Nixads danced under a darkling sky, joyfully swirling in harmonious rhythm in sync with the sporadic rise and fall of the tide; in their bliss they were woefully unaware of the misfortune brewing below. Parted clouds gave way to delicate silverline stars, and beyond that, a dwelling most beloved by the gold-sheened descendants of the Old Ehlnofey.
Tucked away in a place of verdant foliage, crystalline towers rose into the sky, blending into alabaster spires of coral and white stone. Baroque domes opened up into blossoms of coral-carved archways. Each window, pillar and door bore patterns-within-patterns, begetting for nothing less than perfection, carved-in with abstract figures depicting long-forgotten ancestors, who once toiled the seas, ever-pressing onward in search for a home resembling the one that was left behind, once vividly remembered... now, only faintly.
It was an ancient kinhold ruled for generations by the Vorlainon Kinship, a distinguished family noted for their loyalty and skill at sea. The current Kinlord is an exceptionally distinguished admiral, having served Summerset for a century, engaging against all sorts of man, beast and mer, but most especially the vilified Maormer.
Upon this moonlight night of revelry: An esoteric creature of dark countenance, straight-backed posture marked by austerity, would return to find his home as deceptively beautiful as he oft recalled. An ivory mask coiled around his statuesque features. Slender fingers companioned a miscellany of auriferous jewels; unorthodox strands of both malachite and rose blend into straight-worn golden locks. Every step was marked with perfection befit a disciple of Phynaster; keen elven elegance marked his lithe form, clad wholly in quinacridone rose - silken attire woven of intricate design.
Sun-and-Shadow he was nicknamed, for the split imagery upon his mask, and for the duality his performances often entailed. Few in grand city of Cloudrest ever saw the fine features beneath the mask, nor the scowling disdain for their effete attempts at perfection. The mer rarely used his given name, going by a wide variety of aliases, traveling from city to city with his troupe while performing grand illusions for the courts of Summerset, and indiscreetly relieving them of a few precious heirlooms. But it was not lust for wealth nor fame that drove him, but a far more personal matter. It is why he found himself here now, upon this very night. Waiting in the shadows until the finer details of his plan were locked in place.
For all his disdain of his caste, his heart beat with the pride and vanity all too common to his people. His passions for artistry and beauty run deep, and deeply did his heart yearn to show the kinlord a performance he would not likely forget. It had been his singular dream... his singular obsession to achieve this goal.
Five companions followed in his wake. In perfect unison they strode, graceful movements begging nothing less than perfection. Each wore a similar ivory mask of distinct design: First among them was Cerbraan, an enigma even to his closest friends: exceptionally tall, broad like a bull, and unusually unrefined - a trait many found uncouth, but he found refreshing.
Next, Ilidrion the Muse - a charming spell-weaver with a silver-lined tongue. They had met in a rather unusual circumstance several years ago. His mask was a smirking visage, etched with entwining rose-stalks.
The willowy Sirwen Iliormir followed behind, her lover Merinn ever at her side. They were invaluable masters of deception and illusion; able to turn the most mundane chores into dazzling displays of wonder.
And finally, the ever-elusive Lilvaliel -- whom his heart cherished above all others, and who would remain behind. The woman never let an inch of her skin show, covered head-to-toe, utterly concealed in loosely flowing white garments, of course inviting rumors as to her true nature. From a run-away daughter to a disfigured hulkynd, very few ever suspected her true nature.
Whilst performing in exuberant abodes, manses befit royalty, nestled amongst the billowy clouds atop Eton Nir - he had once dreamed of triumphantly returning home; receiving no less than a welcome befit an auriferous son of Summerset. But here there was no such welcome for him here. He was no one, a mere stain upon a painted-over wall, hiding the rot and decay underneath. To the downtrodden mer walking the streets he was naught but another foreign uppity nobleman, come to feed upon their wretched existence.
Suspicious glances were given by wary, lantern-wielding guardsmen, but they would not harass the party, knowing their place amongst the dreg-heap of their caste.
The cavernous throne hall was alive with revelry, dance and song. Nobles conversed about current politics, the follies and accomplishments of King Hidellith, the misfortune of having to share Tamriel with such barbaric races. Great tapestries woven of the finest silks, and vintage paintings of priceless quality overlooked the well-dressed attendants. Stiffly they sipped their wine, pretentious and conniving the lot of them, distinguished in their bearings but lacking in basic morality. Utterly oblivious to standards of decency considered apparent to others. Many eyed the trope with a mixture of morbid curiosity, some with amusement, and others suspicion. Heralds introduced the great lords and ladies in attendance, each bearing names more unnecessarily extravagant than the last.
The finest wines were brought out in aged casks, served in gem-encrusted glassware. Music was served to the auditory delight of all guests in attendance. The melody was beautiful, violin strings struck to a haunting symphony. His kinsmen in attendance believed such music was befit to be heard by only the highest caliber of Altmer.
He was an exile, of course, shunned and cast aside by his own family, unfit for such beauty according to them. He dared to assume that even without the mask they would not recognize him. He was only a boy when he ran on that fateful night of scarletry. He knew, of course, of the great price his return would cost. It weighed upon his heavy heart to cause further maladies upon these poor wretched souls, but the price of the kinlord's treachery had to be paid in blood, and he would gladly pay it to see this profane mockery of life undone.
Upon four perfectly-carved coral thrones sat the kinlord and his family, who did not partake in the revelry. Kinlord Nillithrion, bane of the Sea-Elves, thrice-honored admiral of the Summerset navy, looked down upon his guests with deep-set, shadowed eyes. Sun-and-Shadow had known the Kinlord once, ohh how he had changed after returning from a voyage far to the south, deep in the uncharted depths of the Eltheric. It was a voyage of utter vanity in pursuit of a homeland that few even remember. The kinlord returned years later with a pallid countenance, prone to grim and reclusive moods, ill-tempered and fatigued, and then suddenly... changed.
And then, then his family changed with him. First his wife, demeanor a frigid-coldness, hollow-gaze filled with loathing. Then his daughters, marvelously cruel in their torments upon all who displeased them. All but one changed, one who was far too young.
The feeble-minded paid no heed to the changing of their liege; lounging in their alabaster manses, dancing night-after-night in their cavernous ballrooms - wholly unaware of the change that would soon consume them all. Year after year, throes of suffering and stifled cries accompanied the Kinlord’s sudden change. The Cathedral of Auri-El, resting atop the glorious Anarathele, in Aldmeris meaning the “Sun-Hill” - was deserted shortly after the Aldarch was found hung, a noose coiled tightly around his ruddy neck. Rival-kin, nobles and dissidents swiftly were silenced: Either through sudden disappearance, or in a macabre series of unexplained deaths. Few dared to speak out publicly – naturally, none would dare accuse the Kinlord of being anything less than a hero of Summerset.
The kinlord was dressed in a stylish coat, modeled after a military style he was accustomed to wearing during his service. Beside him sat his lovely wife, Kinlady Uunamwe, whose long silver tresses bound into a tight coil around her skull. At each end were the twins, Valsira and Vamire, whose eyes shimmered with dark amusement. Sun-and-Shadow gazed out to the languid Kinlord for a second far too long, catching the apparent interest of the seated noble. Nillithrion’s complexion was far too pale for his amberlin skin, as if he had suffered from a prolonged illness. The Kinlord canted his head ever so slightly in response to the lingering gaze, upper lip twitching.
The herald announced their coming in a booming voice that echoed throughout the hall. With a turning snap of heads it seemed that the entire world was focused on these five strange souls. With an extravagant flourish Sun-and-Shadow would bow before the kinlord alongside his companions. He inhaled a deep breath, strengthening his resolve before the man he so dearly hated. He exhaled, it was time to begin.
Their performance would start with a masterful display of magic, decades of practice that no man or beast could dream to achieve in their whisp of a life-span. The floor would burst with magicka as it shifted into nothingness, making it as if they danced upon the void. Figures conjured of fire and water would join hand-in-hand, dancing alongside the elves, who in their throes seemed not to even notice.
The twins would gleefully clap in response, their mother and father however were visibly unphased as the trope conjured their illusions. The last act of their performance was quickly approaching, Lilvaliel had yet to send her signal. “Empyrean Light, where is she?” Cerbraan would whisper indiscreetly near his compatriot. This was to be the last part of their act, the grand finale.
The mer sighed, of course there would be a deviation - there almost always was. “She'll come, our offer is far too tempting for her kin to pass up.” Sun-and-Shadow muttered through clenched teeth, he hated the very idea of it. It made his skin crawl with shivers, but he needed her and he needed her kin. He also needed the Kinlord to be solely focused on him, for any slight deviation could spell disaster. A plan formulated in his head. “I have a plan Cerbraan... tell the others to just follow my lead.” He said to his dumbfounded friend.
Stray strands of moonlight poured into the chamber, touching the four-throned dais. Sun-and-Shadow would conjure an illusionary partner forged of blazing light, fingers half-curled, hand outstretched. “May I have this dance?” He would coyly ask.
Sun-and-Shadow closed his eyes and let his feet take him on a journey through Aetherius. In the glowing arms of this specter he relived all the passionate dances of his youth, when he was but a naive boy, bright-eyed and eager to see the world outside of his home. He spun such grand and beautiful illusions around him and his partner, distracting the court until they could do little else but watch the dazzling display.
And at the end of it even the Kinlord appeared impressed. “You dance well, well enough to make it evident you aren’t from this small part of Summerset,” The Kinlord finally spoke. “May I know your name, stranger?”
Sun-and-Shadow laughed. “That’s where you’re wrong. I was born here.” The mer replied in a whisk of hot breath, his voice distorted beneath the mask. His tone soured as he continued, "I've waited decades for this day, decades toiling in foreign courts, dreaming of seeing your faces again!" He hissed, slender fingers grasped the edge of his mask, tearing it free. Revealing the face of their son. Audible gasps were snuffed out with a flicker of the Kinlord's hand.
"Foolish boy. What do you think you're going to accomplish? You and your friends are all alone here."
Moonlight crept through the chamber, breaking the illusion over the many well-dressed guests. Their fine clothes were tattered, hole-ridden rags lacking in the luster so beloved by their kith. Rotted features were now evident. Pale specters and ghouls the lot of them, clinging to the last vestiges of their mortal lives. Those that were not of this court were far too entranced to be anything more than dancing cattle.
“My precious Naramo,” Uunamwe clasped her hands together. “oh how magnificent! You have both grown into such lovely… morsels,” The ghost of a smile stretched upon her thin lips, in a mock gesture of affection. “Have you returned to embrace us? We have so dearly missed you.”
“Cold Harbor is too good of a place for all of you, damn your souls!” Naramo screamed in fervid rage, a sleek bow conjured to his side. The deafening twang of an arrow sent forward, blazing through the crowd.
Nillithrion sat elegantly, still. Unphased as the arrow pressed into his flesh. The enchantment over his noble visage had dissipated as a ray of silverline basked over his throne. Revealing his true bestial countenance. Heavily disfigured and unnaturally serpentine, his nose collapsed into a flattened slit. In his gaze was a reflection of the cold, cruel void that took him so long ago. The Kinlord uttered a series of undecipherable noises, his face an utter ruin without his fair mask. Hissing in rage he stood from his throne. Vamire and Valsira licked their lips appearing all too eager to proceed.
Cerbraan gave his signal, and in a radiant burst of magicka Sirwen and Merinn unleashed a blazing spell woven to blind. The vampiric nobility shielded their eyes, as the rose-wood doors leading into the hall were burst open! Lilvaliel marched in with a sizable score of Maormer, armed in razor-sharp arnaments, skin sleek and wet, armor dripping with sea-weed and sodden barnacles.