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   Chapter 8 No.8

An Enchanting Tale By AaronDennis Characters: 24883

Updated: 2018-01-10 12:02


The freezing wind had turned brutal, forcing the traveler to take shelter in Stillborn Cave. Thoughts of what might come next plagued the elf. He had no desire to plunge into the cave's depths, so he simply waited for the storm to pass. Fearing some kind of animal attack kept him awake the entire time. More hours passed, and S'maash started a new journal. In it, he scrawled his story from the beginning, which came from watching Rosoleola disenchant a necklace years ago.

As he continued scribing, he touched on his trip into Damlzthur, Anutwyll, and finally the misunderstanding at the College of Winterhold. Once the storm passed, S'maash continued his journey towards Windhelm. Early morning frost covered the ground.

Signs posted beside the paved road indicated the town was relatively close. With the storm gone, and daylight beginning to cascade over mountainsides, S'maash saw the ancient, stone walls of Windhelm from a distance. He arrived in the middle of the day. It snowed again, albeit lightly.

Upon entering the magnificent city, he saw some dunmer and approached an old, dark elf with long, gray hair. "Excuse me. I'm passing through, looking for work and a place to continue my studies on the arcane arts. Is it possible you could guide me in the right direction?"

"Of course. I'm Faryl. I work on Hollyfrost farm, have for a long time. We could use a hand, I'm not the young mer I used to be, " Faryl stated.

They struck up a conversation regarding crops, the weather, and recent events. For over a week, S'maash helped with the crops outside the walls of Windhelm, only entering the city for drinks at the New Gnisis Corner Club. Quaint hospitality reminded him of home. The rundown interior reminded him of his own house; after all, the establishment was little more than a wooden room, three stories tall.

His new job didn't pay much, but S'maash was able to formulate new ideas, new projects worth pondering. He also learned that Whiterun was the center trade hub for all of Skyrim. Once he had earned enough pay for a carriage ride, he moved on.

During the short ride, the elf was educated on Ulfric Stormcloak's rise to the seat of High King. Stories of bravery and bloodshed painted Ulfric as a hero, a charismatic man of power and action. The cart master insinuated the Dragonborn also shared a hand in Ulfric's victory against General Tullius. The nord's story ended with a threat from the Aldmeri Dominion.

"Your kind has plans to rule Tamriel, " the nord accused.

"My kind, " S'maash was insulted.

"Elves."

"High elves, and only a small sect. My quest for knowledge has nothing to do with usurping power, " S'maash stated, bluntly. "Besides, I'm a dark elf."

"Perhaps. We've arrived, dark elf."

S'maash hopped off the back of the cart then looked at the walls surrounding Whiterun. Nord architecture was designed for strength more than beauty. Apart from Winterhold, walls had surrounded the other cities he had visited, too. These nords are very protective, aren't they…?

Beyond the doors of Whiterun, S'maash passed by a smithy. Some townsfolk and guards walked around, all too busy to pay heed to a newcomer. Walking the streets, pushing past scores of people of all races, he stumbled onto the door of The Bannered Mare.

The homes and buildings of Whiterun were constructed of the finer, regional wood. The subtle beauty of unrefined logs provided an air of prominence. Inside the tavern, S'maash saw the city's dwellers feasting and drinking. It did not appear as though any regime change had come about too recently.

"Take a seat, or stoke the fire if you're cold, " A woman said from behind the counter.

S'maash sat across from her. Behind him, a fire pit with large logs kept the tavern comfortably warm. The woman introduced herself as Hulda. While aged, she was still very beautiful. Her sharp features, dark eyes, and chestnut hair accentuated her former youth.

"Greetings. I'm from…out of town, but looking for employment. I was told Whiterun was the center of trade for all of Skyrim, " S'maash commented.

"Aye. By your looks, I'd wager you're a mage for hire, " the woman said.

S'maash was a little uneasy. He was not sure why she mistook him for a mercenary.

"Not quite, no. I have traveled a bit. Any work in the field of magick would be a welcome change from harvesting crops, though."

"The court wizard is always running errands; rather, he is always too busy to run his own errands. You might want to check with him, " she advised.

S'maash smiled. She, too, rolled her R's as many of the nords did. He was starting to take a liking to the people of Skyrim, even with his current trepidations, yet learning of a powerful wizard—the Jarl's court wizard—took precedence over making new friends, so S'maash decided to ask for some more information on him.

"Farengar Secret-Fire is his name. No one has seen much of him recently, " Hulda stated.

The young adults of Whiterun overheard the conversation. They told stories of the Dragonborn, and how he trapped the mighty dragon, Odahviing, in Dragonsreach. Apparently, Secret-Fire had managed to elicit quite the story of how he was right beside the Dragonborn and even managed to collect some samples of blood and scale. Intrigued by the stories, S'maash ventured to Dragonsreach to meet with Secret-Fire.

Along the way, he jogged past a grand tree with pretty, lilac flowers. Next, he had to climb the innumerable steps leading up to a massive, wooden palace. Immense arches of rich browns adorned the entry way. Dragonsreach's interior was more of the same nord design as the rest of Whiterun. The peaceful area housed large tables heavy with food and mead as well as thick pillars with supporting arches.

S'maash asked the guard for the court wizard and was directed to a small room on the right hand side of palace. Upon entering, he was surprised to meet an old mage in black robes with the demeanor of an altmer.

"No doubt you've heard of my great research, " Secret-Fire asked.

Like the young mage, Wulfbore, Secret-Fire spoke with the oddly accentuated S's.

"I heard from some of the townsfolk, yes. I needed to see you. I once read a tome called Twin Secrets, it–"

"Of course, you have, and I'm familiar with the story. You came to see me because you wish to learn about dragons. I'm not sure you could grasp my theories. You'd be better off studying at the College. They're known to accept novice mages, " he spat.

S'maash laughed. "You should hear my theories, old man."

"Is that so, " Farengar asked, slightly taken aback.

"I was kicked out of the College for reason's I won't go in to. The short of it is simple, Farengar; I'm convinced I can change the course of the art of enchanting, but without use of the College's resources, I have to find someone somewhere willing to lend a hand. I understand you don't owe me that opportunity. Nevertheless, I hope to have a discussion with you. If you'll be so kind as to hear me out, I'm sure a brilliant mage such as yourself will be intrigued." S'maash explained.

He had planned on buttering up Secret-Fire a bit in order to persuade him into listening. It was not the compliments that convinced Farengar, though; it was the look in S'maash's eyes, the same look the Dragonborn had possessed.

"I'm in the middle of important work. Why don't you return tomorrow morning?" Farengar suggested.

"Very wel

iliar; either they didn't grow in Morrowind, or he had simply never come across them.

There wasn't much in the way of danger in the cave- some skeever. The large, filthy, rats were easily defeated. After blasting them with frost, he took their tails. Then, following the cave walls to a wooden door, he overheard voices. People were discussing treasure. Someone was arguing about there being nothing of value in the cave. Footsteps came towards the door, so the elf tried to hide, luckily his candle light spell died out just in time.

The door creaked opened and two men walked out. It was difficult to tell from where they hailed. One of the men was covered in steel plate, obviously the leader. The other man was wearing furs and carrying a large hammer on his back. They both walked in the direction of the cave's entrance. Slowly, S'maash approached the door. Hearing no more voices, he decided to peek in. It was a makeshift camp with tables, chairs, food and other, miscellaneous items. Thinking back to his beating in Anutwyll, he scrutinized the door at the far end and assumed it led deeper into the cave where likely the tome lay undiscovered.

It never ceased to amaze him how bandits or treasure hunters always overlooked books as treasure. He hoped those men had overlooked it as well. Before opening the second door, S'maash pilfered a coin purse, a minor healing potion, and a silver necklace. He then made his way through the second door. Suddenly, he realized he might have to journey back through the previous room. Guess I'll deal with that when I have to….

With the door secured behind him, he stood in the darkness. There was no alternative at that point, so he casted another light spell. The magick revealed a narrow corridor. It proceeded at a steep, descending angle. S'maash took a breath before pushing on.

Colorful mushrooms grew form the rocky ground near the walls. He carefully collected more samples on his way down. After rounding some corners, he came across thick webbing. He did not care for spiders and cringed at the thought.

Rustling was barely audible beyond where he stood. He listened attentively then took a step, listened some more then walked further. Rounding another corner, he saw what was creating the sound- a lone spider, a very large, lone spider. There was no way to bypass the creature, as it was nearly as wide as the corridor. Fearing a venomous bite, S'maash casted oak flesh again and prepared for a fight.

He took a long breath, swallowed hard, and then ducked to better aim ice spikes. First, he fired one from his left hand then the right. Both shards of glistening, frozen magick hit the spider, but it turned, saw its assailant, and charged. Realizing ice magick had little effect, the wizard switched to flames. The billowing, fire magick burned the spider to a crisp. The stench was awful, but danger was averted.

Exhaling as the adrenaline passed, the elf examined his environment. Egg sacs filled the room, nasty white globs formed from the spider's webbing, or so it seemed. S'maash managed to recover a handful of green, speckled, spider eggs. Momentarily, he thought back to his chicken, but quickly shook himself from reverie; he was ready to delve deeper into the cave and locate the mysterious book.

A rocky corridor eventually led to a dead end. He looked carefully at the wall before him. Reaching out, he felt a barely distinguishable seam. Hidden door? S'maash observed the surroundings thoroughly. Behind him, on the right hand wall was a small handle built into the rock. He pulled it out then turned it. The sound of stone scraping against stone assaulted his ears. A new path was revealed after a segment of stone sank into the ground.

It was a very short path; the few paces led S'maash into a burial chamber. A skeleton was heaped in a lidless tomb. He peeked over the edges of the casket. There was nothing inside but bones, so he searched the room. Some burial jars lined one wall. A rotted shelf with ruined books lined another. A few linen wraps and stamina potions were readily available. Then, something caught his eye.

He knelt by some larger stones piled up on the ground. He pushed them away, revealing a broken chest. Inside, he found the illusion book, some Septims, and an old, fur armor. Not wishing to leave anything behind, he took everything of value, including the contents of the burial jars. Once he was ready to leave, he had acquired a steel dagger, more potions, and more, gold coins. Finally, he left the room for an unexplored corridor.

The narrow, rocky hallway seemed to go on without end. It constantly curved in one direction then the other. It also proceeded at a slight, but noticible, incline. After an hour of walking, S'maash saw light. He ventured forth. The corridor spat him out into the hills. He had been successful and escaped unharmed. Satisfied, and under the orange glow of a setting sun, he returned to Farengar.

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