As I cross the malignant streets of Elinhir I spy what appears to be a portal aglow in a particularly dilapidated corner of the city. Back at the Crossroads Tavern in Belkarth, many a caravan driver and wayfarer had warned of rifts appearing across Craglorn, but this was the first I had encountered. At my approach six figures emerge from the fulgent light, their eyes ablaze with the purple glow of magicka, their faces twisted by delirium.
The scholar might measure six on one as somewhat unfavourable odds, but to the warrior one on six is a noble challenge. Besides, the true risk would be to leave this rift unclosed, for more of these spell-fiends could swift overrun the city and I may never make it through to the Apex Tower.
My shield crushed the skull of the final spell-fiend just in time for me to see the broiling flames and turbulent squall of atronachs stepping through the luminous portal. Soon they were joined by an enormous flesh atronach that damn near took my head off my shoulders with an arcing swing of its brutish clubbed arm.
The atronachs that have been attacking the region of late were thought to have been summoned by Craglorn mages to defend against the Dark Anchors of the insidious Planemeld, only to turn against their masters when the constellations disappeared from the sky. But these that are arriving through the rift appear to have ingressed from another realm entirely, and the atronachs patrolling the streets of Elinhir seem very much still under the influence of the Blackcaster Mages.
When the gods lash out at Tamriel, they scourge us with a whip of many tails.
During the strangle of Elinhir, a rogue member of the Blackcaster Mages Guild led a small group of citizens to seek sanctuary in the sewers beneath the city, unbeknownst that just a feet from their shelter a far more sinister ritual was being enacted by the Lost Aspect.
The city itself will be forever lost if the leader of the Blackcaster mages is not overcome, but the Apex Tower in which she skulks is warded by macabre Nedic totems cloistered in the towers of her apprentices.
I battle my way through the wounded city streets until I arrive in a town square before the westernmost tower. Here I begin to skirmish with a seemingly unending tide of spell-fiend and atronach; eventually I am grudgingly forced to seek my own refuge within the tower itself.
I am surprised by how meagre the protection for the archaic tower is within. Perhaps the apprentice had too much confidence in her ambush, or maybe it is that she welcomes the rouse of battle herself. Either way, whether it be complacency or hubris, she appeared somewhat confounded when I swiftly put down her zombies, and equally perplexed when I sunk my blade deep into her gut.
Following the Seeker’s Sight I discover that the second aspect of the Celestial Mage has taken up refuge deep in a cave known as Hircine’s Haunt. I need not ask the locals, caravan drivers, or tavern patrons for bruit or rumour about what to expect, what better name could disciples of the Huntsman choose to call their den.
Since the fall of the constellations more and more of central Craglorn has become overrun by the Greycloak mercenaries. They openly pillage unchallenged upon the central wastelands, and their dedication to their daedric prince Hircine is thought to rival that of even the great lycanthropic packs of the Reach.
Growing up in Cyrodill, lycanthropy was very much decried as a curse. If fact when I first joined the Legions, recruits were told if they were unlucky enough to became afflicted, they should surrender themselves to their superiors before they infected their friends and comrades… or worse, fed upon them.
The first time I encountered werewolves in packs was at the gates of Aldcroft in Glenumbra. It was further north in the city of Camlorn that I was to witness first hand the brutal devastation an organized pack could cause. That city’s liberation was a bloody affair indeed. I know not to this day whether the followers of Faolchu the Reborn chose to accept Hircine’s gift, or were conscripted to it, but they seemed to willingly fully discard their human form.
At the village of Kerbol’s Hollow in Bangkorai however, it was very much thought of as a curse, yet one they attempted, in their own way, to live with. I have heard tale that Arkay’s priests are capable of performing a ritual to purge ones body of the affliction, but in truth I cannot recall ever meeting one who has recovered to tell the tale.
Whatever their viewpoint, whether gift or curse, blessing or bane, there is only one certainty for those unfortunate recipients of Hircine’s gift, the promise of an eternity roaming the savage Hunting Grounds upon their death.