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> Sleeper in the Cave, a Morrowind fanfic
Kazaera
post Today, 07:44 PM
Post #361


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From: that island north of France



Last installment, Adryn discovered that the strange noises coming from Huleen's Hut were not coming from a mage preoccupied by their experiments, but in fact from what was likely a rogue Daedra - or at least something with claws capable of damaging stone walls and the desire to use them. She decided to go get reinforcements in the form of the priest she'd met on the way to Maar Gan who'd claimed to be good at Conjuration.

When she went to ask him for his assistance, she also ran into a dremora who seemed certain the two of them had met before. Strange how it would make that sort of mistake, right?

Chapter 15.4
*****


"Well," Methal said as he stepped inside the hut. Something crunched under his feet. "I think we can discount a controlled summoning. Unless the summoner is truly disturbed." He paused in the doorway, a magelight sparking in his palm. "Coming?"

In all honesty, I'd been hoping the experienced mage would take pity on my hapless self and take over the matter entirely, braving the dangers on his own and leaving me to wait in the crisp, Daedra-free outside air. Alas, the experienced mage in question didn't appear to agree with this course of action, and since I was the one who'd asked him for help there wasn't much I could do to protest.

I gritted my teeth as I joined Methal in the devastated hallway. Broken pot-shards ground unpleasantly beneath my heel, and I found myself deeply grateful for my tough-soled boots.

The destruction didn't wane as we carefully made our way downstairs, me trying not to be too obvious about the way I was doing my best to hide behind Methal with each step. The main difference to the entranceway was the diversity of destroyed materials. Ceramic shards gave way to broken glass lying in a viscuous fluid which shimmered oddly in the low blue glow of the magelight. I stepped carefully and winced at the smell. I was pretty sure I was walking over the remains of Huleen's potions supply right now, and I really didn't know what some of those combinations were doing. What a pointless waste of good potions, too.

Although even the smashed vials didn't make me as sad as the scored, empty covers and feathery shreds that used to be books.

At the bottom of the stairs, we reached what must be the main chamber of the hut. There were doors to both our sides and ahead, all shut. There, Methal stopped. The flickering light in his hand cast strange, dancing shadows across his face, rendering his expression alien and unreadable.

"A minor Daedra, I'd say, by the signs," he murmured. "A scamp, would be my guess. Nothing particularly intelligent, and no great threat. Perhaps-"

I never got to hear his suggestion, and Methal never got to hear what I had to say about calling any Daedra 'no great threat', because that was the point where we heard the door in front of us rattle.

I decided discretion was the better part of valour and I'd rather have the mage who considered scamps harmless in between me and whatever was trying to escape from Huleen's cellar.

Although wait – if the Daedra was locked down here, how had it done so much damage in the rest of the building?

On the heels of that thought came a muffled cry from the room ahead. "Please help!" It did not sound particularly Daedric.

"Well," Methal said brightly, "I do believe we've found our summoner." He walked to the door, pulled the handle, and completely failed to open it.

"The scamp locked me in here!"

"Did it? That seems rather careless!" Methal called back.

"Believe me, I noticed."

"Excuse me? I think I should probably handle this one," I interrupted.

The whole thing went to show that lock-picking is a very versatile skill, coming in handy in all sorts of situations, and certainly not only of use to those of a criminal bent. At least, I certainly hoped that was the impression Methal was coming away with – I could feel his considering stare burning into my back as I bent over the lock, and the situation had me on edge enough that I really didn't feel like explaining away the misunderstandings (or, for that matter, the correct understandings) my skillset often produced.

Finally, the lock sprang open with a click. I straightened and rubbed the back of my neck, where I could feel tension that would lead to a headache later if I wasn't careful. It hadn't been a difficult lock, but (and here was a sentence I hadn't expected to ever think) the absence of Daedra was making me nervous.

It had to know we were here. Where was the thing?

Then the door swung open, sending a ray of bright light into the gloom of the hallway. I found myself distracted by the unexpected glare, then distracted by the stink that followed it out of the room. I wrinkled my nose at the odour; it was clear that whoever was in there, they'd been stuck without access to a privy for long enough to need one.

"Oh, thank you! Thank you! Mara bless you!"

As my eyes adjusted to the brighter light inside the room, more details became apparent. The speaker was a young Breton man, perhaps around my age, looking thin and ill. I cleverly deduced that he was quite unlikely to be Huleen, unless his parents had been truly radical when it came to naming conventions.

He was also completely naked. Apparently the Vvardenfell nudity plague wasn't limited to Nords.

"This island is going to drive me to drink," I muttered.

I decided that one of us should be keeping watch, and turned my back on the Breton currently displaying body parts I had no interest in studying closely in favour of staring back into the gloom we'd come from.

"I'm Listien, Huleen's apprentice," I heard the Breton say. "She's on the mainland for a meeting- I- I'm so sorry, the scamp tricked me- I just wanted to prove I could be a real sorcerer-"

"I take it you summoned the scamp, then?" I was amazed at how casual Methal sounded, as though we were relaxing in the Mages' Guild common area instead of inside a half-destroyed building containing not just a very guilty (and rank) apprentice but also a lurking Daedra which we still hadn't located.

At the reminder, I let my eyes rove over the darkness behind us.

Silence. Nothing moving. No scamp creeping up on us from behind.

Although I really couldn't see that far in this light. There was nothing saying it wasn't hiding in, say, that long shadow over there...

...suddenly, the fact that I'd never managed to get my Detection spell to pick up summoned beings no longer seemed so minor a flaw.

"-thank you so much, I swear I'll never summon another Daedra as long as I live- oof-" The thump of flesh hitting stone.

"Careful there, boy. You're weak from lack of sustenance, don't try to stand too quickly. Here, I can strengthen-"

Was that shadow moving?

"Methal," I hissed, "shouldn't we do something about the scamp before we start giving first aid?"

"This boy needs a healer's attention sooner rather than later, and the scamp will vanish as soon as I manage to disentangle the summoning spell from his core. If it finds us before, you can take care of it."

My jaw dropped at the outrageous suggestion. "Me?" I sputtered, unable to keep myself from twisting back around to glare at the man. "For your information, I-"

A scratching sound from behind me.

With a horrible sinking feeling, I realised I shouldn't have taken my eyes off the shadows.

By the time I'd gotten myself turned to face the oncoming threat, the scamp was halfway across the room and accelerating. Its eyes glowed eerily in the low light, there was a deranged smile on its imp-like face, and its claws looked very, very sharp.

"Methal!"

Even as I yelled, I knew I was out of time. Methal had been crouching next to the idiot who'd started this whole mess – even if he suddenly saw reason, there was no way he'd be able to do anything before the scamp reached and gutted me.

I didn't remember deciding to draw on the power. No, the conscious part of my brain was fully occupied with staring at my oncoming doom and cursing Methal, Huleen, her apprentice, Edwinna, and anyone and everyone else who'd been involved in me ending up in this situation. However, some subconscious part of my brain was not ready to roll over and give up without a fight. And that part remembered one ability I had that had gotten me out of life-threatening situations recently.

As the scamp neared, I stretched out a hand. Just before it reached me, green light blossomed.

"Do something!" I snapped, then found myself too occupied with trying to stay upright to talk.

With darkening vision, I saw Methal come up beside me. He frowned at me, then made a gesture with one hand.

Golden light sped out from him in a stream, curling around and then into the scamp's frozen figure. For a moment, it glowed as bright as the sun.

Then it disintegrated.

You couldn't have done that before? I wanted to ask, but I'd lost all control over my body. Eyelids included; they fell shut, and I fell with them into unconsciousness.

*****


Notes: On my initial draft, Listien was not naked; I considered it briefly but decided that it was stretching belief.

Then I realised he is, in fact, naked in the game, and decided why not torture Adryn stay true to canon?


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