Friday, April 22, 2016

Skyrim Day 024 & 025 - Mzulft, the Unpronounceable Ruin

9 Heartfire, 4E201

No rest for the weary indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 8, 2016

Skyrim Day 023 - The Midden and the Augur

7 Heartfire, 4E201

I did not have it in me this morning to stop at Morthal for the book, but I have no doubt I will be in that area at some point in the future anyway. Instead I left Whiterun and spent most of the morning walking the road back to Winterhold. As I left what could be considered the "end" of Whiterun I witnessed two city guards drag the bodies of three bandits away from one of the city's watchtowers. The banditry is getting bolder, if not smarter.
Near a farm I came upon another horse-and-cart, but this time its owner was very much alive. But if a person can be said to be unhinged, then this fellow had his door removed completely.
The little Imperial was dressed as a jester and introduced himself as 'Cicero'. Cicero had a very odd way of speaking: sort of singing, sort of whining, and somewhat poetic. I was able to understand that the cart belonged to him and that it was carrying the casket of his dead mother whom he hoped to re-bury (I assume) somewhere in Skyrim. But the wagon wheel had broken and he was unable to fix it himself.

Fortunately he had broken down right in front of a farm, but he said the farmer there was not willing to help him repair the wagon and the guardsman who was patrolling the road had not been any more helpful. I offered to speak with the farmer on his behalf and he did a little dance in front of me and offered bags of gold if I succeeded.

The farmer, Vantus Loreius, watched me warily as I walked up from the road and spoke first, telling me that there was no way he was getting involved with the strange man's wagon trouble. I pointed out that the quickest way to get rid of him was to fix the wagon, but he countered with the idea of going to the guard and having the man arrested. But then his wife spoke up and chided Vantus for not being "neighborly" and helping someone in need. With that his defenses collapsed and he sheepishly asked me to tell "that little Imperial" that he would be by shortly with tools to repair the wagon. My reward was another dance and three pouches of coins. I had no reason to wait to see the wagon fixed, so I wished Cicero and his late mother luck and continued on to Winterhold.

While on my way through the pass between Whiterun and Winterhold I found a horse standing placidly next to the body of what was probably a bandit.
Judging by the angle of the woman's broken neck she had been thrown from the horse and struck the frozen soil with her head, hopefully killing her instantly. If that were the case the horse did not seem bothered by it

It has only been a few hundred years since I have last ridden a horse, but the skill came back to me rather quickly...which was the only thing quick about the ride. I vaguely remember the horses of Cyrodiil being fast, but I could have ran faster than this horse galloped. It was considerably more sure-footed on the snow and ice than a quicker horse, so it did end up being worth the jostling I received, even if it had killed its former rider.

When I arrived back at Winterhold I sold the horse to a lucky guardsman for ten Septims and walked across the precarious-looking bridge to the College. Tolfdir and Savos had somehow managed to transport our treasure from Saarthal to Winterhold and while the image of them rolling the giant metal sphere across the snow and ice is amusing, they must have teleported it into the hall.
The ever gruff Urag gro-Shub was rather gracious in the acceptance of the missing volumes and presented me a gift of six much more common books, each a lesson in the use of a particular school of magic. He then suggested that I seek out Tolfdir to receive my next assignment pertaining to the College's new hall centerpiece and asked me to bring Tolfdir the 'Night of Tears', though having read it myself I could not see what help it would be.

Ancano chose that moment to make his entrance by striding into the Hall and politely insisting that Tolfdir find somewhere else to be. Tolfdir did not take the interruption likely, as he had just begun what I am beginning to understand is his favorite activity: lecturing. He left with the promise to issue a complain to the Thalmor Embassy and then it was just Ancano and I alone in the Hall with the giant, levitating ball.
Ancano only wanted to tell me that a visitor had arrived at the College and was waiting for me in the Arch-Mage's quarters, not an announcement I felt Tolfdir had to be dismissed over. I had little choice but to follow him upstairs to speak with whomever this was.

I should have known: the "visitor" was another Psijic mage. As soon as I opened my mouth to ask what his Order needed now the world froze and turned white.
I was still able to ask my question, but received far more of an answer than I had wanted. According to the mage, the artifact hovering in the College's Hall was known as the "Eye of Magnus", an artifact said to have been created by Magnus, the God of Magic. The mage said disaster was now unavoidable due to events that had already transpired, so naturally I asked him what was expected of me before an inevitable disaster. His response was one I might have received hundreds of years ago: do your best to contain it. He suggested that I speak with someone or something called the 'Augur of Dunlain' who would know more about what I needed to do.

With that the world regained its color and the mage excused himself to a very confused Arch-Mage and Thalmor. Ancano demanded to know what had happened, but he was in the Arch-Mage's personal residence and was asked, politely of course, to leave.

But when I asked Savos about the Augue he was only able to point me back to Tolfdir, so feeling a little silly I went back to the Hall where Tolfdir had been kicked out moments before.

Tolfdir knew of the Augur and offhandedly commented that he used to be a student at the College before his studies and experimentation went disastrously wrong and he became what he is today. I felt that sort of personal history deserved a bit more detail, but Tolfdir was not able to provide much more. His name long forgotten, the former student now went by the title of 'Augur of Dunlain' and resided, for lack of a better word, in the College midden accessible via a trapdoor in the courtyard.
The midden was half storage area, half illicit training ground. Skeletons raised and fallen by students littered the entire area as well as Draugr that students had lost control over. I also had to contend with more more natural predators in the form of giant spiders which were occupying a corner of the midden.
There was evidence scattered about the whole area that pointed towards generations of College students having retreated to the midden to further their own research, some of the evidence looking unfortunately violent. Some of the evidence was very interesting though, one being a magical "forge" of some sort that a nearby journal claimed could take several items and turn them into an Atronach.

The journal did warn that the Atronachs would not arrive loyal, so I fail to see the usefulness of such a tool, elegantly designed though it might be.
The only other item of deceitful interest was an obsidian altar which terminated in a gauntlet that appeared to be reaching for something. Again, a nearby journal explained what I was looking at. It began by declaring that the "missing students" had been found dead around the altar, their wounds being consistent with something the author called "conjurer's burn", a phrase apparently describing burns to the hands and arms. The author, an instructor at the time, removed four rings from the gauntlet's fingers and stored them at the College while they awaited examination from a master of Conjuration magics. Something to keep in mind for the future, perhaps.

I found the Augur in a little room of his (its?) own, hovering above a pool of what appeared to be oil.
Whatever he was now the Augur was surprisingly open and helpful about my problem. Right away he warned me that Arcano had already come down to the Midden to speak with him about the Eye of Magnus and that his interest would lead to his death and disaster for the College. 

Despite his incorporeal and presumably immortal form the Augur of Dunlain seemed to lean towards helping the College over the interests of the Thalmor. He instructed me to return to Savos and tell the Arch-Mage that Magnus's staff was required to harness, or perhaps just contain, the power within the Eye of Magnus. Without it, as Arcano is, usage of the Eye could destroy the College or worse.

Having said that, he withdrew into his pool of oil, leaving me with no time to ask any further questions. I made my way back out of the midden via a short passageway which deposited me on the shore, about one hundred feet beneath where I wanted to be.
I was not as fortunate during this walk as I have been recently. The weather cleared up as I made my way up the shoreline, but I was attacked by three black dogs that each had glowing red eyes and over-sized fangs occupying a distended mouth. Fearsome though they looked, they were still just dogs and I claimed a beaten silver collar from each one of them. I do wonder where they came from to have collars on.

The only other encounter I had was with a goat who trotted along with me as we passed the as-yet not-visited Shrine of Azura.
I went immediately to the Arch-Mage's quarters when I finally arrived back at the College, but he was not there despite it being several hours past midnight. Instead I found him in the Hall pondering the Eye of Magnus. I told him we needed to find the Staff of Magnus and once again was told to speak with Mirabelle. By this time some of the early risers were waking up for breakfast, so I shall only be getting an hour or two of sleep.

No rest for the weary.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Skyrim Day 022 - Just Books?

6 Heartfire, 4E201

"Find Mirabelle" was the only task I had from the College's Arch-Mage before he left for Saarthal in order to speak with Tolfdir about the metal egg. So after another quick breakfast I started the day as I did yesterday: wandering around a largely deserted school.

I did not have to wander long before I nearly ran into Mirabelle inside the 'Hall of Elements'. I asked her what she knew of the Psijic Order and received information I already knew. She was even less helpful with the business underneath Saarthal and told me to speak with Urag gro-Shub instead.

Urag demanded to know why I had not returned with the 'Hanging Gardens' and I had to point out that I only learned of it yesterday and have so far been too involved with my studies at the College to allow for a trip to Morthal. He begrudgingly agreed and asked what brought me back to the library. When I told him I needed books about Saarthal he sighed and told me that he did not have any books on the subject.

But he used to. A former student named 'Orthorn' had taken several books from the College as he sneaked out some time ago seeking to join a band of necromancers practicing their art at a ruined castle called 'Fellglow Keep', near Whiterun.

On my way out of the College I was accosted by Ancano, the Thalmor which Faralda had warned me of yesterday. He wanted to know what Tolfdir and I had found under Saarthal, but the only response I had was the honest one: I did not know. He assumed I was lying and cautioned me about the consequences of betraying the Thalmor. I wonder what he would have said if I had told him I was already wanted by his particular organization.

The walk from Winterhold to Fellglow Keep was surprisingly without incident. I passed a large fortress apparently garrisoned by the undead and spoke with a patrol of Imperial Legionnaires for a few minutes, but was spared the bandits, assassins, and wolves my journeys are normally plagued by.

The exterior of Fellglow Keep was guarded only by a single necromancer and his Flame Atronach, neither of which felt the crossbow bolts that ended their lives. I could not open the main door to the Keep, but a few minutes of searching revealed a second door dug into the earth that, for some reason, opened into a small prison area. Why the Keep has a second entrance no more than thirty feet from the first one is a mystery, but it saved me the trouble of waiting outside until someone else's shift came up.

This entrance was guarded by another necromancer just as easily felled by a bolt, plus two giant spiders, each of which I sent tumbling down the stairs with more shots from my faithful crossbow. The jail cells were occupied by eerily calm vampires, all of which I was perfectly okay with leaving captive. Further on were more vampires, all dead and horribly mutilated. This was the group Orthorn hoped to win over with the gift of books.

I found the naive Orthorn in a cell of his own next to a cage of wolves. One does not have to wonder as to what his eventual fate would have been. He expressed relief at the College having sent someone to rescue him, but I replied that he had been written off by the College, I had only been sent to retrieve the books. He begged to be let free either way and I could not abandon him to dehydration or starvation. Freed, he promised to make up for his transgression by helping me fight the remaining necromancers.

As for the books, the leader of the necromancers who he knew as the 'Caller' were in possession of them, but for what reason he did not know.

Orthorn proved surprisingly skilled in a fight and was able to summon Atronachs of his own as well as wield fire and lightning magicka. Alas, he fell in battle against two foes after recklessly charging ahead of me into a room where he was cornered and overpowered before I could assist. I will report to the College that he fell bravely in battle, which is only the truth, after all.
This 'Caller' leader was waiting for me in behind a locked door in a room seemingly redesigned as a summoning chamber of some kind. She accused me of taking her hospitality for granted, which elevated her from 'deluded' to 'insane' in my eyes and then summoned three Flame Atronachs to distract me while she flung fire and ice all of the room.

I ignored the Atronachs as best I could and chased after her relentlessly. Every time I struck her she managed to teleport to another corner of the room, but eventually the sum of my blows started to tell and she collapsed, her Atronachs extinguishing as she did.
The books I had killed to retrieve were on pedestals placed around the room to some unknown purpose. One of the books is about Saarthal and its "Night of Tears" when the Elves attacked Saarthal only to be repelled with heavy losses on both sides. The book questions what reason the Elves would have had to provoke such an attack, but I do think Tolfdir and I have answered at least part of the question.

As always it was late in the evening when I stepped back outside and I decided to stay at Whiterun for the night rather than walk all the way back to the College in the dark.
Other than witnessing the end of a fight between a vampire and two guards the walk from Fellglow Keep was just as boring as the walk to it was. I paid my ten Septims at the Bannered Mare and will be returning to the College in the morning. I may make a brief stop near Morthal for Urag's book on my way there.