Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 15

20042015

4.2

Companions

Sun’s Dusk, 11th, 4E 201

There was a message waiting for me when I checked in at the Bannered Mare, so I went to speak with Kodlak. Vilkas had obviously been talked down from his earlier aggression. I entered Jorrvaskr and did not see Kodlak, so I asked the nearest Companion about him. I was directed downstairs again, to his quarters. He was alone when he welcomed me in and gestured toward a seat.

After I was settled he said, “The Companions are nearly five thousand years old. This matter of beastblood has only troubled us for a few hundred. One of my predecessors was a good, but short-sighted man. He made a bargain with the witches of Glenmoril Coven. If the Companions would hunt in the name of their lord, Hircine, we would be granted great power.”

“So some of you became werewolves.”

“Yes. They did not believe the change would be permanent. The witches offered payment, like anyone else. But we had been deceived. The witches didn’t lie, of course. But the disease, you see, affects not just our bodies. It seeps into the spirit. Upon death, werewolves are claimed by Hircine for his Hunting Grounds. For some, this is a paradise. They want nothing more than to chase prey with their master for eternity. And that is their choice. But I am still a true Nord. And I wish for Sovngarde as my spirit home.”

“So you asked for the Arch-Mage because you thought there might be a magical connection I could work with or exploit, to cure those who wished it.”

“That’s what I’ve spent my twilight years trying to find out, if there is a cure. I had asked Arch-Mage Aren previously and he was unwilling. I hoped that his successor would be more amenable.”

I quite nearly snorted at that information. Savos was too caught up in the guilt haunting his past to be of much use to anyone else, but it was certainly possible I was being entirely too unkind to his memory.

“And now I’ve found the answer. The witches’ magic ensnared us, and only their magic can release us. They won’t give it willingly, but we can extract their foul powers by force. I want you to seek them out. Go to their coven in the wilderness. Strike them down and bring me their heads, the seat of their abilities. From there, we may begin to undo centuries of impurity.”

I took a deep breath and exhaled. “I will go, yes. But I have never killed anyone who had not first attacked me. So, assuming they aren’t immediately hostile I will try to negotiate, though I admit it’s unlikely. I can try using magic to trick or force them into helping. But if nothing else works, well. I’ll cut off their damn heads and bring them back. But if that is what happens, how do you plan to use the heads?”

“There is a place where a sort of ritual can be done, involving the heads, one per afflicted person. Ysgramor’s Tomb.”

“All right. I’ll be back,” I said.

“Talos guide you, lass.”

Sun’s Dusk, 12th, 4E 201

Negotiation was . . . not possible. Nor persuasion, bribery, or threats. Only death. So, I walked away from their lovely little cave system carrying five witch heads. Ugh.

When I got back to Whiterun it was late, but I could at least leave a note at Jorrvaskr letting Kodlak know I had succeeded (one way or the other), either on the door leading into the living quarters, or with someone who was still awake.

Except that I learned, as I approached Jorrvaskr and saw the bodies, and various Companions outside itching for a fight, that something awful had happened. Aela—that woman who originally told me about the Companions even though I hadn’t bothered to help take down that giant and who obviously was blind to or didn’t care about me being a mage—informed me that the Silver Hand had attacked.

I had heard about them, a splinter group, but not of the Companions. There was a group called the Dawnguard for a long time, kind of an offshoot of the Vigilants of Stendarr. I found it all rather confusing, to be honest. But the Silver Hand was like an even more aggressive group, except they hunted weres instead of vampires.

Maybe I was mistaken, but I rather thought that there had been a lot of back and forth between the Companions and the Silver Hand, and it had finally escalated into this. Aela also told me that she knew about my errand for Kodlak, but that he was dead, killed during the attack.

Sun’s Dusk, 13th, 4E 201

Vilkas was determined to go wipe every last member of the Silver Hand out. I knew that Skjor had recently been killed (and I suspected it was due to the Silver Hand), and now Kodlak. . . . Well, it made me wonder which Companions had been Oblivion-bent on wiping them out up to that point, to push them into attacking in the middle of a city.

In any case, I decided to go with Vilkas. It wasn’t my responsibility, but he was planning to go alone. He seemed both furious and desolate, and that was never a good state to be fighting in. I found out along the way that he was . . . a bit unstable. Every time anything even remotely hostile showed up he would haul that greatsword of his into position and laugh, then yell, “I love a good challenge!”

Sun’s Dusk, 14th, 4E 201

I saw a headless ghost on a horse, flying. Not riding. Or, more accurately, it was as if someone had loaded said ghost and ghost horse into a catapult or trebuchet and launched them on a shallow trajectory.

Still, the job was done. Vilkas made sure that every last Silver Hand member in that place died. We also recovered the stolen fragments of Wuuthrad. Apparently the Companions had been tracking those down for ages and had finally gathered them all up, only to have the Silver Hand steal them during the attack. On a happier note, Vilkas seemed to gain at least a grudging respect for me and magic, though I sincerely doubted he would ever attempt to learn any for himself.

There would be a ceremony for Kodlak on our return. They would wait for Vilkas to be back, surely. On a less happy note, I was beginning to think that Vilkas hit his head pretty hard at some point in the last day or so, or that helm of his was ill-fitted. He suddenly yelled out, “Somebody help!”

I scanned around in a full circle and saw nothing out of the ordinary, and Vilkas was just standing there, relaxed, calm. . . . Right.

They were waiting when we returned. Kodlak’s body was on a pyre up at the Skyforge, where Eorlund Gray-Mane did forge work for the Companions. I made sure Eorlund got the fragments and prepared to give them some measure of privacy for the ceremony, but then Eorlund requested that someone go get the final fragment kept in Kodlak’s rooms.

The actual Companions all looked. . . . “I’ll get it,” I said to Eorlund quietly. “They all really need to be here.”

He nodded so I headed down the stairs and over into Jorrvaskr. I found the fragment in a table at his bedside and retrieved it. There was what looked like a journal, as well, but even I wasn’t that nosy.

The ceremony was in progress when I returned, so I just stood there quietly and waited, then gave the fragment to Eorlund when it was over. Apparently he intended to reforge Wuuthrad.

Sun’s Dusk, 15th, 4E 201

I returned to Jorrvaskr to speak to Farkas, but I found him speaking with Vilkas and Aela.

“The old man had one wish before he died,” Vilkas said. “And he didn’t get it. It’s as simple as that.”

“Being moon-born is not so much of a curse as you might think, Vilkas,” Aela replied.

“That’s fine for you. But he wanted to be clean. He wanted to meet Ysgramor and know the glories of Sovngarde. But all that was taken from him.”

“And you avenged him.”

“Kodlak did not care for vengeance.”

“No, Farkas, he didn’t,” Vilkas said. “And that’s not what this is about. We should be honoring Kodlak, no matter our own thoughts on the blood.”

Aela backed down at that point. “You’re right. It’s what he wanted, and he deserved to have it.”

Vilkas nodded. “Kodlak used to speak of a way to cleanse his soul, even in death. You know the legends of the Tomb of Ysgramor.”

“There the souls of the Harbingers will heed the call of northern steel,” Aela replied. “We can’t even enter the tomb without Wuuthrad, and it’s in pieces, like it has been for a thousand years.”

Kodlak could still be helped, even though he was dead, if we went to Ysgramor’s Tomb, and if Eorlund was able to successfully reforge Wuuthrad. Once I got Farkas alone I said, “If Eorlund manages it, let me know, all right? I have what Kodlak wanted, so I’ll need to go along.”

Sun’s Dusk, 22nd, 4E 201

Eorlund must be some kind of miracle worker. It took him a week, but he did it. And then we all set off for the tomb. Weres could run pretty damn fast so there was no real point in taking a carriage.

Once we got there and went inside Wuuthrad was placed into the hands of a statue of Ysgramor, which opened the way forward. But just to be safe (in case any surviving members of the Silver Hand had followed us) I removed Wuuthrad before we continued on.

Vilkas decided to stay behind. He told me, “Kodlak was right. I let vengeance rule my heart. I regret nothing of what we did at Driftshade. But I can’t go any further with my mind fogged or my heart grieved.”

I stared at him for a moment, nodded, and followed the others. His words were all very well, but I found his reasoning a bit specious. Ysgramor’s Tomb held not just Ysgramor’s resting place, but also that of many of his Companions. Their ghosts were there, on guard, stepping from the sarcophagi to attack us as we ventured deeper.

When we came to an area with spider eggs Farkas bowed out. While recovering a fragment of Wuuthrad from Dustman’s Cairn he had managed to develop a serious fear of giant spiders. I found it easier to believe that than what Vilkas had said, so I just squeezed his arm and nodded. “It’s fine.”

After he departed to keep Vilkas company I sighed, glanced at Aela, and kept on. I took great delight in burning webs away, and ran across a door that had been hidden by them. Several smaller spiders appeared to their regret, but as we began walking again I reflexively looked up. I had been startled almost out of my smalls too many times by gigantic spiders dropping from the ceiling to not look up. There were none in that room, but there might be more later on. One could hope not.

“Well, damn,” I muttered. In the next room was a massive spider dangling from the ceiling. Aela used arrows at first, I used fire. The usual. But finally, we made it to a large room with multiple levels, and spiraling ramps leading upward. At the end, up on the top level, was a sarcophagus protected by a metal grate, but in the middle of the lowest part of the floor was a brazier, burning blue flames. A ghostly Kodlak was stood at it, warming his hands.

He looked at us and said, “My fellow Harbingers and I have been warming ourselves here. Trying to evade Hircine.”

I looked around quickly, wondering if my eyesight was playing tricks on me, as Aela said, “There is no one else here.”

“You see only me because your hearts know only me as the leader of the Companions. I’d wager old Vignar could see half a dozen of my predecessors. And I see them all. The ones in Sovngarde. The ones trapped with me in Hircine’s realm. And they all see you. You’ve brought honor to the name of the Companions. We won’t soon forget it.”

“We’re here because Vilkas was certain you could still be cured,” I said. “I brought what you sent me for.”

“Did he now? I can only hope. Throw one of them into the fire. It will release their magic, for me at least.”

Aela nodded at me to let me know she was ready, so I fetched out one of the heads and tossed it into the brazier. A massive, angry, red spirit wolf erupted from Kodlak and went on the attack. Aela and I brought it down, but it was a rough few minutes.

“And so slain the beast inside of me,” Kodlak said once it was over. “I thank you for this gift. The other Harbingers remain trapped by Hircine, though. Perhaps from Sovngarde, the heroes of old can join me in their rescue. The Harrowing of the Hunting Grounds. It would be a battle of such triumph. And perhaps some day, you’ll join us in that battle.”

I was confused at that point. Aela would never give up the beast blood, and I was a Breton vampire, unlikely to ever see Sovngarde.

“But for today, return to Jorrvaskr. Triumph in your victory. And lead the Companions to further glory.”

Very, very confused. Then he faded out.

There was a shortcut back to the entrance up one of those spiraling ramps, exiting out to the right of the statue of Ysgramor (if you were facing it), and that reminded me that there was another door in there. That one led outside and I found, after climbing up a ways, another word wall: Raan—Animal.

Sun’s Dusk, 25th, 4E 201

I ran into Farkas during a sales run—I had to get rid of all my enchanting work somehow—and he expressed the desire to be cleansed as Kodlak had been, so I made sure I had one of the heads and we proceeded from there.

Sun’s Dusk, 26th, 4E 201

We arrived in the teeth of a raging blizzard, of course. Farkas’s wolf was dealt with in the same manner as Kodlak’s, though the one from Farkas did not seem quite so angry, nor was it that horrid red colour. Before I had a chance to offer him a bed at the College for the night he said he wanted to stay behind in the tomb and look around.

I felt like being flippant and saying, “Now that the spiders are all dead?” Instead I just nodded and departed. I went to the College to get caught up on things, take care of some paperwork. . . .

Sun’s Dusk, 27th, 4E 201

I had intended to take a carriage from Windhelm, but noticed that a Khajiit trading caravan had set up. Ma’dran had a flawless sapphire, which reminded me of an errand I was running for someone in Riften. I bought it, then headed into the city to see if anyone there had any for sale. I only needed one more and if I could find another I’d swing by Riften instead of Whiterun, and take care of several of those errands at once.

‘Oh, happy day,’ I thought, looking at a dead girl’s body surrounded by a guard and several others. She was splayed out on one of those horizontal stone tomb covers and a trail of blood led away from it. I had to wonder. Windhelm had a Hall of the Dead, so why were there so many graves out in the open? The walls themselves in that area had countless names chiseled into them, as reminders, so why not put all the bodies in the hall?

The guard there got all panicky when she saw me and demanded to know what I was doing. I decided that saying I was “walking” would not go over well, so I asked what was going on. Someone had been killing young women, and the guards were too thinly stretched to actually do anything about it. I think that was when my dislike of Jarl Ulfric really started to blossom.

“Is there anything I can do to help, then?”

She seemed pleased to hear the offer, and directed me to take statements from the onlookers.

Silda, a beggar, had heard a scream and came running, but there was no one about when she arrived. Calixto thought he “saw a fellow running away, but didn’t get a good look at him”. He might have seen nothing more than an odd shadow from overhead caused by the wind.

Helgird saw nothing, but then she was the one who prepared bodies in the Hall of the Dead. By the time she would have responded to the scream it would have been too late. “Eehhh... no,” she said when I questioned her. “Sorry. But I did notice that her coinpurse was still intact, so whoever did this wasn’t after gold. I’m going to keep preparing the body, if you’ll excuse me.”

I reported back to the guard, who had probably overheard all of it anyway, and she directed me to speak with the steward, Jorleif, at the Palace of Kings for further permission. That gave me pause. I had no real interest in getting that close to the seat of one side of the war, but needs must. Someone had to figure this out, and I seemed to be the idiot willing to do so.

I hastened off to the marketplace and checked with the vendors there. Found a flawless diamond, but not any sapphires. Unfortunately, the Gray Quarter had nothing, either, so I headed to the palace. Thankfully, the Jarl wasn’t around, so I got that out of the way expediently enough. Jorleif promised that he would inform the guards I would be investigating. He also told me where to find the court wizard, so I visited him to see what he had for sale.

Then I returned to the guard. She pointed out the trail of blood I had already noticed and suggested I speak to Helgird first. Helgird really had nothing much of interest to say aside from some thoughts on the tools used to make the cuts in the woman’s body, so I left and followed the blood trail instead.

Along the way I collected another sweet roll.

The trail led to a house in the fancy housing area. The rich probably lived in the other houses along the path. I checked around for any witnesses, then picked the lock and slipped inside. I could have bugged Jorleif or found another way, but that would have been a waste of my time.

The trail of blood led over to a chest which looked as though it’d been recently moved. It held a bunch of pamphlets and a journal.

The plans are coming together swimmingly. I’ve found good sources of bone, flesh, and blood, but thus far a good sampling of sinew and marrow have escaped me. No matter. The city is swollen with contemptuous fools who will be missed by nobody. Last night was almost able to corner Susanna as she left Candlehearth.

Idiot guard showed up at just the wrong moment and I had to turn about, just out for a stroll, and so forth. There will be other chances, but the time is drawing near. I think back to my time in Winterhold. All the wasted minds up in their towers. They only explore the magic they already know.

I am discovering new magic here. Something deeper than the cantripped shenanigans of fire and light. This flesh magic is older than us. Perhaps older than the world itself. I am tugging at the corners of the fabric of the universe, and where it bunches and folds is where I shall create my greatest triumph.

One more attempt at the Candlehearth girl. She’s proving to be a bit too cautious, but those strong joints of hers should contain the most exquisite tendons. Worth the effort. Tonight.

“Lovely,” I muttered and tucked the journal away, along with one of the pamphlets. “Not even polite enough to wait until someone is dead naturally to start borrowing body parts. Ugh.”

There were some pots and pans with skeever droppings in them, some rooms upstairs (presumably bedrooms) with nothing more than oddly stacked furniture, a small dresser with some clothes still inside. . . . But back downstairs was a room with several wardrobes and a small bookshelf. The shelf had a multitude of those Beware the Butcher! pamphlets, but of more importance was the strange amulet peeking out from underneath one of the stacks. I imagined that the killer had been collecting Viola’s work and hiding them away. Out of sight, out of mind? Kind of hard to believe that when people kept being murdered.

One of the wardrobes was affixed to the wall itself and had a false back. Inside was a bloody nightmare. Bones, body parts, all the old tools found in tombs—and food! There was also another journal.

17 tendons and assorted ligaments
173 fragments of bone for assemblage approx.
4 bucket-fulls of blood (Nord preferred)
6 spoons of marrow (no more than 2 from a thigh)
12 yards of flesh (before cutting)


star-scrying to the edge of the ice-mind
look to the lights where the souls dance
revealing the time when a spark will revive
when the rotted unites under most skillful hands
(translation from Aldmer text, as interpreted by the Ayleids
and first transcribed by Altmer. provenance and authority unknown)



soon

“What a charming fellow,” I muttered. I tucked that away as well and left, taking a moment to close the secret door. I had no way to lock the front door behind me, but if the killer returned that issue might be overlooked.

The amulet was something I’d have to check into. It might simply be something left behind by the previous owner, but it could also be related, especially given the faint relief of a skull carved on it. I could only think of two people to ask, either the court wizard or that strange Calixto fellow.

Wuunferth was sleeping (he was an old man, so an afternoon nap was probably normal for him) so I tracked down Calixto at his “House of Curiosities”. After taking the tour he offered I showed him the amulet and he identified it as the Wheelstone, a symbol of power of Windhelm, usually carried by the court mage.

I kept a straight face and nodded. ‘No, it has a skull on it, not any variant of a damn wheel,’ I thought. ‘I also haven’t seen anything like a “wheelstone” anywhere in Windhelm, not even in the palace, and certainly not in Wuunferth’s room, so this guy is either crazy, faking it, or up to something.’

He then offered to buy it from me. I considered pointing out that perhaps the court mage should have it instead (were that true), but I wanted to see where all this was going. I sold it to him for five hundred septims. What really caught my attention was him saying it’d be a fine thing for his “private” collection.

After that I tracked down Viola Giordano. She seemed convinced that Wuunferth was to blame, especially since he was called Wuunferth the Unliving. But considering how Nords tend to get their names I couldn’t put much stock in that part of the theory. Viola pushed me to speak with the steward, but that would amount to asking for an arrest, and I wasn’t ready to do that.

I thanked her for her help and headed to the palace. I would speak to Wuunferth first. There were guards all over that part of the palace, so even if he did attack me I’d have backup, in theory. Also, Silda had said no one was there, so where was Calixto when he claimed to have seen someone fleeing? The blood trail led to the house, which meant the girl’s body was dragged from there to the graveyard, so who had screamed and alerted Silda?

I was deliberately provocative when I questioned Wuunferth about necromancy, the amulet, and the journals I found. He was either an excellent actor or he really was a member in good standing of the College, and hadn’t the time to keep a journal (unlike me). He identified the amulet, based on my description, as the Necromancer’s Amulet, of legend.

I was inclined more to believe him over Calixto. Wuunferth then started muttering about dates, and checked the notes on his desk. I was told to keep watch in the Stone Quarter the next night, that it should tie in with the next “scheduled” death.

That would mean getting there early, attempting to conceal myself, and being ready for another attack, preferably not on myself. I headed out, pleased that it was still just guards and the steward present, and headed to Candlehearth for the night.

I did not understand a lot of what Wuunferth had been mumbling, but I got the distinct impression that the deaths had to occur under specific circumstances, some confluence of stars and conditions—something like that. If so, that would explain, in part, some of the comments in the journals along with the timing of the previous murders.

Sun’s Dusk, 28th, 4E 201

Calixto was dead, by my hand. An elf was walking through the marketplace after dark and Calixto stalked her. I suppose he felt safe enough given that thus far no one had ever caught him in the act. Some fire took care of that problem and Jorleif was informed. I also took a moment to check Calixto’s pockets and found several keys, which I secured.

In his house I found a third journal.

Soon enough, my sweet Lucilla, you will be with me again. Normally when such words are written it is because the love left behind is soon to depart, but in my case, I hope to soon bring your spirit back into my world, for it was you who loved this world so much, not I.

I continue to collect your new form from the ragged bits around Windhelm. If they only knew what destiny would soon grace their bodies, with your spirit imbuing them with higher purpose, they would surely thank me for the great gift I give them. I reserve for them a place of beauty alongside your heart.

The day draws near. Soon I will hold you. And I will show you this and it will be as delivering a long-forgotten letter to a weary traveler.

Love always, Calixto

Lucilla, Calixto’s sister, the one he used to adventure with. Well now, this sounded almost like a love letter, not a letter to his beloved sister. I reclaimed the amulet while I was there.

Sun’s Dusk, 29th, 4E 201

I was just about to leave Candlehearth when a man named Rolff just had to say something nasty about mer and Argonians. Amusingly, as I was beating the stuffing out of the guy in a brawl, the bard decided it was a good time to start a song. I won, he lost, but he accused me of cheating, the stupid sod. It’s not as though losing a brawl would change his mind, anyway. He’d be better off blaming the real problem, not the incidentals.

I didn’t really like Windhelm. Too many of the people there were racist skeevers. The Jarl didn’t seem willing to do anything about that, or the problems suffered by the non-Nords, and while there were some mer who had carved out a life and some respect, most hadn’t. Windhelm seemed to abound with those who liked to threaten random Dunmer, talking about taking them as prisoners and interrogating them to see how they were connected to the Imperials or the Thalmor as spies.

Jarl Ulfric couldn’t even seem to govern his own city properly, and he expected to govern a country?

Sun’s Dusk, 30th, 4E 201

When I got back to Whiterun Vilkas found me in town and told me he wished to be cleansed. And like his brother, once it was done he wanted to roam around the tomb, so I headed on to the College.