The Sands of Inkseeds, Part 3


    They kept ascending. Isluf could feel it in his legs and all the while the Ansei was silent as death - which in a way wasn’t a surprise. They had encountered several of the so-called souleaters, revealed by the light emanating from the shehai around the Swordsinger’s left hand, but they didn’t attack, seeming scared and confused by the light - which seemed familiar to him, the pale red, as if crimson had been mixed with silver - but the Ansei wasn’t about to answer any questions. If Isluf was to word it, it was almost like the mixed light of Masser and Secunda.


    The Swordsinger suddenly stopped in front of the large door and glanced over his shoulder at Isluf. “When we fled Yokuda so long ago, when we came to this land, we knew nothing but struggle. We were besieged by enemies. Direnni to the north, Ayleids and Orcs to the east, Altmer and Maormer to the south. Our backs to the sea in the west. And even with Alik’r herself being on our side, we were slowly losing. HoonDing had been too occupied elsewhere to Make Way for us. Diagna, the Orichalc God became...too singleminded in his crusade against Orcs, and so we had to make a new way for us.”


    He pushed the door open then and entered, Isluf closely behind him. The room was enormous, and Isluf slowly realized it wasn’t a room at all. It was some sort of balcony, but instead of a view of the land all it provided was a view of walls and a ceiling of rocks and dirt. And among that was the red mineral along with…


    Malachite. Isluf was staring at a colossal face carved out of malachite. He could see only its profile, a nose and half of a mouth, a brow made of gold and an eye made of the same metal. The rest of the face was buried in the dirt and sand.


    “The Malachite God,” the Ansei pointed at the face.

    The hunter could hear them right in front of him, tracking the same prey as he was. By the sounds they seemed confused. Most likely the red mineral muddling their senses.


    This was what the hunter had trained for his whole life. To fight an enemy without the use of his eyes.


    There were four of them and they were creeping through the hallway, still unable to register his presence. He crept behind them, not willing to give up that advantage, carefully laying his feet on the floor, measuring his every step.


    The khopesh, made of pure gold, glistened for a second as it reflected the faint light emanating from the red mineral. The hunter attacked.


    A horizontal swing to the left awarded him with a wail of pain as the spectral form suddenly became visible, falling on its knees as the gold opened its belly.


    He stabbed to the right, piercing the chest of another invisible form, and that was when the other two registered him and reacted.


    They charged and he pulled the khopesh from the dying creature, swinging it in front of him.


    He cut off the left form’s hands and then quickly dodged the grasping hands of the right one, crouching and swinging up with his sword, opening the creature from the crotch to the throat.


    They thrashed on the ground, wisps of white smoke escaping from their forms, escaping towards the red mineral, trying to reform themselves.


    The hunter knew it would take them some time to be unleashed again, but he still increased his pace.


    The prey was near.

    “We used our shehai, me and five other Ansei, and cut a new alame out of the timalaki. A god that would fight the elven magic.” The Swordsinger then shook his head, as if he couldn’t believe that kind of foolishness. “And with its first breath… it became hungry. Hungry for any kind of magic, and so it came to absorb...souls.”

    Anweithi followed K’avar, holding his hand, letting the crowd steer them wherever they were heading. They kept walking through the hall of darkness, the walls made of malachite all around them, nothing but desperation filling their hearts.


    How did they get in there? Anweithi’s mind couldn’t comprehend that, just as the crowd all around her. All the people, seemingly ancient, but so… lethargic. As if everything had lost its purpose.


    Would Anweithi end up the same? And how long would it take until she would give up just like them? How long?


    “Hello?” a shout sounded through the hall and Anweithi exchanged looks with K’avar. “Anyone?”


    “Here!” K’avar answered, raising his hand. “Lathkim? Onsi’s blessing, it’s you! Lathkim!”


    Another house guard pushed his way through the people and hugged K’avar, patted him on his back, both men finding some kind of comfort in the realization they were in this together. “K’avar, I never expected to see you again,” Latkhim quickly sobered up.


    “What happened? Latkhim, how did you get here?”


    “Wait!” Anweithi suddenly interrupted them, pointing ahead. The wall of glass, right there. It...glistened. As if there was light on the other side. “There, do you see it? Hurry!”

    “But it was still freshly born, new. It couldn’t act and so the souls and magic it consumed were… repurposed. Into its eyes and ears and hands. Into grasping hands that hunted down more souls for it.” There was a moment of silence, the Ansei’s shoulders stooped in shame. “We tried to stop it. In vain.”

    The metat turned around after hearing sounds that didn’t belong in the large cavern and his eyes widened when he saw one of the nomads, cutting the air with some kind of golden weapon.


    He was quite shocked when he saw spectral forms falling on the ground, dissipating after getting hit by it and Toreif cursed himself for being such a fool.


    Gold. Pure gold could hurt those invisible creatures.


    He had no idea why the nomad was down there with him, but he would not allow the savage to stop him from reaching his goal. The malachite was so close now.

    “We have wounded it. You have seen the red mineral. The god has been bleeding for millenia. Dying. My brothers and sisters have both failed and succeeded at the same time when they wounded it. But it would regain its strength if it was allowed to feed. And so my brothers and sisters used the remains of their strength to...cut away my mortality, appointing me as an eternal guardian. Being the only one left, unable to defeat it, I shifted the Alik’r to the east, trapping the god here. Until you woke it up and provided it with nourishment.”

    Anweithi came running towards the wall, seeing that pale red light on the other side and she put her face to the glass, shielding her eyes so that she could see through it.


    And she saw Captain Isluf on the other side. “Captain!” she yelled, pounding on the wall, trying to get his attention. The other house guards joined her, trying to make as much ruckus as they could, shouting and waving their arms.

    “You brought doom upon yourselves and your people. You cannot stop it now.”


    Isluf stared at the god’s face, completely overwhelmed by such a revelation. His mind just wasn’t capable of understanding how such a thing was possible. A god...sculpted out of malachite. By ancient Ansei and their shehai.


    It was like a dream. Or like a nightmare.


    He narrowed his eyes when he noticed movement in the malachite and he began walking towards it, slowly recognizing shapes. Human shapes.


    And he saw her. Lady Anweithi. Trapped inside the malachite.


    “Don’t touch it,” the Ansei warned with a tired voice. “One touch and the Far Shores are forever denied to you.”


    He came closer, seeing Lady Anweithi with K’avar and Lathkim next to her. Their lips were moving, but no sound reached him.

    The metat’s breath was getting stuck in his throat, his lungs burning just as his muscles were. He was so close now, not more than few steps away from the malachite -


    Something grabbed the collar of his robes and his feet left the ground. He fell on his back, unable to catch his breath when it flew out of his body. He felt his eyes going wide as he stared into the covered face of the nomad.


    “It is all your fault, metat. Your arrogance, your selfishness have doomed us all,” the nomad murmured.


    The metat kept opening his mouth, trying to force the air into his lungs and he could feel his sight darkening.


    “Do you believe there is power waiting for you here? That the malachite will free you from your mortal shackles?”


    Can’t.... breathe. So...close…


    “You are right,” the nomad growled, grabbing him by his collar again and lifted him on his feet. “You are a fool. Go ahead then. Take what you were hoping to find here.” With that he pushed Toreif towards the malachite.


    And the metat extended his arms, reaching for it…


    A golden blade cut off his hands and he couldn’t even scream, unable to breathe. He fell on the floor, bleeding, in agony. Choking. Dying.


    “There are worse fates than the malachite, metat.”






    And then darkness took over him.

    “We have to help them!” Isluf shouted, turning to the Ansei, pleading. “We have to get them out!”


    The Swordsinger shook his head. “We cannot. We have tried, believe me.”


    She kept shouting, pounding on the glass and Isluf stood there, helpless.


    “It cannot be stopped now. Only slowed down.”


    “Slowed down?” Isluf repeated weakly, using every fiber of his being, every bit of his will, to not touch the malachite. All he wanted to do was to reach through the glass. To fulfill his duty. To help Lady Anweithi, to help his comrades.


    “It feeds on magic,” the Ansei murmured. “It feeds on souls. And only those who can control magic have the most of it.”



    The hunter could hear the souleaters closing in and he gave the corpse of the metat one last look before he raised his gaze up, at the tower.


    The Redguard at his feet wasn’t the only metat in these ruins.


    There was another.


    And so the hunter headed towards the tower, chasing another prey.

    “The more it feeds, the stronger it gets-”


    “Excuse me!”


    Isluf turned around as he heard that voice, the words uttered in Tamrielic and he saw that blasted Orc walk through the door. He was covered in dust and dirt and most importantly he carried a piece of the red mineral. It was lying on a rag in his right hand, almost as if he was avoiding skin contact with it.


    “Hey, Fancypants,” the Orgun waved with his hand which seemed so ridiculous in consideration of their situation. His gaze then shifted towards the undead Swordsinger, scratching his chin. “I’ll get back to ya later, currently have no idea what to call ya. But I loved yer speech, real ominous, doom and gloom and all that - even though I barely understood only a half of it, Yoku isn’t my specialty ya know.”


    The Ansei growled and around his right hand blazed a blade of black light and Isluf could see how the Orc’s eyes went wide.


    “Waitwaitwaitwait! I can help!” the greenskin shouted with hands above his head.


    But the Ansei didn’t understand Tamrielic.


    Isluf gritted his teeth, throwing a look back at the malachite, at the people trapped in it. Before, outside the excavation site, the Orc had figured something out. He knew something they didn’t. Was he lying now just to save his life or was he really capable of helping? “Wait!” Isluf raised his voice, cursing himself for his foolishness. He couldn’t shake off the feeling he would regret it, but if there was a chance… “Wait,” he repeated and limped towards the Swordsinger. “He could help us.”


    “Help. You,” the greenskin said in poor Ragudi, but it was very close to Yoku, so the Ansei must have understood now. The undead’s blazing eyes shifted towards Isluf, then back to the Orc.


    The Swordsinger growled, the black shehai in his hand changing, now blazing with green flames, and before Isluf could react, the shehai stabbed across the room, piercing the Orc’s forehead.


    The greenskin froze, the red stone falling from his hand, and Isluf just stared. The shehai was keeping the Orc’s body standing and the Ansei was slowly closing the distance between them. With every step the greenskin shook, his muscles being overwhelmed by spasms. He was groaning and growling, blood pouring from his eyes as crimson tears.


    And then the shehai disappeared and the greenskin dropped on all fours, vomiting on the floor.


    “He… can help,” the Ansei shook his head in disbelief. “The slightest of chances, but still…”

    Anweithi and others watched as Isluf talked with a mummy and then the Orc entered. Anweithi and K’avar were shouting, pounding on the glass, but it seemed as if those on the other side couldn’t hear them.


    Locked in a cage. Buried in the sand. It was a terrible fate, especially for Anweithi. Forgotten and ignored, she couldn’t imagine anything worse than that.


    Everything was fragile, especially life which in no way was everlasting - quite the opposite actually. Life was a fickle thing, something that could be taken at any moment, with nothing being left behind.


    Yet there were people trying to beat death, defy it, by immortalizing themselves on the pages of history, making sure they were never forgotten. But what was the point, really? They were dead anyway. What could possibly matter once life slips from their fingers?


    And as Anweithi looked around her malachite prison she realised there may be worse fates than death...

    “Mothertusker,” the Orc groaned, spitting out the rest of his breakfast, wiping the saliva from his mouth with the back of his hand, blinking. He almost wiped the blood off his face with the back of the same hand, but he stopped in the last moment, shaking his head. “As if I hadn’t enough pricks pokin’ in my head…” He then snorted, clawing back on his feet. “Ugh. That came out wrong.”


    Isluf limped towards the Orc and grabbed him by the bandolier on his chest. “Start talking, greenskin! No more secrets!”


    The Orc grimaced, looking up at Isluf. “Y’are standin’ really close, ya know. I can smell yer breath and I have no idea what ya ate but-”


    The Captain shook with that damn fool, tired of the nonsense that was coming out of the Orc’s mouth. “Talk!”


    “Fine, fine!” the greenskin raised his eyebrows. “Just one thing first,” he murmured and the moment Isluf let go off the bandolier the Orc picked up the red stone from the ground, making sure he didn’t touch it with his skin and he put it on the floor in front of the door. “They nearly got me, ya know, back when I climbed down here like the idiot I am. Invisible buggers. I think I got lucky when I nearly fell on this cursed blood and it confused them for a second.” He then walked behind the door and came back with a small lantern in his hand, probably hiding it there before he walked in on Isluf and the Ansei. “And then the light of my torch passed through the mineral,” the Orc kept babbling. “Let there be light.” The lantern was finally lit and the hallway behind the door was suddenly illuminated with red light passing through the stone. “It revealed them and confused them even more, allowin’ me to pass mostly unnoticed,” the greenskin stood up, quite satisfied with himself.


    “The bharakasha is much smarter than the ones in my days,” the Ansei grunted and the Orc raised his eyebrows.


    “What did he say? Somethin’ about beast again?”


    “That you should shut up and get to the point where you help us, beast!” Isluf growled.


    “Chill, Fancypants. Ya might not even like my help,” the Orc snorted and looked at the Ansei. “Since ya were diggin’ through my head… ya know what I want first?” The Swordsinger just stared and the greenskin rolled his eyes. “Oh, for tusk’s sake. Could ya translate it to Relic over there?”


    Isluf bared his teeth, quite annoyed with the fact he was being reduced to a simple translator. It was as if he was a middle man for some business in the Bazaar, describing a thing he never saw in his life and had no idea what it was used for. He sighed and looked at the undead Yokudan. “He asks if you know what he wants first,” he translated. “If I may say he is in no position to make demands-”


    The Ansei stopped him with a cutting motion of his hand and gave the Orc a look, the light of his eyes narrowing into narrow lines, before the Swordsinger soberly nodded.


    The Orc began rummaging through his sack and Isluf threw a look over his shoulder, directed at the malachite. K’avar and Lathkim stood there, pounding on the glass in a desperate need to get his attention, to remind him how powerless to help them he was. To instill guilt in his soul, to spread the despair in his heart.


    His eyes shifted towards Lady Anweithi and his knees nearly gave out. All that allowed him to regain his balance was the blasted clutch. She stood there, motionless, her face deprived of all emotions as if everything had lost both meaning and reason. Everything was pointless, that’s what he was seeing in her face. He averted his gaze, not capable of staring into the mirror of his own emotions anymore.


    The Orc was just pulling a book from his sack. A book in a worn-out black leather cover that portrayed some kind of creature Isluf never saw. The greenskin put the book on the ground and carefully opened it, slowly backing away from it.


    They waited a moment. Two moments.


    The Orc frowned and scratched the back of his neck. “Uhm. Mora? Anytime now would be good.”


    The only answer was silence and Isluf wondered if the Orc hadn’t lost his mind, especially after the Swordsinger used his shehai to… the captain actually had no idea precisely what he’d done. The legends about the shehai were very vague, mostly just portraying them as swords. But those were just legends - still, one such legend was standing right in front of Isluf.


    “Mothershittin’ magicka eater,” the greenskin grimaced, shaking his head. “Now what the tusk am I supposed to do? Could have at least given me a hint, ya slimey dip shit.”


    Isluf saw the Ansei tilt his head and then he raised his left hand, opening his palm. From the palm extended a blade of blue light, looking almost like running water or… a waterfall, but in this case this waterfall was going up. The light illuminated the room, the face of the god, and suddenly it seemed as if the malachite began absorbing the light.


    The captain heard the Orc’s gasp and noticed how the beast blinked several times, eventually shaking his head. “Ya can resist it,” the greenskin murmured as he narrowed his eyes in the Swordsinger’s direction. The Orc then extended his hand and a weak white-blue light flickered on his fingertips.


    A metat! The Orc is a m’kai, just like Toreif! Suddenly it explained many things about the greenskin.


    Isluf then twitched in fright as the book on the ground loudly closed and opened again, its cover slapping on the floor. The pages began shifting. Isluf could feel something creeping into the room, a sickly air filling his nostrils, something ancient and alien. The captain would even swear he could smell dust and mold, a stench one could very often find in neglected sections of old libraries, but this smell was also accompanied by a strange sensation of anguish and false promises of secrets.


    Something began… seeping from the book, patiently crawling out from it. A writhing mass of black and gold. A writhing mass of tentacles and eyes.


    “Danesh Menigira,” Isluf gasped in horror. The Knowledge Demon. He leaned against his clutch as his head spinned, his thoughts strangled by alien will, his mind becoming tangled, unable to put a cohesive thought together. As if he had just been reduced to a mere drooling fool, forced to witness things his simple mind couldn’t comprehend.


    A large golden eye opened in the center of the writhing mass, its two pupils focusing directly on the malachite face in the wall.


    “Most curious,” a slow voice echoed from the writhing mass, mulling every syllable of those two words with an infinite patience. One of the tentacles reached for the malachite, almost as if it wanted to stroke the malachite’s cheek, but it stopped just before it could touch it, hesitating. “And now my curiosity is sated,” the voice spoke again, the tentacle pulling back into the mass. All the eyes were taking in all the details of the room, focusing on everything at once, and there was a slow sigh. “It is like trying to scoop water with your hands, is it not?” the largest eye shifted its gaze at the Ansei, at his shehai. “No matter how hard you squeeze it keeps pouring in between your fingers, pouring right into the mouth of this thirsty child. And this child knows everything about thirst. The has been denied to it long-”


    “Amazin’ analogy,” the Orc interrupted the demon, loudly clapping. “ I’m thoroughly stunned. Ya know, the water and magicka, the child bein’ a mothertuskin’ artificial god made of malachite… Just astonishin’. Now can we get to the part where we seal off our deal?”


    “Your sarcasm is dully noted, vessel, but we shall have words first,” the demon said lazily, every word sounding as if the writhing mass was yawning. The golden eye kept staring at the Ansei, whose eyes seemed to be losing their glow, the light they were emanating flickering and fading. “Prince Kaydib,” the demon addressed the Ansei in Yoku and Isluf tried to push through the mist clouding his mind, the name being vaguely familiar to him. “It has been far too long since we have spoken. The shadow of this child hid you from my gaze, just as the outcome of what we have spoken about-”


    “Your words and secrets brought nothing but ruin on my people, Scryer,” Prince Kaydib growled, the linen straps around his mouth shifting, almost as if he was baring his teeth under it.


    “Not even I could have predicted such outcome,” the so called Scryer replied lazily, unphased. “It is most curious how you mortals always find a way to bring more destruction on yourselves and then put blame on the others. You have not considered the consequences of your actions back then, in your hubris you have brought a doom on yourselves and now… even on the world. This child wants to be free, to drink freely and-”


    “Alright, alright,” the Orc interrupted yet again. “Stop with that old gibberish and let’s talk business, Mora,” he stepped in front of the Swordsinger, baring his tusks at the writhing mass of eyes and tentacles. “We got a deal. Ya wanted to know what’s down here and well, ya tuskin’ know it now. Congratulations. Now where’s my damn medal?”


    “The time is irrelevant-”


    “Tusk that! I upheld my end of the bargain, now let’s get to the part where ya uphold yours. And no tricks, Mora. Knowledge, but somethin’... tangible - heh, love the sound of that word, it’s so educated. ‘Tangible’.”


    The pages of the book on the floor shifted and wind blew through the book into the room, carrying with it leaves of paper, covered with texts. The leaves whirled in the air and they flew into the Orc’s hands, stacking on themselves. “Is this tangible enough for you, tiresome Orc?”


    “Looks real enough,” the greenskin murmured, gazing on the words, grimacing. “Who the tusk is Glimmerin’ Foxbat? Sounds like someone had a real bad day.” He then turned towards the Ansei and nodded. “Okay, ya can kill the light now. Let the tusker get out of my sight - and my nose too. The smell’s killin’ me.”


    “Not yet, little Orc. I am curious to see what happens next. Will you run as you are accustomed to do? Will you abandon everyone here, leave them to their fate?”


    The greenskin grinned and raised right hand wrapped in leather strips, showing it to the demon. “Not this time, matey.”


    There was a moment of shocked silence before the writhing mass spoke again. “You would not.”


    “I tuskin’ would and I tuskin’ shall.”


    “The Void is not as empty as you would like to believe,” the demon now spoke with tangible concern in his voice. “You threaten to shatter the balance. You would throw Oblivion into a war which would make the one with Jyggalag pale in comparison.” The Orc merely shrugged and the golden eye closed with a sigh. “You have just made an enemy, Orc, while we could have been allies.”


    “Y’are not the first and not even the last, so don’t take it personally. Frankly, ya should have thought about it before givin’ me this,” he wiggled with the fingers on his right hand, slowly unwrapping the leather strips, revealing a green skin covered with black runes that seeped with vile magic. “Daedric Prince of Fate. My arse.”


    The tentacles then suddenly lashed towards the Orc in anger, trying to prevent whatever he was about to do, but the Swordsinger made a cutting motion with his hand, bright white light swept through the room and the tentacles fell on the floor, cleanly separated. Another cutting motion and the book on the floor was suddenly split in half. The demon disappeared, with it the mist that clouded Isluf’s mind.


    He blinked several times, shaking his head in a futile attempt to shake off the dulling sensation. And with that he could almost hear something in him break.


    The Ansei of old, legendary heroes… they made a deal with the Knowledge Demon. It felt as if the whole world was crumbling. Isluf had grown up on the stories of Frandar Hunding, Divad the Singer, Derik Hallin and… Prince Kaytib. The one who split the Alik’r in half so that the people could cross it more easily.


    The Swordsinger’s shehai disappeared and the undead staggered, as if keeping the shehai for so long had drained too much of his strength. The Orc extended his arm to support the Ansei but then he quickly pulled it back, as if figuring out it wasn’t that good idea.


    “Come on, Relic, don’t crumble to dust or somethin’ now,” the greenskin snorted, shaking his head. “I mean, I’d help ya, but I’m sort of worried I’d unwrap those linen strips like a present and frankly I have enough nightmares as it is.”


    “Don’t you take anything seriously, beast?” Isluf barked as he walked towards the kneeling Prince, offering to support him.


    “This is a world of absurdity, matey,” the beast smirked. “There’s nothin’ in it worth takin’ seriously, and if there were, it’s not somethin’ I’d like to encounter.” His red eyes then went wide in suprise, a grin spreading over his face. “Shit. That was damn profound. Should write it down somewhere or somethin’. I surprise even myself sometimes. Hah!”


    The Ansei was much heavier than Isluf expected and he grunted with effort as he put his hand under the undead’s arm, helping back on his feet. Isluf had to lean against his clutch. “Prince Kaytib,” he spoke with caution. A part of him had no idea how to treat the undead now, because on one hand, this was a legendary Ansei in front of him, but on the other, this was an undead creature that consorted with daemons. The contradiction clashed in Isluf’s mind, while the desperation and worry for Lady Anweithi were also creeping in to add to the boiling mix in his head.


    It was as if Isluf was slowly losing his mind, for a mind couldn’t simply take everything that is thrown its way. There had to be a point where it snaps. A breaking point. And Isluf was nearing it.


    “What now?” he asked, his hands trembling a bit, which earned him a raised eyebrow from the Orc.


    “Now? Now what? Oh, what do we do now, that’s what ya asked,” the greenskin rubbed his goatee and smirked. “Well, that’s easy. We’re goin’ to properly kick a pair of malachite balls and ya better hope it’s not the kind of kick that only makes ya angry but the one that sends tears into yer manly eyes so that y’are not manly anymore.”


    He just never shuts up. Keeps babbling and babbling, spewing out nonsense. Now who’s insane here? Isluf thought. He then looked at the Swordsinger. “What can I do to help, revered ancestor? I will do anything to help my people. To save Lady Anweithi.” The Ansei looked away for some reason, as if in shame, and Isluf’s eyes darted from the Ansei to the Orc and back, eyebrows raised in question. “Prince Kaytib,” he whispered, dread filling his heart. No. Please no. I can’t fail, I can’t…



    “It is not in our power to save those already lost,” the Swordsinger said in a faint whisper, every word a double-edged sword, cutting both him and Isluf. “We never could. But with the Orgun… as he would say it, we will make the Malachite God someone else’s problem. We will send it...elsewhere. Away from Nirn.”


    “I told ya, Fancypants,” the Orc shook his head. “Ya might not like my help.”


    Words uttered with no remorse or consideration for other people’s feelings. The indifference towards the terrible fate of those trapped inside the malachite would have made Isluf angry, maybe even furious, if there had been anything left for him to feel. His mouth felt dry and his whole being felt like scorched land, with nothing but ash and dust left behind.


    He fell on the floor heavily, barely aware of his surroundings. He could see the Ansei standing above him, his words reaching him as if from a distance. “I am truly sorry, but know that I share your pain. All my people are lost too. Forever. If there was another way, believe me, I would take it. But there is not. I am sorry, Captain.”


    He had failed, failed in his duty. There was nothing worse that he could imagine.


    Duty. A commitment, an obligation, to act and perform in a way that doesn’t stain your honor, to sacrifice your self-interest over the needs of others - over the protection of others, his mind pondered while the Orc and the Ansei walked towards the malachite face.


    There were many kinds of duty.


    The Swordsinger’s left hand lit up with the blue light again and Isluf watched as the Orc raised his right hand, the runes on his skin suddenly shifting in front of Isluf’s eyes, peeling off the Orc’s skin and rising to the air.


    Duty as a result of one’s particular place in life. A captain of the house guard, sworn to protect the nobles he was pledged to. Born into a caste of servants, the most important purpose in their lives had been serving the royalty. He had failed Lady Anweithi.


    The Ansei’s right hand lit up with black light and the shehai began spinning, its size and length increasing with every rotation, sucking the air around it as a Void itself. The runes in the air suddenly blazed with golden light as they were drawn towards the black shehai, rotating around it.


    Duty as a result of one’s character. It wasn’t just the fact he was raised that way. He firmly believed this was the purpose of his life, to protect others. Not only those above him but also his companions, those who served with him. Life in its truest form was precious and rare and had to be treasured, guarded. He had failed K’avar, Lathkim and so many others.


    The shehai pierced the malachite skin and the ground trembled as if in pain and rage. Dust was falling from the ceiling and the walls began to shake, eventually revealing more of the Malachite God’s face. The curve of the lips, the arch of the eyebrows, the glint in the golden eyes, all that betrayed a displeasure. An anger, as the runes began seeping into the malachite skin, crawling over it, burning into it. Slowly covering it.


    Duty as a result of one’s own moral expectations for oneself. The prospect of failure was something Isluf had never allowed himself to think about or even admit to himself. It was something unimaginable. How could one live with such dishonor staining his being? The Vizier would have his head for such failure and it was a fair judgement, because Isluf couldn’t stand the fact that he had failed someone, but more importantly - that he had failed himself. Failed himself by failing others. He had failed everyone.


    A ruby river began flowing from the Malachite God’s eyes, crystallizing into the red mineral he kept seeing everywhere, as the runes were now covering its whole face. The eyes suddenly lit up with a maleficient, green hued light that began eating away at the glow of the magic both the Orc and the Ansei were unleashing.


    Duty as a result of being human. Sacrificing one’s life so that others could live, but he was denied even that. The Orc and the Ansei were about to take it away, to condemn the few innocent lives to eternity of torment and solitude for the sake of others, of those still innocent in their bliss of ignorance. They had lived their lives oblivious to the evil that was created by their ancestors, prepared to swallow them whole.


    Who did Isluf fail in this case? Those who were oblivious or those who were lost?


    The Ansei and the Orc were growling with exasperation and exhaustion, the Orgun’s green skin covered with sweat, while the Ansei’s linen wraps were fading away, slowly disintegratiing to nothingness.


    The god was too powerful to be dismissed so easily.


    Wails sounded from the hall behind them and Isluf knew the souleaters were now coming for them, being called to defend their god.


    And what was Isluf supposed to do? Was he supposed to let the Orc and the Ansei sever the tethers of his duty by sending that which he was supposed to protect away from his reach?


    Or was he supposed to stop them?


    That thought caught him completely unaware as it crept into his mind like a snake, its forked tongue hissing dark secrets into his ear. There was a way for him to save Lady Anweithi. To save them all. Were those his thoughts? But they were so sound, so certain, they had to be true. There was a path ahead of him, whispering to him, and it all came down to if he was willing to take it in order to save Lady Anweithi. He could save them all.


    He looked at the malachite face, at all those he had sworn to protect. They stared back at him, their eyes filled with sorrowful tears of blood, their eyes black and beautiful as the night, their forked tongues whipping out of their mouths as they solemnly nodded in confirmation of his thoughts.


    And so Isluf lost his mind.


    But in doing so he found a clarity he never knew in his life. A determined resolution.


    He pulled out his khanjar and began walking towards the Orc.

    The moment the shehai pierced the malachite skin Anweithi screamed in pain, as if it was her skin that was being violated. She was screaming and it took her a moment to realize she wasn’t the only one. They all screamed, their voices echoing through the malachite in unison of sheer agony, even those who had been lost to the apathy before.


    She felt her own pain and on top of that she could feel their pain. All of them. And she knew they had to stop it, that they would do anything to stop it. This shell of green glass, it was their shell and it was being overwhelmed by an alien sensation, spiders crawling all over its skin, crawling into their mind. Pulling, pulling them all away from this world, pushing them through a tiny window of blackness into a place where nothing but cold and emptiness ruled.


    They couldn’t allow that.


    Anweithi rose to her feet, pushing through the pain, and along with her, everyone else. She wasn’t Anweithi. They were all Anweithi. They were one.


    And they had to protect themselves.


    They let out a wail and they could see the halls of the underground, they could feel their ethereal hands groping through the darkness, their feet slapping on the cold floor as they hurried to defend themselves.


    And they could feel the Captain’s struggle, his inner fight. And so they reached out, showing him a way back to honor and duty, a way how to be reunited with those he swore to protect. And he understood what they were saying, knowing what he should do for them.


    They watched him get on his feet, drawing out the khanjar and limping towards the Ansei and the green beast.


    They ran through the halls, desperate to protect their shell.


    The Captain neared the Orc, the Skaven steel glistening in his hand.


    Something cut through them in the halls, the burning sensation of gold severing their connection and they wailed in agony.


    They reached the room and were surprised by the red glow which revealed their bodies and they watched their hands and their feet with a childish wonder, even as the gold kept cutting through them.


    The Captain was about to strike when someone charged into the room, gold khopesh reflecting the red and blue light as it cut through the air and cut off the Captain’s leg, the second swing removing his hand wielding the khanjar.


    Captain Isluf screamed and they all screamed with him as he fell on the floor, bleeding.


    And they set their eyes filled with hatred on those who dared to oppose them.

    The hunter watched the Captain growl and cry on the floor, bleeding, trying to crawl towards the malachite, and the hunter understood that the Captain was already lost too.


    He raised his gaze, honing on the Orc and the eternal guardian, watching them combine their magicks into something he never expected to see. The Orc… The hunter was wrong. The Orc wasn’t prey. He was the solution.


    There were more wails coming from the hallway from behind him, the light of the lantern shining through the red mineral revealing the souleaters that were slowly overcoming their confusion.


    And the hunter understood.


    Everything led to this moment. So long ago when his ancestors were called upon by Prince Kaytib, to stand an eternal watch with him, to keep the past buried. So they vowed. But now their vow was nearing its end, because the Orc has presented a solution.


    So it was the hunter’s duty to buy them more time.


    His gold khopesh glistened as he went to intercept the enemy desperate to protect their god.


    And more wails echoed…

    The air began splitting in half, a furious storm of magic raging around the Orc and the Ansei as they battled the complete opposite of magic, their wills clashing with that of the Malachite God.


    And Isluf was forced to witness it all, feeling in his heart that the battle was already lost. They would be banished, cast away into blackness, and even as his life kept slipping away from him, he crawled towards the shell. He didn’t want to be left alone, left behind. He knew he was meant to share his fate with all the others, because they were one. He couldn’t leave them.


    He could feel the spiders crawling over his skin, slowly reaching every inch of his skin - of their skin. They could feel it. Their end was drawing near.


    But sometimes an end was just a beginning.


    He crawled, saliva and tears covering his face as he pushed through the agony, dragging his broken body over the floor, leaving a trail of blood behind him. He fought, fought to not be alone, to uphold his duty to protect others.


    They needed him. He needed them.


    They needed themselves. Whole.


    He was so close now. The magic was reaching its highest point, the Ansei slowly disintegrating into dust, because he was acting as a conduit in this endeavor. The Orc provided the solution, but it was the Swordsinger who had to shape it, guide it and deliver it.


    So they felt at least a slight satisfaction knowing that their exile would cost the one banishing them dearly.


    The eyes of the Ansei suddenly blazed with renewed intensity as he growled, the linen straps around his face turning into ash, revealing his face covered with dark brown strips of skin, his lips having decayed away long time ago, so he looked as if he was constantly baring his teeth.


    Isluf finally reached the malachite and with the last ounce of his strength he reached for it.


    And the Ansei pushed one last time.

    Grulmar felt blood pouring from his nose and his eyes as he poured more and more magicka through the runes in his hand, letting the Ansei take it from him in a way he never imagined and work his strange Swordsinging magic to remove the god from this world.


    And the Ansei hasn’t failed. One last push and Grulmar could feel the whole body of the Malachite God now covered with the runes.


    The Swordsinger pulled out the black shehai out of the malachite and collapsed on the floor, with Grulmar falling onto his knees right next to him. He could hear sounds of struggle behind him, but they seemed strangely distant. All Grulmar could do was focus on breathing, his head burning with dull pain. “Damn,” he murmured, gazing at the Ansei. “Ya probably can’t teach me this Swordsingin’ shit, can ya?”


    The undead didn’t answer, probably not understanding a damn word of what Grulmar had just said, but it didn’t matter. The undead was turning into dust, his legs already almost gone. He said something in that tusking Yoku, and even though Grulmar didn’t understand a word of it he had a pretty good idea what the was Ansei trying to say.


    “One last push,” the Orc nodded, crawling back on his feet. He looked over his shoulder and noticed one of the nomads standing in the door, a gold sickle-like weapon in his hand, with those strange spectral forms standing in the hall, an unmoving crowd. Grulmar frowned. “It knows it's lost,” he whispered and shook his head. “Time to end this.”


    He extended his right arm, the runes on his skin blazing with Mora’s magic and he reached out, for the malachite, feeling every rune burned into the god’s skin, and he activated them all at once.


    The god let out one last wail and all kinds of emotions filled Grulmar’s head. Anger, frustration, defeat, resignation, failure. It swarmed his thoughts but he still pushed against it, knowing there was no other way. All those inside sacrificed for everyone else in the world outside the malachite. No other way.


    He growled and pushed the Malachite God through the window into the Void.


    Eat a dick, Mora. Eat a big malachite dick.


    And in a blink of an eye… the statue was gone.


    Suddenly all the space that it occupied in the ground was empty and it needed to be filled. Everything began collapsing and Grulmar could see the Ansei make a chopping motion with his hand, the blue shehai in his hand blazing for one last time before he disintegrated into nothingness.


    The floor under Grulmar lit up with light and suddenly he was falling.


    Only to land heavily in a patch of sand, the unexpected clash with the ground shocking him. He landed like with a grace of a sack of potatoes. He rolled in the sand, hearing another heavy thud next to him and over all that he could hear the rumbling and moans of the earth as it began collapsing on itself.


    He shook his head, trying to clear it, as he looked up. It was night, everything being lit by the moons and the stars and there in the distance was the excavation site. A massive cloud of dust and sand rised into air, filling the sky as the ground filled all the empty space left behind the Malachite God.


    “Hot damn,” he took a deep breath, looking to the side where the nomad was getting on his feet. Grulmar put on his grin, raising his eyebrows. “What a ride. Am I right, matey?”


    The nomad looked at him with as much amusement as a dune of sand and Grulmar rolled his eyes. And here I thought Nords lacked a sense of humor. He heard the thundering of hooves behind him and when he glanced over his shoulder he could see a dozen of others nomads riding camels towards them. At least he thought they were the nomads, it was difficult to say in the pale light of the moons.


    The most important thing was that he could feel magic again, unopposed and free. It was flowing all around him, almost speeding past him to reclaim the dead spot occupied by the thirsty god for so long. He frowned at the riders nearing and he put a hand into his sack, sighing in relief when he felt the pages he was granted by Mora. The nomads would probably have questions and he hated questions and part of him worried what would they do if they found proof of his deal with Mora. Well, guess this is yer cue, matey.


    He reached out with his senses and he smiled when he could still feel his anchor in the distance, next to that rock formation where the nomads had come to warn them before. He looked at the nomad standing above him and smirked. “Well, it’s been fun, matey, but destiny calls and all that bullshit, ya know. See ya ‘round.”


    And with those words he reached for his anchor and Recalled.

    The riders arrived just as the Orc disappeared in a flash of purple magic, and the hunter hid a smile. Somehow it didn’t surprise him the Orc ran. It seemed it was in his nature.


    He turned to his brothers and sisters and nodded.


    The Malachite God is a threat no more.


    We have felt it.


    It has been banished.


    The Princes will have their hands full in the coming centuries.


    Maybe it is for the best.


    What of the guardian?


    Guardian is no more. His watch has ended.


    Then our duty has been fulfilled.


    They all paused as they noticed a flash of magic in the distance, near the rock formation which the nomads had come to call Fingers of Fate in their long watch over the ruins. And in the shadow of the Fingers a person appeared, immediately setting out to the west.


    The Orc?




    One watch has ended. Another just began.


    So it begins.

    Isluf opened his eyes into the bliss of malachite, whole and complete both again and for the first time in his life at the same time. He was immediately embraced by the others, feeling their anxiety and fear of the unknown, but they all comforted themselves. They were whole.


    They were one.


    And they were floating through the blackness of the Void, floating aimlessly without any sense of control and thirst turning their mouths dry. Were they lost?


    Not for long.


    Because they could feel something ahead of them, in the infinite distance.


    An infinite library...waiting for them.


    And they were thirsty.

    Grulmar gave the excavation one last look as the sun began rising up, and he shook his head, setting out to west with the sun warming his back, casting a long shadow in front of him as he pulled one of the pages from his sack and focused on the words.


    Look into the patterns.

    Look into the infinity.

    Look into the forces at conflict.

    Read them, tease them out.t

    Emphasize them, eradicate them.

    Tear down the veil from your eyes.

    Cast off your shackles.

    Step through.

    Now look into the shadows, child.


    No shira - noble, honorific

    Metat - wizard

    M´kai - sorcerer, insult

    Nukatki - curse

    Abah - filthy. unclean

    Hunding - High Desert

    Vizier - advisor, counsellor

    Timalaki - malachite

    Gurleht - woman

    Netu anselim - turn back

    Batek - soul

    Raguda - Hammerfell

    Made-up Words

    Alame - god

    Bharakasha - beast

    Orgun - Orc

    Danesh menigira- knowledge demon

    orgunatgi - hubris



8 Comments   |   A-Pocky-Hah! and 5 others like this.
  • Teineeva
    Teineeva   ·  January 25, 2020
    Ok, the description of the souls trapped within the giant and how they were cannibalized by the hive mind was fucking terrifying. Thanks for that Karve :P

    Great monologue and a fantastic way for Grul to solve the issue, even if it doe...  more
  • Caladran
    Caladran   ·  July 17, 2018
    This was fantastic and fun to read! :D I wish there would be more parts. Will there be more of Grulmar later?
    • Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      This was fantastic and fun to read! :D I wish there would be more parts. Will there be more of Grulmar later?
        ·  July 17, 2018
      Glad you enjoyed, it Cal. And yeah, definitely more Grulmar later :)
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 8, 2018
    This was a great read, Karver. I had a lot of fun. And man, is Mora gonna be pissed. It sets the chain of events definitely. Very curious to see what Grulmar does next. 
  • Meli
    Meli   ·  July 8, 2018
    Eee gads Karver! That was something else :D

    Will need to quote this somewhere at some point, wise words from the orc:

    “This is a world of absurdity, matey,” the beast smirked. “There’s nothin’ in it worth takin’ ...  more
    • Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Eee gads Karver! That was something else :D

      Will need to quote this somewhere at some point, wise words from the orc: ...  more
        ·  July 8, 2018
      Thank you very much, Meli. Glad you enjoyed it. And yeah, Grulmar has his moments :D
      Well, what he and Morn would make of each other. I don't know, still haven't read anything about her, yet? At least I think... There is only drawing of her so far, ...  more
  • A-Pocky-Hah!
    A-Pocky-Hah!   ·  July 8, 2018
    So that's it? This is the last chapter? Man did this give me goosebumps. The Ansei's monologue had quite the effect. Good thing I wasn't playing any ambient horror music. :D
    • Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      So that's it? This is the last chapter? Man did this give me goosebumps. The Ansei's monologue had quite the effect. Good thing I wasn't playing any ambient horror music. :D
        ·  July 8, 2018
      Yeah, this is the last chapter. I know I'm leaving it sorta open, especially the door to Oblivion Wars and Greymarch being the TES space marines, but oh well... :D But at least I got Grulmar finally on the shadowy road where I wanted him. :)
      And hey...  more