Tirdas, 3rd Sun’s Dawn, 4E 202
I woke early due to the most urgent Divine Task yet. I sat up quickly then headed out onto my private balcony.
I then walked through Dragons Keep and out onto the front balcony.
After triangulation, I knew the Temple of Mara in Riften is where I had to be.
“Can’t you walk a bit quieter?”
“My dear, I am thousands of miles away. I doubt you can hear my footsteps, and I am not wearing armour.”
“What are you wearing?”
“Just my underpants.”
“And how far did you walk in your underpants?”
“Umm… from one end of Dragons Keep to the other.”
“If any of the children saw you, they would be scarred for life.”
“Hey, my underwear is neither skimpy nor tight!”
“So why are you all worked up, my exhibitionist Dragonborn?”
“The strongest and most urgent Divine Task yet. The compass is pointing to the Temple of Mara in Riften.”
“It is fairly early. Are you waking and taking any Sentinels with you?”
“No, I can teleport into the temple. If I need them, I will summon them.”
“Well, let me know what it is all about. Now that you have woken me, I might as well get a head start on some of this correspondence. Do you know how many quills I go through?”
“No, but I did see a naked goose the other day.”
“I promise to talk to you from Riften.”
“Love you too!”
I hurried back to my living quarters and donned my armour.
I then teleported to just inside the Temple of Mara in Riften.
I walked up to Dinya, who asked, “Did The Divines get you out of bed?”
“Yes, and I hope you can tell me it is nothing, and then I can go back to my nice, warm, comfortable bed.”
“I am afraid it may be something dire. Speak to Sister Jeana. She is a missionary who has been travelling all over High Rock.”
Sister Jeanna and whom I assumed was her bodyguard, stood to greet me. The young Breton woman had cataracts covering both eyes. She was blind.
- Wulf: Good morning, Sister Jeana.
- Jeana: Mother guides me to those flickering souls who are yet to cast themselves on the fire for tomorrow’s utopia. She sees the potential in you to avert a calamity!
- Wulf: That is what I do, and Lady Mara often assists. Not keen on throwing myself onto a fire though it was a bit chilly outside.
- Jeana: I, her most devoted servant, need you to believe the goodness of your heart! In love!
- Wulf: My conscious and I are still debating the goodness of my heart. History will probably be the eventual judge. But I certainly believe in love.
- Jeana: Lady Mara needs to speak to you. Pray before her!
- Wulf: I will do that in a minute. However, before she confuses me with mumbo jumbo, perhaps one of you can tell me what this is all about?
- Oliver: I am Oliver. What is your name, good Sir?
- Wulf: I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines.
- Oliver: We have rushed from the troubled kingdom of Evermor. However, the precise nature and source of the troubles I cannot say. There is a feeling of foreboding and potential violence. The Priests of The Divines, I saw no priestesses, in that kingdom seem to be less learned than in other parts of High Rock. There is also a plague of sorts to add to the woes of the citizens.
- Wulf: Can you describe the plague?
- Oliver: The Afflicted spew forth green acidic poison that can eat through armour and flesh. Their skin is red. Fumes from their sputum are suspected of spreading the disease.
- Wulf: Months ago, I met a Breton pilgrim who said he was heading back home. He called himself Afflicted and matches your description. I saw him kill a wolf with bright green liquid that spewed forth from his mouth and his skin was reddish in hue with black encrustations.
- Oliver: We did not know it has spread beyond High Rock’s borders.
- Wulf: The Afflicted said he was still alive because Daedric Prince Peryite provided some sort of protection. He told me to seek somebody called Kesh and where to find him if I wanted answers. The place I might discover Kesh is deep inside The Reach.
- Jeana: The methods used in Evermor to contain the plague are barbaric. From Oliver’s descriptions, perhaps it is a blessing that I am blind?
- Wulf: Oliver, are you Jeana’s bodyguard?
- Oliver: I am her guardian, employed by Jeana’s father and the circle of priests from Daggerfall. Her father is as devout a follower of the faith as she is.
- Wulf: I have also been guardian to a remarkable young woman.
- Oliver: I have accompanied Jeana as she travels the land spreading her divine message. I don’t mind much. It is honest work and more than meagre pay, to say the least of which you would be aware.
- Wulf: I was not hired as milady’s guardian. The Divines gave me the role. And they have sent me here.
- Jeana: Yes, Mother needs you to help the people of Evermor.
- Wulf: Jeana, how do you travel? Can you ride a horse if it is led?
- Jeana: We walk.
- Wulf: You walked from Daggerfall to Evermor? That is quite a distance!
- Oliver: I am astounded at Jeana’s sense of self when walking this world. Sometimes it seems she doesn’t need me with her at all. And it is not a straight line that we traversed. Up and down with small increments eastward.
- Jeana: I must speak Mother’s word to as many as I can. Walking up and down is the only way.
- Wulf: If you would like to take a seat, I will talk to Lady Mara. I may have more questions. Well, after speaking to Lady Mara and her flowery way of putting things, I am guaranteed to have more questions.
- Oliver: Wulf, I sympathise. Sometimes I wonder what language Jeana speaks when communicating the divine messages. Do all the gods talk like that?
- Wulf: The Daedric Princes are very straightforward. Dibella, via The Sybil, is relatively straightforward as well. Talos was a mortal and talks to me like one. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be challenging to get straight answers from.
- Jeana: Mother usually speaks through me, and I cannot remember the conversations. But she said you would talk to her directly.
- Wulf: You may hear her voice as she cannot speak in my head. Or maybe she can via the ring I wear. We shall see.
Maramal, Dinya, Oliver and Jeana sat and watched with fascination as I approached the shrine.
I am positive that Lady Mara could have talked to me in my mind via the ring. Instead, she spoke aloud.
“Special Child, you are needed once more. There is a terror, a terror of minds and ideas forming in the west. It is a congealing of antipathy and repressed hatred that is nearing its sum.”
“Are mortals physically and spiritually in danger?”
“If this horror transpires, then neither the restraints of distance nor time will thwart the canker that will be birthed there. I make this plea to you, Special Child, mediate between opposites and seek resolution in the chaos.”
“I can only appeal to reason. I cannot force people to be reasonable.”
“I will help whenever I can, but my light is weak. However, even the faintest flame can act as a beacon against the background of a deep night. That flame will appear to you in a maze of darkness when you need it most.”
“You think it inevitable that I must travel a particular path to resolve this Divine Task. Perhaps it is, but I always look for alternatives, as you know.”
“Your mother and father are rightly proud of their son. The Nine have confidence in you.”
“But, as per usual, you have given me very little to work with.”
“Take heed of these words: Go west and see, open those eyes and see which belies its splendour; beset by men, gods, kings and ideas. Keep a clear eye!”
“As I always do. But I have a feeling this is the forewarned darkness that will test my faith.”
“Keep your head above the water when you reach that realm. The tides of Want can drown any who venture far from the shore.”
“The Dark Lords offer great riches and power, but I already have all that I need. I will never betray your beloved mortals.”
“We know, Special Child. We know.”
Lady Mara’s presence faded. I walked over to the bench where Oliver and Jeana were sitting.
- Wulf: I need to ask some questions. Lady Mara gave me clear directions, but I need to know more so I can prepare.
- Jeana: Forgive my astonishment. I did not realise how cryptic Mother can be. As I said before, I never remember what she says when using my voice.
- Wulf: The Divines give me very little information when setting these tasks. I must approach them with, as Lady Mara said, a clear eye. But I know I will be entering Oblivion. Which plane and which Dark Lord I will find out in due course.
- Jeana: Ask your questions. Perhaps Oliver and I can give you the answers you need.
- Wulf: What temples of The Divines are there in Evermor.
- Jeana: There are several temples, one in each major town and city. Each is dedicated to The Nine. But you will find the priests lacking in knowledge, or should I say, different in their viewpoints. To be more precise, the histories they believe and teach run counter to what is accepted everywhere else in The Empire, in all of Tamriel. It would serve no purpose to give you a single example. You will discover this oddity yourself.
- Wulf: Do they follow the Ten Commands of The Nine Divines?
- Jeana: Some do whilst others do not practice what they preach. Other kingdoms within High Rock do a better job.
- Wulf: Lady Mara mentioned repressed hatreds and wants me to mediate between opposites. I would like to prepare beforehand. What are that groups of individuals at risk of hostilities?
- Oliver: I am better equipped than Jeana to answer that.
- Wulf: Yes, you would need to understand the dangers to keep Jeana safe.
- Oliver: There are many hatreds not so hidden. The Orsimer are the targets of hostility from many factions. The Reachmen, or Witchmen to use the Evermor name, are getting tired of not having their own country. The merchants have always had significant influence in the politics of Evermor and will do whatever is needed to make a profit. King Sigmayne is hedonistic, and so are his sycophants. Other senior nobles have long-standing animosities. Unlike the rest of High Rock, Evermor maintains a feudal economy. I found it hard to distinguish how they treat their peasantry from slavery, banned throughout The Empire. The nobles are terrified of another peasant revolt like one that happened twenty years ago.
- Wulf: It sounds like, as Lady Mara said, a growing canker.
- Oliver: I guarantee that that imagery more revolts me more than it does, Jeana. She has never seen a mouth full of cankers or a boil pop! As she said before, there are some advantages to being blind.
- Wulf: How are they dealing with Afflicted in Evermor?
- Oliver: They hunt them down and kill them without mercy. Man, woman, child or babe in arms, it makes no difference. Sometimes only one family member will have the disease, yet all will be killed. The worst I saw was them boarding generations in the family home and setting it alight with the unfortunate wretches inside.
- Wulf: Are there any Knightly Orders that I should be aware of?
- Oliver: There are very few knights in Evermor and no Orders than I can recall.
- Wulf: How is the Legion viewed in Evermor?
- Oliver: The Legion never had the numbers required to make Evermor free of bandits and other undesirables. They seemed demoralised and are ignored or despised by the population.
- Wulf: Do the Thalmor have much presence in Evermor?
- Oliver: Yes, and they seem to do as they wish most of the time.
- Wulf: What is the best way for me and several others to travel to Evermor incognito?
- Jeana: We travelled with a Merchant who had a route between that hinterland kingdom and Skyrim. He said he would be in Markarth for at least a week awaiting stock to be delivered.
- Wulf: Thank you both for your service to Lady Mara and the assistance you just provided me.
- Jeana: I will be walking Skyrim and delivering Mother’s message to all so we may meet again.
- Wulf: I wish you well. The roads are much safer since the Legion does not have to fight a civil war.
My compass shifted, and I could guess where it pointed without triangulating. I am to find the person named Kesh.
I walked up to Dinya and said, “When I travel to Evermor, I shall take Erandur with me. The expedition is on behalf of Lady Mara, so it would not feel right to leave him behind.”
“It seems The Nine have been preparing you for a test of faith.”
“Yes, Talos has warned me, and Lady Mara just confirmed that I would face challenges. I have no idea what I will face in Evermor, but I can’t envision anything making me question my faith in The Nine.”
“I hope you are not taking Countess Rigmor with you.”
“No, I have a feeling I will be there for some time, and I want to keep the same group of people with me throughout the journey. Plus, I am walking into the unknown. That is my risk to take, not Rigmor’s.”
“Lady Mara said she would help you when it is needed.”
“She mentioned a different realm. Logic tells me it is a realm of Oblivion, but Lady Mara cannot make her presence felt in that plane. I will have to wait and see, as per usual.”
“You have your rings. Rigmor is but a thought away.”
“Yes, and an invaluable gift they have proven to be.”
“Be as careful as you can, Wulf. Rigmor needs you just as much as Nirn does.”
“We need each other. Divines bless you, Sister Dinya.”
“And Mara’s blessing to you, Special Child.”
“I have no idea how old I am, but being called that makes me feel younger.”
I walked from the Temple of Mara to Honeyside, and triangulation confirmed my suspicion. I am to head to the area of The Reach where Kesh resides.
Rigmor asked, “Well, what is happening?”
“I am going to Evermor, a kingdom of High Rock. Lady Mara wants me to mediate between opposites. I don’t know who I am to get in the middle of, but they will probably both hate me and want me dead. The place sounds like a mess with lots of factions and aggravation. Lady mara also suggested I will travel to a different realm, someplace in Oblivion, I assume.”
“It doesn’t sound like a short trip.”
“I think we will be there for at least a week. I can’t start the task as a Legionnaire or Penitus Oculatus agent. I will get more information if I am not seen as an Empire lackey. That is opposite to Skyrim at the moment. The Legion is respected here.”
“Are you using one of your old sets of armour?”
“Yes, the posh one with the woollen cape. I might as well look like a rich merchant.”
“Don’t forget to shove the long stick up your bottom.”
“I think I can do the poncy walk without that, thanks. I will be shaving all my hair and getting rid of my beard. I have dozens of wigs to choose from.”
“I suggest you take Celestine.”
“Yes, I will take Celestine for two reasons. She is one of the most experienced Sentinel, and having a Breton in High Rock will be beneficial. I will take Ghorbash, although we must be careful when and to who we reveal he is an Orsimer. I will take Lydia as she is the best warrior, a good friend and wise despite her occasional ‘Duh!’ moments. I will also take Erandur as this is a mission where Lady Mara will be providing a helping hand.”
“How dangerous is this trip?”
“Dangerous enough to have Lady Mara issue a warning. As I said, it seems a trip to Oblivion is involved, but I have no idea whose realm. I simply won’t know till I get there and start digging.”
“What are you doing now?”
“There is a plague in High Rock that is adding to their problems. I will visit a place in The Reach and see what I can find out about it. But first, I will go to Silverpeak Lodge and summon the four Sentinels. Then we can choose our armour. We might as well start acting the parts of Merchant and bodyguards before we have to do it in earnest across the border.”
“Promise to tell me more about it later? It sounds fairly complicated.”
“I could use your sneaky, political brain when I am there.”
“I do not have a sneaky, political brain!”
“Sure, if you say so.”
“Don’t be so condescending!”
“Grr… I had better go before I have no choice but to pop out of the ether and kick you in the dangly bits!”
“You could not possibly reach my ear lobes with a kick!”
“Weird is not a strong enough word for you.”
I could sense Rigmor laughing, and then her temper started to rise. It must be a fun supplicant who just stepped into her throne room.
I teleported to Silverpeak Lodge, which seemed barren with only two Sentinel Squads living there and no children.
I shaved off my hair and beard then selected a wig.
I made my way to the basement and summoned those who would be accompanying me to Evermor.
Celestine dressed in her blue mage outfit, the one that Latoria copied.
Ghorbash selected the gold and ebony armour that I prepared for Gregor. Its full-face helm hid his Orsimer features, and his voice was very Nord like.
Erandur chose Kharjo’s mercenary armour.
Lydia grabbed the armour that we obtained from Adrianne Avenicci. It is old fashioned but of superb craftsmanship.
We agreed I was Lord Silverpeak and Ghorbash was Molger. Lydia, Celestine and Erandur were to use their real names. We had to start using the names so that they became second nature.
By the time we finished donning the armours, The Sentinels knew all about the trip to Evermor and where we were going today.
I said to them, “I will teleport to Karthwasten and summon you there.”
I teleported just outside Karthwasten, and The Sentinels soon joined me. When we entered the town, we came across a confrontation.
- Ainethach: Atar, I want you sellswords out of my mine.
- Atar: Watch your tongue, native. We’ll leave when we’re sure there’s no Forsworn here.”
- Ainethach: Oh, and when would that be, I wonder? When I sell my land to the Silver-Bloods?”
- Atar: Ainethach, the Silver-Bloods have made you a very generous offer for this pile of dirt. I suggest you take it.
The Silver-Blood mercenaries swaggered toward the mine as if they were men to be admired.
I approached Ainethach and asked, “Trouble with the Silver-Bloods?”
“Robbery is what is it. The Silver-Bloods are trying to muscle in on my land.”
“The Forsworn raided a little while ago and abducted Fjotra. The original guards hid in the mine, is that correct?”
“You know of that?”
“Yes, we are the ones who rescued Fjotra from the Forsworn and delivered her to The Temple of Dibella in Markarth.”
“That lot was sacked after proving to be cowards. This lot turned up hours later. They won’t let anyone work until I sell it off.”
“I warned Thongvor to change his ways. Perhaps one last warning is in order.”
“You can try telling them to go, but I would keep your sword arm ready.”
“It would be a very foolish thing for them to attack us.”
Ainethach left, and we hurried to catch up with the Silver-Blood goons.
Atar turned to me.
- Atar: The mine is closed. Get lost!
- Wulf: You are going to leave Karthwasten and never return. You will go to Markarth and tell Thongvor he had better hurry and reform as Dibella instructed.
- Atar: Helping out Ainethach, huh? Give me a reason not to plunge a dagger in your chest.
- Wulf: We would slaughter you and your rabble in seconds. Is that a good enough reason?
- Atar: With two knife ears, one of them a woman? Don’t make me laugh!
- Celestine: Hey, tiny dick. Why do Nord men grow beards?
Atar glared at Celestine but did not answer.
- Celestine: Was that too difficult for you? Is your brain as small as your dick?
- Ghorbash: You had better help the tiny dicked moron out.
- Celestine: Nord men grow beards so that they look like their mothers!
Atar drew his mace and charged Celestine. I let him pass.
Celestine hit Atar midsection with Inferno, and he died screaming.
I watched the head of one of the goons roll towards me.
Ghorbash laughed and said, “Brother Erandur knocked his head clean off with that hammer of his. If the rest of the Altmer fought like him, we would have lost the Great War in a week!”
I walked up to Erandur and said, “That was an impressive first kill as a Sentinel.”
“The look of contempt on his face deserved to be answered with my hammer.”
“Where are the other two goons?”
“They ran away.”
We made our way to Ainethach, who was sealing some barrels.
“The idiots won’t be a problem any longer.”
“I watched from here. They were stupid to attack you.”
“I did warn Atar.”
“That won’t be the last we hear from the Silver-Bloods. But at least we can get back to work.”
“It will be the last. I killed Thonar and have warned Thongvor he risks a lengthy jail term. This demonstration will be a timely reminder for him to change his ways.”
“Thank you. You have done a good thing for my workers and me.”
“Glad to help.”
While we were facing Ainethach, the remaining goons attacked from behind.
Ghorbash split open the head of one with his axe.
Erandur ran in and caved in the skull of the other goon with his hammer.
I pointed up to a ridge and told The Sentinels, “We have to climb up and over.”
The walk was quite pleasant.
When we got to the top of the crest, I spotted a Dwemer mechanical dragon on one of the towers of Bthardamz. It is a large and dull Dwemer ruin picked clean decades ago.
I used zoom vision to have a closer look. The dragon was too far away to be of concern to us.
We moved around the side of the hill and found the target of my compass. Kesh is a Khajiit.
We walked up to him.
- Kesh: Ah, wanderers, yes? No? Pilgrims, perhaps? Have you come to commune with Peryite, Taskmaster and blighted Lord, yes?
- Wulf: You are Kesh?
- Kesh: Yes, this one is Kesh the Clean.
- Lydia: Pew! I think that is a bit of a misnomer!
- Wulf: Tell me about Peryite.
- Kesh: He is the pus in the wound. Oh, proper ones curl their noses, but it’s pus that drinks foul humours and restores the blood. I worship Peryite, yes, because sometimes the world can only be cleansed by disease.
- Ghorbash: Pus in the wound? Is he talking about Apple Cabbage Stew?
- Lydia: That’s it. Next time I serve some, you don’t get any!
- Ghorbash: Oh, that is so kind of you!
- Wulf: Kesh the Slightly Soiled, I would like to speak to Lord Peryite.
- Kesh: Not everyone has the stomach required to entreat my Lord. But Kesh likes you, friend. There is a way Peryite may speak to us who will take Him in. If you wish to commune with Him, we’ll need to create the incense.
- Wulf: Give me the list of ingredients.
- Kesh: Fetch for me a deathbell flower, one silver ingot, a flawless ruby, and some vampire dust.
- Celestine: Wulf, that will just create a mild dizzy feeling.
- Wulf: Yes, I know, but let’s play the game if that is what is needed.
- Kesh: So yes, return with the ingredients. Then I will show you how to talk to Peryite.
- Wulf: Mm… I have everything but a silver ingot. They are a bit heavy to carry around for no reason. I will be back in a few seconds.
“Rigmor, I going to my pocket plane and should only be a few seconds.”
I wore the Ayleid Waystone and instantly appeared in my Oblivion pocket plane.
I went to one of the many chests there. In this one, I stored alchemy and crafting materials. I grabbed a silver ingot then removed the Ayleid Waystone.
I startled Kesh when I suddenly appeared inches from his face.
I said, “Come, Kesh. I have all the ingredients.”
“You do? Let Kesh have them, and he will make a good fume.”
Kesh stood on an old wooden box and put the ingredient into a Dwemer cauldron. The silver ingot and flawless ruby did nothing. It was the deathbell flower being crushed with the vampire dust that created a green gas.
Kesh said, “That should do. Now you must inhale deeply.”
“But that gas looks like the one around Ghorbash’s underwear draw!”
“Do you wish to converse with Peryite or not?”
“Yes, of course. But Kesh, you really should think about changing sides. Temples of The Nine use higher quality boxes. Plus, they have walls and ceilings.”
I inhaled a tiny bit of the gas. Not because it would do anything with the dweomer on my armour. It just smelled terrible, but I had to play along with the theatrics.
I felt the familiar probing, and like all other gods, apart from Talos, Peryite could not speak to me telepathically.
A voice more disgusting than the gas came from Peryite’s avatar. A large rat!
- Peryite: Breath deep, mortal. I would have you hear me well, so let these vapours fill your lungs.
- Wulf: The vapours are a sham. Let us continue and just pretend I let the vapours fill my lungs.
- Peryite: Are you afraid of being poisoned? I assure you that you would be no more poisoned than a fool after too much wine.
- Wulf: I am a mage and alchemist. I know the vapour does nothing but make the inhaler dizzy.
- Peryite: Very well. I have watched you for some time, you know. The decisions you’ve made intrigue me, and I wonder if you are a proper agent for a task of mine.
- Wulf: Please, cut the crap! You know nothing about me or what I have done on Nirn. You are not omnipotent. As for being a proper agent, tell me the task, and we shall find out.
- Erandur: I should be shocked, but I am not. He showed as much respect to Vaermina.
- Lydia: Wulf shows respect to the gods that deserve it. Not the ones who demand it.
- Peryite: I sent a blessing to Nirn, a wasting plague that infected a scattering of Breton villages. One of my monks, the elf Orchendor, was sent to gather these Afflicted. He shepherded them into Bthardamz for me but has since lost his way. I will not stand for betrayal. I want you to go to Bthardamz and Kill Orchendor, in my name.
- Wulf: I will enter Bthardamz for my reasons. I will judge Orchendor according to the laws of The Imperial Empire. His punishment will be at my discretion.
- Peryite: The elf must die. Either carry out my will or do not. You are not the only mortal agent I could choose.
- Wulf: What a load of bullshit! You are powerless to stop Orchendor, and that is why you need mortal agents. You have no power in this mortal plane. I bet I am the only person who has spoken to you in months. I am the Champion of The Divines, Boethia, Meridia, Azura, Sheogorath and Hermaeus Mora. Yet, I am not an agent for any of them but of my free will. I am going now as this is boring.
- Peryite: I have not released you!
- Lydia: Yet Wulf walks away using free will. Amazing!
- Wulf: How disappointing. I was hoping to see his dragon avatar, and instead, I get a rat.
Kesh was leaning against a tree.
- Wulf: Kesh, what can you tell me about Orchendor?
- Kesh: Orchendor? Kesh knew him. He is an overseer and a shepherd. He gathers the Afflicted and contains the festering would.
- Celestine: So Orchendor is a linen bandage! How interesting!
- Lydia: Celestine, your puns are as bad as Wulf’s.
- Kesh: Orchendor and his Afflicted are meant to stand ready, awaiting Peryite’s command to cover the world with his Blessing.
- Erandur: But Orchendor has been a naughty boy, and now the mighty Peryite needs a mortal to paddle his backside.
- Wulf: That was excellent, Erandur. I like the metaphorical reference to bottom smacking. Wonderful!
- Erandur: I am learning from the best.
- Wulf: We shall be back soon, Kesh. Don’t forget to collect the silver ingot and flawless ruby from the cauldron!
We moved away from Kesh and stopped. I knew The Sentinels would have questions.
- Wulf: Okay, Erandur, you are about to burst. Go on, ask the question.
- Erandur: I know you do not condone the labelling of Dark Lords as good and evil. But there is no denying that Peryite would be regarded as evil along with Molag Bal and Vaermina by the laymen. I am surprised you are cooperating with him!
- Wulf: I am not cooperating with him. I will use the information he provided to aid mortals.
- Celestine: There is nothing evil about the Afflicted disease. It is no different than Ataxia or Droops or dozens of other conditions. A physical ailment can be cured if an alchemist can figure out the right ingredients and preparation.
- Wulf: I am entering Bthardamz to collect samples in the hope of discovering what spreads the disease. Is it spread by whatever substance the Afflicted regurgitate or some other method or multiple methods? We will collect samples and hand them to the best alchemists in The College of Winterhold. A cure is possible if they can figure out the transmission process and how the disease interacts with the different physiologies.
- Lydia: We don’t even know if it affects Man, Mer, Khajiit and Argonian. It may be species-specific.
- Wulf: As I told Lord Pyrite, we will investigate Orchendor and judge him according to the laws of The Empire. Don’t forget we are sworn members of the Penitus Oculatus and can act with legal jurisdiction to arrest on suspicion. We do not have to have absolute proof of a crime having been committed until the trial.
- Erandur: What about the Afflicted?
- Wulf: Nobody has indicated to me that the disease impairs judgement. The actions of Afflicted are their free choice. But even if being Afflicted made them mentally impaired, like rabies, we have every right to defend ourselves. I will not hesitate to kill the Afflicted who endanger us.
- Erandur: I thought learning the bow was difficult. Keeping up with you thinking many steps ahead will be much more challenging.
- Wulf: I welcome questions. It is how we learn. Never fear to ask a question if I seem to have made some moral or logical leap of which you are unsure.
- Erandur: Yes, of course. These mental acrobatics that you all seem to have mastered will come to me eventually.
- Ghorbash: What mental acrobatics?
- Erandur: I stand corrected. The mental acrobatics that most of you seem to have mastered will come to me eventually.
- Ghorbash: Isn’t that what you just said?
- Wulf: Ghorbash, you are a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Ghorbash: Wow! Oh, is that good or bad?
Ghorbash scratched his head in confusion, which was quite a feat since he wore an ebony helm. The rest of us laughed.
The metal dragon quietly awaits us. It is a dragon, soul and all, inside a metal body. The Dwemer fiddled with things they should have left alone. But ethics never stood a chance against their ego and thirst for knowledge.
We did not try and hide our approach. As soon as Afflicted saw us, they attacked. Simultaneously, the Dwemer dragon attacked them.
The dragon spent a couple of minutes slaughtering the Afflicted and then came for us.
Dragonrend brought it crashing to the ground, and I closed in for the kill.
I soon cut it down. Erandur was inspecting the dragon when the light and sound show of soul absorption started.
Erandur looked concerned.
- Erandur: What in Mara’s name was that all about?
- Wulf: Dragons are immortal. Their soul cannot be destroyed, except by a Dragonborn. Alduin did not resurrect dragons. He used the lifeforce of mortal souls and a Shout to enable the dragon skeletons to regrow flesh and sinew. The dragons’ souls were metaphysically connected to their skeletons and automatically filled the newly reconstituted bodies.
- Erandur: Yes, I can understand that part.
- Wulf: What you just saw was me absorbing the soul of the fallen dragon. This dragon can never be revived. Its soul is now part of me to use. I can learn knowledge of the Thu’um from it. I can use it to make the metal used in the construction of my armour and sword. I can keep it stored until I die, and then it remains part of my soul. And before you ask, I have no control over this. It is part of the blessing from Lord Akatosh. I want it removed as I regard it as a curse. To destroy a sentient being’s soul is horrendous and an unfair burden.
- Lydia: Odahviing and Paarthurnax were correct. There have been far fewer dragons attacking you recently and none in packs.
- Wulf: One every thousand years would be too many.
- Lydia: Let us keep going, Wulf. Away from this carcass that reminds you of your curse.
Some Afflicted managed to survive one dragon only to die by the Thu’um of another.
Those killed by the dragon were often bent into unnatural shapes with eyes staring ahead. The terror and pain were short-lived.
One door we tried had an unpickable lock.
The entrance we needed to use was protected by several Afflicted standing next to a lever.
I advised The Sentinels, “Go down the steps as far away from the centre rail as possible. The Afflicted will pull that lever, and blades will emerge and spin around as they go up and down on the centre rail.”
Whirlwind Sprint had me upon the Afflicted before they could pull the lever. They were both mages, and one cast Barkskin on herself before I turned both of them to dust with Unrelenting Force.
I pulled another lever which lowered the bars blocking our entrance.
We entered Bthardamz. I will not fill these pages with descriptions of the many boring rooms and hundreds of deaths of aggressive Afflicted.
We started to encounter creeper like plants of a dark green colour. None of us recognised them.
Fluorescent seed pods also started to be quite numerous.
It started to seem the creeper plant was a single living organism that had found its way through cracks and crevices and was almost like the skeleton of the building.
We collected samples of the seed pods, creeper plant and green fluorescent goo. The dweomer on our armours protected us from the toxic fumes that were quite dense in some areas.
Live Afflicted started becoming scarcer when powerful Dwemer automatons became more common. In this part of the complex, the Dwemer machines were killing far more Afflicted than us.
At one point, I whispered to The Sentinels, “Can you hear that growling? The Dwemer also created Werewolf automatons. It will knock you flying if it gets close.”
The Werewolf automaton did attack us and was very swift. It was upon us in a split second, and I just managed to leap back from its initial attack.
It knocked Ghorbash a few feet off the floor but got clobbered by him in return.
The Werewolf Automaton then took a disliking to Ghorbash and ignored everybody else.
Ghorbash went flying through the air and landed twenty feet away.
Ghorbash was still trying to get up when the Werewolf automaton charged over and started raining blows.
The other Sentinels managed to distract the Werewolf automaton enough that Ghorbash could get back on his feet. Then they kept attacking until the enemy was defeated.
Bthardamz is huge but boring. There were no exciting Dwemer discoveries to be made. The killing was relentless, and I was tired of the place.
We came across a different type of pod.
When I hit one with an arrow, green gas was released. The pods were too high for us to collect a sample.
We eventually found the exploding gas pods at a more convenient level and took samples.
I was in extreme danger of dropping dead from boredom. Why do such monotonous places exist, and why do they take hours to trudge through?
We eventually came upon an afflicted by himself pacing back and forth near a colossal seed pod.
I approached him with weapons sheathed and asked, “Are you Orchendor?”
He replied, “Yes, I am Orchendor. Now, Peryite’s puppet, you die!”
Orchendor attacked. I chopped his head off. Quite legally, I might add.
Ghorbash walked over and said, “He was already short being a Bosmer and all. Was there any need to shorten him further?”
The only thing of use on Orchendor was a key. The key opened the door to a Dwemer Lift.
The lift took us back outside and into a dark night with torrential rain. It had taken almost seven hours of monotony to fight our way through endless rooms and corridors identical to every other room and corridor. Over seventy Afflicted died.
We made it back to Kesh the Unwashed just in time to stop him from becoming bear dinner.
I pushed Kesh out of the way and killed both bears.
I said to Kesh, “If you were truly clean, the bears would not have smelt you from twenty miles away.”
“This one does not find your humour amusing. The vapours are waning but not yet gone. Take a breath, and Peryite will speak if he sees fit.”
I stuck my head over the cauldron but did not breathe in. Peryite still responded as if I had.
- Wulf: Orchendor attacked me without provocation, so I killed him.
- Pyrite: Very well done, mortal. All things are in their order, and Orchendor roams The Pits. His betrayal will be punished, and your obedience is rewarded.
- Wulf: And I thought Meridia was annoying. I went to Bthardamz for my reasons and not because you asked me to. I killed Orchendor because he attacked me first, not because you wanted him dead.
- Erandur: Lord Pyrite, if you can see what we do, for what reason did we enter Bthardamz?
- Lydia: He can’t see us. He can only try and fool us with slick words and pretending he had power over us.
- Pyrite: Go, seek your fate. I will be watching, and perhaps we will meet again when you die.
- Ghorbash: You are going to watch me take a dump in your cauldron in a minute! He can’t even lie as good as Malacath!
- Wulf: Lord Pyrite, when I die, I will join my parents in Aetherius. Since you can’t enter there, I fail to see how we will meet again.
The green vapour vanished. I reached into the cauldron and retrieved an amulet that is probably of historical value.
I teleported to Silverpeak Lodge and summoned The Sentinels. We joined the other eight people who still lived in the house for a meal and talk.
After a hot bath, I made my way past empty child beds. Silverpeak Lodge no longer feels like a home without the laughter of children. We have to keep up our disguises, and it would be a folly to go to Dragons Keep no matter how much I wanted to.
I removed my helmet then flopped down on the bed.
I then contacted Rigmor. She could not come over as Sigunn was feeling under the weather.
We talked and talked and talked some more.
I know not what time I fell asleep.