"Any port in a storm," went the old outlander saying. I didn't think that they had ash storms in mind when they created that one. All the same I was grateful that I could just make out the towering, twisted spires of the old ruin just ahead.
I shielded my eyes against the stinging wind and made my way closer. Now I could see that it wasn't just any old ruin—it was a Daedric shrine that had fallen into disrepair. 'How wonderful,' I thought. 'It really is my day.'
If you don't think I'm being sarcastic, then you obviously don't know me very well. To put it in perspective, if House Redoran could throw you out just for being facetious, I'd have been banned ages ago. Still, I suppose that there's room in the world for sarcastic, slightly world-weary crusaders everywhere.
A particular ferocious gust of wind blew more yellow-gray ash into my hair and face. My eyes would be even redder than they normally were by the time I got inside. It's part of being a dark elf. Sometimes I'd wondered what it'd be like to have green or blue or even brown eyes. Maybe if I got out of this ash storm alive, I'd go to the Mage's guild and find out. I was sure that Ajira had some potion or magic unguent that could do the trick.
That's another thing about me: I ramble. Dark elves are not known for being especially talkative, even amongst their own kind. Outlanders find me charming, if rather longwinded, but amongst my own, I'm known as chatty at best and annoyingly talkative at worst.
"Questions, always the questions!" Skink-In-Tree's-Shade had grumbled at me once when I'd asked one or two (well, all right, closer to ten) questions about Daedra, Daedric shrines, and so on. The old Argonian had fixed me with a baleful golden eye before asking "What, is this Dunmer girl writing the book, then?"
"No, not really, Skink. I'm just curious." And bored. None of my guilds—Mages, Fighters, or House Redoran—had any jobs for me at the moment. And Caius Cosades was just a boring old Imperial coot, though I supposed that one day I ought to get off my little gray backside and deliver that package of papers to him.
He glowered even more—you've not been glared at until you've been glared at by a cranky, always-doing-something-of utmost-importance wizard—and said "Humph. You want the location of shrines to raid. You wish to see the Daedra. Take an old lizard's advice, girl: stick to looking at them in books."
What could I do? I thanked him politely, and, after visiting some used bookstores and offering the occasional bribe here and there, I had the information I wanted. Daedra were absolutely, positively, and under all over circumstances Not To Be Trifled With.
I decided to visit Ald'Ruhn instead.
Nothing like a nice, boring, House Redoran controlled town to make a girl feel safe and sound. But then this stupid ash storm had started up, and since it's really hard to see with ash and dust blowing around and turning the sky the colour of week-old urine and making it hard to breathe and most likely giving me some kind of blight disease in the process, I managed to get myself quite lost.
I glared up at the shrine as if it were the cause of the storm and made my way up the low rise upon which it stood. Isn't it funny how life works sometimes? I'd originally planned to make a visit to a Daedric shrine, but after I'd come to understand just how dangerous they really were, I'd changed my mind and decided to visit Ald'Ruhn.
Then this ash storm crops up, I get lost, and guess what? There's a Daedric shrine towering over me, erected to Vivec only knew which dark deity. "Funny how life works, all right. I just hope that there's not a bunch of Sheogorath worshippers in here."
Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness, had followers that were nuttier than the holiday cakes given out by the Temple during the Sun's Dawn festivals. Some of them were merely harmless eccentrics, but some were quite bizarre and many were dangerous. I'd heard stories of Orcs who thought they were Khajiit, Argonians who were convinced that Netches brought them cake and tea, mad Emperors, wood elves living in houses made of the bones of passersby, and worse. I looked heavenward. "Vivec, if You're taking special requests today, then I humbly ask that I not have to deal with any followers of the Mad God today. Thank You."
There was no answer from the great Warrior-Poet. However, the ash storm did seem to be letting up a little. A moment later, I caught sight of something moving amongst the tumbled down walls of the shrine. Apparently, Daedra weren't bothered by ash storms, nor did they need to worry about blight. Bully for them.
I moved closer, keeping a careful eye as much as possible on the ash-blurred whatzit in the ruins. It looked too small to be an Ogrim or a Storm Atronach, which was good, but I still couldn't tell what, exactly, I was dealing with, which was bad.
The winds shifted and died down a little more. Patches of the blue sky overhead were beginning to show through now. I could have moved on, but ash storms are notoriously unpredictable. Just when you think one has ended, another one can start in its place.
I was so busy studying the sky that I neglected to keep watch on whatever was moving about in the ruins. This was a mistake.
Something strong and sticky struck my sword arm, pinning it immediately to my side. Another strand of the same white filaments slapped into a section of the wall next to me. I struggled, pulling hard against the thick strands, but I only succeeded in entangling myself further. 'Great. I get through the ash storm only to get eaten by a giant spider.'
"Well, well, what have we here? It looks…tasty. And pretty. Pretty tasty!" A harsh cackle followed.
Wonderful. I was about to be eaten by a giant, talking spider. Well, if it talks, you can reason with it, my grandfather always said. "Um, I really don't taste all that good, I don't think."
"Nonsense! All mortals are tasty, didn't you know that?" The dark shape emerged from behind a large carved pillar. From the thing's waist up, it looked like a handsome male. Where its legs would be was the body of a large spider. It leered at me, apparently unable to decide whether to have me for dinner or something else entirely.
Oh yes, it was definitely my day. I was about to be eaten, and worse, by a Spider Daedra. "I'm really not. I mean, I have Blight! Oh, and um, Corprus. You may not see it, but even now, I'm getting all twisty and lumpy and gross." Shifted into what I hoped was a convincing portrayal of a Corprus victim. I even drooled. "Uhhhhngggh…"
The Spider Daedra only grinned. "Oh, don't be silly. Daedra can't get Blight disease. And we can't get Corprus, either." He looked me over, making me feel like if I ever got out of this mess, I would need to be flayed alive to ever feel clean again.
He began to caper in his obscene glee, seeming to dance on his eight legs. I closed my eyes tightly. I couldn't bear to look at him any more. "I can't decide if I want to fuck you first, then have you for dinner, or kill you, and then have your corpse. "Oh, decisions! So many choices. Am I hungry, or am I horny?"
The Spider Daedra began making a series of nasty, gurgling groans that I could only assume were sounds of lust and hunger. I didn't want to see whatever expression he had now, and so I kept my eyes shut.
That was not the voice of my captor. I opened my eyes. The vile creature was dead in a twisted heap at my feet, blood pouring from a wound in its back and another matching it in its chest. It gasped and twitched as its spirit passed from its earthbound form back to Oblivion. Standing over the fallen Spider Daedra was a Dremora.
The powerful war spirit calmly cleaned the other Daedra's blood from his ebony longsword with a silken cloth. He didn't glance my way at all, seemingly intent on what he was doing. Finished with his task, he sheathed his blade.
"Thank you," I told him in a not quite steady voice.
The Dremora nodded. He pulled a dagger from his belt and went to work on the sticky webbing that still bound me to the pillar.
"My name is Alaunel Mithryr. What's yours?"
The Dremora did not answer. He merely continued cutting me free. From what little I knew of Dremora, they valued honor, courtesy, and valor. The Daedra who'd accosted me had exhibited none of those traits, thus incurring the Dremora's wrath.
Unfazed by his lack of responsiveness, I chattered on. "I've heard of your kind, but I never thought I'd meet one. At least not peaceably. I always figured that if I did, we'd have a big fight and I'd possibly lose. I'd never thought that one would come to my rescue."
At this, the Dremora looked me in the eye. "I acted as the laws of chivalry require, mortal. You were an armed opponent, but the Spider Daedra attacked you in a cowardly and dishonorable fashion. And, he was most ill mannered. My Clan does not tolerate rudeness, or dishonorable behavior." He finished and sheathed his dagger.
"Hmm, yes, of course. Wouldn't the laws of chivalry also require that if someone introduces herself, you do the same in return?"
The Dremora gave me a look that would have withered a statue of Mehrunes Dagon himself, but only said, "My name, mortal, is Shal'ir Kamaya. Now go. These ruins are no place for someone such as yourself."
"In case you didn't notice," I told him, gesturing at the storm still whooping and blowing about us, "there's still an ash storm going on. I thought it was going to clear off, but apparently, I was wrong. In fact, that's how this bastard took me by surprise. I was looking at the sky, because it seemed like the storm might clear off. Then it attacked me. The Spider Daedra, not the storm. Anyway—"
"Do you always talk this much?" Though the Dremora's face betrayed no such emotion, I thought I caught a flash of amusement in its slightly rasping voice.
"Well, not always. But often."
"How wonderful for me. Very well, mortal. Accompany me inside to wait out the storm. But do not stray from my presence. There are other Daedra about, and they will not regard you as anything but an intruder."
"And how do you regard me?" I couldn't resist asking.
"As a nuisance that I shall be glad to rid myself of. Come, before I change my mind." He led the way inside.