Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Skyrim Day 045 - Death by Greed, Twice

30 Heartfire, 4E201

Even after the not-so-harrowing theft of the horse, Frost, I simply could not sleep last night and woke up as it was still dark. I quietly made my way out of the Inn so as to not wake anyone else, but was in turn surprised by the head of the Black-Briar family, Maven Black-Briar. She and a bodyguard were leaving the Inn as I crept downstairs, much to their annoyance and it was only due to Keerava's personal assurances that I was merely an early-rising guest that saved me from having to gut the bodyguard and probably Maven as well.

My goal was a large tomb built into the mountains to the west of Riften. The Jarl had made a request to Winterhold College for someone to eliminate a rogue wizard there who was costing the hold a good deal of money and goods and of course this fell upon me to complete.

Being so early in the morning, I was keen to explore a little and left the road down a beaten path. After a few minutes of walking I was brought to a large stone staircase reaching up into the hillside.
The stairs led first to a magicka rune trap, which I carefully skirted around, and then a necromancer who was busy experimenting with a dead body inside of a large cage. I felt it was only proper to drag his own body in there as well.

Conspicuous in the morning sun was another dragon's head wall which the necromancer had pushed a chest of supplies against. Approaching the wall caused several of the runes to glow and there was a flash of light, a fortunately brief pain, and the sudden knowledge of the ancient word for 'Fear': Faas. I am becoming quite proficient in ancient Nord, if a warrior from the Second Era finds his way into the Fourth I shall be sure to strike up a conversation.

I rejoined the road at a bridge leading to a large estate, but it was walled and the gate locked. The guard standing on-duty informed me that there would be no entrance for me unless I had business there. As I did not know what the place even was, I could not come up with a lie believable enough to grant me access.
Having failed to satiate my daily curiosity with the island mansion, I returned to the road, scanning for enemies and interesting landmarks. It was not long before a tower, set back into the forest against the hills, caught my eye.

The tower was part of an ancient keep, the wear on the stones making it look like it may have been the home of a warlord during the Second or even First Era.
I was expecting mages or bandits, but the courtyard was deserted. The door to the keep had stopped being secure two hundred years ago but I was surprised to hear fighting as I crept inside. I witnessed what I thought was the murder of a woman and drew my axe to strike down her assailant. The murderess turned to face me and immediately put her hands up, proclaiming her innocence.
I pointed out that she had just struck the woman down with magicka, but she insisted she was given no choice: one of them was going to die and she would rather it not be her. I conceded the logic of her argument and demand an explanation which was readily given.

The woman's name was 'Illia' and she was part of a coven which resided in the ruined keep. The coven worshiped and served the hideous hagravens that resided in the ruins and the coven's leader, Illia's mother, sought to become one of the twisted creatures using a ritual sacrifice. Illia claimed she would have been the sacrifice if she had not killed her former coven-mate and asked my help not to escape, but to ascend the tower and eliminate the hagravens and her mother's coven.

She was willing to lead the way, so I agreed. If this was a trap Illia's magicka would be spent fighting her way up the tower and if it was not I would be saving her from a terrible fate and preventing the creation of another hagraven in Skyrim.

As it was I did not have to do much. Illia was more than a match for her coven-sisters, dispatching most of them with shards of ice before they could react. The few that did were too distracted battling her to notice me before I was sliding my dagger across their throats, so long as the throats were not hagraven. An effective strategy, though some of Illia's spells came a bit too close for my liking.

She stopped outside a door at the top of the tower and turned to me while announcing that the only way to defeat her mother was for me to pretend to be the required sacrifice so that Illia could strike her unawares. I was not too keen on her plan, but she pointed out that I would be unbound and remained armed, in case I thought she was leading me into a trap. I agreed to be the "sacrifice" while silently promising terrible revenge on Illia if she crossed me.
The would-be hagraven looked like anyone else and gave me a kindly smile as Illia explained I was volunteering to be the sacrifice necessary for her to become a powerful, twisted creature. The mother poured her gratitude out as she beckoned me to a hand-made wooden chair placed in front of decapitated pig's head. Charming.

As soon as she turned her back to Illia her daughter struck, sending shards of ice into her mother's back. Her mother's face (I never got her name) contorted in pain and rage as she spun back to face Illia, but she had not wondered at the absurdity of a Khajiit offering to make a hagraven out of an Imperial. Two stabs to the back were enough to end her and the additional four were for safety. The old woman crumpled at my feet with a gurgling sigh.

Illia was not very upset about having killed her own mother, but wanted to get away from the place all the same. She told me to take whatever I wanted of her former mother's and suggested that her staff would be valuable. I could not determine what enchantments were on it, but it is beautifully carved and set with jewels, so I took it anyway.

As a consequence of my curiosity it was late into the afternoon by the time I arrived at the tomb where Riften's bandit-mage was said to be hiding. A recent campsite was sitting in front of it and a journal had helpfully been left behind.

It belonged to 'Medresi Dran', obviously a Dunmer, and she named the tomb 'Angarvunde', gushing about how much wealth and treasure were said to be hidden within. This was a story I have grown tired of hearing. Nothing waits in the tombs but the dead, some of them walking around with weapons. If there was treasure inside it would have found its way back outside a long time ago. The journal closed with the optimistic plan to hire a group of miners to break into the tomb and collect the riches for herself...somehow having dealt with the miners in-between, I suppose.

I assumed the mage-bandit inside killed her and the miners, but when I entered I was surprised to see a Dunmer pacing fretfully in the narrow corridor. She saw me and dropped to her knees, insisting that she was not armed. Slightly embarrassed, I asked her if she was Medresi and she nodded.

The group she had hired to dig had dug into a room of Draugr and the miners, not being fools, fled the ruins with Medresi's swearing clawing at their backs. On her own she admitted she would make no progress and contemplated traveling back to Riften to hire armed mercenaries instead. She must have then only noticed my equipment and asked if I would be willing to do the "physical work" in exchange for half the treasure. 

I would not have agreed if I did not already have a reason to be there, but since I had to walk inside anyway I might as well for half of whatever valuables Medresi thought was there.
The Draugr and my unsuspecting target were in a large cavern behind her and the lack of effort required to send them crashing to the floor does not merit a greater description. I walked back to Medresi, informed her of my success, then had to jog after her as she raced into the now-empty chamber.
She excitedly hopped over the dead body of the mage and the deader bodies of the Draugr, only to be very frustrated to find a portcullis blocking her from the treasure beyond. Once again it was on me to do the work. She pointed out that the chamber had two corridors on either side, one of which would have a way to raise the gate.

As it turned out, both corridors held half the solution to our little puzzle. I fought over a dozen Draugr before the gate was open and had nothing to personally show for it but a lack of crossbow bolts and a chip on my dagger.

Medresi was considerate enough to wait for me to return before sprinting through the gateway and was dead before she realized she had stepped into a trap.

Counterweights hidden somewhere in the ruin were loosened and the floor underneath Medresi shot upwards as the ceiling above her came down. I was quick enough to jump back through the gateway just as the room was showered in blood and viscera. The smell of it was enough to turn my stomach and I felt no better for having violently been divested of my breakfast. The stone plug which she had been standing upon had been hiding stairs leading below the ruin, but before I descended I examined the dripping treasure chest which had been in front of her.

It was empty, save for a broken sword hilt. Treasure indeed.

The stairs led to a small corridor which was faithfully guarded by a Draugr and ended at another wall of words, this one teaching me 'Raan', or "Animal". The reason for these walls and why some are above ground on their own and others underground within tombs is still a mystery, but I assume the knowledge contained on the wall was the "great treasure" the tomb was said to have.
The walk back to Riften was uneventful, dark, and entirely too long. The city's earliest risers were starting to wake up as I stepped through the gates and I can hear the rest of the inn's guests leaving for the day on whatever business drives them as I finish writing this entry. Another long day, a poor sleep, and little to show for it.

I detest the thought of returning back to Winterhold again, but I cannot think of any other place awaiting me right now.

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