Monday, July 11, 2016

Skyrim Day 035 - Ghost Women and Metal Men

20 Heartfire, 4E201

Retrieve some books or get distracted twice, dive into two ruins each occupied by a different group of hostile people, and be rewarded by some coin, more fatigue, and a mounting list of things to do the next day? I wound up choosing the latter, of course, but I complain when I am stuck at the College only to complain once I am free to roam. Nevertheless, this day offered some hints towards adjustments I could be making for myself, advice I am always glad to receive.

I thought I would visit Morthal first to get the first of Urag's books, then walk through Dragon Bridge to retrieve the second. The Nightgate inn's lack of comfort, heating, or quiet ensured I was up at two in the morning, not quite ready for the day's journey but unable to fall back asleep anyway. After a quick breakfast and a glare at the bard practicing in the common room at such an early hour I left the village and proceeded down another snowy road.

Under the bright moon I met with the Khajiit caravan, run by Ahkari, which Kharjo is tasked with guarding. Trading had been profitable for them so Ahkari was happy to pay for the assortment of jewelry taken from the assassins and ruins I seem unable to avoid. Kharjo wished me well and we parted ways, again.

The moon settled down for another day's rest and the sun had risen several hours ago when I turned the corner of the cobblestone road just in time to watch a mammoth catch a hunter with its tusks, flinging the woman thirty feet through the air. She hid the ground head-first with a too-familiar crack, her head broken from the impact against the frozen earth.
The mammoth stomped away and stopped next to a dead Giant, its sinewy body stuck full of cheap-looking arrows. The unfortunate huntress evidently killed the master only to fall against the pet...I think. My understanding of Skyrim's unique semi-intelligent herders is not very clear and I do not know what the relationship is between the Giants and their mammoths. All I know is that tangling with either is asking for trouble no one needs.

On the subject of trouble no one needs, I briefly ventured off the road near Dawnstar and came upon a magnificent Dwemer fortress in seemingly excellent condition.
My pride as an adventurer, if such a thing exists, would not let me pass the fortress without stopping for a cursory look around. I hoped to also find the remaining Dwemer cogs for Arniel. This, of course, meant that several bandits met their end, but that is now nearly a daily occurrence. Once I finished stalking the courtyard I proceeded inside and was almost immediately rewarded by battle debris left from a fight between the bandits and the Dwemer constructs. I found the required cogwheels without much trouble and could have left then, but curiosity insisted that I proceed.

Inevitably the bandits were replaced by Falmer as I crept deeper into the fortress, with the Dwemer constructs a constant, noisy companion. Why bandits see Dwemer ruins as great places to camp in I shall never know, for the Falmer are always there first and will likely always kill whomever stays there for longer than a day. One of the Falmer I shot down had a desiccated human heart in his pouch, a grisly trophy from a battle some time ago.

I made it through bandits and Falmer only to find myself facing one of the massive Dwemer battle-men similar to the one I had ran away from in Alftand.
There was no running away from this thing, yet all I had on me was my dagger, a bow, and an Ebony war axe I had won from a Draugr in the ruin where I found my first Nordic 'word'. Now I have never before wielded an axe in battle, but I felt nonetheless that my chances against the giant machine would go up if I wielded something with a reach longer than eight inches.

Unaccustomed to the lack of balance on the axe, my first few swings were probably more dangerous to myself than my opponent. But my next swings were directed into the thing's legs, satisfyingly crushing in the Dwemer plate protecting its joints. It attempted to defend itself, but even with the axe I was far too quick. We danced around for what felt like a long time before I managed to work a plate free of the machine, exposing the levers and gears beneath. Once these were destroyed the thing collapsed and I drove the butt-spike of the axe into its chest, silencing it forever.
The axe dislodged something in its chest and a bit of digging around revealed a a spherical shell with a red gemstone set inside of it. There were knobs on the outside of the shell that allowed for some sort of adjustment, but I could not figure out what to do with it. Whatever it was it appeared to be the power source for the machine and I guessed it to be valuable to someone, somewhere, so into my pack it went.

A door on the far side of our arena led to an elevator platform which deposited me back on to the surface of Skyrim. It was still day, the weather was clear, and there did not seem to be anything that could prevent me from recovering at least one of the books today. Save, of course, for my curiosity again.

I had only taken a dozen steps along the road when I heard the sound of fighting in the direction of a packed snow path off of the road. Thinking someone might be fighting for their lives against bandits, I drew my bow and tried to be as fast and sneaky as I could at the same time. I need not have worried. By the time I reached the fighting it was already over: a woman was walking away from the bodies of two bandits sprawled on stairs leading into a Nordic burial crypt and while she was surprised to see me, she was not hostile.
She introduced herself as Eisa Blackthorn, former bandit of the White River Gang, a group I had no knowledge of, and a more-recently former member of treasure hunters camping inside of the crypt. Eisa stated that she and another hunter had been marked for death after the disappearance of the boss's sword. She fought her way outside the crypt, but the other hunter had gone further inside, ranting about a lady he had to see there. She invited me to explore the mystery myself, but stated she would have nothing more to do with the entire business. What that she walked down the path to the road and I, having been provided another mystery to solve, stepped over the bodies and entered the crypt.

There was nothing interesting about it, other than that the treasure hunters (bandits) had discovered a forest somehow growing underground. One of them, the other hunter Eisa spoke about, went mad after exploring the area and stole a sword from the group's leader. That was all I found out from listening to the bandits talk among themselves before they died.

I arrived at the forested area just in time to witness the mad hunter attack a ghostly woman who killed him almost instantly.
This forest was dim, cold, and misty, as unpleasant as it was unusual. The ghost resembled a creature I have fought before: a bluish-green semi-transparent woman wearing wraps about her who was able to command wisps to fight alongside her. Whatever these things are, this one also had the ability to create copies of herself as well as wisps. She lacked endurance however and dissipated into nothing after only a few blows from my axe.

The dead hunter was a sparsely clothed Khajiit and he managed to retain his grip on the stolen sword even in death. It was a short blade, no more than a foot and a half and oddly shaped from a dark steel. The weapon fit perfectly on a pedestal just in front of the mad Khajiit, making me wonder if the ghost had not called the Khajiit to steal the blade back to her for some purpose. I had no need of it so I placed it on the pedestal and started towards a staircase carved into the rear of  the cavern.

As I approached I noticed that the stone alongside it was worked and through the mist I realized it was almost exactly as the other stone monuments which taught me the Nordic words. As before certain runes in the stonework began to glow as I drew closer.
A blinding light, a crippling pain in my head, and suddenly I knew the runes for 'flesh of ice', a phrase utterly mystifying without context. Now nursing a terrific headache I stumbled up the stairs and into a clear Skyrim night.

There was no place to stay between the crypt and Morthal, so it was early in the morning when I finally arrived at the dismal place, my head pounding and my feet slightly less so.
The room was the standard ten Septims per night and I settled in to write this just after midnight. One of the volumes Urag wanted is just north of Morthal, so I am confident I will be recovering at least one of them, if not both, tomorrow. Then it is back to the College again. 

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