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The Demon Hestra

Started by Pilaf The Defiler
Post #136871

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Editor's note: This appears to be a pamphlet which circulated widely in the Reach during the Reman expansions. It is often attributed to an obscure author who calls himself "Druadach of Cynbel". This offers very little in the way of clarification, as Druadach seems to be a place name and not a personal name among the Reachmen, and no other historical records speak of Cynbel, although this may be a derivative of the Direnni dialect of Aldmeris. Sadly, owing to the mutability of that tongue and the obscurity of Reach naming customs and variations it's impossible to determine the gender of this person, let alone what the name means or just who it is.

Long ago Lyg fell so that my people could live. His shattered body a reminder in the skies of his sacrifice - his blood splattering the land to show us the way to maintain our own Freedom. Ten Civilized Kingdoms there were in the Reach in those days, each with its own divine Stone. These were gifts from the All-Father. For countless eons their whispers guided our Augurs and our Hags in the ways of wisdom. Good Kings ruled impartially, and relationships between the tribes strengthened.

That all changed when the Demoness arrived. Like an adder in the night, her first strike was ruthless and fatal. Dunlain had been among the oldest and mightiest of the Kingdoms, but greed had seeped into their hearts. They had forgotten the faces of the Forebears and saw only Imperial Drakes, dangled in heavy bags in their faces. They crawled like scolded children to kneel before Hestra, and gave up the sacred Stones.

One by one the kingdoms fell. Rumors of atrocities circulated widely, and so many of our once-great tribes gave in willingly. At the time, the Once and Future King was a young stable hand by the name of Tirdach - which translates several ways but most notably "Azure Hawk" in the Old Tongue. When at last the haughty conqueror stood before the gates of the last Free Kingdom, she was met with fierce resistance from our king Red Eagle. Having become a Lyg-Echo he himself fought like a demon, but the powers and legions of Hestra were too much and his body was broken.

The last remnants of the last Kingdom fled into the hills in the wake of the blood bath, but they were not alone. Led by Tirdach they wandered far and wide for weeks, gathering survivors from other nations and forming a grand army. Hestra remained in the Reach, overconfident in her victory. She had underestimated the cost and labor of transporting the Stones back to the heathen south. Tirdach knew that this would be his one chance to reclaim what was lost and save his people from utter ruin.

The Hags approached and offered what they had offered Red Eagle, but Tirdach refused. "It is my destiny to overcome such temptations" he wisely stated. "I honor the Old Ways but will not accept this curse." The hags mumbled among themselves but deferred authority to their new King. He instead sought council among a trusted old friend, Grognak. The Orc had been his friend and a friend to the Kingdoms for many winters. "This southern Demoness has been sent by Malacath to test our will. I know it. They say she drinks the blood of men at night, underneath the statues to her heathen goddess."

It is true that the Last Tribe spread rumors of Hestra's strange abilities to manipulate blood. Many claim they saw her tear the living essence from their old Kings before their very eyes. It was also a matter of public knowledge that the Empress was a devotee of Dibella, an ancient enemy god. Tirdach needed to know his enemy, so summoned one who could help. The Carrier Hawk traveled many miles, enchanted with a speaking glamour by one of the Hags until it reached the conclave of the Druids.

The Druids of Galen were a dwindling race even then, but still powerful and well-versed in all the old arts. Wasting no time they assumed their animal forms and sped off down the mountain side from their last stronghold. In the dead of night, other animals noted the passing of swift panthers, elk and terror-birds. They reached Tirdach's camp before dawn.

An aged and gnarled Elven form leaning on a cane replaced a swift spotted mountain panther, the same color as his ancient robes. He opened the tent of the King and stepped inside. "Azure Hawk, your people are in grave danger. Have your Augurs not told you of the prophecy of the Drake-Child?"

"Most of my Augurs are dead" replied Tirdach sadly. "My people are at ruin's edge. I hope and pray your knowledge and wisdom can guide me, Eldamil."

The old Mer's face darkened. "Prophecy cannot be denied, young one, and Prophecy speaks of the death of you and your tribe. The Stones will be lost. The Kingdoms will forever be sundered. However, if you stand brave and make your sacrifice count, the bloodline of the people shall not fail. They will maintain the Old Ways and resist oppression until the World Eater takes it all."

Tirdach silently contemplated his fate for some time, then opened his eyes. "What must I do to save my people's future?"

Eldamil simply looked him in the eyes, and Tirdach knew. "The sword. The Sky Blade. A gift from Lyg, to be used only in the hour of our utmost need. If it is my fate to die, why must I use the sword?"

"It is the only thing that can break the power of her accursed ring." replied the Druid. "A perversion of Dibella's artistic grace. Hestra is allowed such blasphemies as she has Drake-Blood. The old god Aka-Tusk gave it to her, but she uses it to pervert and subjugate. She misuses her gift, but the gods can not interfere. It falls to good men like you to destroy such vile things. The Prophecy states that you will die and she will survive, but if you can destroy that vile artifact she will not be able to kill all of your people."

The Druids departed, as they were holy men and did not use violence, but with their wisdom in his mind Tirdach took up the mantle of Azure Hawk and decided to try to defy his destiny. "The Druids of Galen are wise in lore and history, but they do not understand the power of a true Hero. I will defy Prophecy and crush the demon's skull beneath my feet."

The tent of the High Priestess of Lyg was thrown back, and Tirdach strode in to witness her praying before a massive chunk of Ebony carved expertly into a facsimile of the moon Masser.
"Venerable Hag, I'll accept some help from you after all. I refuse the Briar-ritual, but I have need of the Sky Sword. I will use it to separate the Demoness' head from her shoulders."

The old Hagraven smiled. "This boon from the All-Father I share, as I have anticipated, but you may accept the Hunter's gifts before the end as well, little gamecock." She drew elaborate runes on the ground in charcoal and blood and sat the chunk of ebony in the middle. The ebony bubbled and twisted, infused with Lunar Currency, and took on a new form - brilliant and blue. Tirdach took the sword and embraced the mantle of Azure Hawk.

In the weeks that followed, Hestra's anger boiled over as her supply bases and travel routes routinely fell to guerrilla strikes in the dead of night. Survivors and scouts unfailingly reported a warrior king dressed in blue feathers wielding a pristine blade the color of mid-day sky. "Why won't these ignorant savages just roll over and die?" snarled the Demon queen in her tent. She brought her iron fist down and shattered her bowl of blood, which splattered across the statue of Dibella. The sapphire in her flower-shaped ring glowed faintly, as did her reptilian eyes. The Drake was alive in her and it wanted blood.

Forced to use a mountain pass, the Demoness' legions transported the Stones one by one, hoping to avoid the wrath of the Bird King. Unbeknownst to them the ambush had been lain and a volley of arrows rained down like hellfire. Azure Hawk would make his final stand today. As massive boulders rained down, crushing southerners beneath and and blocking off the last escape route of the vile Empress, the Last Army charged down from hidden paths cut into the ancient canyons by the gods long ago.

The melee that ensued was fierce. Bodies piled high on both sides, but still the Empress would not show herself. Many of the Old People grew boisterous of spirit, assuming she had been crushed dead and that her legions would fall into disarray without leadership. Still, the generals and battlemages barked orders, and fierce resistance did the Southerners offer. Though their skin was dark and their culture strange, Tirdach admired their warrior spirit. He could understand their success in subjugating other nations, but his would not go down without a fight.

Around dusk, Azure Hawk stood atop a small hill taking in the sights. The Imperials had managed to push back out of the canyon by noon. Hestra remained unseen but her presence could be felt. The Reachmen had salvaged one of the Stones from the canyon and placed it atop Victory Hill, and Tirdach commanded his army from there - or what was left of it. Only a few thousand exhausted warriors remained, and the Imperials were faring slightly worse. Still, the discipline of their remaining commanders and troops was evident. Fatigue and the sight of fallen comrades could not undo their years of hard training, and they did not have the look of men who faced death.

Still they were outnumbered, though not nearly two to one as Tirdach had hoped. He had badly overestimated the element of surprise. When the Imperials had failed to scatter or panic during the initial volley, many managed to hide behind their shields. The Reachmen were competent swordsmen but their true strength had always been mastery of the bow. These Southerners on the other hand wielded fierce short swords, sharpened on both ends with a stinging tip, and cut through the simple fur and iron armors of the Reach like hot mammoth tallow.

Azure Hawk himself had entered the fray not less than three times already, and each time his brilliant aura and the sheer power of his sword had mowed down entire rows of Imperials, but still they maintained their formations. Even the deaths of their officers did little to dissuade them, as a complex system of rapid field promotions existed among their ranks. Shields never lowered and long spears never faltered. The Phalanx threatened to overwhelm the Good King, and he withdrew.

At dusk, the Blood Witch showed herself at last. Her first strike came from the shadows, when an elaborate Elven Shortsword was thrust through the neck of a scout. He turned to face the dragon eyes of his killer, and with a wicked grin she extended her right hand, the evil ring glowing as it drained every last drop of blood from the boy's body. She began to weave the ring in elaborate patterns in the air, and the blood splashed on her naked body in Daedric letters, forming powerful armor runes.

Nearby warriors rushed in to target the Dragon Queen, as orders had been given to prioritize her death. Her eyes gleamed with an evil red tint as arrows and iron swords broke against her body as if it were made of Ebony. "What's the matter, heathens? Can't take down one single naked woman? What good are any of you?"

A mighty Reach captain armed with twin axes approached, whirling like a dust storm. Hestra smirked and parried his blows expertly with her short blade, then thrust the ring in his face. He screamed and dropped to his knees as his blood began to boil in his body. "That's right. Kneel before Hestra." She grabbed his head and broke his neck with one swift motion, then sawed into his neck-veins, drawing out the blood. "Who is next? Or will you bring me your King?" She snarled with her forked tongue through fangs.

"No? Very well. I had planned for this cowardice. What honor is there among savages anyway? I have prepared a method to draw your puppet chief out from hiding."

Azure Hawk had received strange reports all day that not all of the Battlemages had entered combat. Some stayed behind in the Canyon and had used their magic to dig ditches in elaborate patterns. Disturbing reports trickled in that bodies of the fallen were being taken to them and bled dry beneath statues of Hestra's evil goddess. As the ditches filled with blood, the Battlemages began to chant and produce soul gems. What demonic arts were they practicing?

He had finally decided that whatever foul ritual they were planning could not succeed. A sense of doom hung in the air. The smell of blood was overpowering as the strike force entered the canyon, led by Grognak. "By Malacath's toenails! Would you look at that? And they call us Savages?"

The Battlemages dragged soldiers from both armies and sliced their neck arteries, draining their blood into immense basins. Grognak trembled with anger. "Do they not even respect their own dead? Don't those men and women have families? Do these people have no religion or morals at all? Disgusting filth. I'll kill them all. Men, charge!"

The Battlemages were stunned for a few moments as the Orc captain's axe began mowing them down, his men in tow. Finally they gathered their thoughts and broke their spell to fight back, but the melee was one-sided. These Battlemages were not specialists in Destruction or melee combat but rather in Conjuration, unlike the Battlemages typically brought to war, and they were exhausted from hard labor. They barely put up a fight at all.

Grognak let out a mighty war cry as he stood over the dead Battlemages, but he heard an evil laugh from the dais in the middle of the elaborate altar. He looked up with hatred in his eyes to see the Demon Queen standing there, her stunning warrior's body naked and covered in blood. "Hello, little boy. You just spared me the trouble of killing them myself. That Nibenese blood was always high in just the right kinds of magic to finish this ritual."

Azure Hawk's childhood friend stood horror struck for just a moment, then charged up the steps with his men. He would put a stop to this demonic witch if it took his very last breath. Alas, he was far too late. As Hestra raised the ring on her right hand above her head and chanted a ritual in a forgotten Southern tongue, the ground beneath Grognak trembled. He lost his footing, and when he managed to look up he saw the towering Blood Atronach standing there, the living essence of thousands of men who died in pain and agony swirling through its form. "By all that is good... please, Malacath, forgive my failure." It was his very last thought.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tirdach stood thunderstruck on Victory Hill, now ironically named. The behemoth had smashed its way through the narrow cannon entrance just as Masser and Secunda crested the hills above the night sky. It tore through the dwindling ranks of the Last Free Kingdom like a sabre cat in a goat pen. He stood completely helpless as he watched his men die in vain, either fleeing from or attacking the atronach in utter desperation. Its barely corporeal form proved impenetrable to their attacks, but every man or woman it crushed lent their blood to its growing fury.

"There is only one course of action left, my King. Please accept the Hunter's gifts. Look in the night sky. Witness the Blood Moon. Is this not an auspicious night? Use His gifts. I implore you. Don't let our people perish into the pages of history."

The man who was Azure Hawk turned to face the ancient, withered form of the High Priestess. "Venerable Elder, if I sell my soul and become a Briar-walker, I will never forgive myself even in death. I will not share Red Eagle's fate. I will remain pure."

The old hag chuckled, shaking her grey feathers and silvery hair. "Child, it's a little late in the game to rely on the Briarheart ritual now. I was speaking of an older, more potent magic than even that. The Sisterhood has gathered. Time is short. The Tundrastrider awaits."

Tirdach looked down from his command post to witness a sight he'd never imagined. A half dozen Hagravens stood in a circle around the skull of a mammoth. Without a word, the High Priestess motioned to them and they carried it up the hill, placing it atop the Sacred Stone.

"What are you doing, Venerable Elder?" She hushed him with one clawed finger. "It's the only way to destroy that abomination. We must summon a holy champion. That the final battle transpires tonight is a boon from our Lord, who takes many forms. Tonight the Hunter lends his mightiest beast."

The face of the Hunter appeared in the moon, channeling his ancient power into his mightiest Aspect. A beam of pure red light shone down on the makeshift altar, and the mammoth skull lifted high into the air, suddenly enveloped in flesh - the mighty Weremammoth walked on Nirn for the first time since the Dawn. With a mighty trumpeting, it charged the Atronach full-speed, the bones of the earth quaking under its heavy steps.

The few remaining Imperials broke rank at last, utterly horrified at the twin titans battling in their presence. To them it seemed the gods walked the world once more, and that was just a tad outside their training. As hills and ancient towers were shattered into dust beneath the mighty blows of physical gods, Azure Hawk looked on, contemplating the end of his short-lived Kingdom, and he wept bitterly. "It's come to this. Even my hags are dead. It would seem the Hunter demanded a sacrifice." He regarded the skeletons left behind when Hircine had taken their flesh to sustain his Aspect.

"And so this is the end of the Civilized Kingdoms. An ignoble end. At least I've protected the Stone - but at what cost?" As he wept, the glow disappeared from his blue feathers, and the sword became dull. The Champion was no longer invincible, and it was then that the demon struck.

Suddenly, a terrible pain pierced his left side, just under his heart. Hestra had thrown the dagger as well as she wielded it. He lurched to his knees and saw her dragging her naked form up the hill. She was covered in wounds, having nearly expended the limits of her blood magic. "Little boy...playing King..." she spat up blood, her demon eyes glowing red. "Nice wound you have there. I think I'll drink from it."

She raised a trembling arm, wielding the ring. It was cracked badly and the stone barely glowed. Summoning the Atronach and fighting her way single-handedly up this fortified hill had nearly killed her and the Stone. Still, she used its power to draw blood from his side, which screamed in pain, and transformed it into a restorative wave which closed her own bleeding wounds. She dragged herself to her feet, supported by the very Stone she sought, running her hands over it like a lover. "You will not impede the Queen of Mortals, boy."

With a final flash of anger in his eyes, Azure Hawk raised the sword. A tiny amount of the Hunter's power lingered about the stone, and the sword glowed a brilliant blue one final time. He swung it high and brought it down like a lumberjack swinging an axe, and Hestra barely responded in time, forming a shield with human blood in the air between them.

At that moment both the Calla Ring and the Sky Sword shattered, and the hands that wielded them burst into painful flames that bit deeper than flesh. "It's over, demon. You'll never possess this stone. I'll send you down to Hell with my bare hands." Tirdach snarled, no longer the chosen one.

"Impudent heathen." she snarled, not quite finished herself. "Do you think the Dragonborn is ever unarmed? I will rule not only this realm but all of the stars." The other piece of jewelry adorning her curvy body began to glow on a chain around her neck. She raised it with her left hand, the only functioning one she had. "Do you see this? Do you recognize its power?"

"Peh. What's that, another useless trinket? It doesn't mean a thing to me, but you're wagging it in my face like the All-Father's left testicle. Do your worst, demon."

And Hestra did. In a blinding flash of light she dug deep into the Oversoul. In her place was a massive three headed Dragon, with a crown on each head and a gaping diamond for a chest. Tirdach himself assumed the form of a great blue Hawk. They did battle on the spirit plane, mirroring the actions of the titans below. For the rest of the night their immortal battle raged, digging deep into the flesh of Masser, making it bleed - for no longer on Nirn were they.

At long last the Weremammoth crushed its foe beneath its gigantic feet, bleeding from multiple head and body wounds, its tusks broken and its snout mangled. It uttered one final victory trumpet before falling dead, causing earthquakes across the entire Reach. The damned souls of Reachmen and Southerners alike fled desperately towards the Aether, only to be grabbed and dragged into Hell by dragonlings.

At the same time, Hestra's soul bit deeply into Tirdach's, crunching with all the remaining strength in the jaw along the great Hawk's neck. The Dragon's other two heads had been severed and its wings broken in the desperate brawl, but now its labored breathing was met with silence, as Tirdach's soul lay broken and dead.

Hestra opened her eyes, her own body badly injured again, propping herself against the Doomstone. Her foe's mortal body lie dead and mangled at her feet, and she spat blood on him, her arm hanging limp and broken. "Good riddance." The demoness had won, our mighty champion having fulfilled the Prophecy. He died, but his sacrifice and the hags' distraction had allowed the women and children in the hills ample time to retreat. The Dragon Queen's immortal eyes could not find them out and our people survived, as we still do to this day.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

She took our Stones from us. In time, the evil one recovered from her wounds, and retreated back South with her prize and a dozen or so surviving troops. As for me, I write this book so that people know the truth about my people. The one called Cyrodiil denounces us as savages, and has sent another demon to harass us. This Sidri-Ashak will fail as the demons who came before failed. As Hestra learned long ago, you can break our bodies but not our spirits. Never. There will always be more of us. We are tied to this land and it is ours. To this day, my people fear and respect the power of the Demon Queen, and paint Dibellan statues with blood to ward off her evil. We have learned to embrace the savagery of the Hunter, and the gifts of the Hags. We will not be broken again.

If you're reading this, be you Nord or Native, or even Southerner, know that the Old Ways are the True Ways. Accept the gifts of Lyg in all his terrible aspects and your people will never die. I offer you a warning of tyrants who wield red diamonds - though they boast of culture and unity, they do not love freedom. They slaughter indiscriminately. They do not love you or the gods you keep. It is not too late to stand against the Dragonborn. Even if he destroys you, he must be resisted for all that is good. Those who abandon freedom in favor of security deserve neither. Die defending who you are or live a traitor and a coward. This is my final warning to you. May the Old Gods keep you.
This post was last modified: January 24th 2014, 06:59 AM by Pilaf The Defiler
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The following 5 users Like Pilaf The Defiler's post:
Archmage Alator, Idriar, Thorfinn, Took an arrow in the knee, Triskele
Post #136893

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Ebonheart Pact
A good read, there should be more Reachman Lore like this. Pretty cool to see some literary themes mixed in there from beyond TES as well.

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Post #136897

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Aldmeri Dominion (Altmer)
Yes. YES! You have no idea how awesome this is!
This post was last modified: January 24th 2014, 05:14 AM by Idriar

Who controls the Septim crown?
Who keeps the Allesian Heresy down?
We do, we do

Who knocked Yokuda off the maps?
Who keeps the Dwemer under wraps?
We do, we do

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Post #136924

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Daggerfall Covenant (Breton)
A great read, awsome work Pilaf!

The Archmage of the council of Arcanea.

We are openly recruiting, any Roleplayers in the Covenant who are looking for a Guild, this is the Guild for you
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Post #136936

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Hey, thanks for the praise, guys. I'm working on other fics at the moment. I actually wrote this one last summer as part of a think-tank world expanding effort. I have one other story pre-written that needs a little editing and plan on writing others later, but not all of them involve the Reach. They will cover a variety of lore facets that I personally feel deserve fleshing out a little, or which badly need an alternative perspective. As for the slightly non-ES vibe of some of this, it's colored by cultural differences and author's bias. I think that kind of thing is what makes established ES lore great, and I try my best to emulate it. Stay tuned, and stay creative!
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