This is the autobiographical journal of Arvil Bren, a somewhat reluctant hero who has been placed on an unknown quest by powers that he barely knows exist. Follow his journey as it is updated daily, Monday through Friday, and enjoy! These are the most recent entries in Arvil Bren's third journal; Politics of the Redoran. His first journal can be found in its entirety here. His second journal, Trail of the Archmage can be found here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Day Thirty-eight: Depths of the tomb

I woke this morning and had an excellent breakfast. The comforts of the Halfway Tavern are alluring, and I somehow doubt I will miss the shack. There is definitely something to be said for having a place to call my own though. I am considering exploring the hills nearby for a cave that I can use for shop and lab space. But for today there was work to be done.

The Andrano family tomb is not far to the south, and it was not hard to find. Well before noon I stood at the entrance bolstering my courage. I remembered my previous experiences in similar tombs. I told myself that I am better equipped, more skilled with spear and bow, and much better versed in the arts of magic. Gripping my spear with whitening knuckles I ventured into the dimly lit tunnel and started down the long narrow stair into the depths. Letting me know how welcome I would not be here, a fresh corpse sprawled at the base of the stair.

I cautiously approached the foppishly dressed body, and was startled to recognize the young Dunmer face. I had seen this man, barely a week earlier, at the guild hall in Balmora! With my heart in my throat I realized that I was not the first to be sent here by Sharn. Only time could tell if I would be the last. I Edged around the dead man so as not to stir up a cloud of flies and rounded the corner into the first burial chamber, clinging to the shadows , barely breathing. I have become fairly confident in my skills with the longbow, and held my enchanted bow in my hands with an arrow charged with magical electricity ready to draw.

Down a hallway to my left I saw a wandering spirit swaying, translucent in the torchlight. I drew and fired, counting on the enchantment of the arrow to carry across the dimensional barriers. There was a flash of lightning and the arrow clattered to the floor covered in green ectoplasm. The ghost was dispatched completely back to the land of the dead. As I crept down the hall I smiled at the faint whiff of ozone lingering in the air.

I followed the long curving passage until it came to a right hand corner, which I peered cautiously around. Wasted caution. I found myself looking down a flight of stairs, directly into the blazing eye sockets of a skeletal archer. I jerked backwards and a blazing arrow shattered against the wall behind me. I ran noisily a few feet up the passage, then turned and drew my spear. Stealthily I leapt back to the corner, any noise I made lost in the clatter of bony feet charging up the stairs. As my nemesis reached the corner I caught him with a shattering roundhouse blow that scattered bones and arrows like straws in a high wind. I gathered the flame arrows. Their enchantment is even stronger than my shock arrows. I am happy to have them added to my arsenal.

The guardian from the bottom of the stairs safely dispatched I considered going down to the chamber below, but there was a door on my right at the top of the stair. I paused to listen, fearful that something within could emerge behind me. Although there was no sound, I could not take the risk. Easing the door open a crack I looked in; a burial chamber with another skeletal guardian. The skeleton stood unmoving at the far end of the room, near a slightly raised pit which had obviously been well used; it nearly overflowed with the ashes of the dead. In the bony right hand an iron saber hung ready, on the left arm a round iron shield. I eased back and brought an arrow to full draw, then kicked open the door. As the skeleton spun to attack the spark arrow caught him full in the exposed ribcage. A flash of lightning and the shield and saber clattered to the floor among the charred bones. On the edge of the ashpit lay a heart, still beating. I could not resist taking this ghoulish souvenir.

Stealth and enchantment continued to carry the day as I entered the chamber at the base of the stair. Another skeletal guardian peered down a passage at the far end of the large space, apparently unconcerned by the earlier departure of his companion. Nothing was coming from the portal it was responsible for, and it never saw me enter and release the shaft that reduced it to a smoking ruin. In a place of honor a sturdy wooden chest held a mighty Nordic axe, scribed with runes. It was obviously a prize claimed in battle by some long dead Andrano family ancestor, and I elected to leave it undisturbed.

Continuing through the large room I found myself in a short passage, which ended at a door to yet another burial vault. The Andranos have obviously prospered through the centuries. This vault was also well used, but unguarded. I let myself hope that having passed the main chamber I had passed the guards. The short hall offered a side door, and I opened it to find another hall curving deeper still. I hugged the wall, bow in hand, and descended. The builders of the tomb could not get deep enough with the sloping path, and when the tunnel straightened I stood at the top of yet another flight of stairs. How deep below ground was I, I wondered; and how deep would I have to go?

By good luck and good timing I came down the stairs behind another skeletal warrior, this one carrying a vicious halberd at port arms as he paced away down the hall. I crouched on the stairs to see his heels turn around a distant corner, then scuttled quickly down the remaining steps. On my right at the bottom was a door, and I could hear the tortured gasping of a bonewalker. I wedged the edge of the iron shield I had claimed under the door, and lay in wait. As expected, the halberd wielding guardian eventually returned, and seeing me began a doomed charge down the hall. Despite the limited space it did try to avoid my arrows, and even succeeded, once; but long before it could reach me this undead warrior joined its fellows in a flash of lightning and a puff of ozone. The huffing and chuffing of the bonewalker grew very animated, but the door seemed proof against its best efforts. I went to see what lay beyond the distant corner.

Following the narrow stone hall around the corner and to its end led me to a door, which opened into the crypt's chapel. A lectern held a book, no doubt holy to the Dunmer, and the rows of kneeling benches made the room's purpose clear at a glance. A glance being all I spared it as my attention was drawn to a high gallery that encompassed the room. Looking up to the heights of the ceiling I wondered if this chapel could save me the long climb to the surface. I activated my boots and floated up the central open well. A door on the gallery level looked like it would lead back to the entry chamber, and the bonewalker who stood guarding the door was completely unaware that I had risen from the depths behind it. I drew my bow and nocked an arrow, expecting a clean kill.

As I began to draw a sudden impact just below my right shoulder threw me forward onto my face, and blazing agony engulfed my back. Writhing in pain I could not respond as the levitation charge wore off, and I hurtled to a bonebreaking fall on the stone floor below. I rolled, shrieking as broken bones ground against each other, and saw a grinning skull peering down on me from the gallery above, the end of a longbow peeking over the parapet alongside. The skull was quickly withdrawn. I assumed it was satisfied that I would soon be dead. I dragged a mangled hand to my healing belt, and forced the short incantation past my bloodied lips. My bones knit as I sent charge after charge of restorative magic through my broken body. Eventually I was able to reach behind my back and yank the spent flame arrow free, allowing yet further charges from my belt to heal the charred flesh and the deep wound. Soon I was completely healed in body, left with only my pride to be recovered.

I cast my levitation spell. It allowed for a much faster rise to the gallery level, and would sustain far longer than my boots. I rose fast, spinning and weaving, only to find the gallery abandoned. Spell still active I floated out the open door, along a short hallway, and through a second door which did indeed open into the entry chamber. The skeleton archer was not satisfied, it was obviously racing down the long flights to finish me off! I rushed in pursuit, but before I had gone far cold reasoning joined my blazing fury.

It dawned on me that when my adversaries reached the chapel far below and found me gone, they would turn and race back the way they had come. I had no desire to run headlong into a collision. I slid to a stop, then crept along the curving passage listening carefully. The passage straightened, and the distant corner where I had ambushed the other archer came into view. The bones scattered there suggested a repeat performance, but timing was not on my side. The archer who had laid me low pounded around the corner and skidded to a halt drawing its bow. I drew my own and we exchanged fire. I threw myself erratically from side to side, pausing to aim only when my bow was fully drawn, and the skeleton did the same. I was struck a glancing blow, which blazed with magical fire, but it was no match for the cold malice in my heart and I continued to launch my deadly shafts. My target was less durable, and finally fell in a shower of sparks and smoke.

While I had shrugged off my wound to continue the battle I was clearly not ready to start another. When the archer's companion hulked around the corner I turned and fled rather than face the gruesome bonewalker. As I ran I activated my belt yet again, and it quickly soothed the charred flesh of my shoulder. I stopped at the next long stretch of straight hall and waited, no longer the prey. A bonewalker is not put together for speed, and it fell easily in a hail of arrows. Ozone competed with the stench of burnt flesh as I claimed the soulgem that lay at the heart of the monster.

Back on the chapel level I stood at the door that penned in the now irate bonewalker. The shield had moved slightly, but remained thoroughly wedged under the door. The skull I needed had to lie somewhere beyond that door. Would it open on a final burial vault, or even more seemingly endless passages winding into the depths? In either event I was going to have to face the oozing monstrosity that pounded on the other side of the door. I kicked the shield free and ran for the far end of the hall where it turned for the chapel. The bonewalker was surprised by the sudden release and staggered through the doorway to smack wetly against the opposite wall. I rounded the corner unseen. A brief pause to fully draw my bow and I popped back around the corner. The bonewalker had guessed wrong, and I could just see its feet disappearing up the stairs beyond the open door.

I rushed in pursuit and reached the bottom of the stairs in time to plant an arrow deep in the fleshy back of the hulking creature. The arc of lightning left hunks of muscle hanging loosely, and they swung wildly as the monster turned. A second shot blasted it backwards onto the stairs, and it fell still. Thankfully, beyond the door was an ornate burial chamber, the crypt of the enchanter, Llevule Andrano. I claimed the skull, and a cruelly enchanted ceremonial dagger. Sharn will get the skull, the dagger will grace my collection if I ever again have a home.

I returned to Pelagiad tired and scarred, but healthy. Ahnassi fussed over me. There was no hiding the holes and burns that had reduced my shirt to a rag. There is a merchant across the street from the Halfway Tavern, a Breton like myself. I will get myself a new shirt in the morning. For now I will relax under the purring ministrations of my new friend.


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