Imperial Palace, Solstheim, College Of Winterhold, Rkulftzul: Insanity, assassins and puzzles.
Things did not go as planned. Rigmor was quite ill when we arose and given she is carrying a Dragonchild mild panic overcame sensibilities.
I was sure she would be okay and so was she but senior Priestesses of Mara insisted she take a day of bed rest.
So instead of heading off to Raven Rock straight away I was duty bound to numb my backside on the Ruby Throne for the day.
That would have been bad enough but Blackwell insisted we move most of the scheduled meetings for Fredas and tack them onto the end of Turdas. This would leave me able to travel even if Rigmor was forced into another day of bed rest. The supplicants may have been ecstatic at having their parley a day earlier but my arse was not.
We changed The Sentinel squad in the throne room twice and none of them could agree on what was worse. Standing in the Throne Room listening to the dreary cogs of government grind away or being near a bed ridden and grumpy Rigmor?
Mathis was quite relaxed about it as he seemed to relish the idea of another day in the Imperial Library.
Alas the extra day did not mean any useful intelligence came from either spy network. That would take a bit longer.
It was about 8:00PM when I finally escaped the Throne Room and headed for Rigmor’s least favourite place, the old quarters of Sethius where she had been forced to stay by circumstance.
When I walked in Cerys was busy cleaning something off a wall and by the broken crockery underneath I would guess it was Rigmor’s dinner.
‘How are you feeling my love?”
“Like I could run to Bruma and back if these ‘people’ would just let me!”
She stared daggers at the Priestesses which was unfair. They stared right back with their arms crossed. Not many people would dare do that but we had given them the power to veto our complaints.
“We agreed to listen to the Priestesses and that is what we will do. What experience do you have with carrying a child? Among them the Priestesses have probably supervised thousands of women so we shall listen to them with gratitude and cheerful compliance.”
“Pfft, yeah right! All of this fuss because of a Dragonchild. We both know The Divines have promised Kintyra and I will survive the birth.”
“But they did not promise it would be a pleasant and trouble free pregnancy! If a day of bed rest now stops a week having to be taken later then I suggest you just smile and say thank you. Believe me you did not miss out on anything in the Throne Room today. Eleven hours of the most boring dribble I have ever experienced.”
“Perhaps we should bring back the Elder Council to take care of some of it?”
Rigmor looked at me, saw the horror on my face then burst out laughing.
One of the Priestesses reached under the bed to hand one over and was flummoxed when Rigmor laughed harder and I, Cerys and The Sentinel all joined in.
“On that note my beloved I am off to think of revenge. Oh, and do that other stuff as well.”
I gave Rigmor a quick peck on the cheek and headed off to Nafalilargus more light hearted than usual. She really was getting good at this people manipulation stuff.
Circumstances and timing meant my Sentinel Squad for this task had not been on many field trips with me.
Frea is a delight to take anywhere with her almost childlike enthusiasm for anything new. She was initially excited to learn we would be travelling to Solstheim then dejected when I had to tell her we did not have time to stop and visit her home village. Then she was all smiles again when I promised we would make a special visit soon and bring Rigmor along.
You would think the different religions encountered would be challenging but she has adopted the same philosophy as me. They are all correct and just as legitimate as each other. Some things she can place in context within the Skaal monotheistic religion of the All-Maker. Others she just accepts as being legitimate if foreign or even strange.
Some cultural things she expresses are a hatred for bandits or anything to do with thieving. This derives from the harsh existence the Skaal endure in the ash covered lands of Solstheim. All members of the village are catered for according to need. Any theft is therefore purely greed and could mean another misses out. The idea of murder within a society is also something she detests with a passion. The Skaal struggle to survive and any unnecessary death is a blow to their chances of maintaining viable numbers.
The biggest surprise to me was her abandonment of dual wielding axes to single axe and shield. She finds it more natural and only learned the dual wielding as the hunter who taught her knew no other fighting techniques. Due to the Skaal reverence for all living things she hates it when we have to kill aggressive animals and will often apologise to them when doing so.
Uthgerd the Unbroken is like a big sister to Frea and will patiently explain cultural things to her. I offered Uthgerd the choice of Sentinel or Blade and I think her choice was mainly influenced by our mutual hatred for The Companions. She has also come to realise we do real good for the normal citizens whilst that bunch of privileged mercenaries sit on their arses pretending.
She used to prefer a two handed sword but when I told her she could choose one from my collection she spotted the two handed hammer she now uses. The fighting style is completely different between the two but I would say she is one of the best proponents of the hammer I have seen. Not quite as good as Yngol yet but give it time and she will surpass that grumpy old fart.
Rayya has a short fuse only surpassed by my beloved. She is a very proud Redguard who will draw weapons at the slightest insult to her people or religion. Like Frea she has found it easier to accept other religions by believing they are not a threat to her ancestor worship and Yokudan pantheon. The silver scimitar she wields was another of my collection that is of unsurpassed workmanship and with the usual dweomers I apply it is deadly.
Rayya is always suspicious of any spell casters and still frowns when I use magicka.
Valdimar is an enigma. He looks like your typical Nord berserker but is an exceptional Master Mage. He used to have a lot of problems with other Nords picking on his masculinity and lack of Nord pride because he hid behind spells. He beat countless of them in sword fights as he is better than most wielding a single blade. Still the taunting continued till one day he disarmed a local hero. While holding the point of his sword to the loser’s throat he used his other hand to melt the prized sword of the vanquished. Bards picked up on this tale and he is now a bit of a legend and rarely has to prove himself a real Nord.
I did the ether navigation to Raven Rock and we arrived at about 10:30PM.
We gathered on the battlement and I told The Sentinel, “Remember we are guests here. We have no jurisdiction. Solstheim is one hundred percent Morrowind territory as per the agreements made in the past. The Empire lost all rights to dictate anything when they abandoned its residents during the Oblivion Crises. Do not expect a warm greeting and you must ignore any insults. They are a good, honest and very proud people. Show respect even if none is returned.”
We headed for The Retching Netch.
Upon entering we headed to the bar so I could ask Geldis the innkeeper if he knew the whereabouts of Yassour Tansumiran.
There was no need when a Dunmer stormed out of a back room yelling, “Fuck you Yassour! You are sitting there miserable so I thought I would say hello. Anybody would think I stole that stupid artefact of yours. It is probably a fake sold to your great grandfather anyway.”
I looked at The Sentinel and they just shrugged. I touched my lucky coin and thanked father once more.
We entered the room and were greeted with a look of utter contempt by the cross armed Yassour.
“I heard you have had something stolen. Perhaps I can help?”
“And how could an outlander, a damn Imperial one at that, help me and why?”
“If you are too ignorant or stupid to recognise me then let me introduce myself. I cleared the mine so it could reopen. I saved Councillor Morvayn from the Ulan plot and Morag Tong. I stopped the Ash Spawn attacks on Raven Rock. Oh, and I also did that minor thing of saving you all from slavery at the hands of Miraak. So if you are done with your idiotic racist shit I am offering to help at the cost of my usual fee. A thank you and some civility is all I ask for in return.”
“So the hero returns. Is there nobody who needs help in Skyrim then? Come to rescue us poor ignorant Ashlanders instead?”
“Do you want help getting Wraithguard back or not? You have five seconds to make up your mind. Five…”
“What? I don’t know what you’re talking about…I’ve never heard of a Wraithguard…”
“Alright, I guess I’m no great liar. I have Wraithguard, or I had it. It was taken from me.”
“Who took it and where did they take it to?”
“Just you remember that Wraithguard is mine!”
“I will return it to you. I did not say I was going to run away with it. Is there anybody else who cares enough to get it back? So your choice is trust me or go get it yourself.”
“That nasty thief just snatched it! Probably doesn’t even know what he has there. You have to go to Nchardak! That is where he took it. That is where the thieves usually hang out. Here, let me mark it on your map.”
“No need. I cleared out the bandits there last time I was here and explored the insides. I will head off right now and see if we can get it back for you.”
“Just you remember it’s mine. Wraithguard has always belonged to me!”
We exited the inn and Valdimar commented, “Close proximity to the Tools can cause insanity can it not?”
“Yes, that is what happened to Dagoth Ur when Lord Nerevar left him to guard them. Reports say he even attacked Nerevar screaming he could not have them as Nerevar had asked him to guard them!”
“Yet you are not worried?”
“I do not intend to have them next to me twenty four hours per day for extended periods. The thing I fear is the temptation to use them to make a Numidium. That would certainly put an end to the Akaviri invasion but at what cost? Even the Nerevarine feared such a temptation when I worked beside him.”
“Why power them up if you do not intend to use them?”
“It is knowledge I seek. Much of magicka once known is lost. It is not the knowledge that is dangerous but how you use it. There are many things the Dwemer knew that could improve the average citizen’s life. Their crop yields for instance were far higher per unit of land than we can currently achieve.”
I chose to walk to Nchardak rather than use the airship as I was unsure as to the number of bandits camped there. I would rather take them by surprise. Plus Dov roamed the area last time I was there.
As we encountered Ash Spawn and other native fauna Frea was delighted to be able to explain things to Uthgerd for a change.
It was just before midnight when we reach the Dwemer ruins.
Uthgerd exclaimed, “See the lights. There must be plenty of bandits!”
“That is more Dwemer magicka we could use. Those lights have been on day and night for millennia without using oil or burning anything. No bandits have lighted them.”
We silently climbed the steps and encountered only a single bandit busily using a tanning rack on some Netch leather.
He was chuckling to himself how rich the Wraithguard would make him and what a fool Yassour was.
Angi’s solution for everything, an arrow in his head, shut him up.
If he was the member of a group of bandits they were not around to assist him. I found Wraithguard in a rucksack nearby.
As we walked back to Raven Rock I told the tale of how I saved the Councillor and wiped out the Morag Tong. When I mentioned they have probably regained their numbers and how that hiring assassins is legal on Solstheim like the rest of Morrowind The Sentinel suddenly became paranoid.
When we reached The Retching Netch Valdimar insisted on scouting the inside before I entered. The other three Sentinel became a shield wall.
After about a minute I got tired of waiting and entered.
Valdimar was walking just to the right and behind Yassour who had his sword drawn and was advancing towards me with madness in his eyes. He angrily demanded, “What took you so long! Are you trying to rob me too? Wraithguard! I see that you have it! Give it back! Give it back now!”
“Yassour, I think the Wraithguard has affected your mind like it did to Dagoth Ur.”
“You betray then insult me! Die you N’wah!”
He ran at me and swung his sword which I easily parried.
I might have wanted to fight him to a standstill but Valdimar did his duty and set him alight. To stop his screaming I plunged ‘The Sword’ into his skull.
A few patrons and Geldis looked then walked away with the innkeeper explaining to other patrons, “Yassour has finally gone and attacked somebody. Fool picked on the Dragonborn.”
This was followed by a lot of laughter and general derision of the still smouldering Yassour.
We exited and I told a Redoran Guard, “Bit of an incident. I had to kill somebody. Plenty of witnesses it was self-defence.”
“Let me guess. Yassour am I right? It was only a matter of time. I will get their statements. No need for you to hang around Dragonborn.”
I nodded and headed towards Severin Manor.
Rayya exclaimed, “Did you get a knock on the head. The airship is not that way.”
“I am just going to check on Severin Manor, my Raven Rock house. Paid for new wood panelling to cover the blood stains and haven’t seen how it looks yet.”
“Yeah. I had to kill a couple of people in there. It was very messy.”
I had to stand outside my own damn house while Valdimar did his paranoia check.
I said to the other three, “They would not dare attack me…”
The unmistakeable sound of fireballs could be heard from inside my house.
“Oh crap, not the new panelling!” I yelled as we all barged through the door.
There were a couple of dozen Morag Tong in my house. I did not want to wreck my new furniture so resisted using any shouts or spells. Instead I just let my Dovah loose and he went into full berserker mode.
I resorted to single target spells once it got very crowded and I could not swing my sword easy.
I watched The Sentinel mop up the last couple.
I checked Valdimar was okay then barked, “Check the corpses. I hope to The Divine there is no writ.”
Valdimar asked, “Why is that?”
“Then we can legally go and destroy their Solstheim nest. This would be a Grey Writ within their own country.”
There were twenty four corpses and no writ. I had hardly ever felt the level of anger that consumed me.
“Nobody hired them so we can legally retaliate. Let’s go.”
The Sentinel were wise enough not to try and talk down Wulf the Dovah. I was not Wulf the man.
I practically ran all the way to Ashfallow Citadel and they had difficulty keeping up.
At the front of the building I said, “Do not get in front of me. I do not care for the crockery and paintings in this place.”
We rushed in and the slaughter started.
Many of those who stood before my Thu’um disintegrated or died from internal injuries. Others died when slammed again walls or furniture. The others we cut down without pausing.
In minutes every single soul in the building was dead. With the twenty four who died in my house the Morag Tong lost close to if not more than one hundred assassins.
We returned to Nafalilargus at dawn. The Sentinel understood why I did what I did and assured me it was justified. The mages picked up on the mood when I entered the cabin and were soon in deep discussion with The Sentinel.
I isolated myself in my room for a while till the Dovah finally calmed down. I briefly emerged and sent J’Zargo to inform the captain of the Redoran Guards of the attack in my house and our counter attack on the headquarters. Next time I visit the bodies will have been removed from Severin Manor but the memory will stir my anger for a long time.
When J’Zargo returned he said all was okay with the authorities so I set the course for the College of Winterhold and went on deck.
I started our travel into the ether and for me the landscape changed instantly from the ash covered desert of Solstheim to a blizzard of Winterhold.
I made my way to the Arch Mage headquarters and Tolfdir was busy at his desk.
“Your Majesty, it is so good to see you.”
“And it is good to see you too old friend. I am on business so don’t have time to chat but I promise to visit with Queen Rigmor soon.”
“You are always scurrying about. What can I help you with this time?”
“Master Mage Vonos Dreloth, what can you tell me about him?”
“He is an absolute genius of both Illusion and Alteration Schools. He has been hard at work perfecting a set of spells that are, to be quite frank, both genius and disturbing.”
“Can you tell me what they do?”
“I will let him tell you. I promised the next time you visit you would go talk to him. He wants you to be the first outside himself and me to see the results of his work. I do believe we both need your advice and what to do with his discovery.”
“I will do that in a minute.”
“You will find him in the Arcanaeum.”
“Had he ever spoken to you about his interest in the Dwemer?”
“Yes but only briefly. He said he used to be obsessed but lost interest due to ‘circumstances’ as he put it.”
“Ask him about it after I leave. He has quite a tale to tell I believe.”
“How are your plans for the rebuilding of the Mages Guild going?”
“Trying to get a permanent contact within the College of Whispers is the stumbling point. I can’t blame them for being paranoid. I will talk to you more about it soon I hope. If you don’t mind I will cut this short and go talk to Master Mage Vonos. ”
“Yes, of course. Please visit with our Queen soon. It will put a smile on many of our older members to see our duty of care has been successful.”
I found Vonos in the Arcanaeum. He was very nervous to meet me.
“Relax. I am the same person as the Arch Mage you had no difficulty talking to in the past.”
“Sorry Majesty. All that protocol stuff is not my area of expertise.”
“I hate it. I even hate having to call people Master Mage and Grandmaster and Apprentice etcetera. So I am Wulf, you are Vonos. Easy.”
“Okay then Wulf. How can I help you?”
“I would like to see what you have been working on and will do so in a minute but first…”
“You want to know about that damned key.”
“I have gathered Keening and Wraithguard. They will be locked away where we have other dangerous and valuable artefacts. I wish to put Sunder with them. Mathis Valen let me know of the key.”
“I expected him to try and get it via somebody else but to use the Emperor! Majesty, Mathis is not kind of person you should listen to or trust.”
“We gathered that and have people looking into his background. He said you two had a disagreement.”
“Yes, yes we did. It’s sad because we know each other from long back when we were boys. We both became obsessed by the old Dwemer ruins. He-he…Yes, those were the old days of adventure and exploration.”
“My wife had the same experiences with a childhood friend but it was the Ayleid for them. If you cherish those memories half as much as she then it must hurt to lose such a friend.”
“It is not an easy thing to accept. I moved here to study magic mainly with my interest in the Dwemer waning a bit over the years. But Mathis…Mathis lost everything when the Argonians invaded, poor soul. He has become more bitter and angry over the years and the tension between us got too high.”
“He became obsessed with the Tools didn’t he?”
“Let’s just say that years ago we started our search for the Tools but by now I have very little interest in finding them anymore or working with Mathis. I was rather upset when you found Keening. The Tools got hidden for a good reason; to keep them out of evil hands!”
“Totally agree and that is why I am gathering them before anybody else does. I believe you to be a follower of the True Tribunal, the New Temple. Mathis is not a follower of the three false Gods or the New Temple. That religious difference probably had no influence on your relationship till his obsession took hold. You would also be aware I am Azura’s Champion. My intention with the Tools is honourable.”
“I will admit to the religious differences but do not ask about Morrowind politics. I will not put myself at risk with such a discussion.”
“If you willingly gave information I would listen but otherwise that is not an area I would ask you to discuss. He is still your friend despite the gap that has grown.”
“Because of the friendship I will not say a word. I hope you knock some sense into him before all of this is over.”
“He is playing a dangerous game Vonos. For his sake I hope he comes to his senses by himself.”
Vonos reached into his robes and pulled out an intricate key which he handed to me.
“Thank you for trusting me to do the right thing Vonos.”
He nodded then said, “I trust Azura’s judgement. Let us discuss something more pleasant Majesty. Here is what I have been working on. I prepared this volume of spells in the hope of giving it to you when you next visited, which is now! Please take a minute and tell me what you think.”
I took the book off him and started flicking through the pages. What Vonos had started with is the spell Vampires often use to mask their real looks and pass as normal mortals. He has expanded that so a Master of Illusion and Alteration can appear to be any of the bipedal races of similar size. For instance I could make myself look like Khajiit Cathay or Cathay-raht but not the four legged Senche-raht or the bipedal but very large Pahmar-raht. Small variations in size are okay like I dwarf over the average Bosmer but there are some nearly as tall.
“This is amazing Vonos but the potential for abuse is huge!”
“That is what the Arch Mage and I are concerned about. There are limitations and it does not give you racial abilities like the Khajiit agility or ability to leap so high. It does not give you the ability to speak other languages but if you did so your accent would be passable due to the voice box being of the right size and shape. So if you changed to Khajiit and already knew Ti’agra it would sound like a Khajiit speaking it.”
“Is your appearance random? For instance if I changed to Orc would I look different each time?”
“No. The looks of the race you change to are based on the material the spell has to work with. For instance, if you had very long hair when changing to a Khajiit you might have a mane or similar. Cut you hair and the Khajiit facial features and colouring would be identical to before, just a different hairstyle if you will.”
“I see that gender is locked in place as well. How does that work if I change to Argonian?”
“It takes the Hist to change their gender. You remain whatever gender you are.”
“How long does the spell last?”
‘It drains magicka continuously but somebody like yourself who already has a huge reserve and regenerates it quickly could stay transformed as long as they like.”
“Do you have to be conscious for transformation to hold?”
“A practised Master of both Schools could maintain it while sleeping. If you are knocked unconscious or drugged the spell will falter.”
“Is there anything else that can make the spell falter?”
“Use of magicka for any other purpose seems to randomly make the spell fail. But combat or any other physical activity is safe. I do believe the use of the Thu’um will break the spell every time but you will have to test that.”
“Arch Mage Tolfdir seemed concerned about what to do with this and with very good reason. I think it best we keep its existence quiet for now. It is hard to work on something that deserves praise but has to be kept quiet but I am sure you understand all of the reasons why.”
“I did this work to get away from the Dwemer thing at first but then saw the potential for its use in the right hands. Now I am terrified of it being used for the wrong reasons, the same as those damned Tools.”
“I assume a Dispel Magic cast on an individual or an area will make it fail?”
“That is correct. Any powerful enough mage should be able to detect the dweomer and if they have encountered it before know what it is.”
“It is good it can only be used on the caster. That reduces the chance of it being abused.”
“That is the nature of the dweomer and not intentional but yes, it is a good restriction to have.”
“So it is agreed then. We keep this to ourselves for now and I need time to think of what to do next. But it does give me a valuable tool that will have immediate uses so be assured it will help. I will also understand if you wish to hand it over to your people in Morrowind.”
“And give the Morag Tong another tool for assassinations. Not likely Majesty.”
“I will now go get Sunder and hopefully your friend does not do anything foolish. He should realise that we will know all about him in short order. We have more spies in Morrowind than a dog has fleas. That is not giving away any secrets.”
“Haha…I am sure everybody is sending fleas elsewhere all the time.”
As we left the College and walked towards the airship I asked The Sentinel what they thought of Vonos’ work.
Frea summed up my thoughts precisely when she said, “If you could have walked into Raven Rock as Dunmer then all those foolish assassins would still be alive. That is a good thing.”
“You are right Frea. We may not agree with their choice of profession but they are a product of their society. I killed them not because of what they are but because of what they did. I would rather not have to do such things and these spells can help prevent me having to do so.”
I flew Nafalilargus as close as I felt comfortable to the hiding place of Sunder.
A Dovah called Tomrayrriolth did land and greet me. He was ancient, not aggressive and I have met him before.
We stood before the locked gate and I said to The Sentinel, “This key probably disables a lot of the traps set by the Dwemer. If I knew of the existence of this place we could have tunnelled in without the key but who knows what disaster might have then happened. Nothing good I am sure.”
Frea asked, “Somebody could steal the key. They must have other things to protect this Sunder?”
“Yes, I will probably have to prove I am a follower of Vivec. Mathis said Master Mage Vonos is descended from a line of devout Vivec followers.”
I used the key and we descended very far below the surface on a Dwemer lift.
When the lift stopped I noticed a pile of books behind it. I quickly perused a couple of them then said to The Sentinel, “It looks like about one third of the ‘The Thirty Six Lessons of Vivec’. Not the most exciting reading but great guides on how to write gobblygook.”
Rayya asked, “So does this mean you will need to know the contents of all thirty six books?”
“That would be too easy. Most followers of Vivec would have them remembered word for word.”
Leading from the lift was a long walkway surrounded by molten rock. The smell of sulphur was strong.
As we walked along the walkway I studied the pipes and equipment that ran parallel to it. I could not figure out what they were for.
At the end of the walkway were three Dwemer Lexicon readers in front of a shifting Dwemer barrier. Through the barrier I could see a distorted image of Sunder.
In front of the readers was a skeleton with a journal between its outstretched arms.
I picked it up and quickly perused it. I then read the relevant entries to The Sentinel,
“13th of Frostfall, 3E 433
I’ve done it. I’ve gotten past the Daedra and arrived. Rkulftzul. It is quite a sight. But I must not forget to hide it. I mustn’t forget to hide Sunder. When I leave I will seal this place so that not even the Daedra can get in.”
Valdimar said, “If I remember correctly this area was swarming with Daedra during the Oblivion Crises. It would have been difficult to make your way past them. He was brave whoever he was.”
“17th of Frostfall, 3E 433
“Four days ago I was sure this was the spot to hide Sunder. Now I’m not sure. I’ve finally chosen to enter the vault and seal Sunder below. Unfortunately it seems the lift has malfunctioned and I am now stuck down here. With all the time in the world I began to study the Dwemer architecture surrounding the area…”
I said, “If he got stuck down here that means he told others where he was going and gave them a key, the one we used. He probably tossed his own into the molten rock. The entry of the 13th indicates there is a much larger Dwarven building above called Rkulftzul. Perhaps the lift only brings us to this, the lowest level, and there is more to explore above us. The members of the Explorer’s Society will wet their pants over that.”
“21st of Frostfall, 3E 433
I discovered that bulky contraption at the centre of these underground ruins could be used to seal Sunder permanently! Along with three ciphers that can be used to activate or deactivate the barriers. I have chosen to call them the ‘Stanza of Kagrenac’. It is a name fitting for such devices.”
Frea noted, “Let us hope he left the three ciphers somewhere in here. Or we might have to find a way to the other levels of this building.”
Rayya added, “We don’t even know if the lift will get us back out of here yet. We could end up like him!”
I assured them, “I can transport to a pocket plane when I need to. From there I can enter Sancre Tor and make my way to get you help. Just don’t eat each other for a while if that happens.”
“22nd of Frostfall, 3E 433
Sunder is forever sealed but I believe I don’t have much time left. If someone is reading this journal know this. Do not return Sunder to the world if Daedra are still at large. If they have left, you may take it, but understand its power before you use it.”
Frea solemnly said, “There are a lot more evil things than Daedra in the world dead one. Skaal Friend Wulf will hide it from them. Do not worry.”
“3rd of Sun’s Dusk, 3E 433
It seems as if my time has genuinely run out…
The First Follower of Vivec”
I commented, “Not a pleasant way to die. All alone and starving and hoping your task is complete. I have often wondered if that is my fate and that my last journal will be found long after I am gone.”
Rayya laughed and said, “You don’t go anywhere without a squad of Sentinel. Bad luck for the squad with you that day!”
I noticed a page had been torn from the journal. With apologies to our dead friend I lifted his skeleton slightly and it was underneath. Rayya grabbed it and I lowered the First Follower back down.
She handed it to me and I read it aloud,
“The path to Sunder is open to those who hear the words of Vivec.
The Dragon Break, or the Tower. 349
The Serpent. 129
The Captive Sage. 56
The end of the words is ALMSIVI,
The First Follower of Vivec.”
“What the fuck does that mean?” asked Valdimar.
“They are entries from Book Twenty Nine also known as Sermon Twenty Nine of The Thirty Six Lessons of Vivec. I won’t know what it means till we put the ciphers in place.”
“How do you remember all this? Even with my mage training I can only fit so much into this skull of mine.”
“I have no idea Valdimar. Just put it down to my parentage and a bit of tweaking from Lord Akatosh.”
“Yeah, we use that to explain all the odd things about you.”
I said to all The Sentinel, “If the three ciphers are in here they will be along the piping. So I will surround myself with as many protections as I can and go have a look. If I fall into the molten rock I will survive for a few seconds without harm then I am in trouble so let us hope my balance stays true.”
I spent half a minute casting dweomer on myself. Then I used the Dragon Aspect Shout. All of this added to the dweomer already on my armour. With this level of protection I could survive Dragonfire as I have done so before. I could probably swim in the molten rock but was not willing to test that theory.
I hopped onto the piping and slowly made my way till I found a Dwemer device. It looked more like a Gyro Core than a Lexicon and I hoped it was one of the ciphers.
The second one was on a small island of solid rock amongst the molten. The temperature was extreme and I wondered how The First Follower had placed it there. The island started to crumble under my weight and I had to quickly get back to the piping.
After looking up and down the piping several times I decided the third cipher must be elsewhere. The Sentinel went back to the lift room to search and as I climbed back onto the walkway Frea came running up with it. She also handed me Book Twenty Nine of The Thirty Six Lessons of Vivec.
She explained, “Great memory you have but from your journals I know it is not infallible. So just in case…”
Some of you reading this journal may not know what Sermon Twenty Nine is teaching so I will provide a quick explanation.
Each line refers to one of the Thirty Six Books or Sermons. The number refers to a word in that Book or Sermon. You put the words together and the lesson is,
“He was not born a god. His destiny did not lead him to this crime. He chose this path of his own free will. He stole the godhood and murdered the Hortator. Vivec wrote this.”
It is Vivec’s confession.
I made sure The Sentinel understood what was at stake, “Okay everyone listen up. Whilst climbing along the pipes I realised what they are for. This walkway is rigged to collapse. I assume if I get whatever puzzle is presented wrong then the reward is a very hot bath. So I suggest you all stand in the room with the lift.”
Valdimar sarcastically added, “Knowing the Dwemer sense of humour, or lack thereof, valves will probably open to pour in more molten rock till it reaches the ceiling.”
“You can see if the lift works and evacuate before I try the puzzle if you wish.”
The look of disgust I got from all four would have been comical if not so touching.
When The Sentinel were all in the lift area I faced the readers.
There was nothing to tell me which cipher went into which reader.
I randomly picked one and the reader accepted it with a tone that rang throughout the room.
The second one accepted a cipher with a different tone ringing out.
The third one accepted the remaining cipher with yet another different tone ringing out.
Nothing happened for a few seconds then ghostly Dwemer runes depicting the numbers one to ten appeared above the left most reader.
I guessed a three digit code was needed and looked at the First Followers note again,
“The path to Sunder is open to those who hear the words of Vivec.
The Dragon Break, or the Tower. 349
The Serpent. 129
The Captive Sage. 56
The end of the words is ALMSIVI,
The First Follower of Vivec.”
I opened up Book Twenty Nine and some of the first entries were,
- The Dragon Break, or the Tower. 1
- The Enantiomorph. 68
- The Invisible Gate, ALMSIVI. 112
- The Corners of House of Troubles. 242
So the book gave the first line the number one and the note gave it number three hundred and forty nine.
I took a wild guess that the code was the difference between the two. That would make the code three then four then eight.
I touched the ghostly Dwemer rune for three. The runes vanished and reappeared above the second reader.
I touched the ghostly rune for four. The runes vanished and reappeared above the third and last reader.
I yelled, “Okay, if I have got this wrong prepare to scream in agony!”
Valdimar yelled back, “I would be too busy cursing your name!”
I touched the ghostly rune for eight. The runes vanished. I yelled out, “Oh fuck!”
The Sentinel started to panic till they heard me laughing. The barrier was gone.
On a platform was Sunder. I picked it up and like the other two tools its craftsmanship was superb.
The Sentinel came up to have a look but none dared touch it.
Frea asked, “What now Wulf?”
“Now we head for Hammerfell and a most sacred place. We will enter Nayasel which is Ayleidoon for ‘City of Life’. It was the last city of the Ayleid and home, then tomb, of Princess Pilvi-Hinnesh and her people. Only two living people have ever entered there since Lord Akatosh sealed it from the world. Queen Rigmor’s childhood friend Loona and I entered and met the last Ayleid alive. Her story is one of tragedy and made my Gods weep.”
“I read about it in the last journal published. I wish my father was alive to tell of such adventures and wonders.”
“I wish he was alive as well Frea.”
“You still carry guilt for being tricked by Hermaeus Mora and that is not necessary. The people were saved and that is a good outcome no?”
“Of course it is but I am who I am Frea. Once again blame my parents and twiddling by my Gods.”
The lift worked and we exited Rkulftzul.
As we walked towards Nafalilargus I kept glancing at The Sentinel and a recurring through surfaced again.
What have I ever done to deserve such friends?