Sundas, 25th Morning Star, 4E 202
Yesterday was a badly needed break for Rigmor and me. We took the children living in Silverpeak Lodge for a tour in Bostin. They especially loved the overlook where Rigmor had once sung her song to me.
Rigmor kissed me goodbye then teleported to Bruma. She knew I had yet another Divine Task, this one pointing to Dawnstar and The White Hall, the residence of Jarl Brina Merilis. Rigmor told me that Jarl Brina and her housecarl, Horik Halfhand, originally came from Bruma. They both served under her father during the Great War and in Hammerfell.
Before heading for Dawnstar, I wanted to visit the dig site and check on its progress. The Sentinel squad accompanying me consisted of Lydia, Nubaree, Gregor and Rayya.
We were relaxed and took our time on the steep walk from Silverpeak Lodge to the dig site. Some bandits had decided that the dig site was easy pickings. Unfortunately for them, they chose to attack it just as we arrived.
Auryen is an impressive swordsman!
Gregor swung his hammer with all his might and knocked a bandit six feet into the air. They were dead before they landed, and that was the end of the skirmish.
After checking that nobody was injured, I said to Auryen, “I am impressed by how well you handle that sword!”
“Well, I have had centuries of practice.”
“Did you confirm the jewellery belonged to Windcaller?”
“Oh yes, I even have the original design diagrams made by the jeweller.”
“How long before the replicas are done?”
“Our artisans say a week. Then you can give the originals to The Greybeards.”
“The Greybeards and Paarthurnax. I disagree with their ‘Way of the Voice’, but Windcaller’s possessions should reside with them. Who knows, I might even see one of them smile!”
“I hope they don’t laugh out loud!”
“That would be a disaster. Silverpeak Lodge would probably collapse.”
“I think Whiterun would get buried in an avalanche.”
“What about that shard?”
“It is crystallised ice, otherwise knows as Eternal Ice or Eternium. It is a pure elemental manifestation of Frost Magicka.”
“Elemental Magic is yet another form of Magicka lost to the ages, or Dragon Breaks. Reduced to its subset, Destruction Magic.”
“In many ways, Eternium is much like concentrated Stalhrim and is extremely rare. In fact, the only known sum of the element was forged into a staff by a wizard named Hrormir.”
“The infamous Hrormir, Arch-Mage of the Mages Guild, Champion of Nocturnal and friend of The Divines. I can believe the stories of his feats except for one. He did not drink twelve flagons of mead in one hour then bed four maidens, twice each.”
“Guild Master, they had to make a mage hero suitable for Nord tastes.”
“If I remember correctly, the Thieves Guild stole the staff as proof of their expertise and then returned it. That was quite a feat considering the protections around the Mage Guild headquarters.”
“I think somebody has divided the staff and hidden the pieces to keep it out of the hands of the Synod. Anyway, keep a lookout for other shards.”
“I will do. Have they cleared that large column out of the way?”
“Yes, and we are waiting on you and The Sentinels to remove the aggressive wildlife. Trolls and Wolves, I believe.”
I walked over to the infinitely cheerful Khajiit.
“Good morning to you, Latoria!”
“I am enjoying this excavation very much. So many little pieces of pottery and other exciting items!”
“Well, perhaps we can make another area safe for you to gather more bucket loads of little pieces of pottery?”
“This Khajiit would never stop smiling!”
“Never do, dear Latoria. Your smile is worth more than any treasure we find.”
“Ah, if you did not belong to Lady Rigmor, that sweet talk would earn you a night of unbridled passion!”
“Then I am doubly fortunate as manacles chaff my wrists and ankles.”
“Mine have fur linings!”
We quickly travelled through North Windcaller Pass and entered Windcaller’s Retreat, where a second camp had been erected.
I approached Professor Marassi, who said, “Guild Master, all goes well, but we ran into some more problems on the other side of the pillar we cleared.”
“Troll and wolves?”
“Yes, but there was also a wayshrine with another plaque that worried us. It hints that something more powerful than trolls also populates the area.”
“Don’t worry, we shall clear them out, whatever they are. So apart from more beasties, how is the dig progressing?”
“Very well. It’s a bit colder up here than at the cave mouth, but we will manage. The sooner we can get back to digging, the better, though.”
“We will be quick. I am needed in Dawnstar.”
I approached Kyre and asked him, “What is with the smile? For a second, I thought a fair-skinned Latoria had joined us.”
“Latoria’s cunning prank is making it hard for me to keep a straight face.”
“And who is the target of said prank?”
“The grumpy one with the Dwemer goggles.”
“What evil thing have you two hatched?”
“I am going to hide small bits of Dwemer metal and a few cogs in amongst the debris. That will guarantee Madras is more helpful when sorting through the bucket loads of material.”
“That is funny and practical.”
“Behind that happy exterior, Latoria has a dark heart. Her laugh turned into more of an evil cackle as we discussed the plan.”
“And you couldn’t help but laugh along with her.”
“Perhaps I am ensorceled?”
“Everybody laughs along with Latoria. She has us all ensorceled.”
I approached the unsuspecting victim of the prank and asked, “Have you found anything of note since my last visit?”
Madras replied, “Yes, lots of rock and lots of dirt. We did find some interesting plaques and a few ancient Nordic weapons.”
“No sign of Dwemer activity.”
“I can assure you, Guild Master, that this is the last place on Nirn I expect to find anything associated with the Dwemer.”
“You never know your luck.”
“Archaeology is about study and logic, not luck.”
“Well. Have fun!”
We entered South Windcaller Pass and past where the fallen column had been.
A pack of wolves attacked, and all died when I hit them with Unrelenting Force.
Lydia said, “I have travelled with you since you first started to learn the Thu’um. Back then, you would have knocked the wolves flying but not killed them outright.”
“Depending on the Shout, they are two hundred to two hundred and fifty per cent stronger than when I started. I am young, and my power in the Thu’um will continue to grow with its use. I will eventually rival the strongest practitioners in history.”
“But you will still be able to talk?”
“Yes, that is a matter of modulation, like Arngeir of the Greybeards, has perfected.”
We came upon a wayshrine and another plaque. This one read,
“Those to your left are made of ice.
They do not fear those to your right.”
I said to The Sentinels, “We will head left. Be ready for Ice Wraiths.”
The Ice Wraiths are transparent and can be hard to spot in ice caves and snow.
They are very vulnerable to fire and quickly succumbed to my Destruction Magic.
We walked past many deceased trolls. They must have been ‘those to your right’.
After disposing of the Ice Wraiths, we entered a large cavern.
In a small alcove was another Eternium shard.
Fallen rocks blocked the only corridor leading further into South Windcaller Pass.
We made our way back to Windcaller’s Retreat via other tunnels and did not encounter any dangerous wildlife.
I informed Professor Marassi of the new blockage and asked him to give the Eternium shard to Auryen.
I then teleported outside of Dawnstar and summoned The Sentinels.
We then made our way to The White Hall.
- Brina: Thane, you have come to Dawnstar at a bad time. Tempers are… fiery.
- Wulf: My Jarl, I have been sent here by The Divines. Perhaps there is a reason for these fiery tempers that I can help rectify?
- Brina: The Divines must think there is something of importance. Lady Mara sent one of her priests, Erandur, to investigate and try and calm things down.
- Wulf: Can you describe what the problem is?
- Horik: Not a single man or woman in Dawnstar has gotten a good night rest in days. We keep having the same nightmare, over and over.
- Brina: Some have not woken from their troubled sleep. Not the elderly or infirm that one may expect to die in their slumber. Healthy, younger people are falling to this horror that inflicts my hold.
- Horik: If people aren’t tired, they’re angry, and if they aren’t mad, they’re afraid. It’s made keeping order a mess.
- Wulf: I will speak to Brother Erandur. Perhaps Lady Mara is the one who requested my presence, and he may need assistance.
- Brina: The Divines don’t tell you why they send you somewhere?
- Wulf: Sometimes. But they think it is essential I figure out problems without the bias prior knowledge might generate.
- Brina: An interesting concept but one that would not work in the Legion.
- Wulf: But a good commander must be able to figure things out when the intel is wrong. I am sure you experienced occasions when Legion Command told you something about an area that turned out to be incorrect.
- Horik: Too often. That is when a good commander stands out from others. They are quick to adapt and improvise.
- Wulf: Where can I find Brother Erandur?
- Horik: He had been at the inn the last few days collecting statements from people.
- Wulf: Okay, we will see what we can do to help him and Dawnstar.
We made our way to Windpeak Inn and watched Erandur deal with a couple of distraught locals.
- Irgnir: It’s a curse! It has to be! I’ve got to get out of this town.
- Fruki: Irgnir, get a hold of yourself. They’re just dreams. Please tell her, Erandur.
- Erandur: Listen to your friend, Fruki. They are just dreams, my dear. I assure you that it is quite normal.
- Irgnir: It’s the same dream over and over again. Do you think that’s normal? It’s evil, I tell you!
- Fruki: Erandur, she has a point. You keep telling us no harm will follow these dreams, but they must be an omen, and I have heard of people not waking from their sleep.
- Thoring: Give him a chance to speak. He’s trying to help us.
- Erandur: Everyone, please. I’m doing what I can to end these nightmares. In the meantime, all I ask is you remain strong and put your trust in Lady Mara.
- Irgnir: I… I will. Thank you…
As soon as he was left alone, I approached Brother Erandur.
- Wulf: Brother Erandur. Lady Mara would not request you or me to deal with harmless and straightforward nightmares.
- Erandur: And who are you?
- Wulf: I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines.
- Erandur: Then Lady Mara listened to my plea. I know what is causing the nightmares, and everybody is in grave danger. But there was very little I could do about it by myself.
- Wulf: What is behind the nightmares?
- Erandur: These dreams are manifestations created by Dark Lord Vaermina.
- Lydia: Wulf, have you made an enemy of that one yet?
- Wulf: No, but she is not one of the nicer ones. By default, she would detest me and everything I stand for.
- Nubaree: Wulf, what can you tell us about Vaermina?
- Wulf: She is often called Vaermina the Dreamweaver. Her pastimes include influencing nightmares and dreams. She thrives on torment and horror and is known to hand out ill omens. Often, she steals memories from those traumatised by her actions.
- Lydia: How can she affect mortals with the Liminal Barrier in place?
- Wulf: Good question. Do you know the answer, Brother Erandur?
- Erandur: Yes, I do. I need to return to the source of the problem, to Nightcaller Temple.
- Wulf: Brother Erandur, you said ‘return’. You know what is within Nightcaller Temple that is causing these nightmares. I demand you tell me what that is!
- Erandur: Of course, but not here. We don’t want to start a panic via eavesdroppers.
- Wulf: Okay, tell me on the way. How far is it to Nightcaller Temple?
- Erandur: It is only a short walk from Dawnstar.
- Wulf: Then let us hurry and stop the misery inflicting this city.
We left Windpeak Inn and talked as we walked
- Erandur: It feels good to have a chance to help these people finally. Helplessly watching them suffer has been difficult.
- Wulf: I can imagine. Was I correct to assume that Lady Mara sent you here?
- Erandur: Not directly, as she does not speak to me often. Priestess Balu received the request from Lady Mara and passed it on to me.
- Wulf: I can’t recall you at the Temple in Riften the many times I have visited there.
- Erandur: I travel a lot spreading Mara’s word.
- Wulf: An Agent?
- Erandur: You are familiar with an Agent’s work?
- Wulf: Yes, I spent some time doing those tasks. It was pretty rewarding, but I am needed elsewhere to deal with less pleasant things.
Erandur pointed to a tower barely visible through the fog.
- Erandur: That tower on the hill is our destination. People around here call it the Tower of the Dawn.
- Wulf: It was an Imperial fort once.
- Erandur: I’m not familiar with the tower’s history, but it was deserted for quite a long time before Nightcaller Temple was established inside.
- Gregor: Why didn’t the locals demand their removal?
- Erandur: When the temple was active, the priests would rarely be seen in Dawnstar. They preferred to live a solitary existence. They gave the local people no reason to fear or shun them. The temple’s been abandoned for decades now. Ironic, isn’t it… a ruin within a ruin?
- Lydia: Can you tell us what is the purpose of the nightmares? Surely they are not just products of spite!
- Erandur: Vaermina has an awful hunger for our memories. In return, she leaves behind nightmares. It is not unlike a cough that marks a severe illness.
- Lydia: The Jarl said people have died due to these nightmares.
- Erandur: True, although few know their cause of death. We have tried to limit panic amongst the people.
- Lydia: Yes, I understand how that fact would cause widespread panic.
- Nubaree: What does the Dark Lord do with these stolen memories?
- Erandur: Vaermina resides in a strange realm known as Quagmire. It is a nightmarish land where reality shifts upon itself in seemingly impossible ways.
- Wulf: The rules of our reality were determined at The Convention and are maintained by The Nine. I do not doubt that many Daedric Princes like to warp our reality within their realms of Oblivion.
- Erandur: Many believe Vaermina collects memories and displays them like works of art in a nonsensical art gallery.
- Wulf: Whatever her purpose for harvesting memories, she is in no way benevolent. She is one of the least likeable of the Dark Lords.
I looked behind and shook my head. Brother Erandur was keeping something from us.
We continued in silence toward the ruins. A large bear had noticed us and was roaring its challenge.
Even though Brother Erandur was carrying a hammer, I did not want to risk confrontation, so I shot the bear.
A bit closer to the ruins, another bear came roaring towards Brother Erandur and had been marked by Kyne. I shot that one as well.
We stopped before the entrance.
- Erandur: Before we enter, I must warn you about the dangers lurking within.
- Rayya: This fortress looks no different than others built by the ancients of Skyrim.
- Erandur: As I said before, I know little of its history. But I do know that the temple inside was raided by an Orc war party seeking revenge. Nightmares were plaguing them, just like the people of Dawnstar.
- Wulf: If they were true to Malacath, he would have told them the source of those nightmares.
- Rayya: Were they successful in stopping the nightmares?
- Erandur: No. Knowing they could not defeat the Orcs, the Priests of Vaermina released what they call ‘The Miasma,’ putting everyone to sleep.
- Lydia: And why does this pose a danger to us? The dweomer on our armours will protect us against The Miasma.
- Erandur: Lady Mara gave assurance that I would also be protected. The Priests and Orcs have been asleep since that time. We must break the seal on this place to stop the nightmares, which may awaken both Priests and Orcs alike.
- Lydia: They may continue their brawl. I still see no danger to us.
- Erandur: The Miasma was created by the Priests of Vaermina for their rituals. It’s a gas that places the affected into a deep sleep. Because the rituals could last for months or even years, The Miasma was designed to slow down ageing.
- Lydia: Yes… but where is the danger?
- Erandur: The longer an individual is exposed to The Miasma, the more the mind can become damaged. Those who have been under its effect for extended periods have been known to lose their minds entirely. Some never wake up.
- Lydia: The danger is a few insane Orcs and Priests? Brother Erandur, they are not a threat to us!
- Erandur: Once we get inside, all will become clear.
- Wulf: We are not going anywhere until you come clean. Do not lie to me, Brother Erandur. I will not place my friends in danger without knowing the truth! When did you stop being a devotee of Vaermina, and what is causing the nightmares in Dawnstar?
- Erandur: How did you know? Did a Divine tell you?
- Wulf: You have been evasive since we met you. I have to judge people accurately and quickly to survive, so I know you held back something. Then you confirmed it with your warning. All the Orcs and Priests were overcome by The Miasma and are behind a seal. They cannot tell the story of what occurred, so how do you know what happened?
- Lydia: Brother Erandur, you must have been there at the time and escaped before the seal was in place! Or perhaps you placed the seal.
- Erandur: I suppose there is no point in concealing the truth any longer. My knowledge of this place comes from personal experience. I was a Priest of Vaermina.
- Wulf: You were afraid we would judge you. It is not your past that concerns us but what you are doing to redeem yourself. Now tell me, what is causing the nightmares?
- Erandur: The Skull of Corruption. A relic made by Vaermina. It is behind yet another barrier.
- Wulf: And there is the real danger. Vaermina will no doubt try and turn us against each other. Daedric Lords are predictable in that manner. But we cannot destroy the relic, so what is your plan, Brother Erandur?
- Erandur: Lady Mara says she can banish it to Aetherius using me as a conduit. I would be vulnerable during that process.
- Wulf: Do you know what would happen if I didn’t recognise the staff and touched it?
- Erandur: No.
- Wulf: The Skull would duplicate me but without my moral inhibitions. My double would use all the knowledge I have in an attempt to kill us all. I doubt we would be able to stop it, and if we did, casualties would be a certainty. If you had continued to delay telling us the truth and were killed before you did, my duty would ensure I would continue on this task and fall into Vaermina’s trap. Do you understand why I needed to know the truth before entering?
- Lydia: A Wulf without morality would be a far greater danger to the people of Dawnstar than the staff!
- Erandur: I am sorry. I did not even know that about The Skull of Corruption. I have only ever seen the devotees of Vaermina touch it.
- Wulf: Let’s enter and help the people of Dawnstar.
We entered and were immediately faced with a pulpit from where a Priest of Vaermina would sprout his blasphemous words to an enraptured audience.
In an alcove was a Shrine of Mara.
I asked Brother Erandur, “Did you install this shrine?”
“Yes. I would come here and pray for the strength to undo what I helped create. But I knew I would never be able to accomplish that without assistance.”
Behind the dais was a concealed entrance protected by a magical barrier. Nubaree looked at me, and I tilted my head towards Brother Erandur. She smiled and understood. We were to let Brother Erandur bring it down. I wanted him to feel like he is contributing a lot to resolving the nightmare problem.
Erandur said, “Give me a moment, and I’ll have this open.”
Erandur cast Flames upon the barrier. Eventually, the barrier failed, and the hidden door became translucent. There was still a magical barrier in place, but that was to keep The Miasma inside and not people outside.
We all followed Erandur into a hallway. The Miasma was thick, but none of us was affected.
Not far along the corridor, we could view the Skull of Corruption surrounded by another magical barrier. Even from a distance, I could tell that barrier was very strong.
- Erandur: Behold the Skull of Corruption, the source of Dawnstar’s woes. We must reach the inner sanctum and destroy it.
- Wulf: I thought we are going to allow Lady Mara to banish it to Aetherius.
- Erandur: Yes, that is what I meant. Come, there is no time to lose.
- Lydia: You should follow us. We can deal with any foes quickly if you are not in our way.
- Erandur: Let me lead you to the doorways, and you can enter before me. That would be the easiest.
- Wulf: Tell me, Erandur, how did you become involved in all of this?
- Erandur: I will give you the entire story one day. But the longer we stand talking, the likelier another citizen of Dawnstar succumbs to the Skull.
- Wulf: Did you flee when the Orcs attacked?
- Erandur: Yes, I fled. I left my brothers and sisters behind to die. I’ve spent the last few decades living in regret and seeking redemption from Lady Mara. And by Her Benevolence, I will right my wrongs.
- Nubaree: Nobody is controlling the Staff of Corruption. Has it become sentient?
- Erandur: Lore dictates that the Skull of Corruption holds a constant hunger for the memories of mortals. The Skull had been out of touch for so long it has gained the ability to reach out on its own and try to feed. What it does with these memories is just conjecture and an argument for scholars and historians to this very day.
- Wulf: The obvious answer is it passes them onto Vaermina. Why else would she have made the thing? But the Skull is also a trap for those who want to use it for selfish gains or those who wish to destroy it. As I said before, it can duplicate a mortal. The duplicate will attack anybody it encounters.
- Erandur: Come, there is no time to lose!
Erandur was too eager and walked too far ahead. He found himself the target of two awoken Orcs.
I cut them both down.
We found our progress blocked by a strong magical barrier empowered by a soul gem.
- Erandur: Damn it. The priests must have activated this barrier when the Miasma was released.
- Nubaree: It looks like it will take some effort to breach.
- Erandur: It is impossible to breach.
- Wulf: No, Erandur, it is not. I could teleport some Master Mages here, and we would soon breach the barrier. Nubaree and I could do it by ourselves. But I would prefer to bring it down another way. There may be safeguards using Daedric dweomer that we cannot detect. We may trigger a catastrophic explosion or similar by forcibly breaching the barrier.
- Erandur: You are a Master Mage?
- Wulf: I am the Arch-Mage of The College of Winterhold and am a Master in every school of Magicka. Nubaree is a Master in Destruction, Conjuration and Restoration.
- Erandur: Why is it that Maramal and Dinya have never mentioned you?
- Wulf: The Divines have instructed them not to. The reasons for that must remain a secret.
- Erandur: There may be a way to bypass the barrier.
- Lydia: How?
- Erandur: First, I must check the library and confirm it can be done. Then we can discuss the details. I still have my key to the library.
- Wulf: Then lead on but only till you open the door and only feet in front of us. Then I insist that I enter first.
- Erandur: Agreed. Let us move on.
We climbed some stairs to a door that Erandur unlocked.
He pushed the door open, and I quickly made my way inside the library.
A Priest and an Orc started to rise.
I quickly cut them down.
On a pedestal, I found an ancient Daedric helm. Since I had not seen one like it before, I assumed it was of some historical value. I was sure Auryen would know what it is. I handed the helm to Gregor, who attached it to his belt.
Erandur looked around in despair.
- Erandur: This library used to be filled with arcane volumes. Now, look at it! Almost everything’s been burned.
- Wulf: We require a particular tome?
- Erandur: Yes. We need to locate a book of alchemical recipes called ‘The Dreamstride.’
- Lydia: Wulf has incredible luck. Every other book here could be burnt to cinders, and The Dreamstride will be found in pristine condition.
- Wulf: I am sure it won’t be the only one to survive. Fires are random things, and there is no logical reason some items survive when others close by are consumed.
- Gregor: I suggest we take care of the Priests and Orcs before getting distracted by a search.
- Lydia: Why are they waking up? The Miasma is still present.
- Wulf: The Skull is waking them in self-defence.
- Lydia: That makes sense.
- Erandur: It does? Do you accept such as a possibility?
- Nubaree: When you travel with Wulf, you learn a lot of seemingly absurd things are possible. After dealing with Elder Scrolls and other artefacts, we have learned to accept gobblygook.
- Erandur: Gobblygook?
- Nubaree: Wulf’s word for the unexplainable that we just have to accept as fact.
- Wulf: Briefly, I deal with gods of all types and ancient magics. Although I desire a logical reason for things, I must accept those I know are fact but unexplainable. Talos himself has warned me of the dangers of trying to unravel some mysteries. A mortal mind will never fully comprehend the metaphysics involved, and harm has come to those who pursue such knowledge.
- Lydia: The Dwemer are just one example.
- Gregor: Stay behind us, Brother Erandur. We will dispose of the Priests and Orcs.
The Sentinels and I quickly eliminated the awakened enemy within the immediate vicinity.
I then approached Erandur.
- Erandur: Wulf, you do not take more than one stroke of your sword to dispose of Priest or Orc!
- Wulf: The Divines need an efficient killing machine. I am that.
- Lydia: Brother Erandur, you are a follower of The Nine. Can you detect anything about the armour and weapons wielded by Wulf?
- Erandur: I am in tune with Lady Mara. Let me see…
Erandur placed his hands close to me and moved them around. When he came to my left hand, he gasped.
- Erandur: The presence of Lady Mara is powerful. What is that ring?
- Wulf: It is a gift from Lady Mara. The Divines created almost every item I wear. For instance, the sword I wield and the amulet I wear were made by Talos. Lord Akatosh made my armour. I must kill in defence of mortals, and Mara’s ring helps me cope with the strain that it places on my conscience. But enough about me. Please, describe The Dreamstride.
- Erandur: The tome bears the likeness of Vaermina on the cover. It should be here somewhere.
- Wulf: I will cast a spell that will highlight any intact books. Do not move from the area we have cleared, Erandur! It will not take us long to locate The Dreamstride if it is still in one piece.
The first book we located was called ‘Silence’. I had never heard of it and will give it to Auryen to determine its worth to the museum.
We had to expand our search beyond the main library, which meant we had to dispose of more awakened enemies.
Several unremarkable books later, we located The Dreamstride. I read the relevant section to The Sentinels.
The Mysterious Alchemists of Vaermina
For over a thousand years, the Priests of Vaermina have been masters of the art of alchemy. The complexity and potency of their mixtures are nothing short of legendary. These alchemical treasures are so highly sought-after that a single draught showing up on the black market can command sums in the tens of thousands of septims.
Of the numerous potions that have surfaced to date, Vaermina’s Torpor is perhaps the most impressive. A single sip of this viscous liquid places the imbiber in a state known as ‘The Dreamstride.’ This condition allows the subject to experience the dreams of another as if they were actually there. The subject becomes an integral part of the dream, behaving as if they belong. To any other entities in this dream state, the subject will be mistaken for the dreamer; the subject will even find his mannerisms, speech patterns, and knowledge expanded appropriately.
To an observer, after the subject has imbibed the potion, they will appear to vanish. As the subject travels distances within the dream, they will also travel distances in the actual world. When the Torpor’s effect has expired, the subject will fade back into reality in the exact location projected within the Dreamstride. Some Dreamstriders have transported their subjects a few feet, and some have appeared thousands of miles from their origin in a matter of minutes.
It’s to be noted that the Dreamstride is highly dangerous and presents the subject with numerous pitfalls. In certain dreams, subjects have been exposed to life-threatening scenarios such as sicknesses, violence and even death. In most cases, the subject simply fades back to our world without harm, but in some instances, the subject never reappeared and was assumed to have expired, or the subject reappeared deceased. It’s also quite possible that the subject could reappear in a precarious or hazardous location in reality, even though that location appeared safe within the Dreamstride.
Vaermina’s Torpor is as mysterious and elusive as the priests that created it. It’s unknown whether this unique transport mechanism is a result of the Torpor itself or simply the odd machinations of Vaermina. Still, the potential for using the Dreamstride to penetrate seemingly impassable obstacles certainly outweighs its mysterious nature.”
Lydia said, “Brother Erandur will want us to find some Vaermina’s Torpor.”
I replied, “Maybe, or just the ingredients to make it. The recipe is not listed in this book, but perhaps he knows it.”
We made our way back to Brother Erandur, and I handed him the book, which he opened and started to read.
- Wulf: You will want us to find Vaermina’s Torpor or the ingredients to make it.
- Erandur: You have read this book already?
- Wulf: I can read entire books in seconds and remember them word for word. A blessing from The Divines to aid with my duties.
- Erandur: I do not know how to make the potion, so we must hope some can be found.
- Nubaree: If it is a common thing used by the followers of Vaermina, there are likely to be intact bottles within this building.
- Erandur: It is an amazing thing. Alchemy and the blessings of a Divine distilled into ingestible liquid.
- Wulf: Brother Erandur, I do realise that some use Divine to describe any god. I ask you to refrain from using that term when referring to Daedric Princes.
- Erandur: Of course. Please accept my apology.
- Wulf: Where are we likely to find this potion?
- Erandur: There is an alchemy lab adjacent to this library.
- Wulf: Then follow us to the lab.
We had to kill several more awakened Priests and Orcs. It did not take long for us to locate a bottle of Vaermina’s Torpor.
I turned to Brother Erandur to discuss our next step.
- Wulf: Okay, we have the potion. What is your plan?
- Erandur: As a sworn Priest of Mara, the elixir won’t work for me. The Torpor will only work for Priests of Vaermina or the unaffiliated. So, you will need to drink the potion.
- Lydia: Wulf is far from unaffiliated!
- Gregor: He is the Champion of The Divines.
- Nubaree: And Champion of Azura.
- Rayya: And Champion of Hermaeus Mora.
- Lydia: And Champion of Meridia.
- Gregor: And Champion of Boethia.
- Wulf: I am Sheogorath’s Champion as well.
- Rayya: But Malacath and several Dark Lords hate Wulf.
- Erandur: Oh… then somebody else must drink the potion.
- Wulf: No, I will not allow that, and it should not be necessary. The potion will work.
- Erandur: How have you reached that conclusion?
- Wulf: You need me to enter a specific dream. One that allows me to see how the barrier was raised. That is one dream out of the myriad that I could enter. I assume the Priests of Vaermina did not know whose dream they would enter?
- Erandur: No, they didn’t, and that is a flaw in my plan!
- Wulf: Many dreams, not all, are of past events. You want me to find a dream of the person who enabled the barrier. This dream will let me see how the barrier was raised, and I am to awaken at the place where it was enabled.
- Erandur: Yes, that is what is required.
- Wulf: So, I would, in essence, be travelling back in time.
- Erandur: Yes, I suppose you would.
- Lydia: Ahh… your soul!
- Wulf: Erandur, as Dragonborn, I have the blood and soul of a dragon. They give me an affinity for time. It is part of the blessing given to me by Lord Akatosh. I believe that if I desire to travel to that exact time when the barrier was raised, then drink the Torpor, that I will enter the desired dream. It will not be dissimilar to when I travelled back in time to discover how the Ancient Tongues banished Alduin.
- Erandur: That is… that is… gobblygook!
- Lydia: Poor Brother Erandur. He is another victim of travelling with Wulf.
- Nubaree: What will we see? Will Wulf vanish or freeze in place or become transparent?
- Erandur: I don’t know. I have never witnessed the Torpor being used.
- Wulf: I expect I will vanish as written in The Dreamstride. My essence must enter the Ethereal Plane for this to work. But I will not be subjected to the extreme cold of that plane as I will physically be in the past. That is why the users of Vaermina’s Torpor can be physically harmed when within the dream.
- Erandur: Those around you within the dream will perceive you as normal. You will find the words you utter may not be your own.
- Wulf: I will be a passenger unless I choose otherwise. It is a lucid dream where I know I am dreaming. Like a lucid dream, I will be able to control it. That also means I can choose when to end it.
- Erandur: Thanks to all the odd principles, there is quite a lot of debate about whether it is really a dream or just the machinations of Vaermina.
- Wulf: If the Torpor fails, then we know it is the machinations of Vaermina. Those machinations would require access to my inner thought processes, of which she and every other god is denied. No, this is simply viewing a particular event from the past. The difference being I am viewing it from the eyes of a participant and not as an external witness as I did with the Ancient Tongues. The Torpor acts as the conduit for this time travel.
- Erandur: You are very confident of your speculation.
- Lydia: Wulf must make such judgments quite often. If he got such things wrong in the past, we would all be dead or slaves to a Dark Lord or other immortal.
- Wulf: As with all educated guesses, the proof is in experimentation. The best place for me to drink the Torpor is at the barrier. On the other side, I believe the soul gem is the key to lowering it, and I would like medical help to be close if I am injured.
Lydia stared at me. I said, “Yes, of course, I will talk to her before I drink the potion!”
We made our way to the barrier, and I said to Erandur, “Excuse me for a minute. I must prepare for this trip. Please refrain from speaking to me till I indicate it is okay.”
I then contacted Rigmor.
“My darling, the rings will cease to work in a little while.”
“Are you travelling to another plane?”
“I am travelling back in time.”
“For how long?”
“I hope only a matter of minutes. I am trying to view a particular event of short duration.”
“You know what I expect.”
“Yes, I will contact you as soon as I return.”
“What is the Divine Task all about?”
“The residents of Dawnstar are suffering constant nightmares caused by a relic of a Dark Lord. I am helping a Priest of Mara to neutralise the relic.”
“I love you.”
“And I love you.”
I said to Brother Erandur and The Sentinels, “Okay. Here I go!”
I concentrated on what I wanted to see, which is the enabling of the barrier. Then I drank the Torpor which had the consistency of honey and the taste of rotten meat.
The present faded, and the past came into focus.
I found myself in a three-way discussion with two other Priests of Vaermina. I also realised I was within a dream of Brother Erandur. Except that was not his name. He had not been entirely truthful with us after all.
- Thorek: Brother Veren and Brother Casimir, the Orcs have breached the inner sanctum!
- Veren: We must hold. We can’t allow the Skull to fall into their hands.
- Thorek: But no more than a handful of us remain.
- Veren: Then we have no choice. The Miasma must be released.
- Thorek: The Miasma? But, brother…
- Veren: We have no alternative. It’s the will of Vaermina.
I had to control my objection to this statement. Will of Vaermina my arse!
- Veren: And what about you, Brother Casimir? Are you prepared to serve the will of Vaermina?
- Erandur: I have made my peace. I am ready.
- Thorek: Then it is decided.
- Veren: Brother Casimir, you must activate the barrier and release The Miasma. Let nothing stop you.
- Erandur: I shall do my duty.
- Veren: Brother Thorek, we must remain here and guard the Skull with our lives if necessary.
- Thorek: Agreed. To the death.
- Veren: Then let it be done. Farewell, my brothers!
Erandur is alive, which means he made it through the dangers. Therefore, if I act as a passenger, there is no danger to me. I passively watched from Erandur’s eyes.
Erandur eventually came to where the barrier was and pulled a chain.
The soul gem then energised the barrier.
I came out of the dream and pulled the chain. The barrier dropped.
I walked up to Erandur.
- Erandur: It… it worked. Mara, be praised!
- Wulf: Yes, brother Casimir, it worked. And I think we should be praising Lord Akatosh for the blessings he bestowed upon me rather than Lady Mara.
- Lydia: Brother Casimir?
- Wulf: Yes, that was Brother Erandur’s name when he was a Priest of Vaermina. It was he who enabled the barrier.
- Lydia: Then it was not a surprise to find the barrier in place!
- Erandur: No, it wasn’t. More deception by me resulting from my shame.
- Wulf: How did you escape from behind the barrier?
- Erandur: I assume you ended the dream at me enabling the barrier and did not see me leaping through it before it was complete? That is why you reappeared on the other side and not where you are now.
- Wulf: Correct. But Brother Veren said it was the will of Vaermina that it be raised, and he expected you to be caught in The Miasma with him and the other Priests.
- Erandur: It was the will of Veren. I had realised months before that the instructions he gave us were of his invention, not that of the Dark Lord. I was not willing to die for him or Vaermina. It was not like I volunteered to be indoctrinated into her coven of worshippers.
- Lydia: Then how did you end up a Priest of Vaermina?
- Erandur: I was a young child taken from impoverished parents and groomed. For decades I was a devotee of Vaermina, but I still remembered the times when I was free to choose my path. I decided that I wanted that freedom once more, and that is why I leapt through the still forming barrier. It was not out of cowardice. I would die for Lady Mara but not for Vaermina.
- Wulf: You have proven once more that the power of the Dark Lords is nothing compared to that of mortal free will.
- Lydia: Free will is Wulf’s favourite topic for lecturing.
- Wulf: My least favourite thing is paying disrespectful Sentinels.
- Lydia: Oh, I didn’t say it was a bad thing. It is just that I have neglected to bring a pillow.
- Erandur: You vanished after drinking the Torpor and materialised on the other side. I have never seen anything quite like it.
- Wulf: The potion served its purpose.
- Erandur: After what you just experienced, you are not amazed? I am at a loss for words!
- Wulf: I have been inside the mind of a long-dead Emperor and cured his insanity. I have travelled back thousands of years and witnessed the banishment of Alduin. I have been to several realms of Oblivion and talked to gods as close as you are now. I have visited Sovngarde and met the heroes of old. On the amazement scale, this is a minor experience.
- Nubaree: Wulf, couldn’t you have teleported to the other side of the barrier?
- Wulf: Yes, but I didn’t for reasons best left unsaid at this moment. My explanation would be lengthy, and we don’t want Lydia nodding off.
Rigmor interrupted and said, “I realise you must be discussing things with those with you. But I must greet the next supplicant so forgive me butting in. I am glad you are back safe. Tell me about it later, when we are naked!”
I couldn’t help but laugh. The Sentinels knew why. Brother Erandur looked at me as if I had gone insane.
- Erandur: Wulf, are you okay? Are you positive the Torpor has had not harmed you?
- Wulf: It is okay, Brother Erandur. I was speaking to somebody who amused me.
- Erandur: A Divine?
- Wulf: No, but to me, she is a goddess.
- Lydia: I wouldn’t bother asking, Brother Erandur. Wulf will not give you a straight answer.
- Erandur: Well, the inner sanctum lies ahead. We must reach the Skull and put an end to Dawnstar’s troubles. Lead on, my friends.
I killed a few more Priests and Orcs on our way to the inner sanctum.
When we reached the inner sanctum, we faced yet another barrier.
Brother Erandur was preparing to take the barrier down when two acquaintances from the past stepped through it, and it slowly faded.
- Erandur: Veren… Thorek… you are alive!
- Veren: No thanks to you, Casimir.
- Erandur: I no longer use that name. I am Erandur, Priest of Mara.
- Veren: You are a traitor. You left us to die and then ran before The Miasma took you.
- Wulf: It is you two who are the traitors! The Divines and other et-Ada sacrificed much to create everything you see and experience. Yet you turned your back on them and willingly harmed other mortals for the praise of one who has contributed nothing to our creation or continuing existence. Veren, you falsely claimed that releasing The Miasma was the will of Vaermina. You blasphemed against her and lied to Thorek!
- Thorek: Does this stranger speak the truth? Tell me, Veren, did Vaermina tell you to release The Miasma?
- Veren: You would believe an enemy of Vaermina?
- Wulf: I am not an enemy of Vaermina. I am an enemy of anybody who chooses to harm innocent mortals. Brother Erandur saw through your lies and decided he would not die for them. Now put your weapons down, or we will cut you down!
The Priests attacked. We quickly killed them.
I turned to Brother Erandur.
- Erandur: I… I knew Veren and Thorek. They were my friends.
- Wulf: I saw them in your dream.
- Erandur: Is this punishment for my past? Is it Mara’s will to torment me so?
- Wulf: Brother Erandur, that is an odd question coming from a Priest of Mara. Please tell me of a single incident in history where one of The Nine has punished a mortal for sins of the past? Lady Mara and her priests and priestesses have shown you nothing but mercy and compassion! Torment you?
- Erandur: Oh… please forgive me, Mara! The grief over my companions had skewed my thoughts.
- Wulf: Lady Mara does not need an explanation. When next you speak to her, your remorse will be evident, and she will understand.
- Lydia: We had no choice but to kill them, Brother Erandur. Wulf did give them the chance to surrender.
- Erandur: Yes, Wulf showed far more mercy than any Priest of Vaermina would or could.
- Rayya: Wulf offers mercy far more often than most.
- Erandur: It is time. The Skull must be banished!
- Wulf: Brother Erandur, you must be prepared for Vaermina to speak her plans out loud. She cannot talk in my head and has no choice. Do not fear that I will betray you. Other gods have offered me riches beyond imagining. My love for The Divines and a mortal woman is not negotiable.
- Lydia: Brother Erandur, devoted followers of other Dark Lords, have discovered, thanks to Wulf, that they mean nothing to their chosen god. You have rejected Vaermina, so do not be surprised at her hostility.
- Erandur: I have to maintain my faith to act as Lady Mara’s conduit. Her love and compassion will flow through that conduit and provide a shield against whatever Vaermina says.
- Wulf: We shall give you room to perform Lady Mara’s ritual.
I stood by Brother Erandur’s side as The Sentinels stayed a respectable distance.
He incanted, “I call upon you, Lady Mara! The Skull hungers. It yearns for memories and leaves nightmares in its wake. Innocent mortals have died as a result. Use me to break through this barrier and then send the Skull to Aetherius where it can no longer harm the innocent.”
The barrier vanished.
The familiar presence of Lady Mara enveloped the room. Brother Erandur went into a trance as Divine power surged through him.
I felt the familiar probing of a Dark Lord. When she realised that she could not penetrate my barriers, Vaermina spoke. She said, “He’s deceiving you. When the ritual’s complete, the Skull will be free, and then Erandur will turn on you.”
I laughed then replied, “Oh, come on! You can do better than that!”
“Quickly! Kill him now. Kill him and claim the Skull for your own! Vaermina commands you!”
“And Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines commands you to kiss my arse!”
The Sentinels started to laugh. The Skull vanished, and Erandur came out of his trance.
He stepped away then turned to face me.
- Erandur: Forgive me if I don’t appear relieved. This temple had taken its toll on me.
- Wulf: Believe me when I say I know that feeling well.
- Lydia: Brother Erandur, could you hear the discussion between Vaermina and Wulf?
- Erandur: Yes, I could and am shocked at his answer to Vaermina’s command!
- Wulf: I am so tired of Daedric Princes trying the “I command it!” crap. Some of them would be amused at my insolence. I have no idea how Vaermina will take it, but I don’t care.
- Lydia: Wulf is friendly with some Dark Lords. Others do not like him very much. Even some who have declared him their champion would rather see him eaten by rabid Skeevers.
- Wulf: Brother Erandur, are you going to be alright?
- Erandur: In time, I believe I will. As you saw when we entered, I have constructed a meagre shrine to Mara in the antechamber. I intended to spend the rest of my years here, burying the past and praying for forgiveness.
- Wulf: It is evident that Lady Mara has already forgiven you. Do not waste your life in senseless guilt asking for something already provided.
- Erandur: I have decided to offer my services to you. I am at your disposal if you desire me to journey with you.
- Wulf: You currently do not have the skills to earn a place as a Sentinel. So I will offer you two options. If you are willing to train beside The Sentinels and hone your skills with hammer and shield, you may eventually have the skill required to be a Sentinel. However, you are also welcome at my orphanage. You can spend your time teaching the children about Lady Mara and The Divines. I am sure Lady Mara would also call on you to be an Agent on occasion.
- Erandur: You would trust me amongst the innocent?
- Wulf: I just saw Lady Mara’s trust in you manifested. So, of course, I also trust you implicitly. I recommend you stay in the Temple of Mara in Riften for some time. Get help to understand what has occurred from your fellow Priests and Priestesses. Ask Lady Mara herself. Then, when you have made a decision, let me know.
- Erandur: I shall do as you recommend.
- Wulf: Now, let us escort you to Dawnstar so we can inform the Jarl of our success
That night, Rigmor joined me in Urdarbrunnr, where I regaled her with the adventures of the day. Whilst we were naked in the spa bath, of course.