Monday, March 5, 2018

Skyrim Day 081 - Eyes of the Gods

8 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

Serana and I left Fort Dawnguard very early in the morning, both of us desiring to reach the Glade before the afternoon and planning on leaving it at dusk.

Predictably another group of vampires assaulted us once we left Fort Dawnguard's canyon, but an ambush only works when your foe is not expecting it for the fourth time. I do wonder where these vampires are coming from and how many of them there are. Serana did not know, her suspicion was that the vampires we have been fighting are from outside the province, having been promised wealth and honors by her father in exchange for my, and presumably Serana's, death.

Facing a nearly limitless enemy is not a pleasant thought. But if Serana is correct vanquishing Lord Harkon will put an end to this business. I tactfully broached the subject of her father's death, but she laughed, stating that she has been assuming for some time now that we would be killing him. She has grown to accept this task, the constant attempts on her life by him no doubt helping in this. However, should it be possible I would prefer to kill him myself, if only to make it a bit easier on her, for she has grown on me.

The quickest way to the Ancestor Glade was via the southern road, past Riften, through the pass, then around or through what remains of Helgen. The walk was long, but mostly quiet. We were ambushed by a single vampire hiding within the mountain pass, but she was alone and no trouble. I would have had allies hiding behind us to close off a possible escape, but she was more confident and less wise than I.
Helgen was, once again, occupied by bandits. There were only three, two dying singly to my blade across their throat or in their back, the remaining to Serana's magicka. There will be more, I am certain.

As if to underscore that point three more bandits, perhaps a mile or so from Helgen, were camping along the road. They loosed arrows at us as we approached, but their bows were, for some reason, self-made and I could just about catch the arrows and toss them back with as much force. Serana, perhaps frustrated by her relative lack of involvement at Helgen, fought and killed the three of them with her magicka.
The hares they were cooking were the only things of value at the camp.

According to the Priest's directions we would have to ascend the mountains south-east of Falkreath to find the Glade. The path was supposed to be marked by a pile of stones and still was, or at least we hoped it was as we climbed the only path we found along the road with a pile of stones next to it.

The path climbed up the side of the mountain as the air, as always, grew colder, despite only being fifty feet or so higher than we were on the road. Soon we were slipping across frozen mud and blinking snowflakes out of our eyes. The view was quite nice though and the path unmolested by bandits or animals.
The Glade was set inside a cavern as just about every place in Skyrim is. Serana grumbled about the place not being particularly impressive and, as I snagged my foot on my third tree root, I was forced to agree. The Glade's entrance was overgrown with roots and weeds and generally appeared to not have been visited by anyone for quite some time.
A hole in the ceiling provided illumination for the draw knife nestled within a hollowed-out rock. I was anticipating a search, so this was a nice surprise. The tree whose bark I need to scrape off was right next to the knife. So far everything had been easy.

Then the moths gathered.
What Dexion had not explained was that the moths, once they were flying around me, would generate a yellow shimmering globe that would make it almost impossible to see. I was forced to rely on Serana to avoid plummeting off of ledges and tripping up stairs. Together we brushed past several groups of moths until I was nearly blinded, which Serana took as a sign that I was ready.

Bracing myself against the possibility of being struck sightless I opened the 'Dragon' Elder Scroll.

Opening the scroll produced a flash of light that persisted, briefly, after I closed it. Repeated openings of the scroll coalesced the light into a vaguely identifiable map of north-west Skyrim. I could see Solitude on the shore and what must have been Markarth at the end of a golden road. In-between the two was an orange rune I did not recognize, but there was nothing else of note, so by the process of elimination I figured that was where the Bow would be found.

We have been walking the entire breadth of Skyrim to thwart Lord Harkon only to discover that the artifact critical to his plan has been nearly at this door the entire time! How he failed to discover the location of the Bow before now is perplexing given the time he has had.

We were talking over our plan, trying to decide between staying overnight at Falkreath against pushing on to the cave without sleep when shouting and the sound of very heavy footsteps issued from the mouth of the cavern. Lord Harkon's people had found us once again.

They brought reinforcements in the way of two gargoyles, not trying to affect any sort of subtlety to their assault. Unfortunately for them the only way to us was via the staircase that wound down from the entrance and no more than two vampires or one gargoyle could stand before us while on it.

It is a bit bewildering that the vampires always find us after we accomplish something in conflict with their goal, but are utterly unable to get a step ahead of us despite having what seems to be limitless manpower and the collective knowledge of thousands of years. Serana expects most of whom we have been fighting are fresh "recruits" to Harkon's cause, folk who were seduced by the promise of long-life and great power instead of the farmstead or shop they were managing. Whatever the case, none of them are great warriors.

As if to underscore that point we were attacked by three more vampires while on the road to Falkreath, all with cheap iron swords they did not bother to use. This is getting tiresome.

Serana insisted on staying awake throughout the night while I stay at Dead Man's Drink in Falkreath. Tomorrow we will strike out for Darkfall cave and be one day closer to being through with this nonsense.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Skyrim Day 080 - Can No One Do Anything?

7 Sun's Dusk, 4E201
Fort Dawnguard

I am growing increasingly frustrated with the Dawnguard. Isran can talk a strong stand, but he and his entourage seem unable to make one. More and more of what the Dawnguard should be doing is being left to me.

Serana and I spent our time in Solitude recovering from our time in the Soul Cairn, then it was once again time to walk across the entire province to Fort Dawnguard. We were accosted by an over-ambitious Dunmer bandit who wisely took my hint to walk away and an old Orsimer who, seeking death, did not. Between Serana and I he met his death mercifully quickly.

As we approached the crossroad between Solitude and Markarth we were attacked by another Dark Brotherhood assassin. Is the Order summoning their people from all across Tamriel? How many can they possibly have left in Skyrim by now? This is getting to be less of a threat and more of a farce. If I knew how to solve this baffling riddle once and for all, I would.

We continued south through the crossroads, electing to save time by passing through the ruin of Helgen. To my surprise the place was empty, no fresh-faced group of bandits had yet occupied it since the last had been exterminated, though I suspect it will not remain so for very long.

It was with this in mind that I started thinking about the depleted Imperial Legion. Perhaps if they were more effective or more numerous Skyrim would not be so plagued by lawlessness. Not for the first time I considered traveling (back!) to Solitude to see about joining. I am sure the few hundred years since my last enlistment will not count against me.

But that was not to occur today. In fact, not much occurred today. The walk from Helgen to Fort Dawnguard, as long as it always has been, was completely without incident.
The vigilant Dawnguard were patrolling the Fort's grounds, doing no good for anyone else in Skyrim. They even know where the vampire clan lives, yet are content to stay at their mostly-vacant castle and let me do everything for them.

Dexion Evicus was even less helpful than the other Dawnguard members. The little reading he had done for us previously had blinded him while Serana and I were trapped inside the Soul Cairn trying to retrieve the last Scroll. Now that we had it, he could not read it. A lesser Khajiit might have stabbed him.

Of course there was a work-around and only I, an unhappily immortal Khajiit, was able to do it. The blind priest told me of places of ancient magic scattered across Tamriel known to his order as 'Ancestor Glades'. Performing the 'Ritual of the Ancestor Moth' should provide me the temporary ability to read from a Scroll.

I had never heard of such a ritual before, nor of such places. The ritual itself is bizarre: I must use a special knife to cut a piece of bark from a tree in the 'Ancestor Glade', which will attract Ancestor Moths around me. Once enough are gathered around me, I will somehow gain the temporary sight to safely read an Elder Scroll.

After he explained the ritual, Dexion Evicus pointed out that there was a possibility none of it would work for me. The only way to find out, of course, was to travel to the Glade, find the special knife buried somewhere about the area, cut the bark, attract the moths, then unroll the Scroll to see if I would be struck irreparably blind. 

I had some issues with this plan.

Dexion Evicus went on to theorize that the Scrolls have a will of their own and that they wanted to be found by unsettling thought. But if that is true, I expect they will want to be read by me as well. I can only hope. An infinite life, blind, is not a pleasant one to live, though I suppose I would grow used to it eventually.

Skyrim's Ancestor Glade was somewhat south-east of Falkreath, not the worst journey the priest could have asked for. But it is already too late to set out again to my comfort, so Serana and I will spend the night in Fort Dawnguard and proceed with this strange request tomorrow.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Skyrim Day 079 - A Timeless Prison of Souls (Part 2)

7 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

Relaxed all day and did nothing of note...two things which I cannot recall the previous utterance of, at least together.

Hidden behind the fireplace was a large laboratory with a raised section against one side overlooking a terraced circular depression in the floor. Candles had been placed around it and they were, again, lit.
Serana entered behind me and just about squealed with joy. She starting babbling about how her mother was deeply into necromancy (as I thought all vampires were) and that this hidden chamber had to be her laboratory.

I could not disagree with the last part. There was not a single section of wall unoccupied by a table or bookshelf and ingredients lay scattered all over the place. Serana felt that there would be notes or a journal describing her mother's work hidden for her eyes only, so we started searching the room from the entranceway, she to the balcony to the left and I to the right.

She shouted the names of ingredients as she searched the tables, enthusing about how clever Valerica had been. I found this odd, the two of them had not seen one another in, if Serana is to believed, over a thousand years. If I manage to live one-thousand years I imagine I will not retain much attachment to anyone alive today. Already I cannot recall the nature of my own upbringing, my time in Cyrodiil prior to the Oblivion Crisis, nor any clear memories of Morrowind, though I occasionally have uncertain flashbacks.

I found Valerica's journal while her daughter was busy enthusing over the laboratory. I read it quickly, then called Serana over. The journal opened on 27th Last Seed, year unmentioned. Valerica lamented that had been reduced to a mere annoyance in the eyes of Harkon. In response she dedicated her time to her studies, the next day's journal entry announcing a breakthrough in her research.

She had found a way to attune a portal to a place she called the 'Soul Cairn', but only for a few seconds. Help had been provided, for she mentioned a group she called the 'Ideal Masters', but the help was largely in riddles and she had been left on her own to discover how to sustain the portal longer than a few seconds.

More time had passed, the next entry was 3 Hearthfire. Valerica was able to keep the portal open via a mixture of bone meal, void salts, soul gem shards, and her own blood. Having secured her way out, the journal concludes with her rushing off to Dimhollow Crypt with Serana, her evidently not mentioning the inter-planar portal to her daughter on the way.

Her daughter gamely ignored being left out and explained that her mother had theorized that trapping souls with black soul gems sent them to the 'Soul Cairn', where the 'Ideal Masters' rewarded the necromancer responsible with powerful enchantments and spells. Where animal souls, the only I have ever experimented with, go, was neither a concern of Serana nor Valerica.

But it was into this Cairn we had to go if we were to retrieve the final Elder Scroll. Crushed bone meal, void salts, and shards of soul gems were easy to find in the laboratory, but a sample of Valerica's blood was out of our reach. I suggested we try Serana's and she doubt realizing we had no other choice.
Serana followed her mother's instructions and, with her own blood, successfully opened the portal once again. When I attempted to descend the stairs however I found myself quickly growing weaker with each step. Shaken, I retreated back to the balcony, instantly feeling far better.

Serana explained that the Soul Cairn was attempting to force a toll on me: my life. Naturally, those within the Cairn are devoid of it and whatever method the Cairn was using to extract mine went beyond what Dagoth Ur had blessed me with so long ago.

There were two solutions to this problem, neither of which I liked. The first was to be "turned" into a vampire by a bite from Serana. The thought is amusing afterwards, a Nord Vampire trying to bite through a mouthful of fur, but I emphatically denied it as a possibility, perhaps a bit much, for Serana seemed insulted.

The second was little better: Serana would use a soul gem shard to partially (I have never heard of such a thing before!) capture my soul, enough hopefully to pay the portal's toll. This was only slightly more appealing than vampirism, but there seemed no other way to gain I agreed.

She cast her spell, pointed the shard at me and...not much happened. Save for a slight feeling of emptiness and feeling like a bad case of 'Bone Break' fever I felt fine. Serana suspected something in the Cairn would reverse the effect, but that was just a guess. Having done whatever had been done, I descended the staircase once again and into a world of darkness.

It was not worse than what I remember of the plane of Oblivion. The Soul Cairn was a black place, poorly lit by a purple sky shot through with lightning and what may have been souls or magicka energy.

Above us was the underside of our portal: a circle of Nothing surrounded by swirling energy. Helpfully, our portal deposited us at the top of a floating staircase. While descending I noticed that there was something missing: air. That is not to say there was no wind, no breeze. There was simply no air at all. I found I was not breathing, nor was Serana, and that we did not need to, not in the Cairn. Our voices still carried, somehow, but the sound arrived poorly, as if we were thousands of feet away instead of a dozen. It made the rest of our time at the Cairn an even more miserable experience.

Ethereal forms wandered the blighted landscape, some appeared to be resigned, but lucid, others unaware of where they were or what had happened. One soul we passed still had her bow strapped to her back, but could only ask us where her ship had sailed to. Another soul was lounging against a ruined wall, advised us not to spend too much time in the Cairn. It is hard to say which of the two were worse off.

The place felt wrong. It was not that the Cairn was a place of death, it was not. It was a place of nothing, neither life nor death. Serana must have felt it too, for she muttered that she just wanted to find her mother and be gone as quickly as possible as we left another confused soul behind us.
The Cairn was separated into two halves by a large, crumbling wall, us on one side, a large, ruined castle forever collapsing upwards into the sky on the other. Serana and I agreed that her mother would likely be found there or nearby.

While on our way Serana stopped to investigate a throne that had four beams of light shining from it. A decrepit skeleton in battered armor was slumped upon it, but as we approached it roused from its slumber and grabbed a two-handed axe from behind its throne. I suppose we should not have been surprised by now, but we were.

Our foe was no more difficult than a powerful Draugr. Serana and I employed our usual strategy of me distracting the enemy while she fired magicka into its back. Simple, but effective.
We passed a partially-buried skeleton of a Dragon along the path to the castle, making me wonder if it had been possible to trap the soul of a Dragon normally, instead of...whatever I seem to do when one dies.

A morose soul sitting along the path warned us of a Dragon he named 'Durnehviir', but Dragons are usually noisy, proud creatures and there was no evidence of a Dragon living in the Cairn. I assumed the soul was stuck in his past life and moved on.
The castle was still impressive as it crumbled forever into the clouds. A chest at the foot of the front balcony contained rare Ebony plate armor, but I chose to leave it due to the weight, over Serana's objections.

A shimmering barrier surrounded the castle just inside the balcony where Valerica waited, trapped.
She was less happy to see her daughter than I expected her to be. She instead seemed more concerned about my intentions and despite my protests refused to believe I had anything but the extermination of all vampires in my heart. After pointless back-and-forth with the frustrated woman Serana jumped in, pointing out that I had done more to help her in the past week than her own mother had done within the past one thousand years. Harsh, but true.

What followed was an angry exchange of domestic concerns spoken across an impassable barrier of magicka, a greater concern, I thought, than their family history. Tempers soothed after several minutes and discussion turned to the present. Valerica suspected the barrier was maintained by three guardians she called the 'Keepers'. Dispatching all three would bring down the barrier, allowing Valerica her freedom and us access to the Elder Scroll she secreted away.

She also warned us of the Dragon 'Durnehviir', a guardian of the Cairn. The trapped soul from earlier had been speaking the truth. However, after defeating a dozen or so Dragons in Skyrim it was difficult to feel concerned about another one, even in the Cairn.

Tracking down the Keepers was easier than I thought it would be: each occupied a throne roofed by the beams of light that caught Serana's attention earlier and neither of the two remaining Keepers were any more difficult than the first. The castle's barrier disappeared upon the banishment of the third Keeper and we hurried back to Valerica.

Durnehviir was already waiting for us at the courtyard. Serana and I spread out as usual and, much to my surprise, Valerica did as well. Against two vampires and a Khajiit the Dragon had little chance.
Durnehviir's remains burst into purple flames upon his death, but no soul came streaming out of the blaze...which makes sense, considering we were in the place souls go anyway. With the castle's guardian temporarily banished (same as the Keepers, I suppose) Valerica's cache was free to us.
Other than the Elder Scroll there was not much: a few potions and some books. I gave Serana the Scroll and we prepared to leave, assuming Valerica would be following.

But she declined. Returning to Tamriel would mean Lord Harkon would have two sources of the blood he required for his ritual, a risk Valerica was not willing to take. Her harsh demeanor had softened and she only asked that I keep her daughter, the only thing she values any longer, safe from her father. I agreed and we parted ways. Serana stayed behind to speak privately with her mother, I was to wait at our portal for her.

And so I left the courtyard and came face-to-face with the increasingly-physical form of Durnehviir perched over the balcony.

But it was not vengeance the beast sought, only conversation. He named me 'Qahnaarin', Vanquisher in Common. Durnehviir had never been defeated during his long time in the Cairn, though I wonder if having the experience of Dragon-fighting in Tamriel is what made the difference. 

Our conversation was brief. He had reformed in my path to ask a favor of me: freedom, albeit temporary. Through the utterance of his name, combined with my desire to see it done, I would be able to summon Durnehviir to Tamriel for a short time as, I was promised, a valuable ally in battle. Alas for him, the summoning would soon send him back to the Cairn, but I would be able to call upon him after some rest.

I agreed, for I cannot see how any creature or any one person deserved an eternity in the Cairn. 

I was also given the tale of how he had come to the Cairn. Long ago, before the Dragon Wars, Dragons fought each other over tiny scraps of territory. So many Dragons, so little land. While the others were tearing each other apart with tooth and claw Durnehviir sought power via what we know today as necromancy. 

A deal was struck with the mysterious 'Ideal Masters': accept unmatched power from Beyond, but in exchange, serve the Masters in death until the one that will be known as 'Valerica' dies. It was a harsh deal, Valerica was probably not even alive in Durnehviir's time and he had no way of knowing she was essentially immortal. He agreed to the deal only to find himself trapped in the Cairn guarding a woman whose life would never naturally end.
He wished me a long life, unknowingly playing a second joke on himself, and flew off. Valerica still remained in the Cairn and he still had to guard her...from what, I do not know. Leaving, I suppose.

Serana had not come out yet, so I continued to the portal and waited for her there. She said nothing as she caught up and nothing as we arrived back on Tamriel.
It was late in the afternoon by the time we were back on the shore of Skyrim and well into the night when we stumbled into Solitude. An inquiry to the gate's guard revealed it to be 6 Sun's Dusk, a full two days since leaving Winterhold. We spent 7 Sun's Dusk recuperating and planning our trip back east, as well as my writing all this down.

There is a great deal more at stake here than a simple revival of a vampire family, but Serana has been quiet since speaking with her mother. I feel I can trust her enough not to pry into her personal affairs, but she will have to start talking again eventually. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

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

6 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Skyrim Day 078 - All Eyes On Me

4 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Skyrim Day 077 - Turned Around Underground

2 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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