Medora - part II

"Apart from a bit of company, what brings you from your tower now?" Taminwe asked.

"That warning from the telepathic wizard about the Thalmor. I don't think they could do anything to the Adamantine Tower. It's not just a building; there's a core of pure Adamantium that can't be natural, and Direnni tower was built around it. It's said to be older than Nirn itself. But that might not stop them trying anyway. I need to be prepared, and my best defenses, apart from my undead armies, are my magical skills."

"I've heard of some major advances in alchemy by a Dunmer somewhere in Cyrodiil. I don't know her name, but she's apparently making all sorts of new potions from Hist Sap. I'd like to track her down and see if I can share her results."

Clark knew about those potions. He'd been among the first to try some of them. "I think I know who you mean, and where to find her. Her name is Miranu Hlaalu, and she has a laboratory in an old fort near Lake Rumare."

"Have you met her?" Medora asked, 'Because if you have, we could try and contact her together."

"Why don't you and Medora make use of some of her potion #9, and see if that helps?" Tanimwe asked, with an innocent look that didn't fool Clark at all.

Medora looked at Taminwe with a rather puzzled expression, but that quickly changed as she read what Taminwe was thinking. Her mind was a jumble of emotions as she started to understand what Taminwe had just suggested, and Clark was getting some of it, even though she wasn't trying to send.

Medora declined the offer (reluctantly, Clark thought) and declared that she was confident they'd be able to contact Miranu anyway. "I will hold your hand, though, and yours, Taminwe. That should be all the contact we need for this."

Miranu was definitely not telepathic, and they were only able to leave her with a vague feeling that somebody wanted to visit. She'd probably dismiss it as a dream, anyway. Clark repeated Taminwe's offer, but Medora still didn't think it would be benficial. "It's Miranu that needs the help, not me."

"Well, we'll just have to travel over there and knock on the door," Clark said. "It's not far, although we do have to go around the lake to get there."

"Can you go first, and ask her if it's all right? She knows you, but she might react badly to a stranger. Once you're there, I can just teleport myself to you if she's agreeable."

Clark thought that was a bit of a strange request, but Medora certainly wasn't dressed for overland travel. He was sure he could borrow a cloak to fit her, but whatever, he could do as she asked.

Miranu was quite pleased to see him again, and Boo greeted him as an old friend. He was grateful for the books that Clark had sent them, as he was eager to learn. Miranu wasn't too keen on him going into the City to buy or borrow books; she preferred him to stay home with her.

Clark was slightly concerned that Miranu wouldn't welcome another woman into her laboratory, but the prospect of an alchemist of her own stature to talk to tipped the scales the right way. She'd be glad to work with one of the Direnni clan. They wrote the history of alchemy, after all.

He heard a grateful sigh of relief in his mind when Miranu said that. The swirling column of purple mist appeared again, and Medora emerged. Clark made the introductions, and went back outside to see what Boo had been making at his forge.

When he entered the hall again, the two women were busily opening barrels and hunting for something. "I don't think I have any left," Miranu was saying.

"Any of what?" Clark asked.

"Void essence," Medora told him. "It's a rare ingredient, and I'm not at all sure where it comes from. The merchants that sail into the Illiac Bay would bring it from somewhere overseas, but you certainly couldn't find it locally. I don't even know if it's of plant or animal origin, just its alchemical properties."

"That would be because it's from Sheogorath's realm," Clark responded. "I read about it in a book the Champion brought back from the Shivering Isles. He left his copy at Gweden Farm."

He didn't recall much of what he'd read in it, because Alchemy wasn't really his interest, but he did remember that void essence came from flesh atronachs, and apparently they were fairly hard to kill. The book had mentioned a few alternatives, some of which came from plants.

Miranu tried to explain that those other ingredients would work in some recipes, but not the one that she was trying to use. "Just trust me. I need void essence in particular. Ten samples of it. But if you want to bring those others, too, I can put them to good use."

He didn't recall volunteering to fetch anything, but apparently both the women were now expecting him to go to the Shivering Isles and get it for them.

His first thought was to ask the sisters to come and help, but when he tried to contact them through the flash signaller at the Red Dragon Club, he got no reply from Arborwatch. He tried Rosethorn Hall next, and Eyja responded that they'd told her they were going to Weatherleah. Apparently they'd become quite fond of the Jemane brothers, and were spending a lot of their time with them.

Tsarrina was at the Club, doing the accounting, and she suggested he ask Nelrene to go with him. "That one knows the Isles, of course, and she's not worried about going back now the Champion's the Madgod. This one can spare her for a few days."

"Oh, and if Miranu's got any new potions that are anything like that #9, you will try to get some for us, won't you?" Clark wasn't sure if all the teeth in Tsarrina's smile were an encouragement or a threat, but he agreed anyway.

Nelrene was quite pleased with the idea of taking a break from Gweden. She may have done the same palace guard job for millenia, but escorting Clark would be different. And she had to admit that she put on her uniform every now and then, for nostalgic reasons. It just felt good to wear it, which was probably the will of Sheogorath.

Relmyna Verenim's old ruin at Xaselm would be a good place to find flesh atronachs. It wasn't too far from the Gates out of the Fringe, and if you went in the main door, at the other end from Relmyna's laboratory, you wouldn't disturb her. There were a few other ruins to try, and the Zealots often had flesh atronachs in tow. Of course, they'd summon them, as well, and you wouldn't get any void essence from a summoned creature.

Nelrene didn't seem at all disturbed by the thought of battling the atronachs, so Clark began to feel a bit easier about the trip.

"She's immortal, so of course she had nothing to worry about," Clark reminded himself as he hobbled back around the Red Road. He'd spent most of his time in the Isles picking himself up off the ground and guzzling health potions. Although his outfit reflected and absorbed spells, it didn't do much against physical damage, and those atronachs had battered his shield into a shapeless lump of twisted metal. They seemed to know he was weaker than Nelrene, and always picked on him.

But they'd got the void essence. Ten samples exactly, as he had no intention of fighting any more of them than he had to.

He did have the rest of his pack filled with miscellaneous other ingredients. Nelrene had picked him out what she considered a good sampling of items: swamp tentacle, congealed putrescence, water root pod pits, blister pod caps. He'd made a point of re-entering the Fringe through the Mania gate, so he could balance that with a few things from that half: alocasia, red kelp bladder and worm's head. Miranu should be pleased.

He'd left Nelrene in the Isles. She had stayed on a day or two visiting Mania. In all the time she'd spent in the Isles, that side of the map had been somewhere a Mazken just didn't go. But there was a different Madgod now, and the rules had changed. She felt like exploiting that, and seeing a bit more of her world.

Clark upended his pack onto one of the benches, and sorted out the ten samples of void essence from the rest of the ingredients. Medora was excitedly picking up the strange new things he'd brought. She found the swamp tentacle especially interesting, and he caught a few stray thoughts about non-alchemical uses.

That seemed to jog her memory about something she wanted to discuss with him. While Miranu was busy cataloging the new ingredients, and storing them away in barrels, Medora drew him aside and whispered. "Do you know she's sleeping with that minotaur? I thought he was just a pet when I first arrived, but it's a lot more than that!"

Clark was shocked. Not about Miranu and Boo, of course, but that Medora would react that way. "What's the problem? You wouldn't think twice if he were a Khajiit or an Argonian."

"No, but they're intelligent races, like us. It's not right to do it with an animal."

"Have you talked to Boo? He's a lot more intelligent than most humans I know!"

"Well, no," Medora admitted. "He goes outside almost as soon as he wakes each day, and when he comes back in in the evening, he spends all his time with Miranu in the cave. I didn't even know he could talk, until you told me."

"And you haven't been out to his forge to watch him there? If you saw his smithing skills, you'd have no doubt of his intelligence."

"I don't go outside. I can't. The curse Nulfaga put on me makes me panic when I'm outside. That's how she kept me shut up in Direnni Tower all those years."

Now it made sense why Medora teleported everywhere. Clark had been told that Nulfaga had lifted the curse when Lysandus' ghost had been finally laid to rest, but Medora didn't seem to believe that. She still felt the same way when she looked out of an open door, and stepping over the threshhold would have been unthinkable.

She wasn't deliberately telling him that, but the fear flooded out of her mind in a torrent she couldn't control. He wasn't a strong telepath, but he didn't need to be.

"I'm hoping that Miranu and I can make a potion to lift the curse," she told him. "Nothing I've been able to produce has made any difference. Whatever spell I cast, or potion I drink, I feel the same after as I did before."

Clark left the two alchemists grinding ingredients and stirring mixtures, and returned on foot to the city. He didn't think there was any curse on Medora that wasn't of her own making, but he'd need help figuring out what to do.

Maybe Miranu could help her make a potion that was powerful enough to overcome her phobia, but he thought it unlikely. Medora was enough of a sorceress to counteract the effects of any potion that interfered with her view of what was "normal'. And her fear of the outdoors had become that.

Nothing is quite like trying to change a woman's mind.