Sundas, 21st Evening Star, 4E 201 & Morndas, 22nd Evening Star, 4E 201
I am excited to try the new device Tolfdir recently found in the College’s storerooms. It is an automatic journal! All I have to do is think about writing, and my thoughts are transferred to paper as if I wrote it by hand. I have challenged many people to pick which writing is manual and which is done by the device. Nobody can accurately do so.
It works in a similar way to Mara’s rings. Instead of thinking about talking to Rigmor, I think about talking to the device.
The only problem with the device is an increase in the present tense. I have tried to use the past tense in my journals, but I often wandered between the two. I will still switch between the two as sometimes I will be narrating real-time, such as now and sometimes recalling. There is also the chance that much that is superfluous will be written. Things that I would not include when manually writing a journal entry will not be edited out but may have notations added later.
Conversations will, for the most part, be in the past tense. As with Mara’s rings, it is almost impossible to hold a conversation with somebody else when using this writing device.
One thing that will not be hidden is my thought processes. When writing a journal entry after the event, I seem to be a genius who figured things out the first time. That is far from the truth. From now on, my evolving thought processes will be there for future generations to mock. “How could Wulf be so stupid?” many a future historian will declare. To them, I say that everybody is a genius after stupid people uncover the facts!
I do not have to remove my journal from its carry case for the device to work.
I will read over the journal entries and add anything I think is essential at the end of them. It will be fascinating to see the completed entries.
Rigmor insists I think of a name for the device. I will give Tolfdir some time to see if he can find any records of it first. If its inventor gives no name, I will call it The Scribbler. I know Rigmor will hate that name, so it appeals to me. She will probably punch me in the arm after reading this.
I originally intended to move to Solitude once the museum was open. Now Dragonborn Gallery is open to the public, and I am not so sure I want to. I have found the presence of children helps me cope with the type of darkness that threatens to engulf me. Dragons Keep will open in the new year, and dozens of children are already slated to arrive in its first week. I will not be surprised if it becomes full within the first month of operation. Silverpeak Lodge will be used to house the overflow on a rotation basis. Education in cooking, animal care and other skills will be taught in this beautiful house, while the more cerebral skills will be taught at Dragons Keep.
If I get portals and teleportation working, it will make little difference in terms of convenience where I live. That is why I am desperate to find some Dwemer knowledge to help fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle. Professor Marassi said there is a disused Dwemer portal in each of the Skyrim cities and the central control point is an abandoned trading hub in the Velothi Mountains.
Of course, the portals are a recent addition and were not placed by the Dwemer. A wealthy merchant created a shortcut to Morrowind using Dwemer tunnels underneath the Velothi Mountains and somehow obtained rare and mostly unstudied artefacts. That was not unexpected, but his sudden expertise in lost Dwemer technology and magic was. His portals are the only ones known to have been created using Dwemer technology since that race vanished.
Something happened to the trader and his trading hub over a hundred years ago. The Dwemer portals ceased functioning, and not long after, all communication with him ceased. There are stories of ghosts, living Dwemer and strange automatons not seen elsewhere. It is impossible to sort the truth from fiction.
The macabre stories surrounding the tunnels and trading hub have ensured they remain unmolested by treasure hunters and tomb robbers. As far as we can tell, we will be the first people foolish enough to enter them since the first century of this era.
The household has finished breakfast, and it is time to go.
Rigmor has left our bedroom wearing her Penitus Oculatus armour. She is also carrying the new greatsword I had ordered for her. It is plain-looking, with an Imperial emblem on it, but is as potent as any sword she has used previously.
Sigunn and Rigmor’s advisors have seen her wearing the uniform. Baa’Ren-Dar has told them in person and by the Emperor via a sealed letter that Rigmor is to undertake missions for The Empire. Pretending to be a member of the Penitus Oculatus was explained as one of her disguises.
Of course, Sigunn, Freathof, Malesam and others wonder what is going on. Still, none of them is sticking their noses in after Rigmor forcefully told them she would not compromise the Emperor or the vital work she was doing.
Sigunn asked Rigmor if she would be working with ‘That Dragonborn!’. Rigmor shocked her mother and others with the vitriol and inventive insults she used to assure them her work has nothing to do with me. She was adamant she would have told the Emperor to ‘shove it!’ if she was asked to even speak to me.
Rigmor was very amused when telling me of the names that she called me!
The Divines have been silent on this matter. As far as we are concerned, that is tacit approval. If they can make my identity as the Guardian General vanish, then this extra bit of deception should not require much of an effort to cover up.
I believe The Divines know how close they came to losing me in Solstheim. They have put me in this role, and I will do what is needed to do it successfully. Having Rigmor with me more often is vital.
I had better say a quick goodbye to my beloved.
“I am about to leave, Inspector Ragnarsdottir.”
“Not until you give me a kiss!”
“Regulations do not permit the fraternisation of officers and enlisted!”
“I know it is important we keep up the charade when in public, but if you don’t kiss me right now, I will kick you where your underwear is supposed to be!”
“I am wearing my underwear as it gets very chilly when flying with Odahviing. Anyway, I am wearing plate armour, and you would break your foot.”
“You will be with me again in an hour at most.”
I laughed then gave Rigmor a kiss that garnered, “Yuck, adults are gross!” from Lucia.
Rigmor then said, “I think I will sit outside near the fire and enjoy the birdsong and views.”
We exited the house then Rigmor made a beeline for the fire. I advised her, “Hold on to your wig! Odahviing’s downdraught can be very powerful.”
I called Odahviing, and a few seconds later, he popped out of the ether and landed with a thump.
“Where to, Dovahkiin?”
“Head for Mzulft. Then we must find an entrance to a tunnel through the mountains just west of there.”
“Do you wish to fly or go by the ethereal plane?”
“Ether to Mzulft. We will have to fly to find the entrance.”
I mounted Odahviing and gripped tightly. He leapt into the air, and within three beats of his mighty wings, my beloved Rigmor seemed so far away. I used our rings.
“You should try this.”
“No way. I am with Inigo on that idea. It will never happen!”
“Will you stand on deck when Bostin is airborne?”
“Bostin? What kind of name is that?”
“Bostin in Dovahzul means free flying. I was also thinking of calling the airship ‘Toad’ as a homage to Jo’ran.”
“I don’t know if I will stand on the deck.”
“Rigmor, where is your sense of adventure?”
“It is nice and comfortable next to common sense and self-preservation.”
Odahviing warned, “Hold your breath, Dovahkiin!”
I did as asked, then tapped Odahviing on his neck to let him know I was ready.
The familiar pitch black and unbelievable cold of the ethereal plan was followed a few seconds later by rain and light as we flew over Mzulft.
I guided Odahviing with my knees, and minutes later, we discovered the entrance to the tunnel.
I told Odahviing, “I think that is it.”
He spiralled to land then I jumped off.
“Thank you, Odahviing.”
“I do not mind helping you to avoid bumping into enemies. Besides, it is more interesting than flying in circles around The Throat of the World. Is there some powerful being within these tunnels?”
“I don’t know. We are looking for Dwemer teleport and portal information. There is a good chance we shall find some in there.”
“I wish you well with your hunt, Dovahkiin.”
Odahviing lifted then flew away, bellowing his name to all who could hear.
As I look around the entrance, I conclude the structure is very unstable. Somebody has recently cleared rubble from the entrance. Perhaps we are not going to be the first to visit in over a century?
I summoned The Sentinels, of which Rigmor was now officially a member.
- Wulf: This structure looks unstable. I will enter first and continue through the tunnel until I think it is safe to summon you.
- Rigmor: What if it collapses?
- Wulf: I am optimistic there would be enough noise to warn me. I can Whirlwind Sprint away.
- Lydia: And if a collapse blocks you from going forward or exiting?
- Wulf: I can teleport to Rigmor.
- Celestine: Wulf will do as Wulf thinks is right. It is useless to suggest disaster scenarios to him.
- Rigmor: I don’t know about that, Celestine. What if we get to have an ‘I told you so!’ opportunity?
- Celestine: That would be priceless!
- Wulf: What is so amusing, my favourite bag of fleas?
- Inigo: I can imagine your feet sticking out of a pile of gigantic boulders. Rigmor is standing there with her hands on her hips, saying, ‘I told you so!’
- Wulf: What satisfaction is there in that if I am dead?
- Rigmor: I would pay to have a séance and then tell you!
- Lydia: Who cleared the rubble from the doorway?
- Wulf: I have no idea. But the displaced rocks still have dirt on their tops which means?
- Rigmor: They have only been moved recently. Otherwise, rain would have washed that dirt away.
- Wulf: You are not just a pretty face.
- Rigmor: Thank you!
- Wulf: Yes, your arse isn’t bad either!
- Rigmor: Go before I try my new sword out on you!
I have entered and am taking a few careful steps. Dirt is falling, and I just heard a loud crack from the support timbers!
I did Whirlwind Sprint, then turned around. Timbers shattered, and large boulders crashed to the ground in a cloud of dust.
As I slowly walked back to inspect the damage, Rigmor frantically asked, “Are you okay?”
“If you stopped panicking and used the rings, you would know I am perfectly fine. However, if you lot had been following me, I don’t think the outcome would have been pleasant.”
“Yes, you were right, as usual.”
“Sometimes, Rigmor, my instincts seem a little too convenient.”
“Do you think you get a bit of a psychic hint from those who shouldn’t?”
“It would certainly be breaking the rules. I still have no idea what that blue was that saved you in Bleak Falls Barrow.”
“Or that thing that saved Meeko in Solstheim.”
“Oh well, Talos told me not to dwell on such things.”
“Are there lit candles and torches in there?”
“Yep. The mysterious phantom Lighter Upper strikes again!”
“Lighter Upper? Are you sure the roof didn’t hit you on the head on its way past?”
“Pretty sure. I had better concentrate now. I would hate to get squished because I was too busy talking to you.”
The passageway is well built, but the supporting beams are not in good shape. It is not Dwemer but fourth era Skyrim mining in origin. It is wide enough for wagons which supports the idea of this being a trade route.
At the end of a tunnel heading down was a note. Somebody had stuck it to a beam with an arrow, but it had been dislodged.
The note read,
I got sick of waiting for you. I’ve gone on ahead to scout the tunnels. I’ll put up some torches to light the way; pick up your feet and follow them to find me.
I mean it: hurry up. I want to see your fingers stained from finding this note with the ink still wet. Something in this place makes my hair stand on end; it’s as if the shadows are moving.
It seems there were at least two people who recently entered the tunnel. Maybe one less if Isidor didn’t make it. Places not visited by anybody for decades or even centuries suddenly become popular destinations just before I arrive. Mzulft, for instance. Nobody entered those ruins for centuries, and then the Synod decided to leave their bodies all over it just before I arrived. This expedition was not part of a Divine Task, so I can’t blame The Nine for poor timing. Still, it is almost as odd as my ‘intuition’.
I said to Rigmor, “At least one other person has made it this far. She left a note for another that she expected to arrive.”
“I don’t think so. It is far less trouble and safer to rob people along the roads. Maybe they are fortune seekers.”
“I will let the others know.”
Evidence suggests there were quite many people involved in the caravans that used the tunnel and its administration. Professor Marassi could not find much information on the company that ran it or why it ceased operation. It seems to me the tunnel was hastily abandoned. That happens quite frequently when Draugr or Falmer are encountered, but I have seen no evidence of either.
A well is filled in and boarded over. I wonder why they took the time to do that?
Valuable trading goods have been left behind, which supports the idea there was a hasty abandonment.
I have finally reached some Dwemer ruins. Their ancient road is still in excellent shape, and their gas lights are still functioning.
I can see a woman a fair distance away, standing in one of the Dwemer towers. I will walk along the road a short way to determine how safe it is for The Sentinels to join me.
I have found another note which reads,
Dwemer ruins! I thought this was just an old Imperial place, but no, that must have come later. There’s more than that here. This place might be it and could change everything for us!
Just be careful; there IS someone else down here… something not right about her. She always disappears before I can get a good look.
I can’t leave, though; not now.
Camilla was lured by the unknown and the possibility of riches. That often overrides common sense and self-preservation. Rigmor and I would live as archaeologists with a farm to call home between expeditions if not for the plans of The Divines. I hope we will find Camilla alive.
As for the other person that Camilla wrote about, I am intrigued about who she might be. This unused tunnel is turning out to be a busy thoroughfare!
I summoned The Sentinels.
- Rigmor: This place is fantastic!
- Lydia: If you removed the fallen rubble, this tunnel could still be a viable shortcut to Morrowind.
- Wulf: We will have to see what is at the Morrowind end. There was once a trading hub, but nobody knows what happened to it.
- Celestine: Professor Marassi’s notes mentioned new types of Dwemer automatons. I am amazed he is not with us!
- Wulf: He decided to head for Elsweyr to help with the airships. Hopefully, by the time he returns, we have enough discoveries to keep him amused for years.
- Inigo: Marassi might come back with puzzles that discoveries here solve.
- Wulf: That would be the increasingly suspicious and seemingly random synchronicity that follow me around.
- Rigmor: Wulf is starting to think gods are fiddling a bit more than we know.
- Lydia: They have openly admitted to manipulating things, so why the surprise?
- Wulf: It is the sheer planning involved that makes it hard to comprehend.
- Rigmor: We all know the answer to that.
- Inigo: Gobblygook!
- Rigmor: Correct.
I have handed over Camilla’s two notes for The Sentinels to read. It should only take a minute or two.
The notes have done the rounds.
- Rigmor: Camilla wrote that a mysterious stranger is here somewhere. How cool is that?
- Lydia: It could be Delphine! Is there a horn to be collected?
- Rigmor: Aaargh! No… please… not that!
- Wulf: I promised myself I would visit them before the end of the year.
- Inigo: My friend, did you restrict that promise to this year?
- Wulf: Yes, which means I only have a few days in which to swallow my anger and do it.
- Rigmor: I worry that if they say the wrong thing, your Dovah will be hard to control.
- Wulf: As do I. Anyway, let us continue.
The roadway is elevated, and clear water runs along both sides. Pathways and corridors can be seen under the water. That suggests the water was not there when the Dwemer were.
My Dovah recently told me I could do something other than night vision and heat vision with my eyes. When people use Dwemer telescopes, they say they have zoomed in on something. Like eagles and other birds of prey, dragons can zoom in on game when flying at a great height. It took me hours of concentration, but I finally mastered using what I call zoom vision. If future readers have a better name, I don’t give a stuff! So there!
The woman I noticed when I first entered the ruins is still there. I have zoomed in on her then used night vision. There is something about her that seems unnatural.
I have used heat vision to see if she is alive. She is not!
I turned to discuss what I saw with The Sentinels and realised I was still zooming. I like Inigo, but not that much!
Since I didn’t need to count Inigo’s fleas, I stopped zooming.
- Wulf: The mystery woman is standing atop one of the Dwemer towers ahead.
- Inigo: Now you have mentioned it, I can see her. I did not notice her before.
- Rigmor: Not all of us are blessed with Khajiit or dragon eyesight. Can we get closer, do you think?
- Wulf: Yes, but first, you need to know that she is not alive.
- Rigmor: A vampire or other type of undead?
- Wulf: Maybe. I hope she lets us get closer so that Celestine can have a look.
- Celestine: You suspect something about her.
- Wulf: Yes, and I want your opinion to see if it coincides with mine.
The woman watched us as we walked. We stopped when in front of the tower.
I am walking along a piece of debris hanging out across the gap to get a better view.
I have zoomed in on her. The clothing she wears is similar to designs dating back to the time of the Dwemer. Her facial structure is similar to the few busts, sketches and paintings of that lost race that I have seen. I am confident I am looking at an undead Dwemer.
I have stepped back to let Celestine have a closer look.
After playing a staring game with the entity for five minutes and losing, the young mage turned with a look of wonder on her face.
- Celestine: She is, or was, Dwemer!
- Wulf: That is what I think as well.
- Celestine: The Dwemer were not much for art. Other races did the sculptures and paintings of them. But not for arts sake but scholarly studies.
- Wulf: And that makes them detailed and accurate. The face paint is reminiscent of some drawings at the College. The facial structure and eye shape are correct.
- Inigo: The only depictions of Dwemer I have seen is that bust they put everywhere.
- Lydia: That makes the race seem like it was full of grumpy men.
- Rigmor: Is she a vampire?
- Wulf: No, I don’t think she has a physical body. She is a phantasm or apparition.
- Rigmor: A what?
- Celestine: Fancy words for a type of ghost.
- Wulf: Most ghosts are the transparent type and have some physical presence in Mundus. Phantasms are more of a projection with no physical presence.
- Rigmor: Those pirates we fought in Solstheim were ghosts.
- Wulf: Yes, and because they have a physical presence, we could harm them.
- Inigo: You don’t think we could harm her?
- Wulf: I will try a weak Unrelenting Force and see what happens.
Unrelenting Force passed through without ruffling a hair on the ghost’s head.
- Rigmor: Terrific. A creepy dead Dwemer is staring at me, and my sword is no protection.
- Wulf: There is nothing to indicate she is a danger to us.
- Celestine: I can’t think of what we could do if she did attack us.
- Inigo: Run away screaming. That sounds like a good tactic!
- Wulf: All I know for sure is she is not alive. Anything else is assumption and speculation. Let’s move on.
In another tower, we found the remains of an old caravaner’s camp.
On a chest, I have found a journal. It is water damaged, and only the last few pages are legible.
I read the undamaged pages to The Sentinels.
“20th of Sun’s Dusk, 4E 33
By The Divines am I glad to be heading away from Clockwork Castle and away from those metal men! It’s not just me. I can see it in the faces of the whole caravan; everyone’s scared of them.
A special dead-end trip once a month through these crumbling, gloomy tunnels and back again for just one customer. It spooks the horses, and it frightens the men. Chlodovech doesn’t pay enough for this. Come to that, his old man didn’t spend enough clearing and shoring up the tunnels in the first place. You would think of all people that he could afford it. I guess you don’t become a trader baron by way of being overly free with your money.
So many side passages, blank doorways are yawning at us as we pass. No one knows what’s down there! All we can do is stick to the main road… and listen to the clatter of the carts echo down those darkened corridors as we pass them by.
Come the morning, and we’ll have to get the carts up those damnable stairs. I swear those boards are going to slip one of these days! But then we’ll be outside and back in the world again.
And the snow. I suppose in here we’re out of the weather, at least.”
I have decided to exercise The Sentinels powers of deduction.
- Wulf: One entry, but from it, I have deduced many things. Who wants to tell me what they think?
- Rigmor: You told us he left portals in each hold. That means he purchased real estate in each, and even if small allotments, that would take considerable money. Yet, he did not spend money on improving this tunnel, which was supposed to be his source of income.
- Inigo: The person who wrote the journal said they were on a return trip for the son of the trader baron. I assume by 4E 33, it was no longer a trade route to Morrowind and only used for bringing supplies to Clockwork Castle. Otherwise, they would have carried trade goods for Morrowind or entered that country to obtain trade goods for Skyrim.
- Lydia: If they relied on caravans, either the items were too big to handle manually or through the portals.
- Celestine: Or the portals were no longer working by 4E 33!
- Wulf: I am impressed! I will do a bit of speculation here and say the family was no longer interested in trading. If wealthy enough and fascinated by Dwemer technology, they might have dedicated their time and efforts towards learning about their discoveries.
- Celestine: The journal says they were afraid of the metal men. Do you think they are Dwemer automatons?
- Wulf: That would be the logical conclusion. But why have automatons if you haven’t somehow changed their behaviour? You would only have them rattling around your estate if they did something useful and were not aggressive. That suggests a very advanced understanding of other Dwemer technologies and not just portals.
- Rigmor: I hope Professor Marassi is enjoying his work on the airship. This Clockwork Castle sounds like his type of paradise.
- Wulf: I wonder how often you have to wind it up?
- Rigmor: Wulf. You are…
- Lydia: Weird.
- Rigmor: Very.
- Wulf: The journal says many of the side passages were open. Yet, they are now underwater and full of debris.
- Celestine: The journal was written twenty-eight years after the Red Year. I don’t think any aftershocks would cause such damage so far from the Red Mountain.
- Inigo: You think there was something catastrophic other than the Red Mountain to cause the damage?
- Celestine: That is what logic dictates.
- Wulf: There is also something missing in such an ample space full of Dwemer ruins.
- Lydia: Falmer! Where are our blind friends? This place would be ideal for them to populate.
- Wulf: We have been to Falmer free Dwemer ruins, but it is undoubtedly the rare exception.
- Rigmor: This is how you think all the time, isn’t it? But you make all of these conclusions and assumptions in seconds. Much faster than we can do it.
- Wulf: Celestine would be quicker than the rest of you due to her mage studies. But yes, I do it much faster than her. Snap decisions based on facts, intuition, and educated guesses are how I function, and it is as natural to me as breathing.
- Rigmor: All of a sudden, you are making us figure things out. Why?
- Wulf: Your rank in the Penitus Oculatus is Inspector. The mages are Professors. Regular Penitus Oculatus training involves such comprehension skills being honed. I have decided if we are going to wear the uniform, we should try and mimic what they represent. Besides, I cannot trust myself entirely. After that episode in Solstheim, it might take some time for me to be comfortable once more with who I am and my ‘blessings’ from Lord Akatosh.
- Rigmor: Most of your skills are not due to Akatosh’s blessings. You were trained in magic, tactics, martial skills and other disciplines. You can trust those!
- Wulf: It will be a long time before I trust myself completely. That might not be logical, but it is factual.
- Inigo: You two have probably had endless discussions on this subject since Solstheim. It will sort itself out. Just be patient!
- Lydia: Did you know that you had to assassinate a designated target before being accepted into the Penitus Oculatus?
- Inigo: Yes, Langley said that after he freaked out over my uniform.
- Wulf: That requirement was only during the Great War. It was a test of skill and loyalty.
- Rigmor: Yet they spent ages trying to destroy the Dark Brotherhood?
- Wulf: Different types of assassins. One lot does it for profit. The other was a type of soldier during a war. The Penitus Oculatus only assassinated enemy agents and soldiers.
- Rigmor: Creepy ghost lady is still staring at us. Can we at least get out of her line of sight!
- Wulf: Won’t it be fun if she follows us around?
- Rigmor: Ahh… no… that would not be fun at all.
- Inigo: Rigmor, where is your sense of adventure?
- Wulf: That is a dangerous question, my blue friend.
- Lydia: Soon, we will be asking, ‘Inigo, why has Rigmor pulled your whiskers out one by one?’.
We laughed as we continued our trek through the ancient tunnel.
I saw a giants spider nest and asked Inigo, “Do you see what I see?”
“It is mine!”
“You will have to beat me to it!”
I used Whirlwind Sprint then stood below the funnel web of a colossal spider.
It fell towards me, and I killed it with a single sword stroke.
Inigo grumbled, “You cheated!”
“Did you hear that wonderful sound when I crunched it with my sword?”
“If I weren’t scared out of my wits by the ghost lady, I would walk away in a huff!”
“Don’t you feel happy for the hundreds of Skeevers I just saved?”
“Revenge shall be mine, my friend!”
At the end of the tunnel lay the ruins of a significant Dwemer city. All entrances to it are blocked by rubble.
We have turned right and are at the wooden ramp about which the journal writer complained.
I warned The Sentinels, “We are entering the same type of structure as the entrance. The support beams look okay from here, but just in case, everybody stays closer to me than usual and be prepared to run.”
Inigo looked to where we came from and said, “Lydia was right, and this could still be a viable route for trade with Morrowind.”
I replied, “If we find that there is still a path all the way through, we shall let the East Empire Company know of it.”
Lydia said, “This part should lead to the outside. To the Clockwork Castle.”
“Yes, and hopefully not much more walking. This place does feel strange.”
“I think it is the ghost lady. She is watching us even when we can’t see her.”
“You may be right, Lydia.”
The ‘exit’ shows far more damage than the ‘entrance’ tunnels. The construction looks identical, so the logical conclusion is we are closer to the epicentre of whatever phenomena caused the damage.
We have entered a cavern with thousands of bones piled high and a single intact skeleton on the floor.
- Wulf: The skeleton on the floor is probably a member of a caravan caught down here for some reason. There is no sign of physical damage.
- Rigmor: And what about the massive number of bones in the cave? Please tell me you have a logical explanation for them.
- Wulf: I know of no significant battles that occurred here. Even if there was, I can’t think of any society that would gather the dead and pile them together like this.
- Inigo: My friend, I thought we were joining you on another boring trip through Dwemer ruins. So far, this had been nothing but disturbing!
- Wulf: I know! It is so much more fun than normal Dwemer ruins.
- Inigo: Mr Dragonfly wonders if you understand the word ‘fun’. Are you mistaking it for ‘terrifying’?
- Wulf: There are mysteries to be solved. Who were these people, and how did they die? Who is our ghostly chaperone? This adventure, my friend, is the most fun you can have with your clothes on!
- Inigo: I would rather be in a dark cave full of Draugr armed only with a cheese knife.
- Lydia: Don’t be ashamed, Inigo. We all have our secret fantasies.
- Inigo: Your insults are improving.
- Lydia: Olette has been training me in exchange for sword tuition.
We are continuing our walk. The others are nervous while I am fascinated. This place is something new to me. My brain is being exercised far more than a dull Dwemer ruin would do.
A set of spiral stairs has led us to a short, fog-filled corridor.
On the other side of a partition, the Dwemer phantasm waits for us.
Dwemeris is similar to Aldmeris in many respects. Some ancient Dwemer documents are written in Aldmeris. My command of Aldmeris is not extensive, so I do not want to start a conversation in it. I have decided to tell the ghost my name.
I stepped up close, pointed to my chest and said, “Huroon Wulf”. There was no response.
I looked to her feet and saw scorch marks on the stone.
There was another note from Camilla, which I read to The Sentinels.
This is all wrong. I can’t go back. I can’t face it.
Where are you?
As we walked to the other side of the partition, Lydia said, “I am watching her, and she vanished as you turned the corner.”
As Lydia indicated, the ghost was no longer there.
Tremendous heat would have been required to make the scorch marks.
Rigmor suggested, “Perhaps that indicates how she died?”
“Yes, that is possible. The scorch marks look new, but we can feel no heat. However, I do hear a noise that increases as I get closer to her. It is like a high-frequency vibration.”
“Similar to when you hear Black Books and the Word Walls and nobody else can?”
“It is another wonderful part of the puzzle!”
“Stop smiling. A normal person would not find this amusing!”
We walked through a door to more passages.
The support beams in this part of the structure appear buckled, and the structural integrity is suspect.
We are walking past an alcove, and a skull is pivoting to follow me!
I giggled like a kid and showed The Sentinels. They just shook their heads, and I giggled some more. It was like they were imitating the skull.
Not far past the alcove was a storage room. On nearly every shelf was a skull that pivoted to watch me. Dozens of skulls in unison!
I laughed as I declared, “You can’t tell me that is not one of the best things you have ever seen!”
Rigmor looked at the others, and then they stared at me. She said, in a slow and angry voice, “We do not think skulls following our every move is fun or interesting. We face monsters and dragons by your side with courage. However, this place is likely going to ruin several sets of underwear!”
“They are not following your every move. The skulls are following me, and I believe our Dwemer lady is controlling them. If I had the time, I would study the dweomer. It would be fantastic to have a couple of these at home!”
The blank looks I received indicated a lack of enthusiasm for that idea.
In the next room, a single skull with aqua glowing eyes was sitting in a brasier. It also followed me.
We found ourselves climbing and doubling back.
I was disappointed when the skull with glowing eyes did not stare up at us.
We came to an octagonal auditorium. Slumped against a central pedestal was Camilla.
To her left was a quill and bottle of ink. To her right was a note. She was dead.
Celestine and I had a close look but could find no apparent cause of death. I read the note out loud.
“I needed you, and you aren’t here. I thought those were your footsteps, but they weren’t. Always coming up behind me, but nothing there.
Time stood still, and she came towards me… slowly, slowly. I couldn’t move. I can’t leave anymore. Can’t face it. Can’t go back out into the world.
I’ll just sit here, and…
I’ll just stay here with the bones until it’s over.
- Rigmor: She just sat here and died?
- Celestine: No, that is not possible. There is no sign of trauma or starvation. There is nothing to indicate poison, cold, or electricity killed her.
- Wulf: Celestine is correct. You can’t just will yourself to die. She encountered the ghost but did not say it harmed her.
- Inigo: She was terrified. Could she have died from fright?
- Celestine: Yes, her heart could have given way, but that usually results in foam at the mouth or blue lips.
- Rigmor: She might have had the courage to continue if Isidor was with her. It reminds me of somebody.
- Wulf: Yes, Rigmor, she was alone in the dark, and her Dragonborn did not come.
- Rigmor: Still having fun, my dear Dragonborn?
- Wulf: You tell me, Rigmor. Do I find deaths like this amusing? I am not my Dovah!
- Rigmor: Oh… Wulf… I am sorry!
Tears welled in Rigmor’s eyes, and I held her close. I can’t recall the last time I snapped at her like that. I kissed her on the forehead and stood back. I then told everybody, “I will perform my version of Arkay’s Law for Camilla. None of The Divines has protested when I have done so in that past, so I assume it is not blasphemy to do so. Even if she wasn’t a follower of The Nine, the words should protect her soul.
I stood with my head lowered and invoked Arkay’s Law.
- 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.
I told The Sentinels, “That is all I can do for Camilla. Let us continue.”
I am more subdued as we walk. I did not know who Camilla was, but nobody deserves to die alone.
Sunlight is streaming in from a grate far above. I have been keeping track of where we are compared to the entrance. I am pretty sure I could find that grate if I desired to do so. The feel of sunlight should brighten our mood slightly. However, the sense of despair is palpable even to me. There is something unnatural about it.
We have entered a long corridor, and the ghost is moving towards me. A loud siren has started wailing. I can feel a compulsion to stand still, but it is not strong enough to affect me. The tone she emits is audible to me, even with the siren blaring. It is increasing in volume as she approaches.
I had better discuss this with The Sentinels.
- Wulf: Does anybody else feel the compulsion to stand still.
- Inigo: My friend, we are all trying hard not to flee. A compulsion to stand still would be welcome.
- Wulf: What about the tone she makes. Not the siren but a vibration. Can anybody else hear it?
- Inigo: If my cute fluffy ears can’t hear it, I doubt the others can.
- Wulf: She wants me for something. I will approach her. You can all stand back if you wish.
- Rigmor: Scared we may be, but we are with you. Get moving then!
As I approach the ghost, the urgency of the compulsion has increased. I will stop and wait for her since that is what she deems important.
She is not stopping. I think she may walk right through me!
I found myself in utter darkness, but it was only a second at most before light returned. The siren was gone. In front of me are a set of steel bars preventing any further progress along the passage the ghost approached along. Rigmor just growled, “Turn around and explain this, Commander Valdr!”
I turned to find my friends had company.
- Wulf: It seems our lady ghost has a sense of humour as well as being a very powerful conjurer.
- Inigo: There is very little I find amusing about this.
- Wulf: It is a macabre sense of humour which I also have. I see the amusing aspect of your bony friends even if you do not.
- Rigmor: A few minutes ago, you were upset about the idea of finding death funny.
- Wulf: These are not the bones of dead people. Not unless they are a race unknown to history or science.
- Celestine: Wulf is correct! Take a close look at the skeletons. There is something fundamentally wrong with them.
- Rigmor: Well, their hands look too large.
- Lydia: Aha! How many joints do you have in your fingers?
- Rigmor: Two joints connecting three bones in my fingers. One joint connecting two bones in my thumbs.
- Lydia: And these skeletons?
- Rigmor: That have three joints and four bones per finger!
- Inigo: Two joints and three bones in their thumbs.
- Wulf: The Dwemer ghost has manifested something that never existed. The steel bars are real. A Master of Conjuration could do the same. She has simply taken the bars from one place and put them in another.
- Celestine: The skeletons prove she has summoned something that exists only in her imagination. That is far beyond the capabilities of any Master of Conjuration I have met or heard of.
- Wulf: She has conjured the bones stacked with a perfect centre of gravity. You could spend years trying to balance bones like this.
I lightly tapped the front skeleton, and it fell to pieces. Rigmor quickly tapped the other two, and they also collapsed.
- Wulf: The ghost has not shown any aggression. But I think she has powers that make her very dangerous. Something killed Camilla, and the number one suspect is the ghost. But my instincts tell me she is not out to harm anybody. She simply doesn’t know how to communicate what she needs.
- Rigmor: She is like a child who can’t tell the adult what she wants?
- Wulf: Maybe, but I don’t think she killed Camilla after throwing a tantrum.
- Inigo: My friend, I am starting to invest in your thrill of discovery. This place is far more interesting than most of the dark, dismal and deadly places you take me to!
- Wulf: The thought of another boring walk through massive Dwemer ruins is scarier to me.
- Lydia: What about waking in bed, turning over, and a naked Delphine is smiling at you?
- Celestine: Imagine starving to death and the only food you find in days is a bowl of Apple Cabbage Stew!
- Inigo: You would have to pour it out and starve!
- Wulf: See, this place is not so scary after all! She did not want us to go that way, so let’s head back the way we came. Perhaps we missed a turn or hidden door?
We have found ourselves back at the auditorium, but much had changed in the few minutes since we last crossed it. On top of the central pedestal is a skeleton with its head turned one hundred and eighty degrees. It looks like it is laughing at us!
Piles of bones have been conjured and cover most of the seating. Camilla has not been moved or touched in any way.
As we crossed the room, I said, “I think Arkay’s Law stopped the ghost from animating Camilla. I am relieved I performed it. I think the bones are copies of that first pile we saw. They were of actual deceased, but these are not.”
Although the auditorium was familiar, we are now in a different part of the building than before. The logical conclusion is the ghost wants us to go somewhere, and we had been headed in the wrong direction.
The bone sculptures encountered were a mixture of bizarre and humorous.
Braziers with blue flames now light our way.
We have come to a room with the weird skeletons arranged in a circle. In the middle are four dormant Skeleton Warriors.
Inigo said, “The bony ones will attack when we enter.”
“I don’t think the Dwemer lady summoned them. They are natural phenomena where many have died. However, she has placed them here as part of her ‘artwork’.”
A bright orb appeared in the middle of the skeletons as soon as I entered the room. The fake skeletons collapsed. The four Skeletal Warriors attacked.
We have destroyed the skeletons and moved on. Room after room is covered in piles of bones.
Lighted Orbs have appeared on a set of dark spiral stairs. They are not as bright as Mage Light or Will O’ Wisps.
Rigmor speculated, “I think the lights show where the ghost lady wants us to go.”
“I think so as well. You are getting very good at gobblygook!”
“I wonder if prayer will fix that problem?”
We climbed the stairs, and the bright orb that was in the middle of the skeletons floated up to join us.
The skeleton arrangements continued to show not only humour but imagination.
We continued to climb, and the bright orb continued to follow.
A Skeletal Warrior was waiting for us to pass before attacking. It moved, but before I could draw my sword, Inigo leapt in front of me and cut it down.
Inigo then said, “How do you like it when I steal your kills?”
“Um… I don’t enjoy killing skeletons like you enjoy killing spiders.”
“My friend, you can’t destroy my revenge with your stinky logic!”
“Oh no, you cut down the skeleton, and I was so looking forward to doing that. You blue bastard!”
“That is better. I hope you have learned your lesson!”
Inigo was trying to keep up morale as the sense of foreboding was steadily increasing. He gave me a weak smile as we continued our journey.
We had been climbing but now find ourselves in long corridors wading through water.
A set of spiral stairs leads down. The water we have been wading through is cascading down its centre.
We are leaving the modern building and entering a Dwemer city. Huge stalactites hang from the roof of an enormous cavern. The spiral stairs must have been constructed to allow access to this area for research.
We can see a frozen body of water covering many more levels of the Dwemer city.
Rigmor exclaimed, “It is like looking down from a high part of Markarth!”
Night vision penetrated the ice a bit further, but I could only see a fraction of what was hidden
We have travelled down a long way on the spiral stairs. They would not have been cheap to construct.
We stepped onto the ice then paused to discuss what we were seeing.
- Wulf: This city is huge! It is bigger than any other I have visited except for Black Reach.
- Celestine: Have you ever read about it? Do you have any idea of its name?
- Wulf: I have no idea what this place is called, and I don’t think Professor Marassi knows it exists.
- Rigmor: Mzulft is not far from here. Do you think they are connected?
- Wulf: All of the significant Dwemer cities in Skyrim are supposed to be connected via Black Reach. It is a topic I am interested in but have not done enough research to conclusively say this place will be connected to the other Dwemer places such as Mzulft.
- Inigo: If not for the dweomer you placed on our armour, I think this place would be too cold for an extended stay.
- Lydia: Yeah, it is cold enough to turn me blue, and who would want to be that horrid colour?
- Inigo: You are letting your jealousy show once more. But I understand. You don’t have your very own prophecy and are feeling very inferior at the moment.
- Lydia: Hmph!
- Wulf: There is a corridor over there. Let’s see where that leads.
The corridor was relatively short and led to an even more immense cavern.
I pointed to the ghost. She was underneath the ice and moving towards us.
As I walked along the ice, the ghost kept up.
Rigmor said, “That is officially super creepy!”
“It could be creepier.”
“I am going to regret asking, but how could it be any creepier?”
“It could be a male ghost, and you could be wearing a dress.”
“I hate you.”
I blew Rigmor a kiss which made her laugh.
Using night vision, I could see a Skeletal Warrior patrolling a walkway we needed to use.
I fired an arrow into the ice below it. The skeleton came scrambling down to investigate the noise.
I whispered to Inigo, “Watch and learn second-best marksman in the Penitus Oculatus.”
My arrow flew true.
As we head for the tower, I can see a small waterfall and daylight.
Another skeleton along another walkway fell for the same trick.
The towers were full of bone piles.
No steps lead to the ledge we needed to use. We had to jump down to it.
I could hear a humming getting louder and warned the others, “The ghost is nearby and getting closer.”
We continued along a short corridor then turned left. The ghost emerged from a wall leaving scorch marks behind. This time she did not stare at me or walk. She floated towards me with her head down.
There was no compulsion from her to stay still. This time she wanted me to move.
When she got close, she started draining my lifeforce at a worrying rate. Then the siren started once more.
I moved away from her, and Inigo joined me. I asked him, “Did she drain your lifeforce as you ran by her?”
“No. What do you think she is doing?”
“She wants me to go somewhere, and I don’t want The Sentinels to follow me.”
“Gut feeling? Instinct? Who knows? I want you to run back to the others and tell them to wait at the entrance to the ice cavern. I will zap you to me when it is safe.”
“What if something happens to you?”
“All of the mages can now use the Langley Spell. By the way, don’t tell him I named it that. We have designated my bedroom as a safe room for Rigmor. She can teleport back there, and one of the mages can teleport the rest of you.”
“Rigmor won’t like this.”
“Tell her she can use our rings and know I am okay. She often forgets that when upset.”
“Good luck, my friend.”
Inigo ran back to the others, and I walked at an average pace to keep ahead of the ghost.
The ghost deliberately made the roof collapse to block other paths and prevent me from backtracking.
The ghost took shortcuts and could move through floors and walls. It was fascinating to watch.
I eventually reached an exit that was not blocked. The ghost left me, and the siren faded away.
I teleported The Sentinels to me then we stepped outside.
In front of us, we see a magnificent estate. What appears to be a Dwemer automaton is standing at its front gate. For some reason, it is carrying a torch.
I have zoomed in on the automaton. It is of a design I have never seen before. On a hunch, I will use heat vision on it.
Its body is producing a minute amount of heat. Not enough to conclusively say it was a living being.
I use the Aura Whisper shout, and it glowed brightly. It is not an automaton! It is alive and waiting for us.
- Rigmor: We heard a lot of rockfalls. You were right to leave us behind.
- Wulf: Yes, I was, but that is not important. Tell me what you can see.
- Rigmor: That must be Clockwork Castle. And one of the metal men is at the front gate.
- Celestine: It is hard to tell from here but is it a new type of automaton?
- Wulf: No. It is alive. Somewhere inside that metal is a soul.
- Inigo: Like those mechanical dragons near Langley’s. You absorbed their souls.
- Wulf: Yes. They had free will like any other mortal. I assume the gatekeeper also has free will.
- Rigmor: Maybe it is just a skinny person in armour?
- Wulf: It doesn’t generate enough body heat to be a person of flesh and blood.
- Lydia: It is waiting for us. Let’s say hello!
I am looking at my companions as we make our way to the gate. I believe the terror and doom of the tunnels have been replaced with a palpable sense of excitement.
I approached the being and waited to see if it said anything. After a few seconds of silence, I spoke to it in Tamrielic and said, “Hello, my name is Wulf. The others are my friends.”
In a strange male voice, mechanical but not metallic, it replied, “I am Lahar. Welcome to Clockwork Castle. It has been many years since somebody visited. Lamashtu wants to speak to you. I will take you to her. Please, follow me.”
Lahar opened the gate, and we entered Clockwork Castle. We had no idea what to expect.
I asked Rigmor, “Excited?”
With a smile she replied, “Very much. As long as we are done with the spooky ghost lady, I might enjoy this.”