• Published 7th Nov 2015
  • 7,389 Views, 669 Comments

Changeling Escapades: Skyrim - Erised the ink-moth

A Changeling is teleported to the frigid land of Skyrim. Lost in a frigid and hostile land, he must find a new source of love to sustain him. Worse still, Alduin the World Eater has returned to bring about the end of days. What our changeling do?

  • ...

The Dragonstone arc II: Into the River

The wagon had careened down the hill, completely out of control until it came to a crashing halt into a giant tree. Stross was flung from the cart upon impact and landed in the river, while Fenora lay inside the wagon buried under various knick-knacks, rolled up fabrics and cheese wheels. Both of them were singed and aching... but still alive.

“Well, this was a triumph.” A soaking wet Stross announced as he pulled himself out of the water, not making it far before he collapsed, sprawling out face first on the shore as his legs gave out beneath him, “I’m making a note here ‘HUGE SUCCESS’!” he yelled with weak enthusiasm as his vision started to blur.

“I got us out in one piece didn’t I? No thanks to you.” Fenora countered, clearly irritated at Stross and his downer attitude.

“I saved you from getting your head chopped off, didn't I?” Stross reminded her as he tried to get to his knees, only to fall again and roll limply onto his back. His legs weren't working quite right for some reason. The pain had left him some time ago. Now he just felt weak.

Fenora gave a sigh as she rummaged through the wagon’s contents. “For all the good it did, but yeah… I guess it kept us alive long enough for that dragon to show up." she paused for a moment and peered over at him. "Why’d you do it though? You don’t even know me.”

“Well… I knew you weren’t with those blue guys we got captured with, and the red guys were trying to kill us for some… rebellion right?” Stross recalled as best he could. Everything was sounding like it was underwater, and the pain in his chest was becoming unbearable. But focusing on the conversation seemed to keep him from drifting away entirely.

Fenora shrugged and kept looking through the wagon, tossing aside several books and cabbages. “I guess. I haven’t been in the political loop for quite some… A-ha!” she exclaimed as she pulled up a long thin knife, likely used for gutting fish. “Now to get these ropes off.”

“All I knew was that you weren’t supposed to be there, like me… and that thief too maybe. They were going to kill you for something that wasn’t your fault. That's enough to put my life on the line, right?” Stross smiled as he felt himself slipping away, “And you’re really pretty too… that kinda helped.”

Fenora jumped down to Stross, grabbed the rope binding the changeling's hands, and began sawing them free.

While she did, Stross was focused on the state of his chitin. It had nearly crumbled away to the bone at this point. He gave a sigh and looked up at the clouds, and the sun. It felt nice… warm. He liked the sun.

The rope snapped. His hands fell limp across his chest as his breathing turned shallow.

“Thanks.” He muttered.

“Hey, you did save my life in a way. Even if it was a little reckless and kinda… you know what. Just, thanks.” Fenora told him as she knelt by his side and watched a smile curl onto his scaly lips.

“So what are you going to do now?” Stross asked the elf.

Fenora sighed. “I’m getting out of Skyrim,” she told him with certainty, “as soon as possible. I'm done with this place.”

It was understandable. War, near-execution-experiences and dragons can do that to a person.

“What about you?” she asked.

“I’m probably going to die here in a minute or two.” Stross moaned and felt something sickly warm bubble in the back of his throat.

“What, why didn’t you tell me? Where are you hurt?!” Fenora looked over the deathly skinny creature laying on the wet grass before her, its skin pitted across the surface with black holes. Truth be told, she'd never seen anything like it.

“I need you.” Stross told her, “Come closer… please?”

Fenora didn’t really know how to respond to that, but leaned over him anyway.

Stross reached up to her face, and the elf recoiled a bit at the flaking hand coming towards her, but slowly reconsidered and pressed her cheek against it. It was still wet like the rest of him, but it was cool and felt soft despite how it was falling apart. Stross closed his fingers around a handful of her silver hair and gently pulled her face closer to his.

Stross could see her eyes start to quiver back and forth, focusing on him, but not any one part of his face for too long. “Shhh… just relax. I just need your love.” He whispered softly and let her close the last few inches on her own.

Stross reveled in how soft her lips were, but even more at how she had opened up to him in that moment, allowing him to nab some of her life-force from the exchange, bit by tiny bit. It seemed more potent than most he’d eaten before, denser, but maybe it was because he was so starved.

Slowly, Stross felt clarity restore to his senses starting with the sounds of the river nearby. The blurriness in his vision cleared. He could feel the solid wet ground beneath him, and the warmth coming from the beautiful elf as she kissed him. He broke away, and from the life energy in that one quick kiss, he felt a mile away from Death’s door. He might not be using his magic any time soon, but it was good enough for him.

“Thank you. I really didn't think I was going to make it.” he said, finding the strength to sit up again.

Fenora scrunched her eyes up, feeling dazed. When they opened and focused on him, Stross could clearly tell she was not amused.

“Sure you weren't.” She deadpanned, wiping her mouth on her wrist. “Can't believe I fell for that stupid act. Perv."

"I really was!" he argued in vain. "Are you feeling alright?"

Fenroa shook her head trying to clear it. She still felt dizzy for some reason. "Well... for someone who was nearly killed twice in a row, I’m just fine. Thanks for asking.”

“I thought it’d be rude not to." he shrugged, "I’m Stross, by the way.”

“Fenora.” the elf told him plainly and crawled back up to the wagon for something to lean against, resting the back of her head against the wood with a long sigh.

Stross followed and scooted up next to her. She glared back at him, but didn't attempt to move away.

“Pretty bad way to start a morning, huh?” Stross said as he settled next to her.

Fenora gave him a sideways stare, snorting. “Yeah… you could say that. As if bandit raids and wild animals weren’t enough to worry about on the road, now we’ve got stupid soldiers and dragons too.”

Stross hummed in agreement.

“So just what are you supposed to be anyway?” Fenora finally asked him from a mixture of curiosity, and simply wanting a distraction from recent events. “You’re not any kind of Argonian I’ve ever seen, and you can speak too. Are you a Dremora?”

Stross weighed the pros and cons of telling her, after all, Changelings weren’t exactly well accepted, but having the trust of another could be invaluable, and he didn’t see anyone else around at the moment.

“Have you ever heard of Changelings before?” Stross asked carefully.

“You mean like the fairy people that kidnap children and swap them with their own?” Fenora chuckled, “My mother would tell me those stories when I was young; said they’d take me away if I was bad and didn’t clean up my room.” she laughed a little harder, but then it died down when she noticed Stross staring in silence. “You’re not actually one of those child-stealing fae, are you?”

“Well, not exactly.” Stross told her, “Changelings in essence are magic shapeshifters. We need to feed on the soul-energy of others in order to survive, otherwise we wither and die.”

“So you’re evil soul-eaters.” Fenora deduced.

“Wha- No! No. We’re not evil, it’s just a thing we have to do.” Stross hastily counted, “We use our magic to take the form of someone you care about, or maybe take the form of someone desirable to get close to you and feed through your love for them. Some of us just resort to less pleasant methods in order to get by.”

“So… you’re tricky evil soul-eaters.” Fenora corrected.

“Will you stop that. My kind are hated and feared because of what we are. If everyone would just calm the heck down and accept us, then we wouldn’t have to act all evil and stuff. And we feed on the energy produced by souls, not actual souls themselves. Big difference.” Stross huffed.

Fenora rubbed the bridge of her nose and tried to wrap her mind around everything she’d been told. She regretted asking in the first place. Dragons were easier to understand; they’re big, they fly and breathe fire. Nuff said.

Then a thought struck her. "So that thing you did to me just now... you really were about to kick it?"

Stross nodded meekly.

Fenora turned away and breathed out for a minute. The things she'd had to deal with in the last day and a half. She was going home to her quiet little farm in the middle of nowhere. Now the world was throwing more crazy at her than she knew how to deal with.

Fenora noticed Stross still had his eyes glued to her.

"What?" she asked. "Still dying?"

the changeling shifted. “Well... no. I'm going to be fine for a little while, but... It'd be really nice if you'd let me feed on you a some more.” Stross said and gave her a pleading look with his big sparkly eyes. “Hugs and kisses?”

Fenora cuffed him upside the head.

She immediately felt bad though, seeing his dejected face.

All things considered, a nice warm hug did sound pretty good right now.

"Fine." she groaned, hearing Stross let out a squee of excitement and wrap his arms around her shoulders, smushing his face against hers.

She didn’t complain as she returned the hug. She closed her eyes and let her lips search Stross's face until they found his. After they broke away she still held him close. The dizzy feeling returned, but it wasn't unwelcome after everything else that had happened. For a while they just sat there with each other, letting their worries and traumas melt away and listening to the sounds of the river nearby.

After a bit of resting up, Stross and Fenora set off down river, their prisoner rags replaced with the clothes they found amidst with the rest of the things on the wagon. Stross had donned a grey cloak with a deep hood, and leather boots to cover his appearance. He had to tear a hole for his horn to fit through, but it hid his body and face pretty well. Fenora questioned him about it while she pulled on a thick set of trousers and a fur-lined cloak and shirt. Stross explained that he normally had something better to hide himself, but this would have to do for now.

Fenora had meant why choose to hide himself, but decided not to pry at the moment.

As they walked along the shore of the river Stross couldn’t stop glancing over at Fenora as she dragged along anything she could carry from the wreck. Even after feeding on her a bit more, Stross was still only able to carry himself, and couldn’t help in any way. “Are you sure it’s okay to just take that stuff?” he asked.

“Well, those poor people back at Helgen sure won’t need it anymore.” she answered sadly as she readjusted her oversized makeshift pack, “I guess when we reach the next town I’ll let them have this stuff. Or sell it later. ...probably sell it later.”

“How many do you think were back at Helgen?” Stross asked in a lower tone.

Fenora paused for a moment, her step breaking as she thought about it. “I really don't know.” she told him, “A couple dozen maybe, more or less. Not including the town guards, the Imperials and the Stormcloaks. Why do you ask?”

Stross was silent for a moment before he answered. “It’s… nothing.”

Fenora frowned, “It’s not our fault you know. We were just lucky to have gotten out of there at all.”

“I know. I just don’t like thinking about people dying.” Stross told her, "It feels like we should have been able to do something, don't you think? If we could have... done something. Even if it only saved one, then I-"

"Hey!" Fenora snapped. "Drop it. Just drop it."

"I... alright." Stross whispered, a little shaken. "I'm just wondering if anyone else made it out.”

“That Jarl and some of the others got into the keep. Maybe they got out some other way. Who can say?” Fenora told him.

Before long, Stross and Fenora came to a split in the path; one side continued down the river, the other went back up into the mountains. Each explained that they weren’t familiar with Skyrim as they tried to decide which path they should take. But two pairs of stomping footsteps coming from the path on the right distracted them from the matter. Soon enough, they met who was making them.

“Hey, it’s you two.” Ralof ran up to them, instantly recognizing them. “It’s good to see you made it out alive. I thought we were all goners when that dragon attacked.”

“We need to keep moving, Riverwood isn’t far. We have to get there!” Hadvar joined him.

Both of the soldiers looked weary, but each insisted that they continue quickly. With a total of four members in their party, they hurried down the dirt path towards the town called Riverwood.

“So this town, where is it?” Stross asked as he jogged along breathlessly, barely able to keep pace with the two nords and an encumbered elf.

“It’s right up ahead,” Ralof told him, “my sister Gerdur and her family run the mill there.”

“And my uncle Alvor is the local blacksmith.” Hadvar added. “We have to warn them about the attack on Helgen. I just hope we're not too late. I don’t want to get there and find the town in ashes!”

As the winded group emerged from the trees and approached the town, they were relieved to see that it was neither on fire nor destroyed. Starkly contrasting their fears, the town was downright peaceful. There were children playing and running around, a drunkard sitting outside the tavern, people fishing, and chopping logs, and going about their business without a fear in the world past what would be for supper.

“So, there’s a river… and wood.” Fenora observed out loud, “Three guesses how they named the place.” she smirked.

Lady, you would love touring Equestria.” Stross thought with a smirk of his own.

“They must have not gotten the news.” Ralof breathed a sigh of both worry and relief.

As they approached the center of town Stross overheard a conversation at the smithy.

“I’ll need those new blades for the mill soon, otherwise the logs won’t split evenly.” a woman said crossly.

“I know that, but give it some time, will ya. You think it’s easy to sharpen all those little teeth?” a man grumbled.

They were interrupted when they noticed they had visitors.

“Ralof, brother is that you?” the woman said, walking over to give a warm welcome.

“Hadvar, what brings you here my boy?” the smith got up from his forge to do the same.

“Uncle Alvor, Riverwood is in danger. A dragon has just destroyed Helgen.” Hadvar explained with dread in his voice.

“It’s true,” Ralof joined in, “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, but there it was. It was huge, as big as the inn.”

Gerdur and Alvor exchanged looks as several other villagers gathered around the near hysterical soldiers, drawn by the talk of dragons.

“You see, I did see a dragon fly overhead!” an old woman yelled amongst the rest, “None of you believed me, but I knew I saw it!” she threw an accusing finger at each of the villagers as they gathered round to hear about the dragon.

“Did it fly?”
“Did it breathe fire?”
“How big was it?” the children asked.

“It was just like the legends and the old stories,” Hadvar told them, “red eyes, and scales black as night. Even a platoon of imperial archers couldn’t bring the beast down.”

The crowd gasped and murmured amongst themselves. You didn’t need to be a changeling to smell the fear, there was plenty of it in this town with the talk of unstoppable ancient monsters.

“That’s because imperial steel is weak.” Ralof butted in. “If those had been Stormcloak soldiers, we’d be feasting on that dragon’s meat right now!”

“You mean the same Stormcloaks that were running like cowards while we got the townspeople to safety?” Hadvar retorted.

“Last I checked our hands had been tied up by you imperials. And at least we aren’t a bunch of elf-lovers who won’t even stand up for Nord tradition!” Ralof roared.

“And at least we Imperials know what’s best for Skyrim, and don’t follow a king-murdering rebel!” Hadvar yelled back.

“Oh for Shor's sake!” Gerdur interrupted the two before they could start duking it out. “Enough, both of you; you’re scaring the children.”

Stross looked over at said children and the small pot of gold coins and candies they passed around between each other, with more being added with each hand that it was passed to. Apparently the 'frightened' children were starting a betting pool for the upcoming brawl.

“Honestly, to think you two were such good friends when we were children ourselves." Gerdur shook her head at the two. "If there really is a dragon on the loose, then we need to tell the Jarl up in Whiterun about this so he can give us some protection.”

Both men volunteered at the same time, and with scarcely an angry glare at each other, they immediately began arguing over who was better suited to go, most of it having to do with who was on which side. Hadvar argued that since Whiterun was currently allied with the empire that he should deliver the news, while Ralof argued that Ulfric would be quicker offer his sword in the defense of Skyrim than the Thalmor.

Now that the immediate danger to their home was out of the way, the two were more than okay with wasting time arguing whose side was better than whose. Really, it didn’t matter to Stross that much. With what little he knew about them already, and as far as he was concerned, both sides were stupid.

“Hey,” Fenora got Gerdur and Alvor’s attention, “You guy’s need to tell someone about something, right?”

“Yes, Riverwood is defenseless. If a dragon were to show up now…” Gerdur began, but Fenora stopped her.

“Say no more. I’ll deliver the message myself.”

“Oh, thank you.” Gerdur said as Alvor tried to get the brawling Nords to give their feud a rest, “When you get to Whiterun, speak to Jarl Balgruuf. Tell him we need support in case that dragon decides to come down here.”

“Alright. Stross, let’s go.” Fenora beckoned to the changeling.

Fenora kept up a quick pace until they made it across the bridge and were out of earshot of anyone in town, only then did she finally slow down and allow Stross to catch up. When he did, she fixed him with a hard stare as they kept walking.

“Okay, here’s the plan: we get to Whiterun, tell the Jarl about the dragon and that Riverwood back there needs some soldiers to protect it. I'm not so sure what a few measly guards will be able to do against that thing, but that’s not the point. The point is, we ham it up to make it seem like it’s a bigger deal than it is, and then demand a reward for our bravery. Then I use that money to hire a carriage to travel all the way back to High Rock and get on with my life. Got it? Good.” She finished with a smile.

Stross blinked. “Bwuh? Wait-a-minute. Not that that doesn’t sound very heroic, but… What about me?”

“I don’t know. What about you?”

That really threw Stross for a loop. What did he want anyway?

“Well… I’d kind of like to know where I am right now, and how I get back to Equestria. Getting any kind of bearing would be nice actually.”

“I’ve never seen any place called ‘Equestria’ on any map before, what’s it like?” Fenora asked.

“Well, it’s a pretty big kingdom, so there’re a lot of different places; they’ve got rolling hills and valleys, forests, cities, wild west towns… it’s a wonderful place, peaceful too.” Stross told her as they walked, and Fenora nodded, thinking of places that matched that description. “It’s been ruled over by Princess Celestia for over a thousand years-“

“Okay hold it.” Fenora stopped him, “A thousand years?”

“She’s immortal.” Stross explained, “Or at least everypony thinks she is. She raises and sets the sun using her magic, and her sister Princess Luna does the same with the moon. The weather is always really nice there too thanks to the Pegasi teams that control wind, and rain, and snow, and-“

“Stop… again. Pegasi? You have winged horses in Equestia that somehow control the weather?” Fenora asked.

“Ponies." Stross corrected, "And yes, they make up about a quarter of the population, Unicorns make up about half of what remains, and Earth Ponies make up the rest. There are Griffons and Zebras and the like too, but only really a hoofful by comparison.” Stross counted off the basic figures he remembered, then caught Fenora’s wide-eyed expression. “What? Equestria is the land of ponies.”

“Ponies. You mean there’s a whole kingdom full of little horses?” Fenora repeated, more to walk herself through it as her grip on her mind slacked a bit.

“Little, colorful, talking horses to be specific.” Stross told her. "There's also wild beasts like Hydras and Manticores and Timberwolves and-"

“Stop talking! Stop talking before my head explodes!" Fenora said, clenching a palm to her face. "Let’s just get to Whiterun. We can find you a map once we get there. It should be in that direction.” Fenora said with a sigh, pointing down a cobblestone path.

“How do you know? I thought you weren’t from here either.”

Fenora pointed at a wooden sign that had directional arrows for Whiterun, Riverwood, and Bleak falls barrow among others. “I’m a pretty seasoned traveler. And rule one is: never be afraid to find directions.”

“Oh” Stross said, his ears drooping slightly.

Within a few minutes the path came to a curve and led over a stone bridge which the river flowed under in a rapid current. From the top of the hill they could see across the plains in the early afternoon light. Before them lay several small farms surrounding a tiered city of wood and stone, and the palace of Dragonsreach was visible from where they stood, looking over all from atop its’ perch atop the village below.

This was Edoras, home of the horse lords...

Whiterun Hold, domain of Jarl Balgruuf!

“I’m guessing that’s Whiterun.” Fenora gazed out at the city. “Quite a sight. To think I usually take the long way around the mountains to avoid Skyrim.”

Stross looked out at the city as well, but it held as much wonder as it did dread for him. He turned to Fenora and asked in a serious tone, “Hey… do you think that if they knew what I was they’d try and kill me?”

Fenora was a bit taken aback by the nature of the question, but saw the worry in Stross’s eyes when he pulled his hood back to show his fangs and scales. “They won’t just attack me on sight will they?”

“I’m sure they won’t go that far.” Fenora told him, but the slight uncertainty in her voice made him think otherwise.

Most, if not all his time spent in the cities of Equestria, he had been in disguise. But in this new two-legged form, he wasn’t so sure he could pull it off. He had gotten lucky back in Riverwood with his new cloak to conceal himself, plus the people were distracted by the talk of dragons and a pair of bickering soldiers. But he was more than reasonably nervous about going into any kind of large city with just his shell and a big cloak.

“Do you mind if I try something?” Stross asked, “I’m going to try and transform into you.”

“Uh, okay I guess.” Fenora said as she watched, mildly eager to see how this Changeling transformation worked.

Stross focused magic into his horn for the spell, but kept his eyes on Fenora while he did so, studying her figure to see how everything was connected. Changeling illusions were like throwing on a costume, in that didn’t actually change their bodies underneath. But it helped to know what you were supposed to be turning into.

Red flames swirled around Stross as he focused on each individual piece of his elven friend; legs, hips, waist, arms, shoulders, those jiggly things on her chest... and finally her head and face. His magic worked over his body much slower than it would with any practiced form like a Pony or even a Griffon. But soon, Stross finished it, and felt the magic subside along with a new wave of exhaustion.

“So? How do I look?” he asked with his new voice as he twisted around to see for himself.

Fenora however had averted her eyes and was peeking through her fingers.

“What is it? Did I mess up somewhere?” Fenora heard her own voice ask her.

“No you look fine, but you should probably just stick to your normal body for now. This one will probably draw a lot more attention.” Fenora told her clone.

“Why? I could be like your twin sister or something.”

“Not until you find some actual clothes you don’t!”

With Stross back to his normal form to save Fenora the embarrassment, they followed the road past a pair of buildings. “Honningbrew – finest mead in all of Skyrim” read a sign near the small brick fence. Quite a few guards could be seen ‘patrolling’ outside.

Before long they passed by a number of small farms. Everything seemed normal until the pair narrowly avoided half a wheelbarrow that came barreling through the air towards them, and erupted in splinters the second it hit the ground behind them.

Turning to the direction it had come from, Fenora and Stross saw a towering figure in one of the fields. They heard the thunderous crashes as the massive man-thing stomped and swung its club, and the rallying cries of a small group of warriors trying to fight it off.

“What is that?” Stross asked as he tried to get a better look.

"Oh wow, it looks like a Giant." Fenora gazed in awe. "We should probably get some distance." she warned.

The fight seemed to have been going on for some time, evident by the damage sustained to the field around them, as well as the obvious injuries sustained by both sides.

As one woman in armor was punted out of the way by the giant’s massive foot, a large man with a sword wound up a swing and sent the blade into the giant’s side.

This only seemed to anger the battered brute though, and as soon as the man had retrieved his blade, he was using it to deflect blow after crushing blow from the giant’s club, bending and blunting the steel as he fell to his knees under the impacts.

The giant raised its club over the man to deliver a killing blow, but stopped short when a ball of prismatic light stuck to its face. As it brought a hand up to try and wipe it away, the orb detonated in a blinding flash, sending the giant into a panic! It stumbled backwards, swinging its club to and fro as it screamed in rage.

From somewhere unseen, an arrow was loosed and dug into the giant’s back. Then a woman in revealing battle gear rushed forth from seemingly nowhere and leapt at the giant, using the arrow lodged in its back as a hand-hold while she climbed up to its head. With a dagger in hand, she quickly slit its throat.

The giant let out a gurgling moan and fell to the ground, where the archer woman put another arrow into its skull for good measure. After that she turned to where Fenora and Stross had been watching and walked over. “Well I guess that settles that. You there, was it one of you who cast that spell?”

“That was me! Just doing my part to help out and all that. What was that thing?” Stross asked, looking to the corpse.

“A visitor to Skyrim, eh? That was a Giant. The lumbering brutes are a pretty common problem around here, but that’s why warriors like the Companions are such valuable assets.” The archer explained.

“Companions?” Stross tilted his head.

“They’re like the Fighters Guild for Skyrim,” Fenora chimed in, “They work as mercenaries to keep people safe; clearing out bandit nests, dealing with dangerous wildlife... intimidating folks who won’t pay their debts.”

“Indeed, all that and more." the archer said proudly, "If you ever decide to take up the sword, or seek the kind of fellowship and honor that only true warriors know of, come find the Companions in our mead hall, Jorrvaskr, here in Whiterun. We’d be glad to have some new faces.” With that she turned back to the others who were slowly composing themselves. “Vilkas, Ria, are you two alright?”

“Nothing that can’t be fixed with a good meal and some mead.” The man in armor replied, “Though I’m not lookin’ forward to what Eorlund’s gonna say when he sees what I did to my sword.”

As they approached the gates of the city, Stross noticed a camp set up outside the city walls, and felt compelled to stop and take a look, perhaps out of curiosity, or maybe it was fate. Probably just stupid curiosity though. When he walked over, he found it populated a strange, cat-like people. Each seemed tired, yet they always kept an eye on both Fenora and him.

Fenora identified them as Kha’jiit, mentioning that she’d met a few caravans in her travels, and more during her visits to her friend in Elsweyr. She also briefly mentioned that they don’t like the cold.

An elder look kha'jiit beckoned him over. He sat on a woven rug, inside a tent full of various wares.

“Warm sands travelers,” he greeted with a slight purr in his voice.

“And may the sun shine on you, good merchant.” Fenora responded, which took the old cat a bit by surprise.

“Ah, one who knows us. Come, sit and stay for a moment. This one's name is Ri’saad, one who leads the caravans in this cold land.” he introduced himself. “What should this one call you?”

“My name's Stross, and this is Fenora Tandis.” Stross gave their names in return.

“It is a pleasure to meet ones such as yourselves; so many in Skyrim refuse to talk to us.” he told them, “You are seeking to enter Whiterun, yes?”

“Yeah, a dragon destroyed Helgen just this morning, and Riverwood is afraid they’ll be next. So we’re here to warn the Jarl.” Stross explained, figuring it wouldn’t hurt to warn a traveling merchant too.

Ri’saad's eyes went wide for a second at the word dragon, and he seemed to be deep in thought for the rest.

“This is troubling news you bring, a doom that many will not be quick to accept. But Ri’saad shall heed your advice, and watch the skies in his travels.” Ri’saad gave his head a slight bow of thanks before continuing, “In any case, this one requires your assistance. There is a young woman within the walls of this city, a promising recruit into our fine and humble trade. This message comes from Ma’dran, who leads the caravan from Windhelm to Solitude. It must reach her.”

“That’s all? Why not deliver it yourself?” Stross questioned, immediately regretting doing so when he saw the wave of anger and regret roll through Ri’saad.

“Because the Jarls in Skyrim are a bunch of bigoted pricks, that’s why.” Fenora told him bitterly. “Some Kha’jiit are forced to turn to thievery and selling illegal substances in order to get by, so it’s law that none of them allowed inside, no matter who they are. I’m remembering why I normally avoid this place.”

Stross frowned, remembering his own situation in Equestria. “That’s… that’s just not right. Someone should change that.”

Ri’saad let out a sigh, “Calm yourselves travelers. It is an unfortunate fact of circumstance that my kind are forbidden from entering the cities, but we do what we can to work around it. The people of Skyrim may frown on us, yet they still crave our wares. The trade is good on the roads, and the opportunity ripe. In time, they will accept the good, in spite of the bad.” Ri’saad held out the letter again, “If you please, find Ysolda and deliver our message to her.”

Stross took the letter from him and nodded.

“May your road lead you to warm sands.” The old merchant said to them as they left, and Fenora gave a small bow in return.

“Do you think what he said was true?” Stross asked, “Do you think Skyrim will get over the idea of the Kitty-Cat people being bad, and let them live in the city one day?”

“Maybe… I wouldn’t hold my breath though. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that Nords are stubborn and stuck in their ways, especially when it comes to tradition.”


“Why do you ask?” Fenroa questioned when she saw Stross slump.

“Everyone in Eqeustria hates Changelings. We’re different, dangerous, and they’re scared of us.” Stross told her.

It instantly clicked for Fenora why he’d asked, but she didn’t know how to respond after her last answer probably crushed his dreams. Instead she reached out and put a soft hand on his shoulder. “Hey… maybe Skyrim is different from Equestria. What do I know, right?”

Stross smiled for her, but wasn’t convinced. From what he’d seen so far, Skyrim and Equestria weren't so different, Skyrim was just harsher.

A few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch, and no one likes eating rotten apples.

When Stross and Fenora reached the city gates, the sight of guards in bright yellow chainmail made Stross freeze for a second. Even in his upright form, they were each a head and a half taller than he was, not to mention bulkier and far more imposing. There was also a subtle difference in the way they conducted themselves. Compared to the guards back in Equestria who stood watch like living statues, these ones milled around between positions, never staying completely still even when at their posts. They were stoic and imposing, sure, but with a certain restlessness, almost like they wanted someone to cause trouble, just so they could beat them up.

To Stross the contrast was almost frightening; Equestrian guards did their jobs to defend their people, Skyrim guards did their jobs because because they were aching for a good fight.

This only made it feel more impressive when Fenora casually walked up to the gate, unwavering until one of them called for her to halt.

“State your business traveler.” He said impassively.

“I’m here to deliver a message to the Jarl; a dragon has just destroyed Helgen, and Riverwood is in danger. We're here on their behalf to request protection for their town.” Fenora told him, emphasizing how much effort they were going through to make sure everyone was safe.

The two guards standing on either side of the gate swiveled their heads to exchange a glare through their faceplates.

“We don’t appreciate comedians and dramatics from the Bard’s Collage here elf, and we won’t have you harassing the locals with your tall tales. Unless you have actual business in the city, move along.” The guard told her and made a shooing motion with his hand.

“Sir… you’re doing your job. I respect that.” Fenora began tensely, “But I’m telling you, there’s a dragon out there. We have to tell someone before we're all killed!” she yelled.

“And I keep telling you, I don’t believe stories from crazies and drunks.” the guard told her in a deep voice. “If you’re going to keep up this nonsense, I’m going to have to make you to leave.”

“It’s true,” Stross came to back up her argument, “we barely got out of that place alive. And we’re not the only ones who know. Ask anyone in Riverwood and they’ll tell you the same thing.”

“Look,” the guard told them, his tone making it clear that he’d had about enough, “I don’t know what kind of joke you’re trying to pull. But the dragons died out in these parts centuries ago, and now you expect me to believe that one appeared out of nowhere, destroyed an entire city, and the only ones who saw it are all the way over in Riverwood?” he raised an eyebrow, though its effect was lost under his helmet. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you two were conspiring with bandits to lure our forces away from the city to make us vulnerable. And wouldn't that make for an interesting tale to tell the Jarl?”

Fenora looked like she was about to explode, but Stross stopped her. “Hah! Yeah okay, you got us! Funny though, right? I mean a dragon destroying a town... classic!” he laughed loudly and nudged Fenora with his elbow, “I guess it does sound kind of dumb when we don’t tell it right, but that's why we need practice! If we could make one of you guardsmen laugh, we’d be sure to make the Bird’s College proud, right Fen?”

Fenora wasn’t laughing though. “It’s the Bard’s College." she corrected. "What are you-“

“Right! Acing our final exam while we deliver this letter to our good friend Ysolda here in Whiterun. You know…” Stross pulled out the letter, “So uh, can we go deliver this?”

The guard looked at the letter. “This is from Ma’dran, part of that shifty caravan.” the guard said, making Stross tense a bit in worry, but then the guard face-palmed (Face-visored?) “Oh darn that girl and her dealings with those filthy felines...” he muttered, “Fine, you can enter the city, but don’t cause any trouble while you’re in there.”

“Mind telling me what the heck that was?” Fenora asked once they were through the gate.

“Thinking on my hooves- er, feet I guess. I didn't think they'd be so skeptical. Did the dragons really die out?” Stross asked as they walked through the streets through the market and towards the palace.

“I’m not really the one you want to ask about lore.” Fenora said plainly, “I know that there were dragons a really long time ago, and that the Nords fought them in some big dragon war, but not much past that. Living dragons haven’t been seen in… anywhere, for centuries as far as I know.”

“That would have been nice to know beforehoof- hand.” Stross said and thought for a moment, “Do you think the Jarl is going to believe us when we tell him?”

“I’m not sure. Hopefully he does, we’ll just have to see.” Fenora told him.

Stross made sure his hood was pulled as far over his face as could be and followed closely behind her.


Whiterun was divided into three tiers, with the first area mostly devoted to businesses; there was a blacksmith forge near the gates, then a larger market further up. The wood-shingled rooftops of a few large manors and houses were visible from where most of the shopkeepers stalls were gathered, but they were a bit more out of the way.

Fenora was silent as they walked up to Dragonsreach, so Stross decided to take in the scenery. Whiterun was a pretty small city compared to those he'd seen in Equestria, only about the size of a rural town like Buckwheat, or Ponyville. But all the same, it was bright and full of life. More than once he had to move out of the way from all the people running around on their daily errands.

Slipping into his changeling senses, Stross was able to see and smell all the different colors radiating off the people they passed. This was something he enjoyed doing from time to time, looking at peoples’ passing soul prints and just letting the world blend together. But even this simple thing was different than Equestria. Where ponies looked like they were surrounded by waves and bubbles of feeling, nearly all of these new bipedal creatures kept their emotions contained within them like cold steel, opening themselves only so slightly when engaging with another. All the regular emotions were there, but they were so distant and guarded that it was hard to get a read on anyone from a distance.

Out of curiosity, Stross looked over to Fenora and saw her glowing in a cool blue punctuated with specks of grey. Determined and calculating. Deciding to test a theory, Stross reached over and gave her a quick hug.

Fenora looked at him in surprise, and her aura changed to a shade of dark green, a bit more confused rather than annoyed, but still annoyed.

“What was that for?” she asked.

“Just because I like you.” Stross said with a smile.

Fenora returned his hug for a quick moment before breaking away, her aura flashing purple before slowly returning to blue.

"Affection?" Stross noted. "No. More like comfort."

Unfortunately, Stross was distracted from where he was walking, and a woman in a blue dress stepped into his path. The two collided and fell to the ground, and the basket of flowers she was carrying practically exploded, sending the colorful petals and stems everywhere.

“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Are you alright?” Stross said frantically as he recovered and went to help the woman to her feet. “I wasn’t looking, and I just-“

To his surprise, the woman actually laughed a bit, and he noticed that his flustered response was drawing more attention than the actual incident. “Well aren’t you a curious one?” she said as she got back up and dusted herself off. She had a soft voice that matched quite well with her demure appearance.

“Y-yeah… sorry about your flowers. Hold on a second.” Stross said as he went to start picking them up.

Fenora helped by picking up the basket that had fallen in one of the decorative gutters on the side of the road, and shook off the water. With his telekinesis, Stross was able to quickly gather up the scattered flowers in a sweeping wave, much like a broom. Once he’d gotten most of them, he levitated the messy bundle back into the basket, ignoring the tiny spike of pain that throbbed in his head shortly after.

“Thank you. It’s rare to see such kindness from strangers.” The woman told them as she took the slightly dripping basket, but was clearly more impressed with the display of magic she just witnessed. “You two must be new in town. My name is Ysolda, and I hate to ask, but have either of you encountered one of the Kha’jiit caravans in your travels?”

“Actually, we have.” Stross said and pulled out the letter from Ma’dran, “Ri’saad wanted us to deliver this to you.”

Ysloda eagerly snatched it the small piece of parchment from his hand, and her eyes quickly scanned over the words. A small frown appeared on her face as she finished, but it vanished as she turned to them again. “Thank you for giving me this. You know, I’ve dreamed of joining the caravans ever since I was a small girl. With this I might finally have my chance… now if I can only find a mammoth’s tusk.”

“Good luck to you then. The Kha’jiit are good people if you stick with the right ones.” Fenora said and began to move on.

“W-wait, hold on a moment.” Ysolda stopped them again. “I don’t mean to be a bother, but you’ve helped me twice now. I’d feel dreadful if I didn’t at least show you around Whiterun.”

Fenora and Stross shared a glance with one another. “Thanks but, we don’t really have time. We have an important message for the Jarl. Dragons.” the elf told her.

Ysolda looked skeptical at the word ‘dragons’, and Stross took a moment to face-palm.

“Oh, that’s alright." Ysolda told them, "I can take you there on my way to the temple of Kynareth, and show you the sights along the way.”

Stross gave Fenora a look that begged to at least let her come along, to which Fenora shrugged and nodded.

Ysolda smiled happily and clapped her hands. “Excellent, it’s just up here.”

Once out of the market district, the three emerged into an area seemingly dedicated to an old, withered white tree. Ysolda explained that it was the called the Gildergreen, and was sacred to the temple of Kynareth. She went on to tell them that the temple was where the sick and injured were healed in the city, and she was bringing the flowers to them, hopefully to liven the atmosphere in the temple. It was here that she directed them further up towards Dragonsreach before parting ways.

Opposite the temple was a large statue of a massive warrior impaling a serpent on the end of his sword and crushing its head under his boots. At the foot of it, a man in bright orange robes loudly shouted the praises of a man by the name of Talos. Stross tried to listen in as they made their way past, but with the way the man shouted, it only seemed like so much fanatic gibberish.

Once up the steps to the palace Fenora and Stross were stopped once again by guards on either side of the massive wooden doors.

“Halt, what business do you have at Dragonsreach?” one asked.

Fenora was about to answer, but Stross stepped forward before she could say anything regarding dragons, lest they get barred entrance on lunacy alone.

“We’ve got an important message for your Jarl, his people are in danger.” he told the guard, withholding the information about the source of this danger until they actually held an audience.

“Right, come on inside, he’ll want to hear about this.” The guard opened the door for them.


When Fenora and Stross entered the grand wooden hall with its many decorations, long tables and high ceilings, they began to overhear an argument coming from the other end of the room. As they reached the top of the stairs leading to the Jarl's court, they caught the middle of a discussion beyond the small bonfire burning in the center of the room.

“-while bandits nest in the hills, attacking merchants and travelers. Do you suggest we do nothing?” the powerful voice of Jarl Balgruuf asked in a frustrated tone.

“We shouldn’t be too hasty my lord, the Jarl of Falkreath will assume we’ll join Ulfrics’ side and attack him.” replied the more timid and cautious voice of Proventus, his advisor.

They both looked up as Stross and Fenora approached.

“What is the meaning of this?” a grey-skinned elf spoke up and marched towards them with a hand already on the hilt of her sword, “The Jarl isn’t expecting anyone today, explain yourself.”

Already sensing the tension in the dark elf, Stross stepped forward and spoke as calmly and deliberately as he could. “We come with dire news.” He began, “This is going to sound ridiculous and insane, but I tell you the absolute truth when I say that Helgen was destroyed by a dragon just this morning. It burned the entire town to the ground during an execution involving the rebellion, and the guards defending the town were able to do little to stop it. We were lucky to escape with our lives to bring you this information.”

He paused, then quickly added. “We’d also like to be financially compensated for our bravery.” To which Fenora gave an approving nod.

An uncomfortable silence hung in the room. Every eye was on Stross, and he did his best to not even flinch. He could see the Jarl with a considering look on his face, and the corner of his mouth twitched.

Then all at once, the entire room burst out laughing. Jarl Balgruuf, his advisor Proventus, the maids, and the guards were clutching their bellies as they gasped for breath. Even the dark elf Irileth, the Jarl's normally stoic housecarl, had to suppress a chuckle.

“Oh, you were right, that did sound ridiculous, but thanks for the laugh.” The Jarl said as he regained his composure. “I needed that after today. You can go now.”

Stross mentally slapped himself. Maybe just coming out and saying it wasn’t the best option after all. But now the only option left was to keep driving the point until they accepted it.

“I’m afraid I can’t leave just yet,” Stross told him, “I’m glad you find this so humorous, but this is no joke. There’s still a flying death-machine on the loose, and Riverwood is in danger.”

The atmosphere in the hall lost its lighter tone and became much more grim, the occupants changing to match.

“Surely you can’t be serious.” Jarl Balgruuf said, now leaning forward to give his full attention.

“I’m serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” Stross answered.

“You realize how outrageous this claim is don’t you?” Proventus chimed in. “Real, living dragons haven’t been seen in Skyrim for-“

“Centuries, we know.” Fenora joined in as well, “But if that giant, fire-breathing lizard that destroyed an entire town just this morning wasn’t a dragon, I don’t know what it was. Real or not, something distinctly dragon-shaped destroyed Helgen, I’d wager that at least a dozen are dead, likely more.”

“Did someone say dragons? I know I heard talk of dragons out here!” a new voice joined in before anything else could be said on the matter. From a small study adjacent to the hall, a spindly Nord in deep blue robes entered the room, adjusting the pair of glasses on his nose and carrying several loosely bound scrolls.

“Oh divines help us, not this again.” Balgruuf rubbed his temples.

“Greetings travelers, I am Farenger Secret-fire. I’ve dedicated nearly all of my life researching dragons. Tell me, is what you two say possible? Have you really seen one of those magnificent creatures, alive with your very own eyes?” the wizard took over the conversation, his voice carrying a distinctive lisp, “What was it like? How big was it? You said it destroyed an entire town?”

These questions and more bombarded them until the Jarl interrupted. “Enough Farengar, what they’re saying is clearly impossible.”

“One sure mark of a fool is to dismiss anything that falls outside his experience as being impossible; though I’d surely hesitate to call you a fool, Jarl Balgruuf." Farengar responded. “And if these travelers are telling the truth, it could be the discovery of a lifetime. If you would permit, I would very much like to borrow them for a certain project of mine.”

“Fine,” Balgruuf sighed, “With their consent, I’ll allow this. Anything to stem the tide of this nonsense. And know that I won’t be acting on these rumors without hard proof, I’ve got enough to deal with as it is.”

“Excellent, follow me to my study.” Farengar motioned them to follow.


Once in his study, a large and cluttered room with various maps, charts and scrolls lining every available surface, Farengar explained the results of his research so far. It had seemingly been compiled over several years, maybe even decades, with old theories crossed out as new information was found. Most of it would have made perfect sense to a dedicated scholar like Farengar, but was a bunch of gibberish to an outsider in the field like Stross. Though from what he could understand, there was a prophesy in the form of an ancient chant that foretold the coming of Alduin, the world eater, and how he would raise an army of dragons to destroy the world.

In the meantime, the changeling was far more interested in the several detailed and no doubt expensive maps, absolutely desecrated with notes and scribblings. Even through the mess though, Stross could tell that this land was completely foreign, with names of places he’d never even heard of scribbled across; Morrowind, Hammerfell, the Summerset Isles… but no sign of Equestria, or the Badlands his kind called home, nor the Griffin Kingdoms or… anything. Most disturbing, ‘Nirn’ was scrawled across the top. That wasn’t how you spelled Equus.

“Where am I?” Stross muttered fearfully to himself.

“...and that’s where the two of you come in!” Farengar finished retelling the lore Fenora was raptly paying attention to. “It seems that the time of reckoning is upon us, and the return of the dragons has already begun. But in order to prove my theory, I’ll need someone to fetch an ancient stone tablet called the Dragonstone for me. With it, I’ll be able to locate all of the ancient dragon burial sites.”

“And when you say ‘someone’… you mean us.” Fenora said, putting two and two together.

“Ah, you catch on quickly.” Farengar said with a bit of appreciation, “And when I say ‘fetch’, I really mean risk your lives delving into a dangerous ruin that may or may not contain it.”

“Wait, you want us to what now?” Stross asked.

Farenger let out a sigh. “Okay… let me spell it out for you. I want you to go on a dangerous mission in the name of knowledge and discovery. Simultaneously, you wish to prove that dragons have truly returned to Tamriel. As our interests align, it is clear we should help each other to further our respective goals. But don’t worry, this trivial task shouldn’t be too overwhelming for someone such as yourselves.” Farengar told them, “Unfortunately my skills lay elsewhere, so while you’re off doing the grunt work, I will be here in my lab.

“If my information is correct, the stone we need will be in Bleak Falls Barrow, no doubt interred in the main chamber. Oh, and one more thing,” he picked up a small jar from a nearby mixing table, “Would you please take these frost salts to Arcadia for me on your way out? I’m sure she’ll compensate you for the menial task of delivering it.”

“What are we, a delivery service?” Stross asked indignantly.

“Sure, give them here.” Fenora took the frost salts before she left, pulling Stross behind her.

“But the dragon! Do we seriously have time to-” Stross began before Fenora cut in.

“Come on Stross, time’s a wastin’.” Fenora grabbed him and dragged him out the door.

“I guess we’re going then.” he relented.

“Good luck,” Farangar called after them, “And try not to die!”

"Yeah sure, got it." Fenora called back, "And you might want to turn down the heat on that spriggan sap!"

“What sprig-“ Farengar began right before explosion, followed by a cloud of smoke erupted from the study.

“Oh by the gods, it’s all over the walls!”