I told you to forget Dawnstar... Toralf remembers the encounter with the daedric huntress in the clearing near Riverwood, shakes his head, and closes his eyes as the carriage he bought near Whiterun bumps up and down on the gravel road just south of the northern city of Dawnstar.
While his eyes are closed, he notices it's unusually quiet, the air no longer populated by the sound of gravel on wood, the occasional whip of the driver, he snaps his eyes open. What he sees is an all-too-familiar blood red sky, filled with darkness, and not but the sound of intense wind blowing against him.
Riding alongside the carriage is the dark rider spotted outside of Riverwood, or what I thought was a dream, but can the same dream be repeated, he wonders to himself, as the rider turns to face him, revealing humps on the daedric breastplate, curses, it IS another dream, the only woman dremora I know is a shewolf! What is wrong with me?
The dark rider speaks with a low, yet beautiful and smooth voice, "Nothing is wrong with you, Toralf, yet you need to heed the words of the huntress. Turn back, great danger awaits you ahead."
The carriage driver turns his head around, but this time, it's the girl from Riverwood, blood still caked on her chin and lips, "No, please, don't go," she grins and starts climbing over the front lip of the carriage car and leaps toward Toralf, who is knocked to his side against the bench he sits on.
The girl and the rider vanish just as fast as they appeared, and the world returns to normal yet again, the true driver speaks, "Wake, ser, we're close to Dawnstar." Toralf shakes his head, and glances toward the back of the cart, relieved to see a stone path trialing from the back, "Uh --- Thank you."
"Are you well, milord? You seemed to have passed right out," the driver asks with general concern for his fare, "I am no Lord, but yes, I am fine, just another waking dream." If I held the rank of Lord, I wouldn't be in this situation, he wonders to himself, "Been having allot of them lately," Toralf continues as he places his belongings back in his rough sack that spilled out when he toppled over. The driver glances back again, "That's a mighty fine bow you have there, looks Imperial, are you a soldier for the great Legion?" Toralf hesitates for a moment and lets out a huff of amusement, "Nay, I won it in a game of chance."
The driver grins, nods, and replies, "Well, good catch, ser," turning his head back around, giving the reins one last whip as they climb the small hill towards Dawnstar. Toralf finally realized he's been holding his breath due to the inquiry, and lets out a loud sigh. One last bump rattles the pebbles in the back of the carriage as he slips the bow into the sack and ties it closed, slinging it over his shoulder.
The cart slows as Toralf swings his hips, flinging his legs in front of him, his feet landing on the soft snow covering the pebbled path leading into Dawnstar as the cart finally comes to a halt. Guiding his hand along the railing of the cart, he pulls fifty gold coins out of his small coin pouch attached to his bicep and hands them to the driver, "Thank you, ser, safe travels," curtsies the driver as he whips the reins and continues on his way.
Toralf stands amidst the cold wind of northern Skyrim, takes a deep breath of it in, listening to the fading sound of wooden wheels of the cart traveling away from him on hard pebble and snow. With one last yawn, he starts off toward Mzinchaleft to the east.
Shade feels a cold breeze brush up against her crossed legs as a Nordic man walks into the nigh empty Dawnstar Inn, "I almost thought you weren't going to show," setting her altmer ale on the table in the corner nearest the door, she grins at the man. "I dropped him by the city, he's headed east, though," the carriage driver drops his hood and eyes the coin pouch strung around her muscular thigh, "He carries an Imperial Bow, but betrays not where he truly got it. Said he won it."
"Of course he did," she notices his diehard stare at her thigh, "You want your payment, do you not?" "Of course, for the information I just gave you." "Information? You did your duty as a driver," her gaze returns to the bartender, brushing away the dust on the bar with a small rag, "I'd hardly say that's useful information worthy of my gold." Out of the corner of her eye, she sees the driver's fist clench in anger, she sighs and pulls the hem of her skirt down to cover the coin pouch.
Making the biggest mistake of his life, he reaches down toward Shade's muscular thigh. She jumps up almost at the speed of light, shoves him against the wall and pins her forearm against his upper chest and neck, only slightly choking him. Shade reaches her other hand down, pulls up her skirt, and a shrill sound of metal on metal is heard as she draws a concealed dagger from her thigh opposite the pouch.
She raises the dagger to the driver's pulsing jugular vein in his neck, "Are you trying to feel me up for some money, Nord?" Sweat dripping off of his brow, "No, Selene, I just want my payment, I didn't think a bosmer like you would be a conniving little whore elf. What else have you got under that piece of leather you call a skirt?"
"You're a lucky carriage driver," she says as she pushes her forearm harder against his chest, he grins, "Why's that? Don't tell me it's because I have a sellsword pressing herself up against me, because the likes of me and my profession couldn't ever get a woman. Right?" Shade grins, "No, because not many people who've had my blade at their throat have lived," she pushes away from him, dagger still extended toward him, "But I doubt you have troubles in the areas you just said, you've got quite the backbone."
Shade places the dagger back into it's small sheath at her inner right thigh and pulls twenty five coins from her pouch, hands them to the Nordic man, "Here, because you deserve it, not because of 'information' but because of your over-sized testicles, you'll not find that in a carriage driver very often."
He nods, and she adds one last comment before he walks to the bar for a drink, "and I never leave a debt unpaid, no matter what the cost," she pushes the door open and steps outside into the freezing snow, fixing the hem of her skirt, she sighs.
Stepping down the steps leading from the inn, Shade pulls a small sack out of her hood and fastens it to her belt, pulling the now empty hood up over her dark hair. She sighs, "Who are you to be following me," she looks straight ahead over the ocean as a blue robed man speaks from the other side of the sign reading Windpeak Inn, "My name is Arlowe, sellsword. How did you travel from Whiterun to Dawnstar so quickly?" "What does it matter to you, old man. Your voice alone betrays that you've seen many years, you're also a wizard," she turns to look at the man behind the voice.
Arlowe is indeed aged considerably, an Imperial man, flowing white beard down halfway to his pecks, bushy mustache, and his lips are chapped. His robe is loose on him, as is his hood, which comes down over his dull gray eyes. His hands, arms crossed over his chest, are old, veins protruding from his delicate, freckled skin. He must be at least seventy years of age, no less, maybe just recently eighty. Men age faster than my own elfish kind, he's old in his own right.
"That man you're following, the bastard Nord, his true father killed my lover so many years ago."
"So this is about vengeance, I assume?" "Aye. When the time is right, I shall have mine." "I'm sure you will, Arlowe. Unless I get to him first, of course," Shade pulls a small vial out of her sack and downs the potion within in one gulp, her skin glows a dark red for a moment then returns to her normal olive tinted bosmer coloring, "Warmth in a bottle," she sighs. Arlowe huffs, "Indeed."
Shade places the empty vial back in the sack and starts off to the east.
After about twelve hours, Toralf finally reaches an icy cliff with concrete walls covering the cliff face. He glances to his right and sees a small hill, a burnt campfire in front of a shredded tent. Mjoll, my love... She might still be trapped inside, I never warned her of the mechanical defensive systems of dwemer ruins...
With a new sense of urgency, Toralf draws his sword and heads to the nearby double wide doors of Mzinchaleft. My knowledge of dwemer technology gives me an advantage in these ruins, but Mjoll had no such knowledge, I fear for her life. He shakes the thought suddenly when he realizes he almost just let his emotions get the better of him.
The old campfire where he broke his promise to Mjoll reminded him that he should rest, but I can't. Making his way down the stone steps to the wide, golden doors of the ruins, he notices a body in front of him... running up to the body, he breaths a sigh of relief, 'twas an imperial man, thank the nine. The corpse is surprisingly stripped of it's belongings, and even it's armor... Perhaps a Legion detachment was sent after Mjoll... Sweet Mjoll... Further inspection of the body revealed a wound.
Toralf stooped down over the body, Hmm... looks like a short sword, and ice crystals inside the wound... Sure enough, this was caused by Grimsever. She yet may be inside, still. Grimsever, short, glass sword, belonging to Mjoll was given to her by Toralf himself, as an engagement gift. Traditionally, he would have taken the sword back when he broke it off with Mjoll, so to speak, but he intended to give her hope that they would indeed see each other again some day.
Hanging his head, he takes another sigh and starts to stand up as he notices foot falls on the stone steps behind him. Tightening his grip on the hilt of his blade, he turns around, blinded by a bright light. When his vision refocuses, the sky is again blood red and in front of him stands the dark rider, this time, helmless. It's a nordic woman, tall in stature, paintless, wearing a full set of daedric armor, only heard of in lore.
"Who are you? Why are you haunting me," his voice echoes between the pair of walls on either side of him, "What is this sorcery, are you the work of this daedric huntress?" Another flash of light and he's forced to his knees, the sky filled with electric storms. Voices, all around, speak to him as the dark rider stays her mouth shut.
"Endar... Toralf... Telvanni... Snow-Song," says the voice. Toralf snaps his head around in all directions, still kneeling in front of the rider, "Who is this Endar Telvanni... The Legionnaire called me the second born of Telvanni house. WHO IS TELVANNI?" The armor clad nord takes one step closer to Toralf, "That's your name, naive one, and you shall even be called Xaceol, in time." Confused, Toralf feels a cold breath on his neck, and the disembodied voice screams, "BABETTE, RUN!"
A dark spirit flies through Toralf and he begins to fall backwards as the sky returns to normal, but he's caught by the daedric huntress, still outfitted in the leather and fur top she was wearing before, "Got you." Helping him up, she continues, "You'll be alright, Toralf, I know why you disbelieve I even exist and why you came here, but trust me or no, Mjoll is safe. Have your way and enter these ruins nonetheless, is no concern of mine. All things must be scouted by the hunter himself in time. You have my blessing, just do not let slip the dark door."
Just as quickly as she appeared, she was gone, a wolf running back up the stone steps, howling not once, but twice, and he stoops down again to retrieve his blade, and slowly opens the gigantic double wide doors of Mzinchaleft.
Toralf swings open the doors to the final room, the deepest part of Skyrim that anyone has been known to traverse. The good sized room is populated by rubble, of course, and giant centurions, an ancient machination, used by the Dwemer as the last line of defense.
Three small arches, made of golden dwarven metal, are arranged around the door at the opposite end of the room. One is empty, but two possess inert centurions. What could they be guarding down here, I don't see anything really. He surveys the room from his end, making sure not to proceed too closely to the machines. Noticing a double wide door, uniquely locked, he realizes this must be what the machines protect.
Silently, he moves to the doors, checking the locks, and sees a perfectly good lockpick under his feet. Toralf picks up said lockpick and starts to slide the tip of it inside the lock, but he is met with a very painful jolt of electricity which snaps his arm back and him toppling over, coming to a rest a few feet away, the small sack of dwemer metal he's collected throughout the ruins is ejected an additional foot away.
Through the haze and ringing in his ears, Toralf hears a loud click and just barely notices one of the centurions step out of its dock, only this time, it's not a centurion that walks forward and faces to look at the helpless Nord. This creature is a very thin, tall human, with four wings protruding from it's back, what look like a mix between the wings of a bat and a raven. The creature has red and black armor on, and has it's fingers gripped tightly around glowing orbs, presumably spells.
The human yells at Toralf in an unintelligible language, "Imperiosa ciuitas esse mea!" and a violent cold wind blows against Toralf, knocking him completely down onto this back, and as the creature charges toward him, two will-o-the-wisps fly right at the creature, staggering it.
Toralf's mind slowly returns to reality as the creature is replaced by a centurion, the wisps by two Nord females, clad in red and black leather armor and small hoods. Toralf fights the call of unconsciousness, vision blurring and returning, over and over again.
The women repeatedly strike the centurion on what would be it's knees with black war-axes, and it finally falls to the ground and falls apart into at least ten pieces. The shorter of the two women walk up to Toralf, standing over him, "Don't worry, Toralf, you're safe now." He cannot help but give into passing out as he feels the Nord woman's arms scoop him up.
Shade crouches behind a rock which is behind a tree, watching the two Dark Brotherhood agents carry her target toward a small half-dome shaped hill, a dark red door in the middle of said hill. She steps forward as quietly as she can, drawing one of her daggers, and the taller of the two agents stops in her tracks, "Wait, I heard something," she looks in Shade's general direction.
The other one, carrying the Nord man - Shade's contract - says something unintelligible and the taller one continues on toward the door, strapping her war-axe back on her hip. A disembodied voice mumbles something from their direction and, seemingly answering the voice, the tall agent says, "Sanguine, my brother," followed by a very low rumbling as the door swings open and the three of them step through the threshold.
Shade starts a slow, quiet trot toward the open door, but just a few feet away, it swings shut with a resounding thud. Shade throws her closed fist into the door, but it doesn't budge. Feeling around for a doorknob, a hatch, a knocker, anything... She finds nothing. She curses to herself and sighs.