I got to thinking about the Undaunted and what kind of crazy stories they might tell while sitting around between adventures. So I have done my best to write an Elder Scrolls like story while trying to find a balance between staying true to the lore and creating something that was my own. I hope you enjoy.
Undaunted: Tales from the Happy Hagraven
The tavern was a bit more rowdy then usual given that the Undaunted were gathering in a large group towards the back. There were about a dozen of them, seasoned veterans from all corners of the world come to drink in victory of another dungeon conquered. Elise was not one of the Undaunted. Sitting among the patrons, she was scratching out notes in her book and did as much as she could to make herself unseen.
“You’ll never get the information you need if you sit here.” Said the burly old barkeeper. “You should approach them, buy them a drink or two.”
“I can’t do that” Answered Elise “They don’t like it when others try to sit with them.”
She turned to look back at the table. She had been coming to the tavern for weeks now and knew most of them by name. Olaf the Giant, aptly named because he was big even by Nord standards. Just-Die-Already, a silent Argonian with a white skull painted over his dark scaled face. There was an Altmer Sorcerer and renegade member of the Mages guild who they called Faye but that was not her real name. KoJa’Dar, a Khajiit scoundrel wanted in more cities then Elise could name. The female Red Guard was Riza, a tall and beautiful duel wielding bringer of death. The two newest members she did not know, they were a Dark Elf male who was passed out drunk near the head of the table and a Tawny haired Bosmer woman who was fighting with the cook over how to prepare meat. The one member missing and most likely to talk to Elise arrived as if the thought of him summoned his presence. Maul gro-Bosh, the Orcish Dragon Knight entered with a slamming of the door and a war cry that scared the life out of the common folk. He was a heavily armored figure, not slowed by age or the pains of his war battered body. Counted among one of the eldest of the Undaunted who frequented the establishment he commanded a great deal of respect from his fellow thrill seekers and many of the young bloods wanted to be like him. Also because he was a great story teller, he ended up doing most of the recruiting. Some now cheered as he walked by. Slaps on the shoulders were given,along with several handshakes and a head-butt from the Nord as a greeting. Elise waited for the Orc to sit in his high backed chair at the head of their table. If she was going to talk to him, it was now or never.
Making a quick stop at the bar, she asked of the Bar keeper “Give me two of whatever he normally drinks.”
The bar keeper set out two mugs of foaming drink and pushed them across the counter space. “These will be on the house so long as you come back in one piece.” He smiled, winked and said “Go get em.”
The drinks were heavier then they looked and she did her best to duck and weave between the crowd that now grew as if out of air. Maul had stripped off shoulder plating and chest armor with the aid of the skull faced Argonian. Now comfortable he dropped back in his seat and turned a murderous gaze to the bard singing in the corner. Someone gave the lute playing performer a light nudge and gestured in the direction of Maul. The Bard stopped playing and found a place to sit quietly for the rest of the night. Turning back Maul found Elise, a young blond girl armed with a polite but nervous smile. She set the pair of mugs in front of him and Maul took the bait. “I haven't ordered yet and you don’t look like the barmaid.” He said.
Behind her the Khajiit had silently closed in on her right side. “Koja'Dar does not think she is a commoner. Her hands are to soft and she smells like Jasmines.”
Stumbling to find her words and answered “I’m with the Mages guild.” Then she reconsidered her statement and corrected herself “Sort of with the Mages guild, that is I’m working on an assignment to become an initiate.”
Maul gulped down half of the first mug she brought him, then looked her up and down. “Do I look like someone who is here to help you with your homework?”
“Well actually.” She said “I’m here to study the Undaunted.”
All of the Undaunted paused breaking the sound of the tavern for a moment before erupting with laughter. Elise tried to keep her composure and work out what was so funny. “What did I say?”
“The Mages guild has set this one up.” Said the Khajiit, still behind her but now appearing on her left side.
“How do you mean?” asked the young girl.
The Nord approached, towered over her he said “We have had others with your ‘assignment’ before. They were told to find us and discover how the Blood alter works or where we learned the Bone Shield from.”
Riza added in “Usually the initiate is to intimidated to approach us and when they do it’s often when we are drunk. That never ends well.”
“The results are always the same” Just-Die-Already said “The initiate returns empty handed and failing their assignment never makes it into the Mages guild.”
The Khajiit whispered from behind her “Sometimes the initiate is never seen again.”
“I have a better idea.” Maul said. Sitting at the Orcs right was the Dunmer who was passed out drunk and with his head on the table. Maul ripped the Dark Elf out of his seat, dumping him on the floor and placed the now missing drunks mug as an offering to the young girl. “Sit.” It was more of an order and not a polite invitation. She did so cautiously and took the mug. It’s contents smelled awful but she drank it anyway.
“Tell me, what made you join the Mages guild?” Maul asked.
Everyone fell silent. Not just the undaunted but the entire tavern was listening. She took a deep breath and decided to brave speaking openly about herself and her life. “My family owns several homes and small businesses around Wayrest. We do well and I have everything I could want. My brothers and sisters are all learning to manage the family businesses and some are already in arranged marriages. Life was just handed to them. The Mages guild felt like a way out of that, one that my family would accept and I’d have the chance to travel the world. How could I say no? Why stay at home living a life others decided for me when there was a whole world of possibilities out there? But if what you tell me is true then I suppose that dream is finished.”
“Well, let me offer you another possibility.” Maul said “I know of another guild, one with less restrictions, more benefits and will still give you the option to pursue a life less mundane then the one that awaits you back home.”
Elise was shocked and blurted out the most obvious statement “But I am no warrior.”
Maul laughed and said “So? Believe it or not I was a lot like you once. I walked from the stronghold on my 16th year, searching for something else, a life that was my own. I crossed one hill and then another. And then a mountain. As I wandered I asked myself what was in the ruins on the left or the crypt on the right. Where do the Maormer call home? Where have the Dwemer gone and why have they left so much junk behind? Who were these Ayleid whose homes take up more real estate then a Breton Land Lord? Why must bandits and trolls squat like homeless wretches among the burial grounds of the dead? Sure the Mages guild will send you to other lands but it will be to just read more books about somewhere else. And what is the point of possessing all of this book knowledge if you don’t see things for yourself and learn what it really means to live?”
Maul drank down the second mug and slammed it on the table “To Live!” he said and stood to pace the room as he often did when he told his stories “To see the world with your own eyes, to taste Dark Elven food made by real Dark Elves. To walk the forest with the Bosmer or fight side by side with the Red Guard, facing overwhelming odds upon the burning sands of their home land. To sail with Khajiit smugglers, to win and lose more gold in a day then an Imperial banker sees in a life time. Live to learn spells the Mages guild had not considered.”
He paused for a moment, his eyes set on a small blue strand of silk pinned to the wall near their many trophies. He reached out to touch it and his mind recalled a distant memory that made him smile “Live to spend a month with a Priestess of Dibella, then live to stay a month longer.” Turning to the crowd he said “Live to out drink a Nord, Arm wrestle an Orc, befriend an Argonian you freed from slavery, prove an Altmer wrong and then laugh at the angry scowl that will burn on their face long after you are gone. But most of all, Live to challenge the odds. To laugh in the face of death and do the impossible. To go places no one else has ever heard of and return.”
“And who knows, you might even accidentally save a life or two which happens sometimes as a side effect of our heroics. Take my last adventure. I was resting in a road side tavern where I over heard tales of a large family of merchants gone missing. There were rumors that travelers had been ambushed by highway men or some such. With nothing better to do I set out with the hope that it would not be highway men but rather some horrible abomination waiting in the woods to rend my flesh.”
Maul lifted his two handed sword which was slung over the back of his chair and drew forth the weapon from it’s scabbard. “Worm cultists were the culprits, snatching the innocent away and they were not hard to find. All I need do was look for the great hole in the sky where black chains forged in hate lashed themselves to our world. There I found the cult sacrificing their captives upon a stone alter in the name of Molag Bol. Over and over the bloody blade of religious fanatics fell and the souls of the innocent were visibly ripped from their bodies to drift screaming up into a great hole in the sky. They were finishing with the adults and had saved the children for last. Enraged I leapt down from the rocks where I was hidden and began cutting through their ranks. The cultists fell quickly to my blade and the next thing I knew Daedra are raining down from the portal above.”
“I crushed the neck of a Clan Fear. I stepped on and kicked an imp across the field, smashed the face of a winged Twilight and was burned while slaying a Fire Atronach. With my enemies defeated, I freed the children of their bonds and snatched the last surviving adult female from the alter. The children ran ahead and I carried the woman in my arms trying to put as much distance between us and the still open portal. We were about to disappear over a hill when the voice of Molag Bol called out, taunting me. If he had but one more soul he would have the power needed to send forth his champion to defeat me. I set the woman down and told her to limp along with the children. I could have left, I had saved lives and rid the world of many evils that day. But I had to know.”
“Returning to the site of the Anchor, I found the last of the worm cultists still clinging to life. I drove my blade into his belly and stood a foot on his chest, posed like an explorer planting a flag. ‘Send me your champion lord of Murder’ I shouted ‘And make it good. I grow bored’. Molag Bol sent down a Flesh Atronach, a great horror made of stitched flesh, filled with rage and an unending lust for slaughter. It’s hands were missing, replaced with spiked instruments of war that it held up in challenge. We rushed forward and battled each other, slicing and hacking and grappling for who knows how long. Eventually my sword was knocked free of my hands and in return I disarmed my foe by ripping one of it’s spiked clubs out from it socket. I then beat the creature with it’s own weapon until it stopped moving and standing victorious over my foe shouted up to the rift ‘You call that a champion?’ Whirling the club around, I smashed at the stone base where the anchors were locked into, freeing the chains hold on Tamriel. I laughed at the screams of the lord of murder, his portal slammed shut, his followers defeated and I live.” he said driving his sword down into the floor “And so I return, undaunted!”
The crowd roared and clapped and a round of drinks were on the house. Several towns folk thought it was okay to sing the Undaunted song which the guild allowed without so much as a cold gaze of murder. Maul dropped back into his chair and looked to Elise knowing that he had a new recruit.
“Where would I begin?” She asked.
Maul leaned in with a smile “I know of a good place to start.”