A.D.W.D. Chapter 22: The Hunt



    “WAKE UP!” Amari screamed at Trebonde.


    He bolted onto his feet ready for any danger with the Mace of Molag Bal already drawn. The soft glow of the dying coals lit the trees in a sinister light, but did little to dispel the concealing shadows. What he did spot was Amari frantically hurling all their food into the darkness.


    He opened his mouth to protest, but slammed it shut when one package never hit the ground. A flash of teeth - red in the light - snapped around the package and disappeared into the black. From darkness, sounds of growls and gnashing teeth erupted; wolves.


    Trebonde kicked the coals and the fire briefly burst to life. All around them wolves shied from the light, circling just beyond its reach.


    “Amari to my back! We can fend them off!”


    “No! We need to run! The Quarra is coming!”


    “The what-?” The mace interrupted with a twitch in Trebonde’s hand and he turned to see a wolf sailing silently through the air towards him with canines bared. He yelped and swung the mace to intercept. The spikes buried deep into the beast’s neck and knocked it aside. Trebonde went to pull the mace back to on guard, but met resistance. The teeth of the mace had snapped shut within the wolf’s neck and Trebonde was dragged to the ground after the falling wolf. He bit dirt and came eye-to-eye with the wolf. The whites of its eyes were wide with terror as it felt the mace devour the very essence of its soul.


    The wolf flailed in desperation, tearing out its own throat to escape. It staggered away, but could not flee far enough before collapsing. The mace inhaled and ripped the soul from the dying wolf, dragging its spirit to Coldharbour. Even as he felt the wolf’s life strengthen his limbs, Trebonde stared in horror at the power of the artifact. This was no game.


    The howl of the pack brought him back to the present. It was a howl of rage, of sorrow, for their fallen brother. He scanned the scene and found Amari was already running deeper into the highland woods. Dumb girl! She was going to get torn to shreds! Trebonde sprinted after her; he had never felt his muscles so alive, it felt like he could run for days. In moments he overtook her; and just in time.


    He charged towards another wolf leaping through the air, but the wolf saw him coming and defied physics. It twisted midair and redirected its momentum to a right angle. It landed light on its paws and bound into the depths of the night. Trebonde spun to face behind them with a sweep of the mace and a demonic snarl. The trailing wolves skidded to a stop and turned tail.


    Amari looked up to him with thankful, wide eyes. “It’s going to get worse, much worse. We must survive ‘til dawn.”


    Trebonde nodded and looked to the clouded moons. There was still a good three or so hours until sunrise, but now was not the time for questions. “Can you give us light?”


    Amari hesitated, uncertain. Trebonde’s grip tightened around the mace. “You will give us light.”


    Amari swallowed and forced her magicka through the resistance to generate an orb of light. Already she could feel beads of sweat form from the strain. She had never felt fear of her rogue before, but she knew she could not face the vampire coming alone.


    “Good. Follow.” With that, the rogue bolted into the woods. It took all of Amari’s concentration just to maintain the spell and keep her legs moving. She had to trust Trebonde to navigate a safe route.


    They ran through the woods and hills, for how long Amari couldn’t say. Time and distance blurred as she focused solely on keeping their path lit and not falling behind the rogue’s never slowing pace. Her lungs burned; her muscles burned; even her mind burned, but she didn’t dare stop. Occasionally they would glimpse the wolves flitting between the trees and rocks; hunting; waiting, but they would scatter at the threat of Trebonde’s mace. Eventually Karthwasten was revealed below them and they half ran, half slid down the slopes to the town.


    At the base, another orb of light awaited them, revealing two robed figures under its light.


    “Halt! Who goes!” They shouted.


    “Help!” Trebonde responded.


    “Quarra! Vampire!” Amari added breathlessly.


    The figures traded glances before responding, “Fear not, Stendarr will banish the darkness!”


    Vigilants! With their help they might just make it! They skidded to a stop before their saviors.


    “Wait; that feeling…” One Vigalant started. His features obscured by his hood, but his shock was unmistakable when the light shown upon the twisted mace. “You possess a Daedric Artifact! Relinquish it at once or face the wrath of the Divine!”


    The other figure, also obscured in shadow, studied their profiles. “These two match the descriptions of Amari and Trebonde from Tyranus’s letter perfectly. Where is he?!”


    The accused were left speechless, but were saved by a scream from within the village. The vigilantes shot an orb of light at the source, illuminating an ancient Dunmer dressed in the tattered robes of a once extravagant Morrowind noble. The Mer had Ainethach by the mutton chops and was dragging him from the shattered entrance of his home. The grisly remains of his body guard decorated the splintered wood.


    “Release him!” The Vigilants shouted, forgetting about Amari and Trebonde, but the Dunmer only turned a sadistic smile to the Divine priests. The Mer tightened his grip about Karthwasten’s leader’s arms and the creature’s eyes glinted a pale white in the light.


    “You allowed the destruction of my totem; you forgot your place; now retribution shall be dealt!”


     The Quarra ripped both of Ainethache’s arms off with inhuman strength and punted the body away. Both Vigilants cursed in rage at the atrocity and let loose torrents of fire at the creature. The Mer cast a flame shield about himself and weathered the storm unharmed.


    “My turn.”


    The vampire cleared the distance in a blur and collided with the Vigilants. Wards flashed, maces struck, and claws scoured stone flesh. Trebonde grabbed Amari’s wrist and dragged her away from the melee.


    Amari protested, “We can end this here!”


    “Maybe if Tyranus was here,” Trebonde rebutted, “but those two don’t stand a chance against an ancient!”


     With a heavy heart, Amari let Trebonde take her away. How many would die just for being near her? At the entrance of Karthwasten, two wild eyed mares whinnied and pulled against their tethers. Trebonde approached the horses with the mace raised. The horses froze as if paralyzed by the Daedric scent.


    “Have you ridden before?” Trebonde asked.


    Amari shook her head.


    “Get on behind me then.”


    Trebonde leapt atop the first petrified horse, its breath coming out in a rapid staccato of snorts, then hoisted Amari up behind him. He slung the mace across his back and passed Amari the reins of the second horse to tow alongside them. The horses didn’t need any prompting, the moment they felt tension slack from their tethers, they bolted. Amari clung on tightly and cast a glance behind her: one Vigilant was slipping in a pool of his own blood while the other was kneeling before the fallen champion with a clawed hand encasing his skull. The Quarra made eye contact with her and even at the growing distance she could feel it trying to compel her.


    “Yes! Run! Run false champion! The fear will make your blood all the sweeter!” It shouted hoarsely after them, then crushed the Vigilant’s stone fleshed skull like a grape within his hand. The vampire let loose a hacking laugh and shot after them in pursuit.


    “Amari! Light!” Trebonde shouted trying to guide the horses down the pitch black mountain road. Clouds fully obscured the sky by this point and the drizzle of a soft rain had begun.


     Amari cursed herself, she’d let the spell fail as they mounted the horses! Now both her hands were bound with hanging onto Trebonde and keeping hold of the spare horse, forcing her to focus her will without their aid. She felt the energies gather before her, then slip from her minds grasp.


    “The horses will break a leg without that light Amari!”


    She cried out in frustration squeezed her eyes shut in concentration. She dragged all the magicka she could through her burnt out nerves and, fighting through the thousands of burning needles, formed an orb of light. One of the simplest novice spells, now putting her through nearly the same pain as hosting Boethiah’s Shadow.


    “Did it work?” Amari gasped with tears streaming down her cheeks and a constellation of stars flashing behind her eyelids.


    “Yeah, but can you raise it a bit; it’s inside my face. It tickles…”


    Amari couldn’t help a little giggle and nearly lost her work. She managed to raise the orb a bit higher and Trebonde whipped the reins with a yell, “Gah!” The horses lurched into a full gallop just as a snarl ripped through the air and the wind of a swipe ruffled Amari’s hair.


    She yelped, “Was that the vampire?”


    “Aye, but there’s no way he can keep up with the horses now!”


    Amari buried her head into Trebonde’s back and fought to maintain that simple spell. Her world reduced to the waves of fiery needles striking in tune with the spell’s flow; the thunder of hooves and the brisk night air whipping through her hair; and the beat of Trebonde’s heart.


    Her white knuckled grip and labored breathing brought Trebonde’s intense gaze away from scanning the road ahead. He frowned in concern and glanced over his shoulder. He saw nothing in the darkness swallowing the path behind them, but just how much of lead were they gaining?


    “You saved us back there, twice.”


    She nodded numbly and her grip softened slightly. “Dawn. We make it to dawn, we’re safe.”


    They were leading a pair of the sturdy Nordic horses. Surefooted beasts, passing the roots and broken pavers with ease, but they were made for endurance, not speed. He could already hear the horse they were riding strain from maintaining the gallop, but he didn’t dare slow down. Dawn was still long way off and at this rate, they would have to change horses soon, but even then…


    “Even weakened by the sun, we’re still in no condition to fight that vampire.”


    Amari answered surprisingly confident between breaths, “Peryite will stop him... Molag Bal stole... the Quarra from him... Now he’s mad.”


    Another Daedra visited her! How does she attract these things? Trebonde couldn’t help but laugh though. Apparently not even other Daedra liked Molag Bal. But the mirth was short lived, for he saw that once more their survival depended on these gods’ whims. Why would Peryite wait ‘til dawn? Would a mad god check the collateral of their vengeance?


    He kept his worries to himself. Voicing them would change nothing; whether they were alive in this moment could change though.


    “You keep the light going and I’ll keep us moving ‘til then.” Somehow…


    The clouds ripped open and the drizzle burst into a torrent. Trebonde patted their steed’s head with his stump.


    “You got this girl,” he coaxed the mare, praying they didn’t slide off the mountain.


    They bounded past the Broken Tower Redoubt again, but this time the mountain fortress only passively observed their dire chase from lifeless arrow slits. No Forsworn, no rituals; Tyranus had been thorough. Past the tower the terrain leveled into a river lands and he urged more speed from the horses with a flick of the reins.


    Stone pavers turned to mud road and the horses started to slide. By shear will alone, Trebonde guided them in a half hydroplaning gallop down the path. Fields rushed by in a blur through the down pour and soon they came upon their journey’s origin, Robber’s Gorge.


    Except that the gorge no longer existed. The camp had been leveled into a crater that had taken the bridge crossing over its creek with it. Their horse reared with a loud neigh at the fallen bridge, throwing its riders off and then collapsed hard on its side in exhaustion. Trebonde heard a yelp as the second horse veered to the side and dragged Amari along with it. As for Trebonde, he flew off and landed hard on his back, but managed to convert some of the impact into roll and come to a stop on his feet. 


    “Help!” Amari cried out.


    The second horse was already loping up the opposite side of creek bank in an odd sideways run while whipping its head in an effort to shake Amari off. To her credit, she held on with a death grip and maintained the light spell with her eyes tightly squeezed shut. Trebonde still felt the wolf’s essence coursing through him and sprinted to the spare mare in a matter of seconds.


    He gripped it by the muzzle and commanded, “Calm.”


    The horse eyed him back nervously, but stopped. He lost no time in mounting and helping Amari up. The edge of Amari’s orb highlighted the first horse struggling back onto its feet the divide. A blur shot from the darkness and the creature has torn in half before it could even neigh. The Quarra stood proudly in its place as a mist of blood mixed with the falling rain. Then it doubled over, hacking a noxious looking cloud of spores.


    “The mace, I hear your call once more. I have not forgotten you!” The hoarse desperation in the vampire’s tone caught both Amari and Trebonde off guard; it was almost like a Skooma addict grasping for a long overdue hit.


    The second horse neighed in terror at the scent of blood and bolted north in a mad gallop beyond any hope of control. All Trebonde and Amari could do was hold on tight and hope they didn’t fall off. The vampire leapt across the broken bridge and bounded after them, but the horse was marginally faster and the distance between them slowly stretched once more.


    Breath blasted from the mare’s nostrils like a furnace and the rain steamed off its sides as the beast pushed itself beyond its limits. They barreled past a peddler, probably hoping to catch the morning crowd at Solitude. The horse slipped in the mud as they passed and sideswiped the cart. The peddler was knocked from the road in a shower of his wares into the ditch. His vehement curses followed them from the darkness for only a few moments before being cut off in a blood curdling scream.


    “How can anything be that fast!” Trebonde complained with a glance over his shoulder. The way the darkness swallowed their island of light made it seem as if they were running from the night itself. The clouds to the east glowed with a soft blue light; dawn’s precursor.


    And it better bring a miracle with it, He muttered to himself. Instead the mare’s heart burst. It let out one last exhausted neigh before collapsing to the road from a full gallop. Amari and Trebonde were sent sailing through the air and landed in a tumble. Trebonde rolled to his feet and ran to hoist Amari up, but she was already scrambling to her feet. Her spell finally failed in the crash, although there was enough predawn light to distinguish outlines now.


    As suddenly as it started, the rain ceased and the head of a dragon emerged from the mist. Amari stopped in defeat as visions of Odahviing incinerating the bandits flashed across her memory. A dragon ahead and a vampire behind… they were doomed! But Trebonde only laughed in hope:


    “Dragon Bridge! Come on! There should be a Legion unit posted here!”


    They sprinted the last portion on foot and as they drew closer, Amari felt foolish. It was only a statue cresting a great stone bridge. Spires arched like ribs down its length and at the half way point the ribs from joined to support an impeccably lifelike dragon head.


    A wrenching cough foretold their approaching death. Damn it! Trebonde thought, so close yet so far. They wouldn’t make it to the town proper in time. He jumped atop the stone rail underneath the dragon’s head.


    “We jump!”


    “But-“ Amari started to protest.


    “Maybe, but He won’t have our souls.” He interrupted guessing her fear.


    She nodded and stepped on to the rail with him and took his hand as the sun crested the horizon, washing away the darkness and lighting the clouds with its fire.


    Vertigo hit when she looked down at the rushing river far below. White water crashed around boulders that appeared to be only pebbles from such height. Her resolution faltered and she cast a final look behind her only to see their pursuer clearly for the first time.


    The Quarra crested the hill where their last horse had fallen and was rapidly closed the distance in loping bounds. The ashen skin had paled to nearly white and age had not been kind to the Mer. Eyes of burning a pale white glared from gaunt cheekbones and the skin had wrinkled into a leathery hide. Fangs nearly a hand width long and hands deformed into long, bony claws created the image of a demon more than a Mer, but despite the savage form, the creature as sick. The tattered holes of once noble robes revealed open sores emitting a trail of spores in its wake and each breath was released with a rasping hack.


    The vampire from the shadows of highland woods into the dawn’s light upon the bridge. The sun seared his flesh, but he did not stop, not when the prey was so close. Trebonde’s feet were already moving to jump off the bridge, but Amari pulled him back.


    “Wait!” She cried out, an intuition telling her they weren’t dead yet.


    The sores cracked and burst open all across the smoldering vampires flesh and the leaking emission of spores burst into geysers of noxious gas. He tried to cry out, but only collapsed in a heaving  mass. Amari and Trebonde backpedaled along the bridge and away from the cloud spreading mere feet away.


    They watched in a fascinated horror as the cloud rose and seemed to bring its attention to the dragon statue. It shimmered and mimicked the form and then looked down upon itself and tsk’ed in amusement.


    “The vanity to choose such a form…”


    The vaporous dragon glared down upon the fallen champion and spread its wings to encompass the bridge. The sun filtered through and, warped by the gasses, bathed the three mortals in a green hue.


    “You betray your service me! To go back to the master who discarded you… forgotten like a spent tool. All you are… the power you have… you gained from my Gifts!”


    “What! The power over dying sheep? Power over forgotten realms? Your Gifts are Weak compared to His! I only used you to regain his favor!” The Quarra spat with his dying breaths.


    “Yet here you are… with your flesh and soul at my mercy. Die knowing that your substance will spread my New Dawn and that Molag Bal forsook his claim on your soul those centuries past. Your soul is mine!”


    The fallen champion’s eyes widened in horror as the dragon descended into the vampire’s burning husk. The vapors filled him until he burst into a fireball releasing a host of noxious spores. The winds caught the cloud and spread it far and wide across the lands.


    Trebonde and Amari stared after the spreading Gift of Peryite with slack jaws.


    “What… did we just witness?” Trebonde asked.


    “I have no idea…” Amari answered.


    Drenched and weary, they made it two more steps before collapsing on the bridge; too tired to carry on now that the threat was past.












8 Comments   |   Felkros likes this.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  April 7, 2016
    I can finally respond to comments! I don't know why, but suddenly only this site wouldn't load on any of my devices off my home network, but it is working right now using a coffee shop's.
    @Sotek - I felt free to implement your advice. This chapter i...  more
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  April 7, 2016
    Dude, your new buttons are awesome! The N/A Crab is fantastic.  I am really liking the manifestations of Peryite, as well. You're actually making the Prince of Sniffles pretty formidable.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  April 6, 2016
    Going well Exuro, or not depending on how you look at things.
    Here's a tip from something I use in my writing. Feel free to ignore/Implement, your call.
    Original line:
    Amari answered surprisingly confident between breaths, ...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  April 2, 2016
    I do too. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  April 2, 2016
    Lol, exactly. I find his ties with Kyne interesting as well: skeevers/ natural order.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  April 2, 2016
    He's like that person in Halloween who gives raisins or pumpkin seeds or dental floss when  everybody else is giving chocolate. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  April 1, 2016
    Maybe this is why there is no love for Peryite; he doesn't seem to understand what a 'gift' is.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  April 1, 2016
    Nice, Oh Peryite. Lord only knows what he's released into the world. Seems your Skyrim is worse off not better. 
    And yes, smilies are back.