Chapter Twenty-One: Lend me your Ears and I’ll Sing you a Song

Elspeth found Enthir, the Bosmer sorcerer and trader, wandering around the second floor of the Hall of Countenance and she approached him warily.  Like most Bosmer, there was nothing physically intimidating about him but he dealt in rare and unusual items and ingredients—black market things—and she had little experience with people like him.

“Oh look, it’s the destruction magic genius,” he said with his tone a mix of sarcasm and admiration.  “What can I do for you?”

“I heard you are the mage who can get things,” she said.

He looked around carefully.  “Let’s go talk in my room.”  When Elspeth looked at him suspiciously, he sneered.  “I won’t bite you.  I do all my business there.”  He looked her over.   “Besides, you could kill me where I stand.”

When they arrived Elspeth looked him squarely in the eyes and said, “I believe you have something of Onmund’s.  I want to get it back.”

“Oh how precious,” said Enthir mockingly, “Onmund is too afraid to deal with me himself and so he sent you.”

“He’s not afraid of you,” Elspeth protested, “and he didn’t send me.”

“So, you’re just doing this out of the goodness of your heart?  Again, I say precious.”  He shook his head and continued.  “Look, I’ll make this simple for you.  All my trades are final.  Onmund knew this ahead of time, and went through with it anyway.”  He paused and smirked.  “So, there is nothing more to be said.”

Elspeth wasn’t stupid.  There was always something more to be said.  So, she crossed her arms and tried to be persuasive.  “I think it would be in everyone’s best interest if you return the amulet.”  As soon as the words left her mouth, she knew it wouldn’t work.  Her ability to be persuasive seemed so random these days.

“Yes, you see, the thing is…I’m not concerned with everyone’s best interest. I find I’m only concerned with my own.”

He sounded so smug and self-satisfied that Elspeth didn’t believe him and with this, she became determined to wear him down.  “There must be something I can do.”  Her tone was matter-of-fact.  She wasn’t pleading with him, not yet anyway.  She knew there had to be something he needed.  Or wanted.

“Look how persistent you are.  It’s charming, really.”  He grinned.  “Onmund gave up the first time I said no, but not you….”  He paused for a moment and let his voice trail somewhat.  “All right.  I’ll tell you a little story.”  He cleared his throat.  “Let’s pretend for a moment that a certain individual was looking to acquire a particular staff.  Let’s also pretend that he traded some valuable items for said staff.  And it was only later that it was realized that this individual might…misuse such a staff.  The resulting disaster would reflect quite poorly on everyone involved.  Are you following me?”

“No, not really.”  Elspeth was quite confused.  “What is your point?”

“You’re not very good at this are you,” he said, again with the mocking.  “Look, I traded a staff to someone and found out later that was a bad idea.  So, I’d like the staff back.  Understand now?”

Elspeth raised her eyebrows and scoffed.  “You won’t let Onmund out of his trade, but you want out of yours?”

“I did not have the advantage of knowing this particular individual’s character.  Onmund can claim no such ignorance,” Enthir replied, scowling.

“Fine,” she said.  “I’ll get the staff for you.”

“Well look at that, we have agreement.  The individual you are looking for is an Altmer named Tanvir and he took the staff up to Skytemple ruins, just north of here.  Don’t underestimate him.  He’s a very powerful destruction wizard.  He’ll be a challenge.  Even for you genius.”  He raised his eyebrows to gesture for her to leave.  “Until next time.”

Elspeth walked back to her room and collapsed on her bed.  She woke up after only a couple of hours.  It was early still, but she couldn’t get back to sleep.  After about an hour of going through the motions of reading a book but not actually absorbing any information, she put her armor on, packed her satchel, and left.  She found Lydia sleeping soundly in her room and she knelt down and shook her lightly.  “Lydia,” she said, “wake up.”

Lydia groaned and rolled over.  She squinted at Elspeth and then looked over at the clock.  “What are you doing here?  Why aren’t all draped over Onmund?”

“You’re funny.” said Elspeth.  “I need to go to Skytemple Ruins to get something for Enthir.  I’ll explain on the way.”

As a fellow Nord, Lydia was sympathetic to Onmund’s plight.  Her father’s shield, which hung in the upstairs hallway in Breezehome, was the only thing she had of his.  It was beautiful and powerful—forged by his friend Eorlund Grey Mane and enchanted by the High King’s court wizard in Solitude.  His captain recovered it after it was thought to be lost in the battle that had cost him his life.  It was so special she couldn’t bring herself to use it, lest it go missing again.  “You know,” Lydia said as they left the College.  “Lydia is a nice name for a baby girl.  And you’re gonna owe me after this.”

The ruins were located on a large glacial mound, which was easily accessible by stepping along the path of ice floes from the shore.  Finding a straightforward path upward proved to be a little more difficult, however.  They got caught in a storm and about halfway up the icy trail, visibility was reduced to almost nothing.  At the top of the mound they found the sheltered entrance to the ruins, where they were able to rest a moment before going inside.

The ruin itself was little more than a small room with a single sarcophagus and a chest.  Elspeth’s heart sank a bit as she realized that Tanvir was nowhere inside.  “He could still be somewhere on the glacier,” suggested Lydia.  “There are more surface ruins outside.

Indeed, as they exited the ruin and looked ahead, they saw the outline of a man in robes in the distance standing near what looked like an altar.  The storm gave them cover as they sneaked around the perimeter of the top of the mound.  Elspeth approached him carefully but he attacked as soon as he saw them, first turning the staff on both of them.  Elspeth was able to repel it but Lydia had no wards and it hit her directly.   She stumbled back and looked up.  “Everything is so pretty,” she said dreamily.  It was a charm spell and Elspeth had no idea how powerful it was or how long it would put Lydia out of commission although it must have been pretty strong to affect her at all.

“Get back!” she yelled as she pushed the now staggering and dazed Lydia to safety.  She charged at the wizard.   Enthir has not been exaggerating about his power.  Why he bothered using a charm spell was a mystery.  When he turned his lightening spells on her, Elspeth couldn’t recall the last time she had seen such powerful destruction magic coming at her and most of her magicka was used up trying to maintain a greater ward strong enough to deflect it.  She had a very, very small window of opportunity when his magicka was drained.  She dodged another shot from the staff and with what little magicka she had left, tossed a small fireball, knocking a potion out of his hand, and lunged forward, just barely getting close enough to cut him in the gut.  He dropped the staff before twitching a couple of times and then he was still.  Assuming him to be dead, Elspeth turned around quickly to see where the staff had fallen.

She was steadying herself along an icy ledge behind the altar and as she grasped the staff, she felt a strong and incredibly painful lightning spell hit her back, right below the place where her arm met her shoulder, right where her armor was a bit soft so that she could move around.  It hit her hard enough to cause her to stumble and slide down the edge of the glacial mound, and she barely managed to grab a small slab of ice jutting out over the edge.  She pulled up with her all her strength but she just dangled there.  With one hand on the protruding ice and the staff in her other, she couldn’t cast so she just had to wait to heal, thanking the gods she didn’t have to hold on with the arm that had just been injured and praying that the staff had enough charge to work on Tanvir.

She looked up and saw Tanvir looking over, holding his gut where she cut him.  She gulped and aimed the staff at him.  He easily dodged the spell, but as he raised his hand to cast a spell that would have sent her tumbling down the side of the mound, leaving her wedged in the ice below, Lydia leaped from behind, knocking him down and finishing him off with her axe.  “HANG ON!” she screamed.  “JUST…HANG ON!”  She slid herself down as close as she could and lowered her axe.  “SWING YOUR ARM OVER AND GRAB THE BLADE.”

“I can’t!” she called back.  “I can’t drop the staff.”

“YOU HAVE TO DROP THE STAFF!!!”

Elspeth looked down; there would be no recovering the staff if she dropped it.  It would be jammed in the ice.  She looked up again.  Lydia was still screaming at her to grab the axe.  The pain in her back meant that she had one good swing left.  Maybe.  So, she stuck the top of the staff into her boot and grasped it between her legs—this would make crawling back over the edge difficult but it was worth a try.  Then she swung her arm up and grabbed the blade; the pain from the spell was unbelievable but she stretched and shrieked and squeezed.   Lydia pulled her to safety and after they tumbled back to the safer side of the edge, she clutched her into a full body embrace, crushing her shoulder.  Elspeth cried and howled in pain but Lydia just held her tighter.  “Gods,” she cried, “I thought I lost you.”

“I’m okay,” said Elspeth weakly, “You’re really hurting my shoulder.”

“I don’t care!” she said but after a few moments she released her.   Elspeth healed herself as best she could but knew the pain in her shoulder would linger for a while.  She suddenly felt incredibly stupid and rolled over and pushed her face into the snow.

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “I should have made sure he was dead.  I should have dropped the staff….” Her voice trailed off but she looked up at Lydia again.  “I am so sorry.”

Lydia couldn’t stop shaking.  They had both become a little overconfident in their abilities to fight together and perhaps this was a good lesson for the two of them.  She took a deep breath and smiled weakly.  “Just don’t do that again.”  She stood up and brushed herself off and after helping Elspeth to her feet looked at her intently and said, “I would have had to tell Xeri that you died chasing Nord plonker!”  She pursed her lips.  “She would have yelled at me!  Because I am NOT supposed to let you die that way.  It isn’t honorable.  I don’t care what Idolaf says.”

Elspeth looked at her and burst out laughing.  “Runa would have been proud though.”

“You’re going to have to name all the babies Lydia now.  Even the boys.”

They walked slowly and steadily down the mound taking care to avoid horkers and other creatures on the way home while Lydia chattered on about magic Nord-Breton babies.  Elspeth humored her friend, thinking about how excited she was to give Onmund his amulet back when she stopped and exclaimed, “Oh my gods!”  She looked down at the staff and then back at Lydia.  “Am I really just chasing Nord….”  She clapped her hand over her mouth, now suddenly distressed.

“What?”  Lydia would have laughed but when she saw the look of concern on Elspeth’s face, she stifled her giggles and put her arm around her.  “I wouldn’t let you do that.”  She paused.  “Well, yes I would but I wouldn’t let you take on a storm wizard for it.”  She hugged her and smiled reassuringly.

When they arrived back at the College, Lydia went to change and Elspeth went immediately to Enthir’s door, where she knocked somewhat impatiently.  After a few moments she heard, “Who is it?”  He sounded irritated.

“It’s Elspeth.  Enthir, I have your staff,” she pressed her forehead against the door.

“Just a minute,” he called out.  She heard shuffling and a crash and then shushing.  When he opened the door, his hair was disheveled and his robe seemed somehow…crooked.  “Come in,” he said.

“I could stay out here,” she offered.  She suddenly felt extremely awkward around him.

“No!” he insisted.  He leaned in and said quietly, “I never do business in the open hallway.  Come in!”  She walked in and handed him the staff, which he inspected carefully.  “Good,” he said as he looked things over.  “And you seem more or less unscathed.”  He stopped and cocked his head, as if he were curious about something but not quite certain how to ask.

“Enthir….”  He patience was spent.

“Okay,” he said.  He opened a chest and from a small silk bag he removed the amulet, which he handed to her.  She put it in her pocket and turned to leave.

“You really like him, don’t you?”  His tone had changed.  It softened and seemed almost friendly although at this point, Elspeth was too weary and sore to care.  She simply nodded, desperate to leave his room.  As she grabbed the door handle, she heard a noise come from one of his closets, a scratching and then a thud.  She eyed the door suspiciously and then looked back at Enthir.  He didn’t appear embarrassed or even impatient; he just had a sort of crooked, knowing smile.

She rolled her eyes.  “Well, it’s good to know some things are the same everywhere,” she said, recalling the strange culture of secrecy over such matters that had pervaded Arcane University.  Her curiosity was piqued, but as far as she was concerned, as long as it wasn’t Onmund in there, she didn’t care.  She turned and left the Hall of Countenance as quickly as she could.

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25 thoughts on “Chapter Twenty-One: Lend me your Ears and I’ll Sing you a Song

  1. Erica

    All the babies will be named Lydia! Even the boys! That made me LOL so hard, I think I pulled a muscle in my belly. And now I can’t even begin to imagine who Enthir was hiding in his closet.

    Reply
    1. elspethaurilie Post author

      I thought you’d like that. Onspeth’s son will grow up and write the song, “Boy Named Lydia.”

      My ma left home when I was three
      And she didn’t leave much to da and me
      Just this old lute and an empty bottle of mead.
      Now, I don’t blame her cause she run and hid
      But the meanest thing that she ever did
      Was before she left, she went and named me Lydia.

      Reply
  2. Pyrelle

    Loved it and as long as it is’nt Brelyna in the closet I will not be hyperventalating and thinking of enjoyable ways to murder Enthir. Maybe it is Phinis…

    Reply
  3. adantur

    Those fight scenes are still going strong, that was quite an exciting little duel with the destruction mage I must say. “I would have had to tell Xeri that you died chasing Nord plonker!” I’m curious about your use of the word plonker here, where did you hear this from? As far as I know plonker always has an ‘a’ before it as in “chasing a nord plonker” or perhaps “you plonker!” Otherwise great post!

    Reply
    1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      She was talking about chasing “plonker” in general. I would have also said “chasing Nord prick” or “chasing Nord penis” (either of those are also correct with “a”) as if chasing genitalia were a kind of general phenomenon that Xeri would want Elspeth to avoid.

      Reply
    1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      I know! I really wish I had a chance to write more of him. I imagine him sort of curmudgeonly and sarcastic at the College, especially regarding the younger mages but with a big soft spot, like the way Erica wrote him at the end of The End of the Pilgrim’s Path where he gave me all the feels.

      Reply
  4. kitdoctor

    Wow, how self-aware are you to bring up the fact that Elspeth might question her motives, and the amount of trouble she is going to for Onmund. That was a nice, realistic touch. You sprinkled in some great action and suspense too for a well-rounded post.

    Reply
    1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      It occurred to me that Skyrim represents a turning point in Elspeth’s life. To this point, she did what people (her mentors, other instructors) told her to. Now she’s on this journey that does have a specific goal in mind, but she’s also free to do things on her own a bit.

      Reply
    1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      I’m glad you liked it. Fight scenes are the bane of my existence. Truly, I really just want to skip them and just write THEN THEY BLEW THEIR ENEMIES TO TINY BITS instead.

      Reply

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