The Gate of Solitude

Tirdas, 2nd Evening Star, 4E 201

to Turdas, 4th Evening Star, 4E 201

Rigmor and I slept for eight hours and woke refreshed. After a spa and breakfast, we were ready for Rigmor’s return to Bruma.

Rigmor decided to wear her armour, as she wanted a good set at home and thought Cerys would like to see it.

Silah appeared out of the ether.

  • Rigmor: Oh no, its Silah!
  • Silah: Hello, glad to see you as well, Rigmor.
  • Rigmor: Tell me you haven’t brought more chaos to Wulf’s door.
  • Silah: I haven’t. But there might be some at Jarl Elisif’s door, and I didn’t bring it.
  • Wulf: Is there a problem with Solitudes’ Root?
  • Silah: No. Something is trying to break through The Liminal Barrier. It has weakened an area near Solitude’s main gate.
  • Wulf: How weak is it?
  • Silah: Very weak, and it is getting weaker. Concentrated energy pulses from Oblivion hit it every minute like a battering ram trying to breach a castle’s gates.
  • Rigmor: From what part of Oblivion?
  • Silah: We don’t know. We cannot see into that plane.
  • Wulf: That also means you can’t recognise the nature of the pulse.
  • Silah: Not until it breaks through into Mundus. Even then, Daedric magic can be impossible to decipher.
  • Wulf: What is your advice?
  • Silah: Get there as soon as possible. I would suggest teleporting to the stables. Any closer, your journey in the ether may get interrupted with dire consequences.
  • Rigmor: Could it be another Oblivion Gate?
  • Silah: Creating a gate would be the logical purpose of such an attack on the barrier.
  • Rigmor: You are not doing it again, Wulf!
  • Wulf: What am I not again?
  • Rigmor: You are not going to leave me behind. If you are entering Oblivion, I will as well.
  • Wulf: Rigmor, I don’t take others to Oblivion. It is too dangerous.
  • Rigmor: You have more chance of surviving with me beside you. We should take Celestine as well. She can concentrate on healing and protection spells.
  • Wulf: Silah, help me out here.
  • Silah: You know, Wulf, that spells or Shouts from strong enough opponents can disable you. None of your skills would count if you were unable to protect yourself. I think it is prudent you take Celestine with you.
  • Rigmor: Poisoned bolt to the neck. Swords through the armpits.
  • Wulf: But…
  • Rigmor: I am accompanying you into Oblivion! That is unless you intend to tie me up or cast a spell on me.
  • Wulf: Okay, we don’t have time to argue. We will decide if an Oblivion Gate appears. I shall summon a squad and head to Solitude’s Stables.
  • Silah: I will rejoin Lord Akatosh and monitor The Liminal Barrier.

A sense of doom intruded upon my thoughts. Intuitively, I knew this danger was more significant than any before it. I would not survive in Oblivion without help. I kept that thought to myself, as I had no proof to support such dire worry.

Silah vanished, and I summoned Celestine, Lydia, Iona, Jordis and Khao.

I quickly explained the situation. Celestine agreed with Rigmor that, if necessary, we should enter Oblivion together. Then we teleported to Solitude’s stables and headed for the front gate.

We all looked up as a rumble like thunder shook the air.

There was no lightning, but the sky turned red, faded to pink and returned to normal. Farm animals, dogs and people sounded panicked.

As we quickly walked towards Solitudes’ entrance, it happened again.

When we reached the outer gates, I shuddered.

I told the group, “I can feel it. The Liminal Barrier is failing! We must hurry!”

A Legionnaire asked, “What is happening, Lord Welkynd?”

“What is your name, soldier?”

“Vekes Hahrehrsen.”

“Somebody is trying to open an Oblivion Gate.”

“Like The Oblivion Crises?”

“Yes, so be prepared. Legionnaires are capable of defeating Dremora. We did it back then and can do it again.”

“Okay, I will try and control myself. I only got issued these new undergarments last week, and the quartermaster will be upset if I ruin them.”

I patted Vekes on the shoulder and continued with more caution. My sensitivity to The Liminal Barrier was playing havoc with my senses. I struggled not to upchuck the large portion of bacon and eggs I had for breakfast.

Not far from the outer gate, The Liminal Barrier above us failed. The sky turned bright red, and we stared into Oblivion for a split second. I ordered everybody to step back, which they did without further prompting.

It became as dark as midnight. Everybody and every animal became silent.

I noticed many members of the Khajiiti caravan, pilgrims, and their guards joined the audience.

We watched as an Oblivion Gate materialised.

Then we moved forward as Dremora poured into Nirn.

The passing pilgrims, mercenary guards, members of the Khajiiti Caravan, Legionnaires and Dragonguard soon overwhelmed the dozens of Dremora.

Of the enemy we just defeated, only three were of high rank. Two Legionnaires became overconfident and entered the portal. They would stand no chance on the other side.

I studied the Oblivion Gate. The portal to Oblivion was open, but I did not recognise the realm it connected to.

As the Khajiiti returned to their camp, I thanked Zira for their assistance. As I did so, more Dremora materialised. They did not step from the Oblivion Gate. It seems they have a way of teleporting a short distance.

We quickly disposed of the newly arrived enemies. Then the skies brightened even though rain fell heavily.

I walked over to Ma’dran.

I told him, “As always, your people fought well, Ma’dran.”

“This one does not think another Oblivion Crises would be good for business. Is that what we face, Lord Welkynd?”

“I don’t know. I will enter Oblivion and see if I can discover who is behind this attack.”

“I shall return to our camp and help calm the mules. They were not impressed with the sun vanishing and the sky turning red.”

Legionnaire Welks asked, “Lord Welkynd, what happens now?”

“You heard what I told Ma’dran. I will enter Oblivion and try to find out who is behind this. More Dragonguard will be here soon. General Tullius and Jarl Elisif will be informed. The Divines warned me of this and will inform The Dragonguard of other incursions. That is the best we can do at the moment.”

“They didn’t seem that tough.”

“They were low-level Dremora. But they are Daedra and don’t die, Welks. They learn from battle and eventually come back stronger. That is why I must hurry and see what can be done.”


“This gate is to be closed to all civilian traffic. No soldiers or guards are to enter or approach the Oblivion Gate.”

“Yes, Lord Welkynd.”

The inconsistent weather continued as Khao came up to me.

I told him, “Summon Vayu. He is to inform General Tullius and Jarl Elisif what is happening. This gate and the main entrance are to be closed, and nobody is to be allowed access to this area. No Legionnaires or guards are to enter the portal. You and Vayu should quickly decide what extra Dragonguard squads must be summoned. Got all that?”

“Yes, Wulf.”

“Silah is monitoring The Liminal Barrier. If she appears with news, let Vayu decide what to do. He is in charge when I am not here.”

“Yes, of course.”

“We shall return as soon as we can.”

Rigmor waited for me close to the Oblivion Gate.

I said, “My beloved, I have no idea what realm the gate leads to.”

“I’m coming with you!”

“They will be expecting you in Bruma. Intuition tells me this will be far more dangerous than any of my previous visits to Oblivion.”

“Wulf, I am going with you through that portal. You have never tried to lord it over me, and this is not the time to try.”

“I would never tell you what to do, only suggest.

“I know. But I need to do this. I need to help you, and that, in turn, helps everybody.”

Celestine joined us, and I said, “Okay, ladies, stay behind me. Our best chance of surviving if we get swarmed is The Voice.”

We entered Oblivion with weapons drawn.

The two Legionnaires lay dead. The Dremora were laughing and mocking the dead soldiers. One of them looked our way and hissed. The fighting began.

My Dance of Death was no less deadly against Dremora than mortal opponents.

I can always tell where Rigmor is via our rings. But even without them, her taunts and battle cries are easily heard.

When I ran out of opponents, I looked over and saw Rigmor neatly decapitate her opponent.

Via Mara’s Rings, I told her, “Well done, you didn’t lose balance with the follow-through and avoided the arterial spray!”

“We are in the same plane, so our rings work!”



Now the initial battle was over, we could look around.

In the distance was a portcullis blocking further progress.

Nearer to us was a statue of Malacath atop a rise.

I walked to it and discovered it was not a consecrated shrine.

From the elevated position, I could see a tower.

Zoom Vision showed me several Dremora and defences.

  • Wulf: They have prepared defences as if they expect a siege. For instance, they have cauldrons of boiling oil on the ramparts and spiked stockades. General Tullius would probably like to enter with a few hundred Legionnaires, but that would be a disaster.
  • Celestine: They threw a lot of Destruction spells at us. We can withstand them, but Legionnaires cannot.
  • Rigmor: He respects Vayu and will listen to his advice.
  • Wulf: This is not The Ash Pit or a pocket plane attached to it. However, it is a pocket plane.
  • Rigmor: How do you know that?
  • Wulf: If it were one of the realms of a Daedric Prince, there would be a portal above that gives access to the rest of Oblivion.
  • Celestine: Do you think a powerful devotee of Malacath made this pocket plane?
  • Wulf: It would be part of The Ash Pit if they were so devoted, and that would be an active shrine. We will have to figure it out as we go.
  • Rigmor: The Dremora haven’t seemed overly powerful so far.
  • Wulf: Dremora Lords are a different matter. Don’t get overconfident. They will swing their greatswords faster than you think possible. Blocking them will jar your arms.
  • Celestine: There is portcullis ahead.
  • Rigmor: I wonder if Dremora are as dumb as bandits and have an opening mechanism on this side?
  • Wulf: I can kill the Dremora close to the tower from here.
  • Rigmor: Is your Thu’um that much improved?
  • Wulf: Yes, the focus is much narrower, and each Shout is stronger. The improvement was partly due to that strange occurrence when I summoned Shor’s avatar. Most of it is due to constant use. The more I can kill from a distance, the better for us.

Unrelenting Force travelled quicker than the sound of my Thu’um, so the distant Dremora were caught unawares.

While I killed the Dremora, I noticed a lever. Perhaps Dremora are as dumb as bandits?

When we got closer to the portcullis, we noticed another lever.

Rigmor laughed, saying, “Yep, they are as dumb as bandits.”

I used Zoom Vision as I looked through the raised portcullis.

  • Wulf: There is a Werewolf with a black miasma surrounding it. They are Lord Hircine’s minions.
  • Rigmor: Werewolves don’t usually attack you.
  • Wulf: Kyne’s Peace will not protect us in Oblivion. Even on Nirn, it might not work if the Werewolves are ensorceled.
  • Celestine: Any Dremora?
  • Wulf: Yes, and plenty of bodies on spikes. Lovely people, the Dremora.
  • Rigmor: What next?
  • Wulf: Did you know raised portcullises do little against Unrelenting Force?
  • Rigmor: But you don’t know if the Werewolves are hostile.
  • Wulf: Yes, which is why we shall lower the portcullis and attack.

I pulled the lever, and the bars lowered.

A Dremora and Werewolf were next to each other. The Dremora attacked, but the Werewolf did not.

Celestine was constantly casting protective spells on us. But she also cast fear upon Dremora, who often tried to flee, and she summoned creatures, including Atronachs and Sabre Cats, to fight beside us.

In between close combat, unrelenting Force killed several waves of Dremora, who came from many directions.

I will say killed even though Dremora can’t die. Interpret it as ‘dead for now.’

Dozens of Dremora lay where they fell.

The Werewolves did not attack us, so we got closer to them.

  • Wulf: They are ensorceled.
  • Rigmor: Why don’t they attack us then?
  • Wulf: I don’t know.
  • Celestine: Gobblygook.
  • Wulf: Yes, quite fortunate gobblygook.
  • Rigmor: They are kinda cute. I wonder if you can housetrain them?
  • Wulf: They are condemned mortal souls. I wonder if we are doing them a favour by letting them live.
  • Celestine: There is always a chance their soul can be saved.
  • Wulf: Yes, a very slim and remote chance, but killing them removes that chance.

There were many bodies on spikes.

  • Rigmor: Who are these unfortunate people?
  • Wulf: I don’t know. It seems portals to this pocket realm have opened in the past.
  • Celestine: It is impossible to tell how long ago they were killed.
  • Rigmor: Wulf, you have often said I can find beauty where others don’t. I am afraid this place has none at all.
  • Wulf: Does that mean this place is not on the list for a picnic?
  • Celestine: I will say it for you, Rigmor. Idiot!
  • Rigmor: Thank you, Celestine.
  • Celestine: It was my pleasure.

As we got close to the tower, the occasional Dremora would attack and die.

  • Wulf: People who closed Oblivion Gates during The Oblivion Crises cautioned that each tower must be investigated. Don’t assume the tallest tower is the one with a Sigil Stone.
  • Rigmor: Do you think a Sigil Stone is the anchor?
  • Celestine: Wow, you learned the gobblygook words quickly!
  • Rigmor: We closed the last one a few hours ago.
  • Wulf: I don’t think this Oblivion Gate has anything to do with the Mythic Dawn. It is too early to say what the anchor is.
  • Celestine: I prefer a lovely blue sky with the occasional fluffy cloud.
  • Rigmor: I prefer towers that don’t have corpses dangling from ropes.
  • Wulf: Wind chimes are better. They are more musical and don’t need replacing so often.
  • Celestine: Is time running normal here?
  • Wulf: Yes, but you never know if there is a time jump back or forth when you enter a portal.

Before entering the tower, I had a look around. Something in the distance caught my attention.

When I used Zoom Vision, I was pretty sure what it was. However, I decided to investigate to confirm my suspicion.

I told the ladies, “We shall return to the tower in a minute. I think there is a shrine to a Dark Lord. We need to gather as much information as possible.”

We reached what I had seen, and it wasn’t a shrine.

I turned to my companions.

  • Wulf: This is a Soul Well. Can you see the crows on it? That tells you which Daedric Prince owns it.
  • Celestine: Nocturnal.
  • Rigmor: Oh, and it sorta looks like an inverted crow’s claw.
  • Wulf: You place occupied Black Soul Gems into it and are awarded a weapon or other valuable.
  • Rigmor: Are there realms where more than one Dark Lord is involved?
  • Celestine: There are thousands of known realms in Oblivion and, undoubtedly, many times that many unknown. Multiple Dark Lords share some.
  • Rigmor: We have Hircine’s minions, a statue of Malacath and Nocturnal’s Soul Well.
  • Celestine: We don’t know who the Dremora are loyal to.
  • Wulf: Intriguing.
  • Rigmor: I don’t think intriguing means terrifying.

On the way back to the tower, I noticed some distant Dremora. Werewolves were mixed up with them, so I didn’t use Unrelenting Force. Instead, I fired a couple of Fireballs, and then we attacked.

After eliminating those Dremora, we heard another one muttering to itself.

We snuck up and discovered a Dremora Warlock working at an enchanting table.

I assassinated him by slitting his throat.

We walked to the tower entrance. Two raised stones blocked it.

I showed Rigmor and Celestine the lever I had seen before.

  • Wulf: They went to a lot of trouble to set up barriers and sentry points, yet have a mechanism to allow entry.
  • Rigmor: So, an invading army is supposed to ignore this lever while besieging the tower?
  • Celestine: You are getting suspicious, aren’t you, Wulf?
  • Wulf: Do I think we are being corralled like cattle to slaughter? Yep!
  • Rigmor: It seems too easy.
  • Wulf: They don’t need me to breach The Liminal Barrier.
  • Rigmor: But they would like to kill you.
  • Wulf: They can join the queue.
  • Celestine: Or you could just be paranoid.
  • Wulf: I wouldn’t be paranoid if they weren’t out to get me!
  • Rigmor: Your paranoidness serves you well, so keep it up.
  • Wulf: I think Milady is inventing words.
  • Rigmor: Methinks that you think too much.

After I pulled the lever, we heard the rocks lowering into the ground.

We made our way to the door and drew our weapons. We had no doubts that there would be a welcoming party.

We entered, and immediately in front of us was a device utilising the power of a Sigil Stone.

Before I could study it further, Dremora attacked from both flanks.

As we killed the last of them, a door to a torture chamber opened, and we had more Dremora to deal with.

After defeating those, we heard more upstairs.

An electrical barrier was between us and a Dremora and Skeletal Warrior.

It was no barrier to my Thu’um, as the enemy soon discovered.

No more pesky Dremora bothered us, and we could examine the apparatus in peace.

I said, “It is a generator creating electricity. There are conductors on the wall. Let’s look for a switch.”

Rigmor asked, “What will the switch do?”

“Let’s hope it turns off that electrical barrier and doesn’t make the apparatus explode.”

“If I get blown to bits, I will never talk to you again!”

We couldn’t find anything in the apparatus room, so we entered the torture chamber.

Rigmor exclaimed, “There is a pull chain!”

I cautioned, “You don’t want to pull it. If you do, the spiked bars on either side will swing together and guess what?”

“I get lots of holes all over?”


There was an Iron Maiden.

Some unfortunate had a spit shoved through from arsehole to neck and slowly roasted over a fire.

Celestine was visibly upset at that barbarity, and Rigmor comforted her.

There was nothing of use in the torture chamber. So we moved to a small alcove off the equipment room.

A reasonably powerful Lightning Staff was hanging on the wall for some reason. I placed it into my Journal Case.

Near that was a twist handle.

Without warning the ladies, I operated it.

Electricity was now directed at the conductors.

We heard creaking as Skeletal Warriors approached. That let us know that the electrical barrier was down.

Unrelenting force eliminated them.

I cut down one Dremora.

Then, others tried to exit a room. I stood in the doorway and killed them one by one. I was careful not to harm the Werewolf.

In some rooms, the red was so prominent all other colours were muted.

There was nothing in the room to justify the eight guardian Dremora we killed. However, there was another mystery.

  • Wulf: There is a statue of Dibella facing away and half embedded in a wall. That I can understand.
  • Celestine: But why the same treatment for the statue of Malacath?
  • Rigmor: Why would they do that?
  • Wulf: Guess what, Rigmor?
  • Rigmor: You are going to say, ‘Dunno.’
  • Wulf: Correct.

Further up the spiral stairway, another group of Dremora waited for us.

They didn’t last long.

The stairs led to a door with an unpickable lock.

None of the keys I had worked. I pulled a chain and a set of stairs led to a key hovering in a light beam.

I said, “As soon as I break that beam, the stairs will vanish, and I will fall. Too bad if I cast Levitation and ruin their plan.”

I cast the spell and grabbed the key. The steps vanished, and I floated back to safety.

I unlocked the door and then drew my sword.

We faced a ladder leading to a trapdoor when I opened the door. Behind the ladder was a depiction of Vaermina.

  • Celestine: That is another Daedric Prince to add to the list.
  • Rigmor: Which one is that?
  • Wulf: Vaermina. I don’t think she likes me and Erandur much.
  • Rigmor: Do you think all seventeen Dark Lords will be represented here?
  • Wulf: It wouldn’t surprise me.

We sheathed our weapons to climb the ladder but drew them once outside.

Rigmor said, “I expected the roof to be full of Dremora.”

Just as she finished, Dremora teleported onto the roof and attacked.

Rigmor’s string of expletives was impressive. I was laughing as I started my Dance of Death.

The fight lasted mere seconds.

There was a far taller tower in the distance.

I thought I spotted something, so I used Zoom Vision.

  • Wulf: There is a statue of Boethia on top of the far tower.
  • Rigmor: I can’t imagine her and Malacath sharing a realm.
  • Celestine: This place is getting weirder and weirder.
  • Rigmor: That is why Wulf finds this fascinating.
  • Wulf: It’s a mystery. I usually know who the bad guys are. At the moment, I don’t even have a theory.
  • Rigmor: Weirdness attracts the weird.
  • Wulf: I usually find my strolls through Oblivion quiet and relaxing. However, this time, a loud, whiny noise threatens to spoil it.
  • Rigmor: Yep, you are having a great time.
  • Wulf: DUH!
  • Celestine: Come on, Rigmor, doesn’t the mystery intrigue you?
  • Rigmor: I am too busy trying not to be skewered by the locals.
  • Wulf: There is one entrance that I can see with few guards. However, to the left of that, there are many Dremora milling about getting bored in front of another entrance.
  • Rigmor: It is not fair to leave them bored. Put them out of their misery.

Unrelenting Force rapidly closed upon them and eliminated the Dremora.

A Dremora Lord was too far away.

I walked over to a cauldron full of boiling oil.

I commented, “It is strange they didn’t have somebody up here to pour it over us.”

I studied a blue orb floating over a Daedric symbol.

  • Rigmor: What is it?
  • Wulf: The swirly symbol denotes a portal.
  • Rigmor: Where to?
  • Wulf: Somewhere still in this pocket plane.
  • Rigmor: You will step into the portal, won’t you?
  • Wulf: I have to. We need to find out what this is all about. Plus, I think we have to do things in a particular order. We might not be able to proceed further unless I enter.
  • Celestine: If Wulf is still in this pocket plane, he can summon us.
  • Rigmor: Is that right?
  • Wulf: Yes, Rigmor. I can talk to you via Mara’s Rings and summon you if need be.
  • Rigmor: Okay, but I want you to know I hate this shit!
  • Celestine: I imagine Vayu is worried terribly about me at the moment. It is a burden we all carry at some stage when fighting for what is right.
  • Rigmor: Oh, you didn’t even get to talk to him!
  • Celestine: That is why we have to return, so I can say sorry for making him worry.
  • Rigmor: I will have some explaining to do when I return to Bruma.
  • Wulf: I will be with you, and they shall all watch their p’s and q’s. Otherwise, I shall bite them.

Celestine’s and Rigmor’s laughter accompanied me as I entered the portal.

After exiting the ether, flames surrounded me.

Rigmor asked, via our rings, “Well, Dragonbum. Where are you?”

“Somewhere high. Hang on…oh, that’s interesting.”

“What is?”

“I can hear a dragon approaching.”

“Oh…well…I better let you concentrate.”

A colossal dragon flying very low approached at a rapid speed. It intended to knock me over the edge.

Shiva would have been impressed as I leaned back and watched my scaly opponent fly over inches above me. However, I can’t instantly manoeuvre into a flying kick like she can. Not that it would do much good against the dragon.

I quickly stood and drew my katana.

As the dragon hovered, we spoke in Dovahzul. The following is my translation.

“Drem Yol Lok. Greetings, Brother. What is your name?”

“Something that is long forgotten, Dovahkiin. They call me The Druhunian Dragon.”

“You know I am Dovahkiin and that fighting me will erase you from this and all future kalpa.”

“If only that were so. You cannot absorb my soul. It will be transferred to another skeleton upon my death, and I shall be restored. The process is much quicker than Alduin could do, as their supply of mortal Lifeforce is enormous.”

“Who are the ones who have enslaved you?”

“All I know is they address their male leader as ‘The Master.’ That is a generic term for ambitious megalomaniacs, is it not? I know nothing of their plans, and telling you this much has required an effort of will I cannot sustain. Let us engage in senseless violence for my unknown jailors.”

“I am sorry, Brother. Perhaps when I finally confront The Master, your soul will be free of his ensorcellment.”

“It is long since I had hope.”

My opponent prepared to dive towards me. I hit him with Dragonrend.

He laughed as he landed. His semi-transparency was a bit disconcerting.

He said, “I have often contemplated my mortality. Now I understand how you defeated Alduin. He was a god, and the thought of death would have scrambled his brain.”

The Druhunian Dragon covered me in Cold Fire. Many of Molag Bal’s minions use it. Cold Fire doesn’t harm via heat but by cold. The dweomer on my armour protected me from the terrible damage possible. However, it wasn’t comfortable.

In contrast, my katana struck several times and inflicted tremendous fire, frost, electrical and physical damage.

My opponent roared and died. His corpse did not burst into flames. I did not absorb his soul.

A small chest appeared, and I quickly opened it.

Inside was a key and filled Black Soul Gem. I took the key. I never take Black Soul Gems.

Another portal appeared. A second later, I heard the roar of The Druhunian Dragon returning.

I entered the portal just as The Druhunian Dragon appeared in the flames.

I materialised before a skull. No soul was attached to it. I assume it was likely the original of the ensorceled dragon.

There was a single door in the small cavern.

I summoned Celestine and Rigmor.

Rigmor said, “I can feel your anger and sadness, Wulf.”

“They have enslaved a dragon. Whenever he is defeated in battle, they transfer his soul into the skeleton of another dragon. They restore him using the Lifeforce of mortals as Alduin did. However, they do it rapidly, and within a minute of defeating him, he reappeared, ready for battle.”

“He managed to tell you this?”

“Yes, and he said the leader of all this is called ‘The Master.’ He couldn’t tell me anything else. He would have welcomed being erased from time. I cannot imagine the existence they have forced upon him. And for a skeleton to be suitable for restoration, they would have to replace the existing soul, thus erasing it from existence.”

“Oh. That is terrible. And you can’t do anything to help this poor dragon.”

“No, and that has fuelled my anger. Let’s find something to take it out on.”

We drew our weapons and exited into a tunnel.

Rigmor asked, “Can you please turn your lantern up a bit, Wulf?”

“Yes, of course. We could use Magelight, but that annoys me as it floats around and gets in the way.”

I adjusted my lantern and we continued.

We could hear Dremora chattering in Daedric before we saw them.

I killed many with Unrelenting Force, and Rigmor’s arrows poked out of several.

We found a burnt victim in a cage.

Skeletons were strewn around. Next to one of them was a note.

I read it out loud.

“That beast is utterly terrifying.

Other prisoners have been fed to it.

When I close my eyes, those fangs are all I can see now.

I don’t wanna…

Stop it!

With my last effort, I’m gonna shock that bastard.

I know it hates being electrocuted.

If I’m going to scream, you will scream with me, monster!”

  • Rigmor: Do you think they are referring to the dragon?
  • Wulf: I don’t know. I imagine this place is full of monsters with fangs.
  • Celestine: Are you as sceptical as me, Wulf?
  • Wulf: What do you mean? Don’t all prisoners have access to a quill, ink, and paper?
  • Rigmor: Paranoia strikes again!
  • Celestine: It is odd, Rigmor.
  • Rigmor: It is hard for me to recognise good odd from bad odd. I am surrounded by it when Wulf is nearby.
  • Wulf: What did I suggest before entering the portal?
  • Rigmor: That we might have to do things in a particular order.
  • Wulf: My reward for defeating the dragon was a key. I had to complete dangerous tasks when training with The Dragonguard and Psijic Order. They tested three things: armed combat, mage abilities, and mental acuity.
  • Celestine: Some of The Dragonguard have been traumatised by their training.
  • Rigmor: Some of them have told me that but were reluctant to go into details.
  • Celestine: To become a Shaman, Vayu often risked his life when completing training tasks.
  • Wulf: Trainee Imperial Battlemages often lost their lives when completing The Proving Ground of Battlespire.
  • Rigmor: I have heard of Battlespire but know very little about it.
  • Wulf: It is a complex tale worth telling, but not here.
  • Celestine: What is significant is that this feels like a test. Why did Wulf have to fight a dragon to obtain a key? Do the Dremora have to take this path to get from A to B?
  • Wulf: And I have no idea what the key is for. We shall encounter a door with an unpickable lock the key fits.
  • Celestine: Why were there convenient switches and levers we needed to find to proceed further?
  • Rigmor: We thought they didn’t make sense. But I see where they might be sensible if this is a test.
  • Wulf: Speculation on top of guesses. We won’t find the answers standing still.

Ramps led up, so that is where we went.

I stopped and laughed.

  • Wulf: Oh, look, a convenient, hard-to-miss twist handle.
  • Rigmor: Okay, that is a bit suspect.
  • Celestine: Do you think it might open a secret door?
  • Wulf: Do you mean a secret door that took a lot of effort to create?
  • Celestine: Yes, and then some idiot put this twist handle out in the open!
  • Wulf: Finding good artisans in this part of Oblivion must be hard.
  • Rigmor: Are we going to die of starvation while the sarcasm flows or what?
  • Wulf: Sheesh, talk about a party pooper.
  • Rigmor: Wulf, pull the fucking thing!
  • Wulf: Can’t you? You are pretty good at it.
  • Rigmor: Good at what?
  • Celestine: Give her a few seconds.
  • Rigmor: Oh! You pervert!
  • Wulf: Okay, I will tug at it now.
  • Rigmor: Wulf!

I pulled and twisted the handle.

It wasn’t a secret door that appeared but another portal.

I told the pair, “It is another portal to another part of this pocket plane. Please, do not follow me.”

Rigmor opined, “One of these portals is going to teleport you to the bottom of a lava pool.”

“Shh, they might be listening and hadn’t thought of that.”

“Aggh! I give up!”

“And the crowd erupts as the good guy wins again.”

“Are you implying that I am evil?”

“Are you? Try cackling, and we will judge your evilness.”

“Tell me you are okay when you get to wherever.”

“Yes, of course I will.”

I entered the portal and was teleported to another cavern.

I told Rigmor, “I am in another nondescript cavern. I can’t hear any Dremora.”

“Well then, summon us.”

“No, not until I am certain what nasties are in here, if any.”

Ancient Nord architecture was imbedded in walls. That does not happen over time. It must have been teleported to Oblivion from Nirn. Several Daedric Princes have dragged parts of Nirn into Oblivion in the past.

A while later, I told Rigmor, “Add another Daedric Prince to the list. There is a large statue of Clavicus Vile down here.”

“You told me one of his Dremora roams the bars of Skyrim.”

“No, that is one of Sanguine’s Dremora.”

“How come the Vigilants haven’t done something about that?”

“They wouldn’t recognise what he is, and I will not tell them. He is interested in creating mischief and not dangerous unless confronted.”

I looked over a cliff and saw a sealed sarcophagus below.

I leapt down.

A Dragon Priest burst from his resting place.

He was more powerful than most I have faced but not a great danger to me.

He vanished instead of turning into ash and dust. However, he left behind an extremely powerful Staff of Chain Lightning.

I climbed to an exit portal.

Upon entering the portal, I was teleported to the cavern where the ladies were waiting.

I called out, “I am here!”

They came running.

I handed the staff to Celestine, who was very impressed.

  • Celestine: This staff is more potent than you can create.
  • Wulf: Gosh, I discovered a powerful Staff of Chain Lightning soon after finding that not-very-suspicious note.
  • Celestine: Oh, the one that coincidentally mentions using electricity to harm an unnamed but toothy enemy.
  • Rigmor: Let’s keep moving before I drown in a pool of sarcasm.

Celestine handed me the staff, which I placed into my Journal Case. We rarely use Chain Lightning, as allies can get hurt.

We headed up a ramp and came to an unlocked door.

It led to a tunnel that looked remarkedly similar to others. However, I knew we had not been along it before.

After a while, we entered through a gate to another almost identical tunnel. However, this time, we heard a Dremora grumbling not far ahead.

The enemy barely had time to react before I was upon them and removing their head.

Our subsequent encounter was with a troll. It ignored us.

We went through another gate, which led to another familiar-looking tunnel.

We could hear many Dremora, and their voices echoed. We guessed we were heading for a large cavern.

We entered the large cavern with narrow walkways disappearing into the darkness above us. Other walkways were below. Falling off the walkways would guarantee a swim in lava.

At the bottom of the cavern was a circular apparatus that looked like a many-spoked wagon wheel.

Before heading down, I eliminated some Dremora with Unrelenting Force.

That caught the attention of numerous other Dremora who ran to investigate. I Shouted Dragon Aspect for extra protection.

We then ran towards the apparatus and eliminated dozens of Dremora. They were rather surprised when I jumped and landed in the middle of them!

I halted for a few seconds to admire Rigmor’s swordsmanship. She was superb!

Soon, the cavern was quiet, and the vanquished enemy lay around us.

I walked over and studied the apparatus.

  • Rigmor: What does it do?
  • Wulf: At a guess, it does something.
  • Celestine: I agree. It most definitely does something!
  • Rigmor: What exactly does it do? Give me a sensible answer, or I will be mightily pissed off!
  • Wulf: I have no idea what it does. This thing doesn’t resemble anything I have encountered before or read about.
  • Celestine: The number of Dremora guarding it suggests it is of some importance.
  • Rigmor: Yeah, but we opened a door to an almost empty room with many Dremora and nothing else.
  • Wulf: Logically, since we think The Master is intent on invasion, it does something of military importance.
  • Celestine: We need to find what controls it and experiment.
  • Rigmor: A lot of mages die that way.
  • Wulf: But they go, ‘Aha!’ just before they take their last breath.
  • Rigmor: Guess what?
  • Celestine: I think Rigmor hates you, Wulf.
  • Wulf: Her scorn cannot penetrate my shield of self-worth.
  • Rigmor: Don’t you mean your enormous ego?

I looked around and spotted another tribute to a Daedric Prince.

We made our way to it.

  • Wulf: Add Boethia’s lover to this place’s list of revered Dark Lords.
  • Rigmor: What is his name?
  • Wulf: Her name is Mephala.
  • Celestine: Boethia likes licks and dicks.
  • Rigmor: Celestine!!!
  • Wulf: Both of them can change gender. I wonder if they ever indulge in a bit of buggery?
  • Rigmor: Wulf!!!
  • Celestine: Do you think they can be both genders at once?
  • Wulf: I suppose they could be. It would make it easy if somebody told them to fuck themselves.
  • Rigmor: You two are perverts!
  • Wulf: Hey, we are not the gender-changing perverts!
  • Celestine: Let’s head up. I am sure we will accidentally stumble on well-hidden controls for the apparatus.
  • Wulf: My cynicism and suspicion glands agree.

We walked past some boxes, and I commented, “I am surprised they don’t have East Empire Company logos.”

After a few minutes, Rigmor stopped and yawned.

  • Wulf: I agree, my beloved. This place is getting tedious.
  • Rigmor: I thought my first trip to Oblivion would involve endless battles. Instead, we are travelling boring tunnels and caves that all look identical.
  • Wulf: The Ash Pit involved continuous fighting. And all the time, I had to put up with Malacath’s moronic taunts.
  • Celestine: It would be less tedious without the red tint to everything.
  • Wulf: Even High Hrothgar’s grey is less monotonous.

A Dremora was busy complaining to a non-existent audience and didn’t notice me sneaking behind them.

A katana shoved in their back and poking out their front relieved them of boredom.

Another Dremora was busily chatting to a Werewolf, which unsurprisingly didn’t talk back.

To the Werewolf’s relief, I ended the banal chatter by slitting the Dremora’s throat.

We didn’t surprise the next two Dremora, but they lasted no longer than their comrades.

A lever awaited us at the end of the tedious and long walkway.

  • Wulf: Should I feign surprise?
  • Rigmor: You did suggest they may be watching us.
  • Wulf: Oh, look, an unexpected lever!
  • Celestine: I wonder if it has anything to do with that mysterious apparatus?
  • Rigmor: Quick, Wulf, pull the lever!
  • Wulf: But it may be dangerous!
  • Rigmor: We live for the thrill of danger. It is in our blood. Now pull!
  • Wulf: You should do it. You are an expert at pulling long, hard things.
  • Rigmor: Wulf!!! That joke wore thin earlier.
  • Wulf: Okay, I will do it.

I grabbed the lever and started to groan.

  • Rigmor: What is wrong?
  • Wulf: Nothing, it is just a bit stiff. I might have to tug it several times.
  • Celestine: I can’t believe you fell for that.
  • Rigmor: Either can I.

A Fire Atronach appeared in the centre of the apparatus.

I floated down and summoned the ladies.

When I approached the apparatus, the Atronach attacked.

It was far more powerful than any Fire Atronach I have faced before. Still, it only took seconds to destroy it.

The Atronach’s soul manifested as a transparent Dremora.

It, too, was above average in strength and ability. We soon eliminated it.

A Sigil Stone was on the ground. It was not an anchor for the Oblivion Gate, so it was unimportant to us.

Usually, a Fire Atronach leaves behind a set of empty armour. This one left a skeleton inside.

  • Wulf: I don’t know what goes into creating one of these Atronachs, but an army of them would present a problem.
  • Rigmor: The Master’s plan is being revealed as we go.
  • Wulf: We are still assuming things that are yet to be proven.
  • Celestine: I think that we will find a detailed journal outlining their entire strategy.
  • Rigmor: The New Order morons of Oblivion.
  • Wulf: Aedriath did outwit us, Rigmor.
  • Rigmor: He did so by sacrificing people. That is why you didn’t see it coming.
  • Celestine: How do we get out of here?
  • Wulf: There was another passage near Mephala’s tribute.

We traversed the very long passage, killing a few inattentive Dremora as we went.

We ended up at a door.

It lead outside.

To reach the taller tower, we had to cross a bridge. We headed for it.

I killed several Dremora guarding the bridge.

When we started to cross the bridge, I noticed a Dremora on a small island in the distance.

Via Zoom Vision, I saw her practising an incantation.

Then, a book appeared in her hand, and she stared in my direction.

I had a closer look and swore.

The Dremora lost interest and started reading her book.

  • Rigmor: Wulf, your anger is high again.
  • Wulf: On a distant island is a female Dremora. She is wearing a Thalmor uniform.
  • Rigmor: Bitch! Can you kill her from here?
  • Wulf: Yes, but not now. She might have information we will lose if I make her fall into the lava.
  • Celestine: She might even divulge something if Wulf confronts her.
  • Wulf: Arrogant enemies often tell me things as they boast about my imminent demise.
  • Celestine: High-level Dremora can appear human, like the one in the inns of Skyrim. It doesn’t mean The Thalmor are cooperating with The Master.
  • Rigmor: I look forward to her demise.

I had recovered several keys in the first tower. One of them unlocked the bridge gate.

A fire-filled moat protected the front of the tower. A walkway led to the entrance and was patrolled by a single Dremora.

Unrelenting Force killed him.

Other Dremora could be seen to the right of the moat.

Once again, Unrelenting Force eliminated our enemies.

We were surprised Dremora to the left of the moat did not attack us. It was likely they had strict orders not to move from the side entrance.

An unpickable lock secured the entrance.

  • Wulf: I wondered if our good friend, Mehrunes Dagon, would be represented.
  • Rigmor: Is that his ugly head above the door?
  • Wulf: Yep.
  • Rigmor: What did he look like when he appeared in The Imperial City?
  • Wulf: He was red, had four arms and was about forty feet tall. He wielded a colossal battleaxe and spiked gauntlets.
  • Celestine: Akatosh’s avatar was bright gold and must have looked beautiful in comparison.
  • Rigmor: What happened to Martin Septim?
  • Wulf: Uncle Sheo thinks he turned into Akatosh’s avatar, and so do I. Others believe he was utterly consumed by the power held within The Amulet of Kings. Either way, his soul resides in Aetherius.
  • Rigmor: Major gobblygook?
  • Wulf: Metaphysics we have no hope of understanding.
  • Celestine: We had better look for another entrance.
  • Wulf: As I said earlier, there were many Dremora to the left and a few still live. Therefore, let’s head that way.

It did not take long to eliminate the remaining enemy, including the Dremora Lord who was out of Thu’um range earlier

We entered with weapons drawn.

The door was not locked, but a gate behind it was. One of the keys I had accumulated unlocked it, and we entered an octagonal room.

We disposed of the Dremora who attacked us.

Other Dremora were in corridors that ringed the room.

While they wasted their breath taunting us, I deactivated a few traps.

A Sigil Stone emitted red light, but I didn’t think it did anything else.

I recovered a key from the table.

If the taunting Dremora had stayed behind walls of skulls, they would have been safe. Instead, they came up to some grating to taunt us and paid for their idiocy.

I said, “The Faces of Madness represent Uncle Sheo.”

A door led from the octagonal room to a stairway.

Rigmor exclaimed, “Wow! No red tint!“

Celestine replied, “I am sure we will find a lot more red.“

After killing a few Dremora, we entered a room with four doors.

A portcullis lowered, trapping Celestine and me on one side and Rigmor on the other.

The problem was resolved by summoning her to us.

  • Wulf: I will start with the door to the right and go anti-clockwise.
  • Rigmor: Why?
  • Wulf: The existence of Faces of Madness hints that things will not make much sense.
  • Celestine: Going clockwise would be what most people do.
  • Rigmor: Are all the doors unlocked?
  • Wulf: I guarantee the last door in my sequence will be locked.

Rigmor tried the last door, and it was locked. She mumbled, “Smart arse.”

I opened the first door and killed a Dremora in the room beyond.

A chest concealed a portal.

  • Wulf: When I open this chest, I will be teleported to another part of this pocket plane.
  • Rigmor: You know the routine, Dragonbum.
  • Wulf: Yes, mistress, your humble servant shall contact you when he pops out the other side.
  • Rigmor: Even if you are submersed in lava?
  • Celestine: Your humour is getting as dark as Wulf’s.
  • Rigmor: I was expecting terror and a constant battle for survival. But all this killing of Dremora and seemingly mindless travelling is boring.
  • Wulf: Here goes.

I retrieved another key from the chest before being teleported to an island in a sea of darkness.

The remains of a Nord ruin dominated one end.

A Dremora Lord approached from the other end.

I told Rigmor via our rings, “They have been moving parts of Nirn into Oblivion. Several Daedric Princes have done that in the past. I will see if the lone Dremora Lord wants a chat before I cut him down.”

“Be nice and remember your manners.”

In Daedric, I asked the Dremora, “Lord, what is this place?”

“It has been torn from out of its world and souls sent to The Great Devourer. The Master will send me more!”

I chuckled and said, “The Master and The Great Devourer are such generic names it’s laughable.”

The Dremora Lord ran towards me.

A couple of hits with my Katana, and he was finished.

I looked around and saw a clay tablet next to a burnt corpse. On it was the following message,

“I have to write quickly.

A terrible quake shook the land, and flames appeared everywhere. I fled the temple before the collapse, but there were blades, blood and evil!

I ran while asking, ‘Where am I now?’ I cannot recognise this place. Is this a nightmare?’

I have found cover, but he is hunting me. I must be silent and think. I need to find my way out of here…”

I stepped through a portal and found myself in front of the chest.

I moved into the room, and my mood was foul.