Bruma: Divinely delivered task.
It was about 9:30AM and I was enjoying a quiet breakfast with Rigmor. Since the morning after our return from Elsweyr I had been in the Imperial City doing debriefs and strategy meetings and spent way too much time on that horrid throne listening to the droning voices of supplicants.
Last night I came back to Bruma and today we were going to visit Leyawiin and see how Casius is doing.
The semaphores indicated a carriage was approaching Bruma with two men and two priestesses aboard. Serana had gone to see who it was.
After about twenty minutes Serana returned and said, “One of the passengers was Primate Uravasa. She says she urgently needs to see both of you and will be waiting in the cathedral.”
“Tell the Primate we will be their soon.”
Rigmor looked at me concerned, “Must be Lady Mara business. I have this feeling in my stomach we are not visiting Casius today.”
“Sure that feeling is not our growing daughter? Let’s go see, there is no use guessing.”
The Sentinel sat on the pews. There was also a young Breton warrior, a guard of some sort by the looks of him, also sitting.
Primate Uravasa and a young Priestess of Mara stood in front of the central dais. She was a Breton so it was hard to tell her age. She was shorter than the Primate but Bretons are a fairly short race. Her eyes were clouded over. She was blind.
Before we stopped walking towards them and before any greetings made the Priestess seemed startled.
We stopped, still with no words spoken, and she said, “You, what are you? Please, take Mother Mara’s blessing to wash this unease away.”
“Mother Mara is with me always as are all The Divine.”
“She says you and only you can avert calamity. I, a most devoted servant, need you to believe the goodness of your heart! Believe in love!”
“Mother Mara herself would tell you I know love to be the most powerful force known. As for the goodness of my heart, that is up to history to judge. Is there a message you wish to give me?”
Then a voice familiar to me issued from the priestess. It was the voice of a God.
“Forgive her beloved child of Talos, for all her conviction she only looks up, blind to those below the clouds which she wishes to ascend.”
“There is nothing to forgive Mother Mara. She is young and enthusiastic. It is good to hear from one whose enthusiasm has yet to be tempered by long experience.”
I had a quick glance around and all the others were fascinated but a bit confused. The Primate was staring at the priestess with an open mouth.
“There is a terror, a terror of minds and ideas forming in the east of High Rock. In the area you call Wrothgar which borders The Reach of Skyrim. A congealing of antipathy and repressed hatred is nearing its sum. If this horror transpires then neither the restraints of distance nor time will thwart the canker that will be birthed there. We ask our mortal champion to mediate between opposites and seek resolution in the chaos.”
“I will leave immediately Mother Mara.”
“I will help, whenever I can, but my light is weak. However even the faintest flame can act as a beacon against the background of a deep night. That flame will appear to you in a maze of dark when you need it most.”
“Mother Mara, who is the foe I am to face?”
“We do not know. Just take heed of these words: Go there and see, open those eyes and see that which belies its splendour; beset by men, gods, kings and ideas – keep a clear eye. Keep your head above water when you reach that realm, the tides of Want can drown any who venture too far from the shore.”
“I have resisted all those Gods who thought to turn me from my path, my purpose for being. Where should I start Mother Mara?”
The Priestess looked confused and muttered, “Huh? Sorry, ugh… my head…”
The Prelate held her by the shoulders, “Relax Priestess Fasielle. I know well the disorientation when Lady Mara leaves.”
I asked, “Did you hear her as well Prelate?”
“No, like everybody else in this room I heard you and the priestess say the words in absolute synchrony. I could feel her presence in both of you. It was something I have never before seen.”
I asked the Priestess, “From where do you come? Do you know where I must go?”
Her guard stood and asked, “May I approach your Majesty. I can answer your questions.”
“Just over here a bit whilst the Priestess is being attended to.”
I moved to the side of Rigmor and the Prelate who were chatting to the young woman. Trying to bring her back gently to where and when she was.
He stood before me and bent from the hips in a formal bow. It took a few seconds for me to realise he would stay that way till given permission to stand.
“Arise; we are not so formal in our court. What is your name?”
“Oliver Majesty. I have been personal guardian to the Priestess for many months now.”
“You heard what Mother Mara said through our lips. Tell me of this place in Wrothgar.”
“The closest I can come is that we had just hailed from Evermore.”
“Does she do Mother Mara’s work in High Rock?”
“Yes, she travels the breadth of the land doing so. I was hired as her guardian by her father and the circle of priests in Daggerfall. Her father is as devout a follower of the faith as she is.”
The main pantheon in High Rock includes The Eight with the addition of Phynaster and Y’ffre. Talos is not among their Gods.
“Does she worship all your Gods?”
“All of our Gods but like many Bretons, Mother Mara is the one most cherished by her.”
“Like many who have lost their sight she seems to have compensated well by honing other senses.”
“I am in awe of her foresight and sense of self when walking this world. Sometimes it is as if she doesn’t need me here at all.”
“She recognised something in me that heightened senses alone would not know.”
“You are not the first she has approached like this, however the content of her words have been different when she has done this in the past. You mouthing the words at the same time is something new.”
“Normally Mother Mara would speak to her and the words she spoke would be her own. If she is like other Priestesses of Mara the language used can be flowery enough to sound mystical in nature. What you just heard were the words of a God, not the Priestesses.”
“I assume advice on love and relationships and spreading the words of Mother Mara are her usual topics of conversation?”
“Yes Majesty, nothing like what was just said.”
“Thank you Oliver. I know you travel to where she is guided by her faith so I tell you this. I have a feeling she will be in great danger as will all the faithful in High Rock. Hers will be extreme as the enemies of your Gods would like nothing more than to corrupt her or worse. Be extra vigilant as I was just warned by Mother Mara.”
“I will but I cannot keep her from there if she wishes to return.”
“I know. I also ask you to keep your knowledge of my mission to yourself. For political reasons it is best I not march into High Rock as the Emperor. More importantly the longer I can keep my presence secret from the enemy the more chance I have of a quick resolution. Understood Oliver?”
“Yes Majesty. I will do nothing that would endanger the Priestess or my people.”
I looked over and Priestess Fasielle seemed to be back with us. I walked over and asked her, “Priestess, do you recall anything that may help me? Did Mother Mara say anything else?”
“She told me several days ago I was to meet the Prelate and that we were then to travel to Bruma to see somebody who can help us. I did not know it was to be you I met or what you were to help with.”
The Prelate added, “I was simply told that when she arrived I was to seek you out.”
“Priestess, do you recall the message you were sent to give me?”
“No, my mind was beholden to something truly divine, so much so that I can’t recall ought that I uttered. However I have the image of The Reach from that possession, oh… an incredibly irksome feeling… maybe you can seek an answer by following the roads we have just travelled.”
“An excellent idea, do you know of somebody who can take me through the many winding routes over those mountains?”
“The same Merchant who carried us through that web of valleys is with his horse and wagon just outside the gates.”
I asked the Prelate, “Do you know this merchant?”
“Yes, we have often used him to convey people to and from Skyrim and High Rock to Bravil. I can talk to him and tell him we have some faithful who need to visit High Rock. He is also in need of guards so being well armed will ease his mind.”
“What happened to his other guards?”
“He usually only uses one but he seemed to have got lost on the way. That has made him a little nervous and desperate.”
The Priestess said, “Oliver and I will be guests of the Primate for a while. You are free to use the merchant if need be.”
I turned and said to everybody, “Okay, let us do this straight away. Mother Mara sounded concerned and when a God is worried, so should we be.
Serana, Argus, Calder and Rayya, don the other uniforms you were provided with when joining The Sentinel. You are now caravan guards the same as the team that came with me on last week’s trip.
Serana, please tell the merchant that the Prelate is hiring him to take us over the border into High Rock.”
The Prelate said, “Don’t worry Serana, I will tell him.”
She then said to me, “I have a good man in High Rock who often accompanies those I send there. I will tell him to look out for your group. He will not know who you are but should be able to find you easy enough as there is only one safe route through the mountains to that part of High Rock.”
Rigmor was looking worried but still managed to sound calm as she said, “Prelate, Priestess, Oliver. Please come into the keep and have some refreshments. I will organise a wagon to take you to Bravil when you are ready to leave.”
The Prelate replied, “Let me just sit for a minute first. I wish to pray.”
I looked at Rigmor and could see tears forming, “Lady Mara said I was to negotiate. It sounds like this will be more diplomacy than anything else. This is probably the first of many trips I will have to make without you. That is our burden.”
“I know my love. It would have been the same if you wore the crown or not. This is important both as Emperor and the Champion of The Divine. They are our people and need our help.”
“Mother Mara speaking to me directly is a sign that something is not quite right after Table Mountain. Mind you I have that other Divine Task I know is not completed. Perhaps this was their only choice. Perhaps I can only have one of those at a time.”
“Do you think it had anything to do with Princess Potema?”
“My gut feeling says no but her puppet masters have made it easier for unrest to find converts. Her adoptee father claims to be High King but at the moment his rule is feeble. He is seen as weak and his illness had prevented him from enforcing his claim. So High Rock is back to its many factions and myriad Kings wrestling each other in an endless cycle of power grabs and reprisals.”
“I have heard their nobility is of the worst kind. They are born superior and peasantry needs to know their place and be kept there.”
“Yes, and if I have to deal with any of them I will have to play the part of the subservient lower class scum that I am.”
Rigmor laughed which was much preferable to the tears that threatened.
“If the Forsworn are involved then I may be dealing with one of their favourite Daedric Princes. They seem to gain favour with at least seven I know of. Could also be an Old God or simple a mortal with the ability to convince others to do his bidding, I do not know.”
“I will stay with the Priestess and Prelate while you prepare and leave. Let this be our goodbye for now as nothing will make it easier. Just know I love you and that you go with my full understanding.”
‘Promise me you will not give The Sentinel a hard time. They are guardian to both you and Kintyra when I can’t be. You will also have to sit on the throne while I am away. Stay in our old guest room at the palace if you wish to avoid the Royal Suite. The people need to see us governing.”
“Uggh! I know and I will be the dutiful Queen. Besides, I like making Blackwell squirm a little with my solutions to some problems of the supplicants.”
“No doubt you do my beloved. I will be back as soon as possible.”
We kissed a reasonable goodbye kiss. Nothing like the almost indecent smooch at our wedding!
I went to our room and donned my mercenary gear. By the time I got to the merchant he had spoken to the Prelate and The Sentinel were standing nearby.
“Fine day to you good sir. I believe you are to be our transport to High Rock?”
“What gave it away? This rugged face or my tired gaze? Crossing those valleys will give you both!”
“Perhaps the fact you are the only one in Breton garb for miles and are standing in front of a wagon?”
“Yes, I suppose that might be a clue.”
“Primate Uravasa said you brought our friends Priestess Fasielle and her guardian over the same pass.”
“Is that her real name? I had my doubts but then many a passenger hides their identity.”
“Why would they do that?”
“No idea but yes, they were an unusual couple. She seemed very capable of looking after herself despite being blind but he was very clingy.”
“He was simply being a good guardian. I know what that entails and sometimes those you are guarding can feel a bit constricted.”
“I usually hire a bodyguard but the last one got lost in the wilderness. Had a bit to drink, said he was going for a piss and I never saw him again.”
“No need to pay us. Let us call it a service for a service. We need to get to High Rock and you need a sword or two to stick into any bad guys who get in the way.”
“Fair deal. We will travel through the recently re-opened gates to Skyrim then Falkreath and then skirt the border with Hammerfell till we reach the passes through the mountains. If we start now we should cross the border into High Rock early tomorrow morning.”
“This will be fun. I always wanted to see High Rock.”
“Agh, don’t want the blow the wind outa your sails but this is the East of High Rock; worlds apart from the west – don’t want you to be getting any false impressions of us Breton folk from the people you meet down there. There I go rambling again, get aboard. New lands await.”
“What should I expect in the Kingdom?”
“Evermore is renowned most of all for its colourful cast of characters, and deviants. You’ll run the gamut of Bretonic experience in that cluster of man. First settlement you’ll come across – considering you stay the course once you depart from my wagon – is The Divide; a hulking bridge jutting from its watery locale. Standing atop that stony juggernaut will grant you a vista of the Reach’s mires and towns – most notably Arnima, and if squint hard enough, Evermore itself.”
“A hotly contested city is that one. At least it survived the Warp in the West.”
“Let see, the official description, ‘Evermore is the city and the kingdom, where the city itself beats as the heart and corner of royal affairs. The place where The Reach consolidates its authority and… ahem… reach , over the east.’”
“Tour guide as well then?”
“Sometimes, it pays the bills with less danger. Anyway, it used to be a backwater not too long ago, ‘The eastern hinterland kingdom’, yet recent times have spoiled the city with inordinate wealth and power. Power that they’ve used to conquer and subjugate their comparatively less civilised neighbours. Now any Breton dwelling east of the city’s walls sports their banner – you’ll see it on your arrival.”
“You mentioned a town called Arnima, what happens there?”
“Nothing pleasant I assure you – most outside their miserable sty consider it to be a stain on the kingdom, with good reason. Most of the guards are nothing but thugs looking to shake down us humble merchants when given chance, and they routinely terrorise those unfortunate sods that don’t have the means to leave. All governed by that strange character; Mortifayne – Lord Mortifayne to be correct, never call a lord by his name! Heard tales of sordid acts and strange punishment disseminated upon those beneath him, who weren’t wise enough to escape. Most of those tales smacked of madness, most I simply ignore because they’re hard to imagine happening within any civil residence. I never risked finding out for myself. Town dampers the mood, which isn’t good when you’re traveling on your lonesome.”
“I’ll be avoiding that place then. It sounds more depressing than Windhelm was under Ulfric.”
“Never had the pleasure of visiting that place but its reputation spread even to us.”
“What can we expect on the road?”
“My route is one of the safer paths to travel… have to pick up the pace through certain stretches, have bandits and the like springing traps from above on any uncaring traveller making their way to the province. Once we reach the Eastern most part of Evermore then we should be safe, got the guard there meting out justice with an iron fist, scoundrels should stay well clear. Most of the time anyway…”
“Most of the time?”
“We’ve got a problem with these savages, north of Evermore. They like to call them Witchmen, not sure that’s what the savages call themselves but we’ll stick to it.”
“Witchmen is what they call themselves. Within Skyrim the tribes call themselves Forsworn. They almost had a kingdom in Skyrim. Titus Mede II was going to offer them a treaty after they had occupied Markarth for two years. They had been fair to the population of that hold and their savagery was reserved for those who took up arms against them.
Then Ulfric Stormcloak gathered a militia and attacked without the Emperor or High King of Skyrim knowing of his plans. The battles to retake Markarth were signs of tactical genius. What happened after Ulfric won was equal to any savagery the Forsworn was capable of. People, including women, were tortured to find the names of Forsworn who had fought Ulfric but were now trying to blend in with the citizens. Whole families were publicly butchered, men, women, children and babes in arm. Ulfric then demanded that the city be declared free of the White Gold Concordat. That Talos worship be allowed within its walls.
Titus Mede II and High King Torygg were sickened by what Ulfric did and refused to compromise the treaty with The Dominion for the demands of a butcher.
Ulfric used these incidents to gather enough support to start the Civil War. In the end it was all part of the plans of is Thalmor puppeteers. He cared not for Talos worship. He was after the seat of High King.”
“Are you a scholar then?”
“Yes, among many other things. Sorry for the lecture. I can get carried away when reciting history.”
“No, I do the same on subjects passionate to me. Anyway, these Witchmen are getting agitated – sporadic attacks all across the kingdom, made the wilds near impossible to dwell in because of their savagery. But that’s a problem you’ll have to deal with once you reach the Kingdom, not on your way there, so don’t fret about the journey itself. We’ll be fine!”
“You will find my companions and I are a formidable obstacle to any cut-throats, bandits, Forsworn or other nasties.”
With that we climbed aboard the carriage and started the long journey to High Reach.