Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 07

08042015

1.7

CollegeOfWinterhold

The Staff of Magnus
Heartfire, 10th, 4E 201

We pressed on once we felt rested and fed. More stairs, having our reserves drained, pools of water streaming by (that made me wonder if one or more earth shakes in the past had cracked something and diverted an underground water vein through the place, or if it had been designed that way on purpose). There were also spectral versions of draugr with spectral weapons, but they were unlike the spirit forms of Savos and his group. They actually attacked us, but one of them—I was too busy laughing, to be honest. It had no weapon and it kept doing little girly slaps at me with one hand. I suppose a Nord might say it was acting like a milk drinker.

I picked up one each of their weapons, regardless of whether I would end up using them or not. If nothing else they would look lovely displayed on my wall, one each of spectral bow, sword, and battleaxe. The bow seemed to drain magicka, and other two health and stamina, respectively.

“Come. Face your end.”

Damn it! Erandur and I fetched up against a wall again to recover, keeping the stone to our backs, then moved on, eventually coming to a set of doors that looked . . . intimidating, for lack for a better word. The spirits appeared again, just three of them.

“We shouldn’t have left her there to die!” Atmah cried in distress.

“What else could we do?” Savos replied. “Stay there and die with her? She refused to go on, we didn’t have a choice!”

So the Argonian had given up. I had to wonder if a single mage could have made it back out if they were careful, stuck to the shadows. . . . But what Erandur and I were seeing here was a century or more later so there was no telling just what she would have been up against on her own.

“This is it, you know. Through this door. Can you feel it?” Hafnar said.

“We’re not going to make it, are we?” Atmah said, whatever confidence she had managed to grasp onto obviously gone.

“We stay together, no matter what. Agreed?”

“I’ll be right with you,” Atmah replied.

“Agreed. We all stay together,” Savos said as the other two vanished. To me he said, “There were only three of us left. Takes-In-Light just sat down and gave up, and we left her there to die. I’ve no idea what killed her, but I’m sure something did. Atmah cried to herself. Hafnar wouldn’t look at either of us. And I kept telling them it would be all right. I was in charge now. I pushed them on, insisting it would be worse to try and go back. What happened after was my fault. All mine.

“We all knew this was the end. Without even opening the door, we knew what was behind it would kill us. None of our spells were potent enough, none of our wills were strong enough. ‘No matter what, we stay together,’ Hafnar said. I looked him in the eyes and lied to him.”

I looked at Erandur as Savos disappeared. “I kind of dread whatever we might find on the other side.”

“I do, too,” he said. “Are you ready?”

“As much as I can be. Let’s duck through, eye the situation from right there, and decide what to do at that point.” When he nodded I tried to ease the door open as quietly as possible, and only enough for each of us to slide through the opening.

I saw beams of light. There were two spectral people on narrow balconies or overlooks aiming those beams. To the right was a ward bubble they were maintaining. Inside it was a dragon priest. “Something tells me we can’t get at the priest without taking on the two spirits,” I whispered, “and that the priest has the damn staff.”

I could see him nod in my peripheral vision. “So we have some choices. We can get up behind the spirits and disrupt their ward, then fight the priest from a distance, or one of us can be nearer while the other takes the spirits, or we can both be near the priest and switch targets the second the ward is down.”

“I’m not going to decide for you,” I said with a sigh. “I would say we could leave, but I have the feeling if Ancano isn’t stopped he might end up causing another explosion, one so big it wipes the College and Winterhold off the map, or worse.”

“One of us has to survive this,” he replied, and I just knew he was having those atonement thoughts again. “I’ll stay near the priest to attack the moment he’s free. You go take out those spirits, release them from this torment.”

“All right,” I said slowly. “Be careful! You do Mara no good if you’re dead.” I carefully picked my way along, forward, up the stairs, and found a vantage point where I could aim at both spirits. Behind me was a staircase leading down to a door, but that would have to wait. It was probably some kind of alternate exit from this accursed place. I saw Erandur was in position and giving me a nod to proceed, so I threw fire at the first spirit, Hafnar, I think.

He—woke up, I guess. Hafnar stood and pivoted, looking for his attacker, threatening to kill them. I don’t know what had been done exactly, but he seemed bound to the duty of keeping the priest contained. I ended him as quickly as I could, trying to keep an eye on the priest. The ward remained, so I knew that taking out Atmah would cause it to drop. Erandur was still poised to act, so I attacked Atmah. The ward went down and Erandur acted. I had to take down Atmah as quickly as possible so I could help against the priest. Thankfully, she wasn’t any more difficult to lay to rest, not after being there for so long.

The priest, however, he floated, the skeevy fetcher. He also liked to use shock spells, draining some of our reserves. There was . . . a lot of running around and strategic retreats, but we eventually cornered the priest and laid into him with everything we had. And we won. The priest dissolved into ash, leaving behind only his armor—if you could even call it that—the staff, and his mask.

Once I caught my breath I examined the mask and saw something etched on it: Morokei.

We went back around and up and then down the other side, and I swiped anything of interest along the way. Through the door at the back Savos appeared to me again.

“I had no choice, don’t you see? I had to leave them behind, had to sacrifice them so I could make it out alive. If we’d all died there, if we’d loosed the thing on the world, who knows what might have happened? That’s how I consoled myself for years, after I’d sealed this place shut and vowed never to let anyone open it. Now you’ve put it all to rest, but it can’t undo my mistakes. They can never be undone.”

As he faded I thought, ‘And I’m not the one who can forgive you.’ It did make some things clear, however. Even after rising to Arch-Mage Savos had been drained by the whole experience, haunted by it. It explained a bit about why he always seemed so distant and remote, and only woke up when he realized where events at the College were leading. He did what he thought he had to, but his words—they made me think. How he said it. Had those two volunteered to enact the containment, or. . . ?

We emerged into the more familiar look of a Nordic tomb, and someone was waiting.

“So, you made it out of there alive,” he said. He was wearing Thalmor robes. “Ancano was right—you are dangerous. I’m afraid I’ll have to take that staff from you now. Ancano wants it kept safe. Oh, and he wants you dead. Nothing personal.”

Erandur and I had just fried a dragon priest into submission and this idiot thought we’d be intimidated? “Get out of my way before I do something you’ll regret,” I shot back.

And he attacked. And died. And was drained. Hm, Altmer blood always tasted a bit fruity. What really surprised me was when we exited the tomb we were standing high up, on one of those, uh, guard walkways. It had suffered some calamity and was broken in the middle, causing me to wonder just how exactly Ancano’s little friend had gotten into that part of the tomb.

The Eye of Magnus
Heartfire, 11th, 4E 201

The barrier Ancano had placed around the Hall of the Elements had expanded to encompass the entire College and more of those anomalies were darting around and attacking. We raced up to Arniel, Faralda, and Tolfdir just as they took down the last one visible.

“I hope there aren’t any more,” Tolfdir said, then noticed me. “You survived! You have it, then? Let’s hope it’s as powerful as the Psijics believe it to be.”

I hefted the staff and said, “Where’s Mirabelle?”

“She—she didn’t make it,” Tolfdir admitted. “When it was clear we were going to have to fall back, she stayed behind and made sure the rest of us were all right.”

The students and other faculty were probably at the inn, then, I supposed. It was time to see if the Staff of Magnus did anything more than make people lust after its power. I aimed it at the barrier and activated it, and was pleased and surprised to see that the barrier drained away in seconds. We raced into the College and to the Hall of the Elements.

Ancano was there, doing something to the Eye. Channeling its power, perhaps? “You’ve come for me, have you? You think I don’t know what you’re up to? You think I can’t destroy you? The power to unmake the world at my fingertips, and you think you can do anything about it?”

Tolfdir threw fire at him and it just washed by. “Spells have no effect!”

Funny, this was looking a lot like when we first encountered the Eye under Saarthal, except that time draining the ward ended the issue of Jyrik being invulnerable.

“I am beyond your pathetic attempts at magic. You cannot touch me.”

“The Staff!” Tolfdir cried. “Use it on the Eye!”

It was good to see he was thinking along the same lines as I was.

“Enough,” Ancano shouted, then splayed his hands and unleashed a mass paralyzation spell, unfortunately causing Tolfdir and Erandur to drop to the floor. I either only caught the edges of it or my inherent resistance to magic served me very well.

“Still you persist?” Ancano said. “Very well. Come then. See what I can do now.”

‘You can die now,’ I thought, and aimed the staff at the Eye of Magnus and activated it. I saw immediately that the sphere, which had opened along the seams and was spilling out a bright blue light, started to close. Ancano looked alarmed at that and retreated behind a pillar when it fully closed. I took that to mean he was vulnerable and conjured an atronach.

We played a game then. I would drain the Eye, he would take a lot of damage, and then he would find a better spot and start accessing the Eye again. The effects of the paralyzation spell wore off and Tolfdir and Erandur were able to help, which was a good thing given that more of those anomalies were being released from the Eye every time it was opened. Ancano went down and we cleared up the last of the anomalies. There were little puddles of ethereal goo everywhere.

“I knew you could do it!” Tolfdir said happily.

I shrugged. “What do we do now? This thing isn’t safe.”

“I—I don’t know. Ancano is gone, but whatever he’s done to the Eye doesn’t seem to have stopped. I have no idea what to do!”

The world went funny for a moment and one of those Psijic Monks appeared. “We knew you would succeed,” he told me, which rather contradicted some of the things I had heard before—or maybe my memory was off. “Your victory here justifies our belief in you. You have proven yourself more than worthy to guide the College of Winterhold.”

Say what now? I had yet to even achieve Master level in even one school, never mind all of them. I wasn’t even at Adept level in all of them yet. “I don’t happen to agree, but—well, what do we do now? The Eye is too dangerous and attracts power-mad fools.”

“The Eye has grown unstable, yes,” he said. “It cannot remain here, or else it may destroy your College and this world. Ancano’s actions prove the world is not ready for such a thing.”

‘No, it proves that power-mad fools will seek to use it, not that Tolfdir is going to go on a rampage tomorrow.’

“We shall safeguard it . . . for now. You now have the opportunity to maintain your College, and carry on with your lives. You have our gratitude, Arch-Mage.”

I huffed. I could only hope the Psijics were better at not abusing power, despite knowing they must have been spying on me from the moment I touched that stupid amulet. Two of his fellow Psijics teleported in and the three took places equidistant around the Eye, then vanished with it.

“You’ve done it!” Tolfdir cried. “The College is safe again, thanks to your work. I knew you had it in you. I daresay the Psijics are right. There’s no one more deserving to be Arch-Mage, in my opinion. Here, consider this yours.” He shoved a key in my hand. “The robes of office are in your new quarters, as well. I shall be here for advice, should you need me.”

I frowned. I considered pouting. Instead I asked Erandur if he would be a sweetheart and head to the inn to let everyone know it was safe to return, and that he could bunk in my old room if he wanted to rather than paying for a room at the inn this time. “Ah, I’m going to go take a nap,” I told Tolfdir, then took off for my new rooms. Well, room. It was just a big circular room with a partial divider.

Heartfire, 13th, 4E 201

I hunted down Tolfdir and had a long talk with him about the College. Since I got stuck being the new Arch-Mage I appointed him as the new Master-Wizard. It wasn’t as though Mirabelle could—ugh. I barely knew her, either, but. . . . I should be grateful we came out of this with only two deaths. I hardly counted Ancano, because he wasn’t a member and was spying on us anyway.

After that I also pulled the other trainers into the discussion. “Look,” I said, “I realize I can’t exactly get out of being Arch-Mage, not after some Psijic ordained it, but I am hardly ready for this kind of responsibility. And I will never advance my skills sitting around here all day every day. So, Tolfdir is the new Master-Wizard, but I want each of you to please pitch in when you’re aren’t otherwise occupied with training students or working on your own research or experiments.”

I supposed it wouldn’t be much of a burden spread out, and the majority of the work was keeping track of supplies for the College, and payments for said supplies. After they dispersed I poked around my new quarters and tried on the robes—way too big. But I also found an amulet with the College’s symbol, and it seemed to have the same enchantments on it as the robes, so I wore that instead. I could have a new set of robes made and enchanted by whoever it was who handled that—Sergius, probably—to wear when I was actually being Arch-Mage, but the amulet would be fine for roaming around.

I tracked down Erandur and told him that I’d like to roam alone for a while and gave him a hefty amount of coin. When he protested I again pointed out that he could use it to travel extensively and spread the word and love of Mara around Skyrim. If he needed to get me a message for some reason he could send one here to the College, or perhaps Elysium. I also checked in with various instructors to see what they had for sale in the way of spell tomes or robes with stronger enchantments.

Heartfire, 13th, 4E 201

I packed up Horse (that took several trips as it wasn’t like I could lead the poor thing all the way up to my previous room) and decided to check in with the Jarl. He positively loathed the College, but somehow did not connect mage’s robes with being a mage, from the College. So, of a mind to be helpful I went off and retrieved a helm for him from some tomb. There was a really crazy fellow in there, too, a necromantic sort, finding wanderers or those lost, killing them, and reviving them as phantasmal servants. I shudder to think exactly what sorts of behavior he’d gotten up to before I killed him.

I had somehow helped enough people of Winterhold beyond getting the helm, and had made a name for myself, such that Jarl Korir named me Thane of Winterhold. All right, then. He gave me a weapon I would never use, made a speech that basically amounted to saying I had no real power, and sent me packing.

I took a room at the inn, mainly because I didn’t want to walk back up to the College again.

Heartfire, 14th, 4E 201

I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to head down to Riften and poke around, then perhaps go west, stop at Elysium, spend as little time as possible in or near Markarth. . . . I still had yet to read that Breton’s note, but I was sure it could wait—or it would get resolved before I got around to bothering. For all I knew he tried that trick on every passing outsider.

Ran into a bear along the way and I was reminded of why being a vampire can be so damn handy at times. The beast was just sitting there, posturing and growling to warn me off, blocking the damn road. I was easily able to jump up on a large rock so it was unable to actually attack me when I conjured an atronach and started sending fire at it.

The wilds in The Rift are gorgeous in their own way. So many birches! A would-be thief tried to hold me up and was easily intimidated into running the hell away. I suppose the flames flickering over my hands didn’t hurt. I caught up to him later on. He had found a bear and died to it. I wondered if the thieves in Skyrim were just as inept as the assassins.

My little firefly friend started glowing when it got dark enough, a nice pinkish glow against an already warm-toned landscape. Eh, that sounded absurdly poetic. Shortly after I reached the gates and had a laugh when one of the guards tried to shake me down for a visitor’s tax. Really now, he sounded like a young boy barely old enough to grow his first beard trying to sound confident and intimidating. His fellow gate guard was snickering quietly behind his helmet as the idiot hastened over to unlock the gate.

That did make me wonder, though. If the gate was locked, did that mean there were other guards stationed inside also with keys? Did you always have to wait for the gate to be unlocked first? Or maybe he just saw me coming and decided I was a stranger, and therefore ripe for the picking.

On my way to the inn I overheard a man and woman speaking of the Thieves Guild and Maven Black-Briar, and was then stopped by a brutish man warning me to watch myself and not do anything to cross Maven. He was willing to dish some gossip, and since I’ve had two assassins come at me already I asked about them. What he had to say was a rumor of some kid who used to live at the orphanage in town. Said child supposedly would or had performed the Black Sacrament against his erstwhile caretaker. I was almost afraid to go to the orphanage to find out why a child would go to such extremes.

He also talked about the Thieves Guild, mainly just to give me a name—Brynjolf—should I be interested in getting in on the action. I was iffy on that, really. I’m not in the habit of theft (looting, yes) and if I wanted to steal I couldn’t see why I would need to be part of a guild to do so, especially one that’s, according to this guy, down on its luck. And, Maven Black-Briar was very important in town and had connections to both the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood. This fellow (he said his name was Maul) worked for her, and part of his duties were to scope out any strangers and make sure they knew where not to err.

Maven was at the Bee and Barb. I could tell it was her by the way she angled her face. It was like all she could smell was excrement, or that it was some requirement to be able to look down on others, no matter how silly it made one look trying to find the right pose to do so. At any rate, the Bee and Barb had a lot of patrons, but they were all strangely quiet.

There was a real looker of a red-haired Nord male dressed in finery, an Argonian proprietor and Argonian helper, an Imperial mage who offered to be my traveling companion for hire (perhaps—I would have to think about it), and a number of others present. Most of them seemed upset, angry, sad, or a bit desperate. Riften wasn’t a nice place, I guessed, and I’d be sleeping with one eye open.

The only person who didn’t seem all doom and gloom was a Priest of Mara. I gave him a donation for the temple and kind of wished I hadn’t parted ways with Erandur so quickly. I expect he would have liked to come here, if only for the temple.

I rented a room from the innkeeper and headed upstairs to my room.

Heartfire, 15th, 4E 201

I had barely gotten downstairs when that redhead from before sidled up to me and said quietly, “Never done an honest day’s work in your life for all that coin you’re carrying, eh, lass?”

I snorted and said, “Brynjolf, is it?” He declined to confirm or deny and I decided to play along for the time being. “And how could you possibly ‘know’ that?”

“It’s all about sizing up your mark, lass. The way they walk, what they’re wearing. It’s a dead giveaway. And you were wise to the little side business the gate guards like to try.”

“You’re not giving me much confidence in the general level of intelligence of people around here or who visit,” I pointed out. “Just what did you have in mind?”

“I’ve got a bit of an errand to perform, but I need an extra pair of hands. And in my line of work, extra hands are well-paid.”

“Uh huh. And what would those extra hands need to do?”

“Simple. I’ll cause a distraction, and you’d steal a ring from the strongbox of a specific market stand. Then, you’d plant it on the mark.”

‘Definitely Brynjolf,’ I thought, then said, “Ah, no. I have yet to steal anything and I hadn’t planned on starting. Sorry, friend.”

“I usually have a nose for this kind of thing,” he muttered. “Never mind then, lass. If you change your mind, come find me.” He took a different door than I had used coming in the night before, but from what I remembered of the town it should probably open out onto the marketplace.

I followed him so I could poke around the shops and stalls, then left town. I looped around east (I found it odd that one of the town gates was blocked off) and checked out the road back there, practicing my skills against the local hostile wildlife and enjoying the scenery.

As I came upon a bridge I heard snarling and a man crying out, “I’ll see you burn!” Then a death gurgle. When I jumped over the side I saw a dead farmer and three wolves. Poor fellow didn’t stand a chance.

I eventually realized I had gotten my directions mixed up when I emerged from some trees to find myself staring at the hot springs area south of Windhelm. M’aiq the Liar was there, watching the mammoths cavorting in the warm water. I found the sight pretty amusing, actually.

It was late by the time I made it to Windhelm. Other than the mammoths in the hot springs nothing much interesting happened on the way. Just the usual wolves, bears, sabre cats, and the like. Well, there was one elk being controlled by a spriggan, but the spriggan itself didn’t show, so I went on my way.

I did see a peak along the way that made me wonder if there might be a wall up there, because others had been in similar places, but the only path I saw led to a cave or mine, so I went back down and continued on.

Heartfire, 16th, 4E 201

It probably wasn’t the best time to switch to using ice spells, but. . . . I remembered I had a tome that would teach me to summon an ancient lich, and while the casting cost was pretty high I decided to try it out. Summoning flame atronachs just wasn’t teaching me well enough.

I passed some Vigilants of Stendarr while meandering along and overheard them talking about vampires (big surprise) and also about some place called Dimhollow Crypt (probably enough to keep the kiddies away with a name like that). They were certain the vampires were up to more no good than usual and were planning to head there.

As I kept on I realized I might benefit from some Conjuration training when I was next at the College. I bypassed it because I’d only just left there, but it was something to consider for when I got back to it. Something very important impressed itself upon me as I walked. Conjuring an ancient lich up north on a bright day is a recipe for a game of hide and seek, because the damn thing was kind of ethereal and I usually couldn’t even tell where it was it blended in so well!

Since I was near Dawnstar I stopped in to deliver a note I’d picked up from a lady at Anga’s Mill. The Jarl was pleased to receive it, and told me he wished he could conscript the lot of them into the Stormcloak ranks. Yeah, sure, because he’s so high up in the ranks and has that power, right. He told me to piss off again once he was done with that pronouncement.

I decided to spend the night in town.