"Hey, where do these stairs go?"
(after a short pause to look at the stairs)...."They go up!"
--- Ghostbusters ---

Continuing into Soul's Rattle, I encountered an ash slave, that tried attacking me with a shock spell.

3 or 4 arrows later and I put it's career as defender of dark places to an end.  


A short while later, I came upon a set of stairs that seemed to go to someplace important.

There was a scamp on the stairs ready to attack. 4 arrows later, it was a dead scamp, and I continued up the stairs to see where they went.  


I heard the crackling of a campfire ahead of me, and decided that I'd better get some arrows ready to fire again, figuring there would be more of these crazy cult followers nearby.

I was right about the cultists, but wrong about the arrows. I had run out of them all-together!

Grumbling another curse at myself for being so stupid and unprepared, I did a spell of "Hide". I was invisible for 90 seconds, as long as I didn't say anything, grab anything, draw a weapon of any kind, or try to perform a spell.

I turned to the right and saw the campfire with two cult members around it. I got into position and did a spell of Medusa's gaze, followed by a shot from one of the Rings of Leaches I had brought with me. Their nude bodies fell to the ground without so much as a raised weapon in their dead hands.  


As I left that section of the cavern, I saw another nitch ahead of me, with a tall figure standing in it.

I had seen ash ghouls before, but this one actually spoke, though I think it was more in my mind than in my ears.

"The Sixth House greets you, Lord Nerevar, or Eldorf Dragonmeal, as you now call yourself."

"You are in charge of this place?" I said, in a very demanding voice. I was still outraged at the condition of the trooper I had to mercy-kill earlier.

"I am known as Dagoth Gares, priest of Ilunibi Shrine, and minister to Sixth House servants." he replied.   


"What is it you want of me?" I demanded. "How is it you know my name?"

"My Lord, Daogth Ur, has informed me of your coming." came the reply. "I wish that this time you had come to honor your Lord's Friendship, not to betray it."   


"What of this Sixth House nonsense?" I asked.

Gares seemed amused at the question, but replied none-the-less. "The Sixth House was not dead, but only sleeping." he said. "Now it wakes from its long dream and with it's Lord, Dagoth Ur, it comes forth to free Morrowind from foreign rulers and divine pretenders. When the land is swept clean of false friends and greedy thieves, the children of Veloth will build anew a garden of plenty in this blighted wasteland."

"And this so-called shrine of yours?" I asked.

"Oh, this shrine is just a small, quiet retreat for our servents," came the reply. "Here, they can contemplate, grow strong and wise in Lord Dagoth's ways. As you could see from the servents you slew on your way in here, we share the sacraments of flesh and blood, and dream the dreams of our Lord. Oh, to be sure, there are other shrines hidden from prying eyes througout the land, but the greatest of our shrines and servents lie beneath Red Mountain, in the citadels of our Lord and his close kin."

"Yes, well, these servents of yours wanted to kill me." I said, "Now you welcome me?"   


"You must forgive the rude welcome," he replied, "but until you have declared for us, we must treat you as our enemy. The Sleepers and Dreamers are newly come to Lord Dagoth, and not yet blessed with his power. But the Children of his Flesh, they are deep in the heart of his mysteries. Their bodies swell to contain his glory, and to yield the rich sacraments of our Lord's feasts. And we are the least of his servants, for Ash Poets, Ascended Sleepers, and Ash Vampires stand high above us in the Lord's bountiful grace."

I was taken aback by what he had said. "Their bodies swell to contain his glory" sounded very much like the effects of corprus. Was he telling me that this disease was created by Dagoth Ur himself?

"An enemy?" I asked. "I had not even heard of Dagoth Ur until recently."

"Lord Dagoth would far rather have you as a friend than as an enemy." he replied, "But until you submit to him, Sixth House servants will treat you as an enemy, and try to destroy you. If you wish to be our friend, you must first go to Lord Dagoth in his citadel on Red Mountain, and make your submission."  


"You mentioned your Lord's friendship earlier." I said. "What did you mean by that?"

"Lord Dagoth gives me these words to say to you, so you may give them thought." replied Gares.

"Once we were friends and brothers, Lord Nerevar, in peace and in war. Yet beneath Red Mountain, you struck me down as I guarded the treasure you bound me by oath to defend. But, remembering our old friendship, I would forgive you, and raise you high in my service."  


"My Lord Dagoth bids you come to Red Mountain," Gares continued, "for the friendship and honor that once you shared, he would grant you counsel and power, if only you would pledge that friendship anew."

Gares paused for a moment, then asked "I am not your Lord Dagoth, yet I, too, would say to you: Do you come with weapons to strike me down? Or would you put away your weapon and, join me in friendship?"   


I had only to think of the poor trooper I had encountered earlier to make up my mind for me. This cult was collecting flesh of corprus victims for some ghastly reason, and I was going to put an end to it, right here and now.

I was out of arrows, but I still had the spell of Medusa's Gaze, and shot it at him before Gares could avoid it.  


I have trained as a mage for all my days here in Vvardenfell, but for some reason, I was just too angry to think about spells just then.

I ran over to Dagoth Gares and used the hand-to-hand skills I had learned while a vampire, and really gave him what-for.

Gares never knew what hit him, but he spun around and tried to fight back. 


This priest was determined to win this battle.

"So, with all your spells and skills as a mage, you resort to a simple bashing of your fists, then?" he taunted. "So be it."

He struck back, but I blocked his swing, and responded with one or two of my own, knocking him to the ground.

I stopped hitting him, letting him catch his breath.

"Get up, monster." I said, in a very angry tone. "I'm not done with you yet." 


He got up, and I put him down three more times.

"You are an enemy, then?" he asked.

"After the disease you have spread here, do you really need to ask?" I responded.

Gares got up and took two more swings at me, but missed each time.

I put him down one more time.

That's when things went very, very wrong.


With his dying breath, Dagoth Gares lifted his ugly snout and spat something at me, a mist of some kind. I was too close, and it covered me completely.

"Even as my Master wills, you shall come to him, in his flesh, and of his flesh."

With that, Dagoth Gares died.

And I had contracted corprus.  


Almost all of my life had been in a prison cell.

Only recently had I been released by direct order of the Emperor himself, simply as an errandboy for his particular obsession with this cult.

Now, I would find myself in another prison cell - that of my own body. Corprus would rob me of my mind, my willpower, ability to cast spells, resist spells, and think my own thoughts. The disease would deform my body and eventually kill me. In anger, I pounded on the now lifeless body of Dagoth Gares, eventually realizing that it would do no good, that I had the disease, and there was nothing I could do about it.  


I removed my gloves and looked at my hands. They already showed the signs of the disease. It would be rapid, just as it was with the trooper, not slow and lingering, as it is when one catches it in the wild.

My thoughts shifted to Laurenna, and how she would react.

I sat down and hung my head, wallowing in self-doubt, wondering what I had gotten myself into, and what I should do next.

For in all the vast Empire of Tamriel, there was no known cure. 


Coming up: Eldorf goes through his Blue Period