Morndas, 24th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
to Fredas, 28th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
I decided to spend the day installing Airship Beacons in the major cities. Miraak was waiting for me inside Rava, which was docked in Solitude. Inigo, Celestine, S’in and Do’Qua’Der accompanied me.
I teleported us to the Solitude stables, as I wanted to explain my concern with the airship.
My companions looked to where I pointed.
- Wulf: Can you see how Rava sticks out like dog balls?
- S’in: I would have said Pahmar balls, but I get the analogy.
- Wulf: You would see it miles away in the tundra, ice fields, etc. It announces where we are to those who wish us harm.
- Inigo: You were saying you can use portable beacons.
- Wulf: Yes.
- Inigo: So, you fly the airship to where it needs to be. Then, one of the mages places a portable beacon and a Mark at that spot. Then that mage flies Rava back to a city beacon and Recalls back to the Mark. Problem solved.
- Celestine: How are we going to break the news to Lydia? Inigo has come up with a perfect solution!
- Wulf: Make sure Lydia is sitting down first. That is safer if she swoons with the shock.
- Qua’Der: It is an elegant solution, except the squad is left without a mage for some time.
- Inigo: Only for a couple of minutes.
- Qua’Der: If it is that quick, I can see nothing wrong with your idea.
- Wulf: We shall practice the procedure and see how quickly it can be done. Let’s head for the airship.
Ri’saad’s caravan was doing very well. Their camps seem to be increasing in size.
As I quickly browsed some of the goods on display. A marble bust of Father at about my age caught my eye.
Ma’dran was watching and no doubt noticed my interest.
“Good morning, Ma’dran.”
“Welcome, Lord Welkynd.”
“Send the bust to my museum. Take the cost of the bust and delivery from my gem account.”
“You are not going to haggle?”
“Why, you always sell at fair prices, do you not?”
“Yes, of course.”
A new cub was accompanying the caravan.
I said, “Hello, young lady. Are you a new addition to Ri’saad’s caravan?
“Yes, I am apprenticed to Master Ma’dran. My name is Night Cloud.”
“That is an unusual name for a Khajiiti.”
“My parents thought an unusual name would be a conversation starter, allowing me to transition to my sales spiel. So, Lord Welkynd, are you in the market for something in particular?”
“You have taken elocution lessons, and I guess you have lived in Bravil for your entire life. The clue is the subtle inflexion on your vowels.”
“Master Ma’dran warned me you would be difficult to manipulate. I look forward to the challenge in future interactions.”
“I am easy to manipulate, Night Cloud. Offer fair prices, and don’t expect me to haggle. You get one chance each time to make a sale.”
“Why are you smiling, Master Ma’dran? You will need to explain this strange form of selling to me.”
“I wish you well on your chosen path, Night Cloud.”
When we entered Solitude, its streets were still quiet. They would soon be full of people hurrying from place to place.
We had not gone far when I mumbled, “Oh, shit!” and stopped.
- Inigo: Is there a problem, my friend?
- Wulf: That strange person staring at me is a Priest of Mania called Dervenin. He is Lord Sheogorath’s steward.
- S’in: Sheggorath?
- Wulf: Yes, Sheggorath The Skooma Cat. As you know, I am one of his mortal champions.
- Celestine: Uncle Sheo is no danger to Nirn and Mundus. Therefore, if he wants your aid again, you should ask why.
- Wulf: I feel it will have something to do with the failing Liminal Barrier. I fear it may be the opening salvo of chaos that will engulf my life in the future.
- Inigo: Our lives, my friend. You will not face it alone.
- Wulf: Let me talk to Dervenin. Listen, but please don’t comment or ask questions.
I stood before a creature that was once a mortal Bosmer but is now something else. Dervenin is a hybrid of Daedra and mortal.
“High on the rock arch, these people would have been easy picking for a determined dragon. Thank you, hero, for saving them from Alduin’s claws.”
“That was my task as given by The Nine, and I did not accomplish it alone.”
“A danger exists in his realm, so my master asks for your assistance.”
“What kind of danger?”
“When Master holidayed in Pelagius’ mind, a connection was made to this realm. One that you stepped into.”
“Yes, there was a portal to a pocket plane within The Shivering Isles. That portal was in the abandoned part of The Blue Palace. It must have been there for some time, as those not attuned to such things felt its presence, and that is why that wing was no longer used.”
“Yes, time can work differently in each plane, as you know.”
“That portal is no longer there. Is there another?”
“Yes, but not one that my master made. When he was absent, a war between The Aureal and The Mazken occurred.”
“The Cold Flame of Agnon was almost extinguished during that civil war.”
“Yes, and if The Great Torch went out, unprecedented violence would have occurred. The souls of Daedric citizens would have returned from The Void as their Wellsprings summoned them. All the vast number of mortal citizens would have perished as they would not return from The Void.”
“Many mortals would go to their chosen afterlife, but still, their deaths were undesirable. You did not want your home and people destroyed, but Lord Sheogorath would not heed your advice or warning.”
“That is why I asked for your help.”
“Did the war end on Lord Sheogorath’s return?”
“Yes, but another conflict arose soon after my master’s return.”
“Okay, explain this new portal and this other conflict.”
“My master is The Isles, and The Isles are my master. When he visited Pelagius, The Isles were in peril and sought my master. Consequently, a Root Tunnel from The Asylum to Solitude was created by The Isles. The Exiles in The Asylum are trying to reach this realm via that Root Tunnel. Aureal and Mazken battle The Exiles, but my master fears they are losing. The leader of The Exiles is keeping the Root open. If The Exiles invade this realm, they will spread chaos and death, making it impossible to close the Root Tunnel.”
“The portal is in the sewers?”
“I shall name it Solitude’s Root to clarify things in my mind. And it is an extension of The Root?”
“Do I need a key to pass through the portal, such as a hipbone?”
“No, the portal is open to all. That is how Thoron, a mortal battlemage, entered The Asylum. Please act quickly. I do not know what is happening in The Asylum. My master sent me as he said the situation was dire. It may have worsened in the days I awaited your arrival.”
“In the future, leave a message at my museum. Whenever one of my friends visits, they gather such messages. It is quicker than waiting for me to walk the streets of Solitude.”
“Yes, I shall do so.”
“I will aid Lord Sheogorath. My primary concern is for the safety of mortals within this realm, but I also desire The Isles to become stable for its citizens.”
“The leaders of The Aureal and The Mazken will tell you more than I know. May Arden-Sul enrich your mind and guide your heart.”
Dervenin vanished, and I turned to my friends.
- Wulf: Celestine, you must explain what that was all about to the others. I need to enter the sewers and investigate the portal.
- Celestine: Will you report back before entering the portal?
- Wulf: Yes. If I think there is a danger to the city, we must discuss what to do about it.
- Inigo: My friend, do you intend to enter the sewers alone?
- Wulf: I don’t know the situation down there, Inigo. Therefore, I cannot determine the level of danger. So, I will investigate alone.
- S’in: You have made it clear to us, Wulf, that we must trust your intuition. Although I am uncomfortable with letting you walk into danger alone, I will not argue the point.
- Wulf: Listen to the explanation from Celestine. The Shivering Isles are probably the most complex Dark Lord realm with its politics and balancing of power. Lord Sheo could enforce his will but doesn’t. He allows his citizens to have free will. He could have destroyed The Exiles but didn’t. Like his realm, Uncle Sheo is complex. He is insane but not homicidal. He likes to watch chaos and sometimes gives it a prod. I show him respect not out of fear but admiration for how he governs his realm. He was once a mortal hero like me and could have lived a comfortable life as a reward for his efforts. Instead, like his friend Emperor Martin Septim the First, he sacrificed his life for something greater. He became The Madgod, thus ending The Greymarch Cycle.
- Celestine: And that leaves Jyggalag to seek revenge.
- Wulf: Yes, but he is denied access to The Shivering Isles as it is no longer his realm. In frustration, and for what the other Daedric Princes did to him, he may seek revenge on them instead. For instance, he may presently be at war with another Daedric Prince. I doubt he would tackle more than one at a time, and I doubt the Dark Lords would form alliances to counter him.
- Celestine: Have you heard of Thoron?
- Wulf: No, I haven’t. Please summon Vayu and ask him to stand guard here while you visit The College of Winterhold. They may know of Thoron.
- Celestine: Yes, that is a good idea.
- Inigo: My friend, can I ask one question?
- Wulf: Yes, of course you can.
- Inigo: What is this talk about roots?
- Wulf: The Root is a massive, interconnected organism that grows beneath The Shivering Isles. All plant life in The Isles is part of The Root system. Think of Solitude’s Root as the root of a tree seeking a source of water or nutrients. It grew as The Root searched for Uncle Sheo. An extension of The Root, such as Solitude’s Root, is known as a Root Tunnel. They have names within The Isles like we name our roads.
- Celestine: Vayu or I can explain the rest, Inigo.
S’in helped me remove the drain cover. I climbed down the access ladder, and the drain cover was slid back in place with a clang that echoed. I wondered how Thoron managed to enter without attracting attention.
Heat Vision showed Skeevers. They would be affected by Kyne’s Peace and not attack. Any creatures from The Shivering Isles would be unaffected and not guaranteed to be friendly.
Through a doorway, there was a breach in a wall. Plants foreign to Nirn could be seen. That was the beginning of Solitude’s Root. I will have to traverse it to find the portal.
A dead Skeever suggested creatures from The Isles were present. Heat Vision showed a cluster of spider-like creatures nearby.
I gathered specimens of the plants as they have interesting alchemical properties and are very rare on Nirn. I then entered Solitude’s Root.
I used Zoom Vision to study the creatures I had seen with Heat Vision.
They are called Elytra and are mantis-like beings native to the vast expanse of The Shivering Isles. Much like other indigenous inhabitants of Lord Sheogorath’s realm, Elytra exhibit a striking divergence in colouration between the Mania and Dementia Varieties while maintaining an overall identical physical structure. Elytra thrive in abundant numbers within the intricate network of Root tunnels and the vicinity of caves. Their presence permeates virtually every corner of The Isles.
Elytra secrete a luminous green substance, Felldew, which commands a high price as a potent and highly addictive substance.
The most distinctive feature of an Elytra is its substantially enlarged thorax, which can attain proportions comparable to a full-grown Man or Mer. This thoracic region serves a dual role, functioning as both a womb and the primary site for the formation of Elytra’s ichor. With its unique properties, the ichor is employed as a paralysing agent against potential adversaries. If an Elytra deems a paralysed victim a suitable host, it will implant its eggs within the immobilised prey.
If they have no desire to use a being as an incubator, they will attack to kill. Elytra employ a potent arsenal of deadly toxins to dispatch their victims. If left unchecked, their venom can prove fatal to an average person over a protracted period, extending to several hours.
What adds to the peril is the venom of the Elytra Matron, which possesses a considerably longer-lasting effect than the poisons wielded by their lesser counterparts, further amplifying the danger they pose.
Some writings on the creatures claim they travel in triads consisting of a matron and two offspring.
Kyne’s Peace did not work on Elytra, but Lady Kynareth marked one, proving they were animals, not Daedra.
The Elytra attacked, and Unrelenting Force disposed of them. I collected reagents from them.
To save time, I disposed of Elytra from a distance when encountered and did not wait for them to attack.
I could hear buzzing, similar to when a Spriggan was nearby. Before seeing them, I guessed that Gnarls were the source of the sound.
The Gnarl, often called the “Walking Tree,” is one of the most peculiar creatures inhabiting The Isles. Like the Elytra, this animated plant can traverse almost any terrain within Lord Sheogorath’s unique realm.
Gnarls are an embodiment of Lord Sheogorath’s boundless creativity and have an extraordinary trait. A Gnarl can absorb and utilise the magic cast upon it, harnessing that energy to fortify its defences.
Upon being subjected to fire, frost, or lightning, the Gnarl grows physically larger and acquires temporary resistance to the specific element that assailed it. This ability also creates a vulnerability. While impervious to the element it initially resisted, it becomes susceptible to all other elemental forces. For example, a knowledgeable mage might strike a Gnarl with a low-level fire spell, such as Flames, gifting the creature a resistance to fire. Then the mage hits the Gnarl with a high-level Destruction spell of another element, such as Ice Spear, which does far more damage than usual.
My sword’s blade delivers massive damage by itself. The dweomer I placed on it adds tremendous additional damage consisting of all three elements.
The attacking Gnarls did not last long.
The many eyes on stalks protruding from the Gnarls are disturbing but probably seem aesthetically pleasing to Lord Sheogorath. I collected various reagents from the corpses.
I continued, disposing of many Elytra and Gnarl.
Then I came upon corpses of Aureals, also known as Golden Saints.
The Aureal are a Daedric race characterised by their glorious golden skin and the concealed gift of wings. Despite their avian heritage, they rarely unfurl their majestic wings. These beings possess captivating cat-like eyes and an imposing height, averaging around six feet. They proudly declare themselves as the favoured servants of Lord Sheogorath. This title is contested by another race, The Mazken, and wars are sometimes fought as they try to gain favour with Lord Sheogorath.
Mortals deceived by their appearance bestowed upon The Aureal the title of ‘Golden Saints.’ If you only have fleeting interactions, their elegance and seemingly benevolent demeanour may fool you. Their ethereal aura is further accentuated by the gilded avian-themed armour and weaponry they adorn. However, beneath this angelic façade, The Aureal are a proud and arrogant race, prone to quick tempers and cruel punishments. They harbour little affection for mortals, even those dwelling within The Shivering Isles, and make no effort to conceal their disdain in their interactions. It would be fascinating to see a conversation between Aureal and Thalmor. Who would win the arrogance contest?
Aureal society is matriarchal, often looking down upon males. Even male Golden Saints view themselves and their counterparts as inferior. The Aureal have a structured warrior caste system with eight tiers, rising from the lowest Auren to the highest Aurmazl.
The Aureal constitute half of Lord Sheogorath’s army, with The Mazken being their rivals. As mentioned, each faction believes they hold the favour of The Madgod.
The Aureal have a deep connection to Mania and act as its enforcers. They answer to The Duke or Duchess of Mania.
Their sacred abode, Brellach, is nestled in the northern reaches of Mania. The Wellspring of the Aureal stands as a guiding light, leading lost souls of Golden Saints back to the Shivering Isles from The Void. Although the secrets of their chaotic Creatia remain shrouded, The Wellspring flows with a golden essence befitting their saintly nature. Rumours suggest that some Golden Saints also dwell in The Coloured Rooms, Lady Meridia’s realm of Oblivion.
Amber, found in The Root of The Shivering Isles, is intricately linked to The Aureal and can be harnessed to summon or bind them. The mightiest among The Aureal necessitate using elusive Sheogorath-shaped amber for summoning and binding. Aureal hearts possess modest magical properties.
As an emblem of their unwavering devotion to Sheogorath, the Aureal etch The Three Faces of Madness onto their golden teeth, symbolising their connection to The Madgod.
Crafting the avian-themed arms and armour of the Aureal is a perilous undertaking known to drive some to madness. It’s also costly, as they employ gold as their primary material. To fortify the delicate gold, a series of steps are required. Refined moonstone reinforces the equipment’s structure, and then the gold is meticulously shaped while heated just below its melting point. Finally, the infusion of a Daedra’s Heart during the forging process enhances the metal’s attributes, rendering it unnaturally resilient. It resembles what The New Order achieved with their Black Diamond armour.
As I inspected the bodies, an oft-asked question presented itself. Why do so many female warriors wear suits of armour that only cover half their bodies? The male Aureals were covered from head to toe, whilst the females had many exposed areas.
I could not see who killed the Aureals. However, weapon marks, arrows and signs of Destruction spells eliminated creatures as the assailants.
As a precaution, I drew my sword and proceeded further into Solitude’s Root. Gnarls and Elytra continued to attack and were quickly dispatched.
Eventually, I encountered a living Aureal. Dead Golden Saints and corpses that I assumed were Exiles surrounded her. Exiles are mortals who fought against Sheogorath in the last Greymarch. Unlike Daedra, their deaths are permanent. The fallen Golden Saints will eventually be reincarnated. New bodies will be created to host their returned souls.
I approached, then stopped with weapons sheathed. The Golden Saint drew her battleaxe and approached me in a threatening manner. I could tell she was a competent warrior, but I did not think she was a match for me.
I used a bit of Thu’um and demanded, “SHEATH YOUR WEAPON AND COME NO CLOSER!”
She looked shocked at the power within my Thu’um and wisely did as I ordered.
She snarled, “Tell me why I should not kill you where you stand.”
“You would stand no chance in combat. I don’t know how long your soul would float in The Void before The Wellspring calls you home. However, it is boring, and I don’t recommend visiting it for any duration.”
“Fool! You will pay for your….”
The Voice shook The Root as I yelled, “YOU SPEAK TO LORD SHEOGRATH’S CHAMPION. THE MADGOD REQUESTS MY ASSISTANCE, SO BE A GOOD GIRL AND STOP THE THEATRICS!”
I knew calling her a girl was a grave insult, but I was not in the mood for her arrogance.
Her feline eyes narrowed at me, and her hands twitched.
I yawned as I waited for her decision. Would she be a fool, get cut down, or talk sensibly?
After tense seconds, I said, “Hold you axe if it makes you feel safer. Approach so we can speak easier.
The Aureal moved close, weapon in hand, but was wise enough not to get too close.
She asked, “Are you the mortal that aided Lord Sheogorath?”
“Many mortals have aided Lord Sheogorath, and I am but one of them.”
“Are you the one who survived Pelagius’ madness?”
“Yes, which is why I am your Lord’s champion.”
“That feat makes you especially resilient. For a mortal.”
“I am Lord Welkynd, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. What is your name?”
“My name is Staada, of The Aureals. I am a guardian of The Shivering Isles and the favoured servant of the Prince of Madness.”
“You are Aurmazl Staada?”
“Yes, that is my title.”
I started to laugh, which did not improve Staada’s disposition towards me.
She angrily asked, “Why do you laugh?”
“You mock the power of mortals yet failed to interrupt Priestess Rayna Drolan’s seclusion. The Nerevarine sent you screaming into The Void. He was once Azura’s mortal champion. I am her current mortal champion. Your power is insignificant compared to mine. Do not test me further!”
Like all Daedra, Golden Saints respect power. I was being more arrogant than Staada and declared my strength. Her attitude became subservient.
I continued, “Tell me of the problem.”
“For centuries, The Isles have been home to The Asylum, a realm that serves as a prison for my Lord’s enemies. But The Madgod’s absence and the ensuing chaos have provided the prisoners the opportunity they needed to start a riot.”
“Do you mean the chaos created when Aureal and Mazken decided to have a civil war because Daddy wasn’t there to supervise them?”
“You must be powerful, or your mouth would have doomed you.”
“Far more powerful beings than you have felt the sting of my words and sword. Continue.”
“The guards have been slain, and The Exiles threaten to escape The Isles, enter your realm and wreak havoc.”
“They are mortal and would be met by the best soldiers in Tamriel and in great numbers. Their havoc would be short-lived. Still, innocents might be harmed, so such an event must be prevented.”
“I have been tasked with restoring stability to The Asylum.”
“Has the battlemage Thoron been the catalyst for the uprising?”
“Yes, he is one of The Exiles and has managed to win the loyalty of both of the main prisoner groups.”
“I do not think he is an exile. He entered The Asylum via this Root Tunnel.”
“Regardless, he managed to win the loyalty of both sides of The Exiles. We have managed them for centuries by encouraging them to turn on each other instead of their jailers. Short-sighted as they are, they take the bait we leave them to discover.”
“Thoron has reminded them who their common enemy is.”
“Yes. Soon after Lord Sheogorath returned, Thoron and his followers surprised the guards and overwhelmed our forces.”
“They are mortal and cannot return from The Void. How many are left?”
“Not many, but only a few guards survived and are yet to be called home. The balance is delicate. The Exiles grow closer to escape by the minute. I cannot say for certain, though I expect they will lash out at everyone and everything they can. Hundreds of years of imprisonment have not softened their hearts.”
“Tell me about the two prisoner groups.”
“The Apostles of Light are a heretical cult that broke into open rebellion during the last Greymarch. They believe that Lord Sheogorath abandoned madness in the face of Jyggalag’s attack. That is, of course, a lie, but what matters is that The Apostles believe it. Now, they rage against his influence, even from their prison. They’re unpredictable, even for The Isles.”
I had to be cautious. I don’t think Sheogorath’s minions know about The Hero of Kvatch replacing him. In a way, the original Sheogorath did abandon madness as he became Jyggalag permanently instead of every Greymarch. I don’t think Sheogorath’s minions know that Jyggalag and The Madgod used to be manifestations of the same being. Some senior aids, such as Dervenin, may have known, but New Sheogorath has since meddled with their memories using his staff. This scenario is conjecture but is the most likely scenario from the information I gathered before arriving in Skyrim. Therefore, I must avoid expressing heretical opinions like those of The Apostles of Light.
“I know Ciirta was their original prophet and that she was killed.”
“Yes, their original prophet was Ciirta. She was killed and her eye taken for my Lord’s staff.”
“Thoron is likely saying something similar to Ciirta’s heresy and is probably regarded as their new prophet.”
“That is what we have surmised.”
“Tell me about the other group.”
“The Priests of Order followed Jyggalag, The Prince of Order, during the last Greymarch.”
“Did they have a choice?”
“Some would argue that many turned to Jyggalag’s side as it was the only way to survive. I do not care, for a traitor is a traitor.”
“You know that unless something catastrophic happens, your soul will be summoned back from The Void. Mortals do not have that luxury, so they are less willing to die for a lost cause. Any Priest of Order who did not join with Jyggalag would have been killed. I can sympathise with the choice some of them made to avoid that fate.”
“I can understand the logic. However, after the Greymarch failed and they were cast out of my Lord’s sanctuary, they all dedicated themselves to The Prince of Order, hoping to find belonging. They wait for Jyggalag to return so they can rejoin him.”
Much of what I was hearing confirmed The Hero of Kvatch’s tale as told by people who escaped The Isles after the Greymarch. When the Greymarch started, and Sheogorath became Jyggalag, The Root manifested as an island that suddenly appeared in Niben Bay. Similar to the one I used in The Blue Palace, a portal transported The Hero of Kvatch from the island to The Shivering Isles. It also allowed, briefly, for some residents to escape after The Greymarch and before New Sheogorath took complete control of the plane. However, I think the danger is not what Staada believes it to be.
I told her, “This logic is flawed. If Exiles wanted to escape and stealthily blend in with Tamriel’s population, they may succeed. However, if, as you suggest, they plan to escape and spread chaos, they would soon be hunted to extinction. Thoron’s intervention sounds altruistic, but if he cares for The Exiles, he won’t send them to their certain demise within The Asylum and Solitude without a plan to save some of them. Of course, he may have a selfish motive and care not for The Exiles.”
“His overall plan or motivation does not matter. Look around you. The Shivering Isles have already touched your realm, and the consequences are obvious. Our worlds belong apart.”
“Yes, they belong apart. But Thoron’s motivation is at the core of the problem. I am sure Lord Sheogorath could sever this Root Tunnel if he wished. However, I believe he wants me to stop Thoron for reasons he has not revealed. Therefore, he has tied Thoron’s defeat to the ending of this Root Tunnel. He should have told me the truth of the problem. There was no need to manipulate me.”
“I care not! The Exiles turned against The Madgod during The Greymarch. These deviants betrayed our Lord and deserved their exile to The Asylum for their treason.”
“I cannot view the situation in simplistic terms. To do so risks grabbing the tail, leaving the mouth to bite. What is the balance of the forces left?”
“The only ones left guarding The Asylum are Dylora, the commander of The Mazken, and myself. If more than thirty Exiles are alive, I would be surprised.”
“Yes, you know of her?”
“Does Lord Sheogorath trust her?”
“My Lord would not place her in charge of half his army if he did not.”
“She worked with Molag Bal to harm the mortals of Nirn during The Planemeld. I am willing to work with her, but she had better watch her words. The Mazken are supposedly more polite than your kind. For her sake, that had better be true.”
“How do you know so much about the happenings in The Isles and the rest of Oblivion?”
“There have been and always will be spies amongst the minions and courtiers of Daedric Princes. Also, some mortal heroes have ensured their actions within Oblivion are known. Mortals fled with much information during the last Greymarch. My gods and allies have given me the knowledge to perform my tasks. Therefore, I know the histories and the important beings I may encounter.”
“Your aid will be invaluable as Dylora and I protect the Asylum and end Thoron’s riot.”
“I must report to my colleagues before entering the portal. First, I want to have a look at the enemy.”
“I will keep my vigil here.”
The Exiles wore pieces of Golden Saint armour and used their weapons. The only way they could defeat the Daedra guards was by swarming them.
The scorched ground showed Destruction spells had been used. There was a note lying next to one of the deceased. I read it aloud.
“Staada has fled The Asylum. She is the last obstacle to our brilliant future. Kill her, and I will be free to lead us all into the light. This killing is the task set to you by your Prophet.”
I grumbled, “I am so tired of weak opponents who think they are special. Prophet? What a wanker!”
Staada laughed, which did not sound friendly.
Staada had placed a barrier in front of the portal. It was weak and would not take long to bypass. However, I had no intention of entering The Shivering Isles without a guide.
I used a shorter route to exit the sewers.
When I called out, S’in and Inigo removed the cover for me.
- Inigo: My friend, how bad is it?
- Wulf: I don’t think there is much danger to Nirn from Shivering Isle residents. However, we cannot allow Solitude’s Root to exist. The realms should not be connected!
- Celestine: Arch Mage Savos Aren told me that Thoren made enquiries at The College of Winterhold and that mages aided him with his research and using the Atronach Forge. He was trying to learn how to summon Aureal and Mazken. That was two months ago. Master Mage Tolfdir said he wore a greatsword made of a silver crystalline material he could not recognise. When asked about the sword, Thoren said it once belonged to his master.
- Wulf: I wonder if Auryen might know what the sword is.
- Celestine: After I returned from the college, Vayu remained here while I made my way to the museum. Auryen said it sounded like Jyggalag’s sword. The fact that Thoron was enquiring about the summoning of Aureal and Mazken makes that likely. A Dunmer named Talyn Rend was the last known mortal to own the sword and lived in Morrowind. The sword is sentient, and Talyn Rend was reputed to be insane.
- Wulf: I don’t think the prisoners in The Asylum will try and escape to Nirn. I suspect there is a more significant threat that Uncle Sheo wants me to resolve.
- S’in: Thoron is the danger.
- Wulf: I think so. Jyggalag can no longer enter The Shivering Isles, but his sword could. It may seek to finish what Jyggalag couldn’t.
- Celestine: The destruction of The Shivering Isles.
- Wulf: Daedric Princes cannot die. Uncle Sheo could be weakened and spend millennia recovering. In that time, Thoron could become the leader of The Isles. That would endanger that realm and this one if Solitude’s Root exists.
- Inigo: Should we remain on guard?
- Wulf: I have to enter Oblivion, and I do not know if linear time will be the same. We need at least a squad to guard this sewer entrance. If I am gone for many hours or days, Celestine can figure out a roster.
- Celestine: You could be gone for years.
- Wulf: It is a risk, but intuitively, I think it is a low one. None of the records I have read of people visiting The Shivering Isles report lost time compared to Mundus.
- Inigo: Rigmor will be worried.
- Wulf: Yes, and Mara’s Rings will stop working. We have both got used to a constant connection.
- Celestine: Are there any trespassers from The Isles in the sewers?
- Wulf: Yes, lots of plants, Elytra and Gnarl. There are a few dead Exiles and Aureals. I will be assisting Autkendo Dylora and Aurmazl Staada. Staada is waiting for me at the portal.
- Celestine: I have not studied the denizens of Oblivion as intensively as you, but they are two names I recognise.
- Wulf: They are the most powerful of their races but not a danger to me. I had better get this over with. Who knows what damage Thoron is doing?
I could see the worry in my friends’ faces as I entered the sewers. The cover clanged into place, and I suddenly felt alone again. I drew comfort from Rigmor’s presence via our rings.
I took the shorter route to the portal but stopped before reaching Staada.
I composed myself, then contacted Rigmor.
“Can you talk, my beloved?”
“Yes, I am having a break before hosting lunch for our visitors from High Rock. But you don’t want to hear about them, do you? What is making you worry so?”
“I am not worried about any danger, Rigmor. However, I must enter The Shivering Isles, Lord Sheogorath’s realm of Oblivion. I am worried that you will worry.”
“Why do you have to go there?”
“There is a danger to that realm and Lord Sheogorath. That, in turn, is dangerous for Mundus. At the moment, the two realms are connected.”
“I am sure the explanation for that connection is complex, so don’t explain how or why it exists. What is the danger to Lord Sheogorath?”
“I think a mage is wielding Lord Jyggalag’s sword. I don’t know how powerful that makes him, but he may be dangerous to that realm. Lord Sheogorath’s steward asked me to help on behalf of his master. I am, after all, Lord Sheogorath’s mortal champion.”
“And he was once a mortal champion.”
“Yes, without him, Martin Septim would never have succeeded.”
“How long before you enter the portal?”
“In a few seconds. A Golden Saint called Staada is waiting to guide and assist me. Golden Saints are a race of Daedra created by Lord Sheogorath.”
“I will try not to worry. It will make it difficult to concentrate on our guests.”
“The rings are a blessing but also a hindrance. Without them, you would never have known I was doing this.”
“Do what you must and return to us, my Guardian.”
“I will, Rigmor. Remember, our love is the most powerful force known. With it, I am invincible.”
“Yeah, not even a poison crossbow bolt plus two deep stab wounds can kill you. Oh wait, they did!”
“Thanks for the confidence.”
“I love you, Valdr Septim.”
“And I love you, Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, champion swimmer of Bruma.”
“Yeah, I did alright, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did. I will talk to you the second I return.”
I ran the short distance to Staada and said, “Let’s go and kick Thoron in the balls!”
She laughed and replied, “That vulnerability is why males will always be subservient.”
I followed Staada through the portal, spent a split second in the ether and then appeared within The Asylum.
Now, I was alone, as Rigmor’s presence was absent.
At first glance, The Asylum was not dissimilar to Nirn.
Staada said, “This is The Asylum, at the far reaches of The Isles and beyond the walls of The Fringe.”
“Does Dylora guard the only entrance into The Fringe?”
“Yes, but even if she was absent, the entrance will not allow beings, including The Exiles, to enter without our Lord’s invitation. The wall is impenetrable.”
“Lead the way, Staada.”
“I do not take orders from mortals or males.”
“But you will from Lord Sheogorath’s champion.”
Staada growled, turned, and started running.
We passed the corpse of a Golden Saint. Her soul will drift in The Void until The Wellspring of the Aureal summons it to The Isles.
In the distance, I could see a barrier. It would be impenetrable.
When we passed the corpse of an Exile, red blood surrounded it. The blood of fallen Daedra is dark grey, almost black.
The wall surrounding The Fringe looked formidable.
The body of a male Mazken was kicked out of the way by Staada.
The Mazken, also commonly referred to as Dark Seducers, are enigmatic entities within the realm of The Shivering Isles, and they share their origin as Daedric progeny of Lord Sheogorath with their counterparts, The Aureal. Their abode is the ominous Pinnacle Rock, which harbours the Wellspring of the Mazken, a mystical beacon guiding lost Mazken souls back from The Void to The Isles. Much like The Aureal, the nature of their chaotic Creatia remains shrouded in mystery, but their Wellspring is characterised by a distinctive green fluid that aligns with their essence.
The Mazken have diverse appearances, some possessing human-like skin tones while others bear more unconventional hues like blue, grey, or dark purple. Notably, some Mazkens are graced with large, retractable, bat-like wings, and their striking eyes come in shades of blue and green.
The Mazken are deeply connected to Madness Ore, found only within The Isles. Madness Ore can be used to summon and bind a Mazken.
In combat, the Mazken are clad in Armor that is both durable and provocatively revealing, baring much of their skin to the elements, as evidenced by the fallen Dark Seducer. They are remarkably swift runners and exhibit a formidable resistance to magical assaults. Crafting their distinctive serpentine arms and armaments is perilous, demanding precision as ebony is shaped in harmony with malleable quicksilver. The precise application of heat is essential, as any deviation can jeopardise the form and integrity of the equipment. A crucial step in this intricate process involves the incorporation of a Daedra’s Heart into the forge during the heating phase, enhancing the final product’s hardness.
Many among the Mazken are known for their lack of allegiance to any specific clan and display a treacherous disposition. Such Mazken formed pacts with other Daedric Princes, including Mehrunes Dagon, Molag Bal, Meridia, and Nocturnal. As with The Aureal, male Mazken are considered weaker compared to their female counterparts, leading to a societal view of all males as inferior. Unlike the Golden Saints, Dark Seducers typically exhibit a more polite and patient demeanour when interacting with mortals.
The Mazken are entrusted with the protection of Dementia, an assignment that seems to align with a masochistic inclination. During periods of peace, they serve as vigilant guards, patrolling the realm to combat criminals and hostile creatures. In times of conflict, they wield blunt weapons and are placed under the command of the Duke or Duchess of Dementia. The Mazken uphold a strict hierarchy, ascending through six ranks from Kiskengo to Autkendo.
Bodies of guards and exiles were scattered around, but not in great numbers. In the distance was a store.
Further along, a female Mazken’s body sat slumped against a road sign.
Fog would appear and vanish randomly. The sunlight was artificial, and from what I have read, the night is not pitch black even though no moons grace the sky.
Just as the fog appeared again, so did the door to The Fringe.
Dylora was not there, but several Exiles were.
I drew my sword and Blinked to the enemy.
I leapt over a barrier, then unleashed a full-strength Unrelenting Force Shout.
All the enemy died except one hardy individual.
He swung clumsily with a hammer, which I easily dodged.
I then decapitated him.
An amazed Staada caught up and then stood before me.
I said, “It seems Dylora is not here.”
“What kind of magic did I just see and hear?”
“You heard my Thu’um, the magic of Dov. You saw me travel the ether briefly using my will.”
“I wondered what the thundering sound was in the Root Tunnel. Why does that magic work here?”
“All magic involves the manipulation of the metaphysics of the Aurbis. Therefore, it does not matter if you are in Mundus or Oblivion. The magic will work.”
“I admit that you are a formidable warrior.”
“Do you think Dylora was kidnapped?”
“She is Commander of the Dark Seducers. Even a simpering Mazken would be difficult prey for mortals. She would not leave her post. If killed, they would leave her body for all to see. So, she must have been taken.”
“There are many dead Aureal and Mazken around The Asylum to show they are not too difficult for mortals to best in combat. I killed all of The Exiles we see here, so it appears that Dylora did not put up much of a struggle. She was probably overcome by magic. Thoron appears to be a formidable opponent.”
“True. Thoron will likely have darker purposes for her.”
“He wants information. I would guess that he wants access to The Fringe. I believe he wields Jyggalag’s sword.”
“Are you sure?”
“It is speculation until I see him.”
Staada looked around and said, “Their tracks point towards Stopgap, an abandoned village along the coast. The Exiles use it as an encampment.”
“I will investigate. I should go alone, for I can approach undetected.”
“Then I shall watch the doors, the crossroads, and The Root. Return successfully, or not at all.”
“Are they The Doors of Denial?”
“Yes. Do you know the purpose of The Fringe?”
“It is where the sane go while they wait for their madness to manifest. If showing signs of mania, they are allowed to enter Mania, where your kind guard its territory under the rule of a Duke or Duchess of Mania. If they show signs of dementia, they can enter Dementia, where Dylora and her kind protect its territory under the rule of a Duke or Duchess of Dementia.”
“That is all true, and the leaders failed to protect The Isles in our Lord’s absence.”
“It is easier to blame the nobility than face the truth of your guilt. Aureal and Mazken defended The Isles well enough against Jyggalag’s Greymarch. But when Lord Sheogorath was having his holiday, and there was no common enemy, you turned on each other. Only now, when there is another common enemy, do you side with Dylora and her people.”
“You have a harsh tongue.”
“I speak the truth. I saw the road sign and could find my way to Stopgap. If I have to follow their trail elsewhere, a map would be useful.”
“You will find one on a table up the stairs near the clever sign.”
“What is so clever about it?”
“It will display its message in the reader’s native language.”
The sign might have been amusing to an insane Daedric Prince, but to me, it was strange. My dear Rigmor would laugh at the idea that I thought something was weird. I quickly put aside any thoughts of my beloved, as I needed to concentrate and improve my chances of returning to her arms.
The map was quite detailed. I rolled it up and placed it into my Journal Case.
It did not take long to reach Stopgap. Along the way, I encountered a Shroom Beetle. They are not native to The Isles and can be found in many jungle areas of provinces such as Elsweyr.
There was a house next to the track where I first saw Stopgap. I decided to investigate it as several dead guards were outside.
Heat Vision did not reveal any living thing inside.
I entered, and the floor was covered in Aureal and Mazken, who had been tortured before death. Several empty bottles of booze suggested The Exiles had been drinking while torturing and enjoying themselves.
I exited the house and used Zoom Vision and Heat Vision to reveal the enemy.
I crept closer and used Unrelenting Force to kill a few sentries.
I allowed the person who seemed to be the leader of the group to approach. He was wearing a full suit of Mazken armour and wielded one of their warhammers.
I bashed him with my shield, breaking his nose and spraying blood all over me.
The blow stunned him.
When he faced me again, I cut his head off.
I searched the corpse and found a key.
My Thu’um killed more sentries before I entered the town.
Inside the town, I was attacked by Flesh Atronachs.
They are created by stitching together select parts from corpses. They can often be a mixture of a dozen or more bodies. I could tell those I faced had a lesser Daedra bound to the abomination. They are not undead but are Daedra. Some Flesh Atronachs are animated by bound mortal souls. They are undead.
Some people regard flesh as another element. The Daedric worshipping Ayleid did and were known to create Flesh Atronachs. Mephala uses Flesh Atronachs as minions, as does Molag Bal. They differ in form from those I faced. Mannimarco also created Flesh Atronachs when training as a Psijic Monk. Such necromantic practices are allowed with that order.
I quickly disposed of the two Flash Atronachs. I gathered samples from them, including two orange crystals called Void Essence. It is a very rare but valuable reagent.
I could see only one building with a door.
I assumed the key was for a door, and I was correct.
I searched the tiny abode and found a note.
The last of the guards have, predictably, failed to cooperate. At least their bodies can serve our cause.
Wait until Staada abandons Dylora, then strike with your full force. She must be captured alive, for I have questions for her.
Hide the bodies of our dead, then deliver Dylora to my excavation in Glimmering Hollow. The crystals should affect her just so.
Eat these orders after reading. My plans cannot fall into enemy hands.
The tortured guards were Thoron’s handiwork. He has earned a death sentence for that.
If he was close enough to torture the guards, why not verbally give Svarig these orders? Enormous stupidity is not gobblygook, but it still leaves unanswered questions. I must accept I will never understand stupidity and concentrate on what I know.
I retrieved the map from my Journal Case. Glimmering Hollow was not far and easy to find. I returned the map and then headed for Thoron’s excavation.
As I passed Svarig’s body, I said, “You are a naughty boy! You should have eaten Thoron’s orders.”
I would like to have explored many interesting places within The Asylum. Ruins created by the Greymarch could be seen. However, my friends and my beloved Rigmor would worry about me every minute I was in The Shivering Isles. Hence, I hurried with less caution than I usually adopt. It would have been handy to have Meeko with me. He often senses danger before me, and I don’t think any realm of Oblivion would faze him.
The fog appearing quickly then dissipating just as rapidly was annoying. Light levels randomly fluctuated. It was enough to send somebody insane!
An arrow whizzed past my head as I walked past one ruined building.
Cursing myself for being caught off-guard, I ran towards the archer and saw it was one of several Grummites.
Grummites are amphibious frog-like beastfolk with a multifaceted life cycle and astonishing regenerative prowess when immersed in water or exposed to rain. Like other inhabitants of The Isles, Grummites manifest distinct forms, depending on whether they reside in the vibrant Mania or the chaotic Dementia regions.
They are believed to be the Shivering Isles’ original inhabitants, and many scholars speculate that they revere Sheogorath, though such claims remain unverified.
Grummites are skilled artisans adept at forging tools and adornments, from rudimentary weapons and attire to jewellery, poisons, and magical staves. They often congregate in groups amongst The Isles’ many ruins. They are attracted to Madness Ore, a substance containing the souls of ancient madmen. That obsession is the primary reason for their occupation of abandoned places above ground and within subterranean halls. Grummites often possess shards of Madness Ore and gather magical matrices scattered throughout the realm by the master Madness Ore smiths of the city of Crucible.
Due to their inherently hostile disposition, Grummites maintain minimal interaction with the mortal inhabitants of the realm. Occasionally, they trade with other races in exchange for Madness Ore and have been known to steal valuable items from unwary travellers who venture too close to their lairs. A once-resident species of pygmies ultimately met their fate at the jaws of Grummites. To safeguard the realm’s roads, Dark Seducers and Golden Saints often engage in combat against marauding Grummites. Statues depicting these creatures can be discovered in ancient ruins, underscoring their significance in mortal culture on the Isles.
Much like frogs, Grummites are oviparous. They deposit frogspawn-like eggs in mounds near bodies of water or in sacs suspended above the surface. Despite the adverse effects of consumption, Grummite eggs are a delicacy among the realm’s mortal inhabitants and possess valuable alchemical properties. Grummites frequently guard their egg sacs, with females hanging the eggs above the water’s surface to protect them from aquatic predators. These eggs give rise to Pollywogs, infantile Grummites that are fully aquatic, limbless, and initially small as they hatch. They mature rapidly and develop four limbs, eventually becoming the amphibious Baliwogs within a few weeks.
Baliwogs constitute the larval stage of Grummites, frequenting the Isles’ lakes, rivers, and bogs. Possessing four limbs, a potent tail, razor-sharp teeth, and a set of long spines along their back, they pose a diminished threat when young. Over two years, Baliwogs undergo significant growth, surpassing Man and Mer in size and weight and developing a prominent dorsal fin. Some Baliwogs are known to be venomous, while any Baliwog bite carries the risk of transmitting Swamp Fever, an ailment they often harbour. A single pearl can occasionally be extracted from a deceased Baliwog, and their meat is a local delicacy, with residents frequently smoking Baliwog legs.
Ultimately, adult Baliwogs, driven by instinct, seek out deep water and bury themselves in the mud, hibernating for several months before emerging as fully formed Grummites. Some Baliwogs may even reach the formidable form of a Scalon, a far larger and more intimidating variation of Grummite.
The Grummites were hideous, but I would have let them be if they had not attacked. Instead, their unwarranted attack earned them death.
Not far from the ruins, a Grummite was leaving an offering of fish at a shrine when somebody killed it.
Overcast night was now the prevalent weather and I wondered if there was a logical cycle to it. I decided to use Night Vision.
Out of curiosity, I approached the barrier. As I predicted, it was impenetrable, and I could never punch a hole in it or bring it down.
I found the entrance to Glimmering Hollow.
When I entered, I heard a brief scream.
I rushed down a few flights of stairs and then used Heat Vision.
Dylora was hanging from shackles. Thoron was torturing her.
I listened in the hope of hearing of Thoron’s plan.
Dylora pleaded, “It is impossible, Thoron!”
“Nothing is impossible. I need you to help me understand. You are part of The Isles. You are part of The Madgod. Aren’t you? AREN’T YOU?”
Thoron cast lightning at Dylora, who pleaded, “Agh! Stop….”
I sprinted down the last stairs and entered a cavern with my katana in hand.
There was a magical shield between me and Thoron. If not, I would have killed him immediately.
Around the natural cavern were crystals. I recognised them and what Dylora was shackled to. It was an Obelisk of Order.
Obelisks of Order are white crystalline formations found in various locations in the Shivering Isles. The one in the cavern was inactive.
When active, a large central crystal rises and hovers upon a column of shock energy.
Active Obelisks spawn Knights of Order, the Daedric minions of Jyggalag. They are formidable opponents and easily outmatch Aureal and Mazken. I think Obelisks of Order can only be activated by Jyggalag, which is fortunate, for an army of Knights of Order would prove too much for me without The Dragonguard by my side.
I used my Thu’um and yelled, “HALT, MAGE THORON!”
Rocks fell, and plumes of dust rose as I sheathed my sword and stepped closer to the barrier. Thorson slowly turned.
He asked, “I was hoping for Staada. Why are you here?”
“No! Don’t you see? She is part of this great and terrible puzzle. But I don’t expect you to understand. To you, my purposes are far more mundane.”
“There is one thing I hate more than weak megalomaniacs. That one thing is stupid, weak, megalomaniacs.”
Despite her predicament, Dylora managed a hearty laugh.
I continued, “You do not plan for The Exiles to escape and reach Mundus. You have sacrificed their lives as you try and reach The Fringe and, from there, the other parts of The Shivering Isles. You have promised The Exiles enlightenment or some other incentive if they aid you. However, you do not pursue a plan created by you. Not long ago, you were a curious mage fascinated with The Shivering Isles. Somehow, you obtained The Sword of Jyggalag but did not have the mental strength to resist its ensorcellment. Now, you are a puppet obeying the desires of the soul embedded within The Sword. It seeks to harm this realm and Lord Sheogorath but was careless in its choice of wielder.”
“How do I know? Let’s say I am far smarter than a sword’s puppet.”
“I thought to lure Staada here and crush two beetles with one stone. But it seems she has sent you to do her dirty work instead. How typical. No matter. After I kill you, she will have no one to hide behind.”
I laughed a genuine belly laugh, and Dylora joined in.
I growled, “Far more powerful beings than you have failed even to scratch me. A fancy sword does not a hero make.”
“Step forward then. The crystal will so beautifully reflect your blood.”
“If you knew my blood, Thoron, you would beg for mercy.”
“Who are you?”
“Oh, come on, my likeness has been all over the news sheets in Skyrim and the rest of Tamriel. Perhaps the artefact has wiped out parts of your memory? I am Lord Welkynd, Champion of The Divines, Azura, Boethia, Hermaeus Mora, Meridia and Lord Sheogorath.”
Thoron struggled as he fought the sword’s control over his mind.
He whispered, “You defeated Alduin. Yes…I remember….”
Thoron groaned, and then the barrier vanished.
I casually drew my sword and walked up to the mage as he cast his best spells in my direction.
I sliced him down the middle, and he collapsed. I was not surprised he wasn’t dead, as I surmised The Sword of Jyggalag would protect its wielder’s Lifeforce.
I let Thoron get to his feet and stagger a few feet away.
I told him, “Place the weapon on the ground and step away, Thoron. You do not have to die for your foolishness.”
“No! Enough of this. The Isles will be your grave!”
“Look into my eyes, Thoron. Show the sword what power they face!”
Thoron looked, gasped, and froze in place.
I continued, “Lord Sheogorath does not want to keep me here. Other Daedric Princes who wanted me to stay in their realms could not keep me in theirs. So, you, or more likely, The Sword, are speaking from ignorance.”
Thoron vanished, and I recognised the dweomer. It was a Recall spell, but the mage did not cast it. The Sword did.
I recovered a Heart of Order from a table. They can only be obtained by defeating a Knight of Order. Like a briar that empowers a Foresworn Briarheart, they empower a Knight of Order. They can be used to disable an active Obelisk of Order.
I walked over to Dylora and undid the shackles holding her in place.
I stood back and let her collapse. I would have aided a mortal, but to Dylora, that would have been an insult.
The Daedra slowly got to her feet. I don’t think being so close to an Obelisk of Order would be comfortable for her, even if it was inactive.
She said, “Thank you, stranger. I’m unsure how long I had before Thoron finished with me.”
“You heard my name, Dylora. I am Lord Welkynd, but you may call me Wulf.”
“It seems we’ve met at a difficult time.”
“Priest Dervenin was sent to Nirn by Lord Sheogorath to request my aid. I can see you are uncomfortable. Are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine. It takes more than a few spells to slay a Mazken.”
“From a weak mage such as Thoron, that may be true. I could turn you into a pile of ash without breaking a sweat with Magicka or Thu’um.”
“Thoron seemed shaken by your name. We know little of what happens in your realm.”
“Sometimes fear is the catalyst to overcoming ensorcellment. However, it seems that was not enough to aid Thoron. We need to discuss Thoron’s, or, more precisely, “The Sword of Jyggalag’s plans.”
“What did he see when he looked into your eyes?”
“He and the The Sword’s soul saw the power gifted me by my gods.”
“I can share what I know after we’ve left this place. I can’t help but feel like these crystals are listening.”
“They may have a connection to The Sword. Let us return to Staada.”
“Yes, even an Aureal like her is a necessary ally in these dark times.”
“It must be boring here sometimes. Lucky for you and Staada, you have an immortal race to hate and kill as many times as you wish! Too bad that mutual stupidity almost allowed The Cold Flame of Agnon to go out.”
“They are harsh but true words.”
“Follow me, and try to keep up.”
A mortal had challenged the most powerful Mazken. A male mortal! I knew it would motivate Dylora to prove this lesser being inferior.
Of course, Dylora kept up when we were running. The Mazken are probably the fastest bipedal species of any realm.
I took a different route back to Staada, as there was no need to visit Stopgap. That meant there were live Exiles in my way.
When I noticed some Exiles in a small camp, I Blinked across a stretch of water.
Unrelenting Force killed several enemies but attracted the attention of a Scalon. It came roaring towards me.
It took one slice of my katana to end its life.
I then disposed of the last Exile, severely injured by my first Shout.
I collected some reagents and continued before Dylora waded across the water and reached me.
As we travelled, I continued Blinking, Shouting, slicing, and dicing.
After another quick slaughter of our enemies, Dylora turned to me. At that stage, the kill count was dozens to none.
She said, “I have never seen a warrior like you.”
“Either had Staad. I am an efficient killer, but, as you heard with Thoron, I offer mercy where appropriate. His ambition was not to harm The Isles. Like many who seek knowledge, he became its victim.”
“It is strange to meet a mortal who professes to be champion of Aedra and Daedra.”
“I volunteered to be Champion of The Divines. My responsibility is the safety of all mortals, no matter their religion, race, or disposition towards me. The Exiles have shown themselves to be hostile, and I must eliminate them to save the mortals elsewhere within The Shivering Isles. This realm provides a haven for those whose life on Nirn would be miserable and most likely shortened. There are many reasons mortals go insane and rarely is it through selfish actions on their behalf. Your Lord has done, and will continue to do, things that I am uncomfortable with. I believe he realises that and avoids offending me. Lord Sheogorath is not the only Daedric Prince who occasionally relies on mortal aid. It is best he and other Dark Lords respect the free will and morality of those they ask for help. Of course, with some Daedric Princes, that means pandering to the darker side of mortal desires. You and your sisters aided Molag Bal. You know of the desires he panders to amongst some mortals.”
“That is a subject which I have no interest in discussing. My loyalty is to The Madgod.”
“Oh, Lord Sheogorath was willing to forgive one mistake. I would hate to think what would happen to somebody who wasted that forgiveness.”
Dylora shuddered, then ran ahead. I soon passed by her.
We arrived at The Doors of Denial without further confrontation.
I said, “Before you two start squabbling, I ask you to resist. Let’s try to hold a civilised conversation. More is at stake than your endless grovelling for Lord Sheogorath’s favour.”
To my surprise, the Daedra remained quiet. Dylora walked over to and sat in a chair. Staad warmed herself in front of the fire.
Within seconds, The Isles were plunged into what passed for the night in the strange realm.
- Wulf: As requested, Staad, here is Dylora, safe and well.
- Staada: Dylora, you should not have allowed yourself to be captured.
- Dylora: Perhaps I wouldn’t have been captured if you’d stayed with me instead of scurrying down The Root to a realm in which The Exiles have no interest.
- Staada: I told you I was going to find aid. I have found it. Besides, you look fine.
- Wulf: Let me clarify a few things in the interest of truth. Dylora, you and Staada thought The Exiles wanted to escape to Mundus. Do not sound superior now that you have updated information she has yet to hear. And Staada, you didn’t find help. That is hard to do when you are standing in one place. I was asked to help by Lord Sheogorath, and I found you.
- Staada: Have you found Wulf to be the most annoying mortal you have ever met?
- Dylora: Yes, but he is effective. Too bad he is sane. Wulf might have been fun to have around.
- Wulf: ALBATROSS!
- Dylora: Perhaps my assessment of his sanity was premature.
- Wulf: Tell us what you discovered whilst being tickled by Thoron.
- Dylora: His rambling gave me some sense of his plan. He intends to take control of The Root and use it to break through the walls.
- Staada: Impossible. Only the Madgod….
- Dylora: It’s possible, Staada. The Root is The Isles, and The Isles are The Madgod. That is what he said.
- Wulf: Even us poor mortals with balls know that saying.
- Dylora: It’s madness to try, but that is what he is counting on. He’s wielding The Sword of Jyggalag and uncovered an Obelisk of Order.
- Wulf: The Sword Recalled him to his lair. Do you know where that is?
- Dylora: It is deep within The Root, hidden under the falls. It is the perfect place to hide and make plans.
- Wulf: It is the perfect place for The Sword to make plans. There is very little of Thoron left.
- Staada: We must immediately travel to his lair and slay him before he escapes!
- Dylora: If it were that simple, I’d do it myself. He’s constructed an amber barrier to seal off the entrance. There is no way inside.
- Wulf: Dylora, how did they capture you?
- Dylora: They ambushed me in numbers. I wanted to continue protecting The Asylum and not float in The Void awaiting my summons. So, I surrendered.
- Wulf: Therefore, when you said you would tackle Thoron alone, it was a foolish boast. We must tackle Thoron as a team. Now, is there a way past the amber barrier?
- Staada: We need a powerful weapon tied to The Isles to break through Thoron’s barrier. Nothing else is strong enough to shatter pure amber.
- Wulf: I am confident my sword could. However, if you know where such a weapon exists, I might be willing to recover it.
- Staada: An artefact called Nerveshatter was sealed in the ruins of Borogrove.
- Wulf: So, Lady Syl’s warhammer is in The Shivering Isles. I have a museum in Solitude, and my librarian thought it was in Crystaldrift Cave near Riften in Skyrim, and I planned one day to recover it. I suppose it is fitting the Duchess of Dementia’s weapon has made its way back to The Isles.
- Staada: Search the ruins, destroy any Exiles you see, and bring Nerveshatter to us. It should prove strong enough to shatter the amber shield, even in your mortal hands.
- Wulf: Stand and draw your axe, Staada. Prove how superior you are to this male mortal and why I should obey your command.
- Dylora: Yes, please do so, Staada. I know your abilities, and they pale compared to Wulf’s. It would be amusing to see you humbled.
- Staada: I stand corrected.
- Wulf: I accept your apology. I have decided to recover Nerveshatter. While I stroll to Crystaldrift Cave, can I do anything else to help our cause?
- Staada: Dylora may leave learned more of Thoron’s plans than she deigns to share with me. Perhaps you should speak to her in private?
- Wulf: We don’t have time for pettiness. We must deal with Thoron quickly so Dylora will speak openly. Won’t you Dylora?
- Dylora: Oh, of course. There is no time for pettiness, you know.
- Wulf: Well?
- Dylora: Perhaps we can destroy Thoron’s army by reigniting their mutual animosity.
- Wulf: Okay, I don’t think those still alive are much of a threat, but I am listening.
- Dylora: Both groups have been working on ways to build up their strength. If we sabotage those efforts and frame the other group, it might drive them apart.
- Staad: That may work, Wulf, and should be relatively easy to achieve.
- Wulf: What needs to be done?
- Dylora: Steal a Soul Tomato from The Apostles’ grove on the coast and Void Essence from The Priests’ laboratory in Stopgap.
- Wulf: I already have some Void Essence from Flesh Atronachs I slew. I have never heard of Soul Tomatoes.
- Dylora: The Apostles grow them. They are pretty ingenious, though depraved.
- Staad: And you would be an expert on depravity, Dylora. Alas, even Molag Bal couldn’t satisfy all your cravings.
- Wulf: This is like supervising unruly mortal children yet to reach ten years of age. Ignore the flappy lips of Staada and continue.
- Dylora: It is not much effort to ignore Staada. It is like the distant buzzing of flies when she blabbers on about nothing much.
- Wulf: Sorry, Lord Sheogorath. I tried to resolve the problem, but Dylora and Staad were too busy squabbling. It became too late to prevent The Isles’ destruction. Perhaps you can start again after you recover from centuries in The Void?
- Dylora: May I continue?
- Wulf: I don’t know. Why don’t you try and see if you can?
- Dylora: The Apostles have altered the necromantic bindings that tie souls to soul gems and allowed them to bind the souls to a plant instead of a crystal.
- Wulf: That is clever. They can grow an endless supply of soul vessels. There is one thing that puzzles me, though.
- Dylora: Which is?
- Wulf: Are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable?
- Dylora: This is no laughing matter, mortal. Pray your soul does not end up inside one.
- Wulf: It can’t. My soul is that of a dragon.
- Staad: Full of surprises, isn’t he, Dylora?
- Wulf: I assume the drawback to Soul Tomatoes is they rot?
- Dylora: Yes, and that is what has stopped Soul Tomatoes from widespread use by the comparatively sane.
- Wulf: What do I do with the Soul Tomato and Void Essence?
- Dylora: Burn down both the laboratory and grove. Leave each item at the other group’s location to make it seem sabotage.
- Wulf: Mark the location of the grove and laboratory on my map.
I retrieved the map of The Isles from my Journal Case. I am used to people looking surprised by the fourth-dimensional vessel. The looks on the Daedric ladies were more curiosity than surprise.
Dylora marked the two locations. They were not far, and destroying both and plant evidence was worth the time.
I memorised the locations and placed the map back into the Journal Case.
- Wulf: Go on, ask.
- Dylora: Ask what?
- Wulf: You know, so go ahead and ask.
- Staad: We both want to know about that object in which you placed the map.
- Wulf: It is a gift from The Psijic Order. It is larger on the inside than on the outside.
- Dylora: We receive many monks of that order in here.
- Wulf: Understanding the Mysticism practised by Psijic Monks requires denying logic and reality. Some mortals break their minds by doing so.
- Staada: We wish you good luck, Wulf.
- Dylora: We must hope the sabotage will weaken Thoron’s plans.
- Wulf: There is no such thing as luck, and I doubt it will weaken Thoron’s plans.
- Staada: Then why will you spend time doing it?
- Wulf: Soul Tomatoes and Flesh Atronachs are distasteful to me. So, I will destroy them, and planting the false evidence is just a bonus.
- Dylora: When you think you understand mortals, somebody like Wulf visits and confuses us.
- Staada: Perhaps our Lord laughs as he leaves the insane on Nirn and invites the sane to live here.
- Dylora: That is almost sacrilegious but is worth discussing further.
Staada and Dylora started chatting in Daedric, and I went to the grove. They have mutual respect, and most of their aggravation is forced.
As I walked, I started wondering how Rigmor was coping. I hope her guests from High Rock are keeping her busy and, therefore, distracted.
I was doing it again, and last time, I was fortunate the Grummite was a poor shot. I concentrated on my surroundings, but Rigmor was never far from my thoughts.