Friday, March 25, 2016

Skyrim Day 021 - Under Saarthal

5 Heartfire, 4E201
Winterhold College

Having arrived so late in the day at Winterhold yesterday I had no opportunity to find out what I was supposed to be doing here.
The other students were sleeping, so I left the 'Hall of Attainment' dormitory and wandered around for a bit. I ran into one of the mages, Mirabelle, whom Faralda had yesterday suggested I speak with. I took the opportunity to find out what was expected of a student, but Mirabelle simply replied that not killing anyone and limiting damage to the College were the only guidelines. When I asked her about Illusion magic she suggested I speak with Drevis Neloren, a Dunmer who she assured me would be willing to help further my skill.

I was accosted by another instructor as I was trying to locate Drevis. My assailant was Colette Marence, a seemingly insecure mage specializing in the school of Restoration. She complained that the other mages did not consider Restoration a "true" school of magic, but I assured her that hundreds of years of study validated her claim. Mollified, she offered to sell me some of her tomes, but my skill in Restoration is barely able to heal a splinter and I could cast none of her spells.

The library is managed by an Orsimer, Urag gro-Shub, who acted as if damaging one of the books warranted immediate execution. I politely told him that his library was one of the best I had visited and he gruffly thanked me, stating that there was always room for improvement. Scenting profit, I asked if there was anything he needed help with and he hesitated for a moment before admitting that he was after a copy of 'Hanging Gardens', a book he heard had been part of a caravan whose trip was abruptly terminated near a cave outside of the dismal town of Morthal. Naturally I agreed to the task.

This time when I visited the 'Hall of Attainment' it was completely empty of sleeping students, so I continued to the 'Hall of the Elements' where I was told the students and instructors congregated for lessons and was pleased to find everyone there. An amicable older Imperial, Tolfdir, was lecturing four other students on the use of magic, but they were unhappy and universally demanded to be taught something practical.
Bending to their demands, Tolfdir decided that we were to practice warding spells, a family of magic I know little about. He provided me a simple warding spell and the other students gave us room for him to cast a fire spell at me while I maintained the ward. Unskilled in Restoration, the effort of keeping the ward active under Tolfdir's fiery onslaught was exhausting and I hope no one noticed the strain it put on me.

With that Tolfdir suddenly declared we should all make a trip to the nearby ruin of Saarthal to search for artifacts. We all filed out of the Hall and the students, including myself, took the long walk as an opportunity to talk with one another. I was approached by an incredibly arrogant Khajiit who called himself J'zargo. He bragged that he had already mastered "Expert-level" Destruction spells and asked if I could claim the same. When I admitted I could not he expressed his disappointment in not being able to find someone with skills as high as his own.

The second student I spoke with was Brelyna, a quiet Dunmer who irritably rattled off answers to questions I had not even asked as soon as I approached. When I countered that I had not yet made her acquaintance she looked embarrassed and formally introduced herself as a member of House Telvanni, an admission that shocked me, as I assumed all the Great Houses of Morrowind had long since fallen. I would have liked to have talked with her more about Morrowind, but she seemed not in the mood for conversation and I let the matter be, at least for now.

The last was a Nord named Onmund. Unlike my other fellow apprentices, he was quite amicable and talked of the difficulties he had with his family in gaining entrance to the College. He did not approve, however, of our little jaunt to Saarthal as he felt we should not be disturbing the resting place of his ancestors. I had never heard of Saarthal before today and he was happy to give me a quick lesson on the history of Nordic settlements in Skyrim.

Saarthal was the first Nordic settlement in Skyrim and the provincial capital of the Nords for some time until its destruction by the now-extinct Snow Elves some time within the Mythic Era. It was later rebuilt by a Nordic king but was abandoned during the opening years of the First Era. Now it was just a ruin like any other, or so we thought.

After speaking with the trio I elected to make my own way to Saarthal so that I could see more of the surrounding area. I came upon a large statue of Azura and I wonder if the Daedric Prince has any memory of what I did for the Dunmer. I suspect not and that if she did, it would not matter for much. Still, I am interested to visit the shrine in the coming days.
Saarthal was about as impressive as any other ruin in Skyrim: snow, ice, and rubble. Tolfdir and the other students had arrived before me and were waiting at the doors leading underground, each of them of a different opinion of the place. J'zargo hoped to find enchanted items to further improve his skill and power. Onmund was uneasy about disturbing his ancestors, which elicited sympathy from Brelyna, though she was curious about what we would find inside.
Tolfdir led us inside and gave us our assignments. I was to proceed further inside and assist another mage from the College, Arniel Gane, who was trying to find and catalog minor artifacts of the ancient Nords, a task J'zargo must have envied.
I found nothing save for a small engraved plate on a leather thong set in a little alcove. The smart thing to do, of course, was to grab it. As soon as I lifted the amulet from its resting place a series of metal rods shot up from the floor behind me, trapping me in the tiny room. Arniel called for Tolfdir, who was unworried and nodded towards the alcove which, unnoticed by me, was now shimmering with a red glow.
Tolfdir handed me a simple fire-element Destruction spell that I believe a newborn could have casted, but it was enough to somehow collapse the wall and retract the metal rods. Tolfdir eagerly stepped inside and beckoned me to follow as he disappeared into the new passageway. He was obviously enjoying himself and I noticed that his fellow mage Arniel had no inclination of following him at all, so forward I went as well.

We had not gone far before the world turned a blinding white and a figure clad in robes popped into existence right in front of me. Distressingly, I found I could not move at all and assumed Tolfdir was having similar problems.
The white mage introduced himself as a member of the "Psijic Order", a name that invoked a vague memory that I could not quite recollect. He spoke of great danger further inside the ruin and warned us that judgement would be levied upon the both of us depending on our actions today and that I alone had the potential to avert the disaster that was otherwise now in the making. Once again, a figure unknown to me has placed a heavy burden on my shoulders. Such is my fate.

The apparition then vanished and I turned to Tolfidr, sure that he would have something to say about what just occurred. But he appeared confused and asked what happened, as I had simply spent the past few minutes staring at nothing. Of course. I told him that a member of the Psijic Order had warned me of dangers further inside Saarthal and he was practically giddy over everything that was happening. His excitement did not diminish when undead Nordic warriors, the Draugr I had first encountered years ago on Solstheim, ambled in to deal with us. They were no match for an experienced mage and Khajiit adventurer.

We continued on, battling Draugr in every room until we reached a large chamber ringed with stone coffins. Predictably they all opened at once and six undead Nords rushed at us. Once they were laid to rest Tolfdir asked me to continue on alone, as he was interested in examining the engravings on the coffins. Onward I went.

I fought one more Draugr on my own, but this one was slightly different: it was able to emit some sort of guttural spell which produced enough force to knock me backwards a few steps. It was a rather minor irritant to an otherwise simple fight, but it was new.

Tolfdir re-joined me after I opened a locked gate by solving a simple puzzle of rotating columns with animal motifs. I had only to spin the column so that its animal engraving matched the engraving set up the wall behind it. I cannot guess as to what reason their architect had for creating a lock with such an obvious combination.
Beyond the gate was the danger the secretive Psijic mage had warned us about, though neither myself nor Tolfdir had any idea what it actually was. It appeared to be something similar to a giant metal egg and as we approached we saw that it was warded. The skeleton of a Draugr sat slumped on a throne in front of the egg, but Tolfdir seemed just as relaxed about this as he had everything else about today.
As I expected, the Draugr "woke" as we drew closer and Tolfdir shouted at me to distract it while he worked at dispelling the egg's ward. Nothing I did could damage the crowned Draugr, but once Tolfdir dispelled the ward the creature quickly fell to my blade.

Tolfdir was full of congratulations and urged me to return to the College immediately so that Arch-Mage Savos could be informed and assist in transporting the metal egg back to Winterhold. I agreed and left immediately, happy to be going back outside after being stuck in the giant tomb for so long.

I arrived back at Winterhold well past midnight, but the Arch-Mage was still awake in his quarters, reading. Without looking up he asked what I needed of him and I replied that Tolfdir and I found something mysterious and important and that Tolfidr remained at the ruins to await his most urgent arrival. Savos smiled and remarked that at least it was not a matter of another apprentice incinerated into ash and asked that I work alongside Mirabelle to research anything matching my description of a metal egg-looking artifact of the Nords.

But I was tired and went instead back to the dormitory where Faralda, one of the instructors, warned me that the Thalmor "representative" stationed at the College had started to ask questions about me. With a price on my head from both the Thalmor and the Dark Brotherhood, this cannot be a good thing. I shall have to be circumspect of what I say and do around this Thalmor, but I suspect one Khajiit looks much like another to them.

I do not know what tomorrow shall bring, but I am certainly guaranteed something of interest. I must admit that I am looking forward to it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Skyrim Day 020 - The College of Winterhold

4 Heartfire, 4E201
Winterhold College

Little of what I had to do in Solitude held my interest and none of it long enough to prevent me from walking back out the city gate this morning. Before leaving I stopped at the 'Radiant Raiment' to purchase quilted clothing more suited to the snow and ice of Winterhold than my Hammerfell-inspired outfit.

The walk from Solitude to Winterhold College placed me near the impoverished hold of Morthal, a small town I always felt was too close to Solitude for its own good. Built on a swamp, Morthal has absolutely nothing to offer a traveler that Dragon Bridge or Solitude cannot and depends solely on a lumber mill to generate wealth. I thought to pass the place by entirely, but curiosity won the day and I walked through the meager fortifications, barely even eliciting a nod from the gate's bored guard.
As I entered I heard several voices arguing ahead of me, as usual a group of citizens had a complaint against the local Jarl. The group was complaining about a house fire that apparently had occurred recently under some suspicion. They wanted the Jarl to look into the matter, but I knew where this was going and immediately left Morthal. Had I stayed I am certain I would have become involved somehow.

Another Dark Brotherhood assassin made an attempt on my life along the road to Winterhold and he quickly joined his friends in whatever awaits us after death. I hope that at some point the Brotherhood simply gives up trying to kill me before they run out of members, but they do seem a dedicated lot. Should this continue I may have to convince them to ply their trade elsewhere.

I stopped at a hunting camp and was surprised to find them offering Dwemer armor for sale. One of the hunters explained that they had recently been delving into the ruins scattered about, but I did not entirely believe that story. Either way, Dwemer is far too cumbersome for me and, bandits or no, I sold them a Dwemer shield I had found some days ago.

Actual bandits attacked me a few minutes after I left the campsite, but they were evidently more accustomed to bludgeoning merchants and student mages than experienced fighters. One was even wielding a staff enchanted to discharge bolts of ice, but it was so weak that it may have been gusts of cold air. The staff's origin lay beyond the trio: a dead mage, a dead horse, and a ransacked cart.
The road to Winterhold college curved away from the hills along the coast, making a walk straight through the hills to Winterhold seem like an attractive option. Having already been attacked by an assassin and three bandits while on the road, I guessed that the hills would offer not much worse.

Climbing up and down the icy slopes was a challenge, but it did provide a bit of grim humor in the way of three hunters attempting to slay two giants and a mammoth.
Choosing to loose their arrows only after one of the giants was nearly on top of them meant that none of the three had a chance. Both giants shrugged off the arrows and methodically smashed each of the hunters into the snow with their massive clubs.

I stopped at Dawnstar to talk with an encamped Khajiit caravan and was provided a tale of loss by one 'Kharjo', one of the caravan guards. During a bandit ambush an heirloom of his which he greatly valued as a memory of his home was stolen and he was unable to leave the caravan to track it down. As I spend most of my time wandering around I offered to retrieve it for him, as a favor owed could be quite profitable in the future.

Continuing through the hills towards Winterhold, I passed a tower with a dead horse in front of it. It was saddled, but I could see no evidence of a rider, nor any way to enter the tower save for descending down a wall of ice to search for a door there.

As if that was not strange enough, my walking then brought me to a dead mammoth frozen upright inside a wall of ice.
There were a few arrows embedded into the ice next to it and a Dwemer axe frozen fast to the ground beneath it, but the creature appeared uninjured. I can only imagine how confused its hunters may have been when they realized what had happened.

The weather turned considerably for the worse as I drew closer to the College and it was not long before I could barely see an arm's length ahead of me through the snow. Fortunately someone had piled rocks along the increasingly covered path through the hills and I was able to follow these landmarks from Dawnstar to the remains of Winterhold.
I arrived well after all the shops had closed, but met a Nordic woman named Birna who ran the general store of in Winterhold. She complained of not receiving much business in the half-ruined town and of having to take risky deals that occasionally went bad for her, one recently. When I asked about her recent bad deal she laughed and said she had a genuine dragon's claw to sell me. That reminded me of the story the shopkeeper in Riverwood told me about Bleak Falls Barrow, so I asked to see her claw. She seemed about to refuse me, but shrugged instead and disappeared inside her shop.

She reappeared a few moments later cradling a large "claw" hewn roughly from bronze with three steel coins set into the base of the foot. Each coin had an animal engraved into it, but the item bore little else in the way of decoration. Seeing my interest Birna offered it for one hundred Septims, but I talked her down to fifty with the provision that it remain in her store until I left Winterhold. She agreed and as we parted she remembered that the man selling it to her remarked it would be of use at a place known as 'Yngol's Barrow' far to the east, near Windhelm.

This claw may be helpful in discovering what awaits me at Bleak Falls Barrow, but I am also in no hurry to see Windhelm, having just arrived at the College. For now the claw sits in Birna's shop.

The College of Winterhold was guarded by an Altmer named Faralda who demanded to see some ability from me before I would be allowed entrance into the college. Of course she demanded a spell of me I did not know, but she was ready with the spell's instruction...for only thirty Septims. I begrudged her the money and received a simple 'Magelight' Alternation spell in return. I effortlessly cast the spell upon the college's emblem set into the stones of the bridge, satisfying the College's requirement.

Several members of the College were in the plaza despite the late hour and poor weather. One of them was the Arch-Mage of the College, Savos Aren. He cautioned me against taking any actions that would reflect poorly upon the College, but also said that he was always happy to welcome a new student, commenting that I was the second Khajiit the school would be hosting, which was very surprising news to hear!

But it was very late and I have traveled a great deal today to come here, so I have retired to my room after being escorted there by Faralda. I am eager to start my training tomorrow and hope to further my skill in the Illusion and Alteration schools so that I can be more confident of surviving Bleak Falls Barrow in the hopefully near future.