Sil sat hunched over at his desk, puzzling over a partially deconstructed Dwemer spider, illuminated by a few magelights and the limited moonlight from the window. Despite the hour, he didn’t sit up or turn around when he heard footsteps enter his room.
“Go to bed, Nall.”
“You go to bed,” his sister replied, sitting down on the foot of his bed. “I can’t sleep. Why are you up so late?”
“Working on stuff,” Sil said.
“What kind of stuff?”
“Spiders. I think this one is a prototype. The resonator it uses looks new, and this looks like a soul gem.” He held out a translucent stone.
“Enchanted?” Nall tilted her head. “I thought the Dwemer didn’t use the same methods to enchant as we do.”
“So did I. And I can’t detect any enchantment.”
“What’s the soul gem for, then?”
“I can only imagine it is a power source, but it certainly doesn’t want to power up for me. I even tried replacing the gem. That’s what makes me think it’s a prototype. They may not have perfected the method yet.”
“What kind of soul is it?” Nall asked.
“This one is so depleted that it’s hard to tell, but I think it’s some non-sapient creature,” he said, “Three help us if they figure out how to harness the souls of mer and men.”
Nall cringed in agreement. “I’d hate to die only to end up powering a spider that gets taken apart by some nerd.” She ignored Sil’s side-eye. “I wonder what a mer’s soul could power. Maybe a whole stronghold. That would be more worthwhile.” She paused, then made a face, shaking her head. “Nah, I wouldn’t want to power a Dwemer stronghold either. Maybe something more…noble. Unification of competing forces and all that. Something that would make me feel like I really transcended.”
Sil watched his sister with admiration as she spoke. She was always thinking in grand and noble terms like this. Sometimes he felt bad for being the older one. As much as Nall hated the idea, she would make a good High Councilor of the House. Better than he would, in his opinion.
“Why do they have so many spiders, anyway?” she asked without segue.
“I think they run messages through the strongholds.”
“Why spiders though? Why not, say, mice? Or, what are those Nordic things?”
“Skeevers, yeah! Why not those?”
“I suppose that would make more sense,” Sil agreed with a laugh. “Maybe they just like the tap-tap-tap-tap sounds of all the legs.”
The room grew darker as the moonlight from the window disappeared. Curious, Nall came over to look out the window, and Sil extinguished the magelights so that they could see better. It seemed that the sky had suddenly become covered in a thick layer of cloud.
“Strange…” Sil said.
On a closer look, they realized that much of the occlusion was actually from smoke, which seemed to be coming from within the town, on the other side of the house. The outside began to light up again, but instead of moonlight, the light was a reddish color, as if supplied by a fire.
“Is there some sort of festival tonight?” Sil asked. Nall shook her head. “Then what is going on…”
They both jumped at the sound of loud crashes nearby, accompanied by screaming. This was definitely not the sound of an impromptu festival, at least not one honoring Azura. Whatever was going on, it was their responsibility to assess the situation and help the townspeople, if necessary. They ran out of Sil’s room toward the stairs.
“Hang on,” Nall said. She dipped into her room briefly to grab a jack and a sword, and then ran back out to join Sil.
The crashing, which had been growing louder by the second, suddenly peaked at a deafening level. They stopped dead as the house shook violently. Barely inches in front of them, some unknown force came down and crushed the side of the house. They stood frozen for several seconds, processing their brush with death, as well as the near-certainty that their parents had not been so lucky.
“We have to jump out the window,” Sil said finally. “Come on. I’ll slowfall us.”
Once on the ground, they carefully ran around to the front of the house, to the source of the destruction. Sil’s stomach dropped as he saw that that the source was none other than Destruction itself, the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon. From what they could see through the smoke, and from the smell, the town was already almost completely in ruin. Such was the power of a Daedric Prince presented with a small town with little to no defenses.
Wasting no time, Nall sprinted ahead to engage two Dremora who were prowling the area.
“What are you doing?” Sil called after her, though he supported her with a stream of protective spells and the occasional heal.
Unfortunately, the protections were not suited to handle the fireball that came flying at her from a distance. It took her and her enemies down instantly.
Ignoring the Dremora, Sil rushed over to Nall, waving a spell to extinguish the remaining flames from the projectile. He almost expected her to get up and keep fighting before he could even reach her, but when he arrived, Nall was still lying motionless where she fell. He picked her up. He couldn’t tell if she was even breathing, but he knew the only way to help was to get her to safety before things could get any worse. He turned to carry her over to the back of the house, when there was another crash and a huge piece of stone debris shot toward them, ripping Nall away from Sil, and taking his arms with her.
The force knocked him over, and he struggled to get up, instinctively trying to use limbs that he hadn’t quite realized were gone. Once on his feet, he looked toward the pile where the debris had landed and made the snap decision to find safety, knowing that to go searching for his dead sister—because she was now certainly dead—while bleeding himself would only hasten his reunion with his family.
He stumbled to the back of the house, miraculously avoiding being targeted by any more flying destructive forces. It was already getting quieter. He could hardly hear any more screaming, though he was not sure if that was because everyone was dead or because he was losing consciousness. Despite the horror and blood loss clouding his mind, he forced himself to focus. He sat down against the wall and worked to stop the bleeding from his shoulders. Without hands to guide the magicka, the task was harder than expected.
Once his wounds were stabilized, Sil wondered what to do next. What could he do? He considered praying to Azura. But, for what? Safety? Why would he deserve that, when his whole House was destroyed? To fill her in on what had happened when she apparently wasn’t paying attention? What would she do, and why hadn’t she done it already? The more Sil thought about it, the more aversive the idea seemed. He couldn’t imagine going through the motions of extolling the virtues of the Most Merciful Prince of Dawn and Dusk while his entire town burned around him. Azura was a Daedra, just like Dagon. They did not care for mortals; that much was clear. Instead, he simply stared ahead and let the fog in his mind consume him.