Velothi Mountains, Chlodovech Castle: Tick Tock.
Yesterday Inigo had approached Rigmor and me in the Tap&Tack. He was more than a little angry!
- Wulf: Inigo, I thought you were spending a few days with Latoria in Riften?
- Inigo: When I arrived and entered that lovely house of yours there, I found her upset. A smelly-bandit had waylaid her!
- Rigmor: Oh, is she okay?
- Inigo: She is better than the bandit who found an ice spear sticking out of his belly.
- Wulf: I can see you are angry. Tell us exactly what happened.
- Inigo: Latoria wanted to get away from the museum earlier than I could leave the Imperial City. So, she went to Riften and stayed in the Bee and Barb for a few days. She walked to Fort Greenwall to morn Professor Marassi at the boarded entrance to the ruins. His death has upset her as he was very kind and considerate to her. Kindness to any Khajiit is still a rarity in Skyrim.
- Rigmor: Attitudes will change Inigo. They have to.
- Inigo: On the way back to Riften, when she was still upset and not as aware as she should have been, the bandit attacked her. If she were not Khajiit, she would be dead. Her reflexes saved her then her Magicka made short work of the assailant.
- Wulf: I am so sorry such scum still exists even with the extra patrols.
- Inigo: The bandit had this note on him, and I think you may be interested.
Inigo handed me a handwritten note which read,
I have got a delving job for us. Meet me out near Cragwallow Slope in Eastmarch. Leave as soon as you get this. I hear-tell of some ruins there leading into the Velothi mountains; just uncovered by a landslide, they say.
This find is a big opportunity. Fresh ruins! If we could be the first to pick them over, we could be rich! Who knows what’s down there, though? Bring the best gear you can. Pick off someone on the road with good stuff if you have to – just get it and get to me, quick as you can.
- Wulf: Is it another path through the Velothi mountains?
- Inigo: Nafalilargus docked at Riften, so Latoria and I decided to fly to Solitude. J’zargo said it should be okay. I hope he will not get in trouble for taking us there.
- Rigmor: You are part of our Royal Guard and can use the airship as you see fit. I assume you and Latoria wanted to ask Auryen and the others if they knew of any ruins that might be there?
- Inigo: Yes, and it did spark some memory in Auryen. He looked through his copious volumes of notes he had taken down over centuries. He said there was an old trade route in that area, but it was no longer viable after the Red Mountain eruption. The people who were to use the route told others of unusual Dwemer ruins in the vicinity.
- Rigmor: Just the sort of thing a couple of ruthless bandits would kill to explore.
- Inigo: That is what we thought. Latoria targeted simply to get equipment for this ‘delving job’.
- Wulf: You did the right thing bringing this to our attention Inigo. If there are unexplored Dwemer ruins there, we should find and secure them before some bandit gang strips it.
- Rigmor: We all just experienced what can happen when these ancient Dwemer sites are disturbed. And that was by people who know what they were doing! Bandits would have no qualms tearing apart important artefacts for precious jewels and other valuables.
- Inigo: Smelly bandits place no value on history or dead religions. Unfortunately, I speak from experience.
- Wulf: Your squad is back on duty tomorrow. We shall take Nafalilargus and have a look.
- Rigmor: I am glad Latoria is okay. Maybe you and Wulf might find some interesting, and safe, Dwemer ruins for the Explorers Guild to do their own delving. That would cheer up poor Latoria a tiny bit.
- Inigo: She would be happier for me to meet Camilla and send her to The Void to join Isidor!
So that is how we found ourselves back in Skyrim searching for ancient Dwemer ruins!
At first light, we flew over the area around Cragwallow Slope. The newly uncovered passageway was easily spotted. It was just after 8:00 AM when we were ready to explore.
Rigmor had been showing some interest in Alchemy, so I gave her some simple recipes she could use for practice. She was so absorbed in what she was doing; she did not notice me standing close by and watching.
After a couple of minutes, she realised I was there, looked up and then asked, “Making sure I don’t blow up Nafalilargus?”
“I was simply enjoying the spectacle of my beautiful wife.”
“Are you heading off now?”
“Yes, my beloved. Do I get a goodbye kiss?”
Rigmor gave me a very comprehensive goodbye kiss that elicited laughter from the two Sentinel squads.
My squad left the cabin and scouted the immediate area before giving me the okay to join them. Rigmor would be flying via the ether to the Imperial City for a day of bum numbing throne time.
Due to the tall and dense forest, we had to anchor Nafalilargus a fair distance from the passageway’s entrance. It was right next to the Dovah burial mound where I found Alduin resurrecting Sahloknir and not far from Kynesgrove.
We had to climb to Mzulft and then head west from there.
I looked over at Nafalilargus. It would soon ether to the Imperial City with my wife and unborn child aboard. Rigmor and me may appear casual when we depart, but I am never guaranteed to return. It is a charade.
Somebody had gone through a lot of effort to uncover the doorway to the passage. The evidence of the recent rockslide was still visible.
Inigo said, “That looks like a major structure.”
“Yes, if this was a trade route that would make sense. A single bandit could not remove the rubble from the doorway.”
“Camilla did not hint at gang involvement. I think it was going to be just her and Isidor.”
I examined the doorway and surrounding stonework, and it appeared to be very unstable.
I told The Sentinel, “I am going to enter first. If this doorway collapses, I can get away easily. A group of us could not.”
They knew I was right, so did not argue. I entered, and loud cracking soon replaced the creaking of support beams. I ran ahead a bit then turned around. The entranceway collapsed in a cloud of dust.
I walked up to it and could hear Meeko barking frantically. I only had to use a small bit of Thu’um for The Sentinel to hear me.
“SHUSH MEEKO, I AM ALRIGHT! I AM GOING TO CONTINUE EXPLORING. I CAN USE MY AYLEID WAYSTONE TO GET OUT OF HERE WHENEVER I WISH SO DO NOT WORRY. USE THE BEACON TO RECALL THE AIRSHIP AFTER IT HAS FINISHED ITS TRIP TO THE IMPERIAL CITY AND THEN WAIT ABOARD. I WILL EITHER SUMMON IT AT THE END OF THIS PASSAGEWAY OR FROM SANCRE TOR. THREE BARKS IF THE SENTINEL HEARD ME.”
A few seconds later, Meeko gave three barks.
I looked at the passageway. It was well built, but the supporting beams were not in good shape. It indeed appeared to be designed for cart traffic which supported the theory of it being a trade route.
On the floor was a note. I picked it up and read it,
Got sick of waiting for you. I’ve gone on ahead to scout the tunnels. I’ll put up some torches to light the way; pick up your feet and follow them to find me.
I mean it: hurry up. I want to see your fingers stained from finding this note with the ink still wet. Something in this place makes my hair stand on end; it’s as if the shadows are moving.
I was starting to formulate a theory on what had happened. Perhaps a bandit gang had cleared the doorway then decided the place was too unstable. Camilla seems to be willing to chance it.
There were storage rooms and barracks not far into the complex.
The Imperial ruins gave way to a large cavern full of Dwemer buildings. I could see the exit at the far end and up a slight slope. The trade route would have used the Dwemer roadway, but fallen rocks and rubble now covered part of it. Camilla had lighted Dwemer lamps along the way.
There was a canal next to the roadway. It had been hewn out of the granite rock by the Dwemer.
I found another note from Camilla.
Dwemer ruins! I thought this was just an old Imperial place, but no, that must have come later. There’s more than that here. This place might be it and could change everything for us!
Just be careful; there IS someone else down here… something not right about her. Always disappears before I can get a good look.
I can’t leave though; not now.
I couldn’t blame Camilla for continuing. In the back of my mind, I imagined Rigmor asking, “Are you insane? Travelling through ruins by yourself instead of teleporting out!”
The lure of the unknown is more potent than common sense. Rigmor disobeyed her father and explored Ayleid ruins with Loonashadow. So, I asked my imaginary Rigmor, “Where is your sense of adventure?” She had no answer.
Once you got past the rubble, the roadway was in excellent condition. Depending on where it came out in Morrowind, this could be a valuable addition to the established trade routes. I am sure I could get the East Empire Trading Company interested.
Camilla mentioned ‘someone else down here’. That ‘someone else’ was staring at me from atop a Dwemer watchtower.
I cast Detect Life and scrutinised her. She was not alive. When she was, she was a Dwemer!
I tried the few words of greeting I know how to speak in Dwemer and then Falmer. She stared at me but did not respond. I decided to ignore her for now.
Underneath one of the Dwemer towers, a huge spider had made a nest. By the size of the wrapped bundles, its regular food was Skeever.
Just in case some other less able person came along, I thought I would take care of the eight-legged menace. I walked into the middle of the platform, and Hairy Legs dropped in for lunch. I jumped aside and plunged my sword into its centre. It died, and I swear I could hear the local Skeevers cheering.
I reached the end of the cavern then climbed up a ramp.
I was back inside Imperial ruins.
Sunlight streamed in from a grate above.
I started down a set of spiral stairs.
Falling rocks had damaged the stairway. I could see some water below, so I decided to jump down.
A bit further on from the damaged stairs was another note from Camilla.
Watching me over the other side of a wall was the Dwemer ghost.
The note read,
This place is all wrong. I can’t go back; I can’t face it.
Where are you?
I said to the ghost, “Camilla’s friend is dead after attacking a friend of mine. You might want to tell her if you know where she is.”
The ghost just stared then vanished.
I soon made my way to where the ghost had stood. The ground was scorched, where tremendous heat was applied. Was this a hint as to how the Dwemer woman had died?
I entered through a door into narrow passageways.
The wood here looked buckled, and the whole structure seemed more than a little fragile.
There was way too much lighting in a storeroom for Camilla to have bothered lighting. Many candles highlighted numerous skulls. They seem to have been deliberately placed upon the shelves long after the rooms original use was redundant.
Latoria would have become an instant scaredy-cat! The skulls all moved in unison to follow my movements.
Shelf after shelf of eyeless sockets watching. I was impressed with the Conjuration and Illusion skills required!
When I exited the storeroom, a single skull watched from the centre of the next room. Its eyes reflected my lamplight. They were not empty eye sockets like all the others.
It too followed my movements.
I closed my lamp’s shutter. Aqua coloured gems filled the eyes sockets. Behind the gems, a dim illumination was evident. The skull sat atop hot coals. All of this highly amused me. Camilla, on the other hand, was probably soiling her britches. Aww, poor Camilla!
I climbed some steps into an auditorium.
Slumped in the middle of the auditorium was a body.
Next to the body was a note, quill and ink.
The note said,
“I needed you, and you aren’t here. I thought those were your footsteps, but they weren’t. Always coming up behind me, but nothing there.
Time stood still, and she came towards me… slowly, slowly. I couldn’t move. I can’t leave anymore. Can’t face it. Can’t go back out into the world.
I’ll just sit here, and…
I’ll just stay here with the bones, until it’s over.
I inspected Camilla’s body and found no signs of injury. Logic dictates she cannot have been in the tunnels and ruins for more than a couple of days. She had a full water flask, and dried provisions with her so did not starve or die of thirst. Could she have died of fright? I have encountered such corpses before. They are always in a huddle or defensive position. It looked like Camilla just sat and let something kill her, but I could not see how her death came about.
At the exit of the auditorium, the Dwemer Ghost appeared.
A loud wailing siren sounded as she slowly walked towards me.
I could feel a compulsion to stand still, which I easily ignored. But I stood in place out of curiosity. I wanted to know who this woman was, or used to be.
When she got within feet of me, I could feel my life force being drained much like powerful Lich can do.
The ghost vanished along with the break in the bars before me. I now faced solid bars preventing any movement along the corridor from which the ghost had approached me.
I heard the unmistakable grinding of bones that accompanies Skeletal Warriors. I turned to find three of the ugliest I had ever seen reaching for me.
Unrelenting Force turned them into a pile of disconnected bones.
I realised I was not in the part of the ruins I had been in seconds ago. I must have teleported somewhere else. Somewhere full of weird bone sculptures to rival any I had encountered in Evermore.
They were all Dwemer skeletons. The bone sculptures were more amusing than ritual in nature. I had seen nothing to indicate the Dark Lord Namira was involved.
The blue flames of Dwemer braziers now illuminated my way.
Tons of Dwemer bones blocked many passageways and exits. There must have been a sizeable population who lived and died in the ruins in which I walked.
I was starting to appreciate the artistry, and dark humour, of the bone sculptures.
Cobwebs and dust told me I was in a place seldom bothered by mortal travellers.
In a room covered by several feet of bones, skeletons held hands in a circle with another four facing away from each other in the centre. The four skeletons in the middle were Skeletal Warriors waiting for a victim to enter. I obliged them by striding into the room.
A bright orb appeared in the middle then the four Skeletal Warriors attacked as the other skeletons collapsed.
Unrelenting Force destroyed two of them.
I cut down the other two in seconds.
I stared into the glowing orb and said, “This is getting boring. If there is a point to all of this, get to it!”
Lesser spirits manifested themselves as dimly lit Will O’ Wisps. A strong sense of Déjà vu prevailed. Not long ago I followed the Snow Elf High Priestess who was also accompanied by Will O’ Wisps. Yet those were considerably brighter than these.
I was starting to walk across more rooms full of bones. To stop me getting bored an occasional Skeleton Warrior or two would emerge from their perfect camouflage and attack.
More glowing orbs, Will O’ Wisps, Skeletal Warriors and Bone Sculptures made a trip through otherwise dull ruins a tiny bit more interesting.
Eventually, I came to another spiral staircase with a steady stream of water cascading through its centre.
The stairs gave access to a vast cavern. A lake with a frozen surface covered the bottom. Floating towards me, pulled along by an under the ice current, was the Dwemer Ghost.
She stopped just below the platform on which I stood and stared at me. I must admit I was thoroughly enjoying this little adventure. I wonder how long the dead woman will keep trying to scare me before she realises it is a futile exercise?
There were many levels below the ice and water.
I dimmed my lamp as it light reflected off the ice and prevented me from seeing details. After doing this, I could see a small waterfall leading to the outside so walked across the ice towards it. I could also see a walkway leading to an exit higher up.
I could have made my way out via the waterfall but decided not to. My curiosity was too intense.
Instead, I decided to climb up to the walkway I had seen before.
Not very observant Skeletal Warriors lined the walkway.
After I blasted one to pieces with Unrelenting Force, I decided that was not a good idea. Large boulders fell from the ceiling and through the ice with a loud crunch!
Instead of Unrelenting Force, I used lightning to destroy the enemy.
I exited the walkway into more Imperial ruins. These looked to be in better repair and had fewer sculptures and Skeletal Warriors.
The Dwemer Ghost materialised in front of me. She did not walk but floated. She was not upright but slumped over. She came straight at me, causing my lifeforce to begin draining. Lightning did no damage to her.
I experimented by moving around quickly. The Dwemer Ghost would pivot on the spot just as quick as I moved. However, if I got some distance from her, she did not speed towards me to cause me harm.
If I climbed stairs or got too far ahead, she would travel through the floors and walls to keep up with me.
It was soon apparent that the Dwemer Ghost wanted me to follow a particular path through the maze of corridors and rooms.
Occasionally the siren I heard earlier would sound and the corridor I had just exited would collapse behind me. The siren came from the ghost, and it did not want me to backtrack.
I only had to keep up an average walking pace to please her and stay ahead of the damaging aura she emitted. The condition of the Imperial structure slowly improved. I started to see evidence once again of the trade route that it once was.
The Dwemer Ghost continued to collapse the tunnels and corridors behind me.
Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of the outside. Deliberate collapses had already blocked those exits.
Finally, I came to an exit that was not blocked. A cold breeze promised fresh air after hours of dust and darkness.
I exited then took in some deep breaths while I stared at the stars and drifting clouds.
I was standing on a ledge that overlooked a magnificent house of a type I had never seen before. Its construction included Dwemer materials, but it was of a design similar to the manor houses I had seen in Evermore.
Standing before a closed gate was a Dwemer automaton, sorry, Dwemer animalculum, (I promised Madras and Auryen I would start using the correct term).
The Dwemer animalculum was of a type I had never seen before. It watched me as I descended and held a torch which I found strange as none of the animunculi I had encountered or read about needed artificial light to find their way in even the darkest of places.
I decided not to approach the gatekeeper. Instead, I moved away to the right of the gate. I then set a beacon, summoned Nafalilargus then sat and waited patiently. Many rabbits came to investigate, but no other living being bothered me.
Two hours later the airship appeared from the ether. I climbed the ladder and studied the estate from a greater height than the ledge had provided. In the far distance, standing next to a lit lantern, was another strange Dwemer animalculum.
Inigo immediately accosted me upon entering the cabin. He asked, “Well, did you find that bitch?”
“She was already dead. Killed by a Dwemer Ghost.”
“I hope you thanked the ghost!”
“That ghost wanted me to find a particular exit to the trade route for that is what it was. But before that it was a Dwemer ruin of considerable size and complexity.”
“So, where are we?”
“Come, let us find out together as I am not sure what this place is.”
The Sentinel followed close behind as we climbed down from the airship and approached the gate.
We stood before the locked gate wondering if the Dwemer animalculum would say anything. After a couple of minutes staring at each other, I said, in Tamrielic, “Hello, my name is Wulf. These are my guards, The Sentinel.” Meeko nudged my hand, so I added, “And this walking flea city is Meeko.”
In a very strange voice, mechanical but not metallic, the animalculum replied, “I am Lahar, welcome to Clockwork Castle. It has been many years since somebody visited. Lamashtu wants to speak to you. Please, follow me.”
The gates swung open. As Lahar started to walk away, he said, “I came out when I heard the rock-fall. By the sound of it, you are lucky to be unhurt.”
“It was not luck Lahar.”
“It was the tunnel, wasn’t it? It has been threatening to collapse for a long time now.”
“Like my survival was not luck, the collapse was not accidental.”
“Well, it is collapsed, which means there’s no going back that way. You may be trapped here. Well… Lamashtu will know what to do.”
Inigo said to Lahar, “Didn’t you see that big airship that just blinked into existence from the ether. That is one way we can get out of here. We are not trapped.”
Lahar did not reply. The rest of the walk to the front door of the estate was in silence.
We entered a dark abode, but even in the weak light of the torch, the luxury and quality of the furniture and fittings was apparent.
Lahar walked ahead of us once more. He explained as we went, “I apologise for the state of the house. It has just been Lamashtu and I here for some time now. I shall light the lamps momentarily.”
We walked past a shrine to Lord Zenithar. It was comfortable to see the abode was once home to followers of The Divines.
We followed Lahar up several flights of stairs.
Then we exited to the small courtyard I had seen from Nafalilargus’ deck. Still standing next to the lighted lantern was the other Dwemer animalculum who I assumed was Lamashtu.
Lahar stopped, faced us then said, “Lamashtu is just over there. Please introduce yourself to her. In the meantime, I shall go light the lamps and unlock the doors. Please excuse me.”
As Lahar walk away, Meeko whined then nudged my hand. I said to him, “Yes, he does have good manners. Unlike a four-legged friend of mine.”
Lamashtu did not turn to greet us but stood staring ahead.
Only when I spoke did she turn. I said, “Hello, Lamashtu. Lahar said you wanted to speak to us.”
“Who are you? What are you doing here?”
I was wearing my Vestige armour, so there is nothing to indicate I am the Emperor. I replied, “I am Wulf, an archaeologist who travelled through the mountain tunnels. My companions, including the white drooling one, are called The Sentinel. As for what I am doing here. What else do archaeologists do but investigate dusty old ruins and tunnels?”
“The tunnel collapsed. I heard it. No one had used those tunnels in well over a hundred years.”
“Well, it will probably be a few months before anybody can travel through them again.”
“There is only one other way out of the castle and this valley. Beneath the keep is the Travel Machine. It can transport you to the major settlements of Skyrim. Ask Lahar to take you to it. He will need to let you out, on the other side.”
I pointed to Nafalilargus then said, “We can leave here whenever we wish. May I ask you some questions?”
“Go to Lahar. Ask him to let you out through the Travel Machine. Leave me be now!”
Lamashtu returned to staring into the darkness.
I turned to Inigo and asked him, “Did you notice the difference between Lahar and Lamashtu?”
“Apart from one being male and polite and the other female and rude, no.”
“Lamashtu’s voice comes from a horn that points out of her neck and to her right. Lahar’s came from a horn that point’s forward.”
“So now I know the difference between boy and girl metal people, but how are metal babies made?”
“They get horny?”
“Mr Dragonfly says you are weird. I agree with him.”
Meeko barked, and I replied to him, “I know Meeko. A blue Khajiit who speaks to a dragonfly called me weird. Everybody knows dragonflies can’t talk!”
Inigo laughed as we made our way inside to investigate the ‘Travel Machine’.
Lahar was waiting for us on a balcony. When we approached, he said, “I have readied the master bedroom and will soon clean the barracks.”
“Why would we need those?”
“You may be staying with us for some time.”
“We can leave in our airship if we wish to. If we stay, it will be by choice. Lamashtu said you’d show me the ‘Travel Machine.’”
“That is strange. The Travel Machine is not functional at this time. Very few machines here are working right now, as the pressurised steam they rely on is not reaching the castle. Perhaps she forgot.”
“I am not familiar with your people; however, she does seem a bit distant compared to you. I would like to see the Travel Machine anyway.”
“Of course. Please follow me.”
We followed Lahar down several flights of stairs. The quality of furnishings and decorations became even more apparent in the bright illumination.
On the bottom floor, we stood before a door. On a plaque upon the door was an icon unfamiliar to me.
We entered a room dominated by a perfectly detailed map of Skyrim. Upon the map were buttons for each Hold plus one for Solstheim. At the bottom of the map was a larger button with the same symbol upon it as the door plaque. Pressing the buttons did nothing.
I walked up to a portal and noticed an illuminated dial which rotated to indicate which Hold you had chosen as the destination.
The portal itself was inert. There was no Magicka and no Dweomer.
I turned and said to Inigo, “We must get this working. Combined with the knowledge Knight-Paladin Gelebor is giving us, we could soon create a network of portals.”
“The map only covered Skyrim. Do you think there is a reason for that?”
“I don’t know. It could have been a political decision at the time of its creation.”
I walked up to Lahar and asked, “What broke the machine, and how do we fix it?”
“We are subject to the occasional tremor here; from Red Mountain, I believe. One such tremor is to blame for this broken machine and others about the castle. It was a particularly violent tremor that resulted in a breach of the main steam pipeline. I attempted to repair the damage, but my brothers and sisters hampered my efforts. They drove me out.”
“Explain brothers and sisters. Are they family?”
“Not by blood but by the process to make what we have become. The others live in Nurndural, deep beneath the castle. They have grown wild, and we are no longer welcome there.”
“I don’t suppose they would enjoy our company much either.”
“They would be immediately hostile on sight.”
“Before we risk combat with your brothers and sisters I have to know, could we repair the pipeline?”
“Yes, you could. That would restore steam-power to the castle and allow the Travel Machine to work.”
“I assume the pipeline is easy to find and the broken sections also obvious?”
“Yes, it is easy to find. The pipeline ferries steam from deep in Nurndural. You can follow it from where it enters the castle. The broken parts spew steam and are visible from a distance.”
“How much work is involved in repairing the pipeline?”
“For what I saw, there are at least ten sections of pipe that need repair or replacement. Fortunately, plenty of scavenged replacement pipes lay about down there. Alternatively, if you know how to work Dwemer metal, you could use the forges down there to cast your own.”
“How do we access Nurndural?”
“Passage to Nurndural may be found through the mausoleum which you can access from outside. Lamashtu has the key, so you will need to obtain it from her. In the meantime, you are our guest here. Please treat Clockwork Castle as your home.”
“Can I ask you some questions?”
“Yes, I shall endeavour to answer.”
“I have travelled through many Dwemer ruins. You and Lamashtu are unlike any Dwemer animunculi I have encountered although there are some physical similarities. Are you both golems?”
“I am unfamiliar with that term.”
“A golem is a being whose soul has been transferred to a non-flesh body, whether it be metal, stone, water or other substance.”
“I am a caretaker. I keep the castle in good repair.”
“I am an archaeologist, and my species is Man. My blue friend is a warrior, and his species is Khajiit. My green scaly friend is a warrior, and her species is Argonian. My white friend is a warrior and his species is, well were not quite sure what species he is.”
“I…I am a caretaker. I also see to the needs of castle residents. Once the Travel Machine is again functional, I can use it to trade for necessities with merchants in Skyrim.”
It seems that Lahar has difficulty identifying his species. To me, that is logical if a golem is without knowledge of their previous fleshy existence. I changed the subject and asked, “How do you manage to speak to the citizens of Skyrim without generating suspicion?”
“I wear robes and a cowl that leaves my face in shadow. Observers believe that beneath robe and cowl I am wearing a suit of Dwemer armour. I must modulate my voice a bit, so I speak as little as possible.”
“I know we are high in the Velothi mountains not far from the Morrowind border. This location and the tunnels, before the collapse, would have made an ideal trading route between the two nations. Therefore, I assume this castle belongs to a trading family.”
“Correct. The castle is naturally well-defended by its very remote and treacherous surrounds. It was built by the Chlodovech family in the closing years of the Third Era, over two hundred years ago. It was originally called Chlodovech Castle. Many call it Clockwork Castle due to the large amount of machinery it contains. The Chlodovech’s were very successful traders, and the castle designed to administer a new trading route between Skyrim and Morrowind.”
“But the events of the Red Year put paid to that plan?”
“Yes, the devastation caused by the eruption of Red Mountain destroyed the trade route and the people they wish to trade with.”
“The Dunmer people were also decimated by the attack of the Argonian people. They were once the Dunmer’s slave race, much as the Dwemer used the Snow Elves for their slave race.”
“I know nothing of that.”
“I think deep down you know all about that, but such things have no place in your new existence.”
“I would not know. What I told you I only know because we, in turn, were told such by those who lived here when we first arrived.”
“The furnishings and decoration remind me of the noble residences of High Rock. Were the Chlodovech family Bretons, the people of High Rock?”
“I do not know. Those who lived here also told me the furnishing and decoration were popular in High Rock.”
“We are yet to see other machinery, but this Travel Machine is complex. Did the people who lived here know how to build these machines?”
“Ludwig, a being of flesh built the first machines, but I believe Lamashtu aided him. For the machines that were large in number, size or scope, we all helped, including my brothers and sisters.”
“Who is or was Ludwig?”
“Ludwig used to live here with us. It was he who first invited Lamashtu and me to live in the castle. I have not seen Ludwig in a very long time.”
“Do you know what happened to him? Was he a member of the Chlodovech family?”
“I… I don’t know the answer to either question.”
“Is there anything in the castle that might tell us who he was?”
“I believe he kept a series of journals. Perhaps the answers can be found in their pages. I recall seeing them scattered about the keep. You might want to look in the Master Bedroom, Mage’s Study and this Travel Room.”
“What can you tell me about Nurndural?”
“It was a freehold colony of the Dwemer, and my old home. Sadly, it is now a ruin, and we are no longer welcome there. Lamashtu and I are fortunate to be able to call Clockwork Castle our home.”
“Why do only you and Lamashtu live here now?”
“Ludwig, his family and servants lived here. Everybody but Ludwig left long ago. Shortly after Lamashtu and I came here.”
“Why did they leave?”
“I do not know.”
“Will we have to kill your brothers and sisters?”
“They are like me. You cannot kill us. You may need to knock my brothers and sisters down, but they shall rise again, eventually. Do not worry.”
“How is that possible? Do you have to be close to Nurndural for that to happen?
“I do not know the answers to those questions.”
“Thank you for your help Lahar. We shall have a quick look around and then see if Lamashtu will give us the key.”
“Let me know if you need anything else.”
Lahar left the room as we started to search for Ludwig’s journal. Wedged underneath the table holding the map was his third journal. I will write the relevant entries in this journal after I have gathered them all.
In the castle lobby was the most magnificent timepiece I have ever seen.
There was a note attached to one of the doors in the lobby.
It read, “CORROSIVE VAPOUR WARNING
The workroom is closed until complete purging of the corrosive vapours within.
The exhaust fans are currently non-functional due to the breaches in the steam pipeline.”
Another door led to the Master Bedroom.
Even dusty and worn, the bedroom was majestic and tastefully decorated.
Rigmor would approve of the pictures of red flowers decorating many of the walls.
Another beautiful timepiece sat above a fireplace.
On a table, I found Ludwig’s first journal.
A locked cupboard was, to me at least, obviously false. To see what lay behind it, we would need the key as the lock was unpickable.
We left the Master Bedroom then made our way to the Mage’s Study.
Full book repositories lined the walls.
Instead of artwork, sketches relevant to a mage adorned the walls. I was quite amused by the picture of a two-legged Dovah with tiny wings. I do not think the artist has ever seen a real dragon.
Ludwig’s second journal lay upon another writing desk.
When I picked it up, a key fell onto the floor. Inigo retrieved it, handed it to me and said, “Any bets that is for the locked cupboard?”
I replied, “DUH!”
A door leading from the Mage’s Study led to the Work Room. It too had the warning message about corrosive vapours attached.
A spiral staircase led to the ‘Glass Garden’. We assume it is some sort of greenhouse and will visit it later.
We exited the Mage’s Study then made our way back into the Master Bedroom. I unlocked the cupboard and slid the panel behind it across.
I told The Sentinel to stay in the Main Bedroom. The small room I entered did not have space for them all.
Ludwig’s resting place was dusty and mouldy. His emancipated corpse lay in a bed with his last journal upon his chest. I gently removed it and moved back into the Main Bedroom.
I sat at one of the writing tables and read the journals from beginning to end. As I finished a journal, it passed among The Sentinel, so they knew his story as well. Here are the relevant entries,
“Journal of Ludwig Chlodovech
3rd of Evening Star, 4E 16
Today we laid my father to rest in the mausoleum. It is a strange feeling, knowing that his shell just lies there, alone, and that at any time I could look upon it, as if he were still here.
Instead, I shall honour his wish and begin the keeping of this journal. It’s past time I did; he certainly prodded me into it for long enough.
Should this first entry be a commemoration of father’s life? I lack the words to describe him adequately, I think. His achievements are familiar to most; everyone knows the Chlodovech Trading Company. There is little I could add, and less that would be of interest I’m sure, coming from me.
I can say, however, that he will be greatly missed.
We commend thee and lay thee to rest, Maximilian Chlodovech.
10th of Morning Star, 4E 17
It occurs to me that for this journal to be of any use to anyone, I should explain who I am. My name is Ludwig Chlodovech – now the Lord of Chlodovech Castle, I suppose!
Lord of a trade route to nowhere. It barely entered my thoughts as a child, as I have no memory of living anywhere else, but our castle is truly remote! It was my father’s grand project: a new trade route between Skyrim and Morrowind, administered by the Chlodovech Company alone.
A fool’s project is what they called it. How could it replace the Sea of Ghosts route, they would ask. What of the phenomenal expense in tunnelling under the mountain, said others. But father’s plan was more straightforward: why forge a new path when one can reclaim an old one?
Tolvald’s Crossing was too dangerous, and too far south in any case. The mysterious tunnels that father set his mind and considerable fortune to – and he never did reveal how he knew of them – were not too far from the port in Windhelm. He knew no name for these tunnels, and since they went beneath the Velothi Mountains, he and all the workers came to call them the “Velothi Tunnels”. Clearing the way was dangerous, but the work involved was relatively slight.
These tunnels emerged in a small valley high in the mountains. They then plunged beneath the rocks again, down to Morrowind. Chlodovech Castle built in this valley to act as a gatehouse in the centre of the would-be trade route.
And that is how I grew up: observing the construction of our castle. Watching and pestering the builders, stonecutters, carpenters and smiths. Tools and machines fascinated me. Hammers and saws, pulleys and levers. I relished seeing the walls go up, and the rooms take shape. Father was e keen on the furnishings for they had to match the latest fashions of faraway High Rock. That was home, to him and mother. I was too young to remember it well, but they are distinctive.
Everything went wrong in the Red Year. Not merely for us, of course, as it was the death of so very many. That was when the tunnel down to Morrowind fell in, killing the workers inside. It was the end of father’s grand project; even if our route had survived, the people of Morrowind did not. There was no-one left with which to trade.
Mother died not long after along with my sister-who-would-have-been. So much went wrong.
The castle was nearly complete by then, and though – again – people called him mad, father elected to have it finished. Indeed some things were called off or cut short. I think the Armoury was intended initially to be another grand entrance hall, leading onto quarters for prestigious guests, a ballroom and such – but still, it became Chlodovech Castle; our home.
My aunts and uncles always said that my father never recovered from those days; why else would he choose to stay in the place that had come to represent his very dear failure? Father may have founded Chlodovech Company, but they took on the running of it from then on. My siblings mean to take up the business also, or so they informed me during their brief visit to inter our father.
They may have been anxious to leave the castle once they were old enough – they could not stand the isolation – but I, of course, remained, here with Father and the staff.
I remember I was sorely disappointed when the last of the construction came to a close. Some of the carpenters and smiths had treated me almost as an apprentice, but then they had to leave, and there was nothing more to do. Father had noted my interest in intricate mechanics though, and diverted them into a trade of creating intricate jewellery. It is not exactly what I wanted, but it suits me well enough, and I can labour at home in the castle. It is also very profitable.
And there you have it, I suppose; Lord Ludwig Chlodovech, the jeweller.”
“Journal of Ludwig Chlodovech
12th of Last Seed, 4E 17
Now that father is gone, they pester me to expand the mausoleum in readiness for my eventual passing. Next in line, next in line to die.
Fine. I shall order the excavation.
4th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 18
It is like turning over a rock and finding the twisting tunnels of an ant nest exposed to the sky. Yet here the inhabitants did not scatter, or erupt in a panic. They merely stood and stared, with those red pin-pricks for eyes.
7th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 18
I should explain. In expanding the mausoleum, the workers broke through into some ancient catacombs of the Dwemer. They were beneath our feet – beneath the castle – all this time! Perhaps it should not be too surprising as the Velothi Tunnels are home to some Dwemer ruins also.
It is all so strange, though… where do I begin?
I’ve read about Dwemer animunculi – all I could lay my hands on, as those were some of my favourites – but I have never seen any mention of what we found here. The workers called me down when they were about to breach the wall, and there we all stood, clustered around the hole. On the other side was our mirror image; a congregation of metal men staring back at us with their glowing red eyes.
I was afraid. We all were, but while the workers all fled the mausoleum, I remained, frozen in place. Expecting your imminent death is a significant shock, but an even greater surprise awaited me. A metal woman(?) came forward and spoke! She spoke to me!
At first, her words were unrecognisable. Was it the Dwemer language? Then she spoke in Cyrodiilic that was slow and halting. “No harm,” she said. I could manage no response. “No harm,” she said again, but this time to the metal men and women behind her.
Now she stands here in the Study with me… reading the books. I think she asked for them? I brought her here on the day of the breach, but I have forgotten of what we spoke. I said a lot in my panic, and she said very little. It all happened so quickly. Her brethren have all remained behind, down below – but she has not left the Study.
She is looking at me!
12th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 18
Her name is Lamashtu. Her progress in learning Cyrodiilic is astonishing. She reads my books and listens to the conversation of the staff, and already I can converse with her easily. The servants are not glad to have this audience though; that much is clear. They are afraid of what we have uncovered, but it is just as plain to me that these metal men mean us… well, “no harm” – as Lamashtu said.
Lamashtu has promised to show me Nurndural – for that is the name of the Dwemer catacombs beneath us. Instead of doing it herself, she asked her (I suppose) “brother” Lahar show it to me. I think she wants to stay in the Study.
She says that she and her metal brethren are named the ‘Gilded’, but I am as of yet unsure what they are, exactly. They have always been beneath our feet and have never ventured out. They do resemble animunculi, that is all I can say.
I realise more and more each day that the discovery of the Gilded is a monumental one, but Lamashtu has requested privacy. I’m not sure of her reasons, but I can certainly think of my own. Dwemer animunculi are known to be generally hostile – and quite dangerous. I dread the thought of what might happen if some kind of ‘military’ attention fell on them.
The staff may spread tales – how could I stop them? But I have heard how they speak of this discovery. I doubt anyone will believe the particulars of their stories.
1st of Second Seed, 4E 18
The resources to be found in Nurndural are beyond my ability to count or value. In particular that excellent metal; that famous Dwemer metal that confounds all who try to unlock the secrets of its fabrication. I did put the question to Lamashtu, but ‘I am no smith, or alchemist’ is all she would say. She has answered many of my questions about the truly amazing machines down there, though. I can barely sleep; it feels like my mind is on fire with possibilities!
Lahar is taking to his new job well, too. After showing me some of Nurndural, he followed me back up to the castle. I did not mind; even, to begin with, he was almost as well-spoken as Lamashtu. I think she must have been teaching him. Or perhaps he already knew.
Much like Lamashtu had, Lahar began to follow the staff and observe their work, to their visible chagrin. Before long, he expressed an interest in taking up the role of a caretaker of the castle. Already he is invaluable; he is careful, quick, and most remarkably, does not appear to need or want for sleep!
22nd of Second Seed, 4E 18
My studies of Nurndural’s machines consume my attention, as do my plans regarding what I learn from them.
I look to Lamashtu as representative of that domain and her kind. Besides Lahar, who is agreeable if simple, she is the only one able – or perhaps willing – to speak with me. The others merely stare as I pass and ignore my attempts at conversation. I asked her permission to salvage what scraps of metal lying broken and useless in the halls of Nurndural for use in my works. However, impassive as her manner is, she did agree.
This agreement is tremendously exciting. The Dwemer metal can be melted down then reshaped as I desire, and there is so much of it to be had!
I go to work.
25th of Midyear, 4E 18
The mausoleum has become a thoroughfare. Metal – warped scraps and whole pieces both – is carted out of Nurndural and into the Work Room by small groups of Gilded. There the casting moulds await.
Things are taking shape.”
“Journal of Ludwig Chlodovech
1st of Sun’s Height, 4E 18
The staff are all leaving. This decision has been possible for some time and caused by fear of the Gilded. More and more of their number are effectively taking up residence in the castle, as they help with my work. As with Lamashtu and Lahar, they also took to observing the staff in their daily tasks. Never speaking, just watching. I think it all became too much.
The company is not doing well, so I have been told, therefore perhaps it is for the best. Less money is coming in. In truth it is a relief; I never know what to say to them, anyway… even to Anneliese. She was always kind to me. She asked me to leave! That’s not something I could do, though. Especially not now.
I could have sworn that she looked… disappointed. It would be nice to think of why that might be… but that can’t be it. It must be my imagination.
Still, it is sad to think that I will likely not see her again.
In any case, Lamashtu was quick to point out that the staff are not even truly required any longer; not with her brethren being here and able to take up the work. Today I offered to pay them all a wage for this work, but Lamashtu declined, saying that all they needed was something to occupy them. Lahar echoed this sentiment.
I suppose I will have to take them at their word. None of the other Gilded will speak to me after all.
3rd of Hearthfire, 4E 20
Behold the simple tap or spigot! The pipes of cast metal to ferry the water, the appropriated Dwemer pump, and the steam to make it go. Steam! Steam under pressure! It makes it all go!
Now I have water at the turn of a tap. Heated water, even. That Dwemer boiler was perfect for the task.
23rd of First Seed, 4E 21
Today I have heard that Chlodovech Trading Company is no more. By accounts it was in a slow decline since the Red Year and mother’s death, but now it has finally happened.
We all have our share of the remaining wealth, and it is not insubstantial. I do not have to worry for myself or my remaining family. Indeed, I have continued my jewellery business all this time, even overseeing some of the Gilded in creating additional pieces.
Some things need arranging, but overall, this is nothing to fret over. Things here won’t change.
5th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 21
I can’t abide first-time meetings. Can anyone? No-one knows what to say to one another.
“Who are you?” They would say. “What is it that you do?” By which of course they mean “Please describe your quantifiable worth to society in a short sentence.”
6th of Frostfall, 4E 21
Father’s beautiful glass garden perched atop the castle never did function as he wanted. It would never hold the warmth the plants needed; it all leeched out into the frigid mountain air, and the plants froze and died. Now that I can tap into that seemingly endless supply of pressurised steam produced by some unknown means deep in Nurndural, the glass garden is finally as warm and vaporous as I could ever want.
14th of Sun’s Dawn, 4E 23
A fantastic discovery today, though I would not have known it if not for Lamashtu.
In excavating a new room for the cellar, the workers struck what appears by its curve to be a great metal sphere. Dwemer metal – like everything down there – but unlike any other items of Dwemer manufacture I have yet seen.
Lamashtu came to look at it, and it seems that she recognises it! After some thought, she said that it had been called a “machine for far-walking without steps”. A rough translation, I think. I am calling it the ‘Travel Machine’ for now, as that is its purpose. It is for teleporting one to a far-off location, and back again.
She speaks of it as if of a barely-remembered thing from one’s childhood, but Lamashtu tells me that the machine is like a crossroads, with paths striking out in many directions from it. At the end of each road is a Terminus Machine, and this is where one would appear upon entering the Travel Machine here. Similarly, entering a Terminus Machine would bring one back here.
I have asked for the workers to uncover the sphere in its entirety. This discovery is very exciting!
30th of Hearthfire, 4E 23
The Travel Machine is to be my grand project.
Quite early on, we found a kind of removable panel on its surface. Behind it were etched a series of pictographs that Lamashtu aided me in deciphering. We have concluded that they are instructions for the assembly and operation of the machine!
The work required is lengthy and arduous. It would be impossible were the Gilded not here to help me. A large chamber to house it must be dug out and supported with stonework. The machine itself buried in the dirt for who knows how long. Excavation continues, but it is painstaking. After that, it must be raised, righted, and supported in place. Thorough cleaning is required, inside and out. Broken pieces must be re-cast and replaced.
It is to require an extraordinary amount of piping. A lot is going unused down in Nurndural, but will it be enough?
I expect this to take years… but it is the power of teleportation – and not just in the hands of powerful mages! It is hard to imagine what a boon it would have been to the Chlodovech Company… had it not closed its doors.
22nd of Second Seed, 4E 24
Work on the Travel Machine continues.
In the meantime, Travel Machine has inspired me. I have designed and will build a structure that facilitates the fast transportation of items across the castle. It relies on the principles of pneumatic pressure to propel objects through pipes. These pipes having been laid beneath the floors and behind the walls.
My first practical test was a pipe that ran between a terminal in the kitchen and one in my bedroom. It worked much as I expected, though the early attempts were… messy.
I shall expand this structure of pipes throughout the castle. It will be more disruptive than the gaslights were as the pipes are much larger – but worth it in the end, I feel.
A funny thing, also: I have heard that, rather than Chlodovech Castle, people have come to call my home “Clockwork Castle”, for all the machinery here. It’s a fitting name, I think. I like it!
11th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 30
I am frustrated by the interminable work required by the Travel Machine. So much work, and yet so little to occupy my time! I simply lack the strength of the Gilded, and for now, there is nothing with which I can help.
To alleviate my boredom, I recently began work on a method for controlling the machine. It is something I’ve given a lot of thought to; how to inform the machine of where I want to go? I am sculpting what will become a cast-metal relief map of Skyrim.
Only Skyrim; Lamashtu assures me that it could not take one anywhere else. Once cast, I will affix mechanical buttons to it in the places on the map that the machine can take me.
It shall be beautiful; I certainly have the time to make it so.
4th of Frostfall, 4E 32
Today one of the Gilded workers struck me as we were working on the Travel Machine!
He had been giving me odd looks all morning, so I had kept an eye on him in turn and saw the blow coming in time to evade him almost entirely. He still caught me on the arm and knocked me to the floor, raising a nasty bruise. He stood above me, silent all the while, and for a moment, I feared for my life.
Fortunately, I then heard Lahar rounding the corner and looked to him for help. But now it was Lahar looking at me oddly – sprawled on the floor – as the worker had already turned back to his task as if nothing was amiss!
Still, I had to tell Lahar what had happened. I hardly feel safe around the Gilded these days. He said a soft something to the worker that I didn’t catch, and my assailant left for Nurndural without a word – later to be replaced by a different Gilded.
I am thankful that the machine is nearly finished.
20th of Sun’s Dusk, 4E 33
It is like tuning a musical instrument. Fine adjustments until the right tone is struck and the Travel Machine stirs to life, a bright blue portal shining in its heart. This trial and error is how we find where the thing can take us; which Terminus Machines out there yet function.
I was reluctant to go through the shimmering portal – how could we truly know where it led, or even if one would arrive with both life and limbs intact? What if an unfriendly person awaited on the other side? Lahar did not seem to share my concerns, however, and strolled through the portal before I knew what he intended.
He was gone so long that I thought him lost – and when he returned, he was caked in dirt, as if he had dug his way out of a grave. “I saw the banners of Whiterun!” He said to me. “The caravan brings us mead from there.”
I marked down the tuning then we moved to the next. Lahar went fearlessly into the portal again and again, though now I made him cover his metal body with what clothes would fit. He would be a strange sight indeed to anyone that might see him, otherwise.
9th of Evening Star, 4E 33
Today I took my first steps outside Clockwork Castle in over a decade. How is it that so much time has passed?
It was well outside the castle, too. The Travel Machine works! I stood outside the Markarth Clockwork Terminus for several minutes, watching the crowds across the river entering and leaving the city. So many people.
And that was enough for me. I returned to make this entry. There were long years in which I thought this day would never come, but now it is here! The Machine works.
Now there is no more need for the caravans to make the trip through the Velothi Tunnels, delivering my supplies. Lahar has said that he will do it instead, using the Travel Machine.
18th of Midyear, 4E 35
This morning I awoke to find that all the Gilded – excepting Lamashtu and Lahar – had left during the night. Lahar says they have all returned to Nurndural.
To be honest, I am relieved. I was beginning to feel like a prisoner in my own home; I dared not enter a room if one of the workers was in there, doing their chores. I don’t know how to describe it adequately, but for some time now they have exuded such a sense of menace that I feel in danger around them.
Fortunately, Clockwork Castle has earned its name. With all the work I’ve done here – all the labour-saving machines – the workers are no longer needed. Lahar is more than enough. After all, there is no large entourage here to feed and clothe; no mothers, fathers, children and dogs. There is just me.
“Journal of Ludwig Chlodovech
5th of Sun’s Height, 4E 37
An awful realisation has been in my thoughts lately. Or rather than a realisation, a question. If I were to die – say of some accident in the workroom – how long would it be until I was found? The answer I think is that the longer I stay here, out of the world, the more any knowledge or memories of me will fade from those out there – and the longer it would be until I was found, tending towards infinity.
It’s almost mathematical.
13th of Evening Star, 4E 44
It occurs to me that I am so accustomed to the useful machines in Clockwork Castle that I can scarcely imagine life without them, and yet… do devices like these exist anywhere else?
They could improve the lives of others too, but would anyone accept them? “What real use would these contraptions be?” They would ask, or “How could we possibly afford to build such extravagances?”
And yet I spend all my days in the Work Room, crafting machines and objects of utility and beauty. Perhaps one day, when I’ve done enough – when I’m finished – I can show it all to someone.
10th of Frostfall, 4E 53
I cannot remember the last time I spoke aloud.
Once there was so much to say! So much to learn from Lamashtu, and so much to organise with Lahar. Now though, everything is settled. Every moment runs into the next with the precision and predictability of a perfect machine. Every day is the same. There is nothing more to say.
When was the last time I spoke to someone from outside the castle? Someone not made of metal. It must have been around when the Travel Machine was completed. Has it been so long?
I don’t know that I could raise my voice anymore; not even to save my life. I don’t want it to be heard.
29th of First Seed, 4E 54
They’re warm to the touch, aren’t they? Am I not warm? Lamashtu, Lahar… the lady in the walls; they are all so cold…
1st of Hearthfire, 4E 60
Clocks driven by soul gems:
Marking time for an eternity.
Are they aware?
What do they see with no eyes?
What do they feel with no skin?
7th of Midyear, 4E 68
Does the mind require other minds to inform its thoughts? Do they otherwise reflect backwards uselessly and endlessly unchanged? An echo chamber… but I say nothing. Could I still speak? I dare not speak.
7th of Sun’s Dusk, 4E 83
I do nothing but sit here in this chamber, the cobwebs growing about me, and the dust staining my skin.
I could not bear their eyes upon me, and the weight of the judgement behind those eyes would be too much as well. I think I shall simply stay here, instead.
There is a feeling rising in me… that my time here is growing short. It is evident to me that I should note down my last will, but then there is no-one to give it all to, and I have nothing to offer in any case. Who would want what I have?
I don’t want to reflect on my life. It was no good. Really, it’s no good.
Surely though… it was better than nothing.”
I waited till The Sentinel had finished reading the four journals. Inigo sat down next to Meeko and read them to him.
I said to them, “Ludwig also saw the Dwemer Ghost. He called her the lady in the walls.
I went back into the small alcove and did the Rights of Arkay over Ludwig’s remains.
When I turned to leave, I saw Meeko was guarding the hidden doorway. He would not let Lamashtu enter after Inigo has read him the journals. He would be wary of all the Gilded. Lamashtu asked, “What are you doing?”
“I performed the Rights of Arkay for Ludwig to protect his soul from misuse.”
“Ludwig? I have not spoken to him for a long time.”
“He has been dead for more than one hundred and twenty years.”
“I forgot about death. It was a long time ago, for me.”
“You were a mortal Dwemer turned into a Gilded. Is that correct?”
Like Lahar, Lamashtu seemed hesitant to talk about what she was. Instead, she said, “I am nearly four thousand years old. For me, time is… difficult.”
“I have met other beings as old as you yet they have no difficulty with time. It must be a flaw in the technique used to create you.”
“Men and Mer are victims of time, whereas I… I turn for a moment to ponder, and when I turn back, you are all dead!”
“We are not victims of time. I guarantee I have crammed more living in the last four years than you have in your four thousand. You have not seen the sights I have seen. Spoken to Gods or travelled to other planes. Did you love when you were a Dwemer? Can you love now? You are a victim of stagnation. The continuous tick-tock of many clocks reminds you of the linear time my Lord has imposed upon Nirn. Ludwig was also a victim of stagnation. He lost the meaning of life in the dreariness of predictability. Losing the stimulation provided by conversation and sharing of ideas contributed to his mind breaking and his thoughts wandering.”
“Towards the end, Ludwig shut himself away and would see no-one. Items such as food and drink were sent up using the Pneumatic Tube system. For a time, Lahar continued to deliver his food, and it seemed Ludwig was eating it.”
“Vermin would have consumed it after he died.”
“Yes, I believe now that vermin began to eat the food, once Ludwig stopped.”
“It was fortunate Lahar keep sending food. It prevented the vermin from eating Ludwig. Can you please inter Ludwig’s remains with his ancestors? As close to his father as you can.”
“Caretaking is Lahar’s sole interest. You should ask him.”
Lamashtu turned and walked away.
Once she left the room, I told The Sentinel, “Now we shall go and find her staring into infinity once more and ask for the key. I get the impression that too many questions one after the other yields less results than several sessions.”
After a couple of minutes admiring the many works of art, we headed outside into the courtyard. As predicted, Lamashtu was staring straight ahead through a gap in the fence.
I walked up to her then she turned towards me and stared with those red eyes of hers.
I said, “The Travel Machine is not working due to broken steam pipes in Nurndural. We wish to travel there and repair them. Can I please have the key to the mausoleum?”
“Yes, I made Lahar give me the key long ago. He can be… simple.”
“Forgetful is probably the more appropriate word. Lahar forgets keys. You forgot about death.”
“I had not thought of things that way. But I do believe if Lahar went back down there to try and fix the pipeline, he might never return.”
“You are not concerned about him losing the keys. You are worried for his life or losing his companionship! Perhaps you can love, and that is a wonderful thing to discover.”
“Here is the key. It is good you are willing to try and fix the pipeline.”
“May I ask you some questions?”
“I shall try and answer the best I can.”
“You were a Dwemer but are now a Gilded. Please explain what that means.”
“I am a machine of bone and metal.”
“You are not undead or a machine. You have a soul; otherwise, you could not love.”
“I am a machine. I am made of bone and metal.”
“You and Lahar intrigue me. You do not speak of yourselves as persons, but that is what you are. You are not an animal nor undead nor a machine. You were once Dwemer?”
“Tell me of your people. Why did you undergo this transformation?”
“You would not understand.”
“You would be surprised at what I do understand. I am not ignorant of time and mortality. But I will leave that subject for now. Perhaps you can tell me about the Ghost of a female Dwemer that I encountered in the Velothi tunnels. It has visited here, according to Ludwig’s journals.”
“Ghosts are not particularly unusual. They are a recognised phenomenon.”
“This was the first ghost of a Dwemer I have ever encountered. It also wanted me to find this place and made a wailing noise which caused the tunnel to collapse behind me.”
“Talking to you is like talking to my wife when she is in a bad mood!”
“Why are you and Lahar different than the Gilded who never spoke to Ludwig and have returned to Nurndural.”
“Though we may all look the same, we are not.”
“That is apparent, hence my question!”
“Three children wrote their names upon the world. The first gouged it into the dirt. The second carved into the flesh of a tree. The third chipped into solid stone. Thus, they recorded their memory upon the world. The first child’s name was washed away with the first rain. The second child’s name grew and distorted with the tree until it dies. The memory survives, but twisted almost beyond recognition. The third child’s name remains unchanged for as long as the stone endures.”
“The Dwemer were of the first child. The Gilded below are of the second child. You and Lahar are of the third child. Is that correct?”
“No. The Gilded down below are the first children. Lahar is a second child. I am the third.”
“Now, I understand. Those below cannot remember their names. They have no identity and do not know how they should behave. Lahar is not what he was originally, but you are unchanged. There are several first children. There were several second children. You are the third child that carved her name in stone and are unique.”
There was no response from Lamashtu. I was enjoying this game of cat and mouse with the truth.
“Can you explain to me how you speak? You have no tongue, lips or throat to form the words.”
“My heart shivers in my chest, and words are produced from my speaker horn.”
“When that happens to me, I get heartburn.”
“Thank you for the information Lamashtu. We shall head for Nurndural and see if we can repair the pipeline.”
Lamashtu turned to stare out into the valley once more. I turned to find The Sentinel staring at me with amused faces.
Inigo said, “She is much like an angry Queen Rigmor but did not cross her arms, and there was no danger of being cleaved in half.”
“There is one thing that was said today that disturbs me greatly Inigo.”
“Lahar said they could not die. That is disturbing!”
“Precisely. We must keep the existence of Nurndural secret to protect both the Gilded and Nirn itself. An army of Gilded would be a terrible thing to face!”
As we contemplated that nightmare, we headed for the mausoleum and the entrance to Nurndural.