Part 43 - Tel Mithryn

"Oh, you're back! What brings you here this time? Did you find another Black Book for me?"

"No, I brought a couple of friends to meet you. They just came over from Skyrim yesterday, and we're on our way to the Skaal village. Tel Mithryn is on the way, so we dropped in."

"I really don't have time just to be social. I have important work I should be doing, and ... "

Neloth broke off in mid-sentence, staring at Vicuņa's chest. She'd just taken off her travelling robe, and her breasts had floated out into full view.

"Now that's something you don't see every day," Neloth remarked, and walked over for a closer look. "I've not seen an amulet quite like that before."

"I don't think he ever noticed mine, either," Diablita remarked.

"Master Neloth studies enchanting," his apprentice, Talvas Fathyron, pointed out. "He can be very single-minded when it comes to his chosen subject."

"Clark's a bit like that, too," Diablita agreed, with a wicked grin.

"A fascinating application, but one I wouldn't have any direct use for," Neloth continued. "However, if you made that yourself, then you've obviously got potential as an Enchanter. I take it you've come here to further your studies, hmm? I tell you what, you assist me with my research, and I'll teach you more about enchanting. Agreed?"

"Don't you already have an apprentice?" Vicuņa inquired. She was standing next to Talvas as she said it.

"Talvas is a conjurer, not an enchanter. He's studying the business side of things, rather than the magical. I have room for an assistant with the research, as well. I can provide you a bedroll here, and a chest to stow your things. What do you say?"

Diablita was standing behind Neloth trying to sign to Vicuņa that it wasn't a good idea. She'd experienced a couple of his experiments, and they didn't always go as planned.

Vicuņa pondered a moment, and then went to confer with Clark and Diablita. "I know Neloth's reputation, but it doesn't really concern me. I have enough magical ability of my own to keep me safe from his mistakes, and the man does know his enchanting. I think I'll take him up on his offer, if only until I see how it works out."

"Splendid," Neloth pronounced. "We'd celebrate with a nice cup of Canis Root tea, but my new steward, Drovas, hasn't got the hang of making it yet. You'll have to settle for some of the local brew."

"Just a small one, then we have to be off," Diablita told him. "I want to reach the Skaal village before dark."

As Clark and Diablita neared the village, a man dressed in thick fur came up to them. "Thank the All-maker you've returned. Baldor Iron-Shaper has gone missing, and there's no-one we can spare to go hunt for him."

"That's not good, Deor. Did anything strange happen the day he disappeared?" Diablita asked. She remembered that the majority of the villagers had been Miraak's thralls, working on building a shrine at the Wind Stone, when she arrived. Perhaps Miraak had taken control of him again?

"Hmm, I do not remember Baldor acting strangely. Although, now that you ask, I did see something in the woods on the day he disappeared. I saw two elves in the far distance, dragging something behind them. Hunters often visit our lands, so I thought little of it."

Diablita asked him to be a bit precise than "in the woods", and got directions that she could use.

"I recall there being an old abandoned lodge in that direction." she said to Clark. "If Baldor was abducted, they've probably got him locked up there. Come on!"

"Just the two of us?" Clark queried.

"Well, most of the villagers are just craftsmen, and wouldn't be any help. If we took Frea with us, then the place would be totally undefended. She won't leave her father now."

"She's the only fighter they have?"

"Just about. The hunters can use their bows, of course, but she's the only one with any armour."

There were three men outside the lodge as they approached. The building itself was sound, but the windows were boarded up, and it looked like nobody lived there. It didn't make sense why anyone would be waiting outside, unless they were guarding something, like a prisoner.

"They haven't seen us yet. Shall I introduce us with a fireball?" Clark suggested.

"I can't tell from here if Baldor is one of them, so don't. We'll have to get closer and find out more. Besides, he may have gone with them voluntarily."

"I recall the Skaal said he was being dragged."

"The two standing are tall enough to be Altmer. That's probably why Deor called them elves. And they seem to be wearing some kind of uniform."

"Thalmor? Here on Solstheim? I didn't think they'd reached this far."

"We'll find out soon enough."

An arrow whizzed past Clark's head from an unexpected direction. "They're hostile, and there's four of them. At least four!" That made up his mind about the fireball, too.

This was the first time in nearly a couple of centuries that Clark had seen Diablita in action. Her new blade appeared to have an incredible reach, as the first man fell before she even got close to him. A flash of red light sliced across the man's body and he fell as if the blade itself had cut him.

Clark cast his ebonyflesh spell, raised a ward and followed. His shorter sword wasn't the match of hers, but it was still doing its share. Their opponents appeared to be favoring spells, to the extent of using bound swords instead of metal ones, which fit the Thalmor profile. That made using a ward a better choice than a shield, even if he'd had the option.

He ducked, as a severed head flew in his direction. Diablita was being effective, if a little untidy. A stab from his blade, and his opponent also expired.

"Where did the archer go?" he called out to Diablita.

"Already on it," she replied, running up the slope. A scream of pain from behind a rock soon told him the answer.

One of the dead soldiers had a key, that fit the lock on the lodge door. There appeared to be nobody inside, but when they went down to the basement, they found Baldor slumped in a corner. He'd obviously been beaten, but he was still alive.

"Why did the Thalmor take you?" they asked him.

"I do not know this word Thalmor, but if you mean the elves, they were trying to learn the secrets of forging Stahlrim. Their leader, an elf called Ancarion, has a map. He says that it shows the location of a hidden source of Stahlrim."

Clark healed his bruises, and helped him to his feet.

"You must get the map back," Baldor continued. "It belongs to the Skaal, and the elves should not be trusted with its secrets."

"Where do we find this Ancarion?" Diablita asked. Apparently this would would also need doing before she and Clark returned to the village. Clark suspected she was just putting off talking to Storn, but he said nothing.

"He has a ship moored at Northshore Landing in the north-west of the island. They were going to take me there next. I think the Stahlrim is somewhere in that area."

"How were they going to mine it? Isn't it too hard for normal pickaxes?"

"I wasn't going to tell them that. Let them find out for themselves. And I don't carry an Ancient Nordic pickaxe to do it for them. They didn't make many, and the majority are long lost. The few I have are safe at my forge in the village."

"So they can't mine it, don't know how to forge it, and although they have the map, haven't been there yet? Were they expecting you to do everything for them?"

"I suppose they were. Why else would they take me, and not just try to steal from me?"