Skyrim quests: Reluctant Steward, Lost Legacy, Unearthed.
Tharstan was excited as we made our way to the recently uncovered entrance.
- Tharstan: Remarkable, isn’t it? This tomb has been hidden for… well, who knows how long. Many centuries, I would think.
- Wulf: It is from the time of the Dragon War. The Merethic Era. In other words, it is from before Year Zero of the First Era. We will be the first to enter the tomb for thousands of years.
- Tharstan: Oh. Then it is even more remarkable!
- Inigo: Don’t be surprised if the General starts yawning. What is exciting to most is boring to him.
- Wulf: I respect the antiquity, but these ancient tombs all start to look alike.
- Rigmor: Maybe there are new ways of dying horribly in this one?
- Wulf: Now that would be interesting!
We came to a set of doors. I used Night Vision while I searched it for traps.
- Wulf: OK, there are no physical traps, and I think the doors are unlocked. I can detect no normal dweomer, and I doubt very much that Daedric dweomer would be used within a Dragon Priest’s tomb.
- Rigmor: Except for Miraak’s.
- Wulf: Yes, but a Dark Lord sponsored him. That in itself would have made him a traitor to the Dov.
- Lydia: Do you wish us to stand back, just in case?
- Wulf: That would be prudent.
The others moved twenty feet away as I opened the doors. When nothing untoward happened, we all entered a narrow corridor.
- Wulf: The stonework is identical to many tombs on the mainland. Boring!
- Rigmor: I recognise the similarities to Bleak Falls Barrow.
- Wulf: Tharstan, we are the first to enter for thousands of years.
- Tharstan: Which I find amazing despite your blasé attitude.
- Wulf: And you have every right to be amazed and excited. But let me spoil your mood by asking an unanswered question.
- Jordis: Here we go!
- Wulf: Who has lighted the fires and why? The Draugr do not need them!
- Tharstan: Ahh… umm…
- Rigmor: And the General ruins another scholar’s life by asking that question.
- Tharstan: Yes, well… mmm…
- Lydia: Perhaps we can ask Master Neloth if he has ever figured that puzzle out?
- Inigo: Surely that would be more interesting than belly button fluff and snot?
- Wulf: Let’s keep going before Tharstan realises we are all insane and runs screaming back to Skaal Village.
The corridor led to a large chamber. A dais with an etched tablet on top and twist handle below attracted our attention. I had a quick look at the message written in Dovahzul.
- Wulf: This is an example of something that irritates me more than sand in my underwear. Here we have a simple puzzle with an obvious solution. Tharstan, would you like to attempt to decipher the writing. We might as well take this opportunity to improve your Dovahzul.
- Tharstan: Thank you, General. It will stop me contemplating the lighted fires.
- Lydia: Not for long!
My companions knew the wise thing to do. Nobody wandered away to inspect anything else in the chamber, no matter how alluring from a distance.
After ten minutes and extensive flicking through his Dovahzul dictionary’s pages, Tharstan was ready to present his translation.
- Tharstan: ‘A sacrifice will bring you closer to that which you seek.’ Is that correct?
- Wulf: That is an excellent translation. Other scholars might differ slightly, but the message is what counts.
- Rigmor: That is an easy puzzle!
- Tharstan: It is?
- Rigmor: On the ground is a trapdoor over a firepit. I bet that twist handle opens the trapdoor.
- Lydia: So, a sacrifice needs to fall into the fire. I volunteer Inigo for that honour!
- Inigo: I will have to decline due to my allergic reactions triggered when burning alive.
- Wulf: I suggest we try one of the numerous corpses littering the floor first. Then maybe a Sweetroll or something else before Inigo. There is nothing to imply it has to be a living mortal that is sacrificed.
- Lydia: Please, not a Sweetroll! Try sacrificing Inigo before you take that drastic step!
- Tharstan: She isn’t serious, is she?
- Wulf: I don’t know. Lydia hasn’t been the same since we fought Alduin in Sovngarde.
- Tharstan: She what?
- Inigo: Hey, I was there as well and am perfectly normal. Just ask Ralph.
- Tharstan: Who is Ralph?
- Rigmor: His six-foot-tall invisible rabbit. Wave to Tharstan, George. Good boy! He is so cute.
- Inigo: Tharstan, you had better wave back, or Ralph might start crying.
Tharstan waved back to the invisible, non-existent, six-foot-tall rabbit accompanied by the laughter of my companions. As the realisation that he was the target of a prank dawned on Tharstan, I made my way down to the firepit.
I placed one of the emancipated corpses onto the centre of the trapdoor.
I then returned to the dais and asked everybody to be quiet. I was unsure what turning the handle might trigger.
As Tharstan waited below, I turned the handle. The trapdoor opened, and the body fell into the flames.
Two faint clicks, one to the right and the other to the left, were heard followed by the noisy raising of portcullises. I could also hear and sense something else the others could not.
- Tharstan: Excellent! It seems we now have progress available in two directions. General, since you seem to know what you are doing, tell us which way to go.
- Wulf: I can sense two Word Walls, one each direction.
- Tharstan: What do you mean when you say sense?
- Wulf: I can hear them. Plus their dweomer is a sort of magnet to me. The noise they make increases as I get closer.
- Tharstan: They emit a noise that others cannot hear?
- Wulf: The noise may not exist at all, but it is merely how my brain interprets the phenomena.
- Tharstan: Why would a Word Wall do that?
- Wulf: Most Word Walls can teach a Dragonborn a Word of Power for use in a Shout. Does that make sense? Are you familiar with the basics of the Thu’um?
- Tharstan: Yes, I have read several treatises on the subject. I don’t recall any of them mentioning Word Walls. It is valuable knowledge that I must mention in my next published book.
- Rigmor: So, General, which way, left or right?
- Wulf: Let us proceed to my right since I am always right.
- Rigmor: Yeah, right, pfft! As the Champion of The Divines, should you not always speak the truth?
- Wulf: I am also Boethia’s Champion and Meridia’s. They would expect me to lie.
- Jordis: He makes a fair point.
- Lydia: I am so sad. The furry blue thing survives.
- Inigo: Keep this up, Lydia, and I will refuse to father your children!
We climbed some stairs to the right and then along a short corridor.
Another door led to a chamber with many fire traps set on the flaw with a dais in front. As before, a tablet with Dovahzul runes provided a clue for the next puzzle.
- Wulf: I am feeling an urgency to be elsewhere so I will just read out the plaque and you can study it later on.
- Rigmor: Your compass?
- Wulf: Yes. I still have plenty of time but would like to rest before heading there.
- Tharstan: Compass?
- Wulf: The Divines need me elsewhere and tell me via what I call a compass.
- Tharstan: You are at the beck and call of gods?
- Wulf: No. I am on Nirn to do things they cannot. They have requested I be somewhere.
- Tharstan: You could refuse?
- Wulf: Yes, the gods cannot make us do anything.
- Lydia: We could spend all day talking about spiritual facts.
- Wulf: Correct, so let me read out what the plaque says. ‘Continue along the path. Do not tread where you have been.’ Once again, a simple puzzle that only knuckle-dragging inbreds could fail to solve.
- Inigo: You had better explain it to Lydia then.
- Lydia: I have figured it out already! Wulf has to walk up one line of the firetraps, step to the next and walk back along that line of firetraps then step to the next etcetera. That way, he will walk on all of the firetraps without stepping on a single one more than once.
- Wulf: Inigo, how would you like your humble pie? Hot or cold?
I did as Lydia suggested which resulted in a portcullis barring our way to lower.
Before proceeding, I said, “So far we have not met the guards. This place is the tomb of a Dragon Priest. We will meet Draugr, and they will be powerful and most likely users of the Thu’um. Be prepared.”
We all drew our weapons then proceeded with caution.
As predicted, many Draugr attacked as we moved towards a Word Wall.
One Draugr, in particular, took considerable effort to bring down.
Everybody stood and watched as I absorbed the Word of Power.
- Tharstan: What just happened?
- Wulf: As I said before, Word Walls teach Dragonborn Words of Power. This one taught me ‘Shaan’ which means inspire. It is the third Word of the Shout called Battle Fury. I already knew the Word and its meaning and how to use it in a Shout.
- Tharstan: The Word Wall teaches you the Word but not how to use it?
- Wulf: Normally, I would have to absorb a dragon’s soul to obtain the knowledge needed to use the Word. Some gods and the Greybeards can also gift it to me. People who are not Dragonborn may have to study the word for months or even years before using it in a Shout.
- Tharstan: How many Words of Power do you know?
- Wulf: More than any other Dragonborn before me. But I did not have to kill many Dov to gain the required knowledge. Kyne gifted the Words, how to use them in a Shout and the Shouts to me.
- Tharstan: You seem so relaxed with the fact you commune with gods.
- Wulf: It is what I have to do if I wish to fulfil my purpose of keeping the mortals of Nirn safe. I have learnt as much as I can about the Dark Lords and The Divines. This preparation allows me to be somewhat prepared for their idiosyncrasies. Speaking to Boethia is not the same as talking to Azura. Meridia tries to bully me. Talos tries to be patient with me but can anger quickly if I am stubborn. With Sheogorath, it is wise to show respect as he is one of the few gods that can make your life on Nirn very unpleasant. His insanity makes him unpredictable.
- Rigmor: What is the message on this Word Wall?
- Wulf: ‘Nonvul bron mahfaeraak dahmaan sahrot Vahlok wen lot ahkrin shaan ney muz ahrk Dovah.’ Roughly translated it says, ‘Noble Nord, forever remember mighty Guardian whose great courage inspired both men and dragon’.
- Lydia: General, you look a bit puzzled over that message.
- Wulf: It refers to Nords long before the descendants of the Atmoran were called that. It is as if it is written for today’s people, not back when it was first chiselled into the stone.
- Rigmor: Gobblygook?
- Wulf: One hundred per cent.
- Tharstan: I take it that means some premonition was involved.
- Wulf: I don’t know. Hence the gobblygook.
- Rigmor: We needed a word to explain the workings of the gods.
- Tharstan: That, I can understand!
I searched the very powerful Draugr that took so much effort to kill. On it was half of an amethyst dragon claw.
- Tharstan: What is that?
- Wulf: Part of a key. I assume the other half will be to the left of where we entered.
- Rigmor: There is no combination on the bottom.
- Wulf: Yes, that is very strange, indeed. But there are only a limited number of combinations. The missing combination will cause a slight delay and that is all.
- Lydia: Tharstan, I would suggest you wait till you see the door before asking more about combinations and dragon claws.
- Tharstan: That sounds like wise advice.
The back of the sarcophagus from which the powerful Draugr had emerged opened to a tunnel. That provided a shorter way back to the main chamber than retracing our steps.
I walked up to a gate in the middle of the chamber and examined two locks that accepted the halves of the dragon claw.
- Wulf: Maybe this is the only place we have to use the dragon claw, but I doubt it.
- Rigmor: We will see. There is no use guessing.
- Inigo: You sound more like the General every day.
- Rigmor: What a nasty thing to say!
- Lydia: Maybe we can get a potion to cure your affliction?
We climbed some steps then proceeded down a corridor on the left side of the chamber, towards the other Word Wall that was calling to me.
We entered another corridor then I signalled everybody to keep quiet as I looked ahead with Night Vision.
When I spotted a Draugr, I brought it down with my bow without it ever seeing us.
After dispatching six powerful Draugr without risking melee combat, we came to portcullis opened via a pull chain.
- Wulf: Relax. There is a puzzle ahead and no sign of more Draugr.
- Tharstan: You could see in the dark and could distinguish which of the corpses was a Draugr?
- Wulf: I have the eyesight of a dragon. I can see in the dark and detect living creatures through walls and doors.
- Tharstan: This tomb is remarkedly well preserved. Fortune has indeed smiled on us.
- Wulf: You might change your mind when we encounter Vahlok.
- Rigmor: That crouching and sneaking down a dark, Draugr infested corridor reminded me so much of following your butt through Bleak Falls Barrow.
- Wulf: Did you enjoy it?
- Rigmor: The skimpy armour you wore back then was like a skirt. It was a much better view than your currently armoured arse.
- Inigo: At least we are safe from those unfortunate emissions that result from a dragon soul absorption.
- Lydia: It made sneaking useless when those behind the General were gagging loudly.
I pulled the chain, the gate lifted, and we entered the chamber.
I read the inscription out loud,
- Wulf: Roughly translated this one says, ‘All men must die, often by their own means.’
- Tharstan: That is a bit grim!
- Wulf: It does not have much relevance to the solution to this puzzle. The clues are on the central pillar, and once again, I wonder how stupid they think people are.
- Tharstan: I am not stupid, but I see no obvious solution.
- Wulf: The central pillar has three sides. There are three corresponding pillars on the perimeter of the circle. Do you recognise the purpose of the smaller pillars?
- Tharstan: The glowing stone at the top of each may be what other archaeologists have described and sketched. I think they called them ‘Impact Stones’.
- Wulf: So, if I am to hit the stones, what do I use? Look at the red side of the central column.
- Tharstan: Oh, a sword. You would hit the Impact Stone with a sword!
- Rigmor: This sort of puzzle irritates the General. The solutions are always simple, which makes us wonder what type of idiot they are to stymie? Why go through the effort of constructing them in the first place?
- Wulf: And the answer to those questions is?
- Rigmor: Gobblygook!
The green side of the central pillar had a picture of a bow.
I shot the corresponding Impact Stone with an arrow then the smaller pillar glowed green.
The blue side of the central pillar had a picture of a staff.
I cast Incinerate on the corresponding Impact Stone then the smaller pillar glowed blue.
The red side of the central pillar had a picture of a sword.
I hit the corresponding Impact Stone with my sword then the small pillar glowed red.
Loud grinding and a cloud of dust accompanied rocks sliding to expose a hidden entrance to the next chamber.
- Rigmor: I can see three horizontal coffins and one against the wall. The toughest Draugr will be in the middle one.
- Tharstan: Is it that predictable?
- Wulf: YAWN!
- Rigmor: Unfortunately for the General, who has to visit many of these tombs, yes.
- Wulf: If some horrible beast doesn’t kill me, the boredom will.
As predicted, weaker Draugr sprung from the other coffins as we approached the Word Wall. They were quickly cut down.
The Draugr that emerged from the central coffin needed a lot more effort to defeat.
Upon the body of the powerful Draugr was the other half of the amethyst dragon claw.
I approached the Word Wall and quickly absorbed the Word of Power.
- Wulf: The Word of Power is ‘Vur’ which means valour. It is the second Word of the Battle Fury Shout. The inscription reads, ‘Qethsegol vahrukiv vur do faal Vahlok nonvul aar se Dovah wen dez lost wah qahnaar tahrodiis Miraak.’ That roughly translates to, ‘This stone commemorates the valour of The Guardian, noble servant of the Dragons, whose fate it was to vanquish treacherous Miraak.’
- Rigmor: I find it interesting they still made commemorative Word Walls for Vahlok even after he turned evil under Alduin’s influence.
- Wulf: I think the Skaal would have remembered, via their verbal histories, what he once was.
- Tharstan: It is a generous thing to do. Would they have set these puzzles with which you are less than impressed?
- Wulf: I doubt it. They would have asked for external help to set those. There is minimal mention of Magicka being utilised by the Skaal. The do harness the Old God magic of the All Maker.
- Jordis: It was nice of whoever or whatever to light those candles at the front and above the Word Wall.
- Tharstan: You evil woman! I had forgotten that paradox, and then you remind me of it once more.
- Jordis: There is no need to thank me. It was a pleasure.
- Inigo: Argh! Lydia, do not stand so close. I thought you were a zombie!
- Lydia: One of these days, I will punch you in that big nose of yours.
Like the other Word Wall room, a hidden passage opened at the back of one of the vertical coffins.
We quickly moved through the secret passage and were soon in the central chamber.
I approached the locked gate and inserted one half of the dragon claw into the right-hand lock then turned it until I heard a click.
I inserted the other half of the dragon claw into the left-hand lock then turned it until I heard a click.
The gate then swung open.
I approached the dais. Underneath the plaque was a twist handle. In front of us a moat with black skeletons patrolling the shallow water. There was no bridge to the opposite archway.
- Wulf: The inscription says, ‘Stay your course. To idle is to die.’
- Rigmor: The fall would not even wind you, and I doubt those skeletons pose much of a threat.
- Wulf: No, I could kill them from here using spell and Thu’um. I could also reach the archway using Whirlwind Sprint but the rest of you can’t.
- Inigo: You could summon Rigmor and me from the other side.
- Wulf: I can also summon Lydia and Jordis, but that leaves Tharstan, and it would be unfair to leave him behind.
- Meeko: WOOF!
- Wulf: Yes, fleabag, I can summon you as well.
- Lydia: Twist the handle, and maybe a solution will be provided.
- Wulf: My thought precisely. Let’s observe what happens before taking further action!
When I twisted the handle, a walkway made of the same Magicka substance that Telvanni lifts use appeared. However, the individual stepping stones were not permanent.
- Tharstan: By the nine! I’ve never seen anything like this. They appear to be platforms made entirely of magical force. Absolutely remarkable!
- Wulf: This is not a rare dweomer. All they have done is make it visible and included a condition that makes them dissipate over time.
- Jordis: The General is also a Master Mage in all the schools of Magicka.
- Tharstan: Is there anything he can’t do?
- Jordis: He can’t touch the tip of his nose with his tongue. Can you?
- Tharstan: If you think I will give you the satisfaction of laughing as I try, you are sadly mistaken. I will wait till you are not looking.
- Jordis: Such tongue dexterity would make you very popular with the ladies.
- Tharstan: Why is that… unless you mean… oh… oh my!
- Jordis: What a pretty shade of red! It suits you, Tharstan.
- Rigmor: It seems that only three of the stepping stones can exist at once. The first one that materialises of four will dissipate.
- Jordis: We could tie the General’s hands and feet, and he could still wriggle across the platform in time!
- Wulf: We need a way for Tharstan to cross. I will use the magic bridge and see if there is a solution on the other side.
The bridge zig-zagged and was not a direct route to the other side.
As soon as I stepped onto the other side, the temporary pavement vanished, and a permanent and direct route bridge came into being.
We had to cross several more moats. The speed the bridge sections were created and erased increased with each one. Some of the skeletons in the moats were armed with bows, so I took care of them with lightning as I found arrows flying past my head somewhat distracting. The last bridge required me to run and not hesitate at all.
After everybody had crossed the last bridge, we entered a room with a Dwarven Puzzle Door at the end.
- Rigmor: Calm down General Valdr. We know you hate these things.
- Wulf: They make no fucking sense!
- Lydia: We know that. But here it is, and we don’t have the combination.
- Tharstan: Why doesn’t he like these doors?
- Rigmor: For many reasons.
- Wulf: OK, there is no combination on the bottom of the claw. Therefore, I will try one combination at a time in a systematic manner. Another idiotic part of the design is it allows me to do that. I wish I could go back in time and throttle the inventor of this moronic thing!
- Tharstan: You mean the combination is usually on the bottom of the dragon claw, the key?
- Lydia: Yes, and that defeats the purpose. If you need two things to open the door, a key and a combination, why have them together? That provides no more security than just having a key or a combination.
- Tharstan: That is extremely…
- Wulf: STUPID! That is what it is. STUPID!
- Tharstan: Well, maybe the murals give a clue as to the combination?
- Wulf: No, they don’t. Give me a couple of minutes, and it will be open.
- Tharstan: How many combinations are there?
- Wulf: This door has five pictures per wheel. Some have four pictures per wheel and others six. There are three wheels, so that is five to the power of three combinations.
- Jordis: Five times five is twenty-five. Five times twenty-five is one hundred and twenty-five. So that is the number of possible combinations.
- Rigmor: That wasn’t gobblygook, was it?
- Jordis: No, that was mathematics.
- Rigmor: Same thing for some of us.
- Tharstan: Is there a penalty for entering the wrong combination?
- Rigmor: Sometimes you get set on fire, or poison darts are fired at you. Occasionally creatures will attack you.
- Wulf: There are no traps attached to this door that I can find but stand back just in case. This idiocy should not take long.
Five minutes later, as I systematically tried combinations, the door slowly lowered into the ground in a puff of dust.
We entered the newly revealed tunnel then I stomped along it in a foul mood. Rigmor tapped me on the shoulder, so I turned to face her.
“Why are you so happy?” I asked her.
“We are spending time together, my beloved. Plus, I find it amusing when you get so grumpy over ancient stupidity.”
“I do get a bit snarky, don’t I?”
“We are nearing the end of this place. Let’s deal with Vahlok and then get out into the fresh air.”
“We are still on Solstheim. There is no fresh air! Just ash and dirty snow.”
“What do I have to do to get you smiling once more?”
“I could teleport to my room in Silverpeak Lodge, and then you could join me. We could then discuss treatment for my severe case of aggravation.”
“There is nothing I would like more. Maybe after you have dealt with whatever is going on in Solitude, we can have some alone time.”
“Have I told you how much I love you?”
“Not for a few hours. I was starting to wonder.”
“We are supposed to be General Valdr and one of his companions. Otherwise, your lips would be mine for the next five minutes.”
“I think we have given Tharstan enough to ponder, so we had better keep moving.”
We had reached the final chamber. I opened a gate via a pull chain then we cautiously entered.
- Wulf: That is Vahlok’s sarcophagus just after the pool of water. Many of the Dragon Priests I have dealt with have such pools of water in the burial chamber. I have no idea why.
- Tharstan: Will Vahlok be powerful? You had great difficulty bringing down the two Draugr who had the dragon claw halves.
- Wulf: Despite what the book said about a terrific battle between Miraak and Vahlok, I doubt he is a match for me. He is a Lich though, so not somebody to be treated lightly.
- Tharstan: I think I will stand here and watch.
- Rigmor: A good idea. Many Draugr may be waiting to defend their master.
- Wulf: Or not. Sometimes they have relied on all before to keep them safe.
We drew weapons then slowly approached the Word Wall.
I called out, “Caution. Vahlok is doing something I have never seen before. His soul is ethereal.”
Rigmor replied, “I can’t see anything and his coffin lid is still in place.”
“It may be my dragon half that allows me to see him. He is watching as we approach. He can’t harm us in that form and will have to engage us in the flesh.”
I continued slowly towards the Dragon Priest. Vahlok’s ethereal form started to enter his body. The sarcophagus lid flew off in a cloud of dust then landed with a loud crash.
I was not taking any chances. Slow Time allowed me to reach Vahlok before he fully re-entered his body. But there was no use trying to cut down the ethereal form. It exists outside of the mortal realm and cannot be harmed. That is why he could not harm us whilst in that state.
Vahlok stood suddenly, but it was too late. Ethereal, he was untouchable, but now my sword sliced through his Dragonscale armour and into his flesh.
Vahlok had no defence against my attack and was soon reduced to ash.
As I came out of Slow Time, all that remained was his empty armour with an ash pile next to it.
The others came running over with a slew of questions, but I put my hand up for silence while I absorbed the Word of Power.
- Wulf: The Word of Power is ‘Mid’ which means loyal. It is the first Word of the Battle Fury Shout.
- Rigmor: And the inscription?
- Wulf: ‘Het nok faal Vahlok wo kron pogaas moro fah ok unslaad mid rok aav dilon voth lot zin.’ That roughly translates to ‘Here lies the Guardian who gained much glory. For his eternal loyalty, he joined the dead with great honour.’
- Inigo: Was he different than other Dragon Priests you have faced?
- Wulf: I have never seen one go ethereal before. I was not going to wait to see what other tricks he may pull. I don’t know how powerful he was. I just removed the danger as quickly as I could.
- Tharstan: You moved and swung your sword faster than I thought possible!
- Wulf: I used the Thu’um to slow time down. To an observer, I would appear to be moving very fast.
- Rigmor: The General has learnt not to talk when in that state. He sounds like a mouse with a sore throat when he does.
- Tharstan: How amazing! A real Dragon Priest! In all my years as a historian, I never thought I would see anything like that.
- Wulf: I would like to have met them before they were corrupted. Vahlok sounds like a man once worthy of admiration.
- Lydia: Why do they attack you, a half-dragon?
- Wulf: The first Dragonborn Lord Akatosh created was Miraak. I don’t think he made much of an impression on the Dragon Priests, do you?
- Lydia: No, he didn’t. That makes sense.
- Tharstan: Do you think Vahlok had this entire place built for him so that he could maintain his vigil, even after death?
- Wulf: Maybe. There are other Dragon Priests with elaborate tombs built around them. They may have been waiting for Alduin to become Overlord once more. It would have been ironic if Vahlok or his tomb managed to kill me before I defeated Miraak. Vahlok could not combat him in Apocrypha, and by the time Miraak crossed over to the mortal plane, he would have been considerably more powerful than their previous encounter. Killing me would have ensured Vahlok failed in his task if that this why this tomb was constructed. Of course, that concept is pure speculation.
- Tharstan: I knew that the Dragon Priests were thought to have been powerful men of great will, but I had no idea.
- Wulf: If Vahlok left this tomb, then all the Redoran Guards on this island would not be enough to stop his rampage. He would have sought vengeance for the defeat of the dragons.
- Tharstan: I must be more careful. I did not realise the dangers my curiosity can pose to others.
- Rigmor: Are you heading back to the Skaal Village?
- Tharstan: No, I think I will spend some time studying this tomb. What a book this will make!
- Inigo: Don’t forget to mention the incredibly handsome Khajiit who accompanied you on this challenging journey.
- Lydia: Make sure you spell his name correctly. I… D… I… O… T.
- Rigmor: I will send both of you to your rooms without supper!
- Inigo: She started it!
- Lydia: Did not!
- Inigo: Did too!
- Lydia: Did not!
- Inigo: Did too! And you smell.
- Lydia: No, I don’t, but you do.
- Inigo: Do not!
- Lydia: Do too!
- Wulf: Be careful, Tharstan. There is still danger in here.
- Tharstan: I will, and thank you all for your help.
- Inigo: I helped the most!
- Lydia: No way!
- Inigo: Yes way!
- Wulf: We will open up the back entrance. You do not have to travel through the entire tomb.
- Lydia: Inigo is a back entrance!
- Inigo: You are what comes out of a back entrance.
Tharstan shook his head as we headed for the exit with our two ‘children’ continuing their charade.
When we closed the door behind us, they fell silent.
- Wulf: Did you enjoy yourselves?
- Lydia: We could see how bored you were.
- Inigo: So, we sacrificed our dignity in an endeavour to keep you amused.
- Rigmor: How urgent is your compass?
- Wulf: It is no worse, which suggests that my arrival will be its catalyst whatever the problem is.
- Rigmor: Somebody or something is waiting for you?
- Wulf: That is what my intuition tells me.
- Jordis: Are we heading straight to Raven Rock?
- Wulf: With a slight deviation. Remember, days ago, Geldis Serin mentioned somebody conducting an excavation? I thought we would check that out on the way.
- Rigmor: Do you still want me to conduct trade negotiations without you in the room, dressed like this?
- Wulf: Solstheim needs the goods that Bruma can provide. You don’t need their ebony, but I assume the coin will come in handy. You have the upper hand. All you have to do is be cheaper than The East Empire Trading Company.
- Rigmor: We will use the ebony to equip our guards with better equipment. But you are right. I will be negotiating from an advantageous position, and the coin will come in more than handy when I think of the repairs that need doing.
- Lydia: That great big sword on your back will improve your bargaining power!
- Rigmor: There is no blood or guts on me is there? It is bad enough I look like a mercenary without bits of dead things on me.
- Wulf: Smile and they will be so stunned by your beauty nothing else will register.
- Jordis: Yep, what does it matter if you have brains in your hair or bits of internal organs smeared on your armour? Just smile and maybe bat your eyelashes occasionally.
- Inigo: She is trying to make a trade deal, not seduce them.
- Lydia: They are mere males. It is well known that their brains cease to function around a beautiful woman.
- Wulf: Don’t go there, Inigo. If you imply Lydia is not beautiful; I will not rescue you from the thrashing she gives you.
- Inigo: I would never suggest such a thing!
- Wulf: Good. I hate seeing grown Khajiit cry.
The sun was sinking below the horizon. It was reduced to a lighter shade of grey within the grey sky.
The excavation was of a dragon burial mound. Usually, I would say that was a waste of time, but as we approached, I sensed a Word Wall below where a sole Dunmer was attacking rubble with a pickaxe.
- Wulf: Excuse me, I heard you were conducting an archaeological expedition.
- Ralis: Who told you that? Was it Geldis? I told that idiot not to send me any more… bah. It probably can’t hurt to tell you. You look mostly honest.
- Wulf: I would hope so since I am wearing the armour of a General of the Legion. My name is General Valdr. Does that ring a bell?
- Ralis: The Dragonborn! I spent days working on one of those stones chanting about someone called Miraak, and it seems you rescued us all from that fate. Forgive me for my abruptness. The excavation is not going as planned.
- Wulf: Your name?
- Ralis: I am Ralis Sedarys, out of Mournhold.
- Wulf: And what makes you think there is anything underneath this dragon burial mound.
- Ralis: I have a financier waiting for me. He asked me to come here in the interests of obtaining some rare antiquities. The ‘Relics of Ahzidal’ he calls them.
- Wulf: You don’t seem to have got far?
- Ralis: This whole thing became a disaster right quick; let me tell you. I come from the northern ashlands, so I don’t expect things to go easy. But this has been something outside of my particular expertise. When I first arrived at Kolbjorn Barrow, that is the name of this wretched place, I couldn’t even see it. It was buried in the ash, like most other things on the blasted island. I dug out a pile of the stuff taller than me to find the barrow. Who knows how much more I need to remove to reach the door?
- Wulf: And what is your speciality?
- Ralis: Excavation isn’t. Even if it was, the ash storms fill it in faster than I can dig.
- Wulf: I suggest you tell your financier to find somebody else willing to commit suicide.
- Ralis: What do you mean?
- Wulf: Ahzidal is a Dragon Priest. He will be below waiting for somebody like you to set him free from his buried tomb. Who knows what powers he wields in his undead state?
- Ralis: Excuse me if I question how you would know this. You might just want to scare me away and dig for the treasure yourself.
- Rigmor: Earlier today, we fought a Dragon Priest in another tomb. The General has fought many of them and is an expert on the subject. He is the Dragonborn, and you have no right to question his integrity and knowledge.
- Ralis: I need the coin promised by my financier. I have already spent the original budget he gave me getting this far and have invested considerable time and effort.
- Wulf: You will find only death if you open the burial tomb of a Dragon Priest.
- Ralis: I can go no further without hiring help, and I have no coin for that. Perhaps it is best if I walk away.
- Rigmor: Not just for your safety but that of Solstheim as well. Do you want to be responsible for the death and destruction a released Dragon Priest may cause?
- Ralis: I get the picture. I will speak to my financier and explain the situation. I am sure he will understand.
- Wulf: You will cease this foolish enterprise?
- Ralis: Of course. Thank you for explaining what the reality is.
We continued on our way. None of us believed Ralis would so easily give up the digging, but we could do nothing to prevent it.
We made it to Raven Rock without a single encounter from Vahlok’s Tomb. That was unexpected!
It was just after 7:00 PM when we approached Councillor Morvayn’s house. The Redoran Guard opened the door then asked permission for us to enter. When that was given, we entered and found the occupants had just finished their dinner and relaxing with some local brews.
We approached the Councillor, who greeted us with genuine cheer.
- Morvayn: My friends, the mines are open, and ebony will soon be flowing. My eternal gratitude and blessing to you all.
- Wulf: In the meantime, Raven Rock, the whole of Solstheim, is in desperate need of goods for which the East Empire Company charge exorbitant prices. Plus, the Council is stingy with the budget they have provided. Am I correct?
- Morvayn: Yes. Are you here to negotiate the trade agreement with Bruma?
- Wulf: Yes, but that will be between you and the Countess to discuss and is not any of my business. I have a gift to give you beforehand.
- Morvayn: A gift?
- Wulf: Have you heard of Haknir Death-Brand?
- Morvayn: Of course. His name is associated with one of the many stories of hidden treasure dotted around Solstheim. Such stories seem to attract the most unsavoury types to our shores.
- Wulf: Yesterday we found his treasure and apart from some gems I will keep as a finder’s fee, it is yours to do with as you please.
- Morvayn: A few coins will help us. Thank you.
- Rigmor: How about twenty thousand gold pieces plus armour and weapons that add at least another ten thousand to the value of the haul?
Morvayn’s jaw dropped. Eventually, he composed himself, and the discussion continued.
- Morvayn: Why would you gift such an amount to us?
- Wulf: I am wealthy. I do not need the problem of lugging 20,000 gold pieces back to Skyrim and finding buyers for the armour etc. But that is not the main reason. Haknir Death-Brand obtained most of his wealth from preying on the merchant vessels travelling from the mainland to Solstheim. Morally, I believe this treasure rightfully belongs to Solstheim.
- Morvayn: There could be a legal argument that would support such a view. To voluntarily hand it over, wealthy or not, is an astonishing thing to do!
- Wulf: My companions will help the Redoran Guard safely bring the hoard from where it now is to Raven Rock. Even the rumours of such an amount of gold will attract bandits like flies to…
- Rigmor: Like flies to manure.
- Wulf: Did you think I was going to say shit?
- Rigmor: As General Valdr was saying, our companions will stay behind to help transport the treasure. The General and I are urgently required in our homelands. Therefore, we will leave Solstheim immediately after the trade negotiations.
- Morvayn: How are you leaving the island? There have been no ships dock today.
- Wulf: We have ways. I could summon a dragon and fly us over the ocean if I wished. But there is no need for something that dramatic, we have dweomer to get us where we need to go.
- Morvayn: I don’t know about dramatic. I think a dragon appearing anywhere near Raven Rock would be traumatic!
- Wulf: My companions will obey the orders of Captain Veleth. The retrieval of the treasure will be his operation to command. If that is agreeable, I will leave you and the Countess, and Adril, I assume, to conduct your trade talks.
- Morvayn: I accept your aid in retrieving the treasure. Your friends will be deputised for the day. Now, I hope you will take it easy on us Countess. It has been a long time since we last negotiated a trade deal with anybody!
- Rigmor: I am sure we will stumble towards something that pleases both sides.
As we left Rigmor to do her duty, Councillor Morvayn called Adril over to the negotiating table. They could array an army against my beloved, and she would not be intimidated. I could see the determination on her face. Rigmor was now negotiating on behalf of her people. The ordinary families that live in the County of Bruma will be her priority when numbers are bantered around.
My companions and I strolled to several places so that I could do more triangulation. After plotting all of the lines, I determined that the compass pointed to the Blue Palace. More precisely, I was to make my way to end where High Queen Elisif the Fair has her throne.
When we made our way back to the Councillor’s house, I expected we would be standing outside tapping our feet for some time. Instead, the Redoran Guard on duty told us the negotiations had finished, and we could enter.
Rigmor greeted me with a smile.
- Wulf: Mission accomplished?
- Rigmor: It was amazing. It is a bit like sparring with swords, except less bruising and a reduced chance of accidental decapitation.
- Wulf: Did you have to bully them at all?
- Rigmor: No, they are not ignorant of the fact that I had the upper hand. In the end, they were surprised about how fair I was. I don’t think they are used to that.
- Lydia: Rigmor, you look so pleased and relaxed. I am glad it went well.
- Rigmor: Don’t tell whatshisname, but he was right as usual. Leaving me alone to negotiate was a smart idea.
- Lydia: He will never hear such a thing from me. His head is big enough as it is.
- Wulf: I am right here, you know.
- Rigmor: What was that sound?
- Jordis: Probably a rat.
I left the ladies giggling and approached the Councillor.
- Wulf: I hope you took it easy on the Countess!
- Morvayn: She had us on the back foot from the start then relentlessly hammered our defences until… we had a very fair and equitable trade deal signed in less than ten minutes!
- Wulf: I have been gone for almost an hour! What did you do with the rest of the time?
- Morvayn: The Countess told us of what occurred in Skyrim with the invasion and Malacath.
- Wulf: Please remember, that was The Guardian, a separate entity than General Valdr.
- Morvayn: We understand, and even though we would love to tell others of what you two have accomplished, we will keep the secret.
- Wulf: Verona, Master Neloth’s steward, was killed by Ash Spawn. So now he has a vacancy for anybody who wishes to apply for that prestigious position. Can you recommend anybody?
- Morvayn: You have no hope. The reputation of Telvanni wizards is not good amongst the people of Solstheim. This reputation is mainly due to the rubbish that is said when discussing other Great Houses, and most of our citizens belong to House Redoran.
- Wulf: Well, if the king doesn’t know something, ask the bartender.
- Morvayn: That is a wise and true saying.
- Wulf: I don’t know when I will get a chance to visit Solstheim next. I wish you and your people only the best.
- Morvayn: I can’t thank you and your friends enough for what you have done for us, not just in the last few days but in the past few months.
- Wulf: We do it for the ordinary people of all nations. Seeing them safe is all the reward and thanks we need.
We made our way to The Retching Netch then talked to Geldis.
- Geldis: And what can I do for the heroes of… well… just about everywhere.
- Wulf: Master Neloth requires a new steward. Would you know of anybody who would be interested in such a prestigious position?
- Geldis: Neloth is crazy! He talks to mud crabs!
- Wulf: You are only crazy if you think they are talking back.
- Geldis: Fair point.
- Wulf: So, can you point us in the right direction. I am doing this as a favour and do not wish to waste time on it.
- Geldis: It would have to be somebody pretty desperate. You might ask Drovas, my apprentice. Lately, he seems hard up for coin.
- Rigmor: We would hate to deprive you of your apprentice!
- Geldis: Unlike Master Neloth, I would have no difficulty finding a replacement. I will give it a week, and if Drovas doesn’t come running back here screaming, I will assume the position in Tel Mithryn suits him.
- Lydia: Or he got turned into a toad.
- Jordis: Or eaten by one of Neloth’s experiments.
- Wulf: Where will I find Drovas?
- Geldis: He should be upstairs tending to tonight’s food.
We headed upstairs and found Drovas stirring a hot pot of stew.
- Wulf: Good evening, Drovas.
- Drovas: Oh, it is General Valdr! Working on those standing stones felt like a bad dream. I’m glad you and your friends woke us from it!
- Wulf: You are welcome. Would you be interested in a fantastic promotion?
- Drovas: Ah… depends.
- Rigmor: How would you like to be the new steward of Tel Mithryn?
- Drovas: Uh… you mean leave Raven Rock? For good and work for a crazed Telvanni Wizard?
- Rigmor: Doesn’t that sound like fun?
- Drovas: Sure! I will just get my things and head right over there immediately.
- Wulf: You will?
- Drovas: On second thought, nevermind. I can get new stuff.
- Rigmor: Why so eager?
- Drovas: Well, I’ve never been one to pass up an opportunity. Sorry to run, but I’m off to my new job.
And run, he did. Out of the door and hopefully to Tel Mithryn without becoming a victim of the Solstheim wilderness.
- Lydia: What about the stew? It will spoil.
- Wulf: You lot have not eaten since this morning. How about you pay Geldis then eat your fill while Rigmor and I head off to our other duties.
- Inigo: What are the arrangements for tomorrow?
I handed the key to the pirate cave to Lydia.
- Wulf: Report to Captain Veleth at first light. That is when he seems to start stalking the ramparts. If he is unaware of the task, then ask him to speak to Councillor Morvayn. You will be deputised for the day and must obey him.
- Inigo: We know the numbers and strength of the bandits on this island. It is a wise move to have us help escort the treasure.
- Wulf: Make your way back to Silverpeak Lodge when you can. I am unsure as to the schedule of boat departures.
- Lydia: Do you have any idea of what is waiting for you in Solitude?
- Wulf: None at all. But waiting it is. Of that I am certain.
- Jordis: You know we will worry.
- Wulf: I will have two others with me. I can’t take them all and leave Silverpeak vulnerable. Not with the number of children that live there.
- Lydia: You usually have four of us with you!
- Wulf: I will have to deal with whatever it is with two.
- Inigo: Good luck, my friend. We will see you soon.
Rigmor gave the ladies a hug and Inigo a kiss on the cheek. Meeko whined till she gave him one as well.
Rigmor held my hand tight as we walked to Severin Manor.
We entered the house, and before the door had finished closing, Rigmor grabbed me. The ensuing kiss lasted till we had to come up for breath.
She looked into my eyes and asked, “Are you sure we can’t just… you know… for a while.”
“We never ‘you know’ for a just a while. You will just have to wait.”
“It was just wishful thinking.”
“I never asked how this will work. You are suddenly going to come out of your bedroom at Baa’Ren-Dar’s place, and no questions will be asked?”
“His staff are very discreet. They do not ask questions or even seem curious about the goings-on in that place. I spent years there, so I became complacent about strange people coming and going at odd hours. Our Khajiit friend has quite a spy network, and his home seems to be a refuge for many in hiding. You never knew who might be an informant or somebody hiding, so you never asked questions. It was safer for everybody that way.”
“How are you getting to Cyrodiil from Torval?”
“If Baa’Ren-Dar is home, he may escort me in his carriage to the border or even to Bruma. Otherwise, he left orders that I am to be escorted to the border in an equally elegant carriage by some of his guards. As Countess, I am entitled to an armed escort of Legionnaires when travelling within Cyrodiil. I will be perfectly safe.”
“Do you promise to show me the dress you purchased from the Raven Rock market?”
“As soon as we can meet again. You will be pleased to know it is easily removed and has no complicated clasps or buttons to navigate.”
“Glad to hear that. You do get impatient. I continuously have to repair my shirts and breeches.”
“And to think I was an innocent and chaste young girl till you corrupted me!”
We made our way to the master bedroom but I was careful not to get trapped between Rigmor and the bed. I desperately needed sleep and other pleasure will have to wait.
“OK, my beloved. Gather your things and vanish.”
Rigmor picked up the several packages of shopping from her trip to the markets then willed herself to her bedroom in Torval.
“I have arrived safely, my Dragonborn. You will tell me what danger you are facing before you vanish into another plane or something?”
“As soon as I know, you will know. That I promise.”
“Well. Do your thing, so I know you are safe as well!”
I willed myself into my safe room, my private lodgings, in Silverpeak Lodge.
“I am at home. I will go straight to bed after writing my journal entries. Everybody else, including the children, will already be down for the night so I will not enter the main house till morning.”
“Let me just check something. Be back in a second.”
A couple of minutes passed before Rigmor contacted me again.
“Sorry about that but Baa’Ren-Dar wanted me to answer a million questions.”
“I am glad he is at home. You had better spend some time with him before he disappears on another of his mysterious trips.”
“He said he has time to escort me to Bruma. That will cement the story that I went to Solstheim with him.”
“Sadly, we have to fool even Sigunn. We have already been pushing the boundaries of our agreement with The Divines.”
“Good night, my Dragonborn.”
“Good night Rigmor, Countess of Bruma and the owner of my heart.”
I was exhausted but pushed myself to write a couple of days of journal entries.
I eventually crawled into my bed, still smelling of the ash of Solstheim.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
The old man stared at the door to Silverpeak Lodge whilst patting a very insistent goat. He was not worried about his son’s safety but what he may learn from the entity he is to meet in Solitude. It is too soon for Wulf to know who he is. It could affect his decision making in adverse ways. It could even make him bitter towards The Nine.