Fear was the only obstacle left to conquer. A sheer drop falling into the abyss and the biting current of the water seemed undaunting when the thought of their task lay heavily upon them. Fralvi took to the slopes as a bird would have flown through the air. Her elven blood drove her up the ascent of the treacherous falls more swiftly than her mortal friend. Of course, the climb in itself had taken equal tolls on them both, mentally and physically. Glancing over her shoulder, Fralvi could see only the crescent of her friends golden hair through the blinding mists. Even without a word uttered, Fralvi knew she was in need of rest. Seeing a deep crevice in the cliff, she called to Caniaia, “Are you quite ready to stop.” The lack of acknowledgment confirmed her fears. Caniaia’s pride would not have allowed her to express the pain she felt through her weakening body. Fralvi sprung into the air, landing securely on the cliff’s ledge, and waited. As Caniaia inched higher on the rock face, Fralvi could start to make out the beads of sweat upon her forehead and a small drip of blood descending from her nostrils. Not that Caniaia was unfit for the climb but the altitude had caught her off-guard. A lifetime working in the flatlands would have undoubtedly left her ill equipped to brave this journey; but never the less, she had accepted her fate braver than any other would have.
When Caniaia reached the point that Fralvi had leapt from, she suppressed a few protruding gasps and calculated the distance and strength required to attempt the jump. In any normal circumstance, Fralvi would have easily tossed Caniaia onto the ledge before herself, but she knew Caniaia must find the strength on her own. Summoning all of the courage she could, Caniaia flew through the air faster than would have been expected. It almost didn’t pay off. One desperate hand caught the edge of the ledge as her body began to fall toward the dark chasm below. A little less than gracefully, she managed to launch herself into the crevice. Minutes passed by, as Caniaia tried to compose herself. She stared out over the surrounding mountaintops in silence, with what remained of the initial terror still lingering in her eyes.
“Well, that was close.”
That was probably the most idiotic thing for Fralvi to say at that moment and Caniaia’s face clearly showed it.
“I could have died. I’ve barely managed to make it this far and we have farther still to go.”
Even her anger seemed to drain what remained of her energy. Fralvi quickly added,
“Well, on the bright side, it’s amazing that you attempted the jump at all. A few weeks back you wouldn’t have crossed a creed for fear of betting cold feet, let alone braved these heights. I would never have guessed it, but the elders chose wisely when they entrusted this task to you.”
“They chose me for my royal blood. It had nothing to do with courage or valor, though you possess both. If the need had not arisen for my lineage to aid the land, I would not have been chosen.”
The despair in Caniaia’s voice had been felt throughout this land of Tamriel for years. Fralvi could still recall the stories that spoke of a Tamrial at peace, ruled by mortal men and immortal elves alike. Sadly, this time was short-lived, as the hearts of the mortal kings were corrupted and their desire for power became strong. In an attempt to suppress this growing threat, the elven lords destroyed the human kings and every member of their royal lines. But even after the threat of the power hungry kings had past, new evils arose. In a quest to reek havoc upon the land, demons poisoned the minds of the people, turning brother against brother, convincing fathers to wage wars against their sons, and sending agonizing despair through the hearts of all. Hope had become a forgotten word in this darkening world. As the elven kings searched for answers, a prophecy was told that this evil must be fought by an evil long dead. Through years of study and contemplation, this foretelling was unraveled and a solution was found. Only the blood from a mortal king could save Tamriel. The sacrifice would be strong and pure enough the break the bonds that the demons had locked upon the land. Though the kings were long dead, one child of their bloodline had escaped the massacre. Caniaia. Hiding amongst the common people, she had lived a life of poverty, sickness, and loss.
When the elders learned of her existence, they told her of the prophecy and what must be done to end the everlasting misery. Her task was to be carried out on the highest and most sacred peak of the Hinshi Mountains. The power of the deed would radiate from the skies and stars and shine down upon the rotting world. Fralvi’s only task was to lead her there.
Now her fate was truly sealed and she knew it. It was evident that Caniaia’s true wish was to jump and disappear into the darkness below. Perhaps it was largely due to the demon’s torment or maybe it originated from the suffering of those she loved.
“What are we fighting for?"
The question echoed through the mountains and towards the sky, as if it were asked not to Fralvi, but to the heavens themselves. A rain of tears and blood ran down Caniaia’s face as memories returned of sleepless nights and shattered dreams.
“This world was truly meant to suffer. Every heart bleeds and words are spoken only of peace in death. Why should one act of redemption bring back the fragile peace that must be torn again and again? What does it matter?"
In an instant, Fralvi took Caniaia’s sobbing face between her hands. “What matters is this. A mother that cries with joy when she sees her child grow strong, a warrior that lowers his sword to find true strength, and a simple peasant girl that raises a nation from the ashes into the light of a new day. This is beauty that no evil can touch, no fire can burn, and no sword can break. What matters is not the strength of your lineage, land, or home, but the strength and love you carry in your heart.”
With this, Fralvi lowered her hands and stood before Caniaia. With eyes to the sky, Caniaia saw the stars as they danced across the nightly heavens. There lights began to fade as the dawn drew near. Somehow, in the waning darkness, Caniaia found the strength to stand.
As the first rays of morning began to beckon from the horizon, the two travelers took their first steps upon the summit of the mountain. At the point of collapse, Caniaia gripped tightly to Fralvi’s shoulder and looked upon a sight that no mortal eyes had seen for 1,000 years. The Lake of Glass. The icy stretch of water lay encircled by the jagged peaks of the mountain, as though to guard the lake from the suffering of the world. Through clouded eyes, Caniaia fumbled toward the shore and looked into the crystal cold depths of the lake. What thoughts managed to encase her mind as she stared into the water, Fralvi was unsure. With every muscle trembling Caniaia lifted her body and turned to Fralvi with unseeing eyes. “Now it begins.”
The frozen waters slowly silenced the detached beatings of her heart and Caniaia’s clouded eyes looked their last upon the morning stars.
The world was awoken that morning not by the light of the sun, but by the power that sprang from Caniaia’s life-less body as it fell to the bottom of that icy lake. The light spread throughout the land warming the hearts of the despairing, healing the wounds of the dying, and bringing new life to the withering world. Caniaia’s last word’s true meaning was evident in every face, every action, and life. Fralvi now knew in her heart what had blinded Caniaia’s eyes as she fell to her death. Hope.