It was about 1:30AM when the exhausted Altano and the completely fresh me arrived in Windhelm.
“Why don’t you ride a horse?” I asked the Vigilant.
Altano replied, “I am allergic to them.”
I worked hard to stifle my sniggers before we entered Candlehearth Hall.
It was my least favourite inn of Skyrim. Elda still had the same sour look on her face that I remembered. Altano, with unwarranted pride, strode up to her,
- Altano: We are the Vigilants of Stendarr. We’ve received a report of a Daedra in your inn!
- Elda: Yes, he appeared here a few days ago and refuses to leave. Can you do something about him?
- Altano: Leave it to us. We’ll take care of that matter immediately.
- Wulf: Did he just appear or did somebody summon him?
- Elda: A woman quarrelled with a drunken patron and summoned him. The drunk got torn apart by the Daedra. I don’t even want to think about it anymore!
- Wulf: So you have a violent Daedra in your inn that could easily kill other patrons yet the doors are open to clients? I suppose you have not informed the Guards, Jarl or Legion garrison?
- Elda: No, I sent a message to your Temple. The Daedra is drunk in one of the rooms so I thought it was unfair to keep my regulars out.
- Wulf: Do you know the woman who summoned the Daedra? Do you know where she is now?
- Elda: I had never seen her before and have no idea where she went. She ran outside once she summoned the Daedra.
- Wulf: Can you describe her?
- Elda: Late thirties, Nord I think, long brown hair over each shoulder down to her breasts. Her eyes were glowing red!
- Wulf: Which room is he in?
- Elda: Just head down the corridor second on the left.
- Wulf: Thank you innkeeper. Come Altano and let us talk to our Daedra friend shall we.
Altano stomped down the corridor and I could tell he was most royally pissed off at me. I followed with a grin from ear to ear.
He stood at the doorway listening. I pushed past him and entered the room. Our quarry was lying down totally pickled and incapable of beating a drunken skeever in a fight.
I said to the seething Altano, “Another minion of Molag Bal and probably more stupid than Vernaccus.”
“Well he doesn’t seem very dangerous. I’ll leave this one to you and continue that search for the summoner.”
Altano stormed out of the room. Both he and I knew his search for the summoner would consist of him sitting on his arse doing absolutely nothing useful.
I nudged the Dremora with my foot and asked, “Do you have a name you drunken turd?”
“I am the mighty Kathutet!”
“Your commander will probably put you on a rack for several millennia for being drunk on duty. Say goodbye to Mundus for now.”
“What…no…let me sober up!”
He was half way to his feet when I hit him with the flat of my blade so hard he flipped through the air.
A neat pile of ashes landed on the carpet and there was no blood to clean up. The innkeeper will appreciate that little gesture.
I was not surprised to find Altano tucking into a decent meal and some mead. I told him, “Kathutet is back in Oblivion.”
“I’ve never seen such a poor excuse for a Daedra. Well the summoner is the important quarry. Judging by the traces of her Magicka, she must be somewhere nearby.”
“Repeat that again for me. I think I must have misheard you.”
“I said that judging by the traces of her Magicka, she must be somewhere nearby.”
“You must be the greatest mage that has ever been seen on Nirn! To detect a person’s Magicka and distinguish it from all the other sources of Magicka nearby is a feat that even Master Mages cannot do! And you did it while eating a pie! I am astounded.”
“Are you calling me a liar Novice?”
“You want me to do these tasks for you. That is why you were eager to recruit me as nobody else in your order has the skills. You knew who to look for but not why. So just tell me what you want doing and stop making up stories!”
Altano was going to argue the point but then a worried frown creased his brow. I gave him time for the realisation to sink in then said, “Both you and Keeper Thorondir are obsessed with my eyes. They are a unique blue thanks to my unusual parentage. Even the most pure-bred Nords rarely approach their colour. It is how your subconscious knew I was the one you needed. So just get on with telling me what is next!”
“I admit our recruitment was rather unusual.”
“Just trust it is The Divines making sure we work together. You are exhausted and need rest. Is there something I can do while you attend to that?”
“I have been listening to the gossip about the Daedra and there was nothing unusual. However there is rumour of a sinister man in Kynesgrove. Anyone who looks him in the eyes flies into a frenzy they say. As Vigilants of Stendarr we can’t overlook something like that. Go to Kynesgrove and check out this rumour.”
As I was walking towards the Windhelm stables I witnessed the Stable Master outside trying to control a not too happy horse. I was curious so asked why he was out this early in the morning arguing with a horse.
It turns out its owner had died and the Stable Master purchased it cheap from the deceased estate. But it was restless and disturbing the other horses, hence he was up at this early hour deciding what to do with it.
I asked him its name. It was a three year old gelding called Revel. I walked up to Revel and placed my hand on his snout and used his name. He instantly calmed. I looked in my gem bag, retrieved then threw a decent sized ruby to the Stable Master. As his eyes lit up at its worth I said, “Put a reasonable Imperial cavalry saddle on him and I will take him off your hands for that gem. That should compensate for the lost sleep no?”
The Stable Master grinned and soon found a worn but good quality saddle. I adjusted it so that Revel was comfortable then climbed aboard.
I shook the Stable Master’s hand then rode to Kynesgrove at a steady pace.
Revel was a fine horse. Coincidence we found each other? I will leave that up the reader of this journal to decide.
I could run just as fast as Revel could gallop and do it for longer. Trouble is I do not want to attract attention and that sort of athleticism certainly would. I might as well summon Blaze if I wanted all those whispers and fingers being pointed! With Revel I could at least travel faster without attracting such undue attention.
Revel genuinely seemed to enjoy the short ride to Kynesgrove and nudged me for a stroke on the snout when I tethered him outside the Braidwood Inn.
I entered and looked around. It did not take long to find a man with a bandage over his right eye drinking to drown his woes. I approached him and asked, “Rumour is that you drive people mad with a look. Is this true?”
“Yes, why are you asking? I’m so tired of this. Please leave me alone.”
“I assume the bandage on your right eye is to cover it up. Do you have no control over what it does?
“I upset some woman. I don’t know how as I did not say or do anything untoward. Anyway she gouged out my eye and shoved this strange stone in its place. After that everyone who looked me in the eyes went mad. I’m so tired.”
“What can you tell me about this woman?”
“I was too drunk to remember anything about her. Oh, she had nice hips! Hahaha…”
“The Vigilants of Stendarr have heard about this and will declare you some sort of evil.”
“I don’t want to die! I can just cover it up with this bandage and everything will be fine.”
“I am a healer. I don’t want you to die either but if it was the woman I think it was then that stone will send you mad. Let me remove it for you.”
“No…how do I know you are not some sort of madman? What about the pain while you probed around in there? No, go away!”
“My name is Mecine. May I ask you yours?”
“I am Balor.”
“Well Balor, I think you are a coward and as evil as the Vigilants say. Perhaps I should do their work for them?”
Balor stood in a rage and went to remove the bandage. I uppercut him and he fell like a sack of wheat. I caught him before he made too much noise and lowered him onto the bed. I then closed the door and prepared to remove the stone.
First I made sure all my defences were in place. I don’t think The Divine intend me to go berserk and slaughter the citizens of Kynesgrove.
I peeled back the bandage and a wave of rage emanated from the stone. I could detect no dweomer on it which is no surprise as it was obviously Daedric in nature. I tentatively touched the stone with my bare finger. I could detect Molag Bal’s nauseous presence stronger than any previous artefact I had discovered. Balon’s eye was ruined and infection was rampant. No wonder he was tired. He would have died in a few days! With that thing embedded in him I am sure he would not have rested peacefully.
Haste was needed and blood spurted dramatically as I removed the stone and all of the infected flesh. I cast healing on him then burnt the removed flesh with Magicka. When I was sure I had done all I could I sat next to the bed and waited for Balor to awake.
While waiting I inspected the stone. It looked like a dark ruby. It looked like the dried blood of Shor. It looked like the dried blood of Akatosh. It was the dried blood of an et-Ada. It was the dried blood of Molag Bal! The Herald of Akatosh told me to remember their shared heritage.
I wrapped it in cloth and put it inside the indestructible case that holds my latest journal.
The stone was too valuable an item to squander on a drunk in a tiny village like Kynesgrove. The two Dremora and one vampire we have encountered so far have been less than impressive. The Keeper and Altano appeared to have been manipulated into finding me. It all started to stink like a typical immortal plan building to some climax that I will have little pre-warning of. Is it Molag Bal’s plan and The Divine are hoping I counter it when the time comes?
The weakness of the opponents so far makes them seem like bread crumbs. I suppose I will follow them till I find the loaf.
Balor stirred and I helped him sit up. When his dizziness subsided I helped him stand.
“What did you do to me?” he demanded.
“I have saved your life Balor. I removed the stone and the poisoned flesh. I have healed you of physical damage but you need to go to a temple and have the infection removed. It will kill you if you don’t.”
“I can no longer feel it grinding away in my eye socket. What was it? Who was she?”
“It is a thing of pure evil and so was she. You were picked at random so when you said you did not do anything untoward that is the truth. You are guilty of nothing more than being the unlucky victim.”
“And the Vigilants will not come looking for me?”
“Not anymore. But remember what I said Balor. Go to the temple in Windhelm and get the infection removed. Do that or die.”
“I will and I thank you. Why did you help me?”
“Because I fight evil and what was done to you was the epitome of it.”
I left the inn and rode Revel back to Windhelm.
It was just before 6:00AM when I entered the inn. Altano was standing at the bottom of the stairs.
“The rumour was true but Balor is not evil.” I told him.
“That man, Balor, must be sent to Stendarr. What do you think will happen if that man loses control of his eye? Many people will suffer. Don’t you understand?”
“He does not deserve to die.”
“He must otherwise you cannot be a Vigilant of Stendarr anymore!”
It was about time I gave a lesson on the Divine Lord Stendarr.
“What is the Command of Stendarr?”
“Be kind and generous to the people of Tamriel. Protect the weak, heal the sick, and give to the needy.”
“What are the four Precepts of Stendarr?”
Altano growled, “I do not know what you are trying to prove. They are…
- Never refuse aid you are capable of providing.
- Go among the infirm and the wounded wherever you find them.
- Offer prayer to Stendarr every day.
- Do not hoard wealth or indulge physically.”
“Balor was attacked by the summoner. He did nothing to deserve her wrath. She did it on behalf of her Lord, Molag Bal. She inserted a Daedric artefact into his eye through force. This made him ill and would have eventually killed him. I am a healer. I removed the artefact and healed the damage. Balor will present himself to the Temple of Talos to be cured of the infection. He will live despite your need to kill what you do not try to understand!”
My voice rose so that all eyes were on us. I did not use the Thu’um. That would give away my identity.
“I obeyed the Command of Stendarr! I obeyed the first two Precepts of Stendarr! Killing him would require me to disobey the fundamentals of Lord Stendarr’s worship. To kill him would not send him to Stendarr but to a place adjudged by the Gods. He could have ended up in Aetherius, The Void, Sovngarde or the Oblivion plane of a Daedric Prince but not with Stendarr!”
Altano looked around at the crowd watching and knew he had made a terrible misjudgement.
“You say I cannot be a Vigilant of Stendarr because I did as Lord Stendarr commands! Would that be the judgment of the Keeper? If so I declare you all blasphemers and hypocrites!”
All eyes were on Altano. I had him cornered and he knew it.
He said, “I apologise for speaking in haste. I do not have the authority to decide your worthiness to be a Vigilant. Sometimes when dealing with so much evil we can forget the rules that should govern our actions. The Keeper would agree with your actions.”
The confrontation was over so the patrons went and found something more interesting to do.
I asked, “Did you find anything out about the summoner?”
“I received news from Stendarr’s Beacon. Apparently she’s been seen in Riften. Let’s go to the Beacon and get the details.”
This time Altano ran as I rode. The man was a fool and my opinion of the Vigilants was not improving. When I get back to the Imperial City I will have to see what charters or agreements they are protected by. I would not be averse to outlawing them altogether.
I did not mention the solidified drop of Molag Bal’s blood. Altano would demand it be destroyed. That would ensure a far more heated philosophical debate than the one we just had.
Stendarr’s Beacon was basically a military fort with most of it existing underground.
I rubbed down Revel and gave him some oats which he greedily ate with lots of snorting and general horse happiness.
An elder Vigilant was waiting for us,
- Altano: Long time no see Master Jacob. I’m glad to see you in good health.
- Jacob: Haha, don’t stand on ceremony Altano. We are both Vigilants here.
- Altano: True. Well I heard you’ve found the summoner.
- Jacob: Vigilants found her in the Bee and Barb in Riften. They tried to seize her but she summoned a powerful Daedra and they couldn’t do much more then. And even worse she summoned it in the middle of the inn and now it won’t leave. We are all occupied with chasing the summoner so I’m leaving the matter of the Daedra to you. Do you think you’re up to it?
- Wulf: He isn’t but I am. Seems I am the only Vigilant who knows how to kill. Altano is yet to wet his sword in my presence and these so called powerful Daedra have been mid-level Dremora.
- Jacob: Ah, the new recruit. Other Vigilant who have seen you mentioned your eyes and it is true. It is if Stendarr himself gazes at me. Nobody mentioned your cutting words though.
- Wulf: I care not for egos. We will take care of the Daedra in Riften.
I started walking towards Revel and yelled back to Altano, “I will meet you there. Don’t tally!”
I rode Revel at little more than a walk but knew I would still get to Riften well ahead of Altano. I must admit that traveling solo through some of the most picturesque parts of Skyrim was more than nostalgic, it was therapeutic!
I arrived in Riften and like I did at Whiterun, I used the spare time to enjoy the market. The noises, the smells and the goods on sale seemed no different than the time I purchased Rigmor’s necklace from Jimmy. It was sitting on her bedside table that day I invaded her privacy to find where she was. That terrible period when I thought I had lost her to Robere.
I saw Altano enter the Bee and Barb at about 10:45AM. I entered soon after.
I was amazed when Altano actually drew his weapon! The Dremora was standing next to a rather impressive pile of dirty dishes.
I really like the innkeepers but could not call out their names so instead yelled, “Innkeepers, move away and stay away!”
Then I addressed the unwanted guest, “Hey you second rate Dremora slime from Coldharbour. What is your name?”
“I am the mighty Amkaos. Are you going to run away like those other Vigilants?”
“No, I am going to send you back to Oblivion.”
He swung his hammer at me. I easily dodged it then stabbed him in the abdomen.
He turned into a pile of ash and I stated, “Job is done here!”
Altano whined, “I was going to ask him where the summoner is?”
“You know as well as I he would not tell you.”
“Let us head back and see if Jacob has located her.”
“We are only going to end up back here!”
We left Riften and I let Revel trot. That meant I arrived at the Beacon a bit before Altano.
I reported to Master Jacob, “The Dremora has been taken care of. Have you had any luck with the summoner?”
“Yes, we chased her down into the Ratway but couldn’t catch her. She now has a bodyguard clad in ebony armour. He is terribly strong and broke through our formation head-on. I’ve just sent a pursuit team after them both. I just hope everyone returns safely.”
“I can tell by the approaching wheezing that Altano is almost with us. What should we do next?”
“There was evidence of summoning within the Ratway. Search there and dispatch any Daedra you find.”
I passed Altano as I ran over to Revel. I laughed as he talked to Master Jacob, turned and started trudging back my way. I yelled, “I will look in the Ratway. See you in the Ragged Flagon.” Then headed back to Riften.
It was 1:30PM when I arrived in Riften once more.
I headed straight for the Ragged Flagon.
From the Ragged Flagon I entered The Ratway and found nothing to do with any summoning or summoner. So I entered the Ratway Warrens.
I was at the very end of the tunnels and drains where we had come to get Esbern back in 201. To my surprise Jo’vanni was there and dressed in rags.
I approached and asked, “Jo’vanni, what are you doing here and in rags? Where are your good clothes?”
“Jo’vanni came looking for Campaner’Ra and was robbed. At least they left Khajiit these rags.”
“Campaner’Ra is another Khajiit?”
“Yes, Jo’vanni is looking for Campaner’Ra. His precious Campaner’Ra! Where is she?”
“I am sorry but I do not know where Campaner’Ra is and have not seen her.”
“Jo’vanni tried to summon Daedra to help. I tried with sweet Skooma and liver of a skeever! But…but nothing happened! Jo’vanni did what the glowing women told him and nothing happened! Why?”
“You do not have the skills to summon a Daedra and control it. That takes years of learning. Who was the woman who lied to you?”
“Jo’vanni noticed…Jo’vanni is very smart. The liver of a skeever was not good enough…Jo’vanni noticed!”
“Calm down Jo’vanni. I can help find Campaner’Ra for you.”
“No. I think the liver in front of Jo’vanni is good. Good enough! Jo’vanni says so. Campaner’Ra will also say so.”
Jo’vanni went berserk and attacked me with tooth and nail.
I thrust my sword through his middle and out his back.
I could feel his mind desperately trying to tell me something in his dying moments. I opened the door enough to let him in.
I watched one of Jo’vanni’s memories. He was in a small cabin and a female Khajiit was cooking.
“Jo’vanni! Wake up Jo’vanni! It is morning!”
“Okay, this Khajiit is not deaf. He is getting up.”
“Get up Jo’vanni! Breakfast is ready.”
“What is it Campaner’Ra?”
“This one made your favourite tomato soup today. It will get cold if you do not eat it quickly.”
Jo’vanni made his way to the table and sat opposite Campaner’Ra. A steaming bowl of tomato soup and a large roll of warm bread were before him. It smelt wonderful and he could not wait to eat it.
Campaner’Ra said, “Today’s soup is delicious. This one is sure you will like it.”
“Campaner’Ra, where is the Skooma?”
“Are you still asleep? You said you will stop Skooma! You promised!”
“It was just a joke Campaner’Ra.”
“This one does not find it funny. Now eat the soup. It is getting cold.”
That memory faded and so did the feelings of love and contentment. They were replaced by heartbreak and horror.
Jo’vanni was in the same small cabin and before him was a male Khajiit working at a tanning rack.
“Mar’so, what are you doing in our home?” asked Jo’vanni.
“Pretty pelt. It is such a pretty pelt. It is so very very…pretty.”
“Mar’so, what is this pelt?”
“It is Campaner’Ra. It is precious Campaner’Ra. Mar’so and Campaner’Ra will be together soon.”
“You killed Campaner’Ra! Why?”
“Campaner’Ra would not look at Mar’so, but Mar’so wants to be with Campaner’Ra.”
“Khajiit will never forgive you Mar’so!”
“Are you jealous Jo’vanni? Jealousy makes one ugly. Mar’so used to be ugly but no more. Campaner’Ra is with him now.”
Jo’vanni started to weep. My mind wept with him.
“Goodbye Jo’vanni. Mar’so and Campaner’Ra are going on a journey. With Campaner’Ra this Khajiit will not be cold even in wintry Skyrim.”
That memory faded and I found I was myself within the dying mind of Jo’vanni. Before me was a floating, transparent Dremora.
Jo’vanni’s pleaded with me, “That one! It is inside Jo’vanni! Banish it! Please!”
I drew my sword and reduced the Dremora to ash.
“Thank you. Please take Campaner’Ra’s pelt from Mar’so! Lay it with Jo’vanni. Haelga’s…”
I had never been in the mind of somebody as they died before. I was thrown back to my own conscious with a violent force. Something did not want me hanging around for what comes next! The secrets of death were not mine to know.
I sensed something and checked Jo’vanni’s corpse. There was a good supply of Skooma which is not surprising. He probably went back to it after his beloved’s death.
In his pocket was what I could sense. It was another red stone. More of Morag Bal’s blood.
I placed it in a different compartment than the other in my journal case. Each compartment was small and intended to carry different inks. I have often used them to carry small artefacts such as rings and necklaces.
I proceeded out of the Ratway, through the Ragged Flagon and out into Riften. I had to check my anger and act normally as it was just after 5:00PM and the streets were full. One advantage of the time is Haelga’s Bunkhouse would be virtually empty as she normally only accepts workers as tenants.
When I entered the bunkhouse the lower floor was empty. I quietly went looking for Mar’so and soon found him on the second floor leaning against a wall.
“Mar’so. I will give you one chance to hand over the pelt!”
“No! Khajiit will never do this! Mar’so and Campaner’Ra are finally together! Why do you disturb us? Mar’so hates you! You smell like jealousy! Like Jo’vanni! Mar’so hates Jo’vanni!”
Mar’so drew his sword and attacked. It still had blood on it. It was most probably Campaner’Ra’s.
I blocked his sword thrust with my shield and decapitated him.
It was no surprise to find another red stone on his body. I took it and the pelt with me.
I made my way to Jo’vanni’s body and placed Campaner’Ra’s pelt under his tunic.
I did not know what part of Elsweyr they were from therefore did not know their preferred burial rituals. I was not going to leave them for the Skeevers to feast on. I prayed to Azura to take care of both of them then used Magicka to leave nothing but ashes behind.
Altano was sitting at the bar in the Ragged Flagon looking a bit dejected. I sat on a stool next to his and said cheerfully, “There was a summoner in the Ratway. It was a Khajiit and I have taken care of both him and a summoned Dremora.”
Altano replied sarcastically, “Indeed I am so fortunate to have such a competent partner. Let us make our way back to Stendarr’s Beacon. Perhaps you might have another chance to embarrass me?”
I replied cheerfully, “Or maybe they have successfully caught the summoner!”
I took it slow this time and did not ride ahead of Altano. That gave him plenty of time to glare at me and snarl occasionally.
I climbed down from Revel slowly when I saw the carnage before us. The stairs were covered in fresh blood and corpses lay where they were cut down. A warrior with a two handed sword stood leaning against the stonework with his arms crossed. He oozed contempt as Altano and I approached.
He ordered, “Halt! Do not try and approach any closer!”
“Are you the summoner’s guard? What are you going to do if I get closer? Call me names?”
“Then I will cut you down like all the others. If you don’t want to die, leave.”
“Why have you attacked the Beacon and killed these people?”
“I’m only doing my job. Is that a good enough reason for you?”
“So you are not a guard then. Some lowlife mercenary who thinks he is tough because he chopped up a few Vigilants. I suppose you did the same to the pursuit team.”
“Yes, I killed them all as well.”
A soon as I took a step forward he charged and met me at the bottom of the steps. He was above average with his two handed sword but it was not much effort to keep parrying and blocking with sword and shield.
I slowly drove him back up the steps till his back was against the wall from which he started.
I growled, “I am going to kill you now. Why? I’m only doing my job. Is that a good enough reason for you?”
I thrust my sword into his stomach. He collapsed and died.
I searched him and there was no red stone but his sword was obviously a work of Molag Bal’s. I left it where it lay. He had two letters on him. One was from his wife,
You wrote in your last letter that you found someone who can lift the curse, but somehow I have a bad feeling about this. Promise me you’ll be careful.
PS: Lilian made you a crown of flowers. I pray you will return to us before the flowers wither.
And the other was from his daughter,
I made a crown of flowers for you today. I think of you every minute. Please, find a cure soon and come back to us.
After reading them I looked at Taranis as a blue mist arose from him. I could not detect a dweomer so have no idea what it was.
Altano had not said a word. No reaction to his fellow Vigilants bodies lying sprawled in their own blood. No reaction to the news the pursuit team was also dead.
A trapdoor led to the underground part of the Beacon.
We climbed down to a silence only disturbed by the laboured breathing of somebody lower down.
Amongst the charred and mutilated bodies we found Master Jacob sitting on the floor injured.
I helped him stand up then cast a healing spell on him. His breathing improved immediately.
I asked, “What has happened Master Jacob?”
“We were attacked by the summoner. Everyone is dead but me. Again, again I’m the only one who survived.”
“Do you know who the summoner is?”
“The Daedra called her Bal. It is such a sinister name. She must be serving Molag Bal. Her goal can only be the altar underground.”
“It has been pretty obvious she was working for Molag Bal. Now you tell me there is an altar to that most evil of Dark Lords underneath one of the Vigilants major establishments! If I find the altar can be used to build a gate to Coldharbour and allow that bastard through I will make sure the Vigilants of Stendarr are nothing but a footnote in the history books.”
Neither man tried to defend their order.
“If she is below then we must stop her but not before I know what I face.”
“I cannot travel fast. You may need to help me down all those damn stairs.”
Altano finally spoke and said, “While you help Master Jacob I will scout ahead.”
I replied, “Do not enter any doorways. You are ill equipped to face even the weak Dremora!”
Altano moved ahead slowly. I decided to get some information from Master Jacob before proceeding.
“Tell me about this Bal woman.”
“Molag Bal must have given her power. Her Magicka is immensely powerful, nigh infinite.”
“If you can measure Magicka then what do you see within me.”
Master Jacob studied me for a few seconds and gasped.
“How are you more powerful than her?”
“My power was given by Nine Divines and not a single Daedric Prince. What else can you tell me about her?”
“She looks exactly like my dead wife. Just another trick by Molag Bal I’m sure.”
He was not sure at all.
“You know something that might make it more than a trick. Tell me!”
“Many Vigilants have been corrupted by him since our order was founded. I am one of them. I was dying and he whispered to me and offered to heal me in exchange for my wife’s soul.”
“You sacrificed your wife so you could live this miserable existence of persecuting the innocent. Molag Bal is welcome to your soul. You disgust me!”
“It is my greatest regret. I will never forget the look in her eyes.”
“Come Master Jacob before I cut you down. Maybe there is a chance at some redemption.”
We had not gone far into the tunnel leading down to the altar when Master Jacob fell to his knees. He was fighting the Dark Lord’s whispers, “Be gone Molag Bal! I will not yield to you!”
A pause then, “You’re right I did lose to you once. But this time I will overcome you!”
He got to his feet again but a bit further along the tunnel he was brought to his knees once more. This time his victims paraded before him. Molag Bal was trying to break him.
“Don’t look at me like that! Please, I beg you. I know I killed you and you and all of you. I killed innocents in the name of Stendarr!”
There was one deceased soul that sought revenge.
“Shut up murderer! I’m not like you! I’m not a monster like you! It wasn’t me! I’m not responsible for your death! Please, leave me alone!”
Master Jacob got to his feet once more and we continued along the tunnel.
There were statues of Shor with skeletons placed in positions of worship.
As we neared the entrance to the altar Master Jacob spoke to a kinder soul.
“Joshua, is that you? I’m so glad to see you! Where were you hiding? Thank you Joshua for your kind words but I can’t stop now.”
I said to them, “Any summoned and bound beings will return to Oblivion upon the summoner’s death. I will head straight for her. All you and Master Jacob have to do is defend yourselves till I kill her. Understood?”
They both nodded agreement. Master Jacob spoke to one last soul, “Master, I never thought I would see you again. Yes, I understand.”
I looked at them both and once again asked, “Do you understand? Just defend yourself. Do not try and better the Daedra in combat. Just survive till I kill the summoner.”
I faced the door and paused while I made sure all my mind protections were in place. Then we entered.
As the other two walked to the centre of the room I took a moment to process what was happening. Bal sat before an upright mace. I was pretty certain it was the infamous Mace of Molag Bal. A specially constructed and large platform was behind the mace. At a guess the mace acted as a conduit for the sort of power the Bridge of Sighs was meant to produce. Sorella had destroyed it with a single arrow thereby foiling Molag’s plan for a permanent portal between Coldharbour and Mundus. That triumph over Molag Bal has led to this. It is his latest attempt to breach Martin’s Barrier.
Once again it fell on my shoulders to save Mundus.
Bal said, “Now look at this. It seems I spared not just one but two more souls. What’s the matter Jacob?”
“I might have killed Altano but am no match for the other. But I did not obey because I am here to make up for my crimes, not add to them. No, the truth is I am really here to save you Rahel.”
“Well you are a bit late for that. The summoning ritual is almost done. Molag Bal is coming and he will end it all and shroud everything in red mist.”
“No Rahel, you know this is wrong!”
“No more talking! You are disturbing the ritual. Orthe! Ranyu! Take care of our guests!”
Jacob and Altano faced off with the Dremora and I ran as fast as I could towards Rahel. Her eyes opened wide when she saw my speed. She drew a sword similar to what her mercenary had been using. She started backing away and I cut her open from bellybutton to sternum.
She died and the Dremora were dragged back to Oblivion.
The spirit of Rahel appeared. I could tell she was not in Oblivion but amongst the stars. She was in Aetherius.
Master Jacob collapsed from wound inflicted by the Dremora he had faced. He yelled, “Rahel! Rahel? Is that you?”
She replied, “What has happened Jacob? Why are you yelling? Did you have a nightmare?”
“Yes, I thought I had lost you. I will never leave you alone again!”
“Jacob, I will always be with you. It’s alright.”
Rahel’s spirit faded and Jacob uttered one last “Rahel…” before he fell dead.
I searched Master Jacob and he had nothing on him but standard equipment.
I searched Rahel and retrieved another red stone and her journal. The following are the relevant entries,
“12 Second Seed 4E 183
Two days passed since Jacob went to Windhelm to hunt down the vampires. I have such a bad feeling about this… I’m worried he won’t return safely. I…
8 Frostfall 4E 185
When I woke up again, I was in our house. My treacherous husband Jacob does not seem to live here anymore.
9 Frostfall 4E 185
The nausea simply won’t go away. It hurts so badly!
10 Frostfall 4E 185
A somewhat sinister bard showed up and gave me the Mace of Molag Bal. After I touched the Mace my strength returned and my mind was flooded with the knowledge of magic.
The bard ordered me to spread the seeds of discord in this land.
23 Midyear 4E 194
I gave a potion that causes lycanthropy to a little girl with a sick father. After a few hours there was a lot of screaming heard from their house. I thought I had gotten used to it and free of guilt, but still…
11 Hearthfire 4E 203
I met a man who lost his daughter. He was drinking his life away in the taverns, and his eyes were completely empty. I taught him the Daedra summoning ritual and told him he can get in touch with his daughter that way. He left the tavern, laughing like a madman. We’ll see what he summons.
From here on the writing is hasty and the dates have not been written.
The Mace has been stolen. That thief will regret this, I swear! I’ll send him alive to Oblivion!
Summoning Vernaccus was a mistake. The moron blew up a house after using an overpowered spell in enclosed quarters. I can’t believe it… The city guards and the Vigilants of Stendarr may have noticed this. I left Vernaccus in the house. Maybe the idiot can buy me some time.”
I approached Altano who said, “It’s over. It’s all over. Bring me the mace Bal was using. We will need it.”
“That was not Bal. That was Rahel. It is far too soon to say this is over. Molag Bal does not give in so easy.”
“You may be right. Get me the mace and I’ll return to the Temple of Stendarr and ask the Keeper for advice on what to do with it.”
Here was one of those pivotal moments on which the fate of all mortals may be decided on my choice of action.
If Altano is not already under Molag’s control he certainly will be once I hand him the mace. He is afraid of its power and that is why he will not remove it from its pedestal himself. Rahel’s soul was already Molag’s and she was a fledgling vampire when handed the mace. It somehow imparted knowledge of the Conjuration School of Magicka upon her. But if it can be used as a conduit to Coldharbour I doubt that is the limit of its abilities. Much is written about the artefact and it does seem to provide the exact powers its wielder needs. Well the powers Molag Bal wants them to have to be precise.
There is no way I was supposed to let a direct portal to Coldharbour appear in this room. That is not how I am supposed to get there! I can imagine the Dark Lord’s amusement if the Champion of The Divine was traipsing all over Coldharbour looking for him when he is spreading chaos in person on Nirn.
So logically another opportunity needs to be available for me to travel there. The safest way for Mundus would be for me to be in a pocket realm and an Oblivion Gate to Coldharbour open from there.
I could see no way forward without giving Altano the mace. My instincts tell me that will set in motion the many more events the Herald of Akatosh said must be done before I can get to Coldharbour.
Decision made I lifted The Mace of Molag Bal from its pedestal. Of course I felt no Dweomer it being of Daedric creation. It was a mighty ugly and brutal looking weapon consisting of many sharpened spikes. It was finely balanced and Kharjo would probably salivate over it.
Altano looked surprised at my lack of concern at handling the weapon. He looked on in horror as I performed some intricate exercises as if at a weapon smith deciding on a purchase.
He sat down where Bal/Rahel did a few minutes earlier. I am sure he was unaware of the symbolism of that. I presented him the mace and he tentatively took it from me. Immediately his eyes widened before he controlled himself.
“Good. I will travel to the Temple at once. Meantime there is a task I would like you to perform. We had a report of a witch living with her child in a shack south of Ivarstead. Near that old Alchemist shack that seems to be a popular overnight stay.”
“I know where that is.”
“Witches are a serious threat in Skyrim. Give them the mercy of Stendarr.”
I decided not to argue morality with him at this stage. For him to give me this task and casually tell me to kill a woman and child indicates to me he is already having problems with coherent thought. Molag Bal is most likely offering untold power and an unlimited supply of Sweetrolls if he does as told.
I tried a test to see if I got any adverse reaction. I suggested, “A funeral for Master Jacob needs to be held as soon as possible and his eternal soul protected by the Rights of Arkay.”
Anger flickered across his face at the name of Molag’s hated adversary. He quickly composed himself and said, “Of course. Leave it to me to arrange. You just take care of those witches in the meantime and I’ll see you at the Temple of Stendarr.”
I had another close look at the altar before I left.
Its purpose was obvious by its sheer size. How many Vigilants were corrupted to ensure it was never destroyed?
I made my way outside. Revel was excited to see me.
“Sorry, no more oats for you right now my friend. When we arrive at the scary witch’s house I promise you can have some before I enter. I would hate to be turned into a frog and for you to go hungry!”
It would be early morning before I reached there if I rode Revel sensibly in the dark.
That gave me plenty of time to wrestle with my internal doubts about my decision to give Altano the mace.
For the next few hours I really missed having a Sentinel or two to berate me and tell me to get my shit together. Revel probably thought that as well but I don’t understand his language.
I did verbalise that I thought Master Jacob and Rahel would both be allowed into Aetherius. She was corrupted by a decision not of her making. He was corrupted when he used his free will to sacrifice Rahel. However in the end he admitted he had made a choice which was both selfish and wrong. At the end he fought back against Molag Bal’s whisperings and exercised his free will for the benefit of others, not just himself. I honestly believe the spirit of Rahel appearing was more for my benefit than his. That conversation could have been done inside Jacob’s head and I would have been none the wiser. Seeing one who has fallen for the whispers fight back gives me great hope. It was free will and love that defeated Morag Bal once again.
Revel snorted at that conclusion. I will take that as absolute agreement from my four legged companion.