Chapter 702: Season Unending
A/n: Help me reach my Goal on P4treon & Join Discord! https://linktr.ee/donovel
To the Jarls of the Holds of Skyrim, to the Representatives of the Imperial Authorities in Skyrim, and to all the Figures who are named on these missives; from the Monastery of High Hrothgar.
Sky Above, Voice Within.
At the behest of the Dragon of the North, Ysmir, the Dragonborn; we invite ye to the summit of the Snow-Throat beyond the seven thousand steps where Kynareth blew her blessed breath into Nirn. Answer our call for the sake of Skyrim's peace and the sacred blood of the innocents, Nords and non-Nords alike.
Speaking for the Greybeards, Master Arngeir.
That message found its way to the hands of all figures of authority in Skyrim. An official summon from the Greybeards, not carried by a common courier but rather by the Dragonborn himself. He, who roamed all Skyrim in a single night and visited every court with a missive in his hand, was declaring himself the Dragonborn and walking out as fast as he walked in.
From the Imperial Authority of Skyrim in Castle Dour, to the Blue Palace of Solitude, to Understone Keep in Markarth, to Dragonsreach in Whiterun, to the Palace of Kings in Windhelm, and to Mistveil Keep in Riften. Even to the Dare Dragon Company in Winterhold, to the Jarls of the minor holds of Falkreath, the Pale, and Hjaalmarch as well as their Imperial and Stormcloak compet.i.tors.
Unlike the Game, this meeting was to be on a much broader scale. Its plotter seemed to be planning for much more than just calling for a truce between the warring holds. Moreover, the signatures of the Dragonborn and the Greybeards that called out for this meeting were too grand to simply ignore.
As the news from Castle Dour and the Palace of Kings stated that both General Tullius and Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak have agreed to attend, all the competing Jarls and the minor Lords found themselves forming envoys and personal alliances in order to gain something in this coming grand event.
How will they benefit? How will they prevent their rivals from benefiting? And how will they cause losses to their rivals? One can't simply walk into High Hrothgar without too much preparation since there is no such thing as too much preparation.
But as the politicians were playing their games and preparing their ploys, others were simply packing for the infamous 7000-step journey. One can't win anything if one can't make it to High Hrothgar, to begin with.
On the grand meeting day when the spring of year 4E 202 was at its highest, the Lords of Skyrim started to climb the 7000 steps with their Thanes and Healers who could aid them on this pilgrimage. The road was dangerous as the snow was slowly melting on some of the steps but after the first thousand steps, the frigid winter atmosphere, which many were glad to part with at the last First Seed (March), returned with a strong bone-chilling mountain wind.
But that wasn't the end of it. Oblivion! That wasn't even the start just yet.
As the envoys were climbing the mountain, it was a custom not to pursue any animosities, especially prior to peace talks, and the customs were held highly by the n.o.bles of Skyrim. That, however, didn't mean they couldn't start making some last-minute alliances and exchanges to hold more legitimacy while negotiating. That was the case until all had arrived at the Front Gates of High Hrothgar.
The first to arrive were the Jarls of Falkreath, the Rift, and Whiterun as the closest of the bunch. Lela Law-Giver of Riften was a Stormcloak supporter compared to the other two and since the fall of Maven Black-Briar, most of the Imperial influence in her hold disappeared and so she joined the former Jarl of Falkreath, Dengeir of Stuhn, to stare menacingly at Jarl Balgruuf of Whiterun and Jarl Siddgeir of Falkreath.
Jarl Balgruuf managed to distance himself from Jarl Siddgeir of Falkreath, who kept yapping endlessly like a brat about how he will dominate this peace-talk and ensure that the bad seeds shall be uprooted from the belly of Skyrim. Jarl Balgruuf joined the moderate Jarl Idgrod of Morthal and Jarl Igmund of Markarth.
All of those VIPs weren't allowed in High Hrothgar yet and had to construct two bonfires in two separate areas to display the opposing Imperial and Stormcloak camps.
Jarl Korir of Winterhold arrived later and was accompanied by the Chief Executive Officer of the Dare Company, Jon Dare.
Jon was rather silent and didn't greet anyone as he sped forward towards the monastery of High Hrothgar and placed a bag of supplies at the offering chest in front of it. This action caused all the other lords to turn at each other before hurrying up and doing the same.
After that, Jarl Skald of the Pale and Lady Brina Merilis showed up and they seemed to have argued their way up the mountain as the two were already heated up and looking for blood. After them came Vignar Grey-Mane leading Thongvar Silver-Blood and Sorli the Builder to join the Stormcloak camp brazenly.
Once that was that, Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of Eastmarch showed up with his Commander-in-Chief, Galmar Stone-Fist, and stood tall in front of his rebel compatriots giving them a heated speech. Not long after him, General Tullius and Jarl Bryling of Haafingar appeared.
With the presence of Ulfric Stormcloak and General Tullius, the bickering mostly died down but many eyes were now focused on Jon Dare, for some reason.
As a Thane in various holds on the two sides of the Civil War, it's high time he showed some allegiance and stood at some camp but as always, Jon founded his own bonfire on a lone stone slab near a s...o...b..rry bush, where he kept picking the berries and tossing them up to catch them with his mouth.
But that didn't last long as Legate Rikke, who had accompanied General Tullius, spotted a familiar face coming up the road as a Breton woman and an elderly Nord man made an appearance and joined Jon's "neutral camp".
"Delphine? Delphine of Daggerfall? From the Blades?"
As Legate Rikke exclaimed at the sight of Delphine, the latter went ahead and nodded her way before walking up to Ulfric Stormcloak and thanking him for a personal favor.
The situation got a ton more interesting now that it went public that the old members of the Order of the Blades stood around Jon Dare. It wasn't a secret that his own father, Jonrad Firemane, was a member of the Blade and one of the most wanted ex-Blades at that, but Jonrad never involved himself in public life that much. With Jon being a taboo child and Hilda being the mother, the family was practically the most wanted family on the continent up until Jon rose to power.
Anyhow, the presence of those two ex-Blades made many wonder what Jon would do at this point. He broke too many Imperial laws to even care at this point but he only got away thanks to his connections and his unG.o.dly lawyer skills. Harboring ex-Blade fugitives, however, goes directly against Imperial laws. It is no wonder that at this point, even Ulfric Stormcloak was interested in how Jon would lawyer his way out of this when the Imperials pressure him with his Blade friends.
Not that Jon would be bothered but it would be nice to witness his shenanigans once again.
Yet despite the fact that most of the attendees were already present, the gates of High Hrothgar remained shut. This was due to the fact that the Greybeards have stated that their doors shall open on full sunrise and by that exact time and not a second later, the twin gates of the monastery were open wide.
The Jarls and the Lords of Skyrim were now invited in, their escort and servants were to remain outside and only those with political importance were to come in. Ulfric and his commander Galmar, Tullius and his deputy Rikke, the Jarls and their opposers, the powerful Thanes such as Jon Dare and Thongvor Silver-Blood.
The ones who received them first were none other than the Disciples of the Greybeards then three Masters of the Greybeards themselves. Not even a greeting could be said since every Disciple and Master were gagging their mouths with strong cloth.
While the act itself was bizarre and unusual, those adept in the Voice of the Storm can kill anyone by a mere whisper. This act of gagging was simply for the safety of the guests and nothing more.
Ulfric Stormcloak was supposedly the individual most familiar with the place and as he walked in, he kept touching the cold and dark stone walls with real nostalgia and a look of sadness on his face. It only lasted a moment though and before anyone would capture it, he returned to his cool arrogance and usual demeanor.
Just as the welcome of the Greybeards was extended with their silence, the mysterious air was dropped with the voice of a man speaking.
"Welcome to High Hrothgar." A voice was heard yet with its elderly tone, a vigor that can only be heard from youth was heard.
By far, this was the healthiest voice anyone can ever imagine hearing. Those who master the Voice have this trait clear especially in the case of Jon Dare and Ulfric Stormcloak but the owner of that voice was way more adept than the two of them combined. One can't reach this level of skill unless one offers a lifetime of dedication just for the cause.
Just as Ulfric Stormcloak was about to greet that man, he was instantly interrupted.
"This way please." Master Arngeir spoke while offering way towards the chamber that was prepared for the conference.
This interruption caused Ulfric to pause in his place bitterly and lag a little bit for General Tullius to walk past him first along with his allies before Ulfric remained where he was standing and staring at Master Arngeir.
"My Lord." Vignar Gray-Mane spoke from behind Ulfric but the latter dismissed him with a wave of his hand.
"We go in." Ulfric said and followed not long after General Tullius and the Imperial faction.
After Ulfric came Jon Dare who walked in alone without bothering or being bothered with the Greybeard as they simply welcomed all. Still, it was high time for some uninvited and unwelcome guests.
At first, it was the two ex-Blades who followed Jon here, Delphine and Esbern. Master Arngeir seemed to be unaware of their ident.i.ty at first but as soon as he saw the swords on their hips, an expression of unease appeared on his face.
"So. Arngeir, is it? You know why we're here. Are you going to let us in or not?" Delphine initiated the conversation with obvious hostility.
"You were not invited here." Master Arngeir replied with impatience and an equal amount of hostility, "You are not welcome."
"We have as much right to be at this council as all of you. More, actually, since we were the ones that put the Dragonborn on this path." Delphine retorted with a higher tone.
"Were you?" Master Arngeir replied with obvious scorn, "The hubris of the Blades truly knows no bounds."
Yet with the growing tension between Master Arngeir and Delphine, someone had to avert the tension away.
"Delphine, we're not here to rehea.r.s.e old grudges. The matter at hand is urgent." Esbern spoke before turning to Master Arngeir, "Alduin must be stopped. You wouldn't have called this council if you didn't agree. We know a great deal about the situation and the threat that Alduin poses to us all. You need us here if you want this council to succeed."
Master Arngeir seemed upset for a little while but it only took a little while and he sighed heavily.
"Very well. You may enter."
Delphine and Esbern looked at one another before looking back at Master Arngeir and nodding towards him. However, just as they turned to walk in, they found that Jon Dare was looking at them and he wasn't pleased at all.
The relations.h.i.+p between the two ex-Blades and Jon wasn't very pleasant and they were aware of his ident.i.ty but still held them under his thumb and controlled them to no end. While they joined the group of people who were still standing in antic.i.p.ation around the conference table, the atmosphere started to grow stale because none of the Greybeards had joined them yet.
Moreover, they all expected the Dragonborn to be inside waiting for them but he hasn't arrived yet.
Out in the main hall of the monastery, the disciples all stood on stand-by for the Masters to give them a signal but the Masters were still waiting patiently as if they were just listening. While listening, the Masters showed a hint of antic.i.p.ation and so the disciples closest to the Gates opened them one more time.
A figure walked in, unlike the familiar figure of the Dragonborn, this figure was lean and feminine.
An Elf, an Altmer to be exact, one that is wearing the robes of the Thalmor.
"And you are?" Master Arngeir asked.
"Elenwen, Head Amba.s.sador of the Aldmeri Dominion to the Kingdom of Skyrim." The Altmer woman replied.
"You were not invited, Amba.s.sador of the Aldmeri Dominion." Master Arngeir replied while keeping his tone in check.
"My presence here depended on our Imperial friends to be more cooperative at upholding the terms of the White-Gold Concordat. They ran off without informing the emba.s.sy and as a legal witness to the Empire's external affairs with Skyrim, I must attend all the official meetings held by General Tullius of the"
"You Elves talk too much."
But just as Elenwen was rambling in her haughty Elven dialect, a strong and deep voice spoke from behind her.
She turned so fast with her heart almost jumping from her chest for her vision to be filled with the sight of a huge human.
He was hooded and cloaked, with the light coming from the outside being blocked by him, Elenwen wondered how this large brute managed to sneak on her. Moreover, he was armored to the boot and armed to the teeth with all sorts of swords, spears, bows, and staves dangling from his outfit.
What stood out, aside from the unique weapons he was carrying, was his dark ebony armor with the red Imperial Dragon insignia as well as his Nordic horned helm of dragon bones.
"Master Arngeir, let's allow her in." The man spoke.
Elenwen looked carefully between the Elderly Greybeard and the Nord Warrior trying to estimate her situation but before her wild thoughts would even get the chance to calm down, Master Arngeir spoke.
"You clearly know what you are doing, Dragonborn." Master Arngeir spoke and looked at Elenwen, "And I believe you can show yourself in. Now, I would like to have our gates shut before we have any more uninvited guests barging in."
The gates of High Hrothgar were closed and the meeting's quorum was in order.
In the conference chamber, there was a long table with four main directional seats that seemed to be essential to the place and symbolic to the four Masters of the Greybeards, and between them, there were eight extra seats that seemed to have been added very recently. Every main seat was surrounded by two extra seats for a total of twelve seats.
Each of the main seats corresponded to one of the cardinal directions but still, twelve of them were too few to allow all the attendants to sit. This means that some of those self-important figures will keep standing in the backlines.
This was the first test. Who is more important than who? While the Imperial side had its priorities in order, the Stormcloak side was a bit awkward. Ulfric always claimed to be fighting for Skyrim and once the fight is over, he'll step down when a new king is elected. He doesn't consider himself High King publicly but sure as Oblivion he does in his actions and speeches.
As Master Arngeir walked in with the Dragonborn after Amba.s.sador Elenwen, the tension was sky high and somehow the seating was surely going to be a problem.
Still, the Host would have one main seat at the very least. That was the Northern seat where Master Arngeir stood.
As the Imperial and the Stormcloak sides were already at opposite ends, it was natural for them to take the Eastern and Western seats. Eastern for the Stormcloaks and Western for the Imperials.
As for the Southern seat, the Dragonborn claimed it before anyone else would step in.
Many seemed disagreeable with the actions of the Dragonborn. He is a young man and even without looking at his age, he is part of the faction that called out for the negotiations between the warring factions. By default, he should be sitting next to the host, the Greybeards' Master Arngeir.
Now in the four directions, stood all four major personalities. General Tullius at the west, Jarl Ulfric at the east, Master Arngeir at the north, and the Dragonborn at the south.
Jon Dare was the first to move and stood at the right of the Dragonborn. If the Dragonborn was to take a side, it would be natural for his main sponsor to appear next to him and claim a seat. As Jon Dare represents the Neutral Faction, it was clear that the three southern chairs would be neutral.
As for the Stormcloaks, Ulfric only had Galmar Stone-Fist to his left and didn't invite anyone to his right.
On the other hand, the Imperials were more brazen. General Tullius stood in front of the western seat and had Legate Rikke on his right and Jarl Bryling of Solitude on his left. Moreover, he seemed to have had a conversation with Elenwen of the Aldmeri Dominion and she took a seat at the side of Master Arngeir on the Northern side.
With the seat right next to him being taken, Master Arngeir didn't bother much but his att.i.tude invited the ex-Blades Delphine and Esbern to do the same. Delphine took the seat on the other side of Master Arngeir and Esbern intruded at the Stormcloak faction's empty seat where Ulfric invited no one.
That was rude but it is no secret that these two were former members of the Blades, the fallen organization of secret operatives and Dragon Hunters.
Only one seat remained. The seat on the left of the Dragonborn, where it was considered to be the Neutral Faction. For that, only one man from the Imperial side dared to step in and take that seat.
Jarl Balgruuf the Greater.
No one could really tell what he was thinking but it seemed that, unlike the Stormcloaks who respectfully took two seats, the Imperials took five seats for General Tullius, Legate Rikke, Jarl Bryling, Amba.s.sador Elenwen, and Jarl Balgruuf. Still, it felt that Jarl Balgruuf was leaning more to his right towards the Neutral Faction of Jon Dare and the Dragonborn.
While it all went like this, no one of the people present in this situation ever thought that if fate was to take its normal course, not this many people would be standing around the table to the point where the Greybeards Disciples had to move in some benches to make enough sitting s.p.a.ce.
The one smiling was Jon. He set this whole thing up and just as all of those people sat down, it was bound to be chaos.
A/n: Help me reach my Goal on P4treon & Join Discord! https://linktr.ee/donovel