Trilling and Betrayed

Loredas, 17th Morning Star, 4E 202 to Tirdas, 20th Morning Star, 4E 202

Upon entering Fort Dawnguard, I warned the group, “This is the last chance for Isran. If he continues to insult Serana or aggravate me in any manner, we will break all ties with The Dawnguard.”

It did not take us long to find Dexion. He had a covering over his eyes. I have read how Moth Priest can go temporarily or permanently blind. They can also go insane. It is a hazardous calling.

  • Wulf: Dexion, are you blind?
  • Dexion: Yes, and it is my fault. In my haste to read Serana’s Elder Scroll, I neglected the careful preparation required. I have only recently read your Elder Scroll, so the danger was greater. I thought I’d be able to allay the after effects, but I was wrong. Now I am paying for my foolishness.
  • Wulf: I am a Master of Restoration. Perhaps I can restore your eyesight?
  • Dexion: I am afraid not as no mortal magic can repair it. The blindness may be temporary, and it will just have to run its course. It may be some time before we know if it is permanent.
  • Wulf: This is too steep a price. I knew that members of your order risk this infliction and should have considered that before asking you to read Serana’s Elder Scroll. I am so sorry. Please, forgive me for my thoughtlessness.
  • Dexion: What is there to forgive? I have dedicated my life to reading and deciphering the Elder Scrolls. The same could have happened when I read yours at the College. If I hadn’t read Serana’s, some other Moth Priest would have risked their sight instead. That would have been cowardly and selfish of me to allow such a thing.
  • Wulf: It sounds callous, but we can’t wait and hope your eyesight returns. I will have to act fast and get the Elder Scrolls read in The Imperial City.
  • Dexion: It is not insensitive at all but simply practical. There is another way that will save you time. The question is, how much are you willing to risk to find Auriel’s Bow?
  • Wulf: I do not want the bow for any selfish reason. It seems I need the bow to stop a catastrophe, the masking of the sun, from occurring. Therefore, as I have done many times before, I will risk my life to help the mortals of Nirn. Just tell me what needs doing.
  • Dexion: I can’t guarantee you would be free from harm. Becoming blind could be the least of your worries.
  • Wulf: I understand and accept the risks.
  • Dexion: Scattered across Tamriel are secluded locations known as Ancestor Glades. There is one in Skyrim, in a pine forest northeast of Peak’s Shade Tower.

My Divine Compass shifted. I did not have to move around to triangulate as I was positive that I knew the cave. It is east of Angi’s.

  • Wulf: I think I know where it is, but The Divines have let me know anyway.
  • Aranea: Your compass thingy has moved?
  • Wulf: My Divine Compass thingy. Yes.
  • Inigo: Did you threaten to tie the Herald of Akatosh’s tail in a knot? It is hard to believe they are suddenly so helpful.
  • Wulf: It would be reasonably stupid if I were killed by bandits or whatever whilst wandering around looking for a cave.
  • Serana: How hard is it to get to the glade?
  • Wulf: It is a reasonably easy walk from one of my houses though it is a steep climb. It is not far from the Bloodlet Throne. A clan of vampires that eats children lived there once.
  • Serana: Did you destroy them?
  • Wulf: They lure children when they are sleeping. I assume the dweomer used is a present from Molag Bal. I rescued a child from the Thalmor. They were going to execute the young girl to keep their plans hidden. The vampires subsequently captured this child. I went to retrieve the child, and they attacked me. I did not hunt them down, but after they attacked, I wiped them out! Dozens fell to my wrath, and I was much weaker then. So, when Harkon boasted of his powers, it was difficult not to laugh. According to some notes I read inside Bloodlet Throne, this clan has covens all over Tamriel. The children they did not consume were sent to their Broodmother. Any child affected by the dweomer would find their way to the nearest coven. I protected the child with items I found inside that terrible place.
  • Serana: And is the child in your orphanage?
  • Wulf: No, some friends adopted her.
  • Dexion: I find this discussion fascinating, but we had better talk about the Ancestor Glade.
  • Wulf: Sorry, Dexion. Please, explain what I have to do in the Ancestor Glade.
  • Dexion: You have to perform ‘The Ritual of the Ancestor Moth’ within the glade. This ritual will allow you to read an Elder Scroll.
  • Serana: Wulf, Ancestor Moths are mentioned in one of those books you let me read.
  • Wulf: Yes, the Pocket Guide to The Empire, Cyrodiil Volume.

I quoted the passage, “For long the Cyro-Nordics had exported ancestor-silks to other regions, simple yet exotic shawls woven from the silks of an indigenous gipsy moth and inscribed with the requisite genealogy of its buyer. Under the Cult, however, ancestor and moth became synonymous: the singing and hymnal spirits of one’s forebears are caught in a special silk-gathering ritual, the resource of which is used to create any manner of vestment or costume.”

  • Wulf: I read my Elder Scroll without the use of Ancestor Moths. But I think I know why and how the moth will allow me to read another.
  • Ghorbash: How high is this on the gobblygook scale?
  • Wulf: I might have to use some strange words, but it is not as gobblygook as Elder Scrolls.
  • Ghorbash: Okay, my brain is ready.
  • Wulf: To read my Elder Scroll, I had to stand within a tear in time. When I did so, I was in two moments at once. I was simultaneously when the Elder Scroll was used to banish Alduin and in the present. Because of my dragon soul, I have an affinity for sequential time. This affinity allowed me to make sense of both times at once. The combination of being in the time tear and sequential time affinity gave me access to the same ancient magic that the Ancestor Moths possess. I assume the ritual will also provide me with access to this ancient magic.
  • Dexion: ‘Primal Augury’ is what we call that ancient magic.
  • Derkeethus: I know Wulf can read and understand many languages, but I find it hard to believe moths will dictate an Elder Scroll to him!
  • Dexion: Oh, the moths don’t read the scrolls… but they maintain a connection to the ancient magic that Wulf mentioned. If you listen closely when within the glade, you should be able to hear their song… a soft, harmonious trilling. It’s through this ancestral chorus that the moths tap into ‘Primal Augury’ and become a conduit for deciphering the scrolls by the Moth Priest.
  • Derkeethus: Oh, so the moths decipher the Elder Scroll unintentionally via some gobblygook, and the Moth Priests use more gobblygook to understand the stuff the moths didn’t know they knew.
  • Dexion: Ah… um… no. The moths only provide access to the ‘Primal Augury’ as Wulf’s affinity for time and being in a time tear did for him.
  • Derkeethus: Aha… I understand! Why can’t they just read fish guts like my village shamans used to do?
  • Ghorbash: Then Dexion would be a Fish Gut Priest. That is not a title anybody would want!
  • Aranea: By having the Ancestor Moths close to the Moth Priest, they can utilize a conduit and share the moth’s Primal Augury.
  • Dexion: Precisely! It can take a few or many Ancestor Moths to be nearby. Only the most resilient of priests can do it this way… it takes years of practice to interpret the harmony of the conduit.
  • Aranea: Then how can Wulf hope to interpret the harmony or even establish a conduit?
  • Dexion: You’ve found several Elder Scrolls. Whether you believe it or not, the scrolls have a mind of their own. If they didn’t want Wulf to find them, they wouldn’t allow it. Because of this, I firmly believe he was meant to hear the ancestral chorus.
  • Wulf: That might be true. However, I believe I have a chance because of my affinity for time, and I have connected to the Primal Augury before. The Divines are pointing to the glade, so we must visit it and go from there.
  • Serana: Please, Dexion, can you detail the ritual?
  • Dexion: Wulf must carefully remove bark from a Canticle Tree. When carrying this bark, Ancestor Moths will be attracted to him. Once enough of the moths follow Wulf, they’ll provide him with the ‘second sight’ or conduit needed to decipher the scrolls.
  • Serana: The Ancestor Glade will contain ‘Canticle Trees’?
  • Dexion: There has to be at least one there to keep the Ancestor Moths within the glade. Otherwise, they would go searching for them elsewhere. Wulf must use a specific tool in the Ancestor Glade, an implement known as a Draw Knife in keeping with tradition. There should also be one or more of those within the glade.
  • Serana: The Ancestor Glades sounds like places of peace and beauty.
  • Dexion: Indeed, they are! As I mentioned earlier, if you listen closely when you enter the glade, you should hear the song of the Ancestor Moths. It is a soft, harmonious trilling. The beauty of the glade helps relax the Moth Priest and allows the almost hypnotic state required to access the conduit. When the Thalmor captured the White-Gold Tower, they destroyed our most ancient Canticle Trees and desecrated our glade. Even though it was rarely used, its mindless destruction caused much grief amongst my brethren.
  • Wulf: It would have been destroyed at the behest of Boethia. But that is another story for another day.
  • Dexion: This may be premature, but what will you do with the Elder Scrolls if we all survive this prophecy?
  • Wulf: I believe others need to study them. We will allow them to be read by Moth Priests, but I also want their dweomer investigated. That may give us some insight into Dawn Magic. Therefore, my Elder Scroll will remain accessible via the College.
  • Serana: I will gift the other two Elder Scrolls to the College. They are of value to my parents only as tools in their power struggle. When that is ended, they will have no further use for them.
  • Dexion: I am unaware of the power struggle of which you speak. However, by the tone in your voice, I believe you will be relieved to dispose of them.
  • Serana: Yes, I will.
  • Wulf: We must be on our way. We thank you for your assistance, Dexion.
  • Serana: How are we travelling to the Ancestor Glade?
  • Wulf: I will teleport to my house nearest to the glade. Once there, I will zap you all to me, and then we walk.
  • Dexion: Good luck. I hope you find the answers you seek.

I teleported to Lakeview Manor then summoned Inigo.

“My friend, you are not just risking your sight!”

“I did mention that Moth Priests can become insane. However, let us not talk about that risk with the others till we are at the Ancestor Glade. If space allows, we shall take precautions.”

“Fair enough. But Rigmor also needs to know! If something goes wrong, and you did not forewarn her, it will be much harder to accept.”

“Agreed. I knew you would have something to say about the insanity. That is why I zapped you in first.”

“Yes, we know each other well, do we not?”

“Very much so.”

I summoned the others and gave them a couple of minutes to wander around the house.

Serana commented, “This house is beautiful. How often do you use it?”

“I have never spent a night here. The Sentinels and others at Silverpeak Lodge have. All of my houses are available to them. It is the only chance they get for privacy.”

“I hope you have a roster, so you know if the house is occupied before teleporting inside!”

“I can always teleport outside the house, but that is a good idea anyway. I will put one into effect after we finish with this Divine Task.”

It was cold and foggy, but everybody enjoyed the walk to the Ancestor Glade. The cheery mood was aided by a total lack of anything trying to kill us.

Outside the entrance to the Ancestor Glade was a small campsite. A campfire had only recently been extinguished.

  • Wulf: I would not be surprised if Harkon had a sentry waiting for us to make an appearance. He will have rushed away to inform others of where we are.
  • Inigo: So, what do we do?
  • Wulf: For two reasons, I want you all to guard the entrance from inside the glade. The first reason being we may have Harkon’s rabble visiting us. I don’t know if I will be in a trance, but I may be vulnerable. So, if we have visitors, take care of them for me.
  • Aranea: The second reason is, you may go insane.
  • Ghorbash: I had forgotten that was possible.
  • Wulf: If I do go insane, you are to run! On the way out, put up your best barriers at the entrance. Then seek help from the Priests and Priestesses at the Temple of The Divines in Solitude.
  • Serana: There is no way I will leave your side. I need to be involved. You should understand why.
  • Wulf: Yes, Serana. We are deciding the fate of your father. Therefore you should watch and listen.
  • Inigo: Can we get into the, hopefully, warm cave before my whiskers snap from the cold?

 We entered the glade, but the corridor was far too narrow to fight a melee safely if one was to occur. So, The Sentinels continued with me, further into the cave.

After a series of switchback corridors, we exited into a large cavern and beheld beauty. Rigmor would love the place!

Inigo said, “Take time to do as we discussed.”

“I will.”

“The likes of Harkon’s minions should not sully this place. We shall not let them get past us if they are foolish enough to make an appearance. My friend, I can hear the moths. Mr Dragonfly is humming along with them!”

“We shall visit again when this is over.”

“A certain young lady would love this place.”

“I am not going to ask for a promise. You know that if I can’t control my Dovah, I will be a threat to all of you. You will do the right thing and run.”

“Good luck, my friend.”

Inigo quickly organised the other Sentinels as Serana, and I made our way to the Canticle Tree.

A Draw Knife was hovering within its holder. Strictly, it is not needed, but I decided to stick to the ritual. It was my way of showing respect for the many generations of Moth Priests who have served The Empire.

I said to Serana, “I need silence for a minute or two.”

She replied, “Do whatever is needed. I don’t want to rush this anyway. I find this place soothing.”

I hated to deceive Serana, but I could not trust her with some secrets. I contacted Rigmor and said, “Hello, my love. How many beheadings so far today?”

“I am sorely tempted on occasions. Malesam and Freathof almost fainted when I suggested placing my word across my lap will make things go much smoother. I have to rely on scowls and choice swear words to make my displeasure known.”

“Believe me, my dear, when I say your stare can cut as sharply as your sword. It contains so much promise of violence I have no doubt it would reduce a god to a quivering mess.”

“So, humour from my Wulf means something is up. What nasty things are you yet to tell me?”

“I should forgo trying to ease you into these things. You are too adept at this game.”

“Talk, or I will give you one of my stares!”

“But I can’t see you!”

“Do you think that would stop the power of my stare?”

“No, mercy, Countess!”

“Well?”

“Dexion, the Moth Priest, was blinded by the effects of reading Serana’s Elder Scroll. It can happen to Moth Priests, and we do not know if it will be permanent.”

“But you need the third scroll read. Oh, you are going to read it!”

“Yes, I am going to attempt to read it using a ritual once used by Moth Priests.”

“You are risking your eyesight.”

“Not just my eyesight. Reading an Elder Scroll can induce insanity.”

“I understand you have to do this but have you taken precautions?”

“Yes, The Sentinels are well away from me and have instructions to run and seal the cave before seeking help. Serana will remain with me. What the Elder Scroll says may determine the fate of her father.”

“Contact me when the reading is finished. It will be difficult for me to determine if you are just your normal weird or have become insane, but I will try!”

“This place I am in is called an Ancestor Glade. It is beautiful. If the last thing I ever see is not your face, this is a reasonable substitute.”

“I could be there this very second, but you still do not want Serana to know about us, do you?”

“No. I know Serana well enough now to feel very guilty keeping secrets from her. But it is not just my conscience at stake.”

“I am keeping it secret from those whom I deal with every day. Even Cerys, who has become like a sister to me. I am sure my mother suspects, but she respects my privacy too much to snoop.”

“If it means that we save all that we love, they will come to understand and forgive.”

“I know. But I hate the politics of Cyrodiil for its moral ambiguity. This secret of ours makes me feel as unclean as the politics.”

“I don’t know how much longer before The Divines impose a break or how long it will be. I don’t even know if we will have forewarning. I want you to join me at the dig after I complete this Divine Task. Let us just enjoy ourselves while we can.”

“You have had to fight endless animals and a couple of dragons at the dig. That is not relaxing.”

“I thought you might like to help sift through tons of debris looking for tiny pieces of pottery and mosaic tiles, etcetera. Plus, I might have to do some hard labour, with my top bare and sweaty, while you supervise.”

“I can’t rip the rest of your clothes off when in polite company!”

“Ah, but the anticipation!”

“Okay… I think I might need a cold bath before I head back to the throne room.”

“I love you, Countess Pervert.”

“Did you say something? I was distracted by mental pictures of a sweaty, half-naked Dragonborn.”

I couldn’t help but laugh, which resulted in a concerned stare from a nearby vampire.

I said to Serana, “Ancestor Moths have a wicked sense of humour!”

Serana shook her head as I took the Draw Knife and headed for the Canticle Tree.

I took a couple of scrapings of the bark and put them in one of my handy pouches.

When I approached some Ancestor Moths, they started to fly in random patterns around my head. Their trilling became more pronounced.

Serana exclaimed, “Unless I’m hallucinating, you’re starting to… glimmer.”

I walked around the glade gathering moths. Soon I was in danger of tripping over due to so many moths flying past my eyes!

The trilling became something more. Sometimes when I stare at the stars, I can hear murmuring, not unlike the many voices of a busy inn. The volume rises and lowers randomly, and I know I hear a language, but I can’t pick out individual sentences or words.  I was receiving the same from the Ancestor Moths. There must be a connection between the two phenomena.

I instinctively knew there were enough moths around me to attempt the reading. I removed my helm and stood inside a beam of sunlight. Serana did not say a word but watched intently.

I unrolled Valerica’s Elder Scroll.

At first, it was too bright. I couldn’t make anything out except for Ehlnofex runes.

The image I received no longer relied on the Elder Scroll. The Ancestor Moths’ augury was now my augury. I lowered the Elder Scroll, and the image slowly clarified.

A route through a cave system and the location of the cave became known to me. As soon as I could remember it clearly, I willed myself to detach the conduit with the moths.

There was a blinding flash, and I closed my eyes.

I tilted my head upward to where the hole in the cavern roof had let the sunshine stream in. When I opened my eyes, it was not sunlight but stars, and a familiar murmuring, that made me sigh in relief. I could see. But how much time had passed?

“Your back! Can you see?” Rigmor asked in a panic.

“Yes, and I think I am sane.”

“You were so calm. Like when we are together and surrounded by our peace. I kept getting glimpses of a cave, but it was nothing special, so I don’t think it is the one you are in at the moment.”

“No, it is the cave we need to enter to find Auriel’s Bow. Let me check… oh, I was ‘gone for just over three hours!”

“There was a brief period of confusion at the start, and then nothing happened until the last five minutes.”

“Yes, I think it took some time for my brain to interpret what was being fed to it. Maybe an experienced Moth Priest would have translated it quicker. But I don’t think Dexion was supposed to read this Elder Scroll. It was not written words but a map.”

“Could the previous Elder Scroll have made Dexion blind to force you to read the last one?”

“I wouldn’t dismiss that as impossible. Not with what we have learned about the Elder Scrolls recently.”

“I am relieved. You had better talk to Serana. She might be thinking you have lost your mind.”

“Yes, you are right. I will talk to you later.”

“Now, where was I? Oh, that’s right. The sweat was rolling over your chest and biceps, and I found myself transfixed. Suddenly I felt a familiar heat….”

“Okay. I will leave you to that!”

I looked at the Canticle Tree and asked Serana, “Was that tree as beautiful before I read the Elder Scroll?”

“Yes, Wulf. This whole place is beautiful!”

“That was an interesting experience. I am pleased to have done it.”

“Are you okay? We almost thought we lost you there. Inigo has been down at least a dozen times to check on you.”

“I am perfectly okay.”

“I never trusted those damn scrolls. Who knows what those things could have done to you? Just look at Dexion!”

“It was just the latest risk in a long line of many.”

“What about Auriel’s Bow? Do you know where we can find it?”

“It is in a place called Darkfall Cave. I know exactly where the cave is and how to traverse it.”

“Then it is almost over. We can finally put an end to this ridiculous prophecy.”

“There are things I would like to discuss with the entire group, so let us go.”

I emptied the Canticle Tree bark into the pond, and then we started up the stairs.

With impeccable timing, Harkon’s goons tried to force their way into the glade.

They lasted mere seconds.

Inigo asked, “It is good to see you are with us again. You are okay, aren’t you?”

“You know, you remind me of myself at a young age. All I cared about was riding narwhales and sleeping in honeycombs, and drinking babies’ tears. Word of advice, if you ever ride a narwhale, mind the pointy end.”

“Ah… should we run and put up a barrier?”

“Do you mind? I’m busy doing the fish stick. It’s a very delicate state of mind!”

Serana interjected and said, “Wulf is perfectly okay.”

I whined, “Not fair! I had plenty more Uncle Sheo quotes to use.”

“My friend, let us get outside into the night air. I prefer the cold to these things. Hopefully, they soon rot and provide sustenance for the plants and trees.”

We made our way outside and had a quick discussion of what occurred.

  • Wulf: I know where we have to go next. It is called Darkfall Cave. I don’t know if Auriel’s Bow is in there or just the first step to where it resides.
  • Inigo: Why did it take so long to read the scroll?
  • Wulf: It was not words but a map and directions given to me by the Elder Scroll. I simply think I am inexperienced at interpreting what came through the conduit.
  • Aranea: A map and directions? How would Dexion have communicated that to us? Draw it out?
  • Wulf: I suspect the Elders Scrolls did not want Dexion to read Valerica’s scroll. They made him blind, so I would have to read it.
  • Aranea: The Elder Scrolls are too powerful to doubt that possibility.
  • Wulf: The vision I had did not seem to be related to the prophecy. I think anybody seeking Auriel’s Bow could have had Valerica’s Elder Scroll interpreted without having the other two scrolls. Nothing we have heard from the reading of the scrolls mentions the blood of a Daughter of Coldharbour. I wonder where Valerica got that idea?”
  • Inigo: Your scroll supposedly tells the secrets of the Dov. Yet, when you read it, you did not receive that information. When that crazy mage read your Elder Scroll, he was given the secret to opening the Dwemer Lock Box and nothing else. Perhaps each Elder Scroll has multiple uses?
  • Wulf: You are correct, my blue genius. The Moth Priest who read Valerica’s Elder Scroll to her must have seen information that I did not.
  • Serana: There was nothing related to my father. But I don’t suppose we need a prophecy to foresee what his future is.
  • Wulf: There is more to play out before such decisions need to be made.
  • Derkeethus: How do we get to Darkfall Cave?
  • Wulf: It is southwest of the Thalmor fort and jetty to Harkon’s castle. North of Markarth and deep in Forsworn territory. I have been along that way before, and it is quite a picturesque walk. The Forsworn in that area are friendly to me since I rescued their king.
  • Ghorbash: Undoubtedly, it will involve a steep climb. You never take us anywhere lovely and flat or downhill.
  • Wulf: It was logical that if Harkon knew about Ancestor Glades that he would have a sentry or two posted outside this one. There is no reason for him to suspect Darkfall Cave is relevant to the prophecy.
  • Serana: Let us go before more of the clan appear.
  • Wulf: I will teleport to the jetty and zap you to me.
  • Serana: I can teleport myself as I am familiar enough with the location.
  • Wulf: Okay, see you all in a minute.

I teleported to the jetty and thought Harkon’s castle looked even gloomier than usual.

Serana teleported herself, and I summoned The Sentinels. We then started the reasonably long walk to Darkfall Cave.

It was a pleasant walk. The air was brisk but not overly cold. The night sky was spectacular, and I enjoyed myself.

Rain clouds rolled in near the conclusion of our hike. It became so dark I used night vision.

I said to the group, “Okay, this is not a big place and only has a few tunnels. I doubt Auriel’s Bow will be in there. It is most likely just an entrance to something larger.”

We entered the cave and were greeted by the usual mysteriously alight torches.

To Inigo’s disgust, I fried a couple of spiders with Lightning as we went.

We came to a bridge that led to a dead end. That was okay, for I knew what we had to do.

I said to the group, “Leap into the water from the left side of the bridge. The current of the river will take us to the exit of this cave complex.”

Aranea asked, “Did you know that before we entered the caves?”

“The information was in my head somewhere. It is like seeing the bridge has jogged a memory. Some information planted by the Elder Scroll, perhaps, or maybe I have been here before. The Divines know that parts of my past are coming back to me.”

I leapt into the river, and the others followed without hesitation.

As well fell over some waterfalls, giant spiders followed us down.

Inigo tried to shout for glee but ended up gurgling as he swallowed half the river.

Each time we thought our swim was over, another waterfall loomed ahead. Rigmor would have loved this part of our travels!

A small waterfall finally deposited us into shallow and slow-flowing water. Our eight-legged friends were not far behind.

We slaughtered them all, but Inigo was not happy. He whined, “My friend, I allow you to have the lion’s share of Thalmor and stupid bandits. Please return the favour and leave more of the crunchy spiders to Inigo the Brave.”

“Maybe the Doom Strider is a spider as large as a city! Wouldn’t that be something?”

“You would probably run ahead of me and kill it with a single blow. My prophecy would change to you being the hero and me reduced to the kind, handsome sidekick.”

“You will never be just a sidekick, Inigo. Where were you when Alduin was twice defeated?”

“By your side, trying to catch my breath after fighting Alduin for what seemed like an eternity.”

‘You will not be remembered as Inigo the Spider-Slayer. I have to kill threats to my friends as quickly and efficiently as I can.”

“Fair enough. Do you know where we are?”

“No, but my Divine Compass has changed once more.”

Just then, many more spiders dropped from the ceiling. I let the others take care of them except for one marked by Kyne. Inigo was far happier after squishing a few of them.

We came upon a small camp. Two bedrolls indicated two people, but only one body was there. He had dropped his torch, and it looked like something raked him from behind.

  • Wulf: Bedrolls for two people but only one body.
  • Serana: I wonder what happened to them?
  • Inigo: He looks like a troll got him from behind.
  • Wulf: Let me see if he has… aha…a note. A bit bloody but readable.

“Sister, I know that you’ll come to find me, but it will be too late. If you find this letter, get out of this forsaken cave as soon as possible. We were fools to think we could live so close to such creatures and live peacefully.

I should’ve headed back to camp with you after we placed the torches down here. I thought these trolls would be different, that they would somehow understand that we didn’t want to hurt them.

I am now cornered, and it’s only a matter of time before one of the trolls decides to finish me off. I hope it is a quick death.

Farewell, my dear sister.”

  • Wulf: I hope his sister left and didn’t get turned into troll turds.
  • Serana: That is a bit heartless, joking like that.
  • Wulf: I feel sorry for every lonely death I find in the myriad caves and ruins I navigate. But these two were foolish and ill-prepared for the reality of places like this. Their senseless deaths make me angry, so I will joke because whatever you think of me then, it is better than facing my Dovah.
  • Ghorbash: Spend any time with soldiers, and you will find the same dark humour. It is natural, and it helps.
  • Serana: Forgive me. I have a lot to learn about mortals, it seems.
  • Wulf: Now, if everybody will remain quiet while I do my Stendarr bit. He looks like a Breton, so it is probably appropriate. In reality, it doesn’t matter if he was a devotee of Molag Bal. Lord Stendarr will keep his soul safe.

I performed Arkay’s Rights then we moved on.

The campers had set up a rudimentary tripwire. The troll that killed one of them stepped over it.

I tripped the trap with a Lightning spell, then we continued.

A knocked over brazier suggested the troll pursued the unfortunate Breton.

We could hear trolls, so I used heat vision.

When we entered a large cavern, two trolls smelled us and warned us to stay away. Once they taste the flesh of Man or Mer, they will continue to hunt them. So, I decided to kill them both.

We found the remains of ‘sister’ next to her torch. I performed Arkay’s Rights once more.

The cavern with the trolls was long and narrow. At the opposite end of the cavern was a shrine to Auri-El. And, of all things, a Falmer stood before it.

We approached with weapons sheathed and no attempt to hide our presence.

  • Gelebor: Come forward. You have nothing to fear here.
  • Wulf: If you are a servant of my Celestial Father, I hope not!
  • Gelebor: I am Knight-Paladin Gelebor. Welcome to the Great Chantry of Auri-El.
  • Wulf: I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. I am honoured to be within this Chantry.
  • Gelebor: Ah, that explains the Celestial Father bit. All these thousands of years, and you are the first of Auri-El’s blessed to come this way.
  • Serana: We know little of the Falmer. Your lifespan must be considerable!
  • Gelebor: I prefer Snow Elf. The name ‘Falmer’ usually holds a negative meaning to most travellers.
  • Wulf: Only the ignorant of which we are not. But if Snow Elf is your preference, we will comply.
  • Gelebor: As for my prolonged life, I believe our sovereign, Auri-El, has something to do with that. I have no idea what keeps my brother alive, however. But more of him in a minute.
  • Wulf: Do you have a preferred name for the Falmer?
  • Gelebor: I call them The Betrayed.
  • Serana: I imagine you know why we are here.
  • Gelebor: Of course. You’re here for Auriel’s Bow. Why else would you be here?
  • Wulf: We do not seek the bow for profit or other base need. We seek it to stop a prophecy that threatens all mortals. You would be aware why Auri-El’s blessed are placed on Nirn.
  • Gelebor: They are placed on Nirn as Auri-Els mortal champions in times of great need.
  • Serana: Do you know where Auriel’s Bow is?
  • Gelebor: I can help you get it, but first, I must have your assistance.
  • Wulf: I will not deal for something Lord Akatosh sent me to retrieve! I have told you why we are here.
  • Gelebor: I am afraid the aid I require is the only way you can retrieve Auriel’s Bow. For it is guarded by my brother, Arch-Curate Vyrthur, and he needs to die.
  • Wulf: I am no assassin, Knight-Paladin! I will never agree to kill somebody unless I know they have committed offences deserving of that punishment.
  • Aranea: Why do you want your brother dead?
  • Gelebor: The kinship between us is long gone. I don’t understand what he has become, but he is no longer the brother I once knew.
  • Wulf: I will need an excellent explanation of why the most senior member of this chantry, therefore loved by Akatosh, should die.
  • Gelebor: It was The Betrayed… they did something to him. I just don’t know why Auri-El would allow this to happen.
  • Wulf: You should know better than to ask such an ignorant question. Exactly how is Auri-El going to intervene? Alessia’s Concordat and Martin Septim’s sacrifice created barriers that prevent his direct intervention on the mortal plane. That is why he needs mortal champions. That is why he needs me! Why don’t you ask why he didn’t save your entire race from the Nords and Dwemer?
  • Inigo: Knight-Paladin, I advise you to explain what you think happened with so clarity.
  • Gelebor: The Betrayed swept into the Chantry and began killing everyone without pause.
  • Wulf: That is nothing unusual. I assume the mace you carry is not just decorative?
  • Gelebor: The Chantry was a place of peaceful worship. I led a small group of paladins, but we were no match for the Betrayed’s sheer numbers.
  • Wulf: You were in the middle of a genocide. It could just easily have been a horde of mindless Nords. Logic dictates more than a handful of paladins would have been prudent!
  • Inigo: My friend, what is done is done. We need to concentrate on why we are here.
  • Gelebor: After slaughtering everybody in the main part of the Chanty, they stormed the Inner Sanctum, where I believe they corrupted Vyrthur.
  • Wulf: What makes you think Vyrthur is corrupted, and how could The Betrayed do such a thing? They have rudimentary magic at the most and are not aligned with any Daedric Prince.
  • Gelebor: I know my brother. He is different. And it must have been The Betrayed who made him that way. There is no other explanation.
  • Wulf: Have you spoken to Vyrthur? If so, what did he say?
  • Gelebor: I have only seen him from a distance. But something is wrong. He never looks as though he is in pain or distress. He just… stands there and watches as though waiting.
  • Serana: Have you tried to get into the Inner Sanctum?
  • Gelebor: Leaving the wayshrines unguarded would be violating my sacred duty as a Knight Paladin of Auriel. A solo assault on The Betrayed guarding the Inner Sanctum would only end in my death.
  • Wulf: How many who sought Auriel’s Bow have you sent to their deaths over these thousands of years?
  • Gelebor: I never forced anybody to attempt the task.
  • Wulf: But you never told them the odds they faced, did you? Do you even know what happened to them? If they died, how and what killed them?
  • Gelebor: I… never warned them, and I assume The Betrayed killed them all.
  • Wulf: The Betrayed are territorial. They would not be guarding the Inner Sanctum but protecting their home. So let me summarise. You think your brother has somehow been corrupted by The Betrayed but have no idea how or what the corruption entails. You accuse him of no crimes yet still expect us to murder him.
  • Serana: The fact is we need the bow, so we will have to go to the Inner Sanctum.
  • Wulf: Listen, Knight-Paladin Gelebor. We shall make our way to the Inner Sanctum, but I do not agree to kill your brother. We will judge him on his actions, not the accusations of his estranged brother. Will you still aid us?
  • Gelebor: Since we have been talking, I have sensed my sovereign near you.
  • Wulf: The armour I wear and the sword I wield were made by Lord Akatosh upon the same anvil he used to create his bow. They carry blessings of The Divines and are some of the most powerful artefacts on Nirn. But I am also his Celestial Son. I carry his blood and the soul of a dragon.
  • Gelebor: Does he speak to you?
  • Wulf: Other Divines and gods do. Lord Akatosh speaks to me through a dragon he calls his herald.
  • Gelebor: Auri-El used to speak to Vyrthur. He was our sovereign’s voice amongst my people and loved by all. I don’t understand why somebody of such strong faith would act as he does. If he is not corrupted, why has he not helped me defend the wayshrines as Auri-El would want him to do?
  • Wulf: I don’t know, but perhaps we can find out by reaching the Inner Sanctum. Will you aid us?
  • Gelebor: Of course. I would be betraying Auri-El if I didn’t.
  • Serana: You said you guard wayshrines. What are they?
  • Gelebor: Follow me, and I will show you.

We approached the wayshrine, and Gelebor cast a spell. The symbol of Auri-El on top of the wayshrine’s dome briefly flashed, and then the structure lifted and locked into place. The Falmer portals were blank.

  • Serana: So, this is Snow Elf magic. Incredible!
  • Gelebor: This structure is known as a wayshrine. They were used for meditation and transport when the Chantry was a place of enlightenment.
  • Aranea: They were portals. No wonder Wulf knew about them!
  • Gelebor: Prelates of these shrines were charged with teaching the mantras of Auri-El to our Initiates.
  • Serana: What does the basin in the centre signify?
  • Gelebor: Once the Initiate completed his mantras, he’d dip a ceremonial ewer in the basin at the wayshrine’s centre and proceed to the next wayshrine.
  • Serana: So, these Initiates had to lug around a heavy pitcher of water. Marvellous.
  • Gelebor: Well, once the Initiate’s enlightenment was complete, he’d bring the ewer to the Chantry’s Inner Sanctum. Pouring the contents of the ewer into the sacred basin of the Sanctum would allow him to enter for an audience with the Arch-Curate himself.
  • Serana: All that just to end up dumping it out? It makes no sense to me.
  • Aranea: Serana, if there is one person here who should not question the validity or sensibility of religious ceremony, it is you! Carrying a jug of holy water makes more sense than being raped.
  • Serana: Yes, Aranea, you are correct. I apologise, Knight-Paladin Gelebor.
  • Gelebor: It is symbolic. I don’t expect you to understand.
  • Wulf: You must have handed out hundreds of these ewers over the years. We will probably trip over them!
  • Gelebor: There were only a dozen or so made. If progress to the Inner Sanctum halts, they will eventually reappear here. 
  • Wulf: Handy confirmation that more have died pursuing the bow.
  • Gelebor: If there were another way, I would have done it long ago.
  • Wulf: We will follow in the Initiates footsteps, and I will be proud to do so.
  • Inigo: Who gets to carry the ewer?
  • Wulf: We shall take it in turns. I will freeze the water each time so it cannot spill.
  • Gelebor: The first wayshrine is at the end of Darkfall Passage. It is a cavern that represents the absence of enlightenment.
  • Wulf: How many wayshrines are there?
  • Gelebor: There are five in total, spread far apart across the Chantry.
  • Derkeethus: These caves must be massive!
  • Gelebor: Caves? Oh, no. The Chantry encompasses more than a few caves, as you’ll soon discover.
  • Wulf: May I have an Initiate’s Ewer.

Gelebor walked behind the wayshrine and returned with the ewer. It will be cumbersome to carry, but if we rotate the duty, then it will be manageable.

  • Gelebor: When you locate a wayshrine, there will be a spectral Prelate tending to it. They will allow you to draw the water from the shrine’s basin as if you’ve been enlightened.
  • Wulf: I think we know all we need to complete the initiation.
  • Gelebor: This may be the last time we’re able to converse. If you have any questions before you leave, I suggest you ask them. Otherwise, all I can do now is grant you my hopes for a safe journey.
  • Wulf: You call Auri-El your sovereign. I assume that most Snow Elves worshipped him?
  • Gelebor: As he is the head of your Divines, he was the head of our pantheon. This Chantry was constructed near the beginning of the First Era. It provided a retreat for those that wished to become enlightened.
  • Wulf: I notice a lot of similarities to Ayleid architecture.
  • Gelebor: That is not surprising since both peoples separated from the Aldmer at about the same time. Our mutual respect and cooperation were lost when the Ayleid became puppets of various Daedric Lords.
  • Wulf: Did smaller chantries exist for Trinimac, Syrabane, Jephre and Phynaster?
  • Gelebor: Yes. They were just as splendid but smaller. A temple within this chantry catered for those gods if somebody divided their worship or were visiting.
  • Wulf: Will I be considered enlightened if I visit each wayshrine and pour the water at the end?
  • Gelebor: Yes. I can sense this would be important to you.
  • Wulf: I have many titles. I like ones that show my dedication to The Nine.
  • Gelebor: The wayshrines were an essential part of the process here. Sadly, the magic used to construct these wonders were lost long before I arrived here.
  • Wulf: You would be amazed how much ancient knowledge has been lost.
  • Aranea: Can you please explain the spectral Prelates.
  • Gelebor: They are ghosts of the Snow Elf priests who tended the wayshrines before being slaughtered by The Betrayed. Through the grace of Auri-El, they were restored to their spectral form to enable them to continue their duties.
  • Aranea: Their love of Auri-El survived even death?
  • Gelebor: Yes, their faith was strong. In their current form, they still believe the Chantry to be an active centre of worship.
  • Derkeethus: Who were your people?
  • Gelebor: We were once a wealthy and prosperous society that occupied a portion of Skyrim. Unfortunately, we were constantly at war with the Nords, who claimed the land as their ancestral home. We had always maintained an uneasy alliance with the underground-dwelling dwarves, and when faced with extinction, we turned to them for help. Surprisingly, they agreed to protect us but demanded a terrible price… the blinding of our race. There were splinter groups that resisted the agreement and even some that sought alternate alliances. But when it was all said and done, those elves were either slaughtered, vanished or gave up and took the dwarves’ bargain.
  • Derkeethus: How did they become The Betrayed?
  • Gelebor: I’ve often asked myself that very same question. The blinding of my race was supposedly accomplished with a toxin. Certainly not enough to devolve them into the sad and twisted beings they’ve become. The Chantry is relatively isolated, so it took some time for the dwarves’ offer to reach us here. By the time the compact had been completed, it was too late for us even to attempt to intervene.
  • Derkeethus: Is that why you have not lost your sight?
  • Gelebor: Correct. We only numbered perhaps a hundred at a time, so our presence remained a secret to the dwarves and the Nords. Ironically, our undoing came at the hands of our own people.
  • Wulf: You lived peacefully with the Nords until the Night of Tears. Why did the Snow Elves attack Saarthal?
  • Gelebor: We were aware of a powerful relic buried beneath the place Ysgramor chose for his city. We feared, not just for us but all of Nirn, the discovery of this relic by the Nords. We wanted to prevent them from discovering and using the relic, and so we sacked the city. We were successful in achieving our objective, but the consequences were unforeseen.
  • Wulf: There is no justification for genocide. Man against Mer continues to this day, and it sickens me.
  • Gelebor: It was galling to find the ones slaughtering my people suddenly professing love for Akatosh. I suppose they did not consider Auri-El and Akatosh to be the same.
  • Wulf: The relic beneath Saarthal was recently discovered. I and other mages managed to remove it from Nirn before it destroyed us all.
  • Gelebor: In a way, our attack on Saarthal only delayed the inevitable. And look what it cost us!
  • Aranea: How many Snow Elves still live?
  • Gelebor: Within this Chantry, there is just my brother and me. I suspect there may be isolated pockets of survivors hidden throughout Nirn and pocket planes of Oblivion.
  • Wulf: We shall get going. Divines bless you.
  • Gelebor: And may Auri-El light your path.

The portal to Darkfall Passage became active once I stepped into the wayshrine carrying the ewer. I handed the ewer to Serana. It was hers till we reached the first wayshrine of the Initiate’s path.

We stepped through the portal, and the first thing to get our attention was phosphorescent plants.

When you got close to them, their glowing flowers withdraw into their stems.

I used heat vision then warned the group, “A flying Chaurus is hiding in that cocoon. They metamorphose into them at the end of their life cycle, and it is the form that breeds.”

Inigo commented, “Mr Dragonfly says that is the same as caterpillars and butterflies.”

“Tell Mr Dragonfly that I have never met a butterfly that wants to chew my head off.”

When we approached, the Chaurus broke from its cocoon and attacked. Lightening took care of it.

A bit further on, I warned the group once more. I told them, “Betrayed are hiding in the walls, waiting to leap down and surprise us. Don’t disappoint the poor things by not acting surprised.”

The first Betrayed who leapt at us didn’t even hit the water before I electrocuted him.

The combination of heat vision and the strength of my Magicka meant Chaurus and Betrayed hardly slowed us down at all.

We found remains of several Initiates who didn’t even get to the first wayshrine.

Derkeethus exclaimed, “Fresh Chaurus eggs!” then started shoving some into a bag.

Ghorbash asked, “My scaly friend. What are those for?”

“For breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snacks!”

“They look slimy and unappealing. How are they cooked?”

“COOK THEM? You are disgusting!”

Derkeethus then proceeded to stuff a couple of Chaurus eggs in his mouth. They made a distinct popping sound as he bit into them, which made Ghorbash almost vomit. The rest of us laughed.

We continued through the caves killing as we went.

Another type of fluorescent plant had trumpet flowers. There was also a form of fluorescent lichen. Several times we found trapped chests surrounded by fluorescent flowers.

  • Wulf: Okay, we know The Betrayed cannot see.
  • Ghorbash: Duh!
  • Wulf: So, how do they know about fluorescent flowers and that it is a good idea to light up trapped chests so that victims notice them?
  • Ghorbash: Uh…
  • Serana: Do you know the answer, or do you ask these questions out of spite?
  • Wulf: I don’t know everything, and on occasion, somebody else fills the holes in my knowledge.
  • Inigo: Wulf just admitted he doesn’t know everything. I think I might faint!
  • Wulf: I have never claimed to know everything, you smelly blue flea palace!
  • Inigo: I wish fish were as easy to hook as you, my friend.
  • Wulf: I take it nobody has any idea on how The Betrayed learned how to do this?
  • Serana: Gobblygook?
  • Aranea: Oh, poor Serana. She is becoming one of us!

We came upon a bone sculpture.

  • Wulf: This is astonishing!
  • Inigo: We have seen many bone sculptures like this.
  • Wulf: Yes, but Forsworn, Goblin an Riekling made them. I have traversed dozens of ruins and caves swarming with The Betrayed and have never seen anything like this.
  • Sarena: Do you think these Betrayed are more advanced?
  • Wulf: It makes sense. Apart from the occasional Auriel’s Bow seekers, these Betrayed have been left alone. Instead of constantly having to fight for survival, they have had thousands of years to develop culturally.
  • Aranea: The Betrayed have placed the sculpture on a raised platform with glowing ore at its feet. They wanted it to be seen by those that have sight.
  • Wulf: It shows promise for the species. Perhaps, if given a chance, they can drag themselves away from their hatred filled state.
  • Ghorbash: It doesn’t seem much progress given the amount of time.
  • Wulf: Evolution accelerates. It might take a long time for the first step. Then a shorter period between the first and second steps. An even shorter period between the second and third steps. Understand?
  • Ghorbash: Yes. Is art a critical step?
  • Wulf: It means they are thinking about something other than survival. Instead of concentrating on who the next enemy might be or where dinner is coming from, they have dedicated time and resources to express themselves. It is a significant step from which comes written language and all that evolves from that.
  • Derkeethus: Some people would be terrified at the prospect of smarter Betrayed.
  • Wulf: Undoubtedly. But I think it is fantastic!

Glowing ore was in abundance.

We could not avoid conflict and were increasingly uneasy with the killing.

A dead-end halted progress. Until the Auri-El Chantry, I had never seen Falmer pull chains. What was more astonishing is they were also illuminated with glowing rocks embedded into them! We started to wonder if some of The Betrayed could see.

At random, I pulled the chain on the left.

A section of the wall slid downwards.

Before entering the newly revealed cavern, a strange blue and purple mottled tiger leapt on Inigo. We killed it and healed Inigo before proceeding.

After entering a vast cavern, Inigo exclaimed, “Wow! Look at this, Mr Dragonfly.”

I said, “It is a bit like Blackreach.”

There were strange plants that would close if you touched their middle.

We could see a wayshrine in the distance.

I approached the spectral Prelate, who said, “Welcome, Initiate. I am Prelate Sidaynis, and this is the Wayshrine of Illumination.”

“Auri-El’s blessings be upon you, Prelate Sidaynis.”

“Are you prepared to honour the mantras of Auri-El and fill your vessel with His enlightenment?”

“Yes, Prelate, I am.”

“Then behold Auri-El’s gift, my child. May it light your path as you seek tranquillity within the Inner Sanctum.”

The Prelate moved away then cast a spell on the wayshrine. Auri-El’s symbol briefly glowed then the wayshrine arose and locked in place.

Serana handed me the ewer, and I dipped it into the central font.

A portal opened, but I couldn’t make out any details of its destination.

I froze the water in the ewer then handed it to Derkeethus.

We stepped through the portal, and my Divine Compass shifted once more. We were in a cave not dissimilar to the Darkfall Passage except for two things. We could smell fresh air and feel a breeze. Snow Elf ruins were visible.

I told the group, “I think we are about to exit the caves. If we are out in the open, we can probably dodge many of The Betrayed. Let us try to avoid killing a large percentage of their population.”

The local deer have stripes and dots similar in pattern to the tiger that attacked Inigo.

We followed a deer that led us to the exit.

We entered a vast and stunningly beautiful valley. Snow Elf archways had collapsed with age but showed us the paths to the wayshrines.

Serana said in awe, “This is incredible. It is like a whole other world.”

“I think my Divine Compass is directing me towards the Inner Sanctum. But I will visit each wayshrine first. This tradition is important to me.”

“Yes, of course, there is no need to hurry. There is no possibility of my father finding this place.”

A Betrayed sentry aimed his bow at us.

I killed him with Lightning.

The local tigers proved to be very aggressive and would charge us from a distance. They were peppered with arrows before they got close.

Two lines of arches led from the valley. We decided to follow the ones on our right.

We passed a cave entrance. It had the usual totem that The Betrayed use all over Skyrim to proclaim their territory. What was also present was a large, colourful flag or banner fluttering in the wind.

  • Wulf: If you can’t see, the sound of the waving banner will let you know where the entrance is.
  • Aranea: If you have sight, the banner would be seen from a distance and let you know where the entrance is.
  • Inigo: The totem is there to announce Betrayed territory, so the banner must be for the purpose you think it is. It is an aid to navigation.
  • Serana: I have had very little to do with The Betrayed. Are these things we have seen in the Chantry genuinely unique?
  • Wulf: I have travelled dozens of ruins and cave systems full of The Betrayed. The pull chain, bone sculpture and these banners are items I have never encountered before. It is like The Betrayed of this chantry are an advanced version of those in Skyrim.
  • Serana: And you believe their advancement is due to the relative peace they have experienced?
  • Wulf: Absolutely. I want some experts to study them, but then again, if word spreads of this place, their peaceful existence will cease.
  • Inigo: Any mention of living Snow Elves will rile the blood of Nord racists. Therefore, they too must remain a well-kept secret.
  • Serana: Could you fly Bostin here?
  • Wulf: Yes. Or I could fly a dragon here.
  • Aranea: Do you think dragons might live here?
  • Wulf: I don’t see why not. They sought places of refuge, like the two we encountered at the dig site. If we do meet some, I hope they don’t force me to kill them.
  • Serana: We are not going to enter the cave, are we?
  • Wulf: I have no intention of invading the homes of The Betrayed unless they are on the path we must take.

As expected, following the arches led us to another wayshrine.

As before, I approached the spectral Prelate, who said, “Welcome, Initiate. I am Prelate Athring, and this is the Wayshrine of Sight.”

“Auri-El’s blessings be upon you, Prelate Athring.”

“Are you prepared to honour the mantras of Auri-El and fill your vessel with His enlightenment?”

“Yes, Prelate, I am.”

“Then behold Auri-El’s gift, my child. May it speed your journey to the Inner Sanctum.”

The Prelate moved away then cast a spell on the wayshrine. Auri-El’s symbol briefly glowed then the wayshrine arose and locked in place.

I took the ewer from Derkeethus then unfroze the water within. I dipped the ewer in the central font and then froze it again. This time I handed it to Aranea, who handled its weight with ease.

Only one portal appeared, and it was to Darkfall Passage.

I told the group, “There is no need to return to Darkfall Passage. So, we will follow the other line of archways.”

Typically hard to see when hiding in vegetation, an unfortunate spider was highlighted by Kyne.

Inigo knew that anything thus marked was mine, so didn’t grumble when I turned the spider to ash.

I used heat vision and told the others, “There are more spiders just over the rise.”

I took care of one and let Inigo enjoy his hobby with the others.

I warned, “There is a large spider on the rock shelf above.”

I killed it as it lowered itself.

The passage between the spider-infested rocks led to another valley. This one was full of ice and snow with a river coursing through its centre. It was just as spectacular as the previous valley.

We spotted a chest with a skeleton next to it. Curiosity demanded we have a look, so we did.

Next to the chest was a strange book with Auri-El’s symbol on its front cover.

The contents of the book were in Falmer script. Although some parts looked similar to other languages, I had no hope of translating. I decided that even if Knight-Paladin Gelebor read it to me, a written translation would be preferable. Urag was the person for translations.

The trail of arches restarted, so we followed it.

We soon came upon another wayshrine, and the familiar routine ensued.

“Welcome, Initiate. I am Prelate Celegriath, and this is the Wayshrine of Learning.”

“Auri-El’s blessings be upon you, Prelate Celegriath.”

“Are you prepared to honour the mantras of Auri-El and fill your vessel with His enlightenment?”

“Yes, Prelate, I am.”

“Auri-El bless you, child. For you are a step closer to the Inner Sanctum and everlasting wisdom.”

The Prelate moved away then cast a spell on the wayshrine. Auri-El’s symbol briefly glowed then the wayshrine arose and locked in place.

I took the ewer from Aranea then unfroze the water within. I dipped the ewer in the central font and then froze it again. This time I handed it to Ghorbash, who clipped it onto his belt and said, “I can take it from here. It may impede the others now that it weighs so much.

Once again, the only portal that opened was to Darkfall Passage.

We looked across the valley and could see another series of arches. I could also see a temple, and that is where my Divine Compass pointed.

I used zoom vision to have a closer look.

  • Wulf: That temple across the way. That is where the Inner Sanctum is.
  • Inigo: It seems close, but I doubt it will be easy to reach.
  • Serana: Even from here, it looks magnificent.
  • Aranea: Yes, a fitting home for Auriel’s Bow, I should think.
  • Wulf: Well, let us cross the river and follow the arches once more.
  • Ghorbash: Terrific. As soon as I volunteer to carry the ewer the rest of the way, we get to climb steep, icy pathways.
  • Wulf: If I had my lute with me, I would play a sad tune to show how sorrowful that makes me.
  • Ghorbash: You can be a right bastard sometimes.
  • Wulf: Pardon, Inspector?
  • Ghorbash: Commander Valdr, with all due respect and in no way subordinate, you can be a right bastard sometimes, Sir!
  • Wulf: Somebody has to be when there is no sergeant around.
  • Ghorbash: Right you are, Sir.
  • Serana: I know! You both swallowed snow and have brain freeze!
  • Derkeethus: Ghorbash is an Orsimer, so that is impossible.
  • Ghorbash: Are you implying something, you Chaurus egg chomping lizard?
  • Derkeethus: That reminds me. I have been trying to pace myself with the eggs, and it is time for another couple!

Ghorbash quickly moved ahead as Derkeethus deliberately exaggerated his chewing sounds and smacked his lips while consuming more Chaurus eggs.

We made it across the river by leaping from one frozen island to another. We managed that without anybody falling in. The steep climb to the arches was quite pleasant despite Ghorbash’s reservations.

We found ourselves in yet another valley. A frozen lake dominated this one. There was no sign of The Betrayed but plenty of skeletons.

Inigo asked, “What has killed the Initiates?”

“I don’t know. I can see no sign of The Betrayed.”

“Maybe they just slipped on the ice and banged their heads.”

“You keep telling yourself that if it makes you less nervous.”

“Quiet, Mr Dragonfly. I was not going to lie and say I was not nervous!”

As we walked across the ice, Serana asked, “Wulf, is this ice thick?”

“I have no idea.”

“What if one of us falls through it.”

“This is just an educated guess and pure speculation, but I think they would get wet.”

“Why did I bother asking?”

“Ah, that is a far more difficult question to answer!”

We carefully made our way towards some arches at the other end of the lake. None of us expected what happened next.

Two dragons broke through the ice from below!

“Zu’u los Dovahkiin. Hi fen dir fod hi krif!” (I am Dovahkiin. You will die if you fight!)

One of the dragons seemed to be of the Revered species. He replied, “Voslaarum fen krif!” (Voslaarum will fight!).

I could not decide the species of the other dragon who said, “Naaslaarum fen krif!” (Naaslaarum will fight!)

I was not going to try and talk them down. Battle lust drove them beyond reason.

What followed was a brief and one-sided skirmish. The dragons offered little challenge to my Thu’um and the expertise of my comrades.

The nightmare repeated as I stood and absorbed the souls of my brethren. There was to be no afterlife or resurrection for them. Maybe I can turn those majestic beings into a new staff or dagger! What a load of fucking bullshit!

Inigo stood in front of me and said, “Speak to her. Listen to her.”

“She will know and talk to me soon. When I watched people kill each other during the civil war, I wondered how they did it. The Nords who sided with The Empire faced friends and sometimes family on the battlefield and justified their deaths somehow. The two senior officers who helped me beat The New Order retired before facing each other on the field of battle. Yet The Divines force me to eliminate my Celestial Brothers, not just kill them. No Sovngarde. No flying over the mountains of Aetherius. Nothing for eternity. They are wiped from existence. I don’t know how to express what this does to me. And each time, I have to put it aside and keep moving.”

“I don’t know how to help you, my friend. All I can see each time is the pain and anguish.”

“And what tops it all off is Alduin. He did the same to countless mortals in his bid for power. Yet his soul returned to Akatosh. He will be reborn, and of all the Dov I have faced, he is the least deserving of that reward.”

Inigo was at a loss on how to help me. Nobody knew how except for my gods and the woman I love.

“My dear Dragonborn. I have fled the throne room in tears and left Malesam, my mother and Freathof confused. After his barn burnt down, the farmer asking for help must have thought his story moved me to tears. But I don’t care. Your heart is breaking, and you are confused once more. You are my priority.”

“I can’t fall apart like this every time I have to kill a dragon. No, not kill but extinguish, eliminate, eradicate, destroy. I didn’t hesitate to attack with all I had against these two dragons. Why? Because I was defending my friends. I don’t know if I would be so fast to do so if by myself. Why am I worth more than a dragon? At least I would have an afterlife.”

“But you are worth more because every person on Nirn needs you. Even if alone, you must think of all the millions you are defending when fighting for your life. You must think of our farm and the little girl and how that needs to come true. That future life has the beauty and simplicity that exemplifies mortal existence. It must come true to prove you have conquered those who want to take it all away.”

“I just don’t understand why it has to be this way. It is redundant and no longer needed. Surely Lord Akatosh can remove it.”

“Maybe he can and hasn’t for some gobblygook reason of which we are unaware. We don’t know, my love.”

“I am in one of the most beautiful and spectacular places imaginable. I can’t wait to show you this place and the Ancestor Glade. You can use your words to make it even more memorable.”

“I can’t wait. But for now, do not concern yourself about how The Sentinels view you. Being upset about the dragons is not a weakness you display but confirmation of the person they all admire and love. Get back to them now and move to the next part of this Divine Task.”

“You had better dry your eyes and assure the farmer his burnt barn did not make his Countess cry.”

“Talk to me later.”

“Yes, my love.”

I looked around and saw beauty. I started to walk towards a Word Wall, and the others followed.

The Word Wall tried to teach me ‘Lah’, which means Magicka. It is the second Word of the Drain Vitality shout. I already knew the Word and the Shout.

  • Wulf: The message is, ‘Lungerd wahlaan qethsegol ahmulii vahrukt thorgrima deinmaar do sahqon yolos ahrk drog do.’
  • Serana: You didn’t seem to punctuate the message and used a lot of cojoined words.
  • Wulf: It is difficult for me to speak Dovahzul fluently unless I am reading it. Dragons do not use punctuation and join several words together that I would pronounce separately. They still understand what I say and often reply in the stilted form.
  • Serana: What does it say in Tamrielic?
  • Wulf: Lungerd raised this stone in her husband’s memory. Thorgrima, keeper of crimson fire and lord of Magicka.
  • Inigo: They sound like Nord names.
  • Wulf: The Nords and Snow Elves lived in harmony for many years. Perhaps Nords once visited this place?
  • Inigo: Have you ever researched the people mentioned on Word Walls?
  • Wulf: Yes, but the ancient Nords did not keep good records, and much of their history was oral. Unfortunately, most of it is lost. It is probably impossible to discover what influence Lungerd and Thorgrima had in their day.
  • Serana: Because of the dweomer that detects Dragonborn, there must have been a significant ritual in erecting the Word Walls.
  • Wulf: I would imagine so. They would not have been cheap to create, and the dweomer used known only to a few.

We crossed the last of the frozen lake and followed the arches to the next wayshrine. I stopped to take in the spectacular view along the way.

The ritual repeated itself once more.

“Welcome, Initiate. I am Prelate Nirilor. You have arrived at the Wayshrine of Resolution.”

“Auri-El’s blessings be upon you, Prelate Nirilor.”

“Are you prepared to honour the mantras of Auri-El and fill your vessel with His enlightenment?”

“Yes, Prelate, I am.”

“Then go forth, child. May the enrichment of Auri-El strengthen your resolve as you undertake your journey to the Inner Sanctum.”

The Prelate moved away then cast a spell on the wayshrine. Auri-El’s symbol briefly glowed then the wayshrine arose and locked in place.

I took the ewer from Ghorbash then unfroze the water within. I dipped the ewer in the central font and then froze it again. I handed it back to Ghorbash, who clipped it onto his belt once more.