Friday, July 7, 2017

Skyrim Day 073 - Unable to Let Go

29 Frostfall, 4E201
Whiterun
~~~

While in Morthal some time ago I was given a "secret" letter by Jarl Idgrod's housecarl, Gorm. When I spoke with him previously in the Hall he was full of praise for the visionary Jarl, but once I ran into him at the local Inn he had only derision and doubt for Idgrod. He believes her visions are distracting her from her duties as a Jarl, but are also dangerous to her well-being. Claiming he feared for her health, he gave me a sealed letter to deliver to an Imperial Legion Captain in Solitude. I thought little of it until this morning.
The Imperial Legion is based at Solitude in 'Castle Dour'. The fort is appropriately named, the commander of the Legion, General Tullius, was no more animated while I was wandering around Dour as he was at my would-be execution. The man seems incapable of mustering enthusiasm for much of anything.

But my business was not with the General, but with Captain Aldis. A helpful maid pointed me towards the basement where I found the Captain already drinking, guarding empty prison cells. He accepted my letter with resignation, stating he would add it to his growing collection. Gorm has been pestering the Captain about Idgrod for some time now and Aldis has a dim view of ousting a Jarl with Imperial loyalties during a civil war. He thanked me for making the trip and paid me twenty Septims, about what the effort was worth.

Leaving Solitude with Serana in tow, I checked my journal to see if there was any business pending between one side of Skyrim and the other that I could take care of while I made my way back to Fort Dawnguard. Unsurprisingly, there was something, but I had only written "Chk ruin Arknthmz, SE Mrkrth". Very helpful. By that, I only knew to look south-east of Markarth for some sort of ruin, likely Dwemer judging by the abbreviation. Serana had no objections to looking for this ruin, other than being back underground, so off we went towards Markarth.

On our way we came upon a small hunting lodge that appeared to be lived in, but no one was around. Serana suggested we search the place for supplies, but I felt we did not need to and chose to walk by peacefully.
My concern that we would be wandering the hills surrounding Markarth proved to be unfounded, thanks to the adventure of two enterprising children whom met us on the road.
The sales-child, Sond, offered to sell Serana and I some Dwemer scrap he and his unnamed friend had collected near a Dwemer bridge he said was far to the west. He offered to mark its location on my map for a few coins, an offer I considered charity on my part to accept.

Sond's directions brought us to a large ruin built into the hillside. Inside looked about the same as all the other Dwemer ruins do, they were not an artistically-focused people. She was curious to examine the mechanisms and disregarded my warning that many of them were traps. She admitted I was right to warn her after a trapdoor she was poking at suddenly sprang open and disgorged a mechanical spider guardian. It attacked her immediately, but she had no trouble in putting it to rest. She did show more caution around the Dwemer mechanicals after that though.

The entryway opened to a massive cavern which seem to exist in such numbers underneath Skyrim that it is a wonder the whole province does not simply collapse. Evidently this part of Skyrim was trying to do that, for as we stood about gazing around the entire place shook, sending chunks of rock plummeting from the ceiling and pieces of Dwemer architecture to crack and splinter.

I was unwilling to test Dagoth Ur's blessing against thousands of tons of rock, but figured a few more moments would not mean instant death, so we continued to on for a bit before we heard a woman's voice warning us to turn back. Thinking this was someone ahead who was injured, we pressed on, only to encounter the talking, shimmering remains of the adventurer Katria.

She was taking her after-death pretty hard, sourly asking us why we were still in the ruin. I thought it rude to ask her why she was too and Katria assumed we were at the ruin for the "treasure". After I explained that I could not remember why I had made a note to come at all she told me about the slim novel 'The Aetherium Wars', penned by her apprentice-turned-competitor, Taron Dreth.

Taron's novel propelled him to the dubious honor of being the "expert" on Dwemer forging technology, despite all of it originating from Katria'a notes and work. Attempting to usurp his title, she descended into the ruin I found her in, confident that she would find clues pointing to the hidden 'Aetherium Forge' the Dwemer used to craft their most powerful artifacts.

But it was not to be. Katria fell into a crevice after one of the cavern-shakes, falling to her death on to a lower level of the ruin. Her indignation was enough for her spirit to cling to this Plane, even if her new non-corporal existence made her goal impossible to reach. I convinced her that Serana and I were up to the task of recovering her body and her research, but she was only interested in the latter. If Serana had any objections she did not voice them.

We found Katria's body after several skirmishes with the Falmer, underneath where we came in. She directed us towards her journal, helpfully providing the full name of this ruin, 'Arkngthamz' and detailing its part in the long-lost Dwemer network of city-states in Skyrim. The ruin was one of five locations built to manage the Aetherium ore, one of them being the ruin alongside the hot springs where I found the metallic blue crescent. The other three were scattered about the province.
The journal also had a sketch of something Katria described as a 'tonal lock', but she assured me that she would explain that if I survived long enough to reach it. Very encouraging.

We did not encounter much between Katria's body and her 'tonal lock'.
The bodies strewn before it was ample warning, but Katria explained how it worked: Each of the devices mounted above the gate had to be struck in the correct order, else traps would activate. Katria had made a mistake and triggered an earthquake which caused her to fall to her death. The bodies before the gate looked to have met violent ends, so earthquakes were not the only defense it had.

Katria had managed to narrow the guesswork from five devices to three, guessing wrong on the order of the remaining two. Serana eagerly took up the task of flinging spells at the strange mechanisms, of course guessing wrong herself and unleashing a horde of Dwemer spiders upon us. Once we dealt with that she assaulted the locks in the correct order, unlocking the gate.

The much-coveted Aetherium fragment was on a small pedestal flanked by two chests, each containing useless baubles. Katria was staring longingly at the bright blue metal, but could do nothing but wait for me to catch up and place it into my pack. She guessed that there were other fragments around and I brightened her afterlife by revealing that "her" fragment was the second of mine.

She disappeared after that, swearing that we would meet again at the next fragment, so now I am in something of a quandary. I am expected at Fort Dawnguard, yet I would feel quite guilty about leaving Katria's spirit forever waiting for someone to recover the remaining shards. Serana had not opinion one way or another, surprisingly, so I decided to take some time to look for the rest of the Aetherium.

When we finally left the ruin it was just about light...the three of us having spent the entire night underground and now greeting the new day. The closest city was Markarth and Serana was not tired, so I elected to push on to the nearest of the locations marked in Katria's journal, north of Markarth along the river.
The third shard was not nearly as difficult to retrieve. The worst was walking from Arkngthamz to the small (and unusual) Dwemer shrine sitting on the shores of the river. On it was a Dwemer helm and blade, the shard serenely sitting behind them on a small display pedestal. How the bright blue metal escaped the notice of bandits, adventurers, and the opportunistic is a mystery.

Once I touched it Katria popped into view before me, grumpy for my having somehow gotten there first. The last shard looked to be north of Ivarstead and once again I set out across the plain, planning on passing Whiterun for a late evening arrival at Ivarstead.

As usual, my plan did not meet with fruition.
Another Dragon attacked us while we walked the plain, but the Dragon was smaller than the ones I have been seeing recently and not as aggressive either. It is a strange thing to write, but I had no trouble or apprehension fighting it. Serana just seemed glad to be doing anything above ground and awake and after the Dragon's death-fire died down we continued on to Whiterun. I keep "absorbing" these souls, but am I supposed to be using them for something? Can I? I do not know.
We reached Whiterun as the sun was setting, most of the townspeople at home occupied with their dinner. One woman who I have not seen before remarked that rumors told of a Khajiit Dragonborn, then wondered if such a combination was even possible. I stopped at the General store, sold some trinkets, and spoke with a weary-looking Dunmer mercenary. She called herself 'Jenassa' and offered her services for five hundred Septims, but I already have a dour companion, so I declined.

Arriving at Breezehome my dour companion met my dour housecarl. Both presented to the other an air of complete indifference, but I was far more concerned about my bed than my retinue. Tomorrow Serana and I will continue on towards Fort Dawnguard with a detour near Ivarstead for Katria. How Lydia occupies her days at Whiterun is her own business, though I cannot imagine she is displeased to have the house all to herself.