Last time on Oblivion Adventures, Shush was visited in the dead of night by a mysterious stranger, who was soon given a dead flight out the inn window. The next day we escorted an eccentric nobleman through hordes of undead to place an artifact in the chamber of a forgotten king. In video game terms, this is basically asking to be betrayed. A bevy of bludgeons were shared all around. And today...
S’razirr was not having a good day.
The khajiit had always tried to lead a good life. Which, by his definition, was one wherein he did bad with enough caution to never get caught. It was a policy that had served him well ever since he’d run away from his home in Elswyr 11 long years ago. Thing is, it was the kind of lifestyle you could only screw-up once.
So he had thought when, several days ago, he’d shot a 7 foot tall hulking mound of orange-and-purple orc who’d politely asked him not to. His second request had been made with a warhammer as tall as S’razirr, and just as heavy if his nerves weren’t telling tall tales. The tales they told down the nearby cliff were quite tall, but it was hard to doubt their accuracy. Speaking of...
“Augh!” shouted the Khajiit as the doctor ministering his leg shifted it to the side. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
The doctor, a grave looking man with balding black hair and thin, wispy eyebrows, didn’t even glance in his direction. “Absolutely. I am a trained professional, so forgive me if I don’t take the counsel of the cat that’s been dragged in.”
“Well forgive this one if he questions the healing prowess of a daedric cultist!” S’razirr hissed softly between clenched teeth.
Indeed, the man cat-handling his leg wore the robes of one of this land’s insane, demon-worshipping cults. Granted, there wasn’t any proof they were insane. But as far as S’razirr was concerned, giving your life to the service of a literal demon lord of DESTRUCTION should be qualification enough. That said, they’d already surprised him, what with the non-murder and all.
One of them had found S’razirr feebly crawling along the riverbank in the vague direction of society. They had stripped him of all his gear and valuables. That much S’razirr had understood. Even picking him up and dragging him off wasn’t too surprising, and before he’d lost consciousness S’razirr idly wondered what pagan deity’s altar he’d soon be bleeding all over. But the nursing-him-back-to-health step seemed like non-standard procedure for a doomsday cult. S’razirr hadn’t made much progress in figuring out why, though. He’d been in-and-out of consciousness like an indecisive channel surfer, assuming the only two channels were “damp cave filled with cultists” and “yawning black chasm of nothingness.” His brain could use an upgraded cable package.
The khajiit’s thoughts jolted out of place again at a twinge from his leg. Well, a twinge in theory. It could probably register on the Richter scale.
“TCH – AGH, sweet Mara what are you doing?! Since when does healing with literal magic cause so much PAIN?!”
The doctor gave S’razirr a withering look. “I have spent a good deal of time conversing with actual daedra. I’ve observed their handiwork in person, and seen a truly breathtaking and creative number of ways to break down a human body. But in all my years, I have never seen something like this appendage you brought back with you. I can only assume you tossed it down several mountains, at the same time. It is not a leg. I have never seen something so much the antithesis of what a leg should be. It is an UNleg, an ANTI-leg. Had I sewn it onto a functioning one, I presume they’d both disappear in a blast of sulfur, or perhaps collapse the fabric of the universe.” The doctor grasped the offending appendage, this time certainly intending the wince that followed. “Once I keep this thing from unravelling like a wind-spun bundle of yarn? Then you can whine about comfort.”
This shut S’razirr up for a while, until the sounds of voices filtered through the halls. Someone was having a...discussion. Not an argument, the tone made that very clear. It was the sort of tone that tersely conveyed that everything was fine, in increasing volume. The non-argument grew closer until its participants stepped into view.
“This is him, then?” said the hooded high elf woman leading the pair.
“Er, yes, yes that’s him!” replied a nervous young man S’razirr vaguely recognized as his first contact.
“I see. And explain to me” she continued in a calm, level tone, “why I shouldn’t spill this cat’s entrails all over the table and drink his blood?”
“We aren’t called cats, you know” S’razirr interjected. “Cats walk on four legs, much smaller in size, distinct lack of speech” he said with a helpful expression. “Easy mistake to make.”
“W-wait!” said the young man, arms flapping this way and that as the elf laid her hand on her dagger. “He can be useful Ruma! Remember, I told you, he can!”
Ruma looked straight at him with a neutral expression as she slowly slid the knife from its sheath. She idly turned it over in her hands for a few seconds. “Darren, tell me something: What event is occurring tomorrow?”
“Your, ah, father’s ceremonial speech and ascension to Paradise?”
“And what is set to be the most important, landmark occasion our order has seen since the assassination?”
“Er, y-your father’s ceremonial speech and ascension to-“
“Oh good, you are paying attention. So tell me.” Ruma flicked the knife up in front of her face and stared at her reflection. “Do you have a brain somewhere in that vast expanse between your ears? If I used the word ‘clandestine’, would you have to look it up? Is there any even remotely possible explanation for why I should not deal with a stranger in our midst at a time like this” she flipped the knife to a reverse grip and leaned towards S’razirr, “in the most expedient manner possible?”
S’razirr’s face remained completely still, eyes fixed on the elf, but his arm subtly tensed. The khajiit had been threatened many times in his murky career, and he’d learned to catch the intent. On one hand, this woman was clearly not as experienced in a fight as she thought, and he doubted she could take him on with her fancy letter opener. On the other...she’d definitely still try. There was a careful, tidy insanity behind those eyes, neatly locked away for when the time was right. S’razirr readied himself to unsheathe the claws. They never expected the claws. Of course, every other person in the cult would. But at times like these, you just had to disembowel problems as they came.
“He’s a master archer!” blurted out Darren. “My cousin once hired him for a job. He’s a skilled fighter and he wouldn’t object to our cause!”
“It’s true you know” said S’razirr, the elf unmoving beyond eyes flitting between them. “This one could kill a flea on the back of a speeding horse over a hundred yards out. My morals are flexible as a rubber band and my loyalty is highly negotiable.”
Of course, the thing about negotiations was anyone could make them. And bringing about the apocalypse was less about morals and more about self-preservation. He could tell Ruma knew these things, and was internally debating whether to make her objections known by speech or by blade. Fortunately for him, she took the former.
“I don’t care if he slew a giant by sneezing on it, why is he here now?”
“W-well” said Darren, “I thought we could use some extra security for the ceremony. The Blades have been much more active lately, and there was that, er, incident with the Sponsor...”
Ruma’s head snapped to Darren as if drawn by a magnet. This time he had her full attention. “What?!”
The doctor, who had been silent until now, stepped forward. “Have you not heard, milday?”
“No, I’ve been engaged in preparations for the ceremony, when was this?!”
“The news came in just a few hours ago. There was a new candidate set up to meet with the Sponsor this morning, and, well...your brother is dead.”
Behind Ruma’s taught expression, sealed underneath her deadpan eyes, an inferno raged with enough intensity to submerge anything and everything beneath the flames. She turned and started a brisk walk towards the door.
“I must see my father at once” she said curtly. She paused in the doorway. “The cat is to remain under constant watch and away from any weapons until after the ceremony. We can test him properly when more important matters pass.” And with that, she was gone.
Darren’s shoulders slumped as he let out a sigh of relief. He glanced at S’razirr and gave a nervous chuckle. “I could’ve sworn she’d stab you for a moment there.”
“I certainly would’ve if I were in her position” the doctor said casually as he returned to S’razirr’s leg.
“Well, at any rate: I’m Darren.” The young cultist held out his hand. “Welcome to the Mythic Dawn.”
“Ooooh, right, Shush forgot about de Myffic Don.”
Shush had just got back in de big city ta sell some stuff, when suddenly a dark-skinned guy who seemed kinda familiar shouted Shush’s name. He asked Shush to follow him to an inn, cause apparently Shush promised ta do something for him. Dey got a table an den he reminded Shush dat Joffers and Marty had told Shush ta meet him.
“How could you forget about the Mythic Dawn?!” de guy said under his breath. “They killed the emperor in front of you, they’re trying to bring about the end of the world, and you’ve killed a number of them personally!”
“Yah, Shush dunno. Shush guess he just forgot or somethin. Sorry Boar-ass.”
“It’s Baurus” said Boar-ass, looking up at the ceiling and sighin. Den he turned back to Shush. “Are you still willing to help?”
Shush nodded. “Sure yeh okay, Shush can help wit stuff.”
Boar-ass nodded, den moved aside his food an dizzy fizz drink an pulled a big fancy book from his bag. He placed it on de table in front of him.
“This” he said, tappin a finger onnit, “is one of the Mythic Dawn Commentaries.” He paused. “Do you need me to explain what a commentary is?”
“Commentary, noun: An expression of opinions or offerin of explanations ‘bout an event or situation.”
Boar-ass blinked, his mouth open a bit, then looked up at Shush wit his head all tilted.
Shush banged on his helmet wit his fist. “Shush gotta buncha magic armor wot makes him supa smart an stuff!” Shush sniffed Boar-asses plate. “Is you gonna eat dat giant blob of fat?”
“I...no? People don’t usually eat those. For health reasons.”
“Oh” said Shush, pickin up de several inch ball. “Issit more poisonous den raw nightshade?”
Boar-asses mouth were open wider now. “No!”
Shush shrugged. “Den Shush have eaten worse.” Shush popped de glob into his gob and started smackin on it while Boar-ass started talkin again.
“These are the writings of Mankar Cameron, leader of the Mythic Dawn. Apparently, the secret to joining their cult is found in these books. However, they’re very hard to track down. I’ve acquired volumes one through three since the Emperor’s death, but you can’t find the fourth and final volume through normal means. You have to set up a meeting with the Mythic Dawn itself, through someone called the Sponsor. If he deems you worthy you’ll get the book and can find the entrance to their lair yourself.”
Boar-ass scooted his chair back a bit away from de bits of fat dat were flingin outta Shush’s mouth. In Shush’s defense, several inches a fat were real hard to chew.
“I’ve pulled some strings and managed to set up an audience with the Sponsor. I’m going to be meeting him under the guise of joining them so we can get the book. But I’m paranoid that they’ll catch on, and this may be the only chance we have to pin down their hideout. I want you to follow me and hide nearby during the meeting. If things go south, you need to get that book by any means necessary.”
Boar-ass stared at Shush’s hammer for a second. “I heard from Jauffre that you’re the Hero of Kvatch. Is that true?”
Shush nodded lots, spittin out de fat ta speak. “Oh yah, dat’s Shush! Dere were a whole lotta demon guys but dey gots dem a gud smashin! It weren’t even dat hard compared to some of de other stuff Shush been doin lately.”
Boar-ass grinned. “Then we have better chances than I thought. You’ve come a long way from when I met you in that jail cell a few weeks ago, huh?” He pulled de book off de table an back in his bag, an stood up from his chair.
“My meeting is only a few hours from now. Are you ready to go?”
Shush looked down at de table, den back up at Boar-ass. “Can Shush take a lump of fat to go?”
“And here we have the breakfast nook!” said Darren.
“It...looks like a rock in the corner of the cave where you’ve placed some wooden cups” said S’razirr.
The cultist crossed his arms. “Well we’re a secret organization! Excuse me if we can’t afford to furnish the place with lavish decorations like skull piles and blood fountains!”
“This one thinks we have very different views on interior design.”
S’razirr shifted and scratched at his bad leg through his robes. The doctor had allegedly done his best, but claimed that no one but a master of restoration magic could cure his leg entirely. The pain had faded, for the most part, but the stiff appendage couldn’t keep up with more than a limp without spreading jerky waves of pain all throughout his body. This would certainly make escaping more difficult, especially without equipment. Of course it also held some grim prospects for his future career and day-to-day life, but S’razirr was holding off confronting those until he was out of the crazed cultist commune.
“And through this hall” said Darren “the road splits. That way over there leads to the exit. Remember how I said we have a gate guard there all hours? Well we also have a rotating staff of guards patrolling this area here nonstop. No one is getting in or out of here, that’s for sure! Oh, that reminds me...” Darren smiled awkwardly at S’razirr. “Don’t, ah, try and go outside for any reason. I mean ANY reason. We had a recruit a few months ago who went out for a smoke break and ended up burnt worse than my cooking. And, uh, chopped up even more.” Darren barked out the kind of laugh that knows it hasn’t said anything funny but was hoping to convince you otherwise. Then he abruptly guided S’razirr away from the entrance.
“Hey, what’s in that door?” said S’razirr.
“That door we just passed.”
“O-oh, uh, did we pass a door?”
“There have only been six or so in this entire cave system, there’s no way you could’ve missed it!”
Darren twiddled his fingers. “Ah, yes, right. You meant that door. Well...” He glanced back down the hall at the door in question. “That’s the storage room. You know. Stuff like...food. Clothing.”
Darren winced. After a moment, he bit his lip, breathed in, and raised his head.
“A-alright, look” the cultist said. “Yes, your belongings are in there. No, you can’t have them. No, you aren’t even allowed inside. The door is very, very locked and there’s a guard posted in the hallway at all hours, just like outside. If you try and enter the room, you will be killed. Then, since I let you in here, I’ll be killed after. So take my advice, and please don’t do anything foolish. Please. It won’t end well.”
He gave another awkward smile and turned, motioning for S’razirr to follow him down the hall.
“You’ll get your stuff back soon, don’t you worry! Let me show you where you’ll be staying.”
After a brief trip down the hall, Darren led them into a side passage which didn’t even have a door. He stopped in a vaguely rectangular cavern opening, turned and grinned. Along the walls there were a couple small sacks, one of which had some Mythic Dawn books placed beside it. In the center of the room two bedrolls laid on the floor. There was no padding beneath them. They had no pillows.
S’razirr gave Darren a look. “Are you serious?”
Darren flashed a strained smile. “Please, don’t get the wrong impression! The accommodations may be...rough, for the time being. But soon we shall ascend to Paradise, with all the comforts we could want! And even before that, there are so VERY many wonderful things about the Mythic Dawn, honest!”
S’razirr frowned and raised an eyebrow. “And what, exactly, would those be?”
Darren smiled, this time completely genuine, and looked on S’razirr with bright, sparkling eyes. “Well” he said with breathy enthusiasm, clasping his hands together, “have you ever just REALLY wanted to murder someone?”
‘Ooooh dear’ thought S’razirr.
Down in the sewers beneath the Imperial City, things stank even more than usual. Specifically, it stank of hordes of dead goblin and VERY dead mudcrab. A keen nose could trace the scent along a boulevard of bodies, starting at one manhole and ending at a very peculiar room. The room was empty but for a small wooden table placed in the center, lit by a single candle. Seated at the edge of the flickering light was a redguard clad in leather armor, arms crossed and eyes alert. He remained still as a stone as a door opened behind him, and a man in robes calmly walked to the seat on the opposite end of the table. The newcomer placed his elbows on the table, crossed his fingers and examined the redguard under a shadowed hood. After a silent stare down, he spoke.
“So. You want to become one of the Chosen of Mehrunes Dagon. The Path is difficult, but the rewards are great. I have the book you seek. With it and the Master’s three other books, you will possess the key to enlightenment.” He removed a book from his robes and placed it on the table. “The question is, do you have the wit to-”
“What the hell was that!” shouted Baurus, grasping his head and staring in shock at Shush, who stood on top of the collapsed wooden table with his hammer lodged in the cultist’s skull.
“GOOD QUESTION!” shouted one of the cultists who had just bust down the door.
Shush screamed again and charged towards the trio of new cultists, bits of bone and brain flinging off the head of his warhammer as he raised it in front of him.
Baurus raised a hand to his mouth.
Baurus took a step back.
Baurus, eyes wide, slowly lowered his hand. The only sound was a soft trickle of water echoing from the adjacent room. His mouth hung open until Shush removed his weapon with a squelch. The orc turned around and beamed at the redguard.
“So was dat all?” Shush asked.
Baurus finally found his voice.
“Why did you do that?!”
Shush furrowed his brow and tilted his head. “Weren’t dose de bad guys dat Shush were s’psosed ta Smash?”
“You were only supposed to attack as a last resort! That recklessness could’ve cost us our lives. What possessed you to jump in like that?!”
Shush pursed his lips and scratched his head. “Well de cultist guy put de book dat we needed on de table, an he even said it were de right book. He were a BAD GUY, ya? So den he okay ta smash.”
Baurus cradled his elbow and put two fingers to his forehead. “That’s not the point! We could’ve resolved this peacefully and not taken the risk. Yes he was a bad man, but what if you bit off more than you could chew? What will happen the day someone else beats you in a fight?”
Shush squinted. “Hm. Shush really are not followin you.”
Baurus threw back his head and blew air through his mouth. “No. You really don’t, do you?”
As he walked out of a massive sewer drain and into the moonlight, Shush’Ogar grinned at the thought of adventures soon to come. Tomorrow would be fun.
As he followed his oblivious powerhouse of a friend, Baurus considered what would happen tomorrow. They had a lead, and it would lead them straight into a nest of mad cultists. But then again, those cultists were up against Shush. In spite of himself, Baurus permitted himself a small smile. Tomorrow might be fun.
In a cave deep within the wilderness, dissuaded from discussing past murders until tomorrow, Darren slipped into a pleasant sleep. As his consciousness faded, he smiled at the prospect of his new friend, and also the coming destruction of the mortal realm. Tomorrow would be VERY fun.