Skyrim Story - Those Born Of Dragons: Part 2: Welcome To Raven Rock
Their first morning at sea, Derbana awoke in her bunk and slowly rolled her way to sit up, taking a breath as she readied to get to her feet. When she looked up, Sondas and Jerthar were standing there and offered her a hand. Smiling at her family, she took both hands and lifted herself back to her feet.
“Thank you both, it would have taken a few minutes on my own. Who ever thought of bunks on a ship did not have pregnant women in mind.”
“Because we all know they make the best sailors.” Jerthar quipped.
Sondas put a hand on his shoulder, “We'll leave you be, dear. Come up whenever you are ready to join us.”
“She's already on deck, looking out at the ocean. We'll see soon.”
They walked up the stairs and left her alone below deck. Still in her night gown, she stretched all her muscles as best she could. She dedicated at least half an hour to this, keeping her limber and flexible. After her exercises, she went for her armor. Underneath the bunks was cargo netting a foot high. Here is where they stored all their equipment when not in use.
In a few minutes, she donned her entire armor. Her breastplate still felt tight across her midsection, it was more uncomfortable than painful. She already had the means to take care of it, though not the tools.
When she got above deck, the ship's crew was busy working as Serana kept her hood up, gazing at the water. Jerthar and Sondas were talking until they noticed Derbana on deck.
“So, what's the actual plan? You started to tell us yesterday and kind of trailed off.”
“Sorry for being tired and needing sleep, but since we've got some time on our hands, I want us to continue our training until we arrive at Solstheim, then we will go on from there. Sondas, here...” She passed him a wooden sword, “your combat training will continue on schedule.”
“I dread to ask, but what kind of training do you have in store for me?”
“Time to work those muscles, you're going to learn hand-to-hand.”
“Oh and what brought this on?” He crossed his arms.
“During our fight with Harkon, he had you at his mercy. If not for your magic, you would have been killed and sucked dry of blood. I want you to fight when you're out of magicka. I will teach you everything our mother taught me and we will spar at part of it.”
“You really expect me to punch a pregnant woman? Let alone, my sister.”
“That's if you can lay a hand on me, red eyes.” She was intentionally provoking him.
“What did you call me?” His blood pressure started to rise.
“You talk in your sleep.” She removed her gauntlets, giving them to Sondas, “Are you ready for your first lesson?”
He smiled, “Very well, if you're going to be that way...” He raised his fists, “Then allow me to deliver the first blow! AH!” He exclaimed as he threw his fist forward.
She easily swiped his hand aside and brought her other hand around, slamming it into his jaw from the side. Falling down on his back, the sailors laughed as Jerthar got back to his feet.
“You did quite well, but your fists aren't fast enough yet, it took too much time to deliver your punch. You need to be quicker if you want to survive in a real fight.”
He took a few deep breaths before lunging at her again. Another successful counter and another blow to the side of the head, this time on the other side. However as the days passed, Jerthar was improving. In one week, he was able to counter and redirect the punches several times before getting hit. As he laid there against the deck railing, he cast a minor Restoration spell for the hundredth time this week.
“This doesn't have anything to do with me abducting you on that adventure and me pretending to be unconscious through your last adventure, does it?”
“No, this is purely for teaching purposes.”
“Somehow, I'm not all that convinced.”
“Let him rest, Love. Why don't we focus on my training ?”
“This is Jerthar's time, that's what we've agreed on.”
“Where is this Raven Rock? Shouldn't we have arrived by now?” Jerthar said, struggling to get to his feet.
“Land Ho!” The sailor in the crow's nest shouted.
Jerthar smiled as Derbana looked down at him, “You got lucky.”
The crew of the Northern Maiden dashed across the deck, readying to turn the ship. The first sight of Solstheim was the large stone wall she would later know to be the Bulwark. It stood higher than any wall she has ever seen. A magnificent piece of stone standing far above the gray beaches and almost hiding the mountains far into the horizon.
Gjalund Salt-Sage spoke, “Well, here we are. This is Raven Rock. Can't say I'm all that glad to see it again.” As the ship turned the corner and showed the small settlement behind the Bulwark, “Good luck. Maybe you can figure out what's going on around here.”
Derbana nodded as the ship pulled into harbor and the crew started to tie it to the dock. Turning to the rest of her group, they were ready. As they started to depart from the ship, a finely-dressed Dark Elf stopped them.
“Wait, outlanders. I don't recognize you, so I'll assume this is your first visit to Raven Rock. State your intentions.”
“I'm looking for Miraak. He's threatening my family, do you know him?”
He shook his head, almost as if he was lost in thought, “Miraak...I...I'm not sure that I do. The name has something to do with the Earth Stone to the west of town, I think.” He shook it off, “Just remember, Raven Rock is sovereign territory of House Redoran. This is Morrowind, not Skyrim. While you're here, you will be expected to abide by our laws.”
“May I ask who are you to be so suspicious of us?”
“I have to be. My name is Adril Arano and as Second Councilor, the security of Raven Rock is my primary concern. This isn't exactly the city of Blacklight. We're on the frontier out here, and we've had more than a fair share of troubles. After all we've been through together, I refuse to let Councilor Morvayn down. He's House Redoran's representative on Solstheim, since you outlanders probably don't know that. As Second Councilor, it's my job to support him and make certain his rule is enforced.”
“What kind of troubles?”
“Nothing that concerns outlanders, go on your business.”
Derbana smiled, “Maybe we can be of help. As you can see, we are quite the gathering.”
“True, the Redoran Guard has been shambolic as of late. I guess it couldn't hurt if I let you help.”
Derbana's smile widened, knowing her silver tongue had worked again, “What kind of troubles do you need help with?”
After Adril told them of the problem, they promised to help which they sent Serana to handle that. Jerthar headed for the Earth Stone outside of town as Derbana and Sondas stopped by the local blacksmith to finish the work on her armor. A strong Nord stood over the forge, tending to the flames. Derbana didn't know it, but he looked very familiar.
She waved, “Greetings, can I...”
“You haven't seen Crescius Caerellius, have you? That foolish old man's taken my pickaxe again!”
Sondas stepped forward, “Why all the fuss over a simple pickaxe?”
“No, no, no. This isn't just your run-of-the-mill pickaxe. I'm talking about an Ancient Nordic Pickaxe. They don't exactly grow on trees, you know.”
“Can't you just get the guard to find Crescius?” Derbana asked.
“Um, I prefer to handle these things on my own. Look, if you see Crescius, tell him to give me that pickaxe back and I'll pay you for the trouble.”
Derbana noticed something on his door, “Sondas, dear. Can you start looking for Crescius? I'll join you shortly.”
Sondas looked at her, knowing that look in her eye, and nodded, “All right, dear.”
When he was out of earshot, she smiled, “I can see why you prefer to handle this on your own. You having that shadowmark on your door.”
“Well, well. It's been a long time since someone from the Guild's bothered to make their way out here. So tell me...how's my brother Delvin? Still spending his nights at the Ragged Flagon trying to win Vex's heart?”
“Wait, you're his brother?”
“What's wrong with that?”
“Nothing, It's just Delvin being him and he never talks about it. And it's as you said, he's still in the Ragged Flagon, fighting for a lost cause. Sorry, my name's Derbana and you are?”
“Glover Mallory. And if you're of the Guild, perhaps you can help me with something. Besides the pickaxe, I mean.”
“Sure, if I'm heading toward where the problem is.”
“All right. A fellow Breton who went by the name Esmond Tyne showed up on my doorstep about a fortnight ago.”
As he explained his situation involving how Esmond had stolen Glover's recipe for making Improved Bonemold Armor, Derbana took off her armor and laid it next to the forge. Removing the spare Dragonscale Armor she made for Sondas from her backpack. She took the time to undo the stitching from the midsection scales from both armors. Taking the scales from the spare armor, she placed and restitched them into her enchanted armor.
Donning her armor, she sighed in relief as it felt comfortable once again. Accepting Glover's request, Sondas returned.
“Dear, that was quick.” She saw him holding the Ancient Nordic Pickaxe in hand, “He gave it back to you.”
“I had a talk with him miner-to-miner and he agreed to give it to me, though he did have some choice words about Glover that I won't repeat here-and-now...or ever for that matter. But in exchange, he asks that you help him. He has an incredible story to tell.”
“We will take care of that, but after you see what my brother and Serana have found out about the Earth Stone. Defeating Miraak takes precedence here.”
“All right, but let's not keep him waiting for long.”
She turned to Glover, “Here's your pickaxe.”
“Keep it, I've got a feeling you'll be needing it more than me. I just wanted to remind Crescius that it's not right to take other people's thing.”
Derbana raised an eyebrow at Glover.
“You know what I mean.”
With nothing more to say, they walked toward the outskirts of town.
“By the way, why did he ask for my help, anyway?”
“Well, during the course of our conversation, I mention my wife is an adventurer and one thing led to another, you know how it is.”
“Yes, I do.”
In only a minute or two, they arrived at the Earth Stone. It was taller than a giant and brimming with a green energy that flowed from the top down into the earth. The Shrine that encased the Stone surrounded it with an ankle height of water and large stone archways were being built by various people from the town: merchants, guards, and others. However, they didn't seem to notice Derbana as she passed as if they were entranced with their work.
“Strange, nobody seems to notice we're here.” Sondas commented.
“Yeah, I've seen this before. Some sort of mind control.”
“Quite astute, young lady.” She heard a voice closing from behind an archway.
The Dark Elf turned around the pillar. He wore robes she's never seen before. Glancing at his posture, it was easy to guess he was a wizard.
He glanced into her eyes, “You don't seem to be in quite the same state as the others here. Very interesting. May I ask what it is you're doing here?”
“I'm looking for my brother, he's here to find information on someone named Miraak.”
“Miraak...Miraak...It sounds familiar, and yet I can't quite place...” He shook his head as if going out of a trance, “Oh. Wait, I recall. But that makes very little sense. Miraak's been dead for thousands of years.”
“What does that mean?”
“I'm not sure, but it is fascinating, isn't it? Perhaps, it has some relation to what's going on here. Quite unexpected. I'm afraid I can't give you any answers. But there are ruins of an ancient temple of Miraak's toward the center of the island. In fact, I told your brother there the same thing.”
It was easy to spot her brother as he examined the Earth Stone.
“Your brother is...interesting. It's rare to meet a mind such as his.”
“Thank you for your help. My name's Derbana and you are...”
“Master Mage Neloth of House Telvanni.” He bowed his head slightly, “At your service. I've finished all that I came here for. Come see me in my mage tower in Tel Mithryn on the southeast end of the island and...bring your brother.”
She nodded and walked across to her brother's side. He looked up to see her out the corner of his eye.
“So, what did you find out?”
“It's strange would be the best word I'd use to describe it. This magic is akin to the visibility spectrum of mage armor spells.”
“And what does that mean in common?”
“Protection spells radiate...shine the same way the magic that this stone is giving off. I don't know how to explain what this spell is, but what I know is this is powerful stuff.”
“I don't know, this doesn't feel like a normal spell. It feels...” She reached out and touched it, a sharp image of Miraak tore into her mind and instinctively, she pulled her hand away, “That was weird.”
“What did you see?”
“Miraak...just for a second. He was trying to get into my mind.”
“So, this stone is how he's controlling all of them. I haven't figured out how to stop it yet.”
“We need to find out more. Jerthar, go ahead to the Temple of Miraak and prepare the way. Sondas and I will join you after we help Crescius with whatever his problem is.”
“All right, Sister. I'm on it.”
They ran back to Raven Rock, Jerthar continued to the Bulwark Gate leading east out toward the wilderness of Solstheim. Derbana and Sondas went north toward the mountain where the entrance to Raven Rock Mine was.
The wooden doors creaked as they stepped inside. The signs of the East Empire Company hung on the rock walls as many crates stacked together on the floor beneath them.
“Damn it, woman! I said to leave me be!” A raised voice rung from around the corner.
Sondas sighed, “Great, they're at it again.”
“Again? You've heard this before.”
“You'll see, my love. You'll see.”
Walking around the corner, they saw two people: a Nord man and a Dark Elf woman. Derbana assumed the man to be Crescius.
“Crescius, last time you explored the mine you almost fell to your death. I'm not spending the rest of my days as a widow!” Aphia Velothi crossed her arms.
“And I'm telling you that I'll do whatever it takes to find my great-grandfather's remains. He's down here. I can feel it.”
“That was almost two centuries ago. There may be nothing left to find.”
“Just let me go, woman!”
Sondas leaned in toward his wife, “I told you.”
Aphia shook her head, “Crescius, you're an obstinate old fool and you're going to get yourself killed.”
After her final outburst, the elderly couple noticed the other two standing in the room.
“Ah, Sondas. Finally, someone who has some sense around here. And this lovely young lady must be your wife that you were talking about. Yes, she definitely looks like the adventurer you mentioned. Good, she could help with this.”
“Help with what exactly? My husband hasn't been forthcoming with all the details.”
Crescius explained, “Well, it's been difficult trusting people lately, they think I'm crazy. But mark my words, these mines hold a secret that could put Raven Rock back on the map.”
“What sort of secret?”
“A secret the East Empire Company swept under the rug two centuries ago. It killed my great-grandfather, and left Raven Rock with a worthless and tainted mine.”
“Who was your great-grandfather?” Derbana asked.
“Gratian Caerellius. He spent his entire life exploring ancient ruins across Tamriel and he died in these very mines almost two hundred years ago.”
“How did he die?”
“Hmph, the East Empire Company called it 'a terrible accident', claiming that he was lost in a rockfall, but I know better.”
Derbana shifted her weight as she had to figure more, “Hmm, what's your proof?”
“My wife and I were cleaning out our home, and we came across some of my great-grandfather's things locked in an old chest. I found an unsent letter he'd written to the East Empire Company and a key.”
“What did the letter say?”
“It describes a discovery that was made in the mine by some of the diggers. They wanted Gratian to take a closer look. The East Empire Company must have felt it was of great value, as they locked that section of the mine off from everyone else.”
“So, the key should open the locked section?”
“It is. Well, I assume it is. I haven't been able to find the entrance.”
“That sounds encouraging.” Derbana said sarcastically.
“Now you're starting to sound like everyone else. I'm telling you...there's something big down there, something that the East Empire Company wanted to hide from everyone.”
“Okay, calm down. I've already been drafted into this by my husband, I just wanted to know why all the facts is all.”
“Yeah, I know the feeling. My wife nags that I'm too old to go traipsing around these mines chasing my story. I want to know what happened to Gratian, and what the East Empire Company is keeping from all of us.”
“So, where do we start?”
“Gratian kept a journal of notes about his discoveries. If you can find his...remains, I'm hoping it will help. Here's everything I have. The letter, the key. Please, do this for me, so I can finally regain the respect that I've lost.”
“All right, we'll start right now. Come on, Sondas.”
“Who? Me?” He pointed to himself.
“Why teach you combat training if you're never going to use it? Besides, it helps to have some experience under your belt. Clearing out a mine is the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet.”
“But...I only did that because...”
“Come on, we don't have all day.”
He sighed, “Yes, dear.”
As they walked passed down the wooden steps, they heard.
“Be careful down there, the mine can be treacherous.” Crescius warned.
Aphia cleared her throat while crossing her arms, “What do you mean 'my wife nags'?”
Crescius sweated as he found himself in another cauldron of hot water with his wife.
Several dozen feet away, the other couple walked clearly around the mine. Passed the steps, the mine was a very large empty chamber with a series of natural and man-made paths connecting together along the walls of this chamber, spiraling down toward the bottom.
Heading down the first mine shaft, which ended abruptly after a few feet, but it caused Derbana to smile. She turned to her husband who wasn't as good as sneaking as she.
She whispered, “All right, there's a skeever right around the corner, facing away from us. It's easy, sneak around and bury your axe into its back. Quick and clean death, are you ready?”
“Listen, you want me to do it?” She drew an arrow and notched it/
“No, no, I got this.”
He did as he was told, the skeever didn't have a clue he was there. Softly gulping, he raised his axe overhead. Looking at the living creature, he closed his eyes and brought his weapon down. Hearing a sharp squeal, he opened his eyes to see the skeever was now missing a leg and really angry about it.
It hobbled as it turned toward Sondas. Just before it could leap, an arrow pierced it through the side, killing it instantly.
Derbana dropped her bow to her side as she approached her husband, “What was that?”
Derbana rubbed her brow, “Okay...it's fine. There will be another chance. This mine must be infested with creatures such as these. This one looks clear, let's move onto the next tunnel.”
Sondas nodded and they moved deeper into the mine. However the next tunnel had a similar result, but he got closer to the skeever's back this time.
The last tunnel had two frostbite spiders. Derbana killed one with ease and maimed the other for Sondas to finish. However, it seemed he didn't have it in him.
Derbana was seething a little bit as Sondas walked alongside her. Passed the two spiders, they walked through the rocky corridor, heading to where they believed. However, the eerie silence was getting to him as he looked at the irritated look she was sporting.
“How could you not kill that spider? I removed seven legs for you.”
“But, it was alive and I...”
“If you keep it alive, it would have wrapped you in its silk and eaten you from the inside-out. Trust me, showing mercy to beasts only leads to bad things in the...end!”
They turned the corner to see a giant frostbite spider crawled around, taking both of them by surprise. It threw a ball of webbing at Derbana, binding her arms.
Sondas looked as his wife fell on her back from the blow. He drew his axe and rushed forward. The first strike sliced off one of its fangs, the second buried itself in the right side of its eyes. It shrieked loudly as incredible pain resounded throughout it. Pulling out his axe, Sondas wheeled it around in his hand and brought it down into its brain, killing it.
Then the moment passed and Sondas saw what he had done, he propped a foot on the head of the dead beast and with a fierce tug, he dislodged his axe from its head.
Derbana groaned with all her might and ripped the webbing free. Shaking her sore arms to relieve some of the pain, she walked next to her husband and saw the spider dead at their feet.
“Wow, guess you do have it in you, after all.”
“It's...just...I saw you...and the next thing I know...I was standing over it. I just...”
She leaned in and pecked him on the cheek, “Thank you, Sondas. You did the right thing.”
“Thanks, Love.” He smiled and took her hand.
At the end of the tunnel was a large wall made of wood boards. Seeing as it was the only way they haven't explored, Derbana began tugging on the boards, knowing some of them had to be loose. Sondas helped her and in a few minutes, they found the weak set of boards and pulled them off the weakened studs one-by-one until a door-sized hole was freed up.
Centuries-old spiderwebs hung from the ceiling as they ducked down and brushed it away. Before them was a simple iron gate, Derbana took out Crescius's key and knew it to be the door they were looking for as it unlocked. Creaking loudly as it swung on its aged hinges, Derbana kept her sword ready, staying a few steps ahead of her husband. Down the wood plank ramp, they saw the supports that kept the mine stable and the telltale stone of a Draugr Crypt.
“Stay behind me and keep your eyes open. There are Draugrs here.”
“Draugrs? I thought they were just a story to scare unruly children.”
Derbana shook her head, “I thought so too until the first time I saw one about two years ago in Bleak Falls Barrow. They are real and very dangerous. So, keep your wits about you.”
As they passed the two large stones that leaned toward each other in an incomplete arch, Derbana knew this wasn't a typical nordic ruin. Instead of the bone dry setting she was used to, it was wet with six inches of water and plant life grew down the pillars.
She threw her arm up and he stopped. Sheathing her sword and shield quietly, she drew her bow and readied an arrow. Releasing it from her bowstring, the arrow flew through the hanging moss causing it to shift and the death rattle of a Draugr could be heard from its unseen resting place.
“How did you?” Sondas whispered.
She whispered back, “I made his faint outline from between the strains of moss. Like I told you before in your lessons, you need to train your eyes to spot enemies quickly.”
“Yeah, I know the feeling.” He said, standing and swinging his axe just above her helmet, making a sickening thud as it broke through the ebony breastplate of the Draugr Deathlord. The blow caused it to freeze, giving Derbana the second she needed to lodge an arrow under his jaw.
“Good job...” Her comment made him smile, “but there's one thing you forgot.”
Firing another arrow, it sunk into another Deathlord as it hobbled for a moment before falling lifeless once again on the wet ground.
Then an arrow whizzed toward them, She turned to see a fourth Draugr, though it was a weaker type, it was an archer as it drew another arrow. Quickly firing another arrow, it flew passed the archer, stunning it as Derbana dropped her bow to get close with her sword. It didn't last a single second against her as it went from undeath to death.
Once the danger was passed and she was sure they were safe for the time being, Derbana sheathed her blade and turned to Sondas who was just standing from his crouching position.
“Are you all right?” She asked.
“I'm fine, there's nothing for you to worry about.”
“You don't look good.”
“Like I said, I'm fine.”
“Just sit down a moment. Let me...” She noticed his wound, “Take a look at that.”
Pulling up his shirt, she was familiar with the sight of an arrow wound and pulled a potion from her bag and gave it to him.
“Drink this, it will make you feel better. That arrow must have been crawling with Divines know what. I'll tend to the wound.”
He did as his wife asked and the Cure Poison potion went smoothly down his throat as he drunk it all in several gulps. By then, she was finished with her healing spell.
“Next time, tell me you're hurt. You don't have to be tough for me.”
“I...just..wanted to show you I can do this. That...I didn't need to depend on you.”
“Darling, I was the one who wanted you to do this. And I am sorry, you're not ready for this yet and I...”
“No, my love. We started this together and we will finish it together.”'
She looked into his eyes and knew for once in their relationship, she could not win this fight. So, she simply smiled and hugged him.
“All right, let's get going.”
She helped him back to his feet and they walked further down the hall.
“Careful, there's a pressure plate right here.” She said to the one she was standing on.
“How are you doing that?”
“Training. Just go around me and up the stairs. I will join you a few seconds.”
Once they were up the stairs, they turned around the corner where another Deathlord was surprised to see the living intruders and was easily overtaken by the husband-wife pair.
At the end of the hall was another room with two thrones, both with Draugrs asleep sitting. Derbana loaded two arrows and fired them at the same time. They each landed deep into the chest of their mark. One fell dead and the other just stayed there.
After retrieving her arrows, they walked around to the other side where two more thrones with two more Draugrs sat still. Sondas and Derbana now stood each over a Draugr brought their weapons down and only one died the same.
The hall went up a gentle slope and the next room was a large domed chamber. Only the center of the chamber was lit up and Derbana had Sondas wait by the door as she walked in with her sword in hand and shield high.
Then she heard metal creak and bone crackle, Derbana readied herself as her sharp eyes peered into the darkness, pivoting around in one spot. She could only see her husband and the door they came through. Then the room became silent and Derbana stayed still waiting for the first move.
A Draugr ran into the light, screaming as it ran with its weapons held high. Derbana swung her sword around and sliced through its dried up flesh. Then, two more came running in and three immediately followed.
Sondas watched as his wife is beset on all sides by enemies. She struck down a second as a third came from behind. He rushed in and buried his axe in the spine of a Draugr not paying any attention, killing him. Jumping through the gap, he leapt in, taking on the third Draugr.
“It's okay, I got this!”
They danced around as the enemies got fewer, but more seemed to appear from the shadows. Derbana didn't know what to do as each Draugr that fell to her blade, another stood in her path.
“Sondas, how are you doing?”
“I don't know how long I can...AH!”
She turned to see Sondas gripping his chest and falling down to the ground. Derbana looked back to her opponent and dispatched it quickly. Dodge rolling over to Sondas, she stood over him, killing the one who wounded him.
As the Draugr closed in, she gathered her energies and brought her head up.
“Yol Toor Shul!”
Her Fire Breath shout was as if she were a dragon. A blue flame incinerated the enemies in a second as she turned her head, the rest of the room was covered in flame until it was only her and Sondas standing in the middle.
“Sondas, wake up.”
“Sondas! You're awake. Here...” She bathed his gash in a healing light.
He groaned in pain as his eyes started to close.
“No! No! Don't close your eyes! Please...”
“I'm not...going anywhere...” He said weakly.
Her spell was finished in a few minutes and the gash was completely healed. However, he still was weak and he drunk a healing potion to speed it along until he was ready to continue.
The fire died down enough to give them a path to the next door. Closing it behind them, they were now safe from the flame as they walked down the next hallway, passing tombs and thrones of old.
As they turned the nearby corner up the stairs, Derbana noticed a large amount of char marks on the floor. Her eyes went straight up to the petty soul gem hovering just above its tall thin cylindral pedestal. She dashed over to grab it before the arcane trap could activate, but then a jolt of lightning hit her, causing her to yelp in pain and get her down to her knees.
“Derbana!” Sondas shouted and looked around the corner to see the second trap that was hidden just out of sight from the stairs. Taking it in hand, all the traps were disarmed and he hurried to his wife's side.
“Derbana, are you all right?”
“Yes, I'm all right. But I don't know if our son will be...”
“He'll be just fine.” He saying this to convince himself more than her, “You saw him in that vision you had.”
“Yes, I did. Augh!” She strained as she stood up. The stretching exercises she did that morning were wearing off. She had to do a quick set of her exercises, only ten minutes or so before they headed down into knee-high water to open the large wood door to get into the next chamber.
“Sondas, down.” She whispered as she drew her bow to see a Deathlord in front of them with its back turned.
Taking it out with an unseen arrow, other enemies heard their fallen friend and rushed over, only to get into Derbana's line of sight and been slain with more arrows fired from the shadows.
Up the stairs in this room was an iron portcullis that was locked. Derbana knew these well and walked across the bridge to the other side of the room where sure enough the handle was to unlock the gate. The next hall went down to the left and right.
The left was a very small circular room with a book atop a pedestal surrounded by a ring of candles on a raised platform. After taking the book to sell later, there was nothing more of value here as they went down the right path of the hallway that led to a wood spiral ramp.
Another thing she was overly familiar with when it came to old nordic ruins as she had no trouble running up the ramp into the room that followed.
A rickety wood wall stood before her blocking out most of the room. Only the two paths she could take, but only the right side led her across a bridge and into danger.
A jolt of lightning flew passed as another arcane trap led before them at the other end of the room. Running ahead with all her speed, Derbana out-dodged the lightning and when she got close, she dodge-rolled underneath another jolt of lightning as she came up to her feet, grabbing the soul gem and disarming the trap.
“Is...is it safe to come up yet?”
“Sondas, where are you?”
“My boot got caught on a stone, I'm all right now.”
“Yes, come up. It's safe.”
She looked down through the center of the room, which was vacant to see the book pedestal and the ring of candles one floor below. Her husband catching up to her, they walked passed the disarmed trap, around the rest of the room to the stairs above, leading a walkway encased in steel caging as it hung above the room below.
Passed it was a wide set of old stone stairs leading to a single reinforced wood door with a large stone brazier in front of it as part of the stairs itself. A few steps in front of the door.
“That looks important.” She said as she darted ahead.
Opening it up, there was....a single treasure chest and nothing more. She was taken aback as this was usually the place to find the entrance to the last room. After lockpicking the chest open, taking the gold and potions within. She turned around to see her husband standing next to the wall, nudging his head down a small side path barely noticeable from the rest of the room.
As she walked by to take the lead, Derbana pecked her husband on the cheek as he blushed having done good just now. The air had turned moist as they walked through the small path. Derbana kept moving for a few more seconds until it came to an end literally.
They stood several dozen feet above this cavern. An ancient door unlike anything she has ever seen before was at the end of this cavern with two waterfalls flowing on either side, both streams of water falling down the sides of the stone platform before they joined into one small river heading down and away from the cavern. Derbana noticed something else at the top of the stairs, but she couldn't make it out from here.
Sondas looked over the side with her and saw most of what she did.
“How are we going to get down there?” He asked.
“I'll lead, you follow.” She said before jumping down to the next highest piece of stone.
Stretching out her arms toward Sondas, he took them and carefully lowered himself down to her level. They kept doing it in this fashion until they were on the ground far below.
Together, they walked toward the stairs to see a skeleton and a Draugr both laying dead on the ground. At the top of the stairs, there was another skeleton inside a bedroll. Derbana saw a journal on one side and a strange two-handed blade on the other side of the bedroll.
“What do you suppose happened here?” He asked.
After reading it for a few seconds, she replied, “Explorer Gratian Caerellius, I presume.” She said, “We've found who we were looking for.”
“So, this skeleton is his great-grandfather?”
“Unless someone planted the journal near a dead guy sleeping in his bedroll. I think it's safe to say it is him. And according to this journal, the other skeleton down there was his assistant, Millius.”
“Well, it indeed looks like we've found Crescius's answer, but how do we get out of here?”
“Just give a few minutes to read this. The answer is likely in here somewhere.”
And indeed it was, Gratian before dying left detailed notes about the blade, the door, and how they interacted with one another. Outside the door itself was a large arch, the width and height of a large family home. Mystical red scars lined this outer ring and according to the journal, one has to strike the blade in such a way to match the scar.
After telling Sondas to get himself clear, she drew this Bloodskal Blade as it was called and looked at the first two pairs of scars, horizontal along the bottom of the ring. Swinging the sword horizontal, a red slash of energy flew through the air, hitting the scar perfectly. A low rumbling shook the room as the block that had the scar on it retreated back into the arch as the piece below it rose up.
She understood now, each piece was equal size and modular, allowing the affected piece to sink into the wall and the freed block to fill the empty space. The next slash proved her right as the pieces rose from the bottom upward.
The next pair of scars were vertical on the next pair of stones above the ones she just freed. She continued this until all the stone blocks they saw when they entered the room were hidden behind the ones that were rising up to fill in the gaps. With one final vertical stroke at the very top of the arch, the room shook even harder than before as the red eldritch energy of the door dissipated and opened up for them.
Immediately, she saw the trio of swinging pendulums that were best upon their path. Looking further down, she saw more trios as they swung at different speeds and patterns to slay any intruders. Derbana breathed calmly and told Sondas to wait right where he was as she snaked her way through the traps. The hall reminded her of the Story Halls that led up to a Dragon Claw Door, but there were no depictions of stories and the hall kept curving toward the right whereas the others were straight.
It mattered little as she made it to the end of the hall without so much as a scratch. Pulling the lever at the end, the pendulums reset themselves at the top of the hall and the large portcullis opened. Sondas came down the safe hallway as they entered the final room of this dungeon.
Not as massive as the chamber they were just in, but the door led to a walkway extending about halfway into the pool that was the back of the room. A large treasure chest stood at the end of this walkway. When Derbana saw the treasure chest, she approached it carefully, not letting her thieving instincts get the better of her.
“Strange...” She whispered as she drew closer to the treasure.
“What? What's strange?”
“Usually when I get to the final room of these dungeons, there's always been some sort of boss that is harder to kill than the others before him or her.”
“Maybe, this is the one dungeon that doesn't have a boss?”
“Nope, it's not...”
The being arose from the water and threw a lightning bolt at Derbana. She let loose an arrow that it shot out of the air with another bolt. Hiding behind the treasure chest, Derbana peered her head around and saw it was a Dragon Priest hovering just over the water.
“Damn, I hate these guys.” She said, loading more arrows into her bow string.
“What is that?”
“Dragon Priests, high-ranked worshippers in the Dragon Cult that existed thousands of years ago. And I don't have time to go into that right now.”
“What can I do?”
“I'm going to keep drawing it away from the water, I need you strike when it gets within reach. Stay here and don't attract any attention to yourself.”
She took one last deep breath and came around behind cover and fired her three arrows. The one heading straight at it was incinerated instantly as the other two bounced off the stone pillars heading back to it, but they too were just as easily repelled.
Chuckling to itself, Derbana drew more arrows and notched them. It threw a Lightning Storm spell at her as the strong steady stream of lightning charred and blackened all it touched. Derbana ran to the left, releasing her arrows toward the priest. it managed to destroy one with its free hand, but the other pierced through the robes, landing solidly in its chest.
Derbana hid behind the other side of the platform. Sondas keeping as quiet as he could, witnessed the entire battle and made his way slowly around the treasure chest to keep hidden from their enemy. Once it floated away from him, he ran up and buried his axe into its spine. It roared in pain as its mask fell off from the impact of the blow. Trying to turn around, Derbana rose up from hiding and landed three arrows into its eyes and throat.
The Dragon Priest stood still, but that wasn't enough for Sondas. As he freed his axe, he roared a battle cry and whipped it away, letting the sharp smooth edge of the dragon bone cut clean through the aging dead flesh of the Dragon Priest's neck. With it beheaded, the magic faded. Head and all dissolved into a pile of ash. Taking the mask as a souvenir as she always did, Derbana saw something else she didn't notice before.
Across the pool on the back wall of the room was a Word Wall with the draconic words painted in a blood red. Derbana knew one reason she was called on this quest. Giving the mask to her husband for safekeeping, she swam across the pool and let the energy of the Word of Power flow through her.
The word for Strength was taught to her and immediately, all the cramps and pain from before had faded as she let a Dragon Soul she held within her own filled the Word with power.
“Mul!” She shouted and a chromatic set of spectral armor fit over her own, though it was fading rather fast.
So fast that it faded completely when she swam across to reunite with Sondas. With Gratian's Journal and the Bloodskal Blade in their possession, it was time to leave the dungeon with the loot from the chest, of course.
Looking to the front of the room, the other door was opened with the nearby lever pushed downward. At the base of the stairs leading up to their freedom was a black pedestal with the thing from her nightmare sitting atop of it.
“Derbana, what's the matter?”
She didn't know it, but she visibly shook at the sight of this book. The same book that ravaged her face with green slimy tentacles in her dreams. But she still walked up to it, feeling the power that flowed from it, a familiar power...one she had felt recently. Taking the Black Book in hand, she reached over to open the cover...but it refused to budge. She kept throwing her arm into it, but it wasn't going to open.
“Dear, maybe you should put that back...”
“Believe it or not, but this book seems important somehow...in a way I can't explain.”
“Then, why don't you just keep it with you. I'm sure your brother can have a crack at it and figure out why it's not opening.”
“That's one of the reasons I love you. You always say what I need to hear.”
“Anytime, love.” They leaned in for a small kiss and she put the book away in her backpack.
The spiral staircase led them up to a place called Bloodskal Barrow where Dark Elf bandits known as “The Reavers” hid in the ancient ruins, but didn't know about the ancient dungeon that rested beneath their feet. As the ruins were small, it took them mere minutes to slay any bandits with her bow and make their way out and to the south, avoiding their hideout entirely as they returned safely to Raven Rock, but not before Derbana ran into something that took her by surprise.
“Ah! What is that?” She asked, after falling on her bottom.
“Are you kidding me? You never seen a Netch before?”
“I can't say that I have.”
A Netch was a headless creature comprised of a floating tan carapace with a glowing purple underbelly and tentacles of the same color dangling below. Their underbellies glowed with eldritch energy, the thing responsible for keeping them afloat in the air. Since Derbana hasn't been to Morrowind before in her life, she has never seen any of the unique creatures that dwell in the home province of her people.
“They are mostly harmless. Here...” Sondas helped Derbana back to her feet, “Just touch the Netch and we can go.” He stretched out her hand.
“Really? I'm not accustomed to seeing animals without heads.”
“What you worried about? You've slain dragons, touching a Netch is nothing compared to that.”
“Dragons have heads, at least.” She touched the carapace and the Netch mooed softly.
“See? Nothing to worry about.”
“You're...you're right...wow, this is kind of fun.”
“Now, let's go back to Raven Rock.”
“Yes, dear. And thanks...for showing me this.”
“Anytime, love. Anytime...” He said again and they shared another kiss.
It was almost late afternoon as they arrived into town. When they arrived at the town square, they were surprised to see Jerthar was waiting there for them, they almost didn't recognize him as his robes were covered in ash.
“Brother? What are you doing here? I thought you were going to the Temple?”
“Well, I was...but after we parted ways, you won't believe what happened to me...hold on...” He finished drawing water from the well and dipped a wood cup into it, taking a large gulp.
As he continued to drink, Derbana couldn't stand to be left hanging.
He raised his finger, gesturing them to wait for a few seconds more. Derbana shrugged her head and held it in her hand. Whatever story he was about to tell, it had better be worth the wait.