Nocturnal XVI

"Are you coming with us to see Nocturnal?" Clark asked Uzgash.

"No, I want to get back to the city, and see if I can find Ulliceta gra-Kogg. I haven't met with her since I was a child, and she was the Master Restorer at Gortwog's court. I'd like to let her know how this all worked out, too. Maybe she can put those necromancers I chopped up to good use!"

"You did leave them in pieces, ready for her to re-assemble," Minx grinned. She'd been a bit put out by the violence at the time, but she was the first to agree that necromancers deserved all they got. "Perhaps it will help her case with the Mages Guild if she's seen using dead necromancers for her research."

Clark reminded her that the Arch-mage had already made his decision.

"It still can't hurt her case with her colleagues. He's not the only one that needs convincing if she's to get back her standing. Reputation is important to scholars. It's not the Thieves Guild, where we relish anonymity."

"That reminds me," Uzgash interrupted. "Taminwe told me that somone's been asking around the waterfront about the Gray Fox. A Redguard woman in a uniform, with the Sentinel emblem on the tabard."

"I haven't used the cowl, since I got it from Count Umbranox," Minx mused. "She's probably expecting a man. I might get someone else to deal with her, when we get back from Evergloam."

Clark had a suspicion who that would be.

Minx handed the bag of holding to Nocturnal, who was quickly able to confirm that they had indeed recovered the Chrysamere.

"I'm not sure what to do with it now," she confided. "It's not Daedric in origin, so there's none of my brethren waiting for its return. It's not something just anyone could use, either. There aren't many heros that are capable of wielding it, and the one we all know of doesn't really need it. Still, it's better knowing where it is, and I didn't relish the thought of the Thalmor getting their hands on it. From what you've told me, and what I've discovered for myself, they'd probably have destroyed it in some attempt to topple the Towers of Mundus."

"Why do you care about the fate of Mundus?" Clark wanted to know. "You're safe here from anything they get up to."

"We don't know that," Nocturnal replied. "If they do have a way to achive their goals, fantastic though they appear, then who knows what else they'd be capable of. You can journey here, and have an effect in my Realm. Most of that is because I permit it, but I don't control your actions when you're here, except by threat or persuasion. If the Thalmor got in, they could be a lot more of a nuisance than the vampires."

"So what are they trying to do?" Clark asked. He had the impression that they were just anothr group trying to grab power in the vacuum left by the lack of an Emperor, but Nocturnal was implying something more.

"Their intent is to return the time before the worlds existed, the perfect - in their opinion - situation where only the Aedra and Daedra were, and mortals had not yet been created. In their fantasy, they'd be the new gods, or something like that."

"Sounds like another version of what the Dwemer were doing," Minx chimed in. "But without any roots in reality. At least the Dwemer were only trying to raise themselves to that level, not to destroy everything else in the process."

"Yes, the destructive part almost makes me think that Mehrunes Dagon is involved again. He likes to break things, so he can put them together in new ways. Except that he usually leaves that last little detail to someone else."

Clark recalled the only report he'd had of the events in the Summerset Isle. "Lathenil believed that Dagon was responsible for the destruction of the Crystal Tower, not the Thalmor, even though he blamed the latter for making it possible. Dagon certainly made it easier for the Thalmor to rise up and take credit for his defeat, ignoring the events here in Cyrodiil, as if only the Summerset Isle mattered."

"To the isolationist Altmer, that's the truth," Nocturnal pointed out. "The ones that migrated to other provinces would have had a more open mind, but parochialism is strongest in those with no sense of adventure. In the wake of a disaster like the fall of the Crystal Tower, especially when it was at the hands of invaders from outside, it's easy to whip up a common enemy of all outsiders to rally against. The Thalmor played that hand well. Too well, perhaps, for me to belive it was all their own work."

"Are you saying you suspect one of your brethren, other than Dagon?"

"Yes, but I have no idea which. Mehrunes Dagon was probably too busy with the Mythic Dawn, and for this to be a follow-up part of the same plan is way too complex for him. It has to be one of the others, or even more than one. Cooperation is rare, however, and if Sheogorath is involved, more likely an illusion. And it's still possible that it's all the Thalmor's idea, and they just have support from a powerful ally that sees an advantage to be gained."

"But I imagine you'd like to see what you brought me. It's time we unwrapped this thing."

Nocturnal cast a telekinesis spell on the sword, and it rose slowly from the table. It started to rotate and the cloth wrapped around unwound on to the floor. Eventually, the last of the cloth fell away revealing a wooden plank, with a detachable lid covering the sword. Nocturnal let the plank back down onto the table and opened the lid.

The sword was in pieces. Not broken, but taken apart, with the cross-piece laying next to the blade, and the halves of the hilt next to that. The pommel was unscrewed from the end of the tang and also separate in the box.

"See how the tang is a dull, dark colour, although the blade is glowing blue?" Nocturnal pointed out. "I'm beginning to understand how this was made, and it's pure genius!"

"The base material is Adamantium. It was popular in High Rock for a while for making armor, as it's known to be a stubborn metal. Hard to forge, hard to damage, and hard to enchant. Heavy isn't the word for it, either. Nobody would have considered making a greatsword of this size from it, as it would be almost unusable with its excessive weight. You normally couldn't enchant enough feather on it to compensate, as Adamantium doesn't enchant easily."

"The genius part here, is that the armorer tempered the blade with Stahlrim! That's almost the exact opposite of Adamantium. It's light, enchantment-friendly, and a bit fragile, being essentially a form of ice, held together by magic. Adding the two together was nothing short of brilliant, but the way it was enchanted made the most of the combination. The sword only gets lighter for a Master swordsman. That concession allows the effect to be more powerful, as the wielder has to contribute his own skill. There's spell-synergy here too. The effect provides defense, unusual on a sword, but it serves to reduce the wielder's need to use heavy armor, so more of his encumbrance can be spent on the sword itself. I'm impressed, especially as this was a mortal-made artifact."

"How are you so sure it's not Daedric in origin?" asked Minx.

"Because there's always a little of themselves in anything my brethren create," Nocturnal replied. "I sense none of them in this."

Clark picked up a piece of the hilt, and weighed it in his hand. "I won't even try and lift the blade, if this is Adamantium."

"If you have some blade skill, the blade won't be quite as heavy as it looks, but you have the right idea. This really is a sword for Champions Only."

"You said that Adamantium comes from High Rock, so where does Stahlrim come from?"

"Skyrim, and in particular, the island of Solstheim. It's a rare material, and not often used alone. It would be plated over other materials on armor, or used as axe-heads and arrow-points with a strong magical component. It's not strong, but it holds a lot of enchantment. You can use that effect to strengthen it, too, but then you use up some of the benefit."

"I just came from Skyrim, and I've not seen anything like this," a voice said from behind them.

"Ah, Dralsi, you've arrived!" Nocturnal introduced the newcomer to Clark and Minx. She was a Dunmer, and her features were quite a bit more elven than Minx's, who'd clearly had a few humans among her male ancestors.

"Dralsi is the daughter of Barenziah and Drayven Indoril, who was also called 'the Nightingale,'" Nocturnal told them. "I'm forming a new organisation to take things beyond the Thieves Guilds, and she's one of the first Trinity."

"The only surviving one," Dralsi continued ruefully. "My two colleagues were killed trying to clear the draugr from the cave we intended to use as Nocturnal's shrine in Skyrim. We accounted for most of them, but there's one stubborn old warlord we couldn't handle. Ogrim the Restless isn't your usual draugr, he uses the thu'um! I managed to get out of his chamber and close the gate, but only after my two companions fell."

"Draugr, thu'um? I don't understand either of those terms," Clark objected.

"You're familiar with zombies in Cyrodiil?" Dralsi asked him. Clark nodded.

"Imagine those wearing armor, carrying enchanted weapons, and casting spells at you. Those are draugr. The ancient Nords embalmed their dead with a process that was close to necromancy. It was intended to preserve them for Sovnguard, so they'd be whole in that afterlife. However, it actually just left more behind to cause problems in the tombs."

"Some of the draugr were preserved naturally. A body that lies in permanent ice decays very slowly. The Nords copied that idea, and inadvertently produced a copious supply of potential undead for anyone or anything that could raise them. The tombs of Skyrim are full of them."

"Thu'um, or the Voice, is a form of magic delivered by shouting. Again, it's a Nord thing. They claim to have learned it from the Dragons, before they disappeared from Tamriel. Some of the draugr retain this power from life, and Ogrim's one of them."

Clark recalled Shulassa, the Khajiit at Gweden, telling him some of the tales she'd learned from her Nord grandfather. Now the "princess in a block of ice" was a completely different possibility. She would likely have been a draugr!