Part 84 - Arkngthamz

Vex was delighted to see the Crown again. "I'll get Madesi to help put this all back together again, and we'll put it on display down in the Cistern. It will be just the thing to boost Guild morale."

"You've got quite a collection down there already, haven't you?" Clark inquired. Gilda had already told him about the things she'd gathered for Delvin.

Vex admitted that part of it was to restore the balance, so that Delvin wouldn't get all the glory, but the Crown was supposed to have magical properties in its complete state, that would be particularly helpful to the Guild. Something about the Crown attracting gems, so they'd find more in their loot.

"Doesn't it bug you that you did all the work, and Vex and Delvin take all the credit?" Clark asked Gilda.

"No, because I'm the Guildmaster, and they're doing it for the Guild. Each collection is their responsibility to organise, and who does the collecting is secondary. It's just a coincidence that I found everything in Delvin's set. Any of the others could have brought things in. And I only found a few of the Stones. I think you found more than I did."

"True, and Jordis, Brelyna, Mjoll and Lydia aren't even in the Guild. They all found stones for us."

"Exactly. Now, what I'm going to do next, I do expect full recognition for."

"Here's something we could do together," Clark announced. "I picked this old book up in Ilinalta Deep when we went looking for Azura's Star, and I haven't found the place it mentions. It's one of the Dwemer ruins, and I thought we might ask Mjoll if she's heard of it."

"What's the name? I might even know about it myself," Gilda replied.

"Arkngthamz. I hope I pronounced that right."

"Better ask Mjoll."

Mjoll didn't know where that one was either. "But I see the book says it's in the Reach. I haven't done much ruin-hunting there. I was working my way west when I got interrupted at Mzinchaleft."

"We could ask Calcelmo," Clark suggested.

"Or Aicantar," Gilda added with a wistful smile. "He's alot more helpful than his uncle."

"I'll take care of Clark while you go and see Aicantar," Vicuņa told Gilda. "Take your time. He needs to check the books, too."

Clark hadn't been back to the Markarth brothel more than a couple of times since he bought it. The last time, Rhiada had just had her baby, and now he was just starting to try and walk. He was called Eltrys, after his late father, but the name "Junior" had stuck.

"I'm still working hard on the books, but I do get to lie down from time to time, now." Rhiada laughed, as she steered Junior around the table.

"How's Betrid doing?" Clark asked.

"She's still a bit difficult. Letting the men spank her for a few extra septims has helped, but she still complains that half of them don't know how to do it properly."

"So should we give a class, and maybe charge a bit for the lessons? Betrid would be happier, and we'd make some more income out of the problem."

Spanking Lesson

Gilda returned several hours later to find a semi-circle of men watching Clark, who was sitting on a chair with Betrid across his knees.

When Clark had finished the demonstration, and let the first of the trainees try his hand, she finally got to pass on what Aicantar had told her.

"There's a ruin out past Dushnik Yal, that's probably this Arkngthamz. It's starting to cave in, with the rock it was built into being eroded by the river than runs through it. Calcelmo decided it was too unstable to investigate, and he was too busy with Nchuand-Zel, anyway."

"I presume there will be the usual automata and Falmer to deal with, or were they bright enough to move out?"

"He didn't say. We should probably assume there are still some left."

When they found the ruins, the ground outside was shaking. Presumably, deeper in, something had just collapsed. They went in anyway. The entrance building looked solid enough and they'd evaluate the risks when they could see them.

Not far in, they heard a woman's voice, advising them to turn back. Not surprisingly, they didn't, as now they wanted to find out whose voice it was, and maybe help her leave, too.

When they emerged from the first few corridors, some of which were leaning over at an angle, they found themselves in a large cavern that appeared to be the centre of the collapse. Where one wall of the hall would have been, was now a deep pit, and rocks were falling from the roof into water at the bottom. They could hear the splashes, even before they reached the edge to look down.

And a ghostly figure had just materialised in front of them. "You're persistent," she told them, "but if you keep going, you'll end up like me."

She pointed down at a rock in the middle of the river. A woman's body, dressed in the steel armour that all housecarls seemed to start with, lay on the rock. "That's where I fell to. You'll probably want to read my journal, if you're intending to keep going. It will explain a lot."

They could reach the rock by walking down a fallen column that had wedged itself between the rock and the edge of the platform they were on. From there, other pieces of masonry and pipework could be scaled to go further into the ruin.

Katria's journal held a sketched map of Skyrim with this, and a number of other Dwemer sites marked on it. There were notes from her research, and a diagram of the front of a building in the ruin.

"That's the tonal lock puzzle I was working on when the Falmer interrupted me," Katria added. "I ran away from them, back into the main chamber, but lost my footing on a wet log, and fell all the way down here. I was so close!"

"This is deeper into the ruin, but it's above us?"

"Yes, once we go into this part of the building, we go up some stairs, and come out again further up. Then there are ramps along the walls of the cavern, and you reach another chamber above this one. I can show you the way, but I won't be much help against the Falmer or the spheres and spiders in the buildings. The best I can manage is to distract them. They can hear me as well as you do, I assume."

It turned out that she was quite good at that. If she fired an arrow in their direction, they could hear it, just as if a more solid archer had fired it. Then Gilda could sneak behind them and strike more effectively.

It took a long time to climb up through the large cavern, but eventually they reached the upper chamber. The roof of that had obviously caved in a long time ago, and trees were growing in the light that poured in from above.

"There's my bow!" Katria exclaimed. "Out there, on the log. That's where I fell from, so be careful when you fetch it."

Since Clark didn't use a bow, and Gilda couldn't, they probably would have just left it there, but Katria was so insistent that it was a special bow. And when Clark finally did retrieve it, she was right. Zephyr had an enchantment for rapid fire, a unique one that neither Clark nor Gilda had seen before. Katria didn't remember where she'd got it, or if it had any Daedric connections. "I probably found it in a chest in a cave somewhere. You know how that happens."