Monday, November 20, 2017

Skyrim Day 079 - A Timeless Prison of Souls (Part 1)

6 Sun's Dusk, 4E201
Winterhold
~~~

Serana and I left Winterhold's inn early enough, I hoped, to reach Solitude by mid-afternoon. Early though it was we exited the Inn to the sounds of running feet and Nordic swearing.
Another vampire attack, this one with the benefit of the giant undead hounds the vampires seem to favor. Fortunately for us, the attack was nearly over, only two hounds remained of the raid and both were quickly dispatched. Almost immediately the victorious guardsmen began arguing over who won the rights to the hounds' silver collars and Serana and I were able to slip out of town without a notice...precisely the reason I usually spurn the College's superior accommodations.

The sky was the usual featureless grey and the snow, as it always does along the coast, fell incessantly. Seeking to trade comfort for privacy I chose to travel along the shoreline rather than the road in order to avoid the assassins, cultists, Dragons, bandits, and vampires that all appear to have an interest in one Khajiit. If Serana had any complaints she uncharacteristically kept quiet.

While trudging along the shore we passed a "hidden" shrine to Talos, the God outlawed by the Thalmor. The shrines are not particularly hidden, I cannot help suspect the Thalmor leave them standing to easier discover and ensnare Talos worshipers. I do recall one Thalmor agent for whom that strategy went awry, though I cannot remember his name.
My plan to avoid unwanted attention worked, almost to a fault. After two hours of walking we were halfway between Dawnstar and Solitude with no more excitement than an excessively-territorial Horker.

Unexpectedly the weather cleared as we arrived underneath Solitude, giving us a rare view of Skyrim's elevated capital city.
I felt that if we stopped inside we would not be leaving until tomorrow, so we pressed on through the marsh of Morthal and sought to take the bridge across the river, just before Dragon Bridge. A foul Orsimer clad in ancient Dwemer armor stopped us at the bridge, demanding a toll, a battle, or a shameful retreat. I offered battle. He had an Ebony Shield and I was tempted to carry it to my home in Solitude...but I did not. Feeling mischievous, I hid it underneath the bridge instead. Perhaps some adventurer will find it one day.

What remained of our walk in Skyrim was uneventful and the weather remained clear all the way to the jetty across from Castle Volkihar. I had to row, of course.
Snow began to fall midway to the island and by the time the boat scraped on to shore the sky had taken on its usual featureless grey along with a heavy snow. It fit the mood for what the castle had become, but Serana was uneasy at being back on the island, urging me towards the rear of the island.

I was expecting a hidden door behind some bushes, but Serana assured me that the castle dock had not been used in several hundreds of years...which I find to be rather implausible. Even vampires need to eat and drink, after all. Am I to believe they row each of their victims across the water themselves?

We easily dispatched the skeletons left to guard the ruined dock and entered the castle's undercroft.
The experience was not unlike any of the other crypts dotting Skyrim. The Gargoyles stalked the ruins in place of Draugr, but at least they had decorum enough to have gemstones for eyes. I rarely get such consideration from the undead.

After some wandering (Serana could not remember the way) we emerged from the castle crypt into a dilapidated courtyard dominated by a forlorn-looking moon-dial. There were circular platforms surrounding the dial, each depicting a phase of the moon via some sort of milky gemstone. Serana pointed out that several of the phases were missing, but we did not think this important until several minutes of searching revealed no way out other than how we came in.

More searching ensured, Serana assuring me only she and her mother ever went into the courtyard, so the missing phases was no doubt intentional on the part of her mother. I thought it cruel to point out that she had been sleeping for quite some time and things change, so I kept my mouth shut and my eyes open. Soon the wireframe-set gemstone moon phases were in my possession and I set each down around the sundial in the proper order.


As soon as I set the final phase in its place the moon-dial collapsed into a stairway. Serana excitedly exclaimed that it was exactly what she expected from her mother, but once we descended the sudden stairwell we found the secret underground area well-lit with candles and slippery with fresh blood. Someone was using the hideaway, but we never found out who.
Gargoyles stalked the halls as well, but they are much more fearsome-looking than they actually are. We passed several statues of Mara, making me wonder what Castle Volkihar was before it became a vampire den.
Onward we crept, most of the rooms were dining rooms of one kind or another, which I thought a bit strange. Eventually we reached what looked like a dead end: a room with one door, the one we entered through, and nothing else. Serana thought there should be a secret passage somewhere in the room and I thought so as well, though I kept that to myself.

We were correct. The passage was the classic behind-the-fireplace wall panel. I discovered it before Serana: nearly every candle we had passed had been lit, for some reason, but the fireplace was flanked on both sides by two platters of wall-hung candles, only one of which was lit. The second served as the lever to open the wall panel that led to the Serana's mother's laboratory...and the portal to a land I wish I had never set foot in.

But it is late now, so I am finishing tonight's entry here. I plan on doing nothing tomorrow save for recovering from this awful journey and will conclude this tale then.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Skyrim Day 078 - All Eyes On Me

4 Sun's Dusk, 4E201
Winterhold
~~~

After squelching about underground in Blackreach for most of yesterday Serana and I found one of our Scrolls and the inscribed cube for Septimus Signus. I was too tired to walk back to Winterhold and spent a surprisingly comfortable night outside of Alftand. I am not sure what Serana did during the night, but I am sure it was not sleep.
The weather was as poor as it usually is, but the journey would have been uneventful were it not for the Silver Hand who ambushed us near a ruined tower.
Supposed hunters of werewolves, I have never seen a werewolf in what few Silver Hand compounds I have found myself in. They are seemingly just as happy to assault regular travelers as those "blessed" by Hircine, just another group of bandits, if somewhat better armed and slightly more driven. That does not mean they are any more skilled than the average highwayman.
Having wasted our time with them, Serana and I reached the frozen coast by what was probably mid-afternoon, though the weather made it impossible to judge the time. Through the snow and ice in the air we were able to see a large, ruined hall on an island some distance away, but though Serana wanted to take the time to explore I did not and we continued along the shore until Azura came into view.

We were maybe halfway to Septimus Signus when the weather suddenly slackened, then stopped altogether. The sun started to shine with an intensity that pained my eyes and caused Serana no end of discomfort. It did make our walk a great deal more palatable though.
Septimus was still utterly mad, of course. He accepted the lexicon cube with a babbling about Dwemer blood loosening the locks...or maybe hooks? I do not remember. His plan to circumvent what he saw as a requirement was just as scattered. From what I could glean from his rambling, the Dwemer used their blood to unlock the giant cube. What was probably the case was that any one of the Dwemer could unlock the cube, but Septimus took this to mean actual blood extracted from victims.

He claimed that collecting the blood of a Falmer, an Altmer, a Bosmer, an Orsimer, and a Dunmer into a basin he gave me would be enough to "trick" the cube into opening. It is madness, no other way about it. I will not do this thing for him.

As if to validate my decision, a portal of tentacles and eyeballs was waiting for me as I tried to leave.
A frightening sight, but not a dangerous one. Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Prince of the Fate, the Unknown, All-Knowledge, many titles are attributed to Hermorah. I was given the honor of being his "emissary", but I declined. I have had far too many encounters with the Daedric Princes and I am not looking to become more familiar. The squirming mass of tentacles and eyes promised me that I had no choice, then disappeared entirely.

Serana had not seen Hermaeus Mora, to her it appeared I was speaking with the wall of ice before me, making her fear I was just as mad as Septimus. I am not however and will be playing no part in his insane blood-collection plan.

Crazy was the order of the day apparently, for while enroute back to the College we were startled by a charging Spriggan...amidst blinding ice and snow, with not even a blade of grass nearby.
How it came to the frozen north of the province is a bit of a mystery.

We returned to Winterhold after midnight and again I chose the inn rather than the College. Less questions that way. I am not at all looking forward to walking all the way back to Serana's family keep, but it does not appears as though I have much choice in the matter. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Skyrim Day 077 - Turned Around Underground

2 Sun's Dusk, 4E201
Outside
~~~

Serana woke me up impatiently an hour or so before dawn. She had not slept, as usual, and was eager to complete our task at Alftand so that we could return to her family's castle. Her hope was that she would be able to speak with her mother, but Alftand is an hour or so away and Volkihar Keep is on the other side of the province.

Alftand was just as I left it: frozen, broken, and empty.
Inside, the strange device which perplexed me during my initial visit showed itself to be the gateway to Blackreach. Inserting Septimus's Dwemer sphere into the device caused the floor around it to collapse, revealing a stairway that led to an elevator into the strange underground cavern of Blackreach. It was unlike anything I have ever seen in Skyrim, though fragments of memories from Morrowind surfaced among the giant glowing mushrooms of Blackreach.
Blackreach was home to a few Falmer and Chaurus that had managed to accidentally trigger whatever method of transportation sent them, plus one Giant whose very existence in Blackreach may be the most baffling mystery I have yet encountered in my very long life. Surprisingly, Blackreach contained almost no Dwemer guardians save for one of the ten-foot tall mechanical soldiers.
Serana wanted to leave it be but I was unwilling to leave the thing at our backs so long as we were unaware of its trigger. She agreed with my logic. The battle was a short one, the trick is to find which part of the thing is leaking the most oil, then hack away at it. 

A bit further on we came upon a small building which had served as the late Sinderion's campsite. Sinderion was an alchemist of some skill who developed an obsession with nirnroot. This obsession grew worse when an adventurer from Skyrim sold him a red nirnroot...a thing I had not previously heard of. The adventurer told Sinderion that the red (crimson, according to him) nirnroot had come from the caverns of Blackreach and likely only the caverns of Blackreach.

Sinderion relocated himself to Skyrim, then into Blackreach. From the arrow sticking in his skeleton's rib-cage, I presume he was wounded by a Dwemer mechanical, retreated to his workshop, then, surrounded by enough ingredients to craft something helpful, died. His journal was dated with the year as well, marking it as just over one hundred and fifty years old.
I had no time for crimson nirnroot and no care, but Serana's was curious to have heard of something new since before her one thousand year nap. We agreed to split up, her after the nirnroot, me after the device required to transcribe the Elder Scroll. We would meet back at the workshop in three hours.

There was a giant globe of hazy light suspended from one corner of Blackreach and I thought to look there first for the entrance (an elevator, I assumed) to Mzark Tower, where Septimus assured me I would find what I needed to help him.
The globe served as a Dwemer-built sun for a small, walled Dwemer village mostly inhabited by Falmer and...for some reason, Nords. They were clothed raggedly and cheaply, but each attacked me on sight. Were they willing servants of the Falmer? Slaves of some kind? I shall never know.
As agreed, Serana and I rejoined at Sinderion's workshop. His journal had called for thirty samples of the red nirnroot, but Serana had only twenty. She may return on her own when this is all over. Together we found the elevator for Mzark Tower and gratefully ascended. I do not know about her, but Khajiit are not made for long spells underground. 

Mzark was only two rooms: the one containing the elevator and the much larger one with a device that looked similar to the Dwemer observatory I visited a month or so ago.
Serana and I figured out how to start the machine: a small cup held Septimus's Dwemer cube. Placing the cube in the cup unlocked two of the five buttons, one rotated the machine from and towards us, the other side to side. With no clue as to what we were doing, we took turns pressing the buttons until we managed to reach some sort of pattern which unlocked two more buttons.

Again, we entertained ourselves pressing buttons randomly until the whole machine shuddered and a Dwemer mechanical arm holding a large tube descended from the ceiling.

Much to my surprise the tube contained an Elder Scroll...or something resembling one. The Dwemer cube was also changed: engravings dotted the formerly-smooth surface, though I could not tell when that work had been done. All of this has been very confusing.

With the Scroll and engraved cube in our possession we had to walk back to the elevator shaft we used to enter Blackreach and found ourselves, after what felt like a very long day, back on to the frozen surface of Skyrim.
Rather than force myself to walk back to the College I will be borrowing the still-burning campfire outside of the ruin to warm up one of the tents before settling in for what is a well-deserved, if rather cold, rest. I have nearly forgotten what I had set out to accomplish today, but I believe I have done it nonetheless.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Skyrim Day 076 - Winter Hideaway

1 Sun's Dusk, 4E201
Winterhold
~~~

Fort Dawnguard does not advertise itself as comfortable for the waylaid traveler from the outside and does nothing to change this once you enter. Dexion finished the reading of Serana's scroll at around two in the morning, but within the entire fortress there was no free quarters for Serana and I, so it was right back out the gate for us in pursuit of the remaining two scrolls, dubbed 'Dragon' and 'Blood'. Not the first night I have gone without sleep, but I would rather not make a habit of this.

Fortunately for me the only lead we had for the 'Dragon' scroll was that Urag, the College's irascible Orsimer librarian, might know where to start looking. The alternative was to start the search for the 'Blood' scroll, requiring a trip across the entire province to a castle garrisoned by vampires. Finding the 'Dragon' scroll first was fine by me.

Almost immediately upon exiting the little canyon which housed the Dawnguard Serana and I were set upon by a group of vampires, one powerful enough to match Serana's magicka, but once I finished dispatching the weaker assailants the leader fell to a combination of vampire magicka and Khajiit swordsmanship. Disappointingly, none had anything of value.

The night gave way to an overcast, hazy morning as we left the sparse pine forest and entered the sulfuric hot springs separating Riften from Windhelm. An assassin from the Dark Brotherhood sprang out from beside the road, wisely cloaked with an Invisbility potion or spell, but the unwisely attacked us from the front, denying himself the benefit of surprise.

Other than a duo of master-less Mammoths crossing the road some way ahead of the assassin's corpse we encountered nothing else on the way to Windhelm.
I met a small group of Khajiit camping by Windhelm's gatehouse, but they were there not to trade, but to pull fish from the nearly-frozen river to sell, dried and prepared, to the caravans.
They were willing to ferry Serana and I across the frozen river for a few Septims, sparing us a much longer walk around the hills west of Windhelm. Just out of sight of the river we came under attack by two woman-spirits, each summoning hostile energies similar to those I fought at Winterhold. They were likely the 'wispmothers' the Nords speak of, the first of which I fought weeks ago.
They had been guarding a shrine to Arkay, but I could find no reason why.

Within sight of the College we came upon two bandits arguing near the body of a dead woman. Guessing what had transpired, I motioned Serana to take the one on the left while I readied my crossbow. It was darkly amusing to watch my victim simply drop dead with a bolt through his throat, whereas Serana's was flung sideways by her magicka, across the icy ground and over the cliff behind him.
The woman died wearing a powerfully enchanted pendant around her neck, probably the reason the bandits had been arguing. A letter on her body mournfully informed me that if I was reading it the author was likely dead. The unnamed woman explained that the bandits had broken into her home and taken everything she owned, including the pendant, a family heirloom. She was the last of her family and the comfort  the pendant brought her was dear to her. Regardless of the risk, she was going to get it back, even if it meant her death...which it did, but I am certain she approved of the bandits' fate.

This may be the first day I have visited the College without being suffocated by a snowstorm. The sky was cloudy, but the air was clear of snow and ice.
Urag was as happy to see me as he was anyone, which is to say not at all. He laughed when I asked about finding an Elder Scroll, wondering if I even knew what I was asking for...which I felt was pretty rude to say to the current Arch-Mage, if I may say so.

For his derision the Orsimer was not particularly knowledgeable about them either, content to use frustrating metaphors and state utter nonsense, such as the falsehoods in the Scrolls being truer than the truths...which would cease to make them falsehoods. The only actual help he was able to provide was in the form of a small volume written by a former student of the College, an Imperial named Septimus Signus.

It was titled 'Ruminations on the Elder Scrolls' and consisted entirely of nonsense. When I asked Urag what help it was supposed to be he laughed and said it was to prepare me for when I met the man. Surprised, I asked when the book was penned and found that it was only months old, the man wrote it, left it in at the College, then rambled about a great Dwemer treasure at the tip of the province...just north of Winterhold. Urag made it his business to know where exactly Septimus had disappeared to, but judged the man mad enough to not bother about his "discovery".

The walk along the peninsula north of Winterhold was as miserable as I feared: it was windy, snowy, and very, very cold. We were forced to precariously hop across ice floes just to reach the cavern Urag had found, one wrong step would plunge us into a sea equal parts ice and water. The mad man's boat, now frozen fast to Skyrim, came as a great relief.
Septimus was utterly mad, but he had found something interesting: a giant Dwemer puzzle cube wider than he was tall and taller as well.
He was a very difficult man to talk to, but I managed to get out of him the assurance that there was an Elder Scroll still in Skyrim, despite either the Empire or the Thalmor sweeping the province for them, which he meant was unclear. Predictably Septimus would not tell me where the Scroll was until I performed a task for him.

The Dwemer cube was driving him madder than he already was. He simply had to get inside no matter what was required...so long as he did not have to leave the cave. His belief was that the Scroll would tell him how to open the giant cube.

He claimed that an ancient Dwemer city, Blackreach, more ancient than all the others, lay underneath Skyrim. To reach Blackreach I would have to "delve to the limits, then beyond", a clear description of a city underneath a city, I think. He suggested either 'Tower Mzark' or 'Alftand'.

The Tower is unknown to me but I visited Alftand while searching for Arniel's Dwemer cogwheels a month ago or so. Apparently I missed a lower level, Blackreach, during my first visit and will now have to suffer a second. At least it is not far.

We had only to walk back across the treacherous ice floes, avoid the Horkers, then climb up the frozen beach underneath the College while under constant assault by shards of ice blown about by the coastal winds. Because this was not difficult enough we came under assault by three Trolls and a Dragon once we advanced past the beach.

The Dragon landed right next to Serana, bringing her to her knees. I pulled my crossbow free of my belt, but knew I would not be able to to fire quick enough to save her life. Fortunately, the Trolls arrived ahead of my bolt.

They fearlessly loped over to the Dragon and started beating its armored hide with their fists, doing little more than annoying the beast and distracting it enough to give Serana time to retreat and regroup.

Against a Dragon the Trolls, even three of them, had little chance. Once the last was dead Serana and I launched our attack, her with magicka, as usual, me with crossbow and blade. The first Dragon was a terrifying ordeal, this one...not anymore. Serana too seemed to have quickly gotten used to the routine, only craning her head slightly as the Dragon's soul rushed into my body...a process which I still do not understand. Am I supposed to do something afterwards?
By the team we returned to Winterhold most of it was already sleeping. Rather than waste more time trudging up to the College we wordlessly agreed to head directly for the Inn in the hope for an early start at Alftand tomorrow morning.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Skyrim Day 075 - White-Hot Failure

1 Sun's Dusk, 4E201
Fort Dawnguard
~~~

With all the pieces of Aetherium in our possession Serana and I had only to travel to the Aetherium Forge to answer one of the many questions the Dwemer left behind. Katria's journal placed the Forge somewhere south of Ivarstead and we left before sunrise, per Serana's preference.

Expecting a quiet morning, I was surprised to see a man running through the small town towards me. Stopping in front of me, he announced, somewhat out of breath, that he had a letter for me. Handing it over, he wished me a good morning and disappeared into the inn, no doubt for breakfast and a rest.

The letter was from 'Muiri' and concerned the death of 'Alain Dufont', a man I unknowingly killed some time ago, at least according to the letter. Perhaps he was a bandit or Dark Brotherhood assassin. Muiri reassured me that she would not be contacting the authorities over Alain's death and sought to reward me for his end. She (I assume) asked me to visit her to receive her gratitude, but left no hint as to her whereabouts. A mysterious, but also rather useless, letter.
Serana then announced she had business elsewhere, agreeing to meet outside of Fort Dawnguard no later than tomorrow night. I wonder what occupied her today, but she is free to pursue her own life, disagreeable though she may be.

A Bosmer intercepted me on the road towards Windhelm, offering me the "sweetest moon sugar, the finest Skooma." When I refused his offer he grew angry and attacked me bare-handed. Such a senseless way to throw away one's life.

The rest of the walk was uneventful and I passed through Ivarstead just before noon. The Forge was somewhere south of the town, but no hints had been given. So I wandered about for a bit, coming across an Imperial camp and stopping in to make some quick trades. I spent a few minutes talking to the Legate, an brusque Altmer named Fasendil. His words dripped with disdain for the Dominion and told me that he was stationed in Hammerfell during the "Night of Green Fire" almost two hundred years ago.

That was news I remember hearing, though not in detail. Altmer, fleeing the Thalmor in Summerset Isle, settled in Sentinel, only to be assaulted by the Thalmor and almost completely wiped out. Fasendil was part of the would-be relief effort, but the Legion arrived too late to save anyone. He has harbored a hatred for the Dominion ever since. He sought a transfer to Skyrim so that he could watch the Thalmor and is of the opinion that they are behind what exists of the "Civil War" and the return of the Dragons.

He knew of one Dwemer ruin nearby, but it had been appropriated by a group of bandits, as usual. It lay only a few moments from the camp, but he forbade his men from engaging the bandits for fear of losing them to what he felt were pointless skirmishes. Perhaps if the Thalmor had taken up residence he would have done something. Fasendil could not tell me if there was anything unique about the ruin compared to others and wished me health as we parted.

The ruin really was only a few seconds away from the camp, but the bandits were nowhere to be seen when I arrived.
Some sort of device lay in the center of the ruins, the design reminding me of the Observatory I found at Mzulft. It was the only thing unusual about the place and Katria shimmered into view as I approached it.
She had been at the ruin for some time, no doubt pacing back and forth impatiently as she waited for someone with physical form to arrive. With nothing else to do but examine things, Katria had found that the device had an impression on it that would fit the shards we have been collecting. Placing all the shards in the impression on the device resulted in the entire platform rising up...with us on top of it.
I hopped off in time to avoid having to make some difficult choices and we both watched as the elevator tower rose from the ground. Quite a dramatic flair from a race I have come to assume was humorless and cold.

The tower's elevator led to a large underground cavern into which one of Katria's "resonator" gatehouses was installed.
Smacking each of the resonators with a crossbow bolt opened the gate, begging the question as to what purpose the things really served. If someone need only to throw a stone at them why lock the gate in the first place?

The ruin was small: behind the gate was a pair of uncomfortably warm doors and a stairway leading into a rough cavern with a open pool of lava on one side. Set in front of the lava was the sought-after Forge. The air was hot enough to make breathing painful and my eyes water incessantly, an annoyance which became a grave disadvantage once the Dwemer's guardians started to drop from valves in the ceiling and walls.

Katria and I must have each accounted for over a dozen of the mechanicals. She was not bothered by the heat, of course, acquitting herself well against the machines which seemed to focus on the only living intruder to the Forge: myself. I got backed into a corner by five of the spider guardians, but managed to fight my way free and strike them from behind.

Once the last guardian clattered to a halt Katria urged me to approach the Forge, but a terrible screeching from behind it sent me scurrying back. The true guardian of the Forge had awoken.
The master of the Forge was a larger version of the massive guards I have been encountering at the Dwemer ruins here in Skyrim. This one wielded an axe large enough to fell a tree with a single swipe on one arm and a hammer no doubt heavy enough to drive the remaining stump flat into the earth. If that was not enough to discourage melee its body was hot enough to glow and we quickly discovered it could breathe fire as well.
Fortunately for me it fixated on Katria, whose spiritual existence made her immune to heat and fire, though not physical blows. She distracted the guardian on one side of the cavern while I sneaked to the other side, prepared to pepper the thing with Dwemer crossbow bolts. I may have gotten a lucky shot in a over-heated joint, who can say?

Our strategy proved unnecessary. As I crept into position the cavern reverberated with a horrendous shriek as something broke inside of the thing. It collapsed, spraying steaming lubricant from all its moving parts. It hit the ground with a mighty crash and lay still, victim to nothing more than time.

Katria was as giddy as a nearly-dead person can be, I suppose. She enthused that the only thing left to do was use the Forge to prove its authenticity...but we had no Aetherium to forge anything with. She hopefully suggested that there might be pieces laying about the chamber and after some minutes of searching we came up with a piece, enough for a single use.
The Forge itself was very easy to use. There was a small chest set before three buttons, one engraved with a shield, one with a staff, the third with a helmet. I placed the Aetherium in the chest and closed the lid, then pressed the helmet button. A hidden platform underneath the chest lowered it into the Forge, then came back up, minus the chest and our Aetherium. I looked at Katria, but she was staring at the Forge, enthralled.

Steam and hot oil sprayed out of Forge, time evidently being no less cruel to it than its guardian. I thought it broken, but Katria refused to hear of it, so we waited, she almost on top of the thing, me a safe distance away. After several minutes the machine quieted and the chest rose back from within, steaming oil oozing all over it.

I carefully opened the lid and peered inside. The chunk of unfinished Aetherium I put into the chest had been transformed into a Dwemer metal circlet, hardly the helmet I was expecting, with four small and one large Aetherium crystal set into it.

Katria wistfully remarked at how beautiful it was, but that was not an opinion we shared. The circlet was very Dwemer: sturdy, blocky, and devoid of any beauty I could see. It was formed of the same gold-colored metal everything else they made is and the five bright-blue crystals looked as though they belonged on something else.

For Katria's sake I placed it upon my head. Satisfied, she declared that no one could deny the Forge's existence now that there was an Aetherium crown for all to see. I have my doubts that anyone else cares at all and even fewer would recognize the gemstones for Aetherium crystal.

And with that Katria faded away, thanking me as she began her new adventure in whatever after-life awaited her. Whatever it is, I wish her well.

With a tale to tell to Serana I left the cavern and traced my steps back to the elevator. The cool air of Skyrim was a welcome relief as I stepped out of the tower and while it was already night I felt I could make good enough time to Fort Dawnguard to justify not staying at Riften.

I was attacked on the road by a band of Vampires, but they were weak and poorly led. The dust I scraped from their bodies will fetch a good price. Isran was taking no chances now that he had the Elder Scroll and the Moth Priest under his guard, so I was not surprised to find the Dawnguard garrison vigilant and the gates secure.
The Moth Priest Dexion was in conversation with Isran when I entered and both turned to me as I approached, Dexion in gratitude, Isran in...whatever passes for gratitude with him. Serana must have heard me enter for she suddenly landed in the midst of all three of us, smugly pleased by having startled us by leaping from the second floor. With a small smile and a wave, she welcomed me back, in a much better mood than I expected for having stayed among the Dawnguard by herself.

Dexion exclaimed that his visit to Skyrim had been "quite the adventure" so far, a comment I felt was rather insensitive given that his visit has so far cost several Legionnaires their lives. I inquired into the preparations required prior to reading an Elder Scroll, but there was nothing he had to do prior to simply reading the Scroll to the best of his ability. Isran was impatient to begin, so Serana handed over the Scroll without comment and the priest began.
Isran's dour expression did not change and Serana acted as if she was bored. Curious, I walked behind Dexion to see what the Scroll looked like and was surprised to find it looked like nothing: to my eyes it was simply a blank scroll. To Dexion's it was a treasure-trove of information and prophecy and he began to recite what he could read of the vampires and the Dawnguard.

He spoke of the Daedric artifact, Auriel's Bow, claiming that it would return to Mundus after the Dragons were awoken and "night and day become one". More than that though, he could not read. He claimed that he could only read the beginning of the prophecy surrounding the Bow and that the acquisition of two more Elder Scrolls would allow him to read it in full. I scoffed at the notion of finding even one Scroll, let alone three, but Serana spoke up.

She felt that she knew of a lead towards finding the second scroll, if not the third also. Serana claimed that her mother, Valerica, would know of its location. I found that difficult to believe, but neither Isran nor Dexion had any other suggestions, so to Valerica Serana and I must go.

Unsurprisingly Serana had no idea where her mother was. She had gone into hiding before Serana was sealed away for a thousand or so years, giving her daughter only the hint that she would hide where her obsessed father would never think to look. Serana complained that she could not think of a place her father would not look in order to acquire a Scroll, but I immediately pointed out that he would never look where he lived: her family's castle.

Serana sheepishly admitted that she did not think of that, but that it occurred to her that if Valerica remained in the castle she would likely hide, somehow, in the castle's courtyard garden. As to how Serana and I were to enter the castle, she explained that there was, and hopefully still is, a small escape passage behind the castle which the previous owners used to ferry supplies. The notion of previous owners interested me before I reminded myself that they were probably previously there thousands of years ago.

So after walking across the entire province I find myself having to immediately turn around and walk all the way back. It is very frustrating, but perhaps I can use this as an opportunity to attend to some business on my way there and back.