The Outlawed Hero- Chapter 6

  • Chapter 6

    Smoke slowly drifted off of the bodies of the dead men around me. Some still burned, while others had been reduced to piles of simmering embers on the ground. When they had first attacked me, I had been confident my rapid sword strokes would cut through the converging undead. Instead, I found myself fighting tooth, claw and flames against them, after my blade became lodged in the first attacker’s head. Quickly I discovered that my assailants were unhurt by the cuts my Dwarven forged steel left them, however when exposed to my flames they faltered like any normal man. Learning this helped me lessen their ranks before any more could reach me, although I found myself drained and breathing heavily by the time I burned them all. For all I knew, it would be some time before my magicka was restored to its full potential. For now I would have to fight any other dead like I would a normal man, with a blade.

    Wrenching my sword out of the first dead man’s skull, I tried to recall any knowledge I had on the Nordic afterlife. Seeing as these poor wretches were still walking after years of death must mean they had not reached the fabled Sovngarde, a great land where dead Nord heroes could drink and feast for the rest of time. Then I remembered. Draugr. The name was given to the old Nords who had worshipped the dragons during their reign over Tamriel, those who had been cursed with undeath for their treason. I'd heard that they would wake from death to defend their burial crypts from adventurers and treasure hunters, and that no regular attacks could harm them. This had proved to be true, based on my failure to inflict any harm on the wights with my sword alone, instead I was forced to burn the blue-eyed monsters to ashes.

    Despite the surprise I received after facing the draugrs for the first time, I continued into the crypts, soon coming across an expansive, cavernous chamber, where the only light filtered through a hole in the rocky roof, gaping open like a fresh wound. The sunlight highlighted what looked to be the main ritual platform of the room. A strange structure stood with its back to the rock face behind it, a wall, it looked like, with multiple unintelligible runes inscribed on its face. A faint, blue light radiated from one of these runes seemingly randomly. Maybe inside this wall was the Dragonstone, although I decided to have a quick sweep over the rest of the platform before investigating this runed structure. All I managed to find was a single sarcophagus facing the wall, and next to it a small table with a few unnamed potions on it. Not finding anything else, I turned my attention back to the wall. My ears pricked up at a scarcely noticeable sound coming from the structure. Strange, it sounds as if someone is chanting, but from inside the wall? As I stepped closer, a thin trail of blue energy began to extend out of the glowing rune in the wall, growing larger and more visible the closer I got. The chanting, it was definitely chanting now that I was closer, became louder as well, until I could hear nothing but the booming voices of a hundred people in my head. Suddenly, I felt a burst of heat in my chest. Looking down, the energy had reached me and appeared to be feeding itself into my body. Before I knew what was happening, I was gripped by a force that held me there, as the blue rune pulsed its energy into my very soul. But as quickly as it happened, the force released me, and the rune on the wall ceased its throbbing. Immediately I noticed my senses had been hightened, and amidst the receding sound of the voices in my head I heard a more ominous sound. The lid of the black stone sarcophagus broke off with a thunderous crack, and a pale, dead hand grasped the side of the now open tomb.

    From the inside of its deathly prison, a heavily armoured draugr dragged itself out of its grave, while grabbing its ancient war axe, which glowed with a pale, frosty colour. In its off-hand the wight held a splintered, worn shield, which it hoisted in front of itself as it approached. Raising my own sword in turn, I switched to a two-handed grip, to allow more control at the loss of my magic for the time. Determined to earn the first blow, I charged the draugr, slashing my sword to his weaker left side at the last second. The blade made contact, but where it did, no blood was drawn, and the dead man didn't even seem to feel it. In response, however, it dealt a jarring blow that I only just blocked in time, leaving me staggered. The draugr seized on the opportunity, and rushed with an overhead slash, which I countered with my Dwarvish sword, delivering a second cut to its shield arm. This time, the man's limb was cut clean off, but no blood spurted out of the wound, the draugr's life-blood had all but disappeared after its body began decaying. Now, with nothing to block with, I made short work of the crippled draugr, slicing off first its remaining arm, then plunging my blade deep into its rotten heart.

    With the blue glow of the draugr's eyes fading as it finally died, I stepped over its corpse to peer into the black tomb that it had come from. Inside, the artifact I'd risked my life for lay nestled in a hidden alcove, which was revealed with a press of a dragon-shaped switch on the side of the sarcophagus.

    "There you are..." I murmured, pulling the Dragonstone out of its secret abode. The stone itself was a large, carved tablet, covered with runes similar to those on the wall behind me. As far as I could tell, they were written in the dragon language, rendering them indecipherable to all but a historian skilled in the dragon ages. Perhaps Farengar back at Whiterun was one of those historians. However, none of that mattered. I was a mercenary, and I'd got what I'd come for. It was past time I collected my reward. Before leaving I ripped the enchanted axe out of the draugr's hands. I may not use it, but I could sell it for a good price, which was all that mattered. Giving the room one last look over, I saw a lever nestled into a rocky wall in the back of the room. Pulling it caused a slab of stone to slide up from where it was seemingly rooted into the earth, and reveal a narrow passageway that led up, up and up to the surface, and freedom.

    I gulped in the fresh air of the surface, grateful for the vast openness of the lands around me, compared to the tight, claustrophobic crypts below. I appeared to of come out on the other side of the mountain, judging by the tops of Dragonsreach peeking over the evergreens in front of me. A slight smile formed as I caught a glimpse of the town, but I quickly bowed my head, beginning my short trek down the hill, it's gradual decline providing a relaxing walk for my exhausted body. I still felt drained of my magicka, so using it would be out of the question on the way back, but my sword arm still felt strong, and the extra hand I would usually use for my magic would give me some added stability if I chanced upon some bandits, or they chanced upon me. The Dragonstone still hung in my left hand, and I carefully placed it in my pack as I navigated my way down the hill, being sure not to create any new scratches on the already rough hewn surface. By the way Farengar spoke of it, the stone could be worth more than I imagined.

    The two moons were slowly rising into the already dark sky as I neared Whiterun, my bones aching. The guards doing their rounds gave me queer glances, and for good reason. I must of looked a mess. Ash covered my armour, my sword was spattered with black blood, and my tail was singed a darker black than before. All in all, I must of looked the part of a real adventurer. I gave the guards a smile as I walked by, leaving them gaping mouths. Finally, when I got to the gate of the town, I pushed on through without another word. All I wanted was to sleep.


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