Friday, February 5, 2021

Skyrim Day 101 - Forbidden Knowledge

2 Evening's Star, 4E201
College of Winterhold

I found myself unable to rest after the battle I partially led in Windhelm. The conclusion of the civil war elicited excitement and relief among the Imperial soldiers; the emotion was nearly palpable. From what few citizens I saw scurrying about I suspect they'll be wary of the Imperials for quite some time, but I do not believe they will be treated harshly.

The little Dwemer device the crazy hermit near Winterhold, Septimus Signus, gave me some time back has been making a humming noise as of a few days ago. I looked at it as I left Windhelm, ready to throw it into the river if it appeared ready to explode. Through some method unknown to me the device, which consists of four metal tubes attached to each other, is now full of blood. I can only assume that each vial holds the blood of an Altmer, Bosmer, Falmer, and Orsimer slain during my regular encounters with thieves and bandits. As I wanted to visit the College anyway I thought this a good opportunity to lighten my considerable load.

The city did not appear to be overly damaged, but then again the battle did not last very long. The stable just outside the gate was damaged and a few of the farmhouses destroyed, but I am sure the townspeople will rebuild. Their survival in Skyrim depends on it.

The walk from Windhelm to Winterhold was no better than it usually is, the only excitement came in the form of two Trolls who thought me an easy meal.

The College always looks to be one strong breeze away from collapsing into the sea, but by the wonders of magic or simple Nordic engineering it persists in its existence. My destination lay beyond the College inside a small cave accessible only by hopping between ice floes while trying not to irritate the resident Horkers.

Septimus was still pacing about his cave, muttering too low for me to hear anything. He was still sane enough to recognize me as I carefully stepped down the icy walkway and began to crow about how he could "hear their life energy". I approached the raving man with one hand on my dagger and the other outstretched with his device, but he had eyes only for the strange machine. Holding it in two hands he briefly danced around jabbering about the mixture he needed to make.

I thought the device was going something in a Dwemer-like fashion, maybe link to the giant cube and unlock it somehow, not hold four vials of blood he needed to mix into a potion. I am fairly certain I managed to keep my disgust off my face, but I doubt he would have cared or even noticed if I had failed.

Septimus worked quickly, separating the four bloods each into a small bowl, then adding a sprinkle of powder I could not identify to each one. Once each mixture seemed to thicken he mixed them all into a larger bowl, added a quantity of bonemeal, then lapped up the foul sludge like an animal. Not only did this somehow unlock the Dwemer cube, it also made me wonder why I helped him to begin with.

Heedless of the possibility that Dwemer guardians were waiting to dismember him he rushed inside immediately, but the only thing there was a book on a small pedestal.

Septimus had time only to express his confusion and displeasure before he suddenly burst into white flames and burned away to ash in a matter of moments. I suspect, and hope, that he felt no pain. I was rather wary about approaching it myself, but something about it felt familiar, so I took the book and fortunately did not suffer flames shooting out of my body.

I did, however, experience the extreme unpleasantness of coming face to...something, with Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of Knowledge. In that instant, far too late, I realized why the book looked familiar: it was the Oghma Infinium, the book of knowledge Rajhin stole.

The ever-changing mass of eyeballs and tentacles was difficult to look at, but Hermaeus Mora is not known to be overtly hostile, so I was not greatly concerned. He welcomed me as his champion, but I was not going to accept a debt of service to a Daedra. He was unconcerned about my refusal to accept his title, stating that everyone winds up serving him eventually. With that, he disappeared and I was free to leave.

The walk back was not any more pleasant and I arrived just as the sun was starting to rise and the College starting to wake. I managed to avoid speaking to anyone while on my way to the Archmage's chamber.

I will not be opening the Oghma Infinium. Instead, I will leave it with Urag gro-Shub tomorrow morning as I leave for Riverwood. A Daedric weapon is one thing, Daedric knowledge is an entirely different thing altogether and not to be trifled with.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Skyrim Day 100 - Rebellion's End

1 Evening's Star, 4E201

I woke as the night's watchmen began to turn in and helped myself to a roasted potato before walking into the Legate's tend. As expected the Legate's attention was fully absorbed by the province map spread before her and she addressed me without looking away from it.

My orders were not what I thought they were. Instead of assaulting Windhelm I was to report to a squad of soldiers outside of Fort Amol between Whiterun and Windhelm and drive the Stormcloak garrison out. Nothing much different than what I have been doing.

It was quite a walk from the camp to Fort Amol, but some occurrence of nature created waves of light that danced across the sky, making the journey somewhat more interesting.
I found the Imperial soldiers loitering on the road maybe fifty yards or so away from the fort, heedless of both being noticed and being shot. Somehow neither had occurred before I arrived. My arrival was waited for, but I do not know why for as soon as I confirmed my identity the soldiers gave a yell and charged straight for the fort, leaving me scrambling to keep up.
The reckless charge surprised the Stormcloaks and we had the gate's hastily-built barricade demolished and the few posted sentries overrun before the rest of the garrison began to pour out of the fort's main tower. I played little part in the massacre that followed, the Imperials were able to destroy most of the Stormcloaks themselves and went so far as to abandon the fort completely once the battle was over to chase the few Stormcloaks that fled, leaving me alone with several piles of corpses. Very odd behavior for the Imperial Legion.
I spent some time searching for the body of the Stormcloak commander, but either they died as a common soldier or fled the fort. Whatever their fate Fort Amol was now in Imperial hands, should the Imperial soldiers return to it. But that was not for me to worry about. I arrived back at the Legate's camp by midday.

She was pleased to hear the sole remaining Stormcloak fort was now in Imperial hands, as much as it was in anyone's, then surprised me by ordering an immediate march on Windhelm. More specific orders would come from General Tullius who started the siege around the time the crazed battle at Fort Amol began. So once again I was back on the road going in the same direction I had just left from.
The Legate asked me to "scout ahead" with the implicit suggestion that I need not return to her column to make a report. So it was that I arrived at Windhelm well ahead of her and her troops to witness rocks and balls of fire repeatedly smashing into the fortifications and buildings of Ulfric's base of operations.

I expected a great battle but I could see no troops from either side near the city. I proceeded to the main gatehouse expecting to be shot at by Stormcloaks, but found General Tullius giving a speech before the city gates to a dozen or so Imperial soldiers as boulders and fireballs crashed around them.

I arrived to hear only the end of the speech during which he assured the soldiers that men of distinguished valor would be well rewarded. The soldiers cheered and he pushed open the unbarred, unguarded gates into the city, calling the men to rally to him.
Why were the gates not only unguarded, but not even barred? But then, why did the Stormcloaks flee Fort Amol? I suspect the Stormcloaks' "cause" has been faltering throughout the weeks I have been a participant in this "war" and the rebels are either deserting or splintering into smaller, more dedicated groups about the province. There are countless caverns, tombs, and ruins a small band can hide in and I do not believe the end of Ulfric will mean an end to the rebellion of the Stormcloaks, even if it will certainly be much smaller.
The inside of the city was in worse condition than the view from outside suggested. Half of the buildings had collapsed or burned to the ground and the other half were on fire. The sounds of battle rang along the streets, but resistance was via isolated pockets of Stormcloaks instead of an organized counter-assault and they were quickly overwhelmed. I trailed behind most of the Imperials and aside from dodging a few stray arrows played no part in the battle.
Our assault brought us to the Palace of the Kings where a blood-spattered Imperial waited to hand me orders instructing me not to proceed inside before the General and the Legate.

I did not have to wait long. The General and the Legate arrived together, the former unconcerned and clean, the latter breathing heavily and covered in blood. They said nothing, but the General nodded at me, which I took to mean I was to now enter the castle. Again my expectations were dashed: where I expected a heated band of rebels to charge us I found only Ulfric and his housecarl, Galmar Stone-Fist, at the far end of the hall. There were no Stormcloak rebels attending to their supposed lord at all.

General Tullius made the demand for Ulfric to surrender, but I do not believe either thought that was likely. The ensuring battle was swift: Legate Rikke dispatched Galmar within moments and Ulfric fared little better with the General's blade in his abdomen.
The General asked Ulfric for any last requests, but Ulfric replied only that he wanted the Dragonborn to slay him to make for a better song. General Tullius handed me his blade and I made sure it was quick and painless. I do wonder if Ulfric ever realized I was the "courier" Jarl Balgruuf had sent a week ago. What a sad and underwhelming end to what, in any other time, would have been a hot-blooded Era-defining war. But these times do not make for great heroes or great villains.

The remainder of the Imperial Legion was waiting for us when we exited the Palace. General Tullius announced the victory and declared all survivors' pay would be double as well as compensation to the widows of those that fell during the assault. He then led the men in a cheer for the Legion and the Emperor and that was the entirety of the speech dedicated to the fall of the Stormcloaks.
Once the men had dispersed the two turned to me. General Tullius admitted that I had been an indispensable part of the Imperial victory over the Stormcloaks, though I have a difficult time figuring out how that could be. Nothing I have accomplished under the Legion's banner within the past two weeks could not have been done by a veteran soldier. Perhaps it is the speed at which it was done.

That may be for the bards to muse over, if I am ever worth musing. For now I will spend the night in the Palace of the Kings and tomorrow I may visit Delphine to see what progress she has made. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Skyrim Day 099 - A Game of Khajiit & Dragon

29 Sun's Dusk, 4E201
Imperial Camp

My orders have me once again walking all of Skyrim. I cannot see a reason why the Legion could not simply courier my orders to Whiterun where I would at least be a fairly equal distance from everything else. Instead I walk all the walk to Solitude in the corner of the province only to be told to walk to the opposite corner.

To be fair it may be that the General is assuming I have a horse or hire transport, but I detest riding and would not want to put a wagon driver's life in danger by drawing Dragons, cultists, and assassins to him or her.

But I had yet to receive my orders, having stopped last night at Dawnstar. I left early as to arrive at Solitude as the sun rose and reported in to Castle Dour, ever an appropriate name.
Much like the Legate I have yet to find the General doing something other than staring at a map. The flags change every time I report back, so I assume he has a hidden supply of them just as how he learns of my successes before I arrive. Why can this mysterious courier not also provide me orders while reporting on ones already given?

The map was nearly all Imperial red save for two flags: One over Windhelm and a smaller one along a road, no doubt a dilapidated fortress of critical importance. My orders were simple: report to the Legate at the Imperial camp in Eastmarch along the mountain range which separates Skyrim from Morrowind.

The walk across the province was about as eventful as usual: one Dark Brotherhood assassin and a brief skirmish with a Sabre Cat who was assaulting a Khajiit trade caravan near Windhelm. Fortunately I had arrived in time to prevent any fatalities.
In thanks the caravan's leader, Ahkari, gave me better than usual prices, or so she said, on the gemstones I had rattling around the bottom of my pack. In return I purchased some magicka restoratives, a choice that would prove fortunate over the next hour or so.

I turned south at the crossroad before Windhelm's gatehouse and thought to cut through the foul-smelling hot springs rather than take additional time on the winding road.
I have been wondering where the Dragons, formerly a constant nuisance, have disappeared to as of late. The arrival of the Dragon over Fort Kastav yesterday was certainly unexpected, but one would expect to see a Dragon here and there, even if scarce.

But today there was a second Dragon circling the hill in the middle of the springs. The hill had one of the word walls more common to the ancient Nordic tombs and as I watched the Dragon circling and roaring it paused a few times to perch on the word wall, probably atop the Dragon head statue, before resuming his flight.

Unfortunately there was no way to avoid walking past the hill unless I went all the way back to Windhelm and came down the other side of the springs through Ivarstead and that would not be a guarantee that I could pass by unnoticed, for the Imperial camp was almost directly east of the hill.

So battle it was.
The area around the Dragon's hill was lacking all cover and had a giant's campsite on the side closest to the road. The Dragon and the Giant were ignoring one another and I had no desire to tangle with two over-sized opponents, so a direct assault was out of the question.

Near the hill was a copse with a shack rotting in the middle of it. The trees were elevated somewhat on a shelf of land maybe six feet or so high and a plan soon formed in my mind.

I sneaked as close as I could to the Dragon's hill and waited for it to rest atop its wall. After a few anxious minutes the beast hovered over the wall and dropped on it heavily just as I loosed a bolt from my crossbow. At the distance the bolt lacked any power against its scales, but I only need to get the Dragon's attention.

I was running as soon as the bolt left my weapon, figuring either the bolt or my retreat would serve the same purpose. One of them worked, the Dragon roaring a challenge as it alighted to face its comparatively diminutive foe.

I had only to dodge one blast of fire before reaching the trees, only to find an angry Breton, the inhabitant of the shack I thought empty, firing ice magicka at me. She only managed to redirect the Dragon's attention to her and met a quick, fiery end.

What followed must have been quite frustrating for the Dragon. It could hover over the trees, but its fire splashed against them before reaching me. It could land either at the outskirts of the copse or near the shack in the middle, but then either could not reach me from outside or could not move once in.

Had I been the Dragon I simply would have given up and flown back to my hill, but this one was determined to make a smoldering scorch mark of me any way it could. What followed was a game any Khajiit knows well: wait for an opening, dash in and strike, then fall back before the riposte. It was a much longer battle than perhaps it should have been, but this Dragon was more resilient to my blows than others I have fought.
I had to use all my elixirs and then resort to the only Restoration magicka I know how to use, which was quite weak. I may make an effort to expand my repertoire next time I am at the College.

Interestingly, this Dragon did not burst into flames upon death and I absorbed no soul that I could discern, a small mercy for the process is still nauseating. I wretched a few small scales off the corpse and left it near the trees. I wonder what scavengers will make a meal of a Dragon.

I arrived at the Imperial camp close to midnight, the Legate once again there ahead of me and staring at a map. She looked at me and told me to get some rest first, a surprising gesture and one I will be taking advantage of shortly. Tomorrow we will likely march on the Stormcloaks' last fort, opening our way to the taking of Windhelm and Ulfric and the closure of this persistently low-key conflict.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Skyrim Day 098 - An Unexpected Ally

28 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

I awoke in my own manor no better rested than when I woke yesterday morning atop a mattress of cold hay. What will it take for me to have a decent night's rest?

That I woke three hours before sunrise may explain that, I am getting into the habit of starting my days quite early. This has been useful for the past week or so, for the Legion has no inhibition against ordering me from one side of the province to the other. Perhaps they believe I own a horse and can ride one, neither of which is true.

Whatever the reason my latest assignment was to report to Legate Rikke at her Winterhold camp between Dawnstar and Winterhold, but much nearer to Dawnstar. From Solitude it is a shorter, but much colder, journey, but I will take shorter any day.

One advantage of sleeping poorly is being awake before most others. I managed to walk from Solitude to the ruin of Mzinchaleft without being accosted by Dragon-worshiping zealots, Dark Brotherhood assassins, skooma dealers, or irate Orsimer. I decided to cut through the pass as the road turned north towards Dawnstar and passed Mzinchaleft.

Unsurprisingly a new band of bandits have already taken up residence, one just sitting at the front gate nursing a potato over a small fire. The hungry guard never noticed me and I saw no reason to change that. Perhaps some Hero will come to Mzinchaleft one day seeking glory and be offered a baked potato.
At the Nightcrawler Temple next to Dawnstar I managed to avoid the notice of three Trolls that were meandering about the entrance. I am not sure what they felt was appealing to the place and I imagine some enterprising individual in Dawnstar will be along to eliminate them soon enough. I would have taken the matter on myself were I not short of bolts thanks to Beirand selling the entirety of his stock to the Legion yesterday. He had offered his workshop to me this morning so that I could make my own, but they would just about fly off my weapon sideways if I tried.

After the events of today it seems a better, if more frustrating, armament would be to go back to the more common bow and arrows, lousy shot or not.
The Imperial camp was along the opposite hillside of the Nightcrawler Temple, but no one appeared much concerned about the possibility of the trolls lumbering in for a quick meal.

Legate Rikke was hunched over one of her maps, mystifying me as to what she believes staring at it accomplishes. She addressed me as I approached, not even turning her head from the all-important map. My objective was to meet with a squad of Legionnaires outside of Fort Kastav and assist them with freeing Legionnaires imprisoned beneath the fort. The fort would then be taken between the squad outside the fortress and the vengeful armed prisoners within it.

Fort Kastav sits on the only road leading to what remains of Winterhold, though I know from experience there are several ways of reaching the ruined town from Dawnstar or Windhelm without passing through Fort Kastav, but none of them easy. Fortunately, the walk from Dawnstar to the fort was without incident today.
Hadvar has been moving up in the Legion and not honorarily as I have been. Technically I outrank him in some vague way, but he had five soldiers with him and I have none.
Despite this the capture of Fort Kastav once again depended on me. This time I was to sneak up to the walls, find the hidden sally port, and use it to enter the fortress unnoticed. Once inside I had to find the prison, kill the guards, and free the prisoners. Having done that I would join (not lead, of course!) them in assaulting the courtyard which would signal Hadvar and his men to join us, hopefully overpowering the defenders and adding another Imperial flag to Legate Rikke's map.

So simple.

Hadvar recommended I wait until nightfall to make my approach, but I had several vials of Invisibility elixirs, making that entirely unnecessary.
The sally port was not exactly hidden and nothing about the walls suggested there had been anything around to hide it. The trapdoor was unlocked, so I simply opened it and climbed down the ladder, thereby gaining an unannounced entrance to an enemy fort. How has this farcical war lasted as long as it has?

There were only two Stormcloaks in the underground passages of the fortress, one of whom was the jailer. They both died soundlessly. I expected the imprisoned soldiers to be suspicious of a murderous Khajiit sneaking about, but they all readily accepted my explanation of being an Imperial agent. Once freed they armed themselves with Stormcloak weaponry and charged upwards, leaving me behind.

The battle for the courtyard was about the same as all the others: charge out, get peppered with poorly-made homemade arrows, and close to melee. But this battle did not remain ordinary.
The sudden wash of intense heat singing my fur and immolating two rebels heralded the silent arrival of a third party displeased with all the noise.

A Dragon, for reasons that are its own, had flown over the fort just as I emerged from it and incinerated two Stormcloaks firing arrows from a small watchtower inside the courtyard. Only then did it roar, driving the Imperial prisoners back inside and I imagine Hadvar and his men back to their hiding place.

But the Dragon was satisfied with the minor carnage it had wrought and flew away south over the mountains, leaving me with five bewildered Stormcloaks. The bewilderment died off about the same time as their burnt comrades did and I found myself battling all five at once.

Fortunately the prisoners re-emerged and engaged the rebels and I suppose Hadvar and his men did the same. Sadly, they came too late to reinforce the prisoners and while we were victorious it was at the cost of all the imprisoned men. Hadvar assured me their names would go down in the official record of the battle, whatever they were.

He and his men remained at the fort to clean up and garrison the place, though I cannot see how six men constitute a garrison for an entire fort, even one as small as Fort Kastav. His orders, not mine.

As for me, I walked back to Dawnstar, a bit more nervous for having confirmed that the Dragons are truly still about even if they do not seem to be interested in the Dragonborn for the moment. Tomorrow I will report back to the General and see what awaits me in the Legion. I cannot help but hope this war is over soon, for I am getting quite tired of all this foolishness.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Skyrim Day 097 - Another Worthless Promotion

28 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

My rest at the quarters of Fort Greenwall's missing captain was the first decent sleep I have had in three days. Nonetheless, the exertions of the previous day were not enough to cause me to sleep in and I woke before sunrise.
Some of the Legionnaires were still dragging bodies away while others erected new barricades at the gates as I emerged. My role at these battles seemed to be that of a siege-breaker rather than an occupier, so I simply walked out of the fort's south gate back on the road to Riften and Whiterun.

While on the road I was assaulted by a hungry vampire, a Skooma-crazed Orsimer, and one of the limitless assassin's of the Dark Brotherhood. I do hope the roads become safer once the Stormcloaks are finally eradicated, for this is growing quite tiresome.
I reached Whiterun late into the morning, but continued onward without stopping, another cross-province journey just to deliver a bit of news, and reached Solitude some time late in the afternoon.
The General was, as always, discussing strategy with whomever was in the same room with him. This time it was a Legate whose name I have not yet been given. Apparently my name has been given to the Legate, for they both stopped talking once I entered the room and turned to me in expectation of a report.

I noticed that the location of Fort Greenwall was already marked with a red Imperial flag, so news of my success somehow preceded me, making my trip entirely pointless. But protocol dictated that I ignore this enraging fact and formally report my success.

General Tullius congratulated me on another success, stating, to my surprise, that he did not believe the progress being made by the Legion could have been made without my involvement. My surprise stems from my involvement being, so far, a finder of lost heirlooms and an extra sword-arm. For my findings and armings I have been promoted to the ceremonial rank of Tribune, granting me absolutely nothing.

My next assignment with the Legion is in Winterhold, so at least I can claim the benefit of my College quarters instead of the bedrolls of slain men.

I spent the remainder of the evening on my personal hobby, turning my hand to the making of jewelry, a craft I have gained some skill in over the long years. While it has been some time since my last practice I did manage to hammer out a simple silver necklace with a small sapphire inlaid into it, which I will probably be able to sell to one of the caravans for a decent sum.

Tomorrow it is off to the half-destroyed town of Winterhold and one more battle closer to the surrender of Ulfric Stormcloak. Then perhaps I can turn my attention to the bewildering question of where all the Dragons seemed to have disappeared to all of a sudden.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Skyrim Day 096 - The Final Refuge of Redwater Den (also The Battle of Fort Greenwall)

27 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

The nap was too short as naps often are.

My latest orders are to report to Fort Greenwall on the road between Riften and Windhelm and assist the Imperial Legion in the taking of the fort. After having spent a considerable amount of time in the Rift between the Imperial Legion and the Dawnguard I cannot help but wonder if it would have been easier to simply send me a rider with a message and an Imperial flag so that I could have claimed the fort myself when it was still occupied by bandits.

Hoping to save some time I decided to not take the road to Riften, instead crossing the river at a bridge near a fort along the shore. That way I would be walking directly towards Fort Greenwall instead of wasting time going to Riften.

This plan went awry as soon as I came to what appeared to be a ruined farmhouse. Closer investigation revealed it to, in fact, be a ruined farmhouse, but smoke was rising from the chimney and I could hear someone talking to themselves inside.

The talkative woman inside was a Redguard who deigned to introduce herself, instead telling me to go down the trapdoor behind her for "a fix". When I asked what the fix was she simply laughed and told me to see for myself. This did not come off as friendly as she perhaps thought it did. Forewarned, I opened the trapdoor and skipped the ladder, jumping down to ambush the ambush I was sure awaited me.

No ambush awaited me, only a bemused Nord in scaled armor who warned me that entering the "Den" required that I keep all weapons sheathed. I agreed and was allowed to pass inside.
The first thing to assail my nose was the sweet smell of boiling moon sugar. The second was the purple cloud wafting from a collection of rooms in front of a gated counter. I asked the woman behind the counter what the place was and she was genuinely surprised, exclaiming that the farmhouse's suspiciously extensive basement was the "Redwater Den", home to the best Skooma outside of Balmora.

I do not remember Balmora having a lot of Skooma, but then I do not remember much of it at all anymore. I may simply have not noticed or forgotten. For my first time I was gifted a red flask of what she called "Redwater Skooma", which she claimed was a more potent Skooma unique to the Den. I thanked her and pocketed it intending to deliver it to an alchemist, but that wound up not happening due to events that followed.

There were six rooms, each occupied by an occupant either unconscious or on his way towards that. An "attendant" patrolled the small hallway, but to what purpose I do not know, for he only told me to pick a room and be quiet. I paused at one room in which a man in Imperial Legion armor sat miserably. I entered the room and asked if he needed assistance, but to my surprise he recognized me from Helgen. 

He had barely escaped, badly injuring his back and legs after he leaped from a battlement to avoid being set ablaze. He managed to crawl to Riverwood some days after I left, but the damage to his back could not be fixed. Skooma took the pain away, at least for awhile, but each dose was less effective than the last, an unfortunately common story among addicts. The Redwater variety helped more, but it could only be found in the Den and he was loathe to leave. He asked me to leave him be, so I left and continued down the hallway where the purple haze was wafting from.

I suspected that the attendant would not be happy for a customer to explore further into the Den, but the Dunmer's wits were addled by the free Skooma he must have been receiving and I was able to creep behind him and unlock the iron gate he was guarding.
The haze was rising from giant metal vats of boiling moon sugar being reduced into Skooma. I saw no one at the vats, but after a minute someone walked in from a room beyond and dumped buckets of red liquid into the vats before stirring each one with what looked like a comically large wooden spoon.

Then he looked up at me in the shadows and mostly behind a crate, which should have rendered me nearly invisible to most folk. He yelled his alarm and grabbed a bow from some place behind the vats, inexpertly loosing an arrow in my general direction.

He and I engaged in a brief ranged duel, his bow versus my crossbow, as I pondered his unexpected perception. Neither of us won, for I had no desire to run out of bolts. Instead I dashed out of cover to cover ever closer to him until I was close enough to charge at him with my axe. Shouting and footsteps from further inside the cavern heralded the arrival of his comrades, but the thud of my blade into the side of his neck solved the mystery of his awareness as his body started to dissolve into black dust. 

Vampires again, perhaps a splinter group unaffiliated with the Serana's father's mad plot, but vampires nonetheless. The man had likely sensed my blood rather than seen me, not that it made a difference.

His friends had come too late, but they would not have made a difference either. No doubt they were prepared to strike down a manic Skooma addict, but they had no chance at all against an experienced fighter.

Deeper into the cave I noticed the wall carvings and fixtures were starting to becoming more frequent and familiar for they were ancient Nordic, just as in any barrow mound littered about the province.
While creeping about I came upon a slim journal, the first entry dated a year and a day ago. The anonymous author had stolen a book of short stories, for some reason, and read the tale of a "Bloodspring of Lengeir's Feast", an ancient source of power for vampires. According to the thief's storybook, the Bloodspring was buried by an earthquake some time in the Second Era, well before my time.

The second entry were of this year some months back while I was still in Cyrodiil. The author traveled from Summerset to Skyrim by ship and chanced upon a fellow vampire in a Solitude inn. His unnamed comrade thought his journey a fool's errand, but suggested that elements in the story (which the thief left out) pointed to a location in The Rift.

The subsequent entries detail the man's incredible luck in finding the Bloodspring by way of overhearing a visiting hermit in Riften mention finding red water bubbling out of the ground. He turned several locals into thralls to enlarge the basement of a nearby home and join it to the underground spring. The Bloodspring, however, provided vampires with no sustenance and only disease and addiction to mortals. The latter problem solved the former, such as in the case of the unfortunate Imperial soldier I encountered.
Redwater Den must have been a small enterprise, I encountered no one after the vats until I was just about at the Bloodspring itself. The vampires there had set up a lot of traps in a small passage lined with burial alcoves, but I was able to avoid them all, shoot one thrall with a bolt, then retreat back down the passage. I can only imagine their shock when their own traps incinerated, crushed, and impaled them all. Blood-hungry fools, the whole lot.

I found a journal in a pile of black dust when I returned, this one with the same handwriting as the earlier one detailing the history of the place. The Bloodspring had once been a normal spring of water dedicated to Arkay during the First Era, but a priest went mad after his lover was turned into a vampire. 

After accepting the infection from her the two went on a rampage, killing all the other priests. A number of them took to the sacred spring to beg Arkay's protection, but were killed there, turning the water forever bloody via the use of an artifact called the 'Bloodstone Chalice'. 

I have never heard of this chalice, but the idea that the water really is blood is interesting, that it is due to the corruption of an ancient God even more so. I thought it would simply be a spring of water passing through an underground vein of iron ore.

This made the actual Bloodspring very disgusting, of course. The skeletal remains of the vampires' previous meals did not help either.

I found nothing and no one beyond the Spring, only a spiral staircase back to the surface some distance away from the ruined house. I returned with the intention to bring the addicts in the basement back to the surface, but alas, the attendant, also a vampire, had already killed the poor souls. I dispatched the surface lookout, the doorman, the dealer, and the "attendant" before leaving, but it did little to assuage my guilt over the injured soldier's demise.

And after all of that I had still to travel to Fort Greenwall for the attack! Fortunately my assault upon Redwater Den took not as much time as could be expected and I reached the fort before evening.
There is a great deal less to say about Fort Greenwall. I met the Legionnaires outside the fort where they were waiting, in broad daylight, out of cover, with not a care in the world. We charged the fort, slew the few Stormcloaks manning the walls, then methodically overwhelmed the rest as they emerged from inside in ones and twos.
The only indication any of the rebels were capable of strategic thought was the sole Stormcloak who ran out of the fort along the road to Windhelm, pursued by two Legionnaires. This is a very strange civil war.

Of course this means I must once again trek the width of the province to report my success to General Tullius in Solitude. As per tradition I will be spending the night in the captain's quarters, the body of whom we were not able to find. Perhaps he was the one that fled.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Skyrim Day 095 - Regaining the Rift

27 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

After having been given the toothless title of 'Praefect' in the Imperial Legion I was told to walk nearly the length of Skyrim to an Imperial camp south of Ivarstead from Solitude. There was no possible way for me to walk from Solitude to Ivarstead in less than a day, so I simply walked out of Castle Dour and proceeded to Ivarstead without pause or rest as the sun began to sink.

The inquisitive fauna of Skyrim become a great deal more inquisitive after the sun sets, forcing me to slay four bears, two sabre-cats, two giant spiders, and half a dozen wolves while on the road. The Dragons once again proved more elusive. Fortunately the constant threats to my life kept me awake and alert throughout the night and the sun rose to greet me as I arrived at Ivarstead early on 26 Sun's Dusk.

I walked through, needing nothing from the sleepy little town, and left the road for the forest at the crossroads leading to Whiterun and Riften. The Imperial camp lay directly south of the town, close to a Dwemer ruin of little note. I found the Legate poring over her maps, as usual, no doubt contemplating how to single-handedly end the war herself...which it feels I am doing anyway.
My orders were brief: Go to Riften, my second-least favorite city in Skyrim. Once in Riften I was to seek out the Jarl's steward, Anuriel, whose "arrangement" with the local Thieves Guild has been made known to the Legion. I was to find evidence of this arrangement and use it to blackmail the steward in advantage to the Legion.

To be fair, this was the first task I have received from the Legion that almost seems suited for my skills. I cannot see the average Legionnaire employing something akin subterfuge, least of all successfully.

So as the camp settled into breakfast I left to rejoin the cobblestone road to Riften after walking all the way from Solitude very much aware that I would be walking from Riften to the camp at some point and eventually from the camp back to Solitude. Little wonder this civil war has been dragging on for so long.
My jaunt to Riften occupied much of the morning so I encountered less in the way of hostile creatures, though I was accosted by a self-proclaimed "Fire Grandmaster" who fell quickly to a dagger in the kidney. Less anyone who ever might read this think me a highwayman myself, the mage had a desiccated heart in his pack that certainly belonged to no animal.

Late morning saw the road shrouded in the cold fog of Skyrim I have grown to detest, but considering my destination and purpose I suppose it is only fitting.
I spoke with the young son of the Jarl, a man named Saerlund, who groused to a Khajiit he had never met before that he was a prisoner of his own family. According to him he is the only one in his family with pro-Imperial views to the point that his mother, Jarl Laila Law-Giver, believes him to be magically cursed. Much of the court mage's time has been spent either trying to find the curse or pretending to be working on it, or so Saerlund says. What a confusing mess.

But my purpose at Riften was not to heal family ties. No one seemed to notice or care that a Khajiit had wandered into the palace, so I slipped behind a pillar, swallowed an Invisibility draught, and walked into the Jarl's family's quarters where I suspected the steward's would also be.

On a hunch I guessed the steward would be on the ground floor, the family above, and I was correct. To my amusement the evidence I needed was hiding in plain sight: a letter written in Black-Briar Meadery's letterhead thanked Anuriel for her value in their "operation" and hoped the garment which accompanied the letter met to the steward's satisfaction.

As I said: it is foolish to expect subtlety in this land. A Khajiit would have used a competitor's paper, not their own!

I sneaked back into the hall and quietly approached Anuriel. She was oblivious to my presence until I slipped the note into her hand and suggested we talk about her business arrangements. She was not quite as stupid as her co-conspirators and whispered that I should follow her before turning around and starting back to her room.

On my way I overhead one of the guards tell another guard that a Dragon had claimed another town, the village of Kynesgrove, but I could not stay long enough to learn when. I will have to make time to visit the area.

Anuriel closed the door behind me as I entered, then turned around hissing that an attempt at extortion would only lead me to an executioner's block. I placated her, saying that I came not in my own interests, but a larger power. She understood what I meant and professed no love for the Stormcloaks nor the Empire, pointing out that her arrangements with the local guild brought benefit to the Jarl and to Riften, though this could never be admitted.

She suggested a token of goodwill on her part in the form of a shipment of coins and arms the Stormcloaks were scheduled to move to Windhelm in the next day or so. I felt this was a reasonable offer and agreed to leave her in peace in exchange for the shipment. I expected to be told where to find it, but she provided written orders acquired from a Stormcloak showing the route and inventory of the wagon. Reasonable indeed.

With the orders in my pack my work in Riften was mercifully complete in a short amount of time. The weather, alas, had not changed.
My repeated trips along Lake Honrich seems to have thinned the wildlife a bit for the only delay I encountered en-route to the Imperial camp was a foolish Argonian bandit who thought my leather armor signified me as an easy mark and a bloodthirsty Nord in glass armor wielding a poorly maintained two-handed battle-ax.

I made good time back to the camp, arriving just as the soldiers were having their dinner. The Legate was not eating, as this would require she pause from the constant contemplation of her map.

She was pleased to hear of the shipment, having posted soldiers along the roads and known paths to Windhelm from beyond the province in suspicion of this thing. However, her command was broader than it was deep and she had too few soldiers to assault a guarded caravan without recalling the soldiers posted along other routes. There was no time for this, so I was ordered to proceed to the road between Riften and Windhelm in the hope that I would meet up with the scouts at Shor's Watchtower, just north of the village of Shor's Stone.

So again I was off to Riften!

This time though I skipped entering the town and instead walked around the walls to the northern road. I thought to pass through Fort Greenwall, but when I arrived in the evening I encountered a large patrol of Stormcloaks entering the fort they evidently claimed since I had last visited. Approaching the gates resulted in drawn weapons and threats, so rather than pointlessly slay them I elected to take a smaller foot-trail around the road, making the garrison a bit useless.
The scouts posted between Riften and Windhelm were led by my comrade-in-flames, Hadvar. Upon spying me coming down the road greeted me by asking if it was my mother or father who was the Dragon, a joke I am sure will never get old.

He was pleased to see me, admitting that he was a bit nervous as this was his first command following a promotion after the battle at Whiterun. I was surprised, for his "command" was three other men, unless he was also coordinating scouts along other roads.
Apparently news of my coming had not preceded me and he asked what brought me to him. He laughed when I told him I was tracking a wagon of Stormcloak supplies, for he had been doing the same with a wagon guarded by several rebel soldiers. Hadvar was pleased to hear the wagon contained valuables, the capture of which would do very well for his career.

Fortunately for Hadvar and his career the wagon had broken a wheel earlier in the day and Hadvar had been preparing to ambush it before I arrived. This was now still the plan, but with the addition of myself. The plan was simple: I was to take out the posted sentry, Hadvar and his men would creep up a small bluff overlooking the wagon, then I was to attack along the road, distracting the Stormcloaks from the Imperial arrows that would rain down upon them.
The plan went well. I eliminated the sentry with my dagger and charged into the camp, killing one surprised Stormcloak with my ax before the rest could rally against me. A few moments later arrows sped from the former sentry's position, thudding into armor and bodies.

Hadvar was extremely pleased at this bloodless (for his side) victory and asked that I return to the Legate with news of the successful capture. He and his men would stay with the supplies until reinforcements could be brought up with a new wagon.

By then it was close to midnight, another night of no sleep at all for me. I suffered the walk back to the Legate, again, and was ambushed by a Dark Brotherhood assassin, again. I met the Legate in her tent and reported Hadvar's success at which point she ordered me to meet more soldiers near Fort Greenwall where I had just been, twice, to take part in an Imperial assault.

I am going to have a nap first.