Thank the Divines I brought my coat, Yrith thought sardonically, shaking whole clumps of snow down from her robe. Wet as a drowned skeever, she did not dare take one step further. Urag was generally quite benevolent with her, but not even she would be permitted to touch a book with wet hands. And so she stood on the threshold of the Arcanaeum, drawing in the scent of dust and old paper. In her mind, she was desperately thinking of a way to ask him for the books Master Larkwing had ordered her to study without having to explain the circumstances. The memory of Urag’s heated words addressed at the young teacher and the Nord’s scowl at the mere mention of the orc librarian conjured a soft smile on her face. Despite all the harshness and tease, there seemed to be a kind of mutual understanding between the two. One they might have not realized themselves, but she could sense nonetheless.
Quiet footsteps echoed through the tall library, and when she strained her neck to find their source, she noticed Urag gro-Shub counting the volumes on one of the bookshelves. He was holding a thin book, scribbling something in it every once in a while. The orc was nodding to himself, humming a tune that felt familiar, although she was certain she had never heard it before. As she tried to recall it, the orc turned around and spotted her.
“Yrith!” he called to her, waving at her with the paper. “What are you doing out there? Come on inside, it’s a lot cozier in here!”
She stepped into full view, spreading her arms to show the water dripping from every inch of her. Urag nodded in understanding, rushing to her side. “The weather sure is pleasant this time of the year,” he grumbled. “You need to learn your spells, Yrith. Simple heat is probably the easiest thing I know.” With that, he waved his hand as though he was conducting a bard concert and within a blink of an eye, a gust of warm air whipped all the water away.
“Thank you,” she said, combing her disheveled hair with her fingers.
“Anytime. What can I do for you today?”
“I need to take a look at something. May I?”
“Anything I can help with?”
“Well… not exactly, I’ll just wander around for a bit and find what I need.” Yrith was painfully aware that the smile she put up was the most unconvincing thing in history. She tried to scurry past Urag as quickly as possible, but the old orc grabbed her sleeve and turned her to face him.
“Yrith?” he drawled, lowering his head to give her the kind of suspicious look that a parent gives a child when they know their offspring is hiding something from them. She waited for him to articulate the question, but he stayed silent, letting the weight of the moment press her. And he did right. It felt almost suffocating to bear the quiet, worse than having to answer uncomfortable questions.
“Will you let me go, Urag?” she peeped. The orc smiled, revealing fangs that would scare away any ordinary human. Yrith was everything but ordinary, although she did feel a tug of disconcert at the sight. The teeth had nothing to do with it.
“Fine,” she gave in with a sigh. She handed him the paper she had received from Master Larkwing, her fingers trembling slightly. “I need these.” Her eyes sought out the floor, tracing the symbol of the Winterhold Eye made of neatly cut tiles.
Urag stared at the paper too long for Yrith’s liking, his poise slowly becoming a frown.
“Does Larkwing find this amusing?” he growled, almost ripping the paper as he clutched it.
“Is he threatening you? Demanding something he shouldn’t? You know, if Larkwing’s giving you trouble, you can just come and…”
The sight of the old Orsimer fuming in outrage for her sake brought a smile to Yrith’s face. She chuckled, putting her slight hands on his bear arms.
“One moment you’re telling me to study, the next you are worried that I actually could?”
“Larkwing’s an exception,” he harrumphed, then waved the soaked paper in front of her face. “Do you even know what these are? They’re not your average textbooks. These are reference texts for the most seasoned magicians who want to go beyond impossible. What’s that dimwit of a troll thinking?!”
“Really?” She felt a tingle at the nape of her neck, a slight hint of thrill. For some reason, all of her fears suddenly dissolved, as though a burden had been taken off her shoulders. She did not know whether Master Larkwing was ridiculing her or if he in fact expected great things from her, but whatever the answer may have been, she was ready to accept the challenge. With poorly concealed excitement, she said: “Could you add a few ordinary textbooks then?”
“Yrith, what in Oblivion did he tell you?”
The dreaded question suddenly did not sound that threatening. “To study diligently,” Yrith shrugged.
“So you’re just going to do as he says?”
“Why do you have a problem with it, Urag? Didn’t you always wish for me to fit in here?”
“And you never seemed to care. So why now?”
Yrith paused, pondering her answer. She let the orc wait for a moment, listening to the sighs of the wind from outside and quiet crackling of the candles. Then she raised her head, gazing in his wild but gentle yellow eyes. “Because I want to,” she said simply and, much to her own surprise, realized it was true.
Urag was taken aback. He let go of her and stepped back, sizing her up with an intense stare. Then he nodded, slowly.
“I’ll get you the books.” And he scuttled away into the section that Yrith had, up to this moment, refused to visit.
Opening the first book, Yrith found a new world. She had always had a passion for literature of any kind. Beautiful letters set neatly on yellow pages, containing all the world’s wisdom and tales. Back when her parents had still been around, more than once she had snuck into the family library, snatching a book so she could read it in secret. That was how she had learned to conjure. One book, The Tale of a Pirate Princess, she had stolen so many times that her parents decided to give it to her, providing it with an inscription at the beginning.
To our beautiful daughter with love.
She smiled at the memory, setting her eyes at the task at hand.
The three books Singird Larkwing had ordered her to read were by no means uninteresting. She soon found herself absorbed in them, forgetting the existence of the outer world. They mostly focused on working with soul energy and transcending planes of existence, as though mirroring what Yrith had explained to Cain earlier. There was also a part explaining the possibility of conjuring a creature directly from one’s soul, but apparently, there were too many risks involved and most of those who had tried it had suffered a very slow and painful death. Yrith shuddered at that, withdrawing a paper from her satchel to take notes. In her concentration, she could not even see people come and go as they threw curious glances at her.
A few hours later, she let out a loud gasp, realizing she was late for Illusion. She earned herself a reproachful scowl from Urag who was balancing on a ladder before one of the shelves, trying to rearrange the books on it to fit some more between them.
“Urag, can I take these with me?” she called to him as quietly as she could.
“You’re really taking it seriously then? Well, if that’s what you decided…” he hinted a smile. “Go ahead but make sure to return them in time!”
Yrith set out for the door, but then hesitated. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted the mysterious black-covered tome Urag had been so secretive about. It lay on his desk, partially covered by papers but still in clear sight. She took a step closer, examining it. Its dark cover was coarse and worn, the silver lining on its edges disrupted in several places. The pages appeared as though they had been ripped and mended many times.
Her eyes flicked to the orc. He was so immersed in his work he did not see anything but the books before him. A pillar stood between him and his desk, conveniently blocking the view. Quietly as a sneaking sabre cat, she leaned to it and swept the papers carefully aside. It took her some effort to slide the heavy tome between the ones she was already holding, but the orc did not seem to notice a thing. She bit her lip in concentration and danced away on her tiptoes, leaving the orc librarian in the dark.
The afternoon dragged like a pack of horkers in the mud. The Illusion class was the same as usual. Drevis Neloren, their Dunmer teacher, had a strange habit of engaging in a dialogue with his own person. Some people joked about him practicing illusion magic on himself, resulting in split personality. The truth was he simply loved his subject so much that he had a tendency to contemplate aloud. Yrith found it mildly amusing, but this time, her thoughts were with the black tome waiting for her to uncover its secrets. She barely caught a word of the lecture, and when it finally ended, she was one of the first people to bolt out, scooting directly to the Hall of Attainment. On her way, she almost crashed into J’zargo, the Khajiit adept who proudly announced on every occasion that one day he was going to become the Arch-Mage. She quickly apologized before gathering herself, earning herself a twitch of his furry cat ear.
Just after she had entered the student dormitory, she was stopped by one of her classmates, a slight Altmer boy with crème-colored hair and olive skin. His name was Aernil and Yrith knew him to be one of the most conceited and detestable people around. This time, for a change, his usually smug expression was replaced with a somewhat forthcoming smile. Yrith raised a brow in question. The octagonal room quickly became crowded with all her classmates, forming an almost perfect circle around them. Much to her surprise, Cain stood in the center with face carved in stone while Qassir was leaning to the wall, keeping aloof from the others and enjoying a moment of peace. She frowned. Her stomach sent her a warning tickle.
“You know, Ravencroft… Yrith,” Aernil said in a gentle tone, “if I’d known what that Dunmer did to you, I wouldn’t have been so mean. I’m sorry.” He extended his hand for a shake. “How about we make peace?”
Yrith stared at the hand, confused. She looked at the faces surrounding them, some eager, some sullen, several of them just as baffled as she was. Cain was staring blankly at them, but somewhere behind that mask, Yrith could spot a mixed feeling of anger and grief. “And what might you be talking about?” she asked with utter cautiousness.
“Come now,” the Altmer chuckled. “You don’t have to hide anything from us anymore. We know you’ve been able to conjure all along but were afraid to show it. But it’s okay. We understand now.”
Yrith struggled not to gasp. How did they know? Who had told them? It could not have been Singird Larkwing, could he? He promised. He wouldn’t… or would he? She threw a glance at Cain, but denied that option immediately. The fiery-haired Dunmer looked weary and shaken. She could almost hear him praying for this to be over.
“How do you…”
Ha’risha, the bronze-furred Khajiit girl, appeared by Aernil’s side, gently patting Yrith on the shoulder. “Everyone knows that Cain has been exploiting you. Weren’t you the one who taught him to conjure that atronach today?”
Yrith tried to study Ha’risha’s face, but guessing a Khajiit’s feelings was the same as reading the face of a slaughterfish. She could see nothing in those golden eyes. To her, it seemed that the Khajiit were always smiling.
Ha’risha was quickly joined by a Bosmer boy with dark, curly family tattoo on his left cheek. Nelarin, the one who liked to follow the class leaders. If Yrith should pick one person who excelled at spreading rumors, it would be him.
“I saw you talking to him,” he nodded. “And that shield you cast in Restoration… you’re actually quite good at magic, aren’t you? You helped Cain, right? And then he scoffed at you and blackmailed you so you would keep quiet about it.”
Yrith could not believe her own ears. Her expression hardened. Her hands clenched into fists, eyes shooting daggers. Quiet but clear, her voice resounded in the corridor. “Weren’t you friends with him?”
The Khajiit laughed. Her laughter reminded Yrith of the sound of a saw working its way through a log. It was just as unpleasant as its owner. “With Cain? One could hardly admit to something like that after what he did.”
Yrith studied the friendly faces around her. They wore smiles on their lips and whispered words filled with compassion, all directed at her. Urag would be happy. She had finally found friends. They were eager to accept her, willing to overlook everything that had happened up to this point. And ready to discard a friend for it too.
A memory flicked through her mind. One with Ha’risha, talking passionately to Qassir, the audience favorite. Then the Redguard, flashing smiles at Yrith on every occasion. The dots connected.
She took a deep breath and straightened her back. Facing the broad-shouldered Khajiit girl, she looked tiny and helpless. And yet, she stood her ground, making sure her face showed exactly what she was feeling.
“Out of my way,” she whispered.
“Yrith?” Ha’risha peeped, keeping up her act of innocence. “Are you all right?”
“I said out of my way!”
“We’re trying to help! We want to be your friends!”
“If you want friends, then look there!” she spat, pointing at Cain. The dark elf was still standing there, the flickering shadows on his face, sharp in the blue fountain light, emphasizing his unease. Their eyes met and she saw nothing of his usual haughtiness. “I have nothing to say to you! Now if you’ll excuse me.”
“What’s your problem?!” the Khajiit girl hissed. “Is this how you treat your allies?”
“Calm down, Ha’risha,” said Nelarin, putting a hand on the catgirl’s shoulder. “She’s just confused. No wonder, after everything she’s been through.”
“Confused? Allies?” Yrith fumed, shaking her head in disbelief. “I have no need for allies who throw their friend away like an overused sock the moment he’s not of use to them anymore. Get lost!”
Fine, she thought. They think she is good at magic. Then let’s keep it at that.
She raised her hands as though she was preparing to cast a spell and turned her palms toward the three obnoxious classmates.
“Get lost!” She added a hint of a fire spell for effect.
They backed away, eyes wide with fear. Yrith stomped her way to her room without another word, eyes still hovering over Cain. When he averted his gaze, she slid over to Qassir and hardly resisted the urge to freeze in place. The braided Redguard, still casually leaning to the wall with his hands cushioning his head, watched her intensely, lips quirking into a mysterious smile. Shivers ran down her spine as she broke off the eye contact by sheer willpower. Quickly as she could, she disappeared in her chamber, slamming the door behind her. Then, she slid down with her back to it, releasing an exhausted breath.
Ah, she thought to herself as she let the books slide from her lap to the floor, I did something incredible.
She closed her eyes and waited for her breath to steady. The last three days she had been a subject to Meridia’s twists of luck, Sheogorath’s jests, Vaermina’s nightly horrors, Mephala’s treachery and Dagon’s wrath. Just what had she done to upset the Daedra?
She flexed her fingers, forcing herself up. Her weak fire magic was enough to light a few candles and provide some coziness to the room in the form of warm, flickering light. She threw herself on the bed, wrapping her arms around the black tome she had stolen from the library. Not only will Urag be angry at her for rejecting her new so-called friends, she will incite his anger even further with this little feat.
She brushed the thought aside, setting the book on her pillow. Her fingers ran over the black cover of the large tome, gently sliding along the silver lining and neatly impressed ornaments. She threw a quick glance at the hourglass on one of the few scarce shelves on the walls, estimating the time she had until her scheduled trip to the sea. Assuming she could afford a while for herself, she opened the heavy leather cover and caressed the pages with the palm of her hand, reveling in the coarse feeling of the paper on her skin. She lay comfortably on the soft blanket, propping herself on her elbows, and her eyes focused on the jagged script that filled the pages. She shuddered a little as it was reminiscent of the daedric script, but read the first page nevertheless.
Riding the Currents of Time by Septimus Signus.
She turned the page to reveal a sheet covered in close text, its appearance almost screaming about the excessive amount of information included. Her eyes followed the first line immediately.
The book you are holding in your hands is not just some ordinary piece of literature. It is in your possession because the gods wish so, and the first moment you came into contact with it, it became a part of your destiny. Be aware, dear reader, that from now on, your life is going to undergo a significant change.
Have you heard of the Elder Scrolls? Some say they only exist in legends. Some say they are a part of us. Some say they do not belong to this world while others will tell you the exact opposite. There are rumors that state that these scrolls transcend time. Curiously, all of the above solemnly swear that the knowledge contained there is forsaken and dangerous.
I have dedicated my life to the research of the Elder Scrolls, and I might be the first one to discover that anything and everything can be recorded there. In fact, anything and everything is recorded there. There is no such thing as a limit to an Elder Scroll. Their exact number is unknown and perhaps even nonexistent, their contents vary in both character and density, from the simplest things such as explanation as to why people cook their food to the complex matters like the concept of life and death, the origins and downfall of dragons or the Universal Principle (which I explain in my other works). I assume that the ultimate Elder Scroll would contain information about the origins and termination of individual kalpas. The key to understanding the Elder Scrolls, however, lies in their omnipresence and the ambivalence of the Truth.
If you say that an Elder Scroll is a unique object of certain specific attributes, it is just as true as saying that it is only a simple scroll with a simple message. If you say it does not exist, it is just as true as saying it exists and is right here. What people fail to understand, however, is that their omnipresence, their existence and nonexistence, incorporates not only the concept of “where”, name it place, location, position, or even sphere, realm, plane or universe, but also of “when”. Strangely enough, there is no difference between “where” and “when” for an Elder Scroll. It can be found at any time in any place, shifting its position not only forward or backward, up or down and right and left, but also before and after.
When thinking about how time is no more than another dimension for an Elder Scroll, I could not help but think why it is different for us. If an Elder Scroll can move in time freely, why can’t a person do the same? Many years I searched for an answer to this, trying to find a way to travel in time. I have discovered an old Dwemer document concerning this problem, but gained only the general outline as it was incomplete. I had to look for my information elsewhere, in realms unknown to most of the mortals. As a result of my efforts, this book was created.
It is meant to give its reader a complex understanding of the concept of time as well as a solution to traveling to the past and future. I paid a terrible price for its completion however, for the knowledge stored in this book is taken from my master. It was his utmost protected secret, which I dared steal from him and convey to whoever finds my work. If you are reading this, chances are that I have parted from your plane of existence.
You must be asking yourself why I didn’t save myself from my master’s wrath if I knew how to travel in time. When reading this book, you will discover that moving in time is very energetically expensive. The magic as you know it, the so-called official arcane arts within the boundaries of people’s tolerance and acceptance, do not apply here. It is fairly easy to move an inanimate object in time, but to move a living soul, a sacrifice has to be made. The size and nature of the sacrifice depends on many factors, including the size of the soul, its inner energy, the time distance you want to cover etc. Always remember that nothing is free in this world.
You could then argue with me that the Dwemer, among many other things, discovered certain ways to minimize these sacrifices. Indeed, they did. But I will tell you one absolute truth that no Elder Scroll can deny. When you read this book, always remember this one sentence. Carve it into your mind and don’t ever let it slip, for without being aware of it, you will condemn yourself.
You can never escape your destiny.
Now that you know all that you need to know, let us move on and take a sip from the bottomless well of knowledge. Happy reading.
Yrith’s hands were trembling, her mind overwhelmed with a flood of emotions and information. She had stolen a book about time travel from Urag’s collection! A book that could perhaps grant her unbelievable power if she desired it and was most likely kept secret from the public. Perhaps not even the collegium knew of its existence.
She remembered the name of the author, for Urag had mentioned him several times. According to what she knew, he had been an extraordinarily skilled mage, unfortunately obsessed with Elder Scrolls and some long lost Dwemer knowledge to the point where he could not hold a proper conversation. But this work seemed like a masterpiece, something that would, as Urag liked to say, open an entire new realm of research.
For Yrith, it held another meaning. She forced herself to take a deep breath and settle down, fighting the flush of excitement taking over her. If she could use this method, if she could travel in time, she would be able to undo the gravest mistake of her life. She could go back and warn her parents, or maybe prevent herself from conjuring the atronach. She could change things for the better.
Her eyes were fixed on the open book, scanning the prologue over and over again, and every time she did so, her resolve strengthened. This was a gift from the heavens and she was going to accept it with open arms. She knew what she had to do now, it was clear as the summer sky in Cyrodiil. She was going to bring her dead parents back to life.