High Rock: So very tired.
I woke early and decided to act on the inevitable. This kingdom would soon have no leadership. Damian has to die. The king is guilty of heinous crimes and must either surrender to justice or be killed resisting.
I wrote to Rigmor,
“My dear wife,
I will not burden you with details but we still fight evil and more than one Daedric Prince.
The Imperial troops here must be relieved, they have done their duty and the survivors need rest. They are to be given extended leave. I will arrange citations on my return.
But we need more than the few hundred that were here so I suggest the following be done as soon as possible.
Move half a legion, about 2500 soldiers, to the border. I suggest General Rikke be their commander.
She is to base herself in the Embassy here with twice the soldiers of the old garrison.
A minimum of a platoon each is to patrol the streets of Raven Spring and the Divide. Twenty four hours per day, three watches of eight hours. For now we shall stay out of Evermore.
Patrols are to be established to cover as many of the mines and rural communities as possible.
I do not think there will be much aggression from Witchmen or the Orsinium’s Sons. Both will now lack direction and will be playing a waiting game.
General Rikke knows how to balance the egos of local Guards and the authority of Imperial troops and many of her men will know what is expected in such an environment.
The biggest hurdle will be the Ustase. They are no different to the New Imperials and many of their new recruits were exactly that.
We cannot declare martial law as yet.
The rest of High Rock will not see half a legion as intent to enforce martial law across all the kingdoms.
They will know we are merely protecting the people of this kingdom from further chaos.
They will also know it is a big enough force to defend against any aggression by the other kingdoms.
I am almost positive those left on the border will be needed soon.
I can’t wait to get out of the cesspool but the people need help.
Give my love to the bump, hope to see you soon.
I heated some wax and sealed it with my signet ring.
There was a knock at my door and I said, “Enter.”
It was Commander Drugo and he handed me a sealed message from Captain Gallione.
Since I had not dismissed him he stood while I read it.
The ruse in Dunlain was a brilliant success.
The local mayor co-operated when we explained the situation and all residents were told to flee to the nearest house and stay inside if the rebel Orcs attacked.
We had several men with flares dressed as carpenters and other trade people.
Meanwhile the rest of us were camped not far away and actually found real work building a dam for irrigation the mayor had been planning.
They attacked in the middle of the night so there were few civilians out and about.
The flares confused the Orcs as they knew it was an Imperial Army signal and they squabbled about what to do.
The half dozen soldiers already in the town were in the darkness and still had their night vision. The Orcs were bathed in the light of dozens of torches no doubt for burning the village. They had no hope of seeing the concealed men.
They rose as one and quickly fired arrow after arrow into the compressed mass of Orcs still arguing what to do.
Many fell before they charged in the direction of the archers.
Unfortunately for them we appeared in numbers at their rear.
More fell charging the archers and then they found arrows coming from the opposite direction.
These were thugs. They were not the disciplined Orc troops that have gained so much respect in Skyrim and Cyrodiil. They had no quality commander to take charge and make them move as a unit.
Confusion reigned and they perished. They eventually charged us and died at the end of pike and sword.
The last fell and the village was quiet. Then the residents slowly came out of their homes.
They saw the piles of dead Orc and the bloodied but upright Imperial soldiers and cheered.
We did not lose a single man, no building was damaged and no civilians harmed.
We had scouts around the perimeter with instructions to report but not stop any Orc observer from fleeing.
There were several so no doubt the Orsinium Son’s leadership know what occurred by now.
I handed the message to Commander Drugo and watched closely as he read it. He knew the implication of us having prior knowledge of the attack.
He handed it back to me and to his credit looked me in the eyes.
“I knew of this attack because I was standing this close to the Justiciar and Orc planning it.
It was obvious to me when I overheard Justiciar Nuruman talking to you about your planned attack that he was more concerned about the Orsinium’s Sons than your troops. When I spied on Justiciar Silinthar talking to Urk-Magzor planning the attack on Dunlain that suspicion was confirmed. They also mentioned something peculiar. Apparently some high ranking Imperial officer had been meeting with the rebels but hadn’t since I arrived at the Embassy.
I thought to myself that it could not possibly be Commander Drugo as he has shown nothing but courage and excellent leadership since I have been here.
So I tell you what. If Justiciar Silinthar is promptly arrested and shipped off to join Justiciar Nuruman in my dungeons in Cyrodiil then I would regard any such accusations against a loyal officer as lies. He has to arrive there alive otherwise such lies might have to be investigated.
Since it will not take long for him to hear of the disaster at Dunlain I would arrest him immediately. I do believe he is in Raven Spring.
You are dismissed.”
Drugo immediately left the room and would be double timing it to Raven Spring.
I gave my letter to an Imperial Courier. Oddly enough the passage over the mountains to Skyrim had become much safer since the New Orsinium settlement had started to thrive. I had no doubt the letter would be handed to Rigmor within forty-eight hours.
The Sentinel guarding the door joined me and the others in the mess and a quick breakfast was had. Then we headed for Raven Spring.
We found The Missionary sitting on the bridge at the entrance of the town.
I approached him and he said, “Good to see you Majesty.”
“Hello Missionary, unfortunately I am in need of your services again.”
“I got the impression you were more than a little sceptical of my claims. Those questions you asked proved your suspicion of my motives.”
“It is my duty to question and probe. But I have a hypothesis that just requires a nod if I am right;
- Your ability has nothing to do with the Alteration school of magic.
- It is an ability that you have but did not train or study to gain it. You were born with it.
- You sought guidance on it but found none.
- You used it for criminal activity and were caught. Spent some time in jail and came back home
- Found your place in the temple and help others with it.”
He nodded and smiled.
“So yes, I trust you and need your help.”
“I was a bit upset at your suspicions but they were earned. After all you have done for us you could have accused me of anything and I would still help”
“Not pleasant this but needed. There was a brutal murder in Evermore last night. We believe the suspect wants us to find him and left this clue.”
He looked at the flesh and quickly wrapped it back in the cloth I had used.
“That is not the killers flesh but the victims. There are metal shards in the cuts. So it would be the weapon used you would be seeking.”
“I can do it but the time needed varies depending on a myriad of conditions.”
“So how long do you think?
“It should be done by this time tomorrow. Please be aware that these searches aren’t precise.”
“We know that. Just get us to the general area and we will do the rest.”
“Prince Damian has taken up residence within the manor and made it quite a pretty sight. Though then again anything would be better than what Mortifayne left the place in.”
“I promised the Prince I would help him. So we shall go visit him. Thanks again for your help.”
We made our way to the manor and throne room. I was pleased to see the torture rack had been replaced by a shrine to Akatosh. All for show to the visitor though. Our Demon friend was no worshipper of The Divine.
Damien was not sitting on the throne but at a nearby table and was just staring into nothing.
“Good day to you Prince Damian. Have you heard the great news?”
He slowly turned his head, recognised me, smiled and asked, “What good news Majesty?”
“Imperial troops sprung a surprise on a large contingent of Orsinium’s Sons. They were planning to kill every person living in Dunlain. The Imperials killed them all without a life lost or building damaged.”
“They are a nuisance that must be removed. We should end their degenerated race swiftly as to not engender further chaos. Leaving even one alive risks retributive action upon ours. They know only suffering, I think it would be the kingdom’s greatest act of altruism to put their story to an end. To shame them further with chains and bondage would bring both paranoia and doubt upon us, we as civilised people should be above such ancient traditions.”
“What about the even larger numbers that live in Cyrodiil and Skyrim?”
“Do you doubt my commitment? The constant warring upon the races with no clear goal to oust the other for good brings perpetual slaughter. The Orcs would find some black crevice of this land to breed, returning to us with all the ferocity of a vengeful tide. Why not just end the farce? It is sickening that kingdoms have bred the Orcs as slaves then to bemoan them escaping, only to slaughter some Breton in the very same kingdom that hatched them.”
“The Orsimer are an ancient and proud people with much to contribute to The Empire. What you are talking about is an attack on citizens of the Empire who will be protected by Imperial troops. There are more Orsimer living in other countries than in High Rock so if you are worried about retribution they will be the ones who sweep across this kingdom. But this will not happen as I will not allow it. Would you commit murder and be declared outlaw?”
“It is not murder. It is protecting the citizens of High Rock.”
“Do Cyrodiil or Skyrim residents need protecting from the Orsimer? There are other ways to solve the problem. I suggest you think about them.”
Damian went silent and was staring again.
“I said I would help you Damian, remember when I spoke to you yesterday?”
“We’ve just the quest for you to divulge, an excursion just outside these walls. With those malcontents of the periphery dealt with, we now have to solve the question of that cursed land beyond Belmor.”
“Haven’t others tried to lift the curse?”
“The scholars who’ve departed on past expeditions were either slaughtered by whatever lurked there or had returned with the same knowledge as they had entering the field. They’ve exclaimed the ever capricious nature of that pocked land, talking of the increasing hostility when the curse feels you drawing closer to its source.”
“So what has changed?”
“The priest who you have probably familiarised yourself within this town, has informed us of a certain auspice seeded into the earth; Dirennian. Mages have uses those ancient constructs to erect barriers across this province, in fact the barrier you see covering Evermore is of such design. So we’re going to trek across this field until this construct then hope for the priest to perform his rite that can activate that ancient well. Sounds exciting?”
“Riveting, we will accompany you through that field.”
“That is what I like to hear. We are going to be the greatest of comrades. We’ll be stationed south of this town, to the east of that cursed land.”
“We will meet you there shortly.”
Damian got up and left. A quick look around revealed no guards.
Argus said, “That thing is a lunatic. It talks and talks but does not listen. Its plans are fanciful and it does not care for law or subtle threats.”
“It is dangerous Argus but we can’t just cut it down just yet. We must be patient and see if we can find who its master or mistress is.”
We took a look at the basement. The portal to the double Namira shrine was still there and active.
The cells however had been thoroughly cleaned and corpses removed. Any sign of blood had been erased from all surfaces.
We investigated the secret room and found the Shrine to Mara intact and unmolested.
Serana said, “So visually it is clean but he has allowed the portal to stay.”
“Or he did not have a way of having it removed. No Vigilants in this kingdom.”
We made our way out of town to the mustering point for the expedition. Great expense had been spent on making a walkway and shade for Damian.
Argus said, “He is not scared of spending is he. I wonder how many serfs could get a good meal instead.”
“He is temporary Argus. So is the king.”
Commander Drugo was arguing with Damian and making exactly the same point,
- Drugo: Are you sure the treasury can withstand this expedition? When we asked for money to repair a bridge not two days ago we were told there wasn’t any to spare. I also strongly advise against taking these men instead of my troops. It is quite apparent who is better able to keep people safe.
- Damian: I do as I please Imperial. You lack the jurisdiction and your advice has already rung hollow from which your impotent presence in the reach has proven more than enough.
- Drugo: Forgive any offence I may have caused Prince Damian. My men sacrificed themselves for this town and I only wish to see your kingdom not be undone from your harm. This land is a portent to tragedy. This kingdom has undergone such upheaval that any misfortune upon you could descend us into chaos.
- Damian: I appreciate your concern but your words dampen morale, I will hear no more of it.
- Drugo: May the Divines bless you on this venture Damian.
Drugo was startled to see me and as he walked past I said loudly, “Well said Commander Drugo. I agree with every word you said. Forgive Prince Damian for he is inexperienced in such things. We will keep him safe. By the way, did you complete that other task?”
“Yes Majesty. The package will be delivered to the Imperial Palace as asked.”
“Good. You will be pleased to know your troops will be relieved within days. The garrisons are to be greatly expanded. I will be recommending commendations for you and your men. You have done a great service for this kingdom.”
Drugo gave a perfect salute then walked off.
I walked up to Damian and stared into his eyes. There was nothing there. Do not others see that or simply not wish to?”
“This is an expensive and unnecessary setup and they are amateur guards.”
“What do you mean? They were hand-picked by yours truly as many of the guard couldn’t attend unfortunately. Superstitious, for good reason you’d assume, but more for a sentimental reason as many of their brethren, friend and family had fallen here. Yet it doesn’t deter my most loyal subjects. I assume you have met the Ustase already.”
“Loyal as long as you pay them Damian. They are bandits and thugs. Many of them used to work for the previous Emperor and I enjoyed slaughtering them on the battlefield. No lesson like violence is there? As for that fake Knight. He disobeyed my command once and I let him live. He does it ever again and I will slice him in two. Are they citizens?”
“Of course they are, every blade within our border is. There shall be no corner for rebels. Well, these men; Ustase, come under many different names. Lowland Reavers our dredges call them. Our enemies call them Black hounds of Evermore.”
“Scary names do not make an army Damian. Slime like this outnumbered my Imperial troops by over six to one and they barely slowed our march to the Ruby Throne. Half a legion would wipe them from this kingdom in a week.”
“People despise them because they are efficient at what they do, no quarter for those who seek to divide us. The greatest sword a kingdom can wield is deterrence; Deterrence of seditious musings through brutal vigilance.”
“That is wrong in so many ways Prince. However, we are not here right now for me to teach you how to be a good ruler. Are you ready to go?”
“Yes, the priest has something you will need.”
I walked to the Priest of The Nine and he held forth a staff and said, “Majesty, I’ll be pre occupied while I incite the words that can dispel whatever cursed barriers lay over that ancient well. You will need to use this to ignite the Dirennian.”
We were far enough from Damian so I whispered, “There is no such thing as Dirennian. It is a slightly altered Great Welkynd Stone. You can’t remove a magical barrier through prayer. This staff is not as powerful as the one I already have. I know it is all for show so do your bullshit over the well and I will light it up.”
I handed him back the staff and showed him the one I already picked up on our travels.
“Oh my, that is an original! They are very priceless relics.”
“And require training in the Destruction School of magicka so useless to you. You took a gamble that we would accompany Damian.”
“He was determined to do this and nothing seems to persuade him from a chosen path. Everything you just said to him did not seem to register any emotion at all.”
“Just keep buttering him up and you will be safe.”
The priest said louder so Damian would hear, “We are in a hurry Majesty and we need you with us across this haunted field. You and you men are the only minds that are unsullied by the dark past of this mire. My Prince, you have to be careful, the kingdom cannot lose any more royal blood.”
We approached using the same route as last time but the skeleton defenders were much larger. They were no tougher. Not a single one did the Ustase tackle.
It was raining and Damian said, “This rain in unfortunate, to drench this regal apparel and sully my image. Yet if it’s for the kingdom then it matters not.”
The priest replied, “You are the first of your kind to get right into the mud with us lowly souls. I can recall no royal dirtying himself for those beneath. We are forever in your debt. “
Argus started to snigger. I turned and gave him a stern look. Calder was trying hard not to laugh and I knew it was only a matter of time when control was lost. It did not help when Damian said, “Nobles have anchored themselves to antiquated ideals – having only their wealth the locus of their desire. I’m change, and will usher forth progress for this land.”
Argus did a fake sneeze, “Ah… ah…ah…bullshit…”
Calder gave up holding it in and guffawed.
“Forgive them Prince Damian. Maybe the curse on this place works differently on those Nord barbarians?”
Damian seemed once again oblivious to anything that was not the focus of his task. He said, “Now priest, it is incumbent upon your transcendental skill to purge whatever festers within this crater. Godspeed, rid us of this curse.”
The priest replied, “By Julianos’ majesty, bless this adventure.”
I said to The Sentinel, “Surround the Prince. Here comes another wave of undead. Nothing those brave knights and Ustase can’t handle.”
I stood near the priest who was making up gibberish and waving his hands over the shield.
I could hear the Prince’s guard getting slaughtered and was in no hurry to use the staff.
After a couple of minutes the priest looked up to me and I pretended to pick some dirt off the end of the staff. I looked over and there were not many Ustase left. I gave a hand signal and The Sentinel leapt into the fray and starting cutting the undead to pieces.
I warned the priest “Stand back!”
He leapt back and I hit the stone below with lightning from the wand. A blue beam immediately shot into the air and the remaining undead collapsed.
The priest exclaimed, “Ha… It actually worked. The gods have finally divined their mercy.”
Damian replied, “Rejoice! We will all be entered into Bretonic history.”
“It is a pity about all those dead Ustase. Funny how The Sentinel seemed to have killed nearly every undead yet remain unscratched.”
Damian turned to me and said, “We’ve done it friend! What was once thought immutable, destined for turmoil, has now been routed. Through sheer will and initiative, we have triumphed.”
“You would have all died in this foolishness without me and my men. You did an admirable job of surviving all that mud on your boots.”
“Through our dedication, we all played a part in this tale of triumph. Now, join me for a while. I wish to discuss some matters.”
“Try this Damian. “Royal Majesty, if it pleases you I would like to sit and discuss some matters.’”
He blinked at me but there was no realisation of how wrong it was to order his Emperor.
“Sorry Prince but I have other things to attend to. Do not dally here too long as you have so few to defend you against an angry skeever if such a ferocious beast should attack.”
As we walked back to the embassy Serana said, “He needs to die soon Wulf. I know why you did not want to speak to him longer.”
“He wanted to tell me more of his plans. They would undoubtedly have been expansionist and more than likely treasonous. I find my ability to play this game dwindling. I am sick of the task given me. This place is nothing but layer upon layer of evil and blasphemy. That priest is the only sign of real dedication to The Nine we have encountered apart from the poor citizens. I just want to go home and sit with Rigmor and remember what beauty is.”
“You are going to have to plunge this kingdom into chaos. Remove the last of the royalty and most of the Priest Circle.”
“I know and then I will have to leave. To trust General Rikke will make a good governor. That none of the other kingdoms force my hand by trying to take advantage of the chaos. It would be good to do all this with the High King’s blessing but young Potema’s puppet masters have him.”
“Why do you think we have not heard some fake proclamation or similar from them?”
“What can they say? That we shouldn’t have saved the kingdom from an invasion from Oblivion? Question why Imperial troops were naughty and stopped the Redguard pirates and inflicted crushing defeats on the Orc rebels? They will remain silent.”
“We are starting to worry Wulf. Perhaps we thought you were indestructible and are realising you are not. The Divines rely too much on you. You can’t keep up this pace for much longer.”
“It is early afternoon. Let us head to the Embassy and have dinner at a reasonable hour. I am exhausted and will retire to my room early. Let us hope The Missionary has success.”
I managed to get involved in some pleasant conversations and had a good laugh over a simple meal at the mess hall.
I went to my room and wrote this journal entry.
I lay on the bed for hours just going through all the gobblygook conversations I have had with Mara and others since I started this task.
It was just a whole lot of obscure hints and nothing was said clearly.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
I know it was the earliest I had done so in weeks.