13 Frost Fall, 3E433
The ride from Cloud Ruler Temple to the Imperial City is not a long one, but my fatigue and worry over what awaited us made it seem like a lifetime. I rode behind the others at some distance, unwilling to be part of whatever energetic conversation occupied the three of them during the entire trip.
Either by luck, recognition of whom they were looking at, or a desire not to tangle with the escorting Blades, our little party was not bothered by any banditry, hostile creatures, or roving animals. While this was certainly a good thing, I would have welcomed a distraction from my apprehension which served only to make the journey seem to take even longer.
We arrived at the Wawnet Inn just outside of the City as the sun disappeared completely below the horizon and made our way down the huge bridge connecting the City to the mainland. Mindful of the Mythic Dawn assassins that used to ambush me just inside the gates, I insisted on entering the city first to be safe.
This led to an amusing and slightly embarrassing greeting from a city guard who claimed meeting the 'Hero of Kvatch' was a great honor...just as Martin and his escort arrived behind me. Of course the guard did not know who Martin was, but I think recognition of the Amulet of Kings was starting to dawn on him as we walked by.
High Chancellor Ocato was waiting for us inside the Council's meeting hall. Notified earlier by Martin's messenger, Ocato had convened the Council and each member voted to recognize Martin's claim to the throne. He and Martin started to discuss the timing of a coronation ceremony when a guard rushed inside, panicking.
Mehrunes Dagon's cultists, having remained undetected within the Imperial City during the Crisis, had somehow learned of Martin's arrival and sprung their trap. The guardsman exclaimed that Oblivion Gates had opened all over the city and the Guard were already being overwhelmed by Daedra.
High Chancellor Ocato urged the man to take courage in the fact that the Empire had a true Emperor again, but I found his words less than reassuring, having seen what a horde of Daedra could do to a city. Ocato then turned to Martin and asked what his orders were, suggesting that it might be prudent to concentrate the Guard around the Palace.
But Martin disagreed, as did I. Without the Dragonfires alight, there was little we could do except die in the besieged palace. Martin had to be escorted to the Temple of the One and once again I was along for the ride. Ocato ordered what few guards had managed to make it to the council chambers to form up around the Emperor just as cultists burst inside the hall and charged. Two cultists against two guards, a determined would-be Emperor, an Imperial Battlemage, and an anxious Khajiit?
I suppose I should give them credit for determination, if not awareness.
The city was bathed in the red light of Oblivion and we were immediately assaulted outside the Council's chambers as we filed out. No desperate cultists this time, but well-armed Dremora backed up by Daedroth. If this was an example of what was rampaging all over the city then I have little doubt the city would have fallen quite shortly to these forces alone.
The Palace guards laid into our foes with a great deal more skill than the unfortunate guardsmen outside of Bruma had been able to. Despite that the battle seemed to not be going in our favor until a sudden charge by a group from the Watch smashed into the Daedric flank, killing one Daedroth outright as the rest of us struggled against our individual combatants. I accounted for a single Dremora myself and watched Martin and the High Chancellor kill a second Daedroth together. Once our little battle was over one of the late-arriving guardsman saluted out of breath and gasped that he and his men had run the whole way from the Legion barracks to the Palace, all of them being the first and last to escape before the compound was embroiled in its own private war against Oblivion. We could expect no more help, but Martin had more soldiers at his back now than he ever had. Our situation seemed to be improving.
Green Emperor Way was empty of any further enemies, but we were considerably less lucky at the entrance to the Temple district. Just outside the gate separating the two districts lurked three Flame Atronachs, several Dremora, and an Oblivion Gate from which Clannfear were excitedly bounding out of.
Despite the odds being against us, our little band fared very well, dispatching all the Daedra without a loss to our side. Martin ordered three guards to stand watch outside the Gate and motioned everyone onward into the Temple of the One.
He was ahead of me at the time and I remember very clearly his sudden halt. He turned to me and grabbed my arm as I caught up to him. Confused, I started to ask why he stopped, when I saw fear in his eyes for the first time. Parched from the smoke and the fighting as the rest of us were, he choked out words that I shall remember until the end of my days should those days ever arrive.
"We're too late! Mehrunes Dagon is here!"
The Daedric Prince of Destruction had come to claim Tamriel, or reclaim it according to the late Mankar Cameron. Perhaps the Mythic Dawn leader was right. Martin hurriedly explained that the barrier between Tamriel and Oblivion had to be completely gone for the Daedric Prince to be able to materialize on this Plane, making the Dragonfires just about useless. I cannot say how it occurred, but if there needed to be such a barrier to then one could assume Mankar's story is at least partially true. It is not as if there are barriers against, say, Azura's return. Perhaps Tamriel really is a secluded, walled portion of Mehrunes Dagon's Plane of Oblivion. The Dragonfires could now not be lit to any effect, but Martin seemed to have a plan and he said it still depended on reaching the Temple, so our war-band charged towards the Temple, engaging the Daedra milling about in front of Mehrunes Dagon.
With the Daedra occupied and the giant Prince seemingly unable to see us yet, Martin and I dashed between the two giant feet and into the now-crumbling Temple. Once inside the doors we both crept behind the Temple's pillars, mindful of the giant just outside.
Martin nodded to himself, then smiled at me. He said that he had to do what must be done and that the task of rebuilding Tamriel would fall on other shoulders. With that he clasped both my shoulders and grinned, stating that "the Dragon" awaited. I remember scanning the open ceiling of the Temple, half expecting to see an actual Dragon descending from the sky. Folly, of course, but I do not think a Dragon would have surprised me after everything else I have seen.
I stayed crouched behind my pillar as Martin strode to the center of the Temple, but then the whole side of the building caved in and suddenly Mehrunes Dagon was there, staring down at us.
Now, I do feel that I am a pretty brave Khajiit. Contrary to the common prejudice, I do not think I sneak about everywhere and when time comes to stand and fight I have done my part. No one on Vvardenfell or Solsthiem could say I lack for courage and while in Cyrodiil I have stepped into Oblivion time and time again only to return to Tamriel victorious. To say I have come a long way from my Auxiliary days of road patrol and bear-hunting is not debatable. But when Mehrunes Dagon turned his gaze on me I froze in complete terror. There was nothing against him that I could do. Perhaps Lord Dagoth's "blessing" would have somehow saved me from death, but the sight and sounds of the immortal Mythic Dawn cultists continuously being burnt alive came to mind and I am sure Mehrunes Dagon is a creative torturer.
I managed to turn my gaze away so that I could find Martin and tell him to flee, but he was standing in the middle of the Temple, calmly gazing at the Daedric Prince. He waited until Mehrunes Dagon was looking at him, then removed the Amulet of Kings and cast it upon the ground. Beams of painfully bright light erupted from the shattered amulet, forcing me to shut my eyes. When the light subsided I opened them again to see something I shall never see again for as long as I live.
A dragon composed entirely of fire rose into the sky from where Martin had been standing and roared a challenge at the Daedric Prince of Destruction. The Dragon that Martin spoke of was not the beasts of legend, but Akatosh, first of the Gods and the architect of the sacrificed Amulet of Kings. I am not sure how Martin knew what would happen. Perhaps his past involvement with Daedric magics somehow led to this belief, who can say?
Mehrunes Dagon swung his massive axe at the Dragon, but it seemed to pass harmlessly through its body of fire. Akatosh or Martin, I do not know who was in control then, landed a blow upon the Prince's throat which appeared to weaken him, then struck a raking blow against his chest. I did not think the blows great, but apparently they had more substance to them than just the physical, for bright light started to shine out of the wounded Prince and with a roar, he suddenly vanished in a flash of light.
Martin, the avatar of Akatosh, as I prefer to think of it, landed inside the Temple and looked around. I started to get up from the surprising safety of my pillar, thinking that Martin would simply return to his regular form. But with a cry of triumph, Martin looked to the stars, spread his avatar's wings, and froze forever into stone.
The High Chancellor chose that precise moment to dash inside the ruined Temple, giddily exclaiming that the battle for the Imperial City had been won, the Gates suddenly destroyed, Daedra vanquished, and Mehrunes Dagon gone. He asked where Martin was and I gestured towards the statue of Akatosh. Ocato was quick to understand. He and the soldiers outside had witnessed the short battle, but had not known that Martin's sacrifice had been required to summon Akatosh's strength,
He explained that the Amulet, once shattered, had joined the blood of divine Akatosh with the blood of kings, Martin's, enabling the God to manifest briefly and cast Mehrunes Dagon back to Oblivion, this time forever. The Dragonfires were no longer required, which was just as well for there was now no way to light them.
Ocato admitted that the Empire was now in trouble without an Emperor, but he seemed relieved that whatever trouble there was going to be would be of the more mundane variety than what he had been dealing with. He then clapped his hands together and declared an end to such a depressing conversation, stating that it was time for celebration and remembrance. He declared me the 'Champion of Cyrodiil', a title that until today I would have felt I deserved, but now my small sacrifices and struggles seem rather paltry. Being the Champion awards me a suit of Imperial Dragon armor which is usually reserved for the Emperor himself and a title from within the 'Order of the Dragon', an Imperial knighthood founded by Tiber Septim I otherwise know little about. Ocato proudly told me I was one of six awarded such a knighthood, but neither the armor or the title brings me joy.
Guards were still stationed by the district gates as usual and one asked me if the battle was really over. I guess for those slugging it out in the streets against the Daedra it was a sudden end to a terrifying struggle. Apparently the Daedra attempted to flee after Mehrunes Dagon was banished, but the Gates collapsed moments after, leaving the invasion force cut off and disorganized. The battle then swung to the favor of the Imperial garrison and the Daedra were mercilessly slaughtered one-by-one. One of the gate watchmen declared that the "statue of the Dragon" was the monument of the city's deliverance. I could not bring myself to tell him the truth.
The adrenaline of the fight had worn off by then and I had not slept in over a day, so what more fitting place to rest in tonight than the Tiber Septim hotel? The proprietor babbled on about the clouds of fire in the sky and the Daedra she was forced to bar her door against, but I heard little of it really. I paid for a bed, grimly amused that she was still charging a fee after such an event.
I admit I do not miss Martin as much as others might expect of me. I am glad and proud to say that he called me a friend, but he and I knew each other for a very brief time and interacted even less. While I was out risking my life to fetch the items and equipment towards his requirements, he studied his books and only at the very end of this disaster became the conduit through which Mankar Cameron's victims were avenged and Mehrunes Dagon eternally barred from Tamriel. Martin's true nature seemed to have existed only for the brief time it was required and I cannot help but wonder how the Empire would have fared under his rule and what awaits it now.
I find myself in the odd position of being suddenly useless. It has only been a month and a half since fate decreed that I escape from my unjust imprisonment, but I rarely had a day of rest since then. Ocato obviously has no use for me other than as something to heap honors upon, I cannot see myself placidly returning to life in the Mages Guild, and there is no longer an Auxiliary Corps to hang about in. I suppose I have time enough to think upon this.
I wanted to make sure I committed everything I could to paper before sleep robbed me of recollection, but I am finished now and who knows what tomorrow will bring?