Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 12

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3.1

Interlude

Frostfall, 16th, 4E 201

“So what now?” Serana asked.

I contemplated that as we sat by the fire, eyeing the new decoration I had propped up on a shelf. I’d found it in the ruin that sat atop the mountain between Elysium and some town while I was poking around. I had also found a word wall in there: Fus—Force. “Well, I still have a ways to go when it comes to my skills. They may have made me Arch-Mage, but my skills are hardly equal to that, at least in my opinion. So, I’ll continue wandering as I have been and I’ll just ask around in each town about any bounties needing to be handled and take care of them along the way.”

“Sounds good,” she replied.

And with that we got up and got ready to leave.

“Oh, wow. Maybe the Dark Brotherhood is wising up a little?” I said. “They sent a Dunmer after me this time.”

“Who’d you piss off to have this happening?”

“I honestly have no idea,” I said with a shrug. “This is like . . . the fourth assassin now? It’s been happening for a while.”

We made it to Riften a few hours after nightfall and entered the Bee and Barb. That redheaded thief from before smirked at me and said, “Glad to see you’ve finally come to your senses. Ready to make some coin, lass?”

I laughed and walked away, finding an empty seat at one of the tables. He decided to try to join me, but Serana neatly slipped into the other seat and arched a brow at him. I made like a normal human and had some mead, then arranged for rooms for the night. I also asked Keerava if there were any bounties to be had.

The one she handed over wasn’t far away according to my map—Keerava was kind enough to point out where—so it shouldn’t be a problem to take care of it.

Frostfall, 17th, 4E 201

We headed out in the morning. I really wished they would unblock that east-facing gate for those times when going east was necessary. Well, we got there easily enough and nipped in. All the bandits inside were asleep, but not for long. Serana and I simply sneaked up to each of them and drained them. Interestingly there was a secret room, with a dead prisoner. Well, not so much secret as meant to imprison someone. Leifnarr, apparently, according to some papers he had on him. If I ran across his family I’d be sure to let them know of his demise. Either way, the cave had some of the lamest and least disguised traps I’d yet seen.

Frostfall, 18th, 4E 201

We found ourselves at the College again. I offloaded those strange books with Urag for a thousand septims each. He told me he recognized them as original language copies of some books he had. And since he had more than one copy of each he gave me a set in addition to the money.

While we were there I checked in on Dexion. On our way past Windhelm I had stopped in at the courier office there and had a request sent off to Solitude, to the Imperial Legion. Hopefully by the next time I came through Winterhold Dexion would have been escorted on his way back to Cyrodiil. Couriers, at least those not directly attached to the military, were more or less above taking sides, so I expected my message would get there without too much trouble.

Since we were there I spent some time in the library. I had decided, perhaps correctly and perhaps erroneously, that part of why Serana could be weird at times was that she never really had enough time to assimilate all the centuries she’d lost while asleep, locked in that tomb. Time spent at the College, with the Arcanaeum available, should give her a chance to catch up on things without the looming threat of her father to distract her.

Odd. I noticed a chest I never had before. It reminded me of that Daedric gauntlet I found in the Midden, and the journal there on the table. Urag was about, as always, so if I planned to investigate that chest it’d have to wait, as I didn’t expect he’d take too kindly to me unlocking it and taking the contents. For the time being, reading.

Frostfall, 22nd, 4E 201

How interesting. I found a book about the Dwemer which spoke of a mysterious artifact. Naturally, there wasn’t a thing about where it might be or what it looked like, but that was typical, I supposed. It wasn’t as though anyone spent a lot of time describing other Dwemer artifacts, even if their names were known to history. I also took care of paperwork, with Tolfdir showing me how things worked, before we left, and authorized a bunch of expenditures.

On our way out we ran into some Imperial soldiers at the end of the bridge looking a bit nervous. The one in charge showed me the request I had sent so I led them into the College and let Dexion know his escort had arrived. Dexion had very little to pack so it wasn’t long before he was bundled up against the cold and ready to leave.

I collected another sweet roll. I was starting to wonder if Sheogorath was fond of me for some inexplicable reason.

We parted ways when the road split, Serana and I continuing on west and Dexion and his escort heading south toward Whiterun. It would have been suicide to head down past Windhelm, after all, and it was enough of a risk to come to Winterhold. The Stormcloaks there would have attacked and poor Dexion would have been caught in the middle.

We picked up a bounty in Dawnstar for a giant. Not really sure why, though. Tumble Arch Pass is almost equidistant between Dawnstar and Whiterun, so, well, whatever. When I passed by there I’d handle it, but I’d not backtrack just for that. In Morthal we picked up a bounty to kill some bandit group at Robber’s Gorge (what an unimaginative name!), and the innkeeper was all too eager to share the recent tragedy in town.

It seemed one of the homes was burnt down under suspicious circumstances. People claimed it was done by the owner, with his wife and child still inside. I supposed they gossiped because the man, Hroggar, moved in with some woman named Alva the very next day. I guess they weren’t simply friends? I mean, in theory, he’d have to live somewhere while rebuilding, right? I guess it was because Alva was female, or there was something about her—or his behavior around her.

Frostfall, 23rd, 4E 201

Well now, that was interesting. When I came out of my room in the morning I saw Alva—she seemed . . . sultry—coming out of one of the rooms with Aslfur. He was one of the Jarl’s men, I thought, her steward? Perhaps Alva was a troublemaker after all. I resolved to go speak with the Jarl about what the innkeeper said regarding Hroggar and the fire.

Once I got past Aslfur (who, as it turned out, was the Jarl’s husband in addition to being her steward), I said to Jarl Idgrod, “I heard you wanted someone to look into that house fire. Is that correct?”

“Hroggar’s house fire?” she replied. “He lost his wife and daughter in the blaze. My people believe it to be cursed now. Who am I to gainsay them?”

‘Right,’ I thought. True, there were spirits, usually restless, but the ones causing trouble were usually forced to act that way. “What does Hroggar say happened?”

“Hroggar blames his wife for spilling bear fat in the fire. Many folk think he set the fire himself.”

I frowned. Because of the rumors involving Alva? “Even with his wife and child in the house?”

“Lust can make a man do the unthinkable. The ashes were still warm when he pledged himself to Alva,” the Jarl replied.

‘Ah, so those weren’t just rumors. That looks really bad,’ I thought. “And there’s nothing substantial enough to have arrested him.”

“On rumor and gossip? No,” Jarl Idgrod said. “But you, a stranger, might find the truth for us. Sift through the ashes that others are too fearful to touch. See what they tell you. Should you prove him guilty or innocent, I will reward you.”

I nodded and departed the longhouse. At least those words were somewhat comforting. The Jarl seemed to want the truth of the matter, not just what was convenient. The burned out house had a little surprise in the corner, out of casual sight. The ghost of a child was there, Helgi, but she refused to tell me much about what had happened. But to find out who was responsible for setting the fire would require a game.

“If you can find me first, I can tell you,” Helgi said, then faded out.

Serana sighed. “Well, she is just a child. So we need to go to where she’s buried, and before this mystery person does.”

“I’m going to assume the people did the usual and buried the poor thing, so. . . .”

We found the grave easily enough; it was up behind the house, on higher ground. Strangely, though, there was just the one grave visible, and at that, the hole was shallow and the coffin was unburied and half out of the ground. And, unfortunately, it was morning. Helgi had insisted it be dark, so we had a lot of time to kill.

People in town refused to talk about it and seemed to think that the Jarl was a fool for having any of it investigated, which I found very strange, belief in curses aside. Idgrod the Younger asked me to deliver a letter for her, to Danica in Whiterun, after I questioned her about the incident. I agreed; I’d get there eventually anyway.

I wanted to speak with Hroggar himself, but he was nowhere to be found. I did find Alva’s house, though. No one answered when I knocked and I was not about to pick the lock in broad daylight. When evening did finally come around I checked the coffin and heard, “Make Laelette go away!”

A split second later I heard spells flying. Obviously Laelette had crept up into place while my attention was off in the clouds. The drain spell and the glowing eyes rather gave away that she was a vampire, but she was just a normal one (if any could be called normal) and went down easily.

“You found me!” Helgi said, her form becoming visible. “Laelette was trying to find me too, but I’m glad you found me first. Laelette was told to burn mommy and me, but she didn’t want to. She wanted to play with me forever and ever. She kissed me on the neck, and I got so cold that the fire didn’t even hurt. Laelette thought she could take me and keep me, but she can’t. I’m all burned up.”

I turned away when Helgi said she was tired and wanted to sleep, to see a man standing over Laelette’s body. “Laelette! She’s dead!” he cried. “Ysmir’s beard! She’s—she’s a vampire!”

Serana hung back while I stepped toward him. She was more recognizable as a vampire, anyway. (Maybe it was her outfit?) “Apparently so, yes,” I said to him. “How did you know her?”

“She was my wife,” he almost sobbed. “I thought she left to join the Stormcloaks. Ah! My poor Laelette!”

Oh dear. “Ah, did you notice anything strange before she left?”

He continued to stare at her corpse as he said, “She began to spend a lot of time with Alva. Yet just a week before, she despised her. In fact, the night she disappeared, she was supposed to meet Alva. Alva told me later that she never showed up. I never got to tell her good-bye.”

I felt Serana ghost up behind me and then heard her whisper, “If you didn’t catch it, I did. Alva is a vampire.”

Well, Serana was a lot older and probably had much keener senses. So—“I think . . . they probably did meet up.”

“You think Alva—but that means—ye gods! You think Alva is a vampire?” he said skeptically.

“It’s a distinct possibility,” I said.

“No! You’re wrong. You must be wrong. Laelette may have met her fate out in the marsh. I refuse to believe Alva had anything to do with this. There is no way you can prove it to the Jarl.” He shook his head vehemently and moved a bit away, but still near to the body.

I turned away and rejoined Serana. “Wonderful,” I muttered. “Another one Alva has her claws into.”

“So we break into her house,” Serana said with a slight shrug.

“Mm, I agree. Preferably while she’s not in it, though Hroggar might well be. I don’t care one way or the other if Alva is a vampire, but if she’s seducing townsfolk, turning some of them, and ordering deaths, that’s another matter entirely.”

“So let’s stop at the inn to see if she’s there again, and if so, we can go search her house.”

We barely got back to the main street in town when I saw Alva headed toward the inn, a guard in tow. I exchanged a look with Serana and headed toward Alva’s house. Outside I waited until the patrolling guards were far enough away, quickly picked the lock, and ducked inside, a spell at the ready. I was right to be cautious; Hroggar was there, axe in hand, ready to kill. Calm took care of that little issue and he turned away, utterly disinterested.

“Keep him calm,” Serana hissed. “I’ll check the cellar.” She was back within a minute or two and we ducked back out. Once we were far enough away she handed over a journal and said, “It’s a bit obvious when there’s a sleeping coffin in plain sight.”

I snickered and opened the journal.

My life is dreary. Where is my prince come to rescue me? Where is my bold Nord warrior to sweep me off my feet?

I met a man today when picking nightflowers. He is exciting and exotic. We kissed in the moonlight. It was so romantic. I’m going to see him again tonight.

Now I understand the true colors of the night. Movarth has shown me the true black of night and the true red of blood. He has promised me a feast of blood if I do his bidding in Morthal.

Hroggar was easy to seduce. Movarth said I should find a protector first, someone to watch over my coffin during the day. Hroggar is perfect.

Laelette came to visit me tonight. She slaked my thirst. I’ve hidden her away to let her rise as my handmaiden. I’ve spread the rumor in town that she left to join the war. Fools.

Movarth has confided his grand plan to me. I am to seduce the guardsmen one at a time and make them my slaves. Then he and the others from the coven can descend upon Morthal and take the entire town. We won’t kill them. They will become cattle for our thirst. An endless supply of blood and an entire town to protect us from the cursed sun.

Hroggar’s family is becoming inconvenient. I’ve told Laelette to kill them all, but make it look like an accident. Hroggar must be seen as innocent if he is going to be my protector.

That little fool! Laelette burned Hroggar’s family alive. I asked for an accident and she gave me a scandal. To make matters worse, she tried to turn his little girl, Helgi. Except Laelette couldn’t even get that right. She killed the child and left the body to burn.

Something is wrong with Laelette. She keeps talking about Helgi. I think her mind has snapped. She seems to think that the child can still be brought back to be her companion.

There is a stranger in town, looking into the fire. I’ll have to be careful.

“Oh gods,” I muttered.

“Yeah.”

“Well, fine. I doubt the Jarl would appreciate us wandering in at this hour, so I guess there’s more waiting to be done.”

“You know Alva will find out from Hroggar and probably run for it,” Serana said.

“I know, but there’s no help for it, really. Hopefully, if that happens, the Jarl will have an idea of where to look.”

“All right, then. Let’s go waste some time.”

Frostfall, 24th, 4E 201

As soon as it was feasible we returned to the Jarl’s longhouse. “It was Alva,” I said, offering up the journal. “Big plot, you won’t like it. It’s in here.”

“Alva? Didn’t think she had it in her.” Jarl Idgrod took the journal and started reading, then said, “So it’s true. That traitorous bitch! Morthal owes you a debt. Here.”

Aslfur stepped up and gave me a coin pouch, the reward for finding evidence either way, I assumed.

“I need one more favor from you,” the Jarl said. “Morthal is still in danger. The journal mentions Movarth, a master vampire I thought was destroyed a century ago. I’ll gather together some able-bodied warriors to clean out Movarth’s lair.”

Aslfur dashed off before I could so much as blink.

“They’ll be waiting outside for you to lead them,” she concluded.

“Great,” I said. “At least it’s day time.”

“Movarth is in a cave,” she added, “so he may not be asleep.”

“Right.” I turned and strolled on out, almost not surprised to see a mob of angry townsfolk gathered up and starting their journey to wherever it was we were going. “This’ll be loads of fun,” I said to Serana.

“Bets on them all getting cold feet once we’re there?” she said.

“That’s a sucker bet and you know it,” I retorted, following behind the mob at a light jog. They led us off along a barely-there path through the marsh and eventually to a cave mouth. Serana and I drifted to a stop, preparing to go in, and that’s when it started. The doubts, the second thoughts, the slow creeping away. . . . Only the husband from the night before stayed, Thonnir.

“Look,” I said. “I can see you’re quite brave, but why don’t you let us handle this. If you really want to come inside, I won’t stop you, but it might not hurt for there to be someone just outside in case one of them tries to flee. The sunlight should weaken them if any do,” I said, glancing up at the sky.

“No, I—I’ll guard the entrance,” he said.

“All right,” I said, preferring that he did stay outside. If one of the targets inside the cave should happen to point out that Serana and I were both vampires ourselves, well, Thonnir might have ended up a wee bit confused and attacked one or both of us. His death would be unfortunate.

We were in there for a bit, picking them off one by one. Thralls, vampires, and, of course, the master vampire himself. I found it rather amusing how confident he was. I expect he had no clue what he was up against. He died, naturally. I ducked out long enough to bring Thonnir in. “I wanted you to see and know that they’re gone. If there were any of them elsewhere, well, I don’t know about that, but all the ones here are dead.”

Thonnir nodded as he gazed around, taking in the great splashes and pools of blood surrounding the corpses. “Aye. Time to go back, then.”

When I went to update Jarl Idgrod she first confessed that she had not expected me to be capable of the job, but thanked me nevertheless. I just loved those backhanded compliments. She then offered to make me a Thane of Hjaalmarch, but I would first need to help her people and make a name for myself.

‘Same old song and dance,’ I thought, and nodded. Apparently, saving the entire hold capital wasn’t quite enough for a fancy title. With that I was dismissed, not unkindly, and I headed back out into town. “It’s interesting,” I said quietly to Serana when she rejoined me.

“What do you mean?”

I headed toward the apothecary. “When I helped out here, saving the town—not without your equal effort, of course—the Jarl offered to make me a Thane if I became more well known in her hold.”

Serana shook her head. “What’s so odd about that? I mean, I wouldn’t want it, but. . . .”

“It’s interesting because Erandur and I saved Dawnstar from that Daedric artifact, and the Jarl there more or less said thanks and piss off. I kind of wonder if it has anything to do with Dawnstar being aligned with the Stormcloaks. Except that Winterhold is, too, and Jarl Korir practically threw the title at me after I fetched that helm for him.” I shrugged and opened the door to the Thaumaturgist’s Hut.

I found some things I wanted and began to haggle with Lami. After settling a price I counted out the coins for her and handed them over. “How long have you been an alchemist?” I asked. Most people liked to be asked things like that.

“Oh, I started learning years ago,” she said, then got a wistful look on her face. “My mentor had a book, Song of the Alchemist, that I began learning from. I miss having access to it.”

My brow furrowed as I did a mental inventory of my current hoard of books. “Hm. I have an extra copy of that, actually.”

“You do?” Lami perked right up and smiled widely. “Would you be willing to part with it? I can teach you a bit about alchemy in exchange.”

“Sure. Let me go get it,” I said. “And pack this stuff away.” A short time later I had returned and made the exchange, then left again to poke around town. It wasn’t exactly that I was wanting to be a Thane of Hjaalmarch, I was just in one of those moods again.

I was chopping wood to give Thonnir a hand when Hroggar wandered by and mentioned that he would be happy to buy firewood. He stood there, staring off into the distance, then turned to me and quite nearly snarled, “You dare speak to me after all you’ve done?”

I gave Serana a look and started to wonder just exactly what sort of shape his mind was in. A few minutes later he spoke again, that time to thank me for freeing him from Alva’s mind control. ‘Poor guy,’ I thought. ‘It’s going to take some time for him to recover from all of this.’

He wandered off again before I was done chopping and I sold what I’d cut to Thonnir, then managed to get myself into a brawl with a fellow named Benor. Somehow that counted as helping one of the people of Hjaalmarch, as I later found out. Benor told me, after I had beat the stuffing out of him, that if I ever needed help he would be happy to travel with me.

“No offense,” I muttered to Serana, “but I really don’t understand you Nords at times. You and your mother are very sensible when it comes to magic, but maybe it’s because you were using it before all the horrifying events happened that people started blaming mages for—without real cause, naturally.”

“At least getting into a fist fight with a Nord as bonding is more palatable than an Altmer thinking they’re one step away from divinity if only every other race would just up and die already,” she replied.

“True, very true,” I said with a laugh. “Hang on, let me go see if there was anything else the Jarl wanted before we think about heading out.” Apparently gossip traveled just as fast within a community as between them as Jarl Idgrod had proclaimed me a Thane even before I opened my mouth, and then she presented me with a housecarl.

I was more than a little confused by that, I admit. I had just been given a person. I smiled and nodded, then motioned to the housecarl—Valdimar—and headed outside. She had also told me I could purchase a plot of land to build a home for myself, but I wasn’t all that interested, not with having been found worthy of Elysium, and not with having quarters at the College.

Serana took one look at him and started shaking her head. “Mm, I think I’m going to head back to the house for now,” she said. “Give you a chance to figure this one out.”

I stared after her as she strode away. I could have used her help, here! ‘Right,’ I thought. ‘She’s being a bit weird again.’ I continued on to the Moorside Inn and bespoke rooms, then found an empty table to sit at. When Valdimar hovered instead of taking a seat I gestured him into one. He was a real looker, too, though obviously not a young man. “Enlighten me, because the last time I was made a Thane I wasn’t—there was no housecarl involved, so this is a surprise to me. Housecarls are a kind of bodyguard?”

“Yes, my Thane,” he said. “I am sworn to carry your burdens and defend your life and property.”

“Okay,” I said, a bit uneasily. “How does that even work? I mean, you wake up one day and decide, ‘I’d like to be a housecarl,’ then apply with the Jarl so the next person to randomly come along and get named Thane. . . .” I fluttered my hand around.

“It is a bit more involved than that, but in some ways, yes,” he said. “For you, Jarl Idgrod chose someone who was comfortable with magic, as she knows you are a mage.”

I raised a brow at that. Either the gossips had made sure it was known, or the whispers of the Jarl having visions was more truth than fiction and she may have seen something. “So you’re comfortable with mages.”

“Yes, my Thane. I use some Alteration spells myself, mostly armor.”

“Oh. All right, then. Er, this may come across as impolite, but most Nords are really touchy or dismissive or downright hostile when it comes to magic.”

It was not a question in any form, but he obviously understood what I was getting at, and smiled faintly. “It is a tool, just like a blade, or a hauberk, or a hoe.”

Good enough, I supposed. I had no idea about any other Thanes of Hjaalmarch, but I knew I had helped with a serious problem (in addition to a few far more mundane tasks), so Valdimar should be satisfied that his new Thane was not a puffed up popinjay. “All right. I’ve got a bounty to see about, so we can set out in the morning. I’ve already gotten us rooms here. Go ahead and gather up anything you want or need this evening.”

Frostfall, 25th, 4E 201

I would have to keep reminding myself that Valdimar had not my senses. We were crossing a bridge when I realized something was nearby—that characteristic sound of a mudcrab trying to creep up—and I had killed it before Valdimar even knew anything was amiss.

“How did you even know it was there?” he asked.

I just smiled at him and continued on. Eventually I came across a place I recognized well enough. I had been by this crabber’s shanty more than once already. Robber’s Gorge was a simple enough deal and Valdimar did well, though had had a strange habit of recasting his mage armor way more often than necessary.

On the way back to Morthal I spotted a ruin and decided to go in. One battle with bandits wasn’t much to go on when it came to evaluating my housecarl, though he did peg that slaughterfish with pinpoint accuracy.

“Okay, this is interesting,” I said, watching as a ghostly bard walked off through a gated archway. Once the spectre disappeared I stepped forward and eyed the ruby claw key sitting on what looked to be a pressure plate plinth. Then I looked around for any napping draugr and quietly pointed them out to Valdimar. I indicated for him to go right, and then turned and started sending fire at the two on the left.

Once they were crispy I grabbed the claw and watched in satisfaction as the gate slid up. The ghost was waiting once we passed through, and walked off when I got close enough. A winding path led to a chain and a blocked door. The bard was on the other side and walked forward, through another blocked door. I could see, though, more of those to either side of me. I suspected another “clever” Nord puzzle.

I pulled the only chain I could find, there being nothing else of obvious interest. The doors rotated and opened the way the bard took, though we had to use a circuitous route to manage it. “Of course, spiders,” I muttered when two of the large ones dropped down from above. They were easily enough killed, but I honestly wondered how it was they could thrive so well in a tomb. Were there really that many inept adventurers? I didn’t really think spiders could get much nutrition from the desiccated corpses of Nords long since dead, after all.

There were two circular grates in the floor, each bisected in the manner of doors, and a single chain. No other exits. I suspected, rightly, that the chain would drop at least one of them open, the one that led down to a deep well of water. “I hope you can swim,” I said to Valdimar, then jumped. My housecarl had very nice legs, I noticed, coming up from the bottom of the well as he landed in the water.

The bard showed up again, and skeevers, and draugr, and various traps. I got to dodge some swinging blades that I shut down so Valdimar could get through—again, he just didn’t have the speed to handle things like them. The bard again, headed to the right, but there was a door directly ahead that glowed with magic.

I ignored the door for the moment and followed the ghost. After picking the lock on the door in my way I saw the remains of a room, the ceiling caved in. The bard was sitting there on the rubble, looking down at a skeleton and holding his hand over a book or journal. As soon as I picked it up the ghost disappeared. There was a song or poetry written in it, but age and damage had blotted much of the ink and ruined entire passages, but I could see it was about Olaf One-Eye.

Back at the sealed door the ghost reappeared and removed the barrier, then brandished an ethereal sword and raced onward. We followed, though I felt that following a spirit around was somehow a bit dodgy, and eventually ended up at the door which required the claw key. The bard was waving his sword around some more. “So,” I said, “what are the odds that we’re about to enter a room with the spectre of this Olaf One-Eye person?” Valdimar made a weird noise so I turned to look at him inquiringly.

“Olaf One-Eye was a king, my Thane. He was famous for trapping the dragon Numinex at Dragonsreach.”

“Right,” I said. “Our friend here is very uncomplimentary about this Olaf person. Called him a betrayer, thief, and a liar. I do believe he has a longstanding grudge to settle.”

“Fight? A former High King of Skyrim, my Thane?” Valdimar said, looking scandalized.

I considered asking him to use my name instead of a title, except it would likely make him feel even more uncomfortable than he already was. “You can stay out here if you prefer. It makes no difference to me. But consider this, before you decide. According to everything I’ve read so far, most draugr were followers of dragon priests back when, which means they worshiped dragons. There are some who guarded nobility. There are some who were purposely made that way as a punishment by other Nords, as I’ve recently experienced personally. If we go through that door and find a draugr version of this King Olaf, what does that tell you? Either way, if you come or wait here, I’m not going to judge your decision.”

I waited patiently. The bard waited impatiently. Valdimar eventually nodded at the door, so I opened it with the key and pressed on. There was a coffin ahead and up some stairs in a position generally reserved for someone important, but there were also the usual draugr scattered around prior to that—the first line of defense, if you will—all on throne-like chairs, perhaps twenty of them. The bard ran in, yelling some silent war cry, and diverted his attention from Olaf’s tomb once the first of the draugr rose.

Really, I was getting jaded. The bard bade Olaf to rise after the majority of the draugr were defeated, and the former king popped up, as a draugr, and Valdimar just shook his head before refreshing his mage armor and wading on in. I gleefully summoned another atronach and threw fire around. Draugr were so deliciously weak to it, generally speaking. I was delighted to see that there was a word wall back there, but it could wait a little.

When it was over I paused in my advance on the wall when I saw the bard move over to a door up there to the left. He faced us, pulled out his spectral lute, and started to play. There was no sound, just a blossom of warm light, and then he was gone. I could only think he’d been waiting all this time for someone to come along and discover what had happened to him, and to help him get his revenge.

Olaf’s corpse had a key. The word wall gave: Wuld—Whirlwind.

The key opened that door to the left and revealed a treasure room, which I promptly looted, and also a lever which opened a secret passageway providing a shortcut back to near the beginning of the barrow.

We made it back to Morthal in decent enough time and I collected the bounty, but it was getting late so we’d stay the night in town. Solitude might well have things of interest, but I was having trouble imagining the Jarl there needing to post bounties. On the other hand, the soldiers were there for the war, not the hold specifically.