29 Last Seed, 4E201
Free of Barbas at last! I have yet to return the Axe, but he had only agreed to accompany me to the Axe, not until I returned it. Therefore, he and I parted ways this morning, I staying in Solitude to explore for awhile and he to Clavicus Vile's shrine to await my return. He assured me I need not hurry back, so I shall certainly enjoy wandering by myself once again.
Having cleared the grotto yesterday with Barbas, my first task of the day was to see the local Steward about the bounty he had posted upon the pirates. While walking to Solitude's 'Blue Palace' I stopped along the battlements to admire the view of Skyrim. It reminded me that despite my considerable age I have not widely traveled and no doubt have a long path yet ahead of me.
Access to the Blue Palace was surprisingly open given Skyrim's troubles and the widowed Queen of Skyrim, Elisif the Fair, was holding court as I arrived. She was discussing a matter of supplies for the city and was bathed in a shining ray of light from a nearby window which I assume made sitting on the throne quite uncomfortable.
My business was not with the potential Queen, but her Steward who was standing nearby. For the combined efforts of dog and Khajiit I was paid one hundred Septims and given the opportunity to lay claim to another order of business.
Just before my arrival a resident of Dragons Bridge had come to the Blue Palace to request that Solitude send guards to a nearby cave the locals named 'Wolfskull'. According to the requester, people have been disappearing from the town and unexplained lights have been seen near the cavern's entrance. Solitude's steward, Falk Firebeard, assured the nervous man that Solitude would post extra guards to Dragons Reach, but admitted to me that Solitude's guards were already stretched thin and no help could be spared for the town. Having said that, he requested that I go to the cave instead and investigate the man's claims. Falk's directions place 'Wolfskull' somewhat north of Meridia's statue, so it is not far. The disturbance is likely just bandits, so I agreed to take the job, much to his relief.
While on my way out of the city I was stopped by a haggard beggar who I assumed wanted some coin. But he waved away my Septims and asked if I had seen his "master" recently. The man was obviously insane, handing me a pelvic bone from some skeleton and telling me that this master of his was in the 'Pelagius Wing' of the Blue Palace and that the bone was required for me to gain entrance. His entire story is utter nonsense, but I told him I would look into the matter lest he fly into a rage and attack me.
Today was apparently the day for people to walk up to me and tell me what they needed me to do. As I proceeded to attempt to leave Solitude I was stopped once again, this time by an Altmer who disdainfully told me my clothes were suitable for a farmer. This was true, I intentionally chose the clothes in order to appear poor and someone to be overlooked. But she insisted I could do better by visiting the 'Radiant Raiment', a clothing store run by herself, Taarie, and her sister Endarie. Having heard her advertisement I tried to excuse myself, but she told me to wait, stared for a few moments, then asked if I was willing to do her a small favor in exchange for some coin.
I already had a madman's master to find, the beacon and an axe of two Daedric Princes to return, a cavern to investigate, and not forgotten, a blacksmith in Falkreath that was wondering what happened to the dog he asked me to find. What was one more job?
Fortunately Taarie's job really was a simple one: she asked that I wear an article of clothing from her store and parade it in front of Elisif who has an eye for such things. I felt a little silly, but I agreed and received a heavily quilted gown in return. If Elisif was surprised to see me back in the Blue Palace so quickly she did not show it and allowed me to show off the gown. I made sure to mention that it had come from her local 'Radiant Raiment' and she assured me her personal orders would be arriving shortly.
This was worth a surprising four hundred Septims plus the gown itself...which I did not want to keep. I sneaked into Taarie's shop while she was looking away and sold her gown back to her sister, choosing instead to purchase a complete outfit from Hammerfell. The loose fitting clothing does not provide much protection from the cold, but the hood and high boots will keep snow from collecting on my ears and feet.
Having clad myself a foreign mercenary I was able to make it out of the city without being stopped by anyone else and made my way towards Mount Kilkreath where the shrine of Meridia awaited its beacon.
The column blue light emitting from the statue's hands made it very easy to find. As I approached Meridia's voice began again in my head, bemoaning the state of her shrine and the shifting hearts of her former followers. I placed the beacon on its pedestal at the foot of the statue and it rose up along the column of light until it was between the statue's hands.
Suddenly, the entire world seemed to go white and when my vision returned I found, to my great dismay, that I was floating hundreds of feet above land while being confronted by Meridia's manifestation in the form of a glowing ball of light. I cannot recall what it was she said or asked me to do other than to clear her shrine of evil for I was much too preoccupied with panicking and wishing I was back on the ground.
After what felt like an eternity there was another flash of white light and I was gratefully back on the ground in front of the shrine's entrance.
The problem was immediately apparent once I stepped inside. An oily-looking black haze clung along the floor, ceiling, and walls and the bodies of Imperial Legionnaires cluttered the entire shrine. Many of the bodies had been desecrated: eyes, nose, and lips removed, arms broken, legs missing, a gruesome display of depravity that repeated itself throughout the complex.
Opposing me were spirits that looked to be composed of the same oily haze that was oozing everywhere. Because of this the spirits were difficult to spot unless one was looking right at me with its brightly glowing red eyes. This was not helpful, as by that time it was usually charging at me with a weapon of the Imperial Legion clutched in its bony claws.
My task however was not the elimination of these corrupted things, but the guidance of Meridia's light deeper into the shrine. The beacon I had returned emitted a beam of light which the Daedric Prince sent into the shrine which I needed to guide along by turning similar beacons around to catch the light and reflect it further on.
This light briefly sent me outside to a stone bridge spanning a gap in the hillside, but the bridge was being patrolled by an Imperial soldier wearing incredibly old armor the likes of which I can only recall seeing in historical documents and tapestries. His Altmer sword and shield marked him as a high-ranking officer, possibly the commander of the dead soldiers, but he was closer to the corrupted spirits in form than he was to former self. As such he moved slowly and awkwardly and could not use his sword or shield as effectively as he likely did in life. My usual strategy of dancing away from a stronger opponent's blows worked well and the malevolent force powering his corpse evaporated after I circled around him and plunged my Orsimer dagger into his back. On a whim I took his Altmer equipment with me.
I re-entered the shrine via the door he had been guarding and proceeded through several more rooms, each with their undead, oily guardians. Meridia's light guided me deeper into the shrine and to the final chamber where the necromancer Malkoran was occupied with his foul work alongside six spectral guardians.
None of them noticed me until I fired an arrow into the necromancer's back. His magical shield rendered my shot non-lethal, but it still had enough force to lodge into his back. With a roar of pain he whirled around and fire a massive ball of ice at me through the door, but I ducked out of the way and re-emerged into the doorway to duel with his six bodyguards. The undead Imperial Captain's sword served me well here for each strike against the spirits set them afire and quickly extinguished their lifeforce. As they were forced to engage me one-on-one in the doorway the battle was far easier than it could have been. My duel with Malkoran was a more difficult matter.
He was content to leave me to his guardians while they were still engaged, but resumed his attack at the defeat of the final spirit. He relied on a spell which sent a giant ball of ice hurtling through the air which froze everything it touched, including the floor. Stepping on these patches of ice sent shocks of cold into my feet and up my legs, making it difficult to move quickly for several seconds. I made sure to make that mistake only once.
I could only hope to defeat him by leaving the safety of the doorway and entering the chamber in order to engage him in melee to prevent him from using his spells. After he launched another ball of ice through the doorway I leaped through it over the trail of ice the spell had left and charged at him, shield up and sword at the ready.
He was caught off-guard and I smashed the shield into his face and delivered against him a terrific slash. The enchantment within the sword ignited his robes and after a quick stab to his middle the man's body burst into flames as well.
Yet that was not the end of it. His body was still on fire as he collapsed, but an unearthly shrieking filled the chamber and his own foul spirit rose from the smoldering corpse looking very much like a larger version of the spirits I had already put to rest.
But his spirit was just as susceptible to the sword's enchanted fire as the others and it evaporated with a frustrated scream without having a chance to do anything at all. Meridia's satisfied voice erupted inside my head, telling me that the shrine was now clear and that I was worthy to claim her sword 'Dawnbreaker' which the necromancer had been trying to find a way to claim for himself. With the her blessing the sword slid easily from its pedestal at the center of the room.
There was a flash of light and once again I was unfortunately very high above Skyrim, talking to a glowing ball of light.
I kept my eyes closed and pretended I was still on the ground as Meridia droned on about the responsibilities that came with wielding 'Dawnbreaker' and how everyone would revere her as I struck down the enemies of undeath and corruption. After I was reunited with the ground I examined 'Dawnbreaker' more carefully and have come to the conclusion that I can never use it. The blade is exceptional and the weapon well-blanced, but the hilt has a small gem that constantly glows and would not serve me well while trying to stay hidden. I will carry it with me until I have a place to keep it, but I shall stick to my combination of bow and dagger for now. I left the equipment I borrowed from the former Imperial commander at the foot of Meridia's statue, having no use for it and it being too cumbersome to take with me.
It is early in the morning now and I still have a long list of things I need to accomplish. I thought I would be returning to my life of cutting lumber and doing odd jobs around Skyrim, but it appears I have sunk back to my old life once again.