S’razirr walked into the main chamber for the first time since he had entered this crazed cultist cave. There were a number of robed individuals bustling about preparing things. Then again, “preparing” might be a strong word. Apart from the ones standing guard by their leader at the altar, they were mostly just sweeping the cave floor dirt into other, apparently more desirable dirt piles.
“And that was how I killed my mother” said Darren, walking in behind him. “Serves her right for burning that loaf, eh?!”
S’razirr had tried to ignore his unfortunately friendly companion since he awoke. However, it was hard to ignore something so constant and really, excessively graphic.
“So that’s my mother, father, sister, baker, neighbor, dog, neighbor’s dog, friend’s neighbor’s mother’s dog...oh! I never told you about what I did with my teacher, did I?! Well to start I went and bought thirty feet of rope, a dead hog and a carving-”
“This is your ceremony room?” S’razirr interrupted.
“That’s right!” said the cultist, maintaining his irritatingly chipper tone. “Isn’t it ever so wonderful?”
“It is a...large cave?”
“Haha, definitely, it most definitely is!”
“Pardon this one for asking, but did you not say you had been preparing for days?”
“Of course we have! It’s an extremely momentous occasion!”
“Right yes. I suppose this one’s question is...what were you doing with all this time? Everyone is just standing around a statue in some gods-forsaken cave.”
Darren rapidly opened and closed his mouth, as he did whenever he was offended with a question. In the past 24 hours S’razirr had discovered this applied to all questions not concerning murders they’d committed.
“W-wha...you...how dare you! This is a very important ceremony and we were very busy preparing for it and it...you...look at that statue! It’s a very nice statue!”
To be fair, it is a very nice statue.
“Sure, it’s fine” said S’razirr. “But this one presumes you did not build that whole thing in the past few days?”
“Well, no! But...” Darren flapped his arms in all directions in a gesture of extremely mature frustration. “We had plenty to do! We had to...light all those torches, for one! And um, the almighty Camoran had to prepare his speech a-and, we had to...prepare ourselves. You know, mentally. And in general. Um...oh! The sacrifice! We totally had to prepare that sacrifice up there!”
S’razirr craned his neck and squinted. There was indeed someone chained up at the base of the statue. Looked like an argonian, unless humans were a much brighter shade of red than S’razirr remembered.
“Yes, so there is. What is the sacrifice for?”
Darren pursed his lips, squinted and held his hands out as his sides. “What? Um, hello, do I ask you what you’re breathing oxygen for?”
“I mean, yes, cultists, this one had not forgotten. But are you using him to power some dark spell? To curry the daedra’s favor as you speak with him? What is his role in the ceremony?”
“Oh. Well, he’s not a part of the ceremony, actually. We were just planning on sacrificing him at some point later.”
S’razirr raised an eyebrow. “So your highly secretive organization wanted under every rock in the country and on an important mission of worldwide destruction...kidnapped a random man to sacrifice for fun?”
“Exactly! I’m glad you understand. And hey” Darren nudged the khajiit and waggled his eyebrows “you’d better be prepared. Sometimes they make new recruits take up the knife for initiation.”
S’razirr shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first unarmed throat I’ve slit.”
Darren grinned widely and bunched up his shoulders in excitement. “We have so much in common! I can’t wait until you’re officially accepted and we’re gonna be best friends and eeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEE-”
As Boar-ass followed Shush into de mage-y book-buildin, Shush heard him mumblin behind him.
“Can’t believe it...ridiculous...actually a member of the Arcane University...”
“Oh!” said de argonian librarian lady dey’d met de day before, “you’re back!”
“That’s right” said Boar-ass. “Now tell us, have you figured out any more details from the copies of the Mythic Dawn Commentaries we left you? May I remind you, it’s extremely urgent.”
De library-lizard shrugged an bent down to pick up some books she had under de counter. “Urgent it may be” she said, “but you can’t rush advanced and analytical academic research like this.” She thunked de books down on de counter in front of her an started openin em.
“After all, this sort of thing was intended as a test for the intellect, deliberately obscured to all but the most fiendish mind. BUT!” She held her finger in de air. “I’ve made one critical breakthrough in the past 24 hours.” She placed de finger down on one of de big letters wot came before all de little ones. “I have concluded that the secret to these tomes has something to do...with the first letter of every paragraph!”
Boar-ass made his eyebrows all scrunchy, an walked over to de books. “That’s an...oddly specific thing to note. How did you find that out?”
“Well after reading a bit, I just got this really strong gut feeling about it, see?”
“Right...” said Boar-ass, glancin up at de book-watcher, den back to de book. He got all mumbly again an said “How very advanced and analytical of you.”
“Nothing” he said, wavin de lady to de side as he studied de book for a bit. As Boar-ass kept lookin at de words an flippin pages, a frown came over his face all slow-like. He sighed. Den he looked up at de librarian. “Miss, you said you’ve been studying these texts for the past day?”
She nodded. “Every moment I could spare, I’ve been tirelessly pouring over them. The kind of intensive research only a magical librarian can supply!”
“Don’t make me pull out the book reading animation! I’ll do it! No seriously, it’s bound to happen before long, it’s the only one I have.”
“Yes...sure” said Boar-ass distantly. “I just have one question.”
“Have you considered looking at the first letters of each paragraph, you know, the big fancy ones, in order of appearance?”
Shush butted in to show off his smartness: “Well of course she are s’posed ta read em in order, dat’s how you form de word sounds an stuff!”
“I hadn’t considered that” said de argonian. “I don’t know what kind of silly word games you’re up to, but I was far too absorbed in my serious cross-reference laden research to bother with anything so childish. Now, if you want more clues as to the meaning of these intensely dense and complex texts, you’ll have to come back in another 24 hours.”
“No” said Boar-ass, “that’s okay, we were just leaving. I think I’ve had some revelations about what we’re supposed to do next...as well as the intrinsic value of higher education.”
“Ya gotta stop doin all dat mumblin stuff, Boar-ass!” said Shush, givin his pal a friendly pat on de back. “No one can hear what you is sayin when you do dat!”
“...Shush?” said Boar-ass, face muffled by de carpet. “I’m going to have to ask you to quit patting me on the back.”
Allow me to pop in for a word edgewise. Well, a few paragraphs edgewise. When you take my word output proportional to a normal person, the two are basically the same thing.
I actually enjoy this puzzle. The first letter of each word forms “GREEN EMPEROR WAY WHERE TOWER TOUCHES MIDDAY SUN”. Green Emperor Way is a section of the city with a graveyard surrounding a central tower. At around noon the shadow of the tower points directly to a crypt, and on the wall of that crypt is a faint sketched of a map of Cyrodil. At noon the carving glows red and a glowing dot appears that correlates with a map marker. The first thing about this I appreciate is that you can figure it all out on your own.
“Ey Johnny, ya ever notice how tha side a that there tomb lights up every day at noon? What’s up with that?”
“What is it, citizen? Is there a lawbreaker on the loose?!”
“Join tha guard, they said. Make friends to talk with, they said.”
You could give the book to the researcher, but as soon as you have it you’re able to connect the dots and read the map. This alone is unusual, given that Elder Scrolls quests like to show all the flexibility and nonlinearity of a stone etching of exact world history. What’s even more surprising is that it’s an actual puzzle. These games relate to puzzles like Professor Layton’s evil twin. They’re clearly not that interested in the time investment required for them, and the pre-generated nature of these large worlds doesn’t help. In Skyrim they brought in this one puzzle where you rotate 3 pillars to match symbols on a wall. This was the only puzzle for most of the game, and even then it showed up extremely rarely. We all agreed this was an unmitigated improvement.
I don’t actually mind the bumbling research either. Giving the player a hint before outright telling them the solution is again refreshingly trusting of Bethesda. A typical Bethesda puzzle is a locked door and a big button in the center of the room. When you walk in the room the button is placed under intense mood lighting and glows bright neon red. There’s a piece of paper you can find well-hidden under a pile of books, a diary of a dead explorer who was flummoxed by this riddle yet can’t help but think it’s somehow button-related. Late in the game they’d bring out the more difficult variant of this puzzle: The exact same thing but you need to pass a lock-picking check to activate the button.
You’d think it would be common sense for a game not to plan out your clever puzzle solving for you, but you should tell that to the rest of this series, and AAA games in general.
“SHH! ShShShSHH! He’s here!” Darren whispered at incredible volume.
“This one hadn’t planned on saying any-”
“SHHH! Shhh shhh shhh SHHH! Quiet!”
A high elf in blue robes rose to the pulpit in the center of the cavern. He was wearing some sort of large, bright red amulet around his neck. Just behind him S’razirr could see Ruma, the one who had nearly stabbed him, looking serene and enlightened in the most insufferably smug way possible. The crowd of cultists quieted before their leader, Mankar Camoran. He spent a few silent moments running his eyes across the crowd. S’razirr was glad he and Darren were standing at the far edge of the room. Mankar cleared his throat.
“Praise be! The Dragon Throne is empty, and we hold the Amulet of Kings. Praise be to your brothers and sisters. Great shall be their reward in Paradise! Hear now the words of Lord Dagon: “When I walk the earth again, the faithful among you shall receive your reward: to be set above all other mortals forever. As for the rest...the weak shall be winnowed; the timid shall be cast down; the mighty-”
“HEY MAN-CAR CAMERAMAN!”
S’razirr’s gaze snapped upwards. The voice had been very familiar. Even more familiar was the mass of stainless steel and orange muscle that careened from an upper alcove right down into the center of the cultists.
There was a moment of complete silence, everyone too shocked by the unexpected intrusion to move. As the dust slowly dissipated, the orc stood from his kneeling position. Amidst a crowd of over a dozen insane cultists, he raised his head and stared their leader dead in the eye. Before you could blink, a room full of hands gripped the daggers at their belts. The tension was wound so tight S’razirr could almost hear it straining under the weight.
Then the orc waved.
Mankar’s face was frozen with a slightly cocked eyebrow and open mouth. He blinked. Slowly.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Shush! You is de big head bad guy round here, yah? Well Shush are tellin you ta stop doin bad stuff!”
As Shush had started speaking, Makar’s face had slowly shifted from disbelief to disappointment. He held up his nose and dramatically pointed downward at the orc.
“Ha! Behold, faithful followers! The so-called protectors of the empire have sent their lapdog, nothing more than foolish muscle! Truly, the desperation of our foes is a sign of victory soon at hand. Let us show this pitiful creature what fate awaits those unworthy of our great Lord Dagon! Attack, my brethren!”
“In the name of Lord-”
Silence was becoming a very popular houseguest at this ceremony. It descended yet again as the frozen crowd stared at the three former cultists that had recently switched occupations to floor-corpses. After several seconds, there was the sound of a damp thud as an arm hit the ground. Shush put his hammer back.
“So yah. Like Shush were sayin, you gotta stop doin evil stuff! Evil stuff is bad! And stuff.”
Mankar’s face was perfectly still and neutral in every way minus his eyes, which may as well have been watermelons. After playing statue a few more seconds, he whipped around and there was a crackle of magical energy.
“I go now to Paradise, coming of the Dawn etcetera, good luck!” he shouted as he jumped into the portal that had opened up behind him.
Another drive-by silence struck the congregation, until Ruma sprinted up to the pulpit and shouted “KILL HIM!” while loosing a bolt from her staff. The cultists converged on the orc, one of which he used as a handy shield for the oncoming lightning before he was lost amid the crowd. A lot of unpleasant crunching noises were heard within the throng, alongside a lot of very ineffective sounding tinks.
“Use MAGIC, you IDIOTS!” screamed Ruma at the writhing mass of bodies.
“Come on!” shouted Darren, walking a few steps before realizing S’razirr was holding his arm.
“Do you have a key to the storage room?” the khajiit said softly.
“Who cares! There is an INTRUDER in our midst and we must-”
“Do you. Have a key. To the storage room?”
Darren paused, his face showing an internal debate as he looked back at S’razirr.
“I...do. But I don’t know that I can trust you with it.”
“A wise stance to take. Certainly wiser than a variety of corpses this one met. However, you misunderstand. You do not need to trust me. All you need to do is listen. Even though you have made it abundantly clear you do not deserve it, this one is giving you a chance. Just ONE chance.”
Darren noticed a painful pinch as retractable claws sunk into his arm. It felt as though they could extend much further.
“Whether you take it is up to you.”
“Destroy the intruder!”
“For the glory of Dagon!”
“He can’t fight off all of-”
“ Dere’s so many bad guys Shush can just spin around an never stop smashin em! DIS IS DE BEST DAY EVER!”
Shush were havin a super fun time. Smashin stuff were fun, an it were totally okay to smash bad guys as much as Shush wanted. So when de big bunch of bad guys all attacked Shush it were basically de most fun ting of all. Dere were a whole lotta dem, but Shush were so good at de smashin dat it weren’t long before dere were only a few left. One of dem were dat angry lady wot threw a zappy bolt at Shush. It looked like now dat dere was less bad guys in de way she were gonna try to do de zappy again.
“This is for my brother, you HEATHEN!” she shouted.
Shush moved outta de way of de first lightning bolt, but de second hit Shush on account of his armor makin it hard to cross de big room in time.
“HA! That’s right, take tha-”
De angry elf lady went sailin right over de stand-up ting wit a book onnit. Shush cast a heal-y spell an was fine again. Shush turned to de rest of de cultists. Dey ran outta de room.
Pictured: The room they ran out of, and the reason they ran out.
Shush turned to face de big statue at de back, an noticed dat dere were a guy underneath it! It looked like de bad guys had tied dis lizard dude down to a table. Dat wasn’t very nice of dem! Shush walked over to de lizard man an tried to untie de ropes. Dey were real tight an complicated. Shush thinked real hard on how to untie dem, an had a supa smart idea. Shush pulled out his hammer. De lizard guy were tryin ta say somethin, but Shush couldn’t hear him on account of smashin de stone table to bits.
When de corners de ropes were attached to broke, de lizardy prisoner sat up an untied his feets. Shush were impressed, he prob’bly were a master untie-er or somethin.
“Hey dere! Shush wanted to know if you’d seen dis shiny rock onna string wot-”
De lizard guy weren’t listenin to Shush, an actually were already running outta de room by de time Shush finished talkin. Huh. Dat were annoyin.
Oh believe me Shush, you have no idea.
You can choose to do this quest stealthily if you have a fondness for poorly-implemented espionage and temporarily giving up all your sweet equipment. Obviously this thought never crossed Shush’s mind, nor mine while I was playing him. So instead we go the route of hacking and slashing our way through piles of short-sighted cultists, but when we do some issues arise.
First of all, Mankar Camoran is stupid and also dumb. You always enter the room while he’s giving his speech, on a convenient ledge overlooking the central cave area. However, you can do absolutely nothing to stop him. When you jump down he immediately ceases speaking, summons his portal and skips town. What makes this the most frustrating is the way they keep you from stopping him. Makar Camoran isn’t invulnerable the way most NPCs are, where you can hit him as much as you want but he’ll get back up again. He isn’t even invulnerable by way of infinite health or anything like that. They straight up made him intangible. I quickly rushed straight for him, putting myself in a tactically dubious cultist sandwich to do so, and my hammer phased straight through like he was some kind of medieval hologram.
“See? He cannot touch me! Behold the power of Lord Dagon!...no, wait, that’s just the dev console.”
Come to think of it, why isn’t Mankar a hologram, or at least magical illusion? Why not put him on a raised platform the player can’t reach so he has time to run? Why not put him behind a wall? Why not have him talking remotely from Paradise? There are all sorts of solutions to keep you from killing Mankar now, but Bethesda doesn’t bother with the slightest justification.
What’s worse is that they don’t even need to make him invulnerable. When we later get to Paradise, the little alternate plane Mankar escapes to, we’ll find people there who were previously deceased. They could’ve given us the satisfaction of killing Mankar not at no greater cost to themselves than an extra line of dialogue or two. And think of how cool that would be. Whether infiltrating the ranks of the cultists or dropping from above, suddenly you get to be like a reckless swashbuckling action hero and clock one the main villains in the face in the middle of his own smug speech. Instead, we sacrifice fun and player agency not even for this trite, uninteresting monologue (you still interrupt him, you just can’t do anything), but because the developer didn’t care to put in the time.
That’s the first issue. The second issue is that this fight is, contrary to Shush’s experience, incredibly annoying. There are many cultists. All of the cultists can use ranged magic. It is a very large room. All of the cultists run away when you hit them. They still attack every once in a while so you can’t just ignore them. Sometimes they run into other rooms or sections of the dungeon entirely, where they find other cultists. I hit those new cultists, and then they run away. It is an exhaustingly long chain of Yakety Sax chase scenes that aren’t particularly fun or even challenging beyond the initial wave.
Then there’s the sacrificial prisoner. Despite being tied up and threatened by the cultists, he apparently admires them very much. I can tell because when you untie the ungrateful lizard, he promptly imitates his idols by running full speed for the exit. Much like the cultists, this soon runs him smack into a group of hostiles. Only instead of them joining his cause, they fashion him into a stylish pair of scaled boots before you can even catch up to his dust trail. I defy anyone to feel sorry for this guy more than three seconds into trying to protect him. I did my best, but by the time the cultists inevitably roasted his ass my empathy had dropped so hard it cracked the pavement.
Apparently his name is Jeelius and he’s a priest. When you take the combat route through the quest, he’s got as much personality as Cultist #3476.
There’s something to be said about how quickly bad escort quests can evaporate human compassion. Of course, it doesn’t help that the prisoner isn’t really a person, either in the literal sense or that of proper characterization. He doesn’t have any lines, at least not when you go in guns blazing. He doesn’t have any relatives or friends. He doesn’t have any related quests. We don’t even know how he got here or why they’re sacrificing him. He’s not a character, he’s a checkmark. Kill the bad guys, loot the chests, save the prisoner. I don’t blame Bethesda as much for this, as quite a number of games struggle with this problem and he isn’t as important as Mankar is. All the same, there’s wasted potential here.
Though annoying as all these fleeing NPCs are, there’s an upside. Fortunately for Shush, boneheaded game AI can work in your favor as well...
After de lizard person ran off, Shush decided to see if de bad guys kept any cool stuff in here. Dey mostly just had daggers an robes, but at least dere were potions Shush could sell. Dere seemed like dere was one less body den Shush remembered, but Shush could always double check when he went after de cultists wot ran out of de room.
On Shush’s way out, he saw somethin glowin outta de corner of his eye. Dere was a real fancy book on de stand in de center of de room. It had a buncha swirly patterns onnit all shiny an red. Shush decided to pick it up an look inside. Shush couldn’t understand any of it, which were weird cause Shush had all dat SupaSmart armor dat made his brain think bout words real gud. Also, dere was a lotta screamin dat Shush heard when he looked at de book. Like, WAY more screamin den books normally did.
Shush poked de page a few times to see if it would do anything, but all dat happened was the screamin got more loud. Shush shrugged. De screamy book was weird an Shush didn’t like it much, but since dat wasn’t a ting books did it were prob’bly super rare or somethin. Shush tossed it into his bag over his shoulder, smooshin it down to fit in wit all de skulls.
When Shush left da room an walked down de hall towards de exit he started hearin voices:
“What are you doing?! He could be here any second!”
“I know! I just...”
“You heard the man! Do you want that orc do the same thing to YOUR spleen what he did to Carl?!”
“I KNOW I KNOW! I JUST...I CAN’T!”
“What do you mean you CAN’T?!”
“I mean...I...I’VE FORGOTTEN HOW TO OPEN DOORS OUT OF FEAR!”
Truly, these are the finest minds of our generation.
“What do you MEAN you’ve forgotten how to open DOORS?!”
“I don’t know, I just CAN’T, okay?! I’m freaking out over here!”
“Out of the way you moron! We’re getting out of here right now I swear...to...uh.”
“Jim? What are you...oh you can’t be serious.”
“Hang on! Hang on I swear I’ll have it in, er, just a minute!”
“HOW CAN YOU ALL BE SO STUPID?!”
“SCREW YOU BARRY IT’S HARDER THAN IT LOOKS!”
“HE’S ALMOST UPON US, MOVE OUT OF THE WAY YOU SIMPLETON!”
“ALRIGHT FINE, YOU OPEN THE DOOR!”
Shush waved. De screamin stopped.
“Hey so Shush were just gonna say dat if you guys were gonna go ahead an not be bad anymore den Shush is okay wit-”
“QUICK MURDER IT’S THE ONLY WAY!”
Truly, these were the finest minds of our generation.
Now Shush were de first to admit dat he weren’t de sharpest knife in de harbor. But even he were wondering how dey kept thinkin dat was a gud idea.
When S’razirr was young, his father gave him a bow. He held onto that bow like he needed it to breathe. He was eventually convinced not to sleep with it, but it sat on the dresser across from him every night. Bullies attempted to steal it once. They very pointedly left it alone afterward, after S’razirr received a stern lecture from his parents on how bad it was to attack people with your claws. Well, his mother had said that. His father had lectured him on how easy it was to trace claws back to him as opposed to more conventional weaponry.
The point was, S’razirr had loved that bow. It was one of the precious few possessions he brought with him on the boat to Cyrodil. And after only a few months in Cyrodil, S’razirr came to a horrible, but strangely liberating, realization...
That bow was shit.
His father had been a very talented marksman, but also an exceptionally poor one. S’razirr could only take so many frustratingly long duels with mudcrabs, gold coins tumbling about his pockets, and envious glances at dead bandits with better gear than him before he finally broke down. And once he did? It worked out great! A valuable lesson was learned that day: Weapons, and equipment in general, are tools. If you want sentimental, go buy a house or something. The second your life is on the line, sentimentality should be promptly dumped for your new love: efficiency. Function lives much longer than form.
So when S’razirr put on his old armor in the storeroom, there was only one reason behind his satisfied smile: He thought he was going to die, and now he didn’t. Quite the contrary. He was confident his lifespan had just extended dramatically, possibly in proportion to the shortening of others.
“Alright Darren” said the khajiit as he slipped on his leather bracers. “Here is what is going to happen: This one is going to leave and head for the Imperial City. If you wish to accompany that far before we part ways, I won’t stop you. This one owes you no more than that.”
S’razirr wasn’t looking, but he knew Darren was pointing a shaky finger with an open mouth.
“Y-you! You can’t do that! We need to stay here and help!”
“Time to see sense for the first time in your life, boy. Everyone is dead and those who aren’t will be soon after. You want to live, toughen up and move on.” S’razirr slipped his quiver across his back and shifted his shoulders. “This one is leaving, and nothing will change that.”
“I...you...FINE! If that’s the way you’re gonna be...” S’razirr saw the light of a fire reflect off the walls, “then I will have to strike you do-”
Bow raised. Arrow drawn. Bow knocked. 180 degree spin.
And he was gone.
At least S’razirr’s bad leg had not affected his marksmanship. The speed and grace of the act was too good for the bumbling idiot. The khajiit could’ve killed him without even turning his back, but he always held that archery was not a good place to show off. He could celebrate his escape when no one else was around. A lonely victory dance may be anticlimactic, but from the perspective of the corpse it’s a desirable position.
As S’razirr limped towards the exit, he noticed a trail of blood smeared along the floor. It went down the hall, past a pile of three dead cultists and through an open door. The khajiit passed through and found himself in what looked to be an entrance hall. And on the other end of the hall, propping herself up from the ground to paw at a door knob, was...
S’razirr grinned. He strode across the room with as much confidence and dignity as his limp would allow. As he drew closer, the elf turned to face him and contorted her face into a vicious snarl.
“YOU!” she gasped roughly, in what was probably supposed to be a shout.
“Me” S’razirr said, standing over her and looking her up and down.
“CAT! Listen, urk, listen to me! There must be at least ONE potion left in this accursed place. Fetch one for me! Now!”
S’razirr responded by propping himself against the door and kicking the elf onto her back with his good leg.
“ARGH! What do you think you’re DOING, you pathetic IMBECILE?!”
S’razirr knelt beside her. “Looting the body. You’re not very observant, are you? Ah, here we are.” S’razirr plucked Ruma’s ornate ceremonial dagger from her belt. “This seems QUITE valuable.”
“You IGNORANT FOOL!” Spittle and blood flew in equal measure from the elf’s mouth. “You know NOTHING of the power of Dagon. NOTHING! We will ascend beyond your wildest dreams, and you will die SLOWLY and PAINFULLY in the dirt! Do you hear me?! You don’t know who you’re dealing with! You can’t just take that from me!”
“Hm, you’re right, that isn’t fair.” S’razirr drew one of the many iron daggers he’d taken from the other bodies from his belt.
Some minutes later, a group of four cultists made their way towards the cave exit. The first to arrive on the scene winced.
“Eurgh, gods below!”
“Oh sweet merciless Dagon, is that Ruma? Is she...”
“I don’t know, I’m not a doctor!”
“Fortunately, I am” said the last cultist, a man with balding black hair and thin, wispy eyebrows. Said eyebrows rose slightly as he caught up with the others. “Though I don’t think you’d need one to diagnose somebody with all their blood on the outside.”
“That crazed orc is absolutely sick! Crushed innards AND a slit throat? Talk about overkill!”
“Hm. Tell me” said the doctor, looking down at the cadaver, “do you think that hulking orange monster masquerading as a sapient being is the type to slit throats?”
“Well I wouldn’t have guessed, but the slit throat seems a big clue.”
The doctor stroked his chin thoughtfully. “And tell me: Who did you say you found in the storage room with an arrow in his forehead?”
“That was Darren. You know, the talkative one who-”
“Yes yes” said the doctor, waving dismissively. “Unfortunately, we all knew him quite well.”
He pushed open the door and stared intently at the path leading away from the cave.
“Hm...” he said to himself. “Two sets of tracks. One heavy, one light. Same direction.”
The doctor turned to his three remaining companions and placed his hands behind his back.
“Gentlemen. It seems we have one clear course of action ahead of us. The Mythic Dawn cannot stand for this outrage. We must follow the killer and see that they are dealt with.”
“Are you kidding me?! You saw what that...thing was capable of, didn’t you? We would have to be absolutely insane to go after him!”
The other two cultists didn’t say anything, but their eyes agreed.
“Ah. I see.”
The doctor walked up to the cultist who spoke last and gave him a firm pat on the shoulder. His other hand grasped the man’s forearm. Then he twisted. Hard.
“What the hell!”
The doctor pushed the man to the ground and stomped down on the broken leg with his foot. He looked down with a disinterested expression as he ground it back and forth. After a few moments, he stepped off the arm and knelt down beside the cultist, who was still screaming hysterically. He held out his hand, and a glow of white light cast soft rays onto the warped appendage. Several seconds passed as the cultists screams reduced to whimpers. As he gripped his arm and gingerly rotated his wrist, the doctor rose.
“W-what...what was that all about?!” said another cultist. “You took his arm away and then gave it back?!”
“It’s a perfectly good arm, no sense in wasting a valuable resource” said the doctor as the cultist beneath him rose from the floor.
“However, I believe this begs a question:”
The doctor gripped the man’s arm again.
“Are we going to follow him?”
“AH! YES! YES WE’LL FOLLOW HIM ANYTHING YOU WANT PLEASE YES!”
The doctor released the man and turned, placing his arms behind his back again.
The once-injured cultist stepped back from the doctor. “Yeah. Yeah we’ll do it...but you are fucked in the head, man.”
“It’s almost as though I’m a daedric cultist” he replied, stepping outside.
The doctor stared at the pair of tracks disappearing into the horizon as his reluctant companions fell in step behind him. He permitted himself a small smile.
It was time to go hero hunting.