Chapter One:

Clavicus Vile was such a pain in the ass. Honestly. A little twerp. Weiba Xeed swished her tail in annoyance, muttering under her breath as she continued on her way, kicking loose stones out of her way. And why did she have to make a deal with the little butt-ache? Because her master wanted the Masque.

Master indeed. If only he had the other Masque of notability; the Masque of the Red Death would suite him so well. But, alas, Weiba knew that the only way she could gain her freedom was to fetch for him the correct item. Blegh.

Not for the first time, the young Argonian wandered back down memory lane, back to a time when she was no more than a hatchling. Then she had been content and free, living with her family amongst the Hist trees of Black Marsh. Until those blasted slavers came. After all, the Argonian's were little more than mindless savages, and with slavery being legal in Morrowind... Well, there was profit to be had.

Maybe this Neravarine person the Tribunalists were chittering about... Maybe he would end this appalling practice? Ah, who was she kidding? The Neravarine was supposedly some kind of reincarnation of Neravar... If he was even the real Neravarine. And Neravar was a hero of the Morrowind Dunmer. Why should he bother to champion the slaves?

Weiba's mind returned to the present, the here and now. No sense in wandering off to a land of useless, hopeless dreams.

Far below her, in the valley of the Ashlands, Weiba Xeed could see her destination. Most likely it would be her final destination. Who knew what foul creatures might dwell in the ancient Dwemer ruin's? Surely more than she could possibly cope with. After all, she couldn't even remember this old tower's name, let alone pronounce it! Actually, come to think of it, that was kind of a tall order...

A Cliff Racer angled off to her left and she ducked behind a boulder, praying to any and all the aedra and daedra that it did not find her. Finally it passed by and she heaved a huge sigh of relief. Then she darted from hiding and ran like a bat out of hell towards the tower. The sun was setting as she placed her shoulder against the door and shoved with all her might. Slowly it creaked open on its ancient hinges. Taking a shaky breath to steel herself, Weiba left the barren soil behind and stepped into her nightmares.

Noise. Noise? Noise. How could there be so much noise? Weiba wondered as her bare feet slapped along the corridor. The hissing of steam. The clanking of pistons. The steady creaking of wheels and cogs turning, ever turning, around and around and around and around...

And the skittering Click-clicketty-click-click of a Centurian Spider, heading straight for her!

Weiba dodged to the right, narrowly missing the metal arrachnid as it sprang for her throat. Grabbing a spare cog from the nearby work bench, she swung around with all her might. The heavy cog flew from her hands. Like a discus of doom, it smashed into the spider's pot-bellied midesection. Broken, the machine collapsed in a heap of scrap metal.

Calming her breathing, Weiba Xeed picked up too more cogs. The place was littered with them, and she was sure she would need a weapong again soon. Dwemer ruins were notorious for their plethora of traps and centurians. And, chances were, she was going to need to search this place from top to bottom before she'd find what she was looking for.

Moving ever deeper into the tower, Weiba's mind drifted away once more...

Clavicus Vile had been only too happy to strike a deal with her. He would willingly hand over his famous (or perhaps infamous) Masque. If she would, in return, do this one eensy-weensy little task for him.

Fetch him the Book of Belmothoola.

What a ridiculous name. As to why that tome would be in a dwemer stronghold, well, that was beyond her. But Weiba had agreed to get it, so get it she would.

Again, the sounds of a Spider clicketty-clicking came toward her. Again, the cog spun into it in a whirl of steampunk-style destruction. These sure were niftly little discs, weren't they?

But now...

Weiba's blood ran cold and she froze in terror, looking up at the monstrosity clanking toward her. She had heard of these things before, of course, but no brief documentary could have prepared her for this encounter. The Steam Centurian stood several feet taller, and wider, than she. Massive and heavy, powerful in the extreme.

Her little cogs wouldn't do it much harm at all.

Instinct kicked in, adrenaline rushing into her bloodstream like never before. Survival, and whatever means nessassary to maintain it, were the only things on her Arogonian mind.

She spun, her heavy rudder of a tail slamming into the construct's side, unbalancing it a little. But only a little. It's steam-driven frame righted itself in an instant, and was once more bearing down on her. CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! With each step it took the floor quivered. Dust floated down from the ceiling, making Weiba sneeze and her eyes water. Through a haze of tears, she saw her opponent raise its fists to attack. At the last possible second she rolled out of the way.

Her hand brushed against something. Standing up again, she searched for the- there it was! The axe was ancient, laying beside a pile of bones she decided not to think too much about. The haft was broken at the end and the blade was rusty and jagged from neglect, but at least it was something. And it was heavy.

Grasping the axe in both hands, Weiba planted her feet wide and waited for the centurian to come at her again. It didn't take long, and then, she swung.

WHONK! Clank-Clang!-boioioioioioioioioiioioioioiiiiiiiiinnnngggggg...

The centurian's head went flying into the wall, bounced off the floor a few times, and rolled away down the corridor. The construct's body fell to its knees, made a strange clanking gurgle sound, and clattered to the floor. Springs, cogs and rods scattered across the cracked floor like confetti.

And, amongst the confetti, the lizard-maid saw... something that just didn't belong. A key. Weiba picked it up and examined it closely. For all intents and purposes, it looked just like any other key. With a shrug, she slipped it into her pocket, shouldered the axe, and continued on her way. And her way led up, up, up. After all, it was a tower.