Friday, May 26, 2017

Skyrim Day 070 - Ill-Met by Moonlight

25 Frostfall, 4E201
Shack Along the River
~~~

I normally wake with several matters competing for my attention. Sometimes it is a minor thing, a book to return, an amulet to find. Other times the issue is more pressing: attacks of Dragons, the eminent destruction of Winterhold, and so on. As of late waking up with nothing to do has been a rare luxury.

This morning I thought the luxury of choice was mine, but a courier was waiting in front of Winterhold's Inn, intercepting me as I walked by. He had a letter from the Innkeeper in Riverwood, Delphine, and all it said was that she needed to speak with me urgently. Why was not mentioned and the courier had already gratefully disappeared back inside the Inn, so I was left with this small mystery toying with my curiosity.

With nothing else terribly pressing I started the long walk down to Riverwood. I passed Azura's statue on my way through the pass so that I would avoid Windhelm and trudged along the icy cliffs and valleys.
I watched two Spriggans attack a troll just beyond, the troll getting the better of one Spriggan before falling to the second. The surviving Spriggan then turned on me and quickly joined its comrade-in-arms. Why the two creatures were even in the northern ice lands is a curious thing, for they usually stay close to trees, which the north coast of Skyrim completely lacks.

I passed the frozen altar set within the pass between what I consider to be the northern part of Skyrim against the middle part and noticed that the flowers and memorial items set around the skeleton had still not moved despite the constant wind rushing through. Closer examination revealed that the entire altar and everything touching it was frozen fast, a clever solution to a common problem.

Just outside was the remains of a grisly-looking battle: five dead soldiers, some Imperial Legion, some Stormcloak, and one survivor equipped like a high-ranking Imperial Legion officer.
The scene was suspicious, but I probably would have walked by the man had he not betrayed himself in so stupid a fashion. As soon I he saw me he stood, unsheathed the two-handed war-hammer he clearly had no idea how to wield, and told me to relinquish my valuables, weapons, and armor. I agreed and tossed my long blade at him, sideways of course, lest he hurt himself catching it.

Faced with getting ignominiously and harmlessly hit with a sword or keeping his war-hammer in hand, he chose the former, as I guessed he would. His satisfied snarl at snatching my sword out of the air was cut quite short by the dagger and the Khajiit holding it. The dagger went clean through his throat. I happily claimed his crossbow and bolts.

The rest of the long walk to Riverwood passed without anything noteworthy happening and I was pleased to reach the town by early afternoon.
Delphine was both alarmed and relieved to see me walk through her door. She immediately rushed up to me, loudly proclaimed my "favorite" room was waiting (she has only one!), and just about dragged me into it. My attempts at protest were hushed and once we were in the room she pressed a hidden button which opened the room's wardrobe, revealing a hidden stairway behind it.

It led to a small basement, sparsely furnished for comfort but boasting a rack of weapons, an enchanting table, and a massive table supporting an equally massive map of the province.
She got right to the point, stating she had heard through her "sources" that the Greybeards had named me Dragonborn and that she hoped they were right, for the situation was heating up. I politely asked what the situation was and instead she replied that she was part of a group that had been looking for the Dragonborn for some time. I thought immediately of the crazy cultists I have been running into on the roads, but she brushed them aside as lunatics.

Continuing to talk, she explained that the Thalmor was on a constant watch for her friends and that she suspected they knew more about the Dragons and, in her opinion, were controlling them to keep the Civil War alive. It was an interesting theory next to my Stormcloak-Dragon alliance one, but hers does sound more likely.

Delphine demanded to know if I was truly the Dragonborn, that is, if I had the ability to absorb a Dragon's soul, which she said is the only way of permanently killing it. If so, she had a task for me. The Dragons, according to her, were not only returning, but coming to life. They had previously been killed ages past by Delphine's predecessors, but this death merely put them into a sort of sleep, I suppose. So they were not returning to Skyrim from elsewhere, they were actually awakening within Skyrim, then flying about torching things to some purpose of their own.

Whatever their reasons, Delphine had been busy trying to discover them. Her giant map showed where the Dragons were said to have been buried after the Dragon War. Most of the sites she revisited were empty of Dragon. Mapping the empty burial sites with the ones that remained, she was confident she knew which burial site a Dragon would arise from next.

That is where I came in.

I was to travel to the burial site and slay the waking Dragon, with Delphine in toe to verify that I was a true Dragonborn. She promised to tell me everything should I meet with her Dragon-slaying expectations.

I asked how she came upon the map of all the burials and she smiled. It was her who was speaking with Farengar when I returned with the Dragonstone, but it was not for him that I retrieved it. Delphine had arranged its retrieval through Farengar to protect her identity, but one now assumes she is known to a circle of trusted associates.

The pattern of wakings started near Riften in the southeast and have been working their way north ever since. According to her research the next Dragon would wake near a town called 'Kynesgrove' just outside of Windhelm, the city I was trying to avoid. I thought it would be best if we traveled separately but Delphine insisted on traveling with me to ensure my safety. Laughable.

So it was another long walk for me, this time from the relative warmth back into the snow and ice. The journey was uneventful except for her constant grumbling about going too slow, but she had not spent all morning walking from Winterhold. By the time we reached the outskirts of Windhelm it was dark, windy, and snowing.
We continued on, but were interrupted by a group of guardsmen rushing for the city's gate from the southern road. Delphine shouted at them over the wind, demanding to know what had them running scared and one stopped long enough to babble about seeing the largest Dragon in Tamriel just outside the city. My thought that the Dragons were working with the Stormcloaks was quickly unraveling.
Indeed, from just outside the gate we could see a flapping black shape in the sky. Delphine yelled that it was time to prove myself, a rather insulting thing to say I think, and we ran through the stinging ice and snow towards the black shape in a rapidly darkening night.

The Dragon was hovering over the top of the hill and we were stuck huddling behind a tree near the bottom. Delphine wanted to charge the Dragon outright, but I convinced her to wait behind some rocks while I sneaked upwards to figure what our plan should be. What I found was something impossible to plan for.
The Dragons were not waking up, they were being woken by the same Dragon that destroyed Helgen. Was it acting on behalf of the Stormcloaks or was it acting on behalf of itself, as Delphine suspected? I could not tell. I heard a rumbling that sounded like it may have been words, but whatever the Dragon was saying, if anything, I could not tell.

Delphine crept up behind me, unbidden, but was smart enough to crouch silently while we watched the Dragon awaken one of its own. The constant rumbling of the Dragon's speech died suddenly and, contrary to my expectations of a Dragon crawling from the earth, a Dragon materialized before us, first bones, then sinew, then flesh and skin.

The larger Dragon flew away, leaving the smaller awakened one on the ground before us. Delphine whispered that she wanted to fight it alone and charged the Dragon from our hiding place.

She accounted well for herself, much better than I had expected and though I was ready to jump in to save her, that proved not to be necessary. She lived up to her predecessors' skills, slaying the Dragon herself with her katana, a design I have not seen in many years now. As I watched her hack the blade into the beast's side, I suddenly realized who she really was.
The corpse burst into flames, Delphine cheekily using the brief conflagration to light a torch. She watched with satisfaction as the Dragon's "soul" was drawn into me, uselessly as I hate to use the "shout" and announced that any questions I had would be answered without hesitation.

She was just as surprised as I had been to find the big Dragon at the other's awakening. She had thought the Dragons were awakening on their own, but now this was no longer the case. I told her that I had seen the black Dragon before at Helgen right before the town was completely destroyed and it frustrated her to be just outside of a mystery she seemed to think she should have solved by now.

Delphine then confirmed my suspicion: she was a member of much-depleted Blades, the organization of Imperial bodyguards and spies that served the Empire before the Thalmor took them apart. How I managed to escape their notice is a wonder. I served Martin Septims alongside the Blades during the Oblivion Crisis and was even a member of the organization a long time ago on Vvardenfell, though I barely have any memory of Morrowind anymore.

But the Blades traditionally served the Septim dynasty, also called 'Dragonborn' under different context. The Emperor after the Oblivion Crisis, Titus Mede, was not of the line and the Blades, from what I remember, served somewhat halfheartedly. I discarded my identity then, disappearing into Skyrim as just another mercenary fallen upon hard times. The Great War raged and took no notice of me, claiming the Blades organization as one of its many causalities.

But one of the few surviving Blades did not speak of this history, referring to the organization as one of Dragon-slayers, not servitude. They had waited for the 'Dragonborn' to arise again in order to serve, but much like their origins, these Blades were confused. I was not the 'Dragonborn' of the Septim dynasty, I was only 'Dragonborn' so far as Skyrim's legend of that Dragon-slaying warrior was concerned. The two were very different otherwise!

Based on her own theory of alliances in Skyrim she felt striking at the Thalmor would see some of her questions answered. Her reasoning was simple: the Civil War was basically over, the Empire had captured Ulfric, then a Dragon arrives, destroys the Imperial town of Helgen, Ulfic escapes, and the war continues. I pointed out that line of thought also supported my idea of the Stormcloaks allying with a Dragon, but she dismissed that due to the Stormcloaks meager resources.

Delphine's plan was audacious in scope: she proposed an attack upon the Thalmor Embassy, the seat of power for the Thalmor operating in Skyrim. How we were to successfully storm the place was something she had not yet thought of, but she assured me that a plan would be coming within the next couple of days.

I cannot say I am eagerly anticipating it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Skyrim Day 069 - Word Travels Fast

24 Frostfall, 4E201
Winterhold College
~~~

For all it took to find her book, Jami was not particularly pleased to receive it. Granted, that may be due to my showing up at her home at breakfast, but I have other responsibilities than finding lost tomes. She did extend her gratitude far enough to give me a small booklet of alchemy recipes, some of which I had forgotten over the years.

A distant roar echoed down the mountains and into Morthal as I left Jami's house. The locals, guards included, fled for the nearest doorway, but the Dragon was far away and appeared to be more concerned with making circuits around the mountaintop than descending upon the town.
People had begun peeking outside as I passed the last building on my way out. The famed 'Dragon War' of the Mythic Era is not restarting, it seems. The tablets I read on the way up to the Greybeards spoke of battles in which thousands died fighting against the Dragons. Now one Dragon is sighted miles away and everyone runs away.

I still question the wisdom of the Stormcloaks in allying themselves with the Dragons, as the creatures do not appear to be interested in aiding them in any way that I have seen. For their own part the Stormcloaks are just as willing as the Legion to sit and wait for the other side to do something and the Dragons have not changed this relationship.

But no one else looked eager to climb the mountain only to die in a fiery blaze, so that was left to me alone. The creature's roars continued to echo down the mountain as I trudged through the ice and snow to the base of the hill, only to find that the mountainside rose almost directly vertical, making it impossible to ascend without finding a prepared path of some sort. So with a Dragon spiraling overhead, I worked my way around the base of the mountain in search of a path of some kind.

I did not have to search long. For as long as they have been under Imperial rule, the Nords still have not shaken their habit of worshiping outside. Whether out of preference or a desire for privacy most of their shrines are built near or on the mountains and naturally they would want an easy way to reach their Divines.

This particular shrine was to Dibella and maintained by someone, as there were fresh flowers adorning the altar. I deigned to receive her blessing for I am quite certain it would be quite useless for me. The Dragon, not a lover, awaited me further up the mountain. Fortunately, the path to the altar continued to a destination I should have thought of earlier.

Whatever motivates a Dragon this one was motivated to simply fly around in circles above my head, roaring frequently and taking no notice of anything or anyone scampering underneath it. I scared a small family of goats as I scurried from rock to rock to remain unnoticed and I feared the animals would alert the Dragon to my presence, but it truly had no interest in what was happening around it.
I finally reached the top of the hillside to find myself looking down at another wall of ancient words, one I visited some time ago, though I cannot remember exactly when. The Dragon completed another circuit around the area, then settled down atop the monument, seemingly content to perch and survery the area around it.
Out of curiosity I had taken a bow from one of the Forsworn a few days ago, wondering at how effective such a poor-looking weapon could be. I found that the appearance was quite deceiving: the wood and sinew used was nearly unbreakable and took a terrific amount of effort to pull back. It was like trying to pull back a crossbow without a winch or belthook.

I had managed one wildly inaccurate shot when I found it and figured an arrow whizzing by its head would serve as a good challenge for the Dragon. After a few moments of straining and grunting (a wonder my exertions were not heard!) I had an arrow pointing somewhat in the direction of the Dragon, the arrowhead wavering and dancing with the strain of keeping the bow pulled.

I let it go, sending the arrow shooting forwards, the bowstring nearly shaving the fur off of my left arm. The Dragon started and looked right at me, noticing me at last. I did not see where the arrow ended up, possibly somewhere in High Rock. I then lost my grip on the weapon, sending it clattering down the hillside. If the arrow had not alerted the Dragon my bow's descent certainly would have.

Now it was one Khajiit with a wooden shield, Ebony long blade, Ebony dagger, and a useless repertoire of Illusion magicka against an angry, territorial Dragon.

My experience with Dragons so far is that they are arrogant and are easily riled to a challenge. It was a bad sign that my only hope of survival was to unsheathe my sword and entice the Dragon into melee combat.

It worked, but not exactly to my relief.
The Dragon's tail was different than the others I have seen. This one had fins on the end of its tail, forming a sort of fan. The wings were the same though, as was the head.

It crashed onto the ground in front of me, glowering and shaking its head back and forth. Perhaps it was challenging me? I do not know. Sometimes I think I can hear them speak, other times they appear no wiser than a common animal. This one was not wise and died unceremoniously to a blade through the eye. Being the Dragonborn is a brutal business.
I continued to Winterhold with only a single troll as further disruption. A Dunmer calling himself 'Malur' approached me in front of the Inn hoping to hire someone to steal a staff from the College. The irony of asking the acting Archmage to do this thing went nicely with the implied insult that Khajiit love to thieve and steal. I stopped inside Birna's shop, but she had little of interest to me.

I told Tolfdir of the magicka globe I had fought off a few days ago and he was pleased to hear that the "Jarl's disturbance" had been taken care of. I was not aware a complaint had even been lodged against the thing, I do not think a courier would have cost the College too much coin. Despite the poor communication the problem was solved in the end and Tolfdir parceled out the Jarl's payment, some for the College, some for myself. It was an odd exchange.

The Dragons continue to be a puzzlement for me. I am told I am Dragonborn, just as I was Nerevarine, both constructed falsehoods, of course, but being the Nerevarine meant working towards something. The Dragons act more aloof than violent and do not seem to be aiding the Stormcloaks as I thought they would be. Are they conserving their strength or am I misunderstanding the situation? The Civil War is ongoing, but going nowhere.

At least this night will be spent comfortably as I ponder all of this.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Skyrim Day 068 - A Collection of Crazy

23 Frostfall, 4E201
Morthal
~~~

This morning was a rare one for me: I had nothing pressing to attend to. I woke early, alone in my massive house and had a leisurely breakfast while contemplating my next move. I had Isran's Dawnguard to visit again, news to deliver to Winterhold College, and various small tasks I accepted months ago before my life became somewhat exciting again. I still had a lot to do, but none of it seemed important this morning. With a light step I left my home and walked into a disaster.
The crazy old man who had waved some poor creature's pelvic bone in my face awhile back had returned to my doorstep wielding another bone and rambling about his 'master' being lost. I tried to walk past him, but he followed me, bleating incessantly about his lost master. Guessing that he would follow me all the way to Winterhold College I turned to him and asked what he expected of me.

It was to enter the Blue Palace and sneak into an abandoned wing of the castle where his master was having tea with another gentleman. The very nature of that meant the wing was not, in fact, abandoned, but the poor man wound up being correct, as events would show. Wishing me luck he pushed the bone he was carrying into my hands and skipped off towards the city gate. It was a very odd exchange.

Despite the early hour the doors of the Blue Palace were open to visitors and I ran into the Steward on my way in. We talked for a bit, things around Solitude are quiet for the moment, and I ordered some enchanting equipment for my home. He asked what brought me back to Solitude and I told him of my previous encounter with the crazy man and the continuation of it this morning. Falk was puzzled as to why the man thought I needed to enter the abandoned wing, but trusted me enough to lend me the key for it.
The place was a ruin, furniture was strewn all over and hopeful cobwebs were stretched between every available surface. A small fortune in silver plates and goblets were enticingly left out in the open, but I suspect I would be found leaving with a dozen of each stuffed in my pack and no acceptable reason for it.

I continued to explore the place, but it was clear no one had been there in a very long time. Wherever the beggar's "master" had gone, it was not to this place.

Or so I thought.

One moment I was walking down a dusty hallway pulling cobwebs off of my fur and the next found me in a field, damp with a cold fog that hindered my effort to figure out just what had happened.
Some of the fog cleared, revealing a long table set for many people, but only two were present: a sullen, hunched man sitting opposite his gregarious and very colorfully-dressed dinner partner. They were discussing something, the colorful man animatedly, the sullen man with barely a mumble. 
As I approached the first stood up and the second disappeared in a flash of purple light. Nothing about any of it suggested something good, but I felt I was going to get nowhere unless I played the part I was beginning to suspect I had been set up for. The remaining man complained to me that Pelagius was being very rude and refusing to host him for dinner...for a decade or two. I had no idea what was going on, but suspected that the colorful man was the "master" the beggar had been looking for.

When he asked my business I replied that a servant of his was looking for him to return from wherever we were then. He laughed and asked how I expected to make him, Sheogorath, Daedric Prince of Madness, leave the mind of Pelagius the Third, where all three of us were stuck...or at least Pelagius and I were.

I could have been more surprised, but I find my mind has aged far quicker than the rest of me and I thought only of what task the Skooma Cat would ask of me before he would let me leave. It is the nature of the Princes to watch us scurry and no Prince is happier than when one is scurrying under his direction. That is how I feel, at least.

True to my belief, Sheogorath promised to leave, but only if I could find the way out. This did not appear difficult, there were three archways away from the dining table, one surely would be the way out of Pelagius's mind, though why I was in it to begin with is a mystery I never quite solved today.

To aid me in my desperate quest the Skooma Cat gave me a staff he called the 'Wabbajack' or something like that. Armed with a staff topped by three screaming heads I set off underneath one of the archways.

Sheogorath continued to talk as I walked away. Pelagius, according to him, had no easy home life. His mother apparently murdered people without provocation and Pelagius grew to be a fearful, paranoid King. If I remember my history correctly he died at an asylum, completely insane.

I took the story as mere rambling and came to a small arena where Pelagius was watching two Storm Atronachs fight each other while under the protection of two bodyguards.
Pelagius was unresponsive, but I found that using the staff on one of the Atronachs would turn it from Storm to Fire to Ice, then back to Storm. I thought I needed to only change "my" Atronach to defeat the other, but it would change along with mine, resulting in a battle with no end. I was at a loss, but then thought to use the staff on Pelagius...to no result.

The final words of Sheogorath's story was that Pelaguis grew to expect danger at any time from anyone and I realized this was a hint of sorts, intentional or not. I used the staff on one of his bodyguards and the man changed into a wolf, attacking Pelagius immediately. The Atronachs, the mad King, and the wolf disappeared and the Daedric Prince congratulated me on completing the puzzle.

So that was it then: The remaining two archways led to clearings as well, each with some aspect of Pelagius's fears or desires manifested in a physical way. Solving the other two puzzles required the use of the "Wabbajack", which had different results on different things at different times. I solved the other two puzzles after some trial and error.

Triumphant, I returned to Sheogorath and announced my success at calming the spirit of Pelagius's mind. He conceded his "defeat" readily and told me I was free to leave. I was about to ask him how to, exactly, when the beggar of Solitude suddenly appeared before us.
He was overjoyed to be reunited with Sheogorath again, but I cannot understand why. Perhaps it was a similar relationship as Barbas had with Clavicus Vile. No matter to me. They talked for a bit, then I found myself back in the Blue Palace with not a warning, still holding the "Wabbajack", which I suppose is my reward for curing a mind I did not know existed. A weapon so unpredictable as Sheogorath's staff is not one I want to be carrying around with me though.

It had been morning when I entered the Blue Palace, but it was evening by the time I left. I thought I had time to walk to Morthal to return a book I promised Jami a long time ago and left Solitude as the sky began to grow dark.
I came upon a trio of Dragon cultists on the road, but managed to sneak by them in the dark. Arriving at Morthal I took a room at the Inn, then spent a few minutes talking to the others in the common room. The Jarl's housecarl, Gorm, appeared distraught, but opened up to me before I even had the chance to ask him what was wrong.

He fears the Jarl is losing her sanity and asked me to deliver a sealed letter to the the Captain of the Imperial Legion stationed in Solitude, Captain Aldis. I am expected not to open the letter, of course, but I am not curious about the workings of Skyrim's politics anyway. I will give Jami her book tomorrow, deliver this letter, then see what next should be done.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Skyrim Day 067 - From the Skies, Death

22 Frostfall, 4E201
Solitude
~~~

Sorine Jurard was the remaining individual that Isran had asked me to find. A Breton, she was known to him as an inventor of some kind, he described her as being endlessly fascinated with mechanical things and was usually camping at one Dwemer ruin or another.

The last he had heard, she was seen in Markarth buying supplies for a trip into the hills north of the city. If there was a Dwemer ruin there, she would likely be found near or within it.
I used the trip as an opportunity to practice my Illusion magicka, using calming spells on the wildlife and quieting spells on myself when I wished to sneak by something instead. Despite being named the "Archmage" of Winterhold, my range of spells is quite narrow and not much used. I find that I simply do not require the use of it often. Besides, even calmed, a Sabre Cat is not a pleasant creature to walk near.
Unsurprisingly I found a Forsworn camp north of Markarth. With their leader no longer under the Silver-Blood family's thumb the strange bandits have grown more hostile and chaotic. Two attacked me with their wood-and-stone weapons, falling quickly. The melee failed to attract the attention of their brethren in the camp and I was able to sneak by without further trouble.

I came to one of the many meandering streams that run from the mountains and thought nothing of it other than to avoid the mudcrabs and avoid falling into the water.
But as I approached the water I noticed a shimmering between myself and the stream that I could not readily explain. The shimmering became more opaque and green as I drew closer, when suddenly it exploded into tendrils of angry light, flinging balls of energy at me.
I was not wholly unprepared, one of the balls careened off my shield, sending me staggering backwards as it sped towards the sky. Others followed and soon I was beset by four of these things, each trying its best to bludgeon me into submission.

They were similar to the energies that escaped at Winterhold while I was away searching for the 'Staff of Magnus'. The shimmering in the air was not familiar to me though and this is something I will have to return to the College in order to investigate further. If there are repercussions from the Eye of Magnus that we are not yet aware of they need to be dealt with as soon as possible, preferably by someone else, if I can have that hope. My sword-arm proved effective against the angry magicka and the shimmering thing disappeared once the last of its spawn did.

My quarry, Sorine Jurard, I found standing by...something that looked related to the Dwemer, but there was no true ruin around at all.
She greeted me, obviously distracted, not even asking why I was there to begin with. For all she knew then I could have been seeking her coins or her life, but she was too preoccupied with finding a satchel full of Dwemer gears that she had misplaced somewhere in the area. I had no interest in searching for her missing satchel and told her that Isran had sent me across the entire province just to find her.

Sorine was just as surprised as Gunmar to hear that her services were in demand. She said Isran had made it "exceedingly clear" that he was not interested in her help, implying quite a parting between him, Sorine, and Gunmar.

Much like Gunmar, Sorine demanded to know why Isran was having a change of heart and she was not surprised to hear of the newly awakened vampire menace. She told me that she had tried to explain to Isran three scenarios which would result in vampires overrunning the province, but he had not listened to her then. Again much like Gunmar, she appeared hesitant to help until I told her the vampires had an Elder Scroll, after which she was positively eager to start exploring this unforeseen event. Whatever got her walking back to Isran was good enough for me.
Of course I found her satchel of gears seconds after she left. A mud crab must have dragged it away from her, yet it was not more than twenty feet away...completely lost to Sorine. I wonder what help she could possibly be against vampires.

Rather than follow the foolish Breton back to Isran I proceeded around the hillside to make my way back across the opposite side. The tell-tale sounds of mining were echoing between the hills and I soon found a palisade encircling a mine of some kind. I figured the camp was for bandits or Forsworn, but I had stumbled upon another Orsimer Stronghold.
Though an outsider I would be welcome to trade so long as I did not step inside the gate...or so I thought. I approached, but instead of the cold greeting I expected I received the closest thing a Khajiit could get to a hero's welcome at an Orsimer camp. The resident wise-woman, Sharamph, declared me favorably marked by Malacath and I was hailed as Orsimer-friend, allowed inside to freely wander and mingle.

I spoke to Chief Larak, but he had little to say. I walked over to where Sharamph was mixing some concoction and opened my mouth to say...something, I forget what, when a roar from the mountains arrested everyone's attention.
The Dragon circled about harmlessly, giving every Orsimer time to don axe and bow before it chose to land at the gate. The entire tribe save for Sharamph rushed the beast, who took flight, sending streams of icy magicka down upon the angry Orsimer warriors.
Chief Larak fell at the first blast and I decided to join the fray lest more of them senselessly lost their lives. The Dragon chose to land near the gate again and I rushed it hoping to work the Dragon's great size against the confines of the hillside.
Between my Ebony blade and the remaining Orsimer, the Dragon was quickly weakened and overcome. The killing blow was mine, right between the eyes from atop its head. Daring, but I felt the Orsimer would appreciate such audacity in the wake of their Chief's death.
The way back to Solitude was quiet after that, almost unnaturally so. On a tiny island sitting amid a very small lake I found the remains of a Spriggan, long since dead, curled up against a tree trunk. Something about it unsettled me and I left quickly and walked the rest of the way to Solitude much faster.
I reached Solitude as the sun was beginning to set, the guards claiming that the Dragon and Vampire attacks were growing more frequent, heralding the end of the world. At least their end will come outside. To this day I have nightmares born from uncertain memories, being trapped underground in endless tunnels flowing with lava while a man in a golden mask stalks me. Dagoth Ur probably, but I cannot remember anything certain from my time then.

I suppose I should make for Winterhold College tomorrow. Sorine will likely take a few days to meet up with Isran, so I shall have to find something else to be bothered with or perhaps nothing if I can remember how to even do that anymore.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Skyrim Day 066 - Bearly A Problem

21 Frostfall, 4E201
Morthal
~~~

My task today was to find Gunmar, the man Isran said he would need to rebuild his Dawnguard. From what Isran said Gunmar used to be a successful bounty-hunter before he retired to tracking animals instead of people. Gunmar had been experimenting with taming some of Skyrim's more dangerous beasts before he and Isran parted and succeeded with trolls, at least according to Isran. I find the idea of "tame" troll to be unbelievable.

As I exited the chief's longhouse I saw that a horse was waiting by itself in the courtyard. Orsimer do not usually ride and it was not at the camp yesterday. Atub did not know how it came to be there and speculated that it wandered in overnight.
The problem with finding Gunmar was that Isran could not tell me where to start looking. The only thing he said was that Gunmar had last been seen in Morthal, though for what purpose he did not say. So it was to Morthal I was heading from the very south of the province.

Walking half the height of Skyrim proved to be rather boring. I was hailed by a group of drunken revelers along the side of the road, then ineffectively robbed by a Dunmer thief who reconsidered her chances and fled. I was attacked by a necromancer, but she and her skeletons were no match for me. On her body I found an unsigned letter demanding that the death of 'Malyn Varen', the Dunmer who trapped himself inside Azura's Star, would be avenged. I wonder who would care about his death. Nelacar perhaps.

I came upon another horse along the road, saddled but without an obvious rider. It seemed content to wait by the road and I do not ride, so I left the horse to whatever fate it chose.
Jonna at the Moorside Inn in Morthal had spoken to Gunmar two days prior about a contract requiring the elimination of a bear den to the south, along the river. She suggested I search the hills and caverns, he would either be there or in her Inn, drinking, which he clearly was not.

Gunmar had been after a bear, so I guessed that my chance of finding him would be best near a river or stream. I left the road near a bridge and continued along the river, stopping when I heard the roar of a Dragon above me. I turned towards the sound, prepared for a fight...but the Dragon took no notice of me and flew away.
I followed a small creek emptying from the hills into the river and was dismayed to find the body of a Khajiit at the source.
His body showed many claw marks and I thought I had found Gunmar's bear before he did. As I continued to search the area however I was approached by a Nord also sneaking about. Bandits do not typically announce themselves, so I asked the man's business.

The man was Gunmar himself, on the hunt for a family of bears who were being just as much a nuisance for the area's farmers as they had been for the unfortunate Khajiit. When I told him Isran had sent me to request his help he simply laughed, saying that Isran told him years ago that he needed no one's help. He asked what could have possibly happened to prompt Isran to seek assistance.

What happened was a family of vampires with a well-fortified castle coming into possession of what could be a genuine Elder Scroll. This was reason enough for him to reconsider his involvement with Isran and after a moment he agreed to meet with him if I helped track the family of bears.

We found the bears in a cavern underneath the creek's little waterfall. There were four of them and two of us, but we had no difficulty in slaying the bears. Gunmar started skinning the creatures and I reminded him of his new obligation to Isran, for I was not returning with him. He assured me that he would start towards Isran's "personal fortress", as he said, as soon as he received payment for his bounty. I had no interest in bear skins, so I left and returned to Morthal.

The aftermath of a battle littered the streets upon my arrival.
Black hounds lay where they fell, their hewn silver collars familiar to me from an encounter with the creatures some time ago. One of the guards remarked that two vampires had suddenly appeared with a pack of the dogs, setting themselves upon guards and townspeople alike. Those who live in Morthal are a hearty sort however and the invasion was beaten with no loss to the city.

The guards were pleased to claim the solid silver collars.

Tomorrow I will talk with Sorine Jurard, if I can find her. Isran suggested I look in the hills surrounding Karthwasten, the mining village I had hoped contained an Inn. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Skyrim Day 065 - The Cowardly Chief

20 Frostfall, 4E201
Largashbur, Orsimer Stronghold
~~~

Sleeping at Dawnguard proved to be an eerie, but restful experience. The castle is so large, yet isolated and almost entirely empty. The quiet borders on unnatural and being there makes me feel slightly uneasy, like I am in a dream I cannot wake out of. The castle is larger than any of the others in Skyrim, yet it serves only as a partially-abandoned headquarters for an almost-lost Order. It is surreal and out-of-place and I do not like staying there, though I cannot object to their mission.

Seeking to ground my feet, I decided against the north road out of Riften and chose to take the longer road spanning the width of the province along the hills separating the province from Cyrodiil. The morning was peaceful and I passed several patrols of surly Riften guardsmen, ignoring their insults and suggestions as I walked by.
After I had walked far enough down the road for the city's patrols to no longer be a bother I was stopped by a group of Imperial soldiers...or so they would have had me believe. They were three, an Orsimer, a Dunmer, and a Redguard, with the Orsimer leading them, or at least in charge of making the demands. He insisted that I pay a "fine" to fund the Imperial Legion, but I pointed out that the three nearly-naked bodies inadequately hidden along the side of the road marked them for bandits instead of toll-takers.
The Orsimer had a finely-crafted two-handed battle-ax, no doubt heavy and honed enough to cut me right in two with a single blow. But landing that blow proved difficult for him and he fell to a slit through, my small dagger proving far more effective than his giant ax. His comrades took no part in our duel, choosing instead to keep their distance while they nervously watched the Orsimer die. I thought they would flee, but together they halfheartedly charged me and gave so little a challenge as to be literally unremarkable for this journal.

I stayed off the road and passed the ruins of where I found the hagraven mother and her would-be hagraven daughter Illia, whom I saved from a horrible fate. I could not see if anyone was still at the tower and I passed by without investigation.

A minute or so away was a camp build behind a palisade. I thought it another group of bandits, but then I saw a robed figure standing at the opened gate, looking at me. Orsimer, all of them with sword and shield, rushed up to the wall, rather pointlessly, as none of them had bows, and I realized I had stumbled upon one of the four so-called 'Strongholds' of Skyrim's Orsimer tribes.
The Orsimer at the gate beckoned me and I thought she was going to inquire about trading for supplies. The Strongholds are notoriously difficult for outsiders to approach and I suspect three of their dead just outside the wall led them to be a bit more accepting than the others. She introduced herself as 'Atub', the tribe's sorceress.

Atub claimed that her tribe was cursed and requested that I return to her with a bowl of troll fat and a Daedra's heart. I happened to have both, the fat from a troll I could not recall and the heart courtesy of Mehrune Dagon's shrine. Atub was pleased to have her ingredients unexpectedly arrive right in front of her and asked that I follow her into the camp as her guest so that I could witness her ritual. She led me to a crude altar in the middle of the courtyard and asked me to wait for her to summon the head of the tribe.

She entered the largest of the buildings and returned a moment later with a fully armed, entirely sullen Orsimer who demanded I show him, 'Chief Yamarz', respect. I was about to do no such thing, but Atub diffused the situation before he did something foolish.
With the troll fat placed into a bowl and the Daedra's heart upon the altar, Atub raised her hands and beseeched Malacath for his favor. She received the Daedric Prince, but not his favor. Malacath derided Yamarz for his weakness and said that his tribe would not be under the near-constant assault of Giants were it not for his cowardice. Malacath would help, but only after the Chief traveled to a cavern known to the tribe to be lived in by a tribe of Giants. Once Yamarz returned to the Stronghold with the club wielded by the largest of the Giants there, Malacath would lift the curse...the specific nature of which I could not discern.

Atub was satisfied by this, but Yamarz was not. He complained that my interference in his issues meant he had to go fight a Giant now. That he did not relish the battle was a surprise, but an Orsimer who will not fight is an oddity and certainly not a long-lived one.

Yamarz demanded that I follow him to the cave to ensure he got there at all and assured me that he would pay me for my time. I agreed, if only to see how this odd story was going to end.

He gave me directions to 'Fallowstone Cave' and told me to meet him there. With that he lumbered off in his bulky Orsimer armor. Atub wished me well and with that I was off to Fallowstone Cave, just north-east of Riften if I understood Yamarz's directions correctly.

I could not see where Yamarz had run off to, so I proceeded at my own pace back along the road towards Riften. I found the cave without much difficulty: all I had to do was follow the trail of dead bears until I reached Yamarz at the end of it.
The outside of the Giants' cave had similar markings to their camps, mostly swirls and dots, some bones here and there. The inside of Fallowstone Cave was unremarkable save for its inhabitants, all of whom were too slow to pose a threat.

Yamarz seemed to know where he was going so I was content to follow his lead. When the cavern gave way to a clearing he motioned me forward, pointing at a giant wandering before a shrine to Malacath.
If he were any other Orsimer I would have expected him to charge the Giant immediately, but Yamarz had a different idea: for another one hundred Septims I would slay the Giant and he would get the credit. I considered telling him that Malacath would not take such a transgression lightly, but I did not, certain that he would dismiss that concern anyway. I accepted his offer and strode forward to engage the Giant in hand-to-club combat.

I have no arguments against the Giants and no reason to wantonly wander around killing them. I will admit I felt a little guilty as I marched up to the Giant as it placidly stared at me. The guilt did not last long. When I approached to what was about four of my body lengths (two for him?) he lifted his club, took one massive step towards me, and swung, opening our melee.

I ducked, the effect being what I would imagine a tree passing over my head to be. The Giant fought like a larger type of Orsimer, only somehow stupider and slower. Each swing of his club left the Giant open for several seconds while he recovered his weapon and I used the time to slash at his legs, bringing the unfortunate creature to its knees at which point I was able to drive my blade through its throat, bringing a great gout of blood and one rapidly dying Giant.

Yamarz had watched the battle from a safe distance and when the Giant was dead he approached, begrudgingly offering his congratulations before announcing that he would now kill me to prevent the tribe from finding out he had not killed the Giant himself.

So very stupid. The Orsimer was a coward and clearly had always been. He had very little combat experience and against me had no chance at all, even with his fine equipment. He died as he lived: fleeing. I wound up having to leap on his back before I could bury my dagger below the lip of his helmet. Nothing on his body was of much value to me.

I spent a few moments wondering how to return to the Orsimer Stronghold when Malacath's voice started to boom from his forgotten shrine. He dismissed Yamarz and his pitiful dead right away, saying the Orsimer had always been a coward and a schemer instead of a warrior. I, Khajiit though I am, had proven myself. Malacath asked that I bring a weapon he called 'Shargrol's Hammer' back to the tribe. The 'Hammer' was simply an Orsimer war-hammer sitting at the base of Malacath's statue and taking it with me meant leaving behind the two-handed Ebony greatsword I was planning on displaying at one of my homes. Disappointing.

If the Giants remaining at Fallowstone Cave were aware something was amiss they did not let on about it. The two I ran by just stared at me mournfully.
Atub was not surprised to see me return alone. Malacath demands strength and courage from his people, she said, and Chief Yamarz had little of either. When I confessed to killing him myself she laughed and declared it a just fate. Apparently the late Chief was the curse, not the one who was cursed.

As for 'Shargrol's Hammer', Atub asked me to place it on the moose skull that adorned their makeshift altar. I did not think it would take the weight of the war-hammer, but it held, somehow. A flash of light exploded from the skull and Malacath spoke again, naming me (a Khajiit!) as Champion of the Largashbur tribe. Being the Champion did not make me Chief, but Atub felt a warrior, Gularzob, would make a fine Chief. She left to deliver him the news and as for me, I had Malacath's mighty war-hammer, Volendrung, the 'Hammer of Might', to claim...if I had been able to lift it. If I somehow managed to remove it from its pedestal it would have undoubtedly crashed on to my head with grievous results. I left it at the tribe's altar, perhaps they shall find better luck with it there.
As the Champion I am entitled to my rewards: a bed of straw. It still rates far higher than the Silver-Blood Inn. I have yet to begin Isran's task, but there should be enough time tomorrow to meet with one of his people.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Skyrim Day 064 - The Reluctant Dragon

19 Frostfall, 4E201
Fort Dawnguard
~~~

I got as good a sleep at Dawnstar as my late arrival earlier this morning allowed me, but when I visited Silus the man appeared to have not slept at all.

Worry mixed with fatigue marked his face and he lifted the flagon containing his breakfast up in salute when entered, after announcing myself of course. He sighed and took a swig of whatever he was drinking, then laughed ruefully about what a failure he had been. I pointed out that it would have been a greater failure to succumb to Mehrune Dagon's murderous wishes, though privately I wondered how he would have killed me. He brightened up a bit at this and some of his former enthusiasm came back, inviting me to gaze upon the pieces he magically locked away.
I was not any more impressed seeing the pieces together than I did when they were apart. Curiously, the pommel stone was missing from the display, but I did not bring that up. I tested the display case and found it to be securely fastened with no obvious mechanism for a lockpick, so I suspect the case will remain sealed so long as Silus continues to maintain the enchantment.

That anyone interested in the Razor would be just as interested in eliminating him was a point I felt was a mercy to not inform him of. His life is no doubt measured in weeks from today, but it is difficult for me to feel sympathy for a admirer of the Mythic Dawn.

Pending for quite some time now is my report to Isran, the leader of the Dawnguard. My delivery of Serana to his vampire family was likely not going to be good news to him, but I do not recall having much choice in the matter. Being in Dawnstar meant quite a journey ahead of me if I was to arrive at Fort Dawnguard before nightfall.

Naturally this meant I would suffer no end to obstacles along the road.
The first was an Orsimer on the road just outside of the city, well-armed with mace and a sour wit as most of her kind are. I was making no attempt to hide myself, yet she intentionally changed her path to walk right up to me, stopping less than a foot away, a grave mistake.

She sneered and demanded that a "milk-drinker" such as myself should make way for our betters (presumably her) and told me to cry home to my mother while I did so. Such arrogance always deserves to be paid back twice over, after all, I have not seen her fighting any Dragons. 

One uses the advantages given to her. She was standing close enough to me that I could smell the ale on her breath, which was close enough for me to suddenly sink my ebony dagger into her side. She sprang back, drawing her mace and shield from behind her back as she did so. It was smoothly done and she was obviously an accomplished warrior, but a little consideration on the road is always appreciated. Skilled though she might have been, the handicap of already bleeding to death was a bit much to overcome. I was able to slide behind her as I dodged an overhead swing and thrust my blade just under the arm, killing her instantly. Fortunately my dagger was unharmed.

Some minutes down the road later a ragged-looking man jumped out of the bushes and demanded my money. Then he actually took a look at his quarry: a blood-spattered armed Khajiit. He slunk back into the bushes, though I was careful to ensure he was not following me.

Amusingly I had an identical account on a small bridge much further down the road just outside of Windhelm. This time it was an Argonian dressed in the leathers of the Imperial Legion. He demanded my money or my life, but I pointed out trying to acquire either from me would end with his body floating in the frigid waters below. He took the hint and I watched him run down the road to the city, but to both of our surprise a Sabre Cat leaped out of the trees and right on to the unfortunate thief. He was dead before I reached him. The Sabre Cat joined him soon after.

Windhelm is an imposing-looking city and the most heavily fortified in Skyrim. It is little wonder Ulfric Stormcloak feels secure in his rebellion, but I suspect a determined effort would bring the city underneath Imperial rule. It is one thing to have great walls, it is another to garrison them, and I have never seen more than a handful of guardsmen in any of the cities I have so far visited.

The stinking springs between Windhelm and Morthal were unavoidable, but I will certainly take a rotten scent if it comes with heat rather than the cold which infects most of Skyrim. I, however, was not the only creature with a preference for Skyrim's rare warmth.
I heard its roaring before I saw it, but not long before. Though it sounded far away it suddenly swept between the rocks, roaring its challenge and scattering the hardy goats that called the springs home. I expected the Dragon to make directly for me as his brethren usually do, but this one flew over me and towards a nearby giant's encampment, blasting the mammoths as it went by.
This, of course, angered the mammoths and their giant keeper, who immediately turned on the culprit: me. The mammoths lumbered towards me, the giant started to shamble over, and the Dragon continued to roar and assault everything with its icy breath.

It was a very strange situation. The Giant and his mammoths gave the Dragon no notice as they unrelentingly tried to surround me and squash me flat. I was trying not to be flattened while also keeping an eye on the Dragon lest it also focus on me, but it crashed down on top of the Giant, crushing it as it finally turned on me.
My ebony blade served me well, scoring deep slashes on the beast's face and discouraging it from attacking me further...which is not what I actually wanted. Seeking less capable prey, it leaped back into the air and flew towards another Giant's encampment.
I rushed over, but not quickly enough to prevent the death of another Giant, crushed as well. Evidently enraged, one of the Giant's mammoths bellowed and rushed the Dragon. To my astonishment the mammoth swung a tush at the Dragon's head and actually caught it underneath the jaw. The Dragon reared back, blood gushing from the wound, and I thought the mammoth would certainly be killed.
The tusk must have pierced it's skull or spine, for the Dragon collapsed in a heap before the mammoth, who, having accomplished something no other mammoth has likely ever done before or will again, became immediately disinterested and wandered off to pick at some brush. The corpse burst into flames and the Dragon's soul, or whatever it actually is, streamed into my face as it always does.

What will become of the two groups of mammoths bereft of their masters?

The Dragon had come from the wall of words on a plateau known as 'Bonestrewn Crest'. It sat amid the springs and played host to a headache-inducing wall of ancient words and a handful of skeletons last I visited it. The place was still strewn with bones, mostly mammoth, but there were no skeletons climbing out of the earth this time. New to the little area was a stout-looking chest the Dragon must have claimed for its own.

My luck has been on quite a streak recently. The chest contained only two items: a pair of rusty iron gauntlets...and a two-handed ebony greatsword, a very valuable and rare arm! Though useless martially to me, I strapped it to my back anyway. It will make a fine decoration at one of my homes next time I visit.

Leaving the Crest I came upon a wrecked wagon and, curiously, the bodies of three Khajiit. The caravans do not use wagons nor horses. Their goods were more domestic than adventurous, carpets, cookware, things of that nature. Were they hoping to reside in Skyrim or just make a little money?
My destination this morning was Fort Dawnguard, but I stopped at Riften to deliver Ingun Black-Briar's alchemy ingredients. For the delivery of her nirnroot, nightshade, and deathbell she paid fifteen-hundred Septims, far more than the plants were worth. As I turned to leave she remarked that she felt I was owed more than "meaningless" coin and gave me a key to her private supply chest at 'Elgrim's Elixers' where she has been taking lessons. Personally, I preferred the meaningless coin.

It was well into the night when I finally stood before the largely unguarded battlements of Fort Dawnguard. A small battle was raging at the gate when I arrived between the small band of vigilantes and a group of Vampires, but it was over before I could take part.
As I predicted Isran was not at all happy to hear that I reunited a powerful Vampire clan with their long-sleeping daughter, the latter of which claimed to be carrying a genuine Elder Scroll on her back. He started to get angry that I apparently did nothing to stop them, but I pointed out that one Khajiit against a hall full of vampires would not have ended well for the Khajiit.

The delivery of Serana to her family, coupled with the attack against the Dawnguard, opened Isran's eyes to how precarious his situation was. Now he decided he needed more help, well after that should have been obvious. Was he summoning a band of soldiers? No, he had just two names to give me.

The first was 'Sorine Jurard', a Breton with an interest in the Dwemer. He could only tell me she was somewhere in the Reach, likely exploring a ruin as we were speaking. I would have to delve into the ruins myself until I found her, an unpleasant task I am not looking forward to.

The second name was 'Gunmar', a Nord whose specialty lay with the taming of beasts, trolls in particular, if such a thing is to be believed. Isran had no hint as to his whereabouts and helpfully suggested I start looking in Skyrim.

At least I am saving myself a few Septims tonight, as I have been given a small bunk inside the fortress. Whatever I do tomorrow will undoubtedly mean heading west, as I cannot possibly go any further east without leaving the province entirely and I doubt anyone in Morrowind remembers that a Khajiit was declared Nerevarine so long ago.