Friday, September 28, 2018

Skyrim Day 088 - Re-Enlisting

19 Sun's Dusk, 4E201

I discovered this morning that I had indeed forgotten something: to take a curative or two after the battle at Volkihar Keep. I was already starting to show signs of the disease this morning, the symptoms having started quite early, or so I thought.

Angeline's Aromatics was well-stocked with restoratives and curatives, making my ironic descent into vampirism a very short story. I asked the date after drinking two of the required elixirs and was told it was 19 Sun's Dusk, three days after the Volkihar Clan's final stand. The Cairn took three days from me for a walk, though minorly waylaid, that felt only a matter of hours.

It fell upon me then to decide upon my next course of action. Delphine's was pressing, but if it was critical I expect she would have sent a courier. I still have the very strange device Septimus Signus gave me, now full of the blood of various bandits he claims to need to unlock his Dwemer cube. He, however, is north of Winterhold and I do not expect to return there for some time.

Reviewing my notes I saw that Delphine thought that the Thalmor were resurrecting the Dragons, no doubt to assist them with further conquests. If that were the case, would it not be preferable to see Skyrim's civil war ended to the advantage of one of the non-Thalmor factions?

My choices were the Imperial Legion or the Stormcloaks. These options made for no choice at all, for I doubt the Stormcloaks would have accepted a Khajiit to begin with. Besides, I felt it would be interesting to serve within the Legion once again, even if my previous rank was not to be granted a few hundred years later.

The enlistment point for the Imperial Legion in Skyrim happens to be a block or so away from Proudspire Manor in a small fortress built into the city walls. The fortress, named 'Castle Dour', overlooks the coast and is the most fortified position in the city, even more than Skyrim's current seat of power in the Blue Palace.

During my short jaunt I overheard two guards talking about hearing howling at night near the walls, one trying to convince the other that the howling was from werewolves. I do not understand why the guard would think the howls to be from werewolves, which are very rare, instead of wolves, which are not. I myself have not fought werewolves since my time on Solstheim, but the memories of so long ago a time are hazy and only getting hazier.

The soldiers standing watch at the Imperial garrison entrance proved surprisingly unconcerned regarding an unknown Khajiit walking past them and into the headquarters of their general. The argument inside was enough to drown out the sound of my entrance, one voice had the clipped tones of a Cyrodiil nobleman, the other was a woman's, obviously Nordic.
The nobleman was none other than General Tullius himself, an acquaintance from my near-execution at Helgen. Seeing me enter he wryly remarked that his guards seemed to be allowing anyone free reign of the castle.

I introduced myself as having been at Helgen and he nodded, remembering me as one of the prisoners. I replied that I had helped Hadvar (fortunately remembering his name!) escape and that he suggested I enlist with the Legion.

However Hadvar, after eighty-eight days or so, had still not reported back to Castle Dour. He likely reported to one of the local garrisons closer to his home, for I do not remember him as being the sort to be intimidated out of duty, even by a Dragon. The General was willing to wait for Hadvar to show and suggested I speak to his second, Legate Rikke, about opportunities for individuals as 'resourceful' as myself. He ended our conversation by stating that he was sure my imprisonment was all just a misunderstanding...which it actually was, but I did not press the point.

I do not remember seeing Legate Rikke at Helgen and she gave me no time to inquire. The Legate looked me over and brusquely declared that she had a "good feeling" about me, a rarity. Rather than go through enlistment, a process she did not explain, Legate Rikke instead gave me a "special mission".

The mission was as follows: Travel to a ruin once known as Fort Hraggstad located on the coast halfway between Solitude and the dock built for Volkihar Keep. Once there I was to eliminate the group of bandits that had taken up residence. Rikke judged the risk of losing even one soldier to the paltry band not worth the dubious reward and had been sitting on the assignment until I walked in.

Seemed simple enough.

It began to storm as I left Solitude, but the thunder was not enough to drown out the roaring of a Dragon that flew overhead as I ascended into the hills along the coast.
But once again this Dragon only circled about, made some noise, then flew off. Perhaps it did not notice me or particularly care. It has been awhile since I have been attacked by a Dragon, save for Durnehviir in the Soul Cairn. It may be that Delphine is correct in guessing that the Thalmor are controlling the Dragons and have had them stand off after their early losses against myself and the guardsmen of whatever towns they have assaulted.

I reached the remains of the fortress without incident and found it much like any other fortress in Skyrim: weather-beaten, ill-maintained, and occupied by bandits.
Most of the bandits were in the courtyard, two walking along the ramparts. I felled one with a bolt, bringing the other four charging out at me through the gate. I felled another at range as they closed in and dispatched the other three with barely any effort, their fur armor no defense against my ebony blade.

The leader was inside the keep guarding an empty set of  prison cells. I caught him muttering to himself as I sneaked in and silently ended his concerns with a blade across the throat. I left the bodies for Rikke's soldiers to throw into the sea.

Rikke and General Tullius were talking about a cultural artifact called the 'Jagged Crown' when I returned to Castle Dour. The exasperated Legate was trying, unsuccessfully, to explain to the General why the Jagged Crown was important to the Nords. For his part, the General kept insisting that the Moot was more important, regardless if Legate Rikke kept insisting the holder of the Crown would win the Moot.

The General glanced over at me while in the midst of their conversation and suggested that the 'Auxiliary' be sent to retrieve it. It took me a moment to realize he was referring to me. I have not gone by that title in hundreds of years and have been getting used to 'Dragonborn', to be honest. But Auxiliary I am once again.

The conversation broke for the moment and Rikke administered the Imperial oath, officiating my enlistment. Once that was done she ordered me to report to the local blacksmith, Beirand, to receive the official raiment, after which I was to proceed to Korvanjund, a Nordic ruin somewhat northeast of Whiterun, probably near Aftland. 

The Legate and her soldiers will also be traveling to the ruin, but naturally I am to travel ahead by myself, as a scout of sorts I suppose. It is funny to be hailed as the Dragonborn while at the same time occupy the very lowest rank of the Legion in which I have served alongside for so many years.

But she and her squad will not be leaving until late tomorrow, so I will set out early tomorrow. I may as well enjoy the comforts of my home in the limited time I am able. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Skyrim Day 087 - Family Disunion

Unknown Date, 4E201

Sleeping in the former castle of the Volkihar family was easier than I had anticipated. Once I found an actual bedroom I pushed several bookcases behind the door and fell upon the bed, falling asleep almost instantly.

No one attacked me in my sleep, though I did wake with a terrible thirst. Some minor illness, I  hope.

Finding my way back to Valerica's laboratory proved more difficult a task than I anticipated, largely due to my somehow forgetting how to get there! I am not sure how long it took me to find my way back, but it must have been at least an hour of pointless wandering among the rubble of Castle Volkihar. When I arrived the portal to the Soul Cairn was still spinning energetically, sending purple light and shadows dancing about the room.
The Cairn had not changed much in my absence. The confused souls were still lounging around and the soul fragments were still flitting about, chased by blackened skeletons inexplicably wielding swords and bows. For as much as I know about the place it is possible a thousand years passed from my last visit, or a few seconds.

Walking back to the ruined castle Valerica was using as her field camp was just as disorientating as it was originally. At times I felt I was walking without covering any discernable distance, others I was sprinting across the land making great progress. In the end I doubt I approached the place at any pace greater than a careful walk, whatever my confused senses were telling me.

Valerica was still busy at her makeshift alchemy lab and seemed irritated at having her research interrupted. If she wondered why Serana was not with me she hid it well. She took the news of her estranged husband's death with no joy, only commenting that she would move her work back to her old study. She thanked me, but I am just glad to be done with the whole mess, gratitude or not.

I wasted an more time trying to walk back to the portal than I did from it. I kept getting turned around, ending up in sharp-edged ruins and crumbling tombs, assaulted by skeletons and magicka-flinging spirits despite being very sure I was heading in straight line back to whence I came. The skeletons were not a great concern, but I could not help but feel increasingly panicked at the thought of never finding my way back to Tamriel.

This was foolishness, of course, perhaps some side-effect due to the oppressiveness of the place. I eventually found myself at the wall that divided Valerica's portion of the Cairn in two, then followed it until I was able to pass through its gatehouse to the side hosting the portal.
I had barely time enough to ascend the staircase back inside her laboratory before Valerica appeared at the portal, more proof that time and distance in the Soul Cairn is not quite as measurable as it seems.
The vampire matriarch nodded at me as she passed by me on the balcony, declaring that it was time for her to resume her work as an odd desire considering nearly all of her family had been slain and her only daughter, who evidently forgot to retrieve her, was joined with a band of vampire hunters. Alchemy was more important, I suppose.

I asked about the continuing existence of the Cairn portal, desiring privately that it be destroyed, but she offhandedly declared it useful for her research as if there was no reason to not want it to remain open. She must have thought I felt the same way, for she assured me I would be able to come and go through the portal as I please now that my soul has become "attuned" to the place. Great news.

I retraced my steps back out to the jetty and re-entered the castle through the bloodied entrance, where I will be spending my last night in this accursed place. I am not sure what day it actually is due to the capricious nature of the Soul Cairn, but I shall enquire to that tomorrow. 

Tonight I rest victorious, but uneasy. I cannot shake the feeling that I am forgetting something important.