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Welcome to Book 3! As ever, Buffy’s tale of continuing adventure remains one that is character-driven with more focus on her journey than the destination.

Buffy is a Bosmeri child of Tamriel, raised in Bravil and trained at the Arcane University. Her bigger story arc will eventually and magically cross temporal boundaries, enabling her to travel between Eras.

Near the end of Book 1, Buffy helped the man she loved, Savlian Matius, free his city of Kvatch. They were successful, but the terrible cost included Savlian's very life. It was a physically and emotionally broken elf who retreated in grief and despair to her ancestral homeland. Book 2 picks up shortly thereafter and chronicles Buffy's journey of recovery and self-discovery through Valenwood. Book 3 takes place in Cyrodiil and will see the Oblivion Crisis finally yield to the dawn of a new Era – even as Buffy accepts the challenges of walking an ancient path of her own. The small elf has traditionally danced between darkness and light; in this book, she must ultimately and entirely commit to one or the other.

Books 1 and 2, in their staggering entirety as well as an executive summary concise enough to comfortably be read in one sitting, can be found on our sub forum. That said, enjoying Book 3 does not really require more information than is contained right here in these few introductory paragraphs. I have taken care to have Buffy review significant aspects of her past as they become relevant. More specifically, I want new readers to feel comfortable just jumping right into Book 3 without feeling obligated to read Buffy’s previous books first.

I estimate that at one episode per week, Book 3 will require roughly seven months to post. My fervent hope is that you find our humbly-offered efforts worthy of your time.

* * *

~ Part 1 – Welcome Back to Cyrodiil ~

Episode 1

The few determined streaks of early sunshine that managed to penetrate the forest merely teased my right shoulder with their fleeting warmth. Superian’s visible breath drifted up and back to join with the misty fog of my own. Kitsune – my vixen familiar – loped along easily but alertly beside us. The sound of hooves on the Green Road’s worn cobblestones was comforting, but could mask the subtle sounds of approaching danger from the sensitive long ears that all three of us possessed. My sharp eyes, augmented by twin rings of detect life, moved constantly, even as I also relied on the long noses of my precious mare and fox familiar to detect the scent of foes.

Numerous small life signs on the road ahead brought us to a stop. I urged the mare forward cautiously until the forms of half a dozen vultures and several jackals squabbling among themselves came into view. Enough of the armored head and reptilian body remained to identify the carcass they feasted upon as that of a clannfear.

Kitsune teleported up to her spot between my lap and the pommel of Superian’s saddle. The carrion feeders were larger than she and we had no interest in fighting them. We skirted the edge of the road, and those tasked by the Nirn Mother with cleaning her forest briefly gave ground. The unmistakably large tracks of a grizzly bear in the soft ground just off the road told the story. Soon enough, the hungry arguments of the scavengers and acrid smell were behind us. Kitsune leapt to the ground to resume her easy lope alongside Superian.

Cyrodiil had become a much more dangerous place since my return from Valenwood a few months ago. Oblivion Gates had begun appearing with disturbing frequency. Most of the Daedra remained close to the gates that spawned them but some roamed - leaving terror and death in their wake.

The Nirn Mother had responded to the flaming blights within her forests. Grizzly bears, like the one responsible for the tracks I had just seen, were not shy about attacking Daedra.

Spriggans were now more numerous. They and their black bears struggled to protect and restore the forest. They also diligently planted vines near closed Oblivion Gates that could, over time, heal the charred land and even consume the jagged stone detritus left behind.

Thoughts of Oblivion Gates drew my mind to a dear friend, Sir Mazoga. The last I had seen of her was when she and her mate, Sir Agronak, left Kvatch with Martin Septim in tow. Since then, the only word I had of the orcish pair came from reading about how successful they were at slaying Daedra and closing Oblivion Gates. Their squire, Fanador, had become quite the prolific scribe when it came to recording the heroic deeds of his knights.

Well before the sun reached its zenith, it was swallowed by a darkening sky. As we cautiously continued, the road’s next curve allowed a better view. Fear and anger grew within me as I saw the flaming arc of jagged stone that stood before us in the distance. Ominous streaks of red lightning pierced the sinister clouds that hung above this portal to the realm of Mehrunes Dagon.

Had this Oblivion Gate been out in the wilderness, I would have given it a wide berth and moved on.

Alas, such was not the case here.

Heaving a troubled sigh, I whispered to the spirit of the old paladin who dwelled within me, “Acadian, I know the message Kud-Ei gave me last night from Boderi Farano directed that I report to the University straightaway, but this gate is close enough to the Green Road that it poses a serious threat to any who might attempt to travel between Bravil and the vulnerable villages and inns south of Pell’s Gate. I-I can’t leave it open.”

“I share your trepidation, Buffy,” replied Acadian, “but I am proud of your choice.”

While maintaining a good distance from the gate, I circuitously maneuvered Superian up onto a ridgeline that provided adequate range and cover. After carefully selecting a concealed spot among several trees, I dismounted Superian and unshouldered Slayer – my bow.

Kitsune and I crept just clear enough of the trees to gain a commanding view of the gate. Sure enough, I could see a pair of scamps and a single Daedroth patrolling just outside the gate.

There was no banner planted in front of the flaming portal to indicate anyone was inside attempting to close it. Such warning precautions had become necessary. Whether Mehrunes Dagon realized it or not, the very sigil stones that powered these gates had incentivized their destruction. They were prized for their ability to powerfully enchant items with neither training nor access to specialized altars. Bands of intrepid adventurers had grown wealthy closing gates and harvesting the valuable stones. Some of them had undergone the Legion’s gate-closing training program conducted at the Arena, while others had simply gleaned what knowledge they needed from the authoritative writings of Fanador as he described the exploits of his lieges.

“Well, here goes, my paladin. We’ve got to clear those sentries first,” I whispered. “I hope I know what we’re doing.”

As soon as the emerald swirl completed its journey from my fingertips, the Daedroth roared a challenge to the scamps who answered with a barrage of fireballs.

As the Daedra battled, I nocked an arrow.

When the burned and wounded Daedroth stood victoriously alone, I drew my bowstring. The weapon responded by assisting me to fully achieve and maintain its heavy draw. I was able to leisurely aim, then loose. Slayer also helped control the bowstring’s recovery, resulting in a quiet hiss instead of the loud snap normally associated with releasing an arrow. My missile lethally penetrated the monster’s chest.

A scan of the area detected no pink glowing life signs nearby.

I knew I had to move fast, as the Oblivion Gate would soon spawn replacement sentries.

Superian quickly and surely carried me directly down the side of the ridgeline. When I could feel the heat from the portal’s flames, I dismounted and summoned my elven hunting knife. I cut a green branch to a length that matched my height then affixed the small green Mages Guild pennant I carried. I then planted my banner near the gate. It would suffice to warn any who approached that a guild mage was inside. Those foolish enough to enter such a marked gate could expect to die when whoever was inside pulled the sigil stone. We had originally learned this lesson the hard way when Menien Goneld did not survive the closing of Kvatch’s gate.

I checked that my waterskin was full, wishing I had two of them. After augmenting my twin detect life rings with a third ring to help resist the heat of the Deadlands, I asked, “Acadian, would you recall our dragon-mare to safety within us?”

“Vensahliz, I need you,” was my paladin’s simple incantation. Vensahliz was Phantom’s name in dragon tongue, meaning wind-phantom-ice. Phantom was Acadian’s ice dragon mount. Though they both perished serving Kyne during the great dragon war at the end of the Merethic Era over four thousand years ago, their spirits lived – Acadian within me and Phantom within Superian. In order to return to Acadian, Phantom transformed the body she shared with Superian into the essence of their combined spirit. The mare evaporated into a pale blue vapor which made its way to my fingers. I closed my open hand to absorb her.

A moment later, Acadian announced, “She is safely with me now.”

With a glance from me, Kitsune disappeared. Satisfied with the preparations, I took a deep breath. Before I could change my mind, I slipped into the flaming portal.

Even as the dry heat began to permeate my buckskins, I sought a place of hiding among the rocks. The layout of this piece of the Deadlands seemed blessedly simpler than that which Savlian and I had navigated at Kvatch. I moved quickly to the sigil tower, relying on my detection magic and stealth to avoid several roaming Daedra.

Working my way up the tower, I used illusion spells to start several fights among its guardians. The ensuing distractions served to focus their attention away from me as I manipulated any doors or switches necessary to ascend.

The top of this sigil tower was guarded by a storm atronach and dremora warrior. After my magic coaxed the two into combat against each other, I sprinted to the sigil stone and grabbed it.

As the tower rumbled and began to collapse, intense white light forced my eyes closed and I felt myself falling and spinning. After a few terrifying seconds, I bounced off the cold ground of Nirn and scrambled to my feet.
Aw, you sly man. All this time you've been making up her new story. biggrin.gif Thanks for the recaps from Books 1 and 2.

Cripes, she's in Cyrodiil??? blink.gif Does this mean she's going to PvP?? Wait, it mentions twin detect life rings. So that's Oblivion. Which game are you playing? Maybe a mixture of imagination, while playing ESO, right?

That's pretty neat; spriggans plant vines to take back the mess those Daedra leave behind.

Bands of intrepid adventurers had grown wealthy closing gates and harvesting the valuable stones

Oh yes we have.

Nice, so she frenzies the Daedra, then readies her bow. This is Oblivion then. Wait...

I knew I had to move fast, as the Oblivion Gate would soon spawn replacement sentries.

No, it's ESO? Only this game respawns enemies so quickly Gets on my nerves, actually.

Well whichever game this is based on (or if it's pure imagination) welcome back. cake.gif I have a question about ESO as seen through Buffy's eyes by the way, but I'll ask it next time.
Buffy has a brand new book!

The Buffster, foxy familiar, and precious mare are back in Cyrodiil again. January will have to keep an eye out for her.

I love the thought of Spriggans choking off the oblivion gates, as vegetation always does at its slow, steady pace. So nice to see the Nirn Mother reacting against the disease of the interlopers.

The open gate reminds us that the Oblivion Crisis is still ongoing. Now it is sniper time. Ah, I do remember Buffy's patented Frenzy then sniping combination.

I love the idea that Capitalism is the downfall of the Daedra. All someone had to do was make it profitable to fight the Army of Darkness!

The idea of planting a banner at the gate is very clever, to warn others not to try to follow inside, and be trapped there when their predecessors took the sigil stone.

So nice to see Buffy and her entourage back again! This was a nice refresher, without being too heavy-handed on the Telling, with just enough new action sprinkled in to keep things interesting.
Yay for Buffy’s Book 3!!

A banner outside the Gate is a great idea! I love that adventurers, knights, bears, and spriggans are all responding to the Oblivion crisis. Buffy’s Gate encounter provided a live demonstration of what a summary would have told, tremendous!

“I hope I know what we’re doing.” This made me smile. It is a delight to ride along on Buffy’s adventures again! happy.gif
haute ecole rider
Just recently I spent some time revisiting Nostalgia Lane by re reading Julian's story. Then you post this first installment in what looks to be Buffy's own resolution to the Oblivion Crisis. *Sigh* It is so good to be back in TES IV again, if only vicariously.

When I first read of the banner in front of the Gate, I thought to myself Damn, I wish I had thought of that! Then I realized that in Julian's story, she always left her horse nearby, and others seeing them would realize there would be someone in there already. So her horses performed a similar function as Buffy's banner. Also, her Crisis didn't seem to take as long as Buffy's already has done, so there would be little opportunity for those intrepid adventurers to take on those Gates. So let me echo what others have said and kudos to you and Buffy for that banner idea!

I've also thought long and hard about what to do about those Gates once they're closed. In the game, they ruin perfectly beautiful places for what seems like forever. In fact, it was intended to be part of Julian's LBMQ that she would address that issue. Your solution is wonderful, and very typical of Buffy's world.
A new Buffy book!! YES!

This was a great way to start off the new one. Buffy back in Cyrodiil, and going into am Oblivion Gate. The banner trick is genius, a way to keep people safe who have entered the gate so no one comes along and closes the gate with them still inside.

She was smart to use her illusion magic to make the Daedra fight themselves, that makes her mission that much simpler as they aren't focused on her. This was a great first chapter can't wait for more.
Great, Buffy's back (on the track)!

I haven't read the story yet, but will do so in the coming days, I want some time for myself only as I focus on the story.
Darkness Eternal
Buffy is back! I kept wondering if we would see a next installment of her since her adventures in Valenwood! Happy to see we're back to Cyrodiil.

Our long-eared friends have returned, and are always primed for something. Seems that the Oblivion Crisis is still raging across Cyrodiil as those fiery gates continue to appear. A good(bad) Daedra is dead one, and it seems even after death their remains can potentially bring big problems such as bears and other hungry predators. Buffy was wise in moving forward.

I love the descriptions on the ongoing crisis and the effects it had on the world. What I really enjoyed here was the fact that brave adventurers made a nice sum with sigil stones that powered(and closed) Oblivion gates. No doubt after the crisis is over, there's much coin to be made.

As others have pointed out, the banner at the gate is a very wise idea! Very smart! This will potentially save lives! Rest in peace Menien Goneld salute.gif

I'm so glad we get to see Buffy back in action! Seeing her make short work of the Daedra only gives us more expectation on what's to come. Upon her moments of self-reflection and meditation, I wonder how much different Buffy is now when renewed with promise.
Renee- This story takes place in the game of Oblivion against the backdrop of ending the Obivion Crisis. Buffy has done much world and time traveling since the Oblivion Crisis so this book is effectively sharing some of her old memoires. Thank you so much for joining us!

SubRosa- I’ve found that sequels have their own challenge of how much to review – too much risks boring readers who know Buffy well; too little and new readers are confused. Regardless, there are some essential background elements that must be covered fairly early on. I felt it important that the first few episodes include a good review of who Buffy is, her skills/trappings/companions and where she’s been. Thanks for the encouragement that it has not been excessively heavy handed so far – this was indeed a fair amount of background info to convey, and upcoming episodes will be progressively much lighter in that regard.

Grits- The loss of Menion during Buffy’s first gate closing left a lasting impact on the elf. The use of banners seemed a logical precaution to have developed as more adventurers began closing gates. I appreciate your comment on ‘I hope I know what we’re doing’ as Buffy has used it before to demonstrate the ever presence of Acadian within her. Thank you!

Rider- I’m glad to see that Julian also recognized that a warning outside a gate with adventurers inside was a wise precaution – and using Blanco sounds like an effective alternative. Thank you!

BretonBlood- I’m glad that our idea of using a banner struck a chord with several readers. Illusion spells + bow have been Buffy’s forte so far in her stories. Thank you!

Lopov- Thanks for joining us. I understand the need to read without distractions and look forward to your thoughts.

DE- Buffy, Kitsune and Superian are indeed the ‘Long-eared Gang’! Yes, after a side trip to Valenwood for Book 2, the B is back to help her friends end the Oblivion Crisis. Regarding how Buffy’s experiences have changed her, she is indeed evolving – and Acadian will point that out to her in this next episode. Thank you!


Note- Here is a screenshot of Buffy, Superian and Kitsune. Though the shot is from ESO, it is how I envision them during this story.

Previously- Having been summoned to the Arcane University by Boderi Farano, we joined Buffy en route from Bravil. When she encountered an Oblivion Gate dangerously close to the road, she closed it.

* * *

Episode 2

A quick self-inspection verified that I had escaped the Deadlands uninjured. The dark Oblivion sky had fled and I could now see long shadows cast by a westering sun. The sigil stone in my hand hummed with an irritating buzz.

I pulled a spare blouse from what appeared to be a small mage satchel at my waist. In fact, it was a heavily enchanted almost weightless bag of holding. Its cavernous interior could hold an astonishing number of items almost irrespective of size, shape and weight. Thankfully, by merely placing a hand inside the pouch, I could telepathically recall any object stowed inside right to my fingers instead of having to rummage through its many contents. Wrapping the humming sigil stone, I slipped it into the satchel.

Free of the stone’s distracting noise, I was able to focus on recovering my mare. “Superian, I need you.” The spirit that Phantom and Superian shared flowed from within and traveled down one arm until it filled my right fist. As I opened my fingers to release the magic of her essence, Superian materialized in front of me - still under tack.

“Well done, heroine.”

I nearly jumped out of my boots at the voice. So preoccupied had I been silencing and stowing the sigil stone then recovering my mare, that I had noticed neither the glow of the woman’s life sign nor her approach. I turned to see a Breton whose face, framed by short dark hair, appeared to have seen perhaps thirty winters. A dagger was tucked into the belt that cinched a gray robe around her slender form.

She continued, “I was traveling south. . .“

The fact that Superian snorted nervously and backed several paces away as the Breton spoke, told me much more than the woman’s words.

“. . . helping to make this road once again safe. I thank you.”

I had learned to rely on my mare’s judgment. Sure enough, I now detected the tailless pink glows of several more humans, or perhaps elves, in the nearby forest. I began easing back toward Superian, saying, “Thank you for the kind words, traveler, but I must be continuing my journey without delay.”

She replied, louder than was necessary, “The sigil stone you carry is a rich prize but hardly worth your life, I should think.” Three men stepped from the forest and surrounded me. A Redguard wielded a pair of short swords, while two Nords brandished a war hammer and battleaxe respectively. The woman continued, “Perhaps you should surrender that stone to us before peacefully continuing your journey.”

While pleased with Superian’s instincts, the mare had moved too far away to immediately mount. Not only was I surrounded, but even Superian's stunning acceleration couldn’t outrun most spells – and I assumed the Breton with two empty hands was some sort of hedge wizard.

“Very well,” I said. “Four against one are inauspicious odds.” I retrieved the sigil stone and held it up. If they accepted it and let me go, I would track them down and end their careers of banditry. If their plan was to leave no witnesses. . . well, I'd just have to fight all four of them.

“Roll it across the ground to me,” directed the mage.

I did so.

She picked up the stone and stowed it in her pack. “Okay, boys, the elf’s all yours. Just make sure she’s dead after you’ve had your fun with her. Oh, and after you dispose of her body, bring that big yellow warhorse with you – looks like it’ll fetch a good price.”

Both Nords licked their lips as the Redguard spoke. “Well, well, aren’t you a pretty little tree nymph. How ‘bout you set that bow on the ground real easy like, kick it away, then shuck off them buckskins. If you’re real nice to us, we’ll kill you quick after we’ve all had our turn with you.”

The mage smirked, then turned and started to walk away as the men began to argue about who would ‘have their turn’ first.

My right hand began to move slowly toward my bow as instructed. Before it got to my shoulder, however, I spiked the air with my fist and vanished in a lavender cloud of magic. With merely a thought, Kitsune appeared in my place. Quickly slipping out of the circle formed by the three men and gaining a bit of distance, I filled my hand with Slayer.

“The leaf eater’s turned into a damn fox!” shouted one of the Nords. “Get her!”

As Kitsune nimbly slipped between the men and ran toward the hedge wizard, the trio chased after her – away from me.

The mage turned back toward us, “You imbeciles! That’s a summon - ignore it. I’ll cast a detect life spell, locate the elf, then dispel her invisibility.”

My arms, hands and bow appeared in front of me of their own accord as I pulled silk to cheek and loosed the first arrow.

Before the mage’s corpse hit the ground, an illusion spell swirled from my right hand. As it blossomed into the trio of remaining foes, they turned on each other.

By the time only one bloodied Nord remained on his feet, I was well beyond the reach of his war hammer and stood behind my fully drawn bow. “I can kill you long before you close the distance,” I warned, “Drop your weapon and step back from it.”

The fury in his eyes gradually resigned to the reality of his situation. He did as I instructed.

“My name is Dame Buffy. I judge you guilty of robbery, as well as attempted rape, murder and horse thievery. The penalty for such crimes in Cyrodiil is death. I take no pleasure in delivering this sentence but you cannot be allowed the opportunity to ever again attempt such acts against other travelers who may be less able to defend themselves. Unlike the demeaning humiliation you and your associates planned to inflict before killing me, I will grant you a mercifully quick death. Have you any last words? Or would you like a moment to make peace with your gods?”

He spat on the ground, then met my gaze with a wild look in his eyes. I was ready when, instead of yielding to his fate, the unarmed Nord charged.

At this range it was an easy shot. My missile pierced his left eye and the man’s head snapped back violently as my arrowhead shattered the back of his skull. Like the hedge wizard, he was dead before he hit the ground.

I confirmed that none of the four bandits emitted life signs, then returned the sigil stone to my satchel as Superian approached. “You knew that woman was a brigand before I did. Anyone who thinks horses are dumb is full of imp chips.” I mounted and looked down at my vixen as she happily waved her luxuriant tail. “Thank you, Kitsune. The illusion we’ve practiced where you appear to replace me worked wonderfully - though keeping watch for me while I was distracted stowing the sigil stone and recovering Superian would have been helpful also. Now, let us leave this place and allow these bandits to provide for the needs of those little ones who keep this part of the forest clean.”

Once heading north again along the Green Road we rode in silence until Acadian spoke, “I am proud of you, Buffy.”

I frowned. “For what, Acadian? Leaving four dead bandits in my wake?”

“You had no choice regarding the first three,” he replied. “The fourth had to die as well – for exactly the reasons you explained to him. I recall a time when, rather than granting him a merciful death, you would have gut shot him, then taunted him as he slowly died in agony. I believe you have learned the difference between vengeful retribution and righteous justice.”

I uncomfortably recalled doing exactly what the paladin described to a highwayman who had swung his axe at my precious mare over a year ago. “I. . . I hadn’t really thought about it, I suppose, but perhaps you’re right. I knew all four of those bandits had to die so others would not suffer from their cruelty. . . but torturing them would have made me . . . like them.”

After a few moments, I added, “I. . . perhaps I should have tied his hands and escorted him to the guards in Bravil?”

“To what purpose?” Acadian answered my question with his own. “To encounter a highwayman robbing a hapless traveler along the way and risk your prisoner escaping while you intervened? Nay, Buffy, you were dubbed a knight by one of the Empire’s ruling nobles. You have the necessary authority to do what any Legion rider on patrol would do – firmly and fairly deliver justice, then continue your mission.”

“I concede there is logic and wisdom in your words, Acadian. I guess I’m still coming to terms with both the responsibility and authority that being a knight entails.”

"As I said, my elf, I’m proud of you.”

Changing the subject, I stated, “Closing that gate delayed us. We’ll stop at Pell’s Gate for the night, then continue before first light on to the Arcane University.
On the first story...I'm thankful for a little summary of important events from Buffy's past in the beginning. I'm also happy to see that I remember most of the things correctly, and I wondered, if you'll mention Mazoga the Orc as well, which is exactly what you did, later on.

Like others, I must compliment the idea behind banners, I actually needed to read it twice just to check if I read it right.

A clever way to dispose of sentries outside of the gate, let the Daedroth do most of the work.

Last, but not the least - I'm glad that 90% of the story is dedicated to Buffy's descriptions / vision of Cyrodiil, her memories and the battle outside of the Gate, instead of events in the plane of Oblivion.

Now to the second story...

thanks for the screenie, now it's even easier to picture the adventuring trio.

Ah, the magical bag of holding, a must-have for any adventurer that travels without a backpack.

The downside of the banner outside the Gate might be that bandits then wait for adventurers outside and try to steal stuff. Then again, attacking someone that had just single-handedly closed the gate, isn't such a good idea. I'm glad that Buffy taught them a lesson in manners, and made Cyrodiil a safer place, even if for just one bit.
haute ecole rider
What a delightful Christmas gift! A new installment of Buffy and the Long Eared Gang's tails tale!

“You knew that woman was a brigand before I did. Anyone who thinks horses are dumb is full of imp chips.”
Julian (and Blanco) would heartily agree!

A nit:
As I said, my elf, I’m proud of you.”
This seems to be missing an opening quote. . .

"As one who has had to dispense Legion justice, Julian approves: “My name is Dame Buffy. I judge you guilty of robbery, as well as attempted rape, murder and horse thievery. The penalty for such crimes in Cyrodiil is death. I take no pleasure in delivering this sentence but you cannot be allowed the opportunity to ever again attempt such acts against other travelers who may be less able to defend themselves. Unlike the demeaning humiliation you and your associates planned to inflict before killing me, I will grant you a mercifully quick death. Have you any last words? Or would you like a moment to make peace with your gods?”
Though she said she would not have worded it quite the same way . . . blink.gif biggrin.gif

Can you tell I loved this little bit?
Darkness Eternal

I don't think there is anything more pleasing than to see bandits and criminals, especially the lecherous kind, get what's coming for them. Both Superian and Kitsune make a fine team. Buffy's brave mare was able to sense something was off from the beginning, and Kitsune provided a much needed(and hilarious) distraction from the bandits. Buffy's skill is noted here. The odds were against her. She was outnumbered but certainly not outmatched.

More than one? Have them go at each other.

"I knew all four of those bandits had to die so others would not suffer from their cruelty. . . but torturing them would have made me . . . like them."
I really enjoyed reading this. There is a difference between killing and enjoying it for pleasure, and killing because its something that needed to be done. Buffy certainly has grown! As a knight, morals and good judgment is a must, and with Acadian by her side, I know Buffy's is indeed in good company.
I wish I could telepathically recall any object in my merely ordinary-sized purse to my fingers...

I like your description of releasing Superian, rather than summoning her.

A very clever trick by Kitsune, pretending to be Buffy! This part needs Yakety Sax playing in the background.

Imp chips! Not just for parties anymore.

The murderous thugs get the karma they justly deserve. Buffy shows a measure of empathy and self-control with her doubts over whether she should have killed the last one, or tried taking him back to Bravil alive. Doubts which her foes were incapable of. In the end one cannot fault her for killing him. If Batman would have done the same to the Joker, thousands more people would be alive because of it.
Okay I see. Oblivion, then. Uh oh, there's brigands ganging up on the glass-cannon elf. indifferent.gif Don't these fools know who they're dealing with? Apparently not. They never do, right?

But she can cast that fancy Invisibility spell, right? And then all that's left to fight is a clannfear? See, I know my Buffy, from reading the old forums.

Ah I was close! I'm not sure what a kitsune is, but yeah, these guys are about to have their asses handed to them.

So what magical effect did that Sigil Stone contain this time? Guess we'll find out.

Oh I love that picture of Buffy from ESO.

Mannnnn that was a nifty little tricky by Buffy, definitely smart.

And wow... I like the character development here, having Acadian bring up the difference in how much Buffy has grown was nice. I was sitting here hoping she didn't give the bandit a merciful death as he didn't deserve it. Just goes to show how much better a person she is!
Lopov- Thanks for catching up and your kind words. I agree that quickly summarizing how Buffy closed that gate worked well to keep things focused. She will enter and close one more gate in this book and will go into greater detail for that one. Thanks also for noting that the same valuable sigil stones that draw brave adventurers to close Oblivion Gates also attract cowardly bandits to steal them.

Rider- Thanks for catching that nit so I could quickly fix it. I’m glad you approved of Buffy’s formal little speech to that final bandit. As she admits, she is still learning the responsibility and authority of her knighthood. Thank you!

DE- Buffy is fortunate indeed to have the help of Superian, Kitsune and Acadian. It is a bit of a mystery how so many spirits can fit into such a small elf. . . except that she comes from a tribe called the Spirit Catchers. Thank you for noting how Buffy is evolving from embracing vengeance to exacting righteous justice when it is required.

SubRosa- I agree that it works well for Buffy to play up the ‘Spirit Catcher’ aspects of both Superian and Kitsune (and even Acadian). Telepathically retrieving items from your purse would be handy indeed! Imp chips – I think that is a term I likely borrowed from you. In our view of Tamriel, the Empire ascribes to quite a ‘Judge Dreddian’ streamlined justice system - giving full field judiciary powers to city guards, Legion Riders and knights. Acadian’s counsel to Buffy that she acted properly was helpful I think. And you are astute to point out that it is Buffy’s self-doubts that attest to her humanity. Thank you!

Renee- Buffy would be lost (and dead) without her magicks, that is for sure! Kitsune is the name of Buffy’s vixen familiar. Kitsune is Japanese for fox – an animal that is well-woven into Japanese mystical folklore. A tribe-sister she met in Valenwood during Book 2 taught Buffy the ‘Find Familiar’ spell and that is how she acquired the magical little fox. Thank you!

BretonBlood- One of our objectives here was indeed to show how Buffy’s approach to dealing with baddies has evolved. I suspect that both her knighthood and the long term effects of carrying the spirit of an old paladin within her are responsible. Regardless of the reason, we’ll see that the direction her growth is taking will prove to be necessary for the path she will choose to walk during this book. Thank you!


Previously- Soon after Buffy emerged from closing an Oblivion Gate, she was set upon by bandits seeking to steal the valuable sigil stone she held. When it became clear they intended to violate and kill her as well, she managed to successfully defend herself. With her trip delayed, Buffy decided to layover at Pell’s Gate for the night before continuing on to her destination – the Arcane University.

* * *

Episode 3

A pair of imps grew from the morning mist that hung heavily across the canyon floor. On leathery wings, they hovered to evaluate Superian and I. After a brief assessment, the small winged guardians unconcernedly continued their patrol to keep horses in and predators out of the Valley of Horses.

Dew-covered verdant grass subdued the sound of rapidly approaching hoof beats until no less than five of the valley’s majestic residents raced past us in the opposite direction, manes and tails flying freely. I turned in the saddle to watch in awe as they sped into the mist behind us. Leaning forward to pat the neck of my precious mare, I whispered, “Welcome home, girl.” After a moment, I remarked, “Acadian, you’ve been quiet this morning.”

The old paladin replied, “I’m sure you’re pleased to be back in the Valley of Horses. It’s been too long.”

I nodded soberly. “It has indeed.” After losing my mate - Captain Savlian Matius - during the battle to free Kvatch from Daedra, it was just too painful for me to remain in Cyrodiil. I traveled south to visit the Tall Trees of my ancestral homeland. Over two months ago we had returned from Valenwood. After briefly stopping in Kvatch to visit the grave of Savlian and pay my respects to Countess Odalys Goldwine, we traveled directly to Bravil. Our last trip to the Arcane University was to request guild assistance for Savlian’s forces in Kvatch, well before our fateful battle there.

I smiled as I looked down at Kitsune. The small vixen shared nearly the same palomino coloring as my mare. She was curled up in front of me, chin resting on the pommel of Superian’s saddle, long ears relaxed. “The University can be a bustling place.” I chuckled then added, “Take care you don’t get lost under the robes of some mage.” She lifted her head, yawned, then crawled into the magic satchel at my waist. “Enjoy your nap,” I said. That she was primarily nocturnal and had superb night vision made her a marvelous night sentry for Superian and I while camping.

Soon, the stone bridge connecting The Imperial City and Arcane University loomed ahead and high above us. Beneath it, the wooden buildings of the University’s stable came into view.

I drew my mare to a stop in front of Equestria’s sign and the curious gaze of its stablemaster.

The Bosmer tapped the contents of his pipe out onto the ground. Grinding out the smoldering ash under a manure-stained boot, he slipped the device for smoking tobacco into a pocket. “Tis been a long time, lass.” He eyed my mare warily. I realized why.

“You’ve not seen Superian since we visited Valenwood,” I stated. “She’s . . . changed.”

“Aye, I’ll say.” He walked slowly around the mare. “She’s put on a couple hands o’ height an’ nearly fifty stone o’ lean weight I’d say. Not ta mention ‘er new palomino coat. Still the same white mane, forehead splash an’ tail, I see.” He smiled as he looked down. “By Zenithar’s anvil, ye’ve got some hooves on ye Superian - like dinner plates that even all that white featherin’ canna' hide.” The mare swung her head down and nudged the old stablemaster, whose experienced hands rubbed her long nose.

“She clearly remembers you, Thernd.”

“And a fine lookin’ heavy warhorse she be now. Any other less visible changes?”

“I believe that her increased size, age and experience have settled her some,” I replied. “She’s lost none of her explosive acceleration and speed, but I don’t think she can maintain that speed as long as she could when she was lighter. Oh, and there is something else you need to know. Superian can now transition into spirit form and take refuge inside me when needed. To the unknowing, it appears that I summon and unsummon her. Indeed, I sometimes refer to it that way to avoid more complex explanations. One price we paid though is that we cannot tolerate great distance between us. If we are too far apart I can sense her fidgeting, getting unruly and eventually panicking. If that happens, I have to get to her quickly or recall her to me.” I looked up, judging the distance to the walled arcane complex above. “She should be fine here in the valley while I’m at the University.”

Thernd let out a low whistle. “As stablemaster ta mages since afore ye were born, these old eyes ha’ seen a lot, but. . . should I ask how all this came about?”

I smiled and shook my head as I patted Superian’s neck. “It was. . . necessary to survive in Valenwood.” With a wink I added, “Besides, a girl’s entitled to a few secrets, right?”

“Ach! Shoulda' known better than to ask one o’ ye mages about yer magicks.” The sparkle in his eyes belied the disapproval in his words. Grizzled hands then reached up to circle my waist before lifting me from the saddle and placing me on the ground.

I nodded my thanks and changed the subject. “The valley’s as enchanting as ever. Where’s that wolfish helper of yours?”

He gestured toward a sturdy rail fence to our east. “Bandit be down herdin’ the stallions ta water, but I wager he’ll be up 'ere touchin’ noses wi’ yer mare soon enough.”

We had entered the valley from the west and ridden through the portion where mares, colts, fillies and geldings lived. Stallions were relegated to the smaller eastern portion of the valley. I was pleased to hear that the large gray dog I had brought Thernd from R'asava Camp still earned his keep at Equestria. “I know she’ll remember him.”

How long’ll Superian be stayin’ wi’ ol’ Thernd?”

“I’m not sure,” I replied. “I’ve been summoned here by Boderi Farano.”

“Off wi’ ye then! Boderi’s not one ta be kept waitin'.”

”I should unsummon Superian’s tack and groom her before –“

“Nay, lass. Leave ‘er under tack. I want ta clean, condition and inspect it fer any needed repairs. I know ye can conjure and unconjure it but it still needs care now an’ again. An' don’t be worryin’ ‘bout yer mare none. Me two stable lads’ll get ‘er stripped down, cleaned up an’ turned out ta’ run wi’ ‘er friends.” He took the reins and dismissed me with his free hand. “Shoo!”

I blew a kiss to my mare, obediently turned and started up the steep granite steps toward the Arcane University’s main gate.
You sneaked a few episodes by me while I was in England, but I can catch up.

I like the way you took the "not only the Champion can close gates" idea you'd established in th first book, and stampeded with it. It's gone from Buffy being special enough to help, to "anyone can do it". Especially the idea that the local wildlife will go after the daedra, too. In-game, the creature faction is a bit too all-inclusive.

And Thernd being relatively un-surprised by Superian's evolution is a nice touch. "A wizard did it". tongue.gif

Ah, back to Jean Auel's valley in the shadow of the Arcane U.

Thernd has quite the eye for horses, to recognize Supes after all that has changed. Again, you give us a subtle, and natural way of showing that to us.
An episode dedicated mostly to Superian - nice! Although Thernd speaks in some dialect, you did a good job with his words, even I, a non-English native speaker, could understand him.

I'm sure Superian is in good hands, while Buffy will be busy at the University.
As ghastley stated I really enjoyed Thernd's feelings towards Superian. He was a bit suspicious and curious of Superian's changes and what not, but he has seen enough mages and their magic that he knew that likely whatever has happened to the noble steed was magical in nature so he just shrugs it off. A really nice touch.

It's nice seeing these interactions with "lesser" characters, it really makes the world feel more fleshed out and is a great addition. Great chapter! Can't wait to see what business Buffy has in the University!
I like the affect and accent in the stablehand's voice.

Oh, and there is something else you need to know. Superian can now transition into spirit form and take refuge inside me when needed.

Buffy says this casually. biggrin.gif As though she' talking about a new twist in Superian's diet, or something. 'Oh by the way, Superian has eschewed oats as of late.' Ah, what a life one must have in the fantasy world of Tamriel.

Great to see she's going into the Arcane University. I know she's got lots of friends in there, so that'll be fun to read.

From Episode 2:

The mage turned back toward us, “You imbeciles! That’s a summon - ignore it. I’ll cast a detect life spell, locate the elf, then dispel her invisibility.”

Yikes! The mouthy mage volunteered to die first! This bandit encounter made a great demonstration of Buffy’s team in action. The aftermath showed us how Dame Buffy discharges her responsibility. I am so happy to ride along with Buffy in Cyrodiil again!

This Week:

Yay, Equestria! Neat to learn that though Superian’s tack can be summoned, it’s still subject to wear and needs care. I love seeing things in action before I start to wonder how they work.

Now, what could Boderi want from Buffy?
Darkness Eternal
Good to see that those pesky imps became guardians of the region. Nice touch in telling us they're not all mischievous little things.

I too marveled at Superian's new looks. She certainly has improved and changed into a formidable war horse, new with great abilities that puts her far above the average steed or mare.

I see nothing has changed on the general view on mages and their magicks. laugh.gif

I'm excited for Buffy as she returns to the Arcane University. Its been quite awhile.
ghastley- It seemed reasonable to me that after Buffy and Savlian proved closing an Oblivion Gate was possible and subsequently disseminated the lessons and pitfalls, that subsequent adventurers would be more apt to attempt it. Particularly once the Legion began offering instruction, and the value of those sigil stones became well-known. Thank you!

SubRosa- Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series has certainly influenced Buffy’s story. Valley of Horses and the impact of totems on fertility, for example, have become a part of Buffy’s world. Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksennarion has notably inspired aspects of Buffy's path ahead. I’m glad you approved of Thernd’s interaction with, and observations of, Superian. Thank you!

Lopov- I’m pleased that Thernd’s dialect was understandable. Strong dialects can become tedious to read. A rule of thumb I use is the stronger the dialect, the smaller the character’s speaking role in the story. Since Thernd’s dialect is strong indeed, we won’t hear from him very often and only in small doses. I am in awe that you, and other non-native English speakers who grace our forum, not only follow along so adeptly but write beautifully as well. salute.gif Thank you!

BretonBlood- I very much appreciate your encouragement when we lavish some time on supporting characters to flesh them out. Buffy often best shows who she is when she deals with others. Thank you!

Renee- I’m glad you enjoyed Thernd’s rather unique ‘voice’. Decades of being stablemaster for the University has rendered the old Bosmer somewhat unflappable when it comes to the arcanery of his equestrian mages. Thank you!

Grits- As things worked out, Buffy’s first fight of this book was rather elegantly decisive and showcased what a mystic archer can do – when all goes her way. Some of her future encounters will be. . . less so. panic.gif I so hoped you would enjoy returning to the Valley of Horses. Thank you!

DE- The imps seemed like perfect little mystical guardians for the equally mystical Valley of Horses. I figure Superian’s transformation to a heavy warhorse reflects one impact of blending with the spirit of an ice dragon. That the mare has become a blonde is likely a result of so much time with Buffy. Thank you!


Previously- Buffy arrived at the Arcane University’s Valley of Horses. After answering the old stablemaster’s questions about the significant changes to Superian since her last visit over a year ago, Buffy got her mare settled in and headed up to the University itself.

* * *

~ Part 2 – The Arcane University ~

Episode 4

“By Azura, by Azura, by Azura!”

The author of the exuberant voice that greeted me as I entered the normally staid main lobby of the Arcane University was instantly recognizable. The Bosmer's head was flanked by long ears and topped with a steeple of bright yellow hair. As I closed the door behind me, he strode across the marble tiles between us and extended his hand. “At last, the vigil for Dame Buffy assigned by my lieges is over!”

“G-g-good m-m-m-morning, F-f-fanador.” After several seconds of having my hand vigorously shaken with no sign of abatement, I gently withdrew it. “Do you bring news of Sirs Mazoga and Agronak?”

“Indeed I do, Milady. They are at the Arena helping the Legion conduct Oblivion Gate training for soldiers, Fighters Guildsmen and any adventurers who sign up. They-“

“Excuse me, are you Fanador?” We both looked up at the Legion Battlemage who had interrupted.

Fanador quickly replied, “Why, indeed I am! Squire, scribe and errand elf to the mightiest pair of knights in all of Cyrodiil.” He then bowed in a most theatrical manner and added, “At your service.”

The steel-clad Nord slid back his blue hood. “I learned a lot about Daedra fighting and closing Oblivion Gates by reading your work. The Legion even uses it as a text.” He held out a book. “I never met a real writer before. Would you sign my copy?”

“Certainly, my large friend!” Fanador retrieved one of numerous quills peeking from his pocket, then dipped it into an ink pot on a nearby table as the Nord held open the book’s cover. “What’s your name?”

“Iver,” was the reply.

The renowned scribe jotted quickly while chatting with Iver for a few moments. As the Battlemage resumed his post, Fanador turned to me. “Sorry, Milady, but it’s nice to have an adoring fan now and then.”

“I know your book has saved many lives,” I said.

Fanador’s face grew uncharacteristically sober. “Dame Buffy, you and I both know that the first chapter of my book was inspired by your notes. It recounts the stealthy tactics employed by you and Captain Matius as the two of you closed the very first Oblivion Gate. The rest of the book showcases the relentlessly crushing approach employed by my heavily armored lord and lady. I’ve had several archers and foresters tell me that it is the tactics of chapter one that has enabled groups as small as two or three of them to survive inside an Oblivion Gate long enough to close it.”

I recalled quilling the details for Savlian’s Legion report and subsequently giving my notes to Mazoga. That was right before she, Agronak, Fanador and Baurus escorted Martin from Kvatch. “Well,” I replied, “proceeding stealthily to the sigil stone with as little Daedric contact as possible is the only way Savlian and I could manage. Either approach ensures the destruction of every Daedra inside a gate though.” My last words contained more venom than I had intended – a sharp reminder of what the Daedra had taken from me.

“I wish you would have let me credit you for the Kvatch chapter,” continued Fanador. “Referring to you as ‘Savlian Matius’ elven scout’ throughout does not do justice to the brave young knight who helped her mate close that first gate. Why, you and your captain had no idea if surviving the process was even possible!”

“He is the Hero of Kvatch, and I will not dim his memory by allowing anyone – me included – to share his title. I appreciate that you have respected my wishes in this matter.” Anxious to change the subject, I said, “Do you have word for me from your knights?”

“Yes, Milady. They seek help from your guild regarding the Oblivion Crisis and met with a mage here several days ago. After the meeting, my instructions were to wait here each day until your arrival.”

“What is the name of this mage?” I asked.

“She is a Dunmer called Boderi Farano and seems to wield some importance.”

“Indeed she does. Thank you, Squire. Your task is complete.”

“So it is, Milady. I shall make haste now to notify Sirs Agronak and Mazoga that you are here. I expect they will be anxious to call upon you later this very day.” The elf bowed, then departed through the same door I had used to enter the lobby.

After a brief stop at the Chironasium to see Delmar and trade the sigil stone in my magic satchel of holding for some gold, I made my way to the Mystic Archives. Tar-Meena greeted me warmly and verified that Boderi was upstairs in her office apartment.
By Azura, I can guess who that fan is!

Fanador is a famous writer! And he has adoring fans! laugh.gif

And Buffy will not take credit for her own valor, for fear of it taking the luster from her lost one's name...

And on too Boderi. The plot starts to thicken...
Fanador has an adoring fan!! I love it. His “steeple of bright yellow hair” made me smile. Ah, now I see that removing the sigil stone kills everything in the gate, which is how they know that Menien didn’t survive inside his cage. I had forgotten that detail, but now it’s clear to me. Yikes, getting stranded isn’t the worst that could happen in there!

It speaks well of Fanador that he respected Buffy’s wishes when he’d rather give her credit for her bravery. Buffy’s loyalty to Savlian’s memory tugs at the heart.
Oh my lanta! Hahahahaha I love the Adoring Fan reference, is that his actual name? I never knew his actual name.

Also Buffy and Salvian's tactics in the first Oblivion Gate are what sparked everyone else being able to close them? That's badass! I also thought it was cool that they took notes on the experience so that others could learn from that, which then stemmed into the Adoring Fan becoming a well known author by writing a novel on the whole thing!

Great chapter!
And here I was assuming that it was Captain Burd of Bruma who'd passed it all on. It certainly wouldn't have been Farwil, or nobody would ever have come out alive! On the other hand Bremman could have written a book on how not to do it. biggrin.gif

Note that Clark's method would be highly dependent on meeting one of the very rare female Dremora archers.
How clever to name him Fanadoring.

You portrayed him in a much more interesting way than he is in the vanilla game, and you also expanded his personality.

After several seconds of having my hand vigorously shaken with no sign of abatement, I gently withdrew it

laugh.gif Poor Buffy was stuttering as he was shaking her hand!

I wonder what Boderi has in plan for Buffy.
QUOTE(SubRosa @ Jan 8 2020, 11:20 AM) *

By Azura, I can guess who that fan is!

Okay, so it is the Adoring Fan. Glad to see that in Buffy's gameworld, at least this guy hasn't been sent to his demise at Dive Rock, as in the gameworlds of so many others! I wonder if he'll try to give Dame Buffy a back rub...

So as Fanador speaks, I hear his voice as Craig Sechler's. I don't hear Buffy's voice as Linda Canyon's though. Buffy is closer to being soprano, whereas typical female Bosmers are altos, I think.

It always cracks me up, no matter how advanced their magic is, they still have to dip their quills into ink wells.

Why, you and your captain had no idea if surviving the process was even possible!”

This is a good point. I mean, from our perspective as gamers, we know there has to be a way to survive and complete the Main Quest somehow. Otherwise, why did we pay those sixty-three dollars (less for a used game)? But from their perspective, the process of extracting the Sigil Stone might be described in some book somewhere. From Buffy's and Savilian's perspective, all of that would therefore be somewhat theoretical.

Buffy goes to the Mystic Archives. bluewizardsmile.gif And the chapter ends. I figured she'd be in the AU for awhile. *smile*
QUOTE(Renee @ Jan 10 2020, 10:54 AM) *

This is a good point. I mean, from our perspective as gamers, we know there has to be a way to survive and complete the Main Quest somehow.

Even with that meta-assumption, there's still no suggestion that more than one character can emerge. The only quest in the game where more than one comes out is the Farwil one, and a lot of times that doesn't tell you anything, as he doesn't.

In Clark's interview with Prizna, she says that the Champion held on to her, just in case that sigil stone was the key to getting out. However, Farwil and Bremman can come out with the player, just by being alive. I suspect Acadian and I are both operating on the logic that if you went in and stayed alive, you pop back out, even if the group is separated. So Menion must be dead if he didn't. Prizna had the extra concern that she "belonged" in the deadlands, which is why the Champ let her take the stone in my story.
QUOTE(ghastley @ Jan 10 2020, 11:20 AM) *

Even with that meta-assumption, there's still no suggestion that more than one character can emerge.

Darkness Eternal
Hershey-kiss hair! By Azura, I miss that guy!

I can't stress how funny it is that Fanador has fans, and with good reason. I'd imagine his work indeed came in handy during this crisis. Very fitting that Buffy and Matius' efforts were legendary, and even immortalized, you can say. They've helped save many lives, and will continue to do so as time goes on! Buffy is undoubtedly ready to end this conflict and kick more Daedric ass once and for all.

Great chapter! I'm curious to meet this Boderi Farano.
SubRosa- I knew you would remember Fanador from Book 1! Buffy is indeed very protective of Savlian’s memory. Thank you!

Grits- I couldn’t resist giving Fanador his own adoring fan and bringing the play on words full circle. Despite his . . . vigorous personality, Fanador does indeed have a good heart. Thank you!

BretonBlood- TES IV never revealed the Adoring Fan’s actual name, so we did a play on words to name him back in Book 1. Fanador attached himself to the Grand Champion of the Arena (Agronak gro-Malag). When Agronak (thanks to Buffy's matchmaking efforts in Book 1) went to Leyawiin and joined Sir Mazoga as a knight, Fanador went with him and became squire for the couple. Fanador’s book describes both the stealthy approach to closing Oblivion Gates pioneered by Buffy and Savlian, as well as the ‘smash anything in your path’ approach subsequently developed by Mazoga and Agronak. The book did indeed help enable many more brave souls to successfully close gates. Thank you!

ghastley- Clark would have indeed used a Dremora archer to help! Savlian had to make do with a scrawny wood elf. wink.gif Thank you!

Lopov- Yes, Fanador suffers from an overabundance of enthusiasm. tongue.gif The meetings that Buffy has with Boderi in the next few episodes will reveal the main themes of the entire book. Thank you!

Renee- In Buffy’s world, anyone not in physical contact with whoever pulls the sigil stone will not escape from the Oblivion Gate as it closes. That is a big part of why, in our stories, gate closers plant an ‘enter at your own risk’ banner outside a gate before they go in. Buffy’s voice (both speaking and singing) suits her I think. Though it is not Buffy of course, here is a clip of the voice set she used in TES IV and V. If you don't want to watch the full clip, the last five seconds will provide a good example of her voice. A talented bard, her singing voice is well-represented by both Enya and Malukah. Thank you!

DE- I just couldn’t resist giving Fanador an adoring fan and I’m glad you enjoyed a bit of humor from it. Boderi Farano is a staff instructor at the Arcane University in TES IV. Her role in the game is not significant but in Book 1, we placed her in charge of battlemage training and she was Buffy’s mentor and primary instructor. She will continue to play a large role in Buffy’s story. Thank you!


Previously- When Buffy entered the University’s lobby, she was met by the awaiting and animated Fanador - squire to Sirs Mazoga and Agronak. She learned that the orcish pair of knights seek help with the Oblivion Crisis, and it was likely their recent meeting with Boderi Farano that prompted Buffy’s summons to the University. After a brief stop at the Chironasium, Buffy arrived at the Mystic Archives where she learned Boderi was upstairs in her office apartment.

* * *

Episode 5

“Welcome, Journeyman. I’ve been expecting you.” Boderi Farano ushered me into her apartment’s front room that served as both parlor and office. “I trust your trip from Bravil was uneventful?”

I shook my head. “Superian and I left as soon as we got word you wanted to see me. We were waylaid closing an Oblivion Gate though and only just arrived within the hour.”

“That is the second gate you have closed now,” she stated.

I nodded. “I couldn’t leave it open; its location posed too much of a risk to travelers, inns and small settlements along the Green Road south of Pell’s Gate.”

“I would expect nothing less from you, Buffy.” Changing the subject, she asked, “Does the squire of Sirs Agronak and Mazoga know you are here?”

“Yes, Boderi. He just ran into the city to notify them.”

“Good. I know they are anxious to meet with you.”

“As am I,” I replied. “I understand they’re asking for our help?”

“And they shall have it.” The elegant Dunmer stepped over to a ceramic kettle and held a glowing finger against it. “I will let your friends explain in detail when they arrive. Tea?”

“That would be wonderful.” I unshouldered my bow, removed its quiver and shoved both into the small magic satchel at my waist.

Boderi watched me with a lifted eyebrow as she heated the kettle. “I see you have made some modifications to your old bag of holding. But tell me, Buffy, cannot you summon and unsummon the bow we crafted and enchanted for you?”

“Not anymore,” I replied. “After your courier dove delivered the weapon to me in Valenwood via magic summoning scroll, I quickly fell in love with it. Thanks to the foresight of you and Daenlin, that bow kept me alive during my travels.” I dug around in Boderi’s familiar china hutch for cups as I continued, “After returning to Bravil, I learned that when Master Daenlin crafted it, he infused some of me into its staff via strands of my hair that he had removed from a brush in my home. Kud-Ei informed me that Delmar similarly retrieved some of my essence from the University’s arcane flame and used it when he enchanted the bow per your specifications at the Chironasium.”

Once we were seated and a steaming cup was cradled between my hands, Boderi said, “So the summoning enchantment has malfunctioned? I’m sure that Delmar can – “

“No,” I gently interrupted with a smile. “Precisely because the bow contains some of my spirit it has evolved with my needs. I have surrendered the ability to summon and unsummon the weapon. I’ve also forsaken trying to use it while mounted.”

In response to the lingering confusion on Boderi’s face, I continued, “The bow was sustained by a constant drain on my magicka that prevented me from casting other spells while it was summoned. Though better than a ‘cast and forget’ timed summoning - with its inherent risk of dispelling at inopportune times - using it became problematic as a mystic archer. The bow responded by simply becoming a persistent rather than summoned weapon. In return, I’ve regained the ability to smoothly integrate casting and shooting. One consequence is that the ends of its long staff can no longer pass ethereally through Superian’s neck or haunches as required to support its effective use while mounted. Since its quiver no longer has the opportunity to replenish while unsummoned, it’s evolved to replace missing arrows at the rate of one every few seconds whenever below its full capacity of twenty five.”

I smiled. “The true magic of the bow, of course, remains that it actively assists this weak elf achieve the heavy draw that is largely responsible for its impressive power. Daenlin and Delmar both knew that such responsive magic would only be possible if they crafted part of me into the bow.”

“That the weapon can so readily adapt to your needs is a wonderful bonus we had not anticipated,” Boderi replied with a thoughtful nod. After a bit more small talk, she gently asked, “Tell me, butterfly, how are you faring after the loss of your Captain Matius?”

I should have expected the question. Boderi not only wielded considerable authority within the guild, she was also a caring friend and mentor, whose sage counsel had never been limited to mystic archery. I blinked, then gazed into the fire that gently crackled within her stone hearth. “Much of what has sustained me has been hatred for Daedra – perhaps not the healthiest attitude, but it has worked. I am. . . fine.” My sideward glance toward Boderi revealed a skeptically lifted dark eyebrow. “Well, s-sort of.”

“Out with it, young lady,” she gently commanded. “I’m informed that your situation required Guildmagister Kud-Ei’s intervention.”

Blinking to hold back tears didn’t completely work. I summoned a handkerchief to dab my eyes. “I had been back from Valenwood for several weeks. . . and struggling. One morning Master Daenlin dragged me from my house after too much wine had kept me from making a dawn hunting date with him. I kicked and screamed how much I hated him as he carried me over his shoulder right through town and into the guildhall. Once there, things didn’t get any better. Kud-Ei agreed with him and told me in no uncertain terms that I would bunk upstairs with Ardaline until I began eating enough, stopped the wine and started taking care of myself.” I lowered my face into the linen square and quietly cried.

After a few moments, my tears slowed and I felt Boderi’s hand on my shoulder. “Go on, Buffy.”

“For almost two weeks, either Daenlin or Ardaline was constantly with me to ensure I followed Kud-Ei’s guidance. Well, except during my daily time with Superian; she was the only part of my life that I had not let fall apart.” I wiped my face and looked up at Boderi. “But I got better. Soon enough, I was practicing and refining my spells at the guild, and hunting with Daenlin. My house was gone – Daenlin made me sell it, but I grew to love living with my guildmates. I started to put weight back on and my hair began to shine again. In time, I was confidently hunting alone and exploring ruins around Bravil.”

“And what did you learn of yourself?” asked the Dunmer as I paused for a sip of tea.

“That I don’t hate Daenlin, Kud-Ei or Ardaline. I-I love them for what they did and I’ve told them so. I’m sure I’ll continue to struggle with Savlian’s memory but I think I’ve moved beyond the allure of wanting to join him in death – and the self-destructive behavior that such thoughts can bring.” I allowed the bound handkerchief to dispel in a soft lavender cloud. “I still need to frequently remind myself that Savlian’s dying words included his wish that I live my long elven life.”

Blue-green fingers gracefully lifted my chin and Boderi studied my face. “I’ve no doubt that time will gradually soften your pain and enrich the memories of your time together.” After a moment she added, “And now you’ve closed another Oblivion Gate – with no assistance. It is good to see that the dragon has rejoined the butterfly.”

I thought of Acadian. “It never left me. Not for a moment. It just took a long time for me to understand.” Noticing Boderi’s cup was nearly empty, I set mine on a nearby table and stood. “More tea?”

Before Boderi could answer, the sound of steel against wood penetrated the door to her office apartment.

“Enter,” she replied.
Oh nice! I think I use that same voices mod for RG3's game, although I chose the "sassy" voice (whatever it's called) which is as close to Xena as we can get. I hear Buffy's voice even higher than the gal in that YouTube video. Yes, Enya makes a good example. Enya, but with a bit more "attitude" basically.

I like that she's closed a gate which was too close to civilization. My Grey Wizard CoC basically did the same thing. bluewizardsmile.gif He'd ignore gates which were too far off beaten paths, and concentrate on those which seemed as though they posed real threats to society.

Why did she sell her house?

This chapter made me want to brew some tea.

Buffy's evolving bow was both fascinating, and a really nice way of showing the reality of having to adapt to meet changing needs.

It sounds like Buffy had quite the difficult time of it in Bravil, before the intervention on her behalf. I am trying to remember, was that before she went to Valenwood?
Buffy's in the bow, which has changed. Phantom's in Superian, who has changed, Acadian's in Buffy. The bow's in the bag, which has changed.

So is the pestle in the vessel, or the chalice from the palace? And Who's on first? blink.gif

haute ecole rider
And What's on second? *snickers*

And I'm caught up! Nice couple of chapters, bringing back plenty of memories of TES IV.

I'm with Sage Rose, when did that intervention happen? And it sounds just like our beloved Bravilians to do the dirty deed. Julian understands what Buffy is feeling for she did have a taste of that following her Siege of Bruma.

The explanation with the bow left me a bit confused, but it's mainly because I have forgotten that process which occurred in Book 2, am I right? I will have to go back and review it - if I find the time! wink.gif

I look forward to Buffy's reunion with Sir Mazoga and her beloved Prince. Personally I'm glad he survives to do great deeds in Buffy's world, for the end of the Arena quest line in TES IV left me feeling rather cold.

An entire episode dedicated to a conversation between Buffy and Boderi - I like it!

It might be uncomfortable talking about the loved ones that passed away, especially if it happened too early, but on the other hand it's 'healthy' to talk about them and remember not just the end, but especially joyful memories from before. It's taking a while, but I think that Buffy is on a good way to move on. Well, she already moved on in a way, but there's still a long way ahead. Maybe she'll even love again.
The thing that made me smile during Buffy’s tale of the grim time after Valenwood was her shiny hair marking a return to self-care and health. So Buffy and also so true to real life! I had been wondering what had happened in those few months she mentioned in the very first episode, but I knew that she would tell us in good time.

I love how Buffy’s bow evolves to meet her needs and has clearly defined limitations. The way she explained it to Boderi made perfect sense.

Now I need to brew some more tea!

Renee- The voice set that Buffy used in Ob/Sky was ‘Innocent’. Daenlin made Buffy sell her house. We should conclude that, like everything else in her life except Superian, Buffy was neglecting it and that both Daenlin and Kud-Ei felt she needed to live in the guild hall for her own safety. I suspect Daenln also realized historically just how little time Buffy spent at the house, given her almost constant traveling and was tired of being the property's 'caretaker'. Thank you!

SubRosa- I’m glad you enjoyed the evolution of Buffy’s bow – I was afraid it might have been too into the minutia. Thank you for mentioning that you weren’t sure from the context when Daenlin and Kud-Ei’s intervention took place. I added a sentence to clarify that it was indeed after Buffy’s return from Valenwood. It seems being back in Cyrodiil and its memories reopened her still fresh wounds. Thank you!

ghastley- Heh, I blame all those changes on Buffy progressing from game to game. embarrased.gif The trappings she used in Book 1 were pure Oblivion. Those trappings evolved quite a bit in Book 2 to reflect our play time in Skyrim at the time. Even though our setting remains 3rd Era Cyrodiil, Buffy’s trappings for the story have evolved to reflect a combination of Oblivion and ESO. Thank you!

Rider- I added a sentence to confirm that Daenlin and Kud-Ei’s intervention took place after Buffy’s return to Cyrodiil. Thanks for mentioning it so I could clarify the timing. Please blame the quirky details of Buffy’s bow evolution on our moving among games. Basically, Book 2 presented a bow that was compatible with Skyrim gameplay and Book 3 largely undoes that, evolving her bow into one that is more consistent with Oblivion and ESO. I appreciate your support for bringing Agronak (like Mazoga) into a much larger role than shown in game. Thank you!

Lopov- Boderi knows more of Buffy’s secrets than anyone (except Acadian) so she is an excellent character to help draw out some of Buffy’s lingering challenges in dealing with the loss of Savlian. Buffy’s grief won’t dominate the story but it will indeed surface now and again. Thank you!

Grits- I’m pleased how it rang true that when Buffy started taking care of herself the shine returned to her hair; the endorsement of another blonde is welcome indeed! tongue.gif With Buffy’s bow, I was hoping to convey quite a bit of information but within a casual 'shop talk' conversational tone between two mages. Like Buffy, I’m glad to know you enjoy your tea! Thank you!


Previously- Boderi Farano confirmed that Buffy had been summoned to the University to meet with Sirs Mazoga and Agronak to discuss her guild’s role in the Oblivion Crisis. While the ladies waited, they discussed ways in which Buffy’s bow had evolved over time, and how Buffy was managing her grief over the loss of Savlian Matius. The episode ended with a knock at the door of Boderi's office/apartment.

* * *

Episode 6

The door opened and there she was.

“Mazoga!” I sprinted halfway across Boderi’s parlor and closed the remaining distance with a leap. The mighty orc didn’t budge as I flew into the unyielding steel of her breast plate. Despite knocking the wind out of myself, in an instant my legs were tightly around her waist, both arms circled her massive neck and my face was buried in the green skin above her stiff leather collar. “I missed you so much,” I began babbling through happy tears as the orc folded her arms around me. “I’m so sorry I was too injured to go with you when you left Kvatch. And w-when I got better no one could tell me where you were!”

“I missed you too, Buff,” calmed Mazoga as her gauntleted hand stroked my hair. “I’m real glad to see your injuries all healed up good.”

I looked up to see her beautiful brown eyes glistening. I had not felt so safe since being held in the arms of Savlian Matius himself.

Boderi cleared her throat. “Please do come in.”

Neither Mazoga nor I made any effort to disengage as she carried me fully back into the room. It was only then that I noticed the even larger knight now filling the doorway. His helm was under one arm and he held Mazoga's in his hand. “Thank you for bringing her safely to me, Agronak,” I breathed.

“The joy I see between you makes the journey well worth it,” he replied as he stepped inside.

The Bosmeri Imperial Battlemage, who was dwarfed by the pair of knights he had been escorting, nodded to Boderi. “I’ll be right outside, Magister, waiting to take your guests back to the lobby when their business is concluded.”

“Not necessary, Fithragaer,” said Boderi. “When we are done, Buffy will show them out.” After the door closed, she looked at Agronak. “Welcome, knights.” Turning to Mazoga, she added with a dry smile, “If you can peel my small mage-knight from your breastplate, you’re most welcome to have a seat. Tea?”

I reluctantly unwrapped myself from Mazoga, then supplied cups all around as the orcs created a pile of helms, gauntlets and weaponry on the floor. The armor-plated duo then carefully seated themselves on a pair of parlor chairs, which groaned ominously under the weight.

Boderi filled our cups then joined us.

“We need your help, Buff,” stated Mazoga.

“I’m ready,” I answered without a clue as to the task. “When do we leave?”

Mazoga smiled sadly, shook her head and looked to her mate.

Agronak replied, “Mazoga and I are enemies of the Mythic Dawn and will not risk your safety by having you travel with us.”

“You were there for me at Kvatch when Savlian and I needed you,” I protested. "It was the two of you who slayed countless Daedra, then carried the broken bodies of Savlian and I from the final battle. And, Mazoga, it was you who never budged from my bedside at the chapel as I hovered between life and death for several days. I owe you both no less than that same measure of devotion.”

“And we’ll ask it of you, Buff,” Mazoga said gently, “but our quests require separate paths for now.”

Boderi finally spoke. “Buffy, let these knights explain their larger task and how our proposed role for you fits in.”

Agronak then carefully detailed Martin’s plan to retrieve the Amulet of Kings and claim his throne. “. . . were able to locate and destroy the Mythic Dawn’s shrine and underground lair.” He continued, “Their leader managed to escape with the Amulet of Kings before we could put him to the sword. Martin believes our quarry magically retreated to his own realm called Paradise. Our Emperor-to-be thinks he can open a portal to that realm, but requires four powerful items to do so. Mazoga and I have already recovered one of them from Sancre Tor and will gather another from Miscarcand as we travel west.” He glanced at his mate, then back to me. “We’re hoping you can provide the third of these items – a Daedric artifact.”

Boderi interjected, “Buffy, I informed Sirs Agronak and Mazoga that you have gathered and subsequently loaned several such relics to the Mystic Archives.”

Mazoga held up a massive open hand to delay my response. “Martin warns that it’ll be destroyed when he works his magic to open the portal.”

“Of course I can help,” I replied. “I’ll contribute Sheogorath’s staff to the cause and be quite pleased to know it will be destroyed in the process. I’ll also give each of you a ring. One is Meridia’s Ring of Khajiiti and the other is one I crafted long ago with a similar chameleon effect.” Looking at Agronak’s battered shield on the floor, I added, “And you will leave here with Peryite’s Spell Breaker as well.”

“That is most generous,” he replied. “When this crisis is over, we’ll return any surviving artifacts to your Mystic Archives.”

“I’m not done,” I said. Among the items the orcs had piled on the floor was a weapon I recognized. “I’m glad to see you still carry that soul trap dagger I gave you.” One hand slipped into the satchel at my waist and emerged holding Azura’s Star. “I want you to carry this also. It’s a reusable grand soul gem that has served me well.”

Boderi lifted an eyebrow. “Buffy, are you sure? That was gifted to you by Azura when you . . . well, you know.”

As I recalled that I had sent my journal to Boderi for her reading and safekeeping, I silently thanked the Dunmer for her discretion in not announcing that Azura had proclaimed me her Slayer. My friend and University mentor literally knew all my secrets up until I left Kvatch after the death of Savlian. Which reminded me - I wanted to give her the next volume, detailing my travels in Valenwood. I handed the Star to Mazoga as I addressed Boderi, “This was a reward from Lady Azura for freeing some of her followers from vampirism. Its value to me is great, but purely sentimental as my mystic bow does not require recharging. Until this crisis is over, it will better serve these knights than I.”

“Thanks, Buff. You’re a pal!” said Mazoga as she reverently held the Star. “We’ll be proud to borrow it, and it’ll get plenty of work. My claymore and magically returning chakram are both enchanted with shock damage. So’s Agronak’s arming sword. And, both our daggers strike with magic as well.”

“May the Star of Azura overflow with the dying magic of every Daedra you encounter,” I replied grimly. “Now, what is the fourth item Martin requires?”

Both orcs took a deep breath before Mazoga replied, “Buff, we need a sigil stone from a Great Oblivion Gate – the kind that eats cities.” My eyes opened wide. “Martin’s plan is to openly move from the Blades’ headquarters to the city of Bruma, believing his known presence there will trigger such a gate to open in an effort to destroy him. Several smaller gates apparently appear first, then the big one opens and spits out a giant siege engine to breach the city. As you can see, Bruma’s gonna need lots of reinforcing to defend itself until Agronak and I can grab that great sigil stone.”

Yay 'Zoga is back!

“I’m ready,” I answered without a clue as to the task. “When do we leave?”
Now that is real friendship. No questions asked.

Buffy should star in the Daedric Pickers TV show, she has so many Daedric artifacts collecting dust in her attic! laugh.gif

Oh my, it is Siege Crawler time. I recently did this with January, so I recall it pretty well. If they need all hands on deck, I am sure that Detroit could spare a superhero or two to help out...
Darkness Eternal
Along with Buffy, her arsenal and companions underwent a tremendous change! A nice exchange between Boderi and Buffy, and an interesting read about the prior limitations in the use of the summoned bow. Conjured weapons, depending on the nature of it, can have many limiting factors. Not unheard of some mages having their summoned weapons vanish when they need it the most. I'm sure Buffy won't have to worry about this.

Sir Mazoga has returned! It was great to see her again. It was both warming and sad to see Buffy feel safe, a feeling she hasn't since Savlian. Agronak and Mazoga make a might duo, and their aid to Buffy in her moments of need did not go unremembered.

Having those artifacts go to the Mystic Archives is a wise decision, as Daedric artifacts are useful but very, very dangerous. I too share Buffy's feelings on Sheogorath's staff being destroyed in the process. Buffy's strong feeling towards the Daedra can definitely fuel her in this perilous journey!
OH, I get it now. She's still doing the Main Quest! All this time, I'd thought this was completed. And so with Savilian getting killed, she needed time to move past this, eh?

This is probably all mentioned before, so sorry if it has. I am slow sometimes.

QUOTE(Acadian @ Jan 22 2020, 07:30 AM) *

Daenlin made Buffy sell her house. We should conclude that, like everything else in her life except Superian, Buffy was neglecting it and that both Daenlin and Kud-Ei felt she needed to live in the guild hall for her own safety.

Right, but who is Daenlin to Buffy? In other words, why would Daelin have authority over whether she sells her house or not? I'm just trying to catch up to what other readers already know.
“Thanks, Buff. You’re a pal!” said Mazoga as she reverently held the Star.

Sir Mazoga! I’m delighted to hear her unique voice again. What a warm reunion.

What struck me the most in this episode is the line that SubRosa quoted. Buffy’s instant trust in her friend says much about both of them. wub.gif
Nice to see your own portrayal of both Agronak and Mazoga. They play a very important role in Buffy's world and they're both quite "different" than in the vanilla game, but you pulled it off in a good way, and they're both very believable.

Buffy has a whole collection of Daedric artifacts to offer. This is one of occasions, where finding precious artifacts while adventuring comes in handy.
I'm still trying to parse what's being set up here. We have Buffy established as the Daedric Artifact collector. Oblivion gates are an "any adventurer/team" thing, and the Allies for Bruma quest is being foreshadowed. And ultimately, Mazoga, possibly in tandem with Agronak, will be inside the Great Gate while Buffy is outside.

haute ecole rider
Thanks for adding that sentence in the previous segment - the timeline is now that much clearer.

And how wonderful to see Sir Mazoga and Sir Agronak again! Buffy's exuberant greeting of her beloved bestie made me smile. As did this:
The armor-plated duo then carefully seated themselves on a pair of parlor chairs, which groaned ominously under the weight.
Made me wonder if said seating happens to be magically reinforced? wink.gif

And this reminds me; Julian still has to go back to Leyawiin to check up on Sir Mazoga and the White Stallion Lodge, as well as ensure the survivors of the Bruma Great Gate get their just rewards. nono.gif wink.gif cool.gif
QUOTE(haute ecole rider @ Jan 27 2020, 04:10 PM) *

Julian still has to go back to Leyawiin to check up on Sir Mazoga and the White Stallion Lodge, ...

Until I found the incantation to mark Mazoga as essential, I was reluctant to do that. There are wisps around that she normally can't handle until she has a Daedric weapon. Is she essential in Julian's game?
SubRosa- Cities, guilds and even empires do not inspire loyalty from Buffy. What drives her to action is helping those she holds dear, and I was delighted to see you highlight that. I fondly remember Teresa’s role in the latter part of the Oblivion Crisis as she flew on raven wings above the battlefield – foreshadowing a follow on superhero by the name of Stormcrow?

DE- I’m glad you enjoyed the interaction between Buffy and Boderi as they talked shop about magic bows and bags of holding. Mazoga is always fun to write. While Buffy’s grief will not dominate the story, it is certainly there and we’ll continue to see it occasionally bubble to the surface.

Renee- Thanks for the question about Buffy and Daenlin (NPC who owns Archers Paradox in Bravil). Let me provide a brief review of the relationship between them that was developed mostly back in Book 1: Though conceived in the trees of Valenwood, Buffy was born in Bravil and her parents asked Daenlin to be Buffy’s godfather. When Buffy was three years old, her father never came back from a vampire hunt. At eight, Daenlin apprenticed Buffy as an archer. At twelve, Buffy’s mother died to illness so Daenlin became the closest thing she had to a parent. Though her skill with a bow eventually eclipsed that of her master, Buffy absolutely adores Daenlin and very much views him as her archery master and godfather. She implicitly trusts that anything (like the intervention and selling her house) that Daenlin does on her behalf is for her own good. Daenlin likewise adores his apprentice and proudly considers her to be the culmination of his life’s work as a master of the bow. Buffy’s history to date is long and involved, so I appreciate knowing whenever some review of past details is warranted.

Grits- The line you quoted is pure Mazoga for sure! tongue.gif Thank you for, like SubRosa, noting that when it comes to doing things for her friends, Buffy doesn’t count the cost.

Lopov- We have, with many NPCs, taken a spark of inspiration that Buffy sees and developed them quite differently than does the game. We do try to be consistent with each NPC that we take such a path with and I appreciate your endorsement of what we’ve done with Mazoga and Agronak. Early in her adventuring career, Buffy became greedy in her desire to obtain powerful Daedric artifacts. Sheogorath unintentionally cured her of that – she has never forgiven him nor herself for shattering the beliefs of a whole Khajiiti village at Border Watch. That’s why she’s pleased to offer up Sheo’s staff for destruction. From the Border Watch experience, however, she did gain the wisdom to forsake greed. As SubRosa and I are fond of saying, ‘Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.’ wink.gif

ghastley- You have the right of it, my friend. The next two episodes will shed much clarity on where the book is headed. Thank you!

Rider- It was indeed great fun to write the scene of Buffy nearly knocking herself out flying into the steel of Mazoga’s breastplate. I’m glad the groaning parlor chair also caught your attention, as I was trying to emphasize just how darn large these two orcs are. Good luck as Julian ventures back to the White Stallion Lodge to check on dear ‘Zoga. Buffy will get to briefly see it herself in a few episodes.


Previously- Sirs Mazoga and Agronak joined Boderi and Buffy. The orcs outlined Martin’s perilous plan to retrieve the Amulet of Kings and claim his throne. The plan calls for retrieving four powerful items, including a Daedric artifact from Buffy, and the sigil stone from a Great Oblivion Gate that Martin hopes to taunt Mehrunes Dagon into opening at Bruma. They began to discuss the need for reinforcements at Bruma.

* * *

Episode 7

After Sirs Mazoga and Agronak finished explaining Martin’s perilous plan to recover the Amulet of Kings, I said, “All the more reason for me to go with you. You both know my skill with bow, illusion and healing.”

“There will be a time for that,” replied Agronak, “but what we need now is your proven skill at negotiating and gathering forces.”

It was Boderi who spoke next. “Buffy, we’d like you to convey the Emperor-in-waiting’s request for reinforcements to Count Caro of Leyawiin and Count Terentius of Bravil. I selected you for this because of your established relationship with Martin’s champions here and your firsthand knowledge of what a daedric siege crawler can do if unleashed upon a city. Your familiarity with both counties and title of dame and will doubtless be of assistance as well. Will you accept this noble quest for your guild and the Empire?”

The words fell from my lips of their own accord, “No, but I’ll do it for you – all three of you.”

“Splendid!” Boderi smiled and reached over to squeeze my hand. “I’ve arranged one way passage to Leyawiin for you and your mare on a merchant ship that sails midday on the morrow.”

“Thank you,” I replied. “Passage for Superian won’t be necessary though. I can dismiss and recall her as required.”

One of Boderi’s eyebrows rose. “You are full of surprises since your return from Valenwood. Once your business in Leyawiin is complete, ride north to petition Bravil.”

“As a Knight of the White Stallion, I’m a member of Leyawiin’s court so I expect no difficulties obtaining an audience with Count Caro. And he’ll accept my words as truth. Count Terentius of Bravil, however, is . . . well, my few dealings with him have not been encouraging.”

“Count Terentius’ reputation is well known and I have anticipated your challenge,” said Boderi with a knowing frown. She produced a folded parchment and pressed it into my hand. The wax seal bore the imprint of my guild. “In this letter of introduction, Hannibal Traven designates you as his emissary regarding this matter. Few nobles are unwise enough to ignore the Arch Mage. Once complete in Bravil, please check with Guildmagister Kud-Ei. Either she or I should have further tasking for you by then.”

I nodded, feeling rather overwhelmed as I tucked the letter into my satchel.

“Magister,” said Agronak, “I have a message from our next Emperor that may help Dame Buffy in her negotiations.”

“Please share it,” replied the Dunmer.

The orc turned to me as he spoke. “Martin wants it known that he will remember those cities and guilds that help the Empire in its time of need – and those that do not.”

“That certainly provides some leverage,” I said. “It sounds like the simple priest we rescued at Kvatch has grown into the demands of his destiny. I take it the other counties are being solicited for aid as well?”

Agronak nodded. “The Elder Council will not openly acknowledge Martin until they see the Amulet of Kings around his neck; however, they have quietly advised the Empire’s ruling nobility that a likely heir is in exile. Commander Phillida has already committed half a cohort to Bruma. He insists on keeping the rest of his Imperial City Legion here to -“

“Co-what?” I interrupted.

“I asked the same thing, Buff,” said Mazoga. “Half of a cohort is three centuries – each manned with a hundred soldiers.”

My eyes opened wide. “Savlian’s army barely numbered a hundred when you stood with us to retake Kvatch.”

Mazoga continued, “It’ll take more than that, which is why we’re soliciting aid from the guilds and county nobles to augment the Legion’s soldiers. Remember, we’ll be dealing with several regular gates followed by a Great Gate – capable of destroying Bruma if we don’t stop it before it belches out a siege engine. Commander Phillida is right to hold much of the Legion here though. If we succeed in Bruma, he expects the forces of Mehrunes Dagon will shift all efforts to The Imperial City to prevent Martin’s coronation and lighting of the Dragonfires.” She turned to the other knight. “Tell her about the other counties, my mate.”

“As for Bruma itself,” said Agronak, “Countess Carvain has little choice but to deploy the entire garrison and militia there in defense of her city. The Talosian Monks of Weynon Priory near Chorrol are conveying Martin’s request to Countess Valga for soldiers and petitioning Vilena Donton for warriors from her various Fighters Guild chapters.”

“And you may be sure,” added Boderi, “that when the time comes, a contingent from the Mages Guild will be on hand to support the effort in Bruma.”

Agronak acknowledged Boderi’s reassurance with an appreciative nod before continuing, “A pair of Blades is en route to the court of Cheydinhal. Mazoga and I will head west to solicit aid from Skingrad, Kvatch and Anvil. Miscarcand, containing the other artifact we need, lies along our way.”

I looked up at Mazoga, “When do you have to depart?”

She winced. “We told Fanador to meet us just outside the University with our mounts and pack animal ready for travel within the hour.”

I heaved a sigh. “We’d better head to the Mystic Archives to get those artifacts then.”

The orcs and I left Boderi in her apartment.

Too soon, my friends and I stepped outside the University’s front gate where we were met by Fanador astride a placid paint. He was holding the reins of two spirited white warhorses as well as the lead of a heavily laden gray donkey whose name I recalled as Lunchbucket. The burlap-wrapped staff of Sheogorath was added to the donkey’s burden. The other Daedric artifacts I had mentioned were now carried by the knights to enhance their own survival.

Agronak engulfed one of my shoulders within a gauntleted hand. “Good luck, Buffy, and a word of caution.” My lifted eyebrow urged him to continue, “If the Mythic Dawn learns that your interest in the Oblivion Crisis extends beyond curiosity or trading in sigil stones, their cultists may act against you. Mazoga and I have already been forced to kill several. The only warning you’ll have before they attack is a battle cry proclaiming their allegiance to Lord Dagon as they summon both armor and weapon. They will likely be in possession of Mythic Dawn scrolls or books. Several Blades are working undercover to ferret out the identities of these sleeper agents and eliminate them.”

“Thank you for the warning, Agronak.”

Mazoga folded me into her arms and whispered, “I’ll miss you Buff. We’ll have much to catch up on when this is over.”

As she stepped back, I looked up and nodded. Blinking back tears, I said, “I hope to see you in Bruma, if not before. Be careful, my friends.”
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