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[Short Story] The Grief City: Sieatfel

<Just another book that lays aimlessly on the shelves of the Mages Guild in Windhelm. It has a stamp on the inside cover noting its rejection for review and study by the College of Winterhold, and has since been collecting dust in Windhelm. The timestamp on the inside cover suggests this was written more than 20 years ago.>

The Grief City: Sieatfel
Author: Evaseen Foethrall

Chapter One: An Expedition to Displacement
Chapter Two: The Wailing Capital
Chapter Three: Time Tears

Chapter One: An Expedition to Displacement

The following is the results of the Sieatfel Expedition as commissioned by [eye-kye-us] Eiqiaus Amon II, assumed to be a mage in the First Era. These results are detailed from the memories of my patient Raewlynd Stonesword, one of the guards for the Expedition and the only one to return alive. The return deposited Raewlynd not far from Dawnstar, the capital of The Pale, and what Raewlynd claims is the ancestral home of his Clan. I was summoned a week after his appearance to investigate his timeline and reveal his journey. As this is recorded my patient is perhaps only several days from death, dying of old age. He is a son of Skyrim, whether Nede or Nord I'm not sure. He claims he is over an Era old and his aging deforms him greatly, but his memories are one large meld solidified in the past. I cannot tell how long he's actually been alive, and thus I leave the truthfulness of the following up to discretion.

The Expedition was formed sometime in the first era after an unidentifiable artifact surfaced in High Rock. It came under the possession of Eiqiaus Amon I, and upon sight of it the artifact spoke to him once. It gave him it's name: the Will of Sieatfel. The artifact was a normal, spherical rock with a single glowing crack in it. Despite all magical experimentation nothing could be determined of or about this artifact for a long time, and thus it went unrecorded as there were no findings to record. But Eiqiaus swore he knew what he heard. He believed the Will of Sieatfel was somehow alive, and he was determined to find out what or who Sieatfel was despite it being viewed by his peers as a worthless research. This went on with no results until Eiqiaus passed of old age. The artifact had not driven him insane, but he recounted just before his death how the artifact was his greatest regret: that he had spent so much time on a worthless rock and wasted his life as mage and as a researcher. It was in his dying grief that the artifact awoke. His son, Eiqiaus Amon II watched as the artifact consumed his father's soul and for a brief moment opened a portal to another world.

Eiqiaus II immediately took over his father's work, and commissioned the Expedition to Sieatfel.

Raewlynd's timelines is hazed and nearly faded when it comes to his reasons for joining the Expedition. Raewlynd was at one point a soldier in a war of, presumably, the first era when he was separated from his clan and was lost to them. He ended up as a mercenary and joined the Expedition because he needed the money and resource to get back home. All that remains of his timelines before the Expedition is his desire to return home.

The Expedition was composed of five people: Eiqiaus Amon II, a powerful breton conjuration mage, the Perore Twins, Antone the destruction school mage, and his brother Adrian the healer. "Fought like the Breton brothers they were, but their abilities always seemed to cancel each other out, and effectively drive them insane." The muscle of the Expedition fell to Raewlynd Stonesword, and a rough around the edges Redguard blademaster, Xias Siona. "As powerful in ability and character as she was beautiful. She saw herself as the force of will that could cut through the battlefield and turn the tide with her fighting spirit alone," says Raewlynd. Stonesword was the only son of Skyrim among them and wielded the claymore of his clan.

Eiqiaus lead the Expedition to investigate the aftermath of a battle between Orcs and Bretons. (Again it proves nigh impossible to figure out precisely what time this is as Orsinium was razed in 1E 980 but they discovered a battle leading up to it?) There they found a wounded and dying solider crying out in grief as his young life slipped away. Eiqiaus II used the Will of Sieatfel on the young soldier and opened the very portal that consumed his father. Amon sustained the portal with his magic and the group was able to pass through safely.

Chapter Two: The Wailing Capital

"A city of grief, sitting on the edge of the flow of time. Time was there but it wasn't, in the same way that grief always comes in feelings of never or forever." Raewlynd's condition is in a steady decline and I have done all that I can to make him comfortable as he will soon pass.

The Expedition arrived in a city of opaque stone that looked like two cities faced into each other. There was one city on the ground level of which they walked, and the dark city floating above them, but upside down. Beyond the city was endless stars, space, and nothingness, perhaps the void, the edge of the Mundus, a plane of Oblivion, or maybe just the Aurbis itself. There was a single glowing blue river that flowed through the center of the city and would flow right off the edge of the stonework and out into the nothingness, and yet it would never cease its flow and never seemed to have an exact source. All sense of houses in the city were empty of furniture and any household items. All buildings existed as endless walls of cold stone and social areas were abandoned. The city was inhabited only by nameless souls of every race of Nirn, past, present, and potentially future. The only thing Eiqiaus could determine from the souls was that all of them died with intense grieving in their hearts, a grieving that had taken over their lives and followed them into death. The Expedition called them the Crying Ones, as their wails of grief echoed endlessly throughout the city, and if not for the wandering souls the city was otherwise abandoned entirely.

They searched the city for what felt like weeks onto months, though day or night did not pass in Sieatfel. There was nothing there and that quickly became more and more apparent as they searched deeper into the stone city. Just as with the artifact, nothing could outright be determined of the city other than it's grieving. It did not take long for Eiqiaus to realize that there would nothing to take from Sieatfel, and nothing to be gained either. "Grieving, crying, it exists like that. You can't take anything from it, you can't understand anything, and you cannot give it anything either for that matter. The city just existed. Alone."

The most they could do was try to speak to the crying ones, and while that gave Eiqiaus a few theories, it proved little as it was hard to distinguish any facts from exaggeration from souls that were eternally overwhelmed with grief.

Eiqiaus had three theories: One theory was that the city was a pocket realm of Oblivion, maybe that of Vaermina, the prince of nightmares. Second theory was that the city was perhaps temporally displaced and then forsaken by the Aedra, and it had since fallen into the state it was in. Eiqiaus' final theory, and one that haunted him the most, was that Sieatfel was a crack in the Mundus where all of the grieving of all things across time and life had fallen into. He thought that maybe Sieatfel wasn't a place of death for the sad, but a place of forgotten in-between, and what could only culminate in such a place was the sadness of the Mundus. These weren't souls condemned for a lifetime of grief, but merely souls who had somehow fallen away from Aetherius or the Mundus and were thus consumed by their grieving. It was a troubling theory that Eiqiaus never recorded in his journal. He only sometimes spoke about it curiously, but he had yet to explain the existence of the artifact, the Will of Sieatfel.

The more time passed the more Raewlynd became wary of madness taking a hold of the group. Without time they felt no hunger, needed no sleep, and thus became increasingly vulnerable to madness. He and Xias Siona did what they could to keep morale up via sparring and otherwise creating games and holding talks on their off time from searching the city. But for all their efforts they sensed Eiqiaus slipping away from them first. Maybe it was the constant ambience of the Crying Ones that tore at their hearts, but the city itself held a sullenness that worked its way in. The artifact was no more alive than it had been in Tamriel, and no amount of searching showed them a way back.

There is a scene that sticks out in Raewlynd's timeline, or lackthereof; a memory he has clinged to for his entirety in Sieatfel.

"Eiqiaus felt responsible for leading us on an Expedition that temporally displaced us. He cried for the lost time and he silently lost all hope. We all feared returning to Tamriel as much as we all wanted to go home. How much time had passed? Were our loved ones gone? With happened so fast, so quiet....we stopped along the edge of the city, as the view of stars and space beyond was the only way to get a change of scenery from the endless cold stone. I sat with Eiqiaus, and we talked about women. What kind of woman we'd like to meet when we got home. He was married, but if we returned to Tamriel too late, there was always more women--had to keep it positive, you know? Xias Siona had taken the twins out to duel and just as she was returning Eiqiaus and I stood up to greet her. I saw the look in her eyes when it happened, as if she had been stabbed with with her own swords, as if her burning, fighting spirit had somehow failed us all. Eiqiaus stood behind me and without a word he stepped off the edge of the city and was lost to us. He left the Will of Sieatfel where he had been sitting and for the first time since we arrived at Sieatfel, it awoke."

The artifact awoke something inside the city. The Crying Ones gathered at its awakening and lead the Expedition to a giant vault at the heart of the city.

"We cried the entire way to the vault."
Chapter Three: Time Tears

The vault was a quiet place where the Crying Ones and their wails fell away. It was a single room with an altar of floating crystals. Raewlyn's heart hardened as he threw open the doors of the vault. And in retrospect, it may have been only the extreme stubbornness known to the Nords that saved his life. The vault was too quiet, too empty, and the very strings that held the Expedition together came undone in the presence of the crystals. Stonesword watched as Xias and the twins, Anton and Adrian, collapsed in grieving at the base of the altar. Raewlynd held the Will of Sieatfel and as he approached the crystals they awoke and the artifact disappeared. A being awoke from the crystal prisms and appeared before the group.

"She was the size of a little girl, just glowing all over---made of pure energy? Her very breath consumed Xias Siona and the twins. She shattered their bodies and souls like glass and they disappeared in a puff of blue light. I can't tell what kept me alive in her presence. I was determined to go home to my clan, regardless of the time period, and if she was the answer I would not give up or give in. She spent a long time just floating, screaming, and crying."

The being spoke to Raewlynd then, and told him to go away. He refused and the being screamed louder, crying harder. Stonesword watched as the Crying Ones flooded into the vault and each one was sacrificed beneath the screaming being.

"I thought then of Eiqiaus' theories. Maybe she was a fallen Aedra, forsaken by the Aurbis and forgotten by her kin. Maybe she was the collection of all of the wailing of the Mundus and had somehow taken form. She felt sadness, felt grieving, but could not understand it. She consumed the souls of humanity to collect their memories, their thoughts, rationalizations...hoping that from them she would find understanding. But all she found was more grieving. I felt her screaming invade my thoughts and she began to pry. She found my greatest fear was dying of old age before I returned home. I think....the Will of Sieatfel was sent away by her. A screaming goddess carved out her own heart and threw it away into Nirn, and as I returned it to her she began to feel again."

I see this being in Raewlynd's timeline. I cannot tell if she's really Aedra or something else. There is no known Aedra nor a Daedric prince of sadness, grieving, of all things depressing. Whatever she was, Raewlyn raised his claymore and beat upon the crystal prisms, not knowing if they housed or imprisoned her. She screamed the entire time until he finally broke a few of the crystals, shattering his clan's claymore in the process. The being turned on him then, and he demanded to return home.

"I think she tried, maybe? She has no consciousness to rationalize her pain, nothing in her ability to make sense of the grieving and sadness. But in that moment I think she pried into my mind and did what she could to send me home. She saw the place but not the time. Saw me but not the man. I heard a small thank you as the crystals reformed around her, and as she cast me back to Mundus I saw the Will of Sieatfel be cast out as well. For that short time the Expedition made her remember her pain and her only answer was to carve it out and send it away again."

Raewlynd's journey ends as he awoke in the woods not far from Dawnstar, where he was discovered by a Nord Clan out on a hunt. A simple touch from the being nearly consumed his entire life-force and it left him decrepit aged. It seems his time in Sieatfel did take a told on the strong heart of a Nord as his life slips away he is consumed with grieving that his worst fear was not avoided, and yet not quite absolute. Stonesword wishes to reunite with the descendants of his Clan and to explore Skyrim once more, and yet he is slowly passing on. Kyne take him.

<The book ends here. And in there very back of the book there is a page with a signature from the author, Evaseen Foethrall, as well as a signature from Raewlynd Stonesword, and a small sketch of the Stonesword Clan emblem.>
  • menedhyn
    What an incredible read! It is brilliantly written, wonderfully descriptive and it kind of reminded me of Michael Moorcock's work in places. Love it, @Samsayia, thanks for sharing!
    'Pure rains make sweet rivers'
  • Samsayia
    paganach wrote: »
    What an incredible read! It is brilliantly written, wonderfully descriptive and it kind of reminded me of Michael Moorcock's work in places. Love it, @Samsayia, thanks for sharing!

    thanks : ) I'm glad you liked it.
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