Scourg Barrow, Apocrypha: Evil.
The three Master Mages managed to navigate through the Dragontail Mountains safely. They anchored the airship on the plateau leading to Scourg Barrow and the bell rang to announce our arrival.
The Sentinel clambered down and did a sweep of the area before I was allowed to join them.
Even from a distance Scourg Barrow left one feeling uneasy. I said to The Sentinel, “I have no interest in whatever knowledge Hermaeus Mora has put within this Black Book. It has been brought to my attention and I have no choice but to retrieve it before an enemy does. This place, this Scourg Barrow, was once the headquarters of the King of Worms also known as Mannimarco. A more evil mortal has never existed and now he is a God. But that is okay with our Thalmor friends. He was an Altmer after all.”
Talvas added, “Plus necromancy in its most evil form is openly practised on Alinor.”
“One of the most controversial things Rigmor and I have done is to allow the study of Necromancy within The Empire. There are countless arguments for and against. I ask the naysayers how well the ban has worked in stemming its spread amongst the magically talented. I also point out the College of Whispers has continued to study Necromancy without great evil stemming from it. I can cast a spell that would make every citizen in Solitude fight each other to the death. That is not Necromancy but still evil. Knowledge itself is never evil. My mantra works with regard to magicka as with anything else. Free will determines what such knowledge is used for.”
Derkeethus said, “Most people who think and not just react know this Majesty. To counter such knowledge being used for evil we must have such knowledge ourselves.”
“Exactly and the Mages Guild learnt that lesson when Mannimarco decimated it. I suggest strongly if you are not fully aware of his plot with Molag Bal and other evil that he has perpetrated over millennia you do some reading. The hero of Kvatch, using the armour and weapons we have just recovered, killed the mortal form of Mannimarco but he managed to return later. That dark creature once had his hands on the Amulet of Kings and wanted to use it for foul purposes. I have no doubt he would love for Martin’s Barrier to fall.”
“What can we expect within this barrow?” asked Derkeethus.
“I doubt anything more dangerous than mortal Necromancers and their usual undead minions. There could be a Lich or two or at least powerful Necromancers wishing to become one. There is only one way to find out. Let’s go and pay them a visit.”
Surprisingly we were not attacked by anything arising from the many graves we passed on the way to the front door.
We entered and there was nothing nasty to greet us.
Borgakh asked, “What is that banner?”
“No idea. You could get dizzy following the pattern though.”
I tried but it was no good. I have to express my astonishment at the nonsense I find when exploring. I said, “Look. A lever out in the open and the only other thing in the room, apart from that stupid banner, is a sealed sarcophagus next to it. I wonder if pulling the lever will reveal a super-secret passage that our supposedly intelligent Necromancers want to remain hidden.”
“There is a good chance something undead will jump out.” said Kharjo.
I pulled the lever and the lid slid off to reveal a cavern below.
“Just for once I would like something different to happen. The roof lowering quickly and squishing us to pulp would make an interesting change.”
In unison The Sentinel exclaimed, “You’re weird!”
“So I have been told.”
Before The Sentinel starting arguing the fact they should go first I jumped into the hole and found myself in a small cavern.
They soon followed. There was only a single narrow passageway leading out and Kharjo wrinkled his nose and said, “Something smells foul.”
Borgakh replied, “Sorry, it was the cabbage in last night’s stew.”
I said, “Not that Borgakh. Although I would ask you move away a bit. Kharjo hates the smell of undead.”
We snuck along the passage and could hear the sound of magicka being expended without pause.
It turned out to be two Necromancers aiming a continuous energy stream at something.
Arrows made short work of them although one managed to scream which attracted four more of their kind. They met the same fate.
They had been trying to penetrate a magical barrier. I could tell it was a fruitless exercise. It would take far more power than they had.
Two columns either side of the barrier had strange indents on the top. I have seen similar before and particular skulls were needed to lower the barrier.
“The Black Book might be behind the barrier but I doubt it. I have become attuned to them and can usually tell when one is near. The strange energy they generate is how Neloth finds them even when scrying from thousands of miles away.”
“So other Necromancy treasure then?” asked Talvas.
“Good guess genius!” said Borgakh.
“Want to spend some time as a frog?” replied Talvas.
“Why, you going to try and heal me?” countered Borgakh.
By the laughter from the rest of us Talvas knew he had lost that round.
A bit further down the corridor was a pull chain.
Why was I not surprised when it opened a supposedly secret door right next to it?
I entered first and it slammed shut behind me. A Necromancer set his pet skeletons on me then started firing fairly powerful spells at me.
He got more and more desperate as I ignored his best spells and casually cut down a dozen skeletons.
He looked more offended than anything else when I walked up and slowly thrust my sword through his stomach and out his back.
I searched him and found a journal and note. The journal read,
Incredible! Even as we explore the depths of this ancient sanctuary, the darkness itself seems to resonate with the ancient power of the past. To think that Celedaen’s sovereign, patron of necromancers, the King of Worms himself once walked and commanded his faithful within these very halls.
What secrets could we find here, waiting still – untouched for centuries? The answer to the rituals I seek lie within these walls and I cannot rest until they are in my hands.
Lorwyn and Gyed summoned me, seemingly in a frenzy of excitement. After clearing the lower hallways of rubble all throughout the morning we have uncovered what we believe to be an inner burial chamber.
And if that is not intriguing enough the chamber door is barred by powerful warding enchantments. We have, as of yet, been unable to breach them. Our spells and counter enchantments seem all but useless against this impenetrable barrier. There must be some way to dispel it! We must search every inch of this stronghold for the answers. This powerful barrier only heightens my suspicions that what we seek lies secured beyond.
We had yet another transcendent discovery concerning that inaccessible chamber. After many hours of intensive and deliberate scrying magics we have traced the wards and energies to its source. It is within the chamber. The spell appears to have originated from an exceptionally powerful sorcerer or maybe several. If our investigations are accurate they are still within. While it is imperative that we gain entry to this chamber and learn of who these occupants are and whether they are custodians of the secrets I desire, I cannot waste time here whilst these wards are active. I have assigned Solea and Voralndil to break the enchantments whilst I continue to scour these halls.
Being so familiar with the contrivances of these ancient repurposed crypts I was not so easily fooled by the seeming dead end we encountered when the caves terminated. These concealed subterranean passageways give me hope for the Necromancers of Scourg Barrow must surely have valued these secretive vaults for the storage of bygone artefacts. The tome must be among them. I have come too far to grow lax in my search now!
Blast it all! Many of the passageways off this chamber have collapsed or are made utterly impenetrable by debris. What if the tome was within one of those chambers? Could I be inches away from my goal with only fallen masonry and earth in my way? I have set up a workstation here whilst we work to determine what lay beyond these passageways. Nothing can stand in our way. I am so very close now. I can feel the secrets calling to me!”
After I killed the Necromancer the door had risen again and The Sentinel rushed in only to find everything dead and me reading.
Kharjo sniffed the air and exclaimed, “The air is much cleaner now except for the smell of rancid cabbage. Or is that smelly cheese? Aha, it is the sulphur of a magma flow!”
I handed the journal to Talvas then said, “If my journal is as boring as that one I will cause the suicide of countless scholars now and into the future.”
As he started to read it aloud to the other Sentinel I silently read the note that was also on the dead Necromancer,
Your recent purchases and requests for particular items from other vendors have come to my attention.
You have found yourself in need of certain materials very difficult to obtain.
I have the means to provide to you just the sort of specialist ‘resources’ that other more superstitious or overly cautious vendors can’t or will not.
Come to my shack west of Lake Ilinalta in the forests of Falkreath Hold if you are interested. Bring coin.
I looked around the chamber whilst Talvas read the journal to the others and found nothing of interest. It was just your typical megalomaniac narcissistic Necromancer secret laboratory.
When he finished reading he handed the journal back to me and asked, “So who is the dead Necromancer?”
“His name is Antioch. I would say he was the Arch Necromancer of this merry little band. There may be many more not here. They are now unemployed.”
“Do you think the Black Book is in that chamber they were trying to break into?”
“I don’t think so. It is more likely the home of a Lich or two enjoying their undeadness in peace and quiet.”
Borgakh asked, “Is undeadness an actual word?”
Kharjo replied, “If an Imperial Scholar reads it in one of Wulf’s journal entries it will be. Same as gobblygook now is.”
There was only one unblocked tunnel leading from the room which terminated in a dead end with a pull chain next to it.
“Lucky for us I am familiar with the contrivances of these ancient repurposed crypts so am not so easily fooled by this dead end we have encountered!” I announced with overdramatic pomp.
I pulled the chain and stone grated upwards to reveal an entrance.
“Ta da! Marvel at the power of your Emperor! Tell your friends and family of the miracle just witnessed! I must find a good bard to write an epic ballad.”
Derkeethus asked the other Sentinel, “What is the procedure for reporting the suspected mental illness of an Emperor?”
Kharjo replied, “Unless you want to end up a smoking pile of ash I would say not mentioning your intent in front of said mad Emperor would be a vital step in the procedure.”
I did a maniacal laugh and growled, “It is too late for you Derkeethus! I heard your cunning plan. I will put extra guards on my Sweet Roll stash. You will not have them I say!”
The Sentinel insisted on going through this door first since the last slammed shut on them and they didn’t get to kill anything.
A few unfortunate Necromancers who didn’t know they were out of a job got terminated anyway.
We encountered a portcullis with no stupidly obvious way of opening it. As I approached it I could feel the presence of a Black Book nearby. I told The Sentinel, “It is through here. Not far.”
Talvas stated, “Antioch was after a tome. I don’t think he knew about the Black Book.”
“No he didn’t and he would have fallen right into Hermaeus Mora’s trap. He may or may not have known what a Black Book is but regardless he would have tried to read it anyway. Once in Apocrypha the Daedric Prince would tease him about the infinite knowledge available to his ‘servants’. He regards any seeker of knowledge as a servant as they usually do tasks he asks of them for a chance to access more of this infinite knowledge. Many a mage has been turned into his puppet by their thirst for knowledge.”
“Many Necromancers get sucked into the Soul Cairn in their pursuit of knowledge. It seems a hazardous pastime!”
“As you know many young mages end up a bloody mess after summoning an Unbound Dremora. Others get mangled by the Draugr or skeletons they try to control. There is a saying Urag is fond of. There are old Necromancers. There are bold Necromancers. There are no old and bold Necromancers.”
We explored many more tunnels.
This cave complex was full of good Quicksilver ore deposits.
One cold windy tunnel led outside.
When we exited we found this particular entrance would not be inaccessible unless you happened to ride dragons or have an airship. It would have saved us quite a bit of time if we had known about it.
We entered the barrow once more and explored some more tunnels. One led to a cavern where a Necromancer was standing next to a large unlit brazier with his head buried in a book.
Kharjo hand signalled he wanted this one. We watched as he used his superb sneaking ability to creep up behind the unsuspecting victim and slit his throat.
“This Khajiit does not get to practice his skills so often when surrounded by noisy mer and men, oh, and lizards.” he declared.
Derkeethus replied, “This one is only noisy because he has to scratch away the fleas that leap in their multitude from a ball licking cat.”
I retrieved the book the Necromancer was reading and a note he had on him.
I read the note to The Sentinel,
“This brazier’s mystery continued to elude me. Judging from the inscription on the dais I am almost certain that this is connected to the sealed gate we discovered. There is a passageway beyond it that looks to have been undisturbed for centuries. It seems Antioch may have been correct and the ritual’s secrets lie beyond…
The brazier resisted all spells and invocations cast at it. The dais held the key; ‘When the hated enemy’s faithful lie scattered and broken at this altar…”
It requires an offering. It requires a sacrifice.
I was the one to solve this riddle and not that conceited Antioch!
When the secrets lie under my control I will have no need of the others…”
“What is this ritual they are after?” asked Kharjo.
I replied, “Many histories mistakenly credit Mannimarco as the first ever Lich. There were many others before him. What he did do was simplify the process. Without his ritual a mage must undergo many years of preparation and risky steps to achieve that state. It is also said his ritual would make you a far more powerful Lich than other methods. Not all Necromancers desire to become a Lich but those that do are often obsessed with the pursuit and morality is therefore left behind.”
“Do you think if you read this Black Book and make it to the end of the Apocrypha maze the reward will be knowledge of this ritual?”
“That is my guess. I can’t think of any other knowledge more valuable to a Necromancer than that.”
“So what is the sacrifice?”
“That is easy and I can’t believe they had to think about it for more than a few seconds. Our dead friend here was reading the book once again to reassure himself he had it right. I can imagine putting the wrong thing into the brazier would not be a good thing.”
“Will the right sacrifice open the gate we saw before?”
“I don’t think so. Let me read to you the inscription on the dais. It is written in archaic lettering but I think I have it.”
“When the hated enemy’s faithful lie desecrated on this altar, the Revenant will cast His revered light upon the disciple’s path.”
“That suggests we have further to travel. If you look closely at the wall opposite the brazier you will find another hidden door. I have seen so many most of them are obvious to me even from a distance. Whatever opens that gate may require us to travel through a lot more caverns and tunnels to reach it. Let me read the book and you can all try and guess the sacrifice.”
“Arkay the Enemy
Hear me, children. Once I was a lowly man such as yourselves. By my will I entered the ranks of the gods. By your unquestioning devotion, you can share my glory.
Most Necromancers are fools and weaklings. Fodder for the witch hunters. But you, my servants, you are among the chosen. In the days to come, few will dare to stand against your might. But one obstacle remains. His name is Arkay.
He was also a man who entered the ranks of the gods. The similarities between his mortal life and my own astonish even me. It is only proper that we should be enemies.
Arkay’s Blessing prevents the souls of men, beastmen and elves from being used without consent. Arkay’s Law prevents those buried with the proper rituals from being raised to serve my children’s will. As you know, my children, Arkay’s Blessing is flexible to those with daring, but Arkay’s Law is unwavering.
To the Scholars: Humiliate the priests of Arkay. Reveal the primitive burial customs to be mere superstition. Befriend kings with honeyed words and bind them to your will. Look to my children in Cyrodiil for guidance.
To the Priests: Use your servants sparingly, let none be seen by the living. Let the memories of the undead waste away from the people. Send missionaries to the unbound dead, to the Vampirea and the Liches. Let all the nations of dead carry my banner and my banner alone.
To the Hidden: Wait, as always, in the darkness.
For soon we shall strike. The Temples of Arkay will be torn stone from stone. The blood of his priests will sate our thirst; their bones will rise as our servants. The name Arkay will be stuck from the records. Only I shall hold sway over life and death. Only one name shall be whispered in fear.
The name of your lord and master!
Derkeethus asked, “Arkay was a mortal as well?”
“It is not as uncommon as you think. Alessia was mortal. Many Gods of many pantheons were mortal. Do not be fooled by the Thalmor fake claims of it not being possible.”
Kharjo piped up, “J’Zargo thinks he is a God.”
Derkeethus replied, “Don’t all Khajiit?”
Talvas said loudly, “If you two have finished with the fake interspecies war I think I know the answer. Something related to Arkay needs to be placed in the Brazier. His faithful would be his followers and priests/priestesses.”
I said, “But the brazier is too small for an entire body.”
“Then a part of it. The most common body part Necromancers use in their rituals is the heart.”
“Well done Talvas. Our dead friend here has a human heart with him but so do many Necromancers. He was sure he had the answer so logically it is a heart of a devout Arkay worshipper or Priest or Priestess.”
I retrieved the heart from the deceased Necromancer then warned The Sentinel, “The dweomer on this brazier invokes the blessing of a God. Necromancer’s Moon, the name for Mannimarco the God, also known as the Revenant will, quote, ‘cast His revered light upon the disciple’s path.’”
Their eyes widened as each realised the reason for the dead Necromancer’s caution.
“So if I place the wrong thing in the brazier?”
Borgakh answered, “We all point to Talvas and yell, ‘It was him! He did it!’ then run away as the Revenant tears his soul from his body.”
We all laughed loudly including Talvas who suddenly stopped and looked worriedly at the rest of us.
“You wouldn’t do that! Would you?”
I replied, “Sort of. I would paralyse you first in case you tried to follow us.”
As they were laughing once more I dropped the heart into the brazier.
A bright blue flame erupted and lit the cavern. A hidden door opened opposite the altar.
I handed the still worried Talvas the book and asked, “If I remember correctly the book ‘Arkay the Enemy’ was a compulsory text at the College am I correct?”
“Yes. I have read it before.”
“Good, then what is different about the book I just gave you?”
Talvas read it several times and I could see him muttering the words under his breath. Finally he said, “I give up Majesty. The words are the same as I remember though in a more archaic form.”
“It is not the wording Talvas. Look again. You just said what is different.”
He looked again then his face lit up. He replied, “This is not a printed book. This is more archaic as it is hand written at the time the language was thus formed.”
“I believe you hold in your hands the original text. That is the script of Mannimarco you see before you.”
“Wow! Like wow! Imagine how Master Mage Urag will react to this!”
“You have no idea how much it pleases him when I add another item to the College’s library that the scholars of the Imperial Library would kill for.”
Torval gingerly handed the book back to me and we set off to see where the newly opened doorway led.
It went a few yards forward then a few to the right. It ended in a dead end with another pull chain.
I whined, “Oh darn. I was looking forward to trudging through miles and miles of exciting tunnels and caverns and crumbly old ruins and all we get is this! Necromancers are just mean old Party Poopers!”
I pulled the chain and we heard the gate open.
We made our way to it and entered the corridor.
The Black Book was just around a corner.
I said The Sentinel, “This one is called ‘Whispers of the Veil’. Hermaeus Mora fills the first page with text from a normal book that hints at the reward for surviving to the end of the puzzle or maze. As you read you open a portal to his realm in Oblivion and will be dragged into it. I don’t think he will bother greeting me. He is used to me wandering about Apocrypha. He is probably still angry I had his avatar in Evermore destroyed anyway. There are things that can kill me in Apocrypha but the biggest danger to me is boredom. The mazes the other week were infinitely more exciting that any I have endured in his dreary realm. The creatures that live there present no danger to me and I can swim miles in the deadly ink waterways. Since I am entering Oblivion a difference in sequential time may occur. If I find the difference between there and here too big I will simply read the Black Book again and reappear right where I am standing. I want to get my hands on the ritual but not at the expense of too much elapsed time on the mortal plane.”
Torval asked, “Will you just vanish?”
“That would not be melodramatic enough for Old Mora. Tentacles will appear and drag me into the portal.”
“Oh. Glad you warned us!”
“Do not wander too far Torval. I may come back in a hurry needing your Restoration skills. See you all soon.”
I picked up the book and opened to the first page. The text was part of dull lecture on the art of Necromancy.
The portal opened and runes started to swirl around me.
They quickly turned into tentacles that seemingly originated from within the book.
I was instantly in the very unexciting Oblivion plane of Apocrypha.
I determined time ran very much slower in this part of Apocrypha. Great! I could spend decades here wandering around and it would appear I was gone mere minutes to the waiting Sentinel. Get back home to Rigmor and drop dead from old age! Of course I can just read the Black Book and return when I wanted.
As with my other trips there I will not endanger the readers of my journal with a detailed description of my journey. It changes each time anyway so would be of no use to anybody else making the same trip.
To summarise: I endured the same boring circular pools of jet blank ink that either contained tentacles that would whip out and try to hit me or the larger of Hermaeus’ guardians, a Lurker. By using Detect Life I could see which. If it was a Lurker I would hit the pool of ink with a fireball.
The Lurker would surface and I would kill it with arrow or spell. There was never any need for me to get within its offensive range.
I endured the smaller guardians called Seekers.
Their offensive spell had a good range but did little damage to me. I easily killed them once again with arrow or spell.
Many locked doors, rolled up walkways and collapsed steps required the use of organic switches called Scryes.
When you touched them a ball dropped to the centre of the plant.
It would then fold up sealing itself indicating the switch had been triggered.
When walking along some corridors they would get longer or shorter. When first experienced the sensation can be disorienting.
After the first couple of hundred times it was just real really boring!
What makes Apocrypha mazes almost unbearable is the number of times you get teleported around with no reference to let you know the relationship between where you came to where you got.
The teleports are always triggered by touching a book which as you might have guessed is pretty boring.
Many Apocrypha mazes have a twist to differentiate themselves from others. If this was an attempt to make them less boring it fails miserably. The particularly uninspiring twist to this maze was the need to collect four books whose titles referred to Necromancy in some way.
The first I found was called “Blessed Bone”.
The next was “Fleeting Flesh”.
After those were ‘Binding Blood’ and ‘Shackled Soul’.
I arrived at a part of the maze with four altars where I had to place the correct books.
I am used to puzzles made for morons like Dwemer Puzzle Doors but this was insulting. Did Hermaeus think intellectual midgets would make it this far?
I wonder if ‘Blessed Bone’ goes on this big bone altar?
Genius Wulf! How did you figure that out?
Oh, an altar surrounded blood. Um, ah, let’s try “Binding Blood”.
Two out of two! Even the Gods must be impressed!
‘Fleeting Flesh” went onto the Draugr altar.
The last altar had a floating figure of some trapped soul nearby. Gee, would ‘Shackled Soul” be the correct book I wonder?
I placed it and heard some shifting of corridors and opening of gates nearby.
I found the newly opened path., followed it to the end and approached the replica of ‘Whispers of the Veil”.
It opened and upon it I found and retrieved the prize for all this boredom.
It was the King of Worm’s original journal outlining the ritual as he first performed it.
For obvious reasons I will not write down the ritual in my own journal.
What I can say is that parts of it require very rare components indeed and extremely precise ritual circles and runes.
Antioch must have guessed this would be the case and that is why ‘The Broker’ contacted him.
I touched the portal floating above the replica “Whispers of the Veil” and was instantly back on the mortal plane.
“Oh by The Divine! What is that smell?” I gasped after taking a breath.
“Sorry Majesty. Just entertaining the others while you were gone. Sharing is caring as my mother used to say.” explained Borgakh.
The others quickly moved away and Borgakh broke out in what I thought might be a smile but it is hard to tell with those tusks in the way.
“How long was I gone?” I asked her.
“About ten seconds I would say.”
“It was over ten hours for me. I have what the Necromancers were looking for.”
I held up the small journal and said, “These are Mannimarco’s own handwritten and illustrated notes on the shortened ritual to becoming a Lich.”
Torval asked, “Are we going straight to the College to lock that terrible thing away?”
“We are going to make a quick trip to a little apothecary. Depending on what I see there we may be the enterprising owner’s last customers.”
As we made our way back to Nafalilargus we passed the sealed chamber and I explained, “Before anybody asks I am not interested in what is behind the barrier. I must concentrate on known dangers to The Empire and not go looking behind every closed door for possible danger.”
Upon reaching the airship we entered the cabin and I asked Lentilus to ether us to Falkreath. One there I would come on deck and fly us over the area to find the apothecary.
For the two hours of the flight I locked myself in my room with strict instructions not to be disturbed.
I sat and studied Mannimarco’s notes. By the end of the two hours I was certain that I could, if I had the right components, turn myself into a Lich without needing to reference the notes.
This was dangerous knowledge. But I cannot destroy it. We must allow it to be studied and if a person abuses the knowledge they will be hunted and killed. That is the threat all Necromancers understand after Rigmor and I removed the ban on the study of such things. Abuse and die. No second chances.
When the bell rang I made my way on deck and flew to where the apothecary was supposed to be.
When we eventually spotted it there were several people, most probably Necromancers, gathered next to it. Of course they noticed Nafalilargus. It is pretty hard to miss a giant airship flying overhead.
I had to anchor the airship a fair distance from the apothecary due to the terrain. After The Sentinel did their sweep I came down and told them, “We will approach the hut at normal speed with weapons sheathed. It is up to them if they live or die.”
On the path to the apothecary was the usual marker that Necromancers look for. It tells them it is a place where they are welcome. Such markers are also very handy when you are wondering who lives in a cave or ruins.
Only two people were still outside the hut and in a moment of complete lunacy they attacked us.
They died in seconds and as we stood at the entry I ordered, “I go in alone. Just keep an eye out for the others. They would not crowd into a small hut where any spells they use would harm themselves.”
I entered and The Broker was sitting in a chair. It was obvious she was blind.
A quick look around told me many things. A banner proclaimed she was a member of the ‘Order of the Black Worm’. The skeletons and entrails told me she illegally harvested body parts.
As a member of ‘The Cult’ the woman before me has already sold her soul to one of the Daedric Princes. They aided his last attempt at conquering Tamriel during the Planemeld. They attacked the Mages Guild during the Oblivion Crises and The Hero of Kvatch killed Mannimarco for it.
I approached and asked, “You are The Broker?”
“Yes, and by the power I sense as you approach I know who you are even without my eyes. You are my Master’s nemesis. You stopped him just as his plan was on the brink of working.”
“He did threaten to drink my blood using my skull as the cup. Boethia might be a crude and disgusting harlot, when in female form, but never that rude to me. He deserved a whack to the knee with my mace.”
“That is not the only time you have crossed him. He has special plans for you.”
“He is no different than most of the other Daedric Princes in that regard. Such admiration comes with my occupation.”
“You have proven yourself capable but have you ever wondered if you fight for the right side?”
“Yes, briefly once or twice but not anymore. I wonder, who would you obey if an order from Necromancer’s Moon contradicted one from your Dark Lord?”
“You already know the answer to that.”
“Which ever one increased your power the most would be obeyed.”
“You are wise to our ways. If not to shop for my special goods, why are you here?”
“I killed Antioch on the way to Apocrypha. I have never heard of this man before. Was he well known?”
“Just now I heard the short work you made of some of his followers outside. He has, or should I say had, many of them. Expect more suicidal and fanatical attacks from such weaklings.”
“His own followers were already plotting against him. That is why your side will never win. Evil consumes evil. Mannimarco plotted against Molag Bal. Morag Sethius plotted against Molag Bal. Miraak plotted against Hermaeus Mora. Countless times the plots of my Lord’s enemies fail through treachery within their ranks. Quite often it is Daedric Prince against one or more Daedric Princes. Your symbol should be a python swallowing its own tail. Yet people like you sign up for what? Powers a fraction of what I, the Hero of Kvatch, The Nerevarine and many others who oppose them wield. There is an occasional problem, such as Mannimarco, but in the end they fall to those who work not on behalf of their Gods but for their love of the mortals who crawl over Nirn’s surface. That is true power and nothing can withstand it. No matter how many times that has been shown to be true there are those like you who think they can avoid that irrefutable truth.”
“Did Antioch find the treasure he sought?”
“Hold out your hand!”
The Broker did as I ordered and there was no fear in her actions or demeanour.
Holding tight to the journal I placed part of it flat onto her palm. Her sightless eyes widened and she gasped. I withdrew the book and waited. She started to shake. The desire, the want for the power within feet of her was consuming her.
“I thank you for confirming this was his. I would hate to think I put up with Hermaeus Mora’s boring slice of Oblivion for a fake. You see, I can sense my Gods and their dweomers whilst those of the Dark Lords and other evil are hidden from me.”
“Did you read it? Are you tempted? Imagine the power of a Dragonborn Lich! Imagine the following you would have! Imagine how helpless those cursed Gods of yours would be to prevent you taking their precious Nirn and its people from them!”
“If one or more Daedric Princes did not stop me my Gods eventually would. But it is not the fear of eventually failing that stops me using this knowledge or accepting the very attractive offers made by various Dark Lords. I told you I am already empowered by the unstoppable. The love that I have for mortals makes every other power seem trivial. The riches such love gives and receives are infinitely more precious than every physical treasure offered or could be offered. Add to that the love I share with my Queen and child and I am immune to your evil and that of your masters.”
She screeched, “You fool. If you will not use it I will!”
She rose and cast the most powerful Death Magic she knew. It was the type of spell Hedge Magic practitioners love because few enemies would have protective dweomers against it. I don’t bother with them as such spells are designed for mortal souls, not that of a Dov.
I backhanded her with all my might and she died.
I left the hut and marched angrily back to Nafalilargus with subdued Sentinel in tow.
As soon as I was in the cabin I ordered Talvas and the other Master Mages to go the apothecary, drag the body of The Broker outside and burn it with the hottest mage fire they can. Then they are to do the same with the building and all its contents.
When they left I went to the airship’s bar and grabbed three bottles of Ye Olde Special Brew.
I sat at the dining table and sculled the first.
Borgakh saw what I was doing, grabbed three bottles, sculled the first then sat opposite me.
“Are we getting shitfaced for any particular reason Wulf?” she asked.
“The last time I got drunk was my first night in the Imperial City. My excuse then was I thought I had lost Rigmor to Ser Robere de Fuckwit. That night turned out rather special if you have read my journals.”
“Yes, lots of lonely scholars read that part late at night in bed.”
“Yuck! Thanks for the image of Freathof that will take a few more bottles of this to erase.”
“You are welcome. What is eating at you Wulf?”
“Pure evil is what is eating at me. I endured it for all that time in Evermore and for some reason this blind old Necromancer has made me feel just as uneasy with her presence. I am a logical being. I like things to be logical. Minor things like stupid puzzles in crypts and lit lanterns in tombs that have been sealed for centuries irritate me. But mortals like ‘The Broker’ more than irritate me. They are so illogical their contemplation drags me down. I understand their motivations for pursuing power. Their willingness to die for their Daedric Prince or even another evil mortal just makes no sense whatsoever! Molag Bal is not going to give you a pat on the head for trying and a nice cushy apartment in Coldharbour. He will leave your soul to wander The Void. So why die for him?”
“Put the bottles back Wulf. The answer is not in the booze. Getting shitfaced for the fun of it is okay. Looking for answers as if the booze is a magic potion is not.”
“So where do I find the answer to this one my Orsimer friend?”
“Use your logic Wulf! It is obvious to me so you must be able to figure it out!”
“Give me a clue.”
“List the reasons why people give up and commit suicide.”
“That is obvious isn’t it? There is no logic behind suicide except what the victim uses to justify it to themselves.”
“What did you just do to The Broker?”
“I think she knew I was going to close her down. She would have known I would not just kill her for her profession. Not unless I caught her grave robbing or similar.”
“She probably spent years building up her clientele and that would require their trust. Even if she did open up again who would trust somebody who you have targeted? Did you let her know you have the ritual?”
“Yes. I was hoping it would make her realise the continuing reverence for Mannimarco was fruitless.”
“So you took away her livelihood and probably her ambition as well. She was left with nothing.”
“And The Void looked preferable to any other future she could envision?”
“Many attack us knowing they have no hope of surviving. It is easier and quicker than pouring a measure of poison and swallowing it.”
“You mean suicide by Wulf and friends?”
“Look back through your journals and you even write it down. ‘It was suicidal for them to attack’ and other similar terms. Stop looking for some deep and meaningful reason why evil prefers to die. It is despair. Nothing more complicated than that.”
“Well let’s have another bottle as celebration then. A bit slower this time. The stuff doesn’t taste too bad if you actually let it touch your tongue before pouring it down your throat.”
The four mages returned and Talvas asked, “Are we heading for the College or Museum?”
“Neither. I want to go to Bruma and if you don’t mind can you do the ether jump? It is important you get some practice at it. If I am going to sit on that damned throne for days on end I want to spend a few hours with my Queen first. Plus I wish to spend some time studying the armour before sealing it away in a few days. I want to see if I can learn the dweomers on some pieces such as the spell reflection.”
Talvas left to do the flying and I retired to my room a bit tipsy but certainly not drunk.
In a few hours I would be with my beloved. No God can offer me more than that.
If my writing in this journal entry is a bit wonky please forgive me. I blame Ye Olde Special Brew.