50 - White Ridge Barrow

I knew as soon as we entered that Zahra wasn't going to like the place. There were spider webs everywhere, and ominous egg-sacs glowing in some of the corners. That suggested we weren't just going to be meeting the regular spiders she'd just about come to terms with, but something with a bit of magicka involved. They'd obviously killed a number of the reavers that had come to explore the place, as we found several bodies just inside.

Jumping, exploding fire spiders had her shrieking and hiding behind me. Brelyna and Ranyu took the lead, with Ranyu attempting to use his bow to neutralise the threat before the sacs could hatch. Any that escaped were quickly zapped with one of Brelyna's shock staves.

As we ventured deeper into the tomb, the good news was that the spiders had dealt with the majority of the draugr for us. The bad news was the spiders, and that the few draugr remaining were the tougher ones. Those were my job, as the others seemed to be dealing with the spiders well enough. Zahra didn't mind helping with the draugr, either.

We did encounter a survivor of the reavers, but he didn't appear to be grateful for our intervention, and attacked us. Now he's not a survivor any more.

In the next section of the ruin, things began to make some sense. We ran into a Dunmer sorceress who appeared to have some kind of control over the spiders, and have enthralled the reavers here too. They didn't look undead, but they didn't look normal either. The had a greenish glow about them, as well as the mindless aggression of a commanded minion.

Once we'd dealt with the mage, we found a key on her corpse, as well as a journal that hinted of a power deeper in the ruin. It suggested another dragon priest and possibly a word wall and/or Black Book, as well as some ex-colleagues of the sorceress, who were using the rather unique spiders in some kind of experiments. I assumed the key would open a door to the mages' laboratory, or something similar. The Ancient Nords went for more elaborate means for opening their inner sanctum.

By the time we actually found the laboratory, Brelyna was unable to contain her laughter every time Zahra scuttled behind me to avoid another spider. Despite what it said in Menlar's journal (she was the first sorceress we encountered) we only found one more of the mages and he was dead. Once we came across the key to the cage he was in, we read his journal, and discovered that his name was Servos Rendas, he was the other Dunmer's brother, and he'd been working on experiments with the spiders also.

Combining the spider pods with gems (and salt) imbued the creatures that hatched with magical properties, ranging from elemental auras to mind control. The latter accounted for all the commanded reavers we'd been fighting.

Neither of them had dared to open the passage through to where they'd heard chanting from "the main chamber", as he described it. That reminded me of word walls, and their attendant Dragon Priests. Since that was what we came here for, we weren't at all put off. I'm sure Zahra would prefer a Dragon Priest to a spider, anyway.

Brelyna was fascinated with the embuing apparatus and we had to drag her with us. "It will still be here when we come back," I reassured her.

There's not much to say about our fight with Dukaan, the Dragon Priest. Short, but intense, and at least this time the room wasn't flooded. The word wall taught me Cyclone, an elemental effect, and not one I considered particularly interesting. I hoped the Black Book on the other side of the room would be more useful.

"The Sallow Regent" was the title, which gave me little clue what to expect. The region of Apocrphya it took me to was dark, except for the little area under the floating lamp where I arrived. The darkness obscured any dangers more than a few dozen yards away, and also gave me no clue as to which direction I needed to proceed. So when the lamp started to drift away, I just followed it. It soon drifted off the edge of the platform, out over the "sea" that I knew would harm me if I tried to follow.

That's when I discovered that the darkness would do the same. Not as rapidly as the black water of the sea, or I'd have just tried to follow the lamp, but enough. I ran towards another lamp that seemed close, but narowly avoided falling off the edge of the platform. With no light source of my own, and no way to proceed, I just opened the Black Book again, to return.

I discussed my dilemma with the others. I couldn't carry a torch, as I used two-handed weapons, and so I hadn't brought one with me. I didn't know any light spells, either. Brelyna did, but couldn't teach it to me.

"Could one of us go instead?" Zahra asked. "Ranyu would have the same problem with carrying a torch and using his bow, but I wouldn't"

"I don't think it would be a good idea for either you or Ranyu to try. None of us could die in Apocrypha. We'd just get 'banished' back to our own realm. But in your two cases, that would be the Deadlands, and neither I nor Brelyna would know that had happened. I'm pretty sure that I'd be sent back here, as that's always happened before, and of course Brelyna is a mortal who we know belongs here."

"So I could?" Brelyna asked.

I was reluctant to risk a mortal, but what I said about not dying in Apocrypha was true. You wouldn't really be there, because of the way the portal magic worked, and defeat would just break the connection, or something like that. I just wasn't sure what would happen to somebody who was summoned to this realm in the first place.

Zahra grabbed the book. She didn't want to risk Brelyna either. But the book wouldn't open for her. She reluctantly handed it over to Brelyna.

The Dunmer was back with us even faster than I'd returned. "You didn't say anything about tentacles!" she protested.

I hadn't seen any. It was much too dark for that, but apparently she'd cast a fairly strong light spell as soon as she arrived, which revealed a Seeker or two. And things with tentacles had much the same effect on Brelyna as spiders did on Zahra. She'd not seen any of them before, so the shock was heightened by their strangeness.

I carefully explained what kind of opposition she could expect in Mora's realm, with their strengths and weaknesses. The Lurkers would be susceptible to a good ranged frost spell, and would probably never get close enough to do her any harm. The seekers would be like any spell-casters, harmed and incapacitated by shock. Their only spell would drain her health, not her magicka. And I told her about their decoys, and to keep attacking the original.

Zahra held her laughter until Brelyna had opened the book again, but I suspect she heard, judging by the look she gave her when she returned. "OK, I won't laugh about you and spiders, if you won't laugh about tentacles. Deal?"

Brelyna hadn't found any word walls, or anything helpful against Miraak. She'd only had to deal with three or four of the creatures, and had done so comfortably at long range. The book at the end had given her an ability that reduced the cost of spells and enchantments. It could have given me a small boost to combat skills, but she doubted that I had any room for improvement there. Which was true. I couldn't raise my two-handed skill any higher, and that was what I'd be using.