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Crimson DESTR0YA
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Posts: 1888

As dawn broke over the eastern sky, I set off only somewhat rested. I didn’t dare let myself sleep deeply or for long, for fear of a stray bandit returning to find me snoring amongst the remains of his former crew. Fortunately, I seemed to have gotten them all, and at least the tent was warm and gave me an opportunity to rest my legs and my Magicka reserves for a few hours.

 

I stepped out of the tent and flinched as the cold mountain air slapped my face. Sleeping in a dead bandit’s fur bedroll was far from my bed in Breezehome, but my brief respite was just enough to make me forget for a moment how sharp Skyrim’s winds could be. Squinting to fight the wind and snow, I surveyed the horizon to decide where I should head next. One side gave way to a coastline, the sea just barely visible in the distance; that would be north. And to the west a ways I saw the edge of a huge, looming cliff, dwarfing even this mountain. That could only be the proud city of Solitude. Meaning opposite it, along the shore, would be Dawnstar, which in turn is the safest road to Winterhold.

 

There was no real path down the north side of the mountain, but I wasn’t about to climb back down the southern edge and walk around the damned thing. So I made it up as best I could. The Muffle spell, paired with my enchanted boots of the same effect, helped me make some landings that would have shattered my ankles otherwise. All the same I suffered more than a few scrapes and bruises along the way. But scaling down the mountain proved to be humanly possible after all, and I soon found myself walking on ever flatter ground. At least the terrain up there was steep enough to keep Skyrim’s many woodland creatures away. Aside from a stray ice wolf pack here and there, most of the journey to Dawnstar was pretty quiet. Most of it. I did manage to stumble into a group of three snowy sabre cats right outside the city. I tried to fight them, but, well… I wasn’t quite there as a battle mage yet, and I may or may not have ran screaming into Dawnstar while the local guards finished the cats off for me.

 

Yeah. I needed a drink after that. The Windpeak Inn was happy to oblige. Well, mostly happy. As I heard it from the barkeep, the entire city was suffering from chronic nightmares for some time now. The whole town had a dreary feel to it. But it gave me a chance to sell some of the pelts and weapons I’d gathered on my journey so far, and to get some food and drink in me for the rest of the day’s hike. I set out to the east about midday.

 

The cold had already started getting to me, but up in extreme northern Skyrim, and especially the closer I got to Winterhold, the more bitingly cold it got. In addition to ice wolves, frost trolls and ice wraiths began to appear. Frost trolls aren’t so bad for a mage, as long as you see them coming. They’re infamous in Skyrim for their raw strength, enough to rip a warrior in half, armor and all, but they don’t move terribly quickly and they loathe fire. But the ice wraiths themselves were creatures of magic. Fast ones at that. Their weakness was also of course to fire, but their small size and ample speed forced me to abandon my favored Firebolt spell for the novice Flames spell just to have a chance to hit the things. Each bout with an ice wraith left me battered and chilled to the bone; they weren’t much of a threat but I grew to dread them more than any troll.

 

The increasing frequency of the wraiths, along with the rocky terrain and snow up to my knees in some spots, slowed my progress a good bit more than I’d hoped. The sky was already starting to darken and I couldn’t even see Winterhold yet. I began to really wish I’d bought camping supplies at Dawnstar. I needed some sort of cave, something to let me keep a fire, or there was no way I was making it through the night, but far northern Skyrim wasn’t exactly prime real estate, and I knew my chances of finding a kindly old lady in a cottage to take me in for the night were just about none.

 

By the last bit of the day’s light, I saw a tower atop a cliff up ahead. It looked like a lighthouse, but it was awfully far inland, and it certainly wasn’t lit. I knew I’d almost certainly be fighting bandits for the right to sleep there tonight, but I didn’t mind. I was fighting for my life at that point. I approached quickly out of desperation, but I tried to stay as cautious as I could. It was definitely a lighthouse, but even as I got right up on it there was not a light to be found, not even any torches or sconces near the entrance. No signs of a fire. If there were bandits here, they were keeping a low profile. Everything about this felt off, but I simply had no other choice. As I got right up to the lighthouse, I fell over a big lump on the ground. A sick smell began to waft in the air as my boot squished inside of it. I cast a dim Magelight, partially to try to remain hidden but also because I was pretty sure I didn’t want to get too good of a look at what this thing was. Sure enough, I saw just enough to realize I’d tripped over a long dead horse. From the slight glance I dared to get at it, it appeared to have been nibbled on in places by wolves or maybe a sabre cat or a bear. If there were bandits living here and they’d lost a horse, I figure they’d at least have harvested the meat, right? But if that’s so and this isn’t a bandit camp, where did the horse come from in the first place…

 

I gathered my courage and opened the door. Whatever was in here, I was getting the sinking feeling that I wouldn’t be getting any rest tonight, either.

--

The destructor has gone

February 5, 2015 at 10:49 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Crimson DESTR0YA
Administrator
Posts: 1888

I opened the door as wide as I dared and peered inside; pitch black. If someone was living out here, I felt sure they’d need a fire going just to survive, so, deciding I was alone, I went inside. By the dim light of my Magelight I felt my way around to the nearest wall sconce, which I lit with Flames. I turned around and immediately wished I hadn’t.

 

The trashed decor and broken furniture complimented the centerpiece hideously; a dead woman in a lake of her own blood, a grotesque axe sticking out of her chest. I cast Stoneflesh as a reflex and readied myself for anything, or so I told myself. I searched the premises methodically, lighting more sconces as I went. The immediate area was pretty small; the main area with the dead woman and two bedrooms. As gruesome as the main room was, the bedrooms were disconcertingly normal. Nothing broken or knocked over. There were even some potions and valuable pieces of jewelry sitting right out on the shelves. This place wasn’t robbed. This wasn’t bandits.

 

At least there seemed to be no immediate danger; the woman out front looked to have been dead a few days. It was cold enough that the smell wasn’t too bad but the horse outside seemed to have fared a little better in those extreme conditions. I was glad to have found a place to stay the night at least, but I wasn’t about to lay my head with THAT there. So I decided it best to take advantage of the shelter, but to stay alert and run out of here with the very first beam of sunlight in the morning. In the meantime, I decided to take a look around and see if I could scavenge anything useful from this place.

 

Aside from the aforementioned potions and gems, I found a few books and some interesting clothes. Hammerfell garb, by the looks of it. Far too light for the cold of Skyrim, certainly this far north anyway. So did these people come from Hammerfell? A strange curiosity drew me to this family. Maybe because I was staying in their home uninvited, felt I owed them a debt of gratitude. I don’t know. But I found a journal and decided to read it. Maybe it would shed some light on what happened in the main room.

 

It belonged to a woman named Ramati, who had apparently just moved in to this lighthouse, indeed, from Hammerfell, with her husband and two children. He was a sailor who’d passed this lighthouse on a journey and made it a life’s dream to retire here, but the kids seemed none too pleased with the frozen wasteland that is north Skyrim. There was page after page of how happy she was for him. Habd was his name. He loved the place so much he apparently wanted to be cremated in the beacon up top. That would have to be a weird task for her to carry out when he died, but okay. Let’s see, some weird sounds in the basement, some small things going missing… Looks like her son suspected skeevers which freaked her out. I looked back at the body in the main area. That was Ramati, from what I could gather, and THAT was definitely not skeevers. But what was it…

 

Inside the other bedroom I found another journal and a letter belonging to the children; the former to the girl, Sudi, and the latter to her brother, Mani. The journal detailed more of the same, don’t want to live here, angst angst angst, boys boys more angst, cold freezing angst, noise in the cellar angst. Mani’s letter, believe it or not, was even more angsty. He’d gotten so fed up with Skyrim he’d decided to head on back to Hammerfell. The letter was in a knapsack that appeared to be stocked for a modest journey; it seemed to me that Mani didn’t make the trip.

 

All I had were these pages and Ramati’s corpse to go by; no sign of Sudi, Mani, or Habd anywhere. But everyone seemed concerned about the same thing; the cellar. The cellar door was locked tight. If there were answers to be found here, they’d be in the cellar. What if the rest of the family was down there? Didn’t I owe them at least a peek? I should have just sat back down and read Mystery of Talara for the fourth time, or thawed myself by the fire. But that’s not what I did. I opened the cellar door.

--

The destructor has gone

February 5, 2015 at 11:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Crimson DESTR0YA
Administrator
Posts: 1888

The cellar entrance gave way immediately to a large spiral staircase. I kept a tiny ball of Magelight in my palm to see by, and though my boots were enchanted to Muffle I still took each step as gingerly as I could. This whole atmosphere gave me a dreadful feeling, I wanted nothing getting the jump on me.

 

About a dozen steps down, the unmistakable shine of pooled blood began to appear on the stairs, so frequently it became a sort of balancing act to tiptoe around the puddles to avoid a splash that could reveal my presence. I was so preoccupied with my steps that I almost bumped right into it.

 

A jet black body of jagged segments, forming a grotesque shape akin to a centipede the size of a mule. This one was preoccupied with the human leg in its mouth, or I’d have likely been in its place. A chaurus. I’d only read about them, and Herbane’s Bestiary failed to do the terrifying creature justice. I held my breath as I quickly realized I was stuck. Chaurus are colonial creatures; there’s never just one. I’d come too close to this one to sneak away, but if I cast a Destruction spell the sound of the struggle would likely alert gods know how many more of the things.

 

I decided Lightning Bolt was my best bet. Maybe I’d stun it, maybe it wouldn’t cry out and I could kill it without summoning more. I zapped the thing from behind, and as if by instinct it snapped around to face me. I got Stoneflesh off right before it tackled me, digging its jaws into my left arm. The spell deadened it but I still cried out in pain as the sharp mandibles dug into my flesh. If not for the spell, I figure I would have lost the arm entirely. I charged up a Firebolt and blew the creature off of me, only to see that two more had appeared at the bottom of the stairs. One began charging up at me, while the second fired a stream of acid that I narrowly managed to miss the brunt of. Stray droplets flew into the raw, exposed skin where the first chaurus had ripped my sleeve and the pain was indescribable. I kept my head about me just enough to retreat back up the stairs while spraying fire at the charging chaurus, and managed to light the creature ablaze. It went flailing back down the stairs in a tumble, colliding into and also igniting the other, and I was able to finish them both with one more Bolt of Lightning.

 

I stayed there atop the stairs, perfectly still, catching my breath and waiting for the next wave. But several minutes passed and no more appeared. Could that have been it? Three chaurus wiped out this whole family? I certainly didn’t doubt they had the capability, after seeing their strength for myself. Then I remembered the primitive weapon I found sticking out of Ramati. That couldn’t be all. I cast Fast Healing and took another moment to gather my courage before descending again.

 

Things looked calm in the cellar, apart from the bloodstains and charred chaurus. It felt unusually calm though, almost as if… a breeze? Yes, there’s definitely wind down here. I felt and looked for the source of the moving air before noticing one of the larger crates was ajar from the wall. As I approached it, the smell of death greeted me again. Bracing myself, I dragged the crate further out to discover what I could only guess was at one point the son, Mani, scattered about the entryway to a crude tunnel through the icy ground under the lighthouse, a weapon of similar style to that that killed his mother still lodged in the biggest remaining piece. This blade had a sickly organic texture to it similar to… no, it WAS chaurus. At that moment I remembered something else I’d read, and finally realized what I was dealing with.

 

Falmer. The lost descendants of the Snow Elves, driven to blindness and savagery by their ages-old exile to Skyrim’s underground. There they and the chaurus became natural allies. The living chaurus serve to hunt alongside the Falmer, while the deceased often make tools such as these. This tunnel probably led to a Falmer colony; I guess they just burrowed into this poor family’s cellar by mistake and saw it as just another cave to add to their dominion.

 

But where were the other two? What of Sudi and Habd? Because of how cold everything was here, it was hard to tell how long ago Mani had been killed. But the blood was still damp. It was possible they were alive in there. It wasn’t the best time of my life but I did just take three chaurus, and it wasn’t like I was going anywhere else tonight. Besides, wasn’t the whole purpose of this quest to see what kind of mage I was? If I was just trying to get to the College, I could have taken a carriage there, or to Dawnstar at least. So if I had a chance to help someone along the way… I owed it to them and to myself to try. I crawled into the icy tunnel.

 

I cast Muffle on top of my enchantment once again, to be extra sure I kept my noise level to a minimum. Falmer are blind, but can hear as well as anyone can see. I only took a step or two at a time, and every time the tunnel curved, I peeked out as gently as I could before emerging. This colony was huge, but to the point of being widely spread out. Every now and then the tunnel would give way to a small camp with no more than three or four Falmer and a chaurus or two. I was able to dispatch most of my enemies in stealth at the beginning, but then they got wise to me and planned their attacks better. I encountered a particularly strong Falmer who was quite skilled in battle Magicks, casting Wards to block my spells and countering with its own at the perfect time. I dueled with it to my very limits, even tapping into my limited supply of potions, but I was still no match. How could this Falmer, who can’t even see me, be greater than my hard work and study? In desperation I rushed it with my dagger; after several minutes of spell combat, it wasn’t expecting a close-range attack and couldn’t detect my Muffled footsteps in time. I drove its heart through and it collapsed before me, but I was the one who felt defeated.

 

What was it about this place? It felt like my Magicka wasn’t regenerating at all. I was tired and cold, and exposed to more than my share of chaurus venom. I healed obsessively after every bite they took out of me but it felt like there was still some poison lingering in my veins. But worst of all was that my Magic wasn’t cutting it. It was easy on the surface, the Nordic bandits were ignorant of Magic and usually fell to the weakest of spells. But I’d never gone toe to toe with other Magic users before. I had to cheat to beat a Falmer mage, I didn’t even know they could learn spells. I began to doubt if the College would even take me at this rate.

 

The hours passed and the tunnels kept winding. Whenever I cleared a camp, I curled up in one of their disgusting chaurus chitin tents to rest and heal. It was hideous, being surrounded by those things. Every time I had to hide in one of those things it felt like I was being digested. Even if I closed my eyes the smell was there to remind me where I was. And the sense of being hunted was there to remind me of what a failure I was.

 

After one particularly grueling camp I found what appeared to be a holding pen, soaked in even more blood than the rest of this place. Bones and various unidentifiable pieces of meat littered the place, but I made out one thing I didn’t want to identify. A young woman slouched over against a wall, an iron dagger protruding from her neck. A blood-stained suicide note sat in her lap. From what I could make out between the spills, the Falmer had held her and her father captive here for some time. One of the chaurus had poisoned him, and when he began to make too much racket they dragged him away, leaving Sudi alone with a smuggled dagger. From the looks of things, I think she made the best use of it she possibly could have.

 

From what I read I knew there was next to no chance of finding Habd alive. This family was long since doomed and I knew it. But the thing about stumbling upon a family, each member brutally murdered in a random act of violence, in their own home, nonetheless, a home that sheltered me in a time of need… There was no way I could have turned around. So I pushed on. I was going to avenge them, and it would make me strong. These tunnels would be my crucible, and these four souls would find peace in my fight.

 

My motivational monologue gave way with the floor underneath me; a tunnel gave in under my weight and I fell hard into the largest room I’d seen so far in these tunnels. I looked around, and my heart stopped. Everywhere I looked, egg sacs. My feet crunched with the terrible sound of a dozen unborn lives being snuffed out with each frantic kick back. Eggs lined the walls, the floors, the ceiling. I was right in their nest. Chaurus flocked to my position, but I was fixated on the terrible shadow looming ever larger at the far wall. A human ribcage dangled from its mandible as it let out a roar in my direction. Their queen, five times the size of the biggest of them, had me targeted.

 

Stoneflesh. Then a wall of Flames, a Lightning Bolt, and running. The burning eggs bought me a screen through which to run; I found a particularly large bundle of eggs to hide behind. While the Chaurus searched for me, I drank every last Magicka potion I had. I gathered my courage and leapt up from behind my cover, only to find the queen had already found me. She pinched my chest with her terrible jaws; Stoneflesh was all that kept me in one piece, but even so I felt my bones begin to crack under the pressure. A yell. A dagger to the eye. The biggest Fireball I could muster. A loud snap, and then heat. Stabbing. Stabbing. Stabbing. Stabbing. Done.

--

The destructor has gone

February 8, 2015 at 1:56 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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