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Wrothgar

Author: 
Naryu Virian

There’s only one Morag Tong secret letter-drop in all of Wrothgar because why would we ever need to go there? It’s in the port town of Morkul Stronghold, a stopover on the sailing route between Northpoint and Solitude. When I stepped off the boat onto the Morkul docks and headed up to the Fighters Guild pavilion to find the letter-drop, I was frankly just hoping I’d get lucky as I didn’t have any leads to my next two targets, a husband-wife team named Rels and Myvryna Llothri. I needed help.

And, by the Three, I found a letter! A long one, too: clear evidence, Skull, that the Llothris weren’t aware that an assassin was on their trail, or they’d be avoiding Tong locations. It was from Rels, addressed to his wife and fellow agent, Myvryna, and written in the form of a report—because Myvryna was the boss.

Rels Llothri

The aforementioned personage has been marked for execution in accordance with the lawful tradition and practice of the Morag Tong.

“I’ve got my contribution to the Simulacrum Rubric,” the letter read, “eight scrolls for summoning pariah scamps, tiny Daedra from Malacath’s Ashpit. I was told their special power is Pariah’s Vision Diversion, whereby mortals don’t notice them because they look everywhere the scamps aren’t. A mortal can gain this ability by … consuming … a pariah scamp. The scrolls must be used within a day of their inscribing, so I’m going to summon the scamps, and then hide them until the Secretives need them. That’s going to take some time.”

“The binding magic is very volatile,” the letter continued, “and subject to Aetheric decay. The scamps must be stored deep underground, away from each other lest proximity cause them to awaken. Fortunately, delving underground is what I’m best at.”

Bragging s’wit. I kept reading: “So I plan to travel across Wrothgar, storing the pariah scamps deep inside Bonerock Cavern, Exile’s Barrow, Fharun Prison, Frostbreak Fortress, Old Orsinium, Paragon’s Remembrance, Rkindaleft, and Zthenganaz. Then I’ll meet you in New Orsinium.”

Meticulous with the details: that was Rels Llothri, all right. So meticulous that he listed his destinations in alphabetical order, giving me no idea in what order he planned to visit them! The fetcher—I planned to enjoy his execution.

I got a map from the Fighters Guild, noted Llothri’s destinations on it, and decided to start in the east and work west. I didn’t put much faith in Orcish roads, so I figured I’d go cross-country toward the northeast mountains.

This was a mistake. Wrothgar’s terrain was difficult, and instead of the empty wilderness I’d expected, I found an environment alive with all sorts of beasts eager to kill me—beasts like the horned echateres.

And I soon learned that giants weren’t confined to Skyrim.

The Morag Tong is most at home among the urban Dunmer of Morrowind. To be candid, our skills aren’t well adapted to the frozen north woods. Worse, within an hour, my favorite boots were ruined!

So when I slogged my way out of the Icy Shores and found a road leading north, I took it—and discovered, to my surprise, that Orcs build even better roads than the Dunmer. In fact, all their structures and equipment seemed eminently practical and very durable. Clearly I had some mistaken notions about Orcs that needed to be updated.

Though there were native barbarians in this land: the Riekr, ice Goblins with snow durzogs.

Even the Hagraven that ambushed me at a river crossing was adapted for the icy north, more generously feathered than her eastern cousins, and casting Frost Destruction spells. But I was still so angry about my ruined boots that I instantly charged her, and she got off only one icy blast before I put twin blades through her breast.

There was a towering peak over to my right that my map told me was Sorrow—but I wanted depths, not heights, and ahead of me was Fharun Stronghold, underneath which must be that Fharun Prison on Llothri’s list.

As my father told me more than once, Skull, I have a talent for getting myself into prison, but as for getting out… However, no need to do either this time as I learned by bribing a couple Fharun guards.

No one matching Rels Llothri’s description had been seen in Fharun, and since it’s his wife who’s the disguise master, not Rels, that settled it for me: he hadn’t been there yet. I turned south.

The last place on Llothri’s list, Zthenganaz, was nearby—a Dwarven ruin, as anyone can tell from its nigh-unpronounceable name. Locating its surface structure, a great brazen dome, was easy enough, but finding a way into its forgotten substratum was another thing entirely. Eventually I discovered a crevice under an overhang that opened into an icy passage leading in and down. When I got to the Dwarven corridors, however, the thick dust on the floor showed no recent footprints. Maybe Llothri had started at the opposite, western end of Wrothgar.

Westward, then. Next stop: Bonerock Cavern. Just inside the cave entrance, I found evidence that I was finally on the right trail: a dead Riekr tucked behind a pillar of bricks, its death wound obviously inflicted by Coring the Apple. Llothri might as well have painted “Morag Tong” on the wall in blood—only we don’t do that anymore. And maybe he was still inside! At the very least, I needed to see if he’d hidden a pariah scamp somewhere within. Humming the Stealth Chant, I sneaked deeper into the cavern.

Beyond a Riekr village my eyes confirmed what I’d smelled: ogres.

Fearsome brutes, of course, but easier to sneak past than those wily ice Goblins. By that point I’d passed into old Orcish catacombs, but didn’t stop to search: Llothri would hide his scamp in the farthest chamber from the entrance.

I found it secreted behind a stone throne at the remotest end of the tunnels: an oilskin sack, about a foot long, tied shut with copper wire. Inside was a small, black, ill-smelling homunculus, a dormant pariah scamp. What was it Llothri had written—a mortal could gain its powers by consuming it? If he meant you had to eat it, the idea was thoroughly revolting. I may be a professional murderer, but I have my limits. I saw no further signs of Llothri, so I took it and left.

I uncovered more evidence I was on the right track inside Exile’s Barrow, a misplaced Nord crypt dungeon southwest of Morkul. To a trained assassin, Skull, even a dead skeever has a story to tell, and the one I found told me Llothri wasn’t far ahead. But this barrow was large and complex; making my way through it took some doing. I never did catch Llothri, but in the south end of the barrow, I found another sackful of Scamp. I put it with the first one.

The sack had been in an urn by a great bas-relief.

I was trying to puzzle out the panel’s meaning when I heard slow, heavy steps behind me. I spun around to see a creature out of ancient Nord legend: a Dragon Priest, lowering a spell staff in my direction. I tucked and rolled as it loosed a loud, fiery blast that just missed me. If Llothri was still in the barrow, he wouldn’t be for long! I ran for it.

Frostbreak Fortress is only a few centuries old—not exactly an ancient ruin. In fact, the ravages of time have probably done less damage to it than the vandalism of the Reachmen occupying it now. But what can you expect from people who revere Hagravens? I found a dead Winterborn sentry whose wounds showed Llothri had been here, but the corpse’s advanced decay indicated that had been some time before.  So the trail was cold—but I still needed to collect a hidden scamp.

I located the oilcloth sack where Rels Llothri had hidden it at the back of a natural cavern deep beneath the fort, near a strange sapling the Reachmen were tending. I also found another dead Winterborn warrior stuffed into a barrel, which disturbed me: not because it was a corpse, but because of the way Llothri was casually killing people without having Writs of Execution for them. The violation of Tong standards offended me. If we don’t follow our sworn rules, we’re nothing but murderers, right?

There were only three sites left on Llothri’s list, two of them to the west. I decided on Old Orsinium first, if only from curiosity about that legendary place. I climbed a long flight of stone stairs up a cliffside and was in front of the gate, with no place to hide, when it burst open and out came Llothri, pursued by a half-dozen Priests of Malacath. They shouted when they saw me, taking me for his accomplice, and we both hurtled down the staircase. I fled south, Llothri east.   

Circling back, I determined by eavesdropping that he hadn’t been able to get in, so I wouldn’t have to hunt inside for a hidden scamp. By then far behind my target, I set out east toward Rkindaleft. At the entrance, I could tell from footprints in the snow that Llothri had gone in but hadn’t yet come out. At last!

It wasn’t to be so simple. Rkindaleft was the largest Dwarven site I’d ever seen—and I’m from Vvardenfell! Also, just to be difficult, Llothri had alerted all the automata, and I barely saved my shapely butt from an angry centurion’s brass axe. Behind a giant orrery, I discovered where he’d stashed his scamp, but Llothri had found another way out.

That left only Paragon’s Remembrance, an old mountain fortress occupied by a weird Orcish cult devoted to Trinimac, an ancient Aldmeri god. Orcs! I’ll never understand them. And I didn’t bother to try once I found an assassinated sentry’s corpse.

The body had been hidden according to standard Tong methods, and I mentally thanked Llothri for providing me with my disguise as I donned its damaged but usable Trinimac-style armor. What I didn’t know was that I was doing exactly what Llothri expected me to do—and that he’d scarred that armor in such a way that he’d recognize it when he saw it again. As I strode like an Orc deeper into the old forge-fortress, nodding familiarly to Vosh Rakh cultists, I was walking into Rels Llothri’s trap.

He sprang the trap as I entered the Chambers of Loyalty.

One of the cultists I nodded to in passing was actually Llothri in full Trinimac armor. He stepped up behind me with a dagger and tried to play “Crescendo on the Fiddle” on my neck. He almost had me—but I am, as you know all too well, Skull, incredibly quick and nimble. I dropped out of his embrace before he tightened it, spun about, and drew my own blades.

And then there we were, two assassins in full armor, hacking away at each other in a camp of armed enemies, making an unholy racket that was bound to beckon every warrior in earshot. I had to finish him fast, and I did, using both blades in the move we call “Gutting the Trout.” But heavy Orcish footsteps were coming fast from three different directions. In the center of the chamber, I saw a dead tree surrounded by a low wall. I jumped in and hunkered down behind the stones.

A dozen cultists clanked in, shouting at the sight of Llothri’s body. I was trapped.

Frantic, I rummaged in the satchel I’d taken from Llothri’s corpse, and pulled out a pariah scamp. And then … I … ate it. I won’t try to describe the taste or the weird swirling nausea that spread through me. But when I stood up, none of the Vosh Rakh noticed me. Sick but unseen, I walked right through the crowd of cultists. Once outside, I looked through the satchel, finding three more scamps and an unfinished letter: “One more dungeon, Myvryna, and then I’ll meet you in Orsinium….”