Chapter 35 saw Buffy successfully clear the necromancers from Howling Cave on behalf of Raminus Polus and Meridia. The cult of black robes had killed a young member of the Mages Guild as well as a follower of Meridia.mALX-
Yup. Seeing those necrodudes field dressing out a man or mer peed her off. And we all know she tends to follow and act on her anger. . .
Lol. Thank you!SubRosa-
I'm so pleased that the opening description captured the contrasts of the scene. Thank you for your wonderful insights. We earned another 'cuddly as a rattlesnake'! Oooh - where is that *twirl* emoticon? Rider-
Buffy is lucky that Kud-Ei is an illusionist and inspired her, and that Boderi helped her specialize in that direction. I was tickled that you compared Buffy to a battlemage. Boderi and I define a battlemage as one who masters the awesome synergy of blending conventional weaponry with magic. It is not surprising to me that Boderi therefore joins you in considering a mystic archer as a form of battlemage. Thank you! Linara-
Thank you so much for gracing us with your reading! By now, Buffy has been well-trained by necromancers to loathe them. She ponders why Azura could not have 'touched her fate' so that she was a Necromancer or Daedra Slayer instead of a Vampire Slayer. Lol. treydog-
I am so humbled by such kind comments from the writer I want to grow up to emulate. Zalphon-
Thank you. Buffy appreciates the compliment!Foxy-
With a name like 'Buffy' we do strive for some tongue in cheek when it seems to flow naturally from the circumstances. Oooh! I think she would heartily endorse the Foxy Doctrine! Destri-
You are a master of creative description; to earn such kind words on our opening scene-setter humbles me greatly. I have learned much from you, my friend. The fights inside Howling Cave did go well for Buffy. I think you are right that Boderi would have been proud of her glass cannon. Sometimes the cannon dominates, sometimes the glass. She did well in this case, and kept her greaves dry. Remko-
Thank you. In Buffy's gray world, she has learned some absolutes: Bandits, marauders, highwaymen and necromancers are evil and attack without provocation.
* * *
36 By the Detritus of the Profane, Part 3
"The pair of ye look none the worse fer yer journey, Lass," said Thernd as he took the mare's reins.
I slid to the ground and joined the Bosmer in removing Superian's tack. "It was not pleasant, Thernd. I had to avenge the guild, as well as Meridia, against some rogue necromancers."
"Well good riddance to 'em." Thernd spat on the ground. "Animatin' someone's parts after they be dead just ain't right if yer askin' me. Did ye say Meridia?"
"Why yes, do you know of her?"
He wrinkled his brow and scratched a pointed ear. "Only that she be a Deadra Lord. Thaurron and I found a shrine to one of 'em years ago."
I raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really? Do you remember anything about it?" I led Superian into the barn for some fresh hay and a well-deserved rest.
By the time I stepped back outside, Thernd had touched a glowing fingertip to his pipe and loosed a ring of smoke into the air. "Got yer map?" After marking a spot north of Anvil, he continued. "Malacath be his name, and orcs be his followers. They told us to be gone unless we had some troll fat to offer their boss. Them orcs didn't look none too fond o' wood elves, so Thaurron and I took the part of their advice about bein' gone."
I rolled up the map. "Thanks, Thernd. Well, I'd better go tell Raminus Polus about the necromancers."
After listening to my brief report, the Imperial leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his gray-streaked brown hair. "I'm glad I chose you for this mission, Buffy. You have acquitted both yourself and the guild well." Raminus studied the collection of potions, scrolls and other items from Howling Cave that I had placed on his desk. Holding up the black robe, he frowned. "Yes, this is the symbol of a necromantic cult. You say the banner you saw in Howling Cave displayed the same markings?"
"Yes, Master Wizard. It was in the deepest chamber of the cave, along with the leader of the necromancers. He was cutting into a corpse that was hanging by its feet. The body was not that of our mage or Meridia's follower, but it was still horrible."
Raminus' brief flash of what looked like quiet rage was cut short as his gaze settled on the black soul gem on his desk. He lifted it to his ear. "This one's full - likely from the poor owner of that corpse you describe. No doubt the necromancers intended to animate the body into a worm thrall with it." Setting the gem down, he pointed at a large ring within the pile of my spoils and raised an eyebrow.
"Meridia gave it to me," I said. "The Daedra Lord was pleased with the price I exacted from the necromancers for their deeds. She considers them an affront to all life."
"After what you report, I fear I must agree with her assessment." He skimmed through several of the scrolls, then furrowed his brow. "Buffy, you found no notes or letters detailing their plans?"
"No, Master Wizard," I then added, "and Meridia offered no insight into their motivation."
"Well, we shall remain vigilant, but hope that this attack on one of our mages was the work of a rogue cell, now destroyed thanks to you." Raminus gestured at the collection of items on his desk. "You took the risks, Buffy, so these things are yours. I suggest however, you give that black soul gem to Tar-Meena at the Mystic Archives, so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands."
I paused to lean over the heavy marble hand rail and admire the view of the University gardens below. Apprentices, in their green bags, were gathering by the benches of the outdoor classroom. No doubt one of the blue robe scholars would soon arrive and deliver a lecture on doom stones or such. It brought back memories. "You know, Acadian, I'm going to keep that black soul gem." What use do you have for it?
I looked around to ensure no one could overhear a wood elf talking to the silent air around her about black soul gems. "It can make powerful enchantments."You already created Slayer.
"I could use it to fully recharge my bow."Is that not why you risked our life to obtain the Star of Azura?
I countered, "Maybe I'll sell the black soul gem to Ungarion."
"What would he do with it?" I repeated Acadian's unspoken question. "Oh. Well I guess I didn't think about that. You don't suppose he would sell it to someone to make - what did Raminus call them - oh yes, worm thralls? No, don't answer that." I frowned. "Ungarion is charming but he would give it to whoever paid him, with no questions asked - the same way he sells stuff to me. Perhaps I should've thought of that before I gave him those other two black soul gems. At least they were empty."
I started towards the steps. "Ok, I'll do as you say, my paladin."
Closing the heavy door of the Mystic Archives behind me, I closed my eyes and deeply inhaled the rich, comforting smell of old books and leather bindings.
"What brings you to me today, Apprentice?" The beautifully soothing voice of Tar-Meena welcomed me.
"I guess you know about necromancers attacking one of our mages out by Skingrad?" I asked.
The Argonian's orange eyes blinked, then she nodded sadly. "Yes. I understand Raminus took the recommendation that Boderi and I provided him, and asked you to investigate." Tar-Meena waved me to a table and seated herself.
I joined her, and fished into my pack. "Their local cult is destroyed. Raminus thought the Archives might have use for some of these things." I placed the necromancer robes on the table. My hand hesitated, then I added the black soul gem and Meridia's ring.
"Well, these robes will be a welcome addition to the materials we have for studying their cults. We have several black soul gems, but I will put this one in our display case for safe keeping." Tar-Meena cocked her head. "What is this ring? Did you find it on the necromancers? I do not recognize it."
"Oh no," I said. "Meridia gave it to me for clearing the black robes from Howling Cave."
The Argonian smiled. "Another Daedric artifact. It seems you are getting quite popular with Daedra Lords. You carry Azura's Star, and now this." She examined the ring, then stood. After returning from her shelves with a book, she leafed through it comparing the ring to sketches on the yellowed pages. "Hmm, let's see, Malacath, Malog Bal, ah here it is - Meridia. This is the Ring of Khajiiti. Do you know what it does?"
I held a finger in front of my face and slid on the ring. Looking at Tar-Meena through my translucent hands, I said, "Yes, see? It has a partial chameleon effect and increases my speed slightly." I shrugged as I slipped off the ring. "I don't really think I need it; between my ability to hide in the shadows and cast illusions, I can already remain hidden when I want to. I will never part with Azura's Star, but would you like this ring for the Archives?"
Tar-Meena absently tugged on one of her horns. After a moment, she shook her head. "I will make some sketches and take some notes, but you should carry it with you. It is very valuable, yet weighs much less than the gold it is worth. You earned it."
I nodded, and pushed the ring towards her. "I'll pick it up before I leave."
"What are your plans now, Buffy?"
"Well," I grinned sheepishly, "I must admit I quite fancy these Daedra Lord trinkets. I know there must be more of them out there. Thernd, at the stables just marked Malacath's Shrine on my map. My archery master, Daenlin, and I found the Shrine to Sheogorath years ago. His followers were quite insane, but perhaps I'll have to look into that. Do you know of any others?"
Tar-Meena flashed a toothy grin. "You always were the type to devour these old texts, then want to go see for yourself. I am glad Boderi trained you to survive the hazards of field research."
"And I'm glad you taught me to love books, my friend." I placed my hand over Tar-Meena's.
"It seems like you have the exploration bug." She again rose and, after retrieving two volumes from a nearby shelf, returned.
Turning my head sideways, I could read one of the titles. "Oh I remember 'Modern Heretics'. It was very helpful when I sought Azura's favor."
"Well," the Argonian said as she blew off the dust and opened the other book, "this one is by the retired mage, Ontus Vanin. In it he details the location of Vaermina's Shrine. Here." She turned the book so I could read the passage and see the sketch.
"Oh, I see. It's between here and Cheydinhal, on the shore of Lake Poppad." I marked the location on my map. "Thank you, Tar-Meena! I'll head upstairs now to do some reading on Malacath, Sheogorath and Vaermina.
Alone on the top floor of the Archives, I had several texts open and was studying my map to figure out the best routing. Acadian was curious.
"What am I doing chasing after Daedric Princes?" I wrinkled my face. "Acadian, I adore having Azura's Star. Like I told Tar-Meena, can you imagine the possibilities if any of them reward as well as Azura did?" I sighed. "Treasures I can't even imagine." What trinkets do you need?
"Well, I guess I don't really need
anything. I mean I have Slayer, my detect life rings and Azura's Star." I thought for a moment, then giggled. "Maybe I'm addicted. You know how when you walk by a shop? You just have to go inside to see what they - no, I guess you wouldn't understand that."
I set my jaw. "Look, I listened to you when you told me to give that black soul gem to Tar-Meena. Now you can just listen to me. We'll buy some troll fat for Malacath, then we're going shrine hunting!"I expect you'll be disappointed.
"Well, we're leaving in the morning, so I guess I'll just have to see for myself, won't I?" I stuck out my tongue.
Acadian let slip part of a thought before he quickly cut it off from me.
"Oh, really?" I bristled in response. "You think I always claim the last word when we argue? Well you're wrong! Go ahead, you can have the last say." You're right of course, Buffy. Let's go.
"Fine."This post has been edited by Acadian: Oct 9 2010, 08:52 PM