23 Heartfire, 4E201
I napped rather than slept in the near-frozen bedroll, but it was enough to quiet the pain in my head. My goal, as usual, was Winterhold College so that I could deliver another one of Enthir's illict goods. Unable to get much rest I wound up moving out of the towers a little after midnight and was halfway to Winterhold when the sun started to rise.
With the freedom more time had given me I felt at liberty to wander a bit and discovered absolutely nothing of value or use. I stopped at a ruined fortress and slew several hostile necromancers before realizing I was surrounded by the dead bodies of the fort's former garrison: Stormcloaks. It would have been quite a fright to have had one of the necromancers re-animate an unseen body behind me, but I was the unseen body behind them this time, stabbing them in the back or drawing my blade across their throat.
I saw no reason to enter the fort and left the crumpled necromancers in the courtyard as a gift to the next person to step outside for a moment.
Enthir was pleased to have the staff back and exchanged it for a twisted soul gem. I could not see the use for the broken thing and neither could Enthir, but he shrugged and said that is what Arniel had specifically requested.
I found Arniel fretting and pacing in his room, muttering something about heat exchange calculations. Neither understanding this or caring, I interrupted him to present the soul gem I killed a keep's worth of mages for. He immediately pressed it back into my hand and began telling a tale of perseverance and broken dreams.
At least that's how he described it. The "tale" was really an explanation of where ten Dwemer cogs had disappeared to: into a machine he built and designed so that the soul gem would retain Dwemer energies for the final phase of his experiment. The machine exploded, melted, or simply failed to work when he turned it on and he had no patience to build another. Instead I was given a list of Dwemer ruin locations, vague directions on how to find each one, and told to bring the gem to part-magicka, part-mechanical Dwemer devices. With the gem inserted into these machines I was then to cast a specific spell (which he quickly taught me) to siphon the Dwemer machine's energy into the gem.
This ritual need not be completed just once, of course, but three times! The only bright light in this terrible turn of events was that the ruin Mzulft, where I had found the Synod mages from Cyrodiil and used the Dwemer Observatory, had two of these machines, requiring a trip only to one other ruin rather than two.
My head filled with satisfying images of Arniel's experiment concluding to an explosive, fatal end as I agreed to travel to another place I have already been to for the sake of someone else.
Fortunately the ruin was still completely deserted and I easily found the chest-like deviecs Arniel described. They looked like simple boxes with a small lid on the top. Per Arniel's instructions I opened the lid, placed the gem inside the compartment, closed the lid, then used his otherwise-useless flame magicka spell on the whole thing for several seconds. I retrieved the gem which was no different for the process and repeated it for the second device in Mzulft.
The third and final device, the 'Convector', as Arniel calls them, was listed as being near the mining village of 'Shor's Stone' on the road between Windhelm and Riften.
Night fell as I walked into an area of Skyrim I have not seen in probably forty years. When I was last in Skyrim doing odd jobs and being accused of thievery I avoided the southeast, choosing instead to work between Solitude, Whiterun, and Falkreath escorting wagons of lumber and the occasional merchant.
Mindful of the previous night's unsatisfactory sleeping arrangements I put off any thought of finding the third 'Convector' and instead concentrated on a place to sleep that would not have me waking up within a shell of ice and snow.
A lit cooking fire by a watchtower suggested a warm place to rest, but when I arrived I was greeted only by Stormcloak corpses.
A letter inside (with Stormcloak letterhead, no less!) warned of Legion troops heading their way, but either they dismissed the letter or received it too late to make preparations. The battle must have been over quickly, of the five dead soldiers only one had even withdrawn his weapon. Even the two sentries atop the tower died without their bows in hand, suggesting a puzzling lack of concern among the tiny garrison.
The tower also looked over Shor's Stone and I heard the sound of arguing before I sighted the little town. Several miners were seated around a fire, most of them arguing with an older Nord whom I assumed was the overseer or more likely, the oldest miner there.
The Nord introduced himself as 'Filnjar', the village's blacksmith as well as one of the miners. The argument was over a large family of spiders that had infested the mine. Most of the miners wanted to abandon the mine until the local guards took care of it, but Filnjar wanted to pool everyone's money to hire a mercenary or two instead.
I felt that spiders were something I could easily handle and offered my services. He was surprised to hear a Khajiit walking out of the dark offer to assist him with his problem, but agreed very quickly. Filnjar warned me that the mine had a constant red haze floating about, the origin of which no one was quite sure of. I thanked him and walked past a nervous guardsman at the entrance of the mine.
The mine was a lot smaller than I expected and the spiders far fewer. The red haze reminded me of something from long ago and though I wracked my brain trying to remember, I could not. I crept along, bow at the ready and the sensation of a memory just about to emerge playing at my mind. I shot nine spiders, making the mine safe again. I returned to Filnjar and was paid over a thousand Septims, an embarrassing amount for such a simple task.
But all the money in Skyrim could not rent a bedroll that did not exist and I had to leave Shor's Stone still searching for a place to sleep. When I spied the silhouette of a ruined castle hanging over the road I made the decision to sleep there, regardless of who currently occupied it.
It was a lucky night for me and I managed to kill all the rogue mages wandering blind in the castle's courtyard without being noticed, then descended inside and silently eliminated the rest one-by-one. The leader of the little band had an expertly-crafted, engraved steel breastplate that would probably fetch over a thousand Septims...if I felt like carrying it, which I do not.
Having pushed her body out of the room I have barred the former chief's bedroom door and am ready for a good night's sleep on a warm bed in a heated room. Tomorrow I will find the last 'Convector' and return to the College to see if anyone has any clue as to what the stone plaque is supposed to represent. The words I continue to have blasted into my mind also bear mentioning, though to who I am not sure.