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> Sleeper in the Cave, a Morrowind fanfic
Kazaera
post Jun 24 2018, 07:44 PM
Post #361


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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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Burnt Sierra
post Jun 29 2018, 07:14 PM
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Good to see Adryn is continuing her quest to make friends and influence all those nice natives of Morrowind smile.gif

And the power, she may not be combat capable, but that skill is looking like it could have potential (if she doesn't disintegrate herself with it first of course, which doesn't seem entirely impossible...)

Excellent updates as always, and the previous update had a line I had to quote:

"May the overseers of Coldharbour flay the flesh from your bones," the dremora droned. It sounded as if it were about to fall asleep from boredom.

Loved the whole segment with the Dremora, dry humour at its finest!



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haute ecole rider
post Jul 3 2018, 03:34 PM
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Sorry for not commenting earlier - RL, you know?

Anyways, I really enjoyed these latest segments in Adryn's adventures. I admit I chuckled not once, nor twice, but several times throughout these updates. Adryn's dry humor is really shining here, especially, as Burnt Sierra pointed out, during the interaction with the Dremora at the temple. The whole convo about jumping to conclusions with the caravaneer had me groaning in sympathy (I have this same convo several times a shift at work), and I got a kick out of the little train-o-thought regarding her lockpicking skills.

Story Good, More!


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Kazaera
post Jul 15 2018, 08:40 PM
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My apologies for the delay! RL happened, both in good and bad ways. Thank you everyone for commenting!

@Burnt Sierra - Adryn is excellent at making friends and influencing people! biggrin.gif And I'm glad you like the dremora, Anhaedra always cracked me up in the game.

As for the ability... well, you're right that Adryn could definitely use something to defend herself with that doesn't knock her unconscious. Slight downside, that.

@haute ecole rider - No worries, and I know *points above*. I'm glad the dry humour is popular with people, because it's so fun to write I'd probably keep up with it even if it weren't wink.gif and am sorry you can commiserate re: the jumping to conclusions - always frustrating to have to deal with that. sad.gif

Anyway, with no further ado...

Last installment, Adryn explored Huleen's Hut with a self-proclaimed Conjuration expert. Somehow, despite such fearsome firepower on her side, she still ended up needing to use her birthsign ability and falling unconscious as a result. Adryn blames everything.

Chapter 15.5
*****


Slowly, my awareness began to surface from the depths. Sensation tugged at my mind – warmth surrounding me, save for the cool air on my face. My hair tickled my forehead, my weight pressed on my back...

I was lying down, and on something too soft to be the ground.

I blinked open my eyes and watched the ceiling swim into view. Guarhide, stretched on polished poles of chitin which met not far from my head. Dim light filtered through the smoke-hole. A yurt.

A familiar sight, taking me back to my childhood.

A rustling sound from next to me made me turn my head, an act that took far more effort than it should.

A young man in chitin armour was sitting cross-legged on the ground next to me, nose buried in a book. He'd shaved his head, leaving only dark stubble. His eyes were a clear, bright gold, unusual among the dark eyes more common to our people. The colour was reflected by the golden rings and cuffs all along the curve of both ears, more than the last time I'd seen him. My young friend was turning into a real cliff-racer as far as shiny things were concerned. Privately, I blamed his deprived childhood, although I certainly wasn't going to say such a thing out loud.

"Vivec," I croaked.

Vivec let the book fall to the ground as his eyes snapped to me. For a moment, I saw relief clear as day on his face, then he smoothed his expression.

"Nerevar. About time you woke up – I was beginning to think you were planning to sleep the day away. If only the Chimer people knew how lazy their hero was..."

I groaned. I felt as if some spirit of mischief had replaced all my muscles with jelly.

"Do you remember the way you idolised me when you were young?" I asked plaintively. "Can we go back to that time, please? It was so much pleasant to deal with."

"Hero-worship dies a quick death when said hero behaves like an idiot," Vivec told me in the lofty tones of a youngster recently come into adulthood and, with it, omniscience. "Which this definitely qualifies as. What were you even thinking? Just because you were born in Sun's Dawn does not mean using your birth-sign ability is a good idea!"

The boy – man, I supposed he was now – had definitely been spending too much time around Sotha Sil. At least, that was the only way I could explain the way he'd picked up the way Sil scolded. My old Wise Woman had nothing on the man, and I wasn't happy to realise he was – one way or another – propagating the ability to the next generation.

"I know it's a terrible idea, trust me. I don't generally call on it. Unfortunately, I didn't have a choice this time. There was-"

(a scamp, least of all Daedra but still a Daedra coming at me with claws sharp enough to carve lines into solid stone, my companion too far away, no useful potion at hand, no way to fight-)

I frowned. My memory of the time leading up to my unconsciousness was unexpectly confused.

"-a child," I said once I'd managed to pull the recollections into a coherent whole. "The Nord came on us so suddenly, I didn't even have time to go for my spear." And I'd be having words with the patrols once I could stand again. We'd been in sight of the camp! Our scouts should have caught the enemy miles away! Being attacked there meant either treachery or incompetence on behalf of those meant to keep these lands safe, and I didn't know which possibility disturbed me more.

Vivec was waiting for me to continue, eyebrow quirked. The fact that he considered my explanation insufficient was written on every inch of him.

"Sul was only yards behind me, so I didn't think it much risk if I collapsed." I paused. "Although I'll admit I didn't expect to actually do so. Apparently I'm more tired than I thought."

My birth-sign ability came with some very obvious drawbacks, so I tried not to use it if I could help it. Still, there were times – like today – when it proved unavoidable. When I was young it had well and truly knocked me out, but the amount of combat I'd seen since had done wonders for my endurance and it had been decades since the last time I'd fainted from its use. It was a trend I'd been hoping to continue.

Vivec was giving me a penetrating look. The scolding was bad enough, if it turned out Sil had passed on his ability to mother-hen in full I'd have to flee the island.

"Is the boy all right?" I asked. To my shame, the impetus for the query was to distract him, but now that I'd said it I did genuinely want to know.

"Fine, I hear. Shaken up, from the attack and from watching his hero collapse before his eyes." Sometimes, Vivec also bore a significant resemblance to a cliff-racer who'd sighted prey in his utter refusal to let something go. Today clearly was one of those days. "We could have used you when the rest of the raiding party attacked-"

"Wait," I interrupted, "there was a full raiding party? How many? What were the casualties? How did they reach this far inland undetected?" I jerked up from where I lay-

-and immediately regretted the impulse, because it proved too much exertion too soon. For a moment I held myself in the vertical through an effort of sheer will, the world spinning around me, all sound drowned out by the racing patter of my heartbeat...

Then darkness swam across my vision as my muscles gave way. I could feel myself fall back to the bed, too weak to brace myself in any way. I was dreading the impact when warm hands caught my shoulders.

"Nerevar!"

The last thing I heard before unconsciousness claimed me again was Vivec cursing up a storm.

*****


Notes: Some things cross incarnations. Much though Vivec probably wishes they didn't.


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ghastley
post Jul 17 2018, 09:43 PM
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I'm going to have to re-read the last flashback to Nerevar before I can completely follow this, but it does make a bit more sense to me this time. If making sense is appropriate in this story ...



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haute ecole rider
post Jul 18 2018, 08:07 PM
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I can't recall if this was mentioned before in the story, and I'm quite unfamiliar with the skill lines and traits in the game, so which birth sign are we speaking of, and what does it do? I recall being confused about what was going on in the previous installment when she was fighting the daedra, but not being too sure just what was happening with Adryn.

Oh, and how delightful to see Vivec as a young man . . . and the view of Sotha Sil as being other than half machine (as he is now presented in ESO).


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Kazaera
post Jul 18 2018, 09:49 PM
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Ah, sorry! I didn't realise how far back that was explained. Adryn was born under the Lover, which in-game has the effect of +25 Agility and a once-per-day power "Lover's Kiss" that does Paralyze 60 seconds on target + Damage Fatigue 200 points on self. This is Adryn's sole offensive ability, and she's a scrawny weakling so the Damage Fatigue portion knocks her out every time. It's come up a few times, both at the very start and when Adryn resorts to it in order to defend herself.

In-game, there's a big fuss made about how the Nerevarine was born under a "certain sign", which I take to mean that Nerevar had the same birth-sign and the same ability. Nerevar would like to believe he's not a scrawny weakling; Vivec says the empirical evidence points in another direction.

As for Sotha Sil, glad you like him! smile.gif One of the things that is simultaneously amazing and frustrating about ESO is the way it delves into matters I figured I wouldn't get any canon for and went and made up for myself, such as Tribunal characterisations. For the most part, I've decided that I'll try to adapt what I've got to ESO, even if it does require reworking plot and backstory, but there's thankfully still quite a bit of leeway there. Especially since I do like to play with the before/after of the Tribunal and what divinity did to each of them - I figure mother-henning mortal Sotha Sil can still become the half-machine god.


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Kazaera
post Jul 31 2018, 08:46 PM
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My sincere apologies for the delay, again! I've been distracted by RL in mostly bad ways lately (frustrating health problems + the fact that over here in Germany the weather appears to be trying to roast us all. These are not normal summer temperatures!! My flat doesn't have air conditioning!!!).

@ghastley - I'm definitely dropping you into random sections of Nerevar's life, which isn't ideal with big gaps between updates (*guilty wince*). As with Adryn's birthsign, I admit I hope this will work better for a later reader reading everything at once.

@haute ecole rider - see above!

Chapter 15.6
*****


When I awoke a second time I was more cautious about it, taking careful stock of my position (lying down, with something soft and warm covering me) and condition (terrible, but I thought I could manage to stay conscious if I was careful about it).

-wait, a second time? I thought back...

...the last thing I remembered clearly was the scamp in Huleen's house. After that... vague impressions of waking, of a golden-skinned mer speaking to me with thinly disguised worry, of some shocking news, of falling. Already fading.

Maybe I'd woken earlier, too out of it to form coherent memories. Even if I had no idea where the Altmer might have come from – I couldn't remember seeing any in town.

I blinked my eyes open and watched the ceiling swim into view. Stone braced with wooden beams, shadows cast from flickering candlelight dancing across it. For some reason, the sight felt vaguely surprising.

More to the point, I didn't think I was in Huleen's hut anymore. I should probably get up so I could work out what happened. Sadly, judging by the sensations being reported back from my muscles, any position outside the horizontal was not going to be happening anytime soon.

"You know, you really need a different offensive spell."

I knew that voice.

"Ervesa?" I croaked. I was still too out of it to be surprised, but I could do confused twice as well to make up for it.

The Buoyant Armiger's face appeared above me, amber earrings winking in the candlelight. "Hi, Adryn. It's good to see you awake. You're in one of the back rooms of the Maar Gan Shrine. I happened to be passing by when I saw you being carried past by a clannfear."

I considered that for a moment.

"I'd say that you cannot possibly be serious, except this town."

The earrings swayed. I guessed Ervesa had nodded; it was hard to make out from this angle. "Brother Methal is a master of Conjuration magic. He called it up to bring you back when you fainted."

"How lovely," I told the ceiling. "If only he'd thought of that spell a little earlier. When we were investigating Huleen's house, say. Then this wouldn't have been necessary at all."

"I'm sure he had a good reason," Ervesa said diplomatically.

"I'm sure," I echoed. I was dubious, to put it mildly, but was far too exhausted to worry about what exactly had been going through the man's head when he left me to face a Daedra on my own, then summoned one himself once the danger was gone.

Unless...

A terrible thought struck me.

It must have looked exceptionally humiliating for the Mages' Guild to have their agent carried, unconscious, through the middle of town by a summoning after having completely failed to hold her own against a single scamp. Methal, on the other hand, would have come out of it the dashing hero, rescuing not just one but two hapless Guild mages from mortal peril. A far better look for the Tribunal Temple than the both of us returning perfectly upright, no matter how much I'd been planning to give him the credit... and, arguably, perfectly in line with the deal we'd struck.

All right, my pride was officially not just dented but entirely crushed.

My thoughts would have probably progressed along increasingly self-pitying lines, except that that was the point where my stomach gurgled.

"I brought soup," offered Ervesa, and reached down to help me sit up.

*****


Eating the soup was a lengthy, awkward experience, given that I was so drained I could barely hold a spoon. Ervesa's help was invaluable. I'd have also called it humiliating, except that there comes a point where you've reached the pinnacle of embarrassment and there is simply no room for any further such feelings.

I wasn't sure I'd forgive Edwinna for this one. Of course, given what I'd done to the reputation of the Mages' Guild in Maar Gan, the feeling was probably mutual.

"-would have liked to be there to get you out, but I was called away," Ervesa said.

At least it was proving an informative encounter, given that Ervesa had apparently decided to distract me from the horrors of the past day by telling me about her perspective on recent events in Vivec.

Apparently Ervesa had heard about my arrest almost as soon as it happened, and I had her to thank for Athyn Sarethi getting involved. I'd made sure to express my gratitude, even if I privately wished she'd been able to find a rescuer with less of a fondness for brutally stripping away all illusions and mental defenses of poor, innocent alchemists, not to mention completely unsuitable offers of patronage. Now that I knew the backstory, I did wonder why Ervesa herself had not numbered among my rescuers.

"Called away?" I asked now.

"My Lord Vivec asked for me." There was something proud and remote in her voice. "He had another task for me, a delicate one. He said I'd done very well in my investigations of the cursed statues, so he could trust me with this." Then, in a softer, awed tone, "He praised me."

"Mm." I looked away, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. I found Ervesa good enough company it was simple to forget she was a religious devotee, and therefore probably demented.

"He asked me to talk to a young man in Suran who was proclaiming himself the Nerevarine."

A sudden surge of dizziness had me glad I was sitting propped up against cushions. I clearly wasn't recovered from today. "Nerevarine?" That word sounded familiar-

Oh, of course. It was what Cosades had wanted me to ask Antabolis about.

Well, I wasn't about to share anything I learned from Ervesa with the Blades. But surely it couldn't hurt to indulge my curiosity. "I don't believe I know what that is?" I prompted.

Ervesa sighed. "It's an Ashlander superstition. They claim that one day Indoril Nerevar will be reborn and go to war against the Tribunal." Her voice grew hard. "It's blasphemy, is what it is. Indoril Nerevar was a great hero of our people and a friend and supporter of the Tribunal in their early days. He's one of our greatest saints and ancestors. Claiming that his spirit would return as an enemy is bad enough. Doing it in this uncertain time? Undermining people's faith in the Temple, when it's the only thing standing between us and Dagoth Ur? It's positively criminal." She paused. "Thankfully, that boy was just misguided. I managed to talk him out of his heresy."

Despite being cocooned in blankets, I was freezing cold. A strange roaring sound filled my ears, and black spots had appeared on the edges of my vision.

"Um, Ervesa?" Was that faint sound really my voice? It sounded... wrong, somehow, too high, something alien about the rise and fall of my Skyrim-accented Tamrielic. "I don't- I'm not feeling well, I don't think I'm quite recovered yet. Do you mind leaving me to get some more sleep?"

"Of course. Sorry, Adryn, I should have realised."

Once Ervesa had helped me lie back down and left, I immediately felt better. I must have overdone it - as any healer will tell you, magicka-induced exhaustion is nothing to play around with. Hopefully I'd feel better after some more sleep.

As I closed my eyes, the memory of Ervesa's voice echoed in my mind.

They claim one day Indoril Nerevar will be reborn...

Indoril Nerevar will be reborn...

Indoril Nerevar... reborn...

The words followed me down into the darkness.

*****
End of chapter



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ghastley
post Jul 31 2018, 10:11 PM
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QUOTE(Kazaera @ Jul 31 2018, 03:46 PM) *

My sincere apologies for the delay, again! I've been distracted by RL in mostly bad ways lately (frustrating health problems + the fact that over here in Germany the weather appears to be trying to roast us all. These are not normal summer temperatures!! My flat doesn't have air conditioning!!!).

You can't blame the entire story on an overheated imagination. And if it's any consolation, Britain is also overheated this year, so no regretting the move, either.

I'm still a bit confused why nobody's saying "I know those symptoms, because 8% of all people have them" and casting a restore fatigue spell on her. Soup is the cure for the common cold. biggrin.gif


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Kazaera
post Aug 6 2018, 09:48 PM
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@ghastley - objection! 8% of people are born under the Lover. However, the majority of these quickly decide that this ability is terrible and do their level best not to use it. Also, for Adryn it hits her especially badly as she has next to no endurance. As a result, it's probably not actually something the healers see that often.

As for casting a restore fatigue spell... fair point! I'll try to add some hint as to why people might not go that route unless it's necessary (such as: Adryn has collapsed in the middle of the wilderness and they kind of need her walking) in the next section.

Last chapter, Adryn moved herself to the Ald'ruhn guild, then immediately went to Maar Gan on a mission to tell a guild mage to keep it down a little because she was disturbing the locals. Alas for Adryn, the noises the locals had complained about were not, in fact, caused by an absent-minded research mage getting carried away, but by a summoned Daedra rampaging out of control. Despite her best efforts, and recruitment of backup, she ended up calling on her birth-sign ability. Last we saw her, she was recovering from that in the Maar Gan Temple, Ervesa having stopped by to say hi.

Chapter 16.1
*****


The next morning, I woke feeling much better than the day before. A good, natural night's sleep always worked wonders for dealing with the exhaustion that followed the use of the Lover's Kiss, and so I found myself capable of getting up, freshening up in the small washing alcove, and then going in search of breakfast.

I'd been bedded down in a small windowless room where shelves stacked with clay jars, bottles and burlap sacks had been erected against every available wall. Four cots had been crammed into the paltry floor space that remained, although it looked like I was the only current occupant. The air smelled of spices, and from its cool temperature along with the fact that the walls were made of stone and of a very normal shape all told I suspected we were underground. At the end of a corridor, I found a small staircase leading upwards, confirming that belief.

Upstairs did have windows – small round holes carved into the carapace – but they were all shuttered, torches and mage-lights giving the only illumination. The wind moaned outside, an eerie sound that reminded me of wolves in the hills of Daggerfall. Less poetically, it reminded me of the build-up to the ash-storm in Ald'ruhn. I really hoped I wasn't about to experience an encore.

I also really hoped I wasn't about to be kicked out now that I was capable of standing on my own two feet again.

The first door off the corridor I tried opened on another storage room, this one without cots but instead crammed with boxes. The second led to the kitchen. A fire was crackling merrily in the hearth, warming a large iron stove. A cupboard door hung open to reveal stacked clay bowls and cups, dried herbs hung from the ceiling, and a large wood box glimmering with enchantment with runes for cold engraved on his lid took up most of one wall. The smell of fresh bread reached my nose, and I could feel myself relax. Nowhere is as homey as a kitchen.

Methal sat at a small table in the near corner with a bowl. He looked up when the door creaked open.

"Adryn! I'm glad to see you up. You looked rather unwell when I brought you back."

I paused at the entrance to the room in order to give the man a mistrustful glance. I wasn't entirely sure I reciprocated, given that I hadn't quite sorted through my feelings regarding the mer who'd almost let me become a Daedric chew toy.

"Feel free to help yourself to some porridge." He gestured to a large pot on the stove.

My stomach growled at the mention of food. I decided that I wasn't that mistrustful of the man, and fetched myself a bowl.

The porridge (made with an unusual grain I could now recognise as the Morrowind-native saltrice) was bland and tasteless. Eating it was more of a chore than a pleasure, at least up to the point where I noticed the two small pots in the middle of the table. One was scrib jelly, the other a red powder I managed to identify as ground fire-fern leaf. Judging by the colour, Methal's porridge had definitely been adulterated. After following suit, my own became quite palatable.

After a few minutes of eating in silence, Methal put his spoon down. "I owe you an apology."

I paused. "Oh?"

"When you came to me for help, I thought the issue was that you didn't know how to deal with a rogue summoning. I didn't realise you had no skill in combat whatsoever. I put you in danger because of that, and I apologise for it."

Despite my best intentions, I could feel myself thaw. It was a plausible explanation, certainly a kinder one than my imaginings of the day before, and the apology was a welcome balm. Especially because-

"I admit I really hadn't thought the Mages' Guild would send such a person on such a mission. There's no shame in having your skills lie in other directions, don't get me wrong, but surely there were more suitable people who could have investigated?"

Especially because that.

"I have absolutely no idea, you'd have to ask Edwinna." Then, because it was true, I added, "I'm an alchemist. I fail to see why people keep sending me into dangerous situations when the only things I can do are run away, throw potions at them, or paralyse something and faint. I'm getting quite tired of it, to be honest."

"I can imagine." There was a sympathetic note to Methal's voice. My defenses came down further.

Then, honey-smooth, he continued. "You know, the Tribunal Temple is always in need of alchemists. Not only is providing healing one of our primary duties, but our... mm... more military arm is also always in need of potions. The forces at Ghostgate alone... rest assured, we have so much work for alchemists, we'd never dream of sending them on completely unsuitable errands."

I could not possibly be hearing this correctly. "Are you trying to recruit me?"

Methal sprinkled another helping of fire-fern onto his porridge and stirred it in meditatively. "Not recruit, entirely. It's not as though one can just join the Temple as one would a guild. Say rather... I'm making you aware of the benefits of conversion."

"Conversion," I repeated, hoping that this would sound more reasonable on hearing it a second time. Alas, my hope was in vain. "I... I'm sorry. I'm not particularly religious at all."

"Excellent. It would be quite a problem if you were already a devotee of one of the Aedra, wouldn't it? Or a Daedra, for that matter."

I realised my mouth was hanging open and quickly shut it. I supposed I could be grateful I hadn't been eating; that would definitely not be the appropriate impression.

"I... um..." Hurriedly I tried to gather my wits, never to mention my defenses. "Look, I spent years living in an orphanage attached to a temple of Kynareth, all right? We were absolutely surrounded by religion day and night, and it still didn't take. I've decided some people are just inherently unsuited to worship, me being one of them. No offense intended."

I bit my tongue. This was not an angle of attack I'd been expecting, and it showed in my unplanned, too-honest response.

Thankfully, Methal didn't seem to notice that I hadn't meant to let that detail slip. "Oh, I don't blame you when it comes to Kynareth. Worshipping the Aedra... ecch." His lip curled. "What's the point of devoting yourself to beings that have put so much of their being into making the world that they can't even affect it anymore?"

I felt my eyebrows go up in surprise. This was surprisingly close to some of my secret, heretical thoughts on eight of the Nine Divines.

"The Tribunal is quite different, believe me. In fact, from what Ervesa said I believe you've experienced their power yourself. You needed to be cleansed, yes?"

"Yes." I grabbed the change of subject with both hands. "I ran afoul of an ash statue. It... wasn't good." I swallowed against the memories. Maybe religion wasn't such a bad choice of subject after all.

"And how have your dreams been, since the cleansing?"

There was a clinical tone to Methal's voice that made me think of a healer, checking on the treatment of an illness. It made me answer in more detail than I might have otherwise. "Not memorable. Literally. I'm pretty sure I've been dreaming, but I can't remember any of them. But that started happening before I ran into the statue, so I've been chalking them up as back to normal."

"Ah. I see." The priest's expression was grim. What it wasn't was surprised. On the whole, Methal looked more as though I'd just confirmed something he hadn't wanted to be true. I wasn't sure I liked it.

"Is that... is there a problem?" I ventured when he didn't elaborate. "Did the cleansing not work right?" Now there was an idea to turn my (apparently) supremely boring dreams straight back into nightmares.

"What?" Methal blinked at me, then shook his head. "Oh, no. The cleansing worked fine, you're in no danger from the corruption as long as you avoid being exposed again." He then made that statement significantly less reassuring by adding, "Besides, if the cleansing truly hadn't worked, you'd either have noticed or be incapable of noticing by now."

More nightmare fuel right there, as if I didn't have enough to choose from. That abundance may have been what made it easy to put the idea aside in order to keep my focus on Methal's reaction.

"All right, then what is wrong with my dreams? Because clearly something is, from your reaction. If it's something dangerous I'd like to know, whether or not it has anything to do with that statue."

Methal blinked, eyes going wide. For a moment he looked taken aback, then his expression smoothed.

I'd never been the best with people, and so never the best at spotting manipulation. Always a little too gullible, too slow to doubt – Ingerte, to whom it all came so naturally, had nearly despaired of me. More to the point, she'd tried to teach me. Although I hadn't proved a particularly apt pupil, some shreds of her lessons had stuck.

At least, that was the only way I could explain why, as Methal opened his mouth, I found myself absolutely certain that he was about to lie to me.

"-insistent on ignoring the portents, but I trust Nuleno and I trust my divinations and both say this will be a bad one- oh! Hello!"

Both of us looked up as more people entered the kitchen. I recognised Ervesa – clad in her chitin armour, earrings out – but with her came two Dunmer I didn't recognise. An older man, tall and bony with a pale, thin face, and the woman who'd been speaking, dark as a Redguard with curly black hair.

"I'm Tashpi Ashibael," she introduced herself. "Healer, independent but I help out at the shrine on a regular basis. Ooh, is that breakfast?"

As the clearly hungry group filed in, I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be getting any answers, honest or otherwise, from Methal.

*****


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ghastley
post Aug 6 2018, 11:39 PM
Post #371


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Of course, I'd thought about it after posting, and saw that a spell would likely only fix the immediate issue of the fatigue, and none of the side-effects. Natural sleep would do the whole job, and so be preferable. Still, I'd have used it if my alternative was carrying the person any distance. biggrin.gif

I'm getting curious why he's asking about dreams, but that mostly comes from playing the game, so I shouldn't.


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Kazaera
post Aug 12 2018, 09:07 PM
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@ghastley - exactly re: natural sleep. And being curious as to why Methal is asking about dreams is... actually useful information for me! There's a very particular thing I'm doing with Methal, and I'm not certain how clearly I need to spell it out in order for most readers to pick up on it. Reader feedback on what you think Methal is doing, or whether his motivations are just confusing to you, is enormously helpful, so thanks! smile.gif

Last installment, Adryn breakfasted with Methal. She told him about her dreams, which he seemed to take quite seriously. She'd just asked him what the issue was when they were interrupted.

Chapter 16.2
*****


Lack of answers notwithstanding, I didn't mind the newcomers. Tashpi was fun to talk to, with an irreverent sense of humour I could very much appreciate. In fact, I was so busy giggling over one of her remarks that although I caught that the older man was nominally in charge of Maar Gan Temple, I entirely missed his name; I silently nicknamed him Scarecrow for his rangy build. Scarecrow seemed friendly enough, although quiet and strangely respectful towards Methal. Between them and Ervesa, I quickly got caught up on some useful information.

After getting an earful on safe summoning practices, Huleen's most unfortunate apprentice had caught the evening strider back to Ald'ruhn to report on events to (and, I hoped, be dressed down by) Edwinna. I, of course, had been unable to join him due to being thoroughly unconscious at the time. When I asked about the next strider out, the others traded uncomfortable glances.

Apparently there was a nasty ash storm inbound, one no caravaneer worth their salt would risk their beast in. I was stuck in Maar Gan until it had passed.

My face must have been a picture at that news, because Scarecrow hastily assured me I could stay at the Temple until I was able to travel back.

"It's the least we can do, after you risked yourself to help us with that scamp." He frowned. He'd professed himself distinctly unimpressed by Listien's recklessness – I'll have to have a word with Huleen about keeping her apprentice in line when she gets back from the mainland, as if Anhaedra wasn't bad enough on his own – and appreciative of my help. "Besides, it's part of our duties, helping stranded wayfarers. I'd say you qualify."

"Speaking of stranded wayfarers..." Tashpi dropped her spoon into her empty bowl with a clink. "Should we start setting up?" At my puzzled look, she explained, "Temple always gets lost travellers coming in in an ash storm – pilgrims, travelling traders, the odd Ashlander, anyone who might be out without shelter. The teleportation beacon, you know. We should get things ready before the storm hits and the stragglers start pouring in. Set up beds, put out healing potions, start a pot of soup, that sort of thing."

I looked around to see agreeing nods. The leisurely breakfast was clearly at an end.

At this point, it would have been easy to beg off. Oh, so sorry, still not recovered from yesterday... probably best if I retire to my bed to rest while the rest of you do the heavy lifting...

Instead, I asked, "Can I help?"

Personally, I blamed Athyn Sarethi. It had been a lot easier to resist my stray altruistic impulses before he'd so brutally stripped me of my dearly-held illusions regarding my own selfishness.

At any rate, that was how I ended up chopping vegetables with Methal and Ervesa as the other two went to set up more cots.

Truthfully, I didn't mind it. Although I was still rather tired, dicing trama root was at least not particularly strenuous as activities went. And the conversation remained interesting, even if it was primarily concerned with the Tribunal Temple. I suspected that Methal hadn't given up on the idea of conversion, but I was quite certain of my immunity in that regard, and Ervesa was surely innocent of any such ulterior motives.

In many ways, Methal was doing me a favour – I needed to simply get a handle on how this local religion worked. I'd been planning to investigate it since my first meeting with Ervesa, but events had gotten in the way, and I was coming to realise that it was intertwined enough with native Dunmer life that I'd really need a decent understanding of it if I wanted to function in Morrowind.

The living gods, Vivec along with Almalexia and Sotha Sil, had certainly been spoken of often in my time on the island, or at least that was my best explanation for why all three names seemed familiar. They seemed to fulfil many of the same functions as the Divines, although clearly far more present and geographically limited in their activities, and although their spheres seemed rather more... Daedric... than what I was used to. Still, the common elements were there.

Stranger to me was the notion of ancestor worship. Although Nords have a healthy respect for their departed forbears (respect which occasionally involves necromancy – don't try to rob a barrow unless you're weary of life, that's all I'm saying), they wouldn't recognise the lengths the Dunmer went to. Ervesa said she prayed to her ancestors on a daily basis, tried to make small sacrifices at least once a week, kept a small shrine in her quarters at Molag Mar and made regular trips to her family's ancestral tomb on the mainland. Even a Greybeard would view that as excessive. In return, she said, they lent her strength and guidance – one had even appeared at her side as a spirit in a difficult fight.

Conceptually, it made sense. Supposing someone decided to hang around after death instead of giving Nirn a (probably metaphorical, at that point) rude gesture and vanishing to some Dunmer equivalent of Sovngarde, it was pretty likely they'd have a vested interest in the well-being of their kids, and their kids, and so on and so forth. Sure, your great-great-grandmother might have less power than an Aedra, but unless you're caught in a really unfortunate family feud you can at least be assured she's going to be on your side in a conflict. All very logical, surely a great reassurance to someone like Ervesa with her clan name and ancestral tomb...

...and then there was me, alone in the world with no trace of family and no clue who said ancestors might be at all. I was beginning to understand why native Dunmer treated my circumstances as such a huge tragedy. Frankly, I'd have preferred to remain ignorant.

"I thank you for your enthusiasm for the task, but I'm wondering if the trama root did something to offend you?" Methal asked.

"Of course it did," I said, deadpan. "Insulted my heritage. I'm honourably obliged to take revenge."

Even in this new context, lack of family wasn't all bad. At least, I could head straight to the afterlife after death. No hanging around looking after people for me, no.

"Ah, very understandable. But we really don't need the trama minced that fine. Perhaps you could take mercy on it?"

I agreed that I did, indeed, see myself capable of forgiving the root I'd been in the process of demolishing for its crimes and forced myself to concentrate on the assembly of the soup.

Possibly my intent focus was catching, because we worked in silence from that point on. In what felt like no time at all, a large pot sat simmering on the stove, the dishes and chopping boards had been washed, dried and put away, and we were looking at each other wondering what to do next. Three people seemed a little excessive for stirring.

"Ah, I see you've finished too." Scarecrow walked in. "I'll take matters from here. Er, that is, if you don't mind," he added hastily, shooting Methal an anxious look.

"What, you don't trust my cooking skills? I think I may be insulted."

I was relatively sure Methal was joking, but Scarecrow clearly wasn't considering the horror that spread across his face. Catching sight of the expression, Methal raised his hands. "Don't worry! I don't trust my cooking skills, it's for the best that someone with a sense for seasoning takes over this stage of the operation." A brief pause. "I am, of course, at your disposal. Is there anything else you'd like us to help you with?"

"Um." Scarecrow was still white, and seemed to be having some trouble finding his voice. Uneasiness curled in my gut as I watched him stammer. It would be easy to dismiss the man as overly anxious and shy, but he hadn't reacted to any of the rest of us this way. Only Methal.

Methal, who I'd love to think of much like Ervesa – a low-ranking Temple member with a sense of humour willing to be friendly to hapless outlanders, with a few manageable flaws such as not realising that your average alchemist was not capable of fighting off a scamp... except that there were things about him that didn't quite add up. His ease with Conjuration, the strange moment we'd shared before the others had arrived. His confidence, quiet but very present if you looked for it, a rock-hard certainty of his own ability and place in the world which felt as though it should belong to a grey-haired elder, not someone who looked to be just out of novicehood. And now Scarecrow's reactions.

No. There was something odd here.

"Actually," Scarecrow had finally managed to collect himself. "I was hoping that you might be willing to continue what you were working on earlier, before we were warned of the storm?"

It was a question, although Methal bowed his head as though it had been an order. "Of course. Would you like to join me, Adryn?"

Wait, how had I become part of this conversation?

"As a major destination for pilgrimages, the Maar Gan shrine receives many donations – including of magical items. Since there is no trained mage attached to the Temple, they tend to pile up until a brother or sister who can identify them passes by. Myself being a prime example." He shrugged. "I wouldn't mind company, and I assume you have some basic magical training, yes? I admit my expectations of the Mages' Guild are low, but I'm expecting they do require something of the sort in their recruits."

I paused.

It did sound interesting. And I had to admit I found myself curious about the man and his unexplained mysteries. Perhaps he'd let something slip?

Besides, if I remembered my recruitment correctly (and I did, considering it had been less than a month ago), the Mages' Guild did not, in fact, require basic magical training in their recruits. However, I wasn't planning to admit to that – after my showing in Huleen's Hut, I felt I needed to try to preserve some of the guild's reputation – and bowing out at this stage might raise awkward questions.

"Sure," I said. "It sounds like fun."

*****


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treydog
post Aug 13 2018, 05:56 PM
Post #373


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QUOTE
"I'm an alchemist. I fail to see why people keep sending me into dangerous situations when the only things I can do are run away, throw potions at them, or paralyse something and faint. I'm getting quite tired of it, to be honest."


This- this is why I like Adryn so much. She doesn't just see the flaws in herself (most of which are not flaws), but in the unthinking way the guilds- Mages especially- send unqualified novices into mortal danger.

QUOTE
"Sure," I said. "It sounds like fun."


Oh Adryn.... (shakes head). Don't you know that's like saying, "What's the worst that could happen?" or "How bad can it be?" or "Well, at least it can't get any worse."


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ghastley
post Aug 13 2018, 08:25 PM
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At least it wasn't "hold my beer". biggrin.gif


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Burnt Sierra
post Sep 1 2018, 07:35 AM
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"after my showing in Huleen's Hut, I felt I needed to try to preserve some of the guild's reputation"

The guilds or hers? There's a fascinating subplot building here between the Mages Guild and the Temple, and the nature of loyalty and honour. Which seems to be a growing concern for Adryn after Athyn Sarethi has opened the Pandora's Box of her self-delusion. It's genuinely fascinating watching Adryn develop.

Excellent, as always. More, please?




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ArtemisNoir2
post Oct 29 2018, 01:05 AM
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I just discovered this wonderful story a few days ago, and essentially binge-read my weekend through it!
I love everything about it... the dry humour, Adryn's personality, the banter amongst the characters, and the way you so vividly bring Vvardenfell to life.

Also, I feel vindicated, there's something reassuring about learning that you aren't the only one who inexplicably loses interest in something, vanishes off of the ends of the earth, and then, just as inexplicably, resurfaces. It's a pattern for me.. with games, lets plays, fan fiction, anything really, and it drives me nuts, so I'm really glad I'm not alone in this.

Anyway, I can't wait to see more of Adryn whenever the muse does strike you !
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