Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 14

20042015

4.1

Companions

Sun’s Dusk, 2nd, 4E 201

Not long after I awoke Faralda arrived with a message. Said a courier had come from Whiterun. I thanked her and read through it. The Harbinger of the Companions, Kodlak Whitemane, had requested the assistance of the Arch-Mage in a private matter, or at least an interview with me to determine if what he wanted was even possible.

His wording was all very vague, but I saw no particular reason to ignore the request. The worst that would happen is we talked and what he wanted was completely outside of my experience and talents. But asking for the Arch-Mage? Magic of some kind was likely involved.

I let Faralda know I’d be away again—her mainly because she was the first high-ranked colleague I saw.

I realized, as I passed from the colder, snowy area of the north to the warmer and more inviting territory nearer to Whiterun, that I didn’t go much off the beaten path, even if I did sometimes get distracted and wander into caves or ruins. Perhaps whatever Kodlak wanted would afford an opportunity for a bit more than the usual.

It was just about dusk when I got to Whiterun, so I didn’t bother with Jorrvaskr just then. Instead I made the rounds of the shops and visited Farengar, then headed to Elysium for the night. I had decided it was time to start working on my skill with Enchanting.

Sun’s Dusk, 3rd, 4E 201

After I sold off my experiments from the evening previous I climbed the steps to Jorrvaskr and headed into the hall. Inside two people were brawling, throwing out the usual crude taunts, but I ignored that and instead approached a female warrior. I didn’t get too close and she was distracted, but she directed me down a set of stairs, said Kodlak would be at the very end.

The cellar ran the length of the building, an echo of the mead hall upstairs, though perhaps wider. No one seemed to care that a stranger was wandering around and I walked to the far end without being troubled. That is, until I got close enough to the doors and realized a conversation was going on within, one that was obviously meant to be private.

“But I still hear the call of the blood,” a man was saying, more or less telling me that indeed, these people—or some of them—were weres of some kind.

“We all do,” came a much older male voice—I assumed he was Kodlak. “It is our burden to bear. But we can overcome.”

“You have my brother and I, obviously. But I don’t know if the rest will go along quite so easily.”

‘So Kodlak, this one, his brother, the woman, plus at least one more, maybe two,’ I thought.

“Leave that to me,” said the older one.

I backed away, waited a few moments, then started forward again, taking care to make sound as I walked. I paused in the doorway, taking in an older man with white hair, sitting with a much younger one with dark hair. Typical Nord sorts, really. “My presence was requested by Harbinger Kodlak,” I said. “I am Yvara.”

Kodlak nodded and waved me forward, but when I got closer the other man jumped up and said, “You stay back, you bloodsucking fiend!”

I snorted and rolled my eyes. “Oh, I see subtlety and discretion are not amongst your strong points. Very clever of you to give away your own condition so unthinkingly. Not that it would matter. I was aware of what you all probably were before coming here. Now, I repeat: my presence was requested by Harbinger Kodlak.”

The old man nodded again and sent a reproachful look at the dark-haired man. “Vilkas,” he said warningly. To me he said, “Yes, I did. I am Kodlak Whitemane and I welcome you to Jorrvaskr. I have an interesting situation to discuss with you, if you’ll be so kind as to lend me some of your time.”

“Of course,” I replied, wondering if lycanthropy had been the result of interference by a Daedric Lord just as vampirism had its roots with Molag Bal. Judging by that conversation I had overheard I had to think some of them wanted to be cured? I knew very little about lycanthropy aside from that some were wolves, some were bears, some lived in Skyrim, some out on Solstheim, and so on.

Vilkas kicked up a fuss at that point, being really unreasonable, so I said, “Harbinger, please send me a message in care of the Bannered Mare with a more suitable time,” and left the way I’d come. I spent the rest of the day working on enchanting.

Sun’s Dusk, 4th, 4E 201

On my way out of town from another round of selling off the results of my enchanting efforts I was stopped by a courier near the gates. As I listened to the fellow tell me how it was a letter from Falk Firebeard at the Blue Palace in Solitude (I was unappreciative of having everyone in earshot know that when I could have easily just read it) I noticed that Vilkas (or someone who looked remarkably like him—his brother, perhaps) was standing nearby as if waiting to speak to me. I took the letter and shooed the courier away, then read it.

Yvara,

Over the last few days we’ve had some disturbing information come to light regarding the events at Wolfskull Cave and the summoning and binding ritual you interrupted there.

Given your involvement with that event I’m asking you to return to Solitude to help us once more. I’m wary of putting all the details in print, please come see me at the Blue Palace.

Sincerely,
Falk Firebeard

“Great,” I muttered. At least he hadn’t used my title. I continued on through the gates and realized that the lookalike was pacing me.

Just past the stables he said, “My brother isn’t always like that. I don’t really see what the problem is anyway. Kodlak wanted to see you, so that should be good enough.”

I gave him an appraising look. “So you don’t share his . . . prejudices.”

He shrugged. “We’ve all done things.”

Right. I wasn’t entirely sure where he was going with that, to be honest. “Well, I’m Yvara.”

“Oh, Farkas.”

I nodded. “So where are you off to? What little I’ve seen of the Companions is that you usually don’t go off in trips without at least one other.”

“I just wanted to get away for a bit, that’s all. Where are you headed?”

‘As if you didn’t know,’ I thought. “Well, I was going to stick around Whiterun for a while, but if I’m needed in Solitude I’ll just have to go there and find out why. Want to come along? It would certainly get you away for a bit.”

Farkas looked surprised at the offer, but nodded. “Let me just. . . .” He turned away and hailed one of the kids running around, then asked the boy to deliver a message. He slipped the kid a few coins for the trouble, then said, “All right, let’s go.”

I veered off to the carriage driver and told him Solitude, and handed over the fare for the two of us, then climbed aboard. We arrived after dark. Neither of us had said a whole lot during the trip and I was starving by the time we began walking up the road to the city gates. I fished a blood potion out and drank it down.

“Ah, that’s interesting,” Farkas commented. “I had wondered.”

I gave him a smile. “We have ways. There are more bandits in Skyrim than I could ever need,” I said, “and most all of them are stupid enough to attack or think to extort money or goods from me.”

“And you’re such a little thing,” he replied, nodding.

“Well, it’s late, so I’ll—oh, wait, I have a house here. Never mind. You can bunk down there for the night and I’ll see what Falk wants in the morning. No sense bothering him this late.”

“I, uh. . . .”

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” I said. “The place is big enough and the only ones there are one of my housecarls and my sort of adopted son. I keep meaning to get him a sister. Maybe Lucia in Whiterun. Damn it, I should have asked before we left.”

“What?”

I ignored that and led him to the house, heaving a sigh once inside. “Jordis!” I called out.

She appeared from around a corner. “What do you need, my Thane?”

“Please set up one of the spare beds for my friend here for the night.”

“Yes, my Thane. And if you’re hungry there’s a stew keeping warm in the kitchen.”

She trundled off so I led Farkas to the “kitchen”—which was a fancy way of saying one wall where a cooking hearth and spit was installed—and told him to help himself. Blaise showed up then, excited to see his benefactor and asking for an allowance.

I eyed him. “And have you been doing as I suggested?”

“Yes,” he said a bit sulkily, “though some of the kids think it’s silly for me to gather up all those flowers and things.”

“Eh, maybe,” I replied. “But you’re learning to be self-sufficient. Possibly a trade. I know you want to grow up and join the Legion, but that’s a long time away and I don’t know anyone right now who could train you with a blade. Soldiers need to know more than just how to hack people down. Like hunting, preparing game, cooking, stuff like that, in case you’re out on patrol and having to live in tents and off the land. Still, here’s ten septims, because you have actually been trying. Now it’s late, so get to bed!”

Sun’s Dusk, 5th, 4E 201

After breakfast—more for Farkas’s sake than mine—we headed to the Blue Palace.

“Yes, old friend,” Falk said once I’d caught his eye and he joined me. “I’m afraid it’s not good news. When you broke up the binding Potema escaped. We’ve encountered some of her minions. Styrr says she’s still in spirit form or we’d all be dead already. You’ve already done us a great service in stopping the binding, but I need you to go talk to him, to see if Styrr can tell us what to do next. He’s Solitude’s priest of Arkay and the one who figured out Potema was still around.”

“All right,” I said quietly. “Did you choose me because I can obviously be trusted not to gossip about what happened, or for some other reason?”

Falk chuckled. “Well, that part never hurts. But no, it was Styrr who suggested you. He seems to think you have some sort of link to Potema from being involved last time. I trust his judgment on this. As a priest of Arkay he’s had to deal with necromancy before. Nothing as dangerous as Potema, though.”

“Okay, I’ll go talk to him.”

“I wish you well, friend. Be careful.”

I walked away, knowing that Farkas would have heard all of it, and knowing he could keep a secret. He might not come across as the brightest of fellows, but he was absolutely not stupid, and certainly understood discretion. He rejoined me once I was down the stairs, and waited until we were back outside and away from anyone else to whisper, “Wolf Queen Potema?”

“Yes,” I said quietly, keeping an eye out for others as we walked. “Some fellow was here the first time I wandered into the palace, going on about strange doings at this cave near Solitude. He was really upset about it. The Jarl wanted to send a regiment, but Falk talked her down to a lot less than that. Anyway, it didn’t look to me as if they were going to take the guy at all seriously, and I was curious, so I offered to go look. Next thing I know I’m in the middle of a damn ritual trying to bring Potema back. And get this, the necromancers thought they could bind her to their will. I pretty much killed everyone involved and reported back to Falk, thinking that was the end of it.”

“By yourself?” he whispered.

“Mm. Besides, I can conjure help.”

“You must be the one Falk spoke so highly of,” Styrr said when we tracked him down. “Welcome.”

I nodded. “Yes, Falk sent me a letter, asked me to come help.”

“Ah, Potema. Former queen of Solitude and one of the most dangerous necromancers in recorded history. I believe I have a book about her. . . .”

To get him back on track I said, “Falk said you thought she wasn’t entirely gone.”

“Summoned in spirit form is not raised from the dead. She’ll need help before she can return to the living. For the moment, the Wolf Queen has retreated to a place filled with dead eager to serve her. She has gone to her old Catacombs. A few days ago, one of her servants busted through a wall into the Temple of Divines. We’ll need you to go into the Catacombs themselves.”

“Right.”

“I can provide you with help for her minions, though. This should help you deal with the Catacombs themselves,” Styrr said, then handed me a spell tome for Turn Undead, as well as a key. “As to Potema herself, find what’s left of her body, likely a skeleton. Remove it from the Catacombs and bring it back to be sanctified by Arkay. Taking on Potema won’t be easy. But you are the one to do it.”

I very nearly rolled my eyes at Styrr, but turned away and exited with Farkas in tow. “Honestly,” I muttered. “I can see it now. Ahtar will catch me dragging a skeleton from the Temple of Divines to the Hall of the Dead and arrest me for grave robbing.”

Farkas’s shoulders started shaking, so I knew he was laughing.

We eventually navigated the somewhat confusing layout of the temple and found the locked gate below. Before I went in I turned and said, “You don’t have to come with me. If you prefer you can wait at my house or the Winking Skeever and I’ll meet back up with you afterward.”

“No, no,” he said. “I’m interested. Let’s go.”

So we did. I unlocked the gate and pushed through. Up ahead was a place where the wall had been broken through, the blocks it was constructed of pushed out, so we ducked through it. They were called catacombs, but what we initially walked into was just another part of the temple undercroft. I expected that would change soon. Light filtered in through the high, narrow windows and there still tables and cups and plates scattered around, rather like I had encountered in the palace’s east wing.

“Are you going to use that book he gave you?” Farkas asked.

“No. Only if I’m desperate enough for some reason,” I said. “I think the dead should stay dead. Causing them to flee might give a person a little breathing room, but the best thing to do is put them down again.”

We came to a barred archway with a relief of Potema, dressed as the Wolf Queen, on the wall. She spoke to me. “You’ve arrived at last. The heroine who prevented me from being bound returns to my fold. I have much to thank you for, little one. When you die I will raise you and you can take your place by my side.” With that, the bars blocking the way slid down.

“She has a lovely voice,” I said to Farkas, “but I think I’ll pass on the enslavement part.”

We carried on until we were presented with a lever and one of those rotating doors. It was stopped in a non-viable position so I pulled the lever and set it going, then slipped through when the position was right and the bars slid open to let me through. Farther on was the same sort of setup, except this time the doors were already rotating. Doors, because there were three levers all in a row and I could see a door behind the first one. I could have timed it so I moved the corresponding lever at just the right moment to stop a door when it was positioned correctly and open.

“I don’t have the patience for this,” I said. “I’m going to just walk through each one and wait between them as necessary.” And I did. Farkas and I emerged unscathed on the other side.

“Huh, I expected draugr, but not vampires,” I said after frying one who threatened to add me to Potema’s army of undead. “Are you immune to that or do I need to find some potions?”

Farkas shook his head as a draugr at the far end of the room rose from its chair. “I’ll be fine. They can’t infect me.”

“All right. Let’s push on then,” I replied.

“You’re pretty handy with that magic,” he commented after watching me fry several draugr from across the room.

“Well, I’ve been thinking about learning how to use a blade properly, but my first inclination will always be to kill it with fire.”

“That thing, on the other hand, is downright creepy,” he said a few minutes later, referring to my lich summon.

“Ah, he’s fine, though I wish he didn’t sound like one of those foxes. You know, they all sound like they have breathing problems. I could summon the usual atronachs, but some people are creeped out by those as well since they’re technically a type of Daedra. The same applies to any weapons I summon.”

“Huh.”

Then I spotted the skeevy bastard. “Deathlord,” I said. “Be careful!”

A circular room presented itself after I opened a door a ways along; it was filled with corpses. I stepped back and said, “I don’t like the looks of this. I think Potema will raise any and all of them to try to kill us, so be on your guard.”

I ended up being a little too busy fighting to take in what Potema said that time, but I assumed it was more of the same drivel. Once they were put down again we continued on, eventually coming to a long room ringed with sarcophagi on varying levels. There was a door at the end, water at the bottommost part of the floor, and an orb of light hanging overhead, radiating purplish light.

“You’ve come far, mortal, but can you stand against my inner council? Let’s see!” cried that orb.

Then the first wave of draugr awoke. Each wave that we took down seemed to weaken Potema’s spirit form. Magic cast against it directly also seemed to help, but it was fairly hectic already. On top of that the orb had begun rotating up there, sending out a sweep of lightning that to me barely tickled. It was a blood bath in there, with very little actual blood.

Only once I was certain Farkas was ready to move on did I approach the door the orb had retreated through. It opened of its own accord and revealed steps up to a throne with a glowing blue figure seated on it: Potema.

It rose.

“Did that bitch just Shout at me?” I asked in disbelief.

Then we attacked. Between me, Farkas, and my lich we held off the minions she raised and took her down. Not an easy thing considering how small the room was. The only remains I could find was a skull, so I grabbed that, and looted whatever looked interesting. The exit back there led to a ledge or overlook halfway up the rock. I could see a ship below so I assumed we were above and off to the side from the docks. It took a careful bit of scrambling to get down to the road.

It turned out we were closer to the lighthouse, but that was all right. Our fun outing had taken up most of the day. I used the shortcut up into the city and headed for the Hall of the Dead.

“You’ve returned,” he said on having seen me. “I’m hoping successfully.”

I made a noncommittal sound and handed over the skull. “This was all I could find.”

“Excellent! These things do have a way of working out when people take action. I’ll sanctify the remains. In case Falk doesn’t make it clear—Solitude owes you a debt of gratitude.”

Falk said, after I sidled up to him at the palace, “You’ve done a great thing, today. It doesn’t matter who you support in the war; Potema would have been a blight on the land for both sides. Without you this would have been a disaster. I should have paid more heed to Varnius’s warnings. I won’t make that mistake again. Take this payment—the Jarl would thank you, but she very much wants to keep Potema’s return quiet. Make no mistake we consider you a protector of Solitude.”

Farkas did not have a problem staying another night when I brought it up, nor did he refuse when I handed him half the reward money.

Sun’s Dusk, 6th, 4E 201

We set off the next morning back to Whiterun. Farkas said, once we were beyond the gates, “All right if we walk? Sitting in a carriage for so long makes me restless, and I’m still a bit restless.”

“Sure. Not a problem,” I replied, so we bypassed the carriage near the stables and kept on walking.

“So what’s all this about Blaise?” he asked.

“Eh, I found him working at the stables. He’s an orphan. He tended to the animals and they fed him, but his bed was straw in the stables themselves, so not very good, really, but a whole lot better than begging and sleeping on the streets. Still, once I got the house here I made him an offer. He calls me his mother now, but we both know it’s really not that relationship. I’m just giving him a leg up, you know? Giving him a better start. Jordis keeps an eye on him.”

“And Lucia?”

“Same thing, really. Gave her the same speech. But now that I’ve got that house I don’t see why she couldn’t fit in, too. It’s unfortunate that no one’s been able to take her in, but I guess too many people are caught up in the war.”

“Speaking of that,” he said, “Falk mentioned it.”

“Oh, yeah. I’m not on either side, really. I’m not much for politics. The one would likely deport me and the other has fallen a long way since the Septims.” I fell silent when I saw people up ahead. It was a trio of Thalmor with a prisoner.

When they were long gone Farkas brought up something that Vilkas seemed to have overlooked or ignored—that I was the Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold.

“Yes, though I don’t know that I necessarily deserve it,” I replied. “I mean, at the time I was barely adept in most of the schools of magic. I’ve been working on them as I go along, of course, but at the time. . . . I think the trainers at the College didn’t disagree because some of them weren’t too enthusiastic about the previous Arch-Mage, and because a new outlook on things might help in the long run. Right now I stop in most every time I make the rounds and keep learning how to handle things there, but right now the running of the College is left to the trainers and teachers.”

“How did you even get the position?”

“Well. . . .”

Sun’s Dusk, 7th, 4E 201

We got back to Whiterun about mid-morning and I accompanied Farkas up to Jorrvaskr, but did not actually climb the steps myself. I thanked him for the company and bade him goodbye, then went off on my own. I tracked down Lucia and made my offer. She was thrilled, so I had her get whatever things she owned and headed for the stables.

A guard told me as we passed by, “You’ve been seen in the company of the Companions. That’s an honorable path you’re on, friend.”

I nodded and kept going. The guards obviously had way too much free time to spin the odd visit and walking next to a Companion into me being terribly friendly with all of them. Shortly thereafter Lucia and I were taking a carriage to Solitude.

Sun’s Dusk, 10th, 4E 201

I ended up in Riften. Getting distracted while wandering will do that to a person. I also saw those idiots again, the ones heading to the wedding in Solitude, the wedding that Vittoria never can quite finish finalizing the details for. I rolled my eyes so hard I almost gave myself a headache.

Another fit of kindness came over me while I was shopping and I agreed to run a half dozen errands or so. I would say it was the drink, but I didn’t even have any until after the fact, when I stopped in at the Bee and Barb to rent a room for the night.

Brynjolf was at his stall in the marketplace, still trying to sell his “Genuine Falmer Blood Elixir” to gullible passersby. “Make love like a sabre cat or crush your enemies to dust like a giant! Only a mere twenty gold coins and all this could be yours!” He was persuasive, yes, but I didn’t see where it was taking him. There were plenty of people listening and looking, but not purchasing—at least, not while I was paying attention. Well, Haelga. . . .

Marcurio kept trying to convince me to hire him so I switched seats and ordered some mead and wine from Talen-Jei. I did hear an interesting rumor, though, from one of the guards patrolling the city. She claimed that there was a face sculptor down in the Ragged Flagon (which, from what I was given to understand, was where the Thieves Guild was). That could be interesting, I supposed, assuming it was a “sculptor” and not a “butcher” as the guard assumed.

I’d seen some otherwise amazingly gorgeous faces spoiled when you saw them in profile, so I supposed I could understand the appeal this face sculptor might have. Then again, a face sculptor in a den of thieves? I supposed they might find that especially handy if they needed a new face to avoid any guards on their trails.

Brynjolf came in about an hour after I finished eating (food didn’t satisfy me the way blood did, but the taste was still fine) and took a seat near me. He told me, “You’re trying my patience, lass.”

I had no idea why this man thought I was the answer to his problems. If he was actually any good at what he did he could do the job personally, right? I closed my book and asked, “Do you trot that line out for all the new faces?”

He kind of smiled and said, “I took a chance on you because you spotted the scam at the gates. Most people are intimidated enough into handing over the ‘tax’.”

I snickered and offered him a bottle of mead. “Well, I guess most people haven’t traveled as much as I have, then, because I have never, ever been subjected to a shake down like that before at a city. I’d have to be a half-witted skeever to fall for that. Besides, if things are really as bad as I keep hearing people gossip about, why do you stay? Why go down with a sinking ship?”

“It’s more about the family, lass.”

“Ah, I wouldn’t know,” I replied. “Mine are long dead. See, I was a farmer, but then things happened, people died . . . and I eventually packed up and came to Skyrim for change of pace instead of sticking around to hoe potatoes and cabbages.”

“You like to wear mage robes, so. . . ?” he asked leadingly.

“So . . . logically I’m a mage?” I shot back. “I’m quite partial to the phrase, ‘Kill it with fire.’ ”

“And the eyes,” he said very quietly.

“Would you believe . . . my mother was a Dunmer?” I asked with a smile. This was sort of fun, actually. I was starting to like him.

He smirked and said, “Not on your life, lass.”

“It was worth a try,” I said and had a sip of wine. “So, you hang about all day in the marketplace selling, ah. . . .” I was trying to come up with a delicate way of saying it.

“The wares change from time to time,” he said.

I laughed quietly. “Whenever you come up with a more interesting name?”

“Something like that.”

“And you keep an eye out for your family, looking for good—skilled—people to add to it.”

“Mm.”

He obviously wasn’t willing to say too much to a veritable stranger, so I let it that line of inquiry drop. “Doesn’t sound like it gives you much time for other things, but I wish you luck on that front. So, let me tell you about a recent encounter I had with a mad king and his guest.”

Before I headed up for the evening, after a pleasant talk with Brynjolf about some of the sillier things I had come across in Skyrim, I said, “Let’s talk again next time I’m in town.”