The Elder Scrolls Volume One: Unbound - A Fallen Empire

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  • Published: 14 Sep 2017
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Erende was supposed to be a thief. That's all he ever was. But when a mysterious Guild raids his home and steals a scroll - a scroll of a land Erende had no idea existed - he's thrust into the middle of a deadly fight after a devastating war that wrecked the land of Tamriel. Now, he's part of a mission to find the treasure his scroll holds to save Tamriel - before it's too late.

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13. Chapter Eleven

 

 

4E 715

Second Seed

Middas

 

 

It was an entire city underneath a city.

 The village above had been built as a decoy, with several guards patrolling it as if it was an actual colony. Beneath the stone, however, sat another city just like it. The room was not a room, but rather an enormous tunnel dug out underneath the three towers. It was packed with villagers and buildings, the staircase itself spiraled down almost eight floors to reach the bottom. He could see houses, actual houses, with windows that were lit up with a torch or a candle, and spiral towers that touched the ceiling. Areas of the city were sectioned off with walls, and the soft glow of luminous mushrooms gave light where the sun couldn’t reach. His eyes didn’t even have to strain, for the mushrooms were huge and gave off much more light than a simple torch.

 Even as everything was beautiful, Erende’s mind still broiled with questions. He always knew Poisons wasn’t from Halrain – he was the only lizard, er, Argonian that was there. There were more like him here. Erende found it obvious why Poisons would escape Tamriel; the war was deadly and devastating. But why would he venture far out into the sea to Halrain? And why would he give Erende a scroll of his homeland?

 Someone snapped in front of his face. Erende blinked, shaking his head slightly. Steffan looked to him, his eyebrows crumpled in a worried expression.

 “You alright?” He asked. Erende sighed.

 “I guess. I don’t know.”

 Steffan opened his mouth but Sera squealed, interrupting whatever he was about to say.

 “We’re here!”

  They had reached the the very front of the tunnel. They stood over a balcony on the stairs that gazed into a huge market district. As they descended, the door creaked closed behind them. Erende could hear the hawking of vendors as they tried to sell food that he had never heard of before, and the smell of such foods hit his nose. He scrunched up his face.

 “Everybody missed you!” Sera called over the loud ruckus of the market, “we even named a new ale after you because we missed you so much!”

 Morag laughed heartily, “I missed you too Sera.”

 Erende had to stop himself from gagging as they followed the two deeper into the city.

 “Why is everything underground?” Steffan questioned as they passed three scantily clad female Argonians dancing in the street. Sera turned to him.

 “The war. Dad wanted us all to be safer, so he had everyone dig underneath the original Mournhold, and we found ruins of another Mournhold, so we just established a city under here.”

 They curved around street vendors and walked along a stone path before Morag motioned for them to enter in what seemed to be an inn. He opened the door, and let them inside.

 The building happened to be a small bar, the air soggy with wine and the heat from the fire tugged at Erende’s skin. Multiple people sat in large wooden tables, either drinking and chanting songs in loud, bad voices, or talking amongst themselves. Morag guided them to an empty space between the walls of the bar.

 “Here, the Guild uses this bar as a resting place after missions,” Camoran explained as he slid into the booth, “we might be warriors, but we are mortals as well, so relax a little bit.”

 “Hey, Morag! Do’tesh! Camoran!” The bartender called from his counter. They waved to him.

 “Usuals!” Do’tesh said. The bartender winked, and went to work. Erende adjusted as he was squished between the rock wall of the bar and Steffan. His nostrils were under siege by the unfamiliar smell of wet dirt and fermented alcohol. He wanted to get this over with, but Sera spoke first.

 “It’s so great to meet you all!” She said, her tail practically wagging behind her. Khir’schen forced a smile.

 “It’s great to meet you too, we-”

 “And it’s amazing to meet a Redguard too!” Sera continued. Khir’schen blinked.

 “I, uh, I suppose so-”

 “Sera!” Morag scolded, “that’s quite inappropriate, please apologize.”

 “No, I understand where she is coming from,” Khir’schen said, awkwardly smiling, “I suppose you don’t get many Redguards down here.”

 Sera shook her head, “no, we don’t. Are you on a mission?”

 “Yes, actually.”

 “Oh really? What for?”

 “Well, we are the Red Vale Guild. We’re here for-”

 “Are you all mercenaries?” Sera asked, grinning. Khir’schen exchanged a glance with Ori.

 “Well, yes, technically,” Khir’schen said, “we do odd jobs and take on mission to earn supplies and coin.”

 Sera nodded, “I’ve always wanted to be a merc, but Dad says it’s too dangerous. What are you all here for? Delivering something?”

 “Hush, Sera,” Morag said, patting her hand delicately, “I’m sure their mission is private.”

 “Oh, no,” Erende said with a smile, “I’m sure it’s fine. We’re actually on a mission right now, on the account a man named of The Priest. Do you know where we can find him?”

 The tables that surrounded them quieted at the mention of the name. Erende noticed the glare from one of the other patrons, and lowered his head. Do’tesh glared at him.

 “Quiet your voices, The Priest is a stigma in this city. Tales have circulated for years about his true profession and why he lives so secluded.”

 She pulled a small piece of parchment from her armor, sliding it across the table.

 “He lives at the far end of the housing district, in an old wooden house. It looks abandoned, and may be crawling with rats. Try not to startle him, and try not to let the citizens deter you from approaching the house.”

 “Wait,” Ori said, “why can’t you come with us? Aren’t you the leaders of Mournhold?”

 “We are the leaders of the Thieves’ Guild, and we are part of a council that does control Mournhold.” Camoran stated, “but because we are part of that council, we are responsible for the decision to cast him from normalcy due to unlawful wizardry. It would be disrespectful to approach him after that decision was executed.”

 “Wait, unlawful wizardry?” Aeria asked. Camoran nodded.

 “A few of his neighbors called for an interference after they heard some strange noises echoing from his home. For the past few months, pets have gone missing, and now the neighbors suspected the Priest of committing necromancy beneath his home.”

 “Our guards stormed his house but found nothing,” Morag added, “but the fear was already spreading. In a colony such as this, fear is one of our most dangerous enemies. We did what we had to do in order to stop it from going out of hand.”

 “So how are we to find the house?” Steffan asked. Do’tesh tapped the parchment.

 “Keep right. Follow the path, and you’ll find it.” She shooed them away from the table, “now go! You don’t have much time. Go!”

 “Wait, you’re not coming with us?” Erende asked. Camoran looked over to Morag. They silently communicated before Camoran stood from his place.

 “Do’tesh and I will accompany you, if that makes you feel safer.”

 “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” Sera said with a grin. Even with her encouragement and the two Nightengales with them, Erende still felt uneasy as they stood from the bar and exited. The air outside was cleaner. Erende breathed deeply.  Khir’schen crumpled the parchment in her hand.

 “Well, Camoran, where are we headed.” She asked.

 “Well, more importantly, we have to find out where we are before we try to go anywhere.” Do’tesh said, pointing to a road sign near a fork on the stone pathways. Three wood signs pointed in four different directions.

 “The housing district is west, as this sign says,” Bahadur mentioned, touching the paint on the wood softly, “let’s head this way, and if it’s wrong we can always backtrack.”

 The Guild began heading down the path, Erende warily watching the villagers as they walked down towards the district. The paths were narrow, the buildings squeezed in next to one another. He could tell that the middle circle where the bar was, was part of the more developed city. As they walked closer to the housing district, the quality of the houses diminished as the ratio of what almost seemed to be homeless villagers increased.

 They crossed the border gate and into the housing district. Already, Erende could see the end of the tunnel the villagers had excavated in order to build the city within. He saw the remains of a few desolate houses to the right of where they entered. He grabbed Khir’schens arm, jutting his chin out.

 “Over there,” he said. They followed right along the path, avoiding drunken, stumbling and snarling villagers. They reached the desolate house, with no mushrooms in sight. Erende squinted as he stepped forward to knock on the door. Something crawled over his foot, and he yelped, jumping aside and shaking his leg violently.

 “I think a rat just crawled over me.” He said. Aeria rolled her eyes before stepping in front of him, and pounding on the door.

 “Priest? Sir, er, the…uh, Priest? Are you in there?” She called. There was no answer. Aeria knocked again, this time with more force. Dust rattled off the door. Still no answer. Aeria looked over her shoulder.

 “Do you think he’s gone?” She asked.

 “If he saw Do’tesh and I, he might’ve left.” Camoran said, “we can wait for him?”

 “Takes too long,” Do’tesh argued, “we need him now.”

 “He isn’t here.” Erende said, “what do we do, break in?”

 “Oh, for the love of Auriel.” Ori snapped, stomping forward. She started knocking furiously on the door.

 “Hello?! Priest, open up! I am not waiting longer than I must to get this mission completed!”

 Suddenly, as she banged harder, the door collapsed inwards. A plume of dust scattered into the air, making them cough. Erende fanned his face, stepping inside the dark house. The light from outside was barely enough to illuminate the dark shadows in the deserted room. Khir’schen clicked her fingers together, and a small ball of light was conjured. She gently tossed it into the air where it stayed put on the ceiling, acting as a lamp. The light it produced gave a soft blue glow to everything around it.

 The house had obviously been deserted. The room they were in was mostly empty, with what few chairs and tables that were left being covered in sheets. Cobwebs were hanging from every corner of the house.

 “Yeah, he’s definitely gone.” Aeria muttered, kicking over a chair. Erende pushed a hanging web away as he stooped down near a furnace. Oddly, he could feel heat coming from it. He placed his hand on the top, only to yelp again and pull it away. It was burning hot.

 “What, another rat?” Steffan said. Erende shook his head and beckoned for them to come over to him.

 “The furnace, it’s hot. Like, really hot. As if it had been used recently.”

 Bahadur stooped down to his level, examining the furnace. He grabbed a stick from the floor and pried open the door. The coals inside were a dim red.

 “The lad’s right, this was just used,” Bahadur said, slamming the furnace shut, “we must’ve just missed him.”

 “Or maybe we didn’t miss him at all.”
 The Guild turned to see Toro, wagging his tail and scratching at a bookcase. Aeria walked to him, looking around the case before finding a small wooden button on the side of a panel. She pressed it, and the bookcase began to move. It exposed a small opening in the stone wall.

 “A secret passage?” Vala murmured. Erende scratched his head.

 “Apparently.”

 Toro was the first to descended into the passage, with Aeria following behind him. The passage twisted and curved multiple times, getting deeper and darker as they continued downwards. Then, in almost complete darkness, they walked down a narrow corridor. They placed their hands to the sides, feeling the walls to guide them further down. Toro barked.

 “There’s a door here,” he said. Erende could see the light coming out from underneath it. Slowly, Aeria pushed open the door. It opened silently. They peered to see a small bedroom, lined with torches. A fire burned in one corner while a bed sat in the other. A man in blue mages robes with a twirling white beard that dragged on the floor stood near an alchemy station. His hands were black as he mashed something in a small mortar and pestle. Books and trinkets were scattered across the floor in a mess. Several alchemic ingredients piled up on a bookcase similar to the one that was used to hide the room. The man hummed softly as he stooped and picked up something from the floor, tossing it into his mixture. A small puff of green erupted from it.

 “Priest?”

 He jumped at the sound of Erende’s voice, the mortar and pestle falling from his hands and to the ground, shattering and letting a green liquid ooze from the remains. The man adjusted a thick pair of goggles on his face.

 “Yes, yes, who is there? What do you want?” He asked, wiping his hands on his clothes, smearing black across the robe. The Guild stepped from the doorway and into the light. Khir’schen approached him first, holding out the scroll.

 “Priest, we are the Red Vale Guild,”

 “And we are the Nightingales.” Do’tesh said. The Priest grimaced.

 “Are you here to run me out of Mournhold?”

 “Not yet,” Camoran said, nodding over to Erende. Erende cleared his throat.

 “We have been told that you may be able to give us the answers we are looking for. We have journeyed from the forgotten land of Halrain, through Skyrim and Cyrodiil to find someone who can tell us what this scroll means and what our mission means, and you were the only one that others have told us that can gives us these answers.”

 The old man glanced from the scroll and back to Khir’schen.

 “Um, maybe, probably, I suppose? I mean, I can certainly try. But why do you call me the Priest? I’m not a Priest, or not that I can remember,” he bowed slightly, “my name is Master Tolfdir, but, please, call me Tolfdir.” He laughed as he shuffled to a chair and slowly lowered himself on it, “I haven’t been sought out for in quite a while, since the rumors of me performing necromancy got out; well, that’s a lie. Olga of Norvain came to see me, but she was just wondering how to make a proper invisibility potion. Not my strong suite but I did the best that I could – now, wait, what was it that you wanted me to do?”

 Orianer placed a hand on her face.

 “Oh, dear gods.”

 Erende glared at her, snatching the scroll from Khir’schen and handing it to Tolfdir. The man unrolled it, peering down from his thick goggles.

 “Ah, I see,” he said, “Falmer writings. How very unusual. I suppose this is just a simple Aedric map, no need to be worried over it.”

 He attempted to give it back but Erende stopped him.

 “Wait, Aedric?” He asked. Tolfdir nodded.

 “Yes, a map made by the Aedra. I can feel the magick inside, it’s quite powerful. A unique relic, I suggest you keep it hidden. Goodbye now.”

 “Wait, no, sir, we’re on a mission.”

 “Yes,” Bahadur added, “we had been hired by a client to retrieve this scroll from a land called Halrain. Now, before this, we had never heard of Halrain, but the client gave us a map that distinctly showed Halrain on it.”

 “And during this course of unwanted adventure,” Ori muttered, “we’ve run into a lunatic who claims to be the champion of Molag Bal, and who preaches about a Prophecy of the Guardian and what not, so we just came here to make sure all of this isn’t just…just…”

 “Huggabaloo.” Tolfdir said, nodding, “yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about.” He stood from the chair, walking over to his fireplace and towards a small bookcase placed next to it. He rummaged around the shelves for a moment, muttering to himself before yelling “Aha!” and clicking something. A secret door set in the stone wall across from his bed slowly slid open, the rock grinding together. Tolfdir stepped into the passage, which contained stairs that, again, spiraled downwards, smiling as he grabbed a torch from the wall and beckoned to them.

 “How many passages do you have?” Steffan asked, surprised. Tolfdir chuckled.

 “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you; now, back to the scroll. I have been alive to see quite a few prophecies come to light. Back in 202 I worked in the College of Winterhold, you know, before all of the big fuss and the war happened. I was there when they found the Eye of Magnus, I was there when the fabled Dragonborn defeated Alduin, well, not there there, but I knew it and I felt the dragon break, time was literally shifting at my feet! Anyways, during this century war, I came here and isolated myself after the disaster at Winterhold destroyed most of the college, or at least, I think that’s what happened? I’m not quite sure, it’s been some time. Anyways, the Dwemer were very good at this stuff. Probably better than most.”

 The stairs stopped at another corridor, but this time, it was longer and illuminated with blue fire in lamps that lined gray stone walls. Bronze pillars lifted up the hallway ceiling, and they walked down the corridor in silence. Erende could hear the sound of pumping steam grow closer. At the end of the hallway was another door. This time, it was a simple bronze door. Tolfdir pushed it open, and sighed.

 “If I really am the Priest, then this is where I would help you find your answers about any Daedric Princes and prophecies.”

 Erende gasped. In the middle of the room sat a large crystal, sinking into the floor. Around it were three huge bronze rings with a small crystal attached to one side. In the ceiling sat what looked to be a transparent dome. Inside the dome was another crystal.

 “The Dwemer were quite the craftsmen, if I do say so myself.” Tolfdir said as he waltzed over to a lever. He placed his hand on it, grunting to pull it down. When he did, the lever activated on of the rings to line with the large crystal in the floor. A beacon of light began to beam into the crystal in the ceiling.

 “Now, my old college Arniel used to be fascinated with the Dwemer. I didn’t, well, until he disappeared one day while fiddling with some sort of Dwemer inspired contraption. Never really knew what happened with him, or maybe I’ve forgotten, but he did leave behind some interesting notes.”

 Tolfdir pulled the second lever, the crystal adjusting itself into position. The beam of light grew stronger.

 “One of which was that he suspected the Dwemer collectively had OCD. They prided themselves on logic so whenever a mystical artifact came up, they locked it away and studied it until they could prove any scientific reasoning behind it. Elder Scrolls, normal scrolls, books, tomes, weapons, anything, really. Anyway, the old buggar left behind a map of Dwemer ruins that held these items. I visited those ruins in place of Arniel and discovered many fascinating things, mostly secrets of prophecies that have already occurred, but I believe that if you are talking about Molag Bal, you will need…” he pulled the third lever, the bronze ring chugging to its position. The beam of light grew brighter as the third crystal was in place, and then, the room began to shake. Dust fell from the ceiling and loose rocks tumbled from the walls. Tolfdir waited patiently as the dome opened, revealing the fifth crystal. It was lowered on two bronze arms. When it was about Tolfdir’s height, he approached it, and pried it off the arms. The crystal popped into two pieces, and the old man pulled out a small, decorative scroll.

 “Another scroll?” Ori said, her dismay clear in her voice. Tolfdir didn’t hear her, or rather refused to acknowledge her, before unraveling the scroll.

 “So, you say you have met with a woman whose name is Askarath, yes? She was in the service of a Daedric Prince named Molag Bal?”

 Erende nodded slowly.

 “Yes, that’s true, but we didn’t tell you that.”

 “No, you did not,” Tolfdir grinned, “you also didn’t tell me that you had two visions – one from Nephethys, and one from Akatosh, although I have never heard of Nephethys before. I assume they are a collection of Daedric Princes? I’m only guessing. Lucky you.”

 Erende recoiled. Nephethys. The name triggered an explosion of memories in his head. The nightmare. The robes. Her eyes and her breath. He remembered the dream and a flood of terror drowned him. He remembered.

 Before he could say anything else, Tolfdir turned and showed them the scroll. Words were being written across it. Everything they had been through was being written on the parchment. When the words got to the end of the scroll, Tolfdir rolled it down some more, extending the normal amount of paper on the scroll.

 “This is the Beginning Scroll. It is a lesser known Elder Scroll, and the only one where we know the origin of. It was created by the Daedric Lord Jyggalag. He is the patron of logic and order, of preciseness and knowing. One of the most powerful Princes, or the most powerful prince, depending on who you ask.”

 Tolfdir turned the scroll back to him, his eyes scanning over the words, “This artifact is not known for many good reasons. It will describe the most likely prophecy that will be executed in this time period. Unlike other Elder Scrolls that are difficult to read and find and they’re always shifting, this one is permanent, and Jyggalag made sure of that. He brought this here during the Third Era and it has been here ever since. I’ve examined this scroll quite a few times, and I’ve seen the words change from the Oblivion Crisis to the Banishment of Alduin. I’ve known that this prophecy would begin to unravel soon. It wasn’t until Morag and the others left four moons ago that I was certain that these events would take place.”

 “Wait,” Erende said, stepping forward, “nothing happened until about two moons ago. You knew even before that?”

 Tolfdir nodded.

 “Of course, I did. I felt it. I knew it. The scroll confirmed it. You all have unwittingly set off a chain of reactions across the entire land and board of Tamriel, of Nirn. Your mission is not so just as delivering a scroll to a client now, oh no. You are pawns in one of the biggest games I have ever seen. The Aedra are gone, yet you were visited by an apparition of Akatosh. Molag Bal wants to return to Tamriel. Nephethys wants Tamriel. And Mehrunes Dagon want Tamriel. They are using a vessel for their influence, a witch named Askarath. She is their Champion and she is more powerful than you can imagine. She is set to rule all of Tamriel, all of Nirn with these three Daedric Princes guiding her. You are now part of a plan to stop her. You are now part of a destiny that will either kill you or save you.”

 He paused.

 “Unfortunately, you don’t have all of the equipment you need.”

 Erende blinked, “which is?”

 “A scroll.”

 “We already have a scroll,” Aeria said. Tolfdir waved his hand.

 “No, no. An Elder Scroll.  Only an Elder Scroll can give you the true meaning of your path and can show you the past, the present, and the future of events. The simplest way to put it is 'knowledge,' but there's nothing simple about an Elder Scroll. All scrolls contain records of all past and future events, but they cannot be read without a severe price―madness, blindness, even death. Many believe they were created by the Aedra, but why or when is unknown, for the scrolls are a reflection of all possible futures and all possible pasts. Each reader sees different reflections through different lenses, and may come away with a different reading. But at the same time, all of it is true. Even the falsehoods. Especially the falsehoods,” he grimaced, “with that Scroll, you can directly change your outcome of the timeline by viewing different timelines. But that’s not all.”

 He smiled, rolling the scroll in his hands back up.

 “Askarath is powerful, much, much more powerful. I believe her power has something to do with the disappearance of the Aedra, but I’m not sure. She has power that before I believed only Aedra could wield. She is a Champion, and thus, you will need your own Champion.”

 Erende’s breath hitched in his throat.

 “What do you mean?” He asked. Tolfdir looked to him.

 “I think you know what I mean.”

 Erende had an idea of it, but his mouth was too dry, his lips too cracked to say anything. He swallowed. Tolfdir’s grin widened.

 “Their name is The Aurorian. Your Champion. Your Savoir. Without this person, you stand no chance against Askarath.”

 Aeria breathed in shakily. She gripped her fists in a tight circle.

 “Can you tell us where this person is? If they’re so important, can we know where we can find them?”

 Tolfdir shook his head.

 “That is the thing. This is a prophecy, and in this prophecy, the Aurorian is not alive.”

 “They’re dead?” Erende asked softly.

 “No, Erende. It means that the Aurorian has not been born yet. Your Champion does not live yet, and thus, you cannot defeat Askarath. In order to birth this Champion, you must find the Elder Scroll of Wound. Where, it is, I do not know, but if you do find it, do not read it. Find the scroll, then travel to the Summerset Isles where you must find the Dwemer invention of the Lexicon. Only the Lexicon will allow you to read the scroll without losing your sanity or your vision.”

 Tolfdir approached Khir’schen, and tucked the scroll into her hands.

 “Now go. This is all of the knowledge I can give you. Find the scroll. Find the Lexicon. Find the Aurorian. Defeat Askarath before she destroys us all.”

 He grinned.

 “Good luck.”

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