The Northern shores of the Alik’r are littered with the shipwrecks of mariners, smugglers and pirates who foolhardily risked the rocky jawline of Iliac Bay. Amidst all the deadwood and debris Salmaran, a necromancer of the Withered Hand cult, performs vile ritual to raise the drowned from the seafloor and direct their carnivorous voracity against the Redguard of Sentinel.
Salmaren is grotesque, his body so twisted and corrupted by the magics he attempts to manipulate, he now resembles the very wretches he raises from the depths of the bay. His ash-mottled skin is stretched taut across his ghoulish face, his lips as blue as the waters, set firm in rigid snarl. This is the price mortals must pay for swimming in such dark waters as necromancy. One only need look Northwards to the Hags of the Reach for further evidence of such a toll.
In much the same way that the gladiator is weakened by every small cut, bruise, and swelling he suffers in the arena, so it is with the necromancer. Some have hypothesised that it is the Gods way of preventing mortals from becoming too powerful, though I think the dark elves might have cause for issue with that theory.
It is not by chance that the first lesson taught to every Battle-Mage and Spell-Sword of the Imperial Legion is equilibrium. That sorcerer who can keep prime balance between strength of arm and strength of mind becomes much feared by both enemy and ally alike.
Alas for poor Salmaren, who it turns out knew as much about balance as a Khajiit whose lost its tail.
In a remote warehouse at the west end of Sentinel Docks, a necromancer levitates above his illuminated circle as he performs repugnant ritual upon two corpses lying at his feet. So lost is he in the threads of the spell he weaves, that he notices not my approach until I am upon him, and my sardonic blade lays his corpse next to those he toiled so ardently to raise.
The Undead have overrun Sentinel’s harbour and the guards are either fled, dead, or in hiding. It seems the valiant Redguard whom in times past forced out the ancient tribes of Nede and Mer, and beat back invasions by Orcs and Goblins to establish their home in Hammerfall, are now powerless, or unwilling to make a stand against this irruption of voracious Ra-Netu.
Superstition can turn even the stoutest heart to scrib jelly. The Redguards refuse to defend themselves against the risen dead because they believe it dishonourable to fight their ancestors, and yet, they are quite willing to entreat others to do it for them. Surely if I were to solicit another to kill my brother, I would be just as guilty of his murder as the one who struck the mortal blow.
This is no time to debate frail dogma however, for more and more corpses that were lost to the seas are crawling to shore; soon the city of Sentinel itself will be under threat. Someone must be responsible for this foul sorcery.
Shoals of Longfin and Sablefish dance excitably about the hull of the Posset in the clear, turquoise waters of the Iliac Bay, whilst noisy gulls swoop the decks mistaking our tall ship for a trawler. From the bow, I watch as the flaxen sands of the Alik’r Desert come slowly into focus. As we drift into the great Sentinel docks, even in the baking hot Hammerfell sun, I felt a chill shake me to my core; something is very, very wrong.
There is a deathly silence that hangs over the usually bustling docks of the Redguard city, an unnatural stillness, a dullness that rings like wooden bells. The air is heavy with a stench, not of fish or brine, but of blood and decay. The gulls fly no more, ousted from the piers by giant vultures. One of the most prosperous sea-ports in all Hammerfell, and there is little sign of movement upon the jetties.
Captain Marck and the Altmer mage Neramo, who I had not seen since the Spearhead dropped me in Daggerfall, are aground already, but they fear to go any further. Too soon I meet the reason for their timidity, a zombie charges me in unsteady gait.
The undead have risen to take Sentinel harbour from the living, and there seems not a guard alive or willing to defend the crews of inbound ships, unaware of the monsters that gluttonously await their landing.
Whilst still in grieving for the loss of her beloved sister Lakana at the Alcaire Castle, it is no surprise that Queen Maraya worries for the safety of her father. She speaks of rumours of an evil risen in the Alik’r, a threat that the desert people have not faced for many years. She asks of me, as the King’s champion, if I would travel to the home of the Redguard and investigate these rumours on her behalf.
I will not journey to Sentinel as the King’s Champion.
For I remember too well, that whilst the High King wallowed in his own melancholy and self-doubt in the Dreamweaver’s nightmares, it was the Queen who, despite suffering her own grievous loss and pain, stood firm to offer strength and empathy to the people of Stormhaven in their time of most need.
Maraya is no mere consort, she is a leader, and it is her compassion that fills the hearts of the people with hope; like a bright doorway on a cold winter’s night, or the first blossoms of spring, she is the very soul of the Daggerfall Covenant.
She is a Queen, and I shall travel to the Alik’r as the Queen’s champion.