High Rock: Chaos served hot on a silver platter.
I hardly slept. I have survived on hunches and best guesses. Usually full of confidence even if worried.
Now I instinctively knew that this kingdom was going to be ripped apart and wondered if there was anything I could have done to stop it. Was I knowingly sent here by Lady Mara on a hopeless mission?
I would have preferred to have been told to minimise the damage rather than given a false hope of stopping it. At least then I would not have to fight this doubt and feeling of failure.
We had breakfast and left for town at 7:00AM hoping The Missionary had some success.
We found him enjoying some breakfast at the same spot on the bridge.
“Good morning Missionary. Either you’re taking a break or you’ve finished with the search.”
“Good morning to you as well Majesty. Rest assured, I’m not one to waste time. This search was one of the more interesting deductions I’ve engaged in.”
“So what did you see?”
“My exercise led me to the long since abandoned research facility up in the mountains, unfortunately bearing the recent moniker of “Reject’s Respite” in light of the type of people who were brought there.”
“The Reach seeming so rich in hedge-magic I can imagine some dangerous and not so dangerous souls would have been of interest to various parties. Sometimes such study is mixed with compassion and simple observation of voluntary, if safe, or involuntary, if unsafe, beings. Far more often the pursuit of knowledge and power means involuntary incarceration for all beings of interest. Torture and autopsy and psychological stress regarded as legitimate tools in such merciless study. You yourself may have found yourself taken involuntarily for such. A witch we recently met certainly would have been. Such cruelty is also not limited to mortals as some of the immortals are infamous for such studies. In High Rock the Direnni seemed to have emulated the worst of the Ayleid curiosity of mortal physiology. This is true historical horror attributed falsely to the Last King by the rubbish the local priests preach. He certainly did not practice such evil but the Direnni and Ayleid cultures were full of many that did.”
“It was a concern of mine when my ability first surfaced that even in these ‘more enlightened’ times I may have been subjected to such. So it was with trepidation I followed that arcane scent more closely. I was brought to the bowels of that ruin which I never thought would be that extensive.”
“It was probably expanded beyond its original design. Either by subjects that have escaped or those who have come later and dug like miners to reach the facility without detection.”
“If you want my advice, pass on this adventure.”
“I cannot. This kingdom is in just as much danger as before the Oblivion Gate opened. We are not just solving those murders. We are trying to prevent a catastrophe beyond your darkest imagination. It is my duty not just as Emperor but as Champion of The Divine. I have fought Molag Bal face to face. Same with Alduin and many other beings of immense power and I do not fear them.”
“I can only guide you to the general location.”
“Mother Mara sent me. She will show the way. This she promised and so far has not. So must be about time don’t you think?”
“When I saw the symbol on the skin I remembered an artefact collected years ago and stored with others collecting dust.”
The Missionary handed me a staff. I could detect a dweomer similar to the spell of the Illusion school called ‘Vision of the Tenth Eye’. The staff had the occluded iris symbol on it, the same as the piece of flesh.
I said, “A Master of Illusion can cast a dweomer on an object to make it invisible to the naked eye. They can also create an illusionary wall or similar to hide an object or doorway. To further secure the item or door they can make it only visible to one who casts ‘Vision of the Tenth Eye’ near the illusion. The staff you just handed me has a dweomer that casts that spell. The trick is detecting the illusion you need to dispel. That is why such a task is set by The College of Winterhold to gain Master rank in the Illusion School of magicka. I have that rank and Serana does simply by being so very old.”
Serana said, “Why don’t you do the illusion, ‘Get Fucked’?”
The Missionary said, “Yes, the notation with it says it can trap souls as well as reveal hidden barriers.”
“The trap souls bit must be a Daedric dweomer which I can’t detect. This may be something we need so thank you for bringing it to us.”
“Divines keep you all safe.”
We used a Direnni portal to get closer to ‘Rejects Respite’.
Serana asked, “Are we taking too much of a risk using these things?”
“My sense of urgency is overpowering. I would rather risk these portals than be too late to prevent a disaster.”
As we approached the tower we encountered low level undead and no other opposition.
The number of cages and restraints outside the entrance hinted at a penal establishment.
Inside many portcullis and cages confirmed its purpose.
Along the corridors I saw pyramids constructed of three poles.
“Has anybody else noticed these pyramid structures? Their purpose eludes me.”
Calder said, “Perhaps they are signifying a path to follow?”
“That could be it Calder. Just another mystery to add to the warehouses full we have collected on this trip to sunny Evermore.”
The skeletons we encountered were unique but not overly powerful. So far they were the only entities we had seen.
One of the pyramids had skulls adorning it.
Dwemer type cages protected switches in many areas. Most required a high level of skill to pick.
Argus asked, “Where did you learn to do that?”
“I have no idea Argus. I woke on the carriage to Helgen with many skills that I inherently knew. Other skills I relearned rapidly having had them previous but lost when my memory was taken away.”
“Why did The Divines do that? That seems mighty cruel to me.”
“I think there was something in my past that would have reduced my ability to complete the Divine Tasks set me if remembered. What that something is I do not know.”
Not all the skeleton guards were animated. They were probably triggered via certain actions.
Our travels eventually led us to some natural caverns. It appeared they were utilised as part of the structure. The Missionary said the place was more extensive than he thought it would be.
After wandering up and down and few dead ends I came to a conclusion,
“I think what is hidden is along one of these corridors. Let us move slow and quiet so Serana and I can see if we detect a dweomer. If need be I can keep using the staff as we walk and we would eventually luck upon the correct spot.”
So we walked very slowly with Serana and me touching walls and floors as we went. After a few minutes Serana exclaimed, “Got it Wulf. Put your hand here.”
Sure enough there was a faint dweomer.
“That is an excellent illusion. Why don’t you smash your head against it Calder? See if it feels like a real stone wall.”
“Can I smash Argus’? He keeps farting.”
I cast the staff on the wall and the illusion dissipated to reveal a doorway.
Argus asked, “Who lights those torches?”
“I think it is the same powerful immortals who steal one of your socks on laundry day.”
“Yeah, that makes sense.”
We all just stared at him for a few seconds then I opened the door.
We entered a room with a circular stone block on the floor and off centre. In the centre of the stone block the occluded eye symbol was carved. Arranged around and on top of the block were lit candles.
“By the scrape marks it seems this block has been moved. It would take somebody or something of immense power to do it.”
Calder quipped, “Look Argus, the mysterious sock thief has been lighting candles as well!”
Argus replied, “Wouldn’t it be great if we found its den. Never have to buy another pair of socks ever!”
We eventually found our way to a row of cells. Each had a plaque describing the inmate and written in many languages. For instance the one for Cell 2 read,
“Subject #2: Supernal Custodian
Must use protective ear equipment to prevent communication with subject. Nullifier must be used before entering to negate subjects magic.”
“Pretty sure that is one of those Matron Hagraven things with the beak. They seem translucent and are always surrounded by big beasties.”
Cell 1 sounded like fun,
“Subject #1: Empty Eater
Only enter if pertinent spell has been conducted on warden. Tether warden so that subject does not pull warden deeper.”
At the end of the room was a portcullis and pull chain. The room beyond had a raised platform that seemed very Ayleid in design.
I picked the lock on the Dwemer cage and twisted a handle.
There was a distinct noise of latches unlatching and cell doors banging open.
Serana said, “We will have to deal with whatever has just been set loose.”
“They could have put a sign up on this! Let us go visit the zoo.”
The Empty eater looked like a Witchmen or Forlorn bone sculpture. Difference being it tried to drag me closer whilst trying to drain me of blood. A full Unrelenting Force Shout seemed to shatter the bones and it was no longer a menace.
Serana said, “Disgusting creature. Who would want to drink blood? Yuk!”
The Supernal Custodian was one of those Hagravens with the beak. It had a weird insect larvae thing with it.
One room had no plaque but it appeared to have held some sort of child or young beast. Upon entering there was palpable calm. The walls had the same painting as the Mara shrine room Mortifayne kept.
Cell 3’s plaque read,
“Subject #3: The Halved
No protective equipment required. Subject is fragile so refrain from harsh treatment. Body will dismember upon trauma. If see arachnid subject in room, exit immediately and use alarm.”
“This cell held Husk and Ambition. That heart is their connection to Oblivion. I wonder if we just released Husk?”
Serana noted, “If we did then it did not commit the murders.”
“Since we have been in this kingdom we have been gathering clues and re-evaluating what we believe. We did not understand how the murder of those two brothel girls would aid Ambition so we concluded it was Husk. We need to know more I think.”
Cell 5 was ominous,
“Subject #5: ScuttleMan
Keep minimum one yard distance from hole perimeter. Keep fed constant.”
In the middle of the room was a hole with large drain tubes either side. Ignoring the warning I leant over and could see nothing but pitch black. I had a sense of paranoia, as if something was watching me from the darkness. There was a scuttling noise like something moving around on many legs. I could hear many indistinct voices.
“This seems to be a portal to The Void. I wouldn’t recommend jumping in. It is a terribly boring place.”
Cell 6 was empty. The plaque read,
“Subject #6: Meat
ONLY OPEN IF SUBJECT BREACHES DOOR. RESORT TO INCENDIARY PRECAUTION.”
The door was wide open and thick red roots emerged from it. We knew the roots were sensitive to fire.
We pushed past the roots and a hidden door opened and Witchmen attacked.
We travelled along a corridor and killed several more Witchmen and a Matriarch Hagraven.
Then we were greeted by a familiar sight.
“We could have just walked into Ol’ Monti’s house and used the portal there!”
We were in the cavern that led to the twin shrines of Namira.
The place had been repopulated with angry Ayleid spirits including the guardian before the door.
The pitiful crying was just as disturbing the second time around.
We entered the chamber and it was as before except the barrier at the end was no longer there. There was a light and I sensed Lady Mara’s presence. It was her avatar.
I approached and the wall started to slide downwards.
Lady Mara said, “Your companions must stop Child. They cannot follow here.”
I told the group to head back to the shrines.
“Okay, Lady Mara says you can’t accompany me. Take the portal to the Witchmen valley and either walk or use the portal and get back to the Embassy. I will meet you there when I have finished.”
Serana stood with her hands on her hips and said, “What happens if you don’t return? What happens if chaos erupts like you fear? What happens if you die?”
“Serana, you know I have to take this risk. All along I have been waiting for Mara’s light to lead the way as promised and here it is at last. You are in charge of The Sentinel till I return. I do not know where she is leading me but I sensed The Void behind her. This must be so difficult for her with Martin’s barrier and the screwed up timelines and the totally fucked up place this is.”
“I know Wulf. Go with our Lady and we will wait for you at the Embassy. Divines guide you.”
The others were silent as I walked into the unknown. I closed my eyes and pictured Rigmor’s face and imagined her voice, ‘Come on Dragonborn! Where is your sense of adventure?”
The Void is absolute nothing. Why beings risk being thrown into it is one of the great mysteries. Perhaps if they all experienced some time in it they would spend their mortal lives being model citizens.
As I approached what looked like a walled wooden walkway I could feel my soul being dragged into the darkness and I started to weaken.
Lady Mara said, “Under my wing Child. You have entered the darkest durance at the end of the world. This is the dominion of tragedy. Do not leave my light or you will be swallowed by the black.”
I staggered closer to her avatar and my strength returned. She was playing tug of war with my soul. I could imagine Sithis pulling on the other end of the rope.
“The history of hate in that kingdom traces its roots here. Where the seed planted by a God had fomented and grown and its branches tore through the earth and perverted all life above.
Witchmen, those misguided souls stolen from my grace, were moulded into the forms you have seen. I did not reach them in time and another Mother had taken my place.
Where I had hoped to import a will to live in them, that Mother had brought an antithesis. Preying on their fears and animosity and exaggerating these insecurities to heights unforeseen.”
Suddenly we were travelling underwater. I wondered if Lady Mara was keeping me alive or the water breathing dweomer I had on my armour.
“And so the same tragedy that played the Witchmen finds itself repeating with those behind their walls. A schism forms between those found wanting and those who are rich. Material, beauty and status are now all tenets to the divide.
Extremes are tempting in dire times, when the status quo had proven to have failed. Yet it is often with these extremes that irrevocable damage occurs.
Pull the disenfranchised out of the muddy waters, mediate and save whatever you can. I am weak in this form Child. But you are strong! You have one thing that I lack.
You have true empathy. A thing Gods lacking the same fragility of mortals cannot grasp.
Those on the mortal plane, who are swallowed by obsession, by trauma or rage, will find themselves a world which mimics that terrible, bloodied world you traversed, and are soon to again.
To have hope dim and hate simmer in these times is understandable and expected. To be pessimistic when you look at history as a series of tragedies is natural. However, you run the risk of looking through that wretched lens of despair until your passing.
Every moment of good is then ignored, every small triumph and miracle is trivialised against some other atrocity. You avoid every opportunity, trepid to every chance, fearful of the risks. So you stay clinging to what you know.
We know this does not apply to you Child. You still march on with a yearning to halt a disaster rather than letting rampage run its course as the cynic inside us would do without hesitation.
I am burdened with the curse of prescience, prescience of tragedy, and I weep. You will now talk with a soul who was beholden to ultimate misfortune. I was too late to help him.
Feel sympathy for his plight. We have faith you will not let his spoiled tongue coerce you into committing evil. I just wish I could have saved him, if only I was stronger. Tell him I am sorry though I’m afraid any apologies are too late.
Keep faith and remain that indomitable effigy of hope we know you are.”
Lady Mara’s avatar left me and I swam to an exit. I found myself in Namira’s realm once again.
I looked around and knew this was a pocket realm, just like the one we entered via the Dwemer gate. Where we met Ambition and let him loose on Nirn.
I drew my sword when I saw an Oblivion creature. It looked at me and ran. I got the distinct impression it wanted me to follow. So I did.
Lady Mara’s narration told me nothing I did not already know. She was simply describing how the dark whispers of the Daedric Princes work on both poor and rich. The mirroring of this world to Nirn was said by the fake Last King and I rejected it then and still do. No matter how miserable things are in Evermore, beauty in the landscape it abundant. The laughter of children is more scarce than it should be but Dusk showed it is there and that child alone has helped me fight despair more than anything else seen or heard in that wretched kingdom.
My mortal empathy is why I find it hard to accept some of the things allowed or planned by The Divine. This unwillingness to accept collateral damage has been a major driving factor in my decisions and deeds. With this task it is not so easy to avoid collateral damage if possible at all. It is what I am scared of the most. Will it make it easier to be like my father if I do start accepting it? He would have had one look at this mess and sent in the troops. Scarily like Damian’s view on leadership but that Demon also includes genocide in his package of remedies.
Lady Mara takes it personally when she loses a soul to our enemy. I hope the other Divine sit her down and explain how mortals need to want rescuing. Otherwise you have no hope.
The being I was pursuing collapsed in front of a cage. Behind the cage was a crude construct that looked like a skull. In front of that was a representation of a favourite Ayleid torture, The Wheel.
Looking around this pocket of Namira’s realm I could not help but think they crammed as much ugly in it as they could.
As I approached the cage, which was obviously my ride to the cave in the skull, I really had no curiosity as to who I was to meet. I did not even bother guessing. All I could think was that the gobblygook level was about to rise to a new record.
I entered the cage and it started its climb with a clunk.
It slowly pivoted till I was facing the cave mouth.
A bridge rolled out identical to those in Apocrypha except for colour.
Stacks of books blocking my way vanished and my host was there to greet me. It was Husk. Although different visually than Ambition it was undeniably the other half that shared soul.
“Interloper – remit with trepidation. You must know by now that this realm had forgone your harm, a privilege that was not extended to others.”
“I have no fear Husk. And the reason for such generosity is obvious. Namira hopes I will aid, accidental or on purpose, whatever scheme she has hatched. I think I was mistaken when laying blame for those murders on you. If you had a more fleshy aspect you would show it.”
“I am that butcher though this form isn’t. As ego that willed itself into an identity of its own, separate from the pragmatism and reservations you see now.”
“He calls himself Ambition. Although he has stolen a body via murder he is obviously incomplete. He lacks your memories and much reasoning. He sounds like a cure for that kingdom’s ills but it is worse than the symptoms. Genocide and endless violence do not make the environment his subjects desire.”
“How it can grow wild without the fear of an end… It dances upon the dying in your realm now. Singing songs of avarice and conquered repression that was his flesh.”
“So you were repressed? In the kingdom he could be Serf, Orc, Witchmen or even Reachman and earn repression. Outside of that kingdom virtually any combination of race and gender can find themselves repressed.”
“Let me elucidate the state of this dichotomous relationship of this ultimately inconsequential dilemma, which is the seed, the worm that has taken root inside a mountain.”
“Hopefully the same seed Lady Mara was talking about. It will make the gobblygook more translatable.”
“We are here to bear witness to a story of unrequited love and a desire to escape the pernicious state of the forgotten.
From stasis to chaos, and all the moments in between.”
“If you are going to bore me with your version of creation then realise my reaction to this. It holds no more value than all others. All are true as they occurred in non-linear time. All occurred in parallel and are logical.”
The being ignored me. Even before it started I knew it was going to be Anu, Padomay and Nir. Why did we have to fight all the way through that building, me risk my life in The Void and Lady Mara expend so much energy? Just give me a copy of The Annotated Annaud.
“Here starts the ever-still, a perfect nothing where two beings resided without knowledge of each other. It was a tranquil zone that was soon to be disturbed by a third.”
“And so she appeared to break the silence, the most alluring thing to exist in this dead realm. She came and brought a medium for all actors to be aware of themselves and the immediacy of what surrounded them.”
“Yet the first impulse by those two ancient entities was courtship, however as we know, only on can win her heart.”
“And so born the first child, scarcity, immediately follows by her twin, disparity. This ushered in a new world that revolted against the old stasis.”
“With the choice made, the less desirable of the two had been left with a quandary. Why had I not been chosen? What are my features? What am I? Spurred introspection.”
“Look upon the self and distinguish between your surroundings, become aware of the medium that you now inhabit, no longer in that black void. You must adapt to the tide of entropy.”
“Incensed and ravenous, the unfortunate loser will not sit idly by to fade while others enjoyed the luxuries of love. If only we could be content with our subordination, so much could have been averted.”
(This was part of this particular creation myth I hated. If Rigmor had chosen Robere over me I do not think I could have accepted it with grace. It still makes me shudder to think how I may have reacted. I may not have been there to take on Molag Bal and Morag. I could have been sulking somewhere when Nirn became part of Coldharbour. No Husk, rarely do the spurned act graciously especially if they love the one being competed for. It is sobering to think I could have behaved the same as Padomay.)
“So the little man conspired and waited to make himself known to the newly-wed couple.”
“And there they stood, so caught up in their love for each other, the smiles and laughter burning a hole into this ugly, undesirable soul. Any doubts about carrying out murder were washed away through burning jealousy.”
“Made worse by a new born, confirming the worst fears of copulation, such pleasures that were denied to this little tyke.”
“There! Appear and bear witness to my form! I am here, I do not approve of your coupling. The usurper will be known!”
“If you shall not be mine, the no one will enjoy you. Her value reduced to a proxy of his power, her agency revoked. This spiteful act birthed the dream.”
“Conflict! Violence! It all starts here, the interactions of matter and forces, the concept of entropy. All here, with the fight of these two dichotomous gods.”
“The lover had prevailed against this chaotic sprite, no time to gloat, the heart was stricken with sorrow. And so he mourned.”
(Careful Anu, he might stab you in the back. Oh no! You can never trust a brother you just beat the shit out of!)
“Naïve lover, this is a new world. A world of uncertainty where the lack of vigilance will spell an early…‘death’. With the little sprite having inflicted a fatal blow with his dying breath.”
“Oh ancestor, if only you could have solved your petty dispute peacefully! If only it were that easy.”
“What does this all mean for you? Context, maybe you’ll gleam meaning from the maelstrom, or maybe you’ll be cast into the raging winds to be forgotten, just like the little sprite.”
“The temporal awaits you, do not keep them waiting. However insignificant this may seem, an idea will be born. Prepare to nurture this idea so that it grows to be something you are proud of, a good parent.”
“Husk, this was an utter waste of time. I am well aware of the concept and art of negotiation!”
I faded from the Scuttling Void.
And appeared on the mortal plane. In a prison cell. At least the door was open.
I could hear two familiar voices, Commander Drugo and Captain Gallione. They were discussing the hand over to General Rikke.
I stepped outside and looked around. I was at The Bog. But the hour was wrong. Dawn was approaching when it should be 10PM at the latest.
Not only was the lecture by Husk boring, it took hours! It occasionally happens in Oblivion. Time flows at a different pace.
I approached them and they both nearly screamed when I said, “Morning, eager for your transfer It seems.”
Drugo exclaimed, “Majesty, what backdoor did you enter through? You must be a master of stealth as well as battle.”
“Actually I spoke to Mother Mara then took a walk through Oblivion. If you are looking for somewhere to holiday, give it a miss.”
“Where are The Sentinel? I thought they stuck to you like shit to a shoe?”
“They could not follow me through The Void. Mother Mara could only protect me.”
“You are, kind of different than the last couple of Emperors.”
“What has been happening since the murders in Evermore?”
“Nothing noteworthy: petty disputes and all the entailing drama. I’m sure you’re well versed in The Reach’s people so I won’t need to divulge too much. Actually, come to think of it, events seem to be not so dour. It is like the kingdom is finally experiencing its boon. I don’t want to get my hopes up but it really does seem different this time.”
“The evil we vanquished was but a precursor. This kingdom has the most foul evil in its noble ranks and those murders were a taste of what is to come. Mother Mara does not speak to me or ask me to walk through Oblivion and chat to a Demon often. Neither do I order half a legion to a border without a good reason. It is an illusion Commander Drugo and when I expose the truth chaos will erupt.”
“Do you have to expose it? If it manages well can you not leave it?”
“Children are being sacrificed and most likely made to work in brothels. The local guards and soldiers who have fallen are being replaced by the Ustase. They are the lowest form of criminal scum given good armour and let lose. Indentured Serfdom is slavery, end of argument. Other slaves are working some of the mines. Out of sight and out of mind. Demons roam the land. Witches use the skins of murdered citizens to give the murderer new identities. And you still can’t buy a decent sweet-roll anywhere is this damn kingdom!”
“Umm, will the new troops be here before chaos reigns again?”
“Hopefully or you will have to do some unpacking.”
I left for the Embassy and arrived there about 6:30AM.
Serana walked up to me and asked, “So?”
“So that was a total waste of time. Lady Mara just gave me a lecture on all the things I have been saying for years about free will, Daedric whispers and mortal empathy.
Took a delightful stroll through Husk’s little slice of the Scuttling Void. He gave me long and boring description of the Anu, Nir and Padomay creation myth. Just so he could emphasise the importance of negotiation.
About the only useful information out of the whole lot was Ambition, who Husk calls Ego, killed those brothel girls.”
“So that took a day and a half?”
“What? I thought I lost a few hours. And I lost a day and a half!”
“The legionnaires are setting up camp on the border. The Witchmen and Orsinium Sons have been quiet. Damian keeps stringing the public along with promises and they are, as you predicted, lapping it up. He is doing another bullshit speech this morning. It might be good if we went and saw what other miracles he proposes.”
“Good idea Serana. By the way, did you notice what is behind you?”
She looked and there was a pyramid sculpture.
“They are starting to pop up all over the place Wulf.”
“I know, I saw some at The Bog. Forget about them for now, let’s go watch our favourite Demon.”
Damian was in his element but it was all my ideals and theories on nobility and co-operation he was selling. It was as if I had written the speech for him!
Surprisingly there were hecklers in the audience.
A serf yelled out, “You are all getting suckered into another rich noble’s lies. He’ll be as bad as Ol’ Mort!
Others is the audience threatened the heckler with violence and Damian was pretending to be gracious and accepting of criticism and I just felt sick at the whole charade.
Nothing that thing said is worth sullying my journal with. Let it be lost to history. Why make future historians lose their lunch?
When he finished to a minor spattering of applause I leaped up on stage and waved to the audience. They started cheering and some thanked me for rescuing the town and others just called out “Dragonborn” and “Long live his Majesty” and even a very audible, “Where is Queen Rigmor?”
I walked up to him and said, “You have read the transcripts of my public speeches and learned them well.”
“You are the model I aspire to. The people need a figure of hope, a paragon where all the other leaders had failed. I feel privileged in being the sole progenitor of hope in this land of scum… Maybe scum is too strong a word, undesirables.”
“They are citizens if you want the correct word. The scum is who you have wearing uniforms.”
Of course there was no recognition of what I said. He continued, “I am going to the quarry in the Gavaudon lowlands but fret not, I am not abandoning this town. There is much work to be done here still. The pieces must be in place before we can eventually heal this ruptured realm.”
“Realm, don’t you mean kingdom or are you going to fix Mundus? Very ambitious either way but I don’t think I like your plans and either does Husk.”
He put his hands on his hips and stared at me.
I whispered, “You are slipping little Demon and soon your usefulness to me will be over. Then your lies will end. Listen to the crowd who call my many names and cheer for me.”
He had no idea what to do. I had just threatened his ambitions but a public confrontation with his Emperor would also end his time as Lord. The Sentinel and I had walked into Oblivion and saved the town. I had summoned a magnificent Dragon who did my bidding. We had removed the Redguard pirate menace, killed many rebel Orcs and removed the evil from Sebat. I was a visible demonstration of nobility and not rhetoric.
After about ten seconds I just turned my back to him and walked away.
I was half way down the steps when the Priest of The Nine came running up to me and said, “Your Majesty, can I please have help with an urgent matter at the temple?”
“Yes of course. Lead the way.”
We walked at a brisk pace to the temple and I signalled The Sentinel to guard against snooping except Serana. I wanted her to hear because I had an idea what it may be.
“Okay priest, you look agitated. What is the problem?”
“It’s about what the missionary saw when he scoured that damned facility in the mountains, or rather what he’s seen now that made him evoke such dread. We were walking around the town having a look at the work being done and talking with the citizens when Prince Damian saw us. He wandered over and told us how we were model citizens etc. Almost immediately the Missionary become capricious.”
Serana looked at me and knew what danger The Missionary was now in.
“The Prince stared at him and walked away. The Missionary became extremely pallid and started sweating. I thought it was fatigue from the search he had undertaken but I have never seen such a drastic turn of health so quickly.”
“I made a mistake and now he is in grave danger. Do you know where he is?”
“I have sent him off to the Divide where Fenig will look after him. Why is he in danger and what has it to do with our Prince?”
“Your Prince has been dead for many days. That is not Damian but a Demon cloaked in the body of the King’s son. He is working with a Daedric Lord and we have been trying to figure out which one before acting.”
Serana said, “The Missionary had seen the Demon before but only briefly. However when he used his talents to search for the whereabouts of the brothel murderer he would have subconsciously recognised the same Demon. We thought it was a different Demon who committed the murders otherwise we would not have asked him to do the search.”
The priest said, “So he recognised that Demon in the guise of Prince Damian?”
I said, “Subconsciously. His body reacted to the horror, confusion and rightful fear that discovery made. Eventually he will make the connection and be in a quandary what to do. He is now in grave danger and all those around him as well. Damian will want to silence him and any he may have spoken to.”
“What are you going to do Majesty? I fear the answer as it will doom this kingdom.”
“You are now in danger as well. I want you to accompany The Sentinel to the Divide and stay with them in the temple there. I know where the Demon is headed and it is time he died. Be assured priest that this is the work of The Divine I do.”
I called Serana over to a quiet corner of the temple and told her, “The Sentinel are to take him to the Bridge and stay in the temple and do not leave his side. Damian is going to a quarry in the Gavaudon lowlands. It is a well-known site and already on my map. His wording tells me the final plans of whatever Dark Lord he is following will be decided there. That is where I must go.”
“What happens if you are gone for a long time? Travelling Oblivion again and taking days instead of hours?”
“If this plays out like I think it will then chaos will occur no matter what decisions I make.”
“You think you will have to kill Damian and remove King Sigmayne.”
“I have felt this for days and that is why 2500 Legionnaires are ready to enforce Martial Law. I did not give that order specifically as there is always a risk a courier gets waylaid. Rigmor will know the purpose of amassing such a force and General Rikke will have been given instructions.”
“What about all this talk of negotiation?”
“I think me refusing to compromise is what is expected. Lady Mara did have important instructions. It has just taken my tired brain time to realise.”
“What did she say Wulf?”
“She said ‘Extremes are tempting in dire times, when the status quo had proven to have failed. Yet it is often with these extremes that irrevocable damage occurs. Pull the disenfranchised out of the muddy waters, mediate and save whatever you can.’”
“So the mediation happens after you reject whatever offer Damian and his friends make?”
“Yes. Damian will try and sound reasonable. He will point out that my rejection will result in death and terror. I will refuse his offer then I will have to try and make peace with the warring factions in the mud and chaos of hatred and greed unrestrained.”
“You have been forced into picking the lesser of two evils. This is not how you work Wulf.”
“Lady Mara also said, ‘I am burdened with the curse of prescience, prescience of tragedy, and I weep.’”
“So The Divine knew from the beginning your choices, who you are, would lead to a kingdom without a king or leadership. But this fact was obscured till the end with their usual flowery words and obscuration.”
“That is how it had to be Serana. If I suspected that every child and family I saw was going to be subjected to the coming chaos I may have chosen a different path. Martial Law would have been declared days ago. The Oblivion Gate may have still opened and then closed by us but Damian and his lot, whoever they are, would have bided their time.”
“You still think more than one Daedric Prince is involved?”
“The Redguard pirates and Orc rebels saw an opportunity and took advantage of the state of Evermore resulting from Namira’s long term plan. I think another Daedric Prince has done the same. Damian will offer me a deal from one Dark Lord. Refusing it means I have accepted the inevitable result of Namira’s plans.”
“Then go Wulf. Get this over with before it tears you in two.”
“If the streets are running with blood aid the Imperial Army in restoring some order and help the people of this kingdom. When you have done all you can head for Evermore. That is where I must go after taking care of Damian. Please keep The Missionary safe, his death at the hands of Damian would be my fault.”
Serana was telling the other Sentinel what was happening when I rushed outside and summoned blaze. The citizens of Raven Springs had not seen him before so I heard the same ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ of my early days in Skyrim. Before I knew my beloved Rigmor and before I was aware of the terrible path my destiny and purpose had laid out for me.
I had no encounters and saw none. The kingdom was undeniably beautiful and as I got closer to the quarry the more normal it seemed. Calm before the storm. People would stop and stare at the golden warrior on his blazing horse pass at a breakneck speed. What a tale to tell their grandchildren on their knee or friends over a few meads! If they survived the chaos I was to trigger.
When I stopped and asked a farmer if I was on the right road for the quarry he said I was and then asked, “Excuse and don’t get offended Majesty. But are you going to free those born and bred slaves. We are followers of The Nine and know it is not what the Commandments say.”
“Born and bred? That is even more evil than I thought. Be ready to help your family and friends good farmer. By stopping one evil I will trigger another. I am sorry.”
“You warning a poor serf like me Majesty shows you do what is right. Divines bless you.”
It was no much further to the quarry and a familiar figure, if a bit more transparent, was waiting for me outside the palisades.
I dismissed Blaze and approached him.
“Do I get to ask questions this time Husk or do I have to sit through another pantomime?”
“I know your first question so let me answer it unasked. I am a silhouette of ambition, without the meat. He wished to be without memory but it is a fundamental to ambition that I was too naïve to link. And now with ambition absconded, I am left perched at the back of this dead mind.”
“I have many questions before I make decisions crucial to not only this kingdom but to the entire mortal plane.”
“You seek to ameliorate understanding. There is an eternity between now and the vast black. Let’s fill thin interim with words. It’s been too long since I have entertained an audience. Now ask away.”
“Before you became ‘Subject #3: The Halved’, what were you?”
“Since I feel tremors from my ego’s every stress, a motivation simmers to recount my story, that a husk that’s absolute in its abandonment of ego could not.”
“You and Ambition form a connection?”
“Yes so emotions and memories are exchanged but we are not one. Just ghosts of our single origin.”
“The genesis of my story finds its beginning at birth, a child that had dichotomies forced upon it, intruding into every cranny. Order, savagery – clean, dirty – Breton, Orsimer. Such a motley mixture of blood would evoke wrath, a death of the child that eschews shame upon the family who bore it. Yet circumstance favoured me, and I passed the first fatal judgment.”
“So you were mixed race born with the appearance of a Breton. Many say such children take on the appearance of their mother. That is a myth. They can look a combination of both parents and the ratio can change over time especially when sexual maturity approaches. I have seen so with many children under the care of our orphanages.”
“Such a myth derives from the devaluation of the female. No upstanding male of any species would dare denigrate his standing by mating with another race and defiling his bloodline.”
“But your mother was Breton and those viewing the child and believing the myth would not suspect your father was Orsimer.”
“Correct. You have observed power and its contingencies throughout your journeys. After hearing so many stories they all start to sound the same. This story broke convention. It steered away from the path ordained by benign gods, unto the webbed forest you now stand.”
“You blamed the gods for your change? Primal forces beyond their control, unleashed in that pantomime you showed me, determined what you became. I can see where your loss of faith in Mother Mara began. I can see how such a change would be a nightmare in this kingdom of racial intolerance.”
“I was Breton. My conscious could not conjure a better dream that what I lived in those transient years. Each day tasted of adventure, responsibilities were an era beyond those carefree moments. Ha, my father did well. He had provided us with heaven, a heaven he could not walk himself. A martyr for lineage, so that his children may live without his scourge.”
“Which scourge? This kingdom has abundance.”
“The scourge of power; a bane to those without it. And the lesser races of the world, suffering bondage and extermination, will do anything to turn that bane into a boon.”
“I will emphasise again Husk. You speak of this kingdom and not Nirn in its entirety. Would my power be a bane to the normal citizen? Bondage is illegal throughout the Empire. Circumstances turned the eyes of those who should enforce the law elsewhere. But this is what shaped you and I understand from your perspective what the entire world must have seemed.”
“Upon my sexual advent, I had too began the path or perdition, a steep hill that became a cliff towards the very same scourge that haunted my father. A cascade of permutations on the body, within and without, changed me from that do-well Breton boy into the cursed demonling; Orc. Perspective was forced, not sought for.”
“You tried to gain back what you lost didn’t you. I know how it can be done. It is a path of evil and those who promise an outcome lie. You were not told what couldn’t be changed. You are the revenge of the witch. More subtle than the Witchmen she left.”
“I had but one goal after the world had awoken me to my new, fatal road – to go beyond the flesh. To be a Breton again! To be of the higher race!”
“Who did you kill for the body Husk? Whose life was worth less than yours?”
“You know of this magic so you know this journey to shed the temporal visage acts both spiteful and gruesome had to be committed. Yet my ambition to change had met an impasse, a crossroad to my ‘morality’ or what was left of it.”
“Who Husk? Who did you kill and skin?”
“Oh brother, it was not yours to suffer my dreams, it should have been mine. That last transforming ritual needed your flesh brother. Were we to find another way then you’d still be here…by my side. I had projected the superficial onto all, that my changed flesh would invoke a changed mind. That reciprocal affirmation from the Bretons could help me forget about the deeds.”
“The witch did not tell you that your memories remain even if your flesh changes. She wanted to set you lose on this kingdom.”
“Yes. The mind is not as malleable, trauma always found a way to make itself known. No amount of repression could blot out the sights. As you said, the witch had cloaked a grimace behind her spoiled words, she knew of the irony. She remarked that the soul can be found in blood, a binding agent for the new flesh and bone that was to make my new body. It didn’t take me long to decide, I threw brother to her ripping dark pit and he was torn apart. Even after his body had become an amorphous red mesh, the screams could still be heard. The brother I had coveted for a lifetime, defiled in an instant, not by the enemies I shielded him from but by my dream.”
“So you killed two in this pursuit. Your brother and a Breton you have not named.”
“He was a simple boy, slow and naïve. Sourcing his feeble-mind to his near death by his mother’s father who knew the stain a grandchild of bastard seed would have on their name.”
“More senseless violence enacted for prides sake! Murder deemed preferable to whispered gossip.”
“My eyes can’t be trusted, even the memories spawn spurious details, but that image still burns fresh in my mind. The lengths a man will go for pride. It was the killing of a shameful progeny by a man resolute and consistent in his honour. May no shame come to my name!”
“I was warned your life was one of horrors.”
“A hammer to the skull, but brother survived. He was made out of sturdier stuff than most. I used to believe survival was all there is, but this new, impeded state had shook that belief.”
“You were not this new person though. Who you are is in your soul, not the body it inhabits. I have the soul of a Dovah and am recognised as a brother by the Dov. Yet my body is of man. My father is now a God but many of his actions and motivations are still that of a mortal. You mould your soul through actions not changing your skin.”
“For a moment I was this new person. The flesh had sightly rotted so the new form wasn’t perfect, but it was worlds away from what it replaced. I had left behind the Orc scourge and become ‘normal’. The new struggle was in the mind despite the sacrifice of my brother and the fact I, the oppressor, had subjugated my memories and corralled them to silence. It went well for a time, the vacuum that the nightmares had occupied were instead filled with immediate carnal reliefs. Women, men, I had basked in fresh adoration. I couldn’t believe it, I had made it. I was frightened for a while, thinking I could suddenly wake up into that yesterday again. Darting eyes would catch a scowl, and I would look at the hands to assure myself that I was still a Breton. My mind was not in pace with the body, I just couldn’t abandon the phantoms of the past.”
“Slowly you realised the witch had lied again. Your brother’s bloody death was a trick to fool you into another murder most foul and to destroy your morality completely. As I hinted before, she had her own subtle agenda of revenge. She told me so. You have helped destroy the kingdom she despised.”
“Yes, you understand but I will reiterate. The flesh can heal but the mind isn’t as receptive. New friends among the higher races had coughed up hatred that burned the ears. Their veneration of hierarchy, their desire to see those lesser suffer. It started as annoyance, then to sadness and finally despair. Knowing the life I had lived, to know those who lived in heaven could have such disdain – one would have thought a life of luxury births amicable thoughts. It rung like a cacophony of horror and a chorus to rape’s melody! I always saw evil as being a result of poor conditions. Yet these moments had shrieked a different reasoning.”
“No Husk, you would always have known evil exists in rich and poor and in all races and both genders. The witch’s final blood sacrifice may have suppressed such memories, and the natural realisation of that truth, so that when it returned it seemed like an epiphany. The injustice and revulsion of it amplified by the triumph you had felt realising your dream of acceptance. At the peak of your enjoyment of this fake identity its value vanished. Instead of the gold nugget promised the witch handed you a turd which you committed murders to own. Padomay killed his brother Anu over jealousy of what he had, the love of Nir, and a damaged ego. You know the repercussions of that foul act according to myth. You killed your brother over jealousy of not what he had but what the Breton had. Your foul act will now have repercussions that will add to the chaos created by Namira. Without being her agent you have aided her plans. No wonder she gifted you that small part of her realm. But do not feel you are alone in this. I too am about to contribute to her plan and The Divine planned it that way.”
Lady Mara had asked so I tried.
“Mother Mara asked me to apologise on her behalf for not saving your soul and allowing Namira to claim it. So I apologise on her behalf even though she is wrong to attach blame to herself. At some stage you made the choice to abandon her. Mortal free will allowed you to do so. No matter what the circumstances, you chose to turn from her light and accept the darkness. It is comforting to know that even one mortal soul lost can make a God cry. It strengthens my determination to save as many as I can. I do not want my Gods to cry.”
I did not expect a response from Hulk. I knew it would slowly digest what I said but it was still a soul divided without the full complement of emotions to place value on my words.
“What is Namira planning?”
“She, like every other child neglected by the family’s patriarch, seeks to reforge the link with her despondent father. Such a tragic relationship! All for nought are the eras of her efforts to win his gaze. She reaches out to the immaterial, toward unreality and non-existence, for father. Such struggle conceives a concept out of nothing. Such is the way he exists at all. All of these cruel theatrics across her pocked land are a show, a spectacle to draw his eyes. The father is utter black, godless void. Mother desperately tries to please father so that he may comfort her. All his you see, the depravity and rapacious misery of this nocturnal gutter, is all a show for her father.”
(There are differences between Padomay and Sithis according to the creation myth referenced.
But that is totally irrelevant to the fact all of this misery and chaos is a little girl making a meal for her Daddy hoping he gives her a hug in return. There are myriad possible reasons why she doesn’t get one.
What misery does this Daedric Prince suffer? The answer to that does not matter either.)
“Explain your thoughts on the relationship between the two.”
“It is one way. It is a relation born of one party’s desperation to approach the other. Namira tenders, Sithis consumes. So sunders the mind, and a shattered psyche is more accommodating to the nothing that Sithis brings. There is so much meat to be tendered for the greatest glutton of all.”
(So Sithis does not respond hoping Namira creates more death, suffering and chaos in her desperation for a Daddy hug. Well I hope the extra-large serving I am about to deliver gives him heartburn.)
“Why do you want Ambition destroyed?”
“Its fate is in tandem with mine, our forms may have been torn in two but our soul was not. Reverberations from its vessel penetrate every distance, with only this husk to feel them. So Ambition flutters, intermittently causing desire, desires to escape this prison. This passage between us works both ways. Ambition will experience visions of its past, a torrent of memories in an instant that overwhelms and demand attention. The passage between us needs a trigger to let traits flow; scents from youth, familiar voices – and most importantly is a face you know.”
“Ambition doesn’t act like you described your earlier self as that would be impossible with missing traits. Its expressed desires would also be impossible without those traits. It appears to me it could never be the old you or be successful as its new self.”
“It is an entirely artificial identity that has become so enraptured with its act that it’s slowly but surely forgetting its original behaviour. Yet it metamorphic intent will always be out of reach as long as I persist.”
“That would explain its animosity towards you. It is intense in its desire to see you destroyed. But you share a soul. To destroy one destroys both. It is apparent it does not realise this. You would welcome death so as to escape your prison.”
“Ambition talks much of order and his hatred of the ugly. I thought this was merely mimicking some of Namira’s teachings. But that is not the case is it. When Ambition speaks to me much of what is said is abhorrent to me. When he speaks the same to the citizens of this kingdom it appeals to the masses. I know why but it is disturbing.”
“Abhorring all entities of ugliness, it champions ‘beauty’, a perverse infatuation, a deliberate obscuring of its past. In a better world people would be aghast with his sophistry. As you have recognised, this kingdom engenders butchers to thrive. It is gaining an audience hanging on its every word. And idol to the wretches, he; Lord Wretch.”
“He has gained much power as Damian because the citizens of the kingdom are not just taught to obey hierarchy; they are terrified to oppose it.”
“To them they are at the end of history and any attempt to improve the mortal’s condition is the action of children.”
“Yet I am not a child and either are The Divine. My life, my Queen’s life and my unborn daughter’s life all have the same destiny. We will improve the conditions for all mortals, not just those we aid along the way. Yet even next door in Skyrim the conditions for mortals are far superior and have been for several eras. Nobility works for the good of their citizens, not the accumulation of wealth or power. The Orsimer fleeing this kingdom know that it is not impossible to improve their condition. You just have to remove yourself from the artificial constraints in Evermore. After today those constraints will be gone. This kingdom will be like the majority of The Empire. This is not childish, it is a reality.”
(Husk was itself stuck in its beliefs. I do not think it capable of hope or imagination.)
“Why were the women in Evermore murdered?”
“Scenes will flash sporadically, blotting the mind when his stress becomes my stress. Within those recent series of visions, familiar faces. Two round faces, objects of desire in a house that catered for such taste. These women had helped in the victory against my home at the time, Waycrest.”
(So he originally came from Evermore but was in Waycrest during that brief war. Probably the location of the new social circle he was enjoying.)
“We had opened our gates to them and they had opened our gates.”
“Those murdered women were younger than thirty. They would have been children at that time!”
“The creed of unscrupulous men who are secure in their privacy; if it bleeds it can receive.”
“Since they ended up in Evermore it stands to reason they were promised something that was never delivered. Instead they were part of the booty of the victors and ended up serving the same type of ‘unscrupulous men’ in Evermore. They were mere children who still believed that adults could be trusted. And you partook of these activities?”
“No! There were those of an older age who catered for my tastes.”
“So they were not really citizens of Waycrest were they? They were objects, things, possessions of the brothel owner. Why feel animosity for those who simply wished to escape their imprisonment and torture?”
“The opening of those gates let loose a torrent of scythes to cleave through the city. A flood of barbarism from hounds who sought play. It was rape in its ultimate depiction and I witnessed it all. So those who betrayed were imprinted onto the psyche, never did their deeds go unremembered. For in that moment: the genesis of the end – I became aware that another era was nearing its sum. For the carnage that ensued, a chase of ungodly depths, snaring me in its game.”
(That was the pivotal point where he had given up completely on The Divines. It was apparent to him that evil was winning and he surrendered to the inevitable.)
“The sight of those women’s faces triggered the opening of the passage between you.”
“The Hush lacks want, Ambition is want. Husk is the bank of memories and caution. The ‘me’ who descended on their bodies was overwhelmed with conniptions. The want of Ambition and the memories of Husk combined to make that ‘me’ but we were still separate physical entities.”
“So Ambition received some memories but not your caution?”
“Ambition with memories but without caution is a beast – barely beyond the prey.”
“What is your relationship to this fake Last King of the Ayleid?”
“As he underwent construction of his tower, a bond with mother was forming. She had wanted a child as well, but she was born barren, bearing a womb of cutting shards. So she dipped her fingers into your world, nails cutting across the cavity that held me, a caesarean the sabotaged my destiny. And another ensnared so that the false king had his eyes, an agent within the world he could peer through, and if need be, engender his return. I was the other route, in case the pendant didn’t suffice.”
“You were a backup to Lord Mortifayne. He did try to escape but she dragged him back in with the murder of his wife. A murder she could only accomplish via a mortal devotee. The same way the wishes of The Divine rely on mortals such as me. So when she needed you she could not reach across and simply grab you. Aware of it or not, mortals handed you to her.”
(I did not want to discuss the idiocy of Namira’s plan with the tower. His answers would be full of metaphysical bollocks.)
“Do you know if Ambition now works for another Daedric Prince?”
“Yes, he schemes with another dreaded menace but not the Prince of that realm but a senior underling with his own ambitions. It is best you discover what he is by yourself. Foreknowledge may cause suspicion.”
“I will go now and see for myself what actions to take. If Ambition needs to die then he will. I will not do so just to satisfy your needs. I am well aware it will make Namira pleased if I do.”
“If you slay him the entire kingdom and all those egos will bear down upon you. Don’t worry, I will save you, because you are special.”
“If your final act gives me a shortcut back home then it is appreciated. But I do not need rescuing. Order will be restored to this kingdom first via sword then diplomacy.”
I approached the gates and saw a barrier. I knew that the flow of time would be different in there so there was a natural urge to hurry. But I knew I had to snoop around if I could. I needed to understand their plans and motivations before sitting at the negotiation table.
I entered and saw several levels of scaffolding for the miners. Some Ustase and regular guards patrolled them. Slave Orsimer were scattered about.
Damien was sitting with a Death Hound a tall Knight of The Griffon. Nearby was an orb that I knew would have a blue beam feeding it from below.
I caught the middle of a conversation,
- Predathor: Always one for prose weren’t you little tyke. I must confess I grow restless. These fleshy thralls have grown tiresome to engage with. I need, we need a foe. Do we have any further wars planned?
- Damian: Your battle lust will be more that sated soon enough Predathor, I assure you. I have grand plans for this kingdom. Hammer the kinks from your armour and sharpen your weapon. A culling nears.
- Predathor: Joy! You are a most charitable prince! Immeasurably better than the last. Oh, I can’t hold my excitement.
I was not going to just slay Ambition without looking around as I had planned. I walked up to him and said, “Hello Damian. I am doing a tour of infrastructure in Evermore and remembered you said you were visiting this quarry this very day. So I made it a priority on my list and am glad I did not miss you.”
“This is a beautiful place isn’t it? Not the quarry as much, although the explicit sight of labour and hierarchy without pretence instils hope. The beauty is beyond these walls, where the grassy knolls stretch yonder to the horizon. No man need arm himself for fear of intrusion or violence. Visualize that world, yearn for it. I bet you feel it naïve to play whimsical and dream of utopias; but why? Why can we not achieve such a world?”
“The naivety lies not in the dream Damian but in the notion you can achieve it via war. You have been remiss and not introduced me to this gentleman.”
“Emperor, this is Predathor. I’ve travelled far and have plans for discourse with this gentleman. Please stay with us and join these formalities. You may bring some levity while we entertain the future of this land.”
“Yes Damian. That is what us Emperors are famous for. Brevity first, war next. It works a treat every time!”
I turned to face Predathor. I know his type. He is a Dremora. What rank though? And one of Molag Bal’s or Mehrunes Dagon’s. They are the only two I know of that use them.
“Glad to meet you Predathor.”
“Look at you! All that strength and vigour ushering from your every orifice! I would love us to engage in a savage dance.”
“Really, then you have no idea who I am. For your wish fulfilment would mean your certain death. Many others much more powerful than you have fallen before me. But let us not spoil Damian’s day. He so much wants to discourse with you. That will probably be followed by you two engaging is some friendly buggery. After that I would be glad to cut you down.”
“Yet to meet my match and you think you are it? Anyway, forgive my manners. I forget how the prey works sometimes. My mind is still in the past, where I was at home.”
“Did Daddy kick you out for being pathetic? That must be so heartbreaking.”
“Maybe soon I can share some of my culture with you. Until then, hone yourself for the time of our game.”
“I can’t wait to share your culture. Do I have to drag my knuckles on the ground all the time though? Dirt gets under my fingernails.”
Damian said, “We are about to eat. Come join us. You look famished after having travelled so far to meet me personally.”
Predathor added, “It is settled then, eat. We will eat.”
Looking at the night sky I could see that time outside was travelling at a fairly rapid pace but not too fast for me to be concerned about. I could take my time, pardon the pun.
I followed the two through a gate with blood indicating an escape attempt did not succeed.
I hesitated at the door to the normal looking abode. Should I have told them I like my children medium rare with crispy skin? I have no idea what was for dinner.
I stepped inside and heard Damian say, “Pardon our delay our most extolled guests. We have become fastened by another pivotal figure, the Emperor.”
I walked into the dining room and the décor was not to my taste. Badly done taxidermy of Werewolf, Bear and Orc were not as nice as a good painting or two.
To my relief the food looked normal.
There were two others in the room but I dismissed them as unimportant.
“Excuse me everyone. Go ahead and start without me. It was a long trip and I got to lose some excess weight if you know what I mean. No need to show me where the little room is. I will just follow my nose.”
At first my snooping revealed nothing but a neat household.
Led to some stairs and portcullis…
And they automatically lowered at my approach.
Not your normal recreation room greeted me. A fighting pit full of dead, and mostly decapitated, corpses. There was an observation deck overhanging it. Experience had taught me not to stand on observation decks overhanging such pits. Some give way and drop you in.
At the back of the room was a harem. They did not speak a word to me.
A pull-chain opened a portcullis to the fight chamber.
Mehrunes Dagon it is then. I hadn’t been to his Oblivion plane before. Deadlands was not the name for a nice beach. It is all red as well. Don’t these Daedric Lords have any taste at all?
Another door at the back of the playroom led to the mines.
Orsimer slaves with their metal headgear worked away but never said a word when spoken to.
The normal blue beam that powered the magics of this place was where I expected. Below the blue orb I saw before.
Another tunnel but this one smelt of burnt flesh. An ornate door with many locks but unlocked.
It was a torture chamber with many racks, pincers, branding irons and fires to heat them.
Underneath the floor was a portal to Oblivion, probably to the Deadlands.
The torturer didn’t speak so no use asking what he thought of my armour. Oh, he is blind. Silly me!
More tunnels that led nowhere exciting then one I wished never to see in the Empire, a breeding room for Orsimer slaves.
A brutish male was there. He did not speak a word.
There were many attractive young females. They were also silent.
What would Urag gro-Shub think of this? My anger was growing but I could not let my Dovah loose yet. I still had to negotiate.
One door led to outside. I decided to walk back slowly to calm the temper.
The Death Hound was damn ugly!
I entered the dining room and sat down. There was no food in front of my chair. I was not expected to eat. The ‘negotiation’ went like this,
- Mengrelle: Your grace, there’s no need for apologies. Josiah here was just practising to be a better orator through his incessant verbiage.
- Josiah: Oh Mengrelle, you shrewd sycophant, if you were so threatened about discourse outside your field, then you should have exclaimed as such.
- Wulf: Why don’t you two wander off and let us adults talk.
- Josiah: Prince, my gratitude for having me attend this meeting. Forgive me for not being privy, but the kingdom is host to many knights, why is this one special?
- Wulf: When I donned this famous armour and this huge fucking ruby diamond encrusted crown I thought even the dumbest backwater inbred moron would recognise me. I am astounded you just proved me wrong. So how many generations have your Daddies been breeding with their daughters?
- Damian: Gentlemen, peace, we are here to consolidate our ideas and deliberations for the future of this kingdom and its imminent expansion. This knight is integral in one such idea that will be the mould for all men of same blood and banner to shape themselves in.
- Wulf: What is a deliberation? I thought I was here for an orgy!
- Predathor: I’m insulted Prince, no room for any more of my warriors?
- Wulf: ENOUGH! Put forward your offer Prince. I am not here for incessant verbiage and listening to shrewd sycophants.
- Damian: Okay then knight. Since you seem incapable of gentlemanly conversation. Tell us, are you committed to serving this kingdom and establishing a secure future for our people?
- Wulf: I have been tasked by my Lord Akatosh to end all bloodshed not only in this kingdom but all of Nirn. I prefer to do that peacefully. You are incapable of achieving your ambition fake Prince.
- Damian: I thought I had…
Negotiation finished. I happily invited my Dovah to play.
“HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO YOUR EMPEROR LIKE THAT YOU INSIGNIFICANT NOBLE OF A MINOR KINGDOM!”
Mengrelle and Josiah finally realised who I was and rose to leave.
“I SENTENCE YOU TWO TO DEATH FOR TREASON”
I did a full strength Fire Breath Shout and they both died in flames screaming.
“Your name is not Damian. You killed him and are wearing his skin. You are a Demon who introduced himself to me as Ambition. In reality you are a plaything of Namira. Hulk calls you Ego. Hulk also tells me that your real temporal form is a half breed Orsimer. He tells me you killed your younger brother. Remember how he loved you and looked up to you? How he trusted you? How you loved him and promised to look after him? Remember the screams, those long terrible screams of pain and terror and worst of all, the scream of anguish when he realised your betrayal? I can see the contempt on Predathor’s face. He didn’t know he was working with a tool of Namira and Orc with the nobility of a dog turd!”
Damian got up and ran.
“You have a head start Ambition. It won’t be a big one as a savage dance with this piece of Dremora lowlife will hardly last the first stanza.”
I turned to Predathor and said, “Let us go to your play pen so I can send you back to the Deadlands in pieces.”
“Come then warrior. I’ll show you the room where strength is king. Glad you stopped the talking. It bores me.”
The front door slammed as Ambition tried to run from his fate. He could not run from the memories pouring in from Hulk.
Predathor stood in front of the idol to Dagon. I got into position and smiled at him.
He swung his sword with all the might he had. I deflected it with my shield and yawned. He tried doing a combination that seemed half the speed of Rigmor. I ducked under and laughed. He started to swing wildly as his temper flared and I just weaved and danced around him and stabbed him in the back.
I knew it wouldn’t kill him. I would have to hack into him quite a bit on the mortal plane. Lower level Dremora die easily. I was betting he was Dremora nobility.
I stood back and waited. Eventually he staggered to his feet and said, “No mortal, I’m not going down without having you see my homeland! Come, let us indulge in true culture – let us wash all this pretence of civility away.”
“Do you think my gold will go well with all that red?”
As I slowly materialised in the Deadlands I thought it should be renamed Redlands. I mean Namira’s place had a lot of red.
This place was the reddest red that has ever been red.
I walked up to where Predathor was standing on a pedestal looking up at another Dremora.
“Lord, I bring you an apology in the form of a champion. This champion has done much. If I slay this champion, I can return home.”
Silence from the other guy.
I guessed the other must have been an Overlord. Predathor’s high rank was confirmed when he said, “Dagon would be disappointed that one of his own didn’t die with his brothers. Your words are hollow, a coward’s tongue is fit only as a meal for the hounds.”
I yelled up at the senior Dremora, “Overlord, this coward is not worthy of speaking my name and he provides little in the way of a challenge. I am Wulf, Champion of Boethiah, Champion of Meridia, Champion of Hermaeus Mora, Champion of Mephala, Champion of Azurah and probably a couple of others I can’t remember. I am Dragonborn and Champion of The Divine. I am also Emperor of Tamriel.”
The Overlord replied, “This dung heap adds to his failures by challenging above his station. I ask you to provide a list of his failings so I can add them into Lord Dagon’s records.”
“Since you asked and did not demand I will oblige;
- He failed to recognise the armour and crown of my father Talos and therefore my noble status above his.
- He failed to recognise the prince he was aiding was in fact a Demon and agent of Namira.
- He failed to realise the Demon was in fact a commoner of half Orsimer blood disguised as the prince he had murdered.
- He failed to realise the plans of this Demon could never work as they were based on inaccuracies and outdated information.
- He failed to recognise me as the warrior who had entered Namira’s realm and destroyed her Sigil stone and killed her champion only a few Nirn cycles ago.
- His army of conquest consisted of low life scum, many of whom were recently recruited and only came to him after running from me. Outnumbered by more than six to one my army cut such poor soldiers down without slowing on my way to the Ruby Throne.
- He failed to recognise me as Dragonborn even after I used the Thu’um in his presence.
- Whilst I was getting bored listening to the banal drivel of this failure and the fake prince, the linear time on Nirn was accelerated in relation to where we sat. That means a small percentage of my army, but much larger than his own force of slime, had moved into the kingdom ready to halt any attempt at insurrection or senseless slaughter.
- He still dragged me to Lord Dagon’s domain after I took seconds and one sword thrust to defeat him on the mortal plane thus wasting both our time.
There are many more but I am eager to kill this milk drinker and get back to destroying Namira’s puppet.”
“That is more than sufficient to condemn this one’s soul to eternal pain. Lord Dagon will not object to my sentence. Kill him if you wish or leave him to me.”
“He has offered the challenge to me. I must accept no matter how high or low the challenger. Is that not your way?”
Predathor faced me and said, “Warrior, you have entered the realm of the ultimate patriarch. Submit and I will skin you slowly. Fight me with your all however and I will grant you a death befitting your bravery.”
“Oh just shut the fuck up and die!”
Predathor spat and said, “Pretence makes me sick, I’ll cover every inch of this hole with what is left of you.”
Predathor was quite bit more powerful than on the mortal plane but still, many of the creatures of Namira has been much more formidable opponents.
He swung a mighty blow that he expected to stagger me or even slice through shield and arm. It was easily deflected.
He cast a spell and tentacles meant to poison and ensnare surrounded me. He swung his sword down with all his might expecting an immobilised foe.
I leapt back, hit his weapon with my shield with enough force it flew from his hands. I thrust ‘The Sword’ through armour and flesh so it was buried to its hilt. I withdrew it and he collapsed.
“I thought this was supposed to be a test of strength and martial expertise yet you used magicka? Are your failings never ending? I suppose there is nothing to stop me using my magic then. It is called the Thu’um.”
I used a full strength Unrelenting Force Shout and he lay dead at my feet.
The Overlord said, “Remove the failure’s head and place it on the spike on the pedestal. He will then be yours to drag from my flames any time you wish and would be compelled to fight by your side.”
“I already have enough of his unworthy blood staining my sword and he is not skilled enough to fight by my side. Any of The Sentinel could have defeated him almost as easily.”
“Then I shall place it on the highest pike so all can witness his utter disgrace.”
I turned and walk through the portal.
As expected I was back in front of Dagon’s shrine with Predathor’s mortal aspect dead at my feet.
A guard I had passed on the way to the play pen yelled from the observation deck, “Y-you killed him? Gods, you killed him! You beautiful person, you’ve ended his terrible reign. But wait, is he actually dead? I’ve seen him get up before, damn damn damn, no. Hero, you have to get out of there, he may wake again. We can burn this shack down, burn it all down”
“What is your name?”
“I do not remember my real name. They call me Dog.”
“I shall call you that for now but you are free to change it if you wish.”
“Free, yes I am for the first time in many years.”
“Do not worry about him resurrecting this time. I killed him in Oblivion and it is permanent. He is starting his sentence of eternal tortures in the fires of his Overlord.”
“Let me pull the chain. Then you can get out and we can go.”
Dog pulled the chain and sat down waiting for me. I approached him and said, “It will be too dangerous for you to leave for a while. You will need to stay inside till you can hear no more fighting.”
“What about the girls and the born slaves. Can they come too?”
“Did you help the girls and the slaves even when it was dangerous to do so?”
“Oh yes. I was told others before me had suffered terrible deaths at the skilled hand of Silent Sen for daring to do so. But it was the right thing so I did it anyway. While you were fighting the Lord I had stolen a lot of food from the table and gave it to the girls and the breeders.”
“So the Orcs know you as a friend.”
Dog smiled and said, “Oh yes. It makes Dog proud to have so many friends.”
“What you need to do is give weapons to the Orcs so they can fight for their freedom if they have to. But you have to protect those who cannot fight like the girls here. Can you do that as well Dog?”
“Yes, I can get the keys off the dead Lord and they open everything.”
“If you can stay in the house till different soldiers come it will be safest. They will have a dragon inside a diamond on their armour like the one on mine. They will help you get away from here. It may be several days though.”
“I will explain that to the Orcs. They can understand but many were never permitted to talk.”
“But now they can because they will be free like you.”
“Thank you Hero.”
“My name is Wulf and I thank you Dog for remaining a good man when surrounded by evil.”
“I love Mother Mara. She teaches how to be good.”
“Yes she does. If only more people listened.”
I left the shack and saw Ambition standing in front of the blue orb. The Gryphon had arrived to join the party. I approached and listened to their conversation,
- Gryphon: No more demands little Prince. I shall partake in the feast of your bloodied land once the hour approaches, your people have disappointed, do not attempt to placate me.
- Ambition: Gryphon! We have tough Orcs to sate your appetite and jewellery to adorn your magnificent figure. Such grand plans with you at the centre Gryphon! Please reconsider!
- Gryphon: There are children yet unspoiled, morsels will be brought hither Prince. This is my demand. Have me suffer no conniptions and make well on this arrangement.
- Ambition: As you demand Lord Gryphon it shall be.
The Gryphon turned to me and said, “The scars you inflicted unto me must be repaid! I will taste the ciders of your flesh!”
“You will just fly away again when I inflict more scars. Have you ever wondered what it is like to be terrified like those children? What it feels like to be eaten?”
I called forth Odahviing and he materialised from the ether in seconds.
The Gryphon saw him and shrieked. It took off and Odahviing asked, “What is that thing Dovahkiin?”
“It is an agent of your Father’s enemy. It thinks it is the most beautiful creature on Nirn, even surpassing that of you and other magnificent Dov. DO NOT LET IT ESCAPE!”
Odahviing easily outflew the Gryphon and they went in circles while Ambition and everybody else watched with a mixture of horror and fascination.
I used a small bit of Thu’um so Odahviing could hear me over the terrified shrieks of the Gryphon.
“That creature likes to eat the young of mortals. He ends their life and adds to the power of your Father’s enemy. He would eat mine and Rigmor’s young Dovah if given the chance.”
Odahviing roared and the Gryphon screamed.
“I think he looks tasty my friend.”
“Indeed Dovahkiin. You did interrupt my meal with your summons. I have never tasted one of these. It will be interesting.”
“Try the wings first. He does not have to be dead when you do.”
“For the young he has killed and the insult to my obviously superior beauty he shall not die quickly.”
I was careless when talking to Odahviing and Ambition sliced my sword arm when I belatedly parried.
Behind him was a guard who had just slaughtered an unarmed Orc slave. Behind them both was a guard equipping a bow.
I used a full force Unrelenting Force Shout and both guards died.
I leapt down and Ambition was losing blood and the Witch’s spell unravelled.
At first he was translucent.
Then he was of the form I first saw in Namira’s womb.
I walked up behind him and said, “Time to die.”
He shrieked and ran to the blue orb.
The time slip seemed to have accelerated as it was darker than expected.
As I walked towards Ambition terrible crunching and screams could be heard from below. Odahviing was feasting and the Gryphon was not enjoying the meal.
Ambition whined, “But what about my plans? What about all that I was to achieve?”
“You were always destined to fail. Husk was your better half.”
Ambition tried to flee and I cut him down.
As I started to get dragged back to Oblivion I heard Odahviing say, “Not bad Dovahkiin. Tastes a bit like chicken.”
I was surprised to see Husk standing. I thought he would have died the moment Ambition had.
I approached him and asked, “How do you still stand when Ambition is slain?”
“Namira had given me some time to aid you. The chaos is not yet complete.”
“So what now Husk?”
“Here is a doorway to where she wants you to go. End this sordid tale and I can escape this nightmare and sleep in the arms of her father.”
A doorway appeared. I stepped onto nothing and opened it.
I was in a store room. I heard a child scream, “Stop please. It hurts. No!”
I burst through the door and was met by an Orc female slave. She had her bare hands up ready to fight. In the background was a naked man asking a young boy to come and perform a sex act on him.
The Orc demanded, “Stop! I will fight you if try to hurt the children! Who are you? How did you get down her? Answer now!”
“Calm down my good lady. I am your Emperor, Wulf Septim. The last thing I would do ever is hurt a child.”
She lowered her arms and said, “The people outside are winning! I will finally see the world again! Please help me escape and let me see home again!”
I could hear the ebb and flow of battle outside.
“You name? And what is this place?”
“The children call me Nanny. I have this key I stole. They would kill me if they knew I had it, but now we can escape!”
“Tell me Nanny. What is this place?”
“This is part of the palace. The King invites men here and often visits himself. They force themselves on the children. Boys and girls of all ages and sometimes take them away and we never see them again. I try not to love them because it hurts to watch them suffer and hurts even more when they never come back. They are just children. You must stop it!”
“Listen to me Nanny. It is best you wait till you can’t hear anymore fighting before trying to escape. I will take the children to safety.”
“Okay but stop these bad men first.”
I approached the young boy the man was trying to entice to perform oral sex.
“Come with me. I will take you to safety.”
“How do I know I am not going to disappear like the other children?”
“What is your name?”
“My name is Jathon.”
“I am Wulf. Look into my eyes as see if I am telling a lie. Jathon, by The Divines I swear I will not harm you or the other children.”
Jathon stared at me without fear and after a few seconds he started crying and said, “I want to believe you Wulf. I just want to go home to Mum and Dad and my dog and little sister and play outside with my friends. But they won’t let me or these other children. They touch us and make us do things and sometimes it really hurts but they don’t care. But you might be bad too!”
Tears were streaming down my face and I said, “If I hurt these bad men will that make you believe me? Do you want me to punish them?”
“They deserve it!”
I walked up to Nanny and said, “Call the children to you and stay in the store room till I have finished.”
After a minute four children and Nanny were in the storeroom and could not see the violence enacted.
There were four men in the premises and none seemed concerned. By the piles of discarded clothes they were either wealthy merchants or nobility.
I walked up to the first and said, “Who are you. What gives you the right to violate these children?”
“My name is none of your concern. I am an Emissary from Waycrest and I have every right to be here. What is your concern with the children? They are clean and parasite free which is much better than the ones I entice off the street. Surely you can see they are better off here than their squalid little homes.”
“Answer me, what gives you the right to violate these children?”
“My right is nobility as ordained by The Divines. They are born to obey such as I. Do not blaspheme and claim otherwise.”
“And King Sigmayne allows this?”
“Of course he does. Part of diplomacy don’t you know. I have diplomatic immunity if you think to arrest me for any non-existent laws that protect the tykes.”
“Well done Sir and forgive me for my apparent insolence. We have had commoners fake their way in here and a robust defence of noble rights like you displayed is all the proof I need of your birth status. I will need to see the diplomatic pass though. Just to assure the King these delicate creatures are not sullied by the lower classes.”
“Well played Sir. I must say the splendid armour almost convinced me you were of our class.”
He handed me his Diplomatic Pass and so did the other three. I then took off my gauntlets and helm and proceeded to break noses and bones and leave four pieces of shit motionless but alive on the floor. I tucked their passes into the magic case holding my journal.
I knocked on the door and the children came out with Nanny. They looked at the pile of crumpled men and cheered and danced around.
Nanny decided to take my original advice and stay but gathered plenty of food and water, and a bucket, and barricaded herself in the store room.
Not knowing the layout of the palace I had no idea where we were going. It was only when I heard Sigmayne arguing with Kegor did I realise where I was.
I burst in with the children in tow. Sigmayne yelled, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? MY CHILDREN RETURN TO SAFETY.”
“King Sigmayne, as Emperor of Tamriel I hereby revoke your rights to the title King of Evermore. I am taking you into custody and I urge you to think about whom I am and not resist arrest. Some of many charges you will face in a court of law are child kidnapping, child sacrifice and child molestation.”
I turned to the armed men, including Kegor and said, “As Emperor of Tamriel I order you to lay down all weapons and stand away. Any attempt to stop my legal arrest of Sigmayne will be regarded as a traitorous act against the crown and I will cut you down.”
Sigmayne went red in the face and yelled at Kegor, “You took a solemn oath to obey your king. I order you to strike down this usurper.”
Kegor replied, “Sigmayne?!… The children? How could you do this king?”
Sigmayne, “Has he made you a traitor? I will not repeat myself. Strike him down!”
“You know I am Emperor Kegor. You know by my words he is no longer your king. The standard oaths of fealty are to the position, not the bum that sits on the throne. You are a good man and this kingdom will need you to help repair the damage caused by this tyrant.”
Kegor looked at me and said, “I know your qualities my Emperor. You are right and he is no longer my king. He never really was.”
Sigmayne looked at me and screamed, “FIRST YOU KILL MY BOY. MY BEAUTIFUL DAMIAN AND NOW YOU WANT TO TAKE MY CROWN? WHAT DID NAMIRA OFFER YOU?”
“I need to stop the slaughter outside yet waste time with you. Your son was killed a long time ago. That thing I saw you hug and who you handed both the treasury and the running of the kingdom to was a Demon. This I swear as Champion of The Divines.”
“LIAR! MURDERER! BLASPHEMER! Guards, kill him, do as you are commanded by your liege!”
I don’t know if it was a lifetime of automatically obeying nobility or just stupidity. I could never think it was loyalty. The three guards advanced on me with weapons drawn.
“Kegor, stand before the children and guard them. I will not ask you to draw weapon on Sigmayne or these men.”
I leapt in front of the three advancing guards and killed them with Unrelenting Force.
Sigmayne had attacked my back and drew some blood. I wanted him to stand trial. It was the only way he would learn of his total failure to protect his citizens.
I used the flat of my blade to sweep him off his feet.
“You are under arrest Sigmayne. Cease or die. This is your last warning.”
He scrambled to his feet and ran to his bed chamber.
The children were watching and one remarked, “I think he has shit himself.”
Another said, “Nah, he always smell like that!”
A third said, “He looks like the chickens at our farm when we cut their head off.”
The last said, “Those chickens have probably got bigger cocks!”
That glorious sound of children’s laughter followed me into Sigmayne’s bedroom.
“How many children have your harmed in here Sigmayne. Were you too busy diddling kids to look after your kingdom?”
He lunged at me and I blocked it easy.
I hit him with my shield and he staggered to the corner. He ran at me again with madness in his eyes.
The children were still having a giggling fit in the throne room. It was a thing of beauty on this bleakest of days.
“Hear that laughter? That is the most precious thing in the world and I bet these last few seconds of your life are the first time you have ever heard it!”
As he lunged at me one last time I stepped back and slit his throat with the tip of ‘The Sword’. He rolled on the floor gurgling as his life slowly leaked onto the expensive stonework floor.
“Lucky I am a generous Emperor. You can enjoy its sound for a while longer before the darkness of The Void envelops you for eternity.”
He made it onto his knees and stared at me. Tears were streaming down his cheeks and he tried to say something but he was drowning in his own blood.
He pivoted and fell face first. He stretched out in his death throws and then all movement ceased.
I felt no triumph, just an unbidden image of Namira mimicking the children with her laughter.
I walked into the throne room and Kegor asked, “Is he dead Majesty?”
“Yes. I would have preferred to put him on trial but he gave me no choice. I have spent enough time in here. I need to stop the slaughter outside.”
“I know your Majesty, I saw.”
I looked around and shrines of various Divine were dotted around the room. I wondered if ever a true prayer or word of thanks was ever uttered near them.
“What is the date Kegor? I have been in places where time runs different.”
“I will not ask how that works. Explanation will probably make me dizzy. It is about 10:30PM on Morndas the tenth of Rain’s Hand. You will be glad to know the year is still 4E 205.”
“For me early morning of the fifth was less than a day ago. Today is one month since coronation. It seems like years.”
I was lost in thought for a few seconds then an explosion somewhere in the city brought me back.
“Can you give me a brief rundown of what has happened since the fifth?”
“I am not sure of the exact timing but the basics are this,
- On the seventh the Imperial troops replaced the old garrisons and started patrols along the main roads. We were aware of a far larger number of troops inside the borders than before. We also knew that a much larger force was still on the border with Skyrim.
- King Sigmayne was getting paranoid that martial law was about to be declared. He demanded you make an appearance and explain. When told you were not available and that General Rikke was more than happy to deputise he went into a rage. He regarded it as an insult that a mere General was offered as liaison and not a noble. He never did ask her to meet.
- By the morning of the eighth the Imperials had good sized forces guarding both Divide and Raven Spring. They had parked a large contingent in fields near this city. King Sigmayne’s paranoia grew even more.
- Also on the morning of the eighth we received reports of many mages moving around the kingdom. It seemed they had found a cure for The Affliction and were handing it out to citizens, Witchmen, Orcs and Exiles. Some skirmishes were reported where their help was rejected with violence and that large smoking holes were left where the aggressors had been. Instead of celebrating the cure King Sigmayne yelled for ages about why we do not allow mages anymore. I tried to point out we have some going around burning Afflicted alive but he ignored me.
- By midday of the eighth reports and rumours reached the King’s ears stating Damian had not been seen for several days and that he had last indicated he was heading for the Gavaudon quarry. Reports also came in stating you had been seen aboard a flaming horse heading to the same area. At first we dismissed that fire horse part then too many witnesses forced us to suspend our disbelief.
- On the evening of the eighth locals reported noises, lights and explosions coming from the quarry. King Sigmayne was beside himself and sent some of our best scouts to see what was happening.
- Midday of the ninth our scouts returned with an injured Ustase. He reported you had flown into a rage and killed the head of the Ustase and summoned a winged demon to kill Lord Gryphon. King Sigmayne flew into a range and it took some effort to calm him enough to hear the most horrific news. That in your rage you had slew Damian when his sword was sheathed and he was pleading to you to cease your rampage for the good of The Empire.
- King Sigmayne declared we had seceded from The Empire and ordered all available troops to attack and kick the Imperial scum out of his kingdom. A senior advisor informed him he could not secede without the High King’s permission unless he also withdrew from High Rock as well. The advisor was shoved into our dungeons and told to ‘shut the fuck up.’
- We kept getting reports of Ustase atrocities and King Sigmayne dismissed them as propaganda at first and then excused them as collateral damage.
- The citizens and guards of Raven Spring were the first to side with the Imperials. News sheets were distributed claiming the king had started a war based on a single unconfirmed report from an Ustase. That pamphlet stated they refused to believe the lies about an Emperor and his soldiers known only for the help and kindness shown. The pamphlet asked the rest of the kingdom to contemplate what would have happened if this supposed insane Emperor and his troops had not closed the Oblivion Gate. The clincher was the stated fact that the only witness was a member of the organised thugs murdering and raping citizens. That when the Imperials caught them they were wiped out without mercy.
- The rest of the Imperials surged across the border and swept the Ustase aside in an unstoppable display of skill and tactics.
- The last of the main fighting is what you hear right now. This city became the stronghold of the Ustase. It was also the target of all the hatred built up over the years. The streets are currently full of Ustase, Witchmen, Exiles and Orcs battling each other and all of them fighting the Imperials and our citizens. It is chaos but the quality and discipline of the Imperials is grinding the disorganized opposition down. But this city is large with many tunnels and sewers ideal for hiding and staging surprise attacks.
- When you arrived I had just informed the king that some Waycrest troops had joined the chaos and were determined to reach him and drag him outside for quick justice. He was refusing to listen to sound advice and evacuate via a secret exit.
“Namira must be ecstatic how well her scheme has worked.”
“Speaking of all that evil lord stuff can I ask some things Majesty?”
“Of course but quickly now, we must get these ill-used children to somewhere safer and not so full of stinking molesters.
“Was Damian really a Demon?”
“Yes, he was a Demon called Ambition. He shared a soul with another Demon called Husk. The leader of the Ustase was a Dremora called Predathor. Damian was meeting him at the Quarry. They wanted me to join them in the annihilation of all Orsimer and others Damian would chose as we went. Basically the being Sigmayne thought was his beloved son was a Demon usurper. The king would most likely have died at his order. I refused to join them and had to go into Dagon’s realm in Oblivion to kill Predathor. When I returned the Demon was begging The Gryphon to kill me. That beast had been eating the children of this kingdom with Sigmayne’s and the Arch Bishop’s full knowledge. I had saved a child from it and injured it badly so it was keen on revenge. I summoned Odahviing, a Dovah friend, and he killed and ate the Gryphon. I kill the Demon and ended up in Namira’s part of Oblivion. Another Demon helped me return to here so I could discover the brothel with the children in it. You know the rest.”
“I am a simple Advisor and part time soldier. This is a bit much. Demons, Gods, Oblivions, Dragons etcetera!”
“I have to go outside and see what is happening first hand. Stay inside till the fighting ceases but be prepared to leave quickly if the wrong people step through that door. The children can lead you back and through the brothel. There is an Orsimer slave there called Nanny. I would appreciate it if you looked after her as much as the children. She is brave and kind and was taken from her family simply because of her race.”
“I have never been comfortable with the persecution of the Orcs but it seemed to be an unsolvable puzzle. That young Orc who spoke that day and you defended him and offered to negotiate. I hope he survives. That is the type of sense we will need.”
“Two other things you should know. The Demon killed those women in the brothel for helping your troops in the war against Waycrest. The person who became the demon saw the evil of your invading troops. Whatever glory attached to that little war is misplaced. It is also sad they were children of the same age as these then and never escaped the groping and foulness of paying customers.
Secondly is one of the most evil things I have ever witnessed. Orcs were being bred into slavery at that quarry. Like cattle there were bull studs and breeding cows. Many of their children would work to a certain age in the quarry then be used as practice dummies by the Ustase.
So you see Kegor. This kingdom deserved to die but its citizens did not.”
I approached the door to exit the palace and a portal to Namira’s realm appeared.
Kegor exclaimed, “What the fuck is that?”
One of the children said, “He used the ‘F’ word and the ‘F’ word is not nice.”
I said, “That is an invitation to Namira’s world. Let people know where I went. I have no idea if and when I will be back.”
A little girl yelled, “Thank you Lord Emperor!”
I replied, “Thank you for laughing and giving me the courage to walk through that red door once more.”