Morndas, 29th Evening Star, 4E 201
Rigmor called from our bedroom, “Wulf, come and look. I love it!”
Rigmor wanted me to look at the new dress she purchased from Solitude yesterday. But I couldn’t move when my ‘compass’ started without warning and with overwhelming urgency. The Divines wanted me somewhere and not in days or hours, but right now! I desperately tried to pinpoint where my compass was directing me.
I called out to Rigmor, “Something is wrong. The Divines need me!”
Rigmor came running out of our bedroom and could see I was worried.
“What is it? Where do you have to go?”
“I have no idea what the problem is. The compass is moving! If my target is not in Whiterun, then very close to it. I have to go! It can’t wait!”
“Then go! I will head back home. Tell me what it is all about as soon as you can.”
I gave Rigmor a quick kiss then rushed downstairs. I called out, and The Sentinels came running into the living room. They had spent the night in Bostin, my airship, leaving Breezehome for Rigmor and me. Luckily, they had arrived five minutes ago as instructed, and I did not have to teleport them to me.
Lydia asked, “Wulf, what is it? You look worried.”
“All I know is The Divines need me somewhere nearby, right now. There is no use speculating, plus we don’t have the time!”
We ran outside to an early morning Whiterun with few citizens yet to greet the day. I almost went arse over tit as the new stone roads were slick from the constant rain. Usually, that would elicit a few chuckles and barbs from my friends. However, they could tell my mood was not one for merriment.
We ran through the main city gates, then I yelled, “It must be a person. They are heading for the outer gates. I am taking a shortcut!”
The cloud cover made it dark so I used night vision.
I ran to an archer’s platform that overlooked the outer gate. I saw three Morag Tong pursuing somebody. At that moment, I didn’t care if they were chasing Molag Bal. I won’t accept Grey Writs in Whiterun!
I yelled, “Morag Tong!” then used the Slow Time Shout.
As I leapt down, I noticed one assassin had halted before the outer gate.
I landed just behind another assassin who did not have a weapon drawn. Their target was staggering, but I could see no injury.
I have had my new sword for less than a day. It was wielded in the Dragon War by several different Tongues and is a gift from Talos. He appeared as an anonymous benefactor and ‘donated’ it to Auryen weeks ago with a detailed account of its history. It is made from an unknown metal and needed honing. Auryen wisely took it to Eorlund Gray-Mane as he is the most skilled blacksmith in Skyrim, and the legendary Skyforge is likely the only equipment that could hone it. Eorlund worked on the sword for days but considered it a privilege as Auryen told him it would be a gift for the Dragonborn. When I wield it, I feel the presence of Talos. Tiber Septim was born long after the Dragon Wars, so he must have imbued it with a dweomer since. My usual dweomer are more potent on this weapon than any of the dozens I have previously enchanted.
When Rigmor and I visited the museum yesterday, Auryen gifted me the sword. Now it tastes blood for the first time in my hands as I cut down the assassin with a single blow.
I came out of Slow Time. The assassin who had stopped at the outer gate turned and ran.
I used Slow Time again, which allowed me to catch and dispatch the second assassin.
The third assassin did not run but cast a protective spell.
Whirlwind Sprint put me behind my target before they could react.
My sword ended another life as it easily slid through chitin armour. Three seconds per corpse is a terrifying way to start our relationship!
As The Sentinels search the area for more Morag Tong, their target staggers towards me. He is a middle-aged Imperial and can barely walk due to excruciating pain. However, I can see no physical injuries and therefore, the logical conclusion is he was poisoned. That explains why the assassins did not bother unsheathing their weapons.
I told him, “Let me heal you.”
“No, Dragonborn… it is too late. Please… take this….”
He handed me what appeared to be an uncut gem. As soon as I touched it, I knew what it was. I could detect a strong presence of Akatosh and Shor. It was a fragment of the Red Diamond, the Chim-el Adabal, the centrepiece of the Amulet of Kings. My compass stopped.
The Imperial’s last words were, “Keep it safe. Keep it away from….”
He was dead before his head hit the ground. My Divine Task was not to save him. It has something to do with the shard he handed me.
I stood still and stared at the solidified blood of two gods. Then, the shard started to glow, and I was mesmerised.
An insistent voice broke through my almost hypnotic state. The voice belonged to Lydia, whose face showed great concern.
- Wulf: Sorry Lydia, did you say something?
- Lydia: I was about to shake you! Nubaree has been inspecting the body and knows what poison was used.
- Wulf: Yes, poison. I suspected as much, and Nubaree is the best person to inspect the body. I think there is a reason for that. But… ah…
- Nubaree: I am Argonian and immune to poison. I am a trained alchemist and can recognise the ingredients in most compounds.
I looked down at Nubaree, who wiped some foam from the victim’s mouth then tasted and smelt it.
- Lydia: Eww!
- Nubaree: On his neck is a tiny pinprick of blood. The Morag Tong fired a poison-tipped dart at him. It wasn’t supposed to kill but immobilise and make him susceptible to suggestion. They used a form of truth serum. Its two main ingredients are Harrada and Daedra Spider Venom.
- Wulf: Daedra Spider Venom is one of the most expensive reagents on Nirn!
- Nubaree: So the trainers kept telling us at the College.
- Lydia: Why did he die if the poison was not lethal?
- Nubaree: I believe it was heart failure due to resiting the poison and running.
- Wulf: Let me think… there is a logical chain of events here… umm…
- Lydia: Wulf, what is wrong?
- Wulf: This is wrong!
I handed Lydia the shard. As soon as it left my hand, the glowing ceased. Lydia looked at it closely, then shrugged and handed it over to Rayya. The shard was nothing special to The Sentinels. To them, it was just a very vibrant, red gem of some sort. However, when Gregor handed it back to me, the glow started once more.
- Lydia: It is an unusual colour, but what is so special about the gem?
- Wulf: Apart from the fact it only glows when I touch it?
- Gregor: What glow?
- Wulf: Can none of you see the glow?
- Rayya: It is not unusual for you to see or hear something we can’t.
- Wulf: Oh, yes, of course. But that would mean the Chim-el Adabal is attuned to me somehow.
- Lydia: I just held a fragment of the Chim-el Adabal? Are you sure?
- Wulf: Positive.
- Lydia: Maybe your dragon soul and blood, your connection to Akatosh, is why it glows?
- Wulf: That could be it. I will have to think about it more.
- Gregor: What is a chimel and a bell? Is that some foreign speak for pretty red ruby?
- Nubaree: Even Nubaree can understand Tamrielic better than Nord. It is pronounced Chim-el Adabal. It is the Red Diamond.
- Gregor: The Red Diamond they did all that killing over hundreds of years ago?
- Lydia: Yes, Gregor. It is one of the most powerful and important items in all of history. That is why a Red Diamond is the symbol of The Empire and on the armour you wear.
- Gregor: But Wulf has handled many powerful and rare things. Why such a reaction to this?
- Wulf: I can sense the Lord Akatosh and Shor when I touch it. Just like I feel Talos when touching my sword or lucky coin. That is one reason I am in awe of it. The fact three Morag Tong were willing to hunt down this man to the gates of Whiterun tells us that somebody will go to great lengths to obtain this shard. So many questions are now swirling in my head, and I need answers.
- Lydia: Concentrate on what we can answer right now.
- Nubaree: This man died because he ran when he shouldn’t have been able to. The Morag Tong would have expected him to collapse and be easily interrogated. But, instead, he somehow knew where Wulf was and tried to reach him.
- Wulf: He sought me not for protection. He used the last of his strength to bring me the shard. That was his task, and it gave him the willpower to resist the poison
- Gregor: Then that piece of rock must be more important than I realise. My education is lacking.
- Wulf: I can give you a history lesson later, but I must concentrate on what we have before us, as Lydia said.
I knelt and searched the victim. He had nothing on him except for a few coins and a note I read to The Sentinels.
“The hope of The Empire and that of Mundus itself lies in part in your hands, good Byron. I fear that our enemies prime their machinations against us even now, but these shards cannot fall into their hands. Reforming the Chim-el Adabal is of the utmost importance if the rumours are true. So guard this shard well, and may Akatosh protect you.
- Gregor: The hope of The Empire and that of Mundus sounds pretty ominous.
- Wulf: The Red Diamond was the centre of The Amulet of Kings. If it could be reconstructed, then the barrier between Oblivion and Mundus may be in danger of destruction once more. Of course, there are a few Daedric Princes who greatly desire such an outcome. But it could also be used to strengthen the barrier or even repair any damage done to it.
- Lydia: Can the Red Diamond be reconstructed? Would a new Amulet of Kings work?
- Wulf: I honestly don’t know. Records tell us that when Martin Septim used The Amulet of Kings to summon the Avatar of Akatosh, the Red Diamond shattered. How many shards and what happened to them has been a point of conjecture. Logically there would have been witnesses who realised the importance of the shards and gathered them. Logically, there are records, most likely within the White-Gold Tower, that tell these shards’ history in more detail.
- Nubaree: Another important figure called Guardian. It seems a popular title amongst Man and Mer. Guardian of Rigmor. Guardian of Solstheim. Guardian of the shards.
- Lydia: The title implies a solemn duty to protect something from theft or misuse.
- Wulf: Logically, Byron was also a Guardian. There must be a body of them who have the responsibility of guarding the shards.
- Lydia: Wouldn’t the White-Gold Tower be the safest place for them?
- Wulf: When Emperor Mede II abandoned the Imperial City during the Great War, one of the first things the Thalmor invaders did was ransack the White-Gold Tower. We know the Moth Priests escaped with the Elder Scrolls. We must assume guardians of other items also took their charges elsewhere to keep them from Dominion hands. The Moth Priests have been hesitant to return the Elder Scrolls to the White-Gold Tower as it had proven to be less than ideal in terms of security. The Guardians of the shards probably feel the same.
- Lydia: What is the Divine Task?
- Wulf: All I know so far is my compass ended when Byron handed me the shard. As per usual, I will have to figure it out as events unfold. Recovering the shards would be one possibility. But I have more critical questions that need answering right now.
- Nubaree: Why did Wulf only get such short notice about the Divine Task?
- Wulf: That is one of the questions that intrigue me. It implies whoever hired the Morag Tong has almost outmanoeuvred Lord Akatosh. The Dark Lords can do that as The Divines cannot see into Oblivion. Byron knew where to find me, so that suggests The Divines aided him with that knowledge. So why not give me the Divine Task at that point and not when he was so close?
- Gregor: I get to say this, which I find amazing. Wulf, you are missing the obvious!
- Wulf: Which is?
- Gregor: You have been flying around in a giant airship. Some of the flights were done to allow Skyrim citizens to get used to Bostin. You said the first few times you docked at a city, crowds formed and stared with open mouths.
- Wulf: Bostin informs all who see her where I am!
- Gregor: The Morag Tong may have seen Bostin berthed here. They might have known their quarry was heading for The Dragonborn. They would lay in ambush but close to Whiterun as it can be approached from many directions.
- Wulf: But there is only one entrance open. It was still a lucky break, or unlucky depending on perspective. Byron could have cut across the grasslands and stepped onto the entrance road immediately before the outer gate.
- Gregor: He carried no weapons. Even a hundred feet from the outer gate, you are a potential meal for the local carnivores. The Morag Tong would have factored that in, so there is less luck than you assumed.
- Lydia: You are both assuming that Byron was extra cautious. He may not have even known he was being hunted until they ambushed him.
- Wulf: We have too many unknowns, so produce too much speculation.
- Rayya: What is your plan?
- Wulf: I will search the Morag Tong. Even Grey Writs have a contract specifying why a target must die. Then we will take Byron and the Morag Tong to Whiterun’s Hall of the Dead.
- Lydia: Ask the Whiterun Guards to do that.
- Wulf: Good idea. Then I want to warn Jarl Balgruuf that Morag Tong have been operating within his hold. He should escalate it to Commander Maro, so all Jarl’s and the High Queen are informed.
- Lydia: You had also better speak to Rigmor. Divines know what she felt through the rings!
I inspected the Morag Tong corpses.
I removed their helms, and all were Dunmer. Whether or not they were Ashlanders, I could not tell. There was no Grey Writ on any of them. As far as I know, that is against the laws of their order.
I paused to speak to Rigmor, “My beloved, I am not myself!”
“This is something new. My Dragonborn is confused! But I also sense great worry. So tell me, what is the Divine Task, and why has it affected you so?”
“An Imperial by the name of Byron was trying to reach me. He carried with him a shard of the Red Diamond. Three Morag Tong assassins pursued him to the very gates of Whiterun!”
“Did you rescue him?”
“No, he died of heart failure. There was nothing we could have done to save him. So the Morag Tong are dead, and I have the shard.”
“You want to know why there was so little warning from The Divines.”
“A few seconds ago, I did, but I now realise it can happen. The Daedric Princes often spring surprises on The Nine despite Lord Akatosh’s mastery of time. However, I am disturbed because the shard reacts to my touch. The simple explanation is it recognises my dragon blood and soul.”
“You think there is something more to it.”
“Just a gut feeling or instinct. Call it what you will, but it adds to my sense of dread over this. Assuming a Dark Lord is behind the Morag Tong, what are they planning to do with the shards? What would happen if they reconstructed The Amulet of Kings? Are we supposed to reconstruct it?”
“Would they need somebody of the Septim bloodline to do anything at all with it?”
“Mannimarco was not of Septim blood but managed to use the powers of the Dragon Fires and The Amulet of Kings to trigger the Soulburst. As a result, the barrier between Mundus and Oblivion was greatly weakened, which caused many horrific cataclysms. Mannimarco was working on behalf of Molag Bal. The weakened barrier allowed Molag Bal to begin the Planemeld. He tried to drag Nirn into Coldharbour and almost succeeded. Mannimarco also wrote in his memoirs that The Amulet of Kings could be used to end the Planemeld.”
“What powers did The Amulet of Kings and the Red Diamond have?”
“The amulets setting had no dweomer by itself. However, when the Red Diamond was in place, only those of Septim blood, or more accurately the descendants of Saint Alessia, could wear it. It would slip from the necks of all others. The Red Diamond was, in simple terms, a type of Soul Gem. There are many myths around its creation.”
“We have spoken of this before. Please remind me of what you believe is true.”
“I believe the following account to be true. Lorkhan was accused of tricking the et’Ada into creating Mundus. He had not warned the et’Ada that some would lose their lives, some would become a permanent part of the new plane and that all others who participated would lose their immortality. At the Convention, it was decided Lorkhan needed to be punished for his deceit. Trinimac and possibly Auri-el/Akatosh fought and defeated Lorkhan. Killing Lorkham would destroy Nirn. The et’Ada that helped create Mundus and Nirn did not want them destroyed. So Lorkhan’s divine spark, in the form of his heart, was sent towards Tamriel by Auri-el/Akatosh. The heart’s impact created the Red Mountain. Some of Lorkhan’s blood also fell to earth and fused with a red crystal. The Ayleid discovered this crystal then cut and polished it into the shape of a diamond. I believe it was a form of Soul Gem. When creating The Amulet of the Kings for Saint Alessia, Lord Akatosh infused the Red Diamond with his blood. What I have in my hand is the solidified blood of two gods.”
“And its powers?”
“It held the memories of all the Emperors who had worn The Amulet of Kings. The entirety of their knowledge was available, like a library, for the Emperor to read. Some say their actual souls were trapped within. If so, the destruction of the Red Diamond must be regarded as merciful.”
“That sounds a bit blasphemous!”
“It sounds like what I was brought up to believe by whomever my parents are.”
“What other powers did the Red Diamond have?”
“It provided structural integrity to the White-Gold Tower. Unfortunately, because of the amulet’s destruction, the White-Gold Tower suffered damage in later wars and by thieves who stole parts of it for their dweomer.”
“And it was needed to light the Dragonfires.”
“Yes, that is the function most people remember.”
“You want an answer to why the shard reacts to your touch. You are in awe of that shard. You have no idea what The Divines want you to do next. On top of all that, you think you are dealing with another plot by a Daedric Prince. No wonder you are so rattled! You could do with our peace right now.”
“I understand that is not possible as you are expected to attend the end of year celebrations at the Imperial Palace. That is why we had our private celebration of the new year last night.”
“The difference being I am to remain clothed at the Palace’s celebration.”
“Well, it had been a few days, and you ravished me.”
“Keep telling yourself that if it eases your conscience. Men of power taking advantage of young, powerless maidens is nothing new.”
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that piece of absurdity. The Sentinels looked over and smiled. They knew Rigmor was bringing me back to normal.
I told Rigmor, “That dress is stunning!”
“I wanted to obtain a dress in Skyrim. Predictably, the other noble ladies all tend to purchase the latest trends of Cyrodiil. The colours might change, but the cuts are too similar. So I will stand out and in doing so win a minor victory in their game of politics.”
“And attract noble bachelors like flies to….”
“I would not finish that comparison if I was you!”
“Thank you. We have gone from discussing major gobblygook to fashion. I have gone from worrying about things out of my control to laughing. Our peace would be nice, but our love is more than sufficient to bring out the real me.”
“The confident, arrogant, lovable but weird Wulf.”
“Well, get on with it. The Divines need your help!”
“I love you.”
“And I love you.”
The Sentinels walked beside their restored friend, and their relief was palpable. I have to maintain the appearance of confidence, even if I am not. If we are facing the plans of a Daedric Prince, the danger is extreme. They must believe I am in control of the situation.
We reached the main entrance, where I approached one of the guards.
He said, “Thane, I wager the Morag Tong were surprised when you turned up!”
I asked, “Where have the guards been for the last ten minutes?”
“Lydia said we were trampling over a crime scene and needed to skedaddle. She had to explain what that meant. We skedaddled.”
“I didn’t even notice I was so involved in what I was doing! Anyway, four bodies need to be taken to the Hall of the Dead. Please inform Priest Andurs that the Imperial’s name is Byron. He is a hero of The Empire and to be treated as such. The Morag Tong should be cremated on individual pyres and their ashes sent to Morrowind in separate urns.”
“I can do that, Thane. I am sure we will hear of why Morag Tong dared to attack an Empire citizen at our city gates eventually.”
“I am positive Housecarl Irileth will keep the Whiterun Guards informed.”
“Of course, Thane.”
As another guard opened the gate for us, I heard the nosey guard issuing orders. The streets of Whiterun were still empty. It was too early in the morning and too wet for many. Even the children who dash around the city playing games were absent.
As we walked past the Shrine to Talos, I wondered if he would answer some of the constant questions lurking in my head.
As we climbed the steps to Dragonsreach, I halted in my tracks. One more step, and I would have walked into a portal. I turned to The Sentinels.
- Wulf: Sheogorath wants me to pay a visit. He had placed a portal just in front of me.
- Gregor: He wouldn’t be behind the Red Diamond stuff, would he?
- Wulf: No. He likes Nirn and the people that live on it. When dealing with Sheogorath, it is best simply to see what he wants. He can spring these portals on me whenever he wishes, and I do not want to anger him by avoiding his summons.
- Lydia: Any idea where you are going?
- Wulf: A pocket plane of Shivering Isles, his realm in Oblivion, like the time I entered the dead Emperor’s head.
- Nubaree: You say that as if it is normal.
- Wulf: Everything and anything can be regarded as normal when dealing with Sheogorath. I had better tell Rigmor and then enter the portal.
- Lydia: Do we follow the same instructions given last time you visited Uncle Sheo?
- Wulf: Yep.
- Lydia: So, we don’t panic for at least six hours?
- Wulf: Yep.
- Rayya: Why ‘Uncle Sheo’?
- Wulf: Once you are known to him, it is not wise to mention his name. He may take notice and suddenly decide he needs something done.
- Rayya: But he wants you to do something anyway.
- Wulf: Maybe he just wants to share a strawberry torte?
- Rayya: Huh?
I turned to face the portal then said to Rigmor, “Ah… don’t panic. I am sure it is nothing dangerous, but Sheogorath wants me to visit.”
“You have told me before that once you are known to him, he will continue to ask favours.”
“That has been other people’s experience. I have to go now and not risk annoying him.”
“I am about to sit down to have my hair done. How am I supposed not to fidget and annoy the hairdresser?”
“By having the same confidence in me as you always have had.”
“Just be careful.”
“I always am.”
“Hey, I can’t do a raspberry over the rings. Unfair!”
Rigmor laughed, and I entered the portal.
On the Oblivion side, the portal was represented by an old fashioned, iron-bound door.
Bits of bodies did not encourage a feeling of calm.
Up a flight of stairs, I found a Shrine to Sheogorath.
I approached the shrine.
The disembodied voice of the insane god greeted me, “Ah, my little mortal minion, I am pleased to see you are still alive.”
“Greetings, Lord Sheogorath. It is good to be alive.”
“And you will remain so as I require help with a not too dangerous problem.”
“Please, tell me how I can help.”
“Just the other day, I was having afternoon tea with dear Muurine and Leo. Lovely couple! Leo told me how he was having trouble sleeping because of the noises coming from the basement.
So be a dear mortal, and have a look in the basement so Leo can sleep. If you don’t, I will make Haskill a new suit from your hide. Won’t that be fun?”
“There is no need to threaten me, Lord Sheogorath.”
“I would never harm my favourite Septim, oops, my favourite mortal minion. But I am a mad god and must throw in the occasional threat of violent death. It is expected, you understand.”
“I was going to put you on a beach and leave a message in entrails. But we are both busy, and so here you are instead.”
“Speaking to you, Lord Sheogorath is far more entertaining than reading entrails.”
“I should hope so! Now, if you find my lucky boots down there, be sure to return them to me. I lent them to Leo a few centuries back, and he never returned them.”
“I would be delighted to do so!”
“Your subservience is about as genuine as Thalmor honour.”
“That was surprisingly political!”
“I don’t have anything against the Thalmor. The chaos that follows them can be very entertaining.”
“So, I just go through this trapdoor?”
“Tell Leo you are going to fix the problem first.”
I suddenly found myself standing in front of… something. It wasn’t a Draugr but was undead. Its right arm was covered in blood up to the elbow.
I asked, “Hello, are you Leo?”
It must be Leo, or why teleport me in front of it? Leo was silent except for the disturbing gurgling noises made when it breathed. I couldn’t see lungs through the ribcage, and Leo was dead. Why he needed to breathe and make those horrible noises will remain a mystery.
“It’s okay, Leo. I don’t feel like talking sometimes. Where is Muurine? I was so looking forward to meeting her.”
Disgusting wet noises are all got out of Leo.
“I am going to head to the basement and stop whatever is making the noises keeping you awake. That will be good, won’t it? Two slurps for yes, one slurp for no.”
Leo gave me three slurps.
I looked around Leo’s bedroom. His hobbies and decorations were not to my liking.
A skeleton lay on the ground. I assume it was Muurine, but there was no use asking Leo.
Next to the skeleton was a blood-covered note that read,
“Liturgy of the duellists
- We purge ourselves in the duel.
- Sheogorath will mend us.
- We purge our friends in the duel.
- Sheogorath will mend them.
- We purge our enemies in war.
- Sheogorath will abandon them.
- Speak not of the Duellists.
- Speak only of the Duel.
- Speak not of the combatant.
- Speak only of the combat.”
I have no idea to what the poem is referencing. Maybe there are ritualistic duels on The Shivering Iles?
I exited the only door from Leo’s bedroom and was in the corridor with Sheogorath’s shine. I entered the basement through the trapdoor.
Something or somebody had broken into poor Leo’s basement. No wonder he was having trouble sleeping! But, of course, it could also have something to do with him being undead and not needing to sleep at all! It is wise not to question the mad god about such inconsistencies. I am sure it makes perfect sense to him.
The decorations in Leo’s basement were no better than in his bedroom.
The tunnel leading to the basement’s breach is made of green, intertwined roots. Repulsive, yellow sacks of something acted as light sources. I wasn’t game to cut one open to see what was inside. Some people enjoy popping pimples and lancing boils. Not me!
It took some time before I encountered a resident of the tunnels, and it was a Gnarl. They are not animals but intelligent moving plants. Having been created by Sheogorath, they are as strange as you would expect. They have many eyes facing all over the place. They often have mushrooms growing out of them. When you use a Destruction spell on a Gnarl, they become immune to the element used but more vulnerable to others. They are never seen outside of Sheogorath’s realm in Oblivion, the Shivering Isles.
I quickly despatched all I encountered with Unrelenting Force followed by Lightening, then Incinerate.
There was an occasional statue of another Shivering Isles creature called Grummite. They are amphibians and resemble frogs with shark teeth. Many wealthy residents of the Shivering Isles use them as butlers and servants.
Behind one of the Grummite statues were Sheogorath’s missing boots. I picked them because I suspected that if I didn’t return them, the insane god would drag me back to look for them.
It was getting a bit tedious wiping out Gnarl.
I eventually came to the last room. The biggest Gnarl encountered stood in its middle.
When I killed it, there was a crimson flash and then…
A floating bow with one eye attacked me!
When I ‘killed’ the bow, there was another crimson flash, and it clattered to the floor.
I took the bow as I had no doubt Auryen will want it for the museum.
I made my way out of the basement and faced the shrine.
I bent down and placed Sheogorath’s boots amongst the other offerings. I was surprised there was no cheese.
Sheogorath said, “My little minion is once more triumphant. What caused the noise?”
“A lot of Gnarls. Including a large one that turned into a bow that attacked me.”
“Does the bow have an eye?”
“Yes, it does.”
“Well, that explains everything. That bow belonged to Lady Syl, the long-dead leader of Dementia. Muurine killed her, and the bow was seeking revenge.”
“A bow sought revenge?”
“Of course, it happens all the time. A bow is much sneakier than a warhammer. When they seek revenge, you can hear them approaching for miles!”
“To go with that wonderful bow, you need Special Surprise Arrows!”
There was a flash, and a quiver of arrows replaced the boots. I picked them up, but of course, I could not detect the Daedric dweomer if there was one.
“They are fine arrows, Lord Sheogorath. But what is the special surprise?”
“It wouldn’t be special or a surprise if I told you, now would it?”
“Time for you to return to whatever important business you were on. Ta for now!”
I was teleported to the top of Dragonreach’s stairs.
I quickly said to Rigmor, “I am back, but it looks like I lost a few hours.”
“Two hours and fifty-seven minutes. Not that I was waiting or anything.”
“I will talk to you about it later. I need to get moving on the Divine Task, and Uncle Sheo has wasted my time.”
“Okay, talk later.”
I said to the Sentinels, “I will fill in the details later. Uncle Sheo has an undead friend called Leo who could not sleep because of noises in his basement. It turns out a bow with an eye was seeking revenge for the murder of its owner and had infiltrated the basement with Gnarls which are walking trees.”
By their blank looks, I could tell there would be many questions to answer.
We entered Dragonsreach and were informed that Jarl Balgruuf was on the balcony.
As soon as Jarl Balgruuf saw me, he came running over.
He growled, “What is this I hear about Morag Tong at our front gates?”
“They had no Grey Writ on them, so I can’t tell you who hired them.”
“Probably somebody who found a lack of home-grown assassins to hire after a madman slaughtered the whole lot of them near Falkreath.”
“He must have got bored fighting dragons.”
“There were still plenty of Thalmor left.”
“There may be more Morag Tong. There was no Grey Writ on them, but we have concluded they were hired to question and kill an Imperial named Bryon. They were to retrieve a most astounding item from him.”
I handed Jarl Balgruuf the shard. He stared at it, help it up to the light and seemed unimpressed. Finally, he asked, “What is so special about this?”
“That, Jarl Balgruuf, is the solidified blood of Lord Shor and Lord Akatosh. It is a part of the Red Diamond.”
Jarl Balgruuf stared at the shard with a mixture of awe and fear. When he handed it back to me, his hands were shaking.
He exclaimed, “By Kynareth, I never thought something so… I don’t know… holy, I suppose, would ever be held by me!”
“You can imagine how many of The Empires enemies would like to get their hands on it.”
“You said there might be more assassins. Does that mean there are more pieces of the Red Diamond in Skyrim?”
“I know there were more shards as this is not the complete diamond. How many shards and if any more are in Skyrim is unknown.”
“What do you know of this Byron?”
“He looks like an Imperial. Where he comes from, I don’t know. What I do know is he is a hero to The Empire. He died bringing the shard to me and deserves a hero’s internment.”
“Priest Andurs has his methods for dealing with the dead when no family is around to claim the body. A skill he perfected during the Civil War and the invasion of those Thalmor you destroyed. Byron will be placed in a temporary tomb for a certain period. Then, if no family comes forth, he will be interred in our crypt with a plaque commemorating his deeds.”
“As I mentioned, the Morag Tong did not carry writs. That is very unusual and suggests the hirer has much influence and funds.”
“I shall inform Command Maro. Then, when news reaches the Emperor, he will send, yet again, a letter to Morrowind. It will explain in diplomatic terms our disappointment with their inability to control their naughty assassins.”
“And the other Jarls?”
“Queen Elisif will send an official message warning of the threat. In addition, an unofficial letter will be sent by me immediately.”
“If I were the Emperor, I would suggest to Morrowing that their assassins killing our civilians is an act of war.”
“We could do with a straightforward Emperor like you. Emperor Wulf Valdr the first has a good ring to it.”
“No thanks. I couldn’t stand the cutlery etiquette.”
“You have dined with me. One spoon, one fork and one knife.”
“But you, Jarl Balgruuf, are an unwashed Nord barbarian.”
“So true! And proud of it!”
I walked over to Irileth, who, as usual, looked like she had a terrible day. However, she is beautiful even when scowling. I can imagine men and women swooning if she smiled.
“What I would like to know, Dragonborn, is how you knew the Morag Tong would be there? How did you just happen to be in time to attempt a rescue?”
“The Divines told me a few minutes before I got there.”
“And the reports I hear of you killing all three in seconds?”
“Less than ten seconds. I got lucky!”
“If I didn’t know you were a friend of Skyrim and The Empire, I would regard you as the most dangerous mortal on Nirn. I am glad you are on our side.”
“So am I. I hate Thalmor uniforms!”
As we made our way to Bostin, I realised what Gregor said was true. The airship acted like a giant arrow pointing to where I am. I could mitigate that problem by having others fly it around. If I do not exit it every time, it will stop being regarded as my airship.
We entered Bostin and it was good to get out of the cold.
I told The Sentinels, “I will sit and have some lunch with you and discuss today’s events after I set Bostin’s course for Solitude. I need to do some research on a lot of things. But first, I think I will ask Auryen what he knows. Red Diamond shards would be a sought after item amongst relic collectors. Then I will do research in the museum library and perhaps, later on, fly to the College and use the Arcanaeum.”
I touched the flag representing the beacon in Solitude.
I talked to Rigmor about my time with Uncle Sheo then sat down to have lunch with The Sentinels. Even after the two-hour flight, not all questions or worries had been answered.
The Sentinels went on deck before me. When I got there, they were firing arrows and spells at some ghosts. It seems something had upset the undead, and they were trying to break into the Explorer’s Guild. Both ghosts were soon reduced to puddles of ectoplasm.
I looked at The Sentinels and shrugged my shoulders. Angry ghosts were a mystery I did not want to tackle at that moment.
We made our way into the museum.
When we found Auryen, he greeted me with a smile.
He said with great enthusiasm, “It is so fulfilling to see the large number of patrons coming through the door, don’t you think?”
“Wonderful. Now, what do you make of this?”
I handed him the shard and waited. Auryen is an expert on gems and minerals, so I was interested to hear his conclusion. He spent at least five minutes holding it up to the light, feeling its weight in the palm of his hand and peering at it through a magnifying glass.
Eventually, he handed it back to me and said, “I have no idea what mineral that is! What you think?”
“I know what it is. It is a fragment of the Chim-el Adabal.”
I was enjoying the reaction when I told people that. It makes me feel less idiotic about being awestruck earlier. Auryen’s mouth opened, and he looked stunned. Then the excitement, the adrenaline rush he gets from discovery and mystery, kicked in.
Auryen asked, “Do you have proof?”
“I retrieved this from a man pursued by three Morag Tong.”
I handed him Byron’s letter. He nodded his head as he read it. His unparalleled knowledge of history was filling in the details. He asked me, “Is there anything you need to know?”
“How many shards are there?”
“There were reportedly five shards which the Imperial Cult has safeguarded.”
“That was a charitable organisation whose membership decreased dramatically over the centuries.”
“Yes, they became more of an underground organisation. After the invasion of the White-Gold Tower and the signing of the White-Gold Concordat, the shards were lost. Many assume The Dominion has them.”
“But your network of relic hunters and collectors suspect otherwise?”
“Yes. The shards are rumoured to be passed between ‘guardians’ who would protect them until a means of supposedly reforming the Amulet is found.”
“Instincts tell me that would require the assistance of a dragon or even Akatosh himself.”
“Possibly. I think someone associated with the Daedra is seeking these fragments.”
“If a Daedric Prince is involved, there are a handful of likely candidates. We shall keep an open mind on their involvement until we can prove that a Dark Lord is behind this. It could simply be an ambitious mortal seeking to use what powers lie within the shards. We can only speculate on what they wish to do with the shards.”
“According to Byron’s letter, the Imperial Cult is currently acting upon a rumour. They fear their unnamed enemy is up to no good and that The Amulet of Kings is required to thwart their evil plans. Byron tried to tell me who the enemy was with his dying breath. But, unfortunately, he expired before he did. The logical conclusion is the barrier between Mundus and Oblivion is endangered. Thus, another disaster the magnitude of Planemeld or Oblivion Crises is imminent.”
“Oh my! Have The Divines tasked you with this?”
“Yes, but I think they have been caught with their pants down. Of course, gods have difficulty with the chaos and unpredictability caused by mortal free will, but instinct tells me this is more likely the machinations of a Dark Lord. But, unfortunately, I think the ‘rumours’ never reached the ears of The Nine resulting in the enemy enjoying a head start.”
“I will start some research immediately.”
“As will I. First, I will see what I can glean from our library and then make a trip to the Arcanaeum.”
“This is far more important than the search for a relic.”
“Auryen, this is the most important research you have ever undertaken!”
“Let us meet tomorrow morning and compare notes.”
The Sentinels joined me in the library. They were free to do what they wanted. I headed for the catalogue.
The catalogue uses the same system as the Arcanaeum. Urag invented it but faced stiff resistance from the curators of the Imperial Library. We think the curators disliked it because a layman does not need to ask one of them for assistance. The curators’ ability to lord it over researchers would be diminished. Auryen visited the College and saw the system in use. He then decided to implement it with Urag’s aid. The collections in the two facilities are cross-referenced. You don’t have to guess which one has what you seek.
I was not surprised to find most of the books I wanted were in the gated section of the library. Only a few senior mages have the key, and none of the books in the gated section can be removed from the library.
Nubaree was keen to assist. It is always beneficial to bounce ideas off another, so I welcomed the help.
I was pointing out a particular passage in a book when Nubaree whispered, “The guard coming this way had been showing romantic interest. Every time I visit, he is miraculously on guard duty! I have made it clear that I am not interested, but still, he persists.”
“I have a plan. Just play along and ignore him at first.”
The young Argonian guard approached the table.
- Ah-Lai: Nubaree, would you like to attend the new year celebrations with me? The Bards College always provides good food and entertainment.
- Wulf: Nubaree, I think the curse is lifted. No longer will your lovers explode at the height of their passion!
- Nubaree: Are you sure?
- Wulf: There is only one way to find out. However, I suggest you pick an outdoor area for your next fling.
- Nubaree: Good idea. It took hours to clean Er-Tei from the roof and walls.
- Wulf: Oh, I think this young gentleman wants to speak to you.
- Nubaree: Sorry, Ah-Lai, did you want something.
- Ah-Lai: No, no. I was just saying I am upset I have to work on new year eve.
- Nubaree: Oh, I was hoping we could celebrate it together if you know what I mean.
- Ah-Lai: Ah, maybe another time. I had better get back to work.
Ah-Lai quickly exited the library. We spent five minutes laughing.
After a couple of hours, we had exhausted the relevant material in the museum library. The catalogue let me know there was some suitable material in the Arcanaeum. I would still need to rely on Urag’s intimate knowledge of his domain to find everything.
We headed out into torrential rain and made our way to Bostin.
I set Bostin’s course for The College of Winterhold, then sat with The Sentinels for dinner and a chat.
When we arrived in Winterhold, I informed The Sentinels they were to stay aboard Bostin.
I told Lydia to make sure everybody is ready to leave by 7:00 AM.
I asked Nubaree to set Bostin’s course for the museum as soon as she can after 5:00 AM.
Today’s weather has made me appreciate Bostin. If we were not hammered by torrential rain, we were almost frozen by sleet and snow. It would have been miserable to ride or walk to our destinations, and even a hired carriage would not have been comfortable. So instead, we sat around, talked, had meals and a mead of two.
I entered the College then went to Urag.
“Arch-Mage, it is unusual to see you without your entourage.”
“I have many hours of reading and making notes ahead of me. It is hard to concentrate when surrounded by yawning, bored Sentinels.”
“If you have hours of reading to do, I have no doubt you want me to perform miracles? Late into the night and early morning miracles.”
“If your catalogue was as efficient as your brain, you could retire to your nice warm bed earlier.”
“Are you insulting my library, Arch-Mage?”
“Not at all! I have a severe allergy to Atronach dismemberment.”
“What do you need?”
“Anything and everything on the Chim-el Adabal. Its creation, its properties, its destruction. If it is mentioned, I want to read it!”
“There go a few hours of precious sleep.”
“Obviously, I will require the same for The Amulet of the Kings.”
“That goes without saying.”
“But I said it anyway.”
“That also goes without saying.”
“I want to see anything on the Imperial Cult, especially post Oblivion Crises.”
“The Imperial Library holds most of their historical texts, but I might have something useful.”
“As you find material, please deliver it to my quarters.”
“Good, I will enjoy enlisting the first apprentices who walk in. I hope they weren’t planning anything for tonight.”
“Lucky I got rid of that horrible throne Savos had. How could he sit in that for hours on end?”
“The only thing that gets around to more places and faster than your airship is gossip. Rumour is Morag Tong tried to assassinate some poor wretch inside the gates of Whiterun. Some mysterious person in a Penitus Oculatus uniform leapt down from the wall and killed them all. Being the curious type, I was wondering to myself, would the urgent need for these materials have any connection to that event?”
“We think a Daedric Prince is trying to reconstruct The Amulet of Kings. So, naturally, The Divines don’t want that to happen.”
“Then it will be my pleasure to assist, Arch-Mage.”
I read and scribbled notes for the entire night. Most of the information gathered I already had tucked away in my head, but a few new snippets might prove helpful.
When finished, I sat back and tried to sort fact from fiction. I have no doubt Auryen will quote some of the more fantastical myths as if fact. But, even so, he is excellent at determining sensible courses of action.
It would be good to know which Dark Lord we are dealing with if any.