I set out on the west road out of Belkarth with the intention of scouting for any information as to the fate of the fallen Celestial Warrior. Soon I come across what appears to be the ruins of a vast Yokudan temple.
The size of the ruins alone stands testament to the achievements of the mighty Yokudan exiles, but that this site is now but rubble and brash shows that even the Redguards are fated to eventually be worn down by the abrading sands of Hammerfell. Just look about these harsh wastes and you can see the remnants of the humbled. Ayleid, Dwemer, Yokudan, Nedes, these rugged lands acquiesce to the hubris of neither Man nor Mer; and mayhap not even the Celestials.
Just outside the ruins I am approached by a Redguard lady claiming to be a ‘friend’ to the Star-Gazers of Belkarth. She tells me that she is attempting to reach the underground libraries of the ruined temple that she refers to as the Seeker’s Archive. She believes there is hidden within information that might help us overcome the Celestial threat. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the secret to defeating the Celestials from the sky was to be found so deep under the sands?
The temple ruins however have recently become overrun by the Anka–Ra, warrior undead who have crawled out of the very grounds of the ruined temple, multiplying the evils wandering this accursed land. Worse still the only known door to the underground library can only be opened by activating devices in the surrounding ruins which are now guarded by a trio of particularly powerful Anka–Ra.
There are no Ansei Wards or Ash’abah tribes in Craglorn to quell these risen Yokuda. Pity the ill-fated Redguard; for a people whose religion and customs are set so firmly ‘gainst any sort of interaction with their ancestral dead, their ancestral dead are seemingly the most resurrected in all of Tamriel.
The Iron Orcs of the Dragontail Mountains are thought to be the most barbaric and savage of the Orsimer tribes. Even their kin to the north who claim to fear aught, maintain a leery distance and have little communion with their most brutish cousins. In Belkarth I had been warned about barbarous clans coming down from the mountains to attack travellers and caravans on the northern roads. But it wasn’t until I stumbled across the Iron Orc camp of Inazzur’s Hold that I was to learn first-hand that their fearsome reputation was indeed well earned.
If I were a prudent man I would have bypassed this camp on my journey and headed straight for the near-by wayshrine. But uncertain as to the impetus of the Orc’s recent incursions into Craglorn, I wanted to discover whether they are acting as agents of the Celestial Serpent, or merely reacting to the region’s conflict, picking at the weak and wounded like packs of Hammerfell Jackals. My enquiries was soon answered when I found damning correspondence between The Scaled Court and the chief of this stronghold, Inazzur the Mighty. Becoming a chief of an Iron Orc tribe has nothing to do with inheritance, political acumen or who is the wisest; you must simple prove yourself the strongest and most brutal of all your clan.
I could still walk away from this dangerous camp and none would question my mettle, and in truth if I were the prudent soldier I was before the insidious Mannimarco ripped my soul out with his bodkin, I would have. Yet neither am I still the shriven-man that strode into Heart’s Grief to challenge the Prince of Brutality in his own palace. I am but the sum of my past, somewhere betwixt and between.
Would I make that same walk into Molag Bal’s palace today knowing the price of almost inevitable failure would be an eternity of torture in his Vestibule? Probably not. Yet it is also true that my convalescence back in Daggerfall was hindered by an unrelenting restlessness in the very pith of my soul. I choose to walk into this stronghold and challenge the mighty Inazzur because having fought so hard to retrieve my soul, I cannot now let it wither in acedia.
The elemental monarchs told that the Celestial Serpent manipulated them to create a powerful new atronach to command it’s elemental army. They warned that Parel Nirus had the ability to take on the elements of the all the other atronachs, so I entered the great hall of Balamath expecting nothing less then a tempest. What greeted me was a hulking tri-faced atronach wielding a huge heavy sword in each of it’s six wafting hands.
They say that there is a calm to be found at the centre of the storm but when facing the full fury of an Air Atronach that simply isn’t the case. With six great swords swinging wildly from every angle possible, you can either grit your teeth, raise your shield, and pray that the old adage ‘the more violent the storm the quicker it passes’ is true; or you learn damned quickly how to dance in the rain without getting wet.
The air monarchs defeat has broken the chain of command from Serpent to atronach, it is now up to the Star-Gazers with the help of the heroic coward Kelmen Locke, to end the threat of the Serpent’s elemental army for good. I must look to the west where the threat to Craglorn is now greatest.
One wonders how the Blackcaster Mages Guild were able to secretly master their control of the atronachs that aided their purge of Elinhir without the blessing of the Celestial Mage. Perhaps it was here in Balamath, hidden away from the rest of Craglorn in the ruins of an ancient Ayleid citadel, where the Blackcaster conjurers are able to experiment and practice free from scrutiny. There is certainly something suffused about this place; the air about feels charged and fraught, whilst atronachs are free to roam across the hillsides.
An old book found in the open ruins, the Glorious Balamath, muses poetically about the elemental temper of these ruins. Some have speculated that this place my well sit atop a convergence of some sort of elemental ley lines. It has oft been theorised, yet generally dismissed as hokum by the court scholars, that we mortals share the same energy, elements if you will, that makes up everything from a blade of grass to a great Wamasu. And that when we die our elements dissolve one by one into the other and return to some primordial pot awaiting to be recreated anew. By such hypothesises have scholars clashed quills like blades and spilt ink like blood for millennia.
What even this laymen can see however is that for these conjurers the control of the elements seems to share much the same effect as does moon sugar upon the back-country Khajiit. It appears to fill them with an almost spiritual exhilaration. And just like the skooma-addled it abstracts them from reality, and the more they indulge the more liable they are to drown in their abstraction, and eventually all that will be left of them will be but spellfiends in the desert wastes.