"She’s not here!"
"What do you mean she’s not here?" I said, catching up with the others. I looked into the empty cage, then turned my questioning gaze towards Rayya. "She was just here!"
"Someone must have sounded an alarm and took her," she replied. "We’ll find her!"
"Over here!" yelled Teldryn, waving at us to follow, then ducking into a dark corridor. 
There was no point in trying to to do this quietly, I realized. I ran to where the Dunmer had been just moments before. The sounds of another struggle echoed through the large cavern. Marcurio and Teldryn had encountered another pair of warlocks somewhere nearby. It would have to be up to me and Rayya to find the girl.
An ice spike flew over our heads. “You shouldn’t have come here!” someone yelled from around a corner. Another ice spike sliced the air towards us, narrowly missing my shoulder.
"You go ahead," said Rayya. "I’ll take care of this one." With a yell, the Redguard ran ahead. I followed close behind and made it past the warlock that had spotted us.
I walked briskly along the dimly lit corridor, vaguely aware of where it was leading me. Was there some sort of enchantment to this place? The shouts of my companions sounded far away. Shaking my head to regain focus, I continued on. A flicker of movement up ahead caught my attention and I picked up my pace to see what it was. 
I found myself in a smaller cave filled with many candles. Through the haze of the smoke, I could see a group of robed figures standing around a long table. An altar! I caught the glint of a dagger as the priest held his arms up high above the altar. 
The room became chaos as the necromancer stumbled backwards as a lightning bolt struck his shoulder. An ice spike caught my leg as I dove behind a low wall for cover. Cringing, I jumped up and delivered a fiery blow to the warlock that had unwisely decided to come closer. Dodging another ice spike, I sent another necromancer reeling backwards just as the others came rushing in.
Marcurio ran over to me as I slumped back down against the wall. 
"Just an ice spike," I said, seeing the concern on his face. "It’ll be okay. Can’t move right now." 
"You really should learn to use wards," he chided, effortlessly conjuring up a magical shield. "It’s the first thing they teach you at the College."
Not to be deterred, I pushed myself up and from behind the safety of the ward spell, I helped pick off the remaining necromancers.
"We’re too late," said Teldryn, after the last wizard had been killed. The woman’s corpse lay across the altar, lifeless. "Warlocks and their foul sorcery! They give mages a bad name."
I slumped down onto a bench and looked at all the dead bodies around us. My gaze fell on the woman at the altar as I tried to empathize with her death, but I felt nothing. The revelation worried me. 
Marcurio came up to me and handed me a dusty helmet. “Take a look at this. It looks like the Helm of Winterhold that Korir spoke about. Such an important artifact, here in plain sight! And all these fools could think of was trying to bring the dead back to life!”
Life? What kind of life is this? I wondered, glancing at the bodies around me. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t choose to be the Dragonborn.

"She’s not here!"

"What do you mean she’s not here?" I said, catching up with the others. I looked into the empty cage, then turned my questioning gaze towards Rayya. "She was just here!"

"Someone must have sounded an alarm and took her," she replied. "We’ll find her!"

"Over here!" yelled Teldryn, waving at us to follow, then ducking into a dark corridor. 

There was no point in trying to to do this quietly, I realized. I ran to where the Dunmer had been just moments before. The sounds of another struggle echoed through the large cavern. Marcurio and Teldryn had encountered another pair of warlocks somewhere nearby. It would have to be up to me and Rayya to find the girl.

An ice spike flew over our heads. “You shouldn’t have come here!” someone yelled from around a corner. Another ice spike sliced the air towards us, narrowly missing my shoulder.

"You go ahead," said Rayya. "I’ll take care of this one." With a yell, the Redguard ran ahead. I followed close behind and made it past the warlock that had spotted us.

I walked briskly along the dimly lit corridor, vaguely aware of where it was leading me. Was there some sort of enchantment to this place? The shouts of my companions sounded far away. Shaking my head to regain focus, I continued on. A flicker of movement up ahead caught my attention and I picked up my pace to see what it was. 

I found myself in a smaller cave filled with many candles. Through the haze of the smoke, I could see a group of robed figures standing around a long table. An altar! I caught the glint of a dagger as the priest held his arms up high above the altar. 

The room became chaos as the necromancer stumbled backwards as a lightning bolt struck his shoulder. An ice spike caught my leg as I dove behind a low wall for cover. Cringing, I jumped up and delivered a fiery blow to the warlock that had unwisely decided to come closer. Dodging another ice spike, I sent another necromancer reeling backwards just as the others came rushing in.

Marcurio ran over to me as I slumped back down against the wall.

"Just an ice spike," I said, seeing the concern on his face. "It’ll be okay. Can’t move right now."

"You really should learn to use wards," he chided, effortlessly conjuring up a magical shield. "It’s the first thing they teach you at the College."

Not to be deterred, I pushed myself up and from behind the safety of the ward spell, I helped pick off the remaining necromancers.

"We’re too late," said Teldryn, after the last wizard had been killed. The woman’s corpse lay across the altar, lifeless. "Warlocks and their foul sorcery! They give mages a bad name."

I slumped down onto a bench and looked at all the dead bodies around us. My gaze fell on the woman at the altar as I tried to empathize with her death, but I felt nothing. The revelation worried me. 

Marcurio came up to me and handed me a dusty helmet. “Take a look at this. It looks like the Helm of Winterhold that Korir spoke about. Such an important artifact, here in plain sight! And all these fools could think of was trying to bring the dead back to life!”

Life? What kind of life is this? I wondered, glancing at the bodies around me. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t choose to be the Dragonborn.

"Disgusting."
Rayya grimaced at the human skull, the bits of flesh clinging to the bone kept fresh by the cold temperature of the cave.
"Warlocks practice all sorts of foul sorcery," Said Teldryn in a low voice. "We should proceed with caution."
We followed the bloody trail until the cave opened up into a large cavern. Several rusty cages sat empty against the wall, and a makeshift storage area occupied a corner near a crude flight of stairs cut into the stone. “Yeah, this has all the makings of a warlock lair,” whispered Marcurio, disapprovingly. 
"I don’t even want to guess what they’ve been keeping inside those cages," I murmured.
"I think I know," the mage whispered back. "Look."
My eyes followed the direction to where he was pointing, to a large iron cage that sat further back on higher ground. Squinting, I could make out a slim shadowy figure standing inside the cage. “Is that…a person in there?” 
"Hush!" Rayya suddenly whispered. "Someone is coming."
We pressed our backs against the cave wall and waited. When the robed figure came around the bend, Teldryn grabbed him from behind and put a knife through his neck. The unfortunate warlock slumped to the ground noiselessly. 
Rayya peeked around the bend, and with a wave of her hand, motioned for us to follow. 
Warlocks. Why does it always have to be warlocks? I thought to myself. I shuddered at the thought of the nefarious plans these despicable mages had for that woman inside the cave. I hoped we would get to her in time.

"Disgusting."

Rayya grimaced at the human skull, the bits of flesh clinging to the bone kept fresh by the cold temperature of the cave.

"Warlocks practice all sorts of foul sorcery," Said Teldryn in a low voice. "We should proceed with caution."

We followed the bloody trail until the cave opened up into a large cavern. Several rusty cages sat empty against the wall, and a makeshift storage area occupied a corner near a crude flight of stairs cut into the stone. “Yeah, this has all the makings of a warlock lair,” whispered Marcurio, disapprovingly. 

"I don’t even want to guess what they’ve been keeping inside those cages," I murmured.

"I think I know," the mage whispered back. "Look."

My eyes followed the direction to where he was pointing, to a large iron cage that sat further back on higher ground. Squinting, I could make out a slim shadowy figure standing inside the cage. “Is that…a person in there?” 

"Hush!" Rayya suddenly whispered. "Someone is coming."

We pressed our backs against the cave wall and waited. When the robed figure came around the bend, Teldryn grabbed him from behind and put a knife through his neck. The unfortunate warlock slumped to the ground noiselessly. 

Rayya peeked around the bend, and with a wave of her hand, motioned for us to follow. 

Warlocks. Why does it always have to be warlocks? I thought to myself. I shuddered at the thought of the nefarious plans these despicable mages had for that woman inside the cave. I hoped we would get to her in time.

"Snow, snow, and more snow!" grumbled Marcurio. "I’m sick of all this snow!"
"I think I found something," motioned Teldryn to the mage.
"What? What is it?" replied Marcurio, looking over to where Teldryn was pointing. 
"Look! It’s more snow."
Marcurio scowled as Teldryn chuckled at his little joke.
We had left Winterhold early yesterday morning after our audience with Jarl Korir. Our meeting had gone sour as soon as we had stepped through the threshold of the jarl’s longhouse. 
"So you’re the new Arch-mage I’ve heard so much about," replied Korir coldly after I introduced myself. "The College is the worst thing that’s ever happened to Winterhold, maybe to Skyrim. Winterhold used to be the seat of power in Skyrim, until you lot came here. Few will admit it, but we all know the truth about the Great Collapse. You mages sit up there in your tower doing gods know what! My guards don’t even like going up there unless they absolutely have to."
I thought better about telling him how both General Tullius laughed when Winterhold was put on the negotiating table. “You are right, Jarl Korir,” I said, nodding respectfully. “The College has remained aloof to the well-being of Winterhold and it is time that we make an effort to cooperate with you to make this place a better one for its citizens.” Seeing the jarl’s face softening, I continued. “What can we do to help Winterhold get back on the path to becoming a formidable hold in Skyrim?”
"Well, Winterhold has lost much of its history, thanks to those cursed mages," Korir said thoughtfully. "And with that, much of its power. I aim to change that. I’ve heard rumors of the resting place of the helm of Winterhold, the very same helm that Jarl Hanse wore in the First Era. Hanse was in line to be High King of Skyrim, you know. Having that might get the ear of the other Holds and give me some authority."
"We’ll have to make camp soon," I said to Rayya as I trudged alongside her. "We should start looking for a suitable place to spend the night."
"The cave containing the helm is nearby," she replied. "But I don’t see it anywhere."
"That’s because it’s ALL SNOW," muttered Marcurio.
"Wait, I think I found something," Teldryn called out.
"I’m not falling for that, again, Teldryn," replied the mage.
"No, really. It’s blood."
We gathered around the patch of red that stained the pristine snow.
"There’s more over here!" said Rayya. "And, look! There a crevice!"
We followed the bloody path until we reached the small mouth of the cave that had been hidden not too long ago. “Lots of blood,” Teldryn murmured. “Not the kind of welcoming I was hoping for.”

"Snow, snow, and more snow!" grumbled Marcurio. "I’m sick of all this snow!"

"I think I found something," motioned Teldryn to the mage.

"What? What is it?" replied Marcurio, looking over to where Teldryn was pointing. 

"Look! It’s more snow."

Marcurio scowled as Teldryn chuckled at his little joke.

We had left Winterhold early yesterday morning after our audience with Jarl Korir. Our meeting had gone sour as soon as we had stepped through the threshold of the jarl’s longhouse. 

"So you’re the new Arch-mage I’ve heard so much about," replied Korir coldly after I introduced myself. "The College is the worst thing that’s ever happened to Winterhold, maybe to Skyrim. Winterhold used to be the seat of power in Skyrim, until you lot came here. Few will admit it, but we all know the truth about the Great Collapse. You mages sit up there in your tower doing gods know what! My guards don’t even like going up there unless they absolutely have to."

I thought better about telling him how both General Tullius laughed when Winterhold was put on the negotiating table. “You are right, Jarl Korir,” I said, nodding respectfully. “The College has remained aloof to the well-being of Winterhold and it is time that we make an effort to cooperate with you to make this place a better one for its citizens.” Seeing the jarl’s face softening, I continued. “What can we do to help Winterhold get back on the path to becoming a formidable hold in Skyrim?”

"Well, Winterhold has lost much of its history, thanks to those cursed mages," Korir said thoughtfully. "And with that, much of its power. I aim to change that. I’ve heard rumors of the resting place of the helm of Winterhold, the very same helm that Jarl Hanse wore in the First Era. Hanse was in line to be High King of Skyrim, you know. Having that might get the ear of the other Holds and give me some authority."

"We’ll have to make camp soon," I said to Rayya as I trudged alongside her. "We should start looking for a suitable place to spend the night."

"The cave containing the helm is nearby," she replied. "But I don’t see it anywhere."

"That’s because it’s ALL SNOW," muttered Marcurio.

"Wait, I think I found something," Teldryn called out.

"I’m not falling for that, again, Teldryn," replied the mage.

"No, really. It’s blood."

We gathered around the patch of red that stained the pristine snow.

"There’s more over here!" said Rayya. "And, look! There a crevice!"

We followed the bloody path until we reached the small mouth of the cave that had been hidden not too long ago. “Lots of blood,” Teldryn murmured. “Not the kind of welcoming I was hoping for.”

"I think I might have found the place."
I followed Brelyna’s voice over to the next corridor where she stood before a metal gate that barred the way to a small pool. “I have a feeling that key you found on the wispmother probably fits this lock,” she said, pointing to a dwemer made box on the ice wall nearby.
I took out the plain key and slid it into the keyhole. The key turned easily, lifting the latch that dropped the cover, exposing a lever. The gate slid up into the small recesses of the ceiling as I pulled the lever. 
"Do you really think Savos Aren hid the robes down there?" I asked, staring into the deep pool before us. The water was clear and I could see straight down to the bottom where a small box lay nestled amongst the rocks. Here and there, a dark shadow crossed my view. "There’s slaughterfish in there," I muttered, dismayed. "And I bet the water’s really cold."
"Oh, you’re getting into that water!" said Brelyna flatly. "I did not almost die in this ice labyrinth for you not to leave with those robes." 
I groaned at the prospect of getting wet. “Why couldn’t he have just hidden them in some magical box or something?” 
I stepped to the edge of the pool and looked down once more. 
"You’re not going in with your clothes on, are you?" asked Brelyna. "You’ll catch your death by the time we get out of here! Give me your clothes. I’ll keep them warm with a small flame spell so that you don’t freeze to death when you get out."
Noticing the flush of embarrassment on my cheeks, Brelyna laughed and said, “I’ll turn around, okay?” 
I quickly took my robes off and, without a second thought, dived into the frigid pool. I swam as fast as I could, pushing hard with my legs to keep my momentum from slowing down. The slaughterfish kept away from me, seemingly uninterested. The pool was deeper than I had thought, but I kept my eye on the metal box as I navigated between the sharp, jutting ice that lined the narrow wall of the pool.
Once I had the small dwemer box in my hands, I pushed myself back up. The top looked so far away. As I skirted past a ledge, my arm brushed against the ice, slicing my skin. The sudden sting of pain disrupted my focus and, without thinking, I let go of the box. Scrambling to catch the box before it was out reach, my leg slid against the ledge, causing a long gash down the side of my calf. Ignoring the new source of pain this time, I grasped the box and headed back up. 
The slaughterfish came in swarms. Smelling the blood in the water awakened them from their torpor, and they began to surround me as I made my way back to the top. They began nipping at my legs, my arms, and torso. I kicked away at them, hoping to frighten them off, but it only helped to rile them even more. My chest was feeling tight, and it took all the will I had to not yell out with each new bite. I pushed myself further as the pool began to grow cloudy with my blood. Almost there!
My head burst through the surface of the pool like a geyser.
"Here! Give me your hand!" Brelyna cried out. 
I grasped her hand as she pulled me out as quickly as she could. I scrambled across the icy floor, taking in deep gulps of air as Brelyna knocked of the few slaughterfish that came up with me.
********
"These better be worth it," said Brelyna as we sat around eating seared slaughterfish around a quickly waning fire. 
I looked at Savos’ Psijiic robes folded neatly inside the box. “Let’s get out of here, now. We’ll deal with these robes when we get back to the College.”

"I think I might have found the place."

I followed Brelyna’s voice over to the next corridor where she stood before a metal gate that barred the way to a small pool. “I have a feeling that key you found on the wispmother probably fits this lock,” she said, pointing to a dwemer made box on the ice wall nearby.

I took out the plain key and slid it into the keyhole. The key turned easily, lifting the latch that dropped the cover, exposing a lever. The gate slid up into the small recesses of the ceiling as I pulled the lever. 

"Do you really think Savos Aren hid the robes down there?" I asked, staring into the deep pool before us. The water was clear and I could see straight down to the bottom where a small box lay nestled amongst the rocks. Here and there, a dark shadow crossed my view. "There’s slaughterfish in there," I muttered, dismayed. "And I bet the water’s really cold."

"Oh, you’re getting into that water!" said Brelyna flatly. "I did not almost die in this ice labyrinth for you not to leave with those robes." 

I groaned at the prospect of getting wet. “Why couldn’t he have just hidden them in some magical box or something?” 

I stepped to the edge of the pool and looked down once more. 

"You’re not going in with your clothes on, are you?" asked Brelyna. "You’ll catch your death by the time we get out of here! Give me your clothes. I’ll keep them warm with a small flame spell so that you don’t freeze to death when you get out."

Noticing the flush of embarrassment on my cheeks, Brelyna laughed and said, “I’ll turn around, okay?” 

I quickly took my robes off and, without a second thought, dived into the frigid pool. I swam as fast as I could, pushing hard with my legs to keep my momentum from slowing down. The slaughterfish kept away from me, seemingly uninterested. The pool was deeper than I had thought, but I kept my eye on the metal box as I navigated between the sharp, jutting ice that lined the narrow wall of the pool.

Once I had the small dwemer box in my hands, I pushed myself back up. The top looked so far away. As I skirted past a ledge, my arm brushed against the ice, slicing my skin. The sudden sting of pain disrupted my focus and, without thinking, I let go of the box. Scrambling to catch the box before it was out reach, my leg slid against the ledge, causing a long gash down the side of my calf. Ignoring the new source of pain this time, I grasped the box and headed back up. 

The slaughterfish came in swarms. Smelling the blood in the water awakened them from their torpor, and they began to surround me as I made my way back to the top. They began nipping at my legs, my arms, and torso. I kicked away at them, hoping to frighten them off, but it only helped to rile them even more. My chest was feeling tight, and it took all the will I had to not yell out with each new bite. I pushed myself further as the pool began to grow cloudy with my blood. Almost there!

My head burst through the surface of the pool like a geyser.

"Here! Give me your hand!" Brelyna cried out. 

I grasped her hand as she pulled me out as quickly as she could. I scrambled across the icy floor, taking in deep gulps of air as Brelyna knocked of the few slaughterfish that came up with me.

********

"These better be worth it," said Brelyna as we sat around eating seared slaughterfish around a quickly waning fire. 

I looked at Savos’ Psijiic robes folded neatly inside the box. “Let’s get out of here, now. We’ll deal with these robes when we get back to the College.”

I huddled tightly against the cold wall of the dim corridor, preparing to die.
The sound of cracking ice brought me to my senses. I held my breath as a wraith flew by me, leaving a trail of ice crystals suspended in the air. Afraid, I scurried further into the darker recesses of the small corridor, bringing myself closer into a ball.
I shouldn’t have come here, I berated myself.
A fleeting sense of gratitude came over me as I realized that the cold was keeping me from feeling the pain of the deep gashes slashed across my back and arms where the wispmother’s embrace had cut me. This is where I will die.
How did it come to this? 
It was all because of the note that Savos had left me. He had revealed, posthumously, that he had been a Psijiic monk sent to keep an eye on things here in the this realm. He had left me his Psijiic robes, but they were hidden somewhere below the College. 
"I have to find those robes before anyone gets their hands on them…like the Thalmor," I said to Brelyna as she tried to dissuade me from going.
"Then I’ll go with you," she said.
I didn’t know where she was now. I had pushed her out of the way from a blast of ice spikes. In an instant, the wispmother was on me, her strong, cold arms holding me tightly as hundreds of razor thin ice shards cut deep into my skin. It was an act of Mara that helped me escape from the creature. But Brelyna was no where in sight.
"I’m sorry, Brelyna," I whispered, too tired to cry. I thought about Alduin and how I failed Skyrim. What would my father have thought about that? I wondered. I thought about the College. Someone would have to take my place. Tolfdir would surely be appointed. If he could figure out his left hand from his right, I mused. I thought about my friends. Teldryn would probably go on his way. Marcurio would…I was suddenly heavy with regret. 
A series of noises shook me from my thoughts. I listened for a few seconds to try to make it out. The swoosh of a fireball, the hiss of steam, the crackle of ice…something was going on. A fight! Brelyna was still alive!
Gathering my remaining strength, I conjured the stongest healing spell I could muster and waited impatiently as my wounds began to heal. Still extremely weak, I pulled myself up and made my way towards the sounds.
"I’m going to kill you if it’s the last thing I do!" screamed Brelyna as she charged at the creature. The wispmother  stared at her with a bemused look as the Dunmer’s sword chipped the creature’s hip. But her slight smile twisted into horror as a torrent of flame gushed over her.
Brelyna turned to see where the fire was coming from and gasped. “You’re alive!” she cried out.
"Let’s finish this!" I said, keeping the stream of fire steady.
With a nod, Brelyna produced a fireball and flung it at the screaming wispmother.
 We were going to get out of here alive…I was going to make sure of that.

I huddled tightly against the cold wall of the dim corridor, preparing to die.

The sound of cracking ice brought me to my senses. I held my breath as a wraith flew by me, leaving a trail of ice crystals suspended in the air. Afraid, I scurried further into the darker recesses of the small corridor, bringing myself closer into a ball.

I shouldn’t have come here, I berated myself.

A fleeting sense of gratitude came over me as I realized that the cold was keeping me from feeling the pain of the deep gashes slashed across my back and arms where the wispmother’s embrace had cut me. This is where I will die.

How did it come to this? 

It was all because of the note that Savos had left me. He had revealed, posthumously, that he had been a Psijiic monk sent to keep an eye on things here in the this realm. He had left me his Psijiic robes, but they were hidden somewhere below the College. 

"I have to find those robes before anyone gets their hands on them…like the Thalmor," I said to Brelyna as she tried to dissuade me from going.

"Then I’ll go with you," she said.

I didn’t know where she was now. I had pushed her out of the way from a blast of ice spikes. In an instant, the wispmother was on me, her strong, cold arms holding me tightly as hundreds of razor thin ice shards cut deep into my skin. It was an act of Mara that helped me escape from the creature. But Brelyna was no where in sight.

"I’m sorry, Brelyna," I whispered, too tired to cry. I thought about Alduin and how I failed Skyrim. What would my father have thought about that? I wondered. I thought about the College. Someone would have to take my place. Tolfdir would surely be appointed. If he could figure out his left hand from his right, I mused. I thought about my friends. Teldryn would probably go on his way. Marcurio would…I was suddenly heavy with regret. 

A series of noises shook me from my thoughts. I listened for a few seconds to try to make it out. The swoosh of a fireball, the hiss of steam, the crackle of ice…something was going on. A fight! Brelyna was still alive!

Gathering my remaining strength, I conjured the stongest healing spell I could muster and waited impatiently as my wounds began to heal. Still extremely weak, I pulled myself up and made my way towards the sounds.

"I’m going to kill you if it’s the last thing I do!" screamed Brelyna as she charged at the creature. The wispmother  stared at her with a bemused look as the Dunmer’s sword chipped the creature’s hip. But her slight smile twisted into horror as a torrent of flame gushed over her.

Brelyna turned to see where the fire was coming from and gasped. “You’re alive!” she cried out.

"Let’s finish this!" I said, keeping the stream of fire steady.

With a nod, Brelyna produced a fireball and flung it at the screaming wispmother.

 We were going to get out of here alive…I was going to make sure of that.

"Nothing is happening!"
The giant frost atronach stood unfazed as I blasted him with fire. 
Why isn’t it working? I thought frantically to myself. 
I hurled my axe at the creature. It stuck to its chest and burst into white hot flames, but the ice around the blade barely watered. I looked over at Brelyna who was slumped against the icy wall. She had been knocked unconscious by a blow from the atronach’s enormous arm. 
"Brelyna!" I called out, deftly keeping a safe distance from the creature’s deadly arms. "Wake up!"
The Dunmer stirred and raised her head slowly. “Wha-what happened?” she said groggily.
We had escaped the spiders only to be surrounded by a group of ice wraiths in the next corridor we ventured into. The creatures surrounded us immediately, their teeth clacking as they snapped at us viciously from all directions. We had killed the last of them inside this cavern and were catching our breath when Brelyna was suddenly flung across the cave straight into the far wall. 
"Brelyna! Are you hurt?" I called out as I continued my fiery assault.
The atronach seemed to take no notice of the Dunmer as she got up and slowly, if shakily, came around from behind and showered it with fire. 
The creature stood transfixed, confused as to what to do. It turned its torso back and forth, its blade-like arms swinging, as it took turns looking at me and Brelyna while we continued to swath it with fire. 
Small droplets of water began to fall on the snow around the creature. “It’s melting!” I yelled at Brelyna. 
We increased our fiery assault. “I-I don’t know how long I can keep this up!” Brelyna cried out. 
"Hang in there!" I replied, letting the sweat roll down my face. I began to feel light-headed, but I had to keep going on.
Then, suddenly, the frost atronach shattered into a million tiny shards that melted before the ice touched the ground. 

"Nothing is happening!"

The giant frost atronach stood unfazed as I blasted him with fire. 

Why isn’t it working? I thought frantically to myself. 

I hurled my axe at the creature. It stuck to its chest and burst into white hot flames, but the ice around the blade barely watered. I looked over at Brelyna who was slumped against the icy wall. She had been knocked unconscious by a blow from the atronach’s enormous arm. 

"Brelyna!" I called out, deftly keeping a safe distance from the creature’s deadly arms. "Wake up!"

The Dunmer stirred and raised her head slowly. “Wha-what happened?” she said groggily.

We had escaped the spiders only to be surrounded by a group of ice wraiths in the next corridor we ventured into. The creatures surrounded us immediately, their teeth clacking as they snapped at us viciously from all directions. We had killed the last of them inside this cavern and were catching our breath when Brelyna was suddenly flung across the cave straight into the far wall. 

"Brelyna! Are you hurt?" I called out as I continued my fiery assault.

The atronach seemed to take no notice of the Dunmer as she got up and slowly, if shakily, came around from behind and showered it with fire. 

The creature stood transfixed, confused as to what to do. It turned its torso back and forth, its blade-like arms swinging, as it took turns looking at me and Brelyna while we continued to swath it with fire. 

Small droplets of water began to fall on the snow around the creature. “It’s melting!” I yelled at Brelyna. 

We increased our fiery assault. “I-I don’t know how long I can keep this up!” Brelyna cried out. 

"Hang in there!" I replied, letting the sweat roll down my face. I began to feel light-headed, but I had to keep going on.

Then, suddenly, the frost atronach shattered into a million tiny shards that melted before the ice touched the ground. 

We stood still, following the faint skittering sound with our ears. 
The sound crossed above us, followed by a flurry of activity. 
My eyes scanned the cob-web dense ceiling. Hundreds of dark, glinting eyes stared back at me, waiting.
The spiders all dropped to the ground at once and slowly closed in on us, their sharp mandibles clacking in anticipation.
"There are too many!" Brelyna yelled, as she fended off an arachnid. Being a Dunmer, she was largely immune to the freezing poison that these creatures spat out, but it wouldn’t protect her for long.
"Get of here!" I yelled, throwing a flame cloak around me. The spiders near me squealed in terror as the flames lashed out, singing the wiry hairs that covered their exoskeleton. 
"YOL TOOR SHUL!" 
The cavern was flooded with fire, swathing the spiders nearest to me in fire. The others scurried out of the way of their burning sisters but there was no room for them to go. In a matter of minutes, the cramped cavern was filled with screaming, burning spiders.

We stood still, following the faint skittering sound with our ears. 

The sound crossed above us, followed by a flurry of activity. 

My eyes scanned the cob-web dense ceiling. Hundreds of dark, glinting eyes stared back at me, waiting.

The spiders all dropped to the ground at once and slowly closed in on us, their sharp mandibles clacking in anticipation.

"There are too many!" Brelyna yelled, as she fended off an arachnid. Being a Dunmer, she was largely immune to the freezing poison that these creatures spat out, but it wouldn’t protect her for long.

"Get of here!" I yelled, throwing a flame cloak around me. The spiders near me squealed in terror as the flames lashed out, singing the wiry hairs that covered their exoskeleton. 

"YOL TOOR SHUL!" 

The cavern was flooded with fire, swathing the spiders nearest to me in fire. The others scurried out of the way of their burning sisters but there was no room for them to go. In a matter of minutes, the cramped cavern was filled with screaming, burning spiders.

"This way!"
We quickly ducked into the nearest corridor, took a right turn, and a sharp left, then waited and listened. The pounding in my heart seemed to reverberate throughout the ice labyrinth as I struggled to catch my breath. 
A few minutes passed by as we stood with our backs pressed against the cold wall. “Do you think we lost them?” I finally whispered.
"I think so," answered Brelyna. 
I relaxed a little. That was a close call. We had encountered the largest frost troll we had ever seen and it was obvious that it hadn’t had a fresh kill in a long while. We managed to stun him with fireballs long enough to run away. But I knew that we would have to face that creature again, if we were to keep wandering these frozen corridors. 
Except we weren’t in a corridor. 
"Um, Brelyna," I whispered as softly as possible. 
"Hmmm?" she replied, still leaning close to the wall to hear any sign of the frost troll.
"Look up…slowly." 
Puzzled, Brelyna looked up slowly then choked down a gasp.
A dozen frozen bodies hung upside like icicles from the ceiling of the large cavern. Many more littered the floor, sucked dry. What we had thought were walls of ice was actually stone covered in silver spider web. 

"This way!"

We quickly ducked into the nearest corridor, took a right turn, and a sharp left, then waited and listened. The pounding in my heart seemed to reverberate throughout the ice labyrinth as I struggled to catch my breath. 

A few minutes passed by as we stood with our backs pressed against the cold wall. “Do you think we lost them?” I finally whispered.

"I think so," answered Brelyna. 

I relaxed a little. That was a close call. We had encountered the largest frost troll we had ever seen and it was obvious that it hadn’t had a fresh kill in a long while. We managed to stun him with fireballs long enough to run away. But I knew that we would have to face that creature again, if we were to keep wandering these frozen corridors. 

Except we weren’t in a corridor. 

"Um, Brelyna," I whispered as softly as possible. 

"Hmmm?" she replied, still leaning close to the wall to hear any sign of the frost troll.

"Look up…slowly." 

Puzzled, Brelyna looked up slowly then choked down a gasp.

A dozen frozen bodies hung upside like icicles from the ceiling of the large cavern. Many more littered the floor, sucked dry. What we had thought were walls of ice was actually stone covered in silver spider web. 

"Didn’t we already go this way?" asked Brelyna.
"I don’t know," I said, getting frustrated. "It all looks the same!"
We stopped as my last words, uttered a little too loudly, echoed throughout the ice caverns. A slight shuffling sound answered somewhere nearby, just as I had feared. 
"Sorry!" I whispered to Brelyna who gave me a disapproving look. "I’m at my wit’s end in here."
The shuffling grew louder. It was clear that whatever was making that sound was trying to find us. “Let’s go this way,” I whispered, turning into the corridor to my left. It would take us further from the shuffling sound, I hoped. It was hard to tell in this frigid, blue place.

"Didn’t we already go this way?" asked Brelyna.

"I don’t know," I said, getting frustrated. "It all looks the same!"

We stopped as my last words, uttered a little too loudly, echoed throughout the ice caverns. A slight shuffling sound answered somewhere nearby, just as I had feared. 

"Sorry!" I whispered to Brelyna who gave me a disapproving look. "I’m at my wit’s end in here."

The shuffling grew louder. It was clear that whatever was making that sound was trying to find us. “Let’s go this way,” I whispered, turning into the corridor to my left. It would take us further from the shuffling sound, I hoped. It was hard to tell in this frigid, blue place.

"I see one frost troll…and a small one at that."
"Just one?" Brelya responded. "Maybe all the stories I heard about the ice labyrinth were made up to scare the new students."
The steel gate slid open as I pulled on the lever that stuck out from the wall. The slight noise was enough to catch the troll’s attention. In mere moments, he had jumped off the ledge and was quickly shuffling towards us.
That is one fast troll, I thought to myself as I threw a fire ball at it. Fire, I had read once, was the best way to kill these creatures since it helped slow down their regenerative health. But it seemed that not many travelers knew about that bit of information from the number of corpses I had seen littered around Skyrim.
I made my way behind the troll so that it would be trapped between us with no way to escape. As I got into position,  I spied from the corner of my eye something moving beyond a fallen tree. Before I could react, three frost trolls came shuffling towards me. “Brelyna,” I said, already preparing a fireball with my left hand, “there are more of them.”
These trolls were bigger, faster, and meaner than the ones I normally encountered, and they were already upon me. I thought quickly as they chased me around the cave. Then I remembered the lever on the wall. 
"Get back!" I yelled at Brelyna as I ran towards the entrance.
The Dunmer mage looked up and nodded, then ran back to the outer cave with the smaller troll closely behind her. The steel gate clanged heavily behind me as I pulled the lever on my way out. 
Isolated now from its brothers, the creature roared angrily and bounded up the icy steps towards the ledge where Brelyna had situated herself. It took a while, but between the two of us, we were able to finally kill the beast. 
"Three more to go," I muttered. 
"Do you think we’ll be able to get them in here one by one?" Brelyna asked. 
"We can try."
I walked over to the gate. The three beasts tore at the heavy steel spikes, trying to get to me. I glanced at Brelyna who nodded. With a deep breath, I flipped the lever up, opening up the gate.

"I see one frost troll…and a small one at that."

"Just one?" Brelya responded. "Maybe all the stories I heard about the ice labyrinth were made up to scare the new students."

The steel gate slid open as I pulled on the lever that stuck out from the wall. The slight noise was enough to catch the troll’s attention. In mere moments, he had jumped off the ledge and was quickly shuffling towards us.

That is one fast troll, I thought to myself as I threw a fire ball at it. Fire, I had read once, was the best way to kill these creatures since it helped slow down their regenerative health. But it seemed that not many travelers knew about that bit of information from the number of corpses I had seen littered around Skyrim.

I made my way behind the troll so that it would be trapped between us with no way to escape. As I got into position,  I spied from the corner of my eye something moving beyond a fallen tree. Before I could react, three frost trolls came shuffling towards me. “Brelyna,” I said, already preparing a fireball with my left hand, “there are more of them.”

These trolls were bigger, faster, and meaner than the ones I normally encountered, and they were already upon me. I thought quickly as they chased me around the cave. Then I remembered the lever on the wall. 

"Get back!" I yelled at Brelyna as I ran towards the entrance.

The Dunmer mage looked up and nodded, then ran back to the outer cave with the smaller troll closely behind her. The steel gate clanged heavily behind me as I pulled the lever on my way out. 

Isolated now from its brothers, the creature roared angrily and bounded up the icy steps towards the ledge where Brelyna had situated herself. It took a while, but between the two of us, we were able to finally kill the beast. 

"Three more to go," I muttered. 

"Do you think we’ll be able to get them in here one by one?" Brelyna asked. 

"We can try."

I walked over to the gate. The three beasts tore at the heavy steel spikes, trying to get to me. I glanced at Brelyna who nodded. With a deep breath, I flipped the lever up, opening up the gate.