REJECTS RESPITE

Middas, 18th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 202 to Morndas, 23rd Sun’s Dawn, 4E 202

After another morning of hot spa and hot breakfast, I sat next to Rigmor.

I said, “This place is noisy, but without the children running around, it’s just not the same.”

“Maybe you can rotate children through here? It could be another place for learning domestic duties and the trades.”

“Yes, perhaps my paranoia after the Morag Tong attacks got the better of me. This is a far better place for The Sentinels to relax, and there are enough Legionnaires at Dragons Keep.”

‘Wulf, I am worried. Where would you need Mara’s assistance?”

“I don’t know, and please, let’s just see what happens and not speculate.”

“Okay. Are we ready?”

“Yep, let us gather the squad.”

After gathering the same squad as yesterday, I teleported inside Castle Dour. There was not a single guard there to challenge me. Tolfdir has been busy researching wards to protect against unauthorised teleportation. They will be needed as other’s rediscover the teleport spells.

Rigmor and the others joined me then we went upstairs to the war room.

General Tullius wasn’t there, so I spoke to Legate Rikke.

“Good morning, Legate Rikke”

“Ahh, the cause of my current condition. Good morning to you, Envoy Valdr.”

“And what condition would that be?”

“I am sitting here, waiting to be told what I am to do with half a Legion now under my command. There are enough supplies loaded for an extended campaign. It must have something to do with Evermor as the only place with rumours of trouble is there. But I wait, as my troops wait, for the final orders.”

“Is General Tullius in residence?”

“Yes. Go to his private quarters. I am sure he will be keen to speak to you.”

“Blessings of The Nine on you and your troops, Legate Rikke.”

I headed upstairs to Tullius’ private quarters. A guard stuck his head through the door and told him we were waiting outside. We were immediately asked to enter.

Tullius invited me to sit and discuss Evermor.

Tullius pleaded, “Please tell me you are a bringer of good news, and I can stand down Legate Rikke.”

“I am surprised you have already taken the precaution of putting so many on standby.”

“At first, a steady stream of Orcs travelled through the passes from Evermor. Then Breton and Nord joined them in worrying numbers. I have received no reports from Commander Drugo, but I assumed things were not going well.”

“Let me brief you on the situation….”

For the next forty-five minutes, Tullius and I discussed what had occurred in Evermor.

Tullius’ demeanour became more serious as the conversation proceeded. The military genius that he is was apparent in the questions he asked.

In the end, he said, “I will have Legate Rikke and half a Legion ready to cross into Evermor. I will send orders to Commander Drugo telling him his troops will be relieved, and they are to return to Cyrodiil for rest and refitting. I will support your recommendation for the commendations, for they are well deserved.”

“The King will be removed. That is inevitable.”

“Try to bring him in for trial. That would make any martial law easier to maintain.”

“Of course, I will try. Perhaps I can volunteer to be the headsman?”

“I think Mede will want that honour.”

“Sorry I couldn’t bring better news.”

“I managed to dodge all this god stuff for my entire career, and now I am neck-deep in it!”

“It could be worse. You could be neck-deep in politics.”

We teleported to the entrance of Raven Spring then made our way to the temple.

We entered the temple and approached Reamonn.

  • Wulf: Good morning, Reamonn.
  • Reamonn: And a good morning to you all.
  • Wulf: How goes to scrying?
  • Reamonn: Successful! This search was one of the more interesting deductions in which I’ve engaged.
  • Wulf: Where did it lead you?
  • Reamonn: It led to a long since abandoned facility up in the mountains, unfortunately bearing the recent moniker of ‘Rejects Respite’, in light of the types of people brought there.
  • Erandur: Brought there for compassionate care or more sinister purposes?
  • Reamonn: I do not know. My scrying brought me to the bowels of that ruin which I never thought would be that extensive.
  • Wulf: It is already marked on my map. What impression did you get of the facility?
  • Reamonn: That dark sanctum is better undisturbed.
  • Wulf: Just a foreboding and nothing specific?
  • Reamonn: No, but should there have been?
  • Wulf: Be careful around Damian. We did not want to bias your scrying by telling you who we suspect the murderer is.
  • Reamonn: Prince Damian! Are you saying they have replaced Mortifayne with somebody just as evil?
  • Wulf: I am sure he will appear to be the complete opposite.
  • Reamonn: Perhaps you should take a staff that is rumoured to be from that facility. Let me retrieve it for you.

Some of those injured during the Daedra assault had returned to the temple for further assistance. Serana and I checked on them while awaiting Reamonn’s return.

Reamonn approached and handed me a staff. I inspected it then gave it to Serana.

  • Reamonn: Arcanists figured that staff is for trapping souls, akin to most mages’ conventional method when weaving the same spell.
  • Wulf: Yes, it has a Soul Trap dweomer on it but another as well. The other dweomer is Daedric in nature, but I have never been able to detect those in the past.
  • Serana: I lost that ability when I became mortal. I can detect the Soul Trap, and that is all.
  • Wulf: Significantly, the staff has the same symbol carved on it as was carved into the flesh.
  • Serana: Your soul has been tainted. Perhaps that is why you can detect Daedra dweomer.
  • Wulf: It would be good to have insight into the being that tainted it.
  • Reamonn: How did that happen?
  • Wulf: A Daedra rescued me from Scuttling Void and left a taint on my soul. A connection between myself and it now exists.
  • Reamonn: Can such a taint be removed?
  • Serana: Well, I am proof that a soul can be cleansed.
  • Wulf: Does this staff have a name?
  • Reamonn: The name given by the Arcanists is ‘Staff of the Farseer.’
  • Wulf: Farseer is the name given to Ashlander seers, devotees of Azura. I wonder if that has any relevance.
  • Reamonn: I can’t say. The name was on a scroll that arrived with the staff. I have no idea where that scroll may be or who donated the staff. It has been in the collection of the Priest Circle for centuries.
  • Wulf: Serana and I had a look at the sick.
  • Serana: The Blood Magic used by some of the Daedra has taken nutrients from their bodies. Simple rest and lots of vegetables will restore those nutrients.
  • Reamonn: Healing potions are of no use?
  • Wulf: It is like when Serana or I cast healing on a person. We can fix the injuries, but the body itself needs to replenish the blood and other fluids. Rest is required to recover strength. Leafy vegetables and sleep are the best treatments for what ails these people.
  • Reamonn: We were at a loss as to the cause of their illness.
  • Serana: You would not encounter Blood Magic very often.
  • Reamonn: No, thank The Divines.
  • Wulf: We will go and investigate Rejects Respite. Heed what I said and beware of Damian. But whatever you do, keep any suspicions you have to yourself. He is a danger to any who may thwart his ambition.
  • Reamonn: And what is his ambition?
  • Wulf: It is limitless. When he achieves one goal, he will move on to the next, and that process has no logical ending.
  • Reamonn: Is he Sigmayne’s son?
  • Wulf: He is the Daedra you saw run out of Scuttling Void in the Dwemer ruins.
  • Reamonn: Oh! And you expect me to act normal around him?
  • Serana: It is better to warn you so you do not accidentally cross him, don’t you think?
  • Reamonn: Yes, it is.
  • Wulf: Blessings of The Nine, Reamonn.

We left the temple and headed for the Soul Stone.

We used the Soul Stone to travel to The Maw.

It was not long before we encountered the first Witchmen.

An arrow to the forehead killed him.

Then a Hagraven attacked. An arrow to her forehead finished her as well.

A steep pathway led to a gate, then a bridge across a fast-flowing river.

Not far past the bridge, we saw Rejects Respite for the first time. It did not look inviting!

We made our way to the entrance.

Rigmor said, “Wulf, this place just seems wrong.”

I turned to Rigmor and replied, “It does have a sense of foreboding strong enough for Reamonn to detect with his scrying.”

“Let’s go somewhere nice after we have finished in Evermor.”

“Maybe a trip to the overlook. You can sing me another song!”

“Yeah, right, pfft!”

We entered Rejects Respite and discovered cheap wooden coffins. The type used in pauper burials.

Raised bars prevented further progress.

We climbed some stairs and found the lever to lower the bars.

I pulled the lever. We could then enter the rest of the facility.

It was apparent that Rejects Respite had been repurposed.

Unusual Skeletal Warriors enforced that idea.

The Skeletal Warriors did not collapse into a pile of bones or ash. They dissolved into ectoplasm.

As we travelled, we got the impression nobody else had travelled through the ruins in centuries.

We arrived at a door with a sign in several languages that said, ‘Mortal Ward’.

  • Rigmor: So, in this part, we can expect insane people, not monsters?
  • Wulf: Yeah, boring! I can’t wait to get to the Immortal Ward. Insane monsters are much more interesting.
  • Serana: Go on, Rigmor, state the obvious.
  • Rigmor: Wulf, you are weird!
  • Wulf: Weird but loveable!
  • Rigmor: Sometimes.

We had not stepped far into the Mortal Ward when a disembodied voice spoke to us.

  • Spirit: You are real! I feel your warmth. Please, free us, release us from this prison.
  • Wulf: Who are you, and how can we help?
  • Spirit: That staff is the key. Whenever The Meat comes, use the key! The Meat won’t find another soul to consume!
  • Wulf: Who or what is The Meat? Who are you?

We waited for a minute but were met with silence.

  • Rigmor: I don’t think they are going to answer.
  • Wulf: Well, maybe the Mortal Ward isn’t as boring as I thought it would be?
  • Jordis: Wulf, you still haven’t told me what I did wrong to be picked for this squad.
  • Wulf: I just thought you would enjoy the scenery.

We continued and arrived at a lecture hall. Most learning institutions have similar.

Rows of benches faced a stage upon which was a table. Upon the table was an emancipated corpse in the foetal position.

I told the others, “This is almost identical to the lecture hall at The College of Winterhold, where students attend anatomy classes. Bodies are dissected on a table similar to this.”

I examined the corpse and noticed something odd about it. All except Serana turned away as I cut it open. The insides showed no decay. The heart I saw was not that of a mortal.

I announced, “This is not a mortal but a Daedra of some sort. It shows no signs of decay.”

One exit had an unpickable lock.

As we approached another exit, the ruins shook violently as if in the epicentre of a strong earthquake.

The shaking stopped, and I turned to a frightened Rigmor.

  • Rigmor: Wulf, what is happening?
  • Wulf: I don’t know, but the corpse on the table has changed into the skeleton of a long-armed minion.
  • Rigmor: And I suppose you are just going to wander over and have a look?  After all, it is exciting and not mind-numbingly terrifying!
  • Wulf: Well, it is exciting, but I get the impression we should move on.
  • Jordis: Rigmor, just then, did something fall and hit Wulf on the head?
  • Wulf: Not at all, but Rigmor wants to get out of this room, and I am but her humble servant.
  • Rigmor: What do you think, Jordis?
  • Jordis: Wulf has done something wrong that you are yet to discover.
  • Rigmor: Yes, that is what I suspect.
  • Wulf: Okay then, I shall go over and inspect the minion’s skeleton.
  • Rigmor: No, no need. Onward we go!

In the hallway exiting the lecture room was a table upon which was another Staff of the Farseer. I carried one, Serana the other.

The short corridor leading from the lecture room ended in an entrance to a long, narrow hall. Two strange devices could be seen at either end. A slot in the floor would allow a gate to be raised.

  • Wulf: Nobody else follows me into the corridor until I reach the other side.
  • Rigmor: What are those thingies on the roof.
  • Wulf: I have seen similar in Dwemer ruins. They are alarms.
  • Serana: Are you going to use the Whirly Wind Shout?
  • Wulf: Whirlwind Sprint.
  • Rigmor: I prefer Serana’s name. The Whirly Wind Shout!
  • Wulf: That could get confused with Cyclone Shout.
  • Rigmor: The Even More Whirly Shout.
  • Jordis: Unrelenting Force could be Big Pushy!
  • Rigmor: Slow Time could be Zippy!
  • Erandur: I suggest you just do a Whirly Wind Shout before this conversation degenerates further.

Full-strength Whirlwind Sprint got me close to the other end of the corridor.

The ruins rocked once more as if an earthquake had struck.

Grates on both ends of the corridor shot upwards then a terrible screaming came from the alarms. The entire hall was bathed in red light.

In the narrow corridors parallel to the one I was in, emancipated, immobile figures appeared. They looked like they were cowering at their time of death.

My life force was being drained at a dramatic rate. An unprotected person would have died in seconds. As it was, I had less than thirty seconds to live even with the dweomer on my armour.

Rigmor yelled, “You are dying, Wulf. Get out of there! Please, get out!”

I armed myself with Farseer, pointed it at one of the alarms and willed it to trigger. Nothing visible emanated from the staff, but the alarm turned from bright red to blue.

I turned and did the same for the other alarm.

It, too, turned blue. The alarms ended, but I was still stuck in the corridor with raised gates at either end.

A gap in the grating enabled me to fire Farseer at a pull chain in the parallel corridor.

When I did so, the grates at both ends lowered.

The others joined me.

  • Wulf: That is designed to prevent guests of Rejects Respite from leaving.
  • Rigmor: What was happening to you? How did I know you were dying?
  • Wulf: My lifeforce was being drained.
  • Rigmor: Like that time when The Underking almost killed you?
  • Wulf: Yes, but at a far faster rate than even The Underking managed.
  • Erandur: That is why there was another Farseer staff!
  • Wulf: Yes, the wardens or whatever they called those who looked after the incarcerated would need them to survive the corridor.
  • Jordis: This place is getting more amusing as we go.
  • Wulf: I know! Thrilling, isn’t it?
  • Jordis: How old was Wulf when dropped on his head?
  • Rigmor: I think it was a regular thing for many years.

Cobwebs suggested nobody else had used the corridor for some considerable time.

I pointed to a pile of red dirt and exclaimed, “Look, the first signs of Scuttling Void and another type of weird Skeletal Warrior that drips blood! Fascinating, absolutely fascinating!”

I walked up to the Skeletal Warrior and asked, “Do you have a name? How about Drippy? Do you like that name?”

The Skeletal Warrior swung a bloody arm at me in response. I cut it down.

Then I remarked, “That was very rude, Drippy. Very rude indeed!”

More signs of Scuttling Void were seen as we travelled.

We came to a room with yet another barred door blocking access.

Next to the door was a Dwemer cabinet, the lock of which took some effort to pick. Inside was a pull chain that lowered the barred door.

There were several things of interest in the room, including a large axe on a pivot.

  • Wulf: If something pokes its head through the grating, it will get a splitting headache.
  • Rigmor: I think your brain was sucked out, not your lifeforce.
  • Serana: Come on, Rigmor, that was quite funny for a change!

Dwemer equipment sat above an alchemy table.

  • Rigmor: What does that Dwemer machine do?
  • Wulf: It removes dangerous fumes.
  • Rigmor: Then we will need one in every privy you use.
  • Wulf: And of course, Miss Countess leaves the privy smelling like roses.
  • Jordis: Nothing compares to the latrines of an army camp.
  • Serana: The undercroft of Castle Volkihar had the worst stench ever in the history of Nirn!

A skeleton sat in a chair with a hand covering its face.

  • Erandur: Even the dead are embarrassed at the quality of discussion it has heard so far.
  • Wulf: Well, if it has a bone to pick, it should say so.
  • Erandur: Wulf, if we begged for mercy, would you stop with the puns?
  • Rigmor: What is with the red glow?
  • Wulf: Let me have a closer look.

A key was inserted into one of the vertebrae. When I removed the key, the skeleton’s head fell off. The soil of Scuttling Void suddenly covered the floors and walls.

The barred door slammed shut and a barrier protected it.

Blood poured from the ceiling.

We would soon be swimming in blood.

  • Wulf: Oops!
  • Serana: Oh, how quaint. A former Daughter of Coldharbour drowns in blood. Molag Bal would be highly amused.
  • Wulf: You know the dweomer on our armour won’t allow that.
  • Rigmor: You almost drowned in Scuttling Void.
  • Wulf: That was an illusion.
  • Jordis: Just another interesting interlude?
  • Wulf: Precisely!

When the blood rose above our heads, Rigmor fixed me with one of her stares as if it was my fault the trap was triggered.

I looked up, and there was a tangle of Scuttling Void roots. All I had to do was wriggle between the gaps as the blood lifted me higher.

I did that and eventually saw a heart with roots leading to it.

I climbed onto the rocks next to the heart and aimed Farseer at it.

When I willed Farseer to trigger, nothing visible happened to the heart, but the blood started to drain rapidly.

I jumped down.

I cheerily announced, “Well, we can’t go any further this way. Let’s head back to the lecture hall!”

The blank stares I received were not indicators of shared enthusiasm.

We returned to the lecture hall without incident but stopped dead in our tracks upon entry. The corpse on the table had changed once more. It was now in a subservient kneeling position with head bowed.

I approached it to have a closer look.

The room was suddenly enveloped in a red glow, and a one way portal to Scuttling Void opened.

A pair of long-armed minions leapt from the portal and attacked. The Sentinels cut them down.

A red barrier circled a huddled figure in front of the portal.

Within ten seconds of eliminating two minions, another pair would leap from the portal.

When the portal appeared, so did two loops of thick roots.

I conducted experiments while the others took care of the minions.

If I used cast fire on the roots, they would spring back into place very quickly.

Lightening was the solution!

I quickly zapped both roots, which made the shield around the prone body dissipate.

I hit the prone body with Lightning, and it fell forward. The portal closed.

Rigmor asked sarcastically, “Still having fun, Sir Weirdo?”

I answered with genuine enthusiasm, “It is far more interesting than cutting down bandits and Draugr and the like! We don’t know what to expect next!”

The key that caused us to swim in blood opened the barred door.

Three red spirits, two wearing execution hoods, were waiting for us. The disembodied voice we heard earlier belonged to the only unhooded spirit.

I asked, “Were you patients in this institution?”

“Yes. We’ve not much time left here, the final destination calls. You have freed us from the cage of hate. The Meat recedes, and the promise of a good sleep returns.”

“We are pleased to have ended your torment.”

“An opening has formed from your actions, large enough for us to escape. Yet we must thank our saviours, and so we stay a moment longer.”

“We need to access the lower levels of this place.”

“The path has been cleared, yet that path becomes ever steeper. It is a decent you may not climb. Do you wish to continue?”

“What dangers do we face?”

“The Meat only sleeps. It has not died. We will depart before its waking, and you should do the same. Let no other enter these halls.”

“What do we do if The Meat awakens?”

“Keep your determination. Do not let the terror stall your feet. Goodbye. Thank you all.”

The spirits faded.

I turned to my friends.

  • Wulf: Well, I’ll admit it. I have no idea what is going on!
  • Rigmor: And here we are, hoping you would tell us.
  • Wulf: It’s still fun though, am I right or what?
  • Serana: I am positive there is some deep symbolism hidden somewhere in the chaos.
  • Jordis: I prefer bad guys I can understand and stab.
  • Rigmor: Same here, Jordis.
  • Wulf: It seems that we cannot return the same way once we head down.
  • Rigmor: If you dare suggest we don’t have to accompany you, I will bite!
  • Serana: We can always teleport if we find ourselves trapped.
  • Wulf: Okay, let’s see what fun awaits!
  • Jordis: Oh…goody!

We headed through a door and downwards.

We ended up travelling parts of a long-abandoned mine.

Rich deposits of Quicksilver suggest something severe must have occurred for the abandonment of such wealth.

The mine came to an apparent end. However, the large slab of rock was surrounded by three filled Black Soul Gems.

I pointed Farseer at the middle of the slab and triggered it.

The slab slowly faded to reveal a door.

We entered into a short tunnel that opened into a room containing a familiar symbol.

I walked up to the symbol and grumbled, “Wulf, you are a fucking idiot!”

Rigmor replied, “At last, he understands the truth! But seriously, my beloved, why do you think you are an idiot?”

“It wasn’t the Witchmen where I first saw this symbol. I saw it in Grey Belmor. It was above the doorway to the room that contained the beating heart. The heart I had to destroy to stop the first long-armed minion we encountered.”

“But you must have seen similar in Apocrypha?”

“Yes, on a book and pedestal when solving a puzzle. The symbols must be very similar for me to make a mistake.”

“Well, there is no harm done apart from the dent to your ego.”

“Rigmor, it is another dent to my confidence. I must believe I am right and not start questioning myself. I won’t be able to function if I do.”

“Did you think it vital information at the time?”

“No. it was just an observation.”

“Then you did not give it as much thought as you would if it was vital. So, forget the simple mistake and concentrate on this place. It is dangerous.”

“And fun!”

The symbol was placed central to a round slab of rock which was slightly off centre from its base. Lighted candles surrounded the symbol. We have long given up trying to figure out who or what lights candles in old ruins.

  • Wulf: This top slab slides to the side.
  • Serana: It would weigh many tonnes.
  • Jordis: There could be some counterweight mechanism that moves it.
  • Serana: I think we can all agree the slab has been moved. That suggests there is a lower level that we will have to get to another way.

A skeleton lay on the slab. In amongst the bones was a key.

I could smell something, so I turned my lantern to its maximum and used night vision. With the extra light, I could see vapours from Scuttling Void.

There were four exits to the room. The one we came through.

One with raised bars.

One entrance led to some fluorescent ice.

And one that led to normal-looking corridors. We decided to go that way first. The key from the skeleton unlocked the door.

A raised bridge blocked one direction.

In the opposite direction was a small room. A pull chain in the room lowered the bridge.

We crossed the bridge and entered another small room.

The raised bars in the room with the circular slab could be seen.

A pull chain lowered them.

A familiar roar echoed, and I ran to warn Rigmor.

“Rigmor, that is the creature from Grey Belmor! When I destroyed the heart, it did not die but vanished. It will be after me!”

Jordis yelled, “What the hell is that thing?”

We rushed to see.

I looked down. The creature looked up and spotted its prey. It teleported to me!

“It can’t be defeated and will hunt me until we stop it. Those tentacles are poisonous, but the dweomer on your armours should protect you. It is much stronger than the long-armed minions. It can only teleport every thirty seconds or so. You will need to keep it busy while I figure out how to get rid of it!”

We were still not at the lowest level of the complex. I tried to go lower, but the creature kept getting in the way.

The Sentinels worked well together and kept the creature occupied as I squeezed past.

I was approaching what I was sure was the lowest level. I watched in horror as Rigmor’s block with her sword was knocked aside, and she was sent flying down a corridor.

As it closed in on the prone Rigmor, Erandur whacked the creature and got its attention.

As I reached Rigmor, she got to her feet and rejoined the fight. On the way past, she said, “If you call this fun, I will kick you in the cobblers!”

I ran down some steps and into a narrow corridor lined with heavily chained and padlocked cells. Each cell has a plaque, but I did not stop to read them.

I looked up and saw Rigmor with others trying to restrict the movement of the beast.

At the end of the corridor was a skeleton from which I retrieved yet another key.

The key opened a cabinet housing a twist and pull lever.

I operated the lever, which lowered some bars and allowed access to a small room.

The key I had would not open yet another cabinet. As I prepared to pick the lock, the creature teleported behind me.

I summoned The Sentinels, who formed a line between me and the creature. Rigmor teleported via our rings.

As they battled the creature, I concentrated on the lock. With a satisfying click, the lock unlatched. There was another twist and pull lever inside.

I operated the lever, and Rigmor yelled, “Was that wise, Dragonbum? You just opened all the cells!”

The creature ran towards the far end of the corridor, where the roof was starting to collapse. I yelled, “Do not pursue! Let me lead, for we don’t know what I have released!”

Rigmor quipped, “Something cute and cuddly. That is why our friend ran away.”

I stepped forward and looked into the first cell on my right. There was some sort of bone sculpture. I stepped into the cell to get a closer look. I sensed malice and animosity beyond anything ever experienced.

I quickly backpedalled, but it was too late. A stream of blood spewed forth from the bone sculpture.

Such was the force of the blood I was pushed backwards and out of the cell.

Then something attacked my mind, almost shattering my blocks.

The bone sculpture had followed to the entrance of the cell.

I collapsed and almost lost consciousness.

A familiar voice, the one I heard as I was dying in Scuttling Void, whispered, “Rise and forget the ugly dreams that frightened you so when all was dark.”

Rigmor screamed, “Wulf! I lost you for a second. Wulf!”

I slowly got to my feet and faced Rigmor.

I told her, “I am perfectly okay. I am a bit dizzy after some weird Hedge-Magic tried to get through my mental barrier.”

‘You just came backwards out of this cell then fell. Then I couldn’t feel you via our rings!”

“You didn’t see all the blood?”

“Ahh, whose blood?”

“The great big torrent of blood that pushed me out of the cell.”

“Nope, no blood. There is none on you or anywhere else.”

Rigmor was correct. There was no blood as it was another illusion. My mind blocks are not enough, and I will have to find a way to protect myself from them.

I looked inside the cell. Where the bone sculpture had been was an inert teleport.

I read out loud the plaque attached to the cell.

“Subject #1: Empty Eater

Only enter if the pertinent spell had been conducted on the warden. Tether warden so that subject does not pull warden deeper.”

Rigmor laughed, then said, “The wardens must have been prettier than you. The Empty Eater didn’t drag you in but pushed you out!”

I looked in cell number two and discovered a dead Hagraven lying on the ground. It would have been in the direct line of the Empty Eater attack.

I asked, “Rigmor, did anybody attack this Hagraven?”

“None of us did. The long-armed thingy was way down the corridor when you collapsed, and that Hagraven screeched at the same time.”

The Hagraven was of the beaked type. It had been incarcerated with some of the usual paraphernalia associated with her kind.

I read aloud the plaque for cell two.

“Subject #2: Supernal Custodian

Wardens must use protective ear equipment to prevent communication with the subject. Nullifier must be used before entering to negate subject’s magic.”

I commented, “Supernal can mean one of several things. We have no reference to decide which meaning applies to this Hagraven.”

The third cell had a non-beating heart attached to vines. It was slightly different from the one I had to destroy in Grey Belmor. This one had two distinct types of vines. One type was blood red, like arteries carrying blood and the other type was sickly green mixed with rust or dried blood colour.

I read the plaque out loud.

“Subject #3: The Halved

No protective equipment is required. The subject is fragile, so refrain from harsh treatment as the body will dismember upon trauma. If arachnid subject is also in the room, exit immediately and use the alarm.”

Rigmor exclaimed, “Husk and Ambition were imprisoned here!”

“Yes, when they were a single entity. They probably relied on that inert heart for their immortality while here.”

“Namira must have helped them, it, whatever, escape. That must have thought that might happen, and that is why they were worried about arachnids. Those Crawler Daedra.”

“I am fairly sure that cell was properly locked, so Namira must have taken them to Scuttling Void without opening it.”

“I wonder why they were put here? The other things have warnings. They were harmless, and no protective gear was needed.”

“Maybe we will find out if I ever get to speak to Husk.”

Cell four had a child’s bed. On a table were different mountain flowers arranged in a row. A washbasin, chair and several high-quality paintings constituted the rest of the furnishings.

  • Wulf: Rigmor, can you step away for a minute.
  • Rigmor: Why?
  • Wulf: Please just exit the room for a few seconds.
  • Rigmor: Okay.

Rigmor exited the room.

  • Wulf: Erandur, how do you feel right this second?
  • Erandur: Relaxed. Comforted. The unease I have felt since entering this facility is gone.
  • Jordis: I feel the same.
  • Serana: As I do!

Rigmor returned.

  • Wulf: Rigmor, I asked you to move away so I could be sure. This room mimics our quiet.
  • Rigmor: What?!
  • Jordis: Both of you have tried to explain this ‘quiet’ that you share, and now I understand. What a wonderful thing it is!
  • Erandur: Truly a gift from The Nine.
  • Wulf: Yes, this room is not as effective, but I am pleased it gives you some insight.
  • Rigmor: Why are you entering the rooms and then reading the plaque?
  • Wulf: So that my observations are not biased and formed opinions are free of preconceptions.
  • Rigmor: Any guesses who was in this cell?
  • Wulf: Either a child or a very short adult.
  • Rigmor: Idiot!
  • Wulf: Let’s read the plaque!

I read the plaque out loud.

“Subject 4: Fallen

Do not stay longer than five minutes within the room. Use protective clothing before touching the subject.

WARNING: CRYING CAN RESULT IN FATALITY!”

  • Wulf: A dweomer to produce calm was used to prevent Fallen from crying.
  • Serana: I can guarantee nothing left this room when the doors opened. I was watching our friend run away had a good view.
  • Erandur: The same here. I wonder where Fallen went?
  • Wulf: It may have been collected by Namira at the same time as The Halved.
  • Rigmor: In a way, I am glad the cell was empty. If the entity looked like a child, we would have had a dilemma.
  • Wulf: I am quite capable of separating form from function. I might hesitate slightly but would still be capable of defending against and killing an enemy in child form.
  • Rigmor: My darling Wulf, that is a load of bovine excrement.
  • Wulf: Okay, you might be right. I have never been confronted with such a choice.
  • Serana: It would be interesting to study how Fallen’s cry could kill.
  • Jordis: It probably sounds like Inigo’s singing.
  • Wulf: That is a terrifying thought!

We entered cell number five. In the middle was a well. On either side of the well were pipes that dripped blood into the well.

Mortals had been placed in what looked like ovens, and it was their blood that dripped.

Everybody but Rigmor and me stepped out of the room. Senseless terror gripped their hearts when staring at the black nothingness of the well. Our quiet provided immunity.

I stood over the well and put my hand up for silence. Scraping and, aptly, scuttling could be heard from below.

Curiosity sated, Rigmor and me joined the others.

I read the plaque out loud.

“Subject #5: ScuttleMan

Keep minimum one-yard distance from hole perimeter. Keep fed constantly.”

  • Rigmor: Keep one-yard distance is the advice, but you stood directly over the hole.
  • Wulf: That is why I don’t read the plaques first. You would have tried to stop me!
  • Serana: The blood in those buckets and dripping down was fresh. Somebody has been feeding ScuttleMan.
  • Wulf: Maybe Ambition formed a bond with it when incarcerated?
  • Serana: I wonder who ScuttleMan’s dinner used to be?
  • Wulf: People who won’ be missed. Maybe even Witchmen.
  • Jordis: Still having fun, Wulf?
  • Wulf: Indubitably!
  • Erandur: What could be more fun than playing catch me if you can with an immortal Daedra?
  • Wulf: Playing catch me if you can with two immortal Daedra!
  • Rigmor: Sorry to spoil your fun, but you can’t enter the last cell.

Rigmor was correct. Scuttling Void roots had smashed the door off its hinges and filled the entire cell. The roots crashed through the ceiling and caused the collapse we witnessed from the other end of the passage.

I read the plaque out loud.

“Subject #6: Meat

ONLY OPEN IF SUBJECT BREACHES DOOR. IF GROWTH IS FOUND BEYOND DOOR, RESORT TO INCENDIARY PRECAUTION.”

  • Wulf: Now we know who Meat is!
  • Serana: Is this root one gigantic organism?
  • Wulf: That seems to be the case, and I find that extremely exciting!
  • Rigmor: You are excited about a big root?
  • Serana: Umm, Rigmor?
  • Rigmor: Oh, I forgot that root is now one of the many words colloquially used for fuck. It is hard to keep up with them all!
  • Jordis: Screw, copulate, fornicate, procreate, shag, bonk, hump, boff, roger, tup etc. We were once bored in the Solitude barracks and listed over two hundred synonyms for fuck.
  • Wulf: Back onto the topic of this big, long and exciting root.
  • Rigmor: Now you are doing it deliberately.
  • Wulf: Where is your mind wandering off to? I am talking about the big, red thing in front of you.
  • Rigmor: Why use words like ‘incendiary precaution’. Why not just say, “BURN IT!”
  • Wulf: The plaque was probably written by one of those pompous nobles from Bruma.
  • Serana: Quickly changing the subject before violence erupts. What next?
  • Wulf: I will use incendiary precautions and see where our long-armed friend has gone.

Casting Incendiary on the roots made them move out of our way.

We eventually reached a narrow tunnel leading even further down.

We exited the tunnel into a vast cavern.

  • Rigmor: This is the same type of architecture we saw in Umbasir. There is a lot of Ayleid influence.
  • Wulf: It is a mixture of Direnni and Ayleid.
  • Serana: Yesterday, I said it reminded me of Snow Elf architecture. I suppose all three Mer races have similar aesthetic preferences.

Something caught my eye. I used zoom-vision to get a closer look.

  • Wulf: Rigmor, how would you like to meet an Ayleid?
  • Rigmor: A live Ayleid?
  • Wulf: More of a dead, possible hostile Ayleid in spirit form.
  • Rigmor: Umm…let me think…would an emphatic ‘no’ be of a shock to you?
  • Serana: Sorry, Wulf, but none of us wants to meet a possibly hostile Ayleid spirit.
  • Wulf: Such blatant xenophobia! He might be a charming and not hostile Ayleid spirit.
  • Erandur: You can do your sheathed weapon. I mean you no harm, oh shit, they’re attacking routine. We will just stand back ready to deliver wisdom in the form of, ‘I told you so!’
  • Wulf: Maybe we can bypass all this and find another way forward.
  • Rigmor: Forward to where?
  • Wulf: Forward to wherever we end up.
  • Rigmor: Have you got us lost?
  • Wulf: Not at all. If you go straight up, you will eventually reach Evermor.

We continued down the path. It soon became apparent that Witchmen populated the vicinity.

We found the Witchmen. A Hagraven cackled, “I told you the pretty ones would visit!”

I said to the group, “The hag is measuring us up for some flesh sculpting.”

Rigmor replied, “Over my dead body! Oh, that’s the point, isn’t it!”

We quickly took care of the Witchmen then had a look at their camp.