Part 86 - Bthalft

On their way to Bthalft, Clark explained about finding Katria in Arkngthamz. "I don't think she can leave there for long, and perhaps only to go the places where there's Aetherium. We've only seen her there, and when we picked up a shard."

Mjoll knew all about the folly of going into Dwarven ruins alone, and was very sympathetic to hear about her fall.

"We're nearly at Bthalft now, and sure enough, I can see smoke from a bandit campfire. Let me deal with those, so we can concentrate on looking for this Forge."

As Gilda and Clark approached a platform in the middle of the ruins, Katria appeared in her usual abrupt way, next to a Dwemer contraption that looked like a sundial.

"You made it! And you've brought the shards! Look at the device here - the gear in the center is just about the right size. Try putting the shards in and... we'll see what happens."

Clark put them in, and found that they all fitted neatly together into the gear. But nothing happened. No doors opening up, nothing turning to point the way.

"Try taking them out again?"

When Clark did that, the ground started to tremble beneath his feet. "Everyone step back," he told them. "Off the platform."

They did so just in time, as the platform revealed itself to be the top of a tower that rose up from the ground at least twenty feet. One side was open, and they could see the lever of a Dwarven elevator. "The forge must be underground" Gilda surmised.

"And a long way down," Mjoll decided as they got out at the bottom. "That took a lot longer than any I've ridden before."

The path from the elevator led down to a large cave with a building facade forming one wall. A pool of water took up much of the bottom, with a ramp leading down into it. Or back up, if you fell in, Clark supposed.

The gate in the middle of the facade was locked, but as at Arkngthamz, two tonal resonators were in niches above it. Clark pulled out Zephyr and fired at one of them. It spun and the niche lit up, so he did the same to the other. The gate swung open.

They could see the lights turning on down a long sloping passage before them. A large door closed off the far end.

Behind the door was a chamber containing a huge metal contruction of pipes and gears, with a lake of lava behind it. It was hard to see it all clearly for all the steam rising from the floor. Clark looked around for a way to shut the steam off, and found a wheel-valve that looked likely. The steam seemed to diminish, but he needed to operate another matching one on the other side of the chamber before it cut off completely.

As they moved towards the edifice, several dwarven spiders popped out of tubes around the room and began to attack them. And if they weren't enough trouble, shortly after that, gates opened and dwarven spheres joined in, and the steam turned itself back on.

"You keep fighting them, and I'll shut off the steam again," Clark called out, and ran to do so.

"That's the last of them," Mjoll anounced a few moments later.

"Oh no, it's not!" Gilda contradicted her. "Look over there!"

Something huge was coming out of the pool of lava. "I'd assume that thing is immune to fire," Clark remarked.

"So Grimsever should be just what it needs!" Mjoll cried as she rushed at the glowing centurion. Her sword added frost damage, at least for most opponents. For all anyone knew, this centurion was immune to all elements.

Still, it didn't appear to be immune to being hit with a big sword, and she was again too close for it to get a good swing at her. It sprayed a gout of flame around the room trying to hit her, but she was too close. Everyone else had to scramble out of the way of the flames, but at least it wasn't aimed at anyone. Clark's ward seemed to be working against it, too.

Katria was shooting her arrows at it, just in case they had any effect. She was aiming well over Mjoll, so it couldn't do any harm, either.

The collosus eventually fell, and they could take a more leisurely look at the dwarven edifice at the edge of the lava lake. Most of it appeared to be pumps to circulate the molten rock around a chamber in the middle. There was a recess in the top, that looked the same shape as the piece of Aetherium they'd brought in with them.

Clark put it in there, but nothing happened. So he took it out again, and nothing happened.

"Maybe we need something else. If this is a forge, perhaps metal ingots?"

Gilda had already started looking in the chests and other containers around the chamber and she'd found quite a selection of metal ingots. Dwarven metal, malachite, ebony, silver and gold. She brought them over to the Forge.

"It looks like we only have enough Aetherium to make one item," Clark announced. "We can make a circlet, that will let the wearer use two standing stones' abilities at once. Or a shield that will render enemies ethereal for a time, or a staff to summon a dwarven spider or sphere."

"It makes things that are already enchanted?" Mjoll was astounded. "That's not like any Forge I know."

Clark asked Katria what she'd choose. "Well the shield doesn't sound very useful. Won't that just protect enemies from harm? And I've seen enough of these dwarven automata already, so I'd pick the circlet, even if it didn't do anything."

"I believe I agree," Clark told her, and added the metal needed for that.

He showed her the results. "It's beautiful." she said. "I'd like to give you all a huge hug, but, well, you understand. And with that... it's done. No one could possibly deny what we've found now."

"No, Azura tells me we're not quite finished yet. She wants me to take you back to Arkngthamz first."

"Azura? What's she got to do with this?"

"She's got a lot to do with Clark," Gilda told her. "He's her champion and carries her Star, among other things."

"All right, I'll met you there," Katria conceded, and disappeared in her usual way.

"Do you need us to come with you?" Mjoll asked.

"No we've already cleared all the enemies from the ruin. The only danger is that the place might collapse, and Azura seemed confident that wouldn't happen quite yet."