The next day, after a good rest, James thanked the innkeeper after buying a small breakfast to keep him going through the morning. Leaving the Oak and Crosier, he crossed the street over to Northern Goods and Trade, wanting to say a proper farewell to Dar-Ma and her mother.
The mother smiled happily, her daughter apparently not in the store at the moment.
"Good morning James! I thought you were off to the Imperial City."
"I am but I wanted to say goodbye more properly."
"Well do not worry, you did such last night. Unless you wanted something else?" She smiled humbly so, with James trying to ease another question in.
"Uhhhh n-no no I'm uh...I'm fine thank you, I uh, had breakfast at the inn and I'm all good."
"Would you not like an apple or some corn, something to tide you over on your way?"
"No no it's uh, it's fine, I wanna save my money in case I need it."
"Oh, of course."
"Hey uh is Dar-Ma in at all?"
"No, she went to attend to a delivery in Skingrad. She should return in the afternoon."
"Ahhh okay then." Well I...hope to see you soon?"
"I hope so too. Farewell James."
"You too miss Seed-Neeus!"
Feeling rejuvenated once again, he set out through the gates of Chorrol and back into the wilderness of the Great Forest, taking the path he and Dar-Ma took yesterday.
The forest was still bright and sunny, drier now from yesterday's sun, and he barely met anyone upon the roads other than the occasional traveller. Simple greetings were exchanged and pleasantries briefly discussed, the raptor socialising himself with the denizens of this world.
At one point he even met a guard on horseback, who admittedly made him nervous but did nothing more than inquire if everything was well as standard routine.
James soon saw the city once again, glistening white within the sunlight. He imagined such a place to be brimming with magical aura, a perfect place to start on finding someone to help his journey.
Making his way towards the raised bridge, passing a sweet little cottage inn on the way, he walked the long walk down a cobbled highway to the gates of the Imperial City.
Upon entering, the first thing he saw was a fine statue of a dragon, centred between four columns within a circular plaza. Several houses circled around the statue, people bustling across the cobbled streets.
Two guards stood at the gate he had just entered, one on each side in fine chainmail.
"OH uh, scuse me?" They turned towards the raptor. "I'm new here, may I ask where I am?"
"Of course," said one with a strong voice. "You are in the Talos Plaza District of the Imperial City. Is there somewhere you wish to travel to?"
"Uhhh not anywhere in particular but I'm looking for someone who can help me with Conjuration."
"Ahhh, magical stuff. Your best bet is the Arcane University."
"Oooh sounds magic enough, where is it?"
"You head east through this plaza until you reach the palace. Make your way to the southeast towards the Arboretum, past the Trentinus Family Mausoleum. Once you reach the Arboretum, pass straight through and you will find the university."
"Ahhh huh...alrighty, thanks a lot!"
"Fare well citizen."
Passing through the square, he couldn't help but admire the immaculate dragon statue, resplendent wings and a stately pose betwixt four buildings, one of which was the Tiber Septim Hotel. Making a note of such, he passed through another set of doors east to the palace.
From the base, the tower in the centre of the city betrayed his vision. Scraping the very sky itself from where he stood, James walked around the palace walls to where the guard had pointed him, seeing the mausoleum in its own grove of a cemetery to his right, passing alongside it towards the southeast.
James had no idea what an arboreturm was, but from the lack of buildings, abundance of plants and several statues standing throughout, he reasoned it was some sort of park.
He counted at least ten statues gazing with eternal stone eyes. Only two of them took his interest. One of a man in robes with a sword, placed within the center of the park and surrounded by roofed pillars. The other statue was to the southwest of him, of a man holding an hourglass, with a dragon's head rearing itself from the back of his head.
Wonder what crazy-ass religion they worship here, pondered the raptor as he made his way through the arboretum towards another set of doors. From the look of the resplendently tall tower before him, banners fluttering ethereal upon a non-existent wind, he had found his destination.
"Scuse me," he asked a nearby guard. "Is this the arcane university?"
"Indeed it is. Do you have business here citizen?"
"Uhhh yes, I'm looking for someone who knows about conjuration?"
"Well you can take your pick citizen, they're all masters of the arts!"
Heading inside the university immediately, he noted the strange symbol upon the ground outside the doors, an eye within arrows pointing to symbols, just like the one in Chorrol. The lobby itself was rather intriguing.
Fine curtained walls, robed characters wandering back and forth, one of whom teleported himself away with a glowing raised symbol upon the floor. Two doors lead elsewhere, as a man in cyan robes and grey hair approached the raptor.
"Good afternoon sir."
"Oh, uh hi there."
"Welcome to the Arcane University. Do you require assistance?"
"Uhhh yeah, I'm looking for someone who knows about conjuration?"
"Well, we are all master wizards here practically, so how may I help?"
"Alright...I uh...can we discuss this somewhere privately?"
"You may speak freely here."
"Well...I'm not from this world." He let that sink in for a moment. "I was summoned here by accident, and I dunno how to get back home, so I was hoping you guys could I dunno, summon me away?"
"I see...hmmm...may I ask where you come from?"
"I don't really know the name you'd call my world but uh...Earth I guess."
"Earth? ...no, I'm sorry I don't recall any plane of existence known as that. Do you perhaps know of anything daedric?"
"Daedric? What's that?"
"Well the Daedra are not entirely of this world either," explained the male sorcerer. "They are the best chance you may have in learning of extradimensional affairs."
"Great, where are they?!" The man stared oddly at the raptor.
"They...are in Oblivion, I do not think you want to go there."
"Do you not know? Oblivion is a twisted hellish land, wrought within the screams of nightmares! The very cries of anguished mortals complete but one cornerstone of its infernal architecture!"
"Oh...okay I get it, not a friendly bunch...isn't there anyone else I can ask?"
"Well...following on my idea for all things daedric, you might desire to ask Tar-Meena."
"Okay, where is he?"
"SHE is in the Mystic Archives currently trying to unenchant a poor soul that got lost-"
"I'm a poor soul who got lost! Take me to her! Please?"
"Well...we normally don't allow those not of the guild to wander further in-"
"Pleaaaase take me to her! I need help, I need to get back home! I've been away from my home for five years! Please!"
James did all he could to bring out the plea of desperation into his eyes, trying to convince the sorcerer. Eventually he relented.
"Allllright then. But you must PROMISE to not touch anything, stay close to me, or do anything without my permission."
"Yes, anything, just lemme talk to this Tar-Meena okay?"
"Alright. Come with me."
The mage took James cautiously through the university grounds, an expansive area of bountiful verdant nature, especially what appeared to be a garden to James' right, filled with all sorts of strange and fascinating herbs.
To his left was a lecturing area, several benches facing towards a podium where mages apparently were learning about different sorts of stones. The two skirted around it towards the Mystic Archives.
A marvellous library stood before his eyes. In the soft soothing glow of candlelight, books stood ornately within rows upon rows. Strange indecipherable titles in gilded runes stared at James. He temporarily forgot that his translator did not work for the written word, but only for speech.
As James and the sorcerer headed upwards to even more fountains of knowledge, they saw two people. An Argonian, robed in blue, sitting upon a seat whilst perusing a tome, and another darker-skinned Argonian lying upon a small table, apparently restrained by magical bonds.
"The darkness of her skin, so beautiful!" cried out the restrained one.
"Your enchantment will not last long, pitiful fool." The other Argonian sneered disdainfully. "Once I figure this out I will send you back into the city. ...like a child out of an orphanage into a workhouse."
"Still the charming bedside manner I see Tar-Meena."
The sorcerer approached with the raptor. The Argonian did not appreciate the interruption.
"Do you really have nothing else to do but to pester me Raminus?"
"Normally no, but I have a guest here who needs information and you were the best option."
"Best, or last?"
"Which do you prefer?"
"What's wrong with that guy?" asked the raptor in an effort to break the playful snark between mages.
Tar-Meena glowered softly and looked to her patient.
"He has been afflicted with some sort of enchantment, brainwashed to be precise. Seems he was part of a small cult who worshipped the right hand of Mehrunes Dagon."
"Praise Tah-Zer-Ah, daughter of death!"
The patient sniggered and violently shook himself to try and break free but to no avail. Tar-Meena sneered and rolled her eyes.
"You see the trouble I must put up with? By the way, since you are a guest here, there are a few rules you must follow. Keep it neat. Keep it quiet. No eating in the stacks."
"Gotcha." The raptor nodded.
"Now, how can I assist you?"
"Do not waste my time hatchling, speak."
"I'm not from this world, I come from another world called Earth, and I need help getting back there and I thought one of you guys could be able to summon me back out of here."
It took her a little while to absorb such startling information, but she eventually nodded with understanding and left a bookmark in her book before closing.
"The only way one can be sent back to whence they came is to find the one who summoned you here. If you can find them, then you shall return."
"That's the thing...nobody summoned me."
"I summoned myself here...by accident."
"...by the Nine, how can such a thing be possible?!"
"I just can! I can only do it to myself but I can't get home, I dunno how but it just won't let me summon myself back home! I need to find someone who can do it for me!"
Tar-Meena raised a finger for some peace, before standing up. She had the air of a strict librarian, fitting considering where they were.
"What is your name, creature?"
"Firstly, keep it quiet in my archives. Secondly, I am only able to assist in daedric matters. And this is clearly not a daedric matter."
"But these Daedra aren't from your world either, right?!"
"...that is true."
"So...maybe there's a way to-"
"Wait!" She briefly pondered an opening in the solution. "Yes...perhaps if one were to harness a sigil stone."
"A sigil stone?"
"The source of all power within a plane of Oblivion. All planes of Oblivion are controlled by a powerful artifact in each area of it. The only way to close off this plane and to banish it from this world, is to find and remove the sigil stone."
"To be able to send you away back to whence you came, you require a much more powerful sigil stone, perhaps an Ascendent at the very least."
"Great! So I...go into Oblivion?"
"If you wish to risk your life in doing such, then yes."
"TO VENTURE INTO OBLIVION," squawked the gibbering restrained Argonian, "IS DEATH WITHIN ONE'S HANDS! HHAHAHAHAAAA!"
"Never, not when the great Tah-Zer-Ah walks among us! In her shadow, all shall fall into the flames of purity she leaves in her wake!"
"Wait, who the hell is this Tah-Zer-Ah?" asked James quickly.
"Do not encourage him!" warned Tar-Meena, but it was too late.
"They call her a master of dark magic, the most powerful of all! She...she can summon the very beasts of Dagon's children...the death of ten million, four thousand, and THREE, upon her claws!"
"Speak no more you little-"
"One who can split Hammerfell in twain with her very claws! Master of theft, mistress of blackmail! The dagger of gold, one...hundred th-thousand...pointless...p-pointless, what does pointless gold do to one such as her...kkkhahahahahahahahaaaaa!"
"Well done." Tar-Meena turned with great distate towards the raptor.
"You have antagonised my patient. Are you finished?"
"Is this...thing this guy is talking about dangerous?"
"Nnnngh...mark my words hatchling." She flipped open her book to begin reading once again. "Should she exist, she is only an ally for so long when there are no more demons to slay. And if her bloodlust is not satisfied by then..."
"Then what?" asked James.
"Then we should pray. Unless she is already dead by the left hand of Dagon."
"The right hand, to be killed by the left?!" cried out the patient. "Such blasphemy from thee!"
"It is true is it not!?"
"YOU DO NOT SPEAK SUCH THINGS MORTAL!"
"Your master has fallen from Dagon's grace you little cur! Accept what is written in your own scripture!"
"LIES! NOTHING BUT LIES!"
Tar-Meena sighed and shook her head in defeat.
"Even among their own, a flock of sheep will slaughter each other over words in a worthless old book."
James felt he had overstayed his welcome and decided to leave, gently making his way out of the archives with Raminus guiding him. The human tutted to himself.
"Such a pitiful world we live in. Good men driven mad by the temptations of devils."
"Is something wrong?"
"Oh nothing, just the fact that the only way back home MIGHT be in the very centre of what's apparently HELL."
"Ah yes...it is up to you."
"Damn right it's up to me. I just dunno if I can do it..."
"I cannot say anything more. My apologies James."
"It's okay, not your fault."
With that, James left the Arcane University, somewhat pleased that he had a little more to go on, but now he had no idea where to travel next. Feeling he had time to explore before continuing his quest, he wandered back towards the city itself. Perhaps a little shopping trip would lighten him up.
Guided towards the Market District by helpful locals, James was certainly intrigued at the bewildering variety of stores along the cobbled promenade full of reptiles, felines and humans.
Blacksmiths, apothecaries, bookstores, general stores, pubs, trading stores, couriers, it had all he could possibly need in a medieval world. He killed time by searching through them, gazing upon swords, shields and potions.
He had to chuckle at the fact he was in such places, where wizards and knights would peruse to strengthen their craft. Naturally he thought about the fact that he had to eventually find a way to get into Oblivion.
He would try and speak to store owners about such matters, at least the more confident-looking ones. All he received from them was either scoffs of derision at his lack of skill, or balking comments of anxiety.
He didn't even have enough money to buy anything in particular, other than a healing potion that he thought would come in handy, coming with its own little bottle.
Passing by a bar called The Feed Bag around night time, an idea came to him. An idea that was so obvious, he slapped his head in derision. Where else are you going to learn about rumours than at the bar?! With that confident idea, he stepped in.
He made the right choice in picking the crummier bar of the ones in the district. The wooden tables and chairs were cheap and roughly hewn. The ale and wine smelt low-quality, bad enough to make James sneer in distaste. There was also another smell in the air that reminded him of a crack den.
The bartender looked no better, dull green skin and hair that made him look like a moulded carrot, with a sack cloth shirt and an iron mace at his hip. It was also rather crowded thankfully, so the raptor sat himself down beside another full table to get some gossip of the day.
After a while, one particular conversation from three similar-looking male humans.
"So what did you think of that Argonian who came in yesterday?"
"The one with the crazy eyes?"
"Well clearly he's mad, didn't you see him get taken up to the Arcane University, Cicero?"
"Yes, seems he caught someone's eye up there. The way he went gibbering on about something, clearly a poor fool who wandered into Oblivion."
"He had the marks on him, of one who passed through such a place."
"Don't be scared Tertullian."
"I'm not scared! I just...worry."
"Haha, that's still fear brother, but really, why are you so intrigued by that one customer?"
"Well he did try to sell us something."
"Which we did not take, worthless as it was."
"He seemed very eager to get rid of it. He already said he left one piece in Chorrol, then another at Kvatch, and Kvatch was ransacked!"
"That's not even a coincidence, that's just being silly."
"Sergius, please, I think there's something big here!"
"He'll just find the thieves' guild and hock his wares there, whatever junk comes from the fires of hell I shall not have in our store."
"Didn't you even look at what he had? It was like a part of a smooth orb or something. I wonder what broke it."
"Probably some marbles, which should be in his head and not in his hand."
The brothers laughed off the whole thing, as James was intrigued to find out more, gently moving over to them.
"Yes?" Asked the brown-robed Tertullian.
"Did you say you met this crazy Argonian?"
"Why yes. Is he a friend of yours?"
"Sorta...do you know where he sold the other pieces of that orb?"
"Well...one in Kvatch but the town has been ransacked by the Daedra. The other he said was in Chorrol and there is only one store in Chorrol-"
"Northern Goods and Trade."
The raptor's eyes turned steel-hard at his vocal realisation, the brothers oblivious.
"Right, thanks guys!"
He dashed out of the bar only to find that the night had turned far too late for him to travel back to Chorrol. With little else left until morning, he decided to search for a cheap inn to tide him over.
With further directions, he found himself within the Elven Gardens district with a choice of two cheap inns. The name of the district was certainly true about it being gardens, resplendent with all sorts of shrubs and flowers to soothe the raptor, making his way towards a place called Luther Broad's Boarding House.
Despite it sounding cheaper, and having only to pay 10 coins, he was welcomed with a fine spacious room, complete with cupboards, drawers and a double bed. He appreciated such a great bargain and immediately went to sleep after putting his stuff away in a chest, sensibly locked.
Little did he know that he would nearly become the victim of theft, when during the night a hooded stranger slowly made their way in, lockpicking the door open and sneaking past James' bed. In the stillness of night, the raptor was not a particularly perceptive person, but he had slept enough nights in rough places to know what a sneaking thief sounded like.
A dark hand slowly reached out for the chest beside his bed, the lockpick gently clicking into the lock as a careful process of tumbler-twisting began. James however waited until the thief was focused enough in the middle of it, and flung the bedsheet over the shadow.
Piling on top of the struggling bandit, he began to beat his fists into the lumps showing on the blanket, before he was soon thrown off with a tremendous force and knocked hard against the bed.
The thief however was not going to leave empty-handed and soon opened the chest with the last few tweaks, grabbing James' satchel from within. The raptor shook his head from being knocked down and grabbed his scissors, running after the hooded one.
"HEY, STOP YOU FUCKING THIEF!"
As he ran out into the night amidst a clamouring of the other guests and proprietors, James briefly pondered on how rarely he had known what it felt like to be stolen from. Motivated even further by such an unpleasant feeling, he chased his foe through the night-lit city, towards the Imperial Palace.
It wasn't even a long chase when the raptor saw the thief turn quickly away from the guarded door to the palace, and dodge into a dead end behind a house. A small gazebo amidst a cluster of flowering bushes. But no thief. The guards followed up quickly behind James.
"What happened citizen?"
"Some bastard stole my satchel! It has all my things in it!"
"We'll find him, what did he look like?"
"I dunno, he had a hood on, all black, couldn't even see his face, I don't even know WHAT he is!"
"Hmm...a pity. Where did the theft occur?"
"Luther Broad's Boarding House."
"We'll do our best to find him. Apologies, citizen."
Despite the apology, James was frustrated. No, he was pissed the fuck off for the fact someone had the audacity to steal from him. He had given up on thievery long ago, and now he felt like it was some karmic payback.
As he stomped the ground, he noticed something in the corner. A grating, very slightly ajar. An idea sparked and he shrugged with a regretful sigh.
"Ohhhh alright...just, PLEASE get my satchel back for me? I'll stay in the city until then."
"Certainly, name and address?"
"James Campbell, you can find me at the boarding house."
"Very well. Good night citizen."
And with that, he watched them leave, before sneaking over towards the sewer grate and gently moving it aside. A devious grin grew upon his lips.
"Look out my little fucking thief," he murmured quietly. "FG's coming for you..."