Friday, July 21, 2017

Skyrim Day 074 - Mystery's End

30 Frostfall, 4E201
Nightgate Inn

Katria's adventure is almost at an end and not a day too soon. Serana and I left Whiterun before the rest of the city woke (including Lydia) and continued yesterday's journey to Katria's third, unnamed, Dwemer ruin. She placed the ruin across the river north of Ivarstead, noting that it was the primary source of Aetherium.

We reached the river by mid-morning, but had some trouble finding a pass through the hillside. We stumbled upon a family of trolls in residence, the entrance of the cave splattered with blood, gore, and skeletal remains. Serana surprised me by suggesting that we venture inside to exterminate the trolls and waved aside my remark that it would require her to be underground again, though briefly.
Nestled at the far end of the trolls' home was a battered chest that probably belonged to whatever bandits inhabited the cave before the trolls chased them off or killed them. There was not much inside, but there was a pair of leather boots with an Illusion enchantment on it. Boots enchanted to make the wearer's footsteps quieter are popular among those who keep to the shadows, I am sure I will get a good price for them from the next Khajiit caravan I meet.

Leaving the cave we resumed our search for a path into the hills, presumably where the Dwemer ruin would most likely be. After half an hour we found the path nearly overrun with fallen rocks and opportunistic plants and had to spend more time clearing enough of it to climb up. A giant's camp was sitting right in front of us after we finally made our way on to the hill and we skirted around it hoping to avoid a battle.
The Giants must be able to sense vampirism somehow, for this one left his camp and lumbered after us as we passed, focusing specifically on Serana. They are not stealthy creatures, nor fast, and we easily outpaced it until the Giant lost patience and returned to his camp.

As if that was not trouble enough the Dwemer ruin was being guarded by zealots of the Silver Hand, a band of vigilantes supposedly dedicated against Werewolves, but my few experiences with them showed that they view a Khajiit as close enough to a Werewolf, but I have heard from others that they are no better than common bandits, so perhaps I should not feel their slight to be a personal one. I wonder if, in death, the ones at the ruin felt my slaying them to be personal as well.
Katria's unnamed Aetherium mine boasted an impressive exterior and inside, signs that the Silver Hand were not quite as stupid as they appeared.
The Silver Hand had been using one of the Dwemer's flame traps to cook their meals and I thought it clever, though it did bar the main hallway from being entered, as I could not find a way to disable it and had no desire to walk through a constant jet of fire. Serana and I had no choice but to proceed down a side passageway

We fought through a small encampment of bandits and came upon a second unnoticed.
They were camped beneath two Dwemer ballista, each loaded and glistening with oil dutifully applied thousands of years ago. Serana wanted to activate one to see if it would fire, so we crept up to the parapet and each manned a ballista. Mine fired, but the bolts broke with the force of the shot. Serana was slightly more lucky: hers fired, wildly missing the now-alarmed bandits. They sprang from their campsite and charged up the ramp towards us. It ended quickly.

The hallway beyond was trapped with two bladed rods that traveled back and forth, guaranteed to remove the feet of any invaders in too much of a hurry to be careful. Serana and I shuffled along the sides, barely avoiding the blades. I recall wondering if I would grow back my feet if I slipped. I am glad to have not found out.
The hallway ended at a functioning elevator which deposited us into another hallway guarded by the spinning blades. After carefully skirting the sides we founds ourselves in the middle of a Falmer "village", slowing our progress considerably as we stealthily eliminated the hideous creatures one by one.

Eventually we came to a large room with a pool of water on one side and gears all over the walls. The noise was tremendous, but we could not find a way out of the room other than back the way we came. I even suffered the near-freezing water thinking the door might have been hidden in the pool, but to no avail.
It was Serana who pointed out that many of the gears were jammed, greatly contributing to the clatter that bounced all around the room. She pulled a bone from one and it began spinning quickly and far more quietly. We split up and released the remaining gears, after which Serana happily pressed a button she found a pedestal set before the pool. She seems to be warming up to the concept of adventuring, though one would not judge this based on the quantity of her complaints.
With the gears spinning as they were supposed to, the button opened a hidden door at the end of the pool, releasing a massive Dwemer war-mechanical. My crossbow bolts did not seem to do much, but Serana's lightning magicka sent it tumbling, inert, into the water before it had made it even halfway across to us. Rather anticlimactic, but easy.

The metal warrior had been guarding a small staircase that led down to a small room with some sort of device in the middle of it.
Two gemstones were set into the center of the thing, one the size and shape of a large egg, the other a dish for something to be set on to. I had nothing to use with the thing and left it alone.

What I did find was the shimmering form of Katria staring longingly at the piece of Aetherium we were after.
She kept this speech short, exclaiming that it was the last piece we needed and that she would be waiting at the Forge. With that, she blinked out of existence. Serana commented on the possibility of passing on the Forge entirely, but I secretly want to see this thing for myself, so I told her I could not bear to keep Katria's spirit enthralled on this plane any longer than it needed to be.
An elevator adjoining the room led us back to the surface, by then well-enshrouded by the night. The Nightgate Inn was the closest accommodation and the walk was without incident.

Tomorrow the three of us shall see what this Dwemer Forge is capable of and of what use the Aetherium can be put to. I am mildly curious at best, but it looks to be at least somewhat on the way back to the Dawnguard, so it shall not be a wasted adventure.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Skyrim Day 073 - Unable to Let Go

29 Frostfall, 4E201

While in Morthal some time ago I was given a "secret" letter by Jarl Idgrod's housecarl, Gorm. When I spoke with him previously in the Hall he was full of praise for the visionary Jarl, but once I ran into him at the local Inn he had only derision and doubt for Idgrod. He believes her visions are distracting her from her duties as a Jarl, but are also dangerous to her well-being. Claiming he feared for her health, he gave me a sealed letter to deliver to an Imperial Legion Captain in Solitude. I thought little of it until this morning.
The Imperial Legion is based at Solitude in 'Castle Dour'. The fort is appropriately named, the commander of the Legion, General Tullius, was no more animated while I was wandering around Dour as he was at my would-be execution. The man seems incapable of mustering enthusiasm for much of anything.

But my business was not with the General, but with Captain Aldis. A helpful maid pointed me towards the basement where I found the Captain already drinking, guarding empty prison cells. He accepted my letter with resignation, stating he would add it to his growing collection. Gorm has been pestering the Captain about Idgrod for some time now and Aldis has a dim view of ousting a Jarl with Imperial loyalties during a civil war. He thanked me for making the trip and paid me twenty Septims, about what the effort was worth.

Leaving Solitude with Serana in tow, I checked my journal to see if there was any business pending between one side of Skyrim and the other that I could take care of while I made my way back to Fort Dawnguard. Unsurprisingly, there was something, but I had only written "Chk ruin Arknthmz, SE Mrkrth". Very helpful. By that, I only knew to look south-east of Markarth for some sort of ruin, likely Dwemer judging by the abbreviation. Serana had no objections to looking for this ruin, other than being back underground, so off we went towards Markarth.

On our way we came upon a small hunting lodge that appeared to be lived in, but no one was around. Serana suggested we search the place for supplies, but I felt we did not need to and chose to walk by peacefully.
My concern that we would be wandering the hills surrounding Markarth proved to be unfounded, thanks to the adventure of two enterprising children whom met us on the road.
The sales-child, Sond, offered to sell Serana and I some Dwemer scrap he and his unnamed friend had collected near a Dwemer bridge he said was far to the west. He offered to mark its location on my map for a few coins, an offer I considered charity on my part to accept.

Sond's directions brought us to a large ruin built into the hillside. Inside looked about the same as all the other Dwemer ruins do, they were not an artistically-focused people. She was curious to examine the mechanisms and disregarded my warning that many of them were traps. She admitted I was right to warn her after a trapdoor she was poking at suddenly sprang open and disgorged a mechanical spider guardian. It attacked her immediately, but she had no trouble in putting it to rest. She did show more caution around the Dwemer mechanicals after that though.

The entryway opened to a massive cavern which seem to exist in such numbers underneath Skyrim that it is a wonder the whole province does not simply collapse. Evidently this part of Skyrim was trying to do that, for as we stood about gazing around the entire place shook, sending chunks of rock plummeting from the ceiling and pieces of Dwemer architecture to crack and splinter.

I was unwilling to test Dagoth Ur's blessing against thousands of tons of rock, but figured a few more moments would not mean instant death, so we continued to on for a bit before we heard a woman's voice warning us to turn back. Thinking this was someone ahead who was injured, we pressed on, only to encounter the talking, shimmering remains of the adventurer Katria.

She was taking her after-death pretty hard, sourly asking us why we were still in the ruin. I thought it rude to ask her why she was too and Katria assumed we were at the ruin for the "treasure". After I explained that I could not remember why I had made a note to come at all she told me about the slim novel 'The Aetherium Wars', penned by her apprentice-turned-competitor, Taron Dreth.

Taron's novel propelled him to the dubious honor of being the "expert" on Dwemer forging technology, despite all of it originating from Katria'a notes and work. Attempting to usurp his title, she descended into the ruin I found her in, confident that she would find clues pointing to the hidden 'Aetherium Forge' the Dwemer used to craft their most powerful artifacts.

But it was not to be. Katria fell into a crevice after one of the cavern-shakes, falling to her death on to a lower level of the ruin. Her indignation was enough for her spirit to cling to this Plane, even if her new non-corporal existence made her goal impossible to reach. I convinced her that Serana and I were up to the task of recovering her body and her research, but she was only interested in the latter. If Serana had any objections she did not voice them.

We found Katria's body after several skirmishes with the Falmer, underneath where we came in. She directed us towards her journal, helpfully providing the full name of this ruin, 'Arkngthamz' and detailing its part in the long-lost Dwemer network of city-states in Skyrim. The ruin was one of five locations built to manage the Aetherium ore, one of them being the ruin alongside the hot springs where I found the metallic blue crescent. The other three were scattered about the province.
The journal also had a sketch of something Katria described as a 'tonal lock', but she assured me that she would explain that if I survived long enough to reach it. Very encouraging.

We did not encounter much between Katria's body and her 'tonal lock'.
The bodies strewn before it was ample warning, but Katria explained how it worked: Each of the devices mounted above the gate had to be struck in the correct order, else traps would activate. Katria had made a mistake and triggered an earthquake which caused her to fall to her death. The bodies before the gate looked to have met violent ends, so earthquakes were not the only defense it had.

Katria had managed to narrow the guesswork from five devices to three, guessing wrong on the order of the remaining two. Serana eagerly took up the task of flinging spells at the strange mechanisms, of course guessing wrong herself and unleashing a horde of Dwemer spiders upon us. Once we dealt with that she assaulted the locks in the correct order, unlocking the gate.

The much-coveted Aetherium fragment was on a small pedestal flanked by two chests, each containing useless baubles. Katria was staring longingly at the bright blue metal, but could do nothing but wait for me to catch up and place it into my pack. She guessed that there were other fragments around and I brightened her afterlife by revealing that "her" fragment was the second of mine.

She disappeared after that, swearing that we would meet again at the next fragment, so now I am in something of a quandary. I am expected at Fort Dawnguard, yet I would feel quite guilty about leaving Katria's spirit forever waiting for someone to recover the remaining shards. Serana had not opinion one way or another, surprisingly, so I decided to take some time to look for the rest of the Aetherium.

When we finally left the ruin it was just about light...the three of us having spent the entire night underground and now greeting the new day. The closest city was Markarth and Serana was not tired, so I elected to push on to the nearest of the locations marked in Katria's journal, north of Markarth along the river.
The third shard was not nearly as difficult to retrieve. The worst was walking from Arkngthamz to the small (and unusual) Dwemer shrine sitting on the shores of the river. On it was a Dwemer helm and blade, the shard serenely sitting behind them on a small display pedestal. How the bright blue metal escaped the notice of bandits, adventurers, and the opportunistic is a mystery.

Once I touched it Katria popped into view before me, grumpy for my having somehow gotten there first. The last shard looked to be north of Ivarstead and once again I set out across the plain, planning on passing Whiterun for a late evening arrival at Ivarstead.

As usual, my plan did not meet with fruition.
Another Dragon attacked us while we walked the plain, but the Dragon was smaller than the ones I have been seeing recently and not as aggressive either. It is a strange thing to write, but I had no trouble or apprehension fighting it. Serana just seemed glad to be doing anything above ground and awake and after the Dragon's death-fire died down we continued on to Whiterun. I keep "absorbing" these souls, but am I supposed to be using them for something? Can I? I do not know.
We reached Whiterun as the sun was setting, most of the townspeople at home occupied with their dinner. One woman who I have not seen before remarked that rumors told of a Khajiit Dragonborn, then wondered if such a combination was even possible. I stopped at the General store, sold some trinkets, and spoke with a weary-looking Dunmer mercenary. She called herself 'Jenassa' and offered her services for five hundred Septims, but I already have a dour companion, so I declined.

Arriving at Breezehome my dour companion met my dour housecarl. Both presented to the other an air of complete indifference, but I was far more concerned about my bed than my retinue. Tomorrow Serana and I will continue on towards Fort Dawnguard with a detour near Ivarstead for Katria. How Lydia occupies her days at Whiterun is her own business, though I cannot imagine she is displeased to have the house all to herself.