And the SECOND PART:
III. The Gilded Thorn Company
Ah, the Grand Duchy of Camlorn. Finally a place far away from bloody oaths and tortured pupils. Despite the unimpressive Breton architecture it was clear this is the artistic capital of High Rock. There was a lightness and sweetness in the air, colorful ribbons and a plethora of petals bringing life to the streets. It was time for the Flower Festival, it seems, for every young lady and gentleman, draped in their finest garments, chatted vigorously as a thousand provocatively dressed young women danced and laughed across the central streets. The March of Beauty was a sight most pleasant to behold, bidding my crooked body to feel the rush of youth. Bards and minstrels sang songs of playful indolence as all manner of folk gathered, clutching pints of lemonwood beer in their hands. Merchants and artisans alike showed the most beautiful of their wares as children ran across, casting purple sparkles into the sky. At last, I thought, I might as well enjoy myself. I must have been mesmerized by the lighthearted joy of the festival, for I soon realized it had been hours since my arrival and I have yet to contact the Camlorn Academy, patronaged by the Royal Academy. Hopefully this time I will not need a “permit”.
Finding the Academy was easy, although explaining to the mage inside that I was looking for the “Gilded Thorn Company” proved arduous. “Do you mean ‘The Wayward Flowers’ or ‘The Silver Roses’?”, asked the obviously confused Breton. It seems that this “Company” of wizard-bards had a dozen different names, each more ridiculous than the others, with a marked profusion of meaningless, flowery titles. Finally I was pointed towards an ornate building near the Bards College, where the fraternity was based, only to be greeted by an odd Argonian minstrel, gleefully humming some idiotic melody. “Wind Walker would be most delighted to introduce you to the Rose Lady”, and with that the beastling finally introduced me to the fraternity’s leader. And what a leader she was. Lady Arielle was a most…. beautiful woman – her richly embroidered dress barely covered her voluptuous bosom; her hazel eyes pierced every fiber of my body; her amber curls gave off the smell of summertime roses. It was a sight most splendid, indeed.
The “Lady of Silvertouched Roses” greeted me with upmost courtesy and attention, ready to indulge my curiosity before her performance tonight – it seems she was aware of my arrival. The Gilder Thorn Company, she explained, was a group of bards and minstrels who augment song and music through the power of Illusion magic. Or, as lady Arielle also noted, “You could call us mages with an artistic side.” Indeed most members of this fraternity are recruited from the Academy, although most already have professed an interest in bardic pursuits – after all the Academy and the Bards College are just a street away. Although most (including myself) would think these “mages” waste so much potential on petty performances and “artistic pursuits”, lady Arielle insisted that only those with powerful magical potential and a heart for the bardic tradition are accepted. “The citizens of Camlorn hold the longest bardic and artistic traditions in all of High Rock, and we are honored to weave our famous skills in magicka into our songs.”
Although I still remained somewhat unconvinced about the “skill and expertise” of these bardic mages, I was curious to see their performances. This dazzling lady certainly arose my interest into their craft. One thing, however, I did not understand clearly – why did she repeatedly describe their magic as “bridging the gap of reality and imagination”? Certainly most Bretons, as infatuated by magic as they are, would be able to tell an illusion from reality. Nevermind. I accepted her invitation. She explained she will be performing with her troupe, “The Silver Roses” – although the company is an association of mage-bards and wizard-minstrels, they tend to form artistic “troupes” of singers and instrumentalists. These smaller “companies of artists” are not equal, however. The “Silver Roses” troupe is not only the largest (sporting 8 members), but also the ruling troupe which guides the Company. As the leader of her troupe, that would make lady Arielle the de facto leader of the fraternity and the woman accountable for the decisions of the organization (which I assume would entail where they sing and how much they drink). “I may be the Silver Rose, but my brethren are the gilded thorns”, she said smiling with a wink. “Do not worry, I am perfectly harmless, handpicked for my skill and charm.”
I decided to stop at the “Drunken Moose Inn” before the performance, which was to be held at some nobleman’s mansion. As I took some notes I overheard the local peasants excitedly discussing how a royal from the Northpoint clans would attend the performance of the Company, as will the Grand Duke of Camlorn himself. Supposedly, the Kingdom of Daggerfall desired to sign a new trading treaty with the witch-kings of the North, but given the history of bad blood (to put it mildly) between the regions, the situation around the deal was delicate. I assume the Daggerfall king wanted to lull the northerners into agreement using some handpicked Camlorn charm and artistry, as a sign of good will. I suppose using the most “elite” troupe of “bards” could be considered a smart decision, although I’ve also heard the witch-kings are quite obstinate. My newfound knowledge of the political context fueled my interest further, and I rushed to see the show.
I certainly felt out of place surrounded by so many noblemen, not to mention actual rulers of Breton kingdoms. It was easy to distinguish between the Camlorn and Northpoint officials – the southerners’ garments were quite colorful and exquisite, compared to the muted colors and extravagant shapes of the northerners’ clothing. Sharp glances and cold handshakes comprised the majority of social interactions, until the “Silver Roses” arrived and all of us were seated. The gorgeous Arielle stood still as lute, harp, flute and drum began a melody most delicate. After I quietly activated a magical ward on myself, to better resist the childish “magic” of these bards, I paid attention to the ballad they performed. It was, unsurprisingly, a love story, between a Northpoint queen and a Camlorn prince, whose love was (of course) forbidden, for their families were enemies.
At first I felt nothing strange as the moody melodies and the uninspiring ballad went on, but suddenly a confusing sensation drowned my senses. Arielle’s delicate voice filled me with a sense of peace and bittersweet melancholy. The lute made my breath heavy, and the harp tugged at my heartstrings. As Arielle sang a story of forbidden love and inevitable war, I could see…. I could see the queen and the prince. Phantoms? Ghosts? There they were, in front of us. When my eyes focused on the queen phantasm, I could feel her love, her pain, her fear. I wore her perfume, and it felt as if my lips kissed the prince. They were not entirely real, merely transparent illusions given form, but once I paid attention to one of these phantasms, I was part of the story.
The rage, the fear, the love, the loss, they all coursed through my veins. I cried with the queen and cursed with the prince, and waged war to save the queen – for the northerners believed the queen was kidnapped! I held the banners of my clan, but then I also incinerated a Northpoint magos. And then I saw the queen and the prince, lying dead, and then I saw the two Kings sign a solemn agreement. I cried, barely able to take breath. The colors, the smells, the blood, her breasts, his thighs, the king, the war, the quill. All in a swirl, in my eyes, in my ears, in my heart. When Arielle finished her ballad and the lute hit its final chord, all was quiet. The purple phantasms slowly vanished, my senses returned and tears were streaming down my cheeks. There was no ward on me anymore – it had been activated. I knew it was just a legend, a story, but it was real, so very real. Even as the guests returned to their senses and applause rang through the mansion, I felt… there was something in me. That the song…. something deep, deep…. As if the voice and the melody were still with me…. gnawing at my mind….
I congratulated the Lady, as is the custom, and swiftly returned to the inn – there was simply too much to take. When morning broke, I overheard the towncrier shout “the most glorious news” – that the nobles of Northpoint and the Daggerfall Kingdom have signed a trade treaty! At first I thought the rulers must have spent the night in quiet negotiations, but then something occurred to me. What if…. the Company influenced their decision? I decided to conduct my own investigation as I knew Arielle would not offer any reliable facts on her company’s past with that silver tongue of hers. In the Academy’s librarium I found several sources on the Company – it was, after all, a part of the Mage’s Guild. Early documents of their history are murky at best, filled with various “theories” speculating on “legends” of the fraternity’s origins – legends! Those Bretons will be the end of me – even their scholarly works discuss imaginary tales! But then I found more reliable data.
Apparently the Company proposed/insisted to travel alongside Camlorn emissaries whenever the Kingdom negotiated treaties or peace with other Breton nations. When I looked at the dates, I noticed that after the Company had performed in front of foreign rulers, in the space of two weeks a decision favorable to Camlorn would be taken. Mental manipulation? Planting ideas into others’ minds? I had several theories, and I was looking at more papers, and then…. I can’t quite remember. I’m sure I found out more, but…. I… I remember the dark, misty eyes, hushed whispers…. Perhaps… I may remember at a later date.
Operational notes: Although at first I dismissed the Company as self-glorified bards with a handful of tricks, I must admit there might be more to them. Their performances truly are breathtaking, although I doubt they would be of any help against the Thalmor. Perhaps we could organize a grand party for our elven overlords? In any case, if I can remember what else I learned of the Company, I will add as necessary.
IV. Acolytes of the Crystal Spire
Travelling across the harsh Rivenspire region allowed me to contemplate the beauty and tranquility of Glenumbra. Ah, how much I missed fair Camlorn and proud Daggerfall, with their quaint villages and verdant forests – nothing like the jagged hills and gloomy lowlands that charted my journey to Northpoint. At once I was both excited and vexed to arrive in the lands of the northerners, for it was home not only to the last pure lines of Witch-Kings in High Rock, but also to a fraternity of mer-loving imbeciles with a superiority complex. And yet, for the sake of scholarly inquiry and my own mission, I had to find a way to endure this company of deranged heretics. At this point I was just hoping there wouldn’t be any Thalmor “observers” sipping tea with the Acolytes of the Crystal Spire.
Northpoint was a proud but rugged city, with equally proud and rugged peoples who shamelessly eyed me with a mix of curiosity and disdain. I could see banners of the royal clans hanged around the main streets, which was a good indication of the main royal lines – the Oggam, Elpin, Nechtan, Carvorst and Allcallored Clans. I knew that the Mage’s Guild had never been strong in Northpoint, for the majority of magical power and knowledge lay with the Clans. Unsurprisingly, what posed for a “College of Magic” was a small, dilapidated building, an elderly scribe waiting inside. The idea of a wizardly fraternity seemed foreign to him, and he asked if I was looking for the merophiles – it seems the Acolytes are jokingly referred to as the “Elfborn Clan”. My inquiry led me to a small, delicate castle (a mansion, really) far outside the city, which appeared to be in good shape, adorned with deep blue banners featuring a golden eagle soaring towards the sun. I did not see any Thalmor insignia or guards, and with a hefty unwillingness I strode inside.
I was greeted by a cohort of finely dressed acolytes, introducing themselves with title and rank in typical elven fashion, formal and uptight. It was clear these folk bore more elven blood than their peers – the lean eyebrows, high cheekbones and slight points to their ears all betrayed their Aldmeri heritage. They ushered me into a large room, bathed in the golden light of Culanda Stones, where I was greeted by Arch-Magister Falendil Beaufort. After I briefly introduced myself I was given into the care of a certain Magister Orlan. “Since you professed an interest in our humble abode, please, allow our Magister of Lineage to acquaint you with our history. When you have learned more of our past, I would be happy to indulge any remaining questions over a cup of blackberry wine” smiled the strikingly handsome Arch-Magister. With a deep sigh I let myself in the hands of a rather stern Breton who exuded an unwelcomed dose of unabashed pride with every gesture. Well, at least they were welcoming.
Although the acolytes are based in Northpoint, their origins actually lie far to the northeast in Farrun. According to my prideful guide, this is the oldest wizardly fraternity in High Rock, created shortly after the Direnni retreated from the areas. As most scholars know, although the Direnni were weakened after their confrontation with the Alessians, the territories that now comprise Jehenna and Farrun were, ironically, the last bastions of their power, used as strategic locations to battle the Nords. According to their records, the story of the acolytes begins with the bastard daughter of Aiden Direnni himself, who gave her a rulership position in his stead. At that time the right of Perquisite of Coiton had fallen from practice, as Direnni elves no longer slept with humans and the Breton race had already emerged. Thus, Adrianna du Rienne was thought to be the last half-elf borne of this perverse practice, put in charge to rule over the Bretons. Naturally, many Bretons desired her position, and many more were filled with burning hatred for the Direnni. Adrianna miraculously survived being dethroned, and as she was pushed to the fringes of rulership she created “The Bannermen of Aiden’s Legacy”, in honor of her father and her elven heritage.
As most would guess, this early rendition of the fraternity was despised and assaulted by the Nordic Bretons there and after several failed assassinations Adrianna decided not only to rename the group, but to adopt a more “amicable” temperament. Thus the “Acolytes of the Crystal Spire” were born, named after a peculiar architectural ornament which decorated Adrianna’s fortress – a large, intricate and “infinitely beautiful” spire, made by elven artisans from pure enchanted crystal, inscribed with monographs depicting Direnni accomplishments. It was Aiden’s gift for his bastard daughter and it became “a lasting symbol of our elven heritage”, as well as a hallmark feature of Fortress Adrianna. With the name of the fraternity also changed their demeanor, and from a sect of mer-loving and power-hungry nobles it turned into “a congregation of scholars, intent on preserving ties with our elven heritage and facilitating peace between the Bretons and the remaining elves”. Essentially they desired to be viewed as cultural ambassadors and keepers of heritage, although even that could not spare them – by the end of the first era Fortress Adrianna was destroyed and the acolytes were forced to seek a new home, taking the shattered pieces of their spire with them.
And thus the acolytes finally arrived in Northpoint, where, surprisingly, they were accepted by the Witch-Kings. Given the fact that elven blood ran strong in these magical rulers, the acolytes were actually tolerated by the clans, seen as useful even. The acolytes, as Magister Orlan insisted, possessed ancient Aldmeri scrolls detailing how to combine multiple spells together to reach a devastating symphony of magicka. They offered much knowledge and wisdom to the Clans, which in turn offered the exiled scholars a castle for headquarters. When the Mage’s Guild was found the acolytes were finally registered as an affiliated organization, attracting attention from those Breton mages who appreciated and even cherished their elven blood, or were simply curious about their heritage (the majority of the members of the fraternity are anonymous associates). The acolytes were seen as the de facto experts on elven lore in High Rock – the Guild gave them the opportunity to travel to Summerset and Cyrodiil, collecting all manner of trinkets and baubles and crafting lasting relationships with various mer. Magister Orlan then took me on a tour of “elven artifacts most precious”, carefully protected in glass displays. I saw welkynd stones and dwemer plates, Altmeri staves and Bosmeri bows, even a Psijic hood! “Indeed, our acolytes have been granted access to the Crystal Tower and Artaeum. Have you not heard of our Francois Alair? He was invited by the Psijics!”. These Breton fools have magisters (high-ranking scholars) on every mer race, from the Ayleids to the Dwemer. How preposterous! Had they been in Cyrodiil I would gut them if I saw them near those filthy Ayleid ruins.
Of all the elven races and factions, however, the acolytes maintained the strongest relations with the Direnni of Balfiera Island, regularly visiting their former overlords or inviting them. The Magister then let me into what appeared to be their “Aedric Sanctum”, which was full of Direnni heraldry. On the largest wall hung an intricate tapestry, “an exact replica of a Crystal Tower artifact” – it depicted what I assumed to be a draconic version of Auri-El, clad in golden, feathery scales, although Magister Orlan insisted it is Akatosh. In the room there were also three shrines – a bull’s head representing Phynaster, a pyramid for Julianos and a sun for Magnus. “We may be scholars, but we are mages first and as such we pray to the Gods of magic and reason. We give praise to Phynaster for fortitude and patience, to Magnus for insight and magicka, and to Julianos for wisdom and clarity”. Not only are their heads muddled with silly elven stories, but they pray to the blasphemous too! Although, I must admit, I was impressed at the sincerity of the Magister. Few men on Tamriel would so openly expose their history and heretical practices, regardless of pride or shame. The Magister got so excited he asked one of his colleagues, The Magistrix of Incantations, to show me one of those ancient scrolls he talked about. It was old and musty, but inside I could make out old Aldmeri writings and diagrams. “It is difficult for us to use these spells as they require so much time and energy to cast, but they are gorgeous, aren’t they?!” said the beaming Breton.
At last, Arch-Magister Falendil separated me from my annoying guide, who remained hypnotized by the scroll. As he promised he invited me to his sanctum over a glass of wine, and leaned towards me. “You must have noticed our Orlan is quite passionate, dear Maximilianus. Apologies. We rarely get visitors these days, especially since the Thalmor established bases in High Rock”. He went quiet for a few moments, and then leaned even closer. “A ‘friend’ told me of your agenda, fellow scholar. Do not mistake us for simpletons enamored by all things mer. As a direct descendent of Adrianna I know myself how proud my ancestors were, but we are different”. The Arch-Magister went on to say that in the early days most of High Rock’s nobility were hypocrites, as often the ruling nobles would be those of purest elven blood, and yet they would fabricate stories of imaginary “resistance to Direnni rule”. The acolytes remained honest, and they paid the price.
“Now we serve as High Rock’s emissaries to the elven world. We are something of diplomatic experts, you see. Etiquette, body language, poise, cultural knowledge – we have mastered the art of interacting with elves, no small feat mind you”. He leaned even closer, the sweet breath of blackberry wine touching my lips. “We have been ambassadors to elven cities, used by the Clans and even other kingdoms as mouthpieces. We do not mind, for after all we are Bretons too. We do our duty, and we all prosper”. Right at the time I thought this young man desired to kiss me, he moved away and whispered “the Thalmor are vile caricatures of mer culture, their ambitions matched only by the cruelty of the Ayleids. And you know about the Ayleids”. Cunning man, appealing to my Imperial pride. But how in the name of Oblivion did he know about my mission?!! “With the help of our Direnni neighbors we have devised several spells, you see. Just a small gift for the Thalmor. Mark my words, Maximilianus. Conflict is inevitable. Relay this to your commanders”. That I was shocked would be an understatement, but I nodded and finished my wine. This was a long and most surprising day, and I sorely needed to sleep in one of those merophiles’ beds.
Operational notes: I definitely was surprised by the pragmatism and sincerity of these scholars. It seems they are not deranged and lofty intellectuals. For the most part. I suppose they could be of use, and the fact there was not a single Thalmor soldier reassured me of Falendil’s words. Merophiles hating mer. This truly must be the end!
V. House Duranach
If there is one region in Tamriel I would never go to voluntarily, that would probably be High Rock’s northeast. It seemed with each day my trek through Rivenspire was going from bad to grim, as several of the men in my caravan mysteriously disappeared last night, only bloodstains left as a grim reminder of High Rock’s legacy of the supernatural. Would if I could return to my College, open a bottle of sintlerweed whiskey and forget that I am constantly threated by vampires, werewolves, wraiths and Akatosh knows what else. And yet, here I was, taking the road to Jehenna in search of a mysterious fraternity I thought no longer exists. If only that Argonian fool Wind Walker would stop humming that song. Why is he even here?! I thought those damned bards move no further than Daggerfall or Shornhelm! Alas, I need to check the leads I have and determine whether there is anything worthwhile in the northeast except reach tribes, witch cults and gods know what manner of beasts. Oh, and this absolutely awful weather. Who knew there would be so much rain and thunder, as if I am in tropical Black Marsh!
As we neared Jehenna I revised my notes on the Breton kingdoms, only to be left baffled as to who exactly rules here. Jehenna, Farrun, a dozen of duchies and countless counties. Were they a Federation? Are they even two separate kingdoms? It seems the further away from Daggerfall I go, the harder it is to distinguish between the various nations – frankly, the ongoing fractiousness is growing tiresome already. Nevertheless, the mysterious letter I received specifically said “Jehenna – House of Duranach”. After my conversation with Arch-Magister Falendil my paranoia has grown, because obviously there is someone, or something aware of my mission, and it’s determined to contact me. When I finally arrived in the northern city I immediately asked for the “Arcane Lyceum”. As I moved through the dark city I noticed it very much reminds me of our own Colovian north – colorless, rigid, and full of stern folk who cast suspicious gazes. These Bretons looked more Colovian or Nord than anything else, and I decided it is best I do not engage the commoners in conversation.
The so-called “Lyceum” was a small, crooked building which looked more like a cottage that was once burned to the ground than a proper institution – I suppose the Mage’s Guild was not of significant influence here either. When I told the old man inside I was looking for some “House Duranach”, he pierced me with fearful eyes and said he has never heard that name before. At this point of my journey I was particularly frustrated with the unwillingness of others to cooperate so I threatened, I mean, kindly asked the keeper of the Lyceum to allow me to research the matter myself in their records. These records, which were a cacophony of civil documents, trade agreements and Mage’s Guild registers, gave very little information on the name “Duranach” only that in the second era a certain organization named “House Duranach” became a Guild associate and donated gold in irregular intervals. The mentions of this house, however, were so rare in the documents that I had to look for other sources. For three days I looked, three days roaming around libraries (of pitiful size), the local knights order, even the Fighter’s Guild. In a fit of desperation I turned to a local historian the Lyceum pointed me towards. The old man brought me some musty old book where, after rereading the thing for 2 hours, I finally learned who this mysterious “Duranach” is.
Duranach Crow-Eyed was a reachman, a youth born into the Winterclaw clan sometime in the late first era. The clan, which at the time resided somewhere nearby Farrun, was particularly aggressive against the newly formed Breton kingdoms in the region, terrorizing the locals with hordes of undead thralls and vicious diseases. The book said a whole eleven villages were slain, until a young reachboy approached the king of Farrun. The boy’s name was Duranach and he offered to lead a surprise attack and exterminate his own clan. In return, the reachboy desired land and title, officially recognized by the king. The king agreed and within a week the Winterclaws were no more, all murdered in the face of young Duranach. As promised, the reachman was made count and given property and land to rule, and he established his own noble title and lineage – House Duranach. The house appeared as an officially recognized body for around thirty years, after which it simply…. disappeared. No mention of the house, no sight of Duranach, no heirs or widows. Apart from the small contributions to the Mage’s Guild from an organization with the same name, there was no more mention of House Duranach. It was clear it is not a simple coincidence that a noble house and a Guild “associate” would share the same name, so I did the only thing I could think of – to take to the streets of Jehenna and ask the commoners of any rumors or legends. After spending a month in High Rock at least I’ve learned these people communicate in flowery aphorisms and imaginary tales.
Another three days I spent asking travelers and commoners, innkeepers and prostitutes if they have heard of this House Duranach. Most denied any knowledge of the group, while others shook their heads fearfully and ran away. I managed to loosen the lips of a handful of drunkards with good old septims, and the torrent of legends and cautionary tales that followed was as disparate as it was baffling. As it turns out, most of the drunkards agree House Duranach are “shadow stalkers” and “mind reavers”. They are information brokers and spies who deal in…. memories. Supposedly they possess some sort of mental magics which allow them to read your mind and muddle with your memories.
They can become invisible at will by simply removing any memory of themselves, and they form contracts with those willing to pay the “price”. This price, according to my consortium of alcoholics, often comes in memories – they literally take knowledge from the mind in offer of knowledge and memories from others. One cannot trick the soul drinkers (as they are also known), for they will take exactly what they have requested and offer exactly what you have paid for. They do not pledge allegiance to any king or nation, but instead operate everywhere with everyone. Why they do this is unclear, although my intoxicated companions insisted they desire to control the real politics of High Rock. They might take your memory and sell it to your enemy, but they would always speak the truth, hold their word and offer true memories. If you pay the price and they accept your bid, you will get exactly what you desire.
As my Breton friends continued to talk about all manner of stories each more fantastical than the previous, more drunkards appeared in the inn and attempted to enlighten me on how the Duranach received their powers. Some said they still pray to Vaermina and Sheoggorath, trading their sanity for the ability to reave the minds of others. Others insisted they drink vampire blood mixed with some strange ingredients from the reach and that the blood may only be taken from a Montalion or Lyrezi vampiric bloodlines, and yet some said they mix werewolf blood with skooma! “Oi, Jimmy, tell the Imperial how you met the shadows”, a laughing Nord told his drooling friend who didn’t seem to be in the finest mental condition. “Daisies!” shouted the simpleton and he started skipping about. And just when I thought the legends couldn’t be more ridiculous a Dunmer shouted that the reavers sacrifice a thousand baby on the first of Rain’s Hand and burn their bodies in a bonfire. At this point I decided to simply leave and take a walk as I certainly wasn’t getting anywhere.
Masser and Secunda shined brightly in the night sky as I roamed the streets of Jehanna, clearly infuriated by my inability to find any reliable information. As I was approaching the inn I hired a room in, that Argonian, Wind Walker, appeared out of nowhere and bid me to stop. He showed me a symbol of an eye etched on a nearby building and said “Light a candle under the Eye and smear your blood in the Center, and you shall be received in the sanctum on the next night”. And just in that instant the reptilian disappeared, leaving me equally shocked and confused. At this point I simply sighed and did as the idiotic beast asked me to, lighting a candle underneath the symbol and smearing a drop of blood in its center. The next day I revised all of my notes and prepared for what I thought would be a most disturbing night. In the name of the truth, I was willing to take the risk. At midnight I stood by the symbol, my smeared blood gone, when a hooded figure approached and gestured me to follow. It had just started raining, the wind was howling, and soon we left the city and walked into the wilds. Perhaps we were walking for several minutes, although it felt like hours as my heart was racing, a numb throb strong in my head. At last, we arrived in what appeared to be a forest clearing, where another hooded figure was waiting for our arrival.
The figure took off the hood and after several minutes of silence I finally realized who I was facing. “Those dark, misty eyes….” I murmured. “You! The Montforts! Wayrest!”. Before me a young man was standing, with raven black hair, sullen dark eyes and unnaturally pale skin. His voice was soft, almost comforting, his eyes firmly fixed on mine. “And yet we meet again, Maximilianus”, the voice said… in my head. He talked….. in my head. “Do not fear, I am simply here because you haven’t paid the price, although you probably don’t remember our deal either. Calm now, I will not destroy your mind.” He must have seen, or read or heard my confused thoughts and he continued: “Yes, Camlorn too, we followed you up to Northpoint. It is not typical of us to deal with such petty scholars, but your cause… is important. You are tireless, for sure. You have learned more than you need of us. Rest now, close your eyes, it shall not hurt. We never deceive, you know.” Suddenly a myriad of questions coursed through my mind, but the man remained silent, waiting for me to close my eyes. And closed them I did, in a moment of quiet surrender. “When the time comes, return here and we shall aid you” he said before it happened.
It… really did not hurt. It was unpleasant for sure, as if some cold, slimy substance was shifting through my head, picking out memories of…. spells? People? I do not remember. When I opened my eyes, the hooded figures were gone, and I saw a small coin with an eye etched into it in front of me. The price was paid.
Operational notes: Apart from rumor and conjecture, I really am not aware of what these, these things were and what they took. I don’t seem to have lost too much, however, for I clearly remember my journey here and my life in Cyrodiil. Hmm. In any case, these shadows agreed to help us “when the time is right”. Only the Divines know what this means. Akatosh protect us.