It was the year before the Imperial Simulacrum; 3E 388. I was but a lad of fifteen, presented to the court life only months before; but I was to the Emperor’s liking, and he enjoyed having me around his own sons. Prince Gelldal was eleven, prince Enman ten, and prince Ebel eight. We were quick to become friends, and my “official duty” was to make sure the young princes were up to no mischief.
I trained hard at that time, for my father, Lord Manning, had unusual plans for me. You see, the lands of the Manning dynasty are vast, and our wealth and influence almost legendary in Daggerfall; but as the youngest of six sons, I had little to hope for in the way of inheritance. So I was proud when Father took me with him to the Imperial City, determined to make a spy out of me, so I could one day become his successor as the Grandmaster of the Blades. Not that I was his favorite child: but I was the most shrewd and agile; and I had more interest in books than in adventure.
It was thus that I was initiated to the order of the Blades in such a young age. Every day I had to practice with sword and shield, and to study history, tactics and strategy, economy, even some basic magic. But Father had a program of his own for me. I had to learn the names of all the courtiers and guard captains, and their birthdays, and where and with whom they slept. He also ordered me to follow him in secret. For every surprise “attack” on him, I would get a golden Septim; and if I could avoid detection for a whole day, reporting his own activities to him in the evening, I would get ten. There were times when I would manage to spy on entire sessions of the Elder Council. I also knew about all the little court intrigues, although I was too young to understand half of them. For instance, I knew the Empress suspected that the Emperor was having an affair with beautiful Gemile Umbranox, the youngest daughter of Count Anvil, and her Majesty’s lady in waiting. The whole court was in love with Gemile, but she was well off limits. She disappeared before the Imperial Simulacrum, but by then these rumors had subsided and there was nothing overly suspicious about her return to Anvil. While I cannot be anywhere near sure, I would guess she was your mother, my Lord.
One day, I was unusually successful in spying on Father, and ended up behind a side door to the Emperor’s private study. The door was ajar, so I could look as well as listen. And it was one conversation I shall never forget.
“What news about the child?” the Emperor said as soon as Father stepped in and made his usual quick bow.
“He is safe, my Lord,” Father said, sitting down heavily. He was getting old quite fast, and already the daily duties were becoming difficult for him. “I gave him to a farmer in Sheatcombe. This man owes me his life and everything he has. I daresay I’d trust him with my own son; and his wife can’t give birth. They were so very grateful for this gift. I have no doubt in my heart and mind that the boy will be safe with them.”
The Emperor was slowly nodding, his brow gathered in intense concentration. “Your word is enough for me, old friend,” he said in the end. “You have done well. But your duty doesn’t end here… this will be, I’m afraid, a long term commitment. You will have to make sure the boy has everything he might need – a healthy life, good education. And most importantly – he must never learn who his real father is. We can’t afford to make the same mistake twice. I don’t presume to tell you how to keep a secret; on the other hand, I shouldn’t need to emphasize the scale of the scandal the Empress would make over this matter either.”
“Of course, my Lord,” Father said. “But, Sir, if I may speak?”
“As your Majesty said, this will be a long term commitment. And surely it is obvious that I am no longer in good health. I fear, my Lord, that should I die while my son Jauffre is still too young to deserve your trust, your Majesty will have to take care of the boy’s wellbeing in person. Are you sure this is what you want?”
“I am not,” the Emperor replied, leaning back into his chair. “I am not sure at all. This is a singularly unpleasant situation, and a unique experience. I will need to take this matter into further consideration. I do have a strong feeling about Jauffre though… it isn’t something I can readily explain. I feel that he will become a worthy successor to you, and just like you, he will be able to guess my wishes even when I don’t put them into words.”
And then, the Emperor looked straight towards the side door, as if he could see me through the keyhole. I knew he could not, except by magic, but I was startled and my heart was suddenly beating fast with fright. I sneaked back, and followed my own footsteps out as fast as I could. They continued to talk for hours, but I didn’t dare go back to listen. Bah! I didn’t dare follow my father into the Emperor’s quarters ever again.
The next year Jagar Tharn took Emperor Uriel’s place. One of the first things he did as the Emperor was to send my father back to High Rock, “fearing for his health”. I don’t know if my father knew about the Simulacrum; he never told me all his secrets. Four years later, he sent me on an assignment in Hammerfell, and died some months after. The assignment kept me from going back to the Imperial City until Jagar Tharn’s plot was uncovered.
Emperor Uriel made me his spymaster as soon as he recovered, although I was still very young; but he never once mentioned you to me, my Lord. If there were resources devoted to your family, or for your education, I don’t know about them. It seems obvious to me now that he did see me that day in his office, and that he knew I’d remember, should the need arise. I wonder if his foresight was really as far reaching as to predict the unlikely possibility that all his other children and heirs would perish… if it was, then I pity him even more.
Of course, even during the conversation I’d listened in, he never said that the child was his, and I knew for sure only when my Blades delivered the Amulet to me along with his Majesty’s last words. But now that I have met you, my Lord, I can tell with certainty: you are a Septim as much as Emperor Uriel was. The Dragon’s Blood flows strongly in you and all the Blades here can sense it. And I, I can see your father’s wisdom glowing in your eyes, and hear the strength of his determination in your voice. The Blades and I shall support your claim to the throne unto death. The Emperor is dead. Long live the Emperor!