Friday, October 28, 2016

Skyrim Day 053 - Dream Me Another Dream

8 Frostfall, 4E201

With an impatient Serana trailing after me, we left the Windpeak Inn well before the sun even started to rise. It was the only thing she did not complain about all day.

This includes the attack on Dawnstar that swept in from the sea with a challenging roar. Hoping perhaps to catch the city asleep, a Dragon flew over the town as we were making our way to Nightcaller Temple.
If it hoped to cause a panic then it failed miserably. The Dragon War was a long time ago though and today's inhabitants of Skyrim are less willing to bend a knee to their supposed betters. The unfortunate Dragon died in a hail of arrow and fireballs that seemed to erupt from every corner of Dawnstar. As luck would have it, the beast's corpse smashed into the earth just behind the Inn, allowing everyone around me to witness the spectacle of a Dragonborn absorbing a soul, much to her surprise.
A small crowd gathered behind the Inn to gawk at the Dragon's skeletal corpse, one man going so far as to stand underneath the rib cage to better marvel at the creature's size. What they wound up doing with the bones is none of my concern.
After waiting ten minutes or so for Erandur's curiosity to be satiated we three continued our walk to the decrepit Nightcaller Temple.
Erandur stopped outside the door to warn me of the dangers we would find within. The Temple had been attacked by a tribe of Orsimer who were being plagued by nightmares just as Dawnstar was today. Desperately fighting back, the priests inside were slowly overpowered and released a gas throughout the Temple. This gas was normally used in their rituals to bring about a state of sleep said to allow communion with the Daedric Prince Vaermina.

Once the gas was released priest and raider alike fell asleep, protected from the natural ravages of time, but unable to wake. Erandur's warning was that both sides would likely be hostile to us once we turned off the gas, but I felt I could handle some priests and bandits. Serana thought otherwise and elected to "guard" the door while Erandur and I ventured inside to thwart the machinations of a Daedric Prince.

The cause of Dawnstar's trouble was a staff Erandur called the 'Skull of Corruption'. We could see it on a lower level of the Temple, but could not reach it at the time. The Temple itself was a large cylinder that spiraled downwards to laboratories and living quarters, each level one step closer to the Skull.
An archway further ahead was blocked by a purple barrier of magicka, but Erandur thought that the remains of the Temple's library would house a method to dispel it. He knew a lot about the temple for someone who had never been in it before and when I questioned his knowledge he admitted that he was a former disciple of Vaermina.

During the attack on the Temple Erandur fled, saving his own life at the expense of many of his brethren with the survivors being put into a sleep they would possibly never wake from. Overcome by guilt, he turned to Mara to seek comfort, waiting for a chance to redeem himself. When rumors of Dawnstar's nightmares reached him, he realized his redemption was at hand...if he could find someone to assist him.

The assistance was needed, for as we walked to the library the sleeping gas noticeably dissipated and the combatants of both sides started to wake up. The Orsimer probably cared not for who Erandur or I were, attacking us immediately. We were treated no better by the waking priests, I suppose to their perception no time had passed between the attack and today, making us a part of the raiding party. For all his guilt Erandur showed no hesitation in striking down his former brothers and sisters.

Once in the library we split up to search for an alchemy manual titled "The Dreamstride". Despite thousands of ruined pages fluttering about us Erandur was confident I would find the book we needed without much trouble. I did, the manual having escaped destruction due to being on a pedestal, away from everything else.

Inside the manual was a recipe for "Vaermina's Torpor", a concoction used by the Daedric Prince's devout to induce hallucinations mixed with plane-walking to traverse Tamriel via memories and dreams. A powerful ability, but one Erandur warned me was extremely dangerous. Some acolytes went mad after a single draught, others continued to make multiple dream-walks, only to finally come out of one without a shred of sanity.

Erandur's plan was to mix this Torpor and use it to "walk" back to when the Temple was still under attack. The barrier blocking our way would not be there and when he woke from the dream-walk he would be on the other side of it in our time, allowing him to dispel it...or so I assumed.

I guess I should not have thought a former Priest of Vaermina would be drink the ritualistic drink dedicated to Vaermina so that he could briefly traverse Vaermina's crazed plane of nightmares. No, he was a priest of Mara now, so the Torpor would not work for him any longer. But someone unaffiliated to any Princes would be allowed the honor of possibly descending into eternal, nightmarish insanity.

Me, for example.

After reading the manual Erandur was forced to admit that he would not be able to mix a vial of the Torpor for us. Instead, we descended further into the gas-filled Temple, waking and slaying Orsimer and priest as we went. Not quite the behavior I expected from a follower of Mara, but who am I to judge?

In a small laboratory we found an unbroken vial of the Torpor, Erandur urging me to drink it at once. I was a bit put off by his eagerness, but I had no choice but to trust him in this matter. Down went the sour mixture, then everything blurred and went black.

I remember being able to see, somehow, memories of the Temple's previous inhabitants floating about, like globes with little worlds inside of them. I reached for one, then felt myself falling...only to awake to a blurriness around the edges of my vision and two priests arguing in front of the Skull.
The older of the two priests referred to me as 'Brother Casimir', ordering me to proceed to the front of the Temple, through the battle, to activate the 'Miasma', the sleeping gas Erandur and I let out of the Temple as we entered.

It felt as though I was there, in the Temple, fighting the battle, yet at the same time it all seemed an illusion. I "knew" as I ran through the several skirmishes that I would not, could not, be harmed. The raiders did not have the advantage, as I expected, but it was clear that their numbers would overwhelm the defenders soon enough.
The person whose memory I was inhabiting knew that he had to venture to a pull-chain near the entrance to the Temple to release the gas and after "I" did so the dream ended and I was on the other side of the formerly-blocked doorway, Erandur waiting where he could.

He immediately started pestering me with questions about how the "Dreamstride" was, but I could only offer the explanation that it was like being there, only not. He expressed his disappointment at not being able to undergo a Dreamstride himself, then on we went.

The two priests I whose argument I witnessed were, surprisingly, waiting for us at the foot of the Skull's altar. They were angry at Erandur, an anger I initially assumed was for trespassing, but as it turned out they personally knew Erandur...who was formerly known as Casimir, the man whose memory I walked. I guess that explains why his memories were the strongest in the Temple.
Naturally, a battle was inevitable and both priests attacked at once, their long sleep hindering them not in the slightest. But they were priests, not warriors.

Our path to the Skull of Corruption was finally clear. Before arriving at Dawnstar Erandur had a ritual granted to him by Mara to send the accursed staff back to where ever it came from, prompting the guilt-ridden man to make the journey to begin with. Now free to proceed, he bounded up the stairs, no doubt eager to free Dawnstar and clear his conscience.

Moments after he began a woman's voice coyly slid into my head, enticing me to slay Erandur while he remained enthralled in his ritual and take the Skull for my own. But I have had long before now had enough to do with Daedric Princes and ignored Vaermina's prodding.
The Skull of Corruption disappeared in a flash, the workings of Mara through Erandur, formerly known as Casimir. He appeared to be quite spent after he came out of his trance, but refused my offer of an escort back to town. Instead, he planned to construct a small shrine to Mara within the Temple and tend to the grounds, perhaps to one day convert it to Mara's worship, perhaps not. Erandur also offered his companionship should I need it on my adventures. I have found I work better alone, more often than not.

Speaking of being alone, Serana was still waiting for me outside the Temple, irritated and sullen about having been stuck outside the whole time with nothing to do. She said nothing on the walk from Dawnstar to Morthal.
I decided to stop at Morthal because one of the pieces of Mehrune's Razor was said to be here. A few questions led me to a modest farmhouse. The man inside, Jorgen, knew what he was in possession of, but cared little for it anyway. Three hundred Septims bought me the hilt to the dagger, the other two pieces will likely be harder to acquire.

Another day, another problem of someone else's solved. Serana is closer yet to her family's estate, should they still be there, but what we will find once we arrive is a mystery I have some trepidation about solving.

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