Kyne’s Challenge: Elsweyr

Anywhere but Elsweyr, the Daedra Descend on Dune

OGRE | The journey away from the burning forests of Reaper’s March and into the sprawling grasslands of Anequina was almost invigorating, as visibility and terrain improved considerably [This error in chronology is present in the original text]. Kishra-do finally cracked a smile as she prowled the landscape of her home province. We traversed the charred edge of the once-ancient forest, until our newest scout raised a paw and we dropped silently behind a collection of granite boulders. The Khajiit soon returned, with a full complement of knowledge about our latest sacrifices to Kyne. She had picked up an unmistakable odor: ogres were grazing in these grasslands, favoring animal meat and the taste of the odd wandering merchant. I was soon viewing a poorly constructed den from a small hillock, eyeing the three brutes as our party prepared for battle.

Much like the primitive Reachman that the forward-thinking Nord shuns, many believe that the ogre to be a primal cousin to the Goblin or Orc. Certainly they share similar traits; imagine an Orc at twice the normal size, forsaking high functions and quality armor in favor of powerful, oversized arms with scuffed knuckles that reach the ground without bending over, a strangely unhealthy pallor of rough, blue-tinged skin, the rudiments of fur armor, and just enough modesty for a loincloth. Strands of hair all over the place except the head, which is as bald and shiny as a scrying orb. Eyes almost disappear behind a thick brow, with a Goblin’s stolen nose and a mouth filled with teeth trying to escape in all directions. As for the smell… ogres share a distrust of soap much in the same way as a giant.

By the time the largest of the ogres registered the discomfort of an arrow to the backside, Namasur had stippled his prey with further projectiles, all previously dipped in paralytic poison. This slowed an already sluggish enemy; it became dazed and overwhelmed, seeing glimpses of blurred Redguard robes and a shining scimitar which cut a second hole to match the size of the ogre’s mouth, only this one was sliced across the collarbone. The ogre dropped to a knee as its blood sprayed everywhere, offered a backhand strike at Namasur which actually connected, wobbling the slightly overconfident Redguard for a moment, before the ogre fell forward, coughing and clutching its neck. Namasur removed the head with one fell swoop, and it rolled down a small embankment, still wondering what had happened.

Kishra-do chose a slightly smaller specimen, but neglected to weaken it beforehand, instead opting to launch herself from an overlook above the den. She landed on the ogre’s back and made a few successful stabs, before she was grabbed and slammed into the ogre’s campfire. As hot embers flew out in all directions, the Khajiit shook herself clean and ran straight into a stiff punch from her quarry. Shaking her jaw, she seemed to enjoy this game, and sprang at the foe, and then vaulted over the ogre to insert her daggers at various pain-inducing locations down the ogre’s back. It let out a most intimidating roar, which caused Footfalls-in-Snow to falter in fear as he attacked his own foe, but this was a bellow of an ogre understanding his days of hunting and gathering were over.

Roggvir and the Argonian flummoxed their foe by baiting it from opposing directions. All the ogre wished for was an opportunity to utilize its massive frame, and to smack either of them into brutally pulped shapes. This wish wasn’t granted, to the ogre stomped the ground in anger, and began throwing large pieces of soil and rock at the Argonian. We had wiped off worse during our slog through Black Marsh. Undeterred, both hunters ended the final ogre’s days by skewering it deeply through the ribs. So thorough were the insertions that one of the spears became stuck permanently, and had to be left inside the ogre’s corpse.

DURZOG AND GOBLIN | It appeared the Goblins were being driven from the moon sugar cane plantation; the Khajiit of the Anequina had little time for these marauders, but we saw no stilted structures on fire or displaying scorch marks or other evidence of a Goblin rampage. As we closed in on the motley band of hunched green men, they seemed to be fleeing rather than advancing through the marsh, drooling and snarling about the mouth, and the Khajiiti spearmen chasing them had cloth masks draped over their faces. “Remnants of the Stonechewer tribe,” Kishra-do observed as we closed to arrow range. “Sweet Riddle’Thar!” she suddenly exclaimed, scavenging her baggage for a mask of similar material: “They have the Knahaten Flu!”

The remains of a war band were staggering, dragging their heels, and didn’t exhibit the usual sprightly cunning of a Goblin. Four pathetic specimens, two hunched and coughing, a robed shaman with alarming and disfiguring orange boils around his mouth and nose, and a wretched leader. Their green skin had an ashen overtone, as if layers of unwashed sweat had congealed over it. Goblin armor is famously slapdash: a collection of stolen pieces from other races, poorly mimicked on forges without the proper heat, and liable to fall apart under duress, like the Goblins themselves in this encounter. Tiny black pupils staring wildly from bloodshot eyes, jutting lower jaws of mangled teeth, and wiry but powerful frames. Primitive features, caked-in dirt. When Kishra-do bounded towards them with daggers raised, one of the Goblins dropped his approximation of a Redguard’s axe and fled into the maze of cane stalks. This was a squalid band of miscreants. The war chief began shrieking unintelligible orders to his rabble from a makeshift saddle on top of a many-spined durzog.

This strange, spined animal sagged slightly under the weight of its rider, a lizard (that the Argonian had no qualms in killing), prowling on all fours and usually trained by Goblins as mounts or to watch their dens. Imagine a nix-hound, as tall as a broad-shouldered Nord, green in coloration save for patches of darker mottled tones and a brown striping emanating from the row of back spines. Ingjard wondered how comfortable the riding position was, as the beast’s entire back, including its vicious-looking tail, was covered with these fin-like barbs. Hooked toes created to tear apart quivering flesh. A formidable jaw for lunging and never letting go. Three sets of beady eyes to search for prey and danger, and an intelligence a step or two above even that of their Goblin masters.

Combat began with the shaman raising both arms and lost in a trace. Unfortunately for the Goblin, he interrupted his incantation with a coughing fit, leaving a few moments free for Kishra-do to introduce the wheezing magician to a pair of impeccably placed dagger thrusts, under the ribs and up through the chin, before removing them quickly and bounding away before the tainted blood infected her. The war chief wheeled around, his durzog rearing up and bounding forward, rushing at the Khajiit, biting and ripping at her with sharp fangs and a frenzied look in its many eyes. It removed a small shaving of Khajiit ankle fur for its troubles. We rallied to her aid, ignoring the possibility of a plague (Roggvir bragging of his iron constitution, “I won’t be put on my back with a case of the Goblin sniffles!”), and Namasur sliced up the standing Goblin, who seemed almost thankful to be meeting his maker (and hopefully chiding this primitive deity for permitting this affliction, which many Goblins of the realm were succumbing to).

The durzog finally found a bone to chew on; unfortunately it was attached to Roggvir’s leg. The creature bit down until the Nord slipped on the watery ground; his bone cracked, and blood seeped through the leather greaves. Fearing a laceration, the Nord retaliated with a bout of swearing too common to repeat here, grabbed the durzog by the head with one hand, and used the sword in his other to repeatedly puncture the animal’s face and neck until the blood ran thick from both of them. Ingjard finally had to step in before Roggvir disfigured the durzog to the point of pulping, bringing an axe swiftly down to snap the creature’s neck, which still hung on. A second blow severed the head, but still it refused to drop Roggvir’s leg. Finally, Roggvir had to drag himself away and call the Argonian over to pry open the jaw, bind his wound, and apply some healing remedies.

The Goblin leader simply stepped off his headless mount, knelt down before me, and grunted something in a primitive nonsense tongue. But by his gesticulations, he seemed to be pleading for a quick death by my hand. Never wanting to disappoint an adversary (although I would hardly call this one worthy), I obliged with swift determination, remembering my days as Windhelm’s executioner.

SENCHE-LION | The grasslands bordering Bangkorai offer a wondrous view of the Khajiit’s province [This error in geography is also present in the original text. Instead of Bankorai, this is supposed to be Reaper’s March], flat plains of lush grass undulating in a never-ending dance of windswept shapes. The soil is deep red, and the trees intermittent, branches reaching out, not up, to withstand the buffeting breeze. Kishra-do comes to the occasional stone carving, inspects the offering left there, and directs us onwards, towards our journey’s end at the merchant settlement of Dune. Before our arrival, we narrowly avoided a mauling. Not from some sharp-clawed, fang-toothed beast of the wild, but thanks to the animosity of two hunters within our own ranks.

A snarling senche-lion bounded out of the tall grass, heckles raised across its arched back, growling and baring its considerable collection of pointy teeth: A proud-looking Khajiit (a subspecies of Kishra-do’s kind), and one of the many varieties of senche-tigers that are hunted across Tamriel, mainly by the Bosmer, for their fur and very sweet meat, although this fact isn’t imparted to the Khajiit to any great extent, for obvious and mainly cultural reasons. This cat was easily as big on four legs as Roggvir was on two. A thick mane of hair and a wide snout gave it the look of a venerable Khajiiti trader, though it didn’t use sarcasm to get its point across, preferring a growl and a raking of formidable clawed paws. The fur headdress continued down the back of sand-colored hair, which changed to a darker tone at the tail tuft. Just below the surface, we could see the rippling muscles of the beast’s haunches, as it readied to attack. Roggvir readied an arrow.

A spinning hand axe of Khajiiti origin severed the drawstring, and the arrow fell at Roggvir’s feet. The Argonian tittered, then backed away quietly as Roggvir’s expression changed to that of a man whose sweetroll had been stolen. I half feared a hairy transformation like his brother’s, but Roggvir placed the bow softly on the ground, and forced his way into Kishra-do’s personal aura. He stood nose to muzzle, glaring and red faced. Kishra-do brought a barbed blade up between the two of them, and Roggvir’s seething breath condensed on it. The senche-lion stopped its growling, and sat down in the long grass, watching the spat intently. It was at this point that Kishra-do decided to pour hot oil on this fire.

“Ah, the unclawed shaveskin! Look; my sword does not tarnish, despite your most virulent halitosis. Your hunter’s instincts are quick, but your lack of talent doesn’t allow you to slay an elder Sa-m’Athra.”

“Listen, House Cat, we are here to please Kyne, and I don’t take my orders from a furry provincial. Befoul a Nord’s bow again, and I’ll be wearing your coat next winter!” Roggvir’s axe appeared between them now, as they pressed knotted foreheads together.

“Ha! If you needed a warm cloak, why didn’t we skin the pelt from your rabid brother back in Hammerfell? Naturally we’d dip it in a purifying agent to kill the lice first, yes?” Ingjard looked at me with concern. Meanwhile, the senche-lion had lain down, and was lazily chewing on grass.

Roggvir smiled briefly and stepped back. I knew that look; I needed to step in, as he was readying to throttle the cat. He spoke quietly: “Too much moon sugar, you antsy grimalkin? Here, let me find you a ball of yarn to play with… after I kill your uncle!” Roggvir turned to sprint for the senche-lion, but I caught him by the shoulder and led him (under protest) away from both Khajiiti troublemakers. I explained our predicament; we were deep in Khajiiti territory, and our merchant benefactor was a cat. A modicum of diplomacy was required. After much persuasion, we agreed we would hunt and skin a senche-tiger after Kyne’s challenge was resolved.

Kishra-do, as if to add a further metaphorical slap to Roggvir’s face, was slowly approaching the senche-lion, with one arm raised to signify she wasn’t a threat (while the other fingered a dagger on her back belt). She nuzzled the lion for a moment, speaking to it in a purring tone. Then she leapt across its back. Not to plunge a dagger down, but to ride the tamed beast.

Roggvir’s mood was livid all the way to Dune.

DREMORA | The merchant settlement of Dune was in the distance, in the middle of our view of the fertile desert with flat plains stretching on seemingly to the edge of Mundus. Kishra-do circled back from a prowl on her senche-lion, leaned down from her mount, and motioned to a commotion in the distance. “You prepare to slaughter the overconfident who stain our lands with filth, yes?” I peered past her pointed paw, my old eyes adjusting slowly in the twilight. A dark cloud of red and black shapes, churning up the dust behind them: a band of degenerate scavengers intent on assailing the inhabitants of the town. “The chattel of Coldharbour stalk this land, and hope to burn down my home. Despite the hobbling one,” she nodded to Roggvir, “we have a fragrant band of walkers, and I would be no happier serving a Khajiit,” she now nodded in deference to me: “But we must lance these boils!” Before she charged off to start carnage she might not survive, I beckoned our hunters to cluster. Tonight we hunt Dremora.

“These are no mere Daedra,” Namasur started, intending a diatribe on the societal structure of ‘the Kyn,’ as he called them.

Ingjard stopped this banter with a raised stone fist: “Listen, Redguard. I only wish to learn one aspect from your studies: Where to strike to cause them most pain!” Roggvir slapped a thigh (his healthy one) in delight, and the remaining conversation was spent confirming the weakness of Daedra armor, and the expected aggression to watch for. We weren’t to rabbit like Breton fishwives, though; the Dremora were cutting across the savanna like an opening wound.

Our adversaries were salivating over the cat meat inside the walls of Dune; they had neglected to watch their flank. Kishra-do wished to attack from disparate directions to harry them. But there was no time to surround our foes. Or was there? Namasur displayed some heretofore hidden talents, touching both Kishra-do and her mount gently on the back while mumbling something foreign. In a flash, they were both gone, intending to reappear on the far edge of the grassland, to offer a late (but tactically advantageous) charge. The flash had the added effect of stopping the advancing Dremora horde, as they turned as one to face us.

We counted four imposing figures, clad in the Daedra fineries of their ilk, each with a few baying clannfear or banekin at their boots. Such revolting familiars need no description, but their summoners stood shoulder to shoulder, each a more grotesque excuse for a man.

A Caitiff and a Kynval warrior, each built for battle: one clutching an evil-looking broadsword with both clawed gauntlets, the weapon glinting in the low sunlight, and a glowing blue gem affixed to the blade. The other came with a shield: a lattice of red metal and ebony, finely tempered metal with thick curves and points to damage even while bashing. In the other hand an axe, hilt and pommel sharply pointed, with a blade so sharp it could split hair, or carve vertically through a head and out through the loins. Both strode in heavy armor of frightening beauty, dozens of interlocking plates and a full helm showing only the lidless eyes of menace.

A nightblade Kynreeve, clad in light black and red, thinner plates allowing for quicker movement, and dual daggers spinning about his palms. Deep ceremonial cuts across a gaunt face, pointed forehead grooves burrowing into the protruding brow, ash-gray skin, pointed ears, and two more horns where a chin should be.

Their leader, a mage Kynmarcher of considerable power, twisted horns protruding through her black hood, a bodice of rope and metal, sewn from hopelessness. Plates of ebony and red, firmly interlocking and forged in otherworldly fire. She carried a staff with a focusing crystal of amethyst, pulsing and ready to discharge hatred. A predilection for spikes, even among those prone to less obvious violence. A rotting skull at her belt, signifying deviance and the acts of necromancy.

Though their armor was black and red, their eyes were pale blue: Their fealty was to Molag Bal.

We announced our intentions first: Ingjard was our finest archer. She made a shot so straight and true, songs will be sung about it for years to come. From the furthest range possible, it struck the Kynmarcher through the left eye. What Ingjard hadn’t shared with us was the additional gift she had been saving for this special occasion: a small charge of explosive powder squirreled away since Windhelm. The Dremora leader staggered back, clutching the arrow, and was attempting to wrench it from her skull when it detonated, blowing her head and part of her arm off. The rest of her slumped into a heap, her spirit summoned back to Molag Bal for an indeterminate amount of prostate flailing.

Chaos ensued. Clannfear charged, but our other archers followed Ingjard’s lead, and the idiotic Daedra familiars were cut down and strewn about the low grass before they reached us. Six banekin faltered, their innate cowardice causing them to flee from us and into the mauling claws of Kishra-do’s senche-lion, which toyed with (and then tore apart) two of their number. The Khajiit and the vanishing Redguard had also appeared, gleefully slicing parts of various sizes from the panicked servitors. With all but three of their number left unscathed, the nightblade spoke in angered, throaty tones:

“Varlets and Churls! Bay for the blood of your victims, for your deaths are unimportant. My kynaz! Don’t spare your fury. May your violence please the Harvester of Souls!”

Not knowing when to run from greater numbers, the arrogant Dremora charged at full pace towards our main group. A pitched battle raged: a blur of fur, metal, scales, swords, axes, and blood. The Argonian cut in the arm. The Kynval finally defending with his shield, catching a vicious flurry from Ingjard. Roggvir followed up with further axe play, expertly parried by the red and black monster. This dance of death finally ended when an Argonian dagger was pounded through Kynval boot, and two Nord weapons continued the dismembering until Dremora armor was only the color red.

Namasur hoisted the Caitiff aloft with a spear sideways through the Dremora’s ribs, out the other side, and then off the ground: The armored fiend dropped to his feet, took both ends of the Redguard’s prized spear, snapped them off, and advanced at Namasur with a smile and a section of spear pole still poking his innards. This mocking bravery ended abruptly (as Namasur’s ruined spear had sentimental value), as the Redguard began a reckless sword rampage; the Caitiff’s own massive, double-handed blade coming within a hair’s breadth of slicing off the Redguard’s head. Wild swings turned to death throes as Namasur’s scimitar found its home embedded in the Caitiff’s arm, severing it completely with a second strike. The Dremora watched almost quizzically as its own appendage thrashed on the ground like a freshly caught salmon, then attempted to wield its sword with its remaining arm. The blood loss was too great, and it fell forward, dismissed and gushing with blood.

The nightblade’s daggers were a blur before my beard, as it mixed grace and power in its strikes against my armor. Small cuts were all it managed, as I had some previous experience fighting bears with only my knuckles, and dagger combat with the Companions of Whiterun. The Dremora seemed surprised that an old man was keeping up with his furor of small blades. This turned to incredulity when I plucked both his wrists from the air around my head, and followed up with the old “Rorikstead hello,” a forehead to the face that cracked his helm and put him on arse. I had pounced on him before the blood began to flow from his broken nose. I hadn’t been bettered in wrestling for nigh on ten years, and this upstart had little chance. Pinned down, all the nightblade could manage was a sneer, and he spit through broken teeth:

“We shall return with strength in our numbers, we shall writhe in your nightmares, and we…” My own dagger through his neck finished his sentence, and the nightblade at last fell silent.

DAEDRA TITAN, ZOMBIES, AND A TERRIBLE DAEDRIC INCURSION | The sun had burned all but its embers as our procession reached the ornate crenelations and crescent moons adorning the high walls of Dune. Graceful architecture of the cat men, venerating the divine nature of the moons, and harking back to the oldest memories of Tamriel, when the Khajiiti moon emperor ruled this entire province. But we weren’t here to marvel at the architecture; we were here to settle our account with trade merchant Zagun-ra and say our goodbyes to Kishra-do, before venturing further inland. A conclusion to our challenge lay in Cyrodiil, although the reports I was hearing painted a picture of unrest and strife.

We were met at the gates by a venerable Khajiit, clad in the robes of a moon bishop. Although his fur was graying around the eyes, and his chin tufts were now white, I recognized the broad shoulders and markings of my benefactor:

“Fellow walker Zagun-ra!” I embraced him. “May Jone and Jode cast their light upon your dance!”

Zagun-ra smiled. “A most fragrant welcome! May your thirst for mead never be quenched, most hairy of my acquaintances!” The Khajiit beckoned Kishra-do over: “Get off that mount, you muskarse! Gather the spoils and take them to the apothecary, or I’ll be keeping the moon sugar for myself. Quickly, yes?” Roggvir smirked as Kishra-do bowed her head, met the Argonian, and was weighed down by the copious sacks, bags, and general belongings of our hunt.

“I trust my House Cat has been behaving, yes? Good. Let us retire to the Sweet Plethora Teahouse and discuss payment. Not your rabble, though.”

The place smelled too sickly for my liking; tapestries were too intricate and involved the marking of the moon’s path. I attempted to tug my foot into a cross-legged position, and failed. But the tea was excellent, if a little sweet and thick (and laced with moon sugar, I later found out). As Zagun-ra finished counting gold coins, and placing them (along with numerous gems) into a bag as large as my head, he leaned in.

“Sweetcake? Caramelized goat nibbles? Honey pudding?” he asked, pointing at an array of dainty cakes on the embroidered-cloth-covered table.

“Not for me. I have an Argonian with a sweet fang, who…”

“No matter,” Zagun-ra interrupted, his expression changing like the wind. “Listen, my hirsute friend, I’ve heard troubling news from the Baandari peddlers. You must have seen the constellation of the serpent, how it dwarfs the others in our night’s sky.” I lied and nodded my head.

“Tell me, have you encountered more than your fair share of Daedra?” I nodded again, explaining our most recent infraction with the Dremora, and the elder Khajiit sat back, softly tugging at his whiskers. “Troubling…”

A loud clattering in the street outside announced Kishra-do’s arrival. I could hear general commotion, and the blur of cat folk running in all directions behind her.

“Master Zagun-ra!” Kishra-do spoke with a tremor in her voice for the first time: “Dark anchor!”

The stars were blotted out, replaced by a terrible circular storm, from which a great wailing was heard, then the grinding of chains as a gargantuan metal hook plummeted from the firmament, stabbing the ground close to the city walls, which shook but remained steadfast. Clods of earth were chewed and thrown up as the anchor dug deeply. Out of the scars clawed hands appeared, a mass of dark spirits sent to befoul Elsweyr. “Dro-m’Athra, everywhere!” Kishra-do and her kin were at the walls, bows at the ready as a great bell tolled in my head, its source unknown.

A stream of the cackling, dancing, and revolting now. Clannfear, banekin, and other more powerful entities which we had faced previously in our travels. Dremora barking at their minions, whipping them forward, great courage in great numbers. A Daedra priest was seen. Was he the one we encountered at the great necropolis in Hammerfell? He certainly chose to reenact that day, as other, damned souls now slithered from the great hole: a mass of the diseased, unwashed, and unwanted. An army of zombies with a Daedra necromancer, rotting flesh from every race in Tamriel. Kishra-do and a small contingent of armored Khajiit formed at the gate, and a storm of arrows flew from the city walls. A daedroth was struck but still stomped on, unflinching. A banekin dropped, gasping at the bolt through his gullet. But the fate of the horde seemed inconsequential as we looked up at the sky.

The whirl of clouds had darknened more considerably, with great flashes of lightning erupting from the maelstrom. Those with throats in the horde began to cackle uncontrollably. Then the landscape was bathed in a pale blue light, a frigid illumination from the depths of Coldharbour. The light grew in strength until it was as bright as day, and the evil glee intensified. A huge circle of metal, held up in the heavens by the magic of Molag Bal himself, opened, and a grim shadow was cast over Dune. A huge and terrible head plummeting down, weaving between the three chains of the dark anchor, unfurling great tapestries of wings, swooping and circling the settlement. Over the wind and echoing laughter, Namasur had stepped to my side. He squinted through the storm of dust and evil: “Beware, for it attacks with great strength, virulent disease, and without mercy.” The screaming wind was almost deafening now. “A dread servant of Molag Bal!”

A behemoth had torn through from Oblivion.

A Daedra titan, keeper of the black soul gems for the Lord of Brutality. Next it landed, spreading out its tattered (but considerable) wings, digging into the soil, claws first, cutting a fissure with its feet and kicking up more soil and rocks in its wide wake. A head proudly showing off its tusks, flayed skin, and three huge, primal horns. Seeping mists of blue spread up from the skull-like nostril holes and the wicked eye slits. Flayed skin stretched over a protruding skeleton of ribs, tendons, and sharp-spined ridges, all seemingly carved from Coldharbour stone. Twice the size of a mammoth, and unquestionably more savage, it sniffed the air, opening its overlapping fang mouth to taste the fear, and appeared to feed off the energy of the baying horde. To the rear, its long, thorny tail whipped from left to right, the tip shaped like the legendary mace of Molag Bal himself.

Trumpeting thunder sounded as it roared forward, focusing its might on the Khajiit defending Dune. A raking claw sent two cat folk tumbling, one remaining still on the ground, stained in blood. Archers at the ready, their missiles were fired and then forced downwards as the titan flexed its formidable wings, conjuring a billowing gale that knocked many defenders from their perches, and turned arrows to snapped sticks. I saw Kishra-do lead six brave Khajiiti pit fighters, who sought to overwhelm the giant. One was cut down the middle by a huge, hooked toe. Another two bounded onto the haunches of the beast, but were caught by the titan’s writhing tail and run through, falling under the beast, mangled. Two more were lost in a huge sphere of light, a scourge bolt spat from the maw. This left two remaining cat folk, cutting through the titan’s front arms, one gathered up and squeezed out into a furry pulp. Kishra-do threw her spear with force, and it lodged in the titan’s gullet. It gave a great cough, shook its head, and inhaled before bellowing a river of soul flames out, engulfing Kishra-do.

Ingjard was atop the battlements, yelling at the felines to fire upon the behemoth. I saw the tail strike her down, and she disappeared with three other archers, under a mass of collapsing stone. Namasur sped past me, shouting a farewell: “There are worse ways to die!” His eyes on the titan, he was upon the hulking form and slicing through its armpit as it turned, grabbed the Redguard, and flung him across the plains. He was still alive when he struck the middle of the crowd of Daedra, but I lost sight of him as a dozen wretched forms leaped upon him to tear out his soul.

Roggvir turned to me, the light of Sovngarde behind his eyes: “Let them kill me! As long as I take enough of them with me, it’s worth it!” With that, he raised his axe and sped forth, one man charging headlong into an army of Daedra. As he reached the first line of marauders, he began to change, armor shredding from his expanding back, hair sprouting, and claws forming through collapsing leather gauntlets, a wolf’s head forming to feast on the profane ones.

“I knew it!”

“Ah, well. It is long since I have licked the Tree.” Footfalls-in-Snow was by my side. As he had always been. I was a fool to mistrust this vassal; he had a loyalty few Nords exhibit. But my thoughts were not about his journey to the Hist Tree. It was the looming face of Molag Bal’s emissary, but also the smaller minions, rushing as a pack. They were twenty footsteps away.

Now ten. The behemoth opened its jaw, and I stared into an abyss. I felt the crowd upon me. I closed my eyes and began to chant.

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