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Saturday, June 9, 2012

XX - The Mad God

Fen lowered Trueflame slowly, unable to look at Sotha Sil’s mangled face any longer. Julan was standing just behind her, his mouth open and his face twisted in horror. Fen seized his arm.
“We have to get out of here,” she said frantically, her voice hoarse. Before Julan could respond, there was a sudden roar of flames from the door. Fen and Julan turned, and the gold flames died away, leaving a familiar figure standing in their midst. Fen’s eyes widened.

The goddess looked just the same, only this time her face was concealed by a deep green war mask with cruelly curved tusks protruding from the chin. Beneath the mask, her pupiless eyes glowed a sinister, menacing yellow. Clutched in her hand was Hopesfire, Trueflame’s twin blade, flashing with blue fire.
“Nerevar,” she said in her strange, strident voice, standing, unmoving, before the door. “Here it ends. This Clockwork City was to be your death. You were to be my greatest martyr! The heroic Nerevarine, sacrificing all to protect Morrowind from the mad Sotha Sil. But you live! You live!” Almalexia laughed, a high, mirthless laugh that was shrill and painful in the dimly lit dome.
“I do,” Fen said boldly, forgetting her fear. Almalexia stared at her steadily, then pressed on, starting to pace around the room.
“Fear not. I will tell the tale myself when this is done. I will tell my people how with your dying breath you proclaimed your devotion to me, the one true god. Your death will end this prophecy and unite my people again under one god, one faith, one rule by my divine law. Your father, the puppet king will lay down his arms and bow to my will. Those who do not yield will be destroyed.” Almalexia paused, looking up at Fen, and her tone was gleeful now, boasting. “The Mazed Band has allowed me to travel to this place. Here, I slew Sotha Sil. Here, I summoned the Fabricants to attack Mournhold. I will be the saviour of my people! I alone will be their salvation!”
“It was you, then,” Fen said furiously. “It was you all along! You attacked my city!”
“I attacked my city!” Almalexia shouted, her hand tightening around Hopesfire’s hilt. “My city! None may stand in my way! Not you, and certainly not Vivec. He is a poet, a fool. I will deal with him when I have finished with you. And Sotha Sil...” Almalexia paused, looking past Fen at the lifeless body suspended beneath the arc. “…he always thought himself our better, shunning us, locking himself in this dirty, clanking hole. He spoke not a word as he died. Not a whisper. Even in death, he mocked me with his silence!” Almalexia paused, standing directly in front of Fen. “But I think you will scream, mortal. For now, you face the one true god.” Before Fen could move, a blast of energy hurtled into her, sending her stumbling back into the ropes that suspended Sotha Sil’s body. The corpse was cold and stiff.
Fen quickly regained her footing, retaliating with God’s Fire, and Almalexia met it midair with her own spell once more. Julan had drawn his father’s blade and was running toward her. Without even looking, Almalexia threw her hand out in his direction and he was thrown violently to the side by some unseen force, his sword clattering to the ground.
“Julan!” Fen shouted, but she barely had time to act. Almalexia was there, sending a seemingly endless barrage of spells towards Fen. Fen struggled against the pure wall of magicka that was hurtling toward her, forcing up the most powerful shield spell she could muster, pressing her hands flat against it, her boots slipping on the steel floor with the effort of it.
“Give up, mortal!” Almalexia shouted, and Fen took the brief distraction as an opportunity to let down the shield and barrage Almalexia with God’s Fire. She backed the goddess up as far as she could, sending endless spells shooting out of her hands, engulfing the entire room with flames. Her hair was matted with sweat and stuck to her face, and the sleeves of her robe were charred and torn.
When Fen had no magicka left to use, she reached for Trueflame. Almalexia, it seemed, had decided to abandon spellcasting as well, and she sprinted forward, Hopesfire raised for the blow. Fen lifted Trueflame and the two blades collided, emitting a shower of multicoloured sparks. Fen’s God’s Fire spells had caught much of the wiring around the room ablaze, and Fen could see the heat causing sweat to bead upon Almalexia’s golden skin as they pushed their blades toward one another, their arms shaking with the effort, neither of them taking their eyes off one another.
Fen was the first to draw back, moving quickly with a skill she didn’t know she possessed. Almalexia was surprised by her sudden withdrawal, and Fen stepped forward again, aiming a blow at the goddess’s chest. Hopesfire blocked it, however, and they continued to parry, flashes of light illuminating the dome, their own snarls of frustration mingling with the roar of the fire.
Almalexia was slowly forcing Fen backward, into the centre of the room. Fen stumbled over the stair up to the platform, and Almalexia swung Hopesfire forward – their blades locked again. They glared into one another’s eyes.
“It’s so very good that you haven’t forgotten your skills, husband,” Almalexia panted maliciously as they struggled against one another. “Nor have I, as you can see.”
“I am not Nerevar,” Fen hissed, her arms shaking.
“Good,” Almalexia whispered back. “This way I won’t feel any remorse.” She drew back suddenly, surprising Fen, and Almalexia shoved her elbow into Fen’s chest, sending her sprawling to the ground, winded and gasping for breath. Trueflame clattered away, just out of reach. Fen lay, her lungs out of air, unable to move, as Almalexia towered above her, Hopesfire clenched in her fist. Fen struggled to reach for Trueflame, knowing it was pointless. She couldn’t breathe.
“This ends now, Nerevar,” Almalexia hissed, and suddenly Hopesfire was moving toward her, positioned for a death blow.
And then, even as the blade cut through the air aimed for her death, a shape came darting in from the side – a lithe, wiry shape that pushed itself in under Hopesfire, standing between Fen and her impending death.
She saw glass armour. Ragged, dark hair. A sword raised to fend off Hopesfire. The sword shattered, and the blue-lipped blade plunged downward, piercing the cuirass, thrusting through to the hilt, the bloodied tip jutting from an arched back.
Fen struggled to force herself upright as the weight of the collapsing body crashed against her. She caught it, her breath raggedly returning to her throat, felt warm blood spilling over her as she crouched there. And Fen felt her stomach drop, her eyes widen, her heart still, as she looked down at the blank, lifeless face of Julan Kaushibael.
Fen didn’t know how long she crouched there, staring down at Julan’s body in her arms, kneeling in an expanding pool of hot, steaming blood. At some point she became aware of the noise that surrounded her – the flames still crackled, the cogs on the ceiling still turned and clicked, and Almalexia stood by the door, laughing. She had thrown off her war mask, and her face was wild with glee as she laughed a cruel, inhuman cackle. Slowly, Fen looked up at the goddess, her chest heaving.
“I’m so very sorry, Nerevar,” Almalexia shouted over the fire, joyfully examining the dripping blade in her hand. “I was planning on just letting him rot in here, with dear Sotha Sil’s body and yours to keep him company. Too bad!” Almalexia continued to laugh, and Fen carefully lowered Julan to the floor and stood. Her hands were shaking with rage as she slowly went to retrieve Trueflame, her eyes narrowed to deadly slits as she stared at Almalexia. Just as Almalexia opened her eyes, a wild scream tore lose from Fen’s throat and she hurtled across the room, raising Trueflame in both hands.
Their blades collided once more, but this time Fen fought with a raw, unsuppressed fury, her snarls echoing in the dome as their blades flashed. Almalexia lost her laughter, fighting back as best she could, but Fen was relentless, driving Almalexia further and further back, fire and steel flashing in her hands in ways she never knew they could. Fen soon had Almalexia pinned against the wall, and with a swift curl of her wrist Hopesfire went flying, clattering on the floor near Sotha Sil’s body. Fen shoved Almalexia against the door, holding Trueflame to her throat, her body heaving with rage.
“Don’t do this, Nerevar,” Almalexia hissed, her eyes maddened and wild, her body shaking violently. “I’m your wife. You love me. Don’t do this.”
“I thought I told you,” Fen snarled, her voice shaking. “I –” she slid the blade across Almalexia’s throat – “AM NOT –” she thrust Trueflame into Almalexia’s chest – “NEREVAR!” Fen pulled Trueflame out, and Almalexia’s body collapsed to the floor, splattering blood all down the front of Fen’s ruined robe. Fen took several steps back, her hands shaking and her chest heaving as she stared at Almalexia’s partly-severed head, strained back from the neck and covered in scarlet blood. She dropped Trueflame with a clatter and fell to her knees, crawling across the floor to kneel beside Julan’s body. She pressed her hand to his chest – it was still warm.
H – Heal,” she whispered, her voice shaking. A spell flared on her fingertips, then died before it reached Julan’s body. Fen pressed both hands to the wound, her vision starting to blur. “H – H – Heal,” she said again, but the spell died in her hands. Fen pulled them back – they were covered in blood. She clamped them on either side of Julan’s face. His blank eyes stared upward, his face burned and badly scratched, rough with stubble that had recently grown there. Fen pulled her hands away, smearing his cheeks with blood.
She reached for her bag, abandoned several metres away, and shook it upside down – all manner of books and scrolls and bottles came tumbling out. Potions and rings rolled across the floor, and Fen dropped the bag and scrambled among them, her hands shaking so much she could barely read the labels. Finally, she found one simply marked Healing and broke the seal, pouring it down Julan’s throat. It trickled out the sides of his open mouth and into his matted hair.
“J – Julan,” Fen whispered, searching for another potion. “Julan, stop it. Get up.” She pressed her hands to his chest once more, and she felt a hot tear hit her hand as she struggled not to look into his blank, glassy eyes. “H – Heal,” she tried again. The spell died. Fen’s entire body was shaking now, violently, as if she were feverish. “Heal,” she whispered, not even pressing her hands to his chest. “Heal, heal, heal…” Fen keeled over, her head upon his stomach, her entire body heaving with sobs. It was impossible. Not Julan. It would have been her. She was the one that caused all this. Not Julan. Never Julan. She had been lying on the ground, Almalexia standing over her, and he had saved her. Again. He had saved her just like he had saved her in Dagoth Ur.
“Julan,” Fen whispered, her voice distorted by sobs. “J – Julan…” Her legs uncurled so that she was lying across him, and she closed her eyes, listening to nothing but her own cries mingling with the crackle of fire and the tick of the clockwork overhead.


  1. Hey, I've been following your blog for about a year now (don't really know why I haven't commented before...) and I just wanted to say that I'm really enjoying it! It's bringing back a lot of nostalgia for a game that I loved as kid (and still love now, even though I can't play it anymore) and I love your writing/take on the story - safe to say this is one of the best narratives I have read. This entry especially was very hard-hitting (noooo Julan!) So yeah, keep it up, I look forward to seeing where you go with the story!

    1. Wow, thank you so much! I must admit it is a bit discouraging sometimes when I post a chapter I'm particularly proud of and get no feedback, so I would love to hear from you more. Thanks for reading! :)

  2. I've also been reading for quite some time. There aren't too many good Morrowind stories, but this is definitely one of them. It's always exciting to see new entries! (Although this part almost made me cry, I'm really attached to Julan in my game :( )

    1. Thanks! Julan's fate was a hard decision to make for me. Hope you enjoy today's chapter :)