Friday, April 28, 2017

Skyrim Day 067 - From the Skies, Death

22 Frostfall, 4E201

Sorine Jurard was the remaining individual that Isran had asked me to find. A Breton, she was known to him as an inventor of some kind, he described her as being endlessly fascinated with mechanical things and was usually camping at one Dwemer ruin or another.

The last he had heard, she was seen in Markarth buying supplies for a trip into the hills north of the city. If there was a Dwemer ruin there, she would likely be found near or within it.
I used the trip as an opportunity to practice my Illusion magicka, using calming spells on the wildlife and quieting spells on myself when I wished to sneak by something instead. Despite being named the "Archmage" of Winterhold, my range of spells is quite narrow and not much used. I find that I simply do not require the use of it often. Besides, even calmed, a Sabre Cat is not a pleasant creature to walk near.
Unsurprisingly I found a Forsworn camp north of Markarth. With their leader no longer under the Silver-Blood family's thumb the strange bandits have grown more hostile and chaotic. Two attacked me with their wood-and-stone weapons, falling quickly. The melee failed to attract the attention of their brethren in the camp and I was able to sneak by without further trouble.

I came to one of the many meandering streams that run from the mountains and thought nothing of it other than to avoid the mudcrabs and avoid falling into the water.
But as I approached the water I noticed a shimmering between myself and the stream that I could not readily explain. The shimmering became more opaque and green as I drew closer, when suddenly it exploded into tendrils of angry light, flinging balls of energy at me.
I was not wholly unprepared, one of the balls careened off my shield, sending me staggering backwards as it sped towards the sky. Others followed and soon I was beset by four of these things, each trying its best to bludgeon me into submission.

They were similar to the energies that escaped at Winterhold while I was away searching for the 'Staff of Magnus'. The shimmering in the air was not familiar to me though and this is something I will have to return to the College in order to investigate further. If there are repercussions from the Eye of Magnus that we are not yet aware of they need to be dealt with as soon as possible, preferably by someone else, if I can have that hope. My sword-arm proved effective against the angry magicka and the shimmering thing disappeared once the last of its spawn did.

My quarry, Sorine Jurard, I found standing by...something that looked related to the Dwemer, but there was no true ruin around at all.
She greeted me, obviously distracted, not even asking why I was there to begin with. For all she knew then I could have been seeking her coins or her life, but she was too preoccupied with finding a satchel full of Dwemer gears that she had misplaced somewhere in the area. I had no interest in searching for her missing satchel and told her that Isran had sent me across the entire province just to find her.

Sorine was just as surprised as Gunmar to hear that her services were in demand. She said Isran had made it "exceedingly clear" that he was not interested in her help, implying quite a parting between him, Sorine, and Gunmar.

Much like Gunmar, Sorine demanded to know why Isran was having a change of heart and she was not surprised to hear of the newly awakened vampire menace. She told me that she had tried to explain to Isran three scenarios which would result in vampires overrunning the province, but he had not listened to her then. Again much like Gunmar, she appeared hesitant to help until I told her the vampires had an Elder Scroll, after which she was positively eager to start exploring this unforeseen event. Whatever got her walking back to Isran was good enough for me.
Of course I found her satchel of gears seconds after she left. A mud crab must have dragged it away from her, yet it was not more than twenty feet away...completely lost to Sorine. I wonder what help she could possibly be against vampires.

Rather than follow the foolish Breton back to Isran I proceeded around the hillside to make my way back across the opposite side. The tell-tale sounds of mining were echoing between the hills and I soon found a palisade encircling a mine of some kind. I figured the camp was for bandits or Forsworn, but I had stumbled upon another Orsimer Stronghold.
Though an outsider I would be welcome to trade so long as I did not step inside the gate...or so I thought. I approached, but instead of the cold greeting I expected I received the closest thing a Khajiit could get to a hero's welcome at an Orsimer camp. The resident wise-woman, Sharamph, declared me favorably marked by Malacath and I was hailed as Orsimer-friend, allowed inside to freely wander and mingle.

I spoke to Chief Larak, but he had little to say. I walked over to where Sharamph was mixing some concoction and opened my mouth to say...something, I forget what, when a roar from the mountains arrested everyone's attention.
The Dragon circled about harmlessly, giving every Orsimer time to don axe and bow before it chose to land at the gate. The entire tribe save for Sharamph rushed the beast, who took flight, sending streams of icy magicka down upon the angry Orsimer warriors.
Chief Larak fell at the first blast and I decided to join the fray lest more of them senselessly lost their lives. The Dragon chose to land near the gate again and I rushed it hoping to work the Dragon's great size against the confines of the hillside.
Between my Ebony blade and the remaining Orsimer, the Dragon was quickly weakened and overcome. The killing blow was mine, right between the eyes from atop its head. Daring, but I felt the Orsimer would appreciate such audacity in the wake of their Chief's death.
The way back to Solitude was quiet after that, almost unnaturally so. On a tiny island sitting amid a very small lake I found the remains of a Spriggan, long since dead, curled up against a tree trunk. Something about it unsettled me and I left quickly and walked the rest of the way to Solitude much faster.
I reached Solitude as the sun was beginning to set, the guards claiming that the Dragon and Vampire attacks were growing more frequent, heralding the end of the world. At least their end will come outside. To this day I have nightmares born from uncertain memories, being trapped underground in endless tunnels flowing with lava while a man in a golden mask stalks me. Dagoth Ur probably, but I cannot remember anything certain from my time then.

I suppose I should make for Winterhold College tomorrow. Sorine will likely take a few days to meet up with Isran, so I shall have to find something else to be bothered with or perhaps nothing if I can remember how to even do that anymore.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Skyrim Day 066 - Bearly A Problem

21 Frostfall, 4E201

My task today was to find Gunmar, the man Isran said he would need to rebuild his Dawnguard. From what Isran said Gunmar used to be a successful bounty-hunter before he retired to tracking animals instead of people. Gunmar had been experimenting with taming some of Skyrim's more dangerous beasts before he and Isran parted and succeeded with trolls, at least according to Isran. I find the idea of "tame" troll to be unbelievable.

As I exited the chief's longhouse I saw that a horse was waiting by itself in the courtyard. Orsimer do not usually ride and it was not at the camp yesterday. Atub did not know how it came to be there and speculated that it wandered in overnight.
The problem with finding Gunmar was that Isran could not tell me where to start looking. The only thing he said was that Gunmar had last been seen in Morthal, though for what purpose he did not say. So it was to Morthal I was heading from the very south of the province.

Walking half the height of Skyrim proved to be rather boring. I was hailed by a group of drunken revelers along the side of the road, then ineffectively robbed by a Dunmer thief who reconsidered her chances and fled. I was attacked by a necromancer, but she and her skeletons were no match for me. On her body I found an unsigned letter demanding that the death of 'Malyn Varen', the Dunmer who trapped himself inside Azura's Star, would be avenged. I wonder who would care about his death. Nelacar perhaps.

I came upon another horse along the road, saddled but without an obvious rider. It seemed content to wait by the road and I do not ride, so I left the horse to whatever fate it chose.
Jonna at the Moorside Inn in Morthal had spoken to Gunmar two days prior about a contract requiring the elimination of a bear den to the south, along the river. She suggested I search the hills and caverns, he would either be there or in her Inn, drinking, which he clearly was not.

Gunmar had been after a bear, so I guessed that my chance of finding him would be best near a river or stream. I left the road near a bridge and continued along the river, stopping when I heard the roar of a Dragon above me. I turned towards the sound, prepared for a fight...but the Dragon took no notice of me and flew away.
I followed a small creek emptying from the hills into the river and was dismayed to find the body of a Khajiit at the source.
His body showed many claw marks and I thought I had found Gunmar's bear before he did. As I continued to search the area however I was approached by a Nord also sneaking about. Bandits do not typically announce themselves, so I asked the man's business.

The man was Gunmar himself, on the hunt for a family of bears who were being just as much a nuisance for the area's farmers as they had been for the unfortunate Khajiit. When I told him Isran had sent me to request his help he simply laughed, saying that Isran told him years ago that he needed no one's help. He asked what could have possibly happened to prompt Isran to seek assistance.

What happened was a family of vampires with a well-fortified castle coming into possession of what could be a genuine Elder Scroll. This was reason enough for him to reconsider his involvement with Isran and after a moment he agreed to meet with him if I helped track the family of bears.

We found the bears in a cavern underneath the creek's little waterfall. There were four of them and two of us, but we had no difficulty in slaying the bears. Gunmar started skinning the creatures and I reminded him of his new obligation to Isran, for I was not returning with him. He assured me that he would start towards Isran's "personal fortress", as he said, as soon as he received payment for his bounty. I had no interest in bear skins, so I left and returned to Morthal.

The aftermath of a battle littered the streets upon my arrival.
Black hounds lay where they fell, their hewn silver collars familiar to me from an encounter with the creatures some time ago. One of the guards remarked that two vampires had suddenly appeared with a pack of the dogs, setting themselves upon guards and townspeople alike. Those who live in Morthal are a hearty sort however and the invasion was beaten with no loss to the city.

The guards were pleased to claim the solid silver collars.

Tomorrow I will talk with Sorine Jurard, if I can find her. Isran suggested I look in the hills surrounding Karthwasten, the mining village I had hoped contained an Inn. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Skyrim Day 065 - The Cowardly Chief

20 Frostfall, 4E201
Largashbur, Orsimer Stronghold

Sleeping at Dawnguard proved to be an eerie, but restful experience. The castle is so large, yet isolated and almost entirely empty. The quiet borders on unnatural and being there makes me feel slightly uneasy, like I am in a dream I cannot wake out of. The castle is larger than any of the others in Skyrim, yet it serves only as a partially-abandoned headquarters for an almost-lost Order. It is surreal and out-of-place and I do not like staying there, though I cannot object to their mission.

Seeking to ground my feet, I decided against the north road out of Riften and chose to take the longer road spanning the width of the province along the hills separating the province from Cyrodiil. The morning was peaceful and I passed several patrols of surly Riften guardsmen, ignoring their insults and suggestions as I walked by.
After I had walked far enough down the road for the city's patrols to no longer be a bother I was stopped by a group of Imperial soldiers...or so they would have had me believe. They were three, an Orsimer, a Dunmer, and a Redguard, with the Orsimer leading them, or at least in charge of making the demands. He insisted that I pay a "fine" to fund the Imperial Legion, but I pointed out that the three nearly-naked bodies inadequately hidden along the side of the road marked them for bandits instead of toll-takers.
The Orsimer had a finely-crafted two-handed battle-ax, no doubt heavy and honed enough to cut me right in two with a single blow. But landing that blow proved difficult for him and he fell to a slit through, my small dagger proving far more effective than his giant ax. His comrades took no part in our duel, choosing instead to keep their distance while they nervously watched the Orsimer die. I thought they would flee, but together they halfheartedly charged me and gave so little a challenge as to be literally unremarkable for this journal.

I stayed off the road and passed the ruins of where I found the hagraven mother and her would-be hagraven daughter Illia, whom I saved from a horrible fate. I could not see if anyone was still at the tower and I passed by without investigation.

A minute or so away was a camp build behind a palisade. I thought it another group of bandits, but then I saw a robed figure standing at the opened gate, looking at me. Orsimer, all of them with sword and shield, rushed up to the wall, rather pointlessly, as none of them had bows, and I realized I had stumbled upon one of the four so-called 'Strongholds' of Skyrim's Orsimer tribes.
The Orsimer at the gate beckoned me and I thought she was going to inquire about trading for supplies. The Strongholds are notoriously difficult for outsiders to approach and I suspect three of their dead just outside the wall led them to be a bit more accepting than the others. She introduced herself as 'Atub', the tribe's sorceress.

Atub claimed that her tribe was cursed and requested that I return to her with a bowl of troll fat and a Daedra's heart. I happened to have both, the fat from a troll I could not recall and the heart courtesy of Mehrune Dagon's shrine. Atub was pleased to have her ingredients unexpectedly arrive right in front of her and asked that I follow her into the camp as her guest so that I could witness her ritual. She led me to a crude altar in the middle of the courtyard and asked me to wait for her to summon the head of the tribe.

She entered the largest of the buildings and returned a moment later with a fully armed, entirely sullen Orsimer who demanded I show him, 'Chief Yamarz', respect. I was about to do no such thing, but Atub diffused the situation before he did something foolish.
With the troll fat placed into a bowl and the Daedra's heart upon the altar, Atub raised her hands and beseeched Malacath for his favor. She received the Daedric Prince, but not his favor. Malacath derided Yamarz for his weakness and said that his tribe would not be under the near-constant assault of Giants were it not for his cowardice. Malacath would help, but only after the Chief traveled to a cavern known to the tribe to be lived in by a tribe of Giants. Once Yamarz returned to the Stronghold with the club wielded by the largest of the Giants there, Malacath would lift the curse...the specific nature of which I could not discern.

Atub was satisfied by this, but Yamarz was not. He complained that my interference in his issues meant he had to go fight a Giant now. That he did not relish the battle was a surprise, but an Orsimer who will not fight is an oddity and certainly not a long-lived one.

Yamarz demanded that I follow him to the cave to ensure he got there at all and assured me that he would pay me for my time. I agreed, if only to see how this odd story was going to end.

He gave me directions to 'Fallowstone Cave' and told me to meet him there. With that he lumbered off in his bulky Orsimer armor. Atub wished me well and with that I was off to Fallowstone Cave, just north-east of Riften if I understood Yamarz's directions correctly.

I could not see where Yamarz had run off to, so I proceeded at my own pace back along the road towards Riften. I found the cave without much difficulty: all I had to do was follow the trail of dead bears until I reached Yamarz at the end of it.
The outside of the Giants' cave had similar markings to their camps, mostly swirls and dots, some bones here and there. The inside of Fallowstone Cave was unremarkable save for its inhabitants, all of whom were too slow to pose a threat.

Yamarz seemed to know where he was going so I was content to follow his lead. When the cavern gave way to a clearing he motioned me forward, pointing at a giant wandering before a shrine to Malacath.
If he were any other Orsimer I would have expected him to charge the Giant immediately, but Yamarz had a different idea: for another one hundred Septims I would slay the Giant and he would get the credit. I considered telling him that Malacath would not take such a transgression lightly, but I did not, certain that he would dismiss that concern anyway. I accepted his offer and strode forward to engage the Giant in hand-to-club combat.

I have no arguments against the Giants and no reason to wantonly wander around killing them. I will admit I felt a little guilty as I marched up to the Giant as it placidly stared at me. The guilt did not last long. When I approached to what was about four of my body lengths (two for him?) he lifted his club, took one massive step towards me, and swung, opening our melee.

I ducked, the effect being what I would imagine a tree passing over my head to be. The Giant fought like a larger type of Orsimer, only somehow stupider and slower. Each swing of his club left the Giant open for several seconds while he recovered his weapon and I used the time to slash at his legs, bringing the unfortunate creature to its knees at which point I was able to drive my blade through its throat, bringing a great gout of blood and one rapidly dying Giant.

Yamarz had watched the battle from a safe distance and when the Giant was dead he approached, begrudgingly offering his congratulations before announcing that he would now kill me to prevent the tribe from finding out he had not killed the Giant himself.

So very stupid. The Orsimer was a coward and clearly had always been. He had very little combat experience and against me had no chance at all, even with his fine equipment. He died as he lived: fleeing. I wound up having to leap on his back before I could bury my dagger below the lip of his helmet. Nothing on his body was of much value to me.

I spent a few moments wondering how to return to the Orsimer Stronghold when Malacath's voice started to boom from his forgotten shrine. He dismissed Yamarz and his pitiful dead right away, saying the Orsimer had always been a coward and a schemer instead of a warrior. I, Khajiit though I am, had proven myself. Malacath asked that I bring a weapon he called 'Shargrol's Hammer' back to the tribe. The 'Hammer' was simply an Orsimer war-hammer sitting at the base of Malacath's statue and taking it with me meant leaving behind the two-handed Ebony greatsword I was planning on displaying at one of my homes. Disappointing.

If the Giants remaining at Fallowstone Cave were aware something was amiss they did not let on about it. The two I ran by just stared at me mournfully.
Atub was not surprised to see me return alone. Malacath demands strength and courage from his people, she said, and Chief Yamarz had little of either. When I confessed to killing him myself she laughed and declared it a just fate. Apparently the late Chief was the curse, not the one who was cursed.

As for 'Shargrol's Hammer', Atub asked me to place it on the moose skull that adorned their makeshift altar. I did not think it would take the weight of the war-hammer, but it held, somehow. A flash of light exploded from the skull and Malacath spoke again, naming me (a Khajiit!) as Champion of the Largashbur tribe. Being the Champion did not make me Chief, but Atub felt a warrior, Gularzob, would make a fine Chief. She left to deliver him the news and as for me, I had Malacath's mighty war-hammer, Volendrung, the 'Hammer of Might', to claim...if I had been able to lift it. If I somehow managed to remove it from its pedestal it would have undoubtedly crashed on to my head with grievous results. I left it at the tribe's altar, perhaps they shall find better luck with it there.
As the Champion I am entitled to my rewards: a bed of straw. It still rates far higher than the Silver-Blood Inn. I have yet to begin Isran's task, but there should be enough time tomorrow to meet with one of his people.