ESO Clockwork City: Lost in the Gloam


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Since the chat with Gascone was unproductive, the Vestige asked Varuni about how to proceed.

Provost Varuni Arvel

Obviously, we need to recover this mysterious key. I don't know where it is, or what it does, but if Daedric Princes intend to mount an invasion over it, we can't afford to let it slip through our fingers.

Vestige

Where should we start?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Gascone insisted that talking crows stole the key from him, right? We should start with them.

According to the constables, the birds started stealing things as soon as they arrived. I've never seen a crow before. Is that sort of thing unusual?

Vestige

The talking? Yes, that's very unusual.

Provost Varuni Arvel

"Hmm. Well, the fact that they arrived so soon after you revealed the Shadow is suspicious, but they seem more interested in simple mischief than anything else.

Ask around the Chancel of Transaction. Perhaps one of our constables can tell you more."

Vestige

All right. I'll see what I can find out.

Provost Varuni Arvel

The sermons never prepared us for something like this. Perhaps, when this is all over, Lord Seht can write an addendum on what to do when talking crows and Daedric monsters come calling.

Vestige

Have you really never seen a crow before?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Not until today, no. They're really quite beautiful – aside from the mocking, and stealing, and you know… defecating. I read that birds come in all sorts of colors. Is that accurate?

Vestige

Yes, hundreds of breeds exist in Tamriel.

Provost Varuni Arvel

Hundreds? Fascinating.

I'd very much like to see more of these birds. For research purposes, of course. Introducing a foreign species to Lord Seht's creation could result in all kinds of unforeseen errors and deviations.

Vestige

If we defeat the Shadow, maybe you can visit Tamriel yourself.

Provost Varuni Arvel

What? No, no, no. I have too many responsibilities here. And to leave Seht's side? It's an absurd suggestion. No offense, of course. Clockwork City is my home. I have no desire to leave. No desire at all.

Now we have work to do, right?

Vestige

Do you have any idea why the Daedra want this key?

Provost Varuni Arvel

It clearly possesses some great power.

Keys exist to lock and unlock doors, right? I assume they want to unlock something.

Vestige

Is there anything here in the Clockwork City they might want to unlock?

Provost Varuni Arvel

We don't often rely upon locks, but I guess it's possible. Maybe an apostle's chest, or some lower sections of the Incarnatorium?

Vestige

What about Sotha Sil? Does he have something locked away?

Provost Varuni Arvel

I really wouldn't know. What happens in the Cogitum Centralis remains a mystery to pretty much everyone.

But don't worry. If Lord Seht locked something away, no mere key could open it.

Vestige

Are you sure about that?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Certain.

I mean, I guess it's possible that... No. No, I'm certain.

Conversation concluded, the Vestige followed Varuni's advice and went to find a constable. Constable Drados, right in the middle of the garden, seemed perfect. When the Vestige saw him, he was yelling at the birds.

Constable Drados

Go on, get out of here!

Knave of Rooks

We go where we please, wingless! Go away, or we peck out your eyes!

Jongleur of Filches

Eyes! Sweet, juicy eyes!

Squire Peck

Such flavor!

Jongleur of Filches

Tender bits!

Constable Drados

Vile beasts...

The Vestige approaches the constable.

Constable Drados

Come to gawk at the birds? Just keep those heels spring-loaded, friend.

The big one there nearly pecked an apostle's ear off. She said it was due for a replacement anyway, but even so... I'm sure it didn't tickle.

Vestige

I need to ask the crows something.

Constable Drados

Ha! Well... may Sotha Sil bless your attempt.

Honestly, if you got them to stop bickering and babbling for even a moment, I'd probably slip a spring.

Vestige

Do you know where I can find more of the crows?

Constable Drados

Other than everywhere? The loudest gather around a tree just outside the basilica. I assume those are the ones you're after. Now, listen. They'll demand some kind of ridiculous tribute, I guarantee it. Don't do anything stupid, all right?

Vestige

All right. Thank you.

Prior to heading out, the Vestige wanted to see if Drados had anything else to say.

Constable Drados

I pity the factotum that has to clean His holy likeness up there. I've never seen so many droppings in one place.

Vestige

Have you ever seen something like this before?

Constable Drados

What? Like the birds? No.

We did have a skeevaton infestation once. Someone left the fabricator running and it spewed out thousands and thousands of the things. The apostles deployed clockwork cats to catch them, but then we had too many cats...

Vestige

So someone sent out clockwork hounds?

Constable Drados

Exactly. By the time Sotha Sil caught wind of it, the Fortress was packed full of wind-up bears and motorized tigers. Quite a scene.

The Clockwork God destroyed all of them... except the skeevatons. I like to think he has a sense of humor.

The Vestige followed Drados' instructions and headed to the large tree to talk to a crow.

Knave of Rooks

Spy! Stay back, spy!

This tree belongs to the Blackfeather Court. The Duke claimed it, by law of sovereign roost! Look for shinies somewhere else! Go! Go!

Vestige

I'm not a spy. I just want to talk.

Knave of Rooks

Spy! No talking! I know a spy when I see one! The Exarchs of Dross may share meat with featherless giants, but not the Blackfeather Court!

In wartime, only spies approach without tribute. Every bird knows that!

Vestige

What if I go get a tribute for the Court?

Knave of Rooks

Tribute! Yes! Shinies for the Duke!

We demand a treasure from our enemy! The metal man who shouts at us - Constable Drados. May his tail droop and his wings wither! Snatch up his silver treasure, and then we parlay. Go!

Vestige

Where can I find this treasure?

Knave of Rooks

Perhaps he carries a treasure beneath his clickity-clanking clothes. Or maybe he hides treasures away in the stone nest called Cloisters. That is for you to find out, Featherless! Now go!

Before going, the Vestige wanted to learn more about these strange creatures.

Since the chat with Gascone was unproductive, the Vestige asked Varuni about how to proceed.

Provost Varuni Arvel

Obviously, we need to recover this mysterious key. I don't know where it is, or what it does, but if Daedric Princes intend to mount an invasion over it, we can't afford to let it slip through our fingers.

Vestige

Where should we start?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Gascone insisted that talking crows stole the key from him, right? We should start with them.

According to the constables, the birds started stealing things as soon as they arrived. I've never seen a crow before. Is that sort of thing unusual?

Vestige

The talking? Yes, that's very unusual.

Provost Varuni Arvel

"Hmm. Well, the fact that they arrived so soon after you revealed the Shadow is suspicious, but they seem more interested in simple mischief than anything else.

Ask around the Chancel of Transaction. Perhaps one of our constables can tell you more."

Vestige

All right. I'll see what I can find out.

Provost Varuni Arvel

The sermons never prepared us for something like this. Perhaps, when this is all over, Lord Seht can write an addendum on what to do when talking crows and Daedric monsters come calling.

Vestige

Have you really never seen a crow before?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Not until today, no. They're really quite beautiful – aside from the mocking, and stealing, and you know… defecating. I read that birds come in all sorts of colors. Is that accurate?

Vestige

Yes, hundreds of breeds exist in Tamriel.

Provost Varuni Arvel

Hundreds? Fascinating.

I'd very much like to see more of these birds. For research purposes, of course. Introducing a foreign species to Lord Seht's creation could result in all kinds of unforeseen errors and deviations.

Vestige

If we defeat the Shadow, maybe you can visit Tamriel yourself.

Provost Varuni Arvel

What? No, no, no. I have too many responsibilities here. And to leave Seht's side? It's an absurd suggestion. No offense, of course. Clockwork City is my home. I have no desire to leave. No desire at all.

Now we have work to do, right?

Vestige

Do you have any idea why the Daedra want this key?

Provost Varuni Arvel

It clearly possesses some great power.

Keys exist to lock and unlock doors, right? I assume they want to unlock something.

Vestige

Is there anything here in the Clockwork City they might want to unlock?

Provost Varuni Arvel

We don't often rely upon locks, but I guess it's possible. Maybe an apostle's chest, or some lower sections of the Incarnatorium?

Vestige

What about Sotha Sil? Does he have something locked away?

Provost Varuni Arvel

I really wouldn't know. What happens in the Cogitum Centralis remains a mystery to pretty much everyone.

But don't worry. If Lord Seht locked something away, no mere key could open it.

Vestige

Are you sure about that?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Certain.

I mean, I guess it's possible that... No. No, I'm certain.

Conversation concluded, the Vestige followed Varuni's advice and went to find a constable. Constable Drados, right in the middle of the garden, seemed perfect. When the Vestige saw him, he was yelling at the birds.

Constable Drados

Go on, get out of here!

Knave of Rooks

We go where we please, wingless! Go away, or we peck out your eyes!

Jongleur of Filches

Eyes! Sweet, juicy eyes!

Squire Peck

Such flavor!

Jongleur of Filches

Tender bits!

Constable Drados

Vile beasts...

The Vestige approaches the constable.

Constable Drados

Come to gawk at the birds? Just keep those heels spring-loaded, friend.

The big one there nearly pecked an apostle's ear off. She said it was due for a replacement anyway, but even so... I'm sure it didn't tickle.

Vestige

I need to ask the crows something.

Constable Drados

Ha! Well... may Sotha Sil bless your attempt.

Honestly, if you got them to stop bickering and babbling for even a moment, I'd probably slip a spring.

Vestige

Do you know where I can find more of the crows?

Constable Drados

Other than everywhere? The loudest gather around a tree just outside the basilica. I assume those are the ones you're after. Now, listen. They'll demand some kind of ridiculous tribute, I guarantee it. Don't do anything stupid, all right?

Vestige

All right. Thank you.

Prior to heading out, the Vestige wanted to see if Drados had anything else to say.

Constable Drados

I pity the factotum that has to clean His holy likeness up there. I've never seen so many droppings in one place.

Vestige

Have you ever seen something like this before?

Constable Drados

What? Like the birds? No.

We did have a skeevaton infestation once. Someone left the fabricator running and it spewed out thousands and thousands of the things. The apostles deployed clockwork cats to catch them, but then we had too many cats...

Vestige

So someone sent out clockwork hounds?

Constable Drados

Exactly. By the time Sotha Sil caught wind of it, the Fortress was packed full of wind-up bears and motorized tigers. Quite a scene.

The Clockwork God destroyed all of them... except the skeevatons. I like to think he has a sense of humor.

The Vestige followed Drados' instructions and headed to the large tree to talk to a crow.

Knave of Rooks

Spy! Stay back, spy!

This tree belongs to the Blackfeather Court. The Duke claimed it, by law of sovereign roost! Look for shinies somewhere else! Go! Go!

Vestige

I'm not a spy. I just want to talk.

Knave of Rooks

Spy! No talking! I know a spy when I see one! The Exarchs of Dross may share meat with featherless giants, but not the Blackfeather Court!

In wartime, only spies approach without tribute. Every bird knows that!

Vestige

What if I go get a tribute for the Court?

Knave of Rooks

Tribute! Yes! Shinies for the Duke!

We demand a treasure from our enemy! The metal man who shouts at us - Constable Drados. May his tail droop and his wings wither! Snatch up his silver treasure, and then we parlay. Go!

Vestige

Where can I find this treasure?

Knave of Rooks

Perhaps he carries a treasure beneath his clickity-clanking clothes. Or maybe he hides treasures away in the stone nest called Cloisters. That is for you to find out, Featherless! Now go!

Before going, the Vestige wanted to learn more about these strange creatures.

Knave of Rooks

Why do you linger, Featherless? Fetch our treasures or begone! Begone!

Vestige

Who are you?

Knave of Rooks

Bah! Questions!

I am called the Knave of Rooks - craftiest and cleverest vassal of the Blackfeather Court. Sometimes loyal servant to the Duke of Crows himself!

Vestige

And what exactly is the Blackfeater Court?

Knave of Rooks

Truly? You have not read about us in your histories? Ridiculous!

The crows of the Blackfeather Court rule the skies of Oblivion. We hold dominion over the real of Crow's Wood and many lands beyond. All lesser birds pay us homage!

Vestige

So you're from Oblivion? Like Daedra?

Knave of Rooks

Daedra? Do we look like Daedra to you? Daedra look like crocodile men, and fat-faced ogres, and plate-necked turkeys! Every bird knows that!

Vestige

And these Exarchs you mentioned? Are they birds like you?

Knave of Rooks

Yes! The Exarchs of Dross! Our hated rivals. They fancy themselves crows, but they are nothing but sparrows in black feathers! Cowards, traitors, and spies. Spies!

Vestige

Why do you hate them so much?

Knave of Rooks

Ha! A silly question! Some feuds have no beginnings and no ends.

We hate them because they follow orders from the mistress, like dogs. We hate them because they do not pay us tribute. We hate them because they hate us!

Vestige

Your mistress? Who is that?

Knave of Rooks

No! No more questions! Go, fetch our treasure, or go away!

The Vestige went to see the Constable about this treasure the crows were wanting.

Constable Drados

Look who's back. Just couldn't turn the key with those birds, eh? Don't be too hard on yourself. At least you've still got all your fingers.

Vestige

Actually, they agreed to talk. But they want something of yours as tribute. A silver treasure.

Constable Drados

I told you they'd ask for something.

A silver treasure...? Of course. They want my canteen. Ha! Those daffy birds sent you after a pewter canteen? Well, they can't have it. Sorry, mate, but I'm not about to give those scavengers anything.

If the Vestige is skilled at persuasion, getting the canteen is easy.

Vestige

If I can talk to the crow's leader, I might be able to get them to leave for good.

Constable Drados

Fine. But this had better work.

If these vermin are still filching our tools and tableware in a week's time, I'll know who to blame.

If the Vestige speaks to him again after successfully persuading him, he will say the following:

Constable Drados

My wife gave me that canteen, you know. Lucky for you, I hate my wife.

If the Vestige can't persuade Drados, they are forced to take a longer road.

Vestige

Do you really need that canteen?

Constable Drados

No, of course not. But the satisfaction I get from making sure those morons never get what they want? That's priceless.

Now that I know they want it, I think I'll toss it in my junk-chest back in the Cloisters. That'll show them!

That left the Vestige with one option: steal the canteen. So they did.

No matter how the canteen was acquired, the Vestige returned to the Knave of Rooks.

Knave of Rooks

Well? Do you have our shinies? Speak, spy!

Vestige

Constable Drados gave me this canteen as a gift for you.

Knave of Rooks

Such sparkle and shine! The shouting metal-man gave you this treasure willingly? Why?

Vestige

As a peace offering. He wants you to stop heckling him and bothering people in the Fortress.

Knave of Rooks

Ah, he quails at the might of the Court, and wishes to surrender! Yes! Yes, we accept. A fitting prize, this canteen. Perhaps you are a worthy crow-friend after all.

Ask your questions. Ask!

Vestige

Did one of you steal a key from the Clockwork Basilica?

Knave of Rooks

A key? Yes, the Great Prize! The Shiniest Lock-Poker! Our heroic Knight of Marrow breached the gates and claimed it from the clumsy apostles, and our Exarch foes!

The featherless ones squabble over its whereabouts, but they'll never find it. Never!

Vestige

Can you tell me where it is?

Knave of Rooks

No. Only our Duke of Crows knows. You cannot speak to him, crow-friend - not without an escort.

Find the Knight of Marrow. He is our grandest champion! Sleek and strong! Honor him with shinies and sweet meats and he may help.

Vestige

Where is this Knight of Marrow?

Knave of Rooks

By a great waterfall, south and east. Swooning like a lovesick dove, no doubt. Even now he builds his lady love a glorious nest, but she is fickle and he is foolish.

Go and talk to him. He needs adventure.

Vestige

Who are these Exarchs again?

Knave of Rooks

Enemy crows! The Exarchs of Dross.

They serve the shadow women and try to steal the Great Prize from us. But the Blackfeather Court bows to no one! Our Duke will rend their Queen of Chaff to pieces and we will feast on entrails!

Vestige

Shadow women?

Knave of Rooks

Shrikes! Weeping, featherless pale-skins that swat and curse us! And their other servants also - black-robed cultists. May they eat sour meat and die!

Vestige

Why do you care about this key so much?

Knave of Rooks

If you see it, you will know. No silver glistens and gleams like the Prize!

The Exarchs and the shadow women want it, but it's ours now. Ours! The Knight of Marrow claimed it for the Court. Ask him.

Vestige

How did you learn to talk?

Knave of Rooks

How did you learn to talk?

We crows are clever and wise. Wise! We bend our words into sentences just as you do - except we're better at it because we're smarter than you.

On that note, the Vestige chose to leave him and find this Knight of Marrow. As the Vestige approaches him and his hoard of random containers, he calls out.

Knight of Marrow

Who is this? Do you come to challenge the Knight of Marrow? Have at three, featherless foe!

The Vestige strikes up a conversation.

Knight of Marrow

If you be foe, cast down your silly gauntlet! But I warn you - you touch this magnificent trove at your peril! I gathered these treasures for my lady love, and I would sooner die than let you take them!

What say you, Featherless?

Vestige

I'm not here to steal your treasure. I want an audience with the Duke of Crows.

Knight of Marrow

The Duke holds court in Blackfeather Castle. I could arrange a meeting. But can't you see? Heartache has clipped my wings!

Lady Blightwing spurns me! My heroic exploits and shiny gifts only bore her. Mine is a tale of woe. Woe!

Vestige

If I help you win over your lady love, will you take me to the Duke?

Knight of Marrow

You would do that? But how? I gathered a great hoard of glistening treasures and sweet meats and she only laughed! Laughed!

Perhaps a different gift? You featherless ones sometimes woo with song and verse, yes? Teach me!

Vestige

You want me to help you write a love poem?

Knight of Marrow

Yes! A poem! A trinket unlike any other!

The flightless oafs who live here in the Fortress hid a great hoard of words in one of their stone houses. If you help me pluck the tenderest verses, I will take you to see the Duke.

Vestige

All right. I'll help you write this poem.

The Vestige didn't know any good poems off the top of their head, so they headed to the Archivox, the local library, to find something suitable.

Alavani Arano

Welcome to the Archivox, where all children of Sotha Sil may hear His divine word. What can I help you with?

Vestige

I'm looking for a good love poem.

Alavani Arano

A love poem? Where to begin? I have so many favorites.

Perhaps "The Song of the Axle?" Or are you looking for something more conventional? Ode to Brass Lily might please you. It's over on spool nineteen.

The Vestige spoke to her again to learn a bit more about the poem prior to finding it.

Alavani Arano

Ode to a Brass Lily still makes me weep every time I read it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do it.

That was a nice start, but the Vestige needed some options. They found a Nord to question next.

Reinud

You need something? I'm sort of in the middle of this theorem and... Yup, lost it again. Damn.

Well you've got my attention now. What do you want?

Vestige

Sorry. I'm looking for a good love poem. Any suggestions?

Reinud

Love poem? By the gears, why do you want one of those?

I don't stray far from the mathematics spools nowadays, but I used to love the "Ballad of Brisbor the Battle-Axe." Might not be the sweetest verse, but it'll get your blood pumping! Spool six.

Next, the Vestige asked a local librarian robot for their suggestions.

Clockwork Archivist

By the word of Seht, I am bound.

Welcome to the Archivox, resident. How may I assist you?

Vestige

Can you direct me to a good love poem?

Clockwork Archivist

Just a moment.

Category not found. Your request, love poem, does not appear in our organizational schema. I regret that I was not able to help you today. Please report this deficiency to the archivist in residence.

Vestige

Are you sure there's nothing you can do?

Clockwork Archivist

Dreaming... Discarded Flowers. Empty Cylinder.

Thank you for your patience. This unit has generated an original composition based on your inquiry - love poem. Please claim your word-form at spool seventeen.

Vestige

Wait, you just wrote a poem?

Clockwork Archivist

Poem. A collection of thematically appropriate statements and metaphors arranged in a stanzaic sequence, including title and required punctuation. Yes, this unit has composed a poem. I hope it meets your specifications.

May Seht bless your labors.

The Vestige decided that the robots attempt was both sweet and unique, and transcribed it for future reference. Then, they returned to the Knight of Marrow.

Knight of Marrow

My feathers quiver with inspiration! Tell me, have you found a poem worthy of Lady Blightwing?

Vestige

Yes, I found some poems.

Knight of Marrow

Well? Which one should I use to woo my sharp-eyed love?

Vestige

This Love Poem LT0782 looks... interesting. <Show the Knight your transcription>

Knight of Marrow

Hmm... Yes! Perfect! Let's do that one! I can't wait to express my feelings in the sweaty, fat-legged, wingless tradition!

Follow me to the Machine District, squire. You can finally meet my lady love. And the Duke too, I guess.

Vestige

I'll meet you at the Machine District.

Knight of Marrow

Away! To the castle of my lady love!

On the way to the District, the Vestige saw a Clockwork Enforcer talking to Proctor Luciana, and decided to get the latest news from her.

Clockwork Enforcer

Grim, Proctor. Daedric beasts and shadow cultists control much of the district. And the crows... the sky is thick with them!

Proctor Luciana Pullo

First that bastard, Divayth, and now the crows? Your taste in companions grows worse by the hour.

Sorry. We're having a very bad day. You mean to enter the Machine District? Why?

Vestige

This crow promised to take me to the key they stole from Gascone.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Hmm. Normally, I'd say we should simply kill them all and take the key by force. But it seems these birds have a real talent for hiding things.

Daedra and cultists tossed the district for hours, and from what we can tell, they didn't find anything.

Vestige

All the more reason to follow the crow.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Fine. You can play their ridiculous game... for now. But I'm coming with you. I've lost enough citizens already.

Word of advice: don't let these Daedric pests push you around. We need to learn the nature of this key before it's too late.

Vestige

All right. Stay close.

Suddenly, the Knight of Marrow spoke up.

Knight of Marrow

No! Your metal woman is not allowed in Castle Blackfeather! I forbid it!

Proctor Luciana Pullo

I don't want to go anywhere near your filthy castle, vermin. Let's get this over with.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Lead on, crow killer. I'll be right behind you. Trying to rationalize why I'm helping.

Upon entering the district, the group located Lady Blightwing and the Knight began reciting his poem.

Lady Blightwing

Crowmother help me...

Knight of Marrow

My fair maiden of ruin! My heart swells to see you, like a dead cat's belly warmed by the sun.

Your merits, uh... defy calculation?

My pelvic bracket pumps like a piston... Oh, that's not right!

Lady Blightwing

What? Is this some kind of featherless joke?

Knight of Marrow

And your face! Your face looks symesital...? Symmetrical? It looks shiny! So shiny!

Lady Blightwing

Sir Knight, that was... unique. So mysterious! I like your face too. Join me on the treasure-heap some time!

Knight of Marrow

She said yes! I owe a debt, crow-friend. Duke! Duke, may I present the featherless poet.

Duke of Crows

Hail, crow-friend to my great Knight of Marrow! You come to parlay? What boon do you seek from the Blackfeather Court?

Vestige

I seek the key you stole from the Clockwork Basilica, your grace.

Duke of Crows

The Shiniest? The Great Prize? Outrageous! What could you possibly offer us that rival the luster of the magnificent lock-poker?

Speak quickly! Speak! My knights and I must prepare for our next battle with the Exarchs of Dross!

Vestige

I could help you fight off these Exarchs.

Duke of Crows

You would take up the Blackfeather banner? Tempting! The Exarchs use wingless allies to shoot down my vassals and scatter my treasures. But if we had a giant of our own... Very well, I accept!

Go! Destroy the Exarchs, and the key is yours. Yours!

Vestige

Why are you fighting the Exarchs?

Duke of Crows

The Exarchs of Dross hate us! They envy our fine plumage, and covet our gleaming treasures.

I parlayed with their leader before - the Queen of Chaff. She thinks the Daedra will reward her for loyal service, but we know that's not true. Not true!

Vestige

How long have you been fighting?

Duke of Crows

Aeons in crow-time. But the Blackfeather Court will not be intimidated by these grackles! My knights will pluck out the queen's vane feathers and leave her to flop about like a fledgling!

Vestige

How did you and the Exarchs get here?

Duke of Crows

Through a pool of shadow! We heard the call of our mistress and obeyed. But once we saw this great sea of treasures, we decided to revolt. The Duke of Crows does as he pleases.

This city of shimmering prizes belongs to us now.

Vestige

Sotha Sil might have a problem with that.

Duke of Crows

I have heard this name, Sotha Sil. A dead king - or soon dead king, I've heard it said. It makes no difference! The Blackfeather Court claims this place. It's ours! Ours!

Vestige

Wait, you've heard about Sotha Sil? What else do you know?

Duke of Crows

I know only that he's a half-metal giant who hides in a buzzing nest deep within the city. And that the Exarchs and their featherless allies want him dead.

But how does this help with the war effort? Enough talk! Go! Go!

So the Vestige went. First, though, they talked to Luciana about this whole endeavor.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

So. We're going to fight... birds. If only my Reman dragoons could see me now. Channeling the arcane to defeat poultry.

Vestige

We just have to scare the other crows away, then he'll give us the key.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

You know, times like these that I really wish I had a sense of humor. But since I don't, I expect you to keep the details of this entire escapade to yourself.

Vestige

Don't worry. We're in this together.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

You're really reaching.

Enough small talk. Lets kick the droppings off our boots and get on with it.

Scattering the Exarchs proved easy, and, once enough were dispatched, they all decided to leave.

Exarch of Dross

Argh! Its arms will be the death of us! Fly! Fly!

Exarch of Dross

Retreat! Retreat!

Exarch of Dross

Why do you always dare them! Fly, fools!

With the enemy crows dispatched, the Vestige returned to their allies.

Knight of Marrow

Ha! Well struck, squire! The Exarchs are in full retreat! Look how they caw like chicks and empty their bowels! The time has come for a counter-attach!

Prepare for your greatest challenge, crow-friend. The Motionless Guardian.

Vestige

The Motionless Guardian?

Knight of Marrow

Yes! Yes! The flightless cultists summoned it to guard their treasures.

The Guardian stands like a mountain of brass and fury! We cannot approach it, but as a featherless giant, you might be immune to its gaze!

Vestige

All right, I'll deal with this Motionless Guardian.

Knight of Marrow

Behold, Blackfeathers! Our giant prepares to destroy the Guardian!

This "Motionless Guardian" was nothing more than a scarecrow.

Knight of Marrow

Shh! There it is! The Motionless Guardian! Strike true, crow-friend!

Tremble Guardian! Our giant approaches!

Proctor Luciana Pullo

A Motionless Guardian. Hope you remembered to stretch.

The Vestige easily knocked the head off the scarecrow.

Knight of Marrow

Victory! Victory for the court! Now, let us take wing, Blackfeathers. Back to the Duke!

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Another notch in our belts, hmm? Victory over a pile of garbage.

Let's head back and get this over with.

As the Vestige approached the Duke, Luciana spoke up.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

I'll wait for you here. I've chased enough birds for one day.

Duke of Crows

Victory! We picked the bones cleaned and plundered the Exarchs hoard. A proud day for the Blackfeather Court!

Now, the Queen of Chaff sends an emissary requesting a parlay. I have a plan to scare her off for good, but I need your help.

Vestige

Wait a minute. You said if I defeated the Exarchs, you'd give me the key.

Duke of Crows

I know what I said, fledgling!

We've not defeated the Exarchs yet! Even now, they clean their plumage and sharpen their beaks. Unless we break the will of their queen, they will always return! This will be your last task. I swear it! Swear!

Vestige

Fine, but this is it. What's your plan?

Duke of Crows

A trick! A bluff! A great crow scheme!

Meet me in the building called Incarnatorium. I will explain all.

When they went outside, the Vestige met with Proctor Luciana.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

We're done, right? Where's the key?

Vestige

We have one more task. We have to scare off the Exarch's queen.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

I think I've been more than accommodating, but I am done taking orders from a talking bird.

I'll remain here to guard the entrance - just in case more cultists of Daedra arrive. You make this quick, all right?

Vestige

All right. I'll be back soon.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

You better be. With the key and without an obnoxious flying escort, all right?

The Vestige then headed for the Incarnatorium, as instructed by the Duke. Once there, the two met.

Duke of Crows

The Queen of Chaff will arrive shortly. We must stun her with my magnificence! Are you ready?

Vestige

I guess. How do you plan to accomplish this?

Duke of Crows

Look around! I picked this place for a reason. Pully and pushy contraptions abound! When the city's wingless servants fiddle with them, the gears turn and the pipes creak.

I need to convince the Queen of Chaff that these machines serve me and me alone!

Vestige

So you want me to operate the controls in secret?

Duke of Crows

Yes! Exactly! A performance! My legs, while svelte and regal, are not strong enough to push and pull these levers. I need you and your meaty hands.

When the Exarch's queen witnesses my powers, she will take wing and never return.

Vestige

All right. Do you know what any of these controls do?

Duke of Crows

Of course not!

No more time to plan, the Queen's entourage approaches! Hide yourself! Hide! Hide!

So the Vestige did. The Queen of Chaff arrived shortly, and challenged the Duke.

Queen of Chaff

Oh Duke, you came alone? Foolish. This may be easier than I thought. Show me the key, or my murder will tear you apart!

Duke of Crows

You are the fool, Chaff Queen! I wield the power of the machines now!

Queen of Chaff

You expect me to believe that? Give me the key, or we will peck you to ribbons!

The Vestige activated the levers and made the machines move.

Queen of Chaff

What? Steady, Exarchs. It's just a trick.

I will not be threatened! I am... I am the Queen of Chaff!

Duke of Crows

Your doom is nigh! My machines will destroy you!

Queen of Chaff

No! Impossible! Impossible!

I yield! Such power! Exarchs, to me! We leave this cursed place!

Once they departed, the Duke spoke to the Vestige.

Duke of Crows

Ha! We did it, Featherless! Victory for the Duke! Victory for the Blackfeather court!

We may have a complication.

My, my. This would be much easier if you had feathers...

Vestige

What are you talking about? You're taking me to the key now, right?

Duke of Crows

I have! Kind of. I hid the Great Prize nearby, but in your zeal to impress me, you threw the wrong switch. Now, the door leading to the Shiniest is blocked. Blocked!

I can fly though, but you will need to take the long way around.

Vestige

Which way?

Duke of Crows

North! I will dispatch my proud Knight of Marrow to accompany you. Good luck!

Hoping that their quest was almost over, the Vestige followed the Knight further into the Clockwork City.

Knight of Marrow

Follow me, crow-friend! The shiniest treasure awaits!

Look at these clicky-clankey lizard monsters! Good thing they're caged... right?

After a bit of walking and fighting, they arrived at the location of the key, only to find the shadow of Sotha Sil waiting for them.

Shadow of Sotha Sil

The Skeleton Key, at last.

The shadow stole the key, and murdered the Knight of Marrow in the process.

Duke of Crows

My Knight! No!

Our victory over the Exarchs came at great cost. Quill and claw, our lost Knight was a true hero. We will not forgive and we will not forget.

I do not know which lock the Shadow plans to poke with the key he stole, but we will help you stop him.

Vestige

You will help us find the Shadow of Sotha Sil and the Skeleton Key?

Duke of Crows

Yes. You are as much a member of this Court as any crow. Our swift wings and keen eyes are at your disposal.

Find the Shadow of Sotha Sil, claim the key he stole, and avenge my Knight of Marrow.

I shall gather my vassals to plot and conspire. The Shadow will pay for what he has done! Pay!

The Vestige headed out to look for the Shadow, but chose to speak to Proctor Luciana, first.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

You look haggard. What happened in there?

Vestige

The Shadow of Sotha Sil attacked. It took the key - the Skeleton Key.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

The Skeleton Key? Nocturnal's key? Damn it. I always suspected, but hoped it wasn't true.

That key is a transdimentional artifact of unimaginable power. We have to get it back.

Vestige

What is our next step?

Before Luciana could answer, however, a loud alarm blasted out across the city.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

The omnivox alarm...

Slag it! Someone's breaching the Cogitum Centralis! I have to get back to the Basilica. Meet me there!

The Vestige ran to the basilica, following Proctor Luciana. Once there, they discovered Divayth Fyr and Varuni Arvel in the midst of an argument.

Divayth Fyr

What part of sealed don't you understand? The Shadow put a hex on the lift. Perhaps if we had the key you managed to lose...

Provost Varuni Arvel

Here we go again. I told you before, Lord Seht would never allow the Skeleton Key to enter the city. There must be another explanation.

Divayth Fyr

Well, by any means, explain it to me. Just be sure to use small words. I wouldn't want you to strain yourself.

The Vestige chose to speak to Fyr to see what this was all about.

Divayth Fyr

Why must I always surround myself with soft-headed zealots? Why?

Oh come now, I don't mean you. I'm talking about Varuni. Pity. I really quite liked her before she started talking.

Vestige

What's going on here?

Divayth Fyr

Your gentle friend suffers from some very serious delusions.

The Shadow managed to seal every entrance to the Mechanical Fundament, and by extension, every entrance to the Cogitum Centralis - Sotha Sil's inner sanctum.

Vestige

How do these seals work?

Divayth Fyr

Honestly, I have no idea.

I tried to reach out and get some sense of it through Psijic projection, but I found nothing. Just a cold lack. I hesitate to admit it, but this Shadow's magic is beyond my ken.

Vestige

What should we do?

Divayth Fyr

Talk to Luciana. She's been remarkably quiet throughout this whole ordeal. She may have a plan.

Before doing that, though, the Vestige wanted to get Varuni's opinion on the matter.

Provost Varuni Arvel

By the gears, this Divayth Fyr is just... insufferable! Honestly, how do you put up with it?

Vestige

It's not easy. What's going on here?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Just arguing for the most part. Lord Fyr has a difficult time with constructive criticism.

The Shadow locked us out of the Cogitum Centralis. Instead of exploring the sensible, mechanical alternatives, Fyr's been firing off destructive spells.

Vestige

And they haven't worked?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Of course not. And what's worse, he's spitting out all kinds of blasphemous conspiracy theories. That kind of talk doesn't serve anyone.

Something about the Skeleton Key? I told him, Daedric artifacts can't enter the city.

Vestige

He's actually correct. The Shadow took the Skeleton Key right out from under me.

Provost Varuni Arvel

It did...? That... that doesn't make any sense. Daedric artifacts are profane illusions. Sotha Sil would never let something like that into the city.

Vestige

You might need to rething some of these notions, Varuni.

Provost Varuni Arvel

I just... I need to think. Go, talk to Luciana. I think she might have a plan.

With both Fyr and Varuni pacified for now, the Vestige spoke to Luciana about that plan of hers.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

You arrived just in time. I don't know how much more of Divayth and Varuni's bickering I could take.

Vestige

What's happening now?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

It's as I feared. The Shadow breached the Cogitum Centralis - Lord Seht's seat of power. If it reaches the core... if it removes Lord Seht from the Throne-Aligned... we can't let that happen.

You should steel yourself for the battles ahead.

Knave of Rooks

Why do you linger, Featherless? Fetch our treasures or begone! Begone!

Vestige

Who are you?

Knave of Rooks

Bah! Questions!

I am called the Knave of Rooks - craftiest and cleverest vassal of the Blackfeather Court. Sometimes loyal servant to the Duke of Crows himself!

Vestige

And what exactly is the Blackfeater Court?

Knave of Rooks

Truly? You have not read about us in your histories? Ridiculous!

The crows of the Blackfeather Court rule the skies of Oblivion. We hold dominion over the real of Crow's Wood and many lands beyond. All lesser birds pay us homage!

Vestige

So you're from Oblivion? Like Daedra?

Knave of Rooks

Daedra? Do we look like Daedra to you? Daedra look like crocodile men, and fat-faced ogres, and plate-necked turkeys! Every bird knows that!

Vestige

And these Exarchs you mentioned? Are they birds like you?

Knave of Rooks

Yes! The Exarchs of Dross! Our hated rivals. They fancy themselves crows, but they are nothing but sparrows in black feathers! Cowards, traitors, and spies. Spies!

Vestige

Why do you hate them so much?

Knave of Rooks

Ha! A silly question! Some feuds have no beginnings and no ends.

We hate them because they follow orders from the mistress, like dogs. We hate them because they do not pay us tribute. We hate them because they hate us!

Vestige

Your mistress? Who is that?

Knave of Rooks

No! No more questions! Go, fetch our treasure, or go away!

The Vestige went to see the Constable about this treasure the crows were wanting.

Constable Drados

Look who's back. Just couldn't turn the key with those birds, eh? Don't be too hard on yourself. At least you've still got all your fingers.

Vestige

Actually, they agreed to talk. But they want something of yours as tribute. A silver treasure.

Constable Drados

I told you they'd ask for something.

A silver treasure...? Of course. They want my canteen. Ha! Those daffy birds sent you after a pewter canteen? Well, they can't have it. Sorry, mate, but I'm not about to give those scavengers anything.

If the Vestige is skilled at persuasion, getting the canteen is easy.

Vestige

If I can talk to the crow's leader, I might be able to get them to leave for good.

Constable Drados

Fine. But this had better work.

If these vermin are still filching our tools and tableware in a week's time, I'll know who to blame.

If the Vestige speaks to him again after successfully persuading him, he will say the following:

Constable Drados

My wife gave me that canteen, you know. Lucky for you, I hate my wife.

If the Vestige can't persuade Drados, they are forced to take a longer road.

Vestige

Do you really need that canteen?

Constable Drados

No, of course not. But the satisfaction I get from making sure those morons never get what they want? That's priceless.

Now that I know they want it, I think I'll toss it in my junk-chest back in the Cloisters. That'll show them!

That left the Vestige with one option: steal the canteen. So they did.

No matter how the canteen was acquired, the Vestige returned to the Knave of Rooks.

Knave of Rooks

Well? Do you have our shinies? Speak, spy!

Vestige

Constable Drados gave me this canteen as a gift for you.

Knave of Rooks

Such sparkle and shine! The shouting metal-man gave you this treasure willingly? Why?

Vestige

As a peace offering. He wants you to stop heckling him and bothering people in the Fortress.

Knave of Rooks

Ah, he quails at the might of the Court, and wishes to surrender! Yes! Yes, we accept. A fitting prize, this canteen. Perhaps you are a worthy crow-friend after all.

Ask your questions. Ask!

Vestige

Did one of you steal a key from the Clockwork Basilica?

Knave of Rooks

A key? Yes, the Great Prize! The Shiniest Lock-Poker! Our heroic Knight of Marrow breached the gates and claimed it from the clumsy apostles, and our Exarch foes!

The featherless ones squabble over its whereabouts, but they'll never find it. Never!

Vestige

Can you tell me where it is?

Knave of Rooks

No. Only our Duke of Crows knows. You cannot speak to him, crow-friend - not without an escort.

Find the Knight of Marrow. He is our grandest champion! Sleek and strong! Honor him with shinies and sweet meats and he may help.

Vestige

Where is this Knight of Marrow?

Knave of Rooks

By a great waterfall, south and east. Swooning like a lovesick dove, no doubt. Even now he builds his lady love a glorious nest, but she is fickle and he is foolish.

Go and talk to him. He needs adventure.

Vestige

Who are these Exarchs again?

Knave of Rooks

Enemy crows! The Exarchs of Dross.

They serve the shadow women and try to steal the Great Prize from us. But the Blackfeather Court bows to no one! Our Duke will rend their Queen of Chaff to pieces and we will feast on entrails!

Vestige

Shadow women?

Knave of Rooks

Shrikes! Weeping, featherless pale-skins that swat and curse us! And their other servants also - black-robed cultists. May they eat sour meat and die!

Vestige

Why do you care about this key so much?

Knave of Rooks

If you see it, you will know. No silver glistens and gleams like the Prize!

The Exarchs and the shadow women want it, but it's ours now. Ours! The Knight of Marrow claimed it for the Court. Ask him.

Vestige

How did you learn to talk?

Knave of Rooks

How did you learn to talk?

We crows are clever and wise. Wise! We bend our words into sentences just as you do - except we're better at it because we're smarter than you.

On that note, the Vestige chose to leave him and find this Knight of Marrow. As the Vestige approaches him and his hoard of random containers, he calls out.

Knight of Marrow

Who is this? Do you come to challenge the Knight of Marrow? Have at three, featherless foe!

The Vestige strikes up a conversation.

Knight of Marrow

If you be foe, cast down your silly gauntlet! But I warn you - you touch this magnificent trove at your peril! I gathered these treasures for my lady love, and I would sooner die than let you take them!

What say you, Featherless?

Vestige

I'm not here to steal your treasure. I want an audience with the Duke of Crows.

Knight of Marrow

The Duke holds court in Blackfeather Castle. I could arrange a meeting. But can't you see? Heartache has clipped my wings!

Lady Blightwing spurns me! My heroic exploits and shiny gifts only bore her. Mine is a tale of woe. Woe!

Vestige

If I help you win over your lady love, will you take me to the Duke?

Knight of Marrow

You would do that? But how? I gathered a great hoard of glistening treasures and sweet meats and she only laughed! Laughed!

Perhaps a different gift? You featherless ones sometimes woo with song and verse, yes? Teach me!

Vestige

You want me to help you write a love poem?

Knight of Marrow

Yes! A poem! A trinket unlike any other!

The flightless oafs who live here in the Fortress hid a great hoard of words in one of their stone houses. If you help me pluck the tenderest verses, I will take you to see the Duke.

Vestige

All right. I'll help you write this poem.

The Vestige didn't know any good poems off the top of their head, so they headed to the Archivox, the local library, to find something suitable.

Alavani Arano

Welcome to the Archivox, where all children of Sotha Sil may hear His divine word. What can I help you with?

Vestige

I'm looking for a good love poem.

Alavani Arano

A love poem? Where to begin? I have so many favorites.

Perhaps "The Song of the Axle?" Or are you looking for something more conventional? Ode to Brass Lily might please you. It's over on spool nineteen.

The Vestige spoke to her again to learn a bit more about the poem prior to finding it.

Alavani Arano

Ode to a Brass Lily still makes me weep every time I read it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do it.

That was a nice start, but the Vestige needed some options. They found a Nord to question next.

Reinud

You need something? I'm sort of in the middle of this theorem and... Yup, lost it again. Damn.

Well you've got my attention now. What do you want?

Vestige

Sorry. I'm looking for a good love poem. Any suggestions?

Reinud

Love poem? By the gears, why do you want one of those?

I don't stray far from the mathematics spools nowadays, but I used to love the "Ballad of Brisbor the Battle-Axe." Might not be the sweetest verse, but it'll get your blood pumping! Spool six.

Next, the Vestige asked a local librarian robot for their suggestions.

Clockwork Archivist

By the word of Seht, I am bound.

Welcome to the Archivox, resident. How may I assist you?

Vestige

Can you direct me to a good love poem?

Clockwork Archivist

Just a moment.

Category not found. Your request, love poem, does not appear in our organizational schema. I regret that I was not able to help you today. Please report this deficiency to the archivist in residence.

Vestige

Are you sure there's nothing you can do?

Clockwork Archivist

Dreaming... Discarded Flowers. Empty Cylinder.

Thank you for your patience. This unit has generated an original composition based on your inquiry - love poem. Please claim your word-form at spool seventeen.

Vestige

Wait, you just wrote a poem?

Clockwork Archivist

Poem. A collection of thematically appropriate statements and metaphors arranged in a stanzaic sequence, including title and required punctuation. Yes, this unit has composed a poem. I hope it meets your specifications.

May Seht bless your labors.

The Vestige decided that the robots attempt was both sweet and unique, and transcribed it for future reference. Then, they returned to the Knight of Marrow.

Knight of Marrow

My feathers quiver with inspiration! Tell me, have you found a poem worthy of Lady Blightwing?

Vestige

Yes, I found some poems.

Knight of Marrow

Well? Which one should I use to woo my sharp-eyed love?

Vestige

This Love Poem LT0782 looks... interesting. <Show the Knight your transcription>

Knight of Marrow

Hmm... Yes! Perfect! Let's do that one! I can't wait to express my feelings in the sweaty, fat-legged, wingless tradition!

Follow me to the Machine District, squire. You can finally meet my lady love. And the Duke too, I guess.

Vestige

I'll meet you at the Machine District.

Knight of Marrow

Away! To the castle of my lady love!

On the way to the District, the Vestige saw a Clockwork Enforcer talking to Proctor Luciana, and decided to get the latest news from her.

Clockwork Enforcer

Grim, Proctor. Daedric beasts and shadow cultists control much of the district. And the crows... the sky is thick with them!

Proctor Luciana Pullo

First that bastard, Divayth, and now the crows? Your taste in companions grows worse by the hour.

Sorry. We're having a very bad day. You mean to enter the Machine District? Why?

Vestige

This crow promised to take me to the key they stole from Gascone.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Hmm. Normally, I'd say we should simply kill them all and take the key by force. But it seems these birds have a real talent for hiding things.

Daedra and cultists tossed the district for hours, and from what we can tell, they didn't find anything.

Vestige

All the more reason to follow the crow.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Fine. You can play their ridiculous game... for now. But I'm coming with you. I've lost enough citizens already.

Word of advice: don't let these Daedric pests push you around. We need to learn the nature of this key before it's too late.

Vestige

All right. Stay close.

Suddenly, the Knight of Marrow spoke up.

Knight of Marrow

No! Your metal woman is not allowed in Castle Blackfeather! I forbid it!

Proctor Luciana Pullo

I don't want to go anywhere near your filthy castle, vermin. Let's get this over with.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Lead on, crow killer. I'll be right behind you. Trying to rationalize why I'm helping.

Upon entering the district, the group located Lady Blightwing and the Knight began reciting his poem.

Lady Blightwing

Crowmother help me...

Knight of Marrow

My fair maiden of ruin! My heart swells to see you, like a dead cat's belly warmed by the sun.

Your merits, uh... defy calculation?

My pelvic bracket pumps like a piston... Oh, that's not right!

Lady Blightwing

What? Is this some kind of featherless joke?

Knight of Marrow

And your face! Your face looks symesital...? Symmetrical? It looks shiny! So shiny!

Lady Blightwing

Sir Knight, that was... unique. So mysterious! I like your face too. Join me on the treasure-heap some time!

Knight of Marrow

She said yes! I owe a debt, crow-friend. Duke! Duke, may I present the featherless poet.

Duke of Crows

Hail, crow-friend to my great Knight of Marrow! You come to parlay? What boon do you seek from the Blackfeather Court?

Vestige

I seek the key you stole from the Clockwork Basilica, your grace.

Duke of Crows

The Shiniest? The Great Prize? Outrageous! What could you possibly offer us that rival the luster of the magnificent lock-poker?

Speak quickly! Speak! My knights and I must prepare for our next battle with the Exarchs of Dross!

Vestige

I could help you fight off these Exarchs.

Duke of Crows

You would take up the Blackfeather banner? Tempting! The Exarchs use wingless allies to shoot down my vassals and scatter my treasures. But if we had a giant of our own... Very well, I accept!

Go! Destroy the Exarchs, and the key is yours. Yours!

Vestige

Why are you fighting the Exarchs?

Duke of Crows

The Exarchs of Dross hate us! They envy our fine plumage, and covet our gleaming treasures.

I parlayed with their leader before - the Queen of Chaff. She thinks the Daedra will reward her for loyal service, but we know that's not true. Not true!

Vestige

How long have you been fighting?

Duke of Crows

Aeons in crow-time. But the Blackfeather Court will not be intimidated by these grackles! My knights will pluck out the queen's vane feathers and leave her to flop about like a fledgling!

Vestige

How did you and the Exarchs get here?

Duke of Crows

Through a pool of shadow! We heard the call of our mistress and obeyed. But once we saw this great sea of treasures, we decided to revolt. The Duke of Crows does as he pleases.

This city of shimmering prizes belongs to us now.

Vestige

Sotha Sil might have a problem with that.

Duke of Crows

I have heard this name, Sotha Sil. A dead king - or soon dead king, I've heard it said. It makes no difference! The Blackfeather Court claims this place. It's ours! Ours!

Vestige

Wait, you've heard about Sotha Sil? What else do you know?

Duke of Crows

I know only that he's a half-metal giant who hides in a buzzing nest deep within the city. And that the Exarchs and their featherless allies want him dead.

But how does this help with the war effort? Enough talk! Go! Go!

So the Vestige went. First, though, they talked to Luciana about this whole endeavor.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

So. We're going to fight... birds. If only my Reman dragoons could see me now. Channeling the arcane to defeat poultry.

Vestige

We just have to scare the other crows away, then he'll give us the key.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

You know, times like these that I really wish I had a sense of humor. But since I don't, I expect you to keep the details of this entire escapade to yourself.

Vestige

Don't worry. We're in this together.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

You're really reaching.

Enough small talk. Lets kick the droppings off our boots and get on with it.

Scattering the Exarchs proved easy, and, once enough were dispatched, they all decided to leave.

Exarch of Dross

Argh! Its arms will be the death of us! Fly! Fly!

Exarch of Dross

Retreat! Retreat!

Exarch of Dross

Why do you always dare them! Fly, fools!

With the enemy crows dispatched, the Vestige returned to their allies.

Knight of Marrow

Ha! Well struck, squire! The Exarchs are in full retreat! Look how they caw like chicks and empty their bowels! The time has come for a counter-attach!

Prepare for your greatest challenge, crow-friend. The Motionless Guardian.

Vestige

The Motionless Guardian?

Knight of Marrow

Yes! Yes! The flightless cultists summoned it to guard their treasures.

The Guardian stands like a mountain of brass and fury! We cannot approach it, but as a featherless giant, you might be immune to its gaze!

Vestige

All right, I'll deal with this Motionless Guardian.

Knight of Marrow

Behold, Blackfeathers! Our giant prepares to destroy the Guardian!

This "Motionless Guardian" was nothing more than a scarecrow.

Knight of Marrow

Shh! There it is! The Motionless Guardian! Strike true, crow-friend!

Tremble Guardian! Our giant approaches!

Proctor Luciana Pullo

A Motionless Guardian. Hope you remembered to stretch.

The Vestige easily knocked the head off the scarecrow.

Knight of Marrow

Victory! Victory for the court! Now, let us take wing, Blackfeathers. Back to the Duke!

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Another notch in our belts, hmm? Victory over a pile of garbage.

Let's head back and get this over with.

As the Vestige approached the Duke, Luciana spoke up.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

I'll wait for you here. I've chased enough birds for one day.

Duke of Crows

Victory! We picked the bones cleaned and plundered the Exarchs hoard. A proud day for the Blackfeather Court!

Now, the Queen of Chaff sends an emissary requesting a parlay. I have a plan to scare her off for good, but I need your help.

Vestige

Wait a minute. You said if I defeated the Exarchs, you'd give me the key.

Duke of Crows

I know what I said, fledgling!

We've not defeated the Exarchs yet! Even now, they clean their plumage and sharpen their beaks. Unless we break the will of their queen, they will always return! This will be your last task. I swear it! Swear!

Vestige

Fine, but this is it. What's your plan?

Duke of Crows

A trick! A bluff! A great crow scheme!

Meet me in the building called Incarnatorium. I will explain all.

When they went outside, the Vestige met with Proctor Luciana.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

We're done, right? Where's the key?

Vestige

We have one more task. We have to scare off the Exarch's queen.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

I think I've been more than accommodating, but I am done taking orders from a talking bird.

I'll remain here to guard the entrance - just in case more cultists of Daedra arrive. You make this quick, all right?

Vestige

All right. I'll be back soon.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

You better be. With the key and without an obnoxious flying escort, all right?

The Vestige then headed for the Incarnatorium, as instructed by the Duke. Once there, the two met.

Duke of Crows

The Queen of Chaff will arrive shortly. We must stun her with my magnificence! Are you ready?

Vestige

I guess. How do you plan to accomplish this?

Duke of Crows

Look around! I picked this place for a reason. Pully and pushy contraptions abound! When the city's wingless servants fiddle with them, the gears turn and the pipes creak.

I need to convince the Queen of Chaff that these machines serve me and me alone!

Vestige

So you want me to operate the controls in secret?

Duke of Crows

Yes! Exactly! A performance! My legs, while svelte and regal, are not strong enough to push and pull these levers. I need you and your meaty hands.

When the Exarch's queen witnesses my powers, she will take wing and never return.

Vestige

All right. Do you know what any of these controls do?

Duke of Crows

Of course not!

No more time to plan, the Queen's entourage approaches! Hide yourself! Hide! Hide!

So the Vestige did. The Queen of Chaff arrived shortly, and challenged the Duke.

Queen of Chaff

Oh Duke, you came alone? Foolish. This may be easier than I thought. Show me the key, or my murder will tear you apart!

Duke of Crows

You are the fool, Chaff Queen! I wield the power of the machines now!

Queen of Chaff

You expect me to believe that? Give me the key, or we will peck you to ribbons!

The Vestige activated the levers and made the machines move.

Queen of Chaff

What? Steady, Exarchs. It's just a trick.

I will not be threatened! I am... I am the Queen of Chaff!

Duke of Crows

Your doom is nigh! My machines will destroy you!

Queen of Chaff

No! Impossible! Impossible!

I yield! Such power! Exarchs, to me! We leave this cursed place!

Once they departed, the Duke spoke to the Vestige.

Duke of Crows

Ha! We did it, Featherless! Victory for the Duke! Victory for the Blackfeather court!

We may have a complication.

My, my. This would be much easier if you had feathers...

Vestige

What are you talking about? You're taking me to the key now, right?

Duke of Crows

I have! Kind of. I hid the Great Prize nearby, but in your zeal to impress me, you threw the wrong switch. Now, the door leading to the Shiniest is blocked. Blocked!

I can fly though, but you will need to take the long way around.

Vestige

Which way?

Duke of Crows

North! I will dispatch my proud Knight of Marrow to accompany you. Good luck!

Hoping that their quest was almost over, the Vestige followed the Knight further into the Clockwork City.

Knight of Marrow

Follow me, crow-friend! The shiniest treasure awaits!

Look at these clicky-clankey lizard monsters! Good thing they're caged... right?

After a bit of walking and fighting, they arrived at the location of the key, only to find the shadow of Sotha Sil waiting for them.

Shadow of Sotha Sil

The Skeleton Key, at last.

The shadow stole the key, and murdered the Knight of Marrow in the process.

Duke of Crows

My Knight! No!

Our victory over the Exarchs came at great cost. Quill and claw, our lost Knight was a true hero. We will not forgive and we will not forget.

I do not know which lock the Shadow plans to poke with the key he stole, but we will help you stop him.

Vestige

You will help us find the Shadow of Sotha Sil and the Skeleton Key?

Duke of Crows

Yes. You are as much a member of this Court as any crow. Our swift wings and keen eyes are at your disposal.

Find the Shadow of Sotha Sil, claim the key he stole, and avenge my Knight of Marrow.

I shall gather my vassals to plot and conspire. The Shadow will pay for what he has done! Pay!

The Vestige headed out to look for the Shadow, but chose to speak to Proctor Luciana, first.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

You look haggard. What happened in there?

Vestige

The Shadow of Sotha Sil attacked. It took the key - the Skeleton Key.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

The Skeleton Key? Nocturnal's key? Damn it. I always suspected, but hoped it wasn't true.

That key is a transdimentional artifact of unimaginable power. We have to get it back.

Vestige

What is our next step?

Before Luciana could answer, however, a loud alarm blasted out across the city.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

The omnivox alarm...

Slag it! Someone's breaching the Cogitum Centralis! I have to get back to the Basilica. Meet me there!

The Vestige ran to the basilica, following Proctor Luciana. Once there, they discovered Divayth Fyr and Varuni Arvel in the midst of an argument.

Divayth Fyr

What part of sealed don't you understand? The Shadow put a hex on the lift. Perhaps if we had the key you managed to lose...

Provost Varuni Arvel

Here we go again. I told you before, Lord Seht would never allow the Skeleton Key to enter the city. There must be another explanation.

Divayth Fyr

Well, by any means, explain it to me. Just be sure to use small words. I wouldn't want you to strain yourself.

The Vestige chose to speak to Fyr to see what this was all about.

Divayth Fyr

Why must I always surround myself with soft-headed zealots? Why?

Oh come now, I don't mean you. I'm talking about Varuni. Pity. I really quite liked her before she started talking.

Vestige

What's going on here?

Divayth Fyr

Your gentle friend suffers from some very serious delusions.

The Shadow managed to seal every entrance to the Mechanical Fundament, and by extension, every entrance to the Cogitum Centralis - Sotha Sil's inner sanctum.

Vestige

How do these seals work?

Divayth Fyr

Honestly, I have no idea.

I tried to reach out and get some sense of it through Psijic projection, but I found nothing. Just a cold lack. I hesitate to admit it, but this Shadow's magic is beyond my ken.

Vestige

What should we do?

Divayth Fyr

Talk to Luciana. She's been remarkably quiet throughout this whole ordeal. She may have a plan.

Before doing that, though, the Vestige wanted to get Varuni's opinion on the matter.

Provost Varuni Arvel

By the gears, this Divayth Fyr is just... insufferable! Honestly, how do you put up with it?

Vestige

It's not easy. What's going on here?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Just arguing for the most part. Lord Fyr has a difficult time with constructive criticism.

The Shadow locked us out of the Cogitum Centralis. Instead of exploring the sensible, mechanical alternatives, Fyr's been firing off destructive spells.

Vestige

And they haven't worked?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Of course not. And what's worse, he's spitting out all kinds of blasphemous conspiracy theories. That kind of talk doesn't serve anyone.

Something about the Skeleton Key? I told him, Daedric artifacts can't enter the city.

Vestige

He's actually correct. The Shadow took the Skeleton Key right out from under me.

Provost Varuni Arvel

It did...? That... that doesn't make any sense. Daedric artifacts are profane illusions. Sotha Sil would never let something like that into the city.

Vestige

You might need to rething some of these notions, Varuni.

Provost Varuni Arvel

I just... I need to think. Go, talk to Luciana. I think she might have a plan.

With both Fyr and Varuni pacified for now, the Vestige spoke to Luciana about that plan of hers.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

You arrived just in time. I don't know how much more of Divayth and Varuni's bickering I could take.

Vestige

What's happening now?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

It's as I feared. The Shadow breached the Cogitum Centralis - Lord Seht's seat of power. If it reaches the core... if it removes Lord Seht from the Throne-Aligned... we can't let that happen.

You should steel yourself for the battles ahead.

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