Book Two, Chapter Nineteen: There’s Someone in My Head but It’s Not Me

Labyrinthian was an enormous ruin, so imposing that even the mountains that towered in the distance seemed to shrink in the backdrop of the stone columns, sprawling staircases, and carved totems.   As they stepped inside the courtyard entrance, Elspeth stood, mouth agape, her gaze moving slowly across the snow covered paths and staircases.  Such a place gave one an immediate sense of one’s insignificance as well as an impending sense of doom.

“Incredible, no?”  Trygve’s voice interrupted her thoughts as he wedged himself between her and Onmund.  “To the north is another path that leads directly to Whiterun hold.  It comes out just around Onmund’s forge.”

Mention of the forge caused Onmund to turn and glare a little though he did not respond.  Throughout the entire journey, the tension between the two men had been apparent, but since everyone was cooperating to this point, Elspeth opted not to remark on it. 

“With its central location, Labyrinthian was one of the most important cities in ancient Skyrim,” Trygve explained, gesturing for them to move for forward, as if they were tourists on holiday.

“I’m surprised that more travelers don’t use the path between the two holds to this day,” said Onmund, who had no idea the massive ruin was so close to where he had been working in Whiterun and was feeling a little insecure about his apparent lack of geographical knowledge.

“Well, you shouldn’t be,” Trygve replied, gesturing toward two frost trolls gnawing on bloody bones.   As if on instinct, he nocked his bow and aimed at the closer one, while Elspeth and Onmund hurled fire spells as the second, who charged the group after Trygve’s arrow nailed his companion in the neck.  The second troll writhed and fought against the fire to no avail and was down within a few moments.

The group moved quickly up the steps and let out a collective gasp as they reached the entrance.  There was someone already there, an apparition of sorts.  Onmund and Trygve held back, but Elspeth approached cautiously since the ghost did not attack or otherwise seem hostile.   A closer look revealed that it was Savos Aren, which made her tremble a little.

“Savos,” she whispered hoarsely.  She was right in front of him, but he did not notice or regard her in any way.  After several moments, however, he responded, not to her, but rather to several other apparitions that appeared.

“Come on, we’re finally here! Let’s not waste any more time!”  His voice was considerably more youthful sounding and for a moment, Elspeth was unable to suppress a grin at the notion of a the Arch-mage as a young man, full of ambition and enthusiasm.  But when the other apparitions—college apprentices by the looks of it—began speaking, she stepped back.  Amongst them, there was much excited chatter, though Elspeth was unable to discern their conversation.  Frowning, she joined Trygve and Onmund up by the door, looking a bit dismayed as she continued to observe the group of specters standing around the platform.

“Is that Savos?” Onmund asked; his tone was cautious, almost fearful.  Elspeth had to remind herself that Onmund had a much longer history with the late Arch-mage.  She nodded sadly and touched the edge of his robe, but before she could reply she felt the amulet on her neck grow warm.  She clutched at her chest and neck but it as she was unable to easily remove it, she simply frowned and fidgeted a little, trying to determine if the talisman was going to sear itself into her skin or if it was simply some enchanted effect.

As the apparitions disappeared, she stopped squirming for a moment and threw her hands over her ears as she heard a familiar voice echo in her head.

“I knew you’d come eventually. It would seem I’m bound to this place. The bitter irony of it all—my greatest failure, and even in death I can’t escape it. I never meant for any of what happened here. Tried to seal it up, lock it away forever. But now it all comes out again….”

“Elspeth!” Trygve shouted.  “Elspeth, the torc!”

Ignoring Trygve, she let out a frustrated sigh and gripped the top of her head in her hands, desperately trying to focus.  But she was troubled.  Savos was communicating directly with her.  Did he mean to guide her? The notion should have been somewhat reassuring, but it wasn’t.  It was a portent—of what, however, she did not know.  Finally, she removed her satchel and shoved it into Trygve’s hands before turning away and letting her gaze wander over the courtyard.  Onmund sidled up next to her, but didn’t say anything.  As she stood there, she should have felt comforted by his presence but there was only anxiety at the thought of what Savos Aren might consider his greatest failure.   The feeling would have been overwhelming had it not been interrupted by the loud crack and squeal of the ancient door as it opened.

Aside from the lack of draugr and other ruin-dwelling creatures to greet them, the vestibule was much like that of any ruin.  Elspeth held back, clutching the neck of her armor and looking around, which annoyed Trygve.  Before he could complain, however, the apparitions appeared again; their animated and excited conversation echoed in the hall.

“What happened to them?” Elspeth whispered, though no one could hear her—at least no one among the living.

“There were six of us. Full of ambition, eager to conquer the world. It was Atmah’s idea to come here, at first. She talked me into it, and I convinced the others. We were sure we’d find it all here, hidden away from time. Power, knowledge… All the things we didn’t want to wait for. We thought it would be so simple.”

And then it was quiet once again and Elspeth could not be sure if his words were intended to guide her or if perhaps his spirit simply wanted to unburden itself.  She let out a quiet, but frustrated sigh as she followed Trygve down a dimly lit hallway that led to an old rusty gate.  The gate opened to a room so enormous, Elspeth would swear it spanned the entire base of the mountain into which the ruin was built.  It was filled with hostile skeletons, which tended to be more of a nuisance that anything else—shattering with the single touch of a destruction spell a well-aimed weapon—and the group separated.   Elspeth picked them off one by one, alternating between fire and shock for variety and driving her sword into those that somehow evaded her spells.

Like shooting ducks in….but before she could complete the thought, a terrifying sound echoed throughout and a massive skeletal dragon emerged from the back of the room.  Elspeth gasped but before she could attack, a powerful chain-lightening spell hit the dragon in the face from the left side.  The dragon whipped around and immediately attacked in the direction from where the lightening came.

“Onmund!” Elspeth screamed as she quickly turned and ran off to find him.

“What in Oblivion are you doing?”  Trygve hurried over and shouted after she took off toward Onmund.  “Aw fuck,” he said as he lost sight of the Breton and began shooting arrow after arrow at the huge skeleton.

The terror of finding Onmund’s body burned, blackened and curled into itself like the townspeople in Helgen and the guards at the western watch tower was overwhelming left her unfocused, missing opportunities to attack the dragon as she attempted to dodge its fire.  Following Onmund’s spells from the other side of the room, she fell over crumbled rocks and tripped own feet.  With lightening coming from one side and arrows from the side, scorching and piercing his head and neck, the dragon whipped back and forth, spraying a wall of fire directly on the path she was running slong.  Though the heat was intense and the flames blinding, Elspeth pushed forward, until she felt the dragon’s bony wing smash against her side.  She was so distracted; she failed to notice just how close she was to the beast.  What happened next was a blur as the dragon knocked Elspeth against a stone column.

When she came to, Onmund was pulling her to her feet and Trygve was glaring.  “What were you thinking?” he shouted.  Onmund too looked concerned, though he remained quiet.  Elspeth ignored them both.  As she stepped toward the dragon’s corpse, Trygve spoke again; his voice was remarkably quieter though not calmer.  “Elspeth—”

“Shut up!” she screamed.  The amulet was growing warm again and she hurried forward, away from the men, straining to listen.

“Girduin died first. It happened so fast; none of us had a chance to react. One moment we joked about what we’d find below, the next he’d been ripped in half. And then we were all fighting just to survive. None of us were prepared. It was amazing the rest of us survived. When it was over, Atmah, Hafnar and I stared, pale-faced, at one another, unwilling to admit we’d made a terrible mistake. We could have turned back. It could have ended there. But we kept going.”

“This is not guidance,” she exclaimed.  “It’s a confession.”

“What?” asked Onmund, as he approached her slowly.

“Nothing,” she said, shaking her head.  As the amulet cooled down again, she played his words over in her head.  Was her task to somehow correct the Arch-mage’s mistake?  The notion made her terribly uneasy.  She looked back at her companions.  Were they repeating the events of the past?  And what did that mean for—she looked up at her companions, letting her gaze wander a bit and then settle on Onmund.

“Elspeth, are you okay?”  Onmund interrupted her thoughts.

“I’m fine,” she said curtly.  “Let’s go.”  She looked straight past the men and hurried across the enormous room.  At the far end of the room a set of stairs led down a steep hallway at the end of which was a small pedestal with an etched carving.  Elspeth brushed some dirt away and lit a magelight over the pedestal, but before she could read it the apprentices appeared again.  The details of their conversation remained unclear, though the shift in their tone was apparent.  Whereas before the group was enthusiastic and confident, they now seemed despondent and terrified.  The only voice she could discern was that of the younger Savos, urging them to continue.

She walked into the next room slowly, waiting for the amulet to grow warm and for Savos to continue his declaration of guilt and regret.  But it didn’t come.  Instead, they were met with a swirling gust of blinding white and blue light and a distinct menacing man’s voice.

Wo meys wah dii vul junaar?

While the question was delivered, Elspeth drew in a sharp breath and tried to steady herself as a very distinct and painful sensation overtook her body, like an electrical shock that started in her heart and moved outward from her chest and along her limbs, nearly depleting her entire magicka reserves.  Never before had she felt anything quite as painful.   Elspeth had been born with an inordinate amount of magicka, even for a Breton.  As a child, it had enabled her to cast powerful spells, almost as easily as she could draw a breath.  And while there had been battles and training sessions that wore her reserves down, never before had it been drained so quickly.

“What was that?” asked Trygve.  “What did he say?”

She shook her head.  Though the dragon tongue had a certain familiarity and encounters with the word walls gave her direct knowledge of shouts, the language itself was still foreign.  “I…I don’t know,” she began, “I just—”

But they were interrupted by a figure that emerged from a cluster of ice-crystals on the floor, a frost spirit according to Trygve.  Killing it caused the crystals to dissipate and a door to open.  Past the door was a steep drop, with a narrow stone path spiraling downward and several dragur wandering in the distance.  As Elspeth stepped forward she was greeted once again by the gusts of blue and white light, the menacing voice, and pain.

Nivahriin mus fent siiv nid aaz het?

The light and the voice didn’t appear to have the same effect on the men as it had on her and Elspeth steadied herself, determined not to reveal how much pain the light and voice caused her.  As she studied her companions, she realized that she was being targeted.  Not only that, but between Savos Aren’s confessions to her and his spectral group of mages—she was certain that something terrible was going to happen, something similar to what happened before.  And that did not bode well for her companions.  She wondered if she should proceed alone, though she knew that suggestion would not go over well.

Trygve was pacing back and forth along the edge of the platform, surveying the area.  “I think we should split up,” he said suddenly.  The others looked at him, a little surprised, he quckly explained.  “Elspeth needs to follow that voice.  But if there are other skeletons and dragur, they might be drawn to it as well.  I don’t want to risk what happened in Wolfskull Cave happening here, not in a place this big.  Onmund and I will check these alcoves and take care of the dragur down at the at the bottom you can slip down along the path.”

She hated to admit it, but the suggestion brought her much relief.  She nodded as she carefully rearranged her supplies so that she had extra magicka potions handy.

Onmund, who was clearly skeptical of this plan, sidled up to her and squeezed her hand.  “Be careful,” he whispered.

“I will,” she replied, smiling weakly and touching her forehead to the top of his arm.  She glanced back one last time before taking the narrow path across the chasm.

“Come on,” said Trygve as he jumped down to the lower platform, immediately drawing attention of the dragur wandering along the lower part of the chasm.  The Nords killed as many creatures as they could, missing only those on the bottommost depths of the cavern.

“Okay,” said Onmund, “let’s check that room and move along so we can catch up to her.”  Though he could appreciate the preemptive attack against the creatures in the lower parts of the ruin, he wasn’t overly fond of being separated from Elspeth for too long.

“Right,” said Trygve.  The entrance on the far side of the platform away from the upper platform led to a rocky hallway with only a couple draugr, fewer than either of the men were anticipating.  The iron door at the end of the passage opened to a dark room with enchanting and alchemy tables, and a few chests, but otherwise, nothing dangerous.

“All right,” said Onmund, somewhat impatiently.  “Let’s get back.”  He turned and was surprised to see Trygve standing by the door, staring him down a bit.  “What?”

“I’m going to ask you to leave,” Trygve replied.  “Go back to the College or Morthal, if you don’t feel like riding out today.”  His tone was firm, betraying his seriousness, but not insistent.  Not yet.

“Have you gone mad?” asked Onmund, “If you think I’m going to abandon—”

“Onmund, I have no doubt you want to help protect Elspeth more than anything.” Trygve’s tone remained steady.  He had no desire to argue with the other man.  “You can’t.  When you’re around she’s….” He wanted to say useless, but that was something of an exaggeration, not to mention somewhat insulting.  “She’s distracted and unfocused. Sloppy.”

“I am not going back to the College.  And now we’re wasting time when we should be rooting out more draugr and catching up to her.”  Onmund was angry.  Even if Elspeth was a bit distracted, she was still a capable fighter.  If Trygve didn’t think so, he wouldn’t have sent her off alone in the ruin.

Trygve let out a steady breath and looked at Onmund intently, frowning a little.  “Well, I didn’t actually think I would convince you.”  He wandered back over to the alchemy table and pulled out a couple of bottles.  “Let me see your dagger,” he said.  “I want to poison it.”

“All right,” said Onmund as he handed the other Nord his weapon and watched him apply the toxin to the blade.  “But what for?”  He hardly ever fought with it and this was the first time Trygve had mentioned treating it with any sort of potion.

“Because, I am going to stab you with it.”  Before Onmund could react, Trygve grabbed him and jammed the blade into his upper arm.  Onmund gasped and tried to strike back, to defend himself.  But his muscles clenched and stiffened as the paralytic took hold of his body.  As he pitched forward, Trygve caught and propped him up.  “You are not going to die,” he said.  “I promise.”  If Onmund even heard this, Trygve couldn’t tell, not in the dim light.  But he knew he wasn’t dead.  His pulse and heart rate were normal.  He should just sleep.

Trygve looked around.  The room would have been an adequate place to leave him, closed off from draugr.  But the potion that he had concocted for this particular plan was a new one and he wasn’t entirely certain how long it would last or what condition he might awake in.  Hoisting him over his shoulder, Trygve decided to carry him back up to the entrance.  He’d have immediate access to the exit and the time it took would give him a small buffer so that when he caught up to Elspeth, any explanation of her beloved’s absence would be less suspicious.

*****

Alone, it was much easier to focus and Elspeth walked along the path swiftly but quietly, steeling herself for the next magicka-draining message, which came soon after she crossed a narrow bridge that traversed the chasm from the ledge.

“You do not answer…Must I use this gutteral language of yours?”

Elspeth’s mouth dropped open, shocked to hear the common tongue but she made no attempt to respond.  She simply hurried along, across another bridge and into an open room with a single but exceptionally powerful draugr.  Then down another wide stair into an empty room, which led to a narrow dank hallway that smelled of old mushrooms and moldy books.  She could hear water rushing and the hallway merged with a stream and led downward into a flooded room, the exit to which was at the end of a flooded tunnel.  With no other way out, Elspeth lifted her bag over her head and waded through the water, which was cold but surprisingly not frigid.  By the time she reached the door, she was soaked up to her chest, and the sensation of being cold and wet only seemed to magnify the sensation of magicka loss, which once again gripped her as she neared the door.

Have you returned, Aren? My old dear friend? Do you seek to finish that which you could not?

He believed that she was the Arch-mage.  Elspeth paused for a moment and clutched her chest wondering if he was simply speculating or if it was the amulet.  Did it carry some aspect of Savos Aren that he could sense, like a soul gem?  If so, it was even more precious that she imagined and once again she felt unworthy of it and of the posthumous closeness she was sharing with him now.  It saddened her to think that under normal circumstances, he might have been a mentor of sorts.  And now there was just…this.

She glowered and pulled herself through the water.  The exit led to another dank room that was difficult to maneuver due to crowded fallen stone supports.  She slogged around in her wet armor, defeating, not only draugr, but also trolls, wisps and wispmothers and a fire spirit.  Then, some time between the trolls and the wispmother, the voice realized that it was not the Arch-mage to whom he was speaking.

Did he warn you that your own power would be your undoing? That it would only serve to strengthen me?

“He hasn’t told me shit,” she grumbled quietly to herself.  She was growing weary and impatient that perhaps she would never see the end of the ruin.  For a moment, she thought perhaps that was the trick; there was no end.  That was unlikely; after all the Arch-mage had made it out at some point.  So, she pressed on, room after room, draugr after draugr.  After a while, the rooms, much like the reanimated ancient warriors, began to lose their distinctiveness.

At the top of a spiral staircase filled in with dirt and rocks, Elspeth saw the apparitions again, another one missing from the group.  Though it was distressing to watch the group grow smaller and smaller each time, there was something rather, for lack of a better word, reassuring about them.  They were familiar and their presence signaled that the events she was witnessing and living through were, at the very least, moving forward—however terrifying that was.

“Elvali died here. I don’t even remember what killed her. One of the countless faceless horrors. I think she was glad, in that final moment. Hafnar was covered in blood, but his stupid Nord pride wouldn’t let him admit defeat. I… I don’t know why I pressed the others on, convinced them to keep going. ‘If we can just make it through, it’ll all be worth it,’ I told them. And the fools believed the words I myself didn’t trust.”

The despair in his voice was palpable but instead of making her sad, she began to grow angry. She wanted to lash out, that if it was her task to somehow resolve the errors of his past that she needed something more than just his agonizing.

“Savos!” she exclaimed angrily as she stepped forward, though she had no idea what she would demand of him.  It didn’t matter, however.  Within moments of her outburst, she saw what probably killed Elavali: a draugr and its warhound, in some sort of spectral form.  “Well shit,” she said as she slipped quietly through the tunnel and cast a lightening spell in their direction.  The translucent glow made it a little easier to aim at spectral creatures, but apart from that, they weren’t much different from their non-translucent brethren.  She wondered if their ghostly form was because she was approaching the source of the blinding white light.  At this point, that was something of a relief.  She just wanted it over.

“Come meet your end.”

“All right,” she screamed.  To this point Elspeth had been cautious, moving steadily through the ruin.  The strategy was meant to conserve her energy.  But she was done.  There was no waiting for her magicka to recover this time.  She swallowed a potion and didn’t even wait until she was fully recovered before she took all the anger and fear that was building up and, ignoring how exhausted she was becoming, proceeded to dash through the rest of the ruin, slaying spectral draugr left and right, pausing only to recover from the injuries sustained when she stupidly ran straight into a soul gem trap and then to quickly study a word wall, from which she learned, Tiid.

Ordinarily, she would have taken a moment to reflect on the word but not this time.  She moved on through a narrow hallway with enormous ceilings and into a room with several altars, where the apprentices appeared and Savos spoke to her again.

“There were only three of us left. Takes-In-Light just sat down and gave up, and we left her there to die. I’ve no idea what killed her, but I’m sure something did. Atmah cried to herself. Hafnar wouldn’t look at either of us. And I kept telling them it would be all right. I was in charge now. I pushed them on, insisting it would be worse to try and go back. What happened after was my fault. All mine.”

By now, she was barely paying attention.  The rest of them died, likely in some horrible fashion.  And the late Arch-mage blamed himself.  It was hardly surprising, but it wasn’t particularly helpful either.  She stopped for a moment, just to catch her breath.

Elspeth opened the door and as she peered into the next room, she gasped.  The room was large, dank, and filled with stone moss-covered columns—it was like many of the rooms she’d passed through, apart from the spectacular glowing orb in the distance in which a figure seemed to be encased.  From where she was standing, she couldn’t discern the features of the figure.  Connected to orb were two streams of light, which lead to two elevated platforms, considerably higher than the one on which the orb sat.  The streams seemed to be emanating from two more figures sitting on their respective platforms, as if they were holding the orb in place.

What in Oblivion—

“We all knew this was the end. Without even opening the door, we knew what was behind it would kill us. None of our spells were potent enough, none of our wills were strong enough. ‘No matter what, we stay together,’ Hafnar said. I looked him in the eyes and lied to him.”

The individuals holding the orb in place were the Arch-mage’s last two companions.  Elspeth had only read about such magic in books.  As the realization settled in, her heart began racing.  Never in her life had she felt so ill prepared.   Swallowing hard against the dry ache in her throat, she looked across the room again, trying to determine how to approach the ones holding the orb in place.  As she tried to plan her attack, she was startled by the sound of shuffling and she whipped around with her sword drawn and then nearly passed out with relief when she saw Trygve hurrying toward her.

“Oh thank gods,” she said, catching her breath.

He regarded her coolly, looking past her to observe the situation.  “What do you know?” he asked, not making eye contact, though Elspeth didn’t seem to regard his aloofness as particularly unusual or remarkable.

“Not much,” she said quietly.  “Savos continued to speak to me but he just…well, he didn’t tell me much, other than how remorseful he is at what happened here, to his group.”  She paused and looked back toward the doors again.  “Trygve, where’s Onmund?”

The Nord was quiet for a moment, but his face betrayed neither guilt nor regret.  “We split up a while ago.  He won’t catch up for a while,” he explained, careful to maintain a steady tone.

Elspeth was somewhat relieved to hear this, though she didn’t say as much.  “All right,” she said.  “Those two figures, thralls of some sort, are holding that orb in place so that whatever it is can’t escape.”  She strained her eyes to see, but she could not discern the figure.  “If that’s the source of the blinding white light, we’re in trouble.  He’s been draining my magic all day.”

Trygve raised his eyebrows, but didn’t comment on the magicka issue as he had nothing helpful to say.  “Well, that’s a dragon priest,” he explained; his lips trembled slightly as his anxiety slowly became apparent.  “And I doubt the barrier will be penetrable until we get rid of the other two.”

Elspeth nodded and started to hurry toward the higher platforms.  “Hold on,” he said, yanking her back.  Why had no one ever taught the Breton to plan? “Get close to the priest, hang back by that column and use it for cover.  I’ll take care of the thralls—I think can get them in one shot.”

She groaned inwardly, all but certain he wouldn’t get far with just arrows. “Trygve, don’t underestimate the strength of this magic, I don’t know—”

“This might help,” he said, gesturing to the enchanted bow he was carrying.  “I picked up on the way in here.”

Elspeth nodded approvingly, suddenly awash in feelings of gratitude that he was there.  He could be so insufferable, pernickety and arrogant at times.  But he was capable and perhaps far less stubborn than she gave him credit for.  They parted and Elspeth positioned herself behind the column close to the priest, where she could still keep an eye on Trygve.  It took him more than a single shot but the bow was quite effective in taking the thralls down.  When they were both gone, Elspeth pushed all the fear in her chest away and drew her hands up to cast. Within a split second of being released from his barrier, the dragon priest summoned a storm atronach.  From the corner of her eye she saw him pelted with arrows.   Elspeth aimed, first with a dual casted chain lightning, trying not to think about how much she hated dual casting.  Instead, she focused on nailing him with the most powerful spell she had at her disposal, drawing up a powerful lighting storm and praying it would be enough.

It wasn’t enough and it took all of Elspeth’s energy simply to restrain the dragon priest while Trygve shot arrows.  The immensely powerful spells filled the room and Elspeth sustained more damage than she had since her early days of training when Xeri sent her on quests and missions far beyond her skill level.  Her muscles quivered painfully as the shocks penetrated her armor and before long she was down.  When her face met the stone pavement, there was a moment of what could only be described as sweet relief and she closed her eyes, readying herself for light and silence.

But it was not the end.  There was silence and shuffling, a cold hand propping her up by the neck and a familiar, bitter taste in her mouth.  “I’m okay,” she said as she coughed and tried not to choke on the healing potion.

“Sure you are,” Tryge replied as he stood and stepped over her limp body.  “Rest a moment.”  He found the staff and a few other things in the dragon priest’s remains, some sort of enchanted mask and bone meal.

Elspeth rolled herself on to her knees and pushed herself to her feet.  “I can’t rest here, we need to leave, find Onmund and then an inn.  Please.”

“Of course,” he said, “I think there is an exit this way.”

Elspeth limped along, with one eye just open enough to follow Trygve around the room.  She was utterly and completely spent—that she could walk at all could only be explained by some sort of Divines intervention.   He led her across the platforms and down a steep ramp, offering to carry her every time she stopped, which she not-so-graciously refused.   Behind the double doors leading out of the room, they were confronted by another specter but just as Trygve drew an arrow, it spoke.  It was the Arch-mage, his younger self.

“…I’m sorry, friends. I’m so sorry! I had no choice! It was the only way to make sure that monster never escaped! I promise you, I’ll never let this happen again! I’ll seal this whole place away…”

“He did that,” she said, referring to the thralls and the protective barrier, not quite certain how to react otherwise.  “He just left them.”  She looked at Trygve sadly, praying he wouldn’t comment.  And he didn’t, he just nodded slowly and gestured for them to move on, which Elspeth was more than happy to do until the amulet grew warm again.

“Here we go,” she said. Trygve looked at her strangely but simply waited.

“I had no choice, don’t you see? I had to leave them behind, had to sacrifice them so I could make it out alive. If we’d all died there, if we’d loosed the thing on the world, who knows what might have happened? That’s how I consoled myself for years, after I’d sealed this place shut and vowed never to let anyone open it. Now you’ve put it all to rest, but it can’t undo my mistakes. They can never be undone….”

Elspeth threw her hands over her mouth as a strangled cry left her throat.  She did not want to cry in front of Trygve, but she couldn’t seem to help herself.  And she wasn’t even quite sure why she was crying.  She had fixed what he had done—at least to the extent that it could be fixed.  And yet, Savos Aren would never have peace, not even in death.  But that’s not why she cried.  It had been an impossible situation, and he had to make a terrible choice, a choice she could now see herself making.

“Come on.”  She felt Trygve’s strong arm around her and she let herself lean on him, just a little as they walked up the path toward the next door.

The door opened suddenly and for a moment, Elspeth expected it to be Onmund.  Needless to say, she was more than a little disappointed at the Thalmor Justiciar who barged in.

“So, you made it out of there alive,” he sneered.  “Ancano was right…you are dangerous.”  He glanced at Trygve who was waiting with a nocked an arrow.  The justiciar was unfazed by this.  “Oh well,” he continued.  “I’m afraid I’ll have to take that staff from you now. Ancano wants it kept safe…oh, and he wants you dead. Nothing personal.”

“Of course not,” she replied, too weary to attack.  With only a moment to decide what to do, she opted to save her energy.  She drew back a breath and shouted, “Fus Ro Dah.”

The usual discomfort she felt when shouting was present, but this was offset somewhat at the sheer satisfaction she felt watching her voice throw the justiciar clear into the next room, where Trygve’s arrow pierced his chest right before he hit the ground.

The next passage led them to the enormous room at the top of the ruin and it wasn’t long before they were in the entry room once again.  Elspeth looked around nervously, wondering if the Onmund had perhaps confronted the Thalmor.  Even Trygve seemed anxious as he looked around the room.

“Let’s check outside first,” he said as he hurried to the door.

Onmund was staggering around on the platform outside and as Elspeth and Trygve emerged from the ruin, he fell against a stone column and vomited.

“That wasn’t supposed to happen,” Trygve muttered.

Elspeth frowned in confusion but opted not to ask what in Oblivion he was talking about and rushed to Onmund’s side.  “What happened?” she asked.

He replied by keeling over and throwing up again.  Then he passed out.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Trygve. He had no idea what sort of residual effects the toxin was having on the young Nord and he felt a little bad.  At the very least, he could get them someplace warm.  He hoisted Onmund over his shoulder once again.  “We’ll stay in Morthal tonight.”

[Author note: Savos’ “confession” is from his page at uesp.net, labeled as unused dialogue.]

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11 thoughts on “Book Two, Chapter Nineteen: There’s Someone in My Head but It’s Not Me

  1. Pyrelle

    That was a great chapter, and that is coming from someone who hates that dungeon with a passion. I like that you added all the unused dialog from the game, they so shoulda added it in cause it all makes way more sense now. Also, having Trygve nutralize Onmund the way you did was a stroke of brilliance. I can’t wait for that backlash to happen.

    Reply
    1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      oh gods, Labyrinthian is so freaking long. I went back to walk through it and I was annoyed even with most of the creatures all dead because it still took for-freaking-ever. I was so excited when I stumbled across all that extra dialogue because I was really stressing about how to make this long, boring dungeon quest more interesting. And yeah, I’ve had the fallout of Trygve’s decision to stab Onmund written for a while now. That will go up soon. I’m doing a 28 day character development thing with Trygve next month. I don’t think I will have as much trouble with his alignment.

      Reply
      1. Pyrelle

        Ah crap, I forgot about the 28 days of character development….hmmmm not sure I can participate this year. Though I do look forward to reading more about Trygve =)

        Anyway, I put Lab in the same category as a lot of the Dwemer dungeons, long, boring and annoying. I don’t understand why they made those dungeons so long I mean if you are going to make them long at least make them fun. Oh well, I give you many, many props for making them fun to read cause I sware playing through them make my head hurt.

      2. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

        I assumed you wouldn’t this year. I’m thinking of starting a little sideblog here for things like world building and character development, sort of a repository for all my creative endeavors. We’ll see.

  2. chroniclesofkash

    Great chapter! Once I remembered which mission you were doing, it drew me in more. The way you used that Savos dialogue the way you did made so much more sense. And as I was reading the part with the poison, I thought “he’s a mage the heck is he worried about his dagger for? what’s he gonna do, stab him with his own weapon? No way”…then he did! Loved it! Can’t wait to see how that is going to play out.

    Reply
    1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      Thanks. The hardest part about writing that was watching Onmund just hand over his dagger. Sure, it was a strange request but he didn’t for a moment think that Trygve would ever stab him. Anyway, you won’t have to wait too long. I’ve had the next part written for weeks.

      Reply
  3. springinkerl

    Great to see Elspeth and Co. back! Loved this chapter, butI also loved this part in the game, especially on my mage. It was challenging and awesome, and I really didn’t expect the Thalmor at the end. The turn with Trygve stabbing Onmund was great, though not entirely unexpected after the scene with the undead dragon. What I found a bit weird though was that they split at all and the guys let Elspeth go on alone although they knew that she heard strange voices and no one knew what expected them deeper in the tomb. Trygve has plotted it like that, of course, but put her at risk just to get rid of Onmund?

    Reply
    1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      I struggled with that a bit and I agree. Because it’s not the most logical solution. The whole thing with Onmund is where I borrow a lot from actual gameplay; every time I bring Onmund out, I lose track of him, I keep looking back, and one (or both) of us die. Which is why he’s holed up in a nice estate in Falkreath taking care of the kids while Elspeth is currently out running around with Serana. Although, in general, she prefers not to take companions

      Ultimately, Trygve is weighing two risks and decides that Elspeth is probably better off on her own than with someone who distracts her as much as Onmund does. He knows Xeri sent her on what might have been described as suicide missions in Cyrodiil as a part of her training. They were carefully executed so that she probably wouldn’t die, but she had plenty of close calls. And she was always alone. Xeri never wanted her to have companions and only agreed to Lydia because Runa convinced her that she needed someone, not for fighting help, but help with navigating Skyrim’s cultural and social landscape. There are other things that Trygve’s worried about, which I’ll get to in the next chapter, that made it imperative (at least in his own mind) for him to get rid of Onmund.

      Onmund is sort of clueless and I think he just blindly trusts Trygve to be the better strategist and follows along. It’s part of my plan to develop his character and break past that whole “Hello my love, back from some adventure I bet,” lovey-dovey thing to bring in some conflict that they can either work through or not, depending on how the story goes.

      But looking back, I think I can make it a little smoother, and a little more logical and I might do that eventually.

      Reply
  4. adantur

    ““With its central location, Labyrinthian was one of the most important cities in ancient Skyrim,” Trygve explained, gesturing for them to move for forward, as if they were tourists on holiday.” Possible future occupation for Tryg? I can just imagine him settling down after all this has blown over, showing people around the sights of Skyrim, good old anorak Tryg.

    I, like others, was surprised by Tryg’s little bit of treachery with the dagger. I’m not sure he would see it as treachery however as his logical mind probably only sees the benefits rather than any feelings involved. I’m greatly looking forward to Onmund’s reaction, hopefully he mans up and gives Tryg what for, even if deep down he can see why he’s probably not helpful in battle. A man has to have his pride goddamit!

    I see what you mean about the dungeon, I’ve never done the mages quest so I haven’t had the pleasure of exploring this one, but it certainly seems to live up to its name going by this! I had the same problem with the vast majority of dungeons in Oblivion to be honest and I think they’ve done rather well to make them shorter, prettier and a bit more interesting in Skyrim.

    All in all a good chapter, on to the next one!

    Reply
    1. Elspeth Aurilie Post author

      I think after putting up with Elspeth, Lydia, Onmund, mages, dragons, etc. that Trygve will gladly settle down for a life of khakis and polo shirts, taking pictures of tourist families with their own cameras in front of the Ruins of Bthalft.

      Anyway. Yeah, Onmund. Poor guy. His “story” is a small part of the larger narrative, but this is sort of a major event in that.

      Reply

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