Nocturnal- Part XI - Azura

"While you're here," Nocturnal said to Clark "I wonder if you could go and help my sister Azura with a little problem she's having."

Clark could see her not very successfully suppressing a smirk of amusement. Something told him that Azura's "little problem" was going to be an interesting one. Nocturnal wouldn't give him any details. Whether that was because she expected him to refuse to help if he knew, or if there was some other reason, he couldn't tell. He let her lead him back to the basement, and another portal. A pink one, this time.

He emerged onto the top of a small mountain. A statue of Azura, similar to the one in Tamriel, but fully nude, stood next to the platform that supported the portal. A flight of steps lead downward towards the sea. He could see water in all directions from up here, so it appeared that this was an island, conical like a volcano, but without any sign of a crater. The sun was low, close to the horizon, but it wasn't obvious if this was dawn or dusk. In Azura's realm, it would be one or the other most of the time, he imagined.

The path was partly paved, with steps where it was steepest, and it zig-zagged down the hillside. The grass was golden, rather like the Gold Coast back in Tamriel, and the trees were in their fall foliage. With the pinkish light from the low sun, the whole landscape glowed.

Deer ran across the path at one point, but no other animals showed up to impede his progress. A log bridged a stream that cascaded down the mountainside, the spray adding rainbows to the idyllic scene.

The path ended at a door, that reminded Clark of the entrance to an Ayleid ruin, but inside was a normal cave. Naturally, everything that lived in the cave wanted to eat him, but there was only the one route down the mountain. It led him to a similar entrance further down. The path continued to spiral seaward, past the same stream and more waterfalls until it came to a bridge to another, smaller island.

Across the bridge he could see a building in the Ayleid style, but newer, or at least, less affected by decay. It looked like it had just been built, and the stone glowed pink in the reflected light of the sunset. That sunset had been in progress all the time he'd been coming down the path. How many hours had that taken? "You're not In Cyrodiil any more." he reminded himself.

Azura wasn't quite as naked as her statue, but her thin skirt didn't hide anything. And apart from a garland of flowers around her head, it was all she was wearing. Daedra Seducers stood either side of her throne, a much simpler one than Noctunal used, but raised on a platform to add prominence to the occupant.

She glared at him. "I suppose Nocturnal sent you," she said. "My sister has a nasty sense of humour, sending a man when I can't ..."

When Azura noticed the puzzled look on Clark's face she relented somewhat. "She didn't explain? Then I suppose I'll have to do that."

"Some women, when they're ... you know, having fun with somebody, find that they involuntarily cast spells when they ..."

"Particularly enjoy the company?" Clark suggested.

Azura giggled. "Quite. And the spell could be any one they know. Illusion, conjuration, destruction, anything. And the better the ..."

"Emotional involvement?"

"Nicely put. Yes, the better the emotional involvement, the more magicka is released. It's similar to the release when a mortal creature dies, but a lot more to my liking! And since I'm the Princess of Dawn and Dusk, I get involved at the dawn and dusk of life. My Star captures the release of magicka at the end of life, and my Crescent captures the release at the beginning. Of course, it doesn't have to be an actual beginning, the magicka release is a bit before that happens, if it does at all."

"So you've lost your crescent, I take it?"

"Exactly, and I daren't ... er ... get into a situation where I might need it. I thought at first that it might have been Nocturnal that stole it, just as a joke. But she wouldn't have kept it this long, and she wouldn't have rubbed it in by sending you here to taunt me. Ooh! I shouldn't have thought about rubbing, it just makes it worse!"

"So just what are the consequences of not having it? If you know it's going to happen, aren't there other ways to deal with the spell?"

"You know Evergloam Castle's not the original, don't you? You might have seen some ruins around the island of the old one. I first discovered my problem at a party of my sister's. Reshaped the whole landscape, that time. So just doing it outdoors, or in the ocean, isn't enough. I could cause earthquakes, or tidal waves, or anything. Daedric Princes have almost unlimited magicka, and we don't do things in a small way. Ordinary soul gems will capture modest amounts of magicka, but you couldn't carry enough to match the crescent."

"Silence spell?"

"I'm immune, and anyway, you can't cast it on yourself."

"Voluntary mediocrity?"

"Azura is never anything but awesome! Well, not intentionally, that is. My partners always deserve my best efforts. I might as well abstain, which is basically what I'm having to do now. I need that crescent back!"

Clark was left wondering how the crescent was emptied, if the magicka was as much as she described. But that could be done more gradually, he realised. It also made sense to him, now, why she repeatedly gave away the star, but kept the crescent.

He reasoned that it wouldn't be in her realm, or she'd be aware of its presence, so it made sense to go back to Nocturnal and ask her if the crystal ball could reveal anything. He'd also like to be a safe distance from Azura in case she got impatient!

Nocturnal had been thinking the same way, and by the time Clark had climbed back up the hillside to the portal, she'd already located the crescent. "There," she pointed into the crystal ball. "Oh, no, you can't see anything, can you? I keep forgetting this kind of magic only works for the one who cast the enchantment."

"Anyhow," she went on, "I found the crescent in Leyawiin. That's not far for you to go, so Azura won't have to wait too long for you to get it back. " Nocturnal couldn't stifle a chortle at her sister's problem.

"A Khajiit woman by the name of Lhasi has it. How she got into Azura's realm to steal it is still a mystery. You'll have to ask her when you retrieve the crescent. She's staying at the Three Sisters Inn, and she doesn't seem to be going out much."

Lhasi was eating at the Three Sisters when Clark arrived. No-one else was around, so he sat himself at the same table, and asked if she knew anything about a missing artifact. Of course, she denied it, and was quite indignant that he'd asked her. "Why does everyone always ask the Khajiit when something is stolen?" He could read the movements of her ears, and knew that she was bluffing.

"There's a big reward for its return, you know."

"This one could never return it, even if she had it," Lhasi stated vehemently.

"Why's that?" he asked.

"Because this one knows what she wants it for! That blonde woman, a Nord I suppose. She was using it to cheat the Khajiiti women of their birthright!"

Clark was nonplussed by this, and asked for an explanation.

"This one saw her. When the portal opened, this one was bold enough to enter and see where it lead. It was the bedroom of the blond woman, and she was ... busy. So busy, she didn't see this one enter."

"This one did not believe what she was seeing. When Azurah made the Khajiit, she made a bargain with them. They would have to wait until the moons were right before they mated, but when they did, it would be better than any other woman could know. But this one has never had it that good! And then this one saw why. There was a magical item next to the bed. This one could see the magicka swirling around it, and she knew it was the source. So when the woman slept, she took it. It didn't belong to her, that power was given only to the Khajiit!"

"And you came back through the portal with the crescent?"

"This one didn't say what she took! How do you know what it was?"

"Because Azura told me. She was the "blonde woman" you stole from. How do think the Khajiit get the best, if it doesn't come from Azura herself? You've stopped her from collecting the ... special magicka, and now all the Khajiit women will have to do without!"

Lhasi was horrified. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the crescent, placing it gingerly on the table in front of him. "Don't tell anyone it was Lhasi! Her sisters will kill her, many times over! Nine lives will not be enough for Lhasi!"

She wasn't too fearful to ask about the reward, however. Clark almost regretted that part, especially as he'd just made the item appear priceless. Well it was, just not quite in the way he'd described it. Fortunately, Lhasi's idea of a large reward wasn't all that ambitious, and he got away relatively lightly.

"By the way, where was the portal you entered?" he asked.

"It's gone now. It disappeared almost as soon as this one returned. She is fortunate it didn't close sooner!"

Clark persisted, and Lhasi told him that it had been in the basement of the Three Sisters Inn. She didn't offer any explanation of why she was down there, and not in her room, and he didn't press her further. It was likely that nobody else had seen it, which was what he really wanted to know.

"So you think I accidentally opened a portal before the crescent started to work?" Azura asked.

"I can't think of any other explanation," Clark replied. "Do you have to cast any spell in preparation for the 'capture', like the soul trap spell when someone uses the star?"

"Well, yes it does work that way. What of it?"

"It seems to me that you'd have to be careful to cast the spell at the right time. Too soon, and it might not last long enough. Too late, and you might ... get a portal that shouldn't have happened? And I doubt that you're concentrating on the spell, not under those circumstances."

"It's a really long-lasting spell, so the first situation won't arise. I mean, I could keep going that long, but my partners couldn't. There's only one Daedric Prince here!"

"So that just leaves the other alternative. Is it possible?"

Azura reluctantly admitted she might have leaked a little magicka out while she was casting the critical spell. "Nothing major, or harmful, but I suppose a portal's neither of those." And it was obvious why she didn't notice anything, even afterward. She'd been nicely exhausted, and had fallen asleep quickly.

"And now I need to reward you, and I need to make sure the crescent's not damaged. I think we can do both of those at the same time. I've been waiting so long, I'd better cast the spell right away!"