Brynjolf saw Mercer sneaking up on the Falmer down below the three of them; he felt his anger boil almost instantly. He started looking for a way directly down to the traitor he had once called brother, saying, “Damn it! There’s no way through!” They watched in horror as Mercer took his sword and drove it into the unsuspecting Falmer. Mercer glanced up at the trio before turning and heading out a door.
“He’s toying with us,” Karliah realized aloud. “He wants us to follow.”
“Aye, lass, that we will.” He sneered. “And we will be ready for him.”
Mercer saw the three hooded figures and smirked.
Of course, Karliah was up there and from the broad shoulders of the one it appeared Brynjolf had transacted the Oath with Nocturnal. The third one he assumed was Meliandra, which was the reason behind his smirk.
He was looking forward to killing her again.
Meliandra thrust her sword upwards into the Falmer’s side; she saw the tip of the blade puncture through his ribcage. She put her foot upon the dead body and shoved the corpse off her blade, immediately seeking out her companions as they fought a pair of Falmer. She watched as Brynjolf’s dagger pierced the skull of one as Karliah’s arrows pinned another to the wall. She sheathed her sword and waited by the passageway further into the ruins.
Her ears picked up the soft sounds of pebbles cascading down the ruin walls and held her hand up, signaling the others to keep quiet. She crept forward, her steps measured and soft. They turned a corner and saw a Falmer tent among toppled Dwarven towers. She looked around, trying to discern the best path that they should take.
Brynjolf’s voice was right behind her as she heard him whisper, “Looks like we can take the low road,” he said as he pointed to a path through the center, “or we can take the high road to get across this chamber,” and he pointed to some paths along the side that brought them high above the expanse. “Your choice.”
She nodded to Brynjolf as she silently reached around to her back and took ahold of her bow. She took an arrow and nocked it into place, drawing it back slowly as she aimed for the Falmer that she had seen coming out of one of the tents. The arrow whistled through the air as it raced to the middle of the twisted creature’s back, causing him to fall forward. A moment later an arrow landed by her feet. Karliah’s arrow found the perched Falmer above them and a hard thud soon echoed in the chamber.
They made their way through, picking off the accursed descendants of the Snow Elves one by one. Each swing of her sword raised her irritation. She wanted Mercer on the receiving end of her sword. She wanted to see his blood dripping off her blade as he bled out beneath her feet. Partially through, a loud rumbling echoed through the chamber as the floor beneath them shook. They dodged falling chunks of marble as more towers fell and parts of the wall rained down around them. They finally found their way through a door out of the chamber and away from the crumbling structure.
Karliah looked at the two of them as she shut the door behind her. “The only reason to collapse the tower would be to block pursuit. It has to be Mercer.”
“Aye,” came Brynjolf’s reply. “Let’s find him before he brings this whole place down.”
Further in they ventured, an eeriness settling throughout these Falmer infested Dwarven ruins. Death permeated the air as they came across the bloody path Mercer had left behind. They avoided the bear traps he seemingly left along the way, barely missing the first few ones.
Before them was a monstrosity of a Dwarven construct, the sight alone made Meliandra gasp in shock. “Fuck! What in Oblivion is that?!”
The Dwarven gold glinted in the light of the fires as Falmer bustled around it. In the distance, she made out the form of a chaurus hunter and swore under her breath. She still bore the scar from a run-in with the winged creatures as a youth, one she only escaped because of her mother and the Redguard family they were traveling with. She swallowed nervously.
“It’s a Dwarven Centurion,” Karliah answered. “Very tough and very deadly.”
“We can take the beast on or sneak around,” Brynjolf said. “It’s your call, Meli. We’re right behind you.”
“Let’s try and sneak past,” she said as bravely as she could. She drew her sword, “Karliah, cover me with your bow; Bryn, you cover Karliah.”
She began to creep forward.
Brynjolf nodded as he drew his sword and proceeded to guard Karliah as they made their attempt to cross the expanse of this chamber without waking up the Centurion. He heard the false bravado in Meliandra’s voice, he hoped she wasn’t going to break. Suddenly he heard the sound of hissing steam and metal upon metal moving as the Centurion moved its long idle joints, stepping outside of its housing unit. This alerted the Falmer that something was amiss. “By the Eight,” he muttered as Karliah released the arrow nocked in her bow at an advancing Falmer. What followed was chaos.
From the corner of his eye he saw his companions fighting off multiple enemies. Seemingly out of nowhere Meliandra had a second sword and was dancing her way through the throng, circling around their attackers, bringing her swords crashing down upon them, spraying her in their blood.
He found the Falmer were easily taken care of as he flung one into the path of an attacking chaurus hunter, impaling it upon the stinger. Suddenly blood and guts sprayed across Brynjolf as Meliandra brought her swords down in a crisscross motion upon the flying beast.
All that remained was the Centurion. Brynjolf rushed towards the automation, both his blades drawn. The three of them attacked with a renewed vigor and such strength that in no time they had brought the thing crashing down. He leaned against the giant arm, catching his breath. He suddenly felt warmth on his side where a Falmer’s sword had cut into him; his eyes snapped open to see Meliandra, mask less, crouched next to him and casting a healing spell on him. Soon the blood had stopped and the skin was quickly stitching itself back together. He started to thank her but she walked away, dropping into a crouch as she neared the tent off in the distance. He sighed as he stood up and joined Karliah in following the Breton.
After killing a pair of skeevers, they continued their journey. Climbing a set of stone steps, they looked around, trying not to alert any Falmer that might still be around. Just as Brynjolf realized where they were standing, Karliah mentioned that Mercer must be close. They made their way through, killing a few frostbite spiders and a couple more Falmer until they came to the doors that they had seen Mercer go through. Taking a deep breath, Brynjolf opened the doors and walked through.
He pulled his sword out of the accursed creature, a sneer on his face. As he sheathed it, he looked at the head of the statue of the Snow Elf high above him, one giant gem still glinting in the light of the fires around the room. His sneer grew into a smirk as he made his way to claim the right eye.
He worked quickly, knowing that the bear traps he had left along the way would only slow down his pursuers for so long before they made their way here. He planned on being out of here by then.
Karliah slinked her way through the timeworn ruins, watching for any sign of a trap or any tripwires. She had not forgotten Mercer’s ways; she had not let twenty-five years dull her memory of her former partner’s techniques and his cloak and dagger ways. She had planned her revenge carefully all this time, her anticipation of Mercer’s death was building. She would see Mercer pay for murdering her beloved Gallus and for framing her as his murderer.
“The stench,” Brynjolf coughed out from in front of her, “this place reeks of Falmer.”
She nodded in agreement. “This must be their hive. We’ll have to keep silent if we want to avoid drawing their attention.”
Slowly she moved on, her steps muffled by the enchantment on her boots. She glanced behind her to see the Breton inching her way through, making sure no one came up from
behind, catching them off guard. The young woman’s hatred for Mercer was her drive, she could see that but she could not place why. She looked back ahead and followed Brynjolf’s lead.
She watched as the Nord dispatched a dwarven spider that had crawled out of its hibernation chamber. She heard him say, “Didn’t even break a sweat.” She chuckled to herself as they walked further in.
The trio found themselves in a large open room; a metallic tang hanging heavily in the air. Brynjolf and Karliah started down the steps but Meliandra stopped them, motioning to them that she saw two Falmer creeping around down below. She pointed to the lever in front of some fencing and made pulling motions. Karliah, having already learned to trust Meliandra’s hunches, tip-toed her way to the lever and pulled it.
They saw giant blades appear from a slot in the floor, he blades spun around swiftly. A fresh spraying of blood coated the walls as the blades sliced through the creatures.
Karliah pulled the lever again and watched as the deadly blades returned to their housing unit, hidden beneath the floor. They made their way down below, taking a moment to look at the carnage around them. Blood soaked rags littered the table and floor along with bloodied tools of all kinds. “Even the Falmer don’t deserve the pain these implements must have inflicted. The dwarves were a cruel race.”
A male corpse lay strapped to a torture rack, a crumbled paper clutched in his death grip. She worked the paper free and read it.
‘Nobody thought they were real, but I’ve seen them.
‘The Eyes of the Snow Elves!
‘The Dwarves thought they took them from the Falmer, but they themselves were fooled. A statue, built in secret by the slaves, the eyes burn into you, and I see them even
now. S’raffa escaped through the collapsing tunnel, but he’ll never escape what we’ve seen. Men will never believe him, and he’ll be driven mad by the knowledge that he’ll
never see them again. But I may yet see them again before I die.’
She handed the paper to Brynjolf, saying, “Appears we’re on the right track.”
Brynjolf nodded as he read the note. “Aye, lass, seems like we are.” He turned to Meliandra, an arm’s length beside him and handed her the note.
Karliah watched the two; she could feel the tension between them. She tried to ignore it as best as she could, she didn’t want any distractions when it came to making Mercer pay for all that he had done to her and the Guild. She glanced down the dim passageway and cast a detect life spell; shaking her head she looked back at the estranged couple.
“There’s a mass of Falmer in this chamber. We can sneak through or take them down… I don’t care. As long as we get to Mercer.”
Brynjolf nodded and turned his attention to Meliandra. “Aye. Whatever you want to do, we’re with you.”
Meliandra hmphed as she took the lead from Brynjolf. “Let’s get through here as quietly as we can.”
Meliandra eased her way around the corner, her steps silent on the ground. She held no weapons in her hands, her bow sat upon her back. If she needed to draw a weapon, she would conjure her swords again. Behind her, Brynjolf followed soundlessly, his daggers at the ready. Despite the anger she felt about him, she was comforted by his presence behind her. She feared he would be a distraction though when it came to confronting Mercer; she had seen the vengeance in his own eyes.
But he did not seek the vengeance she did.
Suddenly from behind she heard Karliah cry out, “I will claim your soul for Nocturnal!”
Meliandra spun on her heel, casting her spell without hesitation. The Gloomlurker was rushing toward her, its barbed and menacing sword drawn and at the ready. As he lunged at her, she thrust both her swords up into its belly and lifted the contorted creature off the ground; blood spilled down over her hands. She pulled back her swords, dropping the twisted elf to the ground with a thud. She looked to her companions.
“You just made the last mistake of your life!” Brynjolf hollered as his blades found their way across the Falmer’s throat.
Beyond him she saw Karliah had brought out her sword and was taunting an attacker saying, “I’ll bury my blade in your heart!”
Meliandra drew her bow and, nocking an arrow, took aim at the Falmer running toward Karliah. The arrow sang as it sailed through the air, the tip embedding itself soundly in the throat of the creature, stopping him in his tracks. Karliah, now in front of the wounded attacker, drove her sword through his head. “The afterlife will bring you darkness,” she breathed as she sheathed her sword.
The trio looked around and continued on. They made their way through a chaurus nest noiselessly, treading as softly as possible through the ebbing darkness. They saw a passageway lit by a growth of glowing mushrooms and made their way to it. They left each other to their own thoughts, each one wanting to exact vengeance on the former guild master.
The silence was broken by a muted roar above them. The Dunmer looked up and said softly, “I can hear water rushing through these pipes. We must be beneath a lake.”
They continued walking on, taking care of more Falmer along the way. Meliandra’s anxiety was building by the minute as they crept along. The frostbite spiders they encountered were slaughtered quickly, with both Karliah and Meliandra taking a moment to harvest their venom.
They trudged through, eliminating a nest of chaurus reapers and a few more Falmer along the way. They jumped off a ledge and slowly made their way through the cavern. They pushed open a gate to see a door down a path.
Meliandra’s heart accelerated. She felt her palms get clammy.
“He’s close. I’m certain of it,” Karliah said. “We must prepare ourselves.”
Meliandra didn’t hear her. She walked up to the door and without a moment’s hesitation, walked through.