Ghidorah God: I know that the only requirement in lore is Akatosh going 'This mortal, I like them, I'll turn them into a dragon person to show that I like them. I am smart' but, try though I might, when I write a fanfic I always go a little off to the side in terms of lore. I've changed it slightly so that it's also a blood thing. Akatosh still decided he liked Folkvar the most. Plus, I only kinda sorta have this whole thing planned and it's actually a really bad thing to write and post without knowing exactly where you're going. I've dug myself this hole and now I'll have to lie in it. (Just in case you couldn't tell, that was a malaphor on purpose.)
Guest who posted on April 2: I didn't think you were being impatient, I just wanted to sound cool. I guess now is as good a time as any to say that I'm planning on going beyond the main quest and make four sequels based off of the Dawnguard DLC, Dragonborn DLC, and Ocarina of Time (gotta kick Ganon's butt), plus an alternate spin-off where Folkvar dies fighting Alduin and Link goes to live with the Companions. I said 'Wait' so dramatically because I'll have to write them in order, so this story will have to be finished before those can come out. (Also, saying Folkvar doesn't die in the Main Quest officially does not mean he, or anyone else, if safe beyond that point.) I have done something with the Dark Brotherhood, but similar to what I've done with lore. I've dug myself a hole. This one I'll have to try to get out of, though. I'll burn that bridge when I get to it. No Mage's Quest, sadly. It would have been a good idea, now that I think about it, since then I'd have all three classes, Warrior (Folkvar), Mage (died in character birth), and Thief (technically assassin, but whatever). Then I'd have a complete set. Link can be his own special class: comedic relief and witty one liners. But instead of talking, he communicates in grunts and interpretative dance.
Keiser: Link will get a human buddy eventually, but very eventually. I do like the idea of a three person group from the get go, but I killed Freya and she's the only one I wanted to travel with them. But she can't, because she's dead. I have so many adorable head canons with her and Folkvar but I'm stupid. I've dug myself so many holes I might as well put on a costume, call myself Pot Hole Girl, and start my life of crime, digging holes in the middle of roads while playing 'Dig It Up' from Holes in the background.
Enough with this Author's note and on to the actual reason why y'all are here.
Folkvar had only waited an hour for Colette to let him back into her workspace and it had felt like the most agonizing eternity anyone could have possibly felt. Not knowing whether Link, his son, his family, would live of die stretched time out infinitely and for every second it went on the more hopeless he felt Link's plight was. Folkvar had seen how quickly Link slipped into the fever and now he was all but comatose. Folkvar had paced back and forth countless times and he would have walked a rut into the stone floor had Colette not burst from her study frantically, sweat on her forehead from the exertion of casting such powerful healing spells.
"I did my best but... I'm losing him," Colette lamented. "I thought you'd like to be with him. Before..."
Folkvar was in the room before she could finish saying the words he feared most. Folkvar collapsed by the small cot where Link lay motionless. His breath was so shallow and every faint inhale was so far apart from the nest, he had all but stopped breathing. Despite the sweat pouring down his face, he was so cold. Folkvar held Link's hand once more and cupped the boy's face in the other. Link's birthmark was glowing but it was steadily growing fainter. Folkvar didn't want to think about what was happening to Link, but it consumed his mind.
"Link?" Folkvar whispered, his voice quavering and breaking with tears. "Please, son, come back." He stroked Link's face, grateful that at least there was no evidence of pain on his face. "It's too soon for you to die. You've still got so much more to live for. You still have to see Zelda again and you still have to go home, to Hyrule. Your people still need you, son. I still need you. Link, you're the best son I could have asked for and believe me, Freya and I spent no few amount of nights praying for a child we couldn't have. And after all these years, I found you and you brought joy back into my life. You have this gift, lad. I don't think you know it but you brighten any room you go in and your smile can light even the darkest of times. To hear you laugh, son... Please, please don't die. I love you so much, Link, please."
But Link didn't stir. He didn't open his eyes or make a sound. He remained still and unresponsive, the color draining from his face. "Oh gods, please, please don't take my boy. Don't take my boy." Folkvar gripped Link's hand tightly and wept. He embraced Link in his arms, holding him tight and rocking back and forth. "Please, Link, don't die. Don't be dead, please."
Link was rooted. A void even darker than the darkness and more shrouded than the fog rushed at him from all sides. He didn't know what to do or where to go or how to make the world around him cease collapsing long enough for him to find a way out of the woods and back to the land of the living, where Folkvar was. To make it worse, Ganondorf's laugh echoed around him in such a great cacophony that it tortured Link's ears and gave him a splitting headache, to the point where he could no longer take it and it began to drive him mad.
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" Link screamed, finally finding it in him to move, if only to fall to his knees and cover his ears, but it was a mistake.
Link looked at his hands in horror to find the skin and flesh flaking off in rotten chunks, revealing sinuous bones. There wasn't any blood and the parts of him falling away were blue and green and brown. The flesh had been long dead. Link was rotting before his eyes.
"No, no, no," Link panicked, holding his decaying arms under his armpits. Link could feel his chest decay as fast as his hands and arms, but he couldn't bring himself to look down and see his shirt as it turned ragged. He could see flakes of his clothes flitting around him like pieces of burnt paper. "Please stop, please." Link sobbed, rocking back and forth. he tried to close his eyes, but his eyelids were already gone. Soon, he'd be just a skeleton. "Pa, please help me. I don't want to die. Pa, Pa, Please. Folkvar, help me."
"Link," the unfamiliar, ethereal voice of a woman broke through the echoing laugh, alleviating the pain in Link's head and eardrums. "Brave, kind Link."
"Who's there?" Link whispered, thankful his lips still worked.
"You don't know me," the voice answered. "You came into this world long after I had left it behind."
"How could you know me?" Link asked, slowly calming from his distress. The voice was so soothing and warm, motherly even. But Link had heard his mother's voice in the dream he had of her dying to get him to safety and this was not her.
"You need to wake up," the voice ignored Link's question. "It isn't your time, Link."
"It feels like is it right now," Link whimpered. "I don't know how to wake up. I just want it to stop."
"Follow the light."
Link looked up and saw a blue light that was painfully familiar, but the voice did not belong to that light, either.
"Navi?" Link's voice broke and he staggered to his feet. Ganondorf's laughing stopped all together. "Navi, are you real?" He moved towards the light, but it flitted just out of his reach, annoyingly silent. The closer Link got to the light, the farther away it drifted, ever out of his reach. "Don't leave me, Navi!"
"Link, run!" The voice urged.
The crumbling woods around him was frozen in its decay, chunks of dirt of all sizes floated in the air, slowly rising up to the gray sky. Trees leaned at odd angles, at varying degrees of height, both sinking below the natural ground level and drifting lazily above him like tree shaped clouds; like sky tumbleweeds.
The light teased him, bouncing up and down at different points, just like Navi did when she was pointing something out to him. Link scrambled over lumps of displaced earth and ran along the trunks of fallen trees. He ignored his skeletal hands and tattered clothes, until he noticed that the faster he ran and the closer he got to the light, the more alive he became. If he caught the light, he'd wake up, or at least be one step closer.
Link ran down the log of a slowly turning tree, suspended in space, with the grace and skill only found in a Kokiri. But Link was not a Kokiri, he didn't have a fairy, and he was slowly passing away. His foot slipped on a branch that turned right into his path and he fell down the side of the tree with a startled shout. Before he fell into the void below him, he managed to grab the offending branch in both hands and he held on for dear life, the subject of the hour.
The tree was still spinning and it wasn't going in a direction that was in Link's favor. His muscle started to entropy again as the light started to move from his line of sight. Link called for it to come back. He struggled to pull himself up. But he didn't have the strength and what strength he did have was leaving him fast. He closed his eyes to squeeze the forming tears out of them. But as soon as the world became dark, he snapped his eyes back open. He'd seen faces on the back of his eye lids. Three faces. Two were the forsworn he had killed and the faces that haunted his dreams, but it was the third face that startled him into a panic. The third face belonged to Ganondorf, as he had been when he attacked Link and Zelda in the Temple of Time.
"Link, move," the voice returned with desperate urgency. "There isn't much time!"
The voice's urgency coupled with the panic of seeing Ganondorf's face after so long of being able to hide from it and the terror it caused him snapped Link back into action. He willed himself back up on his feet and back after the light that was farther away than it ever had been. Link would be hard pressed to reach it in time. The world around him was still disintegrating and he had less ground to move along, but he wouldn't give up again. He couldn't give up. Hyrule needed him. Folkvar needed him.
"Zelda, Folkvar, Saria, Navi, I promise won't die," Link vowed. "I promise to stay alive and I promise to save you. I will make it out of this. I am not afraid!"
Link continued his chase with a new vigor. Once again, the more he ran the stronger he became and the faster he could go. Link jumped farther than he ever had and he swung from branches with more agility than he ever had. And the light got closer, almost as if it was slowing down, but Link knew it was him speeding up. There was little to nothing left of the world when Link finally got close enough to make a grab for the light. With one final leap into the void, Link stretched out his left arm and grasped with the tips of his fingers, but he missed.
"No!" Link screamed, flailing his arms. He fell into the void and in a desperate act of fate, his right hand swung around and graced the light. The world around him faded.
Colette tried to sooth Folkvar's pain as he cried on Link's chest, but in his grief he couldn't let him go. He refused to leave Link or let Link leave him, even if it was all too evident he already had. Or so it seemed, for Link was all but dead.
Until he lurched back to life with a sharp intake of breath, his eyes snapping open and his arms twitching back to life. He was disorientated and hyperventilating, which might not be healthy, but it was a huge improvement to not breathing at all.
"Link?" Folkvar grabbed Link's arms. His voice brought Link down from his panic, anchoring him in the world of the living.
"Pa!" Link tried to sit up, but it made him dizzy. "Pa, I thought I was going to die! It was so scary! Ganondorf, he cursed me. I don't know how he managed to reach me from this far. It it was definitely him though because I could hear him in my head. It was a nightmare. It was dark and then it was scary and then I was dying. I was so afraid. Pa, I was so afraid."
"I know, Link," Folkvar held Link in his arms and tried to steady his own breathing. "You're safe now. You're alive."
"Pa, were you crying?" Link asked, stunned that someone as strong as Folkvar could cry.
"Of course I was crying," Folkvar held Link away from him so he could look him in the eyes. "I thought I'd lost you. You were so still it looked like you were dead."
"Sorry," Link looked down, ashamed he had scared Folkvar so badly. "I won't do it again."
"You'd better not, or I'm sending you home," Folkvar smiled. "You scared me half to death."
"I think I was more scared to death," Link claimed. "You know, since I almost died."
"How?" Colette asked, disbelief painted on every part of her. "You were gone. That curse was so powerful not even I could break it and I'm the best healer in Skyrim. I should know since I am the Restoration Master at the College, not that anyone else cares."
"I think it was a set of trials," Link explained. "I had to overcome something to get past it and I guess Ganondorf thought they'd be too hard for me. They almost were. I think it was, not stupidity, ignorance, I think. Since the first test it was dark and I didn't know anything. I had to try really hard to remember and then I finally came up with a complete though to get out. Then fear or maybe doubt. I was attacked by a demon that looked exactly like me except it didn't have eyes. It screamed at me and when it talked it referred to both of us. I almost... I almost fell for it and started talking like the demon, but... I managed to kill it and escape. Then the place in my mind where I was started to fall apart around me. I think that one was death itself, because I started to decompose and turn into a skeleton and I had to follow a light but the world was falling apart and the light was so fast. I just managed to reach it as the last of the world disappeared. And then I woke up."
"Fascinating," Colette moved towards Link and started examining him, opening his eyes wide with her hands and inspecting his mouth. "I would like to study this further. Perhaps I would finally get the funding I deserve. Restoration is a valid magic, I'll have you know and I do not get the respect I deserve. If I could document what you've been through from a medical perspective, if you could go through it in more details..."
"Pa, I don't," Link pulled away from the healer and closer to Folkvar. "That was as much as I could talk about. I don't want to think about it anymore."
"I appreciate all you did for us," Folkvar helped Link to his feet, which were fortunately strong underneath him despite what he'd just been through. "But we didn't come here for this. This happened on the way. We're here for an Elder Scroll."
"I knew you needed a healer," Colette backed off and straightened her clothes. "But I didn't know you were crazy as well! There are no Elder Scrolls in this college!"
"Would the Lore-Keeper know anything?" Link asked, not wanting to slow down their search just because he hit a rough patch. There wasn't time for him to sit down and rest, not when the world could end at any second. "Would he know where one is?"
"You can ask him, I suppose," Colette frowned. "But Elder Scrolls are dangerous things. I hope you know what getting into."
"Thank you, we'll consider your words," Folkvar reassured her. "Where is the library?"
"The Arcaneum is the door to the right when entering the Hall of Elements," Colette answered begrudgingly. "That's the place where I was giving my lecture before you came to me for help. Urag gro-Shub is very strict so make sure you don't damage any of the books."
"We won't," Link said earnestly.
"Thank you, for everything," Folkvar nodded to her before they left for the Arcaneum, which was not something he did lightly. "I don't know what I would have done without your help."
"Make sure you tell my colleagues about it," Colette said as they left. "Divines know I need the respect."
The Arcaneum was full of books, which was to be expected of a library. But neither of them had been prepared for the sheer amount of them. There were books of all sizes scattered everywhere. The numerous book shelves couldn't contain all of the books and they overflowed onto the tables, chairs, steps, ledges, and even the floor. The books varied in age, use, and size. They went from everywhere to thick with frayed covers and spines to thin journals still smelling of fresh ink and leather. A few even had blood stains on them.
Link, with his small passion for books, felt overwhelmed by the desire to flip through as many of the books he could get a hold on. But they were there for a very specific reason and he had caused enough delay already.
The Lore-Keeper, Urag gro-Shub, an old Orc with gray hair and a knotted beard, was eyeing them suspiciously. They didn't look like the most scholarly pair with their swords and traveling clothes. Link reached for a book sitting on a table but stopped when Urag cleared his throat and glared right at him from behind his desk.
"I don't want to see you treating any of these books poorly, are we clear?"
"Yes, sir," Link said, shying behind Folkvar.
"This is quite the impressive library," Folkvar noted.
"A mage is only as good as what they know. I try to make knowledge as available as possible for them. We've been keeping this collection since the Second Era. Books have gone and come during that time, but it's mostly intact."
"You must have many unique and valuable documents. You wouldn't happen to grave an Elder Scroll?"
"If I did, what would you plan to do with it? Do you even know what you're asking about, or are you just someone's errand boy?"
"Do I look like an errand boy?"
"You look like hired muscle."
"I know what I'm talking about. Do you have one or not?"
"You think that even I did have one here I would let you see it? It would be kept under the highest security. The greatest thief in the world wouldn't be able to lay a finger on it."
"I'm not a thief, I'm the Dragonborn," Folkvar once more had to pull his trump card out of his pocket. Something as big as an Elder Scroll required no less.
"What about..." Urag hesitated for a minute and looked at Folkvar a little harder. "Wait. Are you the one the Graybeards were calling?"
"I'll bring everything we have about them, but it's not much. So don't get your hopes up. It's mostly lies leavened with rumor and conjecture." He went to the bookshelf behind and to the right of his desk and pulled out a ring of keys. He fingered through them until he found the one he was looking for. He pulled two books, one red and one green, out and brought them to Folkvar and placed them on the desk. "Here you go. Try not to spill anything on them."
Folkvar grabbed the red one and Link took the green one. They went to one of the smaller, more well lit tables littered around the Arcaneum and began flipping their their books, hoping to find something about where to find the Elder Scroll they were looking for.
Folkvar's book, the Effects of the Elder Scrolls, by Justinius Poluhnius, was exactly what he expected it to be.
It is widely known among scholars that the Elder Scrolls entail a certain hazard in their very reading. The mechanism of the effects has, at present, been largely unknown—theories of hidden knowledge and divine retribution were the subject of idle speculation with little investigation.
I, Justinius Poluhnius, have undertaken to thoroughly document the ailments afflicted by the Elder Scrolls on their readers, though a unified theory of how they manifest continues to elude me and remains a subject for future study.
I have grouped the effects into four, finding that the avenue of experience depends largely upon the mind of the reader. If this is unclear, I hope that a proper dichotomy will lay it plain.
Group the First: The Naifs
For one who has received no training in the history or nature of the Elder Scrolls, the scroll itself is, effectively, inert. No prophecy can be scried nor knowledge obtained. While the scroll will not impart learning to the uninformed, nor will it afflict them in any adverse fashion. Visually, the scroll will appear to be awash in odd lettering and symbols. Those who know their astronomy often claim to recognize constellations in the patterns and connections, but such conjecture is impossible to further investigate since the very nature of this study necessitates unlearned subjects.
Group the Second: The Unguarded Intellects
It is this second group that realizes the greatest danger from attempting to read the scrolls. These are subjects who have an understanding of the nature of the Elder Scrolls and possess sufficient knowledge to actually read what is inscribed there. They have not, however, developed adequate discipline to stave off the mind-shattering effect of having a glimpse of infinity. These unfortunate souls are struck immediately, irrevocably, and completely blind. Such is the price for overreaching one's faculties. It bears mentioning, though, that with the blindness also comes a fragment of that hidden knowledge—whether the future, the past, or the deep natures of being is dependent on the individual and their place in the greater spheres. But the knowledge does come.
Group the Third: Mediated Understanding
Alone in Tamriel, it would appear that only the Cult of the Ancestor Moth has discovered the discipline to properly guard one's mind when reading the scrolls. Their novitiates must undergo the most rigorous mental cultivation, and they often spend a decade or more at the monastery before being allowed to read their first Elder Scroll. The monks say this is for the initiates' own protection, as they must have witnessed many Unguarded Intellects among their more eager ranks. With appropriate fortitude, these readers also receive blindness, though at a far lesser magnitude than the Unguarded. Their vision fogs slightly, but they retain shape, color, and enough acuity to continue to read mundane texts. The knowledge they gain from the scroll is also tempered somewhat—it requires stages of meditation and reflection to fully appreciate and express what one saw.
Group the Fourth: Illuminated Understanding
Between the previous group and this one exists a continuum that has, at present, only been traversed by the monks of the Ancestor Moth. With continued readings the monks become gradually more and more blind, but receive greater and more detailed knowledge. As they spend their waking hours pondering the revelations, they also receive a further degree of mental fortitude. There is, for every monk, a day of Penultimate Reading, when the only knowledge the Elder Scroll imparts is that the monk's next reading shall be his last.
For each monk the Penultimate Reading comes at a different and unknowable time—preliminary work has been done to predict the occurrence by charting the severity of an individual monk's blindness, but all who reach these later stages report that the increasing blindness seems to taper with increased readings. Some pose the notion that some other, unseen, sense is, in fact, continuing to diminish at this upper range, but I shall leave such postulations to philosophers.
To prepare for his Ultimate Reading, a monk typically withdraws to seclusion in order to reflect upon a lifetime of revelations and appoint his mind for reception of his last. Upon this final reading, he is forever blinded as sure as those Unguarded ones who raced to knowledge. The Illuminated one, though, has retained his understanding over a lifetime and typically possesses a more integral notion of what has been revealed to him.
It is hoped that this catalog will prove useful to those who wish to further our mortal understanding of the Elder Scrolls. The Moth priests remain aloof about these matters, taking the gradual debilitation that comes with reading as a point of pride. May this serve as a useful starting point for those hoping to take up such study.
The book went into deeper details in later chapters, but Folkvar couldn't read anymore. The fact that he could go blind by trying to read the very scroll that could give him an edge over Alduin scared him. Even if he did learn this shout, how would he fight a dragon with it if he became blind in the process. He may be the Dragonborn and as such was gifted with magical abilities he did not understand, but he didn't feel like he was in Justinius Poluhnius's third or fourth group, which would protect him from the blinding effect. He was almost certain he'd fall into the first or second category. According to this book, He would either fail to gain anything from the scroll at all, which would leave him defenseless against Alduin, or gain the knowledge he needed to defeat this great evil at the cost of his sight, which would severely handicap him not just in the final confrontation, but for the rest of his life.
He was pulled from his dark, worrisome thoughts by Link making many small, confused noises as the boy flipped back and forth through his book, growing increasingly more distressed.
"What's wrong, lad?" Folkvar closed his book, not wanting to see the word 'blind' scrawled in ink anymore.
"This book makes no sense," Link moaned. "Listen to this." Link stopped flipping through the pages and stopped somewhere in the middle. He read the selected excerpt out loud, but quietly. They were in a library.
Imagine living beneath the waves with a strong-sighted blessing of most excellent fabric. Holding the fabric over your gills, you would begin to breathe-drink its warp and weft. Though the plantmatter fibers imbue your soul, the wretched plankton would pollute the cloth until it stank to heavens of prophecy. This is one manner in which the Scrolls first came to pass, but are we the sea, or the breather, or the fabric? Or are we the breath itself?
Can we flow through the Scrolls as knowledge flow through, being the water, or are we the stuck morass of sea-filth that gathers on the edge?
Imagine, again this time but different. A bird cresting the wind is lifted by a gust and downed by a stone. But the stone can come from above, if the bird is upside down.
Where, then, did the gust come from? And which direction? Did the gods send either, or has the bird decreed their presence by her own mindmaking?
The all-sight of the Scrolls makes a turning of the mind such that relative positions are absolute in their primacy.
I ask you again to imagine for me. This time you are beneath the ground, a tiny acorn planted by some well-meaning elf-maiden of the woodlands for her pleasure. You wish to grow but fear what you may become, so you push off the water, the dirt, the sun, to stay in your hole. But it is in the very pushing that you become a tree, in spite of yourself. How did that happen?
The acorn is a kind of tree-egg in this instance, and the knowledge is water and sun. We are the chicken inside the egg, but also the dirt. The knowledge from the Scrolls is what we push against to become full-sighted ourselves.
One final imagining before your mind closes from the shock of ever-knowing. You are now a flame burning bright blue within a vast emptiness. In time you see your brothers and sisters, burning of their own in the distance and along your side.
A sea of pinpoints, a constellation of memories. Each burns bright, then flickers. Then two more take its place but not forever lest the void fills with rancid light that sucks the thought.
Each of our minds is actually the emptiness, and the learnings of the Scrolls are the pinpoints. Without their stabbing light, my consciousness would be as a vast nothingness, unknowing its emptiness as a void is unknowing of itself. But the burnings are dangerous, and must be carefully tended and minded and brought to themselves and spread to their siblings.
"What does that even mean? He called acorns 'tree-eggs'. The only time I've ever known an acorn to actually be an egg are the ones the Deku Tree makes to make the Kokiri."
"Kokiri are hatched from acorns?"
"Yes, fully grown and with a fairy partner, but that's not the point. None of the metaphors he used can even really be described as metaphors. They're more like rambling too make it seem like he knows something when he's just blowing hot air. What's your's about. Does it make sense?"
Folkvar paused for a moment, wondering if he should tell Link that Elder Scrolls took the reader's sight. "It wasn't unintelligible but it doesn't say where to find one, just what they do."
"What do they do?"
"Nothing, don't worry about it."
"Don't... Just don't worry about it, it's not your concern."
"Let's see if the Lore-Keeper can explain this..." Folkvar took Link's book and opened the inside cover. "Rumination on the Elder Scrolls."
"Fine but only if you tell me what's in that book," Link sounded worried. Folkvar wouldn't keep something from him like that.
"No, out of the question," Folkvar took both books and went back to Urag gro-Shub, ignoring Link's protests. "This 'Rumination' doesn't make any sense."
"Aye," Urag sounded slightly amused. "That's the work work of Septimus Signus. He's the world's master of the nature of Elder Scrolls, but... well."
"He's not all there?" Folkvar supplied.
Urag nodded. "He's been gone for a long while. Too long."
"Oh no. I hope not. But even I haven't seen him in years, and we were close. He became obsessed with the Dwemer. Took north saying he had found some old artifact. Haven't seen him since. Somewhere in the ice fields, if you want to find him."
"Thank you," Folkvar handed back both books and turned to leave immediately, Link scrambling after him, worried about his change in behavior. What was in Rumination may have been confusing but whatever was in the Effects must have been unsettling if Folkvar wouldn't even tell Link about it. Link didn't know if Folkvar knew that not saying anything worried him more than what must actually be in the book.
Folkvar didn't slow his pace or say anything on their way out of the college. All he said when they reached their horses and Hunter was 'bundle up'. Link wanted to press him for more information, but he didn't want Folkvar to snap at him so he stayed quiet. Hunter didn't seem to notice the tension between his two humans and joyfully played in the snow, sticking his face into the powder, snorting, then bounding around in circles at the horses' feet. Link would have laughed, but he couldn't take his eyes off Folkvar, who looked like he might be getting sick.
"Pa, are you alright?" Link asked. He knew the cold didn't both Folkvar and Link might be able to succumb to illnesses but he couldn't imagine Folkvar catching something.
"I'm fine," Folkvar answered curtly. His voice was distant and cold. He may be riding just a few paces in front of Link and Dapple, but Folkvar was worlds away.
In his head, Folkvar constantly weighed in his head the price of his vision verses the price of the fate of the world. Paarthurnax had said himself that this world could just be the egg for the next and what right had they to deny that world it's chance at existence. But he meant what his declaration that Link would have a future, even if it meant the next world would have to fend for itself. How could he deny Link a chance at a full, long life just because he wanted to keep his sight until the bitter end when Alduin would destroy everything, a bitter fate that was looming closer and closer. Even if he was blinded, at least he would have a better chance at insuring Link's survival than he did with no weapon against the foul world eater.
Folkvar looked beside him, where Link was looking up at him from his little pony, so young and kind and innocent, even if he had seen and done things that a boy his age should never have been forced to see or do. He was too young for this. But most of all, he was Folkvar's boy. Folkvar had sworn to Link, himself, and Freya that he would protect and care for Link and he couldn't do that by selfishly hiding behind his fears and doubts. He would have to defeat Alduin, no matter the cost.
"Lad, no matter what happens," Folkvar faltered, his words backing up in his throat painfully. "No matter what happens to me, I want you to be safe."
"The Elder Scrolls could be more dangerous than we thought."
"Pa, no matter what happens, it can't be worse than doing nothing, right?"
"You're a good lad, Link. Don't ever let that change."
"Are you gonna tell me what was in that book?"
"Only if I think you absolutely need to know."
They rode along the bone chilling shores looking for a landmark or some sign life that would indicate where Septimus could have retreated to. After a while, Folkvar realized they would have to venture out onto the frozen sea, leaving their horses behind, of course. Link was not showing nearly as much signs of cold fatigue as he had on top of the mountain. His trying nightmare must have giving him more strength for overcoming it.
They let the horses go along the beach, not worried about them getting lost since Alfsigr was trained to come when Folkvar whistled and Dapple followed her around everywhere and always came with her when she was called. They did loosen the saddles so that the horses would be more comfortable.
The ice was thick this far north, so Folkvar wasn't worried about it collapsing underneath him, but it was just as desolate and hard to navigate as the shore line. What Folkvar would give for a marker pointing to where they needed to go.
It was Link who discovered the cave in an iceberg. He saw a glowing torchlight through the snow, which grew brighter as they got closer, revealing a wooden door frozen in a crevice. It was small and a tight fit for Folkvar, but Link fit through easily. He told Hunter to wait outside. They looked around before shaking off the ice caking their clothing.
The cave was small and dimly lit by both candles and the sunlight filtering through the blue ice, making the place look mysterious and foreboding in most places but inviting where the warm light of the candles and lanterns, which illuminated a small living area. A giant metal box took up half of the cave. It was nestled into the ice but what did show was almost alien to them. The most exposed side had a puzzle like contraption of many overlaid circles, the three smallest of which were blue and made of glass.
But the oddest part of the cave was the man sitting in one of the chairs. His beard was as wild as his crazed eyes and he was mumbling to himself. His clothes were ratted but layered to keep off the chill and he was looking off into the void as if he couldn't see the world around him but some other distant plane instead. As they approached him they were able to hear his mumblings.
"Dig, Dwemer, in the beyond!" He rambled. "I'll know your last unknown and rise you from the depths."
"Are you Septimus Signus?" Folkvar asked, hoping the old man was with it enough to hear and understand him.
"When the top level was built," the man chuckled. "No more could be placed. It was and is the maximized apex."
"Okay, good to know," Folkvar frowned. The man sounded like the same man who wrote the rumblings of the Rumination. Hopefully they'd be able to get something intelligible to the layman from him. "We were told you know about the Elder Scrolls?"
"Elder Scrolls." Septimus's rambling voice calmed for a moment and he seemed almost sane, but he fell quickly back into his lilting tone. "Indeed. The Empire. They absconded with them. Or so they think. The ones they saw. Haha! The ones they thought they saw." He grabbed Folkvar by the front of his shirt and pulled him close, lowering his voice as if someone other than them could be listening. "I know of one. Forgotten. Sequestered." He released Folkvar and began pacing back and forth worriedly, waving his hands in the air, lamenting his regrets. "But I cannot go to it, not poor Septimus, for I... I have arisen beyond it's grasp." He fell to his knees and pulled at his beard, his eyes frantically searching the room as if the Elder Scroll in question was with them, just out of his sight, invisible to only him.
"Are you... Are you all right, sir?" Link asked, wondering if it was alright to tap the man on the shoulder to pull him out of has bemoaning. When Septimus heared Link's voice, he sprang to his feet and wrung his hands together.
"Oh, I am well," he answered happily, his voice rising an octave. "I will be well. Well to be within the will inside walls."
"So where is the Scroll?" Folkvar asked, his concern for this man growing. He wasn't concerned for his sanity since it was obvious the man had none, but Folkvar was concerned nonetheless.
"Here," Septimus motioned all around them, his voice that of a wondering child. Then he frowned and looked around them, noticing that there was no Scroll. "Well, here as in this plane. Mundus. Tamriel. Nearby, relatively speaking." He chuckled like it was the funniest joke he had heard in a long time. "On the cosmological scale, it's all nearby."
Folkvar let out a deep sigh and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his fingers, trying to alleviate the headache the conversation was giving him. "Can you help us get the Elder Scroll or not?"
"One block lifts the other. Septimus will give what you want." His voice became quiet again. "But you must bring him something in return."
"Of course," Folkvar moaned. This quest to defeat Alduin was sending all over the four corners of Skyrim. "What do you want?"
"You seek this masterwork of the Dwemer. Deep inside the their greatest knowings. Septimus is clever among men, but he is but an idiot child compared to the dullest of the Dwemer. Lucky them that they left behind their own way of reading the Elder Scrolls. In the depths of Blackreach one yet lies. Have you heard of Blackreach? 'Cast upon where Dwemer cities slept, the yearning spires hidden learning kept.'" He laughed once more.
"Where is this Blackreach?" Folkvar asked. He had grown up in Skyrim and been all over Tamriel and never once had he heard of Blackreach, though the name made it sound like one of the holds of Skyrim.
"Under deep. Below the dark. The hidden keep. Tower Mzark. Alftand. The point of puncture, of first entry, of the tapping." His voice grew quieter and quieter until the last of his words were barely loud enough to be heard. "Delve to its limits, and Blackreach lies just beyond. But not all can enter there. Only Septimus knows the hidden key to the loose the lock to jump beneath the deathly rock."
"How do we get in?" Folkvar asked, not understand a bit of what Septimus was trying to say. Folkvar wished this man didn't talk in riddles just as confusing as the ones he wrote.
"Two thing I have for you. Two shapes. One edged, one round. The round one, for tuning. Dwemer music is soft and subtle, and needed to open the cleverest gates. The edged lexicon, for inscribing. To us, a hunk of metal. To the Dwemer, a full library of knowings. But... empty. Find Mzark and it's sky-dome. The machinations there will read the Scroll and lay the lore upon the cube. Trust Septimus. He knows you can know."
Septimus wandered to a small pile of shaved ice in the corner of the cave and dug up two objects, one a ball and one a cube. He placed them in Folkvar's hand and closed Folkvar's fingers around them, patting his hand to make sure the objects were securely held. Before Folkvar could take the instrument and the lexicon and leave, Link's curiosity one more took over.
"What is an Elder Scroll?"
Septimus left Folkvar and rushed to Link, placing his hands on Link's shoulders. "You look to your left, you see one way." He turned Link's head to left to demonstrate. "You look to your right, you see another." He turned Link's head to the right, proclaiming his revelation with reverence. "But neither is any harder than the opposite. But the Elder Scrolls... they look left and right in the stream of time. The future and the past are as one." Septimus turned Link's head to the ceiling and craned his neck as well. "Sometimes they even look up. What so they see then? What if they dive in? Ah! Then the madness begins!"
"Okay, we'll just go to Mzark," Folkvar pulled Link away from the madman and quickly left the cave with him, placing the two objects in his bag.
"That was weird," Link said. "Do you think anything he told us to do would work?"
"I have no idea," Folkvar answered.
They made it back to the horses with little trouble and rode as far inland as they could before the sun began to sink below the horizon. They camped under an overhang with the horses surrounding them, keeping the warmth of their little campfire from escaping into the harsh tundra around them. Link and Hunter were huddled together, the dog fast asleep, the occasional dream making his feet paddle.
Folkvar took this opportunity of being sheltered from the wind and cold to dig through his bags, where he was fortunate enough to have a map of all the Dwemer ruins in this area. He never thought he'd need to use it and had been sorely disappointed when he had received it as payment for a job, but now he was grateful he had kept it.
"What's that?" Link asked, looking over Folkvar's shoulder. "Where'd you get it?"
"I got this fifteen years ago from a mousy old scholar. Good thing I kept it, eh?"
"Yeah," Link nodded. "Mzark's in Alfthand, right? That's where the Elder Scroll's supposed to be. I didn't understand a lot of what he said."
"Me neither, lad. Looks like Alftand is south west of hear, in the mountains. Think you can make it?" Folkvar ruffled Link's hair playfully, distracting himself from the dangers of the Elder Scrolls.
"I can if you can!" Link laughed, punching Folkvar lightly on the shoulder. There was a small silence, eventually broken by a question from Link. "What are the Dwemer?"
"They're dwarfs, a long dead race," Folkvar explained. "They lived in Tamriel a long time ago before they disappeared. I've heard rumors they were banished to another realm by Azura, but I'm not an expert."
"Dwarves are little people, right?"
"Aye, lad, they are. But the Dwemer were normal sized. They're called dwarves because they lived along side the giants, so they appeared to be small."
"If the giants are still around and they weren't nearly as smart, why are the Dwemer gone?"
"You ask a lot of questions, lad," Folkvar chuckled. "I don't have the answers to all of them, you know."
"I guess no one can know everything," Link leaned on Folkvar for more warmth. "Even if they are really old."
"Are you calling me old, lad?" Folkvar chuckled.
"Maybe," Link looked up at him a smiled mischievously. Folkvar smiled back and ruffled Link's hair again, making the boy squirm a little and laugh.
Hunter woke up when Link moved and tackled Link without warning, licking his face enthusiastically, his tail wagging furiously back and forth. Link laughed harder and tried to push the excitable dog off his shoulders. Folkvar's heart hurt to see Link so happy. He buried the doubts of his convictions as far deep into his mind as he possibly could and wore a smile on his face as he helped Link contain the rambunctious furry companion so they could get some sleep before hiking up the mountain. He might lose the ability to see Link's smile, but at least he would still be able to hear his laugh.
Like Link had said the night before, he went just as far as Folkvar and, either through a growing resistance to the cold of Skyrim or sheer force of will, he didn't show any signs of how cold he must have been. They reached the area marked on Folkvar's old map and were lucky enough to find a Dwemer excavation site, or the remnants of one.
The camp looked like it had been attacked by very recently. Fire still smoldered from the cabins and a charred corpse was half buried under a small avalanche that had collapsed one of the cabins on top of the poor victim. They searched the singed remains of the camp for any signs of life or what had caused the fires, but all they found was a slightly burned journal next to a locked chest. Link opened the journal and read it aloud.
"We've managed to secure the site and hold off any others who may try to steal our discoveries so far, especially those from the College of Winterhold, who seem to think the glory of exploring every ruin should be theirs alone.
The crew for our expedition is as follows:
Sulla Trebatius (myself) - Expedition leader
Umana - my constant companion and bodyguard
Valie - a mage not associated with Winterhold (took some time to find)
Endrast - a fellow explorer of some local renown
Yag - a great brute of a woman, hired to keep the rest of the labor in check
J'darr and J'zhar - two Khajiit brothers, hired as labor
Need a couple more laborers, getting through the ice is proving difficult.
We've set up shelter and scouted the area. The small ruins on the lower plateau of the glacier don't seem connected to the main structure and we haven't managed to find a way into the tower parapet we've found here. Yag mentioned spotting a fissure in the glacial wall that may lead into the ruins so we are going to try find a way to get down there with the gear. Looks like a storm is coming.
I wonder if anyone made it inside the ruins?"
"Let's find out. We're going in there anyway."
They found a rickety bridge leading to the entrance of the excavation site and they made it down without incident by staying low and pressing their backs against the cliffs. The inside of the cave was just as bad as the outside.
The deeper they went in, the more overturned cooking spits and smoldering, unattended campfires they saw. Link nearly shouted in fear when he saw blood staining the snow and dirt crimson. He grabbed Hunter's neck when the dog tried to lick the blood.
"Hunter, that's gross."
"Lad, stay vigilant," Folkvar warned. There was nothing more unsettling than going into a tomb or a ruin and finding bodies that he didn't kill himself. "We don't know what else is in here with us."
"R-right," Link nodded, swallowing the knot in his throat.
They came across an abandoned camp, a broken lute in one corner, the shattered neck stained red with blood. The sleeping rolls where strew haphazardly around them, also blood stained. Fresh foot prints, the toes red, lead deeper into the site. Link hushed Hunter. It was unclear whether or not the owner of the foot prints was still alive.
A few yards down the tunnel there was a wooden scaffolding holding up a weak part of the cave ceiling and it was drenched in half dried blood. That was where the blood stains ended, but there was no sign of a body. Link felt like he would be sick again, but he couldn't let his fear show, not when he wanted Folkvar to think he was fine and not worry about him collapsing again.
After the scaffolding they reached the first signs of a real Dwemer settlement. There were big metal pipes, some broken and spewing steam, metal engravings on the thick stone walls, and the ground turned from snow and rock to the same huge grey bricks as the walls. At the end of the corridor one of the pipes had been completely ripped in half and was dripping water on the ground. A small metal spider, about half the size of Hunter lay in pieces on the ground.
"Where is it?" A male voice shouted from down the corridor, distinctly Khajiit in accent. "I knew you were trying to keep it for yourself, J'zhar... You always keep it for yourself! No, there's got to be more skooma! Shut up! Shut up! Don't lie to me J'zhar! You always try to steal it from me!"
Link and Folkvar exchanged a glance and hurried down the corridors, going to where the voice was coming from. On their way they found a table littered with research notes and a few of the metal spiders, disassembled. Link picked up one of the research entries to see if there was anything on them finding an Elder Scroll.
If only Umani would have left one of these Dwarven machine creatures intact for me to study. The fact that they almost killed those Khajiit brothers in the middle of the night doesn't mean we couldn't have found a way to disable one. We dragged some stuff in front of the pipes they came out of to stop them from coming back.
They are simply fascinating! It is just as Calcelmo described in Dwarves, V2. Their appearance does, in fact, resemble that of an arachnid. I had thought that to be an embellishment given by his source. The inclusion of the soul gem into the design of the apparatus is quite remarkable. It could explain the focus for the lightning that he describes.
Oddly enough it doesn't appear to be the main power source for the apparatus. Perhaps some sort of harmonic resonance with the energies contained in the soul gem to bring heat to a small boiler? Too early to say conclusively. That does raise the question of where they get the liquid for the boiler however.
Huh, that was strange. I thought I just saw something moving beyond the barred door. It looked vaguely humanoid. I wonder if it could be an undiscovered automaton? I'm going to move my bedroll down here to see if I can catch another glimpse of it. This is all so exciting!
When Link finished they continued through the tunnels. As they went, they found lit torches on the ground and decided to follow those. Eventually, they could see the outline of a crouching Khajiit, a woodcutter's ax in his hands. When he heard them approach, he quickly turned on them, his teeth bared in a feral snarl and his eyes wide and bloodshot.
"Who?" The Khajiit swivel his ears at the sound of them moving into hiding. "Who are these, Brother? Another one of the smooth skins looking for food? But these ones were not trapped with us... No... No! You must be the ones who took my skooma!"
He snarled and raised the ax over his head, charging straight for them. He only made it to within the reach of Folkvar's great sword. With one arching sweep, the Khajiit fell to the ground, broken and moaning in pain. Hunter started barking loudly, snarling at the Khajiit on the floor. Folkvar quickly put the cat out of his misery.
"That's why you stay away from Khajiit," Folkvar told Link as he cleaned the blood from his sword. They found another Khajiit, also dead, lying in his bed roll with multiple ax wounds. He must have been J'zhar. There was a torn journal entry crumpled in his hand. Wanting to know the last thoughts of the dead Khajiit, Link pried it from his padded fingers and read it.
This one is at his wit's end. I signed J'darr and myself up for this expedition to try to get him clean of the Skooma. I brought a small supply to try bring him down slowly, but the storm has had us trapped in the glacier for weeks.
The others have not yet caught on that one with fur should not shake so much from the cold, but I've run out of the little skooma I brought and J'darr is getting pretty bad. He's started hallucinating creatures coming out of the ice and the ruins, the others are starting to think he may be behind Valie's disappearance, but I know he would never do something like that.
"Pa, there's something that was taking the excavation team," Link gulped. "The research notes mentioned seeing something move from behind a barrel and this one says J'darr, the skooma addict, saw creatures coming from the walls. I wouldn't believe this one if it hadn't been mentioned in the other one."
"We're prepared for things coming out of walls and trying to kill us," Folkvar reassured Link when he saw the boy turn pale. "That's what the swords are for."
"I know," Link said, excusing his shiver for the cold and not his nerves. "I'm not scared."
"Of course you're not. Come on, lad, we've got to keep moving."
The next area was more Dwemer ruins, this time with more intact and working machines. One of them was making a huge booming clang at regular intervals but they couldn't find where it was coming from. They turned a corner and Link made a small gasp at the sight.
The cavern was huge. A raised platform in the middle had a huge strange metal lantern with a glowing light inside, casting ethereal light onto the stone and metal walls around them. Water dripped from the ceiling through little crevices in the rocks created by the ice and steam leaked through the metal pipes lining the ceiling. Link could understand why people would pursue knowledge here even if it was dangerous.
They walked down the large room, their footsteps echoing along the walls. At the other end they found the source of the metallic booms. Huge cylinders were rising up from the ground and then dropping back down. Doing what, they didn't know, but it looked important.
Before they could take a turn left or right where the room forked into two corridors, there were two clangs behind them, independent of the cylinders' rhythm. They both spun around and Hunter, though brave against any fleshy beast, cowered behind them at the sight of two very intact, very functional metal men, spinning around on metal balls where their legs and feet should have been. Their arms were shaped like metal spikes and they brandished them at Folkvar and Link, ready to litter them with holes.
Link gripped his shield in his hand and stood his ground, but Folkvar could tell immediately that Link was too afraid to be effective against the automaton killing contraptions and that his shield would not hold against their razor sharp arms. He quickly charged them before they could charge Link and with two calculated swings at their most fragile looking parts, Folkvar dismantled them by their joints.
"W-what are those?" Link exclaimed, his sword quivering. He felt like they had just been attacked by some other worldly monster that he couldn't describe. He knew how animals worked, Folkvar had shown him all the parts when they were hunting for their suppers back in Falkreath, but all the metal things he had seen could not move on their own like that. "Were those Dwemer?"
"No, lad," Folkvar frowned, at least grateful that he would only have to whet dents from his sword and not have to clean more blood from it as well. "I think those were their guards. I suppose they never had the chance to shut them down before they disappeared."
"Oh, okay," Link moved to sheath his sword and buckle his shield back in place, but Folkvar made a motion for him to stop.
"Better keep those out, lad," Folkvar said. "There are more where those came from."
"Oh," Link's voice cracked.
"Put your shield away, their arms are more than enough to rip it apart and you'll need both arms to get enough force to do any damage. Aim for the joints."
"Okay," Link nodded, buckling his shield on his back and nervously holding his sword in both hands like he was told. It was hand-and-a-half for that reason.
To the left was just a small alcove with a table and some cogs, but in the right corridor the air rippled strangely, like desert heat without the desert. Neither Link nor Folkvar had seen or heard of this behavior before. Folkvar approached it without caution, not sure how to handle the situation. They could hear a hissing sound coming from the pipes around them and distinctly smell something very foul.
"Pa, what's that smell?" Link asked, subconsciously rubbing his nose to try to make the smell go away. "There can't be a dead animal down here, can there? Everything here is made of metal, not flesh."
"I'm not sure. Perhaps it's one of the other's from the excavation site."
"But they can't have been down here for very long and that smell reeks. If it's dead it's been dead for at least a week."
Hunter, who had recovered from the scare of mechanical beasts coming from the walls, was undeterred by the suspicious smell and walked straight down the corridor, nose snuffling curiously, trying to find the source of the stench. Link worriedly followed after him, not wanting the dog to run into anything ahead of them and get hurt. Hunter made it to the first bend in the corridor before he faltered, dropped to the ground, and started panting heavily.
"Hunter!" Link shouted, running towards his dog. But Folkvar grabbed him by the back of his shirt to stop him. "Pa! Let me go!"
"Link! Don't breath in the air in there," Folkvar commanded. "Hold your breath no matter what, do you understand me?"
"Y-yes," Link looked from Folkvar to Hunter, who had started convulsing on the floor. "But Hunter..."
"I've got him, go ahead of me and do not stop until you're clear of whatever that is."
Link took a few deep breaths, then quickly ran down the corridor, not looking back, like Folkvar had told him too. It hurt to run past Hunter, struggling to breath and terrified. Link's eyes watered from the fumes of the gas. Under normal circumstances, Link would be able to hold his breath for as long as he had to to clear the corridor, but running made it harder and his lungs were burning by the time he made it past the corridor.
Link heard Folkvar's armor clanking behind him and turned to see Folkvar holding Hunter in his arms. One of the spider workers was following close behind him, it's front legs reared, ready to tear into the back of Folkvar's legs. Link took the flat edge of his sword and smashed it down on the spider worker just as it exited the corridor, denting it beyond repair. Link's sword also bent a little on the impact, but thanks to Eorlund's fine craftsmanship and the lessons he had given Link when he had stayed with him during the war, it was nothing that couldn't be fixed, even on the road.
But there was no time to revel in his small victory, because his dog could very possibly die in the next few seconds. Folkvar placed Hunter down on an old tattered mat next to one of the ethereal dwarven lights. Link knelt next to his dog and gently stroked his ear. Link held his breath, waiting to see if Hunter started to breath regularly again.
"Come on, Hunter, please don't die," Link whimpered. It wasn't fair. First he almost died and now Hunter's life was in balance and teetering much to close to the edge. "Breath. Please." Hunter's eyes were closed shut in pain and his chest was moving rapidly up and down, desperately trying to get clean air. Suddenly, with a loud whimpering woof, Hunter took a deep breath and Link was finally able to exhale.
Hunter, who had been lying on his side, flailed onto his stomach and began to lick Link's face, wagging his tail happily. Folkvar pulled Link back to his feet.
"Don't let him do that again," Folkvar scolded.
"I'll definitely teach him to avoid poisonous gases."
"No, I mean lick your face. You don't know what else has been in that mouth."
"Oh," Link frowned. "But I like it."
"Come on, lad," Folkvar patted Link's back and then redrew his sword. "We've got to get that Elder Scroll so we can out this whole thing behind us. And make sure Hunter stays out of trouble or he's not coming with us again."
"Yes, Pa," Link said sheepishly. He motioned to Hunter to stay directly behind him and keep very quiet, a command he had been working on, but wasn't sure if Hunter understood yet. Lucky for him, Hunter took the queue and closed his mouth, adopting a serious expression, and butted against Link's legs. "Good, boy." Link patted his head and smiled proudly.
They were in another, this time wider, L snapped room bending left from where they had entered. It was held up by great metal support beams that doubled as a ventilation system, still bringing fresh, cold air from the surface above. Near the exit to the room, a set off stairs leading to a much grander corridor than the poisoned one, were two more spider workers, diligently, but futilely, trying to clean up the rubble littering the floor. Neither of them felt like risking damaging their blades on the spiders, so they tried to sneak by undetected.
But Hunter seemed to have other ideas about what sneaking was and upon noticing the metal spiders, began to bark loudly, in a backwards effort to alert Link and Folkvar that there was a danger. Link felt his stomach twist but he didn't have time to check to see if Folkvar was angered by the barking dog because the spiders immediately abandoned their task and started clattering towards them, brandishing their front legs threateningly.
The moment the two spiders turned on them, Hunter stopped barking and instead cowered once more behind Link and Folkvar, whimpering fearfully. He was much more bark than bite. Folkvar preferred a dog, if he had to choose, that bit more than it barked.
Link was ready to smack the spiders, but Folkvar got to them first, expertly slicing off one of spider's front legs with a underhand blow, kicking the other as hard as could across the room, where it smashed against the stone wall and fell to the ground, twitching and leaking some sort of oil that glowed iridescently in the artificial light. Folkvar then stuck his sword into the whirring gyro, disrupting it long enough for the spider to start shooting sparks from its joints and seems and then fall to pieces, leaking a little of the same oil and it's partner.
"Sorry, Pa," Link mumbled.
"Stupid dog," Folkvar scolded. "One more warning and I'm making you get rid of him."
"No buts. What I do, what I let you do with me, is dangerous and many people would call me irresponsible for letting you come with me like this. It puts both of us at risk and that dog is making it worse."
"But we're partners."
"Yes, Link. But I am the adult and anything had that happens to you is my fault, even if it's that damn dog that gets us both in trouble. I'll let him stay..."
"Thank you," Link looked down at his feet, relieved but still upset.
"For now. This is the last time he accompanies us. He stays with the horses from now on, understand?"
When they continued down the new, much grander, hallway, they saw another spider worker to their right, down a set of stairs that lead to a collapsed tunnel. The little spider was trying to achieve the insurmountable goal of clearing the hallway. If the spiders weren't so violent towards intruders, Link would have felt bad for it.
When Hunter spotted the spider, Link quickly clamped his hand around the dog's muzzle, muffling his warning barks and turning them into whimpers of discomfort. Link placed his finger over his mouth to reinforce that the signal meant quiet. Hunter took the queue this time, but there was no telling if he would in the future. Link hoped he could train Hunter to be the perfect dog before Folkvar got too annoyed and permanently dealt with the annoyance himself.
To the left, there was another spider worker down the hallway. It was the most sensible of all the spiders they had seen yet and was simply placing small cups that had been knocked off a table back on to the table. Since it seemed the most functional, they hoped it wouldn't be so violent, but they still approached it with caution.
When they got closer, Link turned to Hunter, who look up at him with a big doggie grin, and placed his finger over his mouth again. Hunter watched him quizzically for a moment, then the light went on and he looked right at the spider, closed his mouth, and made one very quite, muffled bark. It was a step forward at least.
When they got close enough to the spider for it to undoubtedly be able sense them, they couldn't tell if it had eyes, it stopped arranging the cups on the little metal table and froze for a few moments, processing the presence of three unidentified life forms in its vicinity. Before Folkvar could disrupt what he supposed was the spider's central system, it leapt at Link, the weight and force of it knocking him to the ground. Link's sword fell out of his grasp and clattered against the metal grated floor.
Link was too startled to scream, but not to startled, to reach up and grab the spider's front arms as they descended on a path to rip his skull open. He struggled to keep the spider from braining him and might have marveled at the turning cogs on its underbelly were he not fighting for his life. Folkvar, shifting his sword to one hand, grabbed the spider by the gyro and yanked it off of his son in one fluid motion. The gyro came loose as the spider flew throw the air and the whole thing fell to pieces when it hit the ground.
"Link, are you okay?"
"Y-yes." Link swallowed. His heart was pointed against his chest and his breath was rapid. "That was scary."
Hunter, seeing his boy on the floor, took the opportunity to lick Link's face and took the place of the spider. Link immediately calmed down and started to laugh. Hunter's tongue tickled his face. Folkvar sighed and pushed Hunter off of Link. He helped Link back to his feet and Link could tell he was still not pleased with Hunter. Link knew he was wrong, but he felt like it was him Folkvar was upset with.
There was another spider worker at the end of the hallway, in a little alcove to the side, and it took them by surprise this time, but Folkvar still managed to dismantle it before anyone was hurt.
To the left once more, they found themselves in the same room that they had first been attacked by the two metal men with spheres for legs but at a higher level. This one stretched around the edges so that they could see down to the remains of their unfortunate assailants and was lined by pistons moving in and out horizontally to the ground, half of the time blocking their path and the other half not.
"We have to time how we walk past those," Link pointed out.
"Or we could climb over the parts that don't move," Folkvar amended.
"Oh, right. That works too."
It was a struggle getting Hunter to go past the pistons since he was terrified of them, but in the end, following Link was his priority so he jumped over the piston after Link, who had a little more difficulty than Folkvar since he was much smaller and not as strong. Folkvar could pull himself over, even in his armor, and had to help Link over after him. In total, there were five pistons. At the end of the pistons, there was yet another spider, which Folkvar was able to dismantle with practiced ease at this point.
"With how many spiders there are in this place, it's a wonder why it isn't in better shape," Folkvar grunted.
"I wonder what happened to the dwarves."
"Many scholars have asked the same question and I'm sure they all have their own answer but I am not one of them."
When they reached the end of that room, there was a huge metal door, bigger than all the others they had come across. They could both tell that beyond that door, the ruin got much deeper and much more dangerous. They were about to leave the entrance and enter the real ruins.
Since some of you were wondering and I couldn't really cover it feasibly in this chapter due to the characters' lack of knowledge, Ganondorf was able to curse Link through their Triforce connection when Link was beginning to get a cold he had caught on the top of the Throat of the World. Ganondorf doesn't know Link is the one who holds the another part of Triforce, he could just feel that one of the other holder's defenses were dropping slightly. Like when Harry can feel when Voldemort is angry but the bad guy doing it instead. The curse also only works once, so Zelda's now safe from it and Link will be safe if he ever gets sick again. Ganondorf will explain this, but that's at the very end of the series and a bit to long to wait for an explanation I think. The Triforce was unable to protect Link entirely from the cold because it's freezing in Skyrim and no one's invincible. But, had he gotten the cold without the curse it wouldn't have done any more than make his nose runny, his nose run, and his throat sore for a couple of weeks. Turns out that curse is a twisted cure for the common cold.
Don't forget to leave a review and favorite and follow if you haven't already. It's the best way to motivate me and let's me know someone liked it enough to read this far. It's so long already, and we still have Act III left.