Indeed, it was a city. It should not have been there and Eldaline was furious.


"I am choosing to believe that none of you have accidentally transported us to a plane of Oblivion, and are too embarrassed to tell me. Either this ship is not where it is supposed to be, or this city isn't."


"Do you suppose," Skavild began. "This could be the strange pirate cove the crew of the ship thought they were looking for?"


"This looks less like a cove." said Eldaline. "And more like a large town. Aralina, if you see any pirates, do not try to execute them on sight. They might have useful information."


Skavild said, "Rufus, stay close and don't talk to any strange pirates."
"It's all right, Da. Count Spoonface is a pirate too. They'll like him."


"Pirates are dirty and ignorant. They will not recognise your doll as one of them." said the soldier called Aranwen.
"As you were, Aranwen!" said Aralina, but Aranwen didn't listen.


"Count Spoonface is a magic pirate. His best friend is a carpet."
"I think the pirates will make Count Spoonface walk the plank first."


"Ahh!" Rufus said next.
"Skavild," said Eldaline. "Perhaps your little boy would fall over less if you tied his legs together and made him hop."


"Well, that's not very sympathetic. Don't mind her, Rufus, she's just grumpy because she doesn't know where we are."


"Hey, Auntie Eldaline. Where are we?"
"Somewhere very quiet." she said. "We should be quiet too."


They carefully made their way over a bubbling stream, the only source of noise in the whole town, apart from the distant waves, and Rufus, who had started to sing a song about chickens. 



"All these houses are boarded shut and propped shut too, for good measure." said Skavild. "I reckon we should look around before we even think of taking these boards down. We might get in trouble with the local authorities."
But Agent Aralina said, "The local authorities are strangely absent, Second Archivist. These houses might hold useful information about our location."


"Our location is an iceberg in the Sea of Ghosts, Flopsy." said Eldaline. "It is the town that is in the wrong place. But I agree that we will have to look indoors sooner rather than later."


Though she had walked the planes of Oblivion many times, things that lay outside her understanding, as well as the idea that she might have gone mad, left her as frightened as an Elflet, and much angrier.


"What are we looking for, Second Archivist Eldaline?" Aranwen demanded as politely as she knew how.


Eldaline abruptly stood still, and the air grew suddenly quiet around them, apart from Rufus. There were a thousand chickens in the song and he still had over nine-hundred and eighty left to sing about.

"I want to get into one of these watchtowers along the town walls." she said.



It was dark, and so they might have been anywhere. Once they had reached the high wall, Eldaline found to her disappointment that she could see nothing in the distance, not the lanterns of guardsmen, no candles lit in any window, and especially not the distant coast of Skyrim, but instead she could see a dark circle of looming hills.



"Well?" said Skavild. "Here's a watchtower. What now?"


"Tell me a story, Auntie Eldaline." said Rufus, who had lost count of the chickens.


"I'll tell you all a story." said Eldaline. She was truly glad to be asked.  Her wits were being scattered in a hundred directions and a sudden requirement to educate and instruct was all that could pull them back together.


'Long ago, in the city of Alinor, there was a reclusive temple scribe called Thaurbad, who could no longer speak, for he suffered with the Crimson Plague."
"What's that?" said Rufus.
"A plague that stops you from speaking." said Eldaline.
"Oh."
"I regret that it is entirely treatable in our times."


'He refused to meet with most people, only his healer and an errand boy.  One day, he procured from the Mages' Guild a wondrous enchanted quill.


Due to the incompetence of the Mages' Guild, especially in its earliest days, it was enchanted not with a soul, but with the essence of a Daedra in the service of Clavicus Vile. The Daedra's name was Feyfolken.'


'From that day, Thaurbad's writing took on an aspect so beautiful that the priests of Auri-El wept when they read it. His new talent brought him wealth and the admiration of the city, but did not, of course, bring him any happiness at all.'


'For Thaurbad knew that he was not the true author of the quill's words. He tried to write badly, and nonsense turned to poetry before his eyes. He tried to destroy the quill and it reassembled itself. He threw it away, and it simply began posting him offensive letters.'


'At last, Feyfolken then turned upon the scribe's thoughts, contorting them into the shapes of despair and self-loathing. He could not even write notes to beg for help, for Feyfolken leapt onto the page and changed Thaurbad's entreaties to beautifully-phrased laments to his ingratitude. Thaurbad was trapped. He set himself on fire."
"That's amazing!" cried Rufus. "How was he still alive? He must have been the strongest man ever!"


"He was not still alive." said Eldaline. "He was dead. That was the entire point of the exercise."


"And this dangerous quill, possessed of such incredible power, this is what we have been sent to search for?" said Aranwen.
"Have you never gone hunting for daedric artefacts, soldier? Even ones that exist? Ready your weapon."


The last words she had said had been so quiet that for a moment, Skavild and the rest had assumed they were directed at Aranwen. A half-imagined noise, growing louder, became a real and unimagined noise, and there was something running along the wall towards them.


To be continued.