Walk with the Shadows Ch 9

  • Chapter Nine: The Falmer Tongue

       Walking through the frigid mountains of Winterhold is a brutal journey. Frost trolls, bears, and desperate bandits await unwary travelers. Lucina breathes a sigh of relief when Windhelm, capital of East March, comes into view. She hurries along the road to the Bridge leading to the City gates. Lucina shakes the snow off when she enters Candle Hearth Hall. She heads straight upstairs to the fireplace to warm herself.


       “Can I get you anything, Miss?” a waitress asks. Without looking back, Lucina says, “A warm stew and some ale. Those winds are brutal.” When the waitress leaves for the kitchen, Lucina pulls a chair up to the fireplace and waits for her order. She pulls a map from her backpack and studies the roads she would have to take before deciding if she would go on foot or hire a carriage. She is tired, cold, and hungry. A journey on foot is not appealing. She doesn’t have enough gold on her to afford a horse. She can only hope that the carriage driver will agree to the long ride to Markarth.


       After finishing her meal, Lucina heads for the stables and haggles with the carriage driver to make the trip to the Reach in the far South West of the province. He is not happy about it, but paying double the usual fare is something he won’t turn down. Lucina gets in the back and Pulls her cloak tight around her as she lays down to try and get some sleep on the journey.


       When she wakes up, the carriage is just leaving Whiterun Hold. She asks the driver, “How much further?” The driver looks back, “A couple more hours at least. Assuming we don’t run into any damned Forsworn.” Lucina has never heard of the Forsworn. She asks, “What are the Forsworn?” Keeping his eyes on the roads, the driver says, “Bretons mostly. Natives of the Reach… or so they claim. A few years back, they sacked the capital and drove the Nords out of the Reach. The empire had all but pulled out of Skyrim. Ulfric Stormcloak was the only one to answer the call for aid from the Jarl in retaking the hold. Needless to say, the Forsworn didn’t take the siege well. They’ve been raiding and pillaging folks on the road ever since.” Lucina stretches then loads her crossbow, “So what do these Forsworn look like? Need to know what to shoot at.” The driver replies, “They wear odd furs and carry weapons made of bone. You’ll know ‘em if ya see ‘em.”


       The carriage reaches Markarth without incident. Lucina hands the full payment to the driver and approaches the main gate. A guard stops her, “Hold there traveler. What’s your business here?” Lucina gives her best flirtatious smile, “Why I’m just looking for a drink and some supplies. A hot meal would be nice. It’s been a long trip.” The guard relaxes a bit, “You’re our favorite kind of traveler then. Keep your nose clean while you're here and you won’t have any problem with us.” With that he returns to his post and Lucina enters the city.


       The city is of Dwemer make. Carved stone and Brass doors make up the whole of the structures. The city looks like it was carved out of the mountains that surround it. Lucina has never seen the like. The climate is bordering on warm and the sound of rushing water echoes through the stone streets. The slight sense of levity brought on by the aesthetics of the city is broken when a man in miner’s clothing and sporting a tribal face tattoo draws a dagger and shouts, “THIS LAND BELONGS TO THE FORSWORN!!” and stabs a woman in the back. The city guard rush in and quickly stirke the murder down. The guard to land the killing blow pulls his battleaxe from the dead man’s torso and says, “It’s over. There are no Forsworn here. Understand!” A breton man walks up to Lucina and says, “A woman killed on the street. Did you see anything?” Lucina shrugs, “I heard some shouting about Forsworn.” The man looks over to the dead bodies, “The Forsworn?.. May the Eight grant you more peace in the future. Oh! I think you dropped this.” He hands Lucina a piece of paper. She asks, “What is this? Is this yours?” The man looks over to a guard, “Mine? No. Must have fallen out of your pocket.” Then he walks off.


       Lucina reads the note asking her to meet him in the city's temple of Talos to talk about these Forsworn attacks. Having no interest in getting involved in this city’s problems, Lucina crumbles the note and tosses it, “No way I’m getting involved in this madness.” She wanders the streets until she spots a beggar. After giving him a few septims, he tells her where to find Calcelmo, Court Mage to the Jarl. On her way to the Jarl’s Keep in the back of the city, she can’t help but notice everyone seems to be on edge. The guards are trying to keep people calm, but everyone knows the Forsworn are inside the city.


       Deep within the Keep, Lucina finds Calcelmo at an enchanting table studying Dwemer artifacts. “Excuse me.” She says, “A moment of your time, Sir.” The old Altmer turns with a look of annoyance, “What are you doing here? Do you know who I am? I’m the greatest scholar of the Dwemer in Tamriel! The people I’ve spent three human life times of research on. You idiot! I’m engaged in important research and you people keep bothering me!” Lucina just stares at the old Elf. He composes himself, “I’m… I’m sure. It’s not your fault. I’m just… How can I help you?” Lucina looks around his work space, “I hear you are an expert on the Dwemer AND Falmer. I was hoping to get a look at some of your research if possible.” Calcelmo stands at attention, “Absolutely not! It’s not ready for the public.” Seeing he is determined to keep his work secret, Lucina asks, “Well… perhaps I could earn a peak. Is there anything you need done?” Calcelmo looks to the large doors across from his work area, “Well… now that you mention it, I could use some help. Inside the excavation site is a Giant Frostbite spider. The workers have come to call her Nimme. She’s been terrorizing my workers for weeks now. You deal with Nimme and I’ll let you into my Museum.” Lucina draws her crossbow, “Not a problem. I’ll deal with the beast.” Calcelmo eyes the young Imperial and says, “Enthusiasm. You kill Nimme and I’ll let you browse my museum… assuming you survive.” He hands her a key to the dig site and says, “If you die, I’ll put your remains to use furthering research into the dwemer traps throughout the ruins.”


       Entering the excavation site, Lucina sees tools and Dwemer scrap metal on the ground. As if the workers dropped them as they ran out. The tunnels reek of oil, decaying flesh, and the scent of frostbite venom. She keeps to the shadows as she moves through the passages. It’s not long before she comes across some Frostbite spiders. Large, but not what anyone would consider giant. She kills several spiders before reaching a large chamber that dead ends at a large Brass door. She steps lightly, but retreats behind a column when a monstrous spider drops from the ceiling. “A bolt isn’t going to be enough for this one.” she whispers to herself. Digging through her backpack, she applies one of the vials of her Silent Night poison to the bolt and takes aim. The bolt flies through the air and finds its mark just behind Nimme’s head.


       The beast stumbles back and struggles to stand. Lucina reloads and fires two more bolts into the beast before it finally falls. “Damn… Never seen anything stand up after getting hit with that poison.” After poking the monster with her daggers a few times, Lucina breaks off one of the Nimme’s fangs as proof of the kill. On the way out, she summons flames to burn numerous egg sacs she finds around the dig site.


       When she returns to Calcelmo and shows him the fang, he gives her the key to his museum and a few septims. “That damn spider has been a thorn in my side for months. You can enter the museum, but I must insist my laboratory remain off limits.” Lucina nods, “Of course. I understand and.. Thank you, Serrah.” Calcelmo directs her to the museum and returns to his studies. A guard stops her before she can get to the door, “Halt! No one gets in here without the Court Mage’s permission. Too dangerous. Some of the Dwemer traps are still active.” Lucina holds up the key, “I have permission.” The guard compares her key to his own, “Well… alright. Just be careful in there. We’ve already had to pull two bodies out of there this week.”


       The museum is impressive. Old Dwemer artifacts line the walls. A few guards are on patrol. She wanders around for a few minutes looking for anything on the Falmer that could help with translating Gallus’ journal. She finds a few items, but nothing about their language. Enthir seemed certain there was something here that could help. Lucina tries the door to the laboratory, but it’s locked up tight and her key doesn’t work. There is no use in trying to pick a dwemer puzzle lock. She eyes some of the guards and notices they carry not one, but two keys.


       She moves over to one of the paths a guard patrols and waits for the right moment to lift the keys off him. The timing must be precise. One mistake in here could mean her death. She puts her book down and deliberately turns to bump into a guard as he passes. “Oh my!” she says as she lifts the keys off him, “I’m so sorry.” The guard does not notice her take the keys. He just replies, “Careful, Miss.” Lucina nods, “Of course. I was just so distracted by all the remarkable relics in here… well.. Again, So sorry, Serrah.``” The guard continues on his patrol and Lucina moves back over to the laboratory door. When she is certain none of the guards are looking, she quickly tries the new key and the lock turns. She slips in quickly and quietly. 


       Lucina creeps her way into the passages leading to the lab. She doesn’t get far before hearing voices in the distance. “Are you serious?” a Male Nord voice says. The voice of a High Elf replies, “You heard me. Our work must not be distrubed. Kill any intruders on sight. Call for backup if you need it. Let no one through.” The nord voice responds, “I… Very well.”  Lucina hears a door open and footsteps approach.  She ducks into a small nook to hide. She looks around the area and sees yet another of those strange floating gems. Though she is not sure why, she is compelled to take it. She spots another oddity. A Dwemer staff and a journal on a table. When she touches the staff a Dwemer spider jumps out of a nearby hatch in the wall. It does not attack, but instead just sits patiently. A gate opens and a guard enters the hall. The spider, sensing danger, Readies a shock weapon on its back and goes looking for the detected threat.


       The spider swiftly attacks the guard. Lucina reads the journal while the guard fights the machine. It’s an instruction manual on how to use the staff. Gripping the staff in a certain way causes a ball of energy to strike whatever it’s pointed at and the spider will move to that spot.  If there is something dangerous nearby it will defend the staff’s wielder. The guard to the museum did say they were having trouble with Dwemer traps down here. Surely no one would question a rogue spider. As she closes the journal she hears the guard fall to the ground and the spider returns to her. She looks down at the construct, “Well… you’re handy… Let’s see if this thing works.” She checks the guard for anything of value and presses on.


      Lucina finds the next room patrolled by two more guards. She holds the staff as the journal instructed and a light forms at the tip. She releases it and a ball of light strikes the ground. It makes an unusual sound and gets the attention of one of the guards. The Spider quickly enters the area and begins attacking the guards, but the damage to the machine is too great and it falls to pieces after a few moments. “Damn machines!” the guard says as she returns to her patrol. Lucina has lost the spider, but there are several traps in the room. With the staff, she can draw the guards into position  to make use of those traps.


       Sneaking through the passages and using the staff to lure guards out of place, Lucina easily avoids being spotted. She is about to exit the halls, when something curious catches her eye. A brass cube. “What are you?” she asks before picking it up and stuffing it in her backpack. “I’m sure old Delvin can find someone to pay handsomely for you.” She says then exits the hall. She continues to follow the path to a set of large doors. “This better be it…” she groans, “I’m running out of road here.”


       The doors lead to a large chamber. Several Dwemer artifacts litter the area. Something stands out though. Atop a platform she sees a large stone with markings that match those in Gallus’ journal. She says, “That must be it! Enthir was right.” Lucina finds several items in the chamber that would fetch a good price and she begins stuffing her pockets. She finds no notes, but there are several rolls of partial rubbings. She grabs a few pieces of blank paper and heads for the large stone. She makes rubbings of the entire surface, “This will have to be enough...”


       The doors to the chamber open and Lucina hears stomping of men in heavy armor approach. “Accidents like this don’t just happen. Someone is trying to sabotage my uncle's research.” An Elf in a robe says. One of the guards at his side replies, “I… alright. If there is a thief, he won’t leave this tower alive. But shouldn’t we inform master Calcelmo?” The Elf in the robe says, “I’ll deal with my uncle. Just.. Go! Scour this place from top to bottom!” Lucina creeps around some ledges on the walls trying to get to the door. Lucina goes unheard and unseen as she makes her way along the walls to the door.


       With the heat on her, she races out of the city. She finds her carriage driver still outside where she left him. “Hey! You’re still here?” she says. The driver looks back, “I was just about to head back to Windhelm. You looking for another ride?” Lucina checks her coin purse, “Maybe. Can you get me to Winterhold?” “Winterhold??” he says shocked at the request, “Woman, do you know how far that is?” She tosses him the purse and says, “That’s Eighty Septims.” The driver counts the coin, “Well now… I guess it’s not THAT far… Fine. Hop on in.”


       The ride takes over a day, but it’s better than hoofing it on foot. When Lucina gets off she says, “I shouldn’t be long. Do you mind waiting for me? I’m sure I will need another ride.” The driver shivers, “In this cold? I’m getting out of here as soon as I can.” Lucina puts her hands on her hips, “I can pay you another hunder Septims if you can get me to Riften.” The driver ponders the offer a moment, “I’ll be in that inn over there. Just holler when you’re ready.”


       Lucina looks around the Inn, but doesn’t see Enthir. She asks the barkeep where the elf went and he tells her he’s down in the basement with a friend. “Friend?” she asks. “Aye.” he says, “A Dark Elf. Didn’t catch her name, but she’s a looker.” Lucina nods, “Thanks. I need to speak with them if you don’t mind. They’re waiting for me… And could you get that Nord, over there, an Ale and some stew?” She lays a garnet she stole from Markarth on the bar. The Barkeep looks it over, “Sure thing, lass.”

       Lucina enters the basement and finds Karliah and Enthir waiting. Enthir asks, “Back, eh? And how is our old friend Calcelmo?” Lucina hands him the rubbing, “This should help translate the journal.” Enthir takes the parchments, “I suppose it would be inappropriate of me to ask how you obtained this, so I simply won’t.” Lucina smiles, “It’s quite a story.” Enthir unrolls the pages, “I understand. Now let me take a look at this. Over here.” It doesn’t take long before he begins to translate the journal. Enthir grumbles to himself then says, “This is disturbing. It seems Gallus had concerns about Mercer Frey’s allegiance to the guild. Something here about an unduly lavish lifestyle. Complete with spending vast amounts of gold on personal pleasures.” Lucina looks to Karliah and tries to study her expression, but her face is blank. Whatever she is thinking, she is not letting on. Karliah asks, “Does the journal say where this wealth came from?” Enthir continues writing, “Yes, Gallus seemed certain Mercer was removing funds from the guilds treasury without anyone knowing.” Karliah frowns, “Anything else Enthir? Anything about… Nightingales?” Enthir flips through a few pages, “Hmm.. Yes. Here it is. The last few pages seem to mention Nightingales, but it doesn’t go into detail. Gallus also mentions his belief that Mercer desiccated something called the Twilight Sepulcher.”


       Karliah pauses a moment, “Shadow preserve us… So it’s true.” Enthir looks up, “I’m not familiar with this Twilight Sepulcher. What is it? What… What’s Mercer Frey done?”Karliah folds her arms, “I’m sorry Enthir. I can’t say. All that matters is getting this to the guild as soon as possible. Farewell Enthir… Words can’t express…” Enthir sighs, “It’s alright Karliah. You don’t have to say a word.” Enthir walks over to Lucina, “Listen. All I want is the truth to be revealed to the Guild. They respected Karliah and she deserves better. Do whatever you can and I would consider it a personal favor.” Lucina takes the translated journal and says, “Of course. Thank you, Enthir.” Enthir nods, “If you ever have stolen goods and find yourself in Winterhold, come and find me in the college. I’ve been known to handle items of questionable origins.


       Karliah says, “We must hasten to Riften before Mercer can do any more damage to the guild.” Lucina replies, “My f… Gallus’ journal mentioned the ‘Twilight Sepulcher” As Enthir leaves the basement, Karliah says, “You’ve come this far. I see no harm in concealing it any longer.” Karliah goes on to explain that the Sepulcher is a temple to the Daedric Prince Nocturnal and the Nightingales are her agents in Mundus that protect the temple and its treasures. As a Nightingale, Mercer broke his oath to Nocturnal and stole something from the Temple. Karliah says, “I want you to have this. It belonged to Gallus. Under the circumstances, I think he would approve.” Lucina is handed a strange long sword. A silver blade with a handle made of a mineral she can’t identify. Black as ebony, but incredibly lightweight. As Lucina inspects the sword she says, “Thank you. You don’t know what this means to me… I’ll put it to good use.”  Karliah replies, “If the guild doesn’t listen to reason, You might have to.”


       Karliah then leaves the basement. Lucina studies the blade carefully. She takes a few swings with it then closes her eyes, “Father… Guide this sword. Help me drive this blade into Mercer’s heart… We will have vengeance!”



    The story so far:

    walk-with-the-shadows-ch-1 Walk with the Shadows Ch 2 Walk with the Shadows Ch 3 Walk with the Shadows Ch 4 Walk with the Shadows Ch 5 Walk with the Shadows Ch 6 Walk with the Shadows Ch 7 Walk with the Shadows Ch 8


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