Prologue: Summoned

Previously: Dramatis Personae

Having grown up in a big, bustling city called "Solitude", Talia founding it refreshing that the Pale actually lived up to its name.

It was a cold, wide ocean snow. Sure there were forests and lakes and such, and as she would find out later, actual farms. But nothing changed the fact that Heljarchen Hall--her new home--was surrounded by fields, forests, and mountains covered in snow.

Gods, it's fucking cold.

Talia was a Nord on her mother's side, but her father's Redguard blood clearly dominated when it came to Skyrim weather. Solitude was no stranger to cold; Talia had grown up in the shadow of a snow-covered mountain. The the city's high walls kept most of the cold winds at bay for which she was eternally grateful. Because even though she was born in Skyrim and would very likely die here (courtesy of a Civil War), Talia was never going to be used to the cold.

So naturally, fate had brought her to Heljarchen Hall.

To be fair, it was a nice house.

From the outside she could tell it had to two stories and several rooms, and even a large balcony...though she wasn't sure what anyone would actually use it for. It was by no means as fine as the typical three-storied Solitude manor, but the average Skyrim citizen would kill (literally) to live in such a house. It also didn't hurt that the estate came with its own carriage and driver, and extra horse in the stable.

Well, she is a Baroness...whatever that means. Talia hadn't heard about too many barons or baronesses in Solitude. Where she came from, it was all thanes, jarls, kings, and emperors.

Ultimately, it wasn't the house that bothered her. It was the location. It seemed everywhere Talia turned there was just more of Skyrim's wild, which normally wasn't a a sunnier clime. After years of being surrounded by stone streets, walls, castles, manors, and the like, Talia wonder if it wasn't the "weather" part that bothered her so much as the "wild".

Travelers' tales and bards' songs were all filled with the beauty of Skyrim and yet now that she was in the midst of it, Talia had questions. Were the seemingly endless miles of rugged wilderness really that beautiful? What the hell did people even do up here all day?

The inside of Heljarchen Hall was even nicer, cozy in fact. Judging by the way her whole body warmed as soon as she entered, the walls appeared to be an effective shield against the relentless winter.

It was fully furnished; the tables and chairs were wooden and old, having been passed down through the generations. The rugs on the floor were fading but still in good condition, as was the long, Imperial-style cloth on the table. In fact, the more Talia looked about her, the more she noticed the Imperial influences throughout the house, even the smell of food wafting in from the kitchen.

So, Talia raised an eyebrow, she's not a Stormcloak supporter. That's good. The last thing she wanted was to be a half-Redguard, half-Nord girl living in the house of someone who believed Skyrim only belonged to Nords.

"There she is," a low voice greeted. "Come closer, child. Let me look at you."

The woman speaking was a Nord sitting at the long table in the main room. She had red hair and wrinkles around her pale golden eyes. She wore a thick dark gown of wool trimmed with furs, and a circlet of silver set with sapphires. The dark gems glittered in the candlelight.

"You must be...Talia," she said.

"And you must be the Baroness Heljarchen," Talia raised an eyebrow.

"I am Lady Sigridr of Heljarchen, but I'm also your aunt," she nodded. "Call me Auntie," she grinned after a beat.

"Auntie," Talia nodded briskly. "Thanks for sending a carriage to Solitude for me. To what do I owe the honor?"

"Honor?" Sigridr blinked. "You're my niece. I've been apprised of your progress at the Temple of the Divines for years. The head priestess, Freir, sent me glowing reports every month."

"And yet," Talia pointed out, "I'm just now learning I have an aunt. Why now?"

"Why, you're seventeen," Sigridr blinked. "Almost eighteen--a woman now! I couldn't very well leave you to live the rest your life behind temple walls."

Talia felt like the older woman wasn't really hearing her. "But I thought I was alone in the world this whole time."

"That was for your own good," Sigridr nodded resolutely. "If we had told you who you really were and where you really came from, would you have wanted to stay at the temple? You were getting a very fine--and might I add, inexpensive--education over there."

"I grew up an orphan," Talia blinked. "My mother died in childbirth at the temple. Freir told me my father stuck around just long enough to name me before disappearing forever. I've had so many questions my whole life--"

"Which I will now gladly answer," her aunt interrupted, nodding. "Your mother was called Sigrun; she was my younger sister and only sibling. We grew up here together." She shrugged. "I don't know anything about your father. Your mother met him after she ran away to Solitude. Now, Freir did confirm they were married by Rorlund, the high priest at the temple, so you're not a bastard, if you were wondering."

"I wasn't, actually."

"Well, you should," Sigridr assured her. "Such a thing matters when you're one of us."

Talia simply looked at her. "One of us?"

"You are Lady Talia of House Heljarchen," her aunt clarified. She had very prim, almost miffed way of speaking. "When I die, you will be the next Baroness of Heljarchen."


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