“Well, this couldn’t have been anything worse than I expected,” Caliborn griped as he and the Vigil entered the sufficiently creepy house in Markarth. It was a perfectly normal place, except… well, “Everything’s BLUE! Why is it blue!? And cold. It’s one of the hottest days of the year outside and yet I’m wanting longer sleeves!”
The Vigil gave the Dragonborn a strange look as he ranted on while searching the very odd house. The Vigil refused to say anything, almost as if he had no idea what to say in response to any of this.
“Seriously, half of this stuff looks like it’s been abandoned for years,” Caliborn continued to rant, “But why is it all BLUE!?” With that, he unslung his Pogo Hammer and whacked the lock off of a wooden chest. “There’d better be a journal in here somewhere or else I’m really going to be-”
Suddenly, the entire house grew colder as an oppressive rumble filled the house. The voice sounded Angry and very, VERY unamused.
“Oh…great,” Caliborn sighed, “Giant Oppressive Voice from Above.” His sylladex activated- captchaloging the Pogo Hammer, and ejecting two swords in response- Chillrend in the left hand, Dawnbreak in the right. “Just what I needed.”
“That…That sounded like a Daedric Prince!” The Vigil began to panic.
“ANOTHER ONE OF YOU BLASTED PRIESTS HAVE COME TO DEFILE MY MACE, HAVE YOU?” The voice asked, raging against some unknown slight against him. “WHAT ARE YOU THIS TIME? BOETHIA? MEPHALA? WAIT, IS THAT DAWNBREAKER I SEE? PLEASE TELL ME THAT YOU AREN’T WORKING FOR MERIDIA!”
“Maybe I am, Maybe I’m not,” Caliborn growled up at the roof, hoping that whoever was speaking could see the angry glare being sent their way.
“I’m a Vigil of Ste-!” The Vigil didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence before the entire house shook in what seemed to be an earthquake- no, not an earthquake.
For in a single moment- a giant clawed hand burst through the roof and grabbed the Vigilant, plucking him off the ground and pulling him upwards towards his doom.
The Vigil screamed all the way, up until there was a sharp snap, and his screams were heard no more.
Caliborn, curious, peered up through the hole in the roof that SHOULD have shown another Dwemer structure- or maybe the clear skies of Skyrim…
Instead? It was nothing but a dark blue haze, with distant isles floating far above what was normally possible.
“Wheeew,” Caliborn mock-whistled, “now that is… what even is that? Okay, strange omnipotent voice with the giant grabby hands.. Where am I?” He asked, challenging the speaker.
“YOU.” And then a creepy, demonic looking face peered through the gash in the roof, speaking with mandibles and jaws, “ARE IN COLDHARBOUR.”
“Well hello there!” Caliborn took a step backwards, surprised just a little. “You’re an awfully big one, aren’t you?”
The face glared at him, as if observing his very soul. Actually. That was very likely the case, given the Daedric Prince’s next comment. “YOUR SOUL… IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE I HAVE SEEN A SOUL LIKE YOURS. NOT SINCE… THE SECOND ERA?” The face and voice both matched tone- sounded almost amused at some past encounter. Caliborn squinted a little, and saw an etherial name start to form thanks to an identification spell he’d picked up years before.
Molag Bal. Great. Just Great. Absolutely great.
“Really now?” Caliborn mused, “Guess that’s possible. I mean, Dragonborns were all around back then, right? They had to go extinct somehow.”
“DRAGONBORN?” Molag Bal laughed. “OH, THAT IS AMUSING. A DRAGONBORN DRAGONKNIGHT. THAT IS JUST LIKE MERIDIA, ISN’T IT? HIRING TWO DRAGONBORNS CENTURIES APART TO FOIL MY PLANS!”
“Hate to break it to you but the guy you just killed was the only one who hired me to come in here,” Caliborn retorted. “Meridia just gave me this sword for clearing out a temple of necromancers,” He hefted Dawnbreaker to indicate it. “I haven’t even spoken with her in… yeesh, almost a year now?”
The Daedric Prince chuckled dryly, “SO IT IS SHEER LUCK THEN THAT YOU APPEARED BEFORE ME? HFM… GIVEN THAT YOU WEAR PIECES OF NOCTURNAL’S NIGHTINGALE ARMOR… I AM NOT TOO SURPRISED.”
“Uh… whatever you say, dude,” Caliborn rolled his eyes. “Look, if you’ve got a point you want to get to, get to it please? Otherwise I’ll have to finish this along.” He scowled, “Seriously, You Daedric Princes sure can be long winded. At least you’re not ignoring me like Herma-mora did.”
“YES, HERMAEUS CAN BE INSUFFERABLE AT TIMES, CAN’T HE?” Molag Bal replied. “BUT WHAT IS YOUR RUSH?”
“Oh, nothing much, just got a World Eater to Beat.” Caliborn replied, smirking faintly.
“THE WORLD EATER… ALDUIN?“ Molag Bal mused for a moment. “HAS IT REALLY COME TO BE THAT TIME ALREADY?” And then he stepped away from the building and ordered, “COME. I HAVE A JOB FOR ONE SUCH AS YOURSELF. DO IT, AND I SHALL LET YOU LEAVE WITH YOUR SOUL INTACT.”
“WOAHHH!” And then the entire back end of the house was torn away and thrown into the distance, revealing the vast, endless expanse that was the Plane of Oblivion known as Coldharbour. Caliborn scowled, “Geeze, flare for the dramatic much?”
There really was only one path to follow- the ground only seemed to go in one direction anyways. But Molag Bal himself seemed to have changed shapes, turning from a towering giant into a generic Daedra Warrior.
“A PRIEST OF BOETHEIA INTRUDED INTO THE HOUSE IN MARKARTH, JUST AS YOUR VIGILANT DID.” Molag Bal narrated, motioning for the Dragonborn to follow him. “I WAS AMUSED BY HIS ATTEMPTS TO ENTER MY REALM, AND SO I ALLOWED IT FOR A TIME… IT WAS A… MISTAKE.” The Prince began to walk down the path, leading towards a Dwemer Ruin in the distance. “THAT PRIEST HELD SOMETHING IMPOSSIBLE. AN ARTIFACT OF THE DWEMMER’S FOOLISH ATTEMPT TO BECOME GODS.”
“Well that’s not good?” Caliborn ventured. “What does this have to do with Alduin?”
“THE PRIEST MAKES YOUR JOB IMPOSSIBLE WHILE HE HOLDS THAT ARTIFACT,” Molag Bal explained, “BEFORE I KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING, HE HAD FOUND THE RESTING PLACE OF MY WEAPON, MY MACE, AND HE DEFILED IT BY PLACING THAT INSUFFERABLE BLADE INTO THE MACE’S CORE!”
“And that does… what exactly?” Caliborn asked.
“WITH THE BLADE KEENING INSIDE, MY MACE IS NOW INTANGIBLE TO THE NORMAL RULES OF REALITY.” Molag Bal answered. “EVEN MY OWN COMMAND OVER THE MACE HAS SLIPPED WITH THAT PRIEST HOLDING THE MACE. HE’S HOLED HIMSELF UP INSIDE THAT DWEMER RUIN-“ The Prince pointed up at the ruins. “A RUIN THAT HE HIMSELF USED THE MACE TO DRAG INTO MY REALM WITHOUT MY PERMISSION.” Oh, he was definitely mad, Caliborn knew that instantly. “TELL ME, DRAGONBORN. HAVE YOU HEARD OF A THING CALLED A DRAGON BREAK?”
“Well,” Caliborn pulled the book “Where were you when the Dragon Broke?” out of his Sylladex. “Yeah, it’s the thing where time goes all wibbly wobbly.”
“THEN YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THAT THE ABOMINATION THAT RESULTED FROM THE DWEMER’S EXPERIMENTS WAS USED IN A DRAGON BREAK BY TIBER SEPTIM HIMSELF.” Molag Bal growled. “THAT ABOMINATION WAS USED TO ATTACK THE SUMMERSET ISLES FOR ALL OF TIME, IN THE SPAN OF A SINGLE HOUR, WHERE IT THEN DISAPPEARED TO WHO KNOWS WHEN.”
“Ouch,” Caliborn muttered, “No wonder the Thalmor want Talos gone.”
“THIS PRIEST WHO DEFILED MY MACE SEEKS TO BRING THAT ABOMINATION OUT OF THE DRAGONBREAK AND INTO MY REALM- ALL SO THAT HE CAN SLAY ME AND MANTLE MY TITLE AND POWERS AS IF I WAS SHEOGORATH!!!” Molag Bal was definitely mad. Oh so mad. The sky thundered with his rage.
“So basically,” Caliborn summarized, “I kill the Priest, stop him from resurrecting a monster creation of the Dwemer, and… purify your mace?”
“NO. IT IS BEYOND RECOVERY AT THIS POINT.” Molag Bal retorted. “I WANT YOU TO TAKE THE MACE OUT OF MY REALM AND FEED IT DOWN ALDUIN’S GUT WHEN YOU CONFRONT THE GLUTTON FOR THE FINAL TIME.”
“…” Caliborn stopped in his tracks, blinking as he processed those words. “Wait… what the hell would that even DO?”
“FOR STARTERS? IT WOULD DESTROY THE PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION OF THE MACE SO THAT I CAN RE-SUMMON IT WHOLE AGAIN.” Molag Bal then held a finger up- countering the immediate response. “NO. THAT IS NOT PURIFYING IT. THAT IS DESTROYING WHAT IS BROKEN AND REMAKING IT ANEW. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.”
“…Okay I get that, but what would it do to Alduin?” Caliborn clarified.
“I’LL BE DAMNED IF I KNOW.” Molag Bal laughed. “IF WE ARE LUCKY? IT WILL DESTROY THE DWEMER ABOMINATION AND ERASE IT ENTIRELY FROM THE HISTORY OF NIRN. MAYBE THE DWEMER WILL RECONSIDER AT THE LAST MOMENT AND BE REBORN BACK INTO THE MODERN AGE? ALTHOUGH ONE COULD CONSIDER THAT ONE A ‘THAT’S THE WORST CASE’ SCENARIO, HOWEVER.”
“You sound like you’ve met them,” Caliborn noted.
“TRUST ME. IF I COULD HAVE KNOWN WHAT THEY WOULD ATTEMPT, I WOULD HAVE SLAIN THEM AL WITH MY BARE HANDS AND ENTRAPPED THEIR SOULS FOR ALL ETERNITY WITHIN MY REALM.” He snarled. “MAYBE IF I HAD DONE THAT, THEN MY PLANEMELD PLAN BACK IN THE SECOND ERA WOULD HAVE WORKED OUT. POWERED BY THE SOULS OF THE IDIOTIC DWEMER RATHER THAN THE HEROIC SOULS OF NIRN’S WARRIORS.”
“Out of curiosity,” Caliborn ventured a question, “when exactly DID Tiber Septim use this Dwemer Monster thing compared to that?”
“WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO KNOW?” Molag Bal sneered at the Dragonborn.
“Alright, alright, I get the point,” Calibron rolled his eyes and decided to change the subject. “So… what’s mantling, and why does this guy want to do it?”
“MANTLING IS WHEN A MORTAL ASCENDS TO THE POWERS OF A DAEDRIC PRINCE, OR THOSE ‘GOODEY TWO SHOES’ DIVINES THE EMPIRE SEEMS SO FOND OF WORSHIPING.” Molag Bal spat on the ground. “TIBER SEPTIM’S ASCENTION TO TALOS IS SIMILAR TO THE MANTLING PROCESS, ALTHOUGH UNIQUE IN THAT THERE WAS NEVER A TALOS BEFORE TIBER SEPTIM BECAME HIM. EIGHT DIVINES BECOMING NINE, AND SUCH.”
“You mentioned Sheogorath?” Caliborn asked.
“AT THE CLOSURE OF THE OBLIVION CRISIS, THE CHOSEN HERO OF THE TIME- MUCH LIKE YOURSELF IN CERTAIN RESPECTS- SLAYED SHEOGORATH IN COMBAT AND MANTLED HIS TITLE AND APPEARANCE… AS WELL AS ALL OF HIS POWERS AND PERSONALITY.” Molag Bal paused, and then said, “I SUPPOSE YOU COULD SUMMARIZE IT AS ACTING EXACTLY LIKE A PERSON SO MUCH THAT YOU PARADOXICALLY BECOME THAT PERSON.”
“Huuuh,” Caliborn blinked as he processed that information, and then said, “Seems like a pretty stupid idea to me. Who want to become the ruler of an entire plane of Oblivion?” He shook his head, “I’m freaked out just by the Thieves guild wanting me to become their Guild Master. Listener of the Dark Brotherhood? I can go out and adventure all I want so long as I just hand out a few contracts here and there. Killing people is easy. Leading them is a whole ‘nother story.”
“AH, IT IS RARE THAT A MORTAL HAS SPOKEN TO ME WITH SUCH FIRM DEDICATION…” Molag Bal laughed. “I SEE THAT DESPITE THE MANY THREADS OF INFLUENCE PUSHING YOU ALONG TOWARDS YOUR DESTINY, YOU SHEER THE ONES THAT YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE USED BY.”
“If someone asks me for help, I’ll give it, but I’m not going to lead an army to war,” Caliborn shook his head. “Hell, the only reason I haven’t flung a fireball at you yet is because I know you want me to come out of this alive.”
“THAT YOU WOULD ADMIT THAT SHOWS A COURAGE THAT MANY DO NOT BEFORE MY PRESENCE. YOU REFUSE TO SUBMIT. THAT IS INTERESTING… THAT IS JUST THE PERSON I NEED TO DESTROY THIS PEST OF A PRIEST.” Molag Bal nodded. “FOR A PERSON WHO REJECTS DESTINY CAN REJECT THE VERY FABRIC OF REALITY.”
Caliborn wasn’t sure why Molag Bal went silent after that, but, truthfully, he was appreciative of the quiet after the constant booming voice that had been assaulting his ears. Well, went silent until they reached the Dwemer Fortress, at least.