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Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Chapter 1

The room was furnished as most high ranking Imperial offices were – dragons everywhere. Dragon curtains (red), dragon floor mat (red), dragon banners (red). I wouldn't be surprised if the guards outside were wearing socks (red) with little dragons on them.

“So we just need to go over a few things here,” the clerk’s piping voice interrupted my thoughts. He studied the notes in front of him “you were born 3E 408?”

“Yes.” I wasn't half as nervous as I thought I’d be, but my mouth was almost too dry to speak.

“Our first official record of you is not until 19 years later. An Imperial prison transport fished you out of the Inner Sea of Morrowind and took you to the port of Seyda Neen. Yes?”

He didn’t look up from his notes, instead arching an enormous grey eyebrow. There was more hair on those brows than on the rest of his head.

“Yes.” Though my mouth was still dry my hands were now clammy. Please gods don’t make him go in for a handshake when this is done.

“Your occupation is listed here as ‘adventurer’. You also seem to have aided the Twin Lamps organisation, among others.” He licked a bony fingertip and turned the page. “This is around the time that you officially joined the Imperial Legion, rising to the rank of Agent.”

“That’s right.” My face reddened slightly when he looked up at me. Apparently a ‘yes’ would suffice.

He took a sip of his drink, a dark gold substance, and winced slightly as it went down. How anybody can enjoy that sort of thing was beyond me. I much prefer tea.

Looking back to his notes, the clerk continued listing various people I’d met who were considered important enough to have an opinion. Mainly guild leaders and Imperials.

I managed to steal a glance at the page, most of which was concealed with black ink.

“Well this seems to be in order. On account of your previous work for the Empire and the skills you have at your disposal, I have no doubt that you will do some good with us.” He stamped my file for approval with an official looking dragon stamp (red).

I grinned widely (any display of emotion towards humans must be greatly exaggerated) and thanked him as he shook my hand firmly.

“Welcome to the Blades, Agent Haa-Rei.”
Welcome back to the world of fanfic - to both you and Haa-Rei!

What a fun introduction as you show us quite a bit about Haa-Rei’s perceptions and sense of humor.

Dragon socks! laugh.gif

'I much prefer tea.' - - Made from Nightshade no doubt.

Welcome to the Blades, indeed! goodjob.gif
QUOTE(hazmick @ Feb 6 2015, 10:46 PM) *

“Welcome to the Blades, Agent Haa-Rei.”

Funny... biggrin.gif ...

I like... wink.gif ...Excellent start...

Look forward to more...

Nice one!!...

*applauds heartily*...
Acadian - Thanks! Hopefully this foray into fanfic will be more successful than the last one tongue.gif

McB - Cheers mate, glad you can join us! laugh.gif

Chapter 2

An agent of the Blades. This is where my adventures in Cyrodiil began.

I hasten to add that I wasn't a Blade in the traditional sense, with their fancy armour and willingness to die for The Emperor at a moment’s notice (Blades helmets aren't made to accommodate Argonian horns and head spines). I was now one of the spies of the Blades. The eyes of the Empire.

It would be my job to make sure any threats to the Empire were quietly dealt with, all while blending in as a normal citizen. It would most likely be things that Imperial guards couldn't handle, like assassins, Daedra or undead.

All Blades swear an oath to protect this, defend that, and generally make sure old Emperor Uriel is happy and safe. Blades warriors have a huge ceremony after their induction, presumably with a buffet and lots of handshaking. I didn't even get to meet The Emperor, and my katana would be kept at a Blades fortress for safe keeping. No ceremony, no speeches, no buffet.

The final perk of being a Blade is that I also get a free room at Luther Broad’s Boarding House. I set off immediately after my induction, feeling equal parts excited and anxious.

The Imperial City was enormous, with towering grey walls and a labyrinth of snaking alleyways, full to the brim with merchants, adventurers, guards and beggars. I’d been to towns and cities before of course, but the capital of Cyrodiil was always so busy it made my scales itch.

It was late in the afternoon when I finally found my way to the Elven Gardens district, so I planned to stay in the Imperial City for the night, then head off to Leyawiin the next morning. I had people to see and places to be, after all.

A sign on the door of the inn said that it was closed, except to residents (such as myself), on account of Luther’s absence. I’m pretty sure he was a Blades agent and was probably off on an important mission. This meant that the inn would be blissfully quiet, which was perfect.

It was in fact almost empty, with a grand total of three people sitting in the common room. They were deep in discussion when I entered so I chose the furthest table away and took a seat, setting my gear down on a separate chair.

I’d left most of my things in Morrowind rather than lugging them across Tamriel like a pack mule. All I had was a dwarven sword, my (rather poor) leather armour, some basic alchemy equipment, and a handful of gold coins. Getting a bow and some good quality armour was at the top of my priority list.

Luther had left a kettle and some nightshade plants over by the fire. Whoever invented tea should be made into a tenth Divine. I’d happily worship them every day.

As soon as I sat down with my steaming brew, the three strangers rose and started walking towards me. I hadn't really looked at them on the way in, but they appeared to be adventurers (the only armed people you usually see in cities are mercenaries, adventurers, or soldiers). An elf and two Nords.

The Elf, an Altmer, looked decidedly normal. Clearly a mage, his blue robes shimmered ever so slightly with an enchantment. He carried no weapons and his tangled beard suggested he also carried neither a brush nor scissors. He smiled warmly as they approached.

The largest of the Nords was perhaps that biggest man I’d ever seen. He was dressed in fur armour, with bits and pieces of iron armour here and there. His brown hair fell over his broad shoulders, and he too had a large beard. In traditional Nord fashion his beard was braided and any skin that showed was covered in intricate tattoos. He had left his weapon, a claymore as tall as myself, at their table.

The other Nord was the only woman in the group. She was shorter than the others, and very slender. Her red hair was cut just above her shoulders, and she had several braids. She had no beard (thankfully) and her pale skin was a stark contrast to her green eyes. They were dark green but still bright and alert, like sunlight filtering through pine trees. Her armour seemed to be a mix of leather and iron, though her arms and legs were mostly free to aid with movement. She had two knives on her belt, and a bow poked over her shoulder. A hunter, perhaps? A hunter of what?

When they reached my table they seemed to be inspecting me, and simultaneously passed their eyes over my equipment. Great, I was going to be robbed before I’d even finished my tea.

“Allow me to introduce myself” the Altmer offered another smile. “My name is Olorin, and these are my companions; Sjöfn and Jötnar,”

The two Nords nodded, though only the woman, Sjöfn, smiled. Jötnar’s scowl suggested that he wasn't pleased, had never been happy before in his life, or was in fact carved out of stone. I returned their nods with the friendliest smile I could muster. Olorin continued:

“Judging from your outfit and equipment you are an adventurer. Correct?”

“Yes, though I’m mainly a hunter. My name is Haa-Rei.” It’s always best to be polite and friendly when talking to armed strangers.

I indicated the free seats in front of me, which Olorin and Sjöfn accepted. Apparently Jötnar would prefer to stand.

“Excellent. Well, I have an offer of employment...if you are interested.” Olorin continued to smile his warm smile.

“Go on.”

“We are looking for someone to share in an adventure…”

Welcome back Haa-Rei and Hazmick!

I really hope my recovery keeps improving so I'll be able to catch up on the great stories on here and once again hear about all my favorite characters, which most def includes Haa-Rei! Still have some huge issues trying to read/retain, but it seems to improve with time, so my hope is high that I'll be reading all these stories again!
Not just an agent, but a Secret agent!

Love the big feel you gave here to the Imperial City. And busy enough to make poor Haa-Rei’s scales itch. tongue.gif

Neat way of showing us how much Haa-Rei likes his tea. Earl Gray for Divine #10!

You did a great job of using only a small amount of space to impart wonderful detail to Olorin and his two Nordic companions. Even better, the descriptions let plenty of Haa-Rei’s dry humor to come through.

An adventure is it to be then?
Her red hair was cut just above her shoulders, and she had several braids. She had no beard (thankfully) and her pale skin was a stark contrast to her green eyes.

I am quite definitely in love...The fact that she even has no beard is a bonus!... biggrin.gif ...

Excellently done...Found myself giggling at his disappointment at the lack of buffet... laugh.gif ...

Brilliant writing, I very much like the humour...Very much... smile.gif ...

Moaarrrr!!!... biggrin.gif ...

Nice one!!!...

*Applauds heartily*...
mALX - Good to be back, and all the better to have you along for the journey. I wish you a swift and complete recovery. It wouldn't be the same without you. happy.gif

Acadian - The most secretest of secret agents! Yes, an adventure it is. What else is there to do in Tamriel? wink.gif

McB - Indeed, 'no beard' is always at least number 3 on the priority list. tongue.gif I'm glad you're enjoying it, your request for more has been approved!

Chapter 3

An adventure? I admit that it sounded interesting, but I’d never been invited on an adventure before. It was usually a case of wandering into one.

“I still say we should keep looking. What use is this scrawny lizard going to be?” Jötnar apparently had no issues about speaking his mind. Nevertheless I felt quite insulted – I’m quite useful in certain situations.

“Well I-” My explanation was cut short as the burly Nord strode forward, grabbing my sword.

“Who even uses this Dwarven rubbish? Looks like he just found it in a ruin!”

I had actually found it in a ruin, but I refrained from explaining to him that dwarven weaponry is often underestimated (since it doesn't look as deadly as iron or steel) and remained silent as he swung my sword around like a playground bully.

Well I can’t talk my way out of this, and I certainly can’t use strength to get my sword back. I’ll need some help.

Bringing a spell to the front of my mind, I made a small gesture with an (admittedly clammy) clawed hand. A storm atronach thundered into existence, dwarfing the massive Nord.

“Thiazzi,” the atronach turned to face me “could you please retrieve my sword. Gently.” Confidence comes much easier when you have a mountain on your side.

Thiazzi did as he was bid, letting out a thunderous roar. The lightning on his body was bright white, and crackled with a cold heat.

Olorin seemed mesmerised by the atronach. He had that look in his eye that many scholars get when they see other people’s work. The professional curiosity that only comes with years of experience.

Sjöfn was also smiling, but she was entirely focused on me. A storm atronach is enough to get anyone’s attention, and I’ve never been anything special to look at. Have I spilled tea on myself? I was beginning to blush, so I turned back to Thiazzi just as Jötnar held out my sword and a large stone fist retrieved it. He handed it back to me.

“Thank you, my friend.” I sheathed the blade and dismissed my ally with another gesture. He vanished back to Oblivion with another rumble.

Jötnar moved forward again, but made no attempt to grab anything. He was…smiling?

“It’s not often anyone impresses me so quickly, lad. You’ll be a fine addition to our crew.” He clapped me on the shoulder and let out a booming laugh. He had a strong northern accent to match his strong northern grip.

Ah, so it was a test! Are all my adventures in Cyrodiil going to be like this?

“My apologies. We just needed to make sure you could be of use,” Olorin’s smile had returned.

“It’s fine. Now about this adventure…” I’ve never been good at small talk, and if I was joining this expedition I’d need to know more.

“We’re going to a ruin to get an object. There’ll be things to kill, locked chests, traps. All the fun stuff.” Jötnar was positively beaming now. How had he managed to keep that cool expression for so long?

Olorin explained further;

“The ruin is called Atatar, it’s Ayleid. It lies to the North of Leyawiin. We’re not entirely sure what we’ll find inside but we’re looking for a certain statue.”

“When will this adventure take place? I have business in Leyawiin.” I was anxious to return, it had been far too long since I'd seen everyone.

“That depends. How good are you at stealth and spotting traps?”

“Quite good, I guess.” After exploring most of the Dwemer ruins on Vvardenfell I was actually very good at that sort of thing, but modesty is important to a professional such as myself (and confidence had never been my strongest suit).

“Then we can set off tomorrow. We have a buyer for the statue and everything is prepared. If we’re all in agreement?” He turned to his companions.

“If he’s as sneaky as he looks then it’ll be a breeze.” I took that as a vote of confidence from Jötnar.

“I’ve always liked Argonians. They have the most beautiful eyes.” Finally she had spoken. Sjöfn’s voice was like snow on a still day. She had hints of a northern accent, but not nearly as strong as Jötnar’s. A swarm of butterflies took flight in my belly.

When most people see an Argonian they just see the scales, or the tail, or the horns. There is an old saying about eyes being the gateway to the soul, and it’s true. Argonians have very expressive eyes (which is why we don’t use as much facial expressions or body language as humans).

My eyes also revealed another part of me, which I would very much like to remain a secret – especially from beautiful women and business partners. Sometimes they were blue, like the rivers of Black Marsh, but sometimes they flashed yellow – like moons on a dark night. Had she seen? No, surely she’d say something if she knew…

“Do you need anything?” Olorin interrupted my momentary lapse of concentration and ignored my increasingly intense blushing.

“I need a bow and some lockpicks. I could use some better armour too.” I indicated my current outfit, which was rather worn and would be worth little in a fight.

“Consider this an advance on your salary. It’ll come out of your cut of the profits.” The mage handed me a large bag of coins. More than enough to buy what I needed.

“Thanks. I’ll get everything first thing tomorrow.”

“Excellent! We’ll be waiting at the Wawnet Inn. In the village of Weye.” Olorin stood, and turned to leave. Shaking my hand as he did so.

Sjöfn and Jötnar followed, grabbing their gear on the way. The redhead threw me a smile as she shouldered her pack. I reddened again, and suddenly felt very warm. Was I ill? Some sort of disease that can affect Argonians?

No matter. It would take more than an illness to quench my excitement.

An adventure! Leyawiin! Sjöfn! No, wait, scratch that last one. (Though to this day I’m not sure which option was the most interesting at the time.)

Alone at last, I finished my tea and headed to my quarters. It was exactly what you’d expect from a free room. Four walls, a bed, a bowl and a tub.

I heated the bath with a weak fire spell (the extent of my destruction abilities), stripped off my gear, and slid into the warm water. My busy day had worn me out, and I sank deeper into the bath and fell asleep.

My dreams were full of snow and pine trees.
A most impressive display from Haa-Rei as he recovers his sword. So, it was just a test the treasure hunters orchestrated to evaluate their new potential hire.

“I’ve always liked Argonians. They have the most beautiful eyes.” - - Sjöfn is exactly right! And . . . our scaly pal seems rather smitten by the beardless redhead. happy.gif
Acadian - What's the point of magic if you can't use it to impress your friends? Conjuration is always popular at parties. And yes, we both have a weakness for redheads (and tea). happy.gif

Chapter 4

Even for someone who can breathe underwater, waking up in a cold bath is not a pleasant experience. I numbly climbed out of the tub, dried myself off and got dressed. It would be a few minutes before my body warmed up and I got some energy, so I prepared some tea to speed up my morning.

The sky over the city was grey and cold as I left the Boarding House to gather all of the necessary equipment. By the time I’d purchased some new leather armour, some lockpicks, a steel bow and some iron arrows I was thoroughly fed up. Apparently the wealth of the Empire comes from the ridiculous prices of the capital city - most of my money was now gone.

I crossed the bridge leading away from the city just as it began to rain. My armour was waterproofed and I stowed most of my gear in my bag (an enchanted one I’d picked up in Morrowind – impossibly bigger on the inside to allow adventurers to carry more gear easily). The one thing I’ve never missed about Cyrodiil is the rain.

My fellow adventurers were waiting at the centre of the village. It was actually more of a ‘collection of buildings’ than anything else, with a couple of thatched houses and an inn. The entire place smelled like slaughterfish, which was probably the main food source for anyone around Lake Rumare. I’d rather eat my own boots to be quite honest.

“Good morning!” Olorin waved, his beard already beginning to look bedraggled in the rain.

Jötnar and Sjöfn greeted me with a smile and a nod, the latter from beneath a large hood (presumably to keep her hair dry). I suddenly realised that I’d completely forgotten to purchase a hood of my own. Not to keep me dry of course but more as a fashion accessory. Not to mention camouflage (my horns and head spines caught the light especially well, kind of like a human with a bald head).

“Everyone ready to go?”

“Yes, here’s a map of Cyrodiil if you don’t already have one. This is our route.” Olorin handed me a cloth map and indicated our route with a wrinkled finger. Everyone huddled closer to keep the rain from ruining the material.

We were to follow the Red Ring Road South and East around Lake Rumare, before turning South on the Green Road to Bravil and Leyawiin. Then it was a short journey from Leyawiin to the ruin. If everything went smoothly we would only need to make camp three times. The first location was an old fort near a village called Pell’s Gate.

It was refreshing to be with people who had planned everything so well – Olorin was quite the leader. Planning was never something I bothered with, mainly due to being lazy and deciding that everything would work out eventually. Fortunately I have since learned my lessons, but that comes later in the story.

We made good time on the road, with no bandits or wildlife to give us trouble. Say what you like about the Empire but the Legion patrols do a good job. I spent most of the journey scouting ahead, marvelling at all the new flora and fauna. Even the weather was on our side and soon the rain stopped and the sun began to shine, the greens and browns of the forest likewise bursting into life.

Every so often I’d backtrack to check on the others. Olorin and Jötnar were following the road while Sjöfn was acting as rear guard about half a mile behind. The two men were slower and less agile due to age and heavy armour (you can guess which was which) but Olorin’s calculations were correct and I spotted the village in the distance just before sunset. The village was not our destination however, so I crossed over to the north side of the road to investigate the fort.

To call it a fort would be an overstatement. At one point it might well have been an impressive structure but most of the walls were now just rubble, with only the main structure left standing. The pale grey stone of the large round tower was covered in moss and ivy, glistening from the recent rainfall as the last rays of the sun dipped below the horizon. But even in its ruined state the fort was not abandoned. A lone figure stood guard, barely visible in the shadow of an old doorway.

I dropped to a crouch and edged carefully to a low wall. Bandits? Fellow adventurers? It would be safer to just shoot them now, or avoid the fort altogether, but I wasn’t working alone anymore. I slowly retreated to inform the others.


“Bandits, most likely.” Jötnar’s look of distaste was clear, and I had no doubt that he wanted to clear the fort. Olorin remained calm:

“We need to be sure before we just run in. I’ll approach the fort alone to gauge their reaction.”

“Are you mad? What if they attack you?” Sjöfn had caught up with us.

“Well then it’ll be a good thing I have two fine young archers to cover me.” Olorin winked at her and gave me a nod.

“Okay. If you’re sure.” It was quite a good plan, even if the two Nords didn’t agree.

We would either find some friendly adventurers and have a peaceful night, or we would find some bandits and be forced to clear them out. It’s not unheard of for such people to live so near a settlement, they could easily resupply there and keep robbing people on the road without moving very far. Fighting them was not what worried me – protecting Olorin was much riskier. If there were more bandits hiding nearby or if they had bows too...


“Good evening!” Olorin’s voice was friendly as ever when he addressed the lone Redguard sentry. She, however, was not so courteous and began to charge.

The bandit, for that was what she was, wore no proper armour. Just some dark hunting breeches and a dark green shirt. Her weapon was more professional - a large steal warhammer that was polished to a high shine. The weight of it slowed her advance, allowing me plenty of time to attack.

I was crouched behind a fallen tree slightly to the right, my leather armour blending in with the dark bark. I had three arrows stuck in the ground before me (just in case) and one in my hand. I steadied my breath and tightened my grip on my new bow.

Knock. Draw. Loose.
I agree with Haa-Rei about archers being the big worry. A mage may have reflect spell, and reflect damage active when he approaches the unknown enemy, but there is no reflect arrows! They also do a lot more damage than melee weapons, at the expense of having a chance to miss.

I was torn between whether Olorin or Jötnar would be the best to make the opening gambit here. Does the one in heavy armour look most threatening, or least likely to over-react? But since the reaction was to attack, we'll find out the real answer next time.

I’ve always liked how you acknowledge Haa-Rei’s Argonianness in many subtle ways – like falling asleep under water, needing some time and warmth to bring his body up to speed, being immune to the poisonous effects of nightshade tea and how his horns reflect the light.

I also enjoy the thought you put into some of the details of adventuring – from Haa-Rei’s magic bag to use of a cloth map (instead of fragile parchment) to noting how his companions had planned out the logisitics of their expedition in good detail.

Ah yes, the old ‘shoot now ask questions later’ vs ‘declare yourself’ dilemma when approaching strangers in Tamriel. I see they chose a reasonable but prudent plan.
Yay for Haa-Rei, and yay for Cyrodiil adventures!

I already love the party of adventurers, especially the enchanting Sjöfn.

My dreams were full of snow and pine trees. wub.gif

Like Acadian I enjoy Haa-Rei’s Argonianness, particularly his expressive eyes. I’ve always thought that Argonians had beautiful eyes.
ghastley - yep, need to keep an eye on those those pesky archers. As for the plan, I'm going on the premise that not everyone in Tamriel is an enemy so the friendly old man was more likely to work out. Then it turns out these people actually are enemies. *sigh* such is life.

Acadian - The Argonianness is always something I'm thinking about. Yeah they can breathe water and resist disease and poison in the games but how would that come in handy IRL?
I'm afraid that Haa-Rei probably wouldn't be as prudent if he was alone, so it's nice that he has friends for a change. tongue.gif

Grits - Yay for Grits! Good to have you along. happy.gif And you've picked up on the important-but-hopefully-kind-of-subtle Sjöfn references! Hope you continue to enjoy the story.

Chapter 5

I instantly regretted not getting in some practice with my new bow before engaging bandits. My arrow glanced past the Redguard’s shoulder, leaving a thin cut. The wound would be painful, but a Redguard pumped full of adrenaline can shrug these things off.

Before I could fire again the sentry fell, one of Sjöfn’s owl-fletched arrows buried deep in her chest. I nodded my thanks and readied another arrow. A cool breeze rustled through the damp trees. The sun had set, but the moon had bathed the area in an eerie white light. More movement in the fort caught my eye.

An archer dressed in huntsman leathers appeared at the top of the central tower, bow drawn, her large eyes fixed on her fallen comrade. She looked pale in the moonlight.

I tried to remain still, hoping that she would turn away and give me a shot. Between her and me was a knee high wall, but she had the height advantage. Fortunately on one side was a taller wall which shielded her from Sjöfn and Olorin. It was just her and me.

The Bosmer’s arrow thudded into the fallen tree, a few inches from my head. I guess I’ve been spotted.

I had time before she fired again and made sure to aim properly. Now or never.

Nock. Draw. Loose.

She fell from the tower and landed in the mud below. I let out a shaky breath which I didn’t realise I’d been holding.

Olorin sounded the all clear and dispelled his shield enchantment as we regrouped.

“Good start. Let’s hope there aren’t too many inside.” I nodded my agreement with the mage and followed him into the ruin.

The fort was much bigger than I first thought, with various underground passages disappearing off into the gloom. Olorin cast a couple of spells - what looked to be detect life and something similar.

“There are three sections. Eight Marauders in total.” The Altmer’s eyes seemed to pierce the very stone around us. I found myself wishing I wasn’t so inept at non-conjuration magic.

“I assume you have a plan, old man.” Jötnar was impatient to get started.

“Haa-Rei shall accompany me on this level. You two clear out the lower passages. Report back as soon as you’re done.”

With a final ‘good luck’ from the Nords, we parted ways. I nocked an arrow and started along the hallway, with Olorin following behind.

I wasn’t used to having people with me in these situations and I found myself wincing at every loud step he took. When we neared the first couple of marauders I drop into a crouch and motioned for my companion to stay where he was.

The first marauder proved no trouble, and fell with one of my arrows in her neck. The second was equally unarmoured and unprepared, but his hammer clattered to the ground and echoed through the tunnel, accompanied by a loud (albeit short) scream.

“Xhuth!” I swore loudly and dropped my bow as the third and final marauder dashed round the corner. A large Orc, with green skin so dark it was almost black. Unlike his allies he wore armour, though it had seen better days. I could see several gaps in the iron plates. My bow would be useless at this range.

I drew my sword to meet him, remembering too late that I had no shield. The steel hammer hit me in the side with all the force the Orc could muster. Were it not for my armour’s shield enchantment my ribcage would have been crushed.

Instead I was flung into the tunnel wall, winded but alive. Speed, not strength. The voice in my head sounded like a parent wearily scolding a child.

I got to my feet in time to dodge another hammer swing. And another, and another. Even an Orc of his size would tire eventually. Patience is key. I took any opportunity to jab my sword through the gaps in his armour, the dwarven metal slicing through his tough, green hide with ease. His blood looked almost black in the dimly lit tunnel.

Finally his frustration got the better of him and he brought the hammer down in a mighty overhead swing. I skipped to the side and drove my sword through a gap in his armour, deep into his neck.

A look of surprise washed over his face as he crashed to the ground. I retrieved my sword and used a piece of the Orc’s tunic to clean up. The metallic smell of blood stung my nostrils and I felt my chest tightening. No! Not now. I steadied myself on a wooden tunnel support and reached into the potion bag at my waist.

The medicine was bitter and made my eyes water but it did the job. I shuddered and put the empty vial back in the bag.

I glanced back along the tunnel, double-checking that Olorin was still there.

The old wizard was smiling widely, if he was concerned he didn’t show it;

“Very well done my young friend, very well done. Let’s search the rest of this level and then set up camp, hm?” It was more of a request than an order, his friendly tone was full of encouragement.

It turned out that the bandits were as poor as paupers, which would explain their lack of equipment. We found a small amount of gold and a single health potion. I swigged the potion and felt instantly better, it even healed a cut on my head that I didn’t know I had. Most likely sustained in my dance with the Orsimer.

It wasn’t long before the others re-joined us. Jötnar was covered in blood (none of it his own) whilst Sjöfn looked clean and refreshed as if she’d just had a relaxing bath. Their loot was only slightly better than ours.

“Well we came here to clear the ruin, not make money.” Olorin split the profits into four separate bags and handed it out between us all.

“Still, it wouldn’t hurt to have more.” Jötnar’s take looked especially small when he held it in his enormous hand.

“It’s enough for a room and some food at an inn. What more do you need?” Sjöfn’s comment was met with an ambiguous grunt by her brother.

She vanished into the tunnel for a moment and returned with an armful of wood. The marauders apparently had a well-stocked log pile.

After Olorin had lit the fire with a handy destruction spell he produced a large pot and various ingredients – including but not limited to; water, a rabbit (dead, skinned), carrots, potatoes, and onions. He had a pack similar to mine, though he apparently had an entire kitchen and pantry in his. Mine was full of books and tea.

Not one to complain though, especially when free food is on offer, I helped prepare some of the vegetables to go with the rabbit. This all went into the pot and produced a rich and delicious broth. The chunks of rabbit meat practically melting into it.

Once we had eaten and cleaned up we set up the sleeping area. I unrolled my sleeping sack a few feet away from the others, who were all set up around the fire. Sjöfn would take the first watch, and wake me after a few hours. I’d most likely be awake anyway but for now I was tired and sore.

The adventurer’s life was as satisfying as it was difficult.
Nice job clearing that bandit fort. Archer vs archer can be a deadly dance, so I’m glad Haa-Rei managed to prevail quickly. Even more dangerous is an angry orc with a warhammer – eep! Once again, Haa-Rei did well. During the orc fight, I did have visions of his Altmeri mage pal hiding behind a column – leaving the fighting to Haa-Rei. Speaking of that mage, very neat how you described his divining magicks from Haa-Rei’s perspective to learn more of the inside of that fort. And the wizard even has a magic bag like Haa-Rei. Love that our Argonian’s bag is filled with books and (of course) tea.

Yum, rabbit stew! This little crew does know how to camp!
I find myself agreeing with Acadian about the passivity of the Altmer. Couldn't he have thrown some kind of spell against the Orc? But then, we don't know what kind of magic he can do, other than detect life.

One nit: My arrow glanced passed past the Redguard’s shoulder,
Acadian - Haa-Rei much prefers it if his companions keep out the way. The last thing he needs is to think about dodging spells from behind. Glad you like the magic bits, I'm always trying to explain game stuff (like inventories, maps, compasses) to make it seem more realistic. Not sure UESP was around back then to help adventurers out biggrin.gif

ghastley - As I said to Acadian, the last thing anyone wants from a companion is to be hit in the back by rogue spells. I'm not even sure Olorin can use many destruction spells now that I think about it tongue.gif Thanks for spotting that pesky error, those nits sure are sneaky smile.gif

Chapter 6

I’d managed to keep the fire going all night while I was on watch duty, but even still the stone fort was freezing cold by the time morning came and the others woke up.

As Olorin and Jötnar prepared breakfast I was half-led, half-dragged outside by Sjöfn, my body feeling sluggish from the cold. She walked me over to a low wall and sat me down, vanishing back into the fort. She returned a few moments later with a steaming mug of tea which she pressed into my hand.

I attempted to thank her, but I instead made an odd croaking noise. Apparently my tongue had gone numb from the cold too.

“Have a drink and try again,” The Nord let out a burst of musical laughter, almost sounding like the wildlife which had begun to come to life around us. “I know how hard it is for you Argonians to get moving in the morning.”

I took a sip of tea before I tried again, the warm liquid immediately loosening the knot in my tongue;

“Thank you. So…have you travelled with Argonians before?” I’m usually terrible at small talk, especially when my brain is still asleep, but the words practically fell out of my mouth. There’s nothing like a nice cup of tea if you want to make friends.

“Yeah, it was a few years ago now. Back up in Skyrim. She was a mage friend of Olorin’s so she could use destruction magic to warm herself up, but it was still a struggle sometimes.”

“I can imagine. I visited Solstheim a while ago and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.” I could almost feel the intense cold from the snow. Had it not been for some enchanted gear, I’d most likely have frozen to death as soon as I got off the boat.

“Solstheim? That’s nothing on the northern part of Skyrim. Even the sea freezes up there!” She flashed me a smile and turned to look at Lake Rumare. The fort was only a few feet away from the water. Probably why it’s so darn cold in the underground sections.

We sat in silence for a while, the morning sun creeping over the trees to reflect on the lake like a thousand sapphire crystals. I was tempted to go for a swim, but I was quite content where I was.

The heavy door of the fort creaked open as the others joined us. Jötnar was a better cook than he looked, replacing my empty mug with a plate of sausages and fried egg. I wolfed it down and wandered down to the lake to help wash up.

Once everyone was ready we set off again, this time heading south.

It was a beautiful morning, perfect for a walk. I was acting as rear-guard today so I could take it relatively easy. I found myself stopping every so often to gaze at a waterfall or distant ruins, promising myself to come back this way and explore when I had the chance.

After a few hours I saw the others stop up ahead and jogged to catch up.

“There’s an inn just down here, we’ll stop there for a while. We should make it to Bravil just after nightfall.” Olorin gestured in the general direction of the inn and then Bravil. We weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere so a break would be nice.

The inn in question was named the Faregyl Inn. It looked like something from an old story book, with a thatched roof and pale smoke rising from a stout chimney.

The interior was larger than I thought it would be, with a large common room on the lower floor. A square counter surrounded the fireplace and a Khajiit greeted us from there.

“Well met travellers! Welcome to Faregyl. My name is Abhuki.” Her voice had only the slightest hint of an Elsweyr accent. Her smile was similar to Olorin’s – undoubtedly friendly and sincere, as if our mere appearance brought her unbridled joy.

Olorin moved to the bar to order food and drinks while the rest of us sat down. Besides us there were two other people – a human and another Khajiit. That man introduced himself as Alix Lencolia. The other Khajiit was called S’Jirra.

As we ate the other residents joined us, apparently they don’t get many visitors out here. Olorin and Abhuki were having a conversation about alteration magic, apparently something they were both adept in (other than smiling), while Jötnar and Alix were deeply engrossed in a talk about farming.

I was quite content to sit in silence, slowly but surely devouring a piece of roast lamb as I tried to listen to everyone else’s conversations. It didn’t last long, however, as Sjöfn dragged me into her conversation with S’Jirra;

“Well Haa-Rei and I would love to help you out. Wouldn’t we?” We would? The Nord’s red eyebrows were raised in a way that suggested ‘no’ was not a possible answer.

“Help out with what, exactly?” It almost sounded as if I hadn’t been listening to their conversation about potatoes, some of which had apparently been stolen from S’Jirra earlier this morning.

“Can you help me find my lost jumbo potatoes? Please, you must help me find them! My potatoes are like my children!” Her feline eyes were as wide as dinner plates. Ever the hero, I accepted the quest and set off with Sjöfn in pursuit of the potato thief. The other half of our party were still engrossed in their respective conversations.

“According to the map there are no settlements, forts or ruins in the direction of our thief’s last location. So it was likely an animal that S’Jirra saw.” I stowed the map in my pack and glanced around. The forest was bright and warm, no signs of any other people. Why would a human steal potatoes anyway? The woods were bursting with edible plants and animals.

“Thanks for helping out by the way. I can shoot pretty well but my hunting skills aren’t that great. You’re more of the ranger type, right?” My fellow potato detective paused to ready her bow.

“Yeah, I was trained to be a Marsh Ranger back home.” I followed Sjöfn’s lead and readied my bow. You can never be too careful when hunting for potatoes.

“You’re from Black Marsh?”

“Originally, but I-“ Questions would have to wait. I dropped into a crouch and motioned for Sjöfn to do the same.

“What have- Oh” She’d seen it too.

Our potato thief was an ogre.
“Have a drink and try again,” The Nord let out a burst of musical laughter, almost sounding like the wildlife which had begun to come to life around us. “I know how hard it is for you Argonians to get moving in the morning.” - - I love this little passage for how elegantly it reminds of Haa-Rei’s reptilian nature as well as how taken he is by the red-headed Nordic beauty. happy.gif

What a nice respite and description of the Faregyl Inn and its residents.

Oh noes, not the great jumbo potato caper! ohmy.gif
OK, nit first - although "half-lead" probably describes the way he feels quite accurately, you probably meant 'half-led" biggrin.gif

So she brought him a nice hot cup of tea? She must be British, old chap. Don't get confused by that name of hers. Historically good archers, they are, so don't worry about the ogre. Mind you, I can't find any record of British archers defeating ogres before, but that's just a detail.

Acadian - If there's one thing Haa-Rei and I enjoy, it's a respite biggrin.gif

ghastley - Tea is universal, my friend. laugh.gif I'm sure I heard something about ogres in my GCSE history lessons. Something about ogres getting stuck in the mud and defeated by Welsh longbows? I forget.

Chapter 7

After being born in Black Marsh, living in Lleyawiin, and adventuring in Morrowind, I’d encountered many weird and wonderful creatures. From mundane creatures like alligators and nix hounds, to magical beings such as atronachs, and everything in between. Ogres are something entirely different.

Ogres are just human enough to be scary, with the added savagery and brutality of a wild beast. It had the basic shape of a man (albeit a particularly large man) with long, muscular arms and legs. The torso was like a huge grey barrel, impossibly large as if it had just swallowed a wheelbarrow whole. The tiny head looked most out of place and primarily served as housing for a huge mouth – full of grotesque teeth which were clearly visible even at this distance.

Sjöfn and I were crouched behind a large blackberry bush a few metres away. The wind blew the scent of the ogre straight at us. It reeked of sweat and general uncleanliness.

“There, the bag.” Sjöfn’s barely audible whisper pulled my attention to the task at hand.

A large satchel was slung across the ogre’s shoulder. Dark leather to match his sandals and loincloth. The height of fashion for barbarians and beasts alike. More importantly however was the size of it – perfect for carrying several large potatoes.

We both fired at the same time, our arrows hitting the ogre with a light thud. With a growl and a wave of its massive hand the ogre brushed the arrows off as if they were mosquitoes on a hot day. By the Hist, its skin must be centimeters thick!

Sjöfn was much faster than me and fired again in the blink of an eye, this time her arrow glanced off of the ogre’s head. The beast was less than pleased, and turned its gaze to meet mine.

It had been a while since I’d been that scared. It was the eyes that terrified me. They were small and beady but held a small degree of intelligence. Enough intelligence to be dangerous, but not enough to use predictable tactics.

Sjöfn swore under her breath in Nordic. We needed help.

Raising my hand, I cast the spell. The storm atronach appeared moments later. Thiazzi had gotten me out of more tough situations than I could count.

The floating rocks formed the basic humanoid shape that would allow him to fight. Two massive arms pointed forward, sending an arc of lightning at the ogre. A direct hit left the beast with a large wound on its chest.

Roaring in what could have been pain, anger, or both, the ogre lumbered forward. Thiazzi also moved forward, floating a couple of centimeters off the ground to move faster.

The two proceeded to exchange blows with their large fists. The occasional rumble of thunder from the atronach made the fight seem like something from an old song. Every blow from the ogre was met with a small electrical discharge - it was practically punching itself.

Finally, after several minutes, the fight was over. The ogre staggered back, swaying on its feet, before crashing to the ground. Thiazzi roared triumphantly and turned to me, awaiting my next command.

“Thank you, my friend,” Over the years I’d developed quite the friendship with my atronach. The conversations were rather one-sided but it always made me happy to see him. Atronachs are hugely complex creatures, with thoughts and feelings like any living being. Most of the time Thiazzi seemed happy to just be there.

“Friend?” Sjöfn had joined us after making sure the ogre was truly dead.

“Oh, I don’t think you’ve been properly introduced. Thiazzi, meet Sjöfn. Sjöfn, this is Thiazzi. My most trusted ally and oldest travelling companion.” I’m sure I sounded quite ridiculous, but as always my confidence was boosted tenfold whenever one of my atronachs was around.

Sjöfn barely suppressed a giggle (yep, definitely ridiculous) before turning to Thiazzi and greeting him with a nod. The atronach let out a low rumble and likewise nodded. I always imagined that he would be quite eloquent and polite if he could speak.

I raised my hand once again and thanked him a final time as he faded back into Oblivion.

“So that was fun,” my Nord companion grinned as she held up the vanquished ogre’s satchel, “all potatoes accounted for”.

“Excellent. I’m just glad that it’s ogre.” I glanced at her sideways to see how well received my pun was.

She rolled her eyes but the smile never left her face;

“Good grief. You and my brother are going to get along perfectly. C’mon, let’s head back.”

We chatted a bit more on the walk back, mainly about the ogre. I made a mental note to purchase a book on native creatures at the next opportunity. I didn’t relish being in a situation like that again.

The inn was still as quite as ever when we returned. Olorin was dozing in a chair by the fire. Jötnar was still in the same seat as before, still engaged in conversation with Alix. The topic had apparently changed from farming to travelling. Had he even noticed our absence?

S’Jirra approached us as we entered;

“You have them! I can sense they’re with you!” I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little odd, but she looked beyond happy as Sjöfn handed over the satchel. “Oh my goodness! You found them! I could kiss you!”

I took a quick step back to avoid her attempt at a hug, leaving Sjöfn to be pulled into an embrace.

“That’s not necessary,” she could barely get her words out, the Khajiit’s happiness was practically suffocating her. I made no move to intervene, I’m not a hugger. Or a toucher at all. Or much of a speaker most of the time.

After an uncomfortable amount of time S’Jirra released my fellow potato detective;

“As promised, I owe you a reward for your efforts. I present you with my first batch of Famous Potato Bread! More valuable than gold!” She handed over four loaves of bread, before returning to her room upstairs with her beloved potatoes.

“More valuable than gold?” Sjöfn sounded as unimpressed as I felt.

“It does smell good though…and I am quite peckish after our adventure.” My stomach grumbled to prove my point. Slaying monsters is hungry work.

We sat down at the table in the corner, splitting a loaf between us.

The bread was soft and warm, and the potatoes were almost like butter. I glanced at Sjöfn to get her reaction;

“By Kynareth, this is delicious!” Sjöfn must have noticed the smile in my eyes, bursting into more musical laughter.

S’Jirra was right, this is more valuable than gold.
This was simply a delightful treatment of the Nirn-famous Great Potato caper. I simply loved your use and treatment of Thiazzi! Being attached to and caring about one’s summon seems as natural as breathing in the magical land of Tamriel. And he did indeed change the tide of that battle!

Nice ending – one could interpret Haa-Rei’s assessment that the bread was indeed worth its weight in gold due to its famous taste. . . or romantics like me might conclude that the bread’s true value can be found in the musical laughter that it inspired from Sjöfn. happy.gif
The bread's certainly easier to eat than gold. Didn't King Midas starve to death?

Now, it just needs another pot of tea to wash it down. tongue.gif

Nit: Sjöfn swore under her breath in Nordic. - lost a word somehow.
We sat in silence for a while, the morning sun creeping over the trees to reflect on the lake like a thousand sapphire crystals. I was tempted to go for a swim, but I was quite content where I was.

Sjöfn’s charms must be considerable to keep an Argonian out of that lake! Beautifully done. happy.gif

I’m not a hugger. Or a toucher at all. Or much of a speaker most of the time.

Lol. What a charming potato adventure in the Great Forest!
Acadian - I'm glad I managed to do the quest justice, and I'm glad you picked up on the romance. I'm not good at that sort of stuff so I'm happy that it seems to be working.

As for Thiazzi, you're absolutely right. Haa-Rei has known him longer than he's known most people so it's only fair that they're friends. It'd be like having a horse or ancient spirit guardian as close companions. That's actually not a bad idea for a story... wink.gif

ghastley - more tea? Well if you insist... tongue.gif

Grits - Argonians can swim wherever they like, but it's not everyday you can find a charming companion to share some tea with laugh.gif

Chapter 8

In the name of brotherhood, friendship, and kindness, Sjöfn and I decided to share the bread with the others. We kept a loaf each for ourselves and gave Jötnar and Olorin one to share. There’s such a thing as being too kind, after all.

After we’d shared out the bread rations and thanked our hosts, we set off South in the direction of Bravil. Once again Olorin’s plans were right on time, even after taking a detour with the potato investigation.

I took the lead, scouting ahead of the others, with Sjöfn acting as rear guard. The roads were still quiet, with most travellers opting to take boats up the river to the Imperial City rather than risking attacks from bandits or wildlife. The only person I saw was an Imperial ranger, who greeted me with a wave before disappearing back into the wilderness.

As for wildlife it was an equally quiet day. I spotted a large black bear in the distance, but as long as you respect their privacy most animals won’t bother with you. A boar illustrated my point after wandering into the same clearing as me. After a few moments of staring at each other he grunted and wandered off.

The afternoon sun was warm and bright as the light filtered through the trees. Birds flitted through the branches, calling out to each other in songs.

I stopped for a quick snack at a large blueberry bush. The berries popped in my mouth, bursting with flavour. I made sure to pick the ones that were still slightly unripe for their sourness. I resisted the urge to devour every berry in sight (with great effort) and instead reached into my bag. I took out my journal and tore a strip from one of the blank pages, which I then attached to the bush. Proud of my handiwork, I continued onwards along the Green Road.

Just as I was trying to decide which road in Cyrodiil was my favourite, I heard an odd noise. It was like a low growl, but nothing I’d heard before. I could feel in my head spines that something was near. That distinct feeling of danger that had saved me countless times in the past. I froze on the spot as the creature came into view.

“By the Hist…” I whispered to myself. I’d seen my first minotaur.

I’d read about them, and always thought they sounded interesting, but the creature before me was nothing short of magnificent.

The beast’s great hooves supported two muscular legs, and a long cow’s tail swished this way and that at any lazy fly that dared get close enough. The torso was that of a huge, muscular man. Rippling muscles shone in the sunlight, and two equally large human arms hung by its sides. An iron warhammer was being carried effortlessly in one hand, as I would carry a quill. The head was the most striking part. It was the head of a mighty bull, broad and thick, with two huge horns reaching upwards. As a creature with horns myself, I could fully appreciate their majesty. And weight.

My bow was already in my hand, but I didn’t want to fight this creature if I could avoid it. It might sound strange, an adventurer that doesn’t want to fight monsters, but there was something about this minotaur (and indeed every minotaur that I’ve encountered since) that made me pause. I wasn’t especially scared…it was more of a respect. It wasn’t until later in my adventures that I really understood the feeling. For now, I was in for a fight.

The beast’s large hazel eyes finally fixed on me. Although I was crouching, I was doing so in the middle of the road and as such wasn’t difficult to spot. The eyes reminded me of the ogre. There was intelligence in them. Not quite wisdom, but intelligence nonetheless.

My hesitation vanished and my body reacted without having to think. Nocking and firing an arrow in one swift movement.

The minotaur roared out as the arrow struck its chest. Raising the large hammer, it charged forward, determined to close the distance between us. I managed to fire another arrow before having to dive out of the way.

“Xuth! That’s faster than I expected.” I’d left my bow in the road. I wouldn’t need it.

The minotaur turned at an impossible angle, charging again. I drew my sword just in time to deflect a hammer swing. Despite its natural ability the attacks weren’t too difficult to deal with. It was as if he’d just picked up the hammer for the first time.

Regardless of skill, a single blow would hurt a lot and potentially do some damage. I was managing to avoid the attacks but couldn’t find an opening to retaliate.

Then at last I saw my chance. A poorly timed swing allowed me to knock the hammer away and drive my sword deep into the minotaur’s torso. It roared in pain and lashed out with its free arm, hitting me squarely in the chest and knocking me back several feet. My sword came with me, leaving a large wound just below his ribs. The minotaur staggered, then swayed, then fell. I was victorious.

I was also winded, and had to take a few moments to catch my breath. I tried to stand, and shakily walked over to my adversary. The hazel eyes were dimly staring into the sky. I bent down and closed them. Then, for no discernable reason, I used my sword to cut off one of his horns. It was about the length of my forearm, a pristine bone colour. It ended in a dull point, and I silently thanked the Hist that he hadn’t used his horns as a weapon. I stowed my trophy in my pack and went to retrieve my bow.

Leaving it in the road had been a mistake. All it had taken was one large hoof to snap it in two. I put the pieces into my pack, hoping they could be repaired in Bravil. Will there be a decent weaponsmith in such a small town?

Looking up, I could see the city in the distance. The setting sun flooded the forest with pink light as I continued along the road.
This continues to be simply a delightful tale. I love the slower pace, allowing Haa-Rei to share some of his delightful observations with us, for your descriptions are wonderful. happy.gif

Yum, blueberries! Why did he attach a strip of parchment from his journal to the bush? To mark it for his return trip or for those traveling behind him perhaps?

He is wise to let most of the forest’s inhabitants just go on their way. An exciting fight with the minotaur though!

Too bad about his bow but, yes, I think he’ll find a very skilled bowyer who can repair it in Bravil. wink.gif

Oops: ‘Just as I was trying to decide which road in Cyrodiil was my favourite, I heart an odd noise.’ - - I’m sure you meant ‘heard’ not ‘heart’ here. smile.gif
It was nice to see that wildlife in your story isn’t as rabidly aggressive as the game presents. I loved the mood you set as the road passed through the forest. Yikes, minotaur! Excellent explanation of how Haa-Rei managed to prevail. Haa-Rei’s respect for the majestic creature made me like him even more. smile.gif
Acadian - I'm always conscious of rushing through things, so I'm glad you're enjoying the slower pace. New bow soon, and where else but the AP would one go to buy it? biggrin.gif

Grits - Glad you enjoyed it! I love Minotaurs, they look so impressive. As for the wildlife, yeah it always annoys me when you play a game which makes everything (except deer) attack you on sight. I get that it's more exciting but sometimes I just like going for a nice walk laugh.gif

EVeryone - apologies for the inconsistent writing releases. It's partially because I don't want to force myself to write stuff when I don't feel like it, and partially because I'm lazy. tongue.gif Your continued support is much appreciated, and I'll definitely keep writing as long as there are people to read it.

Chapter 9

It was dark by the time I arrived at Bravil. The water around the city was reflecting the moonlight, casting beautiful patterns on the high stone walls. I took a seat on the edge of the drawbridge leading to the city gates, in order to wait for the rest of my companions. Two guards stood watch, the leaping deer symbol on their chests illuminated by the torches they carried.

Jötnar and Olorin arrived several minutes later, with Sjöfn a couple of minutes behind them.

“We saw the minotaur back there. Your handiwork?” As I’d guessed, Jötnar was always wanting to hear, and tell, stories of battles. Not sure one Argonian fighting a single minotaur counts as a battle, but it was nice of him to show an interest.

“I’d never seen one until today. Are they all that big?”

The Nord let out a rough laugh before answering,

“That one wasn’t anything special. I’ve seen minotaur lords that were twice as big!”

I tried to imagine something that size in my head, but I wasn’t sure if I’d seen anything big enough to compare it to. Maybe a house? Or a small fort?

“Shall we continue this discussion somewhere a little warmer? And perhaps with a little wine?” The moonlight on Olorin’s face made him look much older, and I was also suddenly aware of the cold breeze blowing in from the water. With that, we entered the city.

If I had to describe Bravil in one word, it would be ‘damp’. If I had to use two words, it would be ‘damp’ and ‘brown’.

The entire city was built around the water, with several buildings perched on wooden stilts on the water’s edge. It was very different from the uniform stone buildings of the capital, but I liked it more. The ramshackle array of shacks felt much more comfortable, even if some looked in need of repair.

My companions immediately headed for the nearest inn, named ‘Silverhome on the Water’ just inside the gates. I later learned that this was one of two such establishments in the city, the other was located on the other side of the small river (or is it a canal? Or an inlet?). The patrons of Silverhome were mostly travelers and off-duty guards, with a few locals perched in prime place at the bar.

Olorin selected a booth for us to sit in and motioned at a passing barmaid. After a lengthy discussion about the best available wine, Olorin finally ordered food and refreshment for the rest of the group. Wine for Sjöfn, ale for Jötnar, and tea for myself.

The ‘tea’ turned out to be little more than hot milk water which may or may not have had some sort of leaf briefly dipped into it. The meal was much better. A chicken and potato stew, accompanied by a large slice of creamy yellow cheese and thick bread.

Once we’d finished, the group dispersed among the crowd. Olorin chose a seat by the fire, and immediately fell asleep. Jötnar joined a rowdy discussion about fishing, sharing his own tales of the time he caught a ‘horker the size of a carriage’ with his bare hands (much to the amusement of the local fishermen). Sjöfn hadn’t moved 5 steps before a gentleman approached her, but he moped away a few minutes later looking considerably downcast. I decided against trying to speak to her myself and instead chose to go for a walk. I’ve never enjoyed loud places, and with every mug of ale or glass of wine the inn was just getting louder.

The city streets were much more peaceful. The only sound being the muffled revelry from the inn and the water of the river lapping gently against the wooden docks.

On my walk I discovered that Bravil had more to offer than I first assumed. There was a fighters guild, a mages guild, some sort of suspicious looking magical shop, a chapel, and (to my great surprise) an archery shop. The Archers Paradox. It was closed for now, and I made a mental note to visit in the morning to see if I could repair or replace my current bow.

Pausing on a bridge, I watched the water for a while. The city water gates had been closed for the night, and with no boats to disturb it the small canal was moving slowly, the twin moons reflected in its smooth, dark surface.

The light scent of fish drifted by on the breeze, the source of the scent was a heavyset Imperial, carrying an armful of nets. I watched him walk down to the docks, readying his small fishing boat for the next day.

I could hear some light footsteps behind me, and tuned to find Sjöfn approaching, cheeks slightly flushed from the wine.

“How is it that I can sneak up on a deer close enough to use a knife, but I can’t get within ten feet of you?” She was smiling, but I had the impression that it was a serious question. Playing it safe, I chuckled and turned back towards the water.

The Nord joined me, leaning over the side of the bridge to peer into the murky canal. We stood in silence for a few minutes before she spoke again.

“What do you think of Bravil?” Oh dear. Small talk.

“It’s nice. A bit damp, but it looks like there’s lots of places to see.”

“It’s the furthest South I’ve been. Olorin says that Lleyawiin is much nicer. You been there before?”

“I used to live there. It’s not that much bigger than Bravil, but more spacious.” The cramped shacks of Bravil were a far cry from some of the larger houses of Lleyawiin, with their brightly painted facades. Even Deeh’s house was spacious in comparison to the average Bravilian home.

“Really? You don’t sound like you’re from Cyrodiil…” Her eyebrow was raised again. She would make a great interrogator for The Legion.

“I’m originally from Black Marsh, but moved to Lleyawiin when I was younger.” I didn’t want to say more, especially to someone I’d just met. Thankfully she didn’t press the issue, and changed the subject.

“We should be getting back. The place will have quietened down by now.”

I nodded and followed her back to the inn, which had indeed settled down. Everyone had either gone to bed or passed out.

“Oh! Before you go,” Sjöfn reached into her pocket and produced a slip of parchment, stained in several places with blueish-purple fingerprints. “thanks for the blueberries.”

“You’re welcome. Good night.” I chuckled to myself as I headed to bed. Apparently she hadn’t been able to resist eating every berry on the bush. Folding the parchment carefully, I slid it into my pocket.

I was sharing a room with Olorin, meaning I would be sleeping on the floor. The old mage was snoring deeply when I arrived, and I didn’t dare wake him. Sliding fully dressed into my sleeping sack, I slowly fell asleep. Thinking of Lleyawiin, and home.
So nice to see you continuing this. Don’t worry about the slow posting pace; it is a lizard’s prerogative to take long breaks between spurts of movement. That said, one thing that can particularly help when posting a story slowly is to begin each update with a very small ‘in our last episode. . .‘ type summary. Normally, that only needs be a sentence or two to bring us right up to speed and ready to jump right into the current episode.

Welcome to Bravil! The beautiful forest City of Mara, caressed by the Niben. Damp and brown sounds perfect for Haa-Rei. After a nice dinner (but weak tea), Sjöfn and Haa-Rei enjoy some small talk by the river on a beautiful night. Ahah. One of my guesses about the strip of parchment was right – marking that blueberry bush for those who followed.

I hope Daenlin can take care of Haa-Rei’s archery needs in the morning. smile.gif

It kills me to have Haa-Rei's story finally getting posted and I can't read it; and I've always loved your writing and roleplay! You will always have my support, and one day hopefully I'll find a work-around so I can read about the characters and stories I love again; and finally catch up on Haa-Rei.

Acadian - Thanks for the tip, and (as always) the encouragement.

I've always liked Bravil - there are some really nice people living there. (and some not-so-nice people, but we don't concern ourselves with them) biggrin.gif

mALX - Thankyou so much for stopping by. Your writing has always been one of my inspirations for fanfiction, and it's such a shame that I can't repay the favor. I hope you can read it one day, but if not I'll always keep updating everyone with Haa-Rei's adventures in other parts of Chorrol. laugh.gif

Haa-Rei, Olorin, Jotnar, and Sjofn arrived in Bravil. The next stop on their journey to the Ayleid ruin of Atatar. Leaving the others to their festivities, Haa-Rei took the opportunity to explore Bravil and located an archery shop which he plans to visit in order to find a new bow.

Chapter 10

There was a chill in the air when I awoke the next morning. I decided to forgo the poor excuse for tea that Silverhome offered and made my way towards the archery establishment I’d seen earlier.

My progress was slow as the early morning was made considerably worse by a shower of freezing rain, meaning that I was even more sluggish than usual. I would have preferred an extra hour or two (or three) in bed, but our party was heading out soon. The life of an adventurer is truly full of trials.

After a rather embarrassing amount of time I finally made it to The Archer’s Paradox – a mid-sized shack perched on the far side of Bravil. Were it not for the sign outside it could be easily mistaken for another home.

It was warm and inviting inside, with a roaring fire on the far side of the room to stave off the damp. The main feature of the shop was a low counter, showing off an incredible range of bows and arrows. Behind the counter was an old Bosmer, dressed in hunter’s leggings and jerkin. The latter was open and sleeveless as if to show off his surprisingly muscular arms and chest. He smiled warmly as I closed the door behind me.

“The Archer’s Paradox. Because a perfect arrow flies forever, and that’s impossible. I’m Daenlin, and I have no perfect arrows.” The speech was obviously rehearsed, but he was so cheerful that it sounded as if he’d just come up with it and I was the first person he’d rushed over to share it with.

“Hello. Haa-Rei.” My brain struggled to conjure up the strength for a proper greeting. By the Hist, I must sound like a complete moron.

“Ah don't worry, my boy. Here.” He disappeared towards the fireplace for a moment and returned with a steaming cup.

Oh no, not Bravil tea. Please let it be ok.

Clearly Silverhome had cornered the market on poor teacraft. If Daenlin’s bows were as good as his beverages, I was about to be a very happy lizard.

The Bosmer waited patiently while I sipped at the tea. I could feel myself warming up, and after a couple of minutes I was ready for conversation.

“Ah. Thank you. I’m still getting used to early mornings. My name is Haa-Rei.”

“I know the feeling. Rain plays havoc with my knees these days as well. Anyway, what can I do for you today Haa-Rei?” For a moment I felt as if we’d been friends for years.

“Oh right. I’m looking for a new bow.” I retrieved the pieces of my current bow from my pack, and laid them on the counter.

“Poor thing,” The aging Bosmer ran his hands over the ex-weapon, as one would to comfort a dying animal. “I could repair it in a couple of hours, but you’d be better off getting a new one – this one isn’t quite the right size for you.” Right size for me? Is this a Bosmer thing?

He reached under the counter and presented me with an iron bow. It was perhaps an inch longer than my previous weapon, and had spots of rust here and there.

“How does that size feel? A bow isn’t just a weapon, it’s a companion. If you’re not compatible with it you won’t be able to unlock its true potential. Size is a good starting point.”

“It’s good. I think. It feels…right?” Compatible? True potential? Is he adding a little something to his tea?

“Excellent. Now that’s just a training bow to gauge the right length. The bow I have in mind for you…” He vanished into an adjoining room, and returned a few minutes later with a bow-shaped cloth package.

He placed it reverently on the counter and carefully removed the cloth.

“I’ve had this bow for a while, but never found the right customer. This is-“

“Hist!” I couldn’t believe my eyes.

For those that may be wondering why I was so surprised, Hist trees can’t be harvested like other plants. First; they wouldn’t allow it. Second; local Argonians wouldn’t allow it. Third; they’re incredibly tough.

Sometimes though, on rare occasions, every so often, a Hist would gift some wood. They might ask someone to take some, or drop a branch onto the ground for someone to take. This was the only way to acquire proper Hist wood. Even then, it takes a master craftsman to make something out of it. Of all the places to find some…

“Exactly. It was given to me years ago. Here, try it.” He handed me the bow like it was a newborn baby.

The dark wood felt almost warm to the touch, and the weight was perfect. It was just heavy enough, and fit my hand as if it had been made specifically for me. It even smelled like Hist. An indescribable scent that made me feel calm and comfortable. The wood must have been treated with Hist sap and was flexible, but strong.

Daenlin began to explain that the innate magic of The Hist kept the wood in shape, (meaning that I wouldn’t have to faff about with stringing and restringing all the time) when it suddenly dawned on me that such a magnificently perfect bow would most likely cost the same as a small house. I had just enough gold for a decent quality hunting bow, but it would take me years to afford this.

The old Bosmer seemed to read my mind:

“It would be quite pricey in any other shop. To be honest though I make enough money to keep me going, and it would be an insult to the bow to put it back in the other room to gather dust. I’ll give it to you in exchange for this broken one you brought in.” He held out his hand to finalize the deal.

A Histwood bow in return for a broken pile of junk? I’d made my decision.

“Sorry Daenlin, but I can’t do that. I can’t take something so valuable from you without paying for it properly.”

The Wood Elf let out a laugh:

“My dear boy, you are definitely the right man for this weapon. Very well, as payment for this bow I will take your broken one now, and the next time you’re in Bravil you will clear out the ruin of Anutwyll and visit me again for a cup of tea and a chat.” He held out his hand again, and this time I shook it.

I suspect that will be a more interesting chat than Haa-Rei currently imagines. biggrin.gif The tea will probably be exactly as expected.
Ooo, what a marvelous bow for Haa-Rei! Great scene with Daenlin. He’s one of my favorites. smile.gif
I love that the freezing rain slowed the chilled Argonian down. He should only adventure in sunny warm places. tongue.gif

How wonderful to see dear Daenlin again, and I love how you have captured him. happy.gif After all, as the old elf said, a bow isn’t just a weapon, it’s a companion. And Daenlin matching Haa-Rei up with a Hist companion is brilliant!

Thank you, for you had me smiling all the way through this episode. smile.gif

Oh, your opening synopsis was perfect and very helpful. goodjob.gif

Hmm, some minor editing nits:
’The latter was open and sleeveless as if to show of his surprisingly muscular arms and chest.’ - - I think you want show off vs show of.
“ah don't worry, my boy. Here.” - - You probably want to capitalize the first word of this paragraph.
“Ah. Thankyou.” - - Oops, thank you is two words of course.
ghastley - I think you might be right, on both counts. smile.gif We'll have to wait and see.

Grits - Glad you liked it! biggrin.gif I always go to him for anything bow related.

Acadian - Chilly weather is quite nice when you're inside with a cup of tea, but having to battle through it on an early morning is the toughest part of any adventure. tongue.gif

So glad you enjoyed it, and that I did Daenlin justice. Those Bosmer sure know a thing or two about bows happy.gif

Haa Rei had an early start, visiting Daenlin the Bosmer bowyer. To the Argonian's surprise and delight he was given a bow made from Hist wood, in return for clearing out a nearby ruin when he's next in town.

Chapter 11

The rain had almost cleared up by the time I left Daenlin’s. The freezing downpour was just a slight drizzle as I made my way back towards Silverhome.

The rest of my companions were emerging from the inn as I arrived. Inns seemed to agree with Sjöfn and Olorin, the two looked cheerful and well rested as they greeted me.

Jötnar looked only slightly worse for wear, and in the subsequent conversation I learned that he’d spent the evening with one of the musicians at the inn. A gentleman whose name he ‘didn’t quite catch’.

“There’s nothing like a strong drink and a good bedding after a day’s travelling. Isn’t that right?” The question was aimed at me.

“If you say so.” Truthfully I would prefer a cup of tea and a good book, but the Nord had already begun telling me the (rather lengthy) tale of his sexual exploits.

“Please don’t ruin such a pleasant morning with those stories, I’ve just eaten breakfast.” Sjöfn reached up and cuffed her brother over the head. She turned to me, “Did you find a bowyer?”

I took the opportunity to show off my new bow, though it was difficult to explain the significance of Hist wood to them.

“So the Hist are like your gods, right?” Jötnar asked.

“Well, kind of…but not in the way that you think of your gods. They created us, and look after us, and we revere them, but they’re physical beings and we don’t worship them in the same way that you might worship Akatosh or something.” Great explanation Haa Rei, you could be a shaman.

“I see.” His facial expression suggested that he did not see at all.

Not to be deterred, I tried again:

“We don’t have temples or priests or prayers. If we want to communicate with the Hist then we can just go and talk to one - They grow all over Black Marsh.” Jötnar’s face hadn’t changed, and I probably sounded like I’d been punched in the face by Sheogorath. As I said, it’s hard to explain.

We set off a few minutes later, after Olorin had told us the plan for the day. We were still heading south, and would have to spend the night outside. I was to scout ahead again, looking for a good place to camp.

The road from Bravil was quiet. I encountered some fisherman near the city, but everything was otherwise deserted. The rain had made the ground soft underfoot, and all the smells of nature were amplified. A gentle breeze brought with it the scent of nightshade flowers, which grew in abundance this far south.

I stopped for lunch under the high noon sun at the urging of my grumbling stomach and found a large rock, overlooking an inlet from the Lower Niben. The sun had dried everything off so this would make a perfect picnic spot.

Sjöfn had packed our lunches with traditional Bravil trail foods. Dried, smoked salmon cakes with some sort of berry mixed in, and some tough strips of smoked venison. After I’d devoured everything I took a long drink from my water skin, wishing it were tea.

I remained on the rock for a while longer, watching various creatures go about their business. Birds flitted through the trees, plucking insects from the air with pinpoint accuracy. A mudcrab was sitting on the shore, enjoying the sun, but darted back into the water at the approach of a Spriggan.

The forest creature was barely visible amongst the trees and undergrowth. Moving without a sound, I hadn’t noticed her until now. Her skin resembled the bark of the nearby Alder trees, with a few leaves growing from her head and shoulders, and a nightshade flower blooming from her knee. Her eyes were the colour of tree sap. We regarded each other silently for a few moments before she carried on with her woodland patrol, thankfully deciding that I wasn’t a threat to her part of the forest.

I too resumed my journey, and after only a few minutes I passed into Blackwood. The feeling was instantaneous. It felt familiar, as if I was coming home. It felt like…Hist. Argonians born in Black Marsh can always feel the Hist. Not too noticeably, but they’re always there in the back of your mind. It’s a comforting feeling, but a feeling that diminishes as you get further away from The Marsh.

“Why can I feel it so strongly now? And why does it feel…wrong?” I asked the question to nobody in particular, but I’d reflexively readied my bow.

The warm wood made me relax a little, but there was still something off about this feeling. It made my scales itch. I shouldered my bow and carried on heading south, trying to think of pleasant things.

It was getting dark by the time I found a good camping spot to the North of Water’s Edge. An old wayshrine to Stendarr lay just off the road, concealed by a large tree.

I called a spell into mind and raised my hand. The Flame Atronach made a singing noise as she appeared. Floating several inches off the ground, she danced through the air like a fish through water.

“Master?” Her singsong voice was warm like a campfire on a cold night.

“Hello Eithne. I have three companions on the road behind me, could you go and tell them where I am, please.” It was getting dark faster than I’d like, so a note in the road might go unnoticed.

“Of course.” She swam through the air back towards the road, singing to herself in a language I couldn’t understand.

While I waited for the others I set about finding firewood and food. When they arrived the Mudcrab and marsh rice stew was bubbling away nicely in its shell. The original Argonian recipe also includes several other plants, but I wasn't sure which were safe for the others to eat. Better not risk killing everyone just for a tastier stew.

I thanked Eithne and dispelled her.

“How many of those things have you got anyway?” Jötnar waved his hand through the air where the Flame Atronach had been.

“Just the two. Eithne isn’t fond of fighting but she’s a good messenger. You’ve already met Thiazzi.”

“You have quite the talent for Conjuration. People usually start with Scamps and Skeletons. Where did you study?” Olorin always seemed interested in magic, and I had no doubt he was quite good at it…or at least a great deal better than me.

“Nowhere. I’ve read a lot, and sort of taught myself. I summoned Thiazzi almost by accident a few years ago, and worked from there to figure out how to summon Eithne. I can’t work out how to do much else though.” I wasn’t even sure how I did what I did now.

“Well in that case I have somewhere I’d like to visit with you in Leyawiin.” He didn’t say more, instead he took a seat on a nearby stone as Jötnar dished out the food.

After our meal, everyone else went to sleep almost immediately. I’d volunteered for sentry duty, and was to wake Jötnar in a few hours to switch out. That uncomfortable feeling from before was still there. I wasn’t getting any sleep tonight.
“Why can I feel it so strongly now? And why doesn’t it feel…wrong?” did you mean "why does it feel wrong?" or did you change your mind about the last word? I could see "familiar" fitting there, but you'd used that before.

I like the idea that Haa-Rei has a choice of two Flame Atronachs to summon. It's good to be able to add something to a story that the game doesn't have.

And mudcrab and marsh rice stew! There's no powdered deer parts in that recipe are there?

“I see.” His facial expression suggested that he did not see at all.’ - - laugh.gif

I like how much Haa-Rei notices life in the forest. Another traveler would probably have never seen the spriggan – until the living tree attacked for some perceived threat to her forest.

I love Eithne! It is so neat that Haa-Rei knows her and stormy Thiazzi as well! I’d imagine Eithne is excellent for shedding some light or starting a campfire. Perhaps even warming tea?

Haa-Rei's tale and his engaging manner of telling it makes this a joy to read. Well done!

“So the Hist are like you’re gods, right?” Jötnar asked.
“Well, kind of…but not in the way that you think of your gods.”

- - You want the possessive (your instead of you're) in the first sentence - just like you correctly did in the second sentence. smile.gif
ghastley - Glad you liked it. Oh and deer parts are completely optional with this particular recipe, powdered or otherwise. tongue.gif

Acadian - Whenever we meet a Spriggan Haa-Rei always prefers to skirt around her rather than risk her (and her summoned bear's) wrath. Also glad you liked Eithne. Now someone needs to discover a tea atronach and we're all set! happy.gif

Our group set off from Bravil, heading south towards Leyawiin. Haa-Rei enjoyed a quiet day, at home in the forests of southern Cyrodiil. As he moved further south however a growing sense of uneasiness crept over him. Setting up camp near a wayshrine to the divines, the adventurers prepare to get a good night's sleep.

Chapter 12

I awoke, or rather ‘stopped trying to fall asleep’, just before dawn. The sun’s first rays were creeping over the horizon as the forest around us began to wake up.

I could make out Jötnar’s large silhouette a few metres away, standing on watch duty. The others were still sleeping and I decided to leave them to it, adding some more wood to the fire and grabbing some water flasks before I went.

Jötnar greeted me as I left the camp, handing me his water flask as he did so. I was on water collection duty this morning.

The Niben River was just over the road from our camp. The waters were still this morning, like deep blue glass. I filled the water flasks and set them down on a nearby rock, before finding a comfortable spot for myself. Water always helped me think (which is probably why I ended up becoming an adventurer in the arid wastes of Morrowind).

The uneasy feeling which had crept up on me yesterday was still hanging over me. It felt like a swarm of fleshflies were buzzing around in the back of my mind, just barely noticeable amongst my thoughts. I cast my poor excuse for a healing spell, but still the feeling persisted. The only thing more annoying than the feeling itself was the fact that I couldn’t explain it.

I remained at the water’s edge until I could feel the warm sun on my scales, and heard the faint sounds of conversation behind me as the rest of my party woke up.

Sjöfn was preparing breakfast when I returned, observed by her brother who had clearly decided he’d done enough sentry duty for one night. If ever you’re asked how many Nords it takes to cook a breakfast, the answer is apparently ‘two’. Olorin was doing some morning stretches nearer the wayshrine, illuminated by the early morning sun.

After a simple yet hearty breakfast of porridge and apples, we packed up camp and set off. Jötnar had expressed a desire to take point, leaving me with Olorin. After getting very little sleep and with the odd feeling hanging over me I was all too happy to have a leisurely stroll on the final leg of the journey to Leyawiin.

It was during this journey that I learned just how talkative mages can be. The aging Altmer was all too happy to tell me about his area of study – The Ayleids. It was more interesting than it sounds, but not by much. I was quite relieved when he finally changed the subject.

“I believe you mentioned that you’d recently adventured in Morrowind, yes?”

“That’s right. I spent the last couple of years there.” We walked in silence for a few moments before he spoke again.

“I’ve never been, you see. Always wanted to visit but never quite found the time. I hear there are some exquisite Dwemer ruins.” The Dwemer? Now this is a topic I can get interested in.

“Oh yes. I’ve explored quite a few actually. They’re really interesting places, and the Dwemer are something of an interest to me too.” I rested my hand on the pommel of my Dwarven sword, the cool golden metal was smooth to the touch.

“A scholar, eh? Good lad. Always nice to have an interest that you can talk about. You should visit Skyrim sometime if you’re looking for more dwarven sites. They have entire cities preserved in the snow up there. That’s where I met our companions too. A charming people, the Nords. As I’m sure you’ve noticed.” I was unsure how to respond to the last part, but I was amazed at how quickly and seamlessly Olorin could switch the topic of conversation, and continued to listen as he told me of his experiences with Nords.

He’d met Jötnar near the Skyrim border, and stayed with their family for several weeks as he studied some nearby ruins. When it was time to move on the two young Nords had offered to accompany him. While I was in Morrowind, they were exploring Skyrim. After receiving word of some Ayleid relics in Cyrodiil they’d come down south, just two days before I too arrived in the capital.

Up until now I’d assumed they’d known each other for much longer, with the way they all worked together in every aspect of adventures. Back in the bandit fort, Olorin had known exactly who could do what and trusted them completely. I’d always adventured alone and this would take some getting used to. Unaware of my thoughts, my companion continued;

“An old acquaintance of mine has found a lead on some interesting relics, you see, and has offered to purchase them from whoever finds them first. I couldn’t miss the opportunity, and our Nord companions asked to accompany me.” The tone of his voice suggested that his lengthy tale had come to an end.

“Ah, so that’s why we’re going to Atatar. What exactly are these relics?” I knew very little about Ayleids, but any valuable relic that has remained untouched in a ruin for so long has only done so by being either difficult to find, or dangerous to touch. The former I could work with, the latter was something I’d like to avoid.

“Well I’m not completely sure, but we’ll know it when we see it. Very exciting.” The sense of adventure was warming to behold, and he almost looked younger for a moment. Unfortunately such a sense of adventure often leads to people dying in an ancient crypt somewhere for adventurers like me to trip over several years later. I decided then that I’d do what I could to help the old man out. Even if the whole relic business sounded incredibly dangerous.

We stopped for lunch at around midday, and Sjöfn caught up with us soon after. The three of us eventually carried on down the road, listening to more of the Altmer’s stories, until Leyawiin appeared in the distance.

The colourful houses were still visible in the fading light, and the castle towered above them all like a silent guardian. The feeling of uneasiness was still there, but the feeling of returning home after so long filled me from scales to tail with happiness. I wanted to jump for joy, but settled for a sensible smile instead.

As we entered the city I was suddenly struck by how busy it was. There were much more people than usual, and more to the point they were all Argonians. Many had set up makeshift camps just outside the city gates, and I assumed many more had booked rooms at the inns. The Chapel of Zenithar was likewise bursting with travellers, no doubt taking advantage of the sanctuary it offered.

“Well we’d best find my brother, and then find somewhere to sleep. I didn’t realise it’d be this busy.” Sjofn was scanning the crowd, but at her height I doubted she could see much of anything.

“It’s usually quite quiet. I’ll show you where the inn is. Jötnar’s probably already there” I set off around the crowd, rather than trying to go through it. The Five Claws Lodge was cheap, and I guessed it would be the busiest, so we headed for the Three Sisters Inn, arriving several minutes later feeling considerably more exhausted than we did upon entering the city.

“I have to go and see someone first, so I’ll find you inside later. Talk to Shamada, she’s the friendliest of the sisters.” I realised how odd that sounded, but I was anxious to leave. The others seemed to understand and thanked me before heading inside.

After they’d gone I headed off, around the corner, to my destination. The house was small, only one floor, and wasn’t brightly painted like many other buildings in the city, but to me it was the most beautiful.

I took a deep breath to calm myself and pushed the rickety wooden door. The smell of tea leaves greeted me as soon as I entered. A small pot was boiling over the open fire, a familiar figure stood before it, stirring intently. I cleared my throat loudly.

A lovely journey the final leg down to Leyawiin. We learn a bit more of Olirin’s quest. I wonder if he is searching for the Ayleid statues for that collector up in the Imperial City.

’The feeling of uneasiness was still there, but the feeling of returning home after so long filled me from scales to tail with happiness.’ - - happy.gif

Wow, is there an Argonian convention ongoing in Cyrodiil’s most southern city?

Then, it seems, Haa-Rei has either friend or family in Leyawiin share tea with.

Acadian - As always, you've hit the nail on the head laugh.gif

The group moved ever closer to Leyawiin, and after spending the day chatting with Olorin, Haa-Rei finally arrived home. A familiar figure awaited him...

Chapter 13

It had been two years since I’d last seen Deeh. The old Argonian hadn’t changed at all. His scales were primarily brown, with a bright band of orange around his head like a crown. This was topped by short spines, not unlike my own. His eyes were a deep orange colour like pools of tree sap.

He was wearing dark green breeches, leaving his feet and upper body bare. A blaze of orange scales spread over his torso. His arms and chest were slightly muscular from a life of manual labour, and patches of his scales were slowly turning translucent as a sign of his age.

“It’s wonderful to see you again, hatchling.” He smiled widely, a lifetime of living among humans made facial expressions come easier to him.

I was unsure what to say. Deeh had looked after me since I first arrived in Cyrodiil around 10 years ago. He was like a father to me, but emotional displays weren’t something I was comfortable with. After a few moments I settled with a simple “Hello Deeh.”

“That’s it? You’re gone for two years, adventuring in Morrowind, and all I get is a ‘hello’?” He paused for a second, a serious expression on his face, before his smile returned and he burst into laughter. Motioning for me to sit down. Scalawag indeed.

It wasn’t long before we were chatting away again, as if I’d never left. Deeh made some tea and listened intently to the tales of my visit to Black Marsh, my time in Morrowind, of my work with the Legion, and of the reason for my return. Finally, I briefly summed up the past few days.

“Well well well. Agent, eh?” Deeh scratched his chin with a clawed hand “Do I have to salute when I see you?” He stood and performed an impressive salutation, before turning to me with a wink. I couldn’t help but laugh, and nearly choked on my tea as a result.

“I’d rather you didn’t.” I paused and looked around “Where’s Amusei?” Deeh had looked after the two of us as if we were brothers, and Amusei had developed a keen knack for getting into trouble.

“Heading to the Imperial City to join the Thieves Guild. I tried to talk him out of it but he’s a stubborn one.” If Deeh was worried, he didn’t show it.

“Well he certainly has the skills for it.” I remembered how Amusei could always sneak up on me, which was no small feat. Deeh had taught us both well, “I’ll try and catch up with him when I go back in a few days.” In truth I wasn’t surprised about his career choice, but knowing him he was bound to do something stupid.

“Just be careful on your adventures, hatchling. There’s something bad coming, mark my words. I’m sure you’ve noticed all the Saxhleel mooching about town.” He waved his hand towards the door, indicating ‘the town’.

“I was going to ask about that. What’s going on?” I poured myself more tea. A delicious blend of Nightshade flowers and tea leaves, with goat's milk to take the bitter edge off.

“Nobody is too sure,” He said with a shrug “but Saxhleel are being called back to The Marsh from all over the Empire.”

He emphasised the word ‘Saxhleel’, the term for Argonians like me born in Black Marsh. Deeh was known as a ‘Lukiul’, or ‘assimilated’, which referred to those who had been born, or spent time living, far from the Hist and had become more disconnected.

“You think it’s the Hist? I only just did the trials, surely I’d be able to feel it too.” The Trials of the Hist was an ancient ceremony, which strengthened the connection to the Ancient trees. I’d communicated with them directly, and it was they who told me to go to Morrowind, and again to come to Cyrodiil. I wasn’t sure how to feel about not being invited to this particular party.

Deeh shrugged again. “Maybe they have something better for you to do? At any rate, there’s something going on and it can’t be good.”

I made a mental note to include this in my next Blades report. Black Marsh might not be completely under Imperial control but it was still significant.

I finished my tea, and returned to my companions at the inn for a quick chat. Jotnar had found them and was eagerly tucking into a pie of some sort, while the others were sharing a bottle of wine and a selection of cheeses. The contrast between the two Nord siblings made me chuckle.

Tomorrow would be spent in town making some last minute supply purchases. Olorin wanted to meet me outside the Mages Guild bright and early.

I returned to Deeh’s house, and after more tea and chatting I retired for the evening.

My room was more or less how I left it. Books piled high on shelves along all of the walls, an oak desk stained with ink and covered in parchment, an empty armor stand, and a large armchair in the corner. It was a small room though, and all that furniture left very little floor space. Less floor I have to sweep.

A large box was the only recent addition. It sat on my bed, and was about the same size as a Bosmer’s bathtub. I recognised it as a package I’d sent from Morrowind several months earlier. Stamps of Imperial postage covered the surface, detailing its journey from city to city.

I opened it carefully. The box contained several books (Almost all of which were about the Dwemer) as well as some carefully wrapped Dwemer artifacts which I’d needed a special licence to transport - the core of a centurion, several pieces of metal, and a sturdy metal cup. (The latter would be accompanying me on adventures. The metal would be brilliant at keeping tea hot without burning my hands.)

Lastly, at the bottom of the box, was my Imperial Legion scout armor. The brown leather lay upon a long undershirt of red fabric, and it had all been reinforced by extra layers of light material. I hung it on the armor stand, and chose to equip the bracers. They were made of the same light but strong leather, but featured no fancy adornments, and no dragon motifs. My arms were protected whilst my hands remained free to move, which would make shooting easier than in a full gauntlet.

Exhausted after a long day, I crawled onto my bed. I’d never been more comfortable, and was looking forward to the rest of our adventure. The uneasiness in my mind was still there, but had been suppressed by tea and good company.

Tomorrow would be an interesting day.
What a wonderful introduction of Deeh! Concise and efficient, but generously laced with fabulous touches that only an Argonian could tell us about – like comparing eyes to pools of hist sap and revealing that translucent scales are a sign of an aging Argonian. And Deeh clearly knows how to make tea!

Hmm, some mystery afoot with the Saxheels for sure.

’...about the same size as a Bosmer’s bathtub.’ - - Small indeed! tongue.gif
QUOTE(hazmick @ Jul 10 2015, 01:25 PM) *

I opened it carefully. The box contained several books (Almost all of which were about the Dwemer) as well as some carefully wrapped Dwemer artifacts which I’d needed a special licence to transport - the core of a centurion, several pieces of metal, and a sturdy metal cup. (The latter would be accompanying me on adventures. The metal would be brilliant at keeping tea hot without burning my hands.)

A couple of things caught my eye in this one paragraph.

I just love the idea that Dwemer stuff needs a licence to export. Should I assume this will factor into the story again later?

I'm confused how a metal cup doesn't burn the hands. Does it have an insulated handle you didn't mention?
Darkness Eternal
I've read the first few chapters. As I'm using a phone I can't comment much right now but I very much like Haa-Rei. This is a fresh story full of humor and wit, and the character is a fantastic character. I will give my full review and feedback as soon as I can! Great work Hamzick!
Acadian - There's always something mysterious going on with Argonians. They're an odd bunch. tongue.gif

ghastley - The Dwemer license idea comes from the fact that selling Dwemer stuff is supposedly illegal, yet plenty of people seem to have Dwemer relics. As for the cup, it's just one of those mysteries that may never be solved... biggrin.gif

DE - Welcome to the story, I'm glad you're enjoying it! Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts. laugh.gif

Haa-Rei was reunited with Deeh, the old Argonian who had raised him for several years, and we learnt some more about the goings on in Leyawiin. Our adventurers are to have a day off tomorrow, and Olorin wishes to meet with Haa-Rei at the local mages guild...

Chapter 14

I’ve always disliked early mornings, and that day was no different. After a cup of tea and several torturous minutes of walking, I arrived at the Leyawiin guildhall. It was one of the larger buildings in the city, painted bright yellow and featuring a fancy stained glass window above the door. In any other city it would look rather odd, but it fit right in nestled among the other brightly coloured buildings.

The inside was similarly decorated, with rich carpets and polished wooden bookshelves and benches – the latter were occupied by mages of various races engaged in what I can only assume was intellectual conversation about spherical conjunction or transplanar liminality. In the centre of it all stood Olorin, chatting with an even older (as if it were possible) Bosmer woman. I wasn't sure if it was the carpets or the mages, but everything had a very distinct musty smell. Would it kill them to open a window?

“Ah, Haa-Rei. Good morning. May I introduce the head of this branch of the mages guild, Dagail.”

Dagail was indeed very old, and was dressed in the finest robe I’d ever seen. A thick burgundy affair, with swirling gold and red patterns. Her grey hair was fashioned into a large point, like a mountain. She was exactly how you’d picture the head of a mages circle. The only problem was that she didn’t appear to be…all there. She was staring off into the distance and my cheery “good morning” was completely wasted on her. Olorin simply chuckled as if this was normal and ushered me into an adjoining room, leaving Dagail to her thoughts.

“Is she ok?”

“Yes…well, no. That’s part of what I wanted to talk about.” Olorin reached into the depths of his tattered grey robe and handed me a roll of parchment.

“Mages Guild recommendation? For me?”

“I’ve seen your conjuration abilities, and with a little nudge from the guild you could become a master in no time. What do you think?”

Me? A mages guild member? I suppose stranger things have happened, and it would be a good opportunity. I’d never considered myself a mage though, and didn’t relish the idea of studying or wearing one of those hideous robes. I’d have to think about it.

Olorin didn’t seem surprised, and actually looked happy enough that I didn’t flat out refuse him. “Of course, of course. In the meantime though, have a word with Dagail. She could use the help of an adventurer such as yourself.” And with that, he hobbled off into the crowded hall, leaving me with no choice but to talk to the distant Dagail.

“You want wisdom? No, you want words,” Said Dagail as I approached. “Words are…difficult. They come and go. The voices, though. So loud they are, they drown out the words…”

Oh by the Hist this is going to be a long conversation.

“…Without my amulet, my stone to lock the voices away, the words will never come and stay.” Before I could reply, her eyes glazed over and she stared back into nothingness once more. I’d need some help with this one.

Help came in the form of Agata, a middle aged Nord mage who’d overheard my conversation. Apparently Dagail was some sort of seer, and had visions which had recently taken a turn for the worst on account of a lost amulet. All I needed to do was find the amulet. I returned to Dagail to see if she could shed some light on this.

Amidst the jumble of random words and nonsense she repeated the same phrase several times, “blood ran blue”, and the word “fort”. Growing up in Leyawiin, I knew the area very well – the amulet must be at Fort Blueblood, to the south east.


The fort was nothing special, and on the surface it was actually little more than a heap of rubble, watched over by a lone marauder who fell with one of my arrows in his chest. Fur armor was no match for my new bow.

The inside of the fort was no better, with hallways full of dust and rubble. In my short time as an adventurer I was yet to encounter a group of bandits that cleaned up after themselves.

Making my way through the corridors, I quietly dispatched several more marauders. My legion training came in handy with those wearing heavy armor, and my Hist wood companion made short work of any weak spot I could find. Thankfully they were poorly equipped, and none too observant.

Finally I reached an area that looked important enough to conceal a magic amulet. The heavy oak doors groaned in protest as I opened them, and two imps waited to great me with shock magic. I darted behind an old pillar and summoned Thiazzi to help out. The imp’s spells were absorbed by the thundering bulk of the atronach, who responded with spells of his own. Several exchanges later left the imps dead, reduced to smoking heaps on the cold stone floor. After making sure the coast was clear I dismissed Thiazzi and searched for the amulet, finding it in an otherwise empty coffin. The absence of any large and conspicuous chests made this the only alternative. Footsteps announced the arrival of a potential threat, and I readied my bow as I turned toward the doorway. It was a mage.

“I-I’ll take that. The amulet.” He was dressed in the blue robes of the mages guild, and judging from the mud-stained hem he had followed me from Leyawiin. He seemed so out of place that I almost laughed, but the look in his eyes and the slight scent of decay stopped any such thoughts.

“You’re from the guild? What are you doing here?” I actually had a pretty good idea why he was here, and his plan probably included my corpse joining those of the imps.

“I knew you were looking for the amulet. I knew you’d find it, and I had to stop you. Hand it over.” His face resembled that of a particularly large and ugly baby, but for the thick black eyebrows which seemed to cast a shadow over his eyes.

“Why do you want the amulet?” I asked, setting my bow down on the coffin behind me.

“I took the other one, and that should’ve been enough to get rid of her! I was going to give it back to her once I’d gotten what I’d wanted. That’s not so wrong, is it?” Ah, so he’s not on team Dagail and thinks a change of leadership is in order. “Why? Why did you have to ruin everything!?” He gestured towards me and cast a spell.

A fork of lightning hit me square in the chest, sending me flying against the wall and the amulet spinning across the room. The mage rose his hand, summoning a zombie, and began scrabbling through the rubble for his prize. I attempted to summon a creature of my own, but my magicka had yet to recharge. I was on my own.

Drawing my sword, I met the zombie head on. Smoke rose from my burned armor, causing my eyes to water but the creature's lazy arms were still easy to avoid, and I stepped to the side before bringing my dwarven blade down to (literally) disarm it, before bringing the blade back up to behead it. A puff of foul smelling smoke signaled its departure. The final groan of his summoned ally got the attention of the mage, and he turned just in time to see my sword arching through the air towards him.


Olorin was waiting when I returned to the guildhall.

“Everything went well, I assume?” He smiled.

I looked down at my chest. The lightning had left a large scorch mark, but I was otherwise unharmed. I handed him the amulet with a nod.

“Olorin. I want to join the guild.” This was going to be an interesting experience.
I noticed you identified Dagail as an Altmer. In game, she is Bosmer (Buffy’s an expert on such matters). It’s your story of course so changing things is fine if it suits your purpose; I only
point it out in case the change was unintentional. smile.gif

Speaking of Dagail, you captured her ‘not all thereness’ perfectly.

So, it’s off to Fort Blueblood then, is it?

Haa-Rei does an elegant job of clearing the fort and finding that missing amulet.

Uh oh. . . a disgruntled guild mage. . . . A tough fight, especially while still low on magic from his previous fight, but nice to see that Haa-Rei handily prevailed despite some scorching. I quite like Dagail and it’s always nice to see Kalthar get his comeuppance.

Haa-Rei a guild mage? This is going to be an interesting experience indeed!

As ever, nicely done, hazmick. goodjob.gif
That was a delightful woodland encounter with the spriggan. happy.gif Haa Rei’s flame atronach friend Eithne is charming.

I loved the description of Haa Rei’s room at Deeh’s house. Ooo, a Mages Guild quest! That situation of being out of magicka in that tomb is a familiar one and always makes my stomach churn. Neatly handled by Haa Rei!
Destri Melarg
‘An Argonian’s Account’

I was really excited to read this because I love the varied ways our fellow Chorrolites handle the non-human characters... and argonians seem to receive the least amount of love. I admit to being a little worried early on because Haa-Rei sounded a bit too ‘human’ for my own personal taste, but little things like the observation of how much emotion he has to show when humans are about were extremely effective in dispelling those concerns.

Acadian hit the nail on the head when he complimented you on you handling of the Imperial City. ‘Full to the brim’ would be a cringe-worthy cliche at any other time but Haa-Rei’s well-established love of tea enables him to pull it off. The approach of your three adventurers briefly reminded me of the opening pages of The Hobbit. Haa-Rei’s handling of the ‘initiation’ is a fantastic way to show us that this character uses his wits more than his ‘scrawny’ muscles in a fight. It also gives us some insight into Jotnar given that he made no move to engage the storm atronach that suddenly appeared in front of him. I find myself loving Haa-Rei already!

The clearing of the fort kept me on the edge of my seat. I also thought it strange that Olorin didn’t try to contribute more than detect spells and being a decoy. Something tells me that you’re establishing something with his character that I’ll see come to fruition somewhere down the road... and now I’m so invested that I just have to know what that is.

I enjoyed the stop at the Faregyl, but I have to admit that I can’t see Abhuki, S’Jirra and Alix (the man, not the mouse) without thinking of mALX’s characterizations of them. It’s interesting to me how Alix seems to come across as so benign... considering his status as a master of the sword. I don’t think I’ve ever actually done the potato thief quest. I’m eager to see how it turns out.


Okay I’m back, and now I have to resort to lecturing:

“You are hereby and forthwith prohibited from ever denigrating your own writing again. Get it? Got it? Good!”

Your ability to write romance is extremely effective without being flowery or heavy-handed. Your deft touch even elicited a momentary lapse into ‘hopeless romanticism’ from Acadian. That is the very definition of good writing! goodjob.gif The one place where it seemed a bit forced was their conversation on the bridge in Bravil, but you even redeemed that with the wonderful payoff of the parchment left on the berry bush.

I am hesitant to point out spots where the use of language can be improved because I know that we are getting the story through the filter of Haa-Rei’s head, and his way of dispensing words may not always be optimal. That said there is one spot where I would give advice simply because it will probably come up again somewhere along the line:

The uneasy feeling which had crept up on me yesterday was still hanging over me.

You don’t need the ‘on me’ if you’re going to end the sentence with ‘over me.’ Conversely, you don’t need the ‘over me’ if you want to keep the ‘on me.’ Either way works to communicate the same idea.

Speaking of that uneasy feeling, I just love the subtle way you’ve mixed that in with the idea of all native argonians being recalled to Black Marsh. I find it interesting that Haa-Rei is irritated by the idea of not being included even as he finds himself back in Leyawiin with an uneasy feeling that he has already attributed to the Hist. Hmmm...

I also had a chuckle at the fact that he is so willing to share his status as a Blade with Deeh. Apparently Haa-Rei has no secrets from those he trusts!

I can certainly understand not wanting to dwell on some of the minor quests that Haa-Rei has to complete over the course of your story. But, compared to the wonderfully detailed encounter with the minotaur on the road, the clearing of Fort Blueblood seemed a bit rushed... particularly the final battle. It so far is the only ‘meh‘ in this otherwise fantastically engaging story that you are telling.

That’s all from me for now… but I will be back!
Acadian - Oh dear, I'm getting my mer mixed up! Please apologize to Buffy for me. I like Dagail too, and defeating Kalthar is always made easier by his terrible character design. tongue.gif

Grits - Glad you enjoyed the Spriggan encounter, and Eithne. Haa-Rei is very fond of elemental ladies. (Is Dunmer guard captain an element?) biggrin.gif

Destri - Thank you for joining us! And thank you for your kind words. I always try and put little bits of 'Argonianess' into the story, but I also don't want it to be too Argonian...if that makes sense tongue.gif

Interesting that you mentioned The Hobbit too, as one of my characters is based off of (and named after) one of Tolkien's.

Again, you're correct in assuming that I have future plans for some characters. I know what I want to happen later on, but I'm not sure how or when we'll get there. Makes it all the more exciting.

I know what you mean about the Faregyl residents. I had to remind myself several times that they're not married, and don't have an adopted child causing mayhem somewhere in the world. I also like the idea that Alix the man could probably save the world with his super sword skills but instead prefers to put his feet up and eat bread all day.

Never hesitate to lecture. I can't improve if I don't know where I'm going wrong.

EVERYONE - Now for something completely different...

Chapter 15

Journal of Jötnar


The old man says I should keep a journal while I’m down here. Something about ‘treasures of potential historical significance.’ I swear I only understand half of the words he uses most of the time. I have to practice my letters though, and I owe him that much. My writing never sounds good.

Anyway. We’re in Cyrodiil now. I got leave from the Legion so I can chase after whatever it is we’re here for. It’s too warm down south. Everyone drinks wine all day and sits around getting fat. Soldiers in the capital have good armor though.

We got a new member for our team. Seems like my idea for another rogue was worth listening to. He’s an Argonian. He’s green. So skinny a light breeze might knock him over. Shy as a maid on her wedding day, and he looks tense – his eyes are always moving but you can never see what he’s looking at. Nice sword though. Dwemer. Real Dwemer, not a modern forgery. Don’t get the real stuff from sitting around in a library – anyone who can get through a Dworfen Dwarfen Dwemer ruin is worth it. He can do magic too - damn near soiled my breeches when that storm atronach popped up. He had it under control though, sitting there casual as you like. Nice lad. Sjöfn likes him.


Damn rain. It rains back home, sure, but this rain isn’t cool and refreshing. It’s still too warm. The lizard took point. Moves like a cat. Can’t wait to see him fight. Speaking of fights, I’m itching for one.

Found a bandit fort. Got a whole floor to myself. Almost managed to cut a guy in half with one swing. Need to get the angel angle right next time. Sjöfn was with me, but she just shoots stuff. The old man and Haa-Rei (that’s the lizard) took the other floor. Took down a big orc. Wish I could’ve seen it.

Found an inn. Sjöfn and the lizard are helping with some gardening or something. Ale is a bit watery but the people are nice. Khajiit. Talked to a guy about farm stuff. Looks like a sord swordsman, but I didn’t want to press him about details. Might start a farm when this is all over. Grow some crops, maybe some cows. I like sheep too. The really woolly ones are nice.

The kids are back. Got some potatoes. Killed an ogre apparently. Wish I’d seen it. We all got some bread as a reward. Khajiit are strange. Bread’s good though.

Got to Bravil. It’s damp, but would be easy to defend. Guards all have bows, swords probably aren’t much good anyway. People seem friendly enough. Found a dead minotaur on the way here. Looked like a good fight. The lizard is better than I thought. Found an inn. Ale is a bit watery here too. Going to speak to the bard minstrel.


Haa-Rei got a new bow. Hist wood. Very nice. He tried to explain it all to me but it was confusing. I’ll ask again when I have time to write it down. Nice place we’re at though. Good for fishing.

Haa-Rei still manages to surprise us. Flame atronach floated up, bold as a bristleback, and led us to the campsite. Damn Daydra Deadra Daedra (Olorin says that’s right. Looks weird) creep me out. Olorin wants to see about Haa-Rei joining the Mages guild when we get to Leyawiin. Haa-Rei looks tense again. On edge. I’ll keep an eye on him.


Got some time to myself today. The old man is with Haa-Rei, probably talking his gills off. I found some bandits. Still can’t get the angle right. My swing’s powerful enough so maybe it’s the sword. I’ll see if the guild has anything better. Leyawiin’s busy though. Never seen so many Argonians all in one place. I’ll ask Haa-Rei if he knows what’s going on. He has family here, I think. Nice town though. Colourful buildings, cobbled streets. Guards don’t look like they could fight off a skeever. Armor isn’t very good. Doubt they get as many supplies down here.


Haa-Rei and the old man went to the Mages guild this morning. Sjöfn said she’s going to explore. Turns out I can’t join up with the Fighter’s Guild down here. Need to go to Anvil, Chorrol or Cheydinhal. Seems like they’d get more recruits if you could sign up anywhere, but rules are there for a reason I guess. Saw Haa-Rei before. Looks like he’s had a good fight. Maybe I should join the Mages guild too – looks like fun.


Setting off for the ruin in the morning. I hope it’s got bandits in it. Shor’s beard please don’t let it be undead.
What an interesting peek into Jötnar’s thoughts as we get his summary of events to date and his take on the Lizard Rogue. Seems like Jötnar’s quest is to perfect his ‘cut a baddie cleanly in half’ technique – a worthy endeavor indeed. Unless of course you’re a mage. Or an archer. tongue.gif

As ever, a very enjoyable read!
QUOTE(hazmick @ Aug 8 2015, 11:56 AM) *

My swing’s powerful enough so maybe it’s the sword.

Must be the shoes! < Michael Jordan voice >It's not the shoes </ Michael Jordan voice >

If he's noticed that Sjöfn likes Haa-Rei, then it must be true. tongue.gif

Acadian - I'm so glad you enjoyed Jötnar's Journal. laugh.gif I thought it might be a good way to recap as well as get another perspective on things. I'm thinking of doing it every dozen chapters or so, if I ever get that far.

ghastley - Hmmm maybe it is the shoes!

EVERYONE - Apologies for the gap between chapters. There's nothing to blame but my own lack of motivation. I'll try to be a bit more...regular in the future.

Previously - We had a read through Jötnar's journal which covered the events of the story so far. Now Haa-Rei and friends have arrived at the Ayleid ruin of Atatar, where their prize awaits...

Chapter 16

It had been raining for a while now, and the night air had cooled almost to the point of freezing. I was crouched low, behind a large boulder, overlooking the entrance to Atatar. I’d been sent ahead to ‘see what was what’ before the others arrived. Due to the rain, fog, and general darkness, I wasn’t entirely sure what was what or which was which, and I was incredibly uncomfortable. Such is the glamorous life of an adventurer.

Footsteps behind me heralded the arrival of my companions, looking as wet and bedraggled as I felt.

“What’s the situation?” asked Jötnar. He was wearing a cloak over his armour which made him look even bigger than usual and his long hair was soaked through, clinging to his broad face in several places. Sjöfn was barely visible under her large hood and cloak, but a rogue lock of unmistakable red hair gave her away.

“I don’t think there is a situation. If there are any guards up here they’re doing a very good job of hiding.” I stood up carefully and stretched my legs, wincing as the feeling came back to them, and glanced over at the ruin.

Even now, on this foggy night, the ruin was impressive. It wasn’t particularly large, just a broken tower and various debris scattered across a hillside, but the pale white stones caught even the tiniest bit of light and seemed to shine in the gloom. I wished there was a Hist nearby that could show me how the ruin looked a few thousand years ago.

Olorin cleared his throat, bringing me back to the present, and went over the plan again. I was to go in first, clearing any traps I could see and picking off any guards that I encountered. Jötnar would follow behind, as support in case I ran into any major trouble. Sjöfn and Olorin would bring up the rear. We were looking for some sort of stone, but Olorin wasn’t sure exactly what it looked like. Apparently we’d ‘know it when we see it’ which I thought was so vague as to be meaningless. The old Altmer looked rather excited though, so I kept quiet.

“Well lad, this is what we’re paying you for. I’ll be right behind you if you need help.” Jötnar grinned, hefting his impossibly large claymore over his shoulder with one hand and patting me on the back with the other.

With a final ‘good luck’ from Sjöfn and Olorin, I slowly made my way towards the ruin. It was just as deserted as it looked, but the ease with which the door opened meant that it was inhabited…or maybe the Ayleids were just really good at building doors. I hoped it was the latter.

The inside was the very definition of ‘eerie’. Completely silent, and lit only by the faint glow of magical stones. It meant that there were plenty of shadows for me to hide in, but you never know what will already be hiding there.

It wasn’t long at all before I found my first trap. A long corridor stretched out before me, the floor of which was sticky with blood. The source of this were several very large, and very dead, rats, which had large wounds on their backs. The culprit was no doubt the set of large blades which were swinging back and forth down the length of the hall. It was amazing that the mechanism still worked after all this time, and I couldn’t suppress the feeling that these rats were but the most recent in a very long line of victims.

“I bet the blood is murder to clean up in here.” I mumbled to myself, scanning around for a device to stop the blades. With no solution forthcoming, I decided to forge ahead. Very, very carefully.

The blades weren’t fast, but there wasn’t much room between them, and I could feel them whooshing through the air, too close for comfort. Once on the other side of the corridor, after letting out a shaky breath, I found a switch which finally halted the relentless swinging. I’d passed the first test.
The second test was right ahead.

The hallway diverged into three separate paths. On either side it led to some stairs, which seemed to go down into a large room. The middle path went to a small balcony which I assumed would overlook the aforementioned chamber. A lone archer stood on the balcony, facing away from me. We were separated by an iron door, with a sun motif which I was peeking through.

I had no doubt that I could take him out, but if anyone was watching him, or if he fell into the chamber, I’d be in trouble. If I ignored him and went into the chamber then he’d spot me straight away.

Seeing no other option, I eased open the ornate door and carefully moved forward. I stopped about halfway along the balcony as I could now see into the chamber. It was large and open, with two carved pillars supporting the high ceiling. There were no side passages for people to hide in, and the passage ahead looked clear.

The archer on the balcony fell with one of my arrows between his shoulder blades. His body slumped against the low stone wall but fortunately stayed on this side. I quickly moved forward to pull him back, just to be safe. Now I could see further into the opposite passage I could make out the shape of another sentry in the gloom of the tunnel. My arrow found its mark and he also went down without a fuss. This was going well.

I climbed into the chamber and continued on, down more passageways, until I reached the second level of the ruin. The room was dotted with pillars, and atop each pillar sat large cages which sort of resembled metal onions. One cage was raised and I could see a shining stone underneath. Is this it? It would help if Olorin had been a bit more precise.

I ignored the shiny thing for now and moved forward again, but had to stop almost immediately when I heard a noise. Two of the ruin’s resident bandits were engaged in a conversation about goblins, and how horrible they were. I waited for them to finish and go their separate ways before moving again.

One bandit moved further into the ruin, while the other was heading more-or-less in my direction. I moved to the side to get a better angle. Her heavy armour would be tricky to deal with. Thankfully her neck was…less well protected, and she went down – albeit with an alarmingly loud crash as iron met stone.

“Hey, Sera, you alright?” A woman’s voice drifted across the room. Her friend hadn’t gone as far away as I’d thought. I heard her footsteps approaching quickly and turned, bow drawn, to meet her.
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