Turdas, 12th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 202
After breakfast, I went to the barracks to collect The Sentinels. Commander Drugo saw me and approached.
“Your Excellency, the first platoon had been dispatched. Eight-hour roster with those being relieved not allowed to leave till the last replacement arrives. Standard procedure but some of them had to be reminded of it. Let’s just say it has been some time since we had rostered guard duty in these numbers.”
‘Have you ever fought a Daedra, Commander Drugo?”
“No. Is that what we are guarding against?”
“At the moment, we are keeping watch for Redguard aggression. Do you have the Daedra identification books first published during the Oblivion Crises?”
“We have a crate full of them. Our leadership seems to think we may face these things one day.”
“It is always a possibility, and the Daedra will not wait while you flip through the book trying to find their various strengths and weaknesses.”
“Do you think we will be facing such things in the not-too-distant future?”
“Yes, but we don’t want anticipation frightening the troops. I want your Sergeants upwards to study the book, but discretely. It will be they who direct the Legionnaires if such battles happen, and the knowledge that they gain may save lives both civilian and soldier.”
“I will find a way to get it done without mass panic.”
“Oh, I doubt Legionnaires will ever panic. But thinking about such a possibility can cause anxiety and affect sleep and morale. They should deal with it via senior ranks who know what they are talking about at the time.”
“Have you faced Daedra in battle?”
“Many times. The Sentinels and I have fought the most powerful Daedra we have ever encountered in the last few days. They are a new type and not in the manual. They were not seen during the Oblivion Crises as each Daedric Prince tends to develop individual forms of minions. But most Daedra you face will be the more common types no matter who their master is.”
“Well, they can’t be any scarier than my mother-in-law. We will do our best to protect those who look down their noses at us.”
“When you save their xenophobic arses, don’t expect a round of applause.”
“The shock of such an unexpected show of appreciation would probably kill more soldiers than the Daedra!”
“Keep smiling, Commander Drugo. Soon you will be able to return home to your wife, children and mother-in-law.”
“I wonder if I can sign on for another four-year tour? Ahh, can I ask a favour if you are going in that direction anyway?”
“Yes, of course. What do you need?”
“Can you do a quick check of the Deepcrag repairs? We sometimes have difficulty with local artisans taking the gold but not doing the job. It wasn’t an issue when we could hire Orsimer.”
“Sure, we shall stop by and have a look.”
“Thank you, Excellency.”
I collected The Sentinels, and we made our way outside.
- Wulf: We shall first check to see if the Legion platoon is in place.
- Serana: Let’s hope they are not confronted by Daedra before their leaders have educated themselves.
- Ghorbash: Most Daedra simply require stabbing and slicing. They would do okay.
- Wulf: Then I will set up a Mark near the southern bridge of Forlorn.
- Ghorbash: I have never faced Redguards in battle. I have always fought by their side.
- Wulf: Then you would know that both genders are excellent individual fighters but not the best at unit tactics. Even if they attacked Arnima in large numbers, the fighting would degenerate quickly into many smaller skirmishes. That is where they would outclass Legionnaires and turn the local guards and scouts into bloody chunks.
- Ghorbash: Yes, within minutes of a large battle starting, you would see them dashing all over the place in small units.
- Derkeethus: Too bad Rayya is not with us. She hates Redguard bandits that give her people a bad name.
- Serana: Jackos was trying hard not to earn a punch in the mouth when speaking about the corsairs.
- Wulf: After setting the Mark, we will go and scout the bandits. If they attack us at any stage, then all bets are off. We will wipe them out. We have more important things to do than play hide and seek. We will not try and hide at all!
- Ghorbash: Good, I won’t have to worry about breaking wind. Those eggs and beans this morning are already working their magic.
- Inigo: Pity your fellow blue Sentinel. Stay downwind.
- Ghorbash: Do you know why farts smell?
- Inigo: No, my toothy friend, why do farts smell?
- Ghorbash: So those who are hard of hearing can also enjoy them.
- Wulf: We will discuss heading for Evermor later when we see how the day pans out.
The area around Arnima was surprisingly clear of fog for a change.
The last of the platoon were making their way to the muster point.
I did not speak to the Lieutenant. He would know how to deploy his soldiers.
We made our way to the southern bridge of Forlorn.
I cast a Mark spell.
Then We started our reasonably short walk to the bandit compound.
As soon as they saw us, the bandits attacked.
And the bandits died.
The bandits had chosen their fate. I used heat-vision to speed up the process.
When we approached the bandit’s camp, their leader was standing out in the open, warming his hands in front of a large fire.
I killed his shield brother.
Then I fired at the bandit leader.
The bastard threw himself to the ground, and the arrow flew overhead.
Other bandits came running and were soon cut down by The Sentinels.
The last bandit to charge us was their leader. There was no avoiding them this time, and we peppered him with arrows.
A careful search of the bodies and camp produced no information of help to Jackos.
Horns blared to warn nearby troops that Arnima was under attack! I cast Recall, then summoned The Sentinels.
One of the knights was there.
I ran past the leading Redguard and hit the others with Unrelenting Force.
The ones that survived the Shout were in no condition to fight. I soon dispatched them.
The Sentinels had cut down the other Redguard. The first wave was dead within seconds of our arrival.
Jackos arrived about thirty seconds later.
- Jackos: I thought you agreed to scout out the bandits?
- Wulf: Jackos, I will tell you what we did not because I like to boast or kill. It seems the only way to earn respect around here is through martial prowess. Today we will demonstrate that prowess, and your troops will finally realise who is fighting beside them. If that doesn’t improve their morals and morale, nothing will, including the descendant of Mados donning shiny armour.
- Ghorbash: We killed all the bandits. Don’t worry, as there was no evidence of them conspiring with your men.
- Jackos: And what happened here?
- Wulf: As soon as we heard the alarm, we teleported to the bridge and killed the first wave of Redguard.
- Jackos: Was that The Voice I heard?
- Wulf: Yes. I killed four of the six Redguard in front of me with Unrelenting Force. The other two were in no condition to fight. It took us less than ten seconds to eliminate all enemies.
- Jackos: Well, let us see if we can remove the current threat altogether. They tested our defences but let’s not give them time to regroup and attack.
- Wulf: Lead on, Jackos, we have no idea where they are holed up. But I warn you, do not get in front of me when the fighting starts. My Thu’um will kill you as quickly as it does Redguard.
We approached the mustering area of the Redguard.
The Sentinels and I scythed our way through the enemy while Jackos and his men did not kill a single corsair.
I approached Jackos and said, “Let’s hurry. The problem with using The Voice is the enemy for miles around would hear it. They will be waiting for us.”
Jackos asked, “How many have you killed in battle?”
“Over three thousand mortals. Over a thousand undead. Dozens of dragons. A few rabbits. I can give you the exact numbers if you are that curious.”
“No, no need. How many have you killed in a single encounter?”
“Over three hundred Stormcloaks in one battle. Over two hundred Thalmor when I led an army against them. I was placed on Nirn by The Divines to help all mortals. Sometimes I do that with kindness and empathy. Sometimes I do that by slaughtering those who would harm the innocent. I much prefer the former but am exceptionally good at the latter.”
“And those you call The Sentinels? I have never seen more efficient killers!”
“They are also some of the best warriors I have seen. Their prowess is boosted by the dweomer I place on their armour and weapons. But their biggest advantage is they are certain our cause is righteous and that many gods, not just The Divines, rely on us to protect the everyday people.”
“Well, follow me. From what my scouts reported, we have just started the culling.”
Jackos yelled to his men, “They have looted the entire town, so stop looking. There is nothing here to salvage. Let’s get back what is ours and avenge all who were slain here.”
One of his scouts shouted back, “Can’t we just watch this lot? I won’t even have to clean my sword at this rate!”
I was not finding the killing much cause for laughter. But the black humour of soldiers is universal and understandable.
The next group of Redguard included several expert dual scimitar wielders.
I cut down one then noticed another was hammering away at Sek. His two-handed hammer was far too slow a weapon. I ran over and decapitated his opponent, and he nodded his head in thanks.
Why did I save him? I still wanted the twins to try and calm Mortifayne down. The loss of one or both knights would edge him closer to unleashing the Daedra on Arnima.
Inigo taunted, “You Ra Gada are good warriors but not good enough!” as he casually parried, then cut the head off another Redguard.
We gathered at the entrance to a mine.
Jackos said, “No doubt those thieves are holed up here as well. Keep your wits about you, as these reds will lash out when cornered. All inside!”
We entered and were faced with a large statue of Dibella and many Redguard.
I yelled, “You lot will only slow us down in here. Follow if you can!”
The Sentinels and I were in our element. Running through buildings and caverns, killing piecemeal resistance was second nature to us. No orders need to be given, and no stealth is required. Just run and kill, run and kill. We slaughter like a well-oiled killing machine.
Within minutes all Redguard in the mine were dead, and we exited into the sunshine. Well, as much sunshine as the proximity to arnima allowed.
Our next target was a wooden stockade.
We caught the Redguard by complete surprise.
I used my Thu’um then ran ahead.
I found myself surrounded by angry Redguard and killed a couple before The Sentinels caught up and cared for the rest.
After eliminating all opposition in one stockade, we found ourselves quickly approaching another.
This time there were some sentries. By the time we took care of them, those in the second stockade were ready for us.
It made no difference to their chances of survival.
The Redguard leader looked on in horror as his elite men were cut down with ease.
He tried to run. I rewarded his cowardice with a sword in the back.
A trained Sabre Tooth was the last enemy to fall to my sword.
We entered the command tent and found two women. One was a Redguard, and the other was a Bosmer. Both were scared and uncertain.
I approached the Redguard woman.
- Wulf: My name is Wulf. There is no need to be frightened. We will not harm you.
- Serana: I am Serana. Please, can we have your names?
- Yisrah: I am Yisrah.
- Thaedil: And I am Thaedil.
- Wulf: You are slaves?
- Yisrah: Both of us were taken from our homes by the corsairs. We are a special kind of slave.
- Thaedil: Camp whores are envied by other slaves. I am yet to understand that misplaced jealousy.
- Serana: Are you the only two?
- Thaedil: The only two who have survived. There were eleven of us when we first landed in Evermor. Some got the pox that does not seem to discriminate between rich and poor. They were killed and burnt.
- Yisrah: Others died when drunk corsairs decided a bit of punching and kicking made things more erotic.
I walked over to Thaedil.
- Wulf: We need to tidy some things up here. When I return, I will take you both to the Temple of Mara in Skyrim. From there, you will be given clothes and coin enough for safe passage home.
- Thaedil: Why would you do that?
- Serana: Because it is the right thing to do. Is any other reason needed?
- Thaedil: No. It is just so very unexpected.
- Serana: And for that, we are sorry. Kindness should never come as a surprise.
- Wulf: Serana, will you please stay here with Ghorbash and guard the ladies.
- Serana: Of course.
We quickly searched the stockade and found no plans or other helpful information.
We returned to the mines, where we discovered Jackos by himself near the exit.
- Wulf: Jackos, where are your men?
- Jackos: We followed the trail of bodies, and I decided my men were redundant. I sent them back to Arnima in case our Daedra friends visit.
- Wulf: And Sek?
- Jackos: He grumbled about you lot having all the fun and left in a huff. I also think he felt a bit outmatched by the Redguards.
- Inigo: They are fine warriors, even these bandit types. Much better than the rabble we eliminated this morning.
- Jackos: Is there any Redguard left?
- Derkeethus: No, not unless they are hiding under their beds.
- Jackos: This, I have to see.
- Wulf: Go ahead, convince yourself.
We followed Jackos back to the main Redguard compound.
When he finally stopped, he turned with a look of disbelief on his face.
- Jackos: You five killed over one hundred corsairs and haven’t even broken into a sweat!
- Wulf: The Divines need efficient killers, and we fulfil that role. We don’t commit murder or assassinate.
- Ghorbash: These corsairs murdered and raped innocents. As members of the Penitus Oculatus, we have the right to inflict punishments prescribed under Imperial law. The penalty for murder and rape is death. We enforced that penalty.
- Wulf: There are two women in the command tent. Camp whores, though not of their choosing. What would Sek do if he was here?
- Jackos: He would rape and beat them.
- Wulf: So, it is fortunate for him that he is not here. We would defend the ladies and cut him down.
- Jackos: Why haven’t you cut them both down? Surely you have heard of their crimes from more people than just me?
- Wulf: They have the ear of Mortifayne and are doing their best to prevent him from triggering the Daedra invasion. If we kill them, we risk triggering the attack. They don’t want to see Evermor destroyed and its citizens massacred. They know their crimes are unforgivable, and their executions are merely delayed.
- Inigo: We will use them while they are useful. Every arrow they take is one less aimed at Legionnaires or us or even your men.
- Wulf: Is this the end of the Redguard threat for the time being?
- Jackos: Redguards and piracy aren’t easily parted…
- Ghorbash: Ahem!
- Jackos: Oh, ahh, some Redguards and piracy aren’t easily parted. But even a dog knows when to stay clear of fire. We will make sure to have the flames of their ships burn bright enough for the whole river to see.
- Wulf: We saw very little damage to the mine.
- Jackos: Yes, and I have heard that Sigmayne is sparing some of his precious treasury our way.
- Serana: I am sure The Bog is a significant contributor to his wealth. Oops, I meant the wealth of Evermor.
- Jackos: Kegor may know of threats outside of Arnima’s jurisdiction. You will find him in Evermor.
- Wulf: Is he King Sigmayne’s steward?
- Jackos: Yes, although we just call him an advisor.
- Serana: Of course, a steward is too much of a Nord concept. Incompatible with Breton sensibilities.
- Wulf: Well, it is time we visited Evermor and recruited Mados’ relative. First, I must take the two ladies to the Temple of Mara.
- Jackos: I doubt they will find much solace there. Brother Fenig can be rather stingy with his coins.
- Wulf: Not the temple on The Bridge but the Temple of Mara in Riften. There, real priests and priestesses of Lady Mara will take care of their needs and ensure they have a safe passage back home. After all, the ladies are Redguard and Bosmer, not Breton. What would the Priest Circle say if money was spent helping those heathens?
- Jackos: Sad, but true.
Serana indicated that she could teleport to the Temple of Mara in Riften with one of the ladies. So, she took Thaedil, who was by far the most scared of the two. I took Yisrah, who seemed the type of person who regards anything new as an adventure.
I spoke to Dinya.
- Wulf: Here are a couple of diamonds. The Khajiit traders will value them at about five hundred septim apiece. Please use the funds to make these two ladies, Yisrah and Thaedil, comfortable and book safe passage to their homes.
- Dinya: We shall do so gladly, but things must be grim if you bring them to Riften and not a temple in Evermor.
- Wulf: I cannot believe Sister Jeanna survived her travels through that accursed kingdom! I wonder what she thought of their form of worship? It has nothing to do with The Nine or the Ten Commands.
- Dinya: Sister Jeanna spent a couple of days here and told me you would find the Priest Circle an affront. What Sister Jeanna described to me was almost beyond belief. Lady Mara has since informed me that you are incensed but keeping your temper. She seemed surprised!
- Wulf: It would be no significant loss if the whole kingdom vanished! But the people are innocent, and we shall do our best to aid them.
- Dinya: What is the great danger that Lady Mara sent you to fix?
- Wulf: Namira is planning to open an Oblivion Gate and invade. I don’t think we can stop the momentum and are now preparing to deal with the aftermath. It is a complex tale, but basically, the corruption of the nobles and temples has created an ideal platform for such plans of a Dark Lord.
- Dinya: Don’t let the place change you.
- Wulf: It is difficult without Rigmor by my side.
- Dinya: Wulf, take my advice on this. Let Rigmor share this burden and not just via your rings.
- Wulf: But the danger? It is extreme!
- Dinya: And Rigmor has every right to decide the risks she takes. She will not force the issue but don’t you dare die without giving Rigmor the chance to help you! That would destroy her!
- Serana: Thank you, Sister, for telling Wulf this obvious fact. He can be a bit thick sometimes!
- Wulf: Then why, Serana, haven’t you pointed this out to me?
- Serana: I was hoping you would realise it before I hit you over the head with a chair. Lydia and Celestine were amazed at your ignorance!
- Dinya: I had better take care of the ladies, and you had better return to Evermor.
- Inigo: Alas, poor Riften, I am to be dragged from your welcoming arms once more! But Mother Cat needs this handsome hero to aid the helpless Wulf.
- Wulf: If I donate another ten septim, can you send Inigo back to Elsweyr. In a small box. No air holes are needed.
Dinya laughed and approached the two ladies. We teleported back to Arnima then walked to Deepcrag.
The Breton craftsmen were very busy. Significant progress had been made with the repairs in a short amount of time.
We had not noticed when fighting the Orsinium’s Sons, but, according to a Breton stonemason, they had removed a statue of Saint Alessia and replaced it with one of Malacath. The stonemason had recovered Saint Alessia’s statue from a refuse pile and put it back in place. A plaque on the statue read,
“Honouring those who raised their shields for The Empire. Honouring those who we have lost so that others can live. Saint Alessia now comforts all who were slain here.”
The stonemason could not tell me how old the statue was.
We climbed one of the watchtowers and could see Deepcrag was a hive of activity.
In the distance, the protective field around Evermor rose high.
An exit from Arnima had a ‘skull and crossbones’ sign to signify unpatrolled roads ahead.
The road was unpatrolled except for two Evermorin Aventurier who were laughing while attempting to incinerate two Afflicted.
Ordering them to cease did not work, so we cut them down.
I healed the burnt afflicted and sent them on their way.
As we got closer to Evermor, it became apparent how justice was handled in the city.
A terrific amount of Magicka was being expended to maintain the shield around Evermor.
When we breached the barrier, we found a Giant Welkynd Stone powered it. They are one of the rarest and most valuable relics on Nirn.
Aventurier guarded the front gates. They could raise and lower the field protecting the entrances.
One Aventurier had fancier armour than the others. I assumed he was an officer.
- Wulf: Officer, I am Envoy Valdr. Would you please lower the inner barrier so we may enter?
- Officer: You were the ones who retook that Imperial outpost. Perhaps you can help us before you enter the city?
- Wulf: If I order you to open that gate, not doing so would be treason.
- Officer: Did I say I wasn’t going to let you in? All I am asking for is some help since you are already here.
- Wulf: Go on then, tell us what help you need.
- Officer: You see, these orange skins aren’t content with rotting away in some hole. They’re turning vicious and lashing out and coughing their lungs out on any who draw near.
- Inigo: That might be a severe allergic reaction brought on by a desire not to be burnt alive.
- Officer: Oh, a comedian. Haha.
- Inigo: Thank you, I find homicidal maniacs to be my most appreciative fans.
- Officer: The bile they vomit can burn down to the bone. We thought the gear the kingdom supplied could protect us somewhat, but we soon learned otherwise.
- Ghorbash: That is what happens when those in charge accept the cheapest quote. You would think there would be a green spew resistance rating that had to be met, but no, they make you wear armour unsuitable for the job and make you look like idiots.
- Officer: Anyway, I have a friend who caught the worst of their venom. It must have sprayed through his visor. He vanished, and I had no clue to where…until recently. News surfaced that he’s cozening up with the sick just north of here, up in the ravine. There are too many Afflicted for us to do anything about his desertion, just yet anyway.
- Wulf: What would you have us do?
- Officer: All we need is some information. Get him to spill his agenda. And as you should expect, you’re not to go barging in there, sword in hand.
- Wulf: I doubt they would be stupid enough to attack Penitus Oculatus or even Legion. We can get to your friend and have a friendly chat.
- Officer: Gift of the bag and not the gift of the blade, eh? Keep it calm, and it will go smoothly. And if that option is not open, take this flare and pop it open if you think you are in trouble. High enough so we can see. I’ll send the boys over to cover your escape.
- Inigo: Keep it calm? I don’t think His Excellency would have thought of that! Perhaps His Imperial Highness should send somebody capable of that to be his Envoy next time?
- Officer: Oh, of course, no offence meant.
- Wulf: You said you don’t have enough men to deal with the afflicted just yet. Are you expecting reinforcements?
- Officer: Yes, we have recalled Aventurier from outlying areas to help remove the orange vermin from the valley.
- Wulf: Well, we shall be on our way then. What is your friend’s name?
- Officer: Mortierre Berain.
- Wulf: Okay, I hope to see you soon!
There was no need to spell out the obvious to The Sentinels. We shall talk to Mortierre and warn him of the Aventurier plan.
It did not take long to reach the beginning of the Afflicted settlement.
I asked an Afflicted, “Excuse me, can you tell me where I can find Mortierre?”
He replied, “Word has just come down to allow you a safe passage. Keep climbing, and you will find him.”
Aventurier handiwork was in evidence as we continued our climb.
Afflicted along the way were co-operative and kept us on the right track. The valley was full of many different paths, so that saved us time.
We found Mortierre near the summit, and he calmly waited for us to approach.
- Wulf: Mortierre Berain, I assume?
- Mortierre: Yes, and welcome Envoy Valdr.
- Wulf: I am surprised you know who I am.
- Mortierre: Some Aventurier were burning locals to death in Arnima. When you saw that tragedy, you became incensed and had a rather loud discussion with Missionary Reamonn. Some young gutter rats heard what you said about the Aventurier and risked all to report to us what was said for a few gold pieces.
- Wulf: I have enough of them in my orphanage to know I should be wary of those tiny ears. One of my favourites made a good living as an information broker. A dangerous profession no matter your age.
- Mortierre: We wondered if you were a man of your word as that is extremely rare in these parts. Then not long ago, two of our brethren reported some Penitus Oculatus agents had cut down Aventurier trying to roast them. Not only that, the heroic rescuers then healed their burns which allowed them to return home virtually unscathed, apart from their clothing, that is. The description of your armour from the gutter rats and our townspeople matched. We then knew who the heroes of the day were and that you are indeed, a man of your word.
- Wulf: What else did the children tell you?
- Mortierre: A fanciful story about you being sent by the gods. And an even fancier one about you asking the mages of Skyrim and High Rock to find a cure.
- Inigo: My friend here is the famous Dragonborn. Champion of The Divines and various other gods. He is also Arch-Mage of The College of Winterhold. Therefore, both fancy stories are true, and I hope you compensated the children appropriately.
- Mortierre: We gave them more gold than their families have seen in years. They risked a lot coming here, including catching this damn pox.
- Wulf: The affliction was created by the Daedric Prince called Peryite. Even though made by a god, the cure will be an alchemical formula. It may take time to discover that formula and brew it, but it will be found.
- Ghorbash: The Priest Circle is now investigating a cure. But they hadn’t bothered till the first noble caught the pox.
- Wulf: Still, it does no harm having two disparate teams investigate a cure. In the meantime, here are some healing potions to help your people. They are the strongest available, so only a tiny amount from each bottle is required for each dose.
Each Sentinel and I carry five Potions of Ultimate Healing each. I handed all twenty-five to an astounded Mortierre. That was well over six thousand septims worth.
- Mortierre: The priests only ever create the weaker potions and hand them out as if they were solid gold. They would never send any to this valley as that might be viewed as supporting rebels. When in fact, all we want to do is to live and die in peace.
- Wulf: So how did you, a relative newcomer to the valley, become their leader?
- Mortierre: The armour lends authority. Being clad in steel was enough to make me the leader.
- Wulf: The Aventurier Officer sent me here to ask you what you are planning.
- Mortierre: Ha! Those guards know me, and they know exactly what would happen to any of their lapdogs sent our way.
- Derkeethus: Any attack on us would have been a disaster for your people. None of you would have survived. We would have done precisely what we are trying to prevent.
- Mortierre: I don’t think that is an idle threat. Some of us know of your exploits, Dragonborn.
- Wulf: The Aventurier have recalled their men. They plan to assault this refuge. This will provide us with a chance to eliminate most of them at once.
- Mortierre: So those dogs, trained from birth to kill without hesitation, are planning to slay all of the Afflicted in this valley. All so they can kill a brother who left the pack?
- Wulf: Yes. Are you surprised by that?
- Mortierre: No, and neither am I surprised that they haven’t tried it sooner. They may be desensitised to death, but that doesn’t mean they are brave. I knew they hadn’t the numbers to assault us before.
- Ghorbash: They probably received new orders. You lot might be making property values plummet and costing the king a few coins.
- Mortierre: Only been here days, and you already have a firm grasp of Evermor politics. The word would have come from Sigmayne, and nobody questions his orders.
- Wulf: Well, I have a flare that will make them come running with their vision blurred by bloodlust. None of them will make it back to Evermor.
- Serana: Get your people inside before we set off the flare. We don’t want them killed just for the sake of this plan.
- Mortierre: Some will refuse to hide. We must respect their need to fight for their homes and family.
- Wulf: Of course. The decision to fight or not is up to the individual.
- Mortierre: Let me send a couple of messengers with the instructions that they quickly choose to fight or stay inside as soon as they see the flare.
Mortierre called over a couple of Afflicted and told them the message to pass onto others.
- Wulf: Tell me. Mortierre, how did you become an Aventurier?
- Mortierre: Work in the military was always in store for me since I was a babe. Dad was a military man, and his dad too. But the unit I came to be part of is no ordinary group. You had to sacrifice a lot even to apply. But the rewards are far greater than you’d get as a pikeman, no question.
- Ghorbash: What kind of sacrifice? Your soul? Your compassion?
- Mortierre: The Officer at the front gate has been in the burning people profession longer than any other. Now, have you ever wondered why the Aventurier never remove their helms?
- Ghorbash: I don’t think we have observed one alive long enough to realise that is the case.
- Wulf: They seem poor protection and would restrict your field of view. My helm is a bit different. When I wear it, it is transparent from my side.
- Mortierre: It must have cost a fortune!
- Wulf: My armour was made by Lord Akatosh and gifted to me. Now, why do they wear their helms all the time?
- Mortierre: Lord Akatosh!?
- Wulf: Helms? Wearing all the time? Reason?
- Mortierre: Oh, when you’re dealing with our magic long enough, certain things, unwanted things, start appearing.
- Ghorbash: Not blue fur, I hope! I would not wish that on my worst enemy!
- Inigo: Such jealousy is unbecoming.
- Mortierre: No, not blue fur, but that would be disturbing. No, that Officer got deep into this fiery art, and he got burnt, hard. Take off his armour, and you’ll regret it. He is charred from head to toe. I am not sure how someone in that state is still breathing.
- Wulf: That is why we have things like The College of Winterhold. All magic has an element of danger. The School of Destruction especially so. Magic without discipline nearly always leads to disaster.
- Inigo: The Officer said you were his friend. He has a peculiar way of showing it.
- Mortierre: You don’t make friends in that career. You have to think of them as a weapon, a double-edged sword. They can have your back and pull you out of a sticky situation or set you alight the moment your skin turns a strange hue.
- Derkeethus: Mortierre, did you only leave their ranks because you became an Afflicted?
- Mortierre: No, the others already had their suspicions. It is hard to hide the fact you are not aiming your flames at the fleeing Afflicted. It is even more challenging when the Afflicted are on their knees begging for mercy. I was misinformed when I answered their recruitment drive. I was told Afflicted are feral and will attack everybody on sight. I was already a trained Aventurier before I saw the reality. Sick citizens of Evermor, who, as a regular soldier I was paid to protect, were being murdered because the nobility and priests thought them a threat and, even worse, a financial burden. I think I was one more mission away from the other Aventurier directing their flames at me. Getting the pox was coincidental timing.
- Wulf: Okay, I will now fire the flare. Serana, only use flame-based spells on the Aventurier. I want them to understand the terror and pain of their victims.
- Inigo: My friend, do not become the evil you fight.
- Wulf: Inigo, these men have chosen to burn to death women, children and unarmed men. They have earned the death they voluntarily inflicted on the innocent.
- Serana: I am with Wulf on this, Inigo. Nobody will mourn their passing. The loved ones of those they incinerated are still suffering. Let the killers suffer for a few seconds as recompense.
- Wulf: Enough talking.
Perhaps Evermor was making me harder. So be it. I don’t need my Dovah to come forward to abandon mercy.
I found a high spot and fired the flare. Then we made our way down and waited amongst the buildings.
We killed nearly two dozen Aventurier with flame, sword and arrow. No Afflicted were injured or killed.
Mortierre approached and was thrilled with the slaughter inflicted.
- Mortierre: Ha! That’s a show of strength, eh! The meek will come for the strong!
- Ghorbash: No, Mortierre, The strongest will come for the strong to protect the meek!
- Mortierre: You have staked your life on those here. If I weren’t stricken myself, I’d call you all mad. And you know what, I’m still puzzling if you are.
- Wulf: We are not insane, Mortierre. We kill to protect the innocent and are very good at it.
- Mortierre: Aye, I’ll go for that instead. Oh, the Kingdom and its people can cry about divine authority and righteousness, but your feats here should earn the respect of all their gods.
- Wulf: That false claim of divine authority has led to the problems of this kingdom. It is blasphemy, and a lie used to control the population. The priests of Evermor are fake. They do not represent The Divines or any other god for that matter. They represent the greed and yearning for power that the Evermor nobility possess. When they pray, it should be before a septim, not one of The Nine.
- Inigo: It is good to see you back to normal, my friend. Being diplomatic is not for you!
- Serana: It should be interesting to see how King Sigmayne handles the truth.
- Ghorbash: He is probably surrounded by arse lickers and has never heard the truth.
- Mortierre: You are no doubt going to be a target for Evermor. So, if you are looking for a way into the city, you will need to cross The Cistern.
- Serana: Not that they could, but if they did harm the Envoy, it would be the same as harming His Imperial Majesty. King Sigmayne would watch a few Legions marching into Evermor not long before he watched the headman’s axe descend upon his neck. They would not dare stop Envoy Valdr from entering the city or try and arrest him or harm him.
- Wulf: Still, we shall go through The Cistern anyway. The less warning we give of my arrival in the city, the less chance of them hiding things under the rug.
- Inigo: Mortierre, we passed a mine entrance on the way here. Is that The Cistern?
- Mortierre: That leads to it. Take this key, and good luck. Arnima is a pleasant holiday destination compared to Evermor city.
- Wulf: I am glad we could help, Mortierre. Hopefully, that will end your Aventurier problems for some time. Blessings of The Nine on you and all Afflicted.
We made our way to the mine entrance. An Afflicted woman was sitting near it.
She said, “Thank you all for saving my husband and taking care of those murderers.”
I replied, “Do not thank us, good wife. Thank Lady Mara for she sent us to aid the people of Evermor.”
The key unlocked the doors, and we entered the mine.
Not far in, a tripwire was set.
I tripped it, and we watched as a jar of burning oil fell onto a large pool of oil.
When the oil had finished burning, we continued. Not much further on, we discovered a victim of the trap.
After wandering around for a few minutes, Derkeethus said, “This is not the mine but an entrance. There must be a way to enter the mine proper.”
There was. It turned out to be a poorly hidden hole that allowed access to a lower level.
We all jumped down and found ourselves in a small cavern whose floor and walls were covered in blood.
Inigo sniffed and said, “Mainly cow and pig blood. It is a ruse to scare away the curious.”
Serana replied, “Not so long ago, this would have made my mouth water!”
Derkeethus was impressed with the rich veins of ore. We found evidence of Corundum, Iron and Silver mining.
We stepped through a door and into a typical drain system as seen underneath many cities.
Inigo sniffed and said, “Ahh…the malodorous highway of civilisation. It reminds me of a favourite holiday destination.”
I asked, “That wouldn’t be the Ratway in Riften, would it?”
“How did you guess? You meet the most interesting people down there, and not all of them try to slit your throat!’
Beggars proved quite eager to give directions. It was as if the septim Inigo danced across his fingers had hypnotised them. Even if they couldn’t or wouldn’t help, my kind-hearted friend tossed them the coin anyway.
It was rather obvious when we entered The Cistern. It was a cistern!
I was not surprised that the first Khajiit I had seen in Evermor was living as a beggar under the city. Inigo tossed him two septims.
Byrne was so busy staring into the cistern’s water he did not notice the heavily armed quintet standing nearby.
Ghorbash let go of a thunderous, pungent fart that echoed like the Thu’um from the cistern walls. He laughed then said, “I have been saving that for a special moment. I was hoping it might be when we meet the king, but it was getting uncomfortable.”
Byrne leapt to his feet and was about to run. I don’t know if he stopped because he recognised us or Ghorbash’s fumes caused temporary paralysis. After half a minute of coughing and swearing, he finally managed to talk to us.
- Byrne: Ah…it is my saviours. I did not think you would survive those caves. Now I know you had a secret weapon. What crawled up there and died?
- Ghorbash: Nothing. It is just a talent I developed while serving in the Legion. It needs the right combination of stale ingredients mashed together and turned a dull grey colour from overcooking.
- Derkeethus: That gruel is served in every Legion mess hall.
- Ghorbash: Yes, and that is how I got so much practice and whatever bunk I wanted in the barracks.
- Byrne: Where is the pretty Breton girl? I was hoping you would come this way so I could renew her acquaintance.
- Inigo: Oh, that is me. I shouldn’t have drunk that cursed potion, but we can still knock boots if you are interested.
- Byrne: Um, but you are male.
- Inigo: Oh, I wondered what that thing was. Being a good, chaste Breton girl, I had never seen one before!
- Byrne: The lot of you are trying to get into the palace as a troop of jesters?
- Wulf: No, but we want to get into the city and not wander around the sewers for days.
- Inigo: But we would know if we are under the palace. The shit would smell like roses!
Byrne pointed to a distant door.
- Byrne: If you go through that door, you will enter Cistern Flowthrough. That is the domain of the Skooma heads. We keep them separate as it is one big happy family down here. We even have Khajiit living with Argonian, would you believe!
- Derkeethus: How embarrassing it must be for my people to live with the furry flea carriers.
- Inigo: How can my kind stand the constant smell of three-day-old fish oozing off the slimy lizards?
- Ghorbash: Huh, at least we piggies get insulted out in the fresh air!
- Serana: It wouldn’t be fresh within ten miles of you.
- Wulf: So, we tiptoe past the dribbling Skooma addicts and then what?
- Byrne: Oh, you will be safe. The dangerous ones don’t last long down here. Anyway, quite a few of them think they are you. They will run up and shout some gibberish and claim it was The Voice.
- Inigo: They are irretrievably lost if they shout Albatross! That is the last step to becoming a blithering idiot.
- Wulf: How dare you use my word in such a blasphemous utterance!
- Serana: Please continue, Byrne.
- Byrne: You will see some raised bars. I am sure people of your talent can figure out how to lower them. If you walk up the steps beyond the bars, you will soon enter the mythical city of Evermor. The streets are paved in gold where carefree children play chasey and lovers stroll hand in hand. Well, that is what one Skooma addict told me not long before he went swimming in the water here and became Slaughterfish food.
- Wulf: We appreciate the help. Lady Mara’s blessings on you.
- Byrne: Please don’t destroy my city. The sewers in Arnima are not as pleasant, and The Bridge doesn’t have any. Oh, a word of advice. Don’t swim in the water or drink it unless you are at least three miles downstream from The Bridge.
We made our way into the Cistern Flowthrough.
- Inigo: My friend, this is an excellent place to stop and talk. I feel comfortable and relaxed here.
- Serana: Undoubtedly, the smell of Skooma and the mumbling of the addicts remind you of days gone by.
- Wulf: Yes, Inigo, what is it?
- Inigo: Are we going to risk wandering around Evermor in the middle of the night?
- Wulf: No. We will head for the village where Mados’ relative lives and hopefully find a friendly inn.
- Ghorbash: If the Oblivion Gate opens in Arnima, would we know from this far?
- Wulf: I have no doubt The Nine would let me know. I am positive Lydia and the others will know precisely what to do once I tell them it has opened.
- Serana: There could be many lives depending on us. There always are, but we are not usually fighting monsters in the middle of them.
- Wulf: We shall do our best which is pretty damned impressive!
- Serana: What about Rigmor?
- Wulf: I will ask her if she wants to join us. I will worry for her safety, but she had the right to fight for the same cause.
- Serana: Good. You will need her in the days to come. An old hag like me knows these things.
- Wulf: Old hag? You don’t look a day over seven hundred!
The addicts left us alone. Even in their most delusional state, they would recognise the uniforms of authority.
We came to the raised bars. There was no apparent mechanism nearby.
In a room full of empty Skooma bottles, we found the gate mechanism.
I picked the lock to a Dwemer cage and pushed the button inside.
We heard the bars lowering and made our way back.
We exited The Cistern.
We were greeted by shining stars and sweet-smelling fresh air.
It was just after midnight when we found an inn.
The proprietor was more than happy to have some custom. She warmed up some stew, poured us some excellent mead and chatted amiably.
The inn did not have separate rooms but one large common room.
We all climbed into our beds, exhausted.
As the others drifted off to sleep one by one, I talked long with Rigmor.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
I know I was full of anticipation as my beloved would join me when I awake.