|Posted on June 20, 2014 at 7:30 PM|
I wasn't looking forward to returning to Nibani, and neither was Julan. He still made blithe comments about me not being the Nerevarine, but I ignored them. I didn't want to tell him (yet again) that I didn't want to be the Nerevarine.
It was a very ashy day when we arrived at the Urshilaku camp, and Nibani had clearly been waiting for us outside the tent, where she lead us to the tent.
"I had a vision in which you retrieved the Lost Prophecies," she said to me when we entered the tent. "Tell me, Ulina...do you have them?"
Without answering her, I passed the notes I had retrieved in Holamayan to her. Nibani read through them and then turned to me with an expression of surprise.
"The ancestors and stars have given me clear signs, and the lost prophecies leave no doubt." She said profoundly.
"No doubt about what?" Julan asked.
"No doubt that the Incarnate shall be an outlander," Nibani answered him. "You, Ulina, blessed by Azura, must lift the seven curses of Dagoth Ur."
I didn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it. This was insane.
"...prophecy has shown the seven steps of the Nerevarine's path, and I have been chosen as your guide for each step on that path," Nibani continued. "I will read the signs, and show you the way. It is time for you to walk the path of the Seven Visions, and pass the Seven Trials of the Seven Visions.
"You are born on a certain day to uncertain parents. So you have passed the first trial. My dreams show me that you also fulfill the second trial, that 'neither blight nor age can harm him/The Curse-of-Flesh before him flies'. I have read the signs, but I cannot understand. Can you explain this to me?"
"I caught Corprus two weeks ago," I explained. Nibani gave me a skeptical look, so I hurriedly added, "but I'm cured now" before she could get the chance to throw me out of her yurt.
"That you have overcome the Curse-of-Flesh is strange enough, but that it should protect you from blight and age is past belief," Nibani said. "Yet the signs of my dreams are clear. You have passed the second trial. But the third trial is unfulfilled. The mystery of the third trial is not my secret to share. Go to Sul-Matuul, the guardian of our cult, and he shall tell you of the third trial. When you have fulfilled the third trial, return to me for guidance on your next steps on the path of the Nerevarine."
Julan was still angry. I could tell from the way he crossed his arms and rolled his eyes at everything Nibani had said.
"Julan, this has got to stop," I told him.
"It'll stop when this charade of yours is over," he retorted.
"Nibani never said I was the Nerevarine," I replied, "just to follow the path. So let's go see what Sul-Matuul says."
Sul-Matuul was waiting for us in his Yurt, sitting cross-legged on the dirty floor. He looked up at me and gave me a very scrutinizing look.
"So, you wish to learn more about the third trial?" He asked. I nodded and the old man gestured for me to sit. I did so. "You have entered the path of the Nerevarine. This is a hard thing to believe. But Nibani Maesa has spoken to me at length of this, and I have had time to consider. Therefore I shall keep my own counsel, and set before you my own test. I do not dispute with the wise women, but their ways are not the ways of the warrior. Many before have tried the path of the Nerevarine, but all have failed the warrior's test. You must have strength, courage, and cunning. These things I would test."
Test? How? He already sent me after his father's bow!
"Go on," I said.
"Nearby lies Kogoruhn, the ancient halls of the forgotten house, House Dagoth," Sul-Matuul continued. At that I winced. I didn't want to go into another Sixth House base right now. "In recent time, creatures of the blight have come to dwell there. I myself went there, with some brave hunters, and came back again, but it was a bad place, and I am not ashamed to say I was afraid, for myself and my men. If you would have from me the secret of the Third Trial, the 'caverns dark' where Azura's eye sees, you will first bring to me three tokens from dark Kogoruhn."
"Tokens?" I asked. "Can you give me some clues?"
Sul-Matuul shook his head. "More than just clues, Outlander. Bring me Corprus weepings, a cup of House Dagoth and a Shadow Shield, and I will tell you more about the third trial."
I nodded and left the tent, where I saw Julan scowling even more than he already was.
"This is a big waste of time, Ulina!" He snapped. "This isn't getting me anywhere. How am I supposed to carry out my mission if we're getting all side-tracked with a stupid prophecy that isn't even right?"
"Do you have a better idea?" I snapped back. I was getting really sick of his anger.
"Well, I... you know I don't," Julan said. "But I don't like this. It's all heading in the wrong direction. They should have realised you're not the one by now. Something's not right here."
I looked back towards the camp.
"I'm going, whether you like it or not," I told him.
"I suppose you're right," Julan sighed. "I know I'm too suspicious for my own good. I just... oh, never mind. We'll get the tokens from Kogoruhn. I just hope these caverns will give me the answers I need on what to do next."
The walk to Kogoruhn wasn't that exciting, unless you count running into a couple of Cliffracers along the road. However, when we got there I accidentally stepped on something. The body of a dead Ordinator, his flesh half rotted away.
"What in Oblivion -"
"Good riddance," Julan muttered.
"This is serious," I snapped, "something bad has happened here."
Seeing the dead Ordinator made me keep an eye out as I wandered into Kogoruhn's courtyard, and that's when I saw it - another one of those things. Like the one who cursed me with Corprus.
"You," it seethed. "You refused our lord's promise of friendship. Now prepare to taste the bitterness of his fury!"
I ducked and drew out my sword. I can never be cursed with Corprus again!
The thing might as well have screamed. I stabbed it and strange looking blood spilled onto the floor.
"D'you reckon those things might have been people once, the way they bleed?" Julan asked.
The thought never occurred to me. I just thought of them as monsters; abominable things.
"Let's just get what we came for and get out of here," I said.
"I am impressed, Ulina Therayn," Sul-Matuul said when we got back. He held the Corprus weepings, cup and shield in his hands, as if he couldn't believe they were actually there. "These three tokens you have brought me. You may keep them."
"No, thank you," I said hastily. I didn't want any more reminders of that horrible place.
"No matter," Sul-Matuul said, placing them aside. "What matters is that you have passed the Warrior's Test. And I will give you the secret of the Third Trial, like I said I would. 'In caverns dark Azura's eye sees/and makes to shine the moon and star.' This is the Third Vision. And you must go to the Cavern of the Incarnate, a place sacred to Azura, and look for the moon and star. The secret of the Cavern of the Incarnate is set in a riddle.
"'The eye of the needle lies in the teeth of the wind, the mouth of the cave lies in the skin of the pearl, the dream is the door and the star is the key.' This riddle is Wisdom's Test. Take counsel of the wisdom of the tribes, and you shall find the way. Seek the Cavern of the Incarnate. Gain the moon and star, and bring it to Nibani Maesa. Take with you my blessing, and the blessing of our tribe, Malipu-Ataman's Belt."
He handed me a very fancy looking belt and I then left the yurt.
It was early morning when Julan and I left the camp, and we recalled to the Ahemmusa camp for a shorter journey to whatever was waiting for us (for him? Or for me? I wasn't sure). As we grew further and further away from the Grazelands, the ash storms started to grow ever more fiercer. I forced myself not to breath in any of the ash. Again.
The Cavern of the Incarnate had been nearby all this time! All the times we visited Mashti, and all the times we bumped into the Ahemmusa...it had been nearby.
"The door is locked," I stated, attempting to open the door. Julan looked above and took my hand away from the door.
"Wait until Dawn," he said. "I think I know the answer."
Dawn came. I attempted to open the door again by tugging on the handle, but no such luck. Finally, the door opened almost as if it had a mind of it's own.
"In the dawn hour under Azura's Star, the door is opened," I heard a voice say. I turned to Julan, who smiled.
"Come on," I said.
The cavern was dark, but the center of the room was lit. Not by candles or even sunlight. I kept moving towards the center, where a large statue sat holding something small...something small and glinting?
It was a ring. I took in a deep breath and picked it up and put it on my finger. Then, everything went dark.
The girl looked up. She was no longer in the cavern anymore. She was somewhere else. The same place she was in that dream, surrounded by ashstorms. The sky above was red. She would have to tread carefully here. For there was danger ahead.
After walking through the ashstorms for about a mile or so, there was a lake.
"Is anyone here?" She yelled. "Please, answer me!"
At this, the ashstorms were gone, the skies were blue and a woman rose from the lake. She appeared to be completely dry, and she was smiling warmly.
"Nerevar Reborn, Incarnate," she began, "your first three trials are finished. Now, two new trials lie before you. Seek the Ashlander Ashkhans, and the Great House Councils. Four tribes must name you Nerevarine. Three houses must name you Hortator. My servant Nibani Maesa shall be your guide. And when you are Hortator and Nerevarine, when you've stood before the False God and freed the heart from its prison, heal my people and restore Morrowind. Do this for me and with my blessing, Ulina Therayn."
At this, the woman faded away and the ashstorms returned, before the girl found herself back in the caverns.
I twisted the ring on my finger, and looked around the room. Everything seemed different, and that was when I knew why. There were a bunch of spirits surrounding the cave. They must be the failed incarnates.
"You honor us with your presence, Ulina Therayn," they said. I didn't like being put on a pedestal, though. I looked up and saw Julan, who looked mildly frightened.
"Julan?" I asked. "Are you alright?"
He shook his head.
"I'm...I can't," he began. "I can't...I just can't."
He then cast a recall spell and disappeared from the spot. I screamed and ran out of the cave, and into the Grazelands. It was raining. Oh, how fitting, I thought.
He had to be somewhere nearby, he just had to be. When I couldn't find him, I tried rubbing the telepathy ring Mashti had given him. I couldn't hear him. All I could hear was the humming of scribs.
I screamed again.