| The Neveragaine Strikes Back
, Revenge of the Killer Ada
Sep 25 2010, 10:06 PM
Joined: 14-August 10
Since I'm apparantly allowed more than one fanfic at once here, I decided to take advantage of it and start posting my latest fic, 'The Neveragaine Strikes Back'. Bear in mind that this is the sequel
to 'The Neveragaine' (covering the events of Tribunal), so it's best to read the original story in full before starting on this one. Updates will also be a lot slower on this fic, as I've only just started writing it.
So, onto the prologue:Prologue: Trouble In Paradise
As a fighter, I was always taught that you should never let your guard down. If things seem unusually quiet, it’s often a sign that the enemy’s just getting prepared and all hell is about to break loose. If I’d only remembered that, perhaps none of this would ever have happened.
After more than six months of living as the Nerevarine, I was still struggling to get used to being Vvardenfell’s hot new celebrity. For the first few weeks it was fantastic: everywhere I went there’d be people bowing and scraping, saying things like “Almsivi bless you, Nerevarine,” and “how may I serve you, Incarnate?” and “please may I lick your boots clean for you, Nerevar-Born-Again?” But after a month had gone by, and people were still collapsing into stammering incoherence whenever I so much as spoke to them, the excitement was starting to wear off pretty quickly. I even considered visiting Telvanni areas just for the novelty of being treated with polite indifference (or even not-so-polite indifference).
Things just got crazier as time went on. Before long there were people turning up at Bal Isra for pilgrimages – yes, honest-to-goodness pilgrimages
. Some of them even seemed to believe I had mystical healing powers of some sort, and could heal their sick friends and relatives just by touching them. I had enormous trouble convincing them that I was just an ordinary mortal rather than some sort of divine being.
“No, seriously,” I would plead. “I’d love to help you, I really would, but I’m useless at magic. You need to go and see a healer
I felt so guilty about disappointing them that I usually paid for a healer’s fee, and of course, word quickly got around. Eventually I caved in and learned a couple of spells to cure diseases and suchlike. I managed to persuade the Temple to install a healing shrine so that I wouldn’t have to cure everyone personally, which was not
how I planned to spend the rest of my (potentially eternal) life.
Indarys Manor itself was doing quite well. I’d made quite a nice little pile by selling off the Sixth House artifacts I’d collected at Red Mountain (and hadn’t blown all
of it on expensive gowns imported from Cyrodiil), so there was plenty of money for improvements. The population had grown to around twenty (plus guards), and we even had our own silt strider port going to Maar Gan and Ald’ruhn.
Things in House Redoran had also improved quite a bit since the fall of Dagoth Ur. The Blight was gone, and ashstorms were a lot less frequent now, making the Ashlands a much nicer place to live in. Arethan Mandas – the ‘Mad Lord of Milk’ – was back in Ald’ruhn under his daughter’s care, and as for Hlaren Ramoran, his relationship with his bodyguard Nalvyna seemed to be progressing nicely. When things got particularly boring in Council meetings, we’d sometimes catch him staring dreamily off into the distance, humming a little tune to himself.
If only the Council business had been going half as well. When I was first appointed Archmaster, I’d dreamed of creating a new House: a House with the honour of Redoran, the enterprise of Hlaalu, and … well, I’m sure there must be something
good about the Telvanni. Top of my list of ‘improvements’ was abolishing the ridiculous system of ‘advancement by honourable duel’. If someone thought they would make a better leader than me, they could damn well explain why
they thought it instead of dragging me out to the Arena.
But I’d reckoned without the Redoran council – the stickiest stick-in-the-muds ever to gum up the workings of government. I’d propose some trivial change – at least, one that seemed trivial to me – and they’d look at me as if I’d suggested holding a revolution and overthrowing the Tribunal. “But we’ve always
done it this way,” were the words I’d come to dread.
I soon sussed out who I could count on to support or oppose me. Athyn Sarethi was generally (though not always) on my side, and together with Brara Morvayn, we formed what I’d come to think of as the ‘liberal wing’ of the Council. Lined up against us were Hlaren Ramoran, Miner Arobar and Garisa Llethri – making a nicely-balanced three on each side, which didn’t exactly help with decision-making. As Archmaster I technically had the casting vote, but I didn’t want over-use it and turn the others against me.
It didn’t help that the other Councillors were still struggling with the idea of a human Archmaster. I wouldn’t have minded so much, except that they seemed to deal with it by treating me as a sort of honorary Dunmer. As a result I had to sit through meeting after meeting, grinding my teeth, while the others whinged endlessly about Imperials and the Empire and what a bunch of greedy honourless bastards we all were. (Not in those exact words, obviously, but that was the gist of it.)
Athyn could usually be counted on to smooth things over when they got too heated. But relations between me and Athyn were slightly strained at the moment, mainly because of Varvur.
Ah, yes. Me and Varvur Sarethi.
We spent as much time as we could together after Red Mountain, which wasn’t easy. I was the Redoran Archmaster, living in Bal Isra, while Varvur was training to be a Buoyant Armiger and spent most of his time in Vivec (the city, not… oh, never mind).
Even when we did manage to get together, we still had to find places where we could talk (and other things) in secret. Not to mention getting hold of sterility potions, without tipping off the whole of Vvardenfell that the Nerevarine had a lover. I eventually managed to get some from Sharn gra-Muzgob, after swearing her to secrecy on pain of having her necromantic activities reported to the Temple.
In order to see as much of me as possible on his visits to Ald’ruhn, Varvur came up with the idea of teaching me Dunmeris. After six months in Morrowind I could already understand it reasonably well, but speaking it was another matter. I’d never been much good at languages, but luckily Varvur had lots of patience.
“Conjugate the verb ‘to love’,” he said to me one day.
“I already know that one.” It was one of the first I’d learned.
“Never mind, let’s do it again.” He began to recite the verb forms in Tamrielic, and I repeated them back to him in Dunmeris. “He loves you. She loves you. They love you. We love you.” He slid his hand under the table and gently closed his fingers around mine. “I love you.”
My heart was starting to race, but I grasped his hand tightly and repeated the words in Dunmeris. “I love you.”
From then on, we were as close to engaged as we’d ever be without announcing it officially. The only problem was that Varvur’s parents still didn’t know about it. When we’d first started seeing each other, we’d held off telling them because we weren’t sure it would last – but now, in hindsight, that was starting to look like a bad idea. How would they react when they found out we’d been shagging each other in secret for months on end?
In my more optimistic moments, I told myself that it would be okay. After all, it wasn’t like I was a penniless nobody any more – I was the Redoran Archmaster and a high-ranking Imperial knight, not to mention a famous hero. I’d have been a pretty good match for Varvur if it weren’t for my low birth and – of course – the fact that I wasn’t a Dunmer. But surely that wouldn’t matter so much to people as kind and tolerant as the Sarethis?
“We’re going to have to tell them some day,” I said to Varvur, as we lay in each other’s arms somewhere in the Grazelands.
“I know,” he said, sighing. “I wish now that we had told them at the start. It would have been more honourable, certainly. But it’s too late now.”
I nuzzled up against him. “Do you think they have someone else in mind for you, perhaps? Some Redoran noblewoman?”
“I doubt it. If they had, they would at least have introduced me to her by now. I think they believe I’m too young to marry.” He paused. “Besides, you
are a Redoran noblewoman.”
“Well… technically.” I knew I wasn’t kidding anyone with that one.
“And the Nerevarine besides,” he went on. “If Nerevar reborn is not good enough for them, who would be?”
I didn’t answer for a second or two. Varvur’s words had brought to mind something that had been niggling at me for quite some time.
“Varvur… doesn’t it ever bother
you?” I said at last. “That I’m the Nerevarine?”
“No,” he said, looking surprised. “At least, not any more.” He gave me a searching look. “And you? Does it bother you?”
“I… well, it’s just…” I was struggling to find words to express what I felt. “Ever since Red Mountain, it’s like everyone has gone completely insane. People are treating me like I really am
Saint Nerevar. And…”
I took a deep breath. “I just have this horrible feeling that someday, they’re all going to wake up and realise I’m not nearly as great as they thought I was. Even you.”
“No,” he said instantly. He wrapped his arms around me and held me close, kissing me almost fiercely. “No. I love Ada, not the Nerevarine.”
I felt tears prick my eyes. Neither of us said anything else, but we tacitly agreed to put off telling The Folks a little while longer. And of course, eventually the inevitable happened and Athyn found out.
I’d gone to Varvur’s room for ‘comfort’ during one of my occasional bouts of painful homesickness, and Athyn walked in on us. He didn’t actually catch us in bed together, thank Dibella – that would just have been too
much of a cliché – but he did find me sitting half-naked in Varvur’s lap, with his arms around me. He didn’t say anything, just stared at us for a moment and then closed the door again, but I think he realised we hadn’t been practising verb inflections this time.
I slid off Varvur’s lap, grabbing at my robe, and made for the door – but he caught my arm before I could get any further. “No, Ada, you go back to Bal Isra. I will talk to him.”
“It’s my job,” I said flatly, but he shook his head.
“No, let me. He’s my father, and it is my dishonour for keeping this from him. I should have told him earlier.”
Before I could protest he was hurrying off after his father, leaving me torn between following him or chickening out and heading off home. I hesitated for a few moments, then poked my head out of the door just in time to see them both disappear into Athyn’s study.
There wasn’t much to do except teleport back to Bal Isra. I felt guilty about leaving Varvur to face the music alone, but at the same time I couldn’t help feeling slightly relieved that the truth was out. Okay, so this was a slightly awkward way for it to happen, but surely a man as fair and reasonable as Athyn would come round eventually?
But my hopes were dashed when Varvur showed up at Indarys Manor the next morning. From the grim expression on his face, I guessed his father hadn’t reacted by breaking out the shein and discussing wedding presents.
“What happened?” I asked, dreading the answer.
“You know my father. He doesn’t get angry, he just…” Varvur broke off, sighing heavily. “He asked if the two of us were sleeping together.”
“And what did you say?”
“I told him that we were, of course. And then he asked why I hadn’t told him earlier, so I tried to explain – but I could see he was not happy about it.”
“What happened then?”
Varvur’s fists clenched. “He started… lecturing me. As if I were a child still. Telling me that I should be beyond the age of ‘infatuations’ with human women. That I should have more respect for you, and not make promises I couldn’t… keep.”
My jaw dropped. “Could you have believed it? I am not fourteen years old any longer! So… well, I am afraid I lost my temper a little.” He heaved another gusty sigh. “I told him that this was not an ‘infatuation’ and we were in love. And that I had made no promises to you, but that if I had, I certainly would not break them.”
“Well… that doesn’t sound so bad,” I said. “Maybe it’s just a misunderstanding. If we can persuade him that we’re really in love with each other – ”
Varvur was shaking his head. “There’s more. He started repeating lies he had heard about you – malicious gossip and slander. I would never have believed it of my father.”
?” That didn’t sound at all like Athyn. “What sort of lies?”
He waved a hand angrily. “They are not worth repeating! And so I said to him. I told him I wouldn’t listen to any more of it, and then I left.”
There was a long silence. I was beginning to see just how badly wrong I’d been when I blithely assumed Athyn would give us his blessing.
“What about your mother?” I asked. “Do you think she’ll be on our side?”
He shook his head again. “I doubt it. I don’t like to speak ill of my mother, but… she is prejudiced against humans. She likes you because you helped our family, but if my father doesn’t want me to marry an Imperial, she certainly would not.”
“So what do we do?” I said at last. “Varvur… I really wouldn’t want to get married without your parents’ approval. Especially your father’s. After the way he’s treated me, and everything he’s done for me… I just couldn’t.”
He nodded. “No, I don’t wish to either. I could never do that to my parents. I suppose we will just have to wait, and hope that they change their minds.”
So we did, and a bloody uncomfortable wait it was. We still had to meet in secret to avoid any publicity, but now we had to do it in the full knowledge that Varvur’s parents knew, and disapproved. In a way it was harder for me than for Varvur – not that he didn’t love his father, but to me Athyn was a friend and mentor, the man who’d made me everything I was today. I knew I’d disappointed him, and I felt terrible about it.
To make things worse, Athyn and I had to see each other practically every day to discuss business. He never actually said anything to me about Varvur, but I could sense the tension between us whenever we met – and to be honest, I couldn’t entirely blame him. I knew I couldn’t exactly be the daughter-in-law he’d always dreamed of.
Sometimes I found myself wondering if it was even worth it. There were so many practical problems in the way of my relationship with Varvur, and not just because of race and background. We came from totally different cultures, worshipped different gods... and then, of course, there was the issue of children. For some reason, the children of mixed-race marriages always take on the mother’s race – so any kids I had with Varvur would be Imperials, not Dunmer. They would grow old and die long before their grandparents, let alone their parents.
In the end, it might have been easier for both of us if we’d just given up and gone our separate ways. The only problem was that I loved him.
Things couldn’t go on like this, of course. Something had to give. But when the crisis came, it happened in a way I most definitely would not have expected.
Feb 26 2011, 06:16 PM
Joined: 14-August 10
Chapter 5: Both Sides Now
If I’d hoped that Calvus would be jumping for joy when I told him the new plan, I’d have been disappointed. I gave him a brief run-down of what Hler had said when he woke up later that evening, and watched the colour slowly drain from his face. “Trying to play both sides, are you?” He shook his head. “That’s a very dangerous game, Ada.”
“I know,” I said with a sigh. “Like I said, it was Hler’s idea, not mine. Anyway, I haven’t made my mind up yet – I’ll see what Delitian has to say first.”
“Now?” He rubbed his bleary eyes.
“No, tomorrow. I’ve had enough of that moron for one day.”
“Okay.” He swung his legs off the bed and stood up. “Shall we eat?”
As we ate dinner on the terrace, I spotted a sheet of paper lying on the ground near our table. It was another copy of that newssheet I’d seen in the marketplace, with the ‘little list’ article on the front page. “Did you see that article?” I asked Calvus. “About Helseth poisoning people in High Rock?”
He nodded. “Oh yes, it’s all around Mournhold. Before today I wasn’t sure what to think about it, but now…”
I went to bed straight after dinner, while Calvus settled down to keep watch. I wanted to get up as early as possible, and give him another chance to sleep while I went to see Delitian. There wasn’t any need to have him with me this time, I thought – surely even Helseth wouldn’t be stupid enough to have me attacked in broad daylight in his own palace. Though you could never be quite sure with that guy.
The next day, after a quick breakfast, I walked over to the Palace. Tienius wasn’t in the throne room when I arrived, and I had to wait nearly three-quarters of an hour for him to finally turn up. The minute he saw me, his lips twisted into a smug, contemptuous smile that plainly said, “I knew you’d be back.” If I really had been planning to apologise, that alone would have been enough to make me walk straight back out of there.
“Captain Delitian.” I forced myself to return his smile. Remember, you don’t have to mean it: you’re just doing this to help the Temple. “I’ve come to apologise for the way I spoke to you yesterday. I was very angry, and I think I had a right to be, but now I’ve calmed down I’m… able to see things from the King’s point of view.” I was going to have to wash my mouth out with soap after this.
“Really? I’m glad to hear it.” His tone was polite, but he didn’t bother to hide the look of triumph in his eyes. “I don’t suppose you’ve given any thought to that other little matter I mentioned yesterday?”
“I’ve thought about it, yes.” I narrowed my eyes. “You say Helseth is known for rewarding his friends?”
“Most certainly he is. Are you saying you would be willing to help?”
I hesitated. “What exactly is it that he wants me to do?”
“Well, the first thing is a simple matter.” He lowered his voice. “There are rumours among the people - rumours that King Athyn Llethan did not die a natural death.”
“And did he?”
Tienius frowned. “That’s a silly question. I don’t like silly questions.”
“Oh well then,” I said with a shrug, turning back towards the door.
Behind me, Tienius let out an exasperated sigh. “There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Athyn Llethan died anything but a natural death. I assure you. Absolutely no evidence.”
“I didn’t ask whether there was any evidence. I asked whether he did or not.” Delitian was silent. “Given what happened yesterday, sera, can you blame me for being just a little bit suspicious?”
Tienius ground his teeth. I was starting to enjoy this. “I take your point,” he said, after another long silence. “King Helseth is a skilled… alchemist, and student of bodily processes. But it won’t do to have people referring to our sovereign as a common poisoner, will it?”
“So what do you want me to do?” I asked, deciding not to push him any further.
“It’s quite simple: speak to the people about King Llethan’s death. You are not known to them as my representative, and they may be more candid with you. Let me know if you find the source of these rumours.”
I blinked. “But it’s that newssheet, surely?”
“Newssheet?” he said, frowning.
Holy crap, he couldn’t be serious. “The one that’s all over Godsreach and the Bazaar? The… Common Language, or something? Accusing the King of all those poisonings back in Wayrest?”
Tienius was looking at me oddly. “You’re saying,” he said slowly, “that a broadside sheet circulating around Mournhold is accusing King Helseth of being a poisoner? And that is why people think maybe he poisoned Athyn Llethan?”
Oh, come on, I thought. Come on!
How could the King possibly not know about this? How could he be the one person in Mournhold who hadn’t managed to see a copy of that newssheet – the one I’d found lying around a market stall roughly ten minutes after arriving in the city? Okay, so he probably didn’t get it delivered along with his breakfast, but didn’t he have a spy network or something? Oh, right – his spies were probably all hundreds of miles away, chasing imaginary plots against the throne. What a pillock!
I nodded dumbly, and Delitian drew a deep breath. “Very interesting, he said at last. I’d like to see a copy of this newssheet, if you can bring me one.”
It had been a dry night, and the copy of The Common Tongue was still floating around the Winged Guar’s terrace – dirty and crumpled, but still readable. Ten minutes later I was presenting it to Captain Delitian, still shaking my head in disbelief at the sheer incompetence of Helseth’s intelligence network. If all his tasks for me were like this, I was going to have a much easier time than I’d thought.
Tienius read the article through carefully before crumpling the paper in his hand. “Thank you for bringing me this,” he said. “I believe it is indeed the source of the rumours. I see no source or evidence for its speculation – just vague falsehoods. Well, I’ll mention your loyal services and exceptional qualities to King Helseth… and I think we might find you further employment.”
“What kind?” I asked, trying not to giggle at the ‘exceptional qualities’ remark. Apparently I was the only person in the palace capable of walking to the market and picking up a newspaper.
“For example, we lack sources of information in Almalexia’s Temple. Could you help me find a Temple informant?”
I could hardly believe it – an excuse to go straight back to the Temple, without being suspected? He’d walked right into my hands. It seemed almost too good to be true.
“I could try,” I said eventually.
“Good,” he said, with a brisk nod. “There are rumours of discontent in the Temple. You are the Nerevarine; no doubt you can convince them to trust you. Look for someone discontented, listen sympathetically, and find out whether the Temple is willing to accept King Helseth – or whether they plan to act against him.”
As I left the palace, I couldn’t help thinking that this was all just a bit too easy. Surely Delitian and Helseth couldn’t be quite so stupid as to trust me right off the bat? Would they suspect that there was more to my sudden ‘change of heart’ than met the eye? Things were going well so far, but I couldn’t afford to let my guard down.
A Dunmer priestess approached me as I was walking up the steps to the Temple. “Hello, my child,” she said with a smile. “Our wealth dies with us, but our good deeds outlive us all. Would you care to make a donation to the Temple, and receive the blessings of the Lady of Mercy?”
I was in a good mood, and hey, I needed all the blessings I could get. “Okay,” I said, handing over five gold pieces. “What’s the money for, anyway?”
“Almalexia watches over all Her children – the sick, the needy, the poor.” I could practically hear the capital letter on ‘Her’. “Well... not actually in person. She used to... but She’s made no public appearance for years, so the Temple takes care of Her children for Her. That’s what the money goes for, child.”
“Is that because of Dagoth Ur and the Ghostfence?”
The priestess nodded. “It’s hard for all of us. She’s had to change – to toughen Herself and Her followers.” She paused. “It’s true that sometimes dissenters disappear when they question Her doctrines… and the Hands of Almalexia are more like inquisitors than knights of loving mercy... and Mournhold doesn’t feel much like the City of Love any more. But hard times demand hard gods.”
The sad look in her eyes told me that she wasn’t truly convinced of this, whatever she might say to outsiders. Maybe it wouldn’t be as hard as I thought to find a dissenter within the Temple. Still, I wanted to talk to Fedris Hler before I took any action.
When I found Hler and told him about Delitian’s request, his eyes lit up with malicious glee. “Galsa Andrano,” he said after a moment’s thought. “She’s young and naïve, and has a loose tongue. Of course, she knows nothing of real importance – but no doubt she’ll give you plenty of nonsensical tales to carry to Helseth. You can find her in the Infirmary.”
I was about to leave, when I thought of something else. “May I ask you something, Ser Hler? Do you believe that Helseth murdered the previous King?”
Hler snorted. “Who can doubt that Helseth is responsible for Athyn Llethan’s death? Though out of fear, few will speak openly, I think you’ll find most Dunmer in Mournhold are convinced that Llethan was killed to make way for the Helseth. Of course, I doubt that it could be proven – Helseth is too clever for that. But no one can doubt the truth of the matter.”
I sighed. Although I knew almost nothing about the late King Llethan, I found myself sympathising with him purely because he wasn’t Helseth – oh, and also because his name reminded me of Athyn Sarethi. What had Athyn thought when he’d read my notes, I wondered? Was he still angry with me… and more to the point, was Varvur?
As luck would have it, Galsa Andrano was alone when I found her in the Infirmary. I gave myself a minor wound by cutting my arm with my sword, and pretended I’d run out of healing potions. I didn’t have to pay for treatment – as soon as Galsa realised who I was, she got so excited that I half expected her to pay me for the privilege.
“The Nerevarine!” she breathed. “I can’t believe it! Mehra Milo has told me all about you. I never would have expected to see you here in Mournhold.”
She was so sweet and friendly that I felt terrible about using her like this. Gods, I hated spying. I’d hated it back when I was working for Caius Cosades, and I hated it now. But the sheer rage I felt whenever I thought about Helseth was enough to drown out any doubts I might be having.
As Hler had predicted, it wasn’t difficult to get information out of Galsa. As she cleaned my wound, I mentioned what the priestess outside the Temple had said to me, and she nodded sadly. “I am a faithful believer,” she told me, “but Almalexia makes me uneasy. For the last 50 years, the Tribunal stopped walking among us, stopped listening and speaking with us. This worried me, and made me sad… but since Almalexia has lately come among us again, I feel more worry, not less. Her face glows brightly with hope and power, but her words seem dark and bitter.”
I nodded and made understanding noises, while she went on speaking. “Almalexia’s homilies are full of compassion, understanding, wisdom and acceptance. But now her sermons seem more intent on destroying the wicked and rewarding the faithful – the unquestioning, obedient faithful. Yes, these are difficult times... but the god I once loved now frightens me.”
“What about this new King?” I asked. “Have you heard all the rumours about how he poisoned the old one?”
She hesitated. “I am not sure… no, what am I thinking? Of course I can trust you.” I felt a pang of guilt, but it was too late to turn back. “The rumours are true. Helseth has murdered King Llethan and stolen his crown.”
“You’re sure of this?”
Galsa nodded vigorously. “It does not matter that King Llethan was a fool – he was our fool. So long as the puppet king was a joke, we all could laugh and ignore him. Helseth is not a fool, and no one is laughing. If Helseth seeks in earnest to be king, then Almalexia and the Temple are sworn in earnest to destroy him.”
“Wow.” I raised my eyebrows. “Isn’t that a bit dangerous? I mean, if he really is a murderer…”
“We do not fear him.” She swallowed. “Forgive me… I fear I have said too much already. One never knows who might be listening.”
I let her finish treating my wound, realising I wasn’t likely to get anything more out of her for now. “I was just thinking over what you said about Almalexia,” I said, as I got up to leave. “You know, I’ve met with Lord Vivec a couple of times. Maybe I could do something to help?”
“You think you could…?” Her eyes lit up. “Yes, perhaps. Come here another time, and we will talk. I feel guilty, and disloyal, but in my heart, I know something is not right. It helps a little to be able to speak of it with you.”
Talk about feeling ‘guilty and disloyal’, I thought miserably, as I left the Temple. I only hoped that Hler was right, and she hadn’t told me anything that would really be of use to Helseth. Maybe I really would go and speak to Vivec about Almalexia – it seemed the least I could do, in the circumstances.
Before going back to the Palace, I finally remembered to stop by a magic shop to get some more potions. As soon as I stepped out of the shop, there was a sudden puff of smoke and a robed man appeared right in front of me.
“Greetings, fair citizens of Mournhold!” he boomed. “I am the great, renowned, respected, and feared wizard, Ovis Velas! In the coming weeks you shall see more and more of me, as I bring this city to its knees – but for the moment, allow me to demonstrate my power on one of your hapless countrymen. You there!”
I blinked. He was pointing straight at me. “What?”
“Yes, you, you ugly Imperial!” he snarled. “Prepare yourself to feel my wrath!”
I’d already drawn my sword, but before I got close enough to use it, he cast a nasty Shock spell at me. It didn’t do much harm, what with all the magical protections I habitually wore, but it bloody hurt.
All the tensions of the past few days exploded in a near-hysterical wave of rage. Lunging at Velas, I drove my blade straight through his neck, very effectively cutting off his attempts to cast another spell. As he crumpled to the floor in a fountain of blood, I whipped round to face a group of stunned-looking onlookers.
“Is there ANYONE in this city who isn’t trying to kill me?” I roared, so loudly that several people winced and cringed away from me. “Well? Anyone else want to have a go?” I turned to one of the hapless onlookers, who backed away hastily. “No? How about you then?”
The second onlooker raised his hands in a defensive gesture, shaking his head violently. “No, sera!” he stammered. “I heard the rumours about this wizard. I think he was just trying to make a display of his power. He frowned. “Though… with all the rumours of how powerful and evil he was, I thought that he would be tougher than he appeared.”
“He said his name was Velas, right?” one of the others chimed in. “There’s a Velas manor in Godsreach, I think.”
Still breathing heavily, I knelt down beside the wizard’s body and searched through the pockets of his robe. There was nothing in them but a small house key. Right, I thought: time to pay a visit to Velas Manor. But first, I needed backup.
Ten minutes later I was back in my room back at the Winged Guar, shaking Calvus awake. “Time to get up, shirker,” I snapped.
“Ada?” He looked up at me sleepily, rubbing his eyes. “Why are you covered in blood?”
I sighed. “Three guesses. Yet another idiot just tried to kill me.”
“Another? What, one of Helseth’s men?”
“I don’t think so. He said something about being a renowned wizard and making a display of his powers.”
“Oh.” He sat up, yawning. “Well, if he’s dead, what’s the problem?”
I hesitated. “I’m not sure, but there’s something fishy about this. People said the guy had a manor in Godsreach. I want to check it out.”
“Okay, if you say so.” Calvus threw off the covers and got to his feet. “What about the goblin-hunting?”
“Change of plan,” I said grimly. “First we deal with this lunatic, then we go after the goblins.” I paused, glancing down at my bloodstained tunic. “No, wait. First I change my clothes, then we deal with this lunatic, then we go after the goblins.”
A short while later we made our way through the streets of Godsreach, pausing occasionally to ask the way to Velas Manor. It took us a while to find it, as most people didn’t seem to have heard of the Velas guy. As we approached the door I drew my sword and cast some protective enchantments, then took off my Amulet of Shadows and handed it to Calvus.
“Here, wear this,” I told him. “It’s got a Chameleon enchantment. If there’s anyone inside the manor, get behind them, and be ready.”
As luck would have it, there was someone waiting for me right inside the door – a man wearing a fancy-looking enchanted wizard’s robe. He looked a little bit like the wizard in the Great Bazaar, only a little older and a lot less swivelly-eyed.
“’Scuse me for barging in like this,” I said, with heavy irony. “I don’t suppose you’d happen to know an Ovis Velas?”
He smiled thinly. “Ah yes. Salutations… Ada Ventura, is it?” I nodded. “So nice of you to join me in my humble abode. I was all prepared to offer you a nice drink or a bite to eat before we got down to business, but you are late in coming and I don't appreciate being kept waiting, so business it shall be.”
His smile tightened. “I can sense you’ve already made the acquaintance of my unfortunate brother.”
“You mean the guy who just tried to kill me, I take it.” He inclined his head. “Then perhaps you would be the great Velas wizard people are talking about?”
“Yes, Ovis always did like to take credit for my exploits,” he said with a shrug. “Too bad that this time, in trying to become my doppelganger, it would appear he went too far. I understand your position, Ada – you have to defend yourself. But I also must ask you to understand mine – I have to avenge my brother.”
My heart sank. The last thing I needed was another crazed wizard trying to kill me, and this time one that was actually competent. But it was too late to back out now.
“Yes, well,” I said wearily. “Before we start the revenge, I guess I should make the standard disclaimer. I take it you’re aware that I’m the Nerevarine? Responsible for the deaths of various crime kingpins, Telvanni wizards and god-like entities?”
Some people never learn, I guess. “Well, it’s your funeral,” I said. “So what’s it to be, then?”
“A duel is called for,” he said calmly, “and there is no time like the present. Prepare yourself, Ada Ventura. Thy doom is imminent, and I have other matters to attend to.”
Before I had time to do anything – even breathe – there was a shimmer in the air around me, and suddenly the room was filled with Daedra. Two Golden Saints, one on each side of me – and behind me, casting an ominous shadow over half the room, the massive bulk of an Ogrim Titan. It was roughly twice the size of a normal Ogrim, making it well over twice my height and about six times as wide.
Sheer terror focussed my mind into sharp clarity. Velas No. 2’s next spell whizzed over my head as I dived to the floor, taking the only possible way out – through the Ogrim’s legs. Before the huge but slow-witted beast could work out what had happened, I was on my feet again and hacking frantically at its back with my glass frostsword.
The Golden Saints were closing in on me and I dodged aside, trying to use the Ogrim’s bulk to protect myself against them. Velas let out a yelp, and from the corner of my eye I saw him struggling with the nearly-invisible Calvus. I knew my best chance was to kill Velas as quickly as possible, sending his Daedric summons back to Oblivion, but I couldn’t get close enough to help him.
I continued to duck and dodge, getting a hit in every now and again, but mostly just trying to avoid being hit myself. Even I couldn’t fight three powerful Daedra at once for any substantial length of time. I couldn’t see Calvus, but from the sound of it he was trying to throttle the struggling wizard. “Use your sword, idiot!” I wanted to scream.
Just as I was getting worried that my glass blade was going to shatter, I heard the thump of Velas’ body hitting the floor, followed by the welcome sound of his summoned creatures disappearing into Oblivion. Calvus was standing over Velas, a wide grin spreading over his face. “So much for your god-killing feats, my lady,” he panted. “If I hadn’t been here, you’d have been done for.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “How exactly do you think I killed Dagoth Ur, Calvus? By taking him one-on-one in a fair fight?”
“Point.” He bent over Velas’ body. “Damn, this guy has some good stuff on him. A glass jinkblade! Good thing he didn’t get to use that.”
“Hey, feel free to take it. You’ve certainly earned it.”
His grin spread even wider. “I like working with you, Ada.”
I tried to grin back, but I wasn’t really in the mood. I’d only been in the city a couple of days, and already I’d faced three separate attempts on my life (not counting our trip to the Dark Brotherhood stronghold). I prayed that this one would be the last, but something told me I was being over-optimistic.
“Right,” I said, once we’d left the house and informed a guard about the wizard’s body. “Next target: goblin army. Location: ‘somewhere in the sewers’. Any idea where to start?’
Calvus thought for a moment. “Well, I’m guessing they won’t be anywhere near the Dark Brotherhood stronghold. Those guys aren’t about to share their territory. Does the Temple itself have sewers?”
“Hmm, good point,” I said. “I suppose it must. I’m not sure how to get into them, though.”
We made our way to the Temple, where the caretaker informed us that the sewers could be reached through a trapdoor in the basement. She didn’t seem too impressed when she realised we were thinking of going down there. “This temple is clean as Almalexia’s conscience, sera,” she snapped. “Mind you keep it that way.”
Interesting point, I thought. This was the Almalexia who’d stolen divine powers from a dead god’s heart, was responsible for decades of brutal religious persecution, and had quite possibly murdered her own husband. How clean was her conscience, I wonder?
We found the sewers easily enough, but we didn’t find any goblins. Apart from a couple of rats, the only living (well, un-living) things in the place were a bunch of skeletons and ancestor ghosts. One interesting thing did happen, though: as I approached one of the ghosts with sword at the ready, it called out to me in a thin, whispery voice.
“Stranger! Listen!” Calvus and I stopped dead in our tracks. “I have a message I must tell you!”
I hesitated, unsure whether to trust it. “My name is Variner,” it went on. “I was killed by the Black Dart Gang.”
The name ‘Variner’ jogged a memory. “Oh… hang on. Are you Narisa Adus’ lover? The woman in the Bazaar sewers?”
“Yes! I beg you, avenge my death.” He floated a little closer to us, causing both of us to instinctively draw back. “I was killed by the Black Dart Gang. Their hideout is in the western Temple Sewers. There is a mechanism that can flood the room, drowning the gang – find a lever that looks like a torch holder, near the east end of the chamber. But whatever you do, don’t get too close or you will join me in the afterlife.”
“Um, okay,” I said warily. “Anything else?”
“No, I have delivered my message,” he quavered. “Now, at last, my spirit may find rest, and join in peaceful silence with my ancestors.”
With that he faded away, leaving Calvus looking distinctly skeptical. “I dunno, Ada. Are you sure you want to trust that thing? I’ve heard things about the Black Dart Gang, and they sound really nasty. Even compared to the Dark Brotherhood.”
“Well, he did mention this secret mechanism,” I said cautiously. “And… well, this isn’t the first time a ghost has given me useful information.”
He blinked. “Are you serious? You get a lot of ghosts passing on messages from beyond the grave, then?”
“You’d be amazed,” I said with a sigh.
Quietly, stealthily, we made our way towards the west side of the sewers. There was no evidence that the gang were nearby, but we really didn’t want to run into any of them unprepared. Calvus had mentioned that some of their enchanted darts could easily kill an armoured warrior in one hit.
As we approached one of the sewer partitions, we realised that we were getting close. Several chests and barrels held a small treasure trove of clothes and potions – mostly stolen from the Black Dart Gang’s victims, I suspected. At least we’d make some profit on today’s adventure, assuming we made it out alive.
A door in the western wall led us into another long, bare sewer corridor. There was no one around, and nothing of interest to see. “What did the guy say?” I muttered. “Something about a lever disguised as a torch holder?”
“There,” said Calvus suddenly, pointing to a carved torch holder on the wall near the door. It looked different from the others, and there was no torch in it. I walked over to the holder, examined it for a few seconds, and gave it an experimental yank.
There was a sudden low rumbling sound off in the distance. It sounded far away, but was getting louder every moment. “Um,” I said, turning to Calvus. “I think this is where we start running.”
We rushed back into the central sewers, slamming the heavy door behind us. Only a few seconds later, the rumbling sound grew to a roar, and I thought I could hear faint cries in the distance. Neither of us dared to try the door for several minutes.
Finally, Calvus walked up to the door and pushed it a few times. It wouldn’t budge an inch. “Mission accomplished, I guess.” I screwed up my face. “Nasty way to die.”
“Yeah. On the plus side, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.” He shrugged. “Shall we leave?”
We did search the rest of the sewers for any stray goblins, but didn’t find any. What we did find was a crate of silver weapons, and – tucked away behind an outcrop of rock – an adamantium axe. Calvus’ eyes nearly bugged out of his head when he saw it. “Gods, that thing must be worth a fortune!”
“Finders keepers, I guess.” I held it out to him. “Here, you have it. I don’t use axes.”
“I – wow. Are you sure?” I nodded. “Really? I mean, you could always sell it.”
“I’m rich enough already. I told you.”
“Sheesh.” He let out a long breath. “I never thought working for you would be this dangerous, but I didn’t think it would be this profitable either.”
“Hey, I have to keep you on side. Otherwise you might go over to Helseth.” I grinned wryly, but we both knew there was a grain of truth in what I had said. I couldn’t fully trust anyone here in Mournhold, not even Calvus.
I didn’t feel up to any more goblin-hunting that day, but we did go back to the Bazaar sewers to tell Narisa her lover’s spirit was free. We were both very cautious, realising the Dark Brotherhood might have stepped up their security, but we didn’t run into anyone else apart from that weird Khajiit woman. When I told Narisa her we’d managed to wipe out the Black Dart Gang, she just stared at us in disbelief.
“They’re... dead?” she croaked. “You killed them? You killed the Black Dart Gang?”
When we explained about the flood mechanism, and showed her the stolen goods we’d recovered from the gang, she cried with joy. “It’s a miracle,” she sobbed. “Here, please. Take this.” She held out an enchanted ring. “Variner gave it to me – it belonged to his family, but I’m sure they all would want you to have it. You have my thanks, and the thanks of Variner’s family, and his spirit, and all the victims of the Black Dart Gang.”
My ever-growing collection of rings and amulets was reaching quite insane proportions, but this one did look pretty useful. It had a Charm enchantment, similar to my own Voice of the Emperor spell, and charming people was an area where I could always use extra help. Besides, I couldn’t refuse it when she looked so happy and grateful.
We escorted Narisa back to the sewer entrance, where she hugged us both repeatedly and swore her eternal gratitude. “I’ll write all about you in the next issue,” she told me.
“Oh… didn’t I tell you? I’m a journalist.” Calvus and I looked blankly at each other. “Don’t you know what that is? It means that I write articles for newssheets. That’s how my poor Variner died, following a story about the Black Dart Gang.”
“Newssheets? Like the Common Tongue?”
“Oh no!” she exclaimed hastily. “Well… yes, that is a newssheet, but I don’t write for that one. Accusing the King of murder is a good way to get yourself killed in this city.”
How ironic, I thought. “Well, thanks for telling me,” I said out loud. “I’ll remember to come to you if I ever want any juicy gossip.”
“Always. Here, I’ll give you my address.” She wrote it down for me before hurrying off, presumably eager to clean herself up after a week in the sewers. Calvus and I went to the smithy to sell off the extra weapons we’d collected – apart from the adamantium axe, which he wanted to keep ‘just in case’ – and then headed back home for food, baths and a well-earned rest.
This post has been edited by Helena: Feb 27 2011, 12:18 AM
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Quite right. Some things are Simply Not Done.
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