Of Magecraft and Spidersilk
Chapter 3: Ash’abahing Around
I awakened with a low groan, and a heavy pressure bearing down on me. Blinking my eyes, I moved my gaze downward. I shifted as much as I could with a start. For, laying atop me, was Rachnera. Mentally, I began to panic. I mean sure, a small, very small, part of me found her beautiful, but well, I didn’t want to jump to anything like this.
I held my breath as her four crimson eyes slowly opened. “Ah, good morning Tenkai.” she mumbled, rubbing her eyes. She then let out a chuckle. “Don’t worry, nothing happened last night.” she said, slowly sliding off me, skittering to the washbin in the tent. “Here, you should use this.” she tossed a washcloth at me. A cold washcloth.
“Oh, um, thank you.” I stripped and began to wash myself clean of the dust and sand that had accumulated over me in my sleep. “So, are you hungry, Rachnera?” I asked, feeling my own stomach rumble. Anything to get my mind off certain thoughts. Feeling my robe and such were dry, I pulled them on, alongside the hood, half-mask, and goggles. As we would be heading into the Alik’r Desert to find the first mystic disturbance A.S.S instructed us to locate, then it would be prudent to wear protection against both the sandstorms that frequently occur, and thanks to Magos Corydon, who managed to convert molten rock from the various geysers and volcanoes across Nirn into insulative fibers, plus some shock resistance enchants, I also have some protection against the occasional desert thunderstorm.
“Alright, everything’s packed!” Rachnera called out, as she pulled a cord, causing the tent to neatly fold in on itself, which she packed away with the rest of our supplies, handing me my half of the pack, which I slung over my shoulders. Dusting myself off, I began leading the way.
I shielded my eyes as the harsh desert sun came into view once we had cleared the rocky pass separating High Rock and Hammerfell. The heat was visible, given by the wavy lines one could see as we passed into the desert. Luckily my robes were long enough they covered what my boots, half-mask, hood, and gloves couldn’t, protecting my skin from being burned. Plus, they were loose enough that it would let air in and out, and wasn’t too tight. “It should take us a few hours at the least, a day at most, especially if we run into any sandstorms, to reach our first destination.” I said, taking a quick look at the map and checking my compass.
“Don’t jinx it.” Rachnera chuckled, the only sound besides our boots and tarsi crunching against the heated sand, and the occasional billowing of hot desert wind. Rachnera and I made smalltalk as we sourjourned on to the ruins of The Seeker’s Archive, where Grand Vizier Hasanak, head of the northern Hammerfell branch of the A.S.S., and an Ash’Abah, was currently researching a section of the Archive recently unearthed. Luckily for us, as it was almost winter, the heat wasn’t as intense as it would be in summer, and as the majority of Hammerfell was, well, arid desert, then it would be cool come nightfall.
Luckily, our trek, aside from tangles with the occasional assassin beetle or Skooma-snorting bandit, was fairly uneventful. Soon, the Seeker’s Archives came into view. The craggy pillars and wind-shorn stone walls, in the faded style of the ancient Yokudan settlers were coated in sand. The scent of ancient tomes, and long buried knowledge, mixed in with the scent of heated air and dry sand. A cadre of mercenaries from one of the local companies, known as the Scalebacks, on account of the fact their armor consists of bronze colored scale mail, helms, bracers, and boots worn over sand colored tunic and pants. In their hands they either wielded mesquite wood crafted bows and arrows, or poison tipped short spears and scale shields, studded with spikes, both for catching the weaponry of one’s foes, as well as leaving them a bit more hole-y if the bearer decided to smash their shield against their enemy.
The guards nod at the two of us, some of them, male and female alike, have their gazes linger on Rachnera, and I felt a sense of ire at that. She was more than just something to be gawked at. However, upon glancing at her, a pleased look was on her face. As we descended the steps into the archives proper, the heat withdrew as the cooling enchantments that kept both the occupants comfortable, scholars, guards, and archeologists alike, but also helping preserve the ancient scrolls and books within these hallowed halls of knowledge.
Soon, we came upon the central library. On either side of the room, bookshelves carved of wood and stone reached the ceiling, ladders and telekinesis powered platforms allowing one to reach higher shelves. In between small desks inlaid with mage light held in glass allowed one to read. In the center, a large stone table rested. At the head sat Hasanak Leki. He was a man in his early fifties, with a trimmed salt-and-pepper beard, with matching hair that reached to the bottom of his ears, tied back in a ponytail. His amber eyes held both wisdom, but also an air of playfulness, like a grandfather. He wore a simple off-white robe, closer to light grey, like many in his position did, representing impartiality. On his head he wore a white cap, with ram horns being used as the band, tiny bits of the horns poking out of the center of the metallic ring. A scepter/maul the size of a child sat against his hip. He nodded at the two of us, “Magos Fadalia, Lady Rachnera, welcome.” Both our eyes widened. “Be not afraid, my seer, Vizier Tharja,” he gestured to a Nord woman dressed in dark purple and gold colored robes, small armor plates woven into the fabric, who wore a circlet atop her head, “foresaw your coming.”
“A seer, a most useful individual to have, especially for a person in a high position like yourself.” Rachnera smiled, running a hand through her platinum blonde hair.
“Thank you, my lady.” The Nord said, her eyes covered by a veil. She appeared to be around Grand Vizier Leki’s age, judging by her slight wrinkles and greying hair. A pendant in the shape of a black anvil, a marker of old Reymon Ebonarm, hung around her neck.
“You’re a Warseer.” I noted. I should have realized it sooner. The armored robes, the amulet of Ebonarm, and the fact that she wielded a power maul rather than a staff. Actually, the fact she was carrying around a warhammer surrounded by an adjustable telekinetic field should have been my first clue she was no ordinary magus. The Warseers were, well, seers sworn to Ebonarm. They would have a vision of an upcoming battle. If it was an unjust war, not that there are, in my opinion, truly just wars, then a Battlelord or more would be sent to end it as swiftly as possible. In the event they had to take to the battlefield themselves, then their clairvoyance extended to combat, allowing them in the tiniest sliver of a second, to see any and all moves that a combatant may make, and launch a devastating counter offense.
Tharja chuckled, covering her mouth with a calloused hand. “Close, but not quite. Former Warseer. Once she came of age, I let my daughter take up my position as chief Warseer at the Citadel I had lived in through all my life, for Lord Ebonarm had given me a vision that my talents were now suited more aiding the Grand Vizier and the A.S.S.” she said softly.
“So, the Arch Magos of my branch informed me that one of the anomalies I’m supposed to secure, and if need be, contain, is in the area.” I laid out the map I had been given, the spots marked and glowing a light azure color. It showed my position, and by extension Rachnera’s, as a pale red pin.
“Ah yes,” Grand Vizier Leki laid his chin atop his clasped palms, gazing down at the map, nodding. “There’s a Rift of sorts my Wardens are keeping in stasis in that area. We’ve sent Dwemeri spiders in for reconnaissance, but they either come back heavily damaged with their recording crystals capturing little of substance, or,” he grumbled, “they don’t come back at all, a waste of perfectly good Dwemer metal and crystals.” he shook his head.
“I shall show them the way, Grand Vizier.” Tharja says, beckoning us to follow with her free hand, the other using her spear as a walking stick. We looked at eachother, then followed behind the aged former Warseer.
We passed through sandstone constructed pillars, aged bookshelves stacked with tomes and scrolls, and various scholars and attendants milling about. A few shot us, primarily Rachnera, the occasional double take glance, but from the fact that almost all the non Redguard, and even a few Redguard, conjurers and battlemages had a familiar of some kind trailing behind them, the sight of a Perthan probably wasn’t too shocking.
Eventually, Tharja led us out of the main complex and back out into the blistering desert sun. She led us down a, judging by how smooth and relatively clean the stonework was, a recently restored pathway. She led us to the end of the path, where a gateway, seemingly unconnected to any other structure, stood. However, if one were to look closely, one could see the almost invisible sheen of a ward separating whatever was behind it from the rest of the area. Runes pulsated, covering the stone around the shimmering ward.
“So you’ve kept it contained with more than just your mages, you’ve also locked it within a Bounded Field.” Rachnera mused. Bounded Fields being a term noting spells such as Circle of Protection that create an area of space where a certain individual or individuals out, at least acting like a locked door one could not pass, no matter how hard they hammered, at best harming or outright killing those one did not wish to cross through the barrier. “Impressive.” she smiled softly.
“Good eyes, Lady Rachnera.” The aged Warseer chuckled, as the tip of her spear-staff glowed the same emerald green color as the runes, and soon the ward began to dissolve. What was revealed through the gateway was a further path leading down to a distant circular platform, where a circle of mages was containing what looked like a portal. There was only one problem.
“The gateway is quite….small.” I noted. While Rachera could fit, at best we’d have to go in one by one.
“Oh yes, but don’t worry, both of you can fit through, though it might be, snug.” Tharja smirked, and I felt heat rise to my cheeks. What, was she expecting me to ride Rachnera like a horse? That would be an insult to her, most likely. She’d be furious-
My thoughts were interrupted by the melodic sound of Perthan laughter.filled the air. I turned to find Rachnera, trying, and failing, to cover her chortles with her right hand. She then stopped, and looked at me. “Well, normally I’d ask for you to take me to dinner before I’d let you mount me, but as you’re my conjurer, I’ll make an exception.” She winked. I gulped, and slowly got onto her thorax. It was warm and smooth, like sitting on a polished and filed piece of chitin. “Comfy?” She asked, a teasing tone in her voice.
I tried to still my heartbeat, and cleared my throat. “Yes, Rachnera. You are quite comfy.” I added in my own teasing tone, and my mouth turned into a slight smile as her own pale cheeks, and her cheeks puffed out.
Tharja thumped the butt of her spear against the sand and gravel covered ground, “Would you two lovebirds get a move on?” she grumbled, though her eyes twinkled with mischief. Both of us made sputtering noises, before we headed through the chiseled archway.
A chill ran up my spine, and judging by the vibrations against my thighs, Rachnera as well. When one passed through a ward such as this, how to describe the feeling? Imagine someone was slowly pouring ice cold water on you from above, all the while you were wading through old spider webbing. Eventually, after what felt like an eternity, we breached the ward.
Swirling sand and hot air once again brushed against our faces. About a few minutes away from us stood a circle of sand, wind, and time eroded stones. A group of casters wearing grey robes, flanked on either side by men and women in dark brown and green colored plate armor, were busy keeping a shimmering bubble stable around a flickering amber portal.
It was then I noticed I was still riding Rachnera. “Oh, my apologies.” I quickly said,and swung my other leg over her, and hopped off, my boots crunching against sand and rock. “I’m, ah, sorry if I was too heavy.”
Rachnera coughed into a hand, “Think nothing of it Tenkai, I’ve carried heavier things than you.” she placed a hand on my left shoulder, and gave it a light squeeze. “Now, we should probably get this anomaly over and done with so we can continue this wonderful tour of your ancestors’ gloriously sand filled homeland?” She grumbled, dusting off the grit that had accumulated across her powerful, yet slender, arms.
I could only let out a snort, “Why do you think my ancestors left? My gran always complained about the sandstorms, the heat ....” I adjusted my hood, “Well, we should probably see what we can do to deal with that..” I gestured to the bubble. She nodded, and we made our way towards the group of mages and spellswords.
As we drew near, one, wearing armor the color of faded bronze, and a cloak and hood a dull gray, turned to face us. “You are the ones A.S.S sent?” she asked, a small smirk gracing her face. Once again I came to despise whoever decided our organization’s acronym should resemble another word for a person’s, well, ass.
I let out a short grumble, and tried my hardest not to roll my eyes. “Yes, we are. I am Magister Tenkai,” I raised a fist to my mouth and clear my throat. “And this is my...companion.” I gestured to Rachnera.
“Rachnera Arachnea.” Rachnera said, placing a hand atop a breast. “So, I presume the weir your mages are trying to contain is this anomaly we were sent here to fix?” she asked, shifting her position and peeking over the battlemage’s shoulder.
“Yes, we believe the source of this irregularity is within the center of the pocket realm of Oblivion contained within.” She stepped aside, as the two of us headed towards the circle of spellcasters.
The anomaly seemed to pulse as we approached, a sharp wind blowing as it increased in intensity. One of the mages stopped us, as he handed us to crystals. “Speak into these once the breach has been fixed….or if you’re about to die, whichever comes first..” he said, a glimmer in his eyes. Rachnera and I shared a glance, but took the communication devices all the same. Better safe than sorry. I hung the crystal over my neck, as did she.
We stepped forward, wind whipping around us as we stood before the portal. “Once more unto the breach?” I asked, turning to Rachnera.
She chuckled, “Save that for after we’ve gone through a few breaches.” She lightly punched my shoulder.
With that, we stepped forward into the rift, and our world turned white.