Lynette would make a joke about her current situation, but it seemed a bit too easy. It was only now that she could understand why the Silver Hand was constantly sending patrols to new areas: lycans could run fairly fast, faster than any horse. In three hours, the Breton woman and her friend had gotten in a two day's worth of travel.
“I guess supernatural endurance isn't a myth.” The former mercenary giggled at her innuendo, which only elicited a snort from the werewolf. Patting the beast on his head, the woman dismounted, and consulted her map. “Ustengrav, didn't we just leave a crypt?”
In response, Reman motioned for Lynette to hand him his backpack, it wouldn't do well to enter the catacombs naked. Clothes in claw, the lycan returned to his human form, and quickly donned the simple armor. Iron wasn't the best material, but the Imperial was glad that it wasn't leather. “I don't like it either, but necromancers have been picking up travelers in the area, we need to keep innocents from dieing.”
“Isn't that a bit hypocritical of you?” The brunette gave her friend a cheeky grin, she knew that resurrecting the dead was only part of the dark art, and Reman's experience ended after corpse revival. At the flat look she received, the archer put her hands forward in an apologetic gesture. “I'm kidding, I’m kidding.”
“Have enough bolts for this?” The werewolf had already forgiven her, after all, there were more important things at hand. Reman gave his sword a few swings, just to hear the air being cut, such a refreshing sound.
“Bought plenty in Solitude.” For emphasis, the woman shook the quiver, a small basket that hung on her lower back. Of course, it hadn't been her money that she'd spent, and that wasn't her only purchase, but the lycan wasn't about to dwell on it. Lynette looked at her ex-fiance, and saw him shifting his weight between feet. “You're getting antsy, aren't you?”
“Just a bit.” The Imperial clenched his fist, channeling magicka into the closed hand, the energy's familiar glow enveloped it like an aurora. The blue mist began to take shape, forming arcing runners that flashed through the magic cloud. The electricity crackled once, then died without a sound. “I haven't cast a spell in a while.”
“I thought magical backup only happened to dedicated mages and wizards.” The Breton had heard of the affliction, her father had explained it when she was younger and just learning her first spells. It was supposed to feel like a building ache in one's brain, spine, and arms, and only got worse as things went on. Mages who were feeling the effects tended to be jittery, anxious, and easily agitated.
“Spellswords and battlemages suffer it, too.” Reman could recall no less than three times Lynette's father, Gaston, had been in magical backup, using magic was the only way to relieve it. Which, thanks to Conjurer's Folly, the Imperial couldn't do at the moment. Of course, the lycan was practicing, he'd almost relearned Sparks, but it wasn't coming soon enough. “Let's get inside, maybe one of the necromancers will have a spell tome or two laying around.”
“You're just going to keep it a secret until Reman shows up?” Luna wasn't believing this, first Renoir says he can help, then he clams up after scanning Glade.
“It's in both of their best interests to hear the news at the same time.” The vampire was adamant on this, and he wasn't the sort to back down just because a woman was angry with him. The last thing he needed was for either of the two werewolves to be left in the dark about something like this. “If you want to know what I do, read Reman's notes on lycanthropy.”
“If it'll help, we need to know. If you don't mind telling us.” The yellow pony hid behind her mane as the undead man's eyes fell on her. Fluttershy had stared down hostile manticores and chewed out a dragon, but Renoir's curious gaze was very different than either of those. Not more powerful, or threatening, just unusual.
“I understand your concern, but it's nothing fatal.” The vampire stopped mid-sentence, as though a stray thought struck him. With a chuckle, Renoir let the two mares in on what he found to be so funny. “Quite the opposite, really, she's technically healthier than any werewolf I've seen before.”
“At least hand me the books, then, if you won't tell us outright.” Princess Luna wanted to continue on the train of conversation that the bloodsucker had started, but she knew better than to be distracted by a vampire's words. Nothing against Renoir, but vamponies had been more than a nuisance in Equestria's past. “I trust you won't interfere in my reading.”
“Certainly not, I'm a healer when outside of combat, and I'd hate to see someone worry about one of my charges.” The pale man handed over the requested tomes, eight in total, all of Reman's research regarding the various strains and sub-strains of lycanthropy and Hircine's other manbeasts.
“You've taken care of werewolves before?” Fluttershy, of all ponies, had found common ground in the undead wizard. She herself ran an animal shelter and cared for anyone that needed help, pony or otherwise. Much to the Element's surprise, Renoir smiled.
“Three, actually, Reman's the most recent, though I don't have to patch him up very often.” The vampire had the oddest tendency to attract the company of rather... unique individuals. Since his infection in High Rock, traveling had become a great way to pass the decades, and finding strange people was only natural. “They may deny it, but lycans act more like dogs than you would expect.”
Princess Luna did her best to read over the two.
In the animonculory, Twilight had hit a dead end. Reman's notes had mentioned something called a soul gem, and the theory that it was the source of power for Dwarven automatons. The thought of an object able to contain somepony's soul after death was horrifying, but relieving at the same time, it provided a type of immortality. The thought of using one of the scary gemstones for the purpose of longevity was quickly discarded as she reached a section about the Ideal Masters. They were a type Daedra that controlled the Soul Cairn, a realm of Oblivion where trapped souls go after being the soul gems containing them have been used for the purpose of enchanting or recharging an item.
With a nervous glance to one of the rooms two massive table, Twilight noticed that there was a number of glittering, pink gemstones, and she briefly wondered if the were full. Reman didn't seem like the type to keep useless items around, the the lavender unicorn decided to ignore them, for her own sake.
“Maybe it's time for a different book.” The Element of Magic levitated a new tome from the shelves, placing the previous book where she found it. She was a librarian, after all. Twilight had a good feeling about this one, its orange cover and the odd tree on the front seemed unusual, but the title made it sound like something she'd like.
Alteration, a Beginner's Guide.
“This is... odd.” Reman was only making a casual observation, Ustengrav's first chamber contained a number of bodies, and some were still warm. Necromancers aren't pushovers, someone had attacked quickly and mercilessly, piles of ash closer to the surface indicated that the conjurers' revived corpses had been the first to fall. “A battleaxe did this, probably a Nord or Orc that got here about twenty minutes before us.”
“You can figure out that much just from one chop?” Lynette was a little skeptical of the Imperial, even if she knew that Reman had more experience than her in this area. Then again, the injury did look like a headsman missed someone's neck.
“Not just that, the area smells like a warrior that uses two-handed weapons.” Reman knew that sounded like he was stereotyping all Nords and Orcs, but they had a certain smell about them when they used claymores and the like. “We should definitely proceed with caution.”
“Way ahead of you.” Lynette readied her crossbow, whoever did this was still nearby, and they had a job to do. The Breton was about to make a suggestion, but her ex-fiance was already at the entrance to the side passage she had seen.
“Another body, who in Oblivion is this guy?” The werewolf examined the dead Dunmer closer, he was killed by swords when he tried to run, that much was clear. Reman's question was about the warrior that had cleared the way for them, not the corpse, the elf was easy to identify as one of the mages that lived there.
“You think it's Ulfric's newest fan?” While Lynette had been serious, the lycan laughed at her question.
“If the Dragonborn is down here, I'll buy you dinner.” Reman sounded like he was joking, but in truth, he wasn't ruling out any possibilities. With no more words, the pair began their way through the ancient halls and passages of Ustengrav, following the rather lengthy trail of bodies. The Imperial kept his blade drawn, and used his free hand to motion for Lynette to stay a few feet behind him. Without any spells, the werewolf had to rely solely on his strength, which wasn't something to laugh at, but he still felt nervous.
When the narrow halls opened to a wide and breathtaking grotto, Reman's fear was justified. Bones from walking skeletons littered the floor, some still had their quivers attached to their backs. On the other side of the chamber, across a stone bridge, a figure struck down two others. The Imperial ducked and held a hand to signal his companion to do the same.
“Wuld!” The sound was thunderous in the cavern, Reman and Lynette jumped at it. The Breton turned to the lycan, rather pleased with herself, and the Imperial shot her a flat look. Keeping low, the two followed the stranger, who was kind enough to kill everything he came across. Only one thing halted their progress, nothing major, really. It was just a floor made of pressure plates that spewed fire when triggered.
“Any ideas, Ms. Jemane?” Lynette flipped the lycan off, not pleased with him at all. Smiling, the Breton darted across the plates, running faster than they could unleash their flaming payload. The archer put a boot on a dead Frostbite Spider, raising her arms in a pose of victory.
“Yeah, you should go fast, but that tin suit will probably slow you down.” Alright, two could play that game, and the werewolf was more competitive than most. With a grin, Reman began his performance, somersaulting over two plates at a time, landing in the border between two every time. When he reached safety, the lycan put a hand on his hip, and blew across his hand like a pyromancer.
“Maybe you should go fast.” Lynette huffed in response, clearly not enjoying the man's act. She shoved Reman toward the door, eager to get back on the stranger's trail. It was simple, just wood with an iron latch, put what was beyond was another story. Four stone dragons loomed over the walkway to an ancient, Nord sarcophagus, and the blond man that stood over it. At the sound of their steps, the tall man turned around, his voice was calm as he spoke.
“So you're the ones who made all that noise in the last room.” A steel battleaxe was slung over the Nord's shoulder, his blue eyes were locked on Reman with intense focus, there was no doubt that this was the man that had cleared the way for them. “Can't say I'm impressed.”
“My name's Reman, what's yours?” The Imperial was trying to be civil, but the taller human was making him nervous. Not that he'd let the Nord know it.
“Jureg Firstborn, and what's the woman's?” The name was familiar, at least in passing, Reman had heard Balgruuf mention it once or twice, the new Thane of Whiterun.
“Lynette Jemane, a pleasure.” The Breton did her best to curtsy in leather armor, but there wasn't much to work with. The three humans stood in silence for a few moments, before the archer grew tired of the wait. “We're here by orders of General Tullius to clear out the necromancers in this crypt.”
“I take it you support the Empire in the war?” When Reman and Lynette nodded, Jureg scoffed. “Figures, Imperials can't help but sink their claws into everything they see.”
“I'll have you know that I'm a Breton.” The archer was a little peeved that the Nord was proving the Altmer stereotype that all humans races looked alike. Of course, the warrior couldn't care less about her opinion on anything.
“And what about you, Cyrodiil, got anything to say?” Oh, Reman had more than a few words for the rude brute, more than any conversation could convey. Thirty inches of steel, however, could convey his point quite easily.
“My name is Reman Tullius, and I take it that you're the Dragonborn.” The lycan started charging magicka into his free hand, he couldn't launch Sparks, but he could use it on touch.
“I get to kill someone related to that bastard general, lucky me.” The Nord pulled out the battleaxe, ready to charge. But, he didn't swing, he just held it off the ground, a move that thoroughly confused the Imperial he was staring down. Once he took a deep breath, however, his motives were very clear.
Luna cracked open the dusty book, a welcome distraction from the two chatters. It was well formatted, with subheadings every page or so, and numerous topics were covered by the volume. If Reman really had compiled these himself, then he was either a genius, or he really needed a female in his life. It was easy to find the pages that Renoir had gone over before he refused to tell anypony what was wrong with Glade.
Notes on Lycanthropy, its Healing Factors, and Biological Flexibility.
Healers and warriors alike often wonder if it would be better for soldiers if injuries healed with almost miraculous rate, and many would agree that it would be a wonderful breakthrough in Restoration. What if it were already possible?
Lune skipped a few more paragraphs, just under a full page, before something caught her eye, while Reman's ability to regenerate was startling, it wasn't that amazing. Learning more about blood transfusion wouldn't be of any sort of help, Equestria already had doctors for that, it wasn't a new technology. So she skipped more and more, until she'd gone through two pages, before setting on the book's final notes. These seemed to be what Renoir had been searching for.
It should be noted that transferal of an amputated limb is not easy if the donor was an Argonian, as the flesh has a natural resistance to disease, and thus replacing one's severed limb with it would be difficult. The conversion of flash between individuals of the same race has only been theorized, and transplants between races has never even graced the minds of the most brilliant Restoration mages, but there are plenty of example amongst the lycanthropic community. Indeed, the boundaries of race are blurred, if not completely removed by the transformation. Blood and body parts can be received from almost any donor, barring Bosmer and Argonians, and healing anyone who suffers from any form of lycanthropy is fairly simple, so long as they are actually alive.
Though, transplants are hardly the full extent of biological flexibility that lycanthropy provides, although it may be the most complex. It has been observed that couples of very different races have difficulty conceiving, this problem is unheard of amongst the manbeasts, so long as at least one of the two is a lycan, fertility is increased exponentially. Orcs and Khajiit, for example, rarely produce offspring, but when one transforms, the borders disappear. This is thought to be the product of being a shapeshifter, as all afflicted with lycanthropy are, and thus, interbreeding is very possible. Though, everyone is warned against attempting intercourse with a transformed lycanthrope, as injuries and infection are likely.
Interspecies reproduction is both unknown, and untested, and will likely remain as such for the foreseeable future.
“I think you can put the pieces together, princess.”