Savages. Slaves to unmitigated violence at the hands of their inferior wits. Nonetheless, it was rather curious that Shthelith's name should provoke such a reaction. As if he had a hand in their banishment from Aímeri society. I had just survived the collapse of the cove when these tribal elves attacked me with wild screams and crude tools. I was left to wonder how their society split. The reasons for their schism. Or perhaps there was nothing to it after all and I just met feral blood elves that just happened to occupy the Jagged Mountains. I never discovered the reason as to why they lost their mind once I mentioned Shthelith. Even after I met Shthelith again some time later, even after he explained a lot of things to me, that particular information I just don't have and never got.


It was still a long way to Hema's Peak. I began at the foot of the mountains where the first outpost of the feral ones was and had to work my way up a steep incline sporting very sharp and pointy outcroppings, spanning at least a few hundred Altmer heights. I looked out into the far end of what should be my destination. Seemingly past even the horizon rose an imposing monument of stone and rock that looked both naturally grown and artificially chiselled. A tower of remarkable size and curious, sword like shape pierced the heavy clouds. And where it pierced and cut them they bled, and a ceaseless stream of blood flowed down the blade and down the other side of the blade. Down the rock face, colouring the mountain in a dark red colour and spreading a sickly sweet odour from afar. Down the inner side and into a tunnel network and a basin perhaps, leading into the sea. Truly, this was one of the foulest places I was yet to visit.


Indigenous insects made the little caves, barely bigger than a hand or two and found in the walls and ground, their home and populated the area more densely the closer one got to the clouds. I took a deep breath in order to mentally ready myself for what was to come. The smell of dead meat was ubiquitous that even my helmet did a poor job to hide it. I carried myself up the slopes and hoped I would not encounter too much resistance. Fighting was hard and even though my armour rejuvenated and replenished my strength constantly I couldn't help but feel worn-out, weary and tired. The journey was going much too long already and the longer it took the less I believed I would ever get back to Cyrodiil. Sometimes I had to remind myself where I was originally from in order to not forget the goal I've set myself. It got harder the longer I had to carry on. Being all by myself didn't help. Without Nephethys, there was no one to remind me of home. And if that wasn't enough the hemerite did solidify a certain connection between me and the Painted World, something that would stay forever to cause subtle flashes of memory every now and again of the torture I endured. Needless to say, however, I persevered and forced my way through to the very top at which a horror did already await my arrival. 


But before I got to experience that I had to brace more trials, of course. The pain would never end in this place. The world itself tried to kill me from the very moment I was unfortunate enough to set foot in it so long ago. The wastes, the hamlet, the chapel, the forest, the castle, the cove. And the mountains were no exception to that rule. 

The climb would have been near impossible without the kind of armour I donned. Even through its thick plating I could tell that some rocks pierced its outer layers. The blood that ran down from the top made some of the surfaces slippery and more often than not I slipped and almost fell to my death. Even the armour couldn't help me survive a fall like that. Below me, after a hundred meters of climbing, I saw just how many sharp and pointy rock formations I went past. Some of them had long-dead corpses on them festering with insects of various kinds. Other times I saw parts of torn bodies stick to the steep surface. Blood proved to be a sufficient adhesive in this case. And as I went further the corpses mounted. I had entered what I would later refer to as the Field of the Dead. And, as you can no doubt guess, there was a living, breathing reason for the amount of dead humanoids.


Past a bloodstream and jagged poles and more bodies there was a cave entrance significantly bigger than any I had hitherto seen. This of course bade ill for the continuation of my journey for in my experience, such places were usually inhabited by one beast or another. I was right.

Around the corner I spied a monstrous creature. White, filthy fur, large claws and a thin tail. It must have sensed my presence. I heard heavy breathing and sniffing as it picked up on my scent. By the time I realised this it was already too late. Out of hiding meandered a particularly ravenous scavenger. The specimen that gave us trouble in the Aímeri ruins down in the wastes was well-fed, quick and aggressive. This sorry creature on the slopes of the jagged mountains was nothing like that. And all the more dangerous for it.

The scavenger moved thoughtfully, each of its steps calculated long beforehand. It couldn't afford wasting energy on brash actions. Neither could it move too rapidly or it would tumble and get torn to shreds by the rock formations. No, this one moved with precision. As we looked each other in the eyes I could spot a hint of intelligence far beyond a mere white soul creature. We were both predators meeting as equals on the fringe of death in a lost land.


The situation was tense. Evidently the scavenger was seasoned at what it was doing as the amount of corpses told. An efficient killer, using the deadly surroundings to its advantage. However, it was also quite famished and not as muscular than the ones encountered in the wastes further down. In a way, this specimen could only live here, where death hovered in mid-air over the sharp slope, watching our every step. A quick look at the victims revealed scantily clothed elves with crude tools as weapons, impaled on spikes or cut in half. Victims incapable of serious retaliation or tactical thought beyond hunger. The scavenger, as dangerous as it was, expected easy prey. Not me. My stature and posture alone intimidated it. In its eyes I saw the shift from overconfidence to a certain measure of alertness I haven't seem before in a creature like this. It eyed me up and down, it made its first move. The paws cautiously felt around the ground for sure footing. That was the very moment I realised that I wasn't facing an efficient killer - I faced a scavenger in the truest sense of the word. A carrion eater. It wasn't used to hunt for itself. No, it must have, at some point, become trapped in that little alcove it called home and survived only on what hapless pilgrims came through and died by accident. I was the first to force it out of its comfort zone.


The incredibly thin animal made another move forward, losing footing with each step. I followed its invitation and stepped forward as well, keeping my footing exactly as I envisioned it. I knew where to tread to avoid slipping. But the scavenger did not. In an attempt to trick it into attacking I lashed out at the creature from where I stood. I sent a long, spiked arm its way. The animal took the hit and didn't bother to jump aside. I saw how it helplessly braced for the impact of my limb and witnessed its pain as my arm damaged its skin. The blood nurtured my armour, nurtured me. The scavenger was paralysed. With no place to run it could not go anywhere. One of its paws quivered. It would lose its balance very soon. I lashed out a few more times until the animal finally made a move. It jumped aside to get away from the pain. It managed to land in a spot close to me without tumbling to its doom but I would not cease my assault. If anything, the scavenger made it easier for me to attack it. 


But it was not to be. Quickly after it jumped, it jumped again. This time I was its direct target. With claws and open maw it came flying towards me. I could barely react in time but I didn't have to - in the end, the scavenger slipped as it jumped in too quick a succession. And in its desperate attempt to kill me, it hit the ground in front of my feet and continued to roll down the slope. A last, terrified look in its eyes shot at me from the distance before its body got torn to shreds like so many others before it. The mountain had claimed yet another victim.


A putrid silence lay its soft fingers gently around the scenery. It caressed my troubled soul that had seen so much horror but still wouldn't break. The creature was just as innocent as I and I started to think that maybe, it wasn't native to the Painted World at all. If it was, this world was even more cruel than I thought. The silence felt good. Away from all the blood-spilling and dying, from the terrors that infested the surrounding lands of horror I just rested on the troubling slopes and took in the quiet that unfolded. It took my mind off things and soon, I found myself drifting away from that plane of existence. The peace invaded my mind and claimed its due. 


I suddenly found myself high up in the clouds, looking down on a burning house. My house. Near it, a hill with a few trees and a figure were visible. Out from the house poured burning shapes, writhing on the ground in interminable agony while the other figure on the hill watched. The fire spread and soon, the house would collapse with most of its support structure gone in response to the immense heat. The other figures had stopped moving a long time ago. I looked at the one on the hill who suddenly stood up. In despair, the figure turned on its heel and ran down the hill, away from the mound of dust and broken wood. From it emerged several, ghostly shapes that pursued the running figure for a short while before they finally caught up to him. One after the other drove into him, into me. And I felt the pain as my gangrenous soul was slashed multiple times over. I knelt in the grass and reviewed what I had done. How I felt. And I came to realise that the darkness had been part of me all along.


I tried to relinquish it as best I could, shove away the dark shapes that sought to cloud my mind. I asked myself whether I set the house on fire because I wanted to rid myself of the darkness or because it tried to rid itself of everyone I knew. And suddenly I came to the understanding that the darkness not only never left - the Painted World amplified its power. It gradually corrupted my spirit in ways I never thought possible and yet there I was, clad in dæmoniac armour with the blood of hundreds on my hands. Killing and destroying had become such a common language in my everyday affairs that a question began to arise, far off in the back of my mind. Whatever was I supposed to do once I got back home?




By this time you would suppose I'd have experienced fear from whatever horrible source of dread crossed paths with me on a daily basis. Whatever a "day" was in the Painted World, anyway. The sun never rose or set. In fact, the true source of light could never be determined because of the thick layer of clouds and fog over my head. But I gradually lost whatever fear I had the longer I stayed in the Painting. The creatures began to lose their intimidating qualities. As I became stronger, even the larger predators turned into just another enemy to slaughter. But my gut told me that a different destiny was already on the horizon. It should come as no surprise that I was not destined to be an apex predator in the Painted World, nor a most powerful god. And during the acquisition of the very last seal, the Seal of Flesh, this point would be proven most damningly. And although things were taken away from me then, there was a small portion of the gift that I still carry around, even now. 


I carried on and climbed further up the steep, slippery slopes. I avoided the many, pointy outcroppings and viewed with concern the decreasing number of bodies but the increasing amount of mutilation done to them. Before long I came by another feral Aímeri collection of tents but found them uninhabited. What was left were the traces of flesh that got torn from the encrusted bones that lay scattered about. I still wonder what these elves were doing here. And if they lived here, how did they do it? Evidently there was some greater threat to be encountered than famished scavengers and hostile landscapes. A beast that developed a taste for elven flesh was hiding somewhere. A voice from the inside told me to go looking for it, to hunt down this prestigious prey.. 


Over time the overall steepness of the area dwindled and I enjoyed the comforts of level terrain again. From where I stood I had a partly obscured view of the grand edifice that pierced the sky to draw its blood. It was magnificent and my inner voice called out, it craved proximity. In response to this wellspring of never ending food for the hemerite, my body reacted in unexpected ways. A wave of pleasure swept over me, the promise of more lay with the wellspring above. The hemerite beckoned me, seduced me to go after the heavenly blood. To pursue the blood of the gods. My heart raced, my mouth drooled, I breathed fast. I wanted the blood. I needed it.


I managed to control the urge to rush forward and carefully advanced towards the peak. I could not believe I was almost there. That it would be this easy to climb the mountain and arrive at the top. As the smell of iron gained purchase and the air got thicker and heavier my skin started pulsating pleasantly. I tried to formulate articulate thoughts but everything became quite hazy indeed. Soon the dusty ground was soaked in crimson and the source of the sea came into view. Even by looking at it I gained an understanding of what this world was. The dizzyingly tall, metal construct rose higher than could be seen and amidst the sea of dark and light grey clouds a dark red patch was seen where the cruel needle pierced the sky. Blood of unknown composition and source poured and flowed continuously down the drains and the rock. Into a great basin perched on top of an altar with lectern in front. It gently streamed down the mountain on the other side as well and fed the foul ocean fresh, celestial nourishment. 


In this warped reality, blood was everything. From food and drink to magical catalyst, writing utensil, building material and representation of a god. Blood was all, is all and will be all. I lost control over my body and involuntarily approached the large basin of jet-black stone. It was huge. So huge, in fact, it could hold several persons my size. Directly above it was the stone-carven image of a hideous terror. And in front the lectern with a book upon it. It opened itself and shewed a painting of the same creature with many strange symbols and magical seals crowding the large pages. I understood that this place was as much a place of reverence and worship as it was a place of sacrifice and ritual. I flipped the pages of the strange book and found several drawings of unconsecrated processions along with descriptions in Aímeri script. I suddenly knew why the Men of the forest and Merfolk were deathly afraid of the blood elves. For in this book were recorded cruel and sadistic mating practices, potentially lethal worshipping customs and at the very top of it all was the stalking terror of what evil god had been bleeding on the land for centuries.


All of a sudden I attained knowledge as to why war was waged, why the Aímamer oppressed all resistance and why the only two other intelligent races of the land tried to rid it from those elves. For they bled the sky dry and bereaved it of all that was good. And in turn, the cursed blood flooded the valleys and the cities, touched the earth and the sea. And when I reached out to touch the giant metal edifice a flash of white engulfed me for a brief moment. When I next looked around I was without my hemerite armour and I stood on a patch of grass under a warm sun of late spring, I should presume. The air was clear and good for breathing and a faint breeze threw my neatly kept hair into ever so slight a disarray. The structures were gone. In their place a great tree overlooking rolling hills and lush valleys. 


The sky was clear and a bright sun shone golden on the juicy grass. From afar, people came and in their hands they carried tools. Everything happened really fast. They cut down the great tree and in its place left a metal foundation. They began building the basin that the needle that would pierce the sky would disembogue into. But the sky was still clear. However, I witnessed how every plant withered on and around the mountains and hills, within the valleys and dells. It was a slow process, granted, but it shaped the flesh of the earth to be a less wholesome version of itself. Trees lost their leaves and their trunks bent in a crooked way. The branches extended like bony fingers, ready to grab prey. But even they would wither and die in time, and in the ages after they did, the blood elves came to the unholy basin of rot and made everything worse.


The sky had become clouded by then. As if an illness was ravaging it. Somehow, the elves had attained queer knowledge of the skies above and beyond and some of them hypothesised that, if it would be constructed in the right place, a great structure could pierce the heavens and grant godly blood. And so the construction began. After it finished, the first drops of the purest blood ever seen by man or mer ran down the giant needle and into the basin. It was then that the land was cursed twice over. Even worse, this basin wasn't merely a sacrificial vessel. It was the Aímeri bloodforge up in the mountains. And from the godly blood they created hemerite and from it, in turn, tools and weapons and armour. 


The blood would continue flowing and soon, the basin was filled to the brim but still it kept flowing. It touched the earth and a trickle of crimson made its way down into the once gentle plains. Everything that it touched was poisoned or stricken with terrible illness. The blessing the Aímeri people had hoped to attain resulted in a curse for everyone else. The elves would adapt, surely. But the other people could not be so easily accounted for. And on the distant horizon, an army marched toward Hema's Peak to wage a costly war against the mountain dwellers. And suddenly I understood. Shthelith did not lie. The other races couldn't accept the elve's doings and waged war, so much was true. But he never told us about the true extent of the darkness they had brought over the land.




I opened my eyes and saw the overflowing basin just behind the lectern of which I now knew was a later addition. The late Aímamer must have turned this place into a major ritual site. I stepped forward and examined the large tome that lay on the lectern. It was opened on a page that featured much Aímeri writing and a portrait of a faceless thing. Its overall facial complexion was quite delicate and feminine but it lacked any other discerning features. No eyes, ears, nose or mouth. I flipped the page and another image shewed itself - the same figure but in full view. She floated in darkness, pregnant and a pallid white. The next image, however, was very confusing. I saw what looked like a world around which the faceless figure floated gently. The head was shining bright, like a sun. And the female shape observed the world she had made. The following pages detailed the construction of the needle behind the basin. The last page, then, did show a stream of blood from up above and into the metal. I took a moment to realise what all of this meant and glanced up into the sky.


And then I stared into the sun and suddenly, I knew. I couldn't speak the words that I knew to be the truth. But the picture is even clearer in retrospect. For the faceless goddess was watching us. And the vile elves pierced the womb in the sky, drawing its blood and whatever else that came with it. And such was formed the crimson sea and such was poisoned the land and whatever lived on it. And such was the curse that the faceless goddess cast upon the Painted World. And in her detestation she kept her ever watchful eye on what squirmed on the dead earth, never averting her luminous gaze for even a moment. If the sky had been clear and not as diseased and foggy, I suppose one would have been able to see the goddess and her hateful stare. It would have been too much to bear. Even so much as knowing put an incredible weight upon my person.


I puzzled together what knowledge I could and came to the conclusion that, if I intended to ever go back to Tamriel, I had to try and restore the land. I needed the last seal, of course. But if the country was less hostile, I could perhaps have an easier time traversing it, I thought. I did not know it then but my assumptions were foolish. The sheer number of curses the land was saturated with outweighed any one action. A single moment of respite was buried by a mound of rot. I set a course for myself. And that included the destruction of the very peak that gave the mountain its name in most recent years. That way, I could bring the continuous influx of blood to a halt and maybe, just maybe, the land could heal.


But a power far greater than myself would have it another way. The basin of blood beckoned the hemerite. It was so much. Too much blood. The control of the thirsty stone slipped in between my fingers as I suddenly felt a strong tugging all over my skin. Ripping and tearing set in, the stone itself becoming animate and painfully removing itself from its host. Then I saw what it was that it was lurking towards. And I froze. Divines bear witness as I write down this terror!


The basin bubbled with boiling blood, the heavy stone chalice quivered with unmatched power as a being of pure malevolence arose from its depths. On its way up, the formless evil consumed what blood there was and from it, built its body. A humanoid twice my size, dripping with crimson, reached out to me and suddenly, my armour was no more. It came off and as it did, my skin did too. The blood rock shed my skin, casting it aside like it was nothing. Like I was nothing. What clothes I had lay scattered on the drenched ground. I am fairly certain that this was the moment I died for the first time. I remember my exposed flesh and a completely out of control left hand that struggled to keep its shape - or any shape at all.


I collapsed. Without skin, without power. My last memory of that day was how I witnessed the dæmoniac thing from the basin shape its flesh into weapons with the power of what had once been my armour. It did one swift motion and all of a sudden, the world started spinning rapidly. The scenery whirred by and after a few revolutions two other figures came into view - one a deep red, the other clad in black. Then the spinning stopped. And with it came the most terrifying realisation of all as I saw a body without skin as it fell limp, its head missing, bleeding from the throat. 



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