21 Heartfire, 4E201
Morthal has its charms, if you find the constant stench of swamp to be attractive. The inn was comfortable enough, but I was already a day behind on my self-imposed schedule and left earlier in the morning than I was perhaps expected to.
'Hanging Gardens' was located somewhere north of Morthal, according to Urag. How the book came to be in such a book-unhealthy place is a mystery to be pondering alongside how Urag knew it was there to begin with.
The marshland was as pleasant as I expected it to be and a man walking into town as I was leaving warned me to not go into the swamps at night, advice I did not need to be told in this case. Surprisingly there were few monsters about, mostly just elk and the occasional mudcrab.
I came upon a cave marked with a lit brazier and could only guess that it might be the location of the book I was seeking. Inside I was greeted by two giant spiders, each of which fell to my bow. I thought I was facing ordinary bandits until the first one I killed started dissolving into black dust. Vampires. Terrifying to most people, the trick is in making sure they never bite you as you stab them to death.
Further inside the cave I heard someone talking to himself and watched as a vampire dragged three bodies from his cart into a nearby pit. He was so intent on his grisly task that he could not hear me creeping up behind him with my axe. One more body for the pit.
Those two were the only to die in their cave today. There were three more vampires sitting together in a small common area set with a table and chairs, but I stayed against the cavern wall, in the shadows, and passed by them with no notice at all. I am evidently becoming very skilled in not being seen, but I do not really live a life that greatly requires that. Perhaps I would make a good burglar if I was the kind of Khajiit everyone in Skyrim seems to expect.
'Hanging Gardens' was tucked into a chest underneath a a Dwemer warhammer and an Ebony mace, making the origin of the book even more mysterious. Whatever its journey, I stole the book back from the vampires and quietly exited their den.
Urag's second volume was south of Morthal, along the river. The weather was, once again, quite nice and the walk along the river peaceful, even with mudcrabs stolidly crawling at me every couple of seconds to defend their portion of the mud bank. I met a Redguard fisherwoman at her shack and paid her a few Septims for some dried fish.
The entrance to the bandit hideout was a great deal less ambiguous than the vampires'.
I suspect the bodies to have been dug up, for the bandits were organized more as a blacksmith's shop than a group of dangerous outlaws. Four of the six bandits died with smithing tools in their hands, not weapons. 'Shalidor's Insights' was also in a chest underneath a collection of valuable armaments.
With that I began the walk back to the College. Nothing interesting happened and I stepped into the icy courtyard just after midnight. As expected most of the instructors and students were still awake, toying with whatever experiments allowed them to ignore the rest of the province.
Arniel was happy to receive his ten Dwemer cogwheels and Urag to have a copy of 'Hanging Gardens' and the unreadable' Shalidor's Inights'. He assured me that the latter could be translated if I gave him a day or two. I have no interest in such a thing, but I thanked him anyway.
I need to get rid of the stone plaque I found underneath Bleak Falls Barrow. I think I will simply prop it against something in the Arch-Mage's room and invite everyone in to see if they know what to do with it.