Yestere had been extremely profitable for me, as I had pretty much spent the day practising various spells, summoning, and combat techniques, not to mention a little alchemy. While there was no chance I was ever going to be partaking of the three greasy and foul-smelling concoctions I’d produced as a result of my experiments ~ the other training had been extremely beneficial albeit tiring. So, it was with more than a little impatience that I responded to the hammering on the front door that awoke me this morning. I was just about to address the young individual with the appropriate venom when he thrust a parchment into my hand, saying, “Muthsera Hleran sends her compliments.”
The note was brief and to the point:
“The first stage of your stronghold is complete. Please contact me at your convenience to discuss further development.”
Even though I knew that, at this stage, my stronghold wouldn’t be inhabitable, it was excellent news indeed. Dressing quickly, I spoke the words of the translocation spell and found myself in Sadrith Mora. Making my way into the oddly lit cavern, I listened to what Llunela had to say to me.
“I’m glad you came Muthsera Vahl,” she said. “The initial phase of growth is now complete. However, your tower still needs to grow more and it will need to be shaped. Traditionally, a skilled Tekton does this but, regrettably, the current expansion on the mainland means that they are all very busy there. We could leave the tower to grow wild ~ which rarely results in anything useable.
“But, when traditional means are unavailable, we have to make do with something else. It is said that the Dwemer had an artefact that could shape materials using sound. The book I read, by an Imperial named Hevou Thath, said that he’d seen designs for one such artefact in the Dwemer ruins of Mzanchend. I need you to travel there and locate these drawings, if they’re still there.”
Conveniently enough, the ruins I need are quite close to Uvirith’s Grave: so travelling there was my first priority. I followed pretty much the same route as before and soon came to the twisted knot of roots and branches that would form the basis of my tower. They had grown considerably since the last time, now being something like twice the height of a Mer. The environs, unfortunately, hadn’t improved any: the dust still lay thick on the ground and blew up in choking clouds at the slightest breeze. There was one change, however: and not a pleasant one. At the edge of the raised area of land upon which stood the hillock my tower was growing on was a campfire. Advancing cautiously, I made my way towards it.
“Greetings,” the armoured woman standing by the fire said, “what brings you to this gods forsaken plot of land?”
“This land is mine,” I replied somewhat sharply, “as is yonder tower. What brings you to my property?”
“Ahh well,” she said, raising the visor of her steel helm and looking at me. “Firstly, my apologies for any offence Telvanni. I have a tendency to speak jocularly when, maybe, I shouldn’t. As to what I am doing here, it’s complicated.”
“So, uncomplicated it,” I demanded. She grinned wryly.
“At your command. My being here serves a two-fold purpose. The first is that I am a researcher: and what I am researching is the life and times of the Mage Uvirith. Where you aware that this is the very spot his body was discovered in?” I shook my head, although given that the area was named Uvirith’s Grave, I wasn’t overly surprised. “Yes,” she continued, “and a very odd death he seems to have died too. He vanished from the Guild over in Balmora and, eventually, they became concerned enough to mount an expedition to locate him.
“After searching for many days, they found his corpse somewhere around here. It seems that he fell from a great height ~ with the inevitable consequences. Which is strange, because he was an accomplished mage and knew spells of levitation and slow-fall. Even odder was the length of frayed rope tied around his waist ~ what it was tied to at the other end, nobody knows.”
“All very interesting,” I interrupted, “but not really telling me why you are here.”
“Well,” she said, flushing slightly, “his staff was never found, although they scoured the area. It was, and probably still is, a very powerful piece of magical equipment. I had hoped to find some trace of it. The other thing is, recently I came into possession of a book of his that suggests he was looking for something very special ~ and may even have found it.”
“And what would that be?” I asked. She mumbled something quickly and quietly that I didn’t catch.
“A flying Dwemer fortress,” she snapped when I asked her to repeat what she’d said. I laughed until the tears ran down my cheeks while she stood there glowering at me.
“I’m sorry,” I finally managed to splutter. “Are you telling me that you actually believe those children’s’ stories about a big flying castle that swoops down and rewards good children come New Life Eve?”
“Not in the slightest…” she started to say, then stopped and looked at me. “Perhaps,” she amended, “I’ve found that there’s often a grain of truth in even the most fanciful tales. But I’ve spent many years chasing those grains of truth and rarely found anything. Which means that I’ve spent a lot of money and have little to show for it…”
“Which brings you to the second reason you’re here?” I suggested warily.
“I have heard,” she said carefully, “that Telvanni Mage-Lords hire mercenaries and was wondering…”
“Well, I’m no Mage-Lord,” I replied “and have no need of mercenaries at the moment.”
“I’m willing to wait,” she replied. I nodded thoughtfully. I hadn’t really given any thought to the protection of my tower and, given my ambitious plans for my self, I really should. If I rose much higher than my current rank of Spellwright, I could expect the unwelcome attentions of the lower ranking Telvanni who wanted my position. A few mercenaries wouldn’t go amiss.
“I’d be willing to consider you for the position,” I said. “But I need to know that you’re trustworthy. No offence, but you could be here to gain a position with me and use that position to a rival’s advantage. Here’s a couple of hundred Septims as a retainer. Keep your eyes peeled,” I said as I handed over the money, “and when I come back I shall expect a report from you.”
Leaving Kallin Basalius to her assigned task, I followed Llunela’s directions until I found myself at the ruins of Mzanchend. The ruins were only small, much of what had existed was lost behind a massive cave-in, but they did boast a small array of those spider-type animalcules. Having filled a collection pouch with a small number of rubies and diamonds, I finally found what I hoped I was looking for ~ a small sheet of the strange material the Dwemer used for writing and drawing on, covered in bizarre symbols and lines.
There was one other interesting feature in Mzanchend. Opposite the main entrance there was a flight of stairs leading down to a small corridor. At the end was a massive Dwemer door ~ the ornate engraved kind rather than the simple iron doors that you usually find in a ruin. What made this door particularly interesting was the lock that sealed it. It was not a Dwemeric lock; rather it bore the ornate style of local manufacture. Whoever had placed the lock had seriously intended to keep people from whatever was behind the door: no amount of examination or magic seemed to make the slightest difference; it simply would not be opened.
With a resigned shrug, I left the intriguing lock (I admit, its presence there had piqued my interest) and made my way back to Sadrith Mora. There Llunela Hleran had something of a shock for me. She’d been studying the drawing I’d brought back for a while before she spoke to me.
“This device can be made: I have enough knowledge to make it myself. However it can only be used once and it’s going to cost five thousand Septims to produce.”
“Five Thousand!” I exclaimed.
“I’m afraid so,” she replied. “Some of the materials are going to be very difficult to obtain, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. It will take me a day, or two, to create this object but once it is done, your tower should be ready fairly quickly.”
It was with a heavy heart that I handed over the money, five thousand Septims represented almost every Drake I had accumulated since arriving here, save the money safely tucked away in the Bank of Vvardenfell. It was with a much lighter purse that I returned to Balmora ~ on the morrow I would have to see what could be done about replenishing my funds.
Food, Slave, Telvanni ~ Take your pick.
The Coalition of Evil Geniuses: Overlord of Boom