| 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.
Sep 21 2011, 06:15 PM
Joined: 14-August 10
Finally, another chapter! It's been quite a while, so I'll briefly recap: Ada is working for the Temple against King Helseth. She's been asked to destroy a goblin army which Helseth is training in the Mournhold sewers. Down in the sewers, she and her bodyguard Calvus encountered a shady Nord named Hloggar the Bloody, and fought off an attack by goblins - which seem to be a lot tougher than the Cyrodiil variety...
Chapter 7: Gobliiins
The goblin attack led to a slight thaw in relations between us and ‘Hloggar the Bloody’ (bet he didn’t get teased much as a kid). We were still wary of each other, but when he gruffly offered me and Calvus a drink, neither of us felt like refusing. The home-brew he served us was as thick as syrup and tasted vile, but at least it was strong enough to fortify us for what lay ahead.
“Wasn’t expecting to see the greenskins here,” he confided, swigging the disgusting ale from his flask as if it were iced lemonade. “They don’t usually come down this far. Might have to move on before they start making a habit of it.”
I suppressed the urge to ask, for the second time, what the heck he was doing down here. “Do you think… I began,” then hesitated. “Have you seen any signs that someone may be… training them?”
Hloggar spluttered. “Training? Are you mad? You can’t train those things, they’re just mindless animals. Get too close to ’em without a weapon and they’ll bite your hand off.”
At one time I’d have agreed with him, but now I wasn’t quite so sure. Goblins might be vicious little beasts, and they might not speak any language the ‘civilised’ races could understand, but… I couldn’t help thinking of the goblin lairs I’d seen back in Cyrodiil. They were a bit ‘rough-and-ready’, but they’d been filled with all the things you’d expect to find in a human settlement – beds, tables, cooking utensils. Could a race which wore clothes, used tools and weapons, and kept pets really be described as ‘mindless animals’? Weren’t people saying the same thing about the Orcs just a few decades ago?
Anyway, this wasn’t exactly the time or place for philosophising. Instead we did what any good adventurer does before a mission: drank a lot, told lewd jokes and sang bawdy songs. Hloggar had one about a ‘virtuous’ maiden who fell in love with a goblin:
“His scaly face with grimy sheen
With fangs so sharp, and skin so green
Was the finest thing she e’er had seen – ”
Just then we heard a loud noise off in the distance, and we all shut up really quickly. You never knew when the goblins might be back with reinforcements.
At this point, Calvus and I decided it was time we made a move. I asked Hloggar how big he though this sewer was. “Huge,” he said bluntly. “Miles and miles of it. If you go in there, make sure you can find your way out again.”
Hmm, good point. I always carried my Divine and Almsivi Intervention amulets in any case, as well as a few scrolls, but I decided we’d better stop every now and then to plot out the route we had travelled.
A little further on from where the goblins had attacked, we arrived at a ‘crossroads’ leading in three directions. According to Dilborn’s hastily sketched map, one of them led back to the trapdoor where we’d entered this sewer section. The second led to the sewers under the Palace, and the third to the ruins of an ancient battlefield. “What do you think?” I asked Calvus. “Surely even Helseth wouldn’t be crazy enough to train up goblin hordes under his own palace!”
“Hmm. I wouldn’t entirely put it past him.” He jabbed at the third route. “Still, let’s try this way first.”
We ran across a couple more goblins as we made our way through the sewers, but these ones were alone, and much easier to draw out and kill than the patrol we’d met earlier. (I only hoped my rather fragile glass longsword would hold out without breaking.)
A short way past the connecting door into the battlefield area, the sewers gave way to another cavern system. The odd goblin encounter gave me confidence that we were going the right way. At last, at the end of a long, twisty passageway, the cavern widened abruptly into a massive underground arena, almost as big as the Plaza Brindisi Dorom. Goblins scurried to and fro on the ground below, at the foot of a long flight of stone steps.
“Wow,” I whispered. “Where now?” On the other side of the arena was some sort of stone pavilion on top of a raised plinth; it looked interesting but didn’t appear to lead anywhere. To the right of us was a small wooden door set into the wall of the cavern, several feet off the ground on a stone platform. As far as I could see it was the only way out of this place.
“That way, I guess.” Calvus began to inch his way out of cover towards the steps. I nodded, and was about to follow him when I suddenly spotted something else. “Wait!”
“Look up there.” I pointed up towards the roof of the cavern, far above the pavilion. There, fifty or sixty feet above us, was another stone platform. “I wonder where that leads to?”
“We’ll never get up there anyway. Levitation is banned in Mournhold.” I gaped at him. “Something to do with the goddess Almalexia. She doesn’t want anyone to be higher than her, or something like that. They’ve surrounded the whole place with some magic field that counteracts Levitation enchantments.”
I gaped even harder. “You’re kidding. What, even in the sewers?”
“Hmm… good point.” He paused. “I’m not entirely sure.”
“Well, I’m going to try anyway.” I opened my pack and took out my Levitation amulet, then dug around a little to find Peakstar’s old pants. “Here, put these on. If I find anything interesting up there, you can use them to follow me.”
His eyes narrowed. “So you get the amulet, and I have to use the thirty-year-old pair of women’s pants?”
“Well, you’re free to pay for the expedition next time.” He shut up.
I slipped the amulet over my head, cast the enchantment – it seemed to work fine down here – and began to levitate up towards the platform. The goblins pointed and jabbered as I floated across the arena, but they couldn’t reach me. When I reached the top, I realised my hunch had been right – there was another door up here. I turned back towards the small figure on the other side of the cave, and waved as hard as I could.
A minute later I was joined by a scowling Calvus. He did look deliciously silly in those pants, I have to say. “Stylish,” I said, nodding approvingly, and he looked as if he’d like to strangle me. “So, shall we proceed?”
“Okay.” He cast a backward glance at the cavern entrance, far below us. “I just hope we have enough of those enchantments to get back again.”
Unfortunately, if we’d thought we could avoid having to do much fighting this way, we were very wrong. The narrow, rock-strewn passage leading to the goblins’ lair was more heavily guarded than anywhere we’d been so far. The first thing we encountered was a heavy-set goblin patrolling with a durzog, and no sooner were they both defeated (with great difficulty), then another one came barrelling up to us from further along the passage. Calvus’ leg had been injured by a durzog bite, so I had to finish off the second goblin while he healed himself. By now we were both exhausted, and our weapons and armour badly needed repair.
“We need to stop and rest for a while,” I said. Calvus agreed, so we retreated to the ledge at the top of the arena and set up a makeshift camp. It was very narrow and there was barely enough room to sit down, let alone start a fire (not that we had any wood anyway) or set out bedrolls. “Take off your pants,” I told Calvus, as he glugged a stamina potion.
He just looked at me. “So that I can mend them,” I said in exasperation.
He did as I said, probably a bit relieved to be rid of them. Whilst I tried to darn the tear in Peakstar’s scuzzy pants – now decorated with extra bloodstains – he did the best he could with armourer’s hammers. At last, once we’d rested, eaten and repaired as much as we could, we braved the passageway once again.
A little way in we found a small alcove containing some useful loot, including restoration potions and enchanted arrows. Further along were more goblin guards, amidst a bunch of old ruins that looked dangerously close to collapsing on top of us. When we finally reached the heavy stone door at the end of the passage, I wasn’t sure whether to feel relief or dread.
But the moment we got through the door, I stopped feeling either of those things because I was too busy coughing and choking. Whoever lived here had clearly gone to the Morag Tong School of Interior Decoration: lots of eerie hanging lights that glowed an evil-looking red and billowed clouds of smoke all over the place. Our coughs and splutters naturally attracted the attention of nearby goblins, and we had to fight them while trying desperately to keep our lungs intact. This was definitely turning into one of those ‘never again’ missions.
Once we could breathe again and the goblins had been dealt with, Calvus and I started to explore this new building. It looked like the remains of an old Indoril manor, a little like the one in the Dark Brotherhood lair. There wasn’t much furniture left, but a few books had been left lying around on benches and shelves, so clearly someone in this place was intelligent and literate.
What puzzled me and Calvus was that we could still hear goblin grunts and footsteps from somewhere in the building, even though no goblins were visible. The sounds died away in some parts of the building, and grew louder in others. “We must be getting closer,” I whispered to Calvus, as we crept down one of the corridors. “Hang on, sounds like they’re somewhere down belo-”
At that moment the ground gave way beneath me. For a second I teetered on the edge of a massive hole in the manor floor, one foot on solid ground, the other hovering over thin air. Just as I began to topple forward, I felt Calvus grab me around the waist from behind. Time slowed to a crawl as it seemed that both of us might go over; finally, Calvus’ weight tipped the balance and he fell backwards in a heap, with me on top of him.
Both of us sat there gasping for breath, more than a little shaken. “Oof,” I muttered.
“Oof,” Calvus agreed.
His arms were still clasped tightly around my waist. It wasn’t a wholly unpleasant feeling, and I might have been happy to stay there for a while if it hadn’t been for… other considerations. “Er, Calvus…”
“Oops. Sorry.” He released me from his grasp, sounding a bit embarrassed.
I crawled forward and peered over the edge of the hole I’d nearly fallen through. It was a long way down, and I could see goblins wandering around on the floor below. If the fall itself hadn’t killed me, no doubt they’d have happily finished me off.
“That was a trap.” I turned back to Calvus. “Someone set that deliberately, and no way was it the goblins.”
He frowned. “You think there’s anything in this theory of the Altmer trainers?”
“I don’t know, but there’s definitely someone running this operation.” I hauled myself to my feet. “Thanks, by the way. I’d have hurt more than my pride if I fell down there.”
“No problem.” He seemed reluctant to meet my eye for some reason. “So, what now? Do we try to find a way down?”
I shuddered. “Let’s just look for a way out. If there’s anything important down there, there has to be another way to reach it.”
We managed to locate the exit, which led us into another of those old residential areas, buried underground since the First Era. Fragments of walls, columns and balconies were still standing amongst the piles of fallen rock. One of the buildings in the distance was relatively intact, with what looked like a serviceable door. I had a pretty good idea of what was inside there – more goblins – but it wasn’t like there was anywhere else to go.
Calvus and I crept along the ancient ‘street’, keeping close to the ground to avoid being seen by the goblins we could hear in the distance, and finally reached the door. Inside we found ourselves in another long corridor belonging to some ancient mansion – this one, luckily, free of those horrible smoky lights. If only it had been free of goblins as well.
By the time we’d fought off another couple of green-skinned bruisers, Calvus and I were feeling seriously exhausted. We were on the point of deciding to just go home for the night, and come back tomorrow when we were feeling more refreshed. Just as we were debating this, we heard a sudden clatter in the distance – followed by a very un-goblin-like voice swearing in Tamrielic.
“Crap.” I turned to Calvus. “That wasn’t a goblin.”
“Damn right. You got any charge left on that invisibility amulet?”
I examined my Amulet of Shadows. It was good for a couple more uses, but after that it would need time to recharge. I wished I’d thought to buy some filled soul gems before we came down here.
With the help of the Amulet, I set out on a quick recon mission. It didn’t take long to find our targets – not one but two High Elves, standing guard in a small room near the back of the mansion. They were standing up, facing right in my direction, and clearly on high alert – they must have our scuffles with the goblins a few minutes back.
Now your average Altmer is at least a foot taller than your average human, but makes up for it by being skinny and generally fragile. Not these ones. These guys had muscles that would have been fairly impressive on an Orc. One of them was dressed in Orcish armour and packed a hefty war axe; the other had some kind of longsword strapped to his belt. I was not looking forward to fighting them, especially if they had your typical Altmer’s skill in magic.
After making a note of their position, I hot-footed it back to Calvus. “So,” I said. “Two massive Altmer, facing right this way, armed to the teeth. What do you suggest?”
“Um… Bring reinforcements?”
We exchanged a rueful glance. “Not much chance of that,” I said, stating the obvious. “Unless we want to trek back to the entrance and try to get Hloggar to sober up for a few minutes. I don’t suppose there’s any chance we might be able to reason with them?”
We both knew the answer. I guess there could have been some entirely innocent reason why they were hiding out in a sewer under the royal palace, training up an army of homicidal goblins… but let’s face it, it wasn’t very likely. Certainly not enough to make it worth giving them the benefit of the doubt.
After a very quick discussion, we decided to try the same tactic we’d used against Dilborn’s kidnappers earlier that day – only this time we couldn’t risk leaving the men alive. Firstly Calvus, using my Chameleon amulet, snuck up behind the Altmer and paralysed them both by pricking them with his jinkblade. With very little time left before the spell wore off, we hurriedly unbuckled their armour and stabbed them in the heart as they stood frozen and defenceless. It was quick and relatively clean, but it left a nasty taste in the mouth.
As I lowered my victim to the ground, closing his blank, staring eyes so that I didn’t have to look at his expression, Calvus began to examine the other man’s body. “Look at this, Ada,” he said suddenly. I turned to see him drawing the dead man’s weapon from its scabbard – a fine ebony longsword. My breath caught.
I took the ebony blade from Calvus, turning it over in my hands. It was an incredibly beautiful weapon, the kind I’d always dreamed of owning. What was more, it was a very powerful one – more than deadly enough to make up for the extra weight and lack of enchantment. I glanced from the Altmer’s lifeless body to the tiny fractures which were starting to appear in my own glass blade, and sighed.
For the second time that day, necessity trumped honour. As I buckled the ebony longsword around my waist, I could only hope that the Altmer’s spirit was safely in Oblivion and didn’t have any unfinished business.
Calvus took the dead man’s Orcish tower shield for himself – fair’s fair, after all – and straightened up. “So, the trainers are dead. Is that it? We can go home now?”
“Hang on a moment.” I fished my journal out of my bag. “Hler said something about warchiefs… yes, two goblin warchiefs. As well as the trainers.”
“Oh, gods. Well, if they’re not here, where are they?”
There was a long silence. “Let’s just get some rest, shall we?” I said at last. “We’ll have more energy to hunt down the warchiefs tomorrow.”
Since neither of us wanted to spend the night with two corpses in a room that stank of fresh blood, we had to look for another campsite. A small room down the corridor had a bedroll set up – dirty, and stinking of goblin – and was easily defensible. We agreed to bed down here and take it in turns to watch as the other slept. I was supposed to go first, but for some reason, sleep just wouldn’t come.
“Something up?” Calvus asked, after watching me toss and turn for a while.
“I…” I hesitated. “You ever hear the story about a warrior who died, and when his spirit crossed over into Oblivion, he found all these other souls waiting for him? Of the people he’d killed in his lifetime?”
Calvus gave me a long, sideways look. “Don’t tell me you’re feeling guilty about killing those Altmer bastards. They were training goblins, for crying out loud.”
Calvus sighed. “You Nibenese think too much. You start letting yourself worry about these things, one of these days you’re going to freeze up in battle, and the other guy will slit your throat. And he won’t feel guilty, I can tell you that.”
I couldn’t help smiling at the first part of this. It was certainly the first time anyone had ever accused me of ‘thinking too much’. But while he had a point, I just couldn’t bring myself to feel comfortable with killing people in cold blood. If I started to think like that, I might as well join the Dark Brotherhood.
Suddenly I found myself badly wishing that Varvur were here. He’d have understood, and even if he didn’t agree, he wouldn’t have made fun of me for saying those things. I might sometimes tease him about his Redoran stuffiness, but there were times when it was good to have someone around who took you seriously. Gods, I missed him – and not just for the obvious reasons.
I dreamed of him after I fell asleep, but it wasn’t a happy, loving dream. He was yelling at me, and brandishing a book – the journal I’d left for him to read in Bal Isra.
“You lied to me!” he was shouting. “Again! You weren’t just a Blade, you were a spy for the Hlaalu!”
Since this was pretty much true, I couldn’t exactly deny it. Varvur took a step towards me, his face twisted with rage. “You stole a skull from a Dunmer tomb to give to a NECROMANCER? You impersonated a DEAD REDORAN so you could STEAL NEMINDA’S ORDERS?!!”
At that moment I woke up, gasping. Oh sweet Mara, what an idiot I’d been! Why hadn’t I remembered there was so much incriminating stuff in that journal? I’d hoped it would help him to understand why I’d worked for the Blades – but when he’d finished reading about everything else I’d done, he’d probably be ready to carve me into pieces. Maybe he already had. Maybe he already was.
“You OK?” Calvus asked, seeing me staring blankly at the wall.
“Uh. Yeah.” I tried to collect my thoughts. “Bad dream, that’s all. Guess it’s your turn now.”
He settled down on the bedroll without further comment. The next few hours seemed to last forever. I couldn’t stop thinking about the dream, or imagining what Varvur might be doing and thinking right now. By the time Calvus woke up, I was feeling almost as tired as I had before I went to sleep.
“Come on then,” I said wearily, after we’d eaten and equipped ourselves. “Let’s get this over with. Hopefully the warchiefs aren’t too far from here.”
Outside in the underground ‘streets’, we found more goblins milling around. I managed to take out a couple with enchanted arrows which I’d sensibly bought before the mission, but the others came charging at us and we had to fight hand-to-hand. It didn’t help that I wasn’t exactly on top form. Azura’s ring kept my strength up, but I wasn’t concentrating very well, and at one point I narrowly avoided slicing through Calvus’ neck with a clumsy sword-stroke.
After fighting our way through more twisty passages, we found ourselves back in a sewer area with two exits. Choosing the nearest one took us into another cave system, this one with waterfalls gushing from some kind of underground stream. It would have been quite nice to look at if we’d had the time.
“This area is called the ‘Tears of Amun-Shae’,” Calvus said, consulting his map.
“Any mention of goblin reserves here?”
“Nope.” He folded the map. “But unless I’m imagining things, these guys are getting tougher. I’m guessing we’re close to finding the leaders now.”
He was more right than he ever thought. Within less than a minute of walking through, we rounded a corner and found ourselves facing the biggest, toughest, meanest-looking goblin I’d ever seen. The moment it set eyes on us, it let out a murderous growl and sent a massive Posion spell whizzing in our direction, which we only just managed to dodge. When I looked back, it had torn up a huge boulder from the ground and was preparing to hurl it in our direction.
I’m not ashamed to say that we ran. We didn’t stop until we were some way back into the sewers, and were sure that the goblin wasn’t following us. “Phew,” Calvus panted. “Think that was one of the warchiefs?”
“If not, I dread to think what the actual chiefs are like.” I shook my head. “I’ll be honest, Calvus. I’m not sure we can handle that one. If it’s both of us against him, we’d have a chance, but if he has reinforcements…”
“Mmm. Think he has any weaknesses?”
I closed my eyes, trying to think. “Hang on. Do you think, if we both tried to lift that boulder, we could lob it at him?”
“Dunno. You’re the one with the super-strength gauntlets.”
“Well, it’s worth a try.” I patted my Amulet of Shadows. “Time to get transparent!”
Under cover of invisibility, we returned to the caves and crept up behind the warchief. It was pacing the corridors, glancing around suspiciously, and I couldn’t help feeling nervous in case it saw through the enchantment. As soon as its back was turned, Calvus and I seized our chance. We lifted the boulder, with a certain amount of grunting and groaning – luckily the Chameleon enchantment masked sound as well – and hurled it as hard as we could at the goblin’s head.
This was probably the hardest-headed creature you’d ever see, but even it couldn’t survive a blow like that. It went down like an ugly green bowling pin. Calvus and I exchanged a triumphant smile and headed quickly back to the sewers before any more goblins could arrive.
Not wanting to waste the charge on my amulet, I used an Invisiblility potion to scout out the rest of the cave. This time I went in the other direction, and luck was with me: the other warchief was only a short way away. But it had company.
“This one has a durzog with it,” I told Calvus once I got back to the sewers. “We can use the boulder trick again, but we need to get out quickly afterwards.”
We re-cast the Chameleon enchantment – not much charge left now, so we’d have to work fast – and managed to carry the boulder through the corridors to the other warchief. By the time we reached him, the spell was about to wear off.
“Quickly,” I whispered to Calvus. We lifted the boulder one last time and, with a final effort, heaved it at the goblin. As both of them smashed into the ground, the durzog whirled round with a ferocious growl, snapping at the air and straining to see where the boulder had come from.
At that exact moment, the enchantment wore off. Calvus, who was wearing my Divine Intervention amulet, quickly cast the spell – and I did the same with my Almsivi amulet. But before the spell could take effect, the durzog had launched itself straight at my face.
There was a moment of pain and sheer heart-stopping terror before the Intervention took effect. I found myself in the Temple courtyard, bleeding from deep scratches where the creature’s claws had dug into my face, and looking and smelling like – well, someone who’d been battling goblins in a sewer for two days. A few passers-by stared at me in astonishment and barely-disguised horror. I healed myself and stood there, feeling a bit embarrassed, waiting for Calvus to join me.
“Guess where I ended up?” he asked, when he finally arrived. “Right in the middle of the Palace. I’d forgotten that was where the nearest Imperial shrine would be.” Then he spotted the blood on my face. “You okay?”
“Just about. That thing nearly took my nose off.” I tried to wipe my face, and just ended up smearing the blood everywhere.
We didn’t go straight into the Temple – that might have looked suspicious. Besides, I needed a bath and everything else took a very definite back seat to that. By the time we’d got ourselves clean, fed and watered, I was ready to go back to bed.
“Just one thing,” Calvus said, as I settled back on my pillow. “Who’s Varvur? You said his name when you were having that ‘bad dream’.”
I sighed, steeling myself for the inevitable. “My fiancé.”
“The Redoran bigwig?” I nodded. “So why isn’t he here in Mournhold with you?”
“I told you. It’s complicated.”
“Well, I wouldn’t leave my girl to tackle the Dark Brotherhood by herself.” He shrugged. “Just saying.”
My eyes were beginning to smart, and I rolled over so that he wouldn’t see my expression. Why did he have to remind me of Varvur? Every time I thought of him now, I felt my throat tighten and my chest ache painfully.
I thought of him again after I got up and Calvus went to bed. I was quite used to being around hunky warrior guys, but seeing his shirtless body sprawled across the bed made me long for Varvur’s. It was hard to be away from my boyfriend for weeks on end, while sleeping in the same room as another attractive man. I wondered if Calvus did have a ‘girl’, and whether he was finding it hard as well.
After breakfast, we went to see Fedris Hler at the Temple. He seemed a little surprised to see us there at all, let alone to hear our story.
“You’ve killed the warchiefs and their Altmer trainers? And you live to tell the tale...” He nodded slowly. “Interesting. And surprising.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Surprising?”
“Perhaps I’ve underestimated you, Ada.” He shrugged. “Rest assured, it won’t happen again.”
I’ll say, I thought. Why couldn’t people get it through their heads that I was the Nerevarine? Okay, so that had been a tough mission, but it was a piece of cake compared to the Ash Vampires.
Hler cleared his throat. “Take this as a token of our Lady’s appreciation. Well done… and don’t forget to come back once you’re done with Helseth’s tasks. We may well have more work for you.”
Once outside, I opened up the money-pouch he’d given me, and could barely suppress a gasp. If I was correct, I counted 150 hundred-septim coins, gleaming brightly. Fifteen thousand septims.
“Zenithar be praised,” Calvus breathed. “That’s, what, seven-and-a-half thousand each? I could retire on that!”
He might have been exaggerating a bit, but I knew what he meant. Even considering how wealthy I was now, that amount of money was nothing to be sniffed at.
Calvus was pawing the coins greedily. “Screw Helseth and his chicken-feed. We need to do more work for this guy!”
“Oh, definitely.” I closed the pouch with a reluctant sigh. “We’d better see what the King’s people want first, though. Otherwise they might get suspicious.”
He nodded. “Do you think those actually were the warchiefs we killed? I mean, it’s not like they had it stamped on their foreheads.”
“Well, if they weren’t…” I sighed again. “Sod it. Hler can deal with them himself.”
We went our separate ways after that. Calvus wanted to kit himself out with some better armour, and I went to Sunel Hlas’ store to buy provisions. To my immense astonishment, the normally gloomy Sunel was all smiles and cheerfulness.
“Ada!” he exclaimed, as soon as I approached. “It’s good to see you again. I hope your business in Mournhold has prospered?”
“Er, yes,” I said, wondering just what kind of happy-potions he’d been guzzling. “Very much so.”
At that moment I heard soft footsteps on the floor above, and looked up to see Marena Gilnith standing at the top of the stairs, wearing a nightdress. When she saw me she retreated quickly, her cheeks turning pink. Oh.
“I take it the date went well?” I said to Sunel.
He shook his head. “Ada, I don’t know what to say. Marena is just what I needed in my life, but without your help, I’d have been too blind to see it. Thank you so much.”
“That’s quite alright,” I murmured. Another triumph for my matchmaking skills, I guess. Who’d have thought it?
Sunel was looking a bit embarrassed. “I know it’s wrong to offer you something, as if in payment, but I want you to take this. It’s sort of valuable, I guess, except that no one has ever wanted it, and… well, just take it and think of me. Or something.” He coughed. “I don’t know. I’m not very good at this sentimental stuff.”
He handed me a large, very weird-looking sword. “It’s called the BiPolar Blade,” he explained. “It’s got two different enchantments that cancel each other out. Not much use for fighting, but it’s quite famous, so it’s probably valuable? I… guess you could sell it, or something?”
“I’m sure I’ll find some use for it,” I said. “Thank you very much, Sunel.”
At that moment Marena appeared again on the stairs, wearing a robe, and beckoned me to join her. I went upstairs, feeling a bit uncomfortable about going into Sunel’s private quarters. But the look on her face made it all worthwhile.
“I have to thank you for helping me to find Sunel,” she said, in her soft voice. “At first, his attitude was a little off-putting. But as we talked, I really got to know him, and he’s just so kind. He’s had some bad experiences, but I know we can work through them.”
“I’m really happy for you, Marena,” I said sincerely. It was always nice to know I’d genuinely been able to help someone. Much better than lopping goblins’ heads off, even if it was less exciting. Sigh… maybe I ought to have chosen a different career?
I left the two of them together, hoping very much that they’d be happy. If I got the time, I might go to Mara’s shrine to say a quick prayer for them; meanwhile, I had revenge to plot. And relationship problems of my own to deal with. Sigh…
Posts in this topic
Helena The Neveragaine Strikes Back Sep 25 2010, 10:06 PM treydog Why is it no surprise that Ada’s road to love is r... Sep 26 2010, 12:18 PM mALX And thank you for bringing it here! I've ... Sep 26 2010, 04:09 PM D.Foxy What can I say except:
I Love all things Helena (... Sep 26 2010, 04:55 PM Remko Yay :) Ada and Varvur are a couple. :)
I'm s... Sep 27 2010, 11:52 AM Helena [b]Chapter 1: A Rude Awakening
It was a hot, dry ... Oct 2 2010, 08:55 PM treydog
Quite right. Some things are Simply Not Done.
... Oct 3 2010, 03:16 AM Helena And I always want to kick Apelles Matius off the w... Oct 3 2010, 09:10 PM mALX
And I always want to kick Apelles Matius off the ... Oct 9 2010, 04:30 PM D.Foxy Use the face that is closest to the Goddess Helena... Oct 5 2010, 02:22 AM treydog The only thing I see to quibble with is the new ve... Oct 5 2010, 12:30 PM Helena Neither of them looks much like me, to be honest. ... Oct 5 2010, 12:56 PM Cardboard Box I'd have to agree the old face is the best. He... Oct 5 2010, 10:45 PM D.Foxy May I add that you look absolutely charming in the... Oct 7 2010, 04:10 AM Helena [b]Chapter 2: Performance Anxiety
I did my best t... Oct 19 2010, 07:03 PM mALX Here is my favorite part:
This had me in stit... Oct 20 2010, 04:26 AM Helena Screenshots from the first few chapters:
A rude a... Oct 20 2010, 07:32 PM mALX
Screenshots from the first few chapters:
A rude ... Oct 20 2010, 07:56 PM treydog Poor Ada- it is a terrible thing to have personal ... Oct 20 2010, 09:14 PM Helena [b]Chapter 3: O Brother Where Art Thou
Godsreach ... Nov 9 2010, 01:29 AM D.Foxy OOOOH baby! I feel the aroma of adventure and... Nov 9 2010, 02:07 AM Captain Hammer As always, a good entry in a great story. In parti... Nov 9 2010, 02:33 AM treydog Ada has the same unease about Mournhold that my ch... Nov 9 2010, 10:19 PM mALX Och! Treydog picked two of my fave lines alre... Nov 12 2010, 06:53 PM Helena [b]Chapter 4: All The King’s Men
A meal and a bat... Dec 13 2010, 01:21 AM D.Foxy Calvus saw the wistful expression on my face, and ... Dec 13 2010, 02:20 AM Captain Hammer Ah, Fedris Hler makes his appearance. My favorite ... Dec 13 2010, 04:14 AM bbqplatypus
I gotta tell ya, when I first reached this point... Dec 13 2010, 06:03 AM mALX The scene has already been quoted, so I won't ... Dec 13 2010, 04:37 PM Helena The scene has already been quoted, so I won't ... Dec 13 2010, 05:22 PM mALX
The scene has already been quoted, so I won't... Dec 13 2010, 06:08 PM Captain Hammer I knew that red hair had to show up sometime in re... Dec 14 2010, 09:03 PM mALX
I knew that red hair had to show up sometime in r... Dec 14 2010, 09:41 PM Helena Hey, it's an accepted trope in anything truly ... Dec 15 2010, 01:08 AM Captain Hammer Ah, you're a TV Tropes fan as well? Excellent.... Dec 15 2010, 02:03 AM treydog
You paint the tension and attraction so perfectl... Dec 23 2010, 04:26 PM Helena The only way the dialogue and quest options really... Dec 23 2010, 11:44 PM Jacki Dice Oh my goodness I love it! Forbidden love, assa... Dec 29 2010, 04:25 AM Helena [b]Chapter 5: Both Sides Now
If I’d hoped t... Feb 26 2011, 06:16 PM MyCat Great, a double dose of Ada this weekend!
I t... Feb 27 2011, 12:11 AM Helena Oops, you're right. Feb 27 2011, 12:18 AM Thomas Kaira I don't believe I have commented on your stori... Feb 27 2011, 08:00 PM mALX
ROFL !!!! Feb 28 2011, 05:13 PM Helena [b]Chapter 6: A-Hunting We Shall Go
Calvus wanted... Apr 28 2011, 09:26 PM MyCat Those goblins are tough. Not like the wimpy ones y... May 22 2011, 12:15 PM mALX GAAAAH! You're getting into totally new t... May 29 2011, 07:24 AM D.Foxy Welcome back Helena!!!!
Ah, our ... Sep 26 2011, 01:53 PM Helena Hello again, Foxy! Glad to see someone is stil... Sep 26 2011, 04:14 PM MyCat More than one person is still reading it.
I never... Sep 30 2011, 02:03 AM Helena Been a while since I posted any screenshots for th... Sep 30 2011, 04:16 PM Jacki Dice Omg they do look like ice cream! I never notic... Sep 30 2011, 07:00 PM
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