Chapter 27 Enter Sheogorath
Running through the underground tunnels of Ald Daedroth was like running through a maze. There were hallways that lead to round rooms that contained little more than passages to more hallways. I could see well enough, due to my good night vision, but there were few torches anywhere. Along the floor, my tail dragged amongst bones and dust. Occasional rats ran around by my feet. I had to use all my will not to chop them in half with my Umbra. I was saving it for a proper battle.
Umbra felt amazing as I held it in my hands. It was a masterpiece of weaponry. The solid black metal that formed the blades was perfectly symmetrical. Each edge was bordered by sharp spines that curved inward. The handle had a thick base, which I kept my grip tight on. And all along the flat surface were deep, blood red runes that glowed faintly in the dark light. It was perfect and it was mine.
I tried not to be distracted by Umbra, though. I needed to find Magnus and Prophiter. I needed to find out what was going on and what I needed to do. There was something else in me, though. Ever since we had arrived in Sadrith Mora and set northward for Ald Daedroth, there had been an anxiety within me. It kept me agitated, and surfaced in an act of violence when I had fought Prophiter. I thought that that had been the end of it, but I was wrong. As we walked in through the temple, I had felt something. It was a connection with Ald Daedroth and me. The daedric shrine pulsed with some magickal force. It was like a heartbeat. I fought it at first; I resisted the strain of being in such a place. But somewhere during my battle with the Orc and winning Umbra, it had taken over. I had given in to the strain, and the presence of Ald Daedroth filled me.
The feeling was invigorating. It flooded my mind and washed away my restraint. All my previous concerns became harder and harder to grasp on to, until eventually, they were completely out of sight. What I had discussed with Snorri in Tel Vos, my search for validation and my fear of the afterlife, was gone. After claiming my Umbra, my mind was ridden of any such thoughts. Everything was simplified. All there was was what was happening now. Magnus, Prophiter, Lemnos, Ald Daedroth; nothing else mattered. Everything in my mind was clear, and all my thoughts were paced to the thumping of Ald Daedroth’s heartbeat.
The heartbeat was pounding in the back of my head. I heard it, felt it, and obeyed its rhythm as it pushed me forward. Forward, forward, forward, that was all I needed to know. Everything was simplified and everything felt right. All I needed was Umbra in my hands and the heartbeat in my head, telling me what to do.
“Keep running, creature,” it said. I kept running. I just had to keep running and I knew I would find them.
After a small period of time, I had come upon a stairwell to the upper level of Ald Daedroth. I could hear voices coming from above. I began to make my way upstairs.
“Stop,” the heartbeat said. “Go back, there’s something you must see.” I stopped still on the stairs, and turned around. There was something that I needed to see, although I didn’t know what. I began to walk back the way I came.
“Around the corner, to your left,” the voice hummed. I turned left. Down at the end of yet another hall, was an opening. It led outside of Ald Daedroth to the rear of the island. “Outside. Go, creature,” the voice told me. I followed what felt like an instinct to me, and walked out through the tunnel opening.
I was outside of Ald Daedroth. It had only been a matter of hours since I’d entered the temple, but it felt like days. I stood on the opposite side from where we’d entered, near the shore of the island. I looked around in the dim light of early morning. The sun had not yet risen, but there was a faint glow of morning. It was twilight. I knew there was something I needed to see out there, but nothing caught my eye. Soon, though, something caught my nose. It was blood. I scanned the area for the source of the smell. It lead me out to the stones of the beach, where I found Prophiter. He was dead, lying face down in his own blood.
“He’s dead. I wonder who could’ve done this?” an instinctive voice asked.
“I wonder who could’ve…” I began.
"There’s blood everywhere.”
“It’s red and sweet smelling, like wine.” I breathed in deeply, staring at the deep red mass that covered the ground. “Remember what you used to do in Elsweyr?”
The sweet smell of the elf’s blood filled my lungs and triggered memories in my mind. The border wars were filled with such sights and smells. I knelt down and rolled him over. His throat had been slit. Out from his neck came even more blood. The crimson
liquid leaked out like wine from a broken cask. I remembered many nights on the borders of Elsweyr, hunting the Wood Elves. We would surround them, and move in for the kill. Sometimes we would take the corpses back to camp and slit their jugulars. The blood flowed out quickly and we would drink.
I reached out my hand and gripped Prophiter’s throat. His blood dripped out over my fingers. I pulled my hand back and tasted. It was sweet, like the blood of all elves. I looked into the eyes of the dead elf. They were rolled to the side, blank and lifeless. Slowly, I pulled his head up off the ground. Bringing my jaws to his throat, I bit down and drank. When I squeezed, the blood gushed out into my mouth.
The taste was marvelous. It made me realize how long it had been since I drank elven blood. Over recent years, I had caught splatters of it in my mouth, from one decapitation or another. It hadn’t been since Elsweyr that I had really drank blood like that. Tasting blood is one thing, but having enough of it to quench your thirst, was another. I shamelessly pulled up Prophiter from the ground and bit in deeper to his jugular. The blood that was left in his throat gushed out. As I drank, many thirsts were quenched. I felt the crimson liquid revitalizing me. It felt as though my center of logic was being roughed down, and made level with my instincts, so that the two existed together instead of apart. Everything became even more simplified, and nothing was confusing. Everything I did was just natural. It made gorging on the blood of a ally nothing to be ashamed of. Soon, though, the wine stopped flowing and I had taken in all that I was going to get.
“You feel better now. You should get going. There’s more to do.”
I quickly got up to my feet, letting Prophiter’s body drop to the ground. I didn’t think; I only ran. All I knew in my mind was movement. Everything had become basic, and my instincts had taken over. It was like being drunk from too much mazte, except it was natural.
As I charged back into Ald Daedroth, with Umbra in my hands, the temple’s heartbeat began thumping again in my mind. Soon, its beats were timed with my own heart, creating one single, continuous pace that connected me to my surroundings. As I ran through the halls and up the stairs, my instinctive voice spoke to me.
“The Elf was dead. Who killed him? It wasn’t you, or the orc.”
“No,” I said aloud.
“His throat was slit. Someone with a sword must have done it.”
"Someone…with a sword.”
Soon I was back to where the three of us had first encountered Lemnos. I peered around the corner to see the room in shambles. The walls and ceilings were cracked and broken open. It looked as if there had been a fierce explosion. Everything was still quite dark, with only the faint glimmer of twilight seeping in from the night sky outside. I saw Magnus, about thirty feet away, talking to someone. It was a human man, although I couldn’t distinguish anything else. I stepped forward into the room, to ask Magnus what had happened and what was going on.
“Wait. It’s best to wait,” my instinctive voice suggested. I figured that it was best to wait, and see what happened. I remained in the partial rubble of the destroyed room and kept myself hidden. In the shadows I waited, eavesdropping on what was being said.
“But, did the Imperials know? They must’ve had some involvement; otherwise this never would’ve begun,” Magnus exclaimed.
“He sounds afraid. I wonder who the other man is?”
There was an unfamiliar tremor in Magnus’ voice. I had never heard him speak with such apprehension before. It made me wonder who it was he was talking to, and why he would be afraid of him. The unknown man answered Magnus’ question.
“Well, after all you’ve been through, you deserve some straight answers. All right,” he began. “Yes, the Imperials know, to an extent. What they are concerned with is the Nerevarine prophecies being fulfilled. They see you and your two companions as necessary players in that story. They do not see the whole of what I see though. I am more concerned with what happens here and now than whether or not the Nerevarine prophecies come to fruition.” The man paused, and paced around a few steps. He looked like he was collecting his words. “I suppose, for you, this story all begins with destiny. Do you know what destiny is, Magnus?”
“Destiny? It’s…the theory that ancient prophecies can control what happens to those in the present, and in the future,” the Nord responded.
“Indeed. From the mortal perspective, that is exactly what destiny is. Let me tell you what destiny is from my perspective, though.
There is a force, Magnus, an energy that is beyond any mundane power. It is pure thought, pure control. Its power is indescribable, and far beyond my own. It reaches out and touches everything, all life and matter. But it is alive, and like all living things, it feels and it suffers. And when it suffers, its power can reverberate such feelings throughout the world, and beyond. For every thought and feeling it experiences, there are reactions in your world. These reactions become demands that surface in the minds of all mortals, both begging and demanding to be fulfilled. The demands persist, until what you know as destiny is fulfilled. And that is what destiny truly is, Magnus. Not old stories that need to be told, but an inescapable series of reactions, all happening in response to the one power’s will. Do you understand?”
Magnus did not respond. He lowered his head and just breathed. I was in shock as well. It was hard to believe, but in my simplified state of cognition, I did believe it. What we called destiny is the backlash from some, unknown power. I still didn’t know who the man speaking to Magnus was, but it was clear he was more than just a man. No mortal could have knowledge of such things. Finally, Magnus responded.
“That’s what destiny is? All of this? The Nerevarine prophecies? It’s all the will of some…energy?”
“Yes, that’s an easy way to put it. People such as you are chosen, but not because of your name or your affiliations. It’s because of who you truly are as a person. The absolute core of your mind and spirit. Every mortal man and woman that walks the face of your world has a connection to the one power. And that means that anyone can be called upon to fulfill these urges.
You and your companions were chosen to fulfill this section of destiny because of who you are. Although you may not agree, the elf, the Khajiit, and you are all ultimately good people. You Magnus, at your core, are committed to human decency. Lemnos was not. He was evil. As are his followers, the orc and the elf. The three of you oppose the three of them, and create perfect opposites for a battle between good and evil.”
I gazed upon the two of them, with wide eyes. Magnus looked as stunned as I was upon hearing the information. I wanted to just get up from my hidden position and approach the man. There were so many questions that I had; it seemed that he would have answers to any of them. And in my current state, everything that was said to me seemed easy and satisfying. I wanted more easy answers. I wanted relief from my questions and I wanted satisfaction.
“Remain hidden. There is more to be heard, here.”
I decided to keep myself hidden, though. I instead silently shuffled along to a closer position, where I could see the two of them better. The man looked like a Breton. After a painful looking swallow, Magnus spoke to him again.
“Good and evil. So, I’m here to prove that good is greater than evil? But, that’s so…” Magnus stopped with his head hung, low, searching for the proper word.
“…rudimentary? Simplistic? Yes, the struggle between good and evil is a very old song. It’s been played many times. This situation isn’t quite as simple though. You know of the Nerevarine prophecies. Tell me what you know.” The Nord pulled up his head.
“The Nerevarine prophecies? Caius told me of them. They say that…a child born on a certain day to uncertain parents…will be reborn as Indoril Nerevar and free the Dark Elf people. What…what does that have to do with all of this?” he asked.
“Hmm, I think you already know, but I’ll tell you. The Nerevarine prophecies have come true, and a man named Simon Belmont has become the Nerevarine. Even now, as we speak, he stands in Dagoth Ur’s citadel, nearing the final confrontation with Dagoth Ur himself. But, that is not important right now. My point is that Simon Belmont was chosen to fulfill the prophecy, but he had no part in writing it. That happened many years ago when Indoril Nerevar’s actions were noticed by Azura, who desired to fulfill the one power’s demands. She wrote him into history, to be reborn later as the Nerevarine.
That is what is happening now. You, Prophiter and Xighden all potentially could have become figures of a new prophecy. One that would carry your names into the future. You would survive all those living today, just as Nerevar has survived by being reborn within the Nerevarine. He may be in a different body, under the name Simon Belmont, but his true self is still there. The core of his mind and spirit is alive again. That is what will happen now, Magnus. Only one of you three will be etched into the tapestry of fate, to live on after death. Just as only one of you three can leave here alive.”
I gasped as the words of the Breton man came out.
“You heard him. The Wood elf is already dead, that means that only the Nord and you remain. Only one of you can leave here alive.”
Only one of us could leave Ald Daedroth alive. Prophiter was already dead, and that meant only Magnus and I remained.
"You have to kill him.”
I came to the realization that I would have to kill Magnus. The idea swelled up inside my mind and began to cause pain. I didn’t want to kill the man that I’d traveled with, laughed with, and fought beside. We’d saved each others lives in battle at least once, and I considered that to be worthy of friendship. My brain was racked with conflict as Magnus spoke again.
“Only one of us can leave? What do you mean? Tell me!” Magnus shouted. The reserved tone in his voice had gone, and he was then demanding answers from the Breton man instead of requesting them. The man answered, but I paid no attention to what he said. I was too busy arguing with myself over what I was going to do.
“You know what you have to do. Kill him.”
“I…there must be another way,” I whispered.
"There is no other way! Kill him, creature!”
“I can’t.” The pressure in my mind increased and the pain continued. Once again, the walls of the temple seemed to pulsate and my head started to throb with pain.
“Do you think that he isn’t planning your death as we speak?! He knows that he has to kill you! You have to keep yourself alive!”
“What? He doesn’t know Prophiter is dead. He wouldn’t try to kill me, just like I won’t kill him,” I said.
“You’re wrong, creature. He will try to end your life. And he does know that the elf is dead. He was the one that slit the elf’s throat.”
"What?!” I said aloud, in disbelief of the words in my own mind.
“The Nord, he killed the elf. Think. You know it was someone with a sword. Who else could that have been? He didn’t kill himself! It wasn’t you, or the orc, or the wizard! There was no one else here!” I thought for a moment, and tried to count up all the bodies that were present when we first spoke to Lemnos.
“There was another….someone else…” My thought was suddenly ended with a sharp, piercing pain. I grunted from the feeling.
“There was no one else. Remember the smell of the elf’s blood.” I breathed in, and remembered the delicious scent. “Now look at the Nord’s weapon. Look at his sword, creature.” I exhaled, and my head was drawn to a point on the ground where Magnus’ sword lay. I could tell from where I stood that it was covered in blood. I didn’t want to believe that Magnus could’ve killed Prophiter, but if his sword did bear the scent of elven blood, then I would know that it was true.
“Rise, creature.” I stood up, and walked out into the open, towards Magnus’ sword. Magnus turned to me, surprised by my appearance, but I paid no attention to him.
“Xighden! You’re alive.” I said nothing. I only reached down and picked up his broadsword, and breathed in through my nose.
“Like sweet smelling wine, no? He killed the elf, and he will try to kill you!” It was true; his blade was strong with the scent. I growled, and threw the sword down at the ground.
“Magnus!” I shouted. “What is this?! Why?!” Magnus was surprised. He paused before answering.
“Xighden…what is what?”
“He knows that you know. Quickly, kill him!” I growled deeply, and tried to form my words.
“You know. You killed Prophiter. Why!?” I demanded from him. Again, he acted surprised.
“I…Prophiter is…dead? What-”
Don’t let his lies continue. Kill him!”
“Stop! I don’t want your lies! Why did you kill him!?” I roared. Magnus began to respond, but again, the words in my mind flooded out the sound.
“He won’t tell you the truth. You already know why he killed Prophiter. It’s because he wants to fulfill the prophecy. He wants to take that away from you. Creature, how long have you been seeking an escape from death, from a wasted life? This chance to live in through the prophecies is what you’ve always sought! And now he wants to take it from you! He killed the elf for it. He’ll kill you and take away your one chance to live on after death. He’ll take away…your Umbra.” I looked down at the Umbra in my hand. It felt so light and balanced in my hand, that I had forgotten it was even there.
“My Umbra.” I said aloud. “You won’t take it. You won’t take any of it!”
“Xighden, listen. Something is affecting you. It must be this place…Sheogorath,” he said with a calming understanding. Magnus turned around to address who he was talking to, but the Breton man was gone. “Xighden, Sheogorath was here, I swear. I spoke to him. He must be affecting you.” I thought about what he said, and questioned its truth. Before any thoughts could enter my mind though, another sharp pain resurfaced in my mind. It blocked out any questions I had, and forced me to shrug off the thought I had.
“Kill him, creature.” The pain increased. I grabbed the side of my skull, clenching my hand to try and distract me from the searing pain. The temple’s walls again began to pulsate. They moved like a heartbeat, which was timed with the throbbing pain in my head.
“Kill him, creature!” The pain begged me to give in to it. It demanded it. I started to resist, but looking up at Magnus. Seeing his face and knowing what he had done and what he wanted to take from me, I gave in. There was no point in fighting what needed to be done.
“I will kill you,” I said, with a controlled rage. And instantly with those words, the pain was gone. My blurry state disappeared and everything became clear. Everything felt right. I knew that I needed to kill him. Magnus shifted his stance, not saying anything. A wary look had overtaken his face. I shifted my stance as well. I held my Umbra high. It gleamed with from the faint twilight that poured in. I stood, aching, yet revitalized. The pulsing of the temple had stopped, and there was then only the two of us. Nothing else was important. There was only the knowledge that either I would kill him, or he would kill me. Nothing else mattered.