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Saturday, April 21, 2012

XVII - The Blade of Nerevar

I sincerely apologise for the lack of an update last week. Real life got in the way again. We should be back to normal from here up until the end of Tribunal. Enjoy!

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Silence pressed against Fen’s ears as she climbed the stairs to Almalexia’s platform. The goddess watched her serenely, a faint, knowing smile on her face, her hands held out with her palms pointed skyward. “It is time we talked of greater things,” she said when Fen had told her of Valor’s death. Without even a thought for him, Fen thought angrily. Almalexia went on, “I have watched you since your arrival in Vvardenfell, dear Fen, and you have been a strong and faithful servant to me. None but the Nerevarine could have succeeded as you have.” Her eyes fluttered open and Fen gazed steadily back at her. “How long I have waited for this!” she cried suddenly, a gentle smile breaking across her face. “My Nerevar, returned to me at last! I have watched from my Temple as others have made the claim, and I have seen them fall. I believe now that you are the one who was prophesied!”

“I am not Nerevar,” Fen said at once. “Nerevar is –”
“I believe you now to be the Nerevarine,” Almalexia interrupted smoothly. “Though I have watched others come and go, my belief is that you are the child of prophecy. The time has come for you to reclaim your station. Together we can unite Morrowind once again, free from the Imperial yoke.”
“I have fulfilled the prophecy,” Fen tried again. “Dagoth Ur is gone, and that is –”
“For years, the Chimer and the Dwemer had been at war,” Almalexia continued, ignoring Fen’s protests. “The Dwemer spurned the Daedra that the Chimer worshipped, instead placing their faith in their metal creations. It was only when the Nords invaded Resdayn that the two nations were able to join as one, under the leadership of our Nerevar and the Dwarf-King Dumac. In time, the two generals became blood friends, and on the day that Nerevar and I were wed, Dumac presented us with twin blades, Hopesfire and Trueflame.” This time, Fen said nothing. She had never heard of these blades, and she watched as Almalexia raised one elegant hand and a Dwemer scimitar materialized there, its blade glowing with a fierce, burning blue fire.
“Each was a magnificent blade, the pinnacle of Dwemer craftsmanship,” Almalexia explained, closing her hand around the hilt and studying the blade fondly. “Their blades burned with an unearthly fire, and the sight of them struck fear into our enemies. My blade has been kept safe, but not so Trueflame, the Blade of Nerevar. It was lost at the battle of Red Mountain.”
“Trueflame,” Fen repeated, and the name sounded familiar on her tongue.
“Yes,” Almalexia replied sadly, waving her hand once. Her own blade disappeared, and the room was left significantly darker without its strange blue fire. “The Blade of Nerevar. In the battle beneath Red Mountain, Trueflame was shattered, the flame extinguished, and in the confusion, the pieces lost. It is time for you, Nerevarine, to remake the blade and take your place by my side once again. I have only one, which I now give to you.” She held her hands out, palms outstretched, and a sword hilt appeared there, floating above her hands. It was ornately crafted, with a narrow steel handguard that was rusted and dented portruding from its base. “Through my magic, I have been able to determine that the other pieces of the blade are in my city. Find the other two pieces of the blade, and forge the blade anew. Only you may accomplish this, Nerevarine.”
Fen took the hilt from where it floated above Almalexia’s hands, and she felt strangely somber. The piece had a dead, empty feeling to it, and something in Fen’s distant memory – the memory she knew belonged to Nerevar – told her that this was the exact opposite of how it should be. Trueflame was meant to be blazing, full of life and power. Not worthless and shattered into pieces.
“The best weaponsmiths in all of Tamriel reside in my city,” Almalexia was saying. “When you have recovered the pieces of the blade, seek out the finest among these craftsmen, and press him into our service.” With that, Fen was dismissed, and she and Julan returned to Godsreach, where she relayed all Almalexia had told her to him and showed him the broken sword hilt.
“So this belonged to Nerevar, did it?” Julan said, dropping unceremoniously on Fen’s bed and weighing the piece in his hands. “Or to you, I guess.”
“Yes,” Fen replied, pulling off her headscarf. A shower of ash accompanied it, and Fen shook her hair loose, letting more of it sprinkle out onto the tiled floor. “And she gave me absolutely no clue as to how to find the rest of the pieces.”
“Well,” Julan said, setting the hilt carefully on the bedside table. “It’s Dwemer, isn’t it? Maybe it’s in Bamz-Amschend.”
“Yes,” Fen said slowly, pulling off her cloak and draping it over a chair. She stared at her reflection in the mirror thoughtfully. “Maybe…” She thought carefully. It would match Almalexia’s. A scimitar. There was something tugging at her memory, but she couldn’t quite understand it. “Let’s not worry about this until tomorrow, though,” Fen said. “I’m exhausted.” She pulled her hair out of its braid and sat down at the vanity. “Maybe Plitinius knows something,” she mused, leaning on her hands and staring into the mirror. “He always seems to know what’s going on in this city.”
Plitinius, it turned out, was not difficult to find. They found him in the first place they looked the next morning – at the outdoor theatre in the Great Bazaar, where it looked like the actors were struggling to pack their props and scenery into boxes despite the storm. Plitinius was speaking brightly to the flamboyant Dunmer director of the acting troupe on the stage.
“Ah! It’s our Tarvus look-alike!” the director said at once as Fen and Julan approached. “How’s the acting career coming for you, son?”
“Um…it’s all right,” Julan said awkwardly.
“We were just wondering if we could speak to Plitinius for a moment,” Fen interjected before the director could push Julan into another job.
“Certainly!” Plitinius said at once. “Meryn, I’ll only be a moment,” he said, giving the director a wink, and he followed them to a sheltered alcove in the wall where the storm was less audible. “Nightmare, this weather,” Plitinius said with a chuckle. “Meryn was just telling me that the Mournhold Players are looking for an indoor performance space. I suppose it’ll be easier, what with this storm.”
“Plitinius,” Fen said quickly. “We need your help.”
“Certainly, Fenara! Looking for something in the sewers again?”
“Not this time, no.” Fen pulled Trueflame’s hilt from her bag and held it out to him. “This is a piece of Nerevar’s blade. The other two pieces are somewhere in the city and we need to find them.” Plitinius took the hilt from her hand, looking astonished.
“Nerevar’s….good god, Fenara, this is incredible. This must be thousands of years old!” Fen nodded.
“Do you have any idea where we could find the other pieces?”
“I wish I knew where to tell you to look, but my knowledge of ancient artifacts is somewhat limited,” Plitinius said regretfully. “Perhaps you’d do better speaking with Torasa Aram, the curator at the Museum. Her knowledge is extensive when it comes to unique items.”
They thanked Plitinius and hurried on their way, Fen leading through the storm back to Godsreach, where the Mournhold Museum of Artifacts stood on a street corner. She had never been inside the museum, though she knew where it was from her rare, sheltered outings as an adolescent. They quickly located the building and slipped inside, shaking ash from their clothes.
The main room was quiet, with a single Ordinator standing guard near the back. It was dotted with wooden pedestals, each topped with a wine-coloured cushion. Several of the pedestals were empty, though most of them held various rings, weapons, and other aged-looking artifacts. The museum had a strong musty smell about it.
“This place looks cheerful,” Julan muttered, but Fen ignored him and went to go examine the nearest pedestal, where a white-gold ring inlaid with a rectangular ruby sat. Its name card read Ring of Phynaster.
“Welcome to the Mournhold Museum of Artifacts.” Fen looked up. A gloomy-looking Dunmer woman had appeared before a door, wearing splendidly embroidered silks but looking particularly drawn. “We haven’t had many visitors since this storm started. Would you like a tour?”
“No, actually,” Fen told her. “We were hoping you could help us with something.” Fen carefully drew out the sword hilt. “This a piece of the Blade of Nerevar. Trueflame. We’re looking for the other two. They’re in the city somewhere.”
“The pieces of the Blade of Nerevar here in Mournhold?” the curator said, her tired eyes widening. “May I…?” she asked, and Fen handed the hilt to her. She stared reverently, turning the piece over in her hands. “Now there’s something I’d like to get my hands on for the Museum. I can’t say that I have seen any that I know of,” she said, still studying the hilt, “but I do have one piece from roughly the same time, and it seems to be of Dwemer construction.
“I don't even have it on display, because I haven’t been able to positively identify it yet. It’s a shield of Dwemer make, but not traditional in any sense of the word. The pieces of it just don’t seem to match, and I’ve wondered if it isn’t some sort of a fake. I suppose I might be able to part with it, but I’ll need some compensation.”
“How much?” Fen asked, reaching for her gold.
“Not money,” she replied. “No, we’re funded by the Archaeologists Guild in Firewatch. I don’t need money. But I’m always looking for new pieces for the Museum of Artifacts. Unique items, armor and weapons of lore – you know the stuff. If you would be willing to donate a couple to the Museum, I’d be willing to part with the shield.”
“What sort of items?” Fen asked glumly, replacing her sack.
“Here,” the curator said, taking a book off a nearby shelf and handing it to her. “Anything in that we would take. If you need anything, please let me know.” The curator turned and started up the stairs at the back of the museum while Fen opened the thick book, leafing through pages upon pages of artifacts.
“Gods,” Julan muttered, peering over her shoulder. “I didn’t know that much stuff existed.” Fen flipped to the back of the book, where there was an index. She ran her finger along the names of artifacts, searching for ones she knew. With a sinking feeling, she reached the end and realized she had two of the artifacts mentioned – the Warlock’s Ring and the Staff of Magnus – but she was rather attached to them both.
“I’m not in the mood to go cave diving on Vvardenfell,” she said after a moment, closing the book. “It’ll have to do. Can you go get the curator?” While Julan went upstairs to find her, Fen pawed through her bag until she located the Warlock’s Ring and pulled the Staff of Magnus off her back. She looked at them both rather reminiscently – she had thrown the Staff of Magnus to kill the colossal Hunger guarding Han-Sashael’s bones. It seemed like years ago.
“Found something?” the curator asked, coming back down with Julan, and she gasped when she saw the staff and ring that Fen held out to her. “The Staff of Magnus!” she exclaimed at once, taking it reverently. “And the Warlock’s Ring! This…This is a great honour for the museum, sera. I will go and fetch the Dwemer piece at once.” The curator slipped back into her office, then emerged a moment later, carrying a severely scratched, rusted, and dented Dwemer shield with an odd, out-of-place looking steel spike on its front. Fen and Julan thanked the curator and left the gloomy, musty-smelling museum to return to the Winged Guar for lunch.
Fen stored the shield safely in her room and sat down on her bed, staring up at the canopy. Something had been egging at her memory since Almalexia had given her the first piece of the blade. What was it? Fen closed her eyes, thinking carefully. She ran back through the events that had occurred since she arrived in Mournhold. Finding the Dark Brotherhood, Delitian’s petty tasks, searching the sewers for Fedris Hler, the attack on the Plaza, the duel with Karrod…
Fen sat bolt upright. The duel with Karrod. She remembered it so distinctly, almost every motion of the fight. And she remembered seeing Karrod’s blade.
Karrod’s ancient-looking scimitar.
“Julan,” Fen said, quickly going out to the bar with the shield under her arm. “I think I know where the last piece is.”
“You do?” Julan said, immediately turning away from the group of young Dunmer girls he had been talking to. Fen nodded eagerly and Julan swung off the bar stool and swept on his cloak, paying no mind to the affronted-looking girls. “Let’s go.”
When they reached the Palace, Fen covered her face once more and caught a young page by the arm in one of the reception chambers.
“Do you know where the king is?” she asked.
“He’s in his rooms. Bathing, I think.”
“Perfect,” Fen breathed. “What about his guard?”
“The Redguard one? In the guards’ quarters, I’d expect.”
“Can you fetch him for me?”
“I’ve got to deliver this to the Agricultural Head,” the boy said irritably, waving a sealed envelope at her. “Go find him yourself.” He pushed Fen away and left the chamber. Fen quickly drew the headscarf over her face, just as a precaution, and they made their way through the corridors of the underbelly of the Palace until they reached the guards quarters, where Karrod was, indeed, sitting at a table, his helmet at his elbow, reading a book.
“Karrod.” The Redguard looked up and nodded in recognition.
“What can I do for you?” he asked as Fen set the heavy shield down on the table. Still unused to his low voice and slightly startled, she took out the sword hilt and explained the situation of Nerevar’s blade to him, her eyes straying hopefully to the sheath at his hip. When she finished, Karrod drew the scimitar out, and Fen saw, to her delight, that it was a blade almost identical to Almalexia’s.
“When I was a child, my father gave me this weapon,” he said, examining the blade with a sad smile. “He told me that as long as I had it, none would defeat me in battle...until the rightful owner came to claim it from me. I know now that you are the one of whom he spoke.” Karrod laid the blade flat and slid it across the table to Fen. “I give it to you freely. May it serve you as well as it has served me.” Fen picked up the blade, and a sudden feeling surged in her, a feeling she couldn’t quite describe. Like a mixture of relief and determination.
“Thank you,” she said softly, taking the blade, and Karrod nodded, then wordlessly stood and left the room.
“So now what?” Julan asked, picking up the scimitar.
“Now we find a craftsman,” Fen replied. “Come on, the craftsman’s hall is just over in Godsreach.” Heaving the Dwemer shield into her arms again, they fought their way through the storm to Godsreach, where they quickly ducked inside the craftsman’s hall, which was bustling with activity. They were directed to the local weaponsmith, an Orc called Yagak gro-Gluk. His forge was at the back, and the tile floor was blackened with soot and grime. Yagak, too, was wearing an ash-black apron, his sleeves rolled up to reveal his muscular arms as he hammered a sword into shape. When they entered, he turned around, the fire causing sweat to bead across his face. His brow was so low that his eyes were nearly impossible to see. Fen wondered how he had enough vision to forge weapons at all.
“What do you want?” he shouted over the bustle of the craftsman’s hall and the crackling of his own forge. “I’m here to make weapons, not to chat.” Fen laid the shield on a nearby table, then took out Karrod’s scimitar and the broken hilt. She explained the task of forging the blade to him, showing him the broken piece poorly attached to the shield. The Orc’s eyes, though barely visible, were curious.
“You’ve got some interesting pieces there,” he grunted, picking up the heavy shield with one hand and turning it around to see the back. “I can work with this. Make the best blade you’ve ever seen...not that I figure you’d know a daikatana from a butter knife. Come back in two days’ time, and I’ll have your blade. Now leave me alone.”
Fen thanked him and turned to leave, but Julan lingered. She glanced at him.
“You go on,” he said quickly. “I want to – have a look around.”
“Look around a craftsman’s hall?” Julan’s ears reddened.
“I – I did some smith work when I was younger. It’s interesting. I just want to have a look.” Fen grinned.
“And I thought you had been trained to be a fearsome warrior all your life,” she joked.
“Well…smithing was the alternative to that.” Fen smiled.
“I’ll be at the inn, then.”
And she made her way back out into the storm.

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