Protected, no longer; Chapter 23

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    Chapter 23



    The door was heavy and it didn’t budge when he tried to push it open. His lower lip quivered. He was afraid of the dark, especially when sealed in a tomb with probably, angry ghosts of the past. This tomb happened to be a Dres tomb. Ciel’nn didn’t know why the elder mer was fascinated about them.

    Some broken urns and other memorial things were lying around the entrance and a lonely candle was burning— it was close to its end. The air was musty and soon there would be no air to breathe at all.

    Ciel’nn sat against the wall and took a deep breath. He was certain Maltrys wouldn’t come back and let him out—that would never happen, he guessed. Next time he’d tell the elder mer to get his own samples from the ancestral tombs by himself. Stupid Maltrys! He wrapped his arms around his knees and started sobbing.

    Only if he had the courage to say anything against Maltrys.

    He sobbed quietly for some time before he heard something, or someone approaching him.

    “What do you do here? You don’t belong here, S’wit!” A female ghostly voice said behind the corner, before she appeared and approached the young mer.

    Ciel’nn was shaking in sheer fear. She would probably curse him for being in their tomb. Eyes widening and the tears rolling down his cheeks, he watched the ghost  coming to him. “Don’t hurt me!” he cried.

    The ghost stopped and tilted her head. “What do you want from the Dres tomb, S’wit? Have you come to loot our remains?” she snarled at him.

    “I don’t want anything, but out of here!” Ciel’nn cried again. He was certain he’d die in there and nobody, but his mother would start missing him. He never had been this scared that he was shaking nearly uncontrollably. “I don’t want anything!” he repeated between his sobs. It was then, when he felt the cold touch on his cheek and he was prompted to look at the ghost, into her hollow eyes.

    “Nothing, but out?” she whispered, softly now. “Locked inside our tomb, are you? Against your own will, hmm…” she hummed as if pondering what she should do with the young mer. “Don’t cry, little one. I, Fravin, may have a solution.”

    “You aren’t going to kill me?” Ciel’nn choked out, teary-eyed.

    “Oh, no. No, little one.” She soothed him. “You see, our memorial altar needs adjusting. Some grave robbers. Help us, then I will show you the way out.”

    “I, uh… won’t the others be mad at me?” Ciel’nn asked warily and wiped tears from his face, but he hadn’t calmed down yet.

    “I will tell them to let you pass. Come, it is this way.”




    Recovering from their encounter with the Dremora Lord, Ciel’nn and Rangalen decided to head to Riverwood for food and more supplies. Rangalen wanted to have his sword and the edges of his shield sharpened. Ciel’nn intended to check the Trader for a variety of items such as ink. He had the idea of making notes from his poison usage— if he had time for it, of course.

    They headed to The Sleeping Giant Inn and came across grumpy looking Faendal. Ciel’nn frowned as the wood elf stopped by them.

    “You have some nerve to show yourself here again,” the wood elf snapped at the Dunmer, who raised his dark brow.

    “Still sour about that?” Ciel’nn asked in a neutral tone. “At least I’m honest, unlike you.” He leaned closer to Faendal.  “If you couldn’t handle it yourself, then perhaps you don’t deserve her at all.” He sneered in a low tone.

    “How dare you!” Faendal hissed, grabbing his knife from his belt and aiming it at Ciel’nn. That dark elf had the gift to make his blood boil as he was handsome and all, but his words stung deep into Faendal’s heart. He’d lost Camilla for Sven because Ciel’nn had told her the truth. Stupid Dunmer had ruined his love life. Now he had to watch how Camilla spent time with Sven. Oh, how that stung too!

    Ciel’nn pushed the wood elf to the nearest wood post and leaned close to the mer. He stared deeply into Faendal’s dark eyes as he twisted the dagger at the mer’s throat. “Do not tempt me, bosmer.” He whispered in an even tone as their faces were close to each other. He felt how Faendal tried to struggle out from his hold. A smirk bloomed on Ciel’nn’s lips. “Don’t try this again. I might outright kill you.” He nearly growled before he pushed Faendal aside. “Come, Rangalen. Let’s find some food.”

     



    “What was that about?” Rangalen asked as they settled at the table to eat the rabbit haunches. He was curious why the wood elf had attacked the Dunmer, but clearly Ciel’nn had had the upper hand. The way his friend had handled the situation was fast and trained, the Nord assumed. He took a bite from his rabbit haunch and eyed the Inn— peaceful. The people of Riverwood seemed to live happily there. Well, maybe not that wood elf. Rangalen turned to look at his friend, who was sitting next to him.

    Ciel’nn smiled when he heard the question. “That Faendal, huh? He asked me to deliver a letter to Camilla, and say it’s from Sven,” he replied. “I told her the truth, and she took Sven instead of Faendal. Last time I’m anyone’s messenger.” With that, Ciel’nn took a sip of wine. He didn’t care about Faendal, but if the damned bosmer would still try something at him— there was only so much that Ciel’nn would tolerate attempts on his life. I mean to kill him next time, though. Nobody would miss him.

    “I see.” Rangalen gave a short nod, and thought a moment. “Ciel’nn, did you ever have someone? A girl?” he asked carefully as he felt being in the dark waters.

    It was the question he didn’t expect to hear yet. Ciel’nn froze on his seat as it brought some happy memories, then they were replaced with bad ones. His heart was heavy as he tried to think of what to answer if at all. His confident look had melted into a mix of sadness and anger. Why did he have to ask it now? Ciel’nn took a deep breath as he stared at his goblet. “I had a betrothed once.” He whispered and fell quiet. That was all he was willing to say, for now. He hoped the Nord wouldn’t ask for more— he wasn’t ready to tell the whole story. Maybe one day, but not today.

    Rangalen nodded and put his hand on the Dunmer’s shoulder. “It’s alright. I’m sorry I asked.” He said as he saw his friend looking sad, like a lonely mushroom in the rain. The young warrior didn’t want to see his friend like this, so he tried to come up with something else as he heard the Dunmer taking another deep breath.

    Ciel’nn was about to whisper something, when Sven came strolling towards their table. He had a mysterious look on him.

    “Nice to see you, Ciel’nn. How have you been?” The bard greeted him, and nodded to Rangalen. “Good to see a fellow Nord in these parts. I’m Sven.” He said and lowered his voice. “We had some shady folk going to the Barrow some days ago, and we think they are up to no good there.” He paused and looked to Ciel’nn, “Would you guys care to check it out? Camilla is worried— says she can’t sleep well until someone goes there and checks what’s happening there.” Sven asked in a worried and almost pleading tone.

    Ciel’nn stared at Sven with a pondering look. He didn’t like to go in the barrows unless there was a treasure awaiting for him. To think about it, he’d never been there before and it was a scary thought. Barrows were dark places and full of unknown horrors from what he had read. But, Camilla wasn’t able to sleep as Sven had said. He felt the young warrior’s gaze on him. “Fine, we’ll go to look at it.” It’s probably nothing, but I had done it for Celani, too. When I was her guard on her pilgrimage to the shrines.

    “We are?” Rangalen asked, surprised. He hadn’t expected that kind of answer from Ciel’nn, knowing the Dunmer didn’t like dark places. The look his friend was giving made him nod to Sven. “Of course, we’ll have a look. We need to protect the ladies and others, alright?” He winked at Sven who laughed.

    “Only if a bard’s songs could kill, maybe then!” Sven chuckled before he grew serious. “I can’t thank you enough. I’ll make sure Camilla knows about your heroism.” The bard smiled and shook hands with the young warrior. He looked at the Dunmer and shoved something into Ciel’nn’s hand. “Thank you, boys!” With that, he strode towards the door.



    Ciel’nn stared at the emerald gem that Sven had given him as they were walking up the path to the Bleak Falls Barrow. It made him puzzled— he wanted to know if it was a payment for checking the damn barrow or something else. Honestly thinking, he didn’t care, but the emeralds were hard to find. Where had the bard found this? The Dunmer put the gem into his pouch and that into his backpack. “What do you think there is? Some nasty bandits decided to throw a party?” He felt uneasy as they approached the barrow.

    The young warrior observed the ruins for possible bandits— he saw two of them slacking about, near the stairs. “You’re probably right about the bandits. Can’t imagine who or what else would make it their home.” He replied, frowning at the bandits. They seemed to be talking about something, but Rangalen wasn’t able to make out what. “Come, let’s go find out what they are up to. I’ll make sure nothing will surprise us.”

    “After you, Nord.” Ciel’nn smirked as he made a theatrical gesture for the Nord to go first.

     



    The entrance bandits weren’t so chatty once they saw the two friends approaching them. They shouted alerts to each other and charged to battle. The battle didn’t last long as the first bandit met the young warrior’s shield and the second got to know what Aetherius feels like when Rangalen slashed his chest open. A gave a quick glance at the Dunmer, who was slitting the throat of a remaining bandit, to let Rangalen know they were close to the doors soon.

    After the big doors were close, four to five bandits charged at them, shouting, “He must not be interrupted!” Or, “They might make good offerings! Then we can be free!” That was followed by more metal clashing and grunting.

    The only one who didn’t move was Ciel’nn. He was still standing when the young warrior had charged to meet the bandits. The fear of dark places was creeping up his spine. It reminded him of the tombs his father had pushed him in. He swallowed slowly. This was a bad idea, but we can’t turn back now. “Die, dark elf!” he heard a bandit woman in leather armor shouting at him. Ciel’nn narrowed his eyes at her as he readied himself for the encounter.

    Rangalen breathed heavily as he turned to see the Dunmer, who was warily observing the entrance hall. “You alright, Ciel’nn?” he asked as he stepped over the dead bodies of the bandits. Somehow he had known the mer would freeze in his place once they were in, but it was alright— those bandits were… he managed to deal with them. “Come, stay close and behind me.” He offered a warm smile and waited for Ciel’nn to move closer.

    With a candlelight spell on they walked warily through the darkened halls and sometimes they were lit by candles, Ciel’nn stayed close to Rangalen if not latched onto the Nord. He was frowning constantly in worry that they wouldn’t make it out of there. Fighting through the draugrs wasn’t a problem. He used his bow to help Rangalen to defeat the risen draugrs from a distance. They had found a few gems from the boxes, but it didn’t made Ciel’nn feel any better.

    In the hall with a precious little light from the hanging brazier made Ciel’nn groan— there were coffins and judging by the sounds of bones walking, the dead were aware of them. “This isn’t good, Rang.” Ciel’nn whispered as quietly as he could, grabbing the young warrior’s arm for the comfort. “I don’t like this a damn bit!” He bit his lower lip, wanting out of the damned tomb. “I’m scared.”

     



    The young warrior was observing the hall carefully when the Dunmer had grabbed his arm. He turned to his friend and looked at Ciel’nn. To say the Dunmer was afraid would be an understatement. Rangalen saw though that Ciel’nn was close to panic and ready to run away. He couldn’t blame his friend even if he knew so little of his past. And, only a fool wouldn’t be afraid of barrows like this. Still, having his sword in his hand, Rangalen took Ciel’nn into a brief embrace while he held his shield with the other hand. “I know you’re scared, but I’m here to protect you, and to get us through this. I won’t let anything harm you, alright?” he whispered in the softest tone he had, to assure his friend that he was safe. “We have to keep going, and find out the thing. For Camilla, remember?”

    Ciel’nn blinked, memories flooding in his mind. “Don’t leave me behind.” He pleaded, nearly sobbing as he had laid his life in the Nord’s hands now. It was something Ciel’nn had never done before.

    “I’m not leaving you.” This isn’t good. He’s going through something. We have to find out what’s going on here, and then out as soon as we can. Rangalen was worried, but nodded. “Come.” He made sure that Ciel’nn was following him through the dimly light corridors until they reached another pair of doors.

    The corridor to the main chamber was guarded by two draugr death lords that stood still when Rangalen peeked around the corner. “There’s two of them— looks tough.” Rangalen whispered carefully as he looked at Ciel’nn, who wasn’t holding up any better. A constant mask of horror was on his face. “Listen to me, I’ll deal with those. You hide here, alright? Look at me, Ciel’nn.” He waited for the Dunmer to look up at him. “It’s going to be alright. I promise you.” A small, frightened nod— that was as good as any. The young warrior nodded back and put his hand on Ciel’nn’s shoulder before he prepared for the fight the dreadful death lords. Talos give me strength.

     


    Shaking in fear, next to the standing brazier, Ciel’nn lightly sobbed as he watched the Nord taking on the death lords that snarled at the poor, foolish mortal. Ciel’nn wanted to go help, but his fear had a strong hold on him. He could only watch how Rangalen took hits and grunted. I should help, but I can’t. Another hit was aimed for his friend, but he saw Rangalen holding up his shield just in time. Ciel’nn bit his lower lip. His hand slowly reached for his bow, and his other hand took the elven arrow from the quiver he had for back-up plans. The Nord got hit on his shoulder from a war Axe— Ciel’nn notched the arrow on his bow. He was still afraid to Oblivion, but his hands moved on their own.

    Taking a deep breath to steady his shaky arm, and Ciel’nn aimed at the other death lord that was coming towards the young warrior.
    The arrow struck at the skull of the dead lord, making it stagger sideways. It grunted on impact and  snarled at the Dunmer, who stared at it from the door way. Another arrow struck into its chest. Another snarl and it turned to slink towards the Dunmer. It got another set of arrows into its chest before it reached the mortal elf, and stared at him. The draugr death lord swayed slowly before it got hit on its back and collapsed on the ground.

    “Are you alright?” Rangalen asked breathing hard, as he had dashed to save his friend from a certain death. He bled a little, but it didn’t matter— not now. From the looks, Ciel’nn looked alright, but he was still horror struck. He saw Ciel’nn’s hand searching for an arrow, but his quiver was empty. Rangalen lowered his shield next to his foot and took the Dunmer’s hand in his own. “Ciel’nn, look at me. It’s almost over. Look at me.” The look Ciel’nn gave him, made the young warrior frown in a deep concern. Is he in a… trance?

    “One more room, perhaps and then we can leave,” the Nord said and without a word, Ciel’nn followed the the young warrior into the main chamber.

     

     


    The chamber was a vast cavern with a word wall that was covered with blood and entrails. An extra table was near the coffin. The floor was covered in blood splatters and remains of  former adventurers. A few braziers gave light. There was a sound of someone muttering, and  chuckling as a dark figure appeared by the stairs.

    “Oh, how delightful!” A deep dark elf voice said before he came into the dim light of the brazier. “It seems my ‘guards’ have failed in their duty, but I could use more corpses for my study.” His dark eyes shone with interest at the new arrivals, and his black robes were dotted with blood. He grinned in a sinister way at the two friends.

    “A necromancer.” The young warrior gritted his teeth together. “You have troubled the people of Riverwood and ruined the ancient word wall. That is sacrilege. You will pay with your life!” Rangalen shouted in anger, and shifted to advance.

    Ciel’nn could only stare in horror at the powerful necromancer— he’d recognize them when he saw one! His lower lip quivered and tears spilled out of the corner of his eyes. Not this… By instinct he took a step backwards. This was too much for him. His bow dropped down from his hand. “No…” Panic wasn’t far away. “Don’t panic now! I need you!” he heard  Rangalen calling him.

    “Leaving so soon?” The necromancer sneered. “I don’t think so!” He raised his hand, “Raise my friends and stop them from escaping!” With that, a small army of draugr raised around them. “Show them who’s the master here!”

    “Talos break you!” Rangalen shouted in anger, while Ciel’nn collapsed on his knees, crying hysterically. The young warrior started slashing furiously. He was worried about the crying Dunmer, but he had to deal with the dead army first. His slashes were strong and struck true at each draugr his sword could find. He bashed every second one and received more cuts in turn, but that didn’t matter. Taking a step, in the middle of the fighting, his shield supporting the sword hand and Rangalen did a spiral spin attack that crushed the dead in the immediate area around him. The bones clattered around the  floor. He still heard Ciel’nn crying near by.

    All the stress, fear of the dark places and a necromancer on top of it all, Ciel’nn found himself paralyzed on the floor. He had covered his face with his hands, crying uncontrollably. He was certain they would die there and no one would find them. More than that, he saw a flashback of Maltrys at home with his soul gems and all. Maltrys threatening him and mother. Cursing them in some god’s name. Maltrys stepped closer to him with a soul gem, he spoke in daedric that Ciel’nn didn’t understand, or he didn’t hear him. Everything was chaotic. No more… Maltrys came face to face with him. No more…



    A sharp pain in his shoulder made Rangalen scream in agony. It was the lightning spell that hit the wound. He was out of strength and grasping against the coffin. To get there, he had fought through the dead army and reached the damned necromancer. The pain was almost unbearable now— at least Ciel’nn was safe, or was he? If only he could stand up…

    “It seems this is the end for you, Nord.” The dark elf necromancer said as he came close to him. He raised his sacrificial dagger in the air to give the young warrior a final strike. “You’ll be a fine corpse for my study!” His hand tensed up, but his face twisted in pain. He collapsed in front of the young warrior, and Ciel’nn was standing behind him, looking grimly calm.

    “Are you alive?” The Dunmer asked. He had walked calmly towards the rise and surprised the necromancer.

    “Ciel’nn— ” Rangalen said, but stopped when he saw the fixed expression on the Dunmer’s face. It made his skin crawl. He noticed the strange dagger in his friend’s hand, noting the poison that was coating the entire blade. What’s wrong with him? He couldn’t believe his feelings when the slight fear was tugging in the back of his mind— there was something new about Ciel’nn, something dark.

    Ciel’nn stared at the necromancer on the ground. He had a strange calm about him, and yet his gaze was far from it. It was a familiar feeling, and ominous at the same time. He knelt down just enough to grab the hand of the other mer. He dragged him to the center of the word wall rise where there was more light and took out two poison vials which he set gently on the ground next to him, waiting.

    The Dunmer changed his chitin blade to another one, when he saw the necromancer waking up and shouted  at him.

    “You N’wah! Do you know who I am? You will die here!” The dark eyes widened and his expression shifted as he realized he couldn’t move at all.

    Ciel’nn shook his head and gave a cold smile.“I hate necromancers, like you are.” He said with the deepest of hatred. “The old N’wah was the same kind.”

    The necromancer tried to move again “What have you done to me? Why can’t I move?”

    Ciel’nn smirked in a way that would make one’s stomach twist. “It’s a wonder what a Deathbell and fresh River Betty can do to one, don’t you think so, Rangalen?” He nearly chuckled as he looked directly into the eyes of the necromancer. “Yes, you can’t move, but hear and… feel.” He pressed the last word with a cold tone. He noted the imminent fear showing in the dark eyes. “Anyone who hurts my friends, will suffer.”

    “But we’re Dunmer, the same kind.” The mer pleaded, but he got only a colder stare from Ciel’nn.

    Watching his friend  having a moment with his target, Rangalen felt numb from the pain and from what he saw Ciel’nn doing to the necromancer. It chilled him to the bone. He knew the Dunmer was angry, no— infuriated by him getting hurt, but there was more to it. He could only watch what was happening before him; Ciel’nn had another dagger in his hand, pointed at the mer’s widened eye. The Nord narrowed his eyes to see better and saw that the blade was poisoned. He couldn’t tell if it was the same poison as earlier or a different one.

    A single drop of poison fell from the tip of the dagger into the necromancer’s eye, causing him to scream. Ciel’nn backed away and sat down on the ground, waiting and listening to the screams. He had a calm expression, though it was still cold. Idly he inspected his dagger as if to admire the handiwork. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Maltrys was screaming too, but he ignored it. Screaming brought him calmness and eased his mind from the stressing things such as this barrow.

    After the screaming had stopped and the necromancer was croaking as if to speak, Ciel’nn looked at him for the last time. “You’ve made the wrong Dunmer to rage. I hope you find your way back to your ancestral tomb, where ever it is.” His voice was still strange and somewhat solemnly. He reached out to grab a torch from the table and set it in fire in the brazier. “Azura, watch  over you.” With that, he tossed the torch at the mer and watched how the flames took the robes. In time, the fire would burn the body to ash. There was an attempt to scream, but it faded away.



    Outside of the barrow, Rangalen didn’t know if he felt better or not, but he still wanted to check on his friend. Hoping the strange behavior would be gone. “Ciel’nn? Are you alright?” He watched the Dunmer turn around with teary eyes, and stepping close to him, “No...” The young warrior dropped his shield and took the crying Dunmer into his embrace. “Shh… it’s over now.”

     

     

     

    back to ToC

Comments

5 Comments   |   GailOlm and 2 others like this.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  August 9
    Awwwooo Caladran...... 
    Big well done on such a powerful chapter. The way you expressed the fear and tied the initial section to the rest was great. A big well done to you.
  • Caladran
    Caladran   ·  August 9
    Thank you for the  lovely comments! :)
  • The Lorc of Flowers
    The Lorc of Flowers   ·  August 9
    Finally got to it, sorry for the delay. 
    And yes, I have to agree here, this is definitely your best chapter yet. More detailed, more tiny tidbits of past popping up and the main character has been shown with major weakness. Such as fear of dar...  more
  • William McNee
    William McNee   ·  August 8
    I think this is your best chapter yet. Some more background on Ciel'nn and you get why he hates necromancers. Nice to see Rangalen taking charge for the battle and Ciel'nn overcoming his fears here and his knowledge of posions coming to the fore
  • GailOlm
    GailOlm   ·  August 7
    This was certainly an intense chapter! I like how the introduction describing Ciel'nn's experience in the tomb impacted Ciel'nn's emotions and actions in Bleak Falls Barrow. Nice writing for the battle scene. Very descriptive! I love the screenshots inter...  more