19 - Dagon's Shrine

Finding the pieces of Mehrunes' Razor was a tedious trip across most of the province, but the Orc bandits who held the blade shards, and the Hagraven with her forsworn minions who held the pommel stone, were at least satisfying enemies to deal with. I already had enough issues with both factions to take pleasure in recovering those parts. The hilt, however, was held by Jorgen, the mill-owner in Morthal, and I had no quarrel with him. I hoped he could be persuaded to hand over the last item without any conflict.

Since Silus had paid me for the first two, I was able to simply buy it from him, and for less than Silus was paying me.

I took the final piece back to the museum. I wanted to ask Silus why he wanted the Razor's parts in his collection, as they had nothing to do with the Daedric invasion of Tamriel in which the Mythic Dawn had taken part. Yes, the two had Mehrunes Dagon in common, but this was supposed to be the museum of the Mythic Dawn, not of Dagon.

He told me that he intended to take the pieces to Dagon's shrine and ask the Deadric Prince to restore the artifact. He already had the scabbard, and with all four parts, he was sure that Dagon would listen to his plea.

I didn't think that was a good idea. And I did know Mehrunes Dagon better than any mortal could. He wasn't to be dissuaded, though, and set off at a run for the hills. We followed behind him, hoping to avert what I suspected would be a nasty situation.

We found him at the shrine, with the pieces laid on the altar, trying to talk to the Daedric Prince, who wasn't listening. He implored me to try. "Just put your hands on the altar. I'm sure he'll listen to you."

I did so, and wasn't surprised to hear Dagon's voice. "You are worthy to listen to. You reclaimed the pieces of my Razor, unlike this mortal."

"He helped me, and he did find the scabbard himself," I replied.

"Nevertheless," Dagon replied. "I do not declare a winner while there is a pawn on the board. Kill Silus, and I will restore the Razor for you."

"I don't think I want it restored," I told him, "and I'm surprised that you're considering it. Surely the whole point of destroying it was that something better could take its place."

That seemed to annoy the Daedric Prince. Although I sensed that I was right about the Razor, it was my implicit refusal to kill Silus that irked him.

"I have spoken. Kill Silus, or I will crush you!"

I let the frightened Imperial grab the pieces and make a run for it, back to Dawnstar. I had a feeling there was more to this than just the matter of Silus.

Two summoned Dremora appeared from nowhere, with weapons already drawn. However, they were far enough from me and my companion that we were able to prepare ourselves for battle. And neither was higher than Caitiff, if my estimate of their skill was accurate. A Valkynaz, or rather ex-Valkynaz, like myself, should be able to handle them alone. I wasn't alone, and they were resistant to her spells, so I did have to defend for two, but not for long.

I was surprised to see their bodies remain on the snow when they fell. Surely they should have immediately returned to the Deadlands, as any summoned deadra would. I couldn't take their armour, but their hearts were available. Had I just passed one of Dagon's tests?

Each of them also had a key to the shrine, so it was likely that they had just been moved outside, rather than coming from Dagon's realm. Perhaps these were like me, stuck in Tamriel after the doors to Oblivion were closed by Martin Septim's sacrifice.

I used one of the keys, and we found two more of their number inside, one of them a mage. This time, however, we had the advantage of surprise, and they were soon lying dead on the icy floor. Two more Deadra hearts, enough to make my armour, and a weapon.

I collected several ingots of gold, and ebony, as well as various enchanted pieces of armour and jewelry. I turned to show one of those to my companion, but she wasn't there behind me, as she usually was. Had Dagon recalled her while I was busy fighting his minions?

I looked outside the shrine, but she wasn't there either. Then I walked all the way back to Dawnstar, in case she'd decided that Silus needed escorting back. She was an intelligent woman, and would have seen the possibility of Dagon sending another Caitiff after him. She wasn't there, and Silus was safely back in his museum.

I took the ebony and Daedra hearts back to the Tower, and put them in a chest by the anvil. Tomorrow, I'd see if my smithing was up to making Daedric equipment, but first I needed to rest. She still hadn't re-appeared, and I was worried, so I wasn't sure if I could actually sleep.

I also wasn't sure if I should re-cast the summoning spell. If she was still in Tamriel, what would happen? I knew that being "banished" was quite unpleasant, and I didn't want to put her through that unnecessarily.

On the other hand, I didn't want to go to bed without her. Even if nothing ever happened, she belonged there beside me, and it wouldn't feel right. I cast the spell.

I'd conjectured that when I finally made my Daedric armour, she'd be naked. I'd only gathered the materials to do that, and there she was. She didn't seem to be in any way surprised by her new outfit, or lack of one, and was smiling at me in a way she'd never done before.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" she asked.

After all that time, it was my turn to say nothing. I think she understood.

We woke about half-way through the following day, having thoroughly exhausted each other the night before. "Are we going to catch up on all the gossip, or are you in the mood for more?" she asked me, with a huge grin on her face.

"Both," I assured her, "but we have all the time we need. Let's start with you telling me what happened back at Dagon's shrine. Where did you go?"

"Dagon brought me back to the Deadlands, and asked me whether I thought you'd passed his test. Since I wasn't really sure what he was testing you for, it took a while to figure it all out. He was pleased that you'd found the courage to defy him, and your reasoning about the Razor was in line with his own. That was a failed experiment, and he should forge some new weapon to take its place."

"I presume it's over now, since you can talk to me?" I asked.

"Yes, that's true. I wasn't allowed to give you any clues about it, not that I really ever knew what I wasn't supposed to be telling you."

"Perhaps you weren't supposed to know either. It could have been both of us on trial."

"I hadn't thought of it that way. I was just told not to talk to you, so I didn't. And when Dagon called me back, he told me that was over, and I could."

"OK, so now explain why you appeared totally naked when I summoned you. I'd noticed that your outfits seemed to be getting smaller as my smithing skill increased, and I'd wondered where that would end. Was there any connection?"

"No, silly! I was just getting more comfortable being with you, and if I couldn't talk, it was one way I could provide some encouragement. But the naked part was just because you summoned me here in the bedroom. That's how I knew why you wanted me. That you wanted me, not just someone to help even the odds in a fight."

"I wanted you before. I've wanted you for a long time. What changed?"

"When I wasn't allowed to talk to you, I didn't trust myself not to say anything when ... you know, my mind was on other things. And I'd be telling you what I liked, or didn't, even if I wasn't saying anything. I wasn't sure if that counted as communicating."

"Oh it definitely does. And you seemed to know what I liked, without me telling you, so it works both ways."

"I got some of that from talking to Prizna," she told me. "Dagon sent me to find out all she could tell me about you, before you got that letter. He's quite pleased with her, you know. She broke all the rules by rebelling against you, and Dagon thinks they needed breaking, because the Dremora women are much more confident now."

"Yes, he does like to see things get broken." I rubbed the back of my head, remembering where she'd hit me with that mace. "But it seems that it's always someone else's job to put things back together."

"I didn't remake you. You did that yourself. I was just the monitor, to report on your progress."

"So what went into your report?" I asked.

"Things like your decision at the Eldergleam. You thought that one out, and made the decision you thought was right, not just doing what Danica had asked, but what she really needed. And all the other choices. You don't just react these days, you think."