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The Red Curse

Author: 
Dettethor Pantenne

As a child, I was sickly and morose, a feeble stripling confined to a bed. The greater world came to me primarily through the windows of my room, high in the relative safety of my family's expansive manor. The vivid flashes of light and color that entered my room via its large windows served only to heighten the anxiety and fear of the outside world I had carefully cultivated in my bed rest. With the physical world become a place of fear and tension for my weakened frame, I retreated into the solace of the written word, and plumbed the deep mysteries of Nirn.

While I lived many lives, and learned many things in this way, one particular legend, that of Red Eagle, the king of the Reachmen, lodged itself most firmly in my mind. Though I was the scion of a family of proud Bretons, I contrived a connection between myself and the King of the Reach, Faolan. With this lie embedded in my heart, I turned my studies to the dark arts, wishing to find a way to fulfill Red Eagle's oath, and return him to life. He would, by my machinations, rule The Reach, his flaming sword in one hand, and I at the other, his trusted and beloved vizier.

As I grew, my maladies passed, leaving me weak, but no longer bed-ridden, and the largesse of my family afforded me the ability to discreetly expand my research. My peculiar eccentricities were accepted due to my rank, and the near complete isolation of my youth.

Inevitably, my studies led me to the Daedra. Late at night, in the darkness, deep within my family's manor, I would conduct ancient rituals in unfamiliar tongues, raising the foul demons and trapping them, plying them with questions. Often they would ignore my entreaties, promising me great power or wealth if only I would release them from their magical bonds. Though weak of flesh, my mind was stalwart; I resisted their honeyed words, and eventually they would accept that the only path to freedom lay in acquiescence.

Again and again, this story played out, and in fits and starts I collected the information I desired, but it was never enough. Slowly, their poisoned promises bore fruit, and I convinced myself that perhaps I could outsmart these Oblivion-cursed souls. It was my own hubris that led me to believe I could accept their gifts and yet control the terms.

How naive I was then, and how haunted I am by the truths I know now. The fear of the outside world returned tenfold, I have again taken solace in the solitude of my ancestral manse. Though I search feverishly for an escape, I know in my heart that none will rear its head. There is a darkness that lives in the roots of Nirn, and once envisaged, it can never be escaped.

I shivered and wrapped my cloak tighter around myself, following the pointing, gnarled finger of the toothless old Reachman, his words croaking out between hearty chuckles at my discomfort. My eyes followed the path into the hills, resting finally on a distant cave entrance, barely visible through the stinging snow, and I steeled myself for the coming trek. Though my physical and mental reserves were nearly spent, I knew that my ambitions were closer than ever to being fulfilled, and despite the lateness of the day and the biting cold, I resolved to reach Red Eagle's tomb on that very night.

Though the powers granted to me by my Daedric benefactors are great, intestinal fortitude was not on the list, and when I reached the mouth of the cave I collapsed, exhausted. As I lay there, without even the vigor to drag myself inside, I began to hear the flittering whispers and distant horns, calling me forth to destiny. With this ghostly music in my ears, I crawled into the mouth of the cave, wrapped all that I had around my frame, and dropped into black, dreamless sleep.

I awoke to the sound of birds and light - things still, as in my youth, repugnant to my senses. I retreated quickly into the darkness of the cave. I knew that my goal was below in the depths. A warm breath pulsed from the interior of the cave, drawing me inward, the thrumming horns seeming to echo from somewhere deep below. I felt a tightness in my chest as I followed these guides, hoping to soon reach my much maligned ancestor.

The traps set to dissuade intruders and grave robbers were child's play for my intellect, and ever cautious I made my way deeper into the crypt. The cave walls pressed in, and gradually the rough, rippled rock walls gave way to hewn stone and chiseled murals. My fingers traced the images, caressing Red Eagle's sword as it cut swathes through a thousand men. The whispering voices and alien horns grew louder, increasing the pressure in my head - my senses lulled, but my mind alert, I knew that soon, after years of research, my ascension was at hand.

I turned one last corner and found myself in Red Eagle's tomb. Simple and unadorned, a sarcophagus sat on a dais in the center of the chamber. Lying near it on a pedestal was Red Eagle's Bane, his magnificent blade. In a burst I ran to it, and hovered over it. My was breath heavy and quick, the voices and music silenced, replaced by an all-encompassing, heavy, ragged, expectant breath.

My hand hovered above the hilt, my fingers grasping and flexing, fear mingling with excitement. Carefully, I reached down and grasped the blade, lifting it up before me and staring, transfixed by the sight.

What came next, my mind almost completely refuses to recall, as memories of such horror must be locked away, lest the brain that contains them be driven mad.

Red Eagle's voice, like velvet, pulled me toward the sarcophagus. He urged me to place the blade in the sarcophagus alongside his body. Like my Daedric benefactors, he whispered of power beyond belief, and filled my head with images of us ruling together as I had always imagined. The room continued to press inward, and I felt cushioned and buoyed along as I laid the blade carefully on the ground and grunted through the effort of removing the lid of Red Eagle's tomb.

I gazed down at the skeletal remains, the dank smell of the tomb wafting up to my nostrils was intoxicating. Here was the moment I had long dreamt of, and the voice of Red Eagle gently urging me on, which all came crashing down the moment I laid the blade in his grave.

My head was immediately wracked with a blinding pain, and I fell to the ground, my vision filled with a pulsing red light. I could hear, somewhere in the distance, the creaking skeleton of Red Eagle climbing from the grave. I saw visions of burning cities, my own flesh melting from the bone as I was consumed in flames. The voice of Red Eagle cackled, now in the room, and he circled behind, "foolish child," he scratched in his inhuman voice, "you are no kin of mine-".

In a rush I charged Red Eagle and managed to knock the blade from his hand, picking it up I charged from the room, his menacing laughter, turning to roars of anger. Somewhere in my rush to escape, more animal than man, I lost the blade, but must have brought it far enough to trigger some sort of mechanism, as I heard stone doors grinding shut behind me, and the pursuit of Red Eagle was cut off.

And that is why I now live in fear, locked away in my study, hoping to find some way to destroy the horror I have unleashed on the world. Though trapped, at any time, another man, foolish as myself may set him free, and I pity the world when that time comes. I fear for us all.