The Infernal City (Elder Scrolls Series #1)

The Infernal City (Elder Scrolls Series #1)

by Greg Keyes


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The Infernal City (Elder Scrolls Series #1) by Greg Keyes

Four decades after the Oblivion Crisis, Tamriel is threatened anew by an ancient and all-consuming evil. It is Umbriel, a floating city that casts a terrifying shadow–for wherever it falls, people die and rise again.

And it is in Umbriel’s shadow that a great adventure begins, and a group of unlikely heroes meet. A legendary prince with a secret. A spy on the trail of a vast conspiracy. A mage obsessed with his desire for revenge. And Annaig, a young girl in whose hands the fate of Tamriel may rest . . . .

Based on the award-winning The Elder Scrolls, The Infernal City is the first of two exhilarating novels following events that continue the story from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, named 2006 Game of the Year.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345508010
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/24/2009
Series: Elder Scrolls Series , #1
Edition description: Original
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 145,047
Product dimensions: 5.48(w) x 8.32(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Greg Keyes is the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy novels, including the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series, the Star Wars: The New Jedi Order series, and the Age of Unreason quartet.

Michael Page has been recording audiobooks since 1984 and has over two hundred audiobooks to his credit. He has won several AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. A professional actor, Michael is currently a professor of theater at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A pale young woman with long ebon curls, and a male with muddy green scales and chocolate spines, crouched on the high rafters of a rotting villa in Lilmoth, known by some as the Festering Jewel of Black Marsh.

“You’re finally going to kill me,” the reptile told the woman. His tone was thoughtful, his saurian features composed in the faint light bleeding down through the cracked slate roof.

“Not so much kill you as get you killed,” she answered, pushing the tight rings of her hair off her face and pressing her slightly aquiline nose and gray-green gaze toward the vast open space beneath them.

“It works out the same,” the other hissed.

“Come on, Glim,” Annaïg said, tossing herself into her father’s huge leather chair and clasping her hands behind her neck. “We can’t pass this up.”

“Oh, I think it can be safely said that we can,” Mere-Glim replied. He lounged on a low weavecane couch, one arm draped so as to suspend over a cypress end table whose surface was supported by the figure of a crouching Khajiit warrior. The Argonian was all silhouette, because behind him the white curtains that draped the massive bay windows of the study were soaked in sunlight.

“Here are some things we could do instead.” He ticked one glossy black claw on the table.

“Stay here in your father’s villa and drink his wine.” A second claw came down. “Take some of your father’s wine down to the docks and drink it there.” The third. “Drink some here and some down at the docks . . .”

“Glim, how long has it been since we had an adventure?”

His lazy lizard gaze traveled over her face.

“If by adventure you mean some tiring or dangerous exercise, not that long. Not long enough anyway.” He wiggled the fingers of both hands as if trying to shake something sticky off them, a peculiarly Lilmothian expression of agitation. The membranes between his digits shone translucent green. “Have you been reading again?”

He made it sound like an accusation, as if “reading” was another way of referring to, say, infanticide.

“A bit,” she admitted. “What else am I to do? It’s so boring here. Nothing ever happens.”

“Not for lack of your trying,” Mere-Glim replied. “We very nearly got arrested during your last little adventure.”

“Yes, and didn’t you feel alive?” she said.

“I don’t need to ‘feel’ alive,” the Argonian replied. “I am alive. Which state I would prefer to retain.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Hff. That’s a bold assertion,” he sniffed.

“I’m a bold girl.” She sat forward. “Come on, Glim. He’s a were- crocodile. I’m certain of it. And we can get the proof.”

“First of all,” Mere-Glim said, “there’s no such thing as a were- crocodile. Second, if there were, why on earth would we care to prove it?”

“Because . . . well, because people would want to know. We’d be famous. And he’s dangerous. People around there are always disappearing.”

“In Pusbottom? Of course they are. It’s one of the dodgiest parts of town.”

“Look,” she said. “They’ve found people bitten in half. What else could do that?”

“A regular crocodile. Lots of things, really. With some effort, I might be able to do it, too.” He fidgeted again. “Look, if you’re so sure about this, get your father to talk Underwarden Ethten into sending some guards down there.”

“Well, what if I’m wrong? Father would look stupid. That’s what I’m saying, Glim. I need to know for sure. I must find some sort of proof. I’ve been following him—”

“You’ve what?” He gaped his mouth in incredulity.

“He looks human, Glim, but he comes and goes out of the canal like an Argonian. That’s how I noticed him. And when I looked where he came out —I’m sure the first few steps were made by a crocodile, and after that by a man.”

Glim closed his mouth and shook his head.

“Or a man stepped in some crocodile tracks,” he said. “There are potions and amulets that let even you gaspers breathe underwater.”

“But he does it all the time. Why would he do that? Help me be sure, Glim.”

Her friend sibilated a long hiss. “Then can we drink your father’s wine?”

“If he hasn’t drunk it all.”


She clapped her hands in delight. “Excellent! I know his routine. He won’t be back in his lair until nightfall, so we should go now.”


“Sure. That’s what it would be, wouldn’t it? A lair.”

“Fine, a lair. Lead on.”

And now here we are, Annaïg thought.

They had made their way from the hills of the old Imperial quarter into the ancient, gangrenous heart of Lilmoth—Pusbottom. Imperials had dwelt here, too, in the early days when the Empire had first imposed its will and architecture on the lizard people of Black Marsh. Now only the desperate and sinister dwelt here, where patrols rarely came: the poorest of the poor, political enemies of the Argonian An-Xileel party that now dominated the city, criminals and monsters.

They found the lair easily enough, which turned out to be a livable corner of a manse so ancient the first floor was entirely silted up. What remained was vastly cavernous and rickety and not that unusual in this part of town. What was odd was that it wasn’t full of squatters— there was just the one. He had furnished the place with mostly junk, but there were a few nice chairs and a decent bed.

That’s about all they got to see before they heard the voices, coming in the same way they had—which was to say the only way. Annaïg and Glim were backed up in the corner, and here the walls were stone. The only way to go was up an old staircase and then even farther, using the ancient frame of the house as a ladder. Annaïg wondered what sort of wood—if wood it was—could resist decomposition for so long. The wall- and floorboards here had been made of something else, and were almost like paper.

So they had to take care to stay on the beams.

Glim hushed himself; the figures in the group below were gazing up—not at them, but in their vague direction.

Annaïg took a small vial from the left pocket of her double-breasted jacket and drank its contents. It tasted a bit like melon, but very bitter.

She felt her lungs fill and empty, the elastic pull of her body around her bones. Her heart seemed to be vibrating instead of beating, and the oddest thing was, she couldn’t tell if this was fear.

The faint noises below suddenly became much louder, as if she was standing among them.

“Where is he?” one of the figures asked. They were hard to make out in the dim light, but this one looked darker than the rest, possibly a Dunmer.

“He’ll be here,” another said. He—or maybe she—was obviously a Khajiit— everything about the way he moved was feline.

“He will,” a third voice said. Annaïg watched as the man she had been following for the last few days approached the others. Like them, he was too far away to see, but she knew him by the hump of his back, and her memory filled in the details of his brutish face and long, unkempt hair.

“Do you have it?” the Khajiit asked.

“Just brought it in under the river.”

“Seems like a lot of trouble,” the Khajiit said. “I’ve always wondered why you don’t use an Argonian for that.”

“I don’t trust ’em. Besides, they have ripper eels trained to hunt Argonians trying to cross the outer canal. They’re not so good at spotting me, especially if I rub myself with eel-slime first.”

“Disgusting. You can keep your end of the job.”

“Just as long as I get paid for it.” He pulled off his shirt and removed his hump. “Have a look. Have a taste, if you want.”

“Oh, daedra and Divines,” Annaïg swore, from the beam they crouched on. “He’s not a were-croc. He’s a skooma smuggler.”

“You’re finally going to kill me,” Glim said.

“Not so much kill you as get you killed.”

“It works out the same.”

And now Annaïg was quite sure that what she felt was fear. Bright, terrible, animal fear.

“By the way,” the Khajiit below said, lowering his voice. “Who are those two in the rafters?”

The man looked up. “Xhuth! if I know,” he said. “None of mine.”

“I hope not. I sent Patch and Flichs up to kill them.”

“Oh, kaoc’,” Annaïg hissed. “Come on, Glim.”

As she stood, something wisped through the air near her, and a shriek tore out of her throat.

“I knew it,” Glim snapped.

“Just—come on, we have to get to the roof.”

They ran across the beams, and someone behind her shouted. She could hear their footfalls now—why hadn’t she before? An enchantment of some sort?

“There.” Glim said. She saw it; part of the roof had caved in and was resting on the rafters, forming a ramp. They scrambled up it. Something hot and wet was trying to pull out of her chest, and she hysterically wondered if an arrow hadn’t hit her, if she wasn’t bleeding inside.

But they made it to the roof.

And a fifty-foot fall.

She pulled out two vials and handed one to Mere-Glim.

“Drink this and jump,” she said.

“What? What is it?”

“It’s—I’m not sure. It’s supposed to make us fly.”

“Supposed to? Where did you get it?”

“Why is that important?”

“Oh, Thtal, you made it didn’t you? Without a formula. Remember that stuff that was supposed to make me invisible?”

“It made you sort of invisible.”

“It made my skin translucent. I looked like a bag of offal walking around.”

She drank hers. “No time, Glim. It’s our only hope.”

Their pursuers were coming up the ramp, so she jumped, wondering if she should flap her arms or . . .

But what she did was fall, and shriek.

But then she wasn’t falling so fast, and then she was sort of drifting, so the wind actually pushed her like a soap bubble. She heard the men hollering from the roof, and turned to see Glim floating just behind her.

“See?” she said. “You need to have a little faith in me.”

She barely got the sentence out before they were falling again.

Later, battered, sore, and stinking of the trash pile that broke their final fall, they returned to her father’s villa. They found him passed out in the same chair Annaïg had been in earlier that morning. She stood looking at him for a moment, at his pale fingers clutched on a wine bottle, at his thinning gray hair. She was trying to remember the man he had been before her mother died, before the An-Xileel wrested Lilmoth from the Empire and looted their estates.

She couldn’t see him.

“Come on,” she told Glim.

They took three bottles of wine from the cellar and wound their way up the spiral stair to the upper balcony. She lit a small paper lantern and in its light poured full two delicate crystal goblets.

“To us,” she said.

They drank.

Old Imperial Lilmoth spread below them, crumbling hulks of villas festooned with vines and grounds overgrown with sleeping palms and bamboo, all dark now as if cut from black velvet, except where illumined by the pale phosphorescences of lucan mold or the wispy yellow airborne shines, harmless cousins of the deadly will-’o-wisps in the deep swamps.

“There now,” she said, refilling her glass. “Don’t you feel more alive?”

He blinked his eyes, very slowly. “Well, I certainly feel more aware of the contrast between life and death,” he replied.

“That’s a start,” she said.

A small moment passed.

“We were lucky,” Glim said.

“I know,” she replied. “But . . .”


“Well, it’s no were-croc, but we can at least report the skooma dealers to the underwarden.”

“They’ll have moved by then. And even if they catch them, that’s a drop of water in the ocean. There’s no stopping the skooma trade.”

“There certainly isn’t if no one tries,” she replied. “No offense, Glim, but I wish we were still in the Empire.”

“No doubt. Then your father would still be a wealthy man, and not a poorly paid advisor to the An-Xileel.”

“It’s not that,” she said. “I just—there was justice under the Empire. There was honor.”

“You weren’t even born.”

“Yes, but I can read, Mere-Glim.”

“But who wrote those books? Bretons. Imperials.”

“And that’s An-Xileel propaganda. The Empire is rebuilding itself. Titus Mede started it, and now his son Attrebus is at his side. They’re bringing order back to the world, and we’re just—just dreaming ourselves away here, waiting for things to get better by themselves.”

The Argonian gave his imitation shrug. “There are worse places than Lilmoth.”

“There are better places, too. Places we could go, places where we could make a difference.”

“Is this your Imperial City speech again? I like it here, Nn. It’s my home. We’ve known each other since we were hatchlings, yes, and if you didn’t already know you could talk me into almost anything, you do now. But leaving Black Marsh—that you won’t get me to do. Don’t even try.”

“Don’t you want more out of life, Glim?”

“Food, drink, good times—why should anyone want more than that? It’s people wanting to ‘make a difference’ causing all the troubles in the world. People who think they know what’s better for everyone else, people who believe they know what other people need but never bother to ask. That’s what your Titus Mede is spreading around—his version of how things ought to be, right?”

“There is such a thing as right and wrong, Glim. Good and evil.”

“If you say so.”

“Prince Attrebus rescued an entire colony of your people from slavery. How do you think they feel about the Empire?”

“My people knew slavery under the old Empire. We knew it pretty well.”

“Yes, but that was ending when the Oblivion crisis happened. Look, even you have to admit that if Mehrunes Dagon had won, if Martin hadn’t beaten him—”

“Martin and the Empire didn’t beat him in Black Marsh,” Glim said, his voice rising. “The An-Xileel did. When the gates opened, Argonians poured into Oblivion with such fury and might, Dagon’s lieutenants had to close them.”

Annaïg realized that she was leaning away from her friend and that her pulse had picked up. She smelled something sharp and faintly sulfurous. Amazed, she regarded him for a moment.

“Yes,” she finally said, when the scent diminished, “but without Martin’s sacrifice, Dagon would have eventually taken Black Marsh, too, and made this world his sportground.”

What People are Saying About This

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"This action-based fantasy will find a following among YA and adult gamers." —-Library Journal

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The Infernal City 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 91 reviews.
GermanZombie More than 1 year ago
I want to state first that I am a big fan of the Elder Scrolls game series so I am pretty biased toward this book. I really liked it, but that is partially because I have already spent so much time with this universe I can't help but enjoy any more time I get to spend in this series. So if you like the series and want to get more out of it this is a good book. As a fantasy book I was pretty happy with it, it seemed a bit cliche' at times, but it never bothered me too much. One of the things I really enjoyed which I don't see all that much is a focus on Alchemy, I love Alchemy in fantasy and historically, so I got a kick out of that. Overall I think fans of fantasy should enjoy this, even without knowledge of the game series. As a fan a of the game I loved this book, I have been playing the series since the third one and have gone back and played the older ones and newer one. Off the bat I will say I liked the 3rd game the best so when reading this book I looked for anything that could tell me more about what has happened to Morrowind since the 3rd game. In one sense this doesn't disappoint and does give you a pretty good idea of what happened, but some fans might get a bit upset. Overall though if you like the lore and want to get more Elder Scrolls this is a good book to read. My final opinion is that this book is a short and quick read and I enjoyed it, it wasn't the deepest thing I have ever read, but I enjoyed it regardless. I am excited for the next book which will pick up right where this one ended on a cliffhanger. So I would tell people to give it a chance, especially if you enjoy the game series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There isn't a moment in this book when nothing is related to the Elder Scrolls. Any Elder Scrolls fan will recognize every bit of this storyline. The new world contains a little of what is in Tamriel, and some things that might be a little confusing. Most of it is able to be recognized. All of it has to do with the events of the Elder Scrolls games. For anyone who doesn't know, it takes place between the games Oblivion and Skyrim. It is a great book, and the ending is understandable if you pay attention to the words and the whole storyline. This book should be worth more than the five stars it is allowed to hold. Divines smile upon ye.
harstan More than 1 year ago
At sea, the sailors feel the heaviness the water and look up to see floating in the air a big mountain wit the cone pointed downward with a beautiful city on top. The ship speeds to the docks to spread the word, but was given no credence until Annaig the young human female and Mere-Glim the sentient reptilian find themselves on the floating island of Umbriel. They had floated up there using the magical potion that Annaig had drank, but also has no way to turn them home in Limoth, which was once part of the Empire but now belongs to the An-Xileel due to the events of four decades ago during the Oblivion Crisis. The island's inhabitants find themselves on the south of Annaig's world especially the High Lords while the lesser beings shall need to find food to stay alive. Annaig obtains a position as a cook and the Lord live her banquet meals. She uses a mechanical bird to send a message to try and get Prince Attrebus back to the Empire to rescue them get rid of Umbriel. To do so they need to travel through the inter-dimensional portals. It is not long before the people with various missions getting rid of Umbriel is next to impossible but it must be done before its evil destroys all life on the surface below its shadow. Based on the Elder Scrolls video game, THE INFERNAL CITY occurs between the fourth and fifth game. Readers do not need to have played game four as the novel stands alone, but it helps to understand the events of four decades earlier that led to the current surface world. Annaig is the star of the tale as her ability to face up to challenges lead others to want to assist her; she makes friends with them though they are of a different sentient essence. Although at times the plotting feels like a game especially when Annaig gets in trouble, fans will enjoy Greg Keyes' fine adaptation that stays true to the original saga yet brings fresh action-packed excitement on its own front. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's been a while since I read this and I'm getting ready to read the next one in the series. If you're into Elder Scrolls lore this is a no-brainer. Bethesda did right by its fans with this effort by retaining a skilled writer to produce quality TES fiction. What I'm always afraid of with books based on games is that they're junk with a familiar name slapped on the front to cash in on devoted fans. That sort of abuse is not TES's reputation, and they've held up that reputation with this offering. If you're not into TES and just curious, it's still worth a look. There's nothing here that requires you to have played any of the games. It's a completely separate storyline set in the game world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The only problem i had with this was it seemed that the author skipped some really good info with Tamriel's history. Also i found myself confused at some parts because they werent explained well enough. Overall a decent book, with most lore keeping with the game series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
richela renkun More than 1 year ago
novels based off games are usually bad but this is just great. i could not set it down. Tamriel is an epic world and oblivion was by farthe best rpg of all time. I recommend playing a little bit.befor reading this because it will provide key information like the detailed variation of races. anyways stunning book.
Sekhemkhet More than 1 year ago
I saw the front cover and instantly liked it, and then I saw that it was an Elder Scrolls Novel and then really liked it. Upon finishing it I must say that it was quite enjoyable and very well-worth the money. No, it is not epic. And no, the characters are not deep and intriguing like, of R.A. Salvatore's characters, but for being such a short book it does a great job at entertaining and keeping the pages turning. It is 100% adventure and it is 100% satisfying. And the end is great. Add it to your collection
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really looked forward to this book. It is about a girl who hears of a rumor from a friend, about the flying city. After she discovers that the island/ city is real, she asks her friend if they can explore it, and sure enough, she finds a way on board. Being captured one time after another, she seeks to destroy the island, and find her friend. She communicates constantly to Attrebus through her magic locket, and tells him all of the info she can find out about it. I really liked this book, and i can hardly wait until the second one comes out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept my attention
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Greg Keyes is a great writer who very clearly took the time to learn the lore of the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was interesting, but the grammatical and spelling errors really hurt it. Also the constant switching perspective without enough info to know whihc character I'm with caused plenty of frustration. And finally some of them themes felt heavy handed considering the source material (TES has always alluded to sexaul activity), though it never gets graphic at least. That said I mostly liked the characters and they all felt like they could belong in an Elder Scrolls game. The story kept me interested, though I not convinced I want to buy the second book. If you like the lore of TES then it might be worth a read to get some info of what happens between the Oblivion crisis and dragons returning to Skyrim, but it's about halfway between fan fiction and fantasy novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the charecters and how well it runs along with the games setting. Gilm is a very good charecter. Love his attitude, his thoghts on adventure and then he is willing to not listen to the little voice in his head. Of course the story takes place in THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM because they metion the oblivion crisis and the setting years after. The writing is well done. The Infernal City is somthing I would recomend to a lot of people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*Hides behind Whiterun castle wall and shoots Heimskr*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't read it yet, but I either own or have played through all of the Elder Scrolls games. My favorite one is Morrowind, because it was my very first PC game. The Elder Scrolls is my favorite video game series ever. I'm looking forward to buying the book, but I'm on a budget right now. Peace!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oblivion was one of my favorite games in the TES series besides skyrim which is my favorite
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't let some of these comments fool you, this book does NOT force you to buy the second. It is completly possible to end with the first, however hard. It is criminal to not buy the second book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really captures the elder scrolls essence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CliffyCB More than 1 year ago
Good story and very enjoyable for anyone that loves elder scrolls lore.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank ye kind sir!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago