Anchors Aweigh

I awoke in a cell. It wasn’t the pretty, gradual awakening of one returning from sleep, where the mind starts to notice things and thoughts flow and senses gradually return. No, consciousness came to me like a brutal kick to the face.

Apparently I was standing up, because my head immediately reeled and I pitched forwards against the floor. I wasn’t sure what it was; the floor was as rough and gritty as stone, yet as cold and hard as metal. I didn’t want to touch it any more than I had to, so I pushed myself back to my feet.

I didn’t know where I was, I was alone, and to top it off, I was naked.

A voice boomed through my mind. It felt like standing right next to a          as he banged on the          and sent enormous reverberations throu— wait, did I just think “        ” instead of a word?

Standing next to… to…

Oh gods.

The voice boomed again, and I screamed as the pain sent my thoughts scurrying.

YOU AWAKEN

The voice dropped in intensity.

CAN YOU HEAR ME

“FUCK YES I CAN HEAR YOU!” I roared, and staggered unceremoniously forward. That was when I realized that the mysterious voice in my head had a speaker, and he was standing inside my cell. Looking at me. I screeched in a decidedly embarassing manner and tried to duck out of reach and scrabble for some semblance of modesty. It took me a couple seconds to realize that he was translucent purple, and not moving his eyes in the least. I tentatively stood back up and approached the figure, and he definitely appeared to be blind. Well, that was a relief. Maybe I could slip through the gate. I stumbled to the gate, only to find that not only were the edges frighteningly sharp, but they were just thinner than I was. I didn’t think risking a crossing right away would be necessary or worthwhile, so I leaned against the wall to get my bearings.

I didn’t really have anything. I was in a cell made of metal-rock, and I had literally nothing. I …checked. Nothing hidden away. Damn.

There was a noise… the entire place sounded like it was thrumming. Like a rumble, only nothing felt like it was shaking. And over it were yells. They sounded like a mix of panic and hope.

Suddenly, a lizard was on the other side of my cell’s door, leering at me. I instinctively went to cover myself and gestured rudely. The lizard seemed to smile more, and spoke.

It seems there is a jailbreak. Maybe it is right to open your cell, yes?

The creature fiddled with a lock I couldn’t see, and with reluctance, the bars retreated. It occurred to me that the lizard was clothed.

Coming?

It shrugged; maybe my silence and stillness made it think I’d been broken. It turned away and ran towards the other end of the room. I took a step forward, cautiously, trying to keep noise to a minumum. Thankfully, my foot barely made a sound, and the floor neither creaked nor rustled. I ran on the balls of my feet to catch up to the lizard, and wrapped my fingers around its neck as I slammed it to the ground.

Now that I was clothed, I started forward in the direction it had been going, when the voice intoned through my skull again.

FOLLOW URDESEEM. QUICKLY, NOW

Was Urdeseem the lizard I just killed?

Following him was out of the question, but there was only one path, so I sprinted down it. Blue fires illuminated the rock-metal tunnel, strewn with corpses and debris. I shivered and stepped up to one for warmth, only to find out it radiated cold, like a          blizzard on a stool.

Wait, where did blizzards happen? Why didn’t I know this.

The caged skeleton dangling in steam glared at me in reproach. I decided I could find out where blizzards lived later, and continued running pell-mell down the spike-lined tunnel. One of them caught my arm and ripped a long gash down it. I pulled my stolen shirt tight against my arm and continued. Finally, I turned a corner into a new room.

Were those… they were! Weapons! Racks of cruel weapons lying about, and a few corpse-marks of ash scattered across the floor. Dead bodies, too, but that just meant there was less competition for the weapons.

The big ones were out, given my arm. Did I want to grab two axes? Could I put a shield on my bleeding arm? I didn’t think I could hold, much less pull, a bow for a while. But then I noticed the staves. One almost seemed to glow as I approached it. I blinked and shook my head. Might have just been my imagination.

I grabbed the glowing stave and felt a surge of power slam through me. My arm closed the cut in a matter of seconds. Ah, what the hell. I jabbed forward with the stave, and a blast of fire roared out and slammed against the wall.

Oh,          that felt good. The holes in my memory were starting to worry me more than they angered me.

I slipped through the next door, and slid to a stop as a skeleton hastily assembled itself and charged me.

Almost of its own accord, fire roared out of the staff again and the bones dissolved into ash.

This was almost starting to look good, until that damn voice roared through my head again and told me not to stop, because indecision was a decision.

Thanks, s’wit. That’s really good advice. I was thinking about taking my time, maybe setting up a vacation house here, but no, just for you, I think I’ll keep moving.

Another skeleton put itself together and started shooting at me. I was very disappointed to learn that the magic stick fire did not burn up arrows in flight.

Once it was dispatched and I pulled the bone arrows out of me, I limped forward. I was glad to have a cane. Soon enough, I saw a woman in the distance.

She was a bit farther away than I’d expected, and she also turned out to be something like eight feet high. Sweet         . I idly wondered if it mattered that I didn’t know to whom it was I prayed, since they clearly weren’t intervening for me in a good way.

She introduced herself as Lyris and explained that we had to go rescue the old man who’d thrown his shadow at me earlier. I nodded along, not really caring what happened as long as there were two of us now. She looked like she could stop a lot of arrows.

LYRIS IS A MIGHTY AND NOBLE WARRIOR. TRUST IN HER.

Good to know, though now I was curious what she was doing in this place. We squeezed through another door, and then ran up a scaffold running over a darkly gleaming river. Lyris then directed me to go find a magical eyeball and stab it until it broke.

That didn’t even seem weird to me. I was impressed by how quickly I’d become desensitized to this place. Self-assembling skeletons, giant torture things, magical eyeballs, fires that burned cold… Clearly nothing here was going to be normal, so why bother being surprised. I just wanted out.

Some walking cold-flames attacked us on the way to the eyeball, and exploded in ice when we killed them. My left leg is still numb, but it moves, so I don’t think I’m ruined just yet.

Lyris then took me to a blind man singing about two dead kings standing back to back facing each other, drawing their swords and shooting each other. I was then instructed to ask the deaf girl who heard it all, and that the blind boy would show me the way.

I wasn’t as immune to surprise as I’d thought, evidently.

After some conversation that I couldn’t follow, Lyris tugged me along and we ran down the river and into a passageway. I took two steps forward and was suddenly filled with pain beyond anything I’d ever before felt. Spikes jutted from the floor all around me, and I’d been run through from foot to stomach. I sagged, driving the spikes in further, and then slowly and mercilessly they retreated, taking bits of my flesh with them. I lay gasping on the floor as the world turned black.


I awoke in a passageway. It wasn’t the pretty, gradual awakening of one returning from sleep, where the mind starts to notice things and thoughts flow and senses gradually return. No, consciousness came to me like a brutal kick to the face.

Apparently I was standing up, because my head immediately reeled and I pitched forwards against the floor. I wasn’t sure what it was; the floor was as rough and gritty as stone, yet as cold and hard as metal. I didn’t want to touch it any more than I had to, so I pushed myself back to my feet.

I didn’t know where I was, but there was an enormous woman and I had clothes on.

“What… where…?” I tried to ask, before memory flooded through me like the          River in Rain’s Hand. Cell. Naked. Blind shadow. Lizard. Clothes. Staff. Cold fire. Skeletons. Giant woman. Magic eyeball. Spikes.

“Did I die?”

She sighed. “You’ve been dead for some time, technically. I didn’t want to tell you right away.”

“You didn’t want to tell me I’m a SHAMBLING CORPSE‽” I yelled.

“It didn’t seem like something you’d take well, and judging by your reaction, it seems I was right.”

I bit my tongue and moved forward. It took some time and more traps to avoid, but finally we arrived at a ladder surrounded by glowing blue Daedric letters.

I was expecting a blank thought, so the correct word appearing right away was so surprising that I stopped dead for a bit. Lyris turned to ask me what was wrong, and the circle of letters erupted in blue icy fire with Lyris inside. The fires subsided, revealing Lyris standing tall, burnt and charred beyond what anyone should be able to bear.

“You’re dead too,” I said.

“If only,” was the reply. She turned, ash flaking off her as she moved, and slowly climbed up the ladder. I didn’t see any choice but to follow.

We emerged to see an enormous diamond prison floating in mid-air, spinning, with a beam of light running from top to bottom. Floating in that beam was the man who’d appeared in my cell. Lyris directed me to disable two side switches while she tampered with the center one.

I had absolutely no idea what to do, so I took the butt end of my staff and stabbed it through the lattice into the glowing blackness. It worked, at the cost of a few inches of staff, so I repeated the process on the other side. Thank          for making most magic things fragile.

“Will that let him free?” I asked.

Lyris smiled frighteningly and whispered, “No.” Then she slammed her hand onto a spike on the switch in front of her and screamed “I give myself so that he might be free!”

In a blinding surge of light, Lyris slowly transformed into the caged man, and the caged man into her.

What.

In Oblivion.

Just happened.

That phrase probably makes perfect sense, given that we’re in Oblivion. I stared in shock, before the old man spoke. Thankfully, his voice was no longer crashing through my head. It was actually kind of reedy. I led him to a door, and through there to a staircase leading to a platform hovering in void. Rings floated above it, spaced far apart, and high above us was Tamriel. As I watched, a massive weight and chain hurled itself past the hole in our ceiling, snaking endlessly towards the world above. Below. …there.

The old man chanted in a language I didn’t know. It hurt to hear. It was like if swords and hooks and barbs and fire were words. Machines around us ground into life, and lighting crackled from the room’s walls to the floating rings. Eerie blue light connected the rings and the platform, and chains of our own rose into the air as they unwound from massive drums. The chains rose faster and faster, falling towards Tamriel. The old man pulled me into the landing, into the light. I clung to a stone outcropping and watched in horror as he rose. My legs drifted off the landing, rising into the air. Soon I was hanging for my life to the platform, staring up at the floor below me. I got heavier and heavier, and finally, my grip broke.

I fell screaming through the light, wind rushing around me, whipping at my skin and clothes and hair. My ill-fitting and tattered garments were soon ripped off, and the cold gripped me like an enormous vise. I fell and fell, and in my panic I turned myself around to see the ground rushing up at me.

In a brief, frightening moment of calm, I muttered, “Good thing I’m already dead.”

And then I slammed into the ground.