Skyrim Story - After Her Legend: Part 3: Into Danger
The next morning, Jerthar awoke on the floor and through his groggy eyes, he looked to see an empty bed. Instantly he sat up to survey his surroundings and Derbana was nowhere to be found.
“Damn it! I should have known better than to trust her!”
He turned to see Derbana in her simple clothes, two plates of breakfast in her hands.
“Sorry about not waking you, I tried to hunt early this morning, but there was no game nearby, so I just bought some meat from Hadring and cooked it myself. Here you go.” She offered him the plate.
Taking it, he looked at his breakfast and poked it with his finger, “What is this exactly?”
“Fried Horker Meat. Try it you may like it.”
Looking as she took a big bite out of her's, he raised it up and took a small nibble that caused him to spit it up. Derbana laughed a little.
“It does take a long time to get used to, but this is these are the delicacies in Skyrim.”
He poked the meat again, “With this type of food, it is a wonder that the Nords have survived at all.”
Derbana laughed a little louder, “Yeah, that's true.”
They continued to eat their breakfast in silence for a while. When they were near the end of their meal, Jerthar tried to say something this entire time, but it was difficult to say.
Derbana looked at him, “Hm?”
“I'm...I'm...sorry. This is not easy for me to say this, but I'm sorry for everything I've done to you. I'd still appreciate it if you'd continue to help me.”
She couldn't believe it, he was asking for forgiveness.
“I don't expect you to forgive me right away or ever, in fact. But you were right in what you said last night. If I'm to be truly free of my past, this has to be the first step.”
She smiled and got her gear out of the nearby dresser, “I will certainly think about it. Now could you leave for a moment? I need a little privacy please.”
His smile was slight yet it was there. He stood up and exited the room, standing in the doorway facing the inn. After a few minutes, she put a hand on his shoulder and she was in her full gear.
“Come on, we've still got a ways to go, right?”
“Yes, we do.”
Together, the two of them left Nightgate Inn behind and embraced the morning snow thrown about them. They arrived at their next destination, which was not a welcoming sight for Derbana.
“The Wayward Pass? You want us to go through the Wayward Pass?”
“It will take us days to go around the mountain range in either direction, this is the quickest way.”
“I know, but every time I've taken this way, something always happens. Bandits, Giants, Thalmor, the list goes on and on.”
“Then, we should hurry, don't you think?”
“I know you're new to adventuring, but rushing into things like this will only be trouble. Here...” She opened her backpack, “I've got a book for you to read.”
“There is very little doubt I've read it. Over five hundred books I've read in my lifetime involving subjects from spellcraft to Dwemer research to the mysteries of the Daedra. So, there's a very good chance I've read it.”
She passed it him and upon reading the title, he was surprised at being wrong.
“The Adventurer's Compendium. This is something new.”
“It can't substitute for actual experience, but you should be able to get some advice from it.”
He opened the front cover and started reading the first page. In a matter of seconds, he turned to the next page. Derbana was surprised at how fast he could read, it would take her two minutes to read a page like that, but then he did read a few hundred books, after all. Shrugging her head, she sneaked ahead to keep an eye on any possible danger.
Jerthar lifted his eyes from the book every few seconds as not to walk into the canyon wall.
“When do you usually run into trouble here?”
“One hour on average.”
And like she said, an hour later, there was trouble. At this point, he was at page 150. Jerthar was stopped by Derbana.
“What? What's ahead?”
“A squad of Thalmor escorting a prisoner. They're heading the same way we are.”
“So, we can wait and let them pass.”
She smiled and shrugged her head, “You forget who you're talking to.”
Drawing her Glass Bow, she aimed her first shot.
“The Stormcloaks will rise again, you filthy elves! I promise you that much! Both you and the Empire will fall!” The Prisoner shouted and was shoved by one of the guards.
Derbana let loose her first arrow and got the second one ready. The Prisoner was hit in the spine and fell over dead. The other Thalmor were distracted and the second arrow flew into the chest of their wizard. The two justicar turned around and ran toward her, she could have sneaked away fast enough, but not Jerthar. So she dropped her bow, drawing Mehrunes' Razor and her Dragonscale Shield.
Shield bashing the nearest Thalmor into the canyon wall, she went forward and battled the second justicar, blow-by-blow. After almost thirty seconds, Derbana dealt the final blow. Turning the Thalmor around, she gripped his throat hard with her shield arm and drove her dagger into his chest.
The remaining Thalmor got back to her feet and drew her Glass Axe high overhead. Derbana turned to see her standing there almost frozen. Judging by her position, Derbana would have been dead before she could have defended herself. Looking passed her, Jerthar was standing there both arms out, his fingers curled slightly as if controlling the last Thalmor like she was a puppet. Getting her off her feet, he turned her horizontally in mid-air. Pulling her back and then sharply forward against the wall. He repeated this several times with Derbana watching it in its entirety.
Once her head was a crumpled mess with blood dripping down onto the snow, Jerthar stopped and dropped her to the ground.
“Why did you do that?”
“You were going to be killed if I didn't. I used the Telekinesis spell for that entire act. It was the only way to stop her in time.”
“It's just...that was a brutal response.”
“I could say the same thing about you. Why did you kill their prisoner?”
“I've tried freeing them before. Instead of thanking me, they'd say something like, “I'm going to kill the next Imperial I see.” I would track them down and kill them shortly after their release. Now, I don't even bother freeing the Stormcloaks, I end them before they would kill another and a Stormcloak will always kill another.”
“Let's just say that we're even and end this conversation.”
“Fair enough. Let's keep heading north, we should be there before nightfall.”
Derbana nodded and retrieved her bow before they continued through the pass. After about another two hours, they left the Wayward Pass behind them and the dead bodies they left along the way.
“Where are we headed?” She asked after two hours walking east out of the pass.
“You know of the ancient Nedic city of Saarthal?”
“A little too well. It is where all the madness started for the College of Winterhold. It was the ancient resting place of the Eye of Magnus.”
“It was already reported to the Thalmor that Ancano's efforts in manipulating the College proved fruitless and his attempts to control the Eye of Magnus was a failure. The Eye was taken somewhere that the Thalmor couldn't reach it, though they don't know where. Perhaps you could...”
“I don't know if I...”
“I'm already a deserter to the Thalmor and my word is always untrusted because I'm not a pureblood Altmer. Whatever you say to me is kept by me and me alone.”
“The Psijic Order took it far away to their stronghold to be kept out of those who would use it to endanger innocent lives. I was there when they took it.”
“I figured as much. When I read the reports from my father's desk in the Summerset Isles, I figured that the artifacts of Magnus are too dangerous for anyone to possess especially the Thalmor. My Professor managed to locate his old friends from his adventuring days and informed them of the situation, who in turn passed it down to those they trusted. Our research managed to locate the artifacts of Magnus and all have been dealt with except for one: The Heart of Magnus.”
“What? There's another?”
“Yes, No one would suspect the Heart of Magnus would be hidden so close to the Eye. If anyone was using any form of magic detection, the Eye would be the only one to be found.”
“Why would you think that?”
“Didn't you find it strange that the Eye of Magnus was activated when you found it? Why would someone activate a powerful artifact such as that? Ancano even wondered why when he made his reports.”
“So, all that was to hide the even greater artifact?”
“Yes, the Professor's allies managed to contact us secretly and told us they found all the artifacts hidden and deactivated. Lacking the knowledge to destroy them, they relocated and hid them away in safe areas the Thalmor wouldn't dare to look. But, they were soon approached by someone from the Psijic Order who with his allies took them away just as they did with the first artifact: The Eye of Magnus that you yourself found.”
“Is the Heart the last one?”
“As far as our research has led. This is the fifth and final artifact of Magnus according to the ancient texts. The two Eyes, the Brain, and the Spirit have been located and contained. The Heart is all that remains.”
“I agree, I've only seen the power of a single artifact of Magnus and how it influenced Ancano.” She closed her eyes and remembered the whole battle with him, “No one should have that power. But where exactly are these ruins, I've explored this region of Skyrim several times and so, I know every dungeon.”
“This place can't be found normally. It's hard to explain, it was a theory that Professor Melaven and I discussed many a night. The only thing that we have to go on is the ancient poem made about it.”
“What are the verses?”
“We roughly translated it from Old Ayleid into Altmeri. In the common tongue, it would be: Near the tip of the world, Hidden here be the Heart in a place where the door is no ordinary door, only through the mastery of skill may you enter. To obtain the Heart, it awaits one of Dragon's blood to open the way through an offering of life, Here the Guardian stands to test your resolve. Should you pass, the Heart is yours to do as you wish, Should you fail, then the endless abyss of Death is your reward.”
“Are you sure that's the best translation?”
“It was a rough translation, but the one I just gave you was using the best words possible in terms of sense and sentence structure.”
“So from the translation, near the tip of the world is somewhere in the northernmost part of Skyrim. The Heart of Magnus is hidden here where the door is no ordinary door through a mastery of skill may you enter. This must be why I haven't found this dungeon all this time, but there would have been some physical trace of the dungeon.”
“The Professor and I theorized that the dungeon is so old, any physical remains have been buried by the snow as it must have been built deep into the earth.”
“We're too far east to have it be in Blackreach.”
“Blackreach? I haven't heard of such a place.”
“It's a subterranean area of Skyrim that lays below pretty much all of the Pale directly south of Dawnstar. But as I said, where we are to where it is, is too far east to be a part of it. I'm glad we're avoiding it, I hated going to that place and never would I want to return.”
“Regardless, the dungeon we seek should be a few more miles northeast of the Pass.”
“Besides the fact it lies underground, do you happen to know the name?”
“It's actually a part of Saarthal. When the Snow Elves invaded and started the massacre that would be known as 'The Night of Tears', some of the Nedic wizards found the Eye they were looking for. They managed to seal that chamber away and while their people were being slaughtered, they escaped through the hallways to the west and after what seemed to be hours, they found themselves on the other side of the labyrinth to where the Heart is. Though it was deactivated, they felt more magical power radiating from it than the Eye. The wizards spent some time discussing what they should do and came up with that plan. One of their number returned to the Eye to activate it, so it would mask the power of the Heart. When he arrived at that chamber, the Snow Elves already breached and he was filled with arrows. He must have crawled along the floor to touch the Eye. Just a little magic was required to activate it. When he did, the burst of magical energy destroyed him and all the Snow Elves in the room. With that, the structure became unstable and all the passageways collapsed.”
“And of the other wizards?”
“They spent the rest of their lives, destroying the tunnels to separate the Eye from the rest of the world. Using their magic, they reinforced the dungeon to what it is today.”
“And the Poem?”
“They found it around the Heart I'd assume. It must mean that the Ayleids were the ones who hid the artifacts of Magnus.”
“But, they were based in Cyrodiil. This was Snow Elf territory at the time.”
“Unfortunately, the problem with history, it is incomplete. If not for key remnants of texts here and there, we'd never have figured this out. So basically what I'm saying is, your guess is as good as mine.”
“History aside, how will you find this dungeon exactly?”
“Judging from what we've read, it should be somewhere beyond the next ice ridge. This is where we'll find the entrance.”
The blizzard got worse the closer they approached over the ice ridge.
Derbana raised her forearm to block the snow, “I've always hated this place. The breeze from the Sea of Ghosts is hard enough without the snow.”
He held out his ward spell and made it stronger, “This should make it easier for you. The reason it's always been like this is because of the spells put in place to defend the dungeon. People who travel this way just assume it's the weather and move on.”
“Can you feel the magic, then?”
“Yes, it's insanely strong. But we're right on top of it, this will take a moment. You may want to take a step back.”
Derbana took four in fact as Jerthar gathered his energy, fire emblazoned his hands as he rose off the ground, hovering there as with one grand gesture shot his hands down and it melted the snow. As more of the entrance was shown, it looked like any normal burial mound she explored over the past two years.
Soon enough, it was free. Derbana quickly walked down the wooden spiral staircase and Jerthar levitated down next to her.
“So, this was the mastery of skill they talked about.”
“But, I don't get it.”
Derbana raised an eyebrow, “What's the matter?”
“The spell I used wasn't that advanced, it was Adept Level at best. Not certainly the challenge for a Master Mage, something is wrong.”
“Remember that book I told you to read? Don't ever say 'something is wrong' or any of those lines, it's the folly of all adventurers.”
“You're right! Look!”
Just as the poem said, there was no door and instead were four holes each facing a cardinal direction.
“There's intense magic coming from each of these holes.”
Derbana peered down one, it was no larger than her head and down about ten feet was a Grand Soul Gem atop a pedestal. She knew these well, they were arcane traps, but never has she seen a Grand Soul Gem used before. It started to charge up again.
“Jerthar! More Fire!”
“Okay, on it!” He focused his energies and projected it outward into a dome. From the four holes burst forth a stream of cold that never ended.
“This explains why it was buried! Derbana! I keep this up for long! Look for a way!”
“Damn it, I've never been good with these puzzles.”
She concentrated, “Only through the mastery of skill may you enter, only through the mastery of skill may you enter, only through the mastery of skill may you enter.”
Then an idea hit her, “Wait! Skill...there are many different skills an adventurer has...maybe...”
She threw her bow down and her backpack.
“What are you doing?”
“I need to exchange arrows, my iron arrows will be no good against the fire and ice. Keep it up, I'll free you in just a moment.” She scrambled to get the quiver that had her glass arrows.
She thought, “These should be powerful enough. I'd use elven, but I don't want to take a chance.”
Pulling out four glass arrows, she notched the first one and lined herself up with the first hole.
“This is your plan?”
“These arrows were created to be durable against the elements. Just watch.”
She drew her bow as far back as she could and let it fly. Unfazed by the fiery dome, the arrow flew straight through the stream of cold and impaled the Soul Gem, destroying it and knocking it off the pedestal. She grabbed another arrow and lined up the second shot, another perfect hit and another Soul Gem down.
Ducking under her brother's extended arms, avoiding the fire he was casting, she took out the other two this way and Jerthar lowered his arms, bracing himself on his knees as he caught his breath.
“Another...minute...more and I'd...” He said while panting.
She gathered her things and stood by his side, patting him on the shoulder, “You did good.”
He smiled as he looked up out the corner of his eye, “Thanks...but we still have a problem, the door hasn't opened.”
“Yes, I've noticed that, too. Where the door is no ordinary door, that's what it said. Could it be a portal?”
He shook his head, “I feel no magic at work around us. If so, it would be too easy for me to notice. Wait...do you hear that?”
With their elven ears, they could hear it over the howling of the glacier wind. The never good sound of gears turning.
“Where the door is no ordinary door...great...”
The floor opened up and the two fell down into the pit below. The door then closed behind itself, blocking the daylight from entering.
Derbana looked down the dark pit as they both fell. After a minute or two, they saw torchlight from down below. Derbana strained her eyes to see that it was not just torchlight that would greet them. The entire room below was a spike pit as the torches hung from the pillars.
“Jerthar! Quick! Grab onto me!”
He made his way over and wrapped her from behind, both hands around her waist. They had mere seconds before meeting a grisly death. She took a deep breath and shouted.
“Fus Ro Dah!”
Her Unrelenting Force Shout caused the wooden spears to splinter into harmless fragments for several feet and it slowed them down entirely. When the Shout ended, they both fell a few feet onto the stone ground where only the tiniest nubs of the spears remained.
“Whoa! I don't want to do that again. Great thinking there, Derbana.”
“Thanks, Jerthar. Just one more thing you can do for the moment.”
“Get off of me!”
He rolled over and rested on the ground, face up. After they both took a few deep breathes, Jerthar started to laugh, rousing Derbana's ire.
“What's so funny?”
“It's nothing really. I just got an image in my head that made me laugh. Wow, it feels so good to laugh again, the only one who could have done so was Professor Melaven.”
“So, spill it. What's the image?”
“Just be thankful I was only wearing robes and not Daedric Armor, right?”
She chuckled, “Yeah, that is kind of funny. But if that were the case, I'd have gotten around behind you and shouted over your shoulder.”
“Nice job on the solving the riddle, by the way. How did you know?”
“Mastery of skill. It never said which skill, so there had to be more than one way to deal with the traps. You showed your mastery by holding back the cold while I showed mine firing my arrows at the Soul Gems through a hole no bigger than my head. Regardless of the method used, it is clear that puzzle couldn't be bested by a single person. At least, two people are required just as we did.”
“And the falling pit? That wasn't in the poem. Outside of the endless abyss of Death, but that's supposed to be...during the Guardian...no, wait. That must mean...”
“The last verse pertains to the entire dungeon and not just the Guardian. Endless doesn't exactly mean without end, it could also mean the countless ways one could die here.”
“But we've survived the spike pit and the door, which must have opened once the Soul Gems were knocked off. So, it had a pressure plate system in place. When you beat the first puzzle, it sends you down the pit. It closed back up as I'm guessing, some sort of counter-balance in case the Soul Gems couldn't be retrieved.”
“What are you thinking?”
“If the Soul Gems were knocked off, they must have had a rope attached through the bottom of the Soul Gem that when the counter-balance kicked in, the ropes would run itself through the hole in the top of the pedestal and place the Gem back on top, tripping the pressure plate and that would reset the counter-balance. With them destroyed, the counter-balance will be locked in place for...I don't know how long.”
“To cut into a Soul Gem? Is that possible?”
“The Ayleid or Nedic wizards were sure something to accomplish a feat like that.”
Derbana took a look around, “I can't see the walls in this place, only the torches on the pillars and a brazier in the pit here-and-there. I don't see anything beyond that.”
“It would seem this is another challenge. Those that survive getting this far would have to navigate to find the way out.”
“Laas!” Derbana whispered and took a quick look around to see faint red auras in the distance, then they faded, “We should try heading in that direction.” She pointed.
He looked to see darkness, “How are you so sure?”
“My Aura Whisper Shout. It detects all life, undead, and mechanical. The only direction where their auras are coming from is over there.”
“I'll carve a path. Can you provide Magelight?”
She smiled, “One of the only spells I've truly mastered.”
“Okay, then.” He charged flame into his hands and started burning away the wooden spears. Leaving a blazing trail in front of them to be extinguished by a spray of cold. Section-by-section, he cleared their way through the spikes until they reached close to a wall. He stopped as Derbana and him threw Magelight against various parts of the wall to better see their path.
“I don't see the exit.”
“Stop casting for a moment. Let me try something.” Jerthar said before bringing both his hands to his head and focused on his spell. A few seconds later, he pulled away and opened his eyes. Derbana gasped for she believed he had the eyes of a Khajiit for a moment, “I couldn't do this before with all the torchlight in the room's center, but now...” He scanned the wall, “There! It's that way!”
As his eyes faded to normal, he gathered the fire energy and they blazed their way to the hallway. In the pitch black, Jerthar threw a Magelight down the hall every so often.
“Laas Yah Nir!” Her full powered Aura Whisper Shout revealed the only enemies were still far away.
“Out of all the magic I've mastered, your Shouts are by the far the most interesting. A magic without magicka. You wouldn't mind a little research after this.”
“Let's get out of this first before I agree to something. After all, we still have that first deal to work out.”
“I gave you back your gold pouch and I'll explain everything to the guards when we return.”
“That depends. We need to stay on our toes and be ready for anything.” She heard a click and looked down at his feet, “Move!”
She rushed at him and pushing him to the ground, just as a battering ram flew forward and missed her by a mere inch. It then reset itself, locking back into place.
“You might have tripped a wire or a floor switch. These ancient Nords knew how to make traps, I tell you.”
He took this moment to breathe, “I guess I need to cast my Magelight lower, then.”
“That'd be a good idea, yes.”
Avoiding all the traps from then on, Derbana using her Aura Whisper Shout to know where the enemy was. The Draugrs quickly fell by her arrows shot from the shadows. After a few corridors of undead guards, they arrived at a strange door. The hallway and the door were similar to that of a Dragon Claw chamber. Expect when they got close, it wasn't a lock for a claw, but an actual hand.
“This is strange. I would have expected another Dragon Claw to be around.”
“To obtain the Heart, it awaits one of Dragon's blood to open the way through an offering of life. Maybe...the Dragonborn is the only one to open this door.”
“And the 'offering of life' part?”
“According to ancient text, the blood that flows within us is part of our life force. The offering of life was considered to be the drawing of blood. Once you place your hand in that groove, it will take some of your blood and the door will open to reveal the Heart of Magnus.”
She reached her hand toward it and froze, pulling it back slightly, “I'm getting a real bad feeling from this door. It feels familiar.”
“I know what you mean...like it's dark, treacherous.”
“If the Dragonborn is the only one who can open it, then we should leave it alone.”
“Such power shouldn't be left alone. Even if we were to walk away today, then someone else will open the door. Another Dragonborn that may not be so virtuous. Taking care of this now, could be the best way. Should anything go wrong...” His hand trembled as he brought it up to pat her shoulder, “I'm here for you, Sister.”
She smiled and reached her hand out and pushed it into the groove that fit too well. The door grew out from her hand outward toward the edge of the door, each crevice and crack filled with blood red energy and yet Derbana felt no pain, no blood had been drawn. When the pattern was filled with this, it slid open. A wave of dust and stale wind hit them both as the chamber had not been open for many centuries.
“See, nothing to...worry about...” Jerthar's voice trailed off at the sight of the thing in the center, “No!”
Derbana looked at it as well and gasped, knowing what it was that filled them with such fear. A Pillar of Sacrifice stood in the center of the room, which bore it's circle entirely for the floor itself glowed with a bluish-white energy. Derbana felt herself being pulled from the hand she laid on the door to the Pillar. The dark energy of treachery...that of Boethiah.
Jerthar grabbed her and kept Derbana from being pulled in, but she took off so fast that he was thrown forward onto pews that acted as both seats and stairs. She smacked hard into the pillar that refused to let her go. A few rings down from the top of the Pillar, a blade shot forward and was a second away from her throat. She pushed against it with all her strength, but each time she did, the pull felt stronger than before. Eventually...
“Ah!” Derbana gasped in pain as the blade entered her. Instantly, her vision began to dim and she thought of everyone: Her mother, Antala, Petrallus, all the friends she made in Valenwood and Skyrim. Each poured into her mind and the last she thought of...was Sondas.
“Forgive me, I don't think...I'll be returning home...my husband...and forgive me...litt...on...”
With those last words, she lost consciousness and everything turned black.