Friday, February 26, 2016

Skyrim Day 019 - Subject to Daedric Harassment

3 Heartfire, 4E201

I suppose an immortal Khajiit could not have expected to remain out of Daedric sight for long. Today was only to involve the return of a statue and wound up with me confronting yet another Daedric Prince of which I want little to do with.

The walk from Dragon Bridge to Markarth contained all of the usual encounters: attack by Sabre Cats an assassin, a group of bandits, the acquisition of cheap alchemy ingredients, and a wary encounter with some other brave souls journeying across Skyrim.

The Sabre Cats attacked in a trio as I was walking across a hill, but the animals proved to be susceptible to the weak Fury Illusion spell I had purchased some time ago and they soon turned on each other which allowed me to flee down the other side of the hill.
Back on the road I a farmer and his wife stopped to warn me about the dragon attacks plaguing Skyrim. I have only witnessed the one at Helgen, but thanked the man for his concern and asked where they were going. They didn't know, their home having been destroyed, allegedly, by a dragon. I was not sure if I believed his story, but gave the two of them five Septims each and wished them luck.

The pointy ends of the Dark Brotherhood sprang out at me alongside the river, another young Khajiit hoping to make a name for herself among a bandit of mercenary murderers. A small part of me felt bad for having to kill her, but a much larger part did not want to be stabbed. She refused to walk away from the fight and paid the inevitable price. 
I returned to Markarth before noon and wasted no time in returning the statue to Lisbet. My reward was seven hundred and fifty Septims, making the statue a lot more valuable than I assumed. After exchanging some pleasantries with the woman I walked out of her shop intending to leave the city for good, but a man further up the street called out to me, so like a fool I actually stopped and listened to the man's plea.

The man was 'Vigilant Tyranus', a member of the 'Vigilants of Stendarr', a group of Daedric hunters I have talked with a bit along the roads. He had come to Markarth on the rumor that a home was secretly being used for Daedric worship. The townspeople had been of no help, so he was looking for someone to follow him inside should there be hostiles present. I estimated the chance of encountering Daedra inside of Markarth to be fairly low, so I agreed. I wish I had not.
Tyranus immediately noticed as we walked in that there was fresh food laid out on the tables and the furniture and fabrics were clean and without rot. The house had obviously not been abandoned for long. As we proceeded further into the house I began to hear a voice in my head urging me to kill Tyranus, but Barbas was in my head long before this new voice and I was able to ignore it.

However, the Vigilant at my side must have been receiving the same malevolent messages I was ignoring. He became increasingly distracted as the voice grew angrier and finally whomever it was snapped and screamed at us to fight or die together just as fruit, vegetables, and small furniture started to fly at us. I thought it a mere annoyance, but Tyranus panicked and tried to flee out of the house. I followed him but the door was stuck tight, no doubt due to our twisted host. With a shout that he was not going to die here, he drew his mace and attacked me!

Not everyone has had centuries of experience in dealing with Daedra and Daedric Princes, but Tyranus succumbed rather quickly for a Vigilant of Stendarr. He succumbed just as quick to a merciful dagger thrust to the back of his head, killing the poor man instantly without pain.

The voice was pleased then, purring that my reward was to be found on the lowest level of the house. The front door was still stuck shut, so I had little choice but to descend deeper. Each room now had a black, oily cloud hanging about the ceiling, an obvious sign that I was not moving towards something I was going to like.
The home's previous occupants had dug out of the house and into an unused portion of the Dwemer city where I can only assume they decided to install a shrine to Molag Bal, a thoroughly unpleasant Daedric Prince with which involvement could only lead to poor things. I sensed the trap before I approached the shrine, but knew that I would not be leaving the house without springing it.
Sure enough, touching the blood-caked iron mace embedded in the shrine caused spikes to shoot up from the floor around me, trapping me. Predictably the voice, Molag Bal, took great delight in having tricked me and asked what I saw. I replied that I saw an altar and he agreed, stating that it had seen better days, mostly when his worshipers would bring people to it in order to murder them in the Prince's name.

But the altar was not actually sending him any...whatever Daedric Princes receive from worship. A servant of Boethiah, the Daedric Prince of death, had intentionally damaged it to prevent Molag Bal's worshipers from using it. Evidently they were not up to the task of restoring it and abandoned the house and its secret. For some reason Molag Bal thought I would be interested in helping him, but I demanded that he let me go, not actually expecting that to work. To my surprise it did: the spikes retracted and he sighed within my head before letting me know his favor was still available if I rescued the wounded priest of Boethiah and brought him back to the shrine. I could see no reason why Molag Bal would want the priest at his shrine again and resolved to have nothing to do with either Molag Bal or Boethiah. I suppose to them I am a terrible aberration, but I did not ask for my inability to die.

The front door to the house was now unlocked and I stepped over the unfortunate Tyranus on my way out, never to return.

I started my way towards Solitude once again and hope to be at the College of Winterhold within a few days. At a crossroads I came upon three Imperial Legionnaires standing around three dead and nearly naked men. One of the "soldiers" heard me approach and warned me that holding a loaded crossbow around Imperial soldiers warranted a fine of two hundred Septims plus a search of one's belongings to aid in the war effort. I remarked that I had I known that I would have been carrying some shoes, for they had none and the bodies did. Fools to think they could deceive me.
With that I sent a crossbow bolt through the throat of the Orsimer who had tried to shake me down and charged at his two brigand comrades. One was lucky enough to block my chop at his neck and returned with his own semi-skilled blows. The other brigand wisely circled around the two of us to flank me, but was lacking in his approach. When he leaped at my back I turned and drove the pommel of my blade into his face, turning his snarl into a scream as his nose turned into a satisfying spray of blood. A swift cut into his shoulder rendered his weapon useless and I sprang behind his rapidly folding body so that my original foe could watch the man's throat get slit. Morale is key in any fight.

Watching his "leader" get a bolt to the throat and his other comrade get his neck opened took the wind out of the surviving man's sails, as they say on the coast. He halfheartedly started to attack me, but I smashed the sword out of his hand and drove my sword through his stolen Imperial leathers and into his chest. Predictably the trio had nothing of value on them, save for the insight that a more powerful Fury Illusion spell would have been very useful.

I arrived at Dragon Bridge as it began to grow dark and walked through towards Solitude without any further bandits, animal attacks, or Daedric requests. The guards were changing to the night shift as I approached Solitude's gates and gave me no trouble with entering after dark.

There are tasks I have yet to perform for people in Solitude, but I am not sure if I should attend to them now or proceed on along the coast to Winterhold. I face the dismal prospect of venturing through the province's coldest region, but as the name suggests there is no other way to reach the College of Winterhold other than by traveling through what many would consider to be a rather poor winter.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Skyrim Day 018 - Finishing with Markarth

2 Heartfire, 4E201
Dragon Bridge

Even utterly exhausted I could find little rest on the stone slabs of Markarth's inn. After a few hours of tossing and turning I gave up and walked out. I had only one task tying me to Markarth: the retrieval of Lisbet's golden statue which her store was relying on to remain in business.

Lisbet named a small bandit hideout, 'Bruca's Leap Redoubt', which she said was located along the shore of a lake to the northeast between the hills. How she knew the statue was there was one of so many mysteries.

I left Markarth as the city's residents were settling down to dinner and knew I had a long, dark walk ahead of me. Fortunately, it was a long, dark, and very boring walk and I reached what I took to be the Redoubt well into the night. The Forsworn who had ambushed her caravan dropped one-by-one, felled by an unseen Khajiit with a crossbow. The night has its advantages.
The inside of the Redoubt's cave was brightly lit by torches and very small. The passage led to a small room where two Forsworn were busy attending to a Forsworn corpse arranged upon a table and I managed to kill one of them with the crossbow before my presence was made known. The surviving Forsworn bravely attacked me with his "sharp rock tied to a stick" axe and I was kind enough not to drag the combat out longer than it had to be. I could not determine what had killed the man on the table, but my curiosity about his fate netted me a beautiful garnet nonetheless.
Lisbet's statue of Dibella was in a large chest wedged in the corner of the room, alongside a powerfully enchanted circlet and Dwemer shield. It seems Lisbet does not deal in everyday items.

I judged it to be almost midnight by the time I walked out of the Forsworn's little hideaway and I knew Dragon Bridge was nearby, so I headed further down the road towards what would be at least a passable bed.
While I now have to walk back to Markarth in the morning the promise of a bed one can actually rest upon is a trade-off I am willing to accept.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Skyrim Day 017 - The Forlorn Forsworn

2 Heartfire, 4E201

I should have expected today, but I did not. Blame fatigue or an unwarranted confidence, but my embarrassment at being trapped so easily today is only relieved by how easily I escaped from it.
The bed I had rented went unused, for I was expected at Talos's shrine within the hour of arriving at Markarth. The Dwemer architecture made for a very haphazard arrangement of streets and stairs and more than once I simply hopped off a street on to the one below rather than try to find the stairway. Intuition led me to the Temple of Dibella and after some careful poking around I found a doorway underneath the Temple which, unsurprisingly, opened up to a hallway with a statue of Talos in clear view and Eltrys in somewhat less clear view.
He asked that I investigate why the assaulted woman, Margret, was in Markarth and what reason the would-be murdered, a smelter worker named Weylin, would have to kill her. Any information I found would be rewarded in gold. The task sounded simple at the time, so I agreed.

Margret was in the inn, sitting by the fire. She had not noticed me come in, so I took the opportunity to observe her for a few minutes. She did not appear to be shaken up or troubled by her recent brush with death, instead content to stare into the flames with a mug of something nestled in her lap. I was born so long ago that I cannot even remember the date and this woman did not have me fooled.

She confessed immediately. Margret was not in Markarth to do some shopping for her sister, she was an agent of the Imperial Legion assigned to acquire the deed to the city's silver mine. That she was attacked by an agent of the Forsworn did not seem a coincidence to her and she asked that I keep her informed. I decided to keep Margret's new identity to myself and left the inn intent on bringing Eltrys information on only Weylin.

As soon as I exited the inn I was stopped by a city guard who warned me that my interest in the Forsworn had been noticed and that it would be best for me to become more interested in something else, preferably in another city entirely. Foolishness, of course, for his warning meant that Margret's assault was somehow connected to the city authority. Best always to say as little as possible to your prey.

Shopkeepers are only second to barkeeps in the rumors they hear, so I ventured inside a store near the city gate which was somehow still open in the middle of the night. The owner, Lisbet, complained that the Forsworn raids had robbed her store of business and offered a reward for the return of a gold statue of Dibella. The Forsworn in the mine had not been very difficult, so I saw no reason not to help her.

Lisbet suggested that I visit Thonar Silver-Blood, owner of the local silver mine, if I had any questions about the Forsworn. According to her, his properties outside of the city had been plagued by Forsworn raids and he would be of great help to me in determining what was going on. I did not later appreciate the irony.

A small gift of gold to his wife purchased me access to Thonar and I wasted no time in telling him I was seeking answers about the Forsworn involvement inside of Markarth. He had started to reply when a shout of "For the Forsworn!" erupted at the entrance to his house, his former servants charging down the hall with sword and spell.
Thonar's wife fell instantly to a Forsworn blade before I could dispatch the two assassins, but Thonar was not appreciative of my effort. He blamed me for the death of his wife, but I pointed out that the attack on Margret and the attempt by the city guards to warn me away implicated him in having a connection to everything.

He then admitted that the leader of the Forsworn, a Reachman named Madanach, was imprisoned in his silver mine and allowed to control the Forsworn via messengers in exchange for Thonar being able to point the Forsworn towards his business competitors...allowing him to purchase the ravaged properties at low rates. But Thonar's arrangement had been crumbling and the death of his wife made him realize that his control over Madanach was broken. But he blamed me for his wife's death and swore he would see me in chains alongside Madanach.

Like a fool I took his threat as an outburst stemming from his grief and paid it little mind. My next stop was the Warrens, the "poor" part of  town where most of the miners and blacksmith workers lived. The Warrens were really just the collapsing ground level of the former Dwemer city. The poor of Markarth were out of sight and out of mind...until one tried to stab a woman.
Weylin had done little to hide his involvement with the Forsworn. On his makeshift bed was a letter from 'N' telling him that he had been chosen to strike fear into the hearts of the Nords. The letter instructed him to be at the market, at which point further instructions would somehow be communicated. I needed now to find out who 'N' was and left the Warrens.

Predictably a man was waiting for me outside, warning me once again to stop investigating the attempted murder. Not content with simply a warning, he then told me he was also told to teach me a lesson and rushed me with his fists.
Unarmed combat against a Khajiit can be a dangerous thing for we have many advantages others lack. He lasted only a few minutes before gasping that he had enough. While wiping the blood out of his eyes and nose he ruefully admitted that 'N' was a man known as 'Nelos the Nose', a sort of manager of Markarth's criminal underworld. I thanked him for his help and went to arrange an appointment with Nelos and his nose.

His name was well-deserved, his nose was the longest, most crooked one I have ever seen and I have seen quite a few noses in my time.
Much as Thonar did, Nelos confessed to everything almost without my asking for it. He admitted that the Forsworn acted on orders written by Madanach and delivered through himself, stating that he had been doing this for almost twenty years now. When I asked why he was being so honest with his involvement, he calmly asked me why I thought I would be allowed to leave. Once again: say as little to your prey as possible!

A kick to the side of his knee incapacitated him and a shove into the fireplace in front of him guaranteed he would be of no use during the fight I had preemptively started. His servants rushed at me with short blades and we bloodily danced around the house to the tune of the Nose's screaming. Our melee ended in the dining room.
It was time to return to Eltrys with what I had found and accomplished.

But Thonar was a man of his word. When I stepped inside the shrine, I was suddenly pushed further inside by a guard I had not seen follow me in. Inside where three more guards and the corpse of Eltrys splayed atop the feet of Talos.
Of course I was under arrest for the Eltrys murder and the guards freely confessed to having set me up on Thonar's orders. The talkative guard complained that I had left a lot of work for them to do, but I cannot say I feel particularly sorry about that. With three guards in front of me, one behind, and the rest in Thonar's pocket I decided surrendering was the most prudent course of action.

And with that I became Cidhna Mine's newest worker.

Khajiit are not miners by nature and I felt the itching to escape as soon as I entered the 'common' area. A dour man was sitting cross-legged in front of a fire as I arrived and a huge Orsimer with a pickax in his belt was standing near a door. The sounds of mining echoed from the tunnels leading away from the strange duo, but I was told my sentence was life, so I doubted anyone would be commuting my stay in exchange for silver ore.
The dour man, Uraccen, pointed me to the giant Orsimer, Borkul 'the Beast' when I asked about speaking with Madanach. Gaining access to Madanach meant having to deal with Borkul. He refused to let me by and dismissively told me the only way I was getting by was through him. With apparently no other option I challenged the Orsimer to what would have appeared to be a rather one-sided fistfight.
The other prisoners came running to watch Borkul beat the stupid Khajiit into a pulp, but the battle was over sooner than they had probably hoped for. It pays to not underestimate a Khajiit's claws.
And with that I left the bleeding Borkul and disappointed prisoners behind and entered into Madnach's little domain. It was not much: a small hallway, a locked door, and at the end, his personal room.
He had not heard my fight outside with his bodyguard, nor had he heard me enter the room. In front of me, oblivious, was the leader of the Forsworn. Thonar Silver-Blood was certainly no friend of mine, but he was not leading a small rebellion in a land already wracked by civil war.
He had been writing a speech before his neck was snapped and it spoke of a secret tunnel into the city via a door near his cell. The key around his neck unlocked the door I had passed and I made sure to carefully lock it behind me as I escaped Cidhna Mine. This passage led through an undeveloped part of the Dwemer ruins that was full of spiders and Dwemer mechanicals. With no weapons, armor, or useful spells I could only run as fast as possible past all the things that tried to kill me.

I managed to reach the exit with all my limbs attached and to my dismay I found myself facing Thonar once again. His "eyes" inside the Mine had quickly informed him of Madanach's demise and he thanked me for eliminating one of his problems. To show his gratitude I was pardoned of my "crime" and all of my equipment was returned to me. He also gave me his family ring so that the rest of the city would know what I had done for it...or so he said.

I do not believe I will be spending much more time in Markarth, ring or no ring. But right now, I need some sleep.