Drogan never though he would find his way out of that forgotten cavern, the one that he had found after the Emperor and his two surviving bodyguards went on ahead with instructions for him to return to his cell, of which he would obviously defy, the third bodyguard, a breton female, lying dead in the tunnels after being slain by mysterious red-robed assassins who wore conjured armour the colour of blackest sable.
Stepping through the threshold out of the pitch black tunnel that had been crawling with rats and goblins, Drogan crept along a high ridge within the network of secret subterranean passage that the Emperor was using to flee from his would-be killers, the burning torch in his hand illuminating his way in the dark subterranean passages. Things had been for the most part quiet and uneventful since Emperor Uriel Septim VII and his bodyguards stepped into his cell and opened a secret passage that led down into the lower subterranean passages underneath the Imperial City that connected to the sewers. The only exceptions were the ambush by three assassins, one of them stabbing the breton bodyguard Captain Renault through the neck with a conjured dagger, of which the breton convict took her katana, relieving her corpse of her weapon to brave the cavern after the party of the Emperor and his two remaining bodyguards had locked the door behind them that led further into the subterranean passage, leaving Drogan no choice but to traverse a cavern that had opened up without warning to catch up with them. Within the passage Drogan had to fight his way through goblins, oversized rats and the odd zombified human corpse that the goblin witch had risen from the dead.
The breton convict crept along on the higher ridge, following the Emperor's party as they approached the stairs that led down further into the subterranean passages. He kept hidden, not wanting them to know he was following them. Without warning, a group of assassins, the same ones that killed Captain Renault earlier and were trying to kill the Emperor emerged from the shadows, leaping from behind pillars with murderous blades aimed for the Emperor. The two bodyguards, clad in the steel plate laminar of the Emperor's elite bodyguards and armed with katanas, one of whom wielding his katana in combination with a steel-forged apsis, fought determinedly to protect their charge, positioning themselves in between their liege and the assailants who threatened to harm him. The two bodyguards, judging from the armour they wore, were both members of the Blades, a group of elite soldiers and operatives whose sworn purpose was the sole protection and service of the Emperor and his heirs. He knew that because at one point in his young life he himself was a Blade, back when he was on the island of Vvardenfell, which was situated to the north of Morrowind's mainland. It was there on Vvardenfell where, at the tender age of sixteen, he was drafted into service of the Empire after spending a brief amount of time in prison on trumped up charges by a corrupt captain of the Imperial Watch shortly after arriving in the Imperial City where he had hoped to enrol in the Arcane University. Despite his initial reluctance in being sent to Morrowind, when he had heard that there were mage guild halls on Vvardenfell he became more inclined to assist the Empire in their top-secret mission on the island.
As Drogan watched the two Blades dispatch their assailants, he spied two more up on the ridge ahead of him. They stood behind a pillar, out of sight of the Emperor and his bodyguards, waiting for the moment to strike. They were also facing away from Drogan. Realising the peril the Emperor was in and the fact that their sole focus was on the man they intended to kill, Drogan crept as silently as he could, katana in hand, ready to kill the two assassin. Before he got close enough to get the jump at them the two assassins turned to face him, having heard his footfalls as he crept up behind them. Realising the threat that Drogan posed, the two robed assassins, clad in their conjured armour and wielding conjured maces leapt at the young, bearded convict.
Drogan barely had time to react to their charge, swinging the katana in his right hand outwardly as he took a huge leap backwards, deflecting a heavy diagonal swing from one of the assailants that would had bludgeoned him dead in one blow had he not parried. Both assailant and the young breton convict were staggered, the convict's right arm pulled back and upwards, exposing his torso to the other assassin who shoved the first assassin aside, the murderous assassin's mace swung in a vertical backhand swing. Drogan stepped back to avoid the blow and retaliated by jabbing the assassin's shoulder with the torch, the flaming brand burning the assassin where the burning embers of the torch touched the mysterious killer in conjured sable armour in the gap between the cuirass and the pauldron. The assassin shrieked, the grip of the conjured mace in the assassin's hand slackening, vanished with a whoosh when the assassin dropped the conjured weapon, backing away from the breton.
The first assassin was back into the fray, dashing past the hurt and unarmed assassin. Having recovered from the reeling parry that staggered him momentarily, Drogan ducked under the mace swing and slashed the assassin above the left knee. The katana didn't sever the leg, but it cut deep enough for the assassin to drop to one knee, whose neck was then sliced open when Drogan slashed again with the katana. The mace in the assassin's hand disappeared as the assailant let go of it, arterial blood spilling out of the sliced open neck of the assassin and spilling over the conjured cuirass the assassin wore. The assassin dropped to the floor and quickly bled out.
Growling from the minor burn the other assassin received from the burning torch in the convict's hand, the second assassin came at the breton convict, this time brandishing an actual weapon that wasn't conjured, a sharp, rusty dagger. The assassin lunged, the rusty dagger held in an underhanded grip with both hands poised to bite deeply into the breton like a wolf sinking its teeth into the flanks of a frightened doe. The assassin's blade does not meet with the yielding flesh that its wielder had hoped. Instead, Drogan raised his torch to block the downward push of the sharp blade, using whatever physical strength he possessed in his lithe arm to hook the burning brand in his hand underneath the blade that pushed down intensely as it struggled to inch closer towards his torso. For a man of lithe build, Drogan possessed remarkable strength in his arms, strength that was a magical by-product of once being afflicted with the incurable corprus disease, a disease that not only physically mutated its victims to resemble aggressive but clumsy and dementia-addled lumbering hulks blighted with disfiguring skin growths, but also bestowed its victims with near-superhuman strength and vitality. Though he had miraculously received a cure for corprus which reversed the negative effects of early onset dementia and quickly removed all forms of disfiguring skin growths that were growing on his face at the time by the caretaker of the Corprusarium Divayth Fyr, he still retained a portion of the enhanced strength and vitality that he had acquired from the corprus disease. It was this superior corprus-gifted strength that was enabling Drogan to easily resist the application of force the assassin was using to force the dagger down towards Drogan's chest. With a small application of exertion Drogan pushed his left arm upwards, the one gripping the torch that was resisting the assailant's weapon upwards, the motion pulling the assassin's arms up and exposing the assassin's torso to the convict. Drogan head-butted the assassin, staggering his assailant before slashing open the assassin's neck with the katana. The assassin dropped to the ground face first, the conjured armour the assassin wore disappearing as the assassin's life ended, leaving the assassin clad in the same hooded red robes and sandals that all the other assassins were wearing.
Drogan wiped the blood off the katana on the assassin's robe, tucking the weapon under his rope belt as he lacked a scabbard for it. He also picked up the rusty dagger the assassin had used, and like the katana, tucked it under the rope belt he wore. The breton glanced at the other assassin. The assassin, much like the one that Drogan had just slain, was as equally dead, the conjured armour the assassin wore disappearing like the assassin had never worn any armour upon death.
With the two assassins on the ledge dead, Drogan went to observe the group down below he had been following. Five more assassins lay dead at the feet of the two bodyguards that defended their sire. Apparently not a single assassin got close enough to threaten the Emperor.
'I think that was all of them,' Drogan had heard one of them, a redguard by his accent, said to the Emperor. 'Let me take a look around.'
'Have you seen the prisoner?' the Emperor asked the redguard before the bodyguard, the one wielding both katana and shield could search the area for any more assassins.
'Do you think he followed us?' the redguard asked, uncertain of that. The other Blade looked pensive at the thought of the breton prisoner following them. 'How could he?' the redguard wondered.
'I know he did,' the Emperor said, sounding convinced that the breton perched above them was.
'Sire, we have to go now,' the other Blade insisted, facing in Drogan's general direction, where he could in the dimness of the subterranean passage, though it was most likely due to the torch in the breton's hand, visibly see the prisoner before he could hide behind a pillar on the ledge next to him.
The Blade that spotted Drogan perched on the ledge above them was in an uproar. 'Dammit! It's that prisoner again! Kill him! He might working with the assassins!'
The Emperor Uriel Septim VII intervened, stepping in front of the Blade. 'No. He is not one of them. He can help us. He must help us,' Uriel VII said soothingly to his bodyguard, who reluctantly sheathed his katana.
'As you wish, Sire,' the Blade said finally, though with extreme reluctance from what Drogan could observe.
The Emperor turned to face Drogan, who was still up on the ledge, darting behind an adjacent pillar to hide from the Emperor's gaze. Drogan didn't know what the Emperor wanted from him, all he heard was that he had to help them, as in help the Emperor escape. Drogan wasn't sure why the Emperor needed his help. He had two bodyguards, skilful ones at that, and judging by the five red-robed assassins down below who lay dead after failing to slay their target, Drogan didn't understand why the Emperor might had need of him.
'I need your help. Please come with us,' the Emperor pleaded.
He sounded sincere, Drogan thought.
'Don't be afraid. My guardians will not harm you.'
Drogan peered around the pillar he had been hiding behind. He looked at each of the two bodyguards. One of them, the one carrying the torch, probably wanted to kill him from the look he was giving him. As for the redguard, the one who rested his shield against the wall and removed a gauntlet, pulling back the sleeve of his chainmail hauberk he wore underneath his laminar armour seemed a little more preoccupied with the cut he had received from one of the assassins he had fought.
'One of your bodyguards is hurt,' Drogan said, indicating the redguard.
'I'm fine. Just a scratch,' the redguard said.
'I know healing spells. I can use magic to heal your wound,' Drogan said.
The other bodyguard looked like he wanted to object. The Emperor then suggested to the prisoner to come down so that he could treat the redguard Baurus' wound. At once Drogan leapt down from the ledge, landing hard on his feet but staggering down to his knees, underestimating the height of which he dropped. Once he was back on his feet he walked over to the redguard Uriel Septim VII called Baurus, first approaching the other Blade, Glenroy, handing the cyrodiil the torch first so that he could make use of both hands. Under the light of the torches in Glenroy's hands Drogan uttered a few soothing words, his hands held out and spread open, hovering over Baurus' wounded forearm. A faint blue aura engulfed the redguard's forearm as the wound not only stopped bleeding but the flesh began to knit itself together like an invisible seamstress darning a hole on a sock. The light aura faded when the wound was fully healed, leaving no mark or scar to suggest Baurus had been wounded.
'You have my thanks, prisoner,' said Baurus appreciatively, pulling the chain hauberk sleeve down.
'You did alright, prisoner,' Glenroy said stiffly, handing Drogan his torch.
Drogan approached Uriel VII while Baurus put his gauntlet back on. 'Baurus should be fine as long as we don't encounter anymore of these assassins.'
'We have a long way to go and more assassins to worry about, I'm afraid. But I'm confident that with a third sword protecting me we'll be fine. You did deal with those two assassins, after all.'
'How did you know about them?' Drogan asked quickly.
The Emperor smiled. It was a kindly smile, the sort of smile that kindly elderly folks gave to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Drogan felt more comfortable than he did before he offered to heal Baurus. There was something about Uriel VII that suggested he was trustworthy, maybe enough for Drogan to offer whatever aid he required, despite Glenroy's disapproval.
'They cannot understand why I trust you,' the Emperor told Drogan, referring to his two bodyguards. 'They've not seen what I've seen. How can I explain? Listen. You know the nine? How they guide our fates with an invisible hand?'
'The Nine guide and protect us,' Drogan said humbly, though that didn't explain how the Emperor knew of the other two assassin that he had killed. Maybe the Emperor had heard the death cries of those two assassins. Then his eyes fell on the amulet the Emperor wore over his neck.
The Amulet of Kings.
The Amulet of Kings was said to possess incredible power for the Septim who wore it. It was possible that the Emperor had divined his intervention, predicting the breton prisoner killing the two assassins that laid dead on the ledge above them.
'I served the Nine all my days, and I chart my course by the cycles of the heavens. The skies are marked with numberless sparks, each a fire, and every one a sign. I know these stars well, and I wonder, which signed marked your birth?' the Emperor wondered curiously.
'The Lady,' Drogan told the emperor of his birth sign.
'The signs I read show the end of my path. My death, a necessary end, will come when it will come,' the Emperor continued.
'What about me?' asked Drogan.
'Your stars are not mine. Today the Lady shall fortify you in your quest for glory.'
'Aren't you afraid to die?' Drogan asked the Emperor, denying the possibility of Emperor Uriel VII's inevitable demise despite his predictions.
'No trophies of my triumphs precede me. But I have lived well, and my ghost shall rest easy. Men are but flesh and blood. They know their doom, but not the hour. In this I am blessed to see the hour of my death. To see my apportioned fate, then fall,' Uriel VII told Drogan contently, truly unfazed by his death, which he predicted to be very soon.
Drogan wondered what would befall the Empire if Uriel Septim VII would die by these assassins. His three heirs, Geldall, Enman and Ebel had all been murdered by these same assassins. Drogan couldn't deny that the Empire would be in turmoil if it had no heir. Even when he was in Morrowind there was significant talk of the Emperor's succession, and not to mention the tax riots that Drogan had heard about while he was in Balmora that occurred in the Imperial City. But for the Emperor to meet his end, and not just his end but the end of his lineage by assassins bodes ill tidings for the Empire. It would seem that Drogan had been once again thrust into the service of the Empire, the first time being to fulfil his destiny as the Nerevarine and defeating the Sixth House, killing its leader Dagoth Ur, and now right here, deep underneath the Imperial Prison where the Emperor himself had requested his assistance. Drogan had a feeling that this was the start of something huge. In any case, he'll do whatever he could to keep the Emperor safe, and hopefully find freedom from his wrongful incarceration.
'Can you see my fate?' Drogan asked Uriel VII.
'My dreams grant me no opinions of success. Their compass ventures not beyond the doors of death. But in your face, I behold the sun's companion. The dawn of Akatosh's bright glory may banish the coming darkness. With such hope, and with the promise of your aid, my heart must be satisfied,' the Emperor answered.
'Where are we going?' Drogan couldn't help asking.
The Emperor smiled. 'I go to my grave. A tongue shriller than all the music calls me. You shall follow me yet for a while, then we must part.'
That told Drogan almost nothing. The Emperor seemed convinced of his eminent death. Drogan wondered what the two Blades thought. He asked Glenroy, who only said they had a duty to escort the Emperor out of the city and away from the assassin who wished to end his life.
The stairs at the end of the chamber led to a locked door that led further down the subterranean passage underneath the Imperial Prison. Baurus the redguard unlocked the door with a key and opened the door, beckoning the others to keep moving. The Emperor and Glenroy followed, with Drogan following behind them, down further into the passage, and to where the Emperor would soon be murdered.