Alftand, College of Winterhold, Midden, Mzulft, Labyrinthian: Wasted time, Useless spy, Psijic visit, Mystical being, Synod moron, Dwemer marvel, Clue given, Arch-Mage murdered, Ancient city visited, Dragon Priest confronted, Staff retrieved, Another death, Ancano defeated, Threat removed, Divine Task complete.
I am writing this journal entry just after midnight on the 22nd Morning Star in the Arch-Mage quarters, College of Winterhold.
I allowed myself to be diverted from the task set me by The Divines. I underestimated my enemy and made wrong choices and good people died. If I am not infallible why give me feelings? I can’t just shrug off mistakes that cost lives.
On the 17th I had retrieved some books from Fellglow Keep that may have contained information about the relic we found under Saarthal. I had read them and decided the only one that mentioned it, “Night of Tears” seemed to be an attempt by an Imperial scholar to declare that relic was made by Nords and the mer feared it and decide to attack Saarthal to prevent its use. That was propaganda, not history, so I did not return the books to the college immediately.
We had spent the 18th Morning Star travelling across Skyrim to retrieve a relic called Kahvozein’s Fang. I did not know if it was required to solve my given task but could not take that risk.
The knife had no connection with my task. A day wasted. A mistake.
After retrieving the relic from an ancient Nord ruin we spent the night at the Four Shields in Dragon Bridge. We were tired but I could have kept us going with potions. We felt no urgency. We wasted hours. Mistake stacked on top of mistake.
On the 19th we set of from Dragon Bridge for Alftand to find some writings of the famous Arch-Mage Shalidor. As with Kahvozein’s Fang, the importance of the writings in relation to the task was unknown to me.
Celestine had pointed out the obvious to me the other morning. I am not omnipotent. I wish I was.
It was about 6:30AM when we left Dragon Bridge and an uneventful ride got us to Alftand just before midday.
I had no idea where in Alftand we would find Shalidor’s writings. We had passed through the ruins months before. I did not stop to look inside chests or on bookshelves on that occasion. Our best chance of finding the writings was to trace our steps of months ago and search what we had ignored last time.
As with our last visit we had to combat Dwarven Automatons and Falmer.
After many hours of searching and fighting we finally found the writings in a chest next to the Blackreach entrance.
I had a quick look at the writings and found them incomprehensible. Urag has the knowledge to decipher them. He has to be one of the smartest beings on Nirn!
We arrived at the College about 3:30PM and headed for The Arcanaeum.
I gave Urag the writings of Shalidor. He promised to give me a copy of his translation when he finishes it.
I gave him the three books we had recovered from Fellglow Keep and I told him I think two are irrelevant and that “Night of Tears” was propaganda, not history. He suggested I mention it to Tolfdir anyway as it might jog some memories.
We found Tolfdir in the Hall of the Elements. The Arch-Mage, himself and several other senior mages had managed to teleport the relic from Saarthal to the College. Tolfdir had spent hours studying it.
I mentioned the book to him and he said he would have to re-read it as he couldn’t remember the details.
Tolfdir then gave me a summary of what he had learned by observing the relic. The two main points were the writing on it matched nothing any of them had seen before and the relic contained, and was emanating, fantastic amounts of magicka.
Tolfdir told me Arch-Mage Aren had been doing his own research. Before we could discuss it further Ancano appeared and rudely interrupted our discussion.
With all the arrogance of a Thalmor, Ancano demanded that we cease our discussion because what concerned him was far more important. Tolfdir walked off in a foul mood and I turned my attention to the spy, who demanded,
“I need you to come with me immediately. Let’s go.”
No Thalmor, especially you, can order me around. Tell me what the problem is and I will think about coming along.
“There is someone claiming to be from the Psijic Order here in the College. I would like to know why he is here and why he asked for you specifically. Come with me to the Arch-Made quarters where he waits for you with Aren.”
You would like to know all that? Too bad it is none of your concern!
“Technically that is true. However, I still report to the Aldmeri Dominion and I cannot ignore this situation.”
What do they teach you guys at Thalmor Spy Training School? You keep insisting you’re an advisor to the Arch-Mage so whatever the Dominion wants is irrelevant. I do not care if you and your superiors are frightened of the Psijic Order. This is my business and you are not to be there or I will ask the College Guards to remove you. The Psijic Order is not banned from the College. The guards have let him through and Arch-Mage Aren has allowed him into his quarters. So if you don’t mind I hate leaving guests waiting. I warn you, do not enter till we allow you to.
With that I headed off to see what the Psijic wanted.
He was standing with Arch-Mage Aren waiting for me. I told Lydia and Meeko to keep an eye on the entrances and not let Ancano enter until I say.
As I approached all colours and sounds faded and those around me froze. The same as in Saarthal. He cast the dweomer with no visible hand actions and no audible words. That is a trick I would love to learn!
“Dragonborn, the situation here at your College is of dire importance. Attempts to contact you as we have previously have failed. We believe it is due to the very source of our concern. This object… The Eye of Magnus as your people have taken to calling it. The energy coming from it had prevented us from reaching you with the visions you have already seen.”
So you have come in person. From what I know of your order the danger must be extreme for you to do so. Can I have your name so I do not keep thinking of you as ‘The Psijic’.
(I found it difficult to believe they could not contact me as they did in Saarthal. I had been miles away from the College for many hours gathering stolen books, finding a relic and Shalidor’s writings.)
“Yes, sorry. We do not talk to outsiders often. My name is Quaranir.”
Quaranir, if this ‘Eye of Magnus’ is dangerous why don’t the Psijic Order do something about it?
“I’m afraid it’s not that simple. You must understand the Psijic Order does not typically intervene in events. My presence here will be seen as an affront to some within the Order. As soon as we have finished I will be leaving your College. I’m all too aware that my arrival has aroused suspicion, especially in Ancano, your Thalmor associate.”
He is no associate. He is a spy and I have prevented him from entering these quarters while I speak to you. I will let him in to “escort” you from the premises though. That will massage his Thalmor ego and pride opens the door for mistakes.
“Despite the danger my Order will not act directly. You must take it upon yourself to do so.”
The Divines have sent me here to do that. I need to understand exactly what the problem is.
“As you may have learned this object… the Eye… is immensely powerful. The world is not ready for it. If it remains here it will be misused. Indeed, many in the Order believe it has already… Rather, something will happen soon, something that cannot be avoided.”
What do you expect from me then?
“We believe that your efforts should be directed towards dealing with the aftermath. We cannot predict what that will be. I fear I have already overstepped the bounds of my Order but I will offer this. Seek out the Augur of Dunlain here in your College. His perception may be more coherent than ours.”
Who or what is the Augur of Dunlain?
“He was once a student here at the College. Now he is… something different.”
Where can I find this Augur?
“I… I’m unsure. He is somewhere within the College. Surely one of your colleagues must know his location. I am sorry I cannot provide you with further help but this conversation requires a great deal of effort on my part. Now, I am afraid I must leave you. We will continue to watch over you and guide you the best we can. It is within you to succeed. Never forget that.”
Thank you Quaranir. You have given me more information than I usually get.
I signalled Lydia to let Ancano in. When she opened the door he almost fell through as he was leaning on it so much trying to eavesdrop.
As he approached Quaranir and started his paranoid accusations I turned my attention to the Arch-Mage and asked him if he knew where the Augur of Dunlain is,
“Has Tolfdir been telling stories again? I thought I made it quite clear that this was a subject inappropriate for conversation! Please, don’t allow him to continue to discuss the subject.”
We headed off to find Tolfdir and found him in his quarters. When he saw me he said,
“Good to see Skyrim still has such fine people. You give an Old man hope.”
Well thank you Tolfdir. Kind of you to say. Have you ever heard of the Augur of Dunlain?
“Well now, there’s a name I haven’t heard in some time. My goodness, it’s been years since I’ve spoken with him. I suppose he’s still down in the Midden but I haven’t checked. Are you going to see him? Do tell him ‘hello’ for me won’t you?”
Where is the Midden?
“Underneath the College. You can get access from a door just around the corner. It’s not the nicest place, so if you go down there, please do be careful.”
I would have loved to have learned more about who and what the Augur was but I felt a sense of urgency. What Quaranir said disturbed me. Too late to stop something terrible happening but I have to take care of the aftermath. Maybe lives will be lost if I am not prepared in time?
We entered the Midden at 9:00PM.
What a bleak place! Rubble and dirt and broken foundations.
There were signs of dark magic, Daedra worship, necromancy and depravity all over the horrid rooms and corridors. Why has the College allowed this to remain as it is? It is the type of place that would lure the Apprentice dabbling with the darker side of magic.
We killed some Ice Wraiths and skeletons on the way to the Augur. It took just over an hour to find him. As we stood in front of his magically locked door he said,
“There is no solace in knowing what is to come.”
Maybe so, I still need to speak to you.
“There is no help for you here.”
I do not believe that.
“Your perseverance will only lead you to disappointment.”
“Still you persist? Very well, you may enter.”
(We entered a small circular room and in the middle was a ball of pure energy. That was the Augur.)
“Welcome to the Midden.”
So you’re the Augur of Dunlain?
“I am that which you have been seeking. Your efforts are in vain. It has already begun. But those who have sent you have not told you what they seek. What you seek.”
The never do! What do you think I am seeking?
“You seek that which all who wield magic seek. Knowledge. You shall find this: Knowledge will corrupt. It will destroy. It will consume. You seek meaning, shelter in Knowledge. You will not find it. The Thalmor sought the same thing, and it shall lead to his end as it has so many others.”
Ancano has been here before me? I think I have underestimated him.
“Yes, Ancano has sought my knowledge as well, through very different questions. Your path differs from most. You are being guided, pushed towards something. It is a good path, one untravelled by many. It is a path that can save your College. I will tell you what you need to know to follow it further.”
I am guided by The Divines with help from the Psijic Order. What do I need?
“You, and those aiding you, wish to know more about the Eye of Magnus. You wish to avoid the disaster of which you are not yet aware. To see through Magnus’ Eye without being blinded, you require his staff. Events now spiral quickly towards the inevitable centre, so you must act with haste. Take this knowledge to your Arch-Mage.”
The Auger than faded away and we left the Midden to talk to Arch-Mage Aren.
We found the Arch-Mage studying the Eye of Magus. He saw me approaching and asked,
“You wish to see me Apprentice?”
I have important information for you.
“Really? And what might that be?”
I talked to the Augur of Dunlain. He said we need to find the Staff of Magnus.
“I seem to recall Mirabelle mentioning the staff somewhat recently. Why don’t you see if she can tell you anything?”
So off we went to find Mirabelle.
We found Master Mage Mirabelle just outside of her quarters. I asked her,
Do you know anything about the Staff of Magnus?
“Well now that’s and odd question. Why is the world would you be asking?”
It may be connected to the Eye of Magnus.
“The ‘Eye of Magnus’? I can appreciate this… thing, this Orb… It’s very impressive. Very unique and definitely worth studying. But let’s no jump to any conclusions or assign it importance beyond what we are certain of.”
I am not jumping to any conclusions. I have spoken to both the Psijic Order and the Augur of Dunlain. Both referred to the relic as the Eye of Magnus. I have also been told we need the Staff of Magnus. I would appreciate some help with this and not continuous questioning of my capabilities!
“Well, it’s said to be very powerful. It is supposed to have the capacity to store an incredible amount of magical power. It is more myth than anything at this point. I have no doubt it actually exists but no one has seen it in decades or even longer. Recently I heard it mentioned when some Synod Mages came to the College looking for it. That was some months ago.”
Who are the Synod?
“Mages based out of Cyrodiil. They fancy themselves the Imperial Authority on magic these last few hundred years. My understanding is that all they really do is make noise in an attempt to curry favour from the Emperor. Lots of politics but little magic. I was quite surprised to find them on our doorstep. They seemed amiable enough but their line of questioning made me… uneasy. It became clear they’re trying to hoard powerful artefacts, looking to consolidate power.”
So nobody knows the Staff’s location?
“No one here does. The Synod seemed convinced it was somewhere in Skyrim. They enquired about the ruins of Mzulft. That is all I remember. It sounded like they were headed there though they were rather secretive about why. I suppose if you’re intent on looking for the Staff there’s a chance they might be in Mzulft yet. Just don’t expect them to be cooperative.”
I asked Lydia if she is OK as it looks like we will be travelling for many hours to Mzulft and back. She assured me she still had plenty of stamina and so we set off.
We arrive in Winterhold at about 2:20AM to find an attack by vampires was underway. They were not a push over!
We eventually killed them all but a couple of civilians and guards lost their lives. I spent some time healing others before we continued on to Mzulft.
We arrived there at about 8:00AM and were attacked by a mechanical Dovah called Stinargklo.
He was not much of a challenge. After I absorbed his soul I collected heart scales for Tolfdir.
We were finally ready to enter Mzulft. I knew nothing about the place except it was Dwemer in origin.
When we entered we found a Synod mage critically injured on the floor. When we approached he uttered his last words,
“Find… Paratus… in Oculory…”
I searched his body and found a journal and a key.
The journal said that his name was Gavros. He was supposed to deliver a crystal to the Oculory.
There was no crystal on him or in the small entrance room we were in. We assumed that somebody else had taken the crystal and was now somewhere in Mzulft.
I used the key I found on Gavros to open the door and we ventured further into Mzulft.
Our plan was to find the Oculory and speak to Paratus if he was still alive.
Not far into Mzulft and we found the first of many deceased Synod mages. It appeared he was killed by Falmer, not a Dwemer automaton.
A bit further in we found evidence of both Falmer and automatons.
The Falmer had dug tunnels which we followed.
Apart from Falmer we fought Chaurus, Chaurus Warriors…
…and Giant Chaurus Crawlers.
We entered a large chamber and were set upon by half a dozen Falmer. These were much stronger than earlier ones and were probably leaders of some type. After they were killed I searched the bodies and found a mysterious crystal on one of them. We assumed this must be the crystal Gavros was supposed to deliver to Paratus in the Oculory.
We tried some large double doors at the end of the room and they were locked with no possibility of picking them. I was sure we needed to get through those doors so we started searching in adjoining rooms.
One room had several dead Falmer in front of it and we could hear the unmistakable sounds of a Dwemer Centurion.
We entered the room and a Centurion attacked.
We destroyed it and searched the room. Within a small chest was a key. It might have been for those locked doors so we went back to try it.
It opened them but shortly after we were faced with more locked doors. When I tried to open them a voice from the other side said,
“G… Gavros? Is that you? I’d almost given up hope. Let me get the door…”
(The door swung open and there stood a Synod mage who, seeing we were not Gavros, took up a fighting stance and prepared to fire lightening at us.)
If you want to live I wouldn’t try to cast that spell. We mean you no harm. We found your friend Gavros dead. I assume you are Paratus?
“How did you know my name? Poor Gavros! It was the Falmer wasn’t it? Curse them! They’ve ruined everything!”
I read Gavros’ journal and yes, I think he was killed by Falmer.
“If Gavros is gone there is no hope. He was supposed to return with the crystal… Without that all our efforts are wasted. If you’re here for treasure or wisdom or anything I am afraid you have wasted your time.”
I am here fulfilling a task for The Divines. A bit more important than treasure hunting don’t you think? A lot more important than whatever the Synod is doing I can assure you! What are you doing here?
“I am on official business of the Grand Council of the Synod. That is all you need to know. What is so important The Divines would send somebody into this dangerous place?”
There is an ancient and powerful artefact at the College of Winterhold. I need the Staff of Magus to control it before catastrophe occurs.
“Well. I’m afraid I can’t help you with that. I need the crystal to do anything useful and I don’t have it.”
(I help up the crystal we had found.)
You mean this crystal? It is yours if you promise to help locate the Staff of Magnus.
“You found… how in the world…That’s it. That’s it! I don’t know who you are but you may have just saved this little project. In fact, who are you anyway?”
Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. That is my housecarl Lydia and the mutt with bad breath is Meeko. You could say I am here on behalf of The Divines, The College of Winterhold and the Psijic Order. In reality I am here on behalf of the people of Nirn.
“The College! Savos wouldn’t even grant us an audience when we came to you. Now you come here expecting something from me?
I could just walk away and leave you to the Falmer. Show some gratitude and concern for others! There is a great danger to all including you. The crystal for help locating the Staff. Yes or No?
“Of course I will help. Come on and I’ll explain on the way.”
(Gavros started walking and we followed as he explained.)
“No matter what Gavros said, this was my idea first. The Council is going to know that when I get back.”
Gavros’ only concern with his dying words was for us to find you. Tell me the facts and keep you ego out of it!
“We are going to use what we call the Oculory. I don’t know what the dwarves called it. From all our research it seems they were intent on discerning the nature of the divine.”
(We walked into a room with a huge Dwemer machine. In many ways it reminded me of the one that held the Elder Scroll.)
“This machinery, all of it, was designed to collect starlight and then… I’m not sure. Split it somehow? It was my idea to replace one of the key elements with our focusing crystal. Months of enhancements went into it. The first was faulty as we had not factored in the colder climate of Skyrim. The one you have is a replacement. Let’s just hope they got it right this time.”
(We got to a platform and I could see light being concentrated by a crystal beaming down from the ceiling. This was very much like the machine that held the Elder Scroll. I knew that we would have to redirect that light onto the crystal panels spread over the domes surface. Then the machine would do whatever it was designed to do. With the earlier machine we pushed buttons on a raised platform, similar to one in this room, to redirect the light beam.)
“Here it is. Magnificent isn’t it? It took an incredible amount of work to get it going again. Now I’m hoping it’ll all be worth it.”
What do I do now?
“Place the crystal in the central apparatus and we can start the process for focusing it.”
(I approached the central apparatus.)
(I placed the crystal into it. Instantly it moved and the light beam was split into three.)
(I then returned to Paratus.)
“Now the crystal needs to be focused. It was created far away and we knew some adjustments would need to be made. Heating and cooling the crystal will cause it to expand or contract. That will change how the light passes through it. You will need to use spells to do that. Being from the College, I assume you know them already. There should be a few basic tomes around here somewhere in case your training is even more sub-standard then I’ve heard.”
We passed about a dozen of your colleagues dead at the hands of Falmer on the way here. We are alive. Who do you think has the substandard training? Do you want to compare spell lists? Measure my magicka? I am so tired of having to deal with arrogant nobodies who insult those helping them. I will focus the crystal. You will tell me what I need. You will leave out the insults and we will depart.
(I used basic fire and ice spells to focus the crystal. When the beams were pointing to the crystal panels a projection of Tamriel appeared on one of the walls.)
“Years of work, finally going to pay off.”
(We walked with Paratus and studied the projection.)
“What’s this? These results… they’re not at all what they should be. Something is creating an incredible amount of interference. Something in Winterhold it looks like.”
That would be the ancient artefact I told you about. Can you help me find the Staff or Magus or not?
“Only two locations of magical power are currently revealed. One is your College. The other… Well, that can only be Labyrinthian”
So, the Staff of Magnus is in Labyrinthian?
“Well, yes. Probably.”
Thank you Paratus. We have to go now. Time is of the essence.
As we started to leave Paratus yelled about how he will report all this to the Synod and other paranoid twaddle. I think he has been alone too long! Just because he was irritating me so much I unfocused the beams. Petty but satisfying as I heard him cussing and saw him reaching for those basic spell tomes.
On our way out a different Psijic appeared. He said,
“You have done well thus far but trying times are ahead. It is imperative that you return to your College at once. You will be called on to take swift action. Rise to the challenge and discover what you are capable of. You are on the right path and you will prevail.”
We emerged from Mzulft just before 5:00PM.
We pushed ourselves and our poor mounts as fast as we could and arrived at the College without incident at about 10:15PM.
We rushed into the Halls of the Elements and Arch-Mage Aren and Master Mage Mirabelle were staring at a magical barrier preventing them getting to the Eye of Magnus. I asked,
What’s going on?
“I don’t know what he’s doing, but he won’t get away with it.”
“Ancano. He’s in there doing something. We don’t know what. We’re trying to get in there now. I will have his head for this, I assure you! Help take this down will you?”
With a combination of spells we managed to bring down the barrier and we all entered the room.
Ancano seemed to be absorbing power from the relic.
The Arch-Mage demanded Ancano stop what he was doing and approached him.
Master Mage Mirabelle warned him not to get any closer.
Then there was a blinding flash and we were thrown across the room.
When I recovered and stood up I saw the Master Mage on the floor injured. There was a new barrier this time encircling the relic with Ancano in the middle of it.
Meeko was OK and Lydia yelled across the noise of the barrier that she was bruised but alright.
I approached the Master Mage and she asked,
“Are you injured?”
No. What about you?
“I will be okay. Just a bit winded. Ancano is doing something with that thing… the Eye. We can’t stop him! I haven’t seen Savos since the explosion. He must’ve been blown clear and he may be injured. I need you to find the Arch-Mage and I need you to do it quickly. Get moving!”
You are injured. I could heal you if you wish.
“I’ll be fine. I just need a minute to catch my breath. Please find Savos…”
OK, I will be back soon.
I had a close look at the barrier as I left. Ancano could barely be seen and I could not tell what he was doing.
We existed into the College courtyard to find many mages standing around what appeared to be the body of the Arch-Mage.
As I got closer I could see that some of them had torn clothing from the explosion. Tolfdir asked,
“Are you all right? What happened in there?”
It’s Ancano. He’s done something with the Eye and caused the explosion. Is Arch-Mage Aren dead?
“Yes. I can hardly believe it. There is no time to grieve. Whatever happened here has affected Winterhold as well. I need you to go into the Hold and make sure everything’s all right.”
But the Orb, Mirabelle, the Arch-Mage?
“I’ll do what I can here. Go now, go!”
I looked down at body of the Arch-Mage and silently swore to avenge his death. I had to fight a terrible guilt. Did my mistakes cost this man his life?
As I headed for the town I came across Mage Faralda and Mage Arniel. I told them that Winterhold was in danger and could they please help. They joined Lydia, Meeko and I and we all rushed across the bridge and into town.
We could see balls of energy floating around town attacking anything of flesh they encountered. The population had all escaped indoors and after the vampire attack there was a shortage of healthy guards. It was up to us to fight these things.
Up close all I could detect was put magicka. These things were floating sources of pure magical energy. They were very fast and dodged and weaved and hard to hit with spell or weapon.
We eventually destroyed about ten of them before the hold seemed quiet again. Mages Faralda and Arniel stayed in case any more appeared and we headed back to see how Master Mage Mirabelle was.
She was still slumped on the floor and looked no better than when we left. Master Mage Mirabelle asked,
“Well. Is everything out there all right?”
I am sorry but Arch-Mage Aren is dead. Some magic creatures I have never seen before were attacking Winterhold and we fought and defeated them beside Mages Faralda and Arniel who have stayed in town to take care of any more that may appear. Winterhold is safe for now.
“Aren’s death is a great loss for the College. We are not safe and I fear neither is Skyrim or Tamriel or even Nirn. Tolfdir and I can try and keep this contained. You need to get your hands on the Staff of Magnus. Now!”
We believe it is Labyrinthian. We will head there straight away.
“Are you… are you sure? The Staff is there?”
That is where some machinery the Synod made pointed to.
“That can’t be a coincidence. The Arch-Mage gave me something a little while ago. He told me it was from Labyrinthian. He said I would know what to do with it when the time came. I think… I think he meant this for you then. I’m not sure why but there was something very personal about it for him.”
(She handed me a quite heavy torc.)
“Take it and get out of here. Bring back that staff before Ancano brings the whole College down around us.”
We will be back as soon as we can Master Mage.
We made our way back into Winterhold and jumped on our poor horses. We were getting beyond tired. Even Meeko was running low on energy but he always had some reserves hidden away. We had some stamina potions to keep us going but they are a temporary fix. Eventually our bodies will demand we pay our sleep debts.
It was 2:00AM when we were mounted and ready to travel to Labyrinthian.
The trip was uneventful and we arrived at the entrance of the crypt at just on 7:00AM.
Just outside the entrance were the spirits of six mages. It was Aren and five others discussing exploring Labyrinthian.
I garnered their names from all the conversations we heard on our trip though the crypt. Their first conversation went,
- Savos: “Come on, we’re finally here! Let’s not waste any more time!”
- Takes-In-Light: “Are we truly sure this is a good idea?”
- Atmah: “We’ll be back at the College before anyone even knows we’re gone.”
- Girduin: “You would care about that, since you’re the Arch-Mage’s favourite!”
- Savos: “Don’t forget, this whole idea was Atmah’s to begin with.”
- Hafnar: “Let’s just get inside, see what’s in there.”
I looked at the entrance and realised what the torc I was given was actually for. It was not for wearing.
It was a knocker! I put it in its place, knocked and the doors opened.
There were a lot of skeletons just inside the entrance. From what I remember reading this was a major city in early Skyrim and was attacked. It seems these enemies were stopped at the entrance.
When we move towards a door in the distance the spirits reappeared.
This conversation went,
- Elvali: “I can’t believe we’re doing this.”
- Savos: “Can you imagine the looks on their faces when we come back?”
- Hafnar: “You keep talking like you’re sure we’ll find something useful in here.”
- Girduin: “Given the history of this place, it’s more than likely there’s still some amount of power here.”
- Savos: “Enchanted weapons, tomes of ancient knowledge, Shalidor’s secrets themselves — who knows what we could find!”
- Takes-In-Light: “And what if… What if there are things guarding this place?”
- Atmah: “Against six College-trained mages? I think we’ll be fine.”
There was a lever and portcullis further on. When I pulled the lever the portcullis lifted and I entered into a very large chamber.
The portcullis slammed shut and I found myself alone against bone dragon and many skeletons.
It took a while to defeat them by myself. When I did the portcullis lifted again allowing Lydia and Meeko to re-join me.
In the next room the spirits were now five in number. The expedition had lost a member to the dragon.
The conversation was,
- Elvali: “We… we have to go back. We can’t leave Girduin…”
- Hafnar: “We barely made it out alive, and you want to go back in?”
- Atmah: “It’s too late. There isn’t enough of him left to go back in after.”
- Takes-In-Light: “Gods, what have we done?”
- Savos: “We can’t go back. Might as well go forward. We can still do this.”
- Atmah: “Savos is right. We can make it if we just stay alert.”
There was also a stone plaque that read,
- Hail All – Brave City Bromjunaar
- Forever These Walls Shall Stand
- May Enemies See Her Majesty
- May All Quake to Behold Her.
I remembered then that Labyrinthian was built upon the ancient city of Bromjunaar. It had started out as a temple to the Dov and grew to be the capital of Skyrim when ruled over by the Dragon Priests. After the mortals won the Dragon Wars the city was abandoned and slowly turned to ruin.
Further into the ruins we came to a sealed door. Just before reaching it an ethereal voice said in the dragon tongue,
“Wo meyz wah dii vul junaar?” which roughly translates to “Who comes to my dark kingdom?”
My magicka was completely drained!
The sealed door had frost around it so I stepped back and waited for enough magicka to return.
I then cast Incineration at it.
The doors slid open and a spirit warrior appeared.
He was easily dispatched and we moved onwards.
We came to a room with Wisps floating around. In the distance I could see a Wisp Mother. Previous experience taught me to concentrate on her. The Wisps existence depended on her being alive. Lydia knew this as well so a combination of my lightening spells and arrows made short work of this encounter.
Just past the Wisps was another sealed door. This one with flames about it. As before a voice spoke in dragon tongue and my magicka was drained,
“Nivahriin muz fen siiv nid aaz het.” which roughly translates to “Cowardly men will find no mercy here.”
I had to wait for my magicka to recover some. Then I hit the door with an Ice Spear spell.
The door slid open and predictably a phantom warrior appeared. It was easily dispatched by some more Ice Spears and arrows.
We soon encountered the spirits again. Seems they lost another member of their expedition to the Wisps. They said,
- Savos: “Come on, we can’t stop now. We have to keep moving!”
- Atmah: “Where’s Elvali? She was right behind me.”
- Hafnar: “Dead. Something grabbed her from behind. Gone before I could do anything.”
- Takes-In-Light: “This is insanity. We never should’ve come here.”
- Atmah: “You’re right. This is all my fault. Should we turn around, head back?”
- Hafnar: “I don’t think going back is a good idea.”
- Savos: “Going back would be the end of all of us. We keep pushing forward, and we’ll make it. We will!”
- Atmah: “Come on, you can make it. Let’s go.”
The next creatures we encountered appear to be Draugr but in spirit form. They were no tougher than normal Draugr.
One big difference is they had dogs with them!
The disembodied voice would talk occasionally but in the common tongue now. I assumed it must be a Dragon Priest as this was once their capital city when they ruled. Each time my magicka was drained. Some of the things he said were,
- “You do not answer… must I use this guttural language of yours?”
- “Have you returned, Aren? My old friend?”
- “Do you seek to finish that which you could not?”
- “You only face failure once more…”
- “You…you are not Aren, are you? Has he sent you in his place?”
- “Did he warn you that your own power would be your undoing? That it would only serve to strengthen me”?
Several things stood out form those mutterings.
Arch-Mage Aren must have learned the dragon tongue at some stage. Many can read it but this Dragon Priest assumed he could speak and understand it. I will probably never know why or how he developed that ability.
The expedition with Arch-Mage Aren must have experienced this magicka drain as well. I have dweomer on my armour to restore my magicka at a far higher rate than normal. The young magi who came here would have been helpless for long periods of time and unable to cast spells. I doubt any of them had much combat expertise. They would not have stood a chance against the defenders of this place! I got the impression they fled from one disaster to another. Wisdom and experience tells you not to rely on a single form of attack and defence. Older mages will always, if they can, take somebody with martial experience with them into tombs and crypts. These young mages never had the chance to gain that wisdom!
My magicka was not just being drained, it was being collected by the Dragon Priest. The Staff of Magus might allow such a power. This gave me hope he had it in his possession.
As we got closer to our target the number of traps and Spirit Draugr increased. It was a hard fight all the way to the final room.
Just before entering the room we thought the Dragon Priest was in we encountered the spirits once more. They had lost another member of the group and were now only three in number,
- Atmah: “We shouldn’t have left her there to die!”
- Savos: “What else could we do? Stay there and die with her? She refused to go on, we didn’t have a choice!”
- Hafnar: “This is it, you know. Through this door. Can you feel it?”
- Atmah: “We’re not going to make it, are we?”
- Hafnar: “We stay together, no matter what. Agreed?”
- Atmah: “I’ll be right with you.”
- Savos: “Agreed. We all stay together.”
Predictably the Dragon Priest had to give a last ominous last warning,
“Come. Face your end.”
I waited for my magicka to regenerate and we entered the room.
The Dragon Priest was surrounded by a magic shield that held him in place. There were two kneeling spirits who seemed to be in some sort of stasis.
As I got closer I recognised the spirits as the last two of the expedition who entered this room with Aren. Atmar and Hafnar. It did not seem they were casting a spell as such but somehow absorbing magicka from the staff the Dragon Priest was holding. Most likely the Staff of Magus. This magical energy was being returned in a different form to produce the barrier keeping the Dragon Priest immobile. The two magi must have died soon after establishing this never ending loop of power absorption, conversion and return. There is no way a mortal body could withstand such energy for long.
This scenario generated a disturbing question. Had these two volunteered for this? Been tricked into this? Forced into this?
I assume their expedition had released this Dragon Priest and he could have left Bromjunaar and wreaked havoc on Nirn. Are these two collateral damage as Aren did what was necessary to save others? Did they volunteer and he had to watch his friends sacrifice?
Would I ever be able to deliberately sacrifice friends or colleagues like that or allow them to volunteer ahead of me?
After studying the situation for a while I told Lydia the plan. Her and Meeko were to get as close as they could to the Dragon Priest. I did not know if there would be a blast of energy when I broke the barrier so they were to be close but behind some cover. There were some columns near him that were ideal.
I told them to attack as soon as the barrier dropped.
When they were in place I climbed some steps so I had easier access to the two spirits. I hit them quickly with the strongest lightening spell I had and they both melted into pools of plasma.
The barrier dropped and my allies attacked with immense ferocity and determination.
By the time I arrive the Dragon Priest was staggering from multiple wounds. “The Sword” dispatched him and the chamber fell quiet for the first time in many years.
I searched the remains and retrieved the Staff of Magus and a mask with a strange dweomer.
Now I had it in my hands it did not seem the great item of legend. We could study it later. Right then the urgency to return to the College was immense. I was petrified of how many lives had already been lost and how many more for each minute we were delayed.
When we exited the Dragon Priest’s chamber we encountered the spirit of Savos Aren. He said,
“I’m sorry friends. I’m so sorry! I had no choice! It was the only way to make sure that monster never escaped! I promise you, I’ll never let this happened again! I’ll seal this place away!”
So there was the answer to my question. Somehow Arch-Mage Aren had turned his colleagues into those eternal magical energy converters. They had not volunteered. He was obviously a mage of great power. He was also willing to sacrifice others for what he thought was the greater good. I pray to The Divines I never have to do such a thing and if I did they are welcome to wipe my memory once again. How he lived with what he did is beyond my comprehension. It would have been the end of me!
As I was contemplating if such a dilemma might ever happen to me we made our way to the exit. The last thing I expected, or wanted, was a Thalmor moron blocking my way.
He came bursting through a door and proved how stupid some people are by saying the following,
“So, you made it out of there alive. Ancano was right… you are dangerous. I’m afraid I’ll have to take that Staff from you now. Ancano wants it kept safe… oh, and he wants you dead. Nothing personal”
(I started to laugh. Lydia also burst into uncontrollable fits of giggles. Meeko just lay down and put his paws over his eyes. I managed to control my guffaws long enough educate the idiot.)
He doesn’t like you very much does he? Do you know who is standing in front of you?
Wulf. Dragonborn. Guardian General. Champion of The Divines. Boethia’s Champion. Azura’s Champion. Slayer of Alduin. Survivor of Oblivion and a thousand battles. I have killed hundreds of you Thalmor scum and you stand in front of me and make threats?
I stepped forward and decapitated him. Thus the lesson ended.
We made our way outside and it was almost 2:00PM. We needed to hurry but our mounts and ourselves were not in any condition to push too hard. We would have to do what we could without killing our horses. I looked down on Meeko and he seemed as lively as usual. If he could talk I would ask him the secret of how he does it!
We arrived in Winterhold at about 6:45 and quickly stabled our exhausted mounts. I ordered the stable boy to give them both a good rub down and if the stable master could check them for injuries I would be most grateful.
We passed lots of guards and civilians pointing to the bridge leading to the College and wondering what calamity was occurring and if they should run. I could see lightning bolts and fireballs and general mayhem. We ran as fast as we could to the battle.
There were Ice Wraiths and those magical creatures we had encountered earlier engaged in battle with several mages from the College. Out arrival tipped the balance and soon the bridge was quiet apart from the never ending wind blowing across it.
I saw Tolfdir and asked him what was happening. He told me they came out to the bridge to engage the creatures threatening Winterhold. When they did Ancano created a new barrier which now denied access to the College altogether.
Tolfdir also told me Mirabelle was dead. How she stayed behind and tried to counter Ancano’s magic and was slain by him.
Another death! Another victim of my errors and delays and underestimation of our enemy. My arrogance.
I looked at the barrier. It seemed similar to that which surrounded Ancano before we left to retrieve the Staff.
I aimed the Staff of Magnus at the barrier it dissipated.
We entered the College and prepared to enter the room with the Eye and Ancano. I warned Lydia and Meeko not to try and engage Ancano as this will be a fight of magic whilst he had barriers protecting him. They understood but there was no way they were letting me go in there without them.
I asked Tolfdir if he was ready. I could see determination on the old Mages face. He had lost two good friends to the monster we were about to confront. He was more than ready!
I put up some barriers and wards around myself and we entered the room.
We were greeted by the usual boasts of every enemy I have encountered since awakening,
“You’ve come for me, have you? You think I don’t know what you’re up to? You think I can’t destroy you? The power to unmake the world at my fingertips, and you think you can do anything about it?”
Tolfdir fired various spells at Ancano and nothing worked. He then told me to aim the Staff at the Eye.
There was a flash and all my allies were paralysed. The Staff of Magnus protected me from the spell.
I was surrounded by those magic orb things as well as Storm Atronachs. I trusted the barriers and wards I had cast on myself would hold well enough for me to concentrate and deal with the Eye of Magnus and Ancano.
I aimed the Staff at the Eye and it seemed to absorb most of the magicka it contained. Eventually there was not enough to sustain the protection Ancano had surrounded himself with.
At this stage he was so delusional about his powers he did not realise he was basically defenceless against me. I approached him till he was a few feet away and turned him to ash with a bolt of lightning.
Tolfdir, Meeko and Lydia were soon on their feet and killed the remaining summoned creatures.
All was quiet except for the never ending hum coming from the Eye of Magnus. It seemed to me whatever Ancano had done to it was continuing. It was gathering energy for something.
As Tolfdir and I were discussing what to do, three Psijic mages appeared. Quaranir approached me and said,
“We knew you would succeed. Your victory here justifies our belief in you. You have proven yourself more than worthy to guide the College of Winterhold.”
That honour I would have to discuss with my colleagues first. I assume you have some seers that saw the threads of time as my Lord Akatosh does.
“A great many things obscure to you are quite clear to us. We have long believed you would prevail.”
Noting was guaranteed. I am content if this it the outcome The Divines desired of me. What do we do now?
“The Eye has grown unstable. It cannot remain here, or else it may destroy this College and this world. It must be secured. Ancano’s actions prove that the world is not ready for such a thing. We shall safeguard it… for now. You now have the opportunity to maintain your College, and carry on with your lives. You have our gratitude, Arch-Mage.”
We watched as the Psijic mages arranged themselves equilaterally around the relic.
Then, without an audible or physical element, they cast a spell that transported them and the Eye of Magnus to I know not where.
As they slowly faded from view I envied this no sound, no movement spell casting. These were real mages not like the Synod idiot I had encountered.
When they and the Eye of Magnus were finally gone I felt relieved. I knew with certainty this time that I had accomplished the task set by The Divines. We had once again saved the people of Nirn and that knowledge was the greatest reward imaginable.
Tolfdir approached and said,
“Remarkable. The Psijic Order helping the Dragonborn save Nirn! I never thought I would see such history!”
We all did out part Tolfdir and the victory has cost us dearly. The two most senior member of the College slain and I can’t feel any joy with that fact present.
“Yes, they were remarkable people but they died for the people of Nirn and we shall ensure that is recorded for all time.”
I do not know if I can take up the mantle of Arch-Mage. My friends here are exhausted. We will retire to the Arch-Mage quarters and rest. Sometime tomorrow I may call a meeting to discuss what we do next. For now Tolfdir I thank you for your help and I grieve with you for your losses. I will see you on the morrow.
With that we made our way to the Arch-Mage quarters. Lydia crawled onto one bed and was soon asleep. She didn’t even bother removing her armour. Meeko soon joined her and took up twice the room she did.
My bed was inviting but I had to write these journal entries. I had to sort out some of my thoughts before I had a hope of restful sleep.
It was well after midnight when I finished these entries.
I finally crawled into bed but I knew sleep would be elusive despite my exhaustion.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
I do know my sense of achievement was dampened by guilt over deaths I may have prevented.