51 - The Third Word

We discussed why Zahra had been unable to open the book. My theory was that it was because she wasn't of this realm, in which case Ranyu would have the same issue. Apparently I was now considered a valid resident of Mundus, perhaps because Mehrunes Dagon had bound me here. Certainly whenever I needed to be restored, this was where it happened.

"Can you use a book twice?" Brelyna asked.

In response, I took the book and opened it. It put me back at the start, so I just re-read it to come back out again. For Brelyna, it took her back to the end-point. And as expected, Ranyu couldn't open it at all.

All that started us wondering what would happen if we tried to read one of Neloth's copies of the books. Presumably nothing, as they wouldn't have the portal spell. And it was time to take him this one, too.

Neloth didn't have any additional information about the Black Books, nor any useful opinion as to whether it would help me to look for more. The word walls were a more promising path to defeating Miraak, but we had no way to determine where they were. So far I'd only encountered one above ground, at Saering's Watch, and we'd covered a large portion of the island already. Looking for more would not be easy.

I had two of the three words of Dragon Aspect, which gave me boosts to both offense and defence. I suspected the former would benefit me more than it did Miraak, but I had no clue what the third word would give him. Did I need it before the final confrontation?

I decided to consult Storn again. His wisdom was well-grounded, and not as self-centered as Neloth's.

Storn reminded me that I'd only get the third word of Bend Will from Mora himself, and he suspected that the same would be true of Dragon Aspect. I'd most likely have to go to Apocrypha for that, and maybe I'd need all of Bend Will to get to it.

And despite all he'd been trying while we were gone, there was nothing to be done about the Tree Stone. It remained under Miraak's influence, and that would only end with his defeat.

All this had brought him to the conclusion that the only way forward was to do what Hermaeus Mora wanted. He'd have to go to Apocrypha and tell him that the Skaal's secrets weren't the kind he thought they were. "So it falls to me to be the one to give up the secrets to our ancient enemy. I do not know if I have the strength to face him. The Tree Stone is still corrupted... the land is still out of balance. But with the other five restored... it may be enough. It will have to do. I'm sure Herma-Mora won't be pleased, but perhaps he'll see reason, and let you deal with Miraak."

Freya wasn't as hopeful. She regarded Mora as completely evil. "He doesn't even know what evil means," I told her. "Knowledge is all that matters to him, and the consequences of acquiring it are of no importance at all."

Storn addded "Yes. The Skaal also tell of the day when we must finally give up our secrets. When Herma-Mora finally wins. As shaman, it is my duty to guard these secrets, but also to decide when it is necessary to give them up. I believe that time is now. If I am wrong, may my ancestors forgive me. Give me the book. I will read it, and speak to old Herma-Mora myself. I will make sure he lives up to his part of the bargain."

"I hope you know what you're doing," I told him.

"That is my hope as well. I am trusting you will make this sacrifice worthwhile."

Frea still wasn't convinced. "Father, you must not do this. That book is... wrong. Evil. Against everything that you have taught me my whole life."

"I must, Frea. It is the only way to free Solstheim forever from Miraak's shadow. There comes a time when everything must change. Nothing that lives remains the same forever. Do not fear for me, my daughter. This is the destiny that the All-Maker has laid out for me."

"I stand beside you, father, as always."

"I am ready for whatever the foul master of this book has in store for me."

Storn opened the book I had given to him. I had only watched someone else doing this once, when Brelyna had read the book at White Ridge Barrow, but Zahra had told me that the others had seen the same thing when I'd read the books. Tentacles had pulled me through the portal into Apocrypha, leaving only a transparent image behind.

This was different. The tentacles looked the same, but they didn't behave the same way. There were more of them, too. Most wrapped themselves around Storn, pinning him in place, but the last one reared back like a snake, and struck at Storn's head, piercing it.

Hermaeus Mora appeared and spoke to me. "Dragonborn, you have delivered me the gift I requested. In return, I keep my promise, as befits a Prince of Oblivion: I give you the Word of Power that you need to challenge Miraak. You will be either a worthy opponent or his successor, as the tides of fate decree."

As he disappeared, the tentacles enveloping Storn did so too, and he fell to the ground.

Frea screamed and ran forward. ""Father! What have you done!" and then, turning to me, "Go. My father sacrificed himself so that you could destroy Miraak and lift his master's shadow from the land. Go, then. Kill Miraak. Do not fail."

"This cannot be happening," I thought, but I picked up the book and read it myself.