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14th Rain's Hand 4E208, Jerall Mountain Dwemer Excavation Site, 7:30pm

While winter may have been ending and the first breaths of spring began to thaw the frigid North, the nights were still wretchedly cold, some nights and particularly up in the mountains where the tree line's courage wavered in climbing too high as no living thing should be so far from the safety of the ground. Up here, among the rocky peaks and crags, perhaps only moss existed along with the occasional stubborn stunted sapling that had been carried so far up by the coastal winds to the North where the tree would never reach more than a meter in height and its roots would starve for nutrients in the rocks and dirt that would offer none.

Up in these mountains a discovery was made; a landslide had unearthed what appeared to have been a well-preserved Dwemer ruin of colossal proportions, concealed beneath the rock for centuries. It was Rhea Valerius, a famous Imperial explorer and renown scholar that had a reputation for world-changing discoveries and working past the political climate to bring in experts in their respective fields from across Tamriel, who was credited with the discovery and began to set up an expedition to excavate the ruins to discover the history that was buried for so many years. Using her substantial financial resources, as well as a significant investment from the Elder Council in Imperial City and donations from private investors.

At 36, Rhea was a strikingly beautiful woman who could have easily made a fair deal of coin from her blessed looks alone with a full-figured body with a healthy olive complexion, straight black hair kept in a nape-length ponytail, coffee coloured eyes, and a disarming smile that could win over even the darkest of hearts. It was often her looks that got her an audience, it was her words, wit, and considerable capital that saw her getting exactly what she wanted. Rhea was a woman driven by adventure and understanding the history of the world, and her enthusiasm for wanting to share it with everyone else was infectious. She won people over easily, having a sense of empathy and genuine concern for people that garnered respect and trust, and she was generally a person that was hard to dislike. It certainly explained how 87 people agreed to hike up the Jerall Mountains to set up a large camp, overlooking Skyrim to the North and Cyrodiil to the South, with another 26 on the way.

Among these people was a Khajiit named Daro'Vasora, a Cyrodiil native with the authoritative dialect of the upper eschelons of Imperial society combined with a raspy, yet smooth, dialect of a South-Central Khajiiti accent, not dissimilar to the cities to the West in the Kingdom of Anequina. She was currently sitting around a sizable fire constructed from lumber dragged up from a few hundred meters down the slope by the labour force with a group of 10 other so-called experts that a large Nord named Knuut had been instructed to gather up to inform them that Rhea requested them for the descent into the ruin tomorrow to explore the 7th level of the seemingly endless complex, which was proving to be one of, if not the largest, Dwemer ruin ever discovered in Tamriel's modern history. The Nord clearly had a disdain for the Altmer, telling them with a shit-eating grin, "May Talos guide you," as a way of parting after telling them to meet up with their fellow explorers.

And so, the group of mostly strangers were seated around the fire trying their best to keep warm on the cloudless night, able to see the faint light of cities in the distance and the endless sparkle of the stars above. Even Massar and Secunda were pale tonight, both deep into a waning stage. Khajiit born today and tomorrow will be Dagi-Raht, Daro'Vasora thought, staring up at the moons and considering the small Bosmer-like breed that lived up in the trees, their entire bodies covered with light fur, effectively looking like the half-way point between the feline bipedal Khajiit and the Bosmer-like Ohmes. It had been some time since Daro'Vasora had seen any sizable community of Khajiit, so most she had run across were Cathay or Suthay bipeds like herself... most who fit outside of the "traditional" mold often found their way back to the ancestral homelands of the Khajiit, using channels that even the Empire wasn't wise to. Though the Imperials tended to pride themselves on being cosmopolitan and open-minded towards diversity, they hardly left a place in society for the Senche tigers that came about when Massar was full again.

Daro'Vasora sat quietly near Judena, an Argonian acquaintance of hers who had an infuriating mental tick where she barely remembered things. Judena was a kindly soul with a big heart who had not once treated Vasora differently than anyone else on account of her race, and it had almost become a greeting to say, "Journal three, page six" to remind the Argonian where she had taken notes about her Khajiit acquaintance from their previous run ins- their lines of work often crossed, and Vasora had occasionally brought one of her finds to the Argonian for appraisal and to tap her considerable knowledge to ascertain what value something might have possessed. It was a comfortable arrangement between the two, and Daro'Vasora seldom had to worry about the Argonian prying about her history, since a simple white lie of saying they've already been over it was sufficient to quell her curiosity on the surface, at least.

The Khajiit had her mostly-finished bowl of venison, beef, and potato stew sitting off to the side, already cold due to the chilly air, just above the freezing point, and a bone jutted out from between her lips as her hands were preoccupied with the small lock she carried in her pack, a rhythmic series of quiet clicks followed by a more audible one every few seconds as the lock released; it was one she was so familiar at using that one could be forgiven for mistaking her for using a key instead of a lock pick. She'd carry a variety for a challenge, but finding locks without chests or doors wasn't common and most were unreasonably heavy, so this was mostly just something to keep her hands busy so she wouldn't grow restless from anticipation.

The group assembled around was an odd bunch, to be sure. An Imperial man who looked to be good in a fight given his equipment and its lack of luster from extended use, a hulking older Orsimer who had an axe that was taller than Vasora was, a trio of Altmer who somehow managed to maintain an air of annoyingly smug superiority given they were way outside of their element, a pair of Nord women who could not have been more different if they tried, a Redguard who had a pale complexion and a sly look about him, and most interestingly for Vasora, a Breton who had made a reputation for himself as a bard; she'd heard him sing in camp over the past week and had taken a quiet liking to the man who mixed story with song. It was nights like tonight that brought the Khajiit back to her younger days with friends in Leyawiin, telling stories to one another around a fire and trying to scare the shit out of one another with folk tales about what horrors lurked in the swamps outside of the city walls. It was an enjoyable set of memories that stayed with her and ever since, she'd always found herself gravitating towards taverns and city streets to listen to performers where she could lose herself in imagination. If there was one thing about herself that wasn't readily apparent by her near-permanent air of casual disinterest in other people, it only took a few strums of a lute and a voice like honey to make her ears perk up and a stupid little smile to cross her lips.

"So, have any of you actually been down in a ruin before, or did you all lie about your credentials?" She asked suddenly, not looking at anyone in particular. "I'm not saying most of you wouldn't step on something that will get us swarmed by spheres and spiders, but most of you are definitely going to step on something that will get us swarmed by spheres and spiders."

If Brynja were a wolf, her fur would have bristled at the Khajiit's remark. Was she suggesting that the majority of those gathered around the fire, were nothing more than dumb, towering klutz? An itching sensation crept up her hands as she gritted her teeth, lifting her eyes up from the dancing flames to look across the fire at the Khajiit. What was her name? Tara'vasari? No, that didn't sound quite right... didn't matter right this second anyway.

"Ever dealt with draugr?" She asked in a low raspy voice.

In nature, Brynja wasn't an angry person, but when people questioned her capability to handle a task, she struggled to keep her head level. Quite frankly, she didn't want to be sitting around a fire with her so-called companions late at night. Her joints ached from the labor of the day, a chronic problem that had begun to surface after her eight-and-twenty name-day. Not only did the ale help with the pain, it let her sleep without trouble. And sleep was all she wanted right about now.

Judena laughed, the excess skin beneath her chin expanding a little at the amusement. Her long red tail looped onto her lap, little tufts of fur poked out from her mage robe collar. "I have never had much luck in being sneaky, but those draugr are of a rather sour sort! Much like a good whisky, you age them a century and they'll kick your ass!" She paused squinting at the others about the fire then giggled, a sound caught between a hiss and throaty chortle.

After her own laughter quieted, thoroughly pleased with herself, she rooted through her bag and went searching for Daro'Vasora's reference to date. Making a small 'ah-ha' sound, then snapping the logbook shut. "I never forget a face, hello Daro'Vasora. I believe you wouldn't lead us into certain danger where spheres and spiders are concerned. Your pride would not allow for it."

Judena sat up straight, rubbing her hands together generating some warmth while her claws clacked quietly. Her wide head surveyed the bristling nord woman, tall and a warrior - that much was clear as day to the Argonian. "Daro'Vasora is quite the energetic one and so are you... Ehm... Br- Bryone? No, no. Brie?"

She visibly struggled, Jude knew full well of the Nord's name. With that much certainty, her eyes flicked to her logbook.

"Brynja. My name is Brynja WhiteHand." She replied, her shoulders sagging. She had seen the Argonian around the camp, and by word of mouth, she learned that she struggled with remembering certain things.

"Ah yes! Of course, Brynja Whitehand." Judena quickly retrieved her logbook scribbling away.

"WhiteHand. Of course it is." Daro'Vasora didn't look up from her lock. Click., the lock opened and she reset it. "Never had to deal with Draugr. It's easy enough to avoid hideous clanking things when you watch where you step and don't stomp around like a clutz. Can't say the same thing about a camp fire, however. Some monsters are just unavoidable." she interjected flatly, as if remarking on the weather to make small talk.

'Of course it is.' Daro'Vasora's remark irked her, as if she had done anything wrong to this cat. She had an inkling to toss her into nearest basin of water, see how she liked that. Brynja switched her gaze from Judena to Daro'Vasora, as she had called her. "Is there a problem?"

"Only if you get us mauled by some contraption that was manufactured two eras ago and still is somehow more pleasant company than you are." The Khajiit remarked with a shrug.

"On the contrary, Rhea hired me for the simple task of keeping you all alive. WhiteHand, my family are healers, and so am I." She stretched her long legs out in front of her, relieving the pressure that was building up in her knees.

Judena perked then quickly scratched what she had previously written. "Excellent! You don't look the frail sort of cleric healer, absolutely fantastic. Ruins and expeditions make mince meat out of greenhorns." She commented brightly, she finished a sentence then put the logbook back down.

Surrounded. Utterly surrounded by lesser beings. Mortalmo resisted the urge to crinkle his nose in distaste, held back the retches that threatened to hack from his throat, and maintained a mask of immaculate indifference. He supposed that when it came to savages, the ones encroaching on him from all sides must have been the cream of their crop. It would do him well, to forestall final judgement until he had seen them in action. A shiver took Mortalmo by surprise. A momentary quake of his form, a slip on his expression, and then the gates to his inner self were drawn shut once more. It wouldn’t do to say that he feared the dwemer, no, no. Mortalmo had conquered his fears, faced them down one by one and ground each into a fine powder. Even the nightmares of his childhood he now had the capacity to summon at will should he wish it. No, he did not, could not fear the dwemer. He was apprehensive, slightly apprehensive. The automaton were dangerous and took the lives of countless fools by the week. Mortalmo had seen their remains on more than one occasion.

Still, there was some comfort to be had. His anonymity remained intact, and he had found an unexpected surprise in the presence of two more altmer. Two more than the amount he had expected. Anifaire seated to his left and Solandil to his right. Already he felt a growing kinship with the girl, a meek thing, but with potential. The albino would take more work, but Mortalmo was determined. Safety existed in numbers, and the only numbers an altmer could truly trust were those of their own kin. Paranoia had not yet slipped its poison into Mortalmo’s mind, but there was a lingering suspicion of the other members chosen for this expedition. He knew the reputation the Dominion had, and if anyone were to link him properly to the Thalmor, blood was sure to be shed. He eyed the nords with a particular amount of foreboding. Especially the impudent oaf that saw them off to this point. “May Talos guide you” who in Oblivion did that savage think he was?! It was almost enough to make Mortalmo gnash his teeth.

He needed to turn himself away from his growing annoyance before it was corrupted into something far more foul. He addressed the group. “What function, exactly, does each of you serve? It would be good to know, so that we may coordinate ourselves more efficiently when -and it will happen- our lives are put on the line. I must confess, as well, that I’m not entirely familiar with each of your names. Aside from Solandil and dear Anifaire here. I am Durantel.” He showed little concern as to whether the others were finished conversing, even if his tone was, for the time being, mostly pleasant.

The eclectic group around the fire was more than Anifaire was used to, even at the Arcane university. Her nerves overcame any desire to speak, so she turned her attention instead to gazing intently on the fire. Golden hair, loose, fell around her face, tumbling down past her shoulders and helping to hide her face. The utter strangeness of the situation she found herself in was terrifying.

Durantel had become a strange source of comfort to her, a familiar, if not actually, face in a foreign land. Out of all the companions on their journey, she had scarcely spoken to anyone else, and even now passed up the opportunity to speak. 'Speak when spoken to' was a concept that had been ingrained into Anifaire, while not around her family or friends, while among strangers or, frequently, diplomatic guests of her fathers'. It had become a default, and she now wrapped herself in that comfort of familiarity as they prepared for the descent deeper into the ruins. Up until this point, she hadn't found herself face to face with a Dwemer construct, about to tear her to shreds, but now she found her stomach clenching with nerves at the very real possibility of experiencing that in the near future. The thought makes her glance around the circle, guessing at people's capabilities.

When Durantel noted Anifaire to his side, completely ignoring his question in the process, Judena leafed through her current log looking for reference. Her name rang a faint bell, there had been so many new faces and mages she had worked with as of late. She pointed her charcoal pencil at Anifaire, "You are apart of the historical team yes? Uh..." She read her own notes. "Ah! Yes! You are an alteration mage, like myself."

Anifaire glanced up in surprise. The... lizard... was speaking to her. She'd spoken with the other mage on occasion, working, but it was still an alarming thought that an animal such as her was able to do such normal things. Especially strange that it--she--could do magic. It surprised her every time. "Oh, I-- yes," Anifaire replied quickly, finally breaking her silence. The words almost stuck in her throat. "I've studied alteration and mysticism, though my primary research focus has always been the Dwemer. It's my first time delving into one of these ruins firsthand, though." She thought that admitting the last part would perhaps prepare her companions for the expedition. It was better that they knew to watch out for her.

"An actual greenhorn, then." Judena remarked. "That is very exciting."

A what now? Anifaire flushed lightly, letting her hair fall into her face to hide her embarrassment. "I'm hoping to find some Dwemer writings." She brushed past the topic at hand, delving into something she is comfortable with.

Alim lounged, one arm propped up on the short log he was supposed to be sitting upon. The other arm held an apple he was casually taking bites of every now and then. One knee was up while the other leg lay stretched. Rhea had gotten a varied group, it seemed. Though he had to admit there were more than a few pretty women here. Never having actually taken much note of it, being too preoccupied with the mysteries and trinkets he was bound to find below the ruins. He'd been in a few underground lairs before, and he knew better than most there was always something valuable in unexpected places.

Sitting around his companions before their foray, however, gave him a good glimpse at who he might be trapped underground with for weeks on end. Most of them looked tough or intelligent, though he'd seen more than a few tough and intelligent people lose their lives. It was never a guarantee of survival. That took a bit of luck.

"Alteration, you say?" He pipped in to the interesting looking Argonian, and the comely but stuck up Altmer. He tossed his apple up into the air with one hand and focused on it for but a moment. A small magical light enveloped the fruit, and it fell at a fraction of gravity's normal pace, having casted 'feather.' "Small world, it seems."

The lone orc of the group blew another plume of smoke from his nostrils. The weed-embers in his pipe were a tiny speck of light in the dusk’s gloom that surrounded them. He sat a little further away from the fire than the others. The cold never bothered Balroth and, well aware of his size, he did not want to take a place closer to the flames that one of the others might need to stay warm. He had grabbed the folds of his fur-hemmed travel cloak and pulled them in around himself, obscuring his silhouette against the backdrop of darkness, and one could easily be forgiven for mistaking him for a boulder at first glance. His enormous battleaxe lay at his feet.

He had kept to himself and his smithy so far, observing the rest of the group and their work from a distance. There had been plenty of work in repairing broken pickaxes and forging nails, among a myriad other things. That had suited Balroth just fine for the time being. Now that he finally sat with them up close he eyed the three Altmer with unwavering concentration, the gaze of his dark eyes hidden in shadow. He could tell that the woman and the golden-skinned man were from Alinor, as opposed to Empire elves. Their expressions and the way they carried themselves were unmistakable. The third was harder to read; what little skin Balroth could see did not look anything like any high elf he’d seen before.

After the topic of conversation drifted towards the respective qualities of the party’s members, at Durantel’s request, Balroth felt it was about time for him to finally speak up and let the Altmer know where he stood.

“Nice trick,” he said in response to Alim’s spell. He had never really understood the need for Alteration magic. Balroth spoke softly, but even then his voice was so rich and deep, like a bear’s growl, that all of them could hear him clearly. “My name is Balroth gro-Umanak, warrior-smith, formerly of stronghold Dushnikh Yal, now a citizen of the Empire.” He looked at Brynja and Vasora, and hearkened back to an earlier point in the conversation. “I have dealt with draugr, if that’s any reassurance. And dwarven contraptions, bandits, monsters, beasts… even elves…”

Balroth’s voice trailed off and his eyes flitted back to Durantel. A ring of smoke silently floated the elf’s way. “But the war is over. We’re all friends now, right?”

Mortalmo breathed in the smoke deeply as it meandered towards him, and stared intently at the orc. “Balroth? A brutish name, yet your demeanor indicates, to me at least, that more is rattling around inside that tusked head of yours than baser instincts. I hope I am correct.” He smiled, a sickly sweet thing that made no effort to reach his eyes. “You are correct, the war is over. We’re all friends here.” Brynja snorted in response to his final comment. Her objective was keeping them alive, not to make any friends.

The elf's cold gaze reminded Balroth strongly of the Thalmor wizard that had been his nemesis during the Great War and Durantel's venomous words didn't do anything to lessen the impression. “Good. Let it stay that way,” the orc replied flatly. He didn't bother returning the smile. It was obvious that Durantel was not the right Altmer to practice getting over his prejudices with, but Balroth wouldn't give him the satisfaction of letting Durantel get to him.

"Gee, I haven't witnessed such an insincere use of the word 'friend' since a highway man tried to rob me last month." Daro'Vasora said dryly, sparing a glance for the Altmer and Orc who were getting along oh so well. "Like I said, you guys are definitely going to get us swarmed by automata. I can find and mark traps and unlock all sorts of things, but it'll be for nothing if the tourists behind me act like you fellows."

Balroth raised an eyebrow at these words - he had been in this line of work since before the little kitten was even born - but said nothing.

For her part, Meg was sitting rather quietly as she observed her companions and the way they were interacting with one another. She had to admit she was suitably amused and she didn't mind that it showed; the expression on her face was something between a smirk and a smile, as if unable to decide between the two. It had been a while since she had sat in the company of so many people of different races; why if she was being sentimental, it was almost nostalgic and reminded her of the scumbags she had been friends with in Riften when she was still mostly a child. Luckily for her, she doubted these people would attempt gutting her just yet.

Well, to be fair, she wasn't quite sure about the two golden skinned Altmers and the one rather pale one, never having the chance of actual conversation with the folk until now. She had heard all sorts of things, just like she had with Khajiit and Argonians, but common sense and experience always told her to test the waters before throwing judgment around.

Even as she sat on the ground, knees pulled up halfway to her chest, her legs shook the slightest bit, filled with excitement at the prospect of going back on an adventure. It hadn't been more than a year since the last one, but to her it felt like ages. A dwemer ruin of all places... she had only heard of them, never having delved into one herself. Nordic ruins and draugrs on the other hand, now that was something she was familiar with.

"Megana here." She finally spoke up, stretching out her legs before her and crossing them at the ankles. "I like Meg better, though. Short an' sweet an' easy to remember. Nice to meet y'all." Her fingers tapped at her knees, and truth be told she looked like the sort who would set off any trap just by moving a little too much. "I've seen draugrs before too, nasty things. They die just like anything else though, once you hit 'em enough."

The Khajiit blinked at Meg. "What on Nirn are you doing here? You don't have Molag Bal's mace shoved up your ass like everyone else." Jutting a thumb at the Nord, she looked at everyone else. "She's probably the only one who thinks we're all going to get along."

Meg couldn't help but chuckle at that comment, shrugging a shoulder before replying. "It's not as hard as it seems, truly. And pretty useful to at least pretend to get along when you're about t'go underground." She knew very well she couldn't expect others to see it the same way she did, but that hardly meant she was going to change the way she behaved.

Balroth grunted in agreement. "Don't worry about me, Daro'Vasora. I'm a professional and I am sure Durantel is one as well. We'll behave.” He glanced at Megana and winked a fatherly wink as a small smile tugged at his lips. It was obvious she was excited and optimistic about the venture, and that's what Balroth liked to see. It would do good to follow her example.

The reaction was appreciated by the younger Nord, who quietly laughed under her breath. At least the older orc -Balroth, she reminded herself- seemed a little less uptight now.

"Aye, aye," she agreed, giving a small nod of acknowledgement in Balroth's direction.

The incessant scratching of Gaius' quill pen ceased as he sealed the inkwell, sighing heavily as he looked at the ground before the fire. His notebook was open, displaying an intricate series of interlocking blocks he'd drawn to fill the time. "Apples," he muttered, almost unaware of his own speech, and looked once again at the apple still slowly bobbing its way to the ground. He stared at it flatly, debating whether or not to snatch it from the air. Deciding against it and snapping his book closed, his raised his eyes, looking around the rest of the people clustered around the small fire.

"Gaius Milonem the third," he began somewhat quietly. "I've been a soldier in the Legion for over twenty years. I've seen draugr, I've been in ruins. Never any as big as this one, but for what it's worth, I'm still alive after all these years. As for why I'm here," he continued, taking his sword out of the sheath and laying it on the ground in front of him as he stared impassively at Durantel, "I'm sure you can guess."

He stood and walked slowly to his tent, divesting himself of his heavy armor and laying it carefully down beside his bedroll. He slipped on a clean tunic of pale green cotton and rolled his shoulders as the heavy weight of armor was lifted from them. Returning to the fire, he reclaimed his seat before resuming his looking around. That Durantel fellow is going to need some watching, he thought.

"If the careless footsteps of someone here does not bring the spheres to us, worry not." Latro's high voice came almost unexpectedly from the din of the crackling fire, crickets and soft breeze, to anyone who wasn't facing the direction of his approach or noticed the cease of plucking and strumming and humming, "They'll hear all of that saber-rattling."

Despite the quip, his voice was full of good humor, or as full of good humor as his usually flat speaking voice could've been. His soft steps brought him to Alim's side, where he took his seat. If the night was not so cold and the ground not so treacherous with the darkness a setting sun was inviting, he'd have been comfortably barefoot and sans shirt, he lamented. He grasped up his locks and tied them off at the back of his head in his usual bun, his hands returning to his lap and he smiled at the rest of the crew gathered at the fire, "My name is Latro, for anyone's acquantaince I have not made. I'm the one who makes potions, poultices and song about camp." At his remark on being able to make potions and poultices, Brynja breathed a quiet sigh of relief, alchemy of any sorts wasn't her favorite task.

At that, his attention turned to his polished stone he'd idly toy with since boyhood. He wished he could say it was a more innocent time. As he looked from face to face, he couldn't say any of them were more interesting to him than that certain Altmer, white as white and always covered. At that subject though, he knew some errant vitriolic thought was stalking through that other Altmer's head since his first word at the fire. He did nothing but give his soft smile to the mer. He wondered how such a person could live so long while letting everything around him effect him so deeply. Not but a handful of years ago, though, he was just like him. "You know, of all music I've heard across the few lands of Tamriel I've walked, I have always loved Altmer music the very few times I was lucky enough to hear it." He figured trying to build some sort of connection was better than nothing.

Mortalmo's gaze softened as he turned his attention towards the newcomer. "I am reminded once again that not all of Lorkhan's spawn are baser savages." The corner of his mouth tugged into a smirk. "You have good taste, Latro. I would not be opposed to playing for you all." This he said to all gathered around the fire. Without waiting for any kind of response, he fished around in his pack before drawing out his instrument, wrapped in soft cloth. Unfolding the fabric gingerly, he grasped the flute with a delicate touch, and raised it to his lips. The melody was soft and simple, borrowed from an old hymn made to honor the aldmeri pantheon. Mortalmo's eyes fluttered open and shut as he swayed slightly to the music.

As Brynja listened on to the others speak of their skills, and introduce themselves, her eyes wandered to the third Altmer of the group, he had yet to speak up unlike his kinsmen. She studied him closely, or at least from what she could see.

Perched beside the other two Altmer of the group, Solandil would have been quite happy to remain quiet and not introduced. He was a guard for the group, and he was there to protect the expedition and get his money; while he could see the point in the group describing their talents, he had never been one for idle conversation - people could look at him and usually draw their own correct conclusions about his talents.

However, Durantel ruined his chance to remain quiet, as the older mer introduced Sol to the group himself. Darting a sour look of disapproval at Durantel (Which went unnoticed thanks to the weathered scarf wrapped around his face), Sol waited momentarily as the group talked, bickered, and boasted. Some seemed to be quite capable in dealing with whatever dangers lay ahead; others, not so much, but then again, Sol had learned in his travels that people could be surprising.

Deciding that he should coin in now, lest the others think Durantel always spoke for him, Sol removed his hood and scarf, snow-white hair spilling down and across his nearly equally-white face.

At his sudden removal of the hood, her brows raised at the realization that this Altmer completely lacked the typical golden pigmentation of the Altmer people. Her brows lowered, lips turned down into a frown as she nodded at him, he hadn't spoke a single word, "What of you, pale one?" She asked, though her tone wasn't judgemental by any means, but rather as if she were making a statement.

Sol's sharp grey eyes shot to the Nord who had spoken to him, typical frown in place. He didn't hold the same hatred for the Nords as most of his kin; it was more a general dislike for most people who approached him, regardless of race. Still, the title this Brynja used for him struck a chord of annoyance.

"I kill things." He breathed icily, not breaking eye contact with her.

Brynja cracked a grin for the first time this night at his words, "I-Kill-Things, is that your name?"

"Oaf." Was the first thought to cross his mind; expression growing colder as his lip curled up slightly in irritation. Looking away from the brutish-looking woman, he adressed the group as a whole. "As Durantel stated, my name is Solandil. Sol is also acceptable." His tone was neutral, though as he glanced back to Brynja, his eyes narrowed. "'I-Kill-Things' is not."

"Good." She said nodding at him, "I kill things too, Solandil."

"Hopefully we won't have to put your skills to use then, Sol," Latro said, hoping to break one of the many airs of tension that had blown through the group since the kindling took the first spark. He smiled to Brynja, "Nor yours."

He cleared his throat, softly chewing his bottom lip while thinking up subjects of conversation that wouldn't immediately ignite a flame in someone, but with how things had gone so far, that seemed an impossible task. He released his lip from his canines and returned his soft eyes and smile to Sol and Brynja, as well as to the others, "We have names and occupations. Brynja heals things and then kills things, Sol, you stick to the one, though. What of home?" He asked.

Visibly bristling up at the question, Sol's gaze landed on Latro for only a second before darting back to the campfire in the middle of the group.

"I travel. There is no home." He replied flatly, indicating quite clearly that that was the most he would speak on the subject.

"As do I." Latro said, unperturbed by Sol's stubbornly taciturn demeanor. "And from where does Brynja hail?"

"Whiterun. Born and raised. That's where my folks live, but not me. I lived in Windhelm for several years after the war, serving as Housecarl to Rorik Bone-Breaker, Thane of Windhelm." She said with a shrug of her shoulders. Family wasn't a topic she enjoyed talking about as of late.

"I can not say," He was interrupted by a stretch of his arms toward the sky and then a covered yawn, "I have met the man. A name like Bone-Breaker leaves so much to the imagination." He laughed quietly as he laid back to prop himself on an elbow.

Gaius found himself listening to the conversation being carried out a small distance away from him, and shifted closer to them, listening as it played out until an opportunity came for him to chime in; "The Imperial City," he said. "Talos Plaza district," he added, glancing at Durantel for a brief moment as his voice lowered slightly. You could never be too careful around those snobbish Altmer types.

"My home is in Cyrodiil too," Balroth said quietly and looked at Gaius. "Harlun's Watch, near Cheydinhal." It wasn't an interesting statement and he expected no response, but it seemed only fair to answer Latro's question regardless.

Gaius nodded, meeting Balroth's eyes, a grin flitting across his face. "Cheydinhal...I've only been once or twice, and I never stayed long. Seemed like nice country, though. A good place to live."

"Aye, it is," Balroth replied and smiled in earnest. He had a feeling he'd grow to like this Imperial sooner rather than later.

"Home is a long way for the both of you." She added, noticing the Orc and Imperial. "We're all a long ways from home it seems."

It took a while for Meg to come up with an answer, seeing she didn't really know how to answer Latro's question. "I'm from Whiterun myself," she said at last, interlocking her fingers as she set them on her lap. "Kinda. I was born in Riverwood, like my Ma. We moved to Riften for a bit after she died, an' then Pa decided to move to Whiterun. I mostly just travel here an' there now." She grinned before shrugging. "You could say taverns and inns are my home."

"A fellow sister then," Brynja turned her attention to the small woman, "and they have become my home as well." That much was true, she hadn't had a bed of her own to call in over a year, she slept where she could, when she could, in taverns and inns, in the forest and in the fields. She had trouble discerning if she was a Nord, simply due to her height and stature, but anyone born in Skyrim was a sister or brother.

"A man or a woman that has a Name like that is given it by their fellow kinsmen. We do not chose our Name, Latro." Brynja turned her attention back to Latro, remembering his comment about namesakes. It was common in Skyrim, part of the culture, a fact she never questioned.

"So does 'Ass-Scratcher' or 'Sheep-Shagger', but Nords never tell tales of those they give the real interesting names, do they?" Daro'Vasora chimed in, having momentarily lost her interest in the topic to enjoy the Altmer's flute playing. For a culture of prideful snobs, they at least had some claim excelling at the arts. If you played music more and talked less, people might mistake you for being pleasant. she thought, looking to the group's speakers.

"And so we're clear, "I kill things" is about as basic of an animal instinct and capability as one can muster. What sets you all apart from trolls or wolves, I wonder." The Khajiit said quietly, focusing on the lock.

"Killing...It goes deeper than that," She started, shaking her head at the Khajiit's words, "There is no glory or honor in the act. Every person, and every creature dies. There is a reason why I chose the sword. I am bound by my word to protect you all once we set foot inside those ruins. I will kill to protect each and everyone of you, even if it means putting my own life on the line. Call me foolish, I don't care. It's how I choose to live."

Despite being a Nord herself, it was hard for Meg to keep her amusement from the Khajiit's statement hidden in an attempt not to offend her fellow Nord. Which she was glad for; while she enjoyed the small banter between the others, in particular Brynja and Daro'Vasora, she could appreciate what the woman said. In some ways she already reminded Meg of her mother, or at least in the way her Papa described Ylva.

Solandil found himself nodding along slightly in agreement to the Nord's words. While he certainly wouldn't have said it quite as emotionally as that, he lived by the same basic premise. Kill to survive, or kill to protect others.

"What she said." Sol tacked on simply, jerking his chin towards Brynja. "We're hired to be protectors. That's what we'll do."

For the first time that night, Latro's calm smile faltered into a frown, his eyes drooping to watch the glowing ember and ash at the fire's edge. He swallowed, clutching his polished stone close at the talk of killing. He had killed before, for causes and for revenge, but he'd wanted to leave even the talk of it behind him in High Rock. Memories of the night hidden in trees outside Wayrest laid their callused hands on his throat for the first time in a while. He breathed in through his nose, closing his eyes and let the breath go quietly past his lips.

He held a fist to his lips and coughed, moving to keep the conversation from heated subjects, "And what separates Daro'Vasora from the trolls and wolves?"

The Khajiit leaned back, a leg over her knee. Her eyes lit up, her disposition engaged interest. "Simple, I have purpose and drive. I was provided with every need in my youth and desired more than my base urges. I began to study, the world expanded within my mind, and I realized that beneath the soil thousands of years of lost knowledge is just waiting to be found by me to take advantage of. Oh, and perhaps pawn off some priceless artifact so my name opens every door in the Empire because a reputation is priceless, and seeing what people are willing to pay for something that was lost long ago. That or I'm just jaded with money and dodging ancient horrors is how I scratch the itch that is boredom. Take your pick." Daro'Vasora said, setting her lock and picks down, leaning forward suddenly to rest her elbows on her knees. "Life is far more enjoyable when you live it on your own terms and do something no one else has since they locked these dusty old tombs for the last time. It's far more stimulating than simply looking for coin and food, no?"

"It helps if you have a purpose," Brynja commented, more to herself than to Daro'Vasora.

Mortalmo looked at the cat with curiosity, drawing the flute away from his lips as the song came to its end. "I do agree with... Daro'Vasora? A bear excels in slaughter when pushed. Reason and drive are the things that can set some individuals apart from baser creatures." Some. His eyes flickered to the nord cow, and then to Solandil. He had written off the former upon sight. The albino he still held out some hope for, though he suspected it might be a waste of mental energies. Perhaps the taint that warped his appearance had seeped into his brain at some point. Still, he hoped.

Latro was altogether now too conscious of the weight of the roundel dagger sheathed at the small of his back, hidden under his cloak, at that point. He appreciated his hands then, musician's fingers now, and accustomed to making potions and healing poultices rather than poisons or holding garottes or blades. "Indeed it does. I find warm beds warmer, hearths more welcoming, and songs that much sweeter when on the road." He sighed, grasping up his lute and strumming out a few notes before going back to plucking out a tune, "My purpose is to make people feel with nothing but my music. And what of you, my friend?" He said to the Redguard at his side, who had remained silent throughout the long exchange. "Your home, your purpose in life and in this most recent outing?"

For Alim, it was good to gauge the quality of his allies in this coming endeavor. The fire before him danced light across his caramel skin, and biting lazily into his apple, he turned to the talented Breton who had addressed him.

"Oh purpose?" Alim echoed, chuckling. He didn't find the question itself funny, nor did he do it to offend. He just honestly did not know what to say for himself. "I suppose..." He grunted, pulling himself up onto his feet, knees bent. He lithely hopped up on the stump he'd been leaning on the most of the night. "Adventure, as cliche as that sounds. I don't see myself going back to High Rock anytime soon."

Brynja recognized his words as a touch of romanticism, plundering ruins, finding precious treasures, the adrenaline coursing through one's veins in locked combat, the fear that tonight would be one's last night to live... She nodded more to herself than to Alim. How many caves had she trekked through, following behind Rorik? And how many times had she thought that she would die defending him? Seven years. Seven years was a long time to commit to an idea, a noble one of adventuring. Yet, here she was, about to start the process all over again. Her eyes lifted to settle onto the mysterious Breton at Latro's side. He had remained strangely quiet until now, just like Solandil.

He realized just what people might say, as he was very much not a Breton like some of them. "I find life is sweetest when you're on the knife's edge. Though it also brings quite a lot of rewards too, if you know where to look." He gave a wink to Latro, giving a jovial closed mouth grin. "Worry not though. I'll share what trinkets I find for the expedition. It seems many of you will be in need for some dextrous fingers on this outing."

Latro chuckled, for being so quiet, Alim was charismatic if you shined the light on him. He nodded appreciatively, "Only the gaudiest of trinkets for me, if you find one." Latro smiled, "What of the grey-heads, perhaps you have wise tales and the like for us younger folk?" He said to Gaius and Balroth.

Mortalmo bristled internally, was he not the eldest among the group? Still, he remained silent. It was a compliment, if anything. His twilight years were centuries off.

The orc snorted at that. It was true, though - his hair had turned grey years ago. "Wisdom, eh? Very well, let me think." He scratched his beard and looked up at the night sky. "Don't touch anything if you don't know what it is. If you hear a twang, drop to the ground. If a wizard can see you, run." They were all things he had learned over time, but the last one had been an especially poignant lesson and Balroth instinctively wrapped his arms around his abdomen. "Learn to forgive", he added after a few seconds, lost in thought.

Oddly enough, Alim, having sobered a bit from his introduction, gave a nod at his last bit of wisdom.

Latro was unexpectedly hit hard by the last bit. He pursed his lips and nodded, "Harder than one might think, Elder." He plucked a slow, wistful tune as he too let his gaze go to the stars, "But wise it is."

Mortalmo's thoughts drifted to Faewynn. He scowled into the fire. "Some deeds cannot be forgiven. Some actions deserve no clemency. At some point, the blame must fall to the fool who pardons."

At Durantel's first sentence, Latro's plucking twanged harshly and out of tune from a limp finger placed on the wrong fret. The young man cleared his throat uncomfortably, eyes flitting first to Durantel and then the others before he whispered a curse under his breath in feigned frustration. Soon enough, as it always did, his soft smile returned to him, "And what of the other grey-head?" Latro teased in good nature.

Gaius considered his response in silence for some time after biting out a brief "my hair's not gray yet, is it?" (It was true; though there were a few gray hairs shot through, his hair remained its glorious brown.) That was the question, wasn't it? Was there any wise advice he could give? His mind drifted back along the lanes of memory, and he found himself in front of his mother's grave, holding a dragon's-tongue flower and standing in solemn silence. His siblings, ones that he'd barely known the faces of, stood on either side of him, and he'd found that if he focused even marginally on something—anything—else, he could forget they were there, forget their names, their histories. Suddenly, he'd felt deeply, unbearably lonely.

Ah. That was it.

"Remember those around you," he murmured. "Don't ever forget them so you can focus more on yourself, because I can promise that they won't forget you. If you have someone close to you, keep them close."

Brynja found herself nodding along to the old-timer's words of wisdom. Much of this she had learned from her time in the war, and from Rorik. While Ivor might have taught her to swing a blade proper, it was Rorik that taught her how to apply that knowledge. She shivered, not at the cold, but at the thought of the dangers ahead. But forgiveness, that was something she struggled with, a fact she was well aware of. Her lack of forgiveness had made her so bitter to begin with.

Huh, things got gloomy real fast. Meg had never had to deal with forgiveness, at least not in such a personal sense like these fellows here seemed to be talking about. She was a lucky lass who had been forgiven after giving her father so much trouble as a young one. Hm... Her gaze shifted from the others to the fire, watching the dancing flames. There was J'raij, of course... it had taken a long while before she realized she wasn't to blame for his death. But then, that had been loneliness more than yearning for forgiveness...

No, no, no. She scolded herself inwardly. Other thoughts. Now.

Judena scribbled on, noting the names as it cropped up adding to the growing list. She added some identifiers, physical ticks and little jot notes on personality. The argonian hummed guessing at the spelling of some names. Everyone present had their opinions, quirks and history. It was all very exciting, as it always was with new groups and such a large and well funded expedition attracted all walks of life in the best way, Jude surmised.

She found herself liking the youthful Meg and Alim, their attitudes seemingly flexible. Latro was helping to skim the basics in their conversation, Gaius and Brynja were taking a more serious route, balancing the sarcasm from Daro'Vasora out. Judena had enjoyed listening to Balroth, his deep baritone voice was very pleasant. She wondered if Daro'Vasora were to turn her sarcasm upon Durantel how he would react? He used such harsh language as if this was his first venture away from Summerset, while Solandil was not the first she had seen of pale elves. Highly uncommon but she knew in her heart of hearts to guess or prod would certainly err on the side of very rude.

Maybe after a few drinks.

She tapped the side of her head with the heel of her hand, she hadn't even introduced herself! She used her spear to lift herself from her seat, letting her tail fall back.

She said, "The expedition thus far has been turning up new discoveries and always, am I thankful of the new faces and experience. My name, is Judena Callisar." She enunciated her name, always taking care with her speech in the common tongue, beaming at the others around her. "I volunteered for this expedition and have been apart of the documentation and academic teams. I specialize in artifact appraisal, retrieval, and restoration."

A snake of irritation coiled around Mortalmo with each passing second as the lizard continued to run its mouth. The thing was disgusting. A horrendous sight to behold, and the wet rasp that escaped from its throat did little to offset the disturbing air that clung to the reptile. Mortalmo wondered idly, if it smelled as bad as the dismal swamp it likely crawled from. He fixed Judena with an icy stare. "Judena Callisar, volunteer for the documentation and academic teams, that specializes in the appraisal, retrieval, and restoration of artifacts, that is thankful for new faces and experiences... I am still at an utter loss as to how you will be of any significant help in the ruin."

The Argonian turned and locked eyes with Durantel, his eyes icy as a glacier. She stood still as a statue, a moment passed then she laughed, "I already have you see. It takes a full team of minds to fully catalogue and document the findings. You must be a bit of a greenhorn yourself, if you are ever interested I can run through the basics in such a dig. It is..." She searched for the word, "A very complex machine. I understand your ignorance, completely. There was once a time I was in your boots. I empathize." She opened her logbook once again, exaggerating a scratch across the page. She took her seat.

Then again, Judena thought idly, she could bribe Daro'Vasora to push his buttons on her behalf. For reasons.

The Argonian that had originally questioned Brynja, revealed herself as Judena Callisar, and and much to her surprise, she was able to handle herself quite well when Durantel mocked her. She raised her eyebrows in astonishment, her eyes switching between the two figures.

Though the lizard seemed to think it had some bite to match its incessant barking, Mortalmo was unconvinced. How dare the animal talk to him in such a manner? Matching Judena's japing tone note for note, he began his rebuttal. "Though in some small part, I admire your perceived cunning, it was a wholly wasted effort. I understand that you're a bit of a greenhorn, but my meaning seems to have completely flown over your head. The deeper one goes into these ruins, the more peril they place themselves in. You should be scouring the ruins in our wake, after those of us that are capable have cleared out the automata. Though I have my doubts as to if you truly provide any modicum of help to this expedition, I won't ignore the possibility that perhaps your intellect is... present. That being said, you are either a fool, or foolish for thinking you have a place amongst the vanguard. Even if your only capability is that of a floor sweeper, you would still have more use alive on the surface than dead down there."

The flippant backhanded remark from Durantel left her with a bitter taste in her mouth, as if it were more possible. How many Stormcloak supporters had she seen in Whiterun, talking down to the Dunmer, Khajiit and Argonians? She wasn't sure who was worse, the Altmer and Thalmor, or those cursed Stormcloaks. Brynja had no place in her heart for those that looked down upon others just because of their skin color or race.

"You're a talker for someone full of piss and spite." She snorted in disgust, "Don't forget to breathe during your next speech, lest you run out of breath, and force one of us to bury you."

Judena laughed again, genuinely for Brynja's comment. "It has been quite a while since I have had my fair run in with such a prickly personality. Keeps one humble. Durantel, I feel no need to prove to you, specifically, that I am of use. You are not my first experience with Altmer hot branded wordplay." She said lightly, adjusting herself on the upturned treetrunk. "I hope others here understand the value of over three decades worth of experience in this line of work. I would gladly let you borrow my reference guide to dwemer artifacts, Durantel."

"Hey, Durantel. More flute, less mouthing off." Daro'Vasora said, offering him an impatient smile. "I know you're probably used to people slobbering over your three stone long pride and joy between your legs in Alinor, but you're acting like you've never met someone who wasn't as tall and obnoxiously golden like you." She pointed North, towards Skyrim. "Feel free to try and impress the Nords over there. You'll find a much more lively audience who are rather quite fond of empty boasts and S'rendarr knows what else you have going on in that sloped head of yours.

"I can vouch for Judena; I've worked with her before. For all I know, you're going to get down there and try to tell a Centurion how it's an inferior construct to the architecture back home and be mighty surprised when it ventilates your entrails with a spike. How about you step off your awfully high soap box before you fall and snap your neck from the weight of your hubris, yes? Your prattle is tiresome and unless you prove to me you're actually worth getting a portion of the cut, I'll be more than happy to let whatever nasty clanker down below drag you off to disect you, hopefully mouth first. You're in our world now, High Elf. Best not forget that." The Khajiit said, tossing the bone from her lips into the flame, the meat fragments igniting instantly.

Mortalmo held a languid finger up in Daro'Vasora's direction, his focus still on Judena. "I am not unfair, Judena. You claim three decades of experience under your belt. It will take only a few minutes for me to determine if those three decades have done you any good." Mortalmo was aware that some amount of humility now would serve him better than it would to continue arguing with what was an ever growing number of indignant fools. "I was unaware of your supposed qualifications when formulating my initial statement. I will reserve further judgement until I am certain of your capabilities. You have..." He paused. "You have my apologies, Judena."

Turning his head to look at Brynja, then Daro'Vasora, Mortalmo made the conscious effort to rise to their bait. "Cat, I trust you are quite finished with your tirade? At this point, the original concern of this discussion has been washed away by the immaturity and imputence of children. Bandying empty words with you two will prove to be a fruitless endeavor for all involved. I do not seek to waste my own time, and it would be unfair of me to seek to waste the time of others. This, at the least, we can agree upon, no?"

"Aye, I'll settle for that. If you can hold your tongue before judging others so readily next time around." Brynja said, a bit caught off guard at his sudden turn about. While he still rubbed her the wrong way, perhaps, as she had suggested to him, he would prove her wrong?

Judena listened, nodding along. Brynja and Daro'Vasora springing to her defense, energetic as hunrgy slaughterfish. Durantel was pulling back on his reigns, whatever had originally gotten his hackles up had simmered down. Jude did not fail to notice her isolation in Durantel's golden eyes. "Peace, Daro'Vasora, Brynja Whitehand, and thank you. Both of you." She said sincerely bowing her head toward her peers, truly grateful. "I find it interesting that as each in turn have introduced themselves and their job, it was me that sparked such mockery and questioning of my use to the expedition. Curious, is it not?" She tapped her cheek, lifting a dead scale.

"Nevertheless, water under the bridge Durantel." Judena replied, "Truly." She found herself letting it go easily, to her it would be a hazy recollection at best the following day, if not the following hour. Thankfully, her logbooks always remembered the harsh words and good deeds equally.

Crossing her arms and settling back against the rock, closing her eyes to soak in the faint heat of the fire against the cold, Daro'Vasora simply nodded. A quiet lingered for a few moments before she spoke again. "All that I'm concerned for is doing the job and getting out alive, with possibly a bit extra weighing down my pack along the way. After this, none of us have to speak again and we can go back to wherever we each come from. Let's just make sure we get there. I don't like working with a crowd, but we all work for Rhea, so best put our good feet forward, yes?"

Meg let out a small sigh of relief. Gloomy thoughts were better than whatever this was. Half of her had wanted to interrupt and tell everyone to just get along, the other half had simply wanted to enjoy some food before her stomach announced that it was still hungry. She looked to her pack which was on the ground beside her and pulled it up on her lap, unbuckling it and pulling out an apple. She dusted it off before looking in the direction of the others.

"I have more if y'all want," she offered.

Mortalmo resisted the juvenile urge to roll his eyes. "I think I will pass on that offer."

Anifaire rubbed the back of her neck nervously, shifting in her seat next to Durantel. Harsh words discomforted her, and she only hoped the rest of the journey would smooth relations out a little bit. Even if these people were strange, she didn't like being in a position where she has to defend herself. She glanced up at the offered apple and shook her head slightly, as she was not sure of the stranger who was doing the offering.

"I just finished mine, but I'm in a hungry mood." Alim called to Meg, holding his hand up to catch an apple if she'd toss one his way.

"Alright, here you go." Meg grinned as she tossed the apple she'd just cleaned over to Alim, pleased that someone decided to humour her attempts at keeping the peace by way of food. That done, she pulled out another and set to cleaning it as well.

The dashing Redguard caught the apple casually on his wrist, letting it rolled down his shoulder to be caught by his opposite hand. He tossed it up a bit and balanced it on a finger for a moment. "Ah, thank you," he said, feeling the weight of the fruit. Seemed just right. Well balanced also.

"No problem," Meg replied, chuckling. She took a bite of her own apple, contemplating. It would be a rather long expedition if everyone was going to act as if... What did Daro'Vasora say? Molag's mace up their asses? Just about right. Then again, adventures like these created or destroyed bonds; seeing no one here really knew the other, she was optimistic for the former.

The scowl on Durantel's face when he rebutted Balroth's wisdom while staring into the flames had been food for thought for the orc, and when the Altmer actually apologized to Judena for his hasty assumptions Balroth was even more surprised. Perhaps there were better reasons than merely inborn racism for Durantel's behavior. Having mulled it over, he finally spoke up again, directing his words and his gaze towards the caustic elf.

"Some deeds cannot be forgiven," Balroth said, repeating Durantel. Strange words coming from an Alinor high elf, given their country had committed unspeakable atrocities in their pursuit of victory over the Empire. It had given Balroth the impression that the high elves did not believe there were any means that the ends couldn't justify, but perhaps he had overestimated their cruelty as a race. "That's what you said." He paused again and took a deep drag from his pipe and when he continued his voice was heavy from the smoke swilling in his lungs. "What have you done that cannot be forgiven, Durantel?"

"You presume much, orc. You presume much." The flames flickered across Mortalmo's eyes as his gaze was drawn back to their source. He looked up, back towards Balroth. There was little enough malice in Mortalmo's stare, and something else dominated his expression. Something much harder to place. "My tale is one that spans centuries, and I have little enough time to share it." He rose, then, and stepped away from the campfire. "Please, excuse me. I must say my prayers." Resting a light hand on Anifaire's shoulder that soon slipped away, he began drifting towards the darkness without pause for a response.

The elf's lack of a vehement denial and the inscrutable look in Durantel's eyes were enough to confirm Balroth's suspicions - the Altmer had done bad things that he sorely regretted. The orc watched him go and hummed to himself. It was... relateable.

"And some of you might wonder why I keep myself a few paces from the fire, usually." Latro chuckled, watching Durantel go. A man named Pale-Feather might have been like that Mer if his path had not changed so. But Pale-Feather died alone and angry outside of Wayrest with the two men he hated. He ended his plucking with a flurry of sweet notes before they slowed gradually into silence. He sighed, "And with that, I take my leave. I will see the lot of you on the morrow."

He rose to his feet with a grace to rival Alim, something of a constant trait since childhood, and the only one he kept. His soft footfall faded into the night with him. Now, where's my wine?

Gaius nodded at Latro, watching as he vanished into the darkness beyond the campfire glare. He hadn't missed the interplay between Balroth and Durantel. He chose not to speak; he simply observed. He liked the orc; there was a quiet sort of confidence about him, and Gaius found him well-spoken, yet not overly keen on filling every void and gap with conversation simply for the sake of breaking the silence. He appreciated it. The elf...he wasn't as Gaius had initially believed. After that exchange, Gaius wasn't quite sure what to make of Durantel. There was something underneath the Altmer arrogance he exuded. The Legionnaire wasn't quite sure what it was, but knowing it was there was enough to put him on edge.

"I think I'll be heading to bed as well," he said, climbing to his feet and dusting his tunic off habitually. He leaned back, groaning as his back cracked. "Eight watch over you." The words tasted bitter in his mouth, as they always did. He'd grown to hate the number eight. Some unknowable emotion flashed behind his eyes.

He passed through the divide between dark and light, the fuzzy, blurred boundary delineated by the campfire's glow, and vanished into the darkness.

Judena watched them leave waving slightly as they left, opening her logbook again to ensure her notes were sound. The gathering grew smaller, all over the camp small fires were slowly dimming as others so to, turned in to sleep for the night. Of those remaining for their own reasons, guard duty or good company, they quieted as well. Wrapping up another night for another day of work to follow.

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15th Rain's Hand 4E208, Jerall Mountain Dwemer Excavation Site, 5:40am

Although the sun wouldn’t rise for another two hours, it was already proving to be a dark and gloomy day. Early morning rain had rolled in over the Jerall Mountains a few hours prior and the hide tent rumbled steadily like a drum skin as the heavy and cold water droplets cascaded down over the taunt fabric, except for the one corner that was beginning to sag. Rhea Valerius rose from her table and the documents she had been reviewing under the light of an old oil lamp to cross the tent to pull the corner tight, a rush of water rushing down between the leather strap-bound flaps that had been collecting the water. Drying her arms off on a towel that had been sitting on the back of a chair, the Imperial returned to her seat, wiping what was left of the moisture on her leg. All the better we’re heading below this morning. This is miserable. she mused, looking over the names of the specialists she had recruited for the venture, along with the 11 she had hand-picked for this next stage of the expedition that Knuut had informed the night before that they were requested to be prepared for six the following morning for up to a week within the ruin. Rhea had always considered the worst-case scenario, and one didn’t want to be expected to be gone for three days only to find themselves lost without rations for much longer. Given that this still nameless ruin was already shaping up to be something like a subterranean town it wasn’t unthinkable that it was just going to get bigger and more complex.

She looked over the 11 names on her list, having made a point to have met each of them at some point in the past few weeks as she was organizing the exhibition or put out calls for recruitment. They were a complex group of wildly different personalities and talents, and doubtless there would be friction. She had hoped by requesting them all dine together the night prior and enjoy the comfort of a fire would help iron out those wrinkles so they could hammer out their differences in a relatively safe and controlled setting before needing to trust each other below where personality conflicts could prove to be fatal. Rhea had seen it far too many times before where pride and resentment overrode any sense of safety and a number of colleagues had to have been left behind, victims of carelessness and not respecting the almost palatable will of these ancient places that seemed to each have a soul of their own. Taking a sip of her wine, Rhea began to read over her notes of each of the members of the expedition that she had selected to try and better understand what she’d be working with, and possibly how to rein in the more difficult personalities.

“Beg pardon, Rhea.” A booming voice came from outside of the tent. Knuut, her assistant and quartermaster for the expedition, came from outside of the door. “It’s nearly time. Figured you wouldn’t want to make a poor impression by being late.”

“Thank you, I’ll be along shortly.” She called back, shutting the book on the page with her thoughts on the members of the camp. Grabbing her travel pack and grabbing her weapon belt, Rhea fastened her gladius and dagger to her waist and making a quick cursory scan about the tent for anything she might have missed, soon stepped out into the driving rain and made way towards the entrance of the ruin where the others were likely already assembled just inside.

She made her way across the plateau, her boots crunching the gravel as she walked and she pulled her coat a bit tighter to keep herself somewhat dry and soon the dominating alloy doors, three meters in height and following tracks that had to be cleared so the large gear-like wheels could carry the heavy doors into their opened or closed position featuring the relief of familiar Dwemer motifs that were used in their helms appeared through the rain. Hurrying inside and out of the rain, a workshop was set up in the entrance where a lot of the finds were being cataloged and analyzed, as well as a worker’s camp further in. She had elected to stick with her tent for the privacy and quiet, and a number of others had elected to stay with the original campsite due to discomfort or even fear of being asleep in a place that was known for its danger. She couldn’t blame them, and so long as people did the jobs they were assigned, she had no problem accommodating their concerns.

The interior was remarkably well illuminated, partially with the Dwemer technology that still miraculously functioned without flaw to this day, and partially with a number of oil lamps that were hung from whichever surface would support them or they could be hung from. A number of contraptions and automata were deactivated and set aside in rows based by type and in various states of assembly and condition, and all of it was being cataloged and studied. Nothing here could be taken for granted; as similar and uniform as a lot of the ruins in Skyrim were, there were always subtle differences that spoke to entirely different societies and styles of leadership, as well as technological innovation; the Dwemer, for all of their faults as a society, were always evolving and tinkering with their domain, and they were never contented to let things stagnate. Something of this size and condition was one that was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Near the lift the party had gathered, all instructed to bring with them their gear and equipment in anticipation for up to a week of being under the Earth. Rhea planned for three days, but experience had taught her to never expect things to go smoothly.

“Greetings, thank you for your punctuality. I apologize for my own tardiness; sometimes I get lost in my own world.” Rhea said with an apologetic smile, her symmetrical features lighting up an otherwise gloomy room. “I trust you all have your affairs in order?” she asked, studying the faces of those gathered.
“I’ve personally selected you all for this particular stage of this journey as we are venturing into unknown territories and you all have proven to be exceptional in your fields, and while not every one of you is a scholar or historian, let us not diminish the essential contributions of our defenders who will keep us safe from the hostile defences we are certain to encounter.” She said, nodding towards Brynja, Solandil, Gaius and Balroth in particular. “I do expect that Judena, Anifaire, and Daro’Vasora will take the time to study and record our progress as well as points of interest as the three of them are our research experts, and Daro’Vasora as graciously volunteered to be our pathfinder, an endeavor she will be accompanied by Latro and Alim. Meg will act as our rear-guard and markswoman in the event there should be a target out of our reach, and Durantel will accompany her or any of the others who break off outside of the pathfinding team. The rest will act as a protection detail and muscle should the situation require; we do not know the state of the lower levels nor what we will encounter, but strength will doubtless be necessary.” She clasped her hands together, rubbing them with anticipation. “Well then, let’s not tarry. To the lift.”

Leading the group onto the lift, the group fit on with plenty of room to spare; it could have easily fit two Centurions standing shoulder to shoulder. Pulling a lever down to the 5th notch, the accordion-style gate closed and the four heavy gears like the front doors began to creak into motion and the group descended below.

The first two levels of the ruin beneath the entryway were evidentially the military quarters of the structure, where the trappings of barracks and support facilities like a mess hall and armoury were supported by defensive structures and weaponry, along with adequate training facilities for a number of Dwemer, likely to defend against possible invaders. Beneath that, the following two levels were the living quarters and commercial center for the inhabitants where stores and community centers had existed. The fifth level where the lift had stopped opened up to a massive industrial center where automated processes had stopped countless years before, numbers of all manner of automata were in various states of construction when the machines stopped. It was clear that when the structure was fully operational, it would be able to produce dozens of machines per day.

The room was about three stories high with meter-wide pillars holding the colossal curved ceiling in place and a number of pipes and ducts to ventilate the fumes of the automation process. A half-dozen workers from the expedition were working down in this area, two of which were pulling apart a Centurion that was laid out on a slab, and the party passed by with a series of nods and tired waves. At the end of the long corridor was another lift, this one watched by a pair of guards. Seeing Rhea, they stepped aside and let everyone board the lift. Before they headed down, she said, “No one has been any further down than this level, and this is the first time we’ve operated this lift. As soon as we begin our descent, prepare for danger.”
One Rhea looked to each of the party to see an acknowledgement, the lever was pulled and the lift began to crank downwards with a groan. “Now, for those of you counting, we’re heading to the 7th level and bypassing the 6th since the next level down is accessible via ladders and a singular stairwell and it looks to be a forging facility where the Dwemer alloys were forged into the parts that went into their weapons, armour, and automata. Our next stop is further down.”

The lift continued its slow descent and true to her word, the lift passed by the 6th level, which looked like some kind of foundry through the grating. Soon, solid material blocked the view, and it was clear that they were descending through a rather thick floor. When the material gave way, darkness reigned, except for faint cyan objects that glowed softly along the walls. The sound of rushing water eventually became evident, and a series of torch-like lamps illuminated a walkway down below. Whatever this place was, it had been kept in a largely natural state with only the bare minimum of Dwemer engineering to keep the area accessible.

Suddenly, the lift lurched to a sudden violent stop, the sound of heavy stones and metal crashing into the ground a few seconds later.

“Something must have-” Daro’Vasora began to say, cut off from the sudden groaning of the lift. “I think we should find a way off before it gets stuck or drops…” the Khajiit trailed off, realizing there wasn’t much in the way to do that, safe for what looked like handholds carved into the back wall. Perhaps if one were to…

Without warning, a deafening crack was followed by the sound of free fall, the lift descending at high velocity, two of the gears suddenly giving out entirely and the lift tilted onto a high angle, threatening to pull people into the gap below before the protective grating on the side gave out and an opening ejected several members of the party off of the lift into a free fall for several terrifying seconds before they splashed into a deep pool of water, slowing down just enough to touch bottom without injury when the current began to carry them further down, prompting those who had fallen into the water to grab onto anything that would support their weight to avoid being sucked down further into the darkness, and the unknown.

The lift managed to catch with its remaining two gears, the platform screeching against the tracks when it struck the bottom, giving a nasty jolt to any who remained. Though no one had sustained any serious injury in the ordeal, it became apparently clear that the way back up was no longer an option.

“Is everyone alright?” Rhea called out, pulling herself up from the lift and helping out the person beside her get to her feet. “Could we get some light, please?”

Under the lift was evidently something that had cushioned the fall, and strange black shapes were scattered across the platform. Crouching to the lift to peer underneath, it became immediately clear what had both blocked the gear and prompted the fall while cushioning the descent; a chitin structure that would have been immediately familiar to anyone who had spent time in Skyrim’s underworld.

“By the Eight.” Rhea inhaled, not believing their luck. “Falmer.”

However, the cave remained silent, save for the running water and the sounds of the party members struggling to pull themselves out of the water.

* * *


When the elevator jolted to a halt, Latro stumbled back against the wall behind him, a confused and worried look breaking his usual easygoing demeanor. A scant few seconds offered him what he thought were going to be his last thoughts- What was that? I hope the elevator doesn’t fall...

And then the elevator fell. It had reached a speed on its descent where Latro’s feet remained at least one inch from the floor before he was completely weightless with no bearing of up or down. Seemingly thrown into an abyss, screaming, with thoughts filling his head he once again thought to be his last- fuc-

It wasn’t exactly just the cold water that ripped his thoughts from his head and breath from his chest, it was also the impact. Blank-minded, he let himself hang and drift there, unable to will his body to move before he regained his bearings. He was in water, he had to find the surface, and quickly. With as strong of pulls as he could, he swam upwards- or hoping that it was upwards- until he broke the surface as he hoped he would. He heaved in a breath and an echoing, growly yell filled the cavern he was in, sheer, raw, animal joy at survival. Scarce light from a few specklings of luminescent fungi were all the reminders he needed that he was alive.

Also, that there was a walkway. He swam towards it, all the strength in his arms being almost depleted by his panicking swim to the surface. Even so, he managed to clamber onto the slick, hard surface of it. Eyes closed, he let himself lay there for a few long breaths, heart pounding in his ear. When it quieted, he got to his feet, wringing his hair out. A frantic thought darted his hand to his shoulder, feeling the strap of his pack, he then rummaged through the soaked contents of it to find his polished stone and his peace of mind. For the third time, he thought his frantic search and panic at the prospect of losing his stone to a subterranean pool would be his last thoughts. Something grasped his shoulder and he grabbed the wrist the hand was attached to, whirling around with his axe in his hand held high, ready to bury its head in… Daro’Vasora was stood opposite him and he hurriedly returned his axe to its loop on his belt. He bowed his head in apology and took a step back from her. “It would seem we are alone down here.” He said, observing the vastness of the chamber they were in, illuminated in a ghostly pale blue light, “Well… what say we pick a direction, then.”

For her part, Daro’Vasora flicked her wrists, trying to get the excess water to shed from her fur. If Latro was soaked, she was positively saturated. She had almost managed to retain a grip on the platform that the group had likely ended up gathering at before her claws had slipped and she went on a dark, terrifying ride through the underwater river that robbed her of a sense of direction. When she found purchase, she was relieved to see one other person there, the same one that had nearly split her skull in fright. Not really finding cause to blame Latro for his reaction, she didn’t mention anything of the sort. Her eyes began to adjust, and the cavern became much easier for her to make out than the others on account of her feline vision; it was massive and smoothed out, and even the river seemed to be a purpose-built channel rather than an entirely natural formation. “Alone that we know of.” She replied, digging her long fingers along her brow and snout, peeling back more water. “We can’t be too far from the others, can we?” she asked, wrapping her arms around herself to preserve warmth. “Look for a walkway?” She offered, hopefully helpfully.

“Let’s.” Latro replied, simply. Trudging on, soaking wet and shivering, the pair walked in the direction they hoped would lead them to whatever would be their hope. Latro held up a quivering hand, forced his thoughts away from the numbness of his fingers and instead pictured a scene of pristine white in his mind. Not but a moment later, a ball of light took flight from his hand at a feather’s pace, meandering along behind him and offering better light in their trying time. Something urged Latro to stop and he held his breath.

A few seconds waiting gave Latro’s answer to his feline companion, looking back at her- something was moving, somewhere. His first thought was a cave troll, but they were far too below Nirn’s surface to encounter one. Not only that, but the steps could hardly be called so, more like a manic beating on the ground, scuttling. He swallowed, “Should keep walking...”

For the next few moments, Latro’s mind was utter silence, his eyes pulled towards every shadow and hint of movement, not knowing if his mind was the one filling the darkness with terror. Even so, he wished to be relieved of it with the feeling of safety that only numbers could bring. Numbers and light.

Shapes moved in Daro’Vasora’s vision and she felt her chest tighten in abject horror; pale humanoid shapes of the Falmer became clear to her, investigating the trespass in their domain. They were one of the few outright fears she had, and this was the first time she’d seen them in person. She always had fears of them stealing her off in the night, to use as a captive or a meal, and their pale, eyeless hides filled her with dread. These ones, however, seemed to be wearing some leftover Dwemer armour and weaponry, which was different than anything she’d heard about in their behaviours before. Regardless, she grabbed Latro by the wrist and pulled him behind a large rock, his light spell blinking out instantly, and her heart pounding in her chest. “Falmer.” she managed, her lips suddenly dry and the cold sensation fading instantly. “We can’t let them see us. We can’t-”

A booming groan filled the cavern, unlike anything she’d ever heard before in her life. Excited shrieks filled the air and the sound of trampling feet. Chancing another look, the Falmer were gone. Somehow that made things so much worse. The groan boomed again, and something shook the cavern. Now as curious as she was terrified, the Khajiit tried to see what had caused the Falmer to scatter. Past a certain point, she couldn’t see…

But a shape certainly moved, blocking out the glowing fungus along the walls. She gasped and slunk lower, not sure what on Nirn she was looking at. One of the Falmer, hiding behind another rock further up ahead, tried to break cover when it was suddenly illuminated with a bright blue light from whatever that thing was, something the Falmer didn’t react to, being blind. Suddenly, a spiked harpoon pierced through the darkness and impaled the Falmer, yanking it back into the shadows where its blood curdling shriek was cut short with a loud clang. The groaning continued and the thing continued to move, distinctly spider-like legs navigating the interior or its domain.

A structure caught Daro’Vasora’s eyes. Could they make it?

“We can’t stay here, we’re exposed. There’s some kind of old structure over there, we can make it if we run.” she explained excitedly, hoping to Alkosh she was right.

Latro needed no more explaining, only nodded. He closed his eyes, pulling in a breath through his nose, letting it go through his mouth a little too shuddering than he would’ve liked. He swallowed, gathering himself. Then he ran.

Any notion of soft footsteps was thrown to the wind as even his light feet seemed to echo to his horror. His only thought was that structure and the safety it might bring. The crossing felt like a mile’s worth of running, but he skidded to a halt behind it. His hand covered his mouth and its shuddering breaths until they finally slowed. He looked around whatever they’d decided to take shelter in, noticing the leather-like feel of the walls of this tent-structure, the posts of it hard and rough like sandstone. Falmer. Whatever that thing was outside, the Falmer feared it. Rightfully so, but so much that they’d seemingly abandoned their little outpost here.

He hazarded a glance outside and all seemed still. He looked left to right, up and down, saw nothing. The scarce light of the fungi helped none. Still, the memory of that scuttling played over and over in his mind. He opened his mouth, “I-”

Something blinding fast cut across his vision, its silhouette blocking the scarce light but so quickly he couldn’t tell what it was in the few moments he saw it before he ducked his head back into the tent. “By the Gods...” he breathed.

He peeked back out of the tent to see a few more farther down the path. If they could go from tent to tent, they could gain enough distance from this thing and maybe even find the others or the surface. Hopefully both. “Come.”

He looked back to where he’d last seen the silhouette before he pointed and nodded to the tents he’d seen earlier. He trusted Vasora understood as he took off at a crouched run towards them, stopping at the closest and ducking inside. A few moments behind him, Vasora joined him, the two keeping their breaths quiet and listening. Latro could hear nothing.

“If we make it out of this alive,” Daro’Vasora said suddenly, breaking the quiet. “You’ll have quite the song to sing, bard.” she looked past the Breton and tried to take in the surroundings, quickly sighting the walkway that they were likely to have come from. “We’ll need to warn the others, but let’s see if that thing leaves first, yes?”

Latro and Vasora stayed in their tent for a few long minutes, the length of time lost on him for his concentration on listening out for that dreaded thing. All was calm in the caverns, it seemed. There had not been anymore of those disturbing groans, nor any of the chittering and screeching from the Falmer. He looked to Vasora and she looked at him, the both of them very well thinking the same thing. Latro peeked out once more, holding his breath and listening, watching.

Nothing.

He shook his head, breathing once again and took the most cautious step he’d ever made in his life outside of the tent. Nothing. He inched his body out of the threshold of the tent’s safety until he was completely out and standing. It seemed the danger had passed. He looked at Vasora, “Well,” He shrugged, “Let us continue?”
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Greenie
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Greenie Heaven don't play like violins

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Waking up earlier than the sun was normal for Meg, a leftover habit from her days working on the farms around Winterun, so meeting up with Rhea and the rest of their group hadn't been much of a hassle at all. Despite the previous night and the excitement of meeting with the others, Meg had slept quite well and woke up refreshed and ready to get down to business. It was hard to keep her enthusiasm at bay; this was the first time in a long time that she would be going underground since J'raij passed, and her first time ever in a dwemer ruin.

Her attempts to look cool and composed passed off fairly well in her opinion, though her eagerness had ensured that she along with her gear had arrived at the lift with time to spare. It gave her enough time to think about the previous night and process her thoughts about those she had met. From what she had gathered, Judena, Latro and Alim seemed the friendliest of the lot, each with their own quirks. Bryjna seemed like someone she could respect, though perhaps a little hard to read correctly. The same could be said for Daro'Vasora, though the khajiit seemed a little more brusque in her approach. Gaius and Balroth had both seemed the quiet, thoughtful sort, perhaps a little brooding, but that was just something she expected from those older than the rest...

Well, if she was thinking older, that would have to be the Almer. Meg was still having a difficult time trying to figure out what to make of them. The youngest one, Anifaire, seemed rather shy, whilst Sol hadn't seemed shy, rather someone who just didn't like to speak much. The same couldn't be said for Durantel, who, if Meg recalled correctly, seemed rather haughty and prejudiced, especially while talking to Judena and Daro'Vasora.

Any further thoughts would have to wait once Rhea arrived; getting down to business was important for the Nord, and she took in every word the Imperial was saying. She did cast a glance in Durantel's direction when it was mentioned that he would be accompanying her, wondering what his thoughts on the matter were. She supposed it didn't quite matter in the end as long as he did what he had to, which could be said for all of them, really. In her experience, as long as everyone kept to their duties, there wouldn't be much to worry about, save the usual dangers that came during underground expeditions.

Skeletons and draugrs for one were something Meg would have expected, and in a strange way even enjoyed seeing, mostly for the nostalgia. Alas, it seemed as if that was not on the day's agenda, having been replaced with flying out of a lift and landing in fast moving water instead.

It all happened a little too quickly for her. One moment it seemed they were heading down in the lift, passing the levels by, catching sight of the softly glowing somethings in the distance, and then suddenly lurching to a stop. Before she could even make sense of what Daro'Vasora had said, the lift decided to play with them yet again. Meg was sure her stomach and the rest of her internal organs were still waiting for her at the sixth level, though that fleeting thought didn't last long, the grate giving way and the lift spitting her out like rancid milk.

So here she was, struggling to swim against the currents and attempting to pull herself out of the water before being carried away to who knew where. It didn't help that swimming was the one thing she had never truly put into practice, though now that the stupid thought crossed her mind, she did realize that having lived in Riften and not having learned or been taught how to was truly idiotic. It was strange, the sort of thoughts that passed through one's mind when they believed all hope was lost, and the fact that she was beginning to think of her childhood forced Meg to realize that she needed to get out of the water as quickly as possible.

Kicking against the current, she reached out and grabbed at the shore, digging her fingers into the ground even as she felt the water threatening to drag her legs in the opposite direction. "Not today," she muttered through gritted teeth as she barely managed to pull her upper half out of the water. Breathing heavily, she lurched forward, kicking back yet again. Against all odds it worked, though she did end up smacking her face against the ground.

"Urghh..." Pulling herself up onto her knees, she rubbed at her aching nose with the back of her hand. In the distance she could barely hear Rhea's voice, though the rushing water made it very hard to hear what she was actually saying. Now was not a good time to be caught off guard, so Meg forced herself to her feet, ignoring the water dripping from her hair and clothes. Instead she reached for her bow, already strung and ready to be used. She wasn't too pleased about the string being wet, but there was nothing to be done about that at the moment.

Well, time to find the others. With that thought, Meg pushed the wet hair away from her face and started forward, heading in the direction of where she thought she heard Rhea calling from, keeping her eyes on the water in case she came across anyone else.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Lemons
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Lemons They will look for him from the white tower...

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And it had been shaping up to be such a good day for Gaius too.

If truth be told, he'd grown a bit...well, bored, in the Imperial City. Sure, it was nice to spend time with Helena, and of course he knew the value of peacetime, it had been years since he'd really done anything of note. He didn't like to admit it to himself, but he'd grown fond of the accolades, of the admiration earned from teenagers with stars in their eyes, of the feeling of a battle won and a job well done. He'd fought in the Arena a few times and won handily, but there was no pride in it. The Arena didn't host battle-hardened soldiers. It hosted young men and women, hopeful to make a name for themselves. He'd felt a vague guilt over crushing their dreams ever since.

So it was with a reluctantly light heart that he followed Rhea to the lift, a faint smile straying across his face as he watched the levels pass by. On the whole, everyone in the group seemed as though they'd be worthwhile companions and comrades. Except maybe Durantel,, he added to himself, but it was without barb; he found it difficult to dislike the elf after what he'd said at the campfire last night. If anything, he found him relatable above all else.

Then the lift stopped, and just as his heart plummeted, he felt his stomach rise as it went into freefall. He closed his eyes for just the barest moment, face twisting into a grimace. Of course. Because why wouldn't this happen? He crouched slightly, lowering his center of gravity, and snaked his armored fingers through the gaps in the bars, grabbing on tightly as it plummeted. It would take some time to disentangle them. Thus, he was unable to help at all when the opposite side blew out and a number of people were pulled into the open air. He struggled futilely for a moment with his fingers before stilling; nothing he could do until they reached the bottom. Which, when it came, happened rather explosively for him, slamming him down into the lift floor with the force of his own heavy armor.

By all the Nine above in their sanctity, Gaius thought in as close to a groan as thought could come, everything hurts.

None of that would be visible to anybody else, however. His manner was tight-lipped, and though he spoke with a mote of strain and his face was drawn and tense, he retained as collected a demeanor as he could as he peeled himself off of the floor. He fumbled for his flint and steel and found them absent. Into the water, doubtless, and gone forever. "Is everyone alright?" he coughed out loudly in lieu of providing light, letting his voice echo around. He promptly regretted it a moment later as Rhea spoke four simple words that sent a thrill of terror surging down his spine.

Falmer. The Snow-Elves. Boogeymen from children's stories in the Empire, only surpassed in that duty by the Ayleid. Through his years in Skyrim, he'd been fortunate to avoid them entirely. Consequently, he was unprepared for the chitinous constructs that were jammed in the lift's gears, and for the acrid stench that wafted from them, forcing him to wrinkle his nose and breath through his mouth to avoid it as best he could.

He'd heard enough from colleagues in the Legion that had been less fortunate to know the bare minimum of information about them: blindness, reliance on poison and the chitin from their chaurus herds, their total lack of higher thought. He'd known well enough that they had a tendency to spend time around and in Dwemer ruins; anybody who knew the old stories understood that. Still, he'd conveniently forgotten about them when he'd taken this job. He closed his eyes for a moment, breathing deeply to calm himself.

You've fought worse than a few blind elves. Pull yourself together. Still, his eyes flicked open, it would be best to avoid shouting that loudly.

He called out again—this time in a much more moderated tone, and with a more even, less quavering voice—"Is everyone alright?" Navigating his way through the dim half-light, largely by touch, he made his way out of the lift, dropping down to the stone platform. He winced as the sabatons of his armor clanked loudly against the hard surface, sending echoes of metallic sound bouncing every which way. He stood dead still for a moment, listening and waiting for any kind of hostile response. Nothing was forthcoming; it was just as silent as before. Just as eerie. He shivered slightly. Despite his training, and the pride he took in being a soldier, there was something about the darkness. Especially when you knew for a fact that something you'd been told since your very early childhood was going to steal you away in the night and eat you if you didn't get to bed was out there somewhere, and very, very real.

He tried for a headcount, but gave up after only a few seconds; too many people were possibly in the water, and there wasn't nearly enough light, to get a proper number. What was more pressing, he reflected, was the fact that there was no way in Oblivion they were getting back up that shaft anytime soon. Certainly not within the week that they'd had rations allotted for. Always the pragmatist, he focused on this fact and the resolution thereof to distract himself from what might be waiting out there.

He clenched his teeth together, fighting to keep himself in control of his burgeoning panic as he slowly, methodically unslung his shield and drew his sword, letting the familiar rasp of metal in scabbard and the heft of Empire's Aegis on his arm calm his nerves as he peered out into the inscrutable blackness.

"Rhea," he asked quietly, edging closer to her, "do you have any way to communicate with the rest of the excavation? We're going to starve out down here unless they can lower something down for us on a rope, at least until they can get us out of here entirely."

Was that his imagination, or had something twitched out there in the shadows beyond the faint light provided by phosphorescent mushrooms? He couldn't be sure, and that was what made the whole thing so much worse. The darkness was playing tricks on him. The dull ache throbbing through his body wasn't helping matters. Was that a falmer, or a rock outcropping? Was that a poisonous insect with armorlike chitin, creeping up on him to spit venom at him like one of those thrice-damned spiders, or was it another of the inanimate lumps of the material that littered the platform? His breath was shaky, and he belatedly realized that his palms were sweaty enough to make the handle of his sword slick. He whispered a prayer as quietly as he could: "Divines, watch over us. Keep us safe from whatever may befall us."

His only answer was more silence.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by POOHEAD189
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POOHEAD189 Warrior

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Alim awoke within the uppermost level of the Dwemer ruins along with a few of the other more daring or studious individuals. Out and about bright and early was usually his schedule, particularly the day before a high paying job. He donned his clothing and armor in his moderately sized tent, the chainmail falling atop his shoulders, strapping on his belt and scabbard. Despite his roguish charm and light feet, he didn't look unscrupulous or disheveled. Alim had the refined appearance of a Highrock prince, albeit a particularly dark skinned one. His cloak and trappings only enhanced the look, though granted much of it was worn and scarred (including himself) because of his years of travel. Once he left the tent, he ate a light breakfast of jerky as he made his way outside to catch some frigid, fresh air before heading back in to duck and dodge through the first level of the Dwemer settlement, vaulting over lower columns and kicking off the oddly symmetrical walls before landing at the back of the group just before Rhea addressed them all. As she did so, he began to ponder.

T'was odd, he'd heard of Rhea in passing but he'd never imagined he'd meet her in person. He was quite interested in talking to her privately about some of the excavations and quests she had been on. The fact that she was a beautiful woman had only about 40% to do with his interest. Either way, he was glad someone as competent as her was leading this mission, though complications could always arise. He knew that was one reason why he was here. You needed people of intelligence on this sort of mission...quest...thing? If you had ruins to explore, you needed a tomb diver like himself.

Once Rhea led them away, he slipped through the ranks until he was near the fore of the group, a fierce grin lighting up his face when he saw the lift he had wanted to take for the past few days. The pistons pumping and steam whooshing, the lift began to lower, Alim gazing upwards before drinking in the sights of each level. He asked Rhea if anyone had deigned to explore any of these levels in great detail, somewhat disappointed they weren't going down level by level, though he had to admit it brought a curiosity to him on what they would be exploring if it was even lower than these blocks.

To the others, the complication with the lift was probably entirely an unforeseen phenomena, and truly he didn't exactly know what was going to happen until the first tilt of the lift's base. "Well this is gonna be fun." He deadpanned, his body loosening ever so slightly for what he was afraid would come next.

With a crack, the side of the lift broke and the entire floor tilted. The group began to free fall, Alim's body twisting like a feline. Moving on instinct, Alim kicked off the floor and grabbed an odd symmetrical pipe along the wall just as the lift halted. He heard screams and yells, and multiple splashes into what could only be an underground river below. The lift made it onto the ground, having slowed to a crawl after its initial malfunction. The Redguard let go when he heard the others, landing close to the remaining party, though he nearly slipped on the landing from the water coated rocks.

“Is everyone alright?” Rhea called out, pulling herself up from the lift and helping out the person beside her get to her feet. “Could we get some light, please?”

Alim was steadying himself while the others were still on the lift, and he heard distant cries along the riverway. Undoing his backpack, he set it down and patted himself, making sure he had all of his equipment. His mind moved mechanically, checking himself and then gazing around the cavern with what little light they had from the upper levels. He might be quick to tease, but he was a smuggler, an adventurer, and a renegade spellsword. He knew his business, particularly in dangerous situations such as these. "I'm alright," he let the others know, already making his way over to the water's edge and peering down.

Alim lowered himself, placing a hand in the water. He cringed lightly, noting how cold it was. Granted, it wasn't freezing as would be on the surface. But it would still be unpleasant.

Unwilling to leave behind most of his belongings, he set them down near the water's edge as Giaus gave his prayers. Alim had seen the falmer structure too, and while it caused fear to creep up his spine, he was too preoccupied with psyching himself up for what he was about to do. He placed his cloak within his pack to keep himself from getting pulled any harder, and then slung it back over his body. "Rhea," he called to the expedition head. "I heard noises down the river. I'll go and get the others if they're alive. If we run into one another again, tap the wall three times, and then twice. I'll respond in kind."

Before anyone could protest or question, Alim took in a breath and dived. Later, he would chuckle and what would probably be an incredulous response from the group. But he knew he needed to help round up the others. The cold water exploded around his senses, but he had expected such a feeling and let himself slowly drift for a short while. Short enough for even him to hold his breath, before pushing off the bottom and making it to the other side of the small waterway. He'd been expecting to fall in unlike the others, but even so it was rough, making him grab at the rocks multiple times before he could conceivably haul himself out of the water. Once he gained a handhold, he pulled hard, gritting his teeth and flopping onto the floor.

It took him a few moments to realize he was next to a glowing mushroom-like plant, and standing before him was a silhouette of a woman. He either drowned and to the upper planes, or got lucky very quickly. Wiping his matted hair and hand from his eyes, he saw it was indeed Meg. "Well met," he said, his voice smooth as silk despite her having probably seen him struggling and gasping for air not moments before. He got to his feet and blinked, smoothing his hair and couching up some more, unexpected water. "Have you seen the others?"
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by LadyTabris
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Punctuality was never difficult for Anifaire. After a life of attending classes, meetings, and dinners, it was second nature. So, she found herself one of the first to arrive by the lift that day. All morning, a mixture of nerves and excitement had hold of her, rendering her unable to focus nor able to stomach breakfast. She had high hopes for what would be found down in the deeper levels.

Rhea led the group into the lift, and Anifaire trailed onto it at the back of the group. Though not her first time in a lift after her recent time in these ruins, she still had to ignore how her stomach rolled when stepping over the gap between the floor and the lift. The space inside was too large for her liking, the dark hole, while not nearly large enough for a person to fall into, was unnerving. She wished for the comfort of something to grab onto should anything go awry, though this lift had never caused trouble and she’d been on it a few times now. Regardless, she lined herself up against the back wall of the lift.

She did the same when they stepped onto the next lift on the fifth level. The high elf felt even more nervous, but still determined. This was unfamiliar territory they were descending into, and she’d have opportunities to see Dwemer remains and inscriptions before anyone touched or tampered with them, or perhaps looted in some cases. She eyed the mercenaries in her group, wondering if that type of greed was present in any of them. Not Sol, nor Durantel, she thought. She didn’t know them well, but she thought they’d respect the value of such items; they were from the Isles, and people there were intelligent in such matters. The others could do anything. She hoped that these people were competent at their jobs, at the least. Some of them seemed to be friendly.

The words this is the first time we’ve operated this lift rang in her ears as the aforementioned lift jolted into motion. As they passed by the sixth level, it became visible through the front of the lift, and Anifaire almost rushed across for a better look, but the presence of so many strangers allowed her to focus and rethink the embarrassment that would cause. She instead kept her place at the back of the lift, straining to get a glimpse of the industrial foundry. She hadn’t been studying anything on that newest level yet; she’d been preoccupied with inscriptions and such from the levels excavated earlier.

As the sixth level faded from sight and the sound of rushing water met her ears, the lift lurched and stopped. The sounds of crashing and clanging echoed, and she clutched the bars behind her. The cat began to speak, but whatever it was saying flew from her mind as the floor disappeared beneath her and she grabbed onto the golden metal behind her as though her life depended on it, and she was most certain it did.

When the freefall ended, the lift catching itself on its last gears, the lift thudded against the ground, jolting those inside around. Anifaire was vaulted forwards, losing her grasp on the lift. She caught herself on the lift floor in time to save herself from injury, and scrambled to her feet belatedly as most of the others were already investigating the situation.

“By the Eight,” she heard Rhea breathe just as she was stepping out of the lift. “Falmer.”

Ice cold hit Anifaire’s stomach. The elf turned around, examining the crushed structure underneath the broken lift. She hadn’t really considered the possibility, especially since the upper levels had been unoccupied by Falmer, but now it seemed she was stuck with no way up in a Falmer infested Dwemer ruin, surrounded by strange people. It was a warped, nightmarish version of a dream. She stood stock still, her brain catching up to the reality of the situation, whatever conversation the others were having blocked from her mind. When Alim plunged into the water suddenly, she wondered if it was just her imagination.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by DearTrickster
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15th Rain's Hand 4E208, Jerall Mountain Dwemer Excavation Site
Balroth & Judena


The excitement was palpable for all those on the descent down further into the ruins. When Rhea Valerius mentioned Judena the argonian mage nodded enthusiastically bumping arms with the willowy Anifaire. Jude was busily writing and recording her surroundings, upon entering the lift platform Jude stowed her logs away, surrounded by the group. The lift began to descend, Judena stood on the balls of her feet to see past the small window they had of the 6th level but it soon passed without a good look. She hummed able to see now the cavernous area illuminated by the glowing naturally occurring lichen moss. She made a useless mental reminder to get a sample of that to bring back.

When the lift shuddered to a violent stop Judena caught herself before falling into Balroth who stood in front of her, "My apologies, Bal-... Baljorick?" She asked misplacing his name, logs now stowed away in her pack.

Spear in hand she used it to steady herself.

Her stomach, much like others no doubt, felt it jumped up into their mouths when the lift gave way. The fall was quick, horrific noise happening all around them. Judena closed her eyes and just as suddenly as the fall was broken she felt all stable ground disappear from beneath her feet. A failed attempt to orientate herself she skidded head first into the pond it emptied into a river, sinking deep into the cold waters. The shock woke her immediately, breathing deeply the water filtered through her gills. With a powerful kick she found herself back up to the surface, emerging slowly, cautiously.

She spat the water from her mouth, squinting at the lift and scattered lumps of her group. Some in the water now bobbed up to the surface while others struggled on the hard ground. A spell she knew as well as the back of her hand, magelight popped free of her palm to light the surface of the water.

The orc had been about to correct her on his name when the lift failed them completely. Like Judena, Balroth was thrown clear of the platform. It took him a second to realize what was happening as he gathered speed and the only thought that managed to flit through his mind before he hit the water was 'This is not a good death.'

Being as large and heavy as he was, Balroth pierced the surface of the water with an enormous impact and sent large waves rippling around him all directions as the heavy booming sound of the water slamming back together to fill the void of Balroth's form echoed through the cavern. He was a good swimmer, having once swam across the Niben Bay to escape the Thalmor, and it didn't take long for Balroth to gather his senses and fight to the surface. He breached and gasped a good lungful of hair, internally cursing the weight of his armor, cloak and backpack. It was imperative he got out of the water as fast as possible. He was looking around when Judena's magelight flared into existence and he saw her reptilian head poking out of the water closeby.

"Judena!" Balroth called and swam towards her. The rest of the group would manage by themselves, he reckoned, but the Argonian lady was almost as old as he was and eidetically challenged to boot. What if the shock of the fall had caused her to forget where she was and what she was doing? He swam up to her and hooked one of his arms around hers and was about to say something in a concerned tone of voice when he remembered that Argonians were natural swimmers who could breathe underwater. She would be fine.

"Ah, hello," he managed and let go of the mage. "Shall we... swim to the shore?"

"Yes, lets! What a fall, would you say - um... Balrock?" She tested it out, recognizing the orc and again his name slipped from her memory. "You seemed awfully concerned, I am alright. Nothing that has not already been done once before, I'm afraid." She tapped the side of her head.

"Although, I am curious to see what is at the bottom of this lake. Perhaps on our trek back to the surface we may get a chance for a dive." She said then disappeared under the water swimming straight for the shore the small orb of light began to peter out above them, dissolving into small particles of magicka.

She hauled herself out of the water seemingly seconds later, quickly hefting the backpack off and pulling all her items out tsking, then humming over the water damage. The waxy bindings did protect the majority of her logs but they would need to a little help to restore them back. She took her most recent log, letting the water drip away.

"What a mess!"

Balroth emerged from the water like a beaching seal and remained prone on the rocky shore for a few seconds, the water still lapping around his legs, while he caught his breath. If he'd known he'd be swimming in an underground lake today, he certainly would have reconsidered some of his gear. Having sufficiently recovered, the orc clambered to his feet and checked his backpack.

His heart almost stopped and his breath caught in his throat. His axe was gone. It had been attached to his bag with thick leather straps, but apparently the impact in the lake had put too much strain on them. "Oblivion take me sideways," he cursed, dropped the backpack to the ground and rubbed his temples. Balroth could feel the rage building within him at the loss - he had forged that axe more than thirty years ago. The sentimental value alone made it priceless. Balroth took a deep breath to calm himself and looked at Judena. "My axe. It's gone." He turned around and stared out over the opaque waters of the lake, a far heavier weight on his shoulders than merely the wet cloak that hung limply around his frame. It felt like someone had hollowed out his guts.

Judena stood up from the log, now her own concern was present. She patted his arm, "Looks like we will get that dive after all."

She stripped from her boots and removed her robes, unabashedly. Cloth wrappings along her chest helped her to remain modest. Judena concentrated summoning a strong magelight spell in both of her hands. When the spell released the ball of light was incredibly bright, it hung above the waters reliably providing light for a while. "I set the spell for short increments. When the light goes out it will signal me to come up for a reminder, I hope it does not take me long to find it but..." She sucked in some air. "I am sure you have noticed my mind is not quite in the best shape. Please, all that I ask is you have patience with me. I will get your axe back, I need a reminder when I resurface as the light disappears."

"Can you do that for me?"

Hope flared in Balroth's chest and he washed away all skepticism and doubt about Judena's plan. "Of course," the orc said and nodded. He even managed a smile. "If you do this for me, I will be massively in your debt. I made that axe myself when I was a young, strapping lad and it's served me well ever since. I would hate to have to replace it, especially now." Looking at the Argonian he briefly wondered if she'd even be able to lift the axe, but he pushed the thought aside. It should be much easier to lift underwater than on land.

She flapped her hand at him, "Debts for getting an axe back? Please, I would not remember to hold you to it." She stretched, twisting her back, moving back and forth on her legs.

She stepped back into the water, adjusting gradually to the temperature. Not nearly as cold as some rivers on the surface in Skyrim, but it was not the warm waves of Soulrest. Wading in further the slope of the shore dropped away quite steeply, she pushed off into the water with a breaststroke but soon relied on her tail to push forward. Above where the light hovered she moved beneath the surface diving, gradually making her descent. Her body naturally adjusting immediately to the pressure, gills working, her eyes adjusted with the help of the light.

With nothing better to do than take a seat and wait, Balroth did just that. He looked around the dimly lit cavern towards the elevator, but his allies were too far away to see exactly what they were doing. His eyes then followed the direction the water was going and saw that, on the far end of the lake, the water accelerated into a stream that disappeared beyond sight. He frowned at the sight and hoped nobody had been carried away, blissfully unaware of Latro's and Daro'Vasora's predicament.

Judena dived deeper, light filtering away. Everything became muted. She felt an undercurrent pull, resisting it easily trying with immense difficulty to not get distracted. She repeated her goal like a mantra, axe, axe... axe! She reached the bottom of a sandy rock formation. The slab of rock was only lightly dusted with sediment, gritty. The possible samples would be wonderful to analyze, especially from below the surface. She wondered briefly if she had brought a vial. Judena slowed to a stop scooping some of the grit into her hand.

She swam along the formation hoping she wouldn't need to dive deeper... but what was it for again? How much deeper would she need to go and for what? There was purpose obviously... The light from above disappeared completely, Judena made her ascent easily kicking up against the rock. Her instincts telling her to return.

She resurfaced a minute or so after the light extinguished observing Balroth curiously. "Ah! Balforth! You look like you are waiting for someone." She said, her voice easily carrying across the water. "You probably cannot see me, one moment." She released another orb of light above the water again.

"Do you know why I was diving? I feel like it was for good reason especially at the start of our... oh." She looked beyond him at the broken lift and was suddenly reminded, her eyes settled back to the Orc he was missing something.

Being told that someone had a memory deficit and seeing it in action for yourself were two different things, and Balroth's eyebrows raised considerably. He had never seen this level of amnesia in anyone but the very elderly before. However did she manage? It was admirable, but also more than a little concerning.

"You were looking for my axe," he replied matter-of-factly, trying not to let his worries seep into his voice.

She gave a quick thumbs up and dived under once again.

This time when she reached the bottom she ignored the sediment, same again repeating her mantra of her goal. She sped along the bottom, ignoring piles of bones with great difficulty. She struggled as the timer went down again, she found herself focusing on the seconds before the light disappeared and like a puff of smoke her goal disappeared once again. She stalled to a stop, trying to focus on what it was. Her hand opened and closed. Her eyes tracked through the water, something catching her attention. She reached for it, tugging it loose. Weapon in hand she rose back to the surface in time for the light to disappear as she surfaced.

"Banook, is this what you are looking for?" She casted magelight, held up an iron hand axe -rusted out. "I found your axe! Why you would keep a rusty thing like this is beyond me."

Despite the gravity of their predicament Balroth found it impossible not to laugh at the comedy of Judena resurfacing with a different axe (and the various, increasingly far-fetched permutations of his name). He chuckled and shook his head. "That's not my axe, Judena. That's hardly more than a toothpick. My axe is much bigger, designed to be wielded with two hands, and forged from orichalcum. Thank you, though -- if you can't find my axe, that one will have to do, so feel free to hold onto it for now."

She shrugged tossing the axe to shore, "If you are sure I'll fix it up for you. Remove the rust! But this time! For sure! I will retrieve your axe."

She dived once again. It happened at least two more times, forgetting and retrieval of a completely incorrect axes. Even finding a steel morning star in the depths, a pile of rusty or broken weaponry at Balroth's feet. With her memory skipping, Judena's own patience ran thin for herself. How hard could it be to find this one axe? She swam, passing over the site she found the first axe in, the light disappeared once again and she pushed on in the dark defiantly. Her foot snagged against a shaft that made her pause. Her hands explored it, it felt the appropriate size for a battle axe. Without light to see by, she tugged it free of it's resting place. Hauling it to the surface.

When her head broke the surface, a new magelight spell casted she recognized the orichalcum, the green of the metal shone in the light. Her hand smoothed over the blade admiring the workmanship, recognizing many decades of proper maintenance. It's age showing in the wood and leather wrappings. Craftsmanship of an apprentice-

She shook her head then held it up, "This has to be it!" She made her way to shore with it in her hands.

Balroth got to his feet with a grunt and approached the water's edge, squinting his eyes so that he could better see what Judena had hauled out of the water. Lo and behold, she was right - it was his axe after all. The orc grinned and clapped his hands. "Aye, that's my axe!" He took the Argonian by her arm and helped her up and out of the water, then gratefully took his beloved weapon in his arms. "Thank you," he said sincerely, keeping it short and simple. Balroth was sure Judena would wave away any more hyperbolic expressions of thanks anyway.

He looked behind him at the movements by the elevator and listened to the chatter that came their way. "Shall we join the others?" he asked.

With that said, Judena nodded squinting with a pleased hum. She pulled on her robes and slipped back into her boots. Put back together in short time.

"Anytime, Balroth."

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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by BurningCold
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The stones were cold and rough, even through the coarse fabric keeping Mortalmo’s flesh safely apart from their icy grasp. “...ever guide my hand, so that I do not stray from the path of truth and righteousness.” Mortalmo rested there for a few moments longer, huddled over himself, hands clasped tightly together as his eyes began to drift slowly open. His gaze meandered to the pile of furs and leathers he slept in the night prior, before sliding over to the small fire he’d lit, now nothing but ashes and a distant memory of warmth. The sounds of cascading rain from above echoed faintly throughout the dwemer complex. He rose from his little corner of the underworld then, and set about preparing for the day’s exertions.

There was a certain bustling energy to the camp that irritated Mortalmo. Folk were rambling away to each other about the horse shoe they’d just forged, or the sword they’d freshly sharpened. Many made comments about the weather, some of them in jest but another good deal in lamentation. In a few, nerves bred chatter, and to most, chatter seemed to be contagious. It was as if they themselves were preparing to be lowered down into the bowels of the earth, rather than leaving the task to those with the courage and capability to see the task through. What right did they have to feel excitement? Any glories, riches or discoveries belonged to those actually getting aboard the lift. What right did they have to be fearful? Any danger faced would be dealt with by their betters. Mortalmo felt sick to his stomach, making no effort to hide his distaste for the pests swarming around him as he made his way towards the lift.

It was fortunate for Mortalmo’s already foul mood that he did not have to wait overly long for his regrettable menagerie of companions to arrive. He greeted Anifaire by way of a slight nod as she approached, and soon the others had found themselves collected nearby. Mortalmo listened with faint interest as Rhea laid out the procedure she hoped to follow during their time in the depths, before he found himself aboard the platform. He counted it a blessing from Auri-El that there was enough space for himself to stand a comfortable distance apart from the others in his company. He watched with boredom as the various floors passed by, incredulous. To an extent, the dwemer had managed to create quite the remarkable civilization, but where were they now to celebrate their past successes? They were punished by the gods for their hubris, and now the twisted falmer scraped and scrabbled throughout the halls the dwemer once so proudly strode through. Like maggots to a corpse.

So the lift continued to inch its way deeper into the earth, until the point where it wasn’t, and the tediously slow vertical crawl had suddenly become a breakneck freefall. Mortalmo watched with something between horror and satisfaction as several less fortunate individuals found themselves tossed from the lift, even as his lips deftly and softly sent prayers up to his gods.

Then the lift caught, and it seemed that Mortalmo’s time had not yet come. Rhea helpfully stated the entirely obvious as he peered out from the lift, watching some unfortunate fools pull themselves out of the water, even as the one known as Alim proved himself the greater fool by tossing himself into the current… willingly. Mortalmo clapped a hand on Anifaire’s shoulder, firmly but not suddenly, so as to keep from frightening her. “Take note, my lady. That one has clearly been tainted by the touch of Sheogorath himself.”

A smile tugged at his lips then, his eyes continuing to peer into any corner and crevice that they could. The grin widened itself by just a slight more. Despite their unenvious position, despite the danger and uncertainty surrounding them from all sides, despite the many prayers that went unanswered by the gods… it seemed that perhaps, perhaps sometimes the gods rewarded the piety of their followers. The cat, after all, did not appear to be present.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Dervish
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‘There’s a romance in darkness, it draws our curiosity and beckons a desire to taste the unknown.’

Rhea advised they pack for six days worth of trekking throughout the ruins, even though the expedition was expected to last three days. Brynja suited herself up, full set of steel armor and all. She brought her rucksack, which fit awkwardly over her armor. Brynja could still move her arms, for the most part, but were she to take the entire rucksack off, she was left in a struggle. Her biggest fear of heights came into effect when the elevator began to free fall. Her stomach jumped into her throat, her legs quivered like berry jam, causing her to stumble backwards looking for support. She smashed into the wall, narrowly missing Anifaire, before her knees buckled in fear. She couldn’t move, she was grounded in terror.

The grate broke with such a force it flung Daro’Vasora and Latro out of the elevator, along with a few others. This was out of her control. She could do nothing to protect them. Just then, the elevator caught itself on the track before smashing into the bottom. She slid forward as it shook her with a nasty jolt.

Seconds after hitting the bottom, Brynja slowly collected herself, she marveled at the simple fact that somehow, she was still alive. She stumbled for the door, determined to get out of the contraption before anything else happened. As Brynja emerged into a dim veil of light, she could feel a dampness spreading down her backside, running rivulets down her legs and into her boots. At first, Brynja thought she’d pissed herself, but that was until she remembered that she hadn’t needed to relieve herself before embarking on the expedition. Her mind leapt to the possibility of the liquid coming from a wound.

A sudden sting in her right eye had her wiping blood away, where she soon discovered a gash above her brow about two inches in length. She hissed as the wound reacted to her uninvited fingers, it felt afire. Brynja knew it only to be a surface wound, and turned her attention back to the elevator mere feet away. Those in their company had begun to emerge from the water and from the elevator, most were unharmed.

Rhea had since found her footing and had escaped injury no worse for wear than before the sudden descent, her pack taking the brunt of the impact when she slipped when the lift had taken a sharp angle. Her heart was still pounding from a survival instinct, and she was reeling with trying to make sense of what had happened and the peril her team was in. While she didn’t doubt they could handle a fight, it was the ordeal of trying to find an alternative escape that seemed somewhat daunting. However, this was precisely why she’d instructed everyone to pack supplies for up to a week; no matter how long it took, they’d find a way out, and no matter how big this place was, it was still an enclosed area. It would be contained and manageable, of that she was certain.

Doing a quick headcount, she noticed that most of the expedition was up and about and checking themselves and their gear over diligently. Latro and Daro’Vasora, however, were nowhere to be seen. They had been taken by the river, and Rhea chose to believe that they didn’t drown and had found a way to safety as soon as they were able. There was no sense in fretting about those outside of her immediate care, she had to ensure that her team would make it through in high spirits.

“Well, if anyone was still groggy from the early start, I trust you’re awake now.” She called to the others, thankful for whomever had managed to get a light going. “Gather your senses and check yourselves and each other, we leave in five minutes barring any major injury.” with that, she noticed Brynja fussing over a cut. Making her way over, she placed a comforting hand on the Nord’s shoulder. “Mind if I have a look?”

Brynja flinched at the sudden touch, she turned her attention at the sound of Rhea’s voice, “‘Tis but a scratch. Nothing more than blood in the eye. An easy fix.” She said, her voice becoming confident. The last thing she wanted was having Rhea to think of her as a yellow-livered cat.

“And yourself? Are you injured at all?” She asked, her words carrying the connotation of a woman accustomed to caring for others.

“Oh, I’m certain there’s a few bruises here and there, but nothing worth fussing over.” Rhea replied with a reassuring smile. “If you insist it’s nothing, then that’s that.” her expression shifted to something decidedly more guarded. “We have two missing and confirmation that Falmer were here. We need to be prepared for an attack. Is your gear in order?”

“I-,” she stopped herself before she could finish her sentence. Her mind wandered to the wetness against her back, it had stopped, whatever it was.

“Yes.” Brynja said, giving her a short affirmative nod. Her back straightened at the knowledge of moving on from this location.

The remainder of the party gathered after tending to their affairs, fetching equipment from the waters, helping each other in a time of mutual peril. Through it all, Rhea felt a pit in her stomach that Latro, Meg and Daro’Vasora weren’t anywhere to be seen. She grounded herself, taking her senses into account as she counted down from ten. The two would be fine, and they would find them, she told herself. There was no sense grieving the loss of those who weren’t dead.

Gaius pulled her from her thoughts, asking if she had any manner of communicating with the surface. “No.” She admitted, looking towards the lift. “It’s not as if there’s a courier ghost that can inform the surface of our predicament. It’s all right, it’s part of exploration, the risk taking. Prior experience has taught me that Dwemer often had more than one exit in case of emergency or just ease of travel. We’ll simply search until we find it.” She replied with a reassuring clasp of the man’s shoulder. She didn’t bother mentioning the plan if there wasn’t such an exit. The last thing these people needed was hope being ripped from them.

Alim immediately pulled himself into a foolish predicament and dove back into the waters with the promise of finding others, including some tapping code he’d respond to. Before she could talk him out of his foolish notions, he’d disappeared, somehow trusting himself to see in the dark and not become a liability himself.

“Idiot.” she muttered under her breath, looking at who was left. “Do not follow his lead.” She told the others, looking them in the eyes in turn under the hovering magelight.

“We have a better chance of finding the others if we are in control of our passage. Putting yourself at the mercy of underground rivers is only going to put yourself and others at needless risk. We press on; we’ll look for the others, and keep an eye out for adversaries.” Rhea said, taking a deep breath before smiling. “Well, let’s go see what we’ve stumbled into, shall we?”

The pathway was made of carved stone, some masonry work that had been created centuries ago. Rhea had instructed the others to keep the lights going, as it would be a beacon for the lost members of the expedition to find, and it would be their only means of detecting the Falmer if they came across them. All accounts suggested the feral elves to be entirely blind, so it was at least something of a hope that blind also meant they couldn’t perceive a change in lighting conditions.

Everyone traveled in silence, the unavoidable sound of shifting gears and footfalls echoing across the cave formations, made the purpose of the place unclear. It was almost a shock when Meg and Alim had managed to find their way to the group in a deceptively short amount of time. Brynja and Solandil led the group from the front with Rhea in the lead, while Balroth and Gaius brought up the rear of the group.

“I’d rather face a draugr now than sit on the edge of my blade, waiting around for some sneaky Falmer to slink out of the shadows.” Brynja breathed, though she whispered to herself, her words could be heard at the back of the group. She mentally chastised herself for even speaking aloud, the Falmer had exceptional hearing, and she most likely made their location known. The demented elves might be blind, but they sure as hell weren’t dumb. If there were any nearby… At least the wetness on her backside had dried. She was certain that she hadn’t wounded herself in the fall… but what in the depths of Oblivion had leaked?

Her line of thoughts were cut short as Rhea slowed her pace before coming to a complete stand still where the paved road ended as broken floor stones littered the ground. Brynja stood alongside her, her hands curling around the hilt of her longsword. Stretching before them was a… well Brynja had the least bit of an idea as to what she was looking at. She could see that the Dwemer had left their mark, as the paved flooring and carved archways dictated that some civilization had made an attempt to tame the depths. However, as she peered into the darkness, her eyes trying to discern what lay on in the darkness, she could see a faint glow of blue light.

She left the glow of the magelight, just mere steps away from Rhea and Solandil, and entered the thin veil of darkness. The blue light, Brynja realized, was the source of glowing mushrooms that clung to the walls. She took a few tentative steps forward, her ears straining to hear anything. The faint sound of water dripping caught her ear, but nothing sinister seemed to lurk in the darkness. As her eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light, she could make out the faint outline of ruins ahead, but she could see no more as the prevailing darkness enveloped what lay beyond. She turned slowly, her eyes sweeping the area where she stood before traveling up towards the ceiling, if she could call it that. It appeared that they had entered some type of massive cavern, much larger than the one that they had emerged from. Brynja blinked twice as she stared up into the darkness, where she could have sworn she saw stars.

‘There’s no stars underground, you dolt.’ she scolded herself, her eyes narrowing into slits, the stars she saw were clusters of glowing mushrooms that had claimed residency on the ceiling. The mushrooms provided no light for them so far below, but it was an eerie concept to think, a celestial system so far below ground.

Retreating from the darkness, Brynja ventured back into the safety of the magelight, she approached Rhea, longsword lowered as she approached the Imperial. “You’re going to want to see this. Looks like a bunch of ruins out there. Whatever this place is, I cannot see the other side.” She kept her voice exceptionally low, one never knew what lurked in these sinister shadows.

The Imperial followed Brynja out, taking in the view that had captivated her seconds before. She had seen fungus such as this before, but the size of the cavern and the proliferation of the mushrooms about what seemed to be only the ceiling really did give it an appearance of being the night sky. “Incredible.” She managed, feeling a sense of giddiness that she did her best to keep down in light of the circumstances. The sense of discovery and finding such wonders was something that really kept her enthralled with journeying into the depths. “We may have to change our strategy somewhat, the magelights will not be able to illuminate much more than the ground we’re standing on. I still think it is safest to follow the path to the best of our ability, since there’s always a risk that if we leave it, it may be difficult to find our way back to it. It is reasonable to assume that the pathway leads to somewhere, is it not?”

“Aye.” She said with a soft grunt, her eyes scanned the path behind them. What little remained petered out before the two women, as her gaze shifted to the ground under foot, until she spied the familiar shape of stairs descending into the darkness just feet away.

“Look,” she whispered, pointing at three barely visible steps, “that must be the rest of it.” If the knot forming in her stomach assumed right, those steps would lead them down into the ruins.

‘Too bad that cat got swept away, someone told me they can see the dark.’ Brynja mused unhappily.

Suddenly, a hand grabbed onto the Nord’s arm. “Listen.” Rhea breathed.

A few moments of dead air hung as the party slowed to a stop, but it soon became clear what had caught Rhea’s ear. The pattering of feet and the occasional scraping sound were heard not too distant, and it became clear that there was a the Falmer that they had feared lurked down in these caverns were close. However, the observant of the group would have noted that they seemed like they were in a hurry, not necessarily stalking or preparing to attack. Still, it didn’t seem prudent to wait to see if they passed; chances are, blind creatures preferred the guidance of a well-marked path just as much as those who could see.

Looking around quickly at the surroundings, a mostly collapsed dwelling with only two walls still fully intact and most of the roof having caved in, stood out as somewhere defensible if a fight was unavailable. It was made of carved, once ornate stone, and the alloys that dominated most Dwemer architecture was conspicuously absent, and its run-down nature was jarring in comparison to the contemporary ruins in the levels above. It seemed foolish to hope they wouldn’t be heard just as easily as they heard the Falmer; they were creatures that relied heavily on their hearing in the absence of sight. “To the left! There’s a building there. Inside, now!” Rhea called out for the rest of the party to hear; there would be no confusion of half-heard orders.

The group managed to get inside in a hurry, clambering over stones that may have been carved thousands of years prior. There were enough handholds and layered blocks that almost acted as an impromptu set of platforms to level above. “Anyone who can fight at range, get up on the roof if you can, we will need a lot of light and try to thin out numbers before they reach the walls. The rest of us,” freeing her sword from the scabbard, Rhea’s hand tightened around the grip. “I trust you’ve had a good scrap from time to time. Just make sure to watch where you’re swinging your blades, it’s hard to see a damn thing down here.”

As the plans were laid out amongst the defenders, the first glimpses of the Falmer came into view from the magelight, the approach of the Falmer much more cautious than they had been prior; their hideous flat faces scrunched as they sniffed like animals, unintelligible utterances escaping their throats. There were a dozen in all, lead by two Shaman judging from their staves. Curiously, these Falmer weren’t entirely armed and armoured with Chitin plates and weaponry; the gleam of Dwemer craftsmanship adorned some of their frames, and dangerously sharp blades were clutched in their gnarled hands. A trio of archers began to flank around on either side of the structure, one of which was carrying the Dwemer bow; it was a much larger specimen than the other two, likely having obtained its weapon through a show of dominance.

[i]‘Bunch of ugly fuckers.’[/] Brynja thought.

She had taken up a position near the opening of the two crumbled walls, a defensive maneuver to protect those that weren’t such great fighters, could Judena even fight? Never the matter. She took a wide stance, putting all of her weight into her core and legs, grounding herself like a boulder. The Falmer couldn’t see them gathered there, but that didn’t mean those demented Snow Elves couldn’t smell them. Or could they?

Just then… her nose began to itch. The threat of a sneeze crept over her, panic enveloped her. ‘Gods no! BRYNJA. HOLD-’

Achoo!” Her sneeze shook her like a ship’s mast in gale-force weather, “Oh for fucks sake.” She growled. The sound of her sneezing drew in the Falmer to them like a bear to honey.

Teeth gnashed as incoherent chattering and hissing filled the void of the cavern, the Falmer charged at the group, now having a sound to hone in on. The slap of their leathery feet across smooth stone chilled Brynja to her core. Falmer were no Man, Mer, or Beast, right? They were scum of the earth. Treacherous and vile things that scavenged in the depths of forgotten Dwemer ruins. She rushed out to meet a Falmer head on, steel glinting off magelight as she swung the blade through the air with practiced ease. Her blade clanged against a chitin shield, where the Falmer she engaged with, thrusted the shield at her to throw her off-balance. That failed. Brynja didn’t budge an inch. She stepped back, and evaded another thrust.

A flash of light, or rather, fire, sailed over head, where it crashed into the rooftop where those in the company had moved for better vantage points. The flaming ball burst into a shower of burning embers.

Rhea’s sword clashed with a Dwarven axe, blades locked together as yellowed fangs leered at her, inches away from her face. She shoved hard, knocking the Falmer backwards. She had room to move, she had to use it before she lost her footing.

An ice bolt smashed into the ground at the base of the rooftop. Shards glittering as they melted into the rock under foot. Brynja was locked in combat with the Falmer bearing the shield. She gritted her teeth as a shortsword darted out at her, the blade narrowly missing a gap in her armor. Again, another ice bolt sailed through the air, this time landing feet away.

“Someone kill those fuckin’ mages!” She hollered, her voice carrying over the din of battle.

The dozen or so Falmer were swarming the area, and they carried an odor with them that stank something fierce, as if they had been sitting in their own shit and piss for years. And perhaps they had. Fed up with the sneering Falmer before her, Brynja threw her shoulder into the shield, barreling over the falmer. With both hands on the hilt of her sword, she drove the blade down, piercing the skull with a sickening pop.

Hyah!” Rhea cried, her sword driving deep into the flesh of the axe-wielding Falmer. Blood bubbled up from its mouth as she shook the foul thing off her sword end, and left it to a miserable death. Her heart pounded from the adrenaline of the battle, sweat rolled down her temples, her neck chilled.

“Rhea!” Brynja’s husky voice drew her attention to the towering Nord, she wore a menacing expression as she cleared the short distance between them in two long strides. She swung her longsword high, causing Rhea to raise her arm in defense, when she heard the strangled cry of a Falmer behind her. She turned to see the creature with a half-severed midsection, entrails spilling into a bloody pool underneath.

The Imperial wrinkled her nose at the sudden expunged viscera. “My thanks. I’ll be sure to return the favour.” She said to Brynja, shoving the dying Falmer aside and grabbing another by the wrist as it raised its axe to bring it down upon her. Her blade sunk easily into its throat, and the creature gurgled dark blood from its curled, hideous lips.

The battle had begun, and the only hope the party had was to keep enough light to see what was happening.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by James
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James Eye of the Tiger

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A collaboration between @Lemons and myself.

"Rrraaagh!"

Gaius grunted as he caught the blow of a Dwemer sword on a shield of the same make. Things had devolved rather quickly, and he was keenly feeling his lack of any kind of ranged weaponry; the mages skulking around the back of the Falmer group were by far the greatest threat to any of them. Magical fire splashed around them, threatening to send Gaius into a panic. He clamped down on the rising fear as best he could, focusing on the moment as he jammed his sword up into the jaw of the Falmer whose blade he'd just deflected. It gurgled softly. With a metallic whisper, the sword slid out and Gaius sheltered behind his shield, beginning to lose what little hold he had on his emotions.

Calm down, calm down, calm down, he thought hysterically. It's just fire. It's just darkness.

It didn't do much; he could feel himself beginning to hyperventilate at the cascading magical flames.

The great, shaggy bear-shape of Balroth stepped in front of Gaius and roared his throaty, bestial challenge to their Falmer foes. An unusual bunch, to be sure, using Dwemer weaponry and fire magic, and they were brave and clever to use what they feared most themselves, but that would not dimish their own weakness. Balroth raised one hand and a jet of fire spat forth, forcing the Falmer wielding melee weapons back and giving them some space. This wasn't his first brawl with the Betrayed race. The orc knew what to do.

"Gaius, we need to kill the mages!" Balroth yelled over his shoulder. He hoped that a clear objective would help the Imperial focus and steel his nerves. When no response was immediately forthcoming, Balroth risked a glance behind him and saw Gaius' wide eyes. "For the Emperor," Balroth said, his voice steady and even, yet clearly audible over the din of the battle, relaying with iron confidence the age-old battlecry of the Empire that had rallied armies and turned the tides of battles a hundred times.

For the Emperor.

The calm words cut through Gaius' madness, driving a clear, cold knife down into his fevered brain. His eyes focused. His mind cleared. He swallowed heavily. His sword hand steadied, the trembling that had been running through his body fading away. He raised it into a readied stance in front of him and nodded at Balroth. "For the Emperor." Then, as he prepared himself to face the Falmer mages, his heart began to pound in his ears. This time, it wasn't from fear or confusion. It wasn't from the fire and it wasn't from the darkness. It was from the pride that had sustained him through the Skyrim Civil War: the pride that comes with being a soldier of the Empire. The pride of a Legionnaire.

He threw up the sword, holding it into the air as the firelight flashed off of it. His lungs swelled and he belted out a shout: "For the Emperor!" Holding his shield out in front of himself, he readied his sword and then began to accelerate in a forged steel juggernaut straight towards the mages.

Flashing a grin, Balroth gripped his axe tightly with both hands and folllowed close behind Gaius - now that's what he liked to see. The orc's armor was significantly less formidable than the Imperial's suit and, in particular, the massive escutcheon, so Balroth judged it wisest to let Gaius take point and draw all the attention of the Falmer mages to himself. Meanwhile, Balroth flanked off to the side, skirting at the edge of the darkness. He encountered one of the Falmer there, wielding Chaurus chitin weaponry, and the creature lunged at Balroth with a strangled cry. Balroth caught the blow that was intended for him on the shaft of his axe and pushed hard, forcing the much smaller and weaker Falmer to the ground. With a single, fluid, practiced motion, Balroth's axe sailed up through the air and down into the Falmer's head, splitting it in twain entirely. First blood.

The orc took a deep breath and looked up, eyes searching for Gaius. Balroth spotted the unmistakable shape of the Imperial almost immediately - he was closing in on the mages now and most definitely had their attention. The chaos of the brawl meant that Balroth was unsure whether any of the shapes fighting and moving at the edge of his vision were other members of their party coming to help. Either way, there was no time to wait. Moving as quietly and swiftly as he could, Balroth began closing the distance to the Falmer mages from the side.

With a bellowing cry, Gaius barreled towards the nearest of the mages. He didn't bother slowing down; shield held out in front of him, he slammed his entire body into the creature, letting himself rise off his feet. His momentum carried the two for a fair length until they crashed into a great pillar, and there was a loud, sickening crunch from the Falmer beneath his shield. It went limp, slumping to the ground beneath him.

A hissing sound caught his attention and he came to his feet as fast as he could, catching the majority of the cloud of ice on his shield. Even so, he could still feel the cold beginning to sap the strength from his limbs. As he shifted his grip to block an enormous icicle that soared at his face, he pulled his sword into readiness and began to accelerate again, lumbering towards the smaller, more agile creature and beating away the palls of frost as best he could. An arrow bounced off of the back of his cuirass and he winced. This needed to get done fast.

I just...need to...get to it...

Try as he might, though, he couldn't quite make it through the walls of ice that the Falmer was throwing at him. Every time he got close enough to try, it scuttled backwards. His armor was beginning to encrust with ice; he could feel it crackling whenever he tried to move, and the joints were becoming stiff. "Balroth!" He called, voice strained, "Help me with this thing!"

It was a good thing that the Falmer could not understand their speech or Gaius' call for aid would have been a sure sign for the mage to turn around. Balroth arrived just in time and attacked the foul creature from the side. Another jet of flame disrupted the Falmer's concentration and the stream of frost magic it was casting on Gaius ceased as it flinched away from the heat, but the reach of Balroth's battleaxe that followed close behind was too great for the Falmer to evade.

"Eat this," Balroth growled.

Balroth could feel a split-second of resistance when his low, sideways swing encountered mage armor that covered the Falmer's skin, but Balroth's strength was unyielding and the axe pierced the magical barrier. The mage gave a brief cry as it was ripped asunder at the waist, the sheer force of the blow scattering its dark blood and guts in a wide arc, and the two halves of ex-Falmer were thrown to the ground. It was instantly, irrevocably dead.

The magical ice created by the Falmer melted away into nothing near-instantly, and Gaius felt the numbness flee from his limbs. He didn't need to check to make sure the mage was dead. After all, there's only so many creatures that can live after having their torso forcibly removed from their legs. There was no time to spare for a sigh of relief, though; the Falmer that he'd plunged past in his mad dash to kill the mages were beginning to encroach on them. There weren't very many left, but there were enough to pose a threat.

"Good work," he spared the time to grunt, hopping in place a little bit to limber up, and then settled again into his stance.

The first impact was a Dwemer warhammer, smashing into his shield hard enough to push it back against his chest. He winced as the sheer shock of the blow traveled up his arm and into his shoulder, threatening to push the arm from its socket. "No more of that," he snarled, and lashed out with his sword like a snake, darting it beside his shield. It deflected off of the heavy Charus plate armor on the first strike, but as the Falmer pulled its arms back for another crushing blow, he jabbed it straight into its exposed armpit. It gave a strangled cry and dropped the warhammer, giving him just enough time to swing his shield forward with all the strength in his arm, shoulder and hip, rotating on his feet as he snapped it straight into the Falmer's face. Its head whipped around far past where it should've been able to, and with a single choke, it crumpled to the ground.

It pleased Balroth to see that Gaius had overcome his moment of fear with vigorous resolve and he nodded in thanks when the Imperial complimented the Orsimer on his handiwork. There was no time for further chit-chat, however, as it now became apparent that their best course of action would be to fight their way back to the ruined structure that the rest of the party was using as their fortified position.

Where Gaius used the defensive advantage provided by his shield, Balroth decided to press the attack and capitalize on his greater reach and mobility. The orc stalked forward and swung his axe at the first Falmer that approached, who was forced backwards to stay out of the battleaxe's range. This tactic often resulted in Balroth's opponents tripping over their feet (or a pebble, or anything) while backpedaling but the Falmer were sure-footed creatures and Balroth merely found himself driving the creature closer towards its allies. Another Falmer stepped forward and lifted a heavy shield that looked superficially similar to Gaius's bulwark. Balroth decided to test the Falmer's strength and slammed his axe down on the Dwemer shield. It rang like a gong and the Falmer's knees almost buckled, but it held. It growled and screeched, like it was communicating, and two other Falmer suddenly advanced quickly past the shield and lunged towards Balroth's abdomen with wicked chitin swords.

Balroth punished them for their eagerness, catching one of the Falmer on the chin with a backhanded swing of the battleaxe while he sidestepped the other attack. Thinking fast, Balroth let go of the axe with one hand and used it to envelop the over-extended Falmer, carried forward by the momentum of its attack, in a stream of fire. Balroth's skill with Destruction wasn't sufficient to sustain the kind of fire magic that could truly immolate one's opponent, but the Falmer screamed in pain all the same and stumbled backwards, putting out the embers that burned its skin. That was when Balroth realized that the first Falmer wasn't dead quite yet, rising to its feet with blood dripping from its disfigured jaw, and the Falmer with the heavy shield moved in as well.

"Gaius!" Balroth called out. Now it was his turn to ask for assistance.

"On it!" Doing his damndest to avoid looking too hard at the fire Balroth was conjuring, Gaius jogged forwards. His eyebrows raised as he saw a Falmer wielding a shield that was, at least in structure, similar to his. "Poor workmanship," he muttered.

"I'll take out the shieldbearer," he shouted aside to Balroth. "If you can deal with the swordsmen until I'm done with it, then I'll help you finish them off. I have a feeling you'll be able to butcher them pretty handily, though." With that said, he completely forwent any pretense of using the shield as a shield and instead used it as a battering ram, running the last few meters in between him and the creature and slamming his shield into the Falmer's as hard as he could, leaving it no space to retaliate with its small, chitinous axe. It grunted and screeched, but other than the two that Balroth was currently working with, the rest of the Falmer were either dead or fighting the rest of the party. Gong, gong, gong, gong, gong. The cacophony was deafening.

"Come on! Where's your poison now? Where's all that ice?" He drew his shield back further this time, coiling up all the strength he could in his crippled arm, before lunging forward and giving one last, intense strike of shield on shield. The Falmer shrieked, the shield falling like dead weight as the creature's elbow snapped like a dry twig. A single slash of the sword later and its head topped from its body. Wasting no time, he turned towards the two sword-wielding Falmer pressing in towards Balroth. "Fight me!" he roared at them, moving forwards slowly shield held high.

The two Falmer in question had learned from their mistake and kept their distance now, listening carefully for Balroth's movement. The one that the orc had struck on the chin looked quite gruesome as blood ran down its body and Balroth admired the creature's tenacity - it had sustained what was a fight-ending injury for most people but kept coming for more. The other was now covered with unsightly burns and its breaths were haggard, nostrils flared, but whether that was pain or fury Balroth could not tell. It did not matter. They would die now, by either Balroth's axe or Gaius' sword.

Or fire, if it were still available to him, but Balroth's magicka reserves were limited and he did not feel like he could call upon another use of Destruction magic. Balroth stepped forward swiftly and swung his axe in a wide arc but the two Falmer were wise to him now and dashed backwards faster than he could catch them. The sound of Gaius smashing his shield against that of the third Falmer rang throughout the cave now and Balroth could tell it distracted and agitated the Falmer, so he tried again, aiming for the blood-covered Falmer.

The burned Falmer had other ideas, however, and darted forward to strike Balroth mid-swing.

Balroth grit his teeth as he felt the tip of a chitin blade pierce his leather armor and the skin of his upper arm. He instinctively let go of his axe with one hand, smacked the Falmer away and pulled the shortsword out. He groaned when he felt the familiar, searing pain of Chaurus poison flaring out from the wound, but shook his head and regained his focus. Balroth saw Gaius approaching the Falmer from behind, having taken care of the third one, and the burned Falmer turned its head to listen.

That's when Balroth slammed his battleaxe into the Falmer's ribcage with a ferocious, two-handed uppercut, shattering bone and crushing lungs. Balroth opened his mouth to mutter some kind of satisfying one-liner but all he managed was another groan as the pain of the poison made his head spin. He doubted it would kill him - it was only a small drop and he'd pulled the weapon out almost immediately - but it hurt like hell.

Gaius grit his teeth at the look on Balroth's face. He'd never personally been exposed to Chaurus poison, but he'd known enough old soldiers to have a vague understanding of the effects. A large amount could cause swelling of the brain and a stopped heart, both of which inevitably led to death. Luckily, it didn't seem like the old orc had that much in him, since Gaius didn't see any large wounds or arrows sticking out of him, but there was no way to tell without getting him to an herbalist, and Bryn was just as occupied at the moment. He'd just have to hope that he was alright.

Approaching the last of the Falmer around them, he attempted to give it the same treatment as its former comrade: a series of skull-rattling, bone-jarring bashes with Empire's Aegis until it either died of blunt force trauma or gave him an opening to slide his sword in through its guts. That wasn't...quite what happened. There was no opening that needed giving. The creature screamed its rage at him and leapt recklessly, heedless of anything about it, straight for him. He turned calmly to the side and let the blow glance off of his heavy pauldron before whipping his shield back around. It caught the sword in one of the ridges on the side and tore it from the Falmer's hands, sending it whirling off into darkness. He struck back with his sword, but the creature's chitin armor, though nowhere near as nice as steel, deflected the blow just as well. Gaius, body's momentum halted as his armor continued forwards at rapid speed, overbalanced. He tottered for a moment, then fell, catching the impact on his side.

There was a scream and a sliding sound as the creature ripped a wickedly-barbed chitin dagger from its rudimentary belt. It plunged downward, sliding between the gap above Gaius' left gauntlet and shearing through the chainmaille as though it wasn't even there. The instant, frigid shock of the blade in his arm was replaced near-instantly by a feverish heat.

He found his grip on his sword again and whirled it around, this time neatly eviscerating the creature. It mattered little, though. The damage was already done.

Coming to his feet, he staggered over to Balroth and put his hand on the orc's shoulder for support as he began to feel dizzy. "Come on," he wheezed, "we got the mages. Let's get back to the others."

Balroth's eyes went wide with alarm and concern when he saw the blood dripping over Gaius's gauntlet and the wheeze in the man's breath. Maybe it was just the injury itself, but Balroth was worried the last Falmer's dagger might have been poisoned too. He nodded, wrapped one arm around the Imperial's waist and supported him as they hurried back to the party, trying to ignore the pain in his own arm. "Medic!" Balroth yelled as they approached.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Greenie
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Greenie Heaven don't play like violins

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“Anyone who can fight at range, get up on the roof if you can..."

Using a sword was what Meg knew and liked best, but with creatures like Falmer who would hear her more easily than she could see them, there was no need for her to take a chance, especially when there were much more seasoned fighters who would probably do better in a skirmish than she would. She had always favoured the element of surprise as it were, and with that gone, there was no other choice for her than to take to the roof. Rhea had assigned her as the one to pick off targets that were far away at the beginning of this adventure, or rather misadventure, and even in this unforeseen mishap, that would be the best.

Climbing up to the roof was almost as easy as scrambling up a grossly misshapen staircase, and once she was at the top, Meg already had an arrow in hand, ready to aim. She hadn't been quite expecting to shoot just yet, but that ominous sneeze told her there would be no hint of taking it easy. Facing the right direction, she could now see the swarm of Falmer headed their way. The sight made her cringe inwardly; there was something about them that made her feel even worse than when she saw draugrs. Maybe it was the fact that they weren't actually the living dead, but still alive yet corrupted to such a degree that everything about them seemed foul, from their features to their armour to the dwellings they lived in.

She could hear the calls of Rhea and Brynja, already having begun to fight; a quick glance down and Balroth's yell to Gaius informed her that they were going after the mages. She didn't know them well at all, but she was determined to trust in the little she had heard about them. Meg then shifted her attention to the Falmer once more, her eyes zoning in on one that was rushing too close for comfort. A couple of arrows made short work of him.

Small fry, she thought smugly, shifting her attention to the three archers, taking note of the larger one with the dwemer bow. Well ain't that lovely... Raising her bow she aimed in the larger one's direction, determined to fell it before it could attack any of her other companions- A curse escaped Meg and she jumped back, looking down at the arrow that had barely missed her by much, clattering to her feet. Eyes narrowing, she reached down and grabbed it, aiming with the new arrow rather than the one she had been about to use. It seemed as if one of the archer had the same idea she had; pick off the ones who could attack from long distance.

"Lucky for ya, I'll make your job a li'l easier." Catching sight of the Falmer who was nocking an arrow again, she decided it would be her first target. Her first shot hit the archer, but it was too early to celebrate, having barely scratched its armour. Cursing once more, Meg aimed yet again, though she didn't shoot just yet, first taking a deep breath to calm down, reminding herself that this wasn't just her fight, but her companions' as well. She was safe up here, or at least safer than those who here fighting them head on; she had to make things easier for them rather than simply lose the arrows she had to no avail.

Breathing out, she let her arrow fly once more. This time it hit the target, catching the Falmer off guard. A small smile of satisfaction found its place on her lips for as she watched it fall to the ground, writhing momentarily before staying still ; she suspected the arrow had struck deep enough to cause fatal damage.

However, the moment of victory didn't last long, knowing there were still more Falmer to defeat. Hearing Balroth call for a medic caused something in her stomach to twist. Is he or Gaius hurt? What about the others? Where are Latro and Daro'Vasora? Are they fine? Are they-

"Shut up," she growled to herself, forcing an unwanted thought to the back of her mind. "They're fine." She focused once more, nocking her arrow and aiming for the larger archer yet again, eyes narrowed as she let her arrow fly. "Sh*t!" Her arrow had missed, but that wasn't what caused her to curse; while she had let her arrow go, so had the Falmer she was aiming for, and luck was on its side, its arrow hitting her left upper arm. It was a shallow wound and the arrow had fallen away, but it was still a nuisance. She risked shooting at the larger archer one last time before heading down from the roof, wanting some cover while she bandaged herself.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by DearTrickster
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DearTrickster

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15th Rain's Hand 4E208, Jerall Mountain Dwemer Excavation Site
Judena


I trust you’ve had a good scrap from time to time. Just make sure to watch where you’re swinging your blades, it’s hard to see a damn thing down here.”

Judena found it easy to follow Rhea’s lead, her decisions where falmer were lurking coincided with her instincts, there had been only a handful of times when Judena had run into the blind, gnarled fellows, personally. They were wiley, sharp and ruthless to fight.

As she climbed up to a more defensible position, she among the other magicka users casted their magelights. The tension grew, as individuals - they readied in their own ways. Judena held out her hand, palm up, in it pools of her magika gathered. Growing from within it was a diamond shaped blue crystal, Ironflesh as a spell grew in potency. The spell formed completely, spinning in her hand she brought it toward her chest willing the armour to cover her body completely. She held her spear out peering past the light, going absolutely still. Her ‘beard’ slowly expanded, she did not blink nor did a muscle move. At the fateful sneeze she hadn’t even twitched.

Balroth and Gaius dashed forward to deal with the mages, Megana began firing arrows removing one of the pesky archers. Where Megana missed, Judena saw opportunity. From closer ranks, the argonian came forward in a dash supporting her allies the heat of flames creating a breadth of space for them to find opportunity themselves. A couple falmer shrieked with fear as their meager clothing caught fire. Largely frustrating the lot of them having lost their own magickal support. Directing her flames where some falmer attempted to grow close once again. The light of flames brightening the area.

“Come! Anrenfar! Join your spell to mine!” Judena shouted, clearly unaware of saying the Altmer’s name wrong but she was quite clearly addressing her fellow mage and scholar. They would provide their allies with every opportunity to safely dispatch them.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Dervish
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Dervish Let's get volatile

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The Wayward Thief and Bard


Latro and Daro’Vasora ventured farther down the path they’d chosen, still only illuminated by the faint glow of the fungi, and the shadows still holding a sort of malice unto themselves for Latro. It was a quiet walk for the two of them, too busy looking out for any horrors of the deep. Their careful advance through the subterranean passages finally brought them to what may have at one time been a major gathering of Falmer. Dilapidated, empty tents sat lonely in the dark, forgotten reaches. Bathed in pale blue befitting of this ghostly necropolis, Latro and Vasora moved unimpeded.

At first, Latro trusted none of it, but after hearing nothing and seeing nothing for some time, he’d soon distanced himself from his edge. A hand resting on the head of his axe, thumb hooked in his belt now, rather than white-knuckle gripping the haft of it. Soon enough, the barbaric, purely Falmer architecture started to mingle with Dwemer. The angular, mirror-polished copper of the long-forgotten race marred, corrupted, and insulted by yet another.

Upon a pale-grey obelisk of a tablet over-topping at least four meters and stretching outwards a good ten, Dwemeris writing lost on Latro was carved. Like the graffiti on the walls of the Imperial City waterfront district, or the docks of Wayrest, a mural was painted in glowing pale blue over it. Scenes of the Snow Elves being granted amnesty by the Dwemer, the inevitable betrayal by their cruel future masters, the horrors inflicted upon them that would bring Molag Bal pleasure. Latro traced his fingers along the huge mural of history, and witnessing how the pictures slowly and sadly descended into crudeness and simplicity the farther he traced, speechless as to its age. “Rhea would love to see this, I’m sure.”

He stepped back when he reached a peculiar scene, the image of the crudely drawn Dwemer ascending to a gate. Latro shook his head, “One needs eyes to paint.” He breathed in amazement and a touch of pity, “These Falmer have lived down here for Eras.”

Daro’Vasora, had her notes been dry, would have been furiously keeping notes. Instead she was studying the paintings and the carvings closely, the danger from only a few minutes prior a distant memory she was so engrossed in the details. It was an incredible find. “Might have been the final throes of their former selves. They didn’t just go blind overnight, or go feral. Someone must have wanted to record their history in the vain hope that they wouldn’t forget who they were.” The Khajiit observed, fingers tracing along the more crude images towards the end. “Notice how the images are so much more crisp at the start? It’s as if they either were losing their vision over time or just ran out of materials. It’s as if they were trapped here, even without Dwemer interference.”

The Khajiit was in awe of the discovery, and while it wasn’t something she could just stuff into a bag, it was definitely worth taking credit for. It was a tragic story, to be certain, but if one were to hang around ruins and barrows long enough, one would quickly realize that just about everything that ever existed underground was a monument of unspeakable suffering. The tale of the Falmer’s eventual fate was a tale that felt as old as as time, but still there was something somewhat humbling about seeing their feeble last attempts at retaining their sense of selves knowing that their race was about to be erased from the world due to the unspeakable cruelty of the Deep Elves.

“I can read most of this,” Daro’Vasora said, looking over the writing. “Some of it’s whatever language the Snow Elves used, some words look vaguely Aldmeri, but I’m not exactly a linguist. You realize that we may have discovered the very last writing of the Falmer people?” She asked excitedly, having entirely forgotten the peril that lurked around the corner.

“Gods...” Latro breathed again. Humbled, was the feeling for which the word kept a teasing distance from the tip of his tongue. His eyes darted about the huge mural like it were an alien landscape with a thousand-thousand things for the eye to take in. Again, he brushed gentle fingers along one of the letters, tracing its shape on the age-worn stone. “You were right after all, Vasora,” Latro smiled, eyes still taking in the script of pictures like a lover’s first gaze on his future-wedded, “I just may have a song to write when we leave here.”

The romance of writing a poem or ballad of the final scribes and scriptures of the Snow Elves would not have been lost on anyone, the least of all Latro. His enamored gaze was cut short when the booming groan echoed through the enormous chamber they were in, seizing his heart and breath as he hunched himself over before he noticed himself do it. “Come on!” He whispered.

He grabbed Vasora by the wrist and led her along through the maze of tents and Dwemer architecture until they made it to what looked like a small hut of Dwemer-make. Once again, Latro’s heart was pounding and his hand left Vasora’s unsure if the sweat was her’s or his. Probably both. He bunched his hands into fists behind his folded arms to hide them shaking, though he knew his eyes must have betrayed the fact that he was very much intimidated with the spectre of whatever his imagination could paint onto what was out there. He was exhausted, physically and mentally, a dull buzzing in his head and a dry mouth he was growing increasingly aware of and irritated at. He licked his teeth to try to moisten it up but his tongue was dry enough to stick to his teeth.

Latro woke up, a very sudden and unexpected thing for him, to Vasora shaking him. How long had it been? He didn’t have the mind to ask, his thoughts going back to the others and the thing outside. Safety in numbers and light was his only thought. “We have to move.” Latro said more to himself than Vasora, “The others might be getting farther and farther away from us by now.”

He swallowed dryly at the prospect of his own words. Would they find a way out? Did they even know what direction ‘out’ was?

“Easy,” The Khajiit said, an open concern etched across her features. Normally she’d have little patience for people laying hands upon her and violating her personal space, but the circumstances were extraordinary and Latro seemed like a genuine, well-intentioned sort who simply got caught up in the moment and didn’t want to lose track of her in the darkness. They only had each other to rely on, utter strangers who were trying their damnest to make it back to the others in one piece. When Latro nodded off, Daro’Vasora was concerned for him; if he had chills from the water and his body temperature dropped, he could be very well turning hypothermic. She had to keep him going, for both of their sakes.

“Easy.” Daro’Vasora repeated herself, her voice far more soothing than she felt. “Don’t feel rushed, or panicked. I can see reasonably well, as dark as it is. The cave reflects sounds, and it’ll be easy to spot light when it comes our way. We’ll plan our moves, and just take it steady. Trust me, I’ve been in enough caves and crypts that getting lost is part of the experience.”

Offering a hand to help him to his feet, Vasora smiled. “So yes, we have to move, but no sense being foolish about it. How do the heroes in your songs act in situations such as this? Always brave and knowing what to do, no? I’m sure the reality is they shit themselves and panicked and struggled through, but that doesn’t mean the songs about them can’t be an inspiration. Besides,” she said, glancing around the area slowly before looking back. “The Falmer scare me half to death. I’m counting on you to get us back without finding more of them, yes?”

Latro swallowed, clearing his throat before taking Vasora’s offered hand, “I have to apologize for whatever I may have done to make you put that on me.” He joked, “I don’t like being this far underground.”

He took a few tentative steps towards the door of the small hut, “So,” He looked around the hut and scratched at his jaw, “We keep walking until we find them?”

“Not without a plan.” Daro’Vasora corrected, quickly gathering her surroundings. She knew Latro would be relying on her for visual navigation, and otherwise, they’d be wandering almost literally blind. She gestured towards the rushing water of the river. “We know they’re upstream, and given that the Falmer presumably mostly rely on scent and hearing, we might be able to mask both if we stay close to the water’s edge and work our way back. Seeing as nobody likes being in the dark and the Falmer are blind, chances are someone has a torch made up. Any objections?”

“I would save objecting to plans when I have any idea of better options.” Latro chuckled nervously. He nodded outside, “You lead.”

The cold, dank air of the caverns added to Latro’s chill down his spine, so intense it caused him to sigh as he looked around the huge cavern. Being outside the hut almost filled him with a pulsing fear and a need to duck back inside. He was tired, cold, and terrified of whatever made those groans and killed those Falmer. Vasora and Latro took their first tentative steps out of the hut. Latro frowned at the darkness as they walked along the river, ever so often looking for any signs of the others… or the Falmer.

Daro’Vasora made sure not to traverse the uneven ground too quickly out of concern for her companion, who was trusting in her to guide the way as the one who could actually see in the darkness. All was silent, save for the steady sound of rushing water that masked whatever footfalls they might have made. While there was a chance the Falmer would be able to stalk them using the river’s voice as cover, the Khajiit doubted it; she periodically checked around to look for movement and was confident their scent would be masked by having been in the water, the grime of their stay in the camp rinsed away and whatever flowed through the water permeated their clothing and her fur; there was a distinctly earthly scent to the pair of them, and it acted as a surprising bit of camouflage. At least it wasn’t a putrid scent.

After a short period of time, much to Daro’Vasora’s surprise, the sounds of battle caught her ear and the faint impression of light danced across the rocks ahead. “Care to wager we found our companions?” She asked, edging closer, pulling her mace free. If they were close enough to be on the periphery of the fight, there was a chance it would draw in some unwanted attention. Realizing her hand was shaking, the Khajiit clasped it with her other hand, crouching low, breathing in deep and slow to try and calm herself. “I do not wish to get involved in that. The things Falmer do to people…” She trailed off, fidgeting uncomfortably. “I’ve never been much of a fighter.”

Latro refrained from commenting on his past at Vasora’s own comment on entering the fray. Even he saw the ghostly, ethereal trails of spells being thrown amongst the shouts whose words were lost among the echoing distance from the fight to the pair watching it. Even now, so far away from it, Latro’s heart picked up its pace.

There was a time, perhaps, that Latro would have charged into it with a fervor of an elk bull against another to show dominance, but that time was not now. “It’s best you look to our other companions for that.” Latro swallowed, the sheen of a mage armor spell slowly enveloping him as he closed his eyes and sighed to concentrate on the process.

“What say we announce ourselves to them and pull back upriver?” He offered, “the stream flows from somewhere above-ground.”

“Maybe, but how far does it go? For all we know it traverses the entire mountain range.” Daro’Vasora sighed, her eyes locked on the scene ahead. “As much as I hate myself for saying this, I think we would be incredibly stupid to not regroup and plan ahead. There are a few Falmer left, maybe we could surprise them where they’re thinnest? It’ll give the others an opening and we might not have to fight many…” she trailed off, looking over at Latro expectantly, perhaps to have her talk her out of being foolish. As exceptional as his company had been the last who-knows how long, she felt like it was much more in her interest to have safety in numbers. Her luck wouldn’t hold out forever, and sooner or later, she’d run into Falmer. It wasn’t something she wanted to experience alone; the thought nearly was petrifying.

“A friend once told me that you should never take a man at his front when you can take him at his back.” Latro nodded, “The time might have come that we’re their hope.”

Latro cleared his throat and wondered if Vasora heard him gulp at the prospect of harming another, even the Falmer. His encounter with the stone monolith gave them far too much humanity for his liking, reminding himself that these Falmer were not the ones that made it. A far cry from them. “Well.” Latro slowly cracking each of his knuckles, “We’ve scant time to debate the pros and cons, my friend.” And even he was surprised at his hard words.

They traversed the distance without sound enough that it brought Latro and Vasora huddling behind an outcropping of stalactites close enough to hear the chittering and screeching of the Falmer as if they were a stone’s throw away. Looking out from behind their cover, Latro saw that they were. Five of them hunkered down amongst the stalactites at the edge of the skirmish, screeching and hollering at the violence taking place. He sunk back behind the cover, huddled next to Vasora and worked to steady his nerves. “Steady yourself,” He whispered, “There’s no other choice in this.”

He took a few more precious seconds to bunch his hands into fists a couple times before crouching low and emerging from behind cover. As he got closer to the five Falmer, he felt his limbs becoming looser, his heart beginning to beat a more steady pace. He wrapped one of his arms around the neck of one from behind, wrapping his other hand around the thing’s mouth as he dragged it away from its comrades. He tightened his arms grip around its neck as it clawed violently but uselessly at his hardened skin in a panic that should’ve sickened him, placing his other hand behind its head in a choking vice and quickly sunk his weight while tightening his squeeze. He felt the bones in its neck pop and grind before it went limp and heavy. He let go, letting it crumple to the ground unceremoniously. He looked to his hands and swallowed, they aren’t people, he thought, over and over.

The Khajiit’s heart pounded mercilessly in her chest and her throat felt tight enough that it threatened to stop drawing air, but she was a part of this plan, and salvation was on the other side of the monsters of the deep. They were twisted approximations of something that was once proud and noble, and now they were ghouls that preyed on any who would dare venture into the deep, monsters driven by their baser instincts like feral animals. Daro’Vasora would have no problem killing them, for the alternative was so much worse.

Latro took one down from behind, dragging it away before subduing it, and its friend must have noticed that there was a sudden absence there as it turned around. The Khajiit closed the gap, clasping her mace with both hands as she put all of her might into a swing, smashing the creature across the face with the heavy studded steel head, breaking apart it’s upper jaw and fracturing a part of the skull. The sudden thud of the now dead body crumpled on the ground, falling beside the other remaining three Falmer. Daro’Vasora stepped back, switching to a one-handed stance, ready to lash out at any of the weapons or exposed arms for the one that turned to face her, a hideous face hidden behind a crude chitin mask. She let out a hiss, her ears pulled flat against her skull as she prepared to fend off a blow. The thing charged at her, howling in its unknowable tongue and it tried to hew her across the chest and belly, swinging wildly with its sword. The Falmer, though of exceptional hearing, were at a sizable disadvantage when it came to typical fighting doctrine; it was hard to block and parry when the only thing you had to anticipate was the sudden sound of displacing air.

When the Falmer made an above-head thrust, trying to drive it down into the Khajiit’s chest, she easily side-stepped the strike and brought her mace down into the exposed elbow, shattering the bone and disabling the arm. The Falmer shrieked in agony, only to be silenced when Daro’Vasora brought her mace back across the thing’s temple, causing it to collapse suddenly as the flesh and soft bone gave in to the blow.

She had just enough time to see another of the Falmer rushing at her with a spear, rushing at her with reckless abandon. Having no other option, she caught the shaft as it came at her, the blade threatening to dig in through her leathers, and the thing had freakish strength for something so emancipated. She yelled in alarm and fear, struggling mightily as the jagged shaft bit into her hands, slickening them with blood.

“Latro!”

He turned his head to see Vasora at the mercy of one of the Falmer, the thing struggling but slowly gaining the advantage to run her through her belly with his spear. No matter his qualms with this bloodshed, he would have no part in letting the person that helped him through this ordeal die in front of him. In four quick and long strides he was on the Falmer. One hand shot out to knock the spear off it’s glacier-quick course and the thing turned it’s head. Before it could finish its shriek Latro cuffed it in the left ear with his hardened fist, sending it stumbling and off-balance to the right before Latro’s other hand was brought down in a lightning fast downward hook that caught the thing into solar plexus.

Devoid of the ability to draw breath, Latro added to its misery by chopping at its throat with his stone-dense hand, ruining its wind-pipe as it collapsed. He rushed over to Vasora, putting a hand on her shoulder and nodding to her, “Can you fight still?” It seemed callus from his own tongue, but the time for checking over wounds was later.

Even now, the three left were far past the stage of surprise and well into bearing down on the duo. Two rushed Latro and he was barely able to duck below a swing of a chitinous mace before throwing himself aside at the wild slash of a sword that came a finger’s length from opening him. While he lay on the ground, the one with the mace leapt to stand over him and he felt the chunks of rock sting his face as he moved his head. A well-placed strike to the groin put the thing on its arse, squealing breathlessly.

The sword-wielder came at him too fast for him to counter and the point of his sword skittered across his belly painfully. Latro grit his teeth and let out a yelp, but managed to grasp the blade of the sword in his stone-dense hands, struggling with the Falmer over control of the weapon. Latro reeled back with his head and brought his forehead cracking against the thing’s brow, Latro’s mage-armor being the one to take credit for his still standing while the thing stumbled backwards disoriented towards Vasora’s fight. The Falmer who was recovering from having its genitals possibly pulped was finished off with Latro’s knee splitting apart the skin and fracturing its skull from a running start and Latro’s hands keeping its head steady for the blow.

Daro’Vasora’s hands were slick with blood and it was hard gripping onto her mace, prompting her to slip her wrist through the strap to retain control over the weapon while the Falmer that had cut Latro stumbled her way. She brought the mace into the thing’s gut, forcing it to keel over as viscous, dark blood drizzled from between its crooked lips. Unable to bring her mace around for a strike from above she brought her elbow down viciously into the nape of its neck, causing the Falmer to collapse to a knee.

Unrelenting, the Khajiit kicked the Falmer hard in its flat nose, prompting it to fall backwards, sword slipping from fingers, and stepping forward triumphantly and filled with an unexpected vitriol, she brought her heel down into its throat, once, twice, and again and again, collapsing the windpipe as the thing struggled feebly to grab at her ankle, weakening with each blow. Blood had splattered across her trousers and boots, but she didn’t care. She stood triumphant over the monster of her nightmares.

Realizing that Latro was badly hurt, Daro’Vasora regained her senses and rushed to him, immediately seeing the gash across his abdomen. “No, no…” she stammered, alarmed. “Is it deep?” she asked, eyes wide with concern.

The adrenaline already leaving him, he brought his hand to his stomach and it came back stained red. He gulped and sighed, all at once feeling the pain and the mage-armor spell dissipated with the loss of constitution at the sight of his blood, and quite the amount of it. If it were not for his mage-armor, he would be dead and skewered on the end of a Falmer sword. “N-no,” the words shakily coming past gritted teeth, “the mage-armor. My stone-skin, I’ll live. What of you?”

Glancing at her shaking hands, a sharp pain radiated from numerous cuts and gashes that were still openly weeping blood. “Considering the trade off of mangling my palms and fingers would be to have been run through, I think I made a sensible choice. It hurts immensely.” She said, sucking air between pointed teeth. “Come on, we’re still in danger out there. I’m with you, let’s get to the others. Someone’s going to patch us up.”

Helping Latro to his feet and throwing his arm over her shoulder, Daro’Vasora got her bearings; the others were a few dozen meters away, she estimated, and a few ugly bastards between them and safety, but the Falmer seemed occupied and oblivious to what had transpired. With an effort, both took off, fighting through immense pain to reach their refuge. It was all they had left.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by POOHEAD189
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POOHEAD189 Warrior

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When Alim had arrived back into the group with Meg, he had seen the looks of utter shock in the main group. He did his best not to smirk. Of course, he hadn't exactly saved Megana's life, but he'd lived and found someone else. It just went to show how he used skill and luck in unison. Still, their surprise would have been a bit off putting, if he was not used to it. He'd been invited to do things no one else had the stomach for, as far as he saw it. Everyone's a critic.

As the group moved forward, Alim took note of the soft pitter patter of elongated and wet feet hurrying down the cavern. By the way they ran he could tell they were simply running rather than charging or heading towards the group in particular, and with a light step he made his way into hiding with the rest of them. Unfortunately, the large Nord woman seemed to have an allergy problem. Alim showed his teeth and froze after she sneezed, the entire cavern quiet for a few otherworldly seconds before the Falmer screeched and they scrambled to take their positions.

At Rhea's orders, Alim drew his sword and pressed his shoulder to the wall they had been using for cover. A cunning glimmer entered his eyes. "Ranged or sword?" He breathed, the question hanging in the air as he considered. "...Both, both is good."

Just as the others engaged the Falmer in a rush, the Spellsword stepped out of hiding and waded into the fray. His sword leading, he ducked a backward swing from one of his own companions, giving them a glance in the faint light before moving forward. "Rhea wasn't kidding!" Never halting his smooth stride, he found himself catching the attention of a charging Falmer. The corrupt Elf raising its iron and bone blade high, shrieking from three paces away.

It didn't make it past two paces before its head exploded in flame.

A burst of light flashed for a brief moment, the smell of charred meat in the air. The headless Falmer fell over, weapon falling from its nerveless fingers as smoke poured out of its neck like a chimney. Alim lowered his smoking hand, the fireball spell always coming in handy in a pinch. "You might say he was a bit too hot headed, eh?" He quipped with charm, turning to his left. His allies were apparently distracted with their fighting, unfortunately. The bastard's smile turned into a sour look when he realized no one had heard his amazing pun.

Perhaps it was for the best, because it was only the whistle in the air of a swinging blade that caused him to leap back from another Falmer's swipe. The blind creature not giving him room to breath, it slashed once more at Alim with a Dwarven short sword, outfitted with Dwarven bracers as well. Alim's blade rang as it met the Falmer's well-wrought weapon in a block. He countered with a riposte, but the Falmer managed to parry with its bracer. Alim could tell its block was just as much luck as skill, but that was something he could definitely appreciate.

"Not too bad," He replied casually. They traded another two blows before Alim slipped past his guard and ran him through, a small cut on his arm the only injury he had to show for it. He withdrew his sword from the Falmer corpse and spun, only to find there was no enemy in striking distance. He'd change that! If only his arm didn't feel fairly cold. It took him a few seconds to realize it felt slick as well, and he looked down to see the cut on his arm. It hadn't been long, but it was deeper than he thought.

"...Yeah that is bleeding."
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by LadyTabris
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Falmer were attacking. They would arrive any moment. Rhea was barking out orders, and it seemed like just about everyone knew what they were doing. A few clambered up onto the roof of the building while other spread out, giving each other space to wield weapons. Anifaire stumbled to the back of the group, eyes struggling to focus in the dim light. She could barely distinguish between her companions, eyes searching for Mortalmo briefly before the fight began. She was interrupted before she could identify anyone who might help her as the Falmer broke into the area and pandemonium ensued. The scent of Falmer permeated the air; Anifaire wrinkled her nose in disgust and briefly attempted to plug her nose with her hand before giving up the futile attempt. It was too strong. Never in her life had she smelled anything so revolting or seen a creature so disturbing.

She stepped back, feeling too close to the battle and yet there was no space for her to move back into. She wished it was lighter. The Altmer spun around, pulse rising, panic setting in, and stumbled face first into a Falmer. The scent was even stronger, and the creature moved unnaturally, with its feel slapping against the ground. It had once been an elf, and the idea was enough to turn Anifaire’s stomach, not that the smell of Falmer mixed with blood wasn’t doing it on its own. She froze stock still until the monster bashed her with his shield hard enough to knock her over. The woman tumbled to the ground with a thud, her shock dissipated, and she rolled out of the way of a sword thrust. In the midst of this, a clear thought fought its way to the forefront of her mind, the only clear thing in the confusion: I’ve ruined this dress. She didn’t stop there; no, she kept rolling until she hit the wall, which wasn’t far. Somewhere on her journey she’d sensed someone step over her and engage the Falmer, though she hadn’t been able to make out who had done it.

Anifaire propped herself up on her arms and turned so that her back was to the wall and she could see the battle. One more look at the Falmer was all it took to make her think of how close she’d been to that thing, the smell, the movement, the way its skin glistened oddly in what light there was as though it were slightly wet, and she turned over and vomited. She’d skipped breakfast and there was little in her stomach to come up, but some water and stomach acid spilled out on the floor. There was a second where she could breath as her body continued to retch without anything to throw up. Once she finished, she immediately rolled away from the vomit and stood up with a bit of help from the wall.

Light headed, she spun around and stepped hesitantly away from the wall, moving farther towards the building entrance despite the congregation of people and Falmer fighting there. She wanted fresh air and in her daze was able to pay little attention to her surroundings. She tripped on some rubble, crashing to the ground dangerously close to some fighting, and sprang to her feet in the fray of things. She turned around, looking to get some space, but was instead met by the lizard.

“Come! Anrenfar! Join your spell to mine!” Anifaire jolted herself as the other mage cast some flames, far more expertly than Anifaire knew she could manage. Regardless, being given a direct command – did she say Anrenfar? – gave the Altmer something to hold onto. Without even thinking, she joined the spell. The flames grew, and Anifaire let Judena lead them. Huh. Crisped Falmer wasn’t a scent Anifaire would’ve imagined smelling when she was back in Alinor, but it seemed it was preferable to the regular scent of Falmer by far. She hadn't imagined they would smell so atrocious, or move so unnaturally. The idea that these were once Snow Elves nauseated her.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Dervish
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A Light in the Dark


Things quieted down as the attackers’ numbers dwindled, the small group fighting in the dark fending off the Falmer in their own dwelling, their sight reduced sufficiently in the dark. Rhea’s sword was slick with blood, but she’d escaped from harm, in no small part thanks to the brave actions of Gaius and Balroth, who took down the shamans with great risk to themselves. She wiped the blood from her blade with a cloth, more of a rag really, and smiled as she looked around at her companions. They all fought well together, she thought. It would make for a good story later, when they were all safely away from their predicament. She’d look after them and see them through; they were here because of her, and Rhea was not the kind of person who let down people who put their trust in her. Her smile faded as she looked past the walls of their fortification, the lull in the battle allowing her mind to ponder about Daro’Vasora and Latro. It killed her not knowing what happened to them.

Focus, Rhea. You can’t falter in front of these people. You lose faith in yourself, they lose faith in each other. she thought, her smile returning as she turned to take a look at the wounded.

The last of the Falmer were exterminated with ease once the mages were dealt with accordingly. Brynja’s chest heaved with each breath, her face slick with sweat as she surveyed the scene. A massacre, truly. Perhaps the fact that their opponents were Falmer made the reality of that statement less daunting.

“Medic!” the gruff voice of Balroth echoed, catching both Brynja and Rhea’s attention.

Healing came as second nature for Brynja, she did it without so much as batting an eye. She glanced once over her shoulder at Rhea, who ushered her off with a wave of her hand, she would be fair well, the others… not so much.

“Help me get this pack off.” Brynja said, squatting down so that Rhea could reach her. With two hard tugs, Rhea had freed her rucksack and passed it to Brynja. She set off for Balroth and Gaius, gesturing for the Orsimer to lay the man on the ground. It took her mere seconds to realize what afflicted him. His skin was pale, and he was cold to the touch. Of course the gash on his forearm hinted at the underlying problem.

“Poison.” She murmured, more to herself than to Balroth. She had to act fast if Gaius were to survive the following moments.

“It is your lucky day, Gaius.” She lifted the flap on her rucksack, and discovered at once the source of the wetness she had experienced during the fall. A half dozen of ale bottles were shattered to pieces. She set her jaw firm, her teeth grinding against one another. She dug past the shards of glass for a wooden box buried at the bottom of the pouch. Fate was on their side today. Her potion bottles had survived the fall.

She uncorked one bottle, and pressed it to the man’s lips, forcing him to drink its contents. Once emptied, Brynja focused on cleaning and bandaging the wound. It would heal, and he would survive. She was certain.

When she had doctored Gaius to the best of her abilities, Brynja turned to her attention to Balroth, “Come find me if his condition worsens.”

With that, Brynja set off on her rounds, tending to all of those who had suffered even the smallest of wounds. She cornered Megana, who insisted she had nothing but a mere scratch, and Alim, and tended to their minor wounds when she spotted two figures approaching from the edges of the fray. She had just finished lecturing the two of them on the importance of keeping their wounds clean, because even the smallest wound could lead to an infection.

She rose to her feet, hand darting to the longsword buckled at her side. Her eyes narrowed in the darkness, straining to see who was headed their direction. There, she could make out the distinct features of a pointed ears… Daro’Vasora. And Latro! Brynja snatched the rucksack off the ground and cleared the distance in eight long strides. Her eyes swept over them, she knew from the way Latro moved he was gravely injured. She took him from the Khajiit and laid him flat on the ground. There would be no one to argue with her, not when someone’s life depended on it.

His abdominal region was saturated with blood. Even though he was naturally pale in complexion, he appeared even more pale, evidence of significant blood loss. Questions whirled around her head but she could not ask them now.

She dove into the ritual of healing him, cleaning the wound as best she could before she bound his abdomen tight, man-handling him as if he were a mere child. Brynja hovered over him for what felt like hours, she knew that the bandages wouldn’t suffice, and resorted to healing him by magic. It was her only chance. And Latro’s.

As she knelt beside him, Brynja’s hand emitted a golden light. A swirling orb of pale yellow and golden flecks danced in her palm before she guided the orb to him, the magicka enveloping him entirely. She envisioned the inner tissues and organs sealing shut, while the bleeding yielded.

After several minutes, Brynja closed her hand, causing the orb to disappear altogether. Though he was still pallid in color, Brynja could see the rise and fall of his chest had steadied. That’s when she turned her attention to Daro’Vasora. While she might not like the cat due to her sassy nature, it was her duty to heal and protect those in this company.

“What of you?” She asked.

The Khajiit had slumped against one of the half-collapsed walls, head rested backwards, a fatigue overtaking over as the adrenaline sapped from her body, a tremble crossing through her body as the fear had replaced what courage she had managed to muster finding her way to safety. She overturned her palms, crimson gashes bisecting across the width of her palms. “I almost didn’t stop it.” she replied quietly, not looking up to meet Brynja’s face. It was almost as if shame filled her, or at the very least the ordeal had diminished whatever smug defiance she clung to like a cloak. Daro’Vasora had survived all manner of confrontations and life-or-death situations and always came out with a grin, her blood pumping with excitement from outmatching her adversaries, but this… it was different. The cruel, twisted monsters that had haunted her imagination for as long as she could remember were somehow worse in flesh.

But she was alive, and she had faced her fear with what she considered ample courage, didn’t she? It gave her enough strength to regain her composure, somewhat. “I won’t be of much use if I’m not able to have steady hands. If it’s not too taxing on you, I’d be grateful for your assistance.” She looked at the others the Nord had tended to. She was not one that Daro’Vasora had pegged as a healer, but people were often surprising if you gave them the opportunity, she found. “I understand that it can be rather taxing.”

With a chorus of grunts following a steady rhythm of his crawling hands, Latro found himself beside the two others. Every other thought in his head begged him to rest while the others screamed at him to keep his thousand-pound eyelids open. “I have a healing poultice tucked in my bags somewhere, Vasora.” He breathed, managing perhaps the most tired and pitiful smile the Khajiit had ever seen. “If you’ll fetch it?”

He threw a pointing hand in the direction of his satchel which lay where Brynja had resorted to jostling him painfully. The Nords even took to the art of healing in a gruff and tough manner, he supposed. That might explain the abundance of scars on everyone in Skyrim, an errant comedic thought crossed his mind. Once she did and brought the bag back, he set himself to the near herculean task- for him in this current state- of rifling through his own possessions trying to find the sealed jars of healing poultices he kept on hand. “Your hands.” He offered his own out to her, tremors apparent in them. “It’s one way to say thank you.” Despite the tired smile and stalwart attitude to his own wounds, he of all people felt his slack tongue and slurred speech. Sleep, rest. He needed it. But his friend needed steady hands. And a thank you, at least in a form she might accept.

With an accepting nod, Daro’Vasora placed her quivering hands into Latro’s. Considering he had nearly been disemboweled and nearly looked like he was about to keel over, he remained courteous and concerned about others. It made her feel somewhat guilty about her usual selfish aims, but it could have also been her own vulnerabilities stemming from entirely too many brushes with death the past… gods, how long had it been? It felt like it had been a week since they’d been trapped down there. Perhaps this is what soldiers speak of, about forming bonds on the battlefield. she thought idly, her hands burning in pain as she tried to hold them straight. “Shouldn’t I be the one thanking you?” she asked, not forcing a smile as much as she thought it might. “You’re the one fixing my mangled hands and you got hurt pretty badly to make sure we both got back safely. I think we make an okay team, don’t you?”

“One for the songs, to be sure.” He chuckled and moved the thin stick he was applying the poultice with away from Vasora’s hands as he shook with a series of wheezing coughs. He took a moment to regain his composure and stifled a whimper before finishing off the last bit of work. “Your hands will heal, but I wouldn’t grip a weapon unless...”

Well, he had no taste for thinking like that now, even in the midst of this skirmish. “And maybe we should break even and thank each other then.” He smiled and leaned back to rest on his satchel. His stomach still held tenderness to it and he winced as he settled into his final position. “We shouldn’t be thinking of jumping back into the fray either way. I don’t plan to.”

Setting herself back, Daro’Vasora looked to the man with tired eyes. “C’mon. You can’t think that we’re avoiding anything at this point. I doubt the Falmer are going to screech at us,” her tone shifted to something much more raspy and shrill, “‘O great ones! You slain our overlord, please let us show you the escape and please accept this voucher for The Winking Skeever for free salmon bites and a tankard of ale for your troubles!’” suddenly, the Khajiit coughed into her arm due to the strain in her voice. “I’m just going to wrap up my hands and break every single fucking bone along the way if it means I get to breathe fresh air again.”

“I’ll watch you do it and sing a song about it after.” Latro smiled, submitting to his fluttering eyelids more and more as the time passed, “I’ll split the pay, of course. Seventy-thirty?”

“In my favour and you have a deal.” An impish grin crossed her feline features. “So, think we should tell Rhea about our discovery, or are we just cashing in on that one ourselves?”

“Who’d believe the tale but her?” He said, trying to shift into a more comfortable position and wincing when he found the opposite, “Who in Oblivion’s planes would believe half of this shite?”

A lazy gesture towards Judena was afforded. “Our token Argonian, for one. I’ve actually gone to her for assistance in identifying relics before. She may be missing half of her mind, but what’s left is actually quite… well, impressive, really. I may or may not have pointed Rhea in her direction when she was looking to put together the expedition.”

“All these amazing people and I was hired because I like to play with bugs, mud, and mold.” Latro chuckled, “I’m sure not many people mind my lute though. It passes the time.”

“I say we tell her. Maybe when we get back, we can find some way to get down here and secure the site. Or some of the others can, I can barely stand sitting at my workstation in the entrance chamber and I’ve had my fill of this place already.” He offered.

“For what it’s worth, I’ve always found bards to be some of the most invaluable people around. Music’s good for one’s soul, especially when the other offerings are Nords talking about how great their names and beards are. I’m in accord, I’d rather someone else comes down here to look at our find, because goblins, Draugr, and all sorts of other nasties are one thing, the Falmer… I try not to think about them. I’ll find them interesting from afar, kind of like how I’d rather count the teeth in a dragon’s skull when the rest of it isn’t alive.” Her head turned. “And speaking of Rhea…”

The Imperial came over to the pair, crouching beside them, a relieved and warm smile across her comely features, her hair somehow still managing to look well-groomed despite everyone looking like they had been through a half-dozen street brawls in a monsoon. “I’m so relieved to see you two made it back. I have to say, you frightened me a bit, but it looks like there was nothing to worry about. You both were chosen because you’re capable. How are you holding up?”

The Khajiit raised her hands, palms facing outwards, the paultice shimmering in the magelight floating above. “Unlike Latro, I didn’t come as close to seeing what I had for breakfast again, but not for a lack of the Falmer trying. He was the one that kept that enviable dream from becoming a reality. You all looked like you had the time of your lives without us.”

Rhea chuckled softly, a flighty feminine laugh. If Daro’Vasora didn’t know any better, she’d think Rhea was about as genuine as a high-class lady of the night in some of the higher-class neighbourhoods of the Imperial City. Physically, she was without obvious flaw and her voice and disposition were immaculate. It bothered the Khajiit to some degree, although she wouldn’t be so petty as to ever bring it up. She didn’t give much care to the standards of humans, but she knew how humans, and elves, treated those they perceived to be things of beauty. It just made Khajiit, Argonians, and Orsimer kin when it came to being taken seriously in anything that was considered socially acceptable.

It’s rather hard to get people to buy your relics when they think you stole them from someone who didn’t stop breathing six-hundred years ago. Well, if everyone’s going to think I’m a thief, might as well act… my, you’re being petty, aren’t you? Good. Means you haven’t lost focus.

“Those cuts look uncomfortable, but I can tell you’re in good hands. But yes, we had quite the skirmish on our hands, but as I’ve said before, we’ve a capable group among us.” Rhea said, placing a hand on Latro’s shoulder. “And how do you fare, Latro? You look like you’ve had quite the adventure.”

Latro looked up at her and smiled as genuine a smile as someone who was suffering from hypothermia, blood loss, and physical and mental exhaustion could. The only word that passed his lips was the only one that truly summed up how he felt, “Yes.” Still struggling to stay awake, he couldn’t know if what came out was legible, but in his head, his lips and tongue worked in perfect harmony to utter one last message in this wink of consciousness, “Vasora and I, we saw something down here… tablet… paint...”

“It’s much more interesting than he’s making it out to be.” Daro’Vasora interjected, shaking her head at the Breton’s state.

“Well, now you’ve got my interest.” Rhea grinned, rising up. “We are down here to explore, and it sounds like you two have gotten quite the lead on the rest of us. If you can find us the way, I’d be pleased to take it into account. Who knows, maybe it’ll lead us to an exit.” turning from the duo, she made an announcement. “I’ve made a decision, everyone. We’re going to rest for an hour, considering no one seems to be in the best of shape to continue on. I’ll keep watch, I just want you all ready to continue on and your wounds dressed. No sense in rushing along if we can’t fight. I’ll be up here if you need me.” Rhea said with confidence, as if they’d simply reached a plateau after a long hike. Climbing up the rubble to the half-section of intact roof, she was out of sight in moments, presumably watching diligently like a hawk for further attackers.

Daro’Vasora shuffled over until she was sitting next to Latro, leaning into him and using his shoulder as something to rest her head against. “Don’t get any ideas. You’re just less hard than the rock.” she said as she shut her eyes and let out a long sigh.




Some time later…

Up and rested, the group set out, surprisingly rejuvenated from their brief break. While the pain and wounds still persisted, it seemed like everyone was as good as they were going to get and now that everyone was still together, there was a much more positive energy than before where uncertainty and fear ruled. Even Daro’Vasora seemed to have bucked most of her fears, likely thanks to her proximity to the others and having woken up without being dragged off by monsters in the dark.

Faster than it felt heading the opposite direction, Daro’Vasora had found the dwellings her and Latro had discovered before and the paintings and carvings that she had deduced the Falmer made. “So, Rhea… feel strange looking at what might very well be the last coherent thoughts of the Snow Elves before they turned into savage beasts?” Daro’Vasora asked, a well-chewed bone from a bygone meal once again comfortably between her lips.

The Imperial was speechless, for a change. She traced her fingers along much like Daro’Vasora and Latro had done before. After a spell, she whispered. “This is… incredible. This must have been done while the Snow Elves were taken as slaves, forced to live and work down here. Someone didn’t want them to be forgotten.”

“A fate no one wants.” Latro said, still not exhausting his store of awe at the sight of the huge stone tablet, “The words of either peoples are lost on me, but the pictures are all too obvious,” he paused, eyes looking back at the drawing of a Dwemer ascending to a gate, “Or most of them are.”

“Indeed.” Rhea nodded while crossing her arms and tapping her chin with a finger as she looked at the tale unfolding before her on the stone, “Obscurity is a death all its own.”

“How macabre.” Latro muttered in response before he looked around at his surroundings, “Appropriately, though.”

Daro’Vasora was busy trying to air out her water-logged journal to no avail when suddenly, she stopped dead still, save for her ear pivoting. A look of grave concern crossed her features as she hastily shoved her journal back in her pack and headed past the wall to look towards where she thought she heard a familiar and ominous sound. “Everyone, quiet!” She hissed, staring into the dark, her fingers pressing hard against the stone for support.

Shortly, steady serious of thump. Thump. Thump was heard, followed by a bellowing groan that seemed to reverberate through the entire cave. The Khajiit slumped back against the wall, her teeth grinding against the bone, somehow audibly against the approaching sound. The cries and frantic footfalls of Falmer were heard once more, not far from where they were, and like a flash in the pan, a bright blinding light was seen a few hundred meters out, searching around like a spotlight. Sometimes as it passed, the silhouettes of scattering Falmer could be seen. “Everyone, listen.” Daro’Vasora said, looking everyone in the face with grave concern. “Latro and I saw whatever in Oblivion that thing is when we first got out of the water. I think it may be some Dwemer construct, but what’s important is that light is fatal. A Falmer got spotted by it and impaled, which I usually consider a good thing, but it also might mean any one of us.”

The groaning got closer, and vibrations could be felt; whatever the thing was, it was colossal and seemed to be moving along the ceiling. The light was starting to get worryingly close.

“There’s a larger structure up ahead, I don’t know if any of you can see it in the dark, but it’s about 300 paces ahead and whatever it is is where the path leads to. I think it has to be safer than being out in the open like this.”

As Latro’s eyes grew more focused in the dark, he indeed could see a towering structure looming in the darkness like the hazy suggestions of mountains in the distance. “I see it,” Latro said, looking back towards the groan, “I see it, let’s go.”

“Let’s.” Rhea’s voice had gotten to the two just before she did, laying a hand on their shoulders, “Lead the way, Daro’Vasora.”

With that, they took off at a steady pace, Latro cursing at himself for barely being able to keep up with his still-healing body. They ducked behind cover in a large gazebo-like structure just as the light swept over the crumbled pillar they hid behind. Latro was grateful that the pair chose catch their breaths here, as he didn’t know how much of this running his legs could take before they refused to carry his weight. Something wet dripped onto his forearm and his features betrayed confusion. Holding out his hand, another drip splashed his palm. It was slick, almost viscous. “L-Latro...” Rhea whispered so softly yet so terrified.

Latro looked up and his eyes met the snarling teeth and quivering lip of a Falmer. Another drip of saliva tapped his forehead and he swallowed nervously. Another of the booming groans resounded through the vast chamber they were in and the Falmer moved to clamber to where he and his two companions chose to hide. The Falmer’s hand grasped Rhea’s shoulder firmly making her yelp and immediately cover her mouth. Latro gripped and twisted one of the thing’s ears and hauled it down to them behind the downed pillar. Not thinking of any other options in the half-second he had, he shoved his other hand down the thing’s throat before it could screech in alarm. He brought a fist into the air and down to smash its throat closed and shoved it away from him.

Latro held his fists to his chest as they quivered. He took solace in one thing, he was nowhere near being used to taking the life from anything again. Rhea’s pointing finger and Vasora’s eyes flitting about the shadowed nooks and crannies of the rocks and structures extinguished that much too quick for his liking. “More.” Rhea breathed, exhaustion and frustration apparent in her voice.

The groaning was almost deafening at this point, vibrations filling everyone's’ chests as the thing loomed perilously close. Knowing that time might have been running short, they had to move. “Only thing I can think of that would keep the Falmer out here where they can be caught rather than inside that structure is there’s a locked door or a blockage. I need to get there so we have some hope of getting out of the open. Any volunteers to keep the drooling creeps off my back, or do I have to wander off on my lonesome?” Daro’Vasora asked, plenty of urgency in her tone.

"Do it." Rhea replied, having regained her composure after the shock of her unexpected Falmer encounter. "The rest of us need to clear a path and keep the Falmer away from us. Just stay out of the light!" she said, rising up from behind cover and moving past the next bit of rubble to one further along, being mindful of the searching light.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by MiddleEarthRoze
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MiddleEarthRoze The Ultimate Pupper

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Despite the amount of time he had travelled the continent of Tamriel, and the various diverse peoples and jobs he had encountered, Solandil had never found himself at such close proximity to a Dwemer ruin before. When picking up the contract, the prospect of journeying so deep into the belly of a Dwemer construct didn't worry him in the slightest, but now, the pale Altmer considered his task of guarding those with him considerably more daunting. And he hadn't even really entered the place yet. While waiting with the others for Rhea to arrive, the lifeless, wicked automatons scattered around the group did not go unnoticed. Razor sharp spikes and pincers attached to many of the pieces, both broken and complete, didn't leave much to the imagination for how painful an encounter could be with one of them. One of the alive ones, that is, if you could even consider such mechanical demons to be living. Sol's silvery eyes darted over each construct in an almost feverish manner, examining everything he could to try and see potential weaknesses. Possibly the joints? No matter the type of creature, joints were nearly always an effective target to incapacitate a foe. But Solandil knew not what other surprises could come in the Dwemer creations. Ranged attacks? Larger, heavier constructs that relied on crushing rather than cutting? Whatever the case, Solandil swiftly decided that listening to the scholars would be the best route in protecting them. Otherwise his role as guard would swiftly become nothing more than a burden.

Nodding stiffly in response to Rhea as she acknowledged him and the other guards, Sol followed the group onto the lift, pondering other potential threats as they descended. Falmer would be an obvious one, of course. Chaurus' always bred with Falmer, so they'd be another issue. Spiders were another potential threat. This train of thought continued as the group made their way through the structure, his inner pondering only faltering as he caught sight of the motionless Centurion and the sheer size of the thing. It would take more than a few swings of his sword to take out the joints on that behemoth, that was for sure. The next lift ride was spent thinking about possible ways of bringing a fully-functioning Centurion down, when yet again, he was interrupted. Stumbling as the lift lurched to a stop, Sol, glanced at Rhea and the other experts, wondering if this was to be expected. And then suddenly, the rushing sensation of falling; the lift floor actually disappeared for a moment. For just a second, Sol wondered if this was really how he was going to die - surrounded by strangers, in a dark hole nobody civilised has been in for centuries, and his corpse never likely to be found again.

The sudden crash was jarring at best, mildly painful at the worst. Solandil had never been the most graceful of individual's, and he had fallen in a most cumbersome and uncomfortable manner. Hissing as he hit the floor and a spike of pain shot along his cheek as it connected to the metal floor, Sol could only find solace that pain meant there was no death. The darkness however, was extremely daunting, and gave one a feeling of utter isolation, even in the presence of others. Eyes squinting in irritation as a magelight suddenly appeared, Sol got to his feet, briefly checking himself for injuries as the others did the same. Nothing serious, beyond a bruised cheekbone.

"Fine." He muttered gruffly in response to Rhea's question of everyone's wellbeing, straightening one of his gauntlets. His weapons and armour were undamaged for now, and by the looks of things, that was his best case scenario right now - from what he could tell, the group would be stuck down here for a long time. Falmer would not make things any easier, either.

As the group ventured forth, Sol once again silently cursed his lack of talent for magic. His vision was already poor, but night vision even moreso. In the dark, he may as well be as blind as the damned Falmer... knowing Magelight would have been severely helpful more than once in his life, and particularly so down in the depths of the earth. For now, he'd just have to stick with a mage. Hanging as closely to Rhea and her magelight as much as he could, both of his blades were drawn; pale skin looking bone white as the it stretched thinly across flexing knuckles, fingers gripping the hilt of his weapons far too tightly to be comfortable. With the ruckus the group (or, more fairly, the faulty lift) had made, it was bound to attracted the unwanted attention of Falmer. Sol was just waiting for them to appear. And as he slowly followed Rhea out into the large cavern of ruins, just that occurred.

Sol could only sigh in annoyance as the group below became known to him. "I hate being right." He thought, readying his swords and sprinting to the building Rhea had pointed out. It was a useful choke point, and even with less numbers than normal, it would to be advantageous for them. Hopefully, anyway. As the Falmer swiftly descended on them, even Sol's poor eyesight couldn't avoid noticing the ugliness of their foe. He had heard they were blind, but up close, it was as if they had no eyes whatsoever. Skin paler than his, and sharp, yellowed teeth that looked more akin to weapons than tools for masticating. Nose wrinkling in disgust, Sol's first foe fell with a squeal as his head was cleaved in two.

"These things do not deserve the title of Mer." He spat quietly, the rush of battle beginning to fire up his rage and adrenaline. Two more Falmer fell, the first's arms being lopped off in a swing of one blade and it's head removed by his other; the second found itself speared onto his right blade, twitching corpse pushed off with Sol's foot as he looked to find a new foe. With the shamans and archers being taken care of by the others, Sol could focus on those nearby - and something this pathetic was not going to kill him.

His fourth kill landed a lucky blow; coming from the side in a dark spot where the light did not reach, it had inadvertently taken advantage of a weakness it didn't know Sol had. Slashing down with it's blade, Sol exclaimed in pain as it caught the his arm, by some sheer luck finding the spot between his pauldrons and armour. The cut wasn't deep or debilitating, but it caused enough pain and anger for Sol to retaliate with fury, slicing the creature groin to head with such force that a portion of it's head flew off into the darkness somewhere. Breathing heavily, he glanced at his shoulder, being able to take a breather as the fighting tapered off. They could relax. For now.





As the group caught their breath, Solandil had kept to himself, wiping the foul blood of the Falmer from his weapons and armour in the dim light, wincing if he moved his shoulder too much. Sol had always had a hard time trusting people, and this instance was no different. Several minutes after receiving his wounds, he hadn't felt any giddiness or fever, which meant poison had been highly unlikely. With no healing magic of his own, and unwilling to ask Brynja or any others for aid, Solandil had simply ignored the throbbing pain in his shoulder - he had no doubt there'd be another fight soon enough, and adrenaline did wonders for washing away the pain. He certainly wasn't going to waste one of his potions on something this minor, that was for sure.

Listening quietly as the group moved on, Sol's ears pricked up as he heard the term "Snow Elf". It was a term he'd heard plenty of times, though usually by way of an insult directed at him. It was the lesser known name of the Falmer... although, one could consider the two terms to belong to different races now. The Snow Elves were beautiful, while the Falmer were abhorrent. The Snow Elves were civilised, intelligent... the Falmer being the total opposite. As he trudged on, Solandil bitterly thought once again how awful the Falmer were. They should be wiped out - and as the group was suddenly told to shush, he realised that perhaps he wasn't the only one with that idea. There on the ceiling, what could only have belonged to the Dwemer, seemed insistent on wiping out any trespassers. Normally, that would mean Falmer, and Sol couldn't complain. Unfortunately, he doubted that even the Dwemer could create something sentient enough to discern monster from person. Listening as the others discussed their options, Sol considered the Khajiit for a moment before stepping forwards quietly.

"I can go with you. I'm quieter than I look, though I'll understand if you want someone a bit more...subtle, to accompany you." He whispered, glancing up nervously as the spotlight shone again. Even with his eyesight, the dark seemed much safer than being in the spotlight of that thing.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Greenie
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Greenie Heaven don't play like violins

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Her wound really wasn't such a big deal, but Meg had appreciated the scolding Brynja had given with good humour, finding both amusement and an odd sense of comfort in the somewhat mothering position the Nord warrior seemed to have taken. She had to admit there was truth to the woman's words as well; a mere scratch could easily fester and cause a much bigger and many times deadlier problem later. Her amusement turned to worry in an instance when Brynja pulled out her sword; what had she seen?

Relief was of two kinds when what Brynja had spotted turned out to be none other than Daro'Vasora and Latro. Meg let out held breath slowly before allowing herself to settle down on the ground. It was lovely to know it wasn't any more rotten falmer, but even better was to see that the two were alive and well... relatively. Her sharp eyes could see that Latro was not faring well at all. Everything told her to run ahead and try to do something, but the younger Nord stayed where she was. Brynja was there and there was no need for somebody who would be more trouble than not.

It was worrisome to be sure, but when it was clear the Breton bard was no longer lingering at death's door, Meg finally allowed herself to relax completely. She pulled a canteen from her satchel and took a gulp of water before corking it, though she didn't put it away, suspecting she'll want some more before long. Her eyes returned to the Khajiit and the bard; this time she saw Rhea with them. Vaguely wondering what they were talking about, she decided she may as well have some shut-eye whilst the others were getting themselves together.

By the time they were ready to start once more, Meg was eager and ready to get going. Her nap hadn't been quite as restful as she may have hoped; it was a little amazing and daunting how five minutes was enough time to relive everything you just went through in a dream. She was sure she wasn't the only one who would be seeing falmer in their dreams. Still, at least her body had rested, if not her mind. Bow gripped loosely in her hand, she followed along with the others. Apparently the two latecomers had discovered some sort of paintings and carvings which Rhea and some others seemed to find interesting.

Meg wasn't really that sort of person though. She liked things she could pick up, things that were tangible and obtainable, things she could sell. Paintings and scratches on the wall weren't really what she had in mind when she thought of 'treasure hunting'. As for history, while it had its uses in lessons and stories and what not, was never one of her main interests.

Before she could think any more on the subject, her half-thoughts were broken by Daro'Vasora. She had already been silent, but now Meg was extra vigilant as well, eyes narrowed as she wondered what the matter was. The thumping sounds and the subsequent groan told her what, but it was the falmer cries that caused a sinking feeling in her, and the flash of light that caused her to ever so slightly cringe.

What in Ysmir's name?!

She turned her attention back to Daro'Vasora, noting the look of concern on the feline's face. Her mouth seemed to dry up and she visibly swallowed as she listened to the Khajiit's cautioning words. Whatever that light was, it made falmer sound like child's play in comparison. The thought of shelter from impending death sounded more than reasonable to Meg, and so she hastily followed, her grip on her bow now much more earnest than before. She very much doubted arrows would do anything to light or whatever was emitting it, but there was some comfort in holding on to a weapon. She did wish she had picked up more loose arrows before they left their resting spot; her quiver, whilst not empty, could certainly use some more.

Barely having time to register Latro killing the falmer with his bare fists, a rather impressive feat, Meg grabbed the hilt of her sword, eyes flitting about to see if there were more, which apparently there were. Cussing under her breath, she let go of her sword and instead took hold of an arrow. She glanced at Sol volunteering to head out with Daro'Vasora before nodding and raising her bow.

"I'll come along as well."
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by LadyTabris
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LadyTabris kaiserin

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Once the flames faded and the stream of Falmer dried up, it seemed as though everyone else went about business as usual. Anifaire’s companions grouped together, getting patched up and organized. Meanwhile, the Altmer trailed back into a darker corner of the room. She was unharmed save for superficial wounds, luckily, though she’d taken much more of a mental toll than the others. The stench of blood and death saturated her senses; she bent down over a bit of rubble and tried to swallow the bile rising in her throat. Ultimately, she failed, and found herself retching up a few mouthfuls of bile onto the rocks. She glanced up at the others, glad to see that no one had noticed. Truly, her companions seemed capable, and huddled in that corner, Anifaire knew she was out of her depth. One of them had already saved her.

Simply, she didn’t want everybody – Rhea especially – to see her emptying her stomach on the ground. Once she’d gotten herself under control again, she trailed back over to the group, keeping to the outskirts still. While they recovered, she retreated inwards, shocked at the events of the day. Had it only been a day? It felt like a year.

Later…

It wasn’t until they came upon the ruined dwellings that some life returned to Anifaire. Her passion returned to her, the reason she’d come evident. The cat, Rhea, and the bard approached the wall. Anifaire trailed along behind, entranced by the words and pictures. She stopped a few feet away from the others, ignoring them in favour of trying an at-a-glance translation of some of the phrases. She picked up a few words in the dim light, but doing this first-hand wasn’t something she was accustomed to, and the script was messier than the altered, scholarly copies she was accustomed to. The high elf felt around in her pockets, wishing she could take a rubbing for later, when they heard the thumps.

Terror gripped her. Not again, no. She didn’t want to go through that again. She wasn’t a fighter. Instinctively, she returned to the group. Strength in numbers. A light erupted in the room, flickering across the ground and revealing glimpses of Falmer as it did. She followed the group like a stray dog, eyes glazed. Reflexively, she attempted to stay near the middle of the group. There were pros to being with companions who were competent.
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With what little time Rhea granted for rest, Brynja settled onto the ground, her sword resting atop her knees. Her joints ached. She felt twice her age, and her towering height didn’t help. A sip of ale would taste great now. Gods be damned. She had crushed the last bit of her alcohol during the fall. At least her pants were dry.

Her gaze swept over the front of her armor, flecks of blood adorned her armor like tiny rubies. The nauseating smell of death did not affect her as much as it once did. That didn’t mean that the stench in the air wasn’t foul. She could hear someone emptying their stomach not too far away.
It wasn’t before long when Rhea gave the command to get on their feet and keep moving. Now that Vasora and Latro were back, Rhea put them at the front. Turned out, Khajiit’s could see better in the dark. Brynja fell into the rear of the group, she didn’t want any of those who were injured to be afflicted with a surprise attack.

It appeared, that the direction they were being led, was the area that Vasora and Latro had encountered during their separation from the group. For Brynja, the crumbling structures scattered in the darkness, were foreign silhouettes of a society unknown to those who cohabited on the earth above. A shiver crept up her spine. What a miserable way to die. Even if the Falmer were now the scum of the underworld, at one point they were sentient beings just like those in her company. And they were forced below the surface of the world, forced away from the light of day, forced away from the sweet scent of fresh air, forced away from everything they knew.

“Everyone, quiet!” Daro’Vasora’s voice cut through the air, a sharp hiss that caught her attention.

Thump. Thump. THUMP.

‘What in the-’ A deep, reverberating groan echoed throughout the cavern. She could feel the vibrations rattling her armor. Her eyes widened as she gazed on at Daro’Vasora, then it came. At first, it sounded like a baby crying, except there was more than one baby. And it wasn’t a baby. The cries belonged to Falmer. And while her ears might not be as sharp as the Khajiit before her, she could hear the approaching set of footfalls. Wet leather slapping against cold stone. She reached for her longsword, drawing it out from her back.

Again, the cries of the Falmer were heard, were they headed their direction? The group wasn’t in the position to take on so many Falmer. She swore. A brilliant flash of light lit up the entire cavern, and for a few seconds, Brynja was left in a dazed state, trying to blink away the white dots filling her vision.

“Everyone listen.”, Vasora said, where she proceeded to relay grave information on the source behind the light, and vibrations. Some type of Dwemer mechanism that was capable of impaling anyone caught in its light. For fucks sake.

Again. Thump. Thump. THUMP. Brynja’s heart pounded like a war drum, matching each of the thumps. Her hands felt slick against the leather wrapped pommel. If it weren’t for Vasora’s keen eyes, they would be stuck out in the open. Yet, the entire group took refuge under a large gazebo-like structure. The beam of light flashed again, sweeping across the chamber. It reminded her of a lighthouse. One that impaled beings under its vicious ray of light.

The decision was made, she didn’t care. She wanted to live. And living meant getting the group to wherever this locked door was, without anyone perishing. She decided at once, she would bring up the rear, and fend off any attacks by the Falmer, should the creatures become desperate.

“I’ve got the rear!” She called, the task at hand lent her the strength she needed to override her fear. Gods, a swig of brandy would help steady her nerves. But if fishes were wishes, the sea would be empty. That’s what her father always said.
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