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Author Topic: Episode Ten: Part Two  (Read 91 times)

Description: Words in the Dark, Shroud Hearth Barrow

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Offline James Mapes

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Episode Ten: Part Two
« on: Sat, 21 Oct 2017 - 12:41:53 »
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  • Episode Ten: Part Two:

    The Hall of Stories was growing darker, the fires he had lit earlier now casting only the minimal amount of light on Gaeolin as he approached the door. He held his lantern out ahead, it’s small flame casting a comforting glow at his feet. His sword was ready, despite the barrow thus far being barren. He shuddered to himself. The hairs on the back of his neck stood like barbs. The claw door stood before him like a challenge.

    Setting down his blade and lantern, he produced the claw from his bag. He turned the ornament over to inspect it’s palm. “Okay… A moth at the top, an owl in the middle ring, and a howling wolf near the center of the door.” He muttered. For lack of a better place, he hooked the talons into the receptacle. The outermost ring resisted the most, the effort of turning it causing the elf to grunt and strain. Slowly it rotated around. The grinding of the stone irritated the ears, and the dust that fell from the wheel’s edge billowed into his face.

    Gaeolin coughed, staggering back once he heard the giant tumbler click into place. He unstoppered his waterskin, drinking deeply to rinse the dirt from his mouth. Pushing up his sleeves, he tackled the next disc. This went smoother, rolling more freely with the rubble out from between the outer track. Two emblems passed before the lock clicked into place. The bosmer hooked his fingers into the groove of the last one. It came around, with a satisfying thud. He checked once again, sighing in relief when he found the positions correct. Finally, he pressed in the claw, rotating it to the right first, then coming back to the left.

    The hall shook, the once stubborn rings of stone spinning rapidly in their tracks as the anchors holding the slab in place released. A cloud of dust poured forth from the seams of the portal. The fires flickered as dirt cascaded passed him and settled to the floor. Snatching the claw back, Gaeolin retrieved his sword and light. The smell of musty, stale air assaulted his senses. He stepped over the last few inches of the coverstone as it nestled into the floor.

    The hallway ahead was even darker than the previous one. To make matters worse, the lantern he carried began to fade, it’s oil running out only a few feet into the darkness. The wood elf hooked the useless lamp onto his belt. He also slid his sword into its sheath, instead opting to swing his bow into use. He knocked an arrow as he sneaked around a bend in the tunnel. He held his breath when a sound fell on his ears.

    A guttural growl echoed from up a flight of stairs. Through the darkness shone a pair of ghoulish, blue eyes. The creaking of bones and cracking of ancient skin heralded what he feared. The Wight shambled from side to side, dragging the tip of it’s sword along the floor with a menacing scraping sound. It wandered to the door, dead eyes staring into the void. Gaeolin drew his bow, breath held to steady the shot.

    He released the string with a twang. His arrow whisked through the air to impale the draugr’s abdomen. It gasped, the force of the shot spinning it before crumpling to the floor. The eyes grew dark as the unlife fled it’s shell. Gaeolin stepped lightly, careful to avoid rushing into the room. Something wasn’t right… Candles burned in their holders. They cast an eerie light on the bleak corridors of the tomb. He reached the once mobile corpse, prodding it with the end of his bow. It remained motionless. Setting down the weapon, he searched the creature’s ragged armor. A few, silver Haralds were in a pouch on its waist. He pocketed the coin before making his way onward.

    The air grew closer the farther he went into the catacombs. From the depths he heard a mournful howl. His eyes darted from shadow to shadow. He could hear his heart urging him to turn and flee. But the drive to seek out the source of the whispers proved stronger. He pressed on, coming to an open portcullis.

    This room held six sarcophagi, sealed by iron lids. Again, defying reason, the braziers burned with faint fires. A pedestal stood in the center of the room, atop a platform of stone which housed two of the coffins. A book was barely visible on the stand in the dim lighting. The elf picked it up, opening it to read the title. ‘2920, Vol. 11 - Sun’s Dusk’. He tucked the tome into his shirt to head on. He was just about to the next doorway, when the gates slid shut, both forward and behind. He turned to the room, his back pinned to the wall.

    The lids burst from the sarcophagi, clattering to the floor as their tenants began to rise. Gaeolin was paralyzed in fear. The dead shuffled about, malevolent eyes searching for the fool who disturbed their ward. For a moment nothing happened. Suddenly, one of the monsters turned to him.
    “Faaz! Paak! Dinok!” It roared, gesturing with it’s war axe. ‘Pain! Shame! Death!’ Gaeolin drew his sword, knowing his bow would not be useful in these conditions. He blocked the first blow, diverting the greatsword to chip the stone of the floor. As the sparks flew, he rolled away. Another of the corpses followed him. Its features twisted into a grotesque grin.

    “Bolog Aaz, Mal lir!” It lunged with a shield strike, raising its sword. Gaeolin began to panic as the other five closed in. He took a breath and shouted.
    “Wuld!” He rushed passed, but misjudged when to stop. He hit his head on a step as he tripped.

    The room began to spin. Gaeolin blinked away the blood that trickled from his forehead. He pushed himself further up the steps. The dead walked slowly, their laughs gurgling in their decomposing throats. He gripped his sword tighter. Raising a hand, he wove his fingers in a last ditch spell. He silently hoped it would work again. “Inigo!”

    From a flash of blue fire, the Khajiit slashed with his swords. The draugr grunted in alarm as his blades danced across their dusty flesh. Gaeolin staggered upright. He drove his sword through the back of one of the fiends that made for Inigo.

    “You leave him alone!” The cat hissed. His eyes flashed almost as sharply as the ebony and steel edges he brandished about. He grinned, jabbing under his arm to take down the last of the attackers. “You do not have to worry about being ugly anymore!” The zombie uttered a final phrase as it fell.

    “Sovngarde saraan…” It slowly eased to the ground, eyes going black in death once more. Gaeolin dropped his sword. His blood dripped to his shoulder, temple throbbing in pain. Inigo knelt beside him, offering a potion. The elf took it in silence.

    “Why?” Inigo glared at him. His ears were pinned to his skull, eyebrows furled in anger.

    “I don’t know what you…”

    “You know damned well what I mean.” He growled. “It was a fool’s errand to come here alone. Why didn’t you wake me? I would have watched your back.”

    “You hate these places.” Gaeolin muttered. “I kept dragging you into these crypts, wearing on your last bits of sanity, and for what? My own need for exploration? The mystery? It’s not fair to you. You have been a loyal companion to me, and deserve the consideration of your fears.” He looked to his feet, hating that this conversation was even happening.

    Inigo stood, looking down at him. “How long have we been friends, and you still don’t get it?” He put his off-hand sword away, offering his hand. “The truth about loyalty is…” He pulled his friend to his feet. “No matter what you face, or the fears in your path, you’ll still risk it for each other.”

    After a few minutes, the pair were delving further into the barrow. Inigo had his swords ready, preferring to let Gaeolin hold up the ranged combat. They passed through an area with a roaring waterfall, running what could only be lake water along a system of canals that cut through the tomb. Another denizen roamed the platform above them. Gaeolin, now fully recovered, placed an arrow in the creature’s eye. It tumbled to the water with a satisfying splash.

    “Oh shit…” Gaeolin cursed the set of rotating pillars they found at the end of the stairs. “These must control the bridge.” The drawbridge was raised, cutting them off from the rest of the ruins.

    Inigo inspected the pillars. “How are we supposed to find the combination?”

    His friend pointed to the doors in the center of the wall. “There might be something in there to help.” They pushed them open, being greeted by a screeching draugr. They both buried their swords in its chest, bringing it down in only a second. It fell onto a pressure plate which sent the room into a rumbling chorus. Four sections of the walls began to spin, each revealing a symbol behind openings that were cut in them. “I see a whale, and a Hawk over here.” Gaeolin called.

    “Snake and whale over here…”

    Gaeolin rushed back out, spinning the pillar farthest to the right. It locked into place with a rumbling thud. The other three followed, the fourth pillar causing the sound of chains to be heard in the distance. With a crash, the wooden bridge slammed into position. “Okay…” He muttered, “Let’s continue.”

    Through more tunnels, down spirals, through pools of spilt oil they journeyed. The pair encountered skeletons and draugr at every obstacle. Just when they were sure they’d cleared out the last of them, the duo entered a vast room. Water filled the majority, with a path leading forward lined with coffins. Inigo yelped as the portcullis screamed closed mere inches after his tail had cleared it.

    Skeletal archers rained shots on them as they darted for cover. Their swordsman counterparts roared with unholy voices as they taunted the intruders. The elf fired shot after shot, each blow landing on target. The bone constructs scattered to bits with the impacts. But for each one downed, a draugr rose from its sarcophagus. Inigo slashed with his blade, bashing with his bow in his left hand. When not cutting, he would quickly grab an arrow, shooting of a round before again resorting to swordplay. The battle seemed to be turning in their favor, when at last the final coffin erupted.

    A hulking zombie clambered from the tomb, an ebony battle axe in its hands. Flames rolled off of the weapon like the waters of Oblivion. It ground what teeth were still in its head. Taking in a rattling breath, it spoke in a voice of pure hate. “Zun Haal Viik!”

    Inigo’s bow was thrown from his hand. Gaeolin had only just dodged the shout, rolling almost over the edge and into the pools below. The elf fired three arrows at once, two striking his target in the shoulder and chest. Inigo hissed in rage, drawing his swords in a flurry. The draugr parried the blows with ease, chuckling through the holes in its jugular. It swung the battle axe with one arm, the fire missing Inigo by less than three inches.

    “Roasted Inigo is not going to be served!” He plunged the basket hilt upward, breaking the creature’s balance. With his other blade, he came beneath it’s ribcage. The ebony shredded through the remains of the beast’s heart. It glowered, ready to gouge the cats eyes with it’s bony fingers.

    An arrow struck through its throat, causing it to stumble backwards up the stairs. Another ripped across the face, and a third and fourth in the haunch and stomach. With a final gurgling groan, the overlord collapsed into true death. Behind it’s sarcophagus, a second drawbridge fell into place, leading them to a shining treasure chest. Inigo dove into the water, surfacing with his bow held high.

    “And he thought he could keep us apart!” He cheered to the weapon, obviously delighted to have it back in his hands. Gaeolin could not help but laugh. The sound of the squishing in his boots would preclude any chance of being silent from here on. They opened the chest, dividing the loot between themselves with glee. When he stood, Gaeolin froze.

    There, below them across a bridge stood a curved monument. It’s surface was etched in the dragon tongue, the light from the moon shining down through a hole in the roof. He could hear the whisperings again, tendrils of light oozing from the stone like smoke. One set of glyphs began to glow with flames. A strange, wild magic filled the air.

    Gaeolin walked down the stairs, eyes fixed on the monolith. A warm breeze blew from the script, his clothes fluttering in response to the power here. He reached out with his mind, eyes suddenly glowing in the same light. He didn’t sense Inigo following close behind. His mind was fixated on the text.

    ‘Het nok Kopraan Do HELA, Fahdon wah pah Sivaas aar do Kaan. Aal rek siiv Unahzaal praan ko Feykro do Hahnu.’ Here lies the body of Hela, friend to all beasts, servant of Kyne. May she find eternal rest in the Forest of Dreams.

    Gaeolin felt Kaan resonating in his soul. Kyne… Not just meaning the goddess, but also nature and all who were a part of it. Though never one for religion, the concept of this word seemed to instill a tranquility in him. He sank to his knees. His heart felt lighter than it had in years. The air tasted a bit sweeter to him.

    Inigo waited, unsure of what had just happened. “My friend… Is everything okay?”

    Gaeolin nodded, standing up. “Yeah, I’m fine…” He smiled to his comrade. “Come on, let’s get out of here. We’ve found all there is to see.”
    In every moment, there is a story. In every life, there is an adventure. Seek them with honest conviction.


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