The Elder Scrolls Volume One: Unbound - A Fallen Empire

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  • Published: 14 Sep 2017
  • Updated: 19 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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10. Chapter Eight

 

 

 

4E 715

Second Seed

Sundas

 

“She bucked me off!”

 Dirt and grass clung to Erende’s still wet clothes, and he scrambled to his feet huffing as he brushed it off.

 “Did you see what she just did to me?!” He said. Isolde seemed to laugh as she snorted and pawed at the ground.

 “Yes,” Toro said, his muzzle turning into what resembled a smile, “it was amusing.”

 “You landed on your face.” Vala giggled. They watched as Erende struggled to catch Isolde. Every time he reached for the reins, she pulled away and huffed, or stamped her foot. Bahadur shook his head.

 “She’s angry with you, boy,” he said, patting his thick beard dry with a towel. Erende stopped running, leaning on his knees as he breathed heavily. Isolde brayed, flicking her tail at him.

 “Why is she angry with me?” He wheezed, “I didn’t do anything to her!”

 “You left her, alone. She doesn’t like that.” Khir’schen said. She strapped on Erende’s leather pack to Isolde’s saddle. Erende shook his head.

 “We were trapped in there, all of us were. It’s not my fault she holds grudges against stuff I can’t control.”

 “Shut up,” Steffan said, grinning, “you’re just cranky, and it’s probably because your armor is still wet.”

 Erende scratched his wrist, the feeling of itchy wet leather rubbing against his skin now enveloping his thoughts. Steffan winked.

 “Remind you of anything?”

 “Shut up.”

 “Stop whining,” Bahadar interrupted, dropping a pile of blankets and small leather packs into his arms.

 “Since Isolde won’t let you tend to her, strap this to Arvak, and make sure it’s secured. I would ask Steffan but he already dropped the scroll under Arvak’s hoof and let the horse step on it,” he muttered, holding up a crumpled, dirty map. Erende rolled his eyes, adjusting his grip and started walking towards Arvak. Vala sat atop him. In her hands, she formed a small orange ball. She struggled to keep it contained, but it fizzled and fell apart into wisps of red.

“Magick?” Erende asked, setting the blankets onto Waylan’s saddle. Vala sighed, nodding.

 “Ori’s spell. It’s very difficult.”

 “Well, what did she do?”

 Vala shrugged.

 “Some powerful destruction spells. She combined elements of lighting and fire, which is amazing and incredible, but I have no idea how she could do something like that,” she said, looking down at her hands. Erende wrapped a piece of rope around the blankets, securing them to the saddle. Vala glanced at him.

 “You know, it’s weird.”

 Erende looked up.

 “What is?”

 “Askarath, and that demon – Molag. Why did they want me? I mean, I understand why. It’s just…under her spell, or influence, or whatever, I had power. And now I can barely figure out an ignite spell. It’s just…weird.”

 Erende placed a hand on her leg, giving her a small pat.

 “Vala, that power wasn’t good. Molag Bal is a demonic figure, who has Askarath under his control. The magick they were using wasn’t something we could control – I mean, look what it did to Aeria.”

 He nodded towards the Wood Elf who sat in the grass. Bandages covered her body, with cuts and bruises still visible across her face.

 “Vara, they took you because they thought you were the weakest. You aren’t, but that’s what they thought.”

 Vala nodded but her eyes were still scrunched. Erende was about to speak again but Bahadur whistled sharply.

 “Listen up!” He said, climbing on Arvak’s saddle, “The Riften Slums are our next priority. It’s a day’s ride there, so let’s leave now, and we’ll arrive before dawn tomorrow.”

 Erende patted Vala one last time before turning and making his way towards the front of the pack. As the others readied themselves, Erende attempted to climb onto Isolde, but she still refused. Erende tried to haul himself onto the saddle, Isolde butted him off, neighing. He scrambled from the ground, brushing off his clothes.

 “Fine, fine, be that way. But I didn’t leave you!” Erende muttered as Isolde stamped the ground. She turned, and smacked him in the face with her tail.

 “Well, I would say that she is still upset with you, Erende.” Khir’schen grinned, patting Waylan’s mane. Erende scoffed.

 “You don’t say.”

 “Hush now, come on,” Bahadar said as he mounted Isolde without protest, “we don’t have all day to just sit here and try to get Isolde to like you,” he noticed Steffan about to mount Toro.

 “Steffan!” He called. Steffan stopped, looking over at him.

 “You’re trading seats today! Get on Isolde!”

 Steffan sighed, slowly sliding over Toro and trudging over to Orianer, who frowned deeply.

 “Can’t I trade with Vala? Or Khir’schen? Or maybe-”

 “No. Switch.”

 Erende felt the soft hair of Toro’s back in between his fingers as he lifted himself up. Aeria was laying on her side, a blanket over her. Erende seated himself behind her.

 “Make sure your arms are secured. You’ll need to be her belt.” Khir’schen called from atop Waylan. Erende awkwardly placed his hands around Aeria’s legs, lowering himself down to make sure she was secured. Bahadur whipped his reins.

 “Alright, let’s get moving.”

---

 It was dusk when Erende opened his eyes. The fading blaze of the setting sun set the sky on fire, hidden behind the canopy of trees that surrounded him. He could hear the crunch of dead leaves under the heavy steps from the horses. Erende could only make out their shadows against the shadows of the trees. In the distance, he could see the black outline of a mountain. Monahven.

 “Good evening, starlight.”

 Erende turned, blinking. Khir’schens grin was barely illuminated from the light of the setting sun.

 “Arvak says good morning,” Bahadur’s shadow said from the other side of Khir’schen.

 “Good morning back to Arvak,” Erende yawned, stretching out his arms. His fatigue had begun to recede, and he felt his hands sting as blood rushed to his fingers. His joints popped when he sat up. Aeria had fallen asleep sometime when he did, and she still laid on Toro’s broad back, snoring softly. Erende squinted down at his arms, and grimaced when he found marks from where her bandages had pressed on his skin.

 “You two just look so cute,” Orianer’s dim outline cooed from Isolde on Erende’s right side. He rolled his eyes.

 “Of course, we do. I’m adorable.”

 “Uh,” Steffan said, his shadow head popping out from behind Orianer, “are you sure about that?”

 “Yeah,” Khir’schens shadow snickered. Erende could practically hear the smile on her face, “that’s somewhat debatable.”

 Erende wrinkled his nose.

 “So rude.”

 “I know.”

 “Hush,” Bahadur said, glaring over his shoulder. Erende turned forward, and saw that the dusk had begun to turn to turn the sky black. Ahead of them, small dots of what seemed to be lanterns swung gently in the night breeze. They seemed to be at the bottom of a large hill, for the lanterns were above them. Erende watched as Bahadur slowly slid off Arvak’s saddle. The grass crunched under his boots. He motioned for the rest of the Guild to stay put as he walked forward. Erende stared at one of the lanterns. It had begun to move. He squinted. The lantern swung faster, and came closer to them. Erende tensed, placing his hand on his waist and grabbed his dagger. He was about to vault from Toro’s back and come to Bahadur’s aid when the lantern reached Bahadur, illuminating a dark-skinned man with a long black beard and a cloth wrapped around his head. He grinned.

 “Bahadur!” He said, reaching for a hug. Bahadur smiled, hugging him back.

 “Hello, Dune, long time, no see. How has life treated you?”

 “Quite well, quite well,” Dune said. His voice was thick with an unusual accent, unlike that of Khir’schen’s or either of the elves. It was deeper, more ridged, and he didn’t pronounce all the letters in his sentence.

 “The Red Vale Guild! Well, hello Khir’schen, Vala. Haven’t seen you since you dropped off some supplies a few moons ago. I would love to hear about why you’re here, but we better get moving back to Riften. The spiders might be out tonight, or maybe not, but I’d rather not risk it.” He held his lantern out, and beckoned for the rest to follow him.

 “Come, come, let us go inside the gates.”

 Erende watched as Dune turned on his foot and walked back up the hill. The Guild glanced at each other, then began to follow the swing of his lantern.

 Dune helped them unpack their necessities from the horses and led the animals towards a stable that was stationed next to a large wall. Lanterns lined the wall and exposed a gate within the wall. Two guards were standing next to it.

 Bahadur lifted Aeria from Toro’s back, and Vala helped the dog reverse back to his original shape. Dune approached the guards. They talked in hushed whispers for a moment. One of the guards groaned, and turned to the gate. It creaked loudly as it opened. Erende saw only darkness inside. Once they walked further into the city, the guards shut the gate behind them. They were consumed with darkness, and Dune held his dim lantern up. It didn’t help.

 “I should be grateful you decided to come in the night, even with all the dangers,” Dune’s voice echoed. Erende attempted to follow his sound. Darkness engulfed everything, except for the small dot of fire.

 “Why is that?” Bahadur’s voice asked. Dune sighed.

 “Ever since the war, Riften has been…well, somewhat destroyed. In other words, uglier than a troll. At night, when the darkness engulfs the town, it is much prettier.”

 Erende heard the sound of boots stomping across a wooden bridge. The lantern bobbed. Then, they turned a corner, and suddenly a building came into view. Several windows were lit, and

Erende could hear loud music being played from inside. Dune grinned in the light of his lantern as he approached the door to the building.

 “Welcome to Vilemyr Inn.” He said, and opened the door. Erende felt the heat of fire and stench of alcohol smack him in the face. The inside of the inn was bathed in an orange light from a large fire pit in the middle of a common room. Tables lined the walls with villagers, the tables stacked with food and mugs of ale. At the far corner of the building sat an L-shaped counter with a scantily clad barmaid rushing to fill mugs with ale, while three other barmaids tended to drunk patrons. On either side of the counter were four doorways. Dune pointed to one of the rooms on the right side of the wall.

 “You can set the girl there, and one of our nurses will tend to her, and the rest of you, find yourself a seat. It’s dinner time.”

 Bahadur walked towards the bedroom with Aeria still limp in his arms, and Erende sat in the far corner of the inn. Khir’schen and Steffan followed, pulling up chairs near the fire. Orianer grimaced as some of the villagers began to stare at her. She mimicked a lunge towards a drunk man who got too close.

 “Watch it,” she muttered, folding her arms, leaning against one of the wooden poles. Vala sat cross-legged on the rug. Dune had disappeared from behind the counter, but returned with plates of food. The barmaid and he distributed the plates among the many villagers of the bar. Erende took one from the maid, trying not to look down her dress as she leaned over to hand Steffan his plate. When she left, Khir’schen giggled as she bit into a chicken leg. Erende looked at her.

 “What?” He asked. Khir’schen shook her head.

 “Your face is red. Was it that difficult to not treat her like a piece of meat?” She nodded towards the barmaid, who was fending off some villagers from touching her. Erende groaned.

 “I’m not an animal, not like them. I treat women with respect.” He stated. Khir’schen smirked.

 “Okay. If you say so.”
 Erende huffed, angrily biting into his own chicken leg and smacking.

 “I do say so,” he muttered under his breath. Then, both Dune and Bahadur joined them with their own plates of food. Erende moved to make room for Bahadur as he pulled up a chair, and in the light of the fire, Erende realized that Dune had dark grey skin and boiling red eyes. His face was angular like Aeria’s and Ori’s, with pointed ears and a high hairline as well. Was he an elf? He looked around. Erende spied even more red eyes set in grey faces. Who were they?

 “How’s Aeria?” Steffan asked, interrupting Erende’s thoughts, “is she alright?”

 “Aeria is doing just find; the poor thing is just tired.” Bahadur said as he pushed a fork into a baked potato. Dune swallowed.

 “So, what is it that brought you here?” He asked, “normally I don’t see you for quite some time, other than passing by for food or supplies?”

 “Wait,” Steffan said, putting down his plate, “I thought you said that your camp was the only one in Skyrim? Why is this here?” He asked. Bahadur shook his head.

 “No, lad. I said we are the last Nords.”

 “He’s right. This,” Dune motioned to the crowd gathering around the fire, “is the Riften Slums. We are the inhabitants of the ruins of once great Riften. Most of us here are dark elves, Bretons and Redguards. There would have been some Nords if when the Fall of Windhelm they didn’t try to run away from all of us dark elves and towards Solitude.” He chuckled, placing a hand on Bahadur’s shoulder, “thank Azura you are not bigoted to us.” 

 “Well, I was raised right. We have few others besides Nords in Solitude. Everyone else returned home, but us, we had nowhere to go. I should thank you for letting us trade supplies. You let us thrive.”

 Dune waved his hand, “no need, I thank you as well.”

 “And now, ladies and gentlemen, please quiet now!” A barmaid announced from atop a chair, “Welcome all…to your nightly ritual. Beginning now, please bring all your attention to...” she paused. A trap door slowly creaked open from the floor. The room hushed.

 “…Sithis.”

 The Guild watched as a woman in a dark grey and purple coat floated from the trap door. A long hood covered her head. She approached the fire pit, and to Erende’s surprise, the rowdy villagers that surrounded the pit began to move away from her, quieting. When she reached the fire, it was completely silent. Erende leaned to Steffan, opening his mouth.

 “Shh!” Dune snapped. Erende shut his lips.

 The woman removed her hood, and in the light of the fire, her red eyes burned. White paint highlighted her cheekbones, the edges of her face, the creases of her eyes and chin, with one streak of red cascading down her nose. Her hands appeared from under the cloak, black, sand-like material falling from her fists. She looked around for a moment. Her eyes locked with Erende’s. A tight smile appeared on her lips. Then, she flung the sand into the fire. A bright explosion rocked the inn, blinding Erende. He blinked, and as it receded, he saw the woman circle the fire pit. An image of a snarling wolf prowled in the flames.

 “The beast was roaming, long before its time,” she sang in a low, silky voice. Her boots made no sound as she followed the wolf around the fire.

 “Its hunger was greedy, so the dread father sought the weakest, and in the shadows, it lurked, waiting.”

 The image was whisked to a dark shadow stalking two men in a vale of trees. They battled one another as the shadow circled them.

“Death was priceless to the dread father, but lives were not. To feed the wolf, sacrifices were made.”

 Erende watched when the flames morphed into a large city. Next to him, Bahadur tensed.

 Solitude. A lone, black figure made of smoke walked among it. Nine other blue orbs surrounded him. Erende felt the sensation of anxiety rise within him.

“Its flames were burning, brought on by death. The nine faiths were the first. As they were taken down, one by one, the sky began falling, the earth went shaking. And they crossed from us, to him, to feed the wolf,”

 The city crumbled, ash billowing from the fire pit. Erende coughed and fanned the front of his face. When it cleared, he saw hundreds of tiny figures, of elves and men, battling each other in the smoke. The woman stood with another handful of sand.

“Those who followed the Nine were left without a path. It began with a shadow, it began with a whisper, and in the pines, the war was ended, but the dread father’s hunger was not,”

She threw it down, casting a fireball that devoured the men. A fiery wolf, jaws wide and aflame, jumped from the flames and towards a shrieking group of villagers.

 “It stalks us now, the last of the faiths, waiting to eat,”

The woman hurled a blue light at it, and the wolf shattered into crystal-like ash that rained gently on the audience. She grinned, turning back towards the fire pit, where the smoke congealed into the black figure.

 “So beware the dread father, beware his pride!” She cried, “worship his virtue, and listen to grief! Dread Father awaits, the Lord of Creation. Feed his wolf with your sins, and the Daedra will feast on your soul!”

 She cackled, and the smoke swirling around her in a black storm. Erende closed his eyes as the sound of winds and laughter howled in his ears. Then, it was quiet. He slowly peeked open to see the pit gently burning. The air was clean with no sign of smoke or ash. The woman was gone. It was as if she was never there. The room was silent for a moment, then exploded into rigorous cheers and clapping. Erende breathed. He had unconsciously been holding his breath, and he sighed as the air rushed back into his lungs. Beside him, Bahadur whistled, and Dune clapped excitedly.

 “Wasn’t that amazing?” He said, clapping onto Steffan’s shoulder, who nodded.

 “It was, her voice is amazing.”

 “And that song,” Khir’schen said, “I’ve never heard it from her before. It’s new, and what is it about?”

 “It’s about a dark man, obviously,” Orianer scoffed. Vala elbowed her.

 “Hush, did you hear about the faiths?”

 “No, because I was focusing on something important.”

 Dune stood from his chair, stretching his back with a pop.

 “Oh, Orianer, in that case, I think we should go see Lady Taryn. She wrote the song herself and I believe she’ll enjoy telling you about it.”

 He motioned for the Guild, and they stood. They followed him through the mass of now joyful villagers, seemingly forgetting the performance and laughing while downing more mugs of ale. Dune led them behind the counter and to a hidden set of stairs. Erende descended into darkness, the scent of dust wafting into his nose. Dune opened the door and stepped aside to let the Guild pass through into a large room underneath the pub. The walls and ceiling shook slightly as the dancing villagers stomped their feet. Underneath a swinging chandelier sat the woman from the performance at a feasting table filled with soups, breads, rolls of cheese, desserts, a large turkey, chickens, roasted pheasants, and an assortment of fruits and vegetables. A barmaid poured a glass of water into a chalice, and she slowly picked it up, bringing the glass to her lips. She gazed at them as they walked further into the room. Her eyes found Erende’s again, and she stopped mid-sip.

 “Greetings, my dearest Lady Taryn,” Dune said with a small bow, “Do you remember the Red Vale Guild? From their last trip here a couple of moons ago with supplies?”

 The Guild bowed to Taryn, but Erende didn’t move. Her eyes were too intense. Erende felt her mind seep into his very body. It was her that looked away first, but only to greet Dune as he came to kiss her hand.

 “Of course, my love. They are welcome to sit down if they please, but do not touch the food. It is a feast for our workers when they are through handling the barbaric villagers in the inn.”

 Her voice was like honey, thick with an accent like that of Dune’s. She moved gracefully as she placed her hand back into the folds of her dress on her lap. Dune stood next to her while the barmaid brought out more seats for the table.

 “It is lovely to see you again,” Bahadur said as he sat down. Vala nodded excitedly.

 “Yes, your performance was absolutely amazing, it was just incredible, just-”

 “I know, sweetheart,” Taryn said as she sipped from her chalice again, “I know the song was incredible, it’s why I performed it.”

 Vala exchanged a glance with Khir’schen, who cleared her throat.

 “We were just wondering about-”

 “The song, I assume,” Taryn interrupted again. Erende sucked in his lips to keep himself from saying anything he would regret. Steffan noticed his expression, and quickly turned to Taryn.

 “So, yes, would you mind telling us about your song? It is intriguing, as it might have something to do with our current mission.”

 Her eyebrow peaked.

 “Your current mission? And what would that be?”

 It was Khir’schen that produced the scroll. Taryn took it with no expression, unraveling it on the table. Her eyes scanned over the parchment, and Erende waited in baited breath as she traced her fingers over the curved lines. A fleck of red stuck to her finger tip.

 “How…interesting,” she whispered, “this map…it’s very old.” She turned to the paragraphs of symbols, her eyes furrowing.

 “Falmer.”

 Taryn and Erende both looked up to Vala, who had her lips drawn into a tight line. Taryn slowly nodded.

 “Yes, Falmer writing. This map must have been created by someone who either knew the Falmer language, or…”

 Taryn stopped. She beckoned for the barmaid, and whispered in her ear. The maid nodded, and left the room. Taryn folded her hands in her lap, humming softly, and sat in silence. Erende’s ears peaked as the stairs creaked with heavy footsteps. The door opened, and three men entered the basement. They wore black armor that covered every inch of their skin, black gloves that rolled above their elbows and thick, high boots that made their footsteps sound as if they were giants. A black cloak softly waved behind them. Their faces were shrouded in a black hood, a bandana covering across their mouth. Only two little green dots broke through their mask. They stood at the end of the table, and said nothing. Taryn smiled.

 “I can give you answers, but first, you must tell me what you know.”

 “It started with Erende violating Aeria.”

 Erende turned to Orianer, who smiled at him.

 “I did not! We were fighting and headbutting her seemed to be the best thing to do!” He retorted. Steffan looked to him, cocking an eyebrow.

 “You…what?”

 “He shoved his fat face into Aeria’s chest,” Khir’schen said. Even she was smiling. Erende rolled his eyes.

 “You know what, I’m pretty sure they don’t want to hear about this. How about we tell them what actually happened?”

 “But that did happen?” Steffan asked. His voice was hard. Was he angry?

 “Well, yes,” Erende said, his cheeks heating just a little, “it happened, but-but our Lady Taryn wants to know about the map, where it came from, all that kind of crap.”

 Taryn kept her expression stoic, and nodded silently. One of the men in the black armor stifled his laughter, coughing to cover it up. Erende frowned.

 “Can you tell us who those guys are?” He asked, looking at the three figures.

 “After you tell me what you know.”

 “Fine. Can I tell them now without you interrupting, Ori?”

 Orianer shrugged, “after I tell them about how we were granted the mission and how you weren’t a part of any of this before you forced yourself into it.”

 She turned to Taryn, “we were given this contract by Chief Haldric of the Nordic camp of Solitude in the fallen hold of Haafingar.”

 “And is this your first real contract?” Taryn asked.

 “No,” Khir’schen said, “we’ve been on other missions before when we would deliver supplies to other camps, such as this camp.”

 “True,” Dune said.

 “This was just our first contract where we were required to travel overseas and obtain an item. Halrain was a forgotten island to us – no documents that we had could explain anything about it or if it even existed, but our client showed us a simple map that he had that had the drawings a small land in the Padomaic Ocean.”

 Taryn nodded, looking to Erende.

 “And you?”

 Erende sighed.

 “The map was given to me by one of my employers from my homeland-”

 “-after I said you shouldn’t,” Steffan muttered. Erende glared at him.

 “- my homeland, Halrain. There, none of my people have ever heard of Tamriel, so when I was gifted the map, both of us assumed this was nothing more than maybe a child’s map to play with. That is what I believed, until these dumbasses,” he pointed his head towards the Guild, “decided it would be a good idea to rob my home and try to steal it, but they’re not that great of fighters.”

 Ori scowled.

 “The Guild is only about two moons old. We were only one moon old when we first met you. We are stronger now.”

 “And yet I still kicked your asses.” Erende winked.

 “Well I-”

 “Hush,” Taryn said, holding her hand to them. They quieted.

 “You say your employer had gifted it to you? Who…who was it?”

 “Walks-On-Poison, this lizard…thing. He was this big man-lizard, and my employer as we created this small business of, well,” he coughed, “reclaiming items that were not in our direct possession and trading them for more useful materials.”

 “A thieves’ guild.” One of the men in the mask said, stepping forward. Erende shrugged.

 “I wouldn’t say a Guild, as there was only two of us, but yeah, we were thieves.”

 The men exchanged glances between them. Taryn tightened her mouth, leaning forward and placing her hands on the table.

 “I see, and did you find anything particularly…interesting about the map, when you first received it?”

 Erende thought back to the night in the pub. The blood on the scroll was still fresh then. He shook his head.

 “Not really. Walks-On-Poison mentioned that someone tried to persuade him into trading the scroll for a pricey dagger.” He glanced at the red stains still on the scroll.

 “He didn’t accept.”

 Taryn looked down at the scroll. She smoothed it out with her thin fingers.

 “What was your client’s name?”

  “Seetheus,” Bahadur said, “Seetheus Annocious.”

  “An Imperial.” One of the men said. Erende thought his voice sounded strained. Taryn gave them a look, and turned back to Bahadur. This time, her expression was hard.

 “Did you see this man? Did you see his face?”

 Bahadur paused for a moment. The looks on the others faces were the same.

 “...no, Haldric met with him once, but he mentioned that the client was wearing a hood.” He looked down.

 “We never give something like that much thought. Anonymity is accepted, and we don’t find it suspicious.”

 Taryn nodded. She stood from her seat, slowly walking towards the three men. Her robes flowed gently behind her.

 “You came down here to learn of my song, yes? It’s meaning and origin is what you originally met with me for?”

 The Guild just nodded. Taryn lifted her head in a slight nod.

 “My story, my song, is that of the Daedric Princes. It is not about one Prince, but every one of them. They each weave the lives of us mortals, and feed of our fear and love for them. They wish us to serve them, to please them. My song is about the war, and how the Princes’ are to blame.”

 “We also had questions about the Daedra,” Steffan remarked, “and we were hoping you would able to answer some other questions?”

 “Of course I can, did you not hear me when I said I can answer as long as you inform me of what you know?” Taryn snapped. Steffan looked down, sighing. Erende saw him clutch his hands into tight fists.

 “Listen, one of our members of the Guild was injured in battle. The problem is, is that this battle was unlike anything I have seen. It involved a-a Prince – Molag Bal.”

 Taryn’s eyes widened just slight, but she continued listening.

 “With Molag Bal, was a woman. She seemed to be his apprentice, or his servant, or something. I’m not sure. She used her magick to transform Aeria into this…this…”

 “Werewolf.” Taryn finished. Steffan looked to her. His eyes were wet. He nodded. Taryn set her face in a grime expression.

  “Bring her to me, Bahadur. I want to see her.”

  He nodded solemnly, and walked back upstairs. He disappeared for a few moments, then returned with Bahadur holding the Bosmer in his arms. Aeria coughed as she was placed on the table, the food being swept off quickly.

 Aeria twitched and shook as Taryn’s hand passed over her head. A nurse patted away beads of sweat from her forehead. Erende saw flecks of black smoke wisp into the air.

 “Black magick resides inside her. She has been cursed by His Lord Hircine.”

 “But she said that this other deity, Y’ffre, cured her.” Steffan interjected. Taryn shook her head.

 “She is too much devoured by this magick. Y’ffre had abandoned her, taking whatever protection with him. She is in danger of becoming a werewolf at will or without will, it is not easy to understand,” she removed her hand, the light dimming, “something is terribly wrong. If a worshipper under Molag Bal was able to perform this kind of magick, her strength is one of the greatest I have seen in order to repeal that of an Aedra’s magick. Aeria’s faith was not enough to protect her.”

 “But the faiths,” Vala said, standing up, “you said something about the faiths?”

 Taryn looked to her. Her eyes were tired.

 “It was not a subtle line. It is about the disappearance of the Aedra. Although in different pantheons in some cultures, with different names or auras or appearances, even gender, these gods are always one, and, for no reason that I have not been able to comprehend, they have disappeared.”

 “The Daedra still roam around us, no longer as wary as they would be with our gods behind our backs,” Dune said solemnly, “but no prayer has been answered, and the Daedra are growing more and more involved in our lives of the mortals.”

 “Even I believe that the War of the Dark was started by one of the Daedra,” Taryn sighed, “but even if the Daedra are here to conquer the world, we still wish to find what has happened to our beloved gods. I believe the answer lies with you, and them.”

 She looked to the three men who still stood near the door. They straightened as her gaze crossed over them. The one in the middle of the three stepped forward. He slowly removed his hood. Green skin glowed in the light of the chandelier. The few strands of black hair he had were tied in a ponytail. Two grotesque tusks protruded from his bottom lip. Two blue eyes burned into them.

 “Red Vale Guild, I would like you to meet Morag, leader of the Thieves’ Guild.”

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