Panic and Mayhem
Photo: Ario Anindito
Narova woke up cold.
She yawned, scratched her head, and flexed a half-dozen tattoos along her back and arms. Almost immediately, a simmering kind of warmth filled her bones and radiated through her muscles and flesh. She picked up Murasame and crawled outside.
The view was…daunting.
When she’d gone to bed, there was only one massive skeleton roaming the landscape. Now there were dozens. Hundreds maybe. Their white capped skulls were as wide as a wizard’s tower and it looked like a fucking forest of them had uprooted and started meandering around.
“Get some rest, you said,” Narova hissed at the sword. “Great advice.”
If they could do this in one night, think what they’d have done to you and me if we went traipsing around.
“I thought vampires were the ones who had the constant hard-ons over the darkness.”
That’s very clever.
Narova shrugged and pulled the sword free from its makeshift leather scabbard. Murasame’s blade was a dull gray color, but the edge shined like the sliver of a moon—sharp enough to break skin on a light tap. The balance—even with the magical absence of weight—was perfect. The grip was made from some kind of leather that Narova had never felt before. Soft, but also nearly impossible to drop.
It was the most impressive weapon she had ever wielded.
Narova looked out over the landscape and thought about how she was going to get this done.
Most assassinations rely on the same method employed by every swordsman in Tamriel: feign one direction, attack from the other.
That’s it. Elaborate disguises and complicated deceptions were a lot of fun to make, but they were rarely worth the effort. Better to leave that kind of shit to the Thieves Guild.
Good killing was simple killing. All you needed to do was cause a bit of mayhem, and then slip through the gap everyone’s panic made for you.
“Your steel can cut through those skeletons?” Narova asked.
Narova eyed the closest bone-behemoth, focused on its left knee, heaved back the sword, and blinked.
Murasame cleaved through the bone and molded-iron fastenings in one smooth stroke, sending a spray of white fragments into the air.
Narova spun. Blinked. Came through from the other side.
Then the other.
Then the other.
And then she was gone—burning through the air again like a stone skipping across the surface of the sky. The skeleton stumbled and fell a few moments later with all the subtlety of a crumbling castle.
Cries of the Falmer echoed up from below, and then faded into the distance, becoming background noise as Narova blasted forward so fast that she could feel her hair tugging at the roots.
She knocked down three more skeletons that way—all of them a safe distance from Akavarin’s earthen palace. When she was confident that she’d done enough damage to attract attention, she blinked her way up high beyond the clouds, where the air was thin and the sun looked pale white and forlorn.
Narova rose for a long time—hoping it was enough time for Akavarin’s cadre of necromancers to leave the palace and investigate their maimed skeletal creations. She rose until it was difficult to haul in air and bits of frost formed in her hair.
And then she leveled out.
If you drop me, I will be extremely upset.
Narova didn’t respond to the sword. Instead she closed her eyes and pricked up all of her senses. There was another reason she’d climbed so high—Akavarin’s kingdom contained an overwhelming stink and pressure from the Netherworld. It was like wading through a shit-pit of magic.
But up here, only the very strongest dark charms could reach her.
Narova felt the pull of Akavarin in her fingernails and stomach. Even a little spark between her thighs.
She could sense him down there, miles below. Picture him pacing back and forth in a great hall on the far side of the palace. Feel his impatience.
“Gotcha, you corpse-fucker.”
It is a strange thing, to turn your body into a spear that moves so fast it could have been thrown by a god. Narova watched the clouds blow apart as she careened through them. She felt all of her blood move into her legs and feet. She zeroed in on Akavarin’s dark heartbeat.
The palace came into view. It looked like a quivering kidney bean from that height.
Too fast! Murasame cried into her skull. We’ll be crushed!
“You, maybe,” Narova rasped, although the sound was stolen from her mouth by the raging wind.
When the kidney bean had become a fortress again, Narova pulled the sword back behind her and activated all of her tattoos at the same time. Gathered up that dark energy and shoved it forward along with all the momentum from diving three miles down into the sky.
Both of her eardrums clicked, and everything went silent.
The roof of the palace was pulverized and turned to dust in a noiseless flurry of broken earth and shattered stone.
The next moment couldn’t have lasted for more than an instant. There was a hooded figure standing in the middle of the massive—and now roofless—hall. He was wearing a black, silky cloak that stretched along the marble floor for dozens of strides. When the figure look up at the calamity burning down from the sky, Narova saw the edge of his pale jaw. The glow of his purple eyes.
She remembered when this man tore her soul from her body and left her for dead thirty miles below the earth.
Akavarin opened his mouth to say something. His tongue flickered.
Narova closed her eyes and slammed Murasame into Akavarin’s skull and down along his spine. She felt the warm splatter of blood and entrails all over her face and arms and body. The marble floor cracked—seven yawning chasms opening up along the seams of the stone.
When Narova opened her eyes, the only thing that remained of the Dark Necromancer Akavarin was a big splotch of blood shaped like an enormous piece of bird shit.
And, somehow, one beating heart that was leaking purple blood.
She picked it up and took a big bite.