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Unto the Dark

Author: 
Lady Nerevar

After gearing up for the upcoming battle, the Vestige returned of Pullo.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

We arrived too late. As soon as the Shadow of Sotha Sil claimed the Skeleton Key, it slithered into the Fundament and sealed all the doors leading to the Cogitum Centralis.

Fyr and Varuni tried to break the seal. You can see how well that turned out.

Vestige

Are there any alternate routes into the Cogitum Centralis?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

None. Lord Seht designed the Cogitum to be virtually impenetrable. Even so, these Whispering Shadow cultists move through the city unhindered. I don't know how. Perhaps if we discover how they navigate the city, we can use that against them.

Vestige

The Shadow of Sotha Sil used a pool of darkness to escape the Incarnatorium.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Hmm. I crossed staves with an Argonian mage once. He could leap through shadows - crossing long distances in seconds. Maybe that's the answer? Shadow portals of some kind?

We need more information. Inside perspective.

Vestige

How should we go about doing that?

The dialog splits here depending on whether you spared Gascone or if you killed him. The following exchange happens if he is in jail - the deceased version of the dialog is noted below.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

We have that bastard, Gascone, jailed in the east wing. He's spent most of his time sulking, but he might speak to you. You did spare his life, after all.

Ask him about this shadowy pool you described. If there are others like it, we need to know.

Vestige

You have a prison in the basilica?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Of sorts.

Our legal system is pretty rudimentary - mostly because we use it so rarely. Infractions result in exile most of the time. But this business with Gascone and Clavicus Vile is a good deal more serious than research sabotage or plagiarism.

Vestige

You exile people for plagiarism?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Not always. Sometimes we mind-lock them in one of our rumination chambers. I suspect that's what awaits our former chancellor... if we make it through this alive, of course.

Vestige

Mind-lock?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Cognitive prison. We induce a coma and set the brain on a recursive loop - trapping the condemned in an inescapable mental space.

As far as I know, we've only done it twelve times.

Vestige

That sounds pretty extreme.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Better than a summary execution. Remember, I grew up in the Reman military. Brain-jail sounds pretty lenient to me.

If the Vestige previously killed Gascone, the following dialog occurs instead:

Proctor Luciana Pullo

I have an idea. Full disclosure - you may find this eerie.

I suspect that Gascone's brain might contain some useful information, so I ordered a factotum to mine it. Speak to the Clockwork Clinician in the east wing. Maybe it found something.

Vestige

Wait, what? Mined?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Yes. It's an incredibly useful procedure.

One of our apostles created he anamnesic extractor to act as a kind of cognitive therapy for residents struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. The results were... mixed.

Vestige

So now you use it to mine information out of dead people?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Only in cases where the deceased requests it. Or when a traitor tries to sell the city out to Daedra. You did kill him for that, remember?

This is the surest route to the truth. We can debate medical ethics after we've prevented the apocalypse.

The rest of the conversation happens regardless of Gascone's state.

Vestige

What can you tell me about the skeleton key?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Only what I read in the Imperial histories as a student.

Our libraries don't carry any literature on the Daedra or their relics. I argued against the ban, but the congress wouldn't budge. They don't understand how dangerous these creatures can be.

Vestige

Well, what do you know?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Daedric Princes litter the world with profane relics - artifacts meant to corrupt or ensorcel the greedy and weak-minded. Hermaeus Mora offers a book. Peryite grants a shield. Nocturnal is more generous. She provides a mask, a bow, and a key.

Vestige

The Skeleton Key.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Exactly. Scholars say the key can open any lock, regardless of its complexity. Some say it can unlock gates to other worlds, or even open metaphorical doors.

I don't need to tell you how dangerous that power could be.

Vestige

So the Shadow of Sotha Sil seeks to unlock the center of the Clockwork City.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

I think it may go even deeper than that. Lord Seht modified himself extensively over the centuries. I think the Shadow... the Shadow may try to unlock Sotha Sil himself.

Vestige

What is the Cogitum Centralis exactly?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

The heart of the Clockwork City - Lord Seht's seat of power. He spends his periods of seclusion there. Sculpting the future, as the saying goes. Very few mortals have ever stepped foot inside.

Vestige

Have you ever seen it?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Once. And only for a moment. Truthfully, I didn't enter with a pious heart. A story for another time.

All I can tell you is the Cogitum exists at the enter of... well, everything. It's the axle that spins the wheel. You'll see soon enough.

Vestige

Are you sure he's even there?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

He has to be. If he were on Artaeum, the city would be locked in slumbering mode. Less light, slower manufacturing, reductions in factotum services. But everything hums and cranks as it should.

He's definitely here, and his Shadow knows it.

At this point, the Vestige headed for Gascone's cell (if he is still alive) or for the clinical factotum (if he is not). The living Gascone dialog is presented first.

Chancellor Gascone Dusant

Ah, you again. I suppose I should thank you for sparing me, for all the good it will do. That lumbering pile of scrap, Luciana, means to lock me in deep storage, I know it!

Just leave me to my hand-wringing, all right?

Vestige

Maybe we can help each other. I'm going after the Shadow, but I need information.

Chancellor Gascone Dusant

Information? I've been locked in this bleak little room since we parted ways. What could I possibly know?

I heard the omnivox squawking earlier. Is that what this is about? It is... Oh my. The cultists locked you out of the Cogitum, didn't they?

Vestige

Yes. The Shadow is headed for Sotha Sil. I need to know how the cultists move around the city.

Chancellor Gascone Dusant

Hmm... I could help you, but I'd need something in return.

One of Clavicus Vile's Skaafin enforcers stalks the Mechanical Fundament, carrying a peculiar contract. Kill this Daedra, bring me the contract, and I'll tell you everything I know.

The Vestige chose not to bother with the sidequest, and reminded Gascone that they are the reason he is still alive.

Vestige

I did you a favor when I spared your life. Tell me what you know.

Chancellor Gascone Dusant

True, I suppose. Despite what you might think, I love this city. I can't be a party to its destruction.

Seek out Gloaming Gates - impossibly deep pools of shadow. The cultists use them to travel great distances. You can too.

Vestige

Where can I find these Gloaming Gates?

Chancellor Gascone Dusant

I know of two - one east, one west. Look for hidden caves where the shadows gather in force. Once you find a gate, you need only let yourself sink into it.

I can't promise you'll like where you end up.

Vestige

Explain.

Chancellor Gascone Dusant

The gates weave in and out of Nocturnal's realm of Evergloam.

You can use them to reach your ultimate destination, just as the cultists do. But you must first traverse the Evergloam to find other connected gates.

Vestige

I'll be off then.

Chancellor Gascone Dusant

Seht bless your labors. I mean that.

Hate me if you must, but I truly hope you can stop this madness.

If the Vestige had chosen to kill Gascone earlier, they have a harder time getting this information. They head out to find the Clockwork Clinician, who is standing over the dead body of Gascone inside some sort of machine.

Clockwork Clinician

By Seht's will, I am bound.

Greetings, resident. What do you require?

Vestige

I need to, uh... speak to Gascone?

Clockwork Clinician

Reflecting. Permissions registered.

I completed the cognitive archival process and data retention is within acceptable parameters. Unfortunately, my current tok-plug storage quantity equals zero. It must equal one for vocal emulation to proceed.

Vestige

So, you need me to get a tok-plug. Where can I find one of these?

Clockwork Clinician

Malfunctioning skeevatons often appropriate tools and components from this chamber. You may wish to search the eastern quarter of the Fortress. Skevatons often accumulate there, and place reclaimed scrap in piles.

I apologize for the inconvenience.

As instructed, the Vestige set out to find this tok-plug among the scraps. Once they had done so, they returned to the Clinician.

Clockwork Clinician

May my labors please the Clockwork God.

Welcome back, resident. Your permissions remain active. What do you require?

Vestige

I have the tok-plug you asked me to retrieve.

Clockwork Clinician

False assertion. This is not a tok-plug.

Fortunately, I located a tok-plug in a mnemo-crate outside my immediate visual range. Your assistance, while appreciated, is no longer required. Please ask the deceased resident your questions.

If the Vestige chose to speak to the Clinician again, the factotum didn't have much to say.

Clockwork Clinician

Please submit your questions to the deceased resident directly. All archival data related to your query will feed through the deceased resident via vocal emulation.

May Sotha Sil bless your many labors.

The Vestige approached the corpse of Gascone and talked to it. Its voice was that of the chancellor, but more robotic and distorted.

Chancellor Gascone Dusant

Resident corpse, Gascone Dusant, memory outlay primed. Submit query.

Vestige

How do the Whispering Shadows cultists travel through the city so quickly?

Chancellor Gascone Dusant

Assembling summary. Sub-heading, Whispering Shadows. Sub-heading, movement. Sub-heading Clockwork City.

Cultists use Gloaming Gates. Pools of darkness that channel Nocturnal's power. They serve as portals to many places, including Evergloam.

Vestige

Evergloam?

Chancellor Gascone Dusant

Assembling response.

Subject: Evergloam. A twilight plane of Oblivion peopled by Nocturnal Shrikes, phantoms, and beastly simulacra. Passing through Evergloam allows cultists to travel great distances without detection.

Vestige

Where can I find one of these Gloaming Gates?

Chancellor Gascone Dusant

Accessing visio-spatial memory. Mapping complete.

Two gates exist in the Radius - one west, one east, hidden in cave networks controlled by Whispering Shadows. These gates may not allow passage to the uninitiated. Incomplete data.

Clockwork Clinician

I hope your interaction with the deceased resident was illuminating, and that you found my assistance satisfactory.

May Sotha Sil bless your many labors.

No matter how the Vestige obtained the information, the Vestige chose to report back to Luciana and let her know about the gates.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Tell me you have something.

Vestige

I found a way to pursue the Shadow of Sotha Sil. Gloaming Gates.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Gates. Of course. My apostles ran down a few rumors about cultists building strange basins of the periphery of the Radius, but we never found any of them.

How do these gates work?

Vestige

We can use a gate to enter the Evergloam, then find another gate inside that leads to the Cogitum.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

So we'll use the cultists' own pathways against them. Makes sense. Can't say I have any desire to fight my way through a plane of Oblivion, but we don't have much of a choice, do we?

Did Gascone say where they built these gates?

Vestige

He mentioned one to the east, and one to the west - hidden in caves.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

And we have no way to know which will get us to our destination faster.

Let's split up. I'll take the western gate - you take the east. Try to navigate the Evergloam. I'll do the same. Hopefully one of us will make it to the Cogitum in time.

The Vestige headed for the eastern gate. Before they could jump into the gate, however, a familiar crow approached.

Knave of Rooks

Crow-friend! I am glad I found you. Just let me... catch my breath.

Vestige

Knave of Rooks? What are you doing here?

Knave of Rooks

The Duke of Crows sent us far and wide looking for you. My wings ache from the effort! Ache!

You wish to use the Gloaming Gates, yes? Well, only crows, and shrikes, and silly cultists can use them. The Mistress keeps them locked.

Vestige

So you activated it for me?

Knave of Rooks

Yes! You need a crow's cunning to use these things.

Now, in you go. I will come with you, to help you find our brave Knight's murderer. You must kill the Shadow of the Clock-god. Kill him then, we'll pick the bones clean!

Vestige

What about Luciana?

Knave of Rooks

The metal woman? Bah! We help her too, but only because we know you'd be cross if we did not. We think she is stupid and ugly, but a friend of our crow-friend is sort of a friend of the Duke's. Sort of.

Now, no more talking. Into the gate! Go!

The Vestige jumped into the gate and found themselves in the Evergloam. Alongside the Knave, they navigated the perilous realm looking for gates back into the Clockwork City.

Knave of Rooks

Watch your step, Featherless. These stones are near to ruin. Just like everything else here...

Knave of Rooks

Gate's closed. Closed! You'll have to find another way round.

Knave of Rooks

Hmm. Draw your weapons. One of Nocturnal's flock-queens hides in that church. Sour taste. No shiny-bits! Be careful.

After a whole lot of fighting, the Vestige found Proctor Luciana, held captive by a particularly powerful shrike named Nightmaiden Viriana.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Do your worst, night hag! You'll get nothing from me.

Nightmaiden Viriana

Interlopers? No! I will not be interrupted.

The Vestige defeated her, and noticed a Gloaming Gate in the same area.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Thank you. I'm... unaccustomed to being captured.

A Shrike captain wouldn't defend just any gate. This must lead back to the city. Follow me!

Prior to trying out the gate, the Vestige wanted to thank the Knave of Rooks for his help.

Knave of Rooks

Made it, at last. At last! Well done, crow-friend. You move quickly for someone with stubby legs and no wings.

Now, I will lock this gate with crow-magic. No one will follow you - I swear on the Duke's fine plumage!

Vestige

Are you coming with us to the Cogitum Centralis?

Knave of Rooks

No. Not yet. Not yet! Our mischief's not done. We still have shadow women to peck, and cultists to chase, and shinies to steal!

Vestige

Well, thanks for the help.

Knave of Rooks

No time for weepy goodbyes, Featherless! Go help your metal-woman, and stop that Shadow! Go!

Luciana and the Vestige jumped into the gate, and found themselves back in the Clockwork City.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

I recognize this place. These are the tunnels that lead to the Cogitum. Looks like the factotums put up a fight when the Shadow came through. Not enough it seems.

There. The Shadow's ward.

The Vestige saw the ward - a moving, partially transparent wall of black and purple, stretching across the corridor.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Liquid shadows? Some kind of Nocturnal blight. I've never seen the like.

Wait. I remember... Lord Seht taught me a spell long ago. He said it would guide me through the darkness one day. I couldn't find a use for it then, but now...

Yes. He said that logic and wisdom would part the shadows of doubt.

Luciana cast her spell and the ward disappeared before their eyes.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

It worked. How could he have known...? Never mind. Meet me at the entrance to the Cogitum. We have work to do.

The Vestige followed Luciana to the entrance, and spoke to her once there.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

I don't often admit surprise, but I'll be candid - that was one of the weirdest journeys of my life. And I've lived a very, very long time.

Vestige

What now?

Proctor Luciana Pullo

With the shadow barrier removed, we can move freely between the Brass Fortress and the Cogitum again.

Now, we have a Daedric Prince to thwart and a god to save. I hope you're ready.