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Skyrim Story - Of Dawn And Dark: Part 7: The Forgotten Vale
Derbana didn't know what to feel, what to think, what to say. All she could do was cry as she laid in the low water surrounding the eye sculpture in the middle of the Ancestor Glade. Serana sitting there on her knees as she wondered what to do next. Gazing at her Dragonborn companion in her fragile state, there wasn't much they could do.
Finding out her father was with the enemy, acting as their puppet doing their whims. On top of this, her husband was their prisoner and they didn't know if he was alive.
Serana leaned over her friend, “Derbana...we have to go. Tell me, what did the Elder Scrolls show you?”
As she asked this, she blocked her eyes, protecting herself from Derbana's recent aftereffects. However, she got no response from this, only more crying. Serana grabbed her arm and lifted her off the ground.
“Derbana, We have to put an end to this prophecy and stop my father. I will not allow you to stay here and cry as he gets closer to fulfilling it! I need you to pull yourself together and get yourself back in order.”
She sniffed as she wiped her tears aside, “Sorry, Serana. I just feel...how could I let this happen?”
“It's not your fault. Your father's enslavement nor your husband's imprisonment. They are the work of my father. There's nothing you could have done to prevent this.”
“But...I...” She wiped more tears away, “I've never felt so powerless before.”
“What do you mean?”
“As long as I can remember, I have always had control...in combat and in life. When I got married, I knew I had to give up some of that control, but I...” She wiped away more tears, “I didn't want this to happen to him!”
“Don't blame yourself, Derbana. You didn't know this would happen, all we can do now is find Auriel's Bow and stop my father.”
“I know, but I don't want my child to come into this world without a father. I don't want...her or him to end up like me or my mother. Both of our fathers died before we were born. Since then, I thought my family was cursed. I didn't try to get attached, but...” She smiled, “I saw his handsome face and just melted right there. I knew I wanted to be with him forever.”
“That's nice and I would love to hear the rest of that story, but only after we've finished with this one. Tell me, where did the scrolls tell you to go?”
“Right...” The last of her tears were gone, “Darkfall Cave. That's where it said to go. In the mountains a few hours west of Solitude. We should...should be there in two, three days on Arvak.”
“Are you all right? Do you need some more time?”
“No, no, I've wasted enough time as it is. Let's get going.” Derbana threw the spell to summon Arvak and they got on his back, riding down the mountainous road to the north. By the end of the day, the aftereffects wore off to everyone's satisfaction.
The next three days were quiet outside the usual vampire attack. Serana noticed how angry Derbana has gotten toward her kind, probably now more so than before. Each night, they were met by a group of three. It seems Harkon knows they have found the bow's location and wants to stop them. After each attack, they made camp further down the road and went to sleep for the night. Every time she went inside the warmth of her bedroll, Derbana cried, thinking of Sondas and praying to the Nine that he was still alive.
Back in the too familiar setting of the Reach, the two dismounted Arvak and walked inside.
“Are you sure this is the place?”
“Yes, without a doubt.”
The complete darkness soon ended as sunlight poured in through the cave ceiling and a waterfall roared as it fell down into the deep hole. Derbana had her bow with an arrow notched, Serana followed closely behind. Stopping for a moment, Derbana pulled back her bowstring and let the arrow fly through the waterfall. It sunk into something deep and a death rattle was heard. As they followed the path around to the other side. She retrieved her arrow and saw it was a giant frostbite spider that she killed. Without stopping, they walked deeper into the cave.
Turning right around the corner, they arrived at a rope bridge suspended over a roaring river. Derbana took one step on the bridge as it creaked loudly. The table on the other side had something on it, she couldn't tell what it was.
“Stay here for a moment. I'm going to find out what's on the table.”
“How? That bridge looks like it could fall apart with a single step.”
Derbana nodded, “You're right.”
She took a few steps back and got a running start, kicking hard off the ground just short of the bridge. She hung in the air for the second she needed.
“Wuld!” The weakest version of the Whirlwind Sprint shot her through the air and caught herself just short of the wall. The bridge swayed slightly, but held as she explored the other side. However, there was nothing of value except for some moonstone veins. After quickly mining the ore, she gazed back at the bridge and took one step on it.
The aged ropes snapped and the wood planks cracked as the entire bridge gave way. The two looked down to see the swirling waters swallow up the bridge, then they slowly looked back up to each other. Derbana got her back against the wall and breathed deep.
“Serana, stay clear!”
Once her friend was clear from the tunnel, she broke out into a run.
“Wuld Nah Kest!”
She made it right through to the other side. They explored the rest of the cavern and found the only means to get forward was the river. It wasn't a pleasing prospect for either of them, but they decided to jump together. They splashed into the water and thankful the river wasn't shallow, however that was little comfort as they tumbled around, trying to keep their heads above water.
Soon what Derbana had hoped there wasn't, a waterfall. After telling Serana to brace herself, they both fell down the large cave shaft and Derbana kept a tight hold of Serana as they met the water on their side, it hurt, but they were still alive.
The river ended at a natural dam and they stopped as the water kept flowing, Derbana let go and climbed over the rocks. When her feet met solid ground, her armors and clothes were dripping wet. Though this was the least of her problems, the three giant frostbite spiders that came down from their web holes in the ceiling. After Serana freed herself, they were no match for the two adventurers.
With the spiders dead, they had to deal with something far more dangerous. Derbana knew from her first time diving into the waters of Skyrim, she nearly frozen to death in her wet armor. It wasn't easy finding a dry spot to set up the fire.
She laid out some firewood she had in her backpack. It was as wet as everything else, but a flame spell from both hands did much to dry it off and light it. In the glow of the fire, the two ladies sat on the rocks in their underwear. Their armor and weapons laid in a circle around their fireplace, it would be some time before they could wear them again.
As they waited, Derbana stared into the flame as Serana tried her best not to look at her companion. However they had the time on their hands, she gazed up at her and smiled.
“So, tell me. How are you feeling?” Serana asked slowly, making it more awkward.
“I don't want to talk about it.”
“Well, you may find it hard to believe. But being buried for all those centuries has left me a little...tense around silence.”
Derbana smiled and laughed, the first time in a while she has done so.
“I looked, I mean...” Serana looked away, “I saw the despair in your eyes, you know...back in the glade. That's something no one should have to experience. So maybe talking about it might be the best thing.”
“It's just...I'm...I don't...” She sighed and lowered her hands, “I don't know how to explain it. For the longest time, I have always been alone. No father from when I was born, no mother when I was around fourteen. I'd been alone for nearly thirty years. The only thing I ever had to rely on was what my mother had taught me. Not only that, but I've always seen myself as a warrior...” She remembered fighting the Battle of Whiterun, “a thief...” Stealing gold and jewels for professional and personal gain, “an assassin...” All the enemies she killed from the shadows whether by arrow or blade, “and my whole life, that is what I considered myself to be.” She nodded, looking at Serana who nodded back.
Then a small smile as she raised her gaze from the flame to look straight ahead, “Then...I met him...Sondas. He was the only person I have ever felt that way in my entire life.” She brought her arms around herself, “When he holds me in his arms: all the pain, all the turmoil, all the stress of my adventures; it washes away and becomes forgotten. In his arms, I melt and I almost never want to leave his embrace.”
She sighed and rested her cheek on her propped arm, “When I'm with him, I'm not the warrior, thief, assassin I always thought of myself. With him by my side...” She smiled, “I'm a woman, a lover, and soon I'll be a mother.”
Serana was taken back, “I...didn't know...I wonder...”
Derbana's expression changed to her usual determination, “That is why I will not allow Harkon to take him from me.”
Serana's eyes widened as she gasped, “Huh?”
“I told you my grandfather died before my mother was born and my father died before I was born. Somehow, Harkon brought him back as that monster. I will not allow my child to come into this world without his or her father. I promised myself this much when I confirmed I was pregnant.”
“Somehow, I will save Sondas and fulfill that promise.”
“But, my father...he doesn't keep prisoners, Derbana. You may have to face the fact that your husband...may be...”
She shook her head, “I know he's alive.”
“How could you possibly...”
“Because this is the same feeling I felt when my mother was captured by the Thalmor. For months, I knew in my heart she was still alive. At first, I thought it was my nerves and blind wishes, but now I know that it was my heart telling me, so I know Sondas is still alive.”
Serana nodded, even if she didn't believe. It was important that Derbana believed. They sat there in silence for the next hour when their weapons and armor have warmed up by the fire. Serana put on her armor and felt it was still a little wet whereas Derbana was cheating with her armor.
“What are you doing?”
Derbana started casting her flame spell on her armor that went up and down without burning it.
“It's made from dragon scales that are resistant to flame. I couldn't do this with yours, anyway.”
“Well, it was nice to talk for a while.”
“But, it's time to move on.”
With nothing more needed to be said, the two walked deeper into Darkfall Cave. With a little help from Serana, their path always had a light. Some time later, Serana tripped over something and fell on her front. Derbana picked her up and got her back to her feet.
“What was that?”
Serana illuminated the floor and she gasped, she tripped over a dead woman. Derbana knelt down and scooped her face in one hand to get a better look.
“Breton, she's been dead for about two weeks. The cold must have preserved her.” She looked up at the table and saw a note there.
“What kind of creature can do this?”
“Apparently, trolls.” She passed her the open letter, “That's what's written on the letter.”
After reading, Serana asked, “Why would anyone want to live near these things?”
“Your guess is as good as mine. After all my adventures, I don't even try to anymore.”
“Should we...do anything...about her?”
“Unfortunately, we don't have the time. It's best if we press on.”
She didn't like it either, but they had no choice. They continued on their path, dodging a tripwire and they entered a large cavern. The trolls in the letter were standing there. Pulling back an arrow from her bow, she took out one of the trolls and the other soon fell.
“Come forward. You have nothing to fear here.” The voice echoed from around the corner.
They came around and walked forward to see a white elf standing in front of a small stone altar with a golden pedestal on top and a golden sun atop the pedestal. Candlelight lit up the back chamber as they saw a large stone dome with the same golden sun atop it and a hexagonal stone base with two steps that rose the dome above the water, making it into a small island.
They walked closer into the light, Derbana couldn't recognize anything about this person whether it was his race nor has she seen that type of armor before. A pale white chassis with tasset, greaves, and gauntlets. She didn't know what this armor was made of.
“Greetings, my name's Derbana, my friend is Serana, and you are?”
The man put his hands on his hips as he introduced himself, “I am Knight-Paladin Gelebor. Welcome to the Great Chantry of Auri-El.”
She looked around to see this cave was the supposed place where the bow was kept.
“This cave is a temple to Auriel?”
“Auriel, Auri-El, Alkosh, Akatosh...so many different names for the sovereign of the Snow Elves.”
“Snow Elves? You're a Falmer?” Derbana didn't believe.
“I prefer Snow Elf. The name 'Falmer' usually holds a negative meaning to most travelers. Those twisted creatures you call Falmer, I call the Betrayed.”
“I imagine you know why we're here?”
“Of course. You're here for Auriel's Bow. Why else would you be here? I can help you get it, but first I must have your assistance.”
“What kind of assistance do you need?”
“I need you to kill Arch-Curate Vyrthur, my brother.”
“Kill your brother...” Jerthar flashed into her mind, “Why?”
“The kinship between us is gone. I don't understand what he's become, but he's no longer the brother I once knew. It was the Betrayed...” A small hint of anger in his voice, “they did something to him, I just don't know why Auri-El would allow this to happen.”
“What exactly did the Betrayed do?”
“They swept into the Chantry without warning and began killing everyone without pause.”
“And you fought back?”
“The Chantry was a place of peaceful worship. I led a small group of paladins, but we were no match for the Betrayed's sheer numbers. They slaughtered everyone and stormed the Inner Sanctum where I believe they corrupted Vyrthur.”
“How do we know he's still alive?”
“He's alive. I've seen him. But something's wrong. He never looks as though he's in pain or under duress. He just...stands there and watches, as though waiting.”
“Have you tried getting into the Inner Sanctum?”
“Leaving the wayshrines unguarded would be violating my sacred duty as a Knight-Paladin of Auriel and an assault on the Betrayed guarding the Inner Sanctum would only end with my death.”
“Yes, let me show you.”
He turned away from Derbana and walked across the water toward the stone dome. Holding one hand up as if casting a spell, it glowed with a brilliant light and when he faced the wayshrine, he cast the spell. For a second, nothing happened and then, a rumbling as the dome slid up from the earth, revealing it to be a shrine with a large archway raising from the ground. Walking into the water, Derbana and Serana saw a water basin in the center of this shrine.
Gelebor turned back to them, “This structure is known as a wayshrine. They were used for meditation and for transport when the Chantry was a place of enlightenment. Prelates of these shrines were charged with teaching the mantras of Auri-El to our Initiates."
“What's that basin in the center signify?” Serana asked.
“Once the Initiates completed his mantras, he'd dip a ceremonial ewer in the basin at the wayshrine's center and proceed to the next wayshrine.”
“So these Initiates had to lug around a heavy pitcher of water. Marvelous.” Serana's tone could not have been any more sarcastic, “How long would they have to do that?”
“Well, once the Initiate's enlightenment was complete, he'd bring the ewer to the Chantry's Inner Sanctum. Pouring the contents of the ewer into the sacred basin of the Sanctum would allow him to enter for an audience with the Arch-Curate himself.” Gelebor explained.
Serana said, “All that just to end up dumping it out? Makes no sense to me.”
“It's symbolic. I don't expect you to understand.”
Ignoring his tone, Serana summarized, “So, let's get this straight. We need to do all that nonsense to get into the temple, so we can kill your brother and claim Auriel's Bow?”
“I know how it all sounds, but if there was another way I'd have done it long ago.” Gelebor turned to Derbana, “The only way to get to my brother is by following in the Initiates' footsteps and traveling from wayshrine to wayshrine just as they did. The first lay at the end of Darkfall Passage, a cavern that represents the absence of enlightenment.”
“Exactly how many wayshrines are there?”
“There are five in total, spread far apart across the Chantry.”
“To think all these are kept in such large caves.”
“Caves? Oh, no. The Chantry encompasses far more than a few caves, as you'll soon discover, it is a place known in the common tongue as The Forgotten Vale. But before I send you on your way, you'll need the Initiate's Ewer.”
He went into the shrine where it rested inside the water basin. It was a round ceramic jug with a bottle neck and a long spout, the handle reached from the back of the spout to the top of the jug. Gripping the handle, Gelebor gave it to Derbana.
“So, I need to fill this at each wayshrine?” She asked while taking a closer look at it.
“Once you've located a wayshrine, there will be a spectral Prelate tending to it. They will allow you to draw the waters from the shrine's basin as if you've been enlightened.”
“Alright, we'll be going then.”
“This may be the last time we're able to converse. If you have any questions before you leave, I suggest you ask them.”
Derbana smiled, “Yes, I have a question. Can my brother meet you? Because he'd be fascinated by the stories you have to tell.”
“Well, of course. I welcome all who would seek answers, but you should really...”
“This will not be the last time we converse, Gelebor. Trust me.” Derbana said and walked deeper into the shrine where the mystic door had opened the same size as the shrine's archway, revealing the next leg of their journey.
“Then, all I can do now is grant you my hopes for a safe journey.” Gelebor said and smiled.
“Until next time.” Derbana smiled back.
The two walked through the portal and entered Darkfall Passage.
When they emerged, they found themselves standing on a similar hexagonal stone base as it was with the wayshrine. Thick stone pillars stood on the corners of the base, most were cracked and crumbled while one stood kept up the cave ceiling. They turned around to see that portal had vanished.
The cave tunnel was lit with the purple light from a strange plant that when they approached, disappeared inside their tubes. Derbana spotted something and put out an arm, stopping her friend.
“What is it?”
“A chaurus cocoon.” She drew an arrow and it pierced through, hearing a death shriek, “I hate chaurus hunters.”
“Derbana, look out!”
A female Falmer walked toward them, brandishing her staff. Serana threw a quick lightning bolt and the Falmer died instantly. Taking a moment to breath, Derbana stood up.
“Don't mention it.”
They ventured deeper into the Falmer territory. After a few more Falmer and their chaurus pets, they passed through a chaurus egg chamber and down the tunnel from there was a small Falmer village. Derbana knew these were dangerous and cautiously proceeded.
She saw two Falmer and took them out quickly. No one seemed to notice them as they crept across to the village center. Before the wide waterfall, there was a tent made from chaurus chitin. A female Falmer spellcaster was speaking in her indescribable, guttural language. It's as if she's performing some sort of ritual.
“How Snow Elf magic has devolved, eh? Derbana?”
The only reply was the twing from her bowstring and an arrow going straight into the neck, silencing the Falmer forever.
“I'm not taking any chances.”
They followed the path that led behind the waterfall and into the next part of the village. There were tents adored with the full corpses of their pets laid across the top as if resting from back-to-front. A small bridge of the same material spanned over a treasure chest with three strange plants.
“I've never seen these before. Maybe, Jerthar would like them as a present.”
“I'll look in the chest while you're doing that.”
Derbana bent down and harvested the first plant as Serana went to the chest.
“Serana, look out!”
She pushed her and herself down to the ground as two claws swept down from both undersides of the bridge snapping down and up to the bridge's center, then slowly reset in place. It would have been a tragedy if she didn't see the trap trigger in time.
“Don't mention it.” They shared a small laugh between each other. Soon, they were crossing the bridge and killing the two guards that lay on the other side. They now were walking around the largest node of geode stone Derbana has seen. Taking a satchel from her pack, she placed the gleamblossom and a hand-sized nugget of the stone she mined inside. The path led up and into a third area of the village that was built in front of the flowing waterfall from before.
A few more of the Falmer were standing guard, they laid slain in a matter of a few arrows. They crossed through the waterfall and heading down another long winding tunnel, they founded overlooking the largest chamber yet.
It was filled with pod plants, giant mushrooms, and small veins of geode stones was scattered about. Their rock paths led them up-and-down through the chamber, Derbana carefully harvesting what plants she could, even the hard-to-get poisonblossom. She even found a new species of deer with pale white stripes and spots around their fur.
Though their walk in this chamber was long as the natural bridges went in almost every direction in this place, they finally reached their goal at the far side where they entered. The first wayshrine laid before them and the Prelate approached Derbana.
“Are you prepared to honor the mantras of Auri-El and fill your vessel with His enlightenment?”
“Yes.” Was Derbana's only choice.
“Then behold Auri-El's gift, my child. May it light your path as you seek tranquility within the Inner Sanctum.”
And just like the magic Gelebor cast, the wayshrine slid out of the ground. It was an exact duplicate of the one before and she suspected the remaining wayshrines would be as well. Following the Initiate's path, she drew water from the basin and the next portal opened itself.
Once they were on the other side, they were standing in another cave. This one wasn't the dark, wet cave they were just in, it was glowing with the blue geode stones and was very dry, almost the polar opposite of what they just went through. The purple cave flowers covered the walls as they continued walking down the tunnel.
They arrived in a large chamber and when they looked up, they could see the sky. Each step through the tunnel was one more step closer to the surface. When they exited the last tunnel, they were midway up the large chamber as their path turned from tunnel to ramp.
Greeted by the sun and wind, they felt better now that they were above ground again. The path ended and they stood on the stones to smile at the sight before them. A small mountain valley with a sparse forest and patches of tall grass growing healthy in this place. The Initiate's path was laid out for them with a stone archway every twenty feet or so, most looked like the crumbling pillars.
They took their time to enjoy the scenery as they breathed in the fresh air. The pillars kept going and split off to the right. Heading up the hill that way, they came to the second wayshrine and drew the water from the basin after honoring the mantras.
Going back the way they came, they went down the other path that led away from this small valley up to the snow. As they approached the time, Derbana recognized the signs of a frostbite spider nest from the dessicated corpse hanging down from the overhanging rock. Four frostbite spiders were waiting for them at the peak of that path.
However they like many others, fell to both of them. With this battle ended, Derbana looked to the snow and saw a slain vale deer next to her. Taking out the satchel, she cut away a large piece of skin and put it away.
“Why are you doing that?”
“It's for my brother. Since he can't be here right now and as he would say...” She smiled, “Research never ends.”
Heading up over the edge, there was a large snow river valley with ice sheets built up over the water. The stone pillars were seen going left and right. Derbana had a strong feeling.
“Left first, then right.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“I don't know, just something telling me.”
The left path led downstream and eventually up to the third wayshrine. With all the formalities out of the way, they started to return to the right path when Serana noticed something.
“Another set of pillars is leading up the cliff across the river, do we go there?”
She looked at the way back and if there was another crumbled archway here, it will keep them on the path. Figuring it would be easier to cross the river here, she held Serana in both arms and with the Whirlwind Sprint, they stood on the other side of the river without a single drop of water.
Climbing up the cliff one step at a time, they were soon at the top. They had managed to save the time traveling back, but they now were faced with something more treacherous than going around.
A frozen lake as far as the eye could see was now before them. Derbana took her time walking across the ice, having Serana staying several feet behind her because she knew she carried more weight than her vampire friend with her armor and backpack full of items. So, she had her stay back in case Derbana fell through the ice.
This sensible plan was going well, they were about halfway through when Derbana stopped.
“Friend, what is it?”
She turned as if in a trance toward the remains of a monument. The lonely piece of stone atop a few stairs was there on the edge of the lake. Walking toward it, Derbana didn't hear the questions of her friend, she kept walking and climbed the steps until she was face-to-face with the monument itself. In the nearly-faded etchings glowed white and a Word of Power was before her.
The energy flew from the Word into her and she felt the essence being added to her own. It was the dragon word for magicka and it felt as if to drain a spellcaster of his strength. The Word faded from the wall and the essence that made Derbana glow faded as well.
“So, what was that about?”
“I don't know. These Words are different than the others I've felt. They called me, that's true, but never this strong.”
“It could be this place...it feels more magical than the rest of Skyrim.”
“But what of Dimhollow? Is that place more magical?”
“I...I don't know...I always had a strange feeling about that crypt, but I never could figure out why that was made and for who?”
“Maybe, another day.”
Before Serana could finish her sentence, the lake behind them erupted as chunks of ice flew into the air, crashing down on the lake while misty snow hit them like a fast wind. As they turned to see what was happening. A pair of unearthly shouts cut through the air, Derbana remembered them too easily. Two dragons soared through the cloudy skies above.
As she looked at her airborne opponents, she knew that these dragons were unlike anything she has yet to fight. Just as fast as they hit the sky, they dived through the ice, leaving two more large holes in the hard surface.
They ran away as fast as they could, hoping to get to the other side quickly. The ice exploded from under their feet, throwing them in the air. As the world seemed to spin around her, Derbana looked to see the dragons were once more circling the air above them.
She smiled as she drew her bow and aimed her shot while still flailing around, she also knew one thing...this was going to be a fight to remember.