I panted; heavy and weary breaths escaping into the open world as Nimhe went in Xian’s direction. Maybe it was the panting that obscured my vision, but I could have sworn I saw the insane lizard grin a little. Was the son of a bitch having fun with this!? How could anyone have fun with odds against them?!
“Xian,” I called, standing up at last. “What do you plan on doing with this thing?”
“What do you expect?” He shot back while springing out of the way of another of the spider’s ferocious leg swipes. “Make sure you stay out of the damn way while I take care of this dastard! After all, you are my payment!”
My anger was rising and getting the best of me as I reloaded the crossbow. The loud click of the jack echoed off the stone walls that enclosed the area.
“I am getting a little sick of that real fast, lizard!” The bolt sailed and hit the thorax of the beast. I prayed it hit some sort of soft spot so the thing would finally take more damage. Unfortunately that was not the case. “I am not something to turn in for money!”
Xian cried out as a leg prodded him in the chest and pushed him backward. He didn’t miss a beat.
“Right now, my contract says otherwise!” His dagger scraped against the chitin before he tried to punch the spider in one of her many eyes. That turned out to be successful in making the creature reel in pain.
She stood on her last four legs and let loose a squeal, forcing Xian and myself to cover our ears to try and dull the high pitched ringing. Nimhe hissed with malicious intent and swung with such force at the distracted Dragonborn that he was sent spiraling into the ground.
“Xian!!” Even though I was pissed about being only an object to be turned in for payment, I couldn’t just let this man die without putting up a fight. No matter how much I resented him. Another bolt found its way into the crossbow and fired towards the monstrosity. Even if it was futile, something still had to be tried.
The missile hit its mark with a loud wet chunk, embedding itself in the indention on Nimhe’s side.
A roar of pain erupted from the spider’s open mandibles as venom dripped freely to the ground, only to mix with her green blood. The odd mixture gave off an eerily calming glow, resembling bioluminescence that was common underground.
If arachnids could glare in pure rage, Nimhe would have been. She began to charge at me, crawling as fast as her long legs would allow. She looked like something out of a nightmare.
I broke out into a run, hugging my crossbow, in hopes of gaining a great distance from her. My tired legs begged me to stop overworking them but what choice did I have?! It was run or be killed by some science experiment!
“Xian,” I yelled in between gasps of air. “Kill it with fire!”
“Then,” he groggily complained, “get out of my damn way!”
“That’s easier said than done!!”
All I could do was run from the spider’s relentless attacks as she tried to hit me by spurting her venom and jabbing with her sharp edged legs. I was only a damn plaything to be toyed with until she grew bored. I only hoped that I would still have energy to fight if I got away.
“YUL… TOOL SHUL!!!”
A gout of fire blew from Xian’s open maw, devouring the spider. Nimhe stopped as the flames swallowed her whole; I came to a halt to watch in fascination. We were unable to see Nimhe for a moment as she disappeared inside an orange ball of flame. Frostbite Spiders are susceptible to fire of any kind, many explorers and adventurers swearing by it.
As the inferno died down, I stood there shocked. Nimhe did not seem fazed by the fire. In fact all it seemed to do was irritate her even more. Her mandibles moved apart and let out an eerie screech, sounding nearly like scraping steel. I turned to Xian in complete dismay, expecting a response out of him.
If only I paid attention to the spider instead.
Standing there like a stump, I was an easy, prime target for a snack; perhaps it was only the disorientation affecting me. Glancing to my right, Nimhe leaned upwards and, presenting the thorax, shot a glob of webbing at me.
It all happened so fast.
One moment I was poised there, looking in awe and worry at the shot of web coming for me. The next my body was pushed aside. As I rolled my tumbling vision showed Xian being plowed aside with extreme force against the nearby wall.
With a loud clang, Xian became stuck to the wall in spider silk, banging his temple against the smooth stone.
He shook his head in an attempt to force the shock out of his body, but the disorientation had already taken effect. Groaning in discomfort, Xian looked over the situation the lizard now found himself in. Struggling against his bonds, he tried in vain to break any strands and free himself. Just from looking at him I could see he was nearly out cold.
He tried to open his mouth, to yell out in disdain, but only a ragged gasp and moans escaped his lips. The poor fool stilled looked dazed from the impact. His heaving breaths echoed in the cavern. I was surprised he didn’t pass out right then and there. If that was me, like it had been, I would have been knocked out cold.
All Nimhe saw before her was the easiest prey of all: a meal that could not fight back. I stood once again to watch as she scuttled towards Xian. Her mandibles flickered up and down causing poison to drip to the ground beneath her legs. It came to my immediate attention that it was her imitation of licking her figurative lips.
“Do something Sorine!”
“I… I’m thinking,” I stuttered. What the hell could I do? I couldn’t stop her without bashing the chitin in.
The spider drew closer.
“Any damn time now!!” His silver eyes burned into me.
“Just… son of a bitch,” I cried, quickly loading my bow. I fired as close to the indented chitin as possible. The missile flew right for it and bounced off the black exoskeleton, once again falling uselessly to the ground.
“Dammit!!!” He shouted groggily as Nimhe pounced for him. Her fangs dripped with a potent poison, aimed right for his neck.
I yelled and reached a hand out in futility, “Xian, no!”
So this is how the Dragonborn dies. By the fangs of a spider in an underground tunnel in Markarth where no one dared to venture because of the spider living there.
“FUS… ROH DAH!!!”
In a blast that sounded like a thunder clap, the spider screeched as she flew back several dozen yards. Nimhe sailed through the air and landed on her back with a hard bam! She began to writhe and move her legs in a frantic manner to try and push her heavy body to the side.
“By the Gods,” I cried out in a frantic manner, soon overcome with the feeling of relief. He was alive! Thank the Gods, the Dragonborn isn’t dead! Gathering my wits, I scooped up the crossbow and ran for the Argonian. “You are alright, aren’t you?”
“No,” he simply answered shaking his head. “The blow to my head… disorienting me still. Bit difficult to see strai-“
Nihme let loose a rage induced screech, venom spewing from her open mouth. The liquid fell onto the stone floor and collected into a shallow puddle. Surprisingly she continued to bleed but ignored whatever pain it caused her, scuttling for us.
“Dammit, not now! I can’t Shout yet! Too soon and hoarse!” He began to struggle against the silky trap around his body once again only to succeed in draining more of his stamina. His voice did sound dryer than what it was before.
With a frown and determination coursing through my body, I stood between him and the charging spider, crossbow loaded. “You don’t have to worry about that, Xian. I can kill her! As long as my hypothesis is correct!”
“And if it’s not, we’re both dead.”
“You guessed it.”
Through my peripheral vision I saw him bow that ebony head of his, the white feathers softly bowing to the motion. “Es’ecree o’ohsital,” he mumbled.
The arachnid was nearly on top of us, her legs pounding ferociously into the ground and shaking the small pebbles around them before she pounced. Nimhe opened her maw revealing the moist mandibles glazed over with the potent and lethal poison.
With a loud twang, the bolt flew straight and true, cutting through the air and blasting out of the back of Nimhe’s head, killing her. The giant body landed just by my feet, twitching slightly as the life ebbed out of it and into whichever deity or Daedra wishing to claim it.
Letting out a deep sigh of relief I fell backward and landed on the ground. I started to laugh a little, relieved the plan worked without a hitch. “That was a close call, wasn’t it Argonian?”
“That it was Sorine…” I turned to see him slouching against his white prison, chin to his chest.
“Xian, are you alright?” Concern was starting to well up inside me, worried about the damn fool’s wellbeing. “You don’t look so good.”
“Just cut me down already. Other dagger is on the left boot.”
True to his word the weapon laid holstered against his lower leg. The black blade cut through the silk with such amazing ease that it caught me off guard. Xian landed on his knees with a huff.
“Do you need any help getting out of here?” I asked, kneeling down and handing the dagger back. “I’ll offer my shoulder.”
“No. This one is alright. Only need a moment to catch my breath. Feel like my ears are still ringing and a pickaxe is at my temple.”
The next few minutes went by with a silence that was only interrupted with his deep breaths to try and steady his pounding head. Eventually the tired lizard reached a hand to the vials on his belt and retrieved one filled with an opaque green liquid. Xian slugged it down before placing the vial back on the belt. “Alright… I think that’s it,” he said before slowly getting up. He winced in what looked like irritation.
Stamina potion. Had to be.
“Come on,” I responded, pointing towards where we came from. “I want to get out of here as fast as possible. I don’t feel like being around that nightmare fuel any longer than what I should.”
“Fine,” he groaned as he lifted the left leg to put the dagger back into its sheath. “Just need the other one before we head out.” His silver eyes quickly traced to where it landed after being hit by the glob of silk which was surprisingly close to where he hit the wall. “Complete set of daggers again,” he smirked to himself.
“Then how about we get the hell out of here, yes?”
“Yes, let us leave this place.”
As the two of us left the cavern Xian leaned forward to grab the ebony bow of his he tossed aside. An archer was nothing without their bow of course; same as a warrior without their sword or axe.
“We’re back Calcelmo!” The call from across the office of the High Elf bounced and echoed down the halls that linked to the area.
The spooked old Elf looked up from his book with a look of shock only for it to melt to relief. “Good to see you both have returned safely! How was Nimhe?”
We drew closer to the old elf’s presence before Xian spoke.
“How was she?” he repeated. “That no longer matters. Only that she’s dead and you owe Sorine those schematics you promised.”
“Astute observation young man. You are correct either way. Please, wait while I retrieve them.” He headed for the table nearly littered with rusted gold Dwemer cogs, gears and other pieces of metal. They rattled and panged as Calcelmo shuffled through them before retrieving the papers. “Here you are Sorine. The crossbow plans, as promised.”
“Thank you,” I smiled. “Despite almost dying in there, this was worth it.”
“Uhh, no it wasn’t,” Xian chimed in, crossing his arms.
“Whatever the feeling was when the battle took place,” Calcelmo interjected with a wave of his hand, “you both killed Nimhe. That is something many travelers and guides for Nchuand-Zel will be ecstatic to hear. As for that contract, here.” The High Elf reached behind him and pulled out a heft coin purse before holding it out to the bounty hunter. “A pretty coin for the arachnid.”
Xian looked at the bulging coin purse as it dangled from the wrinkled hand like a tantalizing piece of meat. The lizard took the bag and narrowed his eyes at the weight. “How much?”
“If memory serves me right, three-thousand gold.”
Xian let out a whistle, smiling with his white, pointed teeth. “A pretty coin indeed.”
“Damn,” I said in bewilderment. “What do you plan to do with that much gold?”
The Dragonborn chortled, tying the bag around his waist with his other supplies. “That should be none of your business, Sorine. But if you must know: repair and upgrade.”
“Armor right?” We started to walk out of Calcelmo’s office. “See you later Calcelmo. And thank you for the plans.” I offered him a wave.
“You’re very welcome Sorine,” he waved back with a smile. “I hope they help you with whatever project you have in store.”
“Take care of yourself, old Elf. Don’t go getting into too much trouble rummaging around for Dwemer materials,” I jested before turning to continue walking with Xian and into the fresh, and somewhat smoky, air of the city.