A broken heart

Tirdas, 23rd Evening Star, 4E 201

After a hearty breakfast of sausages, beans and eggs, we have made our way to the patio. As expected, Lamashtu is staring ahead and pondering. I wonder if she pondered for the decades Ludwig locked himself away and the almost hundred and twenty years after he died? Perhaps our arrival is the only thing that stopped her pondering?

Lamashtu turned to greet us, which I was not expecting.

  • Lamashtu: You are still here.
  • Wulf: We want to make the Travelling Machine functional.
  • Lamashtu: I see.
  • Wulf: We need to repair some pipes in Nurndural to fix the Travelling Machine.
  • Lamashtu: Yes. Then you can stay.
  • Rigmor: Stay in Clockwork Castle?
  • Lamashtu: It is simple. You are trapped here. Therefore, you cannot leave here. Therefore, you must live here.
  • Wulf: We can leave whenever we wish. Celestine and I are mages. We can cast teleport spells and are not reliant on the Travelling Machine. I could also call a dragon to fly me out of here.
  • Lamashtu: I see.
  • Wulf: We have to travel through the mausoleum to get to Nurndural. Is that correct?
  • Lamashtu: Yes, that is correct.
  • Wulf: Lahar told us that you have the key to the mausoleum. May I have it, please?
  • Lamashtu: Yes, I made Lahar give me the key long ago. He can be… simple.
  • Celestine: Forgetful is probably the more appropriate word. Lahar forgets keys. You forgot about death.
  • Lamashtu: I had not thought of things that way. However, it is the danger our brethren present that he forgets. I do believe if Lahar went back down there to try and fix the pipeline, he might never return.
  • Rigmor: You care for Lahar! Forgive me if I sound surprised. Love and compassion are not often associated with the Dwemer.

Lamashtu seemed to ponder Rigmor’s words for a few seconds. Then she handed me the key.

  • Lamashtu: Here is the key. It is good that you are willing to try and fix the pipeline.
  • Wulf: We have read Ludwig’s journals and have many questions.
  • Lamashtu: I will try and answer the best I can.
  • Wulf: You were once a Dwemer. Now you are Gilded. You have your original skeleton and a Soul Gem containing your soul. Is this correct?
  • Lamashtu: I am a machine of bone and metal.
  • Wulf: Dwemer automatons such as Centurions, Spheres and Spiders have Soul Gems inside but are not sentient. They do not have free will or emotions. They are machines, but yourself and Lahar are not!
  • Lamashtu: I am a machine. I am made of bones and metal.
  • Celestine: You and Lahar do not speak of yourselves as people, but that is what you are! You are not an animal, nor undead, nor a machine. Were you once Dwemer?
  • Lamashtu: Somewhat.
  • Wulf: Lamashtu, why did you decide to become Gilded?
  • Lamashtu: You would not understand.
  • Wulf: You would be surprised at what I understand. I am not ignorant of time and mortality. But I will leave that subject for now. Perhaps you can tell me about the Ghost of a female Dwemer we encountered in the Velothi tunnels. It has visited Clockwork Castle, according to Ludwig’s journals.
  • Lamashtu: Ghosts are not particularly unusual. They are a recognised phenomenon.
  • Wulf: I have encountered many ghosts and other forms of undead. I have visited many Dwemer cities and Blackreach. I have never before met a Dwemer undead. She wanted me to come here and collapsed the tunnels behind me to ensure I did.
  • Lamashtu: I see.
  • Rigmor: Lamashtu, it is annoying when you keep saying, ‘I see’.
  • Lamashtu: Annoying… I see.
  • Wulf: The ghost made a wailing siren sound on occasions.
  • Lamashtu: A sound… I see.
  • Wulf: Why are you and Lahar different than the Gilded who never spoke to Ludwig and have returned to Nurndural.
  • Lamashtu: Though we may all look the same, we are not.
  • Wulf: Can you please explain the difference?
  • Lamashtu: Three children wrote their names upon the world. The first gouged it into the dirt. The second carved into the flesh of a tree. The third chipped in into solid stone. Thus, they recorded their memory upon the world. The first child’s name was washed away with the first rain. The second child’s name grew and distorted with the tree until it dies. The memory survives but twisted almost beyond recognition. The third child’s name remains unchanged for as long as the stone endures.
  • Rigmor: The Dwemer were of the first child. The Gilded below are of the second child. You and Lahar are of the third child. Is that correct?
  • Lamashtu: No, that is incorrect. The Gilded down below are the first children. Lahar is a second child. I am the third.
  • Wulf: Those below cannot remember their names. They have no identity and do not know how they should behave. Lahar is not what he was originally, but you are unchanged. There are several first children. There were several second children. You are the third child that carved her name in stone and are unique.
  • Lamashtu: Correct.
  • Lydia: Lamashtu, can you explain to me how you speak? You have no tongue, lips or throat to form the words. You have no lungs to create air over vocal cords.
  • Lamashtu: My heart shivers in my chest, and words are produced from my speaker horn.
  • Wulf: When that happens to me, I get heartburn.
  • Lamashtu: I see.
  • Wulf: Thank you for answering our questions. We shall go to Nurndural now and repair the pipes.

There was no reply from Lamashtu, who turned around and stared straight ahead once more. All I can see in the direction she looks is a mountain.

We moved away from Lamashtu so we could talk.

  • Wulf: I think her name is not as carved in stone as she believes. If she were flesh and blood, I would say she is senile.
  • Rigmor: I see.
  • Wulf: I won the bet and now owe myself a Sweet Roll. I knew you could not resist saying that.
  • Rigmor: Smart arse… I see.
  • Lydia: I think she was vague because she can’t remember. Is that why you think she is senile?
  • Wulf: What happens to a mind when it doesn’t have stimuli? When every day is the same as the one before?
  • Lydia: Do you think what happened to Ludwig is happening to Lamashtu?
  • Wulf: Senility can happen due to old age, but I think a lack of stimulation can accelerate it or even cause it. The mind atrophies without new experiences to create new memories. Well, that is my theory.
  • Rigmor: But what about Paarthurnax? There is not much stimulation at The Throat of the World.
  • Wulf: Dragons experience time differently than mortals. They are more aware of it due to their connection with Akatosh. But they are immortal and feel no need to use their precious time doing something. It is impossible to waste time when it is unlimited.
  • Rigmor: Yesterday, you told Lamashtu that part of her curse is to find things to occupy her time. Why would her experience be different from Paarthurnax’s?
  • Wulf: This is hard to explain because time is a sense to Dov and me. It is no different than hearing or sight. Imagine trying to explain colours to a person blind from birth. But ignoring their affinity for time, the most significant difference is a dragon is born immortal. That is why Dragonrend works. It forces Dov to think of time like a mortal and realise their mortality. Lamashtu was a Dwemer and mortal. Her transformation to Gilded does not remove that fundamental part of her psyche. She stands out here and stares at nothing. It is like going into a trance or sleeping. Time no longer plays on her mind like the constant chiming of clocks or the motions of the sun and phases of the moons would do. It may help her deal with the sense of sequential time passing, but it does not stimulate her mind, and so it stagnates.
  • Rigmor: I sort of understand what you are saying. I will have to think about it a bit more.
  • Inigo: So, if we do not stimulate our brains, we end up like Ludwig and Lamashtu?
  • Wulf: Basically, yes.
  • Rigmor: Do you think the Gilded ever remembered being Dwemer and have lost those memories?
  • Wulf: I think they remember parts of their previous life as distant memories. I don’t know what it is like to remember childhood experiences. When you think of a childhood experience, are you sure of the details, or are parts vague and might be imagination instead of reality?
  • Rigmor: Some memories are as clear as if they happened yesterday. The happiest and saddest events are like that. Other memories are vague. I am not sure where they occurred and sometimes who was there, but I am sure they happened.
  • Wulf: What did you have for breakfast one week ago?
  • Rigmor: Umm… kippers, I think. Or it could have been porridge and toast.
  • Wulf: You are unsure of the details but know you had breakfast.
  • Rigmor: Yes.
  • Wulf: Did you eat anything between meals because you were peckish that day? If so, what did you eat?
  • Rigmor: I don’t remember if I did, but usually it is some sort of fruit when I do.
  • Wulf: So, something from a week ago that is not routine is a vague maybe?
  • Rigmor: I see. Something from four thousand years ago, when Lamashtu was a Dwemer, would be a vague memory. She will be unsure if she remembers it correctly.
  • Wulf: That is as close as I can describe what I think is happening when she tries to recall being a Dwemer. Forgetting something like that is a phenomenon that all mortals experience. Dementia might make you forget things, but it is a different and accelerated process.
  • Celestine: The process of becoming Gilded may delete memories.
  • Wulf: Memory is a complex subject, and when time is thrown into the mix, we could stand here and grow old discussing it. Let us go to Nurndural and see what wonders await.
  • Inigo: Good. My brain was getting dizzy, and I think Mr Dragonfly is talking to himself!

We had to walk through Clockwork Castle and passed Lahar on the way.

“Lahar, I don’t think there is any dust left in the castle for you to sweep.”

“I am just making sure my broom has survived its encounter with the feral rabbits.”

We have made a quick detour to see the condition of the Morrowind tunnel. The entrance is completely caved in.

The mausoleum is on the opposite side of the estate to the Morrowind tunnel.

The main steam pipe leading from Nurndural snakes through the building.

Near the entrance is a Shrine to Arkay. So now we know the Chlodovech family worshipped The Nine.

We have stopped at Ludwig’s sarcophagus. The plaque on it reads, ‘Here lies Ludwig Chlodovech 3E 431 – 4E’. That made him at least eighty-five years of age when he died.

We have come to the part of the wall where the builders broke into the Dwemer ruins and faced Gilded for the first time.

A doorway led to some spiral stairs with wooden planks on them.

All newer construction has ceased at the bottom of the stairs, and the ancient Dwemer freehold of Nurndural begins. Gaslights provide lighting. A raised portcullis blocks our exit.

I approached the bars, then a female Gilded walked over and faced me. Lydia stood next to me to have a closer look. Two other Gilded stood nearby.

  • First Gilded: You know, sometimes.
  • Second Gilded: Sometimes I get to thinking.
  • Third Gilded: You know me.
  • First Gilded: Why don’t you come away?
  • Second Gilded: No… I won’t bite.
  • Third Gilded: I won’t bite your face.
  • First Gilded: Come away with me.
  • Third Gilded: Closed eyes and sky wide open.
  • Second Gilded: It’s bright and blue and shimmering.
  • Wulf: Lydia, move out of the way!
  • First Gilded: Come away with me. I won’t bite your face. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep.

Lydia scrambled behind me, and we all drew our weapons.

One of the Gilded pulled a lever causing the bars to lower.

I hit the Gilded in front of me with a full-strength Unrelenting Force Shout. That would usually disintegrate an opponent of flesh but did not stop the Gilded.

She was a Spellsword. Her weapon was lost to her, but she prepared a spell as she arose.

I ‘knocked her down’ with a single sword strike.

Lydia despatched one Gilded with her bow. Inigo and Rigmor teamed up to bring down the last of the three.

I inspected the fallen Gilded. I turned over the one Lydia brought down so everybody could see the Gilded’s face.

  • Wulf: The first children do not have face masks.
  • Rigmor: That is disturbing! I much prefer the faces of Lamashtu and Lahar.
  • Wulf: Their speaking horns are in the same place as Lahar. So, apart from the visible skull, this female looks the same as him.
  • Inigo: Except the females have large…ah…
  • Rigmor: They have large breastplates.
  • Inigo: Yes, the females have large breastplates.
  • Lydia: Lamashtu’s speaking horn points to her right.
  • Rigmor: Terrific. Now we know the difference between a boy and a girl Gilded. But we still don’t know how they are made.
  • Wulf: Maybe they get horny?
  • Rigmor: Wulf!
  • Wulf: Weird?
  • Celestine: Not as weird as the gibberish they were speaking.
  • Wulf: Gibberish? What a great word!
  • Celestine: Yes, it does have a ring to it, doesn’t it?
  • Wulf: It is not as good as Albatross but not bad at all.
  • Rigmor: Hello, Dragonborn and young mage. What about the stuff the Gilded said?
  • Wulf: They are just ravings of demented minds.
  • Rigmor: Yes, but why did the Gilded never talk to Ludwig if they can speak?
  • Wulf: I am one hundred per cent sure I have no idea whatsoever.
  • Inigo: My friend, are you positively ignorant?
  • Celestine: Or is Wulf negatively knowledgeable?
  • Lydia: He is as clueless as a blue Khajiit pondering a bar of soap.
  • Rigmor: I wonder how long they stay down?
  • Wulf: Good question. Let’s wait ten minutes and see if they do.
  • Rigmor: It won’t be as cool as those skeletons whose bones attract each other like magnets and then reassemble themselves!

We have waited ten minutes, and none of the Gilded got back up.

  • Wulf: That is long enough for them not to pose much of a threat.
  • Celestine: I was worried we would have to keep fighting the same ones continuously.
  • Rigmor: They were probably more robust than your average bandit but no match for us.
  • Lydia: I brought one down with a single arrow, but Rigmor and Inigo hit another at least twice each before it fell. So, they vary significantly in robustness.
  • Wulf: Robustness is another excellent word!

We exited via a storage room and can see Nurndural for the first time. We are standing on a ledge overlooking a vast cavern. A series of walkways and platforms connect Nurndural’s buildings. A Dwemer Globe provides light from above.

Rigmor warned me, “My dear Dragonborn. If you are tempted to hit the Dwemer Globe with Unrelenting Force, I advise you to rethink. We don’t want to kill the Gilded, and you don’t want to kill a dragon.”

Gilded are standing sentry at ramps and doorways. I wonder how long they have been there? Did they take up their positions after we arrived at Chlodovech Castle or hundreds of years ago when Ludwig’s family found them? They have noticed us but are reluctant to leave set patrol areas. That indicates discipline beyond that of Falmer and bandits.

There is not a single conduit for the steam but many pipelines that crisscross the chasm. Breaches in the pipelines are visible even from this distance.

We walked to and examined the nearest broken section of pipe.

  • Wulf: It looks more like a rupture than the damage done during an earthquake.
  • Rigmor: Huh?
  • Celestine: If the break in the pipes were caused by falling rubble, the broken ends would look different. The jagged edges would point down.
  • Wulf: This looks like the pressure in the pipe was too high, and this section wasn’t strong enough to withstand it.
  • Rigmor: An earthquake didn’t cause the broken pipes?
  • Wulf: Indirectly, yes. They are using parallel piping to reduce the amount of pressure along one stream. Another section of pipe may have been dented, which stopped steam travelling through it.
  • Celestine: Or machinery or valves directing some of the steam along other piping was damaged.
  • Rigmor: Instead of distributing the steam equally along the parallel streams, too much was fed through one or more?
  • Wulf: That is my conclusion from the ruptures I can see from here.
  • Lydia: Will that make it harder to fix them?
  • Wulf: Easier. Wait till we repair this one, and you will see why.

Next to the broken pipe were replacement pipe sections. What I have decided to call a ‘pipe repair kit’.

  • Wulf: The steam is not overly hot, but Dwemer metal conducts the heat well, so don’t touch anything without your gauntlets on.
  • Celestine: The repair piping is slightly larger in diameter than the two end sections.
  • Wulf: We will need to straighten the bent pipe ends first.
  • Celestine: The spare pipe is halved along its length. We will need to hold the two halves together while you weld it with Magicka.
  • Wulf: I don’t think any holding will be needed. The pipes halves loosely interlock. When I apply heat along the seam, the interlocks will all snap in place permanently.
  • Lydia: So why is this more manageable than if rubble fell on the pipe and broke it?
  • Wulf: We only have to straighten the bent pipe ends and not a bent pipe.
  • Lydia: Ah… gotcha!
  • Rigmor: Some Gilded are staring at us.
  • Wulf: Celestine and Lydia, help me repair the pipe while Inigo and Rigmor guard us.

I had to heat the pipe so we could bend the ragged ends straight. It was reasonably easy for me to hold one half of the repair pipe over the fracture while the ladies clicked the other half into position.

I then applied heat along the seam causing the interlocks to snap into place. The repaired section was probably as robust as the original pipe had been.

“For Talos!” yelled Rigmor. That was the first I knew of an attacking Gilded. By the time I looked over to her, the Gilded had been knocked over.

Other Gilded decided to attack with sword, bow and spell.

After taking care of half a dozen Gilded, Inigo boasted, “This is too easy!” I laughed when a fireball hit him a split second later.

I don’t want to enter any of the buildings if we can find pipe repair kits elsewhere. We have decided to search the cavern first.

We have entered one area that looks like Blackreach. I am reasonably sure a city of this size will have a route to Blackreach.

There is a Dwemer Lift that will take us to the bottom of the cavern. We have decided to head for it rather than fight our way down many ramps.

Water pouring into the cavern from outside was channelled by spillways. Magma covered some of the cavern floor. The Dwemer did not need a significant source of Magicka to produce the steam they required. The natural resources of Nurndural created steam using fairly basic machinery. The water and magma, along with common chemicals, was used to produce the flammable gas used in the gaslights.

We arrived at the Dwemer Lift, and I pulled the lever. We were quickly lowered to the floor of the cavern.

As soon as the lift stopped, a Gilded attacked me. Inigo knocked it down with an arrow to its chest.

I showed the others how close the Gilded came to being killed. Inigo’s arrow had penetrated its armour and was dangerously close to reaching the Soul Gem.

Many Gilded headed our way. Rather than risk killing them, we headed for the nearest building. It was the only one we had seen with speaking horns attached!

There were aggressive Gilded inside the building, but we would have had to deal with far more outside.

After several minutes of knocking down Gilded, we found a pipe repair kit.

Parts of the building showed significant damage consistent with an earthquake.

We found a dead Gilded.

I checked his ribcage, and there was no sign of a Soul Gem.

Other Gilded bones were nearby.

Three sets of raised bars denied access to a large part of the building.

Levers used to raise and lower the bars had been removed.

I am using zoom vision to look around the blocked off area. I can see a Dwemer Ballista in the middle of the large room. Why the Dwemer or Gilded needed one of those in here, I can only speculate.

The only Dwemer automatons we encountered were spiders.

We found some more pipe repair kits but decided three was enough. They were too cumbersome to carry and fight.

We found many more dead Gilded.

  • Wulf: These Gilded were murdered. Somebody or something has harvested their Soul Gems.
  • Rigmor: Could it just be some infighting amongst the Gilded? When one of them is knocked down, perhaps their opponent removes the Soul Gem to stop them from rising again?
  • Wulf: That is a possibility.
  • Celestine: They all say weird phrases, which means they are somewhat insane. Perhaps some of them get so bad they are a danger to others?
  • Wulf: Unfortunately, we don’t know enough yet to explain the dead ones.
  • Rigmor: Are we heading back to the cavern?
  • Wulf: Yes. Let us repair two ruptures. Then we will find a forge, and I will try making our own using the third repair kit as a model.
  • Inigo: Working Dwemer metal is another skill you just happened to wake up knowing?
  • Wulf: Yep. It is one of the easier metals to work with. Ludwig taught himself.

I have decided to use Lightning to take down aggressive Gilded. It is quick, and I have less chance of accidentally killing them.

We repaired a pipe that was above a forge and anvil.

We then repaired a vertical pipe. We had to place a temporary ramp to reach it.

We made our way to the forge, which was surrounded by magma.

Rigmor stared at the magma then exclaimed, “Look, Wulf, at how mesmerising and beautiful it is.”

I replied, “It is not as mesmerising or beautiful as the Countess of Bruma!” and was rewarded with a wonderful smile.

The Sentinels guarded me as I copied the repair kit and forged the necessary parts. It took several hours of hot work. Usually, I would use a blacksmith’s apron to protect against splashes and heat. Since I didn’t have one available, I toiled in my armour. I was relieved when I completed the last one.

We repaired the rest of the pipes. It was pretty routine except for the last one. It was the highest, and we had to balance over a sheer drop to repair that section of pipe.

Not far from there was a small platform over the drop. Etched upon it were glowing Dwemer glyphs.

  • Rigmor: What does it say?
  • Wulf: I am not as proficient at reading Dwemer as I should be. I think it says, ‘Have you always wanted to fly? Here is your chance!’
  • Inigo: The things the first children say. The bone sculptors of the Dwemer ghost and now this. We are dealing with a macabre sense of humour. I wonder if that is a Dwemer trait?
  • Lydia: What do you mean? I thought, ‘Come away with me. I won’t bite your face.’ was a Khajiit pick-up line.
  • Inigo: And the Nord, ‘Wanna root?’ is better?
  • Celestine: Only a sophisticated Nord says that. Most of them just grunt, beat their chest then point to their groin. That includes the women.
  • Lydia: Including your Guard Captain, Celestine?
  • Celestine: He is part Breton and a gentleman.
  • Lydia: Oh, I hope that part is not Breton. Size does matter!
  • Rigmor: One point for the Nord lady.

We made our way back to the mausoleum. As soon as we entered it, I said, “Remember I mentioned I could hear a noise when the ghost is close? I can hear it now, but it is much clearer. It is a tune. It is music.” Rigmor did not look pleased with the prospect of seeing our ghostly friend.

The first time that we witnessed knocked over Gilded getting back up was in the mausoleum. They were the three we first encountered.

I cast Lightning and knocked them back down again.

Rigmor said, “I find it a bit inconvenient they just lay around till we got close. They had hours to heal!”

“Perhaps they have to lay around for even longer to return to complete fitness? When we approached, the Gilded decided they were not completely healed but well enough to attack.”

“So, if we approached most of those in Nurndural that we knocked over, they would not stand up till we got close.”

“It would vary between Gilded but yes, most probably.”

Not much further on, I warned my friends, “The ghost is very close!”

We turned a corner and discovered Lamashtu talking to the ghost. She spoke in her native tongue, so I could not understand a word of what was being said. It was apparent that she was engaged in a conversation, although the ghost did not speak.

The ghost must have warned Lamashtu because the Gilded abruptly stopped speaking, turned and approached us.

  • Lamashtu: You’re back.
  • Wulf: I see you do know the Dwemer ghost. Who is she?
  • Lamashtu: I do not understand. I am just standing here.
  • Rigmor: We all saw you talking to the ghost we encountered in the Velothi Tunnel.
  • Lamashtu: There was only me.

The same siren we heard in the tunnels blared for a short time. Then the ghost walked away, and the music faded.

  • Rigmor: Okay, Lamashtu, explain the siren
  • Lamashtu: A siren… there was a siren. It reminds me of a long time ago…
  • Wulf: We have repaired the steam pipes.
  • Lamashtu: Tell Lahar. He will be pleased.

Lamashtu walked away.

I turned to my friends.

  • Wulf: Well, what do you think?
  • Rigmor: She seemed to be having a normal conversation.
  • Celestine: But was she talking to voices in her head, or was the ghost using telepathy?
  • Wulf: Do you think she was lying about the ghost?
  • Lydia: No. It would make no sense to deny the existence of something five witnesses saw.
  • Inigo: My friend, I do not get the impression Lamashtu lies.
  • Wulf: I agree that she wasn’t lying. I think we have to consider what she said. Specifically, the meaning of, ‘There was only me.’
  • Celestine: Maybe she sees the ghost but regards it as herself. She is talking to herself.
  • Wulf: That is an excellent explanation and maybe the truth.
  • Rigmor: But you, being the gobblygook loving person you are, have a theory. Undoubtedly it will be a weirdo idea that is far away from that logical, simple solution.
  • Wulf: You know me well!
  • Rigmor: I might regret this but, tell us your theory.
  • Wulf: What if my Dovah half split away and stood there in ghost form. Part of my soul cast adrift. Would I not be speaking to myself? Would I not claim that there was only me?
  • Rigmor: Assuming that could happen, you have two distinct entities sharing a single soul. A Dwemer only had one.
  • Wulf: We don’t know how a Gilded is created from Dwemer. But neither Lamashtu nor Lahar behaves like those god denying atheists who enslaved a whole race. I cannot reconcile their behaviour with all we know about the Dwemer.
  • Celestine: Do you think part of what made them a Dwemer was removed during the Gilding process?
  • Wulf: Yes. Either via design or accident, the Gilded are a highly modified version of Dwemer.
  • Celestine: And the ghost is the part of Lamashtu’s soul that was discarded?
  • Wulf: That is my purely hypothetical theory.
  • Rigmor: You think the ghost wants you to do something. That is why she led you here.
  • Wulf: Maybe she wants to be whole again.
  • Rigmor: Oh, the poor thing!
  • Wulf: Let us try the Travelling Machine. Perhaps answers to our questions will come to us when we are not looking.
  • Lydia: That happens when I can’t find a sock in the morning. I stop searching, and it suddenly appears where I swear, I have already searched.
  • Inigo: Why doesn’t the same thing happen with your brain? Why hasn’t that mysteriously appeared?
  • Rigmor: Another point to the Khajiit.

We quickly caught up with Lamashtu and followed her into Clockwork Castle.

She headed to the patio while we talked to Lahar.

  • Lahar: You were successful, I see. Very good.
  • Wulf: We restricted how many places we entered. I hope we did not disturb the Gilded in Nurndural too much.
  • Lahar: Once the castle sprang back to life, I took the opportunity to go through the Travel Machine to Whiterun. I procured some supplies from a Khajiit caravan outside the city.
  • Wulf: That is one of Ri’saad’s caravans.
  • Rigmor: Did your disguise work?
  • Lahar: The elderly Khajiit asked me if I know the Dragonborn. I asked him why. He said all the strange people end up living in his house.
  • Inigo: Lahar, he saw through your disguise but as long as you had coin to spend, he would not care if you were Molag Bal.
  • Lahar: Oh. I thought his prices were high and bargained him down. He sounded like I was torturing him.
  • Rigmor: The prices would be much higher now than one hundred and twenty years ago.
  • Lahar: He seemed honest. I am content with the prices.
  • Wulf: He is a very honest trader.
  • Lahar: I purchased some Breton Pork Sausages. If you would like me to prepare them for dinner, I shall. Maybe I can use them to make Toad in the Hole?
  • Rigmor: That doesn’t involve whacking toads with your broom, does it?
  • Lahar: Not at all, but I can add toads if you want.
  • Wulf: Toad in the Hole is sausages in batter with onion sauce and vegetables. Delicious!
  • Rigmor: I think we would all like to try your Toad in the Hole. But no real toads, okay?
  • Lahar: Seven O’clock again?
  • Rigmor: That would be wonderful.
  • Lahar: With the exhaust fans running once more, I could also enter the Work Room and remove the dangerous materials in there. It is now safe to use that room.
  • Wulf: You have been busy!
  • Lahar: In anticipation of your successful mission to Nurndural, I replanted the Glass Garden in your absence. Mainly alchemical plants. They will grow quickly now that the pipes are fixed.
  • Wulf: Thank you, Lahar.
  • Lahar: Here is a key to the Terminus gates. The one in Whiterun was reasonably clean. Let me know of any that need dusting. It is good to be of service.

Lahar handed me an intricate key. He then wandered off to find some speck of dirt to attack with his rabbit whacker. We entered the Travel Machine rooms.

We have entered the central machine room of Clockwork Castle. It is to the right of the entrance to the Travel Machine room.

All of the sounds I associate with Dwemer ruins are in abundance, including the opening and closing of valves accompanied by the clanking of turning cogs.

We have entered the Travel Machine room, and I have just pushed the button for Whiterun.

Ratcheting sounds can be heard as the ring surrounding the portal entrance rotates. It has stopped to signify Whiterun as the chosen destination.

I stood before the portal, and its dweomer was familiar. The Travel Machine was replicating a teleport spell as cast by a mage.

I entered the portal, but something interfered with the dweomer. Instead of teleporting to Whiterun, I found myself back in the Travel Machine room facing my amused friends.

I turned to enter the portal again. Inigo came running over to block my way and asked, “My friend, it did not work. Is it wise to try again?”

“Probably not. I have an idea of what is happening. Let us speak to Lahar.”

We found Lahar dusting under a vase that he had filled with flowers. He turned to talk to us.

  • Wulf: I believe the Dwemer ghost does not want me to leave and is interfering with the Travel Machine.
  • Lahar: Ludwig mentioned a ghost several times. I have never seen her.
  • Rigmor: You’re lucky.
  • Wulf: I think the ghost needs me to do something before she allows me to leave. I don’t know what that might be.
  • Lahar: Perhaps you should speak to Lamashtu about this.
  • Celestine: Lahar, did you know Lamashtu before she became Gilded?
  • Lahar: Yes. She was beautiful.
  • Celestine: Did she used to wear makeup?
  • Lahar: Sometimes. Black under the eyes and down her cheeks. Black on her chin. Why do I remember that from so long ago?
  • Celestine: Maybe memories of your soulmate were transferred with your soul?
  • Lahar: That is… That is something to contemplate.
  • Rigmor: Celestine, that was beautiful!

Lahar is standing motionless and silent as we leave him to speak to Lamashtu.

I am not surprised to find Lamashtu in her usual place.

Like the first time we met her, she seems unaware of our presence.

I said, “Lamashtu, we need to speak to you.” She then turned to face us.

  • Wulf: Something is interfering with the Travel Machine. Lahar can use it, but not me.
  • Lamashtu: You want to leave? Do you want to go back out into the world? Is it not luxurious here? You can stay. Lahar will bring you food. You can eat and sleep, and read, and tinker, and be safe. You can stay.
  • Wulf: We can leave by other means, but I know why I can’t use the Travel Machine.
  • Rigmor: Clockwork Castle is a wonderful place, and we like you and Lahar. We promise to visit often and with friends, but we cannot stay here. We have many people who rely on us, so we must return to the outside world.
  • Lamashtu: Very well. I believe I also know what is trying to keep you here, so listen carefully. I must first explain what we are. What I am. You won’t understand, otherwise.
  • Wulf: We are listening.
  • Lamashtu: We are the Gilded. I have a Crystalline Heart within my metal chest.
  • Wulf: A type of Soul Gem.
  • Lamashtu: Yes. In it resides the soul of a Dwemer woman, once living. A woman named Lamashtu. My bones are my own but gilt in metal. They were fused with armour, pinions and gears to hold me together. I died long ago. Soul Trap magic was cast upon me, and my body then lowered into molten metal. And I…And then…
  • Rigmor: Take your time, Lamashtu. We understand these memories must be difficult, even disturbing.
  • Lamashtu: When I was very young, she took me away from the foundry mother and said, ‘Thou are the child of my endeavours. Follow me, and thou shalt inherit the world.’

Lamashtu’s demeanour has changed. For a short while, we experienced the real Lamashtu, who was both coherent and cooperative. Now she seems more like a first child. She is like the Gilded in Nurndural.

I signalled the others to let me speak to Lamashtu solo. I feared that too many people speaking will make her uncooperative.

Lamashtu started to speak in the same sort of monotone voice the first children used. It was entirely devoid of inflexions or emotions. She said, “Sometimes… sometimes I can’t help but look. And when I look, and I see all the way to the end… I know they won’t be coming back again.”

“The Dwemer may return one day. I would not give up hope.”

“And… when I look, and I see all the way to the end… there’s nothing… nothing… nothing.”

If Lamashtu has foresight, she may be referring to the same end of which Talos warned. The one that Rigmor and I are somehow supposed to prevent. The other explanation is she is mouthing nonsense, like the first children.

Lamashtu continued, “But then I look again, and I see that there is no end….”

Her following words caused a gasp to escape several of my friends. She said, “It is better than nothing.”

Lamashtu returned to staring out into space. I turned to the others.

  • Rigmor: Those were similar to the last words in Ludwig’s journal!
  • Wulf: Yes, but I don’t think the context is related. Ludwig was saying the life he lived was better than nothing. Lamashtu refers to a continuation of this Kalpa being better than nothing, even if the Dwemer never return.
  • Inigo: It is almost like she heard what Talos said to you. Two futures. One that the gods can’t see and one where we continue to exist.
  • Wulf: Even the best of Azura’s seers would not claim foresight so many years in advance.
  • Rigmor: We don’t know when the crises Talos warned about will occur. It might only be a few years away.
  • Wulf: That is true.
  • Celestine: If Lamashtu does have foresight, we don’t know if it results from the Gilding process. She may have always had it.
  • Inigo: At least we now know why the ghost left those scorch marks behind.
  • Wulf: Dipped in magma is a terrible way to die! Who knows what kind of trauma that caused mentally and to the soul?
  • Lydia: What about the brain? How was that preserved?
  • Celestine: I don’t think it was. We know of Dwemer machines that can transcribe knowledge onto a Dwemer Cube. That is how Wulf made a copy of the Elder Scroll. Maybe the Dwemer had a way to transfer knowledge from the organic brain to the Crystal Heart?
  • Wulf: I agree with Celestine. The brain and all other organs, all flesh, was redundant. They had to put people’s memories somewhere, and the Crystal Heart is the logical place. Different scholars have speculated that fundamental behaviours of Dwemer automatons are stored inside the Soul Gems that power them.
  • Rigmor: Lamashtu never told us who she thinks is stopping Wulf from using the Travel Machine.
  • Wulf: No, and there is still so much more we don’t know. Such as why go through such a traumatic experience? What was the reason so many of them sought immortality?
  • Inigo: That is something I would like to know.
  • Wulf: We had better speak to Lahar. If Lamashtu is going the way of the first children, he may have a way of preventing it.

We rushed inside and found Lahar on his way to the kitchens.

  • Lahar: Hello again. I was about to start cooking. Can I help you with something?
  • Wulf: Don’t worry about dinner. We need you to talk to Lamashtu. We fear she is becoming like the first children.
  • Lahar: You know about the children? I don’t think Ludwig was told of our history.
  • Rigmor: I think Lamashtu knew there was something wrong with her. I think she gave us that knowledge in the hope we could help her.
  • Lahar: This is concerning. Let us check on her. Please, follow me.

Lahar always seemed so relaxed and never in a hurry. Now he just rushed by Inigo at speed. We will be hard-pressed to keep up!

We have caught up with Lahar, who is trying to get Lamashtu’s attention. Rigmor looks worried. I think we all are.