Friday, December 23, 2016

Skyrim Day 057 - Howling Mad

12 Frostfall, 4E201

My return to east Skyrim began in earnest and ended with no progress having been made aside from thwarting the plan of an undead heir to the Septim line.

I woke early in the cold, empty manor I now call home and walked outside to find something aflame to warm myself next to. Though it was still early there was a terrific racket coming from the Bard's College next door. Curious, I tested the front door and found it to be unlocked. Inside an Altmer introduced himself as Viarmo and asked if I wished to become a bard. I did not and informed him of my recent purchase of the adjacent manor. He wished me well and invited me to explore his College at my leisure, a freedom Khajiit are rarely given.

But I was not there to swipe the plates. Instead, I followed the sound of terrible singing and walked in on a class led by an old woman whose lute-playing accompanied her singing. One of the classroom's hopefuls whispered to me that she was known as 'Inge Six Fingers', a name meant to invoke skill rather than mutilation.
I observed the lesson for a few minutes, retreating once one of the students was called up to demonstrate his singing prowess. I would sooner face a Dragon than be sit through that man's warbling.

Mentally tracing the route I would be taking to Dawnstar, I walked right by a courier trying to hail me. The man ran back in front of me, pointedly brandishing a scroll in my face to catch my attention. I was a bit taken aback by his attitude, but the message was from Falk Firebeard and I was apparently the courier's first mark of the day, so he was in a hurry.

The scroll was short on details, Falk only willing to explain that there were rumors surrounding my activity at Wolfskull Cave a month ago. He had sent me there to investigate a gathering of mages that had moved in, only for me to stumble into a summoning of the ancient Queen Potema, the "Wolf Queen" of Solitude.

From what I remember she led a rebellion to ensure her son, who would become Uriel Septim III, sat on the throne, only for him to die ignominiously some years later at the hands and torches of a mob. Perhaps Potema had something to do with that as well. Whatever the case, the necromancers had been trying to bind her spirit of themselves, I suppose, so that she could lead Skyrim into a new golden age.

All this is just a guess, I do not know why they really wanted Potema back, but I had thought interrupting the summoning had spelled an end to her meddling. Unfortunately it merely released her spirit into Skyrim and though without a body she has been able to personally direct her tiny cult, causing many problems for the city of Solitude.

A local priest named 'Styrr', follower of Arkay, had been granted the ability to sense Potema's spirit, alerting Falk to her existence. Fearing the Jarl's exuberance in resolving matters, he instead sent for me, a Khajiit much too old to remember what exuberance felt like.
I found Styrr in his Temple musing and muttering at the fire and it took several minutes of trying to politely attract his attention before I gave him and smacked my shield against the stone wall. Awakened out of his mental fog, he introduced himself, asking if I was the mercenary Falk had recommended to him. I cannot say I consider myself a mercenary, but the man seemed to be easily confused, so I told him I was.

Without prompting he started to give me the entire history on the former Queen, musing that if she did return to "life" she would have a legitimate claim to the Imperial throne, an outcome which he described as being the worst possible fate to befall Tamriel. Arkay's gift to his faithful allowed Styrr to sense Potema's spirit, though not to do anything about her. According to him she had fled from Wolfskull Cave to the catacomb underneath Solitude's temple. One of Potema's followers broke into the temple a few days ago and managed to knock door a portion of the temple's wall that had been blocking up a forgotten passage into the catacombs below. My task was to enter the catacombs, retrieve Potema's physical remains, and bring them back to Styrr so that Arkay could divinely cleanse them of their spiritual taint.

Despite the Temple's damage it was still open to the faithful, the breach in the wall visible to anyone wishing to pray at the Eight Divines' altars.
The catacomb was nothing special, typical brickwork and arches surrounding forgotten crates and rotting sacks. A glance inside some of the containers suggested that the catacomb of the Temple may have been a storehouse for Solitude long ago, but today no one could spare the effort required to clean up any of it.

Reaching a metal gate I was startled, but not much surprised, by a woman's voice echoing from somewhere deeper inside. That was no longer a new trick by me, nor was Potema's bragging that my death would net her an excellent slave. Having encountered no one else up to that point, I thought myself alone with the chatty spirit, but I eventually intruded upon her cult, mostly vampires and some Draugr. Nothing very difficult.

Past a small pond (underneath the Temple?) I came upon a set of three portcullises controlled by three levers in front of them. Pulling one lever would close or open a gate, while performing the opposite action against the other two. It did not take long to devise the correct combination of positions to open all three gates.
They led to a chamber with a Draugr positioned on a throne, but I had seen this trick before. As soon as I walked past it the Draugr would "wake" and attack me. On a hunch, I took a vial of weak, useless poison and threw it into the room. The crash alerted the Draugr, who slowly rose from his throne while looking around for something to kill, as well as a young Breton who rushed in from the other door, yelling bravely that such tricks were not enough to save my life. A crossbow bolt put an end to his. The Draugr was strong, but clumsy as all his kind are.
The rash Breton had a key on him which unlocked an ornate stone door which he had been guarding, beyond which lay a grisly collection of Draugr all heaped together in front of an engraving of the Wolf Queen, clad in wolf-skins and holding what were either small trees or dead wolves in each hand.
As I was trying to decided which the objects were, Potema's voice echoed through the catacomb, goading me to continue on towards her, so that I might serve her eternally in death. With that, four of the piled-up Draugr became reanimated, but I lopped off two of their heads before they were on their feet and the other two were very weak and poorly armed.

Potema herself made what appearance she could in the next room. her interrupted summoning limiting her to a glowing, vaguely woman-shaped, collection of energy floating about the ceiling. Tendrils of magicka licked the walls and coffins of the room and I steeled myself for a great battle.
Her voice mocked me, claiming she would enjoy watching me fall at the hands of her trusted advisors, whom I assume were the Draugr she called forth from the coffins. There were many of them, three waves in fact, but Potema made the mistake of not summoning them all at once. Rather she was content to watch five or six at a time die singly at the doorway, as I was not fool enough to enter and risk be surrounded.

After all the Draugr had been defeated, Potema's spirit shrieked and flew through the closed door at the end of the chamber. I followed, finding a more distinguishable Potema waiting for me upon a throne.
Jumping up, she charged down the stairway, but her magicka was weak and spirits hold much less strength than they seem to believe they do. Once she had been banished, again, I approached the throne expecting a skeleton, but found only a skull with a circlet, I  threw that into my pack and looked for the back-exit that the Nords liked to build in their ruins.
The exit must have been a secret sally port long ago, for it led me well outside the city, on a cliff-side overlooking the bay. They must have relied on ropes or ladders to get down, but having neither, I could only slide down the icy mountainside and hope for the best. Fortunately I managed to avoid injuring myself.

Styrr was pleased at my quick return and took eagerly took Potema's skull to be purified. He advised that I returned to Falk Firebeard to let him know of our success while he prepared the rituals required to put the ancient would-be Queen to her final rest.

Falk ruefully admitted that he should have paid more attention to the the warnings that came from Dragon Bridge before all this started and declared me the "Protector of Solitude", a title that came with fifteen hundred Septims and a painted wooden shield from the city's armory.

Having averted yet another grisly disaster upon Tamriel, I retired to my new home and very welcoming bed. Tomorrow I shall yet again try to make it to Dawnguard.

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