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“Up here!” Agatha cried as Pilerius cut down every Dremora in his path, they squealed as the Argonian’s sword sliced through them and their demonic blood splattered up the walls. Pilerius, Arngrim and Rachael followed as they made a desperate attempt for the door, shuddering to think of the army of churls that were practically clawing to get at them from behind. Agatha held the door open, with a telekinesis spell and let it go once everyone had made it through.

“That was too close…” Psywen commented, the Altmer jumped back as she heard the churls claw at the door, raising her weapons in defence, in case it wasn’t enough to hold them back. Darius stepped forward but stepped down again as Agatha raised her hand, assuring him that it was safe.

“Come, we must get to the roof and end this before it’s too late…”

Rachael nodded and knelt down in front of Arik, casting several healing spells on him to hurry his recovery as his Witch mentor looked for a way out. Arngrim and Darius followed her, whilst Psywen and Pilerius watched the door…

“You okay?” Pilerius asked, looking to the Altmer with a great deal of concern, she hadn’t said anything for a while.

“Y-Yeah… Just… This place, y’know?”

Pilerius nodded, it was not a good place to be. It gets inside your head, twists your mind, makes you fear every shadow and doubt yourself at every turn. It was like hell, in the most literal sense possible…

He wondered how Agatha had the strength to lead these people through it, it was somewhat inspiring. She didn’t even flinch as if leadership or problem solving just came naturally to her.

The Argonian wondered if he could have such courage, he highly doubted it, though then again, he did lead half of the team through that tower. Though it was only a short while, anyone could have done it really, if they’d have stepped up, though maybe that’s what defines a hero, an ordinary person who steps up and takes charge.

“I know… It’s tested everything; I don’t know what else it can do to us…

Makes me uneasy, don’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse.” The Argonian admitted, with a sigh as he scratched his head, looking down to the ground.

“I don’t know…” Psywen replied, looking to the Argonian, with an almost fearful gaze in her eyes.

“Does it have to be just one of those things?”

The Argonian lightly chuckled to himself, shaking his head as he did so, she was right in many respects, the best that you could hope for is an unintentional blessing, delivered by their rotten luck. The Pilerius looked to the Altmer, his smile faded and he frowned as they found themselves watching a locked door, they could afford a minor distraction…

“So… What did you dream about? In the… In the trenches?”

The Altmer fell quiet and turned her attention back to the door, she really didn’t want to talk about it… Yet, she may die soon, if she was ever to come to terms with it, it would be now before the Master had her killed or tortured for all eternity.

“Some men… Nords, they were, they forced themselves on me…” She admitted, in a faint whisper as she hung her head and closed her eyes, slowly looking back to Pilerius, opening her amber eyes to reveal that they were glistening with tears.

“So I killed them…”

Pilerius stood and listened intently, he had heard such confessions before, from his fellow Dark Brothers and Sisiters. For some it haunted them, for others it defined them, it may not harm the person physically, not always but it changes you. For that to happen and for you to murder someone on the same day? It must be beyond traumatising…

“What bothered you the most? What you did or what they did?” Though the Argonian was obviously curious, his tone was sympathetic, he sought to understand her pain before commenting on it. Psywen fell silent, glancing to the ground as she thought on it, not entirely sure as to what she felt…

“Both… Really… But...” She sighed, shuddering a little as she did so as she fully turned to face him, looking incredibly troubled.

“It was the first time I’d ever killed someone… I… I felt so…”

“I see… Killing is never easy, no matter the motive, it’s an action that’s… it burdens you forever.”

“Y-Yeah… It shouldn’t, they were evil, they… deserved it but…

I see them, y’know? Every time I go to sleep, every time I wake up… Sometimes I think about the blood, my sword sinking into their chests and it’s… It all comes back to me. I did that, I killed them.”

“Psy… Do you think that they would have cared if you have died?

They forced themselves on you; I don’t even think that Stendar could have forgiven them.”

“But…” The Altmer interrupted, looking over the Argonian, seeing that he was… Right…

“Listen, people like them? What you feel? Conscience? I’ve killed more people than you’ve ever met and I’ve never even had so much as a pang of conscience…

I still don’t regret killing anyone, my targets, the friends that I betrayed, lovers who I lured to my bed and murdered. It means… Nothing to me.

And that is the kind of people who you killed, that pain in their gut was probably the only feeling that  they ever had in their lives and the regret that they dared scr- Mess with you to begin with was probably the second.

You did what you must and that’s what mattered.”

Psywen listened and eventually nodded in agreement before her eyes shifted up to the door, she readied her sword and sighed, knowing that he was right.

“Thanks…” She uttered before looking back to him, wondering what an assassin could possible be afraid of.

“What did you see?”

This prompted Pilerius to pause as he thought on the best phrase to describe it, he eventually found the phrase.

“The only time in my life that I’ve ever been afraid…”

Psywen processed his words; the meaning behind them grew stronger, with each passing thought towards them.

“Wh-What happened?”

It was then that she heard a clunk that echoed throughout the chamber, prompting everyone to look around as the door opened. Agatha turned back and approached her group as they all gathered around her, Arik included.

“I trust that everyone’s rested to the best of their ability?” The Witch asked, folding her arms as she examined them all.

“This will be your last chance, until we reach the spire.”

“And the ‘Master…” Darius added, approaching her from behind and standing by the Witch’s side.

“Yes… The Master is a powerful daedra, if he believes that he can rival the Daedric Prince of Destruction himself? Then we should be extra cautious…” Agatha warned, turning back to the door and staring beyond it, as if she herself was haunted by the possibilities that this Master could wield at his hands.

“He is likely to be a powerful foe…” She added before looking over her shoulder, seeing that Arik was being held up by Rachael, who was half his size and could barely hold him upright.

“Will you be okay Arik?”

“Y-Yes…” He wheezed, slowly pulling himself up and giving her a brave smile, clutching his body  that felt like it was going to fall apart at any moment.

“You don’t need to worry about me… Aggie…”

His mentor gave him a slight smile before looking on ahead, taking her first steps towards the spire hoping to finish this.

“Onwards!” She called, prompting the party to follow suit, marching up the tower and towards the spire, where the Master awaited them…

The Master

() It took them the best part of an hour to reach the summit and though Arik was growing fatigued along with the rest of the injured and exhausted, he knew that he had to keep going, he had to get to the top before The Master sent an army after them.

The daedra stood atop the spire, staring longingly at the sigil stone as it floated before his eyes, suspended in some sort of orange, fiery energy, much like the rest of this place.  He observed it as its overwhelming brightness consumed his gaze, seeming almost entranced by it…

However, his fascination was cut short as he heard the screams of a fallen guard and the doors slide open, followed by the footsteps of intruders. The Master huffed at their progress, masking his respect for the mortals for getting this far but they remained in the unfortunate position of being his lesser and so, they must be destroyed.

“I’m impressed that you made it this far…” He said, slowly turning to face the intruders as they amassed at the heart of the spire, their curious eyes looked to the fountains and the flesh sacks that surrounded them as their leader stepped forward, defiantly looking up to him, her eyes met his.

“Not bad at all…” He said, slowly ascending, levitating off of the platform and lowered himself to their level, literally of course, he wouldn’t survive the fall if he was to stoop to the level of mere animals…

“It seems that you’ve underestimated us, ‘Master.” Agatha replied, ‘matter of factly’ and earning herself a small smile.

“That I did… Though you did do me the service of routing out the weaklings in my ranks, a commendable effort on your end.

Not that it matters, effort does not guarantee a victory; it just makes defeat all the more bitter…” He ‘reminded’ her, getting a disapproving glare in response.

“Wow… Look at that, a Demon demi-god with a superiority complex…” Arik muttered, with a disappointed sigh.

“You hardly ever meet one of them…”

“I suggest that you muzzle your lackeys, Witch. I shall not suffer another outburst!”

“No, you’re about to suffer something else…” Arngrim commented, giving the Master a cold, hard stare as he clenched his fists.

“My… Such a violent group you have…” The Daedra commented, looking back to Agatha.

“Which is to be expected of mortals…”

Everyone looked to the floor and seethed, for various reasons but whatever their reason was for not liking him, they were all itching to kill him.

“So, agents of Dagon, what happens now?”

There was a pause as everyone fell silent, The Master could see the confusion in their eyes as they stared at him, he slowly furrowed his brow and stepped forward, seeming angered by their confusion.

“We… Aren’t ‘agents of Dagon.” Rachael pointed out, eyeing everyone as she began to suspect them, Agatha, Darius and Arik especially…

“My companion speaks the truth, my people and I used the Oblivion gate to gain access to the Deadlands as this is an opportunity that only comes by once every era.

We sought to take as many samples back with us as we could get our hands on.” The Witch explained as the Master listened, intently.

“So… You’re just thieves… Not assassins…

This is… Surprising and yet quite troubling…”

“How so?” Daugalo asked, prompting the Daedra to look up as he lowered his hand, even he didn’t see it as that much of a surprise.

“I thought that Mehrunes Dagon was onto me as it happens, you people are little more than lucky scavengers, who just happened to come across my tower. It changes little but it’s good to know that I won’t be interrupted.”

“Interrupted?” Psywen asked, finding herself curious.

“What would we be interrupting?”

The Master just glared at her, looking like he was ready to kill the Altmer for being so foolish and disobedient but Pilerius stepped in.

“Might as well tell us, it’s not like the secret is going to leave this room, either you’ll die or we’ll die and either way it won’t matter.”

The Master shrugged, feeling indifferent about the whole thing as he thought on it but the mortal was speaking some sense, they were about to die…

“I’ve been… Busy, whilst Dagon is focussing on the realm of mortals, I have been… planning.”

“Wait, are you telling me that you were planning a coup? Against a daedric prince? They’re… Immortal, are they not?” Agatha asked, in disbelief, getting a nod of agreement from the Master.

“They maybe but take their mantles from them and they are little more than mortals or common daedra or so I hear.” The Master explained, folding his arms.

“The Daedric Princes represent chaos in… various forms… So long as destruction exists, there will need to be a prince to command it but a prince can always be… replaced.

It has happened, at the start of the last era, it’ll happen again at the beginning of this one in the Shivering Isles when the Madgod will be forced to give up his throne.

If you can call it ‘giving it up,’ more like… Having someone keep it warm for him.”

Agatha couldn’t believe what she had stumbled upon, the Dremora were having a civil war? Or a civil dispute? Now of all times?

“But… Why now?” Arik asked as if he read her mind, he gestured to the Sigil stone to prove his point.

“Isn’t Dagon invading Nirn?”

“Yes, that makes now the perfect opportunity, since he is distracted and his power weakened. I have no interest in seeing his… little project come to life; in fact, I intend to close the gates…”

The entire party just stared at him and then looked to Agatha, Arik tried to read the Daedra’s mind, to see if he spoke the truth but the demon seemed to be thinking in some strange language or perhaps he had scrambled his own thoughts to throw him off of the trail.

“So… You intend to take the Daedric Prince of Destruction’s mantle and you aren’t going to take this opportunity to invade Nirn?” Pilerius asked, he was used to killing nobles, so that their sons could inherit their fortunes, very rarely was there a personal motive behind it and even if there was, they would often use their parent’s death to their own advantage.

But… To take the mantle of the Prince of destruction and then do nothing with the title? This seemed… Wrong…

He must have an ulterior motive…

“Then, what do you intend?”

“I intent to unify the Deadlands, it would be no small feat but I will have over one thousand years to do it in, by which time I will have an army that cannot be defeated.

Dagon thinks small, he obsesses over a realm that was promised to him eons ago, I’d to think that I’m more ambitious. Nirn of little concern to me, not at the moment at least…”

“Are we to believe that we… Nirn has nothing to fear from you?” Arik asked, almost mocking the notion, this… ‘man’ aspired to become the Daedric Prince of Destruction but with no desire to attack the realm of mortals? To squander the opportunity of an era? Possibly the only opportunity that they’ll ever have?

“You aren’t required to believe the truth, just to accept it, I have no intentions of invading your pitiable realm…

Yet…”

“So you do plan to invade it?” Rachael asked, picking up on that as if she was putting a ‘gotcha’ question forward to him.

“In time… Yes…”

“So…” Agatha began slowly drawing her staff and narrowing her eyes as she readied an ‘enemies explode spell’ in her hand.

“You’re still a threat?”

“More than you could ever imagine… I threaten Mehrunes Dagon, I am one of few threats to him but I am the only one who operates outside of his knowledge. He is blissfully unaware of my presence…” The Master replied, somewhat indifferently, seemingly not caring about Agatha’s advancements as he trailed off, giving the Witch the perfect opportunity to strike.

“Then it seems that I have no choice!” She barked, blasting the powerful fire ball at his face, unleashing the explosive power of the experimental spell. To her dismay, the Daedra vanished, becoming a shimmering image and then fading, within the blink of an eye.

The Master reappeared behind her and slapped his hand on her head, wrapping his fingers and his long talon-like fingernails over her forehead as a purple aura absorbed her. Agatha gasped as her spine shot up, feeling every nerve in her body go completely numb, her skin grew pale and her veins showed, turning black as she shuddered in the demon’s grip.

“Aggie!” Arik cried, quickly blasting a spell at The Master, which seemingly bounced off of him and flew back, hitting the Imperial in the chest and sending him flying backwards, straight to the floor.

Rachael instantly ran over, trying to pull him to his feet but found herself pushed aside as Arik scrambled back up and began to charge another spell, seeing that Arngrim tried the more direct approach, swinging his almighty axe at the Daedra.

His axe was caught in mid air, though ‘caught’ wasn’t entirely the right word, it was more repelled by The Master’s red aura, which was now powerfully radiating from his body. It was like bringing the north poles together on two powerful magnets and Arngrim found that the axe practically flew out of his hands, taking him with it as it knocked him to the floor.

By this point, The Master had finished, he let the Witch’s body go and land in a heap on the floor, slowly turning back to her companion ship, revealing his red, glowing eyes. Everyone watched in horror as they processed it, their leader, killed so easily by this demonic creature.

Arik just stared, haunted as his mentor lay before him, pale and frail, like an elderly woman. It was heartbreaking to see someone so full of life be drained of it and their shallow husk left on the floor, with no regard. His grief quickly turned to anger as he looked up to The Master with glimmering eyes as the tears built up in them, he clenched his fists as they were overcome with power and his breathing increased due to his pent up rage.

He bore his teeth as the spell in his hand reached the height of its powers and roared in fury as he blasted The Master with a powerful energy spell. The Master quickly blocked it, by crossing his arms and creating a barrier before floating backwards and hovering over Agatha’s body.

“Foolish boy! You’re that eager to die?

Well then, allow me to oblige!” His final word was more of a roar, almost beastly growl as he waved his hand at the floor, creating a flame tongue in front of him, that forced Arik, Rachael, Arngrim and Darius to jump back.

The doors opened behind them and various daedra of every rank came pouring in, to assist their master.

“Deal with them!” Arik snapped, twitching his head so that he was looking over his shoulder as he barked orders at his companions, rather authoritatively. He slowly looked back to the Master, nothing but hate in his eyes…

“This one’s mine…”

() With that Arik dashed forward at such a speed that the flames didn’t even touch him and it elevated him several feet in the air as he quickly struck at The Master, with his ebony axe. The Master was able to block them, though they came a little too close for comfort.

Still enraged, Arik continued to throw fire balls at the Daedra, furiously attacking his force field and weakening it a little more with each strike, putting more strain on The Master’s will. The Master eventually broke free, shifting back and drawing his staff, which was made out of some sort of daedric metal, like the weapons that are found in Mehrunes Dagon's plane of Oblivion, the staff head depicted a the symbol of Oblivion also known as O in the daedric tongue.

He quickly charged it and fired its payload at his Breton opponent, who he’d be lying if he said that he hadn’t underestimated. Once again, Arik was underestimated as he quite easily threw himself out of the way of the colossal fireball as it flew across the room. Though Arik was able to dodge it, his companions weren’t made aware of it, until they felt its heat gaining on them. Arngrim and Pilerius threw themselves out of the way as it flew straight towards the door, blowing up in the face of the Master’s reinforcements.

The explosion sent Arngrim flying, spinning in the air and landing on the floor with a hard ‘thud.’ Darius, who had taken it upon himself to lead the group’s defence rushed over to his side and pulled the Nord up to his feet, pulling him away from the inferno that the projectile had created as he cast healing spells on his comrade.

“Pilerius!” He called, getting a nod from the Argonian, who charged towards the front door, to cut the charred Dremora down, mostly out of mercy…

The Master holstered his staff and conjured two hand axes in his hands, of daedric design and got into combat position. Arik also came prepared, drawing an ebony axe and marching over to the Daedra and swinging his axe at him, screaming in fury as he forced The Master to duck. The Dremora saw his chance to head but Arik and took it, smashing his forehead into the Breton’s face and busting his nose open, forcing him to stumble back.

This just angered Agatha’s apprentice even more as his hands gained a powerful, glowing red aura to his hands, which seemed to amplify the flame spell that he cast in The Master’s face. The Daedra was forced to block again but this time he was a little slow off of the mark, it broke through his shield and he screamed, an inhuman, malfested scream as he waved his arms in panic as the flames overwhelmed him.

The Blue Argonian charged at the front door, raising his shield as he deflected a throwing axe, looking up to see that a Dremora was charging at him, with a great axe over his head, ready to strike it down. Pilerius ducked and bashed his shield into the Churl’s ribs, sending him flying to his right and open for Arngrim  to bring The Bastard down, into his chest.

Pilerius didn’t even turn around to watch as he saw the second Churl run up to him, prompting him to thrust forward, with his sword and run the demon through before bashing it in the face, with his shield to knock it to the ground and get it out of his way.

He smashed another churl to the side before coming face to face with a Caitiff, which he bashed with his shield and pinned to the wall before looking, frantically, over his shoulder.

“Arngrim, Psywen!” He ordered, the blood of the listened was like fire in his veins as the two of them ran ahead. The Nord thrusted The Bastard upwards and rammed it through the abdomen of a churl before shoving them to the floor, dropping it to its knees before swinging the great sword heavily, horizontally and decapitating it, with a powerful swing.

Psywen did a sweep with her swords, cutting away at the ankles of the Dremora before her and knocking them to the ground, finishing them off with a downward thrust, with one sword and keeping the rest at bay with a horizontal swipe.

Arik continued to blast fire spells at The Master, much to his delight as he hadn’t had a fight this intense in ages.

“Do you believe that killing me will erase your failures?” He asked, vanishing and appearing behind Arik, the Breton sensed his thoughts, he wasn’t able to read the powerful entity’s mind but he was able to sense where he was by ‘trying.’

He swung around as The Master brought his axes down, blocking it with his huge great axe and holding him at bay.

“It’ll… Erase… A failure…” Arik wheezed, straining under the weight of The Master’s strength, he could see the twin blades getting closer and closer to his face…

The Breton, thinking on his feet, sent a powerful stabbing pain into The Master’s mind, like a powerful migraine, which messed with all of his senses. It took a great deal of mental strength to do but his mind was stronger than his body, prompting The Master to growl and stumble back, shaking his head as Arik blasted him with a powerful lightning spell.

Darius and Rachael stood back to back, surrounded by various Daedra of various ranks, most noticeably, there was a Kynmarcher Mage, carrying a twisted daedric staff. The Nord knelt down and picked up a daedric shield, raising it and staring at his opponents as the first one made his move, charging at the Nord with a snarl.

Darius swung the shield and smashed it into the Daedra’s face, sending him staggering off to the side before he received a Nordic War Axe to the face, sending him straight to the ground.

A Dremora charged at Rachael, prompting her to raise her magical ring, which created a tiny, shield-like rift, that deflected the strike, leaving the Dremora open as she blasted it in the face with a fireball, knocking it onto the flat of its back as its barbecued face burned…

She heard the clatter of grieves as a Dremora charged at her, short sword in the air, ready to strike down on the Breton. She quickly ducked, under his strike and grabbed hold of him, placing her hand on his head and creating a blue aura around him, turning him into an ice sculpture, within seconds…

She then turned around, seeing that the three tanks weren’t able to keep the Dremora at bay. She smiled as if she was accepting a challenge as she began to run towards them, leaping up in the air and blasting downwards with a manner of powerful blasts, from various destruction spells, freezing, burning and electrocuting the company and reducing them to ash, puddles and spasming wrecks on the floor.

Arik had a number of cuts on his face, from where he had failed to block a few of The Master’s spells, though The Master didn’t seem to look any better. By now, the two of them were standing off, charging their spells, in their hands as they circled one another, moving the battle further and further away from Agatha’s body. The Breton stopped as he was in front of it, glancing over his shoulder to see the pale, lifeless body of his teacher, curled up on the floor at the further corner of the room.

It was a quick reminder as to why he was doing this, giving him some more emotion fuelled strength to face his opponent. The Master waited for him to make the first move, taunting him with the sparks in his fingers, giving the Apprentice a light smile as he saw the anger building up behind his eyes.

The Breton was in no mood for patience and ran forward, charging forward as he unleashed his rage, in the form of an enemies explode spell. The spell looked like an ordinary fireball and The Master used a light shield to protect himself, hoping to conserve his energy.

The spell exploded in his face, shattering his shield and creating a powerful gust of heat, that flew straight into the Daedra’s eyes, prompting him to cry out in pain as he stumbled away. Arik continued to charge at him, feeling no pity for the beast as he swung his axe, horizontally and struck at The Master’s body.

Arik’s ebony axe struck the Master’s body, cleaving a large scar right across his rib cage, sending the Dremora spinning, falling to his knees. The Apprentice lifted the axe over his head, ready to bring it down but quickly found that The Master had vanished, within the blink of an eye and appeared right behind him. He wasted no time as he blasted the Breton’s back, with a powerful fire spell, sending him flying forward, onto his front.

The Master stumbled back as his robes became wet with blood that was now seeping through, obviously hurt by Arik’s strike. He looked down at his hands, which were now covered in his own blood, prompting him to look up to his opponent, who had quickly recovered from his injuries.

The Dremora held his hand up to the ceiling, opening it up and casting a healing spell on himself to close the wound but even he knew that it was beyond healing magic. He’d need the work of several mages to keep himself alive…

Despite the fact that he had already healed himself, he still held his hand up in the air, Arik quickly turned around and fixed his eyes on him as he scrambled to his feet, staggering from side to side as the entire tower began to tremble.

Dauglo held a Dremora up on its knees as he continued to smash his forehead into the beasts, repeatedly head butting it, smashing its face in beyond recognition. However, he found himself held back by the suspicious tremor, that made him turn his bloody face to The Master and let the Dremora fall to the floor.

Pilerius kicked a Kynreeve in the crotch, bringing it to his knees, so that he may drive his sword through its head, cleaving its skull in two. Rachael wasn’t far behind him, disarming the Kynmarcher with a telekinesis spell before blasting it with a two handed fireball.

The two of them turned around as they heard the ceiling crack and crumble above their heads, they looked up to see it coming apart, like a jigsaw puzzle and lifting into the air, revealing the fiery sky above their heads.

The Tower

() By now, the Dremora reinforcements had been completely slain, though more Dremora were on their way, it may be too late for The Master, prompting him to up the stakes, to ensure his victory. He slowly elevated himself up, along with the fragments of roof that he brought up into the sky with him, looking down on his opponents as the rocks slowly began to circle around him.

Arik took this chance to rush over to Agatha’s side, kneeling down beside her and rolling her onto her back, forcing her to look up at him. The Breton stared at him, with grey, lifeless eyes, it seemed to be the case that the Master’s spell had even taken the blue from her eyes, along with the colour of her skin, rendering it pale.

Her was mouth open a little, though she wasn’t breathing, in fact, she looked like she had been dead for hours, days even…

Arik hung his head as he gently lowered her to the ground, taking hold of her cold hand as he fought the urge to cry, not giving a damn about The Master and his plans.

The Dremora in question, once he was high up enough began to accelerate the speed of the rocks that orbited him, causing them to build momentum as they went faster and faster, becoming more like meteors than satellites.

The Master sneered at his opponents as they gathered beneath him, narrowing his eyes in disgust as he readied the bombardment. He slowly moved his arm forward, like it was tied back, restrained by the power that he was about to throw at his enemy. Rachael saw this and threw her arms up; creating a large bubble that surrounded the companionship as rocks hailed down from the sky.

The rocks bombarded the Mage’s force field, weakening it with every strike, the size of the rocks varied from that that of a tennis ball to that of a dog, some of them were the size of horses or other large animals and all of them struck the shield with the same amount of force before bouncing off and hitting the ground around them, cracking it on impact.

Rachael held the force field up as The Master’s projectiles continued  to rain down on her, weakening the Breton’s will with every strike, her knees wobbled as her exhaustion made her weaker and yet she pushed on.

More debris hailed down from the sky but even The Master saw that this move wasn’t enough to defeat them but it wasn’t all for nothing as Rachael’s shield soon faded away and she stumbled forward, falling against Pilerius’ shoulder.

She looked up, panting heavily as The Master hovered in the sky, staring down at them, calculating his next move as he built up some energy in his hand and blasted fire balls down, from the sky, mostly targeting Rachael.

Pilerius pulled Rachael aside, the sudden movement caused her to fall to the ground and sit by his side, panting heavily and regaining her strength from the ward. The fireballs exploded, where her feet had stood, moments ago and their fires raged before dispersing, in a cloud of smoke.

The Breton pulled herself to her feet, throwing her hand to one side and nodding to Pilerius as she looked up, ready to face the Dremora.

The Master then vanished, in a flash of purple light and reappeared behind the group, right at the center of their little circle. He drove his fist into the ground, creating a powerful shockwave that send them all flying onto their backs.

Arik shielded Agatha from the wave and quickly pulled himself to his feet, turning back to face the demon as his comrades struggled to their feet around him. He roared in fury as he blasted a powerful fire spell at The Master, shoving his hand forward and emitting a powerful blast at his opponent.

The Master was hit but didn’t seem to stumble or anything to that effect, he slowly pulled himself, into the air and hovered as one hand emitted fire and the other emitted ice.

“It’s about time someone put you in your place, pup…” He muttered, charging up his fire and ice spells before casting his arms wide and blasting them, spinning around, so that he could hit everyone around him.

Darius was pulling to his feet as this happened and he immediately threw himself down, onto the ground, to avoid the elements. He quickly pulled himself up; ensuring that he kept his head down, to avoid the projectiles as he slowly crept towards the Dremora at the center.

Darius saw the powerful frostbite spell, heading his way and he ducked again, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as it was exposed to the cold. As soon as the ice passed over him, he charged forward and shoved his sword into The Master’s back, running him through.

The Master screamed, his usual malfested scream and the elements cut out, Darius tried to use his own flame spell, to extend the damage but the Dremora’s rage surpassed his pain and he blasted Darius, in the chest, with a fireball, sending him flying backwards and almost knocking him off of the tower.

Pilerius took this as his chance, swinging his sword at The Master but the sword didn’t even touch him, like Arngrim’s great sword, it was repelled and quickly pushed back, sending Pilerius falling to the ground. Psywen charged forward, with her steel swords, ready to slash at his chest but soon came to a standstill as her head flung back and she found that she couldn’t breathe.

The Master extended his hand, which he slowly closed as he strangled the life out of the young Altmer, with just his mind and his hand. She immediately reached up to her neck, to try and loosen The Master’s grip but found that nothing was wrapped around her neck; he seemed to be crushing her windpipe with his mind.

Arngrim stepped forward, desperate to free Psywen from his grasp, by ramming the hilt of The Bastard, into the demon’s wound, causing him to roar in pain before he slashed the swords across The Master’s back, cleaving a large scratch, into it and sending him spinning to the floor. The Nord tried to finish him, there and then, lifting The Bastard up, ready to drive it down, into his head and finish him but was quickly repelled, when a blast of energy hit his face, sending him flying backwards.

Arngrim skid across the peak of the tower and eventually slid off, he quickly grabbed at the edge, hanging over it, by his finger tips, finding himself suspended over an eighty foot drop. Thankfully, he couldn’t look over his shoulders or else he would really be panicking as he would most likely impale himself on some spikes, at the bottom, if he fell.

The Nord looked up and saw that Rachael had crawled over to him, she quickly snatched his hand and helped him up, stopping him from falling to his death.

The Master marched over to them both, fire in his hands, ready to blast Rachael and Arngrim off of the edge, solving two problems with one fireball, however, he seemed to have forgotten about Arik, who quickly fired the enemy’s explode spell at the Dremora, sending him flying forward, falling to the floor with an almighty thud. The Imperial marched over to his enemy, his right hand crackled as sparks danced between his fingers, he clenched his fist and unleashed an insane amount of lightning energy as he punched down, into the floor, creating a large storm, that erupted into a ring of lightning energy.

The Master had recovered by this point and quickly vanished, underneath Arik’s fist and reappeared above him. He charged up a lightning spell, which he charged, with both hands, before firing it into Arik’s back. The Imperial cried out as he was thrown forward and landed, with a thud, on the floor, his head, ribs and knees hurt as they all smacked against the hard, stone floor…

The Master, now hovering a few inches off of the ground, approached him, charging up two energy spells in his hands as he was ready to drain Arik of all life, just as he did to Agatha. He wasn’t as powerful but he’d still make a satisfying meal.

However, he seemed to underestimate the recovery time of Arik’s companions as Rachael and Arngrim were already back on their feet. The former fired several ice spikes at The Master, which sharply stabbed him in the shoulder, burying themselves deep inside and causing him to stagger back, looking up to see Arngrim slice across his chest, with The Bastard, knocking him back even further.

The Master slumped forward, gasping and wrapping his arm around his stomach, holding his torso together as he healed himself, watching as Pilerius helped Arik to his feet, Psywen had finally scrambled to hers and Darius had also shambled over, clutching his ribs.

“Stubborn fools…” The Master sighed, realising that he would most likely have to destroy Arik.

“Very well… Time to end this…”

As if that was a ‘cue,’ Pilerius, Darius, Arngrim, Psywen and Daugalo all charged at once. Daugalo swung his axe but was quickly picked up and thrown into the others, Psywen, who was closest to him was hit full on and fell to the floor.

Arngrim swung his sword but found that the Master’s red aura repelled it again, his arms wobbled as it was suspended in mid air, giving him enough time to sigh before he was flung to one side. Pilerius tried to shield bash him but The Master just raised his hand and smirked as a red forcefield appeared before him, a forcefield that Pilerius managed to bounce his shield off and go flying back.

Darius then blasted him with a fire spell, which hit The Master’s face, though it seemed to be more of an annoyance, than anything. The Dremora extended his hand and grabbed Darius, with his telekinesis, slamming the Nord into the floor, with a hard thud.

He didn’t seem to be remotely effected by his last fight, the wounds on his body had fully healed and not even the hint of a scar remained. They literally couldn’t even put a scratch on him, not a permanent one at least.

Rachael, once the tanks were ‘dealt with,’ tried her own methods, by firing a chain at the Dremora. It was grabbed by The Master’s hand, which was seemingly made of rock, at this point and the Daedra let her wrap the chain around before he fired up a lightning spell in it, sending a powerful electric current through the chain’s links and into Rachael’s body. The Breton was unable to scream but due to the fact that was silently screaming and writhing, soon on her knees, it was obvious that she was in a great deal of pain.

The Master intended to shock her to death but Arik had other plans, he quickly blasted his enemies explode spell at The Master, favouring its high damage output but it did take its toll on his magicka. The Master was forced to let his shock spell go as he stumbled back, infuriated with Arik’s interference, he pulled Rachael forward and swung her chain and by extension, the young Breton who was bound to it and threw her into her saviour, knocking him to the ground before casting the chain aside and letting Rachael fall to the floor, in a slump.

The Dremora, now that everyone was incapacitated, was ready to finish this pest off. He marched over to Arik and knelt down on top of him, pinning his wrists to the floor and wrapping his fingers around the Imperial’s head as he smiled a little. Arik’s eyes widened as the Dremora’s hands went cold, very cold and his head began to throb.

No, it was worse than that, it was a moment of intense pain before it eventually died out, replacing it with nothing. The Master seemed to be slowly killing Arik, draining him of everything, life, energy, emotion, memories, thoughts, feeling…

() He wasn’t just seeping the life out of Arik’s body but he was also draining him of his soul, the Imperial just stared up, shivering as he slowly felt his body be drained of everything, gasping and choking as the Master’s power overfaced him…

I’m… S-Sorry… Ag-gie…

A tear formed in his eye, whether it was from the physical pain, fear, emotional distress or some other justified reason was unclear. He could do nothing but lie there as everything was drained out of him, finding himself relishing the pain as it was at least something…

Rachael lay, staring at the Imperial as she watched his fate; she slowly turned to him, crawling and extending her hand, charging a spell in it as he observed his suffering from afar.

Tears built up in her own eyes as she saw Arik’s feet twitch, from pain or shock, whatever it was, it wasn’t from a good sensation. She was too weak to keep up the spell and her hand soon fell down to the floor as her head lowered, weakened from the force field, the electric shock and the beating that she had endured at The Master’s hand; she was almost ready to pass out.

She almost wanted to pass out, so that she didn’t have to see Arik die, so that she didn’t have to feel it, when The Master did the same to her…

Each of the warriors tried to pull themselves up but found themselves collapsing back down again, landing in a slump on the floor as they found themselves too injured to even look up and watch Arik’s fate. Not that any of them wanted to see it, they could only imagine the horrors that the Dremora was inflicting on him, the same horrors that he inflicted on Agatha, just moments before…

Arik stared up, through his tear blurred eyes at The Master’s face; he wasn’t even looking Arik in the eye anymore. The pleasure had ended for him and now he was just watching as this horrific pain tore through his body, like he was slowly being fed through a piece of harvesting equipment and was forced to live and experience every agonising detail of it.

By this point, the Imperial didn’t even fear death, he welcomed it, if it meant and end to the pain and this numbness, then he’d gladly embrace death, like an old friend but death was not an option for him…

He looked back up and saw that something seemed to be emerging, from behind The Master, he couldn’t make them out as his vision was blurred and dimmed but whoever they were, they seemed to be reaching out for the Dremora.

() The Master gasped as he felt cold, deathly, fingers wrap around his cheeks, under his eyes and just over them, stretching across his forehead and caging his face. Before he could demand an explanation he felt his whole head hurt and go numb, within seconds.

He shook, thrusting, shaking as every nerve in his body went haywire and he immediately began to scream, a blood curdling, malfested wail of both agony and terror. He’d reach up, just to ease the pain but he couldn’t move his hands, his entire body had gone cold and clammy and he’d lost all feeling just moments before and yet he still felt incredibly troubled by the being’s power as it stole everything from his body.

He began to resemble a sun-dried fruit, his skin slowly decayed and shrivelled, his eyes lost all colour and detail and turned white before melting inside their sockets and his facial features sunk until he was little more than an over glorified skeleton. He resembled one of Skyrim’s draugrs but the transformation was so fast, that it was unnatural.

Still, the presence kept a tight grip on him, long after his vocal chords had diminished and he practically turned into an organic statue, like a charred body, burned into a single position for all eternity.

He stared down at Arik, with his featureless, black eyes, his body was but a grey sculpture, made of dust, with no signs of life left in it. The Imperial only got a moment to gaze his eyes upon the fallen Master before a fist was driven into his back and he exploded into a cloud of dust, which rained down, all over Arik’s robes.

The Imperial was still lifeless himself, his breathing was raspy and heavy, his eyes were feature and colourless and all of his veins were showing on his face. The figure slowly wandered around him and sat at his side, sitting on her hip, which was pressed against his ribs as she blurred into focus.

“You didn’t keep your ward up, like I told you.” Agatha scorned him; she was alive, very much so but something was off. Her eyes were red now, her skin was far paler and her voice was a little raspier, like she had aged a little more.

She smirked at him before placing her hands on his face, roughly in the same place where The Master held him. Her hands were also cold but they seemed to be emitting a warm glow, practically irradiating life. The glow was the complete opposite of the spell that The Master had taken from him, it caused his whole body to glow and a warm, burning feeling fired up in his chest and stomach as his thoughts, feelings, emotions and life came back to him.

Arik was fortunate as he hadn’t been held in The Master’s grip for long, despite it feeling like an eternity. It didn’t take long for his Mentor to restore him, he gasped as soon as he was able to his breathing returned to normal and colour returned to his face.

His head slowly rolled over as his eyes caught Agatha’s and the Imperial gave her a faint smile before he slowly sat up, he didn’t have the strength to speak, just yet and it took most of his strength, just to pull himself up. The others slowly pulled themselves to their feet and approached Agatha, all of them amazed at the fact that she was alive.

The Witch slowly turned back to her hirelings, showing little to no emotion in her face as she looked over to the Sigil stone, seeing that it was still floating in place, being held by a beam of energy… She stared at it, her eyes didn’t even break contact from it as if she longed for the stone that powered the gate but her face hadn’t changed as if she no longer felt emotion.

“Agg- Agatha? Are you… Are you alright?” Arik asked as he slid off of her and put his weight on Argrim.

“You…”

“Fine…” She replied, in her new, raspy voice as she raised her hand and slowly hovered it over the stone. A loud clap of thunder could be heard and forks of lightning could be seen on the horizon.

They didn’t have long now…

As Agatha reached out for what she had come here for, the sound of rumbling thunder could be heard ahead and the ground quickly darkened as some sort of tempest raged above them and a black cloud appeared above their heads.

The group looked up, to see that the cloud seemed to be housing a red light, it looked like a tiny sun but it was nowhere near as powerful and didn’t seem to be emitting heat.

Mortals…” A voice called out, though it seemed calm and somewhat metallic, it was deep and powerful and everyone’s stomach vibrated in recognition of the one who owned it.

You have nothing to fear for the moment, for you have protected my realm from a powerful threat…

It has truly been an amusing farce to observe…

Still Dagon is impressed with the efforts of the trespassers and considers them to be worthy rivals…

If not…

Champions…

 

The Master believed that he threatened my mantle; he was powerful and destructive enough to have taken it, if he knew how. Still, I am most pleased that you prevented that weak fool from ceasing my realm, for your service, I shall… suffer your trespass and provide you with the reward of banishment from the Deadlands and those of you who have offended me in the past shall be pardoned, for now...

To kill you all now would be such a waste… such potential for destruction lies within your souls…

 

I look forward to seeing what strife you bring to Tamriel, the chaos, the destruction… the devouring…”

The Prince of Destruction stopped to laugh; the cold metallic laughter of Dagon just made everyone feel even more uneasy as the storm slowly grew over their heads.

“I shall… Invest in such chaos, take these, use them to strengthen yourselves and wreak havoc on Tamriel…” Dagon offered, releasing a sigil stone for each member of the group, which slowly fell into each group member’s hands, they glowed to the touch and seemed to contain unimaginative amounts of power.

“Now… Leave my realm and expect to be CRUSHED on return…

I’ll be seeing you all, very soon…

As he finished speaking the Sigil Stone grew brighter and brighter, inside the energy stream, its strobing, orange light pulsated beside them, getting everyone’s attention but Agatha’s, who stared longingly at the hole in the sky, practically staring right through it and into the very soul of the entity inside.

The Sigil stone exploded and set the top of the tower ablaze, every group member raised their arms, to shield their eyes as the flash over faced and absorbed them. Agatha’s arm raised slowly and she cringed a little, as if dealing with a minor annoyance before she lowered her arm to see that she was back in Tamriel, back in the field, where they found the gate…

Epilogue

There was nothing left of the gate now, just its rocky base and a few flickering flames, the group lowered their arms and looked around, some sighed with relief, others were too shocked to act, due to the fact that they were still alive.

They watched as a shimmering beam of red light shot up into the sky and quickly dispersed, sealing the gateway to Oblivion off forever…

The Breton waited until all trace of it had gone before she raised her hand and looked at it, holding The Master’s staff, which she had looted from his corpse. It was a fine weapon, even if it did require a lot of recharging and a worthy trophy…

The Breton slung it over her shoulder as Arik approached her, barely being held up by Daugalo, who was now supporting him.

“That… Did we…?”

“Yes…” Agatha replied, as if she was the mind reader now.

“We just saved the Oblivion Crisis…” The Witch replied, as if she saw some humour in it but her cold, raspy tone said otherwise.

“So… If we’d have… Done nothing…?”

“We would have prevented this crisis but something worse would have been lying in wait… Destruction is constant, we have no say as to whether or not it is a part of our world, for it already is…

How much we allow into our world, that is the only choice that we have…”

“I’m amazed that Dagon let us go like that, ‘specially Darius…” Daugalo admitted, looking over his shoulder to the Argonian, Altmer, Breton and the two Nords, who were talking among themselves about what they had just witnessed.

“Dagon is too proud to admit it but the Master was threat, treachery is part of Dagon’s sphere, for it to go on under his nose, without him seeing it is… embarrassing…

He owed us a great deal, we saved his realm and even his mantle… not even Dagon, with all of his pride could oversee that.” Agatha said, slowly turning to her pupil and the Dremora that he leant on.

“He… Was more thankful than he’d admit…”

“Aggie… The Master… What did he…?”

“He seemed to absorb people’s power, strength, knowledge, experiences… He had a hunger that could only be fed with human life, soul and energy.

He didn’t expect me to figure out that I had access to his mind, just as he had access to mine…” The Witch explained, looking down to her cold, dead hand and slowly closing it.

“I don’t think he even knew that it was possible…

A mistake that I shall avoid…” The Witch spoke, as if she planned to do that to someone else, at some point or another, the thought of that sent a chill down Arik’s spine but he didn’t say anything as he was too weak for confrontation right now…

By now the Companionship looked up and slowly rose to their feet, they all wanted to rest, drink, tend to their wounds and share their experiences with one another. Agatha would have had similar desires before but she found that something was… missing…

Or maybe it had always been there and had just been awoken? Either way, she was changed and she’d never be the same again…

She slowly walked away from the group, heading back in the direction of the Drunken Dragon inn as her Companions looked to eachother, with concern. Many eyes fell on Arik, so that he may explain what was going on…

Yet he couldn’t…

She wasn’t the Agatha Tira that he knew; she seemed colder, more distant and less human. But one thing was for certain, she saved him, there must have been enough of her left inside for her to have wanted to save him and that put Arik at ease, somewhat…

The Imperial looked back, over his shoulder and gestured for the others to follow as he followed, the groups slowly followed him as he followed Agatha…

The Master and his forces were defeated but everyone knew that, that black cloud, above their heads was growing, brewing on the horizon… Dagon would return to Tamriel and the adventurers just hoped that they or someone could stop him from tearing their world apart…

But for now, they rest, look back over their adventure and look forward to adventures to come and enjoying the rewards that came with this one.

And recover from the damages occurred…

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