A harsh storm had blown in off the inner sea and was rolling in across the West Gash region, and so when Ovas Dren reached the rather shabby looking Inn in the Imperial Mining town Caledra, it was already pouring down with rain. His spiky hair was matted, trailing down each side of his face, leaving him in such an un-presentable state he'd put on an Orc helm. There weren't very many Imperial guards patrolling the streets of the small town, a sight which pleased him. This was sight of the rich ebony mines, just over the ridge to the north west. It was a relatively small town, compared to larger settlements like Ald Ruhn of Balmora. If not for the mine, the town probably won't even have the proud Governors hall, standing on a large hillock at the north eastern end of the town. Which by now was near deserted. The empire was withdrawing more troops to protect it's own body every month. The time was nearly here. Soon they would not be enough of the occupying legions left to stop them. The empire would be driven out, it was now only a matter of time. It was near the dead of night by the time he arrived, a warm, welcome glow coming from the windows all around.
He had come here without a procession of soldiers, dressed in common robes in an attempt to confuse the imperial guards. He did not want to give anyone the impression that he was up to something. He only had one body guard with him, dressed in Dwemer armour under a robe. A long poison sword concealed about him.
The inside the of the imperial tavern was just like an other building in Caledra. The walls made of thick, imported oak. Imperial banners hanging wherever there was space. A lot of Imperial men were here, sitting around the tables and bar, laughing at each others jokes over bottles of Sujmma and Brandy. The downstairs of the tavern was segmented into two rooms, the door opening out into the one of the right hand side. Some stairs ascended up the right wall to the floors beyond. An Imperial officer stood guard, a precaution in chase those who hadn't made, attempted to use the beds. Light came from Tavern lanterns sitting in the middle of the tables, two were hanging on either side of the door as they walked through it.
Shenk, the owner of the tavern was a well built RedGuard. His hair was raven black and he was partially bald. He was attending to the order of an Altmer when Ovas approached him.
"What's ya pleasure?" He asked, leaning on the bar with one elbow.
"I'm here to see the man upstairs." Ovas replied, trying to sound as casual as possible, but still managed to keep his voice lower than the dull rumble of conversation that buzzed in the air. Shenk froze, his smile fading.
"I see." He said eventually. He stood up straight, starching the back of his head and breathing out in a loud sigh. "He's not in at the moment, but he should be back before dawn." Ovas stood there, puzzled slightly. "He spends most nights out." He added, before turning to another customer. "Do sit down and I'll bring you a meal while you wait." And so he took the advice and seated himself at a vacant, his bodyguard sitting next to him. Eventually Shrenk came around with some Sujmma and took their order.
After about half an hour, they were presented with the Karma eggs and Brandy that they'd ordered.
Personally, Ovas hated Karma eggs, but if he ordered something it made the two of them looked less conspicuous. Hours began to pass after they finished their meal, and they sat there, silently waiting. Others around them came and went, less and less of them filling the inn was the night dragged on. In his head, he ran through what had been said the night before when he had meet with his allies to plan their attack on the Empire.
"A direct uprising isn't going to be an option." He told the small council, made up of all four Ashlander ashkhans, a few house Hlaalu officials and many of his own Commona Tong elite assassins. "The empire, even with it's depleted numbers is going to be entrenched in their forts. And on top of that, give them so much of as a day as they could call for reinforcements. No, our takeover has to be silent as swift as any of my men." He added, gesturing to the Lenith brothers leaning against a nearby fall, a proud smile on their faces.
"What of the Imperial Guilds here in Morrowind?" Sul-Matuul, clan leader of the Urshilaku Ashlanders asked. He was an incredibly old Dumner, his face fraught with wrinkles and the signs of tiredness, but behind his eyes burned still potent youth. "Are they rising to protect the Empire while the Legions are being withdrawn?"
"As far as we can tell, they have employed a few from the Fighter's guild to Protect Buckmoth Legion Garrison but apart from that no." Ovas replied, waving his hand over a large map of Vvardenfell he had stretched over the table, the corners held down by candles. Each fort, Ebonheart, Moonmoth, Wolverine Hall, Darius, Peligrad and Buckmooth were marked by large red crosses. The fear that the Empire could employ the mages guild, or possibly even the Telvanni to protect them had been elevated when the Mages Guild declared, not officially, that because they were a multi racial society they would side with no one. The Telvanni had said nothing, but they always said nothing to a topic they couldn't give a toss about.
"What sort of numbers are we expecting to face?" Ashkhan of the Zaniab, Kaushad. Wildly known as an idiotic playboy, but had settled down with a Telvanni noble's daughter about a year ago.
"Should be minimal." Ovas replied. "According to our spies, the populace of the all the forts has been halved. I reckon about 300 to 350 imperial legionaries are left in Morrowind. " A soft murmur emitted around them all, apart from the Wise woman Sinnammu Mirpal, who was representing her clan since the Ahemmusa had no ashkhan.
"That's all very well." She said in an impatient tone. "But tell us, will Neravar reborn be aiding us in this venture?" Ovas was silent for a moment.
"I spoke to him yesterday, and he agreed to join us." He replied, standing up from his head, the tips of his fingers resting on the table. Everyone seemed pleased by this new of course,
"I'm sensing a but…" The wise woman said keenly, leaning forward.
"But, in order to secure his allegiance I had to agree to two conditions."
Balthazar's ultimatums had not been popular…
When Ovas was sure most of the night had elapsed, An Argonian came into the Inn. Balthazar had made now attempt to disguise himself, dressed in his famous Argonian adapted Deadric armour. The boots of the armour had been adapted to fit over the large, arched feet of the lizard men and the helm had been bent into shape to fit a Argonian snout. Over his tail, several pieces of the black metal had been fitted together by hinges as a sort of rear guard. Fitted into a sheath on his left hand side was the glowing Deadric claymore Ovas had seen at his manor. The blade was known around Vvardenfell as Elemental, the first Deadric Blade to be enchanted in Morrowind. A blade used by Neravar himself at one time, long before the battle of Red Mountain.
(Made up weapon, my first enchantment)
By now, everyone apart from Shrenk, themselves and a few guards were the only ones there. The guard were half asleep, expecting for the early morning shift to come and relieve them.
"Hope I didn't keep you waiting." Balathazar said with a flick of his wrist. For an Argonian, Balathazar was very well spoken, his speech craft fluent and swift. Hardly anything like the literal translated words of his Argonian brothers. "Ah Shrenk. Is he home?" The Red guard gave a glance out the window at the black night.
"Probably, it is near dawn." Ovas and his body guard rose from the table.
"Good." He turned to the Argonian as he softly padded into the room. Balthazar's helm had a kagouti like frill protecting his neck. Several large horns sprouting out at each end. Shrenk came out from behind the pair, holding a key in his right hand.
"Follow me please." The Red Guard lead them up the stairs past the guard, who watched them all carefully.
"Your friend will have to wait here." Balathazar said once they'd reached the top of the stairs. Ovas and his Bodyguard exchanged glances, before Ovas himself nodded and his companion stayed were he was. Ovas saw more of the Imperial banners when they ascended to the second floor, and even more once they climbed up another to the highest floor in the Inn. Ovas could not wait to see the day when he could tear them down and burn them in front of a cheering crowd. The third floor was a landing, with a long corridor leading down toward a single door at the far end. They walked slowly toward it. The door was an ordinary sort, nothing special to note about it, but for some reason Ovas could feel it's tension. As if what lay beyond strained against the wood work, but intentionally, but by it's radiating presence alone, distorted the general feel of reality.
"Your friend.." He began, turning towards the Argonian. "Think you can tell me exactly who he is now?" Balthazar game him a coy look before answering.
"I met the man outside Ghost Gate of all places." He laughed slightly. "He was waiting there, standing just outside the gates. An impressive figure for anyone to behold.
As I approached him, he drew his blade. A long claymore, the metal as black of Deadric but engraved with green runes not red.. He told me that had been sent by Azura, and that the only way I could progress to Red Mountain was to defeat him in combat, for if I could not best him, then I would never conquer Dagoth Ur and his followers." Ovas stared, conserving the small story with some thought. "Well, since I'm standing here now, you can tell exactly who won."
Shrenk put the key in the lock, hesitated for a moment, before unlocking the room. Then, quickly he retracted the key and fled, vanishing downstairs before either of them could say anything. It was then Ovas was beginning to think that he really would like his bodyguard here.
Balthazar paused, his hand resting on the door's handle. He turned to look the Dumner straight in the eyes.
"Once we're past this door, I'd let me do the talking if I were you." Ovas raised an eye brown questioningly. "My…friend…" He continued, carefully picking his way on the word Friend. "Is extremely temperamental." With that, he pushed the door open, the oak panels swinging inward.
The room was a large bedroom, probably to be shared by a group of people. A bunk bed stood in the far left hand side corner. Several closest, chests of drawers and cabinets stood in various places around the room. A drinks raw stood next to the bed, several bottles of wine sitting in their containers. Candles lit the room, some on the cabinets and other from a wooden chandelier that hung from the arched roof. Two tables stood in the centre of the room, covered in different varies of arrows. Steal Arrows, Iron arrows, Silver Arrows, Wasting Spark Arrows, and so on. On the next table were an assortment of bows, cross bows and short bows. The owner of this room was obviously an archer of some sort. Every piece of wood from the furniture to the ceiling rafters was made out of imported Imperial pine.
"I see no one." Ovas said, looking around in puzzled. Balathazar however remained transfixed.
"Oh, he's here alright." He replied, drawing Elemental with the loud hiss. As if brought to life by the blades presence, the room was imbuing with life. Nothing moved however, but the radiating presence was felt just the same. Ovas began to wonder if leaving his body guard downstairs was a good idea. "Stay close." Balthazar muttered. "And leave the talking to me." Soft whispers began drifting out of the dark corners, condensing quickly in a strong, undeniable, disembodied voice.
"What do you want?" It demanded angrily.
"To make you an offer." Balthazar replied, stepping forward into the room. Ovas remained perfectly still, trying to find the speaker. But found that his eyes failed to see anyone other than themselves. The voice broke into a soft, humoured laughter. Every shadow now seemed to be stirring, like it alive, dancing like the flames of a wild camp fire.
"An offer." It repeated, sounding amused. "You have nothing I desire, be gone." Ovas remained comatose, scared although he would never admit it, out of his skin.
"What we come to offer you is not of material procession." Balthazar quickened added, making his presence known by drawing Elemental, the illuminating glow of the blade dulling the vicious atmosphere of the room. "We come to offer you vengeance." The voice remained silent for a while, as if contemplating the words. During which time, Ovas edged closer to the Argonian.
"Balthazar, what manner of creature are you conversing with?" Balthazar looked back over his shoulder casually. Before he could reply however, the voice spoke again…
"I require far more than simple vengeance." Balthazar appeared somewhat uneasy at that point, hesitating for a moment before replying.
"Whatever hunger gnaws at you, our cause will satisfy it."
"What cause?" The voice was growing harsher, becoming displeased with the whole conversation. Every shadow had increased in size, holding the illusion of a tarrying monster hiding in every crevice.
"The eviction of the empire." Ovas blurted out before he could help himself. Forgetting the warning Balthazar had given him. The sudden change brought over the room, the shadows now came to life, left the sheltered crevices and spaces behind the furniture and speed across the room, defying the light. They raced past Balthazar before the Argonian could lit a finger to stop it. Ovas stood rooted to the spot, completely petrified, helpless to stop the darkness as it convulsed on him. Like a swarm of Korma foragers, sliding, slithering, crawling around him, before sliding into one and materialising in a burst of material. Before Ovas could scream, a hand clamped itself over his mouth, silencing him. His eyes wide open in fear, now stared at the creature they had been speaking with, revealed in it's true form. Another Dumner, dressed in an entire set of Netch leather armour. Several daggers were tied by pieces of string to his gauntlets. A long bow, probably a steal longbow slid into a sheath on his back. His hair was raven black and arranged in a sleek side parting, two large pointed ears lancing almost upwards. However, Ovas could see the pair of fangs in his mouth, the blank white eyes and the pale skin around the cheeks. He was a vampire…
The glowing tip of Elemental passed underneath his throat. Balthazar held his weapon there for several seconds, gently tapping the vampire's skin to let him know exactly where this situation would unfold out if he did not release his prey. The vampire shut his mouth, his fangs disappearing. The gave Ovas a very stern glare.
"Scream, and you'll be dead before you hit the floor." The vampire whispered to him, before gently releasing him. Ovas pulled away hard, breathing hard, backing up against the closed door. "Move your blade." Balthazar chuckled at the vampire's short words, before sheathing Elemental.
"Ovas, my I introduce, Shadow." He stated, stepping quickly between the two of them. The two Dumner stared each other down.
"Balthazar, I'm surprised at you. Talking with this unholy creature." Ovas said, still in shock. Shadow invaded Ovas' personally space, glaring at him angrily.
"Do NOT push your luck!" Ovas reached for his sword, but was deterred by a warning glance from Balthazar. Due to the markings and runes like tattoos running down the left hand side of his face, Ovas could tell that his…Shadow…was a member of the Berne Clan. Vampires that specialise in the arts of stealth. But the long claws on the edge of each of his fingers showed he was odiously also an ancient. Vampires that have…lived…for at least several centuries.
"Ovas Dren. I know that name." The vampire circled Ovas from a distance of a few feet, inspecting him with a critical eye. Ovas felt enraged that this unholy creature thought himself so high above him as to be worthy of scepticism. "Leader of the Commona tong scum. I much prefer the Morag tong to you butchers. Both of you kill, but the Morag do it far more discreetly." Ovas took it as a direct insult. Shadow turned to stare at the Argonian.
"You call on me with Elemental, to help this cause? You know there is nothing I would love more than to see the Imperial worms flee in terror. But I have seen too many failed attempts over history to even image it worth the hassle." He chuckled, folding his arms. "And who will lead you into battle?"
"I will!" Ovas proclaimed proudly. Shadow narrowed his eyes at Dren, and then a wide smile crept over his face, one fang descending out from his lips.
"This school boy! The general that fights against the empire? HA!" The vampire put his hands on his hips, shaking his head. "You'll all be slaughtered within the first five minutes." He turned, walking back into the room. "I leave you to your lost cause gentlemen." Ovas, in a rage, stepped forward nearly drawing his blade.
"You piece of filth, not only a vampire but a coward to boot!" Shadow stopped dead and slowly turned to fix him with a piercing glare. Before either Balthazar of Ovas could move, he drew his long bow, pulled back on a steal arrow that he drew from seemingly nowhere and fired the projectile towards the Dumner. It whistled back Ovas's left ear and sank deep into the wall behind him.
"I take abuse with gentle humour, but I will not tolerate accusations of cowardice." He sheathed his bow as Ovas stared, rather unsteadily at the arrow. " Your cause however will most likely leave anyone who participates dead." He smiled. "But as you can see, I am already undying."
"So you'll help us then?" Balthazar asked, coming around Shadow's side.
"I didn't say that." Shadow retreated, stepping backwards into the room, as if returning to some sanctuary. "But," He added quickly. "If along your endeavour, your are aided by the sudden and unexplainable death of your enemies, do my a favour and cast the praise in my direction." With that, he dissolved into shadow again, vanishing as the light reclaimed dominion. Quickly Balthazar pushed Dren backwards toward the doorway and once outside it, shutting the large oak door behind them. The loud blank the lock made as it clamped shut was ominously loud. The two of them remained silent for a moment.
"Well, that went as well as could be expected." Balthazar muttered, sighing wearily. Ovas shook his head.
"You have some bizarre friends." He stated, widened one eye at the relieved Argonian. "I'm surprised you even tolerate that unholy beasts presence." Balthazar laughed heartily.
"That's what I find fascinating about you dark elves, you fanatical innocence and stupidly."