Escape from Prison (Part 2)
After battling the last few goblins in the large chamber, I made my way up a small incline and found another hole in the wall, leading back to the regular underground chambers. I could hear voices, and listened closely.
I couldn't believe my ears: it was the Emperor and his Blades! Somehow, I had caught up with them. As I watched from my vantage point, another attack took place.
Three more assassins, and this time, even the Emperor himself was forced to use his own blade in his defense. I felt helpless, watching this battle take place. I had no love for a system that jailed me on false charges, but watching this scenario unfold made me want to help. And yet, I was afraid to leap down to the floor, blade drawn, and surprise one of the assassins.
Still the battle ended well, as the Blades won, killing each of the assassins before they could do any damage at all. At least now I was saved from making what might have been a very poor decision on my part.
I climbed down to the floor, and suddenly one of the Blades shouted "Dammit! It's that prisoner again! Kill her! She might be working with the assassins!"
"Oh, great, what have I gotten myself into now?" I wondered.
One of the blades came at me, sword drawn. All I had was a sword and a torch, hardly an even match.
Just then, the Emperor spoke up. "No," he cried, "she is not one of them! She can help us. She must help us."
"As you wish, sire." the guard replied.
The Emperor came over to me, understanding my look of bewilderment on my face. "They cannot understand why I trust you." he explained. "They cannot see what I've seen. How can I explain? Listen. You know the Nine? How they guide our fates with an invisible hand?"
I know of this "Imperial Cult" belief he was referring to, the Nine Divines. My own people have their own ancestor-worship beliefs. The Nine were Akatosh (the Dragon God of Time), Arkey (God of the Cycle of Birth and Death), Dibella (Goddess of Beauty), Julianos (God of Wisdom and Logic), Kynareth (Goddess of Air), Mara (Mother-Goddess, and Goddess of Love), Stendarr (God of Mercy), Talos (Tiber Septim, God of War and Governance), and finally, Zenithar (God of Work and Commerce).
As a Dunmer, I was brought up with the beliefs of my own people, yet, some of these deities had made their way into our lives (especially "Zenithar"), yet, this was something 'not me'.
"The Nine and I are not on good terms." I said, trying to be diplomatic without being crass at the same time. I was addressing the Emperor, after all.
He smiled, understanding my response. "I've served the Nine all my days," he replied, "and I chart my course by the cycles of the heavens. The skies are marked with numberless sparks, each a fire, and every one a sign. I know these stars well and I wonder....which sign marked your birth?"
"The Mage", I replied. It was a good sign for someone wishing to pursue such a career, I suppose. Still, all I ever wanted to do was open up a clothing store in Ald'ruhn. That dream seemed to be fading rapidly.
The Emperor nodded in approval. "Then, perhaps, today the Mage shall light your way on the paths of glory." His voice then grew somber. "The signs I read show the end of my path." he stated. "My death, a necessary end, will come when it will come."
"What about me?" I asked. All I wanted to do was return home to my family.
"Your stars are not mine." he replied. "The sign of the Mage will guide your journey as you confront your fate."
My fate? Though no one should ever know too much about their own future, I had no choice but to ask. "Can you see my fate?" I asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
He shook his head. "My dreams grant me no opinions of success." he replied. "Their compass ventures not beyond the doors of death." I felt like he was teasing me with the possibility of future knowledge, then snatching it away, as one teases a dog with a piece of meat. Yet, there was more to his story. "But in your face, I behold the sun's companion. The dawn of Akatosh's bright glory may banish the coming darkness. With such hope, and with the promise of your aid, my heart must be satisfied."
I wasn't sure I was able to make such a promise. "Aren't you afraid to die?" I asked.
"No trophies of my triumphs proceed me. But I have lived well, and my ghost shall rest easy." he replied. "Men are but flesh and blood. They know their doom, but not the hour. In this, I am blessed to see the hour of my death...To face my apportioned fate, then fall."
He seemed so resigned to dying, yet, runs with his Blades, as if there was some way to cheat this fate he spoke of. Was there such a thing as avoiding what was to come?
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"I go to my grave." he said, with a sorrowful tone in his voice. "A tongue shriller than all the music calls me." He paused for a moment, then smiled and said "You shall follow me yet for a while, then we must part."
We continued through another passage. Baurus, one of the Emperor's Blades told me that as long as I was going to follow along, I should hold the torch I found close and keep out of their way if more trouble showed up.
I couldn't have agreed with him more.
We came to a gated door, but it was locked from the other side. Baurus said it looks like a trap, Glenroy, the other Blade, asked about another passageway. Since we couldn't make our way through the locked door, we gave it a try. It was a dead end.
Just then, we heard that locked gate being opened. "They're behind us!" yelled Glenroy.
Baurus drew his sword, and told me to stay with the Emperor. As they ran into the previous chamber we had just left, the Emperor turned and said "I can go no further. You alone must stand against the Prince of Destruction and his mortal servants. He must not have the Amulet of Kings!" He removed the huge red amulet he was wearing, and tucked it away in my pouch. "Take the Amulet." he continued. "Give it to Jauffre. He alone knows where to find my last son."
"Jauffre? Your last son?" I asked.
"Find him..." he continued, "...and close shut the jaws of Oblivion!"
"But, where will I find this Jauffre person?"
The Emperor started to answer my question, but before he could utter a word, a secret door opened behind him. Emperor Uriel Septim whirled around just in time to see an assassin drive a dagger through his heart.
"NO!!!" I called out! I drew my short sword, knowing full well that this little weapon, and my lack of sword skills would be no match against a trained killer. Yet, my heart was in the battle now, and this killer had taken the life of a person that I had, in this very short time, considered a friend.
The assassin came at me, but suddenly Baurus came bursting into the room, taking the assassin down from behind.
"No....Talos save us..." was all he could say, seeing the body of the Emperor lying on the floor. "We've failed. I've failed..." he lamented, shaking his head in disbelief. "The Blades are sworn to protect the Emperor, and now he and all his heirs are dead."
He knelt next to the Emperor's body. "The Amulet," he said, "where's the Amulet of Kings? It's not here!"
"The Emperor gave it to me just before the assassin entered the room." I said, showing him the Amulet.
"Strange." Baurus replied. "He saw something in you. Trusted you."
"Me?" I replied. "What can I possibly do?"
"They say it's the Dragon Blood that flows through the veins of every Septim." Baurus replied. "They see more than lesser men. The Amulet of Kings is a sacred symbol of the Empire. Most people think of the Red Dragon Crown, but that's just jewelry. The Amulet has power. Only a true heir of the Blood can wear it, they say. He must have given it to you for a reason. Did he say why?"
I almost forgot the name! "Jauffre." I said. "He said I must take it to someone named Jauffre."
"Jauffre?" Baurus replied, almost in disbelief. "He said that? Why?"
"He said that there is another heir. Something about a lost son." I replied. "I thought he only had two sons. Do you know anything about a third child?"
Baurus shook his head no. "Nothing I ever heard about." he replied. "But Jauffre would be the one to know. He's the Grandmaster of my Order. Although you may not think so to meet him."
"Where would I find him?" I asked. "What do I do with this Amulet?"
"He lives quietly as a monk at Weynon Priory, near the city of Chorrol."
"But, how would I get there?" I asked, not even thinking that I was still in the dungeons of Imperial City.
"First, you need to get out of here." he replied. He pointed to the now wide-open secret door we hadn't known about before. "Through that door must be the entrance to the sewers, past the locked gate. That's where we were heading. It's a secret way out of the Imperial City." He paused for a moment, then added, "Or it was supposed to be secret." He reached in his pocket, fishing out a large key, and handed it to me. "Here," he continued, "you'll need this key for the last door into the sewers."
"Uh, the sewers?" I replied, just remembering the path of rats and goblins I had just gone through just to get this far.
Baurus just smiled, patting me on the shoulder, as if I was some seasoned veteran of battles past. "There are rats and goblins down there...but from what I've seen of you, I'm guessing you're an experienced Pilgrim. Am I right?"
"Oh, well, I was just hoping to open a small clothing shop one day in Ald'ruhn, but my teachers have always said I should learn to be a Battlemage."
"A Battlemage?" he replied. "I never would have guessed. None-the-less, I don't think a few rats or goblins won't give you any trouble."
I let it sink in for a moment...key, sewers, rats, goblins (ugh!).... "After the sewers, then what?" I asked.
"You must get to the Amulet to Jauffre." he replied. "Take no chances, but proceed to Weynon Priory immediately. Got it?"
"But look," I said, "I'm no warrior. I don't want adventure. I just want to go home." I felt foolish saying that, I sounded like a child. I know it was fear speaking. I didn't want this. Baurus seemed to understand.
"Take it easy." he said, trying to calm me down. "You'll be fine." He put his hand on my shoulder, trying to reassure me, the way a father would calm a troubled child. "I know this is a lot to take in all at once." he continued. "No one's more surprised than me that I'm sending an escaped prisoner off with the Amulet of Kings. But the Emperor trusted you for a reason, and I trust the Emperor." He looked at the jewel, glowing blood-red in my hand. He took my fingers, and closed them around the Amulet of Kings. "The Amulet of Kings must get to Jauffre at Weynon Priory. He'll know what to do with it. Jauffre should know how to find the heir that the Emperor spoke of. The Amulet must reach Emperor Uriel's heir so that a new emperor can be crowned!"
"And what about you?" I asked. "What will you do?"
Baurus turned to look at the Emperor's body. "I'll stay here to guard the Emperor's body, and make sure no one follows you." he replied. He motioned towards the open secret passageway. "You'd better get moving. May Talos guide you."
I made my way into the next chamber, and just a few yards away, a hatchway was found leading to the sewers below.
As expected, I encountered a number of rats, which I managed to kill without too much trouble. I could see that I'd need to practice my sword skills. At least my healing spell was working. The fireball spell that my father had taught me years ago came in very handy. I was glad I had remembered it.
There were two goblins waiting for me in another chamber, but I managed to dispatch both of them, as one stumbled over the other during their attack. I hate goblins. Remember: They'll get you, if you don't watch out!
I managed to find my way to the last locked door with the key that Baurus had given me. A curved tunnel eventually lead me to a longer sluice that had a bright light at the end.
During my sojourn through these tunnels, I had managed to find some leather armor, a shield, sword, boots, and some gold. Not a lot, but it would have to do for now. I knew that I could sell most of these items for some badly-needed gold.
I opened the grating in the sewer tunnel, walked down to the final grating, opened it, and stepped into the world of the Imperial Province that is Cyrodiil.
There was a short boat dock nearby. I walked out to the end, drawn eastward, almost instictively towards my home province of Morrowind. In the distance I could see the Velothi Mountains in the distance. I felt drawn home.
I felt angry and sad at the same time. Here I was, a Dunmer child, still wet behind the ears with very little experience, in possession of what must have been the most important artifact in the entire Empire sitting in my pouch, charged with a mission that was nothing less than vital to all of us.
I am no hero, no doer of great deeds. I just want to open a nice dress shop in Ald'ruhn and sell pretty clothes. This is not for me.
Then I thought of what the Emperor told me - the mission that he, the most powerful man in the Empire asked me to do. He confided in me with this most important mission.
How could his ghost rest easy if I were to forget this quest and head for home? How could I rest easy knowing I would have betrayed his trust?
Is this how heros are made?
I watched the day begin over the Velothi Mountains, the sky turning blue, hearing birds beginning to sing, feeling a gentle breeze caress my face. Like Morrowind, this land offered many dangers, but also offered many wonderful things that might be discovered. Maybe this is what the Nerevarine felt like when he first arrived on the island of Vvardenfell; a stranger in a strange land. There was nothing but discovery for that hero. Perhaps that what was in store for me. There would be only one way to find out. Now, all I had to do was somehow find my way to the city of Chorrol....alive.
COMING UP: Cheydinhal