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> Sleeper in the Cave, a Morrowind fanfic
Kazaera
post Mar 1 2020, 10:39 AM
Post #461


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@ghastley + haute ecole rider - It's funny you mention that, since Adryn is definitely not trying to reach Tel Fyr, and yet... but yeah, I never could understand why there were zero transport connections to the island. More on that this update.

@SubRosa - yyeeah, I have some sympathy for mysterious pissed-off Telvanni! Tenyeminwe's brand of diplomacy is... special. Adryn's is... not really any less special, especially when it results in accidental rescues.

Last installment, Adryn continued recounting her adventures in Telvanni lands. These involved getting dragged into Tel Naga by the mage she was escorting and accidentally helping rescue the daughter of a Redoran Councilor who'd been held captive there. Let's see how much else can prevent Adryn from picking up her potion and heading back to Ald'ruhn already.

Chapter 20.3
*****


Initially, in Sadrith Mora, things had seemed to be going well – surprisingly so, considering how far off-track we'd gotten. Nartise had made use of the unconscious guard's armour, and the guise of escorting two lost outlanders firmly to the exit had gotten the three of us out of Tel Naga with no further ado. More, Nartise also wanted to make for a ship off the island, giving her and Tenyeminwe common cause.

Our luck ran out when we rounded a corner and had clear sight of the docks. To my relief, the ship for Vos was still there (something I hadn't been at all sure about, since the captain had seemed eager to get going). To my horror, so too were a whole troop of guards, looking unfortunately alert. They'd been joined by a dark-haired Dunmer wearing very expensive-looking robes that gleamed with enchantment. Judging by Tenyeminwe's sudden stillness, I could guess who this was.

"Right," said Nartise, "let's try something else."

Something else turned out to be a ship tied up further along, on a little solitary pier stretching into the water. There were quite a few figures waiting patiently to board. Many wore plain robes with the hoods up, and some moved with an odd shuffling gait. The general population of Sadrith Mora, I couldn't help but notice, were giving the group a wide berth – guards included.

"Are you sure about this?" I asked as Nartise stripped off her guard armour behind a bush. "I don't like the look of that ship-"

Nartise shook her head sadly, as though I were being embarrassingly naive. Given that she was, in fact, not just a pampered noble but also (conversation had proved) three years younger than me, it smarted. "Well, we hardly have a choice, now do we. The three of us need to get off this island for a while, wait for the furor to die down."

"Wait. Three of us?" I'd been planning to leave Tenyeminwe and Nartise at the docks and make my way back to Wolverine Hall...

...except that if they were watching the docks, they'd almost certainly be watching the entrance to the fort as well. I didn't know if Tenyeminwe's pursuer had seen me with her, or if I'd been connected to Nartise's escape.

It really shouldn't come as a surprise given my previous misadventures, but I still marvelled at the fact that a simple errand to fetch a potion had gone so badly wrong.

Stowing away on the strange ship was easy. Too easy, in fact. Almost as though the captain figured nobody in their right mind would want to be on board. I had the terrible feeling I should have asked a few more questions.

"Right. Passengers!" the captain barked after we'd cast off from dock. Her voice was strangely muffled, and peeking out from our hiding place showed that she was wearing a cloth mask covering her mouth and nose. Much like Tashpi had, when she was dealing with illness in Maar Gan.

My terrible feeling grew stronger.

"Next and final stop," the captain continued, "Tel Fyr. Someone will be at the docks to direct you to the Corprusarium. There, you will be cared for with cutting-edge treatments developed by the greatest member of House Telvanni, Divayth Fyr himself. You will not want for anything, and the remainder of your lives will be made as comfortable as possible."

One of the passengers choked out a sob. It trailed off into a horrible gurgling noise.

"I have full sympathy for your plight. However, I am warning you: I am a fully-trained mage with a specialty in the Destruction school. Should any of you attempt to stay on board the ship after we land, or come within six feet of me at any time, I have permission to use lethal force."

I turned my head slowly to look at my two companions. Tenyeminwe looked as confused as me. Nartise's face, however, was white with fear. I hadn't even known she was capable of that emotion.

"Care to explain what's going on?" I whispered.

"We're on a plague ship for corprus."

*****


I couldn't help but notice that Edwinna had stood up from her desk and taken several large steps back.

"None of us actually caught corprus," I hastily reassured her. "Alfe Fyr checked us over, she had a diagnostic spell."

A very interesting diagnostic spell, because I'd been willing to swear it wasn't of the Restoration school. It had reminded me of nothing so much as a Detection spell... my variant of Detection spell, in fact. I'd wanted to ask her about it, but – let's face it – at the time we had bigger things to be concerned about.

"That's... I'm very glad to hear that." Edwinna took her seat rather more slowly than she'd vacated it, still looking a little shaky. "I apologise for the reaction, it's just-"

"No need," I broke in. "I don't blame you in the slightest. Good common sense, always good to see in a mage. Frankly, given the things I've learned about corprus in the last week, I think running screaming would also have been appropriate. Sera Fyr had some stories," I explained at the prompting of Edwinna's quizzical look.

The woman had been distinctly unimpressed by the tale of how we'd gotten to Tel Fyr, and I'd had the impression she'd wanted to drive home just how stupidly reckless we'd been and exactly what could have happened to us. Personally, I could have done without the ruthlessly graphic descriptions of how the skin began to slough off in the second stage of the illness, but at that point she hadn't seemed particularly inclined to listen to anything we had to say. I couldn't even blame her.

"Sera... Alfe Fyr, did you say? Some relative of Divayth Fyr, I presume – his wife, or daughter?"

"Something along those lines, I think. I got the impression that the details were a little complicated, and I didn't want to pry."

"'Good common sense, always good to see in a mage'," Edwinna quoted me, voice dry. "If I were to rank all the mages on this island by how little I wanted to be their enemy, Divayth Fyr would be first on the list, just above Archmagister Gothren, Skink, and Master Aryon."

I quietly made note of the inclusion of the head of the Sadrith Mora guild on the list.

Although...

"Everyone in Tel Vos seemed to like Master Aryon a lot, though."

Edwinna, who had trouble keeping her hands still at the best of times, had picked up a small gear on her desk and begun fidgeting with it. Now, the motion stilled.

"You- how on Nirn did you end up in-" Edwinna swallowed once. Cleared her throat. "It occurs to me that I interrupted you before you had finished. My apologies, Adryn. Please do continue with your story."

*****


For some reason, the sharp-eyed humourless woman in glass (glass!) armour who'd picked up on us stowaways at the dock was, in fact, perfectly fine with the three of us simply wandering around Tel Fyr after she'd finished her interrogation. Needless to say, this did not align with my experience of rich people's homes in the slightest.

Then again, we'd also been remarkably unmolested in Tel Naga. Perhaps Telvanni were something of a special case, with the staggeringly powerful mage part taking precedence over rich person. In my experience, powerful mages also weren't too keen on uninvited guests but perhaps those mages just hadn't been staggeringly powerful enough? After all, judging by Tenyeminwe's explanation when I'd asked who Divayth Fyr was, the man was in a category all his own. She'd been appalled that I hadn't heard of him before.

Well, perhaps I had. The name had seemed familiar, after all. Most likely I'd run across him in a book in Skyrim but immediately dismissed the information as irrelevant to my life. After all, how was I to guess that one day I'd wind up on Vvardenfell with a mad Redoran dragging me to the man's home via plague ship?

"Can we please go back now," Tenyeminwe said. It wasn't the first time those words had left her mouth, and by now they were suffused with a palpable aura of despair. I had to admit I knew how she felt.

"And turn down the opportunity to investigate Divayth Fyr himself? When we've practically been given an open invitation? What sort of cowards are you two, anyway?" Ah, Nartise's Redoran upbringing was clearly shining through.

Personally, I wasn't sure I'd term it open invitation. I distinctly remembered Alfe Fyr saying something along the lines of Father finds adventurers amusing, he only incinerates three out of ten.

More to the point...

"I'm perfectly happy to be a coward, thank you very much. But... Tenyeminwe, if you can think of a way off this island, I'm all for trying to sneak back to Sadrith Mora. The question is, can you? Because I certainly can't, given that that captain didn't seem inclined to stick around."

Nor would I have bet much money on us arriving safe, sound, and with the same number of people we'd started out with. The woman had not been amused by us stowaways in the slightest – subjecting ourselves to Alfe Fyr's diatribe had seemed like the safer choice in comparison.

Which, of course, now left us in something of a bind, considering the distinct lack of any sort of transport connection to the island.

I paused, struck by an idea. "Unless one of you knows Almsivi Intervention, or the like?"

I wasn't going to admit to my own knowledge of the spell. We hadn't yet reached the point where I'd consider it worth the risk (which was another way to say that we weren't currently facing imminent death.)

Shaking heads around me, Tenyeminwe looking distinctly downcast. Nartise, on the other hand, sounded positively cheerful when she said, "I had an amulet, but they took it off me when I was captured. I guess I have no choice but to poke around the extremely powerful, mysterious Telvanni's tower to find a, a teleportation portal or something."

Tenyeminwe straightened. "That's right... they say Divayth Fyr is one of the foremost experts on extraplanar travel in Tamriel."

I blinked, shook my head in hopes it would help clear my mind. Something about that phrase, I'd heard that phrase before-

"They even say he's mastered travel to other realms!"

And suddenly I found myself distracted.

"Wait, you're saying that if we do find some... 'teleportation portal'... in here, it could land us in Oblivion? And you think this is actually preferable to waiting for a ship?" Even if the plague ship wasn't a regular event, the tower inhabitants had to get their food from somewhere. Surely it couldn't be too long before a supply boat docked...

But for some reason, the idea of being dropped straight into Quagmire or Coldharbour or the Shivering Isles made Tenyeminwe eager to go poking around, and so I suddenly found myself outnumbered. Faced with the prospect of sitting in the entry hall alone while my companions got up to who-knew-what – and not just who-knew-what, but who-knew-what which I was liable to also be blamed for – I grudgingly opted to go with them.

At least this way, I told myself, they'd have a voice of sanity along for the ride.

*****


My justifications grew steadily weaker until they dwindled away entirely. It didn't matter much, because Edwinna gave no sign of having heard them. Instead, she had her face buried in her hands.

After a moment of silence, she looked up. I had the impression she was steeling herself.

"So. How many apologies do I need to make to the Telvanni on behalf of the Mages' Guild?"

I felt indignation flare in my chest. "None, of course. Do you think I made my affiliation obvious through any of this? Just wandered round saying hello, I'm Adryn from the Mages' Guild, now you know who to complain to if I break anything? Or rescue any prisoners?"

Edwinna visibly relaxed. "Of course not. I'm sorry, some of our members... but I should have known you had more sense than that. Do go on."

Appeased, I continued my tale. "It started out fine. Nobody seemed particularly bothered by us, probably because I managed to keep the other two from entering any areas marked as restricted. Then..."

"...you couldn't restrain them anymore?"

I squirmed. "Um. Actually, the next part was my fault. I was using my detection spell," at a very short range due to all the walls in the way, but I felt even a split-seconds' warning of people approaching would be better than none, "and I felt someone in a locked room."

Since my conversation with the Bosmer scout about how unusual my Detection spell was – and, of course, the potential for turning this into monetary gain – I'd taken the time to practice and try to refine it. To some degree of success: a month ago, I was fairly sure, I'd only have been able to pick up that the signature belonged to a person of some sort. With my new efforts in fine-tuning the results, I'd been able to tell that said person was young, female, not particularly magically powerful, and scared. Scared not in the sense of immediate panic, but in a dull, hopeless way, as though she'd been trapped in a bad situation for so long the fear had sunk into her bones.

It was a feeling I was familiar with from the inside, for reasons I didn't care to think about, and (I was forced to admit) my sympathy had overwhelmed my sense. I'd had my lockpicks out before I knew it.

"Ah," Edwinna said. "I take it this is where the second Redoran comes into the picture."

*****


Notes: Hello! Corprus is very dangerous and considered infectious, so why are people ill with it left to make their own way across the island to try to get to a place with, as mentioned above, zero fast-travel connections? Do we really think telling people sick with it "oh, you'll just have to swim there" is going to help them self-quarantine and prevent the spread of the disease? In Adrynverse, we attempt to be a little more organised about these things... although tbh I think Adryn herself was not all that happy about this fact when she found out.


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SubRosa
post Mar 1 2020, 02:57 PM
Post #462


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Any port in a storm I suppose. Even if this looks like a ship full of monks, or lepers.

It seems that anything Adryn does has a great potential to go incredibly wrong... biggrin.gif

I liked the boat to Divayth Fyr's. It is amazing how role playing game designers expect people to swim across oceans all the time to get anywhere.

Good thing Adryn is there to provide a voice of sanity! Your delicious humor really makes this story sing.


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haute ecole rider
post Mar 1 2020, 10:54 PM
Post #463


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I remember the ferry boat in Teresa's Universe! and yes, it's really irritating that we are expected to swim across open bodies of water in full heavy metal gear to get to a required destination . . .


Not unique to Morrowind. Not unique. At. All.

Loved how Edwinna slowly lost her interest in the story and gave way to despair. Hee!


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ghastley
post Mar 3 2020, 07:31 PM
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And yet, as the player character, you get only two chances to catch corprus, and one of them breaks the MQ, so you don't want to use that one. Considering how much contact the game expect that character to have with infected people, it's a very low rate of infection. Come to think of it, that second option may involve the only character who's not either disease-free, or a fully developed victim.

On the other hand, Morrowind's PC is rather unique when it comes to corprus, so maybe that doesn't mean anything.

And Adryn is a special case, anyway. biggrin.gif

This post has been edited by ghastley: Mar 3 2020, 07:41 PM


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Kazaera
post Mar 8 2020, 10:38 AM
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@everyone - I know, right? Some realism please! (This is something Morrowind arguably did better than Skyrim, since the lack of fast travel meant you did actually have a decent number of boat, silt strider and teleportation connection between cities... but it made the exceptions more glaringly obvious.)

@SubRosa - Adryn has the misfortune to have a writer who thinks she's hilarious when her plans go wrong biggrin.gif but yeah, in-universe, it's starting to get a bit ridiculous. We'll see some of the consequences of that later this chapter.

@haute ecole rider - Edwinna's internal monologue started well and ended "why did I think it was a good idea to ask. Just. Why."

@ghastley - I've never quite understood the logistics behind corprus as an illness for exactly that reason. I have a suspicion that the spread involves not just you coming into contact with an infected person[/monster], ash creature or ash statue but a Dagoth's conscious decision to infect you somehow, and so the rate of contagion is very low but there and the healers and researchers can't work out the mechanism by which it spreads. I don't actually know when I'll be able to go into detail on this in the story, but in Adrynverse I definitely contrast it with the Blight, which is "standard" contagious and definitely less severe but still bears some of the hallmarks.

Last installment, Adryn explained how in the process of fleeing Sadrith Mora she and her compatriots accidentally wound up in Tel Fyr by plague ship. Thankfully, none of them caught corprus - however, neither the captain nor the inhabitants of Tel Fyr were too amused, and now they're stuck exploring the tower because there's no boat back. Adryn protested and grumbled this mightily, but in the end did her own exploration when she detected a person behind a locked door. Let's see who she found.

Chapter 20.4
*****


The lock of the door snicked open to reveal a Dunmer girl, probably around Nartise's age, blinking at us in confusion. Her eyes went from my face to Tenyeminwe's. When they reached the third member of our group, recognition sparked.

"Nartise? What are you doing here?"

"Delyna?" was Nartise's response. "What – all right, that's definitely my line! Where have you been, your father's been going out of his mind with worry-"

"I..." A guilty expression came over the girl's face. "I was going to spy on the Telvanni for Father."

It was possibly unfair of me, considering I'd heard all of two sentences' worth of explanation, but I still felt confident that this plan had not been particularly well thought-out.

Judging by her expression, Nartise felt the same. "And you decided to start with Divayth Fyr? Of all possible people?"

"It's- I- I overheard Father worrying that he was developing political ambitions. Because his former apprentice is now on the Council – Master Aryon, you know?"

"Believe it or not, Delyna, much like any Redoran with more brains than a kwama I know the major players of House Telvanni-"

"Well, Father thought it was worth worrying about! And I'd heard that Fyr's tower is open to the public, so I thought it'd be easy to poke around a bit..." The girl – Delyna? - heaved a sigh. "It was at the start, but almost the moment I went into an area marked 'restricted' this woman caught me. Bound me with a spell before I could react. She, er, she locked me in here saying I should spend some time to think about my actions... and then they left me there. I don't actually know how long it's been."

Nartise groaned. "Leave a note or something next time, will you? I lost your trail in Sadrith Mora, thought you were somewhere in Tel Naga. Got myself... temporarily inconvenienced looking for you. It's pure luck we ended up here, really."

"Luck I could do with more of." The girl looked up at me and Tenyeminwe, who'd been following the conversation in appalled silence. "Um, hello! I'm Delyna Mandas. Thanks for rescuing me."

"I. Sure. You're welcome," I said blankly, then my mind caught up to events. "Are you- you're a Redoran, aren't you."

"Yes! My father is Arethan Mandas, I'm sure he'll reward you-"

"How do you people keep getting kidnapped."

"...excuse me?"

*****


"I swear," I ranted, "I am going to start another class. How Not To Get Kidnapped, run by Adryn, open to all and any children of Redoran nobility. My credentials are that I've somehow managed to avoid getting kidnapped thus far, unlike what sounds like all of them."

"I'm sure it's a good idea." I couldn't help but feel Edwinna wasn't quite taking this seriously. The corner of her mouth was twitching in a rather suspicious fashion, for one. "So... that's indeed where you found the other Redoran. A good thing you picked her up as well, by the way – her father has always been a rather highly-strung sort, and gossip had it he was all set to abandon his position and run off to do something no doubt exceptionally reckless with his men-at-arms. But, I have to ask – I'm still not clear on where Tel Vos fits in."

I heaved a sigh. "Well, we ended up needing to leave Tel Fyr in... rather a hurry. I did tell them I had a bad feeling about that door, but Nartise insisted... anyway, as luck would have it I spotted a propylon index on a nearby dresser at around the time the clannfear materialized. At that point, I figured our life expectancy would be higher in some random Chimer fortress, especially when the fireballs started expanding-"

Edwinna looked as though she was going to some effort to avoid asking. "So it sounds like your study of the propylon network is coming along very well," she said instead.

"What? Oh – fairly well, yes. I'm still working out the link between them – there is one, I can feel it, even if I haven't been able to get it to react – but I can consistently use the indexes to teleport to each chamber. A good thing, too, because Indoranyon was a lot less dangerous than Tel Fyr. I mean, there was the one angry Altmer mage, but he calmed down when he saw Tenyeminwe. Apparently they knew each other from somewhere."

More to the point, there'd been a distinct lack of horrible shambling ash-beasts – although I had to admit I hadn't investigated the fortress to make certain.

"Indoranyon." Edwinna's brows drew together in thought. "That's... where is that again?"

"On Azura's Coast. Not that far from Vos, actually. Tenyeminwe wanted to go there from the start, and since neither me nor the Redorans had a better plan, we just headed there. Passed through Tel Vos on the way." Edwinna, I decided, didn't really need to know about the other detours involved. "You know, every time I feel like I've seen the strangest architecture Morrowind has to offer, it produces something new. I'm a little afraid what it's going to be next."

To all appearances, Tel Vos had started off as an Imperial fort, much like Castle Dour back in Solitude or Fort Moonmoth near Balmora... except that at some point, a Telvanni wizard had come along and decided, as I was beginning to realise was typical for Telvanni, that it would look far better with more mushrooms. Nartise had said it was considered a sign of pro-Imperial sympathies on the Master's part. Personally, the thick roots punching their way through stonework and housing pods looking down on the ramparts had struck me as more of a metaphor for Telvanni supremacy, but I hadn't argued.

"I've heard about Tel Vos, yes," Edwinna told me. "Not seen it myself because, you understand, as a Mages' Guild member I'm reluctant to go wandering around the Telvanni regions." She gave me a pointed look.

"Yes, rub it in, why don't you." I took a breath. "Although I'd like to point out that after that, there was very little wandering around at all! Tenyeminwe went to the chapel in Vos, and was I must say remarkably ungrateful for the fact that I'd escorted her not just to the docks but all the way to her final destination-"

"I can't imagine why."

"-and me, Nartise and Dal... Del... whatever the other one's name was again took a boat from Vos to Dagon Fel to Khuul, and the strider from there back to Ald'ruhn. No adventure involved, unless you count Nartise discovering she gets seasick." I was forced to admit to some malicious pleasure at the last. Nartise and I had not gotten on – it was probably a Redoran thing.

"Of course. A very uneventful trip, I'm sure. Although, for the record? I suggest you remember 'the other one's' name when your father approaches you to thank you for her rescue."

"Or he could not. Let's do that instead."

"Now, leaving your adventures aside for the moment-"

I was perfectly agreeable to this, and would be delighted to extend for the moment to for the rest of forever. In fact, my main complaint was why Edwinna couldn't have taken this stance from the start.

"-it's good you got back when you did, Adryn. I'm leaving for a conclave on the mainland in a few days and will be gone for two weeks. I'd like to make sure you're all set for duties before I go..."

Edwinna elaborated, I nodded and made agreeing noises at the right intervals. The tasks she had in mind for me were primarily academic in nature, with yet more books Edwinna wanted me to read through along with a report on the structure of the Dwemer government in Vvardenfell she'd like me to have done when she got back. I was also, she informed me, free to continue my work on propylon indexes, since I'd been making such excellent progress with them. Was I familiar with the little table in the corner of the enchanter's workroom yet? It boasted some very fine-grained magicka analysis spells, and Edwinna was certain Tanar wouldn't mind me making use of them if I was careful...

Glaringly conspicuous by their absence were any suggested duties that would require me to leave so much as the guild hall, never mind Ald'ruhn. All things considered, I really couldn't blame Edwinna for that.

*****


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haute ecole rider
post Mar 10 2020, 02:23 AM
Post #466


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QUOTE(Kazaera @ Mar 8 2020, 04:38 AM) *

Glaringly conspicuous by their absence were any suggested duties that would require me to leave so much as the guild hall, never mind Ald'ruhn. All things considered, I really couldn't blame Edwinna for that.
*****


Thank the Three! No more traveling around getting into *ahem* adventures!

However, the sentence just prior to that gives me a faint sense of foreboding . . .

blink.gif tongue.gif


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SubRosa
post Mar 10 2020, 06:52 PM
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How Not To Get Kidnapped sounds like a great idea for a class! biggrin.gif As always, I love Adryn's sense of humor.

Handy use of an Indice indeed! Adryn sure gets around Vvardenfell!

We can only hope that Adryn is not careful, and ends up leaving the guild hall, and Ald'ruhn... wink.gif


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Kazaera
post Mar 15 2020, 12:18 AM
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@haute ecole rider - what do you mean? Surely Adryn will just quietly and obediently stay around the guild! No adventures will be had at all! Spoilers: the rest of the story is just her Dwemer research notes. blink.gif

@SubRosa - Adryn has no idea what you are talking about, this is SERIOUS BUSINESS. There is nothing funny about this. This class is vitally necessary! Have you seen Redoran kidnap rates, oh my god.

And yep, that was an index at exactly the right place and time! Propylon indices are a nice new exciting way to explore Vvardenfell, which would be lovely for Adryn if she were interested in doing that. ...also, I need to figure out if I'm going to listen to my mathematical roots and use "indices" for the plural or do the sensible thing and go with "indexes", I don't think I've been consistent.

Last installment, Adryn finished her tale of adventure on Azura's Coast, which Edwinna was clearly regretting asking about. She strongly recommended Adryn stick to academical research in the guild hall, which Adryn herself will be delighted to start on.

But before we see how that goes, she needs to sleep, and dream...

Chapter 20.5
*****


The blade whistled over my head, close enough I suspected the slash had taken some of my hair with it. I didn't wait for the Nord to recover from his lunge. My return stroke ripped into his stomach, my next mercifully slashed his throat. As he crumpled I danced away to face my next opponent.

He immediately showed himself, a figure even taller than Dumac clad in carved steel armour and hefting an axe. Gloomily, I noted that the armour included greaves and a helm. No, this warrior would not be nearly as easy to take down as his fur-clad predecessor.

Faster than I expected, he struck. I spun to the side just in time, only for him to dodge away from my follow-up stroke. Oh, this wasn't fair at all. A Nord that size clad in armour that heavy should be a lumbering brute – how was it that he was quick, too?

We circled each other, flakes of ash puffing up from our steps. The rest of the battlefield seemed to have grown quiet, the two of us in a bubble of silence all our own. He feinted; I declined to fall for it. I retaliated with a swipe – he deflected my spear-blade with the haft of his axe. Stalemate.

Then, my opponent inhaled.

At the beginning of the war, it would have gone badly for me at that point. However, at this point in time I'd spent years fighting the Nords' best, years going over each battle after it happened. Dumac and I had sat up late into the night time and again poring over their thum, their strange magic cast with the voice alone. Somewhere in my pack was a whole precious notebook full of the strange words and what they brought, each and every one learned the hard way.

As a result, I threw myself desperately to the side the instant I heard that intake of breath, too deep and too loud, as though air were being drawn into bellows the size of a centurion. By the time even FUS left the Nord's mouth, air pulsing with power, I was already well out of the way. The blast that escaped after the RO DAH missed me by feet in favour of slamming into a Dwemer who'd been fighting behind me. I winced as the woman went flying.

"He's a Tongue!" I shouted, with significantly less magical force than my opponent. "Stay away! Leave him to me!"

We'd also learned the hard way that taking on one of the voice-magicians in a group often resulted in high casualties. Far better if a single warrior took them on, one who was highly agile, with excellent reflexes and a great deal of experience fighting against the thum.

Five one thousand, six one thousand...

One of the things a great deal of experience taught you being roughly how long they needed to recover between Shouts.

Unfortunately for me, the Nord remained an excellent warrior even without his magic,
parrying my searching thrusts with ease. One stab did make its way past his guard, but glanced off his armour. The recoil sent a shock up my arms. With it, the sensation of magicka: the armour was enchanted, with some sort of strengthening spell. No wonder he moved fast in it.

He couldn't get close enough to attack, not against my weapon's longer reach, but I couldn't get past that armour. By rights, the fight should drag on until one of us made a mistake.

Except there was the one factor.

Twenty thousand, one-and-twenty... Soon he'd be ready to Shout again. I tensed, wondering what the man would throw at me next.

But when the Nord opened his mouth to speak, there was no magic in his voice.

"I didn't realise any of you fjeigvaring elves had the honour for a proper holmgang."

I would have liked to laugh bitterly, but I needed my breath. I made do with baring my teeth at the man.

"Honour? Oh, say more about honour, northman." My own, distinctly nonmagical voice should make my contempt clear, but Nords were often thick about these things and I was an indifferent speaker of their language at best. I spat to ensure my opponent couldn't miss my disgust.

Beneath the helm, I could see the eyes – far too round and an alien, icy blue – widen. "I am one of the most powerful Tongues, master of the thu'um, friend to the Braedrahjaf Joerrvaskr, a warrior of honour-"

"Oh? Then tell me, warrior of honour, for what you fight?"

The man faltered. Only for an instant, too brief to capitalise on, but I saw it and pushed my advantage home.

"You fight for burn our villages? Kill our elders and children, steal our things? Hunt the Dwemer in their homes? I cannot see the honour in this things. Cannot see your warrior gods approve to them. But, as you say," I threw the full force of my contempt into the words in hopes it would cross the language barrier, "I am only an elf, I do not understand of such things. So, northman. Please. Tell me."

The man took a step back, hands clenching around his axe. His mouth worked silently, his eyes fixed on mine-

Not on my weapon.

Quick as thought, I spun my spear up, driving it towards the unprotected skin of his throat. He was distracted, unbalanced, in no position to dodge-

FEIM!

Just before the point made contact, the man's outline blurred, becoming ghostly and transparent as though he were an ancestor spirit. My own eyes widened in shock as the spear went straight through him with no resistance at all.

Well, that was a new one.

Having seen that he wouldn't be able to dodge, I'd put my all into that strike. I was paying for that misjudgement now. There was no way to recover my balance – all I had was a split second to tuck myself in.

Here, my own armour paid off. Chitin might not offer the protection of Dwemer armour or the plate the Nord was wearing, but it was light enough I managed to turn the fall into a roll. I came back up in a crouch, hand reaching out to grasp the spear I'd dropped when I hit the ground. Still, I lost precious moments to my folly, got to my feet just in time to see the man shimmering back into the physical realm.

"Witch-elf," he growled. "Trying to enfenge me with your lies, eh. Well, I won't listen."

Witch? I'd heard heksa often enough to be sure that was the correct translation, but only one of us was using magic in this fight and it wasn't me.

Although, really, that was an idea.

Not that I could Shout in the way of my opponent. Oh, I'd tried to learn it. The rumours had it Tongues spent a decade or more learning their craft, but I liked to think I was smarter than the Nords... and there was something strangely familiar about the language, something that made me think I should be able to pick it up. To no avail, unfortunately. I suspected I was missing some key component.

But, I thought as I circled my opponent, there were other types of magic.

I discarded my birth-sign with barely a second thought. The ability was reckless enough one-on-one – if I used it in the middle of a battlefield, either the enemy would kill me or Sil would.

Sil would be expecially unimpressed as he had taught me a range of useful spells to take its place.

Careful timing would be the key here. I didn't want the man to dodge into insubstantiality again, after all. And so I waited, using my weapon's superior reach to keep my enemy at a distance, until he lost patience.

FO KRAH DIIN!

The burst of cold along my arm told me I hadn't dodged the frost blast entirely. Still, my grip on my spear held, and I could even shift it fully so that my other hand was free. A minor injury at most, to be addressed after the battle. Not enough to foil my plans.

The instant the cold faded away, I struck.

The Nord saw his danger barely in time, jerking away so that the fireball splashed against his shoulder rather than hitting his face. Sadly, it looked like luck wasn't on my side, because the only real damage seemed to be a scorch-mark. He also didn't drop his weapon or lose his stance, and the look in his eyes as he stared at me was anger rather than pain.

"Witch," he spat again. "And I thought you-" The rest of the sentence was obscured by grammar (Nordic made talking about things one didn't believe true unnecessarily complicated, in my opinion) but I got the gist. He'd thought I was an honourable warrior, and now I had cheated by using magic.

Oh, how I wished I knew their word for hypocrite. I would have to paraphrase.

"So I throw fire you, it is a cheat. You throw cold me, it is a fair fight? I admit to not understand of this." I flourished my spear so its butt tapped the cracked ground to my left, where frost still bloomed across the ground. You started it, the gesture said.

Inexplicably, that accusation broke through his guard. I didn't understand why – surely even a child, even a Nord could see the parallels between our actions – but his eyes widened, he took a step back.

"I... The thu'um is not..."

I saw something behind him and briefly had to suppress a triumphant smile. All I had to do was keep him distracted – but our conversation was doing that nicely enough.

"Not the same?" I asked, taking a careful step forward. "Same to me. Same to my people. If you to burn a Wise Woman's yurt, you think she cares if you to cast spell or shout yol?"

Those tenses definitely weren't right, but judging by the wince the Nord understood me anyway. He took another step back. I followed, taking care not to slip on frost. Come on, just a little further...

"My people do not-!"

"They do." My voice was colder than the ground underfoot. "They did. I saw them."

Back. Forward. "It's- it's different, it's-"

Back-

Even as the Nord stumbled on the ridge of rock he'd backed into, I was already in motion. A small part of me held back, ready for my lunge to connect with only air – we'd talked for a while, enough for his magic to recover, he might Shout himself untouchable again-

But the Nord realised his danger a crucial second too late, and the sweep of my spear took his teetering legs out from under him while he was still inhaling. He crashed into the ground like a felled tree, the collected power dissipating harmlessly into the air as the impact blew the breath from his lungs. Unlike me, he did not get up again.

I took a step back, gripping my spear in both hands. Readying myself.

I always found this part distasteful, but there was nothing for it – I couldn't leave him behind to come at me again. I'd have to finish him off while he was helpless-

"Nerevar!"

Dumac?

*****


Notes: Dragon souls, Nerevar. The thing you're missing is dragon souls.

This two-part section is probably to blame for, like, three months of the delay to getting this chapter posted, because egads how do I write combat scenes I am so far out of my depth I think I'm floating over the Mariana Trench. I hope it came across as halfway plausible (I tried to research it but a lot of the time that ended in "so if Nerevar is facing a foe in full armour he's screwed, and also why do any of these people use any weapon other than spears??"). It was a bear to write but also weirdly fun, because I'd read a lot of Skyrim fic at this point and it was an interesting reversal to have all the Shouting done by the enemy.

I did make it up to myself by indulging my linguistics geek more than I normally do. "Nordic" is basically made out of taking my native German, Google-translated Icelandic/Norwegian/Swedish/Danish and the in-game names of people and places and sticking them all into a blender with a healthy dash of imagination... and I had a lot of fun with making Nerevar's dialogue reflect his imperfect command of the language.


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treydog
post Mar 15 2020, 05:50 PM
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The only good thing about getting behind with the reading is the getting to catch up... which then leaves me in the position of having to wait for more story. You just can't please some dachshunds.... tongue.gif

QUOTE
I was beginning to think that if he decided the Oghma Infinium would look good on his shelves, it would be there within weeks.


And Trey would be right there trying to outbid Adryn for the first look....

QUOTE
I wouldn't inflict a Command spell on anyone if my life depended on it. That extended to all the other mind-altering spells as well. Charm, Calm, Frenzy, Rally... whatever the effect, I wasn't going to take away someone's free will like that.

After all, I knew what it was like.


These are the moments we love Adryn the most.

Starting the chapter after the events about to be described took place is brilliant ... it gives Adryn so much more space to wibble and fidget and rationalize....

And her past... experiences... with the Thieves' Guild lead to more complications. Most delicious.

QUOTE
"Outlander," she'd whispered, "know that House Telvanni always welcomes those with talent and ambition. If you wish to join us, speak to the Mouths at the Council Hall." I obviously had no intention of taking up the invitation (honestly, as if Athyn Sarethi hadn't been bad enough!) but I still thought it might give the wrong impression.


Adryn as Telvanni? I think I just boggled. (Not actually sure what that involves, but it probably has something to do with the brain flopping onto its back, kicking its legs a few times and then fainting. Or else it's a word game distributed by Parker Bros.)

QUOTE
Tenyeminwe grew even more tense when we were on the streets, to the point where I was relatively sure that if I poked her she'd jump straight out of her skin. (After once again considering guild harmony, I decided not to test that theory.)


But the fact that she thought of the idea tells us that Adryn is not 100% reformed.....

QUOTE
"See, like I said, she rescued herself. I had nothing to do with it. I protested quite strongly when she dragged us along, in fact."

"I'm sure you did, Adryn." At least Edwinna sounded sympathetic. "Although I have to admit, I still don't understand how you ended up at Tel Fyr."


blink.gif

QUOTE
"We're on a plague ship for corprus."


Uh-oh?

QUOTE
Personally, I wasn't sure I'd term it open invitation. I distinctly remembered Alfe Fyr saying something along the lines of Father finds adventurers amusing, he only incinerates three out of ten.


Yes, definitely “uh-oh.”

QUOTE
With my new efforts in fine-tuning the results, I'd been able to tell that said person was young, female, not particularly magically powerful, and scared. Scared not in the sense of immediate panic, but in a dull, hopeless way, as though she'd been trapped in a bad situation for so long the fear had sunk into her bones.

It was a feeling I was familiar with from the inside, for reasons I didn't care to think about, and (I was forced to admit) my sympathy had overwhelmed my sense. I'd had my lockpicks out before I knew it.


But she wouldn't make a good Redoran- nope. Not at all. Purely self-interested....

QUOTE
"How do you people keep getting kidnapped."


Adryn's heartfelt indignation had me rolling on the floor. Because the best humor has a large element of truth....

And another most excellent flash-back! The combat comes across as quite plausible to me- I could see the events happening as you describe them.




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SubRosa
post Mar 16 2020, 02:25 PM
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I like "Indices" better than "Indexes", it just looks neater on the page.

Oooh, we know what the Fus Ro Dah means!

An exciting flashback to one of the Battles of Red Mountain. The first one I am thinking. There are so many it is hard to keep track of them. I think the second one was Dunmer vs. Dwemer. Though I could be wrong.

I liked your use of Nord words, it really added more than flavor. It made it plain that Never and the Nord came from truly different cultures, with different values and viewpoints.



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ghastley
post Mar 16 2020, 02:42 PM
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It's the little things in here that I like. The way Nerevar knows that yol means fire in a shout, even though the Nord might not, since he hasn't tried using it.

And keep up the generic Nordic. I spoke fluent foreign once, so I know how much the region likes to mix the languages, especially near borders. Ever played quadrilingual Scrabble, where each player has to use words from a different language, that is not his/her own? You need a stack of dictionaries for that, but it's fun. Once you get past the arguments over which sack of tiles to use. It's a big disadvantage when one of the letters is missing, or there's an extra you can't use. biggrin.gif


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Kazaera
post Mar 22 2020, 11:34 PM
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Almost forgot to update this!

@treydog - thank you so much for the detailed comment!! and I'm glad you too liked Adryn adventures, flashback edition. For what it's worth, I think Athyn Sarethi would have the same reaction as you re: Adryn and Telvanni...

@SubRosa - OK, mathematical plural it is! wink.gif And I'm glad you liked the faux-Nordic - you're right that there's a huge culture clash here, and we'll be seeing more of that this update.

@ghastley - Nerevar has made A Study of Shouts, as - he'd argue - is only sensible if your enemy uses some strange magic. He probably knows more Shouts than some Tongues, at this point, and feim is going straight into the notebook after this. Also, quadrilingual Scrabble sounds great and I want to try it sometime. (I've also always wanted to try German scrabble with an English set or vice versa, but nobody wanted to play it with me. sad.gif) Parts of this section were definitely heavily influenced by my recent experiences learning Spanish, go team foreign language learning.

Last installment, Nerevar faced off against a Tongue in the middle of a battle and managed to bring him down. He was just about to kill the man when he was interrupted by Dumac. Let's see what that's about...

Chapter 20.6
*****


My fight had taken almost all my focus, with barely enough attention paid to my surroundings to make certain I wasn't about to be stabbed in the back. Coming out of the battle-rush now felt like surfacing, blinking, from a pool, as the rest of the world began to filter back in.

And, as it turned out, it had changed in the time I'd been submerged.

The sound of battle, of war-cries shouted over the clash of weapons, was gone. The moans of the wounded and dying remained, but they were mixed with broken cheers. Cheers in Chimeris, for the most part, some Dwemeris as well. And indeed, as my eyes scanned the battle-field, I found these were near the only two peoples I could see. There were only few figures left standing in Nordic gear, and all of them had their heads bent in defeat.

"We... won?"

Dumac had reached me now, a fact he decided to celebrate by one large gauntleted hand clapping me on my back with enough force to almost send me to my knees. "We did, friend! The pincer attack worked perfectly, the remnants of their army are in full retreat. It only remains to gather our wounded, the fallen... and see to our prisoners."

Our eyes both went to the figure sprawled on the ground before me.

My erstwhile opponent had propped himself up on one arm. Judging by the expression on his face, he'd been going through the same thought process as me.

"My people lost?" Then, after a pause, "I lost?"

He sounded incredulous, disbelieving. For some reason, I couldn't muster much in the way of sympathy.

"I saw the end of your fight," Dumac said to me. He didn't bother to keep his voice low – almost none of the Nords spoke Chimeris. "He's a Tongue, no? Safest to kill him now." His hand dropped to his dagger.

Generally, we tried not to kill our prisoners. Most we took as slaves. Some, those we felt certain would not take up arms against us again, we sent back. Sul had been talking about arranging ransoms, although I had to doubt the Nords were civilized enough for such a matter. The Tongues, however, were an exception – too dangerous to keep captive, or to risk their returning in vengeance, the few we'd managed to bring down we executed after the battle.

I let my eyes trail over the battlefield again. As far as I could see the dead lay strewn on the ground. Cliff-racers wheeled overhead, beady eyes trained on their meal. In places, they'd already descended. A breeze blew my way, carrying the scent of blood and feces with it.

I was so tired of killing.

It spoke to how well Dumac knew me by now that the thought had barely begun to take hold when he apparently read it off my face. Or so I surmised based on his groan. "Really, Nerevar?"

I ignored him in favour of making my way to stand over my fallen opponent. I kept a hand on my spear, a wary ear out for the inhale of the thum, but although his eyes tracked me as I approached the man didn't attack. Nor did he make any move to get up.

Any other time I'd have enjoyed the sensation of looking down at one of the Nords (one that, thanks to our respective heights, was distinctly unfamiliar.) Not now, however. It was as though there was no room left in me for more emotion, all drowned out by a strange cold fury rising within me.

So many dead, over the course of this war. So many of my own people, of the Dwemer. So many of the Nords, even, our three races alike in death.

What an utter, unforgiveable waste.

"You yield?" My voice didn't sound like mine, low and deadly. I let my spear drop until the blade was resting lightly against the Tongue's throat, kept it kissing his skin as the man swallowed.

"I... I do." Less anger than I was expecting, in its place sheer disbelief. As though the Tongue found it inconceivable that he could be beaten, the physical reality of the matter aside.

A flash of gold from the corner of my eye, the groan of metal to my left. Whatever his private misgivings, Dumac was still coming to stand beside me.

"I am Indoril Nerevar, and this is my ally Dumac." I took a deep breath. "Tell me, Tongue, why your people attack us."

At first, the man didn't respond, simply staring up at us blankly. I pressed the spear a little tighter, in warning.

"I... I have no good explanation. I thought..." I let my spear drift back a little as he swallowed, throat bobbing. A thin red line showed where the blade had rested. "I thought it was an honourable battle, a herlige conquest in Kyne's name. But if Kyne were truly in favour, why would she let me lose?"

My gaze jumped up from the Nord to meet Dumac's, both of us united in confusion. I did not expect Lord Boethiah to fight my battles for me – no, if my skill faltered, they would justly turn their back. Dumac, of course, believed only in the strength of his arms and people. Neither of us would take a loss in combat as anything more than a signal to train harder.

Well, we'd always known the barbarians had strange beliefs. The details weren't that important now... except in how I could turn them to my favour.

"So you think to fight is not just, now?" I probed.

"I must, though it be hard to slykja."

The unfamiliar word was clear from context. I inhaled, feeling more nervous than I had during the whole fight. Not that much of a surprise, in truth, because I hadn't had time to be nervous – had been forced to give my all to keep up with the Tongue. If things had gone just a hair differently, I'd be the one on the ground now.

Should I be wrong about this, I'd be releasing a very dangerous enemy.

But I didn't think the man at my mercy had much deception in him. And should I be was right...

Well. Should I be right, the payoff might yet be enormous.

"If I to let you free," I ignored the disapproval radiating off Dumac at my side, "you go tell your comrades to not fight?"

The man squeezed his eyes shut, as though in pain, but his answer came quickly. "Yes. I... we must have done wrong, for Kyne to take back her favour. We must besinjan to find the correct path."

"Very well." The nervousness was gone as though it had never been. My decision was made, my die thrown. Only time would tell what side it would show in the end. "You... what is your name?"

"Jurgen Wind-hruvir, jarl Nerevar."

A jarl was something like an ashkhan, wasn't it? A good sign, if he'd come to view me as a leader. A sign this might actually work.

"Jurgen of clan Wind-hruvir," I said as I stepped back, "I let you free for return your home. I expect you speak with the other Tongues, make them leave us alone. If you to not be honest, if I to see you fight again..." I tightened my grip on my spear, put all the frozen death of the northlands into my voice as I continued. "You regret it."

The man dropped his eyes. "I understand and obey, jarl."

Fersta og folyda. I'd heard that phrase uttered many times as the Nords trampled our lands. I'd never dreamed it would one day be said to me.

I'd planned to accompany the man out of the battlefield, to keep any of mine or Dumac's forces from attacking him, but it was not to be. He got to his feet, nodded at me while thumping his chest in what I knew to be some strange Nordic expression of respect, and then-

WULD NAH KEST!

-even as I threw myself to the side in reflex, he vanished from sight to reappear on the next ridge over.

"I hope that was a good idea," Dumac murmured as we watched the man follow after his retreating people.

"I'm skeptical too," I admitted in a voice as low as his. "But he didn't strike me as deceptive. And imagine if it pays off! You know how the Nords view the Tongues. One preaching the war is unjust – it might cut the next ship-load of warriors in half all on its own."

"In a far less bloody way than we usually cut them to size. Yes, I can see why the plan appeals to you."

I flinched. My distaste for violence was something I tried to keep under wraps, as it was not a valuable trait for the leader of what was, by now, an army. Quite the opposite – many of those who followed me would likely think twice about it, if they knew how much my heart rebelled at the slaughter of war. But Dumac knew me well enough that there was little I could keep hidden from him.

"Well, we shall have to hope that it works out. I would be skeptical, but your plans do have a way of working out even when none would expect them to." I felt blood rise into my cheeks at Dumac's faith in me. "In fact, I shall borrow your optimism and say that perhaps, there will be no need at all, because perhaps there will be no reinforcements! Perhaps we have broken them here and they will flee all the way back to their lands."

I had to grin at Dumac's words. "The great battle of Red Mountain, eh? It has a ring to it."

"One for the history books, if you ask me. Now come! Battle or skirmish, we have won a great victory today. Tonight we will celebrate, and I insist that you take part!" Dumac's eyes twinkled. "Perhaps I will even finally get to see you drunk."

I pulled a face. "I doubt it, friend. Especially as before we celebrate, I must see to the casualties, the wounded-"

"-and a healer. Don't think I haven't noticed you favouring your left arm."

I'd been trying to put the angry ache that had replaced the freezing cold out of my mind. But- "It's just a minor wound," I told Dumac. "The healers have more urgent work to do."

"Perhaps, but after the cave-in incident I'd like to hear that from someone with training-"

"That was one time!"

Arguing, we made our way back towards the rest of our armies, putting the Tongue out of our minds.

*****


Notes: Given Jurgen Windcaller's backstory, I simply could not resist bringing him into the flashbacks in order to get Nerevar's point of view on the whole thing. This also made the fight scene harder, because I had to have Nerevar not just win but win in such a way that Jurgen would respect, so that he could end up with his entire worldview overthrown and wander off to found the Way of the Voice. I discarded a lot of magical strategies because of that, and did still end up with Nerevar luring Jurgen into a trap - just one that Jurgen would accept as fair play!

Also, apologies for my unabashed Dumac favouritism. I promise soon we'll see a little more Tribunal in these things.


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haute ecole rider
post Mar 23 2020, 05:06 PM
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I quite enjoyed these flashback sequences (thought technically they're not flashbacks as they're not Adryn's experiences but those of a long gone historical figure). It was neat to see Jurgen Windcaller here, and interesting to see him defeated and reconsidering the Way of the Voice. I wonder if that started him on the path to recreating the Way of the Voice to something we are familiar with from TESV?

Please continue updating this story! I love it!

I quite enjoyed these flashback sequences (thought technically they're not flashbacks as they're not Adryn's experiences but those of a long gone historical figure). It was neat to see Jurgen Windcaller here, and interesting to see him defeated and reconsidering the Way of the Voice. I wonder if that started him on the path to recreating the Way of the Voice to something we are familiar with from TESV?

Please continue updating this story! I love it!


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ghastley
post Mar 23 2020, 05:18 PM
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Is Scrabble actually possible in German? Most of the fun words I know run off the edge of the board, and take more tiles than you're allowed to have at one time.

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At this point in the story, I'm not sure whether they count as flashbacks or not. If Adryn is a potential Nerevarine, then they could become flashbacks later? And do prior lives count, even then? Only the author may decide. tongue.gif

As for Jurgen, well, somebody had to do it. And the big event of the era is the most likely time and place. If we take his self-confidence as well-earned, then it would take a Nerevar to bust him out of it. And maybe a Dumac, too.

Now, what going on now? Adryn usually has these musings just before doing something that proves ... interesting.

This post has been edited by ghastley: Mar 23 2020, 05:20 PM


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SubRosa
post Mar 24 2020, 11:40 PM
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I was starting to suspect that Nord with the tongue might be Jugsy Windmaker himself. That was an exciting battle, with an uncertain ending.

It says a lot about Nerevar that he did not want to kill the prisoners on simply moral grounds. Jurgen himself comes out much the poorer in comparison. Not because he lost the fight. As Nerevar himself mused, it could have easily gone the other way. But because he simply cannot accept failing. He strikes me as one of those people who have always been gifted, and because of that never had to really apply themselves. Never failed, and failed again, and failed again, and learned that it is not the end of the world. A lot of people really do crumble when they come to that, if they have not learned the hard way to persevere.

I enjoyed the obvious friendship between Dumac and Nerever. It will make things all the more bitter when things fall apart between them.



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Kazaera
post Mar 29 2020, 02:27 PM
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@haute ecole rider - it's interesting you and also ghastley say it's not clear they count as flashbacks! Something I focused on at the start but have admittedly been taking for granted recently is that all these scenes are occurring in Adryn's head at night and feel like they happened to her (or would, if she could consciously remember them). So, like, on the one hand they're technically not her experiences... but on the other, they really are. If that's been lost to the reader I might need to make it a bit clearer in another scene. Anyway, to me this was 100% the scene that started Jurgen Windcaller on his path to creating the Way of the Voice - it's said that he started that after he was shaken by his defeat at Red Mountain, and I couldn't resist making that personal.

@ghastley - I congratulate your astuteness, noticing that these flashbacks tend to be relevant to what's going in Adryn's life! You're on point, as the next scene should show. smile.gif

also, I know your comment re: Scrabble was a joke but actually I find the differences between German and English scrabble really interesting! In German Scrabble, you can do a lot more building off existing words by extending them via prefixes/declension/conjugation/etc., but you have far fewer short two- or three-letter words and therefore can't build as compactly. I also get the impression the rare letters can be harder to use. All in all, it makes for a fairly different playstyle.

@SubRosa - indeed, I couldn't resist bringing Mr. Nerevar-made-me-rethink-my-entire-life-philosophy in here. smile.gif I think you're fairly on-point with your analysis of him, coupled with the fact that he had this very simplistic "we are righteous and therefore we will win" worldview. Nerevar managed to attack both of those things at once - making him seriously doubt whether they were righteous, then beating him in fair combat - and that shook him to his core.

And panic.gif don't remind me about the way Dumac and Nerevar are going to end! I really love their relationship - like, it sounds like they managed to hold the First Council together mainly through the power of their friendship for four hundred years - and writing the end of it will break my heart. (I mean. I'll still do it, and break yours in the process, but verysad.gif )

*looks up* SO ANYWAY it seems I'm in a chatty mood, which fits because you're also getting a longer-than-usual update - no good break points this time. Further updates may be delayed, as the next chapter is still missing bits and I've been having trouble focusing on writing of late, but I'll do my best.

Last installment, Nerevar defeated Jurgen Windcaller and decided, in the end, to let him go as he seemed genuine in his desire to reflect on what the Tongues had done wrong. I'm sure that's not going to shape the face of Skyrim for millennia to come or anything. Now, back to Adryn...


Chapter 20.7
*****


"Watch your feet," Jamie reminded me. My gaze flicked from her down to the ground to confirm – yes, my feet were indeed in an awkward position. I quickly righted them, the toes of my boots digging into the sand.

"Footwork is the foundation of any fighting discipline," Jamie lectured. "If you don't make sure to position your feet well at all times, your battle is lost already. Now... you were doing well on the blocks and strikes earlier. Are you ready for a basic spar?"

My knuckles were white on the staff. "I don't suppose 'no' is an option?" I tried.

Alas, it was not.

After hearing of my latest adventure, Jamie had insisted I needed to undergo basic combat training. It had been the firmest I'd ever seen her about anything, and I'd found myself in the private Sarethi training grounds before I really knew what was happening. Needless to say, I was less than keen on this turn of events, but all protest had been in vain.

"It'd be downright irresponsible of me to let you keep running around Vvardenfell with no way to defend yourself, considering you're obviously unable to stay out of trouble. The staff is a good choice – cheap, versatile, easy enough to pick up, a classic mage's weapon. Neminda agrees with me, don't you?"

I was also less than keen on the audience. It seemed the Redoran steward Neminda and Jamie had struck up something of a friendship in past weeks, and my doom was sealed when the two started egging each other on regarding my lack of combat skill and how such a thing must be remedied immediately. Athyn Sarethi had professed himself curious, and considering that we were borrowing his family's private training hall it was hard to argue against his presence – I should probably be glad Varvur hadn't shown up. Why Methal was attending, on the other hand, was entirely beyond me, but he was watching the goings-on with every evidence of entertainment and had ignored all my attempts to get him to go away so far.

"All right. Careful, now. Imagine I'm a bandit on the road, and you need to defend yourself from me."

If I met a bandit on the road, I would do the sensible thing and run away, but arguments to this nature had had no effect so far and I wasn't expecting them to be successful now. With a sigh, I shifted back on my heels and watched Jamie warily.

Jamie struck at me with her own weapon. She did not make a particularly convincing bandit, as the strike was slow enough it would probably be insulting to anyone with any combat ability at all (an august group that did not include me.) I tensed, ready to bring my staff up in the block we'd practiced earlier-

-except that that was straight out of the beginners' exercises, and would leave me in no good position for an attack of my own after. I didn't care to leave control of the fight in my enemy's hands, not when the woman was moving so slowly she was begging for it to be taken away from her.

The woman – the mercenary, perhaps? She was no Nord, not with her strange dark-brown skin and black hair tamed into countless short braids, so what was she doing in Resdayn? I'd try to take her alive to question her, I decided.

I side-stepped, swung my spear to strike at her arm in a bone-breaking move I'd learned from Almalexia-

The world spun. My spear was too light and too heavy at the same time, my limbs too short, my muscles weak and unresponsive as though centuries of training had vanished in an instant, my whole body was wrong-

My opponent drew back, dark eyes wide. She shouted something-

"Adryn? What's wrong?"

-shouted something in a language I'd never heard before as I lost my balance and fell.

I blinked up at the cavernous ceiling of the Sarethi training grounds. "Ow."

Jamie's face swam into view, wearing a concerned expression. "Are you all right?"

I levered myself into a sitting position and took stock. My head was spinning, but the sensation was already fading and when I ran my hand through my hair (and why did I have the strangest feeling it should be shorter on the sides?) I found no lumps or sore spots. "Just bruises," I told Jamie.

"Well, that's a relief. But what on Nirn happened?"

Answering this question proved harder than it should have been, because my recollection of the past minute was unexpectedly fuzzy. "I... I tried to dodge, it was a reflex," I said slowly. "I must have gotten myself tangled up somehow and fallen."

Yes, that must be what had happened. Even if it was still puzzling – along with the power of paralysis, my birthsign gifted me with increased agility. I was used to all things requiring balance coming effortlessly, to say nothing of the fine control over my movements I'd learned for the purpose of stealth. My body hadn't let me down like this in years.

"I suppose." Jamie sounded a little skeptical. "Well, let's try that again. I'll move more slowly – try to parry my attack with the block I showed you this time."

I stood, gritting my teeth. Much though I didn't particularly think these lessons were necessary, it still bit at my pride to be defeated by my own feet well before Jamie even got near me with her weapon. I swore to myself it would go better this time.

It didn't.

Nor did the next, nor did it when Neminda came to take over from Jamie. My reflexes were apparently really quite something, because no matter how much I reminded myself of the blocks we'd practiced, as soon as someone came at me with a weapon of their own I tried doing something else. Inexplicably, 'something else' always ended with me stumbling over air, stepping on my own feet, misjudging the weight of my weapon and smacking myself in the face, or otherwise removing myself from the fight before my opponent could even try. At one point, Athyn Sarethi himself came down to assist, brow creased in concern. His soft voice and calm, clear explanations gave him, I thought, the air of someone who was probably quite a good teacher. If so, it was sadly not enough to outweigh my complete and utter hopelessness.

Only Methal stayed sitting the entire time, watching me flail around with an unreadable expression.

After what felt like half an eternity, I found myself lying on the ground, grit digging into my scalp, feeling rather as though I'd been worked over by a giant. My new nemesis, the stabbing headache, had also made a reappearance.

"I give up," I told the ceiling. "The bandit has defeated me. He can have my money, provided he carries me back to the guild."

My eyesight blurred. For a moment I thought I saw three Nords, clad in carved steel armour, axes at their sides, pale eyes staring down at me with identical grim expressions. Then I blinked, and the eerie figures were replaced by Jamie, Neminda and Sarethi.

"Magic, perhaps?" Sarethi suggested. "I don't like it – I think everyone should have a thorough grounding in basic physical combat skills – but it's become clear Adryn has some... unique challenges in that regard. Training in Destruction magic would at least not leave her defenseless."

Perhaps, I considered, this was all a dastardly plot. Because a few hours ago, if Sarethi had suggested I learn to fling fireballs at something I would have protested just as vehemently as I had the staff combat lessons. However, now – with my body one solid bruise – I'd welcome any activity that mainly involved standing still.

"I wouldn't recommend it." A figure in robes joined the others – it looked as though Methal had decided to involve himself in matters after all. "Relying solely on magic in combat is difficult. One hears tales of long-lasting armour spells, among the witchmen or the Psijics, but nothing credible has made its way to us. As such, the pure mage has close to no defensive capabilities and relies on killing or incapacitating his enemies before they can reach him. Not something anyone at novice or apprentice level would be capable of, needless to say."

"I'll take your word for it, Diviner, as I'm not particularly well-versed in magical combat."

"Of course, Councilor." Methal's lips quirked. I'd have called it a smile, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "As it stands, Adryn has proven quite capable of getting herself out of trouble via... creative problem-solving, thus far. Perhaps it would be best if we left her to it, as the more conventional methods don't seem to be the best of fits."

"Thank you," I chimed in from the ground. "Exactly what I've been saying since this started."

There was a crease between Jamie's eyebrows, and a moment of hesitation before she responded. "I still think it would be good if you could fight at least a little if worst came to worst... but you're right that it certainly doesn't seem to be working." She sighed, a sound signalling defeat on her side, triumph on mine.

"It's all right." Now that it seemed clear no more people would be coming at me with sticks, I gingerly got up. It was a process involving a lot of winces and careful movements, even with Jamie giving me a hand up. I promised myself a detour by the hot springs for a long soak on the way back to the guild. "It's for the best, really."

"Oh?" Sarethi asked lightly.

"The thing is," I considered how to word this, "if you know you can fight your way out of trouble, that's always going to be an option for you. If you know you can't, then you have to find an alternative no matter what. And maybe that means you discover you can actually talk your way out of a situation after all, where the fighter would never have tried. I don't know about you, but personally I think less violence in the world is a good thing."

Sarethi frowned, silent, but Methal – who'd been listening with evident curiosity – responded. "An interesting theory. Do let me know how it works out for you."

I found myself distracted by magicka rushing over me, a brief wave of power that took the worst of my aches and pains with it when it subsided. I turned to look at Jamie in surprise. Healing other people was said to be more complex than healing oneself, and that had been a strong spell. I vaguely remembered her telling me she was good at Restoration magic, but given how poor her other magical skills were I'd assumed that still meant apprentice level at best. Unjustly, it seemed.

"Thanks," I told her. Then something occurred to me, and I added, "You couldn't have done that any earlier?"

My voice was just this side of a whine, but Jamie treated the question seriously.

"It's not the best of ideas to use magical healing when you're training. It keeps you from properly building up muscle, so you'd generally only use it if an accident results in a major injury. That goes for both spells and potions. However, since it sounds like you won't be continuing," Jamie's mouth twisted, "there's no reason for you to suffer."

Yet another reason to leave my combat skills the way they were. What a hard decision this was, truly.

"Come," Jamie told me. "I'll walk back to the guild with you. You still look a little shaky to me. Magic can only do so much, I guess."

I nodded my acceptance, resigning myself to the idea that this probably meant no hot springs tonight. Jamie was shy of the place, and she wasn't likely to let me head there alone. When it came to her friends' health she could be as fussy as Sotha Si-

My headache decided this was the opportune moment to prove Jamie's words about the limitations of magic true, seeing as despite the spell it was still capable of launching white-hot needles through my eyebrow straight into my brain. I cringed and rubbed my forehead. I didn't know what was causing these headaches – something in the air, perhaps, since I'd never had them before coming to Vvardenfell – but I was getting heartily sick of them.

I tried to distract myself by looking over the others. Neminda and Sarethi were gathering up the equipment we'd borrowed to practice (Neminda not looking particularly happy about the fact that her superior was getting his hands dirty) but Methal was still looking at me with a considering expression.

It reminded me of something I'd been meaning to bring up the next time I saw the man, something that had been driven clean out of my mind earlier through the threat of combat lessons.

"Say, Methal? Do you know when Ervesa is expected to be in Ald'ruhn next? There's something I was hoping to ask her." Or, to put it another way: I didn't know who else I could ask other than Ervesa.

"I really can't say." Methal spread his hands in apology. "The itinerary of a Buoyant Armiger is only known to them and to Lord Vivec, I'm afraid. That said, she's heavily involved in the investigation into the ash statues, and that's centered around Ald'ruhn. She's almost certainly going to be passing through regularly for the forseeable future – I can let her know you'd like to talk to her when she's next here."

"Thank you, I'd appreciate that."

Methal coughed. "If you don't mind indulging my curiosity, may I ask what this is about? I might be able to help myself, or be able to forward the message to Ervesa more quickly."

Breath coming in ragged gasps as I braced myself against the heavy wooden door – Tenyeminwe's terrified face when a shadow detached itself from the wall to float towards us – the figure's hood casting a deep shadow but I could still make out the fleshless skull beneath-

"It's about something that happened on my recent travels through the Grazelands." I paused. "It's... a private matter."

Not true per se, but believable enough, I hoped. Ervesa was the only person I knew who I trusted to have both an in-depth knowledge of local beliefs and customs as well as sympathy for a newcomer unfamiliar with them who might accidentally transgress. I was a little more wary of Methal, in the matter. One didn't get to a high Temple rank by petting kittens.

Methal's mouth pressed into a thin line at my rejection. It made him look much older, and surprisingly threatening. I took a small step back.

"Ah yes, your recent travels." Sarethi, who it seemed had been successfully driven off by Neminda, chose this moment to interrupt via resting a hand on my shoulder. His voice was cheerful, but his grip was tight. "I admit I'd been hoping for the opportunity to talk to you about them, Adryn... and it sounds as though you'll be in Ald'ruhn for the next while, yes?"

"Ah... yes." I eyed the appendage currently trespassing into my personal space. How to remove it without causing offense to the very important noble on his own property, with his subordinate watching? "No plans to go elsewhere. Er, could you maybe-"

"Excellent! I'll expect you at dinner tomorrow, then. First bell, just let them know your name and the door guards will let you in." Sarethi gave my shoulder one last squeeze, then released it. "Now, Diviner, I admit I was hoping to speak to you about the state of things at Falasmaryon. Would you care to join me in my study for a drink? The wine shipment from Cyrodiil got in only last week, and there's a case of Tamika from '99 – an excellent vintage."

Methal was silent for a long moment, then nodded. "I believe I'll take you up on that, Councilor." He looked back at me. I shivered; for all his typical friendly demeanour, for a moment something in Methal's eyes made me feel like an insect pinned down for examination. His gaze softened almost immediately, leaving me to wonder if I'd imagined it. "Adryn, I hope to see you back in the Temple soon, with or without Ervesa present. We could always use more ingredients, and I do enjoy our conversations."

The two men swept out, leaving me and Jamie alone. I spent a moment indulging in relief - neither of them were particularly comforting to be around. Then what Sarethi had said caught up to me.

"...did I just agree to dinner at Sarethi Manor tomorrow?"

"You did, and I don't think you'll manage to find a way out of it in the next day, not after you told Athyn you have no pending duties. Chin up, will you?" Jamie could really be more sympathetic when it came to my imminent doom, I thought. "It's just dinner, and it's not like he's going to murder you. Athyn likes you, you know." A pause. "Also, if you're worried about your table manners, consider this: I don't think it's actually possible for you to embarrass yourself in front of him any more than you did today."

"I hate you," I told Jamie. "I'm going back to the Guild to ask Edwinna if she can please find me a magical emergency for tomorrow evening."

*****
End of chapter




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haute ecole rider
post Mar 29 2020, 05:19 PM
Post #477


Master
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From: The place where the Witchhorses play



Oh no, this is so not good. It’s bad enough the Nerevar is invading her sleep at night, but now messing up Adryn’s combat practice? As a medical professional I’d say the disease is manifesting new symptoms. As a writer, I’m sensing a huge foreboding development to come . . .

Throughout I’ve continued to enjoy Adryn’s abundant sarcasm. I had to chuckle when Methal pointed out Adryn’s number one survival skill - creative problem solving!

I am looking forward to more!


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SubRosa
post Mar 29 2020, 06:24 PM
Post #478


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From: Between The Worlds



Adryn is truly incapable of staying out of trouble! Good thing she is learning the (wo)manly art of self defense. Once Adryn learns to Tesser, she can go to Earth and January can teach her all sorts of dirty tricks from Krav Maga.

Well that was a nice, slow, realistic sparring session. At least until that pesky Neverman showed up and hijacked Adryn's mind.

Less violence in the world is a good thing? Does Adryn know where she is? biggrin.gif

So is it true that Buoyant Armiger's float? I heard they all float down here... wink.gif

Methal seems to have some ideas about what is happening to Adryn. Maybe he has had some experience with previous Neveraines. Which is not a good thing, seeing as he is from the Temple. I also have the sneaking suspicion that Athyn was rescuing Adryn from him, either because he has his own suspicions, or just because he could sense Adryn was uncomfortable being around the priest.


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