C.O.T.W Chapter 91: The Shadow of Miraak

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    Hasir stepped over the threshold to find himself in a circular room with prison cells lining the walls, most of them were empty, except

    for one a the far end of the room. Concerned, he inched closer to the cell and saw a nord woman chained to wall.

     

    The Argonian saw a curtain of brown hair, beyond that, however was indiscernable because of the darkness. He stepped closer and

    whispered,

    "Rakel? What are you doing here?" He said, furrowing his eyebrows, "How did you escape the flooded prison?" He knelt down and

    started to pick the lock, "Hang on  while I get you out of here." Hearing a click, he opened the door, crept to her iron bonds, inserted

    the lockpick and turned it clockwise and counterclockwise until he heard the chains fall away from the nord's hands. 

     

    The nord stared angrily at him while set massaged the areas where the chain had cut into her wrists,

    "Thanks, but I had the whole thing handled by myself, thank you very much." 

     

    Hasir's eyes narrowed in disbelief as he cleary saw that she needed help and possibly a healer,

    "Excussse me? You sssave yourssself? You clearly needed help? Don't sssay you didn't. I am not an idiot."

     

    Rakel blaanked him and went to walk out of her cell when the Argonian stuck out a scaly arm to impeded her progress,

    "Rakel, wait I-did not mean that, I was being an insensitive hatching, forgive me," He said as his tail hung limp behind him, "How did

    you end up here in the first place?"

     

    Rakel opened her mouth to explain further but at the moment, Inigo burst in,

    "My friend, I found some things you may find interesting." He said as he plunged his hand into his bag removing the dragonscales,

    bone and Akaviri coins he found earlier.

    Hasir stared wide-eyed at the items that the khajiit held in his hands,

    "Where on Tamriel did you get those Inigo?"

     

    The khajiit gestured to the mine not too far from where they stood,

    "The Akaviri coins... I got them from the nearby mine and the dragon components I recieved after I killed the dragon," He face fell

    suddenly, "It all went wrong when a voice boomed from the west and orangish-blue energy flow in the same direction, leave nothing

    but bones behind, luckily, I was still able to get these." He said, gesturing to the items and smiling.

     

    Hasir looked back at the khaiit and raised a spiky eyebrow,

    "Thisss voice, did it say anything elssse?" He hissed wonderingly

     

    Inigo told the Argonian that the voice said something about gaining power by absorbing the dragon souls. He paused and told Hasir

    that he might be working for Molag Bal. Hasir told this over and came to the conclusion that the smart blue khajiit might be right,

    "My friend," Inigo said, sharpening his claws on the nearby stone wall, "Who says that he is working with Molag Bal? That was only a

    speculation, I don't know for sure."

     

    Hasir stared at him in utter shock,

    "Don't know for-" He let out an audible groan, "Are you thick? The way you talked about 'power' is a dead giveaway that this voice,

    who ever it belongs to, is indeed working for Molag Bal." He paused, drumming his claws on a table he stood near situated next to

    Rakel's cell until an idea struck him, "Oh hircine, I am such a hatchling. The voice you heard, most likely belonged to Miraak

     

    Inigo stared at the Argonian, nonplused,

    "My friend, I... don't know who that is."

    Hasir told the curious khajiit about how he encountered Miraak on the snowy isle of Solstheim. He told the blue khajiit that he saw

    the dragonpriest that while he was in the settlement of Raven Rock on the island,

    "Inigo, when I was on the island he told me that he had broken away from the Akavir many years ago and joined Molag Bal." He

    said, all the while not taking his eyes off of the Akaviri coins.

     

    Hasir gestured to the Akaviri coins and asked Inigo where he had gotten them. Ingo cocked his head sideways; confused,

    "I thought I I had already told you." He screwed his face up, yawned and stretched, "I guess not." He said, scratching his head, "I

    found these coins in the mine not too far from the main fort entrance. I, er, 'questioned' the silver hand members I found there, and

    luckily, I found one such member who told me how he procured these coins."

     

    He turned to Hasir and sighly deeply; fearing the Argonian's reaction to his, or rather, the bandit's tale of how he procured the coins,

    "I am sorry my friend but it turns out those bandits that attacked us near the Windhelm docks were, in fact, the Silver Hand. It was

    one of the members that charge you with the poison dagger and killed your shadow wolf form." He scanned Hasir's face for any sign

    of anger but the Argonian's face showed nothing of the sort,

     

    Inigo shivered as he tail tucked between his legs in anticipation of Hasir's impending explosion of anger,

    "I, erm, saw one of the silver hand 'bandits' near the windhelm docks produce a longsword of uncertain make and stabbed Quinchal

    through the stomach lodging the sword deep in the stones that the docks are made of. I watched the monster standing there as he

    watched Quinchal's life slowly drain away. When the tsaesci died, the unspeakable monster stole ten coins that dropped with muffled

    thuds into the snow. I found two of such coins in the mines, the other eight... well... I have no idea where these might be." 

     

    Hasir became rigid as the stone that surrounded him. Inigo and Rakel felt unnaturally cold that had nothing to do with the room,

    "By my egg! The silver hand will pay dearly for what they have done." Inigo became frightened as his scaly friend looked at him as if

    the Doomstrider had chosen him as his next victim. 

     

    The argonian thought of something that occured many months ago to try to calm the steadily rising waves of rage,

    "Inigo, Rakel, have you ever heard of the dragonpriests?"

     

    Both the khajiit and the nord nodded. Though they did not know what this had to do with the Akaviri stones, 

    "My firend, what do dragonpriests have to do with revenge on the Silver Hand?" He asked. Hasir told them both about how he and

    Tigress killed one of the dragonpriests and brought the priest's mask to the leader of the greybeard for further study. Inigo and Rakel

    decided that they should go to High Hrothgar and find out if they came with the Doomstrider or were sent by someone else... and for

    a darker purpose.

     

    Haisr knelt down clawed hand thrust into his bag which he set on the ground and extracted a book about the dragonpriests,

    "I have a book here that may enlighten us." He said, walking over to sit on a dislodged stone. The nord and the khajiit walked over

    and lent against the bronze jail cell and gave the argonian their attention.

     

    The Argonian opened the book and started to read; explaining the origin of the priests,

    "Many moons ago, there were eight priests that served Molag Bal in his temple of Krovaxis located on an island in the sea of ghosts.

    The entrance to Bal's lair is well hidden so that even the most skilled tracker would not be able to find it. The daedric lord tasked his

    priests to spread out across Skyrim to wait in various tombs to ambush anyone who wishess to defiles their master's work." On the

    neighboring page, he saw a foreboding temple bathed in mist and containing many of the daedric prince's evil machinations. 

     

    The book went on to explain how the priests were once great nordic adventurers and treasure hunters who thrived on delving into

    ancient tombs, exploring its secrets and plundering their many treaures. In one of the nordic tombs they plundered, they came upon

    a book entitled Krovaxis: Door to Untold Glories. The leader of the eight nords, Otar, instructed the nords to take anything they can

    fit into their bags and make for the temple that lay in the center of the sea of ghosts. They nodded and plundered anything they

    could get their hands on.

    They exited the tomb and rode to the edge of the sea of ghosts and swam to a small island. A large stone door set in the side of an

    icy glacier met their eyes. The nords speculated what could be behind the massive door, Their leader, a nord named Otar said that

    there is no sense in seeking anything if they do not take the first step. 

     

    Otar and his fellow nords stepped over the threshold of the darkened interior. A ball of white light sprung to life in his hand aas it

    helped to disperse the ever consuming darkness as he and his fellow nords traverse the temple. Strange artifacts lay in every corner.

    The nords blanked them as they ventured further into the high-ceilinged, many pillared temple. 

     

    They passed by a skull-shaped face overlooking a fountain flowing with red liquid when they heard a booming voice echo throughout

    the temple,

    "How daryou come into MY temple to pillage for your own selfish gain. You lot are dispicable, never thinking about the dangers that

    lay within. I shall show you the error of yours ways. If you like treasure so much you will become my personal guards for that which

    I value most; gaining the souls of the impudent mortals who continue to defy me."

     

    No sooner did the voice stop taking when a bluish-black light erupt from every orrifice of the nords' bodies, They could could smell

    burnt flesh as their skin was burned away and dead, scabby skin appeared and started strentching over the white bones. Out of the

    'skin' burst beuatiful but tattered robes of cloth and bone.  

     

    Hasir closed the book and met Inigo's frowning face,

    "My friend, I thought the priests were here to revere the dragons, not Molag Bal." 

     

    Hasir sneered at the khajiit and told him that he shouldnot to wade out into the swamp if he doesn't know how to swim. The blue

    khajiit's face screwed up in disgust,

    "I..I don't understand, my friend, wade into the swamp?" Talk sense, will you? For fleas' sake!" 

     

    Hasir quickly apologized and told the khajiit what he said, 

    "Inigo, to put it simply, I said 'learn the facts before you say something '."

    Inigo did not know whether to take this as a joke or not. He looked at Hasir, expecting him to smile, to his dissapointment, he

    remained stone-faced. Inigo looked ashamed of himself. Hasir sniggered at this and slapped the khajiit on the back, sending him

    sprawling into one of the jail cells,

    "I was joking, don't get your tail in a knot." He said, smiling as Inigo scambled to his feet

     

    Inigo scratched the back of his head,

    "Er, sorry about that, I was inseitive."

     

    Hasir told Inigo not to worry about it and that they should get on with their mission. Rakel nodded and joined the pair as they snuck

    up the spiraling stones steps to a door that lead outside. Hasir and his companions walked around the fort's wide parapets,

    asceending some more stairs and into yet another door. Inigo saw the leader of the silver hand surrounded by several silver hand

    members including Hasir's egg-brother.

     

    Hasir hid behind a round table in the small, circular stone room and yelled for Inigo, who had unsheathed his dagger and began to

    advanced on the oblivious silver hand leader. Hasir kept calling for him and then, not standing it anymore, he leapt out of his hiding

    place and unsheathed his steel longsword. He moved closer to the khajiit, trying hard not to be seen by the silver hand members.

     

    The Argonian called, in a muffled voice,

    "Inigo, what in Hircine's name are you doing?" He asked frantically, "Are you trying to get us killed?"

    Inigo raised his dagger to slit the nord's neck but saw Hasir behind him in the mirror-like blade of his ebony dagger,

    "My friend, what are you doing? Trying to get us found out? Back up." Hee whispered, shooting daggers at the Argonian and shooing

    him away at the same time. Not heeding this advice, Hasir snuck to one of the guards, raised his longsword to drive it into the

    imperial's chest but at the moment he felt a white-hot blade being pressed against his back. Confused, his eyes darted from the

    khajiit to the snarling Argonian with his sword to his back and heard his own sword fall with a loud clatter to the floor beside him.

     

    Slowly, Hasir raised his hands to should height and turned around so that the sword was now pointed at his chest,

    "Tulen..w-what are you doing ssstill working for the sssilver hand? I thought you defected-er-ssswitched sssidesss?"

     

    Tulen did not know what to say; he, however, knew he had to do something or the silver hand would find out about his betral and

    mark him for threir next contract. He''d be doubly screwed if they found out they had let a werewolf-the sworn enemy of all silver

    hand-into their ranks without them realizing it. The imperial came up behind Tulen and started telling the undecisive Argonian to end

    the threat to their existence.

     

    Tulen screwed his face up and asked the imperial outfitted in silver hand armor with a matching open wolf's head helmet why he

    should kill his own flesh and blood,

    "Tulen, he is a werewolf, kill him! Do it so He can welcome the unworthy to Coldharbor!" He said, snarling at the Argonian

     

    Tulen shook his head, leeting his hand fall to his side. Hasir took a breath; his chest free of the silver sword's sting,

    "Why...did you save me?" He gasped, He straightened up and looked quizzically at his older brother, "They do know you're a

    werewolf right?" 

     

    Tulen thought about this and shrugged,

    "No I haven't, to be honest." He shrugged, "but who in Oblivion cares anyway? I mean I wasn't about to kill my egg-brother." He

    cracked a smile which Hasir was quick to return." "Now, come on we have some werewolf hunters to rip apart."

    Inigo was inches from the silverhand leader when something caught his eye; a tail was poking out of the person's armor,

    "You dumb khajiit, don't you ever learn? You cannot hope to overcome the might of Molag Bal." The figure wearing the silver armor

    turned around and got up.

     

    Inigo froze where he was, finger pointed at the figure advancing towards him,

    "Y-you...w-we thought you disappeared back to the other world."

     

    The Doomstrider shook his head and laughed a high, cold laugh,

    "No, you foolish cat, I just wanted to paint a false trail so I would have you out of the way while we-the silverhand and I-continue

    Lord bal's work. " He smriked evilly as he raised his hand, forcing Inigo to be lifted off of his feet and slam into a nearby wall. Hand

    still raised, the doomstrider walked near him, "I came here because I sense... betrayal in our midst."

     

    Hasir and Tulen both saw this and ran to help the struggling khajiit,

    "The betrayer approaches," He whispered and pointed a long, black furred finger at Tulen who felt himself being pulled toward the

    Doomstrider as if by an invisble hand. Inigo and Hasir both watched in horror as the poor Argonian was enveloped by the same

    bluish-black flames he had used twice before. 

     

    Hasir ran over to Tulen who was being roasted alive-body and soul-and stared with hatred into the black khajiit's red eyes as he

    watched his brother's scales strart to turn black and flake off. The distraught Argonian let out a scream of rage that was drowned out

    by the sound of Tulen's scales being engulfed in flame. 

     

    The doomstrider took out a gem black as night fron his black robes which the armor had turned into once the illusion had broken. He

    held the gem aloft and began to absorb the Argonian's soul. When the fired completely engulfed Tulen, the doomstrider pocketed the

    soulgem, conjured a portal and disappeared.

     

    Inigo, now free of his magical bonds, ran over to Hasir, who was kneeling beside the blackened skeleton of his brother,

    "My friend, I am so sorry about your loss, I cannot imagine what emotions are flying through your head right now."

    Hasir huffed in anger and looked away from the blackened skeleton,

    "It's all my fault Inigo, I should have never dragged you into this; this-all of it-is entirely my fault." He said, sobbing

     

    Inigo shook his furry head and sighed,

    "Hasir you can feel guilty all you want but feel sorry for yourself wiill not catch the bastard who did this any faster, not Argonian up

    and let's search for clues about how to either stop those dwemer machines, stop the priests of domination or open the portal to the

    other world."

     

    Hasir raised his head and smiled a little at this,

    "Priest of Domantion? Who are they?

     

    Inigo shrugged and thought it might be a cool name for the undead priests of Molag bal, Hasir said it was really clever,

    "Pretty good, huh?" The khajiit said, blushing, "anyway," He said, walking over to a wooden desk, grabbing six yellow crystal-shaped

    stones and a few notes from the desk's drawers and reading through them before stuffing them into his bag, "it says on this note

    thta there a eight priests of domination and we need to obtain all eight masks before we can open Molag's temple." 

     

    Hasir looked skeptically at the khajiit,

    "Do they say anything else, like how to open the portal or how many disrupto device there are?"

     

    The blue khaiit said that the other notes he read mentioned the process of opening a portal to a another realm and that there is

    four disruptor locations: Runoff cavern, Mzulcheft, Blackreach and Krovaxis."

    Hasir Felt numb, like he was inside a stranger's body instead of his own. He did not want to accept that his brother was gone, but if,

    somehow, he got that black soul gem back from the Doomsttrider than he might feel a little bette. He knew he would have his

    revenge on the black khajiit for what he'd done but also knew they had a few things to take care of before his true mission began.

    He felt Inigo's warm paw on his shoulder, stood up and walked out of the fort with a tear glistening in his eye, for Tulen.

     

    The argonian knew they had to return to Whiterun to inform the companions before any move could be made on the portal, the

    distruptor conduits or the priests of domination. Hasir and his companions walked to the great walled city as they had no means of

    equine transportation.

     

    Halfway to the city, they saw a horse-drawn carriage come rumbling up the road towards them. Hasir smiled as he recognized

    Bjorlam,

    "I see you are going to Whiterun, care for a lift the rest of the way?" He said smiling at the Argonian?"

     

    Hasir sighed in exhasberation and nodded,

    "Hircine bless you for this, my dogs are positively barking." He reached into his bag, pulled out a small pile of septims and handed

    the to Bjorlam, who shook his head abruptly, "No, you keep it, this ride is... call it a random act of kindess. Your, as you say,

    'dogs are barking.' He gestured toward Hasir's frineds, "I suspect your companions dogs are as well and I am more than happy to

    assist a weary traveler."

     

    Smiling, Hasir, the nord and khajiit got in the back and settled in and the nord spured the horses to life and set off down the road to

    the city that lay before them. Hasir lay back and fell asleep as the cart drove into the stables, He dreamt he was running with

    Hircine's pack through the hunting grounds, tracking down a rabbit with out rabid werewolves. Inigo and Rakel thanked the carriage

    driver, leapt out and attempt to rouse the sleepy Argonian. After a few attempts, he called the female nord over to see if they can

    shift his friend's scaly body.

     

    Inigo and Rakel positioned themselves on either side of Hasir's body,

    "Ready?" He asked the female nord, she nodded, "on three then, 1...2...3." Both he and Rakel grabbed Hasir's hands and feet and

    lifted him out of the cart. At that moment, in Hasir's subconscious, he felt like a wolf chasing prey; dodging, jumping and weaving

    over, around and through trees and fallen trunks as he and his pack barreled through the forest, ever advancing on their prey.

     

    Twilight and his pack advanced on the prey; a tiny white rabbit cowering under a log further in the forest. The black and white wolf

    caught the rabbit's scent upon the air and barked at the other wolves so they could converged upon the prey from all sides to

    prevent its escape. The black and white wolf got low to the ground and filled his nose with the rabbit's scent. 

     

    Ther abbit felt the wolves coming from all sides, their foul stenches filling its tiny nostrils. Not able to move because of the fear that

    overwhelmed it, the rabbit stayed right where it was. It did see a small window of escape, but it realized this a bit too late as he

    heard the wolves getting closer to make the kill. 

    The rabbit decided to make a run for it but the wolves were upon it before he could make this a reality. It felt its body being ripped

    apart, blood spurting from every orrifice, dotting its white body as its life slowly drained away. The wolves pulled it apart greedily as

    they munched on their meal, reveling in their kill. Twilight let out a low, gutteral growl and his packmates set the rabbit down at the

    base off the log, retreating into the shadows; watching hungrily as Twilight tore into the rabbit as if this was his last meal. The

    wolves' stomach growled and they wanted to intervene but respect Twilight as if he were their alpha; interrupting his meal would

    spoell disaster for all of them.

     

    Hasir opened his eyes, still expect to be eating the blood-spattered rabbit, realized where he was and getting up, bumped his head

    on the underside of the carriage,

    "What in Oblivion?" He asked, rubbing his head. He crawled out from under the cart, "You moronsss," he hissed, looking from the

    khajiit to the nord, raising an eyebrow, "Why, in Hircine's name, did I wake up under the cart?" The nord gliggled behind her hands.

     

    Outraged he blanked her and looked, instead at Inigo ,whose face turned a deep shade of crimson,

    "Inigo, do you know anything about this?" He asked, tail swaying fast from side to side. The khajiit, noticing the Argonian's anger

    threatening to boil over, decided on his next words carefully, "Now, my friend, don't get mad, but you were sleeping and we wanted

    to wake you and let you know that we made it back to Whiterun."

     

    Hasir eyed him with suspision,

    "So you, what, put me under the carraige? Hsss, why would you two do such a thing? You interrupted my dream, which I was

    thoroughly enjoying, by the way." 

     

    Inigo tried not to laugh and failed miserably,

    "You have to admit that was pretty hilarious." The khajiit laughed in spite of Hasir's angered expression, "anyway," He said,

    becoming serious once more, "What were you dreaming about? Being a cow?" 

     

    Hasir looked confused at this;

    "Being a cow? What in Oblivion are you talking about?"

     

    The khajiit gestured to the bit of grass hanging out of Hasir's mouth,

    "You have something hanging from your mouth." Hasir probbed the spot the khajiit had gestured to, "Oh this?" He said, "It's

    nothing, I was just dreaming about my pack and I, er, my wolf form, Twilight, roaming the hunting grounds, stalking a rabbit near a

    fallen tree in the great forested region of the realm. My wolf told the other pack members to split up and converge in from different

    direction so as to effectively cut off the rabbit's means of escape and we closed in for the kill. My wolf growled to take charge, my

    packmates bretreat, letting my wolf, Twilight, take charge. I, or rather, my wolf began to sink his long fangs into the rabbit's battered

    corpse and feats on the bloodied corpse until I woke up, finding I was munching on grass instead of juicy rabbit."

    Haisr looked aroud dazedly and ssaw that Rakel must've gone to the city ahead of him,

    "I guess she wanted to get a head start," He said smirking to the khajiit, "She must be brimming with joy seeing how she was locked

    up in that jail cell for Hircine knows how long." He said, "To her it must feel like ages when she last set eyes on a city, let alone set

    foot in one."

     

    He glanced over to Inigo and jerked his head toward the city,

    "Come on, we'd better catch up to her before she does something stupid."

     

    Both the khajiit and the Argonian left the stables; Hasir giving a curt nod in Bjorlam's direction and Inigo a cheerful wave. They

    walked up the cobblestone road toward the city. Once inside Whiterun, Hasir asked what their purpose was.

     

    Hasir looked somewhat bewildered as Aela came sprinting towards them,

    "Hasir, thank Hircine I caught you," She said, gasping for breath. Hasir patiently wwaited until Aela finally caught her beath and

    asked why she was sent by the companions, "The reason I was sent, you stupid Argonian, was to ask if it was true what Kodlak told

    me about Molag Bal's Temple?" Hasir looked confused, "Oh and, erm, who in Oblivion is the doomstrider and how does he fit into

    sabotaging Hircine's chosen? What exactly is your plan to stop him? How will you foil Molag Bal's plan?"

     

    Hasir looked like a baloon fit to burst; he told the frantic nord to calm down and he will explain all that and more when they are

    sitting down in the mead hall. Thankful, Aela leading the way up the stairs, past the tree Hasir had seen twice before and into the

    mead hall. Hasir gaped at the horseshoe table; it was full of willing nords, eager to hear of his misadventures with the silver hand

    and how he plans to stop Molag Bal from exacting his revenge, not only on Hircine but also on his beloved lycanthropes.