Bleak Falls Barrow: Undead, puzzles and Dragon Runes.
I have done two crypts so far, this one being the first. I encountered new things in this one so my travels through it are far more detailed than required in later ones. This journal is to record what I learn and deduce. It contains knowledge useful to history and for a possible future me. It is not a guide to ancient crypts. Therefore I will describe how to get past any new types of puzzles or locks only once. Future descriptions of encounters will also be minimal unless it is something new or unusual.
As I was heading out of Whiterun I saw Irileth instructing some town guards to head for Riverwood and some to go to the “Western Watchtower”. The guards asked her how they were supposed to fight a dragon. “With courage!” was her answer. After witnessing Helgen I had no doubt these Nord guardsman would show a lot of courage when required.
Just outside of Whiterun I stopped to see if I could summon Blaze. The spell worked perfectly and Blaze slowly materialised in front of me.
I was expecting flames in the shape of horse. Blaze turned out to be a normal horse surrounded by flames. Well normal except for the molten rock looking skin. I reached out and touched him and although quite warm it was not enough to burn. I unsummoned and then summoned him again to make sure I could do so.
I mounted blaze and rode towards Riverwood where I hoped a local might know a bit more about Bleak Falls Barrow. Meeko was deliriously happy he could run instead of going at my walking pace.
Now I knew I could learn magic I wondered why my combat but not my mage skills were intact.
As I was pondering that puzzle I saw several Whiterun guards discussing what to do about a troll. It had decided to take up residence under the bridge near the meadery. This was a chance to test the bow and see if I was any sort of marksman. When they got over the shock of a flaming horse the guards agreed to back me up if the troll got annoyed at being target practice. I knelt and took aim. Even if I hit it I did not expect to kill it outright. How wrong I was. The arrow hit the troll square in the chest and it look downed surprised then keeled over dead. The guardsman stood staring as I sheepishly got back on Blaze and rode away at a normal canter.
Another physical skill intact and well developed. There must be some difference with remembering magic and physical abilities that I am unaware of.
I rode into Riverwood and my horse became the centre of attention. I left Blaze for people to gawk at whilst I entered the town store quaintly called “Riverwood Trader”.
I was met by an animated argument between the owners of the store, Lucan and his sister Camilla. I asked what was wrong and was told a claw made of solid gold had been stolen and that the thief was most likely headed for Bleak Falls Barrow. Lucan said it was supposed to help find hidden treasure within the barrow. How or why he did not know.
Since I was heading for the barrow anyway I offered to try and retrieve it for them. They were both grateful but unfortunately had no useful information about what was in the barrow. Camilla accompanied me to the bridge leading out of Riverwood. She pointed to a path leading up the mountains and told me that led to the barrow. I thanked Camilla then unsummoned Blaze from a distance which was met with “oohs” and “aahs” by those still fascinated by him. With Meeko by my side I crossed the bridge and headed for the barrow.
Around a corner of the trail we stumbled across a wolf. I gave it the chance to scamper off but it attacked instead. Meeko threw himself enthusiastically into the fight and started to glow! If I can accept a horse constantly on fire I suppose I can accept an occasionally glowing dog! He made short work of the foolish wolf.
Following the trail led to an encounter with a troll which was easily dispatched by “The Sword” which cleaved its skull in two. Trolls seemed to spend a lot of time grunting and threatening rather than attacking. Since they will always eventually attack their survival chances would be better if they cut out the preliminaries. Not that I am going to ever give them that advice.
Further up the trail was a small watchtower infested with bandits who proved no match as they attacked us one or two at a time.
From the watchtower it was a small hike to a 180 degree corner which allowed my first close up view of Bleak Falls Barrow.
It was a very large structure and careful inspection from where I was showed no sign of bandits or other life apart from many goats. I was very cautious approaching and this was a wise move as several bandits gave their position away by chasing a goat or two for dinner. I quickly found cover behind some rubble and was delighted to find my newly discovered marksmanship combined with my fantastic bow allowed the dispatch of three hungry bad guys in three shots.
After their bodies stopped tumbling down the steep steps and the goats had all run away bleating what I regarded as “thank you” but was more likely “run away!” I approached the barrow with more haste and less caution.
What is better than two good eyes and ears when approaching danger? A dog companion with better eyes and ears and a magnificent nose! All the bandits I had so far encountered smelt like a combination of stale mead, sweat, rotten teeth and piss. If I could smell them then they must have been torture to Meeko! Mind you I had seen him happily sniffing other dog’s rear ends and dead things in various stages of decay and had to stop him rolling in shit of different species and firmness. Meeko sprang away and rounded a large column and all I heard was snarling, a shriek and a disturbing crunch. When I finally ran panting around the same column Meeko was busy cleaning blood from around his mouth and chin. He might be a savage killing machine but he was a neat savage killing machine.
I looted the body of the unfortunate bandit and found an excellent lantern which I attached to my belt. Having no money while in Whiterun seemed unfair. I was doing Skyrim a favour with every bandit I killed. From then on I had unashamedly looted every bandit I killed. Anything of value I found I regarded as payment for services rendered. I did not want to be burdened so only took smaller items such as gems and coins. I regretted leaving behind some fine armour and weapons but had to be practical. Many bandits were surprisingly well off financially! That made we wonder why they never invested in soap, water and clean underwear.
No more bandits were silly enough to take us on and I approached the very large doors with no trepidation or fear, just curiosity. I readied my bow and quietly opened the large double doors with one hand wide enough for Meeko and I to enter. Lucky for us it was already fairly dark so there was no sunlight to announce our entry. The doors swung easily and silently. Whoever built the barrow were fine craftsman.
Some bandits were nice enough to be talking loudly whilst silhouetted against the fire they were huddled around. I signalled Meeko to stay put which he greeted with a disappointed cock of his head. I wanted to hear if they had something useful to say about the place.
They were complaining about a dark elf called Arvel. He had stolen the claw from Riverwood and was somewhere in the barrow leaving these guys to guard the entrance. An entrance we had just opened and entered. I signalled Meeko and he literally flew across the cavern in his eagerness to get to his favourite chew toys. I let fly with a couple of arrows and dropped one whilst Meeko took care of the other two.
There was a large and inviting locked chest which I picked open with ease. This physical skill is one I had obviously trained in and remembered. I wondered if a Dragonborn has ever joined a thieves guild?
I lit the lantern and we continued further in confident the only person we should encounter is Arvel. Wrong! We encountered a bandit intently staring at a lever that I supposed opened the portcullis in front of him. I had no idea if he was one of Arvel’s but it did not matter. An arrow in the back ended his career. Not very heroic but saves time.
There was a portcullis with a lever in front. There were three pictures, two above and one to the left. Each picture was of an animal.
To the left were three rotating columns with a different animal picture on each facet. At the front of each column was a triangle which indicated your selected facet. I saved that bandit from a life of stupidity. Arvel had figured this out as it was obvious. Rotate the columns, left to right, to match the animals in the order they are, left to right.
I set the columns and pulled the lever and the portcullis opened. I assume if you did not set the columns properly you were not rewarded with flowers and sweet rolls when you pulled the lever.
We descended some stairs and encountered skeevers which Meeko seemed to enjoy chewing on as much as he did bandits. He shook them like a terrier with a rat. A very large terrier with very large rats! It reminded me too much of a Dovah and people.
Just after the skeevers we heard Arvel calling out for help from his recently deceased friends. As we approached the sounds of hysterical fear we were blocked by a very dense and strong web. Giant spiders! Great! I loved the scrunchy sound they made when I hit them hard when escaping Helgen! I equipped my bow though as risking getting poisoned is not a good idea. They spit poison and it is easier to avoid from a distance. We broke through the web and entered the room expecting giant spiders but instead we faced a single HUGE spider with a very bad attitude.
Arvel was well and truly trussed up in a web and probably the grumpy spider’s next meal. Understandably he was frantic and probably in need of clean undergarments. He was begging us to kill the spider but we did it out of self-preservation, not to rescue bandit scum. The spider was large but Meeko nipping at is eight heels kept it busy while I feathered it with arrows. It was not a long fight.
I approached Arvel who begged to be released. He could not hand over the Golden Claw till I did so I cut him down. Knowing he would probably run I nocked an arrow and waited to see if he would hand it over. Of course he turned and ran calling me a fool. Foolish people think they can outrun an arrow. I retrieved the claw and a journal from his body. Reading the journal, Avrel had no idea what treasure he was going to find but risked all anyway. More proof of who the fool actually was.
He must be the last of the bandits I thought with confidence. He was but a little further on we met the permanent residents of Bleak Falls Barrow. I walked into a chamber full of mummified corpses in burial niches along the walls. There were no name plates or anything else to identify the deceased but they were all clad in ancient Nordic armour. Must have been renowned warriors of old I thought as I approached one to have a closer look. To say I was a little surprised when he opened his eyelids to reveal glowing blue eyes and then stood up to introduce himself is an understatement. To say I was a bit upset when he started proficiently trying to decapitate me with his weapon is a bigger understatement. As usual Meeko was quicker to recognise danger than me and was already leaping for the smelly dead things throat before I drew my foolishly sheathed sword. Meeko ripped at the throat with a force that would kill a live being. Since this thing was already dead all Meeko got was a mouth full of desiccated flesh and no satisfying spurt of blood or gurgling sound. I soon hacked it enough it fell never to raise up again. If a dog can look disgusted then Meeko did an admirable job of it. I was going to laugh at his expense but the approach of several more Draugr, a name Ralof mentioned when describing undead thingies in the barrow, ruined the moment. I learned never to dismiss local knowledge as fanciful imagination.
We dispatched those thingies only to be faced with moving blades blocking the corridor and threatening to turn us into neat slices. Meeko wisely stayed put till I timed my walk through the blades and got through intact. On the other side was a pull chain which I used to stop the blades and allow Meeko to follow.
So why are Draugr a fixture of Skyrim crypts? (I encountered them in the next one as well). Does some immortal approach the recently deceased and offer them a job? “Not good enough for Sovngarde? Not thrilled with a boring existence in the underworld? Join The Draugr today!”
Next mystery was containers of highly flammable oil hanging from the ceiling. Usually over pools of highly flammable oil. Who placed them there and why? Probably the same beings who keep candles and lamps lit in crypts where the living haven’t visited in eras. After experimenting and finding they barely singed the Draugr but had a nasty habit of burning useful books, spell tomes and scrolls I left them alone.
More Draugr. Kill. More Draugr. Kill. Boring. Oh a troll. Kill. Boring. More Draugr. Kill. More slice and dice things in a corridor. Avoid. Pull chain. Boring. More Draugr. Kill. Wow, something new!
After wearing out my sword arm hacking Draugr to pieces solo, Meeko was so disgusted he just shuffled along giving out the occasional yawn, we finally came to what the Golden Claw was for. It was a doorway with three concentric rings that could be rotated to change the positions of animal pictures similar to those in the room with the columns and lever.
“…the solution is in the palm of your hands.” said Arvel’s journal. I didn’t think they meant my sword and shield so had a close look at the Golden Claw instead. In the middle of the concentric circles was a circle with three indents that matched the toes of the Golden Claw. Like pulling the lever in the other room I didn’t think it was a good idea to insert the claw before getting the right animal pictures in the right order. At the bottom of the claw that order was shown.
This was supposed to be a puzzle to test the ancient Nords? Not the brightest things to ever walk on Nirn then? Here is a puzzle for which we give you the solution. Have fun figuring it out! I rotated the concentric circles so the correct animals in the correct order according to the bottom of the claw lined up vertically. I inserted the claws toes into the slots and rotated the inner circle. With a load grinding noise and lots of dust the door started to slowly lower. I waited for the dust to settle before proceeding.
After walking along a short corridor we emerged in a very large cavern full of bats but otherwise devoid of life (or undead).
I was attracted to a semicircular wall covered in symbols. Instinctively I recognized them as words in the language of dragons. No sentences or structure, just rows and columns of individual words. As I got closer one of the words, “Force” my knowledgeable inner voice told me, started to glow. Its brightness grew and grew and an imaginary or real sound seemed to increase in volume with it till suddenly it ceased. The glow quickly vanished so the word stood out no more than the rest. Something in my head clicked like knowledge had automatically been inserted. Like when I had learned Blazes’ recall spell. I knew I had learned the Dragon word for “force” but no idea why.
Whilst I was contemplating the wall, which Meeko found even more boring than Draugr, he was wandering around sniffing at everything and hoping to find something a bit more exciting. As he approached an ancient sarcophagus he got his wish. A Draugr much meaner and tougher looking than those previously encountered emerged and decided to attack Meeko. The dog may have found them boring and not very tasty but he wasn’t going to accept one trying to skewer him. So the battle began. I quickly drew sword and readied shield and whilst Meeko starting ripping shreds off the exposed parts with efficiency if not enthusiasm, I did a wonderful shield charge which was a manoeuvre I had not done before. I was pleased it staggered the thing enough for me to get in a series of killing blows (re-killing blows?).
When it finally stopped moving I searched it and found something I had almost forgot about, the Dragonstone! It was a rough five sided stone with a map of Skyrim etched on it. Apart from familiar cities and towns the map had stars indicating something but at that stage I had no idea what.
We made our way out of the barrow and found ourselves on a cliff high above Riverwood and other familiar landmarks.
We made our way to more level ground and I summoned Blaze. His fire lit the way so well I did not have to return to Riverwood at a snail’s pace. I also felt more comfortable moving at a gallop as it reduced the chances of bandits, wild animals or other nasties from springing a surprise. I also enjoyed looking back and seeing my furry companion having to put effort into keeping up rather than pissing on every second tree or rolling in smelly things. Despite our speed we arrived in Riverwood in the early hours of the morning.
I did not think it polite to go knocking on the Riverwood Trader’s door at that time. Besides that I was bone tired. That happens when you do all the work because your companion throws a tantrum. So we headed for the inn, called “The Sleeping Giant” where we were greeted by a woman who had obviously seen her fair share of battle by the scars on her face. Or perhaps she was clumsy when shaving? She rented me a room for a fair price and since I was fairly rich from all the bandits and chests encountered I was happy to hand over the coins. She warned me I was responsible for any poop or piss my dog made. I assured her he had already gone and was fully house trained. I have no idea if he was but I did see him leave an impressive steaming pile on her patio and pee a river on a post before we entered so knew he was empty for a while. Her patio was not really her inn was it?