Chapter 33 concluded 'Dancing with Darkness' and found the bowgirl in Bravil. She seemed to have a deeper understanding of herself, and revealed the Buffy Doctrine. The peaceful morning was then marred by the tragic and senseless death of her friend, City Swimmer.Remko-
Thank you for the kind words. Bravil is a lonelier place now, but even in death, City Swimmer had a lesson for Buffy.treydog-
Thank you for endorsing how many things I tried to tie together here. Your comments show exactly why I named the episode 'Her True Colors'. Thanks for the nit - fixed. Rider-
It was an emotional episode to write, and I'm so glad you were able to share some of that emotion with me. Thank you. SubRosa-
As ever, your insights are so very welcome, and they let me know, in this case, we were close to target. Thank you. I took your recommendation, priestess - thanks! Destri-
Thank you for recognizing the connection between Child of Dawn and Dancing with Darkness. Buffy will probably always have one foot in darkness (or at least shadows), but I believe dawn is indeed more reflective of her path than dusk would be.
I can imagine a time when Buffy would become a friend to Countess Milona Umbranox. If she were ever to learn of the connection between Milona and the Gray Fox, I have no doubt, Buffy would move half of Cyrodiil to help bring Corvus home to his lonely countess. Then, I fully expect Buffy would turn the cowl and mantle of Thieves Guildmaster over to the lovely and talented Methredhel. . . . Alas, I fear Buffy's dance card is way too full for the guild of thieves in the reasonable future. It is on the list for a potential Book 3. mALX-
Thank you so much! I remember that we both liked this episode in the original version as well. hazmick-
I thank you for allowing this episode to tug at your heart strings. There was so much wrapped into it that the writing of it was very emotional as well. Grizzly-
I'm delighted to see you rejoin us! Thank you for the kind words. I'm glad you agree with Buffy on Rufio. She will still exhibit a streak of vengeance and even cruelty, but it seems she has limits, grounded in the more noble aspects of her character.
* * *
34 By the Detritus of the Profane, Part 1
"Thank you for getting to the University so quickly, Buffy." Raminus Polus filled a silver cup with tea and carefully presented it to me. "I hope your trip from Bravil was uneventful." He then stepped around the desk and settled into his high-backed chair.
"Kud-Ei got the dispatch yesterday, Master Wizard," I said, lowering the tea cup to my lap. "Superian and I left before dawn this morning."
From behind steepled fingers, the slightly graying Breton continued, "I'll come right to the point. A mage has been killed and I would like you to look into the matter."
"Me?" Both my eyes opened wide.
"Hear me out, please." Raminus leaned forward slightly.
I nodded obediently, then lifted the tea to my lips.
"The victim's name was Phane Thierry, and he was seeking a recommendation to enter the University from the magister of the Skingrad chapter. According to Adrienne Berene, Thierry was a fine young Breton of humble means who hoped to one day serve the Legion as an Imperial Battlemage. She assigned him the task of clearing bears from nearby-" Raminus glanced down at a report, "Shardrock farm, for some beleaguered sheep herder. An appropriate task I suppose. No doubt, Adrienne considered it good for the guild's community relations as well."
"Bears can be dangerous." I shook my head sadly. "So you want me to go finish the job?" Surely Raminus didn't summon me here to go bear hunting. Yet if the mage had been killed by these powerful animals, what was there to investigate?
He frowned. "No. The young Associate did a fine job with the bears. He was attacked while returning to Skingrad."
"Killed by bandits?"
"No. It seems shortly after he left Shardrock, he was ambushed by necromancers - no less than three of them. He managed to run and fight his way to the nearby shrine of Meridia, where her followers came to his defense." Raminus shook his head as his eyes flashed in quiet rage. "The fight that ensued, left our Associate and a follower of Meridia dead. All three of the necromancers escaped."
"Master Wizard, why would necromancers attack one of our guild?"
He rubbed his chin, anger still in his eyes. "I don't know Buffy. While it's true that we prohibit the practice of necromancy by our members, we've never taken steps to persecute those outside our guild who choose to follow alternate teachings. We simply don't want our mages resurrecting corpses into worm thralls and desecrating the dead. We've never taken arms against necromancers to stop them from forming their own guild." The Breton's fingers slowly curled into a clenched fist. "Never before have they openly attacked us."
"I'm honored that you think me worthy of investigating this tragic matter, but I'm merely a-"
Raminus silenced me with a raised hand. "Merely a fine mystic archer who comes highly-recommended for the task by both Tar-Meena and Boderi Farano. I understand you were attacked by a necromancer?"
"Well, yes. One of the black robes tried to kill me in the bowels of Vilverin before I was admitted to the University. I admit that I was in his lair, but I declared myself and my peaceful intentions. As soon as he heard who I was, he attacked."
Raminus raised an eyebrow. "When you say you declared yourself, did you indicate you were a mage?"
"I did." A thought hit me. "Do you think that's why he attacked me? Because I was in the guild?"
"Well," his fingers returned to the steepled pose that made him look so 'head masterish', "that's what I'm beginning to wonder. What happened?"
"I managed to immobilize him with a spell, then shot him dead." I shuddered as I recalled the incident, then narrowed my eyes. "After I memorized the skull and bones symbol on his robes, I told his corpse I would offer neither warning nor quarter should I encounter his kind in the future."
"So Boderi tells me." Raminus nodded grimly. "That's one reason I think you're the right mage for this matter."
"There's more?" I asked.
"Both Tar-Meena and Boderi mentioned that you've had some dealings with a Daedra Lord?"
"Yes," I replied. "Azura chose me to perform a task for her. I have earned her favor."
"As I mentioned," Raminus continued, "the killing took place near the shrine of Meridia. As you may recall from your studies, she has little tolerance for the undead and perhaps may prove helpful in this matter. After all, one of her followers was killed in the attack as well. I'm hoping that your experience from fighting a necromancer and dealing with a Daedra Lord will help here." He then placed both palms upon his desk, leaned forward and locked his eyes onto mine. "May I count on your help in this matter, Buffy?"
* * *
The dog turned his head at my approach. His tail began to slowly thump against the leg of the Bosmer standing next to him. Alerted to my presence, Thernd briefly acknowledged me. He then returned his gaze to the east. "Look a' that, Lass."
Within a few moments, the first rays of the sun flooded the entire Valley of Horses in a spectacular display. Dew sparkled across the grass-covered meadow. Long flickering shadows were cast by leathery wings of the imps on patrol. I heard the thunder of approaching hooves. Three horses, including Superian, were racing our way. They swept a broad arc in front of us across the floor of the valley, coats glistening in the new sun, then sped away to the west towards Lake Rumare.
"Do ye see now why I have the best job there be?"
"You surely do," I said breathlessly. Rubbing my hand along the silver-gray fur of Bandit's back, he swung his head firmly into my stomach, demanding to have his ears scratched.
"Well, I see from yon bow on yer wee back that ye must be ready for travel." He glanced at Bandit. "Shall I have 'im fetch our black beauty?" He grinned and added, "If he can catch 'er o' course. Can't see 'er, but I'm sure she be down by the western water's edge by now."
"No, Thernd. Thank you." I closed my eyes. My mind quickly traveled to Superian and our spirits touched. I could feel the cool refreshing drink she was enjoying from the lake and held my request for a moment so she could finish. "She'll be here in a minute."
"Where be ye off to this fine morning, Lass?"
"Skingrad. If the roads be - oh listen to me!" I giggled. "I'm starting to talk like you. I mean, if the roads are
quiet, I think we can make it by nightfall."
"Aye. Well I see yon mare now, headed straight for 'er elven mistress. Let's get 'er tack together and get the pair of ye on yer way."
* * *
I raised my torch against the dark night, revealing the awe-inspiring form of Meridia. The fine features of her visage were tilted upwards, as if addressing - or perhaps commanding - the sky. Graceful hands were clasped in front of her face, and stone fabric sleeves draped from her elbows. Her gown was tied loosely at the waist and from it, long bare legs descended to the top of a large, round pedestal.
"Our Lady is lovely, isn't she?"
Turning, I found myself looking into the kind eyes of an elderly Breton. He wore the simple brown robes of a monk, and his head was ringed by a tonsure style hair of the same color. "Breathtaking," I whispered. Raising my voice, I added, "Oh, sorry, I'm Buffy. I was sent by the Mages Guild to investigate the death of one of our Associates here."
"You are welcome in this place, young elf. My name is Basil Ernarde, healer and follower of Meridia. Your mage died bravely. I regret that his wounds were too severe for me to heal."
"Well met, Basil. I understand Meridia lost a follower as well. Please accept the condolences of my guild."
"Yes. We will help any way we can to avenge our shared losses."
"Can you fill me in on what happened?" I asked.
Basil quickly relayed what he knew, which was little more than what Raminus had told me. He suggested I attempt to summon Meridia herself. Perhaps she would know the whereabouts of the necromancers. "To summon our Lady, you'll need some evidence of your disdain for the undead."
"I have some ectoplasm," I said hopefully. "Will that do?"
Basil nodded, but seemed a little taken aback. "Do you normally carry such things with you?"
"Well, sure," I said a little sheepishly. "For my hair. I combine it with rosemary oil and aloe vera for conditioning, glow dust for shine and some finely ground bergamot for a nice citrus scent."
The Breton ran a hand over the bald head that capped his tonsure. "I wouldn't know anything about that." His eyes then clouded, and he frowned. "Do you expect to summon a Daedra Lord by pouring some sort of hair glop at her feet?"
"Oh, no. I have some fresh samples I haven't mixed up yet." I planted the torch into the soft ground. Rummaging through my pack, I produced a portion of ectoplasm. After placing the offering on Meridia's pedestal, I stepped back. The peculiar accent of her echoing voice broke the dark silence.
"By the detritus of the profane, I am brought forth. And by your offering, you have made the profane your interest, mortal. The undead are foul, unnatural things. Some of my rivals take pleasure in these abominations. Not Meridia. I wish these creatures destroyed. Hidden behind a door, deep in Howling Cave, are the necromancers you seek. They slay the living, and rob graves of the dead for the materials to raise their undead armies. Find these necromancers. Destroy them and their abominations. Do this, and earn the gratitude of Meridia."
I knelt close to the torch and spread my map on the ground. Howling Cave was back to the east, on the other side of Skingrad. Superian and I would return to the city tonight, and set out for the cave in the morning.This post has been edited by Acadian: Oct 3 2010, 10:39 PM