Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 13

19042015-20042015

3.2

Interlude

Frostfall, 26th, 4E 201

“Does this happen often?” Valdimar asked.

I snorted and rolled my eyes. “All the damn time. It’s usually assassins from the Dark Brotherhood, though. A cultist of Boethiah? That’s new.”

“Assassins?”

“Mm. I have no idea who I pissed off. Well, maybe the Thalmor, in a roundabout way.”

Valdimar frowned. “How would you have managed that? I cannot imagine you just burning any Thalmor you came across.”

“Doesn’t mean I haven’t considered it,” I muttered, then said, “No, but there was a Thalmor adviser to the Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold, and he found me troublesome. Even sent one of his lackeys to kill me. I suppose it’s possible that his reports back might have something to do with the assassins, but I honestly have problems seeing one of the Thalmor performing the Black Sacrament. If that truly were it I would expect actual Thalmor to track me down. It’s not as though they’ve bothered the College itself. I think they might be too embarrassed by how badly Ancano messed up.”

Passing through Dragon Bridge netted me another sweet roll for my collection—I would have to swing by Elysium at some point to drop off the ones I had—and entering Solitude some time later landed us right at the beginning of a public execution. How fun.

I edged my way along behind the crowd. The gentleman up on display was named Roggvir; he was to be beheaded for the crime of opening the gates of Solitude so that Jarl Ulfric could escape after his challenge-murder of High King Torygg. “Do they normally wait so long?” I asked Valdimar quietly.

Valdimar just shrugged lightly. No help there. I waited through the “event”, until people started going back to their daily business—no sense trying to shop if the shopkeepers were all watching the spectacle—and then started poking around. Before I knew it I had agreed to take care of a half dozen errands for people, and had managed, during a visit to the Blue Palace, to agree to check out some cave Queen Potema used to use for necromancy.

Some of those errands were simple enough to manage right there in the city, but a couple would have to wait until morning, at least. At the inn some fellow from Hammerfell, Jawanan or something, said he’d come to Solitude to visit, but stayed to learn fletching. But more interestingly, he mentioned during the course of our conversation a place called Volskygge and claimed it had a wall that chanted in the ancient dragon tongue.

Oddly, right after he said that, the in-house bard decided to sing The Dragonborn Comes.

Frostfall, 27th, 4E 201

I noticed another mercenary on my way out, Belrand, a spellsword. I had no need for him, but I’d keep him in mind. Besides, he wasn’t the eye candy my housecarl was, even though he was obviously younger.

Frostfall, 28th, 4E 201

It took most of the day to clear out Broken Oar Grotto and to investigate Wolfskull Cave. We didn’t get back to Solitude until well after dark. After a decent bit of sleep I could put on those poncy clothes from Radiant Raiment and parade them around in front of the Jarl.

I was practically run down on my way to the palace by a madman who barraged me with words until I somehow agreed to find his master for him. How a damn hipbone was involved I just didn’t know. I walked quickly to the palace, hoping not to be waylaid again, and went upstairs to speak with Falk about a key to the east wing.

“Absolutely not,” he said sternly. “That wing has been sealed for hundreds of years, and for good reason. They say the ghost of Pelagius the Mad still haunts it. Ghost or not, there are reminders of his dark rule that are best left buried away.”

I arched a brow at him. “Falk, I have gone up against a bunch of necromancers aiming to resurrect Potema and bind her to their will. I think I can handle myself in there.” And with the suspicions I had, I was damn curious.

Falk sighed and scrubbed at his beard, then fished a key from his pocket. “I’ll make an exception for you, but do not bring anything out when you leave,” he said, handing it over. “Too many dark deeds transpired in those halls.”

I nodded and made sure to catch Jarl Elisef’s eye. She commented on my finery, I commented on the wonderful selection to be had at Radiant Raiment, and she immediately began making plans to order some gowns from them. With that out of the way I headed for the door to the east wing. “Valdimar, wait here for me.”

He looked upset, but said, “Yes, my Thane.”

Inside I quickly got out of those horrid clothes and back into my usual, then set about exploring. The place was brimming with silver plates and platters and goblets I would not be taking (which would have been later melted down into ingots), cobwebs galore, and chairs stacked atop tables. There was a door to my immediate right, boarded up, and far too much trouble to try to get open.

Up some stairs was a long hallway. I had yet to see anything like a haunting, overtly evil, or even that crazed man’s master. Halfway down I took a step into a clearing, saw a table set with all the usual things, and food, and there were two men seated opposite each other, speaking. I also realized I was clothed in more poncy finery, which included a damn hat. Even worse, I realized I could not remove any of it, nor could I find any weapons, prepare spells. . . .

“More tea, Pelly my dear?” asked the rather handsome Breton man dressed in dual colours. You know, the man anyone with a spot of learning would recognize as Sheogorath.

“Oh, I couldn’t. Goes right through me. Besides, I have so many things to do. So many undesirables to contend with. Naysayers. Buffoons. Detractors. Why, my headsman hasn’t slept in three days!”

“You are far too hard on yourself, my dear, sweet, homicidally insane Pelagius. What would the people do without you?”

‘Live?’ I wondered. ‘Has he spent all his death executing phantoms of the mind? Or does he not realize he’s dead?’

“Dance? Sing? Smile? Grow old? You are the best Septim that’s ever ruled. Well, except for that Martin fellow, but he turned into a dragon god, and that’s hardly sporting. You know, I was there for the whole sordid affair. Marvelous time! Butterflies, blood, a Fox, a severed head. . . . Oh, and the cheese! To die for.”

“Yes, yes, as you’ve said, countless times before.”

Sheogorath made a rude sound. “Well then, if you’re going to be like that. . . . Perhaps it’s best I take my leave. A good day to you, sir. I said good day!”

“Yes, yes, go. Leave me to my ceaseless responsibilities and burdens. . . .”

Pelagius vanished from the table and Sheogorath turned his attention to me. “How rude! Can’t be bothered to host an old friend for a decade or two. Did you know about Pelagius’s decree? On his deathbed—oh, and this was inspired—he forbade . . . death! That’s right! Death! Outlawed!”

“What an optimist,” I said dryly. “I was asked to deliver you a message.”

Sheogorath sounded excited when he said, “Reeaaaallllyyyy? Ooh, ooh, what kind of message? A song? A summons? Wait, I know! A death threat written on the back of an Argonian concubine! Those are my favorites. Well? Spit it out, mortal. I haven’t got an eternity! Actually . . . I do. Little joke. But seriously. What’s the message.”

“To ask you to return from your vacation. He was ridiculously persuasive, too, or maybe I just got tired of listening to him beg and said yes to shut him up.”

Sheogorath got out of his chair to pace, and started muttering to himself, speculating. “Was it Molag? No, no. Little Tim, the toymaker’s son? The ghost of King Lysandus? Or was it. . . . Yes! Stanley, the talking grapefruit from Passwall.” He glanced at me. “Wrong on all accounts, aren’t I? Ha! No matter! Honestly, I don’t want to know. Why ruin the surprise. But more to the point. Do you—a tiny, puny, expendable little mortal—actually think you can convince me to leave? Because that’s . . . crazy. You do realize who you’re dealing with here?”

“Who else would take a holiday with a deceased mad emperor but Lord Sheogorath?” I replied.

“Excellent!” he said. “But leaving? Now that’s the real question, isn’t it. Because honestly, how much time off could a demented Daedra really need? So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to leave. That’s right. I’m done. Holiday . . . complete. Time to return to the hum drum day-to-day. On one condition. You have to find the way out first. Good luck with that.”

I furrowed my brow. “What’s the catch?”

“Ha! I do love it when the mortals know they’re being manipulated. Makes things infinitely more interesting.”

‘Like all those damn sweet rolls?’ I wondered.

“Care to take a look around? This is not, I dare say, the Solitude botanical gardens. Welcome to the deceptively verdant mind of the Emperor Pelagius III. That’s right! You’re in the head of a dead, homicidally insane monarch. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Can I still rely on my swords and spells and sneaking and all that nonsense? Sure, sure. Or . . . you could use . . . the Wabbajack! Huh? Huh? Didn’t see that coming, did you?”

Something inserted itself into my right hand and I glanced down to see a staff with a stylized cap bearing three faces. At least now I had something, though what it would be used for. . . .

Sheogorath reclaimed his chair and began muttering again, so I took a better look around. Mist was everywhere and clouding the distant view, but I could see three crude, square arches more or less equidistant around the clearing. With nothing better to do and no hints, I walked through the nearest one.

There were three trials: Paranoia, Confidence, and Night Terrors. None of them were all that difficult, even without being mad enough to get the proper “logic” of each challenge. When I was done I reported back to Sheogorath. I suppose I could have done so each time I handled one of the three trials, but I confess that didn’t occur to me until well after the fact. It might have been interesting to see what Sheogorath would have said.

“Heartless mortal that you are,” he said, “you’ve actually succeeded and survived. I am forced to honor my end of the bargain. So congratulations! You’re free to go! I . . . have been known to change my mind. So . . . go. Really.”

‘And how am I supposed to do that?’ I thought. ‘I have to rely on you transporting me, and preferably back to the Blue Palace.’

“Pelagius Septim III, once the Mad Emperor of Tamriel, now so boringly sane. I always knew he had it in him!” Sheogorath said, standing up again. “Well, I suppose it’s back to the Shivering Isles. The trouble Haskill can get into while I’m gone simply boggles the mind. Let’s make sure I’m not forgetting anything. Clothes? Check. Beard? Check! Luggage? Luggage! Now where did I leave my luggage?”

Some oddity like a Psijic Monk teleporting in occurred on the Pelagius side of the table and that madman appeared, the one who had badgered me into this “trip”.

“Master! You’ve taken me back! Does this mean we’re going home? Oh, happy times! I can’t wait to—”

“Yes, yes, that’s quite enough celebration,” Sheogorath interrupted. “Let’s send you ahead, shall we?”

The madman abruptly disappeared via that same kind of portal.

“And as for you, my little mortal minion,” Sheogorath said, “feel free to keep the Wabbajack. As a symbol of my. . . . Oh, just take the damn thing. You take care of yourself, now. And if you ever find yourself up in New Sheoth, do look me up. We can share a strawberry torte. Ta ta!”

A heartbeat later and I was back in the east wing of the palace. “I really think it’d be a wise idea to stay away from any other Daedric Lords,” I muttered. “The gods only know what happens to someone after death who was involved with more than one.” I didn’t count Molag Bal for my vampirism. I was infected with a disease, after all. It’s not like I had a personal audience.

I changed back into my proper clothing, tucking the finery from Sheogorath away carefully. I disliked it, but I would save it and put it on one of the mannequins at Elysium. I collected Valdimar and headed out. Two steps outside the palace another guard made that fatal comment. I did a little mental calculating as I tucked the sweet roll away and decided I had eight of them total.

I was tired, a bit weirded out, and had meant to swing down and stop in at Markarth, but no. I paid for a carriage ride to Whiterun instead.

Frostfall, 29th, 4E 201

I managed to pick up yet another sweet roll between the Whiterun stables and Elysium. Once we got home (and there was no issue with Valdimar entering the house) I had Valdimar help me unload Horse, then I showed him around the place, where he could sleep, that sort of thing. I also asked him to stay out of the loft. I say ask, but he took it as a command, which was fine.

On my rounds of the house I noticed that Valdimar slept with his eyes open. It was really creepy. I took a seat near the fire and thought about what to do next. I wanted to get back to Winterhold to check out what spells I might be able to acquire (I wanted an invisibility spell, if possible), but I also figured I should probably get back to Septimus with his lexicon.

My Restoration skill was lagging behind, to no surprise, but my Conjuration was almost as good as my skill at Illusion, Alteration, and Destruction, so I wasn’t unhappy with my progress. I had a favor for Jarl Elisif to do, though how she’d talked me into openly approaching a Shrine of Talos. . . . I had a letter to deliver to Danica from Idgrod the Younger. . . .

After I got some sleep, for we had arrived in the early hours of the morning, I told Valdimar to familiarize himself with the estate and took off. I found the shrine Elisif had spoken of and dropped off the warhorn, then immediately ducked off around a corner. Good thing, too, because I heard at least three people charge up, muttering about routing out Talos worshipers.

‘I hope Elisif appreciates just what she asked for,’ I thought as I sneaked away. ‘Fancied up hypocrisy aside, I could have been caught and brought to the attention of the Thalmor again, except this time I might not have been able to fight my way out of it.’

I got distracted due to my manner of retreat and ended up at another Nordic tomb. I didn’t mind having a companion along, but sometimes it was just nice to wander alone and not have to worry about the competence of other people.

Inside was a recently deceased man, right there at the entrance. I couldn’t tell what killed him, but his journal was right there beside him. It appeared that the tomb was for Knevel, an ancient Tongue, and there were two ceremonial weapons somewhere within used as keys to open the way deeper in.

I wondered if what killed the adventurer was whatever just creaked behind me. There had been a skeleton back there on a throne-like chair, but it hadn’t reacted at all to my presence. Until, that is, I walked away and deeper inside. It went down just as easily as most animated skeletons did.

I found a ceremonial axe down one of the passageways, though I had to fight one of those shouty draugr for it. The damn thing managed to knock me back into a wall and disorient me for a few precious seconds. Back at the room down from the entrance there were additional options. The leftmost way led to a dead end, the second one to the axe. The center was blocked, so I chose the only way remaining.

I laughed myself silly when two draugr, one after the other, raced toward me with weapons raised, only to step on one of the trap stones and slam a spiked grating into their bodies. The first one died of it and the second was severely wounded. I was so busy laughing I almost didn’t cast any spells to finish the silly thing off. A ceremonial sword was at the end, after fighting off two draugr.

The axe and the sword fit into the huge double door down the central path and unlocked it. I could hear a word wall in the distance. It was all nothing particularly special in the end. The usual fight, multiple summons to assist, looting, and the word wall: Laas—Life.

Frostfall, 30th, 4E 201

I was made Thane of Haafingar, to no one’s surprise. I was also the owner of a house in Solitude—right next to Vittoria Vici, actually. My new housecarl, Jordis, was waiting for me at Proudspire Manor (though why the house was called that when there were no spires involved was beyond my ken).

I nipped down to the stables outside the city and made Blaise an offer. I had remembered him from a previous visit, and while he had a decent enough deal for his labor, I objected to the part where he slept outside in the hay. I hauled him back to Proudspire, introduced him to Jordis, and showed him a bed he could use.

I also gave him the same speech I did Lucia (which reminded me I should probably give her a real home, too, now that I had one I was willing to let a child into), though he was far more interested in joining the Legion when he got older. Still, Angeline Morraud was right there in town, willing to purchase alchemical ingredients, and it would be a pleasant way to earn spending money while outdoors, and not be taking care of a multitude of animals. There were also a lot of kids in the city, so he’d have people to play with.

Once things were settled I hired a carriage to take me to Winterhold. Horse was great, but he didn’t understand me when I said things like, “Go to Winterhold.”

Frostfall, 31st, 4E 201

‘Oh, wow,’ I thought. ‘I had no idea Onmund slept in the nude.’ I eyed him for a bit, carefully checked the area, then sneaked up to his bed and had a snack. I just couldn’t resist. Time to go see Septimus.

Sun’s Dusk, 1st, 4E 201

I gave Septimus his lexicon and he fiddled with it, then started babbling on about tricking the lockbox there, the massive Dwemer cube. He told me it needed the blood of a Dwemer, but of course they were all gone insofar as anyone knew. Septimus then told me if I could get him the blood of the elves still existing he could combine them and trick the cube. Just a little prick, he assured me.

And that was fine, to my thinking. I sampled any number of people along the way as it was. No, what really upset me happened when I was trying to leave with the device he entrusted to me. The entrance up top was blocked by this . . . thing. This thing of many eyes and writhing tentacles and putrid green and yellow brown. . . . Well, it was some avatar of Hermaeus Mora. I was informed that Septimus was fast outgrowing his usefulness and that once the cube was opened. . . .

I felt bad for the old man, I really did, but I had to wonder. Would it be better to forget about helping him open that thing and just let him die naturally? Or would it be better to help him as requested and know he would die at the hand—tentacle?—of a Daedric Lord? The same Daedric Lord who claimed he’d been watching me and wanted me as a replacement for Septimus as his emissary? Sheogorath was one thing. Perhaps he was nuttier than a squirrel’s winter cache, but he was a handsome enough Breton and didn’t make me want to throw up blood when I looked at him.

Back to the College to think.