PoTM: Chapter 28, Hard Times

  • Ghosts Walk Among Them

    The departed spirits of the Dunmeri, and perhaps those of all races, persist after death. The knowledge and power of departed ancestors benefit the bloodlines of Dunmeri Houses. The bond that forms between living family members and their immortal ancestors is partly blood, partly ritual, partly volitional. Anyone brought into a house through marriage is bound through ritual and oath into the clan, gaining communication and benefits from the clan's ancestors; however, his access to the ancestors is less than that of his offspring, and he still retains some access to the ancestors of his own bloodline.

     

    2nd of Sun’s Dawn, 4E 204

     

    Grulmar studied the vial with blue liquid set on the table in front of him. He was sitting in Tel Mithryn’s laboratory, with the muffled sounds of Talvas and Neloth keeping him company. Talvas was reading a book, turning the pages in rapid succession, most likely looking for something specific, while Neloth was bent over his precious staff enchanter in the back room, mumbling something to himself.

     

    He had been mumbling a lot the few past days, the magister’s gaze looking into distance, barely noticing anyone but himself. But as far as Grulmar was concerned, it could be just Neloth’s thing. Or going crazy.

     

    He took the vial and looked at Mahti standing next to him. “Alright, shrimp. Ready?”

     

    The riekling solemnly nodded, putting on his brave face, that little pot belly of his sticking out. “Mahteee...readeeee.”

     

    “Alright, here we go then,” he handed the vial to Mahti. “To the bottom.”

     

    “Bottom,” riekling repeated and swallowed the vial’s contents. He closed his eyes and shook his head, as if he was dizzy.

     

    Grulmar watched with interest. What was the potential of magicka potions when it came to people who have not cast a single spell in their life? Could it awaken their potential, maybe? It was worth a try, and Mahti was the perfect test subject. As far as Grulmar knew, rieklings were never recorded to possess magickal ability.

     

    Mahti narrowed his eyes into thin lines and his brow furrowed.

     

    “So? Do you feel any change?” Grulmar wondered out loud, watching the riekling with curiosity.

     

    Mahti now closed his eyes, his face twisting in a grimace and Grulmar raised his eyebrows, ready to cast a protection spell if Mahti was about to burst with magic.

     

    A loud fart sounded through the room, almost stretching itself to infinity and Mahti released a great sigh of relief when it ended.

     

    Grulmar leaned back in his chair, rolling his eyes. “Of course. What else could’ve happened, right?”

     

    “You, fork!” Neloth then shouted and Grulmar turned around, realizing Neloth was looking directly at him. “Yes, you! Where is my flea?”

     

    “What?” Grulmar frowned in confusion. “What fork? What flea?”

     

    “Are you stupid? You are a fork and I bold you to shrink me flea,” Neloth almost shrieked and Grulmar just stared at him.

     

    Fork? Flea? Is this the latest result of Neloth’s megalomania? Has he finally lost it? “Fork?” Grulmar narrowed his eyes. “Ya mean ‘Orc’?”

     

    “And what did I gust lay?” Neloth raised his eyebrows. “Where’s my flea?”

     

    He’s switchin’ the meanin’s of words, Grulmar realized, now watching Neloth with caution. The magister’s forehead was glistening with sweat and his eyes were frantically flicking. “Tea? The servant will bring it,” the Orc explained.

     

    In that moment Drovas Relvi levitated to the top of the tower with a cup in his hand. “Ooof. This levitating is making my stomach uneasy. What’s wrong with stairs?”

     

    “Give me fat!” Neloth growled and took the cup with the tea from Drovas’ hand, taking a sip. He released a delightful sigh, flashing a smile.

     

    Grulmar then saw Neloth stagger, extending his arm to lean against a desk as if he lost balance. He missed and fell directly to the floor, unmoving.

     

    The Orc jumped to his feet. “Tusk!” he growled. “Talvas! Neloth’s dead!” he shouted as he ran to the magister, shoving Drovas aside. “What did ya put in that tea, ya idiot?!”

     

    “I did it just like Ulves told me and he was overseeing what I was doing. At least he said he’s doing that, whatever it is, because I certainly don’t know what it is-”

     

    “Shut up!” Grulmar growled, leaning closer to Neloth. He could feel the Magister’s shallow breath on his face and he touched the mer’s forehead. “He’s burning up.”

     

    Talvas arrived next to him, immediately conjuring healing magicks. “He’s...not poisoned. But...his body is burning with disease.” The light in his hands intensified and the apprentice grimaced with effort. “I..can’t…” The light disappeared and Talvas exhaled. “I can’t push it out, it’s fighting me.”

     

    “Go get Elynea! Tell her to bring potions!” the Orc ordered Drovas. “Blasted Telvanni! Hope it’s not too late.”

    “Two fours and three sixs,” Revus Sarvani said out loud, watching the last of the dice settle. He then looked at Ulves Romoran sitting opposite him. “Your turn, friend,” he handed the dice to Tel Mithryn's cook.

     

    They were sitting on a carpet Revus rolled on the ground in his camp. The day was surprisingly warm, the breath of coming spring warming up his bones, so why not enjoy a friendly game of dice? He looked up, letting the sun rays piercing through the clouds fall on his face.

     

    “Hmm, only a pair,” Ulves Romoran murmured and Revus glanced at the dice and smiled.

     

    “Seems like fortune smiles on me today. I raise the bet by a golden hand,” he replied, setting one more coin on the carpet.

     

    “Fortune always smiles on you, you old codger,” the cook grimaced. “And yet you still live in a tent.”

     

    “Humility, my friend. I don't need much, but does that mean I have no needs? No, sera, I certainly do have needs, but since I am humble I don't put my needs above those of others...”

     

    “And yet you have been a bandit.”

     

    The dice rattled in Revus' hands before he threw them. He smiled yet again when he saw four fives. “Yes, I was a bandit, yet I have to point out that it was done out of humility.”

     

    “A humble bandit? But isn't that all about taking from others what they need?”

     

    “Ah, but here you come to the foundation of the truth. How do you define a need?”

     

    “When you are hungry, you get food. Because you need it to survive.” Ulves threw the dice and frowned and Revus took the gold with a smile, tilting his head.

     

    “So is a need interchangable with survival then? You are a cook, sera, so tell me: when you are hungry, what do you cook for yourself? I'm imagining a simple ash yam soup. But when the Telvanni magister is hungry what do you cook for him? I think it is something fancy no doubt. So his need isn't about survival, but about...the need itself, no?”

     

    “Not all of us can afford to eat fancy food when others…” The cook hesitated for a second, Revus literally seeing the word ‘need’ on his lips, but Ulves shook his head, quickly avoiding that trap. “When others - those privileged - want it for themselves. If there are only two things and two people in a room, both of the people can't have the same thing.”

     

    “So would you say that you, in your humility, then take a step back and allow the other person to pick first? In that case, sera, you can't lament about the other person taking the sweeter, the juicier thing - whatever that thing is - but,” Revus took the dice in his hand, “it speaks well about your humility. When we speak about virtues, we mention honor and such, but I have to but wonder how would the world look if everyone was made humble as you and me.”

     

    “They would end up arguing about who should pick first, each suggesting the other to choose first,” the cook snorted. “Which returns us to the raised question of the famous humble bandit. You say that since you are humble, you don't put your needs above those of others, yet you took things others needed.”

     

    “And that is where you are wrong, sera, I only took what I needed and my victims didn't, with not a single person getting hurt. Well, not very often, at least. I was hungry and I didn't have money to buy it. Others weren't hungry and had plenty of money. You see, sera? Humility and balance, by taking something others wouldn't miss.”

     

    Suddenly they heard shouts from the top of Tel Mithryn's tower and both looked towards the balcony in anticipation of another of Neloth's fantastic scenes. Revus was almost expecting an Orc to finally be tossed out of the window, closely followed by that riekling pet of his. Youth could be so annoying, especially when it clashed with the wisdom of the old and didn’t show proper respect. And if something could perfectly describe the Orc, it would be ‘disrespect’.

     

    Revus then felt the ground under him shake, but not like an earthquake, more like if something was moving in the ground under him and he looked at Ulves with raised eyebrows. “What now-”

     

    A sword of molten rock suddenly pierced the carpet right under Ulves, continuing upwards through the mer's crotch, belly, ribcage until it reappeared from his right shoulder.

     

    Revus screamed as hot blood got into his eyes and face, screamed in terror and he rose to his feet, only to feel a sudden weakness, his old legs betraying him as he fell to the ground.

     

    But the strangest thing was he didn't even feel himself hitting the ground. It almost felt like he fell into something soft, a set of pillows on the floor. It took him some time beforel he realized he was sitting, leaning against the rock next to his tent, his hands doing something down in his lap. He looked down and saw his own hands as if they were the hands of a stranger trying to stuff his intestines back into his belly.

     

    It reminded him of a latrine he once had to dig. He dug deeper and deeper, the walls of mud around him constantly caving in and so he had to keep digging and digging.

     

    And he kept digging now too, but the walls were constantly caving in. And he kept digging and digging until…

     

    He didn’t.

    Talvas heard a scream from outside and exchanged confused looks with Grulmar. The Dunmer then hurried to the balcony and the moment he stepped outside he felt a cold seize his heart.

     

    He saw half a dozen Ash Spawn clawing their way out of the ground next to Revus’ campsite, swarming the old silt strider, hacking it into pieces. It moaned in pain and collapsed to the ground, along with the Ash Spawn, disappearing from Talvas’ line of sight.

     

    And he saw two bodies, blood all over the camp.

     

    And even more Ash Spawn appearing from the ground.

     

    He heard the door at the bottom of the tower open and his eyes went wide with realization.

     

    Suddenly every Ash Spawn's attention was on the tower.

    Grulmar frowned when Drovas released a surprised scream from the bottom of the tower, closely followed by the loud bang of a door. The servant then levitated to the top of the tower, pale as a ghost, mumbling something. “What?” Grulmar growled. “Speak louder!”

     

    The mer twitched as if he was slapped and looked Grulmar into eye, fear written all over his face. “Ash Spawn!” he stammered in terror.

     

    Talvas then stormed back into the laboratory and grabbed Grulmar by his arm. “Ash Spawn!” he almost yelled into the Orc's ear. “Two dozens at least!”

     

    The Orc shifted his gaze from one Dunmer to the other, not following what they were about. Why would Ash Spawn show up? Especially here? “Are ya two crazy or what? What Ash Spawn?” he muttered, heading towards the balcony. “What would Ash Spawn want here? If this is some kind of joke-” He looked down from the balcony only to see dozens of Ash Spawn storming the door to the tower, hitting it with weapons made of molten rock and spells. “Ash Spawn!” he yelled in surprise which earned him a bolt of fire heading towards his face. He pushed himself away from the balcony, falling on his back. “Shit! Shit shit shit!” the Orc kept yelling as he crawled back into the tower. “They're getting through the door!” he screamed into Talvas’ face once he reached him.

     

    “No, they're not,” the Dunmer replied calmly. “The tower has multiple enchantments woven into it. It will hold.”

     

    “Enchantments?! Hold?!” Grulmar repeated in a high pitched voice. “Yeah, sure. Because what ya hear is just a little knockin’ on the door. One big misunderstandin’, I'm sure. They're here just to grab a cup of tea, right?”

     

    “Where's Elynea?” Talvas asked, looking at Drovas and then at Grulmar. “Where's Elynea?!” he repeated loudly.

     

    “How the tusk should I know?” the Orc growled, pacing the room. This is bad, really bad. Just as stormin’ castle Volkihar with undead dragon flyin’ over yer head was bad. Grulmar could feel his hands shake with terror and he clenched them into fists, trying to control something he just couldn't. Just reflex, yer instincts kickin’ in. Screamin’ at ya to run. But where could he run with a small horde of Ash Spawn knocking on their door?

     

    “In her house,” Drovas answered from under the table.

     

    “Houzzzz,” Mahti repeated from under the same table.

     

    Talvas grabbed Grulmar's arm and pulled him close. “We need to get Elynea, before they realize she's in there. The apothecary is not as protected as the tower.”

     

    “Yeah, sure, why the heck not, right? We can just go out and politely ask if they'll let us through. That would definitely do the trick,” the Orc snorted.

     

    The Dunmer shook him. “Stop that! Where's that damn confidence of yours? Or at least that stupid cockiness?”

     

    He grimaced at that. Indeed, where's that? Well, tusk, it flew out of the window the moment ya saw the tuskin’ blood, the unmovin’ bodies of people ya know. The moment ya saw a mindless horde of undead ash tuskheads tryin’ to break in here. But he said nothing, keeping the answer to himself. “What do ya want me to do, Talvas?” he frowned. “Look at me. I don't even have my bandolier with knives with me. Illusion doesn't work on these spawns. What would ya have me do then? I'm useless!”

     

    Grulmar staggered with a grunt when Talvas slapped him. “You are of House Telvanni!” the Dunmer growled. “Your words bring shame not only upon yourself, but upon this House! Snap out of it and help me!”

     

    The Orc rubbed his cheek, frowning. Yes, snap out of it Grulmar. Y’are not a thief anymore, remember? Y’are a mage. Well, a bunglin’ mage, but what does it matter? A mage's a mage, and power doesn't come with coincidence and… He suddenly narrowed his eyes. “Coincidence,” he said out loud. When he noticed Talvas’ confused look he continued: “It's no coincidence. This attack, precisely at the same moment Neloth falls asleep because of some strange disease.” He slapped his forehead and shook his head. “Someone’s poisoned the tower before. Ash Spawn been drawin’ closer to the tower for days now. Someone's targetin’ us. Or Neloth.”

     

    “And how does that help us now?” the Dunmer apprentice raised his eyebrows, followed by more loud bangs on the tower's door.

     

    “Ah, well...it doesn't, it's just...I thought it might be relevant,” Grulmar rubbed his neck.

     

    “Save it for later then. We need to get to Elynea now. Any ideas?”

     

    The Orc rubbed his goatee between his thumb and forefinger, thinking. He looked around the room and his gaze fell on a pair of stones on the table. “Quite a few actually, but they're all pretty stupid and get us all killed.”

     

    “Help!” a woman's voice suddenly sounded from outside and Grulmar and Talvas exchanged looks. Elynea.

     

    “I guess we've ran out of time,” Grulmar murmured.

    The Orc took a deep breath, holding two heart stones in his hands, standing near the balcony. He could see four Ash Spawn hacking at the door to Elynea's house, slowly forcing their way inside. “What a damn stupid plan,” he grumbled to himself and then threw the stones, while his mind wandered into Oblivion, pulling two vestiges from the seas of Oblivion.

     

    As soon as the stones hit the ground, they immediately began forming the bodies of ash guardians and Grulmar sent a simple command through the binding sigils. Kill all the Ash Spawn.

     

    Fightin’ fire with fire. Well, in this case fightin’ ash with ash, he thought as he witnessed the guardians meeting the spawn with a relentless onslaught. The spawns’ spells were of no use against the guardians just as their weapons, but the guardians were unable to fatally wound their opponents either. To destroy an Ash Spawn, one had to destroy the heart stone in their chests and the guardians weren't able to get to that.

     

    He looked over his shoulder to see Talvas clad in bound Daedric armor, already descending down the tower's shaft, summoning spells ready at his disposal. He'll use Dremoras. Cut a wide path through the Ash Spawn like a scythe through wheat.

     

    Well, that just isn’t fair, Grulmar thought as he pulled a knife from his boot. It was a smaller knife with a curved blade and short handle, good for throwing, but beside that, it would be a miracle if Grulmar could hurt an apple with that thing.

     

    “They’re getting in!” Talvas shouted from the bottom of the tower and Grulmar grimaced. It was time to get the show on the road.

     

    He pulled a small vial from his belt. The plan was for Talvas to distract the Ash Spawns while Grulmar used an invisibility potion to reach Elynea. Easy peasy.  

     

    “Here goes-” he murmured, ready to drink the light blue liquid, only to be interrupted by a hand reaching the edge of the balcony, closely followed by a face forever twisted in an angry  grimace, a red glow emanating from the Ash Spawn’s eyes. “Ah crap.”

     

    The spawn climbed onto the balcony, its gaze focused on Grulmar and then it released a bolt of fire. The Orc ducked, rolling over his shoulder to the right, only to hit the side of a table. He shook his head and blinked several times.

     

    The Ash Spawn strode towards him, another ball of burning embers in its hand and then it threw the fire at Grulmar.  

     

    The Orc raised a ward in haste, blocking the spell, and then he threw his knife, aiming for the center of the spawn’s chest, for the faint red light glowing through the cracks of hardened ash.

     

    But throwing a knife while sitting on his arse and being dazed by hitting his head on top of that didn’t help his aim and the knife went right into the spawn’s eye socket. It barely noticed that.

     

    Instincts kicked in, something in Grulmar awakening, rising to the occasion, and he felt the magic in him swirl and crack, like lightning surging in his veins. He opened the way for it and it reached out, for the knife buried in the spawn’s head.

     

    Grulmar ripped the knife out, pulled it through the air halfway to him and then he pushed, pushing the blade of orichalcum through the Spawn’s chest. It crumbled into dust, scattered by the wind down from the balcony.

     

    The Orc exhaled and looked at his hands, steady and firm. Power at his fingertips, all he had to do was to reach for it.

     

    And so he did.

    Talvas watched the wooden door being slowly hacked into splinters while his mind wandered through Oblivion. He surged through the burning lands of Dagon's plane, clawing his way up a dark tower, door by door, room by room. Searching. And then he stopped in front of one door, where two Dremora stood, clad from head to toe in their dark armors, massive shields on their arms. They were lowly Caitiffs, frontline shocktroopers, and that was precisely what he needed.

     

    The protection spells on the door suddenly cracked under the Ash Spawns' onslaught, closely followed by the door themselves. And when they pushed inside, they were met with two hulking figures who firmly stood their ground.

     

    The Dunmer felt ice crackling inside his stomach, the numbness of cold anger spreading through his body. Ulves. Revus. Varona. Dead. All dead. He couldn't protect them. But he could avenge them.

     

    Kill them all, Talvas commanded. Destroy their hearts, rip them out.

     

    He could feel the Caitiffs' anger and frustration for being summoned and he could feel them rattling the bounding sigil as if it were a cage, but Talvas was no novice in summoning. He knew very well the rage and pride of Dremora, he knew what he was doing.

     

    So their frustration was unleashed upon the Ash Spawn.

     

    They blocked with their massive shields, stopping the advance of the ash creatures. They leaned against their shields and pushed, creating space for their swords. Each swung once and then followed with a stab, then they hid behind their shells of dark metal. Two Ash Spawn turned to dust and precious metals.

     

    Talvas released a bolt of lightning or a shard of ice whenever he saw an opening, but that came very rarely.

     

    The two Caitiffs were like machines of war, their movements automatic and reserved, holding the door with little effort. The Ash Spawn weren't intelligent enough to break through that wall, falling victim to the rhythm the Dremora set. Block. Push. Hack and stab. Retreat. Block. Push. Hack and stab. Retreat.

     

    Block...

    Grulmar levitated down from the balcony, heading towards Elynea's house. He was under the effects of the invisibility potion so he had a clear view of the Ash Spawn all around him. The ash guardians were keeping several of them occupied, just refusing to die, and he could feel the sigil slowly weakening. He'd have to dismiss them very soon, but for now he welcomed the distraction.

     

    He landed on the apothecary's rooftop, moving slowly towards the door and below he could see two Ash Spawns hitting the door with their swords of molten rock. There was something unwielding in the way they moved. Almost as if… they were constantly in pain, but it wasn't slowing them down, and Grulmar had no doubt they could hack at the door all day without even tiring.

     

    He reached out with his mind and narrowed his eyes when he felt the weapons of molten rock responding to his probing and he felt a wicked grin claw onto his face. Seems like the weapons aren't part of ya, tuskers.

     

    They swung their weapons again, but they slipped from their hands and remained hovering in the air above them and both Spawn immediately looked up, staring right at Grulmar who just broke the invisibility. “Maybe try to knock next time,” he smiled and then brought his hands down, forcing the magic to push forward.

     

    The swords turned down, piercing the spawns’ heads, necks and eventually their chests, cutting through the heart stones with uncharacteristic ease.

     

    They crumbled into piles of ash and metal and Grulmar jumped down, banging on the door. “Hey, mycologist!” he hissed near the door, looking back towards the tower to see Talvas and two tusking Dremoras advance out of the tower, turning the spawns into dust one by one. “Open the bloody door!”

     

    Some of the stragglers began heading his way and he clenched his jaws when no reply came from inside. “Oh, tusk it!” He leaned closer to the door's lock and pulled out his lockpick to begin quickly working through the obstacle. He barely heard the clicking of the metal over the fight’s sounds, but he could feel he was close.

     

    Then the lock gave up and he bolted into the house, looking for Elynea. Suddenly a bottle came into his line of view and he quickly grabbed it with magic in the middle of air, stopping it not that far away from his face. “I'm no tuskin’ Ash Spawn!” he growled when he noticed Elynea hiding behind her bed.

     

    The Ash Spawn now entered the house and Grulmar ran towards the mycologist and grabbed her by hand. “Hold yer breath,” he murmured and then focused on the signature magic back in the tower, reaching for it. The Ash Spawn raised a sword and Grulmar pulled.

     

    The world spun and in the blink of an eye they stood back in the tower. The Orc checked his limbs and face and then grinned. “Ha! We're in one piece!” he cheered and looked at Elynea who was puking on the laboratory's floor right next to him. “Ugh. I hope that's not yer liver on the floor.”

    To the north of Tel Mithryn tower, near the Sun Stone, four figures were lying in the ash among the giant mushrooms, watching all that was happening in Tel Mithryn. They watched as the Ash Spawn launched an attack on the tower, killed those two servants outside of it and then they also watched as the residents of the mushroom tower fought back.

     

    “Shouldn't we tell Mogrul about this?” one of the figures asked and the leader's head snapped in the fool's direction.

     

    Brol is his name. Stupid as all Nords are, the leader thought as he buried the gaze of his Dunmeri eyes into the man's face. “Is it over yet?” he asked with a growl. “We'll tell Mogrul about this once whatever this is is over.”

     

    The man grimaced but the Darelon didn't care. I am Darelon the Slasher. Give me a reason you dumb Nordic oaf! he thought and then looked back towards Tel Mithryn. He narrowed his eyes when he saw the Orc appear on the roof of the easternmost building. Just like that, out of thin air or something. He frowned when he saw the swords of molten rock being ripped from the blasted ash creatures’ hands, hovering in the air and then shoved down into their bodies, destroying them.

     

    “This our target?” the Nord spoke again. “Mogrul said he's just a steward, not a blasted spellcaster!” Brol spat on the ground. “Cursed magic!”

     

    “Shut your fucking mouth or I'll cut you open!” Darelon hissed. To him, it didn't matter. Even mages could bleed and he carefully watched the Orc, waiting for any other display of magic. All they got was seeing the Orc bolt into the house. No destruction magic, Darelon made a mental note. Only making stuff levitate. He resisted the urge to snort. He killed much worse enemies than that.

     

    The Orc disappeared inside the house and Darelon reverted his gaze back to the tower's entrance, seeing three Dremora advancing on the sidewalk, eradicating the Ash Spawn with methodical precision. The Dremora in the back was throwing lightnings and spikes of ice - wait, that's not a Dremora. A Dunmer, clad in Daedric armor. That must be Neloth's apprentice.

     

    The two Dremora were sending shivers down Darelon's spine. He hated those things and he was quite certain he didn't want to face those. It was a good thing that their target was the Orc and not actually Neloth's apprentice.

     

    The Dremora were taking care of the last Ash Spawn and the Dunmer headed back into the tower.

     

    Darelon looked at the Nord and grimaced. “Now you can run to Mogrul and tell him about this. Tell him Tel Mithryn was assaulted by Ash Spawn. The magister hasn't showed up.”

     

    “Why me?” the Nord frowned.

     

    “Because you can't fucking shut up,” Darelon growled.

     

    “And shouldn't I tell Mogrul the target is also a mage?”

     

    “Why? He's a dead Orc walking already.”

    Talvas reached the top of the tower and found Elynea leaning over Neloth, with Grulmar and Drovas standing nearby. “It's over,” he murmured. “For now. The Dremora are taking care of the stragglers.” He looked at the magister, at his pale face and frowned. “How is he doing?”

     

    “Would you all stop asking me that?” Elynea growled, looking Talvas in the eyes. “I am no healer. I am a damn mycologist!”

     

    “Maybe that's precisely what we need,” Grulmar mumbled and stepped towards Neloth, his eyes glinting with something alien. Talvas narrowed his eyes when the Orc pulled up Neloth's robes, revealing his legs.

     

    One of them was covered with black-red blisters.

     

    “What in the Mephala's hands is that?” Talvas heard Elynea gasp. “Some kind of rash? But no, it looks more like...a fungal growth. A malignant growth.”

     

    “It's not him who's sick,” Grulmar said and walked towards the tower's wall, touching it with his hand. “It's the tower that is sick,” he continued with closed eyes. “Down at the roots.”

     

    “How do you know that?” Talvas asked out loud and Grulmar motioned him forward. Something seemed different about the Orc, there was this aura of magic around him but Talvas couldn't identify it. Everytime he tried to reach for it with his senses, it slipped away, avoiding him. The Dunmer narrowed his eyes and walked towards the Orc who took his hand.

     

    The world blurred, his vision spinning, and when he opened his eyes again he was surrounded by darkness. He felt the Orc's hand on his and he felt the tugging, pulling. And so he followed. There was a sound in the darkness, a pounding and he realized that it was the pulsing of life. Of growth. But there was this tone in it, painful.

     

    “It cries in delirium,” Talvas heard Grulmar's voice. They were drawing away from the pounding and followed the silent wailing, and if it wasn't for Grulmar guiding him, he would be groping in the dark. The wailing was getting stronger and Talvas felt that the Orc had stopped. “The tower's dreamin’ and it's havin’ a nightmare, tryin’ to escape the pain. It took Neloth with him, which is why he didn't recognize there's somethin’ wrong.”

     

    What does that mean? Talvas wondered.

     

    “Don't ya see? Neloth and the tower are one. They're connected, linked. He is the tower and the tower is him. Watch.”

     

    Suddenly a light illuminated the area and Talvas blinked when he found himself among the roots. He saw Neloth, pacing around, like he always did when thinking about something. But he didn't notice them, even when they were standing right in front of him. Grulmar pointed forward and Talvas noticed the malignant growth on one of the roots, the black-red blisters covering it. The light revealed that the walls also seemed to sweat, just like Neloth.

     

    How do you know all this? he turned to Grulmar, looking at him for the first time and he suppressed a surprised scream.

     

    The Orc's face was blurred, almost like it was shifting between several faces, his eyes being gold for a second, then red and then black, switching in rapid succession. “The tower is dreamin’. I can...relate to that.”

     

    The light then went out and Talvas blinked, only to realize he was standing back in the laboratory, his hand on the wall. He looked at Grulmar with surprise and saw the Orc's strained features. How? Just how are you doing this, Grulmar? He turned to Elynea and nodded. “He's right,” he said. “The tower is sick and that is making Neloth sick. We have to dig out the roots.”

     

    Right after we take care of our dead.



     

Comments

4 Comments   |   Teineeva and 5 others like this.
  • A Shadow Under the Moons
    A Shadow Under the Moons   ·  November 29
    Grulmar's growth as a mage is coming along nicely, especially how he applies it in combat and survival.

    And this is very nitpick-y of me, but I'm surprised Revus would even be able to scream after getting stabbed like that. You wrote that the...  more
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      Grulmar's growth as a mage is coming along nicely, especially how he applies it in combat and survival.

      And this is very nitpick-y of me, but I'm surprised Revus would even be able to scream after getting stabbed like that. You wrote that the Ash Spawn's...  more
        ·  November 29
      Thanks, Harrow. I'm glad to hear the growth is visible.


      Hmm. It was Ulves - sitting opposite to Revus - who got stabbed that way. If that wasn't clear enough I'll have to reword that.
      • A Shadow Under the Moons
        A Shadow Under the Moons
        The Lorc of Flowers
        The Lorc of Flowers
        The Lorc of Flowers
        Thanks, Harrow. I'm glad to hear the growth is visible.


        Hmm. It was Ulves - sitting opposite to Revus - who got stabbed that way. If that wasn't clear enough I'll have to reword that.
          ·  November 29
        Ah, now that I've reread it, I can see that. Maybe you could add a sentence earlier in the scene to establish that Ulves is sitting opposite Revus so you don't have to write 'Ulves sitting opposite him', that was the bit that threw me off, as 'him' and 't...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 29
    Hehe, Neloth has the scabbies. But dang, he really likes his mushroom.  And Grulmar is showing some interesting magical psychic mojo there. Nice touch.