Bruma, Echo Deep Mine, Mzubthand, Falskaar: Shor asks for help.
I was sitting upstairs in Rigmor’s apartment waiting for my lady to join me. We were then going to head to Bruma Castle for breakfast with Sigunn before flying to the Imperial City aboard Nafalilargus.
I was deep in thought when a ‘pop’ sound to my left got my attention. Sitting there was the ghostly figure of Gormlaith Golden-Hilt, one of the Ancient Tongues who helped me defeat Alduin in Sovngarde.
“Did you get bored talking about war and have decided to pay a visit Gormlaith?”
“Do you like my new armour Majesty? I thought I would go for the barbarian look.”
“Very nice but the corset looks a bit of a bother with all those laces!”
“I am not really short of time now I’m dead!”
“Every ghostly visit I have ever had was a prelude to a lot of work. What does Lord Shor want of me?”
“Lord Shor requests you complete a prophecy. You would need to do the steps required to become the central figure of this prophecy. You can’t let those involved know you are the Dragonborn or Emperor. Any companions you take must not look like mercenaries. You all must look heroic. You must not look like members of the Imperial Army.”
“I could wear the armour I created at The Dragonsoul Forge. Armour of the Visage the Herald of Akatosh called it. It has a full face helmet so there is no way of recognising my face. The Skyrim Squad will accompany me and I will ask them to wear the armour they used when travelling with me years before.”
“If you do this thing for Lord Shor he says you can let your identity be known near the end. In fact Lord Shor would find that very entertaining.”
“If I am to engage in battle without the Thu’um I am greatly disadvantaged and in far more danger. So I will assume Lord Shor has far more concerns than his entertainment.”
“He knows you sometimes wonder of the relationship between himself and Lord Akatosh. Be assured they both want what is best for the mortals on Nirn and desire the continued existence of Nirn and Mundus.”
“And the fact one called the other names and ripped his heart out was just a minor misunderstanding.”
“You are showing your frustration at not knowing the deep interrelationships and motivations of the Gods. Much of this becomes clearer upon death.”
“I do not question your Lord’s intentions. Not all tasks I undertake are at the behest of The Divine. I will assume if they could assign a Divine Task at the moment this would be one.”
“This is a request for help, not a demand. Be assured many lives are at risk but further I cannot say. All I am permitted to tell you is where to start. It is imperative you do this immediately.”
“The Skyrim Squad has their old armour already in storage aboard the airship. Where do I go?”
“You must enter Echo Deep Mine north west of Riften.”
“That is about as much information as I get when given a Divine Task! I am positive I will figure it out from there.”
“My Lord had no doubts you would do this. Farewell Wulf.”
The ghostly Ancient Tongue faded away. Seconds later Rigmor appeared at the top of the stairs and asked, “I could only hear the conversation one way and assuming you were not speaking to somebody imaginary you have had a visitor of the gobblygook kind?”
“Yes my Queen. Lord Shor has asked me to do something immediately. I know nothing more than my starting point near Riften.”
‘Well there is no point delaying. I will go have breakfast with my mother and get to the Imperial City a bit later. Please take Karla and Meeko with you. She was particularly looking forward to her first ride in the airship. Now she can have more than one. That should make her tail wag!”
“She has you trained.”
“And Meeko doesn’t manipulate you constantly?”
I kissed Rigmor on the cheek and headed out of her apartment to the waiting airship outside the front gates of Bruma.
I stayed in the cabin during the ether travel to Riften to prep The Sentinel and make sure their old armour still fits! That is not as insulting as it seems. They would be the first to admit they are eating far more than at any other point in their lives.
All four ladies were more than surprised that nothing seemed too tight. They were dressed in armour well beyond the capacity for even the best mercenaries to afford.
The Sentinel know the drill. I am not Wulf or Emperor or Majesty or Dragonborn. I am Marcos. I have no fear they will slip up and reveal my identity.
The docking point in Riften meant we would be walking among the citizens. I came on deck with my helm off and transformed into a half orc. I have no idea how they put up with tusks. I had to keep telling myself I was not going to pierce my upper lip with them.
The Sentinel all looked at me strangely. It was the first time they had seen the spell in action.
A few people looked our way but when it was not the Emperor or Queen they saw they marvelled at the airship instead.
Rigmor would love to be able to just wander around Riften Market again like that marvellous day before the Battle of Whiterun.
We arrived at the mine without incident. I reminded The Sentinel once more, “Marcos. I am Marcos.”
When I turned towards the door Lydia asked the others, “What was his name again? He has only nagged us a thousand times and that is not enough for me to remember!”
Iona replied, “Maybe he should have called himself Apple Cabbage Stew!”
We entered and it looked like your typical mine. However it kept going deeper and deeper.
The usual bandit types died by the dozens as they stupidly attacked us.
Many levels down Dwemer architecture made an appearance.
On the body of a man another bandit had called ‘Chief’ I found a journal which read,
Earlier today a group of young men paid us a handsome fee to let them through the mines into the Dwemer area below. I was more than happy to oblige, but I couldn’t imagine what they would want down there. I thought we were tough for coming this close to the ruins, but they went right inside. They’ve already been down there for hours. They’re probably dead.
We were woken up by several loud screams and crashes from below. We heard the clatter of metal on metal and loud mechanical grinding noises. The sounds continued for several minutes before ceasing abruptly. I can only imagine what went on down there. Some of the men wanted to leave, but I’ll do no such thing. This cave is the perfect hideout for us, and I won’t give it up just because of old myths and mysterious sounds.”
Eventually the mine gave away entirely to Dwemer ruins.
We faced a door and the unmistakable sound of steam from a Dwemer Centurion could be heard beyond it.
A Centurion, already damaged and slow, turned to attack.
We brought it down with a volley of arrows.
The young men the Bandit Chief wrote about were dead.
Upon the body of one was a journal and Dwemer Lexicon.
The journal read,
“05 – 19
After far too long of searching, we have finally found it. We have found the ancient lexicon, and may now travel through the gate. Perhaps it was luck, perhaps it was fate. My family’s work is no longer wasted, and I can fulfil my grandfather’s wishes.
We are heading to the old buried ruins of Mzubthand tomorrow. I have worked a deal out with the local bandit leader to grant us passage, though we must still watch our backs, as they are not to be trusted.
05 – 20
We found the gate! It was just where the books said it would be. We are going to secure the area, and examine it real fast then attempt to use the cube. It appears to have a control manifold we can use. There is a large Dwarven centurion here that looks intact, but it is either slumbering, or dead as it has yet to make any sounds or movement. Skajalm even tapped it jokingly with his sword, and we are confident that it will not harm us.
I just hope this thing works.”
Before a ramp was a lexicon pedestal.
I place the lexicon in it.
It opened and started to twist and turn indicating the information on it was being read by the machinery.
Bars at the top of the ramp started to lower.
Then a portal appeared in a recess.
We approached the portal.
We were instantly transported to a cage within more Dwemer ruins.
A man came running right up to the cage and stared at us.
“I see a lever over there. Do you mind giving it a pull so we can get out of this cage?” I asked.
In a strange accent he replied, “Not so fast stranger. How did you get here?”
“We walked through a portal in a Dwemer ruin in Skyrim.”
“If you just came through that, then that would make you the traveller wouldn’t it?”
“I travel a lot. All of us travel a lot. We are all travellers.”
“Not ‘a traveller’ but ‘The Traveller’.
“So who or what is ‘The Traveller’?”
“They who arrive through the shimmering gate mark the start of the worst.”
“So we are to bring doom and gloom upon wherever this is?”
“It’s uh, just a story of course.”
“So where are we?”
“You didn’t bother to find out where that thing went before you jumped n did you? You’re in Falskaar.”
I explained to The Sentinel, “Falskaar is an island independent of The Empire. It is about 125 miles north-east of Dawnstar with whom it does trade and where occasional immigrants embark for these lands. Lord Shor has protected the island with a dweomer that makes it hard to see. You could sail right past it and not know it is there.”
“So you know of our land but did not where the portal went?”
“It is my responsibility to know all the lands of Nirn. Now will you please let us out?”
“My job would dictate that I arrest you right here and now. However, I’m in the middle of something important. If you give me a hand with it, afterwards, you are free to go. The switch to lower these bars is out here and your portal thing has shut off. That means I’m the only one who can let you out!”
“My name is Marcos, what is yours?”
I put on my Ayleid amulet and was instantly teleported to my pocket realm. I took it off again and was instantly back with The Sentinel.
“If you want our help you simply have to ask. I don’t need your help to get out of this little cage so it is not a bargaining tool. So I advise you try again.”
“I’m searching for a Nord named Mecaius. He’s the blacksmithing apprentice in the nearby town of Amber Creek. Will you please assist me in finding him?”
“Of course we will Olvir. We are neighbours after all.”
He pulled the lever and the bars lowered.
“Where has he gone and why do you need our help?”
“I assume that since he is not in here he will be in the nearby cave. Unfortunately I can also assume that cave is full of bandits.”
“Okay then Olvir. Let’s not waste any time. Lead the way.”
We followed Olvir through the Dwemer ruins.
Then we exited into Falskaar.
Soon after we entered a cave.
Olvir was left speechless when The Sentinel and I hardly broke step as we swept aside a dozen bandits.
It did not take long to find Mecaius the blacksmith apprentice. He was locked in a cage. Olvir ran to a lever and released him from his prison.
- Mecaius: Thank The Divines! We have to tell Agnar. The bandits, they’re working for Yngvarr! I heard them talking. They’re searching for something. That’s why they kidnapped me.
- Olvir: What are they searching for? What could you possibly know?
- Mecaius: They wanted to know about some key. When they found out I didn’t know anything, they were enraged.
- Wulf: What key? There are billions of keys! Key to what?
- Mecaius: Who are you stranger?
- Wulf: My name is Marcos.
- Olvir: You can trust him Mecaius. He is ‘The Traveller’ and they just cut through the bandits like a hot knife through butter.
- Mecaius: The Traveller! So that old story is true?
- Wulf: Apparently so. Now about the key?
- Mecaius: He was asking about the ‘Key of Leadership’. I have no idea what that is.
- Wulf: I assume the bandits were not going to keep you alive since you were of no use to them.
- Olvir: They were discussing what to do with me when you lot arrived.
- Wulf: Who are Yngvarr and Agnar? What is the ‘Key of Leadership’?
- Olvir: Agnar is Jarl of Amber Creek and the rightful leader of this nation. Yngvarr is Jarl of Staalgarde and his family have always thought they should be the leaders. I know nothing of this key either. I suggest you ask Jarl Agnar if you wish to know more once we get this information to him.
- Wulf: Let us get young Mecaius home. I will talk to Jarl Agnar if you wish.
- Olvir: I would appreciate that. This news makes it even more important that I complete my daily inspection. But first I will accompany you to the gate.
- Wulf: Stick with us Mecaius in case there are more of these bandits hanging around.
We left the mine and started jogging to the gate. The poor apprentice was worn out. He looked horrified then amazed when Celestine cast some Restoration spells on him. That sped him up considerably but neither Olvir nor Mecaius were ever going to be as fast as The Sentinel and I.
We reached the gate and to my utter amazement Olvir pulled a lever to open them. A lever on the side of the things you want to keep out, hence the gate!
Olvir proudly announced “Welcome to Falskaar, or more precisely Amber Hold and the lands around Amber Creek.”
“The gate is designed to do what?”
“Keep bad things out. Why else would we have a gate?”
“If I was a ‘bad thing’ could I not just walk up and pull that lever?”
“Should you not have a guard above that can ask pertinent questions to help decide whether or not to open the gate? The lever should be on the side where ‘bad things’ are not don’t you think?”
“Shouldn’t said guard, or guards, have an alarm that can be heard from Amber Creek if ‘bad things’ breach or try to breach the gate?”
“Oh. Yes, well, I will continue on my rounds now. Nice meeting you Traveller.”
Olvir quickly scampered of before I challenged his intellect any further.
We were a fair way in when I asked Mecaius, “Can you please to stop for a minute and answer some questions?”
He stopped, turned to face and me and replied, “Yes, of course Traveller.”
“What can you tell me about Falskaar?”
“It is a complex land. We’ve had a lot of war and death. Things have been pretty dark the last few years but I think we’ll pull through. After all, Olav lead our people through the treachery when they first arrived here. I’m sure Agnar will do the same for us now.”
“Agnar is related to Olav?”
“Oh yes, he is a direct descendent. Not a cousin or anything like that.”
“Did he inherit the title of Jarl?”
“Jarl he did but the King is decided by the people upon the abdication or death of the sitting King.”
“I assume though that each King has also been a descendant of Olav?”
“As far as I know that is the case.”
“Are you the only apprentice to the blacksmith?”
“There are other blacksmiths on Falskaar but my Master, Rangarr, is the best. I am his only apprentice. He…hasn’t any children to pass the knowledge on to.”
I could tell by the slight hesitation there was a story behind Rangarr’s lack of children. I did not probe what that story might be.
“You are fortunate to have been apprenticed to him.”
“I am honoured. He is teaching me everything he knows. I work hard every day to practice the craft. He really does know a lot!”
“One more question then we will get you home Mecaius. Who does the shipping to and from Falskaar to Skyrim?”
‘There is a man called Wulf who runs the boat between Skyrim and Falskaar. He sometimes brings us new people who want to live here. He gets us fair prices for our ore and goods in Dawnstar.”
“Wulf you say. I have a friend with that name.”
Lydia piped up, “You would not want to meet him Mecaius. He has the foulest temper and even worse body odour.”
Iona added, “And some people say he is attracted to sheep if you know what I mean.”
Mecaius turned red at that suggestion then quickly said, “Well, let’s get to Amber Creek!”
He turned and started jogging. I stared at The Sentinel who were all trying hard to suppress a bad case of the giggles.
Lydia mouthed the words ‘Piss Pot!’ then joined the others jogging alongside the apprentice.
So Rigmor has changed the rules has she? Recruiting others to play our little game is allowed now. Revenge shall be mine!
Do not worry readers of this journal for I did not break into maniacal laughter. Well not out loud but my Dovah did internally.
As we entered the gate to Amber Creek I noticed the guard on duty was Altmer so I stopped to have a quick chat.
“Greetings and I hope I am not being rude asking this question. I am new to Falskaar and am wondering if there are many Altmer and other mer on the island.”
“I can tell by your polite tone you are not one of the racists so I take no offence. There are a few. Like the men, Khajiit and Argonians that have emigrated here we appreciate the cosmopolitan attitude of the Nords that live here. Everybody is welcome as long as they contribute.”
“Thank you for your understanding. Have a good day.”
The guard nodded and we quickly caught up with the apprentice just as his master saw him.
- Rangarr: What? By The Divines Mecaius I am glad to see you!
- Mecaius: I was being held captive by some bandits in Brittlerun Cave. But Olvir and these strangers found me and got me out.
- Rangarr: You look worn out! Go inside, have a drink and get some rest!
- Mecaius: Actually I think I’d like to stay out here and do some work with you. It’ll be good for me.
- Rangarr: I am not so sure that is a good idea Mecaius.
- Celestine: Excuse me Master Rangarr but I am a healer. What your apprentice suggests is the best thing for him. Getting back into a normal routine helps suppress lingering horror and fear.
- Wulf: I am also a healer and agree with my friend. We have seen similar hundreds of times.
- Rangarr: Who am I to argue with the experts? Grab a hammer Mecaius. It’s great to have you back!
As Mecaius happily grabbed his tools of the trade and started hammering away at the anvil I approached his master who said, “Forgive my curiosity stranger but you and your companions’ weapons and armour. I have never seen the like!”
“My name is Marcos, although it seems people around here will insist on calling me The Traveller. The armours the three ladies are wearing are very ancient indeed. My armour is brand new. It is made from the same metal as my sword. Here, have a look.”
I handed Rangarr my sword and it was obvious at first he could not believe how light it was. He put his ear close to the blade and flicked it with his finger several times. I have seen other blacksmiths do this when trying to figure out the alloys and quality in a sword blade.
After a minute or so he handed it back and asked, “I have never seen that metal before. What is it called and where can I get some?”
“It has no name and there is only one place you can get it. Unfortunately even if I got some for you there is only one forge and anvil that can work it and only one blacksmith that can do so. Me.”
“I can sense a story there. Maybe one day you can tell me over a few meads.”
“That is a deal.”
“Before I forget let me thank you lot for bringing Mecaius back. How long have you been in Falskaar?”
“We were here less than two minutes before being asked to help rescue your apprentice.”
“Well then let me assure you that sort of thing is not common around here.”
“This is a nice looking town. What can you tell me about Amber Creek?”
“Thanks for the complement. We are proud of her. Amber Creek is named after the small stream it was built next to. The stream was, at the time, full of a rich mineral called Amber.”
“That is solid sap from particular trees isn’t it? It is very rare in Skyrim and Cyrodiil!”
“Yes and now it is very rare here as well. Over the years the Amber was all mined out. The creek slowly expanded and eventually became the large river that it is today. That Amber fuelled the growth of the town. Since then we’ve adapted to make gold through other means. For some it is trade. For others it is farming. Then there are those who make gold through craft like me with my smithing.”
“Mecaius is very proud to be your apprentice. He says you are the best blacksmith on Falskaar.”
“If he is looking for an increase in his allowance he won’t get it through flattery. But I am the best on Falskaar and I owe it all to my father. He taught me everything I know. His father taught him and his father before that and so on.”
“One of the backbones of any nation is the family run farms and businesses. Generation after generation do the hard, honest and essential labour that keeps the country running. Yet it mostly goes unrecognised by the elite in their castles and palaces.”
“You will find our Jarl is different. He rules for the people, not the wealth.”
“So you hope to pass on the business to your own son one day?”
“My family has run this blacksmith since the founding of Amber Creek. But I fear I have no child to pass my knowledge on to and I never will. Not after what happened to my wife. But I do have Mecaius. I don’t think my father would mind he isn’t my son too much. It is about the craft, the knowledge and the skill. All that matters is that I teach someone. And one day, before I die, I will craft my masterpiece. Just like my father did…even if it was taken from him recently.”
“Someone has so few morals they stole your father’s masterpiece?”
“Yes. Many years ago my father crafted the then Jarl, Agnar’s father, a great war hammer. Years later, when my father passed away, Agnar returned it to my family. We buried it with my father in his honour. Any blacksmith should rest with the finest of his craft. But recently when I visited his grave it was dug up and the hammer was gone, stolen by someone.”
“A thief is bad enough but a grave robber is the lowest of the low. Do you have any idea who it may have been?”
“We have no evidence but I know it was stolen by Garant. His family has always been jealous of mine.”
“Lesser skilled blacksmiths I assume.”
“Precisely and they couldn’t handle that fact. So they have always held a grudge on us.”
“So they gave up blacksmithing instead of trying to improve themselves?”
“Yes but before that they would try and stop us from doing our work. They would steal supplies, taint batches of ore and things like that. But this is by far the most rotten thing Garant’s done.”
“Do others believe he is guilty?”
“Garant’s family were always an unpleasant bunch so nobody around here has any doubt. They are all glad they moved away.”
“If they are not blacksmithing anymore how do they earn a living?”
“Garant has most likely resorted to banditry or some other form of stealing to get along.”
“Do you know where he is?”
“Last I heard he was hiding out at the old Aspenfall Lodge, to the south-east of Amber Hold. I haven’t a clue if he’ still there.”
“If we pass by that way we will have a look for you. I am not promising we will retrieve your hammer as I can sense great problems brewing that may take up our time.”
“I can’t pay you but would be greatly appreciative. If Garant were to disappear while you were looking for the hammer I wouldn’t exactly mind if you catch my drift.”
“We are not mercenaries and if we look for the hammer it will be out of decency. Also ask yourself if Garant deserves to die for theft and making your lives a bit more difficult.”
“No, the hammer is not worth a life.”
“If he attacks us he will die. If he has committed murder he will die. Otherwise I will drag him back here for the Jarl to deal with. And that is if we manage to have time to look for it. Agreed?”
“Yes, sorry. I am a bit bitter with what happened to my wife and that taints my thoughts on occasion.”
“Understandable. May I ask what happened to her?”
“She was visiting Pinevale when it was attacked about twenty years back. She was pregnant with our first child when she died that day. I’ve moved on, as she would have wanted me to, but I fear I’m too old to have kids now. Not that I could ever find another woman as beautiful and flawless as my Annalie.”
I could see the story of his wife was upsetting and did not ask who attacked Pinevale and why.
I said, “I can see your apprentice wishes to ask you a question so I will leave you to your work. It has been a pleasure meeting you Rangarr.”
He nodded and joined Mecaius who was having difficulty smelting some ore.
I looked around and spotted a grand house that must me the home of the Jarl so we headed for it.
When we entered Jarl Agnar was talking to his son Wilhard,
- Wilhard: When can I become a guard or a soldier father?
- Agnar: When you are older my son. You still have a few years to just enjoy being young.
- Wilhard: I am almost twelve. I will be a man soon!
- Agnar: Do not fret Wilhard. You will grow up to be a great warrior I am sure of it. Just be a boy for now.
- Wilhard: If I am to be a great warrior I must keep practising! I’ll go do that right now!
Wilhard came running past us and out the door without even a glance our way. I wonder if his enthusiasm for being a great warrior will wane with the first scream and look of terror on another’s face as his sword ends their life?
I walked up and introduced myself, “Jarl Agnar, my name is Marcos and I have some news about Mecaius.”
“He is not hurt is he? It would break Rangarr’s heart.”
“He is a bit tired and shook up but perfectly healthy. Olvir asked us to help find him and we discovered he had been kidnapped by some bandits and held prisoner in Brittlerun Cave. We had to kill about a dozen of them before we found Mecaius locked in a cage. I think if we were any later they would have killed him as he was no longer of use to them.”
“Why did they kidnap him? What use did they want him for?”
“Mecaius says they worked for Yngvarr. They wanted to know the location of the ‘Knowledge Key’ and grabbed him hoping he would know.”
“What? What led him to believe that? Such a statement cannot be taken lightly.”
“He heard them talking. They got orders from Yngvarr to capture him and they questioned him for hours about the key.”
“There is only one reason why he would need the key but that is a discussion for later. This could very well mean the start of another war.”
The Jarl unclipped a money bag from his belt and offered it to me saying, “Thank you for bringing me this information. Please accept this token of my appreciation.”
“Keep your coins for we are not mercenaries Jarl Agnar!”
“No, your armour and weapons are indicative of great wealth. I can tell by your bearing you are a man of authority. Okay then Marcos, who are you?”
“Olvir says I am part of prophesy. I came through the portal to Skyrim so apparently that makes me The Traveller.”
“Then you are a harbinger of great suffering. What part you play in it I wonder?”
“I was instructed by Lord Shor to come here. Does that ease your mind?”
“You helped Olvir find the apprentice and accepted no payment. I should not have doubts as to your values. But if Shor sent you then we must be facing disaster of a magnitude not seen in six hundred years.”
“I know only a little of your history. Some books on the subject would help me understand more of what we have just got ourselves into.”
The Jarl retrieved three books from a shelf and said, “Keep these. We have plenty of copies dotted around the country.”
“Thank you Jarl. I know you trade with Dawnstar in Skyrim and that your island is surrounded by a strange dweomer. I also know roughly where it is in relation to Skyrim. But I think there is scarce information about it within Tamriel. It must have some sort of mysticism about it. We came across young men who were killed by Dwemer automatons when trying to enable the portal.”
“I’m curious as to how these young men learned about that portal and the tools to activate it.”
“From the brief information I read in one of their journals, it was a family legend that spoke of your land. Perhaps they were related to the original people who populated it?”
“That sounds plausible.”
“Anything else I can do for you Jarl Agnar?”
“Long ago when there was war between my family and the Unnvaldrs a group of monks served as our wise men and court wizards. They have since retired to a simpler life but their roots are still there. The may know what Yngvarr is up to.”
“You wish us to go and inform them and ask if they know anything?”
“Yes please. Let me give you a map of the island so I can mark where to go.”
The Jarl removed a good quality map from the wall and marked the location of a place called Bailun Priory.
“That is a good hike. We should start straight away. Who do we speak to?”
“Please speak to Brother Thorlogh. He is the most likely of them to know anything.”
“We will return as soon as we can. I can feel urgency to what is happening. Do you believe in this prophesy of The Traveller?”
“You are here as it foretold so yes, it must be believed.”
“What can you tell me about this prophecy?”
“A very long time ago a man claimed to have been spoken to directly by the Gods themselves. They foretold a prophecy of sorts. The Gods told him that, ‘They, who arrive through the shimmering wall, mark the start of the worst.’ and that their leader was deemed, ‘The Traveller’.”
“Not much of a prophecy. It is more an omen of doom than anything else. No mention of heroic deeds or legendary enemy to vanquish?”
“No, that was the entire message delivered by the Gods.”
“I can tell you multiple Gods do not talk to an individual. A single God in communication can overwhelm the sanity of a mortal. The wording suggests the prophecy will be instantly fulfilled when the worst starts. There is no mention of when or why it ends and how do we know when the worst has started?”
“I think it means your arrival tells us whatever plans Yngvarr has are about to be enacted fully. That so far he has just been preparing and is now ready to act.”
“Then know this. As I said before we were sent by Lord Shor himself. We are here to help.”
“Then I thank the Gods you are here.”
I nodded to the Jarl and we exited his house and Amber Creek for the long walk to the priory.
I am used to reading whilst on horseback. It was a bit more difficult when walking but we stuck to the well-made roads and there was little to trip over. I was quite relaxed with The Sentinel as my eyes and ears.
Even whilst walking I managed to read all three books the Jarl had given me. I now understood what was at stake.
I said to The Sentinel, “To summarise I believe an ancient artefact called the ‘Heart of the Gods’ is what Yngvarr is after. His family, the Unnvaldrs, believe they are the rightful rulers as they led the original inhabitants through the portal to Falskaar. However a Dovah called Ahkrinviing chose Jarl Agnar’s family, the Borvaldurs, as the leaders. The histories say Ahkrinviing created the relic by ripping out his heart. I believe that is an exaggeration and the artefact will simply be solidified Dovah blood.”
Lydia asked, “Like the Red Diamond?”
“Yes and since Ahkrinviing was acting as an avatar of Shor the blood would have powerful dweomers upon it. Along with some hot springs it is placed near it is responsible for the climate of most of Falskaar. If Yngvarr was to remove it from its hidden location the island would be like Atmora. As a matter of fact a large part of the north is not within range of the relic’s dweomer and is much like the frozen wastes of Roscrea that Rigmor and I traipsed across.”
“Would it give Yngvarr any great powers?”
“No Lydia, I think if he touched it he might even die. Even if he can pick it up there is no dweomer on it that his family could use as Shor made it for Agnar’s bloodline. Just like only those of Septim blood could wear the Amulet of Kings.”
“Why did the Dovah pick Agnar’s family over Yngvarr’s?”
“The first inhabitants were dying in what is still the frozen north. Agnar’s relative call Olav had the courage to set out on his own to find a place of shelter and food. Ahkrinviing, at the request of Shor, had sided with mortals during the Dragon Wars and driven all other Dov from the island with his Thu’um. Those original inhabitants were long gone by the time these people arrived six hundred years ago. However Ahkrinviing still guarded mortals on this island as per Shor’s request. So he helped those he saw as having leadership qualities. You could say Agnar’s family rules by Divine Right.”
Celestine said, “We must be careful what we say if we wish to help.”
“The prophecy was essentially fulfilled when we stepped through the portal. Now it is a matter of helping them survive the calamity our arrival signifies. I will be careful but forceful so as to minimise losses. But we do not rule here and must not alienate those who do. Shor’s warning about not being seen as mercenaries or representatives of The Empire were tactics to help us be accepted. The hiring of mercenaries is frowned upon since the last big conflict and their relatives came here to escape the politics and strife of The Empire all those centuries ago.”
Iona asked, “What is this key they kidnapped the apprentice over?”
“Where the relic is kept is protected by a barrier that needs five of these keys. Each one named after a virtue.”
That was enough information for The Sentinel to understand what was to shape the events to come.
We arrived at the Bailun Priory just as a bell rang to call the Brothers in for supper.
There were shrines to The Nine spread around the grounds. No sign of any other pantheon. No statue or shrine to Shor/Lorkhan or any Daedric Prince.
I asked the last prior who was about to enter the priory, “Excuse me, I am looking for a Brother Thorlogh.”
“Greetings, I am he. What can I do for you?”
“My name is Marcos and Jarl Agnar asked me to talk to you about the increased bandit activity.”
“Sorry, I can’t help him there. I know they’re a growing problem and all over Falskaar but that is all I know.”
“They’re Yngvarr’s men. He’s paying them. The kidnapped the blacksmith’s apprentice and questioned him about the location of the “Key of Knowledge”.
“Is Mecaius okay?”
“Yes, we helped Olvir rescue him from the bandits. That is why we know they were Yngvarr’s men and what they were after.”
“That couldn’t be unless…Yngvarr is trying to start another war!”
“That is what Jarl Agnar thinks is happening. So will you come to Amber Creek and help him?”
“We cannot help. Six hundred years ago Shor saved our ancestors so that we could flourish in this land and absorb its knowledge, not tear it apart with war. We will not help instigate another one with the Unnvaldrs. Of course we are still loyal to the Borvaldurs.”
“I fail to see how you visiting the rightful leader of this land will instigate a war. I would say the kidnapping of an innocent citizen is an act of war. Mecaius would be dead if I and my colleagues hadn’t rescued him. Within minutes of stepping through that portal we could see what was right and wrong and acted. Would you and your brethren have refused Olvir’s plea for help in case it instigated a war?”
“Without knowing Yngvarr was involved we would have helped. But that is hypothetical. You said you arrived via the portal?”
“Yes, I know, that makes me ‘The Traveller’. What does your refusal to even visit Agnar make you?”
“If there is open warfare we will fight by King Agnar’s side until victory or Sovngarde takes us.”
“Come too late to a battle you might as well not come at all.”
“You are quick to judge Traveller.”
“You are making a mistake and somebody will end up paying the price. But that is up to you.”
“Why did you come through the portal?”
“Lord Shor asked me to. What do you know about it?”
“Normally I would call you insane and/or a blasphemer. But for some reason I believe you.”
“I really do not care what you think about me. We were talking about the portal.”
“It’s location suggests the Dwemer built it but there is little evidence to prove it. We’ve seen no signs of this kind of technology in other Dwemer ruins. So we can’t do much beyond speculate.”
“I have seen portals like it before in Ayleid, Nordic, Snow Elf and Dwemer ruins. It is not unusual in that respect. Has anybody researched it from this side?”
“The scholars in Vizemundsted were potentially studying it but none of their research made it out. So we’d have to start from scratch. The continuous conflicts in the land have prevented that.”
“I have read the histories. The people of Falskaar have been too busy killing, destroying then rebuilding to spare time for you to ‘absorb its knowledge.’ Not even a week could be spared to send an expedition by the sounds of it. Makes me wonder what you and your brethren are doing to increase your knowledge.”
“Probably asking themselves why belly button fluff is blue and snot is green.” quipped Lydia.
“I will not stand here and be insulted by those who do not know me. Researching the portal further simply hasn’t been something we’ve focused on yet. Perhaps we can investigate someday.”
I replied, “That is better. Admitting you simply have not prioritised it yet rather than make it sound like you have had six hundred years of non-stop war is honest. Your country has had it easy when compared to many others I have visited when it comes to war. Yet those countries still produce respected scholars and scholarly works.”
“You are harsh and quick to judge but I can accept your criticisms. You seem confident in what you say and not malicious. Now if there is nothing else I would like to get to supper before all the warm bread is gone.”
“It was quite a walk to get here. Instead of wasting the trip is there anybody else who may need assistance?”
“You may be able to assist Brother Arnand with potential Necromancers. He is the only Altmer prior here so you can’t miss him.”
We entered the priory and immediately saw Brother Arnand happily munching on some of the warm bread Brother Thorlogh was craving.
We approached and he stood to greet us. I said, “Greeting Brother Arnand. I am Marcos and Brother Thorlogh suggested we may be able to help with some Necromancers? We do not charge for our services. We are not mercenaries.”
“I can see you already have great wealth. The problem is another prior who used to live here. Brother Vernan is his name.”
“Let me guess, you all study The Nine, or The Eight in your case, as well as the different schools of Magicka. Like many who study the powers of Magnus, Brother Vernan craved more and more knowledge and was seduced by the secrets of Necromancy.”
“It seems you have seen this many times before. It was something new for us. While the rest of us are satisfied with slow and cautious research he wanted to rush through using whatever magical item we obtained without restraint. He wished to learn anything he could about magic regardless of its source. His worst vice was that of Necromancy.”
“I am a Master Mage in all Schools of Magicka including Necromancy. I am not evil! I am a devout follower of The Nine. Necromancy is not a vice. The craving for knowledge is a vice and dangerous if you forget morality and/or use dweomer beyond your full knowledge or ability to control.”
“You are right but still, it is not knowledge we find much use for within this priory. He did exceed his ability to control it and harmed two other priors by accident.”
“Let me guess. Instead of providing wise and understanding counselling you kicked him out of the door. The Mages Guild in Tamriel did that and we are still cleaning up the mess that idiotic decision has caused.”
“We made the choice to expel him immediately. He was removed from the priory and stripped of his status as a prior. We sent him on his way with only a few things from his room. However, we know there was more.”
“So you effectively stripped him of the spiritual guidance of The Divines that comes simply by being in the presence of their shrines. He probably forsook his real family and maybe went against his parent’s wishes to join this priory. You were his family then. Now you have thrown him out into the cold. I wonder if that will make him bitter and more intent on pursuing the darker knowledge or if he will tell himself he deserved the punishment. I can tell you it won’t be the latter!”
“You said you wanted to help? We are convinced that Brother Vernan had some kind of lair or refuge near the priory. Where we believe he hid things and conducted a lot of his unorthodox research. But we have been unable to find it.”
“We will look for the lair in the off chance we can help Vernan before it is too late. It is my experience that such rejected people do not take long to become irretrievably corrupted. If you have any forgiveness in your heart I suggest you pray before The Divines for his soul.”
On the way out Celestine brought to my attention the central shrine of the complex. It was that of Lord Akatosh.
We left the priory then Jordis asked, “You have been quite forceful Marcos. Are you not in danger of alienating the Brethren?”
“As I have explained countless times to you, your colleagues, my wife and many others, I work by instinct. Like many other tasks given by The Divine or other God I was provided very little information or instructions. I will go with my gut feelings and hope they are right once again.”
Within five minutes of searching we found a sewer grate. It is almost like a big giant sign that says, ‘Hidden Lair Below!”
Lydia joked, “Perhaps the priors have bad eyesight from staring at belly button fluff and snot?”
I slid the grate to the side then we all entered the not so secret lair of Brother Vernan.
There was a book upon the only table in the lair. It turned out to be Vernan’s journal. When I opened it a crystal fell out. It was made of an unknown substance and I could feel no dweomer on it. I quickly scanned the journal then read the relevant entries to The Sentinel,
“I have finally done it! I have located the long lost Daedric artefact known as ‘The Dream Crystals’. However, I have run into a problem… There is some kind of protective magic shielding them from our world. They are useless to me in this state. Luckily for me, my recently expeditions into the magics of necromancy have allowed me to meet some pertinent individuals. I will show them the crystals and see if they will help me decode the magics within.
I have shown the crystals to by companions and they are as eager as I am to unlock the magic within. There are five crystals. I will be keeping one and we will be sending off the others to various groups. Not only must we do this quickly but we must keep them separate. If they fall into the wrong hands I will never be able to use them. The incantations on them are tricky, but I have faith that we will be able to remove them soon enough.
It is then that I will be able to utilize them. I am not yet sure for what, but I will come up with something. Perhaps they can boost my necromancy. Create an undead servant? Can you imagine the joy in that? Someone to clean up after you, serve you meals and give you a hand. Without having to feed or care for them or have any worry for their happiness. I can’t see why any person wouldn’t want such a thing.
Or perhaps even a boost to the local guard. Imagine the power in numbers of having an army of the undead at your disposal. That would certainly help settle the conflicts in this land.
We shall find a use I am sure of it.
The research goes well. We have broken the seal on one crystal! I am close to decoding my own as well. We make good progress. I have moved my research into a small cavern behind the priory. The others are made uneasy whenever I express interest in such artefacts or the study of the undead. I am unsure why. They seem overcautious in their endeavours. This angers me greatly as they are throwing away so much potential. The world could be changed by these magics and the study of such arts. Why they must cast negative stigmas on them I do not understand. Regardless, I will show them. I will unlock the magic of the crystals myself, and I will show them how helpful it can be!
I will soon return to Volkrund keep. There I may begin the practice of using the crystals as we break each seal. I am very excited to use them as they have already shown great effects such as mind control, adjustment, and even manipulation of the world around the user. Such power must not be wasted.
I will not allow it to be wasted!”
Celestine exclaimed, “He is a dead man. If the magicka of the Daedric artefact does not kill him one of the other Necromancers will.”
I replied, “They are not going to do the work decoding the magics and allow him to have the reward. You are right and he is dead if he pursues this course. If he can’t see the evil in mind manipulation he has been morally corrupted in his pursuit of knowledge.”
“Could they be a trap of one of the Daedric Princes?”
“The name suggests Vaermina. I would not be surprised if she is behind it.”
There was nothing else of value in the lair so we returned to the priory. I approached Brother Arnand who was busy writing and announced, “I have found Vernan’s lair. Here is his journal and a Daedric artefact that was in it. It is one of five ‘Dream Crystals’.”
“You are obviously a knowledgeable person. Have you encountered such before?”
“I have encountered and studied hundreds of artefacts made by mortals and Gods. Crystals and gemstones of some description are often the artefact or part thereof. That crystal is Daedric in nature so I cannot tell you what dweomers it may contain. If the dweomers were of mortal or The Divines I could tell what they were.”
“I find that hard to fathom. Can I put that to the test?”
Brother Arnand shuffled off and a few minutes later came back with a jewel encrusted silver chalice. He handed it to me and I told him, “This is of Lady Dibella. The dweomer on it raises libido and can make even the oldest male engorged and large and most shy maiden eager for carnal release. It was most likely made to help couples with lovemaking where a male partner is elderly or has dysfunctional genitals or the lady is quiet and reserved. I hope none of you drank from it.”
Brother Arnand turned bright red and I laughed.
“You wanted confirmation it was a dweomer and not lustful thoughts. Did you burn your copies of The Lusty Argonian Maid in shame?”
He snatched the chalice back and said, “If you wish to help with Vernan please return in a few days. I will need to study the crystal and local histories.”
He quickly shuffled off and we left still laughing at his embarrassment.
As with the trip to the priory, the trip back was punctuated with the occasional attack by wildlife. Bear, wolves and other carnivores thought we looked tasty.
On arrival in Amber Creek we encountered Jarl Agnar and his wife Jalma returning home from a meal at the inn. He asked me, “Have you spoken with Brother Thorlogh yet?”
“Yes and he says they know nothing of the bandits. He also refused to help unless Yngvarr directly instigates war.”
“What does he mean ‘directly instigates war’? He sent men to kidnap and interrogate one of our people and blankets the land with his mercenaries! Is that not a declaration of war?”
“I said as much to him very forcefully. He may regret his decision. Yngvarr has set things in motion with the kidnapping. You now know he is looking for the five keys. He will not be as subtle in his pursuit of them from now on.”
“How do you…did you read those books I gave you?”
“I can read very fast Jarl. Do not concern yourself with what I can do. What is your next step to stop Yngvarr?”
“We shall have to work without the Priory’s help for now but I have received a disturbing report. Bandits have overrun the docks and have cut off trade with Skyrim.”
“We shall investigate for you. It is imperative you have your guards protect Amber Creek and outlying farms.”
“I was reluctant to ask but it is good you have volunteered. Rescue who you can and speak to them to see if they know any more about what the bandits are up to.”
“Do not worry Jarl. We have rescued many hostages over the years and all safely. At a guess they are using the docks to bring in more mercenaries and supplies. I don’t see how a break in your trade with Skyrim would have an immediate impact.”
“Henrik, the owner of the store there, is an old soldier. He would be the most level headed under such stress and is probably the best bet for useful information.”
“I can see on the map you gave me where the docks are. That is quite a lot further than the priory so don’t expect us back till early morning.”
“I could lend you horses if you wish.”
“We are very swift on our feet and horses in unfamiliar territory are not ideal. So thanks for the offer but we will go by foot. See you in a few hours.”
The Jarl nodded as we started our long trek to the docks.
Just out of town I said to The Sentinel, “Aspenfall Lodge is a small detour on the way to the docks. Let us see if Garant is home and if so persuade him to give us back the hammer.”
Some trolls decided the five heavily armed and armoured people looked like a tasty snack. Bad choice!
When close got close to the lodge half a dozen bandits attacked. They fared no better than the trolls.
The lodge was mostly rubble but a trapdoor screamed, “Not so well hidden bandit hideout below!”
We entered into a small cave network. The idiotic bandits were so confident of those above being sufficient they had no guards posted inside.
We crept up on several and overheard a conversation,
- Bandit One: Do you think Garant will get away with stealing that hammer?
- Bandit Two: Nah! Rangarr is one tough bastard. I’d be surprised if he hasn’t already found him and crushed him with the hammer itself!
- Bandit One: Where’d he go anyway?
- Bandit Two: He’s run off to the Shattered Axe Redoubt. Hjanil gathered a bunch of us to go there. I figured I’d be safer if I stayed here.
- Bandit One: Ha, smart move! Garant won’t last a second there. Anyway, boss says we’re hitting a camp later so I’d better get ready.
- Bandit Two: Yeah, good idea. I think I’ll try my bow this time.
I yelled out, “Here, try mine!” and shot him dead where he sat.
The other chatty bandit came running from a back room yelling a battle cry that turned to gurgling as my arrow pierced his lung. He dropped dead.
A third came running with murder in his eyes. An arrow to the heart stopped him.
I read a note I found on a nearby table to The Sentinel,
“I’ve done it! I’ve gotten the hammer. Those fools, announcing to the world that they were burying it with Gustav made it real easy. I went to his grave during the night, and I dug it up. But, I have to hide it. I must keep it safe. The lodge won’t do anymore, too close, too… civilized. There’s an old mine not far from here called Shattered Axe Redoubt. It’s abandoned now, so we’ll head there. We can hide out and keep the hammer safe. I’m heading there tomorrow morning. Then they won’t be able to get to me. They won’t even know where I am!
Hjanil if you find this, gather a bunch of the lads and meet me there. Also, make sure you destroy this letter before you leave. We can’t leave a paper trail.”
I looked at the map and informed The Sentinel, “‘Shattered Axe Redoubt’ is very close to here. We might as well go and give Garant and his friends a visit.”
It was only a short walk to the other hideout. There were no sentries out the front and we paused to listen. Faint murmuring could be heard so we knew somebody was at home.
When we entered it appeared to be a disused mine.
As we crept from cavern to cavern about a dozen bandits met their end and not one of them saw us coming.
When we approached the last cavern we heard a bandit say to Garant, “You didn’t have to kill that woman after she handed over her money Garant. There is no need to try and prove how ruthless you can be. Or did you just want to see how much of a mess that hammer of yours would make?”
I signalled to The Sentinel that we would not be taking any prisoners. We snuck closer then Garant and his bandit buddy died without seeing us like just like every other piece of scum in the redoubt.
I retrieved the hammer from Garant’s body. It was exceptional quality made from the highest grade steel. Any blacksmith would be proud of it.
We had to find a way over the mountains to get to the port. Conveniently we found a path close to the redoubt. It was steep but manageable with care.
We spotted the port in the distance. So far constant fog seemed to be a weather feature of the island. It was welcome when trying to sneak upon a town full of bandits who had hostages.
We were attacked by many crabs. They seemed to be far more aggressive than usual.
As we snuck up on the town I used Detect Life to highlight the bandits and hostages. The Sentinel prepared bows and spells and on my signal rained death down upon the enemy.
In mere seconds ten bandits were dead and we were with the hostages. There was an older man, a young man, a woman and a male child. They all appeared to be of Nordic stock although the eldest male may have had Akaviri amongst his ancestors.
I quickly untied them as The Sentinel stood guard.
As they stood trying to get circulation back into their limbs I asked, “Which one of you is Henrik?”
The younger male replied, “That is me stranger. We all thank you and your friends for rescuing us. We were getting desperate and I would have made a move, probably suicidal, if they tried to do anything to Freya or Galen.”
He offered me a bag of coins and said, “Please, accept this. It’s the least I can do.”
I gently pushed his hand back, “No need Henrik. We did not rescue you for money. Jarl Agnar asked us to but more importantly it was the right thing to do. We need no monetary reward for obeying the Ten Commandments of The Nine. My name is Marcos by the way.”
“Well then Marcos I hope you do not think us rude but we are exhausted. It has been many hours since we slept and you can tell by the speed Galen has rushed away it is equally as many since we could visit the privy.”
“I will not keep you long Henrik. Can you tell me anything about the bandits?”
“By being meek and obeying their commands I think I lulled them into being overconfident. They were not very careful of what they said nearby.”
“Or they simply intended to slit your throats when given the okay. Dead villagers tell no tales.”
“Please, tell me what you overheard.”
“The rest of this lot are staying in Hjalmar Armoury, just north-west of here.”
I looked at our map of Falskaar then replied, “I know where that is. We will go take care of them but I strongly advise that you and the others show great diligence. More of this scum may be arriving by boat or from elsewhere on the island. Just make yourselves scarce if you see any large numbers approaching.”
“We shall do so and thank you once again.”
As Henrik rushed away to join his wife and boy we set off for Hjalmar Armoury.
On our way there we encountered a patch of red mountain flowers. They are always a welcome sight as they reminded me of Rigmor.
We approached the armoury from behind and above. We could see one sentry standing near the front entrance. So far Yngvarr’s mercenaries have not been of the highest quality. An arrow took him out and thankfully he did not make any noise and silently fell to the ground.
A blacksmith was making enough noise to mask the approach of an army. He died silently as well.
A Khajiit sentry died with an arrow to his head and he was the last of the outside enemies.
We stood at the entrance and I told The Sentinel, “This mob are invaders willing to kill for money and do not deserve mercy. Just kill any that cross our path.”
Once again I used Detect Life and most of the inhabitants died without seeing their killer.
We silently made our way through the ruined fort and killed over a dozen of the enemy. In the last room we found a note on one of the bodies. As per usual I read it to The Sentinel,
“All troops mobilize immediately.
You are to capture the docks and stop boat shipments. Remember to keep an eye out for the object. Yngvarr wants us to find it, and if we do, there is a huge reward.
Hold the docks until you receive further orders. If refuge is needed, utilize Hjalmar Armoury to the Northwest.
Lt. Kolgrim of Staalgarde”
I said, “Well here is more proof the Jarl of Staalgarde is hiring these thugs. I would guess the object they are searching for is the Heart of the Gods.”
Lydia replied, “Why am I not surprised they don’t know the location of the fabled relic. You once said that such amnesia is quite common.”
“It is. Whether it is a dweomer or not I am unsure. Things that people do not think about on a daily basis become mythical and not factual. Take Dov for instance. Most citizens of The Empire dismissed them as mythical beings and not real history.”
“Kolgrim sounds Orsimer in origin.”
“We have encountered every other race amongst Yngvarr’s army so far. Why not Orsimer as well? They are generally more expensive to hire though due to their combat ‘expertise’. I find it amusing he has a rank of lieutenant. These are not soldiers any more than Sethius’ New Imperials were.”
We made our way back to Amber Creek without incident. First stop was the blacksmiths to give Rangarr the good news. I approached him as he was sharpening a sword on the wheel.
I held out his father’s hammer and said, “Here you are. Back where it belongs.”
He stood and took I from my hands and the large man had tears in his eyes.
“Yes, yes this is it! Thank you so much.”
“Not a problem. Garant did not survive our encounter. None of his gang did. They were scum who preyed upon the defenceless.”
“Please accept the hammer not as a reward but because I have come to realise father made it to be used and not buried to amuse the worms.”
I could see this was important to the man and said, “It is a superb weapon Garant. I personally do not use two handed weapons but have several colleagues who do. It will see plenty of action in the pursuit of what is right and just.”
“My father would be proud, as am I, to know it will be used for such.”
“He gently handed the hammer back to me and I passed it onto Jordis who strapped it next to her two handed sword.”
Rangarr smiled and went back to his sword sharpening with added vigour. We headed for the Jarl’s residence.
As we climbed the steps of Jarl Agnar’s house Lydia said, “You often wonder why people love you and follow you and Queen Rigmor. That man will forever remember your kindness. That is why.”
I turned to her and smiled. She knows how much every member of The Sentinel is adored by their friends Wulf and Rigmor.
The Jarl was sitting with mead in his hand and a worried look on his face. I approached and said, “Yngvarr has just mobilized an army to search for something. Since he was looking for the ‘Key of Leadership’ it is logical to conclude he is also trying to find the Heart of the Gods.”
“Yngvarr’s family, the Unnvaldrs, have fought ours for almost 600 years. We must take the possibility of it happening again very seriously. If he is searching for the Heart we must stop him.”
“Shor sent us to help and the reason is now clear to me. Your family rules by Divine Right. Chosen by a God and earned by the goodness and concern for others that seems to run in your bloodline to this very day. His family have no right. He is a usurper with a false sense of entitlement. He associates being King with power and wealth, not civic duty. We will be more than glad to help you stop him.”
“The Unnvaldrs are smart. Or should I say cunning? They are not much for declaration or show. They value obscurity and disguise.”
“Which means you may have been at war for some time but are only just realising it.”
“That is what I fear. His army may be much larger than we can field. The last time we fought was just over one hundred years ago. His family wanted the throne and they attacked the Falskaar and Amber Holds.”
“In 4E 99 Gordis Unnvaldr read writings left behind by Hjalmer who unsuccessfully tried to conquer Falskaar five hundred years before. His hold was not wealthy due to his inability to rule properly. He did not have enough soldiers so hired an army of mercenaries. Almost a year later and after hundreds of soldiers and guards died he finally surrendered. Not only were many citizens slain, many left the country to escape the war and have never returned. Ironic since your ancestors came to the island for the same reason.”
“You have learned our history well.”
“Are you not terrified of what this means Jarl Agnar?”
“Yes I am. Your arrival marks the ‘start of the worst’. If what is to come is worse than that terrible war then it may spell the end of Falskaar.”
“This must result in Yngvarr’s utter defeat. Your family’s Divine Right to rule must never be questioned again. Shor did not choose us at random Jarl Agnar. We are worth many hundreds of men on the battlefield. We have fought in wars where the soldiers outnumbered the entire population of this land. We have fought and defeated real soldiers, not the rabble this usurper has hired, and against forces that numbered many times our own. The people of Amber Hold and Falskaar Hold will be fighting for their freedom and homeland. Most of the enemy will be fighting for money. You will have a substantial advantage in moral, loyalty and perseverance.”
“He has been nibbling away for years. Testing our resolve I believe.”
“What has he done?”
“There have been some minor skirmishes and attacks since Gordis’ failed attempt. But nothing we could link directly to the Unnvaldrs or Staalgarde. The most recent was twenty years ago when Pinevale was burned to the ground.”
“That is when Rangarr lost this wife and unborn child.”
“Yes and many other good people. I appreciate your wise and good advice Traveller but would feel even more assured with my housecarls by my side. The Hjorgunnar family has served mine loyally for hundreds of years. All that is left of them are two brothers, Ulgar and Svegard.”
“Mark their location on my map Jarl and we shall fetch them for you.”
“They live together in a small cabin in the wilderness. They enjoy fishing and hunting too much to be townspeople.
I looked over the Jarl’s shoulder as he showed me the best way to reach them.
“Follow the river east until you come to this stream. Follow that stream north and it will take you to their cabin. Tell them they are to resume their duties as my housecarls. It is not a statement that is spoken lightly and they will know war is upon us.”
The mist had cleared and it was a pleasant day for a walk along river and stream. One of the brothers could be heard from quite a distance repairing armour on a worktable.
Iona gave the hand signal for silence and walked up to stand right behind him before she coughed.
“Oh…obviously I did not hear you coming. You are well dressed for bandits but there is slim pickings here I am afraid.”
“Relax we are here on behalf of Jarl Agnar. I am Marcos. Are you Ulgar or Svegard?”
“I am obviously the good looking one. I am Ulgar and the ugly one called Svegard was supposed to be keeping an eye out for bandits but is probably asleep inside the hut.”
A disembodied voice from the cabin protested, “I am not asleep! How could I sleep with that racket going on? I was just reading ‘ABCs for Barbarians’.”
“He has been stuck on the letter ‘A’ for a month now. Glad to meet you Marcos. What is so important the Jarl has sent you lot out to our humble abode?”
“Yes, it is grim news. You and Svegard are to resume your duties as Jarl Agnar’s housecarls.”
“That is grim indeed. War is coming and I bet that bastard Yngvarr is behind it.”
“When can you leave?”
“It won’t take us long to prepare. Tell Agnar that we will be with him soon.”
We headed back to Amber Creek and noticed more guards were now patrolling the roads.
When we reached the town Jarl Agnar was heatedly arguing with a balding thug that could only be Yngvarr. Obviously they were in parley so we approached with weapons sheathed.
I stood next to the Jarl and had a good look at the enemy leader. He was a thug as I first thought from a distance. Despite his reasonable armour he was no warrior. I doubt he has fought to the death many times at all.
- Yngvarr: It’s simple and I’ll only ask one more time. Let us search and then we’ll leave
- Agnar: You will do no such thing. I know what you are searching for Yngvarr. I know where it is. You will not be allowed to look for it and would never find it anyway. You will now leave. Do not threaten my people and home again.
- Yngvarr: You will let us search or tell me where it is. Or else!
- Agnar: Or else what?
- Wulf: He might juggle some balls…
- Lydia: …or dance like a clown…
- Iona: …or piss his pants.
Yngvarr stared at us while Jarl Agnar guffawed.
- Yngvarr: Who are these clowns?
- Wulf: We are your worst nightmare Jarl Yngvarr.
- Agnar: Go back to Staalgarde Yngvarr. You are not welcome here. Leave me and my people in peace.
- Yngvarr: I’ll be back and you will regret this. Your whole town will!
- Wulf: Jarl Agnar I have to ask, is this idiot always so boring?
Just then the brothers turned up.
- Ulgar: Got sick of Staalgarde already Yngvarr? I am sure we find a position as a privy cleaner for you.
- Svegard: It could only improve his smell.
- Yngvarr: Shut up both of you.
- Wulf: Better do as he says. I have heard he is a mean juggler!
Yngvarr stormed off with his dignity in tatters and to the accompaniment of loud laughter.
- Agnar: Svegard, Ulgar! It is good to see you two again!
- Ulgar: Indeed it has been too long my friend.
- Svegard: How may we serve you my King?
- Agnar: Svegard, we have been over this.
- Svegard: Sorry. How may we be of assistance Agnar?
- Agnar: Yngvarr is up to something.
- Ulgar: Big surprise there.
- Agnar: He demanded to search the town and has mobilized his entire army.
- Svegard: His entire army?
- Ulgar: He is up to something for sure.
- Wulf: Tell me if I am treading on toes. It won’t do you any good though. I am here to help as requested by Lord Shor himself and I really don’t care at all about squashed toes.
- Agnar: Um…
- Wulf: Good, no objections then. Yngvarr is searching for the five keys to gain access to the Heart of the Gods. He is also searching for the location of the Heart of Gods. He has hired many mercenaries to conduct these searches and to bolster his army. So now we have got the brain numbing speculation out of the way, what are you going to do about it Jarl Agnar?
- Ulgar: Who is…
- Wulf: I am The Traveller. Now shut up while your Jarl tells you what to do.
- Agnar: We have no experience in war and he and his companions have a lot so forget about your squashed toes and listen. I fear Yngvarr will make a move on Amber Creek or Borvald. I want both of you to remain here.
- Ulgar: Of course Agnar. Our swords are yours!
- Agnar: Very good, then we must figure out…
Brother Thorlogh came running up to us. By the fury on his face he has learned a harsh lesson about waiting instead of being proactive.
- Thorlogh: Yngvarr that bastard! He came to the priory demanding to search the place. We let him search the main temple but when he wanted to search the private quarters Brother Collins objected and stood in his way.
- Wulf: Yngvarr’s men cut him down didn’t they?
- Thorlogh: Yes, he was unarmed and they could have just pushed him out of the way! They then proceeded to search the private rooms anyway. They tore it apart. We buried him, cleaned up and grabbed our weapons.
- Wulf: And this is more provocation than kidnapping Mecaius who they would have killed as well if we did not intervene? So now you realise you were already at war when I visited. Just as I warned you. I am sorry it took the death of a prior for you to wake up.
- Thorlogh: You have no right to judge me Traveller!
- Wulf: I have every right. I told you why they kidnapped Mecaius. So you know what they were searching for. The five keys. They are also looking for The Heart of the Gods. They have a head start and we need to catch up!
- Thorlogh: It may be later than ideal Jarl Agnar but we Sons of Shor will fight by your side.
- Wulf: Unbelievable. Sons of Shor yet you ignored those sent by Shor!
- Agnar: That is enough anger Traveller! How about sharing your thoughts on what to do next rather than berate the mistakes of the past.
- Wulf: Forgive me Jarl. I ask The Divine to guide Brother Collins swiftly to Sovngarde.
All present bowed their head and silently repeated the prayer.
- Wulf: Okay, let us think logically. He wanted to search Amber Creek and he has searched the priory. Therefore he is likely to head for Falskaar Hold and demand to search Borvald.
- Agnar: Borvald! Either he has already been there or is headed there now. Jarl Valfred must be warned!
- Wulf: To cut the lengthy process of elimination. You have already asked your housecarls to stay here which is a good idea in case Yngvarr returns.
- Thorlogh: I would also prefer to remain at your side Agnar.
- Wulf: So it is agreed that me and my companions will travel to Borvald and warn Jarl Valfred.
- Agnar: We will start preparations for war. Borvald has been locked down due to the increased bandit activity but his Housecarl should let you in.
- Wulf: If I tell him that we are at war and it will be bigger than any seen in the country before he will let me in or I will smash his gates down.
- Celestine: Believe me Jarl Agnar when I assure you he is quite capable of doing so.
- Agnar: I can tell you are a good man Marcos but there is an underlying anger that is frightening.
- Wulf: Frightening gets things done faster on occasion Jarl. Just like making your enemy angry can cause them to make mistakes. Everything I do and how I do it is thought out. Do not think you know me at all and remember our objective is to help you win this war.
- Agnar: Good speed Traveller. Time is of the essence.
As Agnar went to enter his house and discuss tactics with his advisors we started jogging towards Borvald.