Back at the Harbourage and I find the former companions bickering like Orcish hearth-wives. Tharn and the old man believe they have located the final member of their companions, who is reputedly the only person who knows the location of the Amulet of Kings. The Redguard Sai Sahan is being held captive in the Halls of Torment, another of Molag Bal’s prisons in Coldharbour. The old man says he can get me inside the prison but I must choose one of the other companions to accompany me.
The choice I am offered is between brain or brawn, magic or muscle, knowledge or loyalty. However, the only choice I see that matters is between cynicism or sentimentality; and for one willingly walking into a torture chamber, I’ll take a cold-hearted staff over a maudlin sword every time.
The Wards are returned to the ‘Impervious Vaults’ beneath Sentinel and the spirits of the Ansei will resume their vigil guarding the living from the dead, and the dead from the living.
No doubt King Fahara’jad will return to the circus of court life, juggling the conflicting demands of Crown, Forebear, and Covenant. Zohreh and Gabrielle will return to their books, one studying what has been, and the other searching for what might be
Talia and the Ash’abah tribe will return to their exile in the desert wastes, without recognition or thanks from the thousands of people they have saved; it will take a very brave, or perhaps foolish King to publicly acknowledge the sacrifice of the Ash’abah.
As for myself, I have been asked to travel to Evermore in Northen Bangkorai, something about a dead monarch and a city under threat. As ever the price of strength is responsibility, but I am sure the price of my responsibility can be negotiated.
First however I think I will pay a long overdue visit to an old man in a cave.
At this point, it’s hard not to believe that we have been manipulated from one end of this damned desert to the other. Whether by Shiri, the necromancer’s daughter, who studied the Ansei Wards under the deceived scholar Zohreh before playing us for fate’s fools to bring the Wards to her here, where she now attempts to raise her father Suturah. Or by Tu’whacca, the God of the Far Shores, who by whisper and murmur upon the desert winds has steered these four most unlikely companions to be all that now stand between life and death for the people of the Alik’r.
So here we stand, four desert wretches. A hapless son of a King who battles to hold his kingdom together as one. An old man of the sands who claims that the Gods talk through him. A leader of an outcast tribe eternally dishonoured by the people for their most honourable sacrifice. And me, a former Legionnaire turned mercenary, a drifter without a soul.
In Tamriel, it is upon such ironies that Kingdoms endure… or fall.
Everything casts a shadow under the blazing Alik’r sun; the mountains, the dunes, the trees, the people, indeed, everything the people have built has its own shadow. And just as in our journey from life to death we all pass from the realms of light to shade, the shadow of every city is it’s cemetery.
Every city that is except for Satakalaam, whose cemetery has grown so very large, and vast, and so much more populated then the city itself, that Satakalaam is now but the shadow of the Motalion Necropolis.
The desert breath once filled with voices of the living, now stifled by the memories of the dead. Their lives, their loves, their feelings, their expectations, their ambitions, their dreams… unfulfilled, their failures, their disappointments, their unrequited loves that haunted their everyday. Thousands upon thousands of shadow lives weighing heavily upon the city, suffocating it like an ever tightening noose.
So where else but here would the Withered Hand come to make their insidious stand, where else but here would the necromancer’s daughter come to enact her most horrific plan. With the three Ansei Wards now in her possession, the Ra-Netu begin to rise from their crypts in numbers unimaginable.
The Motalion Necropolis itself is arising, and the whole of the Alik’r now stands in it’s cold shadow.
During their brief occupation of Satakalaam, the Seventh Legion desecrated the High Temple of the Crowns, killing its priests, ransacking and stealing anything of value.
It is at times like this that Man, Mer and Beast lose their faith in their Gods asking why do they allow such suffering to happen? Why would they not, could they not, prevent such dreadfulness to their own most devout followers?
The priests themselves will answer however that it is not the actions of the Divines that causes the people to lose faith, it is ours, and it is only what we do in the name of the Divines after such an atrocity that can restore it.