A.D.w.D. Chapter 4: Ill Omens

  • The Toad blocked the only exit from the room and savored each step he took towards Amari. The shadows cast by the torch danced as if they too were eager for what awaited. The heat grew as he approached to the point that she had to turn from the sweltering flames. She was alone, but the poisoned steak knife gripped behind her gave her courage; she just needed to let him get close enough.

     

    He leaned in and cooed, “Now, now, don’t turn away. We’re just going to have bit of fun.”

     

    He took her chin in his free hand and ran a finger across her lips. She tried to bite, but he anticipated her resistance and used the rest of his hand to clamp her mouth shut. He laughed and turned her head to face the flames again.

     

    “I thought you might try that; you are a feisty one. Hmm, wonder how long you’ll last before that fire in your eyes dies.”

     

    He leaned in to lick her and she whipped the knife out from behind her, plunging it deep into his armpit in response.

     

    The Toad froze in disbelief. “You stabbed me!”

     

    Obviously! Amari thought, then slipped from his grip and ducked behind him.

     

    In the brief moment she hesitated between fight and flight, he spun around and caught her with a blind backswing of the torch. The blow only hit her on the shoulder, but it was still enough to knock her off her feet. For a brief moment she was weightless, then all the air was crushed from her lungs and her knife went skidding across the floor on impact. She couldn’t breath and her sleeve was on fire! She started flopping against the ground and desperately gasping for air like a fish out of water.

     

    “You’re going to reeeally regret doing that,” the Toad snarled as stalked towards her drawing his dagger. Then it fumbled from his grip and clattered on the ground. He stared at his hand, dumbfounded at its sluggish movements, then doubled over in a cry of pain as his stomach started seizing.

     

    “You Bitch! Poison! How the fuck did you get that?” He yelled out between spasms.

     

    By then Amari had smothered the flames and came to her knees gasping.  They glared at each other, then both their eyes fell on where the Toad’s dagger lay between them.  They lunged simultaneously; The Toad to the dagger and Amari towards the door. As she pried the door open, the dagger slammed into it, piercing the metal plate and reverberating with a twang not more than a hands breadth from her face. The toad quickly followed, barreling into her and smashing the door shut again. As she rebounded off the door, he threw her to the ground and then followed her down. Once again Amari’s breath was crushed from her as the grotesque man pinned her down.

     

    He moved both her wrists to a single hand grip and trapped them against floor. His other hand went to his boot, slowly pulling a knife from the straps with a metallic scrape as it came free against a buckle.

     

    “Try anything else and I’ll only extend your pain. Too bad we had to kill your ma so quickly. Wasn’t my type - too old - but who could resist breaking a will like that –“ Another spasm interrupted his monologue and Amari flinched away as he sprayed blood over her with a racking cough. The following shudders and coughs loosened his iron grip enough for her to break a hand free.

     

    She took all the hiding; serving her captors, the murders of her parents; the beatings; how they boasted of their victims; how he was set to make her his next victim; how he mocked her mother’s final moments, and channeled that raw fury into her palm. The Toad’s eyes widened as if in slow motion as she thrust her palm, engulfed in an inferno, into his face. His head whipped back in an explosion of fire that flung his whole body off her. Amari rose over his smoldering corpse with heaving breaths; the fire in her eyes had never burned brighter.

     

    She saw the Toad’s soul begin drifting away from the body; his essence slipping away into whatever afterlife had claimed him. No! She would not let him escape that easily, not after his deeds. Remembering how she had once channeled her own essence into a weave to hold Scuttles’s soul, she did the same for The Toad. Except this time, she composed the weave of serrated barbs burning with violet soul fire.

     

    The barbs dug and hooked into his soul, dragging him away from his afterlife. She ripped and tore with the jagged whips, every lash releasing violet and indigo vapors. His wails were trapped between this plane and the next, echoing with a ghostly tin and helpless against her onslaught. Soon nothing was left. There would be no Aedric afterlife for him, nor Daedric, or even one existing as shade on Nirn. The Toad’s very existence was destroyed; only the scent of burnt hair drifting from his corpse remained.

     

    Her fury spent, she collapsed to her knees completely exhausted. Realization of what she’d done slowly dawned on her. She hadn't just killed him, she'd destroyed his soul. Bile rose in her throat.

     

    Amari ran to the door and grabbed the handle. Intense pain shot through hand; she looked at it in horror: her hand was covered in throbbing red blisters and charred flesh. She switched hands and threw open the door. She bolted to the cove dock, plunged her hand into cool waters, and then started heaving. She hated the Toad, but she had go too far; no one, not even he deserved that fate.

     

    Scuttles looked away from the tunnel he'd been digging and bounded after her. A few more minutes and the skeleton would have burst through the locker wall. Her tiny knight in shining, well glowing, armor. His eyes and the runes crisscrossing his bones blazed with indigo and violet fires that matched her earlier fury. If her eyes weren’t watering already, they would be now. The squirrel came to perch on her shoulder and the flames began to recede as soon as he settled. Amari finished emptying her stomach, but the shakes as her adrenaline left her body continued for some time afterwards.

     

    When her body finally stilled, she removed her hand from the waters, then moved to sit underneath the warm glow of a torch scone. She was bruised, sore, speckled in blood, and nursing a burnt hand. She scanned her surroundings for life: two sentries at the main gate, two bandits sitting at the cave mouth, a few were still milling about within camp, and she couldn’t sense far enough to tell if anyone was by the new gate. She wondered how the ones by the cave mouth had not heard her, then drunken lyrics reflecting off the water answered her question.

     

    Amari set to healing her burnt hand, which while numbed somewhat by the water, still throbbed painfully. Burns were nasty business to heal, they destroyed the flesh and couldn’t be mended like a cut.  The dead flesh had to be removed and completely new tissue grown in its place. Luckily it looked like she maintained enough control of the fires that only the first few layers of skin were dead and blistered. She started the slow process of urging new skin to be grown and pushing the dead skin to the surface. It was important not to add too much magika at once, or the body would use the excess to form scar tissue.

     

    She smiled in nostalgia at the memory of when her father taught her about burn healing. It was at the first port they stopped at after leaving Wayrest, Sentinel in Hammerfell. Sentinel was an exotic city very different from Highrock and the opposite of Skyrim. Grand palaces of brick and stone rose from scorching dunes, capped with domes of gold or bronze. It was filled with a people as harsh as the land and were equally quick to laugh as to draw a blade. He had burnt himself trying to cook one of their dishes and let her heal the wound. She remembered how he laughed at her shocked expression when he calmly sliced off the mass of scar tissue from her first attempt with one of his ice scalpels and told her to try again.

     

    The pain in her hand eased underneath the spell’s golden light and her mind drifted back to her darker, present problems. There was a dead raid leader in the meat locker with an imprint of her palm scorched onto his face. How could she--

     

     

     

    "You DARE steal a soul from ME!"

     

     

     

    Amari nearly jumped out of her skin. That voice, so cold and malicious.

     

    Were did it come from? The bandits hadn’t moved, she was still alone. The voice continued, filling her mind with its presence:

     

    "A soul was pledged to me, a soul will be MINE; perhaps Yours will do in his stead. SUBMIT to ME!"

     

    Each word beat against her mind and drove her to her knees. The overwhelming presence stifled her, threatening to suffocate her in both mind and body. In just a few moments the being came closer to crushing her will than the whole camp of bandits for over a year. She had only felt something similar once before, back in Wayrest from another entity. Do you know my name? It had asked her, she did now, and what the others were called as well. There was only one that matched this presence crushing her.

     

    “You are Molag Bal, the Daedric Prince of Domination. My mother sacrificed herself to save me from another of your kind; I will not submit!”

     

    Molag Bal laughed, the chilling sound piercing her to the core.

     

    "Strong… you are strong. You interest me mortal. Another you say? TELL ME... who?"

     

    She tried to hold her tongue, but the Prince’s presence crushed her tighter until she gasped out, “The Prince of fate, knowledge, and memory!”

     

    There was a noticeable pause before the Daedra responded.

     

    "Old Hermaeus Mora... interesting. Leaving his pathetic realm of torn pages for once.

     

    The soul you destroyed was weak, so I shall grant you one chance, a quest. Fulfill it and earn my favor; refuse and I will kiiiill you, crush you! You will know a thousand deaths and one, then when your will is naught, your soul will be mine!"

     

    Amari gulped, pale as death. The Daedra projected the scenes of her death to her mind so vividly it felt as if she was living each one of them.

     

    "A Vigilante of Stendarr travels to Markarth even as we speak. Meet him there and… help him."

     

    With that the Daedric Prince was gone and Amari was left reeling in the sudden silence. Just when she thought the night couldn’t get any worse. The Toad worshiped Molag Bal! Now two Daedric Princes knew of her; most mortals didn’t survive one Daedra’s attention! She clutched Scuttles tightly, she didn’t know how she would endure this. Amari really didn’t want to go to Markarth now, but what choice did she have? She didn’t know what Molag Bal planned for the vigilante, but she wanted no part in it. Then again, she could think of no worst nightmare than being enslaved by the self-proclaimed Lord of Rape. A shudder ran down her spine, first she needed to escape the bandits before anything else could be decided.

     

    She needed the Toad to disappear entirely. She steeled herself and went back into the meat locker. She wrapped a handkerchief around her face again to block out the smell of burnt flesh and hair, then drug the still smoldering corpse to the dock. Next, she stuffed a couple sacks with rocks and tied them to the Toad, then rolled him into the deepest part of the cove. She’d be gone one way or another before they found him.

     

    Before heading up the ladder, she stored a few bottles of the poisons in her dress for the breakfast. All was quiet on the surface; no one had heard, no one had cared. She scanned for life: only the sentries and a small circle of bandits gambling by the light of a fire were awake; and someone sneaking in the kitchens, betrayed through the walls by his aura.  

     

    She crept by the door, the lock was picked and the door was ajar. Scuttles jumped off her and darted inside, clawed feet scrabbling on the kitchen tile. Scuttles was still on her shoulder! She’d been sneaking around the camp with the squirrel in plain view!  She needed to focus; luckily no one had seen them… yet. The person inside turned at the skittering noise and released a startled grunt when he banged his head into a set of hanging pots. She recognized that voice and ran inside.

     

    “Silver!” Amari whisper before giving him a running hug. “You’re alive!”

     

    “Whoa, easy there lass!” He whisper back with a laugh. He gave a quick kiss to her forehead and pushed her to arm’s length; Amari was thankful that the darkness hid her blushing. All the horrors of the day melted away at the sight of him. He was an Imperial from the Southern reaches of Cyrodiil and had a lean athletic build with wavy black hair. The olive tone of his skin hinted at  some Redguard in his family.

     

    “Why would I be dead?”

     

    “When I saw you didn’t return with the rest of the raid party… well… that usually means…”

     

    “Bah! It’ll take more than that little excursion to end the likes me! No, I saw an opportunity.” He swung the bulging pack off his back onto a counter with a thud. “And it paid off; they don’t call me Silver for nothing!”

     

    He unbuckled the straps and opened the pack with a flourish. It was filled to the brim with glittering gems, jewelry, and gold.

     

    “Wow! There must be a fortune there! Where’d you get this? Who was the mark?”

     

    “Hey now, a master never reveals his secrets. Anyway, this-” Silver gestured dismissively to the overflowing pack of jewels. “-is nothing, a bonus if you will. The real treasure is in here.” He patted a large satchel that was previously concealed by the pack. Amari could sense a power emanating from it; whatever he had found was enchanted.

     

    “What is it? I want to see!” she exclaimed giddily.

     

    “You’ll have to wait till morning with the rest; this is for the Captain’s eyes first,” he replied, grinning at her impatience.

     

    “Uhg! Then why did you tell me now?”

     

    “To build anticipation! How are you supposed to fully appreciate how amazing my heist was without letting the mystery build for a while?”

     

    “I hate you,” Amari pouted unconvincingly. Silver dramatically feigned being hurt with equal persuasion.

     

     “So, what are you doing out here so late anyway?” he asked.

     

    Running from a Prince of Oblivion, hiding a body, killing said body, poisoning the captain, preparing to poison the rest of the camp, she thought, then with a glance at the picked lock she said, “You wouldn’t believe it, but definitely not trying to sneak a snack after hours. By the way, Gnarls keeps the ale over there.” She pointed towards a locked cabinet across the kitchen from Silver.

     

    “Ha hah, I knew there was a reason I liked you!” She was once again thankful for the darkness as she felt her cheeks go red again. He quickly picked the lock and took two bottles from the shelf, for himself, but Amari snuck up grabbed one from him. He looked at her in surprise, then laughed when she skewed her face after trying some.

     

    “It’s an acquired taste.” He moved to take the bottle back, but Amari pulled back and took another swig.

     

    “Hah, we’ll make a proper drunkard out of you yet, cheers!”

     

    The sat in darkness drinking and munching on left overs in a comfortable silence. Silver caught her watching him:

     

     “Is there something in my teeth?” he asked and started self-consciously started picking at them.

     

    “How would I know? You’re just a silhouette. No. No, this, it’s just nice.”

     

    “Girl, if you think having a sitting in the dark on a dirty floor drinking a brew is a good time, you need to get out more.”

     

    “Hey, I just cleaned this floor! I would like that though, to get out. Um, I mean just a bit sightseeing is all, not like run or anything, like I’ve see Hammerfell, that place is beautiful in harsh way, but I haven’t seen much of Skyrim, we were going to go to Morrowind next, I heard its covered in ash, but the culture is still rich, oh no, I’m rambling, I should just stop talking.”

     

    “Relax.” Silver took a long pull from the bottle. “Don’t worry I’m not going to tell the Captain.” He sighed. “I know you’ve been dealt a shit hand; of course you want to run. My hands are tied though, if I try to take you away, it’ll be my neck on the line.”

     

    “Oh…” Amari let out, crestfallen. Of course there wouldn’t be an easy way out. She touched one of the bottles tucked in her dress. A cold malice glinted in her eyes, she still had the poison, she still had a chance to stay ahead of Molag Bal.      

     

    “…but, that doesn’t mean I can’t provide a distraction for you.” Silver continued with a sly smile. Amari lit up, the darkness passing from her eyes unnoticed.

     

    “Really!?”

     

    “You bet; can you be ready by dusk tomorrow?”

     

     “I’m ready now!”

     

    “I’ll need some time to prep. Can you keep these hidden? You’ll need some money once you’re out there.” He handed her a handful of silver rings and a few gems from the pack. She nodded and stowed those with her dress too; it was getting crowded in there. She hugged him tightly,

     

    “Thank you so much.”

     

     “Um, yea, no problem,” he said awkwardly returning the hug. “Well, I still need to see the captain, not about you.” He hefted the pack across his back with a wink and grabbed the satchel. “He needs to see this. You should get some sleep and be ready to bolt at my signal tomorrow.”

     

    “How will I know?”

     

    “Oh, you won’t be able to miss it.” With a grin that flashed in the moonlight he left towards the captain’s quarters. She couldn’t believe he would actually help her! She could almost taste her freedom, from the bandits at least. One step at a time. As she watched him walk, her eyes were drawn to the satchel again; a dark energy trailed behind it, something ancient and powerful. Well, she wasn’t going to be able sleep anyway, so she shadowed him. Scuttles emerged from under the stove he’d been watching from and returned to her shoulder, then she concealed him from sight with the growing collection in her dress.

     

    She snuck behind the captain’s quarters and peered through a knothole in the wall boards. The Captain was groggily threatening Silver with a dagger while said target was cheerfully chatting and lighting a candle stick. So the Captain had fought off the poison… Scuttles escaped her dress and scaled the wall, slipping inside through a gap at the roof line, then started flickering between the shadows in the rafters.

     

    Damn squirrel! That thing is going to get me killed, she thought.

     

    “This better be good…” the captain was saying.

     

    “It’s better than good! It’s the salvation to all your monetary woes! Robbing merchants and raiding villages will only get you so far, amateur stuff really.”

     

    The Captain’s icy eyes bore through Silver. “You’re losing my patience.”

     

     “Hold on, hold on, I’m the best in my field and was doing very well working independently, but I came to you out of all the clan leaders. Do you know why?”

     

    No answer, Silver gulped. “Um, well it’s because you have a vision! Not only that, you have the drive to make it possible. I for one don’t want to spend my whole life scurry in back alleys and I know you don’t either. You want a haven we can call home; a place to live by own laws; to worship whomever we choose, or none; an empire free of petty squabbles. And this is the next step!”

     

    With that he stepped forward, blocking her view, and emptied the satchel on the desk between them. She needed to see what it was! Then with a flash she did, from high in the rafters inside, but the world was different, as seen from the eyes of one trapped between planes.  She did not see solid shapes so much as lines and vapors of energy. The earth and stones a dim blue; the wood boards were slightly brighter for some of the trees’ lives remained; the Captain and Silver shrouded in the familiar violet flames, their voices echoed with a ghostly tin; unearthly shapes and sounds seemed to ripple through the air just beyond her perception; and the object between the two men appeared as a void encased in murky green tendrils.

     

    “A book?” the Captain’s voice echoed incredulously.

     

    “A book!? That is like calling Azura’s Star a mere soul gem! This book is priceless; I’d say we could start the biddings at 15,000 gold. Mages and scholars from all around the world would give anything to obtain this.”

     

    No. Amari thought in horror. How did that get here! It should of still be locked away in Wayrest, hidden from the world. The tendrils seemed to taunt her, as if to say that no matter how far she ran, there was no escape.

     

    The captain opened book and a twisting mass of tendrils drifted out from the void. Neither man noticed it as the Deadra chose to only show itself to Amari; it had no interest in the others. One by one, eyes opened within the mass, each of differing in shape and size. She watched, dumbstruck, through the squirrel’s eyes and they gazed back from every angle. The daedroth’s voice seemed to come from the largest center eye, undulating with each composed word: 

     

    "Our fates... cross again."

     

    “Hermaeus Mora…”

     

    Good… you have learned... my name.

     

    “no… No, NO! You can’t be here! I’m protected from you, you can’t control me; we have a contract!”

     

    Hermaeus chuckled and his tendrils shot out like lightning beyond the horizon in all directions, forming an intricate web; inescapable no matter where she turned. Her brief hope of freedom seemed like a foolish child’s dream in the presence of the Prince of Fate’s display.

     

    Foolish girl… I am the Master of Fate! Guardian of the unseen, rider of the currents of time, and all whom obstruct what I seek have broken!

     

    …this contract you speak of, it is not between us, but... your mother. As long as she honors our terms... I will not exert my will on you... but know this child: you have never escaped my grasp... Your free will is but an illusion. I do not need to force myself on you... I do not need, nor want you as some... submissive supplicant. How do you think this… ‘Silver’ found his… ‘opportunity’? Why was it this particular clan that found your parents? …what did you think injured your… familiar in those woods long ago? The extent of my influence is BOUNDLESS!   

     

    Bastard! He hurt Scuttles, the event that started everything. So many questions and fears spun in her head, but one thing he said stood out from the rest. He referred to her mother in the present tense.

     

    “My mother is still alive! But I saw her die.”

     

    Her soul has only shed its mortal coil... You know where to go should you seek her.

     

    With that the Daedric prince began receding back into the book.

     

    “Wait!”

     

    …A storm approaches… the harbinger of new beginnings… one way or another...

     

    ***

     

    The captain slammed the book shut and Amari was thrown back into her own body, still trying to make sense of what happened.

     

    “This book is useless to us; these markings make no sense to me. Silver, have your man move this quickly and we’ll see if you’re as valuable as you claim. I don’t want that type of clientele tracing this book back here, you understand?”

     

    “Of course; you won’t regret this Captain.”

     

     

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Comments

9 Comments   |   Felkros likes this.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  July 25, 2015
    Just click the ~????~ at the bottom to while you wait to cheer you up while you wait.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  July 25, 2015
    I do like the Ancestors Wrath power, but she's a Breton. The fire attack was an amped up version of of fiery touch. For my story, magic is closely tied to emotions. Fire for instance, is powered by intense chaotic emotions like anger, which she had a lot ...  more
  • Idesto a'Shinbira
    Idesto a'Shinbira   ·  July 25, 2015
    Is she Dunmer? Was that Ancestor's Wrath she used on the toad?
  • Idesto a'Shinbira
    Idesto a'Shinbira   ·  July 25, 2015
    Badass Amari: but she went too far! 2 Daedra after her now - wow. Really dramatic stuff. When's the next one?
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  July 15, 2015
    I'm glad you're liking, or hating, the characters; some are a pleasure to kill off. Poor Tyranus indeed, he is in way over his head and doesn't even know it. I have a feeling their order will react quite differently to Amari than they would to Albee.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 15, 2015
    The daedric personalities were captured well. Your descriptions are so vivid and I immediately liked Silver. Poor Silver. And... really despised the toad. 
    Poor Tyranus. That poor Vigilant of Stendarr. 
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  July 15, 2015
    Can't say about Molag Bal as I've never... NEVER even thought abut Vampire side of TES. Hermaeus however was really well done.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  July 15, 2015
    Fixed.
    Thanks, having readers helps gives me that extra push to get content out. I've actually had the draft done on Friday, but then r/l got in the way and only had time to give this a once over before posting today.
    Oh it gets worst, I'm goi...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  July 15, 2015
    Hello Exuro
    Damn I've been waiting for this. Poor Amari's been stuck in limbo.
    Noticed an error.
    The Toad blocked the only exit from the room and savored each step he took towards Amari. The shadows cast by the torched danced as if they ...  more