Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 16

20042015-21042015

5.1

Interlude

Evening Star, 1st, 4E 201

I, uh, ran into another group of revelers on the way out of Winterhold. Let’s not talk about the blizzard raging around us and that while alcohol makes you feel warmer it also makes it easier for you to freeze to death. . . . The fellow who approached me thought it was fine weather! Damn Nords. He gave me some Honningbrew Mead and I went on my way.

Ran into the usual things along the way to Solitude, spiders, wolves, bears, trolls, Afflicted (and might I say, there were an awful lot of Afflicted fleeing their current leader). It was weird and sort of fascinating to watch an Afflicted projectile vomit green goo at things as a form of attack. On the other hand, blech.

Evening Star, 2nd, 4E 201

I added another sweet roll to my collection. Current count: 11.

Evening Star, 3rd, 4E 201

Another assassin attacked. Perhaps it had been tempting fate that I was thinking as I jogged toward Riften that it had been a while since I’d seen one. There had been an attempted hold-up on the bridge. That skeever was easily intimidated. Then came the assassin, a Dunmer. That one seemed almost competent. He came at night, no witnesses that I could discern, but still, it was hardly intelligent to use a war cry. Had I not sensed him approaching that sort of behavior would certainly have warned me.

Vampires have really got to learn to be more stealthy. They hailed me, wearing robes and gear of Vigilants, yet there were two or more stripped down corpses in plain sight?

Because I was really going to fall for that.

Evening Star, 4th, 4E 201

I rolled into the Bee and Barb a little after midnight. One of the Stormcloak sympathizers, some old man, started ranting away as I ordered some drinks from Talen-Jei.

“Drink up, my boy! Drink to those who have fallen! May their souls find their way to Sovngarde!”

“Take it easy, father,” the younger man sitting with him said. “You’re making a scene.”

“I’ll rest easy when we’ve driven every last Imperial pig back across the Jerall Mountains! Now, do me the honor I deserve as your father and drink up!”

“Yes . . . father.”

Brynjolf was there and slid into the seat next to me while those two were talking. I passed over a Velvet LeChance. “Fancy meeting you here,” I said. “How’s the market stall working for you?”

He made a sound of disgust and sipped his drink.

I began recounting one of my adventures, when I had gone through Yngvild, near Dawnstar. That awful man who kidnapped people and used them for his necromantic experiments. “There were a lot of subjugated spirits in there. He was a creepy bastard, I tell you.”

Brynjolf looked more interested than I expected. “Vekel mentioned something about that place not long ago.”

“Vekel?”

“He owns the Ragged Flagon. Sells food, drinks, the usual. I think he was interested in some books or journals or something from that necromancer.”

“Why do I get the feeling you aren’t going to tell me how to get there?” I said with a faint smile.

“Because I’m not, lass. You know the deal. You help me, I help you.”

“Right. It must be awfully wearying to always be making deals.”

“It is what it is.”

I shook my head lightly and had more of my drink. “I’ll find it. Don’t you worry your pretty head how. Of course, I have to remember where I put those books first.”

“Got a lot of pigeonholes, do you?” he asked.

“Mm, sort of, but not really,” I said. “It’s hard to call any place home when you wander so much.”

The look Brynjolf gave me said he was well aware of my equivocation.

“It’s late. I’m going to get some rest. We’ll talk again, I’m sure.”

After I woke up I asked around. Mjoll was helpful for that. Despite hating the Thieves Guild she knew how to find the Ragged Flagon. I could only hope she’d never actually gone there, not when she made it blatantly obvious on a regular basis just what she thought of them. During the course of our conversation I agreed to track down her sword for her, should I ever find myself in Mzinchaleft.

I found the Ragged Flagon easily enough after getting down to the canal level and entering the door Mjoll had mentioned. I did make sure she didn’t witness me going there, though. While I had no intention of joining up, her seeing me go into the Ratway might have given her the wrong impression. Of course, I didn’t share her opinion of them, either. I had to take a few lives on my journey through the Ratway, but they attacked first, which made them fair game.

“Why can’t you just settle down and run the Flagon with me?” the man behind the bar was saying as I approached.

“I don’t want to settle down,” replied the dark-skinned woman on a little platform over the pool of water taking up most of the center of the room. “I like things the way they are.”

“Come on, Ton. Marry me. Let me take care of you.”

“I can take care of myself.”

‘Oh gods,’ I thought. ‘A domestic dispute.’ I almost turned around to come back later, but ended up going to the bar anyway. “You Vekel?” I asked.

He eyed me and said, “Who’s asking?”

“A little birdie told me you might be interested in some books from a necromancer up Dawnstar way.”

His eyes brightened. “My client is offering quite a reward for them, which I’d split with you.”

“And did this client happen to say how many there were?”

“Four.”

“What would be my part of the reward?”

He pulled a sword out from under the bar and placed it on the surface. I rested a hand on it and felt for any enchantments. It was common enough, fire damage, but I knew I could sell it for a decent enough amount. “All right. Hold on a moment while I get them.”

He nodded so I stepped back so I had some room and summoned Luggage. Vekel’s eyes went the tiniest bit wider at the sight. “Open up, please.”

Luggage danced in place, then popped its lid. I crouched down long enough to snag the books from where I’d left them the night before and closed the lid. “Okay. Follow me, but don’t attack anyone unless they start it.”

Luggage danced an affirmative so I nodded and turned back to Vekel. “Check them over to be sure,” I said, and placed the stack on the bar.

“That’s . . . interesting,” he said, eyeing Luggage.

“Mm, found it in a Dwemer ruin and it decided I was its new master. Quite handy to have around.”

“I can imagine.” He checked over the four journals and nodded. “These are the ones. Sword’s yours. Good doing business with you.”

I took the sword and hung it from my belt for the time being. “What do you have for sale?”

I sipped some Shadowbanish Wine—funny, it did nothing to my vision, but it tasted quite nice—as I looked around the place. Various notes were scattered here and there, but it would have been too difficult to read them unless I used invisibility, and disappearing in front of these people might have been taken the wrong way. I could read the one on the bar, however, and it was to someone named Vex, from a Delvin, and he was entreating her to let him in. Seemed to be a lot of that going around.

Before I left I said to Vekel, “I’m not sure that Shadowbanish is the real thing, by the way. Might want to get that checked.”

I headed into the Warrens just to see what was there, but aside from a bunch of people trying to kill me for no good reason and one old man hiding behind an extremely intimidating door, there was little of interest.

Brynjolf joined me again that evening at the Bee and Barb. Somehow my time underground and making the rounds of the marketplace had consumed the better part of my day.

“Told you I’d find it. Not like it was difficult,” I said.

He gave me a sarcastic smile and took a pull of his drink.

“You look glum. Did you ever find someone to do that job?”

“Yes, eventually,” he admitted.

I grinned and said, “I noticed you switched over to hawking genuine shards of Lorkhan’s heart. Weird, though, how the pitch is so similar.”

Brynjolf snorted. “When interest wanes, the game has to change a bit.”

Evening Star, 5th, 4E 201

I set out early. It was a long way to Mzinchaleft, after all. I was partway through Shor’s Stone when I remembered that I had agreed to pick up an ore sample for the alchemist’s wife in Riften. I followed the sound of steel being worked and found the blacksmith, Filnjar.

He greeted me with a dispirited, “I hate seeing a good mine go to waste like that, you know?”

I blinked. “. . .What’s wrong with the mine?”

“It’s full of spiders, that’s what’s wrong with it! Almost killed Grogmar and me when they showed up. I’m worried that they’ll come out of the mine looking for food soon. Then we’re in even bigger trouble. They moved right in and made themselves at home. Did it overnight. I’m not even sure exactly where they came from. No one’s been hurt yet, and they seem to be staying in the mine, but who knows how long that will last? If we can’t get back into the mine, our town is sunk.”

“I’m going to guess the guards have been of no help.”

He sounded bitter when he said, “They’re as useless as a fifth wheel on a wagon. Gave me some sort of line about ‘keeping an eye out for enemy soldiers’. What’s the point in protecting this place if the mine’s completely useless? Idiots.”

‘Oh, why not,’ I thought. “Right. I’ll go take care of it. Spiders don’t frighten me.”

Filnjar expressed guarded optimism at that and said, “Tell you what. Keep to your word, and I’ll line your pockets with as much as I can scrape up.”

I nodded. “Where’s the entrance?”

As I was approaching the entrance a guard there started speaking to me, which surprised me. I had developed the notion in no time flat that they all must suffer from arachnophobia, so why would one be standing there near the mine? He actually followed me inside to finish what he was saying and helped kill the first spider that crawled out of hiding. But then he fled—the guard, that is. The spiders were easy to take care of. While I was there I helped myself to some of those delicious ore veins. I went back to Filnjar and let him know the mine was safe again.

“Gone?” he said in disbelief. “Every one of them? Why, that’s incredible. Finally, we can reopen the mine and put Shor’s Stone back on the map! Here, please accept this gift as a token of our gratitude.”

“Thank you. Ah, the reason I came to speak with you in the first place is the alchemist’s wife—I forget their names—in Riften—said you had an ore sample you needed checked over.”

“It’s about time,” he replied. “I sent them a letter weeks ago. That Elgrim . . . he’d forget his own pants if his wife didn’t help him dress. Hold on a moment.” He rooted around under a table in his work area and came back up with some ore to hand to me. “Tell Hafjorg that she can chip off whatever she thinks is a fair trade for their time.”

I pulled out my journal and made a note of that before saying, “Just out of curiosity, where’d it come from?”

“Redbelly is supposed to be nothing but an iron mine. Been working it for years. Then right before the spiders moved in, we found that chunk of ore. Never seen anything like it. I want to know what I’m dealing with before I start tearing it out of the ground.”

“Ah, I see. I’ll get it to them.”

It wasn’t until I was far enough away from town and could check that I realized Filnjar had given me fifteen hundred septims as a reward. I usually got piddly little rewards for taking bounties, but this—just wow.

Evening Star, 6th, 4E 201

I cut through Labyrinthian on my way north to Mzinchaleft. Coming at it from the south I saw an overlook off to the right and went up. Another word wall, this one guarded by a wisp mother: Diin—Freeze.

I also learned one at the end of a strange maze in Labyrinthian, though I was able to bypass the maze itself to get at the chanting I heard in the distance: Ru—Run.

Evening Star, 7th, 4E 201

It was a long trek through the ruins, punctuated by quite a few bandits providing blood, and then a gauntlet of Falmer. I was still of two minds there. What the Dwemer did was revolting and unforgivable, but the Falmer as they were at present were pathetic and dangerous, an infestation not much better than the chaurus they bred.

I found the room eventually. As soon as I opened the door I could see a dormant Centurion in its cradle. I attacked and broke it easily enough. There was a gleaming sword off to the side, fetched up against the wall, and a closer inspection revealed it was Grimsever. But I poked around for a bit first, not going through the door at the back, and found another of those strange devices that the attunement sphere Septimus had given me would open.

I was reminded of that mysterious artifact I had read about, so I checked in Luggage to see just how much blood I had on hand, then used the sphere to open the way to Blackreach. As soon as I emerged into Blackreach I saw a mechanism in front of a barred lift. A push of the button took care of that and I rode the lift up so I could unlock it from the inside. Hopefully it would stay that way and not be relocked by the Falmer.

I went back down so I could poke around—I could see that strange caged sphere again. It’s almost like a subterranean sun, but, well, there’s really no way of knowing just what the Dwemer were thinking. It hung over what might well have been a city.

On a side note, I had no idea there were giants in Blackreach! I had a much better view of the “city” from the giants’ lair. There was a wall around the place, distinct buildings within, and that bloody great “sun” overhead. I was at Blackreach to investigate, so I headed for the city.

I had no idea the Falmer took servants. Men, Khajiit, but no mer—they obviously don’t torture and kill all the people they capture, but why did these people stay there? They had no armor, but they did have weapons. Why did they not escape? Had they been beaten down so far that the thought never occured to them? Had they formed some strange symbiosis? I was mistaken. One of the servants was a Dunmer. I wondered if there were any Argonian, as well.

Another lift I found brought me to the surface, but I had no idea where I came out except that it was cold and snowing like mad. I unlocked that one, too, before I returned to Blackreach. There was a Dwemer ruin up there that looked unfamiliar, but I already had a place to explore and I would probably end up going in later anyway.

Some time later I came across a building that at first I thought was completely empty. One room was set aside with a multitude of beds all arrayed in a near circle, conforming to the shape of the room itself. Up a ramp outside that room and straight on was a double bed. A door stood to the left, leading out onto a balcony of sorts that overlooked the entrance room of the building.

It was up there that I found the body.

It looked like some variant of mer, but not one I recognized, and I hardly thought that I, of all the people anywhere who had ever investigated Dwemer ruins after they had vanished, had found a dead Dwemer. No, actually. When I looted the body its appearance changed to that of a Falmer.

All because of a thin silvery band.

That same balcony had two Dwemer chests, which I looted, of course. One held a set of armor I found most interesting. Dark, matching pieces. A face-concealing mask. It reminded me of the dragon bones I had seen in Valerica’s study. Well, it did not entirely conceal the face, that mask. The eyes were unobstructed, but. . . . I tucked it away for the time being, in Luggage.

That silvery band, however. . . .

There was no telling what it would do to my own appearance until I could find a place to see my reflection, and with enough light. That, too, went into Luggage. I realized that I had been in Blackreach for seemingly forever. I retreated to the double bed and told Luggage to guard my rest and attack anything that dared come inside.

Evening Star, 8th, 4E 201

Having gotten some sleep I realized that I might well have found that mysterious artifact. My brain had been more than a little fuzzy there for a while. But still, that could wait. Outside the building I went left slightly, toward a circular platform, and realized what it was after a moment.

There was a groove in the surface and a lever near me. Steps on the other side, a short flight of them, led to a set of stone chairs and numerous benches for viewing. It was a torture device. The Dwemer were sick-minded. When in use there were probably viewers up there, a torturer at the lever, and some kind of barrier to keep in the victims as the blades that would pop out and spin would rend the flesh from the bodies and reduce them to mere piles of parts.

To my left was a series of stairs leading down, splitting at a landing to go up (toward some trolls I had fried yesterday) and down (to the water, and I assumed to the same area one of the lifts had taken me).

After a long walk and rather a lot of mining I found my way back to the Tower of Mzark, where Serana and I passed through on our way to an Elder Scroll. I decided to rest there, with Luggage on guard, not that I expected any trouble.

Evening Star, 9th, 4E 201

Getting back to civilization would not be an issue after taking the lift up from Mzark. I still had to track down a flawless sapphire, though, and it was starting to piss me off that I hadn’t yet found one.

Another standing stone, another set of bandits (or necromancers). I could see a shrine I decided to ignore.

Went by Dimhollow Crypt again, which made me think of Serana. Every time I stopped by the house she always seemed to be brooding. When I got down off the mountain I cut west rather than waste time taking the road and came upon that one Dwemer ruin I’d seen before and walked on the roofs of. The lift for that was unlocked, which meant I had used it to come up from Blackreach. If nothing else I could use it again, assuming I got around to obtaining the last of the crimson nirnroot I still needed for Sinderion’s research.

I passed by some Vigilants of Stendarr and wondered where they were operating from with their hall a smoking ruin. There were certainly still plenty of them roaming Skyrim. I wasted no time in Dragon Bridge and sped right on through. It had started to rain, a horrible grey drizzle that made my bones ache.

I had barely made it through the gates of Solitude when Blaise and Lucia ran up to me and joyously welcomed me back. I gave them both presents and watched as they raced off to go play, then checked in at Bits and Pieces. They did not have what I needed, but I purchased some filled soul gems for my enchanting practice.

I even rooted around the house to see if a gem was hiding somewhere, but no, nothing. I searched everywhere.

Evening Star, 11th, 4E 201

I remained for an extra day to spend with the children. On my way out of the city I stopped at Bits and Pieces (they had a flawless amethyst, but not a sapphire), then exited the gates. I considered taking a carriage to Markarth to try my luck there, but saw Ma’dran and his caravan camped outside town.

‘Yes!’ I nearly crowed out loud. Ma’dran had a flawless sapphire. I was so pleased I gave him twice the value and rushed off to the stables to get a carriage to Riften.

Evening Star, 12th, 4E 201

I returned the sword to Mjoll, in Aerin’s house. She offered to be a companion if I needed one because she could see she still had so much to learn. Given just how easy it had been for me I had to wonder how this woman, who claimed she had adventured through half the provinces or more of Tamriel, failed so badly when a Centurion had stepped out of its cradle. In an unkind moment I half considered telling her she would only hold me back.

But what caught my attention was a note on the table that I read while she was speaking.

Lady Mjoll,

I hope this letter finds safe passage to your hands. We are in desperate need of help and we have nowhere else to turn. Everyone in Dawnstar is having nightmares. These horrible visions plague our slumber and leave us feeling frightened and tired even after a full night’s sleep.

I myself have awoken from one of the dreams bathed in cold sweat after having one of these nightmares. The things that I saw were simply too appalling to describe. There’s a priest of Mara that claims he might be able to help us, but so far, he simply sits within the Windpeak Inn scribbling notes.

If you could find it in your heart to make the journey to our city and help us, I would forever be in your debt.

Madena

Mjoll received this letter nearly four months ago, if not longer, and she never went? The loss of Grimsever must have horrifically dented her confidence. Either that or she was simply too busy being a champion of Riften to bother, or too enamored of Aerin.

I left as soon as Aerin caught her attention and checked the market stalls and shops, took care of a few of those errands. That evening I shared another drink at the Bee and Barb with Brynjolf, but felt like gossiping. So I asked him to take a walk with me outside the city. We left by the gate near the palace and looped around east, where far fewer people ever seemed to go.

“So why the privacy?” he asked once we were well away from the city.

“Some gossip,” I said pertly, “and as the subject of this gossip tends to frequent the tavern. . . .”

“Ah. Do tell,” he invited.

I told him of Mjoll’s request and was halfway through recounting my trip to Mzinchaleft when I realized there was a bizarre building up ahead. “I don’t recall seeing that place before,” I said, and pointed. Half the place looked like a more or less typical house, but the other half was a damn mushroom.

“I—don’t see anything, actually,” he said.

I turned to look at him. “What?”

“It’s just woods, lass.”

I turned back; the house was still there. “That’s one damn solid illusion, then. Come on.” I grabbed his hand and hauled him forward. When he gasped I stopped and let go. “Hm?”

“I can see it now.”

“Strange,” I commented, then headed forward again. The door was unlocked so I opened it and stepped inside. The entry room was fairly small. There was a set of stairs leading upward and a door to the right. To the left was a kitchen of sorts. Upstairs was a bedroom, open-faced wardrobes, and so forth. The door downstairs led into the mushroom.

That had an indoor garden for alchemy, a ramp spiraling upward, and a cozy little seating area up there. We took seats and I said, “If only I could see it at first, does that make it mine?”

“Well now. It’s fairly dusty and looks to have been abandoned. Perhaps so. There’s not even a lock on that door.”

“We’ll see, I guess. Now, about Mjoll. . . .”

Evening Star, 14th, 4E 201

When I arrived back at Elysium Serana was ready to talk. “I’ve decided to return to Castle Volkihar to try to rebuild my relationship with my mother,” she said.

I nodded. “I think it’d be wonderful if you could regain that part of your family. But always remember you have a home here, too. The loft is yours.”

She smiled at that and briefly clasped my arm.

“I’ll go with you if you want,” I offered.

Serana shook her head. “No, this is a certain kind of journey. But don’t be the least bit surprised if you see me often enough when you come home.”

Her refusal didn’t surprise me, just like I wouldn’t be surprised if she did turn up frequently. She’d had a lot of time with my growing library, Whiterun, and with Valdimar to talk to (someone who knew absolutely nothing about her and therefore couldn’t make many assumptions) to think and consider her options.

The other thing that happened was me remembering that I had that band. After retiring for the night I fetched out the band, sent up a brief prayer, and slid it on one finger, then looked into the mirror. I had green eyes, pale blonde hair, subtly different facial features. . . . I could see the resemblance easily, but I’m me. To others? People who weren’t all that familiar with me?

Well, the band might come in handy at some point, and maybe it was just another thing to display on a shelf, much like the other oddities I kept collecting. Which reminded me—what did I do with that bug in a jar?

Evening Star, 16th, 4E 201

While passing a bit of time at the Winking Skeever I overheard several people talking about how General Tullius was after Ulfric Stormcloak again. That was all well and good, but should they really be speaking of it in a crowded tavern? Where spies might be listening?

I heard of that ilk at the Four Shields Tavern in Dragon Bridge. A shady looking fellow was mumbling to himself over his cup (and I suspected he’d had more than a few to be speaking of such things so openly in a town with a Penitus Oculatus outpost) about an ambush being prepared over in Darkwater Crossing.

I couldn’t recall ever passing through there, so I checked my map to see where it was. As it turned out I had passed by it many times, but never bothered to move off the main road to check the place out. It was approximately halfway between Ivarstead and Shor’s Stone, right on the edge of the hot springs area, so it was reasonably close to Windhelm, as well. Still, it was an odd place for an ambush. But I wasn’t part of the military or a strategist, so what did I know?

Evening Star, 20th, 4E 201

After spending several days at the College I headed south and spent a few uneasy hours at Windhelm so I could make the rounds of the shops. Then I headed south again. When I made it to Mixwater Mill I knew I was over halfway to Darkwater Crossing.

How droll—a bear and a mudcrab snapping and pawing at each other. The bear won. It’d been a while so I followed the river for a bit instead of taking the longer way by road, fought off another bear, found an abandoned shack, and collected creep cluster, jazbay grapes, and dragon’s tongue. I may or may not have spent time in the deliciously warm pools, killed a few necromancers, and got some mining done.

The soldiers at Darkwater (Stormcloaks) were of absolutely no help, but a fellow in the mine told me that Tullius had just left, and that a number of “rebels” had been captured and were being taken to Helgen. Well, if there was a prisoner escort in progress I thought I could get there much faster.

After a time I finally saw the escort in the distance. They were taking a road that would lead them through Ivarstead from the north, so I knew which route to take to avoid actually running into them on the way to the pass.

I had never actually been to Helgen. It was too far south off my usual circuit. I ever only went near Falkreath because it was on the way to Ancestor Glade, but normally I wouldn’t bother. The run between Markarth and Whiterun was well enough, and there was no sense dipping south except and until Riften came close.

There were a lot of bears in the pass, but Horse is fast and there were plenty of deer and elk to divert attention. Let the escort have fun dealing with them.

When I arrived it was just coming on dusk, so I sincerely doubted I would need to stay on watch. The people went about their lives as they tend to do in towns (walled or not) and did not seem particularly aware that a convoy of prisoners would be arriving, probably in the morning.

As it was I shopped around for a bit, then took a room at the inn. I thought about it that night, why I was even bothering to be there. I strongly disliked the man, thought he was unfit to rule. Maybe I just wanted to see his head roll, and see a possible end to the war tearing up the country. Then again, Ulfric’s death might well make him into a martyr, but cutting off the head of the rebellion might see his rebellion collapse. Time would tell.