Altand, Blackreach: An expedition, Dwemer automatons, Skooma addict, Falmer, Traitor, Underground beauty, Dragon, Tower, Apparatus, Scroll.
We set out from Winterhold at about 6:30AM.
We had no encounters as we crossed the ice tundra. As Altand came into view I notice a mechanical dragon atop one of its towers.
It soon noticed us and attacked. It cast very powerful lightning bolts as well as summoning different Dwemer simulacrum.
It was only a short fight as it seemed very susceptible to lightning. Its name was Zahgrowth and I was surprised I actually absorbed a soul on its demise. He was obviously made by the Dwemer yet had a soul!
We took a look around what appeared to be a long term camp of a well-funded expedition. There were a few charred bodies and signs of a dragon attack. I don’t think it was by the one we just killed as he used lightning, not fire.
In one of the wooden huts I found a journal. Member of the expedition were listed. There were seven main members and some labourers. Only a couple of charred bodies could be seen so I assume the rest found their way into the Alftand. The journal said they were worried about an approaching storm so had entered with their equipment via a nearby fissure.
We found a recently constructed wooden walkway so followed that.
It led to a fissure in the ice, most likely the one mentioned in the journal.
We entered the fissure and found ourselves within Alftand.
There was expedition equipment strewn around and it looked like it had been ransacked. I found another journal and it said they had hurriedly moved as much equipment as they could into the ruins before huge storm hit. Some labourers were lot to the storm and it has not abated for days.
We could hear a Khajiit somewhere in the ruin yelling at J’zhar and accusing him of hiding something. Quickly looking at the journal I had found outside, J’zhar was a Khajiit hired as a labourer. I assumed the one yelling was his brother, J’darr.
We killed several different types of Dwemer automatons. Like the mechanical dragon, they were very susceptible to lightning. Meeko hated all of them. Not much a dog’s teeth can do against Dwemer metal. He did keep them busy though which made it easier for me to zap them and Lydia to smash them with a Dwemer metal hammer she found soon after our first automaton encounter in the ruins. She hated hitting them with her sword and complained about how much time it takes to sharpen them. So hammer it was.
Further into the ruins we found a table covered in parchments, diagrams, disassembled automatons and several books on the Dwemer. I found a journal written by the expedition’s mage. His main interest and reason for coming was to study and try to figure out how the automatons work. He made some interesting observations about the use of filled soul gems within the automatons. Whose souls he asked? Good question!
Turned a corner and was attacked by a psychotic Khajiit with a wood axe. Khajiit can be formidable opponents with their reflexes and agility.
I assumed this was J’darr intent on my demise and he was not a formidable opponent. I did a lazy backhand swing and removed his head.
His brother’s body was lying on a bedroll. It looked like J’darr had hacked him to death whilst he slept. I found his journal and it seems J’darr was a Skooma addict who was trying to slowly get himself rid of the habit. J’zhar had brought some Skooma on the exhibition to help J’darr slowly wean himself off the drug. When the storm raged outside for many days the brothers found themselves trapped within the ruins. When the small amount of Skooma J’zhar had was depleted J’darr became more paranoid each day. He had started yelling at J’zhar and accused him of hiding more Skooma. That led to the murder before us. The last entry indicated J’darr under suspicion for the disappearance of Valie, the expedition’s mage.
Every room involved hacking, or bashing in Lydia’s case, through different automaton.
We found another journal written by Umana, one of the two leaders of the expedition. Endrast has joined the team as an experienced and well know explorer whose expertise was a great asset. The journal said he had vanished about a week after Valie. Blood stains had been found leading to a barred door. Sulla, the other expedition leader, thought that Valie and Endrast had found another way through the ruins and were intent on stealing and taking credit for anything found. The Khajiit brothers were no longer suspects. Umana wrote that the rations had all but run out yet the storm was still raging outside and they might have to risk going out into it.
There were many large areas of spilt Dwemer oil on the floor which I cleared with fireballs. Before I started doing that we were caught in a battle with automatons when the oil set alight underneath our feet. Not good!
There were also rooms and corridors full of inflammable gas. For the same reason as the puddle of oil, I used fireballs to get of the gases.
We started to encounter Falmer. These foul creatures are soulless and can often be found within or near Dwemer ruins. Their ancestors, the now extinct Snow Elves, had lost a war with the Nord’s who were intent on genocide. Some of the last Snow Elves took shelter with the Dwemer who had offered them refuge. There is much speculation as to what exactly happened but by the time the Dwemer vanished the Snow Elves had changed into these blind and vicious creatures. They seemed to remember Dwemer structures as a place of peace and safety and that is why they populated them. Meeko preferred Falmer over Dwemer machines as his teeth could at least tear into their clammy white flesh. Falmer were blind but their sense of smell and hearing was far superior to ours. They were formidable enemies. They would also have been responsible for the missing expedition members.
We came upon a Dwemer lift and being the curious people we are, took it to see where it went.
It stopped just outside the area where I had found the table of books and Dwemer automatons being studied. I pulled a lever to open some portcullis so we had a shortcut to where we were if ever we need it.
The Falmer numbers were increasing the further we went. We came across several more bodies from the expedition that appeared to have been mutilated by the Falmer. They were probably the missing ones mentioned in the journals.
I could hear two people arguing. I motioned to Lydia and Meeko to stay back whilst I crept up on whoever it was.
One was and Orc maiden and the other an Imperial Officer. It was the two expedition leaders, Umana and Sulla. It seems paranoia had been building for days and even these two, who it seemed by the journals entries to have been close friends, were now distrustful of each other. I snuck up and slit Umana’s throat and faced Sulla who drew his sword and took up a fighting stance. If he had ever felt anything towards Umana he did not display it.
Sulla said, “Who the fuck are you? Come to steal my discoveries and claim the glory? Over my dead body scum!” and then he attacked.
I parried his first few blows and then asked, “You wouldn’t know about the Thalmor invasion would you? Too busy looking for treasure to defend the citizens of Skyrim maybe?”
He hesitated and then continued his attack so I parried and dodged a few more and enlightened him on the news, “I am the Guardian General. So you should have said, “Over my dead body Guardian General Sir!””
Sulla was wide eyed by this stage and his ferocity increased as he knew the ending of this little story. His reaction told me all I needed to know. He knew about the Thalmor invasion and ignored his sworn duty and chose to pursue fame and fortune. He was no less a traitor than Ulfric and the Stormcloaks. I finished playing with him and sentenced him to death. Execution carried out by plunging “The Sword” through the front of his Imperial armour and his body.
We had killed a large Dwemer automaton before and I had retrieved a key from it. It unlocked a gate and gave us access to another Dwemer lift. It took us to where we had left the horses. A snowstorm had just hit and both of them were moving into a wooden shed to shelter from the wind.
We took the lift back down and I approached a Dwemer device. It had pattern on top similar to the front of the Dwemer lockbox in Septimus’ Outpost. I decided that must signify a locking mechanism is in place.
At the front was a receptacle of the right size and shape to hold the sphere Septimus had given me. I inserted it and Meeko cocked his head and stared at it as if he heard something. I know Dwemer often used sounds to control machinery and Septimus had hinted the sphere created them.
The top of the device rose up and a grinding sound could be heard. I retrieved the sphere.
The grinding sound turned out to be seemingly solid walls that moved and now stairs leading down to a door were visible.
We stepped through the door and stood transfixed. We were in Blackreach and words may fail me in trying to describe it.
It was a huge cavern. The ceiling consisted of solid rock of varying height covered by glowing lichen. Dwemer buildings and roads were in abundance. Giant luminescent mushrooms balanced on stems the seemed inadequate in both strength and girth. It was unlike anything I had read about. At first I did not see anything of beauty. Then a momentary of vision of Rigmor giving me one of “those” looks made me chuckle. I closed my eyes and opened them again. I now gazed upon Blackreach as Rigmor had taught me.
The luminescent lichen on the ceiling was sometimes clustered together and other times created smaller dots. The clusters reminded me of holds, towns and villages when I looked upon them from the High Hrothgar courtyard at night. I remembered thinking at the time that ordinary people living ordinary lives are what made that light. Therefore the light became symbolic of what I am trying to protect and save.
The smaller dot like clusters looked remarkably like stars on a cloudless night. The luminance seemed to oscillate between intensities which gave the illusion stars twinkling. I even started to recognise constellations amongst them.
There was a sound on the edge of my hearing. It was like wind chimes sounding from far away. The type of sound that makes you want to find the cause and solve the mystery of where it is coming from and why. When you moved your head you lost it. You had to stay still for a while before it came back. You could never hope to trace it.
I asked Lydia what she thought. “Beautiful, but strange!” was her answer.
Meeko barked and was delighted at hearing it return as an echo. He did two quick barks then run in circles on the spot with excitement when they echoed back. He was ready to bark some more when I hurriedly reminded him we do not want to attract any attention. He looked like I had scolded him so rejected was he. I scratched him on the ear and asked if he wanted to explore. An enthusiastic wag of his tail said yes and he instantly transformed into a happy goofball again.
I could see Falmer dotted here and there but mostly solo and no huge armies or groups of them.
In the distance I could see a Dwemer lift behind a portcullis. Like a candle flame to a moth it beckoned my sense of discovery to get closer.
There was button in front of the portcullis. Of course I pressed it! The portcullis lowered giving access to the lift’s lever which I pulled.
He found ourselves out side again but I had no idea where.
Curiosity sated we returned to Blackreach.
I did not intend to explore every building we found. We knew we were looking for a tower that penetrated the rock so it had a surface “dome” as Septimus called it. I assume what we had emerged from a little earlier was the type of dome he meant.
One building I was curious about had been defended by a Dwemer automaton that we dispatched. The building was directly opposite to the doorway we had entered from. So we approached it and entered.
Inside was a skeleton full of Falmer arrows. Next to it was a journal belonging to somebody called Siderion. In 4E58 he had entered Blackreach in search of Crimson Nirnroot. He seemed to think this species of Nirnroot had specific alchemy qualities but doesn’t specify what. He mentioned a Botanical Alchemist by the name of Avrusa Sarethi who had a Nirnroot farm near Riften. Siderion set up his laboratory and went searching for the plants in the hope the locals, Falmer, would leave him alone. He should have done some research. They hate all surface dwellers! I decided I would return one day and collect the Crimson Nirnroots and see if that farm still exists. Any new alchemy knowledge can be of help to Nirn’s population. Plus I like people who put their lives at risk exploring and discovering.
On one of the benches was the first Crimson Nirnroot I collected.
We killed a few dozen Falmer and a giant Crystal Golem as we approached what looked like the main town or hold of Blackreach.
I could see a huge yellow globe hovering over the centre of the settlement. It looked fragile and probably full of unknown but deadly energy so I did an “Unrelenting Force” shout on it from a distance. I was hoping it would shatter and rain death upon the inhabitants and save us the effort.
That did not happen. A loud gong sounded and reverberated. A few seconds later a Dragon came swooping in delivering death as it came. Not as spectacular as an exploding giant yellow sphere would have been but very entertaining anyway.
As the Dovah rained death upon the Falmer with fiery breath, teeth and talons we entered the town. I saw human in rags and approached to tell him he was free now. He thanked me by trying to brain me with a club. I dispatched him and many more like him as well as the Falmer not busy fighting the dragon.
After a few minutes the place was quiet. There were no signs of life left except I could hear the dragon’s heavy breath. We found him injured and on a road just outside the town.
I approached cautiously not knowing what his intent might be.
A Shout and flame curling around my magical shield told me the answer.
I leapt on him and found the weak spot between head and neck and plunge “The Sword” into it. He died and I absorbed his soul. His name was Vulthurynol.
In the distance I could see a large tower that appeared to penetrate the ceiling of rock. Nothing else around us matched Septimus’ description.
We approached and entered the large Dwemer metal doorway.
This lied to a lift and I pulled the lever.
We entered another door and found ourselves in a large laboratory. We had a quick look around and I collected some books and a wonderful bow.
We exited a door opposite to the one we entered and found ourselves in a room with a very large and complex mechanical device. There was ramp leading higher so we started the climb.
A revenant/ghost/apparition of a Dwemer raced towards me with ill intent. I dispatched it and it left behind an oily pool of foul liquid.
At the top of the ramp was a platform. We could see the strange apparatus and it appeared to consist of several lenses and rotating arms to move them in place.
In front of me was a mechanism that looked like it would hold the cube Septimus gave me. The cube fitted perfectly but nothing else happened except two buttons appeared and were lit.
So now I was face with four buttons, two of which were already lit and still covered. There was a diagram in the middle that I could not interpret.
I pushed the far right button several times. Nothing happened. I pushed the second from right button a couple of times and the cube opened exposing a bright inner core. The second from left button then became uncovered and lit.
I pushed the second button from the left and the apparatus’ arms started to move. Each time I pushed it they moved more until eventually the button furthest to the left uncovered and lit.
I pushed the button furthest from the left and eventually a capsule was lowered.
The capsule opened with a mechanical ratchet sound and inside was what I assumed was the Elder Scroll.
The buttons all unlit and became covered again. The cube was now dormant but with blue highlights indicating it held information. I gathered the cube and headed down to the scroll.
It looked quite normal and radiated no dweomer. When I picked it up there was no sense of dweomer either. I told Lydia we had what we came for and it was time to leave.
On the ground was an aged skeleton and next to it a journal. The deceased was known as Drokt. He had found his way into this room with a cube but could not figure out the machines operation. It appeared he kept trying till he died. There was no sign of his cube. Probably taken by some later treasure seekers not interested in the apparatus.
A door led to another Dwemer lift.
We took that and found ourselves in the main camp set up by the now deceased expedition team.
It was approaching 11:00PM. Lydia made a quick but hearty stew on the fire pit and we ate and talked about the marvels of Blackreach. I still had to write tis journal entry so told Lydia she could have the large tent. She went to bed with Meeko trailing behind her.
I sat at a table and wrote this journal entry.
I know not what time I fell asleep. I know it was to me imagining showing Rigmor Blackreach and her captivating me with a far more vivid description I could ever achieve.