41 - Labyrinthian

Brelyna had a strange torc that was supposed to be the key to opening the main door, so that's where we headed. A couple of frost trolls decided they wanted to stop us, but then they decided they didn't like fireballs and tried to run off again. Ranyu made up their minds for them with a couple of long-range arrows.

The torc fit into a curved slot on the door, and the ends connected with something that opened the door for us. It was rather Dwemer-like in its operation, but we didn't see any of their characteristic metal used anywhere, so it can't have been. Perhaps the ancient Nords learned something from them. That might account for the blade traps in some of these ruins, too.

The large hall we entered had a few glowing figures standing at one end, which appeared to be the ghosts of a group of mages that had come here looking for treasure. In particular magical artifacts that were rumoured to have been buried here in the age of the dragons. I started to suspect we'd be meeting one of those dragon priests.

We went a bit farther down the corridor, and found a closed gate with a lever nearby. I operated the lever, and the gate raised up, revealing a few skeltons patrolling a large hall. Ranyu fired his bow at the most distant one, to see if anything was lying in wait beyond the gate, to ambush anything coming through. We expected to see skeletons moving in from the sides to investigate, but we weren't expecting a skeletal dragon to rise up from the middle of the hall.

The gate fell again, just in time to block its icy breath. Since I was the one without a major ranged attack, I manned the lever, while the others prepared to send fireballs, arrows and lightning through the gate when I opened it.

"Ready? Three, two, one, now!"

The few skeletons that had approached the gate were either destroyed or knocked back by our attack, and unable to regroup before the gate fell again. This was worth repeating.

Pretty soon, the only adversary left was the dragon. It was way too large to reach through the gate, so its only means of attack was its frost breath. By taunting it into blasting the closed gate, we could open it while it regained its powers, and not be in any danger ourselves as we attacked.

We met up again with the party of ghosts. It seemed that there were fewer of them, and we heard one remark that they'd lost one of their number to the dragon. I wondered if it had been a live one when they came through, or undead even then.

In the Labyrinthian Chasm, my suspicions of a dragon priest were born out. A voice speaking in the dragon tongue, but not a dovah's voice, addressed us. A swirl of light enveloped us, and the women complained of having their magicka drained. I suppose it happened to all of us, but Ranyu and I are less concerned at that.

Brelyna's magicka was rapidly returning, thanks to the enchantment on her robe, but Zahra was not so lucky. Brelyna handed her a potion from her satchel, but she told her to keep it for later. We'd just wait here a little longer before we advanced.

As if to try and convince us otherwise, a frost spirit advanced from a frost-covered doorway to attack us. It was easily defeated, but some of Zahra's almost-depleted magicka had to be spent on a flames spell to open the door behind it.

And immediately after we passed through the doorway, the same draining happened again. The draugr we encountered didn't seem to have been drained, but their frost spells weren't a match for the war-hammer and bow the drain couldn't affect. And Brelyna had enough magicka back to cast some frost of her own. She handed her lightning staff to Zahra, and they both joined in.

The same would happen again as we descended, but somewhere along the way the voice switched to "this gutteral language of yours" and everyone could understand it. It seemed to believe we were Savos Aren, the late Archmage, come back to finish what he'd started.

The wispmother was a bit of an obstacle, especially with our fire-mage restricted by the frequent draining, but we passed her to encounter a flame spirit at a burning door.

Beyond this point, the draugr were spectral, and the traps began. Rune traps, spellcasting gems, fall traps in the floor. I used my Become Ethereal shout to clear them for my companions, but they slowed our progress nonetheless.

The dragon priest drained our magicka again, and Zahra was losing her patience. "I think I can see steam coming out of your ears, " I told her. Ranyu joined in with "Oh, no, won't her boobies deflate if the steam gets out?" We waited until her magicka regenerated, telling "My woman's so hot ..." jokes until Zahra couldn't keep a straight face any more. "Do you think Brelyna's are steam-powered?" I asked.

"Oh, no," Zahra replied. "I've seen Ranyu blowing them up the regular way."

We opened the doors before us to see a throne at the bottom of a flight of stairs, facing away from us, and towards a word wall. As we started down the stairs, a spectral draugr carrying a large axe rose out of the throne and headed up the stairs.

By the time he reached me, he'd been hit by a fireball (which had eliminated his Spectral Warhound companion), a blast of Shock from Brelyna, and several arrows. One blow of my war-hammer sent his bones cascading back down the stairs.

The word wall taught me a word of Slow Time, and we turned towards a corridor lined with columns.

"Wait a moment," Zahra requested. "This looks like one of those situations where that annoying dragon priest will do his drain thing again, and I'd like to get one step ahead of him."

She sent a huge fireball down the corridor, and several burning draugr emerged from behind the columns to confront us. As expected, the draining spell met us as we entered the corridor, but this time, we were ready. Zahra had Brelyna's staff, and Brelyna was using a cheap flames spell to capitalize on the fires Zahra had already started. She was regenerating her magicka faster than she was using it, so her depleted supply mattered little.

The party of ghosts we were following were down to only three now. One of them remarked that the final trial lay beyond the next door. "We're not going to make it, are we?" she asked Aren's ghost.

"We will if we stick together," he assured her. "and where else can we go but onward?"

We passed through the door to find a large chamber where two enthralled mages were holding an energy shield surrounding the dragon priest. It wasn't clear to me if they were protecting him or confining him. I suspected there wasn't a lot of difference, as we couldn't reach him, until the shield was stopped.

Trying to speak with the mages just turned them against us, and they stopped casting the spell that maintained the shield. I regretted having to kill them, but had no choice.

"No, I won't" Ranyu shouted, and he dropped his bow and ran back out of the room.

"Morokei's trying to control us," Zahra explained, as she, too ran after Ranyu.

Since he couldn't take over our summons, he produced one of his own, a Storm Atronach. It wasn't close to us, so I ignored it and ran to attack the priest directly with my war-hammer. Since he was using mostly anti-mage spells, I figured that his weakness would be plain old blunt force.

I wasn't wrong. He fled, and I was soon chasing him all around the chamber, while Brelyna, who had dealt with the stormie, took pot-shots at him with her staff. That made him maintain a ward, which stopped him using much of his own spells. He did, however, still have a staff of his own, and was using it whenever he got the chance.

The strange thing is that it didn't seem to harm me in any way. Maybe he was just draining the magicka I wasn't trying to use. With no effective offence, he was soon cornered, and beaten out of existence with my hammer.

Brelyna confirmed my theory about the staff. It was likely the source of the spell he'd used against us all the way in. The mask he wore was almost its antidote, providing 100 percent increase in magicka regeneration. "Nice, if it wasn't so ugly" she remarked.

Zahra and Ranyu rejoined us, and we searched the room for any other items we might need. Brelyna was certain that she'd found the Staff she came for, but Morokei might have gathered other treasures.

We met Savos Aren's ghost once more on the way out, apologising to his abandoned comrades, and promising that their sacrifice was worth it.

And then we met a live one. A Thalmor mage named Estormo, who'd been sent by Ancano to make sure Brelyna didn;t get back with the Staff. We let him make his little speech before Ranyu put an arrow through his throat, to make sure he didn't repeat it.

Brelyna tried to cast her teleport spell to go back to the College, but it wouldn't work. "We can reach Winterhold, though."

"We'd probably best all go with you, in that case," said Zahra. "Who knows what this Ancano is up to, if he has the College blocked off."