Sundas, 8th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 202
I had joined The Sentinels in the dining hall for breakfast, and then we had a quick meeting in my room.
- Wulf: Okay, first we talk to Commander Drugo and see if the Legion needs any assistance.
- Lydia: Then we play spies and talk to Jackos.
- Erandur: I am not looking forward to Arnima. I pray to Lady Mara I am not tempted to dent heads with my hammer.
- Wulf: We will no doubt find bullies like last night’s guard. They will hide behind the orders of Lord Mortifayne to exercise their depravity.
- Ghorbash: I think it would be good for you to keep showing your authority early. Get them talking and wary of you. Be the biggest bully in town!
- Wulf: That is precisely what Rigmor recommended, and I was planning to do.
- Ghorbash: Please let me respond to any racist jibe directed towards me.
- Wulf: Yes, that would be best. Then they can see that all of you have the freedom to act.
- Celestine: I hope nobody thinks the Breton we meet here are a true reflection of my race.
- Wulf: Nah, we haven’t met any as morally corrupt as you so far.
- Lydia: I remember when Celestine wouldn’t even swear.
- Celestine: I remember when I just healed and never killed. Travelling with Wulf has changed us all.
- Erandur: Are we going to collect the Spriggan sap for Brother Fenig?
- Wulf: I do not want to slaughter Spriggan needlessly. I am sure I have some in storage and will be back soon.
- Lydia: Rigmor!
- Wulf: As if I would forget!
“My beloved, I am just going to my pocket plane for a minute or two.”
“I expect you back by the time I finish this crumpet with honey on it.”
“Unfair, at the velocity you shovel food down that gives me mere seconds.”
“Okay, I will eat like a lady with my pinkie extended and small nibbles.”
“I thought you would have special crumpet cutlery amongst the forty or so utensils next to your plate.”
“There might be, but Freathof isn’t watching, so fingers it is.”
I placed the Ayleid Waystone around my neck and was instantly teleported to my pocket-plane of Oblivion.
I went up one level to a chest in which I stored some reagents. Other chests also have different reagents. Inside I found the two types of Spriggan sap that Brother Fenig requested.
I removed the Ayleid Waystone and appeared before The Sentinels.
“I cheated. I could only nibble like a lady for a few seconds, and then I stuffed the crumpet in my mouth.”
“Did Freathof catch your indiscretion?”
“No, but he did ask me a question when I had the whole crumpet in my mouth. I pretended to have a coughing fit and pointed to the water jug. While Freathof was distracted filling a mug full of water, I spat the crumpet out into a napkin. And that was my last crumpet!”
“Consider it punishment for unladylike behaviour!”
“Yeah, right, pfft!”
“Never change, my dear Rigmor. Talk to you later and remember, I love you.”
“How can I forget when our love resonates through our rings. Lady Mara is definitely my favourite Divine. Oh, and I love you too!”
We found Commander Drugo heading for his office.
- Wulf: Commander Drugo, we are on our way to Arnima. Are there any Legion issues of which I should be aware?
- Drugo: A small Imperial outpost, called Deepcrag, has been overrun by Orsinium’s Sons. Reports are still sketchy, and I am sending out my best scouts to check the situation.
- Wulf: Can you think of any strategic reason they would want this outpost?
- Drugo: None at all, and that is the mystery. There is no strategy behind what the Orsinium Son’s do. But we are running around dealing with them almost exclusively.
- GHorbash: And there is the strategy. You are busy looking at the right hand holding the sword, and the left hand plunges a dagger into your belly. They are distracting you.
- Drugo: No offence to Inspector Ghorbash, but Orsimer are not known for their subterfuge. Are you suggesting the Orsinium’s Sons knowingly sacrifice troops to keep us from noticing some other scheme?
- Ghorbash: You speak the truth about Orsimer strategists, Commander Drugo. But some Chieftain or Warlord may be introducing new ideas. Maybe after serving in the Imperial Legion or similar.
- Lydia: They may be following a leader who is not Orsimer.
- Wulf: If somebody convinced them they speak for Malacath, they might follow such a person.
- Drugo: Well, we will be retaking the place knowing the Orsinium Son’s will fight to the death. It is the same every time. They are fanatical and often berserk fighters. In small skirmishes, they outclass even Legionnaires. Our tactics are suited for large battles, not piecemeal raids and so on. We are losing more troops than them, which does little for our morale.
- Wulf: Do not move on them until I have a chance to talk to you again. If fortunate, we can deal with such a situation with no losses. Would that boost the morale?
- Drugo: Just seeing The Dragonborn and Lydia in action would boost morale.
- Lydia: How come everybody looks up to me. Wulf let me have the last blow to take down Alduin. He managed to land the previous hundred or so!
- Drugo: You, milady, fought against Alduin twice. The bravery required is what makes you famous. The last hit on Alduin is icing on the cake.
- Wulf: We have to consider the reputation of the Legion with the locals.
- Drugo: Yes, that is why the Orsinium Son’s know we will take Deepcrag back no matter the casualties. Deepcrag could consist of a shed and a bucket, yet it will make us irreducibly vilified if we allow it to remain in enemy hands.
- Wulf: I am sure you scouts will provide excellent intelligence. We shall surprise the Orsinium’s Sons.
- Erandur: Commander Drugo, Wulf will scare the crap out of them! Forgive my language, Lady Mara.
- Celestine: I don’t think crap is a swear word.
- Ghorbash: Wulf will scare the excrement out of them! Nah, crap is better.
- Drugo: Are your people okay, Envoy Valdr?
- Wulf: They are perfectly okay. But we shall see how they are after a week or so here.
- Drugo: They will probably be dribbling while weaving baskets.
- Wulf: Wow, that big an improvement?
It seems to be a phenomenon that people we speak to stand staring with their mouths open when we leave. Sometimes they shake their heads in the forlorn hope we are an illusion or bad dream. Commander Drugo was one of the latter.
We stepped outside to our first Evermor early morning fog.
When we entered Arnima, the fog had a green and grey tinge. The sunlight struggled to make it to the ground, and all colour was muted.
Lisrier was engaged in a heated conversation with a pair of Arnimain Guards.
- Lisrier: You can’t keep it all. That is my earnings for the season. Listen, I can treat you lads to a round of ale at the inn if you just let me take back half my stuff. That is a good compromise, right boys?
- Guard One: It is always Evermor, never us that you care about. Why is that Merchant Gulinds? Is gold more important than blood? Nah, we’re keeping the whole lot of it.
- Guard Two: Besides, the Inn stopped selling quality ale a good while ago. They serve nothing but piss pints now.
- Guard One: Ha, too right they do! It has been ages since we’ve had a good drink. We could probably buy a whole fortnight worth of rum on your behalf, Merchant Gulinds. Those ponces at Evermor will have to wait for their next batch of fancy jewellery.
- Guard Two: Hear, now we are a generous lot, so take your horse and those rags you are wearing and leave. This situation is only temporary, so don’t feel too glum.
- Guard One: Yeah, bugger off before we get ol’ Morty involved.
- Lisrier: Word spreads, lads. Do not be surprised when us men of coin stop appearing.
- Wulf: Relax, Merchant Gulinds. I am positive the guards are only keeping your cart temporarily.
- Guard One: Who are you? His lover? We’re just assessing any items that may be sold as munitions for our enemies. The rest of it may be distributed to the people of Arnima to help their suffering. We are doing a good thing.
- Guard Two: That’s The Dragonborn, you idiot. Jounel warned us about him and how he threatened to kill rude bastards!
- Wulf: You know in that small chest is nothing but jewels. It seems Merchant Gulinds has already sold the equipment we left in the back of his wagon.
- Lisrier: Lord Silverpeak?
- Wulf: Yes, among many titles. I shall explain later.
- Lisrier: Okay. That should be interesting.
- Wulf: Guards, I know that causing problems for traders like Merchant Gulinds is causing severe problems for ol’ Morty with the other nobles. Also, fewer coins will flow into Arnima, so if you don’t want increased poverty, you will return everything to its rightful owner.
- Guard One: Alright, Merchant Gulinds is free to leave with all his stuff. Gods know this town doesn’t need more enemies.
- Guard Two: We are both quite attached to our heads and would like it to stay that way. With you and ol’ Monty being chop happy, the merchants’ best profit in Arnima is found in metal spikes for the severed heads and sharpening stones for the headsman’s axes.
- Lisrier: Lord Silverpeak, you have put your neck on the line for me once again, and all I can offer is my thanks.
- Wulf: Lisrier, wait for us outside.
- Lisrier: Okay, I will take Jenna outside for a bit before collecting my stuff. I will wait for you just outside the gates.
As Lisrier led Jenna outside, I continued my discussion with the guards.
- Wulf: Guardsman Jounel was not very understanding of Farmer Ysceley’s financial problems. Arnimain Guards have earned a reputation for being heartless, drunken bullies. I would like to believe you are concerned about the poverty of Arnima and its citizens, but that seems counter to the evidence.
- Guard One: Envoy Valdr, you will find us tight-lipped and hesitant to accept or place blame. Investigate further, and you will come to understand what we used to be and what we desire to be again.
- Guard Two: Lord Mortifayne is not what he once was, and either is Arnima. The guards suffer along with the citizens. However, we get three meals per day which is more than can be said for people like Farmer Ysceley. Jounel was merely obeying orders, and the brutal manner is how we get the results ol’ Monty demands. Fail an order, and there goes your three meals per day, if not your head.
- Lydia: What made Lord Mortifayne change?
- Guard One: Nobody knows. He started slowly with increased whippings and people placed in stocks for public humiliation and so on. Then he suddenly switched to the infamous Arnima brutality. He had to bring in unique individuals who were capable of following his orders. Many guards lost their lives for refusing to do so.
- Guard Two: So, you see, Envoy Valdr, that we are willing to risk our necks telling you these things. But if ol’ Monty asks us to do something that tests our faith in The Nine, we survivors would probably obey and worry about our souls later. The martyrs are already dead.
- Wulf: I thank you both for your honesty. I now have a better understanding of the situation.
- Guard One: Envoy Valdr, we sincerely hope you can stop the violence that threatens to explode all over this kingdom, our home.
- Wulf: I swear on The Nine that I will try my hardest.
We exited the main gate and found Lisrier holding a conversation with Jenna, his horse.
When approached, he waited for me to speak.
- Wulf: Merchant Gulinds, I am Wulf, Champion of The Divines and The Last Dragonborn. I have many titles. I am here at the request of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Titus Mede II and Lady Mara of The Nine. My title while in Evermor is Envoy Valdr.
- Lisrier: You had to get across the mountains without anybody the wiser. You wanted to catch people of interest off guard. I can understand that.
- Wulf: You must recognise the potential for chaos that currently exists within this kingdom. One of the guards said that you lived in Arnima, so you also know it is not what it once was.
- Lisrier: I was pretty content being a trader who only left home to open his shop and go to the inn for a few ales with friends. When the seemingly random executions and violence got to a certain point, being a travelling merchant seemed the better prospect.
- Wulf: Do you truly believe in The Nine?
- Lisrier: You have no choice in Evermor. But on my travels, I have discovered that the teachings of our Priests are at odds with those in Skyrim and Cyrodiil. My faith has waned as I wonder who is telling the truth. Are we commoners of less importance to The Nine than nobility? Are we supposed to mindlessly obey nobles because they were placed above us by our gods?
- Erandur: I am a Priest of Mara. I can assure you that no mortal is placed into nobility by The Nine. We have had commoners promoted to some of the highest ranks of nobility. It is obvious they were not born to rule but earned that burden.
- Lisrier: What burden? The weight of the gold they carry or the meals they consume?
- Erandur: The burden of responsibility. It is no easy task ensuring your citizens are safe, employed and well-fed. That is the nobility that The Nine desire.
- Wulf: If you want to renew your faith in The Nine, then obey their Ten Commands. Bring in goods that aid the citizens, not make nobles glitter. There is still profit to be made. You must decide what is of more importance. Is it your eternal soul or piles of gold that you can’t take into the afterlife? Thus ends my sermon. I wish you the best, Merchant Gulinds.
We re-entered Arnima, and the fog had lifted enough for some colour to return. However, the sunshine did not improve the scenery. Whatever ol’ Monty was doing with the money wrenched from starving peasants and honest merchants, it was not being spent on maintenance. Much of Arnima had a tired, worn-out lock. Rat and Skeever roamed the streets. We could see no sign of domesticated dogs and cats. They are usually one of the first things to vanish when citizens are starving. Horses and children often follow after those sources of protein are extinct.
A statue of Talos caught my eye, and I walked up to inspect it.
It was well maintained. Whether by employees of the city or devout civilians, I do not know.
Higher up the steps was a statue of a gryphon.
- Erandur: The placement is higher than that of Talos. Do you think that is a reference to their importance to Lord Mortifayne?
- Wulf: I don’t know. They could have been here a lot longer than he has been the ruling noble.
- Ghorbash: What is it with these people and the lion chickens?
- Wulf: Haha, if you want to start a riot, just call a gryphon a lion chicken to a citizen of Evermor.
- Ghorbash: Well, why do they revere them so much?
- Wulf: I honestly don’t know. The Altmer respect them, and Summerset Isle is where the majority of them live. But they are among the wildest of beasts and are cunning, not intelligent. Many Altmer died when futile attempts to domesticate them failed. Eventually, a few were tamed enough to serve beside Altmer in battle. I have certainly not read anything indicating they have the capability of speech. They are as rare as an Orsimer bathtub in Tamriel.
- Ghorbash: Hey, I bathe!
- Celestine: I know. I have to use several Destruction spells to unblock the drains and clear the scum from the water’s surface each time.
- Ghorbash: The water is naturally green!
- Celestine: But it is not usually furry.
- Ghorbash: Good point!
- Wulf: Before leaving Skyrim, I couldn’t find any information on Evermor’s fascination with gryphon. Perhaps we can ask a local.
We could hear jeering and name-calling. I heard similar when I had entered Solitude for the first time and when lining up for the chop in Helgen. It was the sound of a crowd baying for blood at an execution. We rushed over to see what was happening and quickly climbed onto a platform. A prisoner was being readied for his beheading. An Arnimain Guard addressed the crowd.
- Dorard: Let this be a warning to all who dare steal from nobility!
- Harnold: You lord is insane, and you sons of bitches are doing me a favour! At least I won’t have to suffer in this shithole any longer.
- Dorard: You should have kept your hands to yourself, Harny.
- Harnold: And you should listen to three children crying from starvation and say the same. To think you were my man of honour when I married Amalette. You cried at her funeral last month and swore to help me look after the children. You and all the other Mortifayne sycophants should feel enormous shame for what you have become.
- Dorard: We all do what we must to survive, Harny.
- Wulf: HALT! Guardsman, what is your name?
- Dorard: Oh, look, some more spectators. Show some courage Harny. Put your head where it belongs.
Harnold knelt and placed his head on the block.
- Wulf: In the name of your Emperor, I command you to stop this execution immediately.
- Dorard: Get on with it, Flordand. We obey Lord Mortifayne, not these foreigners.
Flordand altered the grip on his axe and prepared to end Harnold’s life. It was time for the Thu’um to echo off the walls of Arnima.
“INSPECTORS, DRAW YOUR WEAPONS. CUT THEM BOTH DOWN IF THE HEADSMAN RAISES HIS AXE ANOTHER INCH!”
The unmistakable sound of simultaneous weapons being released from their sheaths also echoed. The two executioners stopped and nervously looked between The Sentinels and me.
The crowd, who had been calling Harnold names with voices full of venom, went silent. Then we started to hear whispers of the type, “That was the Voice!” and “I told you The Dragonborn was in Evermor.”
I stood at the edge of the stage, stared at the crowd, and then commanded, “YES, I AM THE DRAGONBORN, AND YOU BLOODTHIRSTY BASTARDS BETTER GET OUT OF MY SIGHT BEFORE MY TEMPER GETS THE BETTER OF ME!”
The crowd dispersed quickly, with only a couple looking back to memorise the scene. I am sure they will talk about it over ales and meads for months to come. I returned to my previous place, and the two executioners continued standing perfectly still with their gazes now entirely fixated upon me.
- Wulf: Headsman, place your axe on the platform, then walk away, without a word, and quickly. Harnold, stand up. I know how uncomfortable those blocks can be. The slack bastards didn’t even have a box to catch your head!
- Harnold: They like our heads to roll off the platform and to the feet of the watching vultures.
Harnold stood up. Flordand placed his axe on the ground and quickly walked down the steps, then away.
When I was sure no other guards were coming to Dorard’s aid, I shoved past him and stood before Harnold. I got out my journal case and prepared parchment, quill and ink.
- Wulf: What is your name, prisoner?
- Harnold: Ah, Harnold Georlle, Sir.
- Wulf: I am Envoy Valdr. You are to address me as Excellency or Your Excellency.
- Harnold: Oh, okay, um… Your Excellency.
- Wulf: Are you a resident of Arnima?
- Harnold: I live in Forlorn. Well, I did until the floods destroyed my home and drowned my crops.
- Wulf: And you recently lost your wife?
- Harnold: Yes, Your Excellency, to the affliction that is sweeping the kingdom.
- Wulf: What is the name and age of your eldest child?
- Harnold: Amalette, she is seven next name day which is in a few weeks.
- Wulf: Named after your wife?
- Harnold: Yes, Your Excellency. She has her eyes and hair, and everybody says she will grow to be as beautiful as my wife. Well, that was before her ribs started to protrude and her belly bloat and her limbs become like sticks.
- Wulf: And the names and ages of the other two?
- Harnold: My eldest boy, Fraard, recently turned five. My little boy, Noleeus, is barely three years of age.
- Wulf: What horrendous crime earned you a trip to the headsman’s block, Farmer Georlle?
- Harnold: I stole a couple of sausages and a loaf of bread, Excellency.
- Wulf: What is the name of this guard?
- Harnold: Dorard Gaerin.
- Wulf: Guardsman Gaerin said you stole from the nobility. Is that true?
- Harnold: No, I stole food from a trader who has no shame paying a pittance to farmers for their produce and then charging ten times the cost for the same farmers to repurchase it. Other traders are ashamed but not that bastard! But please, don’t ask his name, for he has done nothing wrong according to the laws of Lord Mortifayne.
- Wulf: Why were you accused of stealing from a noble? Is this unnamed trader a noble?
- Harnold: The traders pay taxes to Lord Mortifayne. If they have fewer goods to sell, they make less income and therefore pay less tax. By stealing, I caused a septim or two less profit for the trader. This, in turn, would result in a fraction of a septim less tax owed and paid to Lord Mortifayne. Therefore, I have stolen from Lord Mortifayne, born noble and has never had an empty stomach.
- Wulf: Look at me and answer truthfully. Have you stolen food before?
- Harnold: No, Your Excellency, I swear. The farmers have been looking out for each other. But Lord Mortifayne demanded even more tax from the farmers, and charity is no longer possible.
- Wulf: Did you go to trial, Farmer Georlle?
- Harnold: Trial? They are things of the past and were rarely needed. Once, not long ago, all the people of Forlorn and Arnima were clothed and living with roofs over their heads. The farmers kept plenty of food, and neither they nor their children starved. Trials were held for every breach of the laws, including minor infractions, but so few were needed they were a novelty. Nowadays, all an execution needs to proceed with is an accusation from a guard. Lord Mortifayne doesn’t even sign the execution orders anymore.
- Wulf: Then I, as His Imperial Majesty’s Envoy, find your conviction invalid and the proposed punishment immeasurable excessive. Please wait while I write out my findings on this matter and organise your compensation.
Harnold gaped at me as I quickly recorded the findings and signed. I then wrote an introduction letter and instructions to the Headmistress of Dragons Keep. I handed the documents and a bag with fifty septims to him.
- Wulf: Farmer Georlle, I could not arrange a royal seal in time before arriving in Evermor. But my signature suffices and makes this exoneration a legally binding document. You are exonerated of all crimes. You were falsely charged with theft from a noble and not provided a trial as required under Imperial Law for capital punishment cases. Take the compensation I have provided and buy a ship’s passage to Solitude for you and your children. From there, hire a carriage to Dragons Keep in Whiterun Hold. Show them the introductory document I gave you. The staff will provide accommodation for you and your children until it is safe to return to Evermor. You will be expected to earn your keep by attending the crops and teaching such skills to the orphans who live there. Divines bless you and your family, Farmer Georlle.
- Harnold: I prayed daily to Mother and never gave up hope. Even when I thought I would never see my children again, I prayed without bitterness.
- Erandur: Lady Mara has answered your prayers, Farmer Georlle. Envoy Valdr was sent to Evermor to help its people by Lady Mara. The Divines cannot physically intervene with the evil within this kingdom, but they can and did send their champion.
- Wulf: Head to the temple and ask for asylum until reliable transport is arranged for you and your children.
- Harnold: I will leave the coins with Brother Rirrard while I gather my children. I will never forget what you have done for us.
- Wulf: I am simply doing what the Ten Commands instruct.
Harnold made his way to the temple, and I stepped up to Dorard. The Sentinels took up positions on and around the execution platform. We all expected some intervention by other guards or persons of authority. None were to be seen.
- Wulf: Guardsman Gaerin, there are times when discretion can be used. If ol’ Monty didn’t know about your friend’s alleged theft, why did you try and kill him?
- Dorard: Other guards thought they saw me catch him in the Forlorn market. What they actually saw was me noticing the theft and trying to warn Harnold. One of my officers was amongst those who witnessed the clumsy theft and came running over. He congratulated me on capturing the ‘thieving mongrel’ and ordered me to execute Harnold. I played the game from then on, or I would have ended up with my head rolling next to Harnold’s. I have a wife, heavily pregnant with our first. What choice did I have, Your Excellency? Please tell me as I can’t think of one.
- Wulf: There are times and places to risk all, and this was not one. The Divines do not expect mindless sacrifice. You are free to go.
- Dorard: Now I will die! There is no excuse for disobeying one of Lord Mortifayne’s arse lickers. Most of the officers are not even natives of Evermor or even High Rock. Just thugs brought in and paid three times my wage because they can live with what we do. I think most of them would do it without pay because they enjoy it. Sadistic bastards, all of them. Especially the two knights!
- Wulf: Tell me of these knights.
- Dorard: Twin brothers, Mek and Sek. I think their mother was a giantess by the size of them. They claim to be Breton, but I have never seen either of them without their helm on their head. They are Lord Mortifayne’s enforcers. You know that torture and death are part of your immediate future if they are sent after you.
- Wulf: Are they sworn knights, and if so, from what order?
- Dorard: Oh, they might have uttered knightly oaths as dark as their armour to Lord Mortifayne. But they use two-handed hammers and no shield with a coat of arms, so I don’t know. When somebody who towers over you by more than a foot says he is a knight, you nod and tell them how wonderful that is.
- Wulf: And your officer will send them to deal with you?
- Dorard: Without a doubt.
- Wulf: Where can we find these moronic mountains?
- Dorard: On the stairway, past the gryphon monument. Please don’t ask me how you tell them apart, for I do not know. That is a game they like to play. Address them by the wrong name and get a backhand.
- Ghorbash: Are we going to talk with large, violent men in full plate armour?
- Wulf: Inspector Ghorbash, don’t get your hopes up. They might not fight us.
- Dorard: As soon as they see an Orc, they will attack. His uniform will make no difference.
- Ghorbash: Should I shout, ‘TIMBER’ when I cut them down?
- Wulf: I shall warn them that you and Flordand are guilty only of obeying my orders. I am of noble rank many levels higher than ol’ Monty on the ‘who’s arse should I kiss’ scale.
- Dorard: I will not run away but continue my duty. I must do so for my wife and child.
- Lydia: You seem a good man, Guardsman Gaerin.
- Dorard: I could claim that to be the case once. Perhaps I will be able to do so again one day.
- Wulf: On your way, Guardsman Gaerin. We will visit the knights and let them know the new rules of Arnima.
Dorard left the platform as we headed for the twins.
At the statue of Talos, I told The Sentinels, “I will talk to the knights alone. If you hear a fight, come running.”
I then proceeded to the top of the stairs, where the twins had tents as their accommodation.
I walked up to one knight standing in the open. The other was watching from his tent but soon came out a few feet to watch the proceedings.
- Wulf: Good morning, Sir Knight. I am Envoy Valdr, representative of His Imperial Highness.
- Sek: You are the one stirring up trouble with our guards and making them piss their pants. A good trick but not amusing. I suggest you voluntarily stop before our Lord asks us to stop you.
- Wulf: Are you Sek or Mek?
- Sek: Guess.
- Wulf: You have until I count to three to tell me your name.
- Sek: This will be amusing.
- Wulf: One…
- Sek: Aren’t you supposed to draw your little sword in an attempt to scare me?
- Wulf: Two…
- Sek: Oh no! Only one to go! What shall I do?
I shoved the knight hard, which made him lose his footing. He fell backwards, landed with a clang, and his two-handed hammer dislodged, then slid along the ground behind him. His brother laughed but did not approach. I could hear The Sentinels running up the stairs.
The knight tried to stand, but I drew my sword, and he ceased to move.
- Wulf: Three.
- Sek: You cheated!
- Wulf: This sword was made by Talos. It will cut through that shitty armour of yours and remove your head as if you were naked. You are refusing to answer a question asked by a Commander of the Penitus Oculatus. That is enough to get you jailed for a long time. Then you made a threat to an Envoy, which is a threat to His Imperial Highness under the laws of the Imperial Empire. What is your name? I would hate to have the wrong one engraved on your headstone.
- Sek: My name is Sek, and I advise you to let me live if you want to avoid a disaster.
- Wulf: Oh, and what kind of disaster would that be?
- Sek: Lord Mortifayne will unleash dark magics upon this city. Mek and I are the only ones to whom he listens. The only ones who have stayed his hand. He listens because we have helped perpetrate the depravity that appeases his insanity. Perhaps you can find a solution to the problem. However, I strongly advise that an attack upon him or this city will result in disaster. That is what the other nobles will eventually do now that the merchants are being targeted.
- Erandur: I believe he speaks the truth.
- Ghorbash: As do I.
- Sek: I admire your courage, Orc. Most would use a full helm and hide what they are.
- Ghorbash: Does that work for you and your brother? No, I can still tell you are both cowardly pieces of shit despite your helms.
- Wulf: Sek, I want you and Mek to assure Lord Mortifayne that I am not here to remove him from office but am investigating the unwarranted attacks upon his reputation. Advise him to be patient while I do so.
- Sek: Lord Mortifayne is fascinated by you. We shall tell him that lie, and he will believe it. We will do so because we do not want Evermor reduced to a pile of ashes.
- Wulf: It is not a lie. I must believe you are sincere about Lord Mortifayne’s intentions and capability. So, for now, I will continue my investigations and not allow him to be threatened with removal or armed conflict.
- Sek: Then let me return to my duties. We might just have to start filling the dungeons full of miscreants instead of summary executions. Will that stop actions that may make Lord Mortifayne that little more anxious each time?
- Wulf: I will stop violence against the innocent. But this bullying can be put aside for now. I think it has served its purpose.
- Lydia: Your Excellency, the execution.
- Sek: We know what happened. We will not bother Flordand or Dorard or the unfortunate farmer.
I nodded to The Sentinels, who sheathed their weapons. Ghorbash helped Sek to his feet while I walked up to Mek. He had retreated into his tent when he saw his brother was safe.
He surprised me by speaking first.
“Your Excellency, Sek’s and my souls are darkened for eternity. But you are wise to listen to Sek’s council. The threat is real. We are soldiers and do not understand the wickedness that controls Lord Mortifayne. We know who you are and who you represent. We want you to stop all of this.”
“Then do as I ask and reassure Lord Mortifayne that I am not another threat but the opposite.”
As we walked towards the Temple of The Nine, I discussed my decision with The Sentinels.
- Wulf: The bully phase is over. Now we have to start winning trust through action.
- Lydia: Not everybody here is a good person at heart! I do not believe they can partake of terrible crimes and murder and still have an untainted soul.
- Wulf: What do you say, Erandur? Did you participate in terrible crimes and murder? Is your soul untainted?
- Erandur: I did participate in Vaermina’s schemes but not murder. However, if that Dark Lord has asked for me to kill, I may have had no qualms doing so. My soul is eternally tainted, but cleansing it is not the purpose of reformation. All you can do is hope your actions at least balance themselves before you die, for you have an eternity to judge yourself.
- Wulf: Lydia, you heard Ulfric Stormcloak in Sovngarde. He regrets his actions, and it was too late for him to redeem himself when I killed him. Odahviing and Paarthurnax are guilty of massacres of enormous scale. But they have changed, and only the gods and themselves will ever know if or when they have balanced their ledger. But they are immortal and can spend eternity trying to balance that ledger.
- Lydia: And that is another reason why you can’t tolerate the absorption of dragon souls. They never have a chance to reform.
- Wulf: Those dragons no longer have a chance to reform and cease to exist. However, they don’t have an eternity of regret like Ulfric. It is debatable which is a more terrible fate.
- Celestine: We have to co-operate with some people that we would usually kill or at least rebuke. I don’t think we have a choice.
- Wulf: Yes, and in doing so, we increase our chances of finding peaceful resolutions to the problems and give people a chance to seek redemption of sorts.
- Lydia: We are waiting for Lord Mortifayne to summon us. Is that correct?
- Wulf: Yes. If we stormed into his home, we would be pushing our authority too far, too soon. He will eventually ask to see us, and by answering his summons, we allow him a feeling of being in control. We can’t appear as a threat after what the twin knights have said.
The Arnima Temple of The Divines was similar in architecture and splendour to the Temple of Mara in The Bridge. However, the atmosphere of Arnima made it seem foreboding and unlikely to offer succour. We noticed guardsmen entering and leaving. I wondered if they prayed for their souls at the end of each day’s duty.
We entered the temple, and my anger boiled to the surface. Blasphemy in the form of a mummified corpse stood on a central dais!
Celestine looked at me and whispered, “You must remember why we are here. It is not to stamp out affronts to The Divines.”
I nodded, and we made our way to the only priest in attendance.
- Wulf: Excuse me, are you Brother Rirrard?
- Rirrard: Ahh, Envoy Valdr. I was hoping you would pay a visit, Your Excellency.
- Wulf: News travels fast in Evermor.
- Rirrard: It does amongst the Priest Circle.
- Wulf: I need, and want, to understand the position of the temples and priests within Evermor.
- Rirrard: In fear of tooting my own horn, I would say we are immeasurably important in Evermor society. The clergy have congealed with royalty. The two casts have governed in tandem in many kingdoms and continue to do so in Evermor.
- Wulf: What do you mean by royalty. You have a king and a prince. What other royalty is there?
- Rirrard: Why, the lords and governors, of course.
- Wulf: Forgive my ignorance, but are nobles regarded as royalty?
- Rirrard: Yes, that might not be the case in unenlightened provinces and countries, but all nobility in Evermor is of royal blood.
- Erandur: Excuse me, Brother Rirrard. I am a Priest of Mara and am intrigued by this concept of caste. Do you think royalty and priests are of a different social level than the citizens you serve?
- Rirrard: Yes, as The Nine meant it to be.
- Wulf: I see, and you work closely with the, um, royalty of Evermor?
- Rirrard: Every lord, governor and king have their own priest. Sometimes to keep up traditions but most commonly to convene meetings with other royalty via the priests’ relation to one another.
- Wulf: Via the Priest Circle? Precisely what is that?
- Rirrard: A council of priests. It was created after the dissolution of the Mages Guild in the province. It supplants their purpose, yet with a limited interest in the arcane, as from what came before. Restoration magic takes centre stage in our studies. We do not dabble in the more destructive arts.
- Celestine: And why would that be?
- Rirrard: Many royals fear their lands turning into despotic theocracies with a ruling mage class. This unfortunate event happened to several kingdoms when the Mages Guild held prominence.
- Wulf: Do the priests of Evermor study outside of High Rock?
- Rirrard: No, we do not.
- Wulf: I have seen much suffering in Forlorn and Arnima. How do you cope?
- Rirrard: I would love to tell you that faith alone keeps me going, but this goes farther than appeasing the gods. Only those with black hearts could look the other way, so I stay and do the best I can. The alchemist corner over there allows the temple to serve potions and other relief. And we let the injured rest within the temple and grace of their gods.
- Wulf: I was unaware that The Nine needed appeasing. Do you blame them for what is happening in Evermor?
- Rirrard: I am at a loss as to explain this kingdom’s misfortunes any other way.
- Wulf: Do you manage to leave this temple often and visit with the citizens of Evermor?
- Rirrard: Unfortunately, no. I rely on The Missionary to do that for me. Vicariously living through his exploits unburdens my mind for a while and helps me stop thinking about the reality here.
- Wulf: We assisted Brother Fenig of The Bridge. It would be remiss of me not to ask if you may also require assistance.
- Rirrard: Perhaps. We have recently suffered a string of thefts within this very temple, and I have no idea why. They are not emptying our coffers, but the thief seems interested in particular relics.
- Wulf: Is there something the stolen relics have in common?
- Rirrard: They are items belonging to Mados, the Champion of Lady Mara.
- Wulf: Did you employ extra security in an endeavour to catch the thief?
- Rirrard: The guards generously spared some eyes to watch over the temple when I am not in attendance. But nothing, neither beggar nor vagrant, has appeared. The Missionary, Reamonn, has taken up the pursuit, and he’s quite the prodigy in Alteration. One such exercise he has mastered is the great searches. He scours the land through projected, arcane vision. While using his peculiar skills to search for our most recently stolen item, he found it.
- Wulf: What is the item, and from where can we retrieve it?
- Rirrard: It is a ring that belonged to Mados and is located within the dungeons of Grey Belmor.
- Wulf: Is that is where the undead are congregating.
- Rirrard: Yes, the glowing skeletons. Apart from what can be seen treading the surface, we have no idea what dwells there. I’ll beg Mara’s ear for your safe return.
- Wulf: See this ring I wear, Brother Rirrard? It is a gift from Lady Mara. She is with me at all times.
- Rirrard: Oh, are you certain?
- Wulf: Place your hand near it. Can’t you detect her presence?
- Rirrard: Nobody can detect the presence of a Divine!
- Wulf: My sword was made by Talos. My armour was made by Lord Akatosh and carries powerful blessings of The Nine. I am their champion, Brother Rirrard. If your Priest Circle has not informed you, I am here at the request of both His Imperial Majesty and Lady Mara. Have any of The Nine ever spoken to you?
- Rirrard: Of course not. To suggest such a thing is blasphemy!
- Erandur: Lady Mara has spoken to me on many occasions. I and other Priests and Priestesses have witnessed Lady Mara speak to Envoy Valdr.
- Lydia: The Sybil in Markarth speaks with Lady Dibella every day.
- Celestine: We have all witnessed gods, Divines and Dark Lords converse with Envoy Valdr. The last person whose faith you should question is the one placed on Nirn by Lord Akatosh.
- Wulf: Enough. Brother Erandur’s faith and knowledge are based on the limited learning he received within the closed system of Evermor. He only questions what is new to him.
- Rirrard: I am sorry. We have often debated expanding our training outside of our borders, but the traditionalists always win.
- Wulf: That is a discussion outside of my jurisdiction or immediate concern. I take it this mummified corpse on display is that of Mados?
- Rirrard: Yes, it is.
- Wulf: Wasn’t Grey Belmor where Mados was killed in battle against Orsimer?
- Rirrard: That is also correct.
- Wulf: I have a very extensive library but could find nothing written about Mados. I only know his name and place of death as they were mentioned briefly in a documented history of this kingdom. Do you have any books I can read to familiarise myself with him and his exploits?
- Rirrard: Of course, let me gather them for you.
As Rirrard went to retrieve the books, I read the plaque in front of Mados’ remains. It said,
- Mados (4E 119 – 4E 174)
- The Last War Knight
- Mara’s Champion
- Hero of Grey Belmor
- His vigil over the Kingdom of Evermor is everlasting
A person dressed in red monk robes, stained from travelling, seemed to be praying not to any of the Shrines of The Divines. Rather, he was praying to the corpse of Mados. Since he was the only other religious type I could see, I guessed he was The Missionary.
- Wulf: Excuse the interruption, but are you Missionary Reamonn?
- Reamonn: Excellency, please use Reamonn, although, in Cyrodiil, they use Raymond.
- Wulf: Reamonn with two n?
- Reamonn: That is correct.
- Wulf: You are Breton, so I assume you studied or worked in Cyrodiil?
- Reamonn: I studied there. I thought it was my ticket into a good life, only to end up back here. However, in retrospect, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Wulf: You are concerned about the problems in Evermor?
- Reamonn: As we speak, a lot of innocent blood is being spilt. If I want to do something about it, I must be here and not safe in Cyrodiil.
- Wulf: Do you travel often?
- Reamonn: Until recently, yes, I did. I had quite a bit of fun, although I never left Arnima without a shiv hidden in my boot. Now I need a bloody armed escort!
- Rirrard: Your Excellency, here are the books you wanted.
Rirrard handed me three volumes called ‘Documents of Valour’. They were historical records of Mados.
- Wulf: Thank you, Brother Rirrard. I will return them to you soon.
- Rirrard: There is no hurry. Return them in a couple of days when you have finished reading them.
- Wulf: You can have them back in thirty minutes or so.
- Erandur: Envoy Valdr is not jesting.
- Rirrard: Oh…okay.
Rirrard walked away, shaking his head.
- Wulf: Reamonn, I would like to discuss your divination skills but not just now. We have tasks to complete for Brothers Fenig and Rirrard.
- Reamonn: I can usually be found in here, Your Excellency.
I wandered over to a relatively quiet spot and read the three volumes on Mados. After forty minutes, I handed them back to a stunned Rirrard and asked, “Do you know where I can find Jackos?”
He replied, “Yes, he is talking in the corner with the Orc.”
I approached Jackos, who looked tiny next to Ghorbash.
- Jackos: Inspector Ghorbash explained that you lot are not Legionnaires but Penitus Oculatus, like Commander Drugo.
- Wulf: Yes, but my Sentinels wear a different uniform than all other Penitus Oculatus.
- Jackos: I keep my ear to the ground, so I know who you are, Envoy Valdr. So, what do you think of Arnima?
- Wulf: I can see it was once a place where citizens were proud to call home. But now, despite an excessive amount of taxes being collected by its lord, it has fallen on hard times.
- Jackos: Oh, the sheer state this town must be in for a newcomer to notice. Or were the rampant Skeever and rats a giveaway?
- Wulf: The health and welfare of the people concern me more than the buildings.
- Jackos: If you’re willing to stay a while longer, then you’ll come to witness that some of us retain our civility. Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say. I wish that were completely true in our case.
- Wulf: Let us not banty words. I am in Evermor to investigate the problems plaguing the kingdom and hopefully find peaceful resolutions. A frumpy friend of yours said you might need some help.
- Jackos: Usually, I warn her spies that they could find themselves on the end of a rope or worse. But I don’t suppose that is a concern to you?
- Wulf: No. it isn’t. Even if I wasn’t an Envoy, I could stick my nose in ol’ Monty’s business for as long as I wanted. But even if I weren’t a Penitus Oculatus Commander, there would not be enough guards in Arnima to survive myself and my Sentinels if they were to try and arrest me.
- Jackos: I am unlike others who bury their heads in the sand and pretend the rest of Nirn doesn’t exist. I keep up with the news and know some, but I am sure not all of your accomplishments. You could tear this place apart.
- Wulf: But I won’t. That is what I am trying to avoid.
- Ghorbash: Jackos was asking the right questions. He is careful and knowledgeable.
- Jackos: That is how I have survived so far.
- Wulf: Ms Frumpy?
- Jackos: Tell her that a helping hand is more than welcome. She will get the gist.
- Wulf: We may also offer you a helping hand. However, we have other tasks first.
- Jackos: Take this letter as well. The seal is supposed to keep prying fingers out, so she’ll know if you start sticking your nose in.
Jackos handed me a letter. I immediately broke the seal and read it.
- Wulf: Are the twins stealing your scouts?
- Jackos: They are trying to. Unlike the Arnimain Guards, most of my troops are yet to cross to the dark side, as it were.
- Wulf: I assume ol’ Morty’s spy network is so good that nobody in Arnima dares to whisper even a hint of a plot.
- Jackos: Yes. Plans tend to be outed upon leaving a person’s lips here. There are ears all around town eager to earn an extra septim for themselves by getting on the lord’s good side. Besides, our hands are ultimately tied through forces beyond Mortifayne.
- Wulf: What forces?
- Jackos: There’s a larger fear among the royalty in the province for uppity peasants than mad tyrants. We don’t want to be setting any precedents with our unruliness now.
- Wulf: Other kingdoms of High Rock would combine to destroy a civilian uprising?
- Jackos: It has happened in the past. Ask Ms Frumpy about Munstor.
- Wulf: That is where civilians started to live with the Witchmen.
- Jackos: I guarantee you do not know the whole story. Ms Frumpy is one of the few nobles who will even talk about it. She knows the truth of that tragic event.
- Wulf: The Witchmen have been active near The Bridge. I take it that until now, they were mainly a problem in the north. What do you think they hope to obtain?
- Jackos: Isn’t that the question on everyone’s lips. Abandon any hope of reasoning with these savages. Trying to understand them will earn you a dung-covered arrow in the gut. They damn wiped out nigh eight-tenths of the men I’ve sent their way. Either maddening sorcery or toxic weaponry felled all. The other two-tenths returned with missing limbs or sanity.
- Wulf: How insane are they?
- Jackos: It is like their brains were knocked clean out of their skulls. They are raving mad and regurgitating the same strange words that those fanatics vomit from their black lungs.
- Wulf: What numbers are there? If I brought in a legion or two, would that be enough?
- Jackos: You don’t know, do you?
- Wulf: There are a lot of things I don’t know.
- Lydia: Hey guys, did you hear that?
- Celestine: I will have to check His Excellency for a bump on the head.
- Jackos: You don’t know how such a force as destructive and incoherent as the Witchmen can maintain their numbers. It is not because they breed like rabbits, although that plays a role. It is mainly due to our very own defecting from all over the kingdom.
- Wulf: Is it the people who come back uttering the strange words that join the Witchmen?
- Jackos: Yes. It seems that dark prose gets lodged between their ears and messes with their thoughts.
- Celestine: I am a healer. Can you describe how these people who join the Witchmen act?
- Jackos: A Breton as well. High Rock, especially Evermor, could use your skills more than Skyrim or Cyrodiil.
- Celestine: Nobody needs my help more than Envoy Valdr. And Nirn needs nobody more than they need Envoy Valdr.
- Jackos: Well said. My apologies for such a rude assumption.
- Celestine: Symptoms?
- Jackos: They are violent and unpredictable. We have made it an unspoken law to exile those affected by this mind poison rather than take them in. Rehabilitation had proven futile.
- Erandur: That is not what Lady Mara asks of her followers.
- Jackos: It is a cold and heartless measure. And cold begets cold, with the whole land freezing in its misery.
- Wulf: I assure you, Jackos, that we will endeavour to prevent further misery and return all of Evermor to a peaceful kingdom.
- Jackos: Up to now, our only ally has been time as we wait for the lord to pass on. Hopefully, he will then be replaced by a more just ruler. Though knowing The Reach, it is a hope based on fantasy.
- Wulf: But now you have an ally with more power than Ms Frumpy. We shall visit again soon and see if we can help you with things that won’t startle ol’ Monty.
- Jackos: You could take direct action with authority you carry. Is there a reason you hesitate in doing so?
- Wulf: I believe there is a far greater danger than you or the nobility realise. Lady Mara would not send me here to deal with a single tyrant of a single city. What Mortifayne is doing endangers the whole of Nirn. I must gather proof of what that is before he is pushed too far.
- Jackos: Then I hope you find a solution quickly. Ms Frumpy will not wait for much longer before making a drastic move against Mortifayne.
I did a quick prayer at the Shrine of Akatosh while standing up. Nobody with a proper understanding of The Nine would kneel before them.
Just after exiting Arnima, I rescued a guard from a wolf. Not even a word of thanks was given.
We briefly stopped to talk through a few things when we had a clear enough view to be sure nobody was close enough to hear. First up, I read out Jackos’ letter to Merosa.
“M continues to reprimand those who deter his acquisition of trade goods.
M continues to resist counsel from Evermore. Further negotiation on behalf of the town Priest has brought no results.
M has regressed further from duties, only appearing to dispense punishment on those accused by him or the guard.
Increasingly difficult to control the guards. They are answering to the knights who themselves are answering to M.
1: Roughly a fortnight ago, the guard had seen it fit to murder a transient from the Divide, convinced of him being a spy from Merosa. The victim was left rotting for three days in my absence. I was making arrangements with the Exiles in the meantime, and the body was only removed upon my return.
2: I was approached by ‘G.R’, recently wed. He reported that knight S had insulted his new wife. The husband confronted S and received a skull fracture, three broken ribs and a dislocated arm as a result. The wife continues to be harassed by knight S, and the husband continues to regress into himself.
3: It was recently discovered that confiscated goods from Merchants are being bartered for substances provided by the Exiles. The guards who were responsible for this illicit trade have been punished accordingly. However, we do not know for how long this has been happening nor the extent. I believe that more of the guards are complicit. I cannot suffer a possible mutiny with hasty accusations.
You have received prior reports detailing similar activity, yet as you can see, the frequency is on the increase. All of this is a direct result of M’s rule. Now that the Merchants are being targeted, S will have to intervene.
I hope to hear from you soon.
- Ghorbash: Please let me cut up Sek when his usefulness is at an end.
- Lydia: You will have to beat me to it!
- Ghorbash: How about I hold him while you stab him?
- Lydia: You have a deal!
- Wulf: We have to stop King Sigmayne from intervening. But we do not have evidence of ol’ Monty’s capacity to destroy Arnima except what two crook knights say, and the mumbo jumbo Lady Mara told me.
- Erandur: I wish I had been there to hear her words to you. Can you please repeat what Lady Mara said that makes you think Mortifayne is capable of great destruction?
- Wulf: Lady Mara said, ‘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.’
- Lydia: You surmise that the canker is an Oblivion Gate!
- Wulf: Can you think of anything else that would endanger everywhere on Nirn and for all time?
- Erandur: Lady Mara did not tell you this plainly because The Divines need you to probe and ask questions.
- Wulf: Precisely. They have some idea of what is happening. However, it is up to us to discover the who, what and when of their concerns.
- Lydia: When Boethia planned her gate, the deaths of many in the Imperial City were needed to open it. ‘The Culling’ as she called it.
- Celestine: But Malacath and The New Order only needed the death of Rigmor due to her royal bloodline and, ahem, intact maidenhood.
- Wulf: Without understanding metaphysics, we cannot understand how these triggers open an Oblivion Gate. The virginity part seems to be a belief held by those performing the ritual rather than an actual physical requirement. After all, a young boy child of royal blood was supposed to be the sacrifice, not Rigmor, so where was the maidenhead?
- Lydia: What is the trigger in Arnima?
- Wulf: A valid assumption is the brutality being exercised in Arnima is the trigger to opening an Oblivion Gate there. There are Daedric Princes that gain power from the physical and mental suffering of mortals.
- Erandur: Mara, please help us! The severity and rate of brutal acts are increasing, according to Jackos’ letter.
- Lydia: Which means the ability to open the gate is getting closer!
- Wulf: Now you understand why I believe what the twin knights said.
- Lydia: We need proof, but you do not want to simply walk into Lord Mortifayne’s castle and search for it.
- Wulf: If he is on the edge of triggering this catastrophe, I could trigger his paranoia enough to push him over that metaphorical edge.
- Ghorbash: He cannot ignore your presence. He must invite you in to meet him soon.
- Wulf: In the meantime, we must do what we can to stop The Council, Governor Merosa and King Sigmayne from militarily confronting Lord Mortifayne or performing some other action that may trigger a disastrous response.
- Lydia: What if we fail and an Oblivion Gate is opened?
- Wulf: Then I will enter it and close it as I have done once before.
- Lydia: But that gate had not fully opened. Malacath could not yet pass through.
- Wulf: The closing is the same. You must destroy or remove a Sigil Stone.
- Lydia: And what if the gate is partially open. What could pass through?
- Wulf: Not the Dark Lord but their minions. Daedra of all sorts would swamp Arnima. The regular troops and guards would be slaughtered. All of The Sentinels would be needed to defend the civilians until I can close the gate. I might call upon a couple of dragons as well.
- Lydia: This is a terrifying scenario you are predicting.
- Wulf: We must find the proof and decide what to do from there. As soon as Mortifayne invites us in, we must drop everything else and accept the invite.
- Lydia: Is this why you prayed while in the temple.
- Wulf: I asked Lord Akatosh for aid if this speculation is likely to prove true. I fear I will lose people I love if it does.
- Ghorbash: Why tackle Oblivion by yourself if it comes to that?
- Wulf: There is no guarantee of returning to Mundus when you destroy a Sigil Stone. I would not have any of you trapped there with me. The Divines could not aid me, and I would have to find some other way of returning. It has happened to mortal agents in the past.
- Lydia: Does Rigmor know this?
- Wulf: No, and I will have to explain it to her. It is a risk I must take if an Oblivion Gate opens.
- Erandur: I was going to ask about Mados, but I think that subject can wait. We have enough to digest on the way to The Bridge.
- Wulf: Okay. Let’s get moving.
As we moved further away from Arnima, the green tinge lessoned. By the time we reached The Bridge, we were bathed in sunlight.
We intercepted Merosa as she was heading to the temple, and she followed us in.
The temple was empty, so it was not difficult to have a private conversation.
- Wulf: Ma’am, your friend did indicate that he would appreciate some assistance.
- Merosa: Anything else?
- Wulf: Here is a list of things that concern him.
I handed Merosa the letter. She frowned and stared at me when she noticed the broken seal. I just smiled then she started reading with the frown intact. After she had finished reading the letter, our conversation continued.
- Merosa: After your unforgivable breach of protocol, you now know that Mortifayne could very well bring down The Bridge as well as Arnima if he doesn’t come to his senses. I will have to make a word with The Council to see what can be done.
- Wulf: Ma’am, legally, I could hold your nobleness upside down and shake you to see what falls out. Do not assume to tell me protocol when I am performing the duty assigned to me by His Imperial Highness and Lady Mara.
- Merosa: Well, you now know the sordid details. What are you going to do about that horrid man?
- Wulf: Before we discuss that, I want to know the reason for your hatred toward Lord Mortifayne. I get the impression it has been simmering for a long time.
- Merosa: I prefer to keep a clear head and not become further incensed by recalling our past altercations. Even picturing that miserable, bitter face casts a spell of anger over me.
- Wulf: Ma’am, I apologise for making you uncomfortable. But I must learn what I can if I am to help negotiate a solution to the problem.
- Merosa: Your Excellency, there is no need to apologise. Mortifayne is a topic for conversation as pleasant as any other fetid duty with which I am plagued. A topic only to be addressed when its removal is an option.
- Wulf: I urge you not to inflame the situation with Lord Mortifayne beyond what it is. There is a far greater danger than you or King Sigmayne or anybody on The Council realise. I need time to diffuse the situation.
- Merosa: We are not ignorant of the potential for another serf rebellion alongside the Witchmen. Just like Munstor twenty years ago.
- Wulf: That is not the danger I mean, but please, tell me what happened at Munstor.
- Merosa: I am no expert nor historian, but what I can tell you should be the same that every Reachmen would recite when speaking of those savages and the incident at Munstor.
- Wulf: Ma’am, I doubt a serf would have the same perspective as a noble. But go ahead and give us your version of history.
- Merosa: Accounts state that this new incarnation of Witchmen appeared near two decades back, just after the incident at Munstor. Are you all aware of that incident?
- Lydia: His Excellency told us the history as written in books. But your description is probably more valid than those tomes.
- Merosa: Munstor was an abandoned fort, far to the north, that has since succumbed to its frozen locale. Peasants, serfs and other seditious souls had made a great exodus under cover of night, all leaving their fields, abandoning the lords they were sworn to serve.
I struggled to keep my composure. I had to listen to what this so-called noble thought of that incident. I felt like screaming!
- Merosa: Of course, when all your labour, thus wealth, absconds in but a moment, there will be tremors. So, the lords had sent men to trail these wayward workers to Munstor. What they saw was an ostensibly bizarre affair. Both Witchmen and peasants had formed a decadent commune, many turning to layabouts who engaged in petty pleasures and shirking the labour that had made them.
- Wulf: Citizens of Markarth Hold also formed a commune with The Forlorn. Like the Witchmen, The Forlorn hoped to live in peace with the residents of The Reach.
- Merosa: This commune with the Witchmen was before they turned feral. Not to say they were not savage before, but that former identity was ultimately harmless, unlike those you see now.
- Wulf: Like Ulfric Stormcloak with The Forlorn, you and other nobles ended that former identity with savagery.
- Merosa: The lords eschewed violence at first. Instead, they opted to subvert the commune. They freed their scum and exiles northward, with the condition that they go live in Munstor. The hope was that the delusional dreamers of that town would abandon their fickle want for equality once ‘extreme’ personalities had entered their midst.
- Erandur: Free of your enforced shackles, the scum proved to be resourceful and not a burden. Am I correct?
- Merosa: To our utter astonishment, these scum that would haunt our societies were subsumed and proved helpful to the new town, or they were blocked from entry. It seems they were questioned as to their intentions by the savages and runaways at the front gate!
- Erandur: You were wrong about the reasons why people wanted to join the Witchmen.
- Merosa: Yes, and many re-evaluated the true intent of these radicals. At first, we thought they were just pacifists who’d allow all into their ranks, which would spell doom for any gathering. Panic-stricken, many lords conspired, finally pushing for the siege that would be the commune’s undoing. They cut off food and dug extensive tunnels to poison Munstor’s wells and provide more avenues for attack. Lastly, they tried diplomacy in the hope of imparting some reason to those serfs. Hopefully enough for them to return to civilisation and abandon these naïve ideals.
- Wulf: So how did it turn into a massacre?
- Merosa: The lords saw the beneficiaries within Munstor. A gathering of hagraven who prolonged the siege to impossible lengths. Then crumbs of discontent were found among our militia. Fear gripped the nobility that these ideas could spread to every serf. Nobility sent aid not just from Evermor but from all over High Rock when they heard how severe the crisis was. All of High Rock seemingly united in crushing this small town. Yet only a luddite would think so simply.
- Wulf: Munstor was an idea that needed crushing.
- Merosa: Yes, as you said, Excellency, the actions that day were undertaken to crush an idea, a canker that would undo the very way of life we enjoyed. So, the lords’ strength was honed into one blow. They threw all their might at the walls of that ancient fort. The walls fell, and what mercy would have been previously shown to those misguided serfs was instead replaced with conviction to stamp out a chaotic ideology.
- Wulf: His Imperial Highness is of the impression many survived and returned home. Are you going to now tell me that all were slaughtered and that you were there?
- Merosa: I was not there. However, every man, woman and child were killed. It was a hollow victory in the truest sense. Evermor had lost half its serf class, yet the lords were elated. The existential crisis of revolution was averted. Exceptionally harsh measures were put in place for anyone who even uttered the commune’s name or dared to evoke some of the same rebellious sentiments. And that concludes the tale of Munstor.
- Wulf: Yet you have not mentioned what this massacre did to the Witchmen.
- Merosa: Okay, but please, bear with me as what follows can drift into conjecture.
- Wulf: Tell us what you think happened, and don’t worry how strange it may seem.
- Merosa: Rumours from the nobility in that siege reported seeing figures watching the slaughter unfold in the town. They were neither part of the militia or the defendants. Scouts were dispatched to see who the strange party was, and upon their return, they carried weird idols made into amulets. The scouts claimed they were gifts for the nobles from the shady silhouettes. However, their names nor identities were never disclosed. Most of the nobility discarded the gifted charms immediately, except for that wretched Mortifayne. He was enamoured by that hideous amulet that still rings his filthy neck.
- Wulf: And what do you think the Witchmen want?
- Merosa: If I could tell you, we would already be halfway to a solution by now. But that is where my knowledge ends.
- Wulf: Then let me enlighten you. And you had better listen closely because your petty hate for Mortifayne is inconsequential!
- Merosa: It is not inconsequential!
- Wulf: Forgive me, Lady Mara, but you cannot expect a dragon to hold its temper at times like this.
- Merosa: Dragon?
- Ghorbash: Ma’am, I advise you to shut up and listen.
- Lydia: I can see you are tempted to open your mouth. Don’t!
- Wulf: The Witchmen turned to and are now working with a Dark Lord. The same Dark Lord had acolytes handing out those amulets in the hope of influencing the nobility. It seems the Dark Lord has at least one of you under their control. I believe this Dark Lord plans on opening an Oblivion Gate, which would mean a disaster for all of Nirn, not just Evermor. Are you following this, Governor Merosa?
- Merosa: Dark Lord? Oblivion Gate? What proof do you have of this absurd hypothesis?
- Wulf: Talos talked to His Imperial Majesty. Lady Mara spoke to me. The Divines and your Emperor sent me here because this is what I do. I save the mortals of Nirn from nightmares that would lead to their deaths or enslavement. You owe me your life and freedom, so I advise you to listen and do as I say.
- Merosa: I cannot rule my people basing decisions on unproven theories!
- Wulf: Okay, we can go down two roads here. Both will end up with you complying. I can write an official and legal request for you and The Council and King Sigmayne to cease all legal and military action against Lord Mortifayne until I have finished my enquiries and mapped a course of action. I will only issue such a document when I have proof of the danger. That may be too late. So, with the four Sentinels as witnesses, I am ordering you to cease all legal and military action against Lord Mortifayne effective immediately. Do you agree to this, Governor Merosa?
- Merosa: What if I don’t?
- Wulf: I will arrest you and walk you through The Bridge and to the Procul Praesidium in chains. There you will be formally charged with treason and shipped to Cyrodiil for trial.
- Merosa: You wouldn’t!
- Lydia: Believe me, he would and without hesitation.
- Wulf: Governor Merosa, do you swear to cease all legal and military action against Lord Mortifayne, effective immediately.
- Merosa: You leave me no choice. I agree to stop any further legal and military action against Lord Mortifayne.
- Wulf: And if I hear one single word associating Lord Mortifayne with a Dark Lord, I will know who to lock up, won’t I?
- Merosa: As if I would tell anybody your tall tale. I would be the laughing stock of Evermor!
- Wulf: I sincerely hope I am mistaken. I would gladly suffer such idiotic name-calling than be correct.
- Merosa: And I suppose what happened to Sabbat was the work of Dark Lords or some other creature from under a child’s bed?
- Wulf: That is the small mining village not far outside the southern gate of The Bridge?
- Merosa: Yes. We believe it was ravaged by a mage that we are still sniffing out. However, our search was impeded by the risen dead that the malcontent left behind.
- Wulf: The mage is dead, and all the undead were destroyed. The mage was a necromancer and part of a coven that we will also eliminate when we have the time.
- Merosa: You took care of that problem?
- Wulf: Yes, and I see Brother Fenig has returned to the temple. You are dismissed.
Merosa stomped across the temple in a foul mood. Her anger was but a fraction of mine. How can part of the Imperial Empire be so backwards in so many ways?
I walked up to Brother Fenig, who was watching Merosa’s display of temper with some amusement.
- Wulf: Brother Fenig, here is are the Spriggan saps that you required.
- Fenig: I hope you did not have too much difficulty with the creatures.
- Wulf: I already had some amongst my alchemical reagents.
- Fenig: You have probably helped this region more than you know. I’ll use these ingredients to create a defence against the pox. I hope!
- Wulf: Good luck with that endeavour, Brother Fenig.
- Fenig: Have you heard from the mages in Skyrim?
- Wulf: No, it will take some time for them to analyse the samples I provided.
- Fenig: It would be wonderful to have access to such a resource in Evermor.
- Wulf: You advise Governor Merosa on political matters, do you not?
- Fenig: Yes, I am her priest.
- Wulf: The Governor has just sworn an oath not to pursue legal or military action against Lord Mortifayne until I say she can. I want you to remind her of this oath if she starts to dishonour it.
- Fenig: May I ask, Your Excellency, why this oath was necessary?
- Wulf: Provoking Lord Mortifayne at this time endangers all of Nirn. I need to find a solution and nullify this danger, and I need time to do that. If Governor Merosa continues to harass Lord Mortifayne, I may run out of time.
- Erandur: As a Priest, you may ask Lady Mara for confirmation if the instructions of an Imperial Envoy are inadequate.
- Fenig: No, I will not question the actions or motives of somebody sent by Lady Mara herself. I will try my best to keep her to the oath.
- Wulf: That is all I ask. I would tell you more, but I find myself weary of explaining my actions. Divines bless you, Brother Fenig.
I walked out of the temple and towards the Procul Praesidium with silent Sentinels in tow.
I must keep my temper. I must find proof of our theory and a solution.
The warnings from The Divines did not prepare me for Evermor. And I have a sickening feeling we have just started to uncover the corruption of this accursed kingdom.