Sunday, May 1, 2016

Skyrim Day 026 - Savos's Sacrifice

10 Heartfire, 4E201

Labyrinthian wound up being much closer to Morthal than I thought it was, but Whiterun was no doubt more comfortable, so I considered my mistake a fortunate one.

The area around Whiterun is patrolled somewhat regularly, but I still had to fight off one of Skyrim's giant Sabre Cats along the westbound road. As I made my way along a road leading into the mountains where Labyrinthian was built I passed a pit lined with stone coffins.
A door was set into the wall and something about the arrangement intrigued me. As it was, the area closely resembled the tombs I remember hesitantly exploring on Vvardenfell: small and not worth the trouble. The inside was just one room, a hallway along one side having caved in. Three Draugr awaited me, but they were guarding nothing of value. I pressed onward to frozen Labyrinthian.

The city must have been quite a sight in its time, but now its only inhabitants were trolls, two of whom I had to cut down before the rest scattered away from me. The ruins were littered with carvings of what could have been either a bird or a dragon and a large dome dominated the courtyard.
But my business was inside the ruin, so I ignored the dome and approached the massive door. As I drew close a shimmering in the air in front of the door came into focus and suddenly I was surrounded by spirits.
Ambushed, I drew my blade, but the spirits paid me no attention. They talked among themselves and I realized that the Dunmer-looking one was their leader...and the former Arch-Mage of Winterhold College.

From what I could make out, Savos was far younger in this strange manifestation than when I briefly knew him and he seemed to have convinced the other spirits, students of the college, to follow him to Labyrinthian on a quest for knowledge and artifacts. The group was more varied than today's: one of them sounded like a Bosmer and another was unmistakably an Argonian. As he quelled the fears of his fellow students the spirits faded and I was left alone once again.

I spent several minutes trying to figure out how to open the front door, certainly not a good sign for me. After examining the decoration on the door I realized that the heavy necklace that Mirabelle had given me was actually the door's handle, though how thing thing came to be required to open the door at all was a mystery.

The inside was littered with ancient skeletons and weapons, the remains of guardians that Savos's group had probably blasted apart.
Their spirits reformed at the end of the chamber, the others complaining of the dangers they were likely to face. But Savos assured them he had been there before and skeletons were the worst they were going to find inside. The spirits disappeared and I proceeded in their ghostly footsteps.

I wish I had not. After a few small rooms of Draugr and skeletons I found a portcullis which was operated by a nearby lever...which meant anyone coming inside the underground city could open the gate. I started wondering why this was the case as I opened the gate and walked through, but then everything became entirely too clear for me.
The large cavern which the gate opened into was occupied by a massive, dead dragon. The "dead" part did not seem to concern it much and its skeletal remains roared and moved just as the dragon at Helgen had, though this one was able to "breathe" ice instead of fire.

Panicking, I fired two bolts at it with no apparent effect other than to anger it. I tried to retreat back through the gate, but it had closed behind me, making its purpose a lot more clear. The only way was forward: providing I survived the dragon and its retinue of skeletal archers.

Being made only of bones held together by magicka does not give one the best of reflexes apparently, for I was able to easily outrun the dragon while the archers ineffectually lobbed arrows at me. I made it to a stairway at the opposite end of the cavern, drew my sword, and turned around to see how much distance I had put between myself and instantly freezing to death.
As it turned out, not nearly enough! I might have outrun the dragon, but only by a few steps of its massive claws. I could have retreated further down the stairway, which was too narrow to admit it, but I thought, at the time, that would mean only facing it on my way out. So I drew my Dwemer-forged sword and turned to face the monstrous thing.

My strategy was just as simple as the creature's was: wait until it reared back to utilize its ice "breath", then scamper down the stairs so that the spray of ice passed over my head. Then I rushed back up the stairs, hacked at the thing's bony skull, and ran back the stairs. If I had not been so terrified it would have been almost amusing.

Eventually the small chips and cracks resulting from my blows began to leak wisps of magicka and the poor creature...ran out of magicka, I suppose. I do not know what held it together, but after what seemed like a long time the dragon's skeleton lay still and I was still alive.
The winding staircase led me to a small altar with am engraved plaque on top of it. I was surprised to find that it was written in Cyrodilic:
Hail All-Brave City Bromjunaar
Forever These Walls Shall Stand
May Enemies See Her Majesty
May All Quake to Behold Her
I can only assume Labyrinthian used to be named Bromjunaar, or was built on the ruins of it. Perhaps the dragon guarded the entrance to Bromjunaar from Labyrinthian, though to what purpose I cannot see. As I was puzzling this thought over, the spirits came back again, all of them seeming to stare at me, a rather uneasy thing.

Stepping away from their gazes, I realized there was one less. The students were greatly upset at the death of the student called 'Girduin', Savos had led them through the same cavern I had fought the dragon in, but it had been there for them as well. They simply ran past, but Girduin had been killed by the dragon, apparently it tore him into many small pieces.

Savos smoothly pointed out that they could not very well go back to the dragon, insisting that it was safer to go forwards rather than back. They agreed somewhat reluctantly and disappeared from my sight. I suspected I would find them one less again the next time they appeared.

I continued along, battling the odd Dragur here and there without much trouble. Suddenly, a voice seemed to boom from beneath me, uttering some guttural language I could not understand. With it came a wave of blue light that washed over me and sapped me of my magicka strength, which I quickly recovered anyway. I waited a few minutes but nothing else happened, so I pressed on. After maybe ten minutes of sneaking about and shooting Dragur the voice and the magicka-sapping light came rushing up through the floor, the voice saying something different but just as alien to my ears.

The spirits had not returned yet, but I found a stone door guarded by a magicka ward which I set off with a crossbow bolt. Behind it was a Draugr standing next to a decapitated skeleton sitting in front of an ancient alchemy field set. Nothing about the macabre sight indicated that the corpse was of one of Savos's fellow students though.
Just past that I was accosted by the voice and the light once again, but this time in Cyrodilic. The voice accused me of not answering him, asking if I was really forcing it to use "...this guttural language of yours." That was interesting, as it implied the voice knew someone previously who spoke Cyrodilic and whatever the voice spoke initially. I had my suspicions as to who that was.

Unfortunately I then had to wade through an almost-frozen sewer and when I was beginning to emerge from it in front of an ornate door the light came through it and the voice inquired as to whether I was Aren, the voice's "old friend". Suspicion confirmed.

After that the voice decided to assume I was Aren Savos and became quite chatty and boastful, asking if I had returned to finish what I could not previously and that I only faced failure "once more". Still, the spirits of Aren Savos and the students had not reappeared. I continued to creep forward, unable to shake the extremely uneasy feeling that someone was constantly right behind me. Draugr and trolls fell to my crossbow bolts until I ran out completely. It was only my sword after that.

Perhaps something was watching me, for the voice came again, this time sounding uncertain with the realization that I was not actually Aren Savos. It asked if he had sent me in his place, though did not say as to what purpose. It was then that I began to get a really bad feeling as to the fates of the other students, the sensation of being watched stronger than before.

Because a skelton-dragon, Draugr, voices from below, and the spirits of the deceased were not terrible enough, I then found myself battling some sort of coldly horrific spirit-woman whose face hosted what I could best describe as a grimace of utter hatred. Whatever she was my sword was enough to send her back to where she had come from.
The voice continued to goad me, asking if I knew my coming would only lead to my undoing and his strengthening. Each boast was accompanied by the blue light, which I feared might be the strengthening part of his assurance.

Around a small column the spirits reemerged and as I had suspected they were greatly fewer in number than the last time I saw them. It was only Savos Aren now, plus two other students. The two babbled fearfully of the others' fates, but Savos insisted that they must press forward, lest the deaths of the friends be for nothing.
The mysterious voice spoke only once more, inviting me to come "meet my end", a bit overly dramatic for my taste. I could only assume I was growing close to this unseen speaking thing as the guardians of the ruins began to...change.
Formerly of flesh and...more flesh, the Draugr deeper inside were different, seeming to consist solely of blue light. They fought just as physically as their more corporal cousins and suffered my blows just as well, making them no more difficult. I also fought a few dogs, which I have not encountered in a ruin before.

Another door, more Draugr, and surprisingly, a very rare Ebony shield nestled in a burial niche. It is very heavy and I cannot wield it myself, but one does not find equipment hammered from the blood of Gods every day.

The only other enemy of note was a Frost Atronach which my blade did little against, but my pathetic Fire magicka managed to destroy the creature completely. Makes sense, but I was surprised to find I could cast anything in combat of use.
The spirits of Savos Aren and the two surviving students appeared before a large door, the two lamenting at the loss of their friends, but vowing to stick together and move forward. Savos was unusually quiet, which put the fur on the back of my neck up, always a bad sign.

I am not sure what I expected, but I did not find it.

Two mages were kneeling before some sort of imprisoned creature sending beams of energy that were either entrapping or sustaining it. The voice, which I took to be the creature, laughed and revealed that the two mages were the survivors of Savos's little band, sacrificed by Savos himself to keep the creature entombed within Labyrinthian.

The two students were frozen in place above the haughty thing, but when I approached one he suddenly jumped up and charged at me, screaming nonsensically. It was either him or me. Nothing I could do prevented his friend from also attacking me and with their deaths the creature was free. Oddly, the last time I saw the spirits together there was a female student still alive, but she had evidently met her end before the chamber.
And a great deal less friendly than they had been. It might have been a man at one time, but now it was just floating bones wrapped in rotting clothes, wearing a metal mask with a slightly disapproving expression. The creature held a staff which looked similar to what I was told the Staff of Magnus looked like, making my next move abundantly clear. Again, it was either it or me.

The battle was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. The staff the creature held shot lightning magicka at me, but it was more draining than it was damaging. Had I been a mage from the College I would likely have been slaughtered, but I have not relied on spells in hundreds of years. Once I managed to corner the rotting thing it fell to my blade, screeching as its body dissolved into dust. Only the mask and the staff remained, so I took both with me and tried the door at the far end of the chamber.

It opened and I took a moment to rummage through an ancient chest sitting nearby. To my delight I found a Glass-backed bow, instantly dispelling any desire I had to continue using my crossbow.

As I exited the chamber I found myself being stared at by the spirit of Savos Aren. Ruefully staring through me at the door, he admitted to the trapped students that he was ashamed that he tricked the group into Labyrinthian, but that it was the only way to keep the Dragon Priest, Morokei, imprisoned. At last the voice had a name...and a title: Dragon Priest. Something to research later.

Rather anticlimactic was the arrival of a Thalmor agent as I was making my way towards what I hoped would be the exit.
After fighting a presumably undead priest of great power from ages ago, a sniveling Thalmor agent was far below the level I was prepared to handle. It really is not even worth writing about.
He had descended, appropriately, into an old midden behind the little chamber where he met his death. A wooden ladder led outside atop a small tower. The sky was clear and I estimated that it was just about midnight. Another all-day adventure under the ground.

Dismal Morthal held the closest inn, but I wanted to investigate the giant dome before leaving. I had a hunch it sat directly over the re-deceased dragon below. Sure enough, the inside hosted an altar dedicated towards dragons, the centerpiece being a large stone dragon's head. It was cracked and gradually falling off the altar and there were stone hoods set alongside either side of it, some of them missing.
Another decapitated skeleton completed the grim picture of the place. A wooden mask very similar to the metal one I won from the Dragon Priest lay next to it and a tattered journal nearby chronicled the complaints of a mercenary hired by whomever it had been to escort him or her to Labyrinthian. The journal states that the person placed the wooden mask on their face in front of the altar...then disappeared completely. Twice this was done before the person failed to return promptly and the writer swore he was leaving soon. Whether the mask wearer was killed by the mercenary or a troll, who knows?

I am sure if I had put the wooden mask on I would have found out where the person had been going, but I was in no state to make another trip. That will have to wait for another day.

The walk to Morthal was short and uneventful, which I am very thankful for. The room at the inn cost me ten Septims, though I think I would have been willing to pay one thousand given the events of the day. Tomorrow I will return to the College, if it is still standing, and cast the Thalmor "advisor" into the sea.

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