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Skyrim Story - After Her Legend: Part 4: Adventure's End
Jerthar got up from the ground, putting his hands firmly on the stone, pushing him back on his knees.
“Derbana!” He looked at her still body, “Derbana! Wake up!”
She didn't respond as he planted on foot firmly on the ground. The waves of magical energy streaming through the circles on the floor were intense, but he stood up and walked through the swirling wind that came from this energy.
“Derbana!” There was still no response.
Then another sound of stabbing flesh was made. A second blade had entered Derbana, this time it stabbed her just below her breasts. Jerthar knew there wasn't much time left, he gathered healing light in both his hands. A big gust of wind hit him and though he slid back a bit, he still stayed on his feet. Bring the spell above his head, Jerthar threw the spell toward Derbana as he was lifted off his feet and crashed against the wall. He saw his spell flying across the room, hitting Derbana in the back.
She awoke in an instant as the white energy surrounded her, bringing her back from the dead. The pain of the two blades inside her, made her completely aware of what was going on. The magical pull of the pillar was keeping her from escaping, but it didn't allow the blades to fully enter her, just enough to a sizable wound. Then a third blade came from the pillar, this time aimed for her midsection. When it sprung forward, both her hands instinctively shot down and gripped the blade, cutting into both hands.
“No! Not there!”
Jerthar shook his head as the scene came back into view. The overwhelming magic radiating from this place seemed like nothing as he witnessed Derbana's desperate struggle. His eyes focused only on her as his brow tensed and he rose to full height without regard to the magic. Taking a few steps forward, the wind threatened to knock him down, but he didn't allow it.
“Enough.” His own magic swirled in his hands.
Soon, the magic of the room was being pushed back by his own. The wind seemed to die out as he continued stepping forward. As Derbana was close to the Pillar, she would be protected by what he was about to do next.
“Enough.” His magic grew even fiercer in his hands.
“Enough!” He yelled, throwing his spell around him, bolts of lightning like Derbana had never seen shot in all directions from him, arcing up and then to the ground. Each bolt crossed the room, scarring the floors and walls wherever it touched. The ones tracing across the floor, rose up to strike the far wall and it died out just short of the ceiling. The magic from him sparked away as his Master Level Shock Spell had ended. The scars it left carved the magical circles through several different places in crooked lines. With the circles severed, the room's magic faded into nothing.
Derbana pulled herself from the Pillar. She looked over at Jerthar who was barely keeping himself up, he walked over and sat down on one of the pews, catching his breath. Knowing he was fine, she checked out her own wounds. The second blade had entered no less than a normal dagger just below her breasts, the first blade should be in her throat, but due to her struggling, it had entered the top of her sternum instead. It made sense now if the first blade had entered her throat, the second would have pierced close to her heart.
Bathing herself in her Restoration Spell, she felt good as new when she was done. Walking over to him, Derbana knelt down.
“Are you all right? That was a lot of magic you threw around.”
“Yes...” Still catching his breath, “I'll...be fine...can you just...give me a...minute or two...please...”
She put down her backpack and rifled through it, “Here...” She pulled out a Sweet Roll and handed it to him.
Smiling in return, Jerthar extended his trembling hand slowly and took it. Bringing it close to his mouth, he licked his lips and took the first bite, “Thank you...this is...delicious.”
“It's not as good as Antala's, but it's all right.”
“You mention her before, she must have made an impression on you.” His breath finally caught up.
Derbana smiled, “She did, she was an elder Breton when I was born. She took care of me when my mother was out on missions. She was also a mage like yourself, but I never saw her cast such powerful magic. In fact, there was only one time I ever saw her casting magic in battle.”
“Oh, when was that?”
“I was eight years-old and she was fighting the Thalmor.”
“Eight years-old, 4E 168. The failed assassination attempt on the life of Emperor Titus Mede II. I know of the incident well.”
“Then, the Thalmor really did order it?”
He shook his head, “No, that was the work of a disgruntled battlemage. He wanted to prove the Empire was weaker than the reports said. He gathered like-minded Thalmor and they migrated to the Imperial City, waiting for the elderly Emperor to die and they attacked at the coronation ceremony.”
“So, they weren't responsible, after all?”
He nodded, “The Thalmor are abundant in everything except subtlety, which is why the Empire has spies in the Thalmor and not the other way around. The Imperial Agents trained in the art of stealth is something the Thalmor would desperately need if they truly wanted to take over Tamriel.”
“Not all Agents were trained in stealth. Petrallus was a swordsman and though he wasn't subtle, he could hold his own in combat. An Agent is more of a title than the type of training, each Agent had their own fighting style by the time they took the Imperial Oath.”
“Unlike the lifelong rigorous training the Thalmor has. An Altmer child had very little choice in the Summerset Isles to be anything else.”
She grimaced, but didn't say anything.
“I've always thought they were wrong, you know?”
“The Thalmor...the way they think, is wrong. I knew that since I was little and yet...” He started to cry.
Derbana froze for a moment, not believing what she was seeing. Reaching down, he grabbed his shoulder and then brought him in for a full hug.
“It's all right, Jerthar. You're free of them now. Come on, let's go.”
He wiped away his tears, “You're right. Let's go home.”
“Unfortunately, we can't. Now that the door is open, we need to finish this.”
“What remains is the Guardian.”
“Hopefully, just that. Are you good to walk?”
He stood up, “Yeah, I'm just fine. Let's go.
They walked pass the other side of the Pillar and through the door on the far side. What awaited them, they could not believe.
It was an Oculory similar to those found in the deepest part of Dwemer ruins. This dome structure featured a ceiling with rotating sections each getting smaller the higher it goes. The center of the floor was a focusing array that stood with lens pointing toward various spots on the ceiling, judging by the array, it was housing what they were looking for. On the opposite side of the door was a platform with the control console for the array in the center with two ramps leading up to it on both sides.
“So, this is what one of those look like.” Jerthar looked at it with amazement, he pulled a book out of his backpack and with a piece of graphite, he began to sketch it with impressive detail, “Out of all my expeditions with Professor Melaven, we never encountered one of these devices. We've only heard of them, never before had we seen one.”
Derbana shrugged, “I've seen two of these before. The sight of which is easily lost when you have to figure out how to work it.”
“Where exactly did you see those two?”
“One's in Blackreach that I told you about and the other was in a Dwemer ruins called Mzulft.”
“As I said before, Blackreach I never heard of and Mzulft...that was a bad story. Traveling all that way to have the Synod kick us out. But we already had a lot of samples, so it wasn't like we returned empty-handed.”
They were at the top of the platform by now and Derbana looked at the controls.
“The good news is the Dwemer Lexicon is still in its receptacle and the focusing crystal still is in place.”
Jerthar turned around, “It seems we now know who the one was who sealed the Oculory in the first place.”
Derbana turned to see a skeleton sitting against the wall. His hooded wizard robes were red, the hems had a double gold border with runes sewn with the same gold thread in between the two lines. The chest was covered in a woven carapace made of dragon scales and the same was said about the pauldrons. No matter how Derbana looked at it, it shared a similar design with those worn by the Dragon Priests she fought throughout her journeys in Skyrim. Near his hand was a broken vial.
“Where are the rest? You said there were more of them.”
“I don't know, Derbana. Like I said, my view of these events are incomplete at best. If we are going to put a stop to this, we need to figure out this puzzle. Um...” He looked at the three buttons before him.
“Why don't I handle that, you handle the correcting of the lens.”
“How do I do that?”
“Use Frost and Fire spells when I tell you.”
He nodded, gathering Frost energy in one hand and Fire energy in the other.
“Having operated two of these before, the correct order should be...” She pressed the three buttons in a specific order, causing the rows in the ceiling to rotate. Just as she predicted, they rotated with the large jade-colored mirrors lining up to where the lens should direct the light.
“Frost the top lens twice, Fire the middle and bottom lens once each.”
Throwing the bolts two at a time, the top lens dipped down toward the ground as the other two lenses moved upward, redirecting the lines of light to be absorbed by the mirrors. With the light in all three mirrors, the room began to shake as the focusing array lifted itself up toward the ceiling as a new column appeared in the room. When it stopped and locked into place, it was a small doorway revealed another set of spiral stairs.
Derbana and Jerthar walked through the doorway and down the stairs, making their way deeper into the earth. Casting Magelight to the back of Derbana's helmet, the pitch black lit up just enough to see the next step in front of them. After what seemed like hundreds of steps and a few recasting of Magelights later, they arrived at the final chamber.
They knew they were close as light shone down from the stairs ahead. Passing through another slim doorway, Derbana looked around. It was as if she was standing in the Hall of the Elements back in the College of Winterhold and there stood the Heart of Magnus. It was almost identical to the Eye, but it radiated with more power.
“This is...impossible. It's like we're back at the College.”
“Derbana, we can't be sure if this is real. We could be caught in an illusion since we walked into this room.”
“I don't think this is an illusion.” She removed a gauntlet to feel a column with her bare hand, “This feels the exact same.”
“The Guardian could be using your memories to create this room, you remember how the pillar felt, so would he.”
“I don't think so, look.” Derbana pointed to around the Heart.
Laying down in front of it were several skeletons wearing the same robes as the one upstairs. Each of them were facing it as if they basked in its power before they died.
Just then, they heard the whirling of gears. They ran around the sides of the Heart to the back of the chamber where the Guardian awoke, waiting for them.
It was a Dwarven Centurion Master, but it looked different. It wasn't golden instead it was more of a shade as its form was black, glowing with a purple aura and staring at them with red eyes.
Derbana notched an arrow and Jerthar readied his spells. From the core of the Guardian came two streams of purple-black energy that hit both of them in the chest. Shortly after, they were encased in a magical sphere, their vision of the room and each other dimmed to total darkness.
When she could see again, Derbana felt the night breeze running through her. She opened her eyes to see she was no longer deep under the earth, but in the courtyard of Sky Haven Temple.
“What? What am I doing here?”
Then, two shadowy spheres appeared as if teleported from afar. When the spheres faded, two people stood before her, causing her to gasp. It was Esbern and Delphine, both having an arrow sticking out of them: For Esbern, it was in the back as Delphine's was in her throat.
“Why, Derbana? Why did you betray us?”
“We did everything for you. Why did you kill us?”
Their ghostly voices echoed toward Derbana as she took a step back. She remembered the incident well, how could she forget when she was the killer.
Ten months ago, shortly after the death of Alduin. Derbana, Delphine, and Esbern stood in the courtyard to discuss another matter.
“No, I won't do it.” Derbana protested.
“He must be killed, Derbana. He's a Dragon, it won't be long before he brings destruction down upon us all.” Esbern remarked.
“He's right, Derbana. The longer we wait, the more Dragons will come to destroy us.”
“Paarthurnax helped me to defeat his brother. He was the one who betrayed him to fight with us. Even as we speak, more and more Dragons are rallying to him and his cause. Should he die, then the Dragons will be an even greater danger than they are now.”
Esbern pointed at her, “All the more reason. He betrayed Alduin, it will only a matter of time before he betrays you, too. He has caused enough destruction, it is time he pays for his crimes.”
Derbana turned to Delphine, “You can't be believing this.”
“It's true, he's aided you...but that's only because you are Dragonborn. A Dragon such as him doesn't see you as his friend, he saw you as a means to an end, Alduin's end. Now, he presides over all Dragons and if he commands them all, there will be no safe place for any Man, Mer, or Beastman in all of Tamriel.”
“Derbana, we've already discussed this thoroughly. It is for the good of all of us to have Paarthurnax die. It's your duty as the Dragonborn to slay Dragons, is it not?”
“Yes, but I...”
“Derbana, go. Kill Paarthurnax and bring an end to this.”
She was boiled over in anger, she breathed calmly, “Fine, I know what I have to do.”
Leaving toward the door, the other two looked back toward the east.
“Do you think she'll do it?” Delphine asked.
“Without question, it is not like her to...” His sentence ended as an iron arrow stabbed through his back.
“What the?” Delphine asked, turning to see Derbana charging at her.
Before Delphine could draw her sword, Derbana pushed her to the ground and with a stomp on her chest, Derbana's full weight was on her as well as an arrow pointed at her.
“What are you doing?”
“What I must to assure the safety of the world.”
“We were going to reform the Blades, we were going to have you charge into battle and end the Dragons once and for all! How can you do this?”
“I'm a person! I'm more than just Dragonborn. What do you think I am? A magical savior that's going to save all your problems?”
“Because of what you've done, the Dragons will grow even stronger. The world needs the Blades once again.”
“You'd put men and women, untrained at fighting Dragons, in harm's way for what...your vanity? Your perfect view of the world? Even if I fought Dragons for the rest of my life, my work would never be done. Paarthurnax is the only means to secure a lasting peace.”
“They're monsters and you would bargain with them? Did you forget what they did to the West Watchtower and Kynesgrove? Did you forget what horrors they unleashed?”
“Yes, I have not forgotten. But that was when Alduin was still alive, he's dead and this time forever. His soul can not come back from Oblivion, that I promise you.”
“You...what are you?”
She drew back her arrow, “I'm Derbana the Third! Not some plaything of destiny called Dragonborn.”
Releasing the arrow, Delphine left this world. With the death of those two, Derbana left Sky Haven Temple behind her for good.
Now, the two she betrayed for the greater good stood before her.
“You killed us? Why”
“You asked me to do something I couldn't do. You asked me to kill my friend.”
“Weren't we your friends, too?”
Derbana choked up a little, “That wasn't an easy decision for me. But you two couldn't understand them as I did.”
“You failed us.”
Then, it all came together. What they meant by testing your resolve. Derbana stood up straight with a blazing look of determination in her eyes.
“No, you failed yourselves. You believed what you were doing was for the good of the world without realizing the consequences. You were the ones...” She stepped forward, this time it was Esbern and Delphine who took a step back in fear, “who wanted to use me as a puppet for your damn cause!”
“No, I still believe what I did was right, though tragic it was. But no one looked at me as if I was to be used as a symbol: Not the Companions, not the College, not the Thieves' Guild, not even the Empire. No one but you two. I'm not your fucking puppet!”
They looked behind them to see nothing but the edge of the cliff.
“I'm Derbana the Third, daughter of Derbana the Second, wife of Sondas Drenim, and sister to Jerthar! This is who I am and now I cast you out!” She pushed them off the cliff and watched them disappear into the darkness alone. The illusion ended and Derbana disappeared from it.
At the same time, Jerthar found himself in a familiar place as well. A large ivory room with three walls full of bookshelves, the fourth wall led to a balcony giving a splendid view of the trees and the ocean below. In the center of the room was a long banquet table filled with parchment, drawing utensils, measuring tools, unfinished projects, and even more books. This was the research area of Professor Melaven and him. He had a small smile, seeing the old home again.
He turned around to see the Professor. An elderly Altmer who used his staff as a cane as he stroked his white beard.
“Why did you leave me behind?”
Jerthar smiled and raised his hand, “Is this all you've got?” He charged lightning in his hand, “It was his idea and had no regrets of letting me go or me of leaving him behind.”
He shot a bolt of lightning through the chest of his Professor.
“Besides if you were really the Professor, the first thing you'd have asked for was: Is the tea ready?” He smiled as he faded away.
With both of them free, they looked to see the Guardian ready for them. Still having the arrow notched, Derbana raised her bow and fired the first arrow, hitting the guardian in the face, causing it to reel backward. Jerthar threw his Shock spell forward, landing a direct hit to the chest. As she fired another arrow, this time landing close to where the spell had hit, the Guardian got back to his feet and threw a shadow volley forward. Derbana dodged as best she could, but with the overwhelming number, she was hit and thrown back toward the front of the room.
She slid across the floor and coughed. Jerthar threw another bolt of lightning forward, but the Guardian seemed unfazed by his attack. Rushing over, making a noise of gears whirling and steam spouting, the Guardian raised its arm overhead and brought it down.
Hearing the crash, Derbana looked over to see the small dust cloud where Jerthar once stood, “Jerthar!”
As the cloud dissipated, there was only the Guardian. Suddenly, a pair of hands was helping her get back to her feet.
“Jerthar, you're alive.”
“Was there any doubt?”
The Guardian turned to them and made its way over slowly.
“Listen, Derbana. I can only sidestep like that a few more times at most, we need a plan.”
“I got an idea.” She whispered it into his ear, which made him smile.
As she backed away, he looked at her, “Yes, I can do that. Just keep it distracted.”
Derbana drew and notched another arrow as Jerthar ran away from her and around the Heart. The Guardian's gaze fixed on the mage until an arrow bounced off the side of his head.
“Hey, ugly! Why don't you pick on someone your own size?”
The Guardian stomped forward, throwing another shadow bolt that hit Derbana in the chest, causing her to fly and land against the wall. Falling down and landing on her front, she drew Mehrunes' Razor and crawled away as best she could. When she was tired, Derbana flipped onto her back, gazing at the ceiling above. A few moments later, the Guardian stood over her.
“Come on, you son of a bitch!”
The Guardian raised a foot and stomped it down...into Mehrunes' Razor. Her own strength was used to keep his foot from going down all the way. The dagger acted like a thorn in the lion's paw as the Guardian began to thrash around.
He sidestepped from where he was onto the back of the Guardian. Climbing up his chassis, he hugged around his shoulders, holding the head as best he could.
“Let's see how well you do...” He teleported a few feet still holding the head, “without this.”
The headless body of the Guardian stepped around, trying to grab at the space where its head once was. Derbana pulled out the dagger and rolled away from the Guardian who stomped away for a while before stopping, falling on its back.
With it inoperable, the shadowy aura faded and it was just a normal Centurion Master. Jerthar stroked his chin and walked forward. Focusing a Shock spell into his fingertips, he gently brought his fingers down through the front of its chassis until it reached the bottom. Carefully he tore it open and looked into its inner workings.
“I see, fascinating. They used a normal Dynamo Core as the outer shell. This is the reason behind its mysterious powers.” He turned to show it to her.
Instead of the normal red crystal housed in its center, it was a black crystal, something Derbana has seen before.
“Wait...that's a Black Soul Gem?”
“A Grand one. It is no wonder why it had a malevolent feel about it. I'm going to keep this, it will prove invaluable research.”
Just as he put it in his backpack, the whole room shook.
“That's if we get out of here alive.”
“But the Heart...”
“Leave it! The whole dungeon is collapsing in on us. It will be buried and so will we, if we don't get moving.”
She grabbed his arm and together made their way toward the exit. As they approached the door, a large piece of the ceiling collapsed and dropped toward them. Derbana had no choice but to push him back and dive away. It crashed and blocked up the stairway.
She turned to see that it has collapsed, “No...No!”
Falling to her knees, her fresh tears started staining the ancient floor. Jerthar got back to his feet shortly after and held her shoulders.
“I'm sorry, Derbana. If it wasn't for me, you would be back in your husband's arms and far from this nightmare. I should be the only one to die here, not you.”
She shook her head, “It's not just the two of us who are going to die here.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I...I'm...” She cried even harder.
“I...I didn't...know...” Jerthar dipped his head and gripped her shoulders, “I'm going to teleport us back to Whiterun right now.”
“Normally, I can teleport by line of sight. I've been perfecting to teleport by memory, but I had no successful attempts.”
“If it can get us out of here...do it...please...” Her voice was now too weak to speak.
He gripped her around the neck and closed his eyes. They blinked and when they opened their eyes. They were still in the room, they hadn't moved a single inch.
“I'm sorry...for getting your hopes high.”
She tapped his palm and crookedly smiled, “At least, I'm here with family.”
They both shared the same smile before more of the room fell down around them. She closed her eyes, thinking of everyone once more.
“Forgive me, little one. Forgive me for not seeing you for the first time. Please, forgive me, everyone.”
She cried on the floor as Jerthar walked into the center of the room. After hearing the shaking of bones, she saw Jerthar donning one of their robes.
“Jerthar, what are you doing?”
“I'm going to try something. Before we give up, we need to try everything we can until our last breath. It said so in that book you gave me.”
“These robes were made by ancient magic and have bathed in the power of the Heart. Maybe they are enough to...” Fully donning it over his Thalmor robes, he felt a surge of power like never before.
Quickly walking over to Derbana, she smiled. Then she heard it, the crumbling of the ceiling. Dust and debris fell down fast and shattering against the ground.
“Look out!” Her warning came too late as one small rock knocked him on the head. Stumbling forward, Derbana caught her younger brother and held him in her arms. As she lowered them to the ground, he struggled to stay awake, but to no avail as the world quickly dimmed around him.
“S...orry...” Was his last word before falling into unconsciousness.
She didn't know why, but she smiled. Holding the one member of her family she didn't expect to find. It must have been fate she thought. Her mother, her father, and now her. With no way out now, she sighed as she accepted this to be her time. Still, though...
“I wish only to have seen Sondas one more time and tell him the wonderful news.” She said, a tear falling to the ground. In her heart, she wished that things didn't end this way.
“You will.” A voice of an old friend spoke as his hand laid on her shoulder.
Her tear-filled eyes looked up to see a man she knew before. Her smile broke wide, not believing the miracle that just happened.
“Quaranir? What are you doing here?”
“We've arrived just in time. Thanks to your efforts, another artifact of Magnus can be kept safe until the world is ready for it.”
She looked around to see other members of the Psijic Order walking to the Heart and encircled it. Time seemed to slow until it reached a full stop. She was amazed at the falling debris just hanging in mid-air.
“Because of you and your ally defeating the dungeons' defenses, we were finally able to pinpoint the location of the last artifact of Magnus. Now to bring this chapter to a close.”
The other members levitated into the air and disappeared as the blue energies of their spell were left behind, only to vanish shortly after.
With time still frozen, Quaranir smiled, “Are you ready to go home?”
She nodded and with his spell cast, they disappeared from the collapsing dungeon. Leaving every horrible thing about it behind them forever.