High Rock: Kids and Demons.
I woke about 7:30AM and found the place fairly quiet as the troops had already left for Dunlain.
Dunlain was the birth place of the Auger living in the midden underneath the College of Winterhold. His pursuit of some of the old magics, or ‘hedge magic’, is what led to his current state. I sat in the mess having a good breakfast with The Sentinel when Serana came and sat next to me. She had obviously been crying.
“Denize is off to her new life then?”
“Wulf, my heart broke and I know her story was horrific for you to hear.”
“It was a combination of so many things I detest. I honestly feel like confronting her father and smacking him across the head.”
“She will be well looked after and her pregnancy will not be a burden or shame and neither will her child.”
“Have a good breakfast Serana and then get ready for another fun packed day full of adventure and excitement in sunny Evermore.”
At about 8:30AM we set off for The Bog to get the report for Kegor.
When we arrived we found a group of Bosmer standing around the entrance to a tower and arguing.
They were so intent on their discussion I had to interrupt it as they did not notice our arrival.
“Excuse me gentlemen, which one of you is the Overseer?”
They all turned to me and jaws dropped.
“That is me your Majesty. Can I help you?”
“Please relax. I am doing an inspection of some of the works King Sigmayne is generously paying for so I know if extra help from The Empire is required.”
“I suppose you will need this report I prepared then?”
I took it from him and had a quick read. I battled hard to keep my rage in check.
“What was that lively discussion about? Did I hear mention of a hostage?”
“One of the greenskin got loose and is holding one of the reserves as hostage. Dumb grock, he knows exactly how this will end if he dares go for blood. You are good at negotiations being an Emperor and all. Could you impart some sensibility into this savage?”
“So the situation is this then? A piggy, oops I meant Manmer overseer of slaves, I mean prisoners, has one of his men taken hostage. This Bosmer slave master demonises the prisoner by calling him racist names such as greenskin and grock. He then suggests other slaves will suffer for the actions of this individual which is breaking several Empire laws but who cares, there are no Imperials around to enforce them. Then he asks his Emperor to negotiate with this savage, another racist term. Am I correct?”
“Don’t bother answering. We will see if we can negotiate.”
We entered the tower and were confronted by an unarmed civilian Bosmer on his knees and an agitated Orc with a pickaxe standing over him.
“You come to finish me off? You better think twice, I’ll kill this man if you even think of coming close.”
I did a hand signal and The Sentinel who had bows knocked them.
“I am not here to kill you. Can we negotiate? End this peacefully?”
“And how exactly you gonna do that? Hahaha, you ‘ave me for a fool Breton? Breton, Orc, ain’t no peace till one of us are wiped from this realm.”
“I am not a Breton. I am your Emperor and every single citizen of The Empire obeys me or ends up in a prison like this. I tell them to leave you alone they will leave you alone. I tell the king to juggle and dance he juggles and dances. I give you my word that nothing will happen to you if you just let him go.”
“You Emperors allow us slaves to exist. You are no better than the king. Better dead than on your knees grovelling at the hand of the tormentor.”
“Don’t, there is no… “
As the Orc readied to deliver the killing blow Serana cast an Incineration spell and he was dead before the others fired their bows.
I had drawn my bow and put it away as I approached the prisoner. I asked him as I untied him, “Was this man a slave? Is that what that metal contraption on his head denotes?”
“There are many gonk slaves. We are just told to make them work.”
“Where do they come from? Are they captured rebels?”
“I dunno. They have always been around.”
I finished untying him and he just stood staring at the charred Orc.
“Do you think this is right?”
“No, I am only doing this job because our farm, it is not right any of it, they take everything and I have to feed my kids.”
“You are a Serf? You are no freer than he was.”
“But my skin isn’t green. I have it better than them.”
I stormed out of the tower and approached the Overseer.
“Give me your name Overseer.”
“Why, I haven’t… “
I hand signalled and The Sentinel drew their swords. The Overseer looked around and the other Bosmer had moved away a fair distance.
“Peralern Applethorn your Majesty.”
“You have signed the report and it matches so well done. Saved yourself a lot of pain.”
Peralern was starting to tremble.
“You don’t hunt Orsinium down and make them slaves do you Peralern?”
“No, no I promise. They are delivered to a job and I just make sure they earn their food and water.”
“You do know slavery is banned throughout The Empire?”
“We just do as our king orders. We haven’t done anything wrong.”
“How do you treat these poor wretches? Do you take your hatred of their race out on them? Punish them for the slightest thing as your nobles punish the peasants?”
“It does no good to feel pity for them. They don’t meet their quotas and the Ustase visit and make examples.”
“So you are cruel to be kind. Call them racist names so you do not think of them as people. I know how this works Peralern. You are as much a prisoner as they are. Do you have children?”
“Yes Majesty, two girls and a boy. They go to school not like the serf children. It is one of the things that make this a good job.”
“What do you tell them when they ask what you do? What your profession is?”
“Just that I am an Overseer and make sure the work the king pays for is done.”
“What do you call Orcs at home?”
“Orcs, my children only ever hear me call them Orcs.”
“Everywhere else in The Empire what you do here would make you worse than any savage. People of all races would demand you die for your crimes. But you are a victim as well and I have seen how any dissent is dealt with. I have your report. I will send some Imperial soldiers to do a head count in a day or so. If the same number of prisoners and slaves are not alive you will be arrested and put on trial.”
I signalled and The Sentinel sheathed their weapons and fell into formation. It was a long hike to the third ‘project’ of good King Sigmayne. Lonely Griffon’s Retreat was the furthest outpost of this putrid kingdom.
I had plenty of time to think as we walked. I signalled Serana and she came trotting up to walk beside me.
“I don’t think Ambition is one of Namira’s.”
“He did seem like a genuine prisoner, not one of her minions.”
“Maybe he was to become part of the unborn Umbacano. It had been sundered from the other part of itself, Husk. Anything that would stand in the way of pure Ambition would be in Husk.”
“Emotions such as compassion, revenge, jealousy and even love could dampen ambition. Didn’t he say Husk held memories as well?”
Yes and what the witch said makes it obvious why Ambition would not want to be burdened with memories of its past. Her ritual would not erase them and how would pure Ambition handle the memory of a loved one dying or a great disservice done to them. Things that stifle ambition or make a person take the wrong path so they never achieve their ambition.”
“These demons must share a soul. You cannot divide anything into two souls. If you killed one, the other would die as well. Yet he asked you to kill Husk if you saw it.”
“Perhaps Ambition does not realise that. He referred to being prince to the Corpse King. I am still not convinced he was referring to Umbacano and I am still confused as to what that thing in the chains was. If Namira called it Whispers maybe that was just a nickname and our original assumption it was Umbacano is correct?”
“Perhaps we have given Namira too much credit. That the tower and the ‘Last King’ were her best shot and that Ambition belongs to another Daedric Prince.”
“Daedric rivalries are sometimes obvious. The Dunmer good gods, Azura, Boethiah, and Mephala, are supposed to oppose what they call ‘House of Troubles’ which consists of Molag Bal, Mehrunes Dagon, Malacath, and Sheogorath. Azura and Hermaeus Mora have had squabbles but nothing like a continuous and vicious war. Molag Bal and Boethia, well I have witnessed that lack of love up close. I do not think Azura and Namira are friendly either since the latter has armies of Khajiit turned into Dro-m’Athra.”
“I find it strange we have not encountered any of those Moon-haters. They all dislike Sheogorath even though they supposedly created him.”
“If you look at the powers attributed to Jyggalag you might as well call him Akatosh. Supposedly the other Daedric Lords ganged up on him and turned him into Sheogorath. Jyggalag supposedly returns every time the world ends but eventually become Sheogorath again. It is one of those gobblygook things I simply can’t fathom truth from fiction. I believe his sheer randomness and unpredictability would make the others wary of him.”
“Remember what Ambition said, that you and he would combine to defeat the Dark Mother? Was he referring to Namira?”
“Ambition voiced a desire to remove everything ugly. That is certainly opposite to what Namira covets. Ambition also said that we could not kill the unborn. That ‘every harm’ is rendered hollow. Mortifayne tried to kill himself by ingesting poison. Namira would not let him die. I am glad we are talking this through as things become clearer when voiced.”
“So, what have you concluded?”
I could be wrong but I think;
- The thing in the chains was Umbacano.
- Ambition was somehow to be used by Namira or imprisoned as a danger to her plans.
- Ambition is the weapon of another Daedric Prince. Perhaps just a mortal who has gone through some transformation into two entities.
- Mortifayne was a husk. A body emptied of mind and soul and replaced by Umbacano.
- The other Husk is a demon with that name but not the same purpose. It is the other half of Ambition.
- Namira’s deceit worked. Others believed it was the Last King who would be reborn.
- We have defeated Namira. We now have another Daedric Prince whose plans we must unravel.
“That makes sense out of confusion Wulf. I really hope any crap we have to do before the Akaviri arrive is less cryptic.”
“So do I Serana. Just a field with two opposing armies is much easier to understand.”
Lonely Griffon’s Retreat was lightly fortified.
We entered and were immediately recruited.
“Good timing Golden Boy. Witchmen are about to attack. We could do with the extra swords.”
“What do you think team? Should we stand back and watch this lot get turned into flesh sculptures or help?”
Calder said, “You might have questions about that report we are supposed to get. Hard to do if his head is sewed to his arse.”
“Yeah, which end would I speak to?”
Serana said, “Witchmen are here. Toss a coin or something.”
“Kill the Witchmen. The report might get covered in blood and we would have wasted a trip.”
It took us literally seconds to wipe out the attackers.
I said to the foreman, “I assume your name is Tyyr?”
“Yes and great work. We thought we was a done deal until you lot came along.”
“Well, lucky we were here then.”
“Aye, now go back to those high walls and tell them of your good deed for the day.”
“I don’t think anybody, including your own mother, would travel here to rescue your useless carcass. Obviously you have no idea who you are speaking to but the fact we slaughtered all those Witchmen in seconds should give even a dumb shit like you an incentive to speak more civil like.”
“Ah, can’t knock ya after you stuck you neck out for us. What do you want?”
“King Kiddy Diddler is expecting a report. Are you capable of writing one? I mean, there might be big words and things.”
“This outpost fares well enough without any poncy types like you coming and sticking your nose in things. Here, take it. Mind the handwriting, can’t keep a steady hand since I’ve busted it so many times ha ha.”
“Try wanking in a bigger room and use less lube.”
Tyyr’s crew were laughing hysterically at their boss as we left the compound and headed for Evermore.
It was about 1:00PM by the time we got to Evermore and found Kegor.
“The Redguard outposts have been dealt with. All pirates killed and equipment destroyed.”
“Thank goodness. It is going to be a VERY long time before that shameless lot has the gall to send more of their thieves to our waters.”
Rayya stepped forward and once again I had to stop her disembowelling somebody and causing more paperwork.
“Kegor, if you want your insides to remain inside reconsider what you just said.”
Kegor looked at Rayya and apologised, “Forgive my bad wording. I did not mean to disparage your people. The Redguard leadership is not responsible for the Pirates. I know that.”
Rayya grunted and resumed her scanning of the area as the other Sentinel were doing.
“And there is another international incident solved by diplomacy and one man’s love of his intestines.”
“Majesty, your humour is somewhat… “
“Dark? Sometimes Kegor but it is better than me yelling in frustration. Buildings fall over when I do that.”
“Did you enjoy getting the reports?”
“Oh yes, that Tyyr fellow was so much fun. Here they are.”
Kegor took them off me then I asked, “How long had the enslavement of Orsimer been happening?”
“I actually had other outposts that owe reports but I included The Bog in the hope you would realise what is happening. It is entrenched and been in place longer than I have been alive certainly. There are many rumours where these Orc come from as few family members or friends ever come begging for information about missing loved ones. I mean we have quite a few Orc prisoners but the slave numbers seem bigger than logical. It is another thing you do not probe into very far if you do not want to join them in the mines.”
“Just when I think I have hit the bottom of the shit pile another load is dumped on top.”
“I will have to write down some of your metaphors Majesty.”
“I found out who was supplying the Orc rebels. As I suspected early on during this lovely holiday trip it is the Thalmor. They are going to attack Dunlain today or tomorrow as directed by their sponsors.”
“This is grave news to know the Thalmor were implicated in the making of this extremist group. I had the slightest hunch that it was possible. But directly giving them munitions and directives on where to attack and how, gods, we don’t want this news becoming public. There is a lot of animosity towards the Empires lack of action here. Please Majesty don’t let others know what you saw there. And pray tell, is the agent still alive?”
“Oh yes, I left him alive.”
“Good, the Thalmor like to keep tabs on all their doings. A dead agent would complicate things beyond measure. I will speak in private to Knight Horustair and decide whether it is wise to inform the King about this news. This case has become very worrisome indeed.”
“In the meantime the Orcs have been instructed to kill every person except one. They are to witness the men, women and children of Dunlain stuck on pikes while the Orc rebels place bets on how far down they will slide before coming to a stop. You would allow this inaction because you fear your king’s reaction?”
“I can’t order troops to Dunlain!”
“You could have spoken to the Imperials and they would have sent troops to defend the town. You would not have had to mention the Thalmor, just say your scouts reported it. The Thalmor are only here because your High King is ill and has not enforced his will and thrown them out. Having said that I doubt they are still active in any other kingdom in High Rock. The Imperials should have thrown them out before I arrived but were reticent in case High Rock nobility has some trade agreements with the Aldmeri Dominion. I left the agent alive as killing him would have ruined the trap I have set.”
“Trap your Majesty?”
“The Orcs will descend on Dunlain only to find a large number of Imperial Troops ready to cut them down. I have already got one Justiciar sent from High Rock to my dungeon in Cyrodiil. This other one will join him. They will have a fair trial and the Dominion can send attorney if they wish. But since the chief witness to their crimes is me and The Sentinel they will be convicted and they will die for their crimes. The Aldmeri Dominion has been caught killing Empire citizens and plotting insurrection. Their bargaining power in any future negotiations will be greatly diminished. Nothing is worth even one of the innocents killed by their actions but at least we can make them regret it.”
“Everybody is afraid of another Great War Majesty.”
“Everybody should be terrified of the Akaviri invasion including the Aldmeri Dominion. We do not have time to play politics when we should all be preparing for that.”
“Nobody in charge here gives that any credit. They regard it as scaremongering in the hope they will all bow down to the new Emperor and Queen.”
“I know Kegor. It is my and High Queen Rigmor’s job to convince them of the reality. We could just ignore the reticent provinces and countries and just fortify those we have full control over. That would be abandoning the innocent citizens to the terror just because it was hard to make their leaders believe. If they do not believe the Akaviri invasion they will believe the Imperial one whether they are part of The Empire or not. If I was tackling this mess closer to the suspected Akaviri invasion window I would have marched in with a legion and removed your king.”
“I understand. What you said about the children concerned me as I have not seen any evidence of such foul deeds. However there are parts of the palace even I am not allowed to enter yet visiting dignitaries and nobles of this kingdom are. To think such foulness could be occurring within such a short distance of my king and he knowing is enough to make me risk my life for the proof.”
“You would have some nasty accident announced by Town Criers with emphasis on how upset his majesty is.”
“Yes and since I have not seen any evidence doing the child collecting, perhaps you will.”
“Better explain this child collecting!”
“I am occasionally sent to the towns to collect children for their own safety. I collect them from the priests and deliver them to the Arch Bishop. What happens to them after that I do not know. He wanted me to collect some today. I suggested to alleviate any suspicions you have that he might want to ask you to do it. He agreed. So go see him and mention I sent you. Act surprised when he asks you to escort the children.”
“That is a good idea Kegor. Can I ask about King Sigmayne’s family?”
“Of course, what do you wish to know?”
“I believe he has a wife, son and daughter. Where are they?”
“His wife Elain and daughter Gintel left to visit family in Daggerfall about four months ago. The King is worried that Gintel, who is barely in her teens, will end up promised to somebody he does not think suitable. He wishes to marry her to the noble who benefits the Kingdom the most even if decades older. He barely speaks of her.”
“One of my pet hates is those who reduce their female children to bargaining chips. I bet he speaks of his son often.”
“Damian is a very good looking boy and known to bed many women. He was apparently somewhere in the west seeking renown and glory for nearly a year. If you get my king speaking about him he will not stop even if you fall asleep. Coincidently he is supposed to be here today or tomorrow with his mother. We received a message telling us so a few days ago.”
“Is he called a Prince? Do you think he will be given one of the vacant seats?”
“Yes, he is Prince Damian. I would think he will immediately be given Mortifayne’s seat upon arrival.”
“Thank you once again for your assistance Kegor.”
We headed for the palace. At the doorway I asked Calder and Argus to accompany me into the throne room. The others took up guard positions.
I approached King Sigmayne and he went to stand up.
“Please Majesty, stay seated. I am really not one for all this bowing and curtsying and crap.”
He sat back and was nervous. I said, “Advisor Kegor saw me wandering and admiring your marvellous city and came rushing up to me. He advised me you wished to see me.”
My tone seemed to be a relief to Sigmayne and he visibly relaxed.
“Yes your Majesty, I did ask to speak to you. Yet I shirked to call so soon and for something trivial. After all the things you have done for the kingdom recently.”
Before he could tell me what he wanted a young man walked in. The king got to his feet and exclaimed, “Damian my Son! My, how much you’ve changed in such a short time!”
I was wondering why The Sentinel let him in when I was in parley. As he got closer I knew why. Ambition had come to visit. Serana would have recognised him as well. The taint of Oblivion was on him.
Damian replied to his father, “And how much wider you’ve become!”
I wanted to watch their interaction so I let the severe breach of protocol continue.
Sigmayne warmly embraced his son and looked to be at least six inches shorter. Damian’s mother must be beautiful indeed because Sigmayne was a runty balding little weasel. Damian was square jawed and the classic prince of children’s bedtime stories and a teenage girl’s fantasies.
Here is their conversation before I had enough;
- Sigmayne: The messages told of you returning with Elaine. Has your mother distracted herself in the markets again?
- Damian: I went on ahead, to see the people of this kingdom and some old friends.
- Sigmayne: It has been far too long. I have sat in this hall all alone with all but guards to humour me.
- Damian: The longing was mutual father. I had sought to return home ever since I had arrived in Daggerfall. And I see that the kingdom has grown even further, in splendour and might. We will be on equal footing with Daggerfall yet.
- Sigmayne: Soon I hope, I wish to see the day where they look up in deference, as I still live.
Damian turned to me and said, “Excuse me good sir, I have to discuss matters with my father. It has been a long and hectic trek from Daggerfall. I need to unburden myself with some familial musings. I am sure you can reschedule your meeting with your king later.”
“Were you not told that your father was in parley?”
“Yes, by some impudent Imperial guards. When I told them I was Prince Damian they let me pass.”
“Or did you just impudently push past and ignore the protocols of parley?”
“Who are you to question me?”
I looked at King Sigmayne who was very pale and sweating. I raised my eyebrows and he finally got the hint. He said to me, “Emperor Wulf Septim, I am proud to present my son, Prince Damian Sigmayne.”
Damian stared and then smiled. He did an elegant bow popular in the court of Daggerfall.
“Rise Prince Damian. I can understand the eagerness to see family but a man in your position must adhere to the protocols of court. The most important of all are those relate to parley.”
“Forgive me Highness. You are correct and I have no excuse.”
I asked Sigmayne, “Your Highness, now your son is back does that not resolve who to place in Lord Mortifayne’s vacant seat?”
“That was my intention, yes.”
I asked Damian, “So, how does that feel, Lord Sigmayne of Arnima?”
“To have a fief to settle in just as I return, this indelible feeling of joy has made me optimistic for our future. We’ll make a paradise out of The Reach yet.”
“A tall order, how do you hope to achieve that?”
“Evermore is the strongest it has ever been, contrary to what you’ve seen. The inordinate wealth this city has coveted will soon be disseminated to our depressed neighbours. My travels from the west were impeded with talks to our frontier militia who guard our western borders. They are being recalled to help with our task. They are very skilled men that are more than capable of dealing with even the worst dredges in the east. However uncouth this may sound, violence is a philosophy and a mode of communication in its own. And some are beyond the realm of diplomacy and will only understand the ubiquitous message of fear. This time there will be no mishaps, trust me. We have had our brightest minds conceive meticulous plans to deal with this threat swiftly. We will purge the ugliness from our world yet, don’t let cynicism anchor you to our current despairing predicament.”
“Have you ever led an army in the field Prince Damian?”
“No, but as I said, we have had our brightest minds conceive meticulous plans.”
“Pity they were not here yesterday when Namira herself threatened to wipe this kingdom off the map.”
“I have heard of some problems in Arnima but lack the details.”
Sigmayne said to Damian, “The tales from that place are spurious at best.”
“King Sigmayne, you are a fool and your son has his head up his arse. If I and my guards had not gone into Oblivion this city would be overrun by the foulest creatures you could imagine and you would have been cut up into tiny pieces and made into a flesh sculpture. If I had not placed Imperial troops just outside Arnima and called upon a Dragon then all the guards in that town along with every civilian would have been slaughtered by the time we closed the Oblivion Gate. For you to trivialise such a threat is beyond comprehension.
Damian, you do not have any solid knowledge of the problems that beset this kingdom. I suggest you take time to gain that knowledge before you cause more unnecessary deaths. Feel free to call upon me for advice. I have defeated armies that make the Witchmen pale in both numbers and military capacity. You will find me and those handful of guards outside have destroyed the Redguard pirates and the largest Rebel Orc stronghold. You will soon receive some news of another rebel Orc plan thwarted by the best soldiers on Nirn, the Imperial Army. We have accomplished in a week what your troops have failed to do in years.
You are dismissed. Wait outside till I have finished parley with your father like you should have done in the first place.”
Ambition still had a smile on his face, did a quick nod of his head and marched back outside. A famous general with historic victories had just offered to help. Surely a step towards his next goal!
Sigmayne looked rather sickly. I said to him, “Please sit King Sigmayne. I was harsh to your son but a reality check is better than leading men to their deaths. He is a fine man and will be a great leader if he learns such lessons without it denting his ego.”
He sat and I had to prompt him to continue our interrupted conversation.
“You wished me to do something for you?”
“Oh, yes. There are children within Raven Spring who seek refuge within these walls. And as this kingdom is more than charitable, we have made arrangements for a new slew of young to be harboured here until that plague subsides or when order is fully restored to that town. Order which I think my son will be eager to see facilitated.”
“He will find order has already been restored. Thanks to the sacrifice of the Imperial soldiers, many who have perished, the civilian casualties are far lower than they could have been. Thanks to my experience in such things our time in Oblivion was minimised and the gate closed fairly quickly thus saving much damage. Upon our return from that dreadful place we joined the Imperial troops and civilians in controlling the fires, rescuing those trapped and setting up emergency accommodation. Myself and one of my guards spent hours using our mastery of Restoration magic to heal and prevent many deaths and permanent injuries.”
“I am sure he will find much still to be done and his leadership will ensure it is attended to quickly and efficiently.”
“The town is protected by Imperial troops and there is no sign of the plague anywhere near it. Would it not be wiser to leave the children with their parents during this stressful period?”
“Why so reticent?”
“Children come here and are never seen again by their parents. I see the spirits of children in the streets. I have seen piles of child bones taller than me after they have been taken from here and sacrificed to a Gryphon. I killed one of the bastards doing it and he believed it was Mother Mara’s will. You bleed the serfs dry so they can’t even feed themselves then pretend to be charitable.”
Sigmayne turned pale, sweaty and scared.
“Those children will not be brought here. I am going to investigate what has happened to other children delivered to this cesspool and I promise you this… I will kill every person, regardless of rank or nobility, who has harmed these children. I swear this on The Divines.”
I exited the throne room with Argus and Calder in as foul a mood as me. The other Sentinel fell into formation and we headed straight for the portal.
“Did you let Damian in Serana?”
“Yes, I thought you would like to see them together. He was very happy when he left!”
“His father seemed not to register much of what was said. Damian was claiming to have accomplished a large number of things in day he could not possibly have done in months. If he had done them he would have effectively replaced his father as head of the kingdom.”
Argus said, “Never heard such a load of bullshit come from a single man in one sitting.”
“You still haven’t. That was not a man. That was not his son. Well, not all of him. That was Ambition, the Demon from Namira’s womb. He has killed Damian, skinned him and gone to that witch we killed last night and had it fitted to his form.”
“Damian was happy because I offered to give him advice. He would see that as moving closer to his goal.”
Serana asked, “It sounds like he is missing a few other checks and balances.”
“He is boastful. Makes up huge lies and expects people to believe him. I think his father did. He lacks social grace. He believes violence solves everything. Has no logistical or military knowledge. He is going to sound like the man for the job to the average citizen. I have no doubt any public speeches he does will be lapped up by citizens eager to believe the happy ending promised. He has to die but not till we figure out whom his boss Daedric Prince is.”
“He would need to have some results quickly or the public will start to question his abilities and/or sincerity.”
“His father will open the treasury for him. He will not be short of cash. He will splash it around and create the illusion of something useful being done.”
“He still needs to have results eventually.”
“Not really. He just has to keep up the charade long enough to build popularity then Sigmayne will have an accident or sudden terminal illness. Ambition will replace him as king and then start a campaign against a neighbouring kingdom. Taxes will go up to pay for this. He will hire and send in more men till they overrun the other kingdom. He will keep doing this till he is High King. Then he will look at the Ruby Throne and aim for that.”
Argus added, “I don’t think anybody will see his sister or mother ever again. They would both be rivals to the throne and may have even see through the disguise.”
We were soon in Arnima and found the Priest of The Nine with four or five children and their families.
“Majesty, have they asked you to do this simple task?”
“I need to speak to you privately. Follow me please.”
We moved away from the parents and children so we would not be heard.
“This is far enough.”
“Is there a problem Majesty?”
“Have you sent children to Evermore in the past?”
“On quite a few occasions, why do you ask?”
“Have the parents of those children ever asked why they can’t see their child or even get letters from them?”
“Yes but I have been instructed to refer them to the Arch Bishop as he would have the answers.”
“Are the homes of this lot of children damaged?”
“Only one but it was minor and soon repaired.”
“The children are not going to safety. Spirits of children can be seen in the streets. I rescued a young Khajiit girl who had been taken from Evermore and was a sacrifice to a Gryphon. We saved her, injured the Gryphon and killed the fake priest who took her there. I stood next to piles of bones, children’s bones, higher than me.”
“Was her name Dusk? If so she came through here after walking all the way from Skyrim. Her parents were murdered. She is charming and full of life despite her tragedy. And you are saying I unwittingly sent her to her doom?”
“Yes, she and many other children were. I think some are used in brothels but have yet to find proof of that. Dusk said your king used to come and pick out girls. You know the rumours of his tastes.”
“I did not know Majesty! I swear on The Nine I did not know!”
“Relax I trust you and nobody else in The Circle. Why would you suspect your own Arch Bishop? The excuse of the Affliction being a problem here is also a blatant lie. As far as I know all those who dodged burning now live in a large compound. I have not encountered an Afflicted in days. Now you need to convince these parents there has been a change of plan. Fact is Prince Damian will arrive today or tomorrow to replace Mortifayne. He will be spending a lot of money quickly to repair this town. It would be silly to cause the trauma of separation when there is no need don’t you think.”
“I will talk to them Majesty. I am sure a slight bending of the truth like this will not be frowned upon by The Nine.”
“I will wait here in case you need backup.”
The priest walked over to the families and they gathered around him. It was obvious they believed every word and there were tears of joy as they went back to their humble houses with children in tow.
He came to me and said, “I hope I have not talked them into something worse!”
“They are far safer here than Evermore. You have done the right thing.”
We headed for the portal. We were going back to Evermore so I could speak to the Arch Bishop.
Rayya asked, “Why did you not warn the priest of the No Lo’igra?”
“The priest will not be in danger unless he hinders the Demon’s plans. If he knew what Damian was he may act differently and make the Demon suspicious.”
We were soon back in Evermore and headed for the temple.
We entered and I approached the Arch Bishop who asked, “Majesty, I believe you are to bring some poor children to us for protection. That is generous of you to spend time ensuring their safe passage.”
“Don’t you know of my orphanages in Skyrim? Almost 200 children rescued from molesters and abusers so far. High Queen Rigmor was terribly abused when a child and we both have a very strong hatred for those who harm such innocents.”
“As with every young batch this city receives, there is no higher priority than the propagation of our virtues to the next generation. We priests are best fitted to carry out that education.”
“Why only harbour children? What about the adults?”
“For reasons unclear, this affliction leaves those in their prime unharmed. Pervading only among the old and the young, reaping both shortly after initial signs of the disease. I needn’t overstate the importance of coveting the children of the kingdom. An act that both seeks to protect the future and engender favour from the gods, so that this kingdom never wanes in strength.”
“And where are the children taken?”
“We have them washed down and deloused, meticulously seeking out any signs of plague through their bodies, and their souls as the nature of this plague isn’t fully understood. Surgeons work on the temporal aspect of the affliction and priests banish the spiritual ailments the burden them. We have to be thorough, else we risk having an outbreak within these very walls.”
“Where will they live?”
“The children are sent off to a select few foster homes that will harbour them until the plague subsides, once it does, physical contact will be re-established between the parents and child.”
“Do you get physically excited checking the little girls for chastity?”
“What are you implying? I am a priest of The Divines!”
“You are no more a priest than I am a Hagraven. There are two of the most powerful mages on Nirn in front of you. Both of us are Masters of Restoration. I am here as Champion of The Divine on behalf of Mother Mara who asked me to come here. We have encountered nothing but Afflicted adults of all ages in our travels. So in summary I know you speak lies about the nature of the Affliction. I know you speak lies about any spiritual ailments needing cleansing and if there were, I have not seen a single priest in this kingdom with the skills to aid. It is a creation of a Daedric Prince and beyond any priest to cleanse. Otherwise touching any consecrated shrine would cure the disease unless you have priests with more power than The Divines. The cure will be purely alchemical in nature. Many children come here and are never seen or heard from again. Explain all this if you can.”
“You have no right to question a man of the temple.”
“I have every right as the mortal representative of The Nine on Nirn.”
He went to walk away and I turned him around to face me.
“You check their chastity because they make more money in the brothels and that accursed Gryphon likes them intact. Do you get paid extra gold or do you get to pick which children you can rape? Probably enjoy buggering the boys. Am I right?”
Quite a crowd were watching as this fake priest quacked in fear in front of their Emperor.
I said for all to hear, “Those children will not be brought here. I am going to investigate what has happened to other children delivered to this cesspool and I promise you this… I will kill every person, regardless of rank or nobility, who has harmed these children. I swear this on The Divines.”
The Arch Bishop fled to a private room and the crowd gathered in groups to discuss what just occurred.
We stepped outside and Kegor came rushing over.
“The king is more than furious. I suppose the Arch Bishop is as well.”
“Mad or scared, either works. They will panic and make mistakes and we will serve swift justice.”
“If what you suspect is true then people will stand in line to tear them apart. You may want to head to the square over there. A brave Orsimer is about to plea for peace. It will be entertaining for some but might get you upset Majesty.”
We walked to the square and a young Orsimer was stating his position very eloquently;
- Luther: I say that Orsimer and Breton can mediate their myriad differences and interests, to forgo violence and instead opt for alternatives. Finally, dreams of peace could be reality. Most Orsimer in High Rock have a growing desire to stop this racial strife. Though this requires the action of both parties.
- Ainard: Ha! Peace with the grocks! Half expectin’ the jesters to come on stage now. And I hope you aren’t suggesting that we live among your ilk, would rather be caught dead. Should take a gander at Wayrest to see what race-mixing does to a city. One of the proudest kingdoms on the great Iliac reduced to a degenerate, time ridden hole. All thanks to your kin.
- Luther: You and I know what caused the death of Wayrest, let’s return back to the topic at hand and not get pedantic over tangents.
- Ainard: Grock thinks he has class, may be a cut above the average Orc, yet that’s still not worth the dung on my heel. We put Waycrest out of its misery because uppity greenskins were getting ambitious, should take heed yourself. Now Orc tell us, what about your friends. Raping their way through our very kingdom! The stench of death still lingers at Deepcrag yet you have the gall to make demands.
- Luther: That is one of our main priorities, yet we have to work from the base on why our relations are so strained…
- Evermorin Guard: No Orc! You answer the man. Show some respect.
I had enough and used the Thu’um so they knew who they were dealing with.
“YOU SHOW SOME RESPECT GUARD!”
Every head swivelled and turned to me. I walked and stood in front of the heckler.
“Stand up. What is your name?”
He stood and looked around as if to flee.
“What is your name? You do remember your name don’t you?”
“Ainard Philos your Majesty.”
“Sentinel, place this man under arrest. I believe he is an Exile!”
“I ain’t no exile, I swear it!”
“You are a piggy. All piggies are Exiles. Same as you think all Orsimer are Orsinium’s Sons. The logic works both ways.”
“No, I can’t go to prison. I got a wife and kids. Please… mercy Majesty!”
“Don’t you think Orsimer have wives and children? Have you noticed them fleeing this kingdom leaving businesses, houses and friends behind them. Fleeing to protect the families they love.”
“I dunno… Yes I suppose… please!”
“Relax. You are not under arrest.”
I leapt onto the stage and bowed before the startled Orc.
“You humble me with your wise words. Can I have your name good sir?”
“Luther. Some call me Luther the Ball-less.”
“You showed great courage Luther. Standing up here and expressing so eloquently what is in my own heart. I suggest you use smaller words next time. Some of these Manmer can barely grunt, especially the guards.”
That got everybody laughing, except the guard.
“Tell your leaders that Emperor Wulf Septim wishes to parley. If they speak to any of the leaders in the Skyrim settlements they will find I am a friend to the Orsimer. They will also tell you I am a man of his word. Leave a message at the Imperial Embassy and we shall meet and discuss.”
Luther was making his way off stage when a burley Nord, obviously a private guard or bouncer, came running up to Kegor and whispered to him.
Kegor told him, “Omid, go back quickly and look after the other girls. We will be there soon.”
I left the stage and he said to me, “Murder most foul in the brothel.”
He then told the crowd, “This fun assembly is over. Please vacate the area.”
We headed over to the brothel and drew weapons before entering.
Kegor exclaimed, “My gods, twisted bastard.”
A young woman had been torn in two and her limbs ripped off. The top half of the corpse was impaled on the red wood found throughout Oblivion. A spike had been driven through a statue of Dibella.
Kegor asked Omid, “Where did he go?”
Omid growled at a young prostitute, “Kath. Come here and tell him what you saw. You spoke of seeing the scum.”
Kath replied, “Please, I don’t want to look at it. I can’t see her like that!”
Omid yelled, “KATH! Don’t make me call you again!”
I stood in front of Omid and punched him in the stomach. He fell to the ground wheezing.
“Serana, please take Kath away from this and see what she can tell us.”
Serana went into an adjoining room with Kath and returned soon after alone.
Omid was still trying to recover when Serana said, “She is traumatised so can’t recall much except he went into the store room and was grinning.”
Kegor said, “Follow me Majesty. The room contains a lift that leads to some warrens where beggars choose to live. We’ll see where this trail leads. Kath, Omid. Stay clear of this Brothel for a while. Check at the inn, we’ll cover your stay there until the matter had been dealt with.”
The lift was covered in blood and jammed in place. A crack in a wall led to what smelt like sewers. I used a hand signal for silence and everybody froze and made no sound. We could hear splashing indicating somebody or something was rushing through the tunnels and away from the store room.
I said to Kegor, “This is a Demon. No time to explain how I know this. We will go search for it. You cordon off the scene and collect evidence. See you soon.”
We entered the sewers and Argus whispered, “It is not Damian is it?”
“Damian is a Prince and would be recognised by citizens including prostitutes. Damian is Ambition, this looks like a hate crime or revenge. They would play no part in his personality. He would only kill if it advances his Ambition. This is more likely the other one, Husk. The fact it shoved wood only found in Oblivion through the marble Dibella statue shows its strength and origin.”
We came across a young woman’s upper torso sitting on a spike. The rest of her scattered around. This was not flesh art. It was a statement.
Limbs had not been cut or hacked off. They had not been pulled off. They had been twisted off.
Sections of flesh were scattered on the floor. One seemed prominently displayed as if the Demon wanted it to be found.
I shuddered when I saw it and pointed it out to Serana. It was an eye with the iris partly occluded by the top eyelid. There was only one body of people I knew who used that symbol.
Serana gasped, “The College of Winterhold?”
I picked up the flesh and could sense no dweomer. It had been torn from the body but the symbol cut into the flesh when the victim was still alive. It would have taken a very sharp knife as the cuts were thin and consistent.
Serana took the flesh from me and held it up close so she could inspect the cuts closer. Other Sentinel shuddered at this. They forget sometimes what she used to be.
She said, “There are splinters of metal. There is no way a knife capable of cutting like this would splinter.”
“Let me sum up what we have;
- Two young women killed in what looks like revenge and not random murder.
- In the time it took Omid to reach Kegor and for us to enter the sewers it has dragged this unfortunate here and had time to kill slowly and setup this display.
- Yet when we entered the store room we could hear it running towards this area. It wanted us to follow and find this.
- It wanted us to see that symbol. Although similar to the centre of the College’s mark it does not have the five radiating star points.
- It makes no sense a good quality knife would leave those splinters. Once again a clue it want us to follow I think.”
Calder added, “Don’t some of the Witchmen have a similar symbol on their loincloths?”
“Yes, I think they do. Thanks for adding to the confusion Calder.”
“It was my pleasure your Majesty.”
Serana said, “It wants us to find it. But how do we do that with what we have?”
“I have been thinking about our Missionary friend and how we both know what he does is not possible with the knowledge of the five schools of magic we possess. Then again the witch was doing things we can’t explain with our magicka knowledge. The Augur of Dunlain ended up how he is when investigating the old magic or hedge magic as some call it.”
Serana said, “And we still do not know who stole the items he tracked for us but we think it was to lead us to other things. Somebody wanted us to slowly show the plans of Namira.”
“Here is some speculation Freathof and the others would be proud of,
- Husk has done this. He is also the one who stole the items and placed them where they were.
- He wanted Ambition released from the Scuttling Void for reasons unknown.
- The symbol means partially hidden knowledge. The one use by the Mages Guild did not have the iris precluded. No knowledge was forbidden. I do not think the college has anything to do with this.
- The shards would allow The Missionary to trace the item they come from. He could trace Mados’ items because he was familiar with them and had probably held them at some stage.
- The Husk wants a conclusion to this saga.”
Rayya said, “I got lost after ‘Here is some speculation…‘ What do we do now Wulf?”
“Let us see if there are any witnesses.”
It appeared that a lot of beggars had fled knowing authorities would be visiting their fragrant abode. One woman was watching us so I approached her.
“Hello. Did you see anybody or anything run past?”
“Ummmm, why? I don’t know about nothin’ my lord. I don’t wanna get involved in any of this business sir.”
I looked around to make sure nobody was watching. I did not want her to become a victim of a mugging, and retrieved a good sized ruby from my gem bag. I help it up so she could see it.
“I can make it so you don’t spend another night in this sewer if you tell me.”
“Really my lord? Just for tellin’ ya what I saw? Right, well he was big and red, thought he had some sort of disease. Looked like he had blond hair covered in blood.”
I handed her a few septim with the ruby underneath. She knew the game well and said, “Thanks for the gold Sir. This will get me a meal or two.” She sat back down on her bedroll and we exited via the way we had come.
Kegor was standing out the front and I asked him, “Has anything like this happened in the past?”
“Sordid murders come as often as the rain here, however this specific case carries a familiar scent, evoking a series of murders decades ago with similar victims and similar results from the looks of it. Yet the speed of this killer combined with the viciousness of it all, you’d think he’d still be in the prime of his life.”
“Kegor, what did I tell you it was? Do you think a human could tear two women apart, drive wood from Oblivion through a marble statue of Dibella and accomplish all of this in mere minutes?”
“Two women? There was another?”
“Not far into the sewers and a witness described a red brute with bloodied blond hair. He was most likely red all over from the blood.”
“We never caught the killer before, heck, we never saw him. We need more evidence however, what we do have is spurious at best. Most of the witnesses are beggars and the like. That type of people that aren’t fond of the truth.”
“Have you seen the spirits of the children wandering this city?”
“Of course, we all have.”
“Yet nobody has investigated who they are. Nobody in this damn kingdom wants to know the truth. I have spent over a week trying to drum it into people! Let me guess, a few dead prostitutes, a quick investigation and then it was chucked into the ‘who cares?’ cupboard and forgotten.”
“Yes. So we must solve this or it may happen again.”
“We have found this. We think The Missionary may be able to help us track the weapon used to cut the symbol.”
I handed him the strip of flesh and he recoiled at touching it. He quickly handed it back.
“What is the symbol on it? And how could The Missionary help?”
“The symbol means hidden knowledge. Some of the Witchmen have it on their loincloths. You understandably only took a quick look. There are metal fragments in the cuts from the knife used. We think placed there so we can track it as the Demon wants us to find it.”
“Why would it want you to find it? What exactly is a Demon?”
“It has been leading us to clues about Namira. It also wanted us to release another Demon which we did. These two Demons are one entity split in two. One is in disguise and we know who it is. That is the one we released from Oblivion. Before you ask, you do not attack things in Oblivion unless you know exactly what they are. The other we have not met but now it wants us to find it or at least another clue as to what is happening. Demons are creatures made from mortals via dark magics either accidently or deliberately. They are generally persecuted by mortal and immortal alike. There would be many spread all over Nirn but keeping to themselves. This one is dangerous as it has emotions split between two entities. For example ambition without honesty or revenge without mercy. No checks and balances. Get the picture?”
“Okay. Well as far as I know The Missionary is still in Raven Spring.”
“We will find him tomorrow. We will be staying at the Embassy tonight.”
We used the portal and were soon at the Embassy. We ate in the mess hall and I was told the Commander would be back in the morning.
I wrote this journal entry and went to bed.
I know not what time I fell asleep.