The College of Winterhold, Hidden Valley, Temple of the Venerable Ones: Twisted worship.
I ordered the guildmembers to stay back. Fighting Falmer is one thing; tackling a Dovah is another.
As I ran towards the battle, I recognised Wuldzoknus and wondered why he decided to attack. I hit him with Dragonrend and only then did he realise he now faced me. It was too late to escape, and his fate inevitable.
The trouble with Wuldzoknus and other feathered Dov is you have to get through their plumage before you hit flesh. It can be like hacking away at thick jungle vines and undergrowth.
I unceremoniously shouldered a brave Legionnaire out of the way so I could tackle the Dovah head-on.
Another Dragonrend made Wuldzoknus rear up then I plunged my sword into his chest. The fight was over.
The surviving Legionnaires gathered about as I started to absorb a soul I did not want or need.
When that unpleasantness was over, I walked over to talk to Legate Kjaldesen. Illia and the Master Mages attended to the wounded. I was glad to see The Sentinel squad aboard Nafalilargus had barred Rigmor from descending the ladder.
The Legate gave a crisp salute then stood waiting for me to speak.
“What casualties Legate?” I asked him.
“Four dead. There are six injured; however, it looks like your mages will fix them up.”
“You already lost three to the Forlorn, so that makes this assignment deadlier than most wars. I am sorry, they were good and brave soldiers.”
“Three attacks on this camp in less than two days your Majesty.”
“If you are wondering why then I am sorry, I have no answers.”
“It is what it is. General Tullius was worried about Falmer, yet we have fought everything but them it seems.”
“There was plenty of them in the place we just visited. We will be travelling in the airship soon, but you need to keep guarding this camp. We will eventually be back to pack it all up. Urgency prevents us from doing so right now.”
“I will send a scout with an order for replacements from the nearest fort. I will prey The Divines keep you and our Queen safe.”
I saluted the Legate and boarded Nafalilargus. As we waited for the Master Mages to return from attending the injured, I sat with Rigmor. I told her what happened in the Temple of Trinimac and why we were travelling to the Hidden Valley.
When I finished, she said, “Doesn’t Deathweaver realise how pathetic this plan is? At least the New Order had several large armies and years of planning behind their plot with Malacath.”
“This feels like a desperate throw of the dice by Malacath. There is potential for great harm to befall many on the surface, but the odds are very long of the Falmer benefitting. Deathweaver is expendable and does not realise the entirety of the plan.”
“Malacath does not care if Deathweaver lives. He just needs Deathweaver to stir up the Falmer and hand the weapon over to a person who will then create chaos.”
“There is no endgame like there was with the New Order plot. Nothing in this plan will enable Malacath to breach Martin’s Barrier and allow him to roam Nirn. It is petty revenge on the mortals so beloved by The Divine.”
“Maybe even petty revenge against you for thwarting him?”
“He would view me as a puppet of The Divine as Deathweaver is his. I think the concept of free will when dealing with a God is a foreign concept to him. Malacath is a Daedric Prince and none of the et-Ada that was Trinimac survives.”
“I will visit the College of Winterhold while you are visiting the Hidden Valley. I will take my Sentinel Squad, and Master Mages with me so will be in no danger.”
“The dock is on their bridge so no, there is no danger. I am sure Tolfdir and the others would appreciate the College’s adopted daughter paying a visit.”
“I am sort of their daughter, aren’t I? That is a pleasant thought, Wulf. You do have your moments.”
“Just wait for a while after we leave as I want to keep my visit quiet. That would be hard to do with two Sentinel squads, the Explorers Guild and the three Master Mages marching into the College all at once!”
“Will I get to see Hidden Valley one day?”
“Yes, you will. Blackreach as well. I would also like to show you Solstheim during the day.”
“Just be careful with Deathweaver.”
I nodded then left the table to seek out Kyre.
I found him and said, “I need you to re-emphasis to the others my warning about staying away from Dreamweaver.”
“Was he that much of a danger?”
“He had a Dweomer on him I have only ever encountered before on the strongest Lich. It absorbs your lifeforce quickly and the King of Worms, Mannimarco, had a stronger and deadlier version but only marginally. This armour I wear protected me against most of the damage; however, guild members would last seconds before dropping dead.”
“I will tell them again.”
“I will also tell Auryen what I am about to tell you. Do not subject Knight-Paladin Gelebor to a lot of questions. He was locked away in the Grand Chantry of Auriel for millennia. He has very little knowledge of what occurred during the exodus. As we travel through Hidden Valley, you will learn a lot from just listening to what he has to say without the need for questions.”
“Okay, I will also tell the others that.”
“Good, I will go and speak to Auryen.”
I interrupted the Chief Librarian arguing with Latoria over how much of the airship was Dwemer ingenuity and how much was Khajiit know-how. It was all light-hearted. There is no denying the Khajiit of Elsweyr figured out what the Altmer could not.
I told Auryen, “I have asked Kyre, who will pass it on the others, not to inundate Knight-Paladin Gelebor with questions. He is as ignorant about the exodus as we are.”
“I understand. It will be exciting enough just to hear his insights as we travel.”
“I also hope you understand the need to keep the Hidden Valley location secret. The way I described in my journals is now closed. The Wayshrine in the first cave is blocked to all but enlightened. We have placed many warnings that there is no way to escape the caves if you enter them.”
“I wonder how many Mer hating brutes have ignored that and are now wishing they hadn’t.”
“That was why I asked Knight-Paladin Gelebor to restrict access. If a bunch of idiotic Ysgramor followers vanish and never seen again, maybe their friends will learn something. Doubtful but still, the warnings are clear.”
“Is there no way out?”
“There is, but I doubt many of them would be bright enough to figure it out.”
I took Latoria and Illia into my private chambers and taught them the spell to trigger the teleport. It is relatively simple, but Latoria is the type of person who needs a lot of reassurance which Illia and me were happy to provide. Eventually, the bell rang to let us know we had arrived in sunny Winterhold.
I let The Sentinel do a quick sweep of the docking area, kissed Rigmor goodbye then exited into a snow blizzard.
It was just after 11:30 AM but was almost midnight in terms of darkness.
Madras stood shivering on the gangplank and asked me, “How do they keep the Atronach guards under control?”
“The blue light you see coming from the wells stop unwanted people from crossing the bridge. They also set the boundaries for the Atronach. They are not under any sort of mind control, I would not allow that, but natively wish to protect those who summoned them.”
“F…f…fascinating. Ca…ca…can we get out of the cold now?”
We quickly made out way along the bridge and into the College. Although we passed a lot of people, they all knew not to bother me or my entourage.
We entered the Arch-Mage quarters, and I showed Latoria the teleport device.
“The incantation itself is hidden within the glyphs orbiting the globe. As you start to think of where it is you wish to go, only the relevant glyphs will remain.”
“Latoria wonders where else can this teleport device take people?”
“A few places but it tends to drain your stamina and Magicka. Knight-Paladin Gelebor’s Dweomer is superior. I have asked him to leave the other teleports for us to figure out.”
“The Magicka powering it, Latoria thinks that it is from a Welkynd stone.”
“It is but we have used some Dwemer technology to transport it along a conduit so the stone can remain hidden and secure.”
“Latoria is ready.”
I smiled at the Khajiit mage and gathered The Sentinel around me. I then muttered the incantation, and we were instantly standing next to the Wayshrine of Sight in the Hidden Valley.
A few seconds later, Latoria and the other guild members appeared. She had a massive grin on her face which contrasted with the relief shown on the faces of the others.
“Well done Latoria, but is Madras supposed to have a tail?” I asked.
As Madras quickly had a look at his rear-end the rest of us laughed at his expense.
Auryen was staring at one of the ghostly prelates and asked me, “Is he one of the guides for the initiates visiting the Wayshrines?”
“Yes, that is Prelate Athring, and he guides them here, at the Wayshrine of Sight.”
“Will he talk to you?”
“Yes, but it won’t be anything useful.”
I approached Prelate Athring, who said, “May Auri-El’s light guide you in your darkest hours.”
Auryen laughed then quipped, “Not much of a conversationalist, then?”
“No, that is all he will say unless you are an initiate.”
Madras was standing inside the Wayshrine. I entered it, and he asked, “So each of these is a portal rather than a teleport?”
“Yes. Portals you just step though with no incantation needed, like Oblivion Gates. They move you via the ether the same as a teleport. The working principle is the same, and just the trigger is different.”
“Are there other portals apart from the Wayshrines in this valley?”
“Yes, there are some triggered by the Paragons I collected which are now in the museum. They are sort of a key to restrict access and are very cumbersome to carry, which is deliberate.”
“And Dwemer portals work the same way?”
“Yes. The Ayleid ones look and work identical to these. The Dwemer ones are their usual boring form matches function style. They certainly didn’t try to pretty up the one to the Scuttling Void I recently used.”
“My skin crawls just thinking about such a place.”
“Even Coldharbour was more pleasant.”
Everybody gathered close by, then I pointed to a portal and said, “This portal takes you to the Temple Balcony. As you can see, there is not much room in the Wayshrine. So as soon as you step through the portal, you will appear next to the other Wayshrine. Do not wander away. Do not touch anything. The Temple Balcony is part of the Great Chantry of Auri-El. It is where Lord Akatosh used to speak to the Arch-Curate and is, therefore, a most sacred place. Please show respect.”
Inigo asked, “Will he ever have another Arch-Curate?”
“I don’t know. It took a tremendous effort by Lord Akatosh to speak to High Queen Rigmor, but that was due to the weirdness after Nagasel. Last time he spoke to us we were teleported to a pocket plane, and even then, it was his Steward, his Avatar, that spoke to us. Lady Mara and Lady Azura still speak regularly with their Priests and Priestesses. Lady Dibella still speaks through a single mortal, The Sybil. Lord Akatosh seems to be having more problems than those Gods at the moment. Maybe there is a reason why he rarely does it, and that reason precludes another Arch-Curate. I simply don’t know.”
We stepped through the portal. Knight-Paladin Gelebor was waiting for us. As I spoke to him, the others migrated to the balcony edge that overlooks the frozen lake.
“Greetings Knight-Paladin Gelebor, I hope I find you well.”
“Well and full of curiosity Emperor Septim. Is your unexpected, but very welcome, visit concerning the Temple of Phynaster excavation?”
“That, and a whole lot more. Let me explain…”
I gave Knight-Paladin Gelebor a detailed description of the last few days. He became very agitated when I explained the reason why we had come to the Hidden Valley. He declared, “If you are hesitant to ask for my assistance, do not be so. I know of the place you seek; it is called the ‘Temple of the Venerable Ones’ and was a central place of worship. It is currently locked, and we could not gain access. None of my people know who locked it or when or why.”
“Somebody has visited the valley without your knowledge?”
“Some time since The Betrayal that must be the case. The Temple should always be open to worshippers.”
“Well, maybe we might solve that mystery, but first we must see if we can get inside.”
“It seems the Dark Lord thinks we have the means.”
“We have many artefacts to do with your pantheon. Let us hope they prove to be the keys we need.”
“It would be a good thing for my people to have it open once again. I must warn you that the Betrayed in the area leading to and within the Glacial Crevice will be hostile. They are still territorial and have been unwilling to speak to us.”
“We shall only attack those who are hostile to us. You have my word.”
“Do you remember how to get to the Glacial Crevice?”
“Via the Shrine of Resolution. That is the nearest Wayshrine, is it not?”
“Correct. Let us go for I am eager to remove any evil within this valley.”
I warned the others only to attack Falmer that prove hostile. We then queued up and entered the portal to the Shrine of Resolution.
A bit further on from the Shrine of Resolution we had to cross a glacier. I pointed upwards and told the others, “That is where we just were. It may seem we are about to climb towards it, but this place is deceiving. There are many different tracks and valleys, and it is easy to get lost.”
Gelebor added, “You will all see how deceiving when we get close to the Temple of the Venerable Ones. The Falmer have built many bridges and walkways to ease our travel there, but they will not be happy about us trespassing.”
“It is a pity if we have to use violence.”
“It is a lesson for those that survive that there is no need for hostility. Others within the tunnels have learnt and know that.”
“Perhaps those who become aggressive have already fallen under the sway of Deathweaver?”
“Or they simply haven’t forgotten the aggression my brother seems to have instilled within them.”
It was easy to enjoy the walk in the areas Falmer were not a danger.
Moonstone ore was plentiful within the valley.
Some Falmer saw us approaching and attacked without hesitation despite Gelebor greeting them.
We were soon in another area free of Falmer, however the reprieve would be brief.
At the entrance to the Glacial Crevice, I said, “This place has a lot of Falmer who are likely aggressive. The rule still applies. Only attack those who mean us harm.”
We encountered two territorial Frost Trolls upon entering the crevice. I silently took them down with my bow.
Gelebor pointed to where we had to go. No matter how sneaky we tried to be, Falmer were noticing us and attacking. That was not something that usually happened!
When I looked behind the reason was immediately apparent.
I whispered to Latoria, “The Falmer can’t see however they can detect heat, especially in this cold environment, from a great distance.” She quickly extinguished the torch with an embarrassed look on her face. We suffered few attacks after that.
It was inevitable we would encounter Falmer along the narrow pathways. If they did no detect us, their tamed Chaurus always did, and it was better to take them out from range. Their accuracy with the poison they spat at us was not good from afar.
We eventually arrived at a recently uncovered tunnel leading away from the main path. Last time I visited, I would have walked right past it without even knowing it was there.
Gelebor said, “Many of my people that we discovered in stasis and revived expressed a desire to visit this temple. Several months ago, we excavated what looked like a deliberate rockfall blocking this tunnel. That is when we found the temple was locked. This area is free of aggressive Betrayed. We can talk as we walk.”
As we started along the tunnel, I said to Knight-Paladin Gelebor, “I have been thinking about who may have placed the Neb-Crescen within this temple.”
“The one who placed the spear back into the tomb of the Snow Prince?”
“Yes, The Nerevarine. He would have the skill and knowledge.”
“It seems he was a formidable individual!”
“He still is. He is cursed with immortality and still lives. We worked together recently to thwart another threat. He was the Champion of Azura, a title I now carry, and is still devoted to her. Yet much of what he has done to aid others has also helped The Divines and your Gods.”
“It seems the dividing line between Aedra and Daedra is not as defined as many believe.”
“Ask any Khajiit, and they will tell you there is no dividing line. I owe a lot to Azura and Boethia. I think it is just a matter of recognising motivations when dealing with any of the Gods.”
“But the one that created the Neb-Crescen, he is not easily read?”
“Lord Sheogorath is unpredictable, and there is no evading him if he wishes your ‘aid’ with something. The best strategy with him is to be polite.”
“My people never had much to do with the Dark Lords. It seems the Ayleid should have avoided them.”
“The Dunmer and Khajiit both demonstrate that you can worship Daedric Princes without being seduced by the whispers of the ones we label ‘evil’. Much of what transpired in the name of The Divines is evil. Powerful mortals can and do twist religion to suit their agenda.”
We stood before the entrance to the temple.
Below and far in the distance was where we entered the Glacial Crevice.
In front of the locked gate was a deep, round slot.
I said to Auryen, “This looks like it will hold a staff. We do not have one made by Auri-El. I used Akatosh’s forge to make those I have given the Sentinel Mages.”
Gelebor said incredulously, “What? Can I have a look, please?”
Illia handed him her staff, and he held it with trembling hands. Then he exclaimed, “I can sense Auri-El strongly. You have made other things at this forge?”
“The armour I am wearing. Each piece has Dweomer from one or more of the Nine Divine. My sword and bow as well. I use his smelter to make metal from the souls of Dov. From that metal, I forged these items on the same anvil as Auri-El’s bow.”
Gelebor handed the staff back to Illia then I gave him my sword. Knight-Paladin Gelebor is a potent mage as well as an expert swordsman. He could instantly tell my sword was a mighty weapon in terms of Dweomer, speed and sharpness. He said, “This is as deadly a weapon as I have ever encountered. Suitable for somebody who faces down Gods.”
He gave back my sword with a slight bow and smile.
I said to Auryen, “I recovered the Staff of the Sun Prince from Alftand. That will most probably be the key to this door.”
Gelebor gasped then asked, “He was Arch-Curate of Auri-El after my brother spurned our God. He never made it back to the Grand Chantry after he was so named.”
“The Dwemer had placed his staff and other powerful relics of your people in stasis chambers. It would seem that he too fell victim to their treachery.”
Eriana retrieved the Staff of the Sun Prince from her pack then handed it to me. I gave it to Gelebor and smiled as he carefully placed it into the slot.
Counterclockwise, lines of energy emanated from the pedestal on which the slot stood. One by one, they appeared till there were six.
There was a loud click. The door to the temple was now unlocked, so we entered.
A round skydome provided light. Along each wall were locked rooms.
At the far end was a Snow Elf statue of Auri-El harnessing the power of the Sun.
Upon a platform was an apparatus which stood before the symbol for Jephre, also known as Y’frre.
- Wulf: The harmony of Y’frre shall forever entomb the great evil of our folly. Only by the tone of his voice shall the chambers open.
- Madras: The first paragraph of the prophecy.
- Gelebor: See the six chains, three either side of Jephre’s symbol. Each one will hold a chime. After you have placed the chimes in their correct sequence, you enable the device, and it will play a tune. A proper tune will unlock an associated door.
- Wulf: It has a socket similar to those into which I placed Paragons.
- Gelebor: A Harmonic Touchstone is needed. It fits into that socket, not a Paragon.
- Wulf: It is probably behind one of the locked doors not opened by the chimes.
Opposite the apparatus was a set of eight chimes with the deepest tone on the left. Latoria and Illia were studying them.
- Wulf: Latoria and Illia, we have the solution to the correct sequences.
- Latoria: Latoria knows! The tally page at the end of the Falmer Tome.
- Illia: Yes, but there is one problem.
- Wulf: There are not enough chimes.
- Illia: There are enough to play all of the notes as there are six chains and eight chimes.
- Latoria: But the last sequence has the number nine in it. Latoria thinks the missing chime will be in one of the other locked rooms.
- Wulf: That is what I think, as well. Some doors have slot locks and do not open via this apparatus.
- Eriana: Latoria, how did you remember the last sequence has a nine in it?
- Latoria: Latoria is a mage. This Khajiit must remember many complicated things otherwise disaster when casting spells or mixing potions.
- Illia: An excellent memory is a skill all mages have.
- Wulf: Let us see if we can open the other doors.
- Latoria: Latoria hopes the Harmonic Touchstone and ninth chime are behind those doors.
The first door we looked at barred the way to a Shrine of Phynaster. A slot for a staff acted as the lock.
“Well, we have two staves. Just a guess but let’s try the Snow Prince’s staff we found in Irkngthand.”
Eriana retrieved the staff from her backpack then inserted it into the slot.
There was a click, and the doors swung open.
In front of the Shrine of Phynaster was a small slot.
We approached and had a close look. I said, “Another common type of lock and we have the key. I found it in Northwatch Keep after rescuing Thorland Grey-Mane and other prisoners.”
Inigo said, “You mean after you slaughtered every single Thalmor stationed there only months after doing the same thing with High Queen Rigmor.”
“They were the aggressors both times.”
Auryen had the Ring of Phynaster.
He took it out of his pocket, then inserted it into the slot.
A hidden door opened up at the back of the small room. Inside was what looked like half of a Paragon floating and spinning above a font.
I retrieved it then said to Knight-Paladin Gelebor, “This seems to be one half.”
He took it from me, studied it for a few seconds then replied, “It is one half of the Harmonic Touchstone. If we find the other half, I can easily fuse them back together.”
“They must have cut it in half to make it harder to access the apparatus.”
“It would seem so.”
Another slot that required a staff locked the next door. Illia was carrying the staff that once belonged to the High Priestess of the Skysisters. We had recovered it from Alftand the week before.
Illia inserted the staff. The door automatically swung open, and we had access to the Shrine of Syrabane.
In front of it was another ring socket. I said, “I have the relic for this one. I have been studying it after finding it in Driftshade Refuge.”
Auryen asked, “You have Syrabane’s ring?”
“Yes, but am quite disappointed with the Dweomer placed upon it!”
“It is also known as the Warlock’s Ring; therefore, I am surprised to hear it is not very powerful.”
I inserted the ring into the slot.
As expected, a secret door opened to reveal the second half of the Harmonic Touchstone. I retrieved it then gave it to Gelebor.
He handed the two pieces back to me and asked me to channel as much Magicka as I could into them while holding them together. As I did this, Knight-Paladin Gelebor closed his eyes then muttered an incantation in his native tongue.
There was a brief flash, and the Harmonic Touchstone was whole once more.
“That was pretty impressive!” I told Gelebor.
“Usually I would use the Magicka stored within a Star Stone, what you call a Welkynd Stone. But I thought you might have enough to do it. I am truly amazed by how much Magicka you have!”
“More than likely, it is a blessing from The Divines to aid in my tasks.”
“Have you ever run out of Magicka in a battle?”
“Not without something draining it via a Dweomer.”
We walked up the steps to the platform then discussed how to do use chimes.
- Wulf: Explain exactly how this works please Knight-Templar Gelebor.
- Gelebor: Place the Harmonic Touchstone into its holder. Place several chimes in the order you desire then touch the Harmonic Touchstone. The sequence of notes will play, and hopefully, one of the locked doors will open.
- Wulf: Does anything happen if we play the wrong sequence of notes?
- Gelebor: Not usually, but I do not know if there are any hidden penalties within this temple.
- Wulf: There are seven doors with Auri-El’s sun symbol on them and seven rows of numbers. Assuming the first chime on the left, the lowest tone, is number one and the highest tone, the chime furthest on the right, is number eight then the sequences are easily placed.
- Kyre: When facing the chains, the one furthest to the left is the first tone, and the one furthest to the right is the sixth tone.
- Wulf: That is what we will assume. Let’s try the first sequence and see what happens. The numbers are 3 5 4 2 1.
I inserted the Harmonic Touchstone into its cradle.
We then arranged the chimes in the correct sequence.
I touched the Harmonic Touchstone, the sequence of notes played, and one of the doors opened.
Inside the previously locked room was a fortune in gems and gold.
We did not need the gold or gems so left them in place.
I returned to the platform and did the next four sequences.
From the first five rooms, we retrieved a fancy dagger and a filled Dwemer Lexicon.
I handed the lexicon to Madras who exclaimed, “OH MY! Do you know what this is your Majesty?”
“I am hoping it is a Constellation Cube for the Dwemer Planetarium.”
“It has similar glyphs on it to the one we already have so I think it is one of them. I can’t wait to see what it has to teach us.”
“Well you will have to wait unless you carry a planetarium around in your pockets.”
Madras wandered off to tell anybody who would listen fascinating facts about the Dwemer Planetarium and how thrilling it will be to plug in the lexicon.
We set up the sequence for the sixth door and played it. When we inspected the treasure, the ninth chime was sitting atop a pile of gold.
I set up the seventh and last sequence of chimes then warned everybody, “I believe this will open the last door in front of the platform and reveal the Neb-Crescen. If it does, Deathweaver will soon follow. I believe he will teleport in then grab the weapon and attack.”
Gelebor asked, “What do you wish us to do?”
“Stay as far back as possible. I will try and stop Deathweaver from getting close to the rest of you. I will be relying on you all to keep any other Falmer from my back. If I fall in battle, you are to run to the nearest Wayshrine and escape to the Great Chantry of Auri-El. If I become berserk due to the Neb-Crescen, you are to do the same thing. None of you is to tackle Deathweaver. You will die if you do!”
No other words were needed. Everybody was ready.
I touched the Harmonic Touchstone. The chimes played in sequence and the last door opened to reveal the Neb-Crescen floating above a font.
Gelebor called out, “A portal is opening.”
Deathweaver and many other Falmer appeared from the ether.
Malacath’s puppet immediately started the predictable moronic boasting, “Hahaha, you are fools! Did you truly think you just happened to stumble upon our lairs and happen to have my plan fall upon your ears?”
I replied, “Gosh, what a clever scheme, and we fell for it. How silly of us!”
Deathweaver was momentarily taken aback as the temple filled with the laughter of my companions. Alas, it was only a temporary relief from his banal ravings. He said, “You have been unwitting puppets of Mauloch’s grand design, one which now comes to fruition.”
Just then the Snow Elf spirit appeared before the apparatus. She looked at Deathweaver then spoke something in her native language.
Gelebor shouted to me, “She told Deathweaver that she is the High Priestess of the Skysisters. She accused him of unforgivable blasphemy and that Your Majesty is the instrument of Auri-El’s wrath.”
I used my Thu’um and said,
“DEATHWEAVER, WE HAVE KNOWN ALL ALONG WHAT YOUR PLANS ARE. I AM THE SON OF AURI-EL WHO DENIED MAULOCH WITHIN HIS REALM AND DEFEATED HIS GREAT ARMIES IN BATTLE. YOU CAN’T WIN AND NEED NOT DIE. STOP LISTENING TO MAULOCH. DO NOT PICK UP THE BLADE.”
Deathweaver decided to believe Malacath’s lies even when faced with the undeniable truth. He yelled back, “More lies! I thank you for your service in unlocking Auriel’s baleful prison. Now I will collect my prize. KILL THEM ALL!”
I leapt over the balcony then ran toward Deathweaver as he retrieved the Neb-Crescen. In the background, I could hear the clash of weapons and the discharge of spells. The Falmer would only last seconds against the onslaught.
Deathweaver stood before me with the sword in his hands. He gleefully said, “Now I am invincible. Those above will burn and die for what happened to us.”
“You now belong to Sheogorath. You probably do not even know who that is. You will learn why they call him the Mad God when he plays with your soul for eternity.”
Deathweaver snarled as he charged at me.
I did a weak Unrelenting Force that threw him backwards. Neb-Crescen flew from his hand and clattered onto the ground.
I walked casually up to him as she scrambled in panic to retrieve his prize. We stood facing each other once again.
“That was a tiny amount of the power Auri-El has given me. I destroyed your army back in the Temple of Trinimac. My companions will soon kill every one of the Betrayed in this temple. Your soul is lost. Let us get this over with.”
I cut Deathweaver several times, but he was berserk. Nothing short of death was going to stop him.
Suddenly a stasis field surrounded Deathweaver. Unlike the beams of energy Malacath used to keep him alive during our previous encounter, this field was impenetrable, I was at a loss as to how to combat it. The air around us shimmered as I blocked Deathweaver’s blows with my shield.
A melody filled the temple. It was not a simple sequence of single notes like those that unlocked the doors. It was the most complex combination of harmonies and rhythm I have ever heard. It seemed as if a thousand expert harpists were telling the story of life via exquisite music. It was the music of a God!
I was angry at Gelebor for interrupting my enjoyment of the music with his voice. He yelled, “Your Majesty, The High Priestess has her hand on the harp and seems to be in a trance. Can you hear the song of Y’frre? We are blessed!”
The shimmer around Deathweaver vanished along with the stasis field. A soon as it dropped, I knocked Neb-Crescen flying with my shield.
Deathweaver shrieked as his prize clattered onto the ground once more. He turned to retrieve it, so I sliced him across the midsection.
He fell then staggered to his feet again. I plunged my sword into his belly.
Deathweaver lay bleeding out in a pool of blood as I stood over him.
He cried pitifully, “Why have you abandoned me Trinimac? I have fought these blasphemers and deserve a reward. Why?”
It was no use speaking to him. I realised then that he was not even alive and hadn’t been for a long time. He was a Lich. He was most probably insane from the moment he subjected himself to the dark rituals dictated by Malacath.
I plunged my sword into Deathweaver’s heart. He gurgled, rolled over and was no more. Sheogorath will be welcoming him as I looked around at the carnage.
The beautiful music was no more. All that was left was the stench of death.
I walked over to the Neb-Crescen. Would I go berserk or turn into a megalomaniac if I touched it? No, my instinct told me Malacath was caught unaware by Sheogorath’s toy. I picked up the sword and easily resisted the violent urges it generated.
I called out to the others, “I am just going to put this somewhere safe. I will be back in a minute or two!”
I put on my Ayleid pendant, which instantly teleported me to my pocket realm. I placed Neb-Crescen inside one of the chests then removed the pendant.
My companions were huddled together at the far end of the Temple. They were busy talking amongst themselves but fell silent as I approached.
- Wulf: Neb-Crescen is locked in my pocket plane and poses no more danger.
- Gelebor: I do not know how to feel. We witnessed great evil but also heard the music of a God.
- Wulf: Did the high Priestess say any more before she left?
- Gelebor: She walked to where you are standing and thanked us all on behalf of Auri-El. Then she vanished.
- Wulf: Deathweaver was not evil, and I doubt there is such a thing when dealing with the Daedric Lords. They are who they are, and they prey upon the weak as wolves and other predators do. Deathweaver was just as much a victim as Professor Marassi. I keep making the mistake of blaming mortals who are simply weapons wielded by Gods.
- Inigo: But what about free will, the mortal ability to choose that you champion most of the time?
- Wulf: Malacath moulded him more than whispered in his ear. No chance to make an informed yes or no decision was given to Deathweaver because he thought he was dealing with Trinimac. He still seemed confused between the two at the end. I don’t think he ever differentiated between the et-Ada that was Trinimac and the Daedra that is Malacath.
- Inigo: And Malacath would have used that to manipulate him.
- Wulf: Yes, Deathweaver would have started off obeying what his God, Trinimac, told him to do. Deathweaver was undead, a Lich. I did not realise that till just now as the Dweomer protecting him had masked that fact. I doubt he understood the consequences of what he was doing when his God told him how to conduct particular rituals.
- Auryen: What do we do now, Majesty?
- Wulf: You have some time to catalogue and study all of the Snow Elf artefacts we have recovered over the years. You are then to make duplicates for display in the museum. I will return the originals to Knight-Paladin Gelebor and his people. We are not studying a dead race, but a living one and have no rights to their religious relics.
- Gelebor: You must keep Auri-El’s bow and shield. They belong with his champion.
- Wulf: I am tired, and we still have some work to do so let us discuss things as we walk to the Wayshrine.
- Gelebor: I will speak to the cave-dwelling Betrayed. They will take care of their deceased.
We retrieved all of the relics on the way out of the Temple.
Much discussion occurred on the way to the Wayshrine; however, I was quiet. My companions could see I was fatigued. One Daedric Prince after another had lined up to make mortals suffer or die or become enslaved. This ‘plan’ was just petty revenge by Malacath. Which Dark Lord is next?
We said our goodbyes to Knight-Paladin Gelebor then used the portal to return to The College of Winterhold.
We made our way to Nafalilargus and entered the cabin. As soon as Rigmor saw me, she dragged me off to our private cabin. She did not ask questions or engage in small talk. She simply held me as I slept.
I did not wake when they anchored at the Explorer’s Guild campsite and helped them pack it up. The Legionnaires escorted the guild members back to Solitude.
I did not stir until Rigmor gently shook me awake.
J’zargo had flown us to Bruma. Rigmor ordered me to make my way to her apartment while she wrote some orders for General Tullius and a message for Jarl Igmund. The Master Mages would deliver them via Nafalilargus.
She found me writing this journal entry and gently removed the quill from my hand. I think this is the first time I have started an entry one day and completed it the next. The exception being the last few lines. With most entries, they are written a day or so after the main dialogue.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
I know it was within minutes of laying my head on the pillow.
I did not find it strange Rigmor was softly singing to the melody of Y’frre’s music.