Sundas, 8th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 202 & Morndas, 9th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 202
The silence continued for the entire walk to Procul Praesidium. The Sentinels knew I was battling to keep my Dovah at bay. He was fuming and wanted to start telling the nobles of Evermor precisely what he thought of them.
Rigmor tried to calm me down.
“There is no need to go into details. Your anger is battling with your need for diplomacy. I know the feeling, my beloved.”
“If I don’t remain calm, many lives could be lost.”
“What are you doing now?”
“We will be joining the local garrison in recapturing a small outpost from Orsinium’s Sons. I am going to see when they will be ready for the attack. If it is not for several hours, then I will suggest tomorrow morning would be best. That will give me time to do a task for Arnima’s priest. I need him to be on our side, and recovering a stolen relic doesn’t seem too arduous.”
“That is what you need to do. Concentrate on the immediate task and let the anger fade.”
“What would I do without you?”
“You would still succeed, but without the style and grace I impart upon proceedings.”
“Says the woman who shoved a whole crumpet in her mouth.”
“I can sense your Dovah has retreated somewhat.”
“Yes, he is not arguing about having his way. It is still kind of strange, having internal battles with myself.”
“Not strange, my dear Dragonborn, but weird. Totally weird!”
“We are thousands of miles apart yet talking via a pair of rings.”
“You arguing with your Dovah is weirder.”
“I will be okay for now and calm enough to discuss things with The Sentinels without exploding.”
“I love you.”
“And I love you.”
Lydia smiled then said, “Rigmor has done it again. You are smiling whilst a minute ago you were livid.”
‘If it weren’t for Rigmor, I would have grown wings and scaly skin. I would be my Dovah.”
“You have said so on many occasions. It seems like years since I first met you two in Whiterun.”
“Yes, you and Celestine have been with me the longest. Sometimes I feel like I have prevented you two from having your own lives.”
“All The Sentinels will tell you the same thing. Once we learn of what you are fighting for, helping you becomes our priority. How could a person return to enjoying the freedoms you risk all to preserve if they could help with your tasks?”
We arrived at Procul Praesidium and entered the embassy. As we walked up the stairs to Commander Drugo’s office, we heard him and Justiciar Nauman discussing the plan to retake Deepcrag. I held my hand up and signalled for a silent halt.
- Naruman: Commander, you must understand that this costly operation you’ve scrawled will set you back on your debt with the kingdom.
- Drugo: And you must understand, Naruman, that this is our last opportunity to justify our presence here. Without this, any suspicions among the Breton of our ineptitude will only deepen.
- Naruman: I advise great caution with the occupants of Deepcrag, Drugo. They could hold invaluable information. All you need to do is stay your hounds.
- Drugo: You seem keen to see them survive. Why is that, Naruman?
- Naruman: We shouldn’t debase ourselves by imitating the barbarous Breton of this kingdom. They have already bled the Orcs dry. Why should we add to the slaughter?
- Drugo: The plans will be inked when Envoy Valdr returns. We are not dealing with civilians here. Any rights The Empire would bestow are now forfeit.
- Naruman: Very well, Drugo, very well. All the blood that spills will be on you.
Naruman came storming down the stairs and stopped with shock on his face when he saw us. I made sure I spoke loud enough for Drugo to hear.
- Wulf: Interesting conversation, Justiciar. Let me just check something. Sentinels, have you ever heard of Thalmor showing any concern for the welfare of people of another race?
- Ghorbash: That is an impossibility.
- Lydia: History shows they never have, and their philosophy dictates that they never will.
- Celestine: All other races are inferior. Therefore, their deaths are inconsequential.
- Erandur: They even look down on Dunmer as if we are excrement.
- Wulf: So, Saruman, what game is The Dominion playing with Orsinium’s Sons?
- Saruman: If you suspect me of wrongdoing, then tell me what it is.
- Wulf: I should lock you in a cell, so there is no chance of you forewarning the occupiers of Deepcrag. But it does not matter, for we will aid the local garrison and take back that outpost without losing a single life on our side. Orsinium’s Sons have made themselves outlaws by their actions, and we will legally slaughter them all without mercy. Once they see what we can do, anybody using the Orsimer to weaken the Imperial presence in Evermor will find them harder to control.
- Lydia: Your Excellency, what will we do if we find evidence of collusion with a third party?
- Wulf: Even if the third party has diplomatic immunity, we will kill them.
We stood to the side and let the rattled Justiciar pass.
Drugo was grinning when I approached his desk.
- Drugo: You don’t like Thalmor, do you?
- Wulf: The Altmer are kind, intelligent people. It is about time they removed the Thalmor cancer from their nation.
- Drugo: Have you had reason to kill any Thalmor?
Drugo was startled when all of us started laughing.
- Wulf: Commander Drugo, I have killed hundreds of them on the battlefield and elsewhere. Their blasphemy against Talos is a minor concern compared to the atrocities they commit wherever they infest.
- Drugo: Saruman thinks I am an idiot. While he continues to believe that, he will do as he just did and make blunders when speaking to me. His faux concern for the Orcs almost made me vomit.
- Lydia: Thalmor arrogance is one of our best weapons. They underestimate anybody who is not Altmer.
- Drugo: True, and sooner or later, Saruman will accidentally reveal his treacherous plans.
- Wulf: What did your scouts report?
- Drugo: They report two high ranking Orcs within Deepcrag, namely a Warchief and a champion. The Orcs have been busy building their Warchief new premises. They are holding civilian hostages, which is a tactic they have recently started to use. Any sign of an assault will result in the hostages being butchered.
- Wulf: Even if we rush to battle now, we may end up fighting in the dark, which would be slower and put the hostages at a greater risk. Our priority should be the safety of the hostages. I think we can retake Deepcrag as well as ensure the hostages survive. But to do so, we need to attack during the day.
- Drugo: First light tomorrow?
- Wulf: We have something to do for Brother Rirrard and will hopefully be back early tomorrow morning.
- Drugo: Okay, we will have the men ready at 8:00 AM.
- Wulf: What officer will be assigned?
- Drugo: A veteran of The Great War, Captain Leomus Sallius. He originates from Leyawiin and says the difference between his Count and the nobles of Evermor could not be more significant. He doesn’t understand why Mede has not done something about the feudal system.
- Wulf: He has been busy trying to keep what is left of The Empire together. I get the impression that the High Rock kingdoms are happy to slaughter each other but will band together if outsiders threaten a kingdom.
- Drugo: So, if he tried to change things in Evermor, he may have a whole country opposing him?
- Wulf: Basically.
- Drugo: Okay, my men will be ready. I already know they are eager to fight by your side, Dragonborn and Lydia.
- Ghorbash: Erandur, we will have to start doing amazing things so that people are eager to fight by our side.
- Erandur: You could try dressing as a sword-maiden. Any enemies would collapse laughing.
- Ghorbash: I would never have to buy my own milk ever again!
- Drugo: Ah…
- Wulf: They are perfectly normal, Commander Drugo.
- Drugo: If you say so.
We started our journey to Grey Belmor, and as we walked, I gave a brief history of Mados to The Sentinels.
“Mados was born in 4E 119 to native Reachman or what Breton regard as savages. His parents weren’t followers of The Nine.
I am not sure at what age he made it to the city of Evermor. Most likely in his early teens. Local legend says he was led to Evermor by The Divines. He became a dedicated follower of The Nine but especially revered Lady Mara. He would spend many hours praying to The Nine, which they don’t want or need from mortals. They do not want people wasting their lives telling them how grateful they are. They want us to live the Ten Commands. But putting that aside, he endeared himself to many through his piety.
He was a large man, and by the age of seventeen, he had transformed from heathen barbarian to a well-mannered gentleman who could read and write and handle all two-handed weapons as well as anybody else in the kingdom. Thus, at that young age, he became a squire to another famous knight.
His high moral values and martial prowess enabled a rapid rise through the military ranks. By his early thirties, he was commanding entire companies. In High Rock, such a rank for a commoner was more than unusual. It was unprecedented.
Eventually, he was awarded the title of War Knight. That signified he was the King’s personal champion and protector of the realm’s honour.
He married a priestess of Mara, and they had many children. None of them lived up to the expectations the public placed upon them. Having a famous father was a curse.
He wore a unique set of armour that Lady Mara blessed.
Mados accumulated many riches, but nearly all were donated to the temples. He and his family lived a simple life without all the trappings of fame or rank.
Mados’ knew that The Divines would offer healing and guidance, but it was up to warriors like himself to strike down enemies. That was the burden of mortals.
Mados must be regarded within the context of local religious beliefs. In Evermor, the cycles of war and peace, plenty and famine, drought and flood result from Divine intervention. The Nine control these things at their whim and decide when and what occurs. That is why you see so many people praying to them on their knees. As if begging for their help is what is required to make things better. But I digress. I find the way of worship in this kingdom to be sacrilegious at the least. Blasphemous at its worst. Wrong in every way.
Orsinium’s Sons conducted a campaign of revenge they called Malacath’s March. They swarmed in great numbers over Evermor, inflicting rape and ritual slaughter as repayment for the treatment of Orsinium and its people. For the first time in history, Orsimer Shamans were used as a tool of war. Rumour became fact. The Shamans were using ancient magic and ritual to turn living into undead. They were preparing to conquer Evermor and had picked their first target, Grey Belmor.
Mados learned of their overall strategy but not the planned first strike against Grey Belmor. He was commander of the garrison there but sallied forth with only a few men to find and kill the Orsimer Shamans.
This event occurred in 4E 174. Although Mados successfully disrupted the Shamans, it was not before their ancient magic had fallen upon Grey Belmor and turned the soldiers there into the undead that we see walking the grounds.
Mados slew many Orsimer but was fatally wounded himself. Many people of Evermor thought of him as a living god and refused to believe Arkay’s cycle of life applied to Mados. So now we have his mummified corpse propped up in the middle of a Temple of The Nine. People pray to him like he is a god of sorts!
I have no doubt he was a fine warrior and a pious man. But the way he is revered amongst the people of Evermor is wrong and misplaced. He was a mortal who did his duty, nothing more, nothing less.”
- Erandur: How can the priests and priestesses of Evermor not realise how different their worship is from the rest of The Empire?
- Celestine: They have deliberately remained blinkered. Ignoring the rest of the world and stay comfortable with the traditions and form of worship they have.
- Wulf: The priests have created for themselves an elite class. They have placed themselves above those they are supposed to guide. They do not devote their time entirely to The Nine but divide it with politics and alchemy. They will not voluntarily abandon such power and prestige to live as others of their calling do everywhere else in Tamriel.
- Lydia: What happened to Mados’ wife and children?
- Wulf: Have you noticed there are no women warriors or guards? Females are for bearing children and not the burdens of war and violence. Mados’ widow died soon after his demise due to her grief and feminine fragility.
- Lydia: I feel like grabbing a few of their guards and display feminine fragility by smashing their heads together.
- Celestine: Other males would laugh and blame your menses. I grew up with this idiocy and know how they think.
- Lydia: But Governor Merosa seems to wield some clout.
- Celestine: Noble blood trumps testicles.
- Wulf: None of his children became heroes like the citizens of Evermor hoped.
- Lydia: it would have been fantastic if one of his daughters took up the mantle. What a shock to these backwards people that would have been.
- Wulf: Cyrodiil is almost as backward with its use of coverture. It is unfair and barbaric! If Rigmor were to marry me, I would take her title, castle and lands, and she would be my Consort with no right to rule. I would not want that to happen.
- Lydia: You often ask where does something fit into the Ten Command of The Nine Divines. I have read them many times and can’t see where testicles are mentioned.
- Erandur: Oh, that is the domain of tenth Divine, Lord Scrotum. He is hardly ever mentioned.
- Celestine: I can’t imagine many people would fancy praying in front of a statue of Lord Scrotum.
- Erandur: Wulf, what of this magic the Orsimer unleashed on Grey Belmor?
- Wulf: Reach Magic has many forms, and none are taught at The College of Winterhold. As Brother Rirrard said, we can see the undead outside, but who knows what dwells inside.
- Erandur: You are fascinated by that prospect!
- Wulf: Of course, I like to learn about new things, even when they are trying to eviscerate me.
- Celestine: And what do you think of Reamonn?
- Wulf: I will reserve judgement until I talk to him further. But I am confident his scrying ability has nothing to do with the Alteration School of Magicka.
- Celestine: Agreed. Isn’t it a sort of ethereal travel but by thought only?
- Wulf: Yes, and it is a scarce talent. If it was more reliable, it could be used for spying. As it is, I think Reamonn needs a connection to the item for which he is searching.
- Celestine: Well, we will find out when we talk to him.
Dusk was not pleasant near Arnima. The perpetual fog dampened the mood.
The buoyancy dweomer I placed on our armours allowed us to swim across the river. The undead took an immediate dislike to our presence and attacked.
They were regular Skeletal Warriors with a miasma surrounding them. The miasma reminded me of the one in Sancre Tor before I defeated The Underking.
Ghorbash noted, “Some of these were Imperial Legionnaires!”
“Yes, the garrison at Grey Belmor was a combination of Evermor and Imperial troops.”
“Mados was allowed to command Imperial troops?”
“Yes, and that is a very rare thing.”
The undead were not very challenging. We cut dozens of them down quickly and with little danger to ourselves.
We paused before entering the courtyard.
- Celestine: It would only take a couple of dozen guards to clear the undead that we destroyed.
- Wulf: I don’t think anybody has approached them since Mados’ death. The locals would be terrified of the magic Orsinium’s Sons used here.
- Ghorbash: The use of Shamans to kill and or create undead is against the Code of Malacath. To then name the military campaign, Malacath’s March is offensive.
- Wulf: At least their battles had strategic value during Malacath’s March. This time around, they are seemingly attacking targets at random.
- Lydia: But we suspect, as discussed with Commander Drugo, they are trying to hide their primary objective.
- Wulf: Well, let’s enters the courtyard and see what never before seen things try to kill us.
- Ghorbash: You don’t have to sound so excited about that prospect.
We entered the courtyard, where the first thing we noticed was a grotesque statue in the centre.
A few undead needed to be disposed of before we could take a closer look.
When we got close to the statue, it turned out to depict some skeletal warrior or maybe a necromancer armed with a scythe. Whatever it represents, I don’t think the statue was here when Mados’ troops occupied Grey Belmor.
Dead Legionnaires were scattered over the courtyard. The corpses were emancipated, and we surmised they were people who did not successfully transform into the undead.
A portcullis blocked progress into the castle.
Upon the balcony, we found the chain that would lift the portcullis. I pulled it then we continued.
We encountered undead similar to those in Meridia’s Temple.
We entered the main building of Grey Belmor.
In the central domed room was a statue of Talos.
A creature attacked. It was unlike anything I had seen before. It was not undead but floated above ground like a Vampire Lord. It cast spells of an unknown nature.
I hit it with Lightening, and it died.
Before I could inspect it, another undead attacked.
When I did get to have a close look, I was presented with a puzzle.
- Celestine: I think it was a Breton that was somehow transformed into whatever that is.
- Wulf: It is like flesh sculpture techniques were used on a living person.
- Lydia: Would that explain the spells it was using?
- Wulf: I have no idea what those spells were. Therefore, I can’t comment on why this thing could cast them.
- Ghorbash: Well, there is a new creature trying to kill you. Is it as much fun as you anticipated?
- Wulf: Yes! I have a new mystery!
- Ghorbash: Weird. Just weird.
I climbed up to the top of the scaffolding to take in the entire room. It would have been magnificent before the damage, which looked more like the result of an earthquake than war.
We entered the living area of Grey Belmor. We all stopped in our tracks as the sound of an unknown beast echoed.
- Ghorbash: Does that thing sound like fun?
- Wulf: Yes, and if you would be so kind as to keep it busy when we find it. That will give me time to draw a sketch and write a description.
- Lydia: Make sure you bleed away from Wulf. Otherwise, he may have to restart the sketch if blood splatters on it.
- Ghorbash: Of course. Anything to be of service.
Another new creature we encountered outside Grey Belmor and inside was an Undead Atronach that used Blood Magic.
The parquetry in some parts of the Grey Below demonstrated superb craftsmanship and great expense.
We made our way through the building then down into the dungeons.
The unknown beast was closer and roared more often. In between roars, we could hear the beating of a heart. The constant ba-bump, ba-bump did not contribute to a feeling of calm. It was downright creepy!
We found one of the drains led back to the courtyard.
A long corridor led to a side door.
After disposing of another Blood Atronach, we had a look around.
An observation platform also provided shelter to sentries. Arnima was not far away, and this was an ideal place to observe it.
Evidence suggested some sentries slept outside when not on duty.
Under the shelter, I found a page from a journal. I read it to The Sentinels.
“The Orcs are relentless, hammering on the town of Raven Spring like wolves to deer. We don’t know how these fanatics managed to become so numerous over the years. They call themselves ‘Orsinium’s Sons’, a splinter faction from Orsinium.
They’ve been terrorising small hamlets along the Bjoulsae river and any vulnerable settlement that borders the great cliffs. They impale most but have their fun with the women first. They pillage and then move onto the next town, utilising intimidation and fear to sunder the locals resolve, using sudden violent acts through rituals to completely decimate their enemies.
I hear the news that a ritual is being performed deep in the quagmire aimed at this very fort, a gathering of shamans guarded by many footmen. We’ll have to see this imminent doom quelled before we witness The Reach fall to these warmongers.
Mados leads the detachment of Imperials and Evermore guard. That divine armour he wields invokes courage in us all. I swear I can see the face of Mara staring back at me every time I glance at it.
- Ghorbash: Nobody has mentioned these rituals being used during the current Orsimer unrest.
- Lydia: Perhaps Mados killed enough shaman to prevent the rituals from working.
- Wulf: That, Lydia, is an excellent theory. Much of the magic spells used by tribes, and not just Orsimer but also Reachmen, Riekling, Goblin and so on, need several people working together to cast. When you see a group of Forsworn dancing around a fire or boiling cauldron, they are not having fun but performing a ritual. An individual doing the same dance and uttering the same words could not cast the spell.
- Celestine: They combine their relative weaknesses in Magicka into something more formidable.
- Ghorbash: So, if Mados killed enough shaman, the ritual they used on Grey Belmor could not be cast on another place. He did not have to kill them all to achieve that outcome.
- Wulf: I would say that is the answer as to why the ritual is not in use. They have not had enough time to train enough shamans to the required level.
We re-entered Grey Belmor and continued further down. The beast was getting agitated. It knew we were there.
We battled more undead as we searched for Mados’ ring. The beast was lower down, and so was the origin of the heartbeat. But they were not originating from the same point. The beast was moving while the heartbeat was stationary.
I had noticed some rotting floorboards covering what used to be a trapdoor entrance.
I warned The Sentinels, “As soon as I leap down, join me and be prepared for whatever is making that racket!”
A weak Unrelenting Force Shout smashed the rotted wood, which fell into the rushing water below.
I leapt down, and the others quickly followed. We were in a flooded dungeon, not unlike many others we have experienced.
There was evidence that people had been living in the area. We speculated it might be the same people who erected that ugly statue in the courtyard.
One denizen you are guaranteed to meet in flooded dungeons and basements are Skeever.
We were going lower and lower. As we travelled, more evidence of occupation was found.
We entered one room where a trap was set. A pressure pad would trigger a crossbow with a poisoned bolt.
The trap was protecting a lever.
When the lever was pulled, metal bars lowered in another part of the dungeon.
In the same trapped room, a pull chain lowered another set of bars.
The unknown beast was approaching rapidly. The Sentinels looked concerned.
Our adversary came running to an intersection but turned in the wrong direction.
It soon realised the error and turned towards us.
It was not a beast but an undead construct. If anything, it looked like the skeleton of an Igma, the intelligent apes of Valenwood.
I yelled, “The tentacles are a spell only known by reading one of Hermaeus Mora’s Black Books. I know it, and the tentacles are poisonous. The dweomer on your armours should be enough to nullify them.”
As we ran to engage the creature, it teleported behind us.
I watched for a few seconds as The Sentinels tackled it. It used Blood Magic to drain their lifeforce.
Within seconds we discovered two disturbing things.
Firstly, the creature could not be harmed by weapon, spell or Thu’um.
Secondly, it was only interested in me and only fought The Sentinels to get to me
I called out, “Celestine, do not engage it but heal the others. I think the heartbeat has something to do with its invulnerability. You need to keep it busy while I search for the heart.”
I summoned two Dremora Lords to assist The Sentinels.
The creature pursued me relentlessly. It would get cornered then teleport to freedom. It would track me through walls and levels, then suddenly appear near me and attack.
I knew when I was travelling where I had been before. I chose untravelled corridors and rooms while searching for the heart.
While searching for the heart, I found Mados’ ring. It was atop an intricate bone sculpture.
I retrieved the ring. The dweomer on it improved the use of two-handed weapons. I have put similar but far more powerful dweomer on The Sentinel’s armour. The ring did not have significant monetary value, but its connection with Mados made it invaluable to the people of Evermor.
As soon as I held the ring, the creature appeared out of the ether and attacked with seemingly renewed ferocity.
The Sentinels came rushing to assist as I ran down to another level.
I followed the sound of the beating heart, and it got louder and louder. Eventually, I came upon a room with one of Hermaeus Mora’s symbols above its entry.
I entered the room and found the giant heart connected to the roots of a plant that anchored itself to the floor, walls and ceiling.
I watched the heart for several beats then stepped back.
I hit the heart with Lightning, and it exploded.
The sound of battle ceased and was replaced by the creature’s pitiful wailing.
I walked forward to discover a miniature flesh sculpture had replaced the heart.
The flesh sculpture faded away.
The Sentinels came bursting into the room, and all tried to speak at once. I put my hand up to halt the babble. We then discussed what had occurred.
- Wulf: Is anybody injured?
- Lydia: No, but without Celestine’s healing, we would all have been killed.
- Ghorbash: It seems the creature could only teleport every few minutes, so it would try and physically get past us to reach you. We were trying to block its path as well as we could, but its strength was phenomenal.
- Celestine: The Blood Magic it used would have been lethal to an unprotected person in seconds. The dweomer on our armours helped reduce its effectiveness, but only twenty to thirty seconds of exposure would kill any of us. I was constantly casting healing spells!
- Ghorbash: It collapsed screaming and then ceased all movement.
- Lydia: What is that glowing symbol over the door?
- Wulf: It is a symbol denoting Hermaeus Mora’s all-seeing eyes. He claims to have a form of omnipotence and appears to mortals as writhing tentacles with many eyes.
- Erandur: Do you think that Dark Lord has anything to do with the creature we just fought?
- Wulf: No. I think the person who created that thing has visited Apocrypha and obtained knowledge, including the tentacle spell. The creature was fixated on me, and although Mora and I are not the best of friends, he would not want me dead.
- Erandur: Do you think the creature was waiting for you?
- Wulf: We don’t know enough about it or who may have placed it here to answer that. Any answer as to why it concentrated on attacking me would also be speculation.
- Erandur: Did you find that damned ring?
- Wulf: Yes. It is not very impressive but means something to the people of Evermor, so it was worth retrieving. It could have been bait. Perhaps somebody placed it down here to see what the creature could do?
- Erandur: I would like to see what my hammer can do to that person’s face!
- Celestine: I don’t think this creature or the floating one near Talos’ statue resulted from the Orsimer Shaman’s spell.
- Wulf: I think they were both created by somebody after the events of 4E 174. Somebody who could work in Grey Belmor without being attacked by the undead.
- Erandur: Can we leave this place? Perhaps join the Legion and fight mortal foes that I understand?
- Wulf: Yes, there were other creepy things about that monster, but I will tell you them later, just before you settle for a night’s sleep.
- Erandur: You are so thoughtful.
I could see the relief on The Sentinel’s faces once we exited Grey Belmor.
We quickly made our way to Arnima and entered The Temple of The Nine. It was barely dawn, so I was not surprised Brother Rirrard was the only soul there apart from the injured.
- Wulf: Brother Rirrard, we have recovered Mados’ ring.
- Rirrard: Our bygone hero should never be without his possessions. I’m sure Mados is smiling upon you.
- Wulf: Several creatures within Grey Belmor were totally unlike those you could see from Arnima. One of them was invincible, and its lifeforce was maintained by a large heart. The heart was embedded within strange plant roots. When I destroyed the heart, a small flesh sculpture was left behind. The creature collapsed screaming, and when the flesh sculpture vanished, it ceased all movement.
- Erandur: Oh, that was the other creepy bit.
- Wulf: The other strange creature was not undead but a mortal whose flesh seemed to have been sculpted while he was alive.
- Rirrard: Neither of them the damned souls that haunt the exterior.
- Wulf: No. They were not a result of the Orsimer Shamans’ spell.
- Rirrard: Oh, my! It sounds like you went through quite the ordeal to retrieve the ring. I can’t recall these creatures from my research. Could the ruin be attracting evil from beyond its walls?
- Wulf: I don’t believe so. I think they were placed there since 4E 174. Probably at the same time as the ring was placed within.
- Lydia: Brother Rirrard, does your research mention a statue of a skeletal figure in the centre of the courtyard?
- Rirrard: No, and the residents of Grey Belmor would never allow such a thing!
- Lydia: Well, somebody erected one there post 4E 174.
- Wulf: I have been to many places and never seen creatures like those two. We are either dealing with very powerful necromancers or something worse.
- Rirrard: Such as?
- Wulf: A Lich.
- Rirrard: What could we possibly do against such a powerful being?
- Wulf: If we can find it, we can dispose of it. Have no fear of that. But do not overly concern yourself as I am speculating on the Lich. We will have to investigate further.
- Rirrard: I’ll note down your encounters. They should serve as a warning for any other budding adventurers. Let’s hope that whatever confines those creatures maintains its hold.
- Ghorbash: Nobody but us and perhaps some necromancers have entered the building since 4E 174. I don’t think you have to worry about budding adventurers.
- Wulf: Somebody did place the ring there, and I believe they planted the creatures there as well.
- Rirrard: If we catch the thief, you can obtain some answers.
- Wulf: Perhaps. Anyway, we have other duties, so blessings of The Nine on you and this temple.
- Rirrard: Blessings of The Nine on you all.
- Wulf: Sentinels, I want to make sure the mass teleport works.
- Celestine: Where do we expect to reappear?
- Wulf: The courtyard of the Procul Praesidium.
- Rirrard: But there are no Soul Stones in here or there?
- Wulf: I have no idea what Soul Stones are.
I teleported to the courtyard. Seconds later, I mass teleported The Sentinels, who were laughing.
I asked, “What is so amusing?”
Lydia replied, “Brother Rirrard was so startled when you vanished that he fell on his arse!”
“Well, at least he was still on the ground when you four vanished. I hope.”
“Yes, he was. But don’t be surprised to find out his heart gave way.”
“I am sure Mados would not let that happen.”
We entered the embassy and found Commander Drugo sitting at his desk.
- Wulf: Commander Drugo, are we ready to take back Deepcrag?
- Drugo: Your timing is impeccable. The men are ready to follow you to Oblivion and back.
- Wulf: What did your scouts report.
- Drugo: The Orsimer have already constructed a hall for their leader. They have several hostages in a trench with guards ready to slaughter them at the first sign of attack. Several women were dragged into Orsinium’s Sons headquarters, previously the office of the garrison commander.
- Ghorbash: Rape is another breach of the Code of Markarth. These are not Orsimer but savages. I look forward to cutting them down.
- Drugo: Good luck, Your Excellency.
- Wulf: Orsinium’s Sons are in for a shock, Commander Drugo. And luck will play no part in their utter destruction.
As soon as we exited the embassy, I nodded to Captain Sallius, and he started running towards Deepcrag with his men following.
Erandur asked, “Why are they running? And why are they running with their weapons drawn?”
“That is more polite than saying, ‘I have no fucking idea!’”
It is not like we are in the middle of the wilderness. I saved a guard from a wolf in the middle of Forlorn yesterday. A troll attacking the captain on the outskirts of Forlorn was an indication of how slack the guards are.
I killed the troll with Lightening.
Captain Sallius said, “I was looking forward to seeing your expertise with the sword.”
“I am a Master Mage as well, Captain.”
“Oh, I did not know that, Your Excellency.”
“Well, now you do. Let’s keep moving!”
We easily outpaced the Legionnaires.
A farmer was about to be slaughtered by two Orsimer scouts.
I chopped them both down and was thanked by the farmer. As that was happening, the two knights passed us. I had not been informed they were to join us in retaking Deepcrag. But it is good as they can see how effective we are and report back to ol’ Monty.
We soon sped past the two knights and waited at the muster point for them and the Legionnaires to catch up.
- Wulf: Captain Sallius, I will be approaching and entering Deepcrag by myself.
- Sek: You won’t get past their sentries!
- Wulf: I will be invisible. Or I might go via the ethereal plane. I haven’t decided yet.
- Sek: Oh… of course…
- Mek: Sek, you can’t even spell ethereal, so don’t pretend you know what it is.
- Wulf: Captain, is it standard procedure to have sweets accompany the Legion on such missions?
- Sek: Hey, who are you calling sweet?
- Lydia: Sweet means civilian, you oaf!
- Captain: Knights hold a military commission within all of High Rock. Therefore, they are not civilians. And we usually invite some local troops or guards along to witness our efforts and help contribute to the safety of their kingdom.
- Wulf: I know that knights are commissioned officers, but are these two recognised knights or are they imposters?
- Captain: Commander Drugo assumes they are legitimate members of some knightly order. But for diplomacies sake, he has not demanded proof from their lord.
- Wulf: Okay then, they can tag along. Perhaps they can get peppered by Orsimer arrows, thus saving the lives of Legionnaires. That makes them worth taking with us.
- Sek: I don’t think His Excellency likes us, Mek.
- Mek: DUH!
- Lydia: Listen to Envoy Valdr carefully and no more interruptions except for valid questions!
- Wulf: I will approach Deepcrag undetected. If I think I can take down sentries without alerting the compound, I will do so. However, if Orsimer sentries are within sight of the compound, I will have to leave them be.
- Captain: You don’t intend to take on every Orsimer by yourself, do you?
- Wulf: Not when they have hostages.
- Captain: I imagine you could and would if they didn’t have hostages.
- Wulf: And deny the metal mountains a chance to die for their lord? I wouldn’t be so rude.
- Sek: Hey… that was…
- Mek: Shut up, Sek.
- Wulf: Once I enter the compound, I will find my way to the trench where they keep the hostages. I will then teleport The Sentinels to me. Lydia, you are to remain with the hostages. You other three are to start killing every Orsinium’s Son without mercy.
- Captain: When do you want us to join you?
- Wulf: As soon as The Sentinels vanish, you run full speed and join us.
- Captain: What about their leader?
- Wulf: The priority is the welfare of the hostages. Once they are taken to safety, we will find and kill the leader.
- Captain: Their champion is a formidable foe.
- Ghorbash: Any faithful follower of The Code of Malacath would find it an honour to fight Envoy Valdr and die in glorious battle. Too bad he is savage heathen and will die without honour and be forgotten.
- Wulf: Okay, it is time to let Orsinium’s Sons know who they have angered.
As I set out for Deepcrag, it was still hours away from noon. Shadows of mountains made some parts of my journey very dark and ideal for hiding a sneaky Dragonborn.
I came upon a strange portal. It must be one of the Soul Stones that Brother Rirrard mentioned.
Two Orsimer sentries were chatting away in front of a bright brasier.
My first arrow flew true and embedded into the side of one sentry. He was dead before the other sentry realised that they were under attack.
The other sentry stood up, but he also died from an arrow to the side a second later.
A third sentry was hiding in the high grass, and if he hadn’t gasped at the fiery demise of the other two, I might not have noticed him. I quickly swung around, nocked a third arrow and fired.
Three sentries down with three arrows. All out of sight of the main compound.
I turned a corner, and Deepcrag was before me.
I decided to use heat-vision, so I knew where the enemy was placed.
Two tamed wolves got my scent and started to growl. I kept still so the grass wouldn’t move as one of the Orsimer looked my way. After a few seconds, he told the wolves to shut up, which they mainly did. They knew something was out there even if the idiot two legs didn’t.
I wanted to get away from the wolves as quickly as possible, but I had to cross a bridge to do so. An Orsimer was travelling the opposite direction and had no idea he passed within inches of me.
I vaulted over the log wall and into the main compound. Dweomer on my armour made my landing inaudible.
I could see the trench where the hostages were being kept. A lone guard stood next to it.
I decided to scout out the rest of the compound before starting the battle.
When satisfied that I knew the enemies’ positions, I turned off heat-vision and jumped down amongst the hostages.
I then teleported all four Sentinels to my position and did a Slow Time Shout.
I leapt up to where the lone guard was and cut him down before he could reach for his axe.
I quickly climbed a rampart and killed a marksman before he released his first arrow.
I could see Lydia protecting the hostages as the other Sentinels dispersed.
I disposed of half a dozen Orsimer before exiting Slow Time.
The killing continued.
One of the wolves I spotted earlier finally had a chance to kill the prey he had detected.
Too bad for the wolf, as I didn’t feel like dying.
As I was taking care of the wolf, the Orsimer champion closed in and tried to take me by surprise.
I easily parried his two-handed hammer then cut him across the midsection.
An arrow thumped into him from one of The Sentinels.
I thrust my sword into his stomach, and the Orsimer hero died.
The Sentinels were taking care of the last Orsimer when I leapt down to attend to the hostages.
Lydia said, “This is Fariard, Marie and Francis. They said that most men had been tortured to death in rituals and women dragged away for sport.”
I replied, “Keep watch while I untie and heal them.”
I quickly released the hostages and then healed them.
All the Orsimer inside the compound were dead. The Sentinels surrounded the hostages as I led them outside. The knights and Legionnaires were battling the Orsimer I had snuck past earlier.
I ran up and decapitated one Orsimer.
I then thrust my sword through the middle of another.
The hostages panicked and ran past The Sentinels. I could see they were heading for an Orsimer who must have only arrived.
Using Whirlwind Sprint, I passed the hostages and set upon the Orsimer.
His head went flying as the hostages ran past with horror etched on their faces.
I headed back towards the compound. We still had the leader to kill and perhaps some women hostages to rescue. Captain Sallius came running up to me.
- Wulf: Captain Sallius, I have rescued the surviving hostages from the compound, but I believe there may be others with the leader of these outlaws.
- Captain: You and your squad just cut down dozens without breaking a sweat!
- Wulf: Yes, but the job isn’t finished. Follow me.
- Lydia: Don’t get in front of His Excellency when the fighting starts!
- Captain: Why?
- Lydia: You heard him use The Voice. If you get in front of him when he does, you could die.
- Captain: Oh…
We rushed through the compound and discovered the knights had run ahead.
We caught up with one of them having difficulty with a single Orsimer.
I said, “We are not here to play patty cakes!” and cut the Orsimer down.
Dead Legionnaires, killed during the battle for Deepcrag days before, were left where they had died.
Orsinium’s Sons had abandoned the smaller buildings and were heading to where their leader waited for us.
We killed a few Orsinium’s Sons and wolves before reaching the last building. A naked Orsimer attacked me!
A Sentinel arrow hit his side, and then I finished him.
The Warchief came running and swung his mace, which I ducked under.
From my crouch, I smashed him with my shield and stunned him.
I then stood and cut his head off. The battle was over.
I searched the Warchief’s body. He had nothing useful on him.
I stepped inside the building that the Warchief had been using as his headquarters. Several naked women lay dead.
As Celestine inspected the dead women, I searched the room for orders and other intel. I found nothing of use.
Celestine walked up to me and said, “They have been raped, and I would say their deaths occurred when we first appeared in the compound. Well, all of them except one. She was killed minutes ago.”
Ghorbash was livid as he said, “That naked mongrel had his last bit of fun before we arrived. This savagery is not how Malacath wants warriors to act. These atrocities are not justified no matter what was done to the residents of Orsinium.”
We had not saved all of the hostages, but I was not going to fall into despair. I had to move forward.
I stepped outside. Captain Sallius came up to me.
- Wulf: Captain Sallius, there are several dead women in the Warchief’s headquarters. Send in some female Legionnaires to attend to their modesty before any male Legionnaires enter.
- Captain: As you order, Your Excellency.
- Wulf: Cut down the bodies on display and ensure they are fully wrapped before returning to Arnima with them.
- Captain: Yes, Excellency.
- Wulf: Your men fought well.
- Captain: They are in awe of you and your squad. The way you cut down…
- Wulf: Captain, there is nothing to admire about my squad or me. We kill but find no glory in battle. If doing our duty has improved morale, then that is a good outcome. But please, do not praise us for ending lives.
- Captain: Then be proud you saved hostages that would have died otherwise.
- Lydia: We did not save them all, Captain Sallius. But we are glad we saved some.
- Wulf: What is Commander Drugo’s plan from here?
- Captain: We will try and rebuild this fractured outpost with the help of the eastern garrison.
- Wulf: Did Commander Drugo mention our suspicions?
- Captain: Yes, and I agree with them. I have studied where Orsinium’s Sons strike and when. It seems not to be out of some savage streak. Instead, they are distracting us from something.
- Ghorbash: We shall find what that is and stop them!
- Captain: After every instance when we find ourselves combating Orsinium’s Sons, a whole slew of refugees will be seen making their way through the crags to The Reach. They seem to be following a hidden route to somewhere unknown. We’ve sent scouts to tail them, yet we haven’t retrieved anything valuable regarding where the Orcs are going or who is organising them. We were foolish to underestimate the Orc’s cunning.
- Wulf: All Orsimer are blamed for the actions of Orsinium’s Sons. I can understand ignorant civilians, but I expect more from Legionnaires. The Orsimer are leaving before pogroms begin. I know where they are heading, Captain. But the fewer people that know their destination, the safer the refugees will be. His Imperial Highness has a plan, and many in Evermor would like to see it fail. I order you to recall all scouts. The refugees are not to be followed. I will inform Commander Drugo of this order.
- Ghorbash: Captain, the refugees, are not a threat. I find it disheartening you would think they are.
- Captain: I unreservedly apologise. We are at a loss to explain the actions of Orsinium’s Sons. Everything seems suspicious. I will immediately order the scouts to return.
- Wulf: We have been on the move since early morning, so we will immediately return to The Procul Praesidium for rest and refreshment.
- Captain: It indeed has been an honour to fight by your side. Not because of your combat prowess but for the care you exhibit for the helpless.
- Wulf: Thank you, Captain. Blessings of The Nine Divines on you and your men.
We were exhausted, but we all felt an urgency resulting from the feeling of pending doom. I teleported us to The Procul Praesidium. We entered the embassy covered in gore and dirt.
When we talked to Commander Drugo, scouts had already reported our victory.
- Drugo: Scouts have reported in with unbelievable accounts of you and your squad’s martial capabilities.
- Wulf: Yes, we are very efficient killing machines. We rescued some hostages but not all. The savagery of Orsinium’s Sons rivals anything I have encountered in the past.
- Drugo: We suspect but need proof of who is behind their actions.
- Wulf: Keep me informed of any leads.
- Drugo: I will.
- Wulf: Commander Drugo, I immediately order that the Orsimer civilians leaving Evermor are not followed. I know why they are leaving and where they are going. His Imperial Highness has a plan, and you risk that plan with your scouts.
- Drugo: As you order, Your Excellency.
- Wulf: Now, please forgive us. We are exhausted and need bathing, food and rest.
- Drugo: Yes, of course, but there is one other thing before you go.
- Wulf: And what is that?
- Drugo: Lord Mortifayne had requested your presence. Some Witchmen in the valley have somehow obtained an item of great importance to him.
- Lydia: And we have nothing better to do than retrieve his trinket?
- Wulf: Lydia, it may be his amulet.
- Lydia: Oh, in that case…
- Drugo: I advise you to keep your voices low and your intentions clear when dealing with Mortifayne. He tends to conjure agendas and plots where there aren’t any.
- Erandur: Envoy Valdr would be an ideal subject for such paranoid conjurations.
- Wulf: You need to know what we suspect. You are ordered not to discuss what I disclose to any other, even your senior officers.
- Drugo: As you command. What is it I need to know?
- Wulf: Lord Mortifayne is most likely under the influence of a Dark Lord. We believe this Dark Lord aims to open an Oblivion Gate inside Arnima. Lord Mortifayne is the catalyst to open that portal. We are investigating what can be done to prevent this catastrophe.
- Drugo: I will leave the gods and their plans to you, Your Excellency. Just point us to the enemies and give us some idea on how to kill them when the time ever comes an Oblivion Gate is opened.
- Wulf: We shall do our best not to allow this horror to happen. Lord Mortifayne must not fear that his title is in danger. If his paranoia hits a peak, he may trigger whatever the Dark Lord has planned.
- Drugo: I understand. If, for instance, a certain female governor was to ask for troops to help her arrest Lord Mortifayne, I should decline politely.
- Wulf: You should arrest her for breaking an oath.
- Drugo: What about the king and council?
- Wulf: We must gather more evidence before demanding they cease action against Lord Mortifayne.
- Drugo: When will you visit Lord Mortifayne?
- Wulf: We will visit him first thing tomorrow. That is all for now.
We managed to get ourselves reasonably clean and had a good meal before The Sentinels retired to the barracks, and I went to my room.
I talked to Rigmor for hours but did not mention the risks of entering Oblivion to close an Oblivion Gate. That can wait until if and when I need to do such a thing.
I know not what time I fell asleep.