Disclaimer: The Elder Scrolls obviously don't belong to me. They belong to Bethesda, naturally.
The following chapters will be a series of one-shots about the Daedric artifacts, and the way those artifacts meddle in the lives of the people lucky- or unlucky- enough to come across them.
To kick off the series: Azura's Star.
It was an accident, he swore. He'd loved that dog- had had him since he was a straggly gray pup, starving in the alley and whimpering in the folds of his cloak when he'd taken him home to his wife and girls. He'd only been a few years from retirement then and the dog had been at his side since the day he'd left the guard forever.
He'd never have done it on purpose.
But on a walk from his little homestead into Cheydinhal, they'd been attacked- a wolf, a gray one, half as big as a bear. The dog leapt to defend his master, and with the instincts borne of long years of training the retired guard readied his old enchanted sword- the one he hadn't used in years, the one that used to keep him flush in soul gems to sell on the side for extra money- and he'd struck.
He aimed for the wolf.
He killed the dog.
It was an accident.
But he heard the familiar rasp-hiss of the spell, felt something in the pocket of his old robe glow for a moment with stolen energy. After he managed to hurt the wolf bad enough that it ran off yowling, he'd picked up the crumpled body of his faithful friend and carried him back home to bury beneath the flowers in his wife's garden.
It was months before he wore that robe again, and so months before he discovered it, still tucked away where he'd put it years ago- Azura's Star, earned in a moment of heroic stupidity almost thirty years before. He turned it over in his hands when he found it, watching the way light glinted off the edges, the way it seemed to glow from within. He hadn't remembered leaving it full. Sometimes he'd trap the souls of lions or imps and they'd rage inside their gems, but this was different. This felt… friendly.
It was his dog, he realized with dawning horror. He'd trapped the soul of his dog. But when he spoke the dog's name the Star only seemed to glow happily, and so he took to carrying it in his pocket every day, stroking it idly like he'd once stroked the shaggy ears of his pet. The soul in the Star seemed content. As for him- well. He'd been sick with guilt and had missed the old mutt- and certainly something was better than nothing.
Until the Star disappeared.
He'd known that it wasn't really his- that Azura could take it back at any time. But it had been thirty years, and now it was gone and his dog was still in there and he tore up his house in a frenzied search, hoping against hope he'd just dropped it somewhere.
But old dogs have a way of finding their masters.
Fifteen years passed, and even though his wife protested that he was too old for such things he'd insisted on accompanying his youngest daughter when she'd wanted to visit a friend in a little town south of Cheydinhal. He'd been a guard, he reminded his wife. He knew what he was doing.
And they would have been fine if the weather hadn't been so horrible, if the terrain hadn't been icy and the blowing snowstorm that barreled over the mountains hadn't taken them by surprise. They missed Cheydinhal entirely, drifting off the road and too far east, and by the time he realized they were much too far south, too, it was dark.
He'd left her with the horses in the shelter of a thick stand of oaks, heading for a campfire he could barely make out in the distance. Only, he saw as he got closer, it didn't seem to be a camp. A cave, more likely, with some kind of stone table outside, white against the shadows and draped in- red? It looked like red.
Which is how the band of necromancers found him, lost and half-frozen, and though he'd tried to bargain and plead with them it was no use. There was the ring of an enchanted blade being drawn, the sickening lurch of it as it drove into his body, and then-
Two very different sensations.
The blade, still lodged in him, mournful as it cut him down with a familiar rasp-hiss and enchanted with the howling soul of his dog.
The enchantment, created from the dog-soul he'd trapped, drawing his essence out of his flesh, sucking all the life that had once been him into a crystalline prison as his body fell away into the snow.
I'm sorry, he tried to tell his dog before everything went dark and his soul was locked away in the black gem.
If there was an answer, he didn't hear it.