Part 83 - Tolvald's Cave

The first part of Tolvald's cave was full of bears, but Karliah and Bryjolf succeeded in felling them before they even noticed the intruders in their den. Both archers shooting at the same bear made sure it died before it could alert the next one, and these two had obviously worked together before.

There were several dead hunters lying in the cave, who hadn't been so successful, and an even larger number of bear traps, most of which were curiously still set. Perhaps the hunters had relied too much on the traps, forgetting that bears can easily detect the scent of a human on one, and avoid it.

They encountered more bears (and more dead hunters) in the tunnel leading from the entry cave.

Before long, they started to see signs of Dwemer and Falmer construction in the rock passages, and it wouldn't be much further before they met some of the Falmer inhabitants.

"This room looks like a dead end," Gilda remarked. "You don't think the crown's in that chest, do you?"

"No, I think that's probably a trap," Clark replied. "We haven't seen any Falmer yet, but we know they're here somewhere. I'd guess that the way out is hidden, And the Falmer are waiting just beyond."

"You're right about a trap," agreed Brynjolf. "Look at these dart holes all pointed at the chest. I don't see any way to disarm it, though."

"Well, this chain will either do that, or open the door to go further," Karliah announced.

"Maybe both," Clark agreed. "just let us all get clear of the chest before you pull it."

Two hidden doors, not one, opened when Karliah pulled the chain. Clark checked for signs of life in each direction before picking one at random. They followed the tunnel round in a circle and came back to the same room with the chest, before doing it again, and taking a different turn half-way. The second time around there was a Falmer waiting for them, but Clark detected him before he could do anything and the archers made sure he didn't.

"And I'm detecting a lot more of his friends just up ahead. I'll go first, with my ward and shield. Archers right behind behind me, please, and Gilda, guard the rear. If there are any more hidden doors they could get behind us."

Clark rapidly discovered that he was the least sneaky of the party, especially when using his ward. That made him everybody's target, and when the shaman blinded everyone's vision with a cloud of frost, it was hard to see the incoming arrows, or to send ones back. Yes, Karliah and Bryjolf had taken two of the Falmer archers out of the picture, but just about all of them had a bow.

Clark already knew that arrows hurt you twice, as they needed to be pulled out before you could heal. He was reminded that cursing all archers wasn't a good idea when half your party used a bow.

"If we meet another group further in," he decided, "We'll try another tactic. Instead of using my ward to counter the shaman, I'd like you two to prevent the blinding spells before they get cast. Since this outfit also gives me a lot of magicka regeneration, I'll use fireballs to follow up your arrows. Hopefully it will make it hard for them to fire back with any accuracy. I know you can't blind a Falmer, but fireballs are also loud, so maybe they'll have the same effect."

It worked, but maybe not as well as he'd hoped. He couldn't send fireballs in all directions, and once the initial disorientation of the attack had passed, they were soon shooting at him again. However, now he could at least see the incoming arrows, and had a chance to dodge, or deflect them with his shield.

After passing under a waterfall, the passages were becoming more Dwemer ruin, and less cave, again. They were starting to see pipework, and the floor was paved, although more like a street than the floor of a hall. They were probably passing between buildings, rather than through them, although there's less of a distinction underground.

And Clark guessed that they were quite close to Morrowind, now. They'd been travelling East, as well as down, for some time. There were signs that this tunnel might have been used as a route between Morrowind and Skyrim. He recalled that Valus Passage, the cave where the Mythic Dawn had held Ystrel, had been used that way until it collapsed. That had lead from Morrowind to Cyrodiil, of course, but it was in part of the same range of mountains as this one.

He noticed a mouldy journal lying next to a skeleton near the path. It told him that the party had indeed come from Morrowind, fleeing the effects of the Red Mountain eruption. It looked like they'd run into Falmer, and their Chaurus pets. It was hard to tell a Falmer skeleton from a Dunmer one, but the empty shells of the Chaurus were unmistakable.

Another journal, perhaps written just before their final battle, noted that they'd decided to take a stand in the large room the party had just entered. There did seem to be enough debris to suggest a major convoy had been ambushed here, with broken carts and chests lying all around. A skeleton's outstreched hand appeared to be point to something.

"Is that the Crown?" Gilda exclaimed, noticing a glint of shiny metal in the heap of debris.

Karliah could see it too, and she was closer. Brynjolf lifted a big chunk of broken timber, and Karliah reached under and pulled the shiny object out. As she did so, three spectral figures appeared in the room, and attacked!

They appeared to be the ghosts of the caravan guards, as they were dressed in Elven Armour. At least one was a battlemage, and Clark was regretting his decision not to use his ward at all times. It took a few vital seconds to raise it, and they'd been taken by surprise.

But the Dunmer ghosts were out-numbered, and out-matched. Clark's shield served well enough, and everyone in his party had an enchanted weapon, and better armour than their adveraries.

"Now we have to find our way back out," Brynjolf reminded them, "without paying a visit to Morrowind."

"That went a lot easier than I expected," Karliah told her father. "Detecting the Falmer with that spell of yours meant they didn't get to drop down behind us, like they usually do."

Clark rubbed the sore spots on his shoulder that reminded him it hadn't been easy for everyone. "But Gilda and I wouldn't have been able to deal with them so easily without your bows. So bringing you and Brynjolf along was just as important."

"Having the right team for a job, always makes it easier, lass" Brynjolf concurred. "And that's why Nocturnal wanted us for her Nightingales."

"You were a Nightingale, once, weren't you, Father. Why did you give that up?"

"Because of you. Your mother and I retired to raise you. Dralsi went back to being a Nightingale after, but I didn't. I'd become one before I was made immortal, and it was part of the oath that you'd serve Nocturnal after death, which no longer applied. Since she was the one, or rather one of the two, who did that, I figured that she'd anulled my oath. Azura had an equal claim on me, too."

"So you're still bound to Nocturnal, but in a different way?"

"I wouldn't call it bound. She deserves my devotion, so she gets it."

"Do I deserve some?" Gilda asked.

"Not until we get home," Clark responded.