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The Outside Lords

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Lady N's picture
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Joined: 06/26/2010

Author - Matt Spaetzel

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The Outside Lords
A Recollection by Tholvir the Excessive

“More powerful than the gods?” I repeated in disbelief. At least, I think that was what I said. Drinks made it hard to be certain.

The stranger nodded. “The Outside Lords? Quite so.”

Around us the tavern candles had burned down to stumps. The other patrons already stumbled home or had been dragged unconscious to the nearby inn. The Breton behind the bar was giving me that impatient glare I had gotten used to seeing from him late at night.

“Are yer ‘Outside Lords’ more powerful than the dragon god of time?” I demanded. “More powerful than Kyne, or— what’s that dark elf one— Zura?”

“Greater than all of them combined.” He shrugged. “But perhaps not.”

I put my coin on the table and stood. Well, tried to stand. My legs were having a hard time remembering how. The stranger helped me shuffle to the door, and from there we traveled together into the night air beyond.

“We never see them,” he went on, “yet we are surrounded by their vessels. We never hear them, yet we know of their exploits.”

I squinted suspiciously in the light of the moons. I had him figured for a scholar or monk. Robes made him look bookish.

“Educate an old man then,” I said, a fair amount louder than was necessary. “Unburden yourself of your heresies and tell me of your powerful, all-knowing Outside Lords!”

He did.

They were something like us, I recall him saying, only they lived far beyond both Tamriel and Oblivion. What they did in their own realm he did not pretend to know, but they found some kind of sport in entering ours. Whenever a truly worthy hero stepped forward, they would creep in from their world and inhabit them, doing great deeds through them across Tamriel. The stranger boasted their number as more than the stars in the sky, an endless assortment, all staring at our tiny world from beyond.

“That’s a good fable,” I declared, wiping my mouth as we reached the inn. I had emptied my stomach somewhere along the way, but even in my state I wasn’t convinced. There weren’t enough real heroes in Tamriel to satisfy such a number, I reasoned, grinning at my own mental prowess.

“People always enjoy a good fable,” he agreed, allowing me to slide into a chair outside the front door of the inn. “But there is no fun saying something one cannot prove.”

I very much disagreed, but before I could say so a funny sort of energy collected in his open hand. With a palm he struck me once on the forehead. There was a sound like glass in a woodstove, and then the ground rolled up like parchment and the nearby mountains fell away. The green-banded night sky went out. The stranger had disappeared. Everything had disappeared. I floated alone in a world full of nothing.

And then, in the nothing, I saw people.

They were an assembly, thousands upon thousands shrouded in a dim, eternal glow. I squinted at the outline of faces, all different, all staring with the same keen interest. And some deep understanding told me they were not all in the same place, but separated by a vast distance, and yet they were bound to one another. I tried believing it was some illusion, but I knew it was not. They were more real than real.

And their attention was slowly fixing itself upon me.

My blood froze and my senses spun. I felt sure I was mad. The darkness pulled at my senses again and then slowly, very slowly, I felt worn wood beneath my hands and tasted the night air on my face. At some point I had spilled out of the chair. I was sweating.

Retreating footsteps brought my attention to the road. The stranger had already turned to leave the way he came. “Why?” I croaked at his back. Then, more loudly, “Why show me this? Why not some king? Why show an old drunk this truth?”

With a flick of his tail the stranger turned back, chuckling.

“Because M’aiq knows no one will ever believe you,” he said.

Lady N's picture
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This piece was written for our 20th anniversary fan art contest! It is strictly property of its original creator - you may not modify, publish, or redistribute it without explicit permission from the artist.