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Saturday, May 12, 2012

XVIII - Trueflame

Fen wasn’t sure how to spend the next two days. There wasn’t much to do in the city itself, seeing as nearly everyone had deserted the outdoors while the ashstorm raged. She ended up spending most of her time in her room at the Winged Guar, replacing potions she’d used up recently in between reading The Real Barenziah.
“Why didn’t she ever tell me any of this?” Fen wondered aloud on the evening of the second day. Julan was leaning back on a chair, his feet on her table, eating an apple as he read A Dance in the Fire. Fen lay flat on her bed, holding the book above her, flipping idly through the pages. “She had this amazing life, and I never knew about it.” Fen sat up on her elbows, looking over at Julan. “Did you know she ran away with a stablehand to Whiterun when she was my age? And she was in the Thieves Guild?”
“I wouldn’t’ve told you if you were my granddaughter,” Julan said, turning the page of his book. “It’s awkward to read that stuff about your family.”
“But it’s so fascinating,” Fen murmured, flipping through the book again. They read in silence for a few more moments. “What were you doing at the craftsman’s hall yesterday?” Fen asked. Julan’s ears went red.
“I told you, I was just looking around.”
“I’m not an idiot, Julan,” Fen said, grinning at him. “What were you doing?”
“I….” Julan let the front feet of his chair hit the floor with a thud. “If you must know, I was getting some armour made.”
“Armour? What kind?”
“Glass. I needed a new set.” Fen realized Julan had been using the same steel armour that he had had since they first met all this time.
“Oh. Julan, you could have just asked me.”
“It’s fine,” he said quickly. “I wanted a custom set anyway.”
“Don’t you have to provide the glass for custom armour, though?”
“Remember when Shani got trapped in that abandoned glass mine?” Fen blinked.
“I didn’t see you collecting glass while we were in there…”
“Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!” Julan said hotly. Fen smiled.
“Julan, it’s fine. You’ve been through enough nonsense with me, you deserve something new.”
“Well…I used your money.” Fen let out an exasperated laugh.
“The last thing I care about right now is money.” Julan smiled also, and they were silent for a time.
“It’s weird, isn’t it?” Julan said finally. “We came here for the Dark Brotherhood, and now we’re forging Nerevar’s long-lost blade.”
“It’s more than that,” Fen said, staring at the canopy over her bed. “I need to…I need to be accepted here. I can’t protect Morrowind if I’m shut out of my birthplace.” Julan raised an eyebrow at her over his book.
“And how will doing this make Helseth accept you, exactly?”
“I don’t know,” Fen said, rubbing her eyes. “I just have a feeling. Like, if I show Sotha Sil that Mournhold is my city and how far I’ll go to protect it, my father will want me again.” She paused. “He might even announce me as his daughter.” It sounded foolish, she realized, saying the dream she had had since childhood out loud. Julan, however, looked unsurprised.
“It’d be about time too, all the shit he’s had you running about doing lately.”
“You think he’d do it?”
“Well, I don’t know him. So I dunno. But he should.” Fen smiled weakly.
“I appreciate it. If only you were my father.”
“I think that’d make sharing a tent awkward.” Fen laughed, and it felt like the first time she had done so in years. There was a knock at the door, and Fen sat up. “Come in.” A grubby-looking Dunmer boy covered in soot stood there, looking dreadfully out-of-place in the warm firelight of Fen’s room.
“I’m Yagak’s apprentice,” he said in a thickly accented voice. “He sent me to tell you your sword’s done. He finished it early.” Fen swung her feet off the bed, fully awake now.
“Thank you,” she said quickly, and the apprentice disappeared. Fen stood up and took her cloak off the chair, swinging it over her shoulders. “Coming?” she asked Julan, who had abandoned A Dance in the Fire on the table.
“Of course I’m coming,” he said at once, picking up his own cloak. “You think I’m going to miss the Nerevarine being reunited with the long-lost blade of Nerevar? Maybe you’ll have an intervention or something.”
“I have a feeling that’s unlikely,” Fen said wryly, blowing out the candle. They exited the inn quickly, pulled up their hoods, and fought their way through the ashstorm to the craftsman’s hall, where Yagak was melting steel in an iron skillet over his forge.
“There’s your blade,” he said, jerking his head toward the table behind them. Fen turned and her breath caught in her throat. There, held carefully aloft in a wooden weapon stand, was the sword, an elegant, polished scimitar identical to Almalexia’s. It was completely unrecognizable from the three rusted and scratched pieces Fen had presented to Yagak two days previously. Now it was truly a weapon, a creation of cruel steel and sharp edges that Fen could tell would kill with one blow. “Pretty good work, if I say so,” Yagak grumbled from his forge. “You could throw a piece of silk over that edge and it would slice it.”
“There’s one thing, though,” Fen said, running a finger along the flat side of the blade.
“Before you ask, I don’t know why it doesn’t burn,” Yagak told her gruffly. “I’m a smith, not an enchanter. You want Dwemer enchantments on this thing, talk to a Dwemer.”
“Here’s the thing about that,” Fen said, turning to face him. “The Dwemer are gone.”
“I know, I know,” the smith replied sharply. “They’re all dead. But look...I’ve heard rumours of a powerful Dwemer mystic, Radac Stungnthumz, that lived in Bamz-Amschend. He’s long gone, but maybe some of his writings still exist. If you can find any of them, I’ll see what I can do for you.” He raised one eyebrow, though it hardly made his eyes more visible. “I’ve also heard rumours that you’ve been down in those ruins a fair few times, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for you.” Fen didn’t reply, but turned and lifted the scimitar carefully from its stand. It felt right in her hand, but something was still out-of-place. There was clearly something missing. It wasn’t Trueflame – not yet.
Early the next morning, Fen sheathed the half-finished blade and she and Julan made their way back down to Bamz-Amschend. The ruins were silent and empty, as they had cleared most of the centurions on their last visit. Now, though, they paid close attention, searching every room for any sign of Radac Stungnthmz’s writings.
Soon they reached one of the lower parts of the ruin, where Fen remembered finding the strange half-built construct and the jars of congealed substance. The door had been left open, and as Fen peered in, what she saw made her heart skip a beat.
There was a Dwarven Spectre inside the forge, a ghost-like creature that resembled the mer it had been thousands of years ago. He looked far different from Yagrum Bagarn, who had been disfigured and bloated by corprus. This spectre was thin and muscular-looking, with a full beard of tight black ringlets and delicately pointed ears that sat below a sharp-tipped cap. He turned at once as the door creaked open, though he did not attack.
“What’re you doing down here?” the spectre said in a strange, strident voice. “Leave an old spirit to his haunts.”
“You’re Radac Stungnthumz,” Fen said slowly, coming into the room, Julan behind her. The spectre gave her a skeptical look and nodded. “I need to speak to a Dwemer mystic. I was directed to you.”
“You want to talk to a Dwemer mystic?” Radac repeated. “Ha! Look, I’m no mystic. Wasn’t when I was alive, either. I’m a soldier, friend, plain and simple. Sure, I made weapons for my troops. No secret there. I’m no mystic, though.” Fen frowned. She produced Nerevar’s blade from where it hung at her hip.
“I need a Dwemer mystic to enchant this. It’s supposed to have fire.” Radac looked thoughtfully at her.
“You say you want to add fire to that blade?” he repeated, and Fen nodded. “Well, if that’s all you want to do, you don’t need a mystic, whelp. I can take care of that for you. We’ll need some Pyroil Tar, though. Used to have some around here,” he muttered, glancing around at the bottles of congealed substance scattered about. “…but that was a long time ago. You can find it in the lower caves of Norenen-dur, in the Citadel of Myn Dhrur. It’s an old ruin far beneath Bamz-Amschend. I swear,” he added in a mutter, “no one is happy with a simple blade that cleaves bone...always need the special effects.”
“But Myn Dhrur…” Fen said slowly. “That’s a Daedric name.”
“Aye, it is. Deep, deep caves. An old Daedric ruin. Fool Dunmer...worshipping those beasts. I say kill ‘em all!” he added sharply. “No offense to you two. Used to be a good spot for all sorts of resources, though. Of course, that was when there were any of us left who needed them! You can find the place through a cave-in at the Passage of the Walker. Take care down there, youngster. No telling what you may run into. You might discover a new way to die.” Radac chuckled. “That’d be something, at least. You should be able to find some Pyroil Tar, though. Bring that back to me.”
Fen and Julan left the spectre to drift aimlessly about the forge and made their way down to one of the blocked passages they had cleared earlier. It led to a rocky, half-flooded corridor, and splashed through it until they came to a stairwell that was built out of all the jagged angles and strange towers that were familiar to Daedric Ruins. The cavern was massive, its ceiling in shadow, and there were five-story towers with flames burning upon them everywhere. Far below, on the shores near the water, all manner of Daedra stalked, still very much alive despite their long exile underground. Julan made to pull his bow out, but Fen caught his arm and pulled him out of sight of the Daedra, behind a broken pillar.
“There must be hundreds of them,” she muttered, glancing down at the innumerable creatures hunched upon the shore. “And I don’t fancy taking on them all at once. I’ll use my Amulet of Shadows. You stay out of sight.” Julan agreed, and Fen slipped the Amulet over her neck and silently levitated over the prowling Daedra to the other end of the hall, where there was a tall waterfall casting a fine spray of mist into the dark ruin. Fen began to move up and down the hall, searching carefully, and she soon located a large silver jar sitting in a niche in one of the towers. There was a large inscription in Daedric on its side
“Perfect,” Fen muttered, carefully taking the heavy jar under her arm. She was about to levitate back when she heard a snarl and a crash from the other end of the hall. “Shit,” she hissed, and she flew as quickly as she could back to where she left Julan.
He was completely engulfed by Daedra, struggling to fight them off as they came at him in hordes. Fen tried to move down just long enough to pull him into the air with her, but the Amulet slipped off her neck as she did so and she was suddenly fully visible. There was only a split second pause before a Winged Twilight clawed her out of the air, causing the tar to slip from her grasp and roll several feet away. Fen hit the ground, hard, and the Daedra converged on her. There were blows coming from all sides – scratches, bites, punches, magic – everything. Fen barely had a chance to breathe. She found Julan’s wrist in the madness and seized it, casting the most powerful shield spell she could muster over the both of them.
A webbed purple dome spread over them, and Fen cast God’s Fire, sending the horde of Daedra stumbling back. The second they were distracted, Fen and Julan made a run for it, sprinting desperately for the flooded cavern, then through to the ruins. The second they got through the hole, Fen levitated the heaviest boulder there back up and lodged it into the opening to ensure that the Daedra would not follow. There was a split second, then Fen realized something.
“Shit!” she shouted, slapping a hand on her forehead. “The Pyroil tar!”
“This is it, right?” Julan asked, and he held up the silver jar, though it was now scratched and dented. Fen let out a sigh of relief.
“That’s it. Thank gods.” She pulled out two healing potions, handing one to Julan. “I thought I told you to stay out of sight,” she said, after they had drunk and were walking back up to the forge.
“I just sneezed,” Julan said defensively. “I guess they heard me.”
“I’d say so,” Fen replied dryly.
Radac appeared pleased when they delivered the Pyroil tar.
“Ah...that’s the stuff,” he said, breaking the seal around the lid and unscrewing it. A smell that reminded Fen of the Dwemer satchels leaked out. “Here, hand me that blade of yours,” he said, and Fen passed Trueflame to him. Radac made a fluid gesture and they both were engulfed in a bright light. He slid his hands into the light up to his elbows, moving things around, frowning slightly. Then he extracted them and snapped his translucent fingers. The light died away and the blade was floating there, only now it was alive with the fiercest flame Fen had ever seen, lighting up the room with its pure energy. “There. There’s your sword,” Radac said. “Not a bad looking blade, actually. Good luck to you, youngster. Now leave this old dwarf alone. Go!” With that, Radac vanished, leaving the blade floating in his wake. Fen was silent for a time, staring at it. Then she reached out and closed her hand around the hilt.
Fen had never fought with a sword before, but the moment she curled her fingers around Trueflame’s ornately carved hilt, she knew the blade was meant to be hers. It felt so natural, so incredibly easy…like she had been born with this scimitar in her hands.
Fen turned to face Julan, holding Trueflame aloft.
“Gods,” he muttered. “That’s an incredible blade.”
“It is,” Fen agreed, sheathing the blade. The room was instantly darker without the glow of Trueflame. “Which is why I’m interested as to what Almalexia will have to say about it.”

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