Ancient Blood Ch 17

  • Ancient Blood Chapter 17

    Black Reach



       Exiting a tight path from the Alftand ruins, Jenassa leads her mare into a slightly more open space and walks into the back of Sebastian. “Forgive me, Master… Why did you stop?” He turns his head to look at her and smiles, “You haven’t looked up have you, my dear?” He steps aside and Jenassa’s mind reels when her eyes meet her greater surroundings. A cavern so large, she cannot see it’s end. An eerie blue glow fills the space. A glow generated from enormous bioluminescent Mushrooms, towering up several meters from the cave floor, and glowing mineral deposits in the surrounding rock the likes of which she has never seen before. The light reveals lift shafts stretching up hundreds of meters into the darkness of the unseen ceiling, the roar of an underground river can be heard in the distance, and several stone structures are scattered around the chasm.

     

       Sebastian smiles watching Jenassa try and make sense of what her senses are telling her. She darts from one side of the platform, on which they stand, to the other, “This… this is not possible… How? How is the roof not falling in? Half of Skyrim is just.. Just… hanging over… nothing??” Sebastian leans on the stone railing of the ramp leading down to the cavern floor, “Hardly half, but… The Dwemer specialized in the impossible, my dear…. Wait till you see the city.” She continues to marvel at the sight of Dwemer automatons roaming the cobblestone roads and the glowing crystals, which dot the landscape, sticking up out of the ground, pulsing with an unknown power.

     

       Time is a factor, but Sebastian cannot bring himself to rush Jenassa as he remembers his first glimpse of this wonder. One is filled with the sense of stepping into an alien world where every minor detail is awe inspiring. Jenassa’s wonderment is broken at the sight of a Falmer in the distance… then another.. And another. “Master, the Falmer… Will they not hear the horses?” “They’ll be fine.” He says, “Any sound they could make will be masked by the rush of the river. We won’t have to worry about alerting the falmer for a while yet. Once our scent starts to get around though, we will be recognized as intruders in their lands. For now, as long as we keep a calm pace and don’t make too much noise, we should be fine.” He leads his horse down the ramp to the cavern floor with Jenassa following suit.

     

       Keeping to the road, the first structure they come to has a sphere Sentry guarding it’s door. Sebastian stops and smells of the air, “I’d know that stench anywhere… Sinderion…” “Sinderion?” Jenassa asks, “Your Altmer drinking friend? From Skingrad? I haven’t thought about him in a century or more. Why would he be here?” Sebastian turns to her with a smile, “Take a look around you, Jenssa. This place is an alchemist’s paradise. He’s in there...Stay here with the horses… I’ll try to sneak by the uh… -doorman-.” Jenassa ties the horse on to one of the large mushrooms and is stunned a moment at how warm the glowing fungus is. She shakes it off and readies her bow as Sebastian creeps up and around the Sentry. Several minutes go by before Sebastian exits the structure... and he exits alone. Making no attempt to sneak past the Sentry, Sebastian casts a pair of thunder bolts at the machine. The automaton shatters into its individual pieces. Jenassa looks around for any attention the blast might have attracted as Sebastian marches towards her with a scowl on his face. “Master?” she asks, “Was he in there?” With a mournful sign, Sebastian says, “Yes… Dead… I found Dwemer bolts on the ground and scratches on the back of his rib cage... I uh...  found his journal as well, but… Shot in the back and left to rot… You deserved better than that, Sinderion.” “I’m sorry about your friend, Master.” Jenassa says. They untie the horses and follow the road.

     

      Sebastian is silent and his expression is cold. As they approach a Dwemer Centurion, deactivated in its charging station beside the road, Jenassa tries to spark some reaction from Sebastian. She stops, “Still hard to believe this beast can move…. Master?” Sebastian stops, “Hm? Oh… Yeah. They are marvels…” “Are you alright, Master?” She asks. Sebastian pauses a moment then sits on the Centurion’s foot, “Do you know what immortality is, Jenassa? It’s not living forever. That’s... not what it feels like… It’s watching everyone around you die, slowly.” He pulls out Sinderion’s journal and looks at the cover for a quiet moment. At the end of which he says, “Goodbye, my friend.” then stuffs the journal back in his satchel. Skittering is heard coming from up the path. “Master!” Jenassa whispers. “Take the horses back down the road. Go!” he commands. She does so and then turns with her bow ready. Sebastian lurks behind the colossus and waits as two falmer and a large chaurus come up the road. When they are close enough, Sebastian pulls a lever on the station, activating the Centurion, and then vanishes as the titan steps free of it’s bonds and attacks the Falmer. Jenassa hears Sebastian’s footsteps approach while trying to keep the horses calm. He reappears, “Maybe we should go down through this side path… Let those fine folks -discuss- their differences…” They walk away from the road, but keep it in sight as they make their way around the fighting until they come out further down the road and continue on their path.

     

       As they travel the roads of Black Reach, the city finally comes into view. Jenassa is again awestruck. “Madness… Sheer madness…” She says. Her eyes track the length of a great wall hiding several towers and presumably smaller structures within. “It’s a real city…” she says while shaking her head in disbelief, “A full scale city… And that giant glowing Orb above…I’ve seen villages smaller than that thing. How did they get it up there? How is it STAYING up there?” Sebastian finally smiles, “If the place wasn’t crawling with Falmer, I would take you… in…” Sebastian stops smiling. Jenassa can tell something is wrong. She draws her blades, “What it is, Master?” “Voices…” he says, “A Human and… an Orc… There are people up there.” Jenassa tries, but can’t hear anything. She asks, “Could it be another expedition?” He ponders the thought as he listens, “I don’t think so…” She hesitates, “Should we...should we check it out?” He pauses a moment, “I suppose a peek won’t hurt… I think the staircase up to the main gate is a bit further down… Take the horses behind that Lift.” She looks around, “Will they be safe there?” Sebastian nods, “The dirt around it is undisturbed. I don’t think anything travels through here often. They should be fine.” When she reaches the shaft, she sees brass bars blocking the entrance. She ties the horses to the bars at the shaft’s opening and then returns to Sebastian. They tread softly as they search for the stairs leading up into the city.

     

      Finding the staircase, Jenassa finally hears the voices Sebastian spoke of. Reaching the main gate, they see several mortals in rags wandering the city grounds among several Falmer. They are not shackled, and seem to even have weapons. “Master,” she whispers, “What’s going on here? Humans, Orcs, Khajiit? I think I saw a Dunmer over there. What is this?” He shakes his head, “I don’t know… this is new… There were only Falmer here when I came through before.” She shifts her weight, “Are... Are they slaves? Do Falmer do that?” Sebastian scowls, “I have no idea… I’m not sure what they are, but they are not slaves… There’s more of them inside the structures. I can hear them.” Jenassa eyes a few Falmer patrolling the walls, “We stay here and the patrols will find us soon. What do you want to do, Master?” Sebastian sighs, “...Nothing…” he takes out his journal and makes a note then closes it. “Come on… let’s get to Mzark…before we wear out our welcome.” Slowly they return to their horses and proceed down the road.

     

       Crossing a bridge to the lift going up to Mzark tower, Sebastian stops. “Do you feel that?” he asks. Jenassa pauses a moment, “An earth tremor?” Sebastian hears the sound of heavy impacts  drawing closer, “I don’t think so…” Jenassa looks in the direction in which Sebastian has fixed his gaze and then she sees it, “What?!… What is that doing down here?” A pale giant strolls the road as if he owned all he surveyed. “Can a Giant even fit through the tunnels to get down here?” she asks. A wandering Falmer and it’s pet Chaurus stray into the giants path. The Falmer is crushed under foot causing the Chaurus to attack the giant. The insect is swiftly smacked with the giant’s massive club sending the creature flying across Black Reach. Sebastian shrugs, “A young giant might be able to squeeze through, but…. Well.. Apparently one managed to get down here.... That’s new, too…” The giant scrapes the Falmer off his foot and into the river then proceeds on his stroll. Sebastian shakes his head, “Come on…” and they enter the lift to Mzark Tower.

     

       Again, they are met with the sight of an enormous brass colored spherical mechanism neither can fully comprehend. “And what is this contraption supposed to be?” Jenassa asks. As they walk up a ramp swirled around the massive construct, Sebastian answers, “I’m not sure what the Dwemer called this thing, but I know what it does.” At the top of the ramp, they find several desks on the platform surrounding the top of the device and several large arms hanging from a mechanism built into the ceiling. On a higher level sits a series of controls to operate the machine. Sebastian scrounges around the desks looking for something, “This machine transfers information from an Elder Scroll to…. “ Jenassa ties the horses to a pipe sticking out of the stone walls. “What are you looking for, Master?” Sebastian starts tossing ruined books and Dwemer cups, “I’m looking for….. AH HA!... This.” He holds up a small cube made of the strange Dwemer metal. Jenassa looks it over, “What is it?” “This is a Lexicon.” Sebastian says, “A Dwemer data storage device. An entire library of knowledge can fit inside this little thing.” He walks up to the control platform and places the cube in a pedestal, but nothing seems to happen. Jenassa looks at the cube, “Is that it?” Sebastian turns his head slowly, “Give it a minute…The thing is over five thousand years old.” A sound is heard under them then a light shines down from the ceiling and buttons on the controls light up. “See…” Sebastian says, “So impatient…”



       Sebastian presses the controls several times. Jenassa just watches, “You do know what you are doing… don’t you?” Sebastian does not look at her, “Are you questioning me?” She shakes her head, “No, Master! Of course not, but… You do know what those buttons do...  RIght?” Sebastian continues pressing buttons, “...No idea… I could be ordering a bottle of mead or calling forth Molag Bal to destroy Nirn for all I know, but this is what I did last time and it did...”.The cube opens, revealing a smaller cube that spins in the air and a new button lights up among the controls “... Ah... that!… This is where I was interrupted last time.“ Looking at the new button, he says, “I have no clue what that button does.” Jenassa looks at it, “I want to push it… Can I push it?” Sebastian gestures to the button, “Proceed, fearless one.” She quickly jabs the button and then looks around waiting for something to happen. The cube closes and the great arms swirl around. A new emerald oval shaped piece of the device descends and opens to reveal the Elder Scroll of the Dragon. Sebastian smiles, “There you are, my beauty…” He takes the lexicon from the pedestal and walks to the scroll, “It’s been a long time, my friend.” He gently takes the scroll free of the mechanism and ties a rope around the ends.

     

       With the scroll in their possession, Jenassa says, “What now, Master?” The horses start nagging and tugging on their reigns. “What’s gotten into them?” she asks. Sebastian casts a life detection spell, “To answer your second question, they hear the falmer pounding on the door down there.” He slings the Elder Scroll over his shoulder, “To answer your first question… we run for the lift at the back of that tunnel… Now would be good… RUN!” They race to the horses and rush them through the stone tunnel. Sebastian magically scorches several fire runes on the floor and walls as they go. They stand at the center of the lift and Jenassa pulls the lever, but… nothing happens. The sound of scurrying is heard drawing closer. Jenassa pulls the lever again, “Come on, come on!… Move!” A pale hand grips the corner at the far end of the tunnel and a single Falmer creeps into view. “One…” Jenassa says,  “We can take one…” Sebastian shakes his head, “You haven’t been paying attention, my dear… Where there’s one Falmer…” Six more Flamer and three chaurus follow closely behind the first Falmer. Sebastian summons two Flame Atronachs then kicks the lift’s lever and the gears finally start to move. As the lift rises, Jenassa fires several arrows, “Faster… FastACK!!” A Falmer’s Arrow pierces her throat as the platform rises up into the shaft. “JENASSA!!” Sebastian shouts. Jenassa sees nothing in the darkness of the shaft except the light from Sebastian’s eyes and feels his hands on her neck.

     

       The darkness is no hindrance to a vampire. To Sebastian, it is bright as day. He pulls the arrow from Jenassa’s neck slowly and applies pressure to the wound, taking care not to crush her throat. “Easy… easy. I’ve got you.” He says hearing her gurgling frantically. Jenassa finally sees light when Sebastian casts a healing spell. The expression on  his face is one she has seen before. An awkward smile that tells her he is afraid, but does not wish her to be. The light fades as the wound has been closed. “M-master…” She says. He caresses her cheek, “I’m here… You’ll be fine.” She shakes her head, “No… Something is… something is wrong… I feel… guh... “She pukes and shivers on the lift’s floor. Sebastian grabs the arrow and smells of the tip. Detecting a foul poison, he snaps off the arrow head and places it in his satchel. He casts a weak healing spell and looks up, “Move, damn you!”

     

       The lift rises swiftly and the light of day shines into the shaft. Suddenly the Lift comes to a stop. On the opposite side of the locked gates of Mzark’s surface entrance stands The Dragonborn and Lydia with a horse tied to the gates trying to force the doors open. “Thou’Var?...” Sebastian asks then quickly jerks the gate’s lever down, “Thou’Var! Do you have a poison cure?” Seeing Jenassa trembling on the ground in her own filth, the Dragonborn rifles through his saddle bags, “No… Lydia?” She quickly checks the small pouch on her armors hip, “I’m sorry. I don’t... What happened to her?” Sebastian loads Jenassa and himself onto his horse, “Falmer poison… I have to get her to my sister.” The Dragonborn grabs Sebastian’s horse, “Wait, that thing on your back? Is that an Elder...” Sebastian glares at the Dragonborn, “Get out of my way, boy...” For the first time, the Dragonborn sees an evil in his friend’s eyes. He releases the horse and, without another word, Sebastian races to the south towards Falkreath.

     

       Trying desperately to keep her alive on the journey, Sebastian uses a healing spell on Jenassa over and over during the ride until he exhausts his magicka reserves. She is barely breathing by the time he reaches the manor, “SHEPHERD!!!” he calls out carrying Jenassa towards the house. A Khajiit tries to bar his path, “That’s close enough, frienOOOF!!!” Sebastian strikes the cat with a blindingly fast backhand sending him flying into the trees. Sebastian enters the manor, “Shepherd!” Feral rushes to the entry hall, “The Mistress is not here… she is… she is in Dark Fall…” “You have a way of summoning her.” He snarls, “DO IT!” Feral cowers as he stomps past her and carries Jenassa up to the master bedroom. He rifles through Shepherd’s drawers and finds a magicka potion and drinks it then resumes his healing spell on Jenassa. A few moments later, Shepherd stands in the door. “You struck one of my cubs.” She says solemnly. Sebastian looks over his shoulder, “There you are… She’s been poisoned.” Shepherd looks coldly on the situation. Sebastian looks back to her, “Sister?” She folds her arms, “After I mend the broken bones of MY cub, I may… MAY find the time to care about yours.” and she walks away. “Shepherd!” Sebastian barks then takes a breath that is released in a soft sigh, “...Please… Help me...” She stops. After a silent pause, Shepherd asks, “Do you have the poison?” He pulls the broken arrow head from his satchel, “I have this…” without turning around Shepherds says, “Give it to Feral. She will get started, but... Dear Brother… If my cub dies, so does she.”

     

       A few hours later, the Dragonborn and Lydia ride up to the manor with Lydia riding Jenassa’s horse. Talon greets them, “Back so soon, friends?” The Dragonborn dismounts, “I was hoping to find Sebastian here. His companion was ill and he mentioned his sister. Is he here?” Talon nods, “Indeed, he is inside. Wait here and Talon will ask the Mistress if you may enter.” Talon enters the house and returns a few moments later giving a nod, “The Mistress will allow it. Come.” After placing their horses in the stables, the Dragonborn and his Housecarl enter the manor to find Sebastian sitting at the dining room table staring into the fireplace. The Dragonborn approaches, “Sebastian?...” Without turning, Sebastian softly replies, “I was rude to you before… I apologize… I... had other things on the mind. Which is no excuse. I know.” The Dragonborn sits across from him, “How is Jenassa?” Sebastian drinks the last from his third bottle of Alto wine, “She’s fine… Or rather.” He takes a deep breath, “She will be fine. She died from the poison, but my sister was able to revive her…” Lydia sighs, “That’s good. RIght?” Sebastian just stares into the flames of the hall’s Fireplace, “I shouldn’t have taken her down there… My fault...”

     

       As Sebastian begins to open a fourth bottle, Shepherd looks down from the second floor, “You going to drink all of my wine tonight, Dear Brother? My patient is asking to see you.” Sebastian puts the bottle down and walks towards the stairs. The Dragonborn hesitates but says, “I know it’s a difficult time, my friend, but I need to ask you about that Scroll on your back. Is that the Dragon Scroll?” Sebastian stops and takes the scroll off his shoulder then tosses it on the table, “Take the damn thing.” then continues up the stairs. The Dragonborn looks up to Shepherd and asks her, “Are they going to be alright?” Shepherd walks down, “My Dear Brother likes to place the weight of the world on himself, from time to time. When the drink wears off, he’ll be fine. As will Jenassa, in a few days. You have other matters to attend to, I believe. Let me worry about them.” The Dragonborn nods to her and says, “As you say, Mistress.” He picks up the Elder Scroll and Shepherd says, “Oh… and… he may not care about the scroll at this particular instant, but he will… and so do I. That Elder Scroll belongs to my family. Consider it a -lend-. I expect it to be returned in one piece.” The Dragonborn throws the scroll over his shoulder then he and Lydia bow to the Thane before leaving.

     

     


    The Story So Far:

    Ancient Blood Ch 1   Ancient Blood Ch 2   Ancient Blood Ch 3   Ancient Blood Ch 4   Ancient Blood Ch 5   Ancient Blood Ch 6   Ancient Blood Ch 7 Ancient Blood Ch 8   Ancient Blood Ch 9   Ancient Blood Ch 10   Ancient Blood Ch 11   Ancient Blood Ch 12   Ancient Blood Ch 13   Ancient Blood Ch 14   Ancient Blood Ch 15   Ancient Blood Ch 16