A Walk in Paradise (continued)
I found myself in a cave heading downward into the ground. Ahead of me, I could see water. Great! Another sloshy cave with water up to my knees.
I made my way through the dark cavern, ring of light providing enough light for me to see by.
Two more daedroth hiding behind rocks met their death (if anything can truly die here) by my hand.
A few more paces ahead, I heard voices. "Do you think they'll find us here?" I heard. "Shhh, quiet!" came another voice, sounding worried. They didn't sound like bandits.
Then, up ahead, I could see them. They were people, looking like they were hiding from the daedroth in the distance up ahead.
"Who are you people?" I asked, coming up behind them.
"We are those who have died in the service of the Master." one of them replied. "We are ascended to this place, but it is no true paradise. Are you here to end this nightmare, and free us from the Savage Garden?"
"What do you mean?" I asked. "If you refer to Mankar Camoran, yes, I am here to kill him. What are you people doing here?"
"Everyone here died in the Master's service." he replied. "As the Master promised, we are now immortal, like the daedra. But our life here is a nightmare."
"Why is that?" I asked. "I thought this was supposed to be a Paradise?"
"That is what we thought as well." I replied. "But the creatures of the Garden torment us endlessly. When they kill us, we are soon reborn and the cycle begins again. No one has yet found a way to leave the Garden, except those few given the Bands of the Chosen and allowed to enter the Forbidden Grotto."
I thought for a moment. The Bands of the Chosen? Those must be the bands I had taken from the Dremora earlier. "What can you tell me about those Bands?" I asked.
"Only those wearing the Bands can enter the Forbidden Grotto." he replied. "But no one who enters the Grotto ever returns. Since they never return, we do not know what fate awaits them."
I turned to the other human nearby.
"And you?" I asked. "Are you in the same situation?"
This one wasn't so pleasant.
"So you found your way to Galar Alata at last." she spat. "Don't we have enough troubles here, without you adding to them? leave us alone. Your quarrel is with Mankar Camoran, not us poor fools."
I remembered her from Skingrad. It was Else God-Hater. I had killed her as she tried to assassinate me.
"Galor Alata?" I asked.
"That's the Master's name for this place." she replied in a very condescending way. "We usually just call it Paradise. This is the Savage Garden. At the top of that mountain lies the Terrace of Dawn, which leads up to Mankar Camoran's palace...Carac Agalalor. Beneath the mountain lies the Forbidden Grotto, the only way out of the Savage Garden."
"Sounds pretty elaborate." I said, trying to sound sympathetic.
"Just go and leave us to die over and over again in peace." she snorted back.
"Die over and over in peace." she said. What an absurd request. This is what the people of my home of Ald'Ruhn died for: A place to become play-toys for monsters that they can kill over and over again.
An overwhelming blackness of anger and hatred came over me as I continued on.
And again, he continued to make his case to justify his actions to me, as if he needed to.
"Ask yourself", he began again, "How is it that mighty gods die, yet the Daedra stand incorruptible? How is it that the Daedra forthrightly proclaim themselves to man, while the gods cower behind statues and the faithless words of traitor-priests?
Oh, good, a philosophy class from a killer.
"It is simple... they are not gods at all. The truth has been in front of you since first you were born: the Daedra are the true gods of this universe. Julianos and Dibella and Stendarr are all Lorkhan's betrayers, posing as divinities in a principality that has lost its guiding light. What are Scholarship, Love, and Mercy when compared to Fate, Night, and Destruction? The gods you worship are trifling shadows of First Causes."
"Love and mercy?" I thought. Those are things that make us different from any of the animals we find in the forest. But he continues...
"They have tricked you for Ages.
Why do you think your world has always been contested ground, the arena of powers and immortals? It is Tamriel, the realm of Change, brother to Madness, sister to Deceit. Your false gods could not entirely rewrite history. Thus you remember tales of Lorkhan, vilified, a dead trickster, whose heart came to Tamriel. But if a god can die, how does his heart survive?
He is daedroth! TAMRIEL AE DAEDROTH!
'This Heart is the heart of the world, for one was made to satisfy the other.' You all remember this. It is in every legend. Daedra cannot die, so your so-called gods cannot erase him from your minds completely."
I found another daedroth waiting for me. Rather than play with him, I used a spell of God's Fire, killing it within seconds.
I finally came to a narrow tunnel, leading to a door. Try as I might, it would not open, even with my skeleton key or most powerful lock-breaking spell. Then I remembered the Bands. "Only those wearing the Bands of the Chosen may leave." they said.
I put one band on my left wrist, the other on my right. As soon as I put the second band on, they glowed bright red for a moment, slipping around and locking tightly on my wrists. There was no keyhole to remove them. Suddenly, the door in front of me glowed as I put my arm close to the pattern on it. These bands would let me leave the Savage Garden.
I opened the door and stepped into another cave. As I did, Camoran spoke once more:
"Yes, you understand now. Tamriel is just one more Daedric realm of Oblivion, long since lost to its Prince when he was betrayed by those that served him. Lord Dagon cannot invade Tamriel, his birthright! He comes to liberate the Occupied Lands!"
As long as these lands are "occupied" by us living creatures, I'll thank him to not do us any favors by "liberating" us.
Once I was in the Forbidden Grotto, I headed down a long tunnel until I could hear groans of pain and agony ahead of me. At the end of a tunnel was a large cavern, populated by number of assended humans being dipped into boiling hot lava. Since they were immortal, they could not die, but the pain must have been excruciating.
The torture victims were just left in their cages, unattended. No one was asking any questions or demanding anything. It was just torture without purpose.
I saw a large lever on the other side of the cavern. Using a small bridge, I made my way to the other side of the lava pit. I thought if I could help one or two of these victims, I'd have some valuable allies that might help me attain my goal of killing the madman of this place.
As I made my way to the lever that would raise the cage holding one of the victims in the lava, I heard someone coming up from behind.
I turned to attack, but he raised his hands, indicating he did not wish to fight.
"You wear the Bands, but you're no prisoner." he said. "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"
"I am Shakula." I replied. I am here to kill Mankar Camoran."
The Mythic Dawn agent was silent for a moment, then asked, "Can you really do it? Can you bring this eternal nightmare to an end? Can you defeat Mankar Camoran and free all the souls of the poor fools who followed him?"
"I will do it, or die trying." I replied. "I have an entire city to avenge."
The Mythic Dawn agent thought again, then replied. "Listen, I can help you."
"Why would I need your help?" I asked.
"You need my help if you are ever to leave the Forbidden Grotto." he said. "Those Bands got you in here, but they need to come off if you intend to leave this place."
That made sense to me. I hadn't been able to remove them since putting them on - they seemed to be fused into one solid item with no way to get them off.
I decided to trust this one. "Who are you?" I asked.
"I am called Eldamil." he replied. "I was one of Mankar Camoran's chief lieutenants. I helped plan the Emperor's assassination. I opened the Great Gate at Kvatch. We were the Chosen."
"Chosen?" I asked.
"Well, we saw more clearly than ordinary mortals." he replied. "We would destroy the world and remake it. Mankar Camoran was our leader, our teacher, our Master. He had the secret knowledge. He dealt with Mehrunes Dagon as an equal."
"So, why would you change your tune now and decide to help me?" I asked, wondering why he was confessing all this to me.
"I was at the sack of Kvatch." he said. "They had no chance. We took them by surprise, and we carried the walls in the first assault. But they fought on anyway. Desperately. They seemed to think this decadent, mindane world of theirs was worth defending. I was slain after the battle was over. Three townsfolk hiding in a cellar attacked me when I entered their house, hunting down survivors. They tore me to pieces, although I have no doubt they were immediately killed by my companions. I've had plenty of time to ponder my deeds since I came here. Ponder, and regret. An eternity of regret. For my weakness, the Master sent me here, to torture my former comrades who showed similar ingratitude for his gift of eternal life."
"Ok, so let's say I trust you." I replied. "How can you help me?"
"No one wearing the Bands of the Chosen can leave this Grotto." he replied. "The doors will not open, and there is no other way out. I can remove them, but I will need time." He looked around in the direction of the cavern he had come from, checking for a supervisor of some kind. "The dremora overseer will be here any minute to check up on me. You need to play along until he leaves. Just act like a prisoner, and do as I say. Once Orthe leaves, we can find a quiet spot to remove those Bands."
I didn't think I had much of a choice here. I had to get these Bands off, and if he was truly willing to help, then playing along would be a good way to get through the rest of this place.
I almost though of asking him if he was at the sack of Ald'Ruhn, but decided I'd save that for a later conversation (if there was time).
We walked into the next room, where we were confronted by Orthe, who, based on his grouchy appearance, seemed to be in charge.
"What's going on here?" he bellowed. "Who's this?"
Eldamil seemed to be unprepared for his part in this deception. "A prisoner, sent in by..."
Orthe promptly interrupted the answer to the question that he had just demanded. "Show me some respect, worm! Unless you want to end up in the cages with them." He nodded in the direction of a cage with one of the prisoners.
"Yes, Kynreeve. Sir." he stammered. "This prisoner was sent in by Kathutet for questioning. I was about to begin."
Orthe squinted, staring at me, looking me up and down. "This is not one of Mankar Camoran's chattels from the Garden. Who is she?"
Eldamil bowed slightly. "Nothing escapes your vigilance, Kynreeve." he said. "Kathutet wondered as well. This is why he sent her for questioning."
Orthe gave me another glare. "Well, carry on." he growled.
"Of course, Kynreeve." came the grovelling reply.
With that, Orthe turned and headed back into the next cavern he was working in.
Eldamil, now "in character" turned to me and said "Prisoner! Into the cage, now!"
I looked at the cage, understanding that this was one of those cages that was supposed to dip the prisoner into hot, molten lava. Eldamil, seeing my concern, gave me a wink. I guess he had to play the part. I would have to trust him.
I stepped into the cage. Eldamil pulled a lever and the door closed behind me.
He twisted the lever and pushed it forward, unlocking the cage, but this time, the otherside opened.
"There's no way for me to cross." he said as quietly as possible, "But the Master's immortality does have its uses. Head down that tunnel." he said, pointing to an opening just ahead of me. "I'll distract the dremora for as long as I can. I'll meet you further along in the caves and remove the Bands when you get there."
"Thank you." I replied.
He waved. "May Akatosh favor you!"
Eldamil ran into the next chamber, shouting an attack. That was the distraction that was to give me an opportunity to escape. I assumed that if he was immortal, well, I might see him again.
Several more monsters greeted me in the tunnels, meeting their deaths by either God's Fire or God's frost.
I found another tunnel and decided to find out where it would lead when suddenly I heard a voice from behind me.
"You made it."
I whirled around. It was Eldamil! "It's you!" I said.
"I didn't think you'd have any trouble." he said, smiling. "Let's get these Bands off of your wrists."
He put a hand on each wrist band, closed his eyes and quietly recited a short spell. The Bands unfused and opened, allowing me to remove them.
"There." he said with a grin. "You're not a prisoner of the Forbidden Grotto any longer. Let me come with you. Let me help you kill Mankar Camoran. I am not without power."
I quickly considered the dangers of this place. The monsters were easily defeated. The Order of the Mythic Dawn would be another story. I could use any help offered. "Sure." I replied. "I'd be glad to have your help."
"I am no match for Mankar Camoran," he replied, "but perhaps, together, we can find a way to defeat him."
With that, we continued our way through the tunnels. Eldamil more than proved his worth as we encountered a group of creatures, and during the battle, he was killed again. The distraction he caused allowed me to win the battle with each group of creatures. And moments later, Eldamil would reappear, ready for another fight. With an immortal at my side, I might actually have a chance in this battle.