Monday, May 16, 2016

Skyrim Day 028 - Not Your Typical Transaction

12 Heartfire, 4E201
Wilderness near Riften

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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