The Elder Scrolls Volume One: Unbound - A Fallen Empire

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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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14. Chapter Twelve

 

4E 715

Second Seed

Middas

 

 

The only sound in the room was the faint crackle of the wood in the fire place.

 To Erende, it was odd. He had grown use to see the stream of the sun or moon peer from the windows. But when he looked out from the room, he only saw the same blue light that the mushrooms expelled. It made his head ache. Erende turned from the window and back to the scroll. He could see the faint outlines of borders across the map.

 “If I was an Elder Scroll, where would I be?” he muttered to himself. He could practically feel Ori rolling her eyes in his direction.

 “That’s your plan? To try and think like an Elder Scroll?” She asked sarcastically. He frowned.

 “Do you have any better ideas?”

 Ori frowned.

 “I have better ideas than that, yes.”

 “What are they?”

 “To travel to the Imperial City and work from their where the scrolls would be.” She said. Erende tucked in his lips. He wasn’t expecting her to really have a plan. Bahadur leaned forward in his chair, pressing his palms together.

 “Maybe, if the city isn’t completely destroyed like the rest of Tamriel.”

 “But if it wasn’t, we just need to gain passage and find out where we could maybe find the remains of the White Gold tower or another Imperial Library. It could work.”

 “But why would that work?” Steffan asked.

 “The Elder Scrolls used to be stored in the Imperial city a few hundred years back. Then, one day, they all just disappeared and started to show up in weird places like in a cave or on the back of a vampire.”

 “The back of a vampire?” Vala asked with raised eyebrows. Ori scoffed.

 “I’m exaggerating. I’m just saying that maybe we can track down where our Elder Scroll is by working backwards – finding out which elder scrolls were found and where they were. It would help us pin point where the scrolls end up.”

 “That would take too long,” Erende said as he stood from his chair, stretching, “we need to find a way to find that Scroll soon, like in the next few days or so.”

 “Well, that’s somewhat impossible,” Khir’schen grimaced, “in order for that to happen, we would have to find some omnipotent being to help us find the Elder Scroll, and, last time I checked, all the Aedra had been on vacation for quite some time.”

 “Well, that doesn’t mean there isn’t another way,” Erende argued. Khir’schen sighed.

 “There might be, but will it be easier or harder? Like you said, we need to find this Scroll fast. Who knows how long it will take Askarath to reach her full potential?”

 “And with the severity of the situation, I wouldn’t put it past her to try and obtain these artifacts before we do,” Steffan sighed. Erende noticed the dark purple bags under his eyes, and then yawned as he felt his own fatigue wave over him. The Guild hadn’t slept in the days following their encounter with Tolfdir. It was the stress – the unknowing. Erende hadn’t wanted to understand the magnitude of his scroll, but he was forced to and now he wondered if he should really continue on this mission. He didn’t want to. The aspect of gold had lost its shimmer immediately when Tolfdir placed the scroll back into Khir’schens hand. This wasn’t just a simple mission anymore. This was something Erende was not ready for.

 He rubbed his eyes, colorful spots bursting in his vision as he pressed his fingers tightly together.

 “We just need to go over it one more time. There has to be something we missed,” he said, not looking up. He heard a chair squeak on the floorboards.

 “What is there to go over about?” Aeria muttered, “we know about the Elder Scroll of Wound, which is supposed to help us find the birthplace of this Aurorian.”

 “It’s not the birthplace, Tolfdir said it had something to do with actually birthing the Aurorian.” Steffan said, pinching the bridge of his nose, “and even then, birthing can mean a few different ideas.”

 Ori tightened her lips, “such as?”

 “Such as not actually giving birth, like full on blood, screaming, out pops a naked tiny mortal. It could also mean that maybe the Scroll will show us someone who is already born and capable of destroying Askarath, or even the Scroll gifting that power to someone.”

 “Brilliant description,” Khir’schen said with a disgusted look on her face. Steffan glowered.

 “In any case,” he continued, “we would still have to find the Scroll, and we don’t know where to look nor where to even start.”

 “Well, we know the Daedric Princes are obviously embedded in this prophecy,” Vala said, “Erende, Tolfdir had mentioned a Daedric Prince named Nephethys, that you had a vision about?”

 “Yes, I already told you, she just came to me during our night in Solitude and attempted to force me into signing a contract. I couldn’t remember when I woke, which is why I couldn’t tell you anything, and only when Tolfdir said her name did I remember.”

 “Nephethys is a name I have never heard of before,” Bahadur said with a deep crease around his mouth, “are you sure that is her name?”
 “Well, Tolfdir said it, so, yes,” Erende said, “why? I thought there were lots of Princes?”
 “There are, about sixteen or seventeen if you count Jyggalag,” Vala estimated, “Nephethys is one I have never heard of either.”

 “I remember her saying she was a bond between Princes,” Erende remembered. He closed his eyes, pressing a hand against his temple as vision flashed before him.

 “She is a bond…she is…a conjuration of the Princes, yes!” Hi head snapped up, “she is the ruler of waking nightmares. She is the bridge between the Princes and the Champion - Askarath.”

 “So if Nephethys is a join between two Daedric Princes, that means one of the Princes is Vaermina,” Ori interjected, “Prince of Dreams. It would explain why she came to you in a dream and vision.”

 “Was there anything else?” Bahadur asked. Erende shook his head.

 “Only a contract, I believe.”

 “What did the contract say?” Khir’schen inquired.

 “I…I’m not sure, but I vaguely remember something about a treasure? About finding a treasure then leaving with it. I can’t describe it.”

 “What a help you are,” Orianer said under her breath. Erende threw a look of daggers her way.

 “At least I’m trying to help. What have you offered since you sat in that chair?”

 “Excuse you? I’ve offered a plan to try to find the Scroll, which, by the way, is apparently useless without this blasphemous Lexicon, which is another artifact we have to find!” She said, standing from her seat, her fists balled tightly, “this is completely ridiculous, we’re on a scavenger hunt to save Tamriel, and yet we don’t know where anything is! Why do we need the Lexicon in the first place?”

 “Because without it, we could go blind, or possibly die.” Bahadur added.

 “Great, let me read it so I can finally escape this hellhole.” Ori snapped before plopping back down in her seat. The room was silent again. Erende gritted his teeth. Ori was beyond selfish. He was trying to do the best he could with what he had, but it seemed like no use. He felt a sense of dread form in his chest as the silence in the room grew thicker. Maybe everyone else had been thinking the same thing. Then, it was Khir’schen who broke it.

 “Maybe if we find the client, we don’t have to do this.”

 The others looked to her. She sat near the fire, her hands folded neatly in her lap. She looked tired and worn, her eyes heavy with exhaustion.

 “I’m just saying, we could try and find the client, whatever his name is, and give him these scrolls. We wouldn’t have to do this.”

 “Khir’schen, this is our responsibility now,” Bahadur said in a soft voice, placing a hand on her shoulder. She moved away.

 “It’s not like we’re obliged to do it though!” She protested, “we have the choice to either go through with this or not, and I don’t.”

 Erende struggled to open his mouth. He recognized her feelings as his own, and yet he felt as if he had a duty to himself to complete the mission. They could do that, to just track down the client and give them the scroll and nothing would be on their heads, but they had gotten this far. They had gone through hell and yet Erende wanted to push forward.

 “Khir’schen, we need to do this,” he spoke softly, wary of how his words would affect her. Khir’schen tensed at the sound of his voice.

 “We got ourselves into this mess, and we made this mission a priority. Now, we will have to go through with it.”

 “But how?!” She snapped, “how are we going to find the scroll, the damn Lexicon and the Aurorian?! The Scroll could be anywhere, we need a god to help us find it.”

 Something clicked with Khir’schens words inside Erende’s head. They needed a god, but the Aedra were missing. The only gods they had were…

 He slowly turned. Aeria sat on one of the beds, hugging her knees to her chest. She scratched Toro’s ears as the dog slept next to her.

 They needed a Daedric Prince.

 “Aeria,” Erende said. She looked up.

 “Hm?”

 He felt odd asking the question, but if they were going to get anything done, he needed to know.

 “Aeria, one of our hopes to find the Scroll involve communicating with an omnipotent spirit,” he said, eyeing her reaction. Aeria blinked.

 “Okay?”

 “That means we need to get in touch with a god.”

 “Okay.”

 Erende sighed.

 “Aeria, I need you to contact Hircine.”

 Almost immediately the room was sucked dry of air. Erende kept his gaze on Aeria, who froze mid scratch. She didn’t blink.

 “Erende, I’m not sure that’s a good idea. We don’t know if that will actually work.” Bahadur negated.

 “But think about it! Aeria had been in service to Hircine before, so he knows you. We don’t have the ability to contact any of the Aedra so the only divine power we have is the Daedra.”

 “Absolutely not,” Orianer declared, vaulting up from her seat. Her leg crackled with steam.

 “We are not throwing Aeria to the wolves in order to get what you want, Erende.”

 “It’s not about what I want!” Erende said, “it’s about what we all need! We need to find a way to find that Scroll, and right now our only option is to contact some Daedric Prince!”
 “Why can’t we have the Nightingales contact their Prince?” Ori argued, “that’s better than trying to force Aeria to do something she does not want to participate in.”

 “Don’t speak for me.”

 Aeria had stood up from her seat, glaring towards them. Her mouth was strewn in a scowl.

 “I have the ability to speak for myself, and I will. Erende, I don’t want to contact Hircine. He almost destroyed my life with his manipulative ways, and now I have this curse that I can’t control. Contacting him will bring a plethora of bad luck our way, and I don’t want to be forced to stake any lives in danger.”

 Erende nodded his understand. Orianer looked ready to celebrate Aeria’s decision, but Aeria held up her hand.

 “However, I also understand the severity of the situation. The importance of finding that Scroll weighs heavier than my being against it,” she sighed. Toro pressed his nose into her side, whimpering softly. Aeria scratched the place in between his ears. A smile tugged at her lips.

 “So…is that a yes?” Erende asked. Aeria paused for a moment. Then, she nodded.

 “Yes…yes, I’ll contact Hircine, but there is only one way to do so.”

 Erende compressed his grin, but as the giddiness rose inside him he had to bite his lip.

 “Yes, of course, what is it?”

 “I contacted Hircine back when I was still in Valenwood. There’s a grove near where my home village used to be – Greenmoss Hollow, where I preformed the ritual. We will need to go back there if you wish for me to contact Hircine.”

 Erende was quick to agree, but Bahadur grabbed his shoulder before he could say anything.

 “Wait, let’s not haste to make these plans straight away. Valenwood is quite far from Morrowind, and we have already traveled half of Tamriel for this…quest, mission, whatever name you wish to call it.”

 “He’s right, Aeria,” Ori said, “this is ridiculous, why can’t we just get the Nightingales to do it?”

 “Because the Nightingales don’t know the full extent of our mission,” Khir’schen disputed, “they brought us here on the context that we were to find our answers. If we try and persuade them to contact their patron, they could develop the idea that we are beginning to find ourselves in a dark state, or Askarath could single them out as our aids and try to dispatch them,” she looked to Erende with a stoic expression, “Aeria is our only way of truly contacting a Daedric Prince without involving any else. It’s our safest route.”

 Ori boiled with anger, her cheeks inflaming, “maybe safest for you, but have you met a Daedric Lord? They can kill her, they can kill us! Aeria is in danger of becoming a pile of ash if she goes through with this.”

 “There is no other way, Ori.”
 Orianer turned to see Aeria smile softly. She placed a hand on Ori’s shoulder, giving it a tight squeeze.

 “There is no other way without risking others’ lives. This way is our only way, but I promise you, I’ll be fine.” She turned away from her and scanned the rest of the Guild, “I suggest we leave in the next few hours. We can use supplies from here, as it is almost a two-week journey to Valenwood, and maybe another few days to locate my home.”

 “No need to. Look.”

 Steffan laid out the map. It had shifted again, showing an area of Valenwood on the parchment. A small dot beat slowly near the far southwest corner.

 “From what had happened last time, I can safely assume the map can show us where to go.” Steffan said. Aeria nodded.

 “Then all we need are the supplies, which Khir’schen and I can handle. The rest of you, pack your things and change your clothes. We’re headed to Valenwood.”

---

 Isolde had grown too comfortable in her stall. Erende knew this because no matter how hard he tugged the reins, she refused to move.

 “Isolde, come on!” He whined, his feet slipping on wet hay, “we need to go! Come on!”

 The stubborn horse yanked back her head, making Erende lose his balance and fall arse-first onto the moist floor. He groaned in disgust as Isolde seemed to snort in amusement.

 “You’re a lousy steed,” Erende grumbled as he wiped off hay from his pants. The door to the stall opened with a creak, and Vala stepped inside. She looked down at him with her lips struggling to remain thin.

 “Having fun down there?” She quirked. Erende frowned.

 “Much fun. Help me up.”

 As Vala pulled him back to his feet, he angrily swept the hay off his clothes and turned to glare the Isolde. The horse blinked innocently.

 “I came to tell you that we’re only waiting on you now. The Nightingales and some of the villagers had packed up all of our supplies, and we need Isolde to help finish loading, so if you could lead her outside, that would be helpful,” Vala said. Erende tapped his foot impatiently.

 “Well, my dearest, I would gladly bring this horse out for you,” he jabbed a finger at Isolde angrily, “if she would cooperate!”

 Vala sighed as she watched Erende face off in a staring contact with the animal. She ignored his whining, and instead grabbed the reins from the floor, and slowly began walking backwards. Isolde took a step forward, then paused. In response, Vala gently pulled an apple from one of the feeding bins hanging on the wall of the stall. She waved it in front of the horse.

 “Come on now, girl, that’s it, come on,”

 Isolde quickly began following Vala out from the stall and into the sunlight. Erende just rubbed the space between his eyes, realizing that Isolde must hate him, and slumped out behind them.

 The Guild was stationed at the gate of the village. The horses had indeed already been packed, and hey stomped their hooves impatiently into the ground. Erende recognized both Keller and Ashland there. As Vala guided Isolde toward the last group of waiting villagers to pack her saddles with supplies, Erende was motioned over to a small circle by Steffan. He was with Camoran and Morag, who waved to him enthusiastically.

 “Well, boy,” Morag said when Erende approached them, placing a bear hand on his shoulder, “I haven’t known you long but I’m glad that I met you. I’ll need you to be safe out there, you hear?”

 Erende nodded as Steffan punched his arm.

 “He’ll be fine, Morag. I promise to take care of him.”

 Morag winked, “sure, you will.”

 Steffans expression fell into a look of surprise, but Camoran spoke before he could.

 “Here, we wanted to give you both a small parting gift before you leave for Valenwood,” The Altmer said, reaching into his pants pocket and handing Steffan a small package wrapped in fabric. Steffan pulled the fabric off. His eyebrows scrunched together.

 “A…what?”

 In his hands he held a small device that looked similar to a gear of some sort. It was rectangular in shape, and was made from bronze metal. He turned it over a couple of times to examine it.

 “What is it?” Erende asked. Camoran took the device from him, and with one quick flick of his wrist, the device opened up from the middle and exposed the shining metal of a white, iridescent blade.

 “I call it a whip knife,” Morag stated as Camoran continued to flick his wrist, moving the blade inbetween his fingers and across his hand with ease, “I made it a few moons ago, with the remains of some Elven armor and dwarven metal as an experiment, but I have no need for something so small.”

 Camoran whipped the knife back into its rectangular shape, and handed it to Steffan.

 “Well, thank you,” Steffan said uncertainly, “I’ll treasure it.”

 “I don’t care what you do with it, I just didn’t need it,” Morag laughed, “now, mount your horse. It looks as if Aeria is ready to leave.”

 “Come on, everyone! Let’s go!” Aeria called from atop Toro, “we have quite some ways to travel.”

 Steffan nodded his thanks to the two Nightingales once more before jogging to an unfamiliar dark gray horse. As Erende mounted Isolde, he raised an eyebrow towards Steffan, who just shrugged.

 “Ashland seems to be quite fond of me.”

 “Well, be flattered. It seems like no one else is.”

 Steffan glared at him, whipping Ashland’s reins and making the horse buck.

 “Goodbye, Thieves Guild!” Bahadur shouted with a wave, “thank you for your support! We won’t forget you!”

 As the front gates opened, the Guild shot out into the forest with speed. Erende waved goodbye behind him. The humid wind ripped through his hair, and he tightened his hold on Isolde. The sun shone through the thick leaves of the tree tops.

 “Come on, girl. Valenwood waits.”

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