Loredas, 14th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 202 & Sundas, 15th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 202
I recalled to the Mark at the southern bridge of Forlorn, and Rigmor followed using our rings. I summoned The Sentinels and then Shouted Dragon Aspect.
We rushed to the gates or Arnima and found Merosa, Rirrard and who I assumed was Sir Horustair in a heated discussion.
- Merosa: It is time, priest. You lord has been conspiring with his dark mistress. I doubt you were ignorant of this betrayal of Mother Mara. I have here the legal orders from King Sigmayne. Are you a traitor to your king as well as your gods?
- Wulf: I order you, Governor Merosa, to cease this harassment of Lord Mortifayne and return to The Bridge.
- Merosa: Why should I listen to a liar like you who pretends to be an Envoy of our beloved Emperor?
I stepped forward and handed my Notice of Appointment to Horustair.
- Wulf: Ser Horustair, do those papers carry the seal of His Imperial Highness.
- Horustair: They do.
- Wulf: Break the seal and read them. Not out loud.
Horustair broke the seal and read the Notice of Appointment.
- Wulf: What is your conclusion, Sir Horustair?
- Horustair: Your Excellency, the papers are in order, and you are the authorised Envoy of His Imperial Highness, Emperor Titus Mede II.
Rigmor came up and collected the papers.
I stepped in front of Merosa.
- Wulf: Six days ago, inside a consecrated Temple of Lady Mara, I asked you the following, ‘Governor Merosa, do you swear to cease all legal and military action against Lord Mortifayne, effective immediately?’ What did you answer?
- Merosa: This is nonsense. I have papers signed by King Sigmayne. He is the one pursuing legal and military action, not I.
- Wulf: Inspector Ghorbash, as one of four Penitus Oculatus agents present at that time, can you recall Governor Merosa’s answer to my question?
- Ghorbash: Yes, Your Excellency. Lady Merosa replied, “I agree to stop any further legal and military action against Lord Mortifayne.”
- Wulf: In your opinion, Sir Horustair, is Lady Merosa’s presence here and now a breach of that legally binding oath?
- Horustair: Undoubtedly, and I am ashamed to be involved with such dishonesty.
- Wulf: Lady Merosa, you made that oath in a Temple of Lady Mara. So not only have you broken your oath to your Emperor, you have lied within a consecrated temple. What have you to say?
- Merosa: You were willing to let Mortifayne continue his cruelty, and I was not!
- Wulf: For over twenty years, you and King Sigmayne have done nothing to curb Mortifayne’s cruelty. Only when it affected trade did you decide to act. I put it to you and all here that you do not care the slightest about the innocents of Arnima. You have lied under oath because you worship only one thing, and that is money.
- Merosa: That is slander! I demand redress!
- Wulf: You will have it, in Cyrodiil and within an Imperial Court of Law. You are under arrest, Lady Merosa. Do not move from where you are, or I will have you shackled.
I walked over to Rirrard.
- Wulf: Brother Rirrard, where is your Lord?
- Rirrard: Your Excellency, Lord Mortifayne was attending to a last-minute detail within the manor. He will be with us shortly.
- Wulf: Then it is too late. Lord Mortifayne has set in motion what Lady Mara asked me to prevent.
I moved and stood in front of The Sentinels.
- Wulf: Brother Rirrard and Priest Circle. Governor Merosa and King Sigmayne. These people ensured I could not complete the task assigned to me by your Emperor and Lady Mara. When the death and destruction that follows is tallied, put their names in the debtor’s column!
- Horustair: What death and destruction?
- Wulf: I have been trying to prevent the opening of an Oblivion Gate. Namira is about to invade Arnima, which is an anagram of her name. Brother Rirrard and Governor Merosa knew what I was trying to achieve, but both put their interests first. Now, all we can hope for is to minimise the losses and that I can enter Namira’s realm and close the Oblivion Gate.
- Merosa: More of that nonsense! Where is the proof?
Like a bad actor in an overdramatic play, Mortifayne walked through the Arnima gates.
- Mortifayne: The Hag rears her head at last! So, you finally had your way with the King?! Why do you persist in harassing me, vulture?
- Merosa: Sir Horustair here will see to your death if you try anything brash little ‘lord’. You have stained the Kingdom of Evermor with your ill acts. Your capturing of trade goods and intimidation of merchants have brought ruin to your town and The Reach. Your rights as a royal are now forfeit.
- Wulf: Inspectors, if Sir Horustair or any other takes a step towards Lord Mortifayne, you are to kill them! They squabble like spoiled children when many lives are at stake!
Mortifayne turned to me, so I approached him.
- Mortifayne: You show your true face at last. Apparently, you are here to save Arnima, but it is too late. My mistress told me who you are and the town belongs to her.
- Wulf: Lord Mortifayne, what happened to Belize, your beloved wife?
- Mortifayne: I have done what was demanded to gain Namira’s favour for my people. They will live if I obey. I was wrong to oppose her, and my wife died for that mistake. I must protect my people, and my mistress has shown her power. Lady Mara has not.
- Wulf: Did Namira promise this? Daedric Princes are bound to obey a verbal contract. But it has not been her talking to you, has it? You have received instructions from her intermediary via your amulet, and he can lie as much as he wants. I wore your amulet, and he spoke to me. I know who he is. Do you?
- Mortifayne: He said he is the Last King of the Ayleid. He is Dynar!
As expected, the name Dynar caused gasps of terror amongst the Evermorin.
- Wulf: That is what that wretched creature believes, but the soul of King Laloriaran Dynar is not in Oblivion or controlled by a Daedric Prince. The hero of Nirn, King Laloriaran Dynar, is safe amongst the stars. He abandoned his mistress, Meridia, and was welcomed in Aetherius. The history taught by the priests of Evermor is a fabrication and helped Namira execute her plans.
- Merosa: More lies from the Daedra loving Envoy!
- Rigmor: Shall I place a gag on her, Your Excellency?
- Wulf: No, but add that slander to her long list of charges. What a fool she will look like when His Imperial Highness and The Nine vouch for my integrity.
- Horustair: Excuse the lack of protocol, Lady Merosa, but I advise you to shut your mouth and keep it closed.
- Wulf: Lord Moritfayne, Inspector Serana stands over there. She was a Daughter of Coldharbour and married to Molag Bal. Serana denied Molag Bal and is no longer a Daughter of Coldharbour or a vampire. Brother Erandur was with me when I visited you in your keep. He was a Priest of Vaermina but is now a Priest of Mara, and one of the few Lady Mara speaks to directly. To escape that Dark Mother’s influence, all you have to do is remove that amulet and listen to The Divines!
- Mortifayne: It is too late. I have set it in motion!
- Wulf: The Shrine of Mara that you keep and pray to is proof of your good soul. You tried to resist the manipulations of a Dark Lord. Alas, Namira, like many of her kind, know how to force the unwilling. She tricked you by having Maarin kill Belize and then have the False King convince you that Maarin was untouchable. You had the murderer of your wife in your home but could not get revenge. Maarin prepared brews that stopped logical thinking and made you tired. Your good soul was no match for such manipulations. You descended into madness, but still, your conscience screamed. Now it is too late, but the blame cannot be placed purely on yourself, Lord Mortifayne. The death and destruction that will now occur result from this kingdom’s corrupt nobility and priests. And I am at fault as I made the mistake of trusting both.
I stepped back to my place with The Sentinels and watched the pantomime.
Mortifayne’s insanity peaked, and spittle flew as he growled, “Maybe if I go back, she will listen? But this whore should be the first to taste her domain!”
Mortifayne gestured with his hands. There was no verbal content to the spell, and no dweomer did I detect. Merosa screamed, then her head flew into the air, hit the ground and bounced.
Some crowded around the dead Governor.
Others, including myself, Rigmor and The Sentinels, ran to enter Arnima.
Inigo said, “My friend, do not blame yourself. Nobody could have saved this kingdom!”
I smiled at him as we entered into chaos.
We ran to the steps leading to Mortifayne’s keep. The two knights and other sycophants blocked the stairs.
I looked behind me and said, “Mortifayne is not important! It is too late to stop Namira, but there is time for justice!”
I turned back and hit those on the stairs with a full-strength Unrelenting Force Shout.
The Shout was aimed at the two knights, and they died instantly. Those higher up survived but not for long.
After we killed those on the steps, a hush fell over Arnima. We waited in silence for Namira to make her move.
Everybody gasped as a red, ghostly replica of the Adamantine Tower appeared on the horizon.
To my horror, a minion teleported amongst us and chewed the head off a guard.
I cut it down, and mayhem followed.
The Daedra were not streaming out of the Oblivion Gates but teleporting all over Arnima!
I made my way to the residential area where I knew many citizens would be.
As I killed Namira’s horrors, I yelled at the people to head for the temple. Most did. Some chose to fight with bare fists, clubs and knives.
The Legionnaires and Sentinels concentrated bow fire on a Gorgon.
When it finally crashed to the ground, I joined in the frantic hacking as a mob descended upon it.
When it died, Meeko woofed at me as he trotted past. The sneaky mutt must have hidden when I talked to The Sentinel squads earlier!
There was sporadic fighting all over Arnima. I went back to the keep steps to get an idea of deployment. I cut down one of the small flying Daedra, then Rigmor yelled, “Wulf, they are teleporting in packs!”
I looked down. A pack of the long-armed minions surrounded Inigo and Ghorbash!
Both of them went flying through the air and crashed to the ground. The minions then attacked Rigmor and Derkeethus.
I yelled, “Serana, heal these two!”
I threw myself into the midst of the minions, and never before have I swung my sword with such strength.
The minions used Blood Magic, and those without protective dweomer were dropping dead or falling back.
One of The Sentinels had summoned a Dremora Lord. I didn’t have the time to do so myself. I was relieved when I saw Rigmor had cut down her opponents and was eagerly attacking those that remained.
After eliminating that pack of minions, I realised another had attacked Celestine’s squad.
Legionnaires and guards were being slaughtered in great numbers. Even Sentinels may have died if not for the Restoration magic of the mages, including Rirrard.
There was a sudden slowdown in the assault. Minor skirmishes could be heard spread around Arnima but not the significant clashes we just experienced.
The Sentinels returned to their posts.
Rigmor and my Sentinel Squad came running up to me.
- Wulf: Namira is deciding what to do next. I must use this lull to reach the Oblivion Gate.
- Rigmor: Do you want us to accompany you?
- Wulf: No. I want you to find any straggler civilians and get them to safety. Support the other Sentinels where needed.
- Serana: Many civilians were herded quickly by The Sentinels into the temple. The lack of panic was quite remarkable. I think most made it before those packs of minions arrived.
- Wulf: That is a relief. I saw some of them fighting with bare hands, crude clubs and knives!
- Ghorbash: Arnima may be a shithole, but it is their shithole!
- Derkeethus: Are you going to call on dragons to aid us?
- Wulf: I dare not. I don’t know if they could resist a Bend Will shout if an agent of Namira used one. Durnehviir and Odhahviing are capable of levelling this town.
- Derkeethus: Ahh, then a sensible decision it is.
- Wulf: Rigmor…I…I…
- Rigmor: There is no need to say anything, my darling Dragonborn. Now hurry up and close that Oblivion Gate so we can all have a few cold ales.
- Wulf: Where is Inigo?
- Rigmor: He was piggybacking a crying child to the temple.
Before my resolve left me, I kissed Rigmor and ran for the Oblivion Gate.
As I approached one bridge, a minion teleported into the middle of Lydia’s squad and sent her flying. Meeko engaged it while other Sentinels closed in.
I could not spend time helping, so I decided to take another route.
I saw Jackos and said, “Follow me into Oblivion if you want to contribute further!”
He replied, “I can see we managed to get most civilians to safety. Brother Rirrard and Rados entered the gate seconds ago. I think some others entered earlier. Lead the way!”
Another Gorgon appeared, and I could see fireballs rising to meet it.
A man was crouching near the Oblivion Gate. I urged him to head for the temple.
I could tell via our rings that Rigmor was in that mode I have often admired, even in the middle of a melee. My beloved becomes one with her sword. Her father’s sparring and later the swordmasters hired by Bar’Ren-Dar honed her reflexes and increased her strength. The slower but more precise sword forms she endlessly repeats make them as familiar as walking. She doesn’t have to think about them as they naturally flow from one to another. Rigmor has faced a countless number and variety of enemies while travelling with me. That has made her selection of sword form instantaneous and unswervingly correct. I know that anyone who sees her in action will be awed. There would be few if any better exponents of the two-handed or hand and a half sword.
To my delight, RIgmor found time to talk!
“We just dispensed with another pack of minions. They appeared in the middle of a Legion platoon and almost wiped them out!”
“They are like fighting Werewolves with their longs arm and strength. We didn’t consider they might be able to teleport groups as we can.”
“Serana thinks the Gorgons are their scouts and that they tell the spellcasters where to place the packs of minions.”
“I will leave the tactics to you lot. I am sure you will find solutions as you go.”
“We don’t know if there are any healers inside the temple. But we can’t do without our spellcasters.”
“Reamonn was in there with plenty of healing potions and poultices. That will have to suffice for now.”
“Serana says you should hurry up and enter the gate because if we are lucky, they will concentrate on you and leave us alone!”
“And I thought we were friends!”
“Oh, another pack of minions is harassing Aranea’s group. I have to go! Love you and see you soon!”
“And I love you!”
I leapt through the gate and into Oblivion.
My connection to Rigmor was severed, and that is always like somebody ripping my soul in two.
Jackos had been waiting for me to enter, but he did not follow. Or maybe he did, and we are scattered around Scuttling Void.
The part of Scuttling Void closest to the gate looked like any grassy meadow of The Reach.
I disposed of some Undead Afflicted and moved a bit further in. The vista soon shattered the illusion of normality.
Another thing both Serana and I had been wrong about were the Crawlers. We thought the Dwemer had captured some and altered them. They turned out to be Namira’s minions and ranged from the huge and heavily armoured ones to others the size of Frostbite Spiders.
I think Husk used the Dwemer ballista to kill the Crawler and minion that we discovered. They probably exited when he tried to reenter and place Rados’ gauntlets.
I used the Thu’um a few times to speed up my progress. I had not seen the tower yet, so I tried to keep as straight a line as possible from the gate. The logic being that the tower will be central to this part of Scuttling Void.
I met Jackos finishing off one of the Undead Afflicted.
He yelled, “I heard The Voice and knew it had to be you. I will take point as it is more important you survive than me!”
We ran for some time then I asked Jackos to stop.
“Jackos, it seems we have been randomly spread around this place.”
“By the gods, I am terrified! But we have to follow what the priests taught us. I wish I remembered everything about dealing with situations like this. We have to find the others, and then we have to find that stone.”
“Anybody would think The Oblivion Crises was ancient history! Even if I hadn’t done this before, it is common knowledge about how to close an Oblivion Gate! Well, common knowledge everywhere but Evermor.”
“Have you have done this before?”
“Yes, when Malacath had an Oblivion Gate ready for him to step through. Most Oblivion Gates required a Sigil Stone placed in what mages call the Sigillum Sanguis. That is just a fancy word for a cradle that allows the Sigil Stone to float freely. The Sigil Stone is placed as high as possible in a tower. The taller the tower, the further from the Oblivion Gate the Sigil Stone can be placed. Thereby making it harder to reach for any prospective hero.”
“And do you just take the Sigil Stone to close the gate?”
“If you can reach it, yes. Malacath’s was not so easy to reach, so I just smashed it with my sword. BOOM!”
“So, what now?”
“Logically, we keep as straight a line as possible from the gate, and that must lead to the tower. At some point, you run back and return to Arnima.”
“The person who takes the Sigil Stone is almost certain to be returned to Nirn. Any other mortal in the Oblivion plane, in this case Scuttling Void, may get stuck there. Now let us hurry. The longer we take to get the Sigil Stone, the more people die in Arnima.”
We encountered Crawlers and Undead Afflicted as we travelled. A Gorgon flew above us, and I believe Serana was correct. It is not engaging us but watching as a scout would.
The first long-armed minion we encountered was pummelling Rados. He was too slow with his ebony two-handed sword and outclassed.
It turned and attacked me, totally ignoring Rados when a second before it was trying to rip his head off!
I cut it down then stood before the glowing blacksmith.
- Rados: Jackos, Wulf, what dung pit is this?
- Wulf: Scuttling Void. Home of Namira and other proud tenants.
- Rados: I never asked to be part of this!
- Wulf: You entered an Oblivion Gate. Where did you think it would lead?
- Rados: They didn’t cover Oblivion in my few days of militia training.
- Jackos: We can’t talk now, lest we provoke the ire of that beast above. We keep moving until we find Brother Rirrard.
- Wulf: No, we keep moving till it is time for you to return and me to get the Sigil Stone. If we find Brother Rirrard, he can join us, but we will not waste time looking for him!
- Rados: That is a bit cold!
- Wulf: If it were His Imperial Majesty lost in Scuttling Void, I wouldn’t spend time searching for him either! The people in Arnima are fighting for their lives against incredible odds. Look for the fake priest if you want, but my priority is closing the Oblivion Gate.
I set off again and didn’t look back.
I crossed a shallow lake of blood. Tentacles like those in Apocrypha lashed out at any mortal who got too close.
Jackos and Rados insisted on trying to act as the point. As long as they kept up the pace, I let them.
The Gorgon landed and watched us as we prepared to cross another blood lake and enter a palisade.
I used the Thu’um.
“STOP SPYING ON US! YOU ARE JUST A PATHETIC IMITATION OF A DRAGON!”
Rados cried out, “Are you mad! Now it is attacking!”
I replied, “GOOD! Now run while I take care of it.”
As Rados and Jackos ran to the far side of the blood lake, I killed the Gorgon and other flying Daedra.
When I caught up with them, Jackos and Rados were surrounded by Undead Afflicted. I summoned two Dremora Lords to help them.
Lightening was the most efficient way for me to deal with the seemingly endless stream of enemies.
A while later, Rirrard came crawling out of his hiding spot underneath an overhang.
- Rirrard: Gods graces! You made it! Now, I need to get a hold of myself. I must recall how to deal with our situation. Blasted, the drill for this was so long ago. Martin’s sacrifice made us too comfortable and unprepared.
- Wulf: Listen, Rirrard, I saw you do good work with your healing, and you did jump through an Oblivion Gate. But this is no time for subtlety so let me tell you the truth.
- Rirrard: Oh…
- Wulf: How to close an Oblivion Gate is common knowledge. Every child attending school knows of Sigil Stones and the heroes that risked all to gather them. You are dumber than the average eight-year-old!
- Rirrard: Ah…
- Wulf: Daedric Princes are continually trying to bypass the Liminal Barrier. There have been many attempts since Martin’s sacrifice, and I have personally closed an Oblivion Gate and have no doubt I will end up closing many more.
- Rirrard: Um…
- Wulf: So, let’s keep moving towards the tower.
- Jackos: Brother Rirrard, before you ask, Wulf has decided we will not waste time searching for others.
- Rirrard: Yes, any delay only brings a higher chance of failure and worse.
- Wulf: There is nothing worse than failing the innocent of Arnima!
As we ran, Jackos explained our objective to Rados and Rirrard.
I was way ahead of the others when I came to a locked door. Above the door was a bust of Reman Cyrodiil.
I had my lockpicks out and was swearing when Jackos arrived. I stood back and shook my head as he unsuccessfully tried to open the door.
- Jackos: Damn. It seems to be locked. There must be another way around these walls.
- Wulf: Locked, you say? So that is why it wouldn’t open, and I was trying to pick it. Who would have thought!
- Rados: That was sarcasm, wasn’t it. I get confused with sarcasm.
- Wulf: I am going to have to talk to Namira about her decorations. Putting a bust of Reman Cyrodiil above this door is terrible taste.
- Rirrard: So how do we get through it?
- Wulf: You don’t. You three need to head back to Arnima and help there. At the bottom of the hill is a cave. I will see where that leads. It might be full of unfriendly locals, but if my luck holds out, and Talos, your coin better work, I will find a way to the tower.
- Rados: It is my choice, Wulf, to accompany you. Don’t try and stop me from doing my part!
- Wulf: Do as you wish, Rados, but I will not slow down for you. I will clear whatever enemies are before me, but I can’t guarantee others won’t swarm you.
- Jackos: Come, Brother Rirrard. We had better hurry back before Wulf closes the gate. We don’t want to be stuck here.
- Rirrard: Stuck here?
- Wulf: Rirrard, your ignorance astounds me! Just go back and help with the healing and spiritual needs of your people. They still think you are a priest, so act like one.
We ran to the bottom of the hill.
And then we entered the cave.
Something akin to a will-o’-wisp came close and hovered.
Seemingly bored with the mortal intruders, it flew away.
In the distance, the unmistakable clanking of Dwemer gears and the hiss of steam valves echoed.
A shoddy walkway lay across a blood pond or lake. I said to Rados, “This is promising. This walkway would only be here if the cave led somewhere important.”
At the end of the walkway was a room containing Dwemer machinery. Instead of the shine of Dwemer metal, the machinery was covered in layers of dried blood and gore. Charming!
We moved quietly into the room then I put my hand up to halt Rados. A being was floating like the grotesque figure encountered in Grey Belmore. Except this one was recognisable. I used zoom-vision to get a closer look.
It was an Ayleid. Or it used to be an Ayleid.
I signalled for Rados to keep his eyes on the Ayleid. He nodded his understanding.
My dweomer that highlights books and notes showed a group of papers in a locked room.
I picked the lock and entered.
Papers were swirling around the table like the millions in Apocrypha.
I picked up the first note, and it was written in Ayleidoon. I could translate it with some lexicons they have at The College of Winterhold. I gathered them and two additional ones that were in a small casket. I placed all six notes in my journal case.
Skeletons intertwined with the ever-present vines created a barrier to one exit.
A dead Crawler had been placed with emancipated corpses in a cage. Nothing I have seen in Scuttling Void is random. It is artwork that has some meaning to someone or something. I have given up trying to fathom any meaning or aesthetics of most things I encounter in Namira’s domain.
I signalled Rados to stay where he was, and he seemed pleased with that request. I entered the room with the floating Ayleid and shook my head at the central ‘art’ piece.
The Ayleid had been flayed. I had to get close before it noticed me, and then it immediately attacked.
I cut down the Ayleid and called for Rados. Together we went from room to room, with Dremora Lords I had summoned, and eliminated many Undead Afflicted.
Blood poured into a trough through a portal, and Dwemer pumps sent it elsewhere.
There was no other exit except for the one behind the skeletons and vines.
I hacked them out of the way and opened the door.
Another floating Ayleid attacked and was cut down.
Bodies being prepared for flesh sculptures and consumption filled the room.
Rados looked down as we walked past the bodies. He was not yet hardened against his natural repulsion, and I hope he never is.
We made our way upwards and found a bone sculpture that had obvious meaning. Namira’s followers, both Daedra and mortal, are enamoured with the Dark Mother concept.
Floating Ayleid would occasionally appear just to get cut down.
We found several portals but were not interested in seeing where they went.
We walked along a landing above the blood trough.
It led to planking across another pool of blood.
The door at the end of the planking led outside.
After killing Crawlers, Rados and I climbed some steps.
At last, we could see the tower. A globe floated about thirty feet in the air.
I used zoom-vision to study the globe.
Rados asked, “Is that sphere the Sigil Stone?”
“No, it is not the Sigil Stone. It is too low and not within a Sigillum Sanguis, a cradle. We will find the Sigil Stone at the very top of the tower.”
“I have this creepy feeling it is a giant eye staring at us.”
“You might not be far from the truth. Oh well, let us ignore it for now.”
We walked through a gut garden. It was the first one I have seen and hopefully the last.
I pointed to an eye at the apex of a bone archway.
I told Rados, “I have seen eyes like that before. I do not doubt that somebody is watching us through that one!”
“Then why haven’t they sent more beasts to stop us?”
Just as Rados finished saying that, enemies surrounded us.
We cut them down and proceeded towards the tower.
Thick vines blocked our way.
They moved aside after I scorched them.
We arrived at the foot of the tower. Rados decided to start asking a lot of questions as we walked. I think it was to calm his nerves.
Rados observed, “It looks nothing like the tower that appeared in the sky!”
“That was Namira’s ego showing, not the reality.
“What are those tentacle things?”
“They look like Hermaeus Mora, but I doubt he is welcome in Namira’s realm. Plus, they don’t have his bazillion eyes. I hate his voice. It sounds like he needs to cough and remove a glob of phlegm.”
“Charming description. You have met Hermaeus Mora?”
“I am his champion, but we don’t get along. He killed a good man out of spite. He is almost as unpredictable as Sheogorath.”
“That is the Mad God, correct?”
“Yes. I am Uncle Sheo’s champion as well.”
“Ahh…how did you manage that?”
“I walked around inside the brain of a dead, insane emperor and made him sane again.”
“Oh, of course.”
I replaced the Dremora Lords with two fresh ones.
Rados asked, “How come we are not fighting that type of Daedra?”
“Only a few Dark Lords have Dremora as minions. They are highly intelligent and live in a strict caste system. I don’t think Namira ever uses them. Molag Bal does.”
“Where do those two come from?”
“I have no idea. But they do come in handy, don’t you agree?”
“Not very chatty, are they?”
“No, apart from taunts when fighting and an ‘Aaarghh!’ when defeated, they are silent.”
We came to the door of the tower.
“Okay, Rados, I will not be going slow, so keep up as best you can.”
“Up lots of stairs as we go around in circles?”
“With who knows what horrors trying to kill us on every level.”
“Ahh…you are supposed to encourage me, not make me soil my armour!”
“Rados, I encourage you not to die a horrible death and do not let Daedra tear you apart.”
We cut down headless mages, people naked except for Miraak masks, headless Mythic Dawn cultists and floating flesh thingies.
We stood before a portal.
“That portal will take us to the roof. I expect The False King, who thinks he is The Last King, will be waiting for us.”
“Will he be powerful?”
“I have no idea. We will soon find out. Ready?”
“No, but let’s go meet him anyway.”
“Sheath your weapons.”
“Powerful enemies always boast and tell me how I am going to die and how they have won and other such bullshit. I like to get them angry as then they make mistakes and tell me more than they intended. If we appear with weapons in hand, he might simply attack.”
“I left my sheath back in Arnima. I will just have to look non-threatening.”
“Just keep more than a few sword lengths away and your sword tip pointing to the ground.”
“When I spoke to The False King, he was very cryptic. Don’t worry if you can’t keep up with the discussion.”
“I learnt that on the mission with you and The Sentinels. I will just nod my head and say, ‘Oh, of course!’
We stepped into the portal, me first followed by Rados.
The False King resembled the floating Ayleid. Beside him, a dome barrier enclosed the Sigillum Sanguis and floating Sigil Stone which was bright green for some unknown reason.
Through the distortion of the dome, I could see an emancipated figure kneeling before a Shrine of Namira. My guess is they are the remains of Mortifayne begging Namira to stop. If so, she wasn’t polite with her answer.
The False King tried speaking in my mind. I laughed and said, “I am not wearing the amulet, so I can’t let you in. You will have to speak aloud as you do not have the power to penetrate my mind blocks.”
If decay could sound like something, it would sound like The False King’s voice.
“So, the married messengers assail us, nor despair or decay could halt the march of destiny. Will the story of your flesh end in tragedy or triumph?”
“Rados, we are married! I can’t even remember you proposing. Or did I propose? I wonder if it was a white wedding with bridesmaids and all that?”
The False King hissed.
I said to him, “You believe yourself to be King Laloriaran Dynar reborn but are not. As for destiny, it does not march as it doesn’t exist. Every tiny movement of an eye or twitch of a hand creates infinite possible futures. There is no predetermined path for mortal or god.”
“The corporeal was The King who reigned over flesh and mud all the same. In those mortal years, my aid was sought after from Mer in the west. Brothers of the same flesh, same wants – we congealed for the race. Superficial, yet penetrating so deeply.”
“The Direnni also sought aid from the Nords of Skyrim and the Breton and Reachmen from within their Hegemon. Man and Manmer fought beside the Mer at The Battle of Glenumbra Moors. If the history placed in your head were not fiction, you would know that.”
“Mortals are locked behind the eyes, forever beholden by the spectacle provided. Carnality flows down from those organs – libido, hunger, dominance. I hope the patchwork below has given insight; Art etched into the very edifice of this red land. Convention betrayed, desecrated woman before the virtuous man, the civilised devoured by the subaltern. Want eating want – a tale you’ve come to know, cattle as you are. Here lays all that’s aberrant, all of nature’s most hated.”
“Mortals are not slaves to our senses! The eyes do not dictate emotion and morality! Pleasant odours can make a blind person hungry. Touch and voice can make a blind person desire their partner. Dominance can be sought by a blind despot whose followers will strike out at those that the blind despot can’t see. The blind despot’s minions will recover what the blind despot covets but can’t see. A deaf person can touch the throat of one talking and learn to hear. A well-fed person will only hunger if the offered food is of a type and consistency and smell that pleases them. A starving person will gladly eat anything they can put in their mouth, no matter how vile or distasteful. Libido is not a product of sight but a complex state influenced by a myriad of factors. Dominance is not a desire generated by any of our senses. You speak with no concept of what constitutes a mortal because your mistress created your fake persona and is like all of her kind. They did not make us. They do not understand us.”
“Pragmatic flesh-cattle, listening for a reason – let the soul gain your ears. Let your guts listen and let them churn from these primordial truths. The misery you’ve witnessed, carved through your temporal home, is mirrored here. Both worlds drown in the tears of wanting mortals. Your flesh-cattle were wading this red mire well before this hallowed hour.”
“Where is the laughter of the children or the words of lovers intimate? Where is the love of family and friends? Where is the beauty of the aurora and stars on a cloudless night? I fail to see the majesty of a storm rolling over the horizon in this realm! This place mirrors a tiny part of the mortal experience. Even the most downtrodden can find joy and beauty in our world. Where is that mirrored here? This place is no mirror image but a poorly produced copy where the artist failed miserably to capture the essence of the original. My Gods create, and they are the artists. Your mistress and her kind alter what exists or create inferior replicas. Then they try and convince others they are superior and not ugly, inferior reproductions. You live in a forgery and are a forgery.”
The False King hesitated. I doubt he expected such total rejection of his pathetic metaphors.
“Your little lord promised his walls as tribute, an amulet to seal our proposal. As is common with weak fleshed mortals, he betrayed us. Reconciliation at the last moment has guaranteed an eternity for him within Namira’s embrace. She will rend his soul until the sum of his reality.”
“Mortifayne used mortal free will and courage to defy you and your mistress. Yet, you try to make them sound like weaknesses when they are things that Namira lacks and envies. You gloat over the fate of Mortifayne’s soul when you are about to fail your mistress. I can imagine her wrath with you will be many times that directed at the little lord. The most punishing thing she could do is tell you the truth. You are Umbacano, a miner who was fooled into wearing the Crown of Lidea and died screaming on the throne of Nenalata!”
Rados said, “I must have been hit on the head. I am following this!”
I laughed then asked The False King, “Tell me, Umbacano, what is the grand plan? You are going to kill me, so what harm is there in helping me understand why I am doomed?”
“Inquisitive flesh puppet, the Kalpa has a destiny of doom. Your world will fade, and chaos will fall upon Oblivion once more. With your clean, fresh tower, the grim mother god will ensure survival into the next world, as this tower displaces the first on yours. The deception will be complete, and when beings in the next world assemble to build the same constructs, the idea of Namira will be in their plans. Their arms will erect the frame, and our tools will make the tower whole. Their world will be mother’s creation.”
“You want to be King of Mundus yet don’t even know the basics of metaphysics? For a start, I defeated Alduin. Therefore this Kalpa is not going to end soon. If I fail to stop you, how many more mortals will be sent to try? Each will learn from the last until one of them succeeds.
You didn’t know I defeated Alduin, did you? I warned you when I talked to you last. Didn’t you ask mummy about me? Didn’t she tell you I have stopped other Dark Lords?”
It was hard to read the body language of the being before me. It must be worried. I am not the meek acceptor of bullshit he expected.
“Okay, Umbacano, I understand your fleshy self was a miner and not a man of great intellect, so let me explain how it works. The Kalpa cycle only affects Mundus and not Oblivion or Aetherius. Therefore, chaos will not fall upon Oblivion!
The Kalpa ends when the Convention is revoked. Nothing and nobody can then agree on what is up or down, left or right, hot or cold, etc. There are many entities in different pantheons capable of revoking the Convention. Even determined mortals, like The Thalmor, can do it.
Without the Convention, the mortal plane becomes unstable, and Alduin eats the material that constitutes Mundus. This sequence marks the beginning of the chaos, the Dawn Era.
Every spirit that wants to partake in the construction of the new Mundus meet on the new Nirn. Then they create the Adamantine Tower. In other words, the Aedra, the creators of Mundus, make the tower each time. Your tower, made by Daedra, cannot possibly replace it.
The Convention is then held at the Adamantine Tower, and the rules of the new Mundus are agreed upon. These rules become the Zero Stone of the Adamantine Tower.
At the beginning of each Kalpa, the responsibilities of the Daedric Princes may change. For instance, Namira might replace Azura as the Daedric Prince of Dusk and Dawn and no longer be the Dark Mother.
There is no possibility of this plan working, and Namira would know that. This tower and you are just a part of a bigger scheme and designed to fail.
Lady Mara will guide me to the truth of what Namira is planning. Meanwhile, your soul will be at the mercy of Namira, who designed your failure from the start.”
Rados gleefully said, “That is the best kick in the cobblers ever!”
I laughed along and said, “Come, Umbacano. Enough talk. It is time for you to return to The Void.”
Umbacano hissed, “Exposition is trite for your destiny remains the same, my decimation of yours, conflict is always the resolution of gods and kings. Let fate play!”
Umbacano teleported to a ledge, and several of the small flying Daedra attacked.
It was apparent early in the conflict that our attacks were not damaging Umbacano. I looked around the top of the tower, and the only strange object was a giant open hand surrounded by a miasma. I had no idea what it symbolised but struck it with my sword anyway. Umbacano screamed.
The fight consisted of periods where the Dremora Lords, Rados, and I inflicted slightly more damage on Umbacano than his healing dweomer could repair.
Eventually, Umbacano would become fully resistant to damage once more, and I would then slice into the giant hand again.
I would use Slow Time to inflict the largest amount of danger I could in a given amount of time. This tactic proved crucial as Umbacano was constantly teleporting and giving himself time to heal.
Eventually, Umbacano knew he was defeated and pleaded for Mother to help him.
I cut down The False King in the middle of his plea. He whimpered as either The Void or Dark Mother claimed his soul.
I searched Umbacano, and he had a twin Amulet to that worn by Mortifayne.
The giant hand had turned one hundred and eighty degrees and was now clenched.
I inspected the remains of Mortifayne. It appears he asked Namira to stop, as he said he would, but his fate was already sealed.
The globe we had noticed when we first saw the tower was now floating just above us.
I tried looking at it with heat-vision and detecting its aura but received no clues about what it was.
The barrier around the Sigil Stone had dissipated with Umbacano’s death. The Sigil Stone was no longer floating but still touching the Sigillum Sanguis and, therefore, active.
I walked over to Rados.
“That was well fought, Rados and far more praiseworthy than anything your grandfather accomplished.”
“I just want to go back to my house, bellows and anvil. This armour can get buried with my grandfather. I never want to wear it again.”
“Now you have one final task. You must pick up the Sigil Stone and move away from the platform, the Sigillum Sanguis.”
“You told Jackos that the one who destroys or removes the Sigil Stone is almost certain to be returned home. You told him that any other mortal has a good chance of being stuck here.”
“That is correct, but I have other means of returning to the mortal plane. I have an item made by the Ayleid that will take me elsewhere in Oblivion, and from there, I can return to Arnima.”
“So, I just pick up the Sigil Stone and step backwards?”
“That is all you have to do.”
“That globe, do you think somebody is watching through it?”
“I have no doubt. Whoever or whatever it is observed the fight and are now waiting to witness the next step.”
“Okay, here goes!”
I held my sword at the ready in case anything teleported to us.
I stared at the globe as Rados picked up the Sigil Stone and stepped back.
Everything turned red, and I fell onto my back.
I looked into the globe and knew my death was imminent. I could not move. I could not place the Ayleid Waystone around my neck. I have never been close to drowning, but for some reason, I felt my death was in many ways similar. I was holding my breath, knowing that the next inhale would be my last. I did not feel the air around me but liquid. Was I in a pool of blood?
I was amused when an entity tried to talk to me in my mind. No, Namira, I don’t want to hear any last offers you have or your gleeful victory speech.
The entity spoke with a voice similar to one that I had heard before. It was similar to Ambition’s but different enough to indicate it was not him who spoke. Even as my life ebbed, my logical thought processes decided that an excellent educated guess was that Husk was the speaker. Then my rational brain asked why it wasn’t garbled if my head was under an ocean of blood.
Husk said, “Fallen from the womb, crawl, strive. You shall survive.”
I hoped that Husk did not use as much mumbo jumbo as Ambition. It would be embarrassing for both of us if I died in the middle of an overlong sequence.
Husk continued, “Forward unto the fissure and away from this crushing red. This cord will mark your journey home. This cord will tie us together.”
Similar to how I know where a Mark I placed is, I knew where this ‘cord’ terminated. I concentrated on that destination, mentally pulling myself along the cord. To keep the analogies ticking over, my brain decided I was like a drowning man hauling himself out of the water using a rope thrown by a concerned observer.
I found myself in the drawing-room of Mortifayne’s keep. Where I had once baited Maarin.
“Rigmor, I am back!”
“Hang on…duck…stand…slice…that ugly one is gone. I can see from here the Oblivion Gate has collapsed. A formidable Gorgon is giving us problems, but apart from that, Arnima is quiet.”
“Has anybody…have any of my friends…oh, Divines give me strength. Are they okay?”
“As far as I know, all The Sentinels are alive. There were a few close calls, and without the number of mages we have among them…well…we would have lost quite a few.”
“What about you? Have you been hurt?”
“I have been thrown like a rag doll a few times by those ugly long-armed thingies. They swarm you with their arms swinging, and you can’t avoid them all. Next thing you know, the world is upside down, and you are heading for a bad landing. We all tuck and roll well, but when you skid and hit something or smack against a wall and slide down, you get hurt. I have lost count of how many people, civilians, Legionnaires and guards, I have seen get their head chewed off by them or splattered against something.”
“I am in Mortifayne’s keep and will come and find you soon. Keep concentrating.”
“I knew you would do it!”
The relief Rigmor felt was very palpable via our rings. I didn’t tell her that I was not okay. I will have to sit and figure it out later, but Husk has part of my soul.
The ever-present roots, vines, whatever they are, blocked access to much of the keep.
I made it to the kitchen, hoping to find Maarin, but instead, I was confronted by an octagon made of bones with a skull and note in the middle.
The note’s cryptic message was,
- One minute to midnight.
- A planted seed nurture its growth.
- Metastasise and fatten thyself.
- Cattle with the taste for cattle.
Maarin is a cannibal, which is not a great surprise. He will be a dead one if I ever see him again.
I stood before the front door and prepared myself for the death I would see.
The first thing I saw was Sir Horustair fighting one of the small flying Daedra.
I cut that down, and then the Gorgon landed close to us.
As I ran towards it, it took flight once more.
The Gorgon landed at the bottom of the stairs, and I ran to reach it.
Once again, it took flight just as I entered the fray.
I heard, “You murdering bastard!” and turned to see an Arnima guard and Legionnaire facing off.
The Legionnaire saw me and yelled, “He cut down one of our men when we were fighting that flying monster.”
The guard snarled back, “Everybody for themself now ol’ Morty is gone. That bastard stopped me looting the keep earlier!”
I yelled, “The punishment for looting is death. The punishment for murder is death.”
I stepped forward and decapitated the guard.
Ser Horustair threatened, “You’ll bleed for that!”
I warned him, “You will die a traitor’s death if you swing that hammer at me!”
An Imperial officer came running up and said, “Ser Horustair, not only is he the Emperor’s Envoy, he is Penitus Oculatus. That scum confessed to looting and murder, and the sentence was just. Cease, or we will cut you down.”
One of Mortifayne’s household guards came running with his weapon drawn. I heard Inigo yell, “Naughty, naughty!” just before an arrow hit the guard in the forehead. At the same time, I did a lazy backswing and decapitated the probably already dead guard.
The Gorgon was still causing issues.
Spells and arrows from The Sentinels and the few surviving Legionnaires eventually brought it down.
Only then could I look at the carnage in peace.
Some of the Legionnaires were killed by Breton arrows. No doubt more looters are on the loose.
Many civilians had made their way back onto the streets. Some drowned their sorrows with mead and song.
Others grieved over the bodies of friends and family.
Some sat staring ahead with the same look that I had seen on soldiers after a battle.
I wandered from place to place, mentally tallying the dead. I saw no children, which was a blessing.
I knelt and gave Meeko a good scratch. He was no different than the other Sentinels and had every right to join them in defence of Arnima.
I was about to enter the temple when Rigmor called me over.
“Wulf, do not go in there! Our mages are entering now and will do what they can. Please, come here.”
I walked over to my reminder of all that is good.
“I don’t know what to do, Rigmor. I failed, and many are dead, and there is something wrong with me. Something has exchanged part of me. It is a bond with a Daedra of some sort. I can’t explain. I don’t understand it myself.”
Rigmor put her finger on my lips.
“Shh! Your part in this battle is over. I want us to go to Breezehome, and you can spend a day recuperating. I don’t want to hear about more corruption, the pervert king, what will happen to the poor people blah blah blah! The Sentinels will do what they can here. The other shit can wait a day!”
“it would be good to experience the familiar sounds and smells of Whiterun. I long to hear the laughter of children once more. I have not heard that wonderful, beautiful sound in Evermor, did you know that?”
“Come on then, my Dragonborn. We both need a good soak in the spa.”
“Are you sure it is okay for me to go? Perhaps I can….”
“Wulf, after a good meal, a bath and a restful sleep, we can discuss things with clearer heads!”
“Yeah, I have to be my best for when I meet Sigmayne. You are right, as usual.”
Rigmor held my hand then I teleported us to Breezehome.