Part 9 - Sunna'rah

"My protective shield! What have you done? I'll destroy all of you for this!" he shouted, drawing his sword. Of course, since he normally wielded the staff in the other hand, he had no shield. My advantage, and one I'd make sure he understood.

I fended off his first wild attack easily with my shield, and put a nick in his other arm with my own sword. Not a major wound, but enough to get his attention.

"You're bleeding, Chodala. Is that how a Nerevarine fights? Or should you be giving up that idea by now?"

He quickly cast a healing spell, something he could manage with his free hand. "A Nerevarine overcomes such set-backs easily." And then he attacked again.

I'm sure he believed that I'd spent so much of my training on defence that I didn't have an attack worth worrying about. That was quite a valid tactic for people who always fought as part of a squad, where one could provide all the defence, and others the offense. But I was on my own more often here, and I'd got a few moves he wouldn't be expecting.

I didn't just block this time, but bashed with the shield, to send him staggering back. "Yield, Chodola, you can't win this."

"The Nerevarine can always find a way to win," he retorted. Nothing was going to make him change his mind, especially the facts.

Of course, every time I used my shield to stop one of his blows, I could also use my sword with the other hand, and I did. Finally he spent all his remaining energy in one great leap, holding his sword with both hands to try and force it through my defence. He landed on the point of my sword.

"Oh, brother, why did it have to come to this?". She could see that Chodala wan't going to be healing that wound. "Azura, we've defeated the false Nerevarine, just as you commanded."

She turned to me. "That was ... harder than I expected. Chodala was so angry ... so full of rage. Not like himself at all. Still, I can't believe I helped kill my own brother."

"We did what was necessary."

"I know that! It was either Chodala or the lives of hundreds of Dunmer, all because he convinced himself he was the Nerevarine. Or someone convinced him. Either way, my brother is dead and the Cavern of the Incarnate has another resident."

"We should return to Vivec City"

"You go. Take Sunna'rah and I'll meet you back in Vivec City. Your Archcanon made it quite clear that the staff was the key to saving Vivec. I need to take care of my brother's remains. Then we'll be done here."

Archcanon Tarvus was hovering around the motionless figure of Vivec, who was lying on his bed, instead of floating above it. "Do you have the staff? Lord Vivec has collapsed, we must return his energies immediately, or he may not last!"

He directed me to plant the staff in a socket in the floor. The Archcanon walked over to it, and turned it back on. Before I could ask how he knew how to do that, energy started to stream from the staff to the recumbent Vivec, in a golden beam of light.

But a few seconds later, the beam started to turn green, and Vivec was obviously in some pain, writhing on his bed. Tarvus rubbed his hands gleefully. "Perfect! It's working just as I expected."

Seryn came running in, carrying the tonal inverter that I'd forgotten to bring with me. "What are you doing? It's killing him!"

Tarvus retorted "What did you expect? That's the point of all this."

Seryn started up the tonal inverter, and I guided its output to shut down the staff again, just like we had with Chodala. But this time, it seemed to affect more than just the staff. Archcanon Tarvus seemed to be melting, growing horns, looking more and more like a skaafin.

A final burst of energy from the staff as it shut down knocked me backwards, and the creature who had been Tarvus grabbed it. A projection of a clockwork hemisphere appeared near the staff.

"You're too late! I see it now, the Clockwork City! Look what Barbas has found for you, Master!"

He then disappeared, taking the staff with him.

Vivec remained motionless on his bed, but a ghostly projection rose and spoke to us.

"Barbas ... pet hound of the Prince of Bargains. I should have known. Talk to the Ashlander while I ... compose myself."

Seryn told me that Azura had warned her about what was going on in the palace, and she had run all the way here. Barbas was familar to her, by name at least, and it all fit in with Clavicus Vile's influence on her brother.

Vivec's projection agreed. "It was all part of an elaborate plan. But they weren't trying to kill me, rather to find the location of Sotha Sil's Clockwork City. They needed Tribunal enrgy to do that, and I was just the easiest target."

Just then, Canon Llevule came in looking for the Archcanon. He took in the scene, and was duly horrified. "Lord Vivec looks terrible! Where's Archcanon Tarvus? He ususually knows what to do."

We explained about Tarvus being Barbas, at least recently. We wouldn't get any help from that source any more.

"We need to give energy back to Lord Vivec," Seryn reasoned. "But how?"

"A blessing stone!" Llevule exclaimed. "Some of Lord Vivec's divine energy is in each one. Go find the Overseer, and retrieve one of the stones fro the construction."

I'd done that before, but this time was going to be a bit harder. With Vivec being weakened, the moonlet hovering over the city was starting to fall apart, and flaming rocks were falling all around. When I reached the construction site, I was told that the Overseer had gone in to try and chase looters out of the area.

I found her, and sent her back out while I fetched the blessing stone. I had to deal with several looters myself, not to mention dodging the barrage of falling debris.

The blessing stone's meagre energy was enough to stabilise Vivec, but no more. The rain of rocks ceased, but he remained flat on his back on the bed.

Seryn and I left Canon Llevule to look after him, while we went to the Archcanon's office to look for any clues as to where Barbas might have taken the staff.

Azura decided to intervene, taking over Seryn's body to speak to me again. She didn't know how to find the Clockwork City, but she knew who to ask. And that was why she was using Seryn, as she needed her to cast a spell. A portal opened, and Barilzar emerged.

"Interesting. Summoned by a Daedric Prince and her mortal mouthpiece. I was right in the middle of a crucial experiment, but I suppose I can spare a few clicks of the cogs for Azura and my erstwhile assistant."

I told him why he was needed. It wasn't the tonal inverter, which had worked exactly as it should, but the location of the Clockwork City. He'd been there, hadn't he?

"No, not going to happen. No offense to the Lady of Twilight, but Sotha Sil was quite adamant about keeping the place hidden and warded against the Daedra.

Oh, wait. Pistons fall into place. This concerns Sunna'rah and Lord Vivec, I presume?"

"And Barbas, who now has the staff," I told him.

"Barbas? Another Daedra. Thinking ... thinking.

So Sotha Sil's forgotten tool was modified to steal Vivec's energy, which in turn energized the Clockwork City. Lit it up like the top of Red Mountain. Even Vile's dog would be able to see that!"

"Can you get me to the Clockwork City or not?" I interrupted.

"What is Barbas after? Wait, gears click into place ... the reservoir! You need to reach the reservoir that contains Vivec's stolen energy before Barbas!

I can get us to the entrance in Seht's Vault, beneath the Mournhold temple. Ready to go?"

"We're ready," I told him.

"I only have enough power to get myself and one other person inside. One of you will have to stay behind," Barilzar explained.

"You go," Seryn told me, or was it still Azura?