At the very heart of Aldunz I come across a lone Argonian tinkering with an animated Dwemer spider. Whilst dressed neck to tail in an impressive set of Dwarven made armour, she appears more then just a common scavenger, or treasure hunter. Perhaps she too is searching for clues as to the elusive Guardian’s Eye, or maybe like the Altmer Neramo I last saw at Sentinel, she makes study of the Dwemer machines that still roam the corridors of these abandoned subterranean settlements.
Alas that I shall never know, for as I approached with sword sheaved and open hands, she stood and raised her staff high to hail me, not in greeting, but in an opening salvo of blaze and flame, and the Dwemer spiders that were sat at her feet, fell upon me like a pack of angry Kwama.
Aldunz, one of many Dwarven cities hidden deep beneath the rocks of Hammerfell, preserved against the atrophy of time not only by the scouring sands, but by a self-sustaining society of automatons that scuttle the corridors long after their architects disappeared.
But Aldunz hides a peculiar secret, as I delve deeper towards its heart I come across the extinguished bodies of Atronachs and the charred shells of defunct machines. A hidden war is being waged in the deepest chambers of this forgotten city, between the machines of the Dwemer, and flame Atronachs of the volcanic mountains into which this settlement was built.
We may never know how or when it started, perhaps the machines burrowed too deep, or the mountains lava bit a fresh course. Maybe the land itself brought the two together with quake or tremor, or was it the bumbling excavations of a modern day archaeologist that sparked this conflict.
In truth, it is an inconsequential war, a war that cannot be won, only survived. A war without good or bad, right or wrong; a war fought solely because the two sides cannot communicate with one another… but then, aren’t all wars like that.
An oasis in a desert can prove to be a lifesaver for the travellers, migrants and pilgrims of the arid wastes of Hammerfell, but they can also be very dangerous places for the unwary, with all manner of creatures making a home in the gardens of the desert. Luckily for those needing to stop at the Ogre’s Bluff oasis you won’t find any actual ogres… that’s probably because they were all eaten by the giant snakes!
In the Hollow Wastes of the Alik’r Desert, whist the Withered Hand attempts to raise an undead army to purge the desert of the living, and the dark anchors of Coldharbour continue to rain Daedric monsters down upon the sands, the patrons of the Duneripper Downs lizard-racing track appear to show blinkered concern for anything but the next race.
Perhaps in these times of chaos and turmoil, when the next day is as uncertain as a Baandari surety, gambling is as much an act of faith for the gambler, as praying is for the priest.
In a lonely cave set under the mountains skirt just outside Bergama, the ancient hag Viyaneh sits alone in the shade awaiting the departure of the sun. Like the desert fox, she emerges from her burrow at dusk to prey upon Bergama’s eastern roads.
An ornery smile plays over her dry, skinless lips as she watches my approach, using her gnarled, skull-crested staff she rises gingerly to her feet as I dismount a short distance away. There is no need for words, no challenge, no threat, no curse, for she knows why I am here; indeed, it is almost as if she has been expecting me.
Yet if she had, surely she would have chosen not to face me alone. The hags of the desert though are a little like alley cats, whilst they like to know where each other are, they don’t much care for one another’s company.