The sixth chapter in the series. I hope you'll enjoy!

Songs of Cinder, Book VI: Dark Waters' Game


The Dro-m'Athra never slept.

The Dro-m'Athra never stood still.

Urjorahn tried to get rid of the dark thoughts that haunted him throughout the morning. He was not afraid of sleeping anymore, even though the tranquil dreams shifted into a black realm, he was not afraid. Still, he kept a dagger under his pillow for unknown reasons. Perhaps a slightest trace of fear still remained within his soul. The daily Shadow Magic trainings were a true blessing to him; he had an experienced mentor willing to teach, unlike the arrogant wizard-lords of Sadrith Mora, and the very concept of percieving shadows like never before was more than appealing to him. But once the twin moons were watching over Veleth Ancestral Tomb, he felt a strange whiffing of alien power within himself more than he did during the day. He felt numbing swirls of unknown nature go through his veins, it drove him mad. He didn't know what it was.

The shadowmage, Llether Veleth, was an outstanding tutor indeed. An elderly mage, with his eyes showing his experience in major battles, his secluded life in the shadows' embrace, and under the hand of House Telvanni. But among these traits, his eyes also showed a feature rare for a Dunmer: kindness. It may prove to be true that eyes are the mirror of soul, as old Llether was as kind as a parent is to the newborn child. And Llether was just like a father figure to the two, as their bond was strengthening with every moment.

"Now, it seems you are getting close to mastering Shadow Siphoning, son," Llether said, as he was checking Urjorahn's capability to drain lifeforce. The Khajiit liked it when the old Veleth called him "son", it made Urjorahn feel needed, a part of the family, "Remember, this, along with Shadow Step, is a most important spell in the nightblade's repertoire."

"Family". This word seemed to be so unfamiliar to Urjorahn, he never really knew what a family is. He hardly remembered his own, yet Llether's kind look gave him an impression and birthed warmness in his heart.

Yen was sharpening his mace on the grindstone he made by the tower's entrance, whistling and tottering as the sparks flew in every direction. The morning was beyond wonderful for the Ashlands, as little ash rained from the hole above their tower, the sun shone brightly through it. Llether was resting on a hammock he weaved a few days ago, reading one of the dusty books found at the tower's library. The hammock did not look tough, but still was a greater place to rest fot the shadowmage than the beds in the small chamber underneath the tower. Urjorahn kept practicing stepping through shadows, an incantation that seemed to be nearly impossible for the young apprentice to cast properly, as the shadowy portal pushed him back to the platform from whence he stepped. The Khajiit was either sent flying just below the chamber's ceiling or ended up being pushed against one of the walls, his magicka ran dry, and his back was full of bruises. Urjorahn was like a jester to Yen, who laughed at his failed attempts as always. The Dunmer, however, admired his singleness of purpose that rewarded Urjorahn with sharpened skills of a seasoned adventurer, a trait he noticed when clashing blades with the Khajiit during swordsmanship training and a competitive guar ride.

A brigade of mounted well-armored soldiers was slowly striding along the road, separating into parts that went through the mushroom forest on both sides, carefully bypassing the roots that grew on the ground and arched above the road. This was not merely another sellsword party, but a private squad of Tedryn Brenur, who trotted in the middle of the road, Fadril and Dalamus watching his back. The night skies turned red before they could reach Sadrith Mora, the stars were hardly seen through the eldritch layer of red mist and devilish clouds. Thunder raged, as the town's citizens were getting worried and terrified, leaving their houses to see what was going on. Word travels fast, the messenger brought bad news to Tel Naga. The squad entered Sadrith Mora, eerie sounds started echoing in the air.

"Wh-what is going on?" Dalamus asked, staring at the red sky.

"Ill Omen," Tedryn whispered, his voice soon changing to a shout, "Everybody, inside the houses! Now!"

Tel Naga's very top was soon covered in shadows, as the squad saw what resembled a scary hand of black smoke raising above the tower. Wizard-lords left Tel Naga, their books open and ready for incantations. The echoes intensified, and the wide square started shimmering and blurring before a cat eye-like fiery portal emerged from thin air, a reflection in it being a hellish and shadowy realm. The whole mushroom tree of Tel Naga collapsed before Tedryn's eyes, roots falling on houses next to the marketplace, uplifting a barrier of dust that concealed the destroyed quarter.

The Oblivion Gates.

Spikes protruded from the ground, their tips bloody. People started screaming and ran in every direction away from the gates, and the town guards threw scabbards away, raising their bonemold shields high and forming before the portal. Terrible spawn poured out from the gate, distorted voices yelling "Master Dagon". A mighty clash of blades, the light of fire spells were among Tedryn and his squad, blinded with rage and advancing towards the hordes of Daedra, before Tedryn delivered a thrust to the Dremora Churl and evaded his swing, leaping into the fiery portal. Dalamus immediately sprinted to his master, about to jump in the Deadlands, but he was stopped by Fadril, who pointed at the Dremora burning the Gateway Inn to the ground, triggering a chain of flames that ran from one house to the other.

"Tedryn won't make it," Fadril said.

Urjorahn woke up in cold sweat in the middle of the night, as the thunder reached the Ancestral Tomb. The headache tormented him. The Dro-m'Athra never slept. The Khajiit washed himself in cold water, trying to freeze the pain, but it was only becoming stronger until it made Urjorahn kneel down and hold his head. Yen and Llether were woken by the Khajiit's screams, accompanied by a loud thunder. They noticed the sky turn red through a hole above the tower, and the ruined chamber was getting darker, giving the impression that the Red Mountain itself was slumbering no more. The trio climbed the ashen hills near the tomb's entrance and hid behind the stone obelisk to witness a reddish explosion where Ald'ruhn should be. Another Oblivion Gate opened its jaws in the middle of the town, instilling fear in Ald'ruhn's citizens and sending armies of Daedra to pillage every single building. Then, they saw a blast of magicka near the gate, larger than the gate itself. Shells that the whole town was composed of started to tremble before another blast followed, this time barely seen as the columns of smoke were ascending from every part of Ald'ruhn. A mighty Emperor Crab emerged, even more terrifying than the Oblivion Gate, and stroke the portal with its shell. The vision became blurry, as two more gates opened up around the doomed town, their light illuminating the dark skies. Waves of smoke, dust and ash raised above, the burnt trees fell one by one, and Ald'ruhn was not seen anymore.

"What in blazes is that?!" Yen asked, terrified by the sight of a whole city being devastated.

"The Slavemasters arrive to claim this cursed land, tired of watching," Urjorahn replied, still staring at the scene without blinking, "The song of destruction has its first verse sung this night, the two moons dance no more, a shroud of darkness closes the mortal realm. The border between worlds is weakened, and the dark waters are seeping through a crack in the invisible wall."

Llether did not say a word.

"The Dro-m'Athra come closer to a refrain."

3E 433. The Dragonfires went out, marking the beginning of a very last event of the whole era.

The Oblivion Crisis.