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   Chapter 17 No.17

An Enchanting Tale By AaronDennis Characters: 23600

Updated: 2018-01-10 12:02

The following morning, S'maash regrouped with his friends outside the inn. Cold wind blew from the mountains in the west. It seemed to settle right over Markarth. Even walking at a brisk pace to Understone Keep, the crew felt the chill of Skyrim's climate. Upon entering, they went straight to Aicantar's study area. He was sitting with a book in his hands.

"Aicantar. Good morning, " Brelyna said.

His face lit up. "Good to see you. I had dared to believe you would return safely."

"We retrieved the fragment as well as these strange books, " S'maash said, showing the tomes to the altmer.

"Ah. Well, now, they seem to have gotten wet. No worries, so you say you found it?" Aicantar was as close to bursting as any high elf. S'maash produced the obsidian gem he stole. Then, he explained how they went through a hidden passage. "Under the water, you say. Now, I am truly impressed. A piece of the Heart of Lorkhan…can you be sure, though?"

"No, but the falmer appeared to have been worshipping it, " S'maash replied.

"It was an eerie sight to behold, " Brelyna added.

Zolara nodded in agreement. Aicantar shrugged. A brief moment passed wherein no one had anything to say. It was difficult to believe that the ancient artifact had been right under Markarth the entire time. Finally, Aicantar returned to the damp books.

"I cannot read them, but I thought you might be able to, " S'maash explained.

"Certainly, I can try. My uncle was the one obsessed with the dwemer. I just find their legacy fascinating. No doubt, he has notes allowing a translation. I should say left me notes…rest his soul, " Aicantar commented.

"We're off to the College now. Thank you Aicantar, " S'maash smiled.

"To study the relic I presume, " Aicantar pried.

"Actually, no, I need to recover a journal. I don't know the location of the other fragment, and I have need of both of them to satisfy Hermaeus Mora."

"Come back soon. I should have these translated within a month or so. Best of luck to you all."

They bid him well and left Markarth to hire a carriage ride back to Winterhold. The long trip allowed the travelers time to discuss further planning. Brelyna believed she was not going to join S'maash on the next expedition; it was too dangerous, and she was needed at the College. Zolara decided he had had enough adventure for one week.

"Understandable. I appreciate that both of you came along. Perhaps, I will find some fighters to hire. Do you have a Reyda Tong presence here, " S'maash asked.

"No. Nor do we have a Fighters' Guild. Instead we have the Companions. They're an order of warriors whose origin started thousands of years ago, back when Ysgramor first led the five hundred, " Brelyna replied.

"I'll figure something."

The ride through Markarth's territories was relaxing. By the time they crossed over the Pale, night had settled in, and they fell asleep. The following morning, the cart driver woke them. Further discussions of what adventures and dangers lay ahead ensued. Night settled in once more before reaching the town of Winterhold. Beautiful patterns of colored lights swam in the black sky beyond the College's towers.

"Well, I'm off to bed. Stay safe, S'maash, " Zolara said and left.

"Will you be resting here, " Brelyna asked.

"I might as well. I have to recover Farengar's journal from Tolfdir, " S'maash replied.

With nothing much to do until the following morning, they all went to sleep. It was a restless sleep, for the wizard, though. Strange dreams of endless caverns and hordes of falmer assaulted his mind.

The next day, he met Tolfdir in the Hall of the Elements. Other students had gathered to practice their destruction skills. Thunder and explosions echoed in the background along with laughter.

"Yes, I recall reading something about the locations of the fragments. I can go retrieve the journal if you like, " Tolfdir said.

"I'd appreciate that very much."

A moment later, Tolfdir returned with the journal in hand. S'maash took it then flipped through pages. The latter portions contained bits of Farengar's thoughts on what he believed Hermaeus Mora needed. Previously, S'maash was uncertain as to what the notes referred to when speaking of two endeavors. The notes mentioned a city of stone. Markarth clearly, S'maash thought. Another, nonsensical word appeared, obviously of dwemer origins.

"Mzulft. Where is that?"

"Oh, it's due north of Riften. You can try to get there from Windhelm, but navigating around the mountains is quite perilous, " Tolfdir advised.

"So, I'll head all the way back to Riften. It has been a long time since I've been there, " S'maash said, looking away.

"Is there anything you'll need before your journey?"

"I am in need of some food perhaps. I'll have to cast new enchantments to diversify my gear as well, " S'maash announced.

"Before you do, I have something for you." Tolfdir produced a bundle of tan cloth. As he unwrapped, a pommel was revealed, then the entire blade. It was very unusual. Tolfdir handed it to S'maash. "Do you know what this is?"

"I do not, but I feel the magicka radiating from within its structure, " S'maash looked the blade up and down.

"That is Keening, one of the artifacts used by the dwemer when they vanished from our world. Its other half is Sunder, " Tolfdir said.

S'maash looked up from the blade to meet the old nord's eyes. He was aware of Kagrenac's tools, but knew little of them.

"Tell me more, " S'maash demanded.

"I found it after you…well after you wreaked havoc on your room. Arniel had hidden it, or perhaps the Dragonborn had hidden it. I don't know how much you know about Arniel Gane, but he was studying the dwemer for entirely different reasons than yourself.

"Upon his request, the Dragonborn helped Arniel with his endeavor. Other than the blade, I also found some old logbooks. They were hidden under some floorboards. Far as I can tell, Arniel forged a warped soul gem and attempted a maneuver similar to the dwemer's, only he did not have all the necessary items.

"I fear we'll never know just how it all ended. Arniel simply vanished, " Tolfdir explained.

"Fascinating. Where is the other half of this blade? Where is Sunder?" the elf demanded. Tolfdir only shook his head. S'maash put the blade away. "Thank you. I'll be in my room then."

He ran off to secure his equipment. Keening was an alluring artifact. It reverberated ever so slightly as though it had been lightly tapped. Once S'maash focused upon it, he felt three, distinct enchantments, flows of magicka. How can it possess three enchantments? It was that kind of question, which drove him inexorably towards discovery.

After placing Keening in the old, linen wraps, S'maash hid it safely inside a small chest. He then returned to his task at hand- forging versatile equipment. There are no enchantments to increase the destructive power of magick. Instead, I can only reduce the drain upon my reserves. Physical damage, on the other hand, can be increased by fortifying on

n standing behind him, scrutinizing the stonework. "Truly?"

"Yes, most locks, even the most difficult, can be picked. When I come across one such as this, I have no way to align the tumblers. One must have the key, " Zolara clarified.

"We might have to take the entire door down, " S'maash said.

"You. You might have to take the entire door down."

The elf scowled before checking other doors. Most of them revealed only dead ends. One revealed a dead end, and a wrecked, dwarven centurian. One door led them down a hallway. In it, was an old, makeshift camp. Among the bedroll, was a nonsensical journal, Paratus' Log.

It held scribblings about a Synod expedition in search of utilizing some dwemer construct to locate objects of great power all across Tamriel. The first few passages made enough sense as they described using a special crystal to focus starlight. After those passages came descriptions of falmer raids. S'maash and Zolara exchanged a glance.

Following the falmer raids, and the theft of the crystal, came a passage about the Dragonborn. He had evidently recovered the crystal for Paratus. After that, was a passage declaring that the Dragonborn was harboring something immensely potent at the College of Winterhold. S'maash and Zolara exchanged another glance.

The scribblings became less comprehensive. Apparently, Paratus had decided to continue living in Mzulft. He feared a journey back through the ruins would end with his untimely death at the hands of the falmer.

"But there are no remains, " Zolara commented.

"Maybe he left after all? Let's keep reading."

Further passages were simple phrases; revolving rooms, split centers, falmer come through walls. The phrase they're in the walls became recurrent. Paratus's mind had obviously decayed, but Zolara was right, he certainly had not remained in that hallway.

"Let's continue further and see where this leads, " Zolara suggested.

They pressed on, going through a final door, and into a winding, circular room. At the center was an enormous, dwemer, steel structure with several, glass plates. The winding path brought the two around and over the dwemer sphere to what appeared to be a study hall. Apart from the incomprehensible machine, there was little else of interest, so they tried the only, other door, which led to an unsightly exit into the high mountains.

"I don't think your fragment is here, S'maash, " Zolara said, looking out into Skyrim's landscape.

"Let's go back inside then, " the elf huffed.

Slowly, the explorers combed over the ruins once more. They eventually found themselves back at the locked gates. While S'maash rested for a moment to gather his thoughts, Zolara decided to pick the gates. He started with the most difficult. Beyond it was only dwarven wreckage, but there was little else to do.

"Are you certain? Could your wizard not have made a mistake, " Zolara asked as he worked away.

A subtle clink rang. Zolara had broken another pick.

"I don't know. I might just leave and come back later. I can't forego the possibility of him being right. I may have to check every stone, every crevice."

"Got it, " Zolara yelled in success.

"So, what's in there?"

"Rubbish, " Zolara said after a moment.

"And the other?"

"Remains to be seen, " Zolara said, jauntily.

While Zolara set about picking the second lock, S'maash searched the room with the rubbish. The argonian was right, there was nothing of value. Then, the sound of the other gate opening reverberated with a creak. S'maash walked over to find Zolara standing. They met eyes, but said nothing. The elf frowned while inspecting room.

"Just a bench, " he said.

"Maybe these were holding cells, " Zolara suggested.

"It is certainly possible." A break in the pattern on the floor called his attention. He knelt down and felt it. He looked up to see the same in the ceiling. "Strange that the ceiling should have that small opening at its apex, and more odd that this, one, room has that furrow along the floor."

"These walls appear to have a steady seam as well, " Zolara said.

"Start running your hands along the stones. There may be a switch, or pressure plate, or something, " S'maash puffed.

After the tedium of searching, Zolara found a small stone. He pushed it into the wall. A sudden rumble assaulted the two. It seemed as though the whole of Mzulft was coming apart. Fearing the worst, they ran back to the entry for safe observation. The far half of the room was slowly rotating along the seam. On a vertical axis, it rearranged itself. Once the process came to completion, the former opening in the ceiling was along the floor. Mzulft had a secret way down.

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