16 Heartfire, 4E201
My night spent on the wrecked ship amid splatters of frozen blood was not a pleasant one and I do not thing I actually slept at all. I thought I would walk back to the College to thaw out my limbs and spend the rest of the day practicing my Illusion spells. While walking back to the College, why not stop by the very large shrine to Azura? Why not indeed.
From what I remember hearing the statue was built by Dunmer migrants fleeing the destruction of Vvardenfell. The statue was a sign of their gratitude for Azura having guided them safely out of the broken province of Morrowind. I cannot quite see how Azura helped them at all really, perhaps stopping the destruction of the city of Vivec might have been more helpful, but who am I to judge a Daedric Prince?
I remember Azura being prominent during my rise to Nerevarine, but so much time has passed that I actually remember very little of my time on Vvardenfell. Fragments of memories mostly...fighting a Ash Vampire beneath a volcano, a few hazy memories of a small fortified outpost gifted to me by the now-extinct House Redoran, the damp fishing village that I spent my first nights at, things like that. I barely remember Dagoth Ur, Vivec, or Almalexia. I spent some time on Solstheim, but I do not think I accomplished much there.
The shrine was larger than I thought, most of it consisting of a foundation with a small campsite laid on top of it. The camp belonged to a worshiper named 'Aranea Ienith' who lived her life literally at Azura's feet, Aranea kept the shrine and surrounding area clean and tidy while occasionally fighting off wolves and bears. She had her back turned to me as I stepped in front of the altar, but turned quickly, declaring that, at last, Azura's champion had come.
To say I was a bit taken aback by this remark would be understating it, for I thought she was referring to my time as the Nerevarine. Dunmer generally live long and I have no doubt that there are a few alive today that were alive at the fall of Dagoth Ur hundreds of years ago. Aranea continued on and I realized that she spoke of me as someone who would be declared champion following a task done for Azura. I suspect anyone else could have walked up those steps and had that dropped on their shoulders.
I agreed to the task, feeling that I may as well for old time's sake, as they say. The job was predictable: fetch an artifact of Azura's, the infamous 'Azura's Star' soul gem, and bring it back to the shrine. Aranea said that Azura told her that there was a mage in Winterhold that could direct me to the artifact and bid me good luck. Once again I was doing Azura's bidding, but there are worse Princes to associate with than the Lady of Twilight.
Winterhold was very close to the shrine, so I had some sunlight to make use of yet. I thought to wander around in an effort to locate another Dwemer ruin and much to my surprise I found a Falmer hut on the surface next to a pit lined with Dwemer stonework, somewhat to the west of Azura's shrine.
The expedition was a complete failure. Save for an interesting star-studded ceiling in the final chamber, the ruin contained no cogwheels and too much Falmer, the latter of which I did my best to rectify.
After wasting several hours there I ascended back to the surface and made my way to Winterhold for Azura's mage, the Altmer 'Nelacar'. I found him in the local inn, not the College, drinking in a private room while grumbling to himself. When I approached him about Azura's Star he denied any and all involvement until I told him that Azura herself had marked him. Then he was very eager to cooperate.
Nelacar had not taken the Star, but he knew who had: a former College instructor named 'Malyn Varen'. Sick and dying, he had started experimenting with the Star in an effort to prolong his life, but his work resulted in the death of a student and he was banished from Winterhold entirely. Malyn left with a few loyal students and took up residence in an old Imperial fortress north of Falkreath, a not-delightfully long walk from Winterhold.
I will admit that it was nice to be in the relatively warm southern region of Skyrim again, though it was close to midnight before I was even close to the ruined fort. The former Fort Ilinalta sits along the shore of Lake Ilinalta, collapsed and slowly sliding into the water. This makes it an ideal location for nefarious deeds, but it is anyone's guess as to how much longer it can remain serviceable for any use.
The entrance to the fort was gained via a trapdoor atop the keep and a grisly sight awaited me: a skeleton tied to a cross, evidently the unwilling subject of Malyn's experiments.
Necromancers are quickly becoming my favorite enemy, they are not particularly bright fighters and rely far too heavily on their undead to handle the messy details. With two of J'zargo's botched flame scrolls in my robes they had no chance at all. I think one of the necromancers died from bone splinters flying about following the destruction of several skeletons via explosive fire from Winterhold. The others mostly succumbed to slit throats or perforated lungs, their undead servants being very poor at spotting and warning of an increasingly sneaky Khajiit.
One of them had a rare Black soul gem which I smashed into very small pieces. Living for as long as I have has given me a good deal of tolerance for the questionable behavior of others, but trapping the souls of other people is unforgivable.
I found Malyn in a chamber full of skeletons, blood, and wet strands of flesh sticking to nearly every surface. It was as if a group of people had huddled together before exploding all at once. The smell was indescribable.
The late College instructor was busy penning a novella before his flesh graced the walls, the title arrogantly described his achievement as victory over Daedra by a "Master Enchanter". Inside he crowed that he had achieved immortality, a two-edged blessing at best, as I would certainly know. Azura's Star lay at his skeletal feet, but it was cracked and dull. Aranea may know how to repair it.
The warm night air came as a welcome relief from the damp of the ruin and the road to Falkreath was devoid of thieves, wolves, and assassins. Once again I reached a bed just as everyone around me was reaching breakfast, I just hope I do not sleep the entire day away.