Chapter 14 Odibaal
Last Seed 29
If I had said that the last few days had been a shock, it would have been an understatement. It was morning. The four of us were preparing to venture out into the Ashlands, and I still didn’t fully understand why.
As soon as Magnus the Greymind had found me in Balmora and informed me that I was needed for some abstract mission, my confusion had begun. Then, after my Thieves Guild brethren had led us to the Imperial agent Cauis Cosades, things only became more perplexing. It seemed that there was an Imperial conspiracy that I was a part of. Several people were needed to perform certain actions that would trigger the arrival of an evil demi-god, only so the said demi-god could then be defeated by a predestined hero. And that would ultimately bring peace to Morrowind and redeem the Dunmer land, as well as stop the spread of evil from reaching the rest of Tamriel. Quite mind-boggling. I didn’t argue though. The way I figured, the chance to do some good in the midst of an epic, pre-ordained series of events was not something to pass up.
So, I leaned against the outer wall of Ald’ruhn, waiting for Magnus and standing beside the two characters that I had met in Balmora; Xighden Lienx the Khajiit and Snorri the Nord. Snorri was tall, with long brown hair and a clean shaven face. He was loud and brutish, and had many other Nord-like qualities. He was a barbarian though, so it came as no surprise to me. Looking at Xighden Lienx, though, made me slightly nervous. He was as tall as Magnus and Snorri, except broader and more muscular. I recognized some physical characteristics, which told me that he was a Cathay-raht. That was what made me nervous.
When I was younger, back in Valenwood, I had encountered many Khajiit. Since the borders of Elsweyr and Valenwood were, at all times, active with battles and skirmishes, many Khajiit often came into my homeland to launch attacks on Bosmer villages. It wasn’t a bitter hellish war, like the ones you hear about in stories, just more of a restless conflict that never seemed to go away. The Khajiit would charge in, attack, and then be fought off. The Bosmer would do the same. It was hearing tales of such raids when I had really developed my fear of Khajiit. Not so much of a phobia, just more of an overwhelming unease. There were a couple of times when villages would be engaged in a slow retreat and the Khajiit warriors would catch up to them. Most Bosmer’s strength lay in long range arrow attacks, so up close, they were nearly defenseless. They had to hide, and that was when the Cathay-raht soldiers would be sent out to find them. They were powerful, unlike the nimble Suthay-raht, yet fast, unlike the towering Senche-raht. Overall, they were spoken of as the most dangerous. Certainly, there were races of Khajiit that could fire more accurately, and cover land faster. I’d even once heard of an old mate of mine that had his arms ripped right out of his sockets by one of the tremendous Senches. But it was the Cathay-raht that, in the midst of combat, would truly lust for the blood of elves. That, along with Xighden’s full bonemold armor, and fearsome battle-axe, kept me turning my head whenever he stood behind me. It was lucky for me that I’d never had to deal with them, personally. My village had been segregated from the wars. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t even be able to look at Xighden without turning pale. I had said very little to either of them the entire time.
After a few more minutes of shrugging my shoulders, Magnus the Greymind arrived at the city gate. He had had some kind of business at the Mages Guild. We were then ready to leave for Bal Isra.
Earlier on, when we arrived in Ald’ruhn, we soon learned that Simon Belmont, the prophesized hero, had already left town. Instead of blindly trying to search for him, we decided to visit another of the final five names on the Imperial list. Doth Berossus, we found out from the Redoran House, was a nobleman of high regard, who oversaw the central Ashland region known as Bal Isra. Our journey was estimated to take about three hours. We had stocked up in preparation for the journey. Snorri wore Nordic chainmail and Nordic fur boots, greaves, and gloves. I had an Imperial newtscale cuirass, a steel shortsword, and chitin bracers. Magnus went unarmored as he always did, wearing a dark blue and grey robe. He kept his Nordic broadsword, and had a dreugh staff with him as well.
We set off into the wastes that surrounded Ald’ruhn, following a rough path. It was lucky for us that the weather was tolerable. At the time, I had only heard stories about the savage storms that would rage through the Ashlands. Along the way, we encountered several beasts. There were cliff racers all around, which were very aggressive. The four of us managed to fend off their attacks easily, however. We also came into contact with many alit, nix-hounds, and the small, yet aggressive kwama foragers. It wasn’t until about noon that we reached Bal Isra, and the Berossus manor. It was, like all Ald’ruhn houses, shaped quite strangely, at least for my liking. It was crafted in the shell-like style, with two guard towers and a large surrounding wall.
There were three guards that stood out front in the central courtyard. As we approached, one of them stepped forward to confront us. “What business do you have in Bal Isra?” the Dunmer man asked us. Magnus quickly responded.
“My name is Magnus the Greymind. I am a member of high standing in the Mages Guild. We need to speak with Serjo Doth Berossus.” I noticed how Magnus effortlessly threw in a “serjo” to Doth Berossus’ title. It was a simple show of respect among Dunmer, although surely artificial, coming from a Nord.
“Serjo Berossus is occupied. What business of yours is important enough to interrupt his study?” the Dunmer man asked. Again, Magnus was the first to speak up.
“We have important, private matters. It would only take but a small portion of his time.” The Dunmer walked away to consult the other guards. After a brief chat between the three of them, a different man came forward.
“All right, outlanders, I’ll give you a deal. My name is Guls and I am the hetman of this manor. We, under Bersossus’ command, have recently come across certain outside forces posing a threat to our business. If you were to deal with one of them for us, then that would free up enough of Serjo Berossus’ time for you to speak with him.” This time Xighden was the one who responded to the Dunmer.
”And what would the Dunmer have us do?” Xighden asked. The Hetman turned to Xighden, sneered slightly, but still responded.
“There is a bandit’s den approximately one hour from here to the southwest. It is an encamped cave by the name of Odibaal. There are several outlaws that reside there, which have been interrupting our business. Kill them, and return the Redoran Master Helm that they recently stole from us. Then, return here and I will arrange your meeting with Berossus.”
There was more talk of the situation, but little more of interest. These Dunmer needed us to take out some thieves in exchange for a sit-down with the Redoran noble. He was clearly quite an important person.
We left almost immediately. Along the way there, the four of us spoke quite a bit. I found myself learning more about the three of them. After some light-hearted insults towards the Dunmer for sending us on that particular journey, Snorri got into the tales of his exploits across Tamriel. He had been working as a freelance adventurer, looking for excitement wherever he could find it. He had traveled across the Wrothgarian Mountains, Hammerfell, Cyrodiil, Morrowind, and of course, Skyrim. Skyrim was the home country of nearly all Nords in Tamirel.
I then discovered that Magnus, as well, was born in Skyrim. Him being so well spoken and educated in the arts of magicka, I had assumed otherwise. While Snorri’s hometown was Falkreath, Magnus was born in a small western town near Karthwasten. I had heard of neither of these places. While still young, Magnus had traveled to High Rock with his mother, to live in Wayrest. He then moved to Daggerfall, where he was introduced to the arts of magicka. It wasn’t until he had returned to Skyrim to live with his father that he was given the name “Greymind”. Another interesting fact I learned about Magnus was that he had the blood of both Nord and Breton in him. I supposed that that was why he had such a natural proficiency with magicka. While on the topic of origin, Snorri asked Xighden and I where we hailed from. I told the lot of them how I grew up around Cormeir Spring, in the south of Valenwood. Xighden seemed to take particular interest in that.
“Was the elf old enough to be involved in any of the border wars?” he asked me. My mind fogged for a moment before recalling the information.
“I…um, no. My village wasn’t a part of the wars,” I responded. I had no stories of interest to tell them. Him being a Khajiit, I imagined that he must’ve had a significant part in what went on between our two countries. I didn’t ask though, and instead just listened to Xighden tell his story.
“I was born in Dune, northern Elsweyr, and grew up near the Imperial Fort Sphinxmoth. There were many Imperials around, which is why my accent differs from many other Khajiit.” I had noticed. Most Khajiit would refer to themselves in the third person. Xighden referred to himself in the first person, as everyone else did. I had never heard him say “you”, however. Every time he spoke to me, he called me by name, or “the elf.” “After spending time in the wars that occupied the border, I traveled the Elsweyr deserts, and some of Black Marsh. I made my way through the Argonian swamps to Cyrodiil city.”
Our conversation continued as we drew closer to the thieves den, Odibaal. Dust swirled through the air as the wasteland winds began to grow violent. Within one hour of departure, we had arrived at what we assumed was Odibaal. The winds had picked up and an ash storm seemed afoot. I was tired, and parched from the trip. I wasn’t used to such ventures. Magnus, Snorri, and Xighden did not complain, though, so I kept quiet about it. We prepared ourselves, and opened the wooden door that lead to the cave entrance.
The four of us slowly made our way into the cave, which actually seemed to be more of a well-rounded tunnel. We came upon the first turn in the path. The party slowed. We rounded the corner, and found more of the same; nothing. Continuing on and rounding the second turn, however, brought us to a new room. It was a large, open section of the cavern, with enough candles and lanterns to provide adequate lighting. Instead of sloping stone paths, there were wooden planks for stairs and pathways. That room actually made the hideout seem hospitable. What caught my attention more than the décor, though, was the large, caged off area down below, containing two nix-hounds. Past the wooden cage, on the opposite side of the room, were two Dunmer women, both bearing weapons. We quickly assessed the situation, and then made our way back to the safety of darkness. “So what is the plan?” Xighden asked. “Two Dunmer women and two nix-hounds,” I said aloud. Snorri did not seem be troubled by the guards, and offered enthusiasm.
“Women and beasts! I was expecting a challenge.” We developed a rough tactic for assault, and prepared ourselves. Since the two Dunmer were behind the wooden fence, Xighden and I were going to use our acrobatic ability to get to them. Magnus and Snorri would take care of the two hounds. That was, of course, after someone took care of the lock that latched the fence shut.
“Someone needs to break that lock before we go rushing in.” Magnus suggested. No one spoke for a moment.
“I can do it,” Xighden then exclaimed. As he spoke, he shifted his stance. From his pauldrons grazing against his cuirass, was the sound of metal on metal. Our heads turned to him in desperate need for silence, and with a small realization. After that, there was another brief moment of thought.
“Let us send the burglar in,” Snorri said, as he looked down and right into my eyes. I hesitated, yet agreed to his proposition. After all, I was damn good. I cracked my knuckles and my ankles, and then proceeded down the wooden stairs in the large room.
With Magnus, Xighden, and Snorri perched around the corner, I made my way into the room. It was only the nix-hounds pen that divided the two Dunmer and myself. I did my best not to draw their attention. Breathing as quietly as I could, I made my way to the caged door of the fence. I never wore boots, only soft-soled shoes, so my footsteps made no noise. I approached the cage, kneeled down beside the lock, and quickly began working on it. It was a lock of low quality, so I had soon halfway completed the task. What became a growing concern, instead of the lock, were the nix-hounds. They lurched over towards me after noticing my presence there. Both of the large hounds began to emit a low pitched growl. Luckily, the two Dunmer did not take notice of it. I hurried along with the lock. There was just one pin left. The growl of the two hounds intensified, though.
“Ila qua auito amica,” I said to the nix-hounds, in my native language. My attempt to communicate with the animals did not succeed. Almost all Bosmer were born with the ability to commune with animals. The races of men called it “Beast Tongue”, but it was no magickal spell. It was simply the fact that the Bosmer dialect was easy to understand, and soothing for the fauna to hear. That, along with all Bosmer’s natural comprehension of the hunt, and the minds of beasts.
These two hounds either did not understand me, or did not care for what I said. Their voices were hoarse, and they seemed muddled. I sensed that there was something wrong with them. Whether that was right or not, I did not try to speak with them again. I turned my pick, which lifted the final pin, opening the lock with a rewarding click. Just as I did, though, the two hounds began barking and howling fiercely. The Dunmer were alarmed, and my cover was exhausted. Upon hearing the commotion, Xighden and the two Nords came charging around the corner, as I swung open the gate.
With impressive speed, Magnus and Snorri charged towards the pen, with their weapons aimed at the aggressive nix-hounds. Xighden surpassed them both, with a great leap that only a Khajiit could achieve, and soared over the cage wall entirely. He landed in fighting stance, and prepared himself for the two Dunmer that charged towards him. I, lacking the strength to charge past the hounds and the acrobatic ability to clear the fence, found a different route. I grabbed on to the wooden poles of the fence and kicked off the rocky slope to my right. With an agile flip, I was inside the pen, to assist Xighden. The Khajiit barely seemed to need my help though, as the engaged both women without refrain. He heaved his battle-axe in a full swing, forcing the two of them to halt. I charged at the one bearing a short blade. We were soon entangled in a conflict of steel. She swung at me with moderate speed and accuracy. I did not find blocking her strikes much of a challenge. Aside from the danger, it was a pleasant change from the last time I encountered a Dunmer woman with a short blade. By then, Xighden had gained the upper hand against his opponent, and the two nix-hounds were still occupying Magnus and Snorri. Out of the corner of my eye, and between slashes, I noticed some damage that had been dealt to the two of them. It seemed a little strange, that two nix-hounds could do that much damage to such proficient warriors.
I didn’t dwell on that thought, though. I was too busy keeping my attacker at bay. She swung her blade wide, which opened up her right shoulder. I dodged the blade, and delivered a swift kick to her temple. She stumbled back, and dropped her sword. I braced myself, and awaited her next move. I knew that I should have moved in to finish her off, but I did not.
I never claimed to be someone of high character, or of any significant moral standing. I just had a problem with bloodshed. I’d killed men before, in one situation or another, but I had never developed a taste for violence. It wasn’t something that I could completely explain. Besides, I was usually too busy just staying alive to worry about anything else. Nevertheless, at that point in Odibaal, I was unable to make the final move.
Behind my opponent, though, I noticed Xighden bring his axe down in what was not yet going to be his final move. The woman he had been battling was slain in one savage attack. He then turned around to see my opponent getting up, and recovering her blade. I was somewhat frozen, as she prepared to engage me once again. I paused, not out of fear, but because I knew what was about to happen. Before the Dunmer woman could lift her weapon to assault me, Xighden lifted his own. He swung his huge battle-axe in a horizontal motion, relieving the Dunmer of her aggression and her head. I stood back in awe of the brutal decapitation, with squinted eyes, as the Dunmer’s blood sprayed in my face. The headless, elven corpse fell to the ground, still jittering and shaking. I looked into the Cathay-raht’s eyes, through the hideous fountain of blood, and sensed nothing but the feeling of completion.
After I had regained my composure, I joined Xighden and turned my attention to the two nix-hounds. They still, surprisingly, were aggressive and fighting. Magnus’ robe had been torn and he had been brought down to one knee, still defending with his broadsword and dreugh staff. I noticed gashes and spilled blood on the body of Snorri, who remained upright. Xighden, as well, seemed surprised at the ferocity of these two nix-hounds. That they could not only stay alive for that long, but also bring such damage to the two Nords, was unnatural. At that point it was then the four of us against two beasts, so our worries were not great. Just as we drew near though, the two hounds turned around and charged at us. One slammed into me with its head and shoulders, knocking me clear across the room. The other pounced on Xighden and attempted to gouge his face with its mandibles. He managed to grab on to its tusk-like mouth pieces. As Xighden wrestled with one beast, I found myself simply trying to avoid the other. It ferociously raged towards me. I leapt up over it and ran back to Magnus and Snorri. Both of them were down, leaning back against the cage wall. I stood facing the nix-hound with my back to the two of them. “Get up! We need to finish this thing off!” I shouted to them, as the nix-hound prepared for another charge. They were breathing heavily, and they could barely respond.
“Don’t let it touch you. There’s something wrong with it,” Magnus gasped. I thought, instead, there was something wrong with them. At that point it hit me. The hound’s intensity, the fact that I couldn’t communicate with them, and Magnus and Snorri’s sudden loss of strength, meant one thing to me. Disease. The two hounds must have been rabid and infected.
As the diseased beast charged at me, I flipped up onto the top of the fence. With great balance, and as mush speed as I could muster, I sheathed my sword and pulled out my throwing knives. Seeing Xighden still occupied, I threw one blade to make a direct hit with the hound’s right eye. My next throw was at the more immediate danger, and made contact with its hind leg. This seemed to be no deterrent, though, as it leapt up against the fence on which I stood, and swung its foreleg at me. I hopped over to the adjoining side, and continued my rain of blades. After several well placed punctures the nix-hounds bodies, Xighden pulled himself up and found the strength to rain down some steel of his own. Directly along the spine of one beast. I then jumped down onto the other, with my sword aimed perfectly into its neck. With some help from Xighden, we finished off the second. The four of us were exhausted from the battle, and deeply breathed in the smell freshly spilled blood. I noticed Xighden licking the splatters of elf blood from his face. The sight disturbed me.
As I sheathed my blade once again, I noticed Xighden leaning against the rocky slope behind him. He began to sit down, but then completely fell over. I soon realized that I was the only one not affected by the disease, having not made skin to skin contact with the two hounds. “Magnus. This disease, can you cure yourself of it?” I asked him. He hesitated in his response, with his eyes then closed.
“I…no. I can’t use my magicka.” Snorri seemed to be in the same condition. Heavy breathing, closed eyes, and little motion, as he sat leaning against the wall.
“What are the symptoms? What are you feeling?” I asked, this time, with a measure of desperation. Snorri responded, with equal energy in his speech.
“Stiffness…hard to move… arms and legs,” was all he said. I then turned my attention to Xighden, who seemed to be able to hold up a conversation.
“Xighden, I can find the reagents needed to cure this disease, but I have to know what it is you have.” The Khajiit was still aware, and managed to respond.
“It’s…draining. My strength is going and I’m having trouble breathing and swallowing.” I thought to myself for a moment. I had studied alchemy. I knew how to mix ingredients and make potions, even without the right instruments. I just needed to identify what it was that they were afflicted with. I paced back and forth while listing different names in my head. The black-heart blight was a serious blight disease that drained strength and willpower. That would account for their lack of strength and Magnus’ inability to use magicka. But Xighden mentioned trouble breathing and swallowing, and Snorri couldn’t move his joints. That led me to believe that it was helljoint. I couldn’t be sure, but I also couldn’t sit around contemplating the problem.
“Stay here. I’m going out to look for the reagents I need. I’ll be back soon.” I declared, as courageously as I could. They offered little response, with only some groans.
“Do you even know what you’re doing?” Magnus asked, with absolutely no sarcasm in his voice. I did not best not to show my lack of confidence.
“Yes. Yes, just wait here. Have some faith.” I took the cloak out of my pack, and made my way outside. By that time, it was night, and the ash-storm had fully picked up. It was not going to be easy. “Oh well, what the hell.”