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   Chapter 3 No.3

An Enchanting Tale By AaronDennis Characters: 14879

Updated: 2018-01-10 12:02

The once, mighty, city walls of Damlzthur stood as little more than rubble; brown hills with scattered, gray, stone architecture. The group pressed on beyond the fallen stones. Searching for an entry, Numerius rounded a large wall to the east with Fara as the brothers rounded it to the west. Appearances suggested a former tower long since abandoned.

"I have located the exterior door, " Fara yelled.

The elves bounded over the rubble. There, she stood before an askewed, brass-like door. Evidently, time and pressure had forced the foundation beneath the soil to list a bit towards the north end, their own right hand side. The group worked quickly to clear debris from the door then pushed their way in.

Stale winds assaulted their olfactory senses for a moment. Immediately, the droning of gears and steam rushing through pipes assaulted their auditory senses. The excitement was palpable. For a lingering moment, they simply gawked, awed by the ancient dwemer.

"Alright, we need to be wary of traps, " S'maash said.

All four of them peered down the tall, long, stone hallway. At the end of the hallway was only darkness. Numerius produced a torch. Before he lit it, S'maash raised a right hand overhead, casting a candle light spell. The illumination from his magickal beacon did little to bring radiance to the far end of the hall, but so long as the team stood together while moving slowly, the spell—a wavering bauble of light—remained over the wizard's head.

"Nicely done, " Fara said. She took the forefront, leading the team. "S'maath, Numerius, keep your eyes peeled for floor traps."

"Aye, " both man and mer replied.

They treaded carefully and quietly, their footsteps drowned out by the sound of the ruin itself. Like a living, breathing beast, it ticked, clanked, and sent roaring steam through its walls. The candle light revealed the entry hall was quite extensive. While the others had little trouble moving, S'maash was thrown off by the tilt in the floor. Like the door, the entire hallway listed slightly. Then, they reached a corner.

Fara raised a hand, calling the group to a halt. She stepped forwards to peer around the juncture. The wizard saw beautiful filigree carved into the walls and brass-like metal, which adorned the junctures. Small, dwemer shelving lined the left side of the corridor, which was much straighter than the previous one. It was difficult to tell, but there seemed to be some doorways along their left. Finally, the redguard motioned to resume movement.

"I thought we were going to rest upon arrival, " Numerius remarked.

"Don't be a fool. We'll rest after having taken stock of our surroundings, " Fara chastised.

He winced, but she was right. They pressed on. After inspecting the shelving, and a few of the other rooms, they found little in the way of treasures. Weary and hungry, the group took a rest in one of the rooms. Fara shut the door as the others unpacked. S'maash stopped to look at her quizzically.

"In the case of intrusion, whatever might be coming will at least have to get through this door, " she said to him before he uttered a word.

"This is why she leads us, " S'maath added.

After garnering an hours' rest, the group left their gear in the room as a sort of base camp. S'maath pulled some parchment from his robes. With charcoal, he started sketching a map, providing the luxury of referring back to where they had started should the need arise.

Hours and hours of searching yielded only ruined tomes, old dishes, bed sheets, and broken tools. Apart from the unnerving clatter of dwemer gears built into the stonework, there was nothing extraordinary. The first day of the expedition ended with moving camp to a new location, one quieter than the previous.

As was custom when traveling, the group took watch once more, and once more they all rose to Fara's calling. She led them in a similar fashion the following day. As they progressed into the ruins, the floors and stairs led deeper. Most of the paths were blocked by cave-ins or rubble, but one hall led the group to a large, round room. That particular room provided excellent lighting from a gas-powered lamp at its center. The light was more than ample for S'maash to catch a depiction of dwemer forging along the walls. Carvings provided a glimpse into the ancient dwemer's passion for smithing.

"What is this room, " S'maath asked.

They all looked to his brother. "I am not sure. Some kind of study hall?"

There were ruined, stone seats and tables. Books were scattered about the floor, but there was little else. No gears or pipes led into the room. The carvings in the walls were magnificent, but provided no insight towards any mystery into which they were looking. As they moved about, a distinct clicking sound echoed. Numerius's eyes went wide as he felt his foot sink just a bit into the floor.

With lightning speed, Fara bolted across the room, hopped over a chair, and crashed into the imperial. A plethora of darts flew over them for a moment. A maddening sound of metal shards crashing into the stone prevailed for seconds; then, dead silence.

"Be more careful, you idiot, " she yelled at him.

"Thanks, and get off me. Your armor is heavy, you know, " Numerius said in jest.

After recovering, they all garnered a refreshed respect for the old traps still lining the dwemer ruins. "Pretty close, " S'maash whispered.

"Aye, " S'maath answered.

"It's nothing, " Numerius said.

Fara simply eyed him and shook her head. They carefully left the round room, proceeding down another, sloped corridor. Dwarven metal piping lined both sides of the ceiling. S'maath spotted a thin slit running along the center of the floor.

"Hold!" he called out. A pang of fear jolted everyone's heart as he scanned the floor. "Careful, I believe there might be more traps, " he was pointing at the furrow in the floor.

They pressed on prudently a little ways when S'maash's candle light revealed a pressure plate. His brother had been correct. The ruin was dangerous enough as it was, but no creatures or automatons were in sight, which aroused S'maash's suspicions. Should there not at least be wreckage left behind? He wondered, but there was no way to know, and so another day of nothing went by. Again camp was moved. The wizard grew despondent as he tried to sleep; he knew it was not long before it was time to move back to the surface and finally home, likely empty handed.

Eventually, he drifted off to sleep. Dreams of home washed over his mind and heart. The journey had been his first trip from home to an uninhabited area. When he awoke, he was happy to see his friends. While Fara and Numerius had been hired, they had become accustomed to his presence. He was, after all, their guildmate's brother.

"After tonight's rest, we need to make our return, " Fara stated.

"Aye, we'll be camping back here then, " S'maath asked.

"Yes. S'maath, let me see your map, " she said. The elf brought it forth. Taking it gently, she scanned it a moment before handing it back. "We'll work our way back to the large door we passed yesterday."

Fara's reasoning had dictated an organized search rather than trying to run all over the ruin, and after days in the abandoned city, which led her to discover an architectural pattern from which Damlzthur was built, she figured that behind the large door was a new wing rather t

han just another room. Upon their arrival, she and Numerius pushed the massive door open.

"Good, " she said as they walked through.

The new area appeared larger in general, more spaced out. The corridor they traversed was broader and lined with dwarven metal bars that housed dwemer, steam contraptions. They traversed the large hall for a time. Finally, they came to an area—still within the great hall—with lighting built into both sides of the structure. More, gas lamps sat in alcoves high above them. Suddenly, a loud roar pushed through the walls. Something was on the move.

With ears pressed against the stonework, the group exchanged glances. Slowly, they followed the sound as it moved. It ceased by a sort of porthole. The lid dropped open and a large, metal ball fell before their feet. The plates from which it was constructed spun as an automaton unfolded- a dwarven sphere.

Quick and powerful, the automaton stood over six feet in height when erect. Its spherical bottom allowed for easy movement in any direction. Built from gears, plates, and bars, the metallic menace was deigned to defend its creators.

S'maash was startled by the new situation. With wide eyes, he slowly turned his head. For a second, he considered running.

As the sphere lurched forwards, Numerius and S'maath jumped back. Fara drew her mace. She ducked beneath the sword arm of the dwemer machine then smashed her mace across its face.

S'maash was then witness to something magnificent, beautiful even; the warriors moved as one; they fought as part of a whole. After Fara dealt her blow, she stepped her left foot over her right then spun away from the sphere to its left flank. It was then that Numerius—sword drawn—thrust his blade into the gears of the machine's sword arm. With one arm disabled, the sphere pointed its crossbow at S'maath, who was one step behind Numerius. He followed Fara's maneuver, and both of them stood behind the machine, taking whacks at its weaker hinges protruding from the spherical bottom.

Although the warriors were fighting well, the machine managed to fire a bolt from its crossbow, striking Numerius while he was trying to dislodge his blade. The pain in his flank folded him over. A subtle grunt of pain escaped his lips.

"Do something!" Fara yelled to S'maash.

The scene had played out rather quickly, but he snapped to attention. With one hand, he casted an iron flesh spell for protection. A blue glow covered his being. The other hand took hold of frozen magicka, and he fired an ice spike. The crystalline projectile did little damage upon impact, but the cold effect of the spell slowed the creature. To the elf's dismay, the dwarven sphere quickly reloaded a bolt and pointed at him. He took a deep breath, preparing for the worst.

S'maath stepped onto the rear side of the sphere's leg joints and jammed his blade underneath the machine's head. His sword protruded between the automaton's metal frame, so Fara continued to rain iron blows against its back plates. In response, the sphere spun then rolled backwards into the walls, causing S'maath to fall.

Biting his lip, the wizard fired another ice spike into the the enemy's face. His brother scrambled to his feet for an attempt to recover his sword, which had fallen during the skirmish. Once more, the sphere lurched, striking with a sword arm. The damaged gear and lodged blade hindered its movement, yet the large sword crashed over Fara's chest plate. She fell from the impact, relatively unharmed. S'maath—with sword in hand—charged the machine and struck it repeatedly. Small plates and levers broke off. The redguard recovered and helped to end the machine's onslaught.

The battle was over, so they ran over to Numerius. He was on his side; a small pool of blood had dripped onto the ground beneath him. Fara placed her hand on his shoulder. He groaned in reply.

"Can you do something, " S'maath asked.

S'maash nodded, saying, "We need to remove the bolt first."

"Do it, " Numerius growled.

They rolled him over. S'maath placed a knee onto his abdomen, gripped the bolt with both hands, and pulled it out. The imperial screamed in pain, but S'maash quickly held palms poised for a healing hands spell. Numerius was enveloped in warm light. After mere seconds, he was returned to fighting shape. Upon standing, the fighter looked down to S'maash, placed a firm grip on his shoulder, and nodded in approval.

"You handled yourself well, S'maash, " Fara said.

The young elf looked to his brother, who was beaming with pride. Together, they attempted to sort through the remaining scraps of the defeated enemy. From it, they recovered some bent, dwemer metal, and a common soul gem, but little else. Fara handed the gem to S'maash, who pocketed it.

"We should press on, " he suggested.

"Aye, " Fara replied.

They pushed onwards by following the pipes and lighted ceiling, and reached a barred gate. Numerius shook the gate with both hands.

"Locked, " he said turning to S'maath.

The elf nodded. Taking a knee before the lock, he produced his tools. Carefully, S'maath set to work, feeling the tumblers with the pick. After what felt like an eternity, and two picks later, the tumblers were properly aligned. The gate was unlocked.

It had been difficult to see what was beyond the gate, but with S'maash's newly lit candle light spell, they found nice vases. Fara took one, rolling it between her hands. It was not large, less than a foot high, and a watery blue with gold trim.

"This should fetch a few Septims, " she cheered. Apart from the vases was a set of dwemer cogs and a beautiful diamond. The diamond left a glint in Fara's eye; a smile grew over her dark face. "Well, I'm sold."

"And I got some metal, so…we could turn back now, " Numerius said.

He prodded at the hole in his leather armor. The others understood his sentiment. They turned to S'maash for his input as they were in his employ. He passed a glance over each of them.

"Just a little deeper, " he replied.

They nodded and pressed forwards. Hours went by as they traversed the monstrous hallway. After taking a break for food and water, they reached a large door. It took all of the men and mer to push it open. What was revealed to them was rather frightening. Spiraling, stone bridges with no rails led into the deep. Far, far below them, they saw only bubbling lava.

"Didn't expect this, " S'maash said.

"We…could head down, " Fara added, hesitantly.

"I don't know, " S'maath replied.

S'maash moved his lips over his teeth. He was unsure. Logically, if there was some amazing discovery to be made it would be down there…. His thoughts trailed away. He knew the answer.

"No. We should turn back, " he said.

His brother was shocked. "Are you certain?"

"Yes. We should leave for now. We can always come back, and perhaps, with a few more men. The last thing we want is to run short on supplies down there."

"Excellent decision, " Fara commented.

They treaded the hall back to their camp. After a deep sleep, and being awakened by Fara, they packed their tents and rolls. Their return to Damlzthur's entry was a long and uneventful sojourn. The trip back home was much of the same. It had taken one day less, since they had not found what they were looking for, and it was a welcomed respite. The following morning, S'maash returned to the mages' workshop.

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