Morndas, 24th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
to Fredas, 28th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
The random store in the middle of The Asylum intrigued me.
I decided to investigate. If there is a merchant, they may have something useful I can purchase or even provide vital information.
I was amused to see East Empire Trading Company boxes. I wonder how much they charge for delivery to The Isles?
The name of the store was ‘Near Corgi Shop.’ I don’t recall any towns called Corgi on my map. Perhaps it was wiped out during a Greymarch.
I could hear the tapping of a hammer on a chisel. I guessed the proprietor was an artisan of some sort.
I entered and smiled, for Sheogorath, wearing an apron over his horrendous clothes, was the proprietor. He was chipping away at a block of amber.
He looked up as I approached.
He said, “At long last, we meet again for the first time! Such an unexpected, and yet carefully planned, encounter! Are you not glad that we are in the same place at the same time? Theodor Gorlash, at your service.”
“Oh, of course, I am glad to see you again for the first time. Has anybody told you that your name is an anagram of Lord Sheogorath?”
“Eh? Come again? I’m a wee bit deaf in this ear.”
“As you know, The Isles are in danger. Can you provide some advice or other assistance?”
“And a toast to your health as well, my friend!”
“And here is a toast to useful advice.”
“Oh, I can’t tell you anything about what is happening. Or at least I won’t. It’s more fun watching you try to figure it out yourself. You are my favourite Septim, so I am sure you are up to the challenge. Well, you would be if I knew you better, which I don’t.”
“I thought Emperor Pelagius Septim III was your favourite Septim or would be if you ever met him.”
“Alas, some person who looks uncannily like you cured his insanity and his soul went elsewhere, or so I was told by somebody who looks a lot like me. That made him nowhere near as interesting, apparently. I hope he ended up somewhere almost as nice as The Isles.”
“I am sure he has entered Aetherius. His insanity was not self-inflicted. Queen Potema is to blame.”
“Nasty one that. She keeps annoying other souls in The Void.”
“Why is this place called the Near Corgi Shop?”
“Because there is a Corgi nearby, of course. I’m sure you have seen him.”
“No, I haven’t seen him, but I like Corgis. I have a wonderful one called Gladys. She loves to chew up Thalmor dolls, which is a very endearing personality trait. Please, tell me about this Corgi.”
“Merlin’s his name. He is a lovely little blighter. Are you interested in taking him off my hands?”
“Is he insane?”
“He thought he was and did the ritual to get an audience with Lord Sheogorath. It turns out he is sane despite the trauma of his transformation. It is best to learn about him from the dog’s mouth, so to speak, which he can’t because he is a dog, sort of.”
“A Corgi found a piece of ember that looked like Lord Sheogorath?”
“So, you know the ritual. Of course, you didn’t need it, so I was told.”
“How much for Merlin?”
“That’ll be, hmm… five hundred for the rascal.”
“How about a perfect diamond worth at least a thousand?”
I fished the diamond from my gem bag and handed it to Sheogorath. He held it up to the light and was satisfied with its quality. The diamond vanished.
He said, “You can find him outside and tell him the news. Oh, and be careful. He’s not like other dogs. He nips!”
“How did you end up in The Asylum?”
“Oh, it’s quite a tragedy. I used to be the most famous amber sculptor in The Shivering Isles. But an artist who upsets his patron is an artist who starves. Unfortunately, I upset The Madgod terribly.”
“What did you do to upset yourself? I mean, what did you do to upset Lord Sheogorath?”
“One day, The Prince of Madness handed me a chunk of amber, and he said, ‘Theodor, you are going to take this amber and sculpt me a masterpiece.’”
“Surely that was easy for an artisan of your stature.”
“Yes, but that amber didn’t have a masterpiece in it. Instead, it had something foul, and I had to choose if I would make a masterpiece or an abomination.”
“As a true artist, you chose to listen to the amber and sculpted an abominable chicken!”
“Wit is wasted on the insane, you know. But I did sculpt something foul, and when Lord Sheogorath took one look at it, he flew into a rage!”
“Oh, I hope you didn’t punch yourself!”
“It did not come to blows, and if it did, I don’t know who would have won. The Madgod and I are very evenly matched.”
“He banished himself, didn’t he?”
“He said, ‘Theodor, you handsome devil, you have really done it this time! Take that abomination to The Asylum where it belongs!”
“That is harsh. I assume that strawberry tortes are difficult to find around here.”
“Yes, they are. Um, The Madgod said to tell you that the offer still stands. Anyway, that is how I ended up here. Business has never been better, though. You’re my very first customer!”
“That is a sad tale of two people who argued with themself.”
“It brings me to tears every time. I regret nothing, though. We all suffer for our art.”
“Quite often, the viewer suffers when observing the art.”
“That is why I have hidden the offending sculpture. Others should not suffer for my honesty.”
“Amber is far more prolific in The Isles than on Nirn.”
“It is a lovely material, so I use it to carve my busts. I also make weapons, armour, and other such trifles.”
“It is important to subsidise your income.”
“Art just doesn’t pay enough in today’s market.”
“Is this current sculpture developing the way you envisioned?”
“It needs something. It needs a piece of amber shaped like Lord Sheogorath’s face.”
“It will give you a head start on carving Lord Sheogorath’s face.”
“Hahaha! I thought I better laugh because I am not insane and understand wit. But that piece of amber is essential, as I can’t carve The Madgod’s face all on my lonesome. He is much too handsome for me to do it justice.”
“I will be honoured to get it for you. Where would I find a piece of amber shaped like Lord Sheogorath’s face?”
“You should search the Root Canal. You never know what you might find down there, so your odds aren’t too bad.”
“Of course, they aren’t too good, either.”
“Even so, it is best to be optimistic.”
“Can I see what goods you have for sale?”
“Yes, I have all sorts of things. Do let me know if you’re interested in haggling. I can add your tongue to the tongue drawer.”
“I am sure you sell at fair prices.”
“Feel free to look around. But don’t touch! I wouldn’t want to have to eject you.”
“I am your first customer because nobody else can see this store. Am I right?”
“Well, I can’t have customers interrupting my flow of artistic brilliance.”
In one corner stood The Staff of Sheogorath. It is his symbol of office and would not be for sale. Ciirta’s eye on top of the staff followed me, which was a bit disconcerting.
One of The Faces of Madness made a fine bust. Next to it was the same bust of Father I had purchased from Ma’dran, but in amber, not marble. It was not a coincidence. Lord Sheogorath had figured out I was a Septim when I helped repair Pelagius’ mind. He had observed many Septims over the centuries and recognised inherited facial features, including the prominent square jaw. He may suspect who my father is. If I purchased the bust of Father, it would strengthen his suspicion. There was no way for him to detect my parentage.
Exiting the shop, I said, “Nothing catches my eye now, Theodor. I shall return with your Madgod-shaped amber soon.”
I found Merlin not far from the shop.
Not feeling silly, I said to him, “Guess what? I have purchased you, but that doesn’t mean I own you. When we leave The Isles, you can do as you wish.”
My mind shield was being probed. I recognised it for what it was. Merlin wanted to speak telepathically.
I scanned Merlin’s soul, and he was not a Daedra. I could not fathom what he was. However, there was no darkness in him.
I told him, “When I get to know you better, I might let you speak mind to mind. I hope you understand why I am being so cautious.”
I took that as a yes.
A scroll and spellbook appeared between his paws.
On a hunch, I tried to detect Merlin’s natural Magicka capacity, which was as high as many Master Mages.
The spellbook taught a summoning spell for Merlin. The scroll did the same for non-mages. I assume Merlin can create another scroll after the original is used.
I quickly learned the spell.
I told Merlin, “I will come and get you before leaving The Isles. It will be interesting to see what Meeko thinks of you. He is another dog that is not a dog.”
I continued towards the Soul Tomato grove.
When close to it, I cast Shadow Walk.
A gardener was attending to the crop, and I did not feel like burning him to death.
I got close to him and cast Telekinesis.
He flew over a cliff and into the sea below. I don’t know if anything will eat him, but at least he has a chance.
I gathered some Soul Tomatoes.
Then I set alight to the grove using Flames.
I placed Void Essence next to the central tree when all the Soul Tomatoes were ash.
The fake night suddenly gave way to a fake day. There was no subtle change from one to the other.
The gardener survived his swim and was hurrying back to the grove.
I quickly made my way to Stopgap.
It took a few minutes to find a trapdoor. I assumed it led to the laboratory and entered.
It was the laboratory, and Lord Arkay would not have liked what I saw. The creation of Flesh Atronachs is evil!
Oil had been leaking out of barrels and into the water. That made it easier to destroy the place.
I stepped away from the water and cast a Fireball into the centre of the room.
It was only a flash fire but enough to destroy the corpses and equipment.
I used a fork to hold the Soul Tomato in place.
Sabotage and framing were completed, so I headed for Borogrove to retrieve Nerveshatter.
Fog, no fog, fog, no fog. Aargh! At least it remained daytime as I walked.
There were many Exile sentries. I was tired of roaming The Isles and wanted to return to Nirn and my Rigmor. So, I forgo sneaking. Instead, I ran through the front gate and performed my Dance of Death.
I did not slow down as I searched the main building. As soon as an Exile appeared, they quickly met their doom.
There were many statues of Hungers in the complex.
The Hunger are a fearsome breed of Daedra renowned for their menacing features, including elongated tongues, demonic visages, and a ravenous appetite for mortal flesh. These malevolent beings employ their lengthy tongues to drain the Lifeforce from their unfortunate victims. In addition to their sinister tongues, Hungers wield razor-sharp claws and can expel toxic bile. They also possess a paralysing touch and an uncanny talent for swiftly dismantling the armour and weapons of their adversaries. Hungers are capable of teleportation, making them even more elusive and dangerous.
In Morrowind, Hungers are commonly associated with the Daedric Lord Boethia, often called The Hunger by the Dunmer.
Serving as both servitors and guards, they are known to roam The Shivering Isles, reflecting the darker facets of Sheogorath’s persona. They also roam Apocrypha and The Gorge. I never encountered them in Apocrypha. The Gorge is a realm of Oblivion that separates Boethia’s Attribution’s Share and Clavicus Vile’s Fields of Regret. I have read that The Gorge is probably the least pleasant of the known Oblivion realms.
Hungers exhibit heightened aggression in the presence of warm bodies, driven by a territorial hunting instinct.
Beyond their ominous nature, alchemists have discovered that the tongues of Hungers can be employed as a crucial ingredient in crafting potions that cure diseases and aid individuals afflicted by poison.
I came upon living quarters populated by many Exiles.
My sword swung, my Thu’um roared, and many Exiles died.
After killing dozens of Exiles, I finally came to where Nerveshatter was kept.
I had to pass busts depicting the Three Faces of Madness.
An Exile guarded the weapon, but he was so noisy I had plenty of time to prepare.
The guard wore more Aureal armour than most of his compatriots, but not enough. He seemed semi-competent with his unwieldy Aureal warhammer, but not enough.
I parried his weapon.
Then I sliced him across his unprotected midriff.
His insides hit the floor with an audible splat just before his outside joined them. Blood splattered in a wide arc around the dead Exile.
When I searched his corpse, I found a note from Thoron.
“My friend, Kinthal,
You have always been my most loyal apostle. Therefore, I entrust this task to you. Now that we have taken The Asylum, we must prepare to hold it. You are to seize Borogrove and, with it, Nerveshatter.
Our enemies reject the light that I will lead us to, and they will be incensed by our victories. More will come, but we will be ready. We will triumph! Have faith.
Your Prophet and friend,
The number of Exiles guarding Nerveshatter was enough to protect it from Staada and Dylora. Once again, my unexpected appearance has ruined the plans of an enemy. Thoron, or The Sword of Jyggalag, has not had time to counter my presence.
I stood before Nerveshatter and carefully checked for magical and mechanical traps.
Nerveshatter is a legendary warhammer with a rich history, intricately tied to the late Duchess of Dementia, a Bosmer named Lady Syl.
The warhammer is forged from the potent combination of Madness Ore and jagged shards of amber. It has a dweomer that inflicts shock damage and reduces the target’s Magicka reserves.
In times of danger, Lady Syl, known for her eternal sense of paranoia, sought refuge in the labyrinthine Root Tunnels of Xirethard beneath New Sheoth. Here, she would don Dark Seducer armour and wield Nerveshatter, symbolising her power. She boasted of numerous victories in battle.
The Hero of Kvatch ended her life during the tumultuous events of the Greymarch in 3E 433. She had defected to the Forces of Order. The Hero claimed Nerveshatter but lost interest in the artefact after becoming New Sheogorath.
Subsequently, Nerveshatter came into the possession of a Wood Elf named Gadnor. Auryen recently discovered documents indicating Nerveshatter was hidden inside Crystaldrift Cave near Riften. It is on my long list of places Auryen wants me to visit. I might still do so, even if Nerveshatter has returned to The Isles.
There were no traps, so I lifted Nerveshatter from its holder.
The dweomer on Nerveshatter was a fraction of the strength I applied to Dragonguard weapons. I have found this to be true with every artefact I have recovered. I took a few swings and strengthened my dislike for two-handed weapons. The warhammer was too heavy and, therefore, too slow. Its balance was excellent, but I would never use it in combat.
I placed Nerveshatter in my Journal Case, then quickly returned to the Daedric duo.
They saw me approaching and sat to hear the news.
- Wulf: I have Nerveshatter.
- Staada: You have done better than expected, mortal. Now, we can make our assault on Thoron’s lair.
- Wulf: You can’t help yourself, can you, Aureal? I have a name, and if you are too ignorant to use it, then I won’t bother with yours. Enlighten me on your disrespect for mortals.
- Staada: You mortals live fleeting lives and can hold so little of my Lord’s attention. You dance to his whims for a moment, and then the moment passes.
- Wulf: Your ignorance is astounding. Your complacency is a disease of immortality. Mortals have free will, something of which you only have a small taste. I do not dance to Lord Sheogorath’s whims. He asked for my assistance, and I could have refused. It is you who dances to his whims. That is why, when he was absent, your kind, including your leaders, were directionless. War with Mazken resulted from two Daedric races unable to think beyond their Lord’s commands. He was not here for you to ask what to do.
- Dylora: Many immortals envy the short lives of mortals.
- Wulf: That is because we try not to waste them. Neither of you will ever experience the joys of love or the miracle of children. When I die, I will spend eternity with deceased loved ones in Aetherius, surrounded by my gods. Other loved ones who live beyond my death will join us upon their death. I will be eternal in an existence superior in all ways to your monotonous immortality.
- Dylora: That is not an option for us, Staada. If our Wellsprings were to be destroyed, our subsequent death would leave us stranded in The Void. Wulf’s Aetherius sounds like the better outcome.
- Wulf: I killed dozens of Exiles when retrieving Nerveshatter, destroying the laboratory and grove. They numbered too many for the pair of you to handle. Lord Sheogorath asked for my help because he knew you would fail! A mortal defeated Jyggalag and saved The Isles when the Greymarch seemed unstoppable! So do me a favour, Staada. Show some respect, use my name, and for the last time, stop your senseless disrespect for mortals.
- Staada: It is no excuse, but it is difficult to discard millennia of prejudice. I shall try harder, Wulf.
- Wulf: I destroyed the laboratory and grove and left the incriminating evidence. We are as ready as possible, so let us end Thoron.
- Dylora: Thoron cannot hope to stand against us!
Another of life’s mysteries presented itself as I followed the Daedric ladies to Thoron’s lair. They ran with weapons drawn! Why do beings do that? It slows you down as your body rebalances awkwardly with every step.
Dylora demonstrated the superior speed of Mazken over Aureal as she easily outdistanced Staada. I was content to follow.
Dylora ran through the waterfall. Staada stopped and stared at it.
I told her, “It is okay. I am sure you will survive the cleaning. Get moving!”
Staada muttered an impressive string of curses in Daedric, then ran ahead.
We soon reached the amber barrier.
I retrieved Nerveshatter and then stepped up to the barrier.
One swing later, the barrier shattered.
Nerveshatter was returned to my Journal Case. Then I drew my sword and said, “Let’s say hello to our friend!”
We entered a cavern with a portal cut into the rocks behind Thoron. Four Exiles, two of each group, stood on either side of him.
The floor was covered by about a foot of water. Most of the cavern walls and roof consisted of amber. Many amber boulders littered the floor.
Native fluorescent plants provided the light.
We approached Thoron, and I noticed the floor beneath him was amber, not rock. I wondered if it was thin like the barrier I shattered.
- Staada: Thoron, Lord Sheogorath’s justice has come for you!
- Thoron: I am surprised, Staada. I never thought you would dare face me.
- Dylora: She isn’t facing you alone.
- Thoron: Ah, Dylora. I’m glad you’re here. Now, all of the lunatic’s underlings can die together.
- Wulf: Why must you be so predictable, Sword Puppet? I find it monotonous when weak adversaries boast as if they have any real power. Your will was not strong enough to break the ensorcellment after I let you live last time. Now we are in the lair where you teleported to and cannot escape my judgment.
- Thoron: My name is Thoron!
- Wulf: You are not Thoron. He is screaming somewhere inside, but he cannot escape.
- Thoron: Nothing can stop me! Without you in the way, I will be able to finish my work undisturbed.
- Staada: The Isles are not yours to toy with, Sword Puppet. This path will only lead to your death.
- Thoron: He said you would say that. He said you would try and talk me out of it. But I’m not listening to you.
- Wulf: He is beyond help, Staada. This tedious encounter will only end one way.
- Thoron: My benefactor will help me bring order to this chaotic place.
- Wulf: Do you think it is Lord Jyggalag that guides you? Perhaps I was too hasty, and there is still hope for your soul. Listen to me, Thoron. The soul in The Sword is not Lord Jyggalag. You tried to enable the Obelisk of Order. If Lord Jyggalag could aid you, that task would have been easy. If Lord Jyggalag is guiding you, why torture Dylora? Surely Lord Jyggalag could tell you how to bypass the wall and enter the rest of The Isles.
- Thoron: No, I will not listen to your lies!
- Staada: Then we will have no choice but to kill you.
- Thoron: I’m sure you’ll do your best on that account. But my friends will see to it that you fail.
I laughed, then used my Thu’um.
“FOOL! I HAVE KILLED DOZENS OF EXILES WITHOUT ONE OF THEM LANDING A BLOW. I HAVE KILLED MANY THOUSANDS OF WARRIORS, MOST OF THEM FAR MORE CAPABLE THAN THIS RABBLE. I KILL DRAGONS! DROP YOUR WEAPONS AND LIVE!”
The Exiles looked at Thoron.
Thoron was in danger of losing the support of his ‘friends.’
He yelled, “You witless worms! It seems I’ll have to kill these interlopers myself!”
The Exiles started to advance or draw their bows. They had forfeited their lives.
I Shouted Slow Time.
I killed the four Exiles.
Before any dead Exile hit the water, I sliced Thoron from shoulder to belly. To the Daedric ladies, the battle would have been over in a few seconds.
A blinding flash preceded a thunderous cracking noise.
A hole had appeared in the floor, and a torrent of water swept Thoron into it. The Daedric ladies swore as they battled the current. Fortunately, they managed to stay topside.
When I looked down, I could see another amber barrier in place. Heat Vision revealed a figure, who I assumed was Thoron, pacing back and forth. I detected the presence of an active portal. However, I was too far away to guess its destination.
Staada and Dylora waited for me to speak. It seems I have been accepted as the leader.
- Wulf: The Sword rescued Thoron again. I think he is below, hiding behind another amber barrier.
- Dylora: How can you see past the amber barrier?
- Wulf: I have the eyesight of a dragon. I can see his body heat. I could also detect his aura if I desired.
- Staada: How did you move so fast?
- Wulf: I used a Shout to cast a spell using the Thu’um. That is the magic of dragons.
- Dylora: He kept moving so fast when we travelled to you that I couldn’t see him.
- Staada: I saw him do that when we first arrived.
- Wulf: You two must remain up here. Thoron and The Sword of Jyggalag are in their centre of power. I doubt either of you two would survive the subsequent encounter.
- Staada: And you think that you will?
- Wulf: There is no guarantee I will, but instinct tells me you wouldn’t. Lord Jyggalag will need both of you if I fail.
- Dylora: Then pursue him, Wulf. We shall await your triumphant return.
I leapt into the hole and plummeted towards the ember barrier. I hoped my momentum would shatter it.
Before reaching the barrier, I was teleported below it.
Through the haze of a magical barrier, I could see Thoron standing before another portal. Simulacrum of Dylora and Staada stood before the barrier. They were soulless magical constructs.
I said, “Start your dribble, Sword Puppet. Make it quick so I can go home and have a warm meal surrounded by friends and loved ones.”
“Welcome to my domain. This place is known as The Well of Inversion. Here, up is down and down is up. Life is death. Chaos is order.”
I quipped, “And here, you are smart, have a big dick and don’t fuck goats.”
Thoron growled, “Staada, Dylora, kill the outsider!”
I leapt back as the simulacrums attacked.
Five seconds later, they lay defeated.
Thoron yelled, “Enough of this! Now, you will die by The Sword!”
Thoron teleported, and the barrier vanished.
I let him get close. He had yet to draw The Sword when I Shouted Dragon Breath.
Dragonfire surrounded Thoron, who screamed. Then a dweomer surrounded him. After a few seconds of studying it, I recognised what it was doing.
Thoron fell to his knees.
He pleaded, “No! No! It was not supposed to be this way! My Lord, grant me the strength to destroy this interloper!”
I said, “The soul within The Sword of Jyggalag will not forgive your failure, Thoron. However, it will not want to fall into my hands as it regards me as an enemy. I hope you can break free one day, but for now, you are lost to Mundus.”
Thoron pleaded, “Lord, bless me with the light of your perfect Order.”
The dweomer vanished. Thoron screamed.
I was teleported back to the cavern where Staada and Dylora awaited my return.
The hole in the floor was repaired, and the water returned to its previous level.
In front of the portal was an Obelisk of Order. Somebody was embedded within it.
I got closer and examined it.
It was not Thoron trapped in the crystal. At a guess, it was the entity whose soul lived inside The Sword of Jyggalag. The only problem with that theory is the trapped entity was wearing Madness Armour. It would be a strange thing for an ally of Jyggalag to wear.
The Sword of Jyggalag was also embedded in the crystal.
Staada removed her helmet and stood before me.
Dylora stood to the side. There was no longer a common enemy. It seemed as if the ancient rivalry between their races was about to renew.
- Wulf: I do not think Thoron is dead. I believe his soul is trapped with that of The Sword. Unless somebody activates the Obelisk of Order, he will remain imprisoned.
- Staada: Dylora and I will remain here for a time. We must ensure that Thoron’s corruption is entirely erased from The Root.
- Dylora: Then, we will return to New Sheoth and tell The Madgod what has transpired here.
- Wulf: I think you will find that Lord Sheogorath already knows.
- Staada: That is unlikely.
- Wulf: This is his realm. It is the only place in The Aurbis where he is omnipotent. Anyway, I have an errand I want to do for Lord Sheogorath before returning home.
- Dylora: We thank you for your aid, Wulf. Even Staada knows we would have failed without it.
- Wulf: Is that right, Staada?
- Staada: Well…ah….
I laughed, then sprinted for the exit.
The Isles’ fake night had a pseudo aurora and stars. My sense of linear time did not detect any variation compared to Nirn’s. That meant I was approaching my fourth day without rest or food within the realm. I have gone longer, but when I stop, it will take a day at least to recuperate.
I wanted to return and ease everybody’s worries, but aiding Sheogorath is always a wise investment. Besides, he indicated what I would find in the Root Canal is unpredictable. There may be an item or two that Auryen would consider worthy of our museum.
It did not take long to reach the Root Canal.
Not far in, I came upon a dead Exile. I retrieved a piece of paper from next to his corpse. It was a journal entry.
“The Prophet has given Gideon, Phillipa, and me a mission. If we are to find a way out of this accursed prison, he believes the answer might lie within the Root Tunnel we discovered behind Borogrove. We will venture forth and look for any path that leads to the magical barrier.
Now is my time to shine. Our success will prove to The Prophet that I, Maximilian, am fit to be a Luminary!”
Maximilian’s neck was broken. He carried no weapon.
Root Canal was a maze. Something was moving roots to block some passages and lead me to others. It was boring, with low-level creatures posing little threat. In many ways, it was similar to Apocrypha and just as tedious.
I eventually found a second corpse. It was Phillipa, and there were no signs of injury. I retrieved a journal from the body. The following is the relevant entry.
“This place is not natural. The tunnels don’t make sense. It is almost as if they have a mind of their own.
It has already claimed Maximilian. A root lashed out and snapped his neck. Gideon and I ran, and now we are lost. Retracing our steps does nothing. It is as if any progress we make is immediately erased.
Gideon thinks the strange creaking noises we hear are roots moving. That is disturbing, but even more so if something or somebody is herding us to a place we would rather not be.
We’ve stopped for a breather because I feel weak and am getting weaker. Gideon says the rash on my neck has changed from red to a splotchy purple.
We both feel like we are being watched.”
I had a hunch what was hunting the Exiles. Root Canal has probably been its home and hunting grounds for a long time. I continued, knowing that I would eventually meet the watcher.
Eventually, for the eleventh time, Elytra and Gnarl attacked. But this was different, for a Hunger accompanied them. I had guessed right. Phillipa was a victim of the Hunger’s toxic bile.
I quickly dispatched the weaker creatures and faced the Hunger. It would have been watching me from tunnels parallel to where I walked. It would know my abilities. Well, it thought it did, for I surprised it with speed. That was not something I had to display when killing Elytra and Gnarl.
I sliced the Hunger across its midriff.
It turned and tried to run.
I grabbed it from behind, slid my katana across its throat, and let its corpse float away.
The last of the trio of Exiles, Gideon, lay dead nearby. Once again, there was no sign of injury. The Hunger most likely drained his Lifeforce. He had scribbled a note. All it said, over and over, was, “THE TUNNEL IS ALIVE! THE TUNNEL IS ALIVE!”
I proceeded down a tunnel close to Gideon and the Hunger. Now that nothing was manipulating the roots, I was confident I could find my way out.
There were no tunnels leading from the one I was in. It went for quite a distance before ending in a large cavern.
In the middle of the cavern was a pool of water with a blackened skeleton in its centre. Floating above the skeleton was a weapon.
I noticed a piece of amber on the pool’s bottom as I approached the weapon.
I picked it up, and it was a piece of Sheogorath-shaped amber. I placed it in my gem bag and then approached the weapon.
It floated in the air whilst rotating. After each complete rotation, there was a flash of light. Each flash would change the weapon from sword to axe and back again. It seemed I had a choice of one or the other.
I recognised the weapon from Auryen’s catalogue of missing artefacts. It was called Shadowrend. It was briefly in The Hero of Kvatch’s possession, and like Nerveshatter, it was discarded when he became The Madgod.
I knew that a dark doppelganger of myself would manifest once I took either the sword or axe. It may look like me, but it would not have the blessings I carry. It would not have the focus of its Thu’um or the benefits of the dweomer I have on armour and weapon.
I selected the greatsword and quickly dropped it on the ground. The image of Shadowrend continued to rotate and change in case you wanted to swap weapon type.
The doppelganger appeared and wasted time summoning a Skeever! That is the least powerful of the dozens of things I can summon!
Unrelenting Force sent my opponent flying. It would have killed most opponents outright, but this was a lesser version of myself I faced.
I ran towards the prone doppelganger, but it managed to turn its head and hit me with Unrelenting Force.
I was impressed with the Shout’s power as I flew through the air. Even without my focus, it was the hardest The Voice has hit me.
My landing wasn’t the most graceful, but I was unharmed.
The doppelganger could not recover between Shouts as quickly as me. I hit it with Unrelenting Force and then Blinked to it.
I sliced my opponent several times and inflicted far more damage than any mortal opponent has ever absorbed.
Finally, the doppelganger fell to its knees.
I gripped my katana with two hands and plunged it into my enemy.
The doppelganger vanished.
I picked up Shadowrend and placed it in my Journal Case.
I quickly exited Root Canal and headed to Sheogorath’s store.
When I entered, he said, “Greetings, mortal. Er, fellow mortal. Mortal fellow.”
“Greetings Hrothgar Oodles. No, that is incorrect. Mmm…Greetings, Thoro Gasholder. No, that is still not the correct anagram. Let me think…aha…Greetings Theodor Gorlash!”
“I quite like Thoro Gasholder. Maybe I will use that name the next time we meet for the first time.”
“Thoron and The Sword of Jyggalag are no longer a threat.”
“Then I shall inform Lord Sheogorath that he owes you two strawberry tortes.”
“Is this piece of amber suitable? It looks like our mutual friend.”
I handed Sheogorath the amber.
He stared at it and asked, “How can I work with this? You can barely see the details! It’s so very abstract!”
“Abstract art is very popular and takes far less effort.”
“You may have a point there. But critics these days are very vicious.”
“But the public will love your work, and the critics will be nothing but background noise amongst the cheering.”
Sheogorath placed the odd-shaped amber on top of the large piece. It melded into place.
He said, “Well, it’s a start. Thank you, Wulf – ah, I mean, valued customer. Hahaha!”
“It was a pleasure aiding you and all the other citizens of this fascinating realm.”
The Madgod waved goodbye as I left his store.
I walked over to Merlin.
I told him, “Merlin, I suggest you stay with me until you decide what to do. Is that acceptable?”
“Okay, then, follow me. By the way, you look better without that silly hat.”
We were close to Solitude’s Root when Merlin started to growl and turned into fire. He was wearing the hat once again, and that didn’t burn.
I asked, “Is there something nearby?”
Then I heard a Gnarl approaching. Merlin seems like Meeko in that he detects danger before I do.
As I cut the Gnarl down, Merlin bit it and set it alight.
I told him, “That was impressive. Can you attack with other elements?”
We soon reached and entered Solitude’s Root.
The portal vanished. I assumed the Root Tunnel would soon wither and die without a connection to The Isles.
Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with emotion as relief and love flooded through Mara’s Ring.
Rigmor exclaimed, “You’re back!”
“Am I? Oh, yes, I suppose I am.”
“Do you know the most popular word in The Shivering Isles is Albatross?”
“Yeah, right. Pfft!”
“Are your guests from High Rock still in Bruma?”
“Yes, and there is a lot to talk about. But I can sense how tired you are.”
“Time flowed the same in The Isles as here. So, this is the start of the fourth day without rest.”
“Well then, go home, but before I say goodbye to our guests, I want to see you and hold you for a minute or two.”
“Oh, if I have to, I will summon you to Aurane.”
“Lucky I can tell your actual feelings, Dragonbum!”
“I can’t express how much I missed our connection, Rigmor.”
“I know. No matter how many people surrounded me, I was alone.”
“Exactly. Now, Merlin and I had better get moving before I fall asleep on my feet.”
“A Corgi mage. He is another dog that isn’t a dog.”
“I will see you soon, my Countess.”
The bodies of dead Exiles were still in place, but all of the Golden Saints were gone.
Near the exit were a couple of Skeevers. Merlin attacked and froze them to death.
I said, “Animals will not attack me or those with me, Merlin. A blessing from Lady Kynareth ensures that. The blessing did not subdue the creatures in The Isles.”
“Yes, I will explain it all soon.”
“Okay, I have let you speak via telepathy because I trust you. But now is not the time for swapping life stories.”
“Yes, I am exhausted. And yes, I am used to speaking to beings telepathically. You are communicating like Meeko, which is why this seems normal. With dragons and unicorns and some people, I can communicate fully via telepathy with no need to verbalise.”
“You have never met a unicorn or a dragon? Well, we can change that if you want.”
When we arrived at the entrance, I used a bit of Thu’um and said, “IT IS WULF. I AM BACK.”
Inigo replied, “My friend, we shall move the cover.”
I went to pick Merlin up, and he growled. I stood back and watched as he climbed the ladder without aid.
I followed him out and greeted my amused and relieved friends.
- Inigo: My friend, we thought you had been turned into a dog!
- Wulf: There is no need to panic, Inigo. You can keep all your fleas.
- Merlin: Yap?
- Wulf: Yes, of course, I will introduce you. The blue Khajiiti is Inigo. The young mage, she is only about three hundred, I think, is Celestine. The tall Khajiiti is Forgotten Mane S’in Dunestride. The other Khajiiti is Lunar Guardian Do’Qua’Der. They are members of The Dragonguard and accompany me, The Dragonborn, as we fight the chaos of this world.
- Merlin: Yip?
- Inigo: Ahh, yes, I can hear you.
- Celestine: As can I.
- Qua’Der: Me too.
- S’in: And I.
- Merlin: Yip!
- Celestine: That is nice of you to say, Merlin. On behalf of the others, we are equally pleased to meet you.
- Wulf: You will all have half a bazillion questions, but I must rest. Time flowed similarly in The Isles, so I haven’t slept for three nights.
- Celestine: We have kept vigil in rotation with other Dragonguard squads.
- Wulf: The portal to The Isles is gone, and no hostile creatures exist in Solitude’s Root. I expect Solitude’s Root to vanish as it has lost its connection to The Root. That should happen quite rapidly.
- Inigo: I have never seen you so tired, my friend. Let us go home. Are you joining us, Merlin?
- Merlin: Yap.
- Inigo: I agree, Merlin. Finding others who would so easily accept a talking dog would be hard.
- Wulf: He is also a powerful mage.
- Inigo: Well, that explains the hat.
- Wulf: Celestine, please place a seal on the sewer grate. Until Solitude’s Root dissipates, it is best people don’t come in contact with it.
- Celestine: Okay.
- Wulf: Now, Merlin, I am going to pick you up. That is necessary to teleport you to my palace. If you nip me, I shall encase you in spiderwebs and still pick you up.
- Merlin: Yip.
- Wulf: Good. I respect your independence, and this is only a temporary requirement.
- Merlin: Grrr!
- Wulf: How did trying to use a portal get you into this mess? You will have to tell me your story soon.
Celestine sealed the sewer entrance, and I picked up Merlin.
Celestine then teleported us to Aurane.
Meeko took one look at Merlin and whined. Merlin barked back. I placed him on the floor, and the duo ran outside.
My friends dissipated, except for Celestine, who was wiping tears away.
“Is there something wrong, Celestine?”
“No, Wulf, it’s just that I was the strong one reassuring everybody you would be fine. But I had my doubts. It is just relief. I am sorry.”
“What is there to be sorry about? Nothing is guaranteed when I enter Oblivion, no matter which realm. Yes, there was less danger in The Shivering Isles than in other realms, but still, I am at the mercy of a Daedric Prince’s whims. Nothing could save me if a realm’s owner decided to harm me.”
“Go to bed, Wulf. That is an order from your physician.”
“Yes, Princess, and thank you for being so strong for me. It means a lot.”
“I know. Now shoo!”
I entered my private rooms and summoned Rigmor.
She jumped into my arms, and our kiss was the best way to say I missed you.
When I finally put her down, she stared at me.
I assured her, “Rigmor, I am healthy and unharmed. The Isles have not changed me in any way.”
Rigmor relaxed and said, “I have never seen you so pooped.”
“I have never felt so pooped. I had no rest and was always dashing around and fighting.”
“Take me back so I can farewell my guests, but I will be with you for three days after today.”
“I will be visiting The Vigilants of Stendarr, and that is the extent of my plans at this stage.”
“But they might have things you may want to deal with.”
“They might have. In preparation, I recently cleaned your snotty armour and removed a few dents.”
“Do you have the first sword you gave me?”
“Good. As you can see, I like this dress.”
“There are many other colours in our collection.”
“Cool! Now, zap me home. I feel guilty keeping you awake.”
“I look forward to hearing about your High Rock guests.”
“You might not enjoy hearing about the growing turmoil in that province.”
“The Empire can’t afford any more civil wars. That will be an open invitation for The Dominion to invade.”
“Mede will be aware of that. If he increases the garrisons in the forts dotted around the provinces, we will know trouble is imminent.”
I tried to suppress a yawn and failed miserably. Of course, Rigmor caught it and also yawned.
She laughed and said, “Come on, my Guardian. Take me home.”
We teleported into Rigmor’s bedroom.
She commanded, “A quick goodbye kiss, then off you go!”
I kissed my beloved, then teleported to my rooms in Aurane.
My armour was discarded in a trail as I staggered to my bed.
I do not know what time I fell asleep. I assume it was within seconds of my head touching my pillow.