Hidden in a hillock on the outskirts of The Orchard cemetery I discover the entrance to a large Dunmer tomb within which an entire mausoleum of the dead has been arisen. As I fight my way through the skeletons and wraiths in the dark, dank chambers and charnels, I discover a book telling the story of just how this tomb of the mage Mal Sorra came to be in Coldharbour.
It is a tale of a Dunmer so afflicted by the curse of unbridled arrogance that she lost respect for the lives of all others. Arrogance in a young magic wielder, who must walk the constant tightrope between blind faith and curiosity, experience and epiphany, ambition and creativity, is most often caused by the gain of knowledge without wisdom. And then of course there is that natural insufferable arrogance of all Mer who think themselves born of the Gods, and that Nirn was made solely for their benefit, that the sun was set afire merely to ripen their fruit.
So now here lies the arrogance of Mal Sorra, condemned to this prison tomb for eternity by the curse of Coldharbour. For no mater how many times we ‘mere’ mortals slay her, she is forever doomed to rise again.
We achieve the daedric forces across the Chasm only to arrive at a massive cemetery infested by a coven of thirsting vampires, bound in eternal servitude to Molag Bal by an artefact known as the Harvest Heart. A cemetery in Coldharbour, how the Lord of Brutality doth mock our mortality.
Vanus Galerion would have us destroy the heart by ritual, condemning the vampires to become but mindless beasts, and thus allowing our forces to pass uninhibited through the cemetery grounds. But the matriarch of the coven appears from the shadows to offer a bargain. Instead of battling through her horde, she proposes we assist her with her own ritual that will cut her covens ties to Molag Bal, for which she promises to let us pass through her home unmolested.
Before I joined the Imperial legions I believed that war was best waged with honour, and that battle could be won only by following the precepts of Stendarr. But I soon learnt that warfare was moreover won by deception, by doing what your enemy expects the least. The Lord of Brutality expects us to fight the moral fight against his immoral children, but by doing so we would risk losing all momentum and many lives.
I do not trust this ancient vampire, she is not in the least like honourable Ravenwatch. Given free chance her coven would make banquet of us all, but she fears an eternity of slavery; even monsters will make sacrifice for their own freedom. This may mean but a temporary truce, but is not the subduing of an enemy without fight the very kernel of Stendarr’s teachings. Besides, if we truly believe in the freedom we fight for, then surely we fight for the freedom of all, and by this precept shall we stand or fall.
The time has come for us to take the fight to Molag Bal. Armed with resolute defiance and shielded by our indomitable spirit, we begin our offensive with an assault upon the Chasm. Navigable only by the heavily guarded bridges and through fortified portals, it is the only passage for us between the southern regions and the north of Coldharbour.
It is whilst crossing these bridges that we are able to see just how close the the Prince of Brutalities daedric forces had come to the Hollow City. Could the Lights of Merida have forever held back the darkness, or was it but a matter of time? They were certainly close enough to spy our intent, but in truth, once the great shackle had fallen they must have known we would come… we had to come. For is it not a far better fate to die on our feet than to live on our knees?
So led by that Breton peacock, Darien Gaultier, and the Lizard hero Walks-in-Ash, we set upon our immortal adversaries with a savagery that can only be mustered by those who know what it is to fight for their lives. Eventually we are able to push our way through to the doors of the Gatehouse, inside which we find the leader of this host, Molag Grunda, rumoured to be a daughter of Molag Bal.
It is only a short while ago such a venture as this would have been beyond us. Though we are still few compared to the daedric host, our numbers have been significantly bolstered of late by those members of the guilds coming through the portals from Tamriel. And also by the many adventurers, who like myself, escaped from the Wailing Prison during the uprising, but have found themselves ineluctably drawn, seemingly by shared destiny, back to this accursed realm.
We arrive somewhat dispirited back in the Hollow City. How swiftly the sweet taste of victory had turned sour In the Black Forge with the revelation that we were too late to prevent the Planar Vortex. However, returning to see the rebirth of this ancient city, albeit in a different era, a different realm, and with a different people, is heartening to us all.
From all across this accursed realm, the lost, the forsaken, the captured, the foolish, and the betrayed have been drawn like moths to Merida’s lights, and to what is perhaps mortals last safe haven in all of Coldharbour. And with the mages guild now opening their portals, fresh supplies, traders, tradesmen, and the foolhardy seeking fame, fortune and adventure, have began to arrive from Tamriel.
A meeting is held in the opulent Chapel of Light to discuss how we are to proceed upon the morrow. It is the kind “officer’s tent” meeting on the eve of battles that the common soldiery would usually scoff at around our campfires. For at this too late an hour there is nothing new that can be learnt, and nothing more that can be resolved; we know too well our duty. Once more we must set our faces towards the danger, bulwark our spirits with courage, and buttress our hearts for sacrifice.
Yet what I discover is there really is little difference between the officers tent and the soldiers campfire. For none of us expect to see sunset on the morrow. Those who will aim to keep alive will find nowt but a wretched and dishonourable death, whilst those that accept the convicted fate of the mortal, will make it their endeavour to die with honour. This is all but a final chance to say our silent goodbyes.