Part 23 - Solitude Docks and Temple

"I need a drink after that," Clark said to Gilda, "and one of the unique drinks that Solitude has to offer is Evette San's spiced wine. Have you tried it yet?"

"It's not one of those sneaky drinks that doesn't seem very strong, but then you wake up in a strange bed realising it was, is it?"

"No it isn't any stronger than regular wine, just tastier. If anything you drink it more slowly, because you want to savour it."

"Then let's get some!"

Evette had a problem. "Sorry, I just sold the last of what I had, and I can't make any more until I get the spices. There's a shipment come in, down at the East Empire Company warehouse, but Vittoria Vici's not releasing it. You couldn't go down there and persuade her to change her mind, could you?"

Evette's Spiced Wine stand.

"If that's the only way we'll get any spiced wine, we'll do that." Clark promised."Will she be down at the docks, or at her house in town?"

"Down at the docks at this time of day. And you'll need to see her there, because that's where she'll book it out."

"This way, Gilda, there's a back way down the stairs here to the other side of the dock bridge. It's a bit shorter than the other route, so if she does leave work early, we'll meet her coming the other way."

"The tarrif is how much?" Clark asked.

"I just told you, 2000 gold."

"But that's more than the shipment's worth, and a lot more than Evette can afford. She can barely afford her stand in the market."

"Well I do like her spiced wine, and if she's run out of the spices ..." Vittoria was caught between her greed and her taste for good wine. "Fine, tell Evette San her shipment will be brought up shortly."

They took the good news back up to Evette, who handed them a couple of glasses. "I thought you said you'd run out," Clark reminded her.

"Of bottles, I have, but there's a small cask under the counter that has some left in it. We'll finish that off, and then I'll go home and start processing another batch. Come by tomorrow and pick up a couple of bottles."

There was quite a bit in that cask, and the sun was getting low when a courier approached them. "I have a note from Falk Firebeard, at the Blue Palace. He said it was important that I get this to you, even if you'd left town."

Clark read the note. It appeared that the events in Wolfskull Cave hadn't been the end of the matter, and something else had come up. Falk would prefer to tell them in person, so could they come back to the Palace?

Falk sent them to Styr, at the Hall of the Dead, for more information. It appeared that Potema hadn't disappeared entirely after the abortive summoning, but had resurfaced in the catacombs beneath the Temple of the Divines.

Styr told them that she'd used those catacombs when she was Queen of Solitude, and had raised armies of undead there in her lifetime. "Did you know that if she were alive today, she'd probably be the Empress? She's one of the legitimate Septim line, with a much better claim than the incumbent. Fortunately, though, she's not alive, at least not yet. Her necromancer minions may have summoned her spirit, but that's well short of a full resurrection. You still have the chance to prevent that. Bring me her remains from the catacombs, and I can make sure they're sanctified and thus put out of her reach."

"How do we get to these catacombs?" Gilda asked.

"Through the Temple. One of Potema's servants knocked a hole through into the undercroft. We've locked that part off, to keep her at bay, so you'll need this key. And take this spell, too."

Styr handed Gilda a spell tome for Turn Undead.

"I expect we won't be finding more necromancers down here. They wouldn't be able to get into the catacombs. It will be draugr, vampires, and the odd skeleton or two. All raised by Potema herself. She may have some ability to use magic against us directly. We won't know until we get closer to where she was buried."

Clark used the key he'd been given to open the gate that lead to the breach in the undercroft wall. The pile of rubble still lay on the floor, and he was half-expecting to find the corpses of those who'd made the hole. But on reflection, they were dealing with Potema. She'd reuse those who fell.

"I don't know how long she has to wait before she can raise a draugr again," he remarked to Gilda, "If she has the same limitations as the other necromancers, a fresh body will fall into ashes if it's killed again after being raised. And she doesn't have access to live ones here."

"So we should only have to kill anything once?"

"I'm never sure with vampires. I think they can be re-animated, even though they're undead. Twice at most, though."

"Then let's hope she doesn't have a large supply of vampires."

Potema's voice greeted them at the entrance to the catacombs. "You've arrived at last. The ones who prevented me from being bound return to my fold. I have much to thank you for, little ones. When you die I will raise you and you can take your place by my side."

They ignored the voice and pressed on. The first draugr was waiting just around the corner, and a vampire was lurking at the foot of the stairs in the first room. "Wait a moment, I want to see if Potema raises her." Clark didn't want any enemies behind them.

To play safe, he set light to the pool of oil on the floor, and watched the body burn up.

They ground their way slowly through the catacombs, slaying mainly draugr. That seemed to be what Potema had in the greatest quantities, and even those were thinly distributed along the tunnels. Presumably, she'd used a lot of her supply in her earlier life. One small consolation for them in their tedious progress.

Potema took every chance to taunt them, when she had any concentration of foes to throw at them. At one point, she raised several draugr and a vampire in a small cell, with closed doors. Fortunately, that took her some time to do, and they were able to attack each one as it raised.

"If she'd done that before we got here, they'd have been more of a problem," Gilda remarked.

"Not so," Clark returned. "They'd have been vulnerable to a fireball from outside. Potema had to wait until we were in the room, too."

"She's probably learned from this. I'd expect she'll have the strongest gather round her at the end."

"You didn't have to say that out loud," Clark reminded her.

Gilda whispered in Clark's ear that she was trying to set up the best situation for that fireball. She knew he couldn't throw many before he ran out of magicka.

"This must be the last section, and if I'm not mistaken, we'll find Potema and her guards behind that door." Clark pointed at a solid iron door that seemed more substantial than the others they'd passed through. "Whoever put her behind that meant her to stay put."

He glanced over at Gilda, and gasped. "What happened to your jacket?" Gilda was always threatening to burst out of it, but now she had.

"A buckle let go during that last skirmish. The leather's improved up to the point where it will turn a Deadric blade, but it looks like I neglected the fittings."

"That's not the best timing. You don't want to be vulnerable now."

"I don't think it makes much difference," Gilda replied. "It's not the leather that protects me, so much as the magic of the forge. Armour always has gaps, and it's magic that fills them. You're not using armour at all, are you?"

"No, but the spells I use don't work if I wear any armour."

"This is probably a different kind of magic. I don't think most smiths even think of it that way. They just do the work they've learned, and the armour gets more effective. But consider the facts. Dwarven armour is made from softer metal than steel, but it protects more. That's because it's more magicka-friendly than steel. And look at the materials you use for the really high-end stuff. Daedra hearts, void salts, and so on. Stahlrim and dragon scales are almost pure magicka, if you think about it."

"Yes, I've added a bit more leather when I've improved mine, but sometimes I've removed some, and it's still been an upgrade. It's all in the working of the material, and I'm convinced it's the same as casting a spell."

"Well, if draugr get distracted by that sort of thing, we have one big advantage," Clark noted.

"Count again," Gilda laughed.