I leave this evening for just a few days. Another pilgrimage to visit Acadian Senior. I’ll return in plenty of time to both catch up on reading and post next Friday’s episode.
During Episode 168, the small assault team clearing Castle Kvatch’s royal wing encountered a falling roof trap as they neared the Count and Countess’ quarters area. The two soldiers trailing behind Savlian and Buffy were killed, and our duo’s retreat blocked by fallen debris. Savlian’s prudent decision to clear enough rubble to retreat and return with reinforcements was preempted when he and Buffy were attacked by Daedra from within the royal quarters. Rider-
Thanks! I agree. If you can get steel into those pesky mages, they fall quickly. ghastley-
Heh, yes Murphy seems to be fighting for the other side here. Even when Savlian made the smart choice, he then had that option stripped away. mALX-
Gosh, thanks so much for saying you could feel and see what Buffy was experiencing! That is certainly music to long elven ears. KC-
Thanks for noting how much detect life is a part of how Buffy survives. She has gotten very good at reading glows and ignoring (for the most part) the accompanying distractions. Only two foes ahead it seems; how hard can it be? SubRosa-
Cut off from help and crushed potions! I was proud of Savlian’s choice to clear some rubble, withdraw and seek reinforcement; damn Daedra didn’t get the brief though. Don’t you hate it when foes don’t do what your plans call for? So now our couple is left, as you say, rolling the hard six. Grits-
Darnand and Jerric sure know the dangers posed by a Daedroth, not to mention a high powered mage. Thanks for noting the variety we’ve tried to work into the battle to free Kvatch. Clearing the city went smooth as an iron phalanx. Getting through the gatehouse and bailey was a white knuckled chaos of fire and blood. Here, S&B are back in their ‘zone’ as the warrior and his mystic archer. . . but circumstances seem to be stripping away so many of the lethal advantages their pairing brings. Darkness Eternal-
Thank you for those kind words! Things do seem a tad grim here. One way or another, however, this upcoming episode will culminate with a free Kvatch. And yes, there will be seven more episodes after this one to wind down our book. Rihanae-
I so appreciate you focusing on the beauty of what Buffy and Savlian have and what they mean to each other. Above all, I consider Book 1 to be a love story. Zalphon-
Thanks! I do try to tie (when possible) descriptions to familiar Oblivion game images. Here, a fireball of Delphine Jendish magnitude. McBadgere-
Thank you! Yes, the situation does appear to be one of the darker ones Buffy has faced. I think the elf and her man of steel are charging into quite the fight.
* * *
169 We Will Go Home
“The mage’s glow has moved to our left,” I warned as I closely trailed Savlian into the large royal sitting chamber. “That other Daedra – the big one - appears to be in the adjoining room to our right.”
The Dremora’s black robe blinked into view only long enough to toss a violet disc of magicka into the air. The resultant clannfear charged Savlian.
A lavender burst of magic instinctively streaked from my hand into the mage’s pink glow. Even as his renewed shroud of invisibility and summoned helper were both dispelled, I already regretted focusing my magic on his trappings instead of stripping away his underlying spellcasting ability.
My leap to the side was too slow to avoid his answering spell. As it struck, I felt the link to my own magic sever. This mage had not made the same mistake I had. The nightmare grew worse as I recalled that my potions to dispel the curse had been shattered - by the same falling roof trap that had blocked both retreat and reinforcement.
As least our foe was now fully visible. Another massive fireball billowed our way. “Dodge right!” roared Savlian. I did so, then watched in horror as my hero ignored his own command and charged our attacker!
Unable to protect Savlian with another spell to resist fire, one hand shot into my quiver. Although what remained of his surcoat was set ablaze, his great speed carried him through the flame before I could nock my arrow. As I maneuvered to bring Slayer to bear, the next fire spell forming in Dremoran hands extinguished in a spray of blood.
Legion steel dripped crimson as Savlian freed it. Smoke rose from blackened mail and he swayed unsteadily on his feet. I could almost feel his pain across the distance separating us, but I had neither magic nor potion to heal him.
The sound of Savlian’s labored breathing was suddenly eclipsed by an explosion of cracking wood. As a shower of splinters settled over us, the now doorless entrance to what I imagined to be the royal bed chamber was filled by a massive Daedra that must have been five times my weight. A snout, longer than my arm, was full of teeth and balanced by a thick tail extending well behind what could only be a Daedroth. Lifting a shovel-sized paw, the creature bathed itself in a golden glow that I recognized as a shield spell. It then loosed a fireball at me and charged Savlian.
By the time I dodged its flame, the lumbering Daedra had closed the distance to my Imperial. Savlian’s still smoldering shield took the mighty blow, but the impact knocked him hard against the chamber’s wall. Although his glow remained strong, he did not move after slumping to the floor.
While the Daedroth was raising its massive arms to strike again, I desperately loosed an arrow into its back.
My relief lasted but a second when the wounded creature turned from Savlian, for it then roared and charged at me.
A second arrow caused the Daedroth only momentary pause. With my magic still cursed and no time for another shot, I lifted my unshielded bow to block and backed up until stopped by a wall.
As the creature’s massive right fist completed its wide horizontal arc, I heard the breaking of bow staff and bones and felt my feet leave the ground.
After coming down hard, I looked up from my dazed and broken heap on the floor. The monster was raising both fists as it approached. I opened my mouth to scream.
Any noise I may have loosed was drowned out by the Daedroth’s howl of pain as it suddenly jerked both arms upward and the tip of a blade burst from the front of its chest. I felt the wet heat of the creature’s dark blood splatter across my face.
The blade just as quickly retracted and the injured monster managed to turn toward its attacker. Savlian Matius and the massive Daedra locked eyes in deadly challenge. Like two exhausted and badly wounded gladiators, they slowly circled each other until my hero stood fully between the Daedroth and I.
Savlian’s bloodied sword was poised at the ready. His surcoat had been burned away and one pauldron torn from his left shoulder. The battered and fire-blackened Kvatch shield was raised. His breathing was ragged and, although he staggered slightly, this magnificent man was somehow still on his feet. And still protecting me.
I tried to get to my own feet, but one ankle refused to move and I couldn’t feel my left arm. Not that I could have helped much; my magic was still cursed and all that remained of the mighty bow was its handgrip. I watched helplessly as even that slipped from the fingers of my useless left hand.
Filling the chamber with a mighty roar, the Daedroth charged again – impaling itself on Savlian’s sword. Momentum however, carried both man and beast over my head into the wall at my back with a terrifying crash. As the crushing tangle of arms, legs and tail fell upon me, blackness descended as well.
I awoke after who knows how long, struggling for air. My left arm and right ankle screamed as I managed to wiggle free of enough weight above me to breathe more easily. Savlian was not moving and his glow was weak. Thankfully, the Daedroth was dead. The Dremora mage’s powerful spell had finally worn off and, once again, magic flowed within me.
Whimpering in agony, I slowly struggled up to one knee. Then the other. I was vaguely aware that I had wet my greaves but that was the least of my concerns. I could feel and hear bones scraping against the inside of the mail covering my left upper arm, but couldn’t move that hand. Lifting my right fist, I managed to spill healing magic over myself and clear my head somewhat.
Savlian’s breathing was shallow as I knelt beside him. A glowing right hand traveled slowly over my fallen hero to assess the damage.
In addition to severe burns covering most of his body, numerous broken ribs now protruded into bleeding organs within his chest. Several bones along his neck and back were fractured and the rear portion of his skull had been cracked.
A wailing scream tore from my throat as I recognized what I had felt from City Swimmer and Ilend Vonius – his wounds were beyond healing.
As with Ilend however, I refused to accept it. I channeled white magic into the man who loved me. After a time, his breathing did ease and beautiful brown eyes opened. He took my hand and lifted it away from his chest, breaking the healing bond. “No, Buffy. We both know this was my last fight.”
Tears were streaming down my face. “S-Savlian, you are my mate and I love you! I will pour my magic and own life into you until we enter the Dreamsleave together.”
“Nay,” he said through clenched teeth that betrayed a stoic effort to hide his pain. “My life is gladly forfeit in the protection of yours. Allow me to succeed in this task by knowing you will live your long span of elven years. Do this not for Kvatch, but do it for me, my love.”
“Y-your city is free now,” I babbled in disbelief. “We will b-build our home together here and, in time, bear and eagle will return to your mountain.”
Savlian mustered a weak smile. “You once asked that I consider my priorities after Kvatch. I will never get the chance to show you, but I meant what I said about our future together. I know now that no empire, legion or city can fill my heart as you have. I die the luckiest man on Nirn.” He coughed blood, then managed to continue, “For a precious moment in time - while the Gods were sleeping - this unworthy soldier held a butterfly.”
As he coughed again, I cast one more spell, knowing it would merely comfort the inevitable. I then cradled his head to my breasts. Somehow managing to keep my voice from cracking, I lifted it in mournful song for the man I loved: ”We will go home. . .”
Even before I finished singing, I could feel that Savlian had left his pain behind. I slipped off the charred headband and lowered my lips to his forehead. As my eyes closed, we were standing together on the southern bank of the Strid River, our skin bathed in glorious sunshine. Savlian was holding my hands and gentle waves lapped at our bare feet. His smiling face was free of pain, his body unmarred by scars. I could sense the burdens of command and guilt over difficult choices had been lifted from his heart.
Somewhere in the distance, the sounds of faint voices and rubble being moved tugged at my ears. I ignored them.
Strong hands were now on my shoulders. Opening my eyes dispelled the sunshine. I looked up at the blood on Mazoga’s face and said, “You are injured. I must heal you.”
“It can wait, Buff,” the orc replied tenderly.
Then I noticed that it was Lucilius kneeling beside the knight instead of her mate. Concern gripped me. “Where’s Agronak?”
“He’s in the chapel with a broken leg,” said Mazoga, “but Sigrid says he’ll be fine."
“So will Savlian,” I heard my own voice say. “He was badly wounded and needs to rest.”
Mazoga’s dark eyes grew troubled for some reason as she looked at Lucilius. I heard the soldier say quietly to her, “She’s in shock, and I can see she’s lost a lot of blood from that arm.”
“Did we win, Lucilius?” My words sounded so far away.
“We did indeed, Milady. The city and castle are free. We have recovered the Count’s ring and will present it to the Countess.” He then gently peeled me from Savlian and lifted me into his arms like a child.
I tried to reach out my left hand for Savlian, but I still couldn’t make it move. “Savlian. . . .”
Mazoga effortlessly lifted my Imperial and carried him alongside Lucilius and I. “I’ve got him, Buff.”
“Be careful, ‘Zoga. I wasn’t able to fully heal him yet. As soon as Savlian’s better, he and I will begin building our home together.”
“She’s ice cold and her breathing is getting shallower,” I heard Lucilius say. “Let’s get her to Akatosh’s altar. The priests will know what to do.”
I must have drifted off a bit while Lucilius carried me, for when I opened my eyes again we were nearing the chapel. Mazoga, with Savlian still in her mighty arms, turned toward the open city gates. I could see Belle, still hitched to her wagon. Of course, I thought, Savlian would want to pay his respects and thank the farmers as they buried our brave fallen. “Don’t be long, my love,” I heard myself say as Lucilius carried me up the steps of the chapel. I was tired, and figured I would rest my eyes again. Just until Savlian completed his rounds and joined me.