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Shadow of the Moon - Draft

Chapter 1: Terrors in the Night

17th Frostfall, 4E 173

The girl could feel the beat of her heart pounding through her temples. She looked up at the confused world around her; it was bright and noisy - the roar of a fire blazing out of control - but she could hear more. Muffled by the roaring of the flames was shouting and the clattering of swords. She tried to focus to see, but the fire burned brightly all around her and the smoke blurred her eyes. She threw the already smoldering hide blanket from her body and rolled clumsily to the side - her only thought being to find her mother. She scrambled through the burning debris - heat emanated from all around her as the roar of the fire only grew louder - she looked up at the world towering above her; a charred table towered overhead as it threatened to topple, she scrambled further - anxiety and fear building with each passing moment as the pound of her pulse felt as though it was even started to drown out the roar of the fire. The sound of fighting outside became increasingly distorted - twisted and surreal. Her attention was snapped to the pained creaking of a bookcase in front of her; she clambered to her feet and stared up at the towering object as it loomed dauntingly overhead. It's base cracked under the weight of a rafter which had already fallen onto it and the whole thing fell down on top her. Her scream was silenced by the crash as the giant object seemed to arc over and around her; crushing her back to the floor. It was pitch black - were it not for extreme heat of the wood now encasing her small form she could almost have been back in her bed. The roar of the fire had dulled to a faint crackle; the sound mocking her and tearing at her very soul. There was a loud crash; someone was outside. Muffled voices spoke distorted words, not helped by the ringing in her ears. A blinding light suddenly encompassed her as the bookcase was shoved away. She winced as her eyes tried to focus on the blurry forms in front of her. They looked like people and were the source of the distorted talking but they towered over her like giants. She heard laughing; a gruff male voice emanating from the twisted giant that towered over her. A hand reached down and grabbed her wrist - yanking her upwards. She squealed and forced her eyes shut as tightly as she could - she just wanted her mother. She dangled at what felt like a breakneck drop by her little wrist before the giant lifted her up even higher. the twisted voice boomed right in front of her face now and she could not help but open her eyes. Wide and watering with fear, they took in the huge face that was all she could see in front; it looked like a human - a man - his skin as rough as his beard and piercing eyes that stared into her own atop a maniacal grin. More muffled talking - no - it was arguing, then she was tossed aside like an unwanted ragdoll. She landed on her front and quickly rolled over to scurry backwards across the floor. She could not get far before she felt her back press against the heated embers of a burned stump. The thumping returned to her head as she watched the giant step closer. A single stride brought the man to tower over her even more than the bookcase. Her vision distorted as she turned her gaze up towards his face, he spoke more muffled and distorted words as he unsheathed a giant blade from his waist. The last thing she saw was the huge blade rising slowly above her then swinging down with lightning speed.

A shrill scream suddenly echoed out; reverberating off the cold, damp stone of the tunnel which was their home. Revvur jumped to his feet - his hand instinctively clambering for the blade which leaned peacefully against the end table beside his bed. In his sleepy state however he only managed to knock it to the ground with a clatter against the stone. He jumped from the bed and grabbed for the blade, spinning around to see what unholy sound had awoken him. He relaxed his stance once he saw the girl in the next bed over sat bolt upright - trembling and covered in cold sweats as her delicate hands clutched tightly at the blanket held in front of her. Revvur strode across and thwacked the girl around the back of the head, "Talos curse you, knife ears! If you're not going to sleep like a normal person then sleep somewhere else!" She had recoiled at the unwelcome strike, though it was not so hard as to cause any real harm it was still an unwelcome greeting to her waking moments, "Piss off skeever breath..." she spat back, "...I can't help it!" she murmured with a distinct tone of self pity as she lay back down, curling herself into a ball and turning away from him. Revvur scoffed as he sat the blade back in it's resting place, "A tongue as pointed as those damned ears - no way for a young lady to speak!" he mocked her, plopping down heavily on the side of his bed as he looked around. She refused to respond, simply shifting in her bed. "Anyway..." he continued, "'s about time we make a move; still got a job to do after all" still she did not respond, simply throwing an equally unrefined hand gesture at him over her shoulder as she tugged the hide blanket up over her head - all too eager to black herself out to the world around her. Revvur shook his head and went to find some food.

She knew she would not return to the realm of dreams now she had awoken - nor did she want to - she simply lay there and prayed to the Divines that they might stop tormenting her. Footsteps approached; they clacked on the damp stone floor and echoed just as all the others did, but these sounded different - they were smaller steps - lighter - she already knew who it was before the woman sat gently on the side of her bed, a hand reaching up and gently stroking the head of hair that was visible beyond the blanket, "What's the matter Rianni, more nightmares?" the woman asked. Rianni's head nodded sharply under the covers. The woman smiled sympathetically as she slowly peeled the cover back. Rianni rolled over to look upon her visitor, "I hate it Karliah, I just want them to stop!" her bottom lip quivered as the dunmer woman wrapped an arm around Rianni's head and eased her over to rest it against her leg, "We'll figure it out one day Rianni, but for now Revvur is right; we have a job to do and there is no better time than this hour. Now if you don't feel up to it, I won't make you go; but we could certainly use your skills on this one" Karliah smiled down, gently brushing Rianni's hair with her fingertips. Rianni sighed and turned her big eyes up to meet Karliah's gaze, a small smile finally forming across her lips, "You're right; maybe a bit of good and honest thieving will help take my mind off it!" Karliah laughed, "That's my girl; even after all these years you still manage to make me laugh just like you did as that cheeky young street urchin who we found trying to pickpocket the Guildmaster!" Rianni chuckled and smiled proudly, "Well I didn't know who he was then! Go ahead Karliah; I'll be up and right behind you in a minute" she smiled, seemingly soothed by the presence and words of her friend and mentor. Not much time passed before Rianni joined her guildmates on the outskirts of Riften. This was a big job so both Karliah and Revvur were already there waiting for her, along with Narrica - a Nord woman just a few years more seasoned than Rianni, "So the little one is joining us after all..." Narrica joked, turning to Revvur, "...seems you owe me that mead after all!" to which Revvur chortled heartily. Narrica turned her attention back to Rianni, eyeing the large and elegant bow strung about her small form, "Are you sure you know how to use that, little one?" she laughed teasingly. Rianni rolled her eyes, "The belly full of food you enjoyed before setting out should be all the answer you need, and damn it stop calling me little one! I'm not that much younger than you!" she said, poking her tongue out at Narrica.

Revvur scoffed loudly as he strode between the two, passing close by Rianni and ruffling her hair, "Who said she was referring to your age little knife ears!" Rianni's shoulder slumped as she glared at his back before reaching up to try and straighten her long hair once more. Karliah raised a hand, chuckling slightly at the banter among her team. Though to many they would seem to loathe and despise one another, she could see the true affection between them and saw them more akin to siblings than anything else, "Alright you horrible lot, let's get to work! It's a short walk to the cave where this 'mancer is holed up. Rianni; you scout ahead and clear the way. Once inside I expect to catch him sleeping so we can just slip in and retrieve the mark. Narrica and I will see to the safeguards, Revvur; you're to make sure we don't get any interruptions. Now let's get moving; shadows guide us all" Rianni ran off ahead of the rest of the group, who in themselves were moving quickly. She had come a long way from the preteen street urchin the guild first encountered and after showing a natural affinity for the bow, she had proven to be quite the reliable asset to the guild. Following a brief jaunt through the wilderness surrounding the city, the group eventually caught up to Rianni outside the entrance to one of the many old abandoned mines that dotted the landscape. She had a fox carcass lay out on a rock by her side - the black-stemmed arrow still jutting from it's side and fresh red blood staining the underbelly of it's pelt. "An uneventful scout then?" Karliah smirked at the young woman who glanced back over her shoulder with a grin. As the slower Revvur caught up to the more nimble members of the team, they proceeded to sneak inside the old mine. The interior was barren and dimly lit by only a few scattered torches along the wall. Water dripped throughout and echoed louder than the groups footsteps as the descended. The mine twisted and turned in a miniature labyrinth before opening out into what was most likely once a camp for the workers; the team working like a well oiled dwemer mechanism as the went about their business. Karliah and Narrica moved to breach the secure cage found in a secluded alcove on the far side of the chamber while Rianni and Revvur kept watch in different directions. A sudden crash whipped everyone's attention in the direction of the cage; Narrica seemed to have triggered an unseen trap in the form of a rune and a set of bars and plunged from the ceiling behind them. Rianni looked immediately to the necromancer and tilted her head in mild surprise as he barely stirred. From the opposite direction though she heard more than stirring. Rianni grabbed Revvur's arm and silently pointed in the direction of the sound. The two of them moving to investigate while Karliah and Narrica attempted to find a way out of their newly formed prison. The tunnel from whence they came became increasingly illuminated with an orange glow, both Rianni and Revvur drawing their weapons ready to defend their position. As the source of the light turned the corner, Rianni leaned out with an arrow drawn ready... and froze. Her eyes wide and panic stricken as fear encompassed her body and prevented her from moving as a ball of fire hurtled towards her from the summoned atronach. She yelped as it struck her bow and knocked it from her hands, finally snapping back to reality from the blow and hunkering back down behind her cover of barrels. Revvur frowned at the girls weakness and leaped from cover, charging at the magical creature with his sword held ready in both hands. As Revvur charged, Rianni drew a pair of daggers from her belt at the small of her back and stood prone once more. She stood ready with both small blades drawn as she awaited an opening. They were not her first choice of weapon though she had proven perfectly adept in their mastery as a backup to her preferred bow.

While Revvur slashed at the atronach, Rianni charged and dropped low by their sides to skid on one knee below the swinging weapon. Seeing her move, the atronach swung a flaming arm across Revvur's chest - launching him into the adjacent rock wall. It turned sharply on Rianni who had barely got into a position to strike. Seeing the atronach's preemptive move, Rianni leaped backwards with a somersault as the atronach launched another flaming ball of magical energy at her. Rianni landed with barely enough time to act and instinct drove her to drop her blades and raise her hands defensively. She stood awestruck at what she saw as the fireball appeared to freeze in time between her outstretched palms. She had no idea that she had any kind of magical connection and was unsure what to do next, the atronach was clearly given pause as well as it seemed to stop and stare at her. Rianni may not have been magically trained in anyway, but even she knew that fire was useless against a creature of fire and so looked up, and launched the fireball at the rotten roof supports above the atronach; causing them to come crashing down on top of it along with a significant portion of the roof.

After retrieving her blades and bow, she moved to Revvur who she found to be groggy but otherwise unharmed. Heading back down into the central chamber she was shocked to find the necromancer had still not stirred, but without wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth she made haste to the cage. "What in Oblivion was that?!" Narrica exclaimed, having witnessed what occurred in the tunnel from their vantage point, "I... I don't know..." Rianni stammered, clearly as taken aback as the others by her own actions, "...I had no idea I could do that!" "Well maybe you could use some of that magic to get us out of here!" Karliah teased. Rianni looked around at their newly formed cell, "But I don't know any spells!". Karliah pointed to the necromancer, "Remember where we are Rianni. He must have potions and stuff around here, see if you can find something to get us out of here!" Rianni nodded curtly and dropped to a low stance as she snuck closer to the sleeping necromancer. A few minutes of searching yielded promising results in the form of a magicka potion and a scroll which appeared to contain a spell of telekinesis. She returned to the cage with both in hand, "Well... here goes nothing..." she spoke in a nervously wavering voice as she uncorked the small bottle and gulped down the strange tasting blue liquid within. "Good Rianni, now try the scroll before it wears off!" Karliah encouraged. Rianni unrolled the scroll and spoke the incantation as best she could, gesturing forward with an open palm and slowly raising it upwards. With a gently reluctant rumble, the spikes began to recede into the ceiling. She winced as she struggled to enact the magical ability bestowed upon her but managed to raise the spike enough that the others could roll out form underneath; Karliah clearing the spikes just as Rianni's magical grasp let go and the shot back into the ground with remarkable force. Karliah stood and dusted herself off, helping Narrica back to her feet before placing a hand on Ri