Nephethys awoke alone in a large, foursquare hall, somewhere deep underneath the raging waves of a foul sea. Afore transpired a most dangerous flood of the nearby caves and tunnels that separated her and Shthelith from the poor Thorus, whose armour was too heavy to allow him to catch up in the underwater currents that appeared to flee from themselves. As a result, the blood elf and the Dunmer were drifting together in a little air bubble that Shthelith managed to construct around their heads to allow them to breathe. She remembered that they've been drifting for quite some time in the unknowable darkness of the cove. The last memory she possessed of the event, however, was a strong, dull pain that spread from the left side of her forehead, above the eye. Everything went black for her afterwards.
The beautiful, if somewhat beat-up, dark elf hypothesised that she must've fallen unconscious thereafter and therefore lost her grip on Shthelith, who was busy sustaining the air pocket around their heads. Now she got stranded in, what she believed to be a very remote, large chamber carved into the unforgiving rock by those despicable fish-man-hybrids. Her first impulse was to raise her fingertips to gently feel around in the open wound that she had procured along the way. Some ghastly smacking noises later and a crimson film around her digits told her everything that she needed to know. She was not strong enough in that state to close up the gash as easily as she was used to so she tore a bit of her clothes off in order to mend it as best she could for the time being. Her robe was drenched still but it was enough of a barrier to staunch the flow - at least until a viable alternative could be found.
In fact, not only had she trouble making use of her recently acquired blood magic - her entire body was aching and more of a hindrance. Nephethys never felt so weak and defeated. And she didn't know what the cause for this weakness was, either. It could not have possibly been just the head wound. She had endured far worse than that, as was attested by her legs. Some other, as of yet unknown, evil must've crept inside her veins. The Dunmer carried herself towards the centre of the chamber and observed its features with a keen eye. The walls were decorated with ornate carvings of yet more of the merfolk's history, chiselled to perfection in very meticulous craftsmanship. "They really made the most of their unwelcoming home", she mused and examined the reliefs in greater detail.
To call this cove their "unwelcoming home", as she had just done, wasn't too far off the mark as should be revealed by the walls around her. Apparently, this hall must have been some kind of historical museum for the merfolk, as Nephethys' surroundings were littered not only with documented events in the form of ornate masonry. As her headache slowly began to subside she found herself able to take in the vista in full - thereby noticing an extraordinary amount of stands, racks, vials, caches, strong boxes, lecterns, shelves and queer stone encasements that were just large enough to hold a book as well as other, more mundane artifacts of everyday life of a civilisation that once must have dwelt on the lands above. Plates and cutlery, scrolls and quills, parts of walls, glass shards and other parts of buildings. Weapons of various shapes and sizes as well as the equipment to forge them, dried animal parts and remains of herbs and fluid containers filled with coloured liquids. All evidence suggested that there was a time in the history of the merfolk where they could live and thrive on the surface.
Nephethys wandered slowly about the room and attempted to piece together the series of events that ultimately led to the present exile and banishment. Murals told a story of oppression and violence. Of a war that was not altogether the fault of the curious fish-man-hybrids. She discovered that the blood elves had a huge hand in firing up the flares of combat. Indeed, it almost seemed as though the Aímamer blasted the bellows of war to destroy the people. But their plans of annihilation backfired severely.
The stone image on the wall shewed the representatives of two species - the merfolk and the blood elves. Standing high atop a great hill, between trees and rocks, they discussed with heavy gestures and agitated countenance. Around them were their people arranged in a semicircle, arguing with contemplative expressions upon their faces. In this moment, Nephethys had for the first time a vague feeling of familiarity that she was unable to place. In search for the answer to this call of memory she eyed the relief up and down but could not quite place where this strange gut feeling arose from. She knew, however, that there was a secret to be uncovered. And as long as she was there, she would try to solve this mystery. So she strode over to the other relief in order to view the next part of this people's story.
The vista of a grand city, perhaps the biggest the Dunmer had ever laid eyes upon, appeared before her eyes. A miniscule shore in the background. In the middle- and foreground, waves of elegant architecture caressed Nephethys' retinas and a general feeling of pleasantness swept from the image to her. Times were good. Magicka pillars of white and blue bordered the busy streets. Grand spires of only the most magnificent designs pierced the skies with golden blades sitting atop steep roofs. The design philosophy was simple yet effective. Slim and tall if possible. Of course, there were wider houses as well as smaller ones, depending on their purpose. But you wouldn't find a Shithirsian living in one of those, no no. The delicate towers were their dwellings. From high above they would observe the everyday affairs of their people as they sat on balconies behind golden grates. They were far away but the gazes could be felt regardless. And Nephethys wondered how they could see her from that distance.
A few troubled missteps, a stumble and wet clothes were the second impression the world had given her. But the Shithirsians were water creatures after all so it made sense their streets were neither of gravel nor of stone. Instead, their architects and skilled masons had dug deep trenches as highways to move quickly from one part of the city to the next. Nephethys crawled out of the water and noticed her rapidly decreasing concern for the element's most prevalent attribute. There were things more important to worry about than wetness. After the Dunmer managed to recover from this unorthodox introduction the true gravity and scale of it all began to pour over her. A bustling metropolis moved around her faster than her crimson eyes could follow. People swam and slithered past. Some with incredible speed, others slowly and gently. Every other passerby eyed her up and down but didn't seem to mind her sudden intrusion upon the city limits.
The place felt distinctly urban in spite of the nearby shore and rocky beaches. Tightly packed buildings separated by narrow alleys. The trenches were the big separators of the city, dividing it into more manageable blocks that could be outfitted with dwellings, craft houses, guilds and more but the Shithirsians were keen on dedicating one block to one purpose. Naturally, some towers must exist next to a work place to provide housing, however.
Evidently, life was good in the city. No beggars or loiterers as one would usually find them in any Nirnic place. Well-kept facades and clean roads.
Nephethys took a few, wet steps forward on a sidewalk past a few blocks of houses. Finely chiselled storefronts greeted her inquisitive face as she viewed with increasing excitement the wares a local potter advertised next to their front door. Plates and vases and mugs not unlike the ones she saw in that underground chamber. They were ornately carved in a tongue she didn't recognise.
A couple more steps carried Nephethys past smiths and tanners, masons and butchers and many more professions. They were a busy people, well-versed in many arts and crafts.
Before long, Nephethys came upon a grand square of rock amidst the many buildings of the city. From its placement, the Dunmer inferred that this must have been a place for processions and festivities within Shithirsian culture. And here it was whence came one of another kind to speak words to the people of the city. A kind Nephethys recognised as one of the Aímamer. The elf stood perched atop a pedestal on the grand square and spoke words Nephethys couldn't hear. But these words agitated the townsfolk who were already discussing heavily. Out of the crowd emerged another who would join the first. And another yet rose who would join the other two. Three elves now stood there, encircled by the fish people of Shithirsia, speaking words of thunder and crass accusations. The three of them roused the rabble to violent action. It was not long until the first, sharp rock was cast from the crowd at the blood elves.
The first to get hit was the hooded woman who received a nasty gash just beneath her cheekbone. The second was an elf of unusually dark colouration - he got hit with such misfortune as to expire on the spot when his skull cracked under the immense weight and force of the stone being launched. The third managed to evade the hail of projectiles for a while until he, too, fell victim to a stone too heavy to withstand. Only the hooded woman survived by shrouding herself in a swirling mass of crimson before she fled the area by blasting aside the unfortunate onlookers left and right with strange blood magic. Some got impaled, others thrown about. A trail of corpses followed the elf - a trail that should be interpreted as a declaration of war. And although it was impossible for Nephethys to truly understand just what caused such chaos it was undeniable that the aggressors were not the merfolk. However, she did not grasp the Aímeri agenda.
The next thing Nephethys saw unsettled her greatly. Armies of both sides arming themselves to the teeth, readying themselves for slaughter. Rattling armour and flowing robes, cast upon them magical runes and symbols and seals that shone threateningly in the dark. A glowing announcement of impending disaster to all who would stand in the bloodsoaked path of the infernal battalions who would wage a terrible war against each other.
The mighty city of the Shithirsians was made a holy battleground. They knew that the elves were coming for them, that a bloody conflict was at hand. However, they never anticipated such a sudden strike. The aquatic roads turned red and the tall spires became monuments to the deceased.
A call to arms rallied anyone who might have not seen combat yet. They united so that they may avenge their fallen. The war raged on for several years, the enmity of the two nations tearing apart the land. The ruinous extension of the elves' long, blood-corrupted arm would turn the tide and bestow a boon upon the Shithirsians. In a last-ditch effort, the entire people poisoned themselves. Those who were either too young or too frail were forcefully poisoned. And those who survived developed a natural, venomous quality to them.
This sacrifice of a civilisation stopped the vile elves and brought peace once again. But the merfolk had nothing left to return to. Nephethys, in tears, examined this last, great slate whereupon was visible the beach with its many holes and monuments and she realised that above her, the leveled city once stood. And the religious monuments were tombstones leading into the subterranean graveyard of a once proud people.
There had been much that Thorus and Nephethys never got told. But the Dunmer was intent on getting answers as soon as she met Shthelith again. What the reliefs shewed her and what it all meant. What she was lacking, however, was a reason. Why had there been a war in the first place? What was so damnably important to the elves so that they might annihilate an entire population of merfolk? Transform a great city into a graveyard? There were a great many unknowns Nephethys wanted to conquer. But there was no time, for as she wandered round in her delirium, seeing visions of the past, another flash of light interrupted her as she thought of the fate of Thorus. From nothing there arose this fear of him perhaps not having made it. To have drowned beneath the fearsome currents. Like a premonition it struck into her mind and eased only slowly after an agonising amount of minutes.
"What is happening to me?" she caught herself whispering with an appropriate amount of anxiety. Sudden visions of horned demons deepened the fright. On her knees, she focused again, rubbing her terminally heavy eyes asquint with tiredness. Nephethys barely managed to keep the lids up and see anything at all. Before long, she gave in and fell into a deep slumber once more.
The cold caress of a wet stone floor finally woke her up. The drenched front of her body froze and within seconds of being awake she panicked. For a rising water level meant she was in danger. A barely noticeable splattering of drops in the distance must have accumulated over several hours to cover the entire chamber floor with water. While this meant that her time was running out it also meant that it did so very, very slowly. The Dunmer needed to find an exit before all surfaces she could possibly rest upon would be covered in water. Not that she would last ling in that damp cavern. It was more possible that she would suffocate or go insane first.
She scanned the walls in her vicinity with an increased awareness and noticed several outcroppings in the hewn walls that went well together with the reliefs to form a climbable path to the ceiling. In one of the corners of the ceiling a black abyss seeped through. A hole in the upper corner of this fane promised escape and from the distance, appeared large enough to allow for safe passage to the other side. Since the drops of water didn't originate from that spot, the space behind it had to be dry and filled with air. Just as Nephethys resolved to scale the facade a strong current broke through one of the other walls and tore through the historical chamber. The Dunmer got launched straight at the wall closest to her and sustained yet another head wound as her skull violently made contact with the rough surface.
The first wave ebbed and a drenched Nephethys held her right temple in pain. She waited a few seconds for her vision to clear once more. Meanwhile, the water level rose rapidly. Her legs were already underwater when she looked a second time, prompting her to jump up, grab the first available ledge, and pull. She was already in motion so the dark elf kept scaling the wall, using the momentum she had gained in the beginning. Stopping or pausing meant losing that momentum along with her balance. Just then, she noticed something. A small noise in the water below her. She kept climbing but listened cautiously for the noise. Then she heard something emerge from the water, fling through the air, and re-enter the water with a loud splash. From the noises that it made upon impact on the water's surface Nephethys deduced that it must have been big. There was something lurking beneath.
Driven by a sense of danger as well as self-preservation, the Dunmer now realised the urgency and made for the hole in the corner. Scaling a wall is rather treacherous. Even more so if one lacks proper feet. She relied only on numbed bones for movement, not terribly sure of her footing. Just as her thoughts circled around this disadvantage she slipped and several rocks were sent tumbling into the waters. The thing that was inside gave off wild noises in response. Nephethys' arms began burning and stiffening as she finally reached the hole's edge. With the last bit of her strength she clung to the dirt and stone that were her exit. Alas, the dirt loosened, she lost her grip, the muscles gave way. And she fell.
A noisy splash and loud swirls engulfed her ears, deafening her. It was too dark to see, too loud to hear, too wet to feel or smell. Only the sickly-sweet taste of blood and rot prevented utter, sensory deprivation. Worse than that, however, was the knowledge that a thing swam in the broth as well, winding its way ever closer to the Dunmer's body. The hunter became the hunted and so the prey squirmed in the way prey does, panicked and gasping for air as she struggled to the surface. Her robe was soaked heavy and the lack of feet suddenly became a life threatening disfavour. She barely managed to keep herself afloat and so she did the only sensible thing to do in such dire circumstances - she got rid of the soaked robe that dragged her down into the gaping maw of whatever horror waited below and continued the journey in her undergarments, her weapons holstered to her waist with a loose string of leather she quickly wrapped around herself.
The heavy robe acted as a distraction, as bait for the monster, while the dark elf swam for her life. She almost reached the edge of the chamber when an enormous shadow behind her darkened the already gloomy room further. Violent waves were sent in its wake, leaving a struggling Nephethys to float and repeatedly get thrown against a nearby wall. The robe seemed to have appeased the thing for the time being and so, Nephethys again attempted the climb. She barely made it, this time resting in the hole instead of falling. The damp atmosphere made her heavy breathing worse and she felt cold as she sat there and recovered.
The Dunmer was forced to explore her surroundings as soon as she was able to walk again. Her knees began aching considerably as there weren't any feet to divert her body weight. Half naked, drenched and in pain, she set out to find an exit from this pit. After a few minutes of stumbling about in darkness, a faint light caught her attention. Getting closer, unnatural sounds began to flow out of the lit room. Noises Nephethys was unable to properly categorise. Still in the shadows, a queer, fleshy orb passed her by without taking note of the elven woman as it floated into another room. It was followed by heavier steps. Nephethys kept still and crouched beside the wall to remain inconspicuous. Out of the opening to the side emerged a tall figure who made an effort to quietly follow the orb. Moments later the figure turned and went into the room it had emerged from again.
Nephethys silently peered around the corner and beheld the monstrosity. A horned dæmon clad in crimson plating. Not knowing if she would make it, she channeled all the strength she had left and readied her weapons.