Nocturnal - Part VII - Ulliceta

Clark took the chameleon rings back to Kvatch, as promised. He found the Count in his study, in discussion with an elderly Orc woman, dressed in a mage's robe and hood.

"Come in, and meet Ulliceta gra-Kogg," the Count called out. "She's just arrived from Orsinium, and has a message from Marghak for you."

The message, as it turned out, was really for all of them. Chrysamere had been found, and lost again. The powerful Daedric artifact hadn't been seen since the Emperor's agent had wielded it in the events leading to the Warp in the West. "We're not sure who has it now," Ulliceta told them, "but we suspect the same Altmer that have been trying to collect everything magical across Tamriel."

Clark remembered where he'd seen the Orc's name before. She was one of the magisters quoted in Traven's book "The Black Arts on Trial". He had a copy on his shelf in Imbel Manor.

"Yes, and I believe that volume says I'm a Necromancer," she told him. "Nothing could be further from the truth, but it didn't take much to convince Traven. When I discovered that both the former Arch-mage and my accuser were dead, I got word to the new Arch-mage that I'd like to meet him. And here I am, hoping I can convince him of the true facts."

"My speciality has always been restoration, and I'm well aware of the similarity between rebuilding the living and rebuilding the dead. Indeed, my project at the time of the accusation was right on the borderline between the two."

"We've known for some time that limbs severed in battle can be re-attached, if the healer is sufficiently skilled. And we've also been aware that if you try and attach the wrong limb to the wrong soldier, it usually won't work. It was those exceptions that I was attempting to study. If we knew what determined the success or failure of such operations, we could use the dead to restore the living."

"Naturally, I worked exclusively with corpses. You can't just hack pieces off of living people to see if you can replace them with parts from a dead body. That made it easy for Mucianus to 'prove' his case against me."

"Mucianus Alias?" the Count (and Arch-mage) asked. "I met him as a worm thrall. Not a pleasant experience for either of us. He'd apparently infiltrated the necromancers as a spy, but they'd caught him."

"I doubt that," Ulliceta responded. "I know he told Traven that he had, but I suspect it was Mannimarco's idea to start with. I was a member of the Council of Mages at the time, and Mucianus wanted to join. Since we had a full quota of members, that meant getting rid of someone, and it would weaken the council to replace any of us with Mucianus."

"Anyone but Traven, that is. He was arch-mage only because he didn't hold strong views that set anyone against him. The compromise candidate, if you will. He was neutral on the subject of necromancy at that time, until Mannimarco decided to tip his hand. He saw the opportunity to divide the Guild and took it."

"From that point on, Traven was effectively a puppet of Mannimarco. Half the mages left the Guild, and Traven just reacted to whatever Mannimarco did, after consulting with the council for long enough to lose any initiative they might have had."

"Mannimarco could easily have won, if it weren't for you. But I must give Traven his due. Once he realised that he was the problem, he got out of the way. A bit too dramatically, if you ask me, but perhaps he thought he was redeeming his reputation that way."

"So where have you been hiding?" Clark asked.

"Orsinium looks after its own. Gortwog was aware of the turmoil in the Guild at the time, and understood my research wasn't necromancy. He and Marghak found me a suitable hiding place where I could carry on working up in the Wrothgarians. Ironically, the bitterly cold weather is an asset when it comes to preserving corpses, so it's turned out to be a better location for my work. And Marghak is past her child-bearing years, so my presence as a restorer isn't needed so much. When her daughters start to need the same services, they can come to me!"

"The Mages Guild is just as divided as ever," the Arch-mage told her. "And I may have contributed to that by elevating Carahil and gro-Kurak to the Council to replace Irlav Jarol and Caranya."

"That's only a problem if you rely on them for decisions, the way Traven did. They're only supposed to advise the Arch-mage, not dictate his choices. And the combination of the academic with the executive branches was always an artificial one. A university scholar and a battlemage have almost nothing in common. It wouldn't hurt for them to report to separate leadership."

"I'm not looking for reinstatement to the Council. Just access to the Arcane University and its facilities. The Mystic Archives, the other magisters and their own research results. I can work alone, but I prefer not to. Among other reasons, I need the opinions of others as to how much my work could aid the necromancers, and what safeguards it needs. I want the academic debate, not the political one, so I would just as soon give the Council a miss."

"I'll need to talk to Raminus Polus and the others at the University," he told her. "Not that I need their approval, but I'd like to know how they'd react. I suspect those that already knew of your research will approve, but there may be some jealous of your successes. In my experience, those few are the less able magicians, and we might be better off without them anyway."

Clark and the Count left Magister gra-Kogg in the study, and went to take the chameleon rings back to the treasury. "I'm already convinced," he told Clark. "Marghak's relayed her opinions through Ocato and he's had his people check out Ulliceta's story. Can you get one of those communicators for her? That way she can stay at her own research laboratory, and still be in contact with the University."

"But why did she think you'd be interested in Chrysamere?" the Count continued. "Or should I be asking why Marghak would think that?"

"Last time I communicated with her, I'd mentioned looking for Daedric artifacts. I discovered that Nocturnal is collecting them for return to their creators, and that helps the cause of the Empire by removing them from the reach of others. Orsinium had already told us about those Altmer that were seeking the Helm of Tiber Septim, so I knew they were sympathetic to that idea."

The Count recalled going back to Sancre Tor for the helm. "That wasn't Daedric, though. And it's being kept at the Palace, if I remember correctly."

"True, but it seems to be the magical quality, not the Daedric origin, that's important to the Altmer. Nocturnal's interests are only in the artifacts."

"I can't help much with Nocturnal's search. I have Azura's Star, the Ring of Khajiiti, her own Skeleton Key, and that's all. I use all of those fairly regularly, although not so much as I used to. I got the Wabbajack from Sheogorath to give to Martin, figuring that one needed to get used up. The only other one I've heard about is the Sanguine Rose. It seems that he gave it to an adventurer for pulling a prank on Allessia Caro, the Countess of Leyawiin. They cast a spell at one of her dinner parties that made everyone's clothes disappear!"

Clark had heard about that from one of the Kahjiit brothers that ran the Black Horse Courier. He'd had a tip-off that something was going to happen, and had managed to corner the countess for an interview before she could go and get dressed again. In his opinion at least, the countess did have a couple of redeeming features.

Clark reported what he'd learned to Nocturnal. "And what's a Chrysamere?" he asked her.

"A legendary Sword of Heros," she told him. "Specifically, an Adamantium Claymore of unusual size and reach. It's too heavy for most mortals to even lift, although if they can, it will seem light as a feather when they wield it. It has other enchantments, too. It's such a conspicuous item, I can't understand why it won't show in my crystal ball. I'll just have to keep looking."

Clark assumed that he wouldn't get involved if it turned up. That sounded more like the Champion's work, than his.