Lake Ilinalta, Azura’s Shrine, Dragons Keep: Stormcloak idiots, Necromancers, Star retrieved, Star cleansed, Information, New teacher.
As we walked to the stables to get our horses I kept an eye on Iona and Kharjo. It was obvious there were some genuine feelings between the two. I would not care if there wasn’t. Just because I am practising abstinence I do not expect others to.
I was pleased because they are both good people and probably the most unlikely pair imaginable. Iona has been brought up in one of those “Skyrim is for the Nords!” households. Her home city, Riften, was on the Stormcloak side. Even though they allowed Argonian Inn Keepers and were infamous for housing the Thieves Guild they still forced Khajiit to camp outside the walls. Kharjo is probably the first Khajiit Iona has spent more than a few seconds talking to.
The Stormcloaks are gone but the racism mostly remains. The Emperor has done nothing to address the issue. Those in Cyrodiil boast of their multicultural cities and regard the Nord claims of superiority to be laughable. I would hate to hear the stories Argonian and Khajiit tell their friends and family in Cyrodiil!
We mounted our horses and headed for Lake Ilinalta just after 7:00AM.
I stopped at a farm to see how one of our children we had fostered to a childless couple was doing. The good-wife told me her husband and Susie were out in the fields somewhere. She said Susie had been a blessing and if this year’s crops are good they may foster another. I heard some commotion and rushed outside to see an Imperial Platoon and my companions finishing off a squad of Stormcloaks.
The rebels had rushed Kharjo and Iona thinking they would be easy pushovers. They were after me! The idiots did not even notice the Imperial Platoon marching in order with their sergeant making loud disparaging remarks as they went.
I cut one down at the doorway and then it was over in seconds. When will they run out of idiots who still think their cause has a hope?
Eventually we came to the lake and could see the half submerged fort in the distance.
We made our way around the edge of the lake till we came to a bridge that led to the ruins.
We tied up the horses, crossed the bridge, opened a trapdoor and entered.
First thing we saw was an unfortunate individual who had been shackled to a cross and left to die. In his knapsack I found a journal which read,
“A decent catch of fish is getting harder to come by. Without a good spot soon, I don’t think we’ll survive the next winter, so I’m travelling further south towards Lake Ilinalta. Folks say it’s cursed. Whole Imperial Fort just sank into the water one day, and they say the ruins have been haunted since. When I asked, I got ghost stories. Tales of people who went out near the lake and never came back. They say spirits haunt the hallways of the sunken fort and steal little children from their mothers’ cribs. No amount of coin could convince any of the nearby villagers to guide me there, so I’m following the Whiter River.”
Just a poor fisherman trying to feed his family.
A bit further in we saw the traditional warnings that Necromancers employ to scare away visitors.
It did not take long to encounter the first skeleton.
Then we encountered the first necromancer.
We proceeded quietly. I have never found a necromancer of great ability but there was a chance they had hostages. Surprise is always an advantage when trying to successfully save hostages.
We heard two necromancers discussing souls and stopped to listen.
- “More souls are needed for the Star. The last one died before he could be harvested.”
- “We can’t take another villager from the surface so soon. I told you to prepare everything properly!”
- “We can just sacrifice another disciple. Apprentice Haerlon will be no great waste.”
- “Yes. He’ll do.”
So there were no hostages to worry about! We charged in and killed those two and quickly made our way from that point onwards.
We killed dozens of low level mages and necromancers.
My Thu’um was now so strong they often disintegrated when hit with Unrelenting Force.
Things occasionally cause strong flashbacks to my time with Rigmor. We came to a prison block and as we were walking along I could see and hear my companions from the day I died. We walked past the cell where Sigunn would have been and I heard the cry of “Rigmor!” echoing as clear as if it just happened. Unstoppable tears rolled down my face as I remembered how they briefly held each other before being separated again. Rigmor was dragged off to be sacrificed. I was stabbed multiple times and left to die.
I found it ironic this particular memory should surface so strongly. That day we were helping Azura by stopping the mining of her Black Diamonds. Today we are helping Azura by recovering her stolen artefact.
We burst into the room where the Head Necromancer was in the middle of conducting some foul magic and attacked without preamble or mercy.
They stood no chance.
I picked up Azura’s Star. As per usual I could detect no dweomer on it as it was Daedric in nature.
Next to the relic were the mortal remains of Malyn Varen. Next to him was his grimoire which read,
“Though some scoffed, some scorned, at the very notion of experimenting on a Daedric artefact, I have succeeded where the ignorant and superstitious would not even dare to try. The Black Star. My achievement over the Daedric Lord Azura, a re-envisioning, a remastering of the ultimate soul gem. It shall become the vessel of my immortality. Final proof that mortals can live as indefinitely as the denizens of Oblivion.
The visions, the voices that Azura has sent to taunt me. While some called me mad, I knew the truth. Nothing can be held sacred in the pursuit of advancing the very nature of magic itself. Let the Daedra send their foul images into my mind. They have given me the burning desire and unrelenting discipline to shut out all influence, all morality.
My disciples and I have built a new site in a sunken fort at Lake Ilinalta. We are free of the prying eyes of those primitive minds in Winterhold. We had been conducting a few minor experiments before our exile, some of which led to the disruption of the island, but a few enchantments have kept the ruins intact, and beneath the waters of Lake Ilinalta has been the perfect place for the final phase of the Black Star.”
And there he condemns himself and his friend Nelecar is almost as guilty. All morality was abandoned in his pursuit of magical knowledge. I can imagine the Augur of Dunlain saying, “Told you so!”
We climbed out of the sunken fort.
The area around the lake was fairly foggy. Meatloaf had broken his rope and was standing in the middle of the water. I don’t think he is safe against slaughterfish. Stupid animal!
It was about 3:00PM when we headed to Azura’s Shrine.
I was not surprised we arrived at the shrine at 6:30PM when twilight was starting. Azura is supposedly strongest at that time.
Aranea was praying and I told her I had Azura’s Star and was about to commune with her.
I placed the star on the altar and Azura spoke,
“My Champion returns with my Star. It is corrupted! The soul of Malyn is inside and protected by his foul enchantments. You will need to enter the Star and banish his soul. Then it will be cleansed!”
I suppose we didn’t really discuss having to clean it, just fetch it. I will do this as what he has done is foul. The ability to absorb unlimited Black Souls is not something I can allow to remain.
“Tell me when you are ready my Champion.”
(It is only then I noticed the lack of colours and sound. I turned and Aranea and my companions were froze in place.)
I have seen this trick before. When visited by the Psijic Order.
“They have learned many of Fadomai’s secrets. I was the only one to remain by my Lord’s side at the end. I was blessed with much knowledge for my loyalty,”
Send me into your Star. I will remove the pestilence for you.
Nirn faded and I found myself within Azura’s Star. An aspect of Malyn Varen greeted me,
“Ah, my disciples have sent me a fresh soul. Good. I was getting… hungry.”
I doubt I would be very tasty. You might even get heartburn!
“Wait. There’s something different about you.”
You can see my 3rd nipple from there? Amazing!
“Are you here to challenge me? I have conquered mortality itself. I’ve spat in the eyes of the Daedric Lords!”
And I have kicked some in the crotch and spanked the really naughty ones. You can’t escape your fate Malyn.
“This is my realm now. I’ve sacrificed too much to let you take it from me!”
With that his foul soul vanished and I could hear the boast of Dremora as they hunted me. As I thought, he was a second rate mage in life and the same in death. Summoning Dremora was his best spell. He had no hope of defeating me.
I decide to use Azura’s Bane as my only weapon. I was hesitant to use “The Sword” due to its unique nature. I also thought the Thu’um would be a bit dodgy inside a giant crystal. It also felt right to use her sword to cleanse her Star.
I cast some protection spells on myself and walked along the tessellated path.
Malyn had summoned Dremora Valkynaz. They were spell casters of considerable power. The last time I had encountered them was in Oblivion on my way to meet the Jolly Green Giant.
They fired their best spells at me and like all overconfident mages thought I would be a pile of ashes or an icicle after. As with all overconfident mages they looked surprised when my sword penetrated their skin and did horrible things to the important bits inside.
Then it was just the soul of Malyn Varen and me.
He cast his best spells to no effect.
I used the pommel of Azura’s Bane to knock him off balance.
He staggered and looked wide eyed as the sword descended.
He collapsed as his head was separated from his body.
It was over and his remains faded from the Star.
“The Star is purifying itself. I had better get you out of there before you are cleansed!”
(There was a flash and I found myself before the altar once again.)
“My Star has been restored. Malyn’s soul had been consigned to Oblivion. You have fulfilled your part of the agreement. Ask what you will my Champion.”
I simply wish to know how Rigmor is. Who is there to help and protect her? Does she still love me as I do her? I do not ask about any foreseeable danger. That would only cause me unnecessary worry and test my sacred oaths.
“She is very well. At first she relished the easy lifestyle and enjoyed seeing her mother blossom in their new roles. Now she is getting bored with the routine and is starting to yearn for the simpler life she thought would be her future. She is starting to rebel as nearly all the young of your species do, only a bit later than usual since the Thalmor made her miss her opportunity.”
I can imagine she is a handful for those who love her.
“She has an excellent advisor in that Malesam person. Boethia chose well but I sense he is there because your Lord wanted it so, not by her choice. So far the political games of Cyrodiil have been easy for Malesam to play. The biggest danger is the inevitable question of whom she is and why your Emperor placed her in such a prestigious and powerful position. Malesam has cleverly spread the rumour that it was for her actions in protecting Skyrim against the New Order.
She also has an advisor by the name of Freathof. He seems a wise man and has the tasks of teaching Rigmor the etiquette and protocols of being a Countess.
Rigmor is very popular with her people. When she can be dragged onto her throne to pass judgement, settle disputes and sometimes determine punishments she has proven to be wise and fair. She can be impulsive sometimes so Malesam and Freathof often chastise her for being over generous or too lenient. They might as well talk to the wall.
She has a large garrison protecting her and the Emperor himself as her sponsor. She is very safe my Champion.”
This seems a lot more detailed than can be derived from your seers?
“They are one source I use. The prayers of my followers provide a lot of detail that foretelling can’t. Your friend Baa’Ren-Dar is a faithful follower like most of my Khajiit. His prayers are my best source for keeping track of Rigmor. Are you surprised I show such interest in your beloved?”
You know I am not fond of the manipulations us mortals endure as immortals plot and play a cosmic game not unlike that of the Cyrodiil elite.
“You are aware that those of Oblivion as well as your Divine have been watching you. You are an enigma. I do not know of your birth or parentage but that seems to be the pattern with Dragonborn. Read your own histories and you will see that is so. You know you have the mortal gift of free will but your life had been mapped out for you. Things are presented in such a way that your morals and desires are manipulated to make sure your free will works in your puppet-masters favour.”
You sound a bit contemptuous of these manipulations yet you told Rigmor you have shaped her life in many ways.
“I sense some anger that is misplaced. Look at your Lord if you wish to place blame for what happened to Rigmor’s family. I know my seers can only give me part of the story. Your Lord is the master of time and his plans are far longer and more extensive than any from Oblivion can manage. I care not for the plans of others who find mortals and Nirn, Mundus itself, to be offensive. Let them scheme and fail each time. I like the Khajiit. Their worship gives me pleasure and their lives are generally frantic and full of surprise. I would be bored if there was more void to add to the existing void.”
Then how did you manipulate Rigmor?
“Baa’Ren-Dar. When he saw what those creatures had done to Rigmor he was caught in a dilemma. To rescue the girl he would put his diplomatic career at risk and he knew his skills aided his people greatly. To leave her behind would be an antithesis of who he is. He prayed for guidance. I nudged him in the direction of saving the girl. A lot of work went into ensuring he could continue his career. He would probably have saved the girl anyway but his career would have been over. It helped that most Khajiit are devout followers. I did not even know Rigmor then. It was obvious that was the path most beneficial to me. Beyond that I do not wish to speak of what my plans are.”
You have been most generous and forthcoming. About our love?
“It is a thing of beauty. It is unique. It is eternal. You need not fear.”
I thank you. This will probably make my Lord very angry but I need to know such things to be the best I can when doing my tasks.
“I have a small task I hope you will accept. It is not a burden and requires little effort.”
How could I say no when you have gone beyond what I expected in your answers to my questions.
“It is Aranea. Like I was the last to stay with Fadomai, she has been the last to stay by my side in Skyrim. I am going to tell her she will no longer have my foresight. That she has fulfilled her duty and is now free to pursue her life as she wishes. She will need your help to adjust.”
What happens when she has visions? Her abilities as a seer will not simply stop.
“I do not deceive when I tell my seers I give them foresight. What they experience is mostly disjointed visions with no context or sense of timing except for soon, later or much later. I gather them and make things that are coherent and if relevant, feed them back as what they call foresight. She will have her visions but no foresight from me to make sense of them.”
I will gladly help her. She has lived her life here, in this bleak place, since soon after the eruption of the Red Mountain. That is almost 200 years! Even for one of her race she looks young to be that old!
“Another gift of mine but she does not know that. She has more than half her life still to live. I will tell her now. Goodbye Champion.”
All colour and sound returned. Those around me started to move as if nothing had happened.
Aranea looked up at her mistress and I could see tears in her eyes. She finally sighed and approached me. I waited for her to speak.
“Azura told me my duties as seer are over. I have never been without Azura’s foresight since escaping Morrowind. I don’t know what to do.”
What would you like to do?
“If you need me, I’d be honoured to accompany you, Champion of Azura. It would give me a purpose.”
So Azura isn’t giving you any more foresight?
“No. She said my part was over. That my fate had moved beyond the Twilight, and I was on my own. I will tend Azura’s shrine when you do not need me. I still have my duties, but for the first time I feel… alone.”
I would be honoured to have you join me Aranea. Not to follow me into danger though I can tell you are a competent sorceress. I have a school with many children we have rescued from the dark. We teach them many things according to their preferences and skills. You could aid in the teaching of both religion and magic. More importantly you can aid those who have visions. You know how confusing they can be. Sometimes they make sense. Oher times they confuse and worry. We have nobody at the school who knows how they feel and can teach them how to cope.
“To help others, especially children, appeals to me. I would like to try and see if I am capable. I feel a new sense of purpose. Thank you. I will accept your offer.”
When you feel you need to visit here I will send you with an escort for safety. Let us go and show you your new home.
Aranea gathered her meagre belongings from the tent she has called home for almost two centuries. I summoned Blaze and she rode Dogmeat on the uneventful trip to Dragon Keep.
When we arrived I showed her around. When she took her cowl off she was a stunning beauty with the deepest green eyes. I told her she could have several sets of new clothes if she wished. My gift. No money required. That made her smile and it was radiant.
I showed her our religious study room. Prominent in the middle was a large shrine to Azura. It was the only one not of The Divine currently in the room. I had it put there during construction. The plan is to add other pantheons as appropriate teachers are recruited. She cried when she saw it. It made this confusing maze of rooms and constant noise seem more like home.
I dismissed her and she headed off to the quarters I had assigned her. She will be sharing with a few others but I imagine the bed will be appreciated after all that time in bedrolls!
I sat and mulled over what I had learned. It gave me comfort in terms of Rigmor’s safety. I did have a good chuckle at how those elderly gentlemen will deal with Rigmor. They will soon learn the more the push the more she resists.
I still had concerns about our love. I was told by Talos himself that we may not meet again as lovers no matter how much The Devine regard that as the preferable outcome. How would I cope if I was tasked to protect her while she loved another and was in his/her arms each night and not mine? It would not be base jealousy that would be the end of me. It would be the sundering of my soul.
I prayed in front of Akatosh’s shrine and asked for understanding.
I had avoided asking about the future. I had simply made it easier for me to function by removing some of the fears I had.
I wrote this journal and finished it just before midnight and then retired to my room.
I know not what time I fell asleep.