Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Skyrim Day 077 - Turned Around Underground

2 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

Serana woke me up impatiently an hour or so before dawn. She had not slept, as usual, and was eager to complete our task at Alftand so that we could return to her family's castle. Her hope was that she would be able to speak with her mother, but Alftand is an hour or so away and Volkihar Keep is on the other side of the province.

Alftand was just as I left it: frozen, broken, and empty.
Inside, the strange device which perplexed me during my initial visit showed itself to be the gateway to Blackreach. Inserting Septimus's Dwemer sphere into the device caused the floor around it to collapse, revealing a stairway that led to an elevator into the strange underground cavern of Blackreach. It was unlike anything I have ever seen in Skyrim, though fragments of memories from Morrowind surfaced among the giant glowing mushrooms of Blackreach.
Blackreach was home to a few Falmer and Chaurus that had managed to accidentally trigger whatever method of transportation sent them, plus one Giant whose very existence in Blackreach may be the most baffling mystery I have yet encountered in my very long life. Surprisingly, Blackreach contained almost no Dwemer guardians save for one of the ten-foot tall mechanical soldiers.
Serana wanted to leave it be but I was unwilling to leave the thing at our backs so long as we were unaware of its trigger. She agreed with my logic. The battle was a short one, the trick is to find which part of the thing is leaking the most oil, then hack away at it. 

A bit further on we came upon a small building which had served as the late Sinderion's campsite. Sinderion was an alchemist of some skill who developed an obsession with nirnroot. This obsession grew worse when an adventurer from Skyrim sold him a red nirnroot...a thing I had not previously heard of. The adventurer told Sinderion that the red (crimson, according to him) nirnroot had come from the caverns of Blackreach and likely only the caverns of Blackreach.

Sinderion relocated himself to Skyrim, then into Blackreach. From the arrow sticking in his skeleton's rib-cage, I presume he was wounded by a Dwemer mechanical, retreated to his workshop, then, surrounded by enough ingredients to craft something helpful, died. His journal was dated with the year as well, marking it as just over one hundred and fifty years old.
I had no time for crimson nirnroot and no care, but Serana's was curious to have heard of something new since before her one thousand year nap. We agreed to split up, her after the nirnroot, me after the device required to transcribe the Elder Scroll. We would meet back at the workshop in three hours.

There was a giant globe of hazy light suspended from one corner of Blackreach and I thought to look there first for the entrance (an elevator, I assumed) to Mzark Tower, where Septimus assured me I would find what I needed to help him.
The globe served as a Dwemer-built sun for a small, walled Dwemer village mostly inhabited by Falmer and...for some reason, Nords. They were clothed raggedly and cheaply, but each attacked me on sight. Were they willing servants of the Falmer? Slaves of some kind? I shall never know.
As agreed, Serana and I rejoined at Sinderion's workshop. His journal had called for thirty samples of the red nirnroot, but Serana had only twenty. She may return on her own when this is all over. Together we found the elevator for Mzark Tower and gratefully ascended. I do not know about her, but Khajiit are not made for long spells underground. 

Mzark was only two rooms: the one containing the elevator and the much larger one with a device that looked similar to the Dwemer observatory I visited a month or so ago.
Serana and I figured out how to start the machine: a small cup held Septimus's Dwemer cube. Placing the cube in the cup unlocked two of the five buttons, one rotated the machine from and towards us, the other side to side. With no clue as to what we were doing, we took turns pressing the buttons until we managed to reach some sort of pattern which unlocked two more buttons.

Again, we entertained ourselves pressing buttons randomly until the whole machine shuddered and a Dwemer mechanical arm holding a large tube descended from the ceiling.

Much to my surprise the tube contained an Elder Scroll...or something resembling one. The Dwemer cube was also changed: engravings dotted the formerly-smooth surface, though I could not tell when that work had been done. All of this has been very confusing.

With the Scroll and engraved cube in our possession we had to walk back to the elevator shaft we used to enter Blackreach and found ourselves, after what felt like a very long day, back on to the frozen surface of Skyrim.
Rather than force myself to walk back to the College I will be borrowing the still-burning campfire outside of the ruin to warm up one of the tents before settling in for what is a well-deserved, if rather cold, rest. I have nearly forgotten what I had set out to accomplish today, but I believe I have done it nonetheless.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Skyrim Day 076 - Winter Hideaway

1 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

Fort Dawnguard does not advertise itself as comfortable for the waylaid traveler from the outside and does nothing to change this once you enter. Dexion finished the reading of Serana's scroll at around two in the morning, but within the entire fortress there was no free quarters for Serana and I, so it was right back out the gate for us in pursuit of the remaining two scrolls, dubbed 'Dragon' and 'Blood'. Not the first night I have gone without sleep, but I would rather not make a habit of this.

Fortunately for me the only lead we had for the 'Dragon' scroll was that Urag, the College's irascible Orsimer librarian, might know where to start looking. The alternative was to start the search for the 'Blood' scroll, requiring a trip across the entire province to a castle garrisoned by vampires. Finding the 'Dragon' scroll first was fine by me.

Almost immediately upon exiting the little canyon which housed the Dawnguard Serana and I were set upon by a group of vampires, one powerful enough to match Serana's magicka, but once I finished dispatching the weaker assailants the leader fell to a combination of vampire magicka and Khajiit swordsmanship. Disappointingly, none had anything of value.

The night gave way to an overcast, hazy morning as we left the sparse pine forest and entered the sulfuric hot springs separating Riften from Windhelm. An assassin from the Dark Brotherhood sprang out from beside the road, wisely cloaked with an Invisbility potion or spell, but the unwisely attacked us from the front, denying himself the benefit of surprise.

Other than a duo of master-less Mammoths crossing the road some way ahead of the assassin's corpse we encountered nothing else on the way to Windhelm.
I met a small group of Khajiit camping by Windhelm's gatehouse, but they were there not to trade, but to pull fish from the nearly-frozen river to sell, dried and prepared, to the caravans.
They were willing to ferry Serana and I across the frozen river for a few Septims, sparing us a much longer walk around the hills west of Windhelm. Just out of sight of the river we came under attack by two woman-spirits, each summoning hostile energies similar to those I fought at Winterhold. They were likely the 'wispmothers' the Nords speak of, the first of which I fought weeks ago.
They had been guarding a shrine to Arkay, but I could find no reason why.

Within sight of the College we came upon two bandits arguing near the body of a dead woman. Guessing what had transpired, I motioned Serana to take the one on the left while I readied my crossbow. It was darkly amusing to watch my victim simply drop dead with a bolt through his throat, whereas Serana's was flung sideways by her magicka, across the icy ground and over the cliff behind him.
The woman died wearing a powerfully enchanted pendant around her neck, probably the reason the bandits had been arguing. A letter on her body mournfully informed me that if I was reading it the author was likely dead. The unnamed woman explained that the bandits had broken into her home and taken everything she owned, including the pendant, a family heirloom. She was the last of her family and the comfort  the pendant brought her was dear to her. Regardless of the risk, she was going to get it back, even if it meant her death...which it did, but I am certain she approved of the bandits' fate.

This may be the first day I have visited the College without being suffocated by a snowstorm. The sky was cloudy, but the air was clear of snow and ice.
Urag was as happy to see me as he was anyone, which is to say not at all. He laughed when I asked about finding an Elder Scroll, wondering if I even knew what I was asking for...which I felt was pretty rude to say to the current Arch-Mage, if I may say so.

For his derision the Orsimer was not particularly knowledgeable about them either, content to use frustrating metaphors and state utter nonsense, such as the falsehoods in the Scrolls being truer than the truths...which would cease to make them falsehoods. The only actual help he was able to provide was in the form of a small volume written by a former student of the College, an Imperial named Septimus Signus.

It was titled 'Ruminations on the Elder Scrolls' and consisted entirely of nonsense. When I asked Urag what help it was supposed to be he laughed and said it was to prepare me for when I met the man. Surprised, I asked when the book was penned and found that it was only months old, the man wrote it, left it in at the College, then rambled about a great Dwemer treasure at the tip of the province...just north of Winterhold. Urag made it his business to know where exactly Septimus had disappeared to, but judged the man mad enough to not bother about his "discovery".

The walk along the peninsula north of Winterhold was as miserable as I feared: it was windy, snowy, and very, very cold. We were forced to precariously hop across ice floes just to reach the cavern Urag had found, one wrong step would plunge us into a sea equal parts ice and water. The mad man's boat, now frozen fast to Skyrim, came as a great relief.
Septimus was utterly mad, but he had found something interesting: a giant Dwemer puzzle cube wider than he was tall and taller as well.
He was a very difficult man to talk to, but I managed to get out of him the assurance that there was an Elder Scroll still in Skyrim, despite either the Empire or the Thalmor sweeping the province for them, which he meant was unclear. Predictably Septimus would not tell me where the Scroll was until I performed a task for him.

The Dwemer cube was driving him madder than he already was. He simply had to get inside no matter what was long as he did not have to leave the cave. His belief was that the Scroll would tell him how to open the giant cube.

He claimed that an ancient Dwemer city, Blackreach, more ancient than all the others, lay underneath Skyrim. To reach Blackreach I would have to "delve to the limits, then beyond", a clear description of a city underneath a city, I think. He suggested either 'Tower Mzark' or 'Alftand'.

The Tower is unknown to me but I visited Alftand while searching for Arniel's Dwemer cogwheels a month ago or so. Apparently I missed a lower level, Blackreach, during my first visit and will now have to suffer a second. At least it is not far.

We had only to walk back across the treacherous ice floes, avoid the Horkers, then climb up the frozen beach underneath the College while under constant assault by shards of ice blown about by the coastal winds. Because this was not difficult enough we came under assault by three Trolls and a Dragon once we advanced past the beach.

The Dragon landed right next to Serana, bringing her to her knees. I pulled my crossbow free of my belt, but knew I would not be able to to fire quick enough to save her life. Fortunately, the Trolls arrived ahead of my bolt.

They fearlessly loped over to the Dragon and started beating its armored hide with their fists, doing little more than annoying the beast and distracting it enough to give Serana time to retreat and regroup.

Against a Dragon the Trolls, even three of them, had little chance. Once the last was dead Serana and I launched our attack, her with magicka, as usual, me with crossbow and blade. The first Dragon was a terrifying ordeal, this one...not anymore. Serana too seemed to have quickly gotten used to the routine, only craning her head slightly as the Dragon's soul rushed into my body...a process which I still do not understand. Am I supposed to do something afterwards?
By the team we returned to Winterhold most of it was already sleeping. Rather than waste more time trudging up to the College we wordlessly agreed to head directly for the Inn in the hope for an early start at Alftand tomorrow morning.