Monday, November 21, 2016

Skyrim Day 055 - In Memory of the Late King

10 Frostfall, 4E201

Waking up alone again was a great relief, a freedom from a burden I am not accustomed to carrying. What I am accustomed to carrying is a long list of tasks I have promised to resolve for people all over the province. One was the delivery of the late King's war horn to a shrine of Talos east of Whiterun, near the river.

While on my way out of Solitude I stopped at the local apothecary, bought some supplies, and added another task to my list: locate and return a ring said to posses an alchemy-enhancing enchantment. The alchemist, an old woman named Angeline, admitted she and her niece could use the ring's help with keeping their shop profitable. This surprised me, but I suppose having the East Empire Company housed in the city undercuts her business.

Angeline had already purchased the ring from a traveling mage of the College, the man having promised to send the ring to her after he returned to Windhelm. She received a letter a week later saying it would be on its way via a caravan, then...nothing. Her inquiries resulted in an apologetic letter clarifying that the road between Windhelm and Solitude was frequented by bandits, but he was not responsible for its loss. Her money, naturally, was not returned.

So I was to search a road spanning nearly the entire width of the province for bandits carrying a small enchanted ring. I agreed, it would give me something to do for the next few days, or so I thought.

I left Solitude and followed the unmistakable sound of hammer-strikes against an anvil and in this way "found" a not-so-hidden camp of Stormcloak rebels. They turned to me and I nearly fled right then, but one stood up and greeted me rather jovially, asking if I was from one of the caravans. I was not, but they still bought some gemstones from me and bade me return if I was in the area. Strange, for I expected hostility.

Stranger still was my encounter with an Imperial Legion patrol not more than two minutes later along the road, the sounds of the Stormcloaks' blacksmithing ringing clearly in our ears. The three Legionnaires were pointedly not hearing it and walked along the road, not more than a hundred yards from the rebels, without a concern. This "civil war" seems to have not yet started in full.

Dragon Bridge was fortunately free of live dragons and I made good time, passing Morthal before noon. Near Stonehills I ambushed a trio of dragon-mask cultists, announcing myself by slaying one of them outright. Their fire magicka was surprisingly weak and even what little resistance I had owing to my own experience with spells nullified much of their force. One of them had a note on his body that alluded to a cultist shrine somewhere in Labyrinthian, the ruin where I had been sent to retrieve the Staff of Magnus. Another thing to worry about now.

A Khajiit caravan came upon the remains of my little battle as I was rifling through the cultists' meager possessions and they politely pretended to not notice anything unusual as they marched by. Through with searching the bodies, I hailed their leader, Ri'saad, and asked about any rumors of bandits between Dawnstar and Winterhold, as I had not found any from Solitude onward.

Ri'saad told me of a group of bandits near the crossroads between Dawnstar and Windhelm who were occupying a cave near the road. The caravan had no issues passing by, but he had been warned of them before leaving Windhelm and they were known as a troublesome group. He felt certain that my ring would be found with them. In thanks I discounted my offers to him and we parted amicably. After I was a fair distance down the road I looked back to see them stripping the corpses of their clothing and mundanes. Anything for a Septim, I suppose.

Scouring the crossroad revealed a small cave on Windhelm's side, but inside were no bandits, just a dead vampire, a very live giant bear, and a Spriggan which managed to surprise me after successfully pretending to be a small tree. For whatever reason it only attacked after the bear was dead, so its ambush caused me no trouble. What I assume is Angeline's ring was in a half-frozen chest in the back of the cave, the only sign that the bandits had been there at all.

Coincidentally the shrine to Talos wound up being almost exactly due south of the former bandits' cave and I needed only walk along the road to Whiterun for an hour or so to reach it with nary a problem. Once I found the shrine I had only to kill two Thalmor agents sent to destroy it, take the horn out of my pack, and lay it reverently at the feet of Talos.
I returned to Whiterun, the  city I cannot seem to escape, and stopped at Warmaiden's to make use of their forge. My armor needed repair and I wanted to experiment (and probably ruin) with a steel sword I found to see if I could heat the blade enough to introduce silver into the metal, which is said to make weapons cut vampires and werewolves more effectively. After several attempts and a great deal of patience I think I managed it, but I shall see if Adrianne can examine it tomorrow, just to be sure.

After that the only thing left to do was aggravate Lydia with my presence at Breezehome, but while her facial expression did not change, her mood seemed to be a bit better. I wonder what occupies her here while I am away.
Labyrinthian is not terribly far from here, I think I will pay it another visit and see if I cannot figure out what the cultists are after.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Skyrim Day 054 - The Unhappiest Family Reunion

9 Frostfall, 4E201

If I had to choose between Lydia and Serana as my companion, I would be hard pressed to make a decision within the week. Lydia may wear an expression that suggests mucking out stables is preferably to traveling with me, but at least she is quiet about it. Serana complains about getting up too early, starting out too late, the sun being out, the sun not being out, and also refuses to follow me inside anything resembling a cave or a tomb. In favor to Lydia she seemed to enjoy bashing Draugr into pieces.

Due to our relationship we were both eager to be on our way out of Morthal at first light. We left the inn before the sun burned away the morning's cold fog and made our way towards Dragon Bridge. A dog was waiting for us between Morthal and Dragon Bridge, immediately reminding me of Barbas. I nearly slew the dog right then and there, but it ran a ways into the trees, stopped, and looked at us, evidently waiting for us to follow. He led us to a small cabin in which his master lay dead, the man's journal revealing that he left his home to die in solitude of Rockjoint, accompanied only by his dog.
It is ceratinly the oddest suicide I have witnessed, Rockjoint is easily curable at any Temple or alchemist. The dog continued to follow Serana and I until we reached Dragon Bridge, after which it rushed off towards a farm and likely its new home.

A Khajiit caravan was leaving Solitude as we approached, irritating Serana as I stopped to chat and trade with them. After that she was free to direct our path over the hills to a small dock on the coast which faced an imposing, if somewhat foggy and blurry, island castle in the distance.
Naturally it was up to me to man the oars. but once we landed on the island she broke her normal silence to discuss what would happen inside Volkihar Keep. Serana thanked me for accompanying here thus far and announced that she would be staying at the Keep once my business inside was concluded, which was not a surprise. She suggested I say as little as possible inside and rely on her to speak instead. I was not willing to concede to this advice from someone who has barely said anything to me within the last few days, so I shrugged and walked up to the gatehouse.

I was challenged by a haggard-looking guard, but his demeanor changed once he saw who I was with. In a voice I can reasonably described as 'suffused with awe', he babbled about how great it was to have Serana back and welcomed her, and her "friend", to the Keep.
The gate opened and a blast of warm air stinking of death and blood rushed out of it to greet us, causing me to retch. Inside was worse: Bodies lay upon long tables next to blood-filled silver goblets, with the bloody remains of previous feasts scattered about the floor. I was glad to have Serana talking in place of myself for fear of being a poor guest via vomiting all over the hall.

Her father, Lord Harkon, greeted us cordially and demanded to know if Serana still carried his Elder Scroll. If I had not been so nauseous I might have been surprised to hear she had an actual Elder Scroll. The reunion was not a happy one. Serana was obviously annoyed at the Scroll being inquired after before her well-being, but Harkon brushed her concern off with a laugh, instead asking who I was.
Serana introduced me as her "savior" and Lord Harkon explained that his late wife had stolen his "greatest treasure" from him long ago. One could think the treasure was Serana, but was obvious that the treasure is the Elder Scroll, not the daughter. He offered me a reward of dubious value: vampirism, in exchange for my having returned it.

But this was not to be an ordinary exchange of blood. Lord Harkon bade me to behold his true form and with a crackling of magicka transformed himself into what could be described as an incredibly ugly half-giant, half-bat form.
I have no desire to look like I live inside of a child's nightmare so I rejected his offer as politely as I could while mumbling as few words as possible, but he did not take offense. He explained that in gratitude for my service I would be allowed to leave, but would never be welcome in his Keep again. Another crackling of magicka and I found myself back on the castle's jetty, for once glad to be breathing the freezing sea air of Skyrim. I gratefully took a deep breath...then promptly lost my breakfast on the shore. Heroic.

Isran will need to know that Serana's Elder Scroll was the true treasure of Dimhollow Crypt, though I have a feeling that the ancient vampiress still has a part to play in whatever the future brings. My more immediate future after rowing back to the mainland involved a room at Solitude's 'Winking Skeever' inn, but not before I was ambushed by three of the mask-wearing Dragon cultists I met in Whiterun.

Fortunately it was dark by then and they were foolish enough to use fire magicka, making it easy for me to circle around the group and eliminate them one-by-one. Warriors these cultists are not.

I reached Solitude, in solitude, just before midnight and handed over my ten Septims for a room. I need to speak with Isran, but he is on the opposite side of the province. I also should speak with the Greybeards, as well as investigate this Dragon cult that seems to be stalking me. Then there is also the matter of the Dark Brotherhood assassins I seem to be plagued with.

The list goes on and on.