Here you have it! Chapter One of Storm of the Dominion!
Hope you enjoy this chapter! This is Book Four of my series! Full Moon, Walk in the Shadows, and Sovngarde Beckons are the prequels in that order. I know many of you have been anxiously awaiting this and I was too excited to wait to release it!
Please remember to Fave/Follow/Review!
Musical Inspiration for this chapter: Pain by Three Days Grace, Dear Agony by Breaking Benjamin, and Over and Over by Three Days Grace
(5th of Morning Star 205 4E)
There was fire everywhere.
Einarr found himself standing in the middle of a burning room and struggled to breathe, but the smoke invading his lungs was making it nearly impossible. Taking in his surroundings, he tried to figure out where in Oblivion he was. It was a large bedroom, with a small room to the side that was no more than a wall of fire. It had to be where the fire had started.
"Gods, please, no!"
He froze immediately, recognizing the panicked voice right away. She appeared out of thin air, limping toward the door, her auburn hair singed and her face covered with smoke stains and burns. Her pale-blue eyes were wide with fear. It was Lassarina.
"Help!" she shouted, reaching the door and banging on it with her fists.
"Rina," he breathed, walking over to her, only to be intercepted by a wall of flames that materialized from the floor.
"No, no, no!" Einarr watched his sister try to kick the door down, but it was refusing to budge. "Let me out! Please!"
Einarr couldn't stand watching this, but he had no way to get to her. "Lassarina!"
Then came the sound that chilled him to the very core. The sound of a loud crack from above. He looked up at the same time as his sister, just in time to see a large chunk of the roof start to fall toward her.
"No!" he roared right before the blazing debris collapsed and buried his sister beneath it.
The feel of the bed jostling jolted Einarr awake and he lifted his head, alarmed. He breath was coming out in short, panicked gasps and his whole body covered in a sheen of sweat. Glancing around the room, he looked around for any signs of fire, but only saw the small one coming from the fire pit, safely contained. The bed shifted once more and he stiffened again, only to relax when he breathed in the familiar scent of Ysolda beside him. He let his head fall back onto the pillow, releasing a heavy sigh and wondering how in Oblivion he had gotten to this point.
That's obvious, his conscience told him. This is you avoiding dealing with your grief.
"Shut up," he muttered tightly, still feeling the fear from his nightmare.
"Hmm?" Ysolda mumbled sleepily, opening her bleary eyes and looking at him. "You say something?"
"Nay, go back to sleep."
She was more than happy to comply, considering that she was still half-asleep, and rolled onto her other side, exposing her bare back to him. Einarr averted his gaze and stared up at the ceiling, his mind swirling with thoughts. He could sense dawn was nearing but would rather hide away in Ysolda's house all day, today of all days. But then Ysolda would want to stay with him, so he resigned to just spend the day at the forge rather than deal with the clingy woman.
He had never intended to involve himself with Ysolda, despite his promise to his deceased Khajiit wife, Faraya; but the events a little two months ago had changed things. His younger sister, Lassarina, had died when the meadery down the road had caught fire. She had been trapped inside, and when the guards found her they said the roof had collapsed on her, breaking her neck on impact. He supposed he should have been thankful that she died quickly rather than having to suffer the agony of burning to death. Even now, whenever he closed his eyes he could still see her broken and charred corpse. Her body had been burned to the point where no one could recognize her-all hair scorched away, the leather of her armor melted into her skin. The only thing that remained intact on her person was the wedding ring that her husband Vilkas had given her the day he proposed to her.
His sister's death had been so unexpected that Einarr didn't know how to deal with the grief. He would spend days on end at the Bannered Mare, drinking away his sorrows and snarling at any of his friends that tried to comfort or stop him. The only person that didn't shy away from his aggressive temper had been Ysolda, who didn't try to stop him but merely offered an alternative. It had become a regular thing for him, spending every night at Ysolda's house once he was sure Kiraya had gone to bed and forgetting all his grief for a while with sex. It was sad that their relationship was just that: sex and nothing more. He had no feelings for Ysolda and didn't imagine that would change any time soon. For now, she was just a convenient way to avoid dealing with his sister's death, and that was enough for him.
But today was different. Today his sister would be on his mind constantly because it was her birthday. She would have been twenty-four and likely spending the day with Vilkas and their children. Knowing his sister's husband, Vilkas would have probably doted on her all day just so her smile would never waver. How would he deal with today?
Ever since Lassarina's death, Vilkas had become a recluse, never leaving their house for anything. Einarr had been avoiding the place where the couple had built a life together, just so he wouldn't have to deal with any fresh pain, but Farkas had begged and pleaded with him to go and talk to Vilkas two weeks ago.
Steeling himself, he had gone to Breezehome and was shocked at the shell of a man Vilkas had become. He had been alone in the house, sitting in front of the fire pit, mead bottle in hand and several empty ones scattered around his feet, simply staring at the fire with dull, lifeless eyes. It made Einarr wonder if that was what he had looked like when Faraya had died.
Farkas had said that after Lassarina had died, Vilkas had become detached from their children. Faolan and Lyanna, having only turned two a couple of weeks before, didn't know what had happened, didn't know that their mother had died. The twins had been inconsolable, starving for their father's attention, but he wouldn't even look at them. Farkas and his wife, Avyanna, were forced to step in and be foster parents to their niece and nephew, despite the fact that they were caring for two children of their own. Einarr honestly couldn't understand why Vilkas, a man who loved his children more than life itself, would neglect them this way.
"I keep seeing her in them," was Vilkas's slurred reply when he asked. "Every time they look at me, every time I look into their eyes, all I see is her. It's a cruel and constant reminder that she's not here anymore, Einarr."
While Einarr thought Vilkas's behavior was wrong, he would be lying if he said he didn't feel pain every time he saw his sister's children. Lyanna was the spitting image of Lassarina when she was a baby; and while Faolan took after his father, he still had his mother's eyes—pale blue irises that were clearer than Skyrim's sky and were just as expressive as Lassarina's had been.
Now restless, Einarr swung his legs out of the bed, shifting the mattress and waking Ysolda.
"You're leaving already?" she yawned.
"Aye," he told her as he pulled on his trousers. "I need to be back at Jorrvaskr before anyone wakes up."
Ysolda's eyes narrowed and she frowned at him. "Why do you have to keep sneaking around? Why can't we just say we're together? We're both adults with no commitment."
"Maybe you don't, but I have a thirteen-year-old daughter who I'd rather not involve in this right now."
"This. You keep calling it 'this.' Tell me, Einarr, what is this we have?"
Einarr sat on the edge of the bed and raked his fingers through his hair. He had enough to deal with; being in charge of the Companions, grieving his sister, struggling to forget the terrible nightmare he had. He didn't need to deal with Ysolda's bullshit too.
"Ysolda, I'd rather not have this discussion right now."
"Fine!" she shouted, grabbing his tunic off the chair beside the bed and throwing it at his face. "Just get out of here, then!"
"Gladly," he muttered as he pulled it on and left the house. Once he was a safe distance away he growled, "I knew getting involved with her was a bad idea."
He grumbled angrily to himself the entire walk back to Jorrvaskr, cursing himself for getting himself into this situation. But he rationalized that their relationship wasn't serious, and if she wanted something more, then she'd have to start looking elsewhere. He had promised Faraya back in Sovngarde that he'd try and love again, but he didn't love Ysolda, she was just someone who could comfort him when everything started feeling dark.
"Woman is just damned crazy," he told himself skirting around to the back of the mead hall just in case anyone was awake early and already in the common area.
"That generally seems to be the shared opinion among men," chuckled a voice on the porch.
Einarr jumped slightly, but relaxed when he realized who it was. "Julius, you're up rather early."
The Altmer shrugged and took a puff of his pipe. "I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and come out to see the stars."
Julius Valterayn, a tall Altmer with tanned golden skin, shoulder-length black hair he kept neat and combed, and amber eyes, was the newest member of the Companions, having been recruited only a week before when he appeared at their doorstep requesting to join. Einarr had Aela put in her opinion when they talked to him about why he wanted to join and then had him test his mettle with Athis. The Dunmer had vouched for his fighting skills, and with that, the Altmer became part of the Companions. The presence of the high elf brought a bit of unease to some of the other Companions, mainly Finverior and Vignar, two people who were constantly arguing with one another but shared a common distrust of the Thalmor. But Julius had reassured everyone that the last people he would ally himself with would be the Thalmor, and that was all Einarr needed to know.
"Having trouble with a woman?" Julius asked curiously.
Einarr shifted uncomfortably, not too fond of discussing this issue with their newest whelp. "Aye, but I'm not really in the mood to talk about it, and I'd rather you didn't say anything, Julius."
"I didn't mean to pry, Harbinger; it's just that when you come to be my age, you know a lot about the world and what she has to offer. But I can keep a secret."
"Thank you. And please, call me Einarr. I can't stand being addressed with a title. I'm just a normal man."
"Others would beg to differ, Dragonborn. But I can understand that feeling, so if you wish to be called by your name, then that is how I shall address you."
Einarr rolled his eyes a bit. While it was common knowledge around Skyrim now that he was the Dragonborn and that he defeated Alduin over four months ago with Lassarina, he still hated the attention he received from everyone. Many revered him as if he were some sort of big hero, when in truth he was only looking out for his family when he fought the World-Eater. He wasn't thinking of Skyrim when he thrust his sword through the dragon's skull; he was thinking of his daughter, his sister and her children, his friends in Jorrvaskr who had become like family over time. Being referred to as the Dragonborn now . . . it left a bad taste in his mouth. It made him think of the prophecy that came from an Elder Scroll, how the last Dragonborn would defeat Alduin. When he and Lassarina killed Alduin, they thought the prophecy had merely been misinterpreted, but in reality it just hadn't finished.
Lassarina had died . . . and now Einarr was the last Dragonborn.
Fair skin. Dark auburn hair that framed a delicate, heart-shaped face. Soft, pink lips that begged to be kissed. Pale blue eyes full of love and happiness staring back at him. Her arms were wrapped around his neck, fingernails lightly scratching the nape and sending little rivulets of pleasure through his body. Her warm, sweet scent enveloped him-pine trees and snowberries. To him, she was absolutely perfect.
Vilkas let his hands glide across her smooth skin and gently pressed his lips to hers, enjoying the intimate moment with his wife as long as he possibly could before it was interrupted. Lassarina was melting beneath his touch, moaning softly, music to his ears.
"Vilkas," she breathed his name.
"Lassarina," he whispered back, kissing the sensitive spot on her neck, just below her ear.
Vilkas jolted awake and sat up, immediately regretting it when the stab of pain shot through his brain. He let himself fall back in bed and rested his head on the pillow, instinctively reaching out to Lassarina's side of the bed, seeking out her warmth, only to meet with empty space. He lifted his head slightly and felt his heart break just like it did every morning when he woke up and remembered that his wife was no longer there. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he brought her pillow closer and buried his face in it, inhaling the scent on it.
It was barely there anymore. Lassarina's sweet scent was stale and starting to fade from his life. The warm presence she brought to their home was all but gone and the only reminder that he had that she ever existed was their children and the wedding ring he had salvaged from her charred body the day she died. The ring he now wore on a leather cord around his neck. He lifted the small ring off his chest and stared at it, the pale sapphires sparkling just like her eyes always would.
A loud pounding at his bedroom door snapped him out of his thoughts, and he heard his brother calling his name on the other side. "Vilkas! Open the damned door!"
Growling softly, Vilkas threw the fur blanket off his body and slowly got out of bed, being mindful not to aggravate the pounding headache his hangover was causing. Pulling on his trousers he made his way to the door and unlocked it, opening it enough to see his twin brother's face glaring at him.
"What do you want?" he asked gruffly.
Farkas face contorted into a look of disgust and he waved the air between them with his hand. "Gods damn it, man, you reek of mead and vomit."
"Why in Oblivion did you have your door locked? What if the twins needed something?"
"That's precisely why I had the door locked, so they couldn't get in." He peered over his brother's shoulder. "Where are they, anyway?"
Farkas shook his head and snorted. "You're a piece of work, you know that?" He forced the door the rest of the way open and stepped inside the bedroom, frowning at the sight of all the mead bottles scattered around the room and the bucket full of bile in the corner of the room. "Probably best they didn't come in after all. Wouldn't want their earliest memories to be of their father acting like a drunken fool."
"Sod off," Vilkas growled, sitting on the edge of the bed. "They haven't seen shit."
"Of course not, because you keep yourself locked in this house while Avyanna and I take care of them. Something you should be doing."
"I didn't ask you to take care of them."
"You didn't need to; Anna and I felt like we didn't have a fucking choice. Better they stay with us than be ignored by their father."
"Why are you here, Farkas?"
His brother stared at him for several moments before sighing and holding out an envelope. "A courier came by with a letter for you. He tried delivering it to you personally but you didn't come to the door, so they brought it to me. Came from Dawnstar."
Vilkas looked up and snatched the letter from Farkas's hands, breaking the seal and skimming over the words on the page.
My contacts have spotted Mallus slinking around the territories that the Imperial army have claimed. Seems like he's avoiding taking one step into Stormcloak territory (Gee, I wonder why). If you'd like to go through with this, meet me in Rorikstead in a week and we'll start hunting the bastard down.
Finally, Vilkas thought to himself, rising from the bed and walking over to the chest he kept his armor in.
"What are you doing?" Farkas demanded.
"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm getting ready to leave."
Farkas grabbed the letter from where Vilkas left it on the bed and read it. "You're hunting down Mallus?"
"He needs to pay for what he did to Lassarina," Vilkas explained, pulling on a tunic before strapping on his chest plate.
"Vilkas, you don't know that Mallus killed her."
"Nay, but I do know that she died inside his meadery and he came out virtually unscathed. Lassarina had gone to deal with him for withholding money from Maven; he knew she was coming and must have set the whole thing up."
"You're just making assumptions! For all you know, the fire was an accident!"
"And for all you know, this was all planned! And even if, if, the fire was an accident, he still left her in there!"
"You can't just kill a man because Lassarina died in his home! He could be innocent!"
"Don't worry, I plan on talking to him before I slit his throat."
Farkas growled and started to pace. "So you're just going to leave?"
"And what about the twins?"
"I'll come back, if that's what you're worried about. I just need you and Avyanna to look after them while I'm gone."
"We have our own children too, you idiot! Avyanna is stressed enough with Trystane and Kellen without having to worry about Faolan and Lyanna too!"
"Then get someone to help you! Tilma, Rona, even Kiraya!"
"Are you even thinking straight? You can't just forget about your responsibilities and disappear for gods know how long! You need to take care of your children, Vilkas! Do you think Lassarina would be all right with you doing this?"
Vilkas finished putting on his armor and turned to glare at his brother. "When Mercer killed our first child, Lassarina got her vengeance. She was gone for weeks at a time when she needed to deal with Alduin. Now it's my turn to get my vengeance."
"And do you remember what Lassarina did after she got her vengeance? She disappeared, for six months! Are you going to do the same thing?"
"What would you have me do? Just ignore it and let him get away with it?"
"Aye, that's exactly what you should do!"
"Would you do the same thing if it had been Avyanna? Be honest, if your wife had died like Lassarina had, would you just ignore it and move on?"
"Aye, I would because it wouldn't just be about me! It would also be about our two sons who have no one else to depend on! It's about your twins, who have lost their mother, and all they have left is their father, who they never see because he's too busy drinking himself numb every night!"
"I need to do this, Farkas!"
"So I can fucking move on!" Vilkas finally shouted, his voice reverberating off the walls. "If I don't do this, if I don't look this man in the eyes and make him pay for taking Lassarina away from me and the twins, I'll be living with this poison for the rest of my life!"
Farkas stared at him and sighed, but said nothing.
"You have no idea what it's like, Farkas. Waking up every morning and expecting her to be there, only to realize that she's not there and that she's never going to be there ever again. You'll never see her again, you'll never touch her, you'll never hear her because she's dead."
"Vilkas, I understand how you're feeling–"
"Nay, you don't! Your wife is alive! You get to wake up to her every morning instead of an empty bed! Your children don't look at you asking where their mother is! You don't have to dread the day when they notice that they don't have a mother and ask you what happened to her!" He paused and took a deep breath, blinking rapidly to fight back the tears that had been starting to form in his eyes. "You know what breaks my heart the most about this whole situation, Farkas? The fact that Faolan and Lyanna probably won't even remember what Lassarina looked like. The fear that I might one day forget what she looks like."
"Don't think like that, brother."
"I can't help it."
"Lyanna looks exactly like Lassarina. So long as you have her and Faolan, you'll never forget her."
Vilkas pressed the heel of his palm into his eyes and laughed bitterly. "Aye, that's a blessing. I wonder how long before she realizes I can't look at her without thinking of her mother and feel nothing but pain and sadness every time."
"Is that the real reason you've been neglecting them?"
He was silent for several moments. "They have her eyes, Farkas. All I see is her whenever I look at them. I love them to death, but it's just too damned hard being around them and pretending nothing's wrong."
Farkas stared at his brother, still frowning, but his eyes were filled with sympathy. "Vilkas, do you really need to leave them?"
"I need closure. Without it, I don't think I'll ever feel better."
There was silence before Farkas nodded and placed a hand on Vilkas's shoulder. "All right, I'll pretend to understand why you have to do this. But you have to do two things for me. You have to spend some time with your children before you leave and you have to promise that once you've taken care of this, you'll come back right away. Faolan and Lyanna already lost their mother; they don't need to lose their father too."
Vilkas nodded. "Aye, I promise I'll come back."
"Good. Now, let's go back to my house so you can spend some time with your children."
Vilkas nodded and followed Farkas out of the house and over to his. Before they even stepped through the threshold, the sound of the twins laughing reached his ears and he felt guilty from the knowledge that it had been more than a week since he heard that sound. Inside, he saw that Faolan and Lyanna were busy with their cousin Trystane, playing with a pile of wooden blocks. Faolan and Trystane would stack them up neatly and Lyanna would then knock them over, making themselves giggle and laugh at the whole process before starting over again. It brought a smile to his lips, and he just stood there watching until Lyanna noticed him.
"Papa!" she cried out happily, rising onto her feet and running over to him.
Faolan smiled and ran after his sister, both of them hugging his leg and looking up at him with her pale-blue eyes. Vilkas forced himself to ignore the dread that was threatening to wash over him and knelt to pull his children into a hug. He had to stop thinking the way he was and stop punishing his children because they were born with their mother's eyes.
"Papa, where Mama?" Faolan asked, looking at the door expectantly.
"Mama gone long time," Lyanna pointed out.
Vilkas tensed and he heard Farkas suck in a breath beside him. He had no idea how to answer them, but forced himself to say something.
"Mama went to live with your big brother, Kodlak," he answered tightly.
"Where dat?" Faolan wondered.
"We visit?" Lyanna asked innocently.
Vilkas took in a deep breath and felt as if someone was crushing his heart. "Maybe someday."
"Vilkas," Avyanna greeted him icily, coming down from upstairs and holding Kellen in her arms. "This is a surprise. I thought you'd still be locked in the house for a few more days, drinking yourself to death."
He narrowed his eyes and glared at her. Avyanna had made it quite clear that she was angry at how he had been neglecting the twins. He may have been drunk the day she and Farkas came and took them to their house, but he remembered how she had shouted at him through the door and called him every insulting thing she could think of.
"Farkas told me I should come see them before I leave," he explained.
Her hazel eyes widened a bit and she glanced at Farkas before glaring back at Vilkas. "What do you mean, 'leave'?"
"There's something I need to do. I'll be back as soon as I can manage, though."
"So that's it, then? You're just going to abandon your children?"
Farkas frowned and took a step toward his wife. "Anna–"
"I can only imagine how upset and disappointed Lassarina would be if she knew about this. To think she married such a selfish and weak-willed man."
Vilkas rose, his eyes glittering with fury. "Woman, you better hold your tongue before I make you."
"Just leave, Vilkas. They'd be better off without you if this is how you're going to be the rest of your life!"
Vilkas took a step toward Avyanna, but Farkas intercepted him. He was clearly disappointed in what his wife was saying, but he'd still protect her from anyone, even his own brother. Letting out an angry snort, he knelt in front of Faolan and Lyanna.
"I'll be back soon," he promised them softly, giving them a false smile. Standing up, he looked at his brother. "Take care of them."
Farkas nodded. "Aye, I will."
Without another word, Vilkas stepped out of the house, ignoring the twins' disappointed cries. They didn't want him to leave, but he had to deal with Mallus. Accident or murder, he needed to make someone accountable for Lassarina's death and Mallus was the ideal target.
He'll pay for what he did to you, Lassarina, he swore silently, pulling the ring out from under his armor and staring it. You will be avenged.
Einarr is grief banging and Vilkas is under the belief that revenge will make his grief go away. Sigh... What have I done to them?
Interesting fun fact: Einarr was inspired by Dean Winchester from Supernatural.
Hope you enjoyed the chapter, please Fave/Follow/Review! Getting your reviews always makes me smile!