Skyrim quests: Under Saarthal, Hitting the Books, Good Intentions, Revealing the Unseen, Containment, The Staff of Magus.
The Sentinel’s had no difficulty entering the College as the guards recognised Celestine. The Arch-Mage has also told them not to delay my ‘guards’.
I donned my armour, ready for the day’s events.
Inigo commented, “It is good that General Valdr will be by my side once more.”
“Apprentice Sven was not the best disguise I could have chosen.”
“You are Wulf, my friend, and that will always come to the fore.”
“I have a trick or two you have yet to see. But enough about me, how did Ashni and Anahbi react to being sent home?”
“Do not worry. The ladies understood the need, and, as I suggested, they appreciated the fact you did not separate them.”
“Argus and the bridge?”
“You were wise not to take that bet!”
“Alright, let us go visit the legend that is Urag gro-Shub.”
We made our way to the Arcanaeum, and I approached Urag.
- Wulf: Good morning, Master Urag.
- Urag: You are now in the Arcanaeum, of which I am in charge. It might as well be my very own little plane of Oblivion. Disrupt my Arcanaeum, and I will have you torn apart by angry Atronachs. Now, do you require assistance?
- Wulf: Anything else you want to say as if I was an Apprentice?
- Urag: I better not see you treating any of these books poorly, are we clear?
- Wulf: And you had better not treat any of the books my museum lends you poorly. That includes the Elder Scroll.
- Urag: We can’t change your mind about selling it to us?
- Wulf: No, but as per our agreement, mages are free to study it within the proposed pocket plane.
- Urag: And you are adamant about the Black Books?
- Wulf: They cannot be opened without the holder of the book being dragged into Apocrypha. Unlike you, Master Urag, the librarians there are not very friendly, and it is their very own little plane of Oblivion.
Some sweet laughter came from behind me.
- Urag: Do you find that amusing, Mage Celestine?
- Celestine: Not at all, Master Urag! Well, not much. OK, yes, I find that very amusing.
- Urag: It is fortunate for you that you are no longer a student. A month of privy cleaning would hone your poor sense of humour.
- Wulf: Celestine is too quiet to mention it, so I will. She is a Master Mage.
- Urag: Yes, she is, and well deserved as well. You must have recognised her skills. Otherwise, she would not be with you.
- Wulf: She has been invaluable and contributed to the safety of all.
- Argus: And Celestine makes great stews!
- Wulf: Oh, yes, the most vital of skills, according to my Nord friend.
- Urag: I am pleased to have finally met you in person, General Valdr.
I was not going to mention when I said hello to him when I was with Rigmor.
- Wulf: And I am delighted to meet you finally. I am surprised you don’t have horns growing out of your head or breath fire.
- Urag: Scared Apprentices are careful Apprentices.
- Wulf: I am looking forward to browsing this magnificent library.
- Urag: A mage is only as good as what he knows. I try and make sure as much knowledge as available as possible. We’ve been keeping this collection since the Second Era. Books have come and gone during that time, but it’s mostly intact.
- Wulf: That is why I was pleased when informed many of the books and scrolls I have discovered will add to the library.
- Celestine: I was amazed to find out how much of Wulf’s collection is so rare.
- Urag: A lot of it collected from places the average mortal is not going to survive. I know the locations of many valuable books, but nobody in this College would survive their retrieval.
- Wulf: Have you been informed of what we found in Saarthal?
- Urag: All the senior mages have. Now you want to know if I have anything that might help with the big mystery?
- Wulf: Well, do you?
- Urag: Unfortunately, not anymore. From what I have heard, you have a brilliant memory. Not all of us are so blessed.
- Inigo: The General would not call it a blessing. He can’t forget things he would prefer not to remember.
- Urag: I can see how it could also be a burden.
- Wulf: You said you don’t have anything to help us anymore, and then you were worried about your memory. Are the two connected?
- Urag: A useless Apprentice named Orthorn recently stole several books and ran off to Fellowglow Keep to join some summoners. It was some kind of peace offering. I think one of those volumes may have had some relevant information. If you want them, you’ll have to talk to Orthorn.
- Wulf: You think one of the books may have some relevant information?
- Urag: As I said, not all of us are blessed with a brilliant memory.
- Wulf: How many books did he steal, and why has nobody retrieved them?
- Urag: Three books. Arch-Mage Aren’s approach to these things is just to let them sort themselves out.
- Wulf: A valid tactic for one of long life and non-urgent need for the stolen knowledge.
- Celestine: Who is Orthorn?
- Urag: As I said, he was an Apprentice here at the College. He was not very skilled and got involved with a group of mages who took a liking to him. When they left, he took off after them. He stole supplies as well as the books. Most likely, he wished to ingratiate himself.
- Wulf: I assume the mages are pursuing the bloodier aspects of Necromancy and not just summoners?
- Urag: Such pursuits caused a ‘difference of opinion’ with the College. Necromancy is tolerated up to a point. They persisted in researching that which goes outside the bounds of what the College allows and told to leave.
- Wulf: Can you please mark on my map where Fellowglow Keep is?
- Urag: Certainly. Be aware that Ancano is standing behind you with all the arrogance of a Justiciar. Please, no violence in my library. Blood splatter is hard to remove from ancient books!
Urag marked the location of Fellowglow Keep. It is not far from the Shrine of Talos, where I had placed Torygg’s warhorn.
I turned then tried to walk past Ancano, but he stepped in front of me.
- Ancano: So, I was correct. The Dragonborn has decided to meddle in the College of Winterhold’s business.
- Wulf: Somebody reported a terrible stench emanating from the College, so I came to investigate. I was not surprised to find the odour was Thalmor in origin.
- Ancano: Something was discovered in Saarthal. What was it?
- Wulf: Did you ask the Arch-Mage?
Ancano looked uncomfortable. I deduced that he had spoken with the Arch-Mage and told to go away.
- Wulf: Whatever was or was not found in Saarthal is none of your business.
- Ancano: Tolfdir is still there. I will demand a full report when he returns. He will be a bit more sensible and, thus, more cooperative.
- Wulf: Inigo, Justiciar Ancano threatened me with The Dominion yesterday. I think he believes our friend Master Tolfdir is scared of him and his Thalmor friends.
- Inigo: From what I have seen of Master Tolfdir, Ancano is as stupid as every other Thalmor I have met if he believes that.
- Wulf: Ancano, listen carefully, for here is a fact. Every single one of your blasphemous colleagues who has tried to prevent me from completing my Divine duties has died. Your rank and official title hold no sway with me and offer no protection.
I pushed Ancano out of the way, and we made our way outside.
It was snowing, but by the time we collected our horses and hired a carriage to Whiterun, the weather had cleared.
Inigo was riding Artax and leading the horses, so the carriage was quieter than usual. I decided to say good morning to Countess Rigmor.
“You do know that is the same as shouting in my ear?”
“Is it? Then I am sorry!”
“I am sitting down, trying to have a quiet breakfast and chat with mum!”
“Say hello for me. Oh, you can’t. Silly me.”
“She just asked me a question, and I have no idea what it was.”
“Just say ‘Mm… aha’ in a non-committal way. That could be construed as either yes or no. It always works with you.”
“Did you just suggest you don’t always listen to what I say?”
“Did the Justiciar meet the General?”
“Yes. Ancano was asking things he need not know. I told him that every one of his colleagues that got in my way has died. I told him his rank does not protect him.”
“I had better go. Mum just asked me something, and I passed her the pepper. She is now looking at me strangely. I don’t think she was talking about pepper.”
“If something exciting happens, I will let you know.”
“Love you, my Dragonborn.”
“Love you too.”
The sun was still shining when we arrived in Whiterun. I was hoping our ride across the grasslands would be pleasant and bandit free.
At first, the ride was pleasant. Then we encountered a Skooma distribution point.
We slaughtered the bandits already there, and then a larger group returned just in time to join their comrades in death.
On a table was a note: I read it then handed it to Kharjo.
Kharjo read it and was visibly upset as he handed it back to me.
I read it out loud,
You can take those prices and eat them. We’ve found our own source of Skooma now. The real stuff, not that watered-down thirdhand trash you’ve been selling. And don’t even think of ratting us out. One word to the guards, and I’ll make sure they know what that ‘seer’ of yours is really up to.”
- Kharjo: This one did not know!
- Inigo: Is Ahkari part of the caravan you guarded?
- Kharjo: Yes, but this one did not know!
- Wulf: Relax, Kharjo. I believe you. I will have to think about what to do about this.
- Celestine: Ri’saad will be upset!
- Wulf: Not only that, the suggestion of a ‘seer’ implies the supplier is pretending to be an acolyte of Azura.
- Kharjo: Azura would not want her people to use such poison!
- Wulf: Precisely. As I said, I will have to think about what to do next. In the meantime, let us concentrate on our task at hand.
A small watchtower and trading post on the road to Whiterun was being attacked.
We spurred our horses on and arrived in time to save both guards and merchants.
I healed a young guard and praised him for his courage. He had the haunted look of those not used to spilling blood or fighting for their lives.
We had noticed a Crystal Dragon flying over the grasslands, but I was not concerned.
Eventually, it landed nearby.
- Quothquo: Greetings Dovahkiin. I am Quothquo. I hope my command of this language is sufficient.
- Wulf: Greetings, Quothquo. You speak this tongue very well!
- Quothquo: I am passing by and will leave once my hunt for mammoth is complete.
- Wulf: I ask that you not to take mammoths or cattle belonging to the giants. They can become enraged and kill innocent mortals. I also ask that you not take the domesticated animals of the mortals. Otherwise, I will become enraged.
- Quothquo: That is fair and agreed.
- Celestine: Quothquo, I do not know the words in your language, but you are beautiful!
- Quothquo: Has the Dovahkiin told you our weakness for flattery?
- Celestine: No, I had to say what I felt.
- Quothquo: In that case, I sincerely thank you.
Quothquo lifted off to continue his hunt.
- Argus: There are many mammoths on these grasslands. Why would a hunt take more than a few minutes?
- Wulf: Quothquo will pick the weakest from the mammoths he sees. The healthy will be left to breed. It is a way of ensuring mammoths will still walk these grasslands next time he visits.
- Celestine: He is beautiful, isn’t he Wulf?
- Wulf: He is magnificent!
We left the horses lightly tethered behind some rocks and out of view of Fellowglow Keep. They could break away for their safety if they had to, but the light tether told them we did not want them wandering away.
I decided I did not have the time or inclination to determine each rogue mage’s guilt level. Therefore, I did not hesitate and killed a sentry from a distance.
A Fire Atronach also stood guard and died.
We entered the keep and found ourselves wading through water. That always makes sneaking difficult. One of the resident mages heard us approaching then said, “Ah, some test subjects. Go, my pets! Attack!”
He conjured two spiders as if that was a masterful feat of magic!
Inigo called out, “Thank you. I love killing spiders!”. He then made short work of the arachnids. Celestine blasted the mage with Lightning. A harsh lesson on what real mage power is.
There is not much to say about Fellowglow Keep. It was full of pathetically weak mages and obvious traps. We casually walked through it with enemies falling by the dozens.
The most senior mage we encountered was torturing a captured vampire. I used Slow Time and cut her down before she could turn her spell on me. It was too late for the vampire who died screaming seconds later.
Several locked cells contained the remains of other vampires who had died a slow death from various Destruction spells. These atrocities were precisely the type of experiments that had the mages thrown out of the College.
We entered another room and discovered the mages were experimenting on and torturing ordinary civilians as well as vampires.
We came upon a room where a mage was locked in one cage and some wolves in another.
The mage yelled, “Please, whoever you are, you have to get me out of here!”
A guard started running towards some levers to release the wolves.
An arrow to his midsection ended that idea.
I Shouted Kyne’s Peace then released the wolves. They ran the direction from where we had come and would soon find their way outside.
We approached the cell containing the mage.
- Wulf: Orthorn, I assume?
- Orthorn: Yes, yes! Did Arch-Mage Aren send you? He sent you to rescue me, didn’t he?
- Wulf: Nobody at the College cares if you live or die. But the books you stole are worth something. Where are they?
- Orthorn: What? The books? Oh. Oh, dear. I shouldn’t have taken them, I know! It was stupid. It won’t happen again.
- Wulf: Where are the books?
- Orthorn: Help me get out of here, and I’ll help you find them. Please!
- Wulf: For the last time. Where are the books you stole?
- Orthorn: I don’t have them anymore. A person named ‘The Caller’ has them. She’s the one who put me in here!
- Inigo: Is this the mages reward for your services?
- Orthorn: They threw me in here until they were ready to use me in one of their experiments.
- Celestine: Some would say this is karma.
- Orthorn: This wasn’t supposed to happen. I thought they wanted my help, not to use me as a test subject!
I pulled a lever, and Orthorn’s cell door opened.
- Orthorn: Thank you, thank you! I promise I’ll help. Then I’ll go back to the college, and I’ll beg them to let me back in.
- Celestine: I can imagine Master Urag welcoming you with open arms. He is very forgiving of those who steal from his library.
- Orthorn: Oh, dear!
- Wulf: Where is the mage called The Caller?
- Orthorn: I don’t know exactly. She should be somewhere within the keep.
- Wulf: Did she ask for particular books?
- Orthorn: Yes, she was mainly interested in one called ‘Night of Tears’.
- Inigo: I doubt that is a coincidence!
- Wulf: If the Psijic Order has a seer that foresaw the discovery, other seers logically did.
- Orthorn: I want to help you get the books back.
- Wulf: We don’t need your help. You will just get in the way.
- Orthorn: Well, that’s insulting.
- Argus: Run, Orthorn. Just make sure you give the wolves a few minutes to clear the area.
- Celestine: We would hate for you to escape Fellowglow Keep and get eaten by them.
- Inigo: The poor things would get a stomach ache.
- Orthorn: Fine, I’ll just save myself then. Thank you all for letting me out of that cage.
- Wulf: Just follow the trail of fresh corpses to the exit.
Orthorn looked at me with wide eyes then ran through the door from which we had entered.
- Wulf: We are wasting time here. Let’s kill everybody quickly and retrieve the books.
- Inigo: It is not like we have been sneaking or taking our time as it is.
- Wulf: Still, we can move even faster.
- Argus: This will be…
- Celestine: Bloody.
I used Dragon Sight, hand signals and Slow Time as we killed with frightening speed and efficiency on the way to The Caller.
We stopped before a door, and I said to The Sentinels, “I can hear somebody summoning a Dremora. Most likely, it will be The Caller.”
We entered a ritual chamber. A bald mage stood before a dais with a book on top. She stopped her summoning and stared at us as we approached.
- The Caller: So, you’re the ones who barged into my home and laid waste to my projects. It is nice to meet you.
- Wulf: So, you’re the one who thinks torturing and killing civilians is acceptable in the pursuit of knowledge.
- The Caller: Isn’t it? You may refer to me as The Caller. Now, do you have a reason for making such a mess?
- Argus: Where are the books you stole from the College?
- The Caller: So, you’re just Aren’s lackeys? That is disappointing. You all showed real promise.
- Inigo: Oh, no! We have disappointed The Caller! What shall we do?
- Wulf: We could apologise and ask nicely for the books.
- The Caller: You came here, killed my assistants, disrupted my work.
- Inigo: We plead guilty as charged.
- The Caller: You’ve annoyed me, so I don’t think I’ll be giving you anything.
- Wulf: The Caller is an interesting name. I have one as well.
- Celestine: He is called The Dragonborn.
- The Caller: You… you killed Alduin! Take the books!
- Wulf: I will after I take your life as payment for the atrocities you have committed.
I stepped up, and The Caller closed her eyes. My sword pierced her heart, and she died much quicker than her victims.
The book on the dais was ‘Night of Tears’. The other two books had nothing to do with Saarthal or the artefact.
‘Night of Tears’ only had one section of relevance which I read to The Sentinels,
“Night of Tears
by Dranor Seleth
An inquiry into the cause of the Night of Tears
Saarthal holds a prominent place in Skyrim history, even if most do not remember it by name. Of course, it is the site of one of the first major Nord settlements, one of the first cities of men in Skyrim, and the earliest known capital of their civilisation. It was also the site of terrible bloodshed, when the elves attempted to drive the Nords out of Skyrim, to succeed only in incurring their wrath in the form of Ysgramor and his fabled Five Hundred Companions, who swept the elves from Skyrim and firmly established it as the home of the Nords.
All this is known, but little else. What happened on that Night of Tears when Saarthal was razed to the ground? What provoked the elves to such a deliberate, vicious attack, and what prompted such a severe response from the Nords?
Vingalmo’s Treatise on the Altmer Antecedent suggests that the elves of the Merethic Era, along with their counterparts, the early Dwemer, possessed a degree of sophistication unparalleled in Tamriel. They displayed power beyond what could be expected of the time. While a distinct explanation is not given for this, I believe that this work, compared with the early writings of Heseph Chirirnis, suggest that something greater was at work on that night in Saarthal.
The Night of Tears’ real motives have been obscured to us by the passage of time, but I believe this was not a simple war of territory or control of Skyrim. I think that what happened was a significant event based on something very particular.
The Nords found something when they built their city, buried deep in the ground. They attempted to keep it buried, but the elves learned of it and coveted it for themselves. Thus, they assaulted Saarthal, their goal not to drive the Nords out but to secure this power for themselves. I believe Ysgramor knew something of what the elves would find under Saarthal and rallied together his people to keep the elves from gaining it. When Nords once again controlled Skyrim, this power was buried deep below the earth and sealed away.
Time has kept this knowledge from us, but it is my hope that Time will also reveal the truth of these words. Every effort will be made to relocate Saarthal and find that which has been lost to us.”
- Celestine: Wow! There is an unknown something maybe, but not certainly, buried under Saarthal! We had better search under Saarthal for this important thing, that may be there, or not!
- Wulf: Is that sarcasm coming from the mouth of Celestine?
- Inigo: What have we done to her?
- Argus: How come your dragon isn’t roaring about this?
- Wulf: We were not explicitly told any of the books would help. Urag said to us that maybe there was something about what we found in one of the books.
- Inigo: Wulf came here with no expectations. That is why his dragon still sleeps.
- Wulf: I am, however, a bit pissed off another piece of biased bullshit speculation is presented without supporting evidence!
- Argus: What next?
- Wulf: We have lost time finding a book that tells us what we already know. Let’s rush back to the College and hope the time lost does not lead to disaster.
We made our way outside and noticed Quothquo. He was no longer hunting by the looks of it but flying for the fun of it.
“My friend, you are looking at Quothquo with some envy, I think.”
“Yes, Inigo. I am. To understand why maybe you should take a ride on Odahviing?”
“Ahh… no. If Khajiit were meant to fly, they would have been born chickens.”
“That makes no sense.”
“Either does climbing on the back of a dragon then holding on with eyes closed and screaming when it takes flight.”
“You don’t know what you are missing.”
“Soiled undergarments are what I am missing.”
We had not ridden far from Fellowglow Keep when bandits broke cover after Quothquo strafed them with his ice breath.
He said as he flew over us, “They were waiting in ambush. Fight well and farewell!”
We charged and soon cut down the survivors.
As soon as we reached the Whiterun stables, we caught a carriage to Winterhold. The Sentinels slept as I rode Hashire while leading the other horses.
“I detect my beloved is slightly grumpy!”
“I have been waiting for you to at least say goodnight.”
“You should be proud. I have wasted an entire day yet do not feel the need to strangle somebody.”
“I sense no anger, but your anxiety is extreme. The wasted time plays on your mind.”
“You know me so well. You can read my face like an open book when with me and uncannily know the source of my emotions detected via the rings.”
“We are like an old married couple.”
“Maybe one day, that is precisely what we shall be.”
“What a wonderful future to think upon as I drift to sleep.”
“Speaking of which, The Sentinels are all asleep on a carriage travelling to Whiterun. I am on Hashire leading their horses.”
“You get worn out as well. Don’t sacrifice your sleep when there is an opportunity to have some.”
“Good night. I love you. Be careful.”
“Good night, possibly the future Mrs Valdr, or whatever I discover is my real name.”
“I love you.”
“Good boy! Pat yourself on the head.”
We arrived in Winterhold well past midnight. Mages of various ranks were returning from a night out at the inn and other places.
Fortunately, we encountered Urag heading for his room.
- Wulf: Here are the books.
- Urag: I am glad to see all of you returned in one piece. I take it you did not leave them as healthy?
- Inigo: They were experimenting on and torturing kidnapped citizens.
- Wulf: I don’t think we left a single one breathing.
- Urag: Did you find anything relevant?
- Wulf: There is nothing of use. Only one book mentions Saarthal, and that says there is some big secret underneath it.
- Urag: The big secret you have already discovered?
- Celestine: Unfortunately, Master Urag, the book told us what we already knew.
- Wulf: But surrounded by unsubstantiated propaganda.
- Urag: Perhaps you should speak to Tolfdir in The Hall of Elements. I don’t think you are going to be happy. So, if you don’t mind, I will make myself scarce before you bring the walls down.
Urag shuffled off. I could sense before we even entered the Hall of Elements what was going to upset me.
We opened the door, and there it was. The sphere. Right in the middle of the College!
Inigo said, “Take it easy, my friend. He is elderly.”
I stormed up to Tolfdir. He could see my Dovah was once more prominent and shrank from my anger.
- Wulf: WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE?
- Tolfdir: I thought it would be easier for us to study if I brought it here.
- Wulf: And how did you manage that?
- Tolfdir: Well, I know a teleport spell…
- Wulf: But you have never had enough Magicka reserves to teleport even yourself, have you? You siphoned Magicka from the sphere then teleported it and yourself here.
- Tolfdir: Why, yes. Is there a problem?
- Wulf: I couldn’t use the getaway last night because the teleport in the Arch-Mage Quarters was playing up. Yet you thought it safe to teleport the sphere here, with all the arrogance of a mage!
- Celestine: Master Tolfdir, you have put the College and Winterhold in danger.
- Tolfdir: But I am not probing it or trying to open it or anything else!
- Wulf: For one thing, the teleport could have gone wrong! Secondly, we know this thing is dangerous but not why. Yet here it is in the middle of a College full of mages and students and not far from a major city. Thirdly, Ancano and undoubtedly The Dominion now know about it.
- Tolfdir: Ancano looked at it briefly then walked away as if he had no interest in it.
- Wulf: Do not let him fool you! This artefact is precisely the type of thing he has been hanging around the College in the hope of finding.
- Argus: It needs guarding!
- Wulf: Yes. I might get a platoon of Legionnaires to do exactly that.
- Tolfdir: Soldiers on College grounds? The Arch-Mage will never allow it!
- Wulf: He would have no say in the matter. The security of Skyrim is at risk. He can go over my head to High Queen Elisif if he wants, but who do you think she will side with?
- Tolfdir: Bringing it here wasn’t a wise thing to do, was it?
- Wulf: It was not wise in the slightest, Master Tolfdir.
- Tolfdir: I just can’t seem to tear myself away. Whatever this is, its beauty is like nothing I have ever seen before.
- Wulf: Tell me what you have discovered simply by drooling at it!
We talked as we walked around the sphere.
- Tolfdir: Are the markings Ehlnofex as you say? They are quite unlike anything we’ve seen before. They are not Ayleid, Dwemer, Daedric… not even Falmer!
- Inigo: General Valdr told you they are Ehlnofex. You can’t match the runes as you have not seen them before. General Valdr has seen Ehlnofex in three different places, yet you question his conclusion?
- Tolfdir: Arch-Mage Aren is already hard at work, and hopefully, we will have some more information soon.
Tolfdir didn’t respond to Inigo at all. He was just about to continue his rambling when Ancano came bursting into the room.
- Ancano: I am afraid I must intrude. I must speak to General Valdr immediately.
- Tolfdir: This is most inappropriate! We are involved in serious research here!
- Ancano: Yes, I do not doubt its gravity. This, however, is a matter than cannot wait.
- Tolfdir: Well, I’m quite sure I’ve never been interrupted like this before… the audacity!
- Wulf: It is obvious you are not used to dealing with the Thalmor. This lack of etiquette from a Justiciar is not uncommon even when they are domesticated!
- Tolfdir: I suppose we can continue this at some later time when we can avoid interruptions.
- Wulf: I suggest you leave it be for now. You must be exhausted.
Tolfdir shuffled off to bed but not without a backward glance at the sphere.
- Ancano: I need you to come with me immediately. Let’s go!
- Wulf: I am not taking a step till you explain yourself.
- Ancano: I’d like to know why someone is claiming to be from the Psijic Order is here in the College. More importantly, I’d like to know why he is asking for you specifically. So, we will have a little chat with him and find out exactly what he wants.
- Wulf: Where is he?
- Ancano: He is with the Arch-Mage in his quarters.
- Wulf: Thanks for passing the message on.
I pushed past Ancano last time he blocked my way. I elbowed him out of the way this time. I will blast him with Unrelenting Force next time. He tried to follow. I gave a hand signal and The Sentinels surrounded him.
- Ancano: What are you doing?
- Wulf: Celestine, please accompany me. You other three are to make sure Ancano does not try and listen to or interfere with a private conversation.
- Ancano: The Psijic Order is a rogue organisation, believing themselves to be above the law.
- Wulf: I know who they are and how they have bloodied The Dominion’s nose in the past. All of that is irrelevant.
- Inigo: What makes you think you have the right to interfere with or listen to General Valdr’s private discussion?
- Wulf: If I think you need to hear what the Psijic has to say, I will ask Celestine to stick her head through the door and permit you.
- Argus: What if he tries to force his way in?
- Wulf: Break his legs.
- Argus: One at a time or both at once?
- Wulf: Whatever pleases your barbarian blood.
- Argus: Goody!
I left the fuming Ancano and entered the Arch-Mage Quarters.
“Stay and guard the door, please, Celestine. And do not be alarmed if you notice some strange magic. I have no doubt the Psijic Sorcerer will make a Time Well.”
“The way you explained what happened in Saarthal, Ancano would not have been privy to your conversation anyway.”
“I stopped him attending out of principle. Plus, if he experienced the Time Well, he would become more suspicious.”
It was a different Psijic Sorcerer than the one I met in Saarthal. He and Arch-Mage Aren were simply staring at each other.
I approached, and as expected, a Time Well appeared. Like most incantations of the Psijic Order, the spell was cast with no words or hand movements.
“Please do not be alarmed. I mean you no harm.”
“If I thought you did, my sword would be at your throat. A Time Well is not something new to me and was expected.”
“You are not the sorcerer who spoke to me in Saarthal. What is your name?”
“I am Quaranir. The sorcerer in Saarthal was Nerien.”
“I told Nerien I did not want to hear from the Psijic Order unless you could provide help.”
“The situation here at your College is of dire importance and attempts to contact you as we have previously have failed. I believe it is due to the very source of our concern. This object… The Eye of Magnus as your people have taken to calling it. The energy coming from it prevented us from teleporting to you as we did in Saarthal. The longer it remains here, the more dangerous the situation becomes. And so, I have come here personally to tell you it must be dealt with.”
“The situation becomes more dangerous the longer it is here, and it has to be dealt with! I am so stupid I did not realise either of those things. Can you help this poor ignorant mage who couldn’t even figure out the obvious?”
“We are now aware of who you are.”
“Then stop treating me like an idiot! Provide help or go away.”
“I am afraid it is not that simple.”
“Let me guess. The Psijic Order doesn’t concern itself with this world’s problems, just like the old grey men in High Hrothgar. I don’t require you to stand beside me while I do all the hard work. Give me some information that I can use to resolve the issue. That is how the Psijic Order can help me.”
“My presence here will be seen as an affront to some within the Order.”
“I need not know your politics.”
“I’m all too aware that my arrival had aroused suspicion, especially in Ancano, your Thalmor associate.”
“I do not need to be told of the animosity between the Psijic Order and The Dominion. He is not my associate, but my enemy and I would cut him down without hesitation if he interferes with ‘The Eye of Magnus’. For the last time, help or go away.”
“As you may have learned, the object… the Eye… is immensely powerful. The world is not ready for it. If it remains here, it will be misused.”
“You are still telling me things I already know.”
“Many in the Order believe it has already… Rather, something will happen soon, something that cannot be avoided.”
“You know who I am. You heard what I told Nerien. Nothing is predetermined, but the longer you waste my time, the more likely this ‘unavoidable something’ will occur.”
“We believe that your efforts should be directed towards dealing with the aftermath, but we cannot predict what that will be.”
“Then take your best-educated guess and give me something I might be able to use against this unknown aftermath!”
“I fear I have already overstepped the bounds of my Order, but I will offer this: seek out the Augur of Dunlain here in your College. His perception may be more coherent than ours.”
“The College has tried to keep knowledge of him secret and failed. But the information leaked is inconclusive. I do not know where he is or exactly what he is.”
“He was once a student here at the College. Now he is… something different.”
“Do you know where he is? If not, I will ask the other mages.”
“No, we do not know where he presides. I am sorry I cannot provide you with further help, but this conversation requires a great deal of effort on my part.”
“I had not thought about using this mythical Auger of Dunlain. You have given me a way forward, so the effort was worthwhile. I thank you.”
“Now, I am afraid I must leave you. We will continue to watch over you and guide you as best we can.”
“All I need is suggestions when the way forward is not so clear. I am sorry, but I will have to subject you to Ancano. I want your presence to make him worry.”
The Time Well dissipated.
I said, “Master Mage Celestine, please let Ancano attend.”
Celestine opened the door to the Arch-Mage Quarters, and seconds later, Ancano came marching in then stood before Quaranir
- Savos: What is going on?
- Ancano: You heard the Arch-Mage. Well, what is the meaning of this?
- Quaranir: I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t understand.
- Ancano: Don’t play coy. You asked to see General Valdr. What did you want?
- Wulf: Do not answer Quaranir. Our conversation is none of Ancano’s business. You are free to leave the College grounds.
- Quaranir: Thank you, General Valdr. I shall take my leave.
- Ancano: What? What trickery is this? You’re not going anywhere until I find out what you’re up to!
- Quaranir: I am not ‘up to’ anything. I apologise if I have offended you in any way.
- Ancano: I’m not sure what just happened, but I assure you I will get to the bottom of it.
- Wulf: What just happened is I had a private conversation with a distinguished guest of the College, and you just treated him like a criminal. Shame on you, Ancano! Isn’t that right, Arch-Mage Aren?
- Savos: I have no idea what just occurred. However, I know that you, Ancano, have no right to question our guest or General Valdr about a private conversation. You certainly have no right to show such aggression to our guest.
- Wulf: You can leave Quaranir. Justiciar Ancano apologises for his terrible behaviour and will not prevent your legal exit from the College grounds. If he tries, I will arrest him.
Quaranir smiled as he made his way out of the room.
- Savos: General, can you come and speak to me about what just occurred.
- Wulf: I will be with you soon, Arch-Mage.
- Ancano: Whatever it is those Psijics are up to, they cannot be trusted.
- Wulf: I would stick my head in Alduin’s jaws and trust him not to bite before I trusted the Thalmor.
- Ancano: For all we know, he was here to scout out the College. I’m sure they want to undermine our efforts.
- Wulf: Whose efforts? Those of the College, The Dominion or mine?
- Ancano: This! This… Orb. The Eye of Magnus, whatever you want to call it. It’s clearly powerful, and no doubt they want it for themselves.
- Wulf: They are not The Synod collecting powerful artefacts out of greed. I know what they want, and their desire is the same as mine. I don’t have to spell that out, do I?
I left Ancano and walked to Arch-Mage Aren, who had moved to the opposite side of his quarters.
“What was that all about?”
“Like me, the Psijic Order, or a faction therein, are concerned about the danger the ‘Eye’ poses to Nirn. They are aiding me in resolving the issue.”
“Tolfdir should not have brought it here.”
“No, he shouldn’t have. The artefact enamours him, and his judgement was poor. Was it Tolfdir who named it?”
“Yes. He said the name just came to him.”
“The Ehlnofex runes would fit in with an object created by Magnus.”
“Did the Psijic Sorcerer provide useful assistance?”
“He said I should speak to the Augur of Dunlain.”
“I have made it quite clear over the years that his existence was not a subject for discussion, but still the rumours spread. Speak to Tolfdir as he has had more to do with the Augur than any of us. I think you will find him in his quarters.”
“I will do that in a second. I will also organise a platoon of Legionnaires to guard the Eye. Nobody should approach it or try and use it.”
“And we can’t trust mages with such temptation, can we?”
“I do not know what mage skills Ancano has, but I think he knows far more about the Eye than he lets on. The guards would be more as a protection against him, and possible Thalmor interference, than against the members of the College.”
“I hope you do, Arch-Mage. The Divines sent me here. The Psijic Order are so concerned they have decided to help me. The danger we find ourselves in is extreme!”
I collected The Sentinels, and we made our way to the central courtyard. A white tiger was trying to make a meal out of the College’s pet dog.
I ran over and killed the tiger. The dog was unharmed.
Tolfdir saw the altercation and came rushing over.
- Tolfdir: The only way that tiger got here was a student practising conjuration.
- Celestine: The student would have intended the tiger to appear in a cage in front of them and then wondered why the spell failed.
- Tolfdir: That is what usually happens. It is much messier when they make a mistake when conjuring a Dremora. That is why that spell is restricted to several places on the roof. Much easier for the cleaners that way.
- Wulf: It is amazing any of them live long enough to become masters!
- Celestine: Some of us become wise before we become blood splatter.
- Wulf: Tolfdir, you were exhausted and headed for bed. Yet here you are again. You are to stay away from the Eye!
- Tolfdir: I did exactly what you warned me not to do. Precisely what I warned the students not to do. My eagerness to learn may cause significant harm. I am sorry.
- Wulf: I am not convinced you enacted with free will. The more I think about it, the surer I am that the Eye influenced you to bring it here.
- Celestine: What made you call it ‘The Eye of Magnus’?
- Tolfdir: I had not given much thought to what we should name it. It… it just came to mind and seemed to be appropriate.
- Wulf: It has powers unknown. Some sort of sentience, and mind control, is not wild speculation but a logical possibility.
- Tolfdir: That will be of little comfort to me if harm comes from my actions.
- Wulf: The Psijic Order contacted me again. They suggest that I speak to the Augur of Dunlain.
- Tolfdir: There’s a name I haven’t heard in some time. My goodness, it’s been years since I’ve spoken to him. I suppose he’s still down in The Midden, but I haven’t checked.
- Wulf: The Midden? Is that the collapsed underground part of the College?
- Tolfdir: Yes, the locals think that the College escaped mostly intact during The Great Collapse of 4E 122. That is untrue! The underground part of the College was far more extensive than what was above ground. It is now mostly rubble and inhabited by things summoned and the undead that seem to find these places without assistance. It is not the friendliest place, so if you go down there, please, do be careful.
- Wulf: What can you tell me about the Augur?
- Tolfdir: Well, I suppose he wouldn’t mind. It was all before my time, you understand. I’ve heard the stories, the same as anyone else.
- Celestine: The story from a Master Mage is guaranteed to be closer to the truth than what is whispered over mead in Skyrim taverns.
- Tolfdir: The Augur was a brilliant student, an accomplished wizard. He delved into magic in a way none had seen before. But I think he became too focused on just how much power he could acquire. That led to the accident.
- Inigo: It is disturbing how common that problem seems to be.
- Wulf: The study and mastery of magic are similar to Skooma addiction in many ways. Logically the mages know what they are doing is dangerous, but they find it difficult to stop.
- Inigo: That is an interesting analogy. I will have to think about it.
- Wulf: The accident did not kill him but turned him into this Auger of Dunlain?
- Tolfdir: Yes. I am assuming it was an accident. I can’t imagine it was intentional.
- Wulf: What is he?
- Tolfdir: He is somehow fused to the energies that flow through the College. He is not flesh and blood or corporeal at all. He is energy. I have never felt it appropriate to ask him about it, about how that must feel. Or, I suppose, if he can feel at all.
- Wulf: What is the safest route through The Midden?
- Tolfdir: I only ever use the entrance in the senior mage dormitory.
- Wulf: We will go and see him now. Stay alert! I still do not know the exact danger the Eye represents.
We entered The Midden via the door Tolfdir mentioned.
I said to The Sentinels, “I have no idea what dangers we face down here. It should be fun!”
We came across a bone totem.
- Wulf: It looks like some people have come down here to practice Reach Magic.
- Celestine: I wondered if that is what the Augur was doing since Dunlain Falls is in High Rock.
- Wulf: Yes, it is in The Reach near the Skyrim border. It may be where the Augur came from, and he may have been experimenting with Reach Magic. Speculation, but it makes sense.
- Argus: You know I don’t trust mages, except for my present company, of course. Things like the Eye and Augur and other such horrors scare the average citizen and me. We see little good come from all this study of things that should be left alone.
- Wulf: Most magical knowledge has been lost. We know that great benefits for all can be achieved if we recover some of that knowledge. Ancient healing skills and teleport abilities, for instance. Quite often, when a mage starts investigating parts of lost magic, the benefits of recovering that knowledge might not be known at first.
- Celestine: When lost knowledge is not beneficial to others but only provides power to the mage, the research can become unethical.
- Wulf: Presented with the chance to manipulate and use the primitive forces surrounding us, many mages forget ethics and continue.
- Celestine: Many pursue knowledge for the challenge and never intend to use it. However, others may misuse what they discover.
- Argus: You compared it to Skooma addiction.
- Wulf: In many ways, it is.
- Argus: So, we should put up with the suspect research because there is also ethical and beneficial research?
- Inigo: Argus, quiet! You don’t want your Nord friends thinking you are a milk drinker!
- Argus: I will just punch anyone that dares suggest it.
We discovered a sacrifice.
- Argus: This is not fresh. It appears the mages at Fellowglow Keep are not the first necromancers to break College rules.
- Wulf: It is before they were here but not all that old. The sacrificial knife is in good condition.
- Celestine: The oil near the skeleton suggests they burned something as part of a ritual.
- Wulf: There would be many who have no interest in Necromancy at first, but, like all magic knowledge, it can become addictive.
- Celestine: Most of them end up chasing immortality.
- Wulf: If they bothered reading the histories of famous Lich, they would soon realise it is not so desirable a thing.
- Argus: I wonder who this poor soul was?
- Wulf: A beggar off the street, A fellow student. He could have been anybody.
- Argus: How do you know it was a he?
- Wulf: The ridges above the eye sockets are more prominent on males. I don’t know about Mer or Khajiit, but many males of Man have more ribs than females.
- Celestine: We had to learn a lot about the body as part of Restoration studies. If you closely examine the hip bones, you can sometimes tell if it is a female and if she ever gave birth. You can look at the forearms and sometimes tell if the person was a labourer or even an archer and many other professions.
- Wulf: Some Bone Sculptors, an area of magic almost extinct, can reconstruct the face’s flesh just from studying the skull.
- Argus: There is one of them in Riften.
- Inigo: Don’t visit her. She thought she could improve my looks, and that is impossible!
A bit further on, we came across a blood-covered chair and bedroll.
- Wulf: The lesson here?
- Argus: Don’t sleep in The Midden.
- Celestine: Or sit in a chair.
- Inigo: That one was probably on guard duty.
- Argus: Go ahead, sleep. I will protect you!
- Celestine: Aargh!
- Wulf: What have I done? You were all sane once!
- Inigo: You are our role model, my friend.
- Wulf: I am sorry. I was normal once as well.
We encountered the occasional Ice Wraith and Skeletal Warrior. I have no doubt there are more dangerous citizens of The Midden lurking and waiting.
In another section, we found an unusual forge.
- Celestine: I have heard about this. It is called the ‘Atronach Forge’.
- Wulf: The giant Daedric symbol in the centre tells me it is not something I want to use.
- Inigo: My friend, let us continue. This thing disturbs me.
Near the forge was a magical brasier. I had no idea what for what it was used.
We found a Bone Sculpture.
- Argus: What the f… I mean… what the heck is that?
- Wulf: It is a Bone Sculpture. The Forsworn make them, and many Ayleid did as well. Those ancient Mer thought of them as high art. They also used to include flesh in their masterpieces.
- Argus: And they dare call Nords barbaric!
- Inigo: The Nords call others far worse than that!
- Wulf: True words from the blue city of fleas!
I knew we had only wandered through a small percentage of The Midden, so I was surprised when we stumbled upon the Augur of Dunlain.
As I approached a door, a disembodied voice said, “Your perseverance will only lead to disappointment.”
“I sought you concerning a matter of urgency.”
“Still, you persist? Very well, you may enter.”
We crowded into a small room. A ball of Magicka floated above a well of some substance I did not recognise. The Augur was similar to a large Mage Light.
- Wulf: Am I speaking to the Augur of Dunlain?
- Augur: I am that which you have been seeking. Your efforts are in vain. It has already begun. But those who have sent you have not told you what they seek. What you seek.
- Wulf: The last thing I expected or needed was another being assuming they know all about me, my motivations and my objectives. Saying our efforts are in vain displays a level of ignorance that is disturbing. Nobody sent me. What is it you think I seek?
- Augur: You seek that which all who wield magic seek, knowledge. You shall find this: Knowledge will corrupt. It will destroy. It will consume. You seek meaning and shelter in knowledge. You will not find it. The Thalmor sought the same thing, and it shall lead to his end as it had so many others.
- Wulf: The Divines created all I see and love. In doing so, they and their kind sacrificed much. I have their love, that of Rigmor and my many friends. Love provides all the shelter I need! My desire to protect the mortals of Nirn as The Nine instruct gives me meaning.
- Celestine: Augur of Dunlain, not all of us are as weak-willed or short of morality as you once were!
- Inigo: The Dragonborn seeks knowledge to aid others and not for the sake of ownership. He does not seek knowledge to make himself more powerful for the sake of power. Yet, to do as his gods require, there are very few mortals who have been as powerful as he already is.
- Argus: You have no right to judge him!
- Kharjo: The blue ball dares equate Ancano’s motivation with Wulf’s? If the blue ball had a shin to kick, I would kick it!
- Wulf: I assume Ancano sought knowledge on using the Eye for his selfish purposes or those of The Dominion. I seek the knowledge required to stop him and any other person from doing so.
- Augur: Ancano seeks information about the Eye, but what he will find shall be quite different. His path will cross yours in time, but first, you must find that which you need.
- Wulf: That is why I am putting up with your nonsense.
- Inigo: Just listen to his nonsense a bit longer. I think he has missed the chance to speak pure mumbo jumbo. He seems a lot like Paarthurnax and his desire to tinvaak.
- Augur: You, and those aiding you, wish to know more about the Eye of Magnus. You want to avoid the disaster of which you are not yet aware.
- Wulf: Dear Lord Akatosh, give me strength!
- Celestine: How can the General avoid something if he is not aware of it? You make no sense!
- Wulf: There is potential for disaster, which I have known about for days now. I am trying to prevent that disaster!
- Augur: To see through Magnus’ Eye without being blinded, you require the Staff of Magus.
- Wulf: You could have said that when I first walked in.
- Augur: Events now spiral quickly towards the inevitable centre, so you must act with haste. Take this knowledge to your Arch-Mage.
- Wulf: I think I will go to the inn and enjoy a few meads first. Why hurry if something is inevitable?
- Argus: I hope there is not too much spiralling. I get sick when dizzy.
The Augur vanished.
- Wulf: If there is a god, even a Dark Lord, whose domain is clear speech, then I am a convert.
- Angus: This is why I just like to hit things with my sword.
- Inigo: It usually comes down to that in the end.
- Celestine: Wait! I am getting a vision. A large, grumpy person will cleave a skinny, tall, arrogant person in half and save Nirn once more!
- Wulf: Let’s find Magnus’ Staff. I would hate to go blind looking through Magnus’ Eye!
- Angus: My mother told me it would make me go blind.
- Inigo: She wasn’t talking about the Eye, was she?
- Angus: No, but it was good advice. I did start to squint a bit when I was thirteen.
- Celestine: My mother said it makes your palms hairy.
- Inigo: Hey, don’t look at me. I am Khajiit!
- Kharjo: This one is confused about how the topic changed from the original?
- Inigo: Angus used innuendo and an old wife’s tail to segue the conversation.
- Kharjo: Whose tail did that one use? That is cruel!
- Inigo: You followed the conversation, didn’t you?
- Kharjo: This one finds humour when others try to explain things.
We used a different exit and emerged from The Midden into the cold of a snowstorm.
Student mages were using the weather to practice their wards under challenging conditions.
We made our way inside to warmth and the Arch-Mage.
- Wulf: I have spoken to the Augur of Dunlain.
- Savos: How did you find that experience?
- Wulf: Frustrating. But in the end, he told me what is needed to help with the Eye.
- Savos: Some powerful artefact to counter the powerful artefact?
- Inigo: The Arch-Mage guesses such things because he has lived long and has much experience.
- Celestine: Unlike General Valdr, who is just a smartarse.
- Wulf: Apologies for the two clowns.
- Savos: Friends who are willing to walk into danger by your side can be forgiven anything.
- Wulf: What we need to find is the Staff of Magus.
- Savos: An object as specific and ancient as the Staff of Magnus… I’m not sure we’d ever find something like that.
- Inigo: Nobody thought the General could find a specific Elder Scroll and other ancient artefacts. But he did.
- Savos: I seem to recall Mirabelle mentioning the staff somewhat recently. Why don’t you see if she can tell you anything?
- Wulf: Do you have paper and a quill so I can write out some military orders. I would like you to sign it, so there are no questions about the deployment.
- Savos: Only a platoon?
- Wulf: That is all that is needed at the moment.
I quickly wrote the orders and signed them. Aren placed his signature next to mine. I sealed the orders then thanked the Arch-Mage.
On our way to see Mirabelle, we passed Ancano, who stared daggers at me. I blew him a kiss.
Mirabelle was inspecting the white tiger we had killed earlier.
- Wulf: Excuse me, Master Mage Mirabelle. May I have a word?
- Mirabelle: The most famous member of the College for hundreds of years finally speaks to me.
- Wulf: You would know I am not here for a social visit.
- Mirabelle: Yes, forgive me for my flippant remark.
- Wulf: What is your opinion of the Psijic Order?
- Mirabelle: I am not sure I like their basic philosophy. They believe only an elite few should have control over magic.
- Wulf: And that is why the original Mages Guild was formed. They believed in many mages doing service for noble and peasant.
- Mirabelle: If you are wondering if they are trustworthy. They have done nothing in the past to suggest otherwise.
- Wulf: The Augur of Dunlain said I need a specific artefact to combat the danger the Eye of Magnus poses. The Augur then suggested I ask the Arch-Mage about it. The Arch-Mage said you mentioned the artefact recently.
- Mirabelle: And the artefact is?
- Wulf: The Staff of Magus.
- Mirabelle: It is said to be very powerful. It can store an incredible amount of magical power, as the story goes.
- Wulf: Celestine, can you tell me why that staff might be useful?
- Celestine: Hello, Master Mirabelle.
- Mirabelle: Even my favourite student, now a Master Mage, is too busy to visit me?
- Celestine: I am sorry… I have been so busy after returning from High Rock…
- Mirabelle: Relax, Celestine. I am only stirring the pot. We are all proud that General Valdr has chosen you to travel with him. Now I believe he asked a question?
- Celestine: If the Staff of Magus can absorb and store large amounts of Magicka, it may be able to drain enough from the Eye of Magus to make it inert temporarily.
- Wulf: Does that sound right to you, Master Mirabelle?
- Mirabelle: Yes, it does. Which means it is logical that you spend time finding it.
- Wulf: It is good to have confirmation of what I thought. I rarely get the luxury of that when making decisions.
- Inigo: Anything that makes you worry less is welcome!
- Wulf: Master Mirabelle, do you have any idea where I can start looking for it?
- Mirabelle: It is more myth than anything, although I am positive it exists. Nobody has reported seeing it in decades or even centuries. The last time I heard it mentioned was when some Synod mages came to the College. It was one of the items they were seeking.
- Wulf: They are magic hoarding morons!
- Argus: Who is the Synod?
- Mirabelle: They are mages based in Cyrodiil. They fancy themselves the Imperial Authority on magic since the Mages Guild disbanded.
- Celestine: They never use their magic to aid others and have a reputation for hoarding artefacts. Mages who are not members of the Synod are not allowed to study them.
- Wulf: Yet they expect this College and other institutions to cooperate when asked.
- Mirabelle: Indeed, I was quite surprised to find them on our doorstep. They seemed amiable enough, but their line of questioning made me… uneasy.
- Wulf: They gave away their real purpose, didn’t they?
- Mirabelle: Yes. I was not keen on helping them with their hoarding.
- Wulf: Did they tell you where they will be searching?
- Mirabelle: They said they would be based in Mzulft for some time. I don’t know if the Staff of Magus is there, but it is a starting point.
- Wulf: Thank you. It is the only lead I have, so I must follow it.
- Mirabelle: Don’t expect them to be cooperative.
- Inigo: The General can be very persuasive.
- Mirabelle: I can imagine.
- Wulf: Is there anything else you know about the Staff of Magus?
- Mirabelle: It was made and used by Magnus himself if you believe those sorts of things. I’ve heard it say that it’s the only thing that could adequately control his power.
- Wulf: Thank you for your help, Master Mirabelle.
We crossed the bridge then I approached the first Legionnaire I saw. Since the end of the civil war, Imperial troops guarded Winterhold with Storm Atronachs conjured by the College.
- Wulf: What is your name?
- Bette: Bette, General Valdr.
- Wulf: There is an Imperial camp not far from here, correct?
- Bette: Yes. The guards here are rotated from the garrison there.
- Wulf: I want you and another Legionnaire to deliver these orders to the camp’s commander immediately.
I handed Bette the orders then she hurried away to do as instructed.
The Mzulft ruins were not far past Yngol’s old camp. We gathered our horses then started the journey in freezing but clear weather.
We were not far from the city when we came across a skirmish. A single bandit was giving a travelling mage and his Orsimer guards a hard time.
I appreciated the skill of the bandit as I cut him down from horseback.
The mage thanked us, and we continued.
One thing that brings my Dovah to the fore immediately is Legion deserters. I delivered military justice to one we encountered.
We stopped briefly at the hot springs that are a cherished part of Rigmor and my history together. I felt an urge to speak to my beloved but knew she would be stuck on her throne listening to critical business and trying not to yawn, or fart, or be unladylike in any way.
Further on, we came upon a ransacked Khajiit caravan. Kharjo whispered, “Be wary of the female. That one is called Tanita and is not trustworthy.”
I dismounted then approached Tanita. She looked very healthy, considering the condition of her wagon.
- Tanita: Unnngh… help me!
- Wulf: Are you all right? What happened?
- Tanita: Bandits… they sacked the caravan… killed S’drassa…
- Wulf: That must have been terrible. How did you manage to survive?
- Tanita: By playing dead… lucky for me… all they wanted was the gold.
- Wulf: Fortunate, indeed. I don’t think I have ever heard of bandits leaving witnesses.
- Tanita: Yes, this one was very lucky.
- Wulf: Is there anything we can do to help?
- Tanita: Yes… take me to Windhelm. One of the other caravans sells their wares there.
- Wulf: We will help you. First, let Celestine check your wounds. She is an excellent healer.
Tanita stood, and Celestine moved behind her.
- Tanita: There is no need. This one took a healing potion.
- Inigo: Healing potions do not make the blood from wounds vanish.
- Kharjo: This one thinks there were no bandits. S’drassa was a friend and did not deserve to die. Ri’saad was wrong to trust that one!
- Tanita: Kharjo? It seems my plan is broken!
Tanita tried to draw her sword. Celestine was quicker and stabbed the Khajiit in the kidneys with her beautiful and very sharp silver dagger. The young mage has turned into an efficient killer during her time with me.
I searched Tanita’s corpse and found a note which I read to The Sentinels,
Lajjan hopes this is a joke. If so, she is not laughing. She will not help you and your bandit friends sack the caravans, and if their paths cross, do not think she will spare you because Khajiit are friends.
- Kharjo: Lajjan is a female guard and fine warrior. This dead one was foolish to try and turn Lajjan into a thief and murderer.
- Wulf: This will be another blow to Ri’saad.
- Argus: Behaviour like this and that of Ahkari only strengthen Nord prejudice.
- Inigo: Yes, it does despite every other race having bandits, murderers and thieves roaming Skyrim in great numbers.
- Wulf: Nobody outside the caravans needs to know. I will leave it to Ri’saad to sort it out.
- Kharjo: That one will be pleased Lajjan is loyal.
- Wulf: I hope Ri’saad continues to give other Khajiit a chance to reform.
- Kharjo: He knows that not all Khajiit will change. That one will keep trying as there have been worthwhile successes.
- Wulf: Including you, Kharjo.
We looked behind the caravan and discovered S’drassa’s body.
- Wulf: Sorry, Kharjo, but we can’t do anything for S’drassa as we must concentrate on the problem in Winterhold.
- Kharjo: This one understands. When this caravan does not arrive, Khajiit will investigate. The true cat, S’drassa, and the bent cat, Tanita, will not lie here for long.
- Inigo: The other’s in the caravans will know the religions of both deceased. They will be taken care of accordingly.
- Wulf: Then let us move on.
Mzulft is vast, with many entrances. I decided to ride up several sets of steps till we reached the highest one.
I said to The Sentinels, “We all know what to expect. Dwarven Automatons and Falmer. I doubt there will be any great surprises.”
We entered Mzulft and had chosen the correct entrance, as proven by the dying Synod mage moaning on the floor. I touched my Lucky Coin and thanked Talos once more for the gift.
In between groans, the Synod mage said, “Crystal… gone… Find… Paratus… in Oculory…”
He then died.
- Inigo: What is an Oculory?
- Wulf: I don’t know. Some sort of Dwemer machinery, I assume.
- Celestine: A crystal and Oculory. Whatever it is, it must be related to vision.
- Argus: Why is that?
- Celestine: Ocular refers to sight or vision. You might have seen people wearing spectacles where glass is shaped to make vision clearer for them. Crystals can be used for the same purpose.
- Wulf: Crystals can also be used to separate the colours within the light of the sun. They are called prisms.
- Argus: Now, I am confused.
- Wulf: A rainbow is created by rain acting like prisms and separating the colours of sunlight.
- Argus: No, this is too much. My brain refuses to listen any more. Let’s just kill things, shall we?
The mage had a letter which I read to The Sentinels,
The Council has become aware of the lack of progress in your group’s efforts. They are particularly displeased to learn that your specifications for the Focusing Crystal were utterly incorrect.
The entire Binder’s Conclave has worked tirelessly, and the Council is quite sure this new crystal will suit your needs. You are herewith entrusted with delivering the crystal to the site, completing your work, and providing a full report to the Council with all possible haste.
The Council trusts you will deliver the crystal to the Oculory personally and that there will be no further complications.
First Adjunct Oronrel”
- Wulf: An attendant is higher than a Master Mage in the College. They are the second tier of leaders in the Synod.
- Inigo: Gavros was sent with the Focusing Crystal, which means it was of paramount importance to whatever they are doing here.
- Wulf: And he urged us to deliver it with his last mortal words.
- Celestine: Is the First Adjunct the Synod leader?
- Wulf: Yes, the Arch-Mage of their order. There is a Second Adjunct who assists him or her.
- Inigo: What is the ‘Council’?
- Wulf: The leaders of each branch of the Synod. Head librarian, head archaeologist, head historian, head archivist, etcetera.
- Argus: Do they have mages who can fight?
- Wulf: Battlemages and Spellswords? No. I don’t think they even use staffs.
- Argus: And they thought it was a good idea to take a stroll through Dwemer ruins?
- Celestine: What has Wulf been trying to drum into Apprentices and elderly mages alike?
- Argus: That mages don’t think straight or consider the risks when pursuing magical knowledge.
- Celestine: There is your answer to why they would come unarmed and unarmoured into a place like this.
- Wulf: Let’s hope we find at least one of them alive. We need information on the Staff of Magus, and this is our only source so far.
Gavros also had a key. It unlocked the doors to the rest of Mzulft.
There is no need for a detailed description of our travels through Mzulft. It was the normal Dwemer Automaton smashing and Falmer slaughtering as we grew numb from the bland architecture. Argus started counting the dead Synod as we went but soon gave up.
We did find an excellent Moonstone deposit. That was the highlight.
One large room had a set of doors with a complicated lock I could not pick, and the front door key did not open.
We searched the dead Falmer but did not find the key. However, we did find the Focusing Crystal.
- Wulf: It seems this Focusing Crystal is not a prism but is designed to reflect a beam of light in different directions.
- Argus: Why would the Falmer want it?
- Wulf: Monetary value does not mean much to them, but often you will find unusual objects like this placed on tables inside their huts.
- Argus: Like some birds collect shells and shiny objects for their nests?
- Wulf: Similar, except the Falmer are doing it for aesthetic purposes, not to attract a mate.
- Argus: There are female Falmer?
- Inigo: Half of the Falmer you have killed in Mzulft have been female.
- Argus: How can you tell the difference?
- Inigo: I don’t know. I have the same difficulty with Nords.
- Celestine: Nords are easy. The females have shorter beards.
- Argus: Hey, that is racist!
- Celestine: Something that Bosmer like me know well.
- Inigo: And complaining about racism to a Khajiit seems silly.
- Wulf: Relax Argus. Neither of them is racist but are enjoying watching your reaction.
- Argus: I know that, but it is disturbing how such jests make me feel. I can’t imagine how bad it must be when such things are said not in jest.
- Inigo: It is not pleasant.
- Wulf: Gavros had a key to the front doors. I assume the Synod also had a key to these doors and locked them.
- Celestine: Now, we must try and find another key. I hope your Lucky Coin comes to the rescue!
A couple of unlocked doors led to small chambers containing nothing useful. More dead Synod mages populated them.
A large pair of doors opposite the locked ones led to an amphitheatre.
We exited through doors on the opposite side of the amphitheatre and followed a short corridor that contained several dead Falmer.
I observed, “Some of the Falmer have been squished. Others cleaved in two, and some scalded to death.”
Inigo replied, “A Dwarven Centurion does those things.”
We came to a door and could hear the steam and clanking associated with those large Dwemer automata on the other side.
We entered in a rush then attacked the Centurion as one. It was soon destroyed.
The key was not on the Centurion. However, we did find it in a locked chest.
- Wulf: There is a lesson to be learnt here.
- Argus: What? That many Falmer are no match for a Centurion?
- Wulf: The dead Falmer were killed recently. The Centurion and Falmer would have been living together in Mzulft for centuries. So why did they decide to encroach on this area all of a sudden?
- Argus: I have no idea.
- Inigo: Come on, Argus, what has changed recently?
- Argus: The Synod arrived!
- Wulf: Maybe they wanted to get to the Synod mages that might be hiding behind the locked doors.
- Argus: They came looking for the key. The same as us!
- Wulf: Well, searching for the key since they can’t see.
- Argus: They are not as mindless as others say, are they?
- Wulf: No, they are not. And that is the lesson to be learnt here.
We headed back and unlocked the doors.
Up a ramp and at the end of a short corridor was another set of locked doors.
I was just about to try the key on them when a voice from the other side asked, “G… Gavros? Is that you?”
I signalled The Sentinels for silence. None of us made a sound.
“I’d almost given up hope. Let me get the door…”
The Synod mage stared in shock when he opened the door to an armed group of strangers. He readied a Fireball. The Sentinels aimed their bows and staff at him. A young mage from the College stood behind him.
- Paratus: Who are you? Where’s Gavros?
- Wulf: Drop the spell, or you die. You have till I count to three. One… two…
The Synod mage lowered his hands and stepped back.
- Wulf: I am looking for somebody named Paratus.
- Paratus: That is me. Where is Gavros?
- Inigo: The last time I looked he was quite dead.
- Argus: He seemed to be very dead.
- Celestine: Extremely dead, I would say.
- Paratus: Was it the Falmer? Curse them! They’ve ruined everything!
- Wulf: We found plenty of dead Synod mages but no guards. It was a bit foolish to enter these ruins without protection.
- Paratus: If Gavros is gone, there is no hope. He was supposed to return with the crystal. Without that, all our efforts are wasted.
- Argus: This guy doesn’t seem to care about his colleague’s death. He is yet another mage fixated on gaining power or knowledge.
- Paratus: If you’re here for treasure, or wisdom, or anything. I’m afraid you wasting your time.
- Wulf: Tell us about this crystal.
- Paratus: It didn’t work the first time. I tried to tell Gavros, but he wouldn’t listen. ‘No, it won’t be too cold.’ he said. Well, I was right, wasn’t I? It was focused entirely wrong by the time we got here! The cold had warped it!
- Wulf: Maybe you should have made it in Bruma?
- Paratus: Hmph. That county is full of Nord barbarians.
- Argus: This little turd is not very observant, is he?
- Paratus: Gavros had to cart it back to Cyrodiil. He left the rest of us here to fend off the damnable Falmer.
- Argus: Did that tactic work?
- Paratus: What tactic?
- Argus: Throwing yourselves onto their weapons, so they get blunted?
- Wulf: You could have all left with Gavros and then returned with Gavros. There was no need to stay and be slaughtered!
- Inigo: All we encountered were individual mages who stood no chance of survival. There is no sign of an organised defence.
- Wulf: Why do you need the crystal?
- Paratus: It was a brilliant idea. Mostly mine, though Gavros took the credit. It is a secret, though and official Synod business. I can’t talk about it.
I took the Focusing Crystal out of my pack then started tossing it up and down. Paratus stared in horror.
- Wulf: Since I do not know the purpose of this Focusing Crystal, I have no idea if this might be damaging it.
- Paratus: Stop that! How did you find it?
- Wulf: We killed every single Falmer and Dwemer Automaton so we could fulfil Gavros’ final wish.
- Celestine: With his dying words, he urged us to find you. That is how important he regarded whatever it is you are doing.
- Wulf: Instead of a thank you and some trust on your part. We are met with hostility and secrecy. Tell me what the Focusing Crystal is for, or never see it again. You’re choice.
- Celestine: Imagine the tantrum First Adjunct Oronrel will throw!
- Inigo: I would hate to be the one to explain this to the Council!
- Paratus: You have still yet to tell me who you are!
- Kirsta: I can tell you who two of them are. The giant who you are mouthing off to is General Valdr, The Dragonborn. The pretty mage is Celestine. We were at the College of Winterhold together.
- Celestine: Kirsta, how did you get involved with the Synod?
- Kirsta: I thought I was joining them on this expedition as a respected mage and historian. Instead, I am a glorified scribe. A position too low to waste a member of the Synod on.
- Paratus: I should have known the College would come snooping! Savos wouldn’t even grant us an audience when we came to you, but now you come here expecting something from me?
- Wulf: Are all Synod mages as stupid as you? I have not asked for anything, but we have just saved your life again. Do you know how many times I have saved your life? We are now trying to save the lives of everybody on Nirn once more. You might be able to help, or you might be a waste of valuable time.
- Paratus: I don’t like this, I’ll tell you. But you saved my skin, so maybe I could overlook the past for now.
- Argus: The little man would not be worried about his life all of a sudden, would he?
- Inigo: Don’t be so cynical. His generosity will make the gods weep!
- Paratus: Come on, I’ll explain on the way.
As we walked, the conversation continued.
- Paratus: No matter what Gavros said, this was my idea first. The Council is going to know that when I get back.
- Wulf: Such an ego within so small a brain!
- Inigo: Careful, you do not want your dragon scaring him!
- Paratus: I was the one who thought of using this… this Oculory. I don’t know what the Dwemer called it. Something unpronounceable, I’m sure.
- Celestine: Since nobody has recorded the speech of the Dwemer, that is a rash assumption.
- Paratus: From all our research, it seems they were intent on discerning the nature of the divine.
- Wulf: DUH! The basis of all Dwemer endeavours for centuries and mentioned in countless books. Well done on that brilliant breakthrough!
- Paratus: This machinery, all of it, was designed to collect starlight, and then… I’m not sure. Split it somehow?
- Argus: Like a prism and sunlight.
Paratus stopped and stared at Argus. The rest of us struggled to keep straight faces.
- Paratus: Yes, like a prism. It was my idea to replace one of the key elements with our focusing crystal. Months of enchantments went into it. Let’s just hope they got it right this time.
- Wulf: You are changing the frequencies the machine reacts to via the Focusing Crystal.
- Paratus: How did you know that?
- Wulf: Logic. The Synod harassed the College about artefacts they were seeking. If an opportunity presented itself to search for artefacts based on Magicka emission, the Synod would invest heavily in such a project.
- Celestine: If the machinery was tuned to the frequencies of starlight and you tuned it to the frequencies of Magicka, you could use it to find powerful artefacts.
- Argus: Aah… explain.
- Wulf: How fast a thing vibrates is its frequency. Different colours have slight differences in frequency, and a prism uses a rule of nature called refraction to separate them.
- Inigo: Oh, and Magicka has frequencies, and that is why my whiskers vibrated the other day!
- Wulf: Yes. Your whiskers will have different resonant frequencies depending on their length and thickness. It is challenging to explain resonance in simple terms. When something powerful enough emits the right frequency, some of your whiskers will vibrate due to what is called a ‘standing wave’.
- Argus: Huh?
- Wulf: When you were in the Legion, you often marched in step, correct?
- Argus: Nearly all the time if on parade or not.
- Wulf: When were you ordered not to march in step?
- Argus: When we crossed bridges, we could walk normally.
- Wulf: That is because your marching might cause a standing wave, and the bridge would vibrate violently like Inigo’s whiskers. It may collapse due to the standing wave.
- Argus: Aha! This magic is not so hard.
- Inigo: This is not magic but science. Langley never stops talking about science.
- Wulf: The Dwemer liked science because it is logical while the metaphysics of gods isn’t. It is what I call gobblygook.
- Argus: They built a machine to explain gods logically?
- Wulf: They thought they could explain everything with science. A lot of what we think of as Dwemer Magic is the manipulation of frequencies. Their greatest mages were called Tonal Architects.
We arrived at the machine, and it impressed us all, including Argus.
- Paratus: Here it is. Magnificent, isn’t it?
- Argus: That is quite a sight!
- Paratus: It took an incredible amount of work to get it running again. Now I am hoping it’ll all be worth it.
- Wulf: I can see a place for the crystal in the central apparatus.
- Paratus: Yes, place it there, and then we can start the process of focusing it.
- Celestine: Even though you were more careful with the calculations this time, the Focusing Crystal was made in a different environment. It has expanded and shrunk according to temperature, so it needs adjusting.
- Paratus: That is correct. The first crystal could not be adjusted enough.
I placed the Focusing Crystal into the cradle made for it. Beams of light then pointed to different parts of the dome.
- Wulf: So now, I understand a bit more. Somehow you are using visible light to show you where powerful artefacts are.
- Paratus: Yes. We had to convert whatever the apparatus detected into something our brains can interpret.
- Celestine: And due to its expansion and contraction during transport. We have to expand and contract the Focusing Crystal, so it works in this environment?
- Paratus: Use simple Destruction spells to heat and cool the Focusing Crystal. When the light beams hit specific lenses along the wall, you will know it is focused.
I used the Thu’um, and the first Word of the Fire Breath and Ice Breath Shouts to focus the crystal.
It was a bit finicky, but eventually, the focusing was successful.
Paratus exclaimed, “Years of work is finally going to pay off!”
We followed him to a projection of Tamriel.
- Paratus: What is this? These results… They’re not at all what they should be. This projection should be lit up like the night sky. Something is creating an incredible amount of interference.
- Wulf: What I see is extremely useful to us.
- Paratus: What are you playing at? Is this some attempt to stall my work?!
- Argus: What is the Synod turd going on about this time?
- Celestine: Many little dots should cover the map of Tamriel. Each dot would indicate the location of a magical artefact.
- Argus: No wonder he is throwing a tantrum!
- Paratus: Did you know what we were attempting? Are you here to make sure your plan worked and that our efforts will have been for nothing?
My Dovah came forth, and Paratus fell as he tried to back away in a hurry.
- Wulf: I told you before that we are here risking our lives to save Nirn once again. I care not for the greed of the Synod. If I did, I would make this room crumble around your ears. If you shut your whiney little mouth and listen, I will explain why this machine shows what it is!
- Paratus: Alright. I will listen.
- Inigo: It would be better for your health if you did.
Paratus stood before the projection, and I explained.
- Wulf: From what I can see, there are only two objects detected.
- Paratus: Yes, one in your College. The other appears to be in Labyrinthian.
- Wulf: The one in Winterhold holds an enormous amount of Magicka and was made by Magnus. We call it ‘The Eye of Magus’. It is that artefact that endangers all of Nirn. I am looking for a way to end that danger. What I need is the Staff of Magnus.
- Paratus: But why would the Staff of Magnus show up almost as bright on the map?
- Wulf: It is responding to the Eye.
- Celestine: So, if the Eye had remained where it was, this machine would only show the Staff of Magnus as no more powerful than other artefacts?
- Wulf: That is the logical conclusion.
- Argus: I find the way these things unfold for you confusing.
- Wulf: Gobblygook. That is all the explanation you need. I don’t ask too many questions of The Divines and just accept it.
- Paratus: It still means this apparatus is useless as those two artefacts stop the detection of others.
- Wulf: I don’t know the solution to the Eye as of yet. It may be that they will no longer project so much Magicka when we have finished.
- Celestine: If we do not find a solution to the Eye, you will not be alive to worry about this machine.
- Paratus: Then I wish you all the best and apologise for my…
- Argus: Stupidity?
- Inigo: Arrogance?
- Celestine: Rudeness?
- Paratus: All of those.
- Wulf: Report what you want to the Council. Unlike the Synod, the College of Winterhold does not hide knowledge or hoard it for the elite.
- Celestine: Think about how you approached the College. Was it what you enquired about or how you asked?
- Wulf: A warning. We are going to Labyrinthian to retrieve the Staff of Magus. If the Synod tries to get to it before us, I will kill every member I see. Understand?
- Paratus: Understood.
- Wulf: This is exceptional work you have done here. Too bad such skills are not used to benefit all.
- Kirsta: Turn right halfway along the corridor. Your key will unlock the door to the exit, but you will have to climb down a cliff once outside.
As we made our way to the exit, everybody else froze as a Time Well enveloped us. A familiar Synod Sorcerer teleported in front of me.
- Wulf: Nerien, I trust you are here to help this time?
- Nerien: It is imperative that you return to your college at once.
- Wulf: That was my plan, but if we are to do so at reckless speed, give me a reason.
- Nerien: Ancano has opened the Eye.
- Wulf: Has anybody been hurt?
- Nerien: Not yet.
The Time Well dissipated and Nerien vanished.
The Sentinels started to ask questions, but I put my hand up for silence, unlocked the door, then stepped outside.
- Wulf: OK, I just had to wrestle with my anger.
- Celestine: What did the Psijic Order tell you?
- Wulf: Ancano has opened the Eye.
- Inigo: He has control of all that power?
- Wulf: More than likely, it has control of him. I am positive it has some intelligence.
- Argus: What if the Eye wants you to bring the Staff of Magnus to it?
- Wulf: That is a valid worry, but unless there is evidence to that effect, we have no choice but to proceed with its retrieval.
- Celestine: Are we going to Labyrinthian then?
- Wulf: Eventually, but first, we will ride as fast as we can to Winterhold. The Psijic Sorcerer said we needed to return to the College at once.
- Argus: I was looking forward to a bit of a sleep on the carriage.
- Wulf: It may be many hours before any of us get any sleep.
We scrambled down the cliff and retrieved our horses.
Then we rode with little regard for safety or fear of ambush.
In what seemed a remarkedly short period, we passed Yngol’s deserted camp.
Once past Windhelm, we crossed the river and rode as fast as we could in a direct line for Winterhold.
We made it to Winterhold without a single encounter, then quickly stabled the horses.
A platoon of Legionnaires was gathered at the foot of the bridge. I approached their captain. He stood to attention then relaxed after I returned his salute.
- Wulf: You name?
- Oritius: Captain Oritius, Sir.
- Wulf: What is the situation?
- Oritius: We came as quick as we could, but we were advised we were too late upon entering the College grounds. The artefact we were to guard was already under the control of the Thalmor.
- Wulf: A Thalmor. I don’t know if he is acting alone or under the guidance of The Dominion.
- Oritius: We were advised to keep our distance and, if possible, prevent others from crossing the bridge. Therefore, we have stationed ourselves here for now.
- Wulf: I don’t know what we are or will be facing. Your current position is as good as any at this time.
- Oritius: Understood, Sir.
I addressed The Sentinels,
- Wulf: I am not sure what I will face, but I doubt swords are the solution. Therefore, I want Inigo, Argis and Kharjo to remain here with the Legionnaires.
- Inigo: We are not going to second guess you. We will remain here.
- Argus: But don’t expect us to be happy about it!
- Wulf: Celestine, you are to accompany me until I think it is too dangerous even for a Master Mage.
- Celestine: It is a tricky thing. You decide when it is too dangerous for us. We stop, yet you keep going.
- Wulf: I can protect myself with the Thu’um. Whether that is enough, we will soon find out.
- Inigo: Do not take too long, my friend. I need to urinate!
- Wulf: Well, if I die horribly, you have my permission to run to the privy.
- Inigo: Such a generous person. I have always said that.
I stood at the foot of the bridge then contacted Rigmor.
“What is happening? I can feel fear from you for the first time since the rings were given to us.”
“The Justiciar has opened the Eye. I fear for the people I am supposed to protect. I do not know what I am about to face!”
“You always figure it out. As you keep lecturing, there is no use speculating.”
“Argus prefers just hitting things with his sword than using his brains too much.”
“As do I, but Countesses are not allowed to do that.”
“I love you.”
“And I love you too, my Dragonborn.”
I could not sense fear in Rigmor. She has so much confidence in me, and her love is immeasurable.
Not far along the bridge, Celestine stopped and said, “I am not as sensitive to Magicka as you. But already I am at a loss for words for what I can detect.”
“It is the power of the gods with which Ancano plays. We should be awed!”
A lone College Guard stood outside the Hall of Elements.
I said to him, “I think you should go join the soldiers at the foot of the bridge.”
“That is an excellent idea, General Valdr. From the worried looks of the senior mages, as they have come and gone, I don’t think anybody should be within miles of this place!’
I stepped through the door and saw Arch-Mage Aren and Master Mage Mirabelle Irvine staring at a magical barrier.
I Shouted Dragon Aspect and was instantly protected by potent wards.
“Celestine, you are to approach no further. You can observe what is happening around the Eye from here. When you think the time is right, put up your best ward and hold it. You have exceptional Magicka reserves, so do not leave it too late.”
I approached the barrier.
- Mirabelle: General Valdr. As you can see, we have this barrier before us. It is like a ward but far stronger. But who is casting it and how?
- Wulf: Ancano is using the unlimited reserves of Magicka stored in the Eye to power his spells. This barrier is Greater Ward empowered by the Eye.
- Savos: I don’t care what it is. I want it down now! I want to know what he’s doing in there!
- Wulf: Another Psijic Sorcerer visited me. He said that Ancano had opened the Eye. But I have my doubts that Ancano can control what he found. His ignorance with so much power in his hands is the danger we face.
- Savos: I don’t know what he’s doing in there, but he won’t get away with it.
- Wulf: Arch-Mage Aren, you must think clearly. If Ancano could control the power, we would all be dead. He would not be hiding behind a barrier!
- Savos: Did you find the Staff of Magnus?
- Wulf: No, but I know where it is.
- Mirabelle: That is a concern for later. Right now, we must get through this barrier.
- Savos: We need to see what Ancano is doing.
- Wulf: If we make a sustained attack on the ward with electricity, fire and ice, we may drain it quicker than Ancano can siphon Magicka into it.
- Savos: I will have his head for this, I assure you.
- Wulf: Arch-Mage, you may be powerless against him. Let us see what he is doing and plan from there.
- Savos: OK, I will do the electricity. It has always been my strongest.
- Mirabelle: Ice is my favourite.
- Wulf: Fire for me then. Ready?
- Savos: Yes.
- Mirabelle: Yes.
- Wulf: Then give it all you have!
The power of our Destruction magic was immense. No living creature could have survived such an onslaught for more than a split second.
Celestine whispered in awe, “That is incredible!”
The ward absorbed about thirty seconds of tremendous energy before it started to falter.
As soon as it dropped, the Arch-Mage sprinted towards Ancano.
I used my Thu’um in desperation.
“ARCH-MAGE AREN, DO NOT GET ANY CLOSER!”
Aren came to a halt then yelled, “Ancano! Stop this at once! I command you!”
I said, “He is not in control. He couldn’t stop if he wanted to.”
The Arch-Mage started walking toward Ancano once more with his dagger drawn and spell prepared.
Mirabelle yelled, “Don’t go near him!”
I ran to the Arch-Mage and was going to drag him away. But I was too late!
There was no explosion but a release of pure energy. It was like being hit with a club made of Magicka wielded by a god!
I flew backwards, and if I did not have the extra protection of Dragon Aspect, I doubt I would have survived.
I got to my feet and could see a new barrier, more substantial than the previous one, encircled the Eye. Ancano no longer had energy flowing from the Eye to him. He was just standing there.
Celestine came running up to me.
“Are you injured?” she asked.
“No. Dragon Aspect added to my other dweomer. I am unharmed.”
“The energy released was very local. It did not even reach me.”
“I don’t think it was supposed to kill but create another barrier around the Eye.”
“Ancano is not moving.”
“I don’t think he can. The Eye is far beyond his understanding or abilities.”
I heard a groan behind me. I turned to find Mirabelle doubled over with pain.
She tried to talk.
“Shh. Let me heal you first. Then talk.”
I cast Grand Healing.
She gasped then said, “That was not pleasant. I got my ward up just in time, but I think most of my ribs were snapped like kindling.”
“You will be fatigued but OK now.”
“Ancano is doing something with that thing… the Eye. We can’t stop him!”
“I honestly don’t think Ancano is in control. He spoke to the Augur of Dunlain and somehow obtained the knowledge to open the Eye. But he does not have the knowledge to use it except for its Magicka storage.”
“Yes, you said that if he could control it, we would all be dead.”
Celestine called over, “The Arch-Mage is not in this room!”
Mirabelle pleaded, “Can you please look for him? He may be injured.”
“I will. You do not need my warning but will get it anyway. Do not move until the fatigue is manageable.”
Celestine was correct that the Arch-Mage was not in the room housing the Eye.
We looked at each other worriedly then headed outside.
A group of Senior mages were standing around with a look of confusion, and loss, on their faces.
Tolfdir came running up to me,
- Tolfdir: Are you hurt? What happened in there?
- Wulf: We are unharmed and so is Mirabelle.
- Celestine: Ancano has opened the Eye, but we don’t think he is in control.
- Wulf: Is everybody out here all right?
- Tolfdir: Arch-Mage Aren appeared out of thin air then crashed to the ground. He is dead.
I rushed over to where Tolfdir pointed. There were no scorch marks or signs of injury. But the Arch-Mage was dead.
- Tolfdir: This is my fault, isn’t it? I brought it here and now look at what has happened!
- Wulf: The Psijic Sorcerers and the Augur of Dunlain seemed to think some things were inevitable. It was preordained if you believe that rubbish. That is not how the universe works. Otherwise, that most precious of mortal treasures, our free will, would be worthless. But sometimes, our free will is not what it seems. I honestly do not think you suddenly decided to ignore the warnings given to you and even those you preached to the Apprentices. You were manipulated. I believe you were coerced without you knowing it by the ancient magic contained in the Eye. The Staff of Magus is many miles away but seems to be responding to the Eye. We are ignorant primitives, which is why this thing was buried deep and forgotten. Those before us recognised the danger. We have no idea of what the Eye is capable of or how to control it.
- Celestine: Don’t blame yourself, Master Tolfdir.
- Tolfdir: Logic tells me you are right. I just need to convince my conscience.
- Wulf: You said the Arch-Mage appeared out of nowhere?
- Tolfdir: Some of us decided to wait in this courtyard, but no closer. He was several feet in the air when he appeared. He was dead before he hit the ground.
- Wulf: The energy expended must have pushed him into the ether for a split second. My best protections surrounded me, and I know it would have killed me without them.
- Celestine: Mirabelle was severely injured. General Valdr healed her, and she will be OK.
Mage Faralda shouted, “General Valdr, come quickly. Something is happening in Winterhold!”
Tolfdir said, “I’ll do what I can here. Go now. Go!”
Celestine and I ran up to Faralda.
- Faralda: What’s going on? What happened in there?
- Wulf: That can wait. Let’s help Winterhold!
- Faralda: Yes, let’s get down there. We have to do something.
- Arniel: Do we have to? They’d never lift a finger to help us.
- Wulf: You have a choice. Help Winterhold or get thrown off this bridge.
- Arniel: Ah… let’s go!
Beings, the like of which I had never encountered before, were attacking everybody outdoors.
Guessing they were some form of magical construct, I hit them with Lightning. It proved far more effective in stopping them than weapons of any sort.
After a few minutes of intense fighting, it was suddenly quiet except for the injured moans and the sobbing of some.
Many Legionnaires lay dead. A civilian with Empire arrows in his back also lay dead.
- Faralda: That man attacked us, screaming this was all the College’s fault!
- Wulf: Well, he wasn’t wrong.
- Arniel: One of the guards noticed and killed him.
- Wulf: Then, you should thank the guard. It would not have been an easy choice to make.
- Faralda: What happened? Why did this happen?
- Wulf: Ancano opened the Eye but can’t control it. Arch-Mage Aren is dead. He was killed by the burst of energy that created these creatures.
- Faralda: Dead!
- Wulf: We can all mourn later. In the meantime, some people need healing. I need to go back and help co-ordinate what we do next.
- Arniel: My Restoration skills are not much. But we will see what can be achieved.
- Wulf: Others from the College will soon arrive to help.
I walked up to the captain.
- Wulf: Captain Oritius, I grieve for your losses.
- Oritius: They were good men who expected to retire one day or die at the end of a sword or axe. Not snuffed out by magical beings!
- Wulf: The people of Winterhold owe them a debt. Sovngarde will welcome them.
- Oritius: I can handle things from here. You need to go stop whatever caused this before it happens again.
I gave a hand signal, and The Sentinels fell in behind me as I crossed the bridge.
Mirabelle was on her feet. Even after the healing I gave her, that was a surprise.
- Mirabelle: Well, did you find the Arch-Mage?
- Wulf: He is dead. Somehow, he ended up in the courtyard.
- Mirabelle: As much as I would like to curl up and weep, I cannot as yet.
- Wulf: The Staff of Magus is in Labyrinthian. We shall head there straight away.
- Mirabelle: Are you… are you sure that it is there?
- Wulf: I can’t be one hundred per cent certain.
- Mirabelle: That can’t be a coincidence.
- Wulf: What can’t be?
- Mirabelle: The Arch-Mage. He… he gave me something just a little while ago. He told me it was from Labyrinthian and that I would know what to do with it when the time came.
Mirabelle handed me what looked like a torc. It had no detectable dweomer.
- Mirabelle: I am not sure why, but there was something very personal about it for him.
- Wulf: I have my suspicions. However, I will not say anything until I am sure.
- Celestine: We will bring back the Staff of Magus. We will not let Ancano’s foolishness cause any more deaths!
- Mirabelle: Go with all speed. Tolfdir and I will do what we can. But both of us do not add up to one Savos Aren.
We walked into a snowstorm. I turned to The Sentinels.
- Wulf: I can keep going. My energy reserves are superior to any of you. But this is a long trip, and who knows what we will face in Labyrinthian. I can’t ask you to do the impossible.
- Inigo: And just what option do you have?
- Wulf: I can get there much quicker aboard Odahviing.
- Celestine: And he is going to crawl through Labyrinthian with you?
- Wulf: I can summon a couple of Sentinels. Rested Sentinels.
- Argus: You would only summon a couple as it would leave the children unguarded if you called too many. That may not be enough, and you can’t argue! You have no idea what dangers are in that place.
- Inigo: What is the nearest city to Labyrinthian?
- Wulf: Morthal.
- Inigo: Then let us catch a carriage to Morthal. We can sleep while you guide the horses.
- Celestine: We can do this, and we want to do this.
- Wulf: OK. We can try that and see how we feel when we get to Morthal.
- Celestine: You suspect something about the Arch-Mage and Labyrinthian. What is it?
- Wulf: He told me he watched friends die when pursuing magic in a crypt or tomb.
- Celestine: And you think that was Labyrinthian?
- Wulf: Yes. And I also believe he knew where the Staff of Magus was. Or at least where it was when he went to retrieve it. Hundreds of years ago!
- Celestine: How old was he?
- Wulf: He was an apprentice here when the Psijic Order and their island vanished. They were gone for over five hundred years. Savos must have been close to seven hundred years old.
- Inigo: Why would he not tell you the location of the Staff of Magnus?
- Wulf: I don’t know. Maybe he was unsure it would still be there. Perhaps we will find the truth when there.
As we walked to collect the horses and hire a carriage, I talked to Rigmor.
“Are you awake, my beloved?”
“As if I could sleep with the emotions you are experiencing.”
“As usual, I had a sense of clarity, and decisions were easy to make once I was knee-deep in crap.”
“You have such a way with words!”
“A good man died tonight. The Eye killed Arch-Mage Aren. I honestly don’t think Ancano directed any magic to harm him. I think the Eye was defending itself.”
“And what about you? Were you hurt?”
“If I had not put extra protections on myself, I would also be dead. But you know that is always a chance, and I do not take unnecessary risks.”
“You sound so casual about it. As if your death would not be a surprise, so I should just accept it if it happens.”
“I can’t walk away from these things and not because The Divines want me to do something. To walk away, I would have to stop being me. I would be a shell still breathing but empty inside.”
“The Divines point you to a problem knowing you will do your best. They do not need to order you or ask you. And I would never ask you to abandon what or who you are.”
“I am so blessed by the love of you and the friends walking with me.”
“Concentrate on what you need to do, knowing our love is stronger than anything else in existence. And it will not let anything happen to you. It guards you against all things.”
“I will talk to you later. Get some sleep.”
“I love you.”
“Those three words! Should I look out for arrows heading for my neck?”
“You are weird!”
“And I love you too.”
As I hired the carriage to Morthal, I could not help but think. Although blessed to talk to my beloved, it would have been infinitely better to hold her in my arms and be surrounded by our peace.
The ancient warrior hid in the shadows and watched his son head into the unknown once more. Another foot or two closer to the singularity would have meant his death. The warrior was not concerned for his son’s soul. But without Wulf’s presence on Nirn, there would be nobody to prevent the blackness that threatens.