Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 05

07042015

1.5

CollegeOfWinterhold

Hitting the Books
Heartfire, 2nd, 4E 201

We spent the night in Morthal. The silly proprietor wouldn’t even come to the counter at first. That’s some attitude to take when someone is trying to give you money!

Geirmund’s Hall was halfway to Riften, so swinging by Elysium on the way wouldn’t be a terrible idea, even if it was technically out of the way. I was also running low on funds and would have to cart a bunch of weapons and armor to a smithy or general store. I just wasn’t ready to worry about learning to enchant. Survival skills came first, even though one could argue that well-enchanted clothing is a survival skill. There would be more of what I’d collected in the future and Horse was probably sick to death of carrying it all.

Erandur and I made it to Whiterun before the shops closed and I made the rounds, remembering to drop off a generous donation at the temple, and ended up making a fair amount of coin. It pays to be a pack rat with a sturdy horse. If I thought it wouldn’t make me even more of a target I would hitch Horse to a cart.

As I was coming down the steps from Dragonsreach, having sold off extra spell tomes to Farengar, I noticed Jorrvaskr again. It looked so interesting from that vantage, though I really did wonder about all the missing sections in the hull. Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly paying attention to my footing and slid right off the edge and into the pool below. On my way out a nearby guard was foolish enough to bring down Sheogorath’s . . . wrath? Attention? Which reminded me I would need to store my sweet rolls at Elysium.

Erandur never even saw it happen. He was too busy coming down the stairs the correct way. We passed a bit of time at the Bannered Mare and then I led Erandur to Elysium, warning him along the way about Kynareth’s eye on the place.

Heartfire, 3rd, 4E 201

It was pissing rain when I checked that morning. There was no help for it, really. A guard along the way said those fatal words and I added a sweet roll to my pouch. The other three were safe in my room at Elysium. Of course, this was the kind of thing that made me swear never to eat another sweet roll in my life.

We were almost half way there when another assassin came charging up like a typical Nord—except it was another Khajiit. These guys were not exactly giving me a good impression of the Dark Brotherhood’s competence. I had him as a snack. A bit fuzzy, but still tasty. Erandur just rolled his eyes and looked away while I drained him. Still, I had to wonder again if they were brand new members, or maybe high on skooma, because what assassin just barrels over in broad daylight (pissing rain does not change that it was mid-morning and still pretty bright out) like the target is deaf, dumb, and blind?

The rain didn’t look to be letting up so we stopped in Ivarstead, which was fairly close to our destination anyway. Erandur looked miserable and I felt miserable, so I rented a room at the inn (and it had two beds, so I didn’t have to pay for two). I cozied up to the bar and asked about the local news and gossip.

Wilhelm, the proprietor, told me about a barrow just on the edge of town that was haunted. “Look, I’ve seen one of the spirits with my very own eyes. When it glared at me, I swear it burned right through my soul. Fortunately, though, they seem to be sticking to the barrow. I think they’re guarding it. Certainly isn’t helping my business any; who’d want to rent a room anywhere near a haunted barrow?”

I glanced over at Erandur and he nodded, so I told Wilhelm we’d take a look.

“If you think there’s anything you can do, be my guest. About a year or two ago, some fella named Wyndelius came through; said he was some kind of treasure hunter. I warned him not to go in there, just like I’m warning you. The very next night we heard screams from the barrow, and that was it. We never saw him again.”

The barrow itself was fairly small, considering. We could hear a male voice warning us away after we entered, but I’d killed too many bandits, vampires, and draugr to be frightened by a disembodied voice. The place dead-ended in a room with a table, a sleeping pallet on the floor next to it, and a perfectly normal man who attacked us immediately.

His journal was right there in the open so I skimmed through it and handed it to Erandur so he could read it as well. A treasure-seeking con man, getting his jollies off scaring the townsfolk. I gathered up the potions he had left, the ones he used for his trick, and anything else useful or of value, and we returned to the Vilemyr Inn.

Wilhelm was surprised to see us, and even more surprised to read the journal. “Let me see that! . . .I can’t believe this. It was all just a fabrication of this Wyndelius character? I can’t believe we were so stupid. Well, least I can do is give you something for taking care of him. If you won’t accept it as a payment, consider it a gift.” He ducked down to rummage around under the counter and reappeared holding a claw key with sapphire tips.

There had been an appropriate door in there so I smiled and accepted it. “Thank you. There’s something I need to double-check back there, but we’ll return shortly for a meal and to get some rest.”

There was a word wall behind the claw door: Kaan—Kyne. Interesting.

A barmaid at the Vilemyr Inn was rabbiting on about werewolves, which reminded me of the Companions again. At some point I would have to do more than just admire the building, and get close enough to see if the scent that woman had meant she was a were or something else.

Heartfire, 4th, 4E 201

It was pissing rain again, but Geirmund's Hall wasn’t far behind Shroud Hearth Barrow, so the walk, while unpleasant, did not take very long. Inside I could see a plethora of mushroom varieties, a dead adventurer with nothing of note on him, a large hole leading straight down, and no other immediately visible path. There very likely was, but with how tall and narrow the cave was it was hard to see anything properly. The place was someone’s tomb so there had to be a way out. I was fairly sure that was water down there, but even with my eyesight it was hard to tell for certain. “Feeling brave?” I asked Erandur, then jumped in.

All in all there wasn’t a whole lot to say about the place, though we did find Geirmund’s skeleton along the way. There were the usual spiders, traps, puzzles, draugr—and at the end was Sigdis. Now he was a challenge. After he “woke up” and got up he produced two illusionary clones of himself. Hitting a fake made it disappear, and if you got both of them Sigdis would teleport to a new position as well as make new clones. He could also send us flying by bellowing at us like a Deathlord draugr—or, come to think of it, Shout, like the dragon priests of old I’d read about, or more recently, like Ulfric Stormcloak during his “duel” with the High King.

I collected his writ after his defeat, along with his bow and amulet fragment. And sure enough, there was a way out from his room that led to a spot a little up the wall from where we had initially jumped in. Unfortunately, another look at my map showed we would have to go clear across Skyrim, nearly to Markarth, to reforge the amulet.

I rolled my eyes and said, “Yeah, we’re continuing to Riften and hiring a carriage to take us to Markarth. I simply don’t feel like walking.”

Distraction struck again as we were almost there. We were coming at Riften from the west, not the north, and I saw what I thought was a standing stone off to the side. It turned out to be the Shadow Stone, and that would be that, except I noticed a set of stairs leading up to a temple or something. There was a word wall up there: Faas—Fear.

Heartfire, 5th, 4E 201

We arrived at Markarth, safe and sound. It was a surprisingly boring trip, though I suspected the driver had latent sociopathic tendencies. He seemed to take great delight in riding down any and all bandits, wolves, small livestock, etc., along the way. But I remembered why I was avoiding Markarth; we walked right into a fight between Legionnaires and the Forsworn.

At any rate we found the place, defeated all three sons again, and then watched as Gauldur’s ghost appeared long enough to forge the pieces together again. It basically gave a fair boost to the wearer’s health, magicka, and stamina, so while I thought it was decently powerful (though not something I would wear for long), I didn’t really understand why people back then would think it was so amazing. Perhaps time and research had allowed for much stronger enchantments?

“Much as I hate the idea we’re going to have to spend the night in Markarth,” I told Erandur as we were walking back toward the city.

“I have never been,” Erandur replied, “but Markarth has quite a reputation thanks to the Silver-Blood family. I wouldn’t advise crossing them.”

I blinked. “Right. I was thinking more about the fact that their beds are made from stone and have very little in the way of padding, if any.”

“. . .Oh.”

We hadn’t even taken two steps into the city when some guy pulled a dagger out and went for a woman in blue. I didn’t even think, I just lobbed fire at him, causing him to change targets to me. Erandur snapped into action and we killed the guy in seconds.

Oddly, a young Breton who’d been leaning against the wall outside the inn came up to talk to me about the incident, then insisted, as he shoved a piece of parchment into my hand, that I must have dropped a note. Yeah, well, whatever he passed me could wait. Considering the patently fake way he denied knowing anything about the note I expected he was trying to draw someone in, preferably an outsider, to whatever weirdness was going on.

The guards didn’t even seem to care that we’d just cut a man down. All they heard was that he was Forsworn and it was like all was forgiven. I got us rooms at the Silver-Blood Inn, enjoyed the dubious joys of listening to a dysfunctional family snipe at each other or be apologists, and retired to my cold, hard bed for the night.

Good Intentions
Heartfire, 7th, 4E 201

I left Erandur at the inn and tracked down J’zargo at the College. He was eager in his questions about the scrolls.

“Were they supposed to explode, and were you actually trying to get me killed?” I countered.

Somehow all this made us “friends”. He let me keep the remainder of the scrolls; I made a mental note to either sell them as soon as possible or destroy them so that no one else might try and blow themselves up. Perhaps it would be fun to sell them to Farengar, actually.

I then went off to see if Tolfdir had finished his study of the sphere. It had been moved to the College sometime during my first circuit around the country and he had been hard at work trying to figure it out ever since. He was still there, staring up at the damn thing.

“Have you stopped by the Arcanaeum lately?” I asked. “I brought back a book that Urag thinks you should read.”

Tolfdir started slightly and said, “Ah, yes. I’ll be sure to stop by later. I just can’t seem to tear myself away. Whatever it is, its beauty is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. If you’d allow me to indulge myself for a moment, I thought I might make a few observations.”

I smiled. “Of course.” I was a member of the College to learn, after all, even if I did need to journey to improve most of my skills.

“I’m sure you’ve already noticed the markings. They’re quite unlike anything we’ve seen before. Ayleid, Dwemer, Daedric. . . . Not even Falmer. None of them are a match. Quite curious indeed. Now, I’m not sure you’re quite as attuned as I am, given my extensive years of experience, but can you feel that? This marvelous object. It practically radiates magicka, and yet it’s unlike anything I’ve felt before. Arch-Mage Aren is already hard at work, and hopefully we’ll have more information soon.”

I saw Ancano approaching from the entry and did my best to ignore him. Unfortunately he spoke right over what Tolfdir had started to say. “I’m afraid I must intrude. It is urgent that I speak with your associate immediately.”

My gaze shifted to the side unhappily. I had hoped he would no longer feel the need to talk to me about the orb now that it was here.

“This is most inappropriate! We are involved in serious research here!”

“Yes, I’ve no doubt of its gravity. This, however, is a matter that cannot wait.”

Oh how I wished I could disappear into the nearest stone pillar. I didn’t know how to turn myself invisible and doubted it would work, and I wasn’t nearly good enough at being sneaky to slip off that way, either.

“Well,” Tolfdir said in an offended tone, “I’m quite sure I’ve never been interrupted like this before. The audacity!” He turned to me and said more softly, “I suppose we’ll continue this at some later time, when we can avoid interruptions.”

I nodded as he wandered off. If nothing else it got him away from the orb and hopefully doing something, anything, else. No one should be that mesmerized by a big ball.

“I need you to come with me immediately,” Ancano said sharply. “Let’s go.”

Well if that didn’t sound like an invitation to being tortured by the Thalmor I didn’t know what did. “I don’t understand what’s going on,” I said slowly, trying to stall him.

“Really? Well, allow me to clarify the situation.”

Gods, his voice alone made my ears want to bleed.

“I’d like to know why there’s someone claiming to be from the Psijic Order here at the College. More importantly, I’d like to know why he’s asking for you specifically.”

I blinked in confusion.

“So we’re going to go have a little chat with him, and find out exactly what it is he wants. Now, we are going up to the Arch-Mage's quarters and you are going to speak to this . . . monk . . . and find out why he is here, and then he will be removed from College grounds.”

Upstairs, with Ancano dogging my every step, I emerged into the Arch-Mage’s quarters and saw Aren and a figure wearing those distinctive robes. I suppose all of them wore them. As soon as I got close enough my sight went all funny again, as it did when I spoke to the one at Saarthal. A quick look around showed that Ancano and Aren appeared to be frozen in time.

“Please do not be alarmed,” said the monk. “I mean you no harm. It is good to meet you in person.”

Was that supposed to imply they’d been spying on me from a distance? Or just that he had heard a report from whoever met me at Saarthal? I exhaled a bit gustily and said, “What is it that you want with me?”

“I merely wish to talk to you,” he replied. “I’ve given us a chance to speak privately, but I’m afraid I can’t do this for long. We must be brief. The situation here at your College is of dire importance, and attempts to contact you as we have previously have failed. I believe it is due to the very source of our concern.”

And that somehow caused problems even when I was clear over in Markarth? I felt more than a bit skeptical of that statement, but nodded.

“This object . . . the Eye of Magnus as your people have taken to calling it. The energy coming from it has prevented us from reaching you with the visions you have already seen.”

What in Oblivion was he talking about? Visions I’d already seen? Did that mean the first fellow was a projection of some sort? And if so, how was that even possible given the Eye was there at the time?

“The longer it remains here, the more dangerous the situation becomes. And so I have come here personally to tell you it must be dealt with.”

“. . .And because I was the one who opened the way. . . .”

“Yes. You must understand, the Psijic Order does not typically . . . intervene directly in events. My presence here will be seen as an affront to some within the Order, and as soon as we have finished I will be leaving your College. I’m all too aware that my presence has aroused suspicion, especially in Ancano, your Thalmor associate. Nevertheless, my Order will not act directly. You must take it upon yourself to do so.”

I huffed quietly, privately annoyed the perceived need for mystery. “He’s no associate of mine,” I muttered, then asked, “So what exactly is the problem and what is expected of me?”

“As you may have learned, this object . . . The Eye . . . is immensely powerful. The world is not ready for it. If it remains here, it will be misused. Indeed, many in the Order believe it has already. . . . Rather, something will happen soon, something that cannot be avoided. We believe that your efforts should be directed toward dealing with the aftermath, but we cannot predict what that will be. I fear I have already overstepped the bounds of my Order, but I will offer this: seek out the Augur of Dunlain here in your College. His perception may be more coherent than ours.”

“And that is. . . ?”

“He was once a student here at the College. Now he is . . . something different. As to where, exactly, he is, I am unsure. Somewhere within the College. Surely one of your colleagues must know his location. I am sorry I cannot provide you with further help, but this conversation requires a great deal of effort on my part. Now, I am afraid I must leave you. We will continue to watch over you, and guide you as best we can. It is within you to succeed. Never forget that.”

Before I could ask anything else, such as about these people spying on my every move, or even why I should trust any of them, he dropped the spell he was using and my sight returned to normal.

“I’m sorry,” Savos said, “were you about to say something?”

“Well? What is the meaning of this?” Ancano demanded.

I sighed and stepped back behind the two, out of their sight and off to the side.

“I’m sorry,” the monk said, “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“Don’t play coy,” Ancano said. “You asked to see a specific member of the College. Here she is. Now what is it you want?”

What I wanted was to not have a target painted on my back for Ancano to aim at.

“There has been a misunderstanding,” the monk said, sounding vaguely confused. “Clearly I should not be here. I shall simply take my leave.”

“What?” Ancano said sharply. “What trickery is this? You’re not going anywhere until I find out what you’re up to!”

My brow went up. Did Ancano really think he stood a chance against someone who could freeze time and teleport away?

“I am not ‘up to’ anything,” the monk insisted. “I apologize if I have offended you in any way.”

“We will see about this,” Ancano said threateningly, yet escorted the monk to the stairwell.

Savos stayed behind, his expression a study in befuddlement. “I’m not sure what just happened. A monk from the Psijic Order, here, after all these years, and then he just leaves. I hope we didn’t offend him somehow.”

“Have you ever heard of the Augur of Dunlain?” I asked curiously, hoping he would let something slip in his inattention.

A look of exasperation mixed with irritation immediately slid over Aren’s face. “Has Tolfdir been telling stories again? I thought I made it quite clear that this was a subject inappropriate for conversation. Please don’t allow him to continue to discuss the subject.”

I was soon enough down in the Midden beneath the College. What a lovely place we had there, though I’d more call it catacombs given the confusing layout and plain odd stuff down here. An Atronach Forge and a Daedric gauntlet, among other things, were waiting to be found. A journal on a table near the gauntlet brought up some interesting questions in my mind and I pocketed it and the key laying there. If I ever remembered to I would have to see about the alleged rings being stored in the Arcanaeum.

At one point I heard a gravelly voice speaking, but there was no body to go with it. “There is no help for you here. There is no solace in knowing what is to come.”

I stared at a convenient wall, waiting to see if more would be said, then continued when nothing was. Eventually I came upon a door I could not open, nor could I pick it.

“Your perseverance will only lead to disappointment. Still you persist? Very well, you may enter.”

I could hear something click, so I reached out and tried to open the door; it gave, so I entered into a circular room with a structure in the middle much like the ones on the ground floors of the twin towers. But this one, instead of having a mage light hovering over it, had a much larger, more diffuse sphere of light.

“You are the Augur of Dunlain?” I inquired.

“I am that which you have been seeking. Your efforts are in vain. It has already begun. But those who have sent you have not told you what they seek. What you seek.”

“You’re correct, they—he—didn’t. But I know that the Eye of Magnus, as they’re calling it, is dangerous, mesmerizing. Even Tolfdir is obsessed with it and that’s just crazy. So I have to assume it’s connected and I have to assume that the Psijics were trying to point me in the direction of something that could counter it, somehow.”

“The Thalmor came seeing answers as well, unaware they will be his undoing. Your path now follows his, though you will arrive too late.”

I didn’t know about that, but then I still didn’t know what I was after. “So Ancano was down here,” I stated.

“He sought information about the Eye, but what he will find shall be quite different. His path will cross yours in time, but first you must find what you need. Your path differs from most. You are being guided, pushed toward something. It is a good path, one untraveled by many. It is a path that can save your College. I will tell you what you need to know to follow it further.”

I was really starting to dislike mystics, and I didn’t mean the school. Maybe I was just confused, but it sounded like the Augur was contradicting himself. Still, politeness often went far. “May I know what it is that I need?”

“You, and those aiding you, wish to know more about the Eye of Magnus. You wish to avoid the disaster of which you are not yet aware. To see through Magnus’s Eye without being blinded, you require his staff. Events now spiral quickly toward the inevitable center, so you must act with haste. Take this knowledge to your Arch-Mage.”

Kind of like a lock and key, but not. “I will do so. Thank you for your time and assistance.” The Augur faded out so I repaired back to the normal College and found Savos again. “I have important information for you,” I told him.

“Really? And what might that be?”

I ground my teeth at his tone. “We need to find the Staff of Magnus.”

“I’m sorry, what? Well . . . I’d certainly love to have such a powerful staff, but I’m not really sure that any of us need it.”

Was it my imagination or had Savos gone pale? “It’s connected to the orb we found.”

“And how do you know of this?”

I tried very hard to keep my face from showing my actual reaction to such a stupid question. “I spoke with the Augur of Dunlain.” Either the Arch-Mage was really rattled about something or he was more distracted than Tolfdir and myself put together.

“Did you really? And he specifically mentioned the Staff of Magnus? I . . . I’m impressed with your initiative. Of course, someone will need to follow up on this.”

I smiled, almost sarcastically. Both the monk and the Augur had already made it clear it would be me. “What should I do next?”

“A most impressive attitude. Keep this up, and you’ll do quite well for yourself.”

I just wanted to continue to improve my magic. I wasn’t necessarily looking to become a teacher or a court wizard.

“Something as specific and ancient as the Staff of Magnus. . . . I’m not sure we’d ever find something like that. I seem to recall Mirabelle mentioning the staff somewhat recently. Why don’t you see if she can tell you anything? I’m quite pleased with your progress, you know. You’ve certainly proven yourself to be more than a mere Apprentice. Well done.” He moved away for a few moments to fetch something. “This circlet once proved invaluable to me. I hope it can be of use to you now.”

Revealing the Unseen
Heartfire, 8th, 4E 201

I found Mirabelle first thing. “Do you know anything about the Staff of Magnus? Arch-Mage Aren said you’d mentioned it recently.”

“Well now that’s an odd question, but I see. Well yes, I suppose I did mention it, though I’m not sure what he expects me to tell you. I only brought it to his attention a few months back when the Synod showed up here looking for it. They were apparently under the impression we were keeping it in a closet somewhere.”

I grinned at the imagery. The Synod was based out of Cyrodiil and were rumored to spend more time collecting and hoarding artifacts than actually doing magic. “The staff may be connected to the Eye of Magnus.”

“The ‘Eye of Magnus’? I can appreciate that this . . . thing, this orb . . . is very impressive, very unique, and definitely worth studying. But let’s not jump to any conclusions, or assign it importance beyond what we’re certain of.”

“Ah, sorry, the Augur referred to it as the Eye of Magnus, not me,” I clarified.

“The Augur?” She seemed disturbed by that information. “Just what have you gotten yourself involved in? Whatever is going on, whatever you’re up to. . . . Be very careful.”

“I will do my best to be so,” I assured her. There was no sense telling her about just exactly what was pushing me forward on this, though I suppose I could have just walked away from it all. But, I was the one who ended up finding the way, so. . . .

“Well,” she said, “it’s said to be very powerful. Has the capacity to store an incredible amount of magical power, as the story goes. But it’s more myth than anything at this point. I’ve no doubt it actually exists, but no one has seen it in what, decades? Longer? I’m not sure. The only time I’ve heard it mentioned was when those Synod characters showed up looking for it.”

“Did they have any ideas aside from our closets?”

“Well. . . .” She absentmindedly ran her thumb over her lower lip, then said, “They inquired about the ruins of Mzulft, but that’s all I remember. It sounded like they were heading there, though they were rather secretive about why. I suppose if you’re intent on looking for the staff, there’s a chance they might be in Mzulft yet. Just don’t expect them to be cooperative.”

I got her to mark my map and stopped by my room again long enough to grab some things, then went down into town to find Erandur. We barely got out of town when another guard said the fatal words. That one counted as number five for my collection. Erandur still failed to notice. He had stopped to adjust a twisted strap on his robes.

According to my map Mzulft was a bit south and a little east of Windhelm, so the journey should not be too taxing.

Unfortunately I got distracted by the hot springs on the way, and by yet another guard saying those words. That brought the count up to six. Did they still go to Sovngarde when they died by Divine intervention? Er, Daedric intervention?

There was a word wall up on a peak of sorts: Krah—Cold. After that we headed roughly east, skirting a Giant camp, and finally arrived at Mzulft.

“I’ve never been inside a Dwemer ruin,” Erandur said as we looked at the exterior. “I can’t imagine what happened to the Dwemer. How could a race with the capability to build a place like this simply vanish?”

I checked a nearby small building and looted the place, including finding a strange piece of bluish material, then headed over to the main ruin. In the entryway through the doors I spotted a man propped up against a wall and hastened over.

“Crystal . . . gone. . . . Find . . . Paratus . . . in Oculory. . . .”

He expired right in front of our eyes, before we even had a chance to try to help. Well, I could have ignored what he was trying to tell us and prepared a spell. I was a little slow on the uptake there, to my chagrin.

There was only one way to go. I gently checked over the Synod member for anything that might help us, or the colleague he directed us to, then went for the door inward.

“This place could be massive,” Erandur warned, “very easy to get lost. We have to be careful not to lose our way.”

“Oh, I agree, friend, I agree.” The key I’d taken from the researcher fit the door, so through it we went. There were steam piston traps triggered by rigged floor plates, Falmer, chaurus, Falmer traps, Dwemer automatons, and more dead researchers. Eventually we reached a huge room with multiple exits, though at least one of them was blocked off by a cave in. There were also stairs leading up to a higher level in the room, and Falmer and their huts were scattered around. “Okay, let’s do this,” I whispered.

I had long since gotten tired of bothering to collect anything off the Falmer we had to kill, but I searched them regardless for they did occasionally have gems or other small items of interest. Of the ones in that huge room, one had a strange crystal neither I nor Erandur could identify. I shrugged and pocketed it anyway.

I went to open the door at the top and found it locked. The lock was too complicated for me to pick by the looks of it, but I was prepared to try. I paused when I heard a voice from the other side.