Nocturnal - Part V

On the other side, Minx let go of Clark's hand to cast her invisibity spell, but he stopped her. "Wait a moment. Once you're invisible, and I am too, we could get separated, and not know it. Keep hold of my hand and try the spell. If it still works, we'll have less of a problem staying in contact."

She did, and they both became invisible. Clark wasn't expecting that, but it was a bonus if either of them could cast for the two. But now letting go of his hand dispelled the invisibility. It seemed that you didn't get something for nothing, even with magic.

There was only one way they could go from the entrance, so they set off along the path. A daedroth stood near a bend up ahead of them, but the path looked wide enough there to pass without any issue. Clark renewed their invisibility while they were still far enough away that the creature couldn't see him cast.

It seemed to him that he hadn't breathed until they were as far away on the far side of the daedroth. It had been completely unaware of their passage, but the same would not be true of the next obstacle. A fire tower loomed over the edge of the path, a short way ahead of them.

"When the top starts to spin, it's about to shoot a fireball at us," he told Minx. "As soon as it does we go left, and the fireball should miss. Then we run like crazy to get out of range. It takes a few seconds for it to recharge, and we can be beyond it before that happens."

"Left, right," Minx responded. "I mean, OK, left"

"And then run."

Of course, when they started to run, Minx's hand was pulled from his own, and they became visible again. It made no difference to the fire tower anyway, and there weren't any creatures there to see them. "We'd better be more careful if we encounter a tower and a daedroth together."

"There's the doorway we need to use after we find Cyndil's gear," Minx interrupted. They'd almost walked past it without noticing. Clark considered dropping something as a marker, but thought better of it. He contented himself with taking note of what landmarks there were.

A clannfear they found next was no more problem to avoid than the daedroth had been, but around the next bend was something Clark hadn't seen before. Scattered around the broad area were small crown-like objects, just lying on the ground. Perhaps these were the mines that Nocturnal had mentioned, whatever they were.

As they got closer, one rose up off the ground and started to spin. Clark guessed that it meant the same as it did with the fire towers, and told Minx to dodge left again. Sure enough, the thing exploded, and a fireball hurtled towards where they'd just been standing.

Minx looked around, and remarked that there weren't any creatures around. "Maybe these things are dangerous to them, too. And with nothing watching us, I can try something."

She let go of Clark's hand and fired off a flare spell at one of the more distant mines. It exploded, without shooting back at her, and triggered off several more of the others. Now they could see a clear path across the open area, that should be safe for them to cross.

"Nice," Clark told her, taking her hand and casting invisibility again.

There was nothing on the far side to greet them, and they could see the end of the path ahead. A blood well stood on a large rock next to the path. Clark had encountered them before, so he knew it wasn't dangerous. In fact, it would restore some of your health, if you could ignore what it contained and just let it work. This might have been what Cyndil was trying to reach.

As they got closer to the blood well, they could see the small pile of items next to the rock that marked where she fell. There was the bow, on top of a quiver, and several pieces of mithril. And it had to be the Bow of Shadows. It had that same "dark glow" that had been so unsettling when Nocturnal appeared in the Guildmaster's quarters.

Everything fit in Clark's backpack. The armor was light, and the quiver was almost empty, so it wasn't a heavy burden for him to carry alone, and they didn't have to consider splitting it between them. A complete set of Daedric armor might have been a different situation.

"Only the clannfear to avoid on the way back," Minx said brightly. "The mines won't come back, and the fire tower was the other side of the doorway."

"Plus whatever's in the cave, or on the next pathway, or the cave after that."

"And in the citadel. You don't have to remind me. I was just trying to be positive."

"Well, I'm just trying to be cautious. We don't have any slack on this mission."

The mines turned out to be the only ones they encountered. There was one new trap, some falling rocks that rolled across their path near the top of the island shortly before they reached the tower. Those would have been a problem if they'd been going faster, but the need to keep a grip on each other's hand kept them down to a much slower pace.

There was a fire tower near the citadel door, but plenty of room for them to skirt around out of its range. Nothing else was guarding the entrance.

"We can't open the door and remain invisible," Minx reminded Clark. "Time for the rings."

The chameleon effect on the rings would also help make the opening of the door less noticeable to anyone inside. Despite its huge size, the door operated silently, and they stood in the hallway undetected. To either side of them a corridor led off, each ending at a door that presumably led to higher levels of the tower. In front of them was a circular pit of lava in the middle of a large empty space that went all the way up the middle of the tower. Around the walls at this bottom level they could see cages containing prisoners. Any one of them might be Cyndil.

There weren't any guards in sight, but they kept their chameleon rings on, and stayed together as they went round checking the cages. Several of the prisoners were female Dremora, and Clark recalled Prizna telling him that the women were often punished just for disrespecting the kyn. One or two were in chains, as well as being inside a cage, and Clark wondered what they'd done.

There was a male Breton, and a Dunmer, but no Cyndil. She was further up the tower, it seemed. Did that mean anything?

There were a few Dremora guards on the next level, but no prisoners. They seemed to be there as a barrier betwen the entry level and the next, which again might mean something, or not. It wasn't hard to sneak past them, but they didn't want to have to deal with these on their way out. Hopefully Cyndil would have enough sneak ability that they wouldn't be an issue then, either.

The corridor led them out into the central hollow of the tower again, and they followed the ramp up to another door.

The corridor behind it led up to a small room, not much more than a landing, before doubling back on itself to go up a level further. As they neared the top of the second slope, they could hear the rattling of chains around the corner. Casting invisibility on top of the chameleon, they crept closer to see what it was.

The chains were holding the pale thighs of a woman up in the air, and they could see a darker pair of hips thrusting between them. The woman's body was hidden from them around the corner of the pillar, so they could not see if this was Cyndil.

That was soon answered for them. A second Dremora approached, asking the first "How do you like the Bosmer?"

"I liked her better when she struggled. She was tighter then, too. Soon she'll only be fit for the scamps."

He was soon finished, and the two wandered up to the other end of the room. The scamps they'd mentioned were busy with the woman there, and the Dremora wanted to watch.

Cyndil's eyes opened wide with shock as Clark whispered in her ear. He clamped a hand over her mouth, in case she made any noise to attract the Dremora back again. "We're here to get you out," he told her. "Minx is unlocking your shackles, and I'll heal you."

"Where is she? I can't see anyone"

"We're using chameleon. I have a couple of rings for you, once we get you down from these chains."

"Can you restore strength? My legs are weak from being chained up like this. I'm not sure I can even stand."

"I'll try, once we get the pillar between us and the Dremora. They can't see us, but they could see the spells."

A groan of pain, and two unsympathetic laughs from the far end of the room indicated that the Dremora were fully distracted, so he took the risk of casting a healing spell. Cyndil gasped, as the circulation was restored in her legs, and they started to tingle. Clark took her weight off the chains, and Minx released the shackles around her thighs.

Before she went to work on the ones around her wrists, Minx slipped the rings onto her fingers, and Cyndil became as invisible as the other two. Then Minx undid the one on her neck, and she was free.

"We have your armor, here in my backpack, but we should get out of this room before they notice you're missing. Hold my other hand, and don't let go until I tell you. We'll stop and get you dressed as soon as we're out of sight."

Minx peeked around the pillar to make sure the Dremora weren't looking in their direction, and then cast invisibility as a precaution. The three slipped back down the ramp to the small landing room, and stopped to let Cyndil get dressed.

"You found my bow, and some arrows too!" she exclaimed as Clark pulled it from his pack. "That makes a big difference to my plans. If I have a weapon, I'm not letting those two live!"

"No wait," Clark grabbed her and spun her around. "If you don't kill them both with a single arrow, the other will raise the alarm, and we'll have to fight our way out. What are your chances of doing that?"

Cyndil wasn't too daunted by the prospect of battling all the Dremora in the deadlands, if she could get her revenge, but she owed her rescuers enough to do as they asked. "All right, we do it your way. For now."