The Gilded

Morndas, 22nd Evening Star, 4E 201

We followed Lahar, who said, “I came out when I heard the rock-fall. By the sounds of it, you are lucky to be unhurt. It was the tunnel, wasn’t it? It has been threatening to collapse for a long time now.”

“There was no luck involved, and it was deliberately brought down.”

“Why would you do that? Anyway, that means there’s no going back that way. You may be trapped here. Well… Lamashtu will know what to do.”

My friends’ heads are swivelling as we walk. They seem fascinated by the architecture of Clockwork Castle.

We have entered the house. Although I can see gas lamps on the walls, Lahar’s torch is the only light source at the moment.

Lahar apologised, “Please forgive the state of the house. It has just been Lamashtu and me here for some time now. I shall light the lamps momentarily.

We are walking past family portraits as we climb a set of stairs. If they are of family, it seems the owners were initially from High Rock.

There is dust and cobwebs in abundance, but the structural integrity of the abode seems remarkably well maintained. The wallpapers, rugs, curtains, tapestries and furniture I can glimpse via torchlight are of the highest quality.

After climbing another set of stairs, we have exited onto a large, snow-covered patio. Another metal person is standing at the far side of the patio. I assume it is Lamashtu. They are looking out over the valley where the estate has been built.

Lahar turned to us and said, “Here we are. You can see Lamashtu just over there. Please introduce yourself to her. In the meantime, I shall go light the lamps and unlock the doors.”

“Thank you, Lahar. Perhaps we can talk again soon?”

“Yes. Please excuse me.”

As Lahar headed back inside, we made our way to Lamashtu. I have been standing next to her for at least ten seconds, yet she continues to stare straight ahead. There has been no acknowledgement of our presence. I shall try and talk to her.

“Excuse me, Lamashtu. Lahar said that you wished to speak to us.”

Lamashtu turned and seemed genuinely surprised to see us. She asked, “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

“I am Commander Valdr of the Penitus Oculatus. We have come to investigate the tunnels and trading hub of which nothing has been heard for decades. If you are wondering about legalities, this building is still within the border of The Empire. Therefore it is within our jurisdiction.”

“How did you get here?”

“Through the mountain tunnel from Skyrim.”

“I remember now. The tunnel collapsed. Yes, I heard it. No one had used those tunnels in well over a hundred years. There is only one other way out of Clockwork Castle and this valley. Beneath the keep is the Travel Machine. It can transport you to the major settlements of Skyrim. Ask Lahar to take you to it. He will need to let you out, on the other side.”

“May I ask some questions?”

“Go to Lahar. Ask him to let you out through the Travel Machine.”

Lamashtu returned to staring over the valley. I tried talking to her again and was dismissed with, “Let me be, now.”

The Sentinels look as bemused as I feel.

After shrugging my shoulders, I have headed for the entrance with my friends trailing behind.

The place is now brightly lit via the gas lamps. They are an expensive addition to any abode and require expensive conduits for the gas to be threaded inside the walls.

Lahar is waiting for us on the upper story balcony.

  • Wulf: We have spoken to Lamashtu.
  • Lahar: Good. I have readied the Master Bedroom and will clean the guest quarters. You may have to stay with us for some time.
  • Wulf: We haven’t decided if we will stay at all. Lamashtu said you would show us a ‘Travel Machine’. She seems to think that was our only way of leaving this valley.
  • Lahar: That is strange. The Travel Machine is not functional at this time. In fact, very few machines here are working right now, as the pressurised steam they rely on is not reaching the castle. Perhaps she forgot.
  • Rigmor: Lamashtu did seem a bit confused.
  • Inigo: And rather rude!
  • Wulf: Can you show us the Travel Machine?
  • Lahar: Yes. Please come this way. It is beneath the keep.

We are following Lahar downstairs to the Travel Machine.

We have entered a room dominated by a sizeable hemispherical machine and a metal topographic map of Skyrim.

I asked Lahar, “Do you mind if I take a closer look?”

“You shall see that the machine is not working.”

The map is an excellent rendition of Skyrim. Equal to any I have seen done in plaster, clay or carved from wood. The amount of effort needed to create it in Dwemer metal and then paint would have been significant.

Inserted into the map are buttons with the symbols of the various holds on top. There is also a button for Solstheim in the top right-hand corner.

Circling the portal’s entrance is a rotating dial. A gas light illuminates the top centre of the dial. This highlights which hold has been selected via the buttons. At the moment, it shows the same symbol as on the door to the room containing the Travel Machine.

I have decided to discuss the apparatus with The Sentinels.

  • Wulf: Okay, forget about any of the rest of this place for now. I want your thoughts on this Travel Machine?
  • Rigmor: Are you trying to make our brains hurt?
  • Inigo: That would be unfair of Wulf. Why punish us and not Lydia?
  • Lydia: Hey, that’s an insult… I think…
  • Celestine: The Travel Machine is enormous!
  • Wulf: Yes, and the outer shell seems to be a single casting. That suggests something about who constructed it and when.
  • Rigmor: It would have had to been made by the Dwemer thousands of years ago.
  • Wulf: Correct. It could not have been an original part of Clockwork Castle.
  • Lydia: They must have found it when making the house.
  • Celestine: They constructed this part of the house around it.
  • Wulf: A machine like this would not be in the middle of the wilderness.
  • Rigmor: So we are right now would have been part of a Dwemer city!
  • Celestine: That makes you wonder what else they found when building this place.
  • Rigmor: But why is it so large?
  • Inigo: To teleport large items?
  • Wulf: Smaller forms of teleport can transfer much larger items. The one aboard the airship teleports the entire airship and contents yet is a fraction of the size.
  • Lydia: With a spell, Wulf and Celestine can teleport huge items such as Inigo’s ego.
  • Inigo: And humongous items such as Lydia’s bum!
  • Rigmor: The judge scores one point to Inigo.
  • Wulf: Most likely, its size was dictated by the dweomer and science used to create it.
  • Rigmor: But the airships are Dwemer inventions. Why is the teleporter aboard Bostin smaller?
  • Lydia: Bostin?
  • Rigmor: That is the name Wulf has given his airship. It is Dovahzul for weirdo.
  • Wulf: It is two words combined. ‘Do’ means free. ‘Stin’ means flying. Bostin means free flying.
  • Inigo: That is a fine name, my friend.
  • Rigmor: You would think he would name it after something he loves more than anything else.
  • Wulf: Chowder would be a strange name for an airship!
  • Rigmor: Wulf!
  • Celestine: Before Wulf get chopped in two, we had better get back on topic.
  • Wulf: I think the Travel Machine is big because it does not require a mage. A layman can operate it.
  • Celestine: Other teleports, such as the experimental one you have made at the College of Winterhold, requires an invocation by a mage. The same with the airships.
  • Inigo: This Travel Machine can probably teleport more than one person at a time.
  • Wulf: An excellent point, Inigo! I am working on a variation of Langley’s Spell to do that. The amount of Magicka required will be far more than the average mage can store. A machine like this does not need the operator to have any Magicka.
  • Lydia: Why is only Skyrim and Solstheim on the map?
  • Wulf: I could speculate but first, let us see if we can find any information on its construction and owner.

I walked into the Travelling Machine, and as I expected, it had a similar platform to the ones used by the College of Winterhold.

Lahar waited for me to exit.

He said, “As you can see, the machine is cold and lifeless. I’m afraid you cannot leave.”

“There is no other way out?”

“No. The cliffs surrounding the castle are too steep to traverse, and now that the last tunnel has fallen in, no avenues remain. To be honest, I had thought the route you took to reach here to be blocked on the other side for a very long time now. After all, we are subject to the occasional tremor here – from Red Mountain, I believe.”

“The tunnels from Skyrim were serviceable. However, they were collapsed deliberately by an entity. A ghost of a Dwemer woman.”

“I do not know of such things.”

“We can also leave here whenever we wish.”

“How?”

“We can teleport without a machine. Watch.”

I said to Celestine, “Give it ten seconds, then teleport me back.” I then teleported to my room at the College. Ten seconds later, I was zapped back to Clockwork Castle.

I stood in front of Lahar once more.

  • Wulf: Our teleportation is not perfect. I want to get the Travel Machine working to study it and see if it helps with our problems.
  • Lahar: One particularly violent tremor caused breaches in the main steam pipeline. That is why this machine and many others in the castle are lifeless.
  • Rigmor: Can the pipeline be repaired?
  • Lahar: I attempted to repair the damage, but… my brothers and sisters hampered my efforts and drove me out.
  • Wulf: Explain brothers and sisters. Are they family?
  • Lahar: Not by blood but by the process to make what we have become. The others live in Nurndural, deep beneath the castle. They have grown wild, and we are no longer welcome there.
  • Lydia: Would they attack us?
  • Lahar: Yes, they would be hostile as soon as they saw you.
  • Wulf: I would like to repair the pipes to study the Travel Machine, but I do not wish to kill others.
  • Lahar: They are like me. You cannot kill us. You can knock us down, but we shall rise again, eventually.
  • Wulf: I have an idea why that is so. I could kill them, but I would have to do it very deliberately.
  • Rigmor: Can you explain?
  • Wulf: Later on, I promise.
  • Rigmor: We can’t kill them with a bow or sword?
  • Wulf: There is a slight chance.
  • Lydia: If we visit Nurndural, what would we have to do to repair the main steam pipe?
  • Lahar: The pipeline ferries steam from deep in Nurndural. You can follow it from where it enters the castle. The broken parts spew steam and are visible from a distance.
  • Wulf: How many ruptures are there?
  • Lahar: From what I saw, there are at least ten sections of pipe that need repair or replacement. Fortunately, plenty of replacement pipes lay about down there. Alternatively, if you know how to work Dwemer metal, you could use the forges down there to cast your own.
  • Wulf: If I have one to copy, I can make more. We would need to consider the danger and time to salvage compared to creating new ones.
  • Lahar: Passage to Nurndural may be found through the mausoleum, which you can access from outside. Lamashtu has the key, so you will need to obtain it from her.
  • Wulf: I have travelled through many Dwemer ruins. You and Lamashtu are unlike any Dwemer animunculi I have encountered, although there are some physical similarities. Are you golems?
  • Lahar: I am unfamiliar with the term ‘golem’.
  • Wulf: A golem is a being whose soul has been transferred to a non-flesh body, whether it be metal, stone, water or other substance.
  • Lahar: I am a caretaker. I keep the castle in good repair.
  • Wulf: I am a Commander, and my species is Man. My blue friend is an Inspector, and his species is Khajiit. You are a caretaker, but what is your species?”
  • Lahar: I… I am a caretaker. I also see to the needs of castle residents. Once the Travel Machine is again functional, I can use it to trade for necessities with merchants in Skyrim.
  • Rigmor: Were you of flesh and blood before becoming a mechanical being?
  • Lahar: I… I am unsure.
  • Inigo: My metal friend, how can you trade with merchants without attracting attention?
  • Lahar: I wear robes and a cowl that leaves my face in shadow. Observers believe I am wearing a suit of Dwemer armour.
  • Inigo: What about your voice?
  • Lahar: I can modulate it a bit. I try to talk as little as possible when amongst others.
  • Wulf: I could point on the map exactly where we are. High in the Velothi mountains not far from the border of Morrowind. If there were once tunnels leading to Morrowind, this would be have been an ideal location for a trading hub.
  • Lahar: Correct. The castle is naturally well-defended by its very remote and treacherous surroundings. It was built by the Chlodovech family in the closing years of the Third Era, over two hundred years ago. It was initially called Chlodovech Castle. Many ended up calling it Clockwork Castle due to it containing large amounts of machinery. The Chlodovech’s were very successful traders, and the castle designed to administer a new trading route between Skyrim and Morrowind.
  • Wulf: Did the events of the Red Year end that plan?
  • Lahar: Yes, the devastation caused by the eruption of Red Mountain destroyed the trade route and killed most of the people with whom they wished to trade.
  • Rigmor: Were there many people in the tunnels when that occurred?
  • Lahar: Several hundred, I believe. Why do you ask?
  • Rigmor: We found a massive pile of bones within the Skyrim side of the tunnel.
  • Lahar: There would not have been enough killed in the tunnels to make a ‘massive pile’.
  • Wulf: Tell me about Nurndural.
  • Lahar: It was a freehold colony of the Dwemer and my old home. Sadly, it is now a ruin, and we are no longer welcome there. Lamashtu and I are fortunate to be able to call Clockwork Castle our home.
  • Rigmor: Is it connected to Blackreach?
  • Lahar: I do not know.
  • Wulf: If you are tired of answering questions, we can stop for now.
  • Lahar: No, please. I am here to help.
  • Wulf: The furnishings and decoration seem to be inspired by the noble residences of High Rock. Were the Chlodovech family Breton, the people of High Rock?
  • Lahar: I do not know. Those who lived here also told me the furnishing and decoration were popular in High Rock. Much of what I know was said to me by those who lived here.
  • Wulf: The Travel Machine is complex. Did the people who lived here know how to build complex machines?
  • Lahar: Ludwig, a being of flesh, built the first machines, but I believe Lamashtu aided him. For the machines numerous in number, large in size or complex, we all helped, including my brothers and sisters.
  • Wulf: Did Ludwig build them from scratch or repair some that already existed?
  • Lahar: I think the Travel Machine was repaired. Yes… yes, this machine was repaired.
  • Wulf: What can you tell me about Ludwig?
  • Lahar: Ludwig used to live here with us. It was he who first invited Lamashtu and me to live in the castle. I have not seen Ludwig in a very long time.
  • Wulf: Do you know what happened to him? Was he a member of the Chlodovech family?
  • Lahar: I… I don’t know the answer to either question.
  • Wulf: Is there anything in Clockwork Castle that can tell us about the Chlodovech family or Ludwig?
  • Lahar: I believe Ludwig kept a series of journals. Perhaps the answers can be found within their pages. I recall seeing them scattered about the keep.
  • Celestine: Lahar, why do only you and Lamashtu live here now?
  • Lahar: Ludwig, his family and servants lived here. Everybody but Ludwig left long ago, shortly after Lamashtu and I came here.
  • Celestine: Did they leave because your brothers and sisters were violent?
  • Lahar: My brothers and sisters were not always violent. The people of flesh left before they became violent. I don’t know why they left. Then it was only Ludwig, and I haven’t seen him in a long time.
  • Celestine: Why did your brothers and sisters become violent?
  • Lahar: I am not sure. I will have to think about it.
  • Wulf: We are weary from our travels through the tunnels, so we will not travel to Nurndural till tomorrow morning.
  • Lahar: Do you need me to clean the servants quarters?
  • Wulf: Can you change the linens?
  • Lahar: Yes. The clean linens are neither mouldy nor musty, and I can do that swiftly. You do not want to use the Master Bedroom?
  • Wulf: There was some danger in the tunnels that might have followed us here. It is safer if we stay together.
  • Lahar: Would you like a tour of Clockwork Castle?
  • Wulf: That would be greatly appreciated.
  • Lahar: It is good to be of service. Please follow me to the Master Bedroom.

I said to The Sentinels, “We will look for the journals later. Let us enjoy to tour of the house first.”

We are following Lahar to the Master Bedroom. There is a myriad of question that, hopefully, the journals will help answer.

The Master Bedroom door has large M and B initials on it.

All of my friends are intrigued by the artwork in the Master Bedroom. Rigmor has fallen in love with a painting of a young woman holding red flowers.

Lahar is ready to tell us about this room.

  • Lahar: This is the Master Bedroom, and I have kept it cleaner than other parts of the castle. Please feel welcome to treat it as your own. Rest if you are weary, and safely store your belongings if you are burdened.
  • Rigmor: Does the bath have running hot and cold water?
  • Lahar: Yes, but the steam pipes will need repairing. Then you can manipulate the taps for hot and cold water. As you can see, I have the old boiler heating up, but buckets will be needed to fill the bathtub. Washing the mortal body aids social interaction and fortifies against disease.
  • Lydia: Did you hear that, Inigo? Aids social interaction by allowing us to breathe when talking to you.
  • Inigo: Too bad the tub is not wide enough for your large posterior.
  • Lydia: Lame Inigo. You recently used a big bottom joke.
  • Lahar: Please follow me to the Mage’s Study.

We followed Lahar to the Mages Study, which has a picture of a book on its door.

We stood quietly as Lahar gave his spiel.

  • Lahar: This is the Mage’s Study. Here you can refine the ingredients of alchemical use and employ the souls of magical use.
  • Celestine: Yes, I can see the Enchanting Table and Alchemy Lab, but they are damaged.
  • Lahar: Their delicate glasswork was shattered in the same tremor that breached the steam pipeline. I will attempt to find replacement parts, but precise dimensions are required for both. It may take some time.
  • Wulf: Don’t worry, Lahar. I will bring the needed components with me next time I visit.
  • Lahar: The mage who worked here added balance scales to each station. Alchemical ingredients and soul gems are stored in the nearby cabinets.

Lahar moved to some bookshelves.

  • Lahar: This is also a library. If you leave books and documents in the basket, I will ensure they are arranged in alphabetical order and placed in the relevant bookcase or shelf.
  • Wulf: Are there any books already stored here?
  • Lahar: No. Let me remember the word. Yes, now I know it. Ludwig said that the mage left in a huff and took everything that was not nailed down with him. I told him that I thought the word should have been puff since he was a mage. Ludwig did not find my joke amusing. I have never understood why.
  • Wulf: That was an excellent pun. Ludwig must have been in a bad mood.
  • Rigmor: The last thing Lahar needs is you teaching him humour.
  • Inigo: No, the last thing he needs is Lydia giving him cooking lessons.
  • Wulf: Lahar, did Ludwig have any mage skills?
  • Lahar: No. That is why we had the huffy mage here.
  • Celestine: The spiral stairs are beautiful. Where do they go?
  • Lahar: They lead to the Glass Garden, on the roof.
  • Celestine: Can we have a look at the Glass Garden?
  • Lahar: There’s not much to see at the moment, but I can still show you where it is. Please follow me.

Like everything else in Clockwork Castle, the spiral staircase was of the highest build quality and superb aesthetics.

We entered the Glass Garden and Lahar almost seemed embarrassed.

  • Lahar: This is the Glass Garden, located on the roof of the east wing. Here, all manner of plants can be grown for alchemical and culinary pursuits.
  • Lydia: Is that overhead pipe used to maintain temperature and humidity using steam?
  • Lahar: That is very observant. Yes, it is.
  • Wulf: It is no use planting anything till we fix the main steam pipe.
  • Lahar: Is there anything, in particular, you would want to be planted?
  • Inigo: If Lydia had her way, there would be nothing but apples and cabbages.
  • Lahar: For Apple Cabbage Stew? A culinary masterpiece!
  • Inigo: You don’t have taste buds, do you?
  • Lahar: No, but it was one of Ludwig’s favourites.
  • Inigo: And the reason why everybody else ran away is now known.
  • Lahar: Mystery solved. Now, onto the Living Quarters. Please follow me.

I was not surprised to see a large L and Q on the door of the Living Quarters.

I was distracted by an inappropriate painting and missed what Lahar first said.

  • Wulf: This is a child’s bedroom, am I correct?
  • Lahar: Yes. There are three child bedrooms with two beds in each.
  • Wulf: Above the fireplace is a painting that depicts the aftermath of a battle with scavenger birds looking for a meal. They start with eating the eyes, did you know that? Noses and lips are usually next to be torn from the corpses. The bigger birds, like Ravens, will often attack exposed bellies and pull intestines and other offal out through holes they tear in the flesh.
  • Rigmor: The Commander, in his charming warrior way, is saying that painting should not be in a child’s bedroom.
  • Wulf: Charming Dov way.
  • Lahar: Oh, I took them all down for dusting and cleaning and must have put some back in their wrong spots.
  • Rigmor: It is okay, Lahar. It is easily fixed. Please, continue.
  • Lahar: Of course. As I was saying, the Living Quarters are quite large. At this end are the quarters for the family of the Lord and Lady of the castle. As mentioned before, this is one of three children’s rooms, and each has two beds.
  • Inigo: We had better check the other children’s bedrooms. They might have put up pictures of executions or bloody murders.
  • Lahar: Please, follow me.

The other bedrooms had more suitable décor. Lahar has stopped in front of a large tub.

  • Lahar: This is the laundry room, where the servants did a lot of their work. It was also where the servants did their bathing, but they did not appreciate my curiosity on the topic.
  • Lydia: Don’t say it, Inigo!
  • Inigo: Did you think I was going to mention that your bottom might fit in that tub?
  • Lydia: Your attempt at humour is boringly predictable.
  • Inigo: Well, I would hate to disappoint you.
  • Lahar: It is a long time since I spoke to people of flesh. Is this normal behaviour?
  • Wulf: It is perfectly normal. Friends often have fun at each other’s expense.
  • Lahar: Well, Inigo, Lydia’s bottom seems an acceptable size to me! Her breasts also seem to be of a good proportion.
  • Celestine: Lydia, you have a new ally!
  • Lahar: Celestine, comparing to the paintings in the castle, your breasts seem relatively small.
  • Rigmor: Lahar, why are all the fires alight?
  • Lahar: Rigmor, your breasts…
  • Rigmor: Lahar, the fires?
  • Lahar: They are gas fires, and when I turned on the main gas line, those with open valves ignited via piezoelectricity. They can be turned off and on individually as desired.
  • Lydia: The wood in them is fake and will glow when heated.
  • Rigmor: Some people have way too much money.
  • Lahar: Okay, follow me to the last part of the Living Quarters.

We stopped between two rooms.

  • Lahar: These are the servant’s dormitories. There are enough beds for a great many people here.
  • Wulf: Thank you, Lahar. Your help had been invaluable. We shall wander around ourselves and investigate the other rooms if you wish to do other things.
  • Lahar: I shall tidy up the beds in the dormitory to my right. They shall be fit to sleep on soon.
  • Wulf: Do you know where we can get some supplies to cook a meal.
  • Lahar: Being in the mountains means we have permanent ice and snow. Even goods purchased a century ago are suitable for consumption. I have had nobody to cook for these many years. May I prepare a meal for you all? I promise, no Apple Cabbage Stew.
  • Rigmor: Do you know a good stew recipe? That is always appreciated after many hours of travel.
  • Lahar: Oh yes. Ludwig was especially fond of my rabbit stew. I shall prepare it for service at 7:00 PM. Is that satisfactory?
  • Rigmor: That would be wonderful!
  • Lahar: I am glad to be of service.

In our search for Ludwig’s journals, we first visited the Travelling Machine room. Wedged underneath the table holding the map was Ludwig’s third journal. I will include the relevant entries in my journal after I have gathered them all.

The next stop was the Master Bedroom. As we walked through the lobby, we stopped to admire the most magnificent clock any of us had seen. It is better than the one in my room at the College!

Near the clock was the Work Room. The door was locked and this note attached to the door.

“CORROSIVE VAPOUR WARNING

The workroom is closed until complete purging of the corrosive vapours within.

The exhaust fans are currently non-functional due to the breaches in the steam pipeline.”

I will ask Lahar about what happened. If mercury or a similar chemical was spilt, removing the vapours may not be enough to make the room safe.

We entered the Master Bedroom then spent a few minutes admiring the décor.

Rigmor was quite taken by the red flower motifs that decorated many of the walls.

Another beautiful clock sat above a fireplace.

On inspection, a cupboard revealed itself to be a not so sneaky ‘secret door’.

Rigmor laughed and said, “Just like Delphine’s super-secret, nobody will ever find it, door in a cupboard!”

“Pathetic, wasn’t it! Anyway, this one is locked. If we don’t find the key, I will pick it.”

On a writing desk, we found Ludwig’s first journal.

The Mage’s Study was our next destination.

Instead of artwork, sketches and diagrams of interest to a mage adorned the walls. I was very amused by the picture of a two-legged Dovah with tiny wings. I doubt very much the artist had ever seen an actual dragon or their bones!

The study also had a writing desk, and upon it was Ludwig’s second journal.

When I picked up the journal, a key fell to the floor.

Rigmor laughed then said, “No use having a secret door unless you leave the key out in the open.”

“Rigmor, is that sarcasm? I corrupted Celestine, and now you!”

All of us agreed to look behind the hidden door in the Master Bedroom before reading Ludwig’s journals.

I opened the door to the cupboard.

Then slid the false back panel across.

We entered a small room that demonstrated what the entire estate would look like without Lahar’s labours. Dust was piled high, and cobwebs were far more numerous.

The emancipated remains of Ludwig lay under expensive sheets and blanket. He had not rotted but dried out in the freezing environment that existed till hours ago. Now ‘beings of flesh’ had returned, and the house was heated once more. The invisible forces of decay would soon claim Ludwig’s corpse. He would turn to dust with his bones remaining.

I carefully retrieved Ludwig’s fourth journal from atop his blanket.

I then said to The Sentinels, “There are two couches in the bedroom. Let us go sit in comfort and discuss what is in Ludwig’s journals.”

We exited the room. I slid the panel across then closed the cupboard.

We sat on two facing couches. I read each journal to myself and made a note of the relevant entries. Then I would read the chosen entries to my beloved and friends for discussion.

“Journal of Ludwig Chlodovech Part One

3rd of Evening Star, 4E 16

Today we laid my father to rest in the mausoleum. It is a strange feeling, knowing that his shell just lies there, alone, and that at any time I could look upon it as if he were still here.

Instead, I shall honour his wish and begin the keeping of this journal. It’s past time I did; he certainly prodded me into it for long enough.

Should this first entry be a commemoration of my father’s life? I lack the words to describe him adequately, I think. His achievements are familiar to most; everyone knows the Chlodovech Trading Company. There is little I could add and less that would be of interest, I’m sure, coming from me.

I can say, however, that he will be greatly missed.

We commend thee and lay thee to rest, Maximilian Chlodovech.

Father.

10th of Morning Star, 4E 17

It occurs to me that for this journal to be of any use to anyone, I should explain who I am. My name is Ludwig Chlodovech – now the Lord of Chlodovech Castle, I suppose!

Lord of a trade route to nowhere. It barely entered my thoughts as a child, as I have no memory of living anywhere else, but our castle is truly remote! My father’s grand project was a new trade route between Skyrim and Morrowind, administered by the Chlodovech Company alone.

A fool’s project is what they called it. How could it replace the Sea of Ghosts route, they would ask. What of the phenomenal expense in tunnelling under the mountain, said others. But father’s plan was more straightforward: why forge a new path when one can reclaim an old one?

Tolvald’s Crossing was too dangerous and too far south in any case. The mysterious tunnels that father set his mind and considerable fortune to – and never did reveal how he knew of them – were not too far from the port in Windhelm. He knew no name for these tunnels, and since they went beneath the Velothi Mountains, he and all the workers came to call them the ‘Velothi Tunnels’. Clearing the way was dangerous, but the work involved was relatively slight.

These tunnels emerged in a small valley high in the mountains. They then plunged beneath the rocks again, down to Morrowind. Chlodovech Castle built in this valley to act as a gatehouse in the centre of the would-be trade route.

And that is how I grew up: observing the construction of our castle. Watching and pestering the builders, stonecutters, carpenters and smiths. Tools and machines fascinated me. Hammers and saws, pulleys and levers. I relished seeing the walls go up and the rooms take shape. Father was e keen on the furnishings, for they had to match the latest fashions of faraway High Rock. That was home to him and my mother. I was too young to remember it well, but they are distinctive.

Everything went wrong in the Red Year. Not merely for us, of course, as it was the death of so very many. That was when the tunnel down to Morrowind fell in, killing the workers inside. It was the end of father’s grand project; even if our route had survived, the people of Morrowind did not. There was no one left with which to trade.

Mother died not long after, along with my sister-who-would-have-been. So much went wrong.

The castle was nearly complete by then, and though – again – people called him mad, father elected to have it finished. Indeed some things were called off or cut short. I think the Armoury was intended initially to be another grand entrance hall, leading onto quarters for prestigious guests, a ballroom and such – but still, it became Chlodovech Castle, our home.

My aunts and uncles always said that my father never recovered from those days; why else would he choose to stay in the place that had come to represent his very dear failure? Father may have founded Chlodovech Company, but they took on the running of it from then on. My siblings mean to take up the business also, or so they informed me during their brief visit to inter our father.

They may have been anxious to leave the castle once they were old enough – they could not stand the isolation – but I, of course, remained, here with Father and the staff.

I remember I was sorely disappointed when the last of the construction came to a close. Some of the carpenters and smiths had treated me almost as an apprentice, but then they had to leave, and there was nothing more to do. Father had noted my interest in intricate mechanics, though, and diverted them into a trade of creating intricate jewellery. It is not exactly what I wanted, but it suits me well enough, and I can labour at home in the castle. It is also very profitable.

And there you have it, I suppose; Lord Ludwig Chlodovech, the jeweller.”

  • Wulf: I will make enquiries about Chlodovech Trading Company. If it was registered in High Rock, the search might well prove futile. The constant wars amongst kingdoms in that country have destroyed many of their records.
  • Rigmor: It would help if you knew what part of High Rock they came from.
  • Inigo: Ludwig mentions the tunnel to Morrowind collapsing and killing the workers. The Skyrim tunnel only seemed to have minor damage till the creepy ghost lady caused more. That leaves the mystery of the pile of bones.
  • Wulf: That first pile we saw were real bones. All the others were conjured copies by the Dwemer ghost.
  • Celestine: I think they were bones of Dwemer found when clearing the tunnel.
  • Wulf: They could be. The living Dwemer vanished, but their deceased did not.
  • Lydia: If they found a Dwemer graveyard, they would not have halted their excavations when profits were at risk. Not knowing what to do with the bones, they simply piled them in that cave.
  • Rigmor:  Maximillian would not want that fact widely known. Ludwig probably never knew about them.
  • Lydia: It could explain a pissed off Dwemer ghost haunting the place.
  • Wulf: This is all good thinking and a probable solution to the pile of bones’ existence. However, the ghost wanted me here, in this house. I think she was in the tunnels looking for somebody to send here.
  • Rigmor: Camilla panicked and did not move when the ghost wanted her to. She had her lifeforce sucked out of her.
  • Lydia: What about the complete skeleton next to the pile of bones? Neither Wulf nor Celestine could see any sign of violence on it.
  • Wulf: Yes, another possible victim of the ghost, but there is not enough evidence.
  • Celestine: Ludwig became fascinated with mechanics. He would have gained skills and knowledge in large scale engineering from watching the craftsman and miners. He then learned small scale engineering as he trained to be a jeweller.
  • Wulf: The journal does not mention him being apprenticed anywhere. His father most likely had him tutored at home.
  • Rigmor: You have to be an accepted member of a guild to advertise yourself as a jeweller. He would have had to prove his skills to some sort of board. If his father was well known amongst the wealthy, that would have provided an excellent kick start to Ludwig’s career. A few choice pieces sold to the right people, and his clientele would come from word of mouth.
  • Wulf: My love, we all bow to your expertise in the area of jewellery. I would hate to think how many hours you have spent in the boutiques of the Capital.
  • Celestine: Ludwig’s family would also have had to travel the tunnels to come for the internment. If the ghost has bothered them, it would have been noted in the journal.
  • Wulf: There is no mention of the ghost in the first journal. Let me quickly read the second and pick out the relevant bits.

As with the first journal, I quickly read the second and selected relevant entries. These are what I read to my friends.

“Journal of Ludwig Chlodovech Part Two

12th of Last Seed, 4E 17

Now that my father is gone, they pester me to expand the mausoleum in readiness for my eventual passing. Next in line, next in line to die.

Fine. I shall order the excavation.

4th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 18

It is like turning over a rock and finding the twisting tunnels of an ant nest exposed to the sky. Yet here, the inhabitants did not scatter or erupt in a panic. They merely stood and stared, with those red pin-pricks for eyes.

7th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 18

I should explain. In expanding the mausoleum, the workers broke through into some ancient catacombs of the Dwemer. They were beneath our feet – beneath the castle – all this time! Perhaps it should not be too surprising as the Velothi Tunnels are home to some Dwemer ruins also.

It is all so strange, though… where do I begin?

I’ve read about Dwemer animunculi – all I could lay my hands on, as those were some of my favourites – but I have never seen any mention of what we found here. The workers called me down when they were about to breach the wall, and there we all stood, clustered around the hole. On the other side was our mirror image; a congregation of metal men staring back at us with their glowing red eyes.

I was afraid. We all were, but while the workers all fled the mausoleum, I remained, frozen in place. Expecting your imminent death is a significant shock, but an even greater surprise awaited me. A metal woman(?) came forward and spoke! She spoke to me!

At first, her words were unrecognisable. Was it the Dwemer language? Then she spoke in Cyrodiilic that was slow and halting. “No harm,” she said. I could manage no response. “No harm,” she said again, but this time to the metal men and women behind her.

Now she stands here in the Study with me… reading the books. I think she asked for them? I brought her here on the day of the breach, but I have forgotten of what we spoke. I said a lot in my panic, and she said very little. It all happened so quickly. Her brethren have all remained behind, down below – but she has not left the Study.

She is looking at me!

12th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 18

Her name is Lamashtu. Her progress in learning Cyrodiilic is astonishing. She reads my books and listens to the staff’s conversations, and already I can converse with her easily. The servants are not glad to have this audience, though; that much is clear. They are afraid of what we have uncovered, but it is just as plain to me that these metal men mean us… well, ‘no harm’ – as Lamashtu said.

Lamashtu has promised to show me Nurndural – for that is the name of the Dwemer catacombs beneath us. Instead of doing it herself, she asked her (I suppose) “brother” Lahar to show it to me. I think she wants to stay in the Study.

She says that she and her metal brethren are named the ‘Gilded’, but I am unsure what they are, exactly. They have always been beneath our feet and have never ventured out. They do resemble animunculi, and that is all I can say.

I realise more and more each day that the discovery of the Gilded is a monumental one, but Lamashtu has requested privacy. I’m not sure of her reasons, but I can certainly think of my own. Dwemer animunculi are known to be generally hostile – and quite dangerous. I dread the thought of what might happen if some kind of ‘military’ attention fell on them.

The staff may spread tales – how could I stop them? But I have heard how they speak of this discovery. I doubt anyone will believe the particulars of their stories.

1st of Second Seed, 4E 18

The resources to be found in Nurndural are beyond my ability to count or value. In particular, that excellent metal, that famous Dwemer metal that confounds all who try to unlock the secrets of its fabrication. I did put the question to Lamashtu, but ‘I am no smith, or alchemist’ is all she would say. She has answered many of my questions about the truly amazing machines down there, though. I can barely sleep; it feels like my mind is on fire with possibilities!

Lahar is taking to his new job well, too. After showing me some of Nurndural, he followed me back up to the castle. I did not mind; even, to begin with, he was almost as well-spoken as Lamashtu. I think she must have been teaching him. Or perhaps he already knew.

Much like Lamashtu had, Lahar began to follow the staff and observe their work, to their visible chagrin. Before long, he expressed an interest in taking up the role of a caretaker of the castle. Already he is invaluable; he is careful, quick, and most remarkably, does not appear to need or want for sleep!

22nd of Second Seed, 4E 18

My studies of Nurndural’s machines consume my attention, as do my plans regarding what I learn from them.

I look to Lamashtu as representative of that domain and her kind. Besides Lahar, who is agreeable if simple, she is the only one able – or perhaps willing – to speak with me. The others merely stare as I pass and ignore my attempts at conversation. I asked her permission to salvage what scraps of metal lay broken and useless in the halls of Nurndural for use in my works. However, impassive as her manner is, she did agree.

This agreement is tremendously exciting. The Dwemer metal can be melted down then reshaped as I desire, and there is so much of it to be had!

I go to work.

25th of Midyear, 4E 18

The mausoleum has become a thoroughfare. Metal – warped scraps and whole pieces both – are carted out of Nurndural and into the Work Room by small groups of Gilded. There the casting moulds await.

Things are taking shape.”

  • Wulf: The call themselves Gilded. That should give you all a clue as to their origin.
  • Rigmor: Gilded means something covered by a layer of gold or something that looks like gold. Polished Dwemer metal looks like gold.
  • Wulf:  Good. That is the gilding. What did it gild?
  • Rigmor: No! Is that even possible?
  • Celestine: The Gilded are Dwemer?
  • Wulf: Haven’t you noticed their skeletons under the armour? If you look closely, you will also see a gem of some sort. A new form of Soul Gem is my guess.
  • Rigmor: I think we all noticed the skeleton, but I don’t think any of us know the significance.
  • Wulf: Why did we invoke Arkay’s Law over the skull of Potema?
  • Rigmor: You said it was to stop her soul ever being summoned again.
  • Wulf: Yes, the soul is, for some metaphysical gobblygook beyond my understanding, attracted to the bones. Any small part of Potema’s skeleton could have been used to resurrect her. Now her soul is stuck in whatever realm it resides. It can’t cross into Mundus, thanks to the invocation of Arkay’s Law.
  • Inigo: My friend, that is why Alduin only needed the skeletons of dragons to resurrect them!
  • Wulf: Yep. Dragon souls do not move onto an afterlife, another plane of existence. They stay in Mundus, attracted to their skeletons.
  • Inigo: Are there no theories as to why there is this attraction between souls and skeletons?
  • Wulf: I got a headache reading about this subject. The one theory that makes the most sense to me is that after decay has removed or significantly altered the flesh, a being’s skeleton is the last familiar physical attachment to the mortal plane. If a soul is trying to reach Mundus from The Void or Aetherius, for example, a bone would seem familiar and make it easier for it to cross.
  • Inigo: I must be on Skooma again. That almost makes sense.
  • Celestine: The Gilded maintain their skeleton, their soul is placed in some sort of Soul Gem, and then they wear Dwemer metal skin. Is that what we think they are?
  • Wulf: Yes. That is a simplified version of what I am sure is a complex process.
  • Lydia: The Dwemer spent a lot of time and effort searching for immortality.
  • Wulf: It looks like the Dwemer of Nurndural figured it out. Too bad the ones who experimented with Lorkhan’s Heart didn’t realise that. They caused their whole race to vanish because they pursued knowledge already known by their people… almost.
  • Rigmor: Almost?
  • Wulf: They are no longer Dwemer. I doubt if I ask questions about their life as Dwemer, they could answer. Like I awoke on the carriage to Helgen, they awoke from the process that made them Gilded. They retained skills and knowledge about everything except who they were. They may be immortal now but at the expense of their mortal selves. The Divines have their Dragonborn but at the cost of what I was before.
  • Rigmor: Wulf, you would always have been the compassionate, wonderful person you are now.
  • Wulf: Are you sure? Do our two metal hosts seem like the godless race of slavers that the Dwemer were? I could retain my skills but once have been a detestable person.
  • Inigo: My friend, you don’t know! So, like the Gilded, you are what you have made yourself since awakening. I like to think Skooma free Inigo is similar to the pre-Skooma Inigo, and both are entirely different from the Skooma Inigo.
  • Wulf: But you have memories to make that assessment.
  • Rigmor: Your episode on Solstheim has made old doubts resurface. Believe what you used to. You had wonderful parents and upbringing, and they moulded you into the Wulf that I love unconditionally.
  • Wulf: Let… let us not let my problems distract from our task here. I want to understand the Gilded.
  • Lydia: When Lahar said about us only being able to knock them down, you suggested we could accidentally kill them. How?
  • Wulf: If their soul is contained in that new type of Soul Gem, what happens if you shatter it?
  • Lydia: The soul would stay where the skeleton is.
  • Wulf: Yes, but only for a very short amount of time. They are not dragons. The soul would move on, and the Gilded would be dead. If you had the skills and equipment, you could transfer the soul to a new Soul Gem. It would have to be done almost instantaneously.
  • Lydia: So why do they stay down for some time?
  • Wulf: Massive trauma would induce something like a coma. Their body would shut down while it repairs.
  • Celestine: I think you could kill them with some high-level necromancy spells.
  • Wulf: Possibly, although the Dwemer probably thought of that and have protections in place.
  • Celestine: I wonder how long it takes for them to recover from being ‘knocked down’.
  • Rigmor: That is probably variable depending on the damage caused.
  • Wulf: Ludwig wanted to keep the Gilded secret from the outside world. However, his reasons for doing so were not the most important ones. There is more than a request for privacy or unspecified military interest to be considered
  • Rigmor: There would be those who think they could somehow get the knowledge of the Dwemer from them. They would be ruthless trying!
  • Lydia: Yes, that is one source of danger. The second is the possibility of almost immortal soldiers. Imagine an army of Gilded! Many governments and even individuals would try and recruit the existing ones or make their own. I think that pursuit would involve ruthlessness far beyond that of the Dwemer knowledge seekers.
  • Wulf: We need to find out what we can about the Gilded. For a start, why did they start helping Ludwig and then return to Nurndural? All except our two hosts.
  • Celestine: How many are there, and are they a danger to others only when defending their home?
  • Wulf: Depending on what we find, they may have to be declared citizens of The Empire for their protection.
  • Rigmor: Or they may have to be regarded as enemies. What happens to them then?
  • Wulf: Would we have the right to keep their existence secret either way?
  • Rigmor: I don’t think so. Their fate is not ours to decide alone.
  • Wulf: Let us not jump too far ahead with mountains of speculation.
  • Inigo: It can’t weigh much.
  • Lydia: What can’t weigh much?
  • Inigo: If there is a risk of jumping too far with mountains of speculation, it can’t be very heavy.
  • Wulf: Expert weirdness from Inigo! Well done!
  • Inigo: Thank you, my friend. I have learnt from the best.  
  • Rigmor: Lamashtu already knew a bit of Cyrodiilic when Nurndural was uncovered. It would not have been hard for her to learn Tamrielic as it is basically the same.
  • Inigo: Ludwig applauds Lamashtu’s command of Cyrodiilic. I think that is just a mistake.
  • Celestine: Why didn’t the other Gilded speak?
  • Wulf: We don’t have enough information. Could they not talk, or did they choose not to? Let me read the third journal as there may be information on that question.

I read the third journal, picked relevant sections, then read them to the others.

“Journal of Ludwig Chlodovech Part Three

1st of Sun’s Height, 4E 18

The staff are all leaving. This decision has been possible for some time and caused by fear of the Gilded. More and more of their number are effectively taking up residence in the castle, as they help with my work. As with Lamashtu and Lahar, they also took to observing the staff in their daily tasks. Never speaking, just watching. I think it all became too much.

The company is not doing well, so I have been told, therefore perhaps it is for the best. Less money is coming in. In truth, it is a relief; I never know what to say to them, anyway… even to Anneliese. She was always kind to me. She asked me to leave! That’s not something I could do, though. Especially not now.

I could have sworn that she looked… disappointed. It would be nice to think of why that might be… but that can’t be it. It must be my imagination.

Still, it is sad to think that I will likely not see her again.

In any case, Lamashtu was quick to point out that the staff are not even truly required any longer, not with her brethren being here and able to take up the work. Today I offered to pay them all a wage for this work, but Lamashtu declined, saying that all they needed was something to occupy them. Lahar echoed this sentiment.

I suppose I will have to take them at their word. None of the other Gilded will speak to me after all.

3rd of Hearthfire, 4E 20

Behold the simple tap or spigot! The pipes of cast metal to ferry the water, the appropriated Dwemer pump, and the steam to make it go. Steam! Steam under pressure! It makes it all go!

Now I have water at the turn of a tap. Heated water, even. That Dwemer boiler was perfect for the task.

23rd of First Seed, 4E 21

Today I have heard that Chlodovech Trading Company is no more. By all accounts, it was in a slow decline since the Red Year and mother’s death, but now it has finally happened.

We all have our share of the remaining wealth, and it is not insubstantial. I do not have to worry for myself or my remaining family. Indeed, I have continued my jewellery business all this time, even overseeing some of the Gilded in creating additional pieces.

Some things need arranging, but overall, this is nothing to fret over. Things here won’t change.

5th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 21

I can’t abide by first-time meetings. Can anyone? No one knows what to say to one another.

“Who are you?” They would say. “What is it that you do?” By which, of course, they mean, ‘Please describe your quantifiable worth to society in a short sentence.’

6th of Frostfall, 4E 21

Father’s beautiful glass garden perched atop the castle never did function as he wanted. It would never hold the warmth the plants needed; it all leeched out into the frigid mountain air, and the plants froze and died. Now that I can tap into that seemingly endless supply of pressurised steam produced by some unknown means deep in Nurndural, the glass garden is finally as warm and vaporous as I could ever want.

14th of Sun’s Dawn, 4E 23

A fantastic discovery today, though I would not have known it if not for Lamashtu.

In excavating a new room for the cellar, the workers struck what appears by its curve to be a great metal sphere. Dwemer metal – like everything down there – but unlike any other items of Dwemer manufacture that I have yet seen.

Lamashtu came to look at it, and it seems that she recognises it! After some thought, she said that it had been called a “machine for far-walking without steps”. A rough translation, I think. I am calling it the ‘Travel Machine’ for now, as that is its purpose. It is for teleporting one to a far-off location and back again.

She speaks of it as if of a barely-remembered thing from one’s childhood, but Lamashtu tells me that the machine is like a crossroads, with paths striking out in many directions from it. At the end of each road is a Terminus Machine, and this is where one would appear upon entering the Travel Machine here. Similarly, entering a Terminus Machine would bring one back here.

I have asked for the workers to uncover the sphere in its entirety. This discovery is fascinating!

30th of Hearthfire, 4E 23

The Travel Machine is to be my grand project.

Quite early on, we found a kind of removable panel on its surface. Behind it was etched a series of pictographs that Lamashtu aided me in deciphering. We have concluded that they are instructions for the assembly and operation of the machine!

The work required is lengthy and arduous. It would be impossible were the Gilded not here to help me. A large chamber to house it must be dug out and supported with stonework. The machine itself buried in the dirt for who knows how long. Excavation continues, but it is painstaking. After that, it must be raised, righted, and supported in place. Thorough cleaning is required, inside and out. Broken pieces must be re-cast and replaced.

It is to require an extraordinary amount of piping. A lot is going unused down in Nurndural, but will it be enough?

I expect this to take years… but it is the power of teleportation – and not just in the hands of powerful mages! It is hard to imagine what a boon it would have been to the Chlodovech Company… had it not closed its doors.

22nd of Second Seed, 4E 24

Work on the Travel Machine continues.

In the meantime, that Travel Machine has inspired me. I have designed and will build a structure that facilitates the fast transportation of items across the castle. It relies on the principles of pneumatic pressure to propel objects through pipes. These pipes having been laid beneath the floors and behind the walls.

My first practical test was a pipe that ran between a terminal in the kitchen and one in my bedroom. It worked much as I expected, though the early attempts were… messy.

I shall expand this structure of pipes throughout the castle. It will be more disruptive than the gaslights were as the pipes are much larger – but worth it in the end, I feel.

A funny thing, also: I have heard that, rather than Chlodovech Castle, people have come to call my home “Clockwork Castle”, for all the machinery here. It’s a fitting name, I think. I like it!

11th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 30

I am frustrated by the interminable work required by the Travel Machine. So much work, and yet so little to occupy my time! I simply lack the strength of the Gilded, and for now, there is nothing with which I can help.

To alleviate my boredom, I recently began work on a method for controlling the machine. It is something I’ve given a lot of thought to; how to inform the machine of where I want to go? I am sculpting what will become a cast-metal relief map of Skyrim.

Only Skyrim; Lamashtu assures me that it could not take one anywhere else. Once cast, I will affix mechanical buttons to it in the places on the map that the machine can take me.

It shall be beautiful; I certainly have the time to make it so.

4th of Frostfall, 4E 32

Today one of the Gilded workers struck me as we were working on the Travel Machine!

He had been giving me odd looks all morning, so I had kept an eye on him in turn and saw the blow coming in time to evade him almost entirely. He still caught me on the arm and knocked me to the floor, raising a nasty bruise. He stood above me, silent all the while, and for a moment, I feared for my life.

Fortunately, I then heard Lahar rounding the corner and looked to him for help. But now it was Lahar looking at me oddly – sprawled on the floor – as the worker had already turned back to his task as if nothing was amiss!

Still, I had to tell Lahar what had happened. I hardly feel safe around the Gilded these days. He said a soft something to the worker that I did not hear, and my assailant left for Nurndural without a word – later to be replaced by a different Gilded.

I am thankful that the machine is nearly finished.

20th of Sun’s Dusk, 4E 33

It is like tuning a musical instrument. Fine adjustments until the right tone is struck and the Travel Machine stirs to life, a bright blue portal shining in its heart. This trial and error determine where the thing can take us; which Terminus Machines out there yet function.

I was reluctant to go through the shimmering portal – how could we truly know where it led, or even if one would arrive with both life and limbs intact? What if an unfriendly person awaited on the other side? However, Lahar did not seem to share my concerns and strolled through the portal before I knew what he intended.

He was gone so long that I thought him lost – and when he returned, he was caked in dirt as if he had dug his way out of a grave. “I saw the banners of Whiterun!” He said to me. “The caravan brings us mead from there.”

I marked down the tuning then we moved to the next. Lahar went fearlessly into the portal again and again, though now I made him cover his metal body with what clothes would fit. He would be a strange sight indeed to anyone that might see him otherwise.

9th of Evening Star, 4E 33

Today I took my first steps outside Clockwork Castle in over a decade. How is it that so much time has passed?

It was well outside the castle, too. The Travel Machine works! I stood outside the Markarth Clockwork Terminus for several minutes, watching the crowds across the river entering and leaving the city. So many people.

And that was enough for me. I returned to make this entry. There were long years in which I thought this day would never come, but now it is here! The Machine works.

Now there is no more need for the caravans to make the trip through the Velothi Tunnels, delivering my supplies. Lahar has said that he will do it instead, using the Travel Machine.

18th of Midyear, 4E 35

This morning I awoke to find that all the Gilded – excepting Lamashtu and Lahar – had left during the night. Lahar says they have all returned to Nurndural.

To be honest, I am relieved. I was beginning to feel like a prisoner in my own home; I dared not enter a room if one of the workers was doing their chores. I don’t know how to describe it adequately, but for some time now, they have exuded such a sense of menace that I feel in danger around them.

Fortunately, Clockwork Castle has earned its name. With all the work I’ve done here – all the labour-saving machines – the workers are no longer needed. Lahar is more than enough. After all, there is no large entourage here to feed and clothe; no mothers, fathers, children and dogs. There is just me.

Only me.”

  • Wulf: Well, we were wrong, and a new mystery arises.
  • Rigmor: The ‘Terminus Machines’ were already in place. If the Chlodovech family didn’t have them built, who did?
  • Wulf: Lahar had to clear away rubble for the one in Whiterun, and the Markarth one was well outside of the city. It seems Ludwig had to use trial and error to find working ones, and then Lahar would travel to them to find out where they were.
  • Rigmor: On the map, they are all in or near each Hold’s main city.
  • Wulf: If the Terminus Machines were installed before the Dragon Break of 1E 700, we might never know who built them or why. If they were built after that, then logic dictates another person must have discovered a Travel Machine.
  • Inigo: Ludwig seems to have had low self-esteem.
  • Lydia: He would have had to endure many meetings with legal people involved with Chlodovech Trading Company’s insolvency. Maybe even creditors who might not have been all that civil.
  • Inigo: He seemed to have welcomed his isolation. I think he preferred the company of the silent and hardworking Gilded over fleshy people.
  • Lydia: It seems a woman may have loved him.
  • Rigmor: What do you think, Wulf?
  • Wulf: Anneliese probably never said the three words.
  • Rigmor: How hard can it be to say, ‘I love you.’?
  • Wulf: Maybe she was afraid Ludwig would end up with an arrow in his neck?
  • Rigmor: Droll. Very droll.
  • Wulf: At least that makes a change from weird.
  • Celestine: Your assumption was right about the Travel Machine being found and not constructed by Ludwig.
  • Lydia: I find it strange the Gilded did not speak to Ludwig, but large numbers helped him dig out the Travel Machine and build the room to house it.
  • Rigmor: Ludwig taught them how to make jewellery, so there was an exchange of knowledge with other Gilded and not just with Lamashtu.
  • Lydia: They worked for ten years to get the Travel Machine working, and then Ludwig only used it once.
  • Wulf: 20th of Sun’s Dusk in the year 4E 33. That was the first time Lahar took a trip through the Travel Machine. What is special about that date?
  • Celestine: That is the date of the caravan journal entry you read to us.
  • Wulf: That was well remembered!
  • Rigmor: Celestine, please don’t develop a memory like Wulf’s. Be normal like the rest of us.
  • Lydia: Rigmor, you need that type of memory for when you disagree with Wulf. You can bring up examples of what he said or did from years before and destroy his arguments.
  • Rigmor: Ah, yes! I remember my mother doing that with dad.
  • Wulf: We don’t argue. Rigmor knows I am always right.
  • Rigmor: Excuse me!
  • Wulf: Just joking, my dear.
  • Inigo: Why do you think one of the Gilded struck Ludwig?
  • Wulf: It seems they all had an air of violence about them before they went back to Nurndural. The reason why can only be speculative. We don’t know enough about their history or how they were made Gilded.
  • Inigo: Maybe the answer is in the last journal.
  • Wulf: Okay, time for number four.

As with the previous three, I read the fourth journal to myself then read out selected entries.

“Journal of Ludwig Chlodovech Part Four

5th of Sun’s Height, 4E 37

An awful realisation has been in my thoughts lately. Or rather than a realisation, a question. If I were to die – say of some accident in the workroom – how long would it be until I was found? The answer, I think, is that the longer I stay here, out of the world, the more any knowledge or memories of me will fade from those out there – and the longer it would be until I was found, tending towards infinity.

It’s almost mathematical.

13th of Evening Star, 4E 44

It occurs to me that I am so accustomed to the useful machines in Clockwork Castle that I can scarcely imagine life without them, and yet… do devices like these exist anywhere else?

They could improve the lives of others too, but would anyone accept them? ‘What real use would these contraptions be?’ They would ask, or ‘How could we possibly afford to build such extravagances?’

And yet, I spend all my days in the Work Room, crafting machines and objects of utility and beauty. Perhaps one day, when I’ve done enough – when I’m finished – I can show it all to someone.

10th of Frostfall, 4E 53

I cannot remember the last time I spoke aloud.

Once there was so much to say! So much to learn from Lamashtu and so much to organise with Lahar. Now though, everything is settled. Every moment runs into the next with the precision and predictability of a perfect machine. Every day is the same. There is nothing more to say.

When was the last time I spoke to someone from outside the castle? Someone not made of metal. It must have been around when the Travel Machine was completed. Has it been so long?

I don’t know that I could raise my voice anymore, not even to save my life. I don’t want it to be heard.

29th of First Seed, 4E 54

They’re warm to the touch, aren’t they? Am I not warm? Lamashtu, Lahar… the lady in the walls; they are all so cold…

1st of Hearthfire, 4E 60

Clocks driven by soul gems:

Marking time for eternity.

Are they aware?

What do they see with no eyes?

What do they feel with no skin?

7th of Midyear, 4E 68

Does the mind require other minds to inform its thoughts? Do they otherwise reflect backwards uselessly and endlessly unchanged? An echo chamber… but I say nothing. Could I still speak? I dare not speak.

7th of Sun’s Dusk, 4E 83

I do nothing but sit here in this chamber, the cobwebs growing about me and the dust staining my skin.

I could not bear their eyes upon me, and the weight of the judgement behind those eyes would be too much as well. I think I shall simply stay here, instead.

There is a feeling rising in me… that my time here is growing short. It is evident to me that I should note down my last will, but then there is no one to give it all to, and I have nothing to offer in any case. Who would want what I have?

I don’t want to reflect on my life. It was no good. Really, it’s no good.

Surely though… it was better than nothing.”

  • Wulf: There is no entry telling us when he isolated himself in that hidden room.
  • Rigmor: Was he insane?
  • Wulf: He could have been senile. His journal entries had years in between for the last couple of decades.
  • Celestine: Isolation can cause insanity. Many examples are documented in texts we read as part of Restoration classes at the College.
  • Rigmor: I remember not knowing what time of day it was. How long was it since my last meal? How long have I slept?
  • Celestine: Incarcerators will often vary meal times, sometimes even serving the same type of meal close together. They will also deliberately wake somebody after a few minutes of sleep and tell them they had hours of sleep. All sorts of tricks are used to confuse the prisoner. That can lead to insanity.
  • Rigmor: Incarcerators? Is that a polite term for scum-sucking shitheads?
  • Celestine: Yes, I suppose it is.
  • Wulf: Even if none of those methods is applied, isolation in itself can cause issues.
  • Lydia: Sadly, he didn’t think his life added up to much.
  • Inigo: But better than nothing.
  • Wulf: We have not had a detailed look around, but I am sure we will find examples of Ludwig’s jewellery. That in itself is a mark of the man as much as any piece of artwork is.
  • Rigmor: His jewellery is probably still precious to many people. Tokens of love or catalysts for memories. That is a worthwhile legacy.
  • Wulf: This house, although started by his father, ended up an extension of Ludwig. It is magnificent and also a worthwhile legacy.
  • Celestine: The most important thing is he offered friendship to those who others would have shunned.
  • Wulf: Wisdom comes after death. He will now look back on his life and see it as worthwhile. I am sure many people are morose when death is imminent.
  • Rigmor: He spent fifty years without seeing another person of flesh. I can’t imagine it.
  • Wulf: Clocks surrounded Ludwig. Several of them chiming every hour to remind him of the passage of time.
  • Rigmor: What are we going to do now?
  • Wulf: I will do Arkay’s Law for Ludwig, then ask Lahar to place him in the mausoleum. Any of you that wish can join me.
  • Rigmor: We will all join you.
  • Wulf: I thought of teleporting to the College and asking Urag to find some information for me.
  • Celestine: One mention of this place, and he will have a team of apprentices scouring the library for information.
  • Wulf: Maybe a select few who can keep quiet about it.
  • Celestine: Oh, of course.
  • Rigmor: You almost got away with it.
  • Wulf: With what?
  • Rigmor: Ludwig saw the ghost, and she came through the wall. That is what!
  • Wulf: But she did him no harm.
  • Rigmor: You have arranged for us all to share a room just in case. You suspected she might be able to appear inside the house.
  • Wulf: I honestly don’t think the ghost will be a problem. She wanted me here and has no reason to harm us.
  • Inigo: I am sure if the creepy ghost lady appears, Wulf will run away screaming. The rest of us can then get some sleep.
  • Rigmor: That sounds reasonable. I was only worried about my sleep.
  • Wulf: Remind me why I love you.

We made our way back to the hidden room where I performed Arkay’s Rights over Ludwig.

I noticed the apparatus he mentioned in his journal had a broken pipe. If he was relying on that for food delivery, he might have starved to death.

The others filed out of the room, but when I tried, Lamashtu blocked the entrance and demanded, “What are you doing?”

My friends approached as they wanted to hear what Lamashtu said.

  • Wulf: I have just performed the Rights of Arkay for Ludwig. I did that to protect his soul from misuse.
  • Lamashtu: Ludwig? I have not spoken to him for a long time.
  • Rigmor: Ludwig died almost one hundred and twenty years ago.
  • Lamashtu: I forgot about death. It was a long time ago for me.
  • Wulf: You died once and will do so again. You are immortal in the sense of old age or disease may not kill you, but violence or significant physical trauma will. You are similar to vampires and dragons, who we regard as immortal.
  • Rigmor: You were a Dwemer who turned into Gilded. Is that correct?

Like Lahar, Lamashtu seemed hesitant to talk about what she was.

  • Lamashtu: I am nearly four thousand years old. For me, time is… difficult.
  • Rigmor: Please, can you explain what you mean?
  • Lamashtu: Men and Mer are victims of time, whereas I… I turn for a moment to ponder, and when I turn back, you are all dead!
  • Wulf: It is you who is a victim of time. One curse of the long-lived is to watch those they care for die. Another is to finding something to occupy their time.
  • Lamashtu: Towards the end, Ludwig shut himself away and would see no one. Items such as books, food and drink were sent up using the Pneumatic Tube system. For a time, Lahar continued to deliver his food, and it seemed Ludwig was eating it.
  • Celestine: Vermin would have consumed the food after Ludwig died.
  • Lamashtu: Yes, I believe now that vermin began to eat the food once Ludwig stopped.
  • Celestine: It was fortunate Lahar keep sending food. It prevented the vermin from eating Ludwig. By the time Lahar stopped sending food, Lahar would not have interested the vermin.
  • Wulf: I will ask Lahar to intern Ludwig’s body in the family mausoleum.
  • Lamashtu: Yes, caretaking is Lahar’s sole interest. You should ask him.

Lamashtu walked away. Rigmor and I went looking for Lahar. The Sentinels stayed in the Master Bedroom and passed around Ludwig’s journals. They wanted to read them in their entirety to honour Ludwig’s life.

We found Lahar in the kitchen, cooking the stew.

  • Lahar: I saw Lamashtu walk by. She did not talk to me. That is unusual.
  • Rigmor: I think she was disturbed by our discovery of Ludwig’s body.
  • Lahar: Ludwig is dead? That is a terrible shame.
  • Wulf: Could you please inter Ludwig’s body in the family mausoleum?
  • Lahar: Yes, we set aside a place for him. Where is he?
  • Rigmor: He is in a small room just off the Main Bedroom. We have left the sliding door open, so you will have no trouble finding him.
  • Lahar: I shall also clean the area surrounding his body. It must be very dusty by now.
  • Rigmor: You are a very efficient caretaker!
  • Lahar:  I caught rabbits for the stew.
  • Wulf: Oh, I didn’t know you were going to use fresh rabbits. That is wonderful!
  • Rigmor: Where did you find rabbits?
  • Lahar: The children who once lived here released four into the valley when they left. There are now thousands in the valley. They are faster than I remember, but my broom was quicker. Whack, whack, whack… three delicious, juicy rabbits for dinner! I will have to wash the rabbit bits off my broom.
  • Wulf: Thank you once more, Lahar. I am looking forward to a nice rabbit stew.

As we walked towards the Main Bedroom, I could not stifle a laugh at Rigmor’s shock. She demanded, “What is so funny?”

“You do realise that for us to eat meat, animals have to die?”

“It is the casual way he described killing the poor bunnies!”

“The delicious, juicy bunnies?”

“I don’t know if I can eat the stew now.”

“As soon as the aroma hits your nose, your stomach will override any objections.”

“I will go join the others reading Ludwig’s journals. Are you heading for the College now?”

“No. I am exhausted. We all are. I think I will just sit and relax while I wait for the whacked bunny stew.”

“The poor things.”

“Their families are probably wondering where they are.”

“I don’t even want to think about that!”

“Mummy Rabbit, where is Daddy Rabbit? I told you before, Junior. Your Daddy has been invited to dinner.”

“That is the last straw. I will not eat the stew!”

Lahar has just come through like a whirlwind and cleared the used dishes from the table. Rigmor ended up eating two bowls of the stew! I am looking around the dining table, and everybody seems ready to collapse.

We made our way to the servant’s wing that has been cleaned, and the beds changed.

With Inigo’s help, I pushed one of the single beds next to another so Rigmor and I could enjoy our peace as we slept.

We all climbed into our beds in various stages of undress.

I have no idea what time I fell asleep. I know it was to the snoring of two and the dream mumbling of others.

5 thoughts on “The Gilded

  1. Love it! You’ve filled in some gaps I had playing this mod. Gives New Meaning to the phrase, When you stop wanting to learn, you die. Thank You Mark

  2. Yes, Mark does a good job filling in the gaps, even makes new one so he can fill them in to. I have played this mod as well, its a good one. Like I said earlier, I just walked around the house looking at all of the paintings they were beautiful. Mark, did you only have to replace the power supply?

    1. Yes, just the power supply. Old fashioned service where they replaced it and tested everything while I waited. The type of service I used to give in my seven computer stores.

  3. Lucky, I know the computer bits are fairly robust but a crook pcu can give these bits a big jolt in power usage. What size did you end up with?

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