By the words of the author of the various guidebooks of each of the major cities of Cyrodiil, Alessia Ottus described the harbour city of Anvil as both pretty and unpleasant. From afar on the high hills of the Gold Road west of Kvatch overlooking the port town, it looked a wondrous gem of architecture, industry and beauty studded within the granite ring of its walls, while Castle Anvil, the residence of the Countess Millona Umbranox, stood on top of a cliff just outside the city walls, similar to Skingrad. Castle Anvil, as well as the chapel and the guildhalls were kept in good order and were clean. Much of the Chapelgate District within the city walls was covered with wide spreads of beautiful gardens, one in particular just across from the chapel where people could sit under the roof of the arcade where, if they were so inclined, to contemplate, or simply bask in the beauty of the surroundings.
Alas, to the dismay of the author, a good portion of Anvil was the polar opposite. Within the walls of Anvil there were numerous houses that were in a poor state of repair, and there was even an abandoned house near the two guildhalls that faced the North Gate that was in such a dismal state that it would be better for the city for it to be demolished. Outside the city walls, accessible via the Westgate, the Docks District was probably worse. It was the docks where the worst element of the citizenry of Anvil was found. Drunken sailors and pickpockets, smugglers and murderers, thieves and strumpets were aplenty amidst the crowded piers, poorly maintained buildings, whether they were inns or taverns or general trading stores, and shabby warehouses, all accompanied by the strange odours of harbour towns, like unwashed sailors, beggars, fish and the occasional dead body. Such people of ill-repute could also be found within the city walls but they were for the most part concentrated closer towards the West Gate, and also fewer in number compared to what were found on the docks.
But Drogan, a young breton man in his mid-twenties clad in a chainmail hauberk with the surcoat of the city of Kvatch worn over it and a chainmail coif on his head, trousers and cowhide shoes, didn’t mind it at all. In fact, he thought Anvil was a brighter and cleaner city than the city of Bravil where he spent a good amount of his childhood and early adolescence living in the overcrowded slums of Bravil with his aunt, who was estranged from her high-born sister, his mother in fact, who lived in a small castle near Daggerfall.
Drogan had briefly visited Anvil hardly three weeks earlier. He was accompanied then by a priest of Akatosh who had survived the destruction of Kvatch by daedric forces that he had rescued after closing the oblivion gate in front of main city gate after the bulk of the daedric forces returned to Oblivion after sacking the city and massacring the majority of its inhabitants, along with what few people had survived the devastation of Kvatch, thus earning for himself the honourary title “The Hero of Kvatch” by the people he had saved for his efforts. Back then he had gone to the Mages Guild to receive a recommendation to be reinstated into the Mages Guild after his guild membership had been suspended. Drogan had his membership with the guild suspended when he was arrested by Imperial Legion soldiers at his home in Raven Rock on Solstheim roughly three years earlier, wrongfully accused of corruption while he had been the Factor for the Raven Rock branch of the East Empire Company on the small island of Solstheim just off Skyrim where he had overseen the mining operations of the ebony mine within the town. The guild hall head in Anvil, an altmer called Carahil, had tasked him to assist a couple Imperial battlemages to track down a rogue mage who had been attacking travelling merchants. Once the rogue mage had been killed and Drogan reported their success in putting an end to the attacks on travelling merchants, Carahil had written her recommendation to her predecessor, the Arch-Mage Hannibal Traven, for Drogan to be reinstated into the Mages Guild.
And now he was back in Anvil once again. Unlike his previous visit, his reason for travelling to Anvil from the Imperial City, a lengthy trek on foot, had nothing to do with the Mages Guild. In fact, he had made his way directly to Anvil, purposefully delaying his return to the Arcane University after an encounter with necromancers when he had been saved by the vampiric count of Skingrad, Janus Hassildor, who knew all along that Drogan had been sent by the Mages Guild to determine the count’s alleged involvement with necromancers when he had heard from the townsfolk of a rumour that the priests and priestesses of Dibella in Anvil had been murdered. Some claimed that it was daedra who murdered Anvil’s clergy. If the mass-murder of Anvil’s entire priesthood was connected with Mehrunes Dagon and the appearance of the oblivion gates, then he feared for the people of Anvil and felt obligated to look into the matter. Having once fought and defeated the daedric prince Hircine in single combat on Solstheim more than six years ago, he felt that no one else would be better able to resolve whatever situation would arise from the slaughter of Dibella’s priests and priestesses.
When he first stepped past the city gates, Drogan asked one of the guards what had happened at the chapel. The smooth-faced boyish guard, who looked not a day older than sixteen, had told him that it all happened in the middle of the night. The perpetrators responsible had managed to walk in and out of the chapel and murdered all the priests and priestesses without the city guard even noticing until the following morning. It hadn’t been long after the guards had discovered the clergy found murdered within the chapel, the corpses all strewn on the altars like sacrificial offerings that the townsfolk had heard what happened. Gossip spread quickly amongst the citizenry, and travelling merchants and an assortment of other travellers had soon spread word of the massacre in Anvil’s chapel throughout the eastern half of the province to places like Skingrad and the Imperial City. The chapel had since been closed, the place shunned, all chapel services and charitable works for the local community suspended until the chapel was cleaned up, the priests and priestesses, whose bodies had remained undisturbed, given proper burials and new replacement clergy found to take over.
Drogan had also heard another interesting rumour that concerned the mysterious massacre at the chapel. He had heard of a madman who had arrived in town the day after the murders at the chapel who had been ranting in the arcade just across from the chapel. Some said that he was some prophet to warn of an impending threat. Others presumed he was some fool raving religious nonsense that made no sense, uttering things like “Eight and One!” and such. Others were insistent that he was a genuine prophet who was trying to warn the people of Anvil of an ancient evil returning to pursue vengeance on the gods for his downfall millennia ago and that a hero was needed to take up a quest to find holy relics or something.
Drogan found the half-mad raving prophet underneath the roofed arcade, the white-haired human man making proclamations of impending doom and fears of Tamriel’s doom to the handful of townsfolk who merely passed through, most having grown tired of hearing his ramblings. Since this prophet had committed no crime, the guards had no reason to bother with arresting him. Regardless, if this man had any information that related to Mehrunes Dagon or the Amulet of Kings, which was stolen by the same assassin responsible for Emperor Uriel VII’s death when he had returned to the Weynon Priory with the priest of Akatosh, who just so happened to be the only living, albeit bastardised child of Uriel VII, then Drogan had great urgency to question him.
’So, another one has come to listen to the madman’s ramblings?’ the ranting prophet asked when Drogan approached, the breton stopping a couple metres from the prophet.
‘I was in Skingrad only three days ago when I had first heard the rumours of the clergy of Anvil’s church had been murdered. I must admit that I am as curious as to what happened as I am troubled by it, so I spent the following three days travelling here,’ Drogan told the prophet, pulling down the chainmail coif he wore on his head, his brown shoulder-length hair draping his shoulders in a mess after he shook his head when he removed the coif.
‘This is only the beginning. Umaril had returned, as foretold by Pelinal Whitestrake in his dying breath!’ the prophet proclaimed.
‘Umaril?’ That was a name Drogan was unfamiliar with. It didn’t seem related to Mehrunes Dagon at all, or the Oblivion portals for that matter. Drogan knew a bit about the daedric prince of destruction. Mehrunes Dagon would count scamps, dremora and clannfears as among his servants of Oblivion. The daedric prince of destruction was also associated with natural disasters and he was also associated with a mythical dagger that could slay even the greatest of creatures with a single stab. In all the texts he had read that related to Mehrunes Dagon, there was never a single mentioning of someone called Umaril. ‘Who’s that?’ Drogan asked, now doubting Mehrunes Dagon’s involvement with the chapel massacre.
‘Umaril the Unfeathered, the sorcerer-king of the Ayleids who ruled over this land for long ages before the rise of Men,’ the prophet answered. ‘He was cast down by Pelinal Whitestrake. But Umaril’s spirit survived, and now he has returned to seek vengeance upon the gods,’ the prophet explained.
‘Who is Pelinal Whitestrake?’ Drogan asked, unfamiliar with the name, just as he was unfamiliar with this Ayleid sorcerer-king who apparently had lived during the days of Saint Alessia, the founder of the First Empire of Men.
The prophet sighed. ‘Does no one remember the old tales? Saint Pelinal, the Divine Crusader of legend--Alessia’s companion when she overthrew the rule of the Ayleids 3000 years ago. Pelinal, with the aid of the gods, fought the Ayleid sorcerer-king and slew him. But Umaril’s spirit survived, and he has now returned!’
‘Just tell me who attacked the chapel,’ Drogan deadpanned.
‘Do you understand nothing? The blood speaks. I can read the ancient runes, if you cannot. “As oiobala Umarile, Ehlnada racuvar”, in the Ayleid tongue. “By the eternal power of Umaril, the mortal gods shall be cast down.” A curse upon Umaril’s ancient foes--and a threat.’
If Drogan wasn’t confused before, he certainly was now. He knew not what the prophet meant when he mentioned runes. And who was Umaril the Unfeathered the prophet was speaking of? Probably some Ayleid king that history had forgotten. But Drogan could hear the fear, but also the urgency in this prophet’s pleas. Drogan had to ask himself if this long-forgotten Ayleid king was a threat to Tamriel. If Umaril was, then Tamriel was in even more peril than he thought. Between Mehrunes Dagon and his Oblivion portals and this clergyman-slaughtering Ayleid king, the Nerevarine certainly had plenty to worry about.
‘So how do we stop Umaril?’ Drogan asked the prophet.
The prophet was in dismay as he responded. ‘Alas. Umaril cannot be stopped. Not without the aid of the gods. Not without the Crusader’s relics. Without a champion, the gods are powerless to act. But who among us is worthy to wield the Divine Crusader’s weaponry?’
‘What are the Crusader’s relics?’ asked Drogan.
‘The weapons and armour of Pelinal Whitestrake, Alessia’s comrade, granted to him by the Eight Divines,’ the prophet said. ‘He went alone into the White Gold Tower, challenged the Ayleid sorcerer-king Umaril to single combat, and slew him. Alas, Umaril was not truly slain, but only cast beyond the bounds of Nirn. And now he has returned to wreak his vengeance upon the gods, as was prophesised by Pelinal himself with his dying breath. Only a true knight wielding the holy relics of the Divine Crusader has a chance to defeat Umaril. But, alas for Tamriel, the Crusader’s relics have been lost for many an age. Who now can succeed in the quest for the relics, where the greatest knights of legend all failed?’
‘Who is this Umaril the Unfeathered, exactly?’ Drogan asked the prophet in an insistent tone.
‘He is the enemy of all who walk free on Tamriel today. A survivor of the ancient race of Ayleid slavemasters who once ruled Cyrodiil. He was struck down by Pelinal, but by his art Umaril had bound himself to the realm of his mistress, the Daedra Lord Meridia. So he was not slain, but simply cast adrift upon the waters of Oblivion. Now he has returned to seek vengeance upon the gods who helped bring about his downfall so many ages ago,’ the prophet said.
‘So he was a servant of one of the daedra lords?’
‘That is correct,’ the prophet said, ‘as were many of the Ayleids who ruled this land before the rise of man.’
‘You said something about the Eight and One or something like that,’ Drogan said. ‘Would you be speaking of the gods?’
‘Once there were Eight Divines. Then Tiber Septim became Talos and the Eight became Nine. I follow the old way, of honouring the Eight while also giving due to Talos, the One who ascended,’ the prophet said. In the long years before the Septim dynasty, there had only been eight Divines. Once there had only been eight gods and they were known as Akatosh, Arkay, Dibella, Julianos, Kynareth, Mara, Stendarr and Zenithar. Then, at the end of the Second Era, which heralded the beginning of the Empire’s rule under the Septim Dynasty the mortal man Tiber Septim had ascended to godhood and became the ninth Divine, known by his worshippers as Talos.
Speaking with the mysterious prophet left Drogan with much to think about. He had delayed his return to the Arcane University in the Imperial University by diverting to Anvil to learn of what happened at the chapel in Anvil. The prophet had said that the priests and priestesses of Dibella had been murdered by an old enemy of the gods, the Ayleid god-king Umaril, who was believed to have returned after his apparent banishment to Oblivion when the Divine Crusader of old Pelinal Whitestrake failed to slay him. Drogan reckoned that Umaril’s devotion to Meridia had saved him from destruction by the gods and their noble champion. If Umaril had indeed returned as this prophet was claiming, then only a chosen champion of the gods in possession of the relics of the Divine Crusader could stop him. The only problem was the weapons and armour of Pelinal Whitestrake had gone missing, and that many brave knights had spent their lifetimes looking for Pelinal’s fabled armour and weapons, only to fail.
But Umaril was not Tamriel’s only threat. There was still Mehrunes Dagon to consider. Drogan knew not what the daedric prince of destruction was up to but with the Amulet of Kings in his hands, the only thing that kept him and his fellow Blades going was their duty in protecting the “late” emperor’s illegitimate son, the only man on Nirn who could relight the Dragonfires in the Temple of the One in the Imperial City and end the Oblivion threat. However, for the Blades to do that, they needed to track down the cultists who had stolen the Amulet of Kings. Drogan needed to track down the young redguard Blade Baurus, just as Grandmaster Jauffre instructed of him and inquire if the redguard had discovered any leads on the whereabouts of the mysterious cultists.
However, even with the current crisis that was spreading across Cyrodiil with Oblivion gates opening all across the countryside, he could not in good conscience ignore the threat that Ayleid sorcerer-king Umaril the Unfeathered posed. ‘I will quest for the relics,’ Drogan told the prophet.
‘You will quest for the holy panoply of Pelinal Whitestrake? The legendary relics that have been sought by mighty warriors throughout the ages?’ The prophet seemed almost sceptical of Drogan when the breton man had told him he would seek out the relics of the Divine Crusader.
‘Are you a worthy knight?’ the prophet inquired with an uncertainty in Drogan’s sincerity.
Drogan couldn’t understand why the prophet would doubt him. Certainly he was worthy. He had many reasons to be worthy. He had slain Dagoth Ur within his citadel inside the volcano known as Red Mountain on the island of Vvardenfell when he was only seventeen. In the following five months after Dagoth Ur’s death, he had also slain the Tribunal goddess Almalexia and defeated the daedric prince Hircine in single combat. He was also the grand champion of the Imperial City arena gladiator pits. One of his most recent accomplishments was saving the few surviving refugees of Kvatch from the daedra and shutting the Oblivion portal before the fallen city gates, fighting alongside the remnants of Kvatch’s city guard and a unit of Imperial Legion soldiers to clear the ruins of Kvatch of the remaining daedra, only a token force of scamps and clannfears and a couple atronachs. ‘Yes, I am the Hero of Kvatch,’ Drogan told the prophet proudly.
‘Well then, hail “The Hero of Kvatch!” Let me add one more voice to the never-ending chorus of praise. I’m sure one of your devotees will be able to help you on your way to find the Crusader’s relics,’ the prophet said with sarcasm at Drogan’s boastful proclamation of saving Kvatch.
‘What do you mean?’ Drogan asked the prophet, hurt and shook from the prophet’s sarcastic response.
‘It is as I said. I am confident that you can find the Divine Crusader’s relics. A great hero who saved Kvatch, indeed. It should be no difficulty for you to find the relics,’ the prophet said.
‘But…can’t you help me?’ Drogan asked impatiently.
‘What assistance can an old man who babbles nonsense outside the chapel provide to a glorious hero?’ the prophet said in a glib manner that was utterly unhelpful to Drogan.
‘Why even bother warning about the return of Umaril if you won’t help those who seek a way to stop him,’ Drogan said in outrage at the stubborn prophet.
‘It is in the gods’ hands, oh-brave “Hero of Kvatch”,’ the prophet said cryptically. ‘Only they can decide if one is worthy of the quest.’
‘I certainly think I’m worthy enough, old man,’ Drogan said. ‘I killed Dagoth Ur and fulfilled the Nerevarine prophecy. I killed the Tribunal goddess Almalexia. By the Nine, I have even duelled Hircine to single combat.’
‘My, such accomplishments,’ the prophet responded simply when Drogan spoke of his accomplishments, not caring if they were true or not. The wry smile on his face when he spoke irritated Drogan. The breton man was frustrated that the prophet appeared to not care at all of his accomplishments. Certainly many such knights who had quested for the holy relics of the Divine Crusader could not compare to him. The things that Drogan had accomplished on Vvardenfell alone had placed him in history as a legend, and his legend continued to grow. He had saved want little of Kvatch that had survived and rallied the beleaguered city guard to retake the rubble of their town. He was destined to save Cyrodiil…nay, all of Tamriel, a second time no less. He wondered what this old man knew. In his opinion, probably nothing about what it meant to be a hero.
When he was little Drogan remembered his aunt used to read him bedtime stories, like those of brave heroes fighting monsters. He even remembered his aunt telling him a bit about his father, that he had been a brave knight who had died in the service of Emperor Uriel VII. That had made him proud, though it didn’t explain why his mother had disinherited him and sent him away to live with her estranged sister after his father died. His aunt had also read to him stories of heroes who had humble origins, rising from poverty to become paragons of society.
And that was when he realised why the prophet refused to take him seriously. For all of his accomplishments, all his boasting had not impressed the prophet one bit. Drogan had got a niggling feeling that if the prophet had been unimpressed with his previous accomplishments, then the gods might as well be apathetic about them altogether. So much for him being a humble hero. It grated on his ego that the gods would not care at all about his past accomplishments. Considering all he had done in Morrowind and Solstheim, and even in Kvatch, it should not come as a surprise to him that he had become arrogant. Even if he didn’t speak much of his past deeds in Morrowind to people, he never could stop being proud of himself for thinking himself as an equal to a god. And that was when he finally admitted to himself that he had been deceiving himself. After all, how could a man be an equal to a god? Dagoth Ur and the Tribunal had thought themselves as gods and, with the exception of Vivec who still remained alive in the great city on Vvardenfell that was named after him, they were all now dead. Dagoth Ur. Almalexia. Sotha Sil. Those three were dead, they who had used the power of the Heart of Lorkhan to make themselves gods, and Drogan was nothing more than a tool for a truer god, the daedra lord Azura to cast down the pretenders who could never truly compare to Tiber Septim, the one who ascended to godhood by the grace of the Divines. It was that revelation that made Drogan admit that he was indeed unworthy of the quest.
With a deep sigh, Drogan admitted to the prophet that he was unworthy of this quest. ‘I have no claim to fame,’ the breton said. ‘What are my accomplishments if I am unworthy in the eyes of the gods. I apologise for wasting your time.’
The prophet listened with patience at Drogan’s humble admittance of his unworthiness. The prophet placed a gentle hand on the younger man’s shoulder. ‘A humble heart is a good starting point,’ he told Drogan. ‘The gods will decide if you are worthy to seek the relics.’
Drogan had thought it was good that the prophet had told him that the gods would decide if he was worthy of seeking out the relics of the Divine Crusader. If Akatosh, Arkay, Dibella, Julianos, Kynareth, Mara, Stendarr, Talos and Zenithar all deemed him worthy, then he would seek out the relics of the Divine Crusader and slay Umaril. Perhaps these relics could even aid him against Mehrunes Dagon, should the gods deem it.
‘How can I find the relics?’ Drogan asked.
‘The gods grant insight to those they deem worthy. Why and how they act is not predictable. What I can tell you, is that traditionally, knights who wished to quest for the relics would walk the Pilgrim’s Way.’ The prophet handed Drogan a large folded parchment. When Drogan unfurled it, he saw that he had been given a map of the province of Cyrodiil. On the map were the locations of Wayshrines of the Nine Divines marked on the parchment. ‘Travel to the Wayshrines of the Nine Divines. Pray to each of the gods in turn, and ask their favour upon your quest. If the gods deem you worthy, you will be granted a sign. Go forth with the Nine’s blessing.’
Drogan thanked the prophet for his assistance, and also for reminding him of the virtue of humility, for in recent days he had been a little less than humble. The breton would leave Anvil forthwith, a great task before him in addition to the Blades’ mission of recovering the Amulet of Kings, of which he had a significant part to play. He needed to track down Baurus in the Imperial City at once. He hoped that he wouldn’t be burdened with any more menial tasks for the Mages Guild. He could not afford the distraction of minor guild tasks, not when greater evil threatens Cyrodiil.
Before he would leave Anvil, he would inspect the carnage within the chapel that Umaril had wrought on the priests and priestesses of Dibella.