Chlodovech Castle, Nurndural: Have a heart!
We made our way through the castle and out of the front door. The mausoleum was at the side of it and embedded into the mountainside. The rest of the castle sat upon a natural plateau. It made sense they did not discover Nurndural until building their House of the Dead.
We entered, and the steam pipeline was easy to follow.
It led us to a Dwemer doorway.
The door led to a spiral staircase. Wooden ramps had been placed on the steps.
At the bottom of the stairs, all newer construction ceased, and the ancient Dwemer freehold of Nurndural began. Gaslights provided lighting. A raised portcullis blocked three exits.
I stepped up to the bars then a Gilded, slightly different in form than Lahar and Lamashtu, approached them from the shadows. Its face was skeletal and no horn could be seen. It said, “Come away with me. I won’t bite your face. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep.”
A hidden Gilded pulled a lever which allowed the portcullis to lower. The Gilded in front then started to cast a spell however Meeko took offence, leapt and dispatched it with his mighty jaws.
The other was brought down by Inigo’s arrows.
I said to The Sentinel, “Notice they had no horns but could speak. I wonder if they always had that ability but decided never to use it around Ludwig and his family.”
Illia replied, “One of them was a spellcaster but not very powerful. And the other did not seem to be very robust.”
“Well, we have ‘knocked them over’ as Lahar suggested. Let’s wait and see if they get back up again.”
We waited five minutes, but there was no sign of life from either Gilded. Nubaree pointed out, “Lahar said they would rise again eventually. It could be hours before they do.”
I replied, “They do not pose a threat to us even if in large numbers and swarming. Even a five-minute delay in their resurrection ensures that. Let us move on.”
We followed a narrow corridor which terminated in a ledge overlooking a vast cavern. A series of walkways and platforms connected Nurndural’s buildings. A Dwemer Sphere provided light from above. I resisted the temptation to hit it with Unrelenting Force and see if a Dovah appeared. Gilded were standing sentry at ramps and doorways. I wondered how long they had been there. Did they take up position after we arrived at Chlodovech Castle or hundreds of years ago when Ludwig’s family found them?
There was not a single conduit for the steam but many pipelines that crisscrossed the chasm. Breaches in the pipelines were visible even from a distance.
Water pouring into the cavern from outside was channelled by spillways. Magma covered some of the cavern floor. The Dwemer did not need a significant source of Magicka to produce the steam they required. The natural resources available here created steam with fairly basic machinery. The water and magma, along with common chemicals, produced the gas used for lighting.
We ‘knocked down’ many Gilded as we explored.
We studied the layout of the pipelines and where there were breaches. We counted ten. I decided we would look for two already constructed repair pipes then see how hard the repairs would be. We chose a building at random as there was no indication where the repair pipes were stored.
Each building had a primary function such as smithery, barracks, storage etcetera. Some had Gilded within, while others were unpopulated.
The repair pipes were not heavy but cumbersome to carry.
We collected a couple of lengths then headed outside to try some repairs.
We stood in front of a broken section of piping and discussed how to fix it,
- Wulf: The steam is not overly hot, but the Dwemer metal conducts the heat well, so don’t touch anything without your gauntlets on.
- Nubaree: The repair piping is slightly larger in diameter than the two end sections.
- Wulf: We will need to straighten the bent pipe ends first.
- Plue: The repair pipe is cut along its length. We will need to hold the two halves together while you weld it with Magicka.
- Illia: I don’t think any holding will be needed. The pipes halves loosely interlock. If you heat them the interlocks will all snap in place permanently.
- Wulf: The process will probably be fiddlier with this vertical breach than a horizontal one.
After hammering the bent sections straight, the two halves of the repair piping quickly fitted together.
I then used Flames to heat the repair pipe along its length. The seal was soon complete, and the repaired section was probably as robust as the original piping had been.
A Tonal Architect attacked us as we made our way to the first horizontal breach. Many of them can use Unrelenting Force, and I did not want a magma bath. I wasted no time destroying it and knocking over the accompanying Gilded.
We repeated the repair procedure with the horizontal breach, and the seal was once again perfect. The seam between the two halves of the repair pipe was visible, but the inside interlocks meant nothing could pull them apart short of what initially caused the damage.
Nubaree stared at the magma, then remarked, “It is kind of mesmerising, isn’t it?”
I replied, “Like most things natural, it has its beauty.”
We saw several forges and smelters where we could have fashioned repair piping ourselves. I decided that even with my Smithing skills, I doubted I could do as good as job as the ancient Dwemer blacksmiths. I decided we would continue to search for more of the already made repair pipes.
We saw a knocked down Gilded resurrect for the first time. It had been knocked down at least thirty minutes earlier and seemed to wait for us to get close before the resurrection began. It was knocked down again with a single arrow.
As we travelled along one of the highest walkways, we came across Dwemer humour. Glowing writing urged the reader to jump.
I read it out, and Meeko instantly put himself between me and the edge. I assured him, “I have no intention of jumping even though that last fart of yours made me consider it.”
He just grinned.
Several hours later, after much searching and knocking down of Gilded, we repaired the eleventh and last pipeline breach we could find.
As we approached the exit, I put my hand up for silence. I could hear somebody speaking Dwemer.
Lamashtu was conversing with the Dwemer Ghost!
The ghost pointed our way then emitted the sound of a siren and vanished. Lamashtu turned to us then exclaimed, “You’re back!”
“I see that you do know the Dwemer Ghost. Who is she?”
“I do not understand. I am just standing here.”
“You were talking to the ghost I encountered in the Velothi tunnels.”
“I was not talking to anyone.”
“We all saw you and the ghost conversing.”
“There was only me.”
“Then what made the sound of the siren?”
“A sound? There was a sound? It reminds me of a long time ago.”
Lamashtu fell silent, and I knew there was nothing to gain pursuing the subject of the ghost. I told her, “I think we have repaired the pipeline.”
She replied, “This is something to speak of with Lahar.” Then she headed for the exit of the mausoleum.
I turned to the Sentinel,
- Wulf: Well, what do you think? Was she telling lies?
- Inigo: Even though her voice is strange, I think she was sincere when she denied speaking to the ghost.
- Wulf: I think when she spoke to the ghost, it is no different than talking to oneself.
- Illia: The ghost is part of her!
- Wulf: Like Inigo, I do not think she was untruthful. What if her soul is divided?
- Plue: Then, there would only be her standing there. Two halves but a whole nonetheless!
- Wulf: Should I worry you all seem comfortable with such gobblygook?
- Nubaree: The epitome of weird asks that question?
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: I can always leave you home next time you traitor.
- Meeko: Woof.
- Wulf: We do not know the process to transform from living Dwemer to Gilded. Lahar said they still have bones. But I am guessing it is pretty traumatic. When travelling through the Velothi tunnels, the ghost left behind scorched rocks.
- Inigo: So, you think high heat is involved?
- Illia: They have a handy source, the magma.
- Wulf: This is pure speculation, but immersion in molten metal would be a quick, if briefly traumatic, death. Perhaps traumatic enough to cause a split in the soul.
- Illia: And the prize? A mindless existence for most of the Gilded. They might as well be normal metallic animunculi!
- Wulf: Maybe there is something that has caused some degeneration. We do not know.
- Inigo: Are we going straight to Lahar?
- Wulf: If you are hinting that you are tired, then there is no need. We shall have some dinner aboard Nafalilargus and get a good night’s rest before visiting Lahar.
At the ladder, Inigo asked, “Do we need to rotate guard duty?”
“No, this valley is remote and safe. We will just pull up the ladder, and all get uninterrupted sleep.”
So that is what we did. The conversation around the dinner table included the three Master Mages who all found the story of the castle and Gilded fascinating.
Just after 8:00 AM the next morning we entered the castle and found Lahar standing out front of the Travel Room. He said, “You were successful, I see. Very good.”
“Is the Travel Machine operational?”
“Yes. Once the castle sprang back to life, I took the opportunity to go through the Travel Machine and procure some supplies from Solitude.”
“Where is the Terminus in Solitude, and what condition was it in?”
“It was walled in. I had to knock some masonry down to get out. It is embedded in one of the main walls next to the entry gate. It works but needs cleaning.”
“Can we make sure nobody can use it to get here?”
“Already done. Each Terminus can be locked from here and unlocked from the other side with a spell. Access to each Terminus also requires a key, and the lock can’t be breached.”
“I must ask you not to use the Travel machine again until I have permission from the Jarls to knock walls down and expose each Terminus.”
“After I have those permissions, I will send some people here to help you make sure the Travel Machine and each Terminus is fully functional.”
“I understand. Here is the Terminus key and spell-tome.”
Lahar handed me a complex looking key. I can imagine the lock would be a nightmare for even the best thief.
I asked Lahar, “Is everything else working?”
“The exhaust fans are running once more, which enabled me to enter the Work Room. I have removed all dangerous materials.”
“So, when the fans were not working, it was dangerous for even Gilded to enter?”
“Correct. I also replanted the Glass Garden in your absence. I favoured useful alchemical plants. They will take time to grow, but at least they will no longer die in the cold.”
“You have done excellent work Lahar! We thank you.”
“Do you want me to demonstrate the Travel Machine now?”
“No need. We shall experiment ourselves and ask you questions if we have difficulty.”
Lahar started to sweep, even though I could not see a speck of dirt, as we entered the Travel Room.
The portal was now active.
I said to The Sentinel, “This will act like the Snow Elf portals. One person at a time steps through it. I will go first.”
I pressed the button for Solitude.
Then I tried to step into the portal.
I teleported, but not to Solitude. I was turned 180 degrees and ended up back in the Transport Room.
Inigo quipped, “That was a quick visit!”
“I didn’t get to Solitude. I was teleported like this recently in the Velothi tunnels. I think the Dwemer Ghost does not want us to leave just yet.”
We left the Travel Room, and Lahar was still sweeping like there was a ton of dirt and dust that needed removing. Meeko stared at the ground and whined.
“Is there something wrong with your companion?” asked Lahar.
“He is just wondering why he can’t see the invisible dirt and dust.”
“Some force is keeping me from using the Travel Machine.”
“That is peculiar. The Travel Machine is working correctly for me. As I mentioned earlier, I have already gone through it to gather supplies.”
“I think I know what is causing it. I shall go speak to Lamashtu about this.”
Lahar went back to attacking the invisible dust bunnies as we made our way outside to the courtyard.
Lamashtu turned as I approached.
I said to her, “A force is keeping me from using the Travel Machine.”
“You want to leave? Do you want to go back out into the world? Is it not luxurious here? You can stay. Lahar will bring you food. You can eat and sleep, and read, and tinker, and be safe. You can stay.”
“It is a wonderful place, and we promise to visit often and with many friends. But we cannot stay here. We have many people who rely on us, so we must return to the outside world. We can leave without the Travel Machine. However, I think somebody wants me to do something while I am here. Do you know what that might be?”
“I believe I know what keeps you here, so listen closely. I must first explain what we are. What I am. You won’t understand otherwise.”
“I am listening.”
“We are the Gilded. I have a Crystalline Heart, in a metal chest.”
“A form of Soul Gem?”
“Yes. In it resides the soul of a Dwemer woman, once living. A woman named Lamashtu. My bones are my own, but gilt in metal. They were fused with armour, pinions and gears to hold me together. I died long ago. Soul Trap magic was cast upon me, and my body then lowered into molten metal. And I…And then…”
“I understand this is difficult for you Lamashtu. Take your time.”
“When I was very young, she took me away from the foundry mother and said, ‘Thou art the child of my endeavours. Follow me, and thou shalt inherit the world.’
Lamashtu’s voice changed as she became more reflective and quieter. She said, “Sometimes… sometimes I can’t help but look. And when I look, and I see all the way to the end… I know they won’t be coming back again.”
“The Dwemer won’t return? Is that of who you speak?”
“And… when I look, and I see all the way to the end… there’s nothing nothing… nothing.”
If Lamashtu has foresight, then she would see nothing. Just like Lord Akatosh can see nothing. Not until the timelines are set straight after Nagasel. Not until after I complete my Divine Task. The one that made me cross the border into Cyrodiil what seems like a lifetime ago. The Divine Task I do not know how to complete.
Lamashtu continued, “But then I look again, and I see that there is no end… It’s better than nothing.”
Lamashtu would not respond to any more questions. I said to The Sentinel, “I am worried for her. We need to ask Lahar if there is something we can do. Her mind has gone the same way as Ludwig’s. Remember the last words in his journal were, ‘…it was better than nothing.”
We found Lahar in the castle’s kitchen. I said to him, “Can you please come and talk to Lamashtu. There is something wrong with her mind.”
“This is concerning. Let us go right away.”
We were used to Lahar walking at an unhurried pace. This time he ran, and we had to run as well to keep up.
The morning sun was bright, glare from the pristine snow reflected off our metal friends.
As Lahar walked towards her, he said, “Lamashtu. We are concerned.”
She replied, “All of you are not of the sky… It’s plain as day. I’ll have no part of it.”
Lahar said to me, “I did not think it could happen to her, but Lamashtu is losing herself.”
“Is this what happened to those who now dwell in Nurndural?”
“Yes, and it is a terrible thing. Lamashtu will become mindless and raving. Hostile and hollow.”
“We shall not let this happen if we can prevent it. I promise you!”
“I believe she needs a new heart.”
“She said she had a Soul Gem for a heart. I assume it is not an ordinary one.”
“We call them Crystalline Hearts and hers is degrading. If this continues, she will lose herself completely. And if it shatters, she will die.”
“That is why the Gilded can only be knocked over! When we damage one, its soul does not flee like with a normal person. It stays within the Crystalline Heart. Tell us how we can help her.”
“There is a possibility, but I am unsure. Long ago, when our brothers and sisters still spoke to us, there was Amalgam. He was the first to lose himself, but he was not like the others. One day he simply left, and disappeared into the unused parts of Nurndural. Soon after, our brethren began to vanish as well, one by one.”
“He stole their hearts, didn’t he?”
“Yes, we would discover their discarded shells and every one of them was missing their heart. It seems that Amalgam has taken their hearts into his body. A new body of his own making.”
“I assume he does not rely on just the heart currently in use. He probably has a couple of empty hearts as spares and ready to use.”
“That is what I believe. The heart must be empty, or we cannot use it. It will appear darkened. It will not glow like mine or those of my brethren.”
“We shall search for Amalgam in Nurndural. We shall get a new heart for Lamashtu and punish Amalgam for his crimes. He is a murderer.”
“I suspect he is dangerous. Be careful.”
“I have faced Gods. I doubt a cowardly murderer is going to be a problem!”
As Lahar walked off, Inigo pleaded, “Wulf, I can smell your Dovah. Please, do not let him come out. We can handle Amalgam without his aid.”
“I will try and control my temper Inigo, but he only comes out when I let him.”
“Well, tell him he is not needed!”
We made our way to Nurndural, and something was different! We could hear music coming from somewhere. It echoed within the vast cavern which made its origin hard to pinpoint.
I said to The Sentinel, “It seems Amalgam wants us to find him. Like every bad guy we meet, he will think he is all-powerful, and we are stupid victims.”
Unlike our previous visit, normal Dwemer animunculi were numerous and attacked us more often than Gilded.
We finally traced the music to a horn above a barred door.
We had not entered that building on our last visit.
A metallic voice, not like that of a Gilded, came from the horn. It said, “I saw you. I saw you in here earlier. You, crawling over everything and repairing the pipes. Are you looking for me? Come to the Sickness Ward.”
The bars blocking the door slowly lowered.
As soon as we entered, Amalgam spoke again, “I took what I could from the Shadow, then left her alone.”
“You took from the ghost? I do not think she is pleased. She wants revenge, and we are here to give it to her.”
The conversation continued as we searched the ‘Sickness Ward’.
“One heart was too few. It was unsafe. If it broke, I would be gone forever.”
“So, you decided your life was worth more than the other Gilded. Why would that be? Have you done anything worthwhile to contribute to the world? I doubt it!”
“I need the hearts. I need them! I am too big. They break. One after the other.”
“You need to die so the Gilded can live. They fight for their lives. They value them. You have no right to end them!”
“I don’t need you. You may leave if you wish.”
“We don’t want to leave. We want to rip your filled heart out and your spares. A person more deserving than you needs one. Other Gilded will no longer have to die for your vanity.”
“Your death is not needed. You are not compatible. Your death is acceptable, however. You are not needed.”
“Any of my companions could probably take you down. I have fought Gods, but you think you will survive our encounter? You are a coward who preys on the weak. I am coming to kill you!”
“If you truly wish to stay, come find me in the Southern Commissary. I shall find room for you somewhere.”
“You are a murderer. You have no justification for what you have done.”
“I want to be free, and I am… free.”
Amalgam said no more as we searched for the Southern Commissary. However, we found plenty of evidence of his crimes.
Eventually, we found him. He wore a Dwemer Centurion body.
Inigo said sarcastically, “Beware the mighty Amalgam!”
“Just let me take care of him. The Dwemer Ghost led me here, and I wish to deliver the sentence on her behalf personally.”
I walked around the barriers, stood in front of Amalgam then said, “You will now die, and your soul will forever be part of The Void. Enjoy eternity knowing you were pathetically weak and unworthy of the name Gilded.”
Amalgam attacked. His face was different than a normal Dwemer Centurion, but he was just as weak. He swung his weapons too slow. His poison gas did nothing to me.
I dodged and weaved and my sword sliced into his metal body like a hot knife through butter.
He tried to flee. The problem was he had been stupid enough to place his cradle in a small alcove. He was about to die, and he knew it.
Then the coward teleported to another alcove and thought himself safe behind some more bars.
I asked Inigo, “Do you want to have some archery practice?”
“No, I saw a ballista pointing right at these bars. I have always wanted to play with one of them!”
I walked up to Amalgam. He was severely injured. Sparks and steam escaped from the various deep cuts I had inflicted upon him. He had nothing to say, and neither did I.
We walked up a flight of stairs to where a large ballista sat upon a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree pivot. I said to Inigo, “This thing has explosive shafts loaded. I think it is going to make a mess of Amalgam.”
“Good. I have aimed it. Pull the lever! The ‘boom’ should be fun!”
I pulled the lever, and the shafts left the ballista at incredible speed then exploded on impact.
All we could see were some bent metal bars and the legs of the motionless Amalgam.
I asked Inigo, “Was that as much fun as you thought?”
“I have to get one of these. It would be great for hunting rabbits!”
I walked up to the prone Amalgam. The murderer was still alive and pleaded, “No. Please!”
I opened up his chest plate. Within were parts of his skeleton and five Crystalline Hearts. One was empty and three were filled. His rib-cage and other bones fell onto the floor.
I hit the filled heart with lightening and it went dark. Amalgam’s eyes no longer shone. He was dead. I then took the empty Crystalline Heart.
As the other Sentinel inspected Amalgam’s remains. Inigo said, “Well done, my friend. I know you don’t like killing, but that was a deserved death. He was no better than a vampire sucking the life out of others to survive. He was a parasite.”
“Let us get back to Lamashtu. I hope we are not too late!”
We hurried out of Nurndural then rushed to the courtyard. Lahar was staring at his friend who had sat down before slumping backwards. I could see no light in her eyes.
“We have a heart!” I told Lahar.
In a sad tone, Lahar replied, “Lamashtu has stopped moving.”
“Are we too late?”
“I don’t know. We shall find out.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“I have fashioned a Soul Transference Machine. It is over there, on the table.”
“You managed to make that in the time we were in Nurndural?”
“I used some bits and pieces scattered about the keep. It is elementary.”
“No, it is incredible!”
“I made the machine; however, I do not wish to touch Lamashtu’s heart. Will you please follow my instructions as I relay them to you?”
“Of course. Let me get into position.”
I knelt before Lamashtu then did as directed by Lahar.
“First, open her chest plate.”
“Next, retrieve the glowing heart from within her rib-cage.”
“Good. Now, take both the glowing heart and darkened heart, and insert both into the top of the machine.”
“Press the button.”
I pressed the button then Lamashtu’s soul visibly left the damaged heart and filled the empty one. I exclaimed, “That was one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed!”
Lahar remained calm as he told me, “This is promising. Her soul now resides in the new heart. Retrieve the heart.”
“Next, reseat the new heart within Lamashtu’s rib-cage.”
“Finally, close her chest plate.”
There was a blinding flash as I closed Lamashtu’s chest plate.
When my vision cleared, I saw Lamashtu was sitting upright with her eyes glowing brightly. I asked her, “Are you alright?”
“And I… and then… “
“Lamashtu, are you alright?”
“What happened? I feel strange.”
“You needed a new Crystalline Heart.”
“And you found one for me? Where did you get it?”
“We destroyed Amalgam and took it from his corpse.”
“Destroyed? I doubt that. I know of Amalgam. Whatever you did to him, it would not be his first destruction.”
“I destroyed his heart with lightening. He is gone this time!”
“Maybe. How was my soul transferred into my new heart?”
I looked around. Lahar had left as soon as he saw Lamashtu was okay. I told her, “See that machine over there. Lahar calls it a ‘Soul Transference Machine’. He built it from parts he found scattered around the castle.”
“Did he? Perhaps he does remember something, even now. I should not find it surprising. He is the father of the Gilded, after all. Or, he was. He forgot himself a long time ago.”
“Their father? I thought he was one of many Second Children?”
“His memory is intact but distorted. He is a Second Child. He remembers he is Gilded but not his original purpose. The First Children do not remember they are Gilded and have no purpose beyond survival.”
“Forgive me for my ignorance, but your terminology is different, and you were not easy to talk to before.”
“Yes… yes. As I was saying, the story is long, but you won’t understand otherwise.”
“I see, we carry on from yesterday. Please, go ahead.”
“We were once Dwemer. We were dying, sent to the Sickness Ward… the hospital. We did not want to die. Lahar thought to capture our souls upon death, and give us new life by planting the Crystalline Hearts in metal bodies. Our souls drive our machine bodies, and in turn, our bodies give consciousness to our souls.”
“There must be a difference between the Gilded and normal Dwemer animunculi. They all contain filled Soul Gems but are mindless like the Gilded below. I can only think the difference is the Crystalline Hearts. They are unlike all other Soul Gems I have seen.”
“Perhaps. Lahar may be able to tell you.”
“Many came before me. They are the First Children. It didn’t work properly. They lost themselves.”
“That did not justify Amalgam’s disregard for their right to live.”
“No. It didn’t. Some were made later, and worked better… for a time. The Second Children, like Lahar.”
“You said Lahar was the father of the Gilded. I assume he created the First Children when still a Dwemer and then hoped he had it right when he subjected himself to an improved process?”
“Correct. When it was my turn… to die… to have my body burned and my bones gilded, I was a Third Child. I was the last.”
“So, your process was somehow different. What prevented more Third Children from being created?”
“Do you know the Battle of Red Mountain, in Morrowind?”
“There are many differing accounts of that battle, but yes, I know of it. One thing is constant amongst the various accounts. That commonality is that all Dwemer vanished during the battle. I know that is wrong!”
“Why is it wrong?”
“I have met Dwemer who lived beyond that time. I know for sure one of them was still alive seven years ago. I have met people of other races who are supposed to be extinct according to the written histories. I have also killed the last of a people and thereby ensured a species is extinct. It was one thing I wish my Gods did not require of me.”
“You are not a normal mortal, are you?”
“No, but that is a long and complicated story I will be happy to discuss with you in the future. Dwemer were rather dismissive of Gods, so I doubt much of what I could tell you would make sense.”
“Ludwig explained The Nine to us. We tried to understand.”
“Why is the Battle of Red Mountain important to your story?”
“Though I did not learn this until Ludwig found us, and I read the histories in his library, that was when I died.”
“Do you mean when Kagrenac struck Lorkhan’s Heart with his tools?”
“Yes, that exact moment. I died, and something went wrong.”
“Let me speculate on what went wrong. Your soul split in two. Your heart contains half, the Dwemer Ghost, who Amalgam called Shadow, has the other half.”
“How could you guess this?”
“I have seen similar before. But since we are dealing with a unique event, the striking of Lorkhan’s Heart with Kagrenac’s Tools, there is another possibility. Your soul and that of Shadow may be identical but from different timelines.”
“I am not knowledgeable about such things.”
“We are talking metaphysics here, and even though I deal with Gods, much of it seems illogical and hard to comprehend. But I have learnt enough to make educated guesses about the improbable. Please explain how you became a Gilded.”
“The First Children assembled my machine body, but the Dwemer were all gone, and so was my flesh. Every sense was numb. Time passed – maybe days, maybe years – and then she came to me. Shadow is my other half. She let me know I was still here. She is the one that followed you.”
“Shadow did not follow me. She forced me to come here by hurting me if I strayed from the path she chose. She was what collapsed the tunnels behind me. She wanted me to find this place and you and Lahar. Maybe she knew your heart was failing? Maybe she wanted revenge on Amalgam who also hurt her in his pursuit of immortality. Maybe it was for another reason yet to be discovered.”
“I did not tell you this when you asked about her because I did not want to. I can see you were getting close to the truth with your questions. I didn’t know she would try and keep you here. I still do not know why she has.”
“She wanted me to come here. If the Travel Machine still does not work for me, I must not have completed what she wants. Without checking, I believe the Travel Machine will still not work for me. The other task she may want me to help with is the combining of your souls. To make you whole once more.”
“What would happen if your left via your airship?”
“Since that is Dwemer technology, she may be able to prevent it from leaving. I doubt she could stop my other methods that involve teleportation not of Ayleid design. If I left without helping her, it would be a mean spirited and selfish thing to do. So that will not happen.”
“Perhaps I can help you, as it would help me.”
“You wish the same as her?”
“Yes. Shadow is part of me. I want to reunite with her and become whole again. If we defeat her and I cast Soul Trap on her… perhaps we can be rejoined.”
“Is she in Nurndural?”
“Yes. Please, help me reach and defeat her.”
“Her Shadow form may give her powers she will lose if combined with you. Maybe she could no longer stop the Transport Machine from working. So even if this combining of souls is not what she wants, we could probably leave that way. I would not want to leave without giving her what she wants, even if we have helped you.”
“I see. I understand.”
“We will be happy to accompany you, but first I would like to get some more answers.”
“Ask your questions. I promise to be more forthcoming this time.”
“Why were the people of Nurndural trying to gain metal bodies?”
“Kagrenac was not the only one searching for immortality. We had a different method in mind, and perhaps a more pressing need.”
“A disease? A plague?”
“Yes. Mortal disease cannot be denied, no matter how much we may have wanted to.”
“I have found when studying the Dwemer, their skills in Restoration and medicine were not superior to other races. It seems some knowledge was still elusive.”
“Kagrenac’s genius in the construction of the Brass God could not be ignored. The bodies of the Gilded are Numidium in miniature.”
“That explains a bit about how the Crystallised Hearts differ from normal Soul Gems. They are like the Mantella my father used to power the Numidium after the Tribunal, fake Gods powered by Lorkhan’s Heart, gifted it to him.”
“Your father was Tiber Septim?”
“Ludwig wrote in his journals that you were an avid reader.”
“It is how I caught up with four thousand years of history.”
“Yes, Tiber Septim is my father. I am very much like you, Lamashtu. I have a soul not designed for the body in which it resides. I have the soul of a Dovah.”
“You are what they call Dragonborn?”
“Yes, and I am on Nirn to do tasks for my Gods. I have a reverence for all mortal life. That is why I wish to aid not just you, but to keep the Gilded safe from harm. That is why I had no hesitation in killing Amalgam.”
“Is there more you wish to know?”
“Did you ever meet Kagrenac?”
“No. We all knew of Kagrenac’s achievements, but the Red Mountain is far distant from Nurndural.”
“Yet close enough during the Red Year and afterwards to cause extensive damage.”
“That is true.”
“I have gathered Kagrenac’s Tools to ensure they can no longer be used by those seeking power. Many sought them in the hope of creating another Numidium. Nirn doesn’t need such a thing and certainly not in the hands of those seeking to conquer. I wish my father had never used it.”
“You have not asked about the fate of the Dwemer.”
“You died when it happened. You would not know the fate of The Dwemer and anything in Ludwig’s library would be conjecture, not fact.”
“You are correct; I have no answers.”
“Why do you have bones? Even Amalgam maintained his bones in his larger form.”
“Being given a new, alien machine body is not an easy thing. We are made of our bones to ease the change. Those that came before without their bones did not survive the trauma.”
“There were failures before the First Children?”
“Correct. But Amalgam only carried his bones. They were not part of his new machine. This flaw further warped his mind.”
“What is the wailing sound that Shadow makes?”
“The process by which we were made was dangerous. It involved great heat, molten metal and noxious vapours. A warning alarum accompanied the act. That is the sound Shadow makes.”
“It was the last thing you heard before your death.”
“You were with Shadow in the mausoleum. Does she visit often? I know she visited when Ludwig was alive.”
“She comes to me sometimes, but she cannot speak, and I doubt she understands me. It’s as if she just wants to be near.”
“Will we have to use violence against Shadow for you to be reunited?”
“We may. Even if Shadow led you here and even if somewhere in her subconscious, she wants the reunification she might need forcing.”
“I realise you have no knowledge about the Dwemer disappearance, but what about their life before that? Do you have memories of those times?”
“You told me you know beings as old as me. I assume you know one even older?”
“Several. All Dov are as old as time. I tinvaak, speak, with many of them. A good friend of mine is a Falmer. Not the slave race of the Dwemer but a majestic Snow Elf who survived the mindless slaughter undertaken by the Nords. I have met a Dwemer who is older than you. An Ayleid Princess as well. All had intact memories, but none of them went through such a transformation as you endured. I understand how that can cause a loss of memory.”
“You told me you thought something went wrong with the process to make me Gilded. I was very sick, and the change was difficult. I can only remember some things that happened a short time before my death.”
“Are you sad that you have lost those memories?”
“Yes, I would like to have remembered friends and family. Our rituals and history.”
“I sympathise. My Gods removed my memories for unknown reasons. I can only remember the last four years of my life.”
“Are they gone forever?”
“I do not think so. I catch glimpses now and then. Perhaps I will recover them fully one day.”
“I still have hope mine are not lost. Perhaps combining with Shadow may bring them back?”
“That would be a good thing, and I hope it is so.”
“Anything more you wish to ask?”
“Do you recall what it was like to be dead?”
“No. To me, it was like sleep without dreams.”
“I have been dead twice. I remember some of it. But that is because Gods saved me so I could continue helping others.”
‘You said you thought the Gilded could love.”
“We know so little about the Dwemer. The legacy they left behind makes them seem heartless pursuers of immortality with no morality. Their rejection of the Gods that gave them life and a place to live does not endear them to me. There were tremendous sacrifices made by those Gods! So, I have difficulty imagining such an arrogant species being capable of love. But it is obvious that Lahar loved his people and worked hard to make the Gilded so they could survive the disease. It was obvious to me when you were dying with your failing Crystalline Heart that he cared for you. I am pleased both Dwemer and Gilded have experienced love. It is the strongest force known and more valuable than all the material riches of this world combined.”
“You know love?”
“The love I share with my wife has saved my life and proven stronger than the Daedric Lords. My love for the people of Nirn is a fundamental part of me. I am blessed to be surrounded by love.”
“The books I have read do not hold back in their criticism of the Dwemer. It is difficult to see the beauty in metal machines.”
“I have seen Dwemer art. Some of it is beautiful. Some of it is harsh. They were capable of producing art when making a statement but never just for decoration.”
“Ludwig asked me to tell him my thoughts on particular pieces of art within the castle. He was disappointed with my responses. However, when I started to express opinions on some pieces he had not asked me about, he realised my preferences were not the same as his. Not wrong, just different. That pleased him.”
“There are many subjective things. Taste in music, for instance. That is another thing I do not understand about the Dwemer. Sound was important to them. Hence the Tonal Architects. But music did not seem to exist within their society.”
“You have seen that everything, including religion, was subjected to logical appraisal by the Dwemer. I enjoy music, but I doubt Lamashtu the Dwemer ever did. You will find music boxes that Ludwig constructed within the castle. He combined his skills as a jeweller, his fascination with machinery and his love of art into compact expressions of all three.”
“I am intrigued and will look for them.”
“Is there anything else you wish to discuss?”
“No, we are ready to return to Nurndural with you.”
“Good. We shall likely find Shadow in the Animoculotory where the Gilded were made. It is in ‘Direction of Flow’, deep in Nurndural. The door was locked, last I was there, but I should be able to open it.”
“We visited Direction of Flow when searching for repair pipes. We had to knock down many Gilded there. They will have got up again by now.”
“My brethren will attack me as they do you. I cannot die, but I can also get knocked down.”
“Although on close inspection you differ from the other Gilded there could be confusion during battle.”
“I have thought of that. I will get something to identify me before we go to stop mistakes in battle.”
“We need to ‘knock down’ Shadow. Not the same as we do for Gilded but the same concept. Injure her enough so she can no longer fight.”
“That is correct. Then I will Soul Trap Shadow so we can be reunited.”
“Go and fetch what you need. We will wait for you.”
As Lamashtu headed into the castle, Inigo said, “I find I am getting fond of the Gilded.”
“One thing I have not seen in the Velothi tunnels or Nurndural is signs of Falmer subjugation. I think they lived comfortably without the need for slaves.”
Lamashtu came running up to us with a red sash proudly on display. I asked her, “Didn’t I see that under one of the smaller clocks in the lobby?”
“Yes, we had better hurry before Lahar notices. He is likely to explode if he finds it missing.”
We made our way through the castle then back outside via the front door. We entered the mausoleum, where Shadow immediately confronted us.
She stood staring at me as I slowly approached. When I got within a few feet, her siren sounded, and she disintegrated into burning embers. On the ground were scorch marks similar to those I saw in the Velothi tunnels.
Lamashtu said, “She knows something is wrong. We shall need to search her out.”
When we entered Nurndural, it was devoid of Gilded.
We quickly made our way to the Animoculotory without encountering a single aggressive being.
Lamashtu said, “This is it. The Animoculotory lays just beyond. I don’t think it has been disturbed for centuries – perhaps millennia.” She then proceeded to unlock the door.
The Animoculotory was full of sarcophagi where Dwemer transformed into Gilded. They would enter the sarcophagus, have their soul trapped then their body covered in molten metal. The molten metal would sear away the flesh but leave the bones. The still malleable metal was then forged into their metal body by machines. A Crystalline Heart containing their soul was then placed within the rib-cage of the inert Gilded, and they were awakened. No longer Dwemer but Gilded.
Lamashtu said, “Shadow is in here somewhere.”
I warned The Sentinel, “Shadow emits a field similar to a powerful Lich. It will drain your lifeforce quickly. So, like Deathweaver, leave her to me and if you want to engage her, do it via spell and bow.”
“Who or what is this Deathweaver?” Lamashtu asked.
“He was one of your ex-slaves who wanted revenge for what was done to his race. He would have had no hesitation attacking Nurndural to destroy you all.”
“But we do not remember being Dwemer or owners of slaves!”
“It would have made no difference. But that is not a story for now. Do not fret for Deathweaver is dead.”
Some sarcophagi were locked and could not be opened.
The familiar Dwemer bust sat atop each sarcophagus. I think its stern, hard face has contributed to public opinion of the race.
Some sarcophagus contained the skeletal remains of failed transformations.
I opened a sarcophagus from which Shadow emerged.
One swipe of my sword and she disintegrated into ashes.
After destroying half a dozen undead Gilded, we continued our search for Shadow. When there were only a few unopened sarcophagi left everybody became tense.
I opened the second last sarcophagus and Shadow leapt out once more. I called out, “She no longer drains lifeforce!” The Sentinel converged on her.
I reduced her to a puddle of ectoplasm with a single swing of my sword.
Lamashtu approached, so I stepped over the puddle to give her room. She muttered something then Shadow’s soul left the ectoplasm and entered her.
The Soul Trap finished then all was quiet.
I looked up at Lamashtu. The ensuing conversation reminded me of when I talk to my Dovah half.
- Lamashtu: That’s it. I have her. She… I… It’s been so long.
- Shadow: Don’t leave. Don’t go out there. Stay here.
- Lamashtu: I am here. I am with you.
- Wulf: Am I speaking to both Lamashtu and Shadow?
- Lamashtu: No.
- Shadow: Yes.
- Lamashtu: I am… unsure.
- Wulf: I saw her soul enter you. Is she in your Crystalline Heart?
- Shadow: Yes, I am in her heart.
- Lamashtu: I had thought that she was the missing part of me, that she was what I was needed. But it is like looking at my reflection.
- Wulf: I mentioned the different accounts of the Battle of Red Mountain. You would have read them in Ludwig’s vast collection of books. They are all correct because they occurred during a Dragon Break, also called an Un-Time. The regular progress of linear time is disrupted and multiple timelines that normally happen in parallel and never meet end up converging. We know the Dwemer vanished when Kagrenac struck Lorkhan’s Heart. Now we know another two things that happened in parallel when Kagrenac struck Lorkhan’s Heart. You became Gilded, and you became Shadow. Usually those two entities would exist in their parallel timelines but, due to the Dragon Break, the timelines merged. Therefore, both of you now exist in this timeline. You have identical but separate souls.
- Inigo: That is the most gobblygook thing you have ever said!
- Lamashtu: So, we were the same all along. Both nothing but copies of the living Lamashtu.
- Wulf: Do not regard yourselves as copies of the Dwemer called Lamashtu. You are individuals whose life experiences differ from each other’s since your souls found new homes. One of you has spent four thousand years as Gilded. The other as Shadow. Neither of you bears any resemblance to the Dwemer called Lamashtu.
- Lamashtu: Yes, I have had a body and voice while Shadow had nothing. But I am always the same and am still the same. I hoped retrieving Shadow’s soul would help. I expected to feel better. But now I realise that I too am a ghost.
- Wulf: You have both lacked stimulation. Life is not just existing. You exist so you can experience things. Tastes, sounds, sights and emotions. That is living. Stagnating in endless repetition is not living; it is just existing. Do you understand?
- Lamashtu: We do. Thank you.
- Wulf: I think you are both Lamashtu and Shadow now. You have quickly decided to stop fighting for control. I once had to do the same thing, but it took me a lot longer to realise it was necessary. I understand.
- Lamashtu: I am her, and she is me. I am unsure.
- Wulf: I was wrong about Shadow’s motivation for bringing me to Chlodovech Castle.
- Lamashtu: I am her, and she is me. It is difficult to explain my thoughts from when… my thoughts as Shadow. I think perhaps there were no thoughts, only feelings. I was lonely. Death is eternal loneliness.
- Wulf: Death is eternal loneliness for those without faith. An afterlife exists, and all it needs is belief in one of the many real Gods to experience it. That is a fundamental truth the Dwemer foolishly abandoned. I will not be lonely upon my death. I will join my Celestial Mother amongst the stars where my Minotaur brethren can teach me to fly. I will enjoy the company of my Father and Celestial Father. I know this! Therefore, I am not afraid of death. But I do not welcome it as I have much more living to do.
- Shadow: I called out to you, and kept you close, because I was lonely. I think I did the same to that… that man… Ludwig. Yes, Ludwig. Though with him, I don’t think it was needed.
- Wulf: He chose to stay. You did not keep him prisoner. You could not have held me prisoner. Even so, I was not going to leave till I knew what you needed. Now I know, and I am pleased you have it.
- Shadow: I couldn’t speak. Not to him or you. Not even to myself. I couldn’t do it.
- Wulf: Ludwig also gave up on speaking. He no longer talked to the Gilded. When you have nothing to talk about, as stagnation is your existence, there is a reluctance to speak. He did not attempt to return to civilisation as he did not want to talk anymore. He did not want to explain who and what he was and thereby subjected to judgement. It is a self-perpetuating nightmare. To break the stagnation, you must interact with the world. The stagnation makes you scared of doing so.
- Lamashtu: We, I mean I, will return to the castle. Thank you for helping me.
As Lamashtu headed back to the castle, I joined The Sentinel to discuss what the gobblygook was all about.
- Inigo: I can sort of understand it. Wulf has one soul but is similar to Lamashtu in many ways.
- Illia: He has a duality about him. Wulf the Man and Wulf the Dovah. The same but different.
- Nubaree: Every mundane thing will be new to Shadow even if Lamashtu has experienced it millions of times. Such as having a physical body and being able to pick something up. Talking, sharing of ideas, and reading will be new to Shadow. The list is endless.
- Wulf: Hopefully, the sense of wonder and excitement Shadow will experience makes Lamashtu enjoy her life more. Stimulate her and prevent stagnation.
- Plue: Lahar was surprised she could lose herself like the First Children. But they were flawed upon creation. She would have ended up like them not through a flaw, but as a result of circumstance. She was bored just like Ludwig was.
- Wulf: It makes you wonder how Knight-Paladin Gelebor, Paarthurnax, Princess Pilvi-Hinnesh, Lady Valerica and others stayed sane after millennia of isolation.
- Inigo: The Princess did not stay sane.
- Wulf: The cause was not stagnation but a sense of guilt.
- Plue: You mentioned the reminder of linear time that pervades the castle.
- Wulf: Yes, but all Dov have lived since the beginning of linear time and, like me, can sense it. Our souls go tick-tock. We do not need a mechanical device to remind us. By itself, the sense of time passing will not make you insane.
- Illia: The difference between all of those beings and Lamashtu is the occasional break in the monotony. Knight-Paladin Gelebor had many people approach him in their quest for Auriel’s Bow. Paarthurnax was not flying free as other Dov, but he did have visits from The Greybeards and occasional student of The Voice. Valerica would have spoken to the many fools who found themselves trapped within the Soul Carin.
- Wulf: Pilvi was the only one genuinely alone for thousands of years.
- Inigo: Ludwig has only been dead for one hundred and twenty years. Why did Lamashtu degenerate so quickly?
- Wulf: Remember, when she first arrived at the castle, she had a need to learn so read as many books as she could. Some people need stimulation constantly. Lahar, on the other hand, seems to have been happy tinkering around the castle. Even though the place was a bit dusty when we arrived, he had maintained what he could to the best of his ability considering the ruptured pipeline. Different people have different needs to prevent stagnation.
- Plue: It is like you get bored travelling through some ancient ruins that others would find fascinating every time.
- Inigo: Meeko will fetch thrown sticks or balls till his legs fall off, yet he is very intelligent.
- Meeko: Woof.
- Nubaree: I have seen you chase your tail. Whatever keeps you amused as long as others aren’t harmed.
- Wulf: Inigo chases his tail? What a cute little kitty!
- Inigo: It is good exercise plus I usually get dizzy, which is almost as much fun as being drunk and a lot cheaper to achieve.
- Meeko: WOOF!
- Inigo: See, Meeko approves, and he is probably smarter than all of you!
- Wulf: I can see by how quickly this discussion has degenerated that we have had enough gobblygook for now. Let us head back to the castle.
We made it back to Chlodovech Castle without incident. Lahar came up to us and said, “It is good to have Lamashtu with us once more.”
“She may be a bit different for some time Lahar. Just talk to her. Assure her she is okay. She will adjust to her new reality.”
“She quickly tried to explain how two identical souls came to be. I am glad you understood enough to figure it out.”
“You proved you are more than just a caretaker. I have some ideas you may be interested in pursuing. Can you make a machine to write and read Dwemer Lexicons?”
“With the right components. But I do not want to risk travelling to Nurndural.”
“We can supply the parts. I would like to make one for here and one to place within Nurndural.”
“You wish to educate the Gilded?”
“I don’t know if their condition is reversible. But still, I think the Gilded below may be capable of regaining control of their wild thoughts if they have some stimulus. It would be good to try it if not too much effort.”
“It is elementary.”
“I thought you would say that. Can you please inter Ludwig in the family mausoleum? Next to his father if possible.”
“They made room for him there, and that is when they discovered Nurndural. As soon as I learnt you found his body, I took him there and placed him with his family.”
“Thank you once again, Lahar.”
“You are welcome.”
“We will be leaving soon. I would love to look around the castle even more, but I have to get back to my people.”
“Who are you to know of such things as Dragon Breaks and duplicate souls.”
“Do you know of The Empire.”
“Of course. Ludwig said High Rock was part of the Empire and that this castle is in Skyrim, also part of the Empire. He showed me a map, and The Empire is massive.”
“Not as big as it used to be. The leader of The Empire is usually just The Emperor. At the moment two people rule together, The High Queen and her husband, The Emperor. I am the Emperor.”
“You rule over a lot of people!”
“You, Lamashtu and the rest of the Gilded are now citizens of The Empire. You are now protected by its laws and also expected to obey them. My Queen and I are responsible for your wellbeing.”
“You helped Lamashtu out of a sense of duty?”
“No Lahar, I helped because she needed it.”
“Lamashtu only gave me a summary of what happened; however, we will talk more later. She said you also have two souls.”
“I have the soul of a Dovah but the body of a Man. One soul but two distinct personalities if you want to think of it that way. If I acted as my soul dictates, I would not be pleasant to be around. I used to fight my Dovah half for control. Now we are fully merged. That is what will happen with Lamashtu. She and Shadow will sometimes have different wants, but eventually they will merge.”
“As I said, we only had a brief discussion. I look forward to talking to Lamashtu some more and helping as I can.”
“Soon I will visit again with people like Ludwig. They will be full of questions and want to know lots of things. They may be here for some time. I will also be stationing soldiers here fulltime. They will change every month and will be responsible for guarding the way into Nurndural. Nobody will be allowed to disturb the Gilded who live below.”
“There are large guest rooms that can accommodate dozens of people. They will be comfortable.”
“When I visit again soon, my Queen will be with me. Her name is Rigmor and mine is Wulf. Perhaps you and Lamashtu may want to visit our home in Cyrodiil. That is what friends do, visit each other’s homes.”
“We are friends? That is a good thing.”
“It is an excellent thing. Goodbye for now, Lamashtu.”
We made our way downstairs where Lamashtu waited near the front door. She handed me a spell tome which I looked at briefly.
I said to her, “A Mark and Recall spell for the castle. This Dweomer will be very valuable to us. Thank you.”
“I overheard your conversation with Lahar. I hope that was not wrong of me to do so.”
“No Lahar, if a conversation is in an open space where others live, it would be wrong to expect privacy unless asked for.”
“Will the people that soon visit have new books?”
“I can make sure they bring many books and will leave the ones you have not read here for you.”
“Your idea of a Lexicon machine for below is good. Lahar and I can quickly transfer the written words to the Lexicons. Perhaps the Gilded will grow with such knowledge.”
“I suspect it may be some time before they even try and use it.”
“I think they will use it. Those Gilded below may not become as they were, but they will be more than they are.”
“One or more of the people that visit will be Snow Elves as they were before enslavement by the Dwemer.”
“Will they be hostile?”
“No Lamashtu, they would not blame the Gilded for the sins of their forefathers for that is what happened to them. The Nords blamed the Snow Elves for the sins of their forefathers and almost killed them all. They are also citizens of The Empire now and must obey our laws.”
“Shadow is pleased and so am I. We are now part of something bigger. That is exciting!”
“I bet she finds most things fascinating. She watched for millennia and is probably puzzled by a lot of what she saw. Now she will be full of questions like a curious child.”
“She has agreed to learn by observation. Otherwise, I could not have this conversation with you. I would be too busy explaining the most basic of things, such as how to open a door and why we have them.”
“It will be interesting to see how your two souls interact. I can only speculate as I know no other being with such.”
“I did offer her a separate body. We can do that with the machine Lahar built to repair my Crystalline Heart.”
“There were no other empty ones inside Amalgam. The mages who visit would be able to search Nurndural without danger to themselves.”
“We cannot make her Gilded as she has no skeleton. But we could make a new machine that would accept a Crystalline Heart. But that is in the future if she so desires. As you said, it is only speculation on what will happen.”
“Shadow is no longer alone, and neither are you and Lahar. It is about time you all learned to live among others once more. The visitors will be a chance for you to remember how that feels.”
“We were never happier than when Ludwig’s family lived here. You have different species and races travelling with you and aboard your airship. You do not act as master and servants but as friends. Maybe even family.”
“I hope that all species and races can be friends. You will find those who I call friends will find you strange at first, however the differences will soon become inconsequential. We respect our differences; we do not judge them.”
“I suspect you have much to say on this matter.”
“It is a cornerstone of how my Queen and I govern The Empire.”
“I hope when you return that we can speak of things in depth. Meantime, I wish you a safe journey and look forward to your next visit. Be assured that Lahar will have the castle looking like new.”
“And I wish you the best in adjusting to your new reality. Lahar seems to be remembering who he is and realising he is not just a caretaker. Do not hesitate to speak to him about complex things.”
We made our way to Nafalilargus and boarded it just before 11:00 PM. The mages will fly us to Bruma early tomorrow morning.
We all sat and had a late dinner while we discussed our time with the Gilded.
I look forward to returning soon and seeing the whole of Chlodovech Castle with Rigmor by my side. That is the main reason I did not stay longer and peek into all the rooms. There will be wonders to uncover which I want my beloved to discover with me.
I wrote this journal entry then crawled into a bed that seemed way too big without Rigmor and the bump to share it. Meeko snuck into my room, crawled onto the bed then took up 75% of it. Problem solved except he snores louder than Rigmor, but not by much.
I know not what time I fell asleep.