Part 55 - Azura's Star

Clark awoke to the familiar feeling of the blood beginning to circulate in his left arm. Lydia had just moved her head off, and it was starting to tingle. He looked down to see where his other arm was, in case he disturbed Serana by moving it. Her fingers were entwined with his, and she was holding his hand between her thighs. The back of his hand felt moist.

Her eyes were closed, but he could see that they were moving. She was having a dream, a pleasant one, he hoped. She squeezed his hand gently and pressed it against her.

Lydia had woken up, and was looking over at the dreaming Serana. She rubbed Clark's left arm for him, knowing that she must have been sleeping on it again. "When you can feel this one again," she whispered, "give her a bit more help."

Clark brushed a curl of hair from Serana's face, and she didn't wake. Nor when his hand touched her shoulder, or her breast. Instead, her free hand joined his and guided it.

And then she woke up. "I was having such a nice dream," she complained. "Why did it have to end just then?"

"Why, what was happening?" he asked.

"It's what was about to happen," she told him. "You were going to... "

She let go of Clark's hands and sat up. "How much of that was dream, and how much was real?" she asked. Of course, Clark had no answer.

"I don't know either. When I woke up," he told her, "You'd started without me."

They reached Azura's shrine about dusk, which seemed appropriate. Aranea was pleased to see them, but somewhat horrified at the condition of the Star. Azura herself was more perplexed than horrified.

"I don't understand how mortals can have done that," her voice told them. "And I can't mend it while they're still in there. Someone will have to go in and do something about it."

"You mean me, don't you?" Clark guessed.

"Well, you are the best suited to this job. And I can give you some help, as I obviously understand the Star better than anyone else."

"While I don't know how Malyn Varen managed to enter the Star, I know that he can't have taken any weapons with him. As a mage, of course, he'll still have spells he can use. And the same will apply to any of his minions that he might have taken with him. I can send you in with your sword, which should give you a bit of offensive advantage."

"And even though we made you immortal, I still don't want you getting damaged. I think I know how we can improve your defence, too. Aranea, do you still have that mage's robe from the College? The Master Robe of Restoration, I mean."

"Yes, I do. I only wear this one because it's warmer."

"And don't you have some College boots with the Fortify Restoration enchantment to go with it? Fetch them both for Clark, while I do some more enchanting."

"Do you have a plain ring, Clark, and an amulet? I want to enchant them with Fortify Restoration, too."

Clark did have those items in his backpack. He placed them on the altar, and watched as they glowed with new magicka. Aranea emerged from her cell with the robe and boots.

"Together, these will make it possible for you to cast your ward continuously. It will cost you less magicka than you'll be regenerating, especially with the robe boosting that, too."

"It won't make the ward itself any stronger, but you already have the ability to block most spells, because they don't get any stronger either. The few that get past the ward won't be ones that can harm you."

Clark started to change into the ward-boosting outfit. "What's on that amulet you're wearing?" Azura interrupted. "Why would a man want that enchantment?"

"It's just a keepsake," he told her. "This is one I made for Gilda, but we replaced it with a stronger one later, and I kept the old one."

Aranea and Serana were pacing up and down by the altar waiting to for Clark to re-appear. The Star appeared to be gradually mending itself, and Azura had told them that it was due to Clark's progress inside. "He's nearly done," she assured them, and as if on cue, Clark materialised next to the altar.

"I think I can explain how Malyn Varen managed to corrupt the Star," Clark announced. "He had help, and I believe it came from Mehrunes Dagon. I had to fight a number of Dremora mage guards in there, as well as Varen himself."

"With my ward stopping their fireballs and lightning, it was a bit of a stalemate. They kept retreating out of reach of my sword, and I had to chase them all around the interior. That's what took all the time."

"Look at the Star," Aranea urged. "It's back to it's former glory again. All the chips and cracks are mended, and it's just beautiful."

"Yes, it is," Azura's voice agreed. "And Clark will look after it, and make sure that doesn't happen again."

"Me?" he asked. "Aren't there others who deserve it more? Or at least, will use it more? I hardly ever need to recharge my sword, and I've usually found some small gems that will do the job."

"Yes, you. I know you won't use it much for yourself, but you're always with someone else who has an enchanted weapon. All your housecarls do, except for Rayya, and I've already told Aranea what you need to do about that."

"Oh, so that's what that dream was about. I was so confused, with all the chests and ice and things. Was that Solstheim? And was that blue material Stahlrim?"

"Yes, Aranea, to all those questions. Clark, it will all make sense when you next go to Solstheim. Trust me."

Clark turned to Serana. "We should go back to Riften. Something Azura said earlier gave me an idea and I think Gilda can help."

"I hope you'll forgive me reminding you about the Hunter," Clark began, "but I'm curious. You implied that he wanted you, but you also told me that nobody had tried to ..."

"He wouldn't touch me, because I was a vampire. That made me unclean and unworthy, even though he was practically drooling down my cleavage most of the time. It was much the same when he met my mother. For a long time, I was convinced that was the reason she stayed in the Soul Cairn."

"I think we really started to get on each other's nerves. Especially as I preferred darkness, and he preferred bright sunshine. And he was always critical of the way I'd resurrect things, to practice my spell. He didn't complain when it was strong enough to get us some decent help, of course."

"Telling me to get myself cured was just the last straw. That was all for his benefit, and he wasn't thinking about me at all."

Clark decided to let the subject rest. He'd got the information he needed. He gave Serana a reassuring hug, which seemed to improve her mood again.