Part 7 - Dwarven Ruins

Vivec was, as expected, slowly getting weaker. Archcanon Tarvus warned me against working with that Ashlander, Seryn, who'd undoubtedly be in league with her brother, but otherwise had no advice. I decided to go back to Barilzar, who at least had some insight into the staff's origin, and its original purpose.

We took the wayshrine to Molag Mar, and set out on foot towards the tower. It wasn't worth taking the guars for such a short trip, and we'd have to dismount frequently to cross the water. The shortest route hopped from island to island in the shallow lagoons, and although you rarely needed to swim, you wouldn't want to ride across the slippery rocks. Getting your feet wet was better than getting thrown off your guar.

It wasn't easy to keep your balance on foot, either, and Seryn and I frequently had to hold on to each other to avoid falling over. Perhaps not quite as frequently as we did, but often enough. And by the time we walked up the path from the shore to the tower, she had her arm around my waist, even though she didn't need the support any more.

Actually she did, because she wanted to empty the water out of her shoes. "These were made for the Ashlands, not the swamps," she pointed out. But after they were drained, the arm went back around me.

It was a pity that the entrance to the tower was so close to the bank. She hung back as I knocked on the door to announce our presence. Instead of Barilzar's voice in return, I could hear a creature's alarm cry, and it didn't sound like any of Vvardenfell's native ones. When we entered to find out, we discovered daedra had chased Barilzar out of the main room, and they were trying to break down the door to the basement.

"I'll hold them, you hit them," I called to Seryn. She was armed with a staff, and I had a sword and shield, so it made sense for me to get in close, while she attacked from a distance. "And don't worry about whether I'm in the area of your spells."

I quickly disposed of the skaafin, but something summoned a hunger as soon as I did so. That took us a bit more effort to overcome, believe me. Nothing replaced that, so I was able to get Barilzar to let us in to his hiding place.

I told the mage about locating Sotha Sil's staff, but that I couldn't get it back while Chodola was using it. We'd need to disable it before I could do that.

"A tonal inverter should counter it. Uses sound waves to temporarily disrupt the flow of energy," he replied.

"Do you have a tonal inverter?" I asked.

"No, I just invented it. And I'll need the proper components to make one. My hirelings should have kept me stocked up with them, but I haven't seen them for a while. Here's a list of what I'll need. You can head out the back door and ask them to direct you to these common Dwarven components."

"So I need to find your hirelings first? Where will they be?"

"Molag Mar, probably. And don't worry about more daedra getting in. Now I know they're trying that, I can take steps to prevent it happening again."

It was getting dark when we got back to Molag Mar, and I didn't want to travel at night, especially as I had enough trouble riding a guar when I could see where we were going.

"I'll look for the hirelings," I told Seryn. "You go get us rooms at the Penitent Pilgrim Inn, and I'll join you there soon.

Snorfin was fishing off the docks. He was happy to tell me where I could find a Dwarven sonance generator, but advised me not to go there. "The automata there are haunted. They're bad enough normally, but with the ghosts in them, they're even worse! I certainly won't be going back." Arkngthunch-Sturdumz was all the way up north, at the other end of the island, too.

The other two hirelings were both at the Inn. I found Leona Blaso just outside, and she directed me to Nchuleft ruins for the manual clockwork shaft. "You'll be lucky to get in and out before it collapses on you. I'm certainly not risking it."

Volrina Quarra was sitting in the lounge. She knew where I could get the inversion conduit, as she'd seen one in Galon Daeus, right before the vampires chased her out. "If you can wipe them out, it would be revenge for my brother. The Berne Clan were the same ones that killed him."

Seryn had got us a room. Singular. Whether they were full, or this was her decision, she didn't say, and I didn't ask.

In the morning, we looked up the Dwarven ruins on the map, and planned our journey. Where we'd take the wayshrines, and where we'd need the guars. What to pack, what to leave behind. Everything but last night, and the new status of our relationship.

It wasn't until we were in sight of the first ruin that she brought it up. Perhaps it was the imminent danger we were just about to face together that triggered it.

"You know, I'm not sure what are my feelings for you, and what are Azura's. After she spoke to you through me, I've had the impression that she never left. At least not completely. Do you know what I mean?"

Having Azura always in the back of my mind was now something else we had in common.

"Yes, I suspect she's nudging you in the direction she wants you to go, but only because you're already leaning that way. I know she appreciates what I do for her, and perhaps you do, too."

Before she could think that through too completely, I carried on.

"It's in everyone's interest. Azura wants an end to the threat to Vvardenfell that Vivec's weakness presents. So she needs us to work closely together. With your brother on a path to self-destruction, you need my support, and if we come to a confrontation, I'll need you on my side, not his. And finally, Chodola needs me to be sympathetic to him, if only because you're his sister."

"Do you really think he'll live?" Seryn pleaded.

"It depends a lot on whether he has any choice in the matter. I believe that one reason Azura chose to speak through you, instead of directly to me, was that she wanted you to understand what it's like to be controlled by a Daedric Prince."

"You think that might have happened to Chodola? And by which one?"

"Maybe, and the main suspect is Clavicus Vile. He may have just made some bargain with him, and Vile always cheats with those. But we do have consider the alternatives."

We entered Galom Daeus with the same combat plan we'd used against the daedra at Barilzar's tower. I'd get any adversary's attention up close with my sword and shield, and Seryn would use her staff from a safe distance behind me. We'd gone through Vivec City to get here, and I'd taken the opporunity to upgrade my gear as much as I could. I felt reasonably confident we'd do better together than Volrina had managed alone.

And we got more help from the Dwarven constructs than she had. The last two of the vampires died when the spider they'd been working on electrocuted them as it fell apart. In the wreckage of the spider, I found a control rod, and, prompted by Azura, tried using it on another inactivated spider nearby. It got up, ran over to a warded chest nearby, and fell apart just as it reached it.

I tried again with another of the spiders, and this one turned hostile. Fortunately, it was already damaged, so it didn't give us much trouble. "Third time lucky?" I asked, pointing the rod at what appeared to be the only remaining inactivated spider.

This one survived long enough to remove the ward from the chest, and I was able to open it, and retrieve the inversion conduit we'd come for. Leaving the ruin was uneventful, and we set off for Nchuleft.