Bridge of Years

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This text was posted on November 2nd, 2009, as a sort of epilogue to Loranna’s RP by Syronj. It bridges the gap between From the Ashes and the events of the official novels, Infernal City and Lord of Souls.

In the fourth decade of the Fourth Era, a Redguard sat in meditation. Motes of dust eddied in the sunbeams slanting onto the polished wooden floor of the dojo. When the battlemage had been born an Argonian, his given name was He Who Goes from Conquest to Conquest, Leaving a Trail of Devastation in His Wake. A lifetime ago, he had told the softskins to call him by the abbrieviation Shaka.

He stood and began an exercise taught to him by his first love, the thief Ahnassi. In the midst of the circular strikes and deflections called the Rain of Sand, Shaka decided to call up his birthright, the Adrenaline Rush. The dust seemed to slow and halt as Shaka’s perceptions speeded up, his heartbeat thudding in his ears. At the end of the kata, the Ra’Gada stood with hands on thighs, head bowed as he tried to catch his breath. Not for the first time, he thought to himself: My body’s a traitor. But then, he realized with a slight surprise, he had already lived as many years in the new era as in the old. Though magicka and a lifetime of training had kept the battlemage looking a score of years younger, Shaka was approaching his ninth decade. He couldn’t use the Adrenaline Rush too often these days; there was the real possibility that his heart would burst.

He straightened and slipped a towel around his neck, sliding the door aside and walking onto his grounds. He followed the pools of ornamental carp and gardens until he reached the Corbolo River, flowing clear and deep as always. His home lay not far outside the walls of Fort Cedrian. Shaka stood and studied the thriving market town at the intersection of the Imperial road and the Corbolo, remembering the day that Wriph’s company of adventurers had first seen the abandoned fort. When did I get this way, he idly wondered. Where everything reminds me of something else, something past.

The fort had been an unpromising ruin at first. The adventurers had cleared out a necromancer’s lair, then rebuilt what had been a hole in a hillside and a handful of tents. He had long ago given his allegiance to Loranna — barmaid, vessel of Azura, duchess, exile — but it had been the country girl Wriph who proved a natural leader in building a freehold. Wriph had been the first to suggest they make a headquarters at Fort Cedrian; even then, not long after the Oblivion Crisis, it was becoming increasingly clear that the company was on its own.

Years of warlordism and intrigue had followed; Shaka’s mouth tightened as he remembered the ambitious former Legion officers, the death cults, and the bandits. Somehow the freehold had survived, even making deals with such as the reclusive Count Hassildor. It was some time before Shaka had been let into Skingrad’s secret, that a vampire ruled them.

Everything had decayed within the former Empire over the decades. Free trade, a common language, a tradition of tolerance; they had given way to ethnic cleansing, rebellion, privateering. But from what Shaka could gather, this Titus Mede had the best chance of rebuilding something like an empire even if it proved scarcely larger than Cyrodiil.

A name drifted into his memory for the first time in years, and he spoke it aloud. “Aricyn. Was that the Nord’s name? Yes . . .” Aricyn had long ago had the best chance of taking the Ruby Throne, though his legate brother (and Shaka struck his hands together in frustration, he couldn’t remember the name) would have made an even better emperor, in the Redguard’s opinion. But a long-ago ceremony had seemed to send Shaka and others of the company into a different timeline. Aricyn was nowhere to be found, and some of Shaka’s comrades had never been heard from again either. The battlemage had once speculated to Loranna that somewhere, there was a world where Aricyn had taken the throne.

He shook his head. All dreams now, to be lost when Shaka died and presumably went to the Dreamsleeve to be . . . reused. He wished he could believe he would see the gods then, but a lifetime of doubt and strange adventures had left him humbled, agnostic.

He and the rest of Wriph’s company had found themselves trying to pass along the lessons of adventuring to their children and grandchildren (though Shaka had none himself). When the Oblivion Crisis struck down the more able of the guildmembers, Tamriel had been left with mediocrities. Mages more interested in restraining trade and forcing apprentices to jump through hoops; Fighters who were as likely these days to be potbellied oafs warming a tavern bench. Or was it his age talking, he wondered briefly.

Could Titus have CHIM too, he wondered suddenly. He had long ago been told that that was the difference between the company of adventurers — most of them, anyway — and the civilians, who seemed to care about things Shaka had no interest in. The orc king Gortwog had been another such, Shaka had been told. It was what made them succeed against impossible odds, what made them unpredictable.

But Void Rangers such as Allerleirauh and Tris had been lost long ago, when the timeline had (or so Shaka suspected) been shunted into another. They had been the true authorities, the ones with mythic connections; Shaka was a hedge wizard by comparison.

The former Argonian’s copper eyes lost their distance, and he shrugged. Perhaps this new dynasty would work out. It would probably never have the extent of the old empire, but Titus’ heart seemed to be in the right place. The elves among Shaka’s comrades would live on, long past Shaka’s mayfly life. The story wasn’t over yet.

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