C.O.T.W Chapter 83: Soul Searching

  • Tigress yawned, got up from her seat at the table she fell asleep at and stretched. She glanced around her and saw her companions

    asleep on the wooden floor. She saw the elf's arm an inch from Mere Glim's closed muzzle; his tail curling tightly around his body like



    Tigress walked over to the curious dust pile that sat in the corner of the room, picked some up and ran it through her claws.

    "The doomstrider will pay dearly for what he's done." She snarled, eyes narrowed. She looked over to her companions, still sleeping



    Ceralyne got dressed in her blue and gold robe. Mere Glim did similarly in his miner's shirt and trousers as they both walked over to

    where the Ka'Po'Tun stood studying the dust closely and, kneeling down, began to study it as well.


    The elf smirked at the Ka'po'tun and waved her hands in a circular motion in the air. Mere-Glim and Tigress stared wide-eyed at the

    center of the bluish-black portal with an unfamiliar image, one of a barren wasteland with a various pools of lava surrounding 

    "Ceralyne, what is this place?" Tigress asked as she got to her feet

    Ceralyne gestured to the bluish-black spiked portal that looked like it grew from the earth instead of conjured and told the Ka'Po'Tun

    and Argonian that the region in question was Coldharbor,

    "This is where we'll rescue Affraji's soul and reunite it with her body."


    Tigress groaned in annoyance,

    "You stupid elf, you cannot reunite that which has no body." She shrugged, "By oblivion, we don't even know where to start looking."


    Ceralyne shook her head and laughed; groping around in her pocket and extracting a blackened gem. Tigress gasped and pointed to

    the soul gem cradled in the elf's golden hands,

    "Y-you have a black soul gem! Necromancer, you'll not have my soul!" 


    Ceralyne shook her head slowly, chastizing Tigress for being stupid. The elf told her calmly that the gem is the one that the

    Doomstrider trapped Affraji's soul in. The ka'po'tun asked her how she'd procured the soul gem. Ceralyne told her that while the

    khajiit was gloating over his kill, she snatched it out of his grasp without him knowing. 


    Tigress nodded and ask where the khajiit's body was. Ceralyne told her that her empty shell was gained by Molag Bal and it, she

    said, was held in the prison inside a building known as the black forge and it would be there, she told the ka'po'tun, that they are

    both going through the portal and find a way through the foundry to the khajiit's prison and return her soul proper.


    Ceralyne gestured to Tigress to follow her as she turned to the shimmering image of the prison and stepped through as if walking

    through a curtain in a room. Tigress looked shocked as she witnessed the elf disappear from sight with Tigress following soon after.

    When Tigress emerged from the portal, she found herself in a land both similar to Nirn and not similar at the same time. She

    couldn't put her paw on it, but there was something 'off' about this place. She stared wide-eyed at pools of lava; cast a spell and

    walked over the fire as if they had instanly cooled. Tigress held the spell until she got to the far side; finally letting the spell

    dissipate. She looked up and felt an overwhelming sense of dread steal over her; she knew she had to find Affraji, or at least her

    body if her soul was elsewhere and get out of there quick as possible.


    She looked skyward as the menacing black steel building loomed over her like an angel of death whose twisted hands spread out

    toward the sky in dark, cold spirals and curves, each ending in pointy spkies. She opened the black steel door set in the middle of

    the structure and passed through it, hoping her ancesstors would lead her right.


    Once inside the structure, she manuevered through a twisting hallway dotted by numerous pipes whose purpose, she guessed, was

    more sinister than she could even hope to imagine. The ka'po'tun moved quickly as possible through the hallway and entered a

    similar black steel door at the opposite end into yet another room. Like the last room, she passed through quickly, similar room after

    room flew by as she ran headlong toward her goal.


    After minutes of seeing nothing but cold steel pipes, fortune smiled upon her. Tigress's dull expression brightened as she saw three

    set of shackles surrounding three circular platforms. She glanced upwards and saw four cages suspended from the ceiling by three

    sets of chains. Tigress ripped her eyes from this macabre display and saw, in one of the sets of shackle a cheetah-like khajiit in a red

    coat that had gold trim. Tigress ran to Affraji's side, furiously working to lockpick the shackels,

    "Hang on Affraji, I'll get you out of here. By the gods, I don't want to stay in this gods-forsaken place longer than I need to." She

    looked up into the khajiit's eyes but saw no sign of life. She took out the black soul gem that Ceralyne had given her.


    Tigress jabbed the forsaken khajiit in the chest with the soul gem; her face fell as nothing happened, she tried again and again but

    each time, the same result,

    "What in Oblivion?" She said as she turned the gem over in her clawed hand, "This should've worked... unless, the Doomstrider was

    five steos ahead of us and replaced the real soul gem with a fake?" Her brow furrowed as this thought swam through her mind like a

    slaughterfish though water. She looked away from the khajiit; eyes downcast. She didn't know where the Doomstrider was now, but

    she knew she had to find him if she had any hope of return Affraji's soul, lest the khajiit be doomed to exist as a soulless husk.

    Inigo did not knew where in Oblivion he was supoosed to go; the city was expansive, plus it had shops and alleyways that struck

    him as extra shady. The voice in the khajiit's ear gave the khajiit directions which the khajiit stuck to. He passed by shops selling

    armor, potions and blacksmithing supplies; both the shops and the people haggling in those shops had an etherreal feel to them. that

    one would find in the realms of Oblivion, up some stairs, past more shops, stopping only when he got to a pair of cellar doors with a

    purple splayed trident painted on them.


    Inigo's blue fur turned black as night as well as his eyes turning blood red as he opened the cellar doors and stepped inside. He

    descended the later and once in the main room, glanced downward, smiling to himself.

    "Hmmm... this is quaint don't you think, Inigo?" He expected the blue khajiit to answer but all he heard was silence that stretched

    as far as an empty field. He broke this silence with a chuckle. "Ah, who cares what you think anyway? You are a few sweetrolls short

    of a baker's dozen.


    He grinned to himself as he gaze doward on the same bustling city that lay far below him. He guessed that Madame Whim could be

    found somewhere down there. The Doomstrider traverse the many straight and curved wooden bridges that descended toward the

    decrepit bazaar with the occasional three-step stone staircase dotted among the wooden structure.


    The Doomstrider down the wooden and stone structure and emerged in what looked a bazaar that was left unused for some time.

    The black khajiit glanced to his right and saw a shop manned by a man who was as transparent as wisp wrapping with the banner of

    a black sea serpent emblazened on a field of red.


    The doomstrider looked straight back to the odd bazaar and smiled as he saw a beatiful dark seducer talking to an Argonian,

    "...Tuxutl, you know, for that little tidbit of information, it will cost you." She said, waggling a long, thin finger


    Tuxutl's face brightened as she placed a hand surupticously in her pocket, hoping to feel the cold metal of coin, she however felt only


    "Pay in what? gold? I have lots of gold... Xuth, I was sure I had some." She said, frantically turning out her pockets. Her face

    screwed up in thought, finally hatching an idea like an Argonian under a Hist tree, "Let me go back to my shop, I can-" Madame

    Whim stuck up a hand, scowling at her, "no, my dear Argonian, not gold, but instead a favor is all I ask of you."


    The Argonian was about to ask what type of task she had to do when she saw that the dark seducer was not looking at her but at a

    point just beyond the nearest grey stone pillar. The black khajiit stepped out and greeted her. 

    The dark seducer return the kind gesture.

    "Well, hello there handsome, I am Madame Whim. Are you lost or do you are you perhaps looking for information?" 


    The black khajiit sook his head and extracted a soul gem from the pocket of his furry black cuirass.

    "I do not want information, but, I do have something you might be interested in." He held the soul gem out for Madam Whim to

    examine closer. "This soul gem," He said, grinning toothily, "contains the soul of a khajiit. I am willing to offer it to you for any

    information you have on a dwemer machine known simply as the 'weather witch'."


    The dark seducer scuttled to a darked corner of the stall where the doomstrider saw involved all manner of strange objects. He

    picked up a strange book and begin examining it when Madame Whim called out from a corner of the stall. The black khajiit turned

    in her direction and saw a rack of unknown scrolls and tomes from which she'd pulled several scrolls. She placed them on a table and

    cast a spell that darkened all but one scroll on the table. This scroll glowed orange.


    The seducer picked it up and stared at it, eyes wide, mouth curving into a malicious grin,

    "It seems I have what you seek. Now as trading rules demand, you must now fork over something as valuable if not more than the

    item you wish to procure."


    The black khajiit strode up to the dark wooden counteer and set the black soul gem on it. Madame Whim came out, gave him a

    cheerful grin and stored the black soul gem on a shelf behind her next to other things that other people have bartered for; whether

    information or otherwise. The dark seducer grabbed the weathered tannish scroll, scooped the others into a wooden box stored

    beneath the table.


    She walked over to the khajiit, holding it aloft like some great treasure from a distant land.

    "Here you are, One dwemer schematic for one very fine soul, as promised." she said, handing the doomstrider the dog-eared scroll,

    "That schematic can tell you all you need to know about the weather witch, including its purpose and how it works."

    The black khajiit smiled, thanked her for her services and walked back up the stone and wood structure to the ladder, climbed it and

    found himself back in the streets of the daedric common area. He went over to one of the stalls and sat down on a bluish stone

    bench next to a stone table the same color and masonry as the chair. He smoothed out the schematic and grinned satisfactorily to



    At the top of the schematic, he could see a rather large drawing of a dwemer machine with symbols surrounding it: a tree for spring,

    a sun for summer, a leaf for fall and a snowflake for winter. The next pircture showed the machine sucking all life from Nirn and the

    final picture showed bare trees, dead animals and werewolf skeletons with a daedra lord standing over them, laughing maliciously

    with his creatures behind him.


    The khajiit smiled to himself as he rolled up the schemtaics and placed it into his pocket. He got up, strode to the city gate, out into

    the desert and did the same circular motion with his hands that he did on Solsthiem. The same bluish-black portal appeared showing

    dwemer machine he'd only seen once before. The Doomstrider muttered something and vanished into the portal, leaving Fargrave


    Tigress took out her sword and slashed at the anchors that held the magical bonds binding the khajiit in place. She hacked at the

    anchors until she could heard the magic weakening. Once one was down, she worked on the other shackle anchor. The eerie shackles

    vanished, the Ka'Po'Tun ran to the khajiit, draped her limp body over her shoulder like a farmer carrying a goat to market. 


    She did not know where to go next, however, as she glanced from a newly opened bluish-black protal to the way she had come;

    wondering which way woulld be quicker. Tigress' tail hung limp as a dead snake as she looked into the face of a colossal atronach of

    rock and lightning. Obviously, Molag Bal fought out about a kidnapping She thought as she laid the unconscious khajiit against one

    of the pipes that dotted this otherworldly prison and unsheathed her sword. 


    The storm atronach smashed the ground with its giant, boulder-like fist. Tigress deftly dodged this attack and swung her sword in

    an arch that merrely scraped the stone of the creature's arm. The creature had her in its sights now; movingtowards her, it raised

    its arms again to deal the killing blow. Tigress saw this too late as the atronach's arms began their deadly descent. At the last

    minute, Tigress cast a spell that forced the atronach's arm up and, suddenly it began to stretch and inflate like a leather strip under

    immense amounts of pressure and strain. The arm exploded. She used the same spell on the other arm, it soon followed.


    Tigress smirked as she saw the now armless storm atronach looking about wildly as if stunned. She brought her paw back, focused

    her chi into that paw and brought it into the atronach's chest with such forced that it canceled out the lightning holding the creature

    together and, like an unrelenting force shout, blasting the rocks apart, causing them to hit the rear wall of the prison with loud



    Tigress looked from the broken creature to the portal in the back of the room with a shimmering realm inside that she'd never visited

    but she know Affraji's soul wound be there. She went over to the storm atronach, found a rather curious looking stone - almost like a

    piece of coal except bigger and glowing red and orange - pocketed it and walked over to the portal and stepped though it. She

    emerged in a vast desert spanning endlessly in each combass direction, dotted with the occasional gigatic shine bone or ribcage of

    some animal-tigress didn't know what creature made those bones exactly. She looked away from them in revulsion and glanced

    skyward. The sky which seemed to be trapped in perpetual night. 


    She breathed deeply, walked past the gigantic ribcage and into a tiny bazaar with high stone walls complete with arches afixed to the

    roofs of the walled-in shops. She glanced around at the shops. She looked around in one such shop; seeing the unusual wares that

    stall sold for a minutes before turning to face giant brown wooden double doors flanked by two high stone walls matching the one

    she had seen in the small bazaar She walked towards it, opened the brown doors and stepped inside. Tigress' jaw dropped; she

    could not believe how big this place was. It was almost like a bazaar on Akavir she'd went to when she was younger except there

    was no multi-tiered structure in the middle comprising of three levels of stone houses with bridges spanning between them.

    Tigress wondered wehere the soul gem containing Affraji's soul could be. Tigress scanned the city and, after a few minutes of seeing

    nothing, saw a dremora female break away from the throng of people gathered around one of the many stalls that dotted the bazaar

    as soon as she saw her.


    She sighed, placing her hand over her heart.

    "Thank the daedra, I thought I would be condemned to forever see the same damn people." She said, relieved


    Tigress asked her if she saw any suspicious characters that came through here carrying a black soul gem.

    "No, sorry, I haven't." She slapped her forehead, "Where are my manners? The name's Lyraneth, I am... kind of an expert of all

    goings on here in Fargrave. Nobody can sneeze or cough without me knowing about it." She sighed, "I did see a suspicious khajiit

    come through here earlier." Her face fell, "Sadly, though, I didn't see the gem you speak of."


    Tigress frowned; she'd thought the dremora would at least know who the mysterious khajiit was. Tigress strode back to where she'd

    come, tail between her legs, when Lyranth called out to he.

    "Woah, hold on, I said I didn't know but I know someone who does." She said smirking


    Tigress turned around and faced the dremora.

    "Can you tell me? I only ask because I fear that Affraji's soul is being eaten away at as we speak."


    Lyranth put a hand on the Ka'Po'Tun's shoulder.

    "Hey, keep your stripes on!" She said nonchalantly, "No need to kick up a fuss. The person of whom I speak resides not too far from

    here, at an establishment known as the House of Whim.


    Lyraneth led Tigress up some stairs, past some stalls and over to an brown door which Lyraneth pushed open and gestured for

    Tigress to follow her inside. The building's interior walls were just as grey as the exterior. A set of stairs led up to a first floor landing.

    She saw a large empty, floral pattern floored room playing host to a variety of mortals and daedra deep in conversation. Lyranth

    bade Tigress to follow her. She reached the third floor. Lyranth walked over to a grey wall opposite of the stairs and started talking to

    someone she could not see. Tigress walked to the right side of the dremora in order to see who she was talking to.


    She expected to see another dremora or dark seducer; she saw nothing but a mutant black skeever with sharp white fangs

    protruding out of his mouth like a slaugterfish and gigantic sun-like eyes set deep in his large eyesockets,

    "Tigress," She said in an authoritative voice, "May I introduce Arox the Mutilator." She said, "He is the one I told you about. He is

    an accomplished tracker."


    Tigress bent down and extended her paw towards the skeever who glared at her.

    "So, you are the new master I serve, I take it?" He cleared his thoat as Tigress nodded uncertainly and stood up. "What you heard is

    true, I did see the khajiit and I also saw the black gem he was carrying; smelled the intoxicating aroma of the soul within."


    Tigress smiled broadly as her tail swayed behind her.

    "Great! Where did the black khajiit go? Which direction, I mean."


    Arox told the khajiit that he heard, from the faint humming of soul magic, that the other khajiit's soul went to the north where it

    finally faded as the black khajiit opened a cellar entryway with a splayed trident painted on it. Tigress thanked him for his

    information and started to walk down the stone steps. Arox called out and ran to Tigress' side.


    He eyed her with those sun-like eyes that hides many secrets of Oblivion mortals could not hope to fathom.

    "Mast-er, Mistress, may I ask why you need to free the khajiit's soul? Might it have something to do with a realm of Oblivion?"


    Tigress nodded; amazed that he was able to discern that much without her telling him,

    "Yes, how did you-? Nevermind, what do you know of Molag Bal?"


    Arox said that he was a well respected high ranking official of Molag Bal's army before he heard of him wanting to destroy what the

    daeric lord had planned to create rather than to help it,

    "Erm... mistress do you mind if I join you on your journey?" The daedrat bowed, his eyes still on Tigress, "I, er, let's just say that I

    have inside information you may find invaluable as you continue with your quest." 


    Tigress nodded and knelt down and put her bag on the grey floor. The small daedrat leaped inside of her bag, which the Ka'Po'Tun

    picked up and went down the steps and out into the city. She saw some loose stones laying on the street not too far from here. She

    bent down, sniffed the stones and followed the scent to a brown cellar entryway with a purple splayed trident etched upon it. 

    Tigress threw open the doors and descended into a great cavern. She walked to the edge and saw what looked like an Elsweyrian

    bazaar far below. She traversed the wooden ramp and stone stair structre emerging into the small bazaar. She followed the scent

    that burned inside her nostrils to a stall and saw a dark seducer female behind the small wooden counter.


    She walked up to the stall and scanned the items for sale, she could not see the soul gem among them. The proprieter eyed the

    Ka'Po'Tun warily and, after realizing she wasn't a threat, the dark seducer smiled,

    "May I help you with something?"  The dark seducer assked, grinning


    Tigress nodded and asked her whether a black khajiit pass through here, 

    "A khajiit with black fur did pass through her and we haggled on a price for a black soul gem, but I only divulge information for... a

    price. Do you have anything of value to trade?" She smiled, "Forgive me, my name is Madam Whim."


    Tigress nodded and pulled a round sun-like orb from her bag and handed it to Madam Whim,

    "I have this, how much information will this grant me?"


    Madame Whim eyed the sigil stone with awe, pocketed the item and turned back to Tigress,

    "Your item will grant you a great deal of information." She said as she leaned over the counter, "Now what can Madame Whim do for



    Tigress told the dark seducer that she was looking for a black gem with spikes adorning the gems vertical face. Madame Whim

    rubbed her chin,

    "A black soul gem hmmm?" Her face screwed up in comprehension, "Just so you know, I would much rather be referred to with my

    Oblivion designation, Mazken."


    She studied the Ka'Po'Tun's face, seeing no expression of recognition, "Very, well, just trying to

    expand your vocabulary, let's she, ermmm... the gem of which you seek I gave it to a soul collector who lives somewhere in town, I

    can't tell you where he lives however.


    Tigress leapt over the counter, pinning the dark seducer against the back wall by the throat,

    "Talk now or I'll rip out of your throat." She snarled, unsheathing her claws, "Where does this collector live?"


    Madam Whim pointed far to the wetern side of the city,

    "He lives in a mansion to the northwest of this sanctuary." She choked as her face turned even more purple than usual, "I told you

    what I know, please, let me go, else I'll have to call the guards." She spluttered


    Tigress sheathed her clasw and lowered the dark seducer to her feet and set off in the direction of the collector's mansion.