Friday, December 23, 2016

Skyrim Day 057 - Howling Mad

12 Frostfall, 4E201

My return to east Skyrim began in earnest and ended with no progress having been made aside from thwarting the plan of an undead heir to the Septim line.

I woke early in the cold, empty manor I now call home and walked outside to find something aflame to warm myself next to. Though it was still early there was a terrific racket coming from the Bard's College next door. Curious, I tested the front door and found it to be unlocked. Inside an Altmer introduced himself as Viarmo and asked if I wished to become a bard. I did not and informed him of my recent purchase of the adjacent manor. He wished me well and invited me to explore his College at my leisure, a freedom Khajiit are rarely given.

But I was not there to swipe the plates. Instead, I followed the sound of terrible singing and walked in on a class led by an old woman whose lute-playing accompanied her singing. One of the classroom's hopefuls whispered to me that she was known as 'Inge Six Fingers', a name meant to invoke skill rather than mutilation.
I observed the lesson for a few minutes, retreating once one of the students was called up to demonstrate his singing prowess. I would sooner face a Dragon than be sit through that man's warbling.

Mentally tracing the route I would be taking to Dawnstar, I walked right by a courier trying to hail me. The man ran back in front of me, pointedly brandishing a scroll in my face to catch my attention. I was a bit taken aback by his attitude, but the message was from Falk Firebeard and I was apparently the courier's first mark of the day, so he was in a hurry.

The scroll was short on details, Falk only willing to explain that there were rumors surrounding my activity at Wolfskull Cave a month ago. He had sent me there to investigate a gathering of mages that had moved in, only for me to stumble into a summoning of the ancient Queen Potema, the "Wolf Queen" of Solitude.

From what I remember she led a rebellion to ensure her son, who would become Uriel Septim III, sat on the throne, only for him to die ignominiously some years later at the hands and torches of a mob. Perhaps Potema had something to do with that as well. Whatever the case, the necromancers had been trying to bind her spirit of themselves, I suppose, so that she could lead Skyrim into a new golden age.

All this is just a guess, I do not know why they really wanted Potema back, but I had thought interrupting the summoning had spelled an end to her meddling. Unfortunately it merely released her spirit into Skyrim and though without a body she has been able to personally direct her tiny cult, causing many problems for the city of Solitude.

A local priest named 'Styrr', follower of Arkay, had been granted the ability to sense Potema's spirit, alerting Falk to her existence. Fearing the Jarl's exuberance in resolving matters, he instead sent for me, a Khajiit much too old to remember what exuberance felt like.
I found Styrr in his Temple musing and muttering at the fire and it took several minutes of trying to politely attract his attention before I gave him and smacked my shield against the stone wall. Awakened out of his mental fog, he introduced himself, asking if I was the mercenary Falk had recommended to him. I cannot say I consider myself a mercenary, but the man seemed to be easily confused, so I told him I was.

Without prompting he started to give me the entire history on the former Queen, musing that if she did return to "life" she would have a legitimate claim to the Imperial throne, an outcome which he described as being the worst possible fate to befall Tamriel. Arkay's gift to his faithful allowed Styrr to sense Potema's spirit, though not to do anything about her. According to him she had fled from Wolfskull Cave to the catacomb underneath Solitude's temple. One of Potema's followers broke into the temple a few days ago and managed to knock door a portion of the temple's wall that had been blocking up a forgotten passage into the catacombs below. My task was to enter the catacombs, retrieve Potema's physical remains, and bring them back to Styrr so that Arkay could divinely cleanse them of their spiritual taint.

Despite the Temple's damage it was still open to the faithful, the breach in the wall visible to anyone wishing to pray at the Eight Divines' altars.
The catacomb was nothing special, typical brickwork and arches surrounding forgotten crates and rotting sacks. A glance inside some of the containers suggested that the catacomb of the Temple may have been a storehouse for Solitude long ago, but today no one could spare the effort required to clean up any of it.

Reaching a metal gate I was startled, but not much surprised, by a woman's voice echoing from somewhere deeper inside. That was no longer a new trick by me, nor was Potema's bragging that my death would net her an excellent slave. Having encountered no one else up to that point, I thought myself alone with the chatty spirit, but I eventually intruded upon her cult, mostly vampires and some Draugr. Nothing very difficult.

Past a small pond (underneath the Temple?) I came upon a set of three portcullises controlled by three levers in front of them. Pulling one lever would close or open a gate, while performing the opposite action against the other two. It did not take long to devise the correct combination of positions to open all three gates.
They led to a chamber with a Draugr positioned on a throne, but I had seen this trick before. As soon as I walked past it the Draugr would "wake" and attack me. On a hunch, I took a vial of weak, useless poison and threw it into the room. The crash alerted the Draugr, who slowly rose from his throne while looking around for something to kill, as well as a young Breton who rushed in from the other door, yelling bravely that such tricks were not enough to save my life. A crossbow bolt put an end to his. The Draugr was strong, but clumsy as all his kind are.
The rash Breton had a key on him which unlocked an ornate stone door which he had been guarding, beyond which lay a grisly collection of Draugr all heaped together in front of an engraving of the Wolf Queen, clad in wolf-skins and holding what were either small trees or dead wolves in each hand.
As I was trying to decided which the objects were, Potema's voice echoed through the catacomb, goading me to continue on towards her, so that I might serve her eternally in death. With that, four of the piled-up Draugr became reanimated, but I lopped off two of their heads before they were on their feet and the other two were very weak and poorly armed.

Potema herself made what appearance she could in the next room. her interrupted summoning limiting her to a glowing, vaguely woman-shaped, collection of energy floating about the ceiling. Tendrils of magicka licked the walls and coffins of the room and I steeled myself for a great battle.
Her voice mocked me, claiming she would enjoy watching me fall at the hands of her trusted advisors, whom I assume were the Draugr she called forth from the coffins. There were many of them, three waves in fact, but Potema made the mistake of not summoning them all at once. Rather she was content to watch five or six at a time die singly at the doorway, as I was not fool enough to enter and risk be surrounded.

After all the Draugr had been defeated, Potema's spirit shrieked and flew through the closed door at the end of the chamber. I followed, finding a more distinguishable Potema waiting for me upon a throne.
Jumping up, she charged down the stairway, but her magicka was weak and spirits hold much less strength than they seem to believe they do. Once she had been banished, again, I approached the throne expecting a skeleton, but found only a skull with a circlet, I  threw that into my pack and looked for the back-exit that the Nords liked to build in their ruins.
The exit must have been a secret sally port long ago, for it led me well outside the city, on a cliff-side overlooking the bay. They must have relied on ropes or ladders to get down, but having neither, I could only slide down the icy mountainside and hope for the best. Fortunately I managed to avoid injuring myself.

Styrr was pleased at my quick return and took eagerly took Potema's skull to be purified. He advised that I returned to Falk Firebeard to let him know of our success while he prepared the rituals required to put the ancient would-be Queen to her final rest.

Falk ruefully admitted that he should have paid more attention to the the warnings that came from Dragon Bridge before all this started and declared me the "Protector of Solitude", a title that came with fifteen hundred Septims and a painted wooden shield from the city's armory.

Having averted yet another grisly disaster upon Tamriel, I retired to my new home and very welcoming bed. Tomorrow I shall yet again try to make it to Dawnguard.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Skyrim Day 056 - Time Travel & Real Estate

11 Frostfall, 4E201

When Savos and his fellow students explored Labyrinthian they uncovered more than they had hoped for. One by one, the inexperienced students fell to traps or creatures, until just Savos and two others were left. In Labyrinthian's final chamber they encountered the Dragon Priest Morokei, a creature which I suspect is tied to the Dragon cult that keeps assaulting me, though how exactly I cannot yet say.

The only thing that remained of Morokei after its defeat was a stern-looking metal mask that served as the thing's face. It matched a wooden mask I found in a small dome above Labyrinthian, but I recall not paying the masks much attention then.

The place was still infested with trolls, but my new silvered blade, due to Adrianne's attention this morning, cut through them effortlessly. She was eager to accept the carved blade I had found a week or so ago in exchange for a little work in finishing my weapon, which suited me just fine.
The dome where I had found the wooden mask (which stays warm in any weather) was still there, of course and just as run-down as the first time I had seen it.
The headless skeleton was still there, as well as the scraps of parchment the man's mercenaries had been using for their journal. A particular passage, which I either failed to notice the first time or have simply forgotten, caught my eye: their employer had a wooden mask, the one I found next to the corpse, and upon placing it on his face while inside the dome, he vanished instantly. Judging by the decapitated skeleton at my feet he eventually came back, so I guessed it was safe to try it myself so long as I left no irate mercenaries behind.

I pressed the mask to my face and everything went white for a moment. When my vision cleared, I was still in the same place, but apparently at a very different time.
I may have been in a more prosperous time for Labyrinthian, but it was not a busier time. The ruin was still abandoned and utterly silent. The restored altar had eight small statues of a hooded figure, the robe just large enough to fit the wooden mask. I tried fitting it on each of the statues. but could discover no way to make it stay. On a hunch I pulled out the metal mask I had taken off of Morokei's remains and tried the same thing. The mask snapped on to one of the statues with such force that it almost took my fingers off.
That left seven statues unadorned with no clue as to where their masks were. At least I know where to go if I find any more. Placing the wooden mask back on to my face sent me to the frozen ruin I was more familiar with and I left Labyrinthian for Solitude so that I could tell Elisif that her husband's horn was safely at the feet of Talos.

I decided to pass through Morthal and its swamp to shorten my walk to Solitude. While sloshing through the marsh I came upon an empty campsite nestled alongside a large Nordic ruin I had ignored while I was in the marsh collecting Deathbells. The requisite left-behind journal briefly chronicled the efforts of one Daynas Valen to acquire an amulet that was said to be inside. Interestingly, the Daynas admitted to murdering a merchant in Bravil in order to steal the Dragon Claw key (Ivory, this time) required to breach the lowest level of the ruin. I never thought about the possibility that some of these Claws would find their way out of Skyrim.

Enroute from Cyrodiil, he recruited two adventurers to assist with the expected Draugr and mechanical traps, then burned all his possessions (except his journal!) before he led his small band inside.
There is not much to say about what I found inside. Two dead adventurers, of course, and a bunch of Draugr. Daynas had not made it much further than his companions and still had the cumbersome Dragon Claw key on his body. Next to his corpse was a second journal, this one explaining what the amulet he sought was, something called the Gauldur Amulet. He had gone through the trouble to write down the entire history of an ancient family of mages whose elder fathered three sons. The sons murdered the father, Gauldur, so that they would have the amulet, then ravaged the surrounding countryside for no discernible reason.

A local noble dispatched warriors and mages to track down the sons and end them, each being isolated and followed to remote corners of Skyrim. The eldest, Jyrick, was the ancient Draugr Tolfdir and I had fought in front of the Eye of Magnus and the youngest son, Mikrul, was entombed in the ruin Daynas had hopefully invaded. The middle son, Sigdis, fell near Ivarstead.

Each of the sons had a fragment of their father's amulet, the three together would produce what I can only assume would be an item potent enough to be worth all the trouble they went through.
After a few more Draugr I almost had the opportunity to ask Mikrul himself about his amulet, but he burst from his coffin in a decidedly hostile manner which led to me to believe stabbing him in the back, much as he did to his father, was a healthier decision.
Gauldur's youngest proved to be a perceptive, if weak, opponent. Undead though he was, my attempt to sneak up on him was foiled, only for him to fall rather effortlessly to my blade. His cohorts were simple Draugr armed with bows so old that I could probably have caught their arrows if I wanted to waste my time. On Mikrul's body was a scroll with a similar condemnation as his brother's had and his fragment of the amulet, which his condemners had not saw fit to separate him from.
Past Mikrul's resting place was a portcullis opened with the Claw with a wall of ancient words behind it. Standing before it allowed me to learn the word for 'cold': krah, a very useful thing to know here in Skyrim. The expected secret exit was quite clever this time, using an empty Draugr coffin leaning against the door to disguise it.

My curiosity satiated for the moment, I left the ruin and completed my trip back to Solitude. I needed to deliver the Ring of Pure Mixtures to the old alchemist and inform Jarl Elisif of the completion of her task.

However, I had made a mistake. I had thought the name of the alchemist in Solitude to be Frida, but she was Angeline of 'Angeline's Aromatics'. Bemused, Angeline politely informed me that Frida was a bit younger and far to the east, in Dawnstar. I thanked her and left feeling a bit foolish.

But Jarl Elisif was certainly in Solitude, no mistake there. Though the day was crawling into the evening the Blue Palace was still seeing visitors and as I entered the court I heard the Jarl discussing an idea with her steward to have the Legion parade around the town to bolster the peoples' morale. The steward gently replied that a parade would be seen as inciting the Stormcloaks and Elisif agreed, sounding disappointed.
Her reaction to my return was...unexpected. After I told her that Torygg's horn was safely at the feet of Talos, she clapped her hands (once) and announced that such a deed was worthy of a Thane...but she hoped I would settle on being able to purchase a home in Solitude at discount, instead. She then called her steward over to tell him that I would be buying 'Proudspire Manor' at the reduced price of twenty-five thousand Septims.

It was an embarrassing situation for myself and the Steward, Falk Firebeard. He pulled me aside as Elisif became distracted with someone new entering the room and told me that I was under no actual obligation to buy anything if I did not wish to, or could not.

But I thought the idea was a good one. I have been traveling between Whiterun, where I have a home, and Solitude, where I do not, regularly as of late. The price was steep, even if it was reduced, but my various adventures over the past two months have brought great, and largely useless, wealth. What is the point of money if it cannot be spent? There are just over forty-thousand Septims hidden about Breezehome in five-hundred Septim ingots, a ploy made possible by living next door to a smelter.

So why not buy Proudspire? I gave Falk the one thousand Septims I was carrying with me and signed a document as Thane of Whiterun promising payment of the remainder. Rank occasionally has its privileges. An additional six thousand Septims purchased living accommodations for several rooms, much in the same way as Breezehome.

With key in pocket, I thanked the Jarl and her Steward and left to examine my new home. Arriving in front of it, I was just in time to witness a guardsman run a vampire through with his blade, right on my doorstep. A lovely welcoming, but also a sign of the growing vampire problem I am supposed to be helping fight against.
The manor is squeezed in-between a school for bards and another house, but has more rooms than Whiterun has buildings. I am not sure what to do with the place, but it is nice to be sleeping in a bed free of louses. I should start to make my way back to the Dawnguard's fortress and stop at Dawnstar to see Frida about her ring. I have also to find the last piece of Mehrune's accursed dagger, but I do not feel that is a high priority.

I will start on my journey back to the east tomorrow, perhaps even chance a visit to Windhelm.