13 Frost Fall, 3E433
It is finally over. Mehrunes Dagon has been banished back to Oblivion, the Gates have collapsed across Tamriel, and the 'Oblivion Crisis' has come to an end.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
Following what is now being called the 'Battle of Bruma' Martin retired to Cloud Ruler Temple and I to my home where I rested for several hours. I had no idea what to expect from Cameron's 'Paradise' and was certainly not going to saunter into it right after the 'Battle of Bruma'. I was stopped by several people as I walked out of Bruma, one of them a city guard who told me nearly the entire town had been watching the fight from the walls, the guardsmen preparing to erect barricades in the streets in expectation of fighting Daedra inside the city. He claimed the all of Bruma cheered when I came running out of the Great Gate with the Daedric siege engine shuddering to a halt just behind me, but I do not remember hearing anything of the sort.
When I arrived at Cloud Ruler Temple I was greeted by a very strange sight: the Great Welkynd Stone and the Great Sigil Stone were gently circling each other in front of the Great Hall's fireplace.
Beneath them was writings I can only assume came from the Mysterium Xarxes. Martin assured me that the portal to 'Paradise' could be opened whenever I was ready for it and I think he was just as eager to be finished with everything as I was. We both agreed that the portal was to be opened immediately. Once I was there though, there was no way of coming back, the portal would close behind me. The only way out would be to destroy 'Paradise' itself via Mankar Camoran's death, a task I found myself looking more forward to than I anticipated.
The portal opened just as the Great Gate did, rising straight up from the stone floor of the Great Hall and erupting into a blaze of light. I stepped through it expecting the typical hellish landscape and was not at all prepared for what I saw.
It was not exactly my idea of Paradise, but Mankar's personal realm with its overcast sky, blue ocean, and lush forests looked almost exactly like Cyrodiil...with some important differences.
Almost immediately a voice seemed to descend from the sky. Mankar Camoran himself, finally confronting me after almost a month of constant conflict. I give him points for working a Khajiit-joke into his first sentence (referring to me as a 'cats-paw'), but the rest was just the same self-important drivel I had received from Dagoth Ur so many years ago.
I followed a rough path along the shore while ignoring Mankar and came across an older Redguard woman armed with a club. I prepared to kill the unfortunate-looking lady, but she simply laughed ruefully and told me my fight was with Mankar, not her.
She described the area for me. Where she and I stood was a forest known as the 'Savage Garden', the path I was on led to Mankar's palace, and beneath our feet was the 'Forbidden Grotto', the only way between the 'Savage Garden' and Mankar Camoran. Only followers wearing something called the 'Bands of the Chosen' could enter the Grotto, but once inside they never return.
Mankar was a man of his word to the Mythic Dawn. He promised them immortality if they died in his service and that is exactly what they received. Killed while in Tamriel, they were reborn in Paradise, nearly naked and armed with a crude club. Daedra roamed the Savage Garden, killing any Mythic Dawn followers they found. Immortal, they would then be reborn, only to be killed again. The irritating voice of Mankar interjected to explain that their suffering was to harden them to rule the 'new' Tamriel Mehrunes Dagon would bring about. I fail to see how getting constantly and painfully slaughtered by Clannfear and Daedroth is helpful in any way, but I am but a Khajiit, not a leader of the Mythic Dawn.
I wished the poor woman luck and continued on in the direction of Mankar's supposed palace. On my way I was accosted by two Clannfear and a Daedroth, the three too stupid perhaps not to see I was not like their other victims. They likely were reborn as well, though I certainly did not stay around long enough to find out.
At a bridge I had a very strange and oddly cordial conversation with a Dremora calling himself (itself?) Kathutet. I learned a little about the workings of the Dremora society, for lack of a better term and that his "clan" had been responsible for destroying Kvatch. My plunge into the plane of Oblivion and the closure of Kvatch's Great Gate won me the dubious honor of Kathutet's clan's respect. Thus respected, he declared that speaking to me brought him no dishonor. He guarded the only path to Mankar and when I warned him that I was willing to go through him to cross the bridge he begrudgingly acknowledged respect for my bravery, but said I had no chance in battle against him.
I had shamed his "clan" by closing the Great Gate outside of Kvatch, so he offered to allow me to perform a service for him instead, which would bring him as much honor as defeating me in battle.
My choice was a simple one. Battle it was!
He mocked me for having the simple mind of an animal (another Khajiit joke...) and told me my body and name would be reduced to nothing by him. Having said his piece, he drew his sword and our battle commenced.
Maybe he just hoped for release from Mankar's realm. Who can know the minds of Daedra? On his body were enchanted armbands I assumed were the 'Bands of the Chosen'. The way to Mankar Camoran was clear, or so I thought.
The mad man continued to berate me for the effort I was expending in order to destroy him as I entered the Grotto. He explained that Tamriel is just a misnamed Daedric realm within Oblivion and that Mehrunes Dagon was merely reclaiming what was originally his, not invading as it appeared. He then veered off into religious babbling that, despite being raised by the Temple, I have little interest in.
I witnessed a very one-sided battle between a Mythic Dawn cultist and some sort of Daedra I have never seen before. It had the lower body of a spider, but the upper body of something similar to a Dremora. The cultist put up a brave fight with his club, but fell to the Daedra nonetheless.
I advanced cautiously and slew the smaller spiders the creature sent at me and engaged the Daedra in melee combat. It had a disgusting tactic of spitting at me, the saliva hissing into my armor with an acidic reek. I managed to keep the battle short enough that I was not reduced to rags like the immortal cultists. My armor was greatly damaged, something that would have adverse effects later on.
The Grotto got progressively worse the further inside I went. Why no one came out after being given the Bands started to become quite clear: the Grotto was not a reward, but a punishment. Cages containing cultists were dropped into open lava pits, leaving them screaming in unending agony. Particularly cruel was that there was no way to save them. Each cage was one of a pair, the lever controlling them always dropped one into the lava while the other was raised. I could find no key to release the cultists and had no choice but to pass them by, their desperate pleas gradually quieting behind me as I moved further into the Grotto.
A clothed Altmer was pacing back and forth in a room of his own and when he noticed my presence he ran up to me, very excited. He introduced himself as Eldamil and he was a very interesting character indeed. Eldamil was one of the original conspirators who planned the Emperor's assassination and he was the cultist responsible for the opening of the Great Gate of Kvatch which destroyed the whole city and left hundreds dead. But he would not gloat of such accomplishments. Instead he eagerly asked why I was in the Grotto and just about bounced up and down when I told him I was in Paradise to kill Mankar.
Paradise had been good for him, though not in the way promised. As the opener of Kvatch's Great Gate, he was among the first of the Mythic Dawn allowed in after the Daedra had torched the city. While looking for survivors he and a few other cultists chanced upon three townspeople sheltering in a shop. The three immediately rushed Eldamil, killing him before his comrades struck them down. As the one who (unknown to him) nearly killed the Emperor's last heir, he was according the dubious privilege of residing in Paradise.
As I said, Paradise had been good for Eldamil, for he grew disenchanted with his constant torment at the claws of the Daedra and began to feel remorseful for evil he had committed while in Tamriel. Such weakness was abhorrent to Mankar and he placed Eldamil in the Grotto, forced to torture his fellow cultists in some sort of effort to make him less remorseful, I suppose.
Eldamil revealed the secrets of the 'Bands of the Chosen': they could not be removed by the wearer and you could not leave the Grotto from either end while wearing them. Anyone else, however, could remove them for you. Such was the offer he made to me in exchange for taking him along to see the fall of Mankar and the release of, as he put it, "poor, deluded followers".
His plan was not a great one: I was to pretend to be a prisoner under his care and step inside one of the lava cages. Once the Dremora who oversaw the Grotto came to check on Eldamil, he would partially lower my cage and raise it back up once the Dremora left. He would then remove the Bands and accompany me to the end of Paradise. I had no choice but to agree.
I never want to see lava ever again.
Eldamil was true to his word and lifted the cage back up once his conversation with the Dremora ended. Fortunately the cage opposing mine was empty, sparing me the guilt of watching someone get dropped into utter agony. Eldamil removed my bands and led me through the Grotto until we entered a room with a very angry Spider-thing and a Clannfear. Our battle began!
And ended rather quickly, along with Eldamil, though probably temporarily just as with the Daedra. Unfortunately our two foes, plus my guilt-ridden ally, had fallen into the lava upon their brief death. I do hope the man did not awaken in the lava, but I do not know how such a system works here in Paradise. Whatever the case, his only hope, as well as mine, was to kill Mankar and destroy Paradise for good. I continued alone.
Just past those foes were two more, a Daedroth and another Spider, both of which I fought my way through, though not without damage. Just beyond them was a door, mercifully letting me out into Paradise...and rain, as always. In front of me stood what could only have been Mankar's "palace", on the stairs two Mythic Dawn cultists. Mindful of Eldamil, I approached them slowly, but the pair were actually the children of Mankar Camoran and two people whom I had met before, though I did not realize it until the daughter acidly pointed it out.
The woman was Ruma Camoran, the Altmer who demanded I kill the Argonian as part of my initiation when I pretended to be interested in joining so that I could steal the Mysterium Xarxes. I killed her along with the other cultists after my refusal marked me for death, though I had not known she and Mankar were related in any way.
Her brother, Raven Camoran, was less known to me. He was the one who spoke with Baurus in the sewers of the Imperial City, a meeting I interrupted when I assaulted two cultists Raven had secreted in an alcove above them. Baurus had killed Raven. but he managed to blame me just the same.
The two did not attack, instead arrogantly escorting me inside while telling me how joyful it was going to be to see their father strike me down over and over again. But I knew two things they were likely not aware of: one, their father loved to hear himself speak and two, I was very tired of hearing it.
Mankar started just as grandly as I thought he would, referring to me as the 'Champion of Old Tamriel'. If he had anything else to say after that I did not give him the chance to say it. With a leap upon the stairs in front of him I drove my blade into his guts, twisted it, and yanked it out, throwing him clear off the platform. His childrens' roars of rage were short-lived, for they were not warriors.
After they died I removed the Amulet of Kings from Mankar's corpse and started to walk out of the palace, assuming that the portal that brought me here would now have opened with the Amulet in my possession. Instead the palace started to collapse and I ran for the exit...and almost into Martin.
Without Mankar or perhaps the Amulet, Paradise had nothing to keep it going and must have been destroyed, perhaps delivering the Mythic Dawn to the release they had all come to desire.
I handed him the Amulet of Kings and without hesitating he placed it over his head, just as any piece of jewelry might be worn. Only one last action remained before he would truly be the Emperor. While anxiously awaiting my return he had dispatched a messenger to the Imperial City so that the Chancellor would know to expect him. Martin insisted on deferring to the Elder Council's authority in confirming his coronation and with that he and three Blades turned and walked out of the Great Hall, Martin turning his head to implore me to hurry up.
And so to the Imperial City we rode and what awaited us there none of us could have expected...