The Harp’s Call, Part II

Note:  For the previous installment to this story, please click here.

Fredas Morning

Kapelletgaten, the street where Cari lives

Cari sat on the floor in the living room of her house on Kapelletgaten, trying to choke down her breakfast.  She didn’t feel well at all.

The last eighteen hours had been eventful.  After receiving the fright of her life, Cari found herself lying on her back on the patio outside of the Bard’s College, her friend Leyda kneeling over her, trying to make her respond.  Cari tried, but couldn’t get any words out.  Presently, Anisa arrived with their teacher, Frokken Karl, and what appeared to be the rest of her class, two dozen girls in identical uniforms.  After that, she felt herself lifted onto a stretcher, and found herself looking up at a young, handsome medic (oh, what a lovely smile he had!).  The next thing she knew, she was lying in a bed at Solitude Pediatric Hospital with an IV in her arm.  Papa rushed in from work immediately after Frokken Karl called him, and took her home later that evening.  Dehydration, the doctor declared, recommending she not go to school the next day.

Not feeling well at all

Which was why Cari found herself home, with a bowl of müsli and a half dozen large bottles of MegaSport Sockerfri Papa had purchased the night before.  There was a bright side, though:  While Papa had to work, his younger sister Teri had agreed to take the day off and look after her niece all day.  Teri was Cari’s favorite aunt — young, pretty, with an interesting job driving trams all over the city.  After she married Uncle Adrian a couple years earlier (Cari got to be Maid Attendant!), Cari didn’t get to see her as much, so she was glad to get some time alone, just the two of them.

“Still a little queasy, huh?” said Aunt Teri, who sat down on the floor across from Cari.

“Maybe just a little,” Cari replied.  “Not as bad as before.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“What’s to talk about?” said Cari.  “I fainted, that’s all.”

“Your Papa talked to the medics.  He said something about you singing as they loaded you into the ambulance.”

“What?” cried Cari.  “Oh no.  That’s so embarrassing!  I talked with Leyda late last night.  She never said anything about singing.”

“Leyda talked to me this morning, while you were still asleep.  She said that right before you fainted, you shrieked, like something scared the life out of you.”

“She called you?” said Cari indignantly.  “I can’t believe she’d do that!”

“She was just worried,” said Aunt Teri, soothingly.

“But she shouldn’t have – “

“Cari!”  Aunt Teri sounded stern, but she was smiling.

Cari’s shoulders sagged, defeated.  “All right.  I’ll tell you, but you’ll think I’ve lost my mind.”

“Try me,” said Aunt Teri.

So Cari told her the whole story.  When she was finished, she said, “Do you think I’ve gone crazy?”

“Not even a little bit,” answered Aunt Teri.  “You just got sick is all.”

But it helps to have your favorite Auntie around!

“But it was all so real,” said Cari.  “I don’t know how to explain it, but it was just as real as you are right now.  And that face!”  The harpists face.  At first glance, she wasn’t terribly extraordinary:  a pretty oval face, typically Nordic high cheekbones, cool blue eyes, and icy white hair.  But as the harpist gazed upon Cari (if that’s what the apparition was doing), the face began to change.  Her eyes widened and became bloodshot, while her mouth twisted into an awful grimace, a knot of fear, despair, and hopelessness.  Cari had never seen such a disturbing sight in her life.  Even thinking about it now, hours later, made her tremble.  Who could this woman have been?

“Do you remember anything about a song?” asked Aunt Teri.

Cari sat quietly for a moment.  “You know, now that I’m thinking about it, there’s been a tune going through my head all morning.  The harpist was singing it.  I didn’t understand all of it at first, but after a while, it kind of fell into place.  It sounded something like this.”  After a couple of false starts, Cari sang:

In the moonlight of autumn thou vanished

Shield and sword by your side

Your mother, your sisters are grieving

O’er the blood-soaked field where you died

Aunt Teri was stunned.  “That was beautiful, Cari.  I didn’t know you could sing so well.”

“But I can’t,” said Cari.  “Or I couldn’t.  When I tried out for school choir, the director asked that I leave and never come back.  Even Anisa told me I sound like a cliff racer, and she’s nice!”  Cari sniffled a little bit.  “Oh, Aunt Teri, what’s happening to me?”

Aunt Teri crawled across the room and put her arm around her niece’s shoulder.  “Cari, don’t worry.  There’s nothing wrong with you.  You just let yourself get dehydrated and made yourself a little sick.  What you saw, what you heard could have been just a dream, or maybe something you picked up somewhere else but don’t remember.”

“Do you really think so?” asked Cari.

“Positive.  And you know what?  I’ll bet if we got out of the house for a little while, you’d feel a lot better.  We’ll go out for a walk, and then have lunch somewhere!  How about it?”

“I’d like that,” said Cari.

“Well it’s settled then.  Finish up your breakfast, and we can head out.”

Another Verse

It really did feel good to get out, Cari thought.  She and her Auntie were dressed almost identically:  long-sleeve tee-shirts, jeans, and sneakers.  Cari had thought to tote another bottle of Megasport in her hand bag, along with her camera.  It was a pleasant enough spring morning, partly cloudy, a little cool, with a light breeze.  Cari and Aunt Teri walked up Kapelletgaten and turned left into the Nordvästra Avenyn business district.  Here, they slowed down a little, as there was plenty of window shopping to do.  After about an hour, they located a pleasant little corner kitchen with outdoor seating.  Aunt Teri had a salad while Cari worked her way through a large roast beef sandwich with fried potatoes.  Both drank iced herbal tea.  “Feeling a little bit better?” asked Aunt Teri.  “You look like you’ve got a little more color in your cheeks.”

“I think so,” answered Cari, smiling.  “Maybe getting some fresh air is doing me some good.”

“I thought it would,” said Aunt Teri.  “Do you want to head back home now?”

“Oh, maybe not yet,” said Cari.  Can we walk a little while longer?”

“We can, but not too far.  I don’t want you to get dehydrated all over again!”

“What’s the matter? Don’t you want to climb the ruins with me?”

After paying the bill, the pair continued along Nordvästra Avenyn and turned right onto Slotgatta.  They continued uphill for about fifteen minutes, eventually arriving at the ruins of what had been, centuries ago, the Thalmor embassy.  Despite its sinister reputation, it was a popular place to visit; Cari and her Aunt could see picnickers, hikers, young parents, and the occasional pair of lovers on the lawns or exploring the battlements.  From the walls, one could get decent vistas of the western part of metro Solitude, so Cari began climbing the grassy slope leading to the ancient ramparts.  Aunt Teri herself demurred; she’d had enough climbing.

As Cari trudged up the hillside toward the ramparts, she noticed that the temperature had dropped abruptly, and that the visitors she’d seen only moments before had vanished.  Further, a thick fog seemed to be rolling in.  After a moment, she realized she could only barely see the walls in front of her.  Something’s happening to me again, she thought, I just know it.

And then Cari heard the music, the harp and the voice, faint and distant at first, but becoming more distinct as it drew closer.  Unlike before, she understood the words clearly:

Why does our land bleed so?  Who profits

From rage and hatred so bleak?

What shalt thou gain from thy striving

For the vengeful justice you seek?

Cari stood transfixed as the harpist, a vague shape before her, continued into her refrain:

Alas for you Skyrim, my homeland,

There is no glory for thee!

When thy children despise their families,

Thou knowest we’ll never be free

Fearsome fog!

Cari’s shriek startled nearby hikers, and sent at least one infant into a tearful fit.  She broke away from the ramparts at a dead run, stopped only by Aunt Teri, who caught her by the shoulders.  “Baby, what’s wrong?” she asked, but Cari was nearly hysterical.  Aunt Teri held her close and spoke in soothing, hushed tones:  “It’s okay, Baby, I’ve got you.  Nothing’s going to get you here.”  To the curious onlookers, she said, “Nothing to worry about folks.  She’s allergic to bee stings, and a wasp got a little too close!”

Slowly, Cari recovered, but she was still sobbing.  “I saw her, Aunt Teri.  I saw her again, just as real as you or me!”

“You mean the same person you saw at the Bard’s college?”

Cari nodded.  “Only this time, she looked right at me and actually spoke to me.”

“Spoke to you?  Well, what did she say?”

Cari’s lip trembled.  “She said, ‘Help me.  Please help me!’”

Go to Part I    Go to Part III


A note about the illustrations: The pictures of Cari and the other characters are screenshots taken while playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  The shots were then manipulated using Paint.net. The following user mods were used for this story: