dusk 4E190
Oio Naga, Mallari Arana
The language was Alyeid, the message Thalmor. There was no doubt in Evangeline’s mind as she sat clutching the note and the ring—all that had been recovered when Undilar and Irinde discovered the charred remains of Bedyn Sigeweald’s body.
When the shock abated and the feeling returned to her face and hands. When the uncontrollable sobbing and the ugly crying was over. When the wretched screaming was over. She turned to Xeri and simply asked, “Why?”
“You know why,” urged Xeri firmly but not without sympathy. Her heart ached for Evangeline, but this was no surprise.
“But why now? And what does this message mean? I thought Thalmor were more articulate than this.”
Xeri sat by Evangeline and touched her arm in a rare gesture of affection. She looked at the note, “It’s cryptic on purpose of course.” She did not want to have this conversation again. “They are just trying to hurt you. As for why now…all I can say is the world is changing. They can feel it. And it scares them.”
“I suppose it’s time to start this, no? I thought we’d have more time…I thought Bedyn and I would do this together. You don’t suppose they are trying to provoke me into doing something?”
Xeri almost laughed but caught herself, “Sera, I am almost certain that they are trying to provoke you into doing something. Something rash. But I know you better than that. Gather your strength. Bring your support here.” She paused and then said carefully, “And let me take Elspeth to start her journey.”
“I just don’t know if I’m ready…ready to let her go…so soon after losing him.”
Evangeline stood up suddenly and looked sternly at Xeri, “You said that in your vision, Elspeth had a role to play in the healing of the Empire. Doesn’t that mean she should stay here with me?”
Xeri took a deep breath. She looked at Evangeline—her face, normally the epitome of fierce stoicism, was frail. She shook her head and said, “I’m sorry.”
“She’s just a little girl.”
“She is more than a little girl. She’s exceptional.” And she was. Xeri had never known any human with such an aptitude for applied magic at such a young age. “She is a destruction magic prodigy. But she needs more formal training in the other schools. And in combat.”
“And you still have the same plan.”
“Yes,” Xeri said reassuringly, “We’ll move to Bruma and I will enroll her in the Temple school. I will help her hone her combat and athletic skills, utilizing the resources of the fighter’s guild as they are available.”
“When she has exhausted the Temple curriculum, I will hire a mages guild tutor–or rather, College of Whispers or whichever group is holed up down there….” Xeri ‘s voice trailed off and she looked away.
“And then what?”
“Do you intend to send her to Arcane?”
“Evangeline…we’ve been over this.”
“No, we haven’t.” The thought of Xeri sending Elspeth to Arcane University enraged her. “You and Bedyn never discussed this with me. All I got were a lot of vague reassurances that you would take care of things. And I believed Bedyn because…because he was her father. And he trusted you.”
“And you don’t trust me?”
“I want to.”
“All right,” Xeri took a deep breath. “The truth is that Bedyn had every intention of allowing me to enroll Elspeth at Arcane if and when it was necessary. We both knew that you would feel betrayed by this.”
Evangeline looked away from Xeri. She drew her clutched fists to her chest and bit the inside of her mouth to keep from screaming.
Xeri continued, “But consider it from a strategic perspective. Arch-mage Relamus is a brilliant sorcerer.”
Evangeline spun around so fast she nearly fell over. “He’s a Thalmor puppet.”
“He is. I haven’t forgotten. And Elspeth will know that too. However, he and his mages are excellent instructors. She would receive the best education and with me as a mentor—well, she won’t forget from where she came. And I will keep her focused on her path. She paused and then said, “You know that I can do this.” She looked knowingly at Evangeline.
Evangeline smiled in spite of herself. It was true. As a youth she knew that Bedyn had been fickle and irresponsible. Whatever greatness he had achieved in the fighter’s guild and later as a Blade was a result of Xeri’s strict mentorship.
“And most important,” continued Xeri, “No one would suspect, for even a moment, that any child of yours would study there.”
Evangeline lay down and stared at the ceiling from her bed. She was loath to admit it, but she knew Xeri was right. Finally she said, “Runa will be able to see her family again. And Elspeth will meet children her own age. She could have real friends.” She was quiet for a long time. Xeri let her be and when she finally looked back she saw that there were tears in Evangeline’s eyes.
Xeri knelt by her, “I know you will miss her terribly.”
“I just wish…I wish Nerussa were here. She doesn’t know that Bedyn is dead. She doesn’t even know that Elspeth exists…all that history just…gone.”
Nerussa. Hers was a name that was rarely—if ever—spoken. Xeri was nonplussed for a moment and then all she could say was, “I’m so sorry, sera.”
Evangeline sat up very suddenly and began to smooth her dress down. “When will you leave?” Her voice was suddenly chipper.
“Tonight if you will allow. There are storms coming and I would like to arrive in Bruma at dawn.”
The thought of saying good-bye to Elspeth that evening took Evangeline’s breath away but she was done protesting. She walked over to her dresser and took out a small box. Inside was a ring. It had been a gift to her from Anya, Bedyn’s mother. It had been years since she had worn it but it always held a special place in her heart.
She held the ring out to Xeri. “This is a ring that Bedyn’s mother gave to me when we were first married. It is enchanted so she’s not ready for it yet. But when she is, please give it to Elspeth.”
Xeri took the ring and inspected it carefully, “It is stunning. I will be honored to present her with this. Now, I will find Runa and the two of us will gather provisions for the trip.”
Evangeline walked slowly out of her room and over to the study where Elspeth as playing a very serious game of chess with Undilar. “Hello dear,” she said, trying not to cry. Or vomit, for that matter.
“Hello mother,” Elspeth smiled wanly. It was the first time she had seen Elspeth smile in several days. It helped. And then it didn’t.
Evangeline excused Undilar and sat down with Elspeth. She took a deep breath. This wasn’t going to be easy. “Elspeth, do you remember when Papa and I told you that you wouldn’t have to live at Frostcraig Spire forever, that you could go with Xeri to one of the cities and attend school.”
“Yes. You said that I would go to Cheydinhal and Papa said NO!—that I would go to Chorrol, the city of Stendarr,” Elspeth’s lip trembled and her eyes filled with tears at the memory of her father. She breathed in hard and asked, “Why?”
“It’s time. Xeri and Runa are going to take you out of Frostcraig Spire tonight.”
“Tonight!” Elspeth exclaimed, “But I don’t want to go tonight. Are you coming?”
“No sweet girl,” she said, trying not to let the sadness in her voice out, “I have to stay here.”
Elspeth burst into tears, “But I don’t want to go now!” She jumped out of her chair and threw her arms around Evangeline, sobbing into her chest.
Evangeline stroked her little girl’s hair and kissed her head. Even after Elspeth had settled down, she rocked her back and forth. They spent the next couple of hours talking and packing up a few things that Elspeth did not want to leave behind.
When it was time to go, they met Undilar and Irinde in the study and the four of them walked out to the village. Elspeth wasn’t even gone and already the Spire seemed quiet and dull. Evangeline felt that even the Dremora looked at little sad as Elspeth passed by them for what would probably be the last time.
The horses were ready and several more mages gathered around to say good-bye. The outpouring of affection held Evangeline up as she watched Runa, Xeri, and Elspeth ride out of the village.
Runa and Xeri paused at the entrance of Frostcraig Village, just past the atronach guardians, and looked at the mountain path ahead. Elspeth was riding with Xeri who nudged her gently and said, “Elspeth, you know that you have to leave the name Sigeweald here, right?”
“Yes, mother told me.”
“Have you a new name picked out?” asked Runa, “Or would you just like to be Elspeth, as I am Runa?”
Elspeth smiled, “I would like to be Elspeth Aurilie.”
“Ah, that was your grandmother’s name,” said Runa, “it is a beautiful choice.”
“Well, Elspeth Aurilie,” said Xeri, “this is where your journey begins.”