The Calamity Wrapped in Silk
Photo: Martine Johanna
Loviron was drunk and horny and thinking about going into the woods to masturbate when Valmir’s head was suddenly separated from his body.
The beheaded sentry had been twenty feet away from Loviron, walking towards him on the rampart that surrounded the Thalmor Embassy of the Reach.
There was a geyser of blood so impossibly high and powerful that Loviron had time to blink twice and count the ales he’d drunk that night before the crimson liquid’s journey ended in a splattering mess on the rampart.
“Fuck,” Loviron muttered.
Valmir’s decapitated corpse dropped to the ground and started twitching violently. A large number of panicky thoughts rushed through Loviron’s inebriated brain.
We are under attack. I am going to die drunk. Valmir had a wife, I think. No, he had a sweetheart in Riften that liked swallowing his seed for some really strange reason. I am going to die drunk. That was an incredible amount of blood that spewed from Valmir’s neck stump. It is a wonder people don’t explode more often from the fucking pressure.
Loviron’s reflections were cut short by the alarming sight of Salmo’s head being separated from his body in an extremely similar manner to Valmir’s. It was is if some invisible, massive razor had been swatted across his neckline. The head dashed off in one direction, blood spewed upward, and the body fell down.
Salmo was the North guard—he was six hundred strides away on the far rampart.
Must be dozens of them, Loviron thought. Then he did what any drunk sentry does when he finds himself under an unexpected and unknown attack.
He jumped off the rampart and into a massive pile of hay set against the wall.
Loviron sunk all the way to the frozen earth below, the shock of the fall rocketing through his knees. For a long time he did not move—just let his breathing level out and listened to what was happening in the world beyond the hay bale.
Things did not sound good.
Every few seconds there was a strange hissing noise, like the sound waves make when they crash against a beach.
And a few seconds after each hissing, someone died.
“Attack! We’re under atta—”
The voice was cut off. There was a hiss.
“Down there! The bastards are down in the yar—“
“On the eastern ramparts now! Shoot your fucking arr—”
Thalmor defenses were extremely well thought out. For a defensible structure the size of The Reach Embassy, there would be fifty men on the walls at all times. Twenty of them would have elven bows and light armor. Twenty would have swords and heavy armor. Ten would be robe-clad mages of an extremely powerful and vicious variety.
There were several historical accounts of this half-centurion formation defending a structure from forces twenty times their size. But to Loviron, it sounded very much like the forty-nine members of this group who had not hidden in a hay bale were being systematically murdered.
He could hear the sound of dozens of arrows being notched and shot, but none of them connecting to anything besides stone and earth. He could smell the burning electrical consequences of spells being cast in wild and erratically aimed directions.
He could taste the metallic flavor of fear and adrenaline filling his own mouth.
Despite his best judgment, Loviron worked his way forward through the hay and poked his head out into the cold night.
The appearance of the Embassy yard was far worse than the sounds had been.
There were at least a dozen dead or dying men in the yard. Many of them had missing legs, arms, and heads. Others had carved wooden darts protruding from their heads and necks. An archer named Calcimus was attempting to crawl to safety—his intestines trailed behind him through the snow, steaming in the crisp air.
But the sight of his comrades lying maimed and broken and dead in the snow was not the most disturbing aspect of the situation.
It was Loviron’s realization that all of these things were being done by a single person.
She—for Loviron saw now that it was a distinctly feminine frame committing these atrocities—moved like a goddess of shadow and wind. When the hissing sound filled the night air, her silk-clad body disappeared into an inky blackness only to silently reappear a hundred strides away.
By now, the inhabitants of the Embassy were beginning to come out and investigate the commotion. Some of them were sentries or battle mages. But most of them were scholars and bureaucrats, sent to Skyrim on some diplomatic mission or another.
All of them died the same way: with a hiss and a silver blade dividing their flesh.
Loviron licked his lips and tried assess the situation.
Teleporting assassins are rare. She looks like a Wood Elf. Wait, a Bosmer. They don’t like being called a Wood Elves. A teleporting Bosmer is killing everyone in the Thalmor Embassy. She will most definitely kill me if she sees me. I need a better hiding place than a hay bale.
That final observation, at least, had a distinct kernel of truth to it. Loviron knew there was a postern door on the other side of the hay bale. And running seemed like by far the best option available to him.
He crawled back into the hay and worked his way through to the other side. The sounds of murder continued, building into a swelling crescendo of cries and blood spatter as more Thalmor rushed outside to defend against the warping silk killer.
Loviron managed to stay in the shadow of the wall as he crawled from the hay and over to the door. He carefully slid the latch free, lifted the black iron handle, and pulled. The hinges squeaked loudly, but a Thalmor who at that very moment had both of his arms removed from his body screamed far louder.
He opened the door just enough to slide through, and then he ran. He yanked his sword clumsily out of its sheath and flung it into the snow. Unstrapped his breastplate and dropped that, too.
Weapons and armor would only slow his flight.
Five hundred paces later, just as Loviron was beginning to let himself believe he might live to see the sunrise, he stepped into a dry riverbed that was hidden by the snow.
His boot caught between two large stones and got lodged there, while the rest of his body continued hurdling forward. There was a very loud snapping noise.
Loviron screamed. Then bit his tongue trying to silence himself.
For almost half a minute, nothing happened. He was afraid to move his leg, to test the damage. He had spun around somehow during his fall and now faced the Embassy from which he had fled. There was smoke rising from behind the walls. Or was that the steam from hundreds of dead men?
Loviron heard the hiss—so close it could have been whispered in his ear.
He did not need to turn his head to know what he would find, but he turned anyway.
The Bosmer was two feet away, standing amidst a moonlit patch of untouched snow. She was wearing a black mask with two red bars of color over each eye, and Loviron was sure he would have remember that haunting visage for his entire life, even if it had lasted for another two-thousand years instead of a few more seconds.
“No…please…” Loviron said, then realized these would be his final words and tried to think of something better. “I…I was…not a bad person,” he managed.
“Neither was I, once,” came a flinty, angry voice from behind the mask.
The Bosmer took a step forward, finally leaving a mark in the pristine woodland scene.
She raised her sword—it was red and steaming from the heat of taking lives. The Bosmer sniffed once.
“At least you’ll die drunk.”
Then she brought the sword down on Loviron’s head.