Quintus’ Camp, Nayasel, Imperial Palace, Rigmor’s Apartment, Blackreach, Pocket Plane, Kagrenar, College of Winterhold, Shrine of Azura: Predictable betrayal.
I flew Nafalilargus by ether to the Imperial City without a warning. We were not staying.
As soon as we came out of the ether I headed for Quintus’ Camp just across the border in Hammerfell. It had taken about six and a half hours to reach the camp by horseback when I went looking for Pilvi’s ring. Because I could fly straight there and not zig zag over the mountains it only took a little more than three hours in the airship and the views were spectacular.
I anchored just outside the front gate of the fort and was about to enter it when Quintus came bursting out demanding I show him the airship.
He joined me on deck. While I visited Nayasel he would be given a tour of the airship by the mages.
“The return to Nayasel will not be easy for you.” he remarked.
“It would be easier if I knew Pilvi was happy wherever she is. There will always be the fact she missed out on the normal life of a mortal. Whatever the ups and downs of a mortal existence it has to be better than what she endured in that city. “
“Could Lord Akatosh give her a mortal life if she so desired?”
“I assume he could but would he leave her memories intact? Would she be the Pilvi-Hinnesh she was before fleeing Cyrodiil or some other person? Perhaps find some little hamlet somewhere and live the simple life with memories intact. That would probably be the ideal scenario.”
“Yours and Rigmor’s scenario as well I think.”
“Yes. I working my butt off working a farm while she supervises from a shady veranda is her ideal.”
Quintus’ laugh was genuine. It was easy to like the man.
“The mages will look after you now Quintus. I find myself anxious to get this whole Kagrenac Tools bullshit out of the way.”
I climbed down the ladder and The Sentinel fell in behind me. We started our trek to Nagasel in silence.
Masser looked huge. The stars whispered.
We walked past the mustering point for the battle that seems so long ago but in reality four months have yet to pass since all that senseless slaughter.
Has the slaughter decreased? Not for me! Rigmor has not had to spill another mortal’s blood since the day we became the leaders of The Empire. On the other hand my personal body count is now close to four thousand.
How many more my Gods? When can I sheath my sword and just be Wulf the loving husband? Can I ever just be Wulf the father?
We walked past one set of battlements. My inner voice said, “No, this was not the spot.”
A bit further on I looked around and my inner voice screamed, “Here. Here is where he died!”
I fell to my knees and looked up.
Secunda was blocking my view of Mother. Get out of the fucking way!
I yelled to the stars,
“There was a young Raider that day. He had really dark brown eyes and just enough stubble to be called a man. He was equipped with an axe that appeared to have been made in Morrowind but had a modified grip. His shield was so beaten it must have been a hand me down. He charged me with uncertainty but he had seen his friends apparently fight without fear and he wanted to prove he was no longer a child. He had no skill! I deflected his axe and smashed his face with my shield. With a broken nose and missing teeth he looked at me with pleading eyes just before I cut him from shoulder to belly button. He collapsed dead with his life blood spilling on ground that was not his home. If he was lucky somebody rolled him into a mass grave where he now rots with his fellow Raiders. Most likely he fed the carrion birds and Skeever and insects. Either way he will be forgotten by history. He will be forgotten by everybody except Tamriel’s most efficient killing machine! He was the three thousandth Man, Mer, Argonian or Khajiit to join my library of remembered kills. I know there are a lot more as Thu’um and magicka kill at a distance and destroy the bodies so I can’t tell how many die at once. Kintyra is going to be a Dragonborn. Will she have to kill like me or will her rule save her from such a life? If there is the slightest chance her rule will stop young Raiders dying on foreign soil or my daughter being a killer then the lives I take till that day will be worth it. If they hold a weapon they die. It is an easy choice really. So why does it hurt so much? Even those fucking Morag Tong are now etched in my memory. Why Mother?”
After a few minutes Frea approached, put her hand on my shoulder then gently said, “You expressed this anguish to Rigmor after that battle and have begged for an answer from your Gods many times. You know the answer but sometimes forget. You do not want to be like your Father. You do not want to be like your Mother’s champion. You inflict these memories and pain on yourself. It is not the Gods who do this but your own free will. As terrible as they are these memories make you far more than ‘Tamriel’s most efficient killing machine’. Remember who gave you that label! Why let her words define you? You know this Wulf.”
“Those who celebrate and glorify war are ignorant fools. Right at this moment I could do with the quiet that surrounds Rigmor and me. Since that is not possible your gentle words are more than welcome Frea. Thank you.”
I regained my feet and we continued the climb to Nagasel with my mind at ease. These moments come and go.
As we passed the statue of Akatosh I knew my resolve to do my duty was as strong as ever. I am just pushing myself too far but see no other option.
We stood at the door to Nagasel.
“Anything of beauty you see was part of Nayasel. The ugliness is Nagasel. Try as he might Molag Bal could not destroy all the work of his most hated enemy. He is weak compared to Lord Akatosh.”
We passed the Sacred Tree that thrived despite the evil that surrounded it.
We quickly made our way to the tunnels leading to Nayasel. Spiders have returned since I came that way with Loona.
We arrived at the entrance chamber.
“This Oblivion Gate with charred minions is a great example of why Saint Alessia asked for the covenant from Akatosh. When the Gods clashed on Nirn mortals suffered in huge numbers. The minions were mortals led astray. I am sure Lord Akatosh did not relish killing them any more than I do Raiders or Morag Tong. Such was the power unleashed that day an entire city was submerged.”
I stood before the blue barrier.
“No living thing can get past this barrier without the blessing of Akatosh be they God or mortal or any other sentient being including Dov. My blood and soul are marked by his blessing.”
I knelt before the symbol of Auriel and cut across my palm. The blood from the last two times I had done this was still fresh on the metal despite the months that had passed. A light shone and the barrier vanished.
I asked The Sentinel to stand back as I used a full strength Unrelenting Force on the stone doorway.
They came and stood beside me as it slowly lowered with loud grinding and much dust.
“Welcome to Nayasel. The City of Life is now a giant mausoleum.”
We slowly moved along the walkway towards the temple steps. My companions were in a state of awe and extreme melancholy.
I pointed to the Ayleid well in the distance and said to them, “I am going to go to the well and hope there are some Bal am as Aedra there. To avoid crossing so much burial ground I will go up the temple steps a bit and move across from there. I ask that you do not leave this walkway or enter the temple.”
They nodded their agreement and I set off not knowing how lucky we might be. I squeezed my father’s coin out of habit and then thought how stupid that was. He is not going to make them suddenly appear. If they are there the people who placed them have been dead for thousands of years.
I had to do much climbing over obstacles and take a zig zag path to avoid stepping over graves before eventually climbing the steps of the Ayleid well.
There were four stones and by their colour fully charged. Normally they would be sitting on a cradle and not precariously balanced over the pit. I wondered if there were any at the bottom of the well. Four was enough and it was humbling to realise the starlight that had charged this Great Welkynd Stone fell on it thousands of years ago. Who knows how long ago a dead Ayleid had placed the stones here for charging. Our mortal lives are so short when measured against such things.
I retraced my steps to The Sentinel and we left Nayasel without a word being spoken.
They stood solemnly as I resealed the city.
Only when that was done did they react with any joy that I had recovered four stones. It was with a much lightened mood that we travelled back to Nafalilargus.
Quintus was still aboard and came on deck to say goodbye.
He looked over to his camp then said, “They are good soldiers I have here and they now have more battle experience than any other unit in the Imperial Army. I have heard Rikke’s lot are busy banging heads.”
“She has almost wiped out the negative elements in just over a month of slaughter. The Imperial Army has a lot of respect from all factions now. She has proven to be ruthless but fair. I think the role of Governor in such a troubled spot has suited her more than hunting down ex comrades dressed as Stormcloaks.”
“Please visit with Rigmor when you can. It would mean a lot to the Legionnaires here. Most of them marched across Cyrodiil with her. Quite a few marched with both of you across Skyrim.”
“As you all marched across Cyrodiil I was having a nap in The Void.”
“At least you returned for the final bit of the campaign. We could easily have lost everything that day.”
“I think you could have done it all without me. Rigmor was their General, not me.”
“She had their hearts but many fought with renewed fervour when they saw you out front like a mythical hero of old. Like it or not you were Talos reborn to many. I am sure that bothered Assclown tremendously.”
“Doesn’t anybody call him by his real name anymore?”
“If our Queen says he is Assclown who are we to argue? Plus Rigmor was in despair with you in that state. Nobody could guarantee you would return. I honestly don’t think she would have stopped at the bridge if you hadn’t come back to us. Her fury would have been terrible to behold.”
“She would have been that eighteen year old skinny Nordling who massacred everybody in the Bruma embassy. But enough speculation, I was successful in retrieving what was needed. Four Bal am as Aedra, Stones of the Gods.”
“You came back a lot more cheerful than you left.”
“It was my reluctance to enter that place of tragic death once again Quintus. But now I am going to see my beloved even for a short while. That is enough to make me smile.”
“Good luck till I see you again my Emperor.”
He climbed down and I entered the cabin. I placed the stones on the table so the mages could have a good look at them. They were smart enough not to cast any spells or interfere with them at all. The College of Winterhold makes sure all apprentices hear the horror stories of those who have tried to discover their secrets.
I set the course for the Imperial City with an alarm this time then went on deck to start the ethereal travel.
I met Rigmor, Malesam and Mathis in the guest quarters once again.
Rigmor looked at my face, stood and gave me a rather long hello kiss. She sat back down then the meeting started,
- Mathis: Were you successful?
- Wulf: In good time Mathis. There are more important things than those damn Tools.
- Rigmor: If you are worried about me then stop. The day of rest worked its wonders and I have not felt so well in weeks. Bonus was I did not have to sit in the throne room at all today thanks to you doing that double stint.
- Wulf: In that case let me add to the good news. I have the three Tools and four fully charged Bal am as Aedra.
- Mathis: I don’t think you realize how long I have worked towards this goal! Can you show me them?
- Wulf: You are not to attempt to touch them. They are dangerous even when not charged.
I placed the three Tools on the table and watched Mathis closely. His eyes were wide and he started to sweat. He put his hands in his lap and seemed to struggle not to reach out and touch despite my warning. He put his face close to them for a good minute or so then finally sat up.
I collected them off the table, opened the door and handed one each to Frea, Uthgerd and Rayya who wrapped them in cloth then put them on the ground.
I sat back down,
- Mathis: There is no doubt! They are the tools of Kagrenac reunited for the first time since the third era!
- Wulf: They are drained of power so we need to recharge them as planned.
- Mathis: Yes, you must travel to Blackreach. I will travel to the College of Winterhold and hope to study them soon.
- Rigmor: You look worn out my Emperor. You will spend at least a few hours resting in the Imperial Suite. That is an order from your Queen.
- Wulf: Don’t worry Mathis. I am sure I will still get to that place in Blackreach way before you reach Winterhold.
Mathis looked worried at that prospect and quickly excused himself.
- Mathis: I am leaving immediately. I wish to put my name down first in the queue of those who will wish to study them. I can’t thank you enough Majesty for fulfilling part of my life’s ambition.
- Rigmor: Only part?
Mathis again looked worried then quickly recovered.
- Mathis: Oh yes, solving mysteries and recovering them was one part. Finding why the Dwemer vanished is the other.
- Wulf: I am rather tired. So will leave in the morning as you suggested my Queen.
- Rigmor: I am sure the Emperor will put in a good word for you at the College Mathis. But just in case some trumped up Master Mage tries to jump the queue I would get there as soon as possible.
- Wulf: On that note I think I will go have some late supper and catch up on the gossip with Milady. Goodnight Malesam and Mathis.
We made our way to the Royal Suite and within five minutes Malesam and Blackwell turned up as expected. We sat at the table and the discussion began,
- Rigmor: Has he scampered off to Blackreach?
- Blackwell: He did not waste any time leaving. I don’t think it is worth the risk tailing him to see if his destination is Blackreach.
- Wulf: Agreed. If he is betraying me I wish to meet him there and upset his plan personally. I would hate to scare him away.
- Malesam: I would advise staying till early morning Majesty. That should give him plenty of time to get to Blackreach and set up his ambush or whatever else he has planned.
- Blackwell: You will be glad to know our educated guess was right. From one of mine and one of our Khajiit friend’s resources we get the same tale. Of the existing members of the Sixth House he would be Lord High Councillor.
- Malesam: If the House was still recognised of course. It has no legal status as a Great House so an empty title I am afraid.
- Wulf: Have you ever read the eleven phases of Dagoth Ur’s master plan? All the same tricks the Daedric Princes use. The underlying racism makes the Thalmor look tolerant.
- Rigmor: Promise me you will not tackle him without The Sentinel.
- Wulf: I will not promise that! If the only way to calm that half of me down is to allow it to challenge and defeat Mathis then that is what will happen. It is easier on us all that way.
- Rigmor: His hatred of Argonians. Did his family lose much when they invaded?
- Malesam: His family home was Kogoruhn until the Nerevarine killed Dagoth Ur and once again abolished the Sixth House.
- Wulf: I wonder if Mathis knows I am now the Champion of Azura?
- Malesam: That would not make you his favourite person but if he knew you aided the Nerevarine in his quest not long ago…
- Wulf: He would probably attack me on sight!
- Malesam: After Kogoruhn was lost his family moved to Tear where they made a fortune from the Argonian slave trade.
- Blackwell: Although most records of the Sixth House were destroyed we know they were heavy into the slave trade before Dagoth Ur made his appearance.
- Malesam: Records provided by the An-Xileel to The Empire show Khajiit and Imperial citizens were also rounded up by the slave traders of Tear. There is no reason to believe Mathis’ family did not do likewise.
- Rigmor: When the Accession War started Tear was one of the first Morrowind cities to fall wasn’t it?
- Malesam: The city was probably doomed anyway. Even though it survived the Red Mountain eruption itself, subsequent earthquakes destroyed its slave built dam. The plantations where most slaves worked and died became marshlands. The Dunmer helped each other survive that crises but the slaves were left to starve. When news of the An-Xileel invasion reached their ears the sick and starving slaves started their own fight for freedom and slaughtered the citizens of Tear without mercy or pity. When the An-Xileel arrived they were ecstatic as Tear now resembled Black Marsh and the population had already been put to the sword or fled.
- Rigmor: The Thalmor had their sticky fingers in that invasion didn’t they?
- Blackwell: Yes, they urged the Argonians to invade but so independent were our scaly friends after the Oblivion Crises and so easily did they defeat the Dunmer the Aldmeri Dominion lost any influence over them.
- Wulf: Surely Mathis’ family still had money after the sacking of Tear?
- Blackwell: Oh yes, Mathis’ family is not short of coin but they have no prestige. It is not money he wants. He truly believes Dagoth Ur was the rightful leader of Morrowind and therefore he is now the rightful king. He is frustrated that the surviving Great Houses seem to have accepted the losses of the Accession Wars and are not keen to renew hostilities with the Argonians. To him it is an insult to Morrowind and therefore himself who, as I said, is the rightful king in his opinion.
- Rigmor: Surely with Morrowind politics like it is they know all of this and would eliminate him?
- Blackwell: His family has been careful not to attract too much attention and he is regarded as an eccentric archaeologist and nothing more. If he did obtain the Tools I have no idea how he expects to live for long. The Morag Tong would have a thousand writs in no time.
- Malesam: Speaking of which…
- Blackwell: We have received reports of a disturbance amongst the Morag Tong of Solstheim. You wouldn’t know anything about that would you Majesty?
- Wulf: Two dozen tried to ambush me when I visited Severin Manor. They did not have a writ so I exercised my right to retaliate and we exterminated every single one of them in their headquarters.
- Blackwell: How many dead Majesty?
- Wulf: About one hundred.
- Malesam: That won’t please them one bit.
- Rigmor: Were you listening? They had no writ and tried to ambush him. That sounds pretty pissed off already don’t you think?
- Wulf: I have thwarted them over and over Malesam. They have killed many Emperors. They are Kintyra’s biggest danger and therefore the biggest threat to a peaceful Nirn. But they will never see the long term picture. They act according to bruised ego and/or current writ. They are a pestilence that should be eliminated. If Mathis believes in Dagoth Ur’s plans then he would give such creatures even more freedom to kill for hire.
- Rigmor: Would there be any advantage in taking him alive?
- Blackwell: No. The Five Great Houses would see no value in him politically. They would prefer him dead since he threatens their existence.
- Wulf: If he realises he has no hope and gives up the man in me will happily send him off to a mine for thirty years or even send him home. But my dragon half will not stop till he is dead once combat starts. His survival depends on his free will as always.
- Blackwell: I think we have covered everything worth talking about.
- Rigmor: Agreed. You two have helped once again and have our gratitude.
The two men bowed and left.
“Want to get out of here and head for your apartment?” I asked Rigmor.
“Of course I do. I hate this place!”
We made our way to the airship then Bruma.
The Sentinel insisted on checking the apartment first then took up station outside.
“Are you hungry Wulf?” asked Rigmor.
I grabbed her, “Not for food.”
She gently pushed me away saying, “There will be none of that! By order of several well respected Priestesses of Mara.”
“Why and for how long?”
“Women’s business why and I don’t know for how long but quote, ‘The Priestesses have probably supervised thousands of women so we shall listen to them with gratitude and cheerful compliance.’”
“Then another night of snuggling it is but first I want to try something. Wait there.”
I went upstairs, stripped down to my underwear and tried a couple of the transformation spells to make sure they worked.
When I came back downstairs Rigmor was sitting on the bed.
“Are you ready? Notice I am wearing your father’s ring, my amulet of Talos and underwear.”
I cast the spell and standing in front of Rigmor was a Khajiit, with her father’s ring, my amulet of Talos and underwear.
Rigmor sat with her mouth open.
“Impressive isn’t it. Oh, this is the first time I have spoken when transformed. Let me try something.”
Racking my memory for something she would remember him saying I tried my impression of Baa’Ren-Dar.
“Dragonborn! Dragonborn! She won’t go!”
I was rewarded with the best sound in the world, Rigmor’s laughter.
She said, “I was a pain in the arse at times.”
“No, you have always been Rigmor and perfect in every way.”
“Good try but we are going to obey the Priestesses.”
“I wonder if everything works when transformed like this?”
“You are a weirdo! Have I ever told you that?”
I transformed to an Argonian, Bosmer, Dunmer and finally a High Elf.
I took up an effeminate pose and said, “Now Queen Rigmor you naughty barbarian. Be nice to Ambassador Assclown or I will give you such a spanking!”
“You are wearing an amulet of Talos.”
“No! It burns…It burns!!!”
I changed back to me and joined in with Rigmor’s laughter.
Eventually we calmed down and I lay next to her.
“We have to keep this ability quiet Rigmor. It can be of great use to me but not if too many people get wind of it.”
“It could be abused by the wrong people. So you are keeping tight restrictions I assume.”
“Yes. But let us not talk about Emperor and Queen stuff.”
We talked for a few hours about everyday things. The strange fashions Rigmor saw when shopping with her mother. The latest gossip and rumours about dating and affairs, illicit and otherwise, amongst the nobility, guards and general populace.
It was just us two in our own quiet talking about mundane things that didn’t involve killing and politics and it was precious.
Eventually Rigmor said, “Let us get a few hours sleep. You have told the Sentinel what time to wake us up?”
“Yes but let me say goodnight to my girl.”
I started at Rigmors lips and slowly kissed my way down her neck and down, down till near her belly button.
“What do you think you are doing Wulf? We agreed to obey the Priestesses so stop these weirdo ideas.”
I kissed Rigmor’s swollen belly and whispered, “We yearn for the day we can hold you in our arms. It will seem like forever before we can. We both love you dearly. Goodnight Princess Kintyra.”
I returned up top to see my beloved’s tears and smiled at her.
I know not what time I fell asleep but I know I awoke at precisely 7:00AM. That was the time The Sentinel were told to wake us and they did so with enthusiasm.
I groggily opened the door and Lydia followed by Celestine brought in a wonderful breakfast then left Rigmor and me to it.
I boarded Nafalilargus just after 8:00AM and set course for Winterhold. Not the College but the city itself.
We disembarked then started walking to the Great Alftand Lift. I did not fly there as mechanical Dovah are produced somewhere in the bowels of Alftand and often appear atop the ruins.
A very heavy snowstorm made it almost as dark as night and visibility was not the best. I was surprised we had no encounters at all as we trekked across the snow and ice of southern Skyrim. We approached Alftand cautiously on alert for mechanical dragons.
I used a key I had collected last time I was in Blackreach and unlocked the lift.
I said to The Sentinel, “I warn everybody each time I enter Blackreach. The place is swarming with Falmer. Do not get distracted by the sights.”
I pulled the lever and we entered Alftand. To my surprise the steps leading to Blackreach were still open. I had an Attunement Sphere with me anyway as I have found it useful in several places during my travels.
I let The Sentinel get their oohs and ahhs and sense of wonder out of the way before starting our trek across Blackreach. To my surprise we encountered very few Falmer.
We headed for a part I was not familiar with and had to use a crude bridge across the freezing fluorescent water. Valdimar asked, “Is it safe to drink the water here?”
“Yes but your pee glows in the dark.”
Rayya said, “If it helps him aim better when he goes for a midnight piss that would be good. The barrack latrines are disgusting!”
Frea added, “At least we would know where not to step!”
We stood in front of the door to the building Mathis had marked on the map.
“Just because this Dwemer ruin is in an odd place it is guaranteed to be just as boring as those above. Shake me if I fall asleep.”
We entered and this one was a bit different. It was a small room with steps that led to a portal.
I approached the portal slowly with Valdimar next to me and asked him, “What do you sense?”
“I am not as experienced as you with portals but I don’t think it goes to Oblivion.”
“I agree. I think it goes to a pocket plane, which are often surrounded by Oblivion, but not one of the Dark Lords’ realms. There is only one way to find out.”
I stepped into the portal. The Sentinel had no hesitation following.
“Okay, definitely a pocket plane. Linear Time seems to be a bit faster than Nirn but not by enough to worry about. I can’t be more accurate for reasons you are all aware of.”
Rayya said, “It looks like a canyon or narrow valley. Not much room for manoeuvring. Kind of makes me a bit nervous.”
“You saw in the Morag Tong headquarters what happens in narrow corridors when I use the Thu’um. I kind of like them.”
We spooked a few coyotes and a wolf that ran away from us.
They set off some traps at the entrance to a Dwemer ruin.
We came to a narrow walkway over a deep ravine. There were many destroyed Dwemer automatons along its length.
“I would say Mathis and friends came this way recently. They are not very powerful automatons. I would expect sophisticated guards if this place is hiding some fancy Dwemer technology.”
Out of the sky diving with a roar was that more sophisticated guard. A Dovah breathing toxic fumes strafed us.
He landed on one of the cross members then stared at me.
I tried greeting him but got no response.
“Is he daring us to try and get past him?” asked Frea.
“Looks like it.”
He lifted off with a roar as we approached. I hit him with Dragonrend then yelled to The Sentinel, “Run back to the beginning of the walkway. He will have to land and that is where it will be.”
He landed where I predicted then attacked me. That left his flank exposed to The Sentinel.
He was old but not powerful. He died and once again, after no encounters for ages, I found myself absorbing yet another soul of a Dovah within a short space of time.
We made our way into the main building to find a very large and deep pit in front of us.
I cast Magelight and could see it was possible to climb our way down if very careful.
At the bottom we were deafened by the roar of water.
The building itself was badly damaged in places.
It was full of the same boring automatons that insisted on attacking for no real reason other than we were there.
What was different was the far larger number of ghostly Tonal Architects. Some of them could use the Thu’um and all of them were far strong than the automatons.
The place was a maze and we spent ages fighting encounter after encounter.
Often we ended up at a dead end requiring us to backtrack.
Two very unusual automatons attacked us. They had a dweomer on them unfamiliar to me.
When both were defeated a hidden compartment in a wall opened. Inside was very unusual armour and lumps of unprocessed ore.
I lifted each part and listed their dweomer, “Armour allows invisibility, gauntlets increase attack speed, helmet has night vision and boots allow faster running. I assume the ore is for repairs. It is probably famous so we had better take it back for the museum. Don’t worry, it is incredibly light.”
The armour bits and ore were distributed and we continued on our way only to find ourselves lost and getting tired of dead ends.
The complex was huge and getting very tedious.
We eventually stumbled on one corridor which seemed more decorative and important than others. We headed down it expecting a dead end to appear and piss us off even more.
Instead we came across recently destroyed automatons still sparking and steaming.
Facing us was a door tall enough to allow the passage of very big golems.
“You are to wait out here. This is personal and my Dovah wants to deal with it.”
The Sentinel did not argue.
I entered and Mathis was there fully armed and armoured with two lackeys behind him. I could tell that all three were very competent warriors. Behind them were two large golems of a type I had not seen before. It appeared a lot of ebony had gone into their construction.
Mathis approached with a swagger, “Surprised to see me? I was getting bored and thought you might not make it. Now hand over the tools to me quickly!”
“So the Lord High Councillor of the Forgotten House thinks he outsmarted the Champion of The Divines. Oh, also Champion of Azura and good friends with the Nerevarine who I helped the other week. That is what I was doing when I entered Kagrenar.”
Mathis’ turned pale, well a slightly lighter shade, and his mouth dropped open.
“So even if you defeat me, which beings far more powerful than you have failed to do, how do you think you would fare against the one who killed your precious Dagoth Ur?”
Mathis was still silent. His companions were looking worried.
“I have the biggest spy network on Nirn and you thought your masquerade would fool us? Do you think you could just conjure up a Numidium because you have the Tools? What were you going to power it with? My father’s one took the souls of two of his most powerful allies to get moving and that took magicka not of the Tools. You don’t have the knowledge of Zurin Arctus to create a Mantella but of course you haven’t really thought this through have you.”
One of his companions tried to say something. Mathis told him to shut up.
“Then we come to the five Great Houses and the rest of Nirn. It would take you years to learn how to use the Tools knowing that you can’t re-power them if you drain them. Meanwhile my wife would have informed the leaders of Morrowind of your plans and soon everybody would be out to stop you. You need friends and resources to carry out your plan so how long before you are tracked down and slaughtered? How long before an ally decides guaranteed reward money is worth more than what you offer?”
“House Dagoth would help!”
“It speaks! But only in your imagination does the Sixth House exist. When it did it was reviled as it should have been.”
I used the Thu’um to emphasise a famous line from an essay by Peakstar.
“Pity Dagoth Ur and the Sixth House for all they do, all they are is foul and evil…”
After the echoes faded I gave Mathis a choice.
“You have not committed a crime so far. As Champion of The Divine it is my duty to protect the world against plans like yours. Forget them and walk away! Walk away now and go live the privileged life of a rich Dunmer. Push this further you die and so do your companions. You are currently talking to Wulf the man. Wulf the dragon will show no mercy.”
He charged me with weapon drawn. Unrelenting Force threw him and his companions back across the room.
They tumbled over and over only to stop when they hit a far wall.
“Death it is then!” yelled my Dovah.
I advanced. When all three regained their feet I separated Mathis and his female companion from the male one with another Shout.
He continued forward as the other two stumbled back to their feet again much faster than anticipated. I knocked them down again and met the male companion with sword and shield. He soon realised how outclassed he was!
A few seconds later he lay dead in a pool of his own blood.
Mathis got close. I laughed.
“You have a spell shield and surround yourself in flames. I do not need to use magicka to kill you fool. I can withstand the heat of Dragonfire so your piss poor attempt does nothing. Watch while I cut down your second companion.”
I threw him across the room again then charged his female companion.
She tried to block with her two handed hammer which was way too slow against an even half decent swordsman. She died a split second later.
I let Mathis approach then engaged him in swordplay.
“Were they champions of some sort? The best you had? I hope you are better than them.”
Mathis was not a bad swordsman but he got nowhere near penetrating my defences. It was not long before his strength started to wane and I wasn’t even breathing hard. I lazily parried as I asked some questions.
“What kind of insanity makes somebody with a comfortable life like yours want more? Or was it the fact the Argonians kicked you out of Tear? Your former slaves were no longer scared of you as they had weapons as well. Is that what set you on this suicide mission? Surely you did not think you had a hope. Maybe Dagoth Ur’s insanity was not caused by the Tools but is a family trait merrily passed down the generations. You must be pure bred crazy. Is that it?”
His swings were now pathetic. I knocked his sword flying across the room and he fell onto his rump. He was bleeding from many nicks and cuts. His breathing was fast and shallow.
I stared into his eyes. He whispered, “Mercy. I beg for mercy.”
“Pardon me but I am dragon and do not understand the word.”
I lifted ‘The Sword” high. Mathis watched in horror.
Then it descended. He screamed as it penetrated armour, bone, and tissue like it was not there.
He gasped and died. My Dovah was pleased.
I searched Mathis and he had nothing unusual except for an ornate key. It had markings on it similar to some I had seen in Kagrenar. It was the missing key to the back room.
I surmise that Mathis had visited Kagrenar and could not get past the huge golem. He was probably planning on going there after obtaining the Tools.
I did not know what would happen when charging the Tools so did not ask The Sentinel to join me.
As I walked past the golems I had a good look. They were large and made of unusual materials but I did not think they were much more powerful than those we normally encounter.
The ‘pedestal’ as Mathis called it did indeed look a bit like an altar. It was a long way from the door. The room all this was in was one of the largest I have seen in a Dwemer ruin before.
I placed the Tools inside the bowl and inserted the three Bal am as Aedra.
After the third stone clicked into place I heard whirring and clunking within the pedestal so stood back.
There was a blinding flash of blue as the star energy stored in the Welkynd stones transferred to the Tools.
I looked at the Bal am as Aedra and they were duller and closer to the normal colour of Varla stones. Their stored energy was depleted.
After a few seconds there was a final flash.
The fully charged Tools sat in the bowl. I took the discharged Bal am as Aedra first. They were worth studying empty or not.
I gathered the tools and felt their immense power but was not harmed. There was a combination of known and unknown dweomer on each. I was not interested in handling them for long.
The golems remained inert till I passed them on the way to the door. For some unknown reason one decided to squish me.
It was firing fairly powerful lightening at me which was not doing much harm but did start to drain my magicka. I decided to run to it and engage it with weapons.
As I thought would happen it could not aim the lightning at me when I was close. Now it was a matter of avoiding its stomping feet and slow ponderous swings of hammer and blade.
The most danger occurred when it was defeated and fell like a huge metal tree. I had to leap out the way.
It lay there sparking and smoking but its twin did not move. I don’t think it was supposed to attack me. It probably just got bored.
I made my way to The Sentinel then distributed the Tools and spent Bal am as Aedra among them. We then started what we thought would be a slow trip out of the complex.
Not far down the corridor a portal appeared. So it did not take us long to make it back to the original portal room.
I collected the fancy sword and a few other items from the ornate chest.
We made our way to the lift without incident. Once on the surface I summoned the airship which arrived a few minutes later.
I informed everybody we were going to Kagrenar via Shores Stone then flew us there.
Time had moved faster in the pocket plane and it was dark by the time we disembarked in the mining village.
We made our way to Kagrenar on foot without incidence.
We rushed through the place with me quickly answering the three riddles to open the locked doors.
The Sentinel were impressed by the size of the golem. It was actually no larger than the one I had recently tackled but had been far more powerful.
We approached the locked door and I told them, “I have no idea what is behind this. But Lord Kagrenac would not have placed such a guardian or made such a complex if it was not important to him.”
It opened to a fairly small room with a two handed hammer on a table with a book before it.
The book was full of ancient Dwemer writing and I could not interpret much of it. I could think of only one living person who might. Not Calcelmo. Not Auryen. Not Urag gro-Shub. The Nerevarine could! But how do I contact him?
I decided I would take the hammer and book and worry about them after I did what needed to be done at the College of Winterhold. I had to talk to Master Mage Vonos and get the Tools locked away in the most secure place I know of, the College’s pocket realms.
We made our way out of Kagrenac then back to the airship without incident. I set course for the College and put the ether travel in motion.
On arrival I immediately went to the Arcanaeum and spoke to Urag.
“You are saying you have the actual tools of Kagrenac? All three of them?” he asked incredulously.
“That is what I said. Now put on Wraithguard. Place Sunder in one pocket realm. Keening in another and Wraithguard last in a third. Then place the four Bal am as Aedra into another. Nobody has ever been able to get into one of them and four of them would take one of The Divine to make a visit.”
“Tolfdir better be careful who he lets study them. We can do without more insane mages.”
I wandered around the Arcanaeum while Urag did what was necessary. When he finished I thanked him then went to talk to Vonos.
When he saw me approaching he knew it was not going to be good news about Mathis.
“He is dead isn’t he?” he asked.
“I gave him a chance to walk away. He had not committed any crime up to that stage. He attacked me and I killed him. I wish it was otherwise but that is the simple fact.”
“He was insane. His ideas were insane. He wanted to use the Tools for the exact reason my family have kept the secret of Sunder all this time. Dagoth Ur was evil. Vivec was no better.”
“At least Vivec confessed to his crimes. And he did do some good with the powers he stole. It does not excuse them but it is easier to see why he had such devoted followers.”
I handed Vonos his key and the journal of his relative.
“That is the journal of the person who hid Sunder. He braved innumerable Daedra to get there. Even when he knew he was trapped and would inevitably die of starvation he worked non-stop and figured out how to protect Sunder. You may think Vivec worship is wrong but there is no denying his bravery and sacrifice. His story needs to be told. His remains should be taken back home. He denied people like Mathis and that is something you should be proud of.”
“You are right. I will mourn Mathis but my relative deserves the respect of us all. Maybe the two will balance out in my head somehow.”
“Will you write to me and give me his name and history? I would like to remember him as more than ‘that person’.”
“Yes, of course Majesty. Is there any danger in retrieving the body?”
“Take a scroll of recall or similar and a friend or two to wait for you outside. The lift might be a bit temperamental. But there are no beasts or automatons to worry about.”
“I thank you Majesty. You did not have to make this effort.”
“Yes I did. My conscience would not allow otherwise.”
“May I ask if you have tried the spells?”
“Only briefly and I certainly looked and sounded like each race. I will have to experiment a bit more and come visit to talk about the results.”
Vonos nodded and I could see he was battling his emotions.
“Go somewhere you enjoy and sort it all out in your head Master Mage Vonos. I wish you the best.”
I headed back to the airship and decided to try my luck. I would fly to Azura’s Shrine and see if The Nerevarine was around.
He was standing facing Azura but turned when he heard the bells of Nafalilargus chime its arrival.
He headed downstairs to greet me.
I told The Sentinel to stay on board and watch from the railings if they wish. I climbed down the ladder and by the time I reached his small camp spot The Nerevarine was waiting for me.
“Greetings Majesty, it is good to see you again.”
“I am very pleased to see you. I have news I thought you would like plus a puzzle for you to resolve. But why are you still here?”
“I was waiting to see if my plan worked. I assume you have retrieved the Tools of Kagrenac and put them somewhere safe?”
“I hate being outsmarted so give me a second to figure this out.”
He laughed while I went through the events in my head and came up with a scenario.
After a couple of minutes I said, “You told Mathis of my visit to Kagrenar. You probably saw him exit it when scouting the place yourself. Later on you approached him, probably in Markarth where he liked to stay when in Skyrim. He knew you as a fellow archaeologist and after you gave him news of my visit to Kagrenar he was relaxed enough to hint he had made progress on his search for the Tools. You might even have suggested he recruit me to help recover them since I had shown interest in Kagrenar.”
“Well done. My cover as an archaeologist has been easy to maintain over a long time as I can hint at places yet unexplored that prove lucrative. I would pretend to struggle with but finally partially decipher the writings of Dagoth Ur. In reality Voryn Dagoth and Indoril Nerevar invented the code he used and I somehow knew it. Is that proof I am a reincarnation of Nerevar? I have never tried to prove or disapprove as it is of little consequence. I am The Nerevarine and not Nerevar even if I once was.”
“It has been suggested I am an Avatar of Talos or Lorkhan. That is terrifying as if so what happens if they decide to absorb me? So like you I will continue to live my life as me and leave that worry for others to figure out.”
“I must admit, being a resurrection would be far preferable to being an Avatar! But am I right, did you recover the Tools.”
“Mathis knew where and who the keepers of the secrets were. One was a mage whose ancestor was a devotee of Vivec who hid Sunder during the peak of the Oblivion Crises. The other was a Dunmer Ashlander who had carried Wraithguard with him for too long and was insane. So yes, I retrieved both. I also used Bal am as Aedra to fully charge them. They are now stored separately in locations nobody has ever breached the security of. They are as safe as they can be. They will be studied but never brought together ever again.”
“Do you realise what relief that brings me Majesty? How I have dreaded them being used by somebody such as Mathis? I often wondered if the best thing might be to kill these searchers when they seemed to be making progress. But I played the long game hoping that one day one of these seekers of the Tools did know their location and that there would be an individual I could trust with them.”
“Sounds like Lady Azura had been manipulating again. The odds of that happening are long. Who in the last few centuries would you trust with them? But we will never know what level of fiddling is involved and it does not matter.”
“Glad you have the wisdom to realise this. Now the long-shot chance I took, did you open the final door in Kagrenar?”
“When Mathis visited Kagrenar he took the last key after he decided he could not pass the fourth trial, the giant golem. So he had the key on him. I first secured the Tools then revisited Kagrenar. I recovered a two handed hammer which is in my airship plus this…”
I handed The Nerevarine the book. He opened it and read a bit before telling me, “This was written by Lord Kagrenac himself. It is a part of his life I do not think anybody has read about before. I would like to read it to you. I think you may find it instructive.”
“Yes, and that will do as a translation as I will remember every word. Where do you wish to do this?”
“As you can see I have no seat but Aranea’s old camp is still used by some pilgrims and there are seats there.”
We made our way to the top then The Nerevarine dragged a couple of rickety chairs in front of the eternal brazier. We sat and he started to read,
“Memories of Dorana by Lord Kagrenac
I am neither a romantic nor a poet. I am a scholar. I am a creator. I am the High Craftlord and Chief Tonal Architect and the one who is tasked with forging a future for our people. One might think that this would put me above emotional bonds and weaknesses. I had thought that too. Before Dorana that is.
It was late at night. I was working without sleep, fuelled by pride and frustration. The project itself was trivial. An enchanted ring meant as a gift for one of our allies. Yet for some reason the specifics were eluding me. It was maddening. No matter how hard I stared through the dim candlelight the notes on my desk grew no clearer.
The room brightened accompanied by clanking footsteps. I turned to find a soldier bearing a lantern. I could not see the face behind the mask but the short stature told me this was not my usual guard.
“It’s not healthy to work in darkness my Lord.” said the guard, her voice bright and clear despite the slight muffle caused by her helmet.
She had meant it literally, setting the lantern down on a small table. I offered a grunt of thanks and turned back to my work.
“For all the good it will do. I’d need a dozen lanterns to even make sense of my own thoughts at this rate!” I muttered.
From the corner of my eye I noticed her head canted to the side, “Shall I go and fetch them my Lord?”
“I was speaking metaphorically, you…” I turned fully to glower in her direction but hesitated. I could not see her face but from her posture, the way she held her hands behind her back as though hiding something. I could almost see the grin behind the helm! I felt my brow furrow. It would be a feeling I would grow accustomed to. “You’re being smart!” I accused her.
She shook her head. “No, no. I hear you’re the smart one my Lord.”
I grimaced, my eyes narrowing. No one had talked to me this way for years. I was too important a man to jest with and had too much important work to be done. I wasn’t sure how to react.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“Dorana my Lord” was the response followed by the slightest bow of her head.
“You are a bit…sunny for a warrior Dorana.”
She laughed. It was an uninhibited, hearty sound, not the light giggle you usually hear from ladies. Even from female warriors.
“Everyone says that,” she reached over her shoulder and tapped the hilt of her warhammer. “Until I bring out the hammer.”
It was one of many conversations in that same room, at the same time. Just as my candle would start to burn low Dorana would arrive with a fresh lantern and some clever quip. They were short encounters at first and sometimes they left me stewing. How dare this guard speak to me so informally? I am High Craftlord and worthy of respect!
Yet I never did anything to stop her. In fact I found myself starting to expect the clanking boots and cheery greeting, glancing at the door as my candlelight started to fade. The conversations grew longer, my mood less sour and I even managed a smile every now and again.
It was only months later that I realized I was no longer working late out of ambition. The projects were just an excuse. What I really wanted was the conversation, the companionship, her.
It took more months after that for me to act on it. Such is my nature. I am patient. I am meticulous. I act only at the right moment. And so eight months after I had learned her name I asked her to remove her helm.
“My helm?” she repeated, half mockingly. “Such an informal request, are you feeling all right, my Lord? Suffering any dizziness or fever?”
“No, I’m quite well actually. Better than I’ve ever been” I replied.
I stood from my chair and stepped towards her. Even in the armour I could see her tense.
“I want to see your face Dorana.”
She hesitated. Dorana never hesitated. “Why, my Lord?”
“Because I can no longer bear the thought of such a beautiful voice coming from behind such an ugly helm”
“Oh!” she said, stunned into rare speechlessness. She recovered quickly. “I could get another helm.”
I laughed. For the first time in ages I let myself truly laugh. Dorana’s laughter joined mine and in that moment any tenseness or lack of certainty I had faded.
“All right,” she said as the laughter died down. “I will do as you wish my Lord.”
As she pulled the helmet from her head tangled brown locks fell about her shoulders and bright blue eyes opened in my direction. She was not flawless. A faded scar from some blunt impact marred her forehead and her nose was crooked from multiple breaks. She grinned sheepishly, aware of her unladylike appearance.
“Disappointed?” she asked.
“Never!” I answered.
That is how I will remember Dorana. I will remember her for those late nights in my workshop and her rowdy mischief at formal banquets. I will remember her for her laugh and her smile and not the coughs and groans as she struggled in her bed for those last two years. Not for her paling skin and teary eyes.
If only I had worked faster. If only the Tools had been ready sooner. The Brass God, the Heart, it was all for you Dorana. I wanted to bury the Tools with you here for what good are they now if they cannot restore your smile? But no, I will keep them with me for one day they will take me to you.
Without your light this world is too dark. I don’t belong in it.
No one does.”
The Nerevarine closed the book. We both sat in silence for a while.
Eventually I said, “He lost his heart to a laugh. I know that feeling.”
“His despair at her death frightens me. Am I a fool not to have loved so I can avoid such pain?”
“Love is the strongest force in existence. I have often said that. It brings even the Gods to their knees at times. But it saved me from The Void twice. It allowed me to kick Molag Bal out of my head. It has sustained me during my darkest days.”
“But you have written what would happen if your Rigmor was killed by an enemy or if you thought The Divines had forsaken her. You are afraid of becoming another Pelinal Whitestrake. Unleashing all the power you have without remorse or pity. That would be a terrible thing to behold and I might end up the same if I let myself love.”
“It is up to you how you manage to survive day to day. I cannot say if such love as Lord Kagrenac experienced is worth the pain and lack of enthusiasm for life he endured after Dorana’s death. All I can say is that I would not be who I am without Rigmor. I would be my Father. I would be Vivec doing good things after evil and hoping they balanced somehow. You have learned to love the normal mortals you encounter the same as I have. If that sustains you then do not think you are missing out on anything. Continue to express that love by helping where you can. That must bring comfort to you surely.”
“You are right but I can’t help but feel such love you have for Rigmor it is something I should have experienced. So your advice if I want to avoid it is not to listen to any laughter?”
“Yes and the easiest way to do that is join the Vigilants of Stendarr. They never seem to laugh.”
We both had a good chuckle at that which is kind of paradoxical.
“Thank you once again for ending my worst fear. I really do hope for the sake of Nirn you, Rigmor and Kintyra succeed in completing this plan of the Gods.”
I nodded my head and returned the airship. I asked J’Zargo to ether us to Bruma Castle.
I spent the two hours of the voyage writing down the story of Lord Kagrenac and his beloved Dorana and this journal entry.
Rigmor will probably cry at Kagrenac’s story.
Anybody who has loved an individual like that will.