Monday, June 22, 2015

Oblivion Day 16 - Within a Dream

12 Heartfire, 3E433

If the outside of Bravil's Mages Guild was shabby and worn-down, it did well to disguise the inside of the Guild, both materially and organizationally. The Guild's master is Kud-Ei, an Argonian with a very strict sense of responsibility and obvious pride in her Hall and her people. She greeted me and immediately assumed (correctly) that I had come to her seeking a recommendation.

Kud-Ei apologized for not having a "conventional" task to assign to me, being preoccupied instead with friction between two of her guildmates, the Dunmer Varon Vamori and the Altmer Ardaline. I assumed the difficulty was due to hostility between the two, but the reverse was actually the case: Varon had an interest in Ardaline, but all of his advances have been spurned. For whatever reason, the man decided to steal his would-be lover's magical staff and she could not bring herself to confront him, leaving the problem at Kud-Ei's feet instead and as a result, mine as well.

Kud-Ei did not want to get involved as the rest of the Guild did not yet know about the theft and she did not want to embarrass Ardaline by bringing her authority to bear on Varon. What Kud-Ei was willing to do was far more clever: I was to speak with Varon and use Illusion spells while doing so to make the man more willing to talk. Thus, I would be helping Kud-Ei and presumably learning something about magic in the process, though I feel what magic I wound up using was still within my rather depleted set of skills. I was given several scrolls to enhance my personality and free reign to tackle this problem however I saw fit.

The freedom was nice, but there was little else to do but speak to Varon. With a scroll providing me with additional charisma, I approached Varon and asked him directly about the missing staff. He readily replied that he did, in fact, take it, but could not justify the action even to himself. Varon stated that he only wanted Ardaline to feel about him the way he felt about her, but admitted to completely botching his latest stratagem by both taking the staff and then, astonishingly, selling it to a friend of his in the Imperial City, Soris Arenim. 

When I reported back to Kud-Ei with news of the staff's location I was given more scrolls and asked to travel to the City in order to retrieve the staff. Again, how I accomplished this was my decision alone. Fortunately, it was still early in the morning and the Imperial City was not a time-consuming destination from Bravil by horse, so I went back to the stables and rode back to the Capital. Having encountered nothing hostile along the way, I arrived about two hours later, having made good time.
Varon had given me the location of his friend's home, so I had no trouble finding where the staff was, but acquiring it would be a different matter. When I arrived at the man's house he already had a visitor present, so I spent some time talking with his wife, Erissare. With one of Kud-Ei's scrolls discreetly in effect she told me that the staff was locked away in the basement and that the key was upstairs in their bedroom. Having learned this, I waited until both husband and wife were busy with their business visitor and sneaked upstairs to take the key. With another scroll I convinced both of them that I was in the market for a staff and they allowed me into the basement alone. From there it was a simple matter to take the staff, though I did leave one hundred Septims in the drawer where the staff had been to soothe my conscience. Leaving the house was a rather uncomfortable and stiff affair, as I wound up tying the staff to the side of my leg underneath my gown.

I did not dally at the City, instead immediately returning to the stables before either one of them called the guards on what seemed to me to be an obvious theft. Hopefully the coin will soothe their tempers. When I arrived back at Bravil it was just after dinner and I was looking forward to an evening of magical study, but that was not to be. I received the promise of a recommendation, but Kud-Ei asked if I would be interested in helping her with a more personal problem. The Guild specializes in my magical School of choice so I agreed figuring that it was only good to earn the Guildmaster's favor if I was to be a somewhat frequent visitor.

The personal problem was the disappearance of her friend, Henantier. He had a reputation for being careless with his experiments and she feared one had finally gotten the better of him. When I expressed my interest in helping her find the man she sighed and told me that she had been lying slightly: Henantier was not missing, but...unavailable, in a way. His latest experiment was in finding a way to enter his own dreams where he could study or train as much as he liked. Kud-Ei's story about him disappearing was merely a cover to protect him from being expelled from the Guild, as his latest experiment was well outside the accepted norms.

I was led to his house where he remained trapped in his own dream, courtesy of an amulet he constructed. Kud-Ei had the amulet and told me that all I had to do was wear the amulet before I went to sleep and I should then find myself inside Henantier's dreamworld. She would not go herself, fearing that her friend's memories of her would make it impossible for her to convince him that he was merely dreaming. I, as a stranger, would have no such difficulty. So I placed the amulet upon myself and settled into the bed next to the restless man, nervous about what I would wake up to, so to speak.

The man's dream was a nightmare of the worst sort. He was trapped in what looked like a ruined version of his own bedroom, everything was colored by a sickly red light, and he had no idea who or where he was. I also happened to be naked, much to my displeasure.
Speaking to Henantier only generated the babbling that he had lost several items in the area and repeatedly asked me to find them until I agreed. A brief exploration of the tiny area revealed four different doors, but I found nothing that suggested it might be one of the "lost" items. It was clear that these items of his lay behind each of the doors.

Each door contained a test, I suppose each one was to improve some skill or spell. The first door I chose placed me in an arena with a two-handed blade and two angry Minotaurs. Defeating each of them was easier than I anticipated, as it only took a single blow to fell these dream foes. After defeating both of them a staircase appeared at one end of the arena leading towards a small ball spinning wildly within a shaft of bright light. It strongly reminded me of the Oblivion stones. Taking it sent me back to Henantier.

The other three doors led to different tests. One was simply a room filled with traps, the second contained three sets of tiles that needed to be walked on in a precise order and the third, my least favorite, had me swim through an increasingly dark, foreboding tunnel until I finally reached dry land and the last of the dream-stones.

Once I had all the stones talking to Henantier began to have some positive results. He accepted my story of being sent into his dream by Kud-Ei to rescue him and lamented his own foolishness at being conquered by the tests that were supposed to improve him. With understanding came release and his dreamworld dissolved around us as we both woke up.

Now awake and back in the real world, Henantier was very thankful and gifted me six scrolls as a reward, though I have not yet looked to see what they do. Kud-Ei was just as grateful for the safe return of her old friend and promised me discounts at the Guild whenever I return. 

Despite having slept I was utterly exhausted and bade them farewell so that I could take my plain lodgings at the 'Silverhome on the Water' inn. Tomorrow I make the long trip to Leyawiin and I am certainly not looking forward to the ride from that city to Cheydinhal later this week. But my tour of the province's Mages Guilds is almost complete and then I can hopefully find someone in the University to explain what the Oblivion stones actually are.

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