Neminda promoted me to the rank of Oathman when I saw her in the morning. She immediately gave me a new task: travel to Maar Gan and find out what happened to the Redoran trader, Mathis Dalobar, who was late in returning to Ald'ruhn. Maar Gan is halfway between Ald'ruhn and the Urshilaku's camp, so I accepted, intending to satisfy both responsibilities in the same day.
An ash storm started to pick up as I was leaving town and completely engulfed me in minutes. I thought about turning back and waiting until it died down, but that could have been a wait of hours or of days. This was not my first dust storm I have had to travel in and I wound up just trudging through the grit.
|Maar Gan, barely visible|
I was a bit concerned that someone might link me to the disappearence of the Propylon Stone I had swiped from the Temple, but not only was I not recognized, the stone itself seemed to have been completely forgotten. Maybe the Temple assumed one of its acolytes accidentally lost it. The local armorer had a surprising supply of silvered arrows, all of which I purchased. He had no concrete information on the disappearance of Mathis Dalobar, only commenting that there had been a bad ash storm a few days back which the trader had likely been caught up in.
A few villagers did tell me that they saw Mathis just outside of town as the storm gathered strength and that he had run into a nearby tomb to escape. Why he did not simply run for the town, they could not say. I found the tomb after spending hours stumbling around in my own ash storm, but I could begrudgingly approve of his decision to head for the nearest shelter by then.
The tomb opened to a stairway, at the bottom of which was another door and the lost trader. The man was smart enough not to proceed any further than that, allowing whatever guardians the tomb had to peacefully await the intruder who would be coming through the second door. Mathis was unharmed and relieved to see me, stating that he had been stuck at the foot of the stairs for three days, as he had been unable to open the tomb's door once he closed it behind him. I had no problems re-opening the door and he requested that I escort him to the Maar Gan shrine.
Now that I knew where to go, the walk from the tomb to Maar Gan only took a few minutes. Mathis lamented at the loss of his guar with all his merchandise, but thanked me for saving his life. By then it was already late in the afternoon and the storm was still raging, but I decided to continue onward towards the Urshilaku camp. Other than a group of bandits uselessly firing chitin arrows at me, I had no issues with the journey further north. The storm had died by the time I reached the coast and I cautiously waded into the shallows to get some of the dust out of my fur.
The Urshilaku were polite in their own way. I approached them in what I think was a respectful manner and told them I was seeking information on the Nerevarine prophecies. The ones I talked to acknowledged my interest, but dismissed me as an outlander who had no business with such things. I wound up with an audience with Zabamund, the champion of Sul-Matuul, in order to get his permission to approach Sul-Matuul. A failure to do this could mean having to fight Sul-Matuul, which would not get me anywhere.
Zabamund was more blunt than the others. He demanded a reason as to why I should be allowed to talk to Sul-Matuul and their wise-woman, Nibani Maesa. Remembering what Hassour told me, I offered a tribute of money and received Zabamund's permission to see Sul-Matuul with my questions.
Sul-Matuul was more accepting of my questions. When I asked to be tested against the Nerevarine prophecies, he told me that no outlander could ever be tested, but if I was made Clanfriend, an honorary member of the tribe I suppose, I could then be tested. He offered an initiation rite, which if I passed, he would personally adopt me into the clan and introduce me to the wise-woman. I really had no choice and accepted the rite.
It was less than what I expected. He called it a 'harrowing', but I call it 'what I do almost every day': I was to go to the tribe's burial cavern and fetch a chitin bow that had belonged to Sul-Matuul's father. Before I left he cautioned me that the tribe's ancestor spirits were guarding the cavern and would attempt to kill me. I resisted the urge to tell how how many Dremora and Golden Saints I have fought and defeated.
Apparently the Urshilaku mummify their warriors and the sight is quite startling. Even the eyes are preserved: grey, dry, and eternally staring in contemplation. Walking by them managed to put me on edge just as badly as my first encounter with the blighted monsters in the Ashlands, but they were harmless.
The guardians were almost entirely animated skeletons armed with silver longswords and cheap iron shields, nothing I could not handle so long as I was not facing more than two at a time. I found several bodies of long-deceased and partially mummified adventurers, all of them in mismatched equipment of varying quality. Whether they came as a group or individually was impossible to tell and I wonder if they too were testing themselves against the Nerevarine prophecy. It is far more likely that they were all simple robbers.
The cavern was divided into several levels, each accessible by a central stone spire that rose up towards the ceiling. I explored each level thouroughly, but only within the final level did I find what I was searching for. The bow was levitating against the ceiling and guarded by a tough ghost typical of Dunmer burial sites in a room at the furtherest end of the highest chamber. The ghost was fairly difficult, striking me with a wide variety of spells and darting out of the way of my attacks, but it was more frustrating than damaging. When I finally managed to drive it into a corner and defeat it, the bow clattered on to the ground behind me. On my way out I spotted a burial totem eerily similar to the ones I saw in the Sixth House base.
It had been growing darker when I entered the burial cavern, so I was very surprised to see it growing lighter when I exited. I managed to spend an entire, sleepless night fighting the Urshilaku's ancestral spirits without realizing how much time had passed.
With realization came fatigue. I anticipated handing the bow to Sul-Matuul, but he gifted it to me as part of naming me Clanfriend, an adopted member of the clan. Having thus been initiated into the tribe, I was allowed to finally speak with the wise woman.
In the pattern I was beginning to recognize, the wise-woman, Nibani Maesa, treated me indifferently, scoffing at my title of Clanfriend as a transient thing. Nevertheless, she willingly discussed the Nerevarine prophecy with me and the possibility of my being the Nerevarine. What she told me is far too much to write here. I did write a summary of notes to give to my friend in Balmora, which I will also record here for my own use. These are the words of the prophecy called "Seven Visions of Seven Trials of the Incarnate." I wrote them down as she spoke them to me.
seven trials :
What he puts his hand to, that shall be done.
What is left undone, that shall be done.
first trial :
On a certain day to uncertain parents
Incarnate moon and star reborn.
second trial :
Neither blight nor age can harm him.
The Curse-of-Flesh before him flies.
third trial :
In caverns dark Azura's eye sees
And makes to shine the moon and star.
fourth trial :
A stranger's voice unites the Houses.
Three Halls call him Hortator.
fifth trial :
A stranger's hand unites the Velothi.
Four Tribes call him Nerevarine.
sixth trial :
He honors blood of the tribe unmourned.
He eats their sin, and is reborn.
seventh trial :
His mercy frees the cursed false gods,
Binds the broken, redeems the mad.
one destiny :
He speaks the law for Veloth's people.
He speaks for their land, and names them great.
Nibani herself did not understand some of the prophecy, but she confirmed what my friend was hoping: I was not the Nerevarine, but nor was anyone else right now. I could, however, become the Nerevarine by undergoing the trials. She recommended I track down the lost writings of the Prophecy said to be held by the splinter faction of the Temple, the Dissident Priests. Perhaps my contact in Vivec will be able to help me with that.
But I was thoroughly exhausted and in no condition to be dashing off to Vivec on the heels of another mystery. Instead I parted with Nibani and used a scroll of Divine Intervention to pop back into Gnisis after I left the wise-woman's tent.
A short walk to Berandas's Propylon chamber sent me to Folms in Caldera and then to the Balmora Mages Guild. My friend was taken aback by the news that I really could be the Nerevarine, evidently he had been betting on only having me pretend to be. From what the wise-woman said though, pretending to be the Nerevarine would only serve to make a person either look mad or a fool. He promised to follow up with our mutual contact in Vivec about the lost text and meanwhile assigned me to look into the disappearance of an Imperial Legion patrol.
The patrol originated from the Fort Buckmoth garrison, just outside of Ald'ruhn. They had been sent to Gnaar Mok to eliminate a smuggling ring based within a cave the villagers call Ilunibi. But the twelve-strong patrol was just about wiped out, with only one survivor managing to retreat back to Fort Buckmoth. Before expiring from corpus disease, the trooper claimed the patrol had been fighting and winning against monsters and Sixth House cultists until a deformed magic-user appeared during a melee and struck the rest of the patrol dead with a single gesture. The surviving trooper was wounded during his retreat and contracted corpus, which may have damaged his recollection of the events.
Either way, my friend asked that I infiltrate the cave, destroy the Sixth House base and report back on this priest of theirs. My contact at Fort Buckmoth is Raesa Pullia, a very Imperial-sounding name and she has more details for me.
According to Ajira, it was nine in the morning when I stumbled blearily back into the Guild. I had no intention of speaking with Raesa today, I am simply too tired. Instead I have spent almost the entire day resting and practicing my magicka skills with the guild members. Tomorrow I will visit Fort Buckmoth and decide on my next course of action.