Fredas, 4th Last Seed, 4E 205 to Sundas, 6th Last Seed, 4E 205 Part One

Forgotten Ruins, Forgotten City: Fiefdom.

Khakaankrein told me on the 2nd that Stendarr would have something for me to do after Kyne and Akatosh. Last night Paarthurnax told me what it was.

In the month Sun’s Dawn of 4E 198, Lord Stendarr contacted two Vigilants while they prayed at his shrine. He sent them to investigate a great evil underneath unexplored Dwemer ruins south of Markarth. Master Liandris and Master Brandas were never heard from again. The evil went dormant almost six months after they arrived and a few days ago it returned accompanied by a localised time anomaly. The evil had come and gone hundreds of times since the disappearance of the Dwemer civilisation. There was no pattern to the length of time it stayed, although it was never much more than a decade. Never before had a time anomaly accompanied it.

When Nafalilargus came to pick me up from the Throat of the World, I entered the cabin with trepidation.

It had been a while since Rigmor blasphemed by calling The Divines all sorts of unladylike names. When she heard I was off again in the morning for the third Divine Task without a break, she would have made a sailor blush with her string of expletives.

She had barely calmed down by the time we finished breakfast the next morning.

“I will be as quick as I can, my Queen.”

I was rewarded with a cold stare and folded arms.

“Don’t let me leave like this. You know I go into danger. Be mad at the Gods, not me!”

“I am pregnant, and my emotions are all over the place. I should not be sitting in that dreary throne room! Again you can’t tell me how long you will be! Again I have to run the damn Empire without us making decisions together! I am not angry at you my Dragonborn. I am not angry at our Gods. It is just frustration.”

“How about we see if we can go on another dig with the Explorers Guild?”

“I would like that. Shooting things with my bow is very therapeutic.”

“I thought looking at fossils and reassembling ancient pottery would be the relaxing part?”

“That is not as much fun as shooting something in the head. Just ask Angi.”

“I love you Rigmor.”

“And I love you too. Sorry for being a grump.”

“A grump with a bump! A bumpy grumpy?”

“Now you are asking to be stabbed in the eye with a fork!”

“I don’t know if my Sentinel Squad can enter into the time anomaly or not. Why don’t you delay leaving for a couple of hours and if I can I will let you know what it is all about.”

“Okay. I think a lot of those who want parley will suddenly change their minds when they see it is me sitting solo again. Might as well be aboard the airship twiddling my thumbs rather than the throne room.”

I kissed her on the forehead and cheek and set off for the unknown yet again.

No wonder the Dwemer ruin was unknown. A waterfall hid its entrance from casual view.

The Sentinel checked out the area before they let me climb down the ladder.

The door was hard to see, even when close.

The first thing that drew my eyes when we entered were the Dwemer Sun Lamps. Most plants need sunlight to grow. These lamps provide light that mimics that of the Sun but not all of them were still working. The plants underneath broken lamps were dead. Those underneath the operational lamps thrived.

We were more than a little surprised to find a young Legionnaire within a large cavern. She had drawn her sword upon hearing the large metal doors opening then sheathed it when she saw my Imperial General’s uniform.

She looked oddly at the Sentinel and must have realised they were Penitus Oculatus. She started to study my face intently, went a bit pale, then snapped into a perfect salute.

“At ease soldier.”

She dropped the salute the tried not to fidget in front of me.

“There is no need to be nervous. What is your name?”

“Private Cassia Gallimus your Majesty.”

“I see two bedrolls over in the corner. Is there another Legionnaire hereabouts?”

“My brother, Legate Altrius, came to investigate these ruins with me.”

“I know that man. He was part of Quintus’ legion and fairly young for a Legate.”

“Yes, he fought beside you and Queen Rigmor from Hammerfell to the bridge.”

“And where is he now?”

“He entered the deep shaft over there three days ago.”

“Exactly what are you doing here?”

“We are currently stationed in Markarth. Altius visited the Imperial Library after we found out that was going to be our home for at least twelve months. He wanted to know about the region and stumbled upon an old manuscript that mentioned Dwemer ruins south of Markarth. Whenever we had furlough, we looked for them.”

“Were you searching for treasure, adventure or some other reason?”

“We are hoping just to find enough so Altrius can buy a farm for his retirement. I want enough to open a general goods store in Chorrol.”

“So why didn’t you go with him?”

“Because he made me promise I’d stay here and wait for him, no matter what. And I keep my promises!”

“I will assess the situation and decide what to do next. You are dismissed.”

Cassia gave a sharp salute and walked over to the edge of the shaft. She knelt and looked down. I could see she was worried for her brother. She sighed and wandered off to her corner, where the sleeping bags are.

A book sat upon a pedestal near the shaft,

“If you are reading this, you stand at the entrance to an ancient Dwarven city. No doubt you have never heard of it, for in all my travels and all my study I have never read of it in any text, save for brief descriptions of its location and various interpretations of the plaque above the entrance shaft.

I believe it reads:

‘Those who seek refuge will find peace here, basking in the sun-under-the-ground. Those who seek gold will find riches beyond imagining, but will pay for this folly with their lives, for there is no return to the world of man.’

Is it possible there is life down there? Is it possible the Dwarves are still alive after all this time?

As I stand here on this precipice, war raging all over Tamriel, my mind is made up.

Today I take a leap of faith.

Beloved reader, perhaps one day you will join me. Consider this an invitation – or a warning.

Metellus

11 Evening Star, 4E 194.”

I had a close look at the plaque and agreed with his translation.

I walked closer to the edge of the shaft. I could detect the same Dweomer as Master Neloth, and other Telvanni wizards use. Instead of stairways, you walk into an invisible beam that slowly lifts you up or down. Talvas was kneeling at the shaft’s edge investigating.

“Talvas, I sense it only goes one way.”

“Correct Majesty. You go down by it but will have to find another way up.”

Cassia walked over and worriedly asked, “Majesty, are you going to look for my brother?”

“It is not why we came here, but yes; I will look for him.”

Cassia seemed very relieved.

I said to the Sentinel, “I will be going in alone. I will tell Queen Rigmor of my decision. Accompany me Talvas. Set up camp you other three.”

Talvas and I quickly made our way to the airship and into the cabin. We then sat down with Rigmor to discuss what was to happen.

  • Wulf: Legate Altrius Gallimus entered a shaft three days ago. I must look for him as his sister, also a Legionnaire, is in there and worried sick about him.
  • Rigmor: Isn’t he one of Quintus’ men?
  • Wulf: Yes but he and his sister Cassia are now assigned to Markarth. They had read something about the ruins and decided to investigate.
  • Rigmor: I agree, you must look for him.
  • Wulf: Lord Stendarr, via Kyne, told Khakaankrein that the sense of evil has come and gone hundreds of times. The time anomaly is new. They both started a few days ago.
  • Rigmor: When Altrius entered!
  • Wulf: That is too much of a coincidence and hints that a presence is aware of any trespass.
  • Rigmor: Are you going alone?
  • Wulf: Instinct tells me that is the best way forward.
  • Rigmor: I won’t argue with you on this. We must continue to trust your instincts, and I do not want you to second guess yourself. I have read in your journals and seen first hand how severely that can affect you.

I smiled at my Queen and received one back.

  • Wulf: Entrance is via a deep shaft. A Dweomer similar to what the Telvanni use gently lowers people down. It does not lift them back up again.
  • Rigmor: Do you know of any other exit?
  • Wulf: No, but that is where Talvas might be able to help.
  • Talvas: How can I help Majesty? What do I need to do?
  • Wulf: One of the reasons I am going alone is the one-way shaft. You are familiar with that type of Dweomer. I want you to see if you can make it work both ways.
  • Talvas: I know the principles and will try.
  • Wulf: If I am not back in a week and if the Dweomer is working in both directions then Sentinel, and nobody but Sentinel, are allowed to come and investigate.
  • Rigmor: I understand. I will not come looking for you.
  • Wulf: If I can somehow communicate from within the ruins or city or whatever is down there, I will do so. Also remember I have my Ayleid Pendant. I can always teleport to Sancre Tor and call the airship from there if need be.
  • Rigmor: So your Sentinel Squad will be waiting near the shaft?
  • Wulf: Yes, they are making camp as we speak.
  • Rigmor: At least Cassia will have company. I know all about waiting for a loved one to return.
  • Wulf: You certainly do my Queen.
  • Rigmor: Okay, off you go. I will spend the days gathering cobwebs while sitting on a cold stone throne awaiting your return.

I stood, kissed Rigmor on the forehead and cheek once again then left with Talvas in tow.

The Sentinel had erected four tents by the time we returned.

I quickly told them of the plan, and they stood around as I did a last inspection of the shaft.

“I wonder if this provides water for the city, if there is one.” I speculated out loud.

I said, “Here goes!” then stepped into the Dweomer and slowly drifted down.

I landed in a well then climbed out of it. I faced a long corridor that led to a pair of doors.

A few skeletons scattered around indicated there might be some danger.

I could sense nothing when standing close to the doors so entered.

Straight away, I was plunged into darkness as there were few artificial light sources I could see and no hole in the roof to let in sunlight. All ruins and dungeons would look this if not for the mysteriously lit lamps and candles. My senses told me I was not in a pocket plane, and that linear time was still wonky.

Charred bodies dotted the landscape.

So were many Dwemer Centurions. At a guess, they were responsible for the charred bodies.

Hanging from a tree was a Legionnaire Legate.

The rope snapped as I approached, then the body fell to the ground with a ‘thump’ that echoed.

On him I found a suicide note which read,

“To whoever reads this: I am so sorry you had to find me like this, and worse, that you will share my fate.

I have spent a lifetime in this place, going around and around in circles, searching for a way out. But there are only two choices: death, or the door to the house on the lake. I made the mistake of opening that door. I thought I could help them, if I found the right one, but whatever I did, it took me right back to that Lakehouse. In the end, all I learned is that some things are worse than death. I urge you to learn from my mistakes: Best to take your own life now rather than find out what awaits you beyond that door.

I’ve locked it, and hidden the key – I’ll guard it with my eternal soul if I have to – but I fear even that will not be enough, for the Lakehouse calls to you. And when it does: you must not listen!

Altrius”

Cassia’s brother looked thirty to forty years older than I remembered him. He entered three days ago but wrote he spent a lifetime trying to figure out how to escape. Time was not running faster than on the surface, so I was confused at how that could be. He did not date his note, but the freshness of the corpse suggests he killed himself no more than a day before.

There were many Dwemer buildings, and the largest seemed the logical place to start looking for the key. A Dwemer inscription called it ‘The Citadel’.

It was very dark at first, but as I moved forward, Dwemer Sunlamps automatically came on and lit the way.

All indications were that I was the first to walk the dusty halls for many years.

I decided I would search every room. I wanted clues as to what happened to the city and hopefully, find the key to the boathouse.

There were many floors in the Citadel and ramps led from one to the other.

Each floor had several of the large Centurions.

I found this letter in a room belonging to somebody called Gaia,

“Gaia

I know you’ve already decided to leave, and there’s nothing I can say to convince you to stay with me and your family in High Rock.

I just want to say that I think you’re making a terrible mistake, choosing a life of research in dusty old tombs over what I offered you: marriage, children, and a beautiful home.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I loved you once, but I honestly hope I never see you again. You can burn in Oblivion for all I care.

Jerrol”

It seems Gaia was a Breton archaeologist who rejected a jerk called Jerrol. Good on her for sticking to her dreams and not giving them up for his!

From Vitus’ room,

“Dear Vitus,

Please advise this week on the progress of your efforts to dismantle the Dwarven busts. This is an issue of the utmost importance to me personally. Your efforts will be rewarded.

Sincerely

Jarl Metellus”

The same man who wrote the journal on the pedestal next to the shaft became Jarl of the city. I wondered how many citizens there were.

Vitus is a common Imperial name. The note indicated he was some sort of engineer or mage.

The third note I came across was in a room that belonged to a Chef called Asanshi,

“Dear Chef Asanshi

I am reliably informed that you have been filling my daughter’s head with ideas about the illegal and soul-destroying substance used by degenerates all over Elsweyr, Skooma. It appears you may not have been entirely forthcoming with me about your personal history – as a disgraceful Skooma addict – prior to arriving in my city. I will be watching you closely. I remind you that you are in a privileged position of trust and confidence in my Citadel, and if you do not conduct yourself with the utmost propriety, you will very quickly find yourself living in squalor in the city below.

I trust I have made myself clear.

Sincerely

Jarl Metellus.”

There was enforcement of an artificial class system. It differentiated those who lived in The Citadel from those who lived below in the typical houses.

Gaia, the archaeologist, voluntarily ventured here. Other individuals became trapped against their will. From this letter in Hjormund’s room, he was one such person,

“Dearest Braewyn,

I know this letter will never reach you, but I want to write to you anyway. One of my neighbours here said it might help me get “closure”, whatever that means.

I wish I could tell you how sorry I am about what happened. You must be wondering why I just disappeared one day. I think you know I would never leave you, so by now, you’ve probably assumed I’m dead and moved on. I won’t blame you if you have. Markarth is a hard place, and you’ll need all the help you can get, and our son will need a father.

I just needed to write this down.

I love you.

Hjormund”

I used to write messages in my journal, hoping that Rigmor would at least get to read them if I never got to say them in person. I placed the letter in my journal case. Hjormund’s family deserve to know what happened to him.

Altrius’ ghost appeared when I reached the top floor.

As I approached, he ran at me with weapon drawn.

A single thrust of my sword destroyed him in a crackling of lightning and flame. There were no remains to search.

A large room to the right of where Altrius attacked contained the diary of a young girl called Dwemora,

“Dear journal,

Today my father gave me this stupid journal in the hope that I would write down my ‘thoughts and feelings’.

I KNOW YOU’RE READING THIS, ‘FATHER’!

I may be young, but I’m not stupid. I know you like to go through my things when you think I’m not looking.

You get to keep your secrets – and we both know you like to keep secrets – so I’m keeping mine.

Sincerely,

Dwemora”

I deduced several things. Dwemora was probably a teen girl who questioned the legitimacy of her father, either biologically or through his actions. Since the room is at the very top of The Citadel, I would guess her ‘father’ was the Jarl.

I turned right at the intersection of the long corridor and found a room in darkness barred by a gate. I could not pick the lock.

In the other direction was the Jarl’s living area. Upon a table was a book titled, ‘Citizen Arrival Log’. Its contents were informative,

  • Date: 1 Morning’s Star, 4E 195
  • Name: Brol
  • Quarters: City, north-west chambers
  • Assigned role: Research Dwarven history and technology (self-assigned)
  • Notes: Brilliant!
  •  
  • Date:
  • Name: Gaia
  • Quarters: Citadel, lower floor, room 3
  • Assigned role: Research assistant to Brol
  • Notes: Inquisitive – keep occupied. Potential?
  •  
  • Date: 19 Sun’s Dawn, 4E 195
  • Name: Narnabus – DECEASED?
  • Quarters: City, house on lower circle (VACATED)
  • Assigned role: Research assistant to Brol
  • Notes: Rumored to dabble in necromancy and last seen entering Palace – locked door behind him. Presumed dead?
  •  
  • Date: 4 Rain’s Hand, 4E 195
  • Name: Gulvar
  • Quarters: City, house on lower circle
  • Assigned role: Farmer
  • Notes: Typical lazy Nord.
  •  
  • Date: 9 Rain’s Hand, 4E 195
  • Name: Vitus
  • Quarters: Citadel, middle floor, room 4
  • Assigned role: Investigate Dwemer technology
  • Notes: Imperial Military Engineer. Keep busy.
  •  
  • Date: 3 Mid Year, 4E 195
  • Name: Hjormund
  • Quarters: Citadel, middle floor, room 1
  • Assigned role: Supervise labourers
  • Notes: Nord, but obedient.
  •  
  • Date: 17 Last Seed, 4E 195
  • Name: Harubal – DECEASED
  • Quarters: City, house on upper ridge (VACATED)
  • Assigned role: Courier/herald
  • Notes: Found key?!?
  •  
  • Date: 17 Last Seed, 4E 195
  • Name: Dooley
  • Quarters: City, house on upper ridge (EVICTED)
  • Assigned role: No role (not able to work)
  • Notes: Multiple complaints about requests for help with missing “fortune.”
  •  
  • Date: 11 Frostfall, 4E 195
  • Name: Rastasia
  • Quarters: City, house on upper ridge
  • Assigned role: Tavern manager
  • Notes: Forsworn? Choose words carefully around her. No potential.
  •  
  • Date: 14 Morning Star, 4E 196
  • Name: Asanshi
  • Quarters: Citadel, middle floor, room 3
  • Assigned role: Citadel chef
  • Notes: Former Skooma addict. Keep away from Dwemora! No potential.
  •  
  • Date: 2 Second Seed, 4E 196
  • Name: Domitus
  • Quarters: Citadel, lower floor, room 1
  • Assigned role: Successor-in-waiting
  • Notes: Anger issues?
  •  
  • Date: 2 Second Seed, 4E 196
  • Name: Safira
  • Quarters: Citadel, lower floor, room 1
  • Assigned role: None.
  • Notes: Potential?
  •  
  • Date: 14 Sun’s Height, 4E 196
  • Name: Sato
  • Quarters: Citadel, lower floor, room 2
  • Assigned role: Citadel guard
  • Notes: Completely deaf. Perfect.
  •  
  • Date: 8 Last Seed, 4E 196
  • Name: Vernon
  • Quarters: City, house on lower circle
  • Assigned role: Manage city food store
  • Notes: Likeable.
  •  
  • Date: 27 Hearthfire, 4E 196
  • Name: Luki
  • Quarters: City, north-west chambers
  • Assigned role: Healer
  • Notes: Competent if begrudging. Skilled alchemist. No potential.
  •  
  • Date: 1 Evening Star, 4E 196
  • Name: Ulrin
  • Quarters: City, house on lower circle
  • Assigned role: Fisherman
  • Notes: Pushover. Unproductive since loss of wife.
  •  
  • Date: 1 Evening Star, 4E 196
  • Maisi – MISSING
  • Quarters: City, house on lower circle (MISSING)
  • Assigned role: Citadel cleaner
  • Notes: Potential!
  •  
  • Date: 4 Morning Star, 4E 197
  • Name: Jeshol
  • Quarters: City, house on upper ridge
  • Assigned role: Citadel cleaner
  • Notes: Avoid.
  •  
  • Date: 29 Rain’s Hand, 4E 197
  • Name: Ysmar
  • Quarters: City, house on lower circle
  • Assigned role: Farmer
  • Notes: Good worker. No potential.
  •  
  • Date: 27 Mid Year, 4E 197
  • Name: Habiq
  • Quarters: City, house on lower circle
  • Assigned role: Manages clothing store
  • Notes:
  •  
  • Date: 27 Mid Year, 4E 197
  • Name: Miranda
  • Quarters: City, house on lower circle
  • Assigned role: Street sweeper
  • Notes: Dissenter? Potential.
  •  
  • Date: 14 Frostfall, 4E 197
  • Name: Deglund
  • Quarters: City, house on upper ridge
  • Assigned role: Manage homewares store
  • Notes: Trustworthy?
  •  
  • Date: 2 Evening Star, 4E 197
  • Name: Rykas
  • Quarters: City, house on lower circle
  • Assigned role: City guard (self-appointed)
  • Notes: Aggressive. Knows he’s being watched. Believes statues may come alive – paranoid?
  •  
  • Date: 21 Sun’s Dawn, 4E 198
  • Name: Brandas
  • Quarters: City, house on lower circle
  • Assigned role: No role (injured)
  • Notes: Has upset other subjects with claims about “ancient evil” undercity.
  •  
  • Date: 21 Sun’s Dawn, 4E 198
  • Name: Liandris – DECEASED
  • Quarters: City, chambers (VACATED)
  • Assigned role: –
  • Notes: Vigilant of Stendarr. Died searching underground tunnels. Asked Hjormund to bar doors to tunnels and post a notice warning against further expeditions.
  •  
  • Date: 4 Second Seed, 4E 198
  • Name: Marius
  • Quarters: Citadel, lower floor, room 4
  • Assigned role: None (refused all roles)
  • Notes: Seen wandering the city at night. Watch?
  •  
  • Date: 1 Last Seed, 4E 198
  • Name: Altrius
  • Quarters: City, north-west chambers
  • Assigned role:
  • Notes: Trespassed in my Lakehouse?!?

I deduced quite a bit from this log:

Both Vigilant sent by Lord Stendarr arrived on the 21st Sun’s Dawn, 4E 198. Altrius arrived 23 weeks later. That gave them plenty of time to investigate. Brandas seemed to be telling everybody of the ‘ancient evil’ Lord Stendarr sent them to investigate. Master Liandris died exploring underground tunnels looking for this ancient evil.

Dooley and Harubal were connected. Siblings, lovers or something else I do not know as yet. Dooley got evicted for not being able to work after Harubal died. What kind of arsehole was this Jarl? When the innocent need help you provide it, you do not kick them while they are down!

Every female citizen had a comment about their potential. The rating had nothing to do with their marital status or skills. It can only be a comment on their potential as lovers or, even worse, breeders. Metellus was starting to sounds like somebody who needed removing from power.

Brol is a name familiar to me. He was a Master Mage at the College of Winterhold well before I joined it. He wrote some papers on Dwemer technology and history that didn’t entirely agree with Calcelmo’s. Madras tended to agree with Brol more than Calcelmo even though he worked beside the latter for many years. His assistant was Gaia, who is the only one without an arrival date listed. Another assistant, Narnabus, entered a place called ‘The Palace’ and was assumed dead. He might have been a Necromancer.

The Jarl thought it a good idea to have a deaf guard. What was he afraid of the guard hearing?

I could speculate on a whole lot more, but those deductions I have mentioned I am confident are correct.

Despite a thorough search of many rooms, I had not found the key to the Lakehouse. Every private room in The Citadel had balconies opposite which I had not searched, so I decided to start with the one opposite the Jarl’s room.

First thing I noticed is that it was no longer dark.

Up above was a familiar Dwemer Globe that was acting as an artificial Sun. A beam of energy within another building seemed to be powering it. Logic tells me when I entered The Citadel that turned the lights on both inside and out! All the foliage I could see was dead suggesting they had been without sunlight for some time.

Second thing I noticed was an unlocked Dwemer chest. Inside was a key which I assumed was to the Lakehouse.

I made my way to the Lakehouse and stood before the door for a while studying it. There was a strong Dweomer emanating from it and sheen of blue and purple covered the surface. The fact I could detect it meant the Dweomer was not Daedric in nature. The only thing I could compare it to was the Paladin Amulet I used yesterday to go back six millennia and the Time-Wound at the Throat of the World that sent my consciousness back even further. It was a time portal of some sort.

I unlocked the door then entered.

While the door was open, I looked back, and the purple and blue sheen I saw from the outside was an opaque portal that filled the doorway. I closed the door to avoid accidentally stepping into the portal.

The handy spell Urag had taught me was now a Dweomer on my Guardian General’s Helm. It highlighted a note sitting on a table which read,

“Seven years ago, I discovered this wondrous city, uninhabited. Others soon followed, heeding my invitation, and our community grew and prospered under my rule. But as I write this, I am alone once again, for my subjects have been the victims of an unspeakable atrocity.

This is why, at the expense of my own life, I must open a portal that will take you into the past, before all this began. Beloved reader, you must go back, investigate what set this atrocity in motion, and prevent it, by any means necessary.

Jarl Metellus

Last Seed, 4E 198”

I think Legate Altrius had travelled back through time on more than one occasion. That would explain his age when he committed suicide. Each time he failed to prevent the ‘unspeakable atrocity’ which I assume was something triggering the many Dwemer Centurions to attack and kill everybody.

The Jarl must have been aware of the potential for the atrocity before it occurred the first time. That is why he had the time portal Dweomer ready to use. He hoped somebody would come along and figure out how to prevent the atrocity and thus change the timeline.

The Dweomer must have a necromantic element that uses the life source, the soul, of the caster to power it.

He did not sacrifice himself no matter his bold claim in the note. He was a dead man walking as the Centurions would have eventually killed him. There was nothing generous in his actions as he was a man who didn’t want to lose his little kingdom and power. Saving his ‘citizens’ was secondary.   

What I assume were the Jarl’s remains lay prostrated before the door. His hand was reaching out as if trying to touch it.

Do you know the feeling you sometimes get that something or somebody is watching you? I always take notice as it has proven right and saved my life on several occasions. I stopped, stood still and used all my senses.

I looked up at the type of bust you see in every Dwemer ruin. The difference being is this one had glowing green eyes. Rykas, one of the citizens listed in the log, had complained about being watched. The Jarl had asked a Legion engineer to investigate the dismantling of the busts. I realised that they were everywhere this City. In places you would usually not see them and in higher numbers than any Dwemer place I have visited before.

I debated stacking things and climbing up to get a closer look at the bust. There were others at a more convenient height elsewhere, so I decided instead to wait and look at one of them.

With no more delay, I stepped through the portal.

It went from purple to orange and then to blinding white.

Sound gave me a clue first. I could hear people and activity in the city.

Then my eyesight slowly returned.

All the foliage that was dead was now alive and vibrant. People were walking the streets, tilling the fields and fishing.

Sequential Time felt right. Like it did before Nagasel.

I approached a man sitting on the jetty who challenged me, “You there! Where did you come from?”

“I’ve just arrived.”

“Strange, it looked like you came out of the Jarl’s private lakehouse.”

“I did. I stepped through a time portal from the future, and here I am.”

“A what? Oh, I see, you’re a little bit crazy. Well, you’re in good company here. Lots of us weren’t thinking straight when we arrived.”

“My name is Wulf. May I ask yours?”

He stood then said, “Oh, that was rude of me. I am Gulvar.”

“You are the Nord farmer who arrived on the 4th of Rain’s Hand in 4E 195. You live in a house in the lower circle. Vitus, the engineer, arrived about five days later.”

“How did you know that?”

I knew what the date would be but asked Gulvar anyway.

“What is today’s date?”

“It is the first day of Last Seed.”

“And the year?”

“Still trying to convince me you come from the future, huh? It’s the hundred and ninety-eighth year of the Fourth Era.”

I am slowly starting to master gobblygook as I knew it would be the same date that Legate Altrius arrived! That is when Lord Stendarr detected the time anomaly.

“You have never met an Imperial Legate by the name of Altrius have you?”

“Ahh, no. Look, you seem a little… you know… so I’ll make this nice and simple for you. Live by our laws, and we’ll all get along just fine.”

“And where will I find a list of your laws?”

“No need for a list. Don’t hurt anyone and don’t steal anything. Same as anywhere else. Only the punishment here is much, much worse.”

“They confiscate your sweet-rolls?”

“I would not take it lightly. The Jarl can tell you more, and help you get settled in. Might even have some quarters for you. I can take you to him if you like.”

“No need. Jarl Metellus is on the top floor of The Citadel. So is his daughter Dwemora. Do I need a pass or something to get past that deaf guard of his?”

“I am not going to ask how you knew that.”

“Good Gulvar, it is probably best you don’t ask. What did you do before ending up here?”

“It is a sad story, but I don’t mind telling it. I have always been a farmer and grew up on a farm near Windhelm. It was a good life. Fresh milk and eggs every day. I used to run around the farm barefoot with my brother and sisters. Never even had to lock our doors. One day when I was about eighteen, my father and I were carting some produce to the market when we saw a group of strangers in the top field. My father told me to run back to the house and get his axe, so I did. I ran so fast I almost threw up. But by the time I got back, it was too late. I found him dead by the side of the road. The cart and all our produce were gone. That was the first time I learned about bandits.

My mother passed soon after, and I took over the farm. Now, I’m as good a farmer as any and better than most, but things went down from there. The raiding started before too long. I’d come outside at dawn and find a few chickens missing. Next was a cow. Then two cows.”

“This sounds familiar. Go on.”

“That was the first time in five generations my family started locking its doors at night. We knew the guards from Windhelm weren’t going to help us. One night, when we had nothing left to steal, there was a knock at the door. I knew who it was and what they wanted. I took my father’s axe and pulled the door open quickly. Before he knew it, that bandit had that axe right down the middle of his skull! But there were more of them. I never saw how many because the next thing I knew, I was waking up with a mouth full of dirt and lungs full of smoke. My home burned to rubble. My family slaughtered like cattle. And they left me alive to see what they’d done. It still hurts whenever I think about it.”

“A story I have heard many times and not just in Skyrim. You might have been better off in another hold like Whiterun.”

“Well at least I got one of the bastards. Cleaved that grin that bastard had right in half. Sometimes it helps me get to sleep at night. Sometimes.

Anyhow, after that I drifted some, took odd jobs around Falkreath, but nothing seemed to work out. And then I… I guess I got desperate.”

“You turned into one of them, didn’t you?”

“Almost. I… you know… I started taking things, carrots or cabbages, just enough to survive. I wasn’t proud of it. And then one day I watched myself break into somebody else’s farmhouse and help myself to their things. And I… I guess I realised what I’d become.

Next thing I knew I was looking for a place to die, and I found the entrance to this place, and that shaft. And I started my life all over again.”

“You are a good man Gulvar. You turned your back on the easy solution of taking what other people have worked to get. Now you have a farm of your own again.”

“Well I’m a farmer, but the land I work isn’t mine. Metellus had declared himself Jarl and claimed all the farmland before I got here.”

“So you work the land he takes the food. You are a serf, and that is no better than being a slave!”

“All I’ve ever wanted is to make a living by working the land. But it seems someone always has to go and steal the fruits of my labour. That bloody Jarl! He is no better than the bandits that destroyed my life. Only difference is he uses words instead of weapons.

But he’ll get his, one day!

I… err… just do me a favour and keep that last part to yourself, would you?”

“He is worse than those bandits. He is a slave owner. This land is part of Markarth Hold. That makes it part of Skyrim and thus subject to its laws and those of The Empire. He is breaking the law, and I have the legal right to arrest and detain him.”

“That fancy general’s uniform means nothing down here. Talk to the Jarl, you will see.”

“I intend to believe me. But first I will have a chat with Brol the mage and Brandas, the Vigilant of Stendarr.”

“Yep, I do not want to know how you know these things so goodbye, see you around!”

My fury was growing. What I have come across is a fiefdom run by the elite. I can’t wait to tell the Jarl the facts of life.

Then I can concentrate on solving this little puzzle.

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