A.D.w.D. Chapter 18: Weakness




    The last of Molag Bal’s laugh died out and for a moment the three stood in complete silence. Then Tyranus strode forward and challenged the ceiling:


    “Show yourself demon and face the Wrath of Stendarr!”


    The priest’s bravado only made the Greater Daedra laugh all the more. Plates, chairs, cutlery, and even food began levitating and shooting chaotically across the room. Trebonde and Amari dove for cover, but Tyranus stood fast - casting Stoneflesh - and weathered the storm. The household items merely shattered harmlessly across his altered flesh.


    He laughed back and called out, “Your parlor tricks are wasted on me! The light of the Divine give me strength that not even you can corrupt!”


    The Prince of Rage stopped laughing and slammed everything levitating onto the floor. The clutter  shattered against the stone floor and layered the room in debris.


    “You think the Divines can help you?! Look inside yourself and tell me what you feel.”


    Tyranus’s eyes widened; he felt nothing. Ever since he had joined the Vigilants of Stendarr he had felt the warmth of the Divine’s blessing coursing through his veins, giving him strength, acting as a guide. Now there was nothing; he was alone.


    “This is MY house! MY domain! Your precious ‘Gods’ mean NOTHING here!”


    The Prince turned his attention away from the visibly shaken Vigilant towards Amari.


    "Weak. He's weak. Look how his will falters without the crutch of faith. You're strong. Crush him."


    “Don’t listen to him Amari!” Tyranus shouted. His stone brow was furrowed from the effort of fighting off the overbearing presence. “He can’t take our souls unless we give it willingly! If we stand together, we can still prevail!”


    The malevolent deity laughed once more from within their heads and drove them all to their knees with its voice alone.


    “Fool! You still seek to save this one? Did you not know it was I that sent her to you. To see you safely here. To me.


    Tyranus looked at Amari in horror; with betrayed eyes he whispered, “Is this true?”


    “No! It’s not like that at all!” she protested.


    Tyranus shook his head. “It’s a trick. Has to be. Get out of my head demon!”


    “Pathetic. Blind and weak. I shall show you and you shall see.”


    With that Amari felt as if clawed hands drove into her mind. She screamed as the fingers sifted through her memories with contemptuous disregard until they found the moment they sought. The Prince gripped it and then dragged it in the open for all to see, an ultimate display of domination. Not even their most private memories were safe from sacrilege.


    All three were trapped in a replay of the memory and Amari was forced to relive her destruction of the Toad.She tried to hide, but all was laid bare. She could do nothing to stop the men from seeing her standing over the still smoldering corpse of the Toad. She could do nothing to deny how she'd flayed the twisted man’s soul with barbs forged from her own essence until nothing remained.


    The memory was complete, unfiltered, allowing the others to feel the savage glee she had felt as the barbs of her soulfire tore into him. Sharing how she knew he was powerless before her, but continued to tear him apart anyway; sharing how she savored the fear that he had inflicted upon so many others now clutch his own heart. Amari still felt as disgusted with her actions then as she had in the moments immediately after, but Molag Bal skipped that scene of her heaving into the water and went straight to the part where he had given his orders to ‘help’ the Vigilant.


    Tyranus and Trebonde, who had quietly edged his way behind the priest, both stared at her completely shocked.


    “Now you see. There was never any hope. You are surrounded by the darkness. Your Order’s purpose is futile; our influence can never be stopped, for we are in all mortal hearts! The girl’s, yours, and yes, even Nirn’s precious savior, the Dragonborn’s.


    Amari collapse back to knees with cry once more as yet another memory was harvested from her. This time of Trebonde shaking under the thrall of the Dragonborn’s voice, silhouetted by the fires whipping through a decimated camp on the wings of a tempest. Outstretched in a hand he no longer owned was the satchel containing the Black Book and before him stood the force of nature the Dragonborn had become.


    The last of Tyranus’s resolve crumbled as the darker reality disillusioned the hero he had praised as their savior.


    “The heresies, they were true all this time…”


    “Yes. The Prince of Knowledge and Fate has chosen a new Champion and now it is time for me to choose one as well. Has she not done well? The perfect mix of innocence to lure you in and knowledge to crush your soul. Imagine what she will be capable of once I finish shaping her.”


    Tyranus placed his spell-hand on the table beside him and hefted himself up with fatalistic purpose. “Stendarr, I have failed to save yet another of your children. Forgive me, for I fear all I can do now is to ensure that no evil spreads from this cursed place.”


    Amari shuffled backwards with her mouth agape. Was he really reaching for his mace? Her, a Champion of Coldharbour? This was all madness!


    "I will not allow the Beast to forge the Champion of Darkness anew!"


    Silently Trebonde made his move and brought his pick axe down, through both the vigilant’s hand and the table. Tyranus cried out in pain, then again as a longsword chipped a chunk of stone flesh from the side of his neck. He retaliated by shattering the wood shaft of pickaxe with his mace, then by back kicking Trebonde across the room. Another swing broke the table in half, freeing his hand, and then he turned to face Trebonde with dark fury in his eyes.


    "Yes! Kill him. Crush his bones. Tear at his flesh. You will kill. You will kill, or you will be killed!"


    Amari watched in horror as the two dueled once more, but this time there was no banter or tricks. Their eyes were cold, intent on death, and they fought in silence.


    Tyranus shot his wounded hand forward and tried to electrocute Trebonde before he could rise; only the priest could not cast and winced in pain as the lighting discharged about the hole penetrating his hand. Trebonde rose and smirked as he balanced lightly on-guard. The priest took in a sharp breath and exhaled forcefully, as he did so a golden aura radiated from him and focused about his hand. Nearly immediately, the blood flow was clotted and new tissue began forming, slowly closing the hole.


    Trebonde lunged forward, hoping to end the fight quickly, but was forced to break off the attack to avoid Tyranus’s sweeping counter. They approached again and began circling each other in measured steps through the household debris. Then at some opening Amari could not discern, Tyranus shot forward with a tightly arced mace. Trebonde reacted on reflex and slipped under the arc, dragging his sword across the Vigilant’s stomach as he maneuvered to his opponent’s backside. He delivered another slash to the back, but Tyranus turned and blocked with his spell arm and Trebonde jumped back before the next counter could land.


    Both slashes only scratched the surface of the Vigilant’s stone skin and he bore down on the rogue with a series of follow up strikes. Trebonde weaved and ducked the strikes and switched to slipping thrusts instead of slashes between the attacks. It was a precarious dance, one which Tyranus refused to allow a single reprieve from. While Tyranus was fighting through the growing number of shallow stab wounds breaking through his flesh, a single blow from his mace would end the match.  


    Amari was nervously clutching her bag of bones, unsure of what to do when her dagger lifted from the clutter littering the floor and glided across the room. She hadn’t even realized she'd lost it in the commotion and now a force was returning it to her.


    “Kill. Kill or be killed. His neck, see how it is vulnerable.”


    It was. Trebonde’s first sword strike had broken off a large chuck of flesh, exposing the raw meat beneath. She took the knife slowly began approaching the duel.


    Trebonde slipped another swing, but his foot landed on a pot and broke through. His momentum stuttered and Tyranus landed his first solid blow. The rogue managed to raise his sword to block, but a point of the mace hit directly on the flat of the blade and shattered it. The mace continued through the blade and landed across the Trebonde’s back, forcing him to double over. Tyranus shuffle stepped forward and kneed him in the face as the rogue bent. Blood exploded from Trebonde's nose and the force of the blow threw him on his back.


    The vigilant raised his mace to finish the job, but Amari jumped on his back and plunged the dagger deep into his exposed neck screaming, “NO!”


    “Yes! Yes! Kill Him! Feel his blood course down your hands.”


    She hunted for the artery and severed it with all her strength. The priest collapsed to his knees with his neck spraying like a fountain. Before he died he turned to Amari, not in anger, but sadness.


    I deserve this, he mouthed. When the darkness engulfed him, he did not resist.


    The malicious laugh of the Harvester of Souls returned:


    “Excellent. Now kill the many named one!”


    Drenched in blood and still clutching her dagger, Amari loomed over Trebonde. He looked back up at her with one eye that drifted, unable to focus. Half his face was already swelling from the knee strike that forced shut his other eye.


    “No, I can’t...” Amari whispered.


    “You can! Take his life and sever your last tie to this pathetic world. Kill him and be free, be free to follow the Path. With me, all those who wronged you will bend and submit before you! Whether they be mortals… or Gods.”


    The power to defeat a god? She could final have her revenge on Hermaeus Mora and set her mother free. She kneeled by Trebonde, still gripping the dagger in a shaking fist. The rogue furrowed his brow, struggling to piece a sentence together.


    “Damn path bastard… own you make walks!”


    “What?” “What?”


    Trebonde raised his left arm to hold his face, then winced as the broken pickaxe shaft poked him. He took a cautious breath from the corner of his mouth and tried again:


    “Damn that bastard’s path; make your own!”


    “Silence mortal!” Both were flattened underneath the bearing of the Deadra’s words. “Finish him!”


    Kill Trebonde? Silver? They'd survived the Gorge together; he'd carried her over his shoulder all the way to Markarth; they'd laughed over stolen ales in dark kitchen at a time when she was less than a slave, just a piece of meat waiting to mature.


    “No… I won’t.” Amari managed against the force bearing down upon her mind.


    “What was that?” The voice growled


    Amari straightened her back and spoke more forcefully, “I won’t kill him!”


    “You dare defy me!? The Lord of Domination, the God of Schemes, the King of Rape, the Harvester of Souls, Lord of Brutality, the Prince of Rage; these are but a few of the names your kind has bestowed upon me. All are true; all fall short of my full power!”


    Blinded and deafened by visions of atrocities that waited in the Prince’s twisted realm of Coldharbour, Amari stood fast and shouted against the pain of the scenes ravaging her mind.


    “Yes! I defy you!”


    Then as if the Prince was never there, the visions ceased, the pain eased, and all was eerily quiet. After a moment of pure silence, an old door at the back of the house slowly creaked open on rusted hinges.




    The Daedra laughed again, but this time it rang with pleasure, not malice; a sound that sent the coldest shivers yet down Amari’s spine.


     “Your reward is waiting for you, mortal. Further down."


    “Trap,” Trebonde mumbled in warning.


    Amari turned back to help Trebonde, but stopped short as the shards of the rogue’s broken blade shot past her and came to rest in a collar about Trebonde’s neck; a small bead of blood pooled where the tips met flesh. The message was clear; the passageway beckoned and for her alone.


    “Don’t go! Let me die instead!” Trebonde pleaded.


     “I can’t!” Tears formed in Amari’s eyes as she fled, disappearing through the old door.


    The door slammed shut behind her. She didn’t even bother to check if it was locked; she knew it would be immovable until the Daedra had his say.


    “Yes. Further. Into the bowels.”


    Amari’s padded footsteps were muffled by the thick stone as she descended into the abandoned basement. She was alone. Surely she had been alone before, but when she thought back on her past she realized: no, she had never been truly alone. First her parents watched over her, then in their own cruel way the Captain and Gnarly Nan were always there, and once they perished, Trebonde took the role. None could help her now; not here, in the depths of this cursed house. For the first time she was truly alone and now she was stepping into the maw of the most sadistic deity known to man.


    Torch scones were lit, illuminating a path through heaps of musty and cobweb ridden household clutter. Warily she edged between the piles, oddly inconspicuous given the house’s nature. Eyes shifting, ears flexed, and her sight extended to its reach, she scanned every shadow, expecting something to jump out at any moment, but nothing came.


    At the end she came to a broken out section of wall. Someone had taken a pickaxe to it and began an excavation leading even further down. As she entered the tunnel she was still greeted by only silence, heightening the apprehension to almost palpable levels. The tunnel led ever downward, winding through a collapsed Dwarven ruin never used by man.


     “So close. Your prize is waiting.”


    Amari jumped as her head was once more invaded by that voice. The tunnel finally ended at an ancient archway older than the ruins before. In the clearing beyond, an altar of polished black metal awaited. At its heart, a six-pointed well bore deep into the altar, passing the boundary between realms to tap into power of the Lord’s plane of Oblivion. A blood-red glow radiated forth that lit the skull shaped in the tusked visage of the Lord of Domination in a deathly hue.


    A mace, one which the very sight of struck terror into the hearts of even the bravest, hovered free from any attachment above the well; her reward, a reward she did not want. She wondered if she could even lift the massive tool of twisted metal.


    It was pointed like a spear on both ends; a cross-pointed flange protruded from each quadrant of the head; below that, skulls similar to the one upon the altar resided on each side of the mace and their horns formed a second row of spikes; but it was past its glory days, now it rested lifeless and rusted.


    She circled the altar, avoiding a circular platform of the same black stone engraved with an inverted star before the altar, though she saw no trap devices or energy lines, save for the one fueling the well. She threw a loose stone at the platform, but nothing triggered.


    “So… now what?” Silence.


    She tentatively put one foot on the platform. Nothing. A second foot. Nothing. She tapped the mace. Nothing. She gripped the mace and pulled.  Power flashed from the well and shot underneath her. She only had time to retract her hand before great spikes of black metal shot from the edges of the platform and closed in a cage around her.


    "Fool! Did you think Molag Bal, the Lord of Domination, would so easily reward you? What do you see from that little cage? Speak."




    "Sharp, aren't they? This was the last thing many saw before they were sacrificed in my name. But a Daedric Lord has his enemies, and my rival Boethiah had her priest desecrate it. So long since it's tasted blood. Until you came."


    “Is this what you wanted of me? To be your tool of revenge?”


    "Revenge? No. I want submission! I want the priest who did this to bend his knee and give me his soul. He comes by to perform Boethiah's insulting rites at my altar, but he's been missing. Captured and bound. Left to rot. Save him. Let him perform his rite one more time. And when he does, we will be waiting for him."


    “If… if I do this… will you free Trebonde, me? How do I find this priest?”


    “A guide I own will show you the way.


    Complete the deed and you'll both get the freedom your kind enjoys so much. But see how your ties weaken you. You could leave now. Alone.”


    With that the spikes receded as quickly as they came and Amari was left in silence once more. The moment she was free she bolted. The tunnel and basement went by in a blur until she skidded to a stop before the old door. A quick scan revealed Trebonde’s aura still breathing on the floor and a new one…


    She concentrated and formed a globe of fire in her palm.


    “Careful, careful now. Don’t burn yourself this time,” she muttered to herself.


    Once it was stable, she threw open the door, cocked her arm, and yelled, “Who are you!”


    The new form, a Forsworn dressed in their kind’s animal skins and bones, jumped, but relaxed when he saw it was Amari.


    “The Master bid me. I am your guide.”


    “Guide?” Trebonde called from the floor.


    Amari nodded and dispelled her fire. “If I find and bring another priest here, a Boethian one this time, he promised to free us.”


    “I don’t like the smell of this,” Trebonde protested and tried to rise, but the blade shards still circling his neck pinned him down.


    The Forsworn flicked a hooded cloak over his head and sneered at the rogue. “Your will matters not. You’ll be staying here as… collateral.”


    The two captives gulped and Trebonde was forced to watch the Forsworn lead Amari out of the house.


    “Amari, don’t do this! You know me; I always find a way out.”


    She cast a final look back as the Forsworn concealed her with another cloak, then the door slammed shut behind them, leaving him alone with the corpse of Tyranus and Molag Bal. 




7 Comments   |   Felkros and 1 other like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  February 16, 2018
    Damn! Well done again, Exuro. It was a gut-punch, watching Tyranus's resolve crumble and finding out that Dragonborn himself was not the great hero he believed him to be. The fight scene between Trebonde & Tyranus was well done, I enjoyed the parallels wi...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  January 19, 2016
    No, I understand, and yeah, he may have saved the day, but he was worth shit for a few days after and his magicks only recovered in time for BFB. Yeah, Daedra suck.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 19, 2016
    All hail dead squirrel!
    @Lissette: the Daedra are not to be taken lightly and domination is as much about mind games as physicality. Sadly there could be no paladin to save the day in this version.
  • Lyall
    Lyall   ·  January 19, 2016
    Dead Squirrel will save the day!
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  January 19, 2016
    Wow. It's always difficult for me to read about this quest. About the various ways we choose him to crumble. A very realistic end, Exuro, well done. 
    Yeah, it's been a crazy month for stories. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 19, 2016
    That was fast Now I feel bad about slacking on my reading, still have 1.5 pages of posts to read. This month has been crazy!
    She has a lot of introspection to do next chapter.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  January 19, 2016
    Oh wow that's intense. Will she? Won't she?
    Can't wait to find out...