Morndas, 23rd Sun’s Dawn, 4E 202 & Tirdas, 24th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 202
I quickly put all thoughts of Husk to the back of my mind and made my way to Commander Drugo.
The Commander and a Captain were startled when I interrupted their discussion.
“Commander Drugo, I need to talk to you urgently.”
“Your Excellency, what backdoor did you enter through? You must be a master of stealth as well as battle.”
“I can go invisible and use other methods of infiltration. And you have seen me teleport.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Captain, you are dismissed.”
The Captain gave me a crisp salute and left.
“Commander, did the Orsimer attack Dunlain?”
“Yes, Captain Gallione, who you just dismissed, was in charge of the defence. He handed me his report just then, and we had just finished discussing it. Do you want to read it?”
I nodded my head, and Drugo handed me the report, which read,
The ruse in Dunlain was a brilliant success.
The local mayor co-operated when we explained the situation, and all residents were told to flee to the nearest house and stay inside if the rebel Orcs attacked.
We had several Legionnaires of Breton origin dressed as carpenters and other tradespeople spread around the town. Their weapons were hidden close by and flares on their person.
Meanwhile, the rest of us had camped not far away and worked on building a dam for irrigation the mayor had been planning. To anybody watching, we were the Legion ingratiating themselves with the locals.
Orsinium’s Sons attacked in the middle of the night, so few civilians were out and about.
The decoy tradesmen fired flares which confused the Orcs. They knew flares were an Imperial Army signal, and they squabbled about what to do.
The half dozen soldiers already in the town were in the darkness and still had their night vision. The Orcs were bathed in the light of dozens of torches, no doubt for burning the village. They had no hope of seeing the concealed men.
The Legionnaires quickly gathered together and formed a line of archers. They then approached within range of the arguing Orcs. Volley after volley of arrows fell into the compressed mass of Orcs huddled close in a heated argument.
Many fell before they charged in the direction of the archers.
Unfortunately for the Orcs, our men had quickly organised themselves and appeared in number behind them.
More fell while charging the archers, and then they found arrows coming from the opposite direction.
These were thugs. They were not the disciplined Orc troops that have gained so much respect in Skyrim and Cyrodiil. They had no quality commander to take charge and make them move as a unit.
Confusion reigned, and they perished. The remaining Orsinium’s Sons eventually charged the larger group and died at the end of pike and sword.
The last fell, and the village was quiet. Then the residents slowly came out of their homes.
They saw the piles of dead Orc and the bloodied but upright Imperial soldiers and cheered.
We did not lose a single Legionnaire! No building was damaged, and no civilians were harmed.
We had scouts dotted around the perimeter with instructions to report on but not stop any Orc observer from fleeing. There were several, so no doubt the Orsinium Son’s leadership know what occurred by now.
I said to Drugo, “That show of force demonstrates Legion competence. Evermor’s citizens have had several displays of that in recent times.”
‘Your Excellency, we received orders yesterday. We are being recalled to Cyrodiil for refitting. We have also been awarded an extended period of leave, commendations and medals commemorating the Battle of Raven Spring.”
“You seem surprised at the official recognition of your troops?”
“The letter I received from Cyrodiil said these were being awarded on the recommendation of Envoy Valdr.”
“I knew nothing about the medals but the rest, yes, I recommended those to General Tullius, the ex-Governor of Skyrim.”
“You had no hesitation in killing Naruman and thought….”
“Say no more, Commander Drugo. I suspected somebody senior within the Legion’s ranks had been talking to Orsinium’s Sons with possible betrayal in mind. Luckily for that person, I never discovered their identity. It would be terrible if I found out and had to take action just when they are getting to go home.”
“Oh, of course, I understand.”
“I would estimate you had less than a third of the troops required for the task given. And that is if this kingdom only had the usual problems. Unfortunately, the Skyrim Civil War prevented the correct number being garrisoned after the Great War had reduced the number.”
“What else could we have done here? It seems most are dead set on digging a deeper hole for themselves despite all our best efforts.”
“The leaders of the kingdom, both temple and nobility, gave scant recognition of Imperial and Divine law. They were ruled by greed and ego.”
“You speak of them in the past tense.”
“After what I reported to General Tullius and what will be reported to His Imperial Majesty, there will be no noble left in position, and real priests and priestesses will replace the Priest Circle. If you and your men are fortunate, you will be safe across the border before chaos reigns.”
“Does this purge include Prince Damian? He is proving popular with the citizens of Raven Spring.”
“He is not what he seems. Sigmayne and others will be given fair trials, which will reduce resistance to a short period of military rule. I will judge Prince Damian. His kind is not subject to the laws of mortals.”
“What he is will soon be known by all.”
“Will General Tullius be governor?”
“Since the troops replacing yours are under him, it will be General Tullius’ recommendation to which His Imperial Highness will listen. He will recommend Legate Rikke, who would be promoted as her rank is too low for governor. She has been Tullius’ understudy during the Civil War.”
“People know something is happening. The large numbers of troops sitting on the border are evidence of that.”
“We were hoping their presence would quieten things down. You don’t want thousands of Legionnaires crossing the border who regard you as hostile. Orsinium’s Sons are much better fighters than Witchmen, Ustase, corsairs and Exiles. Yet a small contingent of Legionnaires slaughtered the Orsimer who occupied Deepcrag and attacked Dunlain. We suffered many losses in defence of Raven Spring, but our casualties were a fraction of what the local guards suffered. It might be a late lesson, but the aggressors in Evermor have learnt that The Imperial Legion is not to be trifled with.”
“My troops may be eager to leave, but they do have sympathy for the normal people of Evermor. We would all like to see them prosper.”
“I am sure you have a lot to organise for your transfer. Perhaps we will see each other in a quieter, less stressful environment. Blessings of The Divines, Commander Drugo.”
“It has been an honour, Your Excellency.”
Drugo saluted, then walked away with a spring of pride in his step.
I said to Rigmor, “I am coming home for a bath, food and chat about anything but Evermor.”
“We are curious about your trip through The Void.”
“Okay, but there is not much to say about the total waste of time the last five days have been.”
I teleported to Silverpeak Lodge and immediately headed for a bath. I felt like I was carrying half a ton of Scuttling Void dirt!
I then sat for a midday meal with The Sentinels. At each table, I described how I travelled through The Void. I didn’t elaborate much on Husk’s personal and warped view of why mortals behave the way they do.
Olette had gone to Whiterun with Inigo to do some shopping, so I did not get to see them before leaving once more.
Nubaree, Rayya and Ghorbash were my squad. I gathered them, and Rigmor then teleported to Raven Spring.
We had timed our return to Evermor so we could listen to Damian’s well-publicised speech.
Here it is, and I apologise to future scholars for having to read such rubbish.
“Reflect if you will, this land and its history, how the past blends seamlessly into the present. Where the wounds of times past yonder still gape as to drown the realm in a real haze of madness.
That past is an anchor, staying our destinies, and only with the collective might of The Reach can we smash the chain. Like a yearning child yet conceived, trapped within the crushing womb, must erupt from its shell by any means!
Cast your traumas, kill your fear, for hope shall take their stead. Every man and woman here have but one imperative, to prevail against the world itself. For it is only through triumph that we overcome our shared antipathy for life and its injustices.
Behold the advent of a new enterprise, for we are undergoing a total restoration of Evermor. Labourers of every craft work tirelessly to further our dominion. The further our presence, the nearer our enemies’ defeat! Soon there will be no hole for their dark ilk to fester. And through the blood, sweat and toil: The Reach. Not for the savage, nor the stranger, but for you: Reachmen.
To make our mutual want for peace and power tangible is our right. To triumph over trepidation and sail our fate through the maelstrom of destiny. This ultimate agenda was yesterday a dream, a tale to cope. Now, our ideals are no longer distant. When Reachmen hone their desires into one shared purpose, even mountains will quake.
Will to power, no longer to endure, to suffer, and we will prosper! They thought you sheep, preying on you at your weakest!
Now you have heart!
Now you have willpower!
Now it is you who are strong and will be feared!
There was complete silence from the few who bothered to attend. I think the citizens of Evermor are more bullshit repellent than Ambition credits. I could see on Ambition’s face that silence was not the reaction he expected and slow anger started to surface. I quickly made my way to him before violence erupted.
He watched as we approached and turned to speak to us.
- Wulf: Prince Damian, I need to speak to you.
- Ambition: Unfortunately, I will depart here soon, so anything you need to say, make it brief. Three-fourths of today’s schedule still awaits.
- Rigmor: Prince Damian, remember to whom you speak! You do not tell Envoy Valdr to hurry any more than a serf tells his noble lord!
- Wulf: Patience, Inspector Betty, Prince Damian has lacked training in proper decorum and protocol.
- Rigmor: Yes, Your Excellency, but one would hope he would have taught himself the basics since we last saw him.
- Ambition: I meant no disrespect. I have influential men waiting for me in the west, so we must speak later.
- Wulf: I assume these men will aid in this new enterprise and the smashing of chains?
- Ambition: Yes, that is why I cannot afford to be late. Their support is crucial.
- Wulf: Perhaps I should attend this meeting to provide support and advice?
- Rigmor: Surely, Prince Damian, the inclusion of such a powerful ally would strengthen your position and ensure your ambition is achieved?
- Ambition: My ambition?
- Wulf: I can see the goals so eloquently expressed in your excellent speech are but small steps towards defeating the Dark Mother.
- Ambition: It is good that you remember. It would aid me to have you present, but your guards would be of concern.
- Wulf: I understand. An Orsimer, Argonian and Redguard might cause discomfort among particular allies. I will attend in person with no guards as that will demonstrate commitment to the cause!
- Rigmor: That is a wise decision, as always, Your Excellency.
- Ambition: It is settled then. We shall meet at the quarry to the west of the kingdom.
- Wulf: Hail Evermor!
- Ambition: Hail Evermor! Now, I must leave.
We heard Rirrard yelling, “Envoy Valdr! Are you here? Envoy Valdr!”
I headed down the platform to see what Rirrard wanted.
“Yes, Brother Rirrard, do you need me for something?”
“Forgive the interruption, Your Excellency, but I need your attention within the temple.”
“I can see by your demeanour it is something most urgent. Lead the way, no dallying!”
To our surprise, Rirrard started to run! We easily kept up with him.
We entered and approached the huffing Rirrard.
- Wulf: Okay, we are the only ones here. Feel free to talk.
- Rirrard: It’s about what the missionary saw when he scoured that damn facility in the mountains, or rather, what he’s seen now that made him evoke such dread.
- Wulf: Take your time and explain what has happened.
- Rirrard: Before his speech, Prince Damian entered the temple to greet us. Almost immediately, the missionary became capricious. I thought it was from the scouring, but he was extremely pallid. I’ve never seen such a drastic turn of health so quickly.
- Wulf: He recognised what Damian is, and now Reamonn is in danger.
- Rirrard: He said you warned him, as you did me, to be wary of Damian. Is what the missionary saw true?
- Wulf: It is not Prince Damian but a Daedra, or Demon if you wish, using his body. Prince Damian and his mother were killed some time ago. I met this Daedra in Scuttling Void, not when we went to get the Sigil Stone, but when recovering Mados’ gauntlets. When the fake prince came storming into his father’s throne room, I knew who he was.
- Rirrard: Is he working with Namira?
- Rigmor: No, but we suspect he might be working with another Dark Lord. He is seeking revenge on Namira, and accomplishing it requires a powerful ally.
- Wulf: Where is Reamonn?
- Rirrard: He has fled to The Bridge and has sought refuge in the temple there.
- Wulf: That is as safe a place as any.
- Rirrard: What will happen now?
- Wulf: The Daedra is meeting with allies, and we don’t know who that is yet, in the quarry west of here. I have been invited.
- Rirrard: Why would he invite you?
- Rigmor: Envoy Valdr has convinced him they have a common purpose.
- Rirrard: What is that purpose?
- Wulf: He thinks he can lead Evermor to war against just about everybody else and be victorious.
- Rirrard: Is he insane?
- Wulf: No, he is ambition and ego without the checks and balances of caution, empathy and doubt. Once he accomplishes one goal, he will move on to the next.
- Rigmor: He is trying to appeal to the base desires of the oppressed. As usual with his type, the existing nobility and religious leaders are to blame for all the peasantry’s woes.
- Wulf: The audience we saw today was not convinced by his rhetoric. However, all he needs is enough soldiers and civilians to start a coup. Then it will act like an avalanche and grow until all are buried in a landslide of hate and death.
- Ghorbash: He has been in residence for days, yet he waited till today to visit the religious leader of Raven Bridge. You are in danger simply because his god opposes yours.
- Wulf: Either Damian or myself will remove Sigmayne from his throne. That in itself may start the chaos that would typically result in the strongest leading.
- Rirrard: What can we do?
- Wulf: Nothing except resist his smooth words. There are thousands of Legionnaires ready to cross into Evermor and suppress the violence. They will kill whoever needs killing to restore law and peace. It does not matter a person’s rank; Imperial Law is their master.
- Ghorbash: Swift, ruthless and efficient violence to stop the extended and drawn out suffering this kingdom has endured. That is the solution if we cannot stop Damian and his supporters.
- Wulf: We are going now to try and stop him. The Divines are with you, Brother Rirrard.
- Rirrard: Brother?
- Wulf: You have earned that title once more. I hope it means more to you now than the prestige it once carried.
We made our way to the temple’s back, where I located the quarry on my map. It was a few hours from Rados’ town.
Rigor asked, “Are we to accompany you till you reach the quarry?”
“Yes, and we shall make a plan once there. I have no idea what I am walking into.”
“I am more scared than I have ever been, my Dragonborn.”
“And I am more determined than ever to save these people.”
“You would die trying, and I accept that. As a good soldier’s wife should.”
“Come on then. This morbid talk is not going to make us feel better or resolve the problem.”
I cast Recall and selected the Mark in Rados’ town. The others soon joined me.
Rigmor said, “Rados made himself scarce after returning from Scuttling Void. So did Jackos. I don’t think they were prepared for what they experienced. Brother Rirrard seemed to handle it far better than those two.”
“Did you see them when they arrived back?”
“Yes, we were still fighting the last of the Daedra. Both of them left the fighting to us and made for the exit of Raven Spring.”
The countryside was beautiful. The farms we passed were prosperous and well-tended. There was no sign of the precipice on which the kingdom teetered.
It was past midnight when we approached the quarry. A single figure stood outside the palisade. I turned to Rigmor.
“Husk awaits me. Hopefully, he can provide some answers this time.”
“I can’t see anybody.”
“Perhaps he has made himself visible to only me. Otherwise, his frightening visage would surely attract attention.”
“Okay, but make sure we can all hear him. Just in case…well… you know! Don’t make me say it.”
“Just in case he has some information you need to give Mede, and I don’t make it.”
Rigmor nodded, and I smiled. My love for her would not let me do anything else.
I approached Husk, and our lengthy discussion began.
“Husk, before we start, the others with me wish to hear our conversation and see you. Can that be done?”
“Yes, it is done. I will speak in their minds. Nobody can see or hear us.”
“I need answers, not another pantomime.”
“You seek to unwind what is? To make sense of what will be? Eternity stretches before us until the final night. Ask away.”
“Are you now half a person’s personality?”
“I am the vestige of ambition, what remains when desires are won. Before you is the full weight of the past of the once whole thing, I. Without ambition, one is idle, perched in the recess of this dead mind.”
“Before you became this divided consciousness, what were you?”
“Tremors are what animate this vessel, a morsel of desire from my abandonment. To recount my tale, even now, narcissism is all I can muster.”
“We all want our stories known.”
“Birth: Upon emerging into this foreign scape, eyes unseal to gander on the potential denied before. Possibility I shall will things to be, all that is solid shall make way. Yet I, as with all, am the result of what was. Out stories are well underway before the first breath. A dichotomy made the chapter before my waking. Savage, ordered – clean, filth – Breton, Orc.”
“You were a half breed, but the dichotomy you state is a product of perception, not reality. An Orsimer is no more savage or dirty than a Breton. I can give many clear examples to prove that is the truth.”
“But I was judged by that perception entrenched. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. Spawn of foul union and disgust frothed forth from all passing lips. It would be death for the child or death to a dynasty. My fate wasn’t that of those beyond my incredible circumstance. I lived.”
“The uninformed believe all mixed-race children take the appearance of their mother. This misconception is demonstrably wrong, and rarely are such children defined as one race or another. The Breton would not exist if this were not a fact. You were born of Breton appearance and thus survived. What race was your mother?”
“Mother was Breton, and I was born and raised a such.”
“Was she raped?”
“No, but even consent between a Breton woman and Orc would be viewed as such. It is not just the child that would be killed.”
“Each year from that precious youth was another mile estranged from my origin. I question if it ever took place at all, a fever dream perhaps. The delusions of gutter spawn peering through a gold-rimmed lens. Even so, I recall it perfectly.”
“Did you know your father?”
“Yes. Father had done well, provided us with a haven to call home. Through toil, he built shelter that seldom saw him in its shade. That central kingdom demanded the great mass of Orcs for new conquests. With father leading that forlorn fodder. Demanding every hour of the day.”
I could sense Ghorbash’s anger at that statement. I was also incensed, so I objected.
“Husk, the Orsimer who fought as Legionnaires were neither forlorn nor fodder. I realise you speak from your perspective, but some things cannot remain unchallenged. If your father was an Officer in The Imperial Legion, he was respected by all races in that role. The Orsimer fought for the rights and freedoms you and others of this kingdom have been denied, but all others across the borders enjoy.”
“His was straining labour so that generation thereafter toils less. That progeny goes without his scourge. That is the hope.”
“Power; cursed are we without it, mighty are those with. The lesser races of the world feel it through every action of those above. They will do anything to part with some small power.”
“Once again, you generalise through perspective. What happened to change your fortune?”
“The advent of manhood had come, true youth now behind. The path of perdition ahead. I was to share my father’s worries, his fears.”
“The changes wrought by puberty can be dramatic, more so for those of mixed race. The confusion of who one is, even gender, can be extreme.”
“The flesh permutes, jagged features from soft contours. From within and without, the hopeful little Breton was now another creature entirely. Cursed thing, hunted: Orc. Perspective was forced, not sought for.”
“How did you become ‘Subject #3: The Halved’?”
“A destiny perverted, a path is drawn in Mother’s nocturnal feast and is depraved from the second birth to death. I attempt to recall, but words fail me.”
“This is a chance for your story to be recorded. Do not let it go to waste.”
“That temporal visage had to change, my sole desire. After her ritual, the witch intones grave portents that flesh may change, but the past cannot. There remain memories, like an anchor. My focus was captured by one goal, born of my trials – to go beyond the flesh. To be Breton again!”
“Your memories are not tied to your flesh. The witch must have had ulterior motives not to tell you before the ritual. Was she of the Hagfeather Coven? They are the only Glenmoril Wyrd that worship Namira.”
“Yes. You know these things?”
“I have to know many things to survive. The witch was preparing you for Namira. You prayed to Lady Mara, but she could not help. The powers of The Divines are limited in this mortal realm. So are those of the Dark Lords because of Martin’s sacrifice that created the Liminal Barrier. But the magic, Dawn Magic and Hedge Magic, often practised by witches and other mortal agents of the Daedric Princes, can be powerful lures. I have no doubt the witch could help but at the cost of your morality.”
“Yes, the pursuit of that most impossible want, crimes both spiteful and cruel were needed. Rampaging through all who came before me, what small guilt began to fade. Desensitise in the face of bloodshed.”
“The yearning for your past damned your soul for eternity.”
“But an impasse, another body opposed my dream.”
Raw emotion leaked from Husk, and anybody with empathy nearby couldn’t avoid sadness and rage.
Husk pleaded, “Brother, dear brother. It was not yours to suffer my want, for it was mine. The ritual demanded your flesh, brother, lusted for your agony! Were we to find another way, you’d still be here, by my side!”
Rigmor was weeping. I had to concentrate and could not turn to comfort her. I heard the whispers of Nubaree and Rayya, both tinged with their personal sadness, trying to comfort her. I do not doubt that Ghorbash was livid. He refused to kill his brother to become Warchief. He would have little sympathy for Husk.
“Tell me of the sacrifice of your brother. I desire to understand this ritual of Namira’s.”
“No one else could be offered, the flesh I had to wear rotting in my arms, the witch demanded blood. In that plunge from hope to despair, laughter. Blood, after what had passed, I lacked blood. The witch cloaked a grimace behind stern words. Yes, the irony wasn’t lost on her either. Blood is soul, our churning spirit. Blood was to form the ties that bind new flesh.”
“The witch lied! Souls are bound to the framework of your body, the bones. Skin draped over the meat and bones of another with face bones skilfully sculptured would be all that is required. She led you further down the path of her Dark Mother by mimicking the depraved arts of the Ayleid. Watch and see!”
I removed my helm and cast a spell. I was Breton in stature and face.
I told Husk, “I am Breton, and no test could prove otherwise.”
I cast the spell again and turned into an Orsimer.
I said, “I am Orsimer, and no test could prove otherwise.”
I cast the spell once more and was Half-Orc.
I growled, “And now I am your nightmare.”
I did not expect a reaction from Husk, so I was not disappointed. He could not feel outraged or betrayed. They are products of ego, and his had been taken by Ambition.
I returned to my standard form and said, “Continue, Husk. What happened to your brother?”
“Not even a moment of hesitation, throwing brother to her ripping red pit. He was mauled and torn, so vicious was his death that shrieks lingered beyond the guts that remained. Coveted for a lifetime, defiled in an instant. Not by the threats I kept at bay, but through my dream.”
“You loved and cared for your brother. Was he also half Orsimer? Is that why you had to protect him from threats?”
“He was a simple boy, a dull thing. A feeble mind sourced to trauma by his mother’s father, who was also his. Brother, you too were a stain, your removal a must for our great name.”
“It is common to kill the malformed, but superstition or survival is the usual driving force. I suspect your brother was older and of forced and incestuous origin. This would make him purebred Breton, and a healthy child of such a union would not have shamed your grandfather. But a perfectly formed child with the trait of idiocy could not carry your grandfather’s name without whispers and pointed fingers.”
“I am destined to carry memory, but how long have I been here? I forget all the small nothings of my past, yet that what you evoke still burns fiercely, what mortals will do for pride! To abscond with shameful progeny, whisk it from the world. The honour of our house depends on it!”
“What did your grandfather do to your brother?”
“Emerging from his home with cloaked intent, he approached brother as the pigs stood aside. From behind, the intent became clear. He used a hammer, two blows, straight to the skull. But you survived, sturdier than most, brother. Survival is paramount! That was the belief shaken having seen brother’s new state.”
‘Namira would not waste such a soul. He would still have loved you even as his mortal body was torn to shreds. The being we fought in Grey Belmore and Rejects Respite fled to you when frightened. It prostrated itself, reminiscent of one worshipping another. A simple-minded brother was worshipping the one he loved and who protected him.”
There was no reaction from Husk. I say these things to him for posterity. My friends and my beloved will remember the story unwinding. Rigmor’s weeping renewed.
“Who was the Breton you murdered for your body?”
“The body that was to become mine, hidden, buried beneath the white north. It belonged to one that besieged that forgotten experiment; Munstor. And so, the secret I buried withered as kingdoms marched above. It came to be in my presence, once again, when the hope of humanity was razed to the ground. It still showed the meticulous craft of the gods, such immaculate design to his handsome face. Such promise. From what I was to this? A miracle without compare.”
“Did you kill this man while defending Munstor? Were you part of the besieging army and killed a comrade? Your words are unclear and leave many unanswered questions.”
Husk did not answer. He was deep in his narrative, and I let him continue.
“Nightmares replaced with carnal desire, immediate ecstasy. The glutton unleashed.”
“The witch knew this would not work. With memories intact, there is no possibility for sustained happiness via this charade.”
“Yes, hear this, the flesh is the cage, preventing exit, inviting entrance. The mind is an open river fouled of waste swallowed from experience. Belief in man’s resilience in the face of danger, yet each small trauma twists, excreting cynicism.
Friends were made in that new life, from all the high peoples. Every word uttered inflamed the Orsimer. Hatred and venom shot from the lungs of privilege. All they cared for was a hierarchy, the ladder all men climb. It generates a sadistic glee for those crying below. A nuisance at first, I’ve dealt with much, so just accept it. Were their words to relent, and I heard different, just once. They did not relent. I did go through much, but still, I hated, I still despaired.”
“Your ambition was to be a privileged Breton, but memories stopped that from being the ideal you sought. You began to hate what you had become in the flesh, for you were still a half-orc with compassion and sense of justice in your soul! I can see where the concept of separation was spawned.”
“Knowing life, seeing those close to heaven smiling in our shade. One thought that luxury makes men amicable and evil is the result of poor conditions. That was the belief. No longer…”
I continued to narrate for the sake of Rigmor and my friends. Nothing would change the opinion of Husk, for he has lost the ability to reconsider and weigh opinions.
I countered Husk with, “Evil is the result of want. The poor want food, shelter, fair compensation for their labours and safety for their family. The privileged want to preserve the status of those below them while climbing the social ladder. One lot of wants, those of the poor, are rights that The Nine defend in their Commands and teachings. The wants of the privileged are greed and not what The Nine advocate. This wretched kingdom has reversed those definitions.”
I glanced back at Rigmor. She showed pity for this wretched creature where others would show contempt. I smiled at her then turned back to Husk. I was determined to mine what information I could.
I asked, “What nightmares did carnal desire replace?”
“A detail not disclosed by the witch, that the ritual would twist every spawn I sired. Regaining manhood, though still, without dynasty. She made sure of that.”
“It was not that inscrutable witch that first parted with my masculine essence. No, that came long before.”
“Because of your heritage, or perhaps this is done to all Orsimer, you were castrated?”
“Yes, a fast cut, it was discarded, and I was never to love. They may still have it, but what are they called now? The joyful sadists of Evermor. The black dogs of Evermor.”
“I have heard the term ‘black dogs’ used in reference to Ustase.”
“There it is. Even now, this body shakes to their name!
Irony has found me many times in life. I was once part of their cursed band, for they were the few who had use of my skills. I may have become Breton, but I did not become free. For coin still ruled. So, I, as all, worked.”
“There are other mercenary groups or the guards of cities and towns who would employ you. Why join those who terrorised and maimed you?”
“A hare leaves a scent in whichever way it so leaps. Predators give chase without pause. The hare cannot hope to run forever. Yet what if the hare found its pursuers in sleep and clung tightly, just out of sight, just out of notice. With time, the prey’s scent will be absorbed into the whole of their combined being. Now, the hare needs never run. It needs never fear the hunt. As long as it grips tight the terror, it remains safe.”
“This camouflage would only work if you did not hesitate to be one of them. You inflicted terror and pain on others out of cowardice. You became something far more detestable than being a half-breed in the eyes of most.”
“Having been so close to this ravening tide, I witnessed the pit of men. I could only stomach a few years, and then I loosened my grip, a manic dash to escape.
They were not predators and did not sate a primal need. Their craft was in flesh, and they sought pain among the land. A diet of screams.”
“Where did you flee, and what happened next?”
“Wayrest. The siege. The predator. The undressing.
He who led the black hounds, the Ustase, is an inhuman juggernaut. He finally caught the hare.
He did not eat but played and made a show. I was undressed.
An eternity passed, and he was done, released. I crawled from the embers of that damned kingdom, muscle in the mud. He had raised a new banner from my coat, and I was a naked, red larval thing, crawling. He carved every inch of my coat from me. Naked, undressed. He was a most efficient flayer.
It must have been a mile, but she happened upon me again. The witch. Always in my time of need.”
“The carnage undoubtedly attracted her. As she would have been at Munstor where her coven gifted the amulets, one of which Mortifayne was unfortunate to keep.”
No response. Anything that is not within Husk’s memories only produces silence.
I asked, “Did you murder once more to gain a new body?”
“No one was sacrificed. The dead that spilt from the fires made do, so I was assembled into a thing of parody.
I was three-fifths woman, three-fifths old, three-fifths short, three-fifths something. The witch made a show of me. My audience that day was surely entertained.
The witch left her creation and learned men of Wayrest’s destruction found me. My journey took me to that sanctum in the east. A respite for my kind.”
“Why did Ambition, The Ego, kill the women in Evermor? It seems a targeted crime of hate.”
“Visions come to the fore, revealing their contents as they burst before me. In those moments, The Ego has pain. Within these sights, faces hated and familiar.
Those women, with their guile, secured victory for this kingdom. Wayrest lay in ashes at their feet. They preyed on wanting hearts, the very shields that withstood Evermor’s hunger.
Yet, were they to blame? All circumstance unto that deception was beyond their agency. Ultimately, they were condemned, for they were seen.”
“There are many in this kingdom who inflicted that horror upon Wayrest. Why single out those women for such brutal revenge? How did they secure victory for Evermor?”
“Women are the answer for man’s trampled wants, the common belief of men. Yet, that answer does not share a common image. One man sees a woman in red, and another sees gold.
They were not to blame, an apparatus of violence, born from cannibals, born from men. That was to blame. But the woman is blamed for she betrays the hideous unity of our world.
They stand apart from man’s ultimate want, gold amongst the red. And that outside man’s hegemony is fated to suffer that unspoken pursuit from unchecked libido. What bleeds, will receive. Woman forever subject to the male gaze, to his carnal cravings. Age is no barrier for the beast.”
“Molested children! I expect somebody from this kingdom whispered lies and told them they would be free of the perversions of men. All they had to do was help Evermor. Despite carnality forced upon them, they would have been naïve and believed the lies. Of all the evil you have so far confessed, the stealing of a child’s innocence is the worst!”
Rigmor cautioned, “Wulf, if you want answers, you will need to control your anger.”
Rigmor was correct, and I put great effort into pushing my outrage and anger aside. Not forgotten, but merely waiting for its turn to express itself.
I asked, “Did you rape these children? For rape, it is, even if the child submits willingly.”
“Aside from their play, I relented. If I were to join them, I would be reminded of manhood lost. Eunuch, castrating desire.
Lacking this totem of true touch, one must compensate. The woman and I spoke through the night. The imminence of war whisked away with conversation. To have someone listen, sharing our rung on the ladder. Not beneath, beholden to authority. Nor above, sneering with contempt. I was lulled.
Woe to the bastard of fortune that tosses his shield!”
“They were children, not women, and you were blessed to have shared thoughts with them. That was a most precious gift. Why did they deserve to be ripped asunder?”
“They opened the gates, and the scythes were loosed, Leaving a crimson trail in their wake, cleaving through every street and alley.
On that night, Wayrest did not suffer siege but rape; total. The hounds divulged in play.
So, I sought something to blame, something tangible – someone to suffer. Who better than the women? A hundred plotting actors behind them, yet I would never meet them. The imprint of their faces, never to go unremembered. And in Wayrest’s razing: knowledge, that another era was ending.
For the carnage that ensued, a chase of ungodly depths, snaring me in its game.”
“The Ego has no memories. How did he recognise the little girls who had grown into women?”
“This Husk lacks want. The Ego is want. ‘I’ am the bank of memories and caution; the culprit was always Ego.”
“We figured that out in the first few seconds of investigating! The only way Ego could have recognised the women is via the memories you contain. How did he obtain those memories?”
“The ‘me’ who descended on their bodies was overwhelmed with conniption – suffering fully from its design; Emotional construct.
An ego without its bank, its anchor, is a beast – barely beyond the prey.”
“Ambition recognised the women but had no control over his anger. But he could not be considered barely beyond the prey! His worth was well below that of those women. Even when combined with you, that would be the case as proven by previous actions.”
I had heard enough of how Hush and Ambition came to be. I needed to understand what was at the root of the problems in Evermor!
I asked, “Tell me why multiple problems besiege Evermor. Is it Namira’s design?”
“Unfamiliar is the narrative that ensnares, so you expect convention. Cliché. Now uncertainty demands curiosity, and you seek the source of perversion in this fairy tale.”
“You are wrong, as you have been with many of your assumptions and generalisations! Curiosity has nothing to do with my search.
Lady Mara has sent me to stop a canker from spreading beyond the borders of Evermor. The Oblivion Gate was only part of that canker, as are you, The Witchmen, Ustase and other pustules.”
“May it come that you find this canker and rip this corruption from the world yet. To wish it so simple that all evil hitherto is manifest in some tangible, fragile thing.”
“Cease this pointless speculation on your behalf! I have dealt with evil in many forms. In each instance, I must understand its source before I can remove the evil. If you cannot aid in this, then I see no purpose in further discussion.”
“A fragment from that corrupt gestalt is found here, is found in plotting. One final ordeal, and you can save this kingdom from impending tragedy.
Such disorder is what’s to come. Such shrieks in what has come came, will come. Unveil the stage and pay witness to the madness. Yet through it all, resolve.
Or you will fall!”
“You have no concept of my determination and what it has enabled me to achieve. If you believe you have a solution, then tell me, without the dramatics, convoluted vocabulary and generalisations!”
“The promised son, that suit of flesh, schemes with the masculine manifest. They seek to unify disparate ideas into an inexorable movement. The result will be an agenda that will perish all spirit in man.
Foremost, their reign will usher in the blackest cynicism. Where those bound hope their chains would loosen one day, men here will kill for good that desire.
Destroy the prince!”
“Ambition fears you and wants me to destroy you. But he fails to recognise the truth. One cannot exist without the other. If I kill Ambition, I kill you. You are still one soul.”
“Fates entwined, one fades, so does the other. Pursuing its own path, assured that it finally left me behind. It was wrong. There still exists a tether, faint and intermittent. We both feel the brunt of our designs.
An alluring mask, he will never be seen without it. With time, the act becomes real, as the world and stage become one. Yet its metamorphic intent will always be out of reach, as long as I persist.
That fact burns deep within The Ego, red as Dagon’s rage. It will employ costly methods to destroy this husk, ignorant of the consequences.”
“Ambition, The Ego, Damian, has gained great power through the noble rank he usurped. Yet to achieve his aspiration, he would need more than fancy words and the substandard soldiers of this kingdom, Ustase included. I suspect another Dark Lord is his sponsor. You mentioned Mehrunes Dagon. The schemes of Ego, including the elimination of all that is ugly, and breeding of beauty, is not a cause that Dagon would invest in.”
“What is ugly; abhorred. Ego champions ‘Beauty’ to spite his past, an infatuation in futility.
However, there is a grave mistake in my reasoning. I speak as if The Ego walks a better world. A world that would resist his deception does not, and will not, exist.
What is, is madness. So, the Ego is gaining an audience, ever more powerful. The right man in the right place.”
“I will defeat The Ego and whoever his allies are. But before departing, I desire to apologise on behalf of Lady Mara. She heard your pleas but could not aid you. So, like many before you, you turned to a Dark Lord. Lady Mara weeps over a single soul lost, and she weeps for you.”
There was no response from Husk. His relevant memories are spent, and I will get no more from him.
I said to Rigmor and The Sentinels, “Wait here. I need to inspect what I am walking into.”
There was a barrier surrounding the mine. The source of Magicka to power the barrier was a blue orb in the centre of the mine. It was Daedric in design. Since Husk made that connection to me, the cord as he called it, I have been able to detect Daedric dweomer. I was unsure as to the purpose of the barrier.
I could see Ustase guards and Orsimer slaves. Damian was with a large humanoid near the blue sphere.
I cast a Mark outside the barrier then returned to the others. Husk was gone.
- Wulf: Comments? Questions?
- Ghorbash: Are they using Orsimer slaves here?
- Wulf: Yes.
- Rigmor: What is the plan?
- Wulf: I have to attend this meeting alone. I want The Sentinels to return to Silverpeak Lodge. I want you to go home.
- Rigmor: Why?
- Wulf: If I get dragged into Husk’s pocket plane again, many days may pass before I can return.
- Rigmor: And I am the Countess of Bruma and have been away long enough.
- Wulf: I will come with you but only for a few minutes. I need to attend this meeting and don’t want to be late.
- Rayya: What is going to happen?
- Wulf: If I kill Damian and remove Sigmayne, this whole kingdom may fall into chaos for a short time. I have no doubt a few thousand Legionnaires will gain control swiftly. If not, Tullius will send more.
- Ghorbash: The nobles and Ustase will eliminate evidence!
- Rigmor: Do you mean they will kill the children and Orsimer slaves?
- Ghorbash: Yes, Wulf suggested they might.
- Wulf: I believe they will if General Rikke crosses the border with her force.
- Rigmor: If Rikke crosses over, we should rush the castle and this place and The Bog to stop them killing slaves and children!
- Wulf: The Daedra in Raven Spring were identifiable enemies. If Evermor erupts, we will be caught in a civil war with more than two sides. It would be challenging to know which individual will praise you as a saviour and which will plunge a knife in your back.
- Ghorbash: The Sentinels should act as one group. Little could stand in our way. Check the castle and hidden areas in Evermor, then deal with The Bog followed by this place.
- Nubaree: I can teleport here. I have been staring at it long enough while you spoke gobblygook and mumbo jumbo with Husk. Serana and Celestine can probably teleport to the other places mentioned.
- Wulf: I can teleport to all of them. Plus, we could use the Soul Stones.
- Rigmor: If you hadn’t asked questions, most of which Husk ignored, I don’t think I would have understood half of what Husk was saying.
- Rayya: Husk had a weird way of structuring sentences, and he used a few words foreign to me.
- Wulf: How did you enjoy having a voice in your head?
- Rayya: I feel like removing my brain and washing it with soap and water.
- Rigmor: Does he rasp like that when you hear him with your ears?
- Wulf: Yes, and at least his is a dry rasp. Ambition, in Daedra form, sounded like he had a throat full of phlegm. The gurgles when he laughed were nausea-inducing.
- Rayya: Ahh…thanks for that description.
- Wulf: You’re welcome.
- Rigmor: Will I lose contact with you?
- Wulf: There is a Daedric barrier surrounding the mine. I don’t know what it does, but I am pretty confident it won’t allow our connection to pass through it. I will tell you just before I pass through so that you will immediately know the reason if we lose contact.
- Ghorbash: Who is this witch? She seems to have conveniently turned up at Munstor and when Husk was flayed.
- Wulf: She probably did the ritual to give Ambition his body as well. I assume Damian’s mother was the sacrifice needed for the blood part of the ritual.
- Ghorbash: But why? Just for Namira’s enjoyment?
- Wulf: She has probably lived for centuries and seen what Breton have done to her people and other Reachmen.
- Ghorbash: Revenge!
- Wulf: That would be my guess. Namira would be happy to provide aid for such a chaotic and bloody cause.
- Rigmor: Who is the leader of the Ustase?
- Wulf: An agent of a Dark Lord. Whether mortal or otherwise, I don’t know.
- Rigmor: Is the Dark Lord Mehrunes Dagon?
- Wulf: I can’t see any other reason for Husk to mention him. But once again, I don’t know.
- Ghorbash: What should we do with the liberated Orsimer?
- Wulf: Sometimes, it is best to leave them in a familiar environment. At least until they realise you are there to help, and trust is established. Moving them too early could be very traumatic.
- Ghorbash: Yes, for some of them, the mines might be the only place they know.
- Wulf: They won’t have castrated all males. The intact Orsimer might prove more of a challenge than the emasculated ones. But they will trust you, and if Rikke can send Orsimer Legionnaires to assist, I think you could slowly introduce them to freedom with success.
- Ghorbash: I am sure my brother and other chiefs would send help.
- Wulf: New Orsinium would most likely be the place where most of them are settled.
- Rigmor: I think the replacement miners should be some of the nobles and other scum of Evermor.
- Wulf: But not with Orsimer guards. The temptation of revenge and repeating the cycle would be too great.
- Rigmor: We had better go. The Prince may be awaiting your arrival.
I teleported to Silverpeak Lodge and summoned The Sentinels. Rigmor followed via our rings.
It was late, and everybody was in bed. The Sentinels joined them as Rigmor, and I retreated to our private room.
I held Rigmor’s hands and looked into those eyes that put me in a trance every time. Sometimes I forget she has to stand on tippy toes to get anywhere near my height.
“When this is over, I will disguise myself and come and get you. We can tour Bruma and pick out a spot for our farm. It is about time we planned our life rather than continually reacting to the needs of The Divines.”
“What if there is something that you can help with while we are together?”
“The Divines will let me know of anything that needs me. But there are always crises and often others who can help. How did everybody survive before I awoke on that carriage? We can have no life together if I look for problems to solve. They are never-ending.”
“Evermor has been hard on you. It has aged you.”
“I still don’t know what kind of hook Husk had in me. When I kill Damian, I am killing Husk. I hope no permanent damage to my psyche occurs upon his death.”
“Kiss me and go. If you have a chance to tell me anything important, do so. If you get stuck in another of those time thingies, I can pass the information onto Tullius or Mede.”
We kissed, and then I let Rigmor go. She vanished from sight, but the rings prolonged the goodbye.
“I am heading for the mine!”
“Gee, my room smells musty! I will have to open the windows.”
I cast Recall and selected the Mark outside the mine’s barrier.
“I am heading in now!”
“Okay. I love you!”
“And you are my world, Rigmor Ragnarsdottir.”
As soon as I entered, I lost contact with Rigmor. I have no idea the purpose of the barrier.
I walked slowly towards Ambition and his sponsor.
When I got close, I knew the leader of the Ustase was a high ranking Dremora. I listened to their conversation.
- Predothor: Always one for prose, weren’t you little tyke. I must confess I grow restless. These fleshy thralls have grown tiresome to engage with. I need, we need a foe. Do we have any further wars planned?
- Ambition: Your battle lust will be more than sated soon enough, Predothor, I assure you. I have grand plans for this kingdom. Hammer the kinks from your armour and sharpen your weapon. A culling nears.
- Predothor: Joy! You are a most charitable prince! Immeasurably better than the last. Oh, I can’t hold my excitement.
I decided to join the merry talk of war and slaughter.
- Wulf: Prince Damian, I hope I have not kept you waiting.
- Ambition: Valdr, This is a beautiful place, isn’t it? Not the quarry as much, although the explicit sight of labour and hierarchy without pretence instils hope. The beauty is beyond these walls, where the grassy knolls stretch yonder to the horizon. No man need to arm himself for fear of intrusion or violence. Visualise that world, yearn for it. I bet you feel it naïve to play whimsical and dream of utopias, but why? Why can we not achieve such a world?
- Wulf: The naivety lies not in the dream but in the notion that you can achieve it via war. You have been remiss and not introduced me to this gentleman.
- Ambition: Valdr, this is Predothor. I’ve travelled far and have plans for discourse with this gentleman. Please stay with us and join these formalities. You may bring some levity while we entertain the future of this land.
- Wulf: Yes, my speciality is juggling and tumbling whilst discussing mass slaughter. Good wine and food also contribute to the fun of such a festive occasion.
Predothor turned to face me. He was at least eighteen inches taller than me and made Ambition look like a child.
- Wulf: I am glad to meet you, Predothor.
- Predothor: Look at you! All that strength and vigour are ushering from your every orifice! I would love us to engage in a savage dance.
- Wulf: Then you have no idea who I am, for your wish fulfilment would mean your inevitable death. Many others much more powerful than you have fallen before me. But let us not spoil Prince Damian’s day. He so much wants to discourse with you.
- Predothor: Yet to meet my match, and you think that you’re it? Anyway, forgive my manners. I forget how the prey works sometimes. My mind is still in the past, where I was at home.
- Wulf: I recently killed several high-ranking colleagues of yours, so I recognise the stink. Did Daddy Dagon kick you out for being pathetic? Or have you been too scared to return after the Oblivion Crises? I don’t suppose he would be happy with his minions who lost so badly.
- Predothor: Maybe soon I can share some of my culture with you. Until then, hone yourself for the time of our game.
- Wulf: I can’t wait to share your culture! However, do I have to drag my knuckles on the ground all the time? Dirt gets under my fingernails.
- Damian: We are about to eat. Join us. You look famished
- Predothor: It is settled then, eat. We will eat.
- Damian: It was quite the trek from Arnima. I hope the chef matches the talent of those in Evermor.
The Ustase outnumbered the Orsimer slave miners. I am sure there are many more of both in the underground sections of the mines.
The power source for the shield, as with the shield itself, was a mystery.
I followed behind the two idiots. Did Predothor trust me simply because Ambition does? I would need a lot more assurance before discussing insurrection around a stranger.
We exited the barrier and walked towards a two-story log cabin.
“Rigmor, are you awake?”
“Of course. I knew you would find some chance to talk.”
“Do you have a quill, ink and parchment at hand?”
“There is some in my desk nearby. Why?”
“We are meeting outside of the barrier. I will pass on information to you.”
“How stupid are these people?”
“The leader of the Ustase is a Dremora Lord. He is one of Dagon’s, but I don’t know if a deserter or working for the Dark Lord. The name he uses is Predothor. That is not his real name, as that can be used to summon him. But Dremora tend to use the same alias whenever they visit Nirn, so there may be mention of him in historical documents.”
“Okay, scribbling away.”
“I am about to enter, so please, wait for me to talk to you. I must concentrate on what is said. I want to squeeze all the information I can before they realise that I am no ally.”
“Okay, I will sit here doodling.”
“Is that legal in Bruma?”
“Just get in there, you idiot!”
I entered the house then the dining room. Various stuffed trophies lined the room, including an Orsimer and werewolf.
Two other guests were present, meaning six of us sat around a table that could seat sixteen. I was surprised there were no servants.
- Ambition: Forgive the delay. Hmmm, I see the meat has kept its warmth. Just in time, then.
- Mengrelle: Your grace, there’s no need for apologies. Josiah here was just practising to be a better orator through his incessant verbiage.
- Josiah: Oh, Mengrelle, you shrewd sycophant. If you were so threatened about discourse outside your field, then you could have exclaimed as such.
- Wulf: That looks and smell like beef. I was expecting peasant under glass or Orc fillets.
- Ambition: Introductions are in short order. Another guest has complicated the itinerary for tonight.
- Josiah: Prince, my gratitude for having me attend this meeting. Forgive me for not being privy, but the kingdom is host to many knights. Why is this one special?
- Wulf: Knight? My rank is so far above knight you would crick your neck looking up to it!
- Ambition: This is Valdr, esteemed hero of The Reach. You can thank this one for foiling that savage plot hatched by Mortifayne. He knows the kingdom well, and I’m sure such intimate knowledge of the realm will be of use to all.
- Wulf: It was Namira’s plot, and Mortifayne was but a pawn. And there is no need to thank me, Josiah, for I am not interested in buggery.
- Ambition: Now, let’s begin with what you came for in haste. Today, we have gathered to consolidate our plans for this kingdom’s future and the lands that will soon come under our rule.
- Predothor: I hope there is room for my warriors in these plans, Prince Damian.
- Ambition: The Ustase will always have a plan here. No kingdom can hope to survive through threat alone. Your actions keep the malcontents at bay.
- Predothor: There will always be scum; you needn’t worry about that. Those men on the periphery of this gleaming society are pariahs, sadists and degenerates. In this ever-chaotic world, these outliers will always exist. Such scum will need a shepherd, and I am ever thankful to be the one to lead these black sheep.
- Ambition: As you should, your clandestine methods have furthered our power, with The Empire and Daggerfall being none the wiser.
- Wulf: Do you expect slime to stand up to the might of the best trained, equipped and disciplined troops in all of Tamriel? A single Legionnaire is worth four of these glorified bandits.
- Ambition: You sound unsure of our purpose, Valdr.
- Wulf: On the contrary, Prince Damian. I am very interested in your purpose and plans. But you do not want me to be a sycophant, as made quite clear when we first met. So, if my practicality offends you, then that is too fucking bad!
- Ambition: Loyalty, many can feign it, with only those of good heart holding it. You are one of a kind, Valdr.
- Wulf: Yes, I suppose I am since I killed the only other like me in Apocrypha. Shall we continue, Prince Damian?
- Ambition: Josiah, I know you’re eager to share your discoveries. Elucidate your audience on the progress you’ve made.
- Josiah: With pleasure. You have already become familiar with the merchants who trade their wares throughout this province? We are calling this complex system of myriad independent traders by the moniker ‘Mercantilism’.
- Mengrelle: This is hardly new. Why has this invoked such interest?
- Josiah: Benefit of the doubt, Mengrelle, it’s my fault for expecting you to know what I had alluded to. We are having talks with other merchants throughout High Rock to collate our enterprise to start new systems.
- Wulf: I doubt you will invent something not tried, and failed, in the past.
- Josiah: Why the doubt? We have the labour of Orcs, with no wage. We have prospects for a new world west of Daggerfall, beyond the ocean.
- Wulf: Won’t you fall off the edge of the world if you go too far?
- Josiah: Ah, no, that would not happen.
- Wulf: How do you know? Have you sailed that far or spoken to somebody who has?
- Josiah: No.
- Wulf: Then I strongly suggest you factor the loss of ships, cargo and crew in your profit and loss assessment.
- Josiah: Okay…moving on. There are markets to the south of this continent with untapped markets full of labour that will not beg the same coin that our entitled kin would.
- Wulf: Congratulations, Josiah. Excellent plan so far! You just ensured the creation of more malcontents that Predothor can recruit as well as losing ships over the edge of the world!
- Josiah: If we go through with this agenda, the wealth we reap will be unparalleled. A utopia of which will find every deserving soul in this kingdom a palace of their own.
- Wulf: Poor Josiah, won’t you get jealous of all those other people owning palaces?
Predothor laughed. I never knew Dremora had a sense of humour. Josiah looked at me with hate.
- Josiah: I’m getting carried away. The potential is palpable, we just need the go, and we’ll set out and harvest our destiny.
- Predothor: That sounds dull. What will the warrior occupy himself within this utopia?
- Josiah: Oh, never mind about that! These ventures will require our most ruthless and brutal to ensure dominion in these future subject lands. No doubt that some will strike out against fate and rebel, which is where you come in.
- Ambition: See now Preth? The more precious the jewel, the more brutal they who protect it. That is the prerogative of the strong. Every acre we win for ourselves will need a further application of your methods, not only for pragmatism but the narrative we are making.
I yawned. It was not fake but a genuine, with the utmost contempt, yawn.
- Wulf: Beg your pardon Damian, you were narrating a narrative?
- Ambition: Hierarchy, strength – the triumph of our people over the rest.
- Wulf: Oh, of course. Not very original, but I shall endeavour to stay awake.
- Ambition: Fragility will be abhorred. In its stead is born the unflinching pursuit of dominion. The sun absconds the deep corners of our land. We are leaving the dregs to fester and spread in its absence.
- Wulf: For Nirn’s sake, say something original!
- Ambition: The charitable hand has only grown their number, our altruism only another opportunity for their greed. The parasites must be ripped from the kingdom’s breast. Having not shown desire to grow, they will be left to suffer the stillborn’s fate.
My Dovah screamed in my head, “I have heard enough. If you don’t take action, I will!”
My Dovah tried to take over, and I battled to suppress him. Why should I have difficulty doing so?
- Ambition: They will cajole and shriek as they like, but the wolves we seek to be will hear such cries as the wind, passing as if they were never here.
- Mengrelle: Just what I want to hear, beautifully said. Damian, I wish you were king now. Say, at the chance of sounding like a treasonous whore, how long does your father have in this realm?
- Ambition: Were that asked by any other, they would have been quartered within the hour. But you are far from a turn cloak, and any punishment would reflect my poor choice of company.
I groaned as I fought to stay in control. The rage of my Dovah is not needed at this moment. Ambition noticed my discomfort.
- Ambition: Valdr, I have been divined by the gods through birthright, lest you make the folly of thinking I speak treason. The inevitable will come to pass, and his demise will birth my reign, so don’t despair at my words.
“He claims to be divined by the gods! Whimper in the back of my mind if you wish!”
My Dovah half tried once more, and I repulsed him. I have not had this much trouble in months. I can’t allow my anger to win. Therefore I could not afford to listen to more of this evil.
- Wulf: Don’t worry about Sigmayne, he will soon stand trial for his many crimes, and his head will inevitably be removed in a public display of Empire justice.
- Ambition: What are you…
- Wulf: Shut up! One more word and I will slice you in halves, well, into quarters since you are already half a person.
- Predothor: Prince, is it…
- Wulf: Predothor, I accept your challenge but shut up for a minute and learn before you die.
- Predothor: Then speak quickly, for I am eager to test your blade.
- Wulf: Damian, you are not the son of Sigmayne. You are Ambition, or as Wandering Husk calls you, The Ego. You were born half-orc and still are, despite stealing the body of the real Prince Damian. I have spoken to both Emperor Titus Mede II and General Tullius, ex-Governor of Skyrim. I was sent here to fix the problems of Evermor, and you are one of the problems.
- Mengrelle: Is what he says true?
- Wulf: Thousands of Legionnaires are ready to cross into Evermor at the first sign of insurrection or other such violence. They will crush all in their way to protect the people of this kingdom. Ustase will be cut down like wheat to a scythe.
- Mengrelle: Say something, Prince Damian! Defend yourself against this slander!
- Predothor: Come, warrior. I’ll show you the room in our basement where strength is king. No more talking. It bores me.
- Wulf: I will be there in a minute. I have others who need a lesson first.
Ambition followed Predothor.
I crossed to the other side of the table and drew my sword.
I told the two conspirators, “As Envoy to His Imperial Highness, Emperor Titus Mede II, I have the legal right to pass judgment and exact punishment. You are both guilty of treason, and I sentence you to death.”
I had no qualms about slaughtering the unarmed, sitting men. It is not like the bound who are forced to kneel over an executioner’s block are any more able to defend themselves.
I searched both and recovered the plans of Mengrelle. A quick read filled me with horror. They had developed chemical castration for Orsimer that could be altered to work on other species. They were also working on altering souls to breed more compliant serfs. Soulgenics was the term they used. All of the research was done at Sanatorium #137, which is now called Rejects Respite.
The Dwemer speaking head called Scuttling Void, ‘Realm 137’. It is no coincidence the Sanitorium had the same designated number. It was a playground of Namira.
As I headed for the basement, I spoke to Rigmor via our rings, “My beloved, write these down. They are things that must be done.”
“Wulf, why was your Dovah trying to take control?”
“The plans of these people are evil beyond words. My Dovah is screaming for me to take action. So, I am.”
“Rejects Respite is to be demolished. Nothing is to be taken from there. I suggest The Vigilants of Stendarr be allocated the task with frisking to ensure nothing leaves that place!”
“The Dwemer machinery in Umbasir is to be destroyed. Once again, The Vigilants of Stendarr should be given the task.”
“Predothor did not know what Ambition is and was. He does not know who I am and has challenged me to a duel. He will be defeated in the mortal plane. I shall follow him to Deadlands, the realm of Dagon, to kill him there. He deserves to die. I shall be returned to Nirn. That is the rule of such combat.”
“I will wait for you once more. It is not my favourite pastime.”
“Remember my promise.”
“I get to draw the plans for the house!”
“Only one veranda and one chopping block!”
“Hmm…The veranda must have access to our bedroom.”
Ambition walked slowly, no doubt wrestling with how quickly his plans had unravelled.
When Predothor saw me, he said, “Take a peek, just over the edge. It’s calling for you, warrior.”
I drew my sword and stopped a few feet in from of the Dremora.
“I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines, Boethia, Sheogorath, Meridia, Hermaeus Mora, Peryite and Azura. I do not fight in pits!”
Predothor realised who he faced, and the panic was evident as he reached for his sword.
A full-strength Unrelenting Force smashed him against the far wall.
He bounced off at an angle. I used Whirlwind Sprint twice to get to the cowering Dremora.
I taunted, “The leader of the black hounds cowers like a beaten dog!”
I hit him with another full-strength Unrelenting Force.
Few mortals could have survived the first Shout. Surviving two indicates Predothor could absorb a tremendous amount of damage in combat. He was probably used to wading into the middle of melees, swinging his two-handed sword with ease and fearing little from his mortal opponents.
I could not use a third Unrelenting Force Shout as a woman was watching the fight. I would have killed her if I did.
I waited for Predothor to stand, then sliced him across his back, severing his spine.
That destroyed his mortal vessel, so he transformed into his Dremora form. Then he ran.
Predothor leapt into a portal to Deadlands. He deserved to die, and I was not going to allow him to escape. So, I jumped into the portal in pursuit.
Deadlands was dead boring. Red upon red with even more red to highlight the red.
A Dremora Overlord appeared and waited for Predothor and me to approach.
I could see a solitary tower where towers once covered Deadlands. Each tower held a Sigil Stone and controlled an Oblivion Gate during the Oblivion Crises.
I stood next to Predothor and faced the Overlord.
Predothor said, “Lord, I bring you an apology in the form of a champion. This champion has done much. If I slay this champion, I can return home.”
The Overlord replied, “Dagon would be disappointed that one of his own didn’t die with his brothers. Your words are hollow, Thaedil! A coward’s tongue is fit only as a meal for the hounds, and you’ve brought this sad excuse for prey to appease me?”
“You can have my head if this warrior disappoints. This one is different from the man-cattle that came before and is chained to other gods. Gods who are enemies to ours, and if we defeat their herald, then we shame them. Is that not worth seeing?”
I sneered, “Overlord, this coward is not worthy of speaking my name, and he provides little in the way of a challenge. I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines, Boethia, Sheogorath, Meridia, Hermaeus Mora, Peryite and Azura.”
The Overlord replied, “This dung heap adds to his failures by challenging above his station. I ask you to provide a list of his failings so that I can add them into Lord Dagon’s records.”
“Since you asked and did not demand, I will oblige;
- He failed to recognise I was a Son of Akatosh and well above his status.
- He failed to recognise that the prince he was aiding was a Daedra and an agent of Namira.
- He failed to realise the Daedra was a commoner of half Orsimer blood disguised as the prince he had murdered.
- He failed to realise the plans of this Daedra could never work as they were based on inaccuracies and outdated information.
- He failed to recognise me as the warrior who had entered Namira’s realm, destroyed her Sigil stone, and killed her champion only a few Nirn cycles ago.
- His army of conquest consisted of low life scum. As we speak, an army of many thousands of Legionnaires prepares to sweep across the kingdom of Evermor. They will wipe his army from the face of Nirn.
- He never promoted the worship of Lord Dagon. None of the thousands of mortals under his command were devotees.
- I used one sword thrust to defeat him, and that was in the back as he ran like the coward he is.
- He did not bring me to this realm. I followed him to inflict the justice he has earned.
There are probably more, but I am eager to kill this underling and return to thwarting Namira’s plans.”
“That is more than sufficient to condemn Thaedil’s soul to eternal pain. Lord Dagon will not object to my sentence. Kill him if you wish or leave him to me.”
“He has offered the challenge to me. I must accept, no matter how high or low the challenger. Is that not your way?”
“It is. Very well, put on a spectacle.”
Thaedil faced me and said, “Warrior, you have entered the realm of the ultimate patriarch. Submit, and I will skin you slowly. Fight me with your all, however, and I will grant you a death befitting your bravery.”
“Just shut the fuck up and die!”
Thaedil spat and then said, “Pretence makes me sick! I’ll cover every inch of this hole with what is left of you.”
Thaedil was far more powerful than on the mortal plane, but many of Namira’s minions were more formidable opponents.
He swung his two-handed sword as if I would still be there when it arrived.
I leapt out of the way, then yelled, “Overlord, see his cowardice in action. I had not even drawn my sword, and he attacked.”
I moved around, waiting for another wild swing.
The swing came, and I blocked it with my shield. I then sliced Thaedil across the stomach, and Daedric blood flew.
I leapt back and waited for Thaedil to charge.
He came running and swung once more. I knocked his sword out of his hands then plunged mine through his midsection and out his back.
I wiped my sword on his loincloth then sheathed it.
I looked up at the Overlord.
“Thaedil is not worthy of being my underling. I give his soul to Lord Dragon to do with as he pleases.”
“You do know our ways. That is unusual for one of your kind.”
“Now, I will return to Mundus as per the tradition of these spectacles.”
“We must grant such to those who have reified their will to survive. The gate is opened. Return champion, for a blood harvest dawns on this realm. Your gods cannot protect you in this bloodshed. March on and wear your kill with pride!”
I did a slight head bow to the Overlord. Dremora have a far greater sense of honour than most mortals, and that deserved some recognition.
I returned to Nirn, and the mortal body of Thaedil collapsed in front of me.
A rather ugly statue of Dagon stared down.
Several Orsimer corpses were scattered around Thaedil’s playpen. He was one of the worst swordsmen I had ever faced. Chopping up unskilled and unmanned slaves was not proof of prowess.
I pulled a chain to open the gates then proceeded upstairs.
A short Breton in guard uniform, but not armed, stood in front of me.
“Y-you killed him? Gods, you killed him! You beautiful person, you’ve ended his terrible reign. But wait, is he actually dead? I’ve seen him get up before, damn, damn, damn, no. Hero, you have to get out of here. He may wake again. We can burn this shack down, burn it all down!”
“What is your name?”
“I do not remember my real name. They call me Dog.”
“I shall call you that for now, but you are free to change it if you wish.”
“Free, yes I am for the first time in many years.”
“Do not worry about him resurrecting this time. I killed him in Oblivion, and it is permanent. He is starting his sentence of eternal tortures in the fires of his Dark Lord.”
“Can I leave and go back to my family?”
“It will be too dangerous for you to leave for a while. You will need to stay inside till you can hear no more fighting.”
“What about the girls and the born slaves. Can they come too?”
“Did you help the girls and the slaves even when it was dangerous to do so?”
“Oh yes. I was told others before I had suffered terrible deaths at the skilled hand of Silent Sen for daring to do so. But it was the right thing, so I did it anyway. While you were fighting the Lord, I stole a lot of food from the table and gave it to the girls and the breeders.”
“The Orsimer slaves know you as a friend?”
Dog smiled and said, “Oh yes. It makes Dog proud to have so many friends.”
“What you need to do is give weapons to the Orsimer so they can fight for their freedom if they have to. But you have to protect those who cannot fight. Can you do that as well, Dog?”
“Yes, I can get the keys off the dead lord, and they open everything.”
“Stay in the house until different soldiers come. That will be safest. They will have red uniforms and will help you and the others. It may be several days before they arrive.”
“I will explain that to the Orcs. They can understand, but many cannot speak. Only the breeders can speak.”
“Mages and surgeons will have a look at them. Perhaps they might be able to speak at last.”
“Thank you, Hero.”
“My name is Wulf, and I thank you, Dog, for remaining a good man when surrounded by evil.”
“I love Mother Mara. She teaches how to be good.”
“Yes, she does. If only more people listened.”
As I made my way outside, I talked to my beloved.
“I have been to Oblivion and killed the Dremora. He was a senior member of Dagon’s invasion force during the Oblivion Crises. His real name was Thaedil. It must be recorded for posterity.”
“You are always so casual about these things. Oh, I just walked into Oblivion, again, and killed a super tough baddie, again, and now I am off to do something just as amazing, again.”
“I will write of the fight in my journal, and you will see he was not a super tough baddie. He was a bully.”
“What are you doing now?”
“I have to kill Damian. But there will be many Ustase between him and me.”
“Did he run from the house and back behind that barrier?”
“Yes. Oh, there is another important thing. There are Orsimer slaves here, but there is also a small Breton guard called Dog and many women, camp whores like those I took to Riften. Dog will arm the slaves, and they will be expecting The Sentinels to come and aid them.”
“He must be a brave soul to do that!”
“He loves and listens to Lady Mara. He is the first sign of hope I have seen for days.”
“Okay, all of that noted down. Talk to me when you can.”
As soon as I stepped out of the house, I was swarmed by Ustase.
I cut them down with ease.
An Ustase mage started firing Fireballs my way.
He died screaming as fire consumed him, as did the other Ustase near him, as did his defenceless victims.
I stepped through the barrier and could see Ambition was near the blue orb. He was surrounding himself with Ustase.
I healed an injured Orsimer.
A griffon appeared and landed near Ambition.
I had to walk over to another walkway to approach the giant chicken and Daedra.
- Griffon: I am back in the kingdom of men, always a chaotic menagerie that refuses to settle.
- Ambition: Oh, great fortune! Griffon, hear me! You hunger, yes? This traitor seeks to kill those who feed you. I beg of you, Griffon, kill this wretch!
- Griffon: I shall partake in the feast of your bloodied land once the hour approaches. Your people have disappointed, do not attempt to placate me.
- Ambition: We have Orcs to sate your appetite, right here in this quarry! There is a jeweller to festoon your mighty wings. All this and more, at the cost of that one’s life.
- Griffon: There are children yet unspoiled, morsels will come hither, Prince! This is my demand. Have me suffer no conniptions and make well on this arrangement.
- Ambition: Agreed. We shall provide many virginal girl children for your feasting, as we have done so for centuries.
- Wulf: I thought I had already heard the worst depravities of this kingdom. But now I find the most precious of things have been fed to this worthless, ugly creature!
- Griffon: Traitor, it is incumbent on me to protect this pathetic kingdom once more.
- Wulf: You will die, and your soul will find a home in The Void for eternity.
The griffon lifted off. I immediately hit him with Lightening. The smell of burnt feathers soon wafted down.
In his frustration, instead of attacking me, the griffon killed defenceless Orsimer.
My Lightning spell made it impossible for the griffon to fly after destroying many feathers. He crashed to the ground outside the barrier.
I made my way to him. There were no Ustase left to stop me.
I cast one last spell and, in a single fluid motion, drew my sword and plunged it into the griffon’s chest.
The griffon lay dead, but its crimes tore at my soul. I wept, my body shaking with sobs.
“Wulf! What is wrong? Please, tell me, share your pain. Please!”
“The griffon we first saw when entering Evermor was working with Ambition and Thaedil. I believe he had aided this kingdom for centuries and is the one proudly emblazoned on their banner. The one whose statue adorns street corners and sits proudly amongst those of The Divines.”
“And why has this upset you to such an extent?”
“For all that time, they paid for the griffon’s service with sacrifice. Virgin girl children were presented to him. I have killed him, but I cannot begin to fathom how many children died in terror as he tore them apart! How do I avenge their deaths? Tell me, Rigmor, how do I make it right?”
Rigmor’s empathy is unlimited, as demonstrated when she cried about Husk and his brother. This revelation devastated her. I felt her pain, as she felt mine, and we wept together.
I don’t know how long it took, but eventually, Rigmor could speak once more.
“Wulf, go and finish this so you can get away from that kingdom and back to reality. That place is a concentration of all that is bad, and you know the rest of Nirn is not like that. All we can do, all that The Divines have asked you to do, is try and protect the mortals of Nirn. No children would be laughing now if you failed in your tasks. Finish this, then go and listen to your orphans laugh and play. They are the evidence your efforts are not in vain.”
“Killing Ambition will be like disciplining a child. He is going to be punished but will have no concept as to why. He sees no wrong in his actions. He can’t, for he has no memory of right and wrong. But I have no choice and must do it without resorting to my Dovah. I cannot let anger control my sword arm. It must be a burden I accept out of necessity. He will be another memory I can replay at will.”
“If you cornered a rabid dog, you would cut it down. Ambition was once a mortal, but now he is a rabid Daedra. He will not remain in your memory.”
“You are probably right, as usual.”
“Do this, and your task is done. Let the Legion take over the responsibility.”
The love we share needs no words of confirmation. I proceeded to the execution with tears still freely flowing.
Ambition no longer ran. There was nowhere to hide and no allies to save him. He was incapable of forming a new plan.
I said to him, “Lady Mara is sorry she could not save your soul when you prayed to her. Perhaps in the future, Namira will release it into The Void, and you will be brought to Aetherius.”
He stood with his arms crossed as I drew my sword. There was no answer to my words or plea for mercy.
I did not hold back, and my blow would have killed any mortal. As it was, it simply freed Ambition’s soul from the flesh it inhabited.
The grotesque Ambition stood before me as the last of Prince Damian’s flesh fell away.
I killed him, and Husk, using the ‘cord’, dragged me into Scuttling Void.
As I approached Husk, I looked outside. I realised that what I thought was a separate pocket plane was part of the false king’s pocket plane. The tower was destroyed in the middle and perched precariously at an angle to its base.
I stood close to Husk.
“Husk, what is happening to this pocket plane? I thought the Sigil Stone was the only thing keeping it stable?”
“Millenia of tears and toil for the false king’s project, wasted, through your intervention. One has to wonder why mother never helped her chosen king.”
“At first, I thought it may have been a distraction. In a way, it was. I think Namira was aiding the witch in her revenge on those who persecuted The Reachmen. I would like to think I mitigated that revenge somewhat, but it is difficult to assess when this close to the problem.”
“What you see now is a cataclysm, churning all beneath. This land soon subsumed into the black whence it came. Like it wasn’t here at all.”
“Your will has kept it stable? Your power is phenomenal! I doubt Namira realised fully what she and the witch were creating.”
“I am unnatural, yet my power, as you call it, seems natural. Born of the chaos that is Oblivion.”
“Take heed. The false king’s tower anchored not only the realm but every moment that passed. This storm of death tears time. Even the god you champion cannot halt this spiral.”
“The Convention is not here. There is nothing to govern time.”
“Your unique soul gives you insight others would lack.”
“Yes, and I can feel time going forward, backward, faster, slower and even stopping. It is rather disturbing!”
“Time has been placed on the rock. Who can say when it breaks.”
“What happens now?”
“You have been through much. Will it away, but I see the body tremble. The world’s signature is in the scars it leaves.”
“Evermor is not the world. It has been unique in the amount of evil concentrated within its borders. What happens to you now?”
“The Ego is undone. What remains comes this way. He will make the husk whole again before its final death, long-awaited. The Ego will win in the interstice after reconstitution. During that time, it will be something insane. It may reach back out to you, or it may not. To predict the beast will only frustrate.”
“It was a difficult thing, slaying The Ego. I have killed many thousands of enemies, but this felt more like murder.”
“Rejoice, hero! You have overcome adversity. Feel no guilt over those you slew. The gods will repay your deeds in a short time, I’m sure. And as we wait for gods to care, I will offer a reward in their stead. A path home, to an audience of the kingdom awaiting their moral crusader.”
“If the gods did not care, I would not have been sent to Evermor by Lady Mara. I ask for and expect no rewards. I do what is morally right, and that is my only motivation.”
“I remember, you told me Lady Mara apologised. There is nothing for which an apology is needed. I made my choices, and they were not forced upon me.”
“This place is unstable. I have but one last question before I go. What was your name as chosen by your parents?”
“Berienie Lotlinie. I took my mother’s family name. She was Eliien Lotlinie. My father was Olurlorz Lagdku.”
“I hope you find peace, Berienie Lotlinie.”
As I walked towards the exit, Lady Mara’s avatar appeared.
I stood before the Divine and was concerned.
“Lady Mara, I assume as this pocket realm dissolves into The Void, you can traverse it. But you have put yourself in grave danger!”
“Yes, as this pocket collapses, benign entities are allowed passage, for a moment.”
“Fear not for my welfare, Special Child. I have come to provide succour for you – you, who have traversed the quagmire of want.
This interstice rapidly approaches its end, however, and with it the return of dread. We will have to depart soon.”
“It seems this was all a plan of revenge, and my presence has enabled some parts of the sinister plot.”
“Special Child, I wept with every orifice of this ethereal being. Every effort to thwart the systems of men and insidious circumstances had fallen short. We tried and will keep trying to stem the tide of horror.”
“The battles between gods have always been between mortal agents.”
“Yes, the hearts of mortal agents are locked in struggle, their souls tandem with fragility. Swathes of individuals seeking to covet their being has given rise to the terrific scenario you witnessed. Such chaos has led to extremities in every strand of thought, where the sadist and butcher thrive in dire times.”
Something started to drag me away from Lady Mara. Not physically. My soul suddenly became the rope, no, the cord, in a tug of war.
“Special Child, the two halves have rejoined. In spite, the whole is trying to keep you here. You will die!”
“Leave me, Lady Mara. You might perish, and Convention will unravel. Mundus will be bereft of natural laws. Chaos will reign in every corner until Alduin returns and consumes the detritus. Leave, I beg you!”
Lady Mara cried out in anguish, “I am sorry, Rigmor, I have lost him!”
I heard Rigmor’s sweet voice one last time.
“WULF! DON’T YOU DARE LEAVE ME! PLEASE! WULF!”
Nothing. The perfect darkness and cold of The Void. I was not afraid of dying, for I was already dead.
And so, so lonely.