Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Skyrim Day 063 - Battling Nostalgia

19 Frostfall, 4E201
Dawnstar
~~~

I had only to deliver the pieces of Mehrune's Razor to Silus for my task to be complete. I thought about dumping the remains of the artifact around the province before realizing that doing so would mean I just spent days at nothing at all. Had I wanted the pieces scattered about I needed to do nothing at all before now. Much as I was loathe to admit it as I carved my way through beast and bandit, I wanted the Razor. I wanted to hold one of Mehrune Dagon's artifacts in my hand...just before tossing it into the sea.

At least, that's what I kept telling myself the past few days. As it was, the rather cliche story of an adventurer being overcome by greed and desire wound up not happening, simply because I am not a murderer. But I get ahead of myself.

Walking from Markarth to Dawnstar meant traveling through either Solitude or Whiterun, but I always seem to be distracted by something at Whiterun so I chose instead to head north to Solitude. I was stopped along the road by a Stormcloak rebel, but she only advised me to tell all the "true sons and daughters of Skyrim" to join up with Ulfric Stormcloak and retake Skyrim for the Nords.

Why she felt a Khajiit would concern herself with this, I do not know.
Dragon Bridge was free of Dragons today and I reached Solitude by mid-morning, having left Markarth as soon as I possibly could. I spent some time at my home, but could not find much purpose in being there. It is an empty place and one that served only to lighten my purse, apparently nothing more.

Hoping to save time I paid a few Septims for a ferry from the warehouse docks to the swamps of Morthal across from it. I planned to trudge through the muck of the swamp and over the snowy hills between Morthal and Dawnstar rather than take the easier, though much longer, road.
I encountered nothing save for a Khajiit standing near the road within sight of Dawnstar. He appeared surprised to see me, covering his lack of attention with an offer to sell me some skooma or moon sugar. I declined his offer, he was probably a smuggler waiting for his goods via one way or another.

It was pleasing to see one of the caravans camped outside of the city. I stopped briefly to unload my gemstones and jewelry in exchange for vials of healing and restorative elixirs. Kharjo was there as well, expressing his delight at seeing me healthy and whole once again. I wished him the same and headed into town, somewhat ashamed that I could do so while the Khajiit behind me could not.
Silus was overjoyed to receive all the pieces of the Razor. Once he judged them all safely in his possession, he admitted that the plan had been to return them to Mehrune Dagon's nearby shrine so that the Lord of Change would repair the deadly artifact. This did not come as a surprise to me and I cautioned him about dealing with the Daedric Princes, especially Mehrune Dagon. Nothing they give ever comes without a price.

But he was not to be dissuaded. With a shout over his shoulder for me to follow, he ran out of his museum and into the cold. He was in an over-excited hurry, but I easily kept up with him, mage that he is.
In all the years since the Oblivion Crisis I have never once felt the urge to revisit my old foe in any way, but it was somewhat gratifying to know time has not altered his appearance for the better. The giant statue in front of his shrine leered down with a grimace, giving the impression the viewer was something unpleasant he had just stepped on.
Silus took no notice of the statue and rushed to the bare altar before it. Laying the pieces atop it, he raised his voice, rather too dramatically I think, and beseeched the Prince to repair the Razor in His Great Name. After a minute or so of this he stopped and looked at me, dejected.

"The Daedric Prince wishes to speak with you", he said sadly, his life's ambition brutally crushed.

That set off numerous warning bells in my head. Perhaps I was remembered and a trap set? I loosened my blade as I walked towards the altar, conscious of the sudden drop to the icy ground just behind me. When I was standing before it a voice boomed inside of my head. I caught Silus wincing out of the corner of my eye, so I immediately knew he was hearing something as well.

Mehrunes Dagon claimed to have watched my little quest to retrieve the pieces with amusement, stating that I had proven myself a worthy mortal to speak with. It sounded as if he did not realize I was the same Khajiit that foiled his plans during the Crisis, but it may be that he also did not much care.

The Prince's price tonight was predictable: a life taken for a life-taker. If I killed Silus Mehrune Dagon would restore the Razor to its murderous glory. If I chose not to do this, I was promised consequences.

When I turned to speak with Silus his eyes went wide and he begged me not to kill him, evidently hearing a message of his own. He spoke quickly, obviously afraid, promising that he and I could return to Dawnstar with just the pieces, which he would put in a harmless display case for the rest of its days. I felt that was just asking for a burglary and a slit throat, but it would not be me doing the cutting, so I agreed.

Mehrune Dagon was not pleased, but the "consequence" was laughable: two Dremora, of whom hundreds were banished back to Oblivion by my hand so many years ago. One of them popped into existence right next to Silus, who took off for Dawnstar with a yelp.
The battle was practically a delight. I have spent over two months in Skyrim as an adventurer again and all I have fought are wild animals, bandits, and Draugr. Occasionally a Dragon, but few and far in-between. Fighting the two Dremora was a pleasant change and I was pleased to realize how much of my experience with them came back to me as we fought. They were well-armed and armored, but they went the way of so many of their brethren. Foiled, Mehrunes Dagon was silent, but there was a key on one of the Dremora that I suspected would unlock the door at the base of the statue.

There was nothing else nearby it could have possibly unlocked, so my being correct in this was not a great accomplishment. The door opened to a tunnel hewn from solid ice, the statue evidently having been built into the hillside itself. The tunnel was short and easily transmitted the sounds of more than one person ahead of me. I was expecting cultists, but found two more Dremora, one in nothing but a robe, the other in full armor.
The robed one fell silently to my dagger, the armored one fell rather more loudly to the same. The ebony blade slipped right through the Daedra's armor, wavy blade and all. It crashed to the ground with a rattling gasp and I was free to explore the inside of the shrine at my leisure.

Mehrune Dagon's shrine had known prosperous times. I pocketed handfuls of gemstones and several ingots of gold alongside several powerfully enchanted items. The greatest find, however, was a full-size ebony blade, a perfect complement to my new favorite weapon, though far more heavier and less graceful.

By the time I returned to Dawnstar it was just past midnight and I did not want to bother Silus until he had calmed down, a process which may take more than a few days after his brush with the Dremora. Joke aside, I will visit him tomorrow before some enterprising thief takes it upon herself to claim the Razor and end the pool fool.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Skyrim Day 062 - A Bloody Business, Done

17 Frostfall, 4E201
Markarth
~~~

This morning I had only to find the pommel stone of Mehrune's Razor before having all the pieces necessary for Silus's museum. He had said that the stone was somewhere south-west of Markarth. The ale-sodden innkeeper, Kleppr, told me that there was a Forsworn camp known as 'Dead Crone Rock' in that area, said to be the home of Hagravens well as Forsworn. He said there was not enough coin in Tamriel to tempt him to that place, but I felt confident that there would be nothing there that I already have not faced.

Walking there was actually quite pleasant, the weather was cooperative and nothing attacked me until I drew close to the mountainside. A small group of Forsworn were loitering near a small bridge, so I ducked out of sight, readied my Illusion spells, and threw my rage-inducing magicka into their midst. I gulped down an Invisibility flask just to be sure before scampering out from behind my rock and skirting my way around the heated melee.
Forsworn are not a subtle people. Their "camp" occupied the base of the mountainside, and terraces built halfway up it.
Dead Crone Rock might have been a stronghold in an era long gone by, but most of the entrances into the mountain were collapsed or used as a garbage dump by the Forsworn. I fought my way along the terraces, dodging arrows made of branches and maces made from rocks. How the Forsworn intend to take back their territory is a mystery to me.
The only functioning doorway in the whole camp was for a tower partially built into the hill.  On the other side was a Briarheart and the Hagraven that probably created the unfortunate creature. The Hagraven must have smelled me, for she and her Briarheart came charging down the tower's stairs at me as soon as I came through the door.

A dagger into the Briarheart's exposed chest ended it quickly, but the Hagraven proved a bit craftier. She was adept at ice magicka and kept her distance from me as she flung it around, trying to slow me with its effects. After a lot of dodging (and a few restoratives) I managed to corner her against the altar she evidently used and drove my silvered blade clean through her body. Her shriek is still ringing in my ears. The Razor's pommel stone was on the hagraven's necklace, crudely glued into a nest of what might have been finger bones to form a grisly brooch. I took the stone, I left the necklace.

The Dragon Wall that the former stronghold might have been built to guard greeted me with the usual headache, teaching me 'Ru', the Nordic word for 'Run'. The Greybeards assured me that I would be able to string together these ancient words to create Shouts of great power, but my blade and bolts seem just as effective as yelling in an ancient tongue.
A nearby chest revealed an incredible find: Ebony-infused gauntlets enchanted to help the wearer strike truer. The gauntlets themselves are useless weight to me, but I may be able to draw the enchantment out of them so that I impart it upon my trusty leather gloves.

I heard someone muttering in-between a rhythm of knocking noises as I descended the mountain and found that one of the Forsworn had, somehow, missed out on the disastrous battle his brethren engaged in earlier. Sensing that he would not be appreciative to learn this I sneaked into his hut and knifed in the back, once for each lung.

This was a fortunate choice for as he collapsed, gasping fruitlessly, I saw an Ebony-infused blade tucked into his belt. First gauntlets, now a dagger. One useless, one very useful. Whomever crafted the deadly blade had a sense of humor or poor eyes: the blade was wavy, the advantage of such an arrangement being unknown to me. Perhaps it was used for a ritual or some kind of ornamentation. I will try it as a weapon and see how it performs.

I thought to explore the road to Markarth a bit to see if I could find Gauldur's resting place and returned to the city in front of a small farm near the river. My many years of experience have taught me that farmers, miners, those that survive on the land, live and die based on their knowledge. It may not be the academic knowledge of Winterhold, but if Gauldur was laid to rest near Markarth it would likely be a farmer who knew, courtesy of family legends, history, or errant exploration as a young Nord prior to settling down.

My hope here was well-founded. Rogatus Salvius, though old and bitter, did recall hearing the tale of Gauldur from his grandmother, but could only remember that it was supposed to be by a waterfall overlooking a small stone bridge along the main road. That narrowed down Gauldur's grave to two locations in my mind, but I wound up choosing the correct location first.

However, I had an interesting encounter before I found Gauldur. I chose to hike over the small hills dotting the area instead of taking the road and was quite surprised to reach the crest of one only to find a Dragon flying right at me.
It roared and I readied myself for a precarious battle on the hilltop, but it did not seem to notice me. Instead it simply flew over my head in circles, roaring at nothing apparent, before simply flying away. A very interesting encounter indeed and another sign that the Dragons are not flying on someone's orders, if they ever were.

With that over I continued up and over the hills until I came to 'Reachwater Rock', the waterfall cavern dug for Gauldur so long ago. As befitting the Nordic love of pointless puzzles, I needed two Dragon Claw keys to get inside. One I found on a pedestal beside a dead Nord, the other was an ivory-inlaid claw I had with me from Mikrul's tomb near Solitude.
The tomb was oddly absent of Draugr, only a few traps awaited me, which I easily avoided. At the end of the cavern was an altar with three plaques set into it, obviously for the three pieces of the amulet Gauldur's sons were willing to murder for.
Placing a fragment of the amulet on a plaque caused the plaque to start glowing, but also prevented me from removing the fragment. I seemed to have no choice but to surrender the two remaining fragments. As I started to place the third fragment I felt a particular tickling on the back of my neck which usually indicated immediate danger. There was no one in the cavern but myself, so I knew the third fragment would do something bad. I slapped the fragment on to the metal plaque and hurried to a dark corner to see what would happen next.
With a flash of blue light the spirits of the three brothers materialized in front of their fragments, One, I could not tell who, sent himself to the far end of the chamber where I had entered as Draugr spirits, armed with bow and axe, popped into existence. They did not know I was there, but I figured that they had far more patience than I did, so when one of the shimmering Draugr walked in front of me I cut it down, alerting the others.

The brothers were considerate enough to attack me one-by-one and while I was winded by the end of my battle, I was victorious. After the defeat of the third brother they all remained in front of the altar in positions of either submission or defeat. I was unsure what to do next, but that was answered for me.

The coffin behind them erupted in flames, engulfing the brothers and banishing them back to wherever their spirits reside. Once the smoke cleared a bit I could see a fourth spirit standing alone before the altar: Gauldur himself, making an appearance of his own while scolding his sons. He stared down at the amulet that they so coveted and then disappeared in a flash of blinding light. When my vision returned I saw that the amulet was whole again.
Putting it on proved a disappointment. I felt a little more awake and refreshed, but not much other than that. I could see that it had a Restoration enchantment on it, but the nature of it was unclear and after all I have gone through for it, the amulet does not appear to have been worth it. Perhaps I will donate it to the College or display it somewhere in Breezehome.

Somewhat depressed, I walked back to Markarth and parted with another ten Septims for a slab of rock. Gauldur's amulet, the "Lost Legend", should have stayed lost, but I have only my own curiosity to blame for the amount of time I have wasted. At least the pieces of Mehrune's Razor are in my possession, tomorrow I will visit the misguided museum guide and see what he expects from them.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Skyrim Day 061 - Bits and Pieces

17 Frostfall, 4E201
Markarth
~~~

My notes placed the blade and pommel of Mehrune's Razor in the western half of Skyrim, the blade near Falkreath and the pommel, Markarth. The two cities, which barely deserve to be called such, proved dismal enough as of late that I promised myself I would not visit them again unless absolutely necessary, though I suppose retrieving the Razor to ensure no one else ever gets a hold of it is a moral necessity of some sort.

Fortunately a copy of 'Lost Legends' I found on a dead adventurer inside of the cave underneath Lake Geir had scrawls pointing to a cave along a waterfall just east of Markarth. There the Archmage Gauldur was said to be waiting for his treasonous sons...or so the dramatic adventurer wrote. It is all I have to go on so far, but it is also on the way to retrieving the Razor's pommel.

I left the inn just in time to witness the end to a battle between a vampire and his thralls versus three guardsmen. The guards appeared to be nonchalant about their morning skirmish, but I heard one questioning why there were so many more vampires about, especially at dawn when they normally went into hiding. I was reminded of Serana's family and my long-overdue promise to Isran but I think securing Mehrune Dagon's artifact is far more important.
Along the road I came upon a shack with a little garden attached to it. The place appeared to be vacant, but a journal (there's always a journal!) looked to have been recently penned with great excitement about how great the location was for the owner's alchemical research. Not wanting to cause the optimistic alchemist any harm, I placed the journal back on the table and left without disturbing anything else.

Once again I had to pass through the ruin of Helgen and again a group of bandits had taken up residence since my last visit. I tried to sneak around, but an Orsimer patrolling the wall spotted me. Instead of alerting his comrades he gave a roar and leaped from the wall to charge at me. His battle-cry did have the effect of alarming the rest of the bandits and soon I found myself in the middle of a rapidly closing circle of angry warriors.

Most of what I have been teaching myself is to help with my most common enemy: the draugr. Illusion spells do nothing against them, but my continual efforts at becoming stealthy has paid off many times over. However, I have not been neglecting my magicka skills either and as the bandits closed in I flung an Illusion spell designed to drive anything alive into a berserk-like fury, attacking friend and foe alike.

A strong mind can resist, of course, but I felt certain that none of the bandits had the mental fortitude to do that. I flung the spell at three bandits that had come charging out of the gate and ran. The sounds of a furious battle erupted behind me, I can only assume my spell worked. I could have killed them all, that I am sure of, but it proved to be a valuable lesson, both in overconfidence in my stealth and the utility of my Illusion spells.

As if they had not been enough to deal with, an Orsimer in full heavy, but mismatched, armor barred the road beyond Helgen. He tried to provoke a fight, insulting me as a "milk drinker". I had no reason to take such from the likes of him and the battle was on.

It was over quickly. Perhaps he was proud of his armor, but the Dwemer chestplate did not have a Dwemer helm above it to match, leaving his throat completely exposed.
Recovering the blade of Mehrune's Razor was only marginally more interesting. Rumors had it that the prior guardians of the artifact had used an ancient keep known now to the locals as 'Cracked Tusk Keep' as a hiding place, but as the name suggested the ruins had been long since taken over by a tribe of Orsimer. Today an Orsimer bandit, an Orsimer highwayman, and a tribe of Orsimer.

The Keep was not much different than Helgen, actually. Just a ruin with bandits trying to scrape whatever life they could from the area before someone killed them or they moved on.
The Razor's blade was broken, but it likely had been dismissed as junk by the bandits and appeared to have been left alone. I carefully brushed the pieces into a satchel and left the Keep with its Orsimer corpses.

Dusk started to creep in as I walked the road between Falkreath and Markarth. I had no desire to set foot in Markarth again, but I knew there was a small mining town north of Markarth named 'Karthwasten' that would probably have a small inn.

Unfortunately I was wrong. The town was there, it was 'Karthwasten', but it had no inn, just a blacksmith, a barracks for miners, and the mine overseer's home. I had no choice but to turn around and walk back to Markarth in the dark.
The drunk innkeeper, Kleppr, was surprised to see me, then laughed and said he was sure the guards did not mean to throw me in jail. I did not know how to respond to that.

So here I am, back in Markarth, lying on the cruel joke this city calls a bed. Tomorrow I will retrieve the final piece of Mehrune's Razor, then ensure it is lost forever. It may be a blow to Silus's museum, but it is for the best of everyone else.