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Tales of The Elder Scrolls: Chapter Two

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Bibliophael's picture
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It was dark inside the ruins, and blessedly cool. The bustling mass of refugees quickly set about remedying both situations, wedging torches between crates and warming the air with their body heat. Lewin and a handful of other healers roped off a small area for the sick and injured, and their endless duty resumed.

 

It wasn't long before Lewin caught sight of the new arrival. The Imperial templar was ferrying storage crates down from the surface. The High Elf walked quickly over to the man and stopped him before he returned to the surface. "Hold, Tiberius. Might I have a word with you?" The two walked over to a quiet corner. "I need to ask you something that might sound a little strange. I've been hearing odd noises since we arrived, whispers that nobody else seems to notice. I'm trying to puzzle out why that is, and figure it might have something to do with the Aedra. Now, as the only other servant of the Eight - sorry, Nine, I was wondering whether you had heard anything similar. It may be nothing, but I'd like to confirm that before letting my guard down."

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"Now that you mention it Lewin," Tiberius spoke, stroking his jawline with his thumb. "I do remember hearing something that sounded like a hushed whisper, almost to the point of being inaudible, shortly before we were ordered to move down here. I pushed it to the back of my mind as I was busy bandaging up a Dunmer woman at the time, now whether the Aedra have something to do with it I'm not sure." Tiberius looked around the room and noticed the Telvanni mage Lorvis was speaking with the Dunmer that issued the order to move further in. "But I think we should bring this to the attention of Lorvis and the Dunmer he's speaking with. Perhaps they could give us some insight on the subject."

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Something held Lewin back. "No...I don't think there's any need to bother them with this just yet. I've already spoken to Lorvis and he's said not to worry about it. I was just...it's probably nothing." The Altmer walked away. He was tired. I need to get more rest. I'm no good to the refugees if I'm half asleep. He shook his head to clear away the cobwebs.

 

He gave instructions to the apprentices and sat down to meditate.

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Lewin's indecisiveness on what the strange noises both he and Tiberius heard did put some concern into his mind, but not enough to fear for the Altmer's safety. Nevertheless, Tiberius thought to himself, I should probably keep an ear open in case it would happen again.

He scanned the room. It was indeed larger than the previous one they had all been in, there was enough room to allow each of the refugees a little spot to themselves and still allow the air to circulate around them. He then looked back towards the staircase they came from. There were still people coming down, though in fewer numbers now. Tiberius grabbed his shield from the top of the crates he carried down and set it against the wall to signify that the immediate spot was occupied, said a short prayer to the Gods, and walked towards the stairs to help with whatever was left from the first room.

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Something was wrong. Lewin frowned. He could not feel the presence of the Eight. There was only an empty darkness where their warm light should have been. After perhaps a quarter hour of concentration, he got up. It's this damned shrine. It's too close to Oblivion down here. That's it. He didn't relish the idea of going back outside into the heat and soot of the surface, but the Eight demand devotion. He walked through the winding corridors that led to the exterior portal and blinked in the sudden light. There was nobody else up there by this time. He was alone.

 

The elf walked across the inner courtyard. The shadows cast by the web of chains above seemed to wander strangely on the carved stone. He paused to examine them more closely. They were moving, there could be no doubt. They shifted sluggishly under the afternoon sun. Lewin glanced up at the swirls of ash passing over the outer walls of the shrine. There was no explanation to be found there. He returned his gaze to the carved floor and saw that the shadows weren't simply creeping, they were circling. The focus of their revolution was a sparkling black stone, tucked against the inner spire. Without thinking, he picked it up.

 

Good. A voice that was not his own whispered in Lewin's head. He shuddered, but could not let the stone drop. Let me show you how it goes. Suddenly he was somewhere else.

 

He stood in a dim chamber. Hooded and cloaked figures stood around him. On a raised pedestal, a naked Dunmer was working a lump of Ebony into a faceted gem. The elf stood, triumphant, and raised the black jewel in his left hand. He opened his mouth to shout, but there was no sound. The other cultists drew their daggers and fell upon him.

 

A shadow passed before Lewin's vision and he was in a Redoran style manor. A beautiful Dunmer woman smiled as she welcomed a small group of noblemer into her parlor. She wore a dark crystal on a chain about her neck. Her smile remained as she watched her guests stumble and fumble for their weapons. She laughed as they tore one another to pieces.

 

Then he was in the mighty palace of White Gold Tower. An assassin crept along a silent corridor and slipped into a visiting lord's bedchamber. He slit the man's throat and left him to drown in his own blood, but not before pocketing a small jewelry box. On his way out, he passed the chambers of the lord's young children. He slowed, and turned...

 

The sunset in Rihad painted the sky and sea the color of blood. A frightened man urged his wife to flee with their infant daughter. As she ran, weeping, from his family's ancestral home, he turned to an idol of Julianos and began to pray. His prayers turned to screams as an enraged mob broke his door down and, under the jeering grin of a thick-set man wearing a dark stone upon his finger, flung rocks at his body until long after he was dead.

 

Then he was back in the shadows of the Daedric shrine, but this time there was no ash. A group of cultists were standing around a body. They were arguing about something. Suddenly knives were in their hands and they were killing one another. In the end, only one remained, a gravely wounded Dunmer man. He struggled to his feet, but before he could catch his breath a young human woman stepped out from the shadows of the shrine and buried a dagger in his back. She plucked a single jewel from the carnage and whispered a crooning chant. Then she tossed the stone into a corner and retreated deep into the shrine.

 

Lewin was alone on the edge of the shrine. He was silent for several minutes. Then he slowly pocketed the gem and drifted back through the inner door. However, instead of taking the single path down to the antechamber, he saw his hand rise to trace the pattern of a particular swirl in the black wall. A hidden door silently opened. His feet carried him through, into darkness. The door closed behind him with a whisper.

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After seeing that the last of the refugees where heading downstairs Tiberius turned around and proceeded to head back down into the larger room. Halfway back down the winding stairway he passed Lewin. When he asked him where he was going Lewin simply replied that he needed to concentrate, and he continued upward. Accepting that as his final answer he turned and headed back down the stairs once more, although this time at a slower pace.

He wasn't sure why he decided to move slower. Maybe it was because he was at ease with the knowledge that the rest of the refugees are finally with the others, or maybe it was concern for Lewin's strange behavior earlier. Whatever it was Tiberius kept his guard up. No telling what will happen when you're alone in an unkown Daedric ruin. Tiberius thought to himself.

It wasn't long before he heard the mysterious voice again. Coming, strangely, from the top of the stairs. And this time, he heard audible words. "Definitely heard something that time." He whispered to himself, years of service to the Divines have taught him that sometimes the element of surprise is necessary to defeat one's enemy. Turning and instinctively drawing his sword from its scabbard he moved as slowly and as quietly as he could up the stairs. He reached into his pouch and withdrew a strong potion of Nighteye and consumed it, with the magic of the potion taking effect within the next eyeblink.

Always good to see a little better in the dark. Tiberius thought to himself. At the pace he was going it took him several minutes to reach the top of the abstract staircase. Sticking to what shadows there were and keeping low he was able to catch a small glimpse of a figure disappearing into a hidden door in the wall just inside the upper chamber. He couldn't make out who or what the figure was, all he could tell was that the shadowy figure was tall and robed.

Then, without even the slightest creak or hint of a sound, the secret door shut. Waiting for several more moments he ventured out into chamber, crossing the room to the wall where he saw the figure enter the secret passage. Tiberius scanned the wall and saw no physical protusions or crevices indicating the presence of a knob, lever, or finger-hole. He then cautiously ran his open hand across the wall, and feeling nothing but the smoothness of the slick-black wall.

Returning his hand to his side he scanned the room one more time before his Nighteye potion faded. Then he realized, Lewin was nowhere to be seen.

"Lewin!" He called out into the blackness, keeping his voice down out of instinct.

Hearing nothing he called out again, this time louder than before, and upon hearing nothing but his echo the second time a sense of alert crept into his mind.

Lewin was missing.

"I have to warn the others," He told himself, "There is something else in this Gods damned ruin."

With that he hurried across the room and back down the stairs.