Habits are hard to break, especially those that surround your morning routine. Despite not getting any sleep yesterday, I still woke up at my usual time this morning: just before the Guild's communal breakfast.
I could have simply paid Masalinie to teleport me over to Ald'ruhn, but I do not want to become like the other members of the Mages Guild: knowledgeable and strong in the ways of magic, yet unwilling to walk out the front door. I always will be a Scout of the Imperial Auxiliaries and I decided to walk from Balmora to Ald'ruhn, just to keep myself in shape for doing such things.
Naturally, this meant it started to rain as soon as I left the town.
Other than being wet, the walk from Balmora to Fort Buckmoth was uneventful. As always, I took the opportunity to shoot some arrows at wild rats and scribs to keep up on my practice, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary.
Word of my arrival preceded me. The Champion of the garrison, Raesa Pullia, had been waiting for me and immediately launched into an explanation of what had happened. She had sent a doubled patrol to what she thought was a simple smuggler hideout, but the dozen troopers encountered far worse. They initially made good progress into the cavern unopposed, but came under attack by cultists and the corpus monsters I have become more accustomed to. The troopers, experienced as they were, were not as accustomed and attempted to retreat. Apparently they got lost and ambushed by a man-creature calling itself Dagoth Gares, whom killed all the remaining troopers save for the one that stumbled back to the fort. Infected with corpus, the unfortunate man could only rant about the Sixth House and Dagoth Ur before expiring.
Raesa confessed to being shaken by the whole ordeal and the morale of the garrison was quite low following the trooper's gruesome death. She asked that I go to Gnaar Mok and investigate the cave, if possible killing this Dagoth Gares and his followers. I felt up to the task, after all, it would not be the first Sixth House base I have destroyed.
So it was back into the reeking swamps for me as I walked to the fishing village. I accidentally got a small preview of what I would be finding when I stumbled upon a small cave. Thinking it might be Ilnuibi, I entered cautiously and was immediately attacked by one of the faceless creatures. It was obvious that the cave was not the one I was seeking, for it only had four large alcoves and was impossible to get lost in. The fourth alcove was joined to the entrance via a small stone outcropping along a pool of lava, which I wound up throwing a corpus-infected man into. There was little treasure to be found and only four creatures in the entire cave, one of which was a cultist.
The villagers at Gnaar Mok were suspiciously unaware of everything. They were able to tell me where Ilnuibi was, but referred to it as a smuggling hideaway. Questions about the Imperial Legion patrol were met with silence and the whole thing left me uneasy. I had assumed the Sixth House's reach would extend from the Red Mountain, rotting the island from within, but it appears there are pockets of Sixth House loyalists along the coast as well. This is worrying.
Ilnuibi is just north of Gnaar Mok, which makes the villagers professed ignorance even more unbelievable. The inside of the cave opened against a small waterfall of seawater leaking in from above, making the descent in armor a treacherous and very wet task. A long corridor spanned before me and at the end, a faceless denizen a good distance away. It started to run towards me, but the entire corridor was flooded, so his progress was slow, giving me plenty of shots with the bow. It fell dead after covering less than half the distance to me.
I found the first of the dead Legionnaires at the end of the corridor. I had expected the patrol to be armed typical of the Legion, but the soldier had a large two-handed Dwemer battle axe still clutched in his hands. To his respect I let him keep it. The corridor continued onwards, all of it flooded and I felled several of the faceless and one of the stone-faced creatures with my arrows. The cave might have been a mine of some sort in the past, for at the end of the corridor sat a thick wooden door...not something you usually see underground.
Immediately past the door was another dead soldier, this one on her stomach and just as richly armed with an enchanted two-handed sword and an Orcish cuirass. Unlike the first, she was on relatively dry ground and seemed unharmed. When I flipped her around I nearly lost Ajira's breakfast. Her face had been brutally clawed away, leaving just a gaping, gore-filled hole. I do not remember what happened after that, just that I came to my senses at another worn, wooden door with no recollection of how I got there.
Through that door was one of the grimacing stone-faced creatures who, instead of casting spells, started clawing at me. Its hands were dry though, but the soldier's fate lent me strength enough to impale the creature straight through and into the cavern wall. Its shriek as it clutched at through its stomach (if it had one) felt as if it had pierced straight through my skull.
I was just about to yank the spear back out when I heard the laughter and startlingly soft, deep voice. "The Sixth House greets you Lord Nerevar, or Kerra, as you call yourself..." and into the corridor walked a tall, robed figure...with no face. It had a mouth, but might have been one of the faceless creatures at one point, for the hollow in the skull was present, but this creature had a tentacle-like protrusion growing out of the hole. Yet after he greeted me, he smiled, an effect that made him look oddly normal. This was Dagoth Gares.
I felt unprotected without my spear, but I felt that if I tried to extract it, he/it would stop talking and start attacking. The fate of the troopers aside, this was also the first opportunity I had to gather intelligence from a Sixth House follower, so I cautiously drew the strangely shaped Daedric dagger and we had what could almost pass for a pleasant conversation.
He had much to say. He apologized for the hostile reception, but professed regret that, until I declare my friendship with Dagoth Ur, the servants of the Sixth House would treat me as an enemy. Among all of Dagoth Gares declarations, this initial one is the most curious and the first sign that Dagoth Ur is attempting to avoid a conflict with either myself or whomever he believes me to be.
When asked about Dagoth Ur himself, I was told that he is awaiting me under the Red Mountain, with a hand extended in friendship in honor of the camaraderie we shared long ago. Should I seek out Dagoth Ur, I need only renew that ancient friendship to receive his alliance in "setting the world aright", to quote Dagoth Gares. I wonder in what shape the world was in when Lord Nerevar walked in and setting the world right meant infecting people with body and mind warping disease.
I pressed Dagoth Gares to go into more detail as to what Dagoth Ur's "friendship" would mean. In response, he relayed a message evidently dictated from Dagoth Ur himself:
"Once we were friends and brothers, Lord Nerevar, in peace and in war. Yet beneath Red Mountain you struck me down as I guarded the treasure you bound me by oath to defend. But, remembering our old friendship, I would forgive you and raise you high in my service."
The message, delivered in Dagoth Gares's calm voice, I remember exactly. It raises a lot more questions than it answers: Did Lord Nerevar attack Dagoth Ur underneath Red Mountain? What treasures and what oath? And why does he think I am Lord Nerevar? So much time has passed since then, surely he must know that everyone he knew has aged and died long ago. I came to Ilnuibi seeking answers and wound up coming out of it with more questions.
As Dagoth Gares continued to talk, the fur on the back of my neck started to rise. It used to do that back in the Auxiliaries right before ambushes and I used to be in demand for long patrols just for that purpose. The smooth-talking monster was going to do something soon, I just did not know what. Figuring that there is little sense in letting your enemy strike first, I launched myself at him with my dagger, catching him in mid-sentence. His misshapen face clearly showed surprise, interesting proof that Dagoth Ur's higher minions are allowed a greater amount of intelligence and initiative.
Perhaps he was feeling overconfident, for he had let me strike first and in close quarters. Faced with my dagger, he was hard-pressed to cast the spells he depended on and resorted, unskillfully, to fighting me bare-handed. As he collapsed on to the stone ground, he smiled and pointed at me:
"Even as my Master wills, you shall come to him, in his flesh, and of his flesh"
Then with a rattling gasp, he died and no spell came of his decree, other than a vague itchiness. The men and women of Fort Buckmoth have been avenged. I finally retrieved my spear and searched the body. The only thing of interest I found was an amulet and a note evidently penned by Dagoth Ur himself, a message which Dagoth Gares had faithfully delivered pretty much word for word. The amulet was not magical, but it did bear an odd mark on it, so I took it to show to my friend. Perhaps he will know more about it.
Beyond the corpse were troughs similar to the ones in Telasero, but these only contained clothing and miscellaneous items not worth the trouble of carrying. After satisfying my curiosity, I drank a potion of Recall and was whisked away to my home in Ald'ruhn. I expect my sleep tonight will not come easy, but I am also no rookie to combat. If needed, Ienas has left some fine liquors here, but Khajiit are not exactly known for holding their alcohol.
This itching is quite an annoyance, but probably nothing that a bath will not fix. Tomorrow: a return to Fort Buckmoth, then reporting back to my friend in Balmora.