Quest 7: Gods Among Men
Loading Screen… Have you heard of the High Elves...
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The following morning Krest scooped up a spoonful of tuna fish and shoved it into his mouth, swallowing hard. He quavered, an indistinguishable chill surrounding him. Saadia sat down across him, grabbing ahold of a grain muffin. A gander around to distract himself, fixating on the lineup of dead meats hanging from the kitchen walls. The tick of the ornamental clock hanging on the wallpaper as time whisked by.
"How's everything?" Saadia took a chunk out of her pastie. "You look awful." A few crumbs fell from her mouth.
Krest pushed away the bowl of grounded fish, not bearing to stomach the trash.
Saadia picked up a newspaper and skimmed to the poetry section. She took a few more bites out of her muffin. "I spoke to Ulfric about the elven slaves. Even told him Dibella commanded the slaves in this city be freed. His response was that he doesn't have much control over the indentured servitude and elven persecution. Of course, he's lying. He turns a blind eye to it."
Someone should just destroy this city and free the slaves, a sinister idea suggested. The smell of baked bread and ambrosia billowed from the ovens. J'zargo was cooking something delicious.
"The Ayleids and Direnni had Nord and Nede slaves. The Direnni had a problem of widespread race breeding, far worse than Nords in history. Treating Nedic and Nordic women like animals. So, I understand the Nords would want revenge. But becoming your enemy just fuels the endless cycle of revenge. Who cares if you have pointy ears or round ones? But don't get me started on the Altmer and their 'holier-than-thou' attitudes." Saadia finished her treat with a sour look on her features. "Speaking of them, what do you think life is like for the High Elves? Having to live a thousand years and all?" She pondered aloud. "I've heard some were even alive to see the conquests of Talos, or Tiber Septim as you Imperials say."
I'd slit my throat if I had to live that long.
Krest's ears twitched when Dibella strode into the dining hall. She sorted through the bits of lembas bread on the counter before settling on a banana. Peeling it and taking a bite. Physically speaking, Dibella seemed around thirty-two years of age, ten years his senior. As she had a fully matured body, light lines on her forehead and crows' feet at the end of her eyes. The latter seemed more of stress than anything. She had none of the naivety or immaturity of youth about her, but instead an aura of wisdom, strength, and motherhood. Her actual age was obviously likely thousands like the other Divines.
Krest flushed red when she gave him a neutral side look before walking off back to the hall. "You know, you are a sad, strange little man." Saadia was smirking coyly. "You know I think she knows your name. But won't admit it."
Krest jokingly gave Saadia the finger, rinsing the taste of fish from his mouth via a tall glass of water he poured through the crystalline decanter. They got up and put their bowls away in the basin, striding off towards the communal chamber after that.
When they got there Krest noticed Dibella and Idrasa. The former was doing some sort of free-spirited dance. Krest calmed his breathing, every goosebump drawing up his arms as he slithered into a corner, as far as possible from Dibella, where it was harder to notice him. He wouldn't inflict his presence on them.
"Anyways, yeah. I get all these intrusive thoughts and mental compulsions due to my obsessions," Idrasa was saying, seeming the worse for wear. "I also wish to reunite my parents and bring them here, Morrowind isn't safe."
"Who are your parents, Idrasa?" Dibella itched her chin with a finger as her dance drew to a close.
"Felen Relas, a member of the Mages Guild in Anvil and Seryne Relas; she's actually mentioned in the book, Breathing Water." Idrasa cracked her knuckles.
Dibella's smile rippled up her handsome jaw. "I'll see what I can do. After we deal with why I'm here."
Idrasa curtsied. "Thank you, goddess." Krest realized Idrasa was the only one here younger than him. She must've been nineteen. Still a child. "Do you have any children or parents, Lady Dibella?"
Dibella bit her lip at that, her eyes darting off to the floor panels. "Anu the Everything is both Father and Mother to us Aedra, the best I could ask for. For Anu is neither man nor woman, so referred to as both. I do have my own children too. Three. I had a daughter with Magnus who I won't name, suffice it to say you've heard of her aplenty, I'm sure. I had a mortal son with Stendarr who is three, Paratus Amore, heir to Anvil's throne. I also have a daughter with Sanguine who is nine, Sibylla Amore. She is living with me in Aetherius. Though, right now Mara's looking after her."
"Sanguine?" Saadia tensed.
"I was trying to get him to be good. Our romance didn't pan out, but a daughter calmed his heart. She visits him regularly," Dibella affixed.
Krest pulled some knots from his strands. It would be nice to help Dibella raise her kids with her. Krest fantasized about a life like that, a fairytale come true. She deserves better.
"We've been trying to get the allegiance of the Daedric Princes. Magnus; Dagon, was persuaded by Akatosh at the end of the Third Era. I've swayed Sanguine, Hircine, and Azura. Clavicus is next on my list. I've suggested Akatosh speak to Malacath since he was once Trinimac. The rest of the Daedra either don't care or hate us outright." Dibella stretched her arms behind her back.
Saadia grinned. "Pray tell, how did you ever sway the mighty Hircine?"
Dibella conjoined her hands, fingers interlocking. "He's a softie on the inside. What about you, Saadia?"
"Got a guy name of Brynjolf Orval." Saadia waved some moths out of her face. A lot of the Ancestor Moths seemed attracted to her for whatever reason.
Dibella and Idrasa exchanged half-glances. "Is this Brynjolf handsome?" The former questioned.
"As if you chiseled him from granite, yourself, Lady." Saadia stretched over to her opposite side and saw Krest skulking, he was pretending he was reading something in his head. "Krest, come here. Join us!"
Krest stood up and sojourned over.
Dibella stared him down, and soon enough his heart was thumping nonstop, trying to break his ribs. He looked away in shame. "Idrasa, go get him an amulet of mine."
Idrasa acquiesced and set off.
"Krest, if you intend to serve me and help us, I need your loyalty." Dibella stood tall and despite her only being two inches taller, he felt very small and shrunk inwards, gazing at the floor. "Bow to me. Worship your god."
Krest hesitated, he wasn't expecting that.
"Do it. Submit to me," she demanded without raising her voice. Krest, feeling like an idiot, rested his forehead to the cool, watery tiles, the ends of his hair wet now. He heard Dibella's smirk. "Good boy. You may rise."
Krest got up and Idrasa tied an Amulet of Dibella around his neck. Similar to the one she, Saadia, and Dibella herself wore. Though, Dibella's was slightly different, modeled like a crown for a Queen. The one Krest adorned was a choker more than anything.
"You belong to me now. Me alone," Dibella commandeered with hardening eyes. "The men's variant of the amulet is supposed to be tighter around the neck," she added when she noticed Krest adjusting his necklace.
Krest tipped his head in agreement and resumed his position in the corner of the room. He felt as if some sort of spell had bound him.
Saadia, scrunching up her face and fluffing her weave, flocked towards Dibella. "After all our correspondences, I never thought I'd actually meet you face to face until I died. One of the Eight." Krest noticed from his secluded spot that Dibella beamed when Saadia said Eight. His eyes wandered back to the figure of Dibella. Her muscled curves, the veins and light hairs on her inked arms, the bounce of her short golden curls. He pried his sight off her and onto his own palms wired by circuits where there should be veins. "So, explain to me, what is life in the heavens like?" Saadia put her face in her hands.
"The best experiences here but much more," answered Dibella. "None of your mortal limitations. No one causes trouble because once you've seen it with your own eyes, nothing else can compare. You reap the fruits of delayed gratification from your life here. Everlasting fulfillment, adventure of sights that no place on Nirn can compare to, Light. Unlike this world which is tainted with Oblivion's mar and Lorkhan's limitations. Even us Divines are weaker here, mortal-like just with enhanced abilities. Another reason we wanted the exile sent here. Only Anu is all powerful and all seeing, after all."
"Is that all you can say?" Saadia brushed the crumbs from her robes.
"Better to experience it than get my second-hand account. In a nutshell, it is love. Everyone deserves to be loved. A shame so many forsake that love for self-righteousness and material gain." Dibella patted the outline of her mane. "Lots of cute boys too, that's for sure."
"You'd know all about that, wouldn't you?" Idrasa was suppressing a laugh behind a coy grin.
The sunshine outside speckled in through the windowing of the mosque and Krest had to lift a hand to ward off the blinding nature of it. Not everyone deserves to be loved, Krest vehemently disagreed, cruel tyrants and abusers deserve to be ripped apart limb from limb.
Saadia blanched. "If a boy's innocence is his treasure? Does that make you a treasure-hunter, Madam Dibella?"
"You cannot hunt something that already belongs to you." The ends of Dibella's lips tugged upward.
Krest paled, but his cheeks tinged pink.
"What about the other gods? How are they?" Saadia stuck her nose in the air.
A flash of light permeated from the center of the antechamber, blinding the view. A bluish-white portal like the one Dibella had stepped through appeared, a gateway to the heavens, and out came two figures. The first was unmistakably the Dragon-god of Time. In his ruby-red robes with long golden hair and beard that fell to his chest. Golden eyes and a crown that resembled dragon horns projecting from his skull. He was the same height as Dibella. He seemed a mix between Nord and High Elf. Though, upon closer inspection Krest made out the distinct pointy-ears and elven curvature of the jaw.
So, unlike Lorkhan, Akatosh is accepting of man and mer.
The next figure to exit was hairy, very tall, and buffer than Hjalti. Resembling a Nord, Tsun Zenithar, god of trials, work, and commerce. If the stories were true, it was evident this once servant of Lorkhan had repented and switched sides to Akatosh, along with his twin, Stendarr Stuhn, and Lorkhan's ex-wife, Kynareth Tava.
I've always had a problem with the average macho man – they've always been a threat to me. Krest grimaced bitterly at Tsun.
Idrasa and Saadia got up and greeted them. The latter was latched onto Akatosh in an embrace that would make a leech blush. Meanwhile, Tsun marched over to Dibella and grabbed her around the waist, kissing her full on the lips, his copious beard engulfing her chin. She snaked her hands around his buzzed scalp. Krest flinched.
Envy skinned him like peeling a fruit with a knife. His grimace deepened. - Akatosh jostled over to him, forcing Krest to recompose his standard look of apathy.
"Are you the Praetorian. Any idea where the inmate went, my boy?"
Krest shook his head, taking in Akatosh's apple scented perfume and glittering robe buttons. Did he recognize me because I could be the Dragonborn? Krest steeled the ball of nerves in his gut. I have to be the chosen one, nothing else matters anymore. This is the only way I'll ever matter to this world. If I'm the Last Dragonborn, maybe Dibella will finally notice me and like me.
"Mute." Dibella swept aside her bangs. "You won't get anything from him."
Akatosh's visage became crestfallen. "Aaah, I see. Yes, never mind."
Dibella glared at Krest for a moment. She clenched a fist and moved inward to the main conversation. Krest tiptoed off into the angular portion of the room, in the shade, taking a seat next to a portrait of a nordic Sybil of Dibella from ages long past. The Nord girl in the painting was his age. She was peeling oranges over a basket in the photographic art.
"Now, I must ask you all to listen in." Akatosh puffed up his chest as everyone took a seat. "Here is what is going on and what we're going to do. - The being I cast out from the sky a while back was Talos Stormcrown, the Ninth Divine. Talos is not who we thought he was. He has tricked us for over an era. He is really Lorkhan, in a renewed form, trying to reclaim his godliness."
I got into a fisticuffs with the god of space who made the mortal world… and I'm still alive…
Akatosh danced around, beard, hair, and robes twirling. "He He He He! Spin the web we shall, spun what has already begun!?"
"He does that," Tsun clarified to everyone in the room.
"Well yes, anyhow, Lorkhan is my fraternal twin brother, a Serpent begotten by Chaos as I was by Order. Sithis; Padomay; Chaos; the opposite of Anu the Everything who is Peace and Order. Sithis conceived a child with Mephala, the mother of night. That child was Lorkhan. As I was created by Anu, my Mother. While I set out to administer the heavens with my siblings, my brother had other plans. Mundus, his plane, born from his ideas while he fraternized with the likes of Daedra such as Namira, Azura, and Boethiah. Magnus and Kynareth agreed to his plans and thus he created his own plane of Oblivion, Mundus. And I created the spiritual one, Aetherius, with my one and only love, Mara. Though, Lorkhan tricked us into creating his plane, thinking it would be another section of Aetherius, which entrapped our descendants into a life full of suffering and cost us much of our power, which we've since made good out of as a testing ground before eternal life in Aetherius. After the betrayal I aimed at compromise, but Lorkhan took my wife, Mara, as a prisoner of war and raped her, calling her his tear-wife, since she cried every time he did. As well as holding Dibella as a sex-slave and banishing her husband, Magnus, initiating a war between my children, the elves, and his, men. Dividing us."
Krest clenched his jaw, imbibing the warm saliva on his tongue. So, Akatosh is really the greater of the two. After Lorkhan was killed, Akatosh adopted his children as well as taking care of his own. Lorkhan would never have accepted elven kind if Akatosh had lost that initial war. Lorkhan would've killed them all. It made sense now why elves, especially the High Elves, held such bitterness towards the races of men, particularly the Nords. They literally sung praises to the ultimate oppressor in the elven eye.
"We were just trophies to him on his delusional quest," Dibella affirmed, her eyes rotating. "Nirn was his vanity project."
"Which would explain why Magnus aka Mehrunes Dagon wanted Tamriel back." Saadia rubbed her chin. "During the Oblivion Crisis twenty-two years ago. I was barely a teenager at the time. I still remember the fires and armies of Daedra outside Taneth."
I wasn't even born till a year later.
"Is that how you received those scars under your eyes?" Idrasa nodded at the Redguard with a slight frown.
"Do you wanna know how I got these scars?" Saadia shook her head with a bittersweet grin. "I got them from my family. Though, the crisis did gift me this." She folded her sleeve, revealing a pinkish burn blazoned on her elbow. The whole room's heads either jerked back or reeled reflexively. "Miracle I survived."
Dibella and Akatosh exchanged knowing glances.
"Everything you've been through is preparing you for something, my Child." The Chief of the Divines blinked away something in his eye, rubbing Saadia's upper back consolingly. "And well, not to seem rude, but I must divulge this information. The mythic war lasted hundreds of years, but one day a Dragon infiltrated Lorkhan's ranks and decimated his forces, damaging Lorkhan critically. The dragon was called Konahrik, meaning Warlord. I don't know who he is, but because of him, I got the idea to craft a mask which gives me and any Dragonborn who wear it the ability to transform into a Dragon, inspired by Konahrik, and thus this mask is also called Konahrik, or Mask of Alkosh. It is how I am able to shapeshift into a Golden Dragon." Akatosh pulled it out from under his robes. Golden bronze with two horns curving up under the jawline. "Though any ordinary mortal who wears this mask and transforms into a Dragon will die sooner or later after turning back into a human. The energy required is enough to destroy an average soul. You do not want to destroy your soul."
"After Konahrik all but killed Lorkhan, the latter's wife, Kynareth betrayed him and handed him over to us and we held a council where his remaining generals switched forces when they realized Lorkhan's inherently selfish and lustful nature. You see not only was he an advocate for genocide, greed, and other degeneracy, he also held an insatiable lust for women and control. Why do you think so many men value domination, drinking, power, fighting, and sex above all else?" Akatosh's face darkened. "They imitate their idol, Shor."
The Divine moved with ethereal grace, his perfectly polished lochs flowing with lustrous copper undertones that made an admirer want to sift their fingers through it, as if it were saffron.
"Do you want to know how to judge a man?" Akatosh questioned seriously. "Observe how much he values a woman's heart. That will speak immensely of his character."
That was left in the air to dry a bit.
I guess, shrugged Krest. He didn't completely understand what Akatosh meant.
Akatosh continued, "we agreed to kill him by tearing out his heart and shooting it across the sky. So, we did. Trinimac tore it out and I fired it away. Lorkhan's body was ripped asunder and became the two moons, Masser and Secunda. His blood rained on the ground for forty days and became the ebony ore veins. His heart fell in Resdayn and became the Red Mountain. His mind, once the Dark Heart of Skyrim, became the illusive third moon, and his spirit a formless wraith on his throne in Sovngarde. Hence why anyone can sit on his throne, in fact, a mudcrab was sitting on it, last I checked before I destroyed the throne."
Tsun shook his head. "No, the reason anybody can sit in Shor's Throne is because he is the throne. His spirit is Sovngarde itself. He is the realm just like he is the moons."
"Technically that's incorrect. Now he is only Talos. The moons and Sovngarde are just husks or discarded vessels," Dibella added.
"And we thought he died, but that was our mistake. It seems Lorkhan's will for revenge against us, Konahrik, and his godly nature gave him the strength to reincarnate, and he did: as his moon body, he was reborn, for gods cannot die. King Harald Hand-Free, thirteenth in the line of Ysgramor, also known as Harrald Hairy Breeks. He was Lorkhan's first reincarnated avatar. Harald spent his life killing many of the remaining snow elves. He shed his skin and became Hanse Foxtrot, Jarl of Ocearan, also known as Hans the Fox. For Shor was called a fox in the ancient atmoran pantheon. He shed his skin and became Pelinal Whitestrake; Saint Pelin the White Snake. You see, Lorkhan as Hans had found an Elder Scroll and utilized it to travel to the future and meet Reman Cyrodiil. He loved Reman and corrupted him. But Reman did eventually repent of this. Pelinal went even further in time to the reign of the Septims and got decked out in cybernetic enhancements then went back in time and fooled us he was a robot hero from the 'ninth era', so we gave him the Amulet of Kings, which I'd made, and each Divine blessed his armor, and he became Pelinal the Divine Crusader. He was a trickster, after all. We tasked him with saving men from the Ayleids, and aiding the then Dragonborn, Alessia. We did not know his true identity. Pelinal Whitestrake, who went onto commit genocide on thousands of elves and Khajiit until he was defeated. I had to step in myself to prevent him from slaughtering all the Khajiit. After the savageness I saw him kill, rape, and destroy elven men, women, and children, I knew his hatred stemmed from something deeper. Not only from without, but from within."
"But then Lorkhan came up with a brilliant plan, reincarnating simultaneously as three Shezarrines, which are another word for avatars of Lorkhan. Firstly, Ysmir Wulfharth, the last Atmoran, who was the spirit of Shor in Sovngarde. He became High King of Skyrim, spread propaganda that I was Alduin, my firstborn, when I am in fact not, he was trying to slander my name and demonize me. He hung and burned Alessian priests outside his castle in Hrothgar, raping many of the Alessian nuns as well, and killing countless Direnni who'd annexed portions of eastern Skyrim. Arkay, and Alduin's ghost tried to stop him committing these evil deeds. He was awoken in the future twice, once to fend off an Akaviri invasion with Jorunn Skald-King, and the third time when Tiber Septim reigned as Emperor. When he came to be known as the Ash King or the Underking."
"Secondly, Lorkhan's mind was reborn as an Akaviri man named Vershu Arnand, also known as Arnand the Fox. He joined the early Dragonguard in invading Tamriel and elevating Reman to status of Emperor. He does this since he needs to make sure Reman's dragonblood lineage from Alessia carries on. Eventually he renewed himself as Versidue Shaie, taking control of the Empire for three hundred years before faking his assassination and becoming Chevalier Renald. Renald was quoted to have said, 'we shed our old skins and arose reborn in the service of his Empire and the coiled-king. I'll shed this skin as well, when it's time for a new beginning.'"
He wanted to ensure Alessia's Dragon bloodline carried through Reman, but why? For what end?
"I have a special punishment planned for Lorkhan, don't worry. Renald took the moniker of Zurin Arctus when he met the young Hjalti Early-Beard, the third Shezarrine of this trio, but the fourth total, including Pelinal," revealed Akatosh.
Krest let-out a sigh, his shoulders melting. His mind throbbed. Green veins highlighting like vines up his forehead into the black forest.
"Hjalti Early-Beard better known as Tiber Septim, a Reachmen, though only in race. Orphan to a Nord father and Breton mother."
The dots and puzzle pieces were beginning to connect.
"Wait, wasn't Tiber Septim also a Dragonborn?" Saadia narrowed her eyes. "And only you can gift that to someone…"
Tiber was a Shezarrine-Dragonborn… Does that mean… If I'm a Dragonborn, could I also be a Shezarrine too? Krest felt the urge to retch, pain shuttling up his back. No, it can't be. I'm not that type of person, I've never killed anyone, I've never touched a woman. How could I be a-. Anxiety, paranoia, and irrational insecurities clawed at the abysses in his brain. The worst thing you can do is rip someone's identity from them.
Akatosh held a finger in the air. "Well, Tiber Septim was actually never a Dragonborn, he stole the power from another. It is impossible to be born both a child of mine and as a reincarnation of Lorkhan. Completely impossible. It can never happen. Ever. You cannot be oil and water concurrently."
Krest's shoulders slumped with immense relief. Oh good, I'm just Dragonborn then. He felt rather stupid now that he'd freaked out all within the span of a few words, enough to trigger him.
"The only Dragonborn in history have been Miraak Wyrmtongue, Alessia Perrif, Reman Cyrodiil, and Cuhlecain Sifr. The prophesied Last Dragonborn is among us in Tamriel, they are the one destined to defeat Talos Lorkhan." Akatosh ringed a ringlet of his hair. "In fact, the Redguard figure, the Hoonding, is just the Hammerfell title for Ysmir or Dragonborn god. Diagna, the first Hoonding was just their name for Miraak. Frandar Hunding was actually Alessia. Reymon Ebonarm the Ebony Warrior is Reman Cyrodiil. Cyrus was Tiber Septim. A'tor was Cuhlecain."
"That would make Divad Belhazra, and that would mean Cyrus' sister was really Agnorith Septim." Saadia's eyes went wide.
"The Last Dragonborn is known as the Mahdi or Kalki, the Last Imam, to the Redguard people. Sword Singing is just the Thu'um. The Way of the Sword is the sword that is your tongue; The Way of the Voice. Making Way is referring to shouts. Being an avatar of the Hoonding is just their way of understanding a mortal blessed with the blood and soul of Dragons." Nodded Akatosh. Krest got goosebumps when he heard it. "It is important to understand Lorkhan is the bar for the ideal man in society. He wants men to be like him and follow in his example of seeking power and exploiting they consider beneath them. But the greatest among you is the one who serves, not the one that is served. The first among you shall be last, and the last first."
There was a pause.
"Idrasa, you have some ancestral blood from Lorkhan." Akatosh combed a hand through his beard. "So, you must die! Just kidding, just kidding. It doesn't matter."
"I do?" The Dark Elf's brows pressed in on each other. "Excuse me while I commit an evasive suicide."
"Lorkhan took advantage of many women over the course of his many lives," elaborated Akatosh, "he has many descendants. I have only ever loved my Mara however."
Dibella crossed her arms. "Your ancestry doesn't define who you are or what choices you make. Minotaurs all have a little Dragonblood since they scions of Belhazra, Alessia's son. People overestimate the importance of blood. Being Dragonborn isn't hereditary, neither is being a Shezarrine, or any chosen person."
Akatosh straightened the bow on his back. "Anyways, to help you understand easier, think of it as this; there was once a Padomaic god who was adopted by Anu; his name was Lorkhan. Lorkhan split himself into four different men and reconverged them as Talos and arose to divinity in his new form."
"Explains why he looked familiar," Tsun pointed out. "Now that he's full Nord again."
Akatosh summoned a pitcher of wine and four differently shaped wineglasses. Setting them down on a stone bench, he poured wine into each glass until the glasses were equal and nothing remained in the pitcher. "The decanter represents Lorkhan's original Nordic form, divided into each cup. Each cup represents one of four Shezarrines; Pelinal, Wulfharth, Zurin, and Hjalti." Akatosh then repoured each glass into the pitcher, until the glasses were empty and the pitcher once again full. "This is what has happened, he just changed his name from Lorkhan to Talos. Add in a haircut and new armor and we didn't recognize him."
Divide and conquer.
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A/N: A little too info dumpy and preachy of a chapter for my taste, but it was stuff that needed to be said for context.
Next Episode: The Cake And The Diamond