A/N: My first Oblivion piece for Fanfiction. Feedback and positive criticism would be appreciated. Please note that the story itself is non-canonical to what actually happens in the Elder Scrolls series, though I have tried to be as accurate as I can with the historical background and other important 'facts.' Enjoy!
"I found this creature lost down row nine million four hundred and thirty thousand and eighty three, my Lord."
Hermaeus Mora replaced the large, black-bound volume in its place on the bookshelf and his many-eyed gaze turned to meet the newcomers. Before him stood his manservant, Narkke. Hermaeus Mora had more than postulated for decades that, if another dremora were to comment on Narkke's condition, it would be something along the lines of time not being kind to him, except it would be delivered in a much less polite, and much more blunt a manner; dremora weren't tactful conversationalists to start off with, let alone to an old deserter. Dremora were short-tempered, but one thing they that they had mastered over the centuries was how to hold a grudge.
Narkke was old, very old. His red skin was pockmarked and oddly faded in places and, unusually for a dremora, soft; probably related to the fact that it had not felt the oppressing heat and parching winds of Mehrunes Dagon's Deadlands in millennia. He was also incredibly gaunt, almost skeletal in appearance, though that was only going by his face, for Narkke almost uniformly wore a crimson, loose-fitting robe which hid his emaciated form. However, he had a presence about him which Hermaeus Mora found intriguing, almost energising to be in. He always stood imposingly upright, usually with his hands clasped within the folds of his robe's sleeves, and he sported a wispy but shockingly white and long beard, which only just about avoided touching the floor.
Then there were the horns. Apart from the beard, Narkke was completely bald, which gave plenty of room to show off the two three inch horns which jutted proudly from just above his brow, having been carefully kept in astonishing condition all these years. To cap it all, however, were the wizened servant's eyes; though sunken, they still burned fiercely with all the fire and vigour of younger years, and also, with the white hot, purging flames of magicka long confined to Apocrypha, Hermaeus Mora's realm.
Perhaps Hermaeus found it fascinating because, Daedric Prince that he was, he did not command the same kind of presence, being, as Malacath had once unflatteringly described him, 'a twenty metre-high sack of green flesh, tentacles, eyes and claws.'
"That may well be," he had responded at the time, having already prepared a comeback knowing full well that the churlish brute that was Malacath would come out with something like that, "but at least I'm a real Daedra Prince." 'Hit 'em where it hurts' was one Hermaeus Mora's favourite mortal sayings, and though all of the Daedric Princes were only a tiny step away from being completely invincible, their pride was always a soft spot, especially with Malacath.
Hermaeus Mora's eyed widened momentarily when he saw their guest. For a Daedra who was supposed to know everything past, present and future, he was always prone to being surprised, unless he had looked up the particular occurrence within the last few years. In fact, Hermaeus Mora couldn't recall much about the present or near future, and decided that after this, he had better go and refresh his memory by doing a bit of scrying.
The creature in front of him came in the form of an incredibly scantily clad and…well endowed…woman, not that any of those facts made any impact whatsoever on Hermaeus Mora. Her graceful facial features and dangerous, crimson-lined smile were framed in long, black curls, and her eyes…"what is it with me and eyes?" thought Hermaeus Mora…again seemed to glow with some unnatural light. Most importantly though, was an item that she was wearing, a pendant that hung by a mithril chain about her slender neck, Sanguine's Daedric symbol.
"Lord Herma…" the seducer began, before immediately being cut short by Hermaeus Mora.
"You will speak when I say you can speak!" Hermaeus Mora boomed in his messy, guttural tones. "You come to Apocrypha unannounced and falsely inform my manservant that you are lost. You could have flown back to the exit portal, witch!"
Hermaeus Mora knew exactly why the seducer had lied, and as such was not angry per se, he just liked to appear grouchy, though contrary to his expectations, he noticed the seducer's smile widen slightly. He had given instructions not to be disturbed for at least another month, so official visitors and messengers would have had to wait. This way, she had, very basically, but cleverly manipulated Narkke to bring her to the Daedric Prince.
"Lord Hermaeus Mora," the seducer began again unperturbed, "my Lord Sanguine sends his highest regards, and presents you with this." The messenger made an artful gesture with both hands, and in a flash of rose-coloured light, a rolled up parchment scroll appeared before her. With one of his smaller claws, Hermaeus Mora seized it deftly and was just about to open it when he froze with a sudden jolt of suspicion.
"I'm no fool, witch! What is this, another of your Lord's pranks? By Azura, if it's anything like the last one, I'll drown him in his own skooma personally!"
"I cannot be sure my Lord, I am not privy to the knowledge held in the message. However, I have also delivered similar letters to the Princes Vaermina and Hircine to no complaint."
"Vaermina and Hircine? Now that's interesting." Both of those Princes were vastly different to himself, though both equally dark in their machinations. They were both, as all Daedra are, dangerous, and Hermaeus Mora thought that even Sanguine, revelling fool that he was, would not risk the ire of more than one Daedric Prince at a time. However, since both of them, though particularly Hircine as he had a knack for noticing things, had not had difficulties with their scrolls, Hermaeus was cautiously satisfied.
"Alright then. I will open this message from your master in my own time." The Daedric Prince gestured simply but authoritatively with a single claw, drawing a perfectly straight line in mid-air, about twenty metres up, and in under a second it had expanded into a brilliant, glowing door.
"It is high time that you left…and if I ever catch you prowling around my halls again, your master will soon know my displeasure. Be gone!
Without hesitation, save for a bow which Hermaeus knew was less than sincere, the seducer transformed, her clothing vanishing, not that it made much difference, and large, membranous wings sprouted from her back, and, after flexing them and testing them once or twice, she flew up through the door and was gone.
"I ask you, Narkke, what kind of being, mortal or immortal, falls for that kind of skimpy cheapness?" Of course, Hermaeus Mora knew almost every past instance of it, but that was beside the point, the question was purely rhetorical, and Narkke gave no response but a disapproving shake of his head. Then, after a brief pause, he opened his mouth to speak.
"Forgive me Master," Narkke spoke, his once harsh, grating bark reduced to a shade of its former self, "I knew what she was up to the moment I saw her, but I was not about to leave a servant of Sanguine alone for a moment longer in the library."
"You handled it sufficiently," replied Hermaeus. "No harm done…yet; first I should see to this." With those words he held up the scroll in his claw, waving it slightly to draw attention to it. Then, the Daedric Prince, still slightly unconvinced at the seemingly innocent nature of the parchment. It seemed perfectly mundane to Hermaeus; there was no telltale aura of an enchantment, and the parchment was just that: parchment, though it smelled of some faux exotic, and entirely overbearing perfume. After inspecting it a few times, the Daedric Prince decided that it was safe enough to open without the usual customary telekinesis spells, and, with a second claw, untied the crimson ribbon that held it closed and unrolled it. There, written in alternate gold and sparkly crimson ink, were the following words:
To the most esteemed Daedric Prince Hermaeus Mora, Lord of Apocrypha, Demon of Knowledge.
The Lord Sanguine, Master of Passions, Lord of the ten times ten thousand realms, in conjunction with the Lords Sheogorath and Clavicus Vile bid you welcome to a party held in the realm of Sweetpunch in three days time.
We hope to see you soon.
"Sanguine, Sheogorath and Clavicus Vile…" Hermaeus spoke aloud, with a hint of incredulousness tingeing his voice. Any one of those names was enough to arouse suspicion at it's mentioning. Having them all rolled into one was bound to have explosive results, and Hermaeus wasn't sure that he wanted to be there when that happened.
Daedric Princes rarely ever allied themselves with one another, and this joint venture between the three could only have come about around something very big and very important. As much as all of them were 'bouncy' characters, known for their eccentricities, and as much as this gathering was billed as a 'party' Hermaeus Mora, even without scrying the future, could see the undercurrent of something more sinister at work, and as such, as much as he loathed the thought of going, he forced himself to accept the invitation.
"Narkke, fetch me my crystals."
If he was going to go, the Daedric Prince vowed that at least he wasn't going to go unprepared. He was, after all Hermaeus Mora, the one being in existence…well, NOW the only being in existence…who could truly be ahead of the game, and knowing the Daedric Princes involved, this was going to be a game; a very dangerous game.