Lore:Naryu's Journal/Vvardenfell, Before

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The illustrated diary of a Morag Tong assassin

I was reminded, Skull, of my last appointment in Vivec City—the one I'd made after receiving the writs for the Seven Secretives from the Grandmaster and then burgling his office later that night. What I found sent me climbing the long stairway to Vivec's Palace the following morning. I told the archcanon I was Grandmaster of the Morag Tong.

He looked skeptical, but I showed him the signet I'd taken from Verano's desk, which was good enough to get me an audience with the Warrior-Poet. I'd never actually been in the Divine Presence before, and I was more than a little nervous. If Vivec was already a party to Verano's plans, I'd be an obstacle to be eliminated.

I could be walking to my doom. What if Lord Vehk transformed me into a sonnet, or a vvardvark? I would hate that. We arrived at the audience hall's door.

The archcanon admitted me, and there he was, Vivec himself, hovering and glowing and thrumming with godly power like he was the center of the world and I was falling, falling into him…. Then he smiled, and the awe drained away. So I showed him Verano's notes and explained how the Grandmaster had manipulated his subordinate Masters into forming the Seven Secretives so he would have a pretext for eliminating them—and scapegoats for his schemes of sole rule of the Tong and puppet-mastery of Houses Redoran and Hlaalu.

"Unseemly—even pretentious," said Lord Vivec. "What do you ask of me, assassin?" I gulped and said, "Tribunal sanction for extrajudicial execution of the Grandmaster." He nodded. "Granted. But he's a formidable opponent, with many resources at his command. I shall give you an ally." He turned to a Buoyant Armiger and commanded, "Have that outlander come in." The officer went out and returned with … a bear (a bear! in the palace!), followed by a broad-shouldered Redguard. "Assassin, this is Boldekh. He's a warden—a warrior on Nature's behalf."

The Redguard nodded. So did his bear. "I hope this is about Verano," he said.

"It is," said Vivec. "Like you, this charming exterminator wants him dead. You two will join forces to slay him. Where is he?" he asked me abruptly. "Visiting House Redoran, Lord—in Balmora or Ald'ruhn," I managed to reply. "After him, then," said Vivec. "And kill him somewhere out of the way to avoid questions. Now go, in Vivec's name."

"Why do you want Verano dead?" I asked Boldekh, though I was looking at his bear. He grunted. "There was a sacred grove on your Bitter Coast. Verano ordered it cut down to build a merchant warehouse. My … partner … died defending it. Good enough?" I nodded. It was the least of Verano's crimes—but good enough.

We tracked him to Skar in Ald'ruhn. There, a beggar—and spy—informed me Verano had been asking about the Hleran ancestral tomb, so we did the same. It was tucked away in a nearby foyada—and the door was defended by a hunger, a summoned Daedra. It vanished suddenly, a sign that whoever had conjured it was also gone.

Sure enough, inside the tomb we found a magical portal and stepped through just before it winked out. We emerged inside a Telvanni wizard tower, probably somewhere in Sadrith Mora.

Voices came from the next room—one of them Verano's. "So you worked with Barilzar," he asked, "and can get me into Seht's city?" An old, rasping voice said, "In and out again—for the right price." Verano replied, "He was killed yesterday." A sigh, and the raspy voice said, "Then go." There came the unmistakable sound of a portal opening. Boldekh and I rushed in, but Verano was already gone. It took us a while to "persuade" the surprised Telvanni to send us after him. The bear helped.

The Clockwork City: I had a brief glimpse of its sky-dome's whirring gears as we warped through it, and then we were inside Sotha Sil's secret realm. Rumor said no mortal had visited for many years; Verano's footprints in the dust supported that. "Why do you want him dead?" Boldekh asked, perhaps to fill the silence. "Verano duped my friends into betraying our oaths and then sent me to kill them." I said. "And you refuse to do it," he grunted.

"Oh, no: they must die. The Writs are legitimate, and I will uphold my oath," I said. "Your bear doesn't look happy." Boldekh shrugged. "Everything smells wrong, and he misses the world. He doesn't see that this is the world—or its copy. I never understood before that Sotha Sil is your nature god. I thought you didn't have one."

We trod echoing metal halls, the bear sniffing out Verano's trail where there was no dust for footprints. I said, "You're furrowing your handsome brow, and I bet it's because you're wondering why we're here. I read Verano's notes—he's come for Sotha Sil's Simulacrum Rubric, the power he fooled his subordinates into revolting for. It wasn't a hoax, it's real—and it's here. We can't let Verano have it."

Three verminous fabricants leapt from a conduit and attacked us. A further delay: the things looked fragile, but they weren't. At all. Defeating his, Boldekh used some impressive frost magic that was new to me.

"You're good at this," Boldekh said as I sheathed my blades. "I was just thinking the same about you," I replied. "Then what's furrowing your brow?" he asked. I laughed. "I just wish you'd look at me the same way you look at your bear." He smiled briefly, then frowned and said, "Hush. He's just ahead."

Quickly but quietly, we turned the corner and came into a mechanist's elaborate workshop.

Verano was there, a brass-studded satchel in one hand and a runestone in the other to open a portal. He saw us, sneered, and stepped into the portal, fingering the runestone as he disappeared. We hastened to follow, but the portal twisted slightly as we entered it. We emerged at Mudan Ruins—with Verano nowhere in sight.

"This is an old Dwarven site—I know it," I told Boldekh. "Verano can't be far. Let's split up and search." He went left, I went right—and I was the first to find our quarry.

Verano was with some bodyguards he must have had waiting for him. When I dropped into their midst, they ran off. I thought it was me they were afraid of until I saw the Dwarven constructs swarming out of Mudan. I tried to fight past them to get at Verano, but wasn't making much headway until Boldekh and the bear arrived. We took out the spiders and turned toward Verano, who ran toward Mudan. Bad mistake: its gates exploded with magical flame as a Dwarven colossus strode out.

Boldekh protected us from the blast with a blue ward, but Verano was immolated, the flesh broiled from his bones, the Rubric satchel charred to ash. So I didn't have to kill my own Grandmaster. I just had to survive the attack of the colossus. It took everything we had—me, Boldekh, and the bear—but we did it. Victory?

I went to Verano's skeletal corpse. There was just enough blood to trace out the Tong's seal on the flagstones. Then I picked you up, Skull, and said, "If I have to go assassinate my friends, you're coming along to witness it, you fetcher." Boldekh was staring at me, mouth agape. "I gave my word," I told him. "I'm Morag Tong."