Chapter 21 Manifest Destiny
The Ogrim corpses lay lifeless in front of us. Their burning stench was unavoidable. I gazed out in the direction from where we had come. Even from up in the Sheogorad region, I could still see the ominous gathering of deep red clouds, swirling above Red Mountain, threatening to stretch out and cover the entire skyline. A new feeling had filled the air of Morrowind. Things were going to happen, soon. At first it was just Xighden’s excessive tail swishing and Prophiter’s somber tone, but as the five of us hiked over the rocky islands and braved off hordes of cliff racers, I realized that it was more than that. I felt drawn to our destination, to Lemnos, like he was stirring up my insides from afar. I was sure of the feeling, as irrational as it sounded; even rational thinking had left my mind days earlier. Ever since my battle with Umbra and my conversation with Cauis Cosades, it had been in me. The urge, the calling, was undeniable. It was overwhelming everything in me that practiced restraint and control. I couldn’t help but feed off of it. It began to affect my magicka as well.
For the last few hours, since we stepped off our ferry and began what seemed to be the last jaunt of our journey, we had been assaulted by cliff racers. Occasional slaughterfish and dreugh splashed up from the waters edge to attack us. Even rogue daedra were about, some aggressive, some not. As we fought them off, killed them, I had never felt such a control of the magicka within me. What took years of discipline and practice to control had suddenly been amplified, for no apparent reason. Every cliff racer that swooped down upon us, I could annihilate. When Vailant’s ankle had been twisted by the dreugh, it was mere child’s play to heal him. Even after we survived Lemnos’ trap in Tel Vos and been attacked by the Ogrim titans, I had nothing to fear. Ogrims were huge, immensely powerful daedra, able to crush a man’s body with ease. But when I reached out my hands and channeled the destructive magicka, they fell to the flames.
It was then, just moments after the last of the charred corpses fell to the cold earthen floor, that I had an epiphany. Such subtle and magnificent things epiphanies are, and that one was as equal with any that I’d ever felt. It was all about me. That was my realization. I, Magnus the Greymind, son of Hormooth, the Hand of Kyne, was being guided by the hand of fate. It was fate to some degree, of that I was sure. Whether it was the Nerevarine prophecies that I would fulfill or something greater, I knew that what I was doing was right. Every drop of destiny that rained down upon us was washing away the rubble of my limitations and guiding me to the place where I was supposed to be. It felt like there was a straight line between Lemnos and myself, and it was just a matter of time until I arrived there. And there I would find the truth. By giving in to the unbridled rush of desire and ambition that circled in my mind, I had opened up sense of freedom. I wasn’t bound by restraint, and my magicka had become stronger because of it. It all began to make quite perfect sense, and it only drove me to move forward, faster. After a few moments of staring at the Ogrim bodies, we collected ourselves and moved on.
Damn… that was intense,” Vailant said, referring to our battle with the giant daedra. “I’ve never even seen an Ogrim before.” As we crossed the perilous cliffs and slopes of the Sheogorad islands, the sun began to set. It was only an hour or so until dusk, and we all knew that we wouldn’t make it to our destination before dark. And if we did, we couldn’t act. To travel into a daedric ruin is dangerous enough, but to do so in the black of night would only be to place ourselves in the grasp of countless daedra. We would wait until morning when the creatures had dispersed for sleep.
As we hiked up over the peak of what seemed like the most mountainous island yet, we all stopped, and lay witness to our destination. The daedric ruins lay before us. Not on the small cluster of land bridges, but past that on a large, imposing peak of rock that stuck out from the water’s surface like a kwama forager emerging from its stony carapace. It was approximately half a mile away, probably less.
“Ald Daedroth.” Vailant gasped, nearly exhausted from our last uphill insurgence.
“Ald Daedroth?” Xighden repeated. “In the Dark Elf tongue that means…” He paused, trying to remember the translated words. I didn’t wait for him, and finished his thought myself.
“Demon’s Cradle,” I said. As I spoke the words, my companions’ somber realizations, as well as my own, became apparent with a warranted silence. This was not only a daedric tomb. This was Ald Daedroth, the first daedric tomb. Having read about Ald Daedroth in my studies, I knew that it was said to be the birthplace of daedra. It was where the great daedra lords like Malacath and Azura entered the mundane world of men and mer. It was also where common daedra where created from the bodies of the daedra lords. To infiltrate the tomb would not be an easy task.
We made our way down the other side of the high peak and settled on a flat, lower surface near the water’s edge. By then it was sunset, and we needed to rest. The red and orange of the setting sun reflected off the water to create a brilliant glare that both impressed and nearly blinded me. That, accompanied with the hazy crimson that bled from the skyline above Ald’ruhn, cast a scarlet shadow that touched everything I could see. We had landed in the northern Grazelands before noon, and it was about eight o’clock when the sun set. It had been arduous, but we were finally there. Only a night’s sleep was in between my goal and I.
We set up small camp by the stony shore of our island, finally relaxing from our long day of perilous travel. The five of us sat around a fire, which had become much appreciated in the growing cold.
“So, you’re still not talking, eh?” Vailant asked Prophiter. Prophiter shrugged in response. Vailant gave a slight laugh.
“So Magnus, what can you tell us of this Lemnos?” Xighden asked. “If we’re heading into the “Demon’s Cradle”, then we need to know our enemy.”
“Aye,” Snorri added. I crossed my arms and remembered what I could of Lemnos. I had only met him a few times, and only then through guild business, months ago.
“Lemnos is…cold, meticulous, and brutally efficient. He was ambitious, and a powerful apprentice to the Telvanni Lord, Master Aryon. He knows that we’re coming, so he’ll be much more prepared for us than we are for him. And whatever he has planned, we won’t be able to predict it. He’s too insidious to be easily outsmarted.” They all were silent; I assumed trying to imagine the battle that was ahead of them. I didn’t think that they could though. From what I had gathered, none of them were well educated on magicka, and definitely not the deeper studies. Only I really knew what Lemnos had in store for us; but even I didn’t know for sure.
Lemnos’ master, Aryon, had been a powerful wizard. The older someone becomes, the greater their potential for magicka becomes. And Aryon was an old elf. Over two hundred years, if my memory served me correctly. And despite all of Aryon’s power, Lemnos had been able to defeat him. Whether it was through some trickery or an all out battle, Lemnos had killed his own master. It made me wonder about how the High Elf’s power had grown. 'Is he stronger than me?' I thought. Three months ago, when I had first encountered Lemnos, I was a greater magicka user than he was. Time had passed though, and his potential was definitely great. That was aside from the fact that he had managed to take out one of the most powerful wizards in Morrowind. Apprehension? On top of all that, the Dark Elf that Snorri and Xighden had found alive in Tel Vos had apparently said that Lemnos had taken people’s souls. I didn’t know what he could’ve been talking about. I knew of soultrap spells that could contain the energy of lesser creatures such as birds, rats, or nix-hounds. But to attempt to capture the spirit of a man, or an elf? It was a twisted thought, only made acceptable by its impossibility. It was curious though, nonetheless.
“All right then, he’s a wizard. What else can you tell us? Like how he fights,” Snorri barked. I almost laughed.
“How he fights? He doesn’t.” I spoke with a pompous tone, trying to make them understand the situation. “Lemnos is a true wizard; he doesn’t need to raise a hand in combat.” They all began to take a greater interesting the conversation. Snorri leaned in with an aggravated look on his face.
“What do you mean by that? You’re a wizard; you fight. Why is this High Elf different?”
“I’m no wizard. I’m a mage,” I said to them. Before anyone could ask, I quickly offered an answer. “The difference is that a mage will undergo training in one or two branches of magicka. Wizards do not choose their field of study; they openly practice them all.”
"And…how does that affect us, exactly?” Vailant queried. I replaced my words with ones more functional.
“All right, then. Consider this: All the kinds of magicka you’ve seen me use stem from three main branches of study, Alteration, Conjuration, and Destruction. The fields of Restoration, Mysticism, and Illusion are…not my strongest practices. My mind, like the minds of all sentient beings, is better suited to channel the forces of only certain fields. That is why I study the mages path. Lemnos’ mind, accepts all six types of magicka, and he practices them all as well as I do mine.” No one spoke, as they began to understand the difference between Lemnos and I.
“So you’re saying he’s twice as strong as you!?” Vailant nearly shouted.
“No. That’s no my point. Three months ago, when I met Lemnos, I was stronger than he was. That was because I was more focused on only three kinds of magic, while his attention was spread to all eight types, including enchantment and alchemy. Time has passed though, and he doesn’t need to have mastered the different fields to be as, or more, dangerous than I am, given his range of ability. If you really want to know how he fights, then he would probably summon storm atronachs to defend himself, while casting a spell of burden upon you at the same time. Then he may strike you with lightning, choke you with a telekinetic grip, or burn away your sight, making you blind. His brain is suited to handle multiple spells simultaneously.” The next silence was even longer, as everyone looked as if they were imagining what might happen to each of them.
“Bah!” Snorri then shouted, breaking the silence. “I’ve killed wizards before and I’ll kill this one no different, whether I’m blind or not.” Xighden agreed, with Vailant echoing his confidence. Prophiter remained smothered in silence, as if in deep thought.
“You know, that’s probably a good attitude to have right now,” I said to them. Then I actually did laugh, along with the others, minus Prophiter. Everyone seemed reassured by Snorri’s utter lack of concern for his own well being. It was rousing.
“Not only will I slay the wizard-” Xighden claimed, between laughs.”…I’ll take his elven head for a trophy!” he shouted, with a resurfacing lust for battle. Snorri, Vailant and I nearly guffawed with appreciation for his bloodlust. Even Prophiter covered his mouth, trying not to make sound in the humour.
“Ah Xighden, you will be the death of me,” I told him, as the laughter died down. Night had long since fallen, and our fire was on its last legs. We all prepared for sleep, leaving one of us awake for watch. We figured Prophiter was a good choice.
He was obviously concerned about something unbeknownst to us, and he had a good sense of hearing. I closed my eyes and slept, letting the anxious, yet confident feelings in me subside for the night. The fire fell to sleep along with me, as Tales and Tallows came to an end.
I awoke to a sound that I had not heard all day: Prophiter’s voice. It wasn’t only his voice, but his screams.
“Get up! Wake Up!” he shrieked. I jumped up, my fatigue brushed off by adrenaline. It was still night, almost pitch black, and the firelight was long since gone. I could see the shapes of men in the dark, more than four. There were others amongst us.
“Daedra,” Xighden said, relying on his excellent night vision. “There are…” He paused and turned to look at his surroundings. “…many.” The five of us drew towards each others voices. We were almost back to back, all of us, when we heard a deep, inhuman voice speak.
“You are here to find the master.” the voice said. “There are excess bodies with you. We will correct that problem.” The grizzly sounding words stopped, and were replaced by the sound of footsteps.
“Lumina!” I shouted, raising one hand into the air. Out from my palm came a flare of light that rose above our heads, luminating the nearby area. It was the simplest spell from the school of illusion, but illusion was my weakest form. The faint, orange ball of light that hovered above us was weak, only bright enough to give us an impression of what we were up against.
What we were up against was Dremora, the strongest of the daedra that walked the earth. They were like spirits, warrior souls filled with hate, held together by the enchanted armor of the daedra. Jet black, and lined with blood red. It was among the lightest armor, yet also the toughest. Their faces matched their garb, black and red with rough spines protruding vertically from the temple to the jaw. My opportunity to examine them was short though, as they all seemed to charge only a second after the light had revealed them.
They had us surrounded, and each one of us had at least one of them to fight on our own. The light that I had created was barely enough to fight in, at least for men and mer. Xighden would have no problem in the dark. The one that attack me held an ebony staff in its hands, almost identical to my own. It swung the staff down at me, just barely being met by my own. Its might bested my own, and the next series of strikes were too forceful to be accurately blocked. I felt the blunt end of the staff smack right into the side of my head. The next blow jutted into my abdomen, completely winding me. I fell to my knees as the third strike was hammered down onto the back of my head. It took nearly all of my strength to raise my staff defensively and block the following swings.
“Pyrennus Ablego Perquam!” I yelled, hurling a wave of flames onto the daedric humanoid. The funnel of fire engulfed the dremora, wrapping around its body. As I held out my arm, channeling the spell, with my eyes closed in utter desperation, I felt the familiar impact of the ebony staff slam into my elbow. My control was shattered, and the flames quickly died out. 'Fool!' I thought. I suddenly remembered a line from one of the books I read as a student. 'Forged from the fires that tempered daedric blades, the Dremora resist all heat and flame.' My error was punished by another horizontal swing, making disturbingly effective contact with my face. I reeled back, catching a view of my companions.
Snorri and Vailant were suffering equal fates such as mine, simply not able to properly defend in the poor light. Prophiter was just barely dodging slashes from a huge daedric claymore. Xighden was the only one that had was holding his own, against two of them, no less. If I had a greater control of illusion magicka, then I could’ve summoned a greater light, but my ability to cast such spells had always been my weakest art. As the Dremora advanced upon my fallen self, but before it could swung down what may’ve been a final strike, Xighden spun away from his two opponents, gathering near all of us.
“Lumina!” he shouted, much to my surprise. A brilliant ball of light emerged from the tips of his claws and surged up into the air, merging with my own. The light intensified, bringing as much visibility as overcast daylight. Not only did it allow us perfect vision in the night, it seemed to momentarily blind the Dremora. Xighden’s use of Illusion showed that he had abilities aside from merely battle. In the midst of the bright glare, Xighden leaped over me entirely, spinning just before hitting the ground. His movement created a powerful force, which he channeled through his steel battle axe. The blade made a horrific slice into the blinded daedra and severed it nearly in half. The awkward creature stumbled and tripped, its upper body then reaching out at Xighden, but detaching from its legs before grabbing at him. The mystic armor had been penetrated, and upon hitting the ground it burst into mist, disappearing before our eyes. We all rose up and reformed.
There were six Dremora, after Xighden dispatched the one. They all reeled from the blinding light, but seemed to quickly accept it and came back at us. Snorri and Prophiter charged to meet two of them. Snorri heaved his battle axe, which crashed into one Dremora’s shortsword. The two engaged in melee combat, with Snorri’s axe having the weight advantage. Prophiter was much less forward, but no less dangerous. The black armored daedra that had been pursuing him earlier returned with his great claymore. A horizontal slash was aimed the Wood Elf’s his torso, but he ducked down and avoided the slice. From down low he then jumped up and spun in mid-air, stabbing his silver shortsword right into the Dremora’s throat and out the other side. The daedra stopped in its forward motion, but then turned to face Prophiter. He seemed shocked that his strike hadn’t been lethal. The Dremora raised his claymore to chop down upon the elf, but stopped before the blade could swing down. Prophiter’s strike took its effects, as mist began to seep out of the wound in its head. The daedra dropped the blade, and then fell to its knees. The claymore, as well as the black and red armor burst into mist. By then, another Dremora charged for Vailant, wielding a long mace. It attempted to bludgeon him, which he managed to defend against. As his close quartered combat began, Snorri’s was just ending. The Nord had beaten his opponent to the ground, and finished him off by raining down a blow to the skull. The Dremora’s face was sliced clean in two, the wound traveling all the way down into the platemail armor. Two more had been eliminated, and Xighden and I keenly engaged two more.
The five of us surrounded the remaining four Dremora. I sent waves of burden over Vailant’s opponent, causing its mace to drop to the ground. Vailant gutted the daedra and then retracted his blade, only to spin around into a backhand slash, beheading the demonic face from its body. More mist seeped into the air as Xighden and Snorri guided their axes into the trio of Dremora. I switched my staff into my left hand and unsheathed my Nordic broadsword in my right. A rushed what was soon to be the last of the daedra, wielding a katana. It moved quickly, but I managed to match each of its strikes. With one fierce blow, I knocked its sword and both its arms down to the ground, leaving it quite open. With my ebony staff thrust into its midsection I shouted out the command for a blast of frost. The Dremora had no resistance to the cold, and was stunned by the whips of ice and wind that encircled it. It was knocked back, without its katana. I prepared to make the final move, but was interrupted by Prophiter’s blade suddenly protruding through the Dremora’s chest. Xighden’s axe then hammered down diagonally across its shoulders. The creature struggled and tore away from us, with weapons still stuck in its body. It began to walk, but soon collapsed and disintegrated; Prophiter and Xighden’s weapons falling to the ground. We all relaxed, everyone equally fatigued from the experience, although my head was a little sorer than anyone else’s. We assembled our gear and tended to our wounds, sitting around a new campfire.
“Filthy bastard. That one cut me,” Vailant said, showing a gash that traveled along his abdomen.
“Then you should have been faster,” Snorri jested. “They were all just axe candy to me. Ha Ha!” No one was seriously injured, although all were little more aware of Lemnos’s reach. I was still wondering about Xighden’s display of magicka use.
“You never mentioned you could use magicka,” I said inquisitively to him.
“Hmm, yes. I never said that I did not,” he responded, almost as if avoiding the subject.
“But you do practice Illusion. Correct?” I continued.
“I once was taught about Illusion magicka by someone. It did not last long. What Magnus said earlier about a person’s mind being geared towards certain types of magicka, I did not know that. I have tried to use other types, but Illusion is my only skill. And even at that, it is not much.”
“You could create a light brighter than mine, though. That means your talent in Illusion besets my own.” I spoke in a praising tone, trying to convince him to tell me more.
“Hmm, perhaps.” That was all he said. The conversation then turned to other matters.
“Settle down now, you’ll be fine.” Snorri said to Prophiter.
“No, I won’t. Curse those demons. They made me speak during Tales and Tallows. Now the dead will rise from their graves to kill me,” Prophiter whined. Snorri bellowed with laughter. Vailant ignored them both, gently prodding his wound. I simply told him to stop worrying and go to sleep.
Eventually, Prophiter did fall asleep, along with Xighden and Snorri. I remained awake to keep watch. Vailant offered to stay up as well. After a few minutes, he brought me away from the campfire to talk.
“Magnus, after everything that’s happened here, the beasts, the journey, those…daedra, you still want to go ahead with this?” he asked me, in a surprisingly soft tone. He seemed afraid, or at least very anxious. I was somewhat taken aback by his lack of enthusiasm.
“Do I? Of course! Can you not feel the energy that comes from that place?” I emphatically asked him, gesturing towards Ald Daedroth. “Can’t you tell that’s where we’re destined to be?”
“Destined? I don’t know if I believe in that. And I don’t care. I just know that…well, heading in there is going to bring some serious danger. I want to make sure you know what you’re getting in to.”
“I’m ready. I can feel it. We’re going in, and we’ll kill Lemnos. We’ll kill anyone he has with him and we’ll survive this whole ordeal,” I said to him. He paused, seeming unable to properly form his sentences.
“I…It’s just there’s still time to turn back. Forget about this.” It was strange to hear him say such things. “How can he not know this is where I’m meant to be? This is my destiny!” I thought.
“Vailant, there’s no shame in turning back now. If you want to leave, then you can,” I assured him. He shook his head glumly.
“No, I can’t leave, not now. I just wanted you to know that there’s danger in there you won’t expect. I mean, I’ve been here before. I know. If it’s your decision to go in, then you should be sure of it, and the consequences.”
“I am,” I said to him. He shook off his glum demeanor, and turned back to the fire.
“Just checking,” he said with a smile. He returned to the others to sit by the fire.
I stayed and stared out across the water to the shadowy presence of Ald Daedroth. I felt as if I could see through the darkness and past the stone walls of the ruins, into the heart of Ald Daedroth and upon Lemnos himself. He stared back at me, with golden skin and amber eyes. “Are you coming or not, Magnus? I’m just across the water and I’m growing tired of waiting. Let’s hurry this along, now.”
Assurance. I smiled and turned back to the camp. I then realized that it wasn’t until someone challenged your determination that you became fully aware of it. I returned to the camp. It was only hours until daybreak.