The Priestess and the Black Star: Chapter 5
“The room remained silent; no reply was issued forth from the seated figure,” continued the Priestess Irdi Sul. “I readied the Daedric Staff I had claimed from Boethiah, and looked into the dark corners of the dwelling, sensing another presence and wondering why the Nerevarine had not replied to Do’Sumi’s greeting.”
“Irdi Sul, lower your weapon. You are a welcome sight, let me tell you,” came a familiar voice, from a dark ebony clad figure, wedged above them in a crevice of the roof cavity, the Priestess said to me. “Naryu Varian!” the Priestess said she exclaimed as the Morag Tong Assassin dropped silently to embrace her. She said she was surprised to see Naryu and took some time to process what had occurred. Minding her manners, she then told me she introduced her companion Do’Sumi.
“The Khajiit gave a warm welcome to the Beautiful Darkness and said “Do’Sumi hopes you being here is a sign of promises fulfilled, not foul deeds unpunished.” The Priestess told me.
The seated figure still did not move, and when the Priestess made her way over to inspect them, she realised that the Armour was empty, the pieces arranged to deceive any who entered the dwelling and act as a distraction if only for a moment or two. For someone as adept at murder as Naryu Varian, it was all she would have needed.
Naryu told the Priestess it was her who had asked Dilys Veth to have her deliver the message here, as a way of diverting them from the agreed meeting place of the Holamayan Monastery. It was also an opportunity for her to draw out any Sixth House Assassins that may be following and eradicate them.
“Irdi Sul, I have many things to discuss with you.” Naryu Varian began speaking, the Priestess informed me, “May I begin by offering you my gratitude. You have foretold the coming of the Nerevarine, and I can confirm that they have emerged and begun fulfilling the Prophecy. When I arrived back in Vivec City, my Master had engaged a new Initiate, and they in a short time became an Instrument of Death, as none I had ever seen, and removed many threats to the Tong.” As Naryu said this to Irdi Sul, the Priestess described her gaze as unflinching, her manner matter ‘o fact.
“I bargained for my life with the ring you bestowed upon me,” Naryu continued, “and Mephala then gifted this ring to the new initiate, after they dispatched the villainous traitor Balyn Omavel.”
“I also discovered”, continued Naryu Varian, so said the Priestess, “That the writ I forfeited for your life with the Ash Khan of the Erabenimsun had been voided, as the new initiate had killed both the Ash Khan and his bodyguard at the behest of the Wise Woman, Manirai, and a new Khan had taken control of the Tribe, an Ashlander known as Han-Ammu. This I discovered from Assaba-Bentus, who came to Vivec City to ensure I had made my bargain with Mephala and was safe from their wrath.”
“I realised, “ Naryu went on, the Priestess said to me “that this initiate, they were who you had spoken of. At first, I was sceptical, this could not be. But as they were able to return to the Tong, the 27 artefacts of Sanguine and gain the acclaim and approval of the Grandmaster, not to mention Mephala, eventually returning us to the rightful place as a true instrument of order for the Great Houses, I was convinced, that this was the Nerevarine of Prophecy.” The Priestess said Naryu stopped talking to her and turned to ask Do’Sumi if he had room in his satchel for some items she needed carried.
“Do’Sumi does” she said he replied, unsure or unwilling to say no to the Beautiful Darkness. Naryu spoke to Irdi Sul again, she informed me, while Do’Sumi made room in his satchel for her.
“The subversion of the Morag Tong by the Empire, and more noticeably the Sixth House had been excised. Many of my comrades perished in the aftermath. If not for your faith in the prophecy, I may have been caught on the wrong side of history, and not be here with you now.” Naryu said this all while dismantling the seated ebony armour statue and packing it into Do’Sumi’s satchel, so that the Khajiit might carry it with them, to their next destination, the Priestess relayed to me.
They left the residence as quietly as Do’Sumi had arrived, Naryu Varian leading the way. As they came down the stone steps and back into the lane way, Anrel emerged from the shadows and introductions were again exchanged. “I am impressed with your choice of companions Irdi Sul,” The Priestess told me Naryu remarked to her, as they headed across Labour Town to the Commercial District, and to the Morag Tong Guild House down by the river. The band of four now travelled quickly along the narrow lanes and alleyways of Labour town, and across the canals into the Commercial District, as the light of a new day rose up from behind them, the soft first rays of Magnus sparkling on the eddy’s and currents of the Odai river.
“I was surprised how my physical conditioning had improved over the journey, and I had no trouble keeping up with the nimble Naryu and Do’Sumi, and the fleet of foot Bosner Anrel.” The Priestess said to me proudly, as she stood and walked over to the shelf at the side of the room, checking to see if the candle needed replacing, before turning towards me, and continued to tell me of what occurred next.
“We had made it across the river, passed by a Merchants warehouse when Naryu, skipped to her left and disappeared up a set of steps, leaping to an adjacent rooftop. While I attempted to follow her abrupt diversion with my eyes, and wondered what she was doing, out from our right came a contingent of creatures, dressed in the robes of the Sixth House, armed with swords and dagger, intent, I believed, on dispatching us without mercy.” The Priestess said and, returned to her seat and continued.
“I had never seen an Ash Vampire, or what I later found out to be the vile creations of Dagoth Ur. The pack that attacked us, had been tracking us from Oad Hla, and were led to us by my nemesis Othreloth. The vile and reprehensible beings, with their sallow drawn faces, burning red eyes and malignant disformed limbs, rushed at us in groups of two. I stood transfixed, and brought my staff to bare, looking to defend myself and cast a spell to protect my companions, I breathed in and focused my concentration to cast a ward around where I stood, covering Anrel and Do’Sumi. I needn’t have bothered.” said Irdi Sul.
“Naryu fell down upon them from above and with precise, measured whirls of her twin ebony blades dispatched the heads of the lead Vampires before she landed softly on the balls of her feet. The crunch and snap of bone and bristle preceded the fizz of blood that followed, as separated heads fell and bounced on the cobblestones while the now lifeless bodies of the advancing Vampires collapsed under them as they fell forward and slumped to the lane’s pavement. “ said Irdi Sul speaking softly.
“Not pausing, and turning in a low crouching semi-circle, the Beautiful Darkness launched another attack at her next targets with whip like force and intent, dismembering an arm, the sound of razor-sharp ebony severing his right appendage, clinking through the Vampires armour at its shoulder axis. In the same continuous flow of deft precise movements, no doubt refined over years of training and mortal combat she took the left and right leg from two others, thus reducing the attacking force to half their number in the flash of an instant.” The Priestess said to me.
“The wounded trio let out bestial howls of anguish as their limbs were torn from them, and they fell to the sides of the alley, their unholy dark blood spraying forth, flooding the cobble stones wet from their gushing wounds.”
The Priestess, reliving the battle in her mind, said to me “Do’Sumi had also sprung silently into the throng of a disorientated and now retreating enemy, using his hind legs and claws to disembowel another of the attackers, before arrows from Anrel found their targets, splitting the back of the heads of two more, cracking open their skulls, sending them sprawling and thudding into the masonry of an adjoining dwelling, where they both burst into piles of ash as they perished.”
Naryu, the Priestess told me, wasted no time finishing the task by taking the heads off the wounded Vampires, gratefully silencing their screams, before ensuring none survived by also taking the head off Do’Sumi’s victim, even though they lay quietly, not moving, their intestines falling out of them, their lifeless eyes staring into the void.
“You can never be sure of the death of these detestable creatures, unless they spurn to ash, or you have their heads” Naryu said to her, the Priestess recalled, and described how she watched Naryu Varian walk over to where she stood, discarding the severed head she held by its still attached cowl, with a toss to her left, and then cleaning the blood from her blades with the ripped cloth of a Sixth House Robe before reinserting them in the scabbards on her back.
The carnage of the fallen laid waste in the alley behind her, left for the town guards to mull over, as to how Sixth House Marauders had come to be in their city, and met nothing but death.
“As she walked towards me”, the Priestess said, “Naryu was radiant and aglow with the thrill of combat, and in the morning, twilight looked as invincible as anyone I had ever laid eyes upon.”
“The skirmish was over before I even had a chance to engage another spell, and Naryu after searching the bodies, found their orders, in the form of a parchment. It was a direction to capture the “Priestess of Azura Irdi Sul, and to use whatever force necessary.” Said she as Enthir materialised from outside the room with a fresh decanter, and a few whispered words before he left again.
“You have a target on your back Irdi Sul. We need to get to the Guild house, quickly now.” The Beautiful Darkness whispered to them all the Priestess told me, and she described how they immediately moved down another alley, and up towards the secret headquarters of the Morag Tong in Balmora.
“This was the first time someone, outside my group of confidantes had referred to me as a Priestess of Azura Adonato, so I felt a sense of reverence, and said a silent pray of thanks to the Goddess, for blessing me as we made our way through the alleyways.” Said Irdi Sul.
After a quick march left and right, through the lanes of the Commercial District, the Priestess said they came to a rundown Dry Goods Merchant and slid through a side door. Once inside, she told me it looked as most do, with barrels and chests displaying the food items and ingredients of a general store, assorted clothing items and firewood piled alongside sacks of flour, wheat and apples.
“Naryu walked directly to a shelf at the back of the room, moved aside a large chest and pressed a concealed button”. Said Irdi Sul. “With a barely audible click, the shelf released back from the wall and opened up to reveal a passage and steps down to a cavern larger than the store above them.” The Priestess said Naryu urged her companions to quickly enter, before she replaced the chest, and then closed the attached shelf and secret entrance way with a lever on the inside, clicking the façade back into place.
The passageway was barely lit by torches, however Irdi Sul said there was light enough to see them make their way down below into the hidden Balmora Guild House of the Morag Tong. There was only one occupant, an Argonian dressed in the Morag Tong garb, the Priestess told me,and he bowed as Naryu Varian came into what was no more than an open cavern, set up as an armoury, with a grind stone, armourers bench and a vast collection of weapon racks adorned with steel and ebony swords, daggers and axes.
Irdi Sul described that to the rear of the cavern beyond the armoury, in the left corner, was what appeared to be a small Mess that had a long table and a number of chairs set up while to the right side were a couple of cots, and a safe. The cavern, she said, was cut out of the rock beneath the merchant’s store, and the walls had been reinforced with slate and stone, the giddy cracks and joins filled in with precision she told me so there was no exposed mud or silt. The Priestess recalled that due to its close proximity to the river, the air down in the depths of the Guild house was dank, and musty, and the drip drop of water echoed from the sides of the cavern, as it stretched out around to a rocky ledge, that possibly etched back to the Odia river the Priestess surmised. Naryu led them to the Mess table and asked them to sit, as she proceeded to gather information from the Argonian, the Priestess informed me.
The Priestess described the Amphibian as tall, muscular and with dark green scales, and flashes of gold on his flanks. His teeth glimmered in the light of the cavern she said and his lizard like eyes glowed a luminous bright yellow. Irdi Sul told me that he wore the Netch Leather armour of the Morag Tong, and his weapons of choice were twin Daedric daggers, tucked into the belts that criss-crossed his Cuirass. She said he spoke in even measured tones, almost hissing as he described to Naryu Varian the conversation he had been privy to, between the Balmora Guild leader, Ethasi Rilvayn, and the unnamed initiate.
“This outlander has been tasked with a writ to vanquish a Telvanni Sorceress, and Ethasi has gone to follow them, to ensure they complete the writ as per our rules. None here trust this Outlander, despite your obvious affection for him, Naryu Varian.” The reptilian assassin said to the group, eyeing them suspiciously said Irdi Sul.
“Naryu dismissed the Argonian, and told him to go back upstairs, and mind that he did not return until beckoned”, said Irdi Sul. “Naryu looked at us all, and explained that the Morag Tong, was untrusting of outsiders, and with good cause to be. How can a secret organisation, trusted with maintaining order among the Great Houses of Morrowind, be involved with the likes of them?” she said with a laugh, and went to a cupboard, gathered some cups and poured them all some Sujamma.
“To Azura, and the Priestess Irdi Sul. The Prophecy is upon us!” Naryu toasted them, and skulled her drink said Irdi Sul, before slamming down her cup and making eye contact with the group as they to drank and placed their cups face down in front of them.
“Get some rest, we will travel at dusk, I have no doubt the Nerevarine will be back soon enough.” Naryu informed them said Irdi Sul, before she left them to attend to other business. She exited back up through the passageway into the Merchants store above them, the Priestess said to me.
The three companions took the time to decide who would sleep first, said the Priestess. She informed me that Anrel volunteered to sit and keep watch while Do’Sumi and herself got some much-needed rest. The Priestess told me that she had not slept for two nights and was exhausted. The cots were barely more than straw and hessian bags but were soft enough I was informed and a woven blanket of less than savoury odours was gratefully wrapped around her by Anrel said the Priestess.
Later on, unsure of how long she had been asleep for, Irdi Sul said Anrel woke her, and climbed into the cot and fell asleep, as soon as the Priestess had got up with a stretch of her arms and an involuntary yawn. Do’Sumi too, woke and immediately said to her he was hungry.
Irdi Sul told me that she found something to eat in the Mess, gathering up some bread and some dried spiced crabmeat. Under the shelves of a cupboard she found what looked like a stash of potions and discovered a sweet flavoured elixir that gave her strength and relieved her aching muscles.
“Would you like some more Adonato, it is I’m afraid quite addictive?” said Irdi Sul, as she poured me some more of the wonderful beverage. “What is it my Lady, it is indeed a wonderful drop?” I asked her, to which she replied that it was a mixture of marshmerrow, wickwheat and resin. Someone here at The College has added Juniper berries, the Priestess told me which gives the potion a very pleasing taste and aroma. It was no more than a Dunmer restore health potion, but oh the flavour and tang on the palate, as well as the energy it inspired was outstanding.
As they ate and restored themselves Irdi Sul told me, Naryu Varian returned to the cavern, and with her was another, who she discerned to be the Nerevarine. They came and sat at the table and Naryu introduced them. “I understand you have questions, and I too do as well.” The Nerevarine said to Irdi Sul she told me.
“I looked into their eyes, feeling horror and delight Adonato. After all I had endured so far, the visions in my parents’ home, the pilgrimage into the Ashlands, the Perils, the events of Rethan Manor, I was unprepared and uneasy about this meeting when I should have been overjoyed.”
The Priestess said this and took a sip from her flute. She kept still and spoke no words for a while. I broke the silence with a question I couldn’t stop myself from asking.
“You were face to face with the Nerevarine, the prophesised reincarnation of Nerevar. What did they look like, where they a Dunmer? Male? Female? Oh, my I must know!” I exclaimed. Not sure what had come over me.
The Priestess sat up in her chair, and met my gaze, shrugged and said “If I revealed this to you, as you ask Adonato, I would have to kill you”, and with the delightful laugh I have grown to adore, she couldn’t contain herself, and began giggling uncontrollably at her quite annoying joke.
“Please my Lady, who was it?” I asked again.
“I’m afraid I am sworn to keep their identity a secret my dear Adonato. A solemn vow as sacred as my obedience to the Goddess of the Twilight, you do understand, don’t you?” said the Priestess, and I shrunk down upon my haunches, dejected in the knowledge that I would know no more of who was the Nerevarine.
“So, may I ask what transpired in the Guild house of Balmora?” I asked her tersely, barley able to contain my annoyance.
“Naryu Varian, woke Anrel, and invited her and Do’Sumi to accompany her up to the store. She told them that the two servants of Azura, needed time together alone”, the Priestess replied, her face now recovered from her amusement at my expense.
“Once they were gone, I looked across at the Nerevarine, and summoned Azura. It did not take long for her to appear before us. I had questions of my own. “ said the Priestess Irdi Sul.