Monday, May 16, 2016

Skyrim Day 028 - Not Your Typical Transaction

12 Heartfire, 4E201
Wilderness near Riften
~~~

I had promised Brelyna I would resume our already-disastrous experiment when my eyesight stopped being so green and blurry, but it took a decent night's sleep before the drab colors of Skyrim were sullenly presenting themselves normally again.

Typical of my mornings the sun was just starting to rise, but Brelyna was awake anyway, paging through a volume in front of her room. Whatever it was must have been engrossing, for we were nearly nose-to-nose before she noticed me. After recovering her breath she remarked that my eyes appeared to have lost their green luster and that she thought she knew what had gone wrong. She wanted a second chance, with my permission, of course. What's the worst that could happen, right?

I am not sure what happened next. She cast her spell and all of a sudden I felt slightly drunk, my vision blurry, but at least not green. I remember hearing her fret and casting the spell again, making me quite tall, but then she cast it once more and I was closer to the ground, my eyesight black-and-white. A final casting of her spell put me back from whatever had happened and she nervously laughed, saying that it looked like everything worked out in the end. 

I actually have no idea what it was she had even done. I told her to not hesitate if she needed any further help, but she assured me that she was done for awhile and remarked off-hand that she would enjoy a trip or two around Skyrim if I needed the assistance. Something I shall keep in mind.

Enthir's regretful trade was the next item on my College list to resolve. He suspected the mage he sold the staff to was bringing it to an ancient Nordic ruin built into the hills northwest of the chronically impoverished city of Riften...which put it very close to Mzulft, where I was just a few days ago. People really do seem eager to see me traveling to and fro. So it was back on to the frozen road for the new Arch-Mage. Did Savos have people to do these sort of tasks for him?

While I was puzzling over that question a man ran up to me, shoved a bow into my arms, and said he would be back for it in a few days. Apparently not having the bow when he returned would be to my regret, but then he ran off. Not more than twenty seconds passed before a second man approached, equally out of breath, asking me if I had seen the first pass by. This second man was a hunter who had his bow stolen by a man he had showed hospitality to at his campfire.

I returned the bow to him and he grimly thanked me and stated that the thief would be shot down by it before night fell. Not caring either way, I wished him luck and proceeded onwards, only to be interrupted by a deranged Khajiit calling himself "M'aiq the Liar" who rambled on about nonsensical things. He was likely on the bad side of his sugar and abruptly ran away with no provocation at all, hopefully to somewhere safe.

The ruin Enthir vaguely pointed me towards was past the stinking springs, maybe ten minutes of walking along the road past Mzulft. A trio of revelers drinking near the springs knew of the ruin and one cautioned me that a band of mages had recently taken up residence. Of course.
Only one mage was guarding the entrance leading inside the mountain, but I managed to alarm him before I could fire an arrow. He conjured a colossal Atronach of ice, but it was weaker than the one I had fought in Labyrinthian and crumbled after only a few blows from my sword. The conjurer fell after only one. He was carrying an excellent Glass dagger which he had not thought to draw against me, for whatever reason.

The inside of the ruin was being patrolled by awakened Draugr which I immediately suspected were being used by the mages. I was correct, but not for the right reason.
The Draugr were not only being used as guards, but as labor. The mages enthralled them to hack away at the cavern walls with their weapons, though after what I could not tell. The noise was loud enough to mask my approach and the bored mage soon had his throat opened by my new dagger. The Draugr paid his demise no notice and I put both of them to rest as well.

A woman's voice sounded from deeper within the cave as I turned away from the three corpses, announcing herself as "Lu'ah Al-Skaven", a name which meant nothing to me. She claimed to have an army of undead waiting for me and I of course was reminded of the late Dragon Priest who boasted a similarly penetrating voice.

J'zargo had asked me to test his scrolls on the undead and unexpectedly I had an opportunity to do so somewhere in front of me, if Lu'ah was to be believed. A hallway lined with desiccated bodies turned out to disguise several of her undead soldiers and I rather nervously let three close into melee before unleashing what should have been a ring of undead-destroying flame around my person.

Instead the three Draugr exploded simultaneously, hurling themselves to pieces and me backwards almost thirty feet into a wall of stone. First Brelyna turns me green, then J'zargo has me slamming myself into rock. It is no wonder that half of Winterhold is went missing.

Despite the surprisingly ballistic nature of his spell, J'zargo did craft something effective and that was the end of Lu'ah's little ambush, with only a slight concussion to suffer on my side.

After freeing a few more Draugr from their mining labor I came upon the motif-locks the ancient Nords seem to have been fond of. The locks are simple: columns, usually three, each have facets with a different animal on them. Spinning the columns around to form a specific combination of animals unlocks a gate, or a lever, or something.
In Ansilvund, the motif-locks were set along a ledge, behind a lever which I guessed would open the gate on the far side of the room. Operating the lever caused darts to fire out of the walls if the motifs were not correct, though I had the presence of mind to hide behind a table before I threw the lever forward.

What few ruins I have so far visited normally had the correct sequence of motifs engraved along the walls, which I suspect served as a device to keep Draugr in the ruins rather than people out of them. But this time there was no obvious clues as to the correct order, but a book on the table wound up spelling it out somewhat obliquely.

The book was titled 'Of Fjori and Holgeir', one described as a 'huntress', the other a 'warlord'. What their reason for fighting was is lost to history, but according to the story they fought until each broke a piece of the other's equipment, her sword breaking his axe and his shield breaking her sword, as implausible as that sounds. Even more implausible was that they then fell in love and were married.

But theirs was a difficult one, for then a snake bit Holgeir, a whale somehow greeted Fjori and told her to seek a cure from the Akavir, Returning from the Akavir, Fjori gave the elixir to Holgeir, curing him instantly. However, the snake then bit Fjori, who succumbed immediately.

It was a very strange story, but I think it served more to reveal the correct lock combination: Eagle, Snake, Whale, Snake. The book ended with Holgeir building a tomb for Fjori, then committing suicide in order to join her. Very grim and therefore probably very Nordic.

Next to the book was a small journal written in recently. The author lamented the death of her husband, a Legionnaire named Saeel, twenty-five years ago and spent those years researching ways to pull his soul back from where ever it had gone to, without success. The fable of Fjori and Holgeir brought her to this ruin and the author, who I suspected then was really Lu'ah, was using the tomb to build an army of Draugr to exact revenge upon Skyrim, the Empire, and likely everyone else after that.

Anyway, the combination unlocked the gate and I passed through another room full of Draugr, safely not using my last scroll from J'zargo to dispatch them. Lu'ah's voice screamed from somewhere within, vowing that her army of undead would avenge Saeel's "defilement", whatever she felt that was.

Lu'ah Al-Skaven was waiting for me in a chamber typical of those ruins, with an altar built at the far end.
As soon as she spotted me creeping towards her she let out an incoherent scream of rage and cast a spell which somehow simultaneously raised the bodies of two Draugr in the coffins behind her as well as a skeleton on the ground in front. No doubt she felt that was enough, but she did not know of J'zargo's explosive eagerness to prove himself.

The blast felt like the ground had been torn out from underneath me and I was flung right out of the chamber and through the doors, fortunately not striking my head a second time. The remains of my undead adversaries were spread about the chamber, some of the pieces smoldering and Lu'ah was dead, the back of her skull crushed by its sudden impact with the wall behind her. I must remember to give my thanks to J'zargo, so long as it does not inflate his ego too much.

As I was poking around the room in the search for valuables two spirits materialized next to the altar.
Part of the legend had been true: the spirits introduced themselves as Fjori and Holgeir, both of them thanking me for saving their remains from being Lu'ah's pawns. Evidently the two Draugr that had been blasted apart were actually the remains of the couple, which was a bit embarrassing, in a way.

They thanked me for ending Lu'ah's enslavement and bid me to accept a gift from them. I was not aware spirits could give gifts, but after they faded away a shimmering blade appeared on the pedestal behind them. In appearance it looks very similar to a conjured sword and happily is just as light. It will be interesting to see how it performs against my Dwemer sword and new Glass dagger.
A small chamber off to the side served as Lu'ah's living quarters. On the table I found a letter dated on 4E 175 from an Imperial Praefect informing her of Saeel's death during the liberation of the Imperial City. Also in her room was a large chest which contained Enthir's staff, among other minor items of value.

As expected, when I finally left the ruin it was once again close to midnight. Rather than walk back to the College in the dark I simply re-entered the desolate place and am sleeping in the would-be necromancer's cot. To the victors go the spoils.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Skyrim Day 027 - An Unexpected Promotion

11 Heartfire, 4E201
Winterhold College
~~~

Morthal holds few charms and its inn is not one of them. I spent a clammy, uncomfortable night in the swamp-town and woke up almost as tired as when I had tried to go to sleep. Despite Urag's book being nearby I had little energy as it was and was anticipating an eventful day. The book remains where ever it is, at least for now.
Staying on the road kept the walk safe, but boring. I stopped at the coastal city of Dawnstar to trade my crossbow for arrows, then walked back outside the city, encountered a pack of wolves, and missed all five shots I took with my bow. Money well spent.

I intended to leave the road and walk along the coast as I usually do and came upon an Impeial Legion camp just on the other side of a small hill which hosted a ruined temple of Dawnstar.
No one had much to say to me, but the soldier doubling as their blacksmith was willing to sell me some arrows, some of which I hope to shoot something with some day. The wilderness outside Dawnstar provided only goats and wolves and I soon sighted the semi-ruined College of Winterhold, far into the distance.
It did not seem to be in any more pieces than it was when I had left, a good sign. When I arrived in the almost completely ruined town of Winterhold a storm suddenly whipped up, leaving me almost blinded by the snow. Beams of lightning and balls of fire were erupting ahead of me on the college's walkway, but when I arrived the skirmish was already over. Tolfdir and two students were standing among piles of the strange globe things I fought the other day.

They were stuck, the way back to the College was blocked by a storm of magical energy caused by whatever Arcano was attempting to do. Tolfdir urged me to waste no time in using the staff, but I had no idea how to actually use it. I tried pointing it at the whirling maelstrom in front of me and with a loud zapping sound it abruptly disappeared.
The students stayed behind to guard against any more floating globe things leaving Tolfdir and I to charge inside. During our short jog I learned that Mirabelle had also been killed, having stayed behind to ensure everyone else escaped. With her death Tolfdir became the leader of the College, if not the Arch-Mage, but it  was clearly something he did not want.

Dagger in one hand, staff in the other, I pushed the gates open and we stepped inside the Hall of Elements where Arcano was still siphoning power from the Eye.
Tolfdir shouted at me to use the staff on the Eye as he attempted to distract Arcano with his spells. He ran towards the Thalmor, his spells uselessly parting themselves around Arcano, while I approached the Eye, one of my own on it and the other on Arcano.

Pointing the staff at the Eye caused a beam of energy to lazily form between the two and so long as I kept the staff close enough this energy seemed to "open" the Eye, revealing blinding blue light within. The Eye continued to open and Tolfdir continued to exhaust himself when suddenly there was a flash of light from within the Eye. Instinctively I dropped the staff and shielded my eyes and when my vision returned to normal Tolfdir was unconscious and Arcano had moved to the rear of the Hall, cursing as he battled the magical globe things.

Bright balls of light were being flung from the Eye all over the room, forming the hostile globes as soon as they struck a surface. I scrambled around the globes to recover the staff and, on a hunch, held it up to the Eye again. This time it slowly closed, more energy being drawn from the staff. Once it was closed Arcano's cursing changed from sounding 'mildly annoyed' to 'greatly alarmed'.

Whatever occurred between the staff and the Eye had disconnected Arcano from his source of new-found power. The globes were doing their best to batter him into submission, but they were not a great threat. He screamed at me to help him, which remains confusing even now, so I walked up behind him and buried my dagger into his back, helping him as he did Savos and Mirabelle.

It was over. I woke Tolfdir and helped him to his feet. He glanced at the Thalmor's body, but said nothing. We both stared at the docile-looking Eye of Magnus for a few moments, then he sighed and admitted he had no idea what we should do with it. As if on cue, a mage of the Psijic Order suddenly teleported in and congratulated us as two of his Order also arrived. He stated that recent events proved we were not ready to harness its power, a statement I certainly could agree with. Having said that, the three Psijic mages faced the Eye, rasied the hands, and disappeared, bringing the Eye with them.
What followed was a very awkward conversation. Tolfidr laughed nervously and said he wondered what the College would do without the Arch-Mage and his second-in-command. He continued on without letting me speak, saying that he was too old and too tired to assume responsibility and the other teachers were not going to be willing either. Forging ahead, he babbled that I had obviously proven myself to be strong, resourceful, and skilled in magic, though I am not sure where the last part came from.

With that I was named Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold...after being a student for less than a week. But I gather that is how organizations in Skyrim work: the strongest dies, the next strongest assumes the mantle. In my case this was literal: two sets of 'official' wardrobe was waiting for me in the Arch-Mage's Quarters, though I will have to send them away to be modified for Khajiit use.
Having been at the College for only five days I barely knew the other students and none of the surviving instructors, save for Tolfdir. I figured I could do worse on my first day as Arch-Mage than to walk around and talk with everyone.

Arniel Gane, the Breton I tried to assist in Saarthal. While not a mage, he rents space at the College to perform his research in and has hit a bit of a problem with resources. In an effort to solve this he requested that I bring him some Dwemer artifacts, specifically ten cogwheels from their ancient machines. I assured him that if I ever found myself in an Dwemer ruin again I would bring him his wheels. To what end, I neither know or care.

The College's sole Nordic student, Osmund, had a tale to tell me. He had traded his family's amulet to Enthir, a Bosmer also renting space at the College. Apparently Enthir has a reputation for "finding" items for a small fee, in other words: fencing stolen goods to the students. The trade of the amulet was for scrolls and rare books, but Osmund was now regretting the transaction, the amulet being the only link he had left to his family. My assistance was requested. Had Savos dealt with things like this? I suspect not.

Enthir pretended to be a slippery sort of fellow, but he sounded a bit unsure of himself in front of the new Arch-Mage. When confronted with Osmund's request he stammered that he had misplaced the amulet, but that if I were to retrieve a poor trade of his own he was sure to have found it when I returned. You could almost admire the arrogance. His task would at least take me out of the College, so I agreed, much to his relief.

Brelyna Maryon of House Telvanni also had a request to make of me: be her test subject for a variety of spells she had researched. I agreed, hoping that she would not be so foolish as to cast destructive magic inside the student dormitory. I am not sure what she was trying to do, but her spell turned my vision blurry and rather green. This was noticeable in some way and she profusely apologized, assuring me that a night's rest would dispel the effect.
J'zargo descended from the great height of his pride to admit a need for assistance as well. Much like Brelyna he had been researching new spells, but needed someone else to see if they worked correctly. Fortunately, he only needed someone to use the three scrolls he prepared on the undead, which he claimed the spells were specifically designed to destroy. I agreed to his task as well, guessing that I could find some undead while on my way to collect Arniel's cogwheels.

By then my green eyesight was beginning to give me a headache and I had a list of things to do that was longer than my arm, so I somewhat hesitantly settled down in the Arch-Mages's quarters, well aware I was sleeping in the bed of a man whose body was presently floating out to the sea. I have slept in worse places, but I was not prepared to be waking up tomorrow as the leader of a College I barely know.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Skyrim Day 026 - Savos's Sacrifice

10 Heartfire, 4E201
Whiterun
~~~

Labyrinthian wound up being much closer to Morthal than I thought it was, but Whiterun was no doubt more comfortable, so I considered my mistake a fortunate one.

The area around Whiterun is patrolled somewhat regularly, but I still had to fight off one of Skyrim's giant Sabre Cats along the westbound road. As I made my way along a road leading into the mountains where Labyrinthian was built I passed a pit lined with stone coffins.
A door was set into the wall and something about the arrangement intrigued me. As it was, the area closely resembled the tombs I remember hesitantly exploring on Vvardenfell: small and not worth the trouble. The inside was just one room, a hallway along one side having caved in. Three Draugr awaited me, but they were guarding nothing of value. I pressed onward to frozen Labyrinthian.

The city must have been quite a sight in its time, but now its only inhabitants were trolls, two of whom I had to cut down before the rest scattered away from me. The ruins were littered with carvings of what could have been either a bird or a dragon and a large dome dominated the courtyard.
But my business was inside the ruin, so I ignored the dome and approached the massive door. As I drew close a shimmering in the air in front of the door came into focus and suddenly I was surrounded by spirits.
Ambushed, I drew my blade, but the spirits paid me no attention. They talked among themselves and I realized that the Dunmer-looking one was their leader...and the former Arch-Mage of Winterhold College.

From what I could make out, Savos was far younger in this strange manifestation than when I briefly knew him and he seemed to have convinced the other spirits, students of the college, to follow him to Labyrinthian on a quest for knowledge and artifacts. The group was more varied than today's: one of them sounded like a Bosmer and another was unmistakably an Argonian. As he quelled the fears of his fellow students the spirits faded and I was left alone once again.

I spent several minutes trying to figure out how to open the front door, certainly not a good sign for me. After examining the decoration on the door I realized that the heavy necklace that Mirabelle had given me was actually the door's handle, though how thing thing came to be required to open the door at all was a mystery.

The inside was littered with ancient skeletons and weapons, the remains of guardians that Savos's group had probably blasted apart.
Their spirits reformed at the end of the chamber, the others complaining of the dangers they were likely to face. But Savos assured them he had been there before and skeletons were the worst they were going to find inside. The spirits disappeared and I proceeded in their ghostly footsteps.

I wish I had not. After a few small rooms of Draugr and skeletons I found a portcullis which was operated by a nearby lever...which meant anyone coming inside the underground city could open the gate. I started wondering why this was the case as I opened the gate and walked through, but then everything became entirely too clear for me.
The large cavern which the gate opened into was occupied by a massive, dead dragon. The "dead" part did not seem to concern it much and its skeletal remains roared and moved just as the dragon at Helgen had, though this one was able to "breathe" ice instead of fire.

Panicking, I fired two bolts at it with no apparent effect other than to anger it. I tried to retreat back through the gate, but it had closed behind me, making its purpose a lot more clear. The only way was forward: providing I survived the dragon and its retinue of skeletal archers.

Being made only of bones held together by magicka does not give one the best of reflexes apparently, for I was able to easily outrun the dragon while the archers ineffectually lobbed arrows at me. I made it to a stairway at the opposite end of the cavern, drew my sword, and turned around to see how much distance I had put between myself and instantly freezing to death.
As it turned out, not nearly enough! I might have outrun the dragon, but only by a few steps of its massive claws. I could have retreated further down the stairway, which was too narrow to admit it, but I thought, at the time, that would mean only facing it on my way out. So I drew my Dwemer-forged sword and turned to face the monstrous thing.

My strategy was just as simple as the creature's was: wait until it reared back to utilize its ice "breath", then scamper down the stairs so that the spray of ice passed over my head. Then I rushed back up the stairs, hacked at the thing's bony skull, and ran back the stairs. If I had not been so terrified it would have been almost amusing.

Eventually the small chips and cracks resulting from my blows began to leak wisps of magicka and the poor creature...ran out of magicka, I suppose. I do not know what held it together, but after what seemed like a long time the dragon's skeleton lay still and I was still alive.
The winding staircase led me to a small altar with am engraved plaque on top of it. I was surprised to find that it was written in Cyrodilic:
Hail All-Brave City Bromjunaar
Forever These Walls Shall Stand
May Enemies See Her Majesty
May All Quake to Behold Her
I can only assume Labyrinthian used to be named Bromjunaar, or was built on the ruins of it. Perhaps the dragon guarded the entrance to Bromjunaar from Labyrinthian, though to what purpose I cannot see. As I was puzzling this thought over, the spirits came back again, all of them seeming to stare at me, a rather uneasy thing.

Stepping away from their gazes, I realized there was one less. The students were greatly upset at the death of the student called 'Girduin', Savos had led them through the same cavern I had fought the dragon in, but it had been there for them as well. They simply ran past, but Girduin had been killed by the dragon, apparently it tore him into many small pieces.

Savos smoothly pointed out that they could not very well go back to the dragon, insisting that it was safer to go forwards rather than back. They agreed somewhat reluctantly and disappeared from my sight. I suspected I would find them one less again the next time they appeared.

I continued along, battling the odd Dragur here and there without much trouble. Suddenly, a voice seemed to boom from beneath me, uttering some guttural language I could not understand. With it came a wave of blue light that washed over me and sapped me of my magicka strength, which I quickly recovered anyway. I waited a few minutes but nothing else happened, so I pressed on. After maybe ten minutes of sneaking about and shooting Dragur the voice and the magicka-sapping light came rushing up through the floor, the voice saying something different but just as alien to my ears.

The spirits had not returned yet, but I found a stone door guarded by a magicka ward which I set off with a crossbow bolt. Behind it was a Draugr standing next to a decapitated skeleton sitting in front of an ancient alchemy field set. Nothing about the macabre sight indicated that the corpse was of one of Savos's fellow students though.
Just past that I was accosted by the voice and the light once again, but this time in Cyrodilic. The voice accused me of not answering him, asking if I was really forcing it to use "...this guttural language of yours." That was interesting, as it implied the voice knew someone previously who spoke Cyrodilic and whatever the voice spoke initially. I had my suspicions as to who that was.

Unfortunately I then had to wade through an almost-frozen sewer and when I was beginning to emerge from it in front of an ornate door the light came through it and the voice inquired as to whether I was Aren, the voice's "old friend". Suspicion confirmed.

After that the voice decided to assume I was Aren Savos and became quite chatty and boastful, asking if I had returned to finish what I could not previously and that I only faced failure "once more". Still, the spirits of Aren Savos and the students had not reappeared. I continued to creep forward, unable to shake the extremely uneasy feeling that someone was constantly right behind me. Draugr and trolls fell to my crossbow bolts until I ran out completely. It was only my sword after that.

Perhaps something was watching me, for the voice came again, this time sounding uncertain with the realization that I was not actually Aren Savos. It asked if he had sent me in his place, though did not say as to what purpose. It was then that I began to get a really bad feeling as to the fates of the other students, the sensation of being watched stronger than before.

Because a skelton-dragon, Draugr, voices from below, and the spirits of the deceased were not terrible enough, I then found myself battling some sort of coldly horrific spirit-woman whose face hosted what I could best describe as a grimace of utter hatred. Whatever she was my sword was enough to send her back to where she had come from.
The voice continued to goad me, asking if I knew my coming would only lead to my undoing and his strengthening. Each boast was accompanied by the blue light, which I feared might be the strengthening part of his assurance.

Around a small column the spirits reemerged and as I had suspected they were greatly fewer in number than the last time I saw them. It was only Savos Aren now, plus two other students. The two babbled fearfully of the others' fates, but Savos insisted that they must press forward, lest the deaths of the friends be for nothing.
The mysterious voice spoke only once more, inviting me to come "meet my end", a bit overly dramatic for my taste. I could only assume I was growing close to this unseen speaking thing as the guardians of the ruins began to...change.
Formerly of flesh and...more flesh, the Draugr deeper inside were different, seeming to consist solely of blue light. They fought just as physically as their more corporal cousins and suffered my blows just as well, making them no more difficult. I also fought a few dogs, which I have not encountered in a ruin before.

Another door, more Draugr, and surprisingly, a very rare Ebony shield nestled in a burial niche. It is very heavy and I cannot wield it myself, but one does not find equipment hammered from the blood of Gods every day.

The only other enemy of note was a Frost Atronach which my blade did little against, but my pathetic Fire magicka managed to destroy the creature completely. Makes sense, but I was surprised to find I could cast anything in combat of use.
The spirits of Savos Aren and the two surviving students appeared before a large door, the two lamenting at the loss of their friends, but vowing to stick together and move forward. Savos was unusually quiet, which put the fur on the back of my neck up, always a bad sign.

I am not sure what I expected, but I did not find it.

Two mages were kneeling before some sort of imprisoned creature sending beams of energy that were either entrapping or sustaining it. The voice, which I took to be the creature, laughed and revealed that the two mages were the survivors of Savos's little band, sacrificed by Savos himself to keep the creature entombed within Labyrinthian.

The two students were frozen in place above the haughty thing, but when I approached one he suddenly jumped up and charged at me, screaming nonsensically. It was either him or me. Nothing I could do prevented his friend from also attacking me and with their deaths the creature was free. Oddly, the last time I saw the spirits together there was a female student still alive, but she had evidently met her end before the chamber.
And a great deal less friendly than they had been. It might have been a man at one time, but now it was just floating bones wrapped in rotting clothes, wearing a metal mask with a slightly disapproving expression. The creature held a staff which looked similar to what I was told the Staff of Magnus looked like, making my next move abundantly clear. Again, it was either it or me.

The battle was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. The staff the creature held shot lightning magicka at me, but it was more draining than it was damaging. Had I been a mage from the College I would likely have been slaughtered, but I have not relied on spells in hundreds of years. Once I managed to corner the rotting thing it fell to my blade, screeching as its body dissolved into dust. Only the mask and the staff remained, so I took both with me and tried the door at the far end of the chamber.

It opened and I took a moment to rummage through an ancient chest sitting nearby. To my delight I found a Glass-backed bow, instantly dispelling any desire I had to continue using my crossbow.

As I exited the chamber I found myself being stared at by the spirit of Savos Aren. Ruefully staring through me at the door, he admitted to the trapped students that he was ashamed that he tricked the group into Labyrinthian, but that it was the only way to keep the Dragon Priest, Morokei, imprisoned. At last the voice had a name...and a title: Dragon Priest. Something to research later.

Rather anticlimactic was the arrival of a Thalmor agent as I was making my way towards what I hoped would be the exit.
After fighting a presumably undead priest of great power from ages ago, a sniveling Thalmor agent was far below the level I was prepared to handle. It really is not even worth writing about.
He had descended, appropriately, into an old midden behind the little chamber where he met his death. A wooden ladder led outside atop a small tower. The sky was clear and I estimated that it was just about midnight. Another all-day adventure under the ground.

Dismal Morthal held the closest inn, but I wanted to investigate the giant dome before leaving. I had a hunch it sat directly over the re-deceased dragon below. Sure enough, the inside hosted an altar dedicated towards dragons, the centerpiece being a large stone dragon's head. It was cracked and gradually falling off the altar and there were stone hoods set alongside either side of it, some of them missing.
Another decapitated skeleton completed the grim picture of the place. A wooden mask very similar to the metal one I won from the Dragon Priest lay next to it and a tattered journal nearby chronicled the complaints of a mercenary hired by whomever it had been to escort him or her to Labyrinthian. The journal states that the person placed the wooden mask on their face in front of the altar...then disappeared completely. Twice this was done before the person failed to return promptly and the writer swore he was leaving soon. Whether the mask wearer was killed by the mercenary or a troll, who knows?

I am sure if I had put the wooden mask on I would have found out where the person had been going, but I was in no state to make another trip. That will have to wait for another day.

The walk to Morthal was short and uneventful, which I am very thankful for. The room at the inn cost me ten Septims, though I think I would have been willing to pay one thousand given the events of teh day. Tomorrow I will return to the College, if it is still standing, and cast the Thalmor "advisor" into the sea.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Skyrim Day 024 & 025 - Mzulft, the Unpronounceable Ruin

9 Heartfire, 4E201
Whiterun
~~~

No rest for the weary indeed.

I woke yesterday morning and once again sought out Mirabelle to see if she could answer my latest questions. While wandering about the College I briefly stopped to chat with J'zargo, but he only had boastful things to say about himself, as I suspect is usual. Mirabelle admitted that no one knew where the Staff of Magnus was, but that one of the magical factions in Cyrodiil, the Synod, had recently sent its members to the College to inquire after the same. After sending them away she overheard them discuss their next destination: the Dwemer ruin of Mzulft.

According to what she heard, the ruin was dug into the mountains along the hot springs where I had visited the tree 'Eldergleam'. Another long walk.

So it was out into the snow and ice once again. I had not made it far outside Winterhold before I began to hear shouting carried along by the ever-present stormy winds. Ahead of me a group of hunters were trying to shoot down a Troll that had wandered into their camp. By the time I had gotten close enough to effectively fire my crossbow the hunters were dead and the Troll weakened enough that two bolts into its back were enough to put it down.
One of the hunters had ring with a minor enchantment, but the rest just had bows, axes, and leathers. I found a book inside of one of the tents that provided guidance on how better to move silently while armored, a skill I feel I must continue to work on.

It was early in the afternoon when I arrived at the springs and a helpful hunter directed me towards Mzulft, warning me that others had entered, but none yet left. With that she wished me luck, resuming her scraping of the hide of some creature unfortunate enough to find its way in front of her bow.
The ruins appeared to be similar to every other Dwemer ruin I have visited, it appears they did not value creativity, variety, or artistic talent of any sort. A small, locked storeroom built outside the entrance yielded to my meager lock-picking skill, but there was nothing of value inside and only one item of interest: a curiously blue, metallic emblem.
Naturally I took it.

Just inside the main entrance a man lay dying, a mage of Synod order. All I could hear of his last moments was the word "Oculory". On his body I found the group's journal, which was not helpful, and a key to proceed further into the ruin, which was.

Mzulft contains all of the decorations common with the Dwemer: stoic visages and tubes that shot burning steam everywhere. The constructs were still clattering around well after their architects had departed this Plane, but this was not my first Dwemer ruin, try as I might to limit my adventures into them. I recognized the portals built into the walls that would likely eject a hostile machine as I passed and the spider-like creations patrolling the halls proved rather susceptible to crossbow bolts.

Deeper inside the ruin were the detestable Chaurus, large insects that could swarm an unlucky adventurer if she found herself overwhelmed or asleep. One of these two things had happened to a Synod mage camping atop a hastily-built watchtower, but I only encountered the bugs one at a time and had no difficulty with them.
The natural cavern merged back into the Dwemer architecture and the Chaurus were replaced with more Dwemer creations that fell out of holes in the walls, crawled from behind steam vents, and generally made as much a nuisance of themselves as they could. The spider-like crawling things were the most common, but more articulated warriors were built into spheres that they managed to roll on while firing crossbows at me and swinging blades. Defeating one of them earned me a handful of Dwemer crossbow bolts which, surprisingly, fit my own.

These warriors seemed to draw their power from soul gems inserted into their foreheads and I managed to salvage a 'Greater' soul gem which I am sure I can sell for a decent amount.

Eventually my soul gem collecting brought me to a door in front of which lay a dead Falmer, as if murderous machines and acid-spitting giant bugs were not enough trouble.
Evidently the creature succumbed to injuries sustained against two destroyed Dwemer spider-machines and I had little doubt there would be more Falmer behind the door. I have little experience with fighting the things, for my time spent in Skyrim previously was largely limited to chopping wood and walking alongside wagons, activities which kept me from the underground where the Falmer exclusively lived. It is said their dwelling underground has blinded them, but that their hearing is exceptional. That may be true, but also fails to explain how they still manage to craft their crude swords and shields.

The blind Falmer fell one after another to my Dwemer crossbow bolts and I continued deeper into Mzulft, finding absolutely nothing else of interest or value. Eventually my wandering brought me before a door with the trembling voice of an Imperial sounding behind it, Paratus Decimius, the sole survivor of the Synod expedition.
Paratus explained that his group had been trying to find a focusing crystal to power an astronomy machine that would lead them to objects of great power. I searched through my satchel for anything that appeared to be a crystal, but the only thing I had was the blue emblem which he dismissed as worthless. However, what I took to be a Falmer ornament wound up being the crystal Paratus sought. He led me to the astronomy machine and placed the focusing crystal on top of it.

Instantly a beam of light shot from the crystal into the ceiling.
According to Paratus the crystal could be manipulated by striking it with frost and fire magicka, two things I am not very good at doing. He took my honesty rather poorly, snapping that it was fortunate for me that a member of his team brought the simplest books he could find to sell in Skyrim. I ignored his attempts at humor and studied the books. They were, as he said, very simple and after a bit of study I felt ready to try both sets of spells.

The fire magicka did nothing when directed against the crystal, but the frost spell rotated it within the cradle, reflecting the beam of light into multiple points along the ceiling. After some minutes of exhausting myself with the easiest of Destruction magicka, Paratus nodded and told me to manipulate the buttons behind the machine to spin the ceiling until each beam of light was focused into its own mirror.

This was simple enough, each button turned one of the rings on the ceiling by a certain amount. Lining each one up with the reflected beams was trivial.
Once directed, the beams reflected back into the crystal and projected a surprisingly detailed map of the Tamriel on the wall.
I figured that Paratus would be happy with this result, but he was quite angry. He asked if I was playing some sort of joke on him, but I had no idea what he was talking about. According to his ranting the map should have shown the location of several magical artifacts the Synod were interested in but he claimed "interference" was affecting the output of the Dwemer machine, causing it to point to the College he and his colleagues had left several days ago. He shouted that if "we" wanted the Staff of Magnus so badly then "we" could meet our deaths in Labyrinthian for all he cared...which is exactly the information I had come to Mzulft to find. It was back to the College for me.

As I was leaving the ruins a mage of the Psijic Order popped into existence before me and congratulated me on what little progress I had made, stating that I was on the way towards the aversion of catastrophe. A nice morale booster, that.
Accustomed to using the sun to determine the time of day, I was confused for a moment as I stepped back outside, only to realize that it was already the next day, 9 Heartfire, and I had spent the previous afternoon, evening, and entire night fighting in the ruins of Mzulft. Fate was kind to this tired Khajiit and the long walk back to the College of Winterhold was completed without any incident.
My arrival at the College however was met with quite a bit of incident. The stupid Thalmor, Arcano, managed to shield the Hall of Elements from everyone while he worked on unlocking the mysterious Eye of Magnus. Arch-Mage Savos and Mirabelle were at the entrance when I arrived, both of them attempting to overwhelm the barrier with powerful magicka.
The Arch-Mage insisted that I lend my meager ability towards their effort and miraculously all three of us managed to destroy Arcano's barrier. Savos immediately charged at Arcano as Mirabelle shouted a warning to not do just that. Her warning was not heeded and suddenly there was a blinding explosion.
I woke moments later against the stone wall outside a second barrier. Mirabelle was nearby, slouched against a column. The Arch-Mage was nowhere to be seen, the explosion having flung him into the courtyard, killing him. Tolfdir and the other members of the College came running out of the dormitories, but towards the town of Winterhold, not the body of the Arch-Mage. They stopped at my shout and only then did they realize the Arch-Mage was dead. But there were worse things about than a dead mage. The explosion had somehow brought forth a herd of floating spirits that were busy attempting to level the unfortunate town. Tolfdir and the others had been running to the town's aid before I stopped them. With the Arch-Mage's death Tolfdir decided to keep everyone inside the college, sending me, of course, to the town alone.

Faralda was still guarding the entryway to the College, cautiously zapping any of the spirits that wobbled too close to her. She seemed relieved to see me, suggesting that the both of us work together to clear the town of whatever the things were. I agreed and we crept into the deserted town, the villagers and guards having taken refuge within the few buildings still standing. With my crossbow and Farlda's spells, the little balls of energy had no chance.
The situation was just as grim when we returned to the College. Faralda joined the others in the dormitory and I entered the Hall of Elements to check on Mirabelle. Arcano's barrier was still up, but the Arch-Mage's second-in-command was still okay, though a bit shaky.
I told her that the Staff of Magnus was to be found in Labyrinthian, between Whiterun, Solitude, and Morthal. She appeared puzzled or possibly concussed, remarking that the Arch-Mage had gifted her with an ordinary necklace before he died, stating that she would know what to do with it when the time came. Mirabelle decided that the time came about half an hour after that, handing me the necklace while telling me she was sure it would be helpful where I was going. I do hope she did not strike her head too hard on the column.
So it was back on the road for me without any sleep. An Argonian leaped at me from behind some bushes and died with a very surprised look on his face as he impaled himself on my sword. He had a very nice Dwemer dagger, which I am happy to now call my own.

It was late into the evening when I arrived at Whiterun, but a courier was waiting for me nonetheless. He handed me a sealed scroll, bowed, and left for the city's gate as I began to walk by him. The scroll was an invitation to an incredibly cruel joke.
A museum dedicated to the Mythic Dawn, the cult which destroyed the Septim lineage and brought the Empire to its knees, almost in submission to Mehrunes Dagon. Only through my unsung effort and the sacrifice of Martin Septim was the destruction of civilization averted, though at great cost.

And now someone wanted to give them a museum? Such arrogance from this Silus Vesuius person certainly deserves a personal response. The museum is also his home in Dawnstar, a village I found many years ago to be hostile to Khajiit looking for work. I believe it is time for another visit.

One of the Khajiit caravans was stopped at Whiterun, allowing me to unload a great deal of jewelry and gemstones taken along the way in exchange for a fine Dwemer long blade. The caravan master, Ri'Saad and I spoke of our respective travels for a bit and we parted cordially, his people beginning to set up camp for the night. The sight of the Khajiit gathering around the fire made me feel a bit lonely, so I hurried into the city so that I might be distracted.
It felt like a very long walk from the inside of the city gate to the 'Bannered Mare' inn, but I finally am gong to be getting a good night's rest. Tomorrow I strike for Labyrinthian and the Staff of Magnus. I joined the College so that I might further my skill and have yet to actually perform any useful magicka there. Such is my life.