We made our way to the mysterious door.
Beyond it was older parts of the College. Mage Lights automatically lighted when we approached them.
A statue of a Griffon dominated the room.
- Celestine: Griffons are a popular subject for art in High Rock.
- Wulf: Yes, some of their Knightly Orders revere them.
- Iona: I know what Argis would say.
- Jordis: I wonder if they taste like chicken?
- Iona: Exactly!
The only other exit to the room was a grating over an old well.
Lydia asked, “You are not thinking about climbing down, are you?”
“Don’t be silly, of course not. I am going to jump down!”
I lifted the grate and jumped into the water below.
I landed with a splash then looked up. Lydia was peeking over the rim.
I yelled, “Come on. Jump and then move clear. Let’s get going!”
The Sentinels soon joined me.
- Wulf: Even with my lamp and the automatic Mage Lights, it seemed way too dark.
- Celestine: It is if all lights have a very restricted range.
- Lydia: Creepy enough for you?
- Celestine: Fascinating. Don’t you feel excited?
- Lydia: Ah… no!
My internal map says that this door should lead to The Midden.
We entered a small room. Sometime in the past, the entrance to the rest of The Midden had been sealed.
From a grating in a wall, we could see a military training yard. Draugr sat silently, patiently waiting for some mortal to stumble upon them.
We exited The Midden and moved along a short corridor. I opened a gate, and then we entered another small room.
On a shelf were three basic spell tomes. Upon a small table was a quill, inkwell and folded note sealed by wax bearing the College’s mark.
I broke opened the note. It was an examination paper for entry into the College.
I handed it to Celestine, who then passed it on. After all The Sentinels had a look, it was passed back to me.
- Wulf: Did you notice what year it was written?
- Celestine: 4E 122. The year of The Great Collapse.
- Wulf: I assume aspiring students were given several potential subjects and time to study before sitting this examination.
- Celestine: They would not expect any young mage to know these things beforehand.
- Lydia: It is a test of memory and the ability to research. Two essential qualities of a good mage.
- Wulf: I think it is a good exam. We can introduce something similar. Maybe have some questions relating to risk and morality.
- Celestine: You will make the Master Mages dizzy with all the changes you propose.
- Wulf: If they are involved in the decision-making process, then everything will go smoothly.
I asked The Sentinels, “Can you feel the breeze?”
Jordis replied, “Yes, it is coming from under that crumbly looking section of wall.”
I did a weak Unrelenting Force, and the wall collapsed.
We entered into a short ice tunnel.
At the end of it was a deep pool of water.
Above it was an Energy Well, similar to the ones in the Hall of Elements, the central courtyard and the room where the Augur of Dunlain holds his audiences.
I said, “I can see a tunnel leading from the pool. We might as well have a look and see where it goes.”
It led to the underground ruins of Winterhold.
I said to The Sentinels, “It is still unusually dark in here. I will use my Dovah’s night vision, although it still gives me a headache after prolonged use.”
With night vision, I could see as well as I usually did when just using my lamp.
We walked along a pathway leading to the old outer wall of Winterhold. The ghost of a child was waving in the distance.
- Lydia: I think we found the reason why the door suddenly appeared.
- Wulf: That is very gobblygook of you!
- Lydia: Well, obviously, he wants us to follow him. Logically, he cleared the ice and rubble from the door so that we could find this place.
- Celestine: I think that is a reasonable assumption.
- Iona: There is a ghost. You may all be used to such things but let me repeat. THERE IS A GHOST!
- Jordis: I am with you, Iona. This creepy stuff is not what a Housecarl is trained to deal with.
- Wulf: Let’s not keep the boy waiting. He probably wants to show us how he died.
- Iona: Still excited, Celestine?
- Celestine: Of course! Isn’t everybody?
- Iona: Ah… no.
- Jordis: Not at all.
- Lydia: I am mildly amused.
As we walked towards the ghost, I saw something I did not think existed anywhere in Skyrim.
- Lydia: What is that?
- Wulf: A device for killing both ships and mortals.
- Celestine: Is that a cannon?
- Wulf: Yes. An Akavir invention, although the Redguards have also been known to use them. Their pirates, especially.
- Lydia: What does it do?
- Wulf: Have you ever seen fireworks?
- Lydia: Only once, when they celebrated the end of the Great War in Whiterun.
- Wulf: They use different compounds to create their colours. However, one compound, called Black-Powder, makes them rise into the sky and explode.
- Celestine: When Black-Powder burns, it produces a lot of gas. If you stop the gas from expanding by wrapping the Black-Powder in layers of paper, you get an explosion.
- Wulf: The gas builds up and eventually breaks through the paper, then expands quicker than if the Black-Powder just burnt freely.
- Jordis: I think I have heard of cannons. You put some wrapped Black-Powder inside the metal tube, then a sphere of metal is pressed against it. When you light the Black-Powder, the explosion’s gas pushes the metal sphere out at high speed.
- Wulf: Correct, and the fast-moving sphere effectively puts holes in a ship’s hull or rigging. You could also fire lots of small metal balls to kill the enemy crew.
- Iona: Some of the trading ships are now equipped with small cannons.
- Wulf: Hammerfell pirates also use an even smaller version they can carry, and its metal balls can pierce even the best armour.
- Celestine: If they had a lot of cannon, they might have had large amounts of Black-Powder stored. That could cause problems.
- Wulf: The loose powder is not so much of a hazard apart from uncontrollable fire. But a stockpile of the paper-wrapped powder could cause a massive explosion.
- Iona: Is that what destroyed Winterhold?
- Wulf: No. The reason Winterhold collapsed is evident where we stand.
- Jordis: We are in a natural cavern into which part of the city fell.
- Wulf: That is part of the answer to why the city was damaged far more than the College.
- Celestine: The College had some protective dweomer.
- Wulf: It is also built on solid rock. The Midden collapsed here and there but not enough to swallow large sections of the College.
- Jordis: If Winterhold was built on top of many large caverns like this one, whole sections could have fallen into them!
- Wulf: That seems to be what happened. Let’s explore and gather more evidence.
- Jordis: We had better hurry. The ghost boy will wave his arm off if we don’t see what he wants!
We followed the boy down some stairs to another large cavern. Several ships lay broken, and rocks occasionally tumbled from above.
Lydia asked, “Is this worth the risk?”
“A mortal child wants my help. Dead or not, I can’t ignore him.”
One ship that had snapped in half was a slaver’s vessel. I quietly hoped the whole crew had perished.
After carefully making our way through the wrecks, we saw another large part of Winterhold’s wall.
I said, “You can see where this chunk has slid before falling vertically. The reports say it all slid into the sea, but there has never been enough debris in the waters nearby for that to have been true. Now we can see why.”
When we got closer, I pointed to the ceiling and said, “Some of the holes were covered by rocks and debris. Some by ice and snow. To anybody above, it would appear everything slid into the bay.”
After some searching , we found an archway into another part of the ruins.
We had discovered the old market district and front gates of Winterhold!
Amongst the rubble was the ruins of the original inn.
- Celestine: It is somewhat sobering to think some of us just spent a few nights sleeping in The Frozen Hearth. It is always full of ordinary people going about their lives.
- Wulf: We know the storm lasted several days. I can imagine that place was full of frightened locals just wanting the company of others.
- Lydia: Imagine the horror as it slid towards the sea!
- Wulf: I wonder how many citizens survived the collapse of their city? Only to be lost down here in the dark.
- Jordis: If there were many, they should have found a way out by working together.
- Wulf: Some would have thought that is a good idea. Others would just want to survive and compete for whatever food was available.
- Jordis: I still find it odd that nobody crawled out of here and told the real story of what happened.
- Wulf: You are right. Nobody above would have thought the lack of survivors odd because they assumed everything slid into the sea, killing all.
- Jordis: But there were likely many survivors. Why didn’t any escape?
- Celestine: Now you can see why I like mysteries hiding behind doors.
- Jordis: Alright, I admit that this is more interesting than I thought it would be.
- Iona: Even if there are ghosts? The boy is back.
The ghostly boy waited for us to approach then ran.
He turned right into a small space. What greeted us wrenched our hearts. The skeletons of two children lay amongst some toys.
- Wulf: They must have survived for some time. The fire was used more than once.
- Celestine: Is this what the boy wanted to show us?
- Wulf: I don’t know. Maybe there is more to their story that needs telling.
- Lydia: The larger skeleton has a knife next to it. It seems that they needed protection against somebody.
- Iona: Or something. If two children survived, there must have been adults as well. It leads back to the question of why none made it back to the surface.
- Jordis: I wonder if they were siblings or just found each other?
- Wulf: I am not a Priest but let me chant my version of Arkay’s Law. I am sure The Divines will find it acceptable.
- “Behold, faithful of The Divines, the beauty of your transformation.
- Do not fear the journey but rejoice as the gate opens.
- Enter Aetherius with joy in your heart and a smile on your face.
- The gate opens for all mortals.
- Not riches nor rank nor power can deny this return to Aetherius.
- As you approach the gate, Aetherius will approach you.
- Do not turn from the gate as that is to reject your new life.
- Walk without fear and with dignity through the gate.
- Welcome your transformation.
- You need not fear losing your way, for he will guide you to your reward.
- Your body will decay.
- Your soul will remain safe behind the gate.
- Once the gate closes, you may never return.
- This is Arkay’s Law.”
A lowered gate blocked further progress. I pulled a lever, and the mechanism still worked.
We entered another large cavern. There were more ships, and they seemed reasonably intact.
There was even a lighthouse that looked fairly unscathed.
- Lydia: There would have been supplies aboard the ships.
- Wulf: Which makes it more likely there could have been survivors who had time to find their way out.
- Celestine: I think the boy has more to tell us.
- Wulf: My instincts tell me something else happened the day of The Great Collapse.
- Iona: And the creepy just got creepier.
We started walking across another raised pathway when a temple came into view.
We decided to head for it. On the way, we passed several more cannon.
Near the entrance of the temple was a statue of Talos.
- Wulf: Who put wings on Talos? And why?
- Lydia: They don’t look like part of the original statue.
- Iona: Are they Griffon wings?
- Wulf: There are no feathers defined.
- Celestine: Another mystery! This is so much fun!
- Wulf: I am quite disturbed by this.
- Celestine: Oh, of course. I am sorry, I didn’t think.
- Wulf: Let’s proceed and see if there are any answers or just more mysteries.
- Wulf: Look at all the exposed coffins. The Hall of the Dead fell apart!
- Celestine: Why are there graves?
- Wulf: Not all of the citizens would want to be interred in the Hall of the Dead. Some people of different religions would wish to be buried. Others would want cremation.
- Iona: You want to go poking around amongst the graves, don’t you?
- Celestine: You never know what you might learn unless you look.
- Wulf: Although I am certain Arkay protects the souls of those in the coffins, I can’t say the same for the buried.
- Jordis: So, we might encounter undead?
- Wulf: That is a possibility.
As we walked around the cemetery, strange Skeletal Warriors attacked.
We cut them down, but they were more proof that something unusual happened after The Great Collapse.
We entered the temple. Only two of the Divines had altars. Lady Mara, locked behind a gate, and Lord Julianos.
Inert Draugr were scattered on the benches and floor.
- Lydia: What is that Draugr doing?
- Wulf: Playing with his organ.
- Lydia: Can’t you ever be serious?
- Celestine: The musical instrument he is sitting in front of is called an organ.
- Wulf: It uses giant bellows to blow wind through large pipes. By pressing levers, you can make different notes play.
- Jordis: Why are the Draugr not attacking?
- Wulf: Something seems odd about them. They are naked, and some are wrapped in burial shrouds. None of them wear armour, and a few have crude weapons. They are Draugr, but I doubt they are ancient.
I stood in front of Julianos’ shrine.
- Wulf: It is Julianos, but he is not carrying or displaying a triangle or pyramid.
- Lydia: His nose looks like an enormous pyramid!
- Celestine: It is not surprising to find him in the Temple of a city dominated by a place full of mages.
- Wulf: Along with that strange alteration to Talos, there is something not quite right here.
- Iona: Yes, why lock Lady Mara behind a gate?
On the pulpit were a journal and a key.
I read the relevant journal entries to The Sentinels.
“Property of the Temple of the Gods
Rain’s Hand – 4E122
Morndas 1st: Feykirson has missed his third sermon in a row! I doubt he’ll return to the temple before his father returns or before this storm abates. This congregation has been shrinking for too long! Elder Rohdi had advised incorporating select Daedra into our pantheon to attract the Dunmer, but I fear this would alienate the indigenous Nords.
Tirdas 2nd: The Sea of Ghosts has practically come alive these past days. Aneka was hanged at dawn for allowing crates of Skooma through the harbour gates last month, but the execution had to take place in the market to protect against the biting wind and rain.
Subaru was keen to send a strong message to other distributors. The council has advised offering clemency to anyone who confesses for fear of driving the trade underground. However, I suspect it has more to do with avoiding capital punishment for the Jarl’s son, whose propensity for such substances is an open secret. In the meantime, the Skooma crates have been entrusted to the temple for safe-keeping as the barracks are being used to run invasion drills.
Middas 3rd: Large swathes of the lower city were flooded-out through the night. The temple has offered sanctuary until the water can be dredged. Despite this charity, most venture to the College to seek cures for Brainrot and Rockjoint, which are reaching epidemic levels, rather than seek healing through prayer. As if some potion is any substitute! But perhaps some concoctions can be put to good use. I emptied half a vial of Skooma into the thurible at today’s sermon, along with a few sprigs of elves ear to mask the odour. A few sips on a cure-poison draught have protected me from the substance, but the effects on today’s congregation were incredible! Margritte and several others leapt to their feet in joy as the sermon ended, exclaiming that they’d never felt so close to the gods. Perhaps I can save this temple and decimate the Skooma supply simultaneously…
Turdas 4th: Word has spread fast of the renewed power of my sermons. Several familiar faces and a few new have joined the congregation – even Feykirson has returned! Flood-refugees have taken up an active role in the upkeep of the temple and grounds. This place feels more alive than ever. Word has it Arnold of the guard has become interested in the shifting Skooma trade, but the true cause is easily obfuscated. Ships have not docked since Morndas, and Aneka’s execution has made dealers far more cautious, I tell him. Nevertheless, there have been no Skooma related incidents since Aneka’s shipment was seized. Brainrot and Rockjoint still plague the streets, but there is renewed interest in the power of prayer to cure such ills…
Fredas 5th: An Altmer shipment of wheat and exotic fauna was wrecked today just off the coast. Of thirty-two crew, only four survived, each taken to the College for healing. It appears the animals also perished. Members of the congregation are willing to brave the elements to attend sermons, so I have equipped them with supplies for delivery to the elderly, people the College seems unconcerned about.
Loredas 6th: The gods have forsaken us on this day. Come midday, the storm seemed to have all but passed; the rain ceased, thunder quieted, and the Sea of Ghosts receded. Only it continued to recede until the Elven wreck was left high and dry. Seagulls flocked south, and several hounds burst from their kennels and fled. Over the horizon, a wall of water twice the height of the gates swept towards the city and crashed against the coast. The very heavens shuddered, and the entire city slid down towards the sea! Great mountains of stone like the jaws of Nirn came up over the walls and crashed shut above the Temple. Everything went dark. Everything is still dark. Where is Stendarr’s guiding light?
Tirdas 9th: Those of us that were in the Temple managed to collect and prepare a few bodies from the market, but the Palace district is gone. Feykirson disappeared in the night. Screams – barely human – echo through the ruins. The gravity of our situation is not lost on me. Are we to die here of starvation, thirst or suffocation? Worse, fall victim to savagery? Our final moments will not be so desperate. I’ve emptied three vials of Skooma into the thurible before I make my last address. Gods have mercy on us, and let it be known that Elder Vindar worshipped no pride!”
My Dovah wanted to vent. I let him.
- Wulf: Worshipped no fucking pride? He thought he had the right to poison the faithful with Skooma! He thought he had the right to murder them! I hope he was sent to The Void for all eternity!
- Lydia: Strange ‘Temple to the Gods’ when only two of nine are on display.
- Jordis: At least we know why some of the Draugr are wrapped in shrouds.
- Celestine: Wulf, you need to gain control! We need you to help us figure out what is happening. Something turned these people into Draugr. An average necromancer can’t.
- Wulf: Yes, there is evil at work. Something has taken advantage of The Great Collapse. I must calm down, and I must concentrate.
On the floor in front of the Draugr that used to be Elder Vindar was an amulet of Julianos. I thought it hypocritical to beg a Divine for help after what he did.
On a shelf under the podium was a sprig of Elves Ear. The herb that the murderer used to hide the smell of burning Skooma.
We found several crates of empty Skooma bottles.
I unlocked the gate to Lady Mara. Then I stood before her and prayed.
“Lady Mara, I do not know what has happened here. The young boy’s soul will not rest till I solve this mystery. Please, guide me.”
I felt Mara’s presence and looked into her font. I detected probing at the barriers of my mind, so I let a god enter. Instead of gentle words, I was bombarded with visions.
The first one showed a colossal wave many times as tall as the city walls. It smashed into Winterhold, demolishing many buildings and then dragging them out to sea when it receded.
The next visions were of necromantic rights. Sacrifices, torture, the enslavement of souls all played out before me, but I never saw the perpetrator of these atrocities.
The next vision was of a blue dragon.
A harsh voice, not that of Lady Mara, said, “Joor hi quiilaan wah Kahvozein. Rok los aan rah.”
I put up my mind barriers just in time to resist an attack. But still, I was thrown to the floor and dazed.
I soon recovered and joined in a battle against the Draugr.
We quickly destroyed them all. As predicted, the Draugr were not powerful, and they did not use the Thu’um.
The boy appeared then proceeded to sweep the floor of the temple.
He then ran past The Sentinels and stood next to a trapdoor. He waved his arms and disappeared.
- Celestine: He wants us to follow again but first, tell us what happened to you.
- Wulf: Lady Mara wanted to show me visions of what happened, so I dropped my mental barrier.
- Lydia: What did the visions show?
- Wulf: As the journal says, a huge wave, many times the height of the city walls, crashed into the city and dragged much of it out to sea.
- Celestine: Those monstrous waves have a name. Eagre.
- Wulf: That word refers to unusually high tides that cause flooding. I don’t think the tides caused this wave. I believe an earthquake caused it.
- Lydia: The journal does not mention earthquakes.
- Wulf: The earthquake could have happened hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
- Iona: Can you explain it, so my head doesn’t explode with science?
- Wulf: Did you play near rivers or ponds or lakes when a child?
- Iona: Of course. Doesn’t every kid?
- Wulf: I wouldn’t know. I have watched our orphans at play when we take them to such places.
- Iona: Yes, Wulf. Most children play the same games when near water.
- Wulf: They started throwing pebbles into the water and watched the ripples.
- Iona: Yes, a common thing to do.
- Wulf: Then they enjoyed throwing larger rocks and letting them drop from higher up. The splashes amused them, as did the larger ripples.
- Iona: It progressed to very large rocks, didn’t it?
- Wulf: Yes, and when they used the larger rocks, the ripples were higher, and some came several feet onto the land. Like a wave at a beach.
- Iona: So, you are saying if something big enough fell into the sea, a huge wave might result?
- Wulf: Yes, that is one way of creating monstrous waves. If a large section of the seafloor dropped suddenly during an earthquake, that would also make a massive wave.
- Celestine: Huge waves have destroyed cities in the past. They are well documented in the histories.
- Wulf: And one of the common descriptions is how the sea seems to retreat. Ships and boats are left resting on sand not long before the wave arrives. Animals, who are more attuned to the natural rhythms, try to flee even hours before the wave is sighted.
- Lydia: There was never evidence of the College causing the wave?
- Wulf: None at all. Superstition and hearsay conquered history and logic.
- Celestine: A bit of racism was also involved. Before The Great Collapse, a large number of mages at the College were Dunmer. Nords are good at blaming Mer for every misfortune.
- Lydia: The cause of The Great Collapse is now known. But what about the boy? What about the weird undead in the graveyard and the Draugr in here? What happened to the survivors?
- Wulf: A second lot of visions showed me people being sacrificed in necromantic rituals. Men, women, children.
- Iona: Did you see who was performing such atrocities?
- Wulf: No, but the clue was in the final visions and the voice that spoke to me.
- Iona: Didn’t Lady Mara speak to you?
- Wulf: No. After the final visions, she might have been planning to, but she was beaten to it by another.
- Iona: Who?
- Wulf: I had to drop my barriers to receive the visions. A Dragon Priest took advantage of that and spoke to me. He then attacked my mind but luckily, I had put up my barriers again.
- Lydia: Is that why you fell on your arse?
- Wulf: It was like being hit in the head with a mace!
- Lydia: What did the Dragon Priest say?
- Wulf: He said, ‘Mortal, his name is Kahvozein. He is a god.’
- Lydia: That sounds like a Dov name.
- Wulf: Yes, the last visions Lady Mara showed me were of a Blue Dragon. I assume the Blue Dragon is Kahvozein. I have heard that name before. Tolfdir asked me to recover a relic called Kahvozein’s Fang. It is a unique dagger used for dissecting dragons.
- Celestine: That sounds like something a Dragon Priest Necromancer might make.
- Jordis: Now we have to tackle a Dragon Priest who is a mighty necromancer and his friend, a Blue Dragon. Are we still having fun?
- Celestine: Oh, yes! Lots!
- Jordis: Why was the boy sweeping?
- Wulf: It was written in the journal that there had been several days of flooding.
- Jordis: Yes, and that some refugees helped maintain the temple.
- Wulf: The boy was trying to show us he was a refugee in the church in the days leading up to The Great Collapse.
- Iona: The children must have run away before the effects of the burning Skooma overcame them.
- Wulf: The adults were already expecting some sort of religious fervor and probably thought nothing of the effects experienced.
- Iona: While the children were wiser and fled?
- Wulf: That is as good a theory as any.
- Iona: Why doesn’t the boy speak? You have encountered ghosts that do.
- Wulf: I have also encountered silent ones. Such as the mother and daughter in the vampire den. Maybe it has something to do with how they die. I don’t know. Probably gobblygook.
We climbed into the trapdoor and walked down a flight of steps.
We entered a small room with two coffins containing Draugr. There was no other exit.
There was also a ‘Conjure Scamp’ spell tome, a Canopic Jar and a note.
- Celestine: I take it you are going to do what is required to release the Draugr.
- Wulf: Of course. The note probably warns me not to do something.
- Lydia: But you will do it anyway.
- Wulf: If it is needed to give the boy’s soul the rest it deserves, yes. If there is a Dragon Priest loose, we need to find him and destroy him before he finds his way to the surface.
- Lydia: Then read the note, and we shall prepare for the unexpected arrival of Draugr.
I read the note to The Sentinels. It was a Writ of Binding.
- “Blood of the traitor, Beinaarkh, unwillingly taken,
- Seat of the power that broke his head,
- Separate forever, so bones lie dead,
- And blue wings ne’er again glide,
- Good friend, for Ysmir’s sake, abide,
- Else burn like the souls who worshipped pride!”
- Wulf: I think I understand Elder Vindar’s claim about worshipping no pride.
- Lydia: He wasn’t talking about mortal pride, was he?
- Wulf: No, he was talking about the Dragon Cult. They worshipped dragons, the most prideful of all beings.
- Lydia: You still had every right to be very angry about what he did.
- Iona: He did not let others choose their fate.
- Celestine: The blood in that jar is of the Dragon Priest.
- Wulf: Yes, and it is apparent the binding did not hold. He became free during The Great Collapse and had a merry time practising his necromancy on the survivors.
- Celestine: The part that mentions blue wings is about Kahvozein.
- Wulf: I think I could resurrect dragons the same way Alduin did. I have learned the Shout from observing him.
- Celestine: Could Beinaarkh know that Shout?
- Wulf: If the blood is essential, then Kahvozein’s resurrection is more likely a feat of necromancy than the Thu’um.
- Celestine: So Beinaarkh might have only partially broken the binding. He is active but can’t resurrect his god.
- Wulf: Not unless somebody is kind enough to return his blood. Lucky for Beinaarkh, I know just the right courier!
I picked up the Canopic Jar then handed it to Celestine.
- Wulf: Make sure you don’t spill it. I have heard that ancient Dragon Priest blood is hard to remove from clothing.
- Iona: Why are we taking the blood to Beinaarkh?
- Wulf: I want him to resurrect Kahvozein so we can eliminate both threats.
- Celestine: Here, they come!
It took seconds to eliminate the Draugr even though they were far more powerful than those in the Temple.
I started laughing.
- Celestine: What is so amusing?
- Wulf: The line in the writ that says, ‘Good friend, for Ysmir’s sake, abide…”
- Lydia: But you are Ysmir!
- Wulf: That is what I found amusing.
- Lydia: Weird!
- Iona: Absolutely!
- Jordis: Undeniably!
- Celestine: Indubitably!
- Wulf: Thank you, ladies! That warms my heart.
There were no ‘crumbly’ walls to knock down or hidden doors in the small room. We decided we would head back through the Temple and see if the boy leads us to our prey.
The boy was indeed waiting for us.
We ran to keep up with him as he led us through a maze of corridors.
He vanished just before a set of doors.
Beyond those doors was another set.
I said, “The carvings on this door inform us we are entering the realm of a Dragon Priest.”
Several small alcoves contained orderly internments.
I told The Sentinels, “This is part of an ancient Hall of the Dead. From the time of the Dragon Cult.”
The boy appeared once more to lead us.
We followed him into an enormous crypt full of the dead and many dormant Draugr.
I warned, “I will try and take as many down as I can by stealth. But eventually, we will be swarmed. Be careful as the Draugr are protecting a Dragon Priest so many will be powerful and use the Thu’um.”
We destroyed dozens of Draugr before facing one that must have been a giant when alive.
- Wulf: Another first! An undead dragon, transparent Draugr and now a giant that has been turned into a Draugr!
- Lydia: At least you haven’t been bored lately.
- Celestine: How could he be bored with an exciting mystery such as this?
- Iona: She is gone. The is no hope of recovery.
- Jordis: The damage is so severe that she might even enjoy Apple Cabbage Stew!
- Iona: That poor woman!
- Lydia: Why does everybody pick on my favourite dish?
- Wulf: Master Neloth didn’t.
- Jordis: It must just be a coincidence that he is insane.
- Lydia: Just twenty-four hours. Do you think you can resist another Apple Cabbage Stew joke for a day?
- Jordis: Nah!
- Iona: Nope!
- Celestine: Maybe with the right incentive. Shiny clinky gold will do.
We brought down the massive Draugr with arrows.
I opened a trapdoor that allowed access to a spiral stairway then we headed down.
We went deep underground.
I opened the door at the bottom of the stairs then we crossed over a very deep chasm.
- Jordis: What is that noise?
- Wulf: Can’t you smell it? It is saltwater lapping back and forth at the bottom of the chasm.
- Jordis: OK, I admit it. This is a lot of fun.
- Celestine: I told you so!
- Iona: Lydia, we have lost another one.
- Lydia: It is just you and me now. How long before our brains turn to mush?
- Iona: It won’t be so bad. Argis still functions.
- Lydia: He even manages to put his boots on the correct feet on good days!
- Iona: I saw him use a knife and fork at the dinner table a few days ago.
- Lydia: Really?
- Celestine: I think Iona is telling a white lie to keep your spirits up.
We entered a sacrificial chamber. There was no sign of Daedric worship. Beinaarkh was killing on behalf of his only god, a dragon.
Roots indicated we were close to the surface. Blood slowly dripped from above.
- Lydia: How can we be close to the surface? We just got dizzy going down dozens of flights of stairs!
- Wulf: Gobblygook.
- Lydia: You say that when you don’t have an answer!
- Wulf: DUH! If I don’t have a logical answer, then it must be gobblygook.
- Iona: It couldn’t be because you don’t know everything?
- Wulf: Preposterous!
- Iona: Ladies, what would Rigmor say?
In perfect harmony, the four Sentinels said, “Yeah, right. Pfft!”
We headed upstairs to where the dripping blood originated.
A Draugr was sitting on a throne. On either side of him were piles of corpses and various torture devices.
One arrow was all it took to eliminate the Draugr.
The Sentinel and I were horrified by the evidence of the Dragon Priest’s depravity.
I searched the Draugr and found a note and a key. I said to The Sentinels, “This is a Writ of Sealing.” I then read it aloud.
- “Be bound here, Beinaarkh, traitor, defiler,
- Your crimes against god and brother condemn you.
- May the horrors you wrought be forgotten forever,
- May no foul servant of evil come hither.
- Be bound here, Beinaarkh, murderer, betrayer,
- Bled by Nofur in life and death.
- Forever separate from beloved kin,
- Corrupt none will thine foul breath!”
- Wulf: The hero who bested Beinaarkh had himself turned into a Draugr.
- Celestine: He volunteered to be his perpetual guard.
- Wulf: He would have attacked us. We have brought the Canopic Jar and would be considered ‘foul servants of evil’.
- Iona: I always wondered what it was like to be evil.
Iona tried an evil cackle then started to cough.
- Jordis: I think you need a bit more practice.
- Wulf: Those who did the binding and the sealing learned enough Necromancy to accomplish them.
- Celestine: Like Savos learnt how to enslave his dead friends.
- Wulf: The binding I can accept but turning somebody into a Draugr is going too far. Unlike with Savos, this was not a split-second decision. It was planned and executed over an extended period. Volunteer or not, what they did to Nofur is evil.
- Lydia: I don’t think you would find many disagreeing with that sentiment.
- Celestine: I notice no names have been volunteered on either note.
- Wulf: Usually, there is some indication of who authorised and carried out such writs.
- Celestine: They must have been ashamed.
- Wulf: I think even centuries later, the knowledge of what happened was known by the Elders and kept secret from everybody, including other senior Priests and Priestesses of The Divines.
- Lydia: That is evidenced by the blood being kept just below the Temple of the Gods.
- Jordis: The boy is back!
We walked up to the ghost who was kneeling next to a girl child.
He silently said, “Thank you.”
Then they faded away.
- Iona: I am not used to this ghost stuff. What just happened?
- Wulf: Many ghosts, or spirits if you prefer, will not let themselves pass onto their afterlife until an injustice is dealt with or they complete a task.
- Celestine: The children died of starvation or sickness. The boy knew the cause of the evil he experienced after The Great Collapse. He led us to it, and now his task is complete.
- Wulf: I saw similar in The Bloodlet Throne. The mother and daughter would not proceed to their afterlife until I reunited them.
- Celestine: Savos wanted to tell his story to us before proceeding.
- Jordis: Were the children’s souls in danger?
- Wulf: The souls of everybody who has not had Arkay’s Law or equivalent said over their remains are in danger of being used by Necromancers. But even Potema’s soul was protected after I retrieved her skull and took it to a Priest of Arkay. It does not stop her soul from spending eternity in The Void, but at least she can’t be summoned ever again.
- Jordis: The children will be reunited with their loved ones. That makes this trip though the mysterious door a very worthwhile one.
- Celestine: It is not over yet. I put the Canopic Jar on the floor, and now it is floating away from us!
Beinaarkh stood on a balcony overlooking the room. The Canopic Jar slowly floated towards him.
My Dovah growled, “Leave him and his pathetic undead to me!”
The Sentinels knew that was not a request they should ignore, so they stepped back.
Beinaarkh raised three undead warriors.
Unrelenting Force turned them into dust.
Beinaarkh was surrounded by a barrier that resisted my Thu’um. I was more than a little surprised and disturbed as I did not think such a thing existed.
My most potent spells did him no harm. My Dovah relished the difficult battle and laughed.
Beinaarkh raised a skeletal Dragon Priest with four arms who floated!
My Dovah had difficulty doing Unrelenting Force as I stifled giggles. It only took one Shout to reduce the abomination to dust.
My Dovah asked, “What is so fucking funny? Shut up and let me do my job!”
Beinaarkh raised a Bone Golem but not an ordinary one. This one was made from Dragon Bones!
A combination of Unrelenting Force and Lightning toppled that adversary.
Beinaarkh had run out of tricks so teleported elsewhere.
- Celestine: I don’t suppose your Dovah will rest till he kills Beinaarkh?
- Wulf: No! Look what he did. A golem made from Dragon Bones!
- Lydia: You giggled.
- Wulf: Yes, that was my idiot mortal half.
- Lydia: Well, the floating four-armed thingy was funny.
- Wulf: Was it? I turned it into dust. That was amusing!
- Iona: So grumpy dragon. Where to next?
- Wulf: He can’t defeat me; therefore, he will raise his god. We must find a way to the surface.
- Iona: Well, you got a key from Nofur, and there is a door over there.
- Wulf: I would already have unlocked it and been through it if I did not have to stand here answering stupid questions!
- Celestine: That would be an apt name for a bald Khajiit.
- Jordis: What would?
- Celestine: Nofur, of course!
The Sentinels laughed as I stormed over to the door, unlocked it and threw it open. The Sentinels ran to catch up.
We soon found ourselves outside.
I destroyed one Draugr with a mighty lightning bolt.
We then proceeded to smash dozens of Skeletal Warriors into splinters and ash with spell, sword and Thu’um.
Lydia yelled, “What next?”
“Beinaarkh can’t use a Shout or cast a spell while inside that protective barrier. He will have to drop it.”
“What is that shooting upwards?”
“A conduit to Aetherius.”
There was a burst of energy that staggered us when Beinaarkh dropped his barrier.
Beinaarkh did not cast a spell or use a Shout. He just stood there, and Kahvozein started to emerge from is grave.
I yelled, “It is Blood Magic! That is why it was important for Beinaarkh to recover the Canopic Jar! Kahvozein is still not whole. However, his flesh is regrowing faster than those resurrected by Alduin!”
I killed Beinaarkh with a single blow.
My Dovah was satisfied and retreated. I yelled, “Help me end Kahvozein!”
Dragonrend struck Kahvozein, causing him to roar in distress.
His mighty jaws sought to crush me, so I batted them away with my buckler. Who said you need big cumbersome shields?
The Sentinels knew the tactics. I dealt with the snappy, snarly, toothsome end whilst they dealt damage from the flanks.
I landed the killing blow then stood back.
The unpleasant and unwanted absorption of Kahvozein’s soul was over in seconds.
I searched Beinaarkh’s ashes and found an impressive looking ring. It had a very strong dweomer that automatically restored health when it fell below a certain level. I will give it to the experts at The Dragonborn Gallery, and they can determine if it is a valuable artefact for display or a trinket to be sold.
I looked towards the College and said to The Sentinels, “Let’s head back and spend the night in the Safe House. I have ordered the storage room cleared and beds installed, so you will not have to use your Sleeping Rolls.”
We made our way there without incident. Jordis and Iona cooked a wonderful meal, and we enjoyed a laugh and good conversation.
I then left them to write a report on our findings and today’s journal. Just as I finished, Rigmor contacted me.
“You are relaxed. But your anger was great a few hours ago.”
“It is a very long story that needs telling but only with my beloved snuggled next to me.”
“Then it will have to wait. We have guests in the castle, so I can’t run off to my apartment. And it is too risky to disappear from my bedroom.”
“Yes, questions would be asked if they urgently needed you, gave up on knocking and entered to find an empty bed-chamber.”
“If I had a window, I could leave it open, and they would think I have snuck out for nookie somewhere.”
“Imagine what Malesam would write in his next report!”
“Does he know you are the Arch-Mage yet?”
“I sent him a message yesterday. He will probably get it early tomorrow.”
“Did he ever hear me call you Dragonborn?”
“Yes, a few times when we visited him.”
“So that means Boethia would know the connection between my Guardian, the Guardian General, and The Dragonborn.”
“I had already told him I was The Dragonborn. All we can hope is that Boethia finds it more profitable to keep the secret than blab it to our unknown adversary.”
“Do you think it might cause a problem?”
“No, I think The Divines would have factored it in. Remember, they know far more about the possible timelines than the Daedric Princes. They might have seen fewer futures where Boethia blabs.”
“You still haven’t explained how one infinite set of possibilities can be more or less likely than another set of infinite possibilities.”
“Capital ‘G’ gobblygook with an exclamation mark. Gobblygook!”
“I suppose that will have to suffice. Can you at least summarise what was behind the mystery door?”
“The ghost of a boy wanted us to know about the evil living underneath Winterhold. We now know what caused the collapse of the city, and there is one less Dragon Priest and Dovah on Nirn.”
“Another ghost! I can’t wait to hear the whole story.”
“Well, you will have to because I can’t keep this connection going long enough.”
“Do you think The Divines deliberately made the magic tiring?”
“Since I have no idea how the dweomer works, I would have to say maybe.”
“I am sorry you had to kill another dragon.”
“So am I. I must get The Blades operational so they can kill dragons where necessary.”
“You still haven’t spoken to them yet after Alduin’s Wall. They probably think that is a good thing!”
“I have let my Dovah out several times lately. He will have to stay in the background when I speak to Dumb and Dumber.”
“What is next for you?”
“I promised to retrieve some rare books for Urag and a relic for Tolfdir. Both tasks will help with recovering lost magic. I will also give the Jarl of Winterhold a visit and see if we can improve relations with the citizens. Since I can tell him exactly what caused The Great Collapse, that task should prove less troublesome.”
“No, that will be enough task for the College for now. I want to relax at Silverpeak Lodge for a few days, then check on Dragonborn Gallery and Dragons Keep.”
“The museum must be nearing completion.”
“Yes. Most of the work had already been done before the civil war. It has mainly been renovations to the original layout that has taken the time. With Dragons Keep, the original castle needed its rooms repurposed. The new house involves more work than the castle.”
“How many orphans will be there?”
“I think it will be full from day one. The Civil War and the New Order both left behind an incredible number of orphans. Hopefully, Dragons Keep will act as a model for others to replicate.”
“I can feel how weary you are, my Dragonborn.”
“Yes. I will go and make sure the ladies are comfortable with the new beds I had installed and then retire for the night.”
“Then pleasant dreams and always remember, I love you.”
“And I love you.”
I went to the storage room and found two of The Sentinels already snoring.
I silently mouthed, “The beds are OK?”
Celestine nodded, so I headed to my bed.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
Talos stood in the severe weather, which did not even ruffle his hair or beard. He whispered, “You did well, my son. The boy and girl are reunited with their loved ones. Wake up with that certainty. I get in trouble rewarding your efforts, but what can Old Man Time do but wag his Divine finger at me and roll his eyes. Your mother is still battling The Adversary. I miss her dearly even though she would scold me till my ears turned red over what I do for you.”
Talos’ avatar vanished. The wind and snow didn’t notice.