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   Chapter 5 No.5

An Enchanting Tale By AaronDennis Characters: 14591

Updated: 2018-01-10 12:02

Freya stepped before Barbas. She walked lithely up the steps to the square, white, stone door. Gorgeous arches stood partially covered by earth, moss, and insects. Small pieces of rubble were strewn about in the area above the door, where the rest of them stood waiting for Freya.

"Let's head in then, " she announced.

S'maash casted a candle light spell. As the undulating sphere created awkward shadows of the party, he was amazed by the difference of architecture between the ayleids and the dwemer. While dwemer ruins were sharp and angular with their stonework, the ayleids had a softer touch to the eye. Smooth, white walls lined the interior hall. It was very short and winding with an odd, scintillating, green glow hanging in the air. An unnerving hum emanated from an unseen source.

The view before them was of white pillars. The ground below was down quite a few steps. Those steps were exposed on either side. Boots echoed off the far walls of the massive structure beneath them. Barbas and his crew noticed S'maash pause; he was taking in the sights.

"It's a beautiful piece of architecture, " Elohar commented.

"Aye, that it is, " S'maash replied.

Freya started walking down a winding hallway. The rest followed suit. A delicate grating of unknown metal lined the hallway on one side. White, stone walls lined the other. Beyond the grating, S'maash saw a chandelier hanging from the ceiling; its subtle, green radiance provided enough light to see without the use of magick.

A short trek through the hall led to an immediate dead end on the group's right hand side. On the floor near the wall was a small, hexagonal cask. Elohar smiled as he pried it open. A tiny cloud of dust wafted away. Inside was nothing; whoever had traveled through prior to their arrival had already pilfered its contents.

"What a shame, " he commented.

The noise drew the attention of a handful of giant rats. The squeaky beasts whined as they thundered over, ringed tails flailing. S'maash allowed the warriors to work for their money.

Barbas did not even move. Elohar fired three arrows quicker than S'maash had ever witnessed. Three of the rats perished immediately. The fourth and final reached Freya's feet. She kicked it in the face. As it writhed, she chopped its head clean off with her war axe. Battle over.

"You elves eat these, no, " Freya asked while looking at Elohar.

S'maash smiled. The bosmer made a face of disgust.

"Wood elves eat a lot of different meats, but it'll be a cold day in Oblivion before this one feasts on vermin, " Elohar grumbled.

They turned to S'maash, but he simply shrugged. The left side of the hall rounded a corner to a tombstone shaped gate. Barbas pulled it open then stopped abruptly.

"See this press block? Ayleid ruins are full of these. They're easy enough to spot if you look for the green jewel, " he said.

"What do they do, " S'maash inquired.

"It's how you open doors, disable traps, and other such things, " Elohar answered.

The four continued beyond the gate. Several chambers were visible on their left as they progressed. There was also a set of stairs leading down. The crew continued beyond the chambers into a large room. Gas canisters lined the floor, emitting a strange, noxious cloud. They all paused.

"This is one of the old traps, " S'maash asked.

"Aye. Cover your faces with these, " Freya ordered as she handed out pieces of cloth.

The gas was a poisonous concoction of unknown agents, but with cloth over their faces, it did little more than obscure their vision as they progressed. Not wanting to overstay his welcome, Elohar ran through the large chamber. The others followed suit. Beyond the gas, they paused for a moment to catch their breath and wipe tears from their eyes.

Their excursion beyond the gas chamber led them to a wall with another press block. Barbas nodded to S'maash, who pushed it. A trio of stone pillars slowly slid into the ground, thus revealing an opening through the wall and into another room. S'maash was impressed at how smoothly the stones moved. They created very little sound.

Inside was a stone platform. Its utility was unknown, though it appeared to be more for aesthetics than actual use. On its top was a black, steel pedestal. Atop it, was a varla stone; its gorgeous, white crystal was a feast for the eyes; varla stones were multi-faceted works of beauty.

"These fetch a few Septims, " Freya said.

"They function to replenish a weapon's magickal property, " S'maash added.

"They function to replenish my coin purse, " Elohar added in jest. They had a little laugh as Brabas plucked it from its resting place. "Good start, so far."

After recovering that small fortune, the group rounded a set of stairs back to the gate they had entered originally. They pressed on through the ruin for sometime, but it didn't appear to be very large, and its simple design made it easy to navigate. Before much longer, they came upon a tombstone shaped door depicting a glowing tree.

"These are strange doors, " S'maash commented.

"Let us press onwards and discover what lies beyond, " Barbas replied.

"Yes. I'm anxious to continue, but I am somewhat surprised, " S'maash said.

"Why's that, " Elohar asked.

"I suppose I thought there would be more…well more objects. The dwemer left behind many things. While not all valuable, their ruins hold many vases, pots, books, all types of things. I don't see any of that here. It's as though the whole of the ayleid culture has vanished, " S'maash stated with wonder.

"I don't know about any of that, " Freya remarked.

"How could you say that, cousin? When we traveled through Raldbthar we saw all those things S'maash mentioned, " Barbas said.

"That's not what I meant, Barbas. I'm saying I don't know about these ancient elves, " Freya snapped.

The nords appeared to be growing irritated with on another. Elohar bumped S'maash with his elbow and motioned with his head.

"Nords are a loud bunch, eh?" he said it loud enough to draw their attention.

"Why don't you be quiet before I string you up with your own bow?" Freya joked.

Again, they laughed. Their happy bickering echoed throughout the whole of Anutwyll. S'maash felt a bit of elation. His journey for knowledge had taken a very entertaining turn.

Ultimately, they progressed beyond the door into another expanse. It, too, held a scintillating hum as green light emanated from sources unseen. Silence prevailed for a short while. Then, S'maash spoke.

"I'm surprised there are no monsters lurking about in here."

"Some say the dead roam the halls of ayleid ruins. Reminds me of the draugr in our homeland's burial halls, " Freya replied.

She had peculiar way of speaking, S'maash noticed. She always rolled her R's quite heavily. Elohar did not comment on the enemy situation, but raised an eyebrow in a comical fashion.

"This one does not like the undead, " Barbas said and chuckled.

"I can't say I do, either, " S'maash shrugged.

"What do you hope to find behind these doors, " Freya asked.

"Something pertaining to old enchantments; I understand the ayleids viewed the four forces of magick as being earth, water, wind, and light; fire being a corruption of light. If tha

t is in fact truth then we, as modern mages, aren't fully utilizing our enchanting potential.

"I believe the dwemer also held ancient secrets regarding enchanting. The artifact, Volendrung, somehow fell into the hands of Malacath. It's very curious. I understand that some artifacts cannot be disenchanted. Normally, an item is reduced to ash or debris, but somehow, these powerful artifacts resist the very force of disenchanting. I hope to find some clues here, " S'maash explained.

The nords exchanged a tiresome look. "You should join the College of Winterhold. The crisp, snowy air of the north will do you well, dark elf, " Barbas said.

"What is this College?"

Barbas and Freya told S'maash what little they knew. Being nord warriors, they had respect for magick, but no use for it, themselves.

"Then, once I finish I here I might make that journey, " S'maash replied, intrigued.

"You'll freeze 'til your blue…er, blue-er, in the face, " Elohar joked.

After the laughter subsided, they found a place to rest for the day. Soon, the food supply dwindled, so they took turns sleeping. The following morning, they eagerly resumed their search. It was not long before more gates were located. Elohar had taken the lead during their second day. A trip down flights of stairs brought them to an area full of welkynd stones. Again, the hired muscle pocketed the treasure.

While the group debated how to split the money to be made from selling the riches, S'maash appreciated the sights. Several, glowing, rocky formations lined the ceiling. He paced around the room then approached the warriors.

"What are these gems, " he asked, pointing to the jagged, green formations.

"Don't know. All the ruins have them, " Freya answered.

S'maash made a mental note. While he stood in awe, Elohar sniffed about the large room. Spotting a long cask, he called them all over.

"Good, finally a chest. Bound to be something in there, " Barbas said. A cask sat in a dusty corner. Barbas knelt down before it in an attempt to open it. It was locked. "Blasted elves…sorry, " he said with a gap-toothed grin.

"Blah, blah, blah, " Elohar responded.

The bosmer made a pitiful attempt at pushing Barbas aside to check the chest's lock, but Barbas, being as massive as he was, did not so much as budge. He, instead, grinned more widely. Freya laughed.

"Just move, " Elohar chuckled.

"No need. I'll handle it, " Barbas replied.

He stood with such power that Elohar had to hop back lithely. He moved, as all wood elves did, with an almost dance-like motion, thus avoiding a fall onto his seat. Barbas then raised his war hammer over his head. Once it reached its apex, all too close to the ceiling, the nord pulled it down along with all his body weight. The head of the hammer smashed the chest open.

"A little elbow grease is all you need, " he said.

"You'd better hope you didn't break anything worthwhile, you, you…brute!" Freya chastised.

Barbas shrugged before stepping away, allowing Freya to check the contents. Inside, she found a rotted, coin purse with thirty, old, gold coins, which predated the current Septim, stone jars containing bone meal, and some, ancient elven equipment; one dagger, one bow, and some boots.

"So, we'll be taking these as payment, " Elohar said, immediately.

He snatched the bow from Freya's hand, looking it over. The string had rotted away ages ago, but the bow itself was in excellent condition. S'maash noticed something about the boots. They possessed an eerie glow, something almost undetectable. He motioned to Freya for them.

"Now, hold on, you agreed we got the spoils, " she said.

"No, it's not that. I think they're enchanted. That's why I came here. Remember, " S'maash replied.

Looking the boots over, he felt the living vibration all enchanted gear possessed. He was sure they held some form of magick.

"Well, " Barbas asked.

S'maash met his eyes. "I have never come across this one before. I don't know what it is."

"Let him have them. Not like they could fit our feet, anyway, " Barbas announced.

"They could fit mine, " Elohar interjected.

"Never mind, that; you've already got something, " Barbas retorted.

Elohar shrugged.

"Thank you. Let us continue, " S'maash said.

"There must be another press block in here somewhere, " Elohar said, looking about. "Normally dead ends like these have something hidden away. Ah, beneath the rubble."

The chest had been set before the block, and since Barbas smashed the container, Elohar booted the debris aside to step on the mechanism, which caused another set of stone pillars to slide away from the far wall at the other end of the room. Like all ayleid designs, Anutwyll held secret hallways for quick access to all areas within. They journeyed through the hall, passing more, green gems, and back to the ruin's entrance.

"There you have it then, " S'maash grinned. "I will set up here and do some research on those odd, rock formations. You're all free to go, and everything we recovered is yours, except these boots, I guess."

The warriors nodded, took their spoils, and left S'maash to his own devices. He was glad to have found something worth studying, but was unclear as to what exactly he had discovered. A few return trips to Bravil took place during which he purchased supplies. Unfortunately, the town didn't have an arcane enchanter, so he wasn't able to learn what the ancient, elven boots did.

In an attempt to discern it for himself, he put them on his feet. They were the proper size. As he paced around the town, under the moonlight, he felt no difference. He jumped, ran, even stuck his fingers over an open flame. It burned as he had anticipated. After another night at The Lonely Suitor Lodge, the elf returned to Anutwyll where he pried some samples of the gems from the ruin's walls. Satisfied, he intended to take a break before returning to town and plan his next move.

"Well, well, well. What 'ave we got, 'ere?" an unfamiliar voice echoed behind him.

He turned to see some bandits in furs and leather. One of them, likely the leader, was an imperial brandishing a malevolent-looking, ebony dagger. The blade's length was as ominous as the embossed, black metal from which it was forged.

The imperial addressed the rest of his crew: a khajiit, orc, and two, imperial lasses. "Think we should gut him?"

They grinned.

"I'm just conducting studies, " S'maash choked.

"No, no, no. You're just conductin' studies in my 'ome, " the imperial mocked.

S'maash furrowed his brow in thought. There had been no bedrolls or tents defining it as their home. It was obvious the bandits intended to make Anutwyll their new base camp. The dark elf hoped to avoid confrontation.

"Listen, " S'maash started.

Before he continued, the imperial lunged for him. He delivered a powerful, left fist to S'maash's midsection, causing him to bend over and drop to his knees. With no air in his lungs, the khajiit and orc easily took his arms behind his back and held his head in place by the hair. The elf tried to speak, but only gasped.

"This is the part where you fall down and bleed to death, " the imperial said.

Then, the man punched S'maash in the face until he blacked out.

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