Date: 4th Era, 410th year, ????
Vivi wasn’t sure what she was expecting to wake up to the next morning, but it certainly wasn’t waking up in the middle of a forest. Granted, she’d woken up in multiple forests before! Hell, her own home of Valenwood was a massive forest, but this was not where she’d gone to sleep the night before.
Looking around herself, she saw dozens and dozens of pine trees as far as the eye could see. The grass beneath her feet was verdant and green and shifted softly in the cool breeze that blew through. The moon above shone down its soft blue light, causing the trees to cast long shadows along the forest floor. She was sitting on a small log in front of a campfire. Atop the campfire was a cooking pot and a quick glance inside revealed a brown broth with vegetables and bits of meat inside.
Oh that smells divine. Vivi’s stomach growled softly and her eyes wandered over the area in search of a bowl to pour herself some into. Maybe she could just drink some from the ladle?
Before Vivi could make a decision she might regret, she suddenly heard soft singing. Looking around, her eyes saw nothing but trees and their shadows. Vivi reached down for her spellbook, patting at air and realizing that it was gone. So were her daggers and pretty much anything else she normally had on her. She was dressed in her blue and gold mage robes but was lacking any of her normal supplies. Vivi swore inwardly and tried to stand from the log but found herself unable to move.
Approaching the small encampment, dressed in a long, sleeveless white dress with golden filigree resembling vines and flowers cascading down the length of it, was an elven woman. The woman was tall and slender in frame, extraordinarily beautiful. Her skin was a ruddy tan color, bordering on bronze but shining like gold from where the firelight reached her. Her hair was brown and tied back into a ponytail that fell down to just below her shoulders.
As she approached, her eyes met with Vivi’s. They were kind and gentle, calculating and cold and held untold years of knowledge within them. They shone like sapphires whenever the light of the fire danced off of them and darkened into the deep oceans waves whenever she looked away from the fire.
Vivi made to call out to her, to ask her where she was, why she was here, what had happened to her friends. But no words came out. Try as she might, Vivi found herself uttering no noise.
Confusion and fear bubbled up in Vivi’s chest and she could feel her heartbeat beginning to speed up. Just as quickly, however, it faded away with the sound of the woman’s singing.
The woman sang as she cooked, cutting carrots into the stew, stirring the pot and adding various other ingredients. She danced about the encampment with her eyes nearly closed, moving to the sound of her own voice and some unheard beat.
Her voice was soft and melodic yet strong and commanding. It eased Vivi’s nerves and relaxed her muscles almost instantly. Vivi tried to decipher what she was saying but found herself unable to. It was a language unlike any other. It was elvish in nature, with the melodic and precisely cut endings of the elven tongue but strong and harsh at times with deep dwarvish tones. It was fascinating and the longer Vivi listened, the more she found herself being able to identify. Mere words at first, but soon phrases of the song.
Excitement replaced what was once fear and anxiousness in her chest and her eyes widened at the thought. This was no ordinary language! This was the language of the Dwemer!
I mean, Vivi had never heard it so fluently spoken in, but her studies had taken her far and wide and she had practiced in her own right to try and speak it. Reading it was far easier of course, but wow! To hear it spoken in, to hear it sung in! Did this mean that this woman was a Dwemer? But how? So many questions and no way to ask them.
Vivi attempted again to stand, to shout, to do anything. It was a futile attempt but it was better than doing nothing she supposed. She reached out a hand to the woman, to herself, attempting to cast some form of magic but was unable to do so. When she began looking around herself for something, anything to help her, she felt a hand rest against her shoulder.
Looking up and into the elven woman's eyes, Vivi was confused as the woman had stopped singing, but a soft clicking was heard. Like gears turning in place, slowly moving. Looking to the arm on her shoulder, Vivi studied it intensely. The sound was coming from the woman's arms? Vivi leaned closer and the sound grew louder to accompany the movement.
The elven woman’s arm seemed natural at first glance, but upon further inspection Vivi found it to be anything but. Pieces of it stuck out above the rest of the arm, like a puzzle placed on even ground. Small slits in the arm occasionally would open and steam rushed out, hissing softly before the slits would close once more.
Fascinating...perhaps I can convince her to let me inspect it further?
Vivi’s thoughts were quickly pushed aside as the elven woman leaned in closer, resting her head on Vivi’s shoulder and wrapping her arms around her neck in a hug.
“You should wake up before you forget how to,” the elven woman whispered, her breath tickling Vivi’s ear.
There was a soft push and Vivi felt herself beginning to fall back off the log, no longer being held. Her eyes grew heavy and began to shut as time seemed to slow down all around her. She fell for what felt like an eternity and the last thing she saw was the blue moon in the night sky, surrounded by glittering stars.
Vivi awoke once more to the roaring of wind rushing past her ears. Oh, and she was falling. That too.
The sound of the wind was near deafening and the cold wind stung her eyes as she fell, forcing her to cover her face. Forcing herself to keep her eyes open amidst the torrent of wind, Vivi took in her surroundings as best she could. There were mountains all around her, covered in snow and rock and bits of hardy vegetation here and there. The ground was hundreds of feet beneath her and very quickly coming closer. All around herself there were other bodies.
“Moses? Lath?” Sure enough, falling around her, amidst a few others, were her two friends. Their eyes were closed and they seemed to be unconscious as they fell.
Lucky them. They’ll die a painless death meanwhile I get to feel myself turn into a crushed cherry on the ground.
Well, maybe it’d be more like a cherry pie with the bread pieces being her bones and the cherry insides would be her guts? No, it’d be more akin to a multi-tiered red velvet cake with lots of white frosting on it getting dropped from a tall building. Yeah, that's it.
Seemingly satisfied with her answer, Vivi looked down once more and considered her options. She didn’t have anything to stop their fall nor could she slow it at all. Damn it! Is this really how she was gonna die? Vivi thought hard on her prepared spells, on her items, on anything she could possibly do to save herself and her companions. But nothing came to mind. Her heart rate began to increase, realization dawning on her.
Taking a deep breath, Vivi took one last look at Moses and Lathanria before she closed her eyes and braced for the impact.
Vivi awoke to bone-chilling cold. Her body shivered amidst the cold wind that rushed over her. She groaned as she got to her knees, her body aching and crying out in protest. Still, she was alive. That’s gotta count for something, right?
Vivi looked to where the voice had come from, her vision still coming into focus. A figure rapidly approached her, the sound of footsteps crushing snow getting louder. Rushing forward, the figure fell to their knees in front of Vivi, a familiar face coming into sight. Lathanria.
By the divines she was beautiful. The cold wind blew Lathanria's white hair to the side, covering parts of her face. Her purple eyes shined like amethysts and brought a sense of calm to Vivi’s soul. Most wouldn’t feel the same way if a Drow was suddenly kneeling in front of them.
Lathanria placed both her hands on either side of Vivi’s face, looking over her with worry. “Vivi! Vivi are you alright? Oh divines, you’re freezing.”
“I’m fine, love, now that you’re here.” Vivi rubbed her hands together, teeth chattering. “Although, I could use a warm blanket. That would be quite nice.”
Lathanria smiled despite the tears staining her cheeks. “We all could. Come on, can you stand?”
Vivi, with Lathanria’s initial help, slowly stood from the ground. Wearing mages robes, regardless of how pretty they were, was not a good idea for cold weather. To be fair, she didn’t expect to be subjected to these temperatures.
“Where are Moses and Grix? Are they alright?” Vivi asked, taking slow steps forward, her bodily functions slowly returning to her.
“They’re fine. Cold, but fine. He woke up before I did. He’s with the rest of the group.”
Vivi quirked a brow in silent questioning, to which Lathanria waved a hand dismissively. “The rest.”
The rest? The rest of what? Our sanity?
Vivi didn’t push it, opting to take Lathanria’s hand in her own as they trudged through the snow. Taking in their surroundings, Vivi wondered where exactly they’d been dropped. All around them were scattered snow and bits of vegetation. Hardy bushes and a few pine trees stood out, thriving in the cold temperature. Mountain’s encircled this area, creating a small, closed-off valley. Dark clouds loomed above, obscuring most light. Farther in the distance, Vivi spotted what looked like buildings and walls nestled against the base of a mountain. A town, perhaps? Where in the world had they fallen into? Speaking of which, how did she survive that fall? How did THEY survive that fall? Were they just naturally resistant to, ‘death from falling from the sky’?
Vivi groaned and shook her head, temporarily closing her eyes in frustration. So many questions and so few answers. Maybe ‘the rest’ of the group would know more than she did.
Lathanria lead Vivi towards a small hill, on top of which stood a small gathering of people. They faced the distant buildings and only turned to face Lathanria when she called out to them.
Nearing the group, Vivi instantly recognized Moses and Grix. Moses was a Nordic lad, his skin fair and his hair a soft chocolate brown. He wore dark green and brown light armor, suited to a life in the forest and in vegetation. His green eyes glared at the world as they scanned the area, brightening upon landing on Vivi. To his side stood Grix, his green drake companion. Grix stood at about hip height, his body shifting from side to side as he waited on his master's word. Upon seeing Vivi, the drake’s body relaxed slightly and he made a pleased rumble in his throat.
Vivi’s eyes scanned over the other 2 members of this group. One was a Dragonborn, muscular and taller than the rest, easily 6 ½ feet tall, with golden scales. He wore little-to-no armor unless you counted his red tunic and the black pants beneath it armor. He seemed to be unbothered by the cold, unlike how Vivi felt. On his back, he carried a large black cauldron, the kind used for making soups and the kind that witches made concoctions out of. In one hand he wielded a vicious looking maul, while his other held onto a pack of what Vivi assumed were supplies. A pair of reading glasses sat comfortably on his nose, little dangling cords keeping them secured on his face. He looked to be an older Dragonborn, with scales that lucked the lustrous hue of a younger man and an aged face. Still, he was an intimidating presence and Vivi found herself readying in case an attack. No attack came, instead, the Dragonborn grinned at her as she approached, his eyes twinkling with merriment.
Across from him stood the other unknown member of the group. A Dunmer man, standing a bit shorter than the Dragonborn, with blood-red eyes. He wore black and red heavy armor, with a strange beetle like crest emblazoned on parts of it. His hair was black and his skin was an ashen grey, as was the case for Dunmer. Still, he looked young for one of his people. He did not wear the same, tired wrinkles that many knowledgeable mages might. But he did have the eyes of an experienced man, and warrior, one who has seen and been the reason for their fair share of death.
His eyes scanned over Lathanria and Vivi, a small smile coming to his lips as they approached. “Good to see you back Lathanria. You must be Vivi, right?”
The Dunmer’s voice was gentle but strong, a firm sound amidst the wind that was rushing over them.
“Yes, I am. I apologize if I caused any of you trouble. I was a bit...out of commission.”
The Dunmer laughed and clapped Moses on the shoulder. “No trouble at all! Seems we all were out of commission, if only for a bit. Moses here was one of the first to wake up, helped us all get back onto our feet.”
Moses nodded his head. “I woke up Lathanria first and then these 2. But we couldn’t find you. We spent an hour or so wandering around the impact site looking for you. It wasn’t until we got onto this hill that Lathanria spotted you in the distance.” There was a moment of hesitation before he continued. “We almost weren’t sure if we’d find you.”
The Dragonborn stepped forward and smacked Vivi on the arm playfully. “It’s a good thing your lady has such keen eyes! Death won’t be claiming any of us just yet it seems.”
Vivi did her best to keep from groaning from the smack.
“Miso, not so rough now. We just found her.” The Dunmer admonished the Dragonborn, now identified as Miso.
Miso laughed and patted his own arm. “Bah! She can take it! Look at her, the face of a warrior! A friendly smack isn’t gonna kill her.”
Lathanria pulled Vivi close, glaring at Miso. “Maybe not, but you do that again and I’ll kill you.”
Before either of them could continue, the Dunmer clapped his hands together, gathering everyone’s attention. “Listen up everyone, we need to focus. It’s cold, were lost and from those clouds above-” The Dunmer glanced up at the darkening sky “-I’d say a storm is coming. We should try and find some shelter.”
Moses nodded his head in agreement. “Teris is right. We don’t want to be out here longer than we have to be.” Looking away from the group, Moses' eyes scanned the area before landing on the distant buildings. “Those buildings. Might be a town of some sort. I’m sure we’d be able to find some shelter there.”
Teris. So that was the Dunmer’s name.
Vivi took a moment to look over Teris and Lathanria and their stark differences. Drow and Dunmer, both dubbed dark elves and both very different from one another. While drow skin varied in tones of black, deep blues and at times even purples, the Dunmer’s skin tone was always an ashen gray. Dunmer eyes were an eerie but fascinating blood red whilst Drow eyes were gorgeous rays of violet and white. Such interesting differences.
“Alright everyone lets-”
Teris was cut off as Miso snorted, bits of steam and fire curling out from his nose as he stomped his feet in impatience. “Let's hurry it up! If I’m going to die, I’d rather die warm!”
Teris sighed and shook his head. He looked like he wanted to say something but stopped himself, opting instead for just turning toward the distant buildings. “Stay together and keep an eye out. We don’t know what or who might be living there.”
With that, Teris began to lead the way, the rest of the group falling into line behind him. Moses and Grix moved off ahead of them silently, his crossbow out and ready in case of an attack.
As they walked, the winds grew in strength, battering the group. Vivi watched the clouds darken above them and snow begin to fall. It was beautiful, but it wouldn’t last. Already the snow was beginning to fall at increased speeds. Pulling her robes tighter about herself, Vivi trained her eyes ahead. The buildings were far in the distance and were obscured by snow and trees. As they neared the buildings, Vivi noticed one thing. She had believed that the buildings were a small mass of houses, making up a tiny town. Instead, the buildings grew in number and extended into the distance, ending at the base of a mountain. A broken and fractured wall encircled the buildings, leading towards a single entrance. The entrance may have at one point had a gate or door of some kind, but it had long since fallen away.
Once they’d gotten closer to the settlement, they realized that they’d been wrong. This wasn’t a town. This was a city. Not a large one by most people's standards, but a city nonetheless. The buildings they’d seen were made up of stone and wood, built like cabins to withstand the cold temperatures. They were short and squat, with caved-in roofs and collapsed walls. Most of them were in such a state of disrepair they barely resembled more than a pile of rubble.
“Everyone! Look for a cabin that isn’t completely destroyed! There's gotta be one still standing somewhere!” Teris called out to the rest of the group. The group responded in kind and began to look around, quickening their pace as they searched for an intact cabin. It wasn't long before one of them did.
“Over here!” Miso called out to the group, waving an arm high to flag down everyone.
Snow was already falling heavy by the time they got to the cabin. Vivi entered into the cabin quickly, shaking off bits of snow as she did so. The interior of the cabin was mostly bare and not all that large, with the faintest bit of furniture strewn about the room. A few cabinets were up against the left wall, with a table and a couple of chairs pushed up against the opposite wall. A fireplace sat cold and dead at the center of the wall, with a cold pile of wood inside. A slightly ajar door lead deeper into the abode into what Vivi assumed was a bedroom of some sorts.
Moses was quick to walk over to the door, crossbow at the ready. He reached out and pushed the door open with one hand, raising up his crossbow as the door swung open. Peeking into the room, Moses sighed and lowered his crossbow. “We’re clear. Just gonna need some help getting rid of those.”
“Of those?” VIvi asked, confusion evident in her voice.
Moses motioned her over, pointing into the room. Vivi walked over and peeked in, finding herself staring into, as she had thought, a bedroom. A few more cabinets and chairs were strewn about the room. A pickaxe was laid against the far wall, along with some other equipment, most likely for mining.
The bed itself was fairly small, covered in blankets and furs. Beneath the mass of blankets and furs, little more than bone now were the previous owners. 2 skeletons lay on the bed, entangled in one another's arms, foreheads pressed together. They looked to still be wearing their clothing, commoners clothes.
“Oh...I see.” Vivi looked over the couple and wondered how they’d died. She hoped it was a peaceful death, wrapped up in one another, traveling into the afterlife together.
“Once we’ve...disposed...of the bodies, we can make use of the blankets.” Moses shook his head and looked behind them, at the rest of the group, who looked around the cabin. They were all cold, shivering in their clothing not meant for such temperatures. “Besides, we need the blankets a bit more than they do at the moment.”
Vivi sighed and nodded her head in agreement. “We should at least bury the bodies. It doesn’t seem particularly right to just toss them out into the snow.”
“Agreed, but with the state of things, we should wait to bury them. I don’t particularly want to go back out there.” Moses wrinkled his nose at the thought, shaking his head. “Just...just give me a hand getting the blankets.”
Vivi and Moses quickly got to work, carefully untangling the blankets from the bodies. They were wrapped up nice and tight, seemingly wanting their final moments to at least be warm. Vivi tried to be gentle, though it was hard to be gentle when some force was necessary. Still, they managed well enough, and in a matter of minutes, Moses and Vivi exited the room with armfuls of blankets and furs.
The rest of the group was happy to take them, eagerly wrapping themselves up. Miso took a thinner blanket for himself. When Vivi pressed him to take some of the thicker ones, he simply laughed.
“I appreciate the offer, but I’m a Dragonborn. The cold doesn’t bother me much. I’ll be fine.”
Vivi wanted to press him more but decided against it. If said he was fine, he was fine. She instead took to wrapping one of the heavier blankets around Grix, who made a low rumbling sound in appreciation.
“Miso, you mind helping me out with this?” Moses motioned to the cold fireplace, on which Moses had begun to stack some wood and scraps. Vivi was pretty sure she saw a picture frame inside.
Miso thumped off towards the fireplace, leaning down and inhaling deeply. As he exhaled, a steady stream of fire streamed out from his lips, engulfing the fireplace and lighting the wood. It took a bit, but eventually, Moses got the fireplace going properly. A soft orange glow began to light up the room with warmth slowly seeping into the awaiting groups' bodies. It was heavenly.
Vivi sat in front of the fireplace, Lathanria beside her. Lathanria took Vivi’s hand in her own, holding it close to herself.
“I’m glad I found you.” Lathanria pressed a kiss to the back of Vivis hand. “I would’ve torn the earth apart to find you.”
Vivi chuckled and shifted closer, pressing a kiss to Lathanrias temple. “I know, my love. I know. Thank you for not giving up the search.”
“I’d never stop looking for you.” Lathanria pulled away a bit, looking into Vivi’s eyes. They smiled at one another. Then, with the suddenness of a truck, Lathanria pulled one her hands into a fist and punched Vivi in the shoulder. “Don’t you EVER scare me like that again!”
Vivi groaned from the punch, wincing from the pain. “Yes dear…”
A cough brought their attention away from one another and to the rest of the cabin. Sitting to their left, leaning forward in his chair and with wiggling eyebrows, was Miso. He seemed to be nodding his head as if approving the punch Lathanria had delivered. Moses sat on the floor beside Grix, both of them watching the couple with bored expressions. They’d seen this display before. Teris, the one who’d coughed, looked at them awkwardly. Once he noticed he’d gotten their attention, he smiled and addressed the group.
“I apologize for disrupting your moment. I just felt that ...well, we have some things to discuss.”
Moses snickered. “Like Miso’s name?”
Miso made a rumbling sound, like a low growl. “What’s wrong with my name?”
Moses put his hands up in surrender, though a mischievous smile was still on his face. “Nothing! Although, I have to ask, isn’t miso some kind of eastern ingredient from Hammerfell?”
Miso nodded his head and sat up straighter, his eyes beaming with pride. “Indeed it is! Miso is a traditional seasoning used in Hammerfell, although I derive my name from miso soup. My full name and title are as such: Miso the Soupman, defender of the people!” Miso puffed out his chest and looked around at the group, as though he was waiting for applause. When none came, he huffed and deflated a little. “Don’t look at me like that! It might not be the most intimidating of names but I can still crack you like an egg!”
Moses was trying to hold back his laughter, as was the rest of the group, to varying degrees of success.
“While your name is certainly a point of interest, Miso, that isn’t what I was referring to.” Teris smile faded slightly. “We need to talk about, well...how we got here. What happened. Us falling from the sky. We don’t know where we are or why we're here.” Teris bit his lower lip as he looked at the group. “And…the vision.”
“The vision?” Miso scratched his neck in thought. “Are you referring to that strange elvish woman? In the forest?”
Teris nodded his head. “Yes, that one. She was singing in a language I’ve never heard before, in a forest, I don’t think I’ve ever been to.”
Vivi leaned forward curiously at hearing this. So she hadn’t been the only one who saw that. That was a relief.
The rest of the group murmured their agreement, nodding their heads knowingly. Vivi coughed to gather their attention. “I saw all that as well and I think may have some answers, as small as they may be.” Vivi took a moment to compose herself before continuing. “I have always been fascinated by the Dwemer. I have traveled throughout Skyrim and Valenwood in search of their ruins, studying them deeply. They are a race of mer unlike any other. Myself, being a Bosmer, I never found the need nor want to live a life underground, surrounded by metal and automatons. But the fact that the Dwemer did always fascinated me. I wanted to learn so much more about them, study their culture, their beliefs, their creations.” Vivi couldn’t help but smile a little. “But the most fascinating them about them, of course, was their sudden disappearance. They left no trace of where they went or how they did it, they simply vanished.”
Miso snorted, bits of steam puffing from his nose. “All this to say?”
Vivi reached out and patted the old Dragonborn on the knee. “All this to say that the woman we saw may have been a Dwemer. The language she was singing in was Dwemeris. I myself have trained and tried to speak it, although it’s incredibly hard to learn a language that nobody speaks anymore. Still, I’m almost certain that's what it was. To further prove my point, did anyone else see her left arm?” Vivi’s excitement was bubbling now and she was leaning forward more, eagerly awaiting a response. When none came, she continued. “It was mechanical! At the very least, to some degree. There was the soft sound of clicking and gears moving! There were vents that would release steam and where flesh should be, there was bronze metal.”
“But, this doesn’t make any sense. The Dwemer have been gone for hundreds of years. Even if this woman somehow was a remaining Dwemer, why would she show herself to us? Why have us fall from the sky and wake up in the middle of nowhere?” Teris sat back in his chair, wrapping the blankets and furs tighter about himself.
Vivi sighed. “I don’t know,” she admitted.
Moses pat Grix on the back as he threw some more wood into the fire. “One thing is for sure, though.” He turned to the group. “This is not what I expected to wake up to.”
Miso nodded. “Agreed. I didn’t expect to wake up either.”
The group stared at Miso in confusion, mouths slightly agape. He stared back, not noticing his mistake. When he did, he laughed and slapped his knee, quickly correcting himself. “What I mean is that I didn’t expect to wake up to all this. I may be old, but I am not THAT old.” Miso’s laughter died down as he rubbed his chin in thought. “Come to think of it, the last thing I remember was getting drunk and going to bed in Hammerfell, at the Rusty Iron Inn.” Miso’s jovial attitude died off as he frowned, his face growing serious. “But...that doesn’t make sense. That was a long time ago, wasn’t it?”
“The last I remember, I was sailing along the coast of Valenwood. I was gonna dock the next morning.” Teris frowned, his eyes darting about as though following a fly. “But...but that can’t be right. I had done more. I was in ...I was ...” Teris grit his teeth and began to rub his temples, his eyes narrowing. “I can’t remember…”
Vivi found herself in a similar predicament. The last thing she remembered was leaving Bruma, after having crossed the border into Cyrodiil, with Moses and Lathanria. The issue is that that shouldn’t be the last thing she remembered. Or at least, it felt like it shouldn’t be. Vivi was almost certain they’d made it into the Imperial city, hadn’t they? But then why couldn’t Vivi remember? It was like Vivi was reaching into a bag that should have been full but was instead empty. Or like there was an invisible wall that was stopping her from reaching memories that should be there.
“I can’t seem to remember either. It’s like all my memories have been taken away. My mind just feels...empty.” Lathanria shook her head, as though trying to clear it of a fog that hung around her.
Teris clapped his hands together and smiled at the group. “Well! In any case, I don’t think we're going to be getting any answers any time soon. We should get some rest. Perhaps once the storm has passed, we'll be able to find some answers.”
Moses nodded. “Agreed. We should take a watch, just in case. We don’t know what might be waiting out there. Besides, someone has to keep the fire going.”
The rest of the group mumbled their agreement. They each called a position in the watch and settled in for the night. Lathanria and Vivi laid beside the fire, with Lathanria resting her head on Vivi’s shoulder. Despite the comforting warmth of her partner, Vivi found that sleep evaded her. Her mind was filled with questions and no way of answering them. Instead, Vivi found herself listening to the sound of the howling wind. The storm was growing in intensity and was battering the cabin angrily. It was strangely calming, despite the danger it posed. It grounded her in the present and took her mind off the worries she was being bothered by. Slowly but surely, she found herself being lulled to sleep by the storm, the singing of a strange woman still present on her mind.
The morning came quickly and Vivi shivered as she awoke. She slowly untangled herself from Lathanria, who grumbled softly in protest. The air, while cold, smelled of cooking meats. Looking around the room, she saw Teris and Moses already awake, tending to the fire and talking in hushed tones. Moses was the first to notice her as she stood up and stretched, her body aching from sleeping on a hard surface.
“Morning. You hungry?” Moses asked with a grin, motioning to the fire. There, slowly cooking over the fire were tender cuts of meat. Fresh meat. They smelled divine and Vivi’s stomach wailed angrily, demanding to be fed.
“More than you know. It smells delicious. Where’d you get the meat?”
Teris laughed and clapped Moses on the shoulder. “Moses went out to hunt after the storm had died down. Seems luck and skill were on his side.”
Moses shrugged. “Snowshoe hare. Not the most filling meal but certainly better than nothing. I was able to find a few, with the help of Grix of course.” Moses scratched Grix under the jaw, eliciting a pleased rumble from the drake.
Vivi reached over and gently pat the drake on the side. “Good job Grix. I’ll get you something nice in the next town were in.”
Grix seemed pleased with this promise and curled up once more at his master's feet.
They continued to speak in hushed tones with Vivi taking the opportunity to learn more about Teris. Turns out, he’s fairly young for a Dunmer, at the age of 29. He ended up leaving his hometown of Voss due to some unfortunate circumstances that similarly took his wife. He didn’t give more details about the situation and Vivi didn’t pry. He was nice enough and she enjoyed asking him questions about Morrowind and the great houses. It was only a matter of time before Lathanria awoke, followed shortly by Miso.
“Alright everyone-” Teris said after they’d all eaten-“we should get moving soon. The storm has finally died down so it should be safe to go.”
Miso stood from where he sat, groaning as he stretched his arms and legs. Soft cracks and pops escaped him as he did so. “Very good. The sooner we leave the sooner I can get back to Hammerfell.”
Vivi nodded her head in agreement. “Indeed. What I would do for a warm bed right now.”
The group found themselves slowly making their way out of the building, exiting one by one. Snow had fallen and covered the ground in a layer of white fluff. Miso, having no issue with it, strode through unabashed, simply forcing his way through the 6 inches of snow. The rest were not so lucky as him and found themselves grumbling as they trudged outside.
The sun had come up and the skies were no longer covered in dark clouds. Vivi was able to see the tips of the mountains surrounding them and the many steep pathways that lead to nowhere. Vivi took note of the buildings surrounding them, all neatly aligned in rows leading to the base of the mountain in front of them. What once may have been walls had long since crumbled.
Before leaving the cabin, Moses and Teris gathered up the bodies inside and brought them out, behind the building. Miso dug 2 graves, using his claws and his maul to sweep aside dirt and snow alike. Once the bodies were in, Teris said a quick prayer to Azura before helping cover the graves once more.
The group gathered once more in front of the cabin, cold but eager to gather answers.
“We should check this place for supplies before we head out. We don’t know how far we are from any sort of civilization.” Teris motioned for the group to follow him as he began to trudge forward, making his way to the center of town.
Moses was quick to follow, with Grix at his heels. The pair ducked into the cabins that they could enter, ignoring ones they couldn't. Many of them had their roofs caved in or were in such a state of destruction that Moses didn’t even bother searching through the rubble. The ones that hadn’t been totally collapsed were quickly broken into.
Vivi mused over the cabins and their strange state of disrepair. It wasn’t odd that they were in this state, broken and caving in on themselves. The elements were cruel and these wooden and stone structures must have been here a long time. What caught Vivi’s eye was how they all seemed to be leaning towards the center of town. Like trees that had been bent backwards by a sudden explosion, the cabins themselves were leaning precariously towards the center of town. How strange.
“Something the matter?”
Vivi looked over to Lathanria, who had covered herself in her cloak and blankets, shielding herself from the cold and her sensitive eyes from the sunlight. “Nothing in particular. Just...look at these cabins. Isn’t it a bit odd how they all seem to lean towards the center of town? Like an explosion or strong force knocked them that direction?”
Lathanria looked over the buildings for a moment before she shrugged. “I suppose. Just seems like the elements doing their job though.”
Vivi didn’t feel so convinced but let the topic drop. What had happened here in years past was none of her concern. Not now, at least.
“Oh shit,” Moses grumbled as he came out of one of the cabins. “I forgot my dagger back in the cabin. I’ll be back.”
Vivi couldn't help but snicker. “Don’t you have extra daggers? Just leave that one, for now, we’ll come back for it.”
Moses ignored her and kept walking a few steps before stopping. Grix stopped beside him.
Vivi smiled and couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled up in her. “Did you forget about your extras? Don’t worry, I’ll buy you some more daggers in the next town we get into,” Vivi teased. She watched Moses stare off the way they came, his body tense. “Moses? Are you alright?”
Moses stayed silent for a moment before he looked over his shoulder at her, his brow furrowed. “I can’t move.”
Vivi quirked a brow at Moses, a hand going to her hip. “You can’t move or won't move?”
Moses' expression became a glare as he motioned outwards, the way they had come. “I mean I CAN'T.” He took a few steps back towards Vivi before walking forward again. This time, he only moved about 2 steps before stopping.
Vivi shook her head. “Moses, this is a sad joke, even for you.” Walking up to her friend, she patted him on the shoulder before attempting to move forward. Keyword: ATTEMPTING. Because as soon as she got to where Moses was standing, she simply stopped. She looked down at herself in confusion, her legs not responding to her commands. She could move them, crouch and lift them, but they would not move forward. It was like there was an invisible wall or force keeping them in place.
Moses stepped back and stepped forward again, coming to a stop just as before. His body was tense and he flailed his arms wide, trying to move his legs. “Fucking move! Come on!” Moses slapped at his legs, grabbing them and trying to pull them from the ground in a futile attempt to move them. They stayed firmly rooted in place.
“Moses, relax. Hurting yourself isn’t going to help anyone. I’m sure there’s a way we’ll be able to get out of this.” Vivi looked around for the rest of the group. They hadn’t gone far, still exploring the cabins and gathering what little supplies they could scavenge. “We should let the group know about this. They might be affected by this too.”
Turns out, they were. Miso stamped his feet and swung his maul at the air, cursing in a mix of Common and Draconic. Teris looked confused and curious while Lathanria looked more annoyed than anything.
After a bit of experimenting, here's what Vivi was able to gather:
- Their ability to walk was mostly unhindered. They weren’t moving any slower or faster than normal.
- So long as they moved deeper into the city or moved along a direct path left/right, their movement was unimpaired
- They could not leave the city. They were only able to move a certain number of steps in a direction away from the city before they could no longer move.
- They could move deeper into the city but as soon as they turned around and tried to walk away from the city, back the way they came or towards any form of exit, they faced that invisible wall and could not will their legs to move towards any exit.
- This was bullshit.
Vivi watched as Miso stood behind Teris and tried to forcefully shove him forward. Teris looked over his shoulder at Miso who was unsuccessfully pushing, his claws digging into the snow and ground. Still, regardless of how hard he pushed, Teris did not budge. It was like pushing against a boulder, unmoving.
“Teris,” Miso growled, “I will kill you if you are actively choosing not to move.”
Teris scoffed and crossed his arms over his chest, letting Miso struggle to move him. “Funny. Can you please stop? You clearly aren’t getting anywhere.”
Miso stopped his struggling and glared at Teris for a moment before sighing and stepping back. “Fine. We’ll continue this later.”
Teris rolled his eyes but said nothing.
Vivi clapped her hands to gather everyone's attention. “Everyone, let's focus. Whatever is stopping us from leaving wants us to continue deeper. I say we explore this place, get to the center of town. If we can find the source of this issue, we can take care of it.”
Moses tapped his crossbow. “Oh, I’ll take care of it alright.”
Vivi smiled at the gesture. Admittedly, she was feeling the same way. Whatever was causing this clearly didn’t want them to leave. That simply wouldn’t do. Still, they needed to be careful. They could be walking straight into a trap. Oh, who was she kidding? This WAS a trap.
“Let's stay close and stay quiet. We don’t know what we might be running into.” Teris unsheathed his short-sword, the metal shining in the sunlight. “If you see something, let the group know. We stand more of a chance together rather than separated.”
The group nodded their heads in agreement, following Teris lead as they walked deeper into the city. Vivi stuck by Lathanria, both keeping an eye out for possible enemies. The cabins themselves slowly changed as they walked, becoming more destroyed, their state of disrepair increasing. Their walls were no longer standing and the cabins became more akin to piles of rubble than any form of a recognizable building. The number of buildings also lessened as they got closer to the center of this settlement, becoming more sparse and spaced apart, as though afraid of touching one another.
“Everyone, up ahead,” Teris called out, crouching down by a pile of rubble as cover.
Vivi quickly joined Teris, Lathanria by her side. Peeking over the rubble she was able to make out what looked like a clearing in the distance. The cabins came to a stop and the ground in the clearing was void of snow. What looked like a stage sat at the center, with a mass of tents and carts gathered around it. Horses, specifically draft horses, stood tied to the stage.
Teris looked to the group, keeping an eye on the clearing. “Seems like we may not be alone. What’s the plan?”
“We don’t have any reason to think that they are enemies, nor that they are friends. We should approach diplomatically and carefully. If we can avoid a fight, we should.” Vivi motioned to some of the fallen walls and destroyed buildings. “Moses and Lathanria should take cover by the rubble and keep an eye on us. Should things go bad, they can attack from a distance. I say Miso, Teris and I approach the group. Keep our distance, find out what they are doing here. They might be stuck here like us and we may be able to help each other.”
Teris nodded his head. “Sounds like a plan. Anyone opposed?” When no one raised their hands, Teris stood and sheathed his blade, keeping a hand on it in case he needed to pull it out again. “Right, let's go then.”
As they approached, Vivi was able to get a better look at the area. The horses, while strong and tall, looked tired, uneasy. The cabins came to a sudden halt, encircling about 100 feet of dry dirt and gravel. Situated in a half-circle on the far side of the circular clearing was what looked like carts. 5 carts in total, each covered in a dark brown and red tarp. The symbol of a dark beetle with an ax at the center of it was painted on each of the carts in grey paint. The carts looked to be horse-drawn, with harnesses laid about on the ground haphazardly. The tents themselves looked to be a mix of dark greens and greys, situated about 20 feet away from the carts in their own circle. The stage that Vivi had seen was larger up close, with wooden steps leading up to the center platform. Looked like a place where speeches or announcements might be made.
“That’s the symbol of House Redoran,” Teris muttered under his breath, pointing to the beetle on the carts. “Doesn’t look like we're in Morrowind though.”
Vivi nodded her head but kept silent as they approached, keeping an eye out for enemies. None seemed to make themselves known. The ground itself seemed to very suddenly change from the snow-covered ground into dirt and gravel. Crossing through the threshold, the air also became significantly warmer. It was almost comfortable.
Stopping about 40 feet away from the tents, Vivi motioned for Teris to step forward. “If they’re Dunmer, I think you should be the one to speak to them.”
Teris bit his bottom lip for a moment before he nodded his head, taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly. “Yes, you’re right. Just watch my back, yeah?”
Vivi pat Teris on the shoulder. Miso hefted his maul in one hand while reaching back and patting his cauldron with the other, as though for good luck.
“Vork ne’sha. Ivk ni’fhashr dujg?” Teris voice came out clear and concise, a shame Vivi couldn't understand Dunmeris.
The tents shuffled for a moment and hushed voices could be heard coming from them. Bursting forth from the tents, swords drawn, were about 5 men. They were Dunmer, like Teris, though they wore little armor. Their clothing was soft and warm and made for the city, not the harsh wilderness. The largest and first to come charging out stopped not far from Teris, blade raised. He wore a chain shirt and bits of leather to protect himself with. A scar ran down his cheek to his clavicle and his eyes darted about wildly. The rest of the men wore similar armor, mostly studded leather and bits of padding.
“Der’shi? Folkpri ne-ah vor dihij!” The largest of the men yelled back, taking a protective stance in front of the tents with the other men. Vivi glanced in between the men, looking for hidden crossbows or men inside the tents. To her surprise, she saw a pair of smaller red eyes staring back at her. A child, a little girl, hid inside one of the tents, her small head peeking out just a tad before darting back in. Vivi took a closer look at the other tents and found similar discoveries. A few other women and men hid inside the remaining tents, staring out at the intruders and keeping silent.
“Teris,” Vivi whispered, “I don’t think they mean any harm. They look more like traveling merchants than seasoned fighters.”
Teris glanced at Vivi before responding. He continued to converse with the other Dunmer, speaking calmly and gently. After a few minutes and some gesturing, the Dunmer men slowly put their weapons down, not sheathing them but not at the ready to fight.
“So, is it true? You are travelers who got stuck here as well?” The Dunmer with the scar asked in Common, his eyes looking over the 3 in front of him.
Vivi couldn’t help but snicker. “Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but in essence yes. We don’t know how we ended up here and we can’t seem to leave. Any attempt at escaping this city is futile.”
The Dunmer nodded his head, motioning to the tents behind him. “We know. We have been stuck here for 2 weeks with no escape. Any attempt at leaving always ends the same.”
“Unable to move forward?” Vivi asked.
“Unable to move forward.”
“Well, it seems like we are in the same boat then. Before we continue, allow us to introduce ourselves. My name is Vivi Nahloc. This here is Teris and the old Dragonborn is Miso. We don’t mean any harm, we’re just trying to get home.”
The Dunmer looked over them, glancing over his shoulder for a moment before speaking. “My name is Berani. I am the leader of this caravan. We are traveling merchants, traveling from Morrowind to Cyrodiil and to various parts of Tamriel. We got caught in a storm and sought shelter here, only to find that we could not escape.”
Vivi mentally patted herself on the back for guessing that they were traveling merchants.
Teris let go of his sword and smiled at Berani, relaxing his tense shoulders. “Well, regardless of the circumstances, it’s good to see some fellow Dunmer. You are of house Redoran, yes?”
Berani sheathed his sword and motioned for the others to do likewise. The men began to disperse, returning to their tents. “Ay, that we are.” Berani stepped forward and clasped Teris arm. “Always good to see a fellow brother. What brings you through these mountains and into this unfortunate situation?”
Teris chuckled and shook his head. “It is an interesting story, one with many questions and few answers. We’d be happy to share it. Perhaps it’ll offer some clues as to our current predicament.”
Miso and Vivi gathered up the rest of the group while Teris stayed with Berani, speaking to him in Dunmeris.
“So….whats the situation? Doesn’t look like we're fighting.” Moses holstered his crossbow.
“No, no fighting. It appears that they’re traveling merchants. Apparently they got caught in a storm and took shelter here. They got stuck, just like us.” Vivi motioned for the rest to follow her into the clearing as she talked.
Teris and Berani ceased their conversation as the rest of the group approached.
“Well then,” Berani said, “Why don’t you tell us how you got into this predicament and we’ll see if we can help each other.”