Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 04

07042015

1.4

CollegeOfWinterhold

Hitting the Books
Last Seed, 27th, 4E 201

“I want to stop at the alchemist’s before we head on.”

He pointed the way. Inside the old woman behind the counter looked up and said, “The Mortar and Pestle makes potions, if you can’t tell from the name. Just step up to the counter. I’m Frida.”

“Greetings,” I said. “What do you have for sale?” As I browsed through her selection of wares I threw out a few questions, starting with wondering how long she had lived in Dawnstar.

“Pfft. I’m the oldest woman in Dawnstar. Was here when the Skald the Elder was Skald the Younger. He's a fool, if you haven’t met him already. Thinks Ulfric Stormcloak is invincible and spits dragon fire. The people here look to Brina Merilis when they need things settled. Real firebrand growing up. Wasn’t surprised when she joined the Legion.”

‘That explains something of the Jarl’s sparkling personality,’ I thought. “How did you come to learn alchemy?”

“My husband,” she said with a faint sigh. “We used to go out in the wilds and collect ingredients together. He used to call me his ‘pretty Juniper’. It’s quite romantic, if you’re an alchemist. Frost took the old fool a few seasons back, while he was looking for the Ring of Pure Mixtures. I found the ring’s resting place after he died, but I’m far too old to go exploring some cave, now.”

“Oh?” I replied. She seemed a nice enough person, so. . . . “Where is it?”

Frida looked surprised and not a little wary. “Forsaken Cave.”

“That’s on my way back to the College, so I can try to get it for you,” I said. “But it’d take a while for me to return most likely.”

“Well, aren’t you sweet. I’d be happy to give you some alchemy training in exchange for the ring, if you bring it to me.”

I nodded. “All right, you have a deal. I’ll stop at the cave since it’s on the way, and when I circle back around to here I’ll drop it off. Or maybe I’ll just double back, I don’t know. And, here’s what I’d like to purchase.”

We haggled over the price and settled on something that was agreeable to us both, and then exited. Erandur did that eyebrow thing at me once we were outside. “This is a good example of doing Mara’s work,” I said quietly. “Or close enough, anyway. That poor lady is too old now to get it and her husband had really wanted it for her. It sounds like they were very much in love. What better thing to do than help her out, for her sake and that of her dead husband? Maybe I’m wrong, but I think Mara would be pleased.”

The walk there was pleasant enough, with only the usual disturbances along the way. About halfway there Erandur started occasionally telling me a few things about his past. We reached the cave around noon if the position of the sun meant anything and wandered in. The entrance was frozen, but beyond that I can’t say the place was anything special, certainly not after having seen Saarthal.

We recovered the ring, but more importantly, I found another of those curved walls—word walls, I suppose: Krii—Kill. I still had to wonder why this was happening and how it was I could understand a single word from each wall, but I chalked it up to Divine intervention and left it at that. Erandur didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary so I didn’t call attention to what happened to me.

If I had the time and the supplies I would get rubbings of the damn things so I could attempt to translate them later on. Or maybe ask Urag in the Arcanaeum if there were any books that would help me. Getting pieces of parchment that big would be problematical and carrying around pots of ink was also, due to the contents freezing too readily.

I shrugged and looked around for anything of value that Erandur hadn’t already picked up (and as a priest he often ignored things of that nature). “Are you ready?” I asked.

“Yes. Let’s go.”

Outside I checked the sun and realized I could probably get back to Dawnstar faster than I could Winterhold, and be there in decent time for Erandur to be able to get some sleep. I packed up my spoils on Horse and we started the walk back.

We walked right into a vampire attack. The sun had long since fallen and guards were fighting vampires, thralls, and strange hounds. ‘Thanks a lot,’ I thought, ‘whoever you are, whatever breed you are. Thanks for making all vampires that much more feared.’

Frida was in the tavern so I handed over the ring. She gave me that promised alchemy instruction in return. On my way to bespeak rooms for the night I was waylaid by a Captain Wayfinder, who was looking for some finely-cut void salts. I admit, I zoned out during his explanation, so I’m not entirely sure what the story was there, but I told him that if I ran across them I would deliver them the next time I was in town.

Thoring rented me a couple of rooms and I took a seat next to Erandur at one of the tables. “You weren’t even paying attention to that captain, were you?” he accused.

“Well, no,” I admitted. “My mind kind of wandered.”

He sighed. “He made a trade with the College of Winterhold for some finely-cut void salts, but his crew got drunk and somehow lost them in a cave. Here, let me see your map.”

I handed it over and let him mark it. When I took it back I saw he had written a number at the spot and there was a corresponding note on the back to remind me why the mark was even there. “Ah, okay. I got us both rooms so we can get some sleep before heading out again. You ever been to the College of Winterhold?”

He shook his head. “The College of Winterhold is an amazing sight. I’ve never set foot on the grounds, but always wanted to.”

“Well, you’ll have your chance. They normally stop people at the bottom of the bridge and make them prove their skill, but that’s more because the Nord population tends to get a bit belligerent at times. I already know you’re an excellent mage, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

I spent some time out in the common room quietly conversing with Erandur and listening to the bard, Karita. Her voice wasn’t horrible or anything, but it was obvious she’d not likely had instruction at the Bard College in Solitude. As I got up to go to my room she started singing about how the “Dragonborn” would come. It was a pretty enough legend, I supposed.

Last Seed, 28th, 4E 201

On my way to the library Onmund practically ran me down. Then he asked me for a favor in a very hush voice, like it was all some terrible secret. “It needs to be kept private,” he kept saying as various people walked by. I pointed to the door Erandur would need for the library and turned back to Onmund, who dragged me off into the practice area and behind one of the pillars.

“I may have entered into an . . . agreement with Enthir,” he said, peering around the pillar for anyone coming into hearing range. “He had something I needed, so I traded him something of mine. It was a mistake, and now I want back what I gave him.”

“Which is?” I prompted when he took too long to continue.

“It’s an amulet that belonged to my family, and I never should’ve given it to Enthir. But he won’t deal with me. Talk to him; see what it’ll take to get my amulet back.”

A family amulet, huh? “Is it difficult being away from your family?”

“Not at all,” he replied. “I consider it a blessing. My family was convinced coming here was a death sentence, or worse. It took years of insisting that this is what I’m meant to do.”

So he was capable of persisting in the one goal, but was put off or afraid of a Dunmer who liked to threaten to fry you from the inside out. Right. “What was it you needed from Enthir?” I asked curiously.

Onmund shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. It’s also none of your concern. Just talk to him; see if you can convince him to give my amulet back. I know they’ve always disapproved of what I wanted in life, to learn magic instead of becoming a farmer, or a hunter. But no matter how poorly they may have treated me, they’re still my family. I didn’t consider that until after I’d made the trade.”

“All right, I’ll at least talk to him,” I said, “but I have to go make sure my friend is doing all right around Urag first.”

“Oh, okay.”

I nodded and went back out to the entry to find that Erandur was waiting there instead of having gone ahead. I smiled and pushed open the door to the Arcanaeum stairwell and headed down. Urag was his usual threatening self, but could see that Erandur was a scholar of sorts. “I need to go talk to someone, but you should be fine here for a while. I shouldn’t be too long.”

I wasn’t five steps inside the Hall of Attainment when Brelyna stopped me asking for help. She had some new spell she was working on, which was more than I had managed to consider doing, so I agreed. She turned my vision green.

“There! Now, I. . . .” Brelyna got a funny look on her face. “Oh dear. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Do you . . . do you feel all right? You look very, umm, green.”

“I feel fine, but I’m seeing green.”

“I am so very sorry,” she apologized. “I went over this again and again, and I was sure it would have better results. It’s not permanent! It’s not! It shouldn’t be. You’ll be back to normal in no time. And when you are, we can try this again and I’ll be sure to get it right.”

Somehow that didn’t do much for my level of confidence. “What do you think you did wrong?”

“I’m not really sure. I think it’s just a minor miscalculation on my part. I’m sure it will wear off soon. In the meantime, I’ll see about figuring out what went wrong.”

Well, green or not, I had a mage to speak to about an amulet. Enthir was upstairs in his room. He seemed to eat an inordinate amount of bread in my opinion, but that was beside the point. I inquired about Onmund’s amulet and was met with derision. Why Enthir didn’t just call Onmund a milk drinker and be done with it I didn’t know. Persuasion didn’t work, not that I expected it to, and Enthir kept being abrasive until I asked him straight what it would take.

He made a deal and ended up thinking better of it, wanted me to retrieve the staff for him. Then he would give me the amulet. When I pointed out that this sounded terribly familiar and that his “all trades are final” policy was awfully flexible when it came to his own bad choices he insisted it was a completely different situation.

About the time he finally told me where I should be able to find the staff Brelyna’s spell wore off, so I headed downstairs to talk to her. “Exactly as I said it would,” she said when she saw me. “Now, are you ready to try again? I am confident that it will work this time.”

“Sure.”

“Okay, now don’t move at all,” she warned as a spell came to her hand, then cast.

I had this sudden urge to moo and realized I was on all fours and had a tail.

“Oh my. That isn’t right!” Brelyna exclaimed. “Just wait. Just. . . . I can fix this,” she assured me, readying the spell again.

Hay? Why do I want hay? And why am I still an animal?

“Oh no, that’s not it at all. Let me try again. . . .”

I barked in frustration and realized I was a dog.

“This really isn’t turning out the way I’d hoped,” Brelyna said, embarrassment plain in her voice. “I’ll get it right this time, I swear.” She cast again, and this time I was back to normal. “There, all better,” she said with heavy relief. “Well, it all worked out in the end, didn’t it?”

I opened my mouth to ask her just what exactly the spell was supposed to do if not any of that, but thought better of it. Instead I said, “Let us never speak of this again.”

“Oh yes, of course. I have a long way to go before I’m ready for the kind of advanced magic I’ve been attempting. But at least I know where to start now. Thank you, you’ve been a great help to me.”

I nodded and hastened back to the Hall of the Elements, telling Onmund when I saw him that I was working on it, then to the Arcanaeum to see how Erandur was doing. He was nose deep in a book. I left him to it and found something to read for myself. Urag let me know it was night when he heaved himself up in preparation of leaving and reminded me of those books he’d asked me to find, so I set down the book I was reading and shook Erandur’s shoulder gently. “Hey, it’s getting late.”

“Oh,” he said. “Where has the time gone? I’ll get myself a room at the inn in town.”

“All right,” I said as I led him out. “There’s a staff I need to track down so if you’re good for it I’ll meet you at the inn in the morning.”

“That sounds fine,” he said, then trundled off along the bridge.

Last Seed, 29th, 4E 201

We made it almost to Whiterun before anything of even vague interest happened. There was a jester of sorts on the road, down the hill from a farm. As soon as we got closer I could hear him ranting. “Agh! Bother and befuddle! Stuck here! Stuck! My mother, my poor mother. Unmoving. At rest, but too still!”

Considering that the only thing on the wagon was a large wooden box I had to assume he was transporting a corpse. I stopped and asked if there was something I could do to help, even though I didn’t have the first idea how to make repairs of that nature.

“Oh. Oh yes! Yes, the kindly stranger can certainly help! Go to the farm—the Loreius Farm. Just over there, off the road. Talk to Loreius. He has tools! He can help me! But he won’t! He refuses! Convince Loreius to fix my wheel! Do that, and poor Cicero will reward you. With coin! Gleamy, shiny coin!”

I frowned slightly and shared a look with Erandur. This man was clearly mad, perhaps even a devotee of Sheogorath, but his need was real. I shrugged. “Money isn’t necessary, friend, but I’ll see what I can do.”

Loreius was not a happy man and kept sending glares down the hill. As it was he was simply there, leaning against the fence surrounding his plot. I couldn’t see why he wouldn’t help. So I asked him.

“That Cicero feller? Hmph. Crazy fool’s already asked me about five times. Seems he’s not satisfied with my answer. Why can’t he just leave us alone?”

“He has coin,” I pointed out.

“You think this is about money? Have you not seen the man? He’s completely out of his head. A jester? Here, in Skyrim? Ain’t been a merryman in these parts for a hundred years.”

And that made it wrong somehow?

“And he’s transporting some giant box. Says it’s a coffin, and he’s going to bury his mother. Mother my eye. He could have anything in there. War contraband. Weapons. Skooma. Ain’t no way I’m getting involved in any of that.”

“You wouldn’t be involved,” I tried to say, “just helping someone in need.”

“What?” Loreius replied. “And just who in Mara’s name are you, anyway? Hmm? Come here, telling me my business. And for what? To help a . . . a . . . a fool!”

Erandur stepped forward at that, clearly unhappy. “I happen to be a Priest of Mara and I’m asking you to reconsider and help the poor man. Are you really feeling that callous toward a fellow Imperial who’s a bit unhinged over the death of his mother?”

Loreius began to scoff, but took a good look at Erandur and snapped his mouth closed. Erandur was clearly dressed as a priest and wore an amulet of Mara’s visibly. “Look, I. . . . You’re right,” he said, deflating from his aggressive posture. “Feller might be nutters, might not. But fact is, he needs help. I turn him away, what kind of man am I? Look, um, thanks. And I’m sorry for my unneighborly reaction. If you talk to Cicero, you be sure and tell him I’ll be down to help soon.”

Erandur nodded and looked at me, so we strolled back down the hill. I gave Cicero a small smile and said, “Loreius will come help you shortly.”

“Oh, stranger!” Cicero cried, capering about in delight. “You have made Cicero so happy! So jubilant and ecstatic! But more! Even more! My mother thanks you! Here, here. For your troubles! Shiny, clinky gold! A few coins for a kind deed!”

I stepped back, saying, “Oh, no, really. You don’t need to do that.” He shoved the pouch forward again and I sighed. “Uh, I guess we could donate it to a temple.”

“Is the pretty stranger a priest?” Cicero asked.

I laughed softly and shook my head. “No, no, just a simple mage on an errand. But my friend here is a Priest of Mara and it was he who managed to convince Loreius to assist you.”

Cicero turned to Erandur and thrust the pouch forward again, and Erandur took it. “I will make sure this goes to helping others,” he said with a slight bow.

Cicero bounced in place and said, “I will wait for Loreius! Oh yes, mother and I will wait right here, right here until he fixes our wheel.”

I waved and we moved on.

Last Seed, 30th, 4E 201

Shriekwind Bastion was north of Falkreath, a town I had yet to bother to visit. It was too far south and too small, so I didn’t much see the point. “There were an awful lot of vampires,” I commented as we finished frying the more powerful one in a room with a word wall.

“Well, not all vampires are as civilized as you are,” Erandur replied, making sure it was beyond being raised even temporarily.

I started picking up anything I could sell later and casually wandered by the word wall: Su—Air. I had no idea on that one, unless it had something to do with wind.

“I’m not sure why you keep collecting that stuff,” Erandur said, as close to complaining as he could get.

“Ah, I do need money to buy spell tomes, some ingredients, stuff like that. But I also always donate some to the temples.”

“I see. And do you follow anyone in particular?”

“I’m not particularly religious, though if I had to say I’d say Kynareth, for reasons I’m not willing to go into just yet. I donate because I know the money goes toward potions for the sick and helping people. Most of the stuff I pack onto Horse is from bandits who were preying on people, so a little money toward helping others. . . . Well, it probably won’t directly help the people who were killed or stolen from, but it’s something.”

“Is this in any way related to how you came to be a vampire?” he asked. The question was insightful in a way, but not exactly.

“Mm, only peripherally,” I said, then, “That’s it, I think. Let’s go take care of that errand for Urag.”

“Well, it’s on the way back,” he said, shrugging slightly at not getting a better answer.

Last Seed, 31st, 4E 201

Fellglow Keep was a cheerful place. I lie, of course. Urag had told me the book I wanted about Saarthal and the Night of Tears had been stolen by a former apprentice who went off with a group of troublemakers. I doubted my ability to just sneak into the place and get them back, so I expected there would be some trouble along the way. There was.

I was particularly annoyed at finding more than a few vampires caged up in the dungeons of the keep. The first one I released immediately attacked us, so she had to die. To the next one I said, “You going to do that, too? Turn on someone setting you free?”

She shook her head. “No. There are some mages in the next room who like to use us for target practice. They paralyze us first, drag us off to their little practice room, and stick us in cages they hang from the ceiling. You let me out and I’m going after the fetchers.”

“Good enough,” I said and looked to the others. They also agreed so I started picking locks as quickly as I could manage it. They were good for their word; they all charged off through a nearby door and started attacking some mages in there. As soon as they were done, they returned through the door and escaped back the way we had come.

Orthorn, the apprentice who had stolen the books, was in a cage farther on. Seems his “good deed” on behalf of his “friends” had paid off with being held in captivity until the woman in charge could use him for an experiment or something. I set him free and told him to flee while he could. The gods knew I didn’t want to be responsible for the gullible fool.

The place was a veritable nightmare to navigate and there were necromancers all over the place. I personally found it distasteful that they would raise one of their fellows almost as soon as we had killed one, but necromancers were funny that way. By the time we had finally found a way into the ritual chamber I had tucked away a whole host of books to read later.

Only one person was in the chamber; she was standing there by a plinth with a book on it. In two alcoves behind her, to either side of a set of doors, I could see additional plinths with books.

“So, you’re the one who barged into my home and laid waste to my projects. How nice to meet you,” the woman said, voice dripping with sarcasm.

Well, she had a point. “May I know your name?” I asked, not bothering to give mine.

“Names no longer matter. You may refer to me as The Caller. Now, do you have a reason for making such a mess?”

She seemed strangely reasonable for a necromancer. “I’m here on behalf of the College of Winterhold to retrieve some stolen property—three books.”

She shifted her weight before saying, “So you’re just one of Aren’s lackeys? That’s disappointing. You show real promise. You come here, kill my assistants, disrupt my work. . . . You’ve annoyed me, so I don’t think I’ll be giving you anything.”

“May I please have the books stolen from the College?” I asked, trying to be polite. I’d kill the woman in a heartbeat if necessary, but I figured I would try it the other way first. It was hardly our fault that all of her minions attacked us without a second thought.

“Oh, now we’re all please and thank you, are we? I’m afraid we’re well beyond pleasantries. I’ll allow you the opportunity to turn around, walk out that door, and never come back. I suggest you move quickly.”

So, that was that. I wasn’t leaving without the books and she wasn’t going to let me simply take them. I snorted softly and snatched the book off the plinth between us. She immediately readied spells and began casting. A frost atronach appeared a moment later and she revealed that she could teleport short distances.

I conjured a fire atronach and Erandur and I set about bringing her down, wordlessly agreeing to keep an eye on certain locations so we weren’t shooting spells across each other’s line of fire. Once that was out of the way I collected the other two books and looted the place. She had a key for the door opposite where we entered, which was handy, as it led to a much easier way out.

On the way back to the College I got distracted by something in the distance and ended up finding another word wall: Zul Mey Gut—Voice Fool Far. I think I’d just learned to throw my voice, except that I had no actual idea how.

After that we hurried along. I was tired and wanted to get back, despite the actual distance involved. One of the guards patrolling the roads said those fatal words and I added another sweet roll to my collection. We hustled into town eventually and I was brought up short by one of the guards saying, in an awed voice no less, “You must be one of those wizards, from up at the College in Winterhold.”

I rolled by eyes as I started walking again and muttered, “We’re in Winterhold, you moron.”

“I’ll be grabbing a room at the inn,” Erandur said.

“All right. I’ll be down in the morning, either way.”

Heartfire, 1st, 4E 201

J’zargo was an odd fellow. He asked me for help in testing some modified flame cloak scrolls. For being in such a hurry to surpass the rest of us, he was sure too lazy to actually, you know, leave the College long enough to test them for himself. “Ah, sure,” I said and accepted a bundle of ten scrolls. I wasn’t entirely happy with where my skills were and I would be making the rounds again, so I might as well test them out.

“It is especially potent against the undead, and should burn them to a crisp in no time. J’zargo gives you plenty of these scrolls, so you try them and return when you can say whether they work,” he added.

“Right, I’ll get back to you,” I said, then hastened off to the Arcanaeum to deliver the books. For the record, I had attained Adept level with Illusion and Alteration and I was very close with Destruction (or so Faralda assured me). Restoration and Conjuration not so much, but Restoration was one of the hardest to advance. If you’re any good at dodging or warding you simply don’t need to heal yourself as often.

Urag accepted the books gruffly. I then asked him about the writ regarding Jyrik in a roundabout way and he pointed me at an appropriate book, which I skimmed over enough to know where I would need to look: Folgunthur. I put the book back where it belonged and headed out to town, to the inn, to meet up with Erandur.

We didn’t even make it to the next town when a strange figure approached that made the hair on the back of my neck rise up in alarm. The figure already had its weapons out—it died, too.

It was a Khajiit assassin from the Dark Brotherhood. According to a note in his pocket I was the target. Who in Oblivion would want me dead? It was tempting to think that if I ever figured out where they operated from I would slaughter every last one I could get my hands on. Maybe bottle their blood, label them, keep them as trophies? Erandur seemed shocked, but no more so than I was.

“I can’t think of a single reason why they’d be after me,” I said, shaking my head. “I find it hard to believe that some bandit who got away would have performed the Black Sacrament. I also find it hard to believe they send out potential assassins to randomly murder someone to prove their skills, not when this idiot came at us in broad daylight, weapons out, and yelling.”

None of it made any sense so we pushed on and made it to the ruins not far outside Dawnstar by noon. There was still a ways to go, but we stopped for lunch (well, for Erandur more than I, since I “ate” on the way—stupid bandits couldn’t just leave us alone when we skirted the fort) before continuing.

Folgunthur was fun! Just kidding. There was a campsite outside and one of the tents had a journal in it. The guy it belonged to was a real sweetheart, killing people for their stuff, hiring thugs, looking for some amulet. We headed inside and followed a trail of corpses. It seemed that Daynas Valen’s people hadn’t fared too well. Daynas himself was propped up against a funny little pedestal. He had the claw key for the tomb as well as his notes.

I had already found Jyrik at Saarthal and we were here at Folgunthur for Mikrul, the second son. Sigdis would be at Geirmund’s Hall and the father, Gauldur, was interred in a cave at Reachwater Rock. I tucked the note and the claw away.

Mikrul put up a good fight, raising a dozen thralls over the course of it, but Erandur and I brought him down without getting too bashed up. There was another writ there, but I tucked it away without reading it. I knew the story already so there was little point. I grabbed the amulet fragment and his blade, grabbed anything else that looked interesting or valuable, and picked up another word: Fo—Frost. It was behind a barrier I needed the claw to unlock.

There was also a large chest present, which I promptly looted. One of the items was a very strange sphere of sorts, except that it had too many facets to truly be called a sphere. As I picked it up I heard a voice resonate in my head.

“A new hand touches the Beacon,” I heard, a female voice. “Listen. Hear me and obey. A foul darkness has seeped into my temple. A darkness that you will destroy.” I was then told to go to Mount Kilkreath.

Now, some Daedric Lords I wouldn’t dream of helping, but Meridia might well be an exception. Nothing particularly wrong with a hatred of the undead. And I don’t think I’m a hypocrite because I don’t consider myself undead. I have a “condition” caused by a disease, and it can be cured. A true undead doesn’t have that option and I doubt anyone who has turned themselves into a lich has the option to go, “Whoops, this sucks. Maybe there’s a way to not be undead anymore.”