Loredas, 27th Evening Star, 4E 201
When we returned to Silverpeak Lodge from Clockwork Castle, Professor Marassi and a few Khajiit were waiting aboard my new airship. They taught me the fundamentals of how to operate it before departing.
I have decided to call the airship ‘Bostin’. It is a combination of the Dovahzul words ‘bo’ and ‘stin’ which translate to free flying.
At first, I was disturbed to see a Dovah’s skeleton attached to Bostin. However, I relaxed when I realised it was constructed of wood treated to look like bone.
Bostin can be flown manually or automatically. Automatic flying is achieved in two ways. First, any mage can select a beacon from a map and mentally set the course to that beacon. The mage does not have to do anything after setting the course for a beacon. Two hours after the course is set, Bostin will briefly enter the ether, then appear back on Nirn and automatically dock. The two hours is needed to prepare the airship and contents for ethereal travel. The actual teleport takes a couple of seconds. I have spent the last two days flying Bostin to several places in Skyrim and installing permanent beacons.
The second type of automatic flight required the mage to have visited the destination beforehand and have a mental picture of its locations. The mage then concentrates on the destination for the two hours that Bostin is preparing to teleport. The mage’s memory replaces a beacon.
Portable beacons can also be used. Only one portable beacon can be active within a pretty large area. This is because they tend to interfere and cancel each other otherwise. A portable beacon will appear on a map inside the airship and can be used by any mage to set the course.
Access to Bostin is via a rope ladder or a ramp, depending on terrain, etcetera.
Manual flight of Bostin is relatively easy via the airship’s wheel. Direction and altitude changes can be done via the wheel, or if a mage has enough Magicka, from anywhere on deck. So naturally, the airship is designed so that manual flight can not be done from within its cabin.
Entrance and exit to the cabin are via a trapdoor.
Bostin’s cabin is of the 4th dimension. That means it is larger on the inside than the outside. Central to the living area is a dining table.
An oven and bar provide food and drink.
A mage uses a map with the beacons shown to tell Bostin where to go.
Other maps and navigational equipment are also available. They aid mages in planning a manual flight.
The Dwemer blueprints and schematics used to construct the airship are also stored aboard for reference.
Enchanting and Alchemy stations have been installed.
Rigmor and I have a private room.
Crafting equipment has also been installed.
There is plenty of storage for weapons.
And other storage for food and armour.
Six hammocks provide beds for The Sentinels and guests.
They are difficult to climb onto at first. As a result, a good percentage of those who have tried ended up on the floor.
There is extra storage in the hold.
What the Dwemer called ‘turbines’ provide lift, forward/backward movement and change of direction.
A Malondo Stone provides the Magicka used to create heat and steam required by the machinery. Fortunately, the very rare and valuable Malondo Stone was accidentally and permanently borrowed from the Thalmor by the Khajiit resistance.
Like Ayleid Welkynd and Varla stones, a Malondo Stone converts starlight to stored Magicka. Other crystals such as Culanda, Vakka, Star Tooth and Skyshard have similar properties. They are all types of Meteoric Glass and, therefore, Aetherial Fragments. That means they are parts of Aetherius that have fallen onto Nirn. Shooting stars are Aetherial Fragments entering the air that surrounds Nirn. They get hot due to friction, and larger fragments can light up the night sky. Malondo Stone usually glows a dull yellow, but this one is encased in another crystal that masks its colour.
The heat provided by the Malondo Stone can be used to drive a furnace if required.
Iona, Jordis, Argis and Urdr are travelling with me to Azura’s Shrine near Winterhold. I have intended to visit earlier, but this is the first real chance I have had. Azura needs my help, and I am more than happy to oblige.
I have touched the flag indicating Winterhold and cast the spell. That was all I have to do to tell Bostin to head for the permanent beacon I installed on the College’s bridge.
I have been talking with The Sentinels for two hours. A bell just rang to let us know we are about to dock.
I have come on deck as I have to fly to Azura’s Shrine from Winterhold manually.
As part of the automatic docking sequence, a ramp was automatically lowered. So as soon as I tell Bostin to start flying, it will automatically retract.
I have positioned myself behind the wheel and started the manual flight to the shrine.
Snowfall is heavy as I approach Azura’s Shrine.
I have slowly lowered Bostin till it is level with the altar. I can see a priestess praying. She is Dunmer, I think. It is hard to tell in this weather.
We have lowered the ladder and climbed down.
- Argis: That wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be.
- Urdr: You didn’t come on deck when Wulf was flying.
- Argis: That is why it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be.
- Wulf: I am looking forward to flying Bostin into a thunderstorm!
- Argis: Wulf is officially insane.
- Wulf: It is perfectly safe. The airship has a powerful ward surrounding it. So lightning can’t strike you.
- Iona: Could Bostin withstand a dragon attack?
- Wulf: The ward will stop elemental attacks. It does not protect against other Shouts or a dragon’s teeth and claws.
- Argis: Would it plummet to the ground?
- Wulf: No, the turbines will gently lower the airship to the ground.
- Argis: Turbines?
- Urdr: Wulf showed us before. The big mechanical wheel thingies.
- Argis: Ah, my mind must have wandered off somewhere at that stage of the tour.
- Urdr: Yeah, it probably fell down an ant hole.
- Argis: Huh?
- Urdr: Argis, that was an insult.
- Argis: Huh?
- Jordis: Can we get moving. Dweomer on my armour might keep me warm, but icicles are still forming on my nose.
We have climbed the many steps to the altar, and I am standing next to the priestess.
“Good morning, priestess.”
“Azura has seen your coming, Dragonborn. It was no curiosity, but fate, that has led you here.”
“Ah, no. I don’t want to trample all over your dogma, but there is no such thing as fate. What led me here is Azura asking for my help. So, here I am.”
“Perhaps that is what you are meant to believe? To better serve your role as Azura’s Champion.”
“My Lord Akatosh is the God of Time, and even he has to compensate for mortal free will. I could walk back down the stairs then head for a pint or two of mead at the nearest warm tavern, and Lady Azura would not have known I intended to do so. What you call fate is selecting one possible outcome amongst the infinite. I could not serve The Nine as their champion if I believed in inevitable fate.”
“Do not fight it. Azura’s prophecies always come to pass. To deny them is to go headlong into the darkness with no light to guide you.”
“I wasting my time here! I think I will find a nice warm tavern and enjoy a few meads.”
As I started to walk away, the priestess said, “Very well. I cannot force you to accept your destiny.”
I quickly returned to her side then replied, “I had no intention of leaving. I just wanted to see if you would fall into my trap.”
“You just admitted that I could accept my destiny. That means I have free will; therefore, fate does not exist. Mortals have many potential destinies. If I apprenticed to a blacksmith, then a likely destiny would be me becoming a blacksmith. If I decided that I would rather be a pastry chef, I changed my potential destiny. As it is, my most likely destiny is to end up as monster scat or squashed like a bug by a Daedric Lord.”
I can see the priestess is quite upset at me attacking her beliefs. However, that is not why I am here.
“Please, forgive me, priestess. We do not have to agree on these things to help Lady Azura. What is your name?”
“Priestess Ienith, kindly tell me what I need to know. I promise not to interrupt.”
“Azura had given me the gift of foresight. I had a vision of you walking up the steps to this altar long before you were born.”
My Dovah half laughed and said to me, in my head, not out loud, “Bullshit! You could be thousands of years old for all we know. Lord Akatosh has hidden your childhood. Azura is not going to know of it, and either is this priestess!”
“I know, but I promised to keep my mouth shut. So why don’t you try the same?”
My Dovah receded. Aranea continued, “You have been chosen to be Azura’s Champion. I know it is unexpected, but do not worry. It will all unfold as she has predicted.”
My Dovah couldn’t keep his mouth shut and whined, “She doesn’t even know you have been Azura’s Champion for many months!”
“She would only know if her goddess told her. Now shut up!”
I asked Aranea, “Priestess, what does Lady Azura require of me?”
“You must go to a fortress, endangered by water, yet untouched by it. Inside, you will find an elven mage who can turn the brightest star as black as night.”
“What a load of mumbo jumbo!”
“It is not too bad. Aranea is referring to the College of Winterhold and possibly Azura’s Star.”
“That is why I leave the thinking to you. It is much easier to just hit things with a hammer or dice and slice with a sword.”
“It seems keeping quiet is also too difficult for you.”
Aranea confirmed part of my interpretation, “It is cryptic, I know, but Azura’s signs are never wrong. I believe the fortress may refer to Winterhold. Ask if they know this elven enchanter.”
“I appreciate your help Priestess Ienith. However, I don’t have time to play guessing games. I will ask Azura for something less cryptic.”
“But Azura doesn’t speak to just anybody!”
“Helping with this problem is not going to make me Azura’s Champion. I have been that ever since she saved my life. I am not ‘just anybody’.”
I faced the altar then looked up into Azura’s face.
Because I do not let gods enter my mind, I had to communicate with Azura verbally. So I said to the statue, “Lady Azura, I apologise for not getting here earlier.”
Azura’s unexpected willingness to speak startled Aranea. The god said, “I understand, my Champion. The damage was done years ago, so there was no real urgency. Let me tell you what the problem is.”
“I am all ears. Well, the important parts required for listening are.”
“My Star was corrupted then stolen from the College of Winterhold by a mage named Malyn Varen. He has somehow hidden it from me, and I fear it is being used for foul purposes.”
“How did he corrupt it?”
“Do you know of my Star?”
“Yes, it is a Soul Gem that does not vanish after use. But that is a fraction of its power.”
“What else does it do, my Champion?”
“It is the only known Soul Gem that can capture the souls of gods. There is also a pocket plane inside it, which I assume is required for its dweomer to function. You have placed a dweomer on the Star so that it will not remain in this plane indefinitely and will return to you in Moonshadow.”
“Yes, after one hundred years, it shall return to me. You must have read many dusty tombs to glean that information.”
“That is one of my favourite pastimes.”
“Is it more fun than destroying the faith of my priestesses?”
“I have no intention of doing that. Priestess Ienith can better do her duty if she separates facts from fiction. You were going to tell me how Malyn corrupted your Star.”
“I made my Star behave as a White Soul Gem. Malyn Varen altered it, so it now acts as a Black Soul Gem. That is undesirable.”
“I will not use Black Soul Gems. I have enough guilt absorbing the souls of dragons. Condemning a mortal’s soul to who knows where just to enchant an item seems rather callous.”
“I know where souls go when released from a Black Soul Gem. That knowledge prevents me from condoning the use of my Star to capture mortal souls. It is knowledge you will likely gain as you grow in power.”
“What is the name of the elven mage?”
“I do not know. The only visions my seers had were of him working beside Malyn inside the College of Winterhold.”
“I will go to the College and speak to this mystery mage.”
“There is something else my seers are starting to report. I shall tell you what I can on your return.”
Aranea looked stunned. She mumbled to herself, including a few choice expletives, for several seconds before exclaiming, “Azura rarely speaks with her voice and certainly never with such a casual tone. It is usually in people’s heads, stern of tone and cryptic in wording.”
“Not even gods can get into my mind, except for one, and I don’t know how he does it. If you experienced another Daedric Prince stomping around up there, you would understand why I have blocked them.”
“And the casual tone in plain language?”
“Lady Azura knows I can’t stand the mumbo jumbo, the cryptic language, priests, priestesses, and gods use. It is better to talk to me clearly or waste time answering my questions. Without clarity, I will only accept a task given by The Nine. With them, the unravelling of a task teaches me life lessons. Or so they have hinted.”
“Azura saved your life?”
“That is a subject I cannot discuss with you for now.”
“Do you have access to The College of Winterhold?”
“I am the Arch-Mage.”
“I did not know that. Azura only tells me what is relevant.”
“There are tents and camping equipment over there. How long have you been attending to this shrine?”
“Do you know of its history?”
“Lady Azura warned many Dunmer about the imminent eruption of Red Mountain. Many of those who escaped that catastrophe made their way to Skyrim. A large percentage of the mages who escaped came to The College of Winterhold. For some time, Winterhold had the largest Dunmer population outside of Morrowind. Those who were thankful for Lady Azura’s warning paid for the construction of this shrine.”
“I have been here since construction on the shrine commenced. That is almost two hundred years ago.”
“I commend you for your devotion. Are there no others to share this burden?”
“There were others at first, but Azura’s visions tested everyone’s faith. Then, one by one, they left. They were afraid to know their future. But I refuse to abandon the shrine. The visions are a gift. Azura warns me of tragedy, war, death before it happens. So I won’t leave her guidance.”
“What happened to the temple?”
“It was destroyed by Nords who blame Mer for all the world’s woes. Most of those who funded the shrine had moved to Solstheim by then. So there have been no funds to rebuild it.”
“You have been living outside and forced to pray to Lady Azura in the elements?”
“That has been the case for several decades.”
“I will make enquiries about repairing the temple. Of course, I could fund the work myself, but I will ask some followers to donate. It is a way for them to demonstrate their devotion.”
“Why would you do this? You are a follower of The Divines.”
“I respect all gods. I am also champion of Boethia and Meridia, Hermaeus Mora and I suppose Uncle Sheo as well.”
“You don’t believe in good and evil amongst the gods?”
“The Daedric Princes are forces of nature. The example I often use is a wolf. Is a wolf evil if it kills a child for food?”
“No, for it is just following its instincts.”
“If a Man or Mer was to kill a child for food, are they evil?”
“Yes, because cannibalism is not natural for Man or Mer.”
“Some Bosmer perform ritual cannibalism of fallen enemies, and that can’t be considered evil. However, choosing to kill another mortal for the sole purpose of consumption is evil for that is free will, not, as you said, natural behaviour.”
“I would like to discuss such topics in more depth with you.”
“Maybe after I retrieve Azura’s Star, we can find some time.”
We boarded Bostin, and I flew the airship to Winterhold. The Sentinels remained in the nice warm cabin while I enjoyed the fresh air and blizzard.
After docking Bostin, we made our way to College and then onto Urag in the Arcanaeum.
- Urag: Can I help you, Arch-Mage?
- Wulf: Master gro-Shub, do you know of a mage by the name of Malyn Varen?
- Urag: Arch-Mage Aren should have let me feed him to a pack of feral Skeevers. But he was always too soft and merely expelled the murdering bastard and his accomplices.
- Urdr: I have missed your gentle voice, Master gro-Shub.
- Urag: Nobody has missed you. I thought the Dragonborn selected The Sentinels based on abilities and personality.
- Urdr: Careful Urag or I will tell everybody what magic I had to perform to get a passing grade from you.
- Iona: Oh, do tell!
- Jordis: Did you have to handle a staff expertly?
- Urdr: Yes, and it was huge! It took a lot of effort, but I managed.
- Wulf: So… ahem… about Malyn Varen. What did he do?
- Urag: He murdered one student for sure. Other’s vanished without a trace before that. Savos thought he was insane, and that is why he was soft on him. I believe he was perfectly sane when the killings started. He had a terminal disease and was desperately trying to cheat death.
- Wulf: I wonder if that is why he was trying to make Azura’s Star accept mortal souls. But if he knew of Azura’s failsafe, I can’t see what good his alteration to that relic would have done him.
- Urag: He always was a fool. When we expelled him, several promising students and a couple of Master Mages left with him. I was more upset about the theft of Azura’s Star than braindead mages following him out the door.
- Wulf: Do you have any idea where Malyn might be hiding?
- Urag: No, but Master Marence recently mentioned one of his underlings has returned to Winterhold. She was in the Arcanaeum not long ago.
- Wulf: Thank you, Master gro-Shub.
- Urag: Urdr, when are you in Winterhold next?
- Urdr: I have few days leave next week.
- Urag: Good. I have been having trouble with my staff. Maybe you can help?
- Urdr: But I don’t need to get passing grades anymore, Master gro-Shub.
- Urag: Yes, but you need somebody to put a smile on your face.
- Urdr: Can we book the safe house?
- Urag: Of course.
- Urdr: Then I will see you in four days.
- Urag: Don’t forget to bring your Naughty Apprentice costume with you.
- Wulf: There must be some Daedric dweomer in Silverpeak Lodge that turns my friends into sex maniacs!
- Argis: Only the ladies.
- Iona: That is not what Constance said about you.
- Wulf: What? There are children in the house, and The Sentinels can’t keep their clothes on. Now the staff are as bad!
- Jordis: How many houses do you own?
- Wulf: Quite a few.
- Jordis: We use the houses. When the portals are working, it will be even worse.
- Urdr: We will need a ‘Do not disturb’ signal on the teleporters.
- Argis: Ashni and Anahbi will want a ‘Bring your own handcuffs’ signal.
- Wulf: I think I will go and talk to Colette before I hear more depravity.
Colette saw me approaching and waited.
- Colette: Do you wish to speak to me, Arch-Mage?
- Wulf: Yes, Master Marence. Master gro-Shub says you know about one of Malyn Varen’s assistants returning to Winterhold.
- Colette: So, you know about that artefact that got all those… those dimwits expelled?
- Wulf: Azura’s Star is not what got them expelled. The sacrifice of a fellow student did.
- Colette: Ex Master Mage Nelacar returned to Winterhold a few months ago. Despite warnings, some staff and students have aided him with research. Tolfdir has threatened to expel anybody who thinks they have a right to do so.
- Wulf: I know that name. Somebody wanted me to steal his staff. He is living in The Frozen Hearth, correct?
- Colette: Yes. He knows the whole sad story of Malyn.
- Wulf: Is he Mer?
- Colette: Well, the name kind of suggests that, doesn’t it?
- Jordis: I am no mage, but that tone doesn’t demonstrate the level of respect required when speaking to the Arch-Mage.
- Urdr: It is the sort of tone that would earn an apprentice a week of latrine cleaning duty.
- Wulf: Lucky for Master Marence, J’zargo has latrine duties booked for a few more weeks.
- Colette: My apologies, Arch-Mage. Nelacar is Altmer.
- Wulf: Thank you for your assistance, Master Marence.
As we walk to The Frozen Hearth, Urdr is entertaining The Sentinels with her account of trysts with Urag. I think I will walk a bit further ahead, so I can’t hear more of it. It will be difficult enough to erase the pictures that have popped into my head as it is. I didn’t even know you could buy vibrating staff until now! Hearing that Celestine has a collection might have ruined my faith in mortal kind. What if she forgot and tried to wield one in combat?
We entered The Frozen Hearth, and I looked around for an Altmer mage. There were mages of all races but only one Altmer. He was standing at the bar speaking to the barman. We stood behind and to his left, then listened in.
- Nelacar: I say, Dagur, you didn’t hear any loud noises last night, did you? No, ahh… explosion sounds?
- Dagur: No, I didn’t. Is there a reason you’re asking me?
- Nelacar: No, certainly not. A small experiment may have gone awry but clearly with no discernible consequences.
- Dagur: I… see. And is this something I’ll need to worry about in the future?
- Nelacar: Oh, I certainly hope not! That would be quite unfortunate for my research.
- Dagur: The was a horrible smell coming from your room.
- Nelacar: I’m sorry, could you describe the smell?
- Dagur: Like some horrible monster was turned inside out and then exploded. What did you do?
- Nelacar: It was a minor miscalculation. I’ve already corrected it for future experiments.
- Dagur: This, this is why people have a problem with your college, Nelacar.
- Wulf: Nelacar is not a member of the College!
Nelacar turned quickly with a spell on his tongue. He promptly swallowed it when he recognised who I am and that I had the draw on him.
- Nelacar: Oh… um… can I assist you with something, Arch-Mage?
- Wulf: Why have you returned to Winterhold?
- Nelacar: Not that it is any of your business, but I still have research that keeps me busy. Being in Winterhold ensures I have access to former colleagues.
- Wulf: Not my business? I am Thane of Winterhold, so that makes it my business. This uniform I am wearing means anything I ask you is my business.
- Urdr: Not very bright for a mage, is he?
- Nelacar: What is this all about?
- Wulf: Malyn Varen.
- Nelacar: Arch-Mage Aren and the Jarl agreed to no more questions.
- Argis: Commander Valdr, let me throw him in jail. That might loosen his tongue.
- Nelacar: You can’t do that!
- Wulf: I don’t care what others agreed to. I am going to ask questions, and you are going to answer. Regard this is an ongoing murder investigation, and I can arrange a nice comfortable cell in the Winterhold jail.
- Nelacar: Okay, let’s not be hasty. I’ll tell you everything.
- Wulf: Tell me what you were doing with Azura’s Star.
- Nelacar: Some of us wanted to find out how it worked. I was working under Malyn Varen, then. If only we knew what he was planning.
- Wulf: He was dying and desperately tried to alter Azura’s Star so it would capture mortal souls. Did he plan to store his soul within the relic?
- Nelacar: Yes, he thought he would become immortal if he could store his soul inside the Star. His desperation increased as his health deteriorated.
- Urdr: Surely, he did not expect others to wait for him to draw his last breath?
- Nelacar: He planned to kill himself with trusted mages nearby and ready to capture his soul.
- Wulf: Did he kill students to test the capturing of mortal souls?
- Nelacar: He was insane. Students started dying. Eventually, the College exiled him. He took a few loyal students to Ilinalta’s Deep and has not been heard from since.
- Wulf: The College threw him and his idiot followers, including you, out of the College after he admitted killing the last of his victims. Are you telling me you were unaware of what he was doing till then?
- Nelacar: I didn’t! I knew he was insane but not homicidal.
- Urdr: Did all the others who worked with him go to Ilinalta’s Deep?
- Nelacar: Most did. Others, like myself, were disgusted with what he did and went our own way.
- Urdr: I still find it suspicious you didn’t realise what he was doing.
- Nelacar: Look, I don’t care who asked you to find the Star, but don’t take it back to Azura. The Daedra are evil. They’re the reason Malyn went insane.
- Argis: He didn’t just say that did he?
- Iona: He certainly did.
- Jordis: Apart from the idiocy of blaming Azura, I don’t believe anybody mentioned we were looking for the star?
- Urdr: Not just one Dark Lord. He blamed all Daedra.
- Wulf: Nelacar, I didn’t know you were an expert on Daedra and the Daedric Princes. Please tell us how the Daedra drove poor Malyn insane.
- Nelacar: Azura is no ordinary Daedra. She commands an entire realm inside of Oblivion. The more Malyn worked on the Star, the more she was able to damn him. It started slowly at first. Malyn would see things that weren’t there. Then he would yell at students over words they hadn’t said. Then one day, I walked in, and Malyn had… killed a student, and in a horrific moment of inspiration, he started using her soul for his work.
- Argis: Trying to alter a Deadric relic is stupid. It seems to me that Malyn asked for trouble.
- Nelacar: The College would agree with you, but do you have any idea how many innocent lives were cut short so that Azura could have revenge?
- Wulf: You have no idea what the fuck you are talking about!
- Nelacar: And I suppose you do?
- Wulf: Let us start with the obvious. All seventeen Daedric Princes have realms in the plane of Oblivion. So Azura is not unique in that regard.
- Urdr: A Skooma addicted Skeever would know that about the Dark Lords.
- Wulf: Daedric Princes are neither good nor evil. Those concepts mean nothing to them. They are forces of nature and act on their instincts.
- Nelacar: And what makes you the expert?
- Wulf: I have been to several realms in Oblivion. I have spoken to many gods of different pantheons. I have stood with gods, as close as you are now. I am Champion of The Divines, Azura, Boethia, Meridia and Hermaeus Mora. I am probably the champion of Uncle Sheo, but it is not healthy to presume such things with him or even mention his name once he knows you. So, I have told you a small part of my credentials. Tell us why you think you know more about gods than me.
- Nelacar: I know what I saw.
- Wulf: What you saw was Malyn demonstrating the signs of typical paranoid insanity. Did he tell you Azura was speaking to him? Did he claim the voices in his head came from her?
- Nelacar: Yes.
- Urdr: You are supposed to be a mage. Instead of logically thinking about what was occurring, you believed the rantings of a mad man. Without knowing the basics about Dark Lords or the history of Azura, you chose to believe she did something that she has never done before. You are a disgrace to those robes you wear!
- Wulf: Did Azura destroy the Chimer or curse them?
- Nelacar: She cursed them. They became Dunmer.
- Wulf: Why didn’t she kill them all instead? After all, according to you, she went to a lot of trouble to kill a few student mages who did her no wrong.
- Nelacar: I… I don’t know.
- Wulf: Even after being changed from Chimer to Dunmer, they still worship Azura. You had better tell them they have got it wrong and that she is not the benevolent god they believe. The Khajiit need to know as well.
- Argis: Keep battering away, Commander Valdr. Some of this might get through his stupid barrier.
- Wulf: If Azura is evil, why did she create her Star so it would not use the souls of Mortals?
- Urdr: Mighty Nelacar, please answer the question using your infinite knowledge of all things Daedric.
- Iona: His face has gone blank. I think we hurt his brain.
- Argis: It took evil and stupidity to try and change Azura’s Star into an item that harmed mortals.
- Wulf: Nelacar, you and Malyn knew so little about Azura’s Star you did not realise the failsafe Azura had placed upon it.
- Urdr: Every one hundred years, the Star returns to Moonshadow, Azura’s realm in Oblivion.
- Wulf: Do you think Malyn could maintain his place in the Star when subjected to the full powers of Azura in her domain? I am one of the most powerful mortals on Nirn. However, I have stood before gods and realised my powers are minuscule compared to theirs. Similarly, your and Malyn’s powers are tiny compared to mine.
- Jordis: The tragedy of the students who died is amplified because Malyn’s ambition was impossible to achieve.
- Nelacar: All I hear are lies from the mouths of Azura’s faithful.
- Urdr: Did he just call Commander Valdr a liar?
- Argis: Stupid is as stupid does.
- Wulf: On several occasions throughout history, Azura has played a crucial role in saving the mortals of Nirn. She recently saved my life. What would have happened if I had died, Nelacar?
Nelacar stood with typical Altmer arrogance. He isn’t a Thalmor, but my Dovah still wanted to rip his head off. So, I let him have his turn. When my eyes changed, Nelacar took a step back.
I used a bit of Thu’um so everybody in The Frozen Hearth could hear.
“NELACAR, IF AZURA HAD NOT SAVED MY LIFE, YOU WOULD BE DEAD, AND SO WOULD EVERY OTHER PERSON ON NIRN AS NOBODY ELSE COULD HAVE DEFEATED ALDUIN! LADY AZURA’S ACTIONS HAVE SAVED ALL MORTALS ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION. SHOW SOME RESPECT FOR A GOD WHO HAS HELPED MORTALS DEFEAT EVIL SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME! YOU ARE AN IGNORANT FOOL WHO IS A DANGER TO THOSE WHO FREQUENT THIS INN. AS THANE, I FORBID YOU TO CONDUCT ANY MORE EXPERIMENTS ON THESE PREMISES. AS ARCH-MAGE, I AM FORBIDDING THE MAGES OF THE COLLEGE TO AID YOU. I AM STILL DECIDING ON WHETHER OR NOT TO ARREST YOU FOR MURDER.”
I am sure Nelacar had forgotten I was the Dragonborn till he saw my eyes. As he stood with his mouth agape, we exited the suddenly silent inn and made our way to Bostin. The Sentinels knew not to talk to me till my Dovah had calmed down.
I set Bostin’s course for Falkreath then retired to my room. As I lay on my bed, Rigmor contacted me via our rings.
“My Dragonborn, you seem irritated?”
“Just an arrogant Altmer that got under my skin. Nothing major.”
“Have you visited Azura’s Shrine?”
“Yes, and I am on my way to retrieve a stolen relic of hers. Can you remember the sunken Imperial fort near Rose’s camp?”
“That seems like years ago with all that has happened. But yes, I remember staring at it with Meeko by my side as I waited for you to return from Riverwood. When I got bored of that, I started picking flowers.”
“Even back then, people knew it was a place to avoid, and Rose warned me about the place. It is full of expelled students and mages from the College. I have no doubt I will have to kill many on my way to their leader. Necromancers always hide behind their minions.”
“Will that upset you?”
“They have sided with a man who killed fellow students in a bid for power. I have no issues with cleansing Skyrim of them.”
“Talk to me later. I have to go now as the next supplicant is about to bore me to death. How am I supposed to know if this farmer’s stable hand is the one who got his daughter pregnant?”
“She was only the farmer’s daughter, but all the horsemen knew her.”
“Horse manure? That was very weird even for you.”
“I can tell you are amused and that your bum is numb.”
“You are an idiot, but I still love you.”
“Love you too.”
Talking to Rigmor improved my mood considerably, so I joined The Sentinels for a late lunch and light banter.
It took two hours to ether to Falkreath. Then I manually flew Bostin another half an hour to Ilinalta’s Deep. I noticed no sign of Rose’s camp ever existing as we passed over where it once was.
There were two trap doors I could see leading into the partly sunken fort. Assuming it is unlocked, the one on top of a tower would most likely get us to Malyn quicker. But I did not want to leave his followers behind, so have decided to enter via the lower trapdoor.
I released the ladder, which automatically unfurled till it detected the ground. It then stopped a few feet from the ground. We quickly climbed down.
- Iona: You are going to kill everybody in there, aren’t you?
- Wulf: Yes. They are a menace to innocents.
- Urdr: They are also an insult to the College. It is mages like them that feed the Nord hatred of magic.
- Wulf: Savos should have handed Malyn over to the Winterhold guards. The College is subject to the laws of the county and Skyrim. If Malyn is insane, that would have been taken into account at his trial.
- Argis: Are we sneaking?
- Wulf: No sneaking. Don’t get in front of me, and I will use Cyclone. The mages will be smashed against the roof. We then run and cut up the survivors before they recover.
- Iona: I have seen you do this before. It is brutal and quick.
- Wulf: Most of the enemy were apprentices. I doubt their skills are anything to concerns us.
We entered the fort. Not far in, we encountered a warning. The necromancers had shackled somebody to a crossbeam and let them starve to death.
A backpack had been placed below the victim, and inside was a notebook. I read the relevant entries to The Sentinels.
“I can’t believe I let Skeggr talk me into this again. If he just wanted to get drunk and swap histories, we could have done that in front of a friendly fire back in Windhelm instead of on this godforsaken mudflat.
‘But the fish are biting, Advald!’. ‘The catch will more than pay for the trip!’. Yeah, right―if we don’t get iced in first. His boat’s already taking on water. I guess we’ll try again tomorrow. If we don’t catch something then, I’m heading home, with or without him.
A decent catch of fish is getting harder to come by. Without a good spot soon, I don’t think we’ll survive the following winter, so I’m travelling further south towards Lake Ilinalta. Folks say it’s cursed. A whole Imperial Fort just sank into the water one day, and they say the ruins have been haunted since.
When I asked, I got ghost stories. There are many tales of people who went out near the lake and never came back. They say spirits haunt the hallways of the sunken fort and steal little children from their mothers’ cribs. Unfortunately, no amount of coin could convince any of the nearby villagers to guide me there, so I’m going alone.”
I growled, “An innocent fisherman used as a scarecrow. This atrocity hardens my resolve to wipe this scum from NIrn. No mercy is to be shown!”
The necromancers have built typical warning totems in case people ignored their scarecrow.
Urdr whispered, “I can hear skeletons.”
“Yes, I don’t need to use heat vision to know the necromancers are close.”
We turned a corner and caught some necromancers by surprise.
I Shouted Cyclone, then Argis ran in front of me. I yelled, “Stay behind!” and started the killing.
I killed over a dozen of the enemy without slowing my advance. The Sentinels added a few to the tally.
We stopped to catch our breath in front of a sacrificial altar. Its existence generated enough anger to energise our second wind.
We passed over the room where the totems are.
I stopped and whispered, “I can hear more skeletons.”
Argis replied, “I promise to stay behind this time. I will slow down your slaughter if I don’t!”
“You will get smashed against the roof if you don’t!”
We surprised the next group of necromancers. Did they ignore the sounds of battle and screams as we slaughtered their comrades?
Another dozen dead, and we paused in the jail of the fort. There were no live prisoners but plenty of bones as witnesses to the fate of others.
Iona remarked, “You have killed at least two dozen. We four have killed another nine.”
“They were weak mages who murdered and sacrificed normal citizens. However, the Imperial Legion is slowly taking back these places from the bandits, vampires and necromancers. I am glad to assist.”
We killed the last of the necromancers then headed upstairs, where we expected to find Malyn.
I shouldn’t have been surprised to find Malyn dead. He was dying of some disease years before. That is what set him on the path of destruction he followed. In front of his skeleton was a recent sacrifice. Between him and the sacrifice was Azura’s Star. I picked it up but could not feel the presence of Azura. It had been corrupted.
Scattered around the room were the skeletal remains of other sacrifices.
Jordis asked, “What was the purpose of these sacrifices?”
“An educated guess is that Malyn hasn’t completely corrupted the relic. I think it keeps trying to cleanse itself of a mortal soul. Malyn needs the power of sacrificed souls to maintain his existence within Azura’s Star. The mages here were willing to kill innocents for him. I will not lose sleep over their deaths.”
Next to Malyn’s skeleton was his grimoire. I read it to The Sentinels.
“Though some scoffed, some scorned, at the very notion of experimenting on a Daedric artefact, I have succeeded where the ignorant and superstitious would not even dare to try. The Black Star. My achievement over the Daedric Lord Azura, a re-envisioning, a remastering of the ultimate soul gem. It shall become the vessel of my immortality. Final proof that mortals can live as indefinitely as the denizens of Oblivion.
The visions, the voices that Azura has sent to taunt me. While some called me mad, I knew the truth. Nothing can be held sacred in the pursuit of advancing the very nature of magic itself. Let the Daedra send their foul images into my mind. They have given me the burning desire and unrelenting discipline to shut out all influence, all morality.
My disciples and I have built a new site, free of the prying eyes of those primitive minds in Winterhold. Fort Ilinalta. We had been conducting a few minor experiments before our exile, some of which led to the disruption of the island. Still, a few enchantments have kept the ruins intact, and beneath the waters of Lake Ilinalta has been the perfect place for the final phase of the Black Star.”
Urdr exclaimed, “These imbeciles sank the fort!”
“Power in the hands of the moronic, it seems.”
“Azura will want to cleanse her Star. Malyn had better start packing his bags.”
Argis asked, “Who is the creepy guy in the painting?”
“Mannimarco, the King of Worms. He is a cult figure amongst necromancers. He is now a god called Necromancer’s Moon.”
“Nice armour and glowing hammer.”
“I think the hammer flew around the battlefield absorbing souls.”
“I still like the armour, but he can keep the hammer.”
We made our way out through the trapdoor, which wasn’t locked. Cleansing the fort was the correct decision. I don’t think I could have used the shortcut, retrieved Azura’s Star and left. That wouldn’t be protecting the mortals of Skyrim.
I tried the second method of automatic piloting. I had to picture Bostin’s destination for two hours while a dweomer prepared the airship for ethereal travel. It wasn’t easy. I used my bedroom so I could have quiet, but I risked nodding off!
Two hours later, Bostin automatically docked at almost the exact spot we had used earlier in the day. Night vision let me penetrate the extreme darkness caused by a snowstorm. Aranea was standing before the altar.
The ladder lowered, and we made our way to the altar. Aranea looked at me, and I held up the relic for her to see. A smile lit up her face, then she exclaimed, “Azura’s Star! It is obvious why the Lady of Twilight chose you as her champion.”
I handed Azura’s Star to Aranea, who held it like a fragile bird’s egg. She then frowned, and I knew what was troubling her. I said, “It needs to be cleansed. The necromancer’s soul is still within. That is why you can’t feel Azura’s presence when holding it.”
“Of course. I shall place it on the altar. Then I shall pray to Azura and ask for the Star to be restored to its original purity.”
Aranea gently placed the Star on the altar then prayed to Lady Azura, “Azura. Mother of Roses. Goddess of Dusk and Dawn. Your champion has returned your Star to you.”
Azura could speak into Aranea’s mind. It is not blocked to such intrusions as mine is. Therefore, we could not hear Azura’s reply to her priestess.
About thirty seconds passed. Aranea then turned and started walking down the steps. She said, with her back to me, and in a voice tainted by confusion and fear, “Azura needs to talk to you.”
The Sentinels parted way for her. She moved away from the stairs and became lost in shadow.
I turned to the altar and looked down upon the Star.
“Greeting, mortal. You have followed my guidance through the veils of Twilight and rescued my Star from Malyn Varen.”
“Lady Azura, please don’t do this to me!”
“Forgive me, Champion. It is a habit. Let me try again.”
“If you wish.”
“Thank you for retrieving my Star. But there is more work to be done.”
“Does Malyn know he is about to lose his home?”
“He is unaware of what occurs in the mortal realm. His enchantments protect Malyn’s soul. But, unfortunately, as you know, our powers are limited on the mortal plane, and I can’t remove him.”
“Is there a spell or ritual I can use to remove his soul?”
“You have two options. The first option is to take the Star to the Black Diamond mine, where my power is strongest on the mortal plane. However, even there, I am unsure if I could remove him.”
“I could get there in two hours with my airship. So what is the second choice?”
“You enter the pocket plane within the Star and banish the soul of Malyn. Your body would remain here, but your soul would manifest within the pocket plane.”
“Similar to when I enter Apocrypha?”
“I have often browsed Hermorah’s library and encountered mortals there. So yes, like there, your physical form will appear in the pocket plane. An avatar if you will.”
“When you say I need to banish Malyn, do you mean I need to defeat him in combat?”
“That is correct. Let me know when you are ready.”
“I had better tell Rigmor first. She will panic if she loses her connection to me.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar told me of the rings. It is well they have let the love of my Champion and my Daughter flourish. It is special, and as demonstrated when I needed assistance to keep you from The Void, it is immensely powerful. More so than any relic of any god or skill at arms or magic.”
I turned to The Sentinels and said, “You heard Lady Mara. I don’t know if I will fade and become transparent. That is what happens when I read one of Mora’s Black Books. But, on the other hand, I might freeze in place, like a statue.”
Argis replied, “Go and kick that mage out of the Star. But tell Rigmor first!”
I turned back to face the Altar once more then contacted Rigmor.
“My lady, I need to tell you something.”
“Make it quick. I am sitting at our dining table, and the first course will soon be served. I will be swamped for hours talking to our guests. Just more brown-nosing. I hate politics!”
“To help Azura, I have to enter a pocket plane. Consequently, our rings will cease functioning.”
“Lucky you told me! I might have fainted and done a face plant into my soup!”
“What kind of soup?”
“Cream of pumpkin.”
“That wouldn’t have been so bad. Pumpkin is supposed to be good for your complexion.”
“Get back to work before Azura casts lightning at you!”
“Aren’t you going to ask how long I will be in the other plane?”
“How long will you be in the other plane?”
“I have no idea.”
“I hate you. I have just picked up the wrong spoon. Our guests will think I am a barbarian!”
“I picked up my teaspoon instead of my soup spoon. It would have been worse if I picked up my dessert spoon.”
“You have three spoons?”
“Yes, of course. Along with five forks and four knives. Freathof almost went insane teaching me cutlery etiquette.”
“What a load of bollocks!”
“Bye now and have fun, and I love you. Now I have to concentrate as it is hard to enjoy soup without slurping!”
“Ahh… yeah… I love you too!”
I shook my head then spoke to Azura.
“I am ready Lady Azura. How do I enter the Star?”
“I have opened a portal attuned to your soul. Simply will yourself into the Star.”
I did as Azura instructed and found myself within her Star. An aspect of Malyn Varen greeted me, “Ah, my disciples have sent me a fresh soul. Good. I was getting… hungry.”
“I don’t think you would enjoy my soul. It is very chewy and almost guaranteed to give you severe heartburn.”
“Wait. There is something different about you.”
“Well, I am not dead for a start. I do have a third nipple, but I doubt you can see that through my armour.”
“Who are you to challenge me? I have conquered mortality itself. I’ve spat in the eyes of the Daedric Lords.”
“Well, I don’t have time to go through my list of titles, so how about a shortened version? I am Arch Mage Valdr since an ancient artefact recently killed poor Savos. I am Dragonborn. Hence my soul is that of a dragon, so that is why I told you it is chewy. The last title I will mention is Champion of Azura. I am here to kick you out of her Star for being an evil twat.”
“This is my realm now. I’ve sacrificed too much to let you take it from me!”
“You and your disciples have sacrificed the souls of innocents. I killed every single one of your disciples for that crime. As for Daedric Lords, you have never met one. If you had, you would know you could not spit high enough to hit their eyes. Oh, except for Hermaeus Mora. It would be almost impossible to miss one of his eyes.”
Malyn summoned three Dremora Valkynaz then tried to ran away.
I laughed as Cyclone threw them into the air. Malyn, the avatar, was more robust than he would have been in flesh and blood. He managed to scramble to his feet and continue his cowardly run while I dispatched the first of the Dremora.
He turned a corner just as the next two Dremora found themselves gracefully flying. But, unfortunately for them, their landing was not so graceful.
I cut the two Dremora down then slowly proceeded along the tessellated path.
When I turned a corner, I found that Malyn had nowhere else to run.
The moron had his back to me, and I quickly reached him without making a sound.
I said to him, “The columnar jointing is fascinating, isn’t it? Did you ever visit the basalt ones near Tel Mithryn? But really, you should have been facing the other way.”
Malyn turned quickly. He had cast Barkskin on himself and was equipped with a Dwemer sword. He proceeded to release his best spells and swing his sword with little skill. I laughed when his magic did not affect me, and I easily blocked his sword with mine and my shield.
I said to him, “You did not conquer mortality. Azura’s Star returns to Moonshadow every hundred years. What could you have done against the might of a god within her domain? Not only that, you relied on new souls being sent here. That was not going to happen after I slaughtered your disciples. You are a second-rate necromancer and third-rate mage.”
Malyn soon ran out of Magicka and stamina. The Barkskin vanished, and I casually blocked his slower and slower word strokes.
I said, “Time for you to enter The Void. You will have eternity to contemplate your failure.”
I knocked Malyn’s sword aside then sliced across his midsection.
Without pause, I did a backhand slice across his shoulders. He was most likely already dead when he started falling to the floor.
I cut him from belly button to chest with my third sword stroke.
Malyn’s avatar fell to the ground then immediately turned white. It was now a husk with no soul to propel it.
When the husk started to fade, Azura said, “The Star is purifying itself. You had better will yourself out of there before you get cleansed!”
I willed myself back to Mundus and was welcomed by a bitterly cold wind on my face.
Azura announced, “My Star has been restored, and Malyn’s soul consigned to The Void. You have been successful once more, my Champion. You are free to use my Star as you see fit.”
“It will be locked away for study by more reputable mages. A replica of it with its history will go on display in my new museum.”
“I have another boon to ask from you. It is not onerous, and I think it may be to your benefit.”
“Of course, Lady Azura. What can I do for you?”
“It is Aranea. Like I was the last to stay with Fadomai, she has been the last to stay by my side in Skyrim. I have told her she would no longer have foresight. I explained that she has fulfilled her duty and is now free to pursue her life as she wishes. She will need your help to adjust.”
“What will happen when she has visions? I doubt her abilities as a seer will simply stop.”
“I do not deceive when I tell my seers I give them foresight. They experience mostly disjointed visions with no context or sense of timing except for soon, later or much later. I gather visions from several seers and combine them to create a coherent prediction with some sense of timing. If the prediction is relevant to the seer, I will return it, which they call foresight. Aranea will have her visions but no foresight from me to make sense of them.”
“Like Rigmor and her visions of the little girl.”
“They were a mystery even to me and probably something created by your Divines.”
“I will gladly help Aranea. She has lived her life here, in this bleak place, since soon after the eruption of the Red Mountain. That is almost 200 years! I admire such dedication.”
“You told her you would see that my temple below is restored. That would aid Aranea to adjust to her new life as other Priests and Priestesses will then take up the burden of this shrine.”
“Earlier today, you mentioned something else is going to happen that may impact me.”
“Mistakes of the past may be repeated. The danger this presents is monumental. I have no doubt The Divines will ask their Dragonborn to investigate and prevent this repetition. However, I will not tell you more as that could compromise the solution to the problem.”
“Sometimes the journey I undertake during a Divine Task is almost as important as a successful resolution. Or so I have been told.”
“A concept that many of the heroes I have aided in the past have learned to be true.”
“I don’t regard myself as a hero.”
“But a hero you are, my Champion. Farewell till we speak again.”
As soon as Azura finished, Rigmor complained, “You have been back at least a minute and have yet to talk to me!”
“I was busy talking to Azura.”
“So, a god takes precedence over your beloved? Hmph!”
“Hey, you come a close second. No, third. After Sweet Rolls.”
“I have only got a few seconds before the third course arrives, and I have to remember which one is my fish fork. So quickly, did you succeed in whatever it was you had to do?”
“I assume that means ‘yes’?”
“You are correct with zero ambiguity.”
“I am watching the rich merchant. Aha, that is the correct fork. I thought so!”
“Do not expect me to ever, ever in a billion years, learn cutlery etiquette.”
“You have enough trouble remembering to put the privy seat back down. Do you know how cold the water is when your bottom touches it at two in the morning?”
“That is because all my houses have proper sewerage systems. It would be far worse if your bottom touched somebody else’s business.”
“Please, yuck, I have four more courses to go! And if I don’t keep my mouth busy chewing, these pompous prats will expect me to talk.”
“Okay, I will leave you to your cutlery.”
I turned around and told The Sentinels, “We will be heading back to Silverpeak Lodge now. Board Bostin and I will be with you soon.”
As The Sentinels headed for Bostin, I walked over to Aranea.
I said to her, “This must have come as a bit of a shock?”
“I have never been without Azura’s foresight since escaping Morrowind. I don’t know what to do.”
“Did you have a profession before becoming a priestess?”
“I was a sorceress of no small skill before I came into Azura’s faith. Afterwards, her magic sustained me.”
“Nobody expects you to decide on your future here and now. I can provide a haven where you can talk to various people. Take your time deciding on what to do.”
“If you need me, I’d be honoured to accompany you. It would give me a purpose.”
“Accompanying me on my travels is an option. I can provide many other options for you to choose from and give advice on what is involved with each. How about we get you settled into Silverpeak Lodge? You will like it there. It is full of people, including children, and many animals.”
“It had been decades since I slept in anything but a bedroll or with a roof over my head. So are we travelling in that flying ship?”
“Yes. I have called the airship Bostin, which means ‘free flying’ in Dovahzul, the language of dragons.”
“Where did it come from?”
“It is a gift from the Khajiit of Elsweyr. Some of my closest friends are Khajiit.”
“Azura’s people. They are the most frequent visitors to this shrine after Dunmer.”
“I will be busy aboard Bostin for a couple of hours. You will find The Sentinels more than willing to talk and answer questions.
“Then let us get out of this cold. I am eager to start my new life.”
We encountered a bear at the bottom of the stairs. I Shouted Kyne’s Peace then guided Aranea past it.
“Why doesn’t it attack?”
“I used dragon magic, the Thu’um, to tell it we mean no harm.”
“How powerful is that magic?”
“I am still in my infancy in terms of power. Some ancient users of the Thu’um could knock down the strongest of walls surrounding a city. I can decimate entire armies. But, as you just witnessed, the Thu’um can also be used for the most peaceful purposes. In that way, it is no different from the magic of Magus, except it is Kyne or Kynareth that provides the energy. ”
We entered Bostin’s cabin.
I explained to Aranea, “I have to concentrate for two hours to guide Bostin to my home. So feel free to have a look around. As I said before, The Sentinels will be more than happy to help you with questions or just a good chat.”
“What do I call you? Dragonborn? Commander Valdr?”
“When not in public, I am Wulf.”
“Thank you, Wulf. I see The Sentinels have cooked a meal. I will join them. It has been decades since I have had food not cooked over an open fire!”
Bostin docked at Silverpeak Lodge just over two hours later. Iona and Jordis said they would take care of Aranea and get her settled. The exhausted Sentinels then made their way inside.
Aranea came down the ladder a couple of minutes later.
She explained, “I was mesmerised by the view. Is this the Throat of the World?”
“We are halfway up it. But, unfortunately, the snowstorm is blocking the view of High Hrothgar. That is the home of the Greybeards and about two-thirds of the way up. The summit is the highest place in Tamriel and home to my friends, Paarthurnax and Odahviing.”
“Are they Greybeards?”
“No, but Paarthurnax is the head of that order. They are the two most powerful Dov on Nirn now we have defeated Alduin.”
“You have dragons for friends?”
“If you think that is odd, wait till you meet Inigo. He is a blue Khajiit.”
“It is a long story he will be more than happy to tell you.”
“This house looks huge from Bostin’s deck.”
“It is my biggest house but is tiny compared to my castle called Dragons Keep. That is being converted to an orphanage and school that will open early in the new year.”
“You have several houses?”
“Yes. Some I purchased. Some were gifted. I have become wealthy without pursuing wealth. Gold allows me to help people like yourself and the dozens of orphans being sent my way. Many of the people you will meet have risen from diversity with my assistance. It is part of my purpose as I see it. When defending the mortals of Nirn, that shouldn’t just mean protecting them from violence and slavery. Poverty is also an enemy of the common people.”
We entered Silverpeak Lodge.
Aranea exclaimed, “This place is huge!”
“Believe me when I say when the children and dogs are running around, it seems much smaller.”
Iona and Jordis came over and took charge of Aranea.
I climbed into my bed then talked to Rigmor via our rings for hours.
I know not what time I fell asleep.