Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 34

02062015

10.3

Solstheim

The Gardener of Men
Second Seed, 1st, 4E 202

I sprinted north, to Skaal Village. It was a lovely day, meaning it wasn’t snowing. It wasn’t even overcast. Storn greeted me with, “So the dragons have returned. Well, the Skaal have survived worse.”

‘Right. These guys don’t subscribe, either, it seems.’ “I spoke with Hermaeus Mora. He asked for the ‘secrets of the Skaal’ as his price to give me the final piece of knowledge I need to get rid of Miraak.”

Storn shook his head slowly, in resignation it seemed. “Hermaeus Mora. . . . old Herma-Mora himself. So he is the source of Miraak’s power. Of course. We have many tales of Herma-Mora trying to trick us into giving up our secrets to him. And now he comes again for what we have long kept from him. So it falls to me to be the one to give up the secrets to our ancient enemy. I do not know if I have the strength to face him. The Tree Stone is still corrupted . . . the land is still out of balance. But with the other five restored . . . it may be enough. It will have to be.”

“Are you certain you wish to do this?” I pressed. “It’s a lot to ask of you.”

“Yes,” he replied. “The Skaal also tell of the day when we must finally give up our secrets. When Herma-Mora finally wins. As shaman, it is my duty to guard these secrets, but also to decide when it is necessary to give them up. I believe that time is now. If I am wrong, may my ancestors forgive me. Give me the book. I will read it, and speak to old Herma-Mora myself. I will make sure he lives up to his part of the bargain.”

“If you’re certain,” I said, and pulled the book out to offer it up.

“I am trusting that you will make this sacrifice worthwhile.”

‘Oh, I have a present for Miraak, don’t you worry. It’s to die for.’

As Storn accepted the book and began to walk to a more open spot, Frea came rushing over. “Father, you must not do this,” she pleaded. “That book is . . . wrong. Evil.”

‘And yet it was okay for me to read one?’

“Against everything you have taught me my whole life,” she continued.

“I must, Frea. It is the only way to free Solstheim forever from Miraak’s shadow. There comes a time when everything must change. Nothing that lives remains the same forever. Do not fear for me, my daughter. This is the destiny that the All-Maker has laid out for me.”

Frea sighed helplessly and nodded. “I stand beside you, father, as always.”

“I am ready for whatever the foul master of this book has in store for me.” Storn opened the book. It flew away from him a short distance and hovered in the air, then tentacles came out and held him up, one of them going straight through his torso.

Hermaeus Mora’s avatar appeared and said, “At last, the Skaal yield up their secrets to me.”

Frea wrung her hands as she watched, probably to keep from trying to free Storn from the book, and various villagers approached to observe the spectacle.

“You . . . liar . . . gah!”

“Father! No, stop!”

“I . . . I won’t. . . . I won’t. . . . Not . . . not for you. . . .”

Frea looked over her shoulder at me and cried, “Do something!”

Before I could say anything the avatar spoke again. “Dragonborn, you have delivered me the gift I requested. In return, I keep my promise, as befits a Prince of Oblivion: I give you the Word of Power that you need to challenge Miraak.”

Dov—Dragon.

“No. . . .” Storn said, his voice petering out as the book released him and he sank to the ground, dead.

“You will be either a worthy opponent or his successor, as the tides of fate decree.”

‘I’ll take “worthy opponent” if you don’t mind.’

“Father! What have you done!”

At the Summit of Apocrypha
Second Seed, 1st, 4E 202

“Go,” Frea said roughly. “My father sacrificed himself so you could destroy Miraak and lift his master’s shadow from the land. Go, then. Kill Miraak. Do not fail.”

I moved to Storn’s side long enough to retrieve the Black Book. It was best not to leave it there in the village. I walked away from the scene, saddened at the death, but unable to grieve. I barely knew the man. But I could empathize to a degree with Frea. I, too, had lost family, and not to old age.

I wanted to read the book in a place of relative safety so I returned to Raven Rock and entered the abandoned building there. Then I took a very deep breath, exhaled, and opened Waking Dreams. I found myself back at the place where I had first met Miraak. That section of Apocrypha was also divided up into “chapters” I had to navigate, and each one of them had a strange book to collect. That part of Apocrypha was ridiculously confusing.

I eventually ended up in a tall room with multiple levels. At the center was a pedestal with a chapter book, but it was closed. Arrayed around the level I was on were four pedestals, and each of them had a design. I checked all four, compared them to the titles of the books I’d collected, and set about placing them.

“Chapter” six was a large platform. It had two seekers and a word wall: Diiv—Wyrm. I’d no sooner learned it when a dragon flew in and began attacking me. There was no way off the platform, but I had a newly complete Shout. I delved inside to unlock the final Word of Bend Will, then used it on the dragon.

It promptly landed and said, “Hail, thuri. Your Thu’um has the mastery. Climb aboard and I will carry you to Miraak.” I did so, and as we flew along he added, “Beware. Miraak is strong. He knew you would come here.”

A tower came into view, the same one I had seen when first entering the book. The dragon landed atop it and I dismounted as Miraak turned toward us and began to speak. “Sahrotaar, are you so easily swayed?” His hand went up in a gesture at the two dragons flying overhead in circles around the tower. “No, not yet. We should greet our guest first.”

He began to walk toward me slowly. “No doubt just as Hermaeus Mora intended. He is a fickle master, you know. But now I will be free of him. My time in Apocrypha is over. You are here in your full power, and thus subject to my full power. You will die. And with the power of your soul, I will return to Solstheim and be master of my own fate once again. Kruziikrel! Relonikiv! Now!”

The fight was on.

“Hermaeus Mora is laughing at us, you know. Felling Alduin was a mighty deed, and I thank you for it. He would have proved troublesome to me. They wanted to use me to deal with Alduin—Hakon and the rest. I chose otherwise.”

I rolled my eyes, then frowned when he used Whirlwind Sprint to land in some of that disgusting “water” and disappear. He reappeared in the center pool and Shouted, “Kruziikrel, ziil los dii du!”

‘That son of a horker!’ I thought. ‘He’s absorbing an ally’s soul to heal himself?’

The fight was on again. His attacks did very little damage to me. The worst of it was when I didn’t dodge fast enough and some of his Shouts clipped me.

“Fate decreed that you had to die so that I could win my freedom. You should not have come here!”

I must have beaten him down enough again, for he sprinted off and reappeared in the center pool. “Relonikiv, ziil los dii du!”

‘Bugger. And there’s one dragon left he can use, even if Sahrotaar is on my side right now.’

The fight was back on.

“You are strong. Stronger than I believed possible. I know things that the Greybeards will never teach you.”

‘Pfft. I barely bother to use Shouts as it is, and your idea of a fun time is nothing like mine.’

“This cannot be. I am master of my own fate!” He sprinted off again and I sighed. “So easily you betray me, after all these years. Sahrotaar, ziil los dii du!”

I wore him down, again. But this time when he reemerged from the pool, he was floating. Hermaeus Mora’s avatar appeared and said angrily, “Did you think to escape me, Miraak? You can hide nothing from me here.”

And indeed, all of Apocrypha had eyes and tentacles. In the air and in the “water”.

A long, thick tentacle rose up from the pool and pushed through Miraak’s torso. “No matter. I have found a new Dragonborn to serve me.”

‘Ah—’

“May she be rewarded for her service as I am!” he said before he went limp.

“Miraak harbored fantasies of rebellion against me,” the avatar said. “Learn from his example. Serve me faithfully, and you will continue to be richly rewarded.”

Souls streamed to me from Miraak as his body crumbled to ash. The avatar disappeared then, thankfully. All that was left was to loot the remains and deal with the Black Book that had risen up from the pool. That one, when I opened it, created a ring around the platform of green-glowing symbols. I didn’t care. I used the book to exit Apocrypha.

It was done.

Second Seed, 2nd, 4E 202

I had two tasks I wanted to do. Karstaag was on the north end of the island, west of center. I sprinted up that way, found the cavern entrance, and sneaked in long enough to retrieve the formula from Esmond’s corpse. Then I headed to Skaal Village.

“I can feel it,” Frea told me. “The Tree Stone is free again. The Oneness of the land is restored. Does that mean . . . it is over? Is Miraak defeated?”

“Storn didn’t die in vain. Miraak will never again threaten Solstheim.” Well, unless a Daedric Prince borrowed his soul from wherever he ended up. . . .

“Thank you. Whatever your other reasons for acting, you have done the Skaal a great service. We will not forget what you have done. One more thing, Skaal-friend, if you will,” she said, pausing as she started to walk away. “I know it is not my place, but . . . may I offer a word of advice . . . of warning?”

“Of course.”

“As shaman of the Skaal, I am charged with the spiritual well-being of my people. While you are not of the Skaal, you are Skaal-friend, and so I give you this warning. Herma-Mora forced you to serve him in order to defeat Miraak. Do not let him lure you further down that path. The All-Maker made you Dragonborn for a higher purpose. Do not forget that. Walk with the All-Maker, Skaal-friend.”

“Any luck tracking down Esmond?” Glover asked when I approached him.

“Yes. He’s dead, but he had the formula on him. Here.” I handed over the parchment, which thankfully had not suffered from the dip Esmond must have taken.

“I told him not to head up there. Sounds like the bloody fool got what he deserved. Here,” he said, handing over a key. “I want you to take this key. Head inside my house and unlock the door in the basement. Help yourself to whatever you like inside. I won’t be using it anymore.”

I nodded and did some business with him, checking to see what he had for sale and selling him a few things I certainly didn’t need. Then I entered his house and checked out the room he mentioned. The most interesting thing I found was a letter from Glover to Sapphire. She was that female thief who pulled a fast one on the stable fellow in Riften. As I recalled she was sulky, harsh, and perhaps bitter.

The letter explained a lot, both her attitude and his reasons for leaving Riften. I decided to take it with me. I could always give it to Brynjolf for delivery. Sapphire was rarely in the Ragged Flagon, so it’d be quicker to let Brynjolf do it instead.

And then I took passage back to Skyrim. Maybe someday I’d return to Solstheim, as myself, and poke around. But that was for another day and time.

Epilogue

Brynjolf wasn’t at his stall, neither was he in the Bee and Barb, so I headed down to the Ragged Flagon. I didn’t see him there, either, but I asked Vekel, and he sent Delvin off to find the man. “I’m stealing you again,” I said when he joined me.

“All right, lass, consider me stolen.”

Delvin laughted as we wandered off, but he was ignored. We ended up at Elysium some time later and I told him the story. I also handed over the letter to Sapphire. “Though how you’ll explain where you got it is beyond me,” I said. “I’m sure you’ll think something up for having run into the Dragonborn again, if any names even need come up.”

“Don’t you worry about that detail, lass. What do you plan to do now?”

I thought about it and frowned. “You know, I still have yet to master three schools of magic!