Chapter 25 The Nature of Evil
Lemnos had lost his mind. He had made some sort of pact with Sheogorath. Sheogorath: the Prince of Madness, the Mad God. He was a daedra lord and a being of frightening power. Like all the daedra lords, he did not interfere with the lives of men directly. Immortal, powerful, and near omniscient, the daedra lords were known to rally men and mer towards their own causes. The individuals, Lemnos in my case, were the ones that did the work. The daedra lords feuded with one another and were involved with existential matters such as prophecies and fate. I knew that if Lemnos truly had formed an alliance with Sheogorath, then was beyond reaching. Sheogorath had given Lemnos enough power to destroy Tel Vos and kill Aryon, and had taken his sanity as a price. I knew I would have to kill him and put a stop to his evil.
I shifted my stance and held my broadsword with both hands, preparing for a strike. Lemnos immediately noticed this, and turned his full attention to me. With one raised hand, he shouted out, “Superus Fulgailus!” Bolts of lightning shot of from his hand and struck the three of us. Xighden and Prophiter dropped to their knees. I managed to stay standing. Nords had a resistance to such magicka. I suffered through the pain and held my sword high once again. Lemnos turned, in surprise to see me still standing and enacted another spell. “Solum Dimidius,” he said, more calmly. The ground around us shook and cracks started to appear. The rift in the floor separated Prophiter, Xighden and I. I started to slip away into what was becoming a pitfall below. I wouldn’t let him take me down that easily though. I suspected that in a contest of pure magicka, Lemnos would come up my superior, so I wanted to take him out with my blade, as quickly as possible.
I hopped off the section of stone that was falling apart and landed on solid ground. “Lemnos!” I shouted, charging towards the wizard. It was only seven strides or so before I was close enough to strike. I slashed my sword down upon the startled High Elf.
“Oblomior Nextus Magicka!” Lemnos shouted. He conjured a powerful shield at the last moment before my broadsword struck. My weapon deflected off. I struck again and again, but his shield was impenetrable. Soon, Lemnos’ two guards, the female Wood Elf and the Orcish man. They rushed in from either side to cover Lemnos. I stepped back, raising a strong guard in preparation for their attack. They did not attack though. They simply stood in front of the High Elf, covering him from any possible threat.
“Stand down, both of you. I’ll deal with the human,” Lemnos said, as his shield dissipated and he rose to his full height. “Arwaen, follow the Bosmer, Draco, handle the Khajiit.”
His two protectors followed his commands without a word and ran past me. The Elf, Arwaen, followed Prophiter and the Orc, Draco, charged after Xighden. I turned to watch the two of them, as they eagerly dove into what had become a large chasm behind me. I hadn’t even noticed Prophiter and Xighden fall down into the gap, but they were both gone from my sight. I hoped that they were all right, but I didn’t let that thought distract me. My focus was Lemnos.
“So, Magnus, it’s just the two of us, now. I’ve been waiting for this for some time,” the High Elf said. He stepped back from me and paced to one side. His breath was heavier and his eyes were focused. I felt as though he could strike at any time. I was ready for him. It was my destiny to come to Ald Daedroth and kill him. I would see to it that that destiny was fulfilled.
“Lemnos, you know I’m here to kill you,” I announced to him. “Your death is inevitable, but there is something I want to know.” His face showed a twisted smile, either intrigued by my candidness or amused by my confidence. It didn’t matter to me; he had gone mad.
“A question, Magnus? Certainly. I will indulge your pathetic, human mind.” Lemnos responded with elven arrogance. He stood still, with his chin raised and his eyes glowering down at me. I didn’t move either, but I held a tight grip on my blade. The tip of the Nordic broadsword rested on the stone floor. I took a breath and tried to from my words. The Imperials, Sheogorath, my destiny; they were all entwined.
“Firstly…why are you here? Why Ald Daedroth and why me? I know that destiny has been pulling me here, but why to face you? How is it that this all connects?” I asked emphatically. Lemnos turned his gaze away from me, with his mouth clenched shut and a sneer on his face, as if he smelled something foul. After a few seconds, he quickly turned back to me and angrily spat out an answer.
“You…arrogant fool!” he shouted. His calm, yet determined expression had been replaced with one that showed hatred. His eyes flared with anger as he responded. “You have no place in this prophecy! You are insignificant to Sheogorath’s intentions! This prophecy is about me! The Father has given me the strength to dominate the minds of the weak and rule this land! This ring was my first gift!” I eyed a golden ring around his finger that shone with magickal enchantment. “You are merely an obstacle. You were chosen as a perfect test for my abilities. You and your followers are to battle me and mine. After the three of you are dead, Sheogorath will bestow his final blessings upon me and I will activate the true power of this temple!” Lemnos shouted with fervor. I didn’t know if I believed him. There was no way that my destiny was flawed; I was sure of it. He had lost too much of his sanity to realize that whatever plan Sheogorath was enacting, it was about me and not him. I didn’t stop him there, though. I wanted to know more.
“Xighden and Prophiter. What do they have to do with this? Why is it that the three of us must die?” I asked.
“I keep telling you! You three are not important, not as individuals. Whoever you are is irrelevant. It’s only the roles you’re here to play that are important in fulfilling the Father’s plan. You three are here representing virtue and decency. As flawed as you all are, you stand in this temple in opposition to what I am. And I am evil. I have devoted myself to evil. I have broken off the chains of the counter activity of the mind. My mind is under my control, now, fully! I am not restrained by the oppression of the soul. I am free!” Lemnos proclaimed. His explanation seemed nonsensical. I gave it little contemplation.
“Lemnos, that’s ridiculous. I assure you, I’m in control of my mind more than you,” I said. He began to laugh in response. He was pent up with confidence that he couldn’t wait to throw back at me, trying to put me in my place.
“Oh, no. You have no idea,” he said, between laughs. “Every decision you make and every action you take originates from the flawed center of your mind. You are rooted in the subconscious preconceptions of your human soul. It affects you in ways you’ll never even comprehend. You are a slave to your mind!” The Telvanni’s ramblings were giving me no useful information. A madman was telling me my mind was flawed. I ignored his nonsense and asked him one final question.
“All right, then. This temple, Ald Daedroth, why is it so important?!” I shouted back at him.
“Why Ald Daedroth? Ha! You know so little! This temple is no ordinary daedric shrine. It is the first daedric shrine. This spot is where all the daedra lords gathered the energy to materialize into this world. It is their birthplace. There is a powerful magicka in its architecture. Ha ha ha! This is not a house made of stone!” Lemnos burst into laughter, in a true pinnacle of madness.
“What is it then, Lemnos? If you claim to be so enlightened, then show me what it is about this place that makes it a place of destiny.” Lemnos’ laughter slowed to a subtle snickering. With a quick thrust of his hand, and a small spell of lightning, he showed me what I wanted to see.
A small, blue bolt of electricity snapped from his hand and streaked across the wall nearby us. Small scraps of stone shattered off the surface and peeled away what was underneath. I saw a pale glow come from where he had struck the wall. Refocusing my eyes, I saw what the surface beyond the wall was. It was gemstone. The same type of gem used in soul trapping spells. I was confused, but as I looked at the High Elf’s sinister smile, I realized what he meant by “not a house made of stone.”
Raising my sword, I slashed downward at the floor below me. Small chunks of stone were scraped away from the surface. Just like the walls, the floor had a solid base of gemstone behind a thin layer of stone tile. I looked up at Lemnos and realized what he had been speaking of. I then understood how truly dangerous Ald Daedroth was. Lemnos was reveling in my sudden understanding of what was going on. “This whole place…is made of soul gems?!” I asked. He simply nodded and smiled. The connection of events gave me another disturbing realization. “Dominate the minds of the weak,” Lemnos had said. The Telvanni in Tel Vos had been afraid of someone stealing his soul. I connected the events and was left with an empty feeling in my stomach. I closed my eyes, almost ready to vomit.
The priests and Ordinators had been warning everyone of the spreading madness caused by Dagoth Ur. It weakened their minds and drove them insane. Lemnos was using the power of Ald Daedroth to snare their souls. The weakened minds of the whole Dark Elf continent were being slowly drained into the daedric shrine. And any novice student in the Mages Guild knew that the greater the energy within a soul gem, the greater the magicka that could be wielded because of it. And that was how Lemnos planned on taking Vvardenfell, and eventually all of Morrowind, perhaps more.
“Yes, Magnus. What you suspect is true. I have broken through the barriers set by the Telvanni House…or your Mages Guild. For so long the soul of an elf or a man was thought of as impossible to contain. Too complex, the Telvanni said. And moral blasphemy, said the Imperials. But I’ve done it. Aryon worked it out, and I perfected it.” His words sickened me. A human soul, turned into magicka, processed into something mindless. It was a rule that had always been absolute: the spirit of a man or mer is exceedingly more complex than that of an animal, and can never be contained within anything other than the mind. It was a rule that created borders around what a human is. Without such rules, the world just seemed to be that much more of a tainted place. Hollow and frightening. I felt the emotion resurface, and I couldn’t help myself from falling to my knees and regurgitating. With my hands clenched into fists and my eyes still shut, I responded shakily to him.
“Lemnos you… you can’t just do that. I won’t let you,” I said, feeling too drained to muster up any strength. The elf bellowed laughter as he responded.
“Oh, but I can! The signet ring that the Father has bestowed upon me had only a small fraction of the power that this temple does, and I managed to capture my two servants quite nicely.” I cracked open one eye to once again, see the glimmer of an enchanted, golden ring around one finger.
“You mean the elf…and the Orc? That is the result?” I asked. When I had spoken with Berossus in Bal Isra, he had said that he encountered a Wood Elf and an Orc that felt empty inside. All that time, when they followed us and scouted out where we traveled, they had been slaves to Lemnos’ will.
“Yes! Both skillful mercenaries, bending to my every thought! Now imagine an army, or a nation, under the same control! Do you finally realize the potential of Sheogorath’s plan? Can your barbarian mind comprehend what you are witnessing?” Lemnos zealously asked me. I opened my eyes and breathed in again. The reality of the situation made my head spin. Of all the talk about stopping Lemnos, the Imperials, Dagoth Ur, or whatever other forces we had assumed were at work, nothing had prepared me for the moment where I actually discovered the truth. Stealing human souls: it was twisted. And it opened a new dimension of Sheogorath’s influence. Lemnos was no longer an elf. He had been warped deep inside. He had become the face of malicious ambition, and he truly embodied the nature of evil.
I cleared my head and responded to the Telvanni wizard. I took a deep breath and exhaled. “Yes, I comprehend. I realize how what you’ve become: a puppet of Sheogorath. He’s taken your mind and is using you as a pawn in this sick scheme. I will end you Lemnos. I will put an end to this here and now and there will be no need for remorse when I kill you. Whatever you were in the past is dead, and I don’t need to restrain myself from stopping what you’ve become.” Again, I took a deep breath. Thinking back to what happened in Vivec with Tiram Gadar, I recalled the feeling of being of the fringe of death. It was an inner, instinctive state of mind that was available to me through my Nordic blood. A pure warrior’s feeling. It was what Xighden or Snorri would call “killer instinct.” A moment, a sense of now, that unquestionably means that your life is equal to someone else’s death. I exhaled. Our battle began and my destiny unfolded.
Lemnos raised his arms, and shouted words in the language of magicka, summoning a clanfear before me. My charge did not waver, and the daedroth fell to a precise slash of my Nordic blade. Lemnos called forth storms of fire and lightning to stop me. My sword slashed at the flames, dispersing them into sparks and embers. The bolts of lightning, I merely let hit me. My barbarian body could handle the shock and my mind was too driven to care about pain. Lemnos’ confident face changed to one more stern. His spells did not stop, though. Another barrage of magicka came at me in waves. Lemnos backed away as translucent spheres pulsed out of his palms. I did not recognize what spell he was casting, so I attempted to avoid all of the spheres. My speed was enough to dodge the first few, but soon enough, I was struck by several of them. And with that, my charge finally slowed. After being hit, I realized that Lemnos had cast a mysticism spell that drained stamina. My arms and legs became harder to move, but I persevered. I fought through the effects and finally reached the range of melee combat. I stabbed my broadsword right towards his abdomen. With great strength and speed, I hit my target, with the High Elf only partially avoiding the attack. Upon impact, I felt that beneath his robe was armor. Not much, but enough to reduce the potential of my strike. Lemnos, gasped, but pushed me away with a telekinetic wave. I pulled back my sword, with his elven blood staining my hands. He grabbed his left side, where blood had spurted from beneath his torn robe.
Rage blossomed on his face and he retaliated, screaming, “Die, vermin!” Another telekinetic wave was called forth to knock me back. I responded with a shield of magicka to protect myself. It was brief, but enough to keep me in swinging distance. I was still close enough to rain down a forward slash. I knew that every movement I made was fueled with my full power. It then surprised me when Lemnos raised one open hand to stop my sword’s deadly progression. He grabbed it firmly as the edge cut in between his fingers and thumb. “Animus Devoda!” he shouted. My weapon fell victim to his magicka as the telekinesis spell flung the blade from my grasp. My broadsword, stained with his elven blood, sailed across the room and landed far out of my reach.
“I don’t need a weapon to kill you, wizard. I’m just as strong as you are,” I said, with both raging determination and a fracture of self doubt. I channeled the magicka within me and cast a spell of poison. A green venomous mass appeared and billowed into his face. Lemnos shouted and gasped, caught off guard by my altered plan of attack. It was not long before he retaliated with magicka of his own.
The wizard conjured a ball of flame that flared out angrily upon its arrival. Seeing this, I wasted no time in crafting a similar bulk of magickal energy; mine composed of frost and cold. We both stared each other in the eye, realizing that we were about to engage in a direct contest of strength of will. I felt that he was stronger than me, but I had my instincts, my bloodline, my destiny, and an elemental advantage on my side. We both shouted and threw our arms forward, letting the magicka that we controlled surge out in an explosive, linear blast.
The impact was nothing less than sheer destruction, with everything within a twenty meter radius being and demolished. There was a thunderous boom that echoed throughout he temple. It made the ceiling shudder. There couldn’t have been a creature on the small island that hadn’t heard it. Only Lemnos and I remained standing, protected by our own energies and continuing the power struggle. He stood arched forward, with both hands controlling the pillar of fire. I leaned forward as well, in a similar position, commanding my blast of frost to engage his flame. The two of us were at a standstill, shouting, in a finalization of the intensity, for at least thirty seconds. As the passage of time eventually clicked back in motion, I felt Lemnos wavering. I was winning. I could feel my magicka push forward and break his control. He lowered his arms and stepped back; his screams intensified.
When I had given the struggle everything I could and I felt as though victory was upon me, Lemnos did something that I could’ve never predicted. His shouting continued, but it was no longer in a fit of rage. He formed words through his bellowing, words in a daedric tongue that I had never heard before.
“Arahnal Rexor Daedroth! Irian Meydan Ald Daedroth!” he screamed. Still locked in our contest of magicka, I couldn’t help but notice how the walls began to shine. A powerful blue light bled from the walls, and even the floors. Every surface of Ald Daedroth began to break free of its stone skin and blind me with its energy. The light intensified and my control faded. The magicka inside me was drained out and I lost consciousness.
Opening my eyes, I was removed from the struggle with Lemnos as well as the blinding light. I looked around to witness what seemed to be the utter decimation of the temple. Everything lay in ruins, with a roof barely hanging over our head and the faint glow of morning twilight seeping in through the many cracks. It was almost dawn. The whole night had passed. Pillars were knocked over and rubble lay everywhere.
I saw the body of Lemnos collapsed on the floor. What seemed like a corpse lay face down in the semi-earthen surface. I breathed in deeply. 'Is it over?' I asked myself. There was no sign of anyone, anywhere. It was just me, standing next to the High Elf’s corpse. I slowly walked over to him, to assure that he was dead. If there was even the possibility of his survival, then I needed to be sure. I put my hand on his shoulder, and rolled him face up. I needed to see.
To what was an initial repulsion, and eventual satisfaction, I found a smile. Not a smile that was evil, or conniving, or boastful, but something much more shocking. Lemnos’ body was definitely lifeless, but his face had adapted to rigor mortis in a bizarre fashion. His face could only be described as maniacal. The expression that remained on him pulled his cheeks up past his eyes, tearing his skin and creating an impossible smile that spread literally from ear to ear. His teeth protruded through what was left of thin lips and his eyes bulged out of his sockets. It was a horrific sight that I could only partially enjoy with the knowledge of his demise. “Damn you, Lemnos, you twisted bastard.” I said aloud. “Why did you let yourself become this?” I sat beside him, unable to look away, not yet fully realizing my situation. I saw the ring that he had shown me earlier. It was the ring that contained the souls of his two servants. Reminded of my disgust of his actions, I quickly grabbed the ring and threw it on the ground. I picked up a nearby rock and smashed the attached gemstone. It was right to free their spirits. Arwaen and Draco, whoever they were. I don’t know if they were even alive. After that thought, I realized that Prophiter and Xighden could also be dead. I didn’t dwell on that notion, though. Thoughts of friends, destiny, pain, sacrifice, and anger were all subdued by a slow, creeping feeling. I couldn’t identify it, but it was there, undeniably. A small period of time passed.
It had only been seconds when I heard something: laughter. At first, it was a muffled snickering. It echoed throughout the temple. From down in every corner of darkness I heard it. I stood up and tried to detect anything, to no avail. Soon, it was a powerful laugh that pounded in my head. The voice only became more shrill and piercing, until the maniacal cackle became so disrupting that it physically materialized into a presence before me.
A ghastly blue image hovered in front of me. It illuminated the temple with its rapidly flickering light and filled Ald Daedroth with the chilling laughter. Eventually, in between spurts of laughing, words were formed. It was Lemnos, still alive in some way or another, and no less determined on my destruction.
“Magnus…do you see?! This is true power! I am no longer shackled to the physical restraints of the mundus! I am energy! I am magicka!” His words were fluctuating in tone and actually spat out small fiery sparks. “What I am now, human…this is what a god is! Pure control! No restraint!” From inside the humanoid image of what impossibly, yet undeniably was Lemnos, came a solid bolt of lightning. It struck me directly in the chest. Nords were known for their physical resistance to frost and shock, but there was no resisting what he threw at me. I fell to the ground, unable to move, my skin actually smoking from the heat. My insides felt extremely hot and my mind could barely operate. All I could realize was that Lemnos had attained true power. He had become something that was beyond my understanding or my control. I didn’t know how to stop him, or if I even wanted to know how. I closed my eyes and realized that I was at my end. Despair.
It was not yet my end, though. From amidst the howling entity that was no longer a High Elf named Lemnos, but instead an embodiment of madness, came a force. Something that stopped me from giving in and commanded my eyes back open. It was a person, who spoke to me.
“No, not quite yet, I’m afraid. Just a while longer, my good sir, and then you can rest.” The voice was of a human. It was a Breton, by the accent. The well-spoken, polite voice of a Breton man created a true contrast to Lemnos’ horrific laughter.
“You too, Telvanni. Quiet, please.” The pounding, slicing, screeching laughter instantly stopped upon the word “quiet”. And very soon, there was absolute silence. I found myself suddenly standing upright, quite refreshed and not at all near death from electrocution. Lemnos stood beside me, still in his blue form of pure magicka, but with so much definition in his shape, that he looked more like his old self. Together we stood, staring at each other, but not saying a word. He seemed frozen, as if unable to move. I tried to think of why what was happening, was happening, but I hadn’t the slightest idea.
Soon the unknown voice had a body connected to it, and a middle-aged Breton man stood before us. He was clean shaven and well dressed. He stood upright, and leaned forward slightly, holding himself up with an ornate cane in his right hand. “Hello, Magnus,” he said, extending his hand. I unthinkingly offered my own, and we shook hands. “Well, you’re surely wondering what’s going on here, so I’ll explain it for you, if you’d like.”
“I…yes, but, what about him?” I mumbled with confusion.
“Lemnos? Yes, poor fellow. I warned him not to abuse the power, but he went and did it anyway. That’s what happens to people with too much passion…and not enough wisdom. I had thought he would be of use for what’s yet to come, but…oh, well. He is of no threat to you, I assure.” The man waved one hand, and the unmoving figure of Lemnos vanished. The pure magicka that made up his body dematerialized, and he wisped away into nothingness. I then stood alone with the mysterious stranger. “Yes Magnus, let’s talk. It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Sheogorath.”