Friday, July 7, 2017

Skyrim Day 073 - Unable to Let Go

29 Frostfall, 4E201

While in Morthal some time ago I was given a "secret" letter by Jarl Idgrod's housecarl, Gorm. When I spoke with him previously in the Hall he was full of praise for the visionary Jarl, but once I ran into him at the local Inn he had only derision and doubt for Idgrod. He believes her visions are distracting her from her duties as a Jarl, but are also dangerous to her well-being. Claiming he feared for her health, he gave me a sealed letter to deliver to an Imperial Legion Captain in Solitude. I thought little of it until this morning.
The Imperial Legion is based at Solitude in 'Castle Dour'. The fort is appropriately named, the commander of the Legion, General Tullius, was no more animated while I was wandering around Dour as he was at my would-be execution. The man seems incapable of mustering enthusiasm for much of anything.

But my business was not with the General, but with Captain Aldis. A helpful maid pointed me towards the basement where I found the Captain already drinking, guarding empty prison cells. He accepted my letter with resignation, stating he would add it to his growing collection. Gorm has been pestering the Captain about Idgrod for some time now and Aldis has a dim view of ousting a Jarl with Imperial loyalties during a civil war. He thanked me for making the trip and paid me twenty Septims, about what the effort was worth.

Leaving Solitude with Serana in tow, I checked my journal to see if there was any business pending between one side of Skyrim and the other that I could take care of while I made my way back to Fort Dawnguard. Unsurprisingly, there was something, but I had only written "Chk ruin Arknthmz, SE Mrkrth". Very helpful. By that, I only knew to look south-east of Markarth for some sort of ruin, likely Dwemer judging by the abbreviation. Serana had no objections to looking for this ruin, other than being back underground, so off we went towards Markarth.

On our way we came upon a small hunting lodge that appeared to be lived in, but no one was around. Serana suggested we search the place for supplies, but I felt we did not need to and chose to walk by peacefully.
My concern that we would be wandering the hills surrounding Markarth proved to be unfounded, thanks to the adventure of two enterprising children whom met us on the road.
The sales-child, Sond, offered to sell Serana and I some Dwemer scrap he and his unnamed friend had collected near a Dwemer bridge he said was far to the west. He offered to mark its location on my map for a few coins, an offer I considered charity on my part to accept.

Sond's directions brought us to a large ruin built into the hillside. Inside looked about the same as all the other Dwemer ruins do, they were not an artistically-focused people. She was curious to examine the mechanisms and disregarded my warning that many of them were traps. She admitted I was right to warn her after a trapdoor she was poking at suddenly sprang open and disgorged a mechanical spider guardian. It attacked her immediately, but she had no trouble in putting it to rest. She did show more caution around the Dwemer mechanicals after that though.

The entryway opened to a massive cavern which seem to exist in such numbers underneath Skyrim that it is a wonder the whole province does not simply collapse. Evidently this part of Skyrim was trying to do that, for as we stood about gazing around the entire place shook, sending chunks of rock plummeting from the ceiling and pieces of Dwemer architecture to crack and splinter.

I was unwilling to test Dagoth Ur's blessing against thousands of tons of rock, but figured a few more moments would not mean instant death, so we continued to on for a bit before we heard a woman's voice warning us to turn back. Thinking this was someone ahead who was injured, we pressed on, only to encounter the talking, shimmering remains of the adventurer Katria.

She was taking her after-death pretty hard, sourly asking us why we were still in the ruin. I thought it rude to ask her why she was too and Katria assumed we were at the ruin for the "treasure". After I explained that I could not remember why I had made a note to come at all she told me about the slim novel 'The Aetherium Wars', penned by her apprentice-turned-competitor, Taron Dreth.

Taron's novel propelled him to the dubious honor of being the "expert" on Dwemer forging technology, despite all of it originating from Katria'a notes and work. Attempting to usurp his title, she descended into the ruin I found her in, confident that she would find clues pointing to the hidden 'Aetherium Forge' the Dwemer used to craft their most powerful artifacts.

But it was not to be. Katria fell into a crevice after one of the cavern-shakes, falling to her death on to a lower level of the ruin. Her indignation was enough for her spirit to cling to this Plane, even if her new non-corporal existence made her goal impossible to reach. I convinced her that Serana and I were up to the task of recovering her body and her research, but she was only interested in the latter. If Serana had any objections she did not voice them.

We found Katria's body after several skirmishes with the Falmer, underneath where we came in. She directed us towards her journal, helpfully providing the full name of this ruin, 'Arkngthamz' and detailing its part in the long-lost Dwemer network of city-states in Skyrim. The ruin was one of five locations built to manage the Aetherium ore, one of them being the ruin alongside the hot springs where I found the metallic blue crescent. The other three were scattered about the province.
The journal also had a sketch of something Katria described as a 'tonal lock', but she assured me that she would explain that if I survived long enough to reach it. Very encouraging.

We did not encounter much between Katria's body and her 'tonal lock'.
The bodies strewn before it was ample warning, but Katria explained how it worked: Each of the devices mounted above the gate had to be struck in the correct order, else traps would activate. Katria had made a mistake and triggered an earthquake which caused her to fall to her death. The bodies before the gate looked to have met violent ends, so earthquakes were not the only defense it had.

Katria had managed to narrow the guesswork from five devices to three, guessing wrong on the order of the remaining two. Serana eagerly took up the task of flinging spells at the strange mechanisms, of course guessing wrong herself and unleashing a horde of Dwemer spiders upon us. Once we dealt with that she assaulted the locks in the correct order, unlocking the gate.

The much-coveted Aetherium fragment was on a small pedestal flanked by two chests, each containing useless baubles. Katria was staring longingly at the bright blue metal, but could do nothing but wait for me to catch up and place it into my pack. She guessed that there were other fragments around and I brightened her afterlife by revealing that "her" fragment was the second of mine.

She disappeared after that, swearing that we would meet again at the next fragment, so now I am in something of a quandary. I am expected at Fort Dawnguard, yet I would feel quite guilty about leaving Katria's spirit forever waiting for someone to recover the remaining shards. Serana had not opinion one way or another, surprisingly, so I decided to take some time to look for the rest of the Aetherium.

When we finally left the ruin it was just about light...the three of us having spent the entire night underground and now greeting the new day. The closest city was Markarth and Serana was not tired, so I elected to push on to the nearest of the locations marked in Katria's journal, north of Markarth along the river.
The third shard was not nearly as difficult to retrieve. The worst was walking from Arkngthamz to the small (and unusual) Dwemer shrine sitting on the shores of the river. On it was a Dwemer helm and blade, the shard serenely sitting behind them on a small display pedestal. How the bright blue metal escaped the notice of bandits, adventurers, and the opportunistic is a mystery.

Once I touched it Katria popped into view before me, grumpy for my having somehow gotten there first. The last shard looked to be north of Ivarstead and once again I set out across the plain, planning on passing Whiterun for a late evening arrival at Ivarstead.

As usual, my plan did not meet with fruition.
Another Dragon attacked us while we walked the plain, but the Dragon was smaller than the ones I have been seeing recently and not as aggressive either. It is a strange thing to write, but I had no trouble or apprehension fighting it. Serana just seemed glad to be doing anything above ground and awake and after the Dragon's death-fire died down we continued on to Whiterun. I keep "absorbing" these souls, but am I supposed to be using them for something? Can I? I do not know.
We reached Whiterun as the sun was setting, most of the townspeople at home occupied with their dinner. One woman who I have not seen before remarked that rumors told of a Khajiit Dragonborn, then wondered if such a combination was even possible. I stopped at the General store, sold some trinkets, and spoke with a weary-looking Dunmer mercenary. She called herself 'Jenassa' and offered her services for five hundred Septims, but I already have a dour companion, so I declined.

Arriving at Breezehome my dour companion met my dour housecarl. Both presented to the other an air of complete indifference, but I was far more concerned about my bed than my retinue. Tomorrow Serana and I will continue on towards Fort Dawnguard with a detour near Ivarstead for Katria. How Lydia occupies her days at Whiterun is her own business, though I cannot imagine she is displeased to have the house all to herself.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Skyrim Day 072 - Assassins, Above and Below

28 Frostfall, 4E201

Serana made the decision this morning to head directly for Dragon Bridge by the nature of her constant, unending complaining. When we got rooms at the Inn last night there was a complaint that the bed was uncomfortable and itchy, when we woke (if she even slept) it was too bright outside. The journey today was also too cold and too long. And this from someone who walked from one end of Skyrim to the other seeking the Dawnguard. Did she complain to herself?

Rather than risk spending more time than I had to with her I decided to go to Dragon Bridge instead of taking additional time to visit the College. What information I had placed the Moth Priest near the village and that was good enough for me. I figured if the information was wrong we would find out sooner rather than later.

With an unhappy vampire in tow, I set off for Dragon Bridge just before the sun rose, hoping this would allow me a break from Serana's opinion on the world. Alas, the darkness did not last long, nor did the silence. Perhaps it served some defensive purpose, for we made it almost to Dragon Bridge without interruption save for a foolish Dunmer bandit who thought to demand our money. She was quick to realize her mistake and ran off.

I thought to save some time by going over the hill between Morthal and Dawnstar rather than around it. Serana grumbled about getting snow in her shoes, but she chose to follow me instead of taking the long way around the hill via the road. We came to a path through the rocks and she immediately ran towards it, eager to be on the trampled snow instead of the loose stuff we had been trudging through. I yelled at her to stop, but she ignored me and disappeared past a bend in the path.

I knew the path was not going to lead towards the other side of the hill, there was no prepared path that did. I ran after her, expecting her to be grumbling in front of a cave or a hidden shrine, but she had chanced upon something far more dangerous.
The foolish vampire had stumbled upon a Giant clan's campsite, two of whom were present. She had attacked them, but Giants are rather resistant to magicka and her spells did not have the effect she had hoped for. With two Giants attacking her, Serana was cornered and nearly killed before I caught up to them. Fortunately I arrived in time and both turned on me, but only got in each other's way. I feel a bit bad about killing them, it was Serana's recklessness that led to it and they were bothering no one.

I dragged her out of the camp and we continued down the side of the mountain, passing a broken Oblivion gate on the way down. Serana listened to my story of the Oblivion Crisis with interest, wondering what kind of world she would have woken up to under Mehrunes Dagon. I pointed out she likely would not have woken up at all, the first and only thing we agreed on today.
We made it to the other side of the hill with snow in our shoes, Serana enthusing about the lack of light-reflecting snow on the plain. I prefer the warmer, southern Skyrim myself, its quicker to move on and the usually clear sky allows a farther vision. Whiterun is visible from just about any point on the plain, but we had no reason to visit it today.
Save for a trio of hunters we encountered no one on our walk across the plain until the Dragon landed right behind us.
Dragons before today always roared as they flew, creating a great disturbance and bringing notice to themselves, which was likely their intention. But this Dragon managed to glide in behind us with barely a sound and the landing of the great beast was the only notice Serana and I received before it attacked.

The actual battle is not as interesting as the method the Dragon chose to initiate it. The Dragons I have fought in the past have seemed like accidental things, I simply happened to be in the area when the Dragon decided to burn a farm or announce its presence. This battle very much felt like it was planned and executed against me specifically, a thought that does not ease my worry. If the Dragons are being directed and not by the Stormcloaks, I can only assume the large Dragon from earlier is commanding them, but to what end?

Serana handled herself admirably during the fight, though her lightning magicka served to annoy the Dragon more than harm it. Still, it served as a good enough distraction.
If she was surprised by the sight of the Dragon's "soul" being absorbed into my body she did not show it. With the Dragon's assassination plot foiled we continued on towards Dragon Bridge. With no more Dragons to fight off we made good time, but never reached the town.
Just before the famed bridge lay the remains of a recent, one-sided battle. A passenger wagon was overturned and surrounded by dead Legionnaires, the last-stand defense of their ward, the Moth Priest. A note on one of the dead vampires revealed that they had known of the priest's journey ahead of time and set the ambush to kidnap the man and bring him to a place they described as 'Forebears' Holdout'. If I needed another clue as to what had happened, there was a slim book in the wagon on the effects of reading Elder Scrolls, complete with annotations from a Moth Priest, though I thought them all to be blind.

The name suggested a similar last-stand of whomever the Forebears were, but the letter gave no hint as to where this Holdout was. It was Serana that spotted the blood trail leading away from the ambush and we were able to follow it to a cave. Serana assured me the blood was relatively fresh, so I hoped we had enough time to rescue the only person in Skyrim who could make use of Serana's scroll. Into the cave we went, not without Serana's complaints, of course.

The Holdout was very small and from the entrance we could see a circle of blue magicka shimmering at the back of the cave. Vampires and their strange hounds patrolled the space between us and the magicka, but they were not expecting a rescue attempt and fell to Serana's magicka and my dagger without much bother.
The vampires were dead, but the Priest was trapped within the circle. He was mumbling to himself and did not notice Serana and I outside his cage. After some searching we found an odd stone on the most expensively-dressed vampire and another letter penned by Lord Harkon himself. He claimed to have the Elder Scroll in his possession, so it was obviously written before Serana escaped, and he demanded that someone fetch him a Moth Priest to read it. Success in this would merit a place in his "court" and something he called the "gift of his potent blood".

I asked Serana about this and she explained that her father was from an ancient bloodline that allowed him the half-gargoyle, half-man form he showed me when I returned Serana to him. There was great powers bequeathed upon this form which she called the "Vampire Lord" bloodline. If Lord Harkon wished to, he could infect another vampire with his blood, allowing the lucky vampire to take the form as well, a great gift for a very specific kind of recipient.

Anyway, the stone fit into a pedestal set on a platform before the Priest. Once it was inserted the magicka disappeared and the Priest attacked! But he was not seeking to hurt us as much as he was to defend himself one last time against who he thought to be his captors. He calmed after I asked him if anyone had ever heard of a Khajiit vampire. We are not so foolish as others, after all.
The Priest was not blind, putting to rest that misconception, and introduced himself as 'Dexion Evicus', a very Imperial name. He had no idea why the vampires had attacked his group, assuming they were after ransom instead of information. I explained that Serana and I were part of  the Dawnguard and needed his special skills to read an Elder Scroll.

Surprisingly, Dexion had heard of the Dawnguard, but in its ancient, more powerful, form. He asked to know where we were based out of and I offered to escort him back to Fort Dawnguard. He picked up one of the vampires' swords and assured me he was more capable than recent events have shown. I could not convince him to allow us to accompany him, so we parted ways amid the rapidly decaying vampires, to meet on the other side of the province...once again.
We reached Solitude late into the night, suiting Serana just fine. I was anticipating a relaxing night in my own home, but this hope was shattered when a vampire sprung at me after we entered the city. He hissed that "eternal night" would soon envelop the land, then rapidly backed away, flinging ice magicka as he attempted to keep his distance.

I am not sure what he expected to accomplish. There were three guards present, one ancient vampire ally, and one tired Khajiit that did not feel like prolonging a fight. Serana managed to hit him with lightning magicka just as a guard's crossbow bolt slammed into his chest. Overwhelmed, he collapsed to his knees, presenting an excellent opportunity for a quick end to his nonsense. A swipe of my blade and his head was sent rolling down the street, spilling dust along the way as it crumbled into nothing.

Serana promised to keep watch throughout the night, I suppose she does not need as much sleep as most. I, however, do need sleep before walking back to Fort Dawnguard tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Skyrim Day 071 - An Unexpected Guest

27 Frostfall, 4E201

I had a choice this morning: travel north to the College, east back to Isran, or west back to everything else. Curiosity prodded me east to see how Isran's former friends were acclimating to their old friend.

The dawn started sullenly, a hazy grey which brightened to a equally sullen yellow that I could barely see through. If there were any Dragons about I would have only been able to hear them, but the world was quiet this morning, as if it did not want to wake either.
A bandit leaped out of the bushes in front of me by the hot springs, brashly demanding my money or my life. The Dunmer looked young, but then they usually do, and I thought to offer her mercy. I simply drew my curved Ebony dagger and invited her to make an attempt, at which point she had second thoughts and ran off down the road.

I arrived at the walls of Riften a few hours later, exact time being impossible to determine with the fog hanging overhead. I had no business there and walked around the city to the valley connecting Skyrim to Morrowind.

The Dawnguard had been busy while I was away. There was a new palisade at the foot of the fortress, manned by a young Dawnguard whose face I did not recognize. I, however, was and she opened the gate with a solemn greeting, just as cheerful as Isran.
The corpses from the previous attack had been burned and piled in a pit just inside the gate, a precaution I can only assume was Isran's, since vampire corpses quickly decay into dust in the sunlight anyway. Burning them was an excess of caution that I am pretty sure defines the leader of the Dawnguard.

The two guards at the fortress gate waved me in and I found Sorine and Gunmar standing in the hall, both disgruntled and ready to leave. They were willing to talk to me and we spent some minutes talking about the Dawnguard. Both had arrived two days ago and were denied a meeting with the very man they had been told were looking for them. This embarrassed me, being the one responsible for them being at the fort at all.

As we stood there contemplating coming back another day, the portcullis for the outside gate came crashing down, trapping us inside. A moment later three more rose from the hall's doorways, not only keeping us inside the fortress, but confined to the entry hall. A sudden light from the ceiling blinded us, Gunmar cursing, Sorine scrambling away, and as for myself, prepared to have very harsh words with Isran.
As I suspected, the "trap" was Isran's and it was to ensure none of us were vampires. Had we been, he assured us from the balcony, the light would have set us aflame. A pleasant thought.

He directed his two "friends" into an adjacent chamber, Sorine to work on crossbows, Gunmar to tame trolls...which I did not think was even possible or desirable. As for me, he asked that I come up to the balcony to meet a visitor who had arrived during the night.
Nothing about how Isran had been acting up to to then surprised me, but the visitor did. Serana had somehow traveled the entire width of the province to take refuge with a group of people who could not possibly hate her any more. The only reason she was not immediately slain was that she brought the Elder Scroll, if it truly is that, with her as a sign of her good intentions. This staved off her execution at Isran's hands long enough for me to arrive and vouch for her...a woman I have not known for more than a day, really.

The only excuse she had for such a rash action was that she needed to speak with me. It turns out a thousand years or so is enough to change most anyone, including her vampire father. According to Serana, her father spent his years studying vampire lore, fashioning himself as some sort of vampire nobility which does not actually exist. He became obsessed with an ancient prophecy that predicted a day would come when vampires would no longer be hindered by the sun.

He attempted to raise forces to bring the prophecy about (Serana did not know exactly how this was to happen), but Serana and her mother disagreed with his course of action. The disagreement ended with Serana being buried for a thousand years and an unknown, but probably just as cruel, fate for her mother.

Serana had taken a great risk in traveling to Fort Dawnguard so that she could convince me to aid her in stopping her father's plan to change the sun in some way. I agreed to help, feeling I had little choice in the matter, and Isran chose that moment to subtly interject, saying there was nothing in her story that led him to believe she should not immediately be slain. I countered that I believed her, at least for the moment, and he owed much to me already for what I have done for the Dawnguard.
He begrudgingly agreed to let Serana keep her head and Serana excused herself out of the fortress, flatly stating that it was no place for me to stay and in no way a place for her. 

But she had not come without a plan. She believed the scroll on her back was a genuine Elder Scroll and thought it critical to making her father's obsession come to pass. She was eager to have  the Scroll read by a Moth Priest, but they still live in Cyrodiil as they always have. I informed her of this and she seemed surprised. Perhaps the Priests were more widespread when she was last awake.

Isran surprised us both, or perhaps all three of us, by providing useful news: a Moth Priest had arrived in Skyrim through the southern border a week or so ago, but Isran did not know where the Priest was heading nor where he was now. Serana thought someone at the College would know whereas Isran suggested asking carriage drivers and innkeepers. A walk from Dawnguard to the College would give me an opportunity for all three.

Serana insisted on coming with me to the College and Isran did not try to stop her, so once again it was us two on the road together. We left the canyon, passed through the small cave separating the fort from the rest of Skyrim, and was immediately assaulted by four vampires. We made short work of them and walked on to Riften. Serana wanted to stay outside, so I went in alone, sold some gemstones, and met her at the north gate where I spoke with the local carriage driver.

The Moth Priest had passed through Riften a week ago and had asked the Driver for a ride to Dragon Bridge, but the carriage only went as east as Whiterun. The Priest declined to travel that far, confounding the driver who tried to explain that the Priest could take a different carriage from Whiterun to Dragon Bridge.

I was willing to pay for a ride to Whiterun, but Serana quietly pointed out that it would be difficult for her to stay out of the sun in an open carriage. I thanked the driver, gave him fifty Septims, and continued on foot.

We arrived at Windhelm early into the evening and I thought Serana would want to continue walking, but she asked to stop there, curious to see the Grey Quarter she had heard about. I had little interest in the city and numerous reasons for not wanting to enter, but I agreed.
We passed through the gate just in time to witness two Nords harassing a Dunmer woman. They left together after threatening to throw her and "her kind" into the sea and she turned on Serana and I, irritably asking if we hated Dunmer and reveled in intimidation too.

What I remember of my involvement with the Dunmer would not be at all believable, so I simply told her that Khajiit were targets for such fools just as often, though we do not suffer such fools nearly as patiently. She laughed ruefully and told me that Windhelm was the wrong city for us then, catering only to the prejudice and hatred hidden in the hearts of Men. That it was also the breeding ground for a racially-based civil war was not helping matters. She wished us luck and we parted, another glimpse into Skyrim that failed to make a positive impression.

The local innkeeper had a free room with two beds, but no information regarding our wayward Moth Priest. Serana and I can either continue north to the College or trust our luck while attempting to save time tomorrow by heading directly for Dragon Bridge.

But it is just past midnight now and this has been a long day. Whatever course we take tomorrow can be decided upon after some sleep.

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

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 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

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.