Mirabelle Ervine

The Hall of the Elements was typically a place of learning at the College of Winterhold. A peaceful place for lectures by Tolfdir and quiet instruction on the nuances of the restoration magics by Colette. Yet now, it was all but defiled. Some would say that Tolfdir’s expedition to Saarthal was successful; bringing with it the discovery of an incredible artifact full of energy and light. Though, whose bright idea it was to transport the large floating orb – the Eye of Magnus – to the middle of the Hall of Elements, Mirabelle didn’t know. She certainly would give them a piece of her mind once she discovered who they were.

Aside from the fact that Tolfdir had done nothing but stare at it for days since it was brought there – rendering him more useless than usual – it gave her a bad feeling. There was something about it that needed taking care of. Exactly the reason why the Arch-Mage Savos Aren sent one of the College’s newest apprentices off to seek out the Staff of Magnus from the ruins of Mzulft, she supposed. Except that Marieka had been gone for months now. She had no idea what the girl had been doing. And she’d brought another apprentice, Onmund, with her. If the two had somehow found trouble at the ruins and perished, she’d never have forgiven herself.

But if the girl was traipsing halfway across Skyrim, taking her sweet time in hunting for the staff…why, she’d kill the bloody mage herself.

The girl had better return to the College as soon as those little Breton legs of hers could carry her – they needed her. Well, they needed that staff. For it was not just Tolfdir who had become obsessed with the Eye…that damned Altmer Ancano had barricaded himself in the centre of the great hall, drawing more magic from the Eye as every second passed.

She stared at the Mer through the gate, watching as he all but merged with the great sphere.

“Still no response from him then?”

Mirabelle turned to see Savos entering the hall from the direction of his quarters. She shook her head. “No. He will not respond to me. He won’t even look in my direction,” she growled. “We must get in there, Savos. This cannot wait for the apprentice.”

“Without the staff,” he replied, “I’m not certain what we can accomplish.”

She shook her head again, disappointed. They should not be held hostage to this man. It was their College…they would have to reclaim it.

Just as she was about to open her mouth to scold the Arch-Mage’s resistance, the great doors to the hall opened, accompanied by a massive gust of wind, blowing snow and crystals of ice towards them. She pulled her robes tightly against her, turning to face those who entered.

“Marieka! Onmund!” Savos exclaimed. “You’ve returned to us!”

“By the Nine, girl! Where have you been?” Mirabelle shouted.

Marieka was on the verge of replying when Savos jumped between the two women. “We can discuss your whereabouts later. Where is the Staff? Do you have it?”

The apprentice looked down and shook her head.

“What do you mean you don’t have it?” Mirabelle questioned. “You’ve been gone for months! Where is the Staff?”

“Now, hold on a moment,” Onmund said, jumping to her defense. He stepped forward defiantly in front of Mirabelle, but Marieka gently pulled him back.

“Onmund…it’s fine,” she said quietly, yet her demeanour changed when she turned back to the woman. “We spent days in Mzulft. That ruin was full to the brim with Dwemer machinations and traps. Oh, and a Chaurus. Or twenty. I lost count after the first two of them we battled. Have you ever seen a Chaurus, Mirabelle? And I don’t mean in a book. I mean up close and personal. Where you feel their poison hit you and you want to rip the skin from your own bones to get rid of the agony you feel?”

“Point taken, Marieka,” she replied, narrowing her eyes at the younger mage. “You’ve faced insurmountable odds and come out on top. Yet, without the Staff. So what happened?”

She sighed loudly, obviously annoyed by Mirabelle’s insistence. “We eventually found a member of the Synod…the group of mages that you advised me to seek out. Paramus?” She paused for a moment to check for recognition of the man’s name, but seeing none, continued. “I’m quite certain he was driven mad on account of being so isolated in the ruins and surrounded by the clawing and sounds of death. At least judging by the Falmer dead that littered the entire route to where he hid. He was not happy to see us…at least until we advised him we had exactly what he’d been waiting for – a focusing crystal. He needed it for his research in the…” She looked at Onmund for a moment.

“Oculory,” he offered.

“Yes,” she continued. “The Oculory. Without going into too many more details, he advised us that a tremendous amount of interference was preventing him from coming up with clear results. Interference that I could only assume came from the Eye.”

She peeked past the two senior mages into the main hall where the Eye was and noticed Ancano standing in front of it, energy passing between his and the orb.

“What in Oblivion is Ancano doing in there?” she exclaimed.

“This is exactly why we’ve been so anxious for your return, Marieka,” Mirabelle said through her teeth. “But we must know where the Staff is.”

“Ah, of course,” she replied. “Paramus advised us it is at Labyrinthian.”

Mirabelle turned towards Savos. “Labyrinthian? But isn’t that—”

“Perhaps we shouldn’t be concerned with the Staff at the moment,” Savos said. She and Marieka noticed he was suddenly acting more than suspicious. Yet neither questioned him. “We must get in there and stop Ancano.”

“Are you sure, Savos?” she asked. “You just mentioned that you didn’t know what we could do without the assistance of the Staff.”

“Let us try, Mirabelle.”

She nodded. “He has placed a ward, yet the two of us have not yet been able to break through it alone. Perhaps with your help, Marieka…”

The young mage nodded and stood waiting for their signal.

With the forces of lightning and ice, Savos and Mirabelle aimed their magic at the gate, prompting Marieka to join in with a third element – flame. The three elemental energies combined and overwhelmed the ward on the gate, shattering into thousands of pieces and allowing them access to face Ancano’s treachery.

The four mages entered the hall, Onmund holding Marieka back slightly.

“Ancano!” Savos cried out, his voice thundering like few had heard before. “Release your hold on this power!”

The Altmer glanced at the Arch-Mage, but only momentarily. He didn’t move and continued whatever it was that he was doing.

“You leave us no choice,” Savos said sadly, before throwing a powerful bolt of lightning at the Mer. Mirabelle followed suit, attempting to send a spike of ice at the elf. But before her magic hit the mark, an explosion of energy engulfed the room, throwing all of them backwards with such force that they were knocked unconscious.

Her eyes opened. Slowly.

Fingers on cold stone. Ringing in her ears…or…no. It was the ringing of the sphere…the gods-damned Eye that still hovered in the Hall. And Ancano…still standing in front of it.

Mirabelle moved to sit up, immediately grasping at her abdomen. She squeezed her eyes shut; the pain was just too much. She remembered…briefly…the explosion of energy. The sphere responded to their magic with a burst outwards. She was thrown backwards, spun in mid-air, and evidently crashed stomach first into one of the great stone pillars that supported the Hall of the Elements great expanse. There must have been broken bones somewhere. Where was Colette when she needed her most?

“Ungh,” she groaned, continuing her attempts to raise herself up to lean against the very pillar that likely caused her so much agony.

“Mirabelle?” came a whisper.

“Marieka? Is that you?” she replied weakly.

The young mage crawled over to her from behind the pillar she leaned on.

“What…what happened?” she asked, bewildered.

“The Eye,” she replied. “The Eye has powers we do not understand. Go…you must find Savos. He will know what to do. I cannot move.”

Stumbling a little, Marieka managed to get to her feet. “I will hurry back as soon as I can.”

As the girl and presumably Onmund left her – as she could see no one else but Ancano in the Hall – she glared at the Mer. It was he…he who had caused so much of this trouble. It did not matter that Marieka had actually found the sphere…or that someone else – probably Savos – had decided to have it brought to the College. No, Ancano had exacerbated the situation by…performing this ritual of his upon it. He would see justice, that was certain. She would make sure of it.

Her eyes closed briefly, yet she had no idea how much time had passed when she opened them again. All she knew was that Collette stood in front of her, staring in awe at the sight of Ancano connected with the sphere through some sort of magic she’d not seen before.

“Collette,” she murmured.

The woman turned to her quickly. “Mirabelle! I was afraid you’d succumb to your injuries. You didn’t come to when I attempted to heal you. But…here you are.”

Her voice wavered. She angrily wiped away a tear on her cheek.

“Collette, what has happened? Where’s Savos?” she asked.

Collette shook her head sadly.

Mirabelle felt herself tremble. She looked down at her hands which had begun to shake. She clenched her fists tightly and squeezed her eyes shut, as tears welled over.

“The young mages,” she whispered hoarsely. “Where are they?”

“They’ve gone to Winterhold. To protect the people of the town. The sphere…it…something came from it. I don’t know what.”

“It’s too powerful for the apprentices! They’ll be killed,” she exclaimed.

The healer shook her head. “Faralda and Arniel have gone with them. They’ll come back…I feel it. Let me help you up.”

Mirabelle shook her head vigorously. “No! My—” She felt her abdomen and chest, but the pain had subsided a little. Enough to move. “Did you? Did you fix this?”

She nodded. “Let’s get away from this orb before it does something else unexpected,” Collette wisely suggested.

The two women hurried out of the Hall of the Elements and into the College’s courtyard. The winds were furious; the snow blinding. She held her hand up to her face to shield it from the snow and could make out the outline of a huge skeleton lying in the middle of the courtyard. A…dragon? Here? She breathed a sigh of relief as she reminded herself that it was merely the beast’s skeletal remains and the women continued on. They turned to head towards the Hall of Attainment to shelter from the elements and rest until the apprentices returned. As they reached the door, she saw Marieka out of the corner of her eye and beckoned her over. She and Onmund followed the two into the Hall and to her quarters.

Mirabelle fell down on to her bed and Collette sat in a chair in the corner. “What happened out there?”

“Bursts of energy,” Marieka answered. “From the Eye, no doubt. But not nearly as powerful as the blast we felt. Onmund and I were able to help Arniel and Faralda contain the threat. They remained in the town to seek out survivors…see if their help was needed any further. I didn’t see any townsfolk injured.”

“Finally,” she said, “some good news.”

“What do you mean?” the young Breton asked.

“Savos. Savos is dead.”

Collette shifted uncomfortably in the corner as Onmund and Marieka looked at each other.

“How?” he asked, stunned. “How did we all survive, yet he…?”

Mirabelle shook her head sadly. “I do not know. And I do not know how we will stop Ancano.”

“The Staff,” Marieka said suddenly. “I will go to Labyrinthian to retrieve it.”

“You? You would do this?”

“You said yourself, Mirabelle. I was gone for far too long. It is my fault Savos is dead. It is only right that I retrieve the Staff,” she said, looking down. “What else can I do but retrieve it?”

Mirabelle didn’t mean for this. She didn’t mean for the girl to blame herself for the Arch-Mage’s death.

“No, my girl. This is Ancano’s doing. But you can stop him by finding the Staff,” she said. She got up off the bed and went over to a small dresser. Digging through one of the drawers, she pulled out a heavy-looking object. It was shaped as a horseshoe and covered in intricate carvings. “Savos gave this to me long ago. He told me that when the time came, I would know what to do with it. And so I give this to you. It will let you into places you will need to go.”

She placed the item into Marieka’s hand, and as the young woman pulled her hand away, something caught Mirabelle’s eye. She snatched her hand and turned it palm down; displaying a small gold ring on her finger. That finger.

“Are you…married?” She looked at Onmund’s left hand now, noticing a matching ring. “You two? You’re married? This is what you’ve been doing all these months?”

“Mirabelle, it’s not what you think,” Marieka protested.

“How can it not be what I think?” the woman spat. “You and him…off gallivanting gods know where, while we sit and wait in the shadow of Ancano’s deceit?”

Onmund stepped up again. “Now you listen, Mirabelle. You have absolutely no idea what Marieka has gone through. What we’ve both gone through. Yes, we stopped for a moment to be married under the gaze of Mara, but by the Nine! She deserves it! You’ve been sheltered up here at the College for so long that you don’t even know what’s out there. We could die at any moment…doesn’t she deserve to have someone by her side? Some sort of happiness?” He grabbed her hand defiantly and held on to it tightly.

“And you’re just the mage to give it to her, are you Onmund?”

Mirabelle turned away from them, ready to walk out of her room angrily. She was impeded by the appearance of Tolfdir in the doorway.

“Out of my way, old man,” she growled.

“Actually Mirabelle,” he replied in his quiet manner, “you may just want to stay to hear this.”

She backed up and allowed him entry. He approached Marieka and stood in front of her, taking her hands as Onmund let go of the one he held.

“I saw what happened in the courtyard, Marieka,” he said, looking into her eyes. “The dragon…you…absorbed its soul.”

Mirabelle’s attention was now focused solely on the old man’s words.

“You are Dragonborn.”

Her eyes were drawn in the direction of the older woman for a moment, and then returned to Tolfdir`s. She nodded slowly. “I am.”

“What?” Mirabelle exclaimed. “You? Dragonborn? How did this…?”

She shook her head. “It is also what kept me from returning to the College in a more…timely manner. I am sorry Mirabelle. I never meant for my delays to cause harm to you. To the Arch-Mage.” If it were possible, the small woman shrunk even smaller, saddened by the most recent developments. “I never asked for this. I didn’t want this Mirabelle. I only wanted to study magic. To have a friend or two I could count on. I don’t want to be a saviour. To be the only one that can…protect this land from its demons…”

Silence held the room after the echo of her words died. She squeezed the key to Labyrinthian in her hand and rushed out of the room past Tolfdir and Mirabelle. Onmund looked at the faces of the others; the old man’s being the most apologetic. He hurried after her until Mirabelle grabbed his arm and stopped him. He looked back at her; anger upon his face.

“Please,” she said, her expression pained. “I didn’t…I didn’t know. Please ask her to forgive me…”

Tolfdir looked at the woman, placing a sympathetic hand upon her shoulder. She released Onmund’s arm and he left to chase after his wife.

“She’ll come around,” the old man said. She nodded sadly, uncertain of whether his words rang true.

As the days passed slowly and Marieka had not yet returned, Mirabelle – now the senior mage at the College – was forced to make a decision. Ancano’s power was becoming too great – the Eye’s influence had grown. The College would have to be evacuated.

“Tolfdir,” she instructed the old mage, “you must get everyone away from the College. Get them to Winterhold. I will hold him; prevent that bastard Ancano from figuring out what you’re doing. He’ll not get to you.”

“Mirabelle,” he said sadly. “You can’t do this. You can’t sacrifice yourself to him. We can help you.”

“There is no other way,” she said. “You are too weak, old man. Your magic will never stand up to the power of that bloody Eye.”

He chuckled at her. “Even now, you insult me, my girl.”

“Yes,” she replied, smiling weakly at him. “Even now. Now go…”

He embraced her momentarily, before turning to head off to gather the mages of the College.

“And Tolfdir?”

“Yes Mirabelle?” he replied without turning to face her.

“Tell her I’m sorry. Let her know that I’m proud of what she’s accomplished. And that I believe in her. I can’t think of a more appropriate person to be called Dragonborn.”

She saw him nod slowly. “She’ll know.”

He continued on.

She shed a tear. The last she’d ever shed.

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